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´╗┐Title: Gold of the Gods
Author: Reeve, Arthur B. (Arthur Benjamin), 1880-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gold of the Gods" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE GOLD OF THE GODS

BY

ARTHUR B. REEVE


FRONTISPIECE BY WILL FOSTER



CONTENTS

    I   THE PERUVIAN DAGGER

   II   THE SOLDIER OF FORTUNE

  III   THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL DETECTIVE

   IV   THE TREASURE HUNTERS

    V   THE WALL STREET PROMOTER

   VI   THE CURSE OF MANSICHE

  VII   THE ARROW POISON

 VIII   THE ANONYMOUS LETTER

   IX   THE PAPER FIBRES

    X   THE X-RAY READER

   XI   THE SHOE-PRINTS

  XII   THE EVIL EYE

 XIII   THE POISONED CIGARETTE

  XIV   THE INTERFEROMETER

   XV   THE WEED OF MADNESS

  XVI   THE EAR IN THE WALL

 XVII   THE VOICE FROM THE AIR

XVIII   THE ANTIDOTE

  XIX   THE BURGLAR POWDER

   XX   THE PULMOTOR

  XXI   THE TELESCRIBE

 XXII   THE VANISHER

XXIII   THE ACETYLENE TORCH

 XXIV   THE POLICE DOG

  XXV   THE GOLD OF THE GODS



I

THE PERUVIAN DAGGER


"There's something weird and mysterious about the robbery, Kennedy.
They took the very thing I treasure most of all, an ancient Peruvian
dagger."

Professor Allan Norton was very much excited as he dropped into Craig's
laboratory early that forenoon.

Norton, I may say, was one of the younger members of the faculty, like
Kennedy. Already, however, he had made for himself a place as one of
the foremost of South American explorers and archaeologists.

"How they got into the South American section of the Museum, though, I
don't understand," he hurried on. "But, once in, that they should take
the most valuable relic I brought back with me on this last expedition,
I think certainly shows that it was a robbery with a deep-laid,
premeditated purpose."

"Nothing else is gone?" queried Kennedy.

"Nothing," returned the professor. "That's the strangest part of it--to
me. It was a peculiar dagger, too," he continued reminiscently. "I say
that it was valuable, for on the blade were engraved some curious Inca
characters. I wasn't able to take the time to decipher them, down
there, for the age of the metal made them almost illegible. But now
that I have all my stuff unpacked and arranged after my trip, I was
just about to try--when along comes a thief and robs me. We can't have
the University Museum broken into that way, you know, Kennedy."

"I should say not," readily assented Craig. "I'd like to look the place
over."

"Just what I wanted," exclaimed Norton, heartily delighted, and leading
the way.

We walked across the campus with him to the Museum, still chatting.
Norton was a tall, spare man, wiry, precisely the type one would pick
to make an explorer in a tropical climate. His features were sharp,
suggesting a clear and penetrating mind and a disposition to make the
most of everything, no matter how slight. Indeed that had been his
history, I knew. He had come to college a couple of years before
Kennedy and myself, almost penniless, and had worked his way through by
doing everything from waiting on table to tutoring. To-day he stood
forth as a shining example of self-made intellectual man, as cultured
as if he had sprung from a race of scholars, as practical as if he had
taken to mills rather than museums.

We entered a handsome white-marble building in the shape of a
rectangle, facing the University Library, a building, by the way, which
Norton had persuaded several wealthy trustees and other donors to
erect. Kennedy at once began examining the section devoted to Latin
America, going over everything very carefully.

I looked about, too. There were treasures from Mexico and Peru, from
every romantic bit of the wonderful countries south of us--blocks of
porphyry with quaint grecques and hieroglyphic painting from Mitla,
copper axes and pottery from Cuzco, sculptured stones and mosaics,
jugs, cups, vases, little gods and great, sacrificial stones, a
treasure house of Aztec and Inca lore--enough to keep one occupied for
hours merely to look at.

Yet, I reflected, following Norton, in all this mass of material, the
thief seemed to have selected one, apparently insignificant, dagger,
the thing which Norton prized because, somehow, it bore on its blade
something which he had not, as yet, been able to fathom.

Though Kennedy looked thoroughly and patiently, it seemed as though
there was nothing there to tell any story of the robbery, and he turned
his attention at last to other parts of the Museum. As he made his way
about slowly, I noted that he was looking particularly into corners,
behind cabinets, around angles. What he expected to find I could not
even guess.

Further along and on the same side of the building we came to the
section devoted to Egyptology. Kennedy paused. Standing there, upright
against the wall, was a mummy case. To me, even now, the thing had a
creepy look. Craig pushed aside the stone lid irreverently and gazed
keenly into the uncanny depths of the stone sarcophagus. An instant
later he was down on his hands and knees, carefully examining the
interior by means of a pocket lens.

"I think I have made a start," he remarked, rising to his feet and
facing us with an air of satisfaction.

We said nothing, and he pointed to some almost undiscernible marks in a
thin layer of dust that had collected in the sarcophagus.

"If I'm not mistaken," he went on, "your thief got into the Museum
during the daytime, and, when no one was looking, hid here. He must
have stayed until the place was locked up at night. Then he could rob
at his leisure, only taking care to confine his operations to the time
between the rather infrequent rounds of the night watchman."

Kennedy bent down again. "Look," he indicated. "There are the marks of
shoes in the dust, shoes with nails in the heels, of course. I shall
have to compare the marks that I have found here with those I have
collected, following out the method of the immortal Bertillon. Every
make of shoes has its own peculiarities, both in the number and the
arrangement of the nails. Offhand, however, I should say that these
shoes were American-made--though that, of course, does not necessarily
mean that an American wore them. I may even be able to determine which
of a number of individual pairs of shoes made the marks. I cannot tell
that yet, until I study them. Walter, I wish you'd go over to my
laboratory. In the second right-hand drawer of my desk you'll find a
package of paper. I'd like to have it."

"Don't you think you ought to preserve the marks?" I heard Norton hint,
as I left. He had been watching Kennedy in open-eyed amazement and
interest.

"Exactly what I am sending Walter to do," he returned. "I have some
specially prepared paper that will take those dust marks up and give me
a perfect replica."

I hurried back as fast as I could, and Kennedy bent to the task of
preserving the marks.

"Have you any idea who might have an object in stealing the dagger?"
Kennedy asked, when he had finished.

Norton shrugged his shoulders. "I believe some weird superstitions were
connected with it," he replied. "It had a three-sided blade, and, as I
told you, both the blade and the hilt were covered with peculiar
markings."

There seemed to be nothing more that could be discovered from a further
examination of the Museum. It was plain enough that the thief must have
let himself out of a side door which had a spring lock on it and closed
itself. Not a mark or scratch was to be found on any of the window or
door locks; nothing else seemed to have been disturbed.

Evidently the thief had been after that one, to him priceless, object.
Having got it, he was content to get away, leaving untouched the other
treasures, some of which were even intrinsically valuable for the metal
and precious stones in them. The whole affair seemed so strange to me,
however, that, somehow, I could not help wondering whether Norton had
told us the whole or only half the story as he knew it about the dagger
and its history.

Still talking with the archaeologist, Kennedy and I returned to his
laboratory.

We had scarcely reached the door when we heard the telephone ringing
insistently. I answered, and it happened to be a call for me. It was
the editor of the Star endeavouring to catch me, before I started
downtown to the office, in order to give me an assignment.

"That's strange," I exclaimed, hanging up the receiver and turning to
Craig. "I've got to go out on a murder case--"

"An interesting case?" asked Craig, interrupting his own train of
investigation with a flash of professional interest.

"Why, a man has been murdered in his apartment on Central Park, West, I
believe. Luis de Mendoza is the name, and it seems--"

"Don Luis de Mendoza?" repeated Norton, with a startled exclamation.
"Why, he was an influential Peruvian, a man of affairs in his country,
and an accomplished scholar. I--I--if you don't mind, I'd like to go
over with you. I know the Mendozas."

Kennedy was watching Norton's face keenly. "I think I'll go, too,
Walter," he decided. "You won't lack assistants on this story,
apparently."

"Perhaps you can be of some assistance to them, also," put in Norton to
Kennedy, as we left.

It was only a short ride downtown, and our cab soon pulled up before a
rather ornate entrance of a large apartment in one of the most
exclusive sections of the city. We jumped out and entered, succeeding
in making our way to the sixth floor, where Mendoza lived, without
interference from the hallboy, who had been completely swamped by the
rush that followed the excitement of finding one of the tenants
murdered.

There was no missing the place. The hall had been taken over by the
reporters, who had established themselves there, terrible as an army
with concealed pads and pencils. From one of the morning men already
there I learned that our old friend Dr. Leslie, the coroner, was
already in charge.

Somehow, whether it was through Kennedy's acquaintance with Dr. Leslie
or Norton's acquaintance with the Mendozas and the Spanish tongue, we
found ourselves beyond the barrier of the door which shut out my rivals.

As we stood for a moment in a handsome and tastefully furnished living
room a young lady passed through hurriedly. She paused in the middle of
the room as she saw us and eyed us tremulously, as though to ask us why
we had intruded. It was a rather awkward situation.

Quickly Norton came to the rescue. "I hope you will pardon me,
Senorita," he bowed in perfect Spanish, "but--"

"Oh, Professor Norton, it is you!" she cried in English, recognizing
him. "I'm so nervous that I didn't see you at first."

She glanced from him to us, inquiringly. I recollected that my editor
had mentioned a daughter who might prove to be an interesting and
important figure in the mystery. She spoke in an overwrought, agitated
tone. I studied her furtively.

Inez de Mendoza was unmistakably beautiful, of the dark Spanish type,
with soft brown eyes that appealed to one when she talked, and a figure
which at any less tragic moment one might have been pardoned for
admiring. Her soft olive skin, masses of dark hair, and lustrous,
almost voluptuous, eyes contrasted wonderfully with the finely
chiselled lines of her nose, the firm chin, and graceful throat and
neck. Here one recognized a girl of character and family in the depths
of whose soul smouldered all the passion of a fiery race.

"I hope you will pardon me for intruding," Norton repeated. "Believe
me, it is not with mere idle curiosity. Let me introduce my friend,
Professor Kennedy, the scientific detective, of whom you have heard, no
doubt. This is his assistant, Mr. Jameson, of the Star. I thought
perhaps they might stand between you and that crowd in the hall," he
added, motioning toward the reporters on the other side of the door.
"You can trust them absolutely. I'm sure that if there is anything any
of us can do to aid you in--in your trouble, you may be sure that we
are at your service."

She looked about a moment in the presence of three strangers who had
invaded the quietness of what had been, at least temporarily, home. She
seemed to be seeking some one on whom to lean, as though some support
had suddenly been knocked from under her, leaving her dazed at the
change.

"Oh, madre de Dios!" she cried. "What shall I do? Oh, my father--my
poor father!"

Inez Mendoza was really a pathetic and appealing figure as she stood
there in the room, alone.

Quickly she looked us over, as if, by same sort of occult intuition of
woman, she were reading our souls. Then, instinctively almost, she
turned to Kennedy. Kennedy seemed to recognize her need. Norton and I
retired, somewhat more than figuratively.

"You--you are a detective?" she queried. "You can read mystery--like a
book?"

Kennedy smiled encouragingly. "Hardly as my friend Walter here often
paints me," he returned. "Still, now and then, we are able to use the
vast knowledge of wise men the world over to help those in trouble.
Tell me--everything," he soothed, as though knowing that to talk would
prove a safety-valve for her pent-up emotions. "Perhaps I can help you."

For a moment she did not know what to do. Then, almost before she knew
it, apparently, she began to talk to him, forgetting that we were in
the room.

"Tell me how the thing happened, all that you know, how you found it
out," prompted Craig.

"Oh, it was midnight, last night; yes, late," she returned wildly. "I
was sleeping when my maid, Juanita, wakened me and told me that Mr.
Lockwood was in the living room and wanted to see me, must see me. I
dressed hurriedly, for it came to me that something must be the matter.
I think I must have come out sooner than they expected, for before they
knew it I had run across the living room and looked through the door
into the den, you call it, over there."

She pointed at a heavy door, but did not, evidently could not, let her
eyes rest on it.

"There was my father, huddled in a chair, and blood had run out from an
ugly wound in his side. I screamed and fell on my knees beside him.
But," she shuddered, "it was too late. He was cold. He did not answer."

Kennedy said nothing, but let her weep into her dainty lace
handkerchief, though the impulse was strong to do anything to calm her
grief.

"Mr. Lockwood had come in to visit him on business, had found the door
into the hall open, and entered. No one seemed to be about; but the
lights were burning. He went on into the den. There was my father--"

She stopped, and could not go on at all for several minutes.

"And Mr. Lockwood, who is he?" asked Craig gently.

"My father and I, we have been in this country only a short time," she
replied, trying to speak in good English in spite of her emotion, "with
his partner in a--a mining venture--Mr. Lockwood."

She paused again and hesitated, as though in this strange land of the
north she had no idea of which way to turn for help. But once started,
now, she did not stop again.

"Oh," she went on passionately, "I don't know what it was that came
over my father. But lately he had been a changed man. Sometimes I
thought he was--what you call--mad. I should have gone to see a doctor
about him," she added wildly, her feelings getting the better of her.
"But it is no longer a case for a doctor. It is a case for a
detective--for some one who is more than a detective. You cannot bring
him back, but--"

She could not go on. Yet her broken sentence spoke volumes, in her
pleading, soft, musical voice, which was far more pleasing to the ear
than that of the usual Latin-American.

I had heard that the women of Lima were famed for their beauty and
melodious voices. Senorita Inez surely upheld their reputation.

There was an appealing look now in her soft deep-brown eyes, and her
thin, delicate lips trembled as she hurried on with her strange story.

"I never saw my father in such a state before," she murmured. "For days
all he had talked about was the 'big fish,' the peje grande, whatever
that might mean--and the curse of Mansiche."

The recollection of the past few days seemed to be too much for her.
Almost before we knew it, before Norton, who had started to ask her a
question, could speak, she excused herself and fled from the room,
leaving only the indelible impression of loveliness and the appeal for
help that was irresistible.

Kennedy turned to Norton. But just then the door to the den opened and
we saw our friend Dr. Leslie. He saw us, too, and took a few steps in
our direction.

"What--you here, Kennedy?" he greeted in surprise as Craig shook hands
and introduced Norton. "And Jameson, too? Well, I think you've found a
case at last that will baffle you."

As we talked he led the way across the living room and into the den
from which he had just come.

"It is very strange," he said, telling at once all that he had been
able to discover. "Senor Mendoza was discovered here about midnight
last night by his partner, Mr. Lockwood. There seem to be no clues to
how or by whom he was murdered. No locks had been broken. I have
examined the hall-boy who was here last night. He seems to be off his
post a good deal when it is late. He saw Mr. Lockwood come in, and took
him in the elevator up to the sixth floor. After that we can find
nothing but the open door into the apartment. It is not at all
impossible that some one might have come in when the boy was off his
post, have walked up, even have walked down, the stairs again. In fact,
it must have been that way. No windows, not even on the fire-escape,
have been tampered with. In fact, the murder must have been done by
some one admitted to the apartment late by Mendoza himself."

We walked over to the couch on which lay the body covered by a sheet.
Dr. Leslie drew down the sheet.

On the face was a most awful look, a terrible stare and contortion of
the features, and a deep, almost purple, discoloration. The muscles
were all tense and rigid. I shall never forget that face and its look,
half of pain, half of fear, as if of something nameless.

Mendoza had been a heavy-set man, whose piercing black eyes beetled
forth, in life, from under bushy brows. Even in death, barring that
horrible look, he was rather distinguished-looking, and his
close-cropped hair and moustache set him off as a man of affairs and
consequence in his own country.

"Most peculiar, Kennedy," reiterated Dr. Leslie, pointing to the
breast. "You see that wound? I can't quite determine whether that was
the real cause of death or not. Of course, it's a bad wound, it's true.
But there seems to be something else here, too. Look at the pupils of
his eyes, how contracted they are. The lungs seem congested, too. He
has all the marks of having been asphyxiated. Yet there are no
indications on his throat of violence such as would be necessary if
that were the case. There could have been no such thing as illuminating
gas, nor have we found any trace of any receptacles which might have
held poison. I can't seem to make it out."

Kennedy bent over the body and looked at it attentively for several
minutes, while we stood back of him, scarcely uttering a word in the
presence of this terrible thing.

Deftly Kennedy managed to extract a few drops of blood from about the
wound and transfer them to a very small test-tube which he carried in a
little emergency pocket-case in order to preserve material for future
study.

"You say the dagger was triangular, Norton?" he asked finally, without
looking up from his minute examination.

"Yes, with another blade that shot out automatically when you knew the
secret of pressing the hilt in a certain way. The outside triangular
blade separated into three to allow an inner blade to shoot out."

Kennedy had risen and, as Norton described the Inca dagger, looked from
one to the other of us keenly.

"That blade was poisoned," he concluded quietly. "We have a clue to
your missing dagger. Mendoza was murdered by it!"



II

THE SOLDIER OF FORTUNE


"I should like to have another talk with Senorita Inez," remarked
Kennedy, a few minutes later, as with Dr. Leslie and Professor Norton
we turned into the living room and closed the door to the den.

While Norton volunteered to send one of the servants in to see whether
the young lady was able to stand the strain of another interview, Dr.
Leslie received a hurry call to another case.

"You'll let me know, Kennedy, if you discover anything?" he asked,
shaking hands with us. "I shall keep you informed, also, from my end.
That poison completely baffles me--so far. You know, we might as well
work together."

"Assuredly," agreed Craig, as the coroner left. "That," he added to me,
as the door closed, "was one word for me and two for himself. I can do
the work; he wants to save his official face. He never will know what
that poison was--until I tell him."

Inez had by this time so far recovered her composure that she was able
to meet us again in the living room.

"I'm very sorry to have to trouble you again," apologized Kennedy, "but
if I am to get anywhere in this case I must have the facts."

She looked at him, half-puzzled, and, I fancied, half-frightened, too.
"Anything I can tell you--of course, ask me," she said.

"Had your father any enemies who might desire his death?" shot out
Kennedy, almost without warning.

"No," she answered slowly, still watching him carefully, then adding
hastily: "Of course, you know, no one who tries to do anything is
absolutely without enemies, though."

"I mean," repeated Craig, carefully noting a certain hesitation in her
tone, "was there any one who, for reasons best known to himself, might
have murdered him in a way peculiarly likely under the circumstances,
say, with a dagger?"

Inez flashed a quick glance at Kennedy, as if to inquire just how much
or how little he really knew. I got the impression from it, at least,
that she was holding back some suspicion for a reason that perhaps she
would not even have admitted to herself.

I saw that Norton was also following the line of Kennedy's questioning
keenly, though he said nothing.

Before Kennedy could take up the lead again, her maid, Juanita, a very
pretty girl of Spanish and Indian descent, entered softly.

"Mr. Lockwood," she whispered, but not so low that we could not hear.

"Won't you ask him to come in, Nita?" she replied.

A moment later a young man pushed open the door--a tall, clean-cut
young fellow, whose face bore the tan of a sun much stronger than any
about New York. As I took his appraisal, I found him unmistakably of
the type of American soldier of fortune who has been carried by the
wander-spirit down among the romantic republics to the south of our own.

"Professor Kennedy," began Senorita Mendoza, presenting us all in turn,
"let me introduce Mr. Lockwood, my father's partner in several ventures
which brought us to New York."

As we shook hands I could not help feeling that the young mining
engineer, for such he proved to be by ostensible profession, was
something more to her than a mere partner in her father's schemes.

"I believe I've met Professor Norton," he remarked, as they shook
hands. "Perhaps he remembers when we were in Lima."

"Perfectly," replied Norton, returning the penetrating glance in kind.
"Also in New York," he added.

Lockwood turned abruptly. "Are you quite sure you are able to stand the
strain of this interview?" he asked Inez in a low tone.

Norton glanced at Kennedy and raised his eyebrows just the fraction of
an inch, as if to call attention to the neat manner in which Lockwood
had turned the subject.

Inez smiled sadly. "I must," she said, in a forced tone.

I fancied that Lockwood noted and did not relish an air of restraint in
her words.

"It was you, I believe, Mr. Lockwood, who found Senor Mendoza last
night?" queried Kennedy, as if to read the answer into the record,
although he already knew it.

"Yes," replied Lockwood, without hesitation, though with a glance at
the averted head of Inez, and choosing his words very carefully, as if
trying hard not to say more than she could bear. "Yes. I came up here
to report on some financial matters which interested both of us, very
late, perhaps after midnight. I was about to press the buzzer on the
door when I saw that the door was slightly ajar. I opened it and found
lights still burning. The rest I think you must already know."

Even that tactful reference to the tragedy was too much for Inez. She
suppressed a little convulsive sob, but did not, this time, try to flee
from the room.

"You saw nothing about the den that aroused any suspicions?" pursued
Kennedy. "No bottle, no glass? There wasn't the odour of any gas or
drug?"

Lockwood shook his head slowly, fixing his eyes on Kennedy's face, but
not looking at him. "No," he answered; "I have told Dr. Leslie just
what I found. If there had been anything else I'm sure I would have
noticed it while I was waiting for Miss Inez to come in."

His answers seemed perfectly frank and straight-forward. Yet somehow I
could not get over the feeling that he, as well as Inez, was not
telling quite all he knew--perhaps not about the murder, but about
matters that might be related to it.

Norton evidently felt the same way. "You saw no weapon--a dagger?" he
interrupted suddenly.

The young man faced Norton squarely. To me it seemed as if he had been
expecting the question. "Not a thing," he said deliberately. "I looked
about carefully, too. Whatever weapon was used must have been taken
away by the murderer," he added.

Juanita entered again, and Inez excused herself to answer the
telephone, while we stood in the living room chatting for a few minutes.

"What is this 'curse of Mansiche' which the Senorita has mentioned?"
asked Kennedy, seeing a chance to open a new line of inquiry with
Lockwood.

"Oh, I don't know," he returned, impatiently flicking the ashes of a
cigarette which he had lighted the moment Inez left the room, as though
such stories had no interest for the practical mind of an engineer.
"Some old superstition, I suppose."

Lockwood seemed to regard Norton with a sort of aversion, if not
hostility, and I fancied that Norton, on his part, neglected no
opportunity to let the other know that he was watching him.

"I don't know much about the story," resumed Lockwood a moment later as
no one said anything. "But I do know that there is treasure in that
great old Chimu mound near Truxillo. Don Luis has the government
concession to bore into the mound, too, and we are raising the capital
to carry the scheme through to success."

He had come to the end of a sentence. Yet the inflection of his voice
showed plainly that it was not the end of the idea that had been in his
mind.

"If you knew where to dig," suddenly supplied Norton, gazing keenly
into the eyes of the soldier of fortune.

Lockwood did not answer, though it was evident that that had been the
thought unexpressed in his remarks.

The return of the Senorita to the room seemed to break the tension.

"It was the house telephone," she said, in a quiet voice. "The hall-boy
didn't know whether to admit a visitor who comes with his sympathy."
Then she turned from us to Lockwood. "You must know him," she said,
somewhat embarrassed. "Senor Alfonso de Moche."

Lockwood suppressed a frown, but said nothing, for, a moment later, a
young man came in. Almost in silence he advanced to Inez and took her
hand in a manner that plainly showed his sympathy in her bereavement.

"I have just heard," he said simply, "and I hastened around to tell you
how much I feel your loss. If there is anything I can do--"

He stopped, and did not finish the sentence. It was unnecessary. His
eyes finished it for him.

Alfonso de Moche was, I thought, a very handsome fellow, though not of
the Spanish type at all. His forehead was high, with a shock of
straight black hair, his skin rather copper-coloured, nose slightly
aquiline, chin and mouth firm; in fact, the whole face was refined and
intellectual, though tinged with melancholy.

"Thank you," she murmured, then turned to us. "I believe you are
acquainted with Mr. de Moche, Professor Norton?" she asked. "You know
he is taking post-graduate work at the University."

"Slightly," returned Norton, gazing at the young man in a manner that
plainly disconcerted him. "I believe I have met his mother in Peru."

Senorita Mendoza seemed to colour at the mention of Senora de Moche. It
flashed over me that, in his greeting Alfonso had said nothing of his
mother. I wondered if there might be a reason for it. Could it be that
Senorita Mendoza had some antipathy which did not include the son?
Though we did not seem to be making much progress in this way in
solving the mystery, still I felt that before we could go ahead we must
know the little group about which it centred. There seemed to be
currents and cross-currents here which we did not understand, but which
must be charted if we were to steer a straight course.

"And Professor Kennedy?" she added, turning to us.

"I think I have seen Mr. de Moche about the campus," said Craig, as I,
too, shook hands with him, "although you are not in any of my classes."

"No, Professor," concurred the young man, who was, however,
considerably older than the average student taking courses like his.

I found it quite enough to watch the faces of those about me just then.
Between Lockwood and de Moche it seemed that there existed a latent
hostility. The two eyed each other with decided disfavour. As for
Norton, he seemed to be alternately watching each of them.

An awkward silence followed, and de Moche seemed to take the cue, for
after a few more remarks to Inez he withdrew as gracefully as he could,
with a parting interchange of frigid formalities with Lockwood. It did
not take much of a detective to deduce that both of the young men might
have agreed on one thing, though that caused the most serious of
differences between them--their estimation of Inez de Mendoza.

Inez, on her part, seemed also to be visibly relieved at his departure,
though she had been cordial enough to him. I wondered what it all meant.

Lockwood, too, seemed to be ill at ease still. But it was a different
uneasiness, rather directed at Norton than at us. Once before I had
thought he was on the point of excusing himself, but the entrance of de
Moche seemed to have decided him to stay at least as long as his rival.

"I beg your pardon, Senorita," he now apologized, "but I really must
go. There are still some affairs which I must attend to in order to
protect the interests we represent." He turned to us. "You will excuse
me, I know," he added, "but I have a very important appointment. You
know Don Luis and I were assisting in organizing the campaign of Stuart
Whitney to interest American manufacturers, and particularly bankers,
in the chances in South America which lie at hand, if we are only awake
to take advantage of them. I shall be at your service, Senorita, as
soon as the meeting is over. I presume I shall see you again?" he
nodded to Kennedy.

"Quite likely," returned Kennedy drily.

"If there is any assistance I can render in clearing up this dreadful
thing," went on Lockwood, in a lower tone to us, "you may count on me
absolutely."

"Thank you," returned Craig, with a significant glance. "I may have to
take up that offer."

"Do so, by all means," he reiterated, bowing to Norton and backing out
of the door.

Alone again with Inez Mendoza, Kennedy turned suddenly. "Who is this
Senor de Moche?" he asked. "I gather that you must have known him in
Peru."

"Yes," she agreed. "I knew him in Lima"; then adding, as if by way of
confession, "when he was a student at the University."

There was something in both her tone and manner that would lead one to
believe that she had only the kindliest feelings toward de Moche,
whatever might be the case, as it seemed, with his mother.

For a moment Kennedy now advanced and took Senorita Inez by the hand.
"I must go now," he said simply. "If there is anything which you have
not told me, I should like to know."

"No--nothing," she answered.

He did not take his eyes from hers. "If you should recall anything
else," he persisted, "don't hesitate to tell me. I will come here, or
you may come to the laboratory, whichever is more convenient."

"I shall do so," she replied. "And thank you a thousand times for the
trouble you are going to in my behalf. You may be sure that I
appreciate it."

Norton also bade her farewell, and she thanked him for having brought
us over. I noticed also that Norton, though considerably older than any
of us, had apparently succumbed to the spell of her wonderful eyes and
face.

"I also would be glad to help you," he promised. "You can usually find
me at the Museum."

"Thank you all," she murmured. "You are all so kind to me. An hour ago
I felt that I had not a friend in all this big city--except Mr.
Lockwood. Now I feel that I am not quite all alone."

She said it to Norton, but it was really meant for Kennedy. I know
Craig shared my own feelings. It was a rare pleasure to work for her.
She seemed most appreciative of anything that was done for her in her
defenceless position.

As we passed out of the apartment house and sought our cab again,
Kennedy was the first to speak, and to Norton.

"Do you know anything more about these men, Lockwood and de Moche?" he
queried, as we sped uptown.

"I don't know a thing," he replied cautiously. "I--I'd much prefer not
to talk of suspicions."

"But the dagger," insisted Kennedy. "Have you no suspicions of what
became of it and who took it?"

"I'd prefer not to talk of mere suspicions," he repeated.

Little was said as we turned in at the campus and at last drew up
before Norton's wing of the Museum.

"You will let me know of any development, no matter how trivial?" asked
Kennedy, as we parted. "Your dagger seems to have stirred up more
trouble than there was any reason to suppose when you came to me first."

"I should say so," he agreed. "I don't know how to repay the interest
you have shown in its recovery. If anything else materializes, I shall
surely get word to you immediately."

As we turned to leave, I could not help thinking of the manner of
Lockwood and Norton toward each other. The name Stuart Whitney ran
through my head. Stuart Whitney was a trustee of the University who had
contributed heavily, among other things, to Norton's various
expeditions to South America. Was it that Norton felt a peculiar
loyalty to Whitney, or was he jealous that any one else should succeed
in interesting his patron in things South American?

The actions of the two young men, Lockwood and de Moche, recurred to
me. "Well," I remarked, as we walked along, "what do you think it is--a
romance or a simple crime-hunt?"

"Both, I suspect," replied Craig abstractedly. "Only not simple."



III

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL DETECTIVE


"I think I'll go into the University Library," Craig remarked, as we
left Norton before his building. "I want to refresh my mind on some of
those old Peruvian antiquities and traditions. What the Senorita hinted
at may prove to be very important. I suppose you will have to turn in a
story to the Star soon?"

"Yes," I agreed, "I'll have to turn in something, although I'd prefer
to wait."

"Try to get an assignment to follow the case to the end," suggested
Craig. "I think you'll find it worth while. Anyhow, this will give you
a chance for a breathing space, and, if I have this thing doped out
right, you won't get another for some time. I'll meet you over in the
laboratory in a couple of hours."

Craig hurried up the long flight of white-marble steps to the library
and disappeared, while I jumped on the subway and ran downtown to the
office.

It took me, as I knew it would, considerably over a couple of hours to
clear things up at the Star, so that I could take advantage of a
special arrangement which I had made, so that I could, when a case
warranted it, co-operate with Kennedy. My story was necessarily brief,
but that was what I wanted just now. I did not propose to have the
whole field of special-feature writers camping on my preserve.

Uptown I hurried again, afraid that Kennedy had finished and might have
been called away. But when I reached the laboratory he was not there,
and I found that he had not been. Up and down I paced restlessly. There
was nothing else to do but wait. If he was unable to keep his
appointment here with me, I knew that he would soon telephone. What was
it, I wondered, that kept him delving into the archaeological lore of
the library?

I had about given him up, when he hurried into the laboratory in a high
state of excitement.

"What did you find?" I queried. "Has anything happened?"

"Let me tell you first what I found in the library," he replied,
tilting his hat back on his head and alternately thrusting and
withdrawing his fingers in his waistcoat pockets, as if in some way
that might help him to piece together some scattered fragments of a
story which he had just picked up.

"I've been looking up that hint that the Senorita dropped when she used
those words peje grande, which mean, literally, 'big fish,'" he
resumed. "Walter, it fires the imagination. You have read of the wealth
that Pizarro found in Peru, of course." Visions of Prescott flashed
through my mind as he spoke.

"Well, where are the gold and silver of the conquistadores? Gone to the
melting-pot, centuries ago. But is there none left? The Indians in Peru
believe so, at any rate. And, Walter, there are persons who would stop
at nothing to get at the secret.

"It is a matter of history that soon after the conquest a vast fortune
was unearthed of which the King of Spain's fifth amounted to five
million dollars. That treasure was known as the peje chica--the little
fish. One version of the story tells that an Inca ruler, the great
Cacique Mansiche, had observed with particular attention the kindness
of a young Spaniard toward the people of the conquered race. Also, he
had observed that the man was comparatively poor. At any rate, he
revealed the secret of the hiding-place of the peje chica, on condition
that a part of the wealth should be used to advance the interests of
the Indians.

"The most valuable article discovered was in the form of a fish of
solid gold and so large that the Spaniards considered it a rare prize.
But the Cacique assured his young friend that it was only the little
fish, that a much greater treasure existed, worth many times the value
of this one.

"The sequel of the story is that the Spaniard forgot his promise, went
off to Spain, and spent all his gold. He was returning for the peje
grande, of which he had made great boasts, but before he could get it
he was killed. Prescott, I believe, gives another version, in which he
says that the Spaniard devoted a large part of his wealth to the relief
of the Indians and gave large sums to the Peruvian churches. Other
stories deny that it was Mansiche who told the first secret, but that
it was another Indian. One may, I suppose, pay his money and take his
choice. But the point, as far as we are concerned in this case, is that
there is still believed to be the great fish, which no one has found.
Who knows? Perhaps, somehow, Mendoza had the secret of the peje grande?"

Kennedy paused, and I could feel the tense interest with which his
delving into the crumbling past had now endowed this already
fascinating case.

"And the curse?" I put in.

"About that we do not know," he replied. "Except that we do know that
Mansiche was the great Cacique or ruler of northern Peru. The natives
are believed to have buried a far greater treasure than even that which
the Spaniards carried off. Mansiche is said to have left a curse on any
native who ever divulged the whereabouts of the treasure, and the curse
was also to fall on any Spaniard who might discover it. That is all we
know--yet. Gold was used lavishly in the temples. That great hoard is
really the Gold of the Gods. Surely, as we have seen it so far in this
case, it must be cursed."

There was a knock on the laboratory door, and I sprang to open it,
expecting to find that it was something for Kennedy. Instead there
stood one of the office boys of the Star.

"Why, hello, Tommy," I greeted him. "What seems to be the matter now?"

"A letter for you, Mr. Jameson," he replied, handing over a plain
envelope. "It came just after you left. The Boss thought it might be
important--something about that story, I guess. Anyhow, he told me to
take it up to you on my way home, sir."

I looked at it again. It bore simply my name and the address of the
Star, not written, but, strange to say, printed in ungainly, rough
characters, as though some one were either not familiar with writing
English or desired to conceal his handwriting.

"Where did it come from--and how?" I asked, as I tore the envelope open.

"I don't know where, sir," replied Tommy. "A boy brought it. Said a man
uptown gave him a quarter to deliver it to you."

I looked at the contents in blank amazement. There was nothing in the
letter except a quarter sheet of ordinary size note paper such as that
used in typewritten correspondence.

Printed on it, in characters exactly like those on the outside of the
envelope, were the startling words:

"BEWARE THE CURSE OF MANSICHE ON THE GOLD OF THE GODS."

Underneath this inscription appeared the rude drawing of a dagger in
which some effort had evidently been made to make it appear three-sided.

"Well, of all things, what do you think of that?" I cried, tossing the
thing over to Kennedy.

He took it and read it; his face puckered deeply. "I'm not surprised,"
he said, a moment later, looking up. "Do you know, I was just about to
tell you what happened at the library. I had a feeling all the time I
was there of being watched. I don't know why or how, but, somehow, I
felt that some one was interested in the books I was reading. It made
me uncomfortable. I was late, anyhow, and I decided not to give them
the satisfaction of seeing me any more--at least in the library. So I
have had a number of the books on Peru which I wanted reserved, and
they'll be sent over later, here. No, I'm not surprised that you
received this. Would you remember the boy?" he asked of Tommy.

"I think so," replied Tommy. "He didn't have on a uniform, though. It
wasn't a messenger."

There was no use to question him further. He had evidently told all
that he knew, and finally we had to let him go, with a parting
injunction to keep his eyes open and his mouth shut.

Kennedy continued to study the note on the quarter sheet of paper long
after the boy had gone.

"You know," he remarked thoughtfully, after a while, "as nearly as I
can make the thing out with the slender information that we have so
far, the weirdest superstitions seem to cluster about that dagger which
Norton lost. I wouldn't be surprised if it took us far back into the
dim past of the barbaric splendour of the lost Inca civilization of
Peru."

He waved the sheet of paper for emphasis. "You see, some one has used
it here as a sign of terror. Perhaps somehow it bore the secret of the
big fish--who knows? None of the writers and explorers have ever found
it. The most they can say is that it may be handed down from father to
son through a long line. At any rate, the secret of the hiding-place
seems to have been safely kept. No one has ever found the treasure. It
would be strange, wouldn't it, if it remained for some
twentieth-century civilized man to unearth the thing and start again
the curse that historians say was uttered and seems always to have
followed the thing?"

"Kennedy, this affair is getting on my nerves already."

While Craig was speaking the door of the laboratory had opened without
our hearing it, and there stood Norton again. He had waited until Craig
had finished before he had spoken.

We looked at him, startled, ourselves.

"I had some work to do after I left you," went on Norton, without
stopping. "In my letter-box were several letters, but I forgot to look
at them until just now, when I was leaving. Then I picked them
up--and--look at this thing that was among them."

Norton laid down on the laboratory table a plain envelope and a quarter
sheet of paper on which were printed, except for his own name instead
of mine, an almost exact replica of the note which I had received.

"BEWARE THE CURSE OF MANSICHE ON THE GOLD OF THE GODS."

Kennedy and I looked at him. Already, evidently, he had seen that
Kennedy held in his hand the note that had come to me.

"I can't make anything out of it," went on Norton, evidently much
worried. "First I lose the dagger. Next you say it was used to murder
Mendoza. Then I get this. Now, if any one can get into the Museum to
steal the dagger, they could get in to carry out any threat of revenge,
real or fancied."

Looked at in that respect, I felt that it was indeed a real cause of
worry for Norton. But, then, it flashed over me, was not my own case
worse? I was to be responsible for telling the story. Might not some
unseen hand strike at me, perhaps sooner than at him?

Kennedy had taken the two notes and was scanning them eagerly.

Just then an automobile drew up outside, and a moment later we heard a
tap at the door which Kennedy had closed after the entrance of Norton.
I opened it.

"Is Professor Kennedy here?" I heard a voice inquire. "I'm one of the
orderlies at the City Hospital, next to the Morgue, where Dr. Leslie
has his laboratory. I've a message for Professor Kennedy, if he's in."

Kennedy took the envelope, which bore the stamp of Dr. Leslie's
department, and tore it open.

"My dear Kennedy," he read, in an undertone. "I've been engaged in
investigating that poison which probably surrounds the wound in the
Mendoza case, but as yet have nothing to report. It is certainly none
of the things which we ordinarily run up against. Enclosed you will
find a slip of paper and the envelope which it came in--something, I
take it, that has been sent me by a crank. Would you treat it seriously
or disregard it? Leslie."

As Kennedy had unfolded Leslie's own letter a piece of paper had
fluttered to the floor. I picked it up mechanically, and only now
looked at it, as Craig finished reading.

