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The "Coke" Fiend
by [?]

I followed him in awe as he made a hasty inventory of what we had discovered. There were as many as a dozen finished and partly finished infernal machines of various sizes and kinds, some of tremendous destructive capacity. Kennedy did not even attempt to study them. All about were high explosives, chemicals, dynamite. There was gunpowder of all varieties, antimony, blasting-powder, mercury cyanide, chloral hydrate, chlorate of potash, samples of various kinds of shot, some of the outlawed soft-nosed dumdum bullets, cartridges, shells, pieces of metal purposely left with jagged edges, platinum, aluminum, iron, steel–a conglomerate mass of stuff that would have gladdened an anarchist.

Kennedy was examining a little quartz-lined electric furnace, which was evidently used for heating soldering irons and other tools. Everything had been done, it seemed, to prevent explosions. There were no open lights and practically no chance for heat to be communicated far among the explosives. Indeed, everything had been arranged to protect the operator himself in his diabolical work.

Kennedy had switched on the electric furnace, and from the various pieces of metal on the table selected several. These he was placing together in a peculiar manner, and to them he attached some copper wire which lay in a corner in a roll.

Under the work-table, beneath the furnace, one could feel the warmth of the thing slightly. Quickly he took the curious affair, which he had hastily shaped, and fastened it under the table at that point, then led the wires out through a little barred window to an air-shaft, the only means of ventilation of the place except the door.

While he was working I had been gingerly inspecting the rest of the den. In a corner, just beside the door, I had found a set of shelves and a cabinet. On both were innumerable packets done up in white paper. I opened one and found it contained several pinches of a white, crystalline substance.

“Little portions of cocaine,” commented Kennedy, when I showed him what I had found. “In the slang of the fiends, ‘decks.'”

On the top of the cabinet he discovered a little enamelled box, much like a snuff-box, in which were also some of the white flakes. Quickly he emptied them out and replaced them with others from jars which had not been made up into packets.

“Why, there must be hundreds of ounces of the stuff here, to say nothing of the various things they adulterate it with,” remarked Kennedy. “No wonder they are so careful when it is a felony even to have it in your possession in such quantities. See how careful they are about the adulteration, too. You could never tell except from the effect whether it was the pure or only a few-per-cent.- pure article.”

Kennedy took a last look at the den, to make sure that nothing had been disturbed that would arouse suspicion.

“We may as well go,” he remarked. “To-morrow, I want to be free to make the connection outside with that wire in the shaft.”

Imagine our surprise, the next morning, when a tap at our door revealed Loraine Keith herself.

“Is this Professor Kennedy?” she asked, gazing at us with a half- wild expression which she was making a tremendous effort to control. “Because if it is, I have something to tell him that may interest Mr. Carton.”

We looked at her curiously. Without her make-up she was pallid and yellow in spots, her hands trembling, cold, and sweaty, her eyes sunken and glistening, with pupils dilated, her breathing short and hurried, restless, irresolute, and careless of her personal appearance.

“Perhaps you wonder how I heard of you and why I have come to you,” she went on. “It is because I have a confession to make. I saw Mr. Haddon just before he was–kidnapped.”

She seemed to hesitate over the word.

“How did you know I was interested?” asked Kennedy keenly.