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There was not a grain of superstition in Kennedy, yet I could see that he was pondering deeply what Inez Mendoza had just said. Was it possible that there might be something in it--not objectively, but subjectively? Might that very fear which the Senorita had of the Senora engender a feeling that would produce the very result that she feared? I knew that there were strange things that modern psychology was discovering. Could there be some scientific explanation of the evil eye?
Kennedy turned and went back into the hotel, to keep his appointment with Whitney, and as he did so I reflected that, whatever credence might be given the evil-eye theory, there was something now before us that was a fact--the physical condition which Inez had observed in her father before his death, saw now in Whitney, and foresaw in Lockwood. Surely that in itself constituted enough of a problem.
We found Whitney in the cafe, sitting alone in a leather-cushioned booth, and smoking furiously. I observed him narrowly. His eyes had even more than before that peculiar, staring look. By the manner in which his veins stood out I could see that his heart action must be very rapid.
"Well," he remarked, as we seated ourselves, "how did you come out in your tete-a-tete?"
"About as I expected," answered Kennedy nonchalantly. "I let it go on merely because I wanted Senorita Mendoza to hear certain things, and I thought that the Senora could tell them best. One of them related to the history of that dagger."
I thought Whitney's eyes would pop out of his head. "What about it?" he asked.
"Well," replied Kennedy briefly, "there was the story of how her brother had it and was driven crazy until he gave it up to somebody, then committed suicide by throwing himself into Titicaca. The other was the tradition that in the days after Pizarro a Mendoza was murdered by it, just as her father has now been murdered."
Whitney was listening intently, and seemed to be thinking deeply of something.
"Do you know," he said finally, with a nod to indicate that he knew what it was that Kennedy referred to, "I've been thinking of that de Moche woman a good deal since I left you with her. I've had some dealings with her."
He looked at Kennedy shrewdly, as though he would have liked to ask whether she had said anything about him, but did not because he knew Kennedy would not tell. He was trying to figure out some other way of finding out.
"Sometimes I think she is trying to double-cross me," he said, at length. "I know that when she talks to others about me she says many things that aren't so. Yet when she is with me everything is fine, and she is ready soon to join us, use her influence with influential Peruvians; in fact, there isn't anything she won't do- -manana, to-morrow."
All that Whitney said we now knew to be true.
"She has one interesting dilemma, however, which I do not mind telling you," remarked Kennedy at length. "She cannot expect me to keep secret what she said before all of us. Inez Mendoza would mention it, anyhow."
"What was that?" queried Whitney, dissembling his interest.
"Why," replied Kennedy slowly, "it was that, with the plans for digging for the treasure which you say you have, suppose you and Lockwood and your associates have not the dagger--how are you better off than previous hunters? And supposing you have it--what does that imply?"
Whitney thought a moment over the last proposition of the dilemma. "Imply?" he repeated slowly. Then the significance of it seemed to dawn on him, the possession of the dagger and its implication in regard to the murder of Mendoza. "Well," he answered, "we haven't the dagger. You know that. But, on the other hand, we think our plans for getting at the treasure are better than any one else has ever had, more certain of success."
"Yet the possession of the dagger, with its inscription, is the only thing that absolutely insures success," observed Kennedy.
"That's true enough," agreed Whitney. "Confound that man Norton. How could he be such a boob as to let the chance slip through his fingers?"
"He never told you of it?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes, he told me of the dagger, but hadn't read the inscription, he said," answered Whitney. "I was so busy at the time with Lockwood and Mendoza, who had the concession to dig for the treasure, that I didn't pay much attention to what Norton brought back. I thought that could wait until Lockwood had been persuaded to join the interests I represent."
"Did Lockwood or Mendoza know about the dagger and its importance?" suggested Craig.
"If they did, they never said anything about it," returned Whitney promptly. "Mendoza is dead. Lockwood tells me he knew nothing about it until very lately--since the murder, I suppose."
"You suppose?" persisted Kennedy. "Are you sure that he knew nothing about it before?"
"No," confessed Whitney, "I'm not sure. Only I say that he told me nothing of it."
"Then he might have known?"
"Might have. But I don't think it very probable."
Whitney seemed to be turning something over in his mind. Suddenly he brought his fist down on the little round table before us, rattling the glasses.
"Do you know," he exclaimed, "the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Norton ought to be held to account for that loss! He ought to have known. Then the presumption is that he did know. By heaven, I'm going to have that fellow watched. I'm going to do it to-day, too. I don't trust him. He shall not double-cross me--even if that woman does!"
I wondered whether Whitney was bluffing. If he was, he was making a lot of fuss over it. He talked more and more wildly, as he grew more excited over his latest idea.
"I'll have detectives put on his trail," he blustered. "I'll talk it over with Lockwood. He never liked the man."
"What did Lockwood say about Norton?" asked Kennedy casually.
Whitney eyed us a moment.
"Say," he ejaculated, "it was Norton brought you into this case, wasn't it?"
"I cannot deny that," returned Kennedy quietly, meeting his eyes. "But it is Inez Mendoza now that keeps me in it."