On it was another copy of the threat that had been sent to both Norton
and myself!

The hospital orderly had scarcely gone when another tap came at the
door.

"Your books from the library, Professor," announced a student who was
employed in the library as part payment of his tuition. "I've signed
the slip for them, sir."

He deposited the books on a desk, a huge pile of them, which reached
from his outstretched arms to his chin. As he did so the pressure of
his arms released the pile of books and the column collapsed.

From a book entitled "New and Old Peru," which fell with the pile,
slipped a plain white envelope. Kennedy saw it before either of us, and
seized it.

"Here's one for me," he said, tearing it open.

Sure enough, in the same rude printing on a quarter sheet were the
words:

"BEWARE THE CURSE OF MANSICHE ON THE GOLD OF THE GODS."

We could only stare at each other and at that tell-tale sign of the
Inca dagger underneath.

What did it mean? Who had sent the warnings?

Kennedy alone seemed to regard the affair as if with purely scientific
interest. He took the four pieces of paper and laid them down before
him on the table. Then he looked up suddenly.

"They match perfectly," he said quietly, gathering them up and placing
them in a wallet which he carried. "All the indentures of the tearing
correspond. Four warnings seem to have been sent to those who are
likely to find out something of the secret."

Norton seemed to have gained somewhat of his composure now that he had
been able to talk to some one.

"What are you going to do--give it up?" he asked tensely.

"Nothing could have insured my sticking to it harder," answered Craig
grimly.

"Then we'll all have to stick together," said Norton slowly. "We all
seem to be in the same boat."

As he rose to go he extended a hand to each of us.

"I'll stick," repeated Kennedy, with that peculiar bulldog look of
intensity on his face which I had come to know so well.



IV

THE TREASURE HUNTERS


Norton had scarcely gone, and Kennedy was still studying the four
pieces of paper on which the warning had been given, when our
laboratory door was softly pushed open again.

It was Senorita Mendoza, looking more beautiful than ever in her plain
black mourning dress, the unnatural pallor of her face heightening the
wonderful lustrous eyes that looked about as though half frightened at
what she was doing.

"I hope nothing has happened," greeted Kennedy, placing an easy-chair
for her. "But I'm glad to see that you have confidence enough to trust
me."

She looked about doubtfully at the vast amount of paraphernalia which
Craig had collected in his scientific warfare on crime. Though she did
not understand it, it seemed to impress her.

"No," she murmured, "nothing new has happened. You told me to call on
you if I should think of anything else."

She said it with an air as if confessing something. It was apparent
that, whatever it was, she had known it all the time and only after a
struggle had brought herself to telling it.

"Then you have thought of something?" prompted Craig.

"Yes," she replied in a low tone. Then with an effort she went on: "I
don't know whether you know it or not, but my family is an old one, one
of the oldest in Peru."

Kennedy nodded encouragingly.

"Back in the old days, after Pizarro," she hurried on, no longer able
to choose her words, but blurting the thing out directly, "an ancestor
of mine was murdered by an Inca dagger."

She stopped again and looked about, actually frightened at her own
temerity, evidently. Kennedy and his twentieth-century surroundings
seemed again to reassure her.

"I can't tell you the story," she resumed. "I don't know it. My father
knew it. But it was some kind of family secret, for he never told me.
Once when I asked him he put me off; told me to wait until I was a
little older."

"And you think that may have something to do with the case?" asked
Kennedy, trying to draw out anything more that she knew.

"I don't know," she answered frankly. "But don't you think that it is
strange--an ancestor of mine murdered and now, hundreds of years
afterward, my father, the last of his line in direct descent, murdered
in the same way, by an Inca dagger that has disappeared?"

"Then you were listening while I was talking to Professor Norton?" shot
out Kennedy, not unkindly, but rather as a surprise test to see what
she would say.

"You cannot blame me for that," she returned simply.

"Hardly," smiled Kennedy. "And I appreciate your reticence--as well as
your coming here finally to tell me. Indeed, it is strange. Surely you
must have some other suspicions," he persisted, "something that you
feel, even though you do not know?"

Kennedy was leaning forward, looking deeply into her eyes, as if he
would read what was passing in her mind. She met his gaze for a moment,
then looked away.

"You heard Mr. Lockwood say that he had become associated with a Mr.
Whitney, Mr. Stuart Whitney, down in Wall Street?" she ventured.

Kennedy did not take his eyes from her face as he sought to extract the
reluctant words from her.

"Mr. Whitney has been largely interested in Peru, in business and in
mining," she went on slowly. "He has given large sums to scholars down
there, to Professor Norton's expeditions from New York. I--I'm afraid
of that Mr. Whitney!"

Her quiet tone had risen to a pitch of tremulous excitement. Her face,
which had been pale from the strain of the tragedy, was now full of
colour, and her breast rose and fell with suppressed emotion.

"Afraid of him--why?" asked Kennedy.

There was no more reticence. Once having said so much, she seemed to
feel that she must go on and tell her fears.

"Because," she went on, "he--he knows a woman--whom my father knew." A
sudden flash of fire seemed to light up her dark eyes. "A woman of
Truxillo," she continued, "Senora de Moche."

"De Moche," repeated Kennedy, recalling the name and a still
unexplained incident of our first interview. "Who is this Senora de
Moche?" he asked, studying her as if she had been under a lens.

"A Peruvian of an old Indian family," she replied, in a low tone, as if
the words were forced from her. "She has come to New York with her son,
Alfonso. You remember--you met him. He is studying here at the
University."

Again I noted the different manner in which she spoke the two names of
mother and son. Evidently there was some feud, some barrier between her
and the elder woman, which did not extend to Alfonso.

Kennedy reached for the University catalogue and found the name,
"Alfonso de Moche." He was, as he had told us, a post-graduate student
in the engineering school and, therefore, not in any of Kennedy's own
classes.

"You say your father knew the Senora?" asked Kennedy.

"Yes," she replied, in a low voice, "he had had some dealings with her.
I cannot say just what they were; I do not know. Socially, of course,
it was different. They did not belong to the same circle as ours in
Lima."

From her tone I gathered that there existed a race prejudice between
those of old Spanish descent and the descendants of the Indians. That,
however, could not account for her attitude. At least with her the
prejudice did not extend to Alfonso.

"Senora de Moche is a friend of Mr. Whitney?" queried Kennedy.

"Yes, I believe she has placed some of her affairs in his hands. The de
Moches live at the Prince Edward Albert Hotel, and Mr. Whitney lives
there, too. I suppose they see more or less of each other."

"H-m," mused Kennedy. "You know Mr. Whitney, I suppose?"

"Not very well," she answered. "Of course, I have met him. He has been
to visit my father, and my father has been down at his office, with Mr.
Lockwood. But I do not know much about him, except that he is what you
Americans call a promoter."

Apparently, Inez was endeavouring to be frank in telling her
suspicions, much more so even than Norton had been. But I could not
help feeling that she was trying to shield some one, though not to the
extent of consciously putting us on a wrong scent.

"I shall try to see Mr. Whitney as soon as possible," said Kennedy, as
she rose to go. "And Senora de Moche, too."

I fancied that Senorita Inez, although she had not told us much, felt
relieved.

Again she murmured her thanks as she left and again Kennedy repeated
his injunction to tell everything that happened that could possibly
have any bearing on the case.

"That's a rather peculiar phase," he considered, when we were alone,
"this de Moche affair."

"Yes," I agreed. "Do you suppose that woman could be using Whitney for
some purpose?"

"Or Whitney using her," suggested Kennedy. "There's so much to be done
at once that I hardly know where to begin. We must see both of them as
soon as possible. Meanwhile, that message from Dr. Leslie about the
poison interests me. I must at least start my tests of the blood
samples that I extracted. Walter, may I ask you to leave me here in the
laboratory undisturbed?"

I had some writing on my news story to do, and went into the room next
to the laboratory, where I was soon busily engaged tapping my
typewriter. Suddenly I became conscious of that feeling, which Kennedy
had hinted at, of being watched. Perhaps I had heard a footstep outside
and was not consciously aware of it. But, at any rate, I had the
feeling.

I stopped tapping the keys and wheeled unexpectedly about in my chair.
I am sure that I caught just a fleeting glimpse of a face dodging back
from the window, which was on the first floor.

Whose face it was I am not prepared to assert exactly. But there was a
face, and the fleeting glimpse of the eyes and forehead was just enough
to give me the impression that they were familiar, without enabling me
to identify them. At any rate, the occurrence made me feel decidedly
uncomfortable, especially after the warning letters that we had all
received.

I sprang to my feet and ran to the door. But it was too late. The
intruder had disappeared. Still, the more I thought about it, the more
determined I was to try to verify an indistinct suspicion, if possible.
I put on my hat and walked hurriedly over to the office of the
registrar.

Sure enough, I found that Alfonso de Moche had been at the University
that day, must have attended a lecture an hour or so before. Having
nothing else to do, I hunted up some of his professors and tried to
quiz them about him.

As I had expected, they told me that he was an excellent student,
though very quiet and reserved. His mind seemed to run along the line
of engineering, and particularly mining. I could not help coming to the
conclusion that undoubtedly he, too, was infected by the furore for
treasure hunting, in spite of his Indian ancestry.

Yet there seemed to be surprisingly little known about him outside of
the lecture room and laboratory. The professors knew that he lived with
his mother at a hotel downtown. He seemed to have little or nothing to
do with the other students outside of class work. Altogether he was an
enigma, as far as the social life of the University went. It looked
very much as though he had come to New York quietly to prepare himself
for the search for the buried treasure. Had the Gold of the Gods lured
him into its net, too?

Reflecting on the tangle of events, the strange actions of Lockwood and
the ambitions of Whitney, I retraced my steps in the direction of the
laboratory, convinced that de Moche had employed at least a part of his
time lately in spying on us. Perhaps he had seen Inez going in and out.
Suddenly it flashed over me that the interchange of glances between de
Moche and Lockwood indicated that she was more to him than a mere
acquaintance. Perhaps it had been jealousy as well as treasure hunting
that had prompted his eavesdropping.

Still reflecting, I decided to turn in at the Museum and have a chat
with Norton. I found him nervously pacing up and down the little office
that had been accorded him in his section of the building.

"I can't rid my mind of that warning," he remarked anxiously, pausing
in his measured tread. "It seems inconceivable to me that any one would
take the trouble to send four such warnings unless he meant it."

"Quite so," I agreed, relating to him what had just happened.

"I thought of something like that," he acquiesced, "and I have already
taken some precautions."

Norton waved his hand at the windows, which I had not noticed before.
Though they were some distance above the ground, I saw now that he had
closed and barred them at the expense of ventilation. The warnings
seemed to have made more of an impression on him than on any of the
rest of us.

"One never can tell where or when a blow will fall with these people,"
he explained. "You see, I've lived among them. They are a hot-blooded
race. Besides, as you perhaps have read, they have some queer poisons
down in South America. I mean to run no unnecessary chances."

"I suppose you suspected all along that the dagger had something to do
with the Gold of the Gods, did you not?" I hinted.

Norton paused before answering, as though to weigh his words.
"Suspected--yes," he replied. "But, as I told you, I have had no chance
to read the inscription on it. I can't say that I took it very
seriously--until now."

"It's not possible that Stuart Whitney, who, I understand, is deeply
interested in South America, may have had some inkling of the value of
the dagger, is it?" I asked thoughtfully.

For a full minute Norton gazed at me. "I hadn't thought of that," he
admitted at length. "That's a new idea to me."

Yet somehow I knew that Norton had thought of it, though he had not yet
spoken about it. Was it through loyalty to the man who had contributed
to financing his expeditions to South America?

"Do you know Senora de Moche well?" I ventured, a moment later.

"Fairly well," he replied. "Why?"

"What do you think of her?"

"Rather a clever woman," he replied noncommittally.

"I suppose all the people in New York who were interested in Peru knew
her," I pursued, adding, "Mr. Whitney, Mendoza, Lockwood."

Norton hesitated, as though he was afraid of saying too much. While I
could not help admiring his caution, I found that it was most
exasperating. Still, I was determined to get at his point of view, if
possible.

"Alfonso seems to be a worthy son, then," I remarked. "I can't quite
make out, though, why the Senorita should have such an obvious
prejudice against her. It doesn't seem to extend to him."

"I believe," replied Norton reluctantly, "that Mendoza had been on
rather intimate terms with her. At least, I think you'll find the woman
very ambitious for her son. I don't think she would have stopped at
much to advance his interests. You must have noticed how much Alfonso
thinks of the Senorita. But I don't think there was anything that could
have overcome the old Castilian's prejudice. You know they pride
themselves on never intermarrying. With Lockwood it would have been
different."

I thought I began to get some glimmering of how things were.

"Whitney knows her pretty well now, doesn't he?" I shot out.

Norton shrugged his shoulders. But he could not have acquiesced better
than by his very manner.

"Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Whitney know best what they are doing," he
remarked, at length. "Why don't you and Kennedy try to see Senora de
Moche? I'm a scientist, you know. I dislike talking about speculations.
I'd prefer only to express opinions about things that are certainties."

Perhaps Norton wished to convey the impression that the subjects I had
broached were worth looking into. At least it was the impression I
derived.

"Still," he continued slowly, "I think I am justified in saying this
much: I myself have been interested in watching both Alfonso de Moche
and Lockwood when it comes to the case of the Senorita. All's fair,
they say, in love and war. If I am any judge, there are both in this
case, somewhere. I think you had better see the Senora and judge for
yourself. She's a clever woman, I know. But I'm sure that Kennedy could
make her out, even if the rest of us can't."

I thanked Norton for the hint that he had given, and after chatting a
few moments more left him alone in his office.

In my room again, I went back to finish my writing. Nothing further
occurred, however, to excite my suspicions, and at last I managed to
finish it.

I was correcting what I had written when the door opened from the
laboratory and Craig entered. He had thrown off his old, acid-stained
laboratory smock and was now dressed to venture forth.

"Have you found out anything about the poison?" I asked.

"Nothing definite yet," he replied. "That will take some time now. It's
a strange poison--an alkaloid, I'm sure, but not one that one
ordinarily encounters. Still, I've made a good beginning. It won't take
long to determine it now."

Craig listened with deep interest, though without comment, when I
related what had happened, both Norton's conversation and about the
strange visitor whom we had had peering into our windows.

"Some one seems to be very much interested in what we are doing,
Walter," he concluded simply. "I think we'd better do a little more
outside work now, while we have a chance. If you are ready, so am I. I
want to see what sort of treasure hunter this Stuart Whitney is. I'd
like to know whether he is in on this secret of the Gold of the Gods,
too."



V

THE WALL STREET PROMOTER


Lockwood, as we now knew, had become allied in some way with a group of
Wall Street capitalists, headed by Stuart Whitney.

Already I had heard something of Whitney. In the Street he was well
known as an intensely practical man, though far above the average
exploiter both in cleverness and education.

As a matter of fact, Whitney had been far-sighted enough to see that
scholarship could be capitalized, not only as an advertisement, but in
more direct manners. Just at present one of his pet schemes was
promoting trade through the canal between the east coast of North
America and the west coast of South America. He had spent a good deal
of money promoting friendship between men of affairs and wealth in both
New York and Lima. It was a good chance, he figured, for his
investments down in Peru were large, and anything that popularized the
country in New York could not but make them more valuable.

"Norton seemed rather averse to talking about Whitney," I ventured to
Craig, as we rode downtown.

"That may be part of Whitney's cleverness," he returned thoughtfully.
"As a patron of art and letters, you know, a man can carry through a
good many things that otherwise would be more critically examined."

Kennedy did not say it in a way that implied that he knew anything very
bad about Whitney. Still, I reflected, it was astute in the man to
insure the cooperation of such people as Norton. A few thousand dollars
judiciously spent on archaeology might cover up a multitude of sins of
high finance.

Nothing more was said by either of us, and at last we reached the
financial district. We entered a tall skyscraper on Wall Street just
around the corner from Broadway and shot up in the elevator to the
floor where Whitney and his associates had a really palatial suite of
offices.

As we opened the door we saw that Lockwood was still there. He greeted
us with a rather stiff bow.

"Professor Kennedy and Mr. Jameson," he said simply, introducing us to
Whitney, "friends of Professor Norton, I believe. I met them to-day up
at Mendoza's."

"That is a most incomprehensible affair," returned Whitney, shaking
hands with us. "What do you make out of it?"

Kennedy shrugged his shoulders and turned the remark aside without
committing himself.

Stuart Whitney was a typical promoter, a large, full-blooded man, with
a face red and inclined to be puffy from the congested veins. His voice
alone commanded respect, whether he said anything worth while or not.
In fact, he had but to say that it was a warm day and you felt that he
had scored a telling point in the conversation.

"Professor Norton has asked me to look into the loss of an old Peruvian
dagger which he brought back from his last expedition," explained
Kennedy, endeavouring to lead the conversation in channels which might
arrive somewhere.

"Yes, yes," remarked Whitney, with a nod of interest. "He has told me
of it. Very strange, very strange. When he came back he told me that he
had it, along with a lot of other important finds. But I had no idea he
set such a value on it--or, rather, that any one else might do so. It
would have been easy to have safeguarded it here, if we had known," he
added, with a wave of his hand in the direction of a huge chrome steel
safe of latest design in the outer office.

Lockwood, I noted, was listening intently, quite in contrast with his
former cavalier manner of dismissing all consideration of ancient Inca
lore as academic or unpractical. Did he know something of the dagger?

"I'm very much interested in old Peruvian antiquities myself," remarked
Kennedy, a few minutes later, "though not, of course, a scholar like
our friend Norton."

"Indeed?" returned Whitney; and I noticed for the first time that his
eyes seemed fairly to glitter with excitement.

They were prominent eyes, a trifle staring, and I could not help
studying them.

"Then," he exclaimed, rising, "you must know of the ruins of Chan-Chan,
of Chima--those wonderful places?"

Kennedy nodded. "And of Truxillo and the legend of the great fish and
the little fish," he put in.

Whitney seemed extraordinarily pleased that any one should be willing
to discuss his hobby with him. His eyes by this time were apparently
starting from their sockets, and I noticed that the pupils were dilated
almost to the size of the iris.

"We must sit down and talk about Peru," he continued, reaching for a
large box of cigarettes in the top drawer of his big desk.

Lockwood seemed to sense a long discussion of archaeology. He rose and
mumbled an excuse about having something to do in the outer office.

"Oh, it is a wonderful country, Professor Kennedy," went on Whitney,
throwing himself back in his chair. "I am deeply interested in it--its
mines, its railroads, as well as its history. Let me show you a map of
our interests down there."

He rose and passed into the next room to get the map. The moment his
back was turned, Kennedy reached over to a typewriter desk that stood
in a corner of the office, left open by the stenographer, who had gone.
He took two thin second sheets of paper and a new carbon sheet. A hasty
dab or two of the library paste completed his work.

Carefully Craig laid the prepared paper on the floor just a few inches
from the door into the outer office and scattered a few other sheets
about, as though the wind had blown them off the desk.

As Whitney returned, a big map unrolled in his hands, I saw his foot
fall on the double sheet that Craig had laid by the door.

Kennedy bent down and began picking up the papers.

"Oh, that's all right," remarked Whitney brusquely. "Never mind that.
Here's where some of our interests lie, in the north."

I don't think I paid much more attention to the map than did Kennedy as
we three bent over it. His real attention was on the paper which he had
placed on the floor, as though fixing in his mind the exact spot on
which Whitney had stepped.

As Whitney talked rapidly about the country, we lighted the cigarettes.
They seemed to be of a special brand. I puffed mine for a moment. There
was a peculiar taste about it, however, which I did not exactly like.
In fact, I think that the Latin-American cigarettes do not seem to
appeal to most Americans very much, anyhow.

While we talked, I noticed that Kennedy evidently shared my own tastes,
for he allowed his cigarette to go out, and, after a puff or two, I did
the same. For the sake of my own comfort, I drew one of my own from my
case as soon as I could do so politely, and laid the stub of the other
in an ash-tray on Whitney's desk.

"Mr. Lockwood and Senor Mendoza had some joint interests in the
country, too, didn't they?" queried Kennedy, his eye still on the
pieces of paper near the door.

"Yes," returned Whitney. "Lockwood!"

"What is it?" came Lockwood's voice from outside.

"Show Professor Kennedy where you and Mendoza have those concessions."

The young engineer strode into the room, and I saw a smile of
gratification cross Kennedy's face as his foot, also, fell on the paper
by the door.

Unlike Whitney, however, Lockwood bent over to gather up the sheets.
But before he could actually do so Kennedy reached down and swept them
just out of his reach.

"Quite breezy," Kennedy covered up his action, turning to restore the
paper to the desk.

Craig had his back to them, but not to me, and I saw him fumble for an
instant with the papers. Quickly he pressed his thumb-nail on one side,
as though making a rough "W," while on the other side he made what
might be an "L." Then he shoved the two sheets and the carbon into his
pocket.

I glanced up hastily. Fortunately, neither Whitney nor Lockwood had
noted his action.

For the first time, now, I noticed as I watched him that Lockwood's
eyes, too, were a trifle stary, though not so noticeable as Whitney's.

"Let me see," continued Whitney, "your concessions are all about here,
in the north, aren't they?"

Lockwood drew a pencil from his pocket and made several cross-marks
over the names of some towns on the large map.

"Those are the points that we had proposed to work," he said simply,
"before this terrible tragedy to Mendoza."

"Mining, you understand," explained Whitney. Then, after a pause, he
resumed quickly. "Of course, you know that much has been said about the
chances for mining investments and about the opportunities for fortunes
for persons in South America. Peru has been the Mecca for fortune
hunters since the days of Pizarro. But where one person has been
successful thousands have failed because they don't know the game. Why,
I know of one investment of hundreds of thousands that hasn't yielded a
cent of profit just because of that."

Lockwood said nothing, evidently not caring to waste time or breath on
any one who was not a possible investor. But Whitney had the true
promoter's instinct of booming his scheme on the chance that the
interest inspired might be carried to some third party.

"American financiers, it is true," he went on excitedly, taking out a
beautifully chased gold cigarette case, "have lost millions in mining
in Peru. But that is not the scheme that our group, including Mr.
Lockwood now, has. We are going to make more millions than they ever
dreamed of--because we are simply going to mine for the products of
centuries of labour already done--for the great treasure of Truxillo."

One could not help becoming infected by Whitney's enthusiasm.

Kennedy was following him closely, while a frown of disapproval spread
over Lockwood's face.

"Then you know the secret of the hiding-place of the treasure?" queried
Kennedy abruptly.

Whitney shook his head in the negative. "It is my idea that we don't
have to know it," he answered. "With the hints that we have collected
from the natives, I think we can locate it with the expenditure of
comparatively little time and money. Senor Mendoza has obtained the
concession from the government to hunt for it on a large scale in the
big mounds about Truxillo. We know it is there. Is not that enough?"

If it had been any one less than Whitney, we should probably have said
it was not. But it took more than that to deny anything he asserted.
Lockwood's face was a study. I cannot say that it betrayed anything
except disapproval of the mere discussion of the subject. In fact, it
left me in doubt as to whether Whitney himself might not have been
bluffing, in the certainty of finding the treasure--perhaps had already
the secret he denied having and was preparing to cover it up by
stumbling on it, apparently, in some other way. I recognized in Stuart
Whitney as smooth an individual as ever we had encountered. His was all
the sincerity of a crook. Yet he contrived to leave the whole matter in
doubt. Perhaps in this case he actually knew what he was talking about.

The telephone rang and Lockwood answered it. Though he did not mention
her name, I knew from his very tone and manner that it was Senorita de
Mendoza who was calling up. Evidently his continued absence had worried
her.

"There's absolutely nothing to worry about," we heard him say. "Nothing
has changed. I shall be up to see you as soon as I can get away from
the office."

There was an air of restraint about Lockwood's remarks, not as though
he were keeping anything from the Senorita, but as though he were
reluctant for us to overhear anything about his affairs.

Lockwood had been smoking, too, and he added the stubs of his
cigarettes to the pile in the ash-tray on Whitney's desk. Once I saw
Craig cast a quick glance at the tray, and I understood that in some
way he was anxious to have a chance to investigate those cigarettes.

"You saw the dagger which Norton brought back, did you not?" asked
Kennedy of Whitney.

"Only as I saw the rest of the stuff after it was unpacked," he replied
easily. "He brought back a great many interesting objects on this last
trip."

It was apparent that whether he actually knew anything about the secret
of the Inca dagger or not, Whitney was not to be trapped into betraying
it. I had an idea that Lockwood was interested in knowing that fact,
too. At any rate, one could not be sure whether these two were
perfectly frank with each other, or were playing a game for high stakes
between themselves.

Lockwood seemed eager to get away and, with a hasty glance at his
watch, rose.

"If you wish to find me, I shall be with Senorita de Mendoza," he said,
taking his hat and stick, and bowing to us.

Whitney rose and accompanied him to the door in the outer office, his
arm on his shoulder, conversing in a low tone that was inaudible to us.

No sooner, however, had the two passed through the door, with their
backs toward us, than Kennedy reached over quickly and swept the
contents of the ash-tray, cigarette stubs, ashes, and all, into an
empty envelope which was lying with some papers. Then he sealed it and
shoved it into his pocket, with a sidelong glance of satisfaction at me.

"Evidently Mr. Lockwood and the Senorita are on intimate terms,"
hazarded Kennedy, as Whitney rejoined us.

"Poor little girl," soliloquized the promoter. "Yes, indeed. And
Lockwood is a lucky dog, too. Such eyes, such a figure--did you ever
see a more beautiful woman?"

One could not help recognizing that whatever else Whitney might have
said that did not ring true his admiration for the unfortunate girl was
genuine. That was not so remarkable, however. It could hardly have been
otherwise.

"You are acquainted, I suppose, with a Senora de Moche?" ventured
Kennedy again, taking a chance shot.

Whitney looked at him keenly. "Yes," he agreed, "I have had some
dealings with her. She was an acquaintance of old Mendoza's--a woman of
the world, clever, shrewd. I think she has but one ambition--her son.
You have met her?"

"Not the Senora," admitted Craig, "but her son is a student at the
University."

"Oh, yes, to be sure," said Whitney. "A fine fellow--but not of the
type of Lockwood."

Why he should have coupled the names was not clear for the moment. But
he had risen, and was moving deliberately up and down the office, his
thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, as though he were thinking of
something very perplexing.

"If I were younger," he remarked finally, of a sudden, "I would give
both of them a race for that girl. She is the greatest treasure that
has ever come out of the country. Ah, well--as it is, I would not place
my money on young de Moche!"

Kennedy had risen to go.

"I trust you will be able to unearth some clue regarding that dagger,"
said Whitney, as we moved toward the door. "It seems to have worried
Norton considerably, especially since you told him that Mendoza was
undoubtedly murdered with it."

Evidently Norton kept in close touch with his patron, but Kennedy did
not appear to be surprised at it.

"I am doing my best," he returned. "I suppose I may count on your help
as the case develops?"

"Absolutely," replied Whitney, accompanying us out into the hall to the
elevator. "I shall back Norton in anything he wants to keep the
Peruvian collection intact and protected."

Our questions were as yet unanswered. Not only had we no inkling as to
the whereabouts of the dagger, but the source of the four warnings that
had been sent us was still as much shrouded in mystery.

Kennedy beckoned to a passing taxicab.

"The Prince Edward Albert," he directed briefly.



VI

THE CURSE OF MANSICHE


We entered the Prince Edward Albert a few minutes later, one of the new
and beautiful family hotels uptown.

Before making any inquiries, Craig gave a hasty look about the lobby.
Suddenly I felt him take my arm and draw me over to a little alcove on
one side. I followed the direction of his eyes. There I could see young
Alfonso de Moche talking to a woman much older than himself.

"That must be his mother," whispered Craig. "You can see the
resemblance. Let's sit here awhile behind these palms and watch."

They seemed to be engaged in an earnest conversation about something.
Even as they talked, though we could not guess what it was about, it
was evident that Alfonso was dearer than life to the woman and that the
young man was a model son. Though I felt that I must admire them each
for it, still, I reflected, that was no reason why we should not
suspect them--perhaps rather a reason for suspecting.

Senora de Moche was a woman of well-preserved middle age, a large
woman, with dark hair and contrasting full, red lips. Her face, in
marked contradiction to her Parisian costume and refined manners, had a
slight copper swarthiness about it which spoke eloquently of her
ancestry.

But it was her eyes that arrested and held one's attention most.
Whether it was in the eyes themselves or in the way that she used them,
there could be no mistake about the almost hypnotic power that their
owner possessed. I could not help wondering whether she might not have
exercised it on Don Luis, perhaps was using it in some way to influence
Whitney. Was that the reason why the Senorita so evidently feared her?

Fortunately, from our vantage point, we could see without being in any
danger of being seen.

"There's Whitney," I heard Craig mutter under his breath.

I looked up and saw the promoter enter from his car. At almost the same
instant the roving eyes of the Senora seemed to catch sight of him. He
came over and spoke to the de Moches, standing with them several
minutes. I fancied that not for an instant did she allow the gaze of
any one else to distract her in the projection of whatever weird ocular
power nature had endowed her with. If it were a battle of eyes, I
recollected the strange look that I had noted about those of both
Whitney and Lockwood. That, however, was different from the impression
one got of the Senora's. I felt that she would have to be pretty clever
to match the subtlety of Whitney.

Whatever it was they were talking about, one could see that Whitney and
Senora de Moche were on very familiar terms. At the same time, young de
Moche appeared to be ill at ease. Perhaps he did not approve of the
intimacy with Whitney. At any rate, he seemed visibly relieved when the
promoter excused himself and walked over to the desk to get his mail
and then out into the cafe.

"I'd like to get a better view of her," remarked Kennedy, rising. "Let
us take a turn or two along the corridor and pass them."

We sauntered forth from our alcove and strolled down among the various
knots of people chatting and laughing. As we passed the woman and her
son, I was conscious again of that strange feeling, which psychologists
tell us, however, has no real foundation, of being stared at from
behind.

At the lower end of the lobby Kennedy turned suddenly and we started to
retrace our steps. Alfonso's back was toward us now. Again we passed
them, just in time to catch the words, in a low tone, from the young
man, "Yes, I have seen him at the University. Every one there knows
that he is--"

The rest of the sentence was lost. But it was not difficult to
reconstruct. It referred undoubtedly to the activities of Kennedy in
unravelling mysteries.

"It's quite evident," I suggested, "that they know that we are
interested in them now."

"Yes," he agreed. "There wasn't any use of watching them further from
under cover. I wanted them to see me, just to find out what they would
do."

Kennedy was right. Indeed, even before we turned again, we found that
the Senora and Alfonso had risen and were making their way slowly to
the elevators, still talking earnestly. The lifts were around an angle,
and before we could place ourselves so that we could observe them again
they were gone.

"I wish there was some way of adding Alfonso's shoe-prints to my
collection," observed Craig. "The marks that I found in the dust of the
sarcophagus in the Museum were those of a man's shoes. However, I
suppose I must wait to get them."

He walked over to the desk and made inquiries about the de Moches and
Whitney. Each had a suite on the eighth floor, though on opposite sides
and at opposite ends of the hall.

"There's no use wasting time trying to conceal our identity now,"
remarked Kennedy finally, drawing a card from his case. "Besides, we
came here to see them, anyhow." He handed the card to the clerk.
"Senora de Moche, please," he said.

The clerk took the card and telephoned up to the de Moche suite. I must
say that it was somewhat to my surprise that the Senora telephoned down
to say that she would receive us in her own sitting room.

"That's very kind," commented Craig, as I followed him into the
elevator. "It saves planning some roundabout way of meeting her and
comes directly to the point."

The elevator whisked us up directly to the eighth floor and we stepped
out into the heavily carpeted hallway, passing down to Room 810, which
was the number of her suite. Further on, in 825, was Whitney's.

Alfonso was not there. Evidently he had not ridden up with his mother,
after all, but had gone out through another entrance on the ground
floor. The Senora was alone.

"I hope that you will pardon me for intruding," began Craig, with as
plausible an explanation as he could muster, "but I have become
interested in an opportunity to invest in a Peruvian venture, and I
have heard that you are a Peruvian. Your son, Alfonso, I have already
met, once. I thought that perhaps you might be able to give me some
advice." She looked at us keenly, but said nothing. I fancied that she
detected the subterfuge. Yet she had not tried, and did not try now to
avoid us. Either she had no connection with the case we were
investigating or she was an adept actress.

On closer view, her eyes were really even more remarkable than I had
imagined at a distance. They were those of a woman endowed with an
abundance of health and energy, eyes that were full of what the old
character readers used to call "amativeness," denoting a nature capable
of intense passion, whether of love or hate. Yet I confess that I could
not find anything especially abnormal about them, as I had about the
eyes of Lockwood and Whitney.

It was some time before she replied, and I gave a hasty glance about
the apartment. Of course, it had been rented furnished, but she had
rearranged it, adding some touches of her own which gave it quite a
Peruvian appearance, due perhaps more to the pictures and the ornaments
which she had introduced rather than anything else.

"I suppose," she replied, at length, slowly, and looking at us as if
she would bore right through into our minds, "I suppose you mean the
schemes of Mr. Lockwood--and Mr. Whitney."

Kennedy was not to be taken by surprise. "I have heard of their
schemes, too," he replied noncommittally. "Peru seems to be a veritable
storehouse of tales of buried treasure."

"Let me tell you about it," she hastened, nodding at the very words
"buried treasure." "I suppose you know that the old Chimu tribes in the
north were the wealthiest at the time of the coming of the Spaniards?"

Craig nodded, and a moment later she resumed, as if trying to marshal
her thoughts in a logical order. "They had a custom then of burying
with their dead all their movable property. Graves were not dug
separately. Therefore, you see, sometimes a common grave, or huaca, as
it is called, would be given to many. That huaca would become a cache
of treasure in time. It was sacred to the dead, and hence it was wicked
to touch it."

The Senora's face betrayed the fact that, whatever modern civilization
had done for her, it had not yet quite succeeded in eliminating the old
ideas.

"Back in the early part of the seventeenth century," she continued,
leaning forward in her chair eagerly as she talked, "a Spaniard opened
a Chimu huaca and found gold that is said to have been worth more than
a million dollars. An Indian told him about it. Who the Indian was does
not matter. But the Spaniard was an ancestor of Don Luis de Mendoza,
who was found murdered to-day."

She stopped short, seeming to enjoy the surprised look on our faces at
finding that she was willing to discuss the matter so intimately.

"After the Indian had shown the Spaniard the treasure in the mound,"
she pursued, "the Indian told the Spaniard that he had given him only
the little fish, the peje chica, but that some day he would give him
the big fish, the peje grande. I see that you already know at least a
part of the story, anyhow."

"Yes," admitted Kennedy, "I do know something of it. But I should
rather get it more accurately from your lips than from the hearsay
of any one else."

She smiled quietly to herself. "I don't believe," she added, "that you
know that the _peje grande_ was not ordinary treasure. It was the
temple gold. Why, some of the temples were literally plated over
heavily with pure gold. That gold, as well as what had been buried in
the huacas, was sacred. Mansiche, the supreme ruler, laid a curse on
it, on any Indian who would tell of it, on any Spaniard who might learn
of it. A curse lies on the finding--yes, even on the searching for the
sacred Gold of the Gods. It is one of the most awful curses that have
ever been uttered, that curse of Mansiche."

Even as she spoke of it she lowered her voice. I felt that no matter
how much education she had, there lurked back in her brain some of the
primitive impulses, as well as beliefs. Either the curse of Mansiche on
the treasure was as real to her as if its mere touch were poisonous, or
else she was going out of her way to create that impression with us.

"Somehow," she continued, in a low tone, "that Spaniard, the ancestor
of Don Luis Mendoza, obtained some idea of the secret. He died," she
said solemnly, flashing a glance at Craig from her wonderful eyes to
stamp the idea indelibly. "He was stabbed by one of the members of the
tribe. On the dagger, so I have heard, was marked the secret of the
treasure."

I felt that in a bygone age she might have made a great priestess of
the heathen gods. Now, was she more than a clever actress?

She paused, then added, "That is my tribe--my family."

Again she paused. "For centuries the big fish was a secret, is still a
secret--or, at least, was until some one got it from my brother down in
Peru. The tradition and the dagger had been intrusted to him. I don't
know how it happened. Somehow he seemed to grow crazy--until he talked.
The dagger was stolen from him. How it happened, how it came into
Professor Norton's hands, I do not know.

"But, at any rate," she continued, in the same solemn tone, "the curse
has followed it. After my brother had told the secret of the dagger and
lost it, his mind left him. He threw himself one day into Lake
Titicaca."

Her voice broke dramatically in her passionate outpouring of the
tragedies that had followed the hidden treasure and the Inca dagger.

"Now, here in New York, comes this awful death of Senor Mendoza," she
cried. "I don't know, no one knows, whether he had obtained the secret
of the gold or not. At any rate, he must have thought he had it. He has
been killed suddenly, in his own home. That is my answer to your
inquiry about the treasure-hunting company you mentioned, whatever it
may be. I need say no more of the curse of Mansiche. Is the Gold of the
Gods worth it?"

There could be no denying that it was real to her, whatever we might
think of the story. I recollected the roughly printed warnings that had
been sent to Norton, Leslie, Kennedy, and myself. Had they, then, some
significance? I had not been able to convince myself that they were the
work of a crank, alone. There must be some one to whom the execution of
vengeance of the gods was an imperative duty. Unsuperstitious as I was,
I saw here a real danger. If some one, either to preserve the secret
for himself or else called by divine mandate to revenge, should take a
notion to carry out the threats in the four notes, what might not
happen?

"I cannot tell you much more of fact than you probably already know,"
she remarked, watching our faces intently and noting the effect of
every word. "You know, I suppose, that the treasure has always been
believed to be in a large mound, a tumulus I think you call it, visible
from our town of Truxillo. Many people have tried to open it, but the
mass of sand pours down on them and they have been discouraged."

"No one has ever stumbled on the secret?" queried Kennedy.

She shook her head. "There have been those who have sought, there are
even those who are seeking, the point just where to bore into the
mounds. If they could find it, they plan to construct a well-timbered
tunnel to keep back the sand and to drive it at the right point to
obtain this fabulous wealth."

She vouchsafed the last information with a sort of quiet assurance that
conveyed the idea, without her saying it directly, that any such
venture was somehow doomed to failure, that desecrators were merely
toying with fate.

All through her story one could see that she felt deeply the downfall
and betrayal of her brother, followed by the tragedy to him after the
age-old secret had slipped from his grasp. Was there still to be
vengeance for his downfall? Surely, I thought to myself, Don Luis de
Mendoza could not have been in possession of the secret, unless he had
arrived at it, with Lockwood, in some other way than by deciphering the
almost illegible marks of the dagger. I thought of Whitney. Had he
perhaps had something to do with the nasty business?

