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The Phantom Circuit
by [?]

Brixton had evidently been waiting impatiently for our arrival. “Mr. Kennedy?” he inquired, adding quickly without waiting for an answer: “I am glad to see you. I suppose you have noticed the precautions we are taking against intruders? Yet it seems to be all of no avail. I can not be alone even here. If a telephone message comes to me over my private wire, if I talk with my own office in the city, it seems that it is known. I don’t know what to make of it. It is terrible. I don’t know what to expect next.”

Brixton had been standing beside a huge mahogany desk as we entered. I had seen him before at a distance as a somewhat pompous speaker at banquets and the cynosure of the financial district. But there was something different about his looks now. He seemed to have aged, to have grown yellower. Even the whites of his eyes were yellow.

I thought at first that perhaps it might be the effect of the light in the centre of the room, a huge affair set in the ceiling in a sort of inverted hemisphere of glass, concealing and softening the rays of a powerful incandescent bulb which it enclosed. It was not the light that gave him the altered appearance, as I concluded from catching a casual confirmatory glance of perplexity from Kennedy himself.

“My personal physician says I am suffering from jaundice,” explained Brixton. Rather than seeming to be offended at our notice of his condition he seemed to take it as a good evidence of Kennedy’s keenness that he had at once hit on one of the things that were weighing on Brixton’s own mind. “I feel pretty badly, too. Curse it,” he added bitterly, “coming at a time when it is absolutely necessary that I should have all my strength to carry through a negotiation that is only a beginning, important not so much for myself as for the whole world. It is one of the first times New York bankers have had a chance to engage in big dealings in that part of the world. I suppose Yvonne has shown you one of the letters I am receiving?”

He rustled a sheaf of them which he drew from a drawer of his desk, and continued, not waiting for Kennedy even to nod:

“Here are a dozen or more of them. I get one or two every day, either here or at my town house or at the office.”

Kennedy had moved forward to see them.

“One moment more,” Brixton interrupted, still holding them. “I shall come back to the letters. That is not the worst. I’ve had threatening letters before. Have you noticed this room?”

We had both seen and been impressed by it.

“Let me tell you more about it,” he went on. “It was designed especially to be, among other things, absolutely soundproof.”

We gazed curiously about the strong room. It was beautifully decorated and furnished. On the walls was a sort of heavy, velvety green wall-paper. Exquisite hangings were draped about, and on the floor were thick rugs. In all I noticed that the prevailing tint was green.

“I had experiments carried out,” he explained languidly, “with the object of discovering methods and means for rendering walls and ceilings capable of effective resistance to sound transmission. One of the methods devised involved the use under the ceiling or parallel to the wall, as the case might be, of a network of wire stretched tightly by means of pulleys in the adjacent walls and not touching at any point the surface to be protected against sound. Upon the wire network is plastered a composition formed of strong glue, plaster of Paris, and granulated cork, so as to make a flat slab, between which and the wall or ceiling is a cushion of confined air. The method is good in two respects: the absence of contact between the protective and protected surfaces and the colloid nature of the composition used. I have gone into the thing at length because it will make all the more remarkable what I am about to tell you.”