Rising quickly, Miller examined the windows of his room and bathroom. They were securely fastened on the inside. In deep thought he went out into the hall to where the floor chambermaid and a companion were sitting in full view of his door.
"Have you been here long?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," replied the elder girl. "I've been on duty here ever since noon, and Mary," laying her hand on her companion, "was here all the morning."
"Has either of you seen anyone enter my bedroom?"
"No, sir, only yourself, sir," answered the first speaker, and Mary echoed her words.
The prospect was uninviting at any time and to Julie, who had stared at the rows of slatternly kept backyards until she grew familiar with each battered garbage can, the sight was hateful. The rain had driven even the starved alley cats to cover, and with a sigh forlorn in its wretchedness, she turned from the window and contemplated her nicely furnished bedroom. The two days she had been there had passed on leaden feet. Captain Miller's money had secured her a haven of refuge—food and a roof over her head—but had deprived her of liberty and the daily newspaper. The first had been the only restriction he had placed upon her acceptance of his bounty. His plea—protect Kathleen—had found a ready echo in her loyal heart, and blindly she had obeyed him.
The first day had passed in numb resignation, then had followed the reaction. As she recovered from bodily fatigue there came a quickening of the blood, and in spite of the cold driving rain, a longing for the out-of-doors possessed her.
Since the breaking out of the great world war, with its invasion of Belgium and her beloved France, she had become an inveterate newspaper reader, and during the days of "extras" she had formed the habit of depending upon them. From day to day, month to month, she had followed the ever shifting, always fighting forces on the firing line, and her knowledge of the situation in Europe would have shamed some of the students of the times. Her own personal loss and agonizing sorrow had been engulfed in her acceptance of the world's tragedy, but it had made adamantine her desire to serve France.
Forty-eight hours had passed and she had not seen a daily paper. She had asked her landlady, Mrs. Robinson, for the loan of her Star, only to be told that Mrs. Robinson never took it. She had thereupon presented her with three cents and asked her to secure the morning papers. But Mrs. Robinson, on her return from market earlier in the day, had forgotten to comply with her request. The one servant, when appealed to in the hall, had promised to get her an evening Times, but on inquiry, Mrs. Robinson had informed her that the woman had finished her work and gone home.
What was happening in Europe? Had the Allies attempted the drive hinted at during the winter months? Had Italy cast her lot with the Allies? Julie's restlessness increased as each question remained unanswered. From whom could she get a newspaper? Mrs. Robinson had assured her that she was the only boarder in the house, and on the one occasion on which she had left her room, she had seen no one but the servant. The latter had gone out, and Mrs. Robinson had not responded to her call ten minutes before. Julie sighed again and gazed wearily out over the backyards; then a thought came to her. Why not go to a front window and hail a newsboy; there might be one in the vicinity?
With brightened eyes Julie left her room and, walking down the hall, turned the knob of the door opposite her own. It would not open. Bethinking herself, Julie rapped timidly on the door panel; then receiving no reply, she rapped again. No voice nor footstep responded to the summons; apparently the room was empty. Considerably perplexed, Julie turned and made her way to the second bedroom floor. Quickly she rapped at each closed door and tried its knob. Each door was locked and her repeated raps went unanswered. In the fourth floor she met with the same results, and, returning again to the stairs, she made her way down them almost at a run.
The silent and apparently empty house frightened her, and it was with a fast beating heart that she made her way to the ground floor and into the drawing-room. Its sumptuous furnishings astounded her. Mrs. Robinson had neither the air nor the well-dressed appearance of a woman of wealth. From her swarthy skin and black eyes and hair Julie had taken her for a Creole.
The stair door leading to the basement was not locked, and Julie laid a hesitating hand on it. Should she seek Mrs. Robinson in the kitchen? Almost without her own volition she released her hold on the knob and retraced her steps to the front door. She needed air; the silent house was getting on her nerves. She suddenly remembered the noises she had heard in the night and which, in the morning, she had attributed to her feverish condition.
Noiselessly she removed the night latch and slipped into the vestibule. She stood for a moment filling her lungs with the cold refreshing air, then bethinking herself, stepped behind the closed section of the outer door. She must not be seen by a chance policeman. As she stepped back her foot encountered a small bundle, and she looked down. Joy of joys I It was a folded newspaper. As she opened it she saw in the dim light of dusk the red letter stamping: "Subscriber's copy." What had Mrs. Robinson meant by telling her she did not take newspapers?
Not pausing to worry further over that problem, she hastily scanned the first page of the five-thirty edition of the Times; and her eyes dilated as she read the scare headings:
SPENCER'S WILL OFFERED FOR PROBATE
KATHLEEN WHITNEY, CONVICTED BY CORONER'S JURY, IS RESIDUARY LEGATEE OF MURDERED CLUBMAN
SOCIETY GIRL OUT ON BAIL FURNISHED BY SENATOR FOSTER
Too stunned to move or cry out, Julie stared dumbly at the newspaper. Kathleen Whitney, her kind friend rather than employer, was convicted—then her absence had not benefited her? Captain Miller's advice had been wrong. Her faith in him was misplaced. To what had he brought her? She cast a terrified look at the partly closed door behind her. Better jail than—The thought of jail brought her whirling senses back to Kathleen. But Kathleen was not in jail; the paper stated that she was out on bail. If at home, she could be reached.
Utterly regardless of her hatless condition, she dragged the shawl, previously borrowed from Mrs. Robinson, over her head, and closing the front door, bolted up the street, the newspaper still clutched in her hand. Darkness was closing in, and the rain had driven the few pedestrians usually in that location scurrying to their homes. Julie was five or more blocks from the Robinson house when she saw a yellow touring car draw up to the opposite curb and a man spring out. He paused for a second to examine one of the lamps and its light threw his face in bold relief against the darkness. It was Henry, the chauffeur. Julie shrank back behind a tree-box, muffling her face in the friendly shawl. But the precaution was unnecessary, for Henry did not glance toward her as he hastened around the touring car and entered a near-by house.
For some seconds Julie stood peering doubtfully in the direction he had gone. Why was Henry driving a car other than the Whitneys'? Had they, by chance, discharged him? Or was he up to some particular deviltry? Her latent distrust of Henry and her suspicions as to his nationality surged uppermost, and not waiting to count the cost, she darted across the street and peered into the empty touring car. Opening the door, Julie climbed into the tonneau and, seating herself on the floor, pulled the heavy laprobe over her. Thus protected, she sat in the darkened interior of the car for what seemed an interminable time. The slam of a door and the sound of approaching footsteps caused her to half rise and peep through the storm window. At sight of Henry standing by the bonnet lighting his pipe she sank hastily back and secreted herself under the laprobe. His pipe drawing to his satisfaction, Henry, with barely a backward glance into the dark tonneau, stowed himself behind the steering wheel and started the car up the street.
Baron Frederic von Fincke looked from his bank book to his companion, a pleasant-featured, gray-haired man. "The balance is low," he said.
"I come with unlimited financial credit," and the short, stockily built man drew from an inside pocket a leather cardcase and passed it to the Baron, who read its contents carefully before returning it.
"I am glad you have arrived, Hartzmann," he volunteered. "As a diplomatic center Washington is dull. I call at the State Department—no news; it is not in touch with secret history."
"My dear Baron, what can you expect?" Hartzmann shrugged his shoulders amusedly. "Trained diplomats do not confide state secrets to a premier who derives his income from a newspaper and the lecture platform."
"True. Diplomat and politician are synonymous in America; oil and water would sooner mix in the Old World." Von Fincke carefully replaced his bank book in a dispatch-box. "Your friend, Captain von Mueller, has won many friends during his sojourn in Washington."
"A brilliant man; he will go far." Hartzmann rubbed his hands with satisfaction. "His work in England will not be forgotten. He has courage, and the instinct of the hunter; he never blunders."
"High praise," said von Fincke. "I am the more glad to hear it because I have intrusted a most delicate mission to him—the securing of Whitney's latest invention"—with peculiar meaning. "My other efforts in that line having proved failures." Quickly he forestalled the question he saw coming, "And your plan of campaign, Hartzmann, what of it?"
"First, let me give you this," taking several papers from his vest pocket. "It is a list of factories throughout the United States supplying munitions of war to the Allies. You may find it useful."
"Thanks." Von Fincke read the paper with minute care before placing it inside his dispatch-box. "A concerted movement has been commenced by us to secure a majority control of many of these plants."
"In several instances it is planned to buy the great gun and munition factories outright," explained Hartzmann. "Our agents are already trying to engage the output of munitions until 1916, so that even if the United States requires powder and high explosives, it will be impossible to supply the Government."
"Anything, anything to stop the supply going to the Allies." Von Fincke emphasized his words with a characteristic gesture.
"Our work is already telling." Hartzmann carefully replaced several papers in an inside pocket. "In Russia, the men of the first Russian reserve have to wait before engaging the enemy until the Russian soldiers in the outer trenches are dead so as to get their guns and ammunition to fight with."
"Excellent!" and von Fincke beamed with pleasure.
"I shall instigate strikes in the munitions factories," continued Hartzmann. "Tell me, how have you succeeded with the passports?"
Von Fincke's expression changed. "Not so well as I hoped. The Secret Service are active in investigating all that are issued. It is difficult to circulate them under such espionage."
"It is risky," agreed Hartzmann. "Our agents have opened headquarters in New York. We hope to destroy by means of fire bombs British ships clearing from American ports."
