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The X-Ray Detective
by [?]

“I want to consult you, Professor Kennedy, about a most baffling case of sudden death under suspicious circumstances. Blythe is my name–Dr. Blythe.”

Our visitor spoke deliberately, without the least perturbation of manner, yet one could see that he was a physician who only as a last resort would appeal to outside aid.

“What is the case, Doctor?” queried Craig.

The Doctor cleared his throat. “It is of a very pretty young art student, Rhoda Fleming, who returned to New York from France shortly after the outbreak of the war and opened a studio in the New Studio Apartments on Park Avenue, not far from my office,” began Dr. Blythe, pausing as if to set down accurately every feature of the “case history” of a patient.

“Yes,” prompted Craig.

“About a week ago,” the Doctor resumed, “I was called to attend Miss Fleming. I think the call came from her maid, Leila, but I am not sure. She had suddenly been taken ill about an hour after dinner. She was cyanotic, had a rapid pulse, and nausea. By means of stimulants I succeeded in bringing her around, however, and she recovered. It looked like acute gastritis.

“But last night, at about the same time, I was called again to see the same girl. She was in an even more serious condition, with all the former symptoms magnified, unconscious, and suffering severe pains in the abdominal region. Her temperature was 103. Apparently there had been too great a delay, for she died in spite of everything I could do without regaining consciousness.”

Kennedy regarded the Doctor’s face pointedly. “Did the necropsy show that she was–er–“

“No,” interrupted the Doctor, catching his glance. “She was not about to become a mother. And I doubt the suicide theory, too.” He paused and then after a moment’s consideration, added deliberately, “When she recovered from the first attack she seemed to have a horror of death and could offer no explanation of her sudden illness.”

“But what other reason could there have been for her condition?” persisted Kennedy, determined to glean all he could of the Doctor’s personal impressions.

Dr. Blythe hesitated again, as if considering a point in medical ethics, then suddenly seemed to allow himself to grow confidential. “I’m very much interested in art myself, Professor,” he explained. “I suppose you have heard of the famous ‘Fete du Printemps,’ by Watteau?”

Kennedy nodded vaguely.

“The original, you know,” Dr. Blythe went on hurriedly, “hung in the chateau of the Comtesse de la Fontaine in the Forest of Compiegne, and was immensely valuable–oh–worth probably a hundred thousand dollars or more.”

A moment later Dr. Blythe leaned over with ill-suppressed excitement. “After I brought her around the first time she confided to me that it had been entrusted to her by the Comtesse for safe-keeping during the war, that she had taken it first to London, but fearing it would not be safe even there, had brought it to New York.”

“H’m,” mused Kennedy, “that is indeed strange. What’s your theory, then,–foul play?”

Dr. Blythe looked from Kennedy to me, then said slowly, “Yes–but we can’t find a trace of poison. Dr. Leslie–the Coroner–I believe you know him–and I can find nothing, in fact. It is most incomprehensible.”

I noticed that Kennedy was watching Dr. Blythe rather keenly and, somehow, I fell to trying to fathom both his story and himself, without, I confess, any result.

“I should like to look her apartment over,” remarked Craig with alacrity, needing no second invitation to take up a mystery that already promised many surprises.

The New Studio Apartments were in a huge twelve-story ornate Renaissance affair on upper Park Avenue, an example of the rapidly increasing co-operative idea which the impractical artistic temperament has proved soundly practical.

It was really a studio building, too, designed for those artists who preferred luxury and convenience to the more romantic atmosphere of the “Alley”–which is the way the initiated refer to the mews back of Washington Square, known as Macdougal’s Alley, famous in fact and fiction.