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The Film Mystery

23. Botulin Toxin
Mackay drove us to the laboratory in his little car and it was dark and we were dinnerless
when we arrived. Knowing Kennedy's habits, I sent out for sandwiches and started in to
make strong coffee upon an electric percolator. The aroma tingled in my nostrils,
reminding me that I was genuinely hungry. The district attorney, too, seemed more or
less similarly disposed.
As for Kennedy, he was interested in nothing but the problem before him. He had been
strangely quiet on the way, growing more and more impatient and nervous, as though the
element of time had entered into the case, as though haste were suddenly imperative.
Once the lights were on in the laboratory he hurried about his various preparations. The
food samples he laid out, but he gave them no attention. The blood smears and stomach
contents he put aside for future reference. His attack was upon the drop or two of liquid
adhering to the stem of the broken champagne glass.
The entire chemical procedure seemed to be incomprehensible to Mackay and he was
fascinated, so that he had considerable trouble at times keeping out of the way of
Kennedy's elbow. Kennedy first washed the stem out carefully with a few drops of
distilled water, then he studied the resulting solution. One after another he tried the things
that occurred to him, making tests wholly unproductive of results. Slowly the laboratory
table became littered completely with chemicals and apparatus of all sorts, a veritable
arsenal of glass.
The sandwiches arrived, but Kennedy refused to drop his investigation for a moment. I
did succeed in making him take a cup of strong coffee, and that was all. Over in a corner
Mackay and I did full justice to the food, finishing the hot and welcome coffee and then
refilling the percolator and starting it on the making of a second brew. The hours
lengthened, and when Mackay grew tired of watching with intense admiration he joined
me in the patient consumption of innumerable cigarettes.
Kennedy was filled with the joy of discovery. I noticed that he did not stop even for the
solace of tobacco. It seemed to me that at times his nostrils dilated exactly like those of a
hound on the scent. Finally he held up a test tube and turned to us.
"What is it?" I asked. "Some other poison as rare and little known as the snake venom?"
"No--something much more curious. In the stem of the glass I find the toxin of the
Bacillus botulinus."
"Germs?" Mackay inquired.
Kennedy shook his head. "Not germs, but the pure toxin, the poison secreted by this
bacillus."
 
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