"If that is accomplished, it will lend material aid to our war zone policy," exulted von Fincke.
"And later on we hope to establish the American seaports as bases for a fleet of naval auxiliaries, loaded with supplies for our swift submarines and cruisers. I am making arrangements for taking care of the necessary clearance papers."
"Excellent!" ejaculated von Fincke for the second time, and opened a notebook which he took from his dispatch-box. "Our reservists in this country report regularly. Under the guise of rifle clubs they keep themselves in excellent practice. Bodies of them are unobtrusively seeking employment along the Canadian border."
"Well done; it is a wise move." Hartzmann helped himself to a cigar. "What about this Spencer mystery, Baron? As our agent in Mexican affairs he received a small fortune. Does not his death come at a most unfortunate moment?"
Von Fincke pursed up his lips. "No. Spencer was a good tool, but sometimes too inquisitive; however, I shall not be sorry if Miss Whitney receives the full penalty for her crime." The two men regarded each other in silence for a brief second, then von Fincke added: "From reports which have reached me, I judge the mine is well laid, and Mexico will yet prove troublesome to her northern neighbor."
"And useful to us," mused Hartzmann. "The United States when angry with Germany will make war—on Mexico."
"Perhaps," skeptically, "but to me it appears intervention in Mexico will hang fire until ..."
"Engineered," Hartzmann smiled meaningly. "Huerta will leave shortly for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and then ..." Not completing his sentence, he pointed to a paragraph near the bottom of the first page of the Times which lay spread on the table by him. "The Sisters in Unity, I see, is a strictly neutral organization for peace at any price."
"The dear ladies!" Mockingly von Fincke's hand rose in salute. "They are the best propagandists in the country, and Senator Foster proves an able advocate of peace—when urged by a woman."
"He is a clever speaker," agreed Hartzmann.
"Most men in public life have their uses. Have you nothing to report of the pernicious activities of the United States Government?"
Without replying von Fincke pressed the button of his electric bell. "Is Heinrich here?" he asked a moment later as his servant entered.
"Then show him in." Von Fincke turned back to his guest. "A clever man, Heinrich, and useful. Come in," as a discreet tap sounded on the door; and the chauffeur, carefully closing the door, saluted. "Any news of the Atlantic fleet, Heinrich?"
"Its departure for the Panama-Pacific Exposition at San Francisco via the Panama Canal has been indefinitely postponed."
"The Department must have awakened to the fact that if sent there the fleet would have to return by rail," growled von Fincke. "There is not enough coal in California at present to supply the fleet—the battleships and cruisers could not escape from attack, but might even be captured at the dock."
"Have you learned where the fleet will be sent?" asked Hartzmann, watching the chauffeur narrowly.
"It is to go to New York for a grand review, Herr Captain."
"Ah, a mobilization?"
"No, Herr Captain; I think not. The reserve fleet will be missing."
"Will the President review the fleet?"
"It is so believed, Herr Captain."
Von Fincke, who had been silently eyeing his companions, stood up. "Would that not give us an opportunity to bottle up the fleet in the North River by slipping down one of our biggest ocean steamers and sinking her in the channel?"
"It might be done," but Hartzmann looked doubtful. "The Harbor Police of New York are vigilant. I fear the warping of a great steamer from her berth would attract instant attention."
"Not if properly engineered, Hartzmann." A soft tap at the door interrupted von Fincke. "Come in," he called.
"Captain von Mueller," announced the valet, and von Fincke advanced eagerly to meet the newcomer.
"Welcome, Herr Captain. I hoped that you would get my note in time."
"I found it on my return to the hotel. Hartzmann, well met." Von Mueller returned the older man's firm clasp. "It is some years...."
"Years? What are they when old friends foregather," exclaimed Hartzmann. "Let us sit and talk."
"Wait, wait," remonstrated von Fincke. "Heinrich," turning to the chauffeur, who stood respectfully waiting, "did you learn the strength of the fleet?"
"Of the thirty-five United States battleships, only twenty-one are in commission and ready for emergency," he said. "Of these twenty-one three have broken shafts, and the fourth is a turbine engine battleship, which needs overhauling."
"Is this all the fighting strength of the United States navy?" questioned Hartzmann, jotting down the figures in a notebook.
"No, Herr Captain; there are seventy fighting craft; but not in commission and all require overhauling. Half of the submarines will not—er—'sub,' so to speak." A ghost of a smile crossed Heinrich's lips. "The complement of torpedo vessels has been reduced from fifteen to twenty-five per cent, and the Atlantic Fleet needs five thousand men."
"Interesting data," said von Mueller. "I congratulate you, Heinrich. What of the army?"
"Nothing definite to report today, Herr Captain. If rumor speaks truly, discontent will shortly reduce the standing army to a man and a mule."
"A mule can fight on occasions," laughed von Mueller.
"But not against trained men, backed up by field guns firing in one hour two hundred thousand shells carrying high explosives," boasted Hartzmann triumphantly. "Weapons such as these, von Mueller, alter the face of nature as well as the fate of nations."
"Any further news tonight, Heinrich?" asked von Fincke.
"No, Baron." The chauffeur saluted. "Any orders?"
"A moment," broke in von Mueller. "I will be at the Whitney residence tonight, Heinrich; see that I am admitted," he added, observing the slight change in the chauffeur's expression.
"It can be arranged, Herr Captain," hastily. "I was but thinking of Julie—the French she-devil. Should she come ..."
"She will not return." Von Mueller spoke with confidence. "I have convinced her that she will better protect Miss Whitney by remaining in hiding, thus directing attention to herself as the criminal."
"But will she not read the papers?" touching the Times.
"No; the landlady will keep them from her."
"The police are ransacking the town for her," persisted Heinrich.
"They will not find Julie"—von Mueller lowered his voice. "They never investigate Robinson's."
"So!" Von Fincke elevated his eyebrows, and his smile was not pleasant.
THE FINGER PRINT
Kathleen Whitney breathed inward thanks when dinner was over. It had been a trying ordeal on top of an agonizing day. Cloistered in her room with only her sad thoughts for company, she had been relieved to find that Miss Kiametia Grey had been prevailed upon by Mrs. Whitney to prolong her afternoon visit to include a family dinner. But the spinster's endeavor to divert her by relating society gossip finally palled, and! she permitted her thoughts to stray to other scenes.
"Did you receive your invitation to the Morton reception, Kathleen?" asked Miss Kiametia, breaking off her conversation with Mrs. Whitney with her customary abruptness, and startling Kathleen back to the present.
"Yes—no; I don't know," was her confused reply.
"It is here." Mrs. Whitney went into the library and returned with a large envelope.
"What night?" Miss Kiametia took the card and examined its heavily embossed surface with interest. "Nouveau riche stamped all over it, as well as R.S.V.P.—'Real Slick Vittles, People,'" and she laughed disdainfully.
"A11 the trimmings." Mrs. Whitney replaced the card in its envelope. "I have written our regrets. I understand the reception is given to announce the engagement of Mona Morton to some South American Monte Cristo."
"Speaking of engagements," Whitney turned to the spinster, "what about you and Randall Foster, Kiametia?"
"I shall never marry." Miss Kiametia's half bantering tone dropped, and the eyes she turned to Kathleen were shadowed with a haunting regret. "The habits of a life-time cannot be broken."
"Oh, Kiametia!" exclaimed Mrs. Whitney in open disappointment. "Senator Foster is splendid—and I had hoped—why do you discourage his attentions?"
"Can't stand the way he wears his hair," announced Miss Kiametia with an air of finality which warned against further discussion.
"Marry him and make him change his barber," advised Whitney rising. "I have to go out, Minna; you and Kathleen must not wait up for me. Good night, Kiametia; Henry is downstairs, he can take you home in the car, if you wish. See you tomorrow," and he moved toward the door. After a brief hesitation Kathleen followed him into the hall.
"Must you go out, Dad?" she asked helping him with his overcoat. "It is still stormy tonight, and I feel lonely"—her voice broke, and turning Whitney impulsively took her in his arms.
"My darling little girl." He stopped and steadied his voice as he kissed her tenderly. "There, don't worry, trust old Dad to put things straight—as he did your broken dollies. Go early to bed, dear, and get some rest."
"Rest!" Kathleen strove to suppress all trace of bitterness. "Now, don't have me on your mind; come home early," and she returned his kiss and went slowly back into the drawing-room, as the front door closed after her father.
"We are going up to my boudoir, Kathleen; won't you come, dear?" asked Mrs. Whitney.
"Not just now, mother; I want to talk to Vincent when he gets the table cleared away."
"I envy you, Vincent," chimed in Miss Kiametia. "Such an excellent servant. Oh, Minna, don't go to the elevator; suppose we walk upstairs."
Left by herself Kathleen went in search of Vincent. He was not in the pantry, but judging by the still unwashed dishes that he was probably eating his supper in the kitchen, she refrained from calling him upstairs, and walked listlessly back into the drawing-room.
Sick at heart, utterly discouraged, she threw herself down on the large sofa and sank back among the pillows. Throughout the long day she had tried to banish all thought of Charles Miller. It was hopeless; his image was in her heart as well as before her mental vision. To some women it is given to love lightly, tasting but the essence, while to others love is a lifetime of steadfast devotion. And that winter had brought to Kathleen her one great passion; for weal or for woe she had given her heart to Charles Miller, and she must drain the cup to the bitter dregs.
