Story type: Literature
“Everybody’s crazy, Kennedy. The whole world is going mad!”
Our old friend, Burke, of the Secret Service, scowled at the innocent objects in Craig’s laboratory as he mopped his broad forehead.
“And the Secret Service is as bad as the rest,” he went on, still scowling and not waiting for any comment from us. “Why, what with these European spies and agitators, strikers and dynamiters, we’re nearly dippy. Here, in less than a week I’ve been shifted off war cases to Mexico and now to Hayti. I don’t mean that I’ve been away, of course,–oh, no. You don’t have to go to them. They come to us. Confound it, New York is full of plots and counterplots. I tell you, Kennedy, the whole world is crazy.”
Craig listened with sympathy mixed with amusement. “Can I help you out?” he asked.
“If you don’t I’ll be dippy, too,” returned Burke with a whimsical grimace.
“What’s the trouble with Hayti, then?” encouraged Kennedy seriously.
“Trouble enough,” answered Burke. “Why, here’s that Caribbean liner, Haytien, just in from Port au Prince. She’s full of refugees–government supporters and revolutionists–you never saw such a menagerie since the ark.”
I watched Burke keenly as he cut loose with his often picturesque language. Somehow, it seemed rather fascinating to have the opera bouffe side of the Black Republic presented to us. At least it was different from anything we had had lately–and perhaps not at all opera bouffe, either. Kennedy, at least, did not seem to think so, for although he was very busy at the time, seemed prepared to lay aside his work to aid Burke.
“You haven’t heard about it yet,” continued the Secret Service man, “but on the Haytien was a man–black of course–Guillaume Leon. He was a friend of the United States–at least so he called himself, I believe–wanted a new revolution down there, more American marines landed to bolster up a new government that would clean things up, a new deal all around.”
Burke paused, then added by way of explanation of his own attitude in the matter, “That may be all right, perhaps,–may be just what they need down there, but we can’t let people come here and plot revolutions like that right in New York. They’re sore enough at us without our letting them think in Latin America that we’re taking a hand in their troubles.”
“Quite right,” agreed Kennedy. “About Leon.”
“Yes, Leon,” resumed Burke, getting back to the subject. “Well, I was told by the Chief of the Service to look out for this fellow. And I did. I thought it would make a good beginning to go down the bay on a revenue tug to meet the Haytien at Quarantine. But, by Jingo, no sooner was I over the side of the ship than what do you suppose I ran up against?”
He did not pause long enough to give us a guess, but shot out dramatically, “Leon was dead–yes, dead!”
Kennedy and I had been interested up to this point. Now we were eager to have him go on. “He died on the voyage up,” continued Burke, “just after passing the Gulf Stream, suddenly and from no apparent cause. At least the ship’s surgeon couldn’t find any cause and neither could they down at Quarantine. So after some time they let the ship proceed up the bay and placed the whole thing in the hands of the Secret Service.”
“Is there anyone you suspect?” I asked.
“Suspect?” repeated Burke. “I suspect them all. The Haytien was full of niggers–as superstitious as they make ’em. The ship’s surgeon tells me that after the body of Leon was discovered there was such a scene as he had never witnessed. It was more like bedlam than a group of human beings. Some were for putting the body over into the sea immediately. Others threatened murder if it was done. Most of them didn’t know what it was they wanted. Then, there was a woman there. She seemed to be nearly crazy–“
There came a knock at the laboratory door.
“If you’ll just go into the next room with Walter,” said Craig to Burke, “I’ll see you in a few minutes. Sit down, make yourself at home.”
I went in with him and Burke dropped into a chair beside my typewriter. The laboratory door opened. From where we were sitting we could see in a mirror on the opposite wall that it was a girl, dark of skin, perhaps a mulatto, but extremely beautiful, with great brown eyes and just a trace of kinkiness in her black hair. But it was the worried, almost haunted, look on her face that attracted one’s attention most.
I happened to glance at Burke to see whether he had noticed it. I thought his eyes would pop out of his head.
Just then Kennedy walked across the laboratory and closed our door.
“What’s the matter?” I whispered.
But before Burke could reply, a draught opened the door just a bit. He placed his finger on his lips. We could not close the door, and we sat there in our corner unintentional but no less interested eavesdroppers.
“Mademoiselle Collette Aux Cayes is my name,” she began, with a strangely French accent which we could just understand. “I’ve heard of you, Professor Kennedy, as a great detective.”
“I should be glad to do what I can for you,” he returned. “But you mustn’t expect too much. You seem to be in some great trouble.”
“Trouble–yes,” she replied excitedly. “My name isn’t really Aux Cayes. That is the name of my guardian, a friend of my father’s. Both my father and mother are dead–killed by a mob during an uprising several years ago. I was in Paris at the time, being educated in a convent, or I suppose I should have been killed, too.”
She seemed to take it as a matter of course, from which I concluded that she had been sent to Paris when she was very young and did not remember her parents very well.
“At last the time came for me to go back to Hayti,” she resumed. “There is nothing that would interest you about that–except that after I got back, in Port au Prince, I met a young lawyer–Guillaume Leon.”