I happened to glance at a huge pile of works on mining engineering on
the table, the property of Alfonso. She saw me looking at them, and her
eyes assumed a far-away, dreamy impression as she murmured something.

"You must know that we real Peruvians have been so educated that we
never explore ruins for hidden treasure, not even if we have the
knowledge of engineering to do so. It is a sort of sacrilege to us to
do that. The gold was not our gold, you see. Some of it belongs to the
spirits of the departed. But the big treasure belonged to the gods
themselves. It was the gold which lay in sheets over the temple walls,
sacred. No, we would not touch it."

I wondered cynically what would happen if some one at that moment had
appeared with the authenticated secret. She continued to gaze at the
books. "There are plenty of rare chances for a young mining engineer in
Peru without that."

Apparently she was thinking of her son and his studies at the
University as they affected his future career.

One could follow her thoughts, even, as they flitted from the treasure,
to the books, to her son, and, finally, to the pretty girl for whom
both he and Lockwood were struggling.

"We are a peculiar race," she ruminated. "We seldom intermarry with
other races. We are as proud as Senor Mendoza was of his Castilian
descent, as proud of our unmixed lineage as any descendant of a 'belted
earl.'"

Senora de Moche made the remarks with a quiet dignity which left no
doubt in my mind that the race feeling cut deeply.

She had risen now, and in place of the awesome fear of the curse and
tragedy of the treasure her face was burning and her eyes flashed.

"Old Don Luis thought I was good enough to amuse his idle hours," she
cried. "But when he saw that Alfonso was in love with his daughter,
that she might return that love, then I found out bitterly that he
placed us in another class, another caste."

Kennedy had been following her closely, and I could see now that the
cross-currents of superstition, avarice, and race hatred in the case
presented a tangle that challenged him.

There was nothing more that we could extract from her just then. She
had remained standing, as a gentle reminder that the interview had
already been long.

Kennedy took the hint. "I wish to thank you for the trouble you have
gone to," he bowed, after we, too, had risen. "You have told me quite
enough to make me think seriously before I join in any such
undertaking."

She smiled enigmatically. Whether it was that she had enjoyed
penetrating our rather clumsy excuse for seeing her, or that she felt
that the horror of the curse had impressed us, she seemed well content.

We bowed ourselves out, and, after waiting a few moments about the
hotel without seeing Whitney anywhere, Craig called a car.

"They were right," was his only comment. "A most baffling woman,
indeed."



VII

THE ARROW POISON


Back again in the laboratory, Kennedy threw off his coat and plunged
again into his investigation of the blood sample he had taken from the
wound in Mendoza's body.

We had scarcely been back half an hour before the door opened and Dr.
Leslie's perplexed face looked in on us. He was carrying a large jar,
in which he had taken away the materials which he wished to examine.

"Well," asked Kennedy, pausing with a test-tube poised over a Bunsen
burner, "have you found anything yet? I haven't had time to get very
far with my own tests yet."

"Not a blessed thing," returned the coroner. "I'm desperate. One of the
chemists suggested cyanide, another carbon monoxide. But there is no
trace of either. Then he suggested nux vomica. It wasn't nux vomica;
but my tests show that it must have been something very much like it.
I've looked for all the ordinary known poisons and some of the
little-known alkaloids, but, Kennedy, I always get back to the same
point. There must have been a poison there. He did not die primarily of
the wound. It was asphyxia due to a poison that really killed him,
though the wound might have done so, but not quite so quickly."

I could tell by the look that crossed Kennedy's face that at last a ray
of light had pierced the darkness. He reached for a bottle on the shelf
labelled spirits of turpentine.

Then he poured a little of the blood sample from the jar which the
coroner had brought into a clean tube and added a few drops of the
spirits of turpentine. A cloudy, dark precipitate formed. He smiled
quietly, and said, half to himself, "I thought so."

"What is it?" asked the coroner eagerly, "nux vomica?"

Craig shook his head as he stared at the black precipitate. "You were
perfectly right about the asphyxiation, Doctor," he remarked slowly,
"but wrong as to the cause. It was a poison--one you would never dream
of."

"What is it?" Leslie and I asked simultaneously.

"Let me take all these samples and make some further tests," he said.
"I am quite sure of it, but it is new to me. By the way, may I trouble
you and Leslie to go over to the Museum of Natural History with a
letter?"

It was evident that he wanted to work uninterrupted, and we agreed
readily, especially because by going we might also be of some use in
solving the mystery of the poison.

He sat down and wrote a hasty note to the director of the Museum, and a
few moments later we were speeding over in Leslie's car.

At the big building we had no trouble in finding the director and
presenting the note. He was a close friend of Kennedy's and more than
willing to aid him in any way.

"You will excuse me a moment?" he apologized. "I will get from the
South American exhibit just what he wants."

We waited several minutes in the office until finally he returned
carrying a gourd, incrusted on its hollow inside surface with a kind of
blackish substance.

"That is what he wants, I think," the director remarked, wrapping it up
carefully in a box. "I don't need to ask you to tell Professor Kennedy
to watch out how he handles the thing. He understands all about it."

We thanked the director and hurried out into the car again, carrying
the package, after his warning, as though it were so much dynamite.

Altogether, I don't suppose that we could have been gone more than an
hour.

We burst into the laboratory, but, to my surprise, I did not see
Kennedy at his table. I stopped short and looked around.

There he was over in the corner, sprawled out in a chair, a tank of
oxygen beside him, from which he was inhaling laboriously copious
draughts. He rose as he saw us and walked unsteadily toward the table.

"Why--what's the matter?" I cried, certain that m our absence an
attempt had been made on his life, perhaps to carry out the threat of
the curse.

"N-nothing," he gasped, with an attempt at a smile. "Only I--think I
was right--about the poison."

I did not like the way he looked. His hand was unsteady and his eyes
looked badly. But he seemed quite put out when I suggested that he was
working too hard over the case and had better take a turn outdoors with
us and have a bite to eat.

"You--you got it?" he asked, seizing the package that contained the
gourd and unwrapping it nervously.

He laid the gourd on the table, on which were also several jars of
various liquids and a number of other chemicals. At the end of the
table was a large, square package, from which sounds issued, as if it
contained something alive.

"Tell me," I persisted, "what has happened. Has any one been here since
we have been gone?"

"Not a soul," he answered, working his arms and shoulders as if to get
rid of some heavy weight that oppressed his chest.

"Then what has happened that makes you use the oxygen?" I repeated,
determined to get some kind of answer from him.

He turned to Leslie. "It was no ordinary asphyxiation, Doctor," he said
quickly.

Leslie nodded. "I could see that," he admitted.

"We have to deal in this case," continued Kennedy, his will-power
overcoming his weakness, "with a poison which is apparently among the
most subtle known. A particle of matter so minute as to be hardly
distinguishable by the naked eye, on the point of a lancet or needle, a
prick of the skin not anything like that wound of Mendoza's, were
necessary. But, fortunately, more of the poison was used, making it
just that much easier to trace, though for the time the wound, which
might itself easily have been fatal, threw us off the scent. But given
these things, not all the power in the world--unless one was fully
prepared--could save the life of the person in whose flesh the wound
was made."

Craig paused a moment, and we listened breathlessly.

"This poison, I find, acts on the so-called endplates of the muscles
and nerves. It produces complete paralysis, but not loss of
consciousness, sensation, circulation, or respiration until the end
approaches. It seems to be one of the most powerful agents of which I
have ever heard. When introduced in even a minute quantity it produces
death finally by asphyxiation--by paralyzing the muscles of
respiration. This asphyxia is what puzzled you, Leslie."

He reached over and took a white mouse from the huge box on the corner
of the table.

"Let me show you what I have found," he said. "I am now going to inject
a little of the blood serum of the murdered man into this white mouse."

He took a needle and injected some of a liquid which he had isolated.
The mouse did not even wince, so lightly did he touch it. But as we
watched, its life seemed gently to ebb away, without pain, without
struggle. Its breath simply seemed to stop.

Next he took the gourd which we had brought and with a knife scraped
off just the minutest particle of the black, licorice-like stuff that
incrusted it. He dissolved the particle in some alcohol, and with a
sterilized needle repeated his experiment on a second mouse. The effect
was precisely similar to that produced by the blood on the first.

I was intent on what Craig was doing when Dr. Leslie broke in with a
question. "May I ask," he queried, "whether, admitting that the first
mouse died at least apparently in the same manner as the second, you
have proved that the poison is the same in both cases? And if it is the
same, can you show that it affects human beings in the same way, that
enough of it has been discovered in the blood of Mendoza to have caused
his death? In other words, I want the last doubt set aside."

If ever Craig startled me, it was by his quiet reply:

"I've isolated it in his blood, extracted it, sterilized it, and I've
tried it on myself."

In breathless amazement, with eyes riveted on him, we listened. "Then
that was what was the matter?" I blurted out. "You had been trying the
poison on YOURSELF?"

He nodded unconcernedly. "Altogether," he explained, as Leslie and I
listened, speechless, "I was able to recover from both blood samples
six centigrams of the poison. It is almost unknown. I could only be
sure of what I discovered by testing the physiological effects. I was
very careful. What else was there to do? I couldn't ask you fellows to
try it, if I was afraid."

"Good heavens!" gasped Leslie, "and alone, too."

"You wouldn't have let me do it, if I hadn't got rid of you," he smiled
quietly.

Leslie shook his head. "Tried it on the dog and made himself the dog!"
exclaimed Leslie. "I need the credit of a successful case--but I'll not
take this one."

Kennedy laughed.

"Starting with two centigrams of the stuff as a moderate dose," he
pursued, while I listened, stunned at his daring, "I injected it into
my right arm subcutaneously. Then I slowly worked my way up to three
and then four centigrams. You see what I had recovered was far from the
real thing. They did not seem at first to produce any very appreciable
results other than to cause some dizziness, slight vertigo, a
considerable degree of lassitude, and an extremely painful headache of
rather unusual duration."

"Good night!" I exclaimed. "Didn't that satisfy you?"

"Five centigrams considerably improved on it," he continued, paying no
attention to me. "It caused a degree of lassitude and vertigo that was
most distressing, and six centigrams, the whole amount which I had
recovered from the samples of blood, gave me the fright of my life
right here in this laboratory a few minutes before you came in."

Leslie and I looked at each other and shook our heads.

"Perhaps I was not wise in giving myself so large an injection on a day
when I was overheated and below par otherwise, because of the strain I
have been under in handling this case, as well as other work. However
that may be, the added centigram produced so much more on top of the
five centigrams I had previously taken that for a time I had reason to
fear that that additional centigram was just the amount needed to bring
my experiments to a permanent close.

"Within three minutes of the time of injection the dizziness and
vertigo had become so great as to make walking seem impossible. In
another minute the lassitude rapidly crept over me, and the serious
disturbance of my breathing made it apparent to me that walking, waving
my arms, anything, was imperative. My lungs felt glued up, and the
muscles of my chest refused to work. Everything swam before my eyes,
and I was soon reduced to walking up and down the laboratory floor with
halting steps, only preventing falling on the floor by holding fast to
the edge of the table.

"I thought of the tank of oxygen, and managed to crawl over and turn it
on. I gulped at it. It seemed to me that I spent hours gasping for
breath. It reminded me of what I once experienced in the Cave of the
Winds of Niagara, where water is more abundant in the atmosphere than
air. Yet my watch afterward indicated only about twenty minutes of
extreme distress. But that twenty minutes is one period I shall never
forget. I advise you, Leslie, if you are ever so foolish as to try the
experiment, to remain below the five-centigram limit."

"Believe me, I'd rather lose my job," returned Leslie.

"How much of the stuff was administered to Mendoza," went on Kennedy,
"I cannot say. But it must have been a good deal more than I took. Six
centigrams which I recovered from these small samples are only
nine-tenths of a grain. You see what effect that much had. I trust that
answers your question?"

Dr. Leslie was too overwhelmed to reply.

"What is this deadly poison that was used on Mendoza?" I managed to ask.

"You have been fortunate enough to obtain a sample of it from the
Museum of Natural History," returned Craig. "It comes in a little
gourd, or often a calabash. This is in a gourd. It is a blackish,
brittle stuff, incrusting the sides of the gourd just as if it was
poured in in the liquid state and left to dry. Indeed, that is just
what has been done by those who manufacture it after a lengthy and
somewhat secret process."

He placed the gourd on the edge of the table, where we could see it
closely. I was almost afraid even to look at it.

"The famous traveller, Sir Robert Schomburgk, first brought it into
Europe, and Darwin has described it. It is now an article of commerce,
and is to be found in the United States Pharmacoepia as a medicine,
though, of course, it is used in only very minute quantities, as a
heart stimulant."

Craig opened a book to a place he had marked. "Here's an account of
it," he said. "Two natives were one day hunting. They were armed with
blow-pipes and quivers full of poisoned darts made of thin, charred
pieces of bamboo, tipped with this stuff. One of them aimed a dart. It
missed the object overhead, glanced off the tree, and fell down on the
hunter himself. This is how the other native reported the result:

"'Quacca takes the dart out of his shoulder. Never a word. Puts it in
his quiver and throws it in the stream. Gives me his blow-pipe for his
little son. Says to me good-bye for his wife and the village. Then he
lies down. His tongue talks no longer. No sight in his eyes. He folds
his arms. He rolls over slowly. His mouth moves without sound. I feel
his heart. It goes fast and then slow. It stops. Quacca has shot his
last woorali dart.'"

Leslie and I looked at Kennedy, and the horror of the thing sank deep
into our minds. Woorali. What was it?

"Woorali, or curare," explained Craig slowly, "is the well-known poison
with which the South American Indians of the upper Orinoco tip their
arrows. Its principal ingredient is derived from the Strychnos toxifera
tree, which yields also the drug nux vomica, which you, Dr. Leslie,
have mentioned. On the tip of that Inca dagger must have been a large
dose of the dread curare, this fatal South American Indian arrow
poison."

"Say," ejaculated Leslie, "this thing begins to look eerie to me. How
about that piece of paper that I sent to you with the warning about the
curse of Mansiche and the Gold of the Gods. What if there should be
something in it? I'd rather not be a victim of this curare, if it's all
the same to you, Kennedy."

Kennedy was thinking deeply. Who could have sent the messages to us
all? Who was likely to have known of curare? I confess that I had not
even an idea. All of them, any of them, might have known.

The deeper we got into it, the more dastardly the crime against Mendoza
seemed. Involuntarily, I thought of the beautiful little Senorita,
about whom these terrible events centred. Though I had no reason for
it, I could not forget the fear that she had for Senora de Moche, and
the woman as she had been revealed to us in our late interview.

"I suppose a Peruvian of average intelligence might know of the arrow
poison of Indians of another country," I ventured to Craig.

"Quite possible," he returned, catching immediately the drift of my
thoughts. "But the shoe-prints indicated that it was a man who stole
the dagger from the Museum. It may be that it was already poisoned,
too. In that case the thief would not have had to know anything of
curare, would not have needed to stab so deeply if he had known."

I must confess that I was little further along in the solution of the
mystery than I had been when I first saw Mendoza's body. Kennedy,
however, did not seem to be worried. Leslie had long since given up
trying to form an opinion and, now that the nature of the poison was
finally established, was glad to leave the case in our hands.

As for me, I was inclined to agree with Dr. Leslie, and, long after he
had left, there kept recurring to my mind those words:

BEWARE THE CURSE OF MANSICHE ON THE GOLD OF THE GODS.



VIII

THE ANONYMOUS LETTER


"I think I will drop in to see Senorita Mendoza," considered Kennedy,
as he cleared up the materials which he had been using in his
investigation of the arrow poison. "She is a study to me--in fact, the
reticence of all these people is hard to combat."

As we entered the apartment where the Mendozas lived, it was difficult
to realize that only a few hours had elapsed since we had first been
introduced to this strange affair. In the hall, however, were still
some reporters waiting in the vain hope that some fragment of a story
might turn up.

"Let's have a talk with the boys," suggested Craig, before we entered
the Mendoza suite. "After all, the newspaper men are the best
detectives I know. If it wasn't for them, half our murder cases
wouldn't ever be solved. As a matter of fact, 'yellow journals' are
more useful to a city than half the detective force."

Most of the newspaper men knew Craig intimately, and liked him,
possibly because he was one of the few people to-day who realized the
very important part these young men played in modern life. They crowded
about, eager to interview him. But Craig was clever. In the rapid fire
of conversation it was really he who interviewed them.

"Lockwood has been here a long time," volunteered one of the men. "He
seems to have constituted himself the guardian of Inez. No one gets a
look at her while he's around."

"Well, you can hardly blame him for that," smiled Craig. "Jealousy
isn't a crime in that case."

"Say," put in another, "there'd be an interesting quarter of an hour if
he were here now. That other fellow--de Mooch--whatever his name is, is
here."

"De Moche--with her, now?" queried Kennedy, wheeling suddenly.

The reporter smiled. "He's a queer duck. I was coming up to relieve our
other man, when I saw him down on the street, hanging about the corner,
his eyes riveted on the entrance to the apartment. I suppose that was
his way of making love. He's daffy over her, all right. I stopped to
watch him. Of course, he didn't know me. Just then Lockwood left. The
Spaniard dived into the drug store on the corner as though the devil
was after him. You should have seen his eyes. If looks were bullets, I
wouldn't give much for Lockwood's life. With two such fellows about,
you wouldn't catch me making goo-goo eyes at that chicken--not on your
life."

Kennedy passed over the flippant manner in view of the importance of
the observation.

"What do you think of Lockwood?" he asked.

"Pretty slick," replied another of the men. "He's the goods, all right."

"Why, what has he done?" asked Kennedy.

"Nothing in particular. But he came out to see us once. You can't blame
him for being a bit sore at us fellows hanging about. But he didn't
show it. Instead he almost begged us to be careful of how we asked
questions of the girl. Of course, all of us could see how completely
broken up she is. We haven't bothered her. In fact, we'd do anything we
could for her. But Lockwood talks straight from the shoulder. You can
see he's used to handling all kinds of situations."

"But did he say anything, has he done anything?" persisted Kennedy.

"N-no," admitted the reporter. "I can't say he has."

Craig frowned a bit. "I thought not," he remarked. "These people aren't
giving away any hints, if they can help it."

"It's my idea," ventured another of the men, "that when this case
breaks, it will break all of a sudden. I shouldn't wonder if we are in
for one of the sensations of the year, when it comes."

Kennedy looked at him inquiringly. "Why?" he asked simply.

"No particular reason," confessed the man. "Only the regular detectives
act so chesty. They haven't got a thing, and they know it, only they
won't admit it to us. O'Connor was here."

"What did he say?"

"Nothing. He went through all the motions--'Now, pens lifted, boys,'
and all that--talked a lot--and after it was all over he might have
been sure no one would publish a line of his confidences. There wasn't
a stick of copy in the whole thing."

Kennedy laughed. "O'Connor's all right," he replied. "We may need him
sorely before we get through. After all, nothing can take the place of
the organization the police have built up. You say de Moche is in there
yet?"

"Yes. He seemed very anxious to see her. We never get a word out of
him. I've been thinking what would happen if we tried to get him mad.
Maybe he'd talk."

"More likely he'd pull a gun," cautioned another. "Excuse ME."

Kennedy said nothing, evidently content to let the newspaper men go
their own sweet way.

He nodded to them, and pressed the buzzer at the Mendoza door.

"Tell Senorita Mendoza that it is Professor Kennedy," he said to
Juanita, who opened the door, keeping it on the chain, to be sure it
was no unwelcome intruder.

Evidently she had had orders to admit us, for a second later we found
ourselves again in the little reception room.

We sat down, and I saw that Craig's attention had at once been fixed on
something. I listened intently, too. On the other side of the heavy
portieres that cut us off from the living room I could distinguish low
voices. It was de Moche and Inez.

Whatever the ethics of it, we could not help listening. Besides there
was more at stake than ethics.

Evidently the young man was urging her to do something that she did not
agree with.

"No," we heard her say finally, in a quiet tone, "I cannot believe it,
Alfonso. Mr. Whitney is Mr. Lockwood's associate now. My father and Mr.
Lockwood approved of him. Why should I do otherwise?"

De Moche was talking earnestly but in a very muffled voice. We could
not make out anything except a few scattered phrases which told us
nothing. Once I fancied he mentioned his mother. Whatever it was that
he was urging, Inez was firm.

"No, Alfonso," she repeated, her voice a little higher and excited. "It
cannot be. You must be mistaken."

She had risen, and now moved toward the hall door, evidently forgetting
that the folding doors behind the portieres were open. "Professor
Kennedy and Mr. Jameson are here," she said. "Would you care to meet
them?"

He replied in the negative. Yet as he passed the reception room he
could not help seeing us.

As Inez greeted us, I saw that Alfonso was making a desperate effort to
control his expression. He seemed to be concealing a bitter
disappointment. Seeing us, he bowed stiffly, and, with just the murmur
of a greeting, excused himself.

He had no sooner closed the door to run the gauntlet of the sharp eyes
in the hall than the Senorita faced us fully. She was pale and nervous.
Evidently something that he had said to her had greatly agitated her.
Yet with all her woman's skill she managed to hide all outward traces
of emotion that might indicate what it was that racked her mind.

"You have something to report?" she asked, a trifle anxiously.

"Nothing of any great importance," admitted Craig.

Was it actually a look of relief that crossed her face? Try as I could,
it seemed to me to be an anomalous situation. She wanted the murderer
of her father caught, naturally. Yet she did not seem to be offering us
the natural assistance that was to be expected. Could it be that she
suspected some one perhaps near and dear to her of having some
knowledge, which, now that the deed was done, would do more harm than
good if revealed? It was the only conclusion to which I could come. I
was surprised at Kennedy's next question. Was the same idea in his
mind, also?

"We have seen Mr. Whitney," he ventured. "Just what are Mr. Lockwood's
relations with him--and yours?"

"Merely that Mr. Lockwood and my father were partners," she answered
hastily. "They had decided that their interests would be more valuable
by some arrangement with Mr. Whitney, who controls so much down in
Peru."

"Do you think that Senora de Moche exercises a very great influence on
Mr. Whitney?" asked Craig, purposely introducing the name of the Indian
woman to see what effect it might have on her.

"Oh," she cried, with a little exclamation of alarm, "I hope not."

Yet it was evident that she feared so.

"Why is it that you fear it?" insisted Kennedy. "What has she done to
make you fear it?"

"I don't like her," returned Inez, with a frown. "My father knew
her--too well. She is a schemer, an adventuress. Once she has a hold on
a man, one cannot say--" She paused, then went on in a different tone.
"But I would rather not talk about the woman. I am afraid of her. Never
does she talk to me that she does not get something out of me that I do
not wish to tell her. She is uncanny."

Personally, I could not blame Inez for her opinion. I could understand
it. Those often baleful eyes had a penetrating power that one might
easily fall a victim to.

"But you can trust Mr. Lockwood," he returned. "Surely he is proof
against her, against any woman."

Inez flushed. It was evident that of all the men who were interested in
the little beauty, Lockwood was first in her mind. Yet when Kennedy put
the question thus she hesitated. "Yes," she replied, "of course, I
trust him. It is not that woman whom I fear with him."

She said it with an air almost of defiance. There was some kind of
struggle going on in her mind, and she was too proud to let us into the
secret.

Kennedy rose and bowed. For the present he had come to the conclusion
that if she would not let us help her openly the only thing to do was
to help her blindly.

Half an hour later we were at Norton's apartment, not far from the
University campus. He listened intently as Kennedy told such parts of
what we had done as he chose. At the mention of the arrow poison, he
seemed startled beyond measure.

"You are sure of it?" he asked anxiously.

"Positive, now," reiterated Kennedy.

Norton's face was drawn in deep lines. "If some one has the secret," he
cried hastily, "who knows when and on whom next he may employ it?"

Coming from him so soon after the same idea had been hinted at by the
coroner, I could not but be impressed by it.

"The very novelty of the thing is our best protection," asserted
Kennedy confidently. "Once having discovered it, if Walter gives the
thing its proper value in the Star, I think the criminal will be
unlikely to try it again. If you had had as much experience in crime as
I have had, you would see that it is not necessarily the unusual that
is baffling. That may be the surest way to trace it. Often it is
because a thing is so natural that it may be attributed to any person
among several, equally well."

Norton eyed us keenly, and shook his head. "You may be right," he said
doubtfully. "Only I had rather that this person, whoever he may be, had
fewer weapons."

"Speaking of weapons," broke in Kennedy, "you have had no further idea
of why the dagger might have been taken?"

"There seems to have been so much about it that I did not know," he
returned, "that I am almost afraid to have an opinion. I knew that its
three-sided sheath inclosed a sharp blade, yet who would have dreamed
that that blade was poisoned?"

"You are lucky not to have scratched yourself with it by accident while
you were studying it."

"Possibly I might have done it, if I had had it in my possession
longer. It was only lately that I had leisure to study it."

"You knew that it might offer some clue to the hidden treasure of
Truxillo?" suggested Kennedy. "Have you any recollection of what the
inscriptions on it said?"

"Yes," returned Norton, "I had heard the rumours about it. But Peru is
a land of tales of buried treasure. No, I can't say that I paid much
more attention to it than you might have done if some one asserted that
he had another story of the treasure of Captain Kidd. I must confess
that only when the thing was stolen did I begin to wonder whether,
after all, there might not be something in it. Now it is too late to
find out. From the moment when I found that it was missing from my
collection I have heard no more about it than you have found out. It is
all like a dream to me. I cannot believe even yet that a mere bit of
archaeological and ethnological specimen could have played so important
a part in the practical events of real life."

"It does seem impossible," agreed Kennedy. "But it is even more
remarkable than that. It has disappeared without leaving a trace, after
having played its part."

"If it had been a mere robbery," considered Norton, "one might look for
its reappearance, I suppose, in the curio shops. For to-day thieves
have a keen appreciation of the value of such objects. But, now that
you have unearthed its use against Mendoza--and in such a terrible
way--it is not likely that that will be what will happen to it. No, we
must look elsewhere."

"I thought I would tell you," concluded Kennedy, rising to go. "Perhaps
after you have considered it over night some idea may occur to you."

"Perhaps," said Norton doubtfully. "But I haven't your brilliant
faculty of scientific analysis, Kennedy. No, I shall have to lean on
you, in that, not you on me."

We left Norton, apparently now more at sea than ever. At the laboratory
Kennedy plunged into some microphotographic work that the case had
suggested to him, while I dashed off, under his supervision, an account
of the discovery of curare, and telephoned it down to the Star in time
to catch the first morning edition, in the hope that it might have some
effect in apprising the criminal that we were hard on his trail, which
he had considered covered.

I scanned the other papers eagerly in the morning for Kennedy, hoping
to glean at least some hints that others who were working on the case
might have gathered. But there was nothing, and, after a hasty bite of
breakfast, we hurried back to take up the thread of the investigation
where we had laid it down.

To our surprise, on the steps of the Chemistry Building, as we
approached, we saw Inez Mendoza already waiting for us in a high state
of agitation. Her face was pale, and her voice trembled as she greeted
us.

"Such a dreadful thing has come to me," she cried, even before Kennedy
could ask her what the trouble was.

From her handbag she drew out a crumpled, dirty piece of paper in an
envelope.

"It came in the first mail," she explained. "I could not wait to send
it to you. I brought it myself. What can it mean?"

Kennedy unfolded the paper. Printed in large characters, in every way
similar to the four warnings that had been sent to us, was just one
ominous line. We read:

"Beware the man who professes to be a friend of your father."

I glanced from the note to Kennedy, then to Inez. One name was in my
mind, and before I knew it I had spoken it.

"Lockwood?" I queried inadvertently.

Her eyes met mine in sharp defiance. "Impossible," she exclaimed. "It
is some one trying to injure him with me. Beware of Mr. Lockwood? How
absurd!"

Yet it must have meant Lockwood. No one else could have been meant. It
was he, most of all, who might be called a friend of her father. She
seemed to see the implication without a word from us.

I could not help sympathizing with the brave girl in her struggle
between the attack against Lockwood and her love and confidence in him.
It did not need words to tell me that evidence must be overwhelming to
convince her that her lover might be involved in any manner.



IX

THE PAPER FIBRES


Kennedy examined the anonymous letter carefully for several minutes,
while we watched him in silence.

"Too clever to use a typewriter," he remarked, still regarding the note
through the lens of a hand-glass. "Almost any one would have used a
machine. That would have been due to the erroneous idea that
typewriting cannot be detected. The fact is that the typewriter is
perhaps a worse means of concealing identity than is disguised
handwriting, especially printing like this. It doesn't afford the
effective protection to the criminal that one supposes. On the
contrary, the typewriting of such a note may be the direct means by
which it can be traced to its source. We can determine what kind of
machine it was done with, then what particular machine was used can be
identified."

He paused and indicated a number of little instruments which he had
taken from a drawer and laid on the table, as he tore off a bit of the
corner of the sheet of paper and examined it.

"There is one thing I can do now, though," he continued. "I can study
the quality of the paper in this sheet. If it were only torn like those
warnings we have already received, it might perhaps be mated with
another piece as accurately as if the act had been performed before our
eyes."

He picked up a little instrument with a small curved arm and a finely
threaded screw that brought the two flat surfaces of the arm and the
end of the screw together.

"There is no such good fortune in this case, however," he resumed,
placing the paper between the two small arms. "But by measurements made
by this vernier micrometer caliper I can find the precise thickness of
the paper as compared to the other samples."

He turned to a microscope and placed the corner of the paper under it.
Then he drew from the drawer the four scraps of paper which had already
been sent to us, as well as a pile of photographs.

"Under ordinary circumstances," he explained, "I should think that what
I am doing would be utterly valueless as a clue to anything. But we are
reduced to the minutiae in this affair. And to-day science is not ready
to let anything pass as valueless."

He continued to look at the various pieces of paper under the
microscope. "I find under microscopic examination," he went on,
addressing Inez, but not looking up from the eye-piece as he shifted
the papers, "that the note you have received, Senorita Mendoza, is
written on a rather uncommon linen bond paper. Later I shall take a
number of microphotographs of it. I have here, also, about a hundred
microphotographs of the fibres in other kinds of paper, many of them
bonds. These I have accumulated from time to time in my study of the
subject. None of them, as you can see, shows fibres resembling this one
in question, so that we may conclude that it is of uncommon quality.

"Here I have the fibres, also, of four pieces of paper that have
already figured in the case. These four correspond, as well as the
indentures of the torn edges. As for the fibres, lest you should
question the accuracy of the method, I may say that I know of a case
where a man in Germany was arrested, charged with stealing a government
bond. He was not searched until later. There was no evidence, save that
after the arrest a large number of spitballs were found around the
courtyard under his cell window. This method of comparing the fibres of
the regular government paper was used, and by it the man was convicted
of stealing the bond. I think it is unnecessary to add that in the
present case I can see definitely that not only the four pieces of
paper that bore warnings to us were the same kind, but that this whole
sheet, with its anonymous warning to you, is also the same."

Inez Mendoza looked at Kennedy as though he possessed some weird power.
Her face, which had already been startled into an expression of fear at
his mention of Lockwood, now was pale.

"Other warnings?" she repeated tremulously.

Quickly Kennedy explained what had already happened to us, watching the
effect on her as he read of the curse of Mansiche and the Gold of the
Gods.

"Oh," she cried, mastering her emotion with a heroic effort, "I wish my
father had never become mixed up in the business. Ever since I was a
little girl I have heard these vague stories of the big fish and the
little fish, the treasure, and the curse. But I never thought they were
anything but fairy tales. You remember, when I first saw you, I did not
even tell them to you."

"Yes," returned Kennedy. "I remember. But had you no other reason? Did
you, down in your heart, think them really fairy tales?"

She shuddered. "Perhaps not," she murmured. "But I have heard enough of
you detectives to know that you do not think a woman's fears exactly
evidence."

"Still they might lead to evidence," suggested Kennedy.

She looked at him, more startled than ever, for already he had given
her a slight exhibition of his powers.

"Mr. Kennedy," she exclaimed, "I am positively afraid of you, afraid
that every little thing I do may lead to something I don't intend."

There was a frankness about the remark that would have been flattering
from a man, but from her excited sympathy.

"No," she went on, "I have nothing tangible--only my feelings. I fear I
must admit that my father had enemies, though who they are I cannot
tell you. No, it is all in my heart--not in my head. There are those
whom I dislike--and there are those whom I like and trust. You may call
me foolish, but I cannot help trusting--Mr. Lockwood."

She had not meant to say his name, and Kennedy and I looked at her in
surprise.

"You see?" she continued. "Every time I talk I say something, convey
some impression that is the opposite of what I wish. Oh--what shall I
do? Have I no one to trust?"

She was crying.

"You may trust me, Senorita," said Kennedy, in a low tone, pausing
before her. "At least I have no other interest than finding the truth
and helping you. There--there. We have had enough to-day. I cannot ask
you to try to forget what has happened. That would be impossible. But I
can ask you, Senorita, to have faith--faith that it will all turn out
better, if you will only trust me. When you feel stronger--then come to
me. Tell me your fears--or not--whichever does you the most good. Only
keep your mind from brooding. Face it all as you know your father would
have you do."

Kennedy's words were soothing. He seemed to know that tears were the
safety-valve she needed.

"Mr. Jameson will see that you get home safely in a taxicab," he
continued. "You can trust him as you would myself."

I can imagine circumstances under which I would have enjoyed escorting
Inez to her home, but today was not one of the times. Yet she seemed so
helpless, so grateful for everything we did for her that I did not need
even the pressure of her little hand as she hurried into the apartment
from the car with a hasty word of thanks.

"You will tell Mr. Kennedy--you will both be--so careful?" she
hesitated before leaving me.

I assured her that we would, wondering what she might fear for us, as I
drove away again. There did not happen to be any of the newspaper men
about at the time, and I did not stop.

Back in the laboratory, I found Kennedy arranging something under the
rug at the door as I came up the hall.

"Don't step there, Walter," he cautioned. "Step over the rug. I'm
expecting visitors. How was she when she arrived home?"

I told him of her parting injunction.

"Not bad advice," he remarked. "I think there's a surprise back of
those warnings. They weren't sent just for effect."

He had closed the door, and we were standing by the table, looking at
the letters, when we heard a noise at the door.

It was Norton again.

"I've been thinking of what you told me last night," he explained,
before Kennedy had a chance to tell him to step over the rug. "Has
anything else happened?"

Kennedy tossed over the anonymous letter, and Norton read it eagerly.

"Whom does it mean?" he asked, quickly glancing up, then adding, "It
might mean any of us who are trying to help her."

"Exactly," returned Kennedy. "Or it might be Lockwood, or even de
Moche. By the way, you know the young man pretty well, don't you? I
wonder if you could find him anywhere about the University this morning
and persuade him to visit me?"

"I will try," agreed Norton. "But these people are so very suspicious
just now that I can't promise."

Norton went out a few minutes later to see what he could do to locate
Alfonso, and Kennedy replaced another blank sheet of paper for that
under the rug on which Norton had stepped before we could warn him.

No sooner had he gone than Kennedy reached for the telephone and called
Whitney's office. Lockwood was there, as he had hoped, and, after a
short talk, promised to drop in on us later in the morning.

It was fully half an hour before Norton returned, having finally found
Alfonso. De Moche entered the laboratory with a suspicious glance
about, as though he thought something might have been planted there for
him.

"I had a most interesting talk with your mother yesterday," began
Kennedy, endeavouring by frankness to put the young man at ease. "And
this morning, already, Senorita Mendoza has called on me."

De Moche was all attention at the words. But before he could say
anything Kennedy handed him the anonymous letter. He read it, and his
face clouded as he handed it back.

"You have no idea who could have sent such a note?" queried Craig, "or
to whom it might refer?"

He glanced at Norton, then at us. It was clear that some sort of
suspicion had flashed over him. "No," he said quickly, "I know no one
who could have sent it."

"But whom does it mean?" asked Kennedy, holding him to the part that he
avoided.

The young man shrugged his shoulders. "She has many friends," he
answered simply.

"Yes," persisted Kennedy, "but few against whom she might be warned in
this way. You do not think it is Professor Norton, for instance--or
myself?"

"Oh, no, no--hardly," he replied, then stopped, realizing that he had
eliminated all but Lockwood, Whitney, and himself.

"It could not be Mr. Lockwood?" demanded Craig.

"Who sent it?" he asked, looking up.

"No--whom it warns against."

De Moche had known what Kennedy meant, but had preferred to postpone
the answer. It was native never to come to the point unless he was
forced to do so. He met our eyes squarely. He had not the penetrating
power that his mother possessed, yet his was a sharp faculty of
observation.

"Mr. Lockwood is very friendly with her," he admitted, then seemed to
think something else necessary to round out the idea. "Mr. Kennedy, I
might have told her the same myself. Senorita Mendoza has been a very
dear friend--for a long time."

I had been so used to having him evasive that now I did not exactly
know what to make of such a burst of confidence. It was susceptible of
at least two interpretations. Was he implying that it was sent to cast
suspicion on him, because he felt that way himself or because he
himself was her friend?

"There have been other warnings," pursued Kennedy, "both to myself and
Mr. Jameson, as well as Professor Norton and Dr. Leslie. Surely you
must have some idea of the source."

De Moche shook his head. "None that I can think of," he replied. "Have
you asked my mother?"

"Not yet," admitted Kennedy.

De Moche glanced at his watch. "I have a lecture at this hour," he
remarked, evidently glad of an excuse to terminate the interview.

As he left, Kennedy accompanied him to the door, careful himself to
step over the mat.

"Hello, what's new?" we heard a voice in the hall.

It was Lockwood, who had come up from downtown. Catching sight of de
Moche, however, he stopped short. The two young men met face to face.
Between them passed a glance of unconcealed hostility, then each nodded
stiffly.

De Moche turned to Kennedy as he passed down the hall. "Perhaps it may
have been sent to divert suspicion--who can tell?" he whispered.

Kennedy nodded appreciatively, noting the change.

At the sound of Lockwood's voice both Norton and I had taken a step
further after them out into the hall, Norton somewhat in advance. As de
Moche disappeared for his lecture, Kennedy turned to me from Lockwood
and caught my eye. I read in his glance that fell from me to the mat
that he wished me quietly to abstract the piece of paper which he had
placed under it. I bent down and did so without Lockwood seeing me.

"Why was he here?" demanded Lockwood, with just a trace of defiance in
his voice, as though he fancied the meeting had been framed.

"I have been showing this to every one who might help me," returned
Kennedy, going back into the laboratory after giving me an opportunity
to dispose of the shoe-prints.

He handed the anonymous letter and the other warnings to the young
soldier of fortune, with a brief explanation.

"Why don't they come out into the open, whoever they are?" commented
Lockwood, laying the papers down carelessly again on the table. "I'll
meet them--if they mean me."