With the gradual awakening to the belief that Charles Miller was really a blackguard, a—she shuddered, and raised her hands as if to ward off an overwhelming horror. And he had dared to approach her that morning with loving words on his lips. His eyes had met hers frankly—there had been no effort to avoid, no show of fear—no, he was only facing a loyal woman. Kathleen choked back a moan. Truly, he understood the art of dissimulation. If she had not known of his duplicity, of his guilt, his expression as he addressed her that morning would have proclaimed him innocent of all wrongdoing. His expression, ah, it had been that which had sowed a little seed of hope in her heart. Perhaps she could sketch his face as he appeared that morning, again catch the expression that inspired confidence in spite of all.
She sat bolt upright and glanced eagerly about for a scrap of paper and a pencil. The white back of a magazine on a lamp table caught her eye and she went toward it. By the lamp lay Miss Kiametia's gold mesh purse, vanity box, and pencil. Kathleen snatched up the dangling baubles and the magazine and returned to the sofa. If only she could get her impression down on paper before remembrance faded! She could copy it at her leisure. She jerked feverishly at the gold pencil, and as she pulled it out laid its point on the white paper—and then sat petrified. It was a hypodermic needle. Some seconds passed before she moved; then she raised the gold cylinder—outwardly it resembled a pencil, inside were concealed the syringe and needle. With anxious haste she manipulated its delicate mechanism, and slipped back the needle to its hiding place.
Forgotten for the moment was her own problem. Brilliant, gifted Kiametia Grey a drug fiend—Oh, the pity of it! In the light of her discovery Kathleen remembered many idiosyncrasies which the drug habit would explain; often that winter she had found Miss Kiametia dozing in her chair at the theater, at dinners, in motors, but had put it down to over-fatigue from too much social gayety. Miss Kiametia's variable likes and dislikes, her sudden whims and fancies, her irritability—all were traceable to the same cause.
The sound of her name caused Kathleen to raise her head with a start. Henry, the chauffeur, was standing just inside the hall door.
"Beg pardon, Miss Kathleen," he said. "Mrs. Whitney wished me to tell you that Miss Grey will spend the night here and has retired to her bedroom. And I was to ask you if you had any orders for the motor tomorrow."
"No, none, thanks. As you go downstairs, tell Vincent that I wish to see him."
"Vincent has gone, Miss Kathleen." Meeting her quick glance, he added, "It is his evening out."
"Oh! Please ask Rosa to stop in my room before she goes to bed."
"Very good, Miss Kathleen." As he turned to leave, the loud buzz of the front doorbell sounded. Not waiting to hear the directions Kathleen called after him, Henry darted into the hall.
Picking up Miss Kiametia's gold purse and the hypodermic needle, Kathleen replaced them on the table, but halfway to the hall door she hesitated. Should she not take them to Miss Kiametia? Suppose Henry, for instance, should take it into his head to examine them? At the thought Kathleen's face hardened, and she returned to pick up Miss Kiametia's property. Henry's voice from the doorway arrested her.
"Captain Miller," he announced, and retired.
Kathleen stood as if carved from stone, every vestige of color stricken from her. If her life had depended upon it, she could not have turned around.
"Have you no word for me?" asked the familiar voice, and Miller stepped in front of her, his wistful eyes pleading for him. But Kathleen was mute. Slowly, unwillingly his eyes dropped before her level gaze and rested finally on the gold baubles in her hand. "Why do you not wear my ring, Kathleen?"
The question stung her out of the bewildered trance into which his unexpected appearance had thrown her.
"The ring was returned to you for good and sufficient reasons," she said icily. "That you choose to ignore these reasons does not affect the issue. Will you leave this house, or shall I ring for the servant?"
"Kathleen, are you mad?" He whitened to the lips. "Think what you are to me, dearly beloved; your words cut me like a knife."
"Your similes are unfortunate," she stammered, with dry lips. "I do not use knives. I leave that for others, the coroner's jury to the contrary."
"Do you think the coroner's jury influenced my judgment, sweetheart? Shame—I have more faith than you. I know that you are innocent of Spencer's death."
"You have every reason to know that I am innocent." Kathleen was thoroughly roused. "It is not a question of faith on your part," significantly. "I see no use in these discussions. It is better that we do not meet. Again I ask you to go—forever."
Without replying he turned and paced the room rapidly, hands in pocket, head bent forward. Kathleen watched him with burning eyes and aching heart. To outward seeming he had the attributes which make for success. What mad blood-lust had made him throw the world away?
"Suppose I accede to your unreasonable request, Kathleen," he said, stopping before her. "Will you do something for me?"
"Then get from your father the specifications and drawings of his latest invention for me."
As if she had not heard aright, Kathleen stared at him.
"Wh-what is it you ask?" she stammered.
"The plans of your father's latest invention," patiently. "I do not mean the camera."
"Either you or I are mad," she looked at him dazedly. "Do you realize that my father would not give me those plans—that I should have to steal them."
"Expediency knows no law," he muttered, not meeting her eyes. "Call it borrowing." Kathleen shrank back appalled.
"Good God! That you should be so base!" she cried. "For more than forty-eight hours I have closed my eyes to reason; deluded myself that you acted from temporary mental aberration—that Sinclair Spencer's death was unpremeditated. My impulse was to help—to save. Ah, you wooed me well this winter." Her voice broke and she drew a long quivering breath. "It is a pitiful thing to kill a woman's love. Some day, perhaps, I shall be grateful to you. Go!"
He flinched at the scorn in her voice, but stood his ground doggedly. "Not until I get the drawings and specifications of the invention," he answered.
The slamming of the front door caused Kathleen to look in that direction, and Henry's entrance the next instant stayed the words on her parted lips.
"A special delivery for you, Miss Kathleen," he said, "from the State Department."
Kathleen took the proffered envelope mechanically.
"Wait, Henry," steadying her voice. "When Captain Miller calls again, he is not to be admitted, under any pretense."
"Very good, Miss Kathleen," and concealing his curiosity, the chauffeur moved swiftly away.
There was a pause which Miller broke. "Read your letter," he said composedly. "I can wait."
Kathleen was on the point of collapse; desperately she clung to her remnant of composure. Hardly conscious of her action, she tore open the outer envelope, and read the brief statement that the letter inclosed had been sent to her, care of the Department of State. With some stirring of curiosity not unmixed with dread, she examined the contents of the second envelope. It read:
"United Service Club,
"MY DEAR MISS WHITNEY:
"I send the inclosed, forwarded to me by Major Seymour, who was until recently a prisoner in Germany. My nephew, John Hargraves, was killed in action.
"Very truly yours,
John dead! Her loyal friend dead—and killed in action! Through a blur of tears Kathleen read the stained scrap of paper inclosed in the Englishman's note:
"I saw Karl in London at Victoria Station. I swear it was he—warn Uncle—Kathleen ... Kathleen...."
Shaken with grief Kathleen raised her head and looked at her companion sitting immovable in his chair. If he felt any interest in the letter and her emotion, he did not evince it. Three years before, he, she, and John Hargraves had been friends in Germany. John, the soul of honor, loyal and unselfish in his friendship, had laid down his young life for his country. His last dying word had been of her—to warn her.... Kathleen stood erect, wrath drying the tears which affection had brought. John had seen Karl in London in war times; there was but one answer to the puzzle.
"Captain Karl von Mueller," she said cuttingly, "to use the name by which I knew you abroad, do you wish my father's invention for Germany?"
"I do." Rising quietly, he faced her, stern and unyielding. "Why dissemble any longer? Your father promised to sell it to us; then went back on his given word. In handing me the invention you will but redeem his pledge."
"You have a strange conception of honor." Her eyes were blazing with fury. "Your statement about my father is open to doubt. Captain von Mueller, I give you forty-eight hours to leave this country before I denounce you as a German spy."
"Really?" His slow smile of unbelief caused her to writhe inwardly. "Do you think the unsupported statement of a woman suspected of murder will find credence?" Kathleen clenched John Hargraves' letter until her knuckles shone white under the taut skin. "Secondly," he continued in the same quiet tone, "you speak tonight only of this winter. Have you forgotten our relationship in Germany?"
"That is hardly the term for it," she said proudly. "I met you at the house of a German schoolmate ..."
"And our friendship rapidly ripened into love," he said softly, never removing his gaze from her bloodless face. "Our walks in the meadows about Berlin, our elopement ..."
"But not our marriage," she burst in. "John Hargraves can testify that I left you."
"John Hargraves is dead."
"True," she could hardly articulate. "But we were not married."
"Quite so; that is my point—I did not marry you."
Kathleen swayed upon her feet and threw out her hand blindly for support. "You cur! you despicable cur!" she gasped. "Don't touch me." But though she shrank from him, his strong hand steadied her toward the hall door.
"Washington society is surfeited with scandal," he said. "When more composed think of your father's latest invention."
If she heard him she gave no sign. Mental torture had exhausted her emotion. She never raised her head as he guided her to the staircase; her eyes stared only at his open right hand.
The house was dark except for the hall light burning dimly, when Winslow Whitney inserted his latchkey and entered the front door. Removing hat and overcoat, he made his way noiselessly to his studio in the attic. With cautious movement he fingered the locks on his door. Would Miller's plan for catching Spencer's murderer work out? According to their arrangement he had left the door insecurely fastened.
