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The Film Mystery

21. Merle Shirley Overacts
Appalled, I wondered who it was who had, to cover up one crime, committed another?
Who had struck down an innocent man to save a guilty neck?
Kennedy hurried to the side of the physician and I followed.
"What symptoms did you observe?" asked Kennedy, quickly, seeking confirmation of his
own first impressions.
"His mouth seemed dry and I should say he suffered from a quick prostration. There
seemed to be a complete loss of power to swallow or speak. The pupils were dilated as
though from paralysis of the eyes. Both pharynx and larynx were affected. There was
respiration paralysis. It seemed also as though the cranial nerves were partially paralyzed.
It was typically a condition due to some toxic substance which paralyzed and depressed
certain areas of the body."
Kennedy nodded. "That fits in with a theory I have."
I thought quickly, then inquired; "Could it be the snake venom again?"
"No," Kennedy replied, shaking his head; "there's a difference in the symptoms and there
is no mark on any exposed part of the body, as near as I could see in a superficial
examination."
He turned to the physician. "Could you give me blood smears and some of the stomach
contents, at once? Twice, now, some one has been stricken down before the very eyes of
the actors. This thing has gone too far to trifle with or delay a moment."
The doctor hurried off toward the dressing room, anxious to help Kennedy, and as
excited, I thought, as any of us. Next Kennedy faced me.
"Did you watch the people at all, Walter?"
"I--I was too upset by the suddenness of it," I stammered.
All seemed to have suspicion of some one else, and there was a general constraint, as
though even the innocent feared to do or say something that might look or sound
incriminating.
I turned. All were now watching every move we made, though just yet none ventured to
follow us. It was as though they felt that to do so was like crossing a dead line. I
 
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