The slight sound occasioned by the closing of his bedroom window was drowned in Miller's cheery whistle as he emerged from the bathroom. Refreshed and invigorated by his bath, he switched off the lights and climbed into bed.
The sunlight was streaming in the windows when he awoke, and it was a full minute before his sleepy senses grasped the fact that someone was pounding on the hall door. Hastily donning his bathrobe, he turned the key and opened the door. Henry, the Whitneys' chauffeur, was standing on the threshold.
"May I have a word with you, sir?" he asked.
"Certainly, come in," and Miller, conscious of his neglige attire and that two pretty women were passing down the hall, precipitously retreated into his bedroom. "Shut the door after you." He waited until his order had been followed, then demanded impetuously: "How is Miss Kathleen?"
"Thank God!" The fervid exclamation escaped him unwittingly, and a faint tinge of red stained his cheeks as he met Henry's attentive regard. "Did you give her my note?"
"I sent it to her by the nurse, sir; Miss Kathleen still keeps her room," said Henry respectfully. "Vincent tells me that she refused even to see her mother and father."
"Have you an answer for me?" as the servant paused.
"The nurse came to the kitchen and gave me these"—pulling a letter and package out of his pocket—"to deliver personally to you, sir; Miss Kathleen asked to have them sent at once."
Taking them Miller examined the addresses; the note was the one he had written Kathleen, and the package bore the label of a prominent jeweler, upon which was written Kathleen's full name in Miller's handwriting. Both were unopened. Miller placed them in his pocket with unmoved face.
"Why did you not deliver them to me last night?" he asked curtly.
"I started to, sir, but seeing you walking with Baron von Fincke down Massachusetts Avenue, sir, I...." Henry's eyes wavered and fell before Miller's scrutiny.
"Followed me?" prompted the latter, bending forward.
"Only a little way"—quickly. "I did not like to intrude, sir, and by following hoped to get a chance to give you Miss Kathleen's package and note. I lost sight of you at Thomas Circle, sir, and went home. That is the gospel truth, sir, as sure as my name is—Heinrich."
Miller viewed the chauffeur in silence. "So!" he exclaimed, and a pleased smile brightened his face. "Naturalized, or born in this country?"
"Born here, sir, of naturalized parents." The chauffeur twisted his cap nervously. "German-American, sir."
"There is no such thing, Heinrich." Miller's voice deepened. "The hyphen cannot be recognized. You are either American or German."
The chauffeur straightened himself, and his heels clicked together as he raised his hand in salute.
"Hoch der Kaiser!"
The words were echoed by Miller as he sprang forward and grasped the chauffeur's hand. "For the Fatherland!" he added in German. "Why have you not declared yourself before?"
"Until last night, Herr Captain, I was not absolutely sure you were one of us. But later in the evening Baron von Fincke...."
"Stood sponsor for me," finished Miller, thrusting his hand in his pajama pocket, and thereby pushing an envelope still deeper in it. "What have you to report? Wait, speak English; the walls have ears."
The chauffeur whitened and moved closer to Miller. "Was Mr. Spencer in your confidence?"
"And the Baron did not trust him," said Heinrich, reflectively. "If he was not one of us, how came he to be killed?"
"God knows." Miller threw out his hands in a hopeless gesture. "I don't."
"But there must be some motive for the crime," argued the chauffeur. "Miss Kathleen must have suspected something before taking ..." Powerful hands on his throat choked his utterance.
"Never mention Miss Kathleen's name in that connection again," commanded Miller, his voice low and stern. "You hear me, you dog!" and he shook Heinrich until his teeth rattled, then released him.
"Pardon," gasped the badly frightened man. "I meant no offense."
"See that you follow my instructions hereafter."
"Yes, sir"—Heinrich caressed his throat tenderly, and looked at Miller with a new respect. "I was only going to mention, sir, that Mr. Spencer meddled in what did not concern him. I believe he suspected what I have come to believe."
"And what is that?"
"That this photography business is only a blind."
"A blind?" Miller looked thoughtfully at his companion. "Suppose you pull up a chair; wait, first hang your cap over the keyhole of the hall door." While waiting for Heinrich to follow his instructions Miller seated himself. "A blind?" he repeated. "No, no, Heinrich, you are mistaken; Mr. Whitney has invented a very perfect aeroplane camera, of that I am thoroughly convinced. And our country needs it...."
"Undoubtedly, sir," Heinrich almost stuttered in his growing excitement. "But he has invented something that we need more...."
"What is that?"
"I don't know, sir."
Miller, who had been leaning forward in his eagerness, drew back. "Don't waste my time, Heinrich," he said roughly.
"Your time won't be wasted," protested the German. "Have patience and let me explain. I cannot manage this affair alone, I need assistance—and —you are a frequent caller at the Whitney house...."
"Well, what then?"
"Mr. Whitney may be persuaded to take you to his studio ..." the chauffeur hesitated.
"Proceed," directed Miller shortly. "You can count on me."
"Good," the chauffeur hitched his chair closer. "Day before yesterday I carried a telegram up to the studio. Not hearing any sound in the room, I carefully turned the knob of the door and found it unlocked. For months I have tried that door, hoping for just such luck," he interpolated. "Opening it very softly, I saw Mr. Whitney standing with his back to me, and facing the muzzle of a rifle. I had only time to note that the rifle was braced on two iron brackets and that Mr. Whitney was holding a string which was attached to the trigger; when I saw a flash, the rifle's recoil—and Mr. Whitney still standing just where he was."
Miller stared incredulously at Heinrich, down whose face sweat was running; the man was obviously telling the truth—at least, what he believed to be the truth.
"Wake up, Heinrich," he said skeptically, and the chauffeur flushed hotly.
"It's God's truth I'm telling you," he declared solemnly. "For the sake of the Fatherland, believe me."
"I will," and Miller's fist came softly down on his desk. "Did you hear no report?"
"None; there was a Maxim silencer on the rifle." "I see—and blank cartridges in the breech." "That is what I first thought on seeing Mr. Whitney still standing," admitted Heinrich. "I believed he was trying to commit suicide. Then I heard him exclaim: 'God be thanked! I've solved the problem; it stood the test.'"
"Hardly a suicide's speech." Miller stared at Heinrich. "Probably he was testing the Maxim silencer."
"No, Herr Captain." The chauffeur almost jumbled his words over each other in his haste. "An instant after the flash, I saw Mr. Whitney sway upon his feet, recover his balance, and stand upright."
"The blast of powder must have caused that."
"He was fully the length of the room from the muzzle of the rifle. There were no powder marks on his vest and coat when he opened the door in response to my knock a few minutes later. You see, Herr Captain, as soon as I got back my wits, I closed the door. When Mr. Whitney pulled out his gold pencil from his vest pocket to sign for the telegram I heard something drop on the floor, and letting the receipt slip fall, I stooped over and picked up with it—this—" and he laid on the desk a Mauser bullet.
Miller examined it curiously. His companion was the first to break the silence. "It is flattened on one side, Herr Captain."
"I see it is." Miller weighed the bullet in his hand. "You have something more to tell me, Heinrich; out with it."
"Yes, Herr Captain. That night I bribed Vincent to let me valet Mr. Whitney, and I found the vest he wore that afternoon. In it, over the heart, was a round hole."
"Did the bullet fit it?"
"Exactly." There was a protracted silence, which the chauffeur broke with a question. "What do you make out of it, sir?"
Miller did not answer directly. "Was Mr. Whitney wearing his ordinary business suit?" he inquired.
"Yes, Herr Captain."
"You are sure he wore nothing over it?"
Miller handed back the bullet. "It rather looks as if Mr. Whitney has invented some wearing apparel which Mauser bullets cannot penetrate," he said slowly, "or else...."
"Yes, Herr Captain."
"You are a great liar."
AT THE MORGUE
Shortly before three o'clock on that same afternoon in which Heinrich had confided in Miller, dashing turnouts and limousines, their smartly liveried coachmen and chauffeurs asking now and then the direction from street-crossing policeman, trotted and tooted their way down busy Seventh Street toward the wharves, their destination a modest two-storied stuccoed building bearing the words, "D. C. Morgue." The inquest on Sinclair Spencer was to be held there at three o'clock.
Spencer's tragic death twenty-four hours before had indeed created a sensation in the nation's Capital. The wildest rumors were afloat. Was it deliberate murder or suicide? The press, ever keen to scent sensational news, had devoted much space to the little known facts and hinted at even more startling developments; all of which but whetted the curiosity of the public. The social prominence of the Whitneys had precipitated them still further into the limelight; not often did the smart set have so choice a titbit to discuss, and gossip ran riot. It had few facts to thrive upon, as both the coroner and the police refused to give out the slightest detail.
"Good gracious!" ejaculated Miss Kiametia, as the touring car in which she and Senator Foster were riding threaded its tooting way through the many vehicles. "This street resembles Connecticut Avenue on Saturday afternoon. Where is the morgue?"