Just as he was about to creep into the room, he heard distinctly in the stillness a whispered word in a voice his keen ear instantly recognized. All idea of caution forgotten, he threw open the door and switched on the electric light. To outward appearances the room was empty.
Darting over to where he kept his secret papers, he lifted a powerful Mazda lamp, the better to scan the prepared paper left where an incautious thief would be obliged to rest his hand with some degree of force. Under the powerful light the finger prints stood out distinct and clear. But with eyes starting from his head, Whitney paused to snatch up a magnifying glass, and by its aid examined the finger prints minutely.
"It's—his—finger print—but the voice, my God! the voice.... Kathleen, Kathleen!" A gurgle choked his utterance, and the magnifying glass clattered beside him as he fell inertly on the floor.
Charles Miller, completing a hurried toilet, paused at the sound of a sharp rap on his bedroom door.
"Come in," he called. "Ah, Henry, good morning," as the chauffeur stepped briskly over the threshold. The latter's white face and agitated manner indicated that he was the bearer of portentous news. Miller made a hasty step in his direction.
"Kathleen—is she ill?" he asked.
The chauffeur looked to see that the bedroom door was securely fastened before he answered.
"It isn't Miss Kathleen," he answered cautiously. "Mr. Whitney has had a stroke."
"What?" Miller recoiled. "When?"
"Some time last night."
"Will he recover?"
"Dr. McLane says that he cannot tell yet, Herr Captain. He was alive but still unconscious when I left the house to come here."
"What"—Miller looked anxiously at the chauffeur—"what brought on the stroke? Mr. Whitney appeared to be in robust health when I saw him last."
"The Doctor seemed to think it was caused by sudden shock, Herr Captain." Henry stepped closer. "Miss Kiametia Grey found Mr. Whitney in his studio lying on the floor unconscious."
"Miss Grey found him!" Miller's eyes opened wide in astonishment.
"Yes, Herr Captain; at four o'clock in the morning," with significant emphasis, and the two men looked at each other.
"And what was Miss Grey doing in the attic at that hour of the morning?"
"She said she had gone upstairs to see Rosa, the cook, who was suffering from a bilious attack early in the evening."
"But," perplexedly, "if I remember correctly, Rosa testified at the inquest that the servants' bedrooms are not in the attic but on the floor beneath."
"They are, Herr Captain. On answering the bell from Mr. Whitney's studio I found Miss Grey there trying to revive him."
"You answered the bell at four in the morning?" in surprise. "I understood you did not sleep at the Whitneys'."
"Nor do I, Herr Captain; but last night I took Vincent's place and occupied his bedroom. When I reached the studio, I at first thought Mr. Whitney dead," continued the chauffeur, after a slight pause, "and rushed to summon a physician. On his arrival I assisted him to carry Mr. Whitney to his bedroom."
"Did you see Miss Kathleen?"
"Not after giving her the special delivery letter"—Henry's sidelong glance escaped Miller's attention—"when you were with her in the drawing-room; but I did hear her talking to Mrs. Whitney and the nurse in her father's bedroom just before I left the house to come here."
"Keep me informed of what transpires at the Whitneys'," directed Miller, picking up his coat.
"Very well, Herr Captain. Permit me to help you." The chauffeur stepped closer to his side and while assisting him, whispered: "Did you get the invention?"
Miller thrust his right arm into the coat sleeve with slow precision, and his left arm into its sleeve with equal care before answering.
"God be praised!" Henry stepped back, his eyes snapping with delight. "Ah, we will win it yet, that Cross!" he exulted; then cautiously took from an inside pocket a folded sheet of letter paper and with care removed from between the pages a piece of paper. "When Miss Grey was occupied in her effort to revive Mr. Whitney I looked quickly about the studio," he explained. "This paper caught my eye—and I bring it to you, Herr Captain."
"Thanks," laconically, laying the paper down on the desk. "One moment before you go," and from a well-filled wallet he extracted a treasury bill whose denomination caused Henry's eyes to beam with pleasure.
"At service, Herr Captain," he said, saluting. "I will return and report later."
"Very well, Henry," and the chauffeur bowed himself out, but on the other side of the door he hesitated, fingering Miller's tip with satisfaction.
"He is liberal, that von Mueller," he muttered. "But it is just as well not to tell him that there were two sheets of finger prints," and he went whistling down the corridor.
Tiptoeing to his door, Miller listened for a second, then, convinced that the chauffeur had moved away, he turned the key in the lock. Going to his desk, he picked up the sheet of finger prints and studied them long and attentively; then glanced down at his right hand. Horror lurked in the depths of his frank eyes.
"The mark of Cain," he stammered, and opening the silver frame containing Kathleen Whitney's photograph, he deftly slipped the paper between the two pieces of cardboard.
* * * * *
It was getting toward dusk when Mrs. Whitney stole softly into Kathleen's bedroom and stood looking down at her as she lay, eyes closed, white face pillowed on one shapely arm, her breath hardly stirring the laces on her gown. Convinced that she was asleep, she moved cautiously away, hoping not to disturb her, but at that moment Kathleen opened her eyes and raised herself on her elbow.
"Don't go, dear," she begged. "How is Dad?"
"Just about the same." Mrs. Whitney carried a chair to the bedside. "It is too bad to have roused you."
"I wasn't asleep—only thinking"—drearily—"I am glad you came in. Does Dr. McLane hold out any hope?"
"Yes," and Mrs. Whitney's care-worn face brightened. "Is it not good news?"
"The very best," Kathleen smiled through her tears. "You must be worn out," and she stroked the hand on the bed with loving fingers. "You should take some rest."
"I am not tired," protested Mrs. Whitney. "The nurse has just come in from her afternoon constitutional, and I felt that I could leave Winslow for a little time. Tell me, dear," sinking her voice. "Can you let me have a hundred dollars?"
"I would gladly, mother, but I don't believe I have half that amount left. You are welcome to that, though; my purse is in my desk."
"Thank you, dear, I'll get it later," but the troubled shadow did not lift from Mrs. Whitney's pretty face. "Both Vincent and Henry have asked me for their wages; I have given Henry part ..."
"Give him the whole, only get rid of him," burst out Kathleen. "I cannot bear the man."
"Why, Kathleen! Has he been disrespectful?"
"N-no, only—I don't trust him."
"Please, dear, don't excite yourself." Mrs. Whitney noticed with alarm the hectic flush that dyed Kathleen's white cheeks. "I will fill his place. Come to think of it, I did not like his manner this morning when he asked for his wages, and he went out without leave ..."
"He selected a curious time to make his request, with Dad so ill."
"Well, you see, my dear," coloring faintly. "I gathered your father has not paid him recently."
"Don't believe that story until you have asked Dad." Kathleen choked back a sob, remembering that her father, her dear father, might never answer another question, no matter how trivial. "Don't look so worried, mother; Dad will get better shortly."
"I pray so." Mrs. Whitney's eyelashes were wet with tears. "Kathleen, did your father ever speak to you of a note for twenty thousand dollars?"
"It comes due next week." Mrs. Whitney looked hopelessly about the room.
"Surely the bank will hold over the matter until Dad is in a condition to attend to his affairs?"
"I sent word to that effect when answering the note teller's letter."
"Who is the holder of the note?"
"Sinclair Spencer." With ashy face Kathleen dropped back on her pillow as if shot. Failing to observe her expression in the semi-dark room, Mrs. Whitney continued wearily: "In your father's mail today I found a notice from his bank stating that he had overdrawn his account heavily. It just happens that my housekeeping allowance is almost exhausted, or I would never have mentioned the matter to you, Kathleen."
"I am glad you did, mother; you must not have this responsibility on your shoulders, in addition to your anxiety for Dad. I have a little money in the bank, and will turn it over to you tomorrow."
"Thank you, dear," stooping and kissing her. "My heart is wrung for you, Kathleen. It is shameful what you have had to go through!" and her eyes flashed with indignation.
"Hush!" placing her hand over Mrs. Whitney's mouth. "My affairs sink into insignificance alongside of Dad's illness."
"You are such a blessing, Kathleen," squeezing her hand fondly.
"Then let us forget there is such a thing as money difficulties, and turn to...."
"Me!" exclaimed a voice by the door, and Miss Kiametia Grey advanced further into the room. "I rapped several times but you did not hear...."
"Do come and sit with us," suggested Kathleen.
"I will, if you will turn on the light; I can't bear to talk in the dark. There, that's better," as Kathleen switched on the reading lamp by her bed. "Before anything further is said," began the spinster, reddening, "I must confess that I overheard Kathleen mention money difficulties—I didn't mean to hear it"—hastily—"but I just want to say that I'll be your banker until Winslow gets better."
"You dear!" Kathleen sat up and kissed her warmly and Mrs. Whitney, quite overcome, embraced her with tears in her eyes.
"What's a friend for if she can't be of use!" Miss Kiametia's manner was always most brusque when seeking to cover emotion. "Land sakes! I forgot to tell you that Randall Foster wishes to see you both."
"Now!" Kathleen looked down at her negligee attire. "Can't he wait until tomorrow? Dr. McLane said I could get up then."
"He is very anxious to interview you this evening, Kathleen. Put on this pretty dressing-gown," and Miss Kiametia picked it up from the couch. "You help her into it, Minna, while I go and get Randall," and not waiting for a reply she whisked out of the room, returning a few minutes later with Senator Foster.