She hesitated and looked at Craig as though trying to read whether he had ever heard the name before, but Kennedy betrayed nothing. There was more than that in her tone, though. It was evident that Leon had been more than a friend to her.
“Hayti has been so upset during the past months,” she went on, “that my guardian decided to go to New York, and of course I was taken along with him. It happened that on the ship–the Haytien –Monsieur Leon went also. It was very nice until–“
She came to a full stop. Kennedy encouraged her gently, knowing what she was going to tell.
“One night, after we had been out some time,” she resumed unexpectedly, “I could not sleep and I went out on the deck to walk and watch the moonlight. As I walked softly up and down, I heard voices, two men, in the shadow of one of the cabins. They were talking and now and then I could catch a word. It was about Guillaume. I heard them say that he was plotting another revolution, that that was the reason he was going to New York–not because he wanted to be on the boat with me. There was something about money, too, although I couldn’t get it very clearly. It had to do with an American banking house, Forsythe & Co., I think,–money that was to be paid to Guillaume to start an uprising. I think they must have heard me, for I couldn’t hear any more and they moved off down the deck, so that I couldn’t recognize them. You see, I am not a revolutionist. My guardian belongs to the old order.”
She stopped again, as though in doubt just how to go on. “Anyhow,” she continued finally, “I determined to tell Guillaume. It would have made it harder for us–but it was he, not his politics, I loved.” She was almost crying as she blurted out, “But it was only the next day that he was found dead in his stateroom. I never saw him alive after I overheard that talk.”
It was some moments before she had calmed herself so that she could go on. “You know our people, Professor Kennedy,” she resumed, choking back her sobs. “Some said his dead body was like Jonah, and ought to be thrown off to the sea. Then others didn’t even want to have it touched, said that it ought to be embalmed. And others didn’t want that, either.”
“What do you mean? Who were they?”
“Oh, there was one man,–Castine,” she replied, hesitating over the name, as though afraid even to mention it.
“He wanted it thrown overboard?” prompted Craig.
“N–no, he didn’t want that, either,” she replied. “He urged them not to touch it–just to leave it alone.”
She was very much frightened, evidently at her own temerity in coming to Craig and saying so much. Yet something seemed to impel her to go on.
“Oh, Professor Kennedy,” she exclaimed in a sudden burst of renewed feeling, “don’t you understand? I–I loved him–even after I found out about the money and what he intended to do with it. I could not see his dear body thrown in the ocean.”
She shivered all over at the thought, and it was some time before she said anything more. But Kennedy let her do as she pleased, as he often did when deep emotion was wringing the secrets from people’s hearts.
“He is dead!” she sobbed wildly. “Was he poisoned? Oh, can’t you find out? Can’t you help me?”
Suddenly her voice in wild appeal sank almost to a hoarse whisper. “You must not let anybody know that I came to you,” she implored.
“Oh–I–I am just afraid–that’s all.”
There was real fear in her tone and face now, fear for herself.
“Where is the body?” asked Kennedy, to get her mind off whatever hung like an incubus over it.
“Down on the Haytien, at the pier, over in Brooklyn, still,” she replied. “They kept us all interned there. But my guardian had enough influence to get off for a time and while he is arranging for quarters for our stay after we are released, I slipped away to see you.”
“You must go back to the boat?”
“Oh, yes. We agreed to go back.”
“Then I shall be down immediately,” Craig promised. “If you will go ahead, I will see you there. Perhaps, at first you had better not recognize me. I will contrive some way to meet you. Then they will not know.”
“Thank you,” she murmured, as she rose to go, now in doubt whether she had done the best thing to come to Craig, now glad that she had some outside assistance in which she could trust.
He accompanied her to the door, bidding her keep up her courage, then closed it, waiting until her footsteps down the hall had died away.
Then he opened our door and caught sight of Burke’s face.
“That’s strange, Burke,” he began, before he realized what the expression on his face meant. “There’s a woman–what? You don’t mean to tell me that you knew her?”
“Why, yes,” hastened Burke. “There was a rich old planter, Henri Aux Cayes, aboard, too. She’s his ward, Mademoiselle Collette.”
“That’s right,” nodded Craig in surprise.
“She’s the woman I was telling you about. She may be a little dark, but she’s a beauty, all right. I heard what she said. No wonder she was so frantic, then.”
“What do you know of the bankers, Forsythe & Co.?” asked Craig.
“Forsythe & Co.?” considered Burke. “Well, not much, perhaps. But for a long time, I believe, they’ve been the bankers and promoters of defunct Caribbean islands, reaping a rich harvest out of the troubles of those decrepit governments, playing one against the other.”
“H-m,” mused Kennedy. “Can you go over to Brooklyn with me now?”
“Of course,” agreed Burke, brightening up. “That was what I hoped you’d do.”
Kennedy and I were just about to leave the laboratory with Burke when an idea seemed to occur to Craig. He excused himself and went back to a cabinet where I saw him place a little vial and a hypodermic needle in his vest pocket.
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