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The Dope Fiends
by [?]

It was not long before she discovered that Drummond was watching intently, without seeming to do so, a nervous-looking fellow whose general washed-out appearance of face was especially unattractive for some reason or other. He was very thin, very pale, and very stary about the eyes. Then, too, it seemed as if the bone in his nose was going, due perhaps to the shrinkage of the blood vessels from some cause.

Constance noticed a couple of girls whom she had seen Adele speak to on several other occasions approaching the young man.

There came an opportune lull in the music and from around the corner of her protecting angle Constance could just catch the greeting of one of the girls, “Hello, Sleighbells! Got any snow!”

It was a remark that seemed particularly malapropos to the sultry weather, and Constance half expected a burst of laughter at the unexpected sally.

Instead, she was surprised to hear the young man reply in a very serious and matter-of-fact manner, “Sure. Got any money, May?”

She craned her neck, carefully avoiding coming into Drummond’s line of vision, and as she did so she saw two silver quarters gleam momentarily from hand to hand, and the young man passed each girl stealthily a small white paper packet.

Others came to him, both men and women. It seemed to be an established thing, and Constance noted that Drummond watched it all covertly.

“Who is that?” asked Constance of the waiter who had served her sometimes when she had been with Adele, and knew her.

“Why, they call him Sleighbells Charley,” he replied, “a coke fiend.”

“Which means a cocaine fiend, I suppose!” she queried.

“Yes. He’s a lobbygow for the grapevine system they have now of selling the dope in spite of this new law.”

“Where does he get the stuff!” she asked.

The waiter shrugged his shoulders. “Nobody knows, I guess. I don’t. But he gets it in spite of the law and peddles it. Oh, it’s all adulterated–with some white stuff, I don’t know what, and the price they charge is outrageous. They must make an ounce retail at five or six times the cost. Oh, you can bet that some one who is at the top is making a pile of money out of that graft, all right.”

He said it not with any air of righteous indignation, but with a certain envy.

Constance was thinking the thing over in her mind. Where did the “coke” come from? The “grapevine” system interested her.

“Sleighbells” seemed to have disposed of all the “coke” he had brought with him. As the last packet went, he rose slowly, and shuffled out. Constance, who knew that Adele would not come for some time, determined to follow him. She rose quietly and, under cover of a party going out, managed to disappear without, as far as she knew, letting Drummond catch a glimpse of her. This would not only employ her time, but it was better to avoid Drummond as far as possible, at present, too, she felt.

At a distance of about half a block she followed the curiously shuffling figure. He crossed the avenue, turned and went uptown, turned again, and, before she knew it, disappeared in a drug store. She had been so engrossed in following the lobbygow that it was with a start that she realized that he had entered Muller’s.

What did it all mean? Was the druggist, Muller, the man higher up? She recalled suddenly her own experience of the afternoon. Had Muller tried to palm off something on her? The more she thought of it the more sure she was that the powders she had taken had been doped.

Slowly, turning the matter over in her mind, she returned to the Mayfair. As she peered in cautiously before entering she saw that Drummond had gone. Adele had not come in yet, and she went in and sat down again in her old place.

Perhaps half an hour later, outside, she heard a car drive up with a furious rattle of gears. She looked out of the window and, as far as she could determine in the shadows, it was Dr. Price. A woman got out, Adele. For a moment she stopped to talk, then Dr. Price waved a gay good-bye and was off. All she could catch was a hasty, “No; I don’t think I’d better come in to-night,” from him.