Part 2 out of 5
"Have you had any experience with rubeola?" she queried finally.
"Oh, yes - yes - yes, indeed," the gardener stammered. "Yes."
"And - alopecia?" pursued Miss Cornelia.
The young man seemed to fumble in his mind for the characteristics
of such a flower or shrub.
"The dry weather is very hard on alopecia," he asserted finally,
and was evidently relieved to see Miss Cornelia receive the
statement with a pleasant smile.
"What do you think is the best treatment for urticaria?" she
propounded with a highly professional manner.
It appeared to be a catch-question. The young man knotted his brows.
Finally a gleam of light seemed to come to him.
"Urticaria frequently needs - er - thinning," he announced
"Needs scratching you mean!" Miss Cornelia rose with a snort of
disdain and faced him. "Young man, urticaria is hives, rubeola
is measles, and alopecia is baldness!" she thundered. She waited
a moment for his defense. None came.
"Why did you tell me you were a professional gardener?" she went
on accusingly. "Why have you come here at this hour of night
pretending to be something you're not?"
By all standards of drama the young man should have wilted before
her wrath, Instead he suddenly smiled at her, boyishly, and threw
up his hands in a gesture of defeat.
"I know I shouldn't have done it!" he confessed with appealing
frankness. "You'd have found me out anyhow! I don't know anything
about gardening. The to is," his tone grew somber, "I was desperate!
I HAD have work!"
The candor of his smile would have disarmed a stonier-hearted person
than Miss Cornelia. But her suspicions were still awake.
"'That's all, is it?"
"That's enough when you're down and out." His words had an
unmistakable accent of finality. She couldn't help wanting to
believe him, and yet, he wasn't what he had pretended to be - and
this night of all nights was no time to take people on trust!
"How do I know you won't steal the spoons?" she queried, her voice
"Are they nice spoons?" he asked with absurd seriousness.
She couldn't help smiling at his tone. "Beautiful spoons.
Again that engaging, boyish manner of his touched something in her
"Spoons are a great temptation to me, Miss Van Gorder - but if
you'll take me, I'll promise to leave them alone."
"That's extremely kind of you," she answered with grim humor,
knowing herself beaten. She went over to ring for Billy.
Lizzie took the opportunity to gain her ear.
"I don't trust him, Miss Neily! He's too smooth!" she whispered
Miss Cornelia stiffened. "I haven't asked for your opinion,
Lizzie," she said.
But Lizzie was not to be put off by the Van Gorder manner.
"Oh," she whispered, "you're just as bad as all the rest of 'em.
A good-looking man comes in the door and your brains fly out the
Miss Cornelia quelled her with a gesture and turned back to the
young man. He was standing just where she had left him, his cap
in his hands - but, while her back had been turned, his eyes had
made a stealthy survey of the living-room - a survey that would
have made it plain to Miss Cornelia, if she had seen him, that his
interest in the Fleming establishment was not merely the casual
interest of a servant in his new place of abode. But she had not
seen and she could have told nothing from his present expression.
"Have you had anything to eat lately?" she asked in a kindly voice.
He looked down at his cap. "Not since this morning," he admitted
as Billy answered the bell.
Miss Cornelia turned to the impassive Japanese. "Billy, give this
man something to eat and then show him where he is to sleep."
She hesitated. The gardener's house was some distance from the
main building, and with the night and the approaching storm she
felt her own courage weakening. Into the bargain, whether this
stranger had lied about his gardening or not, she was curiously
attracted to him.
"I think," she said slowly, "that I'll have you sleep in the house
here, at least for tonight. Tomorrow we can - the housemaid's room,
Billy," she told the butler. And before their departure she held
out a candle and a box of matches.
"Better take these with you, Brooks," she said. "The local light
company crawls under its bed every time there is a thunderstorm.
Good night, Brooks."
"Good night, ma'am," said the young man smiling. Following Billy
to the door, he paused. "You're being mighty good to me," he said
diffidently, smiled again, and disappeared after Billy.
As the door closed behind them, Miss Cornelia found herself smiling
too. "That's a pleasant young fellow - no matter what he is," she
said to herself decidedly, and not even Lizzie's feverish "Haven't
you any sense taking strange men into the house? How do you know
he isn't the Bat?" could draw a reply from her.
Again the thunder rolled as she straightened the papers and
magazines on the table and Lizzie gingerly took up the ouija-board
to replace it on the bookcase with the prayer book firmly on top of
it. And this time, with the roll of the thunder, the lights in the
living-room blinked uncertainly for an instant before they recovered
their normal brilliance.
"There go the lights!" grumbled Lizzie, her fingers still touching
the prayer book, as if for protection. Miss Cornelia did not answer
"We'll put the detective in the blue room when he comes," she said.
"You'd better go up and see if it's all ready."
Lizzie started to obey, going toward the alcove to ascend to the
second floor by the alcove stairs. But Miss Cornelia stopped her.
"Lizzie - you know that stair rail's just been varnished. Miss
Dale got a stain on her sleeve there this afternoon - and Lizzie - "
"No one is to know that he is a detective. Not even Billy." Miss
Cornelia was very firm.
"Well, what'l1 I say he is?"
"It's nobody's business."
"A detective," moaned Lizzie, opening the hall door to go by the
main staircase. "Tiptoeing around with his eye to all the keyholes.
A body won't be safe in the bathtub." She shut the door with a
little slap and disappeared. Miss Cornelia sat down - she had many
things to think over - "if I ever get time really to think of
anything again," she thought, because with gardeners coming who
aren't gardeners - and Lizzie hearing yells in the grounds and -
She started slightly. The front door bell was ringing - a long
trill, uncannily loud in the quiet house. She sat rigid in her
chair, waiting. Billy came in.
"Front door key, please?" he asked urbanely. She gave him the key.
"Find out who it is before you unlock the door," she said. He
nodded. She heard him at the door, then a murmur of voices - Dale's
voice and another's - "Won't you come in for a few minutes? Oh,
thank you." She relaxed.
The door opened; it was Dale. "How lovely she looks in that evening
wrap!" thought Miss Cornelia. But how tired, too. I wish I knew
what was worrying her.
She smiled. "Aren't you back early, Dale?"
Dale threw off her wrap and stood for a moment patting back into its
smooth, smart bob, hair ruffled by the wind.
"I was tired," she said, sinking into a chair.
"Not worried about anything?" Miss Cornelia's eyes were sharp.
"No," said Dale without conviction, "but I've come here to be company
for you and I don't want to run away all the time." She picked up
the evening paper and looked at it without apparently seeing it.
Miss Cornelia heard voices in the hall - a man's voice - affable -
"How have you been, Billy?" - Billy's voice in answer, "Very well,
"Who's out there, Dale?" she queried.
Dale looked up from the paper. "Doctor Wells, darling," she said
in a listless voice. "He brought me over from the club; I asked
him to come in for a few minutes. Billy's just taking his coat."
She rose, threw the paper aside, came over and kissed Miss Cornelia
suddenly and passionate1y - then before Miss Cornelia, a little
startled, could return the kiss, went over and sat on the settee
by the fireplace near the door of the billiard room.
Miss Cornelia turned to her with a thousand questions on her tongue,
but before she could ask any of them, Billy was ushering in Doctor
As she shook hands with the Doctor, Miss Cornelia observed him with
casual interest - wondering why such a good-looking man, in his
early forties, apparently built for success, should be content with
the comparative rustication of his local practice. That shrewd,
rather aquiline face, with its keen gray eyes, would have found
itself more at home in a wider sphere of action, she thought - there
was just that touch of ruthlessness about it which makes or mars a
captain in the world's affairs. She found herself murmuring the
usual conventionalities of greeting.
"Oh, I'm very well, Doctor, thank you. Well, many people at the
"Not very many," he said, with a shake of his head. "This failure
of the Union Bank has knocked a good many of the club members sky
"Just how did it happen?" Miss Cornelia was making conversation.
"Oh, the usual thing." The Doctor took out his cigarette case.
"The cashier, a young chap named Bailey, looted the bank to the
tune of over a million."
Dale turned sharply toward them from her seat by the fireplace.
"How do you know the cashier did it?" she said in a low voice.
The Doctor laughed. "Well - he's run away, for one thing. The bank
examiners found the deficit. Bailey, the cashier, went out on an
errand - and didn't come back. The method was simple enough -
worthless bonds substituted for good ones - with a good bond on the
top and bottom of each package, so the packages would pass a casual
inspection. Probably been going on for some time."