"Right here," and Foster sprang out of the car with alacrity as it drew up to the curb. He had been, for his cheery temperament, singularly morose, and Miss Kiametia's attempt to make conversation during their ride had failed. The spinster's talkativeness was a sure indication that her nerves were on edge; she usually kept guard upon her tongue.
"Do you suppose the Whitneys are here?" she asked, adjusting her veil with nervous fingers as she crossed the uneven sidewalk.
"Probably; I imagine we are late. Look out for that swing door." Foster put out a steadying hand. "This way," turning to the left of the entrance.
"One moment, sir," and Detective Mitchell, who with several others from the Central Office had been unobtrusively keeping tab on each new arrival, joined them. "Miss Grey, being a witness, must stay with the others in this room. The inquest is being held in that inner room, Mr. Senator. Will you sit over here, Miss Grey...."
But the spinster hesitated; she relied upon Foster more than she was willing to admit, and the promise of his presence had reconciled her to the prospect of a trying afternoon.
"I prefer to go with you," she objected, turning appealingly to him.
"But, Kiametia, you can't," interposed Foster hurriedly. "The law forbids it. I will be in the next room should you need me." He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, then glanced hastily about the room. In one corner the Whitney servants, their inward perturbance showing in their white scared faces, sat huddled together, but there was no sign of Mr. and Mrs. Whitney and Kathleen. Apparently he and Miss Kiametia were earlier than he had at first thought. Turning from Miss Kiametia, he addressed Detective Mitchell in a low tone.
"Have you caught Julie, the French maid?" he asked.
"All developments in the case will be brought out at the inquest," replied Mitchell politely, and Foster, his curiosity unsatisfied, walked away. He found the room used for inquests crowded to the doors, and made his way through the knot of men standing about, to the reporters' table, where a seat had been reserved for him by the morgue master. Across the east end of the room was the raised platform upon which stood a long table and chairs for the coroner, the deputy coroner, and the witnesses, while to their left were the six chairs for the coroner's jury. As the Senator seated himself he spied Charles Miller among the men standing at the back of the room. There was a vacant chair next to his, and after a few hurried words with the coroner, Foster beckoned Miller to join him.
"I called you up repeatedly this morning," said Miller, pushing his chair closer to the Senator so as to make room for a reporter on his left. "But your servant declared you were not at home."
"I spent most of the morning at the Whitneys' and lunched with Miss Grey. Horrible affair, this; the Whitneys are all unstrung."
"Did you see Kathleen?"
"No," Foster stroked his chin nervously. "She has steadily refused to see anyone, even her parents. Her conduct is most strange."
"I don't agree with you," warmly. "She has undergone a great shock, finding a friend dead in an elevator...."
"Ah, did she?" The words seemed forced from Foster; he would have given much to recall them on seeing the look that flashed in Miller's eyes.
"She did," he asserted tersely. "Kathleen is the soul of honor—you have but to know her to appreciate that—she and evil can never be associated together."
"You are a warm champion," exclaimed Foster. "I should almost imagine—"
"That I am engaged to her?" calmly. "Quite true, I am."
Foster drew back. "I—I beg pardon," he stammered in some confusion. "I had no idea affairs had progressed so far—I am sorry I spoke as I did."
"You were but echoing what I hear on all sides," answered Miller bitterly.
"True," Foster nodded. "Kathleen's extraordinary silence, when by a few words she could explain what happened yesterday morning before her screams aroused the household, is causing unfavorable comment and unfortunate conjecture."
"The mystery will be explained this afternoon," and quiet confidence rang in Miller's pleasantly modulated tones. "Hello, I see some members of the Diplomatic Corps are present."
"And the so-called 'four hundred,'" growled Foster. The close atmosphere had started him coughing, and he scowled at Baron Frederic von Fincke who was seated near by. "Where is the jury?" he asked, as soon as the paroxysm of coughing was over.
"Viewing the body in that room." Miller indicated a closed door to his right. "The jury is sworn in there by the morgue master."
As he spoke the door opened and the six men, led by the morgue master, filed into the room and took their places, and the low hum of conversation died away as the coroner, stepping to the platform, stated briefly the reason for the inquest, and summoned Dr. Hall, of the Emergency Hospital, to the witness chair. He was quickly sworn by the morgue master, and in response to the coroner's question, stated that he had reached the Whitney residence shortly after eight o'clock Wednesday morning in answer to a telephone call.
"Tell the jury what you found on your arrival," directed the coroner.
"I was shown upstairs by the butler, whose incoherent remarks led me to suppose that someone was ill in the elevator. On entering it I found Mr. Spencer, whom I knew slightly, lying there dead."
"Did you make a thorough examination?"
"Only enough to prove that life was extinct. The butler informed me that my services were needed by Miss Whitney, and I went at once to her."
"In what condition did you find her?"
"Hysterical. To quiet her, I finally administered an opiate, and sent for a trained nurse."
"Did you consider her case dangerous?"
"No, but she was completely unstrung; her nervous system had undergone a severe shock, and I feared for her mental condition if not given immediate relief and complete rest."
"Have you seen her today?"
"Yes, this morning."
"How was she?"
"Did Miss Whitney speak to you of Mr. Spencer?"
"She did not."
"Did you question her on the subject of the mystery surrounding Mr. Spencer's death?"
"I did not. In her condition I judged it a topic to be avoided. I also cautioned her parents not to discuss it with her unless she voluntarily alluded to it."
"How long had Spencer been dead, Doctor, when you saw him?"
"I cannot answer positively, as I did not make a thorough examination, but judging from appearances, I should say he had been dead at least four hours."
Miller shot a triumphant look at Foster, then turned his attention to the coroner, who was scanning his notebook.
"I think that is all, Doctor," he announced, "you are excused."
There was a slight pause, and the deputy coroner, who had been taking the testimony, laid down his pen and gently massaged his hand. The next instant at the coroner's direction, the morgue master ushered in Detective Mitchell. The detective, after being duly sworn, told his full name and length of service in the District force, and briefly described his arrival at the Whitney residence.
"You examined the body in the elevator?" questioned the coroner.
"Was Mr. Spencer dressed?"
"Yes, sir, except for coat, waistcoat, collar, and shoes."
"Are these the clothes he had on at the time of his death?" The coroner pointed to a pile of wearing apparel lying on the desk.
"Did you search for the weapon with which Mr. Spencer's throat was gashed?"
"At once, sir," answered Mitchell promptly. "At the back of the elevator near the body I found this"—holding up a short bone-handled knife which he took from his coat pocket. "The blade was covered with blood."
Coroner Penfield took the knife and after examining it, handed it to the foreman of the jury who, upon scanning it closely, passed it on to his companions.
"Have you ever seen such a knife before?" questioned the coroner. "The blade is a peculiar shape."
"Yes, sir; that shape of knife is sometimes used in modeling clay and by glaziers when handling putty."
Penfield and the deputy coroner exchanged glances, then the coroner resumed his questions. "Did you examine the bedroom Mr. Spencer occupied Tuesday night, Mitchell?"
"I did, sir."
"Had the bed been slept in?"
"Apparently it had, sir. The pillows and covering had been tossed about."
"Did you find anything in the room belonging to the deceased?"
"Yes, the coat and waistcoat of his suit, his collar and shoes."
"Was there any indication, besides the tossing of the bedclothes, that the deceased had made preparations to sleep there?"
"Yes; I found a pair of pajamas lying on the floor near the bed, apparently hastily discarded, as they were turned wrong side out."
"Did you examine the deceased's clothes?'
"Yes, sir. They were what any gentleman would wear in the evening. In his pockets I found a wallet containing twenty dollars in bills, three dollars in loose change, and his keys. Here they are, sir," and Mitchell, as he mentioned each ticketed article, laid them on the table before the coroner, who examined them carefully.
"Was there anything about the room which especially claimed your attention?" Mitchell paused and glanced thoughtfully at his polished shoes. "Let me alter that question," said the coroner hastily. "Did you find any indication in the room that Mr. Spencer expected to return to it?"
"His clothes were there, and the electric light by the bureau was burning, notwithstanding the fact that it was nearly nine o'clock in the morning."
The coroner consulted his papers, "That is all just now," and Mitchell departed. "Ask Mr. Whitney to step here," directed Penfield, a second afterward.
"Beg pardon, sir," and the morgue master stepped before the platform. "Mr. Whitney went back to his residence to escort his daughter here. Mrs. Whitney, however, is waiting in the next room."
"Very well, bring Mrs. Whitney here," and the coroner left his seat to assist her to the platform. Mrs. Whitney's customary self-control and air of good breeding had not deserted her, and whatever her inward tribulation at appearing before a coroner's jury, it was successfully concealed as she repeated the oath after the morgue master.
"Your full name?" questioned Coroner Penfield.
"Minna Caswell Whitney, daughter of the late Judge William Caswell, of New York."
