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The Sybarite
by [?]

We found the Novella Beauty Parlour on the top floor of an office-building just off Fifth Avenue on a side street not far from Forty-second Street. A special elevator, elaborately fitted up, wafted us up with express speed. As the door opened we saw a vista of dull-green lattices, little gateways hung with roses, windows of diamond-paned glass get in white wood, rooms with little white enamelled manicure-tables and chairs, amber lights glowing with soft incandescence in deep bowers of fireproof tissue flowers. There was a delightful warmth about the place, and the seductive scents and delicate odours betokened the haunt of the twentieth-century Sybarite.

Both O’Connor and Leslie, strangely out of place in the enervating luxury of the now deserted beauty-parlour, were still waiting for Kennedy with a grim determination.

“A most peculiar thing,” whispered O’Connor, dashing forward the moment the elevator door opened. “We can’t seem to find a single cause for her death. The people up here say it was a suicide, but I never accept the theory of suicide unless there are undoubted proofs. So far there have been none in this case. There was no reason for it.”

Seated in one of the large easy-chairs of the reception-room, in a corner with two of O’Connor’s men standing watchfully near, was a man who was the embodiment of all that was nervous. He was alternately wringing his hands and rumpling his hair. Beside him was a middle-sized, middle-aged lady in a most amazing state of preservation, who evidently presided over the cosmetic mysteries beyond the male ken. She was so perfectly groomed that she looked as though her clothes were a mould into which she had literally been poured.

“Professor and Madame Millefleur–otherwise Miller,”–whispered O’Connor, noting Kennedy’s questioning gaze and taking his arm to hurry him down a long, softly carpeted corridor, flanked on either side by little doors. “They run the shop. They say one of the girls just opened the door and found her dead.”

Near the end, one of the doors stood open, and before it Dr. Leslie, who had preceded us, paused. He motioned to us to look in. It was a little dressing-room, containing a single white-enamelled bed, a dresser, and a mirror. But it was not the scant though elegant furniture that caused us to start back.

There under the dull half-light of the corridor lay a woman, most superbly formed. She was dark, and the thick masses of her hair, ready for the hairdresser, fell in a tangle over her beautifully chiselled features and full, rounded shoulders and neck. A scarlet bathrobe, loosened at the throat, actually accentuated rather than covered the voluptuous lines of her figure, down to the slender ankle which had been the beginning of her fortune as a danseuse.

Except for the marble pallor of her face it was difficult to believe that she was not sleeping. And yet there she was, the famous Blanche Blaisdell, dead–dead in the little dressing-room of the Novella Beauty Parlour, surrounded as in life by mystery and luxury.

We stood for several moments speechless, stupefied. At last O’Connor silently drew a letter from his pocket. It was written on the latest and most delicate of scented stationery.

“It was lying sealed on the dresser when we arrived,” explained O’Connor, holding it so that we could not see the address. “I thought at first she had really committed suicide and that this was a note of explanation. But it is not. Listen. It is just a line or two. It reads: ‘Am feeling better now, though that was a great party last night. Thanks for the newspaper puff which I have just read. It was very kind of you to get them to print it. Meet me at the same place and same time to-night. Your Blanche.’ The note was not stamped, and was never sent. Perhaps she rang for a messenger. At any rate, she must have been dead before she could send it. But it was addressed to–Burke Collins.”