Part 3 out of 5
Dale felt as if he had dashed cold water in her face. "What do you
mean to do with it then?" she said.
Fleming turned the blue-print over in his hand.
"I don't know," he said. "What is it you want me to do?"
But by now Dale's vague distrust in him had grown very definite.
"Aren't you going to give it to me?"
He put her off. "I'll have to think about that." He looked at the
blue-print again. "So the missing cashier is in this house posing
as a gardener?" he said with a sneer in his tones.
Dale's temper was rising.
"If you won't give it to me - there's a detective in this house,"
she said, with a stamp of her foot. She made a movement as if to
call Anderson - then, remembering Jack, turned back to Fleming.
"Give it to the detective and let him search," she pleaded.
"A detective?" said Fleming startled. "What's a detective doing
"People have been trying to break in."
"I don't know."
Fleming stared out beyond Dale, into the night.
"Then it is here," he muttered to himself.
Behind his back - was it a gust of air that moved them? - the double
doors of the alcove swung open just a crack. Was a listener crouched
behind those doors - or was it only a trick of carpentry - a gesture
The mask of the clubman dropped from Fleming completely. His lips
drew back from his teeth in the snarl of a predatory animal that
clings to its prey at the cost of life or death.
Before Dale could stop him, he picked up the discarded blue-prints and
threw them on the fire, retaining only the precious scrap in his hand.
The roll blackened and burst into flame. He watched it, smiling.
"I'm not going to give this to any detective," he said quietly,
tapping the piece of paper in his hand.
Dale's heart pounded sickeningly but she kept her courage up.
"What do you mean?" she said fiercely. "What are you going to do?"
He faced her across the fireplace, his airy manner coming back to
him just enough to add an additional touch of the sinister to the
cold self-revelation of his words.
"Let us suppose a few things, Miss Ogden," he said. "Suppose my
price is a million dollars. Suppose I need money very badly and my
uncle has left me a house containing that amount in cash. Suppose
I choose to consider that that money is mine - then it wouldn't be
hard to suppose, would it, that I'd make a pretty sincere attempt
to get away with it?"
Dale summoned all her fortitude.
"If you go out of this room with that paper I'll scream for help!"
she said defiantly.
Fleming made a little mock-bow of courtesy. He smiled.
"To carry on our little game of supposing," he said easily, "suppose
there is a detective in this house - and that, if I were cornered,
I should tell him where to lay his hands on Jack Bailey. Do you
suppose you would scream?"
Dale's hands dropped, powerless, at her sides. If only she hadn't
told him - too late! - she was helpless. She could not call the
detective without ruining Jack - and yet, if Fleming escaped with
the money - how could Jack ever prove his innocence?
Fleming watched her for an instant, smiling. Then, seeing she made
no move, he darted hastily toward the double doors of the alcove,
flung them open, seemed about to dash up the alcove stairs. The
sight of him escaping with the only existing clue to the hidden
room galvanized Dale into action. She followed him, hurriedly
snatching up Miss Cornelia's revolver from the table as she did so,
in a last gesture of desperation.
"No! No! Give it to me! Give it to me!" and she sprang after him,
clutching the revolver. He waited for her on the bottom step of the
stairs, the slight smile still on his face.
Panting breaths in the darkness of the alcove - a short, furious
scuffle - he had wrested the revolver away from her, but in doing
so had unguarded the precious blue-print - she snatched at it
desperately, tearing most of it away, leaving only a corner in his
hand. He swore - tried to get it back - she jerked away.
Then suddenly a bright shaft of light split the darkness of the
alcove stairs like a sword, a spot of brilliance centered on
Fleming's face like the glare of a flashlight focused from above by
an invisible hand. For an instant it revealed him - his features
distorted with fury - about to rush down the stairs again and attack
the trembling girl at their foot.
A single shot rang out. For a second, the fury on Fleming's face
seemed to change to a strange look of bewilderment and surprise.
Then the shaft of light was extinguished as suddenly as the snuffing
of a candle, and he crumpled forward to the foot of the stairs -
struck - lay on his face in the darkness, just inside the double
Dale gave a little whimpering cry of horror.
"Oh, no, no, no," she whispered from a dry throat, automatically
stuffing her portion of the precious scrap of blue-print into the
bosom of her dress. She stood frozen, not daring to move, not
daring even to reach down with her hand and touch the body of
Fleming to see if he was dead or alive.
