THE BINET TEST
We rode downtown again and again sauntered in, this time with the theater crowd. Our first visit had been so quiet and unostentatious that the second attracted no attention or comment from the waiters, or anyone else.
As we sat down we glanced over, and there in his corner still was Whitecap. Apparently his supply of the dope was inexhaustible, for he was still dispensing it. As we watched the tenderloin habitues come and go, I came soon to recognize the signs by the mere look on the face—the pasty skin, the vacant eye, the nervous quiver of the muscles as though every organ and every nerve were crying out for more of the favorite nepenthe. Time and again I noticed the victims as they sat at the tables, growing more and more haggard and worn, until they could stand it no longer. Then they would retire, sometimes after a visit across the floor to Whitecap, more often directly, for they had stocked themselves up with the drug evidently after the first visit to him. But always they would come back, changed in appearance, with what seemed to be a new lease of life, but nevertheless still as recognizable as drug victims.
It was not long, as we waited, before another woman, older than Miss Sawtelle, but dressed in an extreme fashion, hurried into the cabaret and with scarcely a look to right or left went directly to Whitecap’s corner. I noticed that she, too, had the look.
There was a surreptitious passing of a bottle in exchange for a treasury note, and she dropped into the seat beside him.
Before he could interfere, she had opened the bottle, crushed a tablet or two in a napkin, and was holding it to her face as though breathing the most exquisite perfume. With one quick inspiration of her breath after another, she was snuffing the powder up her nose.
Whitecap with an angry gesture pulled the napkin from her face, and one could fancy his snarl under his breath, “Say—do you want to get me in wrong here?”
But it was too late. Some at least of the happy dust had taken effect, at least enough to relieve the terrible pangs she must have been suffering.
As she rose and retired, with a hasty apology to Whitecap for her indiscretion, Kennedy turned to me and exclaimed, “Think of it. The deadliest of all habits is the simplest. No hypodermic; no pipe; no paraphernalia of any kind. It’s terrible.”
She returned to sit down and enjoy herself, careful not to obtrude herself on Whitecap lest he might become angry at the mere sight of her and treasure his anger up against the next time when she would need the drug.
Already there was the most marvelous change in her. She seemed captivated by the music, the dancing, the life which a few moments before she had totally disregarded.
She was seated alone, not far from us, and as she glanced about Kennedy caught her eye. She allowed her gaze to rest on us for a moment, the signal for a mild flirtation which ended in our exchange of tables and we found ourselves opposite the drug fiend, who was following up the taking of the dope by a thin-stemmed glass of a liqueur.