Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Twilight Sleep
by [?]

As I entered the laboratory I saw before him a peculiar, telescope-like instrument, at one end of which, in a jar of oxygen, something was burning with a brilliant, penetrating flame.

He paused in his work and I hastened to tell him of the peculiar experience I had had in the forenoon. But he said nothing, even at the significant actions of Dr. Preston.

“How about those things you found in the maid’s room?” I asked at length. “Do they explain Rawaruska’s death?”

“The trouble with them,” he replied, thoughtfully shaking his head, “is that the effects of such things last only for a short time. They might have been used at first–but there was something used afterward.”

“Something afterward?” I repeated, keenly interested, and fingering the telescope-like arrangement curiously. “What’s this?”

“One of the new quartz lens spectroscopes used by Dr. Dobbie of the English Government laboratories,” he answered briefly. “I think chemists, police officials, coroners and physicians are going to find it most valuable. You see, by throwing the ultra-violet part of the spectrum from a source of light as I obtain from the sparking of iron in oxygen through the lenses of a quartz spectroscope, the lines of many dangerous drugs, especially of the alkaloids, can be distinctly and quickly located in the spectrum. Each drug produces a characteristic kind of line. We use a quartz lens because glass cuts off the ultra-violet rays. Why, even the most minute particle of poison can be detected in this revolutionary fashion.”

He had resumed squinting through the spectroscope.

“Well,” I asked, “do you find anything there?”

He had evidently been using the piece of gauze on which he had preserved the liquid from the peculiar little marks on Rawaruska’s spine.

“Narcophin,” he muttered, still squinting.

“Narcophin?” I repeated. “What is that?”

“A derivative of opium–morphine. There’s another poison here, too,” he added.

“What is it?”

“Scopolamine,” he answered tersely, “scopolamine hydrobromide.”

“Why,” I exclaimed, “that is the drug they use in this new ‘twilight sleep,’ as they call it.”

“Exactly,” he replied, “the daemmerschlaf. I suspected something of the kind when I saw those little punctures on her back. Some people show a marked susceptibility to it; others just the reverse. Evidently she was one of those who go under it quietly and quickly.”

I looked at Kennedy in amazement.

“You can see,” he went on, catching the expression on my face, “if it could be used for medical science, it could also be used for crime. That’s the way I reasoned, the way someone else must have reasoned.”

He paused, then went on. “Someone thought out this plan of using narcophin and scopolamine to cause the twilight sleep, to keep Rawaruska just on the borderland of unconsciousness, destroying her memory and producing forgetfulness. That is the daemmerschlaf; perception is retained but memory lost. You are acquainted with the test? They show an object to a patient and ask her if she sees it. Say, half an hour later, it is shown again. If she remembers it, it is a sign that a new injection is necessary.

“Only in this case the criminal went too far, disregarded the danger of the thing. Scopolamine in too great a quantity causes death by paralysis of respiration–a paralysis, by the way, against which artificial respiration and all means of stimulating are ineffective because of the rigidity of the muscles. And so, you see, in this case Rawaruska died.”

I could not help thinking of Preston, the young doctor who had been studying in Germany. More than likely he had heard of and had investigated the Frieberg “twilight sleep” treatment. We had made some progress, even though we did not know why or by whom the drugs had been administered.

Wade, of the Customs Service, had, as I have said, told us that he had several secret agents about in the trade, constantly picking up bits of information that might interest the Treasury Department. It did not surprise Kennedy, therefore, late in the forenoon, to have Wade call up and tell him that among the early callers at Margot’s, the jeweler, was the maid Cecilie.