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Murder in the Gunroom

Chapter 10
When Rand came down to breakfast the next morning, he found Gladys, Nelda, and a
man whom he decided, by elimination, must be Anton Varcek, already at the table. The
latter rose as Rand entered, and bowed jerkily as Gladys verified the guess with an
introduction.
He was about Rand's own age and height; he had a smooth-shaven, tight-mouthed face,
adorned with bushy eyebrows, each of which was almost as heavy as Rand's mustache. It
was a face that seemed tantalizingly familiar, and Rand puzzled for a moment, then
nodded mentally. Of course he had seen a face like that hundreds of times, in newsreels
and news-photos, and, once in pre-war Berlin, its living double. Rudolf Hess. He
wondered how much deeper the resemblance went, and tried not to let it prejudice him.
Nelda greeted him with a trowelful of sweetness and a dash of bedroom-bait. Gladys
waved him to a vacant seat at her right and summoned the maid who had been serving
breakfast. After Rand had indicated his preference of fruit and found out what else there
was to eat, he inquired where the others were.
"Oh, Fred's still dressing; he'll be down in a minute," Nelda told him. "And Geraldine
won't; she never eats with her breakfast."
Varcek winced slightly at this, and shifted the subject by inquiring if Rand were a
professional antiques-expert.
"No, I'm a lily-pure amateur," Rand told him. "Or was until I took this job. I have a
collection of my own, and I'm supposed to be something of an authority. My business is
operating a private detective agency."
"But you are here only as an arms-expert?" Varcek inquired. "You are not making any
sort of detective investigation?"
"That's right," Rand assured him. "This is practically a paid vacation, for me. First time I
ever handled anything like this; it's a real pleasure to be working at something I really
enjoy, for a change."
Varcek nodded. "Yes, I can understand that. My own work, for instance. I would
continue with my research even if I were independently wealthy and any sort of work
were unnecessary."
"Tell Colonel Rand what you're working on now," Nelda urged.
Varcek gave a small mirthless laugh. "Oh, Colonel Rand would be no more interested
than I would be in his pistols," he objected, then turned to Rand. "It is a series of
experiments having to do with the chemical nature of life," he said. Another perfunctory
chuckle. "No, I am not trying to re-create Frankenstein's monster. The fact is, I am
working with fruit flies."
 
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