The Film Mystery HTML version

12. Emery Phelps
"There--there is something the matter with the curtains?" Phelps suggested.
Kennedy pointed to the two holes and the spots. "Miss Lamar met her death from poison
introduced into her system through a tiny scratch from a prepared needle."
"Yes?" Phelps was calm now, and cool. I wondered if it were pretense on his part. "What
have these little marks to do with that?"
"Don't you see?" rejoined Kennedy. "If some one had come here before the scene in the
picture was played; had thrust a small needle, perhaps a hollow needle from a
hypodermic syringe, through the heavy thickness of this silk--thrust it in here, the point
sticking out here--well, there would be two holes left where the threads were forced apart,
like this!" Kennedy took his stickpin, demonstrating.
"How could that cause Stella's death?" Phelps, at first quite upset apparently by
Kennedy's discovery, now was lapsing again into his hostile mood. His question was
"Try to recall Miss Lamar's actions," Kennedy went on, patiently. "What was she
supposed to do in the very first scene? 'The portieres move and the fingers of a girl are
seen on the edge of the silk. A bare and beautiful arm is thrust through almost to the
shoulder and it begins to move the portieres aside, reaching upward to pull the curtains
apart at the rings.'"
"Do you mean to tell me--" Phelps's eyes were very wide as he paused, grasping the
scheme and yet disbelieving--unless it all were a bit of fine acting--"do you mean to tell
me it is possible to calculate a thing like that? How would anyone know where her arm
would be?"
"It is simpler than it sounds, Mr. Phelps." Kennedy was suddenly harsh. "There is only
one natural movement of an arm in that case. The culprit was undoubtedly familiar with
Miss Lamar's height and with her manner of working. It is a bit of action which has to be
repeated in both the long shot and close-up scenes. Jameson here can tell you how many
times a scene is rehearsed. There probably were a dozen sure chances of the needle
striking the girl's bare flesh. You will see from the position of the holes that it was
arranged point downward and slightly turned in, and on a particular fold of the curtain,
too; showing that some one placed it there only after a nice bit of calculation.
Furthermore, it was high enough so that there was little chance of anyone being pricked
except the star, whose death was intended."
Phelps either seemed convinced, or else he felt it inadvisable to irritate Kennedy by a
further pretense of skepticism.