The fingers of Dale's right hand drummed restlessly on the edge of
"Couldn't somebody else have done it?" she queried tensely.
The Doctor smiled, a trifle patronizingly.
"Of course the president of the bank had access to the vaults," he
said. "But, as you know, Mr. Courtleigh Fleming, the late president,
was buried last Monday."
Miss Cornelia had seen her niece's face light up oddly at the
beginning of the Doctor's statement - to relapse into lassitude
again at its conclusion. Bailey - Bailey - she was sure she
remembered that name - on Dale's lips.
"Dale, dear, did you know this young Bailey?" she asked point-blank.
The girl had started to light a cigarette. The flame wavered in
her fingers, the match went out.
"Yes - slightly," she said. She bent to strike another match,
averting her face. Miss Cornelia did not press her.
"What with bank robberies and communism and the income tax," she
said, turning the subject, "the only way to keep your money these
days is to spend it."
"Or not to have any - like myself!" the Doctor agreed.
"It seems strange," Miss Cornelia went on, "living in Courtleigh
Fleming's house. A month ago I'd never even heard of Mr. Fleming
- though I suppose I should have - and now - why, I'm as interested
in the failure of his bank as if I were a depositor!"
The Doctor regarded the end of his cigarette.
"As a matter of fact," he said pleasantly, "Dick Fleming had no
right to rent you the property before the estate was settled. He
must have done it the moment he received my telegram announcing his
"Were you with him when he died?"
"Yes - in Colorado. He had angina pectoris and took me with him for
that reason. But with care he might have lived a considerable time.
The trouble was that he wouldn't use ordinary care. He ate and
drank more than he should, and so - "
"I suppose," pursued Miss Cornelia, watching Dale out of the corner
of her eye, "that there is no suspicion that Courtleigh Fleming
robbed his own bank?"
"Well, if he did," said the Doctor amicably, "I can testify that he
didn't have the loot with him." His tone grew more serious. "No!
He had his faults - but not that."
Miss Cornelia made up her mind. She had resolved before not to
summon the Doctor for aid in her difficulties, but now that chance
had brought him here the opportunity seemed too good a one to let
"Doctor," she said, "I think I ought to tell you something. Last
night and the night before, attempts were made to enter this house.
Once an intruder actually got in and was frightened away by Lizzie
at the top of that staircase." She indicated the alcove stairs.
"And twice I have received anonymous communications threatening my
life if I did not leave the house and go
back to the city."
Dale rose from her settee, startled.
"I didn't know that, Auntie! How dreadful!" she gasped.
Instantly Miss Cornelia regretted her impulse of confidence. She
tried to pass the matter off with tart humor.
"Don't tell Lizzie," she said. "She'd yell like a siren. It's the
only thing she does like a siren, but she does it superbly!"
For a moment it seemed as if Miss Cornelia had succeeded. The Doctor
smiled; Dale sat down again, her expression altering from one of
anxiety to one of amusement. Miss Cornelia opened her lips to dilate
further upon Lizzie's eccentricities.
But just then there was a splintering crash of glass from one of the
French windows behind her!
DETECTIVE ANDERSON TAKES CHARGE
"Somebody smashed a windowpane!"
"And threw in a stone!"
"Wait a minute, I'll - " The Doctor, all alert at once, ran into
the alcove and jerked at the terrace door.
"It's bolted at the top, too," called Miss Cornelia. He nodded,
without wasting words on a reply, unbolted the door and dashed out
into the darkness of the terrace. Miss Cornelia saw him run past
the French windows and disappear into blackness. Meanwhile Dale,
her listlessness vanished before the shock of the strange occurrence,
had gone to the broken window and picked up the stone. It was
wrapped in paper; there seemed to be writing on the paper. She
closed the terrace door and brought the stone to her aunt.
Miss Cornelia unwrapped the paper and smoothed out the sheet.
Two lines of coarse, round handwriting sprawled across it:
Take warning! Leave this house at once! It is threatened with
disaster which will involve you if you remain!
There was no signature.
"Who do you think wrote it?" asked Dale breathlessly.
Miss Cornelia straightened up like a ramrod - indomitable.
"A fool - that's who! If anything was calculated to make me stay
here forever, this sort of thing would do it!"
She twitched the sheet of paper angrily.
"But - something may happen, darling!"
"I hope so! That's the reason I - "
She stopped. The doorbell was ringing again - thrilling, insistent.
Her niece started at the sound.
"Oh, don't let anybody in!" she besought Miss Cornelia as Billy
came in from the hall with his usual air of walking on velvet.
"Key, front door please - bell ring," he explained tersely, taking
the key from the table.
Miss Cornelia issued instructions.
"See that the chain is on the door, Billy. Don't open it all the
way. And get the visitor's name before you let him in."
She lowered her voice.
"If he says he is Mr. Anderson, let him in and take him to the
Billy nodded and disappeared. Dale turned to her aunt, the color
out of her cheeks.
"Anderson? Who is Mr. - "
Miss Cornelia did not answer. She thought for a moment. Then she
put her hand on Dale's shoulder in a gesture of protective affection.
"Dale, dear - you know how I love having you here - but it might be
better if you went back to the city."
"Tonight, darling?" Dale managed a wan smile. But Miss Cornelia
"There's something behind all this disturbance - something I don't
understand. But I mean to."
She glanced about to see if the Doctor was returning. She lowered
her voice. She drew Dale closer to her.
"The man in the library is a detective from police headquarters,"
She had expected Dale to show surprise - excitement - but the white
mask of horror which the girl turned toward her appalled her. The
young body trembled under her hand for a moment like a leaf in the
"Not - the police!" breathed Dale in tones of utter consternation.
Miss Cornelia could not understand why the news had stirred her
niece so deeply. But there was no time to puzzle it out, she heard
crunching steps on the terrace, the Doctor was returning.
"Ssh!" she whispered. "It isn't necessary to tell the Doctor. I
think he's a sort of perambulating bedside gossip - and once it's
known the police are here we'll NEVER catch the criminals!"
When the Doctor entered from the terrace, brushing drops of rain
from his no longer immaculate evening clothes, Dale was back on her
favorite settee and Miss Cornelia was poring over the mysterious
missive that had been wrapped about the stone.
"He got away in the shrubbery," said the Doctor disgustedly, taking
out a handkerchief to fleck the spots of mud from his shoes.
Miss Cornelia gave him the letter of warning. "Read this," she said.
The Doctor adjusted a pair of pince-nez - read the two crude
sentences over - once - twice. Then he looked shrewdly at Miss
"Were the others like this?" he queried.
She nodded. "Practically."
He hesitated for a moment like a man with an unpleasant social duty
"Miss Van Gorder, may I speak frankly?"
"Generally speaking, I detest frankness," said that lady grimly.
"But - go on!"
The Doctor tapped the letter. His face was wholly serious.
"I think you ought to leave this house," he said bluntly.
"Because of that letter? Humph!" His very seriousness, perversely
enough, made her suddenly wish to treat the whole matter as lightly
The Doctor repressed the obvious annoyance of a man who sees a
warning, given in all sobriety, unexpectedly taken as a quip.
"There is some deviltry afoot," he persisted. "You are not safe
here, Miss Van Gorder."
But if he was persistent in his attitude, so was she in hers.
"I've been safe in all kinds of houses for sixty-odd years," she
said lightly. "It's time I had a bit of a change. Besides," she
gestured toward her defenses, "this house is as nearly impregnable
as I can make it. The window locks are sound enough, the doors are
locked, and the keys are there," she pointed to the keys lying on
the table. "As for. the terrace door you just used," she went on,
"I had Billy put an extra bolt on it today. By the way, did you
bolt that door again?" She moved toward the alcove.
"Yes, I did," said the Doctor quickly, still seeming unconvinced of
the wisdom of her attitude.
"Miss Van Gorder, I confess - I'm very anxious for you," he
continued. "This letter is - ominous. Have you any enemies?"
"Don't insult me! Of course I have. Enemies are an indication of
The Doctor's smile held both masculine pity and equally masculine
exasperation. He went on more gently.
"Why not accept my hospitality in the village to-night?" he proposed
reasonably. "It's a little house but I'll make you comfortable.
Or," he threw out his hands in the gesture of one who reasons with
a willful child, if you won't come to me, let me stay here!"