"I am here under the doctor's order," explained Kathleen, taking his proffered hand, after he had greeted Mrs. Whitney. "Won't you sit down?"
"Thank you," muttered Foster, recovering with an effort from the shock her appearance occasioned him. She looked wretchedly ill, and the hand he held for a second in his was hot with fever. "I can stay but a minute, Miss Kathleen. Do you think that tomorrow you can sign some papers in reference to Sinclair Spencer's will?"
"Why should I sign any such papers?" in quick surprise. "What have I to do with his will?"
"Hasn't your mother told you?" Mrs. Whitney shook her head, and answered for Kathleen.
"Winslow said not to mention the matter to Kathleen yesterday, and today his illness put everything out of my mind," she explained.
Kathleen looked from one to the other. "What have I to do with his will?" she repeated.
"Sinclair Spencer made you residuary legatee."
"What!" Kathleen sat up, for the moment bereft of further speech. "I shan't take any legacy left me by him," she announced, passionately. "Mother, you hear me, I won't."
"Yes, yes, dear," soothingly, and Senator Foster broke in hastily:
"We understand how you must feel."
"Feel!" echoed Kathleen. "Did you for one moment suppose I would accept a penny from Sinclair Spencer or his estate?" and the scorn in her eyes hurt Foster as she looked at him.
"The law requires certain formalities," he said hurriedly. "As executor, I shall have to talk over his will with you, but later will do."
"Both now and later, I flatly refuse to consider any such bequest he may have made me," went on Kathleen, unheeding his words as her excitement increased, and Miss Kiametia hastened to avert the threatened scene.
"Where were you yesterday afternoon, Randall?" she asked.
"In Baltimore." Foster flashed her a grateful glance. "I hope you made use of my car yesterday, Mrs. Whitney; I told Henry to take it out until yours was repaired."
"You were very kind; Winslow went out in it." Mrs. Whitney's glance strayed to the door; she was anxious to return to her husband's bedside.
"And with your permission, Randall, I'm going to use your car now to take me home," chipped in Miss Kiametia.
"Oh, Kiametia, you must not go," protested Mrs. Whitney. "You are such a comfort—such a help...."
"Don't go," added Kathleen. "Your presence makes my enforced idleness here easier to bear."
"Thank you, my dears." The spinster looked immensely pleased. "Of course I'll stay, if you really feel you want me."
"I am the only one bereft," said Foster wistfully. "I cannot call upon you tonight, Kiametia."
"Of course you can," exclaimed Mrs. Whitney, smiling faintly. "We are not so selfish as to keep Kiametia to ourselves all the time. If you will excuse me, I must go back to Winslow."
"Certainly." Foster rose and opened the door for her. "I must not stop longer. Good night, Miss Kathleen, I hope that you will feel better in the morning."
"Thanks; please come here just a moment," and reluctantly Foster approached the bed. He did not wish to resume discussion about Spencer's will. "Tell me," Kathleen lowered her voice, "when will the Grand Jury meet?"
"Not for ten days or more."
"That is all, thanks," and Foster moved away. At the door he signaled to Miss Kiametia to step into the hall with him, and after a quick glance at Kathleen's averted face, the spinster followed him, softly closing the door behind her.
As the click of the latch reached her, Kathleen, seeing that she was alone, leaned over and put out the light. The darkness was pleasant to her, and she buried her hot hands under her pillows, the better to feel the cool linen. Soothed by its contact she struggled to reduce her chaotic thoughts to order. Sinclair Spencer had left her money—Sinclair Spencer had left her money—the sentence beat in her brain tirelessly. The idea was as repugnant to her as his personality had been. In life he had plagued her, and in death he had involved her in conspiracy and subjected her to cruel suspicion.
Her father's illness has aroused her from the torpor following Charles Miller's departure the night before. She writhed even at the recollection of her scene with him. Again and again she had been on the point of sending for the police and denouncing him, but remembrance of the forty-eight hours of grace which she had granted him stayed her impulse.
He had killed every spark of affection, she assured herself repeatedly; and then turned and tossed upon her pillows as vivid recollection painted each happy hour with him that winter.
A moan broke from her, and at the sound a stealthy figure advancing from the sitting-room adjoining, stopped dead. Hearing no further sound, the intruder moved cautiously forward and bent over Kathleen.
Kathleen's eyes flew open. "Julie! You have come back!"
"Hush, mademoiselle! Not so loud," and Julie, dropping on her knees by the bed, laid a warning finger on Kathleen's lips. Reaching out her hands, the latter clasped the Frenchwoman in a warm embrance, which was as warmly returned.
"You have come back," she repeated in a whisper. "Julie, you met with no harm?"
"Where have you been?"
"No matter now, mademoiselle. I spent last night with Vincent's sister, Marie Tregot. He smuggled me into the house a little while ago. He told me of all that you have been through. Oh, that I had stayed; but I acted for the best, mademoiselle."
"I am sure of that, Julie"—touched by the feeling in the maid's voice.
"I was misled"—bitterly—"and by one I thought to be trusted—Captain Miller."
"Julie! He did not offer...."
"No, no, mademoiselle"—Kathleen's taut muscles relaxed and she sank weakly back in bed. "But I have reason to believe that Captain Miller is not what he seems. Listen, mademoiselle: I was in M. Foster's touring car—no matter how I came there now—last night. Henry was driving it. He knew not that I was in the tonneau. When he stopped the car and got out I watched him enter a residence in Nineteenth Street. I dared not stay longer in the car, and hid in the vestibule of the house adjoining the one he had entered. They are what you call semi-detached, and concealed I was very close at hand. I had been there but a short time when a man ran up the steps of the next house and I recognized Captain Miller. He entered and I waited long, oh, so long, when out came Henry and Captain Miller ..."
"Well?" prompted Kathleen, as Julie came to a breathless pause.
"The Captain entered the car with Henry and drove off. After their departure I rang the bell of the house where I was hiding and asked the butler who were their next-door neighbors. He said Baron Frederic von Fincke."
"Oh, more evidence against him!" Kathleen drew in her breath sharply.
"Mademoiselle?" But Kathleen did not explain her remark, and Julie continued hurriedly; "I at first thought to return here at once, but remembered Marie Tregot. She gave me house room, and I arranged with Vincent last night to admit me after dark today."
"But why not come openly, Julie? No one will harm you."
"Henry is a spy—a traitor—it did not suit my plans to have him know my whereabouts."
"Mademoiselle, have patience—bear with me but a little longer—" The excited Frenchwoman rose and going to both doors locked them. She returned and switched on the reading lamp. "Quelle horreur! Mademoiselle, what have these beasts done to you?" she exclaimed, aghast, inspecting Kathleen in consternation. "They shall pay for every sign of suffering in your face."
"Do not let us discuss me," Kathleen sighed wearily. "Will you tell the police of your suspicions concerning Henry?"
"No, mademoiselle." Julie's expression changed. "I like not the police just now. I have a plan of my own." She checked herself abruptly. "Have you seen the Star?"
"See, it says here"—pointing to a paragraph in a folded sheet torn from a newspaper which she drew from under her apron—"'Fire at Roebling's Plant of Incendiary Origin.' Tell me, mademoiselle, what is Roebling's?"
"A factory near Trenton, New Jersey, which I believe"—Kathleen spoke somewhat uncertainly—"manufactures insulated as well as barbed wire."
"Ah, that is used in trench fighting!" The Frenchwoman took from the bodice of her black gown a crumpled telegram singed at the edges. "Henry received this but an hour ago. I watched, oh, so carefully. I saw him turn pale, and such was his haste to leave the house that he did not wait to see that the paper burned when he threw it in the grate. Can you translate it for me, mademoiselle?"
Smoothing out the telegram, Kathleen, with the maid intently peering over her shoulder, read the words it contained besides the address, in puzzled silence:
IN FULL CRY
Senator Foster, buttoning his overcoat against the March wind, left Calumet Place and sought his yellow touring car standing at the curb of an intersecting street near by. He had dispensed with the services of his chauffeur for that night. Seating himself behind the steering wheel, he started the machine down Fourteenth Street, so deep in thought that he barely missed running over two belated pedestrians scurrying to the sidewalk, and entirely missed the signals of a street-crossing policeman, who contented himself with a string of curses as he recognized the yellow car and bullied the next automobile chauffeur as a slight vent to his feelings.
As Foster sped by the War, State, and Navy Building he noted the lights burning in widely separated office rooms and smiled grimly to himself. Parking the car near the Whitney residence, he made his way to the front door. Miss Kiametia Grey answered his impatient ring at the bell.
"A nice hour for you to keep your appointment, and for me to see attractive men," she grumbled, leading the way to the library. "Fortunately, I have a reputation for eccentricity—it saves me a great deal of annoyance, and covers—er—indiscretions."
"You—the most discreet of women," protested Foster, seating himself on the sofa by her. "And I have come tonight to confide in you...."
"Have you?" dryly. "I doubt it; but go ahead"—generous encouragement in her tone.
"How is Whitney?"
"Pulse stronger, but still unconscious. Minna, poor child, insists that he knows her, and will not permit herself to believe in what I fear is the inevitable."
"Perhaps it is better so," compassionately. "What should we do without hope in this world? I should not be surprised if Kathleen's condition is graver than her father's." Meeting her surprised look, he tapped his forehead significantly. "Brain fever."
"She is acting queerly," admitted the spinster. "Tonight she locked herself in her room, won't see even the nurse, and refuses food."