"You were married to Winslow Whitney in—"
"And you have resided in Washington since then?"
"Yes, except in the summer months when we went to our home in Massachusetts or, occasionally, abroad."
"Will you kindly state what took place at your house on Tuesday evening, Mrs. Whitney?"
"I entertained the Sisters in Unity, and afterward went to bed." The concise reply wrung a smile from Foster.
"At what hour did the members of your club depart?"
"A little before one o'clock, Wednesday morning."
"Then did you go direct to bed?"
"No, I first showed Miss Kiametia Grey who, owing to an attack of faintness, was spending the night at my home, to her room; then I retired."
"Were you aware that Mr. Spencer was also spending the night under your roof?"
"Not until Miss Grey informed me of the fact; I had inadvertently placed her in the same room with Mr. Spencer. I immediately took her to another room."
"Was Mr. Spencer's bedroom in darkness when you ushered Miss Grey into it?"
"Did not your husband tell you of Mr. Spencer's presence?"
"I did not see my husband until Wednesday morning; he had gone to his studio in the attic when I went to my bedroom. He frequently works all night on his inventions."
"Were you awakened during the night by any noise?"
"Did you see your daughter before retiring?"
"Did she attend the meeting of your club?"
"No, she is not a member."
"When did you first hear of Mr. Spencer's death?"
"The next morning, when my daughter's screams aroused the household."
"How long has Julie Genet, your French maid, been in your employ?"
"Have you heard from her since her disappearance?"
"Was she acquainted with Mr. Spencer?"
"I really don't know."
The coroner flushed at her tone. "Was Julie discontented with her place?" he asked, somewhat harshly.
"I have no reason to suppose so; she never complained."
"How did you come to employ her?"
"A friend of mine brought her to this country, and a year later Julie came to me; she was highly recommended."
"Has she any relatives in this country to whom she might have gone?"
"None that I ever heard of." Mrs. Whitney reflected for a second, then added, "Julie told me some months ago that her only near relatives had been killed in the war in France."
"Was Julie a well trained servant?"
"She was indeed; also good-natured, thoughtful, and obedient."
"When did you last see Julie?"
"Downstairs, when giving final directions to Vincent. I told her to assist him in closing the house, and then go direct to bed; that I would undress myself as it was so late."
"Did she appear as usual?"
"Did you go at all to Mr. Spencer's bedroom yesterday morning after hearing of his death?"
"We will not detain you longer, Mrs. Whitney," and with a slight bow to the jurors and the coroner she made her way from the room.
Her place was taken by Vincent, the butler, who testified that he had gone about his work on Wednesday morning as customary, that all windows and doors were locked as he had left them the night before, and that he and Henry, the chauffeur, were busy replacing the drawing-room furniture, removed the night before to make room for chairs for the meeting of the Sisters in Unity, when startled by Miss Whitney's screams. He also stated that having gone to bed very late, he had slept heavily and had not been awakened until aroused at seven o'clock by the cook. His bedroom was across the hall from the other servants. He had not realized that Julie Genet was absent until Mrs. Whitney rang for her; he had supposed the maid was upstairs waiting upon either her or Miss Whitney. No, Julie was not quarrelsome; she was quiet, deeply engrossed in her own affairs, and spent much of her time sewing in Miss Whitney's sitting-room. He had heard that she was to have been married the previous December, but the war had taken her fiance back to the colors, and he had been killed in the retreat on Paris.
Henry, the chauffeur, was the next to testify. He admitted admiration for Julie and stated that she had not encouraged his attentions, and the remainder of his testimony simply corroborated that of Vincent. He did not sleep in the Whitney residence, but took his meals there.
When giving their testimony the chambermaid, laundress, and scullery maid also stated they did not sleep at the Whitneys'; that Julie, while always pleasant, kept very much to herself. They one and all declared that they had never entered Sinclair Spencer's bedroom Wednesday morning after the discovery of the tragedy. The coroner quickly dismissed each one, and Rosa, the cook, looking extremely perturbed, was the last servant to be questioned. She stated that she had not gone upstairs Wednesday morning until noon.
"Sure, I dunno whin Julie wint downstairs Wednesday mornin'," she declared. "I slep' that heavy I niver hear her a'movin' around."
"Was it her habit to get up before you did?" asked Coroner Penfield.
"Yis, sor. She had oneasy nights, like, an' would be off downstairs at the foist peep o' day. She brooded too much over the papers, I'm feared; though 'twas natural to read av the divils who killed her kin and swateheart in France."
"Did Julie ever speak to you of Mr. Spencer?"
"Wance or twice, maybe," admitted Rosa reluctantly.
"Did she ever meet Mr. Spencer away from the house?"
"Niver, sor." Rosa looked shocked. "Julie was real dacent, she niver sought her betters' society. Nay, she was afeared Miss Kathleen might listen to his courtin'. She didn't consider no wan good enough for Miss Kathleen."
"Ah, then she was fond of Miss Kathleen?"
"Sure, fond's not the word; she was daffy about her. An' no wonder, Miss Kathleen was that good to her; comforted her whin bad news came from the wars, let her sit and sew wid her, and give her money to sind to France."
"Was Julie on good terms with the other servants?"
"Yis, sor. She and Henry had words now and thin; when Henry got teasin', she didn't always take ut in good part."
"Have you any idea where Julie went on leaving the Whitneys?"
"No, sor; she has no real frinds in Washington. I dunno where she can be, an' I'm sick o' worryin' over her." The warm-hearted Irishwoman's eyes filled with tears. "Julie was excitable like and quicktempered, but she niver did wrong, an' don't let yourselves be thinkin' ut."
"There, there." The coroner laid a kindly hand on her arm. "We won't keep you any longer, Mrs. O'Leary. Careful of that step," and as the morgue master appeared, he asked, "Is Miss Kiametia Grey here?"
"Then ask her to come in." He exchanged a few remarks with the deputy coroner in a tone too low to reach the ears of the attentive reporters, then turned back to the witness chair as Miss Kiametia seated herself.
"We will only keep you a few minutes," he began, after the preliminary questions had been asked the spinster. "I understand you were accidentally shown into the bedroom already occupied by Mr. Spencer."
"I was," stated Miss Kiametia, as the coroner paused. "Neither Mrs. Whitney nor I was aware he was within a mile of us."
"Did you discover his presence at once?"
"No." The spinster's tone was short. "The bed is in an alcove, and I had only turned on the electric bulb by the bureau; thus the room was in partial darkness. I—eh—eh—" then with a rush—"I did not know he was there until I was ready to get in bed."
"Was Mr. Spencer asleep?"
"I never waited to see."
Coroner Penfield stifled a smile and changed the subject. "Were you aroused during the night by any noise?"
"No," sharply. "When once in the hall bedroom I took a pretty stiff drink of whiskey as a nightcap, for I was feeling pretty shaky about then. Consequently I slept soundly all through the night."
"Was Mr. Spencer a great friend of yours?"
"No," with uncomplimentary promptness. "But I did occasionally ask him to large entertainments."
"Did you see Miss Whitney before retiring on Tuesday night?"
"No. Her mother told me she had gone to bed early."
"Did you see Mr. Whitney?"
"Did you see Julie, the French maid?"
"Not upstairs. Mrs. Whitney gave me the whiskey and a dressing-gown."
"Can you tell me if Mr. Spencer was wearing his pajamas in bed?"
"I cannot," dryly.
"Did you enter Mr. Spencer's bedroom the next morning after hearing of his death?"
"I did not."
"While in his room Tuesday night did you observe his clothes on a chair or table?
"No, and after discovering his presence, I was too keen to get out of the room to notice anything in it."
"Then possibly you left the light burning by the bureau?"
"I did nothing of the sort. It is a hobby of mine never to waste gas or electricity, and I remember distinctly stopping to put out the light after I had picked up my clothes."
"Quite sure, Miss Gray?" and the spinster bridled at his quizzical glance.
"I am willing to take my dying oath," she said solemnly, "that I left that room in total darkness."
"Mr. Winslow Whitney will be the next witness," announced Coroner Penfield, first signifying to Miss Kiametia Grey that her presence was no longer required in the witness chair, and the spinster, with an audible sigh of relief, picked up her gold mesh purse and its dangling accessories and hastily left the room.
There was an instant craning of necks and raising of lorgnettes as the door opened to admit Winslow Whitney. Courteously acknowledging the bows of several friends seated near the entrance, he made his way to the witness chair with a firm tread, and his clear voice was plainly heard as, in answer to the morgue master's questions, he stated his full name, age, and length of residence in Washington, having first taken the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Charles Miller, watching him intently, was relieved to find that the nervous twitching of the muscles of his face and hands, so noticeable the day before, was missing. Though his haggard face testified to a sleepless night, Whitney was outwardly composed.
"For how many years have you known Sinclair Spencer?" asked the coroner.
"Were you intimately acquainted?"