Miss Cornelia hesitated for an instant. The proposition seemed
logical enough - more than that - sensible, safe. And yet, some
indefinable feeling - hardly strong enough to be called a premonition
- kept her from accepting it. Besides, she knew what the Doctor
did not, that help was waiting across the hall in the library.
"Thank you, no, Doctor," she said briskly, before she had time to
change her mind. "I'm not easily frightened. And tomorrow I intend
to equip this entire house with burglar alarms on doors and windows!"
she went on defiantly. The incident, as far as she was concerned,
was closed. She moved on into the alcove. The Doctor stared at her,
shaking his head.
She tried the terrace door. "There, I knew it!" she said
triumphantly. "Doctor - you didn't fasten that bolt!"
The Doctor seemed a little taken aback. "Oh - I'm sorry - " he said.
"You only pushed it part of the way," she explained. She completed
the task and stepped back into the living-room. "The only thing
that worries me now is that broken French window," she said
thoughtfully. "Anyone can reach a hand through it and open the
latch." She came down toward the settee where Dale was sitting.
"Oh - what are you going to do?" said the Doctor, coming out of a
"I'm going to barricade that window!" said Miss Cornelia firmly,
already struggling to lift one end of the settee. But now Dale
came to her rescue.
"Oh, darling, you'll hurt yourself. Let me - " and between them,
the Doctor and Dale moved the heavy settee along until it stood
in front of the window in question.
The Doctor stood up when the dusty task was finished, wiping his
"It would take a furniture mover to get in there now!" he said
Miss Cornelia smiled.
"Well, Doctor - I'll say good night now - and thank you very much,"
she said, extending her hand to the Doctor, who bowed over it
silently. "Don't keep this young lady up too late; she looks tired."
She flashed a look at Dale who stood staring out at the night.
"I'll only smoke a cigarette," promised the Doctor. Once again his
voice had a note of plea in it. "You won't change your mind?" he
Miss Van Gorder's smile was obdurate. "I have a great deal of mind,"
she said. "It takes a long time to change it."
Then, having exercised her feminine privilege of the last word, she
sailed out of the room, still smiling, and closed the door behind
The Doctor seemed a little nettled by her abrupt departure.
"It may be mind," he said, turning back toward Dale, "but forgive me
if I say I think it seems more like foolhardy stubbornness!"
Dale turned away from the window. "Then you think there is really
The Doctor's eyes were grave.
"Well - those letters - " he dropped the letter on the table.
"They mean something. Here you are - isolated the village two
miles away - and enough shrubbery round the place to hide a
dozen assassins - "
If his manner had been in the slightest degree melodramatic, Dale
would have found the ominous sentences more easy to discount. But
this calm, intent statement of fact was a chill touch at her heart.
And yet -
"But what enemies can Aunt Cornelia have?" she asked helplessly.
"Any man will tell you what I do," said the Doctor with increasing
seriousness. He took a cigarette from his case and tapped it on
the case to emphasize his words. "This is no place for two women,
Dale moved away from him restlessly, to warm her hands at the fire.
The Doctor gave a quick glance around the room. Then, unseen by her,
he stepped noiselessly over to the table, took the matchbox there
off its holder and slipped it into his pocket. It seemed a curiously
useless and meaningless gesture, but his next words evinced that the
action had been deliberate.
"I don't seem to be able to find any matches - " he said with assumed
carelessness, fiddling with the matchbox holder.
Dale turned away from the fire. "Oh, aren't there any? I'll get you
some," she said with automatic politeness, and departed to search for
The Doctor watched her go - saw the door close behind her. Instantly
his face set into tense and wary lines. He glanced about - then ran
lightly into the alcove and noiselessly unfastened the bolt on the
terrace door which he had pretended to fasten after his search of the
shrubbery. When Dale returned with the matches, he was back where
he had been when she had left him, glancing at a magazine on the
He thanked her urbanely as she offered him the box. "So sorry to
trouble you - but tobacco is the one drug every Doctor forbids his
patients and prescribes for himself."
Dale smiled at the little joke. He lit his cigarette and drew in
the fragrant smoke with apparent gusto. But a moment later he had
crushed out the glowing end in an ash tray.
"By the way, has Miss Van Gorder a revolver?" he queried casually,
glancing at his wrist watch.
"Yes - she fired it off this afternoon to see if it would work."
Dale smiled at the memory.
The Doctor, too, seemed amused. "If she tries to shoot anything -
for goodness' sake stand behind her!" he advised. He glanced at
the wrist watch again. "Well - I must be going - "
"If anything happens," said Dale slowly, "I shall telephone you at
Her words seemed to disturb the Doctor slightly - but only for a
second. He grew even more urbane.
"I'll be home shortly after midnight," he said. "I'm stopping at
the Johnsons' on my way - one of their children is ill - or supposed
to be." He took a step toward the door, then he turned toward Dale
"Take a parting word of advice," he said. "The thing to do with a
midnight prowler is - let him alone. Lock your bedroom doors and
don't let anything bring you out till morning." He glanced at Dale
to see how she took the advice, his hand on the knob of the door.
"Thank you," said Dale seriously. "Good night, Doctor - Billy will
let you out, he has the key."
"By Jove!" laughed the Doctor, "you are careful, aren't you! The
place is like a fortress! Well - good night, Miss Dale - "
"Good night." The door closed behind him - Dale was left alone.
Suddenly her composure left her, the fixed smile died. She stood
gazing ahead at nothing, her face a mask of terror and apprehension.
But it was like a curtain that had lifted for a moment on some
secret tragedy and then fallen again. When Billy returned with the
front door key she was as impassive as he was.
"Has the new gardener come yet?"
"He here," said Billy stolidly. "Name Brook."
She was entirely herself once more when Billy, departing, held the
door open wide - to admit Miss Cornelia Van Gorder and a tall,
strong-featured man, quietly dressed, with reticent, piercing eyes
- the detective!
Dale's first conscious emotion was one of complete surprise. She
had expected a heavy-set, blue-jowled vulgarian with a black cigar,
a battered derby, and stubby policeman's shoes. "Why this man's a
gentleman!" she thought. "At least he looks like one - and yet -
you can tell from his face he'd have as little mercy as a steel trap
for anyone he had to - catch - " She shuddered uncontrollably.
"Dale, dear," said Miss Cornelia with triumph in her voice. "This
is Mr. Anderson."
The newcomer bowed politely, glancing at her casually and then
looking away. Miss Cornelia, however, was obviously in fine feather
and relishing to the utmost the presence of a real detective in the
"This is the room I spoke of," she said briskly. "All the
disturbances have taken place around that terrace door."
The detective took three swift steps into the alcove, glanced about
it searchingly. He indicated the stairs.
"That is not the main staircase?"
"No, the main staircase is out there," Miss Cornelia waved her hand
in the direction of the hall.
The detective came out of the alcove and paused by the French windows.
"I think there must be a conspiracy between the Architects'
Association and the Housebreakers' Union these days," he said grimly.
"Look at all that glass. All a burglar needs is a piece of putty
and a diamond-cutter to break in."
"But the curious thing is," continued Miss Cornelia, "that whoever
got into the house evidently had a key to that door:" Again she
indicated the terrace door, but Anderson did not seem to be listening
"Hello - what's this?" he said sharply, his eye lighting on the
broken glass below the shattered French window. He picked up a piece
of glass and examined it.
Dale cleared her throat. "It was broken from the outside a few
minutes ago," she said.
"The outside?" Instantly the detective had pulled aside a blind and
was staring out into the darkness.
"Yes. And then that letter was thrown in." She pointed to the
threatening missive on the center table.
Anderson picked it up, glanced through it, laid it down. All his
movements were quick and sure - each executed with the minimum
expense of effort.
"H'm," he said in a calm voice that held a glint of humor. "Curious,
the anonymous letter complex! Apparently someone considers you an
Miss Cornelia took up the tale.
"There are some things I haven't told you yet," she said. "This
house belonged to the late Courtleigh Fleming." He glanced at her
"The Union Bank?"
"Yes. I rented it for the summer and moved in last Monday. We have
not had a really quiet night since I came. The very first night I
saw a man with an electric flashlight making his way through the
"You poor dear!" from Dale sympathetically. "And you were here
"Well, I had Lizzie. And," said Miss Cornelia with enormous
importance, opening the drawer of the center table, "I had my
revolver. I know so little about these things, Mr. Anderson, that
if I didn't hit a burglar, I knew I'd hit somebody or something!"
and she gazed with innocent awe directly down the muzzle of her
beloved weapon, then waved it with an airy gesture beneath the
Anderson gave an involuntary start, then his eyes lit up with grim
"Would you mind putting that away?" he said suavely. "I like to
get in the papers as much as anybody, but I don't want to have them
say - omit flowers."