"Who?" asked Kennedy.

Lockwood faced Norton and ourselves.

"I'm not a mind reader," he said significantly. "But it doesn't take
much to see that some one wants to throw a brick at me. When I have
anything to say I say it openly. Inez Mendoza without friends just now
would be a mark, wouldn't she?"

His strong face and powerful jaw were set in a menacing scowl. He would
be a bold man who would have come between Lockwood and the lady under
the circumstances.

"You are confident of Mr. Whitney?" inquired Kennedy.

"Ask Norton," replied Lockwood briefly. "He knew him long before I did."

Norton smiled quietly. "Mr. Kennedy should know what my opinion of Mr.
Whitney is, I think," replied Norton confidently.

"I trust that you will succeed in running these blackmailers down,"
pursued Lockwood, still standing. "If I did not have more than I can
attend to already since the murder of Mendoza I'd like to take a hand
myself. It begins to look to me, after reading that letter, as though
there was nothing too low for them to attempt. I shall keep this latest
matter in mind. If either Mr. Whitney or myself get any hint, we'll
turn it over to you."

Norton left shortly after Lockwood, and Kennedy again picked up the
letter and scanned it. "I could learn something, I suppose, if I
analyzed this printing," he considered, "but it is a tedious process.
Let me see that envelope again. H-m, postmarked by the uptown
sub-station, mailed late last night. Whoever sent it must have done so
not very far from us here. Lockwood seemed to take it as though it
applied to himself very readily, didn't he? Much more so than de Moche.
Only for the fact that the fibres show it to be on paper similar to the
first warnings, I might have been inclined to doubt whether this was
bona fide. At least, the sender must realize now that it has produced
no appreciable effect--if any was intended."

Kennedy's last remark set me thinking. Could some one have sent the
letter not to produce the effect apparently intended, but with the
ultimate object of diverting suspicion from himself? Lockwood, at
least, had not seemed to take the letter very seriously.



X

THE X-RAY READER


"I think I'll pay another visit to Whitney, in spite of all that Norton
and Lockwood say about him," remarked Kennedy, considering the next
step he would take in his investigation.

Accordingly, half an hour later we entered his Wall Street office,
where we were met by a clerk, who seemed to remember us.

"Mr. Whitney is out just at present," he said, "but if you will be
seated I think I can reach him by telephone."

As we sat in the outer office while the clerk telephoned from Whitney's
own room the door opened and the postman entered and laid some letters
on a table near us. Kennedy could not help seeing the letter on top of
the pile, and noticed that it bore a stamp from Peru. He picked it up
and read the postmark, "Lima," and the date some weeks previous. In the
lower corner, underscored, were the words "Personal--Urgent."

"I'd like to know what is in that," remarked Craig, turning it over and
over.

He appeared to be considering something, for he rose suddenly, and with
a nod of his head to himself, as though settling some qualm of
conscience, shoved the letter into his pocket.

A moment later the clerk returned. "I've just had Mr. Whitney on the
wire," he reported. "I don't think he'll be back at least for an hour."

"Is he at the Prince Edward Albert?" asked Craig.

"I don't know," returned the clerk, oblivious to the fact that we must
have seen that in order to know the telephone number he must have known
whether Mr. Whitney was there or elsewhere.

"I shall come in again," rejoined Kennedy, as we bowed ourselves out.
Then to me he added, "If he is with Senora de Moche and they are at the
Edward Albert, I think I can beat him back with this letter if we
hurry."

A few minutes later, in his laboratory, Kennedy set to work quickly
over an X-ray apparatus. As I watched him, I saw that he had placed the
letter in it.

"These are what are known as 'low tubes,'" he explained. "They give out
'soft rays.'"

He continued to work for several minutes, then took the letter out and
handed it to me.

"Now, Walter," he said brusquely, "if you will just hurry back down
there to Whitney's office and replace that letter, I think I will have
something that will astonish you--though whether it will have any
bearing on the case remains to be seen. At least I can postpone seeing
Whitney himself for a while."

I made the trip down again as rapidly as I could. Whitney was not back
when I arrived, but the clerk was there, and I could not very well just
leave the letter on the table again.

"Mr. Kennedy would like to know when he can see Mr. Whitney," I said,
on the spur of the moment. "Can't you call him up again?"

The clerk, as I had anticipated, went into Whitney's office to
telephone. Instead of laying the letter on the table, which might have
excited suspicion, I stuck it in the letter slot of the door, thinking
that perhaps they might imagine that it had caught there when the
postman made his rounds.

A moment later the clerk returned. "Mr. Whitney is on his way down
now," he reported.

I thanked him, and said that Kennedy would call him up when he arrived,
congratulating myself on the good luck I had had in returning the
letter.

"What is it?" I asked, a few minutes later, when I had rejoined Craig
in the laboratory.

He was poring intently over what looked like a negative.

"The possibility of reading the contents of documents inclosed in a
sealed envelope," he replied, still studying the shadowgraph closely,
"has already been established by the well-known English scientist, Dr.
Hall Edwards. He has been experimenting with the method of using X-rays
recently discovered by a German scientist, by which radiographs of very
thin substances, such as a sheet of paper, a leaf, an insect's body,
may be obtained. These thin substances, through which the rays used
formerly to pass without leaving an impression, can now be easily
radiographed."

I looked carefully as he traced out something on the queer negative. On
it, it was easily possible, following his guidance, to read the words
inscribed on the sheet of paper inside. So admirably defined were all
the details that even the gum on the envelope and the edges of the
sheet of paper inside the envelope could be distinguished.

"It seems incredible," I exclaimed, scarcely believing what I actually
saw. "It is almost like second sight."

Kennedy smiled. "Any letter written with ink having a mineral base can
be radiographed," he added. "Even when the sheet is folded in the usual
way, it is possible, by taking a radiograph, as I have done,
stereoscopically. Then every detail can be seen standing out in relief.
Besides, it can be greatly magnified, which aids in deciphering it if
it is indistinct or jumbled up. Some of it looks like mirror-writing.
Ah," he continued, "here's something interesting."

Together we managed to trace out the contents of several paragraphs
laboriously, the gist of which I give here:

"LIMA, PERU.

"DEAR WHITNEY:

"Matters are progressing very favorably here, considering the stoppage
of business due to the war. I am doing everything in my power to
conserve our interests, and now and then, owing to the scarcity of
money, am able to pick up a concession cheaply, which will be of
immense value to us later.

"However, it is not so much of business that I wish to write you at the
present time. You know that my friend Senora de Moche, with her son,
Alfonso, is at present in New York. Doubtless she has already called on
you and tried to interest you in her own properties here. I need not
advise you to be very careful in dealing with her.

"The other day I heard a rumour that may prove interesting to you,
regarding Norton and his work here on his last trip. As we know, he has
succeeded in finding and getting out of the country an Inca dagger
which, I believe, bears a very important inscription. I do not know
anything definite about it, as these people are very reticent. But no
doubt he has told you all about it by this time. If it should prove of
value, I depend on you to let me know, so that I may act at this end
accordingly.

"What I am getting at is this: I understand that from rumours and
remarks of the Senora she believes that Norton took an unfair advantage
during her absence. What the inscription is I don't know, but from the
way these people down here act one would think that they all had a
proprietary interest in the relic. What it is all about I don't know.
But you will find the Senora both a keen business woman and an
accomplished antiquarian, if you have not already discovered it.

"In regard to Lockwood and Mendoza, if we can get them in on our side,
it ought to prove a winning combination. There are stories here of how
de Moche has been playing on Mendoza's passions--she's thoroughly
unscrupulous and Don Luis is somewhat of a Don Juan. I write this to
put you on guard. Her son, Alfonso, whom you perhaps have met also, is
of another type, though I have heard it said that he laid siege to Inez
Mendoza in the hope of becoming allied with one of the oldest families.

"Such, at least, is the gossip down here. I cannot presume to keep you
posted at such a distance, but thought I had better write what is in
every one's mouth. As for the inscribed dagger which Norton has taken
with him, I rely on you to inform me. There seems to be a great deal of
mystery connected with it, and I am unable even to hazard a guess as to
its nature. Fortunately, you are on the spot

"Very sincerely yours,

"HAGGERTY."

"So," remarked Kennedy, as he read over the translation of the
skiagraph which he had jotted down as we picked out the letters and
words, "that's how the land lies. Everybody seems to have appreciated
the importance of the dagger."

"Except Norton," I could not help putting in in disgust.

"And now it's gone," he continued, "just as though some one had dropped
it overboard. I believe I will keep that appointment you made for me
with Whitney, after all."

Thus it happened that I found myself a third time entering Whitney's
building. I was about to step into the elevator, when Kennedy tugged at
my arm and pulled me back.

"Hello, Norton," I heard him say, as I turned and caught sight of the
archaeologist just leaving an elevator that had come down.

Norton's face plainly showed that he was worried.

"What the matter?" asked Kennedy, putting the circumstances together.
"What has Whitney been doing?"

Norton seemed reluctant to talk, but having no alternative motioned to
us to step aside in the corridor.

"It's the first time I've talked with him since the dagger was
stolen--that is, about the loss," he said nervously. "He called me up
half an hour ago and asked me to come down."

I looked at Kennedy significantly. Evidently it must have been just
after his return to the office and receipt of the letter which I had
stuck in the letter slot.

"He was very angry over something," continued Norton. "I'm sure it was
not my fault if the dagger was stolen, and I'm sure that managing an
expedition in that God-forsaken country doesn't give you time to read
every inscription, especially when it is almost illegible, right on the
spot. There was work enough for months that I brought back, along with
that. Sometimes Whitney's unreasonable."

"You don't think he could have known something about the dagger all
along?" ventured Craig.

Norton puckered his eyes. "He never said anything," he replied. "If he
had asked me to drop other things for that, why, of course, I would
have done so. We can't afford to lose him as a contributor to the
exploration fund. Confound it--I'm afraid I've put my foot in it this
time."

Kennedy said nothing, and Norton continued, growing more excited:
"Everybody's been talking to Whitney, telling him all kinds of
things--Lockwood, the de Moches, heaven knows who else. Why don't they
come out and face me? I've a notion to try to carry on my work
independently. Nothing plays hob with scholarship like money. You'd
think he owned me body and soul, and the collection, too, if you heard
him talk. Why, he accused me of carelessness in running the Museum, and
heaven knows I'm not the curator--I'm not even the janitor!"

Norton was excited, but I could not help feeling that he was also
relieved. "I've been preparing for the time when I'd have to cut
loose," he went on finally. "Now, I suppose it is coming. Ah, well,
perhaps it will be better--who can tell? I may not do so much, but it
will all be mine, with no strings attached. Perhaps, after all, it is
for the best."

Talking over his troubles seemed to do Norton some good, for I am sure
that he left us in a better frame of mind than we had found him.

Kennedy wished him good-luck, and we again entered the lift.

We found Whitney in an even greater state of excitement than Norton had
been. I am sure that if it had been any one else than Kennedy he would
have thrown him out, but he seemed to feel that he must control himself
in our presence.

"What do you know about that fellow Norton, up at your place?" he
demanded, almost before we had seated ourselves.

"A very hard-working, ambitious man his colleagues tell me," returned
Kennedy, purposely I thought, as if it had been a red rag flaunted
before a bull.

"Hard-working--yes," bellowed Whitney. "He has worked me hard. I send
him down to Peru--yes, I put up most of the money. Then what does he
do? Just kids me along, makes me think he's accomplishing a whole
lot--when he's actually so careless as to let himself be robbed of what
he gets with my money. I tell you, you can't trust anybody. They all
double-cross you. I swear, I think Lockwood and I ought to go it alone.
I'm glad I found that fellow out. Let himself be robbed--a fine piece
of work! Why, that fellow couldn't see through a barn door--after the
horse was stolen," he concluded, mixing his metaphors in his anger.

"Evidently some one has been telling you something," remarked Kennedy.
"We tried to see you twice this morning, but couldn't find you."

His tone was one calculated to impress Whitney with the fact that he
had been watching and had some idea of where he really was. Whitney
shot a sharp glance at Craig, whose face betrayed nothing.

"Ambitious--I should say so," repeated Whitney, reverting to Norton to
cover up this new change of the subject. "Well--let him be ambitious.
We can get along without him. I tell you, Kennedy, no one is
indispensable. There is always some way to get along--if you can't get
over an obstacle, you can get around it. I'll dispense with Mr. Norton.
He's an expensive luxury, anyhow. I'm just as well satisfied."

There was real vexation in Whitney's voice, yet as he talked he, too,
seemed to cool down. I could not help thinking that both Norton and
Whitney were perhaps just a bit glad at the break. Had both of them got
out of each other all that they wanted--Norton his reputation and
Whitney--what?

He cooled down so rapidly now that almost I began to wonder whether his
anger had been genuine. Did he know more about the dagger than
appeared? Was this his cover--to disown Norton?

"It seems to me that Senora de Moche is ambitious for her son, too,"
remarked Kennedy, tenaciously trying to force the conversation into the
channel he chose.

"How's that?" demanded Whitney, narrowing his eyes down into a squint
at Kennedy's face, a proceeding that served by contrast to emphasize
the abnormal condition of the pupils which I had already noticed both
in his eyes and Lockwood's.

"I don't think she'd object to having him marry into one of the leading
families in Peru," ventured Kennedy, paraphrasing what we had already
read in the letter.

"Perhaps Senorita Mendoza herself can be trusted to see to that,"
Whitney replied with a quick laugh.

"To say nothing of Mr. Lockwood," suggested Craig.

Whitney looked at him quizzically, as though in doubt just how much
this man knew.

"Senora de Moche puzzles me," went on Kennedy. "I often wonder whether
superstition or greed would rule her if it came to the point in this
matter of the Gold of the Gods, as they all seem to call the buried
treasure at Truxillo. She's a fascinating woman, but I can't help
feeling that with her one is always playing with fire."

Whitney eyed us knowingly. I had long ago taken his measure as a man
quite susceptible to a pretty face, especially if accompanied by a
well-turned ankle.

"I never discuss politics during business hours," he laughed, with a
self-satisfied air. "You will excuse me? I have some rather important
letters that I must get off."

Kennedy rose, and Whitney walked to the door with us, to call his
stenographer.

We had scarcely said good-bye and were about to open the outer door
when it was pushed open from outside, and Lockwood bustled in.

"No more anonymous letters, I hope?" he queried, in a tone which I
could not determine whether serious or sarcastic.

Kennedy answered in the negative. "Not unless you have one."

"I? I rather think the ready letter-writers know better than to waste
time on me. That little billet doux seems to have quite upset the
Senorita, though. I don't know how many times she has called me up to
see if I was all right. I begin to think that whoever wrote it has done
me a good turn, after all."

Lockwood did not say it in a boastful way, but one could see that he
was greatly pleased at the solicitude of Inez.

"She thinks it referred to you, then?" asked Kennedy.

"Evidently," he replied; then added, "I won't say but that I have taken
it seriously, too."

He slapped his hip pocket. Under the tail of his coat bulged a
blue-steel automatic.

"You still have no idea who could have sent it, or why?"

Lockwood shook his head. "Whoever he is, I'm ready," he replied grimly,
bowing us out.



XI

THE SHOE-PRINTS


"I'm afraid we've neglected the Senorita a bit, in our efforts to
follow up what clues we have in the case," remarked Kennedy, as we rode
uptown again. "She needs all the protection we can give her. I think
we'd better drop around there, now that she is pretty likely to be left
alone."

Accordingly, instead of going back to the laboratory, we dropped off
near the apartment of the Mendozas and walked over from the subway.

As we turned the corner, far down the long block I could see the
entrance to the apartment.

"There she is now," I said to Kennedy, catching sight of her familiar
figure, clad in sombre black, as she came down the steps. "I wonder
where she can be going."

She turned at the foot of the steps and, as chance would have it,
started in the opposite direction from us.

"Let us see," answered Kennedy, quickening his pace.

She had not gone very far before a man seemed to spring up from nowhere
and meet her. He bowed, and walked along beside her.

"De Moche," recognized Kennedy.

Alfonso had evidently been waiting in the shadow of an entrance down
the street, perhaps hoping to see her, perhaps as our newspaper friend
had seen before, to watch whether Lockwood was among her callers. As we
walked along, we could see the little drama with practically no fear of
being seen, so earnestly were they talking.

Even during the few minutes that the Senorita was talking with him no
one would have needed to be told that she really had a great deal of
regard for him, whatever might be her feelings toward Lockwood.

"I should say that she wants to see him, yet does not want to see him,"
observed Kennedy, as we came closer.

She seemed now to have become restive and impatient, eager to cut the
conversation short.

It was quite evident at the same time that Alfonso was deeply in love
with her, that though she tried to put him off he was persistent. I
wondered whether, after all, some of the trouble had not been that
during his lifetime the proud old Castilian Don Luis could never have
consented to the marriage of his daughter to one of Indian blood. Had
he left a legacy of fear of a love forbidden by race prejudice?

In any event, the manner of Alfonso's actions about the Mendoza
apartment was such that one could easily imagine his feelings toward
Lockwood, whom he saw carrying off the prize under his very eyes.

As for his mother, the Senora, we had already seen that Peruvians of
her caste were also a proud old race. Her son was the apple of her eye.
Might not some of her feelings be readily accounted for? Who were these
to scorn her race, her family?

We had walked along at a pace that finally brought us up with them. As
Kennedy and I bowed, Alfonso seemed at first to resent our intrusion,
while Inez seemed rather to welcome it as a diversion.

"Can we not expect you?" the young man repeated. "It will be only for a
few minutes this afternoon, and my mother has something of very great
importance to tell."

He was half pleading, half apologizing. Inez glanced hastily around at
Kennedy, uncertain what to say, and hoping that he might indicate some
course. Surreptitiously, Kennedy nodded an affirmative.

"Very well, then," she replied reluctantly, not to seem to change what
had been her past refusal too suddenly. "I may ask Professor Kennedy,
too?"

He could scarcely refuse before us. "Of course," he agreed, quickly
turning to us. "We were speaking about meeting this afternoon at four
in the tea room of the Prince Edward. You can come?"

Though the invitation was not over-gracious, Kennedy replied, "We
should be delighted to accompany Miss Inez, I am sure. We happened to
be passing this way and thought we would stop in to see if anything new
had happened. Just as we turned the corner we saw you disappearing down
the street, and followed. I trust everything is all right?"

"Nothing more has happened since this morning," she returned, with a
look that indicated she understood that Kennedy referred to the
anonymous letter. "I had a little shopping to do. If you will excuse
me, I think I will take a car. This afternoon--at four."

She nodded brightly as we assisted her into a taxicab and left us three
standing there on the curb. For a moment it was rather awkward. To
Alfonso her leaving was somewhat as though the sun had passed under a
cloud.

"Are you going up toward the University?" inquired Kennedy.

"Yes," responded the young man reluctantly.

"Then suppose we walk. It would take only a few more minutes,"
suggested Kennedy.

Alfonso could not very well refuse, but started off at a brisk pace.

"I suppose these troubles interfere seriously with your work," pursued
Craig, as we fell into his stride.

"Yes," he admitted, "although much of my work just now is only
polishing off what I have already learned--getting your American point
of view and methods. You see, I have had an idea that the canal will
bring both countries into much closer relations than before. And if you
will not learn of us, we must learn of you."

"It is too bad we Americans don't take more interest in the countries
south of us," admitted Craig. "I think you have the right idea, though.
Such men as Mr. Whitney are doing their best to bring the two nations
closer together."

I watched the effect of the mention of Whitney's name. It seemed
distasteful, only in a lesser degree than Lockwood's.

"We do not need to be exploited," he ventured. "My belief is that we
should not attract capital in order to take things out of the country.
If we might keep our own earnings and transform them into capital, it
would be better. That is why I am doing what I am at the University."

I could not believe that it explained the whole reason for his presence
in New York. Without a doubt the girl who had just left us weighed
largely in his mind, as well as his and his mother's ambitions, both
personal and for Peru.

"Quite reasonable," accepted Kennedy. "Peru for the Peruvians. Yet
there seems to be such untold wealth in the country that taking out
even quite large sums would not begin to exhaust the natural resources."

"But they are ours, they belong to us," hastened de Moche, then caught
the drift of Kennedy's remarks, and was on his guard.

"Buried treasure, like that which you call the Gold of the Gods, is
always fascinating," continued Kennedy. "The trouble with such easy
money, however, is that it tends to corrupt. In the early days history
records its taint. And I doubt whether human nature has changed much
under the veneer of modern civilization. The treasure seems to leave
its trail even as far away as New York. It has at least one murder to
its credit already."

"There has been nothing but murder and robbery from the time that the
peje chica was discovered," asserted the young man sadly. "You are
quite right."

"Truly it would seem to have been cursed," added Craig. "The spirit of
Mansiche must, indeed, watch over it. I suppose you know of the loss of
the old Inca dagger from the University Museum and that it was that
with which Don Luis was murdered?"

It was the first time Kennedy had broached the subject to de Moche, and
I watched closely to see what was its effect.

"Perhaps it was a warning," commented Alfonso, in a solemn tone, that
left me in doubt whether it was purely superstitious dread or in the
nature of a prophecy of what might be expected from some quarter of
which we were ignorant.

"You have known of the existence of the dagger always, I presume,"
continued Kennedy. "Have you or any one you know ever sought to
discover its secret and search it out?"

"I think my mother told you we never dig for treasure," he answered.
"It would be sacrilegious. Besides, there is more treasure buried by
nature than that dedicated to the gods. There is only one trouble that
may hurt our natural resources--the get-rich-quick promoter. I would
advise looking out for him. He flourishes in a newly opened country
like Peru. That curse, I suppose, is much better understood by
Americans than the curse of Mansiche. But as for me, you must remember
that the curse is part of my religion, as it were."

We had reached the campus by this time, and parted at the gate, each to
go his way.

"You will drop in on me if you hear anything?" invited Craig.

"Yes," promised Alfonso. "We shall see you at four."

With this parting reminder he turned toward the School of Mines while
we debouched off toward the Chemistry Building.

"The de Moches are nobody's tools," I remarked. "That young man seems
to have a pretty definite idea of what he wants to do."

"At least he puts it so before us," was all that Kennedy would grant.
"He seems to be as well informed of what passed at that visit to the
Senora as though he had been there too."

We had scarcely opened the laboratory door when the ringing of the
telephone told us that some one had been trying to get in touch for
some time.

"It was Norton," said Kennedy, hanging up the receiver. "I imagine he
wants to know what happened after we left him and went up to see
Whitney."

That was, in fact, just what Norton wanted, as well as to make clear to
us how he felt on the subject.

"Really, Kennedy," he remarked, "it must be fine to feel that your
chair in the University is endowed rather than subsidized. You saw how
Whitney acted, you say. Why, he makes me feel as if I were his hired
man, instead of head of the University's expedition. I'm glad it's
over. Still, if you could find that dagger and have it returned it
might look better for me. You have no clue, I suppose?"

"I'm getting closer to one," replied Craig confidently, though on what
he could base any optimism I could not see.

The same idea seemed to be in Norton's mind. "You think you will have
something tangible soon?" he asked eagerly.

"I've had more slender threads than these to work on," reassured
Kennedy. "Besides, I'm getting very little help from any of you. You
yourself, Norton, at the start left me a good deal in the dark over the
history of the dagger."

"I couldn't do otherwise," he defended. "You understand now, I guess,
how I have always been tied, hand and foot, by the Whitney influence.
You'll find that I can be of more service, now."

"Just how did you get possession of the dagger?" asked Kennedy, and
there flashed over me the recollection of the story told by the Senora,
as well as the letter which we had purloined.

"Just picked it up from an Indian who had an abnormal dislike to work.
They said he was crazy, and I guess perhaps he was. At any rate, he
later drowned himself in the lake, I have heard."

"Could he have been made insane, do you think?" ruminated Craig. "It's
possible that he was the victim of somebody, I understand. The insanity
might have been real enough without the cause being natural."

"That's an interesting story," returned Norton. "Offhand, I can't seem
to recall much about the fellow, although some one else might have
known him very well."

Evidently he either did not know the tale as well as the Senora, or was
not prepared to take us entirely into his confidence.

"Who is Haggerty?" asked Craig, thinking of the name signed to the
letter we had read.

"An agent of Whitney and his associates, who manages things in Lima,"
explained Norton. "Why?"

"Nothing--only I have heard the name and wondered what his connection
might be. I understand better now."

Kennedy seemed to be anxious to get to work on something, and, after a
few minutes, Norton left us.

No sooner had the door closed than he took the glass-bell jar off his
microscope and drew from a table drawer several scraps of paper on
which I recognized the marks left by the carbon sheets. He set to work
on another of those painstaking tasks of examination, and I retired to
my typewriter, which I had moved into the next room, in order to leave
Kennedy without anything that might distract attention from his work.

One after another he examined the sheets which he had marked, starting
with a hand-lens and then using one more powerful. At the top of the
table lay the specially prepared paper on which he had caught and
preserved the marks in the dust of the Egyptian sarcophagus in the
Museum.

Besides these things, I noticed that he had innumerable photographs,
many of which were labelled with the stamp of the bureau in the Paris
Palais de Justice, over which Bertillon had presided.

One after another he looked at the carbon prints, comparing them point
by point with the specially prepared copy of the shoe-prints in the
sarcophagus. It was, after all, a comparatively simple job. We had the
prints of de Moche and Lockwood, as well as Whitney, all of them
crossed by steps from Norton.

"Well, what do you think of that?" I heard him mutter.

I quit my typewriter, with a piece of paper still in it, and hurried
into the main room.

"Have you found anything?"

"I should say I had," he replied, in a tone that betrayed his own
astonishment at the find. "Look at that," he indicated to me, handing
over one of the sheets. "Compare it with this Museum foot-print."

With his pencil Kennedy rapidly indicated the tell-tale points of
similarity on the two shoe-prints.

I looked up at him, convinced now of some one's identity.

"Who was it?" I asked, unable to restrain myself longer.

Kennedy paused a minute, to let the importance of the surprise be
understood.

"The man who entered the Museum and concealed himself in the
sarcophagus in the Egyptian section adjoining Norton's treasures,"
replied Kennedy slowly, "was Lockwood himself!"



XII

THE EVIL EYE


Completely at sea as a result of the unexpected revelation of the
shoe-prints we had found in the Museum, and with suspicions now
thoroughly aroused against Lockwood, I accompanied Kennedy to keep our
appointment with the Senorita at the Prince Edward Albert.

We were purposely a bit early, in order to meet Inez, so that she would
not have to be alone with the Senora, and we sat down in the lobby in a
little angle from which we could look into the tea room.

We had not been sitting there very long when Kennedy called my
attention to Whitney, who had just come in. Almost at the same time he
caught sight of us, and walked over.

"I've been thinking a good deal of your visit to me just now," he
began, seating himself beside us. "Perhaps I should not have said what
I did about your friend Norton. But I couldn't help it. I guess you
know something about that dagger he lost, don't you?"

"I have heard of the 'great fish' and the 'little fish' and the 'curse
of Mansiche,'" replied Kennedy, "if that is what you mean. Somehow the
Inca dagger seems to have been mixed up with them."

"Yes--with the peje grande, I believe," went on Whitney.

Beneath his exterior of studied calm I could see that he was very much
excited. If I had not already noted a peculiar physical condition in
him, I might have thought he had stopped in the cafe with some friends
too long. But his eyes were not those of a man who has had too much to
drink.

Just then Senorita Mendoza entered, and Kennedy rose and went forward
to greet her. She saw Whitney, and flashed an inquiring glance at us.

"We were waiting for Senorita Mendoza," explained Kennedy to both
Whitney and her, "when Mr. Whitney happened along. I don't see Senora
de Moche in the tea room. Perhaps we may as well sit out here in the
corridor until she comes."

It was evidently his desire to see how Whitney and Inez would act, for
this was the first time we had ever seen them together.

"We were talking of the treasure," resumed Whitney, omitting to mention
the dagger. "Kennedy, we are not the only ones who have sought the peje
grande, or rather are seeking it. But we are, I believe, the only ones
who are seeking it in the right place, and," he added, leaning over
confidentially, "your father, Senorita, was the only one who could have
got the concession, the monopoly, from the government to seek in what I
am convinced will be the right place. Others have found the 'little
fish.' We shall find the 'big fish.'"

He had raised his voice from the whisper, and I caught Inez looking
anxiously at Kennedy, as much as to say, "You see? He is like the rest.
His mind is full of only one subject."

"We shall find it, too," he continued, still speaking in a high-pitched
key, "no matter what obstacles man or devil put in our way. It shall be
ours--for a simple piece of engineering--ours! The curse of
Mansiche--pouf!"

He snapped his fingers defiantly as he said it. There was an air of
bravado about his manner. I could not help feeling that perhaps in his
heart he was not so sure of himself as he would have others think.

I watched him closely, and could see that he had suddenly become even
more excited than before. It was as though some diabolical force had
taken possession of his brain, and he fought it off, but was unable to
conquer.

Kennedy followed the staring glance of Whitney's eyes, which seemed
almost to pop out of his head, as though he were suffering from the
disease exophthalmic goitre. I looked also. Senora de Moche had come
from the elevator, accompanied by Alfonso, and was walking slowly down
the corridor. As she looked to the right and left, she had caught sight
of our little group, all except Whitney, with our backs toward her. She
was now looking fixedly in our direction, paying no attention to
anything else.

Whitney was a study. I wondered what could be the relations between
these two, the frankly voluptuous woman and the calculating
full-blooded man. Whitney, for his part, seemed almost fascinated by
her gaze. He rose as she bowed, and, for a moment, I thought that he
was going over to speak to her, as if drawn by that intangible
attraction which Poe has so cleverly expressed in his "Imp of the
Perverse." For, clearly, one who talked as Whitney had just been
talking would have to be on his guard with that woman. Instead,
however, he returned her nod and stood still, while Kennedy bowed at a
distance and signalled to her that we would be in the tea room directly.

I glanced up in time to see the anxious look on the face of Inez change
momentarily into a flash of hatred toward the Senora.

At the same moment Alfonso, who was on the other side of his mother,
turned from looking at a newsstand which had attracted his attention
and caught sight of us. There was no mistaking the ardent glance which
he directed at the fair Peruvian at my side. I fancied, too, that her
face softened a bit. It was only for a moment, and then Inez resumed
her normal composure.

"I won't detain you any longer," remarked Whitney. "Somehow, when I
start to talk about my--our plans down there at Truxillo I could go on
all night. It is marvellous, marvellous. We haven't any idea of what
the future holds in store. No one else in all this big city has
anything like the prospect which is before us. Gradually we are getting
everything into shape. When we are ready to go ahead, it will be the
sensation of Wall Street--and, believe me, it takes much to arouse the
Street."

He may have been talking wildly, but it was worth while to listen to
him. For, whatever else he was, Whitney was one of the most persuasive
promoters of the day. More than that, I could well imagine how any one
possessed of an imagination susceptible to the influence of mystery and
tradition would succumb to the glittering charm of the magic words,
peje chica, and feel all the gold-hunter's enthusiasm when Whitney
brought him into the atmosphere of the peje grande. As he talked,
visions of hidden treasure seemed to throw a glamour over everything.
One saw golden.

"You will excuse us?" apologized Kennedy, taking Inez by the arm. "If
you are about, Mr. Whitney, I shall stop to chat with you again on the
way out."

"Remember--she is a very remarkable woman," said Whitney, as we left
him and started for the tea room.

His tone was not exactly one of warning, yet it seemed to have cost him
an effort to say it. I could not reconcile it with any other idea than
that he was trying to use her in his own plans, but was still in doubt
of the outcome.

We parted from him and entered the darkened tea room, with its wicker
tables and chairs, and soft lights, glowing pinkly, to simulate night
in the broad light of afternoon outside. A fountain splashed soothingly
in the centre. Everything was done to lend to the place an exotic air
of romance.

Alfonso and his mother had chosen a far corner, deeper than the rest in
the shadows, where two wicker settees were drawn up about a table,
effectually cutting off inquisitive eyes and ears.

Alfonso rose as we approached and bowed deeply. I could not help
watching the two women as they greeted each other.

"Won't you be seated?" he asked, pulling around one of the wicker
chairs.

It was then that I saw how he had contrived to sit next to Inez, while
Kennedy manoeuvred to sit on the end, where he could observe them all
best.

It was a rather delicate situation, and I wondered how Kennedy would
handle it, for, although Alfonso had done the inviting, it was really
Craig who was responsible for allowing Inez to accept. The Senora
seemed to recognize it, also, for, although she talked to Inez, it was
plain she had him in mind.

"I have heard from Alfonso about the cruel death of your father," she
began, in a softened tone, "and I haven't had a chance to tell you how
deeply I sympathize with you. Of course, I am a much older woman than
you, have seen much more trouble. But I know that never in life do
troubles seem keener than when life is young. And yours has been so
harsh. I could not let it pass without an opportunity to tell you how
deeply I feel."

She said it with an air of sincerity that was very convincing, so
convincing, in fact, that it shook for the moment the long chain of
suspicion that I had been forging both of her and her son. Could she be
such a heartless woman as to play on the very heartstrings of one whom
she had wronged? I was shaken, moreover, by the late discovery by
Kennedy of the foot-prints.

The Senorita murmured her thanks for the condolences in a broken voice.
It was evident that whatever enmity she bore against the Senora it was
not that of suspicion that she was the cause of her father's death.

"I can sympathize with you the more deeply," she went on, "because only
lately I have lost a very dear brother myself. Already I have told
Professor Kennedy something about it. It was a matter of which I felt I
must speak to you, for it may concern you, in the venture in which Mr.
Lockwood and your father were associated, and into which now Mr.
Whitney has entered."

Inez said nothing, and Craig bowed, as though he, too, wished her to go
on.

"It is about the 'big fish' and the concession which your father has
obtained from the government to search for it."

The Senorita started and grew a bit pale at the reference, but she
seemed to realize that it was something she ought to hear, and steeled
herself to it.

"Yes," she murmured, "I understand."

"As you no doubt know," resumed the Senora, "no one has had the secret
of the hiding-place. It has been by mere tradition that they were going
to dig. That secret, you may know or may not know now, was in reality
contained in the inscriptions on an old Inca dagger."

Inez shuddered at the mention of the weapon, a shudder that was not
lost on the Senora.

"I have already told Professor Kennedy that both the tradition and the
dagger were handed down in my own family, coming at last to my brother.
As I said, I don't know how it happened, but somehow he seemed to be
getting crazy, until he talked, and the dagger was stolen from him. It
came finally into Professor Norton's hands, from whom it was in turn
stolen."

She looked at Inez searchingly, as if to discover just what she knew. I
wondered whether the Senora suspected the presence of Lockwood's
footprints in the sarcophagus in the Museum--what she would do if she
did.

"After he lost it," she continued reminiscently, "my brother threw
himself one day into Lake Titicaca. Everywhere the trail of that
dagger, of the secret of the Gold of the Gods has been stained by
blood. To-day the world scoffs at curses. But surely that gold must be
cursed. It has been cursed for us and ours."

She spoke bitterly; yet might she not mean that the loss of the dagger,
the secret, was a curse, too?

"There is one other thing I wish to say, and then I will be through.
Far back, when your ancestors came into the country of mine, an
ancestor of your father lost his life over the treasure. It seems as if
there were a strange fatality over it, as if the events of to-day were
but living over the events of yesterday. It is something that we cannot
escape--fate."

She paused a moment, then added, "Yet it might be possible that the
curse could be removed if somehow we, who were against each other then,
might forget and be for each other now."

"But Senorita Mendoza has not the dagger," put in Kennedy, watching her
face keenly, to read the effect of his remark. "She has no idea where
it may be."

"Then it is pure tradition on which Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Whitney depend
in their search for the treasure?" flashed back the Senora quickly.

Kennedy did not know, but he did not confess it. "Until we know
differently, we must take their word for it," he evaded.

"It was not that that I meant, however," replied Senora de Moche. "I
meant that we might stop the curse by ceasing to hunt for the treasure.
It has never done any one good; it never will. Why tempt fate, then?
Why not pause before it is too late?"

I could not quite catch the secondary implication of her plan. Did it
mean that the treasure would then be left for her family? Or was she
hinting at Inez accepting Alfonso's suit? Somehow I could not take the
Senora at her face value. I constantly felt that there was an ulterior
motive back of her actions and words.

I saw Craig watching the young man's face, and followed his eyes. There
was no doubt of how he took the remark. He was gazing ardently at Inez.
If there had ever been any doubt of his feelings, which, of course,
there had not, this would have settled it.

"One thing more," added the Senora, as though she had had an
afterthought, "and that is about Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Whitney. Let me
ask you to think it over. Suppose they have not the dagger. Then are
their chances better than others? And if they have"--she paused to
emphasize it--"what does that mean?"

Kennedy had turned his attention to the Senorita. It was evident that
the dilemma proposed by de Moche was not without weight. She had now
coloured a flaming red. The woman had struck her in a vital spot.

"Mr. Lockwood is not here to defend himself," Inez said quietly. "I
will not have him attacked by innuendo."

She had risen. Neither the ardour of Alfonso nor the seeds of doubt of
the Senora had shaken her faith. It was a test that Kennedy evidently
was glad to have witnessed. For some day she might learn the truth
about the foot-prints. He understood her character better. The Senora,
too, had learned that if she were to bring pressure on the girl she
might break her, but she would not bend.

Without another word Inez, scarcely bowing stiffly, moved out of the
tea room, and we followed, leaving the mother and son there, baffled.

"I hope you will pardon me for allowing you to come here," said
Kennedy, in a low voice. "I did it because there are certain things
that you ought to hear. It was in fairness to you. I would not have you
delude yourself about Mr. Whitney, about--Mr. Lockwood, even. I want
you to feel that, no matter what you hear or see, you can come to me
and know that I will tell you the truth. It may hurt, but it will be
best."

I thought he was preparing the way for a revelation about the
foot-prints, but he said nothing more.

"Oh, that woman!" she exclaimed, as if to change the subject. "I do not
know, I cannot say, why she affects me so. I saw a change in my father,
when he knew her. I have told you how he was, how sometimes I thought
he was mad. Did you notice a change in Mr. Whitney, or haven't you
known him long enough? And lately I have fancied that I see the same
sort of change beginning in Mr. Lockwood. At times they become so
excited, their eyes seem staring, as if some fever were wasting them
away. Father seemed to see strange visions, and hear voices, was worse
when he was alone than when he was in a crowd. Oh, what is it? I could
think of nothing else, not even what she was saying, all the time I was
with her."

"Then you fear that in some way she may be connected with these strange
changes?" asked Kennedy.

"I don't know," she temporized; but the tone of her answer was
sufficient to convey the impression that in her heart she did suspect
something, she knew not what.

"Oh, Professor Kennedy," she cried finally, "can't you see it?
Sometimes--when she looks out of those eyes of hers--she almost makes
people do as she pleases."

