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The Germ Of Death
by [?]

By this time I was becoming used to Kennedy’s strange visitors and, in fact, had begun to enjoy keenly the uncertainty of not knowing just what to expect from them next. Still, I was hardly prepared one evening to see a tall, nervous foreigner stalk noiselessly and unannounced into our apartment and hand his card to Kennedy without saying a word.

“Dr. Nicholas Kharkoff – hum – er, Jameson, you must have forgotten to latch the door. Well, Dr. Kharkoff, what can I do for you? It is evident something has upset you.”

The tall Russian put his forefinger to his lips and, taking one of our good chairs, placed it by the door. Then he stood on it and peered cautiously through the transom into the hallway. “I think I eluded him this time,” he exclaimed, as he nervously took a seat. “Professor Kennedy, I am being followed. Every step that I take somebody shadows me, from the moment I leave my office until I return. It is enough to drive me mad. But that is only one reason why I have come here to-night. I believe that I can trust you as a friend of justice – a friend of Russian freedom?”

He had included me in his earnest but somewhat vague query, so that I did not withdraw. Somehow, apparently, he had heard of Kennedy’s rather liberal political views.

“It is about Vassili Saratovsky, the father of the Russian revolution, as we call him, that I have come to consult you,” he continued quickly. “Just two weeks ago he was taken ill. It came on suddenly, a violent fever which continued for a week. Then he seemed to grow better, after the crisis had passed, and even attended a meeting of our central committee the other night. But in the meantime Olga Samarova, the little Russian dancer, whom you have perhaps seen, fell ill in the same way. Samarova is an ardent revolutionist, you know. This morning the servant at my own home on East Broadway was also stricken, and – who knows? – perhaps it will be my turn next. For to-night Saratovsky had an even more violent return of the fever, with intense shivering, excruciating pains in the limbs, and delirious headache. It is not like anything I ever saw before. Can you look into the case before it grows any worse, Professor?”

Again the Russian got on the chair and looked over the transom to be sure that he was not being overheard.

“I shall be only too glad to help you in any way I can,” returned Kennedy, his manner expressing the genuine interest that he never feigned over a particularly knotty problem in science and crime. “I had the pleasure of meeting Saratovsky once in London. I shall try to see him the first thing in the morning.”

Dr. Kharkoff’s face fell. “I had hoped you would see him to-night. If anything should happen -“

“Is it as urgent as that?”

“I believe it is,” whispered Kharkoff, leaning forward earnestly. “We can call a taxicab – it will not take long, sir. Consider, there are many lives possibly at stake,” he pleaded.

“Very well, I will go,” consented Kennedy.

At the street door Kharkoff stopped short and drew Kennedy back. “Look – across the street in the shadow. There is the man. If I start toward him he will disappear; he is very clever. He followed me from Saratovsky’s here, and has been waiting for me to come out.”

“There are two taxicabs waiting at the stand,” suggested Kennedy. “Doctor, you jump in the first, and Jameson and I will take the second. Then he can’t follow us.”

It was done in a moment, and we were whisked away, to the chagrin of the figure, which glided impotently out of the shadow in vain pursuit, too late even to catch the number of the cab.