"No. I knew him as I know dozens of other men; he was frequently at my house, and on several occasions he assisted me in protecting my patents in the law courts."
"But you would not call him an intimate friend?"
"Most assuredly not."
"Was he in the habit of spending the night in your house?"
"He has sometimes stopped with me during the summer months when I was detained in Washington and my wife and daughter were away."
"He was familiar with your house, then?"
"Yes. Could he find his way about it alone in the dark?"
"I presume he could—provided he was sober," dryly. "The arrangement of the rooms is not complicated, and one floor is very much like another."
Coroner Penfield cleared his throat. "Was Mr. Spencer a welcome guest in your house?"
"Certainly; otherwise I should not have invited him," replied Whitney, with quiet dignity.
"Let me amend my question." The coroner laid down his pencil. "Was Mr. Spencer on a friendly footing with each member of your household?"
"I have every reason to believe he was."
"Was Mr. Spencer's manner the same as usual when he called upon you Tuesday evening?"
"In what way was it different?"
"He had been drinking."
"Was he rough, boisterous?"
"The latter, yes. So much so, that I suggested he spend the night. I did not wish him to go downstairs and disturb my wife's guests, which he was quite capable of doing had the whim seized him."
"Were you then upstairs, Mr. Whitney?"
"Yes, in my wife's boudoir on the first bedroom floor."
"When did you last see Mr. Spencer alive?"
"When I showed him into his bedroom and loaned him a pair of pajamas."
"Did you help him undress?"
"No, as he assured me, with drunken gravity, that he could manage it himself."
"Did you inform your wife and daughter that Mr. Spencer was spending the night in your house?"
"No. My wife was downstairs entertaining her guests, and my daughter was asleep in her room. I did not see either of them until the next morning."
"Where did you go after leaving Mr. Spencer in his bedroom?"
"To my studio in the attic. I remained there all night absorbed in my work."
"Did you hear any unusual sounds during the night?"
"No; my studio, or workshop, is sound-proof. And it is the same throughout the house," he added. "The walls, besides being of unusual width, were all deadened by my grandfather's direction. He had a horror of noise."
"When did you leave your studio?"
"About seven o'clock Wednesday morning."
"Did you use the elevator then?"
"No, I seldom use it." Whitney twisted about in his chair. "I had the elevator installed for the convenience of my wife and daughter."
Penfield made an entry in his notebook, then faced Whitney directly.
"Have you in connection with your workshop a photographic outfit and darkroom?" he asked.
"I am told that you are working on a sort of camera which, used in an aeroplane, makes a map of the country over which the machine passes. Is that correct, Mr. Whitney?"
"Yes," acknowledged Whitney. "A patent is pending."
"Had it gotten about among your servants that you were working upon an important invention?"
"It's very possible," Whitney conceded.
"Did Julie, your wife's maid, ever evince undue curiosity in your work?"
Whitney wrinkled his brow in thought. "No," he said. "I can't say that I am aware she did. When I go to my studio, as we usually call my workshop, it is an understood thing that I am not to be disturbed by anyone. It is a rule I enforce by dismissal if broken, and the servants have learned by experience to obey."
"Has your household access to your studio when you are not there?"
"No, I securely lock the door whenever I leave the room."
"Are you ever joined while in your studio by your wife and daughter and their friends?"
"Occasionally they bring Miss Grey and Senator Foster in to see my models."
"Did you confide the particulars of your latest invention to Mr. Spencer?"
"I did not."
"Did he ever show deep interest in it?"
"Only questioned me about it now and then," replied Whitney casually, and Charles Miller alone noted the nervous twitching of his eyelids.
"Was the electric light turned on in Mr. Spencer's room when you left him for the night?"
"Y-yes." Whitney reflected for a moment, then added, "I believe the bulb by the bureau was burning, but I can't swear to it."
"Did Mr. Spencer give you any inkling Tuesday night that he intended to be an early riser on Wednesday morning?"
"No, he never mentioned the subject."
"Was it his custom on previous visits, to walk about your house before the servants were up?"
"Not that I am aware of," Whitney hesitated. "Possibly his intoxicated condition made him desire the fresh air."
"That is possible," admitted the coroner. "But witnesses testify that Mr. Spencer had on no shoes."
"Which confirms my statement of his condition," replied Whitney quietly. "No man in his sober senses seeks the street in his stockings."
The coroner, making no comment, held up the knife with the black bone handle. "Have you ever seen this knife before?"
Whitney turned a shade whiter. "I may have; there is nothing distinctive about the knife."
"Is it not used for modeling in clay?"
"I believe so."
"Who made the clay models in your studio, Mr. Whitney?"
The question remained unanswered, and after a brief pause the coroner pushed back his chair and rose. "That is all, thank you, Mr. Whitney; kindly wait in the adjoining room to the left; you will find a chair there."
With a stiff bow Whitney stepped down from the platform and made his way through the silent crowd to the room indicated.
As the door closed behind him, Penfield called the deputy coroner to the stand. Laying down his pen, Dr. North took his seat in the witness chair, and after being sworn, turned to face the jurors, chart in hand.
"You made the autopsy upon Mr. Sinclair Spencer?" questioned Penfield.
"I did, Doctor, in the presence of the morgue master."
"Please state to the jury the result of that autopsy."
The deputy coroner glanced at the notes on the back of the chart, then reversed it, holding it aloft so that all in the room could see the anatomical drawing of a human figure.
"The knife penetrated this section of the neck, just missing the carotid artery," he began, using his pencil to indicate the spot marked on the chart. "While the wound bled profusely it was superficial and did not cause death."
His words created a sensation. Men and women looked at each other, then sat forward in their chairs, the better to view the deputy coroner and his chart.
"Were there indications of death from extreme alcoholism, then?" questioned the coroner, and his voice sounded unusually loud in the deep silence which prevailed.
"No. Judging by the contents of the stomach Mr. Spencer had not taken alcohol to excess."
"Then if the knife wound was not fatal, and there was no indication of intoxication, what caused Mr. Spencer's death?" demanded the coroner.
"On examination," Dr. North weighed his words carefully, "I found a powerful drug had evidently been used, producing instantaneous death by paralyzing the respiratory center and arresting the heart action."
All in the room were giving the deputy coroner rapt attention. Many had come there purely from love of sensation, and they were not being disappointed. The eyes of Charles Miller and Senator Foster met for a second, then quickly shifted back to the deputy coroner. The reporters, their pencils flying across the sheets, were the only ones in the room who had not glanced at the witness.
"Have you discovered the drug used?" questioned the coroner.
"By tests I found it to be cyanide of potassium, a most deadly poison, generally instantaneous in its action."
"How large a dose was given?"
"I don't know, as there were no indications of it in the gastric contents."
"Then how was the drug administered?"
"Through the blood."
"By means of the knife?"
The deputy coroner looked puzzled. "Possibly," he admitted. "But I could find no trace of the poison left on the knife blade. There was no mark on the body to show how the poison was administered."
"At what hour did death occur?"
"Between three and four in the morning, judging by the condition of the body."
"Was there any indication, Doctor, of resistance on the part of the deceased? Did he make an effort to defend himself."
"No, Judging from his expression and the condition of the muscles I should say that Mr. Spencer never knew what killed him, never knew even that his life was threatened."
"Were his hands opened or clenched?"
"His right hand was clenched," acknowledged the deputy coroner. "Not, however, for the purpose of defense, but to retain his grasp upon this—" and drawing an envelope from his pocket he carefully shook into his open palm a crushed and faded flower. "It is a cornflower," he explained. "Sometimes called bachelor's button. The stem is broken short off." And he held the flower so that all might view it.
Senator Foster, who had followed the testimony with unflagging interest, heard a sudden sharp intake of breath to his right, but glancing quickly at Charles Miller he found his face expressionless.
Penfield took the cornflower and envelope from the deputy coroner and laid them carefully on his desk, while continuing his examination. No one paid any attention to the lengthening shadows of the late afternoon, and the coroner's next question was awaited with breathless interest.
"Is cyanide of potassium used in photography?" he inquired.
"That is all, Doctor, you are excused," and the deputy coroner returned to his seat.
The next witness was the morgue master, and his testimony simply corroborated that of the deputy coroner. He was followed by William Banks and John P. Wilson, respectively, both well known in the financial world of Washington, who testified to Sinclair Spencer's standing in the community, and stated that his financial condition precluded any suggestion of suicide; and that to their knowledge he had no enemies.
The lights were burning when the last named witness left the chair, but there was no sign of weariness among the men and women in the room. Although several consulted their watches, no one rose to go. Their already deeply stirred interest was quickened into fever heat as, in obedience to the coroner's summons, Kathleen Whitney took her place in the witness chair.
Dressed with the strict attention to detail and taste which made her one of the conspicuous figures in the younger set, Kathleen's appearance and beauty made instant impression upon juror and spectator alike. But her chic veil failed to hide the pallor of her cheeks, and the unnatural brilliancy of her eyes. Despite every effort at control, her voice shook as she repeated the oath word for word and stated her full name and age.