"I fear the breaking point is near," conceded Foster. "I did not like Dr. McLane's manner when we met him on leaving Kathleen; he also is worried."
He paused and asked abruptly, "Has Kathleen seen Charles Miller?"
"When was he last here?"
"Let me see," calculating on her fingers. "He came with you on Wednesday when I was here—today is Saturday."
"Did Kathleen see him on Wednesday?"
"I don't think so."
"Has he been here since?"
"I can't say; possibly the servants can tell you."
"Will you find out from them before I go?" Miss Kiametia nodded affirmatively, and he asked; "Has Kathleen spoken to you of seeing him since Spencer's death?"
"Has she ever confided to you whether she cares for him or not?"
"Not in words," dryly. "But my woman's intuition tells me ..."
"Yes?" as she paused.
"That Kathleen worships the ground he walks on."
"Too bad." Foster sat back, looking troubled. "Too, too bad."
"What's this? A deathbed repentance? You introduced Miller in Washington," and the spinster's sharp eyes bored into him.
Foster moved uncomfortably. "I am sincerely sorry," he mumbled. "I have been grossly deceived."
"Humph!" Miss Kiametia moved closer to his side. "Go on—confession is good for the soul."
"I can't tell you just now," was the disappointing rejoinder. "Who found Whitney in his studio this morning?"
"I did; and a nice shock I had," with a shudder. "The antics in this house are deranging my nervous system. I can't even sleep."
"How did you happen to be around at that hour?"
"Rosa had a bad attack of indigestion after serving dinner, and I promised to look in and see how she was during the night. Just as I came out of her room I thought I heard groans and rushed upstairs; found the studio door open, and by aid of my electric torch, found Winslow lying on the floor."
"Did you see anyone else in the room?"
"No, I only had the light from the torch to guide me, and that is a very big room, with models and furniture standing around in odd spots."
"Why didn't you turn on the electric lights?" impatiently.
"Couldn't find the switch. I did press a button, the only one I could locate in my haste, and it brought Henry, who switched on the lights for me."
"And afterward did you find any trace of papers' having been stolen? Drawers opened, or anything?"
"I never looked to see." Foster sat back in bitter disappointment. "All I thought about was breaking the news of Winslow's condition to Minna and Kathleen, and getting a doctor. Henry attended to that; and I went downstairs, awoke Minna," she hesitated perceptibly, "Kathleen I found sitting in her bedroom—dressed."
"What!" Foster shot her a swift glance. "Asleep?"
"No. Just sitting there, apparently too dazed to realize my presence, let alone what I told her. Finally she grasped the news of her father's illness, and her grief was bitter."
Miss Kiametia fingered her gown nervously. "You were in Baltimore when the newspapers published Spencer's will, and this afternoon Dr. McLane interrupted us," she began. "Is it really true that Sinclair Spencer left Kathleen a small fortune?"
"Yes. On investigation, I find he held valuable stock, as well as improved real estate of known value."
"Sinclair Spencer was a bad egg," said Miss Kiametia slowly. "It would have been like him to boast of his wealth to Kathleen, and by its power seek to influence her to accept him."
"A man will do anything to win the woman he loves," said Foster, with a sidelong look of affection utterly lost on the spinster, who sat deep in thought.
"A large legacy," she commented aloud. "It establishes a motive which I thought lacking before."
"Kiametia!" Foster shook her elbow roughly. "What are you hinting at?"
"Hush!" The spinster pointed to the portieres in the doorway leading to the drawing-room. "Who is lurking there?"
She spoke in a subdued whisper which reached Foster's ears alone, but as he rose, startled, the portieres parted and Detective Mitchell walked over to them.
"Have you seen Captain Charles Miller?" he asked eagerly, omitting other greeting.
"No," they replied in concert.
"Strange! I saw him enter the front door half an hour ago, using a latchkey."
"Charles Miller with a latchkey of this house!" gasped Miss Kiametia.
"Yes," declared Mitchell, "and I have searched the house and cannot find him."
"Perhaps he came to see Kathleen," suggested Foster.
"Could you go and see if he is with her, Miss Grey?" urged Mitchell. "Her suite of rooms is the one place where I have not looked."
"Yes, I—I suppose so," but the spinster held back.
"Do go," put in Foster gently. "A clandestine meeting is not wise for either Kathleen or Miller. Think of the construction which may be put upon it."
"True." But Miss Kiametia rose reluctantly, and to gain time to collect her ideas, walked over to the table to gather up her scarf and gold mesh purse. As she picked up the latter a slight scream escaped her. Instantly the two men were by her side.
"See, it's missing!" she cried, raising the gold mesh purse with its dangling vanity box.
"What is missing?" demanded Foster. "Don't look so distracted, my darling."
"M-m-my g-gold p-p-pencil," she stuttered.
"Is that all?" and Foster smiled in relief. "I'll buy you another tomorrow."
"Indeed you won't," recovering some degree of composure. "I'll find mine, if I have to search this house from the top to the bottom."
"But please see Miss Whitney first," broke in Mitchell.
Miss Kiametia cast him a strange look. "That is the first place I shall go," she announced, and the two men watched her depart in silence. Foster was about to speak when the electric lights flickered, grew dim, and then went slowly out.
"Trouble in the power house," grumbled Mitchell, searching his pocket for his electric torch. "I noticed a tie-up in the street cars just before I came in. Can you find any candles on the mantel, sir?" flashing his torch in that direction. "Every light in the house must be out."
* * * * *
Henry, the chauffeur, paused in indecision on Baron Frederic von Fincke's doorstep. "You are quite certain the Baron said he would return on the night train?"
"Quite," answered the valet. "He is due here at seven o'clock in the morning. Good night."
"Good night," echoed Henry, and turning went swiftly down the street. He stopped for a moment at a news stand, talked with the proprietor, and then turned his footsteps toward the Whitneys'. As he passed the War, State, and Navy Building the lighted windows attracted his attention. With deepening interest he noted the location of the rooms from which the light shone. Officials of the government were working late.
Turning, Henry sped down a side street and slipping up an alley, entered the Whitney house by the rear entrance. He stood in deep thought outside the kitchen door for a moment before opening it; a flash from his electric torch showed the dark room was totally empty. Satisfied that Rosa had gone to her bedroom, he crept softly up the back stairs and along the front hall of the first bedroom floor. He had almost reached Miss Kiametia Grey's bedroom door when a slight noise made him pause and glance up the winding front stairs. He shrank farther back in the shadows of the dark hall as a faint light appeared, outlining a white face peering down the staircase.
Henry caught his breath sharply. How came Julie to be back in the house? The she-devil! Spying upon him. By God! The reckoning was close at hand, and he crawled forward a pace, then stopped. Julie had vanished, and with her the light. Henry debated for a moment. With Julie in the house, his plans were changed.
Losing no time, and as noiseless as the shadows about him, Henry made his way down the back stairs, into the kitchen, down another flight of steps into the sub-cellar, past the bottom of the elevator shaft, the motor room, and to the front of the house. With swift, deft fingers he swung aside a panel of shelves containing rows of preserve jars and pickles, and stepped inside a small chamber. Carefully he drew to the panel which, with its strong, well-oiled hinges, made no sound as it slipped into place. A second more and the small chamber was flooded with light as Henry found the switch. Never glancing at the batteries lining the wall, he went direct to the small pine table, and his fingers sought the telegraph instruments and set them in motion.
Upstairs in the library the two candles which Foster had been able to find in the desk drawer burned brightly in their improvised candlesticks. The flame, however, served but to intensify the darkness of the large room. The minutes had ticked themselves away in swift succession, but still Miss Kiametia Grey did not return. Mitchell shut his watch with an impatient snap, and Foster, his nerves not fully under control, looked up at the sound.
"What can be keeping Miss Grey?" he asked.
"Can't imagine, unless—" The detective never completed the sentence.
"Come quickly," whispered a voice over his shoulder, and swinging about with a convulsive start, Mitchell recognized Charles Miller. With common impulse he and Foster sprang up, but he was the first to reach Miller's side, and the candlelight shone on burnished steel. "Put up the handcuffs, Mitchell," directed Miller contemptuously. "The time has not yet come to use them."
"I am not so sure of that," retorted Mitchell. "You are ..."
"We can argue the point later." Miller made for the door. "Both of you come with me; but for God's sake, make no noise." His manner impressed them, and after one second's hesitation, the detective replaced the handcuffs, and in their stead produced a revolver.
"Go ahead," he said. "But remember, Miller, if you attempt to escape you will be arrested."
Without replying Miller led the way through the silent house, his torch and occasional whispered direction guiding them to the sub-cellar.
Inside the chamber under the parking of the house, Henry worked with tireless energy, taking down the coded messages as they flashed from the skilled fingers of the Government operators in the great War, State, and Navy Department but a stone's throw away. Suddenly, above the click of the sounder his abnormal sense of hearing caught a faint noise on the other side of the closed panel. One movement of his hand and the chamber was in darkness and the telegraph instrument stilled. Backing into a corner, Henry waited, his eyes still blinded by the change from light to darkness; but he heard the opening of the panel, and the soft swish of a woman's skirts.
"Julie!" His lips formed the word, but no sound issued from him as he launched himself forward. For a few seconds he closed with his adversary. Backward and forward they rocked; then a shot rang out and with a sob a figure sank limply across the pine table.
