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The Anesthetic Vaporizer
by [?]

Craig had completed a hasty search of the room, with its little dressing table, two trunks, and a cabinet. Everything seemed to have been kept in a most neat and orderly manner by the attentive Cecilie, who was apparently a model servant.

The little white bathroom was equally immaculate, and Kennedy passed next to an examination of the little room of the French maid.

Cecilie was a pretty, dark little being, with snapping black eyes, the type of winsome French maid that one would naturally have expected Rawaruska, with her artist’s love of the beautiful, to have picked out to serve her dainty self.

As I ran my eye over the group that was now intently watching Kennedy at work, I fancied I caught Elsa Hoffman eyeing Cecilie sharply, and I am sure that once at least those black eyes snapped back a wireless message of defiance at the penetrating eyes of blue. I could feel instinctively the atmosphere of hostility between the two women.

“The door was not locked, you say?” repeated Craig, following up one of the first of his own questions to Cecilie, which had resulted in unearthing this new fact.

“Non, monsieur,” replied Cecilie in accented English which was charming. “Mam’selle–we all called her that, her stage name,–used to leave it open in case of fire or accident. She had a terrible fear of drowning. You know there have been some awful wrecks lately, and she was, oh, so nervous.”

“But her valuables?” prompted Craig quickly, watching the effect of his question.

“All in the ship’s safe, in care of the purser,” replied Cecilie. “So were Miss Hoffman’s.”

“Yes,” corroborated Thompson, “and, besides, the corridors and passageways are well patrolled by stewards at all times.”

The search of Cecilie’s room, which was smaller and more scantily furnished, took only a few minutes.

A suppressed exclamation from Craig served to divert my attention from the study of those around me to the study of Kennedy himself, and what he had discovered.

Hidden away in the back of a drawer in a small chiffonier, he had come across several articles that aroused interest if they did not whet the blade of suspicion.

Mon Dieu! ” exclaimed the maid as Kennedy suppressed a smile of gratification at the outcome of the search. “But that is not mine!”

Kennedy drew out from the back of the drawer, where it had been tucked, a little silken bag. He opened it. On the surface it seemed that the bag was empty. But as he brought it cautiously closer to his face to peer in, I could see that just a whiff of its contents was enough.

“What have you there?” I asked Kennedy, careful that no one else could overhear us.

“Cayenne pepper, snuff, and some other chemical,” sneezed Craig. “Very effective to throw into the face of anyone,” he commented, closing quickly the bag by its loose drawing strings, “that is, if you merely want to blind him and put him out temporarily.”

I did not pay much attention to the protests of the maid, nor the look of triumph that crossed the face of Elsa Hoffman and surprise exhibited by Dr. Preston. For Kennedy had picked up from the same drawer a little toilet vaporizer, too, and was examining it minutely.

As he held it up, I could see, or rather I fancied that it was empty. He pressed the bulb lightly, then seemed to start back quickly.

“What’s that?” I queried, mystified at his actions.

“Something the French secret service spies call the ‘bad perfume,'” he returned frankly, “an anesthetic so incredibly rapid and violent that the spies, usually women, who use it wear a filter veil over their own mouths and noses to protect themselves.”

The whole thing was so queer that I could only wonder what might be the explanation. Cecilie was protesting volubly, now in fair English, now in liquid French, that she knew absolutely nothing of the articles.