We had come to the taxicab stand before the hotel, and Kennedy had
already beckoned to a cab to take her home.

As he handed her in she turned with a little shiver.

"Don't please, think me foolish," she added, with bated breath, "but
often I fear that it is, as we call it, the mal de ojo--the evil eye!"



XIII

THE POISONED CIGARETTE


There was not a grain of superstition in Kennedy, yet I could see that
he was pondering deeply what Inez Mendoza had just said. Was it
possible that there might be something in it--not objectively, but
subjectively? Might that very fear which the Senorita had of the Senora
engender a feeling that would produce the very result that she feared?
I knew that there were strange things that modern psychology was
discovering. Could there be some scientific explanation of the evil eye?

Kennedy turned and went back into the hotel, to keep his appointment
with Whitney, and as he did so I reflected that, whatever credence
might be given the evil-eye theory, there was something now before us
that was a fact--the physical condition which Inez had observed in her
father before his death, saw now in Whitney, and foresaw in Lockwood.
Surely that in itself constituted enough of a problem.

We found Whitney in the cafe, sitting alone in a leather-cushioned
booth, and smoking furiously. I observed him narrowly. His eyes had
even more than before that peculiar, staring look. By the manner in
which his veins stood out I could see that his heart action must be
very rapid.

"Well," he remarked, as we seated ourselves, "how did you come out in
your tete-a-tete?"

"About as I expected," answered Kennedy nonchalantly. "I let it go on
merely because I wanted Senorita Mendoza to hear certain things, and I
thought that the Senora could tell them best. One of them related to
the history of that dagger."

I thought Whitney's eyes would pop out of his head. "What about it?" he
asked.

"Well," replied Kennedy briefly, "there was the story of how her
brother had it and was driven crazy until he gave it up to somebody,
then committed suicide by throwing himself into Titicaca. The other was
the tradition that in the days after Pizarro a Mendoza was murdered by
it, just as her father has now been murdered."

Whitney was listening intently, and seemed to be thinking deeply of
something.

"Do you know," he said finally, with a nod to indicate that he knew
what it was that Kennedy referred to, "I've been thinking of that de
Moche woman a good deal since I left you with her. I've had some
dealings with her."

He looked at Kennedy shrewdly, as though he would have liked to ask
whether she had said anything about him, but did not because he knew
Kennedy would not tell. He was trying to figure out some other way of
finding out.

"Sometimes I think she is trying to double-cross me," he said, at
length. "I know that when she talks to others about me she says many
things that aren't so. Yet when she is with me everything is fine, and
she is ready soon to join us, use her influence with influential
Peruvians; in fact, there isn't anything she won't do--manana,
to-morrow."

All that Whitney said we now knew to be true.

"She has one interesting dilemma, however, which I do not mind telling
you," remarked Kennedy at length. "She cannot expect me to keep secret
what she said before all of us. Inez Mendoza would mention it, anyhow."

"What was that?" queried Whitney, dissembling his interest.

"Why," replied Kennedy slowly, "it was that, with the plans for digging
for the treasure which you say you have, suppose you and Lockwood and
your associates have not the dagger--how are you better off than
previous hunters? And supposing you have it--what does that imply?"

Whitney thought a moment over the last proposition of the dilemma.
"Imply?" he repeated slowly. Then the significance of it seemed to dawn
on him, the possession of the dagger and its implication in regard to
the murder of Mendoza. "Well," he answered, "we haven't the dagger. You
know that. But, on the other hand, we think our plans for getting at
the treasure are better than any one else has ever had, more certain of
success."

"Yet the possession of the dagger, with its inscription, is the only
thing that absolutely insures success," observed Kennedy.

"That's true enough," agreed Whitney. "Confound that man Norton. How
could he be such a boob as to let the chance slip through his fingers?"

"He never told you of it?" asked Kennedy.

"Yes, he told me of the dagger, but hadn't read the inscription, he
said," answered Whitney. "I was so busy at the time with Lockwood and
Mendoza, who had the concession to dig for the treasure, that I didn't
pay much attention to what Norton brought back. I thought that could
wait until Lockwood had been persuaded to join the interests I
represent."

"Did Lockwood or Mendoza know about the dagger and its importance?"
suggested Craig.

"If they did, they never said anything about it," returned Whitney
promptly. "Mendoza is dead. Lockwood tells me he knew nothing about it
until very lately--since the murder, I suppose."

"You suppose?" persisted Kennedy. "Are you sure that he knew nothing
about it before?"

"No," confessed Whitney, "I'm not sure. Only I say that he told me
nothing of it."

"Then he might have known?"

"Might have. But I don't think it very probable."

Whitney seemed to be turning something over in his mind. Suddenly he
brought his fist down on the little round table before us, rattling the
glasses.

"Do you know," he exclaimed, "the more I think about it, the more
convinced I am that Norton ought to be held to account for that loss!
He ought to have known. Then the presumption is that he did know. By
heaven, I'm going to have that fellow watched. I'm going to do it
to-day, too. I don't trust him. He shall not double-cross me--even if
that woman does!"

I wondered whether Whitney was bluffing. If he was, he was making a lot
of fuss over it. He talked more and more wildly, as he grew more
excited over his latest idea.

"I'll have detectives put on his trail," he blustered. "I'll talk it
over with Lockwood. He never liked the man."

"What did Lockwood say about Norton?" asked Kennedy casually.

Whitney eyed us a moment.

"Say," he ejaculated, "it was Norton brought you into this case, wasn't
it?"

"I cannot deny that," returned Kennedy quietly, meeting his eyes. "But
it is Inez Mendoza now that keeps me in it."

"So--you're another rival, are you?" purred Whitney sarcastically.
"Lockwood and de Moche aren't enough. I have a sneaking suspicion that
Norton himself is one of them. Now it's you, too. I suppose Mr. Jameson
is another. Well, if I was ten years younger, I'd cut you all out, or
know the reason why. Oh, YES, I think I will NOT tell you what Mr.
Lockwood suspects."

With every sentence the veins of Whitney's forehead stood out further,
until now they were like whipcords. His eyes and face were fairly
apoplectic. Slowly the conviction was forced on me. The man acted for
all the world like one affected by a drug.

"Well," he went on, "you may tell Norton for me that I am going to have
him watched. That will throw a scare into him."

At least it showed that the breach between Whitney and Norton was deep.
Kennedy listened without saying much, but I knew that he was gratified.
He was playing Lockwood against de Moche, the Senora against Inez. Now
if Whitney would play himself against Norton, out of the tangle might
emerge just the clues he needed. For when people get fighting among
themselves the truth comes out.

"Very well," remarked Craig, rising, with a hurried glance at Whitney's
apoplectic face, "go as far as you like. I think we understand each
other better, now."

Whitney said nothing, but, rising also, turned on his heel and walked
deliberately out of the cafe into the corridor of the Prince Edward
Albert, leaving us standing there.

Kennedy leaned over and swept up the ashes of Whitney's cigarettes
which lay in the ash-tray, placing them, stubs and all, in an envelope,
as he had done before.

"We have one sample, already," he said. "Another won't hurt. You can
never have too much material to work with. Let us see where he is
going."

Slowly we followed in the direction which Whitney had taken from the
cafe. There was Whitney standing by the cigar-stand, gazing intently
down the corridor.

Kennedy and I moved over so that we could see what he was gazing at.
Just then he started to walk hurriedly in the direction in which he was
looking.

"Senora de Moche!" exclaimed Craig, drawing me toward a palm.

It was indeed she. She had left the tea room and gone to her own room.
Now she was alighting from the elevator, and had started toward the
main dining-room, when her eyes had rested on Whitney. In spite of all
that he had said to us about her, he had received the glance as a
signal and was fluttering over to her like a moth to a flame.

What was the reason back of it all, I asked, as I thought of those
wonderful eyes of hers? Was it a sort of auto-hypnotism? There was, I
knew, a form of illusion known as ophthalmophobia--fear of the eye. It
ranged from mere aversion at being gazed at all the way to the
subjective development of real physical action from an otherwise
trivial objective cause. Perhaps Inez was right about the eyes. One
might fear them, and that fear might cause the precise thing to happen
which the owner of the eyes intended. Still, as I reflected before,
there was a much more important problem regarding eyes before us, that
of the drug that was evidently being used in the cigarettes. What was
it?

There was no chance of our gleaning anything now from these two who
made such a strange pair. Kennedy turned and went out of the nearest
entrance of the hotel.

"Central Park, West," he directed a cab driver, as we climbed in his
machine; then to me, after giving the number, "I must see Inez Mendoza
again before I can go ahead."

Inez was not expecting us so soon after leaving her at the hotel, yet I
think was just a little glad that we had come.

"Did anything happen after I left?" she asked eagerly.

"We went back and saw Mr. Whitney," returned Craig. "I believe you are
right. He is acting queerly."

"Alfonso called me up," she volunteered.

"Was it about anything I should know?" queried Craig.

"Well," she hesitated, "he said he hoped that nothing that had taken
place would change our own relations. That was about all. He was the
dutiful son, and made no attempt to explain anything that was said."

Kennedy smiled. "You have not seen Mr. Lock, wood since, I suppose?" he
asked.

"You always make me tell what I hadn't intended," she confessed,
smiling back. "Yes, I couldn't help it. At least, I didn't see him. I
called him up. I wanted to tell him what she had said and that it
hadn't made any difference to me."

"What did he say?"

"I can't remember just how he put it, but I think he meant that it was
something very much like that anonymous letter I received. We both feel
that there is some one who wants to make trouble between us, and we are
not going to let it happen."

If she had known of Kennedy's discovery of the shoe-prints, I feel sure
that, as far as we were concerned, the case would have ended there. She
was in no mood to be convinced by such a thing, would probably have
insisted that some one was wearing a second-hand pair of his shoes.

Kennedy's eye had been travelling around the room as though searching
for something.

"May I have a cigarette out of that case over there?" he asked,
indicating a box of them on a table.

"Why--that is Mr. Lockwood's," she replied. "He left it here the last
time he was here and I forgot to send it to him. Wait a minute. Let me
get you some of father's."

She left the room. The moment the door closed Kennedy reached over and
took one from the case. "I have some of Lockwood's already, but another
won't matter, as long as I can get it," he said. "I thought it was her
father's. When she brings them, smoke one with me, and be careful to
save the stub. I want it."

A moment later she entered with a metal box that must have held several
hundred. Kennedy and I each took one and lighted it, then for several
minutes chatted as an excuse for staying. As for myself, I was glad
enough to leave a pretty large stub, for I did not like it. These
cigarettes, like those Whitney had offered us, had a peculiar flavour
which I had not acquired a liking for.

"You must let me know whether anything else develops from the meeting
in the tea room," said Kennedy finally, rising. "I shall be at the
laboratory some time, I think."



XIV

THE INTERFEROMETER


Norton was waiting for us at the laboratory when we returned, evidently
having been there some time.

"I was on my way to my apartment," he began, "when I thought I'd drop
in to see how things are progressing."

"Slowly," returned Kennedy, throwing off his street clothes and getting
into his laboratory togs.

"Have you seen Whitney since I had the break with him?" asked Norton, a
trifle anxiously.

I wondered whether Kennedy would tell Norton what to expect from
Whitney. He did not, however.

"Yes," he replied, "just now we had an appointment with Senora de Moche
and some others and ran into him at the hotel for a few moments."

"What did he say about me?" queried Norton.

"He hadn't changed his mind," evaded Kennedy. "Have you heard anything
from him?"

"Not a syllable. The break is final. Only I was wondering what he was
telling people about me. He'll tell them something--his side of the
case."

"Well," considered Kennedy, as though racking his brain for some remark
which he remembered, while Norton watched him eagerly, "I do recall
that he was terribly sore about the loss of the dagger, and seemed to
think that it was your fault."

"I thought so, I knew it," replied Norton bitterly. "I can see it
coming. All the trustees will hear of my gross negligence in letting
the Museum be robbed. I suppose I ought to sit up there all night. Oh,
by the way, there's another thing I wanted to ask you. Have you ever
done anything with those shoe-prints you found in the dust of the mummy
case?"

I glanced at Kennedy, wondering whether he felt that the time had come
to reveal what he had discovered. He said nothing for a moment, but
reached into a drawer and pulled out the papers, which I recognized.

"Here they are," he said, picking out the original impression which he
had taken.

"Yes," repeated Norton, "but have you been able to do anything toward
identifying them?"

"I found it rather hard to collect prints of the shoes of all of those
I wished to compare. But I have them at last."

"And?" demanded Norton, leaning forward tensely.

"I find that there is one person whose shoe-prints are precisely the
same as those we found in the Museum," went on Kennedy, tossing over
the impression he had taken.

Norton scanned the two carefully. "I'm not a criminologist," he said
excitedly, "but to my untrained eye it does seem as though you had here
a replica of the first prints, all right." He laid them down and looked
squarely at Kennedy. "Do you mind telling me whose feet made these
prints?"

"Turn the second over. You will see the name written on it."

"Lockwood!" exclaimed Norton in a gasp as he read the name. "No--you
don't mean it."

"I mean nothing less," repeated Kennedy firmly. "I do not say what
happened afterwards, but Lockwood was in the Museum, hiding in the
mummy case, that night."

Norton's mind was evidently working rapidly. "I wish I had your power
of deduction, Kennedy," he said, at length. "I suppose you realize what
this means?"

"What does it mean to you?" asked Kennedy, changing front.

Norton hesitated. "Well," he replied, "it means to me, I suppose, what
it means to any one who stops to think. If Lockwood was there, he got
the dagger. If he had the dagger--it was he who used it!"

The inference was so strong that Craig could not deny it. Whether it
was his opinion or not was another matter.

"It fits in with other facts, too," continued Norton. "For instance, it
was Lockwood who discovered the body of Mendoza."

"But the elevator boy took Lockwood up himself," objected Craig, more
for the sake of promoting the discussion than to combat Norton.

"Yes--when he 'discovered' the thing. But it must have been done long
before. Who knows? He may have entered. The deed might have been done.
He may have left. No one saw him come or go. What then more likely to
cover himself up than to return when he knew that his entrance would be
known, and find the thing himself?"

Norton's reasoning was clever and plausible. Yet Kennedy scarcely
nodded his head, one way or the other.

"You were acquainted with Lockwood?" he asked finally. "I mean to say,
of course, before this affair."

"Yes, I met him in Lima just as I was starting out on my expedition. He
was preparing to come to New York."

"What did you think of him then?"

"Oh, he was all right, I suppose. He wasn't the sort who would care
much for an archaeologist. He cared more for a prospector going off
into the hills than he did for me. And I--I admit that I am impossible.
Archaeology is my life."

Norton continued to study the prints. "I can hardly believe my eyes,"
he murmured; then he looked up suddenly. "Does Whitney know about
this--or Lockwood?"

Kennedy shook his head negatively.

"Because," pursued Norton, "an added inference to that I spoke of would
be that the reason why they are so sure that they will find the
treasure is that they are not going on tradition, as they say, but on
the fact itself."

"A fair conclusion," agreed Craig.

"I wish the break could have been postponed," continued Norton. "Then I
might have been of some service in my relation to Whitney. It's too
late for me to be able to help you in that direction now, however."

"There is something you can do, though," said Craig.

"I shall be delighted," hastened Norton. "What is it?"

"You know Senora de Moche and Alfonso?"

"Yes."

"I wish that you would cultivate their acquaintance. I feel that they
are very suspicious of me. Perhaps they may not be so with you."

"Is there any special thing you want to find out?"

"Yes--only I have slight hopes of doing so. You know that she is on
most intimate terms with Whitney."

"I'm afraid I can't do much for you, then. She'll fight shy of me.
He'll tell her his story."

"That will make no difference. She has already warned me against him.
He has warned against her. It's a most remarkable situation. He is
trying to get her into some kind of deal, yet all the time he is afraid
she is double-crossing him. And at the same time he obeys her--well,
like Alfonso would Inez if she'd only let him."

Norton frowned. "I don't like the way they hover about Inez Mendoza,"
he remarked. "Perhaps the Senora is after Whitney, while her son is
after Inez. Lockwood seems to be impervious to her. Yes, I'll undertake
that commission for you, only I can't promise what success I'll have."

Kennedy restored the shoe-prints to the drawer.

"I think that's gratifying progress," went on Norton. "First we know
who stole the dagger. We know that the dagger killed Mendoza. You have
even determined what the poison on the blade was. It seems to me that
it remains only to determine who struck the actual blow. I tell you,
Kennedy, Whitney will regret the day that he ever threw me over on so
trivial a pretext."

Norton was pacing up and down excitedly now.

"My only fear is," he went on, "what the shock of such a thing will be
on that poor little girl. First her father, then Lockwood. Why--the
blow will be terrible. You must be careful, Kennedy."

"Never fear about that," reassured Craig. "Not a word of this has been
breathed to her yet. We are a long way from fixing the guilt of the
murder; inference is one thing, fact another. We must have facts. And
the facts I want, which you may be able to get, relate to the strange
actions of the de Moches."

Norton scanned Kennedy's face for some hint of what was back of the
remark. But there was nothing there.

"They will bear watching, all right," he said, as he rose to go. "Old
Mendoza was never quite the same after he became so intimate with her.
And I think I can see a change in Whitney."

"What do you attribute it to?" asked Kennedy, without admitting that it
had attracted his attention, too.

"I haven't the slightest idea," confessed Norton.

"Inez is as afraid of her as any of the rest," remarked Kennedy
thoughtfully. "She says it is the evil eye."

"Not an uncommon belief among Latin-Americans," commented Norton. "In
fact, I suppose there are people among us who believe in the evil eye
yet. Still, you can hardly blame that little girl for believing it is
almost anything. Well, I won't keep you any longer. I shall let you
know of anything I find out from the de Moches. I think you are getting
on remarkably."

Norton left us, his face much brighter than it had been when we met him
at the door.

Kennedy, alone at last in the laboratory, went over to a cabinet and
took out a peculiar-looking apparatus, which seemed, as nearly as I can
describe it, to consist of a sort of triangular prism, set with its
edge vertically on a rigid platform attached to a massive stand of
brass.

"Norton seems to have suddenly become quite solicitous of the welfare
of Senorita Mendoza," I hazarded, as he worked over the adjustment of
the thing.

Kennedy smiled. "Every one seems to be--even Whitney," he returned,
twisting a set-screw until he had the alignment of the various parts as
he wanted it.

The telephone bell rang.

"Do you want to answer it?" I asked Craig.

"No," he replied, not even looking up from his work. "Find out who it
is. Unless it is something very important say I am out on an
investigation and that you have heard from me; that I shall not be
either at the laboratory or the apartment until tomorrow morning. I
must get this done to-night."

I took down the receiver.

"Hello, is this Professor Kennedy?" I recognized a voice.

"No," I replied. "Is there any message I can take?"

"This is Mr. Lockwood," came back the information I had already
guessed. "When do you expect him?"

"It's Lockwood," I whispered to Craig, my hand over the transmitter.

"See what he wants," returned Craig. "Tell him what I told you."

I repeated Kennedy's message.

"Well, that's too bad," replied Lockwood. "I've just seen Mr. Whitney,
and he tells me that Kennedy and you are pretty friendly with Norton,
Of course, I knew that. I saw you at the Mendozas' together the first
time. I'd like to have a talk with him about that man. I suppose he has
told you all his side of the story of his relations with Whitney."

I am, if anything, a good listener, and so I said nothing, not even
that he had better tell it to Kennedy in the morning, for it was such a
novelty to have any of these people talk voluntarily that I really
didn't much care whether I believed what they said or not.

"I used to know him down in Lima, you know," went on Lockwood. "What I
want to say has to do with that dagger he says was stolen. I want to
tell what I know of how he got it. There was an Indian mixed up in it
who committed suicide--well, you tell Kennedy I'll see him in the
morning."

Lockwood rang off, and I repeated what he had told me, as Kennedy
continued to adjust the apparatus.

"Say," I exclaimed, as I finished. "That was a harry's of a commission
you gave Norton just now, watching the de Moches. Why, they'd eat him
alive if they got a chance, and I don't know that all's like a Sunday
school on his part. Lockwood doesn't seem to think so."

Kennedy smiled quietly. "That was why I asked him to do it," he
returned. "I thought that he wouldn't let much escape him. They all
seem so down on him, he'll have to watch out. It will keep him busy,
too, and that means a chance for us to work."

He had finished setting up the machine, and now went over to another
drawer, from which he took the envelope of stubs which we had taken
down at Whitney's office first. Then from the pocket of his street coat
he drew both the second envelope of ashes and stubs, the whole
cigarette from Lockwood's case, and the stubs which both of us had
saved from the cigarettes that had once belonged to Mendoza.

Carefully he separated and labelled them all, so that there would be no
chance for them to get mixed up. Then he picked up one of the stubs and
lighted it. The smoke curled up in wreaths between a powerful light and
the peculiar instrument, while Craig peered through a lens,
manipulating the thing with exhaustless patience and skill. I watched
him curiously, but said nothing, for he was studying something
carefully, and I did not want to interrupt his train of thought.

Finally he beckoned me over. "Can you make anything out of that?" he
asked.

I looked through the eye-piece, also. On a sort of fine grating all I
could see was a number of strange lines.

"If you want an opinion from me," I said, with a laugh, "you'll have to
tell me first what I am looking at."

"That," he explained, as I continued to gaze, "is one of the latest
forms of the spectroscope, known as the interferometer, with delicately
ruled gratings in which power to resolve the straight, close lines in
the spectrum is carried to the limit of possibility. A small watch is
delicate. But it bears no comparison to the delicacy of these
defraction spectroscopes.

"Every substance, you know, is, when radiating light, characterized by
what at first appears to be almost haphazard sets of spectral bands
without relation to one another. But they are related by mathematical
laws, and the apparent haphazard character is only the result of our
lack of knowledge of how to interpret the results."

He resumed his place at the eye-piece to check over his results.

"Walter," he said finally, looking up at me with a twinkle in his eye,
"I wish that you'd go out and find me a cat."

"A cat?" I repeated.

"Yes, a cat--felis domesticus, if it sounds better that way--a plain,
ordinary cat."

I jammed on my hat and, late as it was, sallied forth on this
apparently ridiculous mission.

Several belated passers-by and a policeman watched me as though I were
a house-breaker, and I felt like a fool, but at last, by perseverance
and tact, I managed to capture a fairly good specimen of the species,
and carried it in my arms to the laboratory with some profanity and
many scratches.



XV

THE WEED OF MADNESS


In my absence Craig had set to work on a peculiar apparatus, as though
he were distilling something from several of the cigarette stubs which
he had been studying by means of the interferometer.

"Here's your confounded cat," I ejaculated, as I placed the unhappy
feline in a basket and waited patiently until finally he seemed to be
rewarded for his patient labours. It was well along toward morning when
he obtained in a test-tube a few drops of a colourless, odourless
liquid.

"My interferometer gave me a clue," he remarked, as he held the tube up
with satisfaction. "Without the tell-tale line in the spectrum which I
was able to discover by its use I might have been hunting yet for it.
It is so rare that no one would ever have thought, offhand, I suppose,
to look for it. But here it is, I'm sure, only I wanted to be able to
test it."

"So you are not going to try it on yourself," I said sarcastically,
referring to his last experiment with a poison. "This time you are
going to make the cat the dog."

"The cat will be better to test it on than a human being," he replied,
with a glance that made me wince, for, after his performance with the
curare, I felt that once the scientific furore was on him I might be
called upon to become an unwilling martyr to science.

It was with an air of relief, both for himself and my own peace and
safety, that I saw him take the cat out of the basket and hold her in
his arms, smoothing her fur gently, to quiet the feelings that I had
severely ruffled.

Then with a dropper he sucked up a bit of the liquid from the
test-tube. I watched him intently as he let a small drop fall into the
eye of the cat.

The cat blinked a moment, and I bent over to observe it more closely.

"It won't hurt the cat," he explained, "and it may help us."

As I looked at the cat's eye it seemed to enlarge, even under the glare
of a light, shining forth, as it were, like the proverbial cat's eye
under a bed.

What did it mean?

Was there such a thing, I wondered hastily, as the drug of the evil eye?

"What have you found?" I queried.

"Something very much like the so-called 'weed of madness,' I think," he
replied slowly.

"The weed of madness?" I repeated.

"Yes. It is similar to the Mexican toloache and the Hindu datura, which
you must have heard about."

I had heard of these weird drugs, but they had always seemed to be so
far away and to belong rather to the atmosphere of civilizations
different from New York. Yet, I reflected, what was to prevent the
appearance of anything in such a cosmopolitan city, especially in a
case so unusual as that which had so far baffled even Kennedy's skill?

"You know the jimson weed--the Jamestown weed, as it is so often
called?" he continued, explaining. "It grows almost everywhere in the
world, but most thrivingly in the tropics. All the poisons that I have
mentioned are related to it in some way, I believe."

"I've seen the thing in lots and fields," I replied, "but I never
thought it was of much importance."

"Well," he resumed, "the jimson weed on the Pacific coast, in some
parts of the Andes, has large white flowers which exhale a faint,
repulsive odour. It is a harmless-looking plant, with its thick tangle
of leaves, a coarse green growth, with trumpet-shaped flowers. But to
one who knows its properties it is quite too dangerously convenient for
safety."

"But what has that to do with the evil eye?" I asked.

"Nothing; but it has much to do with the cigarettes that Whitney is
smoking," he went on positively. "Those cigarettes have been doped!"

"Doped?" I interrogated, in surprise. "With this weed of madness, as
you call it?"

"No, it isn't toloache that was used," he corrected. "I think it must
be some particularly virulent variety of the jimson weed that was used,
though that same weed in Mexico is, I am sure, what there they call
toloache. Perhaps its virulence in this case lies in the method of
concentration in preparing it. For instance, the seeds of the
stramonium, which is the same thing, contain a much higher percentage
of poison than the leaves and flowers. Perhaps the seeds were used. I
can't say. But, then, that isn't at all necessary. It is the fact of
its use that concerns us most now."

He took a drop of the liquid which he had isolated and added a drop of
nitric acid. Then he evaporated it by gentle heat and it left a residue
slightly yellow.

Next he took from the shelf over his table a bottle marked "Alcoholic
Solution--Potassium Hydrate." He opened it and let a drop fall on the
place where the liquid had evaporated.

Instantly the residue became a beautiful purple, turning rapidly to
violet, then to dark red, and, finally, it disappeared altogether.

"Stramonium, all right," he nodded, with satisfaction at the
achievement of his night's labours. "That was known as Vitali's test.
Yes, there was stramonium in those cigarettes--datura
stramonium--perhaps a trace of hyoscyamine."

I tried to look wise, but all I could think of was that, whatever his
science showed me now, my instinct had been enough to prompt me not to
smoke those cigarettes, though, of course, only Kennedy's science could
tell what it was that caused that instinctive aversion.

"They are all like atropine, mydriatic alkaloids," he proceeded, "so
called from the effect they have on the eye. Why, one-one hundred
thousandth of a grain will affect the eye of a cat. You saw how it
acted on our subject. It is more active in that way than atropine.
Better yet, you remember how Whitney's eyes looked, how Inez said her
father stared, and how she feared for Lockwood?"

"I remember," I said, still not able to detach the evil-eye idea quite
from my mind. "How about the Senora's eyes? What makes them so--well,
effective?"

"Oh," Craig answered quickly, "her pupils were normal enough. Didn't
you notice that? It was the difference in Whitney's and the others'
that first suggested making some tests."

"What is the effect?" I asked, wondering whether it might have
contributed to the cause of Mendoza's death.

"The concentrated poison which has been used in these cigarettes does
not kill--at least not outright. It is worse than that. Slowly it
accumulates in the system. It acts on the brain."

I was listening, spellbound, as he made his disclosure. No wonder, I
thought, even a scientific criminal stood in awe of Craig.

"Of all the dangers to be met with in superstitious countries, these
mydratic alkaloids are among the worst. They offer a chance for crimes
of the most fiendish nature--worse than with the gun or the stiletto.
They are worse because there is so little fear of detection. That crime
is the production of insanity!"

Horrible though the idea, and repulsive, I could not doubt it in the
face of Craig's investigations and what I had already seen with my own
eyes. In fact, it was necessary for me only to recall the mild
sensations I myself had experienced, in order to be convinced of the
possible effect intended by the insidious poison contained in the many
cigarettes which Whitney, for instance, had smoked.

"But don't you suppose they know it?" I wondered. "Can't they tell it?"

"I suppose they have gradually become accustomed to it," Craig
ventured. "If you have ever smoked one particular brand of cigarette
you must have noticed how the manufacturer can gradually substitute a
cheaper grade of tobacco without any large number of his patrons
knowing anything about it. I imagine it might have been done in some
way like that."

"But you would think they'd feel the effect and attribute it to
smoking."

"Perhaps they do feel the effect. But when it comes to tracing causes,
some people are loath to admit that tobacco and liquor can be the root
of the evil. No, some one is slipping these cigarettes in on them,
perhaps substituting the doped brand for those that are ordered. If you
will notice, both Whitney and Lockwood have cigarettes that are made
especially for them. So had Mendoza. It is a circumstance which some
one has turned to account, though how and by whom the substitution has
been made I cannot say yet. I wish I had time to follow out this one
line, to the exclusion of everything else. But I've got to keep my
fingers on every rope at once, else the thing will pull away from me.
It is enough for the present that we know what the poison is. I shall
take up the tracing of the person who is administering it the moment I
get a hint."

It was almost daylight before Craig and I left the laboratory after his
discovery of the manner of the cigarette poisoning by stramonium. But
that was the only way in which he was able to make progress--taking
time for each separate point by main force.

I was thoroughly tired, though not so much so that my dreams were not
haunted by a succession of baleful eyes peering at me from the darkness.

I slept late, but was awakened by a knocking on the door. As I rose to
answer it I saw through the open door of Kennedy's room that he had
been about early and must already be at the laboratory. How he did it I
don't know. My own newspaper experience had made me considerable of a
nighthawk. But I always paid for it by sleeping the next day. With
Kennedy, when he was on a case, even five hours of sleep was more than
he seemed able to stand.

"Hello, Jameson," greeted a voice, as I opened the door. "Is Kennedy
in--oh, he hasn't come back yet?"

It was Lockwood, at first eager to see Craig, then naturally
crestfallen because he saw that he was not there.

"Yes," I replied, rubbing my eyes. "He must be at the laboratory. If
you'll wait a minute while I slip on my clothes, I'll walk over there
with you."

While I completed my hasty toilet, Lockwood sat in our living room,
gazing about with fascination at the collection of trophies of the
chase of criminals.

"This is positively a terrifying array of material, Jameson," he
declared, as at last I emerged. "Between what Kennedy has here and what
he has stowed away in that laboratory of his, I wonder that any one
dares be a crook."

I could not help eying him keenly. Could he have spoken so heartily if
he had known what it was, damning to himself, that Kennedy had tucked
away in the laboratory? If he knew, he must have been a splendid actor,
one of those whom only the minute blood-pressure test of the
sphygmograph could induce to give up a secret, and then only in spite
of himself.

"It is wonderful," I agreed. "Are you ready?"

We left the apartment and walked along in the bracing morning air
toward the campus and the Chemistry Building. Sure enough, as I had
expected, Kennedy was in his laboratory.

As we entered he was verifying his experiments and checking over his
results, carefully endeavouring to isolate any of the other closely
related mydriatic alkaloids that might be contained in the noxious
fumes of the poisoned tobacco.

Though Craig was already convinced of what was going on, I knew that he
always considered it a matter of considerable medico-legal importance
to be exact, for if the affair ever came to the stage of securing an
indictment the charge could be sustained only by specific proof.

As we appeared in the door, however, he laid aside his work, and
greeted us.

"I suppose Jameson has already told you that I called you up last
night--and what I said?" began Lockwood.

Kennedy nodded. "It was something about Norton, wasn't it?"

Lockwood leaned over impressively and almost whispered: "Of course, you
are in no position to know, but there are ugly rumours current down in
Lima among the natives regarding that dagger."

Kennedy did not appear to be particularly impressed. "Is that so?" he
said merely. "What are they?"

"Well," resumed Lockwood, "I wasn't in Lima at the time. I was up here.
But they tell me that there was something crooked about the way that
that dagger was got away from an Indian--a brother of Senora de Moche."
"Yes," replied Kennedy, "I know something about it. He committed
suicide. But what has that to do with Norton?"

Lockwood hesitated, then shrugged his shoulders. "I should think the
inference was plain," he insinuated. Then, looking at Craig fixedly, as
though to take his measure, he added, "We are not out of touch with
what is going on down there, even if we are several thousand miles
away."

I wondered whether he had any information more than we had already
obtained by X-raying the letter to Whitney signed "Haggerty." If he
had, it was not his purpose, evidently, yet to disclose it. I felt from
his manner that he was not playing a trump-card, but was just feeling
us out by this lead.

"There was some crooked business about that dagger down there as well
as here," he pursued. "There are many interests connected with it.
Don't you think that it would be worth while watching Norton?" he
paused, then added: "We do--and we're going to do it."

"Thank you very much," returned Kennedy quietly. "Mr. Whitney has
already told me he intended to do so."

Lockwood eyed us critically, as though not quite sure what to make of
the cool manner in which Craig took it.

"I think if I were you," he said at length, "I'd keep a close watch on
the de Moches, both of them, too."

"Exactly," agreed Craig, without showing undue interest.

Lockwood had risen. "Well," he snapped, "you may not think much of what
I am telling you now. But just wait until OUR detectives begin to dig
up facts." No sooner had he left than I turned to Craig. "What was
that?" I asked. "A plant?"

"Perhaps," he returned, clearing up the materials which he had been
using.

The telephone rang.

"Hello, Norton," I heard Craig answer. "What's that? You are shadowed
by some one--you think it is by Whitney?"

I had been expecting something of the sort, and listened attentively,
but it was impossible to gather the drift of the one-sided conversation.

As Kennedy hung up the receiver I remarked, "So it was not a bluff,
after all."

"I think my plan is working," he remarked thoughtfully. "You heard what
he said? He guesses right the first time, that it is Whitney. The last
thing he said was, 'I'll get even! I'll take some action!' and then he
rang off. I think we'll hear something soon."

Instead of going out, Kennedy pulled out the several unsigned letters
we had collected, and began the laborious process of studying the
printing, analyzing it, in the hope that he might discover some new
clue.



XVI

THE EAR IN THE WALL


Perhaps an hour later our laboratory door was flung open suddenly, and
both Kennedy and I leaped to our feet.

There was Inez Mendoza, alone, pale and agitated.

"Tell me, Professor Kennedy," she cried, her hands clasped before her
in frantic appeal, "tell me--it isn't true--is it? He wasn't
there--no--no--no!"

She would have fainted if Craig had not sprung forward and caught her
in time to place her in our only easy-chair.

"Walter," he said, "quick--that bottle of aromatic spirits of ammonia
over there--the second from the left."

I handed it to him, and threw open the window to allow the fresh air to
blow in. As I did so one of the papers Kennedy had been studying blew
off the table, and, as luck would have it, fell almost before her. She
saw it, and in her hypersensitive condition recognized it instantly.

"Oh--that anonymous letter!" she cried. "Tell me--you do not think
that--the friend of my father's that it warned me to beware of--was--"

She did not finish the sentence. She did not need to do so.

"Please, Senorita," pleaded and soothed Kennedy, "try to be calm. What
has happened? Tell me. What is it?"

The ammonia and the fresh air seemed to have done their work, for she
managed to brace herself, gripping the arms of the chair tightly and
looking up searchingly into Craig's face.

"It's about Chester," she managed to gasp; then seemed unable to go on.

It was the first time I had ever heard her use Lockwood's first name,
and I knew that something had stirred her emotions more deeply than at
any time since the death of her father.

"Yes," prompted Kennedy. "Go on."

"I have heard that you found foot-prints, shoe-prints, in the dust in
the Museum after the dagger was stolen," she said, speaking rapidly,
suppressing her feelings heroically. "Since then you have been
collecting prints of shoes--and I've heard that the shoe-prints that
were found are those of--of Mr. Lockwood. Oh, Professor Kennedy, it
cannot be--there must be some mistake."

For a moment Kennedy did not say anything. He was evidently seeking
some way in which to lead up to the revelation of the truth without too
much shock.

"You remember that time in the tea room when we were sitting with
Senora de Moche?" he asked finally.

"Yes," she said shortly, as though the very recollection were
disagreeable to her.

Kennedy, however, had a disagreeable task, and he felt that it must be
performed in the kindest manner.

"You remember then that she said she had one thing more to say, that it
was about Mr. Whitney and Mr. Lockwood."

She was about to interrupt, but he hurried on, giving her no chance to
do so. "She asked you to think it over. Suppose they did not have the
dagger, she said. Then were their chances of finding the treasure any
better than any one else had? And if they did have it, she asked what
that meant. It is a dilemma, my dear Senorita, which you must meet some
time. Why not meet it now?"

Her face was set. "You will remember, also, Professor Kennedy," she
said, with a great effort controlling her voice, "that I said that Mr.
Lockwood was not there to defend himself and I would not have him
attacked by innuendo. I meant it to the Senora--I mean it to you!"

She had also meant it to defy him; but as she proceeded her voice
broke, and before she knew it her nature had triumphed, and she was
alternately sobbing and pleading.

For a minute or two Kennedy let her give vent to her emotions.

"It cannot be. It cannot be," she sobbed over and over. "He could not
have been there. He could not have done it."

It was a terrible thing to have to disillusion her, but it was
something now that had to be done. Kennedy had not sought to do so. He
had postponed it in the hope of finding some other way. But now the
thing was forced upon him.

"Who told you?" he asked finally.

"I was trying to read, to keep my mind occupied, as you asked me, when
Juanita told me that there was some one in the living room who wanted
to see me--a man. I thought it was either you or Mr. Jameson. But it
was--Professor Norton--"

Kennedy and I exchanged glances. That was the action in revenge to
Lockwood and Whitney which he had contemplated over the telephone. It
was so cruel and harsh that I could have hated him for it, the more so
as I recollected that it was he himself who had cautioned us against
doing the very thing which now he had done in the heat of passion.

"Oh," she wailed, "he was very kind and considerate about it. He said
he felt that it was his duty to tell me, that he would be anything,
like an older brother, to me; that he could not see me blinded any
longer to what was going on, and everybody knew, but had not love
enough for me to tell. It was such a shock. I could not even speak. I
simply ran from the room without another word to him, and Juanita found
me lying on the bed. Then--I decided--I would come to you."

She paused, and her great, deep eyes looked up pathetically. "And you,"
she added bitterly, "you are going to tell me that he was right, that
it is true. You can't prove it. Show me what it is that you have. I
defy you!"

Somehow, as she rested and relieved her feelings, a new strength seemed
to come to her. It was what Kennedy had been waiting for, the reaction
that would leave her able for him to go on and plan for the future.

