The War Terror HTML version
The Mystic Poisoner
"It's almost as though he had been struck down by a spirit hand, Kennedy."
Grady, the house detective of the Prince Edward Charles Hotel, had routed us out of bed
in the middle of the night with a hurried call for help, and now met us in the lobby of the
fashionable hostelry. All that he had said over the wire was that there had been a murder-
-"an Englishman, a Captain Shirley."
"Why," exclaimed Grady, lowering his voice as he led us through the lobby, "it's the most
mysterious thing, I think, that I've ever seen!"
"In what way?" prompted Kennedy.
"Well," continued Grady, "it must have been just a bit after midnight that one of the
elevator-boys heard what sounded like a muffled report in a room on the tenth floor.
There were other employees and some guests about at the time, and it was only a matter
of seconds before they were on the spot. Finally, the sound was located as having come
probably from Captain Shirley's room. But the door was locked--on the inside. There was
no response, although some one had seen him ride up in the elevator scarcely five
minutes before. By that time they had sent for me. We broke in. There was Shirley, alone,
fully dressed, lying on the floor before a writing-table. His face was horribly set, as
though he had perhaps seen something that frightened and haunted him--though I suppose
it might have been the pain that did it. I think he must have heard something, jumped
from the chair, perhaps in fear, then have fallen down on the floor almost immediately.
"We hurried over to him. He was still alive, but could not speak. I turned him over, tried
to rouse him and make him comfortable. It was only then that I saw that he was really
conscious. But it seemed as if his tongue and most of his muscles were paralyzed.
Somehow he managed to convey to us the idea that it was his heart that troubled him
"Really, at first I thought it was a case of suicide. But there was no sign of a weapon
about and not a trace of poison--no glass, no packet. There was no wound on him, either--
except a few slight cuts and scratches on his face and hands. But none of them looked to
be serious. And yet, before we could get the house physician up to him he was dead."
"And with not a word?" queried Kennedy.
"That's the strangest part of it. No; not a word spoken. But as he lay there, even in spite of
his paralyzed muscles, he was just able to motion with his hands. I thought he wanted to
write, and gave him a pencil and a piece of paper. He clutched at them, but here is all he
was able to do."