Miss Cornelia gave him a glare of offended pride, but he endured it
with such quiet equanimity that she merely replaced the revolver in
the drawer, with a hurt expression, and waited for him to open the
next topic of conversation.
He finished his preliminary survey of the room and returned to her.
"Now you say you don't think anybody has got upstairs yet?" he
Miss Cornelia regarded the alcove stairs.
"I think not. I'm a very light sleeper, especially since the papers
have been so full of the exploits of this criminal they call the
Bat. He's in them again tonight." She nodded toward the evening
The detective smiled faintly.
"Yes, he's contrived to surround himself with such an air of
mystery that it verges on the supernatural - or seems that way to
"I confess," admitted Miss Cornelia, "I've thought of him in this
connection." She looked at Anderson to see how he would take the
suggestion but the latter merely smiled again, this time more
"That's going rather a long way for a theory," he said. "And the
Bat is not in the habit of giving warnings.
"Nevertheless," she insisted, "somebody has been trying to get into
this house, night after night."
Anderson seemed to be revolving a theory in his mind.
"Any liquor stored here?" he asked.
Miss Cornelia nodded. "Yes."
Miss Cornelia beamed at him maliciously. "Eleven bottles of
home-made elderberry wine."
"You're safe." The detective smiled ruefully. He picked up the
evening paper, glanced at it, shook his head. "I'd forget the Bat
in all this. You can always tell when the Bat has had anything to
do with a crime. When he's through, he signs his name to it."
Miss Cornelia sat bolt upright. "His name? I thought nobody knew
The detective made a little gesture of apology. "That was a figure
of speech. The newspapers named him the Bat because he moved with
incredible rapidity, always at night, and by signing his name I
mean he leaves the symbol of his identity - the Bat, which can see
in the dark."
"I wish I could," said Miss Cornelia, striving to seem unimpressed.
"These country lights are always going out."
Anderson's face grew stern. "Sometimes he draws the outline of a
bat at the scene of the crime. Once, in some way, he got hold of a
real bat, and nailed it to the wall."
Dale, listening, could not repress a shudder at the gruesome picture
- and Miss Cornelia's hands gave an involuntary twitch as her
knitting needles clicked together. Anderson seemed by no means
unconscious of the effect he had created.
"How many people in this house, Miss Van Gorder?"
"My niece and myself." Miss Cornelia indicated Dale, who had picked
up her wrap and was starting to leave the room. "Lizzie Allen - who
has been my personal maid ever since I was a child - the Japanese
butler, and the gardener. The cook and the housemaid left this
morning - frightened away."
She smiled as she finished her description. Dale reached the door
and passed slowly out into the hall. The detective gave her a
single, sharp glance as she made her exit. He seemed to think over
the factors Miss Cornelia had mentioned.
"Well," he said, after a slight pause, "you can have a good night's
sleep tonight. I'll stay right here in the dark and watch."
"Would you like some coffee to keep you awake?"
Anderson nodded. "Thank you." His voice sank lower. "Do the
servants know who I am?"
"Only Lizzie, my maid."
His eyes fixed hers. "I wouldn't tell anyone I'm remaining up all
night," he said.
A formless fear rose in Miss Cornelia's mind. "You don't suspect
my household?" she said in a low voice.
He spoke with emphasis - all the more pronounced because of the
quietude of his tone.
"I'm not taking any chances," he said determinedly.
CROSS-QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS
All unconscious of the slur just cast upon her forty years of
single-minded devotion to the Van Gorder family, Lizzie chose that
particular moment to open the door and make a little bob at her
mistress and the detective.
"The gentleman's room is ready," she said meekly. In her mind she
was already beseeching her patron saint that she would not have to
show the gentleman to his room. Her ideas of detectives were
entirely drawn from sensational magazines and her private opinion
was that Anderson might have anything in his pocket from a set of
terrifying false whiskers to a bomb!
Miss Cornelia, obedient to the detective's instructions, promptly
told the whitest of fibs for Lizzie's benefit.
"The maid will show you to your room now and you can make yourself
comfortable for the night." There - that would mislead Lizzie,
without being quite a lie.
"My toilet is made for an occasion like this when I've got my gun
loaded," answered Anderson carelessly. The allusion to the gun made
Lizzie start nervously,, unhappily for her, for it drew his attention
to her and he now transfixed her with a stare.
"This is the maid you referred to?" he inquired. Miss Cornelia
assented. He drew nearer to the unhappy
"What's your name?" he asked, turning to her.
"E-Elizabeth Allen," stammered Lizzie, feeling like a small and
distrustful sparrow in the toils of an officious python.
Anderson seemed to run through a mental rogues gallery of other
criminals named Elizabeth Allen that he had known.
"How old are you?" he proceeded.
Lizzie looked at her mistress despairingly. "Have I got to answer
that?" she wailed. Miss Cornelia nodded - inexorably.
Lizzie braced herself. "Thirty-two," she said, with an arch toss
of her head.
The detective looked surprised and slightly amused.
"She's fifty if she's a day," said Miss Cornelia treacherously in
spite of a look from Lizzie that would have melted a stone.
The trace of a smile appeared and vanished on the detective's face.
"Now, Lizzie," he said sternly, "do you ever walk in your sleep?"
"I do not," said Lizzie indignantly.
"Don't care for the country, I suppose?"
"I do not!"
"Or detectives?" Anderson deigned to be facetious.
"I DO NOT!" There could be no doubt as to the sincerity of Lizzie's
"All right, Lizzie. Be calm. I can stand it," said the detective
with treacherous suavity. But he favored her with a long and careful
scrutiny before he moved to the table and picked up the note that
had been thrown through the window. Quietly he extended it beneath
"Ever see this before?" he said crisply, watching her face.
Lizzie read the note with bulging eyes, her face horror-stricken.
When she had finished, she made a gesture of wild disclaimer that
nearly removed a portion of Anderson's left ear.
"Mercy on us!" she moaned, mentally invoking not only her patron
saint but all the rosary of heaven to protect herself and her
But the detective still kept his eye on her.
"Didn't write it yourself, did you?" he queried curtly.
"I did not!" said Lizzie angrily. "I did not!"
"And - you're sure you don't walk in your sleep?" The bare idea
strained Lizzie's nerves to the breaking point.
"When I get into bed in this house I wouldn't put my feet out for
a million dollars!" she said with heartfelt candor. Even Anderson
was compelled to grin at this.
"Then I won't ask you to," he said, relaxing considerably; "That's
more money than I'm worth, Lizzie."
"Well, I'll say it is!" quoth Lizzie, now thoroughly aroused, and
flounced out of the room in high dudgeon, her pompadour bristling,
before he had time to interrogate her further.
He replaced the note on the table and turned back to Miss Cornelia.
If he had found any clue to the mystery in Lizzie's demeanor, she
could not read it in his manner.
"Now, what about the butler?" he said.
"Nothing about him - except that he was Courtleigh Fleming's servant."
Anderson paused. "Do you consider that significant?"
A shadow appeared behind him deep in the alcove - a vague,
listening figure - Dale - on tiptoe, conspiratorial, taking pains
not to draw the attention of the others to her presence. But both
Miss Cornelia and Anderson were too engrossed in their conversation
to notice her.
Miss Cornelia hesitated.
"Isn't it possible that there is a connection between the colossal
theft at the Union Bank and these disturbances?" she said.
Anderson seemed to think over the question.
"What do you mean?" he asked as Dale slowly moved into the room from
the alcove, silently closing the alcove doors behind her, and still
"Suppose," said Miss Cornelia slowly, "that Courtleigh Fleming took
that money from his own bank and concealed it in this house?" The
eavesdropper grew rigid.
"That's the theory you gave headquarters, isn't it?" said Anderson.
"But I'll tell you how headquarters figures it out. In the first
place, the cashier is missing. In the second place, if Courtleigh
Fleming did it and got as far as Colorado, he had it with him when
he died, and the facts apparently don't bear that out. In the
third place, suppose he had hidden the money in or around this house.
Why did he rent it to you?"
"But he didn't" said Miss Cornelia obstinately, "I leased this
house from his nephew, his heir."
The detective smiled tolerantly.