He reached into a drawer of a cabinet and pulled out the various
shoe-prints which he had already shown Norton, and which he had studied
and restudied so carefully.

"That is the print of the shoe in the dust of the Egyptian sarcophagus
of the Museum," he said quietly. "Some one got in during the daytime
and hid there until the place was locked. That is the print of Alfonso
de Moche's shoe, that of Mr. Whitney's, and that of Mr. Lockwood's."

He said it quickly, as though trying to gloss it over. But she would
not have it that way. She felt stronger, and she was going to see just
what there was there. She took the prints and studied them, though her
hand trembled. Hers was a remarkable mind. It took only seconds to see
what others would have seen only in minutes. But it was not the
reasoning faculty that was aroused by what she saw. It sank deep into
her heart.

She flung the papers down.

"I don't believe it!" she defied. "There is some mistake. No--it cannot
be true!"

It was a noble exhibition of faith. I think I have never seen any
instant more tense than that in Kennedy's laboratory. There stood the
beautiful girl declaring her faith in her lover, rejecting even the
implication that it might have been he who had taken the dagger,
perhaps murdered her father to insure the possession of her father's
share of the treasure as well as the possession of herself.

Kennedy did not try to combat it. Instead he treated her very
intuitions with respect. In him there was room for both fact and
feeling.

"Senorita," he said finally, in a voice that was deep and thrilling
with feeling, "have I ever been other than a friend to you? Have I ever
given you cause to suspect even one little motive of mine?"

She faced him, and they looked into each other's eyes an instant. But
it was long enough for the man to understand the woman and she to
understand him.

"No," she murmured, glancing down again.

"Then trust me just this once. Do as I ask you."

For an instant she struggled with herself. What would he ask?

"What is it?" she questioned, raising her eyes to him again.

"Have you seen Mr. Lockwood?"

"No."

"Then, I want you to see him. Surely you wish to have no secrets from
him any more than you would wish him to have anything secret from you.
See him. Ask him frankly about it all. It is the only fair thing to
him--it is only fair to yourself."

Senorita Mendoza was no coward. "I--I will," she almost whispered.

"Splendid!" exclaimed Kennedy in admiration. "I knew that you would.
You are not the woman who could do otherwise. May I see that you get
home safely? Walter, call a taxicab."

Senorita Mendoza was calmer, though pale and still nervous, when I
returned. Kennedy handed her into the car and then returned to the
laboratory for two rather large packages, which he handed to me.

"You must come along with us, Walter," he said. "We shall need you."

Scarcely a word was spoken as we jolted over the city pavements and at
last reached the apartment. Inez and Craig entered and I followed,
carrying just one of the packages as Craig had indicated by dumb show,
leaving the other in the car, which was to wait.

"I think you had better write him a note," suggested Craig, as we
entered the living room. "I don't want you to see him until you feel
better--and, by the way, see him here."

She nodded with a wan smile, as though thinking how unusual it was for
a meeting of lovers to be an ordeal, then excused herself to write the
note.

She had no sooner disappeared than Kennedy unwrapped the package which
I had brought. From it he took a cedar box, oblong, with a sort of
black disc fixed to an arm on the top. In the face of the box were two
little square holes, with sides of cedar which converged inward into
the box, making a pair of little quadrangular pyramidal holes which
ended in a small black circle in the interior.

He looked about the room quickly. Beside a window that opened out over
a house several stories below stood a sectional bookcase. Into this
bookcase, back of the books, in the shadow, he shoved the little box,
to which he had already attached a spool of twisted wires. Then he
opened the window and dropped the spool out, letting it unwind of its
own weight until it fell on the roof far below. He shut the window and
rejoined me without a word.

A moment later she returned with the dainty note which she had written.
"Shall I send it by a messenger?" she asked.

"Yes, please," answered Kennedy, rising. As he moved a step to the door
he held out his hand to her. "Senorita Mendoza," he said simply, in a
tone that meant more than words, "you are a wonderful woman."

She took his hand without a word, and a moment later we were whisked
down in the elevator.

"I must get on that roof on some pretext," remarked Kennedy, as we
reached the street and he got his bearings. "Let me see, that house
which backs up to the apartment is around the corner. Have the man
drive us around there."

We located the house and mounted the steps. On the wall beside the
brownstone door was pasted a little slip of paper, "Furnished Rooms."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Kennedy, as he read it. "Dismiss the taxi and
meet me inside with the other package."

By the time I had paid the man and come up the steps again Kennedy had
made a dicker with the landlady for a double room on the third floor
for both of us, and, by payment of a week's rent, we were to have
immediate possession.

"Our baggage will follow to-day," he explained, as we mounted the
stairs to the room.

I thought the landlady would never get through expatiating upon what a
select place she ran, and thus leave us alone in our room, but at last
even her flood of words was stilled by demands from a servant
downstairs who must be instructed if the selectness of the
establishment were to be maintained.

No sooner were we alone than Kennedy tiptoed into the hall and made
sure that we were not watched. It was then the work of only a few
seconds to mount a ladder to a scuttle, unhook it, and gain the roof.

There, dangling down from the dizzy height above, swayed the twisted
wire. He seized it, unrolled it some more, and sent me downstairs to
catch it, as he swung it over the edge of the roof to one of our own
windows. Then he rejoined me.

The other package, which had been heavier, consisted of another of
those mysterious boxes, as well as several dry cells. Quickly he
attached the wires to the box, placing the dry cells in the circuit.
Then he began adjusting the mechanism of the box. So far I had only a
vague idea of just what he had in mind, but gradually it began to dawn
on me.

It was perhaps half an hour, perhaps longer, after we had left the
Senorita, before, sure that everything was all right with his line and
the batteries which he had brought, Kennedy turned a little lever that
moved in a semicircle, touching one after another of a series of
buttons on the face of the cedar box, meanwhile holding a little black
disc from the back of the box to his ear as he adjusted the thing.

Nothing seemed to happen, but I could tell by the look of intentness on
his face that he was getting along all right and was not worrying.

Suddenly the look on his face changed to one of extreme satisfaction.
He dropped the disc he was holding to his ear back into its compartment
and turned to me.

All at once it seemed as if the room in which we were was peopled by
spirits. There was the sound of voices, loud, clear, distinct. It was
uncanny.

"He has just come in," remarked Craig.

"Who?" I asked.

"Lockwood--can't you recognize his voice? Listen."

I did listen intently, and the more my ears became adjusted, the more
plainly I could distinguish two voices, that of a man and that of a
woman. It was indeed Lockwood and the Senorita, far above us.

I would have uttered an exclamation of amazement, but I could not miss
what they were saying.

"Then you--you believe what he says?" asked Lockwood earnestly.

"Professor Kennedy has the prints," replied Inez tremulously.

"You saw them?"

"Yes."

"And you believe what HE says, too?"

There was a silence.

"What is it?" I asked, tapping the box lightly.

"A vocaphone," replied Kennedy. "The little box that hears and talks."

"Can they hear us?" I asked, in an awestruck whisper.

"Not unless I want them to hear," he replied, indicating a switch. "You
remember, of course, the various mechanical and electrical ears, such
as the detectaphone, which we have used for eavesdropping in other
cases?"

I nodded.

"Well, this is a new application which has been made of the
detectaphone. When I was using that disc from the compartment there, I
had really a detectaphone. But this is even better. You see how neat it
all is? This is the detective service, and more. We can 'listen in' and
we don't have to use ear-pieces, either, for this is a regular
loud-speaking telephone--it talks right out in meeting. Those square
holes with the converging sides act as a sort of megaphone to the
receivers, those little circles back there inside magnifying the sound
and throwing it out here in the room, so that we can hear just as well
as if we were up there in the room where they are talking. Listen--I
think they are talking again."

"I suppose you know that Whitney and I have placed detectives on the
trail of Norton," we could hear Lockwood say.

"You have?" came back the answer in a voice which for the first time
sounded cold.

Lockwood must have recognized it. He had made a mistake. It was no
sufficient answer to anything that he had done to assert that some one
else had also done something.

"Inez," he said, and we could almost hear his feet as he moved over the
floor in her direction in a last desperate appeal, "can't you trust me,
when I tell you that everything is all right, that they are trying to
ruin me--with you?"

There was a silence, during which we could almost hear her quick breath
come and go.

"Women--not even Peruvian women are like the women of the past,
Chester," she said at length. "We are not playthings. Perhaps we have
hearts--but we also have heads. We are not to be taken up and put down
as you please. We may love--but we also think. Chester, I have been to
see Professor Kennedy, and--"

She stopped. It hurt too much to repeat what she had seen.

"Inez," he implored.

There was evidently a great struggle of love and suspicion going on in
her, her love of him, her memory of her father, the recollection of
what she had heard and seen. No one could have been as we were without
wishing to help her. Yet no one could help her. She must work out her
own life herself.

"Yes," she said finally, the struggle ended. "What is it?"

"Do you want me to tell you the truth?"

"Yes," she murmured.

His voice was low and tense.

"I was there--yes--but the dagger was gone!"



XVII

THE VOICE FROM THE AIR


"Do you believe it?" I asked Kennedy, as the voices died away, leaving
us with a feeling that some one had gone out of the very room in which
we were.

He shrugged his shoulders and said nothing. But I cannot say that he
seemed ill pleased at the result of the interview.

"We'll just keep this vocaphone in," he remarked. "It may come in handy
some time. Now, I think we had better go back to the laboratory! Things
have begun to move."

On the way back he stopped to telephone Norton to meet us and a few
minutes after we arrived, the archaeologist entered.

Kennedy lost no time in coming directly to the point, and Norton could
see, in fact seemed to expect and be prepared for what was coming.

"Well," exclaimed Kennedy, "you've done it, this time!"

"I know what you are going to ask," returned Norton. "You are going to
ask me why I did it. And I'm going to tell you. After I left you, the
other day, I thought about it a long time. The more I thought, the more
of a shame it seemed to me that a girl like that should be made a
victim of her feelings. It wasn't so much what they have done to me
that made me do it. I would have acted the same if it had been de Moche
instead of Lockwood who was playing on her heart. I was afraid, to tell
the truth, that you wouldn't tell her until it was too late. And she's
too good to throw herself away and allow her fortune to be wasted by a
couple of speculators."

"Very well," said Craig. "For the sake of argument, let us admit all
that. What did you expect to accomplish by it?"

"Why--put an end to it, of course."

"But do you think she was going to accept as truth what you told her?
Would that be natural for one so high-strung?"

"Perhaps not--right away. But I supposed she would come to you--as I
see she has, for you know about it. After that, it was only a question
of time. It may have been a heroic remedy, but the disease was
critical."

"Suppose," suggested Craig, "that, after all, he told her that he was
there in the Museum, but that he did not get the dagger. And suppose
that she believed it. What then?"

Norton looked up quickly. "Did he tell her that?"

"I am supposing that he did," repeated Craig, declining to place
himself in a position which might lead to disclosing how he found out.

"Then I should say that he was a great deal cleverer than I gave him
credit for being," returned Norton.

"Well, it's done now, and can't be undone. Have you found out anything
about the de Moches?"

"Not very much, I must admit. Of course, you know I'm not on the best
of terms with them, for some reason or other. But I've been around the
Prince Edward Albert a good deal, and I don't think they've been able
to do much that I haven't some kind of line on. Alfonso seems to be
moping. His professors here tell me that he has been neglecting his
work sadly for the past few days. The Senora and Whitney seem to be as
friendly as ever. I should say that they were going the pace fast, and
it shows on him."

I glanced significantly at Kennedy, but he betrayed nothing that might
lead one to suppose he had discovered the cause. Evidently he was not
ready yet to come out into the open and expected further developments
on the poisoned cigarette clue.

The telephone rang and Craig took down the receiver.

"Yes, this is Kennedy," he answered. "Oh, hello, Lockwood. What's that?
You've been trying to get me all day? I just came in. Why, yes, I can
see you in about half an hour."

"I guess I'd better clear out," said Norton with a bitter laugh, as
Kennedy hung up the receiver. "There have been enough crimes committed
without adding another murder to the list."

"Keep on watching the de Moches," requested Kennedy as Norton made his
way to the door.

"Yes," agreed Norton. "They will bear it--particularly Alfonso. They
are hot-blooded. You never know what they are going to do, and they
keep their own counsel. I might hope that Lockwood would forget; but a
de Moche--never."

I cannot say that I envied him very much, for doubtless what he said
was true, though his danger might be mitigated by the fact that the
dagger was no longer in his Museum. Still, it would never have left
Peru, I reflected, if it had not been for him, and there is, even in
the best of us, a smouldering desire for revenge.

Lockwood was more than prompt. I had expected that he would burst into
the laboratory prepared to clean things out. Instead he came in as
though nothing at all had happened.

"There's no use mincing words, Kennedy," he began. "You know that I
know what has happened. That scoundrel, Norton, has told Inez that you
had shoe-prints of some one who was in the Museum the night of the
robbery and that those shoe-prints correspond with mine. As a matter of
fact, Kennedy, I was there. I was there to get the dagger. But before I
could get it, some one else must have done so. It was gone."

I wanted to believe Lockwood. As for Craig he said nothing.

"Then, when I did have a chance to get away that night," he continued,
"I went over to Mendoza's. The rest you know."

"You have told Inez that?" asked Kennedy in order to seem properly
surprised.

"Yes--and I think she believes me. I can't say. Things are strained
with her. It will take time. I'm not one of those who can take a girl
by main force and make her do what she won't do. I wish I could smooth
things over. Let me see the prints."

Kennedy handed them over to him. He looked at them, long and closely,
then handed back the damning evidence against himself.

"I know it would be no use to destroy these," he remarked. "In the
first place that would really incriminate me. And in the second I
suppose you have copies."

Craig smiled blandly.

"But I can tell you," he exclaimed, bringing his fist down on the
laboratory table with a bang, "that before I lose that girl, somebody
will pay for it--and there won't be any mistakes made, either."

The scowl on his face and the menacing look in his eye showed that now,
with his back up against the wall, he was not bluffing.

He seemed to get little satisfaction out of his visit to us, and in
fact I think he made it more in a spirit of bravado than anything else.

Lockwood had scarcely gone before Kennedy pulled out the University
schedule, and ran his finger down it.

"Alfonso ought to be at a lecture in the School of Mines," he said
finally, folding up the paper. "I wish you'd go over and see if he is
there, and, if he is, ask him to step into the laboratory."

The lecture was in progress all right, but when I peered into the room
it was evident that de Moche was not there. Norton was right. The young
man was neglecting his work. Evidently the repeated rebuffs of Inez had
worked havoc with him.

Nor was he at the hotel, as we found out by calling up.

There was only one other place that I could think of where he would be
likely to be and that was at the apartment of Inez. Apparently the same
idea occurred to Kennedy, for he suggested going back to our
observation point in the boarding-house and finding out.

All the rest of the day we listened through the vocaphone, but without
finding out a thing of interest. Now and then we would try the
detective instrument, the little black disc in the back, but with no
better success. Then we determined to listen in relays, one listening,
while the other went out for dinner.

It must have been just a bit after dark that we could hear Inez talking
in a low tone with Juanita.

A buzzing noise indicated that there was some one at the hall door.

"If it's any one for me," we heard Inez say, "tell them that I will be
out directly. I'm not fit to be seen now."

The door was opened and a voice which we could not place asked for the
senorita. A moment later Juanita returned and asked the visitor to be
seated a few moments.

It was not long before we were suddenly aware that there was another
person in the room. We could hear whispers. The faithful little
vocaphone even picked them up and shot them down to us.

"Is everything all right?" whispered one, a new voice which was
somewhat familiar I thought, but disguised beyond recognition.

"Yes. She'll be out in a minute."

"Now, remember what I told you. If this thing works you get fifty
dollars more. I'd better put this mask on--damn it!--the slit's torn.
It'll do. I'll hide here as soon as we hear her. That's a pretty nice
private ambulance you have down there. Did you tell the elevator boy
that she had suddenly been taken ill? That's all fixed, then. I've got
the stuff--amyl nitrite--she'll go off like a shot. But we'll have to
work quick. It only keeps her under a few minutes. I can't wear this
mask down and I'm afraid some one will recognize me. Oh, you brought a
beard. Good. I'll give you the signal. There must be no noise. Yes, I
saw the stretcher where you left it in the hall."

"All right, Doc," returned the first and unfamiliar voice.

It all happened so quickly that we were completely bowled over for the
moment. Who was the man addressed as "Doc"? There was no time to find
out, no time to do anything, apparently, so quickly had the plot been
sprung.

I looked at Kennedy, aghast, not knowing what to do in this unexpected
crisis.

A moment later we heard a voice, "I'm sorry to have had to keep you
waiting, but what is it that I can do for you?"

"Good God!" exclaimed Kennedy. "It is Inez herself!"

It was altogether too late to get over there to warn her, perhaps even
to rescue her. What could we do? If we could only shout for help. But
what good would that do, around a corner and so far away?

The vocaphone itself!

Quickly Kennedy turned another switch, of a rheostat, which accentuated
a whisper to almost a shout.

"Don't be alarmed, Senorita," he cried. "This is Kennedy talking. Look
under the bookcase by the window. You will find a cedar box. It is a
detective vocaphone through which I can hear you and which is talking
out to you. I have heard something just there just now--"

"Yes, yes. Go on!"

"You are threatened. Shout! Shout!"

Just then there came a sound of a scuffle and a muffled cry which was
not much above a whisper, as though a strong hand was clapped over her
mouth.

What could we do?

"Juanita--Juanita--help!--police!" shouted Craig himself through the
vocaphone.

An instant later we could hear other screams as Juanita heard and
spread the alarm, not a second too soon.

"Come on, Walter," shouted Kennedy dashing out of the room, now that he
was assured the alarm had been given.

We hurried around the corner, and into the apartment. One of the
elevators was up, and no one was running the other, but we opened the
gates and Kennedy ran it up by himself.

In the Mendoza apartment all was a babel of voices, every one talking
at once.

"Did you get them?" Craig asked, looking about.

"No, sir," replied the elevator boy. "One of them came in from the
ambulance and told me Miss Mendoza was suddenly taken sick. He rode up
with the stretcher. The other one must have walked up."

"Do you know him? Has he ever been here before?"

"I can't say, sir. I didn't see him. At least, sir, when I heard the
screams I ran in from the elevator, which the other one told me to wait
with--left the door open. Just as I ran in, they dodged out past me,
jumped into the car and rode down. I guess they must have had the
engine of the ambulance motor running, sir, if they got away without
you seeing them."

We were too late to head them from speeding off. But, at least, we had
saved the Senorita. She was terribly upset by the attack, much shaken,
but really all right.

"Have you any idea who it could be?" asked Craig as the faithful
Juanita cared for her.

"I don't know the man who was waiting and 'Nita never saw him, either,"
she replied. "The one who jumped out from behind the portieres had on a
mask and a false beard. But I didn't recognize anything about him."

Sudden as the attack had been and serious as might have been the
outcome, we could not but feel happy that it had been frustrated.

Yet it seemed that some one ought to be delegated to see that such a
thing could not occur again.

"We must think up some means of protecting you," soothed Kennedy. "Let
me see, Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Whitney seem to be the closest to you. If
you don't mind I'll call them up. I wonder if you'd object if we had a
little luncheon up here, to-morrow? I have a special reason for asking
it. I want to insure your safety and we may as well meet on common
ground."

"There isn't the slightest objection in the world," she replied, as
Kennedy reached for the telephone.

We had some little difficulty in locating both Lockwood and Whitney,
but finally after a time managed to find them and arrange for the
conference on the Senorita's safety for the next day.

Outside Kennedy gave instructions to the officer on the beat to watch
the apartment particularly, and there was no reason now to fear a
repetition of the attempt, at least that night.



XVIII

THE ANTIDOTE


Early the following morning Kennedy left me alone in the laboratory and
made a trip downtown, where he visited a South American tobacco dealer
and placed a rush order for a couple of hundred cigarettes exactly
similar in shape and quality to those which Mendoza had smoked and
which the others seemed also to prefer, except, however, that the
deadly drug was left out.

While he was gone, it occurred to me to take up again the hunt for
Alfonso. Norton was not in his little office, nor could I find Alfonso
anywhere about the campus. In fact he seemed to have almost dropped out
of his University work for the time. Accordingly, I turned my steps
toward the Prince Edward Albert Hotel, in the hope that he might be
there.

Inquiries of the clerk at the desk told me that he had been there, but
was out just at that moment. I did not see Whitney around, nor the
Senora, so I sat down to wait, having nothing better to do until
Kennedy's return.

I was about to give it up and go, when I heard a cab drive up to the
door and, looking up, I saw Alfonso get out. He saw me about the same
time and we bowed. I do not think he even tried to avoid me.

"I haven't seen you for some time," I remarked, searching his face,
which seemed to me to be paler than it had been.

"No," he replied. "I haven't been feeling very well lately and I've
been running up into the country now and then to a quiet hotel--a sort
of rest cure, I suppose you would call it. How are you? How is Senorita
Inez?"

"Very well," I replied, wondering whether he had said what he did in
the hope of establishing a complete alibi for the events of the night
before.

Briefly I told him what had happened, omitting reference to the
vocaphone and our real part in it.

"That is terrible," he exclaimed. "Oh, if she would only allow me to
take care of her--I would take her back to our own country, where she
would be safe, far away from these people who seek to prey on all of
us."

He paced up and down nervously, and I could see that my information had
added nothing to his peace of mind, though, at the same time, he had
betrayed nothing on his part.

"I was just passing through," I said finally, looking at my watch, "and
happened to see you. I hope your mother is well?"

"As well as is to be expected, surrounded by people who watch every
act," he replied, I thought with a rap at us for having Norton about
and so active, though I could not be sure.

We separated, and I hastened back to the laboratory to report to Craig
that Alfonso was rusticating for his health.

Kennedy, on his part, had had an experience, though it was no more
conclusive than my own. After he had left the tobacco district, he had
walked up Wall Street to the subway. In the crowd he had seen Senora de
Moche, although she had not seen him. He had turned and followed her
until she entered the building in which Whitney and his associates had
their offices. Whether it indicated that she was still leading them a
chase, or they her, was impossible to determine, but it at least showed
that they were still on friendly terms with each other.

In the laboratory he could always find something to do on the case,
either in perfecting his chemical tests of the various drugs we had
discovered, or in trying to decipher some similarities in the rough
printing of the four warnings and the anonymous letter with the known
handwriting of those connected with the case, many specimens of which
he bad been quietly collecting. That in itself was a tremendously
minute job, entailing not only a vast amount of expert knowledge such
as he had collected in his years of studying crime scientifically, but
the most exact measurements and careful weighing and balancing of
trifles, which to the unscientific conveyed no meanings at all. Still,
he seemed to be forging ahead, though he never betrayed what direction
the evidence seemed to be taking.

The package of cigarettes which he had ordered downtown was delivered
about an hour after his return and seemed to be the signal for him to
drop work, for the meeting with Lockwood and Whitney had been set
early. He stowed the package in his pockets and then went over to a
cabinet in which he kept a number of rather uncommon drugs. From it he
took a little vial which he shoved into his waistcoat pocket.

"Are you ready, Walter?" he asked.

"Whenever you are," I said, laying aside my writing.

Together we made our way down to the Mendoza apartment which had been
the scene of the near-tragedy the night before. Outside, he paused for
several moments to make inquiries about any suspicious persons that
might have been seen lurking about the neighbourhood. None of the
attendants in the apartment remembered having seen any, and they were
now very alert after the two events, the murder and the attempted
abduction. Not a clue seemed to have been left by the villain who had
been called "Doc."

"How do you feel after your thrilling experience?" greeted Craig
pleasantly, as Juanita admitted us and Inez came forward.

"Oh, Mr. Kennedy," she answered, with a note of sadness in her tone.
"It makes me feel so alone in the world. If it were not for 'Nita--and
you, I don't know what I should do."

"Doesn't Mr. Lockwood count?" asked Kennedy observantly.

"Of course--everything," she answered hastily. "But he has to be away
so much on business, and--"

She paused and sighed. I could not help wondering whether, after all,
his explanation of the dagger episode had been enough to satisfy her.
Had she really accepted it?

Neither Lockwood nor Whitney had arrived, and Kennedy improved the
opportunity to have a quiet talk aside with her, at which, I imagine,
he was arranging a programme of what was to happen at this meeting and
her part in it to co-operate with him.

She had left the room for a moment and we were alone. It was evidently
a part of his plan, for no sooner was she gone than he opened the
package of cigarettes which he had ordered and took out from the box in
which Mendoza had kept his cigarettes those that were there,
substituting those he had brought.

We had not long to wait, now. Lockwood and Whitney came together. I was
interested to see the greeting of Inez and her lover. Was it pure
fancy, or did I detect a trace of coldness as though there had sprung
up something between them? As far as Lockwood was concerned, I felt
sure that he was eager to break down any barrier that kept them from
being as they had been.

Whitney took her hand and held it, in a playful sort of way. "I wish I
were a young buck," he smiled. "No one would dare look at you--much
less try to carry you off. Yes, we must be more careful of our little
beauty, or we shall lose her."

They turned to greet us. I felt, as we shook hands, that it was much
the same sort of handshake that one sees in the prize ring--to be
followed by the clang of a bell, then all going to it, in battle royal,
with the devil after the hindmost.

There was scarcely a chance for a preliminary bout before luncheon was
announced, and we entered the cozy little dining-room to seat ourselves
at the daintiest of tables. One could feel the hostess radiating
hospitality, even on such a cross-current set of guests as we were, and
for the time, I almost felt that it had been Kennedy's purpose to
promote a love-feast instead of an armed truce.

Nothing was said about the main cause of our being together for some
time, and the small talk almost lifted for a time the incubus that had
settled down on all our lives since the tragedy in the den at the other
end of the suite. But the fact could not be blinked.

Tacitly every one seemed to wait on Kennedy to sound the gong. Finally
he did so.

"Of course," he began, clearing his throat, "there is no use making
believe about anything. I think we all understand each other better now
than we have ever done before. As for me, I am in this case under a
promise to stick to it and fight it to the end. I suppose the rest of
you are, also. But that need not prevent us agreeing on one thing. We
can work together to protect Senorita Mendoza, at least, from such
danger as threatened her last night."

"It's a dastardly shame," Lockwood exclaimed angrily, "that a man who
would attempt a thing like that should go unpunished."

"Show me how to trace him and I'll guarantee the punishment," rejoined
Craig drily.

"I am not a detective," replied Lockwood.

Kennedy forebore to reply in kind, though I knew there was a ready
answer on his tongue for the lover.

Ever since they had arrived, the Senorita had seen that they were well
supplied with cigarettes from the case in which she and they supposed
were the genuine South American brand of her father. Kennedy and I
smoked them, too, although neither of us liked them very much. The
others were smoking furiously.

"However," resumed Kennedy, "I do not feel that I want to intrude
myself in this matter without being perfectly frank and having the
approval of Senorita Mendoza. She has known both of you longer and more
intimately than she has known me, although she has seen fit to place
certain of her affairs in my hands, for which I trust I shall render a
good account of my stewardship. It seems to me, though, that if there
is, as we now know there is, some one whom we do not know"--he
paused--"who has sunk so low as to wish to carry her off, apparently
where she shall be out of the influence of her friends, it is only
right that precautions should be taken to prevent it."

"What is your suggestion?" demanded Whitney, rather contentiously.

"Would there be any objection," asked Kennedy, "if I should ask my old
friend,--or any of you may do it,--Deputy Commissioner O'Connor to
detail a plainclothesman to watch this house and neighbourhood,
especially at night?"

We watched the faces of the others. But it was really of no use.

"I think that is an excellent plan," decided Inez herself. "I shall
feel much safer and surely none of you can be jealous of the city
detectives."

Kennedy smiled. She had cut the Gordian knot with a blow. Neither
Lockwood nor Whitney could object. The purpose of the luncheon was
accomplished.

In fact he did not wait for further consideration, but excused himself
from the table for a moment to call up our old friend O'Connor and tell
him how gravely his man was needed. It was a matter of only a few
minutes when he returned from the other room.

"He will detail Burke for this special service as long as we want him,"
reported Craig, sitting down again.

Inez was delighted, naturally, for the affair had been a terrific shock
to her. I could see how relieved she felt, for I was sitting directly
next to her.

The maid had, meanwhile brought in the coffee and Inez had been waiting
to pour until Kennedy returned. She did not do so, now, either,
however. It seemed as if she were waiting for some kind of signal from
Kennedy.

"What a splendid view of the park you get here," remarked Kennedy
turning toward the long, low windows that opened on a balustraded
balcony. "Just look at that stream of automobiles passing on the west
drive."

Common politeness dictated that all should turn and look, although
there was no novelty in the sight for any of us.

As I have said, I was sitting next to Inez. To me she was a far more
attractive sight than any view of the park. I barely looked out of the
window. Imagine my surprise, then, at seeing her take advantage of the
diversion to draw from the folds of her dress a little vial and pour a
bit of yellowish, syrupy liquid into the cup of coffee which she was
preparing for Whitney.

I could not help looking at her quickly. She saw that I had seen her
and raised her other hand with a finger to her lips and an explanatory
glance at Kennedy who was keeping the others interested. Instantly, I
recognized the little vial which Craig had shoved into his waistcoat
pocket. That had been the purpose of his whispered conference with her
when we arrived. I said nothing, but determined to observe more closely.

More coffee and more cigarettes followed, always from the same box
which was now on the table. The luncheon developed almost a real
conversation. For the time, under the spell of our hostess, we nearly
forgot that we were in reality bitter enemies.

My real interest, as time passed, centred in Whitney and I could not
help watching him closely. Was it a fact, or was it merely my
imagination? He seemed quite different. The pupils of his eyes did not
seem to be quite so dilated as they had been at other times, or even
when he arrived. Even his heart action appeared to be more normal. I
think Inez noticed it, too. There was none of the wildness in his
conversation, such as there often had been at other times.

Our party was prolonged beyond the time we had expected, but, although
he had much on his mind, Kennedy made no move to break it up. In fact
he did everything to encourage it.

At last, however, the others did notice the time, and I think it was
with sincere regret that the truce was broken. Even then, no parting
shots were indulged in.

As we left, Inez thanked Kennedy for his consideration, and I am sure
that that in itself was reward enough. We parted from Lockwood, who
wished to remain a little while, and rode down in the elevator with
Whitney, a changed man.

"I'll walk over to the elevated with you," he said. "I was going to my
hotel, but I think I'll go down to the office instead."

Evidently he had got Senora de Moche out of his mind, at least
temporarily, I thought. Then for the first time I recalled that during
the whole luncheon there had been no reference to either the Senora or
Alfonso, though both must have been in our minds often.

"What was it you had Inez drop into Whitney's coffee?" I asked Craig as
we parted from him and rode uptown.

"You saw that?" he smiled. "It was pilocarpine, jaborandi, a plant
found largely in Brazil, one of the antidotes for stramonium poisoning.
It doesn't work with every one. But it seems to have done so with him.
Besides, the caffeine in the coffee probably aided the pilocarpine.
Then, too, I made them smoke cigarettes without the dope that is being
fed them. Lockwood's case, for some reason, hasn't gone far. But did
you notice how the treatment contracted the pupils of Whitney's eyes
almost back to normal again?"

I had and said so, adding, "But what was your idea?"

"I think I've got at the case from a brand-new angle," he replied.
"Unless I am greatly mistaken, when the person who is doing the doping
sees that Whitney is getting better--why, I think you all noticed it,
Inez and Lockwood as well as you--it will mean another attempt to
substitute more cigarettes doped with that drug. I think it's by
substitution that it's being done. We'll see."

At the laboratory, Kennedy called Norton and described briefly what had
happened, especially to Whitney.

"Now is your chance, Norton," he added, "to do some real good work. I
want some one to watch the Senora, see if she, too, notes the
difference in him. Understand?"

"Perfectly," returned Norton. "That is something I think I can do."



XIX

THE BURGLAR POWDER


It was not until after dinner that we heard again from Norton. He had
evidently spent the time faithfully hanging about the Prince Edward
Albert, but Whitney had not come in, although the Senora and Alfonso
were about.

"I saw them leaving the dining-room," he reported to us in the
laboratory directly afterward, "just as Whitney came in. They could not
see me. I took good care of that. But, say, there is a change in
Whitney, isn't there? I wonder what caused it?"

"It's as noticeable as that?" asked Kennedy. "And did she notice it?"

"I'm sure of it," replied Norton confidently. "She couldn't help it.
Besides, after he left her and went into the dining-room himself she
and Alfonso seemed to be discussing something. I'm sure it was that."

Kennedy said nothing, except to thank Norton and compliment him on his
powers of observation. Norton took the praise with evident
satisfaction, and after a moment excused himself, saying that he had
some work to do over in the Museum.

He had no sooner gone than Kennedy took from a drawer a little packet
of powder and an atomizer full of liquid, which he dropped into his
pocket.

"I think the Prince Edward Albert will be the scene of our operations,
to-night, Walter," he announced, reaching for his hat.

He seemed to be in a hurry and it was not many minutes before we
entered. As he passed the dining-room he glanced in. There was Whitney,
not half through a leisurely dinner. Neither of the de Moches seemed to
be downstairs.

Kennedy sauntered over to the desk and looked over the register. We
already knew that Whitney and the Senora had suites on the eighth
floor, on opposite sides and at opposite ends of the hall. The de Moche
suite was under the number 810. That of Whitney was 825.

"Is either 823 or 827 vacant?" asked Kennedy as the clerk came over to
us.

He turned to look over his list. "Yes, 827 is vacant," he found.

"I'd like to have it," said Kennedy, making some excuse about our
luggage being delayed, as he paid for it for the night.

"Front!" called the clerk, and a moment later we found ourselves in the
elevator riding up.

The halls were deserted at that time in the evening except for a
belated theatre-goer, and in a few minutes there would ensue a period
in which there was likely to be no one about.

We entered the room next to Whitney's without being observed by any one
of whom we cared. The boy left us, and it was a simple matter after
that to open a rather heavy door that communicated between the two
suites and was not protected by a Yale lock.

Instead of switching on the lights, Kennedy first looked about
carefully until he was assured that there was no one there. It seemed
to me to be an unnecessary caution, for we knew Whitney was down-stairs
and would probably be there a long time. But he seemed to think it
necessary. Positive that we were alone, he made a hasty survey of the
rooms. Then he seemed to select as a starting-point a table in one
corner of the sitting-room on which lay a humidor and a heavy metal box
for cigarettes.

Quickly he sprinkled on the floor, from the hall door to the table on
which the case of cigarettes lay, some of the powder which I had seen
him wrap up in the laboratory before we left. Then, with the atomizer,
he sprayed over it something that had a pungent, familiar
odour--walking backwards from the hall door to the table, as he sprayed.

"Don't you want more light?" I asked, starting to cross to a window to
let the moonlight stream in.

"Don't walk on it, Walter," he whispered, pushing me back. "No, I don't
need any more light."

"What are you doing?" I asked, mystified at his actions.

"First I sprinkled some powdered iodine on the floor," he replied, "and
then sprayed over just enough ammonia to moisten it. It will evaporate
quickly, leaving what I call my anti-burglar powder."

"I'm sure I wouldn't be thought one of the fraternity for the world," I
observed, stepping aside to give him all the room he wanted in which to
operate.

He had finished his work by this time and now the evening wind was
blowing away the slight fumes that had arisen. For a few moments he
left our door into Whitney's room open, in order to insure clearing
away the odour. Then he quietly closed it, but did not lock it again.

We waited a few minutes, then Craig leaned over to me. "I wish you'd go
down and see how near Whitney is through dinner," he said. "If he is
through, do something, anything to keep him down there. Only be as
careful as you can not to be seen by any one who knows us."

I rode down in an empty elevator and cautiously made my way to the
dining-room. Whitney had finished much sooner than I had expected and
was not there. Much as I wanted not to be seen, I found that it was
necessary to make a tour of the hotel to find him and I did so,
wondering what expedient I would adopt to keep him down there if I
found him. I did not have to adopt any, however. Whitney was almost
alone in the writing-room, and a big pile of letters beside him showed
me that he would be busy for some time. I rode back to the room to tell
Craig, flattering myself that I had not been seen.

"Good," he exclaimed. "I don't think we'll have to wait much longer, if
anything at all is going to happen."

In the darkness we settled ourselves for another vigil that was to last
we knew not how long. Neither of us spoke as we half crouched in the
shadow of our room, listening.

Slowly the time passed. Would any one take advantage of the opportunity
to tamper with the box of cigarettes on the table?

I fell to speculating. Who could it possibly have been that had
conceived this devilish plot? What was back of it all? I wondered
whether it were possible that Lockwood, now that Mendoza was out of the
way, could desire to remove Whitney, the sole remaining impediment to
possessing the whole of the treasure as well as Inez? Then there were
the Senora and Alfonso, the one with a deep race and family grievance,
the other a rejected suitor. What might not they do with some weird
South American poison?

Once or twice we heard the elevator door clang and waited expectantly,
but nothing happened. I began to wonder whether, even if some one had a
pass-key to the suite, we could hear him enter if he was quiet. The
outside hall was thickly carpeted, and deadened every footfall if one
exercised only reasonable care. The rooms themselves were much the same.

"Don't you think we might have the door ajar a little?" I suggested
anxiously.

"Sh!" was Kennedy's only comment in the negative.

I glanced now and then at my watch and by straining my eyes was
surprised to see how early it was yet. The minutes were surely
leaden-footed.

In the darkness, I fell again to reviewing the weird succession of
events. I am not by nature superstitious, but in the black silence I
could well imagine a staring succession of eyes, beginning with the
dilated pupils of Whitney and passing on to the corpse-like expression
of Mendoza, but always ending with the remarkable, piercing, black eyes
of the Indian woman with the melancholy-visaged son, as they had
impressed me the first time I saw them and, in fact, ever since. Was it
a freak of my mind, or was there some reason for it?

Suddenly I heard in the next room what sounded like a series of little
explosions, as though some one were treading on match heads.

"My burglar powder works," muttered Craig to me in a hoarse whisper.
"Every step, even those of a mouse running across, sets it off!"

He rose quickly and threw open the door into Whitney's suite. I sprang
after him.

There, in the shadows, I saw a dark form, starting back in quick
retreat. But we were too late. He was cat-like, too quick for us.

In the dim light of the little explosions we could catch a glimpse of
the person who had been craftily working with the dread drug to drive
Whitney and others insane. But the face was masked!

He banged shut the door after him and fled down the hall, making a turn
to a flight of steps.

We followed, and at the steps paused a moment. "You go up, Walter,"
shouted Kennedy. "I'll go down."

It was fifteen minutes later before we met downstairs, neither of us
with a trace of the intruder. He seemed to have vanished like smoke.

