He held it out in his hand before the Rapports so that they could not help but see it. Were they merely good actors? They betrayed nothing, at least by face or action.
“It is crotalin,” he announced, “the venom of the rattlesnake— crotalus horridus. It has been noticed that persons suffering from certain diseases of which epilepsy is one, after having been bitten by a rattlesnake, if they recover from the snake bite, are cured of the disease.”
Kennedy was forging straight ahead now in his exposure. “Crotalin,” he continued, “is one of the new drugs used in the treatment of epilepsy. But it is a powerful two-edged instrument. Some one who knew the drug, who perhaps had used it, has tried an artificial bite of a rattler on Veda Blair, not for epilepsy, but for another, diabolical purpose, thinking to cover up the crime, either as the result of the so-called death thought of the Lodge or as the bite of the real rattler at the Lodge.”
Kennedy had at last got under Dr. Vaughn’s guard. All his reticence was gone.
“I joined the cult,” he confessed. “I did it in order to observe and treat one of my patients for epilepsy. I justified myself. I said, ’I will be the exposer, not the accomplice, of this modern Satanism.’ I joined it and—”
“There is no use trying to shield anyone, Vaughn,” rapped out Kennedy, scarcely taking time to listen. “An epileptic of the most dangerous criminal type has arranged this whole elaborate setting as a plot to get rid of the wife who brought him his fortune and now stands in the way of his unholy love of Mrs. Langhorne. He used you to get the poison with which you treated him. He used the Rapports with money to play on her mysticism by their so-called death thought, while he watched his opportunity to inject the fatal crotalin.”
Craig faced the criminal, whose eyes now showed more plainly than words his deranged mental condition, and in a low tone added, “The Devil is in you, Seward Blair!”
The “Happy dust”
Veda Blair’s rescue from the strange use that was made of the venom came at a time when the city was aroused as it never had been before over the nation-wide agitation against drugs.
Already, it will be recalled, Kennedy and I had had some recent experience with dope fiends of various kinds, but this case I set down because it drew us more intimately into the crusade.
“I’ve called on you, Professor Kennedy, to see if I can’t interest you in the campaign I am planning against drugs.”
Mrs. Claydon Sutphen, social leader and suffragist, had scarcely more than introduced herself when she launched earnestly into the reason for her visit to us.
“You don’t realize it, perhaps,” she continued rapidly, “but very often a little silver bottle of tablets is as much a necessary to some women of the smart set as cosmetics.”