"Well, I wouldn't struggle like that for a theory," he said, the
professional note coming back to his voice. "The cashier's missing
- that's the answer."
Miss Cornelia resented his offhand demolition of the mental
card-castle she had erected with such pride.
"I have read a great deal on the detection of crime," she said hotly,
"and - "
"Well, we all have our little hobbies," he said tolerantly. "A good
many people rather fancy themselves as detectives and run around
looking for clues under the impression that a clue is a big and vital
factor that sticks up like - well, like a sore thumb. The fact is
that the criminal takes care of the big and important factors. It's
only the little ones he may overlook. To go back to your friend the
Bat, it's because of his skill in little things that he's still at
"Then you don't think there's a chance that the money from the Union
Bank is in this house?" persisted Miss Cornelia.
"I think it very unlikely."
Miss Cornelia put her knitting away and rose. She still clung
tenaciously to her own theories but her belief in them had been
"If you'll come with me, I'll show you to your room," she said a
little stiffly. The detective stepped back to let her pass.
"Sorry to spoil your little theory," he said, and followed her to
the door. If either had noticed the unobtrusive listener to their
conversation, neither made a sign.
The moment the door had closed on them Dale sprang into action.
She seemed a different girl from the one who had left the room so
inconspicuously such a short time before. There were two bright
spots of color in her cheeks and she was obviously laboring under
great excitement. She went quickly to the alcove doors - they
opened softly - disclosing the young man who had said that he was
Brooks the new gardener - and yet not the same young man - for his
assumed air of servitude had dropped from him like a cloak,
revealing him as a young fellow at least of the same general social
class as Dale's if not a fellow-inhabitant of the select circle
where Van Gorders revolved about Van Gorders, and a man's
great-grandfather was more important than the man himself.
Dale cautioned him with a warning finger as he advanced into the
"Sh! Sh!" she whispered. "Be careful! That man's a detective!"
Brooks gave a hunted glance at the door into the hall.
"Then they've traced me here," he said in a dejected voice.
"I don't think so."
He made a gesture of helplessness.
"I couldn't get back to my rooms," he said in a whisper. "If
they've searched them," he paused, "as they're sure to - they'll
find your letters to me." He paused again. "Your aunt doesn't
"No, I told her I'd engaged a gardener - and that's all there
was about it."
He came nearer to her. "Dale!" he murmured in a tense voice. "You
know I didn't take that money!" he said with boyish simplicity.
All the loyalty of first-love was in her answer.
"Of course! I believe in you absolutely!" she said. He caught her
in his arms and kissed her - gratefully, passionately. Then the
galling memory of the predicament in which he stood, the hunt
already on his trail, came back to him. He released her gently,
still holding one of her hands.
"But - the police here!" he stammered, turning away. "What does
Dale swiftly informed him of the situation.
"Aunt Cornelia says people have been trying to break into this
house for days - at night."
Brooks ran his hand through his hair in a gesture of bewilderment.
Then he seemed to catch at a hope.
"What sort of people?" he queried sharply.
Dale was puzzled. "She doesn't know."
The excitement in her lover's manner came to a head. "That proves
exactly what I've contended right along," he said, thudding one
fist softly in the palm of the other. "Through some underneath
channel old Fleming has been selling those securities for months,
turning them into cash. And somebody knows about it, and knows
that that money is hidden here. Don't you see? Your Aunt Cornelia
has crabbed the game by coming here."
"Why didn't you tell the police that? Now they think, because you
ran away - "
"Ran away! The only chance I had was a few hours to myself to try
to prove what actually happened."
"Why don't you tell the detective what you think?" said Dale at her
wits' end. "That Courtleigh Fleming took the money and that it is
Her lover's face grew somber.
"He'd take me into custody at once and I'd have no chance to search."
He was searching now - his eyes roved about the living-room - walls -
ceiling - hopefully - desperately - looking for a clue - the tiniest
clue to support his theory.
"Why are you so sure it is here?" queried Dale.
Brooks explained. "You must remember Fleming was no ordinary
defaulter and he had no intention of being exiled to a foreign
country. He wanted to come back here and take his place in the
community while I was in the pen.
"But even then - "
He interrupted her. "Listen, dear - " He crossed to the
billiard-room door, closed it firmly, returned.
"The architect that built this house was an old friend of mine,"
he said in hushed accents. "We were together in France and you
know the way fellows get to talking when they're far away and cut
off - " He paused, seeing the cruel gleam of the flame throwers
- two figures huddled in a foxhole, whiling away the terrible hours
of waiting by muttered talk.
"Just an hour or two before - a shell got this friend of mine," he
resumed, "he told me he had built a hidden room in this house."
"Where?" gasped Dale.
Brooks shook his head. "I don't know. We never got to finish that
conversation. But I remember what he said. He said, 'You watch
old Fleming. If I get mine over here it won't break his heart. He
didn't want any living being to know about that room.'"
Now Dale was as excited as he.
"Then you think the money is in this hidden room?"
"I do," said Brooks decidedly. "I don't think Fleming took it away
with him. He was too shrewd for that. No, he meant to come back all
right, the minute he got the word the bank had been looted. And he'd
fixed things so I'd be railroaded to prison - you wouldn't understand,
but it was pretty neat. And then the fool nephew rents this house
the minute he's dead, and whoever knows about the money - "
"Jack! Why isn't it the nephew who is trying to break in?"
"He wouldn't have to break in. He could make an excuse and come in
He clenched his hands despairingly.
"If I could only get hold of a blue-print of this place!" he muttered.
Dale's face fell. It was sickening to be so close to the secret -
and yet not find it. "Oh, Jack, I'm so confused and worried!" she
confessed, with a little sob.
Brooks put his hands on her shoulders in an effort to cheer her
"Now listen, dear," he said firmly, "this isn't as hard as it sounds.
I've got a clear night to work in - and as true as I'm standing here,
that money's in this house. Listen, honey - it's like this." He
pantomimed the old nursery rhyme of The House that Jack Built,
"Here's the house that Courtleigh Fleming built - here, somewhere,
is the Hidden Room in the house that Courtleigh Fleming built - and
here - somewhere - pray Heaven - is the money - in the Hidden Room
- in the house that Courtleigh Fleming built. When you're low in
your mind, just say that over!"
She managed a faint smile. "I've forgotten it already," she said,
He still strove for an offhand gaiety that he did not feel.
"Why, look here!" and she followed the play of his hands obediently,
like a tired child, "it's a sort of game, dearest. 'Money, money -
who's got the money?' You know!" For the dozenth time he stared at
the unrevealing walls of the room. "For that matter," he added,
"the Hidden Room may be behind these very walls."
He looked about for a tool, a poker, anything that would sound the
walls and test them for hollow spaces. Ah, he had it - that driver
in the bag of golf clubs over in the corner. He got the driver and
stood wondering where he had best begin. That blank wall above the
fireplace looked as promising as any. He tapped it gently with the
golf club - afraid to make too much noise and yet anxious to test
the wall as thoroughly as possible. A dull, heavy reverberation
answered his stroke - nothing hollow there apparently.
As he tried another spot, again thunder beat the long roll on its
iron drum outside, in the night. The lights blinked - wavered -
"The lights are going out again," said Dale dully, her excitement
sunk into a stupefied calm.
"Let them go! The less light the better for me. The only thing to
do is to go over this house room by room." He pointed to the billiard
room door. "What's in there?"
"The billiard room." She was thinking hard. "Jack! Perhaps
Courtleigh Fleming's nephew would know where the blue-prints are!"
He looked dubious. "It's a chance, but not a very good one," he
said. "Well - " He led the way into the billiard room and began
to rap at random upon its walls while Dale listened intently for
any echo that might betray the presence of a hidden chamber or
Thus it happened that Lizzie received the first real thrill of what
was to prove to her - and to others - a sensational and hideous
night. For, coming into the living-room to lay a cloth for Mr.
Anderson's night suppers not only did the lights blink threateningly
and the thunder roll, but a series of spirit raps was certainly to
be heard coming from the region of the billiard room.
"Oh, my God!" she wailed, and the next instant the lights went out,
leaving her in inky darkness. With a loud shriek she bolted out
of the room.
Thunder - lightning - dashing of rain on the streaming glass of
the windows - the storm hallooing its hounds. Dale huddled close
to her lover as they groped their way back to the living-room,
cautiously, doing their best to keep from stumbling against some
heavy piece of furniture whose fall would arouse the house.
"There's a candle on the table, Jack, if I can find the table."