"Must have had a room, like ourselves," remarked Craig somewhat
chagrined at the outcome of his scheme. "And if he was clever enough to
have a room, he is clever enough to have a disguise that would fool the
elevator boys for a minute. No, he has gone. But I'll wager he won't
try any more substitutions of stramonium-poisoned cigarettes for a
while. It was too close to be comfortable."

We were baffled again, and this time by a mysterious masked man. Could
it be the same whom we heard over the vocaphone addressed as "Doc"?
Perhaps it was, but that gave us no hint as to his identity. He seemed
just as far away as ever.

We waited around the elevators for some time, but nothing happened.
Kennedy even sought out the manager of the hotel, and after telling who
he was, had a search made of the guests who might be suspected. The
best we could do was to leave word that the employees might be put on
the lookout for anything of a suspicious nature.

Whitney, the innocent cause of all this commotion, was still in the
writing-room with his letters.

"I think I ought to tell him," decided Kennedy as we passed down the
lobby.

He seemed surprised to see us, as we strolled up to his writing desk,
but pushed aside the few letters which he had not finished and asked us
to sit down.

"I don't know whether you have noticed it," began Craig, "but I wonder
how you feel?"

Whitney had expected something else rather than his health as the
subject of a quiz. "Pretty good now," he answered before he knew it,
"although I must admit that for the past few days I have wondered
whether I wasn't slowing up a bit--or rather going too fast."

"Would you like to know why you feel that way?" asked Craig.

Whitney was now genuinely puzzled. It was perfectly evident, as it had
been all the time, that he had not the slightest inkling of what was
going on.

As Craig briefly unfolded what we had discovered and the reason for it,
Whitney watched him aghast.

"Poisoned cigarettes," he repeated slowly. "Well, who would ever have
thought it. You can bet your last jitney I'll be careful what I smoke
in the future, if I have to smoke only original packages. And it was
that, partly, that ailed Mendoza?"

Kennedy nodded. "Don't take any pilocarpine, just because I told you
that was what I used. You have given yourself the best prescription,
just now. Be careful what you smoke. And, don't get excited if you seem
to be stepping on matches up there in your room for a little while,
either. It's nothing."

Whitney's only known way of thanking anybody was to invite them to
adjourn to the cafe, and accordingly we started across the hall, after
he had gathered up his correspondence. The information had made more
work that night impossible for him.

As we crossed from the writing-room, we saw Alfonso de Moche coming in
from the street. He saw us and came over to speak. Was it a
coincidence, or was it merely a blind? Was he the one who had got away
and now calculated to come back and throw us off guard?

Whitney asked him where he had been, but he replied quickly that his
mother had not been feeling very well after dinner and had gone to bed,
while he strolled out and had dropped into a picture show. That, I
felt, was at least clever. The intruder had been a man.

De Moche excused himself, and we continued our walk to the cafe, where
Whitney restored his shattered peace of mind somewhat.

"What's the result of your detective work on Norton?" ventured Kennedy
at last, seeing that Whitney was in a more expansive frame of mind, and
taking a chance.

"Oh," returned Whitney, "he's scared, all right. Why, he has been
hanging around this hotel--watching me. He thinks I don't know it, I
suppose, but I do."

Kennedy and I exchanged glances.

"But he's slippery," went on Whitney. "He knows that he is being
shadowed and the men tell me that they lose him, now and then. To tell
the truth I don't trust most of these private detectives. I think their
little tissue paper reports are half-faked, anyhow."

He seemed to want to say no more on the subject, from which I took it
that he had discovered nothing of importance.

"One thing, though," he recollected, after a moment. "He has been going
to see Inez Mendoza, they tell me."

"Yes?" queried Kennedy.

"Confound him. He pretty nearly got Lockwood in bad with her, too,"
said Whitney, then leaning over confidentially added, "Say, Kennedy,
honestly, now, you don't believe that shoe-print stuff, do you?"

"I see no reason to doubt it," returned Kennedy with diplomatic
firmness. "Why?"

"Well," continued Whitney, still confidential, "we haven't got the
dagger--that's all. There--I never actually asserted that before,
though I've given every one to understand that our plans are based on
something more than hot-air. We haven't got it, and we never had it."

"Then who has it?" asked Kennedy colourlessly.

Whitney shook his head. "I don't know," he said merely.

"And these attacks on you--this cigarette business--how do you explain
that," asked Craig, "if you haven't the dagger?"

"Jealousy, pure jealousy," replied Whitney quickly. "They are so afraid
that we will find the treasure. That's my dope."

"Who is afraid?"

"That's a serious matter," he evaded. "I wouldn't say anything that I
couldn't back up in a case of that kind. I'd get into trouble."

There was nothing to be gained by prolonging the conversation and
Kennedy made a move as though to go.

"Just give us a square deal," said Whitney as we left. "That's all we
want--a square deal."

Kennedy and I walked out of the Prince Edward Albert and turned down
the block.

"Well, have you found out anything more?" asked a voice in the shadow
beside us.

We turned. It was Norton.

"I saw you talking to Whitney in the writing-room," he said, with a
laugh, "then in the cafe, and I saw Alfonso come in. He still has those
shadows on me. I wouldn't be surprised if there was one of them around
in a doorway, now."

"No," returned Kennedy, "he didn't say anything that was important.
They still say they haven't the dagger."

"Of course," said Norton.

"You'll wait around a little longer?" asked Kennedy as we came to a
corner and stopped.

"I think so," returned Norton. "I'll keep you posted."

Kennedy and I walked on a bit.

"I'm going around to see how Burke, O'Connor's man, is getting on
watching the Mendoza apartment, Walter," he said at length. "Then I
have two or three other little outside matters to attend to. You look
tired. Why don't you go home and take a rest? I shan't be working in
the laboratory to-night, either."

"I think I will," I agreed, for the strain of the case was beginning to
tell on me.



XX

THE PULMOTOR


I went directly to our apartment after Craig left me and for a little
while sat up, speculating on the probabilities of the case.

Senora de Moche had told us of her ancestor who had been intrusted with
the engraved dagger, of how it had been handed down, of the death of
her brother; she had told us of the murder of the ancestor of Inez
Mendoza, of the curse of Mansiche. Was this, after all, but a
reincarnation of the bloody history of the Gold of the Gods?

There were the shoe-prints in the mummy case. They were Lockwood's. How
about them? Was he telling the truth? Now had come the poisoned
cigarettes. All had followed the threats:

BEWARE THE CURSE OF MANSICHE ON THE GOLD OF THE GODS.

Several times I had been forced already to revise my theories of the
case. At first I had felt that it pointed straight toward Lockwood. But
did it seem to do so now?

Suppose Lockwood had stolen the dagger from the Museum, although he
denied even that. Did that mean, necessarily that he committed the
murder with it, that he now had it? Might he not have lost it? Might
not some one else--the Senora, or Alfonso, or both--have obtained it?
Might not Mendoza have been murdered with it by some other hand to
obtain or to hide the secret on its bloody blade?

I went to bed, still thinking, no nearer a conclusion than before,
prepared to dream over it.

That is the last I remember.

When I regained consciousness, I was lying on the bed still, but Craig
was bending over me. He had just taken a rubber cap off my face, to
which was attached a rubber tube that ran to a box perhaps as large as
a suitcase, containing a pump of some kind.

I was too weak to notice these things right away, too weak to care much
about them, or about anything else.

"Are you all right now, old man?" he asked, bending over me.

"Y-Yes," I gasped, clutching at the choking sensation in my throat.
"What has happened?"

Perhaps I had best tell it as though I were not the chief actor; for it
came to me in such disjointed fragmentary form, that it was some time
before I could piece it together.

Craig had seen Burke, and had found that everything was all right. Then
he had made the few little investigations that he intended. But he had
not been to the laboratory. There had been no light there that night.

At last when he arrived home, he had found a peculiar odour in the
hall, but had thought nothing of it, until he opened our door. Then
there rushed out such a burst of it that he had to retreat, almost
fainting, choking and gasping for breath.

His first thought was for me; and protecting himself as best he could
he struggled through to my room, to find me lying on the bed,
motionless, almost cold.

He was by this time too weak to carry me. But he managed to reach the
window and throw it wide open. As the draught cleared the air, he
thought of the telephone and with barely strength enough left called up
one of the gas companies and had a pulmotor sent over.

Now that the danger was past for me, and he felt all right, his active
mind began at once on the reconstruction of what had happened.

What was it--man or devil? Could a human fly have scaled the walls, or
an aeroplane have dropped an intruder at the window ledge? The lock on
the door did not seem to have been tampered with. Nor was there any way
by which entrance could have been gained from a fire escape. It was not
illuminating gas. Every one agreed on that. No, it was not an accident.
It was an attempt at murder. Some one was getting close to us. Every
other weapon failing, this was desperation.

I had been made comfortable, and he was engaged in one of his
characteristic searches, with more than ordinary eagerness, because
this was his own apartment, and it was I who had been the victim.

I followed him languidly as he went over everything, the furniture, the
walls, the windows, the carpets--there looking for finger-prints, there
for some trace of the poisonous gas that had filled the room. But he
did not have the air of one who was finding anything. I was too tired
to reason. This was but another of the baffling mysteries that
confronted us.

A low exclamation caused me to open my eyes and try to discover what
was the cause. He was bending over the lock of the door looking at it
intently.

"Broken?" I managed to say.

"No--corroded," he replied. "You keep still. Save your energy. I've got
strength enough for two, for a while."

He came over to the bed and bent over me. "I won't hurt you," he
encouraged, "but just let me get a drop of your blood."

He took a needle and ran it gently into my thumb beside the nail. A
drop or two of blood oozed out and he soaked it up with a piece of
sterile gauze.

"Try to sleep," he said finally.

"And you?" I asked.

"It's no use. I'm going over to the laboratory. I can't sleep. There's
a cop down in front of the house. You're safe enough. By George, if
this case goes much further we'll have half the force standing guard.
Here--drink that."

I had made up my mind not to go to sleep, if he wouldn't, but I slipped
up when I obeyed him that time. I thought it was a stimulant but it
turned out to be a sedative.

I did not wake up until well along in the morning, but when I did I was
surprised to find myself so well. Before any one could stop me, I was
dressed and had reached the door.

A friend of ours who had volunteered to stay with me was dozing on a
couch as I came out.

"Too late, Johnson," I called, trying hard to be gay, though I felt
anything but like it. "Thank you, old man, for staying with me. But I'm
afraid to stop. You're stronger than I am this morning--and besides you
can run faster. I'm afraid you'll drag me back."

He did try to do it, but with a great effort of will-power I persuaded
him to let me go. Out in the open air, too, it seemed to do me good.
The policeman who had been stationed before the house gazed at me as
though he saw a ghost, then grinned encouragingly.

Still, I was glad that the laboratory was only a few blocks away, for I
was all in by the time I got there, and hadn't even energy enough to
reply to Kennedy's scolding.

He was working over a microscope, while by his side stood in racks,
innumerable test-tubes of various liquids. On the table before him lay
the lock of our door which he had cut out after he gave me the sleeping
draught.

"What was it?" I asked. "I feel as if I had been on a bust, without the
recollection of a thing."

He shook his head as if to discourage conversation, without taking his
eyes off the microscope through which he was squinting. His lips were
moving as if he were counting. I waited in impatient silence until he
seemed to have finished.

Then, still without a word, he took up a test-tube and dropped into it
a little liquid from a bottle on a shelf above the table. His face
lighted up, and he regarded the reaction attentively for some time.
Then he turned to me, still holding the tube.

"You have been on a bust," he said with a smile as if the remark of a
few minutes before were still fresh. "Only it was a laughing gas
jag--nitrous oxide."

"Nitrous oxide?" I repeated. "How--what do you mean?"

"I mean simply that a test of your blood shows that you were poisoned
by nitrous oxide gas. You remember the sample of blood which I squeezed
from your thumb? I took it because I knew that a gas--and it has proved
to be nitrous oxide--is absorbed through the lungs into the circulation
and its presence can be told for a considerable period after
administration."

He paused a moment, then went on: "To be specific in this case I found
by microscopic examination that the number of corpuscles in your blood
was vastly above the normal, something like between seven and eight
million to a drop that should have had somewhat more than only half
that number. You were poisoned by gas that--"

"Yes," I interrupted, "but how, with all the doors locked?"

"I was coming to that," he said quietly, picking up the lock and
looking at it thoughtfully.

He had already placed it in a porcelain basin, and in this basin he had
poured some liquids. Then he passed the liquids through a fine screen
and at last took up a tube containing some of the resulting liquid.

"I have already satisfied myself," he explained, "but for your benefit,
seeing that you're the chief sufferer, I'll run over a part of the
test. You saw the reaction which showed the gas a moment ago. I have
proved chemically as well as microscopically that it is present in your
blood. Now if I take this test-tube of liquid derived from my treatment
of the lock and then test it as you saw me do with the other, isn't
that enough for you? See--it gives the same reaction."

It did, indeed, but my mind did not react with it.

"Nitrous oxide," he continued, "in contact with iron, leaves distinct
traces of corrosion, discernible by chemical and microscopic tests
quite as well as the marks it leaves in the human blood. Manifestly, if
no one could have come in by the windows or doors, the gas must have
been administered in some way without any one coming into the room. I
found no traces of an intruder."

It was a tough one. Never much good at answering his conundrums when I
was well, I could not even make a guess now.

"The key-hole, of course!" he explained. "I cut away the entire lock,
and have submitted it to these tests which you see."

"I don't see it all yet," I said.

"Some one came to our door in the night, after gaining entrance to the
hall--not a difficult thing to do, we know. That person found our door
locked, knew it would be locked, knew that I always locked it. Knowing
that such was the case, this person came prepared, bringing perhaps, a
tank of compressed nitrous oxide, certainly the materials for making
the gas expeditiously."

I began to understand how it had been done.

"Through the keyhole," he resumed, "a stream of the gas was injected.
It soon rendered you unconscious, and that would have been all, if the
person had been satisfied. A little bit would have been harmless
enough. But the person was not satisfied. The intention was not to
overcome, but to kill. The stream of gas was kept up until the room was
full of it.

"Only my return saved you, for the gas was escaping very slowly. Even
then, you had been under it so long that we had to resort to the
wonderful little pulmotor after trying both the Sylvester and Schaefer
methods and all other manual means to induce respiration. At any rate
we managed to undo the work of this fiend."

I looked at him in surprise, I, who didn't think I had an enemy in the
world.

"But who could it have been?" I asked.

"We are pretty close to that criminal," was the only reply he would
give, "providing we do not spread the net in sight of the quarry."

"Why should he have wanted to get me?" I repeated.

"Don't flatter yourself," replied Craig. "He wanted me, too. There
wasn't any light in the laboratory last night. There was a light in our
apartment. What more natural than to think that we were both there? You
were caught in the trap intended for both of us."

I looked at him, startled. Surely this was a most desperate criminal.
To cover up one murder--perhaps two--he did not hesitate to attempt a
third, a double murder. The attack had been really aimed at Kennedy. It
had struck me alone. But it had miscarried and Craig had saved my life.

As I reflected bitterly, I had but one satisfaction. Wretched as I
felt, I knew that it had spared Craig from slowing up on the case at
just the time when he was needed.

The news of the attempt spread quickly, for it was a police case and
got into the papers.

It was not half an hour after I reached the laboratory that the door
was pushed open by Inez Mendoza, followed by a boy spilling with fruit
and flowers like a cornucopia.

"I drove to the apartment," she cried, greatly excited and sympathetic,
"but they told me you had gone out. Oh, I was glad to hear it. Then I
knew it wasn't so serious. For, somehow, I feel guilty about it. It
never would have happened if you hadn't met me."

"I'm sure it's worth more than it cost," I replied gallantly.

She turned toward Kennedy. "I'm positively frightened," she exclaimed.
"First they direct their attacks against my father--then against
me--now against you. What will it be next? Oh--it is that curse--it is
that curse!"

"Never fear," encouraged Kennedy, "we'll get you out--we'll get all of
us out, now, I should say. It's just because they are so desperate that
we have these things. As long as there is nothing to fear a criminal
will lie low. When he gets scared he does things. And it's when he does
things that he begins to betray himself."

She shuddered. "I feel as though I was surrounded by enemies," she
murmured. "It is as if an unseen evil power was watching over me all
the time--and mocking me--striking down those I love and trust. Where
will it end?"

Kennedy tried his best to soothe her, but it was evident that the
attack on us could not have had more effect, if it had been levelled
direct at her.

"Please, Senorita," he pleaded, "stand firm. We are going to win. Don't
give in. The Mendozas are not the kind to stop defeated."

She looked at him, her eyes filled with tears.

"It was my father's way," she choked back her emotion. "How could you,
a stranger, know?"

"I didn't know," returned Kennedy. "I gathered it from his face. It is
also his daughter's way."

"Yes," she said, straightening up and the fire flashing from her eyes,
"we are a proud, old, unbending race. Good-bye. I must not interrupt
your work any longer. We are also a race that never forgets a friend."

A moment later she was gone.

"A wonderful woman," repeated Kennedy absently.

Then he turned again to his table of chemicals.

The telephone had begun to tinkle almost continuously by this time, as
one after another of our friends called us up to know how we were
getting on and be assured of our safety. In fact I didn't know that it
was possible to resuscitate so many of them with a pulmotor.

"By George, I'm glad it wasn't any more serious," came Norton's voice
from the doorway a moment later. "I didn't see a paper this morning.
The curator of the Museum just told me. How did it happen?"

Kennedy tried to pass it off lightly, and I did the same, for as I was
up longer I really did feel better.

Norton shook his head gravely, however.

"No," he said, "there were four of us got warnings. They are a
desperate, revengeful people."

I looked at him quickly. Did he mean the de Moches?



XXI

THE TELESCRIBE


I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that I had
better go slow that day and regain my strength, a fortunate decision,
as it turned out.

Kennedy, also, spent most of the time in the laboratory, so that, after
all, I did not feel that I was missing very much.

It was along in the afternoon that the telephone began acting
strangely, as it will do sometimes when a long distance connection is
being made. Twice Kennedy answered, without getting any response.

"Confound that central," he muttered. "What do you suppose is the
matter?"

Again the bell rang.

"Hello," shouted Kennedy, exasperated. "Who's this?"

There was a pause. "Just a minute," he replied.

Quickly he jammed the receiver down on a little metal base which he had
placed near the instrument. Three prongs reaching upward from the base
engaged the receiver tightly, fitting closely about it.

Then he took up a watch-case receiver to listen through in place of the
regular receiver.

"Who is it?" he answered.

Apparently the voice at the other end of the wire replied rather
peevishly, for Kennedy endeavoured to smooth over the delay. I wondered
what was going on, why he was so careful. His face showed that,
whatever it was, it was most important.

As he restored the telephone to its normal condition, he looked at me
puzzled.

"I wonder whether that was a frame-up!" he exclaimed, pulling a little
cylinder off the instrument into which he had inserted the telephone
receiver. "I thought it might be and I have preserved the voice. This
is what is known as the telescribe--a recent invention of Edison which
records on a specially prepared phonograph cylinder all that is
said--both ways--over a telephone wire."

"What was it about?" I asked eagerly.

He shoved the cylinder on a phonograph and started the instrument.

"Professor Kennedy?" called an unfamiliar voice.

"Yes," answered a voice that I recognized as Craig's.

"This is the detective agency employed by Mr. Whitney. He has
instructed us to inform you that he has obtained the Peruvian dagger
for which you have been searching. That's all. Good-bye."

I looked at Kennedy in blank surprise.

"They rang off before I could ask them a question," said Craig.
"Central tells me it was a pay station call. There doesn't seem to be
any way of tracing it. But, at least I have a record of the voice."

"What are you going to do?" I queried. "It may be a fake."

"Yes, but I'm going to investigate it. Do you feel strong enough to go
down to Whitney's with me?"

The startling news had been like a tonic. "Of course," I replied,
seizing my hat.

Kennedy paused only long enough to call Norton. The archaeologist was
out, and we hurried on downtown to Whitney's.

Whitney was not there and his clerk was just about to close the office.
All the books were put away in the safe and the desks were closed. Now
and then there echoed up the hall the clang of an elevator door.

"Where is Mr. Whitney?" demanded Craig of the clerk.

"I can't say. He went out a couple of hours ago."

"Did he have a visit from one of his detectives?" shot out Craig
suddenly.

The clerk looked up suspiciously at us.

"No," he replied defiantly.

"Walter--stand by that door," shouted Craig. "Let no one in until they
break it down."

His blue-steel automatic gleamed a cold menace at the clerk. A downtown
office after office hours is not exactly the place to which one can get
assistance quickly. The clerk started back.

"Did he have a visit from one of his detectives?"

"Yes."

"What was it about?"

The clerk winced. "I don't know," he replied, "honest--I don't."

Craig waved the gun for emphasis. "Open the safe," he said.

Reluctantly the clerk obeyed. Under the point of the gun he searched
every compartment and drawer of the big chrome steel strong-box which
Whitney had pointed out as the safest place for the dagger on our first
visit to him. But there was absolutely no trace of it. Had we been
hoaxed and was all this risk in vain?

"Where did Mr. Whitney go?" demanded Craig, as he directed the clerk to
shut the door and lock the safe again, baffled.

"If I should try to tell you," returned the man, very much frightened,
"I would be lying. You would soon find out. Mr. Whitney doesn't make a
confidant of me, you know."

It was useless. If he had the dagger, at least we knew that it was not
at the office. We had learned only one thing. He had had a visit from
one of his detectives.

As fast as the uptown trend of automobiles and surface cars during the
rush hour would permit, Kennedy and I hurried in a taxicab to the
Prince Edward Albert in the hope of surprising him there.

"It's no use to inquire for him," decided Craig as we entered the
hotel. "I still have the key to that room, 827, next to his. We'll ride
right up in the elevator boldly and get in."

No one said anything to us, as we let ourselves into the room next to
Whitney's. A new lock had been placed on the door between the suites,
but, aside from the additional time it took to force it, it presented
no great difficulty.

"He wouldn't leave the dagger here, of course," remarked Kennedy, as at
last we stepped into Whitney's suite. "But we may as well satisfy
ourselves. Hello--what's this?"

The room was all upset, as though some one had already gone through it.
For a moment I thought we had been forestalled.

"Packed a grip hastily," Craig remarked, pointing to the marks on the
bedspread where it had rested while he must literally have thrown
things into it.

We made a hasty search ourselves, but we knew it was hopeless. Two
things we had learned. Whitney had had a visit from his detectives, and
he had gone away hurriedly. An anonymous telephone message had been
sent to Kennedy. Had it been for the purpose of throwing us off the
track?

The room telephone rang. Quickly Craig jumped to it and took down the
receiver.

"Hello," he called. "Yes, this is Mr. Whitney."

A silence ensued during which, of course, I could not gather any idea
of what was going on over the wire.

"The deuce!" exclaimed Kennedy, working the hook up and down but
receiving no response. "The fellow caught on. Something must have
happened to Norton, too."

"How's that?" I asked.

"Why," he replied, "some one just called up Whitney and said that
Norton had got away from him."

"Perhaps they're trying to keep him out of the way just as they are
with us," I suggested. "I think the thing is a plant."

Down the hall, Kennedy stopped and tapped lightly at the door of 810,
the de Moche suite. I think he was surprised when the Senora's maid
opened it.

"Tell Senora de Moche it is Professor Kennedy," he said quickly, "and
that I must see her."

The maid admitted us into the sitting-room where we had had our first
interview with her and a moment later she appeared. She was evidently
not dressed for dinner, although it was almost time, and I saw
Kennedy's eye travel from her to a chair in the corner over which was
draped a linen automobile coat and a heavy veil. Had she been preparing
to go somewhere, too? The door to Alfonso's room was open and he
clearly was not there. What did it all mean?

"Have you heard anything of a report that the dagger has been found?"
demanded Kennedy abruptly.

"Why--no," she replied, greatly surprised, apparently.

"You were going out?" asked Kennedy with a significant glance at the
coat and veil.

"Only for a little ride with Alfonso, who has gone to hire a car," she
answered quickly.

I felt sure that she had heard something about the dagger.

We had no further excuse for staying and on the way out, now that he
had satisfied himself that Whitney was not there, Craig inquired at the
office for him. They could tell us nothing of his whereabouts, except
that he had left in his car late in the afternoon in a great hurry.

Kennedy stepped into a telephone booth and called up Lockwood, but no
one answered. Inquiry in the garages in the neighbourhood finally
located that at which Lockwood kept his car. There, all that they could
tell us was that the car had been filled with gas and oil as if for a
trip. Lockwood was gone, too.

Kennedy hastily ordered a touring car himself and placed it at a corner
of the Prince Edward Albert where he could watch two of the entrances,
while I waited on the next corner where I could see the entrance on the
other street.

For some time we waited and still she did not come out. Had she
telephoned to Alfonso and had he gone alone? Perhaps she had already
been out and had taken this method of detaining us, knowing that we
would wait to watch her.

It must have been a mixture of both motives, for at length I was
rewarded by seeing her come cautiously out of the rear entrance of the
hotel alone and start to walk hurriedly up the street. I signalled to
Craig who shot down and picked me up.

By this time the Senora had reached a public cab stand and had engaged
a hack.

Sinking back in the shadows of the top, which was up, Craig directed
our driver to follow the hack cautiously, keeping a couple of blocks
behind. There was some satisfaction, though slight, in it, at least. We
felt the possibility of the trail leading somewhere, now.

On uptown the hack went, while we kept discreetly in the rear. We had
reached a part of the city where it was sparsely populated, when the
hack suddenly turned and doubled back on us.

There was not time for us to turn and we trusted that by shrinking back
in the shadow we might not be observed.

As the hack passed us, however, the Senora leaned out until it was
perfectly evident that she must recognize us. She said nothing but I
fancied I saw a smile of satisfaction as she settled back into the
cushions. She was deliberately going back along the very road by which
she had led us out. It had been an elaborate means of wasting our time.

She did not have the satisfaction, however, of shaking us off, for we
followed all the way back to the hotel and saw her go in. Then Kennedy
placed the car where we had it before and left the driver with
instructions to follow her regardless of time if she should come out
again.

Surely, I reasoned, there must be something very queer going on, if
they were all it to eliminate us and Norton. What had happened to him?

Kennedy hastened back to the campus, late as it was, there to start
anew. Norton was not in his quarters and, on the chance that he might
have sought to elude Whitney's detectives by doing the unexpected and
going to the Museum, Kennedy walked over that way.

There was nothing to indicate that anybody had been at the Museum, but,
as we passed our laboratory, we could hear the telephone ringing
inside, as though some one had been trying to get us for a long time.

Kennedy opened the door and switched on the lights. Waiting only long
enough to jam the receiver down into place on the telescribe, he
answered the call.

"The deuce you will!" I heard him exclaim, then apparently whoever was
talking rang off and he could not get them back.

"Another of those confounded telephone messages," he said, turning to
me and taking the cylinder off. "I looks as though the ready-letter
writer who used to send warnings had learned his lesson and taken to
the telephone as leaving fewer clues than handwriting."

He placed the record on the phonograph so that I could hear it. It was
brief and to the point, as had been the first.

"Hello, is that you, Kennedy? We've got Norton. Next we'll get you.
Good-bye."

Kennedy repeated the first message. It was evident that both had been
spoken by the same voice.

"Whose is it?" I asked blankly. "What does it mean?"

Before Craig could answer there was a knock at our door and he sprang
to open it.



XXII

THE VANISHER


It was Juanita, Inez Mendoza's maid, frantic and almost speechless.

"Why, Juanita," encouraged Kennedy, "what's the matter?"

"The Senorita!" she gasped, breaking down now and sobbing over and over
again. "The Senorita!"

"Yes, yes," repeated Kennedy, "but what about her? Is there anything
wrong?"

"Oh, Mr. Kennedy," sobbed the poor girl, "I don't know. She is gone. I
have had no word from her since this afternoon."

"Gone!" we exclaimed together. "Where was Burke--that man that the
police sent up to protect her?"

"He is gone, too--now," replied Juanita in her best English, sadly
broken by the excitement.

Kennedy and I looked at each other aghast. This was the hardest blow of
all. We had thought that, at least, Inez would be safe with a man like
Burke, whom we could trust, detailed to watch her.

"Tell me," urged Kennedy, "how did it happen? Did they carry her
off--as they tried to do the other time?"

"No, no," sobbed Juanita. "I do not know. I do not know even whether
she is gone. She went out this afternoon for a little walk. But she did
not come back. After it grew dark, I was frightened. I remembered that
you were here and called up, but you were out. Then I saw that
policeman. I told him. He has others working with him now. But I could
not find you--until now I saw a light here. Oh, my poor, little girl,
what has become of her? Where have they taken her? Oh, MADRE DE DIOS,
it is terrible!"

Had that been the purpose for which we had been sent on wild-goose
chases? Was Inez really kidnapped this time? I knew not what to think.
It seemed hardly possible that all of them could have joined in it.

If she were kidnapped, it must have been on the street in broad
daylight. Such things had happened. It would not be the first
disappearance of the kind.

Quickly Kennedy called up Deputy O'Connor. It was only too true. Burke
had reported that she had disappeared and the police, especially those
at the stations and ferries and in the suburbs had been notified to
look for her. All this seemed to have taken place in those hours when
the mysterious telephone calls had sent us on the wrong trail.

Kennedy said nothing, but I could see that he was doing some keen
thinking.

Just then the telephone rang again. It was from the man whom we had
left at the Prince Edward Albert. Senora de Moche had gone out and
driven rapidly to the Grand Central. He had not been able to find out
what ticket she bought, but the train was just leaving.

Kennedy paced up and down, muttering to himself. "Whitney first--then
Lockwood--and Alfonso. The Senora takes a train. Suppose the first
message were true? Gas and oil for a trip."

He seized the telephone book and hastily turned the pages over. At last
his finger rested on a name in the suburban section. I read: "Whitney,
Stuart. Res. 174-J Rockledge."

Quickly he gave central the number, then shoved the receiver again into
the telescribe.

"Hello, is Mr. Whitney there?" I heard later as he placed the record
again in the phonograph for repetition.

"No--who is this?"

"His head clerk. Tell him I must see him. Kennedy has been to the
office and--"

"Say--get off the line. We had that story once."

"That's it!" exclaimed Craig. "Don't you see--they've all gone up to
Whitney's country place. That clerk was faking. He has already
telephoned. And listen. Do you see anything peculiar?"

He was running all three records which we had on the telescribe. As he
did so, I saw unmistakably that it was the same voice on all three.
Whitney must have had a servant do the telephoning for him.

"Don't fret, Juanita," reassured Kennedy. "We shall find your mistress
for you. She will be all right. You had better go back to the apartment
and wait. Walter look up the next train to Rockledge while I telephone
O'Connor."

We had an hour to wait before the next train left and in the meantime
we drove Juanita back to the Mendoza apartment.

It was a short run to Rockledge by railroad, but it seemed to me that
it took hours. Kennedy sat in silence most of the time, his eyes
closed, as if he were trying to place himself in the position of the
others and figure out what they would do.

At last we arrived, the only passengers to get off at the little old
station. Which way to turn we had not the slightest idea. We looked
about. Even the ticket office was closed. It looked as though we might
almost as well have stayed in New York.

Down the railroad we could see that a great piece of engineering was in
progress, raising the level of the tracks and building a steel viaduct,
as well as a new station, and at the same time not interrupting the
through traffic, which was heavy.

"Surely there must be some one down there," observed Kennedy, as we
picked our way across the steel girders, piles of rails, and around
huge machines for mixing concrete.

We came at last to a little construction house, a sort of general
machine-and work-shop, in which seemed to be everything from a file to
a pneumatic riveter.

"Hello!" shouted Craig.

There came a sound from a far corner of a pile of ties and a moment
later a night-watchman advanced suspiciously swinging his lantern.

"Hello yourself," he growled.

"Which way to Stuart Whitney's estate?" asked Craig.

My heart sank as he gave the directions. It seemed miles away.

Just then the blinding lights of a car flashed on us as it came down
the road parallel to the tracks. He waved his light and the car
stopped. It was empty, except for a chauffeur evidently returning from
a joy ride.

"Take these gentlemen as far as Smith's corner, will you?" asked the
watchman. "Then show 'em the turn up to Whitney's."

The chauffeur was an obliging chap, especially as it cost him nothing
to earn a substantial tip with his master's car. However, we were glad
enough to ride in anything on wheels, and not over-particular at that
hour about the ownership.

"Mr. Whitney hasn't been out here much lately," he volunteered as he
sped along the beautiful oiled road, and the lights cast shadows on the
trees that made driving as easy as in daylight.

"No, he has been very busy," returned Craig glad to turn to account the
opportunity to talk with a chauffeur, for it is the chauffeur in the
country who is the purveyor of all knowledge and gossip.

"His car passed us when I was driving up from the city. My boss won't
let me speed or I wouldn't have taken his dust. Gee, but he does wear
out the engines in his cars, Whitney."

"Was he alone?" asked Craig.

"Yes--and then I saw him driving back again when I went down, to the
station for some new shoes we had expressed up. Just a flying trip, I
guess--or does he expect you?"

"I don't think he does," returned Craig truthfully.

"I saw a couple of other cars go up there. House party?"

"Maybe you'd call it that," returned Craig with a twinkle of the eye.
"Did you see any ladies?"

"No," returned the chauffeur. "Just a man driving his own car and
another with a driver."

"There wasn't a lady with Mr. Whitney?" asked Craig, now rather anxious.

"Neither time."

I saw what he was driving at. The Senora might have got up there in any
fashion without being noticed. But for Inez not to be with Whitney, nor
with the two who must evidently have been Lockwood and Alfonso, was
indeed strange. Could it be that we were only half right--that they had
gathered here but that Inez had really disappeared?

The young man set us down at Smith's Corner and it proved to be only
about an eighth of a mile up the road and up-hill when Whitney's house
burst in sight, silhouetted against the sky.

There were lights there and it was evident that several people had
gathered for some purpose.

We made our way up the path and paused a moment to look through the
window before springing the little surprise. There we could see
Lockwood, Alfonso, and Senora de Moche, who had arrived, after all and
probably been met at the station by her son. They seemed like anything
but a happy party. Never on the best of terms, they could not be
expected to be happy. But now, if ever, one would have thought they
might do more than tolerate each other, assuming that some common
purpose had brought them here.

Kennedy rang the bell and we could see that all looked surprised, for
they had heard no car approach. A servant opened the door and before he
knew it, Kennedy had pushed past him, taking no chances at a rebuff
after the experience over the wire.

"Kennedy!" exclaimed Lockwood and Alfonso together.

"Where is Inez Mendoza?" demanded Craig, without returning the greeting.

"Inez?" they repeated blankly.

Kennedy faced them squarely.

"Come, now. Where is she? This is a show-down. You may as well lay your
cards on the table. Where is she--what have you done with her?"

The de Moches looked at Lockwood and he looked at them, but neither
spoke for a moment.

"Walter," ordered Kennedy, "there's the telephone. Get the managing
editor of the Star and tell him where we are. Every newspaper in the
United States, every police officer in every city will have the story,
in twelve hours, if you precious rascals don't come across. There--I
give you until central gets die Star."

"Why--what has happened?" asked Lockwood, who was the first to recover
his tongue.

"Don't stand there asking me what has happened," cried Kennedy
impatiently. "Tickle that hook again, Walter. You know as well as I do
that you have planned to get Inez Mendoza away from my influence--to
kidnap her, in other words--"

"We kidnap her?" gasped Lockwood. "What do you mean, man? I know
nothing of this. Is she gone?" He wheeled on the de Moches. "This is
some of your work. If anything happens to that girl--there isn't an
Indian feud can equal the vengeance I will take!"

Alfonso was absolutely speechless. Senora de Moche started to speak,
but Kennedy interrupted her. "That will do from you," he cut short.
"You have passed beyond the bounds of politeness when you deliberately
went out of your way to throw me on a wrong trail while some one was
making off with a young and innocent girl. You are a woman of the
world. You will take your medicine like a man, too."

I don't think I have ever seen Kennedy in a more towering rage than he
was at that moment.

"When it was only a matter of a paltry poisoned dagger at stake and a
fortune that may be mythical or may be like that of Croesus, for all I
care, we could play the game according to rules," he exclaimed. "But
when you begin to tamper with a life like that of Inez de Mendoza--you
have passed the bounds of all consideration. You have the Star?
Telephone the story anyhow. We'll arbitrate afterward."

I think, as I related the facts to my editor, it sobered us all a great
deal.

"Kennedy," appealed Lockwood at last, as I hung up the receiver, "will
you listen to my story?"

"It is what I am here for," replied Craig grimly.

"Believe it or not, as far as I am concerned," asserted Lockwood, "this
is all news to me. My God--where is she?"

"Then how came you here?" demanded Craig.

"I can speak only for myself," hastened Lockwood. "If you had asked
where Whitney was, I could have understood, but--"

"Well, where is he?"

"We don't know. Early this afternoon I received a hurried message from
him--at least I suppose it was from him--that he had the dagger and was
up here. He said--I'll be perfectly frank--he said that he was
arranging a conference at which all of us were to be present to decide
what to do."

"Meanwhile I was to be kept away at any cost," supplied Kennedy
sarcastically. "Where did he get it?"

"He didn't say."

"And you didn't care, as long as he had it," added Craig, then, turning
to the de Moches, "And what is your tale?"

Senora de Moche did not lose her self-possession for an instant. "We
received the same message. When you called, I thought it would be best
for Alfonso to go alone, so I telephoned and caught him at the garage
and when my train arrived here, he was waiting."

"None of you have seen Whitney here?" asked Kennedy, to which all
nodded in the negative. "Well, you seem to agree pretty well in your
stories, anyhow. Let me take a chance with the servants."

It is no easy matter to go into another's household and without any
official position quiz and expect to get the truth out of the servants.
But Kennedy's very wrath seemed to awe them. They answered in spite of
themselves.

It seemed clear that as far as they went both guests and servants were
telling the truth. Whitney had made the run up from the city earlier in
the afternoon, had stayed only a short time, then had gone back,
leaving word that he would be there again before his guests arrived.

They all professed to be as mystified as ourselves now over the outcome
of the whole affair. He had not come back and there had been no word
from him.

"One thing is certain," remarked Craig, watching the faces before him
as he spoke. "Inez is gone. She has been spirited away without even
leaving a trace. Her maid Juanita told me that. Now if Whitney is gone,
too, it looks as if he had planned to double-cross the whole crowd of
you and leave you safely marooned up here with nothing left but your
common hatred of me. Much good may it do you."

Lockwood clenched his fists savagely, not at Kennedy but at the thought
that Craig had suggested. His face set itself in tense lines as he
swore vengeance on all jointly and severally if any harm came to Inez.
I almost forgot my suspicions of him in admiration.

"Nothing like this would ever have happened if she had stayed in Peru,"
exclaimed Alfonso bitterly. "Oh, why did her father ever bring her here
to this land of danger?"