"Have you always resided in Washington?" asked the coroner.
"Were you educated in this city?"
"Yes, except for a winter in Germany."
"Did you take up a special study while in Germany, Miss Whitney?"
"Yes, miniature painting—"
"And modeling?" as she paused.
"Oh, no, I never studied that abroad although I occasionally help my father by modeling in clay."
"When did you make your debut in Washington society?"
"Did you then make Mr. Sinclair Spencer's acquaintance?"
"No." She moved involuntarily at the mention of Spencer's name. "I had known him previously. He was one of father's friends, and much older than I."
"Were you not reported engaged to him last fall?"
Kathleen flushed at the question. "I never heard of it," she said coldly. "I do not encourage gossip."
"Miss Whitney." Coroner Penfield surreptitiously scanned a small note handed him before the commencement of the inquest. The handwriting was distinctly foreign. "Miss Whitney," repeated Penfield. "Did you not refuse Mr. Spencer's offer of marriage on Tuesday morning?"
For a moment Kathleen stared at him in speechless surprise. "Where did you get that piece of information?" she demanded, recovering herself.
"You have not answered my question, Miss Whitney," and the quiet persistence of his manner impressed Kathleen.
"Yes, I refused him," she admitted.
"Did Mr. Spencer make any attempt to persuade you to reconsider your refusal?"
"Yes." Kathleen shot an impatient look at the coroner. "I cannot see what my private affairs have to do with the regrettable death of Mr. Spencer," she protested.
Penfield ignored her remark. "Did Mr. Spencer communicate with you Tuesday by letter or telephone?" he asked and waited, but the question remained unanswered. To the disappointment of the reporters, he did not repeat it, but asked instead: "Were you aware on Tuesday evening that Mr. Spencer was spending the night at your house?"
"Did you see either your father or your mother that night before retiring?"
"When did you last see Julie, your mother's maid?"
"Before dinner when she came to my bedroom to help me change my dress."
"Did she seem discontented with her situation?'" questioned the coroner.
"Did Julie ever evince dislike to Mr. Spencer?"
Kathleen's hand crept to her throat and she plucked nervously at her veil. "Julie was too respectful to discuss our family friends with me," she said.
"You have not answered my question, Miss Whitney," was Penfield's quick retort, and Kathleen flushed under the rebuke.
"Because I am aware that you are striving to make me incriminate Julie in Mr. Spencer's death," she began heatedly. "Instead, you and the police should make every effort to find Julie and protect her ..."
"I don't know," hopelessly. "Julie has no friends in this city, no one whom she could turn to in trouble but me. I cannot understand her disappearance; I fear, greatly fear, foul play."
"Circumstantial evidence points to her having disappeared of her own volition, Miss Whitney, to escape being charged with a heinous crime."
"Pardon me, her disappearance is the only scrap of evidence which leads you to think she might possibly have murdered a man whom she knew by sight," retorted Kathleen.
"Was it your habit to supply Julie with money?" questioned the coroner.
"Yes, which she sent to France as her mite toward the war fund," answered Kathleen heatedly. "I am confident Julie had nothing whatever to do with the death of Mr. Spencer."
"Can you tell us who did, Miss Whitney?" asked Penfield, and he saw the terror which crept into her handsome eyes.
"I cannot," she answered with unsteady lips. "I never awoke that night."
"What took you downstairs at so early an hour yesterday morning?"
"I had rung the upstairs bell for Julie, and as she did not come, I started to go down and find her," she hesitated uncertainly.
"Continue," directed Penfield. "Tell your story of finding Mr. Spencer's body in your own way."
It was some minutes before Kathleen obeyed his request. "I went to the elevator and pushed the button," she began slowly. "I was in a hurry, and when I heard the click which indicated the cage was there I opened the outer mahogany door, pushed back the inner steel grille-work door, stepped into the elevator and without looking about me, closed the doors, and pushed the basement button. Then I turned about"—Kathleen moistened her dry lips—"and saw—and saw—Mr. Spencer lying there—the blood"—she closed her eyes as if to shut out the, recollection—"I think for a time I lost my reason. I have no intelligent recollection of anything that occurred until I found myself in bed with a trained nurse in attendance."
As her charming voice ceased, Charles Miller, who had never taken his eyes from her face, gently moved his chair so that Foster's figure cast him in shadow. Never once had Kathleen glanced his way; she sat for the most part with her eyes downcast or looking directly at the coroner. Kathleen was visibly moved by the recital of her experiences in the elevator, and Penfield waited an instant before questioning her further.
"Could you tell from what floor the elevator came when you pushed your floor button?" he asked.
"No," was the disappointing answer. "The elevator runs practically noiselessly, and we have no floor indicator such as you see in stores."
"Was the electric light turned on in the elevator when you entered it?"
"Then how could you see Mr. Spencer so clearly?"
"The brick elevator shaft is lighted by a skylight," answered Kathleen. "The electric light is only needed at night."
"Do you recognize this knife?" and Penfield held it before her as he spoke. Kathleen's eyes did not shift their gaze, but her teeth met sharply on her lower lip.
"I see that it resembles one that I have," she said.
"You still have yours?"
"Yes, you will find it in my desk drawer at home."
"Had you only the one knife, Miss Whitney?"
"I may have had others," indifferently. "I do not recall; I buy my painting and modeling supplies as I need them."
The coroner replaced the knife without further comment.
"You use azurea perfume, do you not?" he asked.
"What was your object in trying to rub out a blood stain on the front of Mr. Spencer's white shirt, Miss Whitney, while you were in the elevator?" asked Penfield.
Kathleen looked at him dully. "Wh-what d-did you say?" she stuttered.
For answer Penfield took from the pile of clothing on the table a white shirt and pointed to a discoloration on its glazed surface.
"When I first saw this shirt on Mr. Spencer it reeked of perfume," he said sternly. "Submitted to chemical tests, I find a blood stain was partially removed by azurea. Again I ask, what was your object in attempting to remove the blood stain?"
But Penfield spoke to deaf ears. Kathleen had fainted. Excitement waxed high in the room as Kathleen was carried out by Charles Miller, the first to reach her side, and placed in the tender care of Mrs. Whitney and the trained nurse. Waiting only to see her brought back to consciousness by Dr. Hall, Miller slipped back into the inquest room. Detective Mitchell was again in the witness chair.
"You made a thorough examination of Miss Whitney's room?" inquired the coroner.
"And what did you find?"
"This torn note"—and the detective held up the pieces in each hand.
"Read its contents aloud," ordered Penfield.
"KATHLEEN, MY DARLING:
"I implore you to reconsider—before it is too late. Consult your father's best interests before you reject me.
"Yours, with undying affection,
Mitchell paused after reading the signature, then continued. "Here is a sample of Mr. Spencer's handwriting, attested by his cousin, Captain Dunbar; the handwriting of the notes is identical, sir," and he placed the papers in Penfield's hand. Reading them carefully, the coroner passed them along to the jury for examination.
"Where did you find this note?" he asked Mitchell.
"Among Miss Whitney's painting materials in her sitting-room."
"What is that in your lap?" and the coroner pointed to a paper box. In answer Mitchell raised the cover and displayed a bouquet of faded cornflowers.
"I found it in Miss Whitney's sitting-room also," he stated. In tipping the box, the better to show its contents, a small piece of white muslin rolled to the floor. Quickly Penfield retrieved it. "I discovered that handkerchief secreted in the folds of Miss Whitney's blue foulard gown," added Mitchell, as the coroner spread open the handkerchief. It was badly mussed and its white center bore dark stains. Penfield sniffed the faint perfume still hanging about it; then without comment handed the handkerchief to the foreman of the jury.
"That is all, Mitchell," announced Penfield, and as the detective departed, he turned and addressed the jury. His summing up of the case was quick and to the point, and at the end the jurors silently filed into another room. It was long after seven o'clock, but no one stirred in the room, and the silence, which none cared to break, slowly grew oppressive. The long wait was finally terminated by the reappearance of the jury. Coroner Penfield rose and addressed them.
"Gentlemen of the jury," he said, "have you reached a verdict?"
"The jury find," answered the foreman, "that Kathleen Whitney is responsible for the death of Sinclair Spencer by poison on the morning of Wednesday, March 24, 1915, in her family residence in the city of Washington."
Quickly the crowded room emptied, reporters rushing madly for motors; not often had the district morgue housed a cause celebre, and its sensational details had to be rushed on the wire. Charles Miller, separated from Foster by the sudden crowding of the doorways, waited to one side for him.
"Americans are an emotional people," commented a quiet voice at his elbow, and turning hastily Miller recognized Baron Frederic von Fincke. "One death more or less does not create a furore elsewhere."
"That depends on who dies," retorted Miller.