Her outstretched hands touched a familiar object. "Here it is."
She fumbled for a moment. "Have you any matches?"
"Yes." He struck one - another - lit the candle - set it down on
the table. In the weak glow of the little taper, whose tiny flame
illuminated but a portion of the living-room, his face looked
tense and strained.
"It's pretty nearly hopeless," he said, "if all the walls are
paneled like that.
As if in mockery of his words and his quest, a muffled knocking
that seemed to come from the ceiling of the very room he stood in
answered his despair.
"What's that?" gasped Dale.
They listened. The knocking was repeated - knock - knock - knock
"Someone else is looking for the Hidden Room!" muttered Brooks,
gazing up at the ceiling intently, as if he could tear from it the
secret of this new mystery by sheer strength of will.
THE GLEAMING EYE
"It's upstairs!" Dale took a step toward the alcove stairs. Brooks
"Who's in this house besides ourselves?" he queried.
"Only the detective, Aunt Cornelia, Lizzie, and Billy."
"Billy's the Jap?"
Brooks paused an instant. "Does he belong to your aunt?"
"No. He was Courtleigh Fleming's butler."
Knock - knock - knock - knock the dull, methodical rapping on the
ceiling of the living-room began again.
"Courtleigh Fleming's butler, eh?" muttered Brooks. He put down
his candle and stole noiselessly into the alcove. "It may be the
Jap!" he whispered.
Knock - knock - knock - knock! This time the mysterious rapping
seemed to come from the upper hall.
"If it is the Jap, I'll get him!" Brooks's voice was tense with
resolution. He hesitated - made for the hall door - tiptoed out
into the darkness around the main staircase, leaving Dale alone
in the living-room beset by shadowy terrors.
Utter silence succeeded his noiseless departure. Even the storm
lulled for a moment. Dale stood thinking, wondering, searching
desperately for some way to help her lover.
At last a resolution formed in her mind. She went to the city
"Hello," she said in a low voice, glancing over her shoulder now
and then to make sure she was not overheard. "l-2-4 - please - yes,
that's right. Hello - is that the country club? Is Mr. Richard
Fleming there? Yes, I'll hold the wire."
She looked about nervously. Had something moved in that corner of
blackness where her candle did not pierce? No! How silly of her!
Buzz-buzz on the telephone. She picked up the receiver again.
"Hello - is this Mr. Fleming? This is Miss Ogden - Dale Ogden. I
know it must seem odd my calling you this late, but - I wonder if
you could come over here for a few minutes. Yes - tonight." Her
voice grew stronger. "I wouldn't trouble you but - it's awfully
important. Hold the wire a moment." She put down the phone and
made another swift survey of the room, listened furtively at the
door - all clear! She returned to the phone.
"Hello - Mr. Fleming - I'll wait outside the house on the drive.
It - it's a confidential matter. Thank you so much."
She hung up the phone, relieved - not an instant too soon, for, as
she crossed toward the fireplace to add a new log to the dying glow
of the fire, the hall door opened and Anderson, the detective, came
softly in with an unlighted candle in his hand.
Her composure almost deserted her. How much had he heard? What
deduction would he draw if he had heard? An assignation, perhaps!
Well, she could stand that; she could stand anything to secure the
next few hours of liberty for Jack. For that length of time she
and the law were at war; she and this man were at war.
But his first words relieved her fears.
"Spooky sort of place in the dark, isn't it?" he said casually.
"Yes - rather." If he would only go away before Brooks came back
or Richard Fleming arrived! But he seemed in a distressingly
chatty frame of mind.
"Left me upstairs without a match," continued Anderson. "I found
my way down by walking part of the way and falling the rest. Don't
suppose I'll ever find the room I left my toothbrush in!" He
laughed, lighting the candle in his hand from the candle on the
"You're not going to stay up all night, are you?" said Dale
nervously, hoping he would take the hint. But he seemed entirely
oblivious of such minor considerations as sleep. He took out a
"Oh, I may doze a bit," he said. He eyed her with a certain
approval. She was a darned pretty girl and she looked intelligent.
"I suppose you have a theory of your own about these intrusions
you've been having here? Or apparently having."
"I knew nothing about them until tonight."
"Still," he persisted conversationally, "you know about them now."
But when she remained silent, "Is Miss Van Gorder usually - of a
nervous temperament? Imagines she sees things, and all that?"
"I don't think so." Dale's voice was strained. Where was Brooks?
What had happened to him?
Anderson puffed on his cigar, pondering. "Know the Flemings?" he
"I've met Mr. Richard Fleming once or twice."
Something in her tone caused him to glance at her. "Nice fellow?"
"I don't know him at all well."
"Know the cashier of the Union Bank?" he shot at her suddenly.
"No!" She strove desperately to make the denial convincing but she
could not hide the little tremor in her voice.
The detective mused.
"Fellow of good family, I understand," he said, eyeing her. "Very
popular. That's what's behind most of these bank embezzlements -
men getting into society and spending more than they make."
Dale hailed the tinkle of the city telephone with an inward sigh of
relief. The detective moved to answer the house phone on the wall
by the alcove, mistaking the direction of the ring. Dale corrected
"No, the other one. That's the house phone." Anderson looked the
"No connection with the outside, eh?"
"No," said Dale absent-mindedly. "Just from room to room in the
He accepted her explanation and answered the other telephone.
"Hello - hello - what the - " He moved the receiver hook up and
down, without result, and gave it up. "This line sounds dead," he
"It was all right a few minutes ago," said Dale without thinking.
"You were using it a few minutes ago?"
She hesitated - what use to deny what she had already admitted, for
all practical purposes.
The city telephone rang again. The detective pounced upon it.
"Hello - yes - yes - this is Anderson - go ahead." He paused, while
the tiny voice in the receiver buzzed for some seconds. Then he
interrupted it impatiently.
"You're sure of that, are you? I see. All right. 'By."
He hung up the receiver and turned swiftly on Dale. "Did I
understand you to say that you were not acquainted with the cashier
of the Union Bank?" he said to her with a new note in his voice.
Dale stared ahead of her blankly. It had come! She did not reply.
Anderson went on ruthlessly.
"That was headquarters, Miss Ogden. They have found some letters
in Bailey's room which seem to indicate that you were not telling
the entire truth just now."
He paused, waiting for her answer. "What letters?" she said wearily.
"From you to Jack Bailey - showing that you had recently become
engaged to him."
Dale decided to make a clean breast of it, or as clean a one as she
"Very well," she said in an even voice, "that's true."
"Why didn't you say so before?" There was menace beneath his
She thought swiftly. Apparent frankness seemed to be the only
resource left her. She gave him a candid smile.
"It's been a secret. I haven't even told my aunt yet." Now she
let indignation color her tones. "How can the police be so stupid
as to accuse Jack Bailey, a young man and about to be married? Do
you think he would wreck his future like that?"
"Some people wouldn't call it wrecking a future to lay away a
million dollars," said Anderson ominously. He came closer to Dale,
fixing her with his eyes. "Do you know where Bailey is now?" He
spoke slowly and menacingly.
She did not flinch.
The detective paused.
"Miss Ogden," he said, still with that hidden threat in his voice,
"in the last minute or so the Union Bank case and certain things
in this house have begun to tie up pretty close together. Bailey
disappeared this morning. Have you heard from him since?"
Her eyes met his without weakening, her voice was cool and composed.
The detective did not comment on her answer. She could not tell
from his face whether he thought she had told the truth or lied.
He turned away from her brusquely.
"I'll ask you to bring Miss Van Gorder here," he said in his
"Why do you want her?" Dale blazed at him rebelliously.
He was quiet. "Because this case is taking on a new phase."
"You don't think I know anything about that money?" she said, a
little wildly, hoping that a display of sham anger might throw him
off the trail he seemed to be following.
He seemed to accept her words, cynically, at their face value.
"No," he said, "but you know somebody who does." Dale hesitated,
sought for a biting retort, found none. It did not matter; any
respite, no matter how momentary, from these probing questions,
would be a relief. She silently took one of the lighted candles
and left the living-room to search for her aunt.
Left alone, the detective reflected for a moment, then picking
up the one lighted candle that remained, commenced a systematic
examination of the living-room. His methods were thorough, but
if, when he came to the end of his quest, he had made any new
discoveries, the reticent composure of his face did not betray the
fact. When he had finished he turned patiently toward the billiard
room - the little flame of his candle was swallowed up in its dark
recesses - he closed the door of the living-room behind him. The
storm was dying away now, but a few flashes of lightning still
flickered, lighting up the darkness of the deserted living-room
now and then with a harsh, brief glare.