The idea seemed novel to me to look on America as a lawless, uncultured
country, until I reflected on the usual Latin-American opinion of us as
barbarians.

Lockwood frowned but said nothing, for a time. Then he turned suddenly
to the Senora, "You were intimate enough with him," he said. "Did he
tell you any more than he told us?"

It was clear that Lockwood felt now that every man's hand was against
him.

I thought I could discover a suppressed gleam of satisfaction in her
wonderful eyes as she answered, "Nothing more. It was only that I
carried out what he asked me."

Could it be that she was taking a subtle delight in the turn of
events--the working out of a curse on the treasure-secret which the
fatal dagger bore? I could not say. But it would not have needed much
superstition to convince any one that the curse on the Gold of the Gods
was as genuine as any that had ever been uttered, as it heaped up crime
on crime.

We waited in silence, the more hopeless as the singing of the night
insects italicized our isolation from the organized instruments of man
for the righting of wrong. Here we were, each suspecting the other, in
the home of a man whom all mistrusted.

"There's no use sitting here doing nothing," exclaimed Lockwood in
whose mind was evidently the same thought, "not so long as we have the
telephone and the automobiles."

These, at least, were our last bonds with the great world that had
wrapped a dark night about a darker mystery.

"There are many miles of wire--many miles of road. Which way shall we
turn?"

Senora de Moche seemed to take a fiendish delight in the words as she
said them. It was as though she challenged our helplessness in the face
of a power that was greater than us all.

Lockwood flashed a look of suspicion in her direction. As for myself, I
had never been able to make the woman out. To-night she seemed like a
sort of dea ex machina, who sat apart, playing on the passions of a
group of puppet men whom she set against each other until all should be
involved in a common ruin.

It was impossible, in the silence of this far-off lonely place in the
country, not to feel the weirdness of it all.

Once I closed my eyes and was startled by the uncanny vividness of a
mind-picture that came unbidden. It was of a scrap of paper on which,
in rough capitals was printed:

BEWARE THE CURSE OF MANSICHE ON THE GOLD OF THE GODS.



XXIII

THE ACETYLENE TORCH


Do you suppose he really had the dagger, or was that a lie?" I asked,
with an effort shaking off the fateful feeling that had come over me as
if some one were casting a spell.

"There is one way to find out," returned Craig, as though glad of the
suggestion.

Though they hated him, they seemed forced to admit, for the time, his
leadership. He rose and the rest followed as he went into Whitney's
library.

He switched on the lights. There in a corner back of the desk stood a
safe. Somehow or other it seemed to defy us, even though its master was
gone. I looked at it a moment. It was a most powerful affair, companion
to that in the office of which Whitney was so proud, built of layer on
layer of chrome steel, with a door that was air tight and soup-proof,
bidding defiance to all yeggmen and petermen.

Lockwood fingered the combination hopelessly. There were some millions
of combinations and permutations that only a mathematician could
calculate. Only one was any good. That one was locked in the mind of
the man who now seemed to baffle us as did his strong-box.

I placed my hand on the cold, defiant surface. It would take hours to
drill a safe like that, and even then it might turn the points of the
drills. Explosives might sooner wreck the house and bring it down over
the head of the man who attacked this monster.

"What can we do?" asked Senora de Moche, seeming to mock us, as though
the safe itself were an inhuman thing that blocked our path.

"Do?" repeated Kennedy decisively, "I'll show you what we can do. If
Lockwood will drive me down to the railroad station in his car, I'll
show you something that looks like action. Will you do it?"

The request was more like a command. Lockwood said nothing, but moved
toward the porte-cochere, where he had left his car parked just aside
from the broad driveway.

"Walter, you will stay here," ordered Kennedy. "Let no one leave. If
any one comes, don't let him get away. We shan't be gone long."

I sat awkwardly enough, scarcely speaking a word, as Kennedy dashed
down to the railroad station. Neither Alfonso nor his mother betrayed
either by word or action a hint of what was passing in their minds.
Somehow, though I did not understand it, I felt that Lockwood might
square himself. But I could not help feeling that these two might very
possibly be at the bottom of almost anything.

It was with some relief that I heard the car approaching again. I had
no idea what Kennedy was after, whether it was dynamite or whether he
contemplated a trip to New York. I was surprised to see him, with
Lockwood, hurrying up the steps to the porch, each with a huge tank
studded with bolts like a boiler.

"There," ordered Craig, "set the oxygen there," as he placed his own
tank on the opposite side. "That watchman thought I was bluffing when I
said I'd get an order from the company, if I had to wake up the
president of the road. It was too good a chance to miss. One doesn't
find such a complete outfit ready to hand every day."

Out of the tanks stout tubes led, with stop-cocks and gauges at the
top. From a case under his arm Kennedy produced a curious arrangement
like a huge hook, with a curved neck and a sharp beak. Really it
consisted of two metal tubes which ran into a sort of cylinder, or
mixing chamber, above the nozzle, while parallel to them ran a third
separate tube with a second nozzle of its own.

Quickly he joined the ends of the tubes from the tanks to the metal
hook, the oxygen tank being joined to two of the tubes of the hook, and
the second tank being joined to the other. With a match he touched the
nozzle gingerly. Instantly a hissing, spitting noise followed, and an
intense, blinding needle of flame.

"Now we'll see what an oxyacetylene blow-pipe will do to you, old
stick-in-the-mud," cried Kennedy, as he advanced toward the safe,
addressing it as though it had been a thing of life that stood in his
way. "I think this will make short work of you."

Almost as he said it, the steel beneath the blow-pipe became
incandescent. For some time he laboured to get a starting-point for the
flame of the high-pressure torch.

It was a brilliant sight. The terrific heat from the first nozzle
caused the metal to glow under the torch as if in an open-hearth
furnace. From the second nozzle issued a stream of oxygen, under which
the hot metal of the door was completely consumed.

The force of the blast, as the compressed oxygen and acetylene were
expelled, carried a fine spray of the disintegrated metal visibly
before it. And yet it was not a big hole that it made--scarcely an
eighth of an inch wide, but clean and sharp as if a buzz-saw were
eating its way through a plank of white-pine.

With tense muscles Kennedy held this terrific engine of destruction and
moved it as easily as if it had been a mere pencil of light. He was the
calmest of all of us as we crowded about him, but at a respectful
distance.

"I suppose you know," he remarked hastily, never pausing for a moment
in his work, "that acetylene is composed of carbon and hydrogen. As it
burns at the end of the nozzle it is broken into carbon and
hydrogen--the carbon gives the high temperature and the hydrogen forms
a cone that protects the end of the blow-pipe from being itself burnt
up."

"But isn't it dangerous?" I asked, amazed at the skill with which he
handled the blow-pipe.

"Not particularly--when you know how to do it. In that tank is a porous
asbestos packing saturated with acetone, under pressure. Thus they
carry acetylene safely, for it is dissolved and the possibility of
explosion is minimized.

"This mixing chamber, by which I am holding the torch, where the oxygen
and acetylene mix, is also designed in such a way as to prevent a
flash-back. The best thing about this style of blow-pipe is the ease
with which it can be transported and the curious purposes--like
this--to which it can be put."

He paused a moment to test what had been burnt. The rest of the safe
seemed as firm as ever.

"Humph!" I heard one of them, I think it was Alfonso, mutter. I
resented it, but Kennedy affected not to hear.

"When I shut off the oxygen in this second jet," he resumed, "you see
the torch merely heats the steel. I can get a heat of approximately
sixty-three hundred degrees Fahrenheit, and the flame will exert a
pressure of fifty pounds to the square inch."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Lockwood, who had not heard the suppressed
disapproval of Alfonso, and was watching, in undisguised admiration at
the thing itself, regardless of consequences. "Kennedy, how did you
ever think of such a thing?"

"Why, it's used for welding, you know," answered Craig, as he continued
to work calmly in the growing excitement. "I first saw it in actual use
in mending a cracked cylinder in an automobile. The cylinder was
repaired without being taken out at all. I've seen it weld new teeth
and build up worn teeth on gearing, as good as new."

He paused to let us see the terrifically heated metal under the flame.

"You remember when we were talking to the watchman down there at the
station, Walter?" he asked. "I saw this thing in that complete little
shop of theirs. It interested me. See. I turn on the oxygen now in the
second nozzle. The blow-pipe is no longer an instrument for joining
metals together, but for cutting them asunder.

"The steel burns just as you, perhaps, have seen a watch-spring burn in
a jar of oxygen. Steel, hard or soft, tempered, annealed, chrome, or
Harveyized, it all burns just about as fast, and just about as easily
under this torch. And it's cheap, too. This attack--aside from what it
costs to the safe--may amount to a couple of dollars as far as the
blow-pipe is concerned--quite a difference from the thousands of
dollars' loss that would follow an attempt to blow a safe like this
one."

We had nothing to say. We stood in awe-struck amazement as the torch
slowly, inexorably traced a thin line along the edge of the combination.

Minute after minute sped by, as the line burned by the blow-pipe cut
around the lock. It seemed hours, but really it was minutes. I wondered
when he would have cut about the whole lock. He was cutting clear
through and around it, severing it as if with a superhuman knife.

With something more than half his work done, he paused a moment to rest.

"Walter," he directed, mopping his forehead, for it was real work
directing that flaming knife, "get New York on the wire. See if
O'Connor is at his office. If he has any report, I want to talk to him."

It was getting late and the service was slackening up. I had some
trouble, especially in getting a good connection, but at last I got
headquarters and was overjoyed to hear O'Connor's bluff, Irish voice
boom back at me.

"Hello, Jameson," he called. "Where on earth are you? I've been trying
to get hold of Kennedy for a couple of hours. Rockledge? Well, is
Kennedy there? Put him on, will you?"

I called Craig and, as I did so, my curiosity got the better of me and
I sought out an extension of the wire in a den across the hall from the
library, where I could listen in on what was said.

"Hello, O'Connor," answered Craig. "Anything from Burke yet?"

"Yes," came back the welcome news. "I think he has a clue. We found out
from here that she received a long distance message during the
afternoon. Where did Jameson say you were--Rockledge?--that's the
place. Of course we don't know what the message was, but anyhow she
went out to meet some one right after that. The time corresponds with
what the maid says."

"Anything else?" asked Craig. "Have you found any one who saw her?"

"Yes. I think she went over to your laboratory. But you were out."

"Confound it!" interrupted Craig.

"Some one saw a woman there."

"It wasn't the maid?"

"No, this was earlier--in the afternoon. She left and walked across the
campus to the Museum."

"Oh, by the way, any word of Norton?"

"I'm coming to that. She inquired for Norton. The curator has given a
good description. But he was out--hadn't been there for some time. She
seemed to be very much upset over something. She went away. After that
we've lost her."

"Not another trace?"

"Wait a minute. We had this Rockledge call to work on. So we started
backward on that. It was Whitney's place, I found out. We could locate
the car at the start and at the finish. He left the Prince Edward
Albert and went up there first. Then he must have come back to the city
again. No one at the hotel saw him the second time.

"What then?" hastened Craig.

"She may have met him somewhere, though it's not likely she had any
intention of going away. All the rest of those people you have up there
seem to have gone prepared. We got something on each of them. Also
you'll be interested to know I've got a report of your own doings. It
was right, Kennedy, I don't blame you. I'd have done the same with
Burke on the job. How are you making out? What? You're cracking a crib?
With what?"

O'Connor whistled as Kennedy related the story of the blow-pipe. "I
think you're on the right track," he commended. "There's nothing to
show it, but I believe Whitney told her something that changed her mind
about going up there. Probably met her in some tea room, although we
can't find anything from the tea rooms. Anyhow, Burke's out trailing
along the road from New York to Rockledge and I'm getting reports from
him whenever he hits a telephone."

"I wish you'd ask him to call me, here, if he gets anything."

"Sure I will. The last call was from the Chateau Rouge,--that's about
halfway. There was a car with a man and a woman who answers her
description. Then, there was another car, too."

"Another car?"

"Yes--that's where Norton crosses the trail again. We searched his
apartment. It was upset--like Whitney's. I haven't finished with that.
But we have a list of all the private hacking places. I've located one
that hired a car to a man answering Norton's description. I think he's
on the trail. That's what I meant by another car."

"What's he doing?"

"Maybe he has a hunch. I'm getting superstitious about this case. You
know Luis de Mendoza has thirteen letters in it. Leslie told me
something about a threat he had--a curse. You better look out for those
two greasers you have up there. They may have another knife for you."

Kennedy glanced over at the de Moches, not in fear but in amusement at
what they would think if they could hear O'Connor's uncultured opinion.

"All right, O'Connor," said Craig, "everything seems to be going as
well as we can expect. Don't forget to tell Burke I'm here."

"I won't. Just a minute. He's on another wire for me."

Kennedy waited impatiently. He wanted to finish his job on the safe
before some one came walking in and stopped it, yet there was always a
chance that Burke might turn up something.

"Hello," called O'Connor a few minutes later. "He's still following the
two cars. He thinks the one with the woman in it is Whitney's, all
right. But they've got off the main road. They must think they're being
followed.

"Or else have changed their destination," returned Craig. "Tell him
that. Maybe Whitney had no intention of coming up here. He may have
done this thing just to throw these people off up here, too. I can't
say. I can tell better whether he intended to come back after I've got
this safe open. I'll let you know."

Kennedy rang off.

"Any news of Inez?" asked Lockwood who had been fuming with impatience.

"She's probably on her way up here," returned Craig briefly, taking up
the blow-pipe again.

Alfonso remained silent. The Senora could scarcely hide her excitement.
If there were anything in telepathy, I am sure that she read everything
that was said over the wire.

Quickly Craig resumed his work, biting through the solid steel as if it
had been mere pasteboard, the blow-pipe showering on each side a
brilliant spray of sparks, a gaudy, pyrotechnic display.

Suddenly, with a quick motion, Kennedy turned off the acetylene and
oxygen. The last bolt had been severed, the lock was useless. A gentle
push of the hand, and he swung the once impregnable door on its
delicately poised hinges as easily as if he had merely said, "Open
sesame."

Craig reached in and pulled open a steel drawer directly in front of
him.

There in the shadow lay the dagger--with its incalculably valuable
secret, a poor, unattractive piece of metal, but with a fascination
such as no other object, I had ever seen, possessed.

There was a sudden cry. The Senora had darted ahead, as if to clasp its
handle and unloose the murderous blade that nestled in its three-sided
sheath.

Before she could reach it, Kennedy had seized her hand in his iron
grasp, while with the other he picked up the dagger.

They stood there gazing into each other's eyes.

Then the Senora burst into a hysterical laugh.

"The curse is on all who possess it!"

"Thank you," smiled Kennedy quietly, releasing her wrist as he dropped
the dagger into his pocket, "I am only the trustee."



XXIV

THE POLICE DOG


Craig faced us, but there was no air of triumph in his manner. I knew
what was in his mind. He had the dagger. But he had lost Inez.

What were we to do? There seemed to be no way to turn. We knew
something of the manner of her disappearance. At first she had,
apparently, gone willingly. But it was inconceivable that she stayed
willingly, now.

I recalled all the remarks that Whitney had ever made about her. Had
the truth come out in his jests? Was it Inez, not the dagger, that he
really wanted?

Or was he merely the instrument of one or all of these people before
us, and was this an elaborate plan to throw Kennedy off and prove an
alibi for them? He had been the partner of Lockwood, the intimate of de
Moche. Which was he working for, now--or was he working for himself
alone?

No answer came to my questions, and I reflected that none would ever
come, if we sat here. Yet there seemed to be no way to turn, without
risking putting ourselves in a worse position than before. At least,
until we had some better plan of campaign, we occupied a strategic
advantage in Whitney's own house.

The hours of the night wore on. Midnight came. This inaction was
killing. Anything would be better than that.

Suddenly the telephone startled us. We had wanted it to ring, yet when
it rang we were afraid of it. What was its message? It was with
palpitating hearts that we listened, while Craig answered.

"Yes, Burke," we heard him reply, "this is Kennedy."

There came a pause during which we could scarcely wait.

"Where are you now? Cold Stream. That is about twelve miles from
Rockledge--not on the New York road--the other road. I see. All right.
We'll be there. Yes, wait for us."

As Craig hung up the receiver, we crowded forward. "Have they found
her?" asked Lockwood hoarsely.

"It was from Burke," replied Kennedy deliberately. "He is at a place
called Cold Stream, twelve miles from here. He tells me that we can
find it easily--on a state road, at a sharp curve that has been widened
out, just this side of the town. There has been an accident--Whitney's
car is wrecked."

Lockwood seized his elbow. "My God," he exclaimed, "tell me--she
isn't--hurt, is she? Quick!"

"So far Burke has not been able to discover a trace of a thing, except
the wrecked car," replied Kennedy. "I told him I would be over
directly. Lockwood, you may take Jameson and Alfonso. I will go with
the Senora and their driver."

I saw instantly why he had divided the party. Neither mother nor son
was to have a chance to slip away from us. Surely both Lockwood and I
should be a match for Alfonso. Senora de Moche he would trust to none
but himself.

Eagerly now we prepared for the journey, late though it was. No one now
had a thought of rest. There could be no rest with that mystery of Inez
challenging us.

We were off at last, Lockwood's car leading, for although he did not
know the roads exactly, he had driven much about the country. I should
have liked to have sat in front with him, but it seemed safer to stay
in the back with Alfonso. In fact, I don't think Lockwood would have
consented, otherwise, to have his rival back of him.

Kennedy and the Senora made a strange pair, the ancient order and the
ultra-modern. There was a peculiar light in her eyes that gleamed forth
at the mere mention of the words, "wreck." Though she said nothing, I
knew that through her mind was running the one tenacious thought. It
was the working out of the curse! As for Craig, he was always seeking
the plausible, natural reason for what to the rest of us was
inexplicable, often supernatural. To him she was a fascinating study.

On we sped, for Lockwood was a good driver and now was spurred on by an
anxiety that he could not conceal. Yet his hand never faltered at the
wheel. He seemed to read the signs at the cross-roads without
slackening speed. In spite of all that I knew, I found myself compelled
to admire him. Alfonso sat back, for the most part silent. The
melancholy in his face seemed to have deepened. He seemed to feel that
he was but a toy in the hands of fate. Yet I knew that underneath must
smoulder the embers of a bitter resentment.

It seemed an interminable ride even at the speed which we were making.
Twelve miles in the blackness of a country night can seem like a
hundred.

At last as we turned a curve, and Lockwood's headlights shone on the
white fence that skirted the outer edge of the road as it swung around
a hill that rose sharply to our left and dropped off in a sort of
ravine at the right beyond the fence, I felt the car tremble as he put
on the brakes.

A man was waving his arms for us to stop, and as we did, he ran
forward. He peered in at us and I recognized Burke.

"Whe-where's Kennedy?" he asked, disappointed, for the moment fearing
he had made a mistake and signalled the wrong car.

"Coming," I replied, as we heard the driver of the other car sounding
his horn furiously as he approached the curve.

Burke jumped to the safe side of the road and ran on back to signal to
stop. It was then for the first time that I paid particular attention
to the fence ahead of us on which now both our own and the lights of
the other car shone. At one point it was torn and splintered, as though
something had gone through it.

"Great heavens, you don't mean to say that they went over that?"
muttered Lockwood, jumping down and running forward.

Kennedy had joined us by this time and we all hurried over. Down in the
ravine we could see a lantern which Burke had brought and which was now
resting on the overturned chassis of the car.

Lockwood was down there ahead of us all, peering under the heavy body
fearfully, as if he expected to see two forms of mangled flesh. He
straightened up, then took the lantern and flashed it about. There was
nothing except cushions and a few parts of the car within the radius of
its gleam.

"Where are they?" he demanded, turning to us. "It's Whitney's car, all
right."

Burke shook his head. "I've traced the car so far. They were getting
ahead of me, when this happened."

Together we managed to right the car which was on a hillock. It sank a
little further down the hill, but at least we could look inside it.

"Bring the lantern," ordered Kennedy.

Minutely, part by part, he went over the car. "Something went wrong,"
he muttered. "It is too much wrecked to tell what it was. Flash the
light over here," he directed, stepping over the seat into the back of
the tonneau.

A moment later he took the light himself and held it close to the rods
that supported the top. I saw him reach down and pull from them a few
strands of dark hair that had caught between the rods and had been
pulled out or broken.

"No need of Bertillon's palette of human hair to identify that," he
exclaimed. "There isn't time to study it and if there were it would be
unnecessary. She was with him, all right."

"Yes," agreed Lockwood. "But where is she now--where is he? Could they
have been hurt, picked up by some one and carried where they could get
aid?"

Burke shook his head. "I inquired at the nearest house ahead. I had to
do it in order to telephone. They knew nothing."

"But they are gone," persisted Lockwood. "There is the bottom of the
bank. You can see that they are not here."

Kennedy had taken the light and climbed the bank again and was now
going over the road as minutely as if he were searching for a lost
diamond.

"Look!" he exclaimed.

Where the Whitney car had skidded and gone over the bank, the tires had
dug deep into the top dressing, making little mounds. Across them now
we could see the tracks of other tires that had pressed down the mounds.

"Some one else has been here," reconstructed Kennedy. "He passed, then
stopped and backed up. Perhaps they were thrown out, unconscious, and
he picked them up."

It seemed to be the only reasonable supposition.

"But they knew nothing at the next house," persisted Burke.

"Is there a road leading off before you get to the house?" asked
Kennedy.

"Yes--it crosses the line into Massachusetts."

"It is worth trying--it is the only thing we can do," decided Kennedy.
"Drive slowly to the crossroads. Perhaps we can pick out the
tire-prints there. They certainly won't show on the road itself. It is
too hard."

At the crossing we stopped and Kennedy dropped down on his hands and
knees again with the light.

"There it is," he exclaimed. "The same make of anti-skid tire, at
least. There was a cut in the rear tire--just like this. See? It is the
finger-print of the motor car. I think we are right. Turn up here and
run slowly."

On we went slowly, Kennedy riding on the running-board of the car
ahead. Suddenly he raised his hand to stop, and jumped down.

We gathered about him. Had he found a continuation of the tire-tracks?
There were tracks but he was not looking at them. He was looking
between them. There ran a thin line.

He stuck his finger in it and sniffed. "Not gas," he remarked. "It must
have been the radiator, leaking. Perhaps he ran his car into
Whitney's--forced it too far to the edge of the road. We can't tell.
But he couldn't have gone far with that leak without finding water--or
cracked cylinders."

With redoubled interest now we resumed the chase. We had mounted a hill
and had run down into the shadows of a valley when, following in the
second car, we heard a shout from Kennedy in the first.

Halfway up the hill across the valley, he had come upon an abandoned
car. It had evidently reached its limit, the momentum of the previous
hill had carried it so far up the other, then the driver had stopped it
and let it back slowly off the road into a clump of bushes that hid a
little gully.

But that was all. There was not a sign of a person about. Whatever had
happened here had happened some hours before. We looked about. All was
Cimmerian darkness. Not a house or habitation of man or beast was in
sight, though they might not be far away.

We beat about the under-brush, but succeeded in stirring up nothing but
mosquitoes.

What were we to do? We were wasting valuable time. Where should we go?

"I doubt whether they would have kept on the road," reasoned Kennedy.
"They must have known they would be followed. The hardest place to
follow them would be across country."

"With a lantern?" I objected. "We can't do it."

Kennedy glanced at his watch. "It will be three hours before there is
light enough to see anything by," he considered. "They have had at
least a couple of hours. Five hours is too good a start. Burke--take
one of the cars. Go ahead along the road. We mustn't neglect that. I'll
take the other. I want to get back to that house and call O' Connor.
Walter, you stay here with the rest."

We separated and I felt that, although I was doing nothing, I had my
hands full watching these three.

Lockwood was restless and could not help beating around in the
under-brush, in the hope of turning up something. Now and then he would
mutter to himself some threat if anything happened to Inez. I let him
occupy himself, for our own, as much as his, peace of mind. Alfonso had
joined his mother in the car and they sat there conversing in low tones
in Spanish, while I watched them furtively.

Of a sudden, I became aware that I missed the sound of Lockwood beating
about the under-brush. I called, but there was no answer. Then we all
called. There came back nothing but a mocking echo. I could not follow
him. If I did, I would lose the de Moches.

Had he been laying low, waiting his opportunity to get away? Or was he
playing a lone hand? Much as I suspected about him, during the past few
hours I had come to admire him.

I sent the de Moche driver out to look for him, but he seemed afraid to
venture far, and, of course, returned and said that he could not find
him. Even in his getaway, Lockwood had been characteristic. He had been
strong enough to bide his time, clever enough to throw every one off
guard. It put a new aspect on the case for me. Had Whitney intended the
capture of Inez for Lockwood? Had our coming so unexpectedly into the
case thrown the plans awry and was it the purpose to leave them
marooned at Rockledge while we were shunted off in the city? That, too,
was plausible. I wished Kennedy would return before anything else
happened.

It was not long by the clock before Kennedy did return. But it seemed
ages to me.

He was not alone. With him was a man in a uniform, and a powerful dog,
for all the world like a huge wolf.

"Down, Searchlight," he ordered, as the dog began to show an uncanny
interest in me. "Let me introduce my new dog detective," he chuckled.
"She has a wonderful record as a police dog. I got O'Connor out of bed
and he telephoned out to the nearest suburban station. That saved a
good deal of time in getting her up here."

I mustered up courage to tell Kennedy of the defection of Lockwood. He
did not seem to mind it especially.

"He won't get far, with the dog after him, if we want to take the
time," he said. "She's a German sheep dog, a Schaeferhund."

Searchlight seemed to have many of the characteristics of the wild,
prehistoric animal, among them the full, upright ears of the wild dog,
which are such a great help to it. She was a fine, alert, upstanding
dog, hardy, fierce, and literally untiring, of a tawny light brown like
a lioness, about the same size and somewhat of the type of the
smooth-coated collie, broad of chest and with a full brush of tail.
Untamed as she seemed, she was perfectly under Kennedy's control and
rendered him absolute and unreasoning obedience.

They took her over to the abandoned car. There they let her get a good
whiff of the bottom of the car about the driver's feet, and a moment
later she started off.

Alfonso and his mother insisted on going with us and that made our
progress across country slow.

On we went over the rough country, through a field, then skirting a
clump of woods until at last we came to a lane.

We stopped in the shadow of a thicket. There was an empty summer home.
Was there some intruder there? Was it really empty?

Now and then we could hear Searchlight scouting about in the
under-brush, crouching and hiding, watching and guarding. We paused and
waited in the heavily-laden night air, wondering. The soughing of the
night wind in the evergreens was mournful. Did it betoken a further
tragedy?

There was a slight noise from the other side of the house. Craig
reached out and drew us back into the shadow of the thicket, deeper.

"Some one is prowling about, I think. Leave it to the dog."

Searchlight, who had been near us, was sniffing eagerly. From our
hiding-place we could just see her. She had heard the sounds, too, even
before we had, and for an instant stood with every muscle tense.

Then, like an arrow, she darted into the underbrush. An instant later,
the sharp crack of a revolver rang out. Searchlight kept right on,
never stopping a second, except, perhaps, in surprise.

"Crack!" almost in her face came a second spit of fire in the darkness,
and a bullet crashed through the leaves and buried itself in a tree
with a ping. The intruder's marksmanship was poor, but the dog paid no
attention to it.

"One of the few animals that show no fear of gun-fire," muttered
Kennedy, in undisguised admiration.

"G-r-r-r," we heard from the police dog.

"She has made a leap at the hand that holds the gun," cried Kennedy,
now rising and moving rapidly in the same direction. "She has been
taught that a man once badly bitten in the hand is nearly out of the
fight."

We followed also. As we approached we were just in time to see
Searchlight running in and out between the legs of a man who had heard
us approach and was hastily making tracks away. As he tripped, the
officer who brought her blew shrilly on a police whistle just in time
to stop a fierce lunge at his back.

Reluctantly, Searchlight let go. One could see that with all her canine
instinct she wanted to "get" that man. Her jaws were open, as, with
longing eyes, she stood over the prostrate form in the grass. The
whistle was a signal, and she had been taught to obey unquestioningly.

"Don't move until we get to you, or you are a dead man," shouted
Kennedy, pulling an automatic as he ran. "Are you hurt?"

There was no answer, but, as we approached, the man moved, ever so
little, through curiosity to see his pursuers.

Searchlight shot forward. Again the whistle sounded and she dropped
back. We bent over to seize him, as Kennedy secured the dog.

"She's a devil," ground out the prone figure on the grass.

"Lockwood!" exclaimed Kennedy.



XXV

THE GOLD OF THE GODS


"What are you doing here?" demanded Craig, astonished.

"I couldn't wait for you to get back. I thought I'd do a little
detective work on my own account. I kept getting further and further
away, knew you'd find me, anyhow. But I didn't think you'd have a brute
like that," he added, binding up his hand ruefully. "Is there any trace
of Inez?"

"Not yet. Why did you pick out this house?" asked Kennedy, still
suspicious.

"I saw a light here, I thought," answered Lockwood frankly. "But as I
approached, it went out. Maybe I imagined it."

"Let us see."

Kennedy spoke a few words to the man with the dog. He slipped the
leash, with a word that we did not catch, and the dog bounded off,
around the house, as she was accustomed to do when out on duty with an
officer in the city suburbs, circling about the backs of houses as the
man on the beat walked the street. She made noise enough about it, too,
tumbling over a tin pail that had been standing on the back porch steps.

"Bang!"

Some one was in the house and was armed. In the darkness he had not
been able to tell whether an attack was being made or not, but had
taken no chances. At any rate, now we knew that he was desperate.

I thought of all the methods Kennedy had adopted to get into houses in
which the inmates were desperate. But always they had been about the
city where he could call upon the seemingly exhaustless store of
apparatus in his laboratory. Here we were faced by the proposition with
nothing to rely on but our native wit and a couple of guns.

Besides, I did not know whether to count on Lockwood as an ally or not.
My estimation of him had been rising and falling like the barometer in
a summer shower. I had been convinced that he was against us. But his
manner and plausibility now equally convinced me that I had been
mistaken. I felt that it would take some supreme action on his part to
settle the question. That crisis was coming now.

I think all of us would willingly have pushed Alfonso forward. But the
relations of the de Moches with Whitney had been so close that I no
more trusted him than I did Lockwood. And if I could not make out
Lockwood, a man at least of our own race and education, how could I
expect to fathom Alfonso?

It seemed, then, to rest with Kennedy and myself. At least so Craig
appraised the situation.

"You have a gun, Walter," he directed, "Lockwood, give yours to
Jameson."

Lockwood hesitated. Could he trust being unarmed, while Kennedy and I
had all the weapons?

Craig had not stopped to ask Alfonso. As he laid out the attack he
merely tapped the young man's pockets to see whether he was armed or
not, and finding nothing faced us again, Lockwood still hesitating.

"I want Walter," explained Craig, "to go around back of the house. It
is there they must be expecting an attack. He can take up his position
behind that oak. It will be safe enough. By firing one gun on each side
of the tree he can make enough noise for half a dozen. Then you and I
can rush the front of the house."

Lockwood had nothing better to suggest. Reluctantly he handed over his
revolver.

I dropped back from them and skirted the house at a safe distance so as
not to be seen, then came up back of the tree.

Carefully I aimed at the glass of a window on the first floor, as
offering the greatest opportunity for making a racket, which was the
object I had in mind.

I fired from the right and the glass was shattered in a thousand bits.
Another shot from the left broke the light out of another window on the
opposite side.

The house was a sort of bungalow, with most of the rooms on the first
floor, and a small second story or attic window. That went next.
Altogether I felt that I was giving a splendid account of myself.

From the house came a rapid volley in reply. Whoever was in there was
not going to surrender without a fight. One after another I plugged
away with my shots, now bent on making the most of them. With the
answering shots it made quite a merry little fusillade, and I was glad
enough to have the shelter of the staunch oak which two or three times
was hit squarely at about the level of my shoulders. I had never before
heard the whirr of so many bullets about me, and I cannot say that I
enjoyed it.

But my attack was what Craig wanted. I heard a noise in the front of
the house, as of feet running, and then I knew that in spite of all he
had given me the least dangerous part of the attack.

I plugged away valiantly with what shots I had left, then leaving just
one more in the chamber of each gun, I hurried around in the shadow, my
blood up, to help them.

With the aid of the officer, they had just forced the light door and
Searchlight had been allowed to leap in ahead of them, as I came up.

"Here," I said to Lockwood, handing him back his gun, "take it, there
is just one shot left."

I, at least, had expected to find one, perhaps two desperate men
waiting for us. Evidently our ruse had worked. The room was dark, but
there seemed to be no one in it, though we could hear sounds as though
some one were hastily barricading the door that led from the front to
the room at which I had been firing.

Lockwood struck a match.

"Confound it, don't!" muttered Craig, knocking it from his hand. "They
can see us well enough without helping them."

"Chester!"

We stood transfixed. It was a woman's voice. Where did it come from?
Could she be in the room?

"Chester--is that you?"

"Yes, Inez. Where are you?"

"I ran up here--in this attic--when I heard the shots."

"Come down, then. All is right, now."

She came down a half ladder, half flight of steps. At the foot she
paused just a moment and hesitated. Then, like a frightened bird, she
flew to the safety of Lockwood's arms.

"Mr. Whitney," she sobbed, "called me up and told me that he had
something very important to say, a message from you. He said that he
had the dagger, in his safe, up in the country. He told me you'd be
there and that you expected me to come up with him in his car. I went.
We had some trouble with the engine. And then that other car--the one
that followed us, came up behind and forced us off the bank. Mr.
Whitney and I were both stunned. I don't remember a thing after that,
until I woke up here. Where is it?"

I listened, with one eye on that door that had been barricaded. Was
Lockwood really innocent, after all? I could not think that Inez
Mendoza could make such a mistake, if he were not.

Lockwood clenched his fists. "Some one shall pay for this," he
exclaimed.

There was the problem--the inner room. Who would go in? We looked at
each other a moment.

The room in which we were was a living room, and perhaps, when there
were visitors in the little house, was a guest-room. At any rate, on
one side was a huge davenport by day which could be transformed into a
folding bed at night.

Lockwood looked about hastily and his eye fell on the door, then on
this folding bed.

With a wrench, he opened it and seized the cotton mattress from the
inside. With his gun ready he advanced toward the barricaded door,
holding the mattress as a shield, for his experience in wild countries
had taught him that a cotton mattress is about as good a thing to stop
bullets as one could find on the spur of the moment.

Kennedy and the officer followed just behind, and the three threw their
weights on the door almost before we knew what they were about.

"Chester--don't!" cried Inez in alarm, too late. "He'll--kill you!"

The excitement had been too much for her. She reeled, fainting, and I
caught her.

Before I could restore the davenport to something like its original
condition so that we could take care of her, the first onslaught was
over.

Three guns were sticking their blue noses into the darkness of the next
room.

"Hands up!" shouted Craig, "Drop your gun! Let me hear it fall!"

There followed a thud and Kennedy, followed by Lockwood and the officer
entered.

As they fumbled to strike a light, I managed to open a window and let
in some fresh air, while the Senora, for once human, loosened the
throat of Inez' dress and fanned her.

Through the open door, now, I could hear what was going on in the next
room, but could not see.

"It was you, Lockwood," I heard a familiar voice accusing, "who was in
the Museum the night the dagger disappeared."

"Yes," replied Lockwood, a bit disdainfully. "I suspected something
crooked about that dagger. I thought that if I made a copy of the
inscription on the blade, I might decipher it myself, or get some one
to do it for me. I went in and, when a chance came, I hid in the
sarcophagus. There I waited until the Museum was closed. Then, when
finally I got to the place where I thought the dagger was--it was gone!"

"The point is," cut in Craig, interrupting, "who was the mysterious
visitor to Mendoza the night of his murder?"

He paused. No one seemed to be disposed to answer and he went on, "Who
else than the man who sought to sell the secret on its blade, in return
for Inez for whom he had a secret passion? I have reasoned it all
out--the offer, the quarrel, the stabbing with the dagger itself, and
the escape down the stairs, instead of by the elevator."

"And I," put in Lockwood, "coming to report to Mendoza my failure to
find the dagger, found him dead--and at once was suspected of being the
murderer!"

Inez had revived and her quick ears had caught her lover's voice and
the last words.

Weak as she was, she sprang up and fairly ran into the next room.
"No--Chester--No!" she cried. "I never suspected--not even when I saw
the shoe-prints. No--that is the man,--there--I know it--I know it!"

I hurried after her, as she flung herself again between Lockwood and
the rest of us, as if to shield him, while Lockwood proudly caressed
the stray locks of dark hair that fluttered on his shoulder.

I looked in the direction all were looking.

Before us stood, unmasked at last, the scientific villain who had been
plotting and scheming to capture both the secret and Inez--well knowing
that suspicion would rest either on Lockwood, the soldier of fortune,
or on the jealous Indian woman whose son had been rejected and whose
brother he had himself already, secretly, driven to an insane suicide
in his unscrupulous search for the treasure of Truxillo.

It was Professor Norton, himself--first thief of the dagger which later
he had hidden but which Whitney's detectives had stolen in turn from
him; writer of anonymous letters, even to himself to throw others off
the trail; maker of stramonium cigarettes with which to confuse the
minds of his opponents, Whitney, Mendoza, and the rest; secret lover of
Inez whom he demanded as the price of the dagger; and murderer of Don
Luis.

Senora de Moche and Alfonso, behind me, could only gasp their
astonishment. Much as she would have liked to have the affair end in a
general vindication of the curse she could not control a single,
triumphant thrust.

"His blood," she cried, transfixing Norton with her stern eyes, "has
cried out of Titicaca for vengeance from that day to this!"

"Want any help?"

We all turned toward the door as Burke, dust-covered and tired, stamped
in, followed by a man whose face was bandaged and bloody.

"I heard shots. Is it all over?"

But we paid no attention to Burke.

There was Whitney, considerably banged up by the fall, but lucky to be
alive.

"I tried to shake him," he explained, catching sight of Norton. "But he
stuck to us, even on our detours. Finally he grew desperate--forced my
car off the road. What happened after that, I don't know. He must have
carried me some miles, insensible, and dumped me in the bushes again. I
was several miles up the hill, tramping along, looking for a
road-house, when this gentleman found me and said I had gone too far."

Senora de Moche turned from Lockwood and Inez who were standing,
oblivious to the rest of us, and stared at Whitney's bruised and
battered face.

"It is the curse," she muttered. "It will never--"

"Just a moment," interrupted Craig, drawing the dagger from his pocket,
and turning toward Inez. "It was to your ancestor that the original
possessor of the secret promised to give the 'big fish,' when he was
killed."

He paused and handed the dagger to her. She touched it shuddering, but
as though it were a duty.

"Take it," he said simply. "The secret is yours. Only love can destroy
the curse on the Gold of the Gods."

THE END





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