"True. If it should be a member of the Imperial Family"—Von Fincke's gesture was eloquent. "To them, all give way. We others are pawns."
The atmosphere inside the house matched the leaden skies outside in point of gloom, and even the wood fire, crackling on the hearth, failed to mitigate the air of restraint and cheerlessness which prevailed in the dining-room. The rain, falling in torrents, had brought with it a penetrating cold wind, a last reminder of winter, and Vincent, passing noiselessly to and from the pantry with sundry savory dishes, was grateful for the heat thrown out by the blazing logs.
Mrs. Whitney, whose eyes were red and inflamed from constant weeping, gave up her attempt to eat her breakfast and pushed her plate away.
"Let me give you some hot coffee, Winslow," she suggested. "Your cup must be stone cold, and you haven't touched your fish balls."
Absorbed in his newspaper, Whitney did not at first heed her request, but the pulling back of the portieres aroused him, and glancing over his shoulder, he saw Kathleen entering the room.
"Good morning, Dad," laying her hand for a second on his shoulder before taking the chair Vincent pulled out. "Just a cup of coffee, mother dear, that is all," and Kathleen unfolded her napkin.
"You told me upstairs you would remain in bed, Kathleen." Mrs. Whitney looked solicitously at her. "Are you prudent to tax your strength after all you were subjected to yesterday?"
"I couldn't stay still a moment longer." Kathleen's slender, supple fingers played with a piece of toast. "You need not bother to conceal the newspapers, Dad," as Whitney surreptitiously tucked the Herald and the Post behind his back. "I read them up in my room."
"My dearest, I'm sorry you did that." Whitney leaned over and clasped her hand tenderly. "I gave orders that...."
"Vincent is not to blame," broke in Kathleen. "I borrowed the nurse's newspapers before she left."
"There was no sense in your reading all this jargon," protested Whitney warmly. "And there is no need, Kathleen, of paying attention to one word published here. Your friends believe in you absolutely, as we do."
"Thank you, Dad." Kathleen returned the strong pressure of his hand, and leaning over, kissed Mrs. Whitney. "Bless both your dear loyal hearts." Her eyes brimmed with tears, and she dashed them impatiently away. "It was better that I should see the papers," she continued a moment later, "and know the world's unbiased opinion."
"Unbiased opinion in a newspaper!" Whitney laughed mirthlessly. "That and the millennium will arrive together. Have you everything you want, Kathleen?"
"Then you need not wait, Vincent. Now, Minna, what did you ask me a few minutes ago?"
"If you will have some hot coffee. Yes? Then send me your cup," and Mrs. Whitney, taking it from Kathleen, poured out the coffee and hot milk. As she returned the cup and saucer, she glanced carefully about the room, but Vincent had departed to the kitchen. Satisfied on that point, she lowered her voice to a confidential pitch. "I hear the servants are planning to leave."
"Who cares?" Whitney shrugged his shoulders. "There are better where they came from."
"Quite true," agreed Mrs. Whitney. "Then, will you give me their wages ..."
"Wages?" Whitney flushed with anger. "No, if the dirty dogs wish to leave us in the lurch without notice, they will not get one cent from me."
"They won't leave us," declared Kathleen. "At least, I am sure that Vincent and Rosa will not go. They have been with us too long."
"I only know what Henry told me he heard in the kitchen this morning," explained Mrs. Whitney.
"Oh, Henry!" exclaimed Kathleen contemptuously. "I wouldn't put any faith in what he says; he is forever making trouble in the kitchen. He is ..."
The violent ringing of the telephone bell interrupted her.
"I have finished my breakfast, I'll go," volunteered Mrs. Whitney, and she hastened into the pantry where a branch telephone had been installed for the use of the servants. Before the swing door closed tightly, they heard her say: "Oh, Kiametia ..."
"What is the reason the servants are so anxious to decamp?" asked Whitney, handing Kathleen the dish of fruit, which she declined.
"You forget this house has become a chamber of horrors." Kathleen's voice shook, and she paused to take a hasty swallow of hot coffee. "Possibly the presence of the detectives makes them nervous."
"Well, a sudden leave-taking from here will probably center the detectives' attention upon them more than if they stayed and did their work."
"That is highly probable. Tell me, Dad"—Kathleen regarded Whitney intently—"how is it that I am not in jail? Did not the coroner's jury convict me?"
"Their verdict read that you were responsible for Spencer's death, and as such you are under suspicion and will be held for the Grand Jury."
"Oh!" Kathleen shuddered slightly.
"I had no difficulty arranging bail," continued Whitney. "The officials themselves realize—must realize," he interjected, with bitter force—"there is little real evidence against you. The coroner's jury—the d——fools"—the words escaped between his clenched teeth—"to place faith in circumstantial evidence!" Whitney's clenched fist descended on the table with a force that made the goblets ring. "My dear, why, why did you try to whitewash Julie?"
"Because I knew she had nothing to do with Sinclair Spencer's death."
"You knew nothing of the sort"—with subdued violence. "You are totally wrong. That Julie ran away is confession of complicity in the crime."
"I don't believe Julie ran away; I do not"—meeting her father's angry eyes steadily. "I believe she was enticed away. I tell you, Dad, if this mystery is ever to be cleared, you must find...."
"Captain Miller," announced Vincent, drawing back the portieres from the doorway, and Miller, emerging from the hall, advanced into the room.
Kathleen's coffee cup descended with a clatter on its saucer as her nerveless fingers released their hold, and placing one hand on the back of her chair to steady herself, she rose slowly to her feet.
"Senator Foster would like to speak to you a minute, Mr. Whitney," added Vincent. "He is waiting at the front door, sir."
"Certainly." Whitney shook Miller's hand cordially. "Excuse me a second, Captain, I'll be back in a jiffy," and he followed Vincent from the room.
Impulsively Miller stepped toward Kathleen, hands extended and eyes alight with passionate tenderness. "My love, my dear, dear love!"
"Stop!" Kathleen spoke in a dangerously low tone. "I must request you to leave this house at once."
"You understand the English tongue?" Her cold repellent manner caused him to pause in uncertainty. "Or shall I translate my request into German?"
"I will not put you to that inconvenience," he retorted hotly; then his manner changed. "Ah, Kathleen, do not let us waste the precious seconds bickering. Tell me what I can do for you."
"You ask me that?" Her tone was impossible to translate.
"Yes." Miller held her gaze, his handsome eyes speaking a language all their own. "You gave me the right, my darling, to protect you—and I shall protect you."
Her strength suddenly deserting her, Kathleen sank down in her chair.
"You will protect me," she echoed. "You?"
Her tone stung him to the quick. "Yes—I," he said slowly. "Do you not realize the depth of my love? I would willingly sacrifice my career, my life for you—and count it no sacrifice."
"Would God I could believe you!" The cry was wrung from her, and she raised her trembling hands to brush away the blinding tears.
Miller dropped on one knee beside her. "My dearest, my heart's desire!" he whispered passionately, taking her hands prisoner. At his touch she shrank back, remembrance crowding upon her.
"Go!" she stammered. "I have kept faith; go, before I say too much."
Before Miller could answer he heard his name called, and the sound of rapid footsteps. With a bound he was on his feet, and pausing only long enough to whisper "Courage, Kathleen," he joined Winslow Whitney in the hall.
But Kathleen was hardly conscious of his departure. With an exceedingly bitter moan, she dropped her head upon her arms and cried as if her heart would break. Mrs. Whitney, entering from the pantry a second later, paused aghast, then running to Kathleen, soothed her with loving word and hand back to some semblance of composure.
Miller found Winslow Whitney walking rapidly up and down the hall. He stopped at sight of the latter. "Come in the library," he said. "I've given instructions that we are not to be interrupted," closing the door and also pulling to the folding doors behind the portieres leading to the dining-room. "Make yourself comfortable, Captain," producing a box of cigars. "Don't mind if I walk up and down; I think better when moving about."
"Same here," but Miller selected the most comfortable chair in the room and puffed slowly at his cigar, while never taking his eyes from his host. Neither man spoke for fully five minutes, then Whitney pulled up a chair and sat down near his companion.
"Have you seen Senator Foster today?" he inquired.
"Not to talk to; but I caught a glimpse of him coming here as I entered." Miller knocked the gathering ash from the end of his cigar. "I was with him at the inquest yesterday."
"I saw you both there." Whitney selected a cigar and, lighting it, sat back. "Did Foster happen to tell you that Sinclair Spencer had in his will made him executor of his estate?"
"Well, he came here today to tell me that, and also that Kathleen is mentioned in Spencer's will as residuary legatee."
"What!" Miller's surprise was shown in his face, which had grown suddenly white.
"Spencer evidently really cared for Kathleen," went on Whitney, paying no attention to his ejaculation. "A queer fellow, Spencer; I did not give him credit for possessing sincere feeling, except where he himself was concerned."
"Was Spencer wealthy?" The question shot from Miller against his will.