A lightning flash - a shadow cast abruptly on the shade of one of
the French windows, to disappear as abruptly as the flash was
blotted out - the shadow of a man - a prowler - feeling his way
through the lightning-slashed darkness to the terrace door. The
detective? Brooks? The Bat? The lightning flash was too brief
for any observer to have recognized the stealing shape - if any
observer had been there.
But the lack of an observer was promptly remedied. Just as the
shadowy shape reached the terrace door and its shadow-fingers
closed over the knob, Lizzie entered the deserted living-room on
stumbling feet. She was carrying a tray of dishes and food - some
cold meat on a platter, a cup and saucer, a roll, a butter pat -
and she walked slowly, with terror only one leap behind her and
blank darkness ahead.
She had only reached the table and was preparing to deposit her
tray and beat a shameful retreat, when a sound behind her made her
turn. The key in the door from the terrace to the alcove had
clicked. Paralyzed with fright she stared and waited, and the next
moment a formless thing, a blacker shadow in a world of shadows,
passed swiftly in and up the small staircase.
But not only a shadow. To Lizzie's terrified eyes it bore an eye,
a single gleaming eye, just above the level of the stair rail, and
this eye was turned on her.
It was too much. She dropped the tray on the table with a crash
and gave vent to a piercing shriek that would have shamed the
siren of a fire engine.
Miss Cornelia and Anderson, rushing in from the hall and the
billiard room respectively, each with a lighted candle, found her
gasping and clutching at the table for support.
"For the love of heaven, what's wrong?" cried Miss Cornelia
irritatedly. The coffeepot she was carrying in her other hand
spilled a portion of its boiling contents on Lizzie's shoe and
Lizzie screamed anew and began to dance up and down on the
"Oh, my foot - my foot!" she squealed hysterically. "My foot!"
Miss Cornelia tried to shake her back to her senses.
"My patience! Did you yell like that because you stubbed your toe?"
"You scalded it!" cried Lizzie wildly. "It went up the staircase!"
"Your toe went up the staircase?"
"No, no! An eye - an eye as big as a saucer! It ran right up that
staircase - " She indicated the alcove with a trembling forefinger.
Miss Cornelia put her coffeepot and her candle down on the table
and opened her mouth to express her frank opinion of her factotum's
sanity. But here the detective took charge.
"Now see here," he said with some sternness to the quaking Lizzie,
"stop this racket and tell me what you saw!"
"A ghost!" persisted Lizzie, still hopping around on one leg. "It
came right through that door and ran up the stairs - oh - " and she
seemed prepared to scream again as Dale, white-faced, came in from
the hall, followed by Billy and Brooks, the latter holding still
"Who screamed?" said Dale tensely.
"I did!" Lizzie wailed, "I saw a ghost!" She turned to Miss
Cornelia. "I begged you not to come here," she vociferated. "I
begged you on my bended knees. There's a graveyard not a quarter
of a mile away."
"Yes, and one more scare like that, Lizzie Allen, and you'll have
me lying in it," said her mistress unsympathetically. She moved up
to examine the scene of Lizzie's ghostly misadventure, while
Anderson began to interrogate its heroine.
"Now, Lizzie," he said, forcing himself to urbanity, "what did you
"I told you what I saw."
His manner grew somewhat threatening.
"You're not trying to frighten Miss Van Gorder into leaving this
house and going back to the city?"
"Well, if I am," said Lizzie with grim, unconscious humor, "I'm
giving myself an awful good scare, too, ain't I?"
The two glared at each other as Miss Cornelia returned from her
survey of the alcove.
"Somebody who had a key could have got in here, Mr. Anderson,"
she said annoyedly. "That terrace door's been unbolted from the
Lizzie groaned. "I told you so," she wailed. "I knew something
was going to happen tonight. I heard rappings all over the house
today, and the ouija-board spelled Bat!"
The detective recovered his poise. "I think I see the answer to
your puzzle, Miss Van Gorder," he said, with a scornful glance at
Lizzie. "A hysterical and not very reliable woman, anxious to go
back to the city and terrified over and over by the shutting off of
the electric lights."
If looks could slay, his characterization of Lizzie would have laid
him dead at her feet at that instant. Miss Van Gorder considered
"I wonder," she said.
The detective rubbed his hands together more cheerfully.
"A good night's sleep and - " he began, but the irrepressible Lizzie
"My God, we're not going to bed, are we?" she said, with her eyes as
big as saucers.
He gave her a kindly pat on the shoulder, which she obviously
"You'll feel better in the morning," he said. "Lock your door and
say your prayers, and leave the rest to me."
Lizzie muttered something inaudible and rebellious, but now Miss
Cornelia added her protestations to his.
"That's very good advice," she said decisively. "You take her,
Reluctantly, with a dragging of feet and scared glances cast back
over her shoulder, Lizzie allowed herself to be drawn toward the
door and the main staircase by Dale. But she did not depart
without one Parthian shot.
"I'm not going to bed!" she wailed as Dale's strong young arm helped
her out into the hall. "Do you think I want to wake up in the
morning with my throat cut?" Then the creaking of the stairs, and
Dale's soothing voice reassuring her as she painfully clambered
toward the third floor, announced that Lizzie, for some time at
least, had been removed as an active factor from the puzzling
equation of Cedarcrest.
Anderson confronted Miss Cornelia with certain relief.
"There are certain things I want to discuss with you, Miss Van
Gorder," he said. "But they can wait until tomorrow morning."
Miss Cornelia glanced about the room. His manner was reassuring.
"Do you think all this - pure imagination?" she said.
She hesitated. "I'm not sure."
He laughed. "I'll tell you what I'll do. You go upstairs and go
to bed comfortably. I'll make a careful search of the house before
I settle down, and if I find anything at all suspicious, I'll
promise to let you know."
She agreed to that, and after sending the Jap out for more coffee
prepared to go upstairs.
Never had the thought of her own comfortable bed appealed to her
so much. But, in spite of her weariness, she could not quite resign
herself to take Lizzie's story as lightly as the detective seemed to.
"If what Lizzie says is true," she said, taking her candle, "the
upper floors of the house are even less safe than this one."
"I imagine Lizzie's account just now is about as reliable as her
previous one as to her age," Anderson assured her. "I'm certain you
need not worry. Just go on up and get your beauty sleep; I'm sure
you need it."
On which ambiguous remark Miss Van Gorder took her leave, rather
It was after she had gone that Anderson's glance fell on Brooks,
standing warily in the doorway.
"What are you? The gardener?"
But Brooks was prepared for him.
"Ordinarily I drive a car," he said. "Just now I'm working on the
Anderson was observing him closely, with the eyes of a man ransacking
his memory for a name - a picture. "I've seen you somewhere - " he
went on slowly. "And I'll - place you before long." There was a
little threat in his shrewd scrutiny. He took a step toward Brooks.
"Not in the portrait gallery at headquarters, are you?"
"Not yet." Brooks s voice was resentful. Then he remembered his pose
and his back grew supple, his whole attitude that of the respectful
"Well, we slip up now and then," said the detective slowly. Then,
apparently, he gave up his search for the name - the pictured face.
But his manner was still suspicious.
"All right, Brooks," he said tersely, "if you're needed in the night,
you'll be called!"
Brooks bowed. "Very well, sir." He closed the door softly behind
him, glad to have escaped as well as he had.
But that he had not entirely lulled the detective's watchfulness to
rest was evident as soon as he had gone. Anderson waited a few
seconds, then moved noiselessly over to the hall door - listened -
opened it suddenly - closed it again. Then he proceeded to examine
the alcove - the stairs, where the gleaming eye had wavered like a
corpse-candle before Lizzie's affrighted vision. He tested the
terrace door and bolted it. How much truth had there been in her
story? He could not decide, but he drew out his revolver
nevertheless and gave it a quick inspection to see if it was in
working order. A smile crept over his face - the smile of a man
who has dangerous work to do and does not shrink from the prospect.
He put the revolver back in his pocket and, taking the one lighted
candle remaining, went out by the hall door, as the storm burst
forth in fresh fury and the window-panes of the living-room
rattled before a new reverberation of thunder.
For a moment, in the living-room, except for the thunder, all was
silence. Then the creak of surreptitious footsteps broke the
stillness - light footsteps descending the alcove stairs where the
gleaming eye had passed.
