“Over on Ten Mile Beach,” answered Edwards. “Some fishermen who had been out on a cruise and hadn’t heard the story. They took the body to town, and there it was recognized. They sent word out to us immediately.”
Waldon had already spun the engine of his tender, which was about the fastest thing afloat about Seaville, had taken Edwards over, and we were off in a cloud of spray, the nose of the boat many inches above the surface of the water.
In the little undertaking establishment at Seaville lay the body of the beautiful young matron about whom so much anxiety had been felt. I could not help thinking what an end was this for the incomparable beauty. At the very height of her brief career the poor little woman’s life had been suddenly snuffed out. But by what? The body had been found, but the mystery had been far from solved.
As Kennedy bent over the body, I heard him murmur to himself, “She had everything—everything except happiness.”
“Was it drowning that caused her death?” asked Kennedy of the local doctor, who also happened to be coroner and had already arrived on the scene.
The doctor shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said doubtfully. “There was congestion of the lungs—but I—I can’t say but what she might have been dead before she fell or was thrown into the water.”
Dr. Jermyn stood on one side, now and then putting in a word, but for the most part silent unless spoken to. Kennedy, however, was making a most minute examination.
As he turned the beautiful head, almost reverently, he saw something that evidently attracted his attention. I was standing next to him and, between us, I think we cut off the view of the others. There on the back of the neck, carefully, had been smeared something transparent, almost skin-like, which had easily escaped the attention of the rest.
Kennedy tried to pick it off, but only succeeded in pulling off a very minute piece to which the flesh seemed to adhere.
“That’s queer,” he whispered to me. “Water, naturally, has no effect on it, else it would have been washed off long before. Walter,” he added, “just slip across the street quietly to the drug store and get me a piece of gauze soaked with acetone.”
As quickly and unostentatiously as I could I did so and handed him the wet cloth, contriving at the same time to add Waldon to our barrier, for I could see that Kennedy was anxious to be observed as little as possible.
“What is it?” I whispered, as he rubbed the transparent skin-like stuff off, and dropped the gauze into his pocket.
“A sort of skin varnish,” he remarked under his breath, “waterproof and so adhesive that it resists pulling off even with a knife without taking the cuticle with it.”
Beneath, as the skin varnish slowly dissolved under his gentle rubbing, he had disclosed several very small reddish spots, like little cuts that had been made by means of a very sharp instrument. As he did so, he gave them a hasty glance, turned the now stony beautiful head straight again, stood up, and resumed his talk with the coroner, who was evidently getting more and more bewildered by the case.