"Report says so; I never inquired, myself." Whitney puffed a cloud of smoke, and as it cleared away, turned impulsively to Miller. "I'm damned if I like Foster's manner to me today!" he burst out.
"Why, what happened?" Miller bent eagerly forward.
"I only asked him to postpone probating Spencer's will," began Whitney, laying down his cigar.
Miller's eyes opened. "Did he agree to it?"
"No—refused curtly." Whitney's eyes flashed. "And the manner of his refusal—rankles," he confessed.
"Your request was somewhat singular," commented Miller slowly.
"Nothing singular about it," retorted Whitney. "I was thinking of Kathleen when I made the request. Man, do you not see," and the haggard lines in his face deepened, "the instant that will is offered for probate its contents become public. And its publication now will but strengthen the suspicion already centered about Kathleen, by supplying a possible motive for Spencer's murder."
"Suspicion cannot injure the innocent," protested Miller.
"Oh, can't it! That's all you know about it," growled Whitney, wiping beads of moisture from his forehead. "So much for Foster's friendship when put to the test. I made it plain to him that my request was prompted by my desire to shield Kathleen from further publicity."
"I understand, Mr. Whitney," said Miller gently.
"Yes, I believe you do," went on Whitney feverishly. "That an old friend should be the first to go back on me; there's the sting. We are a proud family, Miller, united in our affections." He cleared his throat of a slight huskiness. "I would have given everything I possess to have spared Kathleen that scene at the inquest yesterday; I never for a moment imagined"—He straightened up.—"I am going to move heaven and earth to clear Kathleen from this vile suspicion that she is in some way responsible for Sinclair Spencer's death."
"I'm with you, Mr. Whitney," Miller's voice rang out clear and strong, carrying conviction, and a flash of hope lighted Whitney's brooding eyes. "I love your daughter, sir, and came this morning to ask your consent to our marriage."
Whitney looked at him long and intently, and Miller bore the scrutiny without flinching, his direct gaze never shifting, and his strongly molded features set with dogged determination.
"You make this proposal, and at this time?" asked Whitney at last.
"Yes." Miller's hand tightened its grip on the arm of his chair. "Clouds can be dispelled, sir; and my faith in your daughter will never be shaken."
Without a word Whitney extended his hand, and Miller grasped it eagerly. "You have my consent, Captain," he said, the huskiness of his voice more pronounced. "I cannot, of course, answer for Kathleen; I would not force her acceptance of any man." He turned to relight his cigar, and Miller's swift change of expression escaped him. "Tell me, Captain," continued Whitney, tossing away the match. "What conclusions did you draw at the inquest?"
"I think the jury acted on inconclusive evidence," said Miller thoughtfully. "Before rendering any verdict they should have waited to hear Julie's testimony."
"You have hit the nail on the head," declared Whitney. "I firmly believe, in spite of the other servants' testimony, that Julie and Sinclair Spencer knew each other well, and his death is the result of a clandestine love affair with her."
"Love may have entered into it," acknowledged Miller. "But I think there is also another motive behind Spencer's murder, the significance of which we have not fully grasped."
"And that is—?"
Miller did not answer directly. "What motive inspired Spencer to feign drunkenness," he asked, "and when everyone was asleep, to steal over this house like a thief in the night?"
Whitney drummed impatiently on the desk. "There is but one apparent answer," he admitted reluctantly. "You believe that he was interested in my inventions?"
"I do; his actions certainly point to that conclusion."
Whitney shook his head. "His behavior that night would have been just the same if planning a clandestine meeting with Julie."
"But, my dear sir, he could have met Julie elsewhere with far less danger of discovery. Besides," Miller hesitated, "let us give the devil his due. Spencer was evidently very much attached to Kathleen. With her image before him, I do not believe he spared a thought for the French maid."
Whitney looked his disbelief. "In this instance, I cannot speak well of the dead," he said slowly. "I know too much of Spencer's past. He was not above courting the maid and the mistress at the same time."
"Well, at least Spencer was no fool; if he did court Julie, it was not done in this house." Miller tossed his cigar stub into the ash receiver. "It might be that he used the maid to assist him in securing information about your inventions."
"You may be right." Whitney started from his chair. "And Julie, perhaps believing in his protestations of affection at first, awoke to his duplicity, and took the occasion of his spying to kill him."
"Yes, that's about my idea."
"But—but—" Whitney turned bewildered eyes on his companion. "What prompted Spencer to desire to steal my inventions?"
"That we have still to learn. That he did try, I am as convinced as if I had seen him." Miller picked up another cigar. "And, Mr. Whitney, permit me to call attention to one very essential fact...."
"Go on," urged Whitney.
"That what Spencer failed to accomplish, others may."
"It is very far from nonsense." Miller's earnestness impressed Whitney. "I do not for one moment believe that Spencer was working alone."
"You hint at conspiracy?" Whitney frowned perplexedly.
"Call it that if you wish; only, sir, take every precaution to safeguard your inventions from prying eyes."
"I have, already."
"How, for instance?"
"With double locks, iron shutters, and electric wires, my workshop is hermetically sealed."
"Until a clever thief gains entrance." Miller laughed faintly. "The science of house-breaking keeps step with modern inventions to protect property. What one man can conceive another man can fathom."
"You may be right." Whitney took a short turn about the room, then stopped in front of his companion. "What precautions would you suggest?"
Miller did not answer immediately. "It is very likely that another attempt will be made to secure the drawings and specifications of your inventions, if not your models," he said finally. "And if on guard, you may not only catch the thief but Spencer's murderer."
"A good idea," acknowledged Whitney. "But how would you suggest going about to catch the thief?"
"By laying a plot for him; forget to lock your studio door occasionally, lay prepared paper inconspicuously about, and powder your tables and floor with fine dust. The thief will leave an indelible trail behind him."
"And walk off with all necessary data," answered Whitney skeptically. "As clever a thief as you paint will never leave that room, once he is inside it, without full knowledge of my inventions."
"The thief will not have an opportunity of stealing what he came for, because the specifications and drawings of your inventions will not be there."
"Eh!" Whitney's cigar fell unheeded to the floor. "Where will they be?"
"In my possession."
Too astounded to speak, Whitney stared at his companion. It was over a minute before he recovered himself.
"Do you think I will trust you with the drawings and models of my latest inventions?" he asked.
"You did not withhold your consent when, a short time ago, I asked for Kathleen's hand in marriage," said Miller slowly. "Do you hold your inventions dearer than your daughter's future happiness, which you are willing to intrust to my care?"
Never taking his eyes from his companion's face Whitney stepped back. The seconds lengthened into minutes before he spoke. "Come upstairs," he said and, turning, made for the closed door.
THE YELLOW STREAK
Leaving the War Department; Detective Mitchell debated for a second whether to walk around the back of the White House grounds to the Municipal Building, or to go to Pennsylvania Avenue and take an east bound electric car. But there was no sign of let-up in the pelting rain, and pulling his coat collar up about his ears, he hastened toward the avenue, and at sight of an approaching car broke into a run. The usually empty sidewalks were filled with hurrying government employees, anxious to get their luncheon and return in the prescribed half-hour to the State, War, and Navy Departments, and the detective had some difficulty in dodging the pedestrians.
Seeing an opening among the lowered umbrellas, he stepped off the curb and dashed for the street car. He was almost by its side when the hoarse sound of a motor siren smote his ear, and glancing sideways, he saw a touring car bearing down upon him at full speed. In trying to spring backward his foot slipped on the wet asphalt and he sprawled forward on his knees. The automobile was almost upon him when strong hands jerked him safely to one side. Scrambling to his feet, Mitchell turned to look at the man whose strength and quickness had saved him from a nasty accident.
"Much obliged, Captain Miller," he said. "I owe you a great deal."
Miller stooped over and picked up the detective's hat. "Why don't you chaps arrest such speeders?" he inquired, pointing to the vanishing car.
"We do in most cases," returned Mitchell, brushing the mud from his trousers, and limping back to the sidewalk. "However, the driver of that car is exempt."
"We can't arrest a United States Senator."
"Ah, then you got his number." Miller led the way to the sidewalk.
"That car doesn't need a number to identify it," grumbled Mitchell. "Its color and shape are too distinctive. We on the force call it the 'Yellow Streak.' The car belongs to Senator Randall Foster; when he's at the wheel, the Lord help the pedestrians!"
"So it would seem," dryly. "Where are you going, Mitchell?" observing the detective's rather shaken appearance.
"To the Municipal Building."
"Suppose you come and lunch with me first at the Occidental," and the smile which accompanied the invitation was very persuasive. "It's near where you are going."
Mitchell had not lunched, and a hurried breakfast had been consumed before six o'clock. It was his hunger which had occasioned his haste to reach the Municipal Building and later a near-by cafe. His official business was not very pressing, and since meeting Miller at the Whitneys' two days before, he had heard of his attentions to Kathleen Whitney. The rumor had interested him as much as Miller's personality. Promptly he accepted Miller's invitation, and the two men boarded the next downtown car.
