The Mystery HTML version
Outwardly the book accorded ill with its surroundings. In that place of desolation and
death, it typified the petty neatness of office processes. Properly placed, it should have
been found on a desk, with pens, rulers, and other paraphernalia forming exact angles or
parallels to it. It was a quarto, bound in marbled paper, with black leather over the hinges.
No external label suggested its ownership or uses, but through one corner, blackened and
formidable in its contrast to the peaceful purposes of the volume, a hole had been bored.
The agency of perforation was obvious. A bullet had made it.
"Seen something of life, I reckon," said Trendon, as the captain turned the volume about
slowly in his hands.
"And of death," returned Captain Parkinson solemnly. "Do you know, Trendon, I almost
dread to open this."
"Pshaw!" returned the other. "What is it to us?"
He threw the cover back. Neatly lettered on the inside, in the fine and slightly angular
writing characteristic of the Teutonic scholar, was the legend:
Karl Augustus Schermerhorn, 1409-1/2 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pa.
The opposite page was blank. Captain Parkinson turned half a dozen leaves.
"German!" he cried, in a note of disappointment, "Can you read German script?"
"After a fashion," replied the other. "Let's see. Es wonnte sechs--und-- dreissig
unterjacke," he read. "Why, blast it, was the man running a haberdashery? What have
three dozen undershirts to do with this?"
"A memorandum for outfitting, probably," suggested the captain. "Try here."
"Chemical formulae," said Trendon. "Pages of 'em. The devil! Can't make a thing of it."
"Well, here's something in English."
"Good," said the other. "By combining the hyper-sulphate of iridium with the fumes
arising from oxide of copper heated to 1000 C. and combining with picric acid in the
proportions described in formula x 18, a reaction, the nature of which I have not fully
determined, follows. This must be performed with extreme care owing to the unstable
nature of the benzene compounds."
"Picric acid? Benzene compounds? Those are high explosives," said Captain Parkinson.
"We should have Barnett go over this."