"This way!" shouted Miller, and guided by his voice Mitchell and Foster dashed after him. They stopped just inside the chamber. Miller's torch cast its beams across the pine table and its silent burden. A gasping cry broke from Foster:
"Dead!" The detective bent over Mrs. Whitney. "Shot through the heart." He turned to his silent companions. "Who fired that revolver?" and his own covered Miller menacingly.
Miller, spying the electric lamp, switched it on before answering. Still silent, he pointed to the telegrapher's outfit which confronted them and to the tell-tale wires leading to the outer world.
"The shot was fired," he said, "by the man who tunneled out to the conduit in which are the cables running to the White House and War, State, and Navy Building, and tapped them."
"Where is he?" Mitchell cast a bewildered look about the small chamber.
"I felt someone brush by me on the stairs in the darkness," volunteered Foster, recovering somewhat from his stupefaction. "I fear he has got safely away."
"No." Miller stepped back from Mrs. Whitney's side. "Chief Connor of the Secret Service has a cordon of operatives about the house. Heinrich Strauss, alias Henry Ross, chauffeur, cannot escape. Listen, isn't that a shot?"
"I hope to God they've caught him alive!" exclaimed Mitchell, looking sorrowfully at the dead woman. "He'll swing for this murder, if not for the death of Sinclair Spencer."
"I doubt if he was guilty of that crime," said Miller quietly.
"What!" Mitchell stared incredulously at him. "What leads you to think that?"
"Hush!" Miller held up a warning hand as the sound of hurrying footsteps reached them. A second more and Julie appeared in the sub-cellar, guided by their light. Her eyes were gleaming with a strange excitement. Unnoticed by the others, Miller swiftly removed his coat and threw it over Mrs. Whitney so that it covered her face.
"He is caught, that Henry!" called Julie, catching sight of Foster standing in the opening of the secret chamber. "He was getting away, oh, so softly in the dark, and I tripped him. But yes, and he fired"—touching a red gash in her cheek. "But the others, they pounced upon him. La—la! And they are bringing him here. But what—?" trying to peer past Foster.
Miller stepped forward. "Crouch down behind those barrels, Julie," he ordered, and the Frenchwoman, startled by his sudden appearance, obeyed mechanically. By sheer force of personality Miller took command. "Go back and wait in the telegraph room," he whispered hurriedly. "You do the questioning, Mitchell; I'll keep out of sight here."
Before Mitchell could ask the question burning on his lips, a number of men made their way down the staircase, Heinrich Strauss in their midst, handcuffed to the tallest operative. Mitchell saluted as he recognized the foremost man.
"This room will interest you, Chief," he said, making way for him, and Connor took a comprehensive look over the chamber.
"We've found the leak," he acknowledged. "Clever work that," inspecting the arrangement of the wires. He drew back at the sight of the covered figure stretched across the table. "What's this—murder?"
"Yes," answered Mitchell. "Henry, here," jerking his thumb toward the erstwhile chauffeur, "killed the woman before we could interfere."
"Did I?" demanded Heinrich. "How are you going to prove it? I wasn't in this room ..."
"You waste time," said a cool voice behind him, and Miller stepped into the circle. "The game is up, Heinrich."
"You renegade!" Heinrich was livid with fury.
"This man is Heinrich Strauss," continued Miller quietly. "One of the most expert electricians and telegraph operators in Germany. He could be described as an electrical genius."
"His work shows that," acknowledged Chief Connor.
A slight stir in the doorway caused Heinrich to turn, and he smiled evilly at sight of Kathleen and Miss Kiametia Grey.
"I'm glad you've come," he said, addressing Kathleen directly, as she shrank back at sight of him. "That man there," pointing to Miller, "is Karl von Mueller, captain in the Secret Service." A low moan broke from Kathleen, and she looked anywhere but at Miller, who had stepped forward to stand between her and the pine table with its pathetic burden. "Von Mueller," continued Heinrich, "killed Sinclair Spencer."
"I deny it," exclaimed Miller.
"Lies won't help," retorted Heinrich. "Miss Whitney, did you not attempt to rub off with your handkerchief from Spencer's blood-stained shirt, Captain von Mueller's finger print?"
The question from that source was unexpected. Twice Kathleen strove to answer. She cast an agonized look about the circle of men, but their set, stern faces gave her no help.
"Yes," and the monosyllable was little more than a murmur.
"Ah, take that down, Detective Mitchell," exclaimed Heinrich, triumphantly. "And von Mueller was in the house that night—do you deny it?"
"No." Miller's clear voice did not falter nor did his gaze, and Mitchell, handcuffs in evidence, looked perplexedly at Chief Connor. The latter was watching Miller like a lynx, and the Secret Service operatives closed up in the entranceway—there was no chance to escape, handcuffs seemed unnecessary.
The smile that crossed Heinrich's lips was cruel. "We will swing together, von Mueller," he said. "Turning state's evidence will not save you, you traitor!" With an effort he controlled his rage, and spoke more calmly, "Chief Connor, your informer last night stole Whitney's invention; besides admitting to me that he had it, he left these tell-tale finger prints"—his hand sought his pocket, but a quick jerk on the handcuffs stopped him. "Take it out yourself," he snarled to the operative next him, "inside pocket." His request was quickly complied with. "There, that tells the story; open it."
Detective Mitchell bent eagerly forward and gazed at the sheet, then turned to Miller.
"Let me see your hands," he directed. Obediently Miller held them palm uppermost, and the detective and Chief Connor examined the half-moon scar on the index finger of his right hand with minute care.
"It tallies," exclaimed Mitchell. A cry from Kathleen broke the silence. Miller whitened as he heard it.
"The evidence is conclusive, is it not?" mocked Heinrich. "If that dead woman could speak"—pointing to the table—"she would tell you how she saw the crime committed."
"Suppose we take her mute testimony"—and with a swift movement Miller removed his coat.
"Merciful God!" With eyes starting from his head Heinrich recoiled. "Mrs. Whitney! Why didn't she let me know she was coming down here?"
"Ah, then she was in the habit of coming?"
Miller's remark remained unanswered. Heinrich stared and stared again at Mrs. Whitney, great beads of sweat standing on his forehead. "I thought it was Julie—that hell-cat!" he muttered. "Why, why didn't she speak, and let me know who she was?" Then suddenly he collapsed on the one chair in the chamber and bowed his head.
At sight of Mrs. Whitney a gasping cry escaped Kathleen. Involuntarily her eyes strayed about the chamber, her dazed senses slowly grasping the situation. In the appalling silence one idea became paramount—Henry, the chauffeur, was a spy, and both his words and behavior implicated Mrs. Whitney. She, his accomplice? Oh, impossible! She put the thought from her, but memories, unconsidered trifles, rose to combat Kathleen's loyalty. Had Mrs. Whitney's smilingly collected manner and dignified reserve cloaked a cold, calculating, and treacherous nature?
Kathleen shuddered in horror, and reeled back into Miss Kiametia's arms. The spinster, shaken out of her forced composure, was crying without realizing it. She placed a protecting arm about Kathleen and held her in close embrace. Over the shoulders of the men, Julie, who had crawled from her hiding place behind the barrels, peered at them in mingled curiosity and incredulity.
"Heinrich!" Miller's voice penetrated even the spy's benumbed brain. "Why is Mrs. Whitney wearing these finger tips?" and he held up the limp right hand. Each finger was fitted with a wax tip, and on the index finger, distinct and plain, was the scar shaped like a half moon.
Stunned, the men and women present looked first at Mrs. Whitney's hand, then at Miller, and last at Heinrich. No one spoke, and in the heavy silence the spy's labored breathing was distinct.
"The game is up," he admitted slowly. "I wish I hadn't done that," nodding to the silent figure. "She didn't deserve to be shot by me. She was faithful to Germany ..."
"Do you mean to insinuate that Minna Whitney was a German spy?" asked Miss Kiametia, shocked into speech.
"Well, yes, you might call it that," taunted Heinrich. "I term it loyalty to the Fatherland, where she was born and brought up. Her mother was a German."
"She would never have aided you but for your devilish wiles," broke in Miller hotly.
"The fact that she was deeply in debt did influence her," admitted Heinrich insolently. "Money was her god. I had to pay handsomely before she would engage my services as chauffeur, and let me make use of this nice little box."
"Did you construct this tunnel under the pavement"—pointing to where the telegraph wires entered the chamber—"and install this outfit by yourself?" asked Chief Connor, breaking his long silence.
Heinrich smiled. "You will never learn that from me—and you should remember that your conduits are laid only seven inches below the surface of the street; it was hardly a man-sized job." He smiled again, and continued. "Neither Mrs. Whitney nor I wished to take anyone wholly into our confidence. She was a perfect assistant; she knew the antecedents of nearly everyone in society here, and she invariably found out, or got others to find out, the motives which inspired strangers to come to Washington. Her husband never interfered with our plans, as he spent most of his time, both day and night, in his studio. The servants never came down in this sub-cellar, and with Mrs. Whitney's connivance, I frequently managed to keep the limousine in the repair shop—and my time was my own. My surroundings were ideal, even the location of this house favored my plans ..."
"Until you grew too ambitious," added Connor softly.
