**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Absolute Zero
by [?]

“Isn’t there some way you can save him, Professor Kennedy? You must come out to Briar Lake.”

When a handsome woman like Mrs. Fraser Ferris pleads, she is irresistible. Not only that, but the story which she had not trusted either to a message or a messenger was deeply interesting, for, already, it had set agog the fashionable country house colony.

Mrs. Ferris had come to us not as the social leader now, but as a mother. Only the night before her son, young Fraser, had been arrested by the local authorities at Briar Lake on the charge of homicide. I had read the meager dispatch in the morning papers and had wondered what the whole story might be.

“You see, Professor Kennedy,” she began in an agitated voice as soon as she arrived at the laboratory and introduced herself to us, “day before yesterday, Fraser was boxing at the Country Club with another young man, Irving Evans.”

Kennedy nodded. Both of them were well known. Ferris had been the All-America tackle on the University football team a couple of years previous and Evans was a crack pitcher several years before.

“Irving,” she continued, adding, “of course I call him Irving, for his mother and I were schoolgirls together–Irving, I believe, fell unconscious during the bout. I’m telling you just what Fraser told me.

“The other men in the Club gymnasium at the time carried him into the locker-room and there they all did what they could to revive him. They succeeded finally, but when he regained consciousness he complained of a burning sensation in his stomach, or, rather, as Fraser says, just below the point where his ribs come together. They say, too, that there was a red spot on his skin, about the size of a half-dollar.

“Finally,” she continued with a sigh, “the other men took Irving home–but he lapsed into a half-comatose condition. He never got better. He–he died the next day–yesterday.”

It was evidently a great effort for Mrs. Ferris to talk of the affair which had involved her son, but she had made up her mind to face the necessity and was going through it bravely.

“Of course,” she resumed a moment later, “the death of Irving Evans caused a great deal of talking. It was natural in a community like Briar Lake. But I don’t think anything would have been thought about it, out of the way, if the afternoon after his death–yesterday–the body of one of the Club’s stewards, Benson, had not been found jammed into a trunk. Apparently, it had been dumped off an automobile in one of the most lonely sections of the country.

“In fact,” she went on, “it was the sort of thing that might have taken place, one would say, in the dark alleys of a big city. But in a country resort like Briar Lake, the very uncommonness of such a case called added attention to it.”

“I understand,” agreed Craig, “but why did they suspect your son?”

“That’s the ridiculous part of it, at least to me,” hastened the mother to her son’s defense. “Both Irving and my son, as you know, were former University athletic stars, and, as in all country clubs, I suppose, that meant popularity. Irving was engaged to Anita Allison. Anita is one of the most beautiful and popular girls in the younger set, a splendid golfer, charming and clever, the life of the Club at the dances and teas.”

Mrs. Ferris paused as though she would convey to us just the social status of everyone concerned.

“Of course,” she threw in parenthetically, “you know the Allisons are reputed to be quite well off. When old Mr. Allison died, Anita’s brother, Dean, several years older than herself, inherited the brokerage business of his father and, according to the will, assumed the guardianship of his younger sister.”

She seemed to be considering something, then suddenly to make up her mind to tell it. “I suppose everyone knows it,” she resumed, “and you ought to know it, too. Fraser was–er–one of Anita’s unsuccessful suitors. In fact, Anita had been sought by nearly all of the most eligible young fellows of the Club. I don’t think there were many who had not at some time or other offered her his whole heart as well as his fortune.