I do not recall the conversation, but it was one of those inconsequential talks that Bohemians consider so brilliant and everybody else so vapid. As we skimmed from one subject to another, treating the big facts of life as if they were mere incidents and the little as if they overshadowed all else, I could see that Craig, who had a faculty of probing into the very soul of anyone, when he chose, was gradually leading around to a subject which I knew he wanted, above all others, to discuss.
It was not long before, as the most natural remark in the world following something he had made her say, just as a clever prestidigitator forces a card, he asked, “What was it I saw you snuffing over in the booth—happy dust?”
She did not even take the trouble to deny it, but nodded a brazen “Yes.” “How did you come to use it first?” he asked, careful not to give offense in either tone or manner.
“The usual way, I suppose,” she replied with a laugh that sounded harsh and grating. “I was ill and I found out what it was the doctor was giving me.”
“Oh, I thought I would use it only as long as it served my purpose and, when that was over, give it up.”
“But—?” prompted Craig hypnotically.
“Instead, I was soon using six, eight, ten tablets of heroin a day. I found that I needed that amount in order to live. Then it went up by leaps to twenty, thirty, forty.”
“Suppose you couldn’t get it, what then?”
“Couldn’t get it?” she repeated with an unspeakable horror. “Once I thought I’d try to stop. But my heart skipped beats; then it seemed to pound away, as if trying to break through my ribs. I don’t think heroin is like other drugs. When one has her ’coke’— that’s cocaine—taken away, she feels like a rag. Fill her up and she can do anything again. But, heroin—I think one might murder to get it!”
The expression on the woman’s face was almost tragic. I verily believe that she meant it.
“Why,” she cried, “if anyone had told me a year ago that the time would ever come when I would value some tiny white tablets above anything else in the world, yes, and even above my immortal soul, I would have thought him a lunatic.”
It was getting late, and as the woman showed no disposition to leave, Kennedy and I excused ourselves.
Outside Craig looked at me keenly. “Can you guess who that was?”
“Although she didn’t tell us her name,” I replied, “I am morally certain that it was Mrs. Garrett.”
“Precisely,” he answered, “and what a shame, too, for she must evidently once have been a woman of great education and refinement.”
He shook his head sadly. “Walter, there isn’t likely to be anything that we can do for some hours now. I have a little experiment I’d like to make. Suppose you publish for me a story in the Star about the campaign against drugs. Tell about what we have seen to-night, mention the cabaret by indirection and Whitecap directly. Then we can sit back and see what happens. We’ve got to throw a scare into them somehow, if we are going to smoke out anyone higher up than Whitecap. But you’ll have to be careful, for if they suspect us our usefulness in the case will be over.”