The Silent Bullet HTML version

5. The Seismograph Adventure
"Dr. James Hanson, Coroner's Physician, Criminal Courts Building," read Craig
Kennedy, as he held a visitor's card in his hand. Then to the visitor he added, "Take a
chair, Doctor."
The physician thanked him and sat down. "Professor Kennedy," he began, "I have been
referred to you by Inspector O'Connor of the Detective Bureau. It may seem an
impertinence for a city official to call on you for assistance, but--well, you see, I'm
completely floored. I think, too, that the case will interest you. It's the Vandam case."
If Dr. Hanson had suddenly turned on the current of an induction coil and I had been
holding the handles I don't think the thrill I received could have been any more sudden.
The Vandam case was the sensation of the moment, a triple puzzle, as both Kennedy and
myself had agreed. Was it suicide, murder, or sudden death? Every theory, so far, had
proved unsatisfactory.
"I have read only what the newspapers have published," replied Craig to the doctor's look
of inquiry. "You see, my friend Jameson here is on the staff of the Star, and we are in the
habit of discussing these cases."
"Very glad to meet you, Mr. Jameson," exclaimed Dr. Hanson at the implied
introduction. "The relations between my office and your paper have always been very
satisfactory, I can assure you."
"Thank you, Doctor. Depend on me to keep them so," I replied, shaking his proffered
"Now, as to the case," continued the doctor slowly. "Here is a beautiful woman in the
prime of life, the wife of a very wealthy retired banker considerably older than herself--
perhaps nearly seventy--of very fine family. Of course you have read it all, but let me
sketch it so you will look at it from my point of view. This woman, apparently in good
health, with every luxury money can buy, is certain within a very few years, from her
dower rights, to be numbered among the richest women in America. Yet she is
discovered in the middle of the night by her maid, seated at the table in the library of her
home, unconscious. She never regains consciousness, but dies the following morning.
"The coroner is called in, and, as his physician, I must advise him. The family physician
has pronounced it due to natural causes, the uremic coma of latent kidney trouble. Some
of the newspapers, I think the Star among them, have hinted at suicide. And then there
are others, who have flatly asserted it was murder."
The coroner's physician paused to see if we were following him. Needless to say
Kennedy was ahead of him.