Within a short time they were both eating an appetizing lunch in the attractive restaurant of the Occidental. Just before the arrival of coffee and cheese, Mitchell sat back in his chair with a sigh of physical content. The Martini had warmed his chilled body, and the lassitude which comes after a hearty meal was stealing over him. Miller had proved an agreeable companion, able to talk upon any subject—except one, in spite of the detective's hints in its direction. Their table was in one corner apart from the others, and there was no danger of their conversation being overheard. Taking in their isolated position at a glance, the detective changed his tactics.
"I saw you at the Spencer inquest," he said abruptly, applying a match to his cigar. "What do you think of the verdict?"
"What every sane man thinks," answered Miller. "That the prosecution will have to secure more material and tangible proof before it can secure an indictment by the Grand Jury."
"I'm not so certain of that," responded the detective, ruffled by Miller's casual manner. "Our evidence against Miss Whitney was pretty conclusive."
"It would have been just as conclusive if applied to any other inhabitant of the Whitney house that night."
"Hardly." Mitchell smiled broadly. "I fear your friendship blinds you to the danger in which Miss Whitney stands."
Miller refrained from answering until their waiter had served the coffee and cheese and departed. "Circumstantial evidence will not always convict—fortunately," he said, helping himself to the Camembert. "What have you proved...."
"That Spencer was Miss Whitney's rejected lover," broke in Mitchell. "That the knife belonged to her; that she tried to remove incriminating blood stains on his shirt with her perfumed handkerchief; and that he held in his hand a flower, possibly broken from the bouquet which she was wearing at the time."
"It sounds formidable," commented Miller quietly. "But there are a number of flaws. You have not absolutely proved that the knife belonged to Miss Whitney, only proved that it is probable she might have owned it. Wait"—as Miller started to interrupt. "The deputy coroner testified that Spencer was killed by cyanide of potassium."
"Which, as Spencer did not swallow it, was administered by aid of the knife," retorted Mitchell hastily.
"The deputy coroner said he found no trace of the poison on the knife blade." Miller paused to refill Mitchell's coffee cup. "Secondly, cyanide of potassium is not a drug which Miss Whitney would be apt to have around."
"I saw a half-filled bottle of it in Whitney's work-shop last Wednesday."
"Quite true, I saw it there myself," admitted Miller. "I also saw that Whitney kept his studio workshop under lock and key."
"To outsiders; but it is just possible he is not so strict about the members of his household, his testimony to the contrary," argued Mitchell. "The point is not well taken, Captain, and even if it were," he stirred his coffee thoughtfully, "Miss Whitney did not need to enter her father's workshop to secure the cyanide of potassium; I find she buys all his photographic supplies at a shop not far from here, and recently purchased a new supply of cyanide."
"Purely circumstantial evidence," responded Miller, keeping his expression unaltered by an effort. The detective's last statement had startled him. "In regard to the flower which Spencer held in his hand: you say it was probably broken from the bouquet which she wore at the time of committing the crime—I am, for the sake of argument only, admitting that she might be guilty. The medical evidence went to prove that Spencer was killed between three and four in the morning; it is straining probabilities to claim that a young girl, in donning her wrapper, pinned on a bouquet of flowers."
"How do you know she was not fully dressed? It was not so late in the morning; she could have gone to bed after the crime, or she may not have gone to bed at all."
"All supposition," scoffed Miller.
"Not quite all." The detective, nettled by his jeering smile, spoke hastily. "On further inquiry I learned from one of the servants today that Miss Whitney had on the same dress Wednesday morning, when her screams aroused the household, which she wore at dinner the night before."
"Ah, indeed?" Miller's smile had ceased to be skeptical, it was strained. "And which servant imparted that information to you?"
"Henry, the chauffeur."
"For a chauffeur, Henry seems to know a great deal about what transpires inside the Whitney house," observed Miller thoughtfully. "Tell me, Mitchell, what motive do you attribute to Miss Whitney for the killing of Sinclair Spencer?"
Mitchell looked uncomfortable, and it was not until Miller repeated his question that he spoke. "I believe Spencer persuaded Miss Whitney to meet him clandestinely that night, and threatened to compromise her if she refused again to marry him."
"Oh, come!" Miller spoke more roughly than he realized. "Wake up, Mitchell; you've been reading penny dreadfuls. Try and think up a motive which will hold water."
The detective flushed. "That is quite motive enough," he said. "If Miss Whitney takes the stand in her own defense she can, on that motive, enter a plea of killing to protect her honor...."
"And any jury in the country would acquit her," broke in Miller. "She would...."
"Thus escape the gallows," finished the detective.
"But I can suggest an even better solution of the problem," put in Miller suavely, although his fingers itched to choke his companion.
"And that is—?"
"That the detective force find the guilty party."
Mitchell suppressed a smile. "And where would you suggest that we hunt for this guilty party?" he asked. "Provided he or she is still at large, and not out on bail under indictment."
"Search among the men and women who spent Wednesday night at the Whitneys', servants as well as guests."
"Captain," in his earnestness Mitchell leaned across the table, "it is contrary to all records of crime that a man or woman will commit murder without motive...."
"You forget homicidal maniacs."
"True, but they do not belong in this category," protested Mitchell. "No person in that house, except Miss Whitney, had a motive for killing Spencer."
"Motives are not always on the surface; I advise you to investigate ..."
"Is it true that arc lights have been installed at the United States navy yards and arsenals, which make them as light as day on the darkest night?"
"I believe so." Mitchell glanced perplexedly at his companion. Why was he changing the conversation?
"And that visitors are not encouraged to loiter on government reservations?"
"I believe such an order has been issued," conceded the detective.
"Also visitors are forbidden at the Government Radio Station at Arlington?"
"And still there is a leak—government secrets are secrets no longer."
"How do you know that, Captain?" and the detective shot a look full of suspicion at him.
"I only know what Senator Foster has told me," carelessly. "I believe Foster's advice has been sought in the matter."
"And why did he confide in you?"
"He desired my help," responded Miller. "Seemed to think my opinion might be worth something, but, honestly, Mitchell, I can't see anything to this secret leak business—the Secret Service operatives are putting a scare over on the government.
"It's more than that, sir. No more coffee," and the detective, his sudden doubts dispelled by Miller's sunny smile, leaned back once more in his chair. "It seems that officials here are awakening to the realization that government secrets are being betrayed. If the American troops are ordered to a certain point on the border, the order is known in Mexico before it is executed. It is the same with coded communications to Foreign Powers. The movements of our fleet are known to foreign naval attaches even before the maneuvers are carried out. The whereabouts of the smallest torpedo boat and submarine is no secret—to any but the American people."
"Is that so?" Miller looked politely incredulous. "And is the Secret Service not investigating the matter?"
"Sure; they'll handle it all right." Mitchell twisted about in his chair. "At present, Captain, my entire attention is claimed by the Spencer murder. Where would you suggest that I begin my search among Whitney's household for a motive which will explain the murder?"
"Why not try and find Julie, the French maid?"
The eagerness died out of Mitchell's face. "We are trying," he said. "But we can convict Miss Whitney without her evidence."
"So you think Julie's testimony will implicate Miss Whitney still further in the crime?"
"I do. I have no doubt she is accessory after the fact, and, provided with funds by Miss Whitney, stole away so as not to give evidence against her."
"You have a curious conception of human nature, Mitchell," was Miller's only comment as he signed to their waiter to bring his check. He did not speak again until he and the detective were in the street. "You have overlooked a very important point, Mitchell, in your investigation of Spencer's murder."
"What is that?"
"You apparently believe that Miss Whitney murdered Spencer between three and four in the morning and then went back to her bedroom ..."
"Go on," urged Mitchell.
"At the inquest all witnesses testified that Miss Whitney was the first to find Spencer and that she was in the elevator with him." Miller spoke with impressiveness. "Even the most hardened criminal would not have deliberately walked into that elevator and shut himself in with the man he had murdered a short time before—and yet, you argue that a highly strung, delicately nurtured girl did exactly that. It's preposterous!"
"It does sound cold-blooded," admitted the detective. "It is just possible that after committing the crime, she lost consciousness and remained in the elevator all night...."
"Talk sense!" ejaculated Miller disgustedly and, without waiting to hear the detective's thanks for his luncheon, turned on his heel and hurried up Fourteenth Street. Mitchell watched his tall, erect figure out of sight with absorbed attention.
"I'd give a lot to know who he suspects murdered Spencer," he muttered under his breath, and started for the Municipal Building.
As Miller approached his hotel, he thought he saw Foster's yellow touring car move away from the ladies' entrance. After procuring his mail he went at once to his room. He was about to open his letters when his eyes fell on an open drawer of his desk. Putting down the bundle in his hand, he carefully investigated every pigeonhole and drawer. The papers he looked for were missing.