It was Dale slipping out of the house to keep her appointment with
Richard Fleming. She carried a raincoat over her arm and a pair of
rubbers in one hand. Her other hand held a candle. By the terrace
door she paused, unbolted it, glanced out into the streaming night
with a shiver. Then she came into the living-room and sat down to
put on her rubbers.
Hardly had she begun to do so when she started up again. A muffled
knocking sounded at the terrace door. It was ominous and determined,
and in a panic of terror she rose to her feet. If it was the law,
come after Jack, what should she do? Or again, suppose it was the
Unknown who had threatened them with death? Not coherent thoughts
these, but chaotic, bringing panic with them. Almost unconscious of
what she was doing, she reached into the drawer beside her, secured
the revolver there and leveled it at the door.
A SHOT IN THE DARK
A key clicked in the terrace door - a voice swore muffledly at the
rain. Dale lowered her revolver slowly. It was Richard Fleming -
come to meet her here, instead of down by the drive.
She had telephoned him on an impulse. But now, as she looked at
him in the light of her single candle, she wondered if this rather
dissipated, rather foppish young man about town, in his early
thirties, could possibly understand and appreciate the motives that
had driven her to seek his aid. Still, it was for Jack! She
clenched her teeth and resolved to go through with the plan mapped
out in her mind. It might be a desperate expedient but she had
nowhere else to turn!
Fleming shut the terrace door behind him and moved down from the
alcove, trying to shake the rain from his coat.
"Did I frighten you?"
"Oh, Mr. Fleming - yes!" Dale laid her aunt's revolver down on the
table. Fleming perceived her nervousness and made a gesture of
"I'm sorry," he said, "I rapped but nobody seemed to hear me, so I
used my key."
"You're wet through - I'm sorry," said Dale with mechanical
He smiled. "Oh, no." He stripped off his cap and raincoat and
placed them on a chair, brushing himself off as he did so with
finicky little movements of his hands.
"Reggie Beresford brought me over in his car," he said. "He's
waiting down the drive."
Dale decided not to waste words in the usual commonplaces of social
"Mr. Fleming, I'm in dreadful trouble!" she said, facing him
squarely, with a courageous appeal in her eyes.
He made a polite movement. "Oh, I say! That's too bad."
She plunged on. "You know the Union Bank closed today."
He laughed lightly.
"Yes, I know it! I didn't have anything in it - or any other bank
for that matter," he admitted ruefully, "but I hate to see the old
thing go to smash."
Dale wondered which angle was best from which to present her appeal.
"Well, even if you haven't lost anything in this bank failure, a lot
of your friends have - surely?" she went on.
"I'll say so!" said Fleming, debonairly. "Beresford is sitting down
the road in his Packard now writhing with pain!"
Dale hesitated; Fleming's lightness seemed so incorrigible that, for
a moment, she was on the verge of giving her project up entirely.
Then, "Waster or not - he's the only man who can help us!" she told
"Lots of awfully poor people are going to suffer, too," she said
Fleming chuckled, dismissing the poor with a wave of his hand.
"Oh, well, the poor are always in trouble," he said with airy
heartlessness. "They specialize in suffering."
He extracted a monogrammed cigarette from a thin gold case.
"But look here," he went on, moving closer to Dale, "you didn't send
for me to discuss this hypothetical poor depositor, did you? Mind
if I smoke?"
"No." He lit his cigarette and puffed at it with enjoyment while
Dale paused, summoning up her courage. Finally the words came in a
"Mr. Fleming, I'm going to say something rather brutal. Please
don't mind. I'm merely - desperate! You see, I happen to be
engaged to the cashier, Jack Bailey - "
Fleming whistled. "I see! And he's beat it!"
Dale blazed with indignation.
"He has not! I'm going to tell you something. He's here, now, in
this house - " she continued fierily, all her defenses thrown aside.
"My aunt thinks he's a new gardener. He is here, Mr. Fleming,
because he knows he didn't take the money, and the only person who
could have done it was - your uncle!"
Dick Fleming dropped his cigarette in a convenient ash tray and
crushed it out there, absently, not seeming to notice whether it
scorched his fingers or not. He rose and took a turn about the
room. Then he came back to Dale.
"That's a pretty strong indictment to bring against a dead man," he
said slowly, seriously.
"It's true!" Dale insisted stubbornly, giving him glance for glance.
Fleming nodded. "All right."
He smiled - a smile that Dale didn't like.
"Suppose it's true - where do I come in?" he said. "You don't
think I know where the money is?"
"No," admitted Dale, "but I think you might help to find it."
She went swiftly over to the hall door and listened tensely for an
instant. Then she came back to Fleming.
"If anybody comes in - you've just come to get something of yours,"
she said in a low voice. He nodded understandingly. She dropped
her voice still lower.
"Do you know anything about a Hidden Room in this house?" she asked.
Dick Fleming stared at her for a moment. Then he burst into
"A Hidden Room - that's rich!" he said, still laughing. "Never heard
of it! Now, let me get this straight. The idea is - a Hidden Room -
and the money is in it - is that it?"
Dale nodded a "Yes."
"The architect who built this house told Jack Bailey that he had
built a Hidden Room in it," she persisted.
For a moment Dick Fleming stared at her as if he could not believe
his ears. Then, slowly, his expression changed. Beneath the
well-fed, debonair mask of the clubman about town, other lines
appeared - lines of avarice and calculation - wolf-marks, betokening
the craft and petty ruthlessness of the small soul within the
gentlemanly shell. His eyes took on a shifty, uncertain stare - they
no longer looked at Dale - their gaze seemed turned inward, beholding
a visioned treasure, a glittering pile of gold. And yet, the change
in his look was not so pronounced as to give Dale pause - she felt a
vague uneasiness steal over her, true - but it would have taken a
shrewd and long-experienced woman of the world to read the secret
behind Fleming's eyes at first glance - and Dale, for all her courage
and common sense, was a young and headstrong girl.
She watched him, puzzled, wondering why he made no comment on her
"Do you know where there are any blue-prints of the house?" she
asked at last.
An odd light glittered in Fleming's eyes for a moment. Then it
vanished - he held himself in check - the casual idler again.
"blue-prints?" He seemed to think it over. "Why - there may be some.
Have you looked in the old secretary in the library? My uncle used
to keep all sorts of papers there," he said with apparent helpfulness.
"Why, don't you remember - you locked it when we took the house."
"So I did." Fleming took out his key ring, selected a key. "Suppose
you go and Look," he said. "Don't you think I'd better stay here?"
"Oh, yes - " said Dale, blinded to everything else by the rising hope
in her heart. "Oh, I can hardly thank you enough!" and before he
could even reply, she had taken the key and was hurrying toward the
He watched her leave the room, a bleak smile on his face. As soon
as she had closed the door behind her, his languor dropped from him.
He became a hound - a ferret - questing for its prey. He ran lightly
over to the bookcase by the hall door - a moment's inspection - he
shook his head. Perhaps the other bookcase near the French windows
- no - it wasn't there. Ah, the bookcase over the fireplace! He
remembered now! He made for it, hastily swept the books from the
top shelf, reached groping fingers into the space behind the second
row of books. There! A dusty roll of three blue-prints! He
unrolled them hurriedly and tried to make out the white tracings by
the light of the fire - no - better take them over to the candle on
He peered at them hungrily in the little spot of light thrown by
the candle. The first one - no - nor the second - but the third
- the bottom one - good heavens! He took in the significance of
the blurred white lines with greedy eyes, his lips opening in a
silent exclamation of triumph. Then he pondered for an instant,
the blue-print itself -was an awkward size - bulky - good, he had
it! He carefully tore a small portion from the third blue-print
and was about to stuff it in the inside pocket of his dinner jacket
when Dale, returning, caught him before he had time to conceal his
find. She took in the situation at once.
"Oh, you found it!" she said in tones of rejoicing, giving him back
the key to the secretary. Then, as he still made no move to
transfer the scrap of blue paper to her, "Please let me have it, Mr.
Fleming. I know that's it."
Dick Fleming's lips set in a thin line. "Just a moment," he said,
putting the table between them with a swift movement. Once more
he stole a glance at the scrap of paper in his hand by the
flickering light of the candle. Then he faced Dale boldly.
"Do you suppose, if that money is actually here, that I can simply
turn this over to you and let you give it to Bailey?" he said.
"Every man has his price. How do I know that Bailey's isn't a