The Film Mystery
28. The Phosphorus Bomb
We rushed out into the courtyard, Kennedy in the lead, Mackay trailing with the bag.
Here there were dense clouds of fine white suffocating smoke mixed with steam, and
signs of the utmost confusion on every hand. Because Manton, fortunately, had trained
the studio staff through frequent fire drills, there was a semblance of order among the
men actually engaged in fighting the spread of the blaze. Any attempt to extinguish the
conflagration in the vault itself was hopeless, however, and so the workers contented
themselves with pouring water into the basement on either side, to keep the building and
perhaps the other vaults cool, and with maintaining a constant stream of chemical mixture
from a special apparatus down the ventilating system into and upon the smoldering film.
The studio fire equipment seemed to be very complete. There was water at high pressure
from a tank elevated some twenty to thirty feet above the uppermost roof of the
quadrangle. In addition Manton had invested in the chemical engine and also in sand
carts, because water aids rather than retards the combustion of film itself. I noticed that
the promoter was in direct charge of the fire-fighters, and that he moved about with a zeal
and a recklessness which ended for once and all in my mind the suspicion that Phelps
might be correct and that Manton sought to wreck this company for the sake of Fortune
In an amazingly quick space of time the thing was over. When the city apparatus arrived,
after a run of nearly three miles, there was nothing for them to do. The chief sought out
Manton, to accompany him upon an inspection of the damage and to make sure that the
fire was out. The promoter first beckoned to Kennedy.
"This is unquestionably of incendiary origin," he explained to the chief. "I want Mr.
Kennedy to see everything before it is disturbed, so that no clue may be lost or
The fire officer brightened. "Craig Kennedy?" he inquired. "Gee! there must be some
connection between the blaze and the murder of Stella Lamar and her director. I've been
reading about it every day in the papers."
"Mr. Jameson of the Star," Kennedy said, presenting me.
We found we could not enter the basement immediately adjoining the vaults--that is,
directly from the courtyard--because it seemed advisable to keep a stream of water
playing down the steps, and a resulting cloud of steam blocked us. Manton explained that
we could get through from the next cellar if it was not too hot, and so we hurried toward
Mackay, who had remained behind to protect the bag from the heat, joined us there.