A murmur of excited voices sounded from the hall. The door flew
open, feet stumbled through the darkness - "The noise came from
this room!" that was Anderson's voice - "Holy Virgin!" that must
be Lizzie -
Even as Dale turned to face the assembled household, the house
lights, extinguished since the storm, came on in full brilliance
- revealing her to them, standing beside Fleming's body with Miss
Cornelia's revolver between them.
She shuddered, seeing Fleming's arm flung out awkwardly by his
side. No living man could lie in such a posture.
"I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" she stammered, after a tense
silence that followed the sudden reillumining of the lights. Her
eyes wandered from figure to figure idly, noting unimportant details.
Billy was still in his white coat and his face, impassive as ever,
showed not the slightest surprise. Brooks and Anderson were likewise
completely dressed - but Miss Cornelia had evidently begun to retire
for the night when she had heard the shot - her transformation was
askew and she wore a dressing-gown. As for Lizzie, that worthy
shivered in a gaudy wrapper adorned with incredible orange flowers,
with her hair done up in curlers. Dale saw it all and was never
after to forget one single detail of it.
The detective was beside her now, examining Fleming's body with
professional thoroughness. At last he rose.
"He's dead," he said quietly. A shiver ran through the watching
group. Dale felt a stifling hand constrict about her heart.
There was a pause. Anderson picked up the revolver beside Fleming's
body and examined it swiftly, careful not to confuse his own
fingerprints with any that might already be on the polished steel.
Then he looked at Dale. "Who is he?" he said bluntly.
Dale fought hysteria for some seconds before she could speak.
"Richard Fleming - somebody shot him !" she managed to whisper at
Anderson took a step toward her.
"What do you mean by somebody?" he said.
The world to Dale turned into a crowd of threatening, accusing eyes
- a multitude of shadowy voices, shouting, Guilty! Guilty! Prove
that you're innocent - you can't!
"I don't know," she said wildly. "Somebody on the staircase."
"Did you see anybody?" Anderson's voice was as passionless and cold
as a bar of steel.
"No - but there was a light from somewhere - like a pocket-flash - "
She could not go on. She saw Fleming's face before her - furious at
first - then changing to that strange look of bewildered surprise -
she put her hands over her eyes to shut the vision out.
Lizzie made a welcome interruption.
"I told you I saw a man go up that staircase!" she wailed, jabbing
her forefinger in the direction of the alcove stairs.
Miss Cornelia, now recovered from the first shock of the discovery,
supported her gallantly.
"That's the only explanation, Mr. Anderson," she said decidedly.
The detective looked at the stairs - at the terrace door. His eyes
made a circuit of the room and came back to Fleming's body. "I've
been all over the house," he said. "There's nobody there."
A pause followed. Dale found herself helplessly looking toward her
lover for comfort - comfort he could not give without revealing his
Eerily, through the tense silence, a sudden tinkling sounded - the
sharp, persistent ringing of a telephone bell.
Miss Cornelia rose to answer it automatically. "The house phone!"
she said. Then she stopped. "But we're all here."
They looked attach other aghast. It was true. And yet - somehow
- somewhere - one of the other phones on the circuit was calling
Miss Cornelia summoned every ounce of inherited Van Gorder pride she
possessed and went to the phone. She took off the receiver. The
"Hello - hello - " she said, while the others stood rigid, listening.
Then she gasped. An expression of wondering horror came over her
THE PHONE CALL FROM NOWHERE
"Somebody groaning!" gasped Miss Cornelia. "It's horrible!"
The detective stepped up and took the receiver from her. He
listened anxi6usly for a moment.
"I don't hear anything," he said.
"1 heard it! I couldn't imagine such a dreadful sound! I tell
you - somebody in this house is in terrible distress."
"Where does this phone connect?" queried Anderson practically.
Miss Cornelia made a hopeless little gesture. "Practically every
room in this house!"
The detective put the receiver to his ear again.
"Just what did you hear?" he said stolidly.
Miss Cornelia's voice shook.
"Dreadful groans - and what seemed to be an inarticulate effort to
Lizzie drew her gaudy wrapper closer about her shuddering form.
"I'd go somewhere," she wailed in the voice of a lost soul, "if I
only had somewhere to go!"
Miss Cornelia quelled her with a glare and turned back to the
"Won't you send these men to investigate - or go yourself?" she
said, indicating Brooks and Billy. The detective thought swiftly.
"My place is here," he said. "You two men," Brooks and Billy moved
forward to take his orders, "take another look through the house -
don't leave the building - I'll want you pretty soon."
Brooks - or Jack Bailey, as we may as well call him through the
remainder of. this narrative - started to obey. Then his eye fell