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The Sixth Sense
by [?]

“I suppose you have read in the papers of the mysterious burning of our country house at Oceanhurst, on the south shore of Long Island?”

It had been about the middle of the afternoon that a huge automobile of the latest design drew up at Kennedy’s laboratory and a stylishly dressed woman, accompanied by a very attentive young man, alighted.

They had entered and the man, with a deep bow, presented two cards bearing the names of the Count and Countess Alessandro Rovigno.

Julia Rovigno, I knew, was the daughter of Roger Gaskell, the retired banker. She had recently married Count Rovigno, a young foreigner whose family had large shipping interests in America and at Trieste in the Adriatic.

“Yes, indeed, I have read about it,” nodded Craig.

“You see,” she hurried on a little nervously, “it was a wedding present to us from my father.”

“Giulia,” put in the young man quickly, giving her name an accent that was not, however, quite Italian, “thinks the fire was started by an incendiary.”

Rovigno was a tall, rather boyish-looking man of thirty-two or thirty-three, with light brown hair, light brown beard and mustache. His eyes and forehead spoke of intelligence, but I had never heard that he cared much about practical business affairs. In fact, to American society Rovigno was known chiefly as one of the most daring of motor-boat enthusiasts.

“It may have been the work of an incendiary,” he continued thoughtfully, “or it may not. I don’t know. But there has been an epidemic of fires among the large houses out on Long Island lately.”

I nodded to Kennedy, for I had myself compiled a list for the Star, which showed that considerably over a million dollars’ worth of show places had been destroyed.

“At any rate,” added the Countess, “we are burned out, and are staying in town now–at my father’s house. I wish you would come around there. Perhaps father can help you. He knows all about the country out that way, for his own place isn’t a quarter of a mile away.”

“I shall be glad to drop around, if I can be of any assistance,” agreed Kennedy as the young couple left us.

The Rovignos had scarcely gone when a woman appeared at the laboratory door. She was well dressed, pretty, but looked pale and haggard.

“My name is Mrs. Bettina Petzka,” she began, singling out Kennedy. “You do not know me, but my husband, Nikola, was one of the first students you taught, Professor.”

“Yes, yes, I recall him very well,” replied Craig. “He was a brilliant student, too–very promising. What can I do for you?”

“Why, Professor Kennedy,” she cried, no longer able to control her feelings, “he has suddenly disappeared.”

“What line of work had he taken up?” asked Craig, interested.

“He was a wireless operator–had been employed on a liner that runs to the Adriatic from New York. But he was out of work. Someone has told me that he thought he saw Nikola in Hoboken around the docks where a number of the liners that go to blockaded ports are laid up waiting the end of the war.”

She paused.

“I see,” remarked Kennedy, pursing up his lips thoughtfully. “Your husband was not a reservist of any of the countries at war, was he?”

“No–he was first of all a scientist. I don’t think he had any interest in the war–at least he never talked much about it.”

“I know,” persisted Craig, “but had he taken out his naturalization papers here?”

“He had applied for them.”

“When did he disappear?”

“I haven’t seen him for two nights,” she sobbed.

It flashed over me that it was now two nights since the fire that had burned Rovigno’s house, although there was no reason for connecting the events, at least yet.

The young woman was plainly wild with anxiety. “Oh, can’t you help me find Nikola?” she pleaded.

“I’ll try my best,” reassured Kennedy, taking down on a card her address and bowing her out.