"Perhaps." Heinrich gnawed at his underlip as he shot a glance full of venom at Kathleen who stood with head averted, drinking in all that was said. To hurt her, to lower her pride appealed to Heinrich; his silence would not benefit the dead woman, while speech would cruelly hurt and mortify both Kathleen and her father. "My government was anxious to secure Mr. Whitney's inventions; he would not sell to them, although Baron—" he stopped and scowled at Miller—"offered him a large sum. Whitney stuck to it that none but his own country could have the inventions. Then I suggested to Mrs. Whitney that she get the drawings and specifications for me; and again I paid her a large sum of money. But it was as difficult for Mrs. Whitney to get into the studio as for me, and the danger to herself was not small. Her husband was very suspicious, and he never permitted her to remain in the room alone.
"However, because she was not aware I had perfected, as I thought, another plan to secure the invention, and tempted by the sum of money I held before her to succeed, she made another attempt last night. She cried out with disappointment when, after entering, she found only blank paper, and Whitney heard her." He stared at the horrified faces about him, and clearing his voice, added, "The shock finished Whitney."
"You are the devil incarnate!" exclaimed Miss Kiametia, wrathfully.
"I'm not, but he is." Heinrich raised his manacled hands menacingly toward Miller. "I never fully trusted you, von Mueller; although I never found any evidence of your double dealing in your room. But while outwardly appearing to confide in you, I took the precaution to incriminate you should my plans miscarry. I observed the peculiar scar on your finger, and conceived the idea of copying your finger tips in wax. With Mrs. Whitney's help, I secured an impression of your finger prints and had it copied in wax. The workman, another German sympathizer, achieved a wonderful copy of the original, and by my advice Mrs. Whitney wore the wax finger tips whenever she had work to do."
"An ingenious plan, very," ejaculated Mitchell, "and one new to me."
"Mrs. Whitney was wearing them on the night that Sinclair Spencer took it into his besotted brain to investigate this house," went on Heinrich. "Mrs. Whitney told me afterwards that she was on the way here to see me, when she spied Spencer crouching in the elevator, the door of which was open. She was afraid of being discovered if she went upstairs again, and to stay was equally dangerous.
"She had with her a hypodermic syringe which I had given her to use in an emergency." Kathleen straightened up, and for the first time stared full at the spy. "The syringe was filled with a solution of cyanide of potassium," continued Henry. "Adjusting the needle, Mrs. Whitney entered the elevator, and before Spencer could move, thrust it into his neck. Spencer gave one convulsive start, attempted to get up, and his heavy body lurched full against her. She held a knife in her left hand, and as he half arose from his knees, the force of contact against the worn edges of the knife gashed his throat. I had asked Mrs. Whitney to bring me one of the knives which her daughter had for modeling, as I wanted to use some putty down here.
"With great presence of mind," continued Heinrich, after a brief pause which no one cared to break, "Mrs. Whitney ran the elevator to the attic, and before leaving dipped her wax finger tip in the blood flowing from Spencer's throat, and made a distinct impression of von Mueller's finger print on Spencer's white shirt front. Mrs. Whitney left the elevator at the attic, but Detective Mitchell arrived before she missed the syringe. On discovering Miss Grey had it, she made various attempts to get it back.
"I found the hypodermic syringe," confessed Miss Kiametia. "It was lying inside the elevator, and I picked it up just after Kathleen was carried from the elevator. The syringe was marked 'K.W.,' and some impulse made me keep it, and after the inquest, when I learned cyanide of potassium had killed Spencer, I hardly let it out of my sight"—Kathleen turned bewildered, grateful eyes on the spinster—she was not a drug-fiend, but the most loyal of friends. Her hand tightened on the spinster's, and her pressure was returned twofold. "Did Kathleen's unnatural mother deliberately have that syringe marked with her daughter's initials?"
"Put it down to coincidence," sneered Heinrich. "Or say I had it marked 'K.W.' for—Kaiser Wilhelm."
"I doubt it; malice alone governed your actions to all in my house." Kathleen faced the spy proudly. "Miss Kiametia, you do Mrs. Whitney one injustice. She was not an unnatural mother—as she was no blood kin of mine, but my father's second wife. She never told anyone that I was not her child. I don't know why she kept the matter a secret, but I only learned it accidentally a year ago, and respecting her wishes, never said anything about it."
"Mrs. Whitney was secretive by nature," said Heinrich. "And that instinct made her a willing pawn."
Pausing only long enough to say a parting word to Coroner Penfield and Chief Connor, Miller hastened up the back stairs and entered the library. Kathleen and Miss Kiametia Grey, utterly unmindful of the hour, sat on the sofa, and near them stood Julie, a neat bandage wound about her cheek and head, while Senator Foster paced agitatedly up and down the room. He stopped on seeing Miller.
"Will you kindly inform us who you are?" he demanded peremptorily. "The Secretary of State showed me a letter tonight from Vincent stating that you were a German spy ..."
"Oh, that Vincent!" exclaimed Julie. "I talked too much to him."
"I came here at once," went on Foster, paying no attention to Julie, "hoping to elicit some facts about you from Miss Grey and Miss Kathleen. Tell us at once who you are."
"Charles Miller Trent," was the calm reply.
"Then why"—Kathleen sprang to her feet—"why were you masquerading as Karl von Mueller when I knew you in Germany?"
"I beg your pardon, you did not know me in Germany." Kathleen crimsoned at the direct contradiction. "But you did know my cousin, Karl von Mueller."
Too dazed for utterance, Kathleen stared at him, studying his face as never before, and gradually her incredulity gave place to belief. Feature for feature, coloring matching coloring, the man before her resembled Karl as she remembered him, but the honesty and steadfast purpose to be read in Miller's square jaw and fine eyes had been lacking in his cousin.
"The likeness is extraordinary," she stammered.
"Yes," agreed Miller. "But I do not think you would have been so thoroughly certain of my identity if I had not copied my cousin's mannerisms as well as his handwriting."
"Then you were brought up together?" asked Foster.
"In a way, yes. I was never in Germany, but my aunt, Frau von Mueller, spent many winters at my father's home in Rio Janeiro...."
"What, are you the son of the coffee importer, Charles M. Trent," demanded Foster, again interrupting him.
"Yes. As boys Karl and I were perpetually changing identities and confusing our playmates, as well as our parents. To that end I was a willing German scholar, and Karl also became proficient in his English studies."
"Were you entirely educated in South America?" asked Miss Kiametia.
"Oh, no; I spent a great deal of time in Santa Barbara, my mother's home, and later attended Stanford University. But I have seldom been in the East, and have few friends here. Last fall I overcame my mother's objection (she unfortunately sympathized with Germany), and went to England to enlist in the British army," continued Miller, after a brief pause. "The night of my arrival in London I was arrested, charged with being a spy. I had great difficulty, even with my passport and letters to my bankers, in proving I was not a spy. Finally, I was told that a man resembling me had been arrested, tried at once, and executed that day."
"They keep such things quiet over there," commented Foster.
"To cut a long story short, I was taken to see the dead spy, and found he was my cousin, Karl von Mueller"—He hesitated and glanced sorrowfully at Kathleen who sat with head averted. How would she take the news he was imparting—how deep was her affection for the dead spy? Sighing, he continued his statement. "The indorsement of my father's influential friends, whom I had called upon to establish my identity, evidently carried weight, for on my release it was suggested to me by one high in authority that, instead of enlisting in the army, I use my cousin's identity and spy upon the Germans. There was a spice of deviltry in the scheme and—I accepted.
"They gave me his papers, clothes, money, and I slipped straight into his place. None of his companions had heard of his arrest and death. Those whom I saw I told I had been out of London on a special mission, and they believed the statement without question. By aid of such papers as my cousin had kept concealed on his person, I learned something of his methods, and contact with his companions in London taught me assurance. No one doubted my identity. Karl had assumed the name of Charles Miller and it was easy for me to drop my surname. Finally I was sent to a certain town in the warring countries, and there I received instructions to come to the United States."
"Did the Germans accept your identity without question?" asked Foster.
"Apparently so; but I was not in Germany twenty-four hours, and the Herr Chief of the Secret Service was familiar with my cousin's appearance and never doubted he was talking to Karl," answered Miller. "On my arrival here I communicated at once with Chief Connor, giving him the credentials I had brought from the London office. By his advice I followed out the instructions given me by the Herr Chief of the German Secret Service, and to all intents and purposes was a German spy. But as I grew to know Baron von Fincke better, I became convinced that another and cleverer man was responsible for the leak in the carefully guarded offices of this government. I suspected everyone," Miller smiled suddenly, "even you, Senator Foster—your peace propaganda fooled me...."
"Wait," broke in Miss Kiametia. "Randall shan't be blamed for that; Minna Whitney insinuated that he would not make a peace speech even for me, so I—I...."
"Proved her wrong," Foster laughed ruefully. "Mrs. Whitney was a keen student of human nature; but continue, Miller—er—Trent—I won't interrupt again."
"Chief Connor confided to me that messages were being wirelessed to German cruisers, and that while the station at Sayville, Long Island, was under surveillance, they were powerless to check the new use of the wireless." Miller drew his chair closer. "I made a study of wireless while at college, and the problem here fascinated me. I finally reached the conclusion ..."
"Yes, go on," urged Foster.
"That messages to the German cruisers were being relayed from stations close together; in other words, that the station in the heart of this city had a wave length shorter than Arlington's minimum wave length, and the Arlington Radio Station was unable to hear—you already know that a transmitting and receiving station can only hear each other when in tune; that is, the wave length of each must be equal. I therefore established a receiving station in my room with a short wave length—and the result justified my reasoning."