Kennedy and I were trying to act as if we were enjoying the cabaret show and not too much interested in the little drama that was being acted before us. I think little Miss Sawtelle noticed, however, that we were looking often her way. I was amazed, too, on studying her more closely to find that there was something indefinably queer about her, aside from the marked effect of the drugs she had been taking. What it was I was at a loss to determine, but I felt sure from the expression on Kennedy’s face that he had noticed it also.
I was on the point of asking him if he, too, observed anything queer in the girl, when Armstrong hurried in and handed her a small package, then almost without a word stalked out again, evidently as much to Snowbird’s surprise as to our own.
She had literally seized the package, as though she were drowning and grasping at a life buoy. Even the surprise at his hasty departure could not prevent her, however, from literally tearing the wrapper off, and in the sheltering shadow of the table cloth pouring forth the little white pellets in her lap, counting them as a miser counts his gold,
“The old thief!” she exclaimed aloud. “He’s held out twenty-five!”
I don’t know which it was that amazed me most, the almost childish petulance and ungovernable temper of the girl which made her cry out in spite of her surroundings and the circumstances, or the petty rapacity of the man who could stoop to such a low level as to rob her in this seeming underhand manner.
There was no time for useless repining now. The call of outraged nature for its daily and hourly quota of poison was too imperative. She dumped the pellets back into the bottle hastily, and disappeared.
When she came back, it was with that expression I had come to know so well. At least for a few hours there was a respite for her from the terrific pangs she had been suffering. She was almost happy, smiling. Even that false happiness, I felt, was superior to Armstrong’s moral sense blunted by drugs. I had begun to realize how lying, stealing, crimes of all sorts might be laid at the door of this great evil.
In her haste to get where she could snuff the heroin she had forgotten a light wrap lying on her chair. As she returned for it, it fell to the floor. Instantly Kennedy was on his feet, bending over to pick it up.
She thanked him, and the smile lingered a moment on her face. It was enough. It gave Kennedy the chance to pursue a conversation, and in the free and easy atmosphere of the cabaret to invite her to sit over at our table.
At least all her nervousness was gone and she chatted vivaciously. Kennedy said little. He was too busy watching her. It was quite the opposite of the case of Mrs. Garrett. Yet I was at a loss to define what it was that I sensed.
Still the minutes sped past and we seemed to be getting on famously. Unlike his action in the case of the older woman where he had been sounding the depths of her heart and mind, in this case his idea seemed to be to allow the childish prattle to come out and perhaps explain itself.