"So--you're another rival, are you?" purred Whitney sarcastically. "Lockwood and de Moche aren't enough. I have a sneaking suspicion that Norton himself is one of them. Now it's you, too. I suppose Mr. Jameson is another. Well, if I was ten years younger, I'd cut you all out, or know the reason why. Oh, yes, I think I will not tell you what Mr. Lockwood suspects."
With every sentence the veins of Whitney's forehead stood out further, until now they were like whipcords. His eyes and face were fairly apoplectic. Slowly the conviction was forced on me. The man acted for all the world like one affected by a drug.
"Well," he went on, "you may tell Norton for me that I am going to have him watched. That will throw a scare into him."
At least it showed that the breach between Whitney and Norton was deep. Kennedy listened without saying much, but I knew that he was gratified. He was playing Lockwood against de Moche, the Senora against Inez. Now if Whitney would play himself against Norton, out of the tangle might emerge just the clues he needed. For when people get fighting among themselves the truth comes out.
"Very well," remarked Craig, rising, with a hurried glance at Whitney's apoplectic face, "go as far as you like. I think we understand each other better, now."
Whitney said nothing, but, rising also, turned on his heel and walked deliberately out of the cafe into the corridor of the Prince Edward Albert, leaving us standing there.
Kennedy leaned over and swept up the ashes of Whitney's cigarettes which lay in the ash-tray, placing them, stubs and all, in an envelope, as he had done before.
"We have one sample, already," he said. "Another won't hurt. You can never have too much material to work with. Let us see where he is going."
Slowly we followed in the direction which Whitney had taken from the cafe. There was Whitney standing by the cigar-stand, gazing intently down the corridor.
Kennedy and I moved over so that we could see what he was gazing at. Just then he started to walk hurriedly in the direction in which he was looking.
"Senora de Moche!" exclaimed Craig, drawing me toward a palm.
It was indeed she. She had left the tea room and gone to her own room. Now she was alighting from the elevator, and had started toward the main dining-room, when her eyes had rested on Whitney. In spite of all that he had said to us about her, he had received the glance as a signal and was fluttering over to her like a moth to a flame.
What was the reason back of it all, I asked, as I thought of those wonderful eyes of hers? Was it a sort of auto-hypnotism? There was, I knew, a form of illusion known as ophthalmophobia--fear of the eye. It ranged from mere aversion at being gazed at all the way to the subjective development of real physical action from an otherwise trivial objective cause. Perhaps Inez was right about the eyes. One might fear them, and that fear might cause the precise thing to happen which the owner of the eyes intended. Still, as I reflected before, there was a much more important problem regarding eyes before us, that of the drug that was evidently being used in the cigarettes. What was it?
There was no chance of our gleaning anything now from these two who made such a strange pair. Kennedy turned and went out of the nearest entrance of the hotel.
"Central Park, West," he directed a cab driver, as we climbed in his machine; then to me, after giving the number, "I must see Inez Mendoza again before I can go ahead."
Inez was not expecting us so soon after leaving her at the hotel, yet I think was just a little glad that we had come.
"Did anything happen after I left?" she asked eagerly.
"We went back and saw Mr. Whitney," returned Craig. "I believe you are right. He is acting queerly,"
"Alfonso called me up," she volunteered.
"Was it about anything I should know?" queried Craig.
"Well," she hesitated, "he said he hoped that nothing that had taken place would change our own relations. That was about all. He was the dutiful son, and made no attempt to explain anything that was said."
Kennedy smiled. "You have not seen Mr. Lock, wood since, I suppose?" he asked.
"You always make me tell what I hadn't intended," she confessed, smiling back. "Yes, I couldn't help it. At least, I didn't see him. I called him up. I wanted to tell him what she had said and that it hadn't made any difference to me."
"What did he say?"
"I can't remember just how he put it, but I think he meant that it was something very much like that anonymous letter I received. We both feel that there is some one who wants to make trouble between us, and we are not going to let it happen."
If she had known of Kennedy's discovery of the shoe-prints, I feel sure that, as far as we were concerned, the case would have ended there. She was in no mood to be convinced by such a thing, would probably have insisted that some one was wearing a second-hand pair of his shoes.
Kennedy's eye had been travelling around the room as though searching for something.
"May I have a cigarette out of that case over there?" he asked, indicating a box of them on a table.
"Why--that is Mr. Lockwood's," she replied. "He left it here the last time he was here and I forgot to send it to him. Wait a minute. Let me get you some of father's."
She left the room. The moment the door closed Kennedy reached over and took one from the case. "I have some of Lockwood's already, but another won't matter, as long as I can get it," he said. "I thought it was her father's. When she brings them, smoke one with me, and be careful to save the stub. I want it."
A moment later she entered with a metal box that must have held several hundred. Kennedy and I each took one and lighted it, then for several minutes chatted as an excuse for staying. As for myself, I was glad enough to leave a pretty large stub, for I did not like it. These cigarettes, like those Whitney had offered us, had a peculiar flavour which I had not acquired a liking for.
"You must let me know whether anything else develops from the meeting in the tea room," said Kennedy finally, rising. "I shall be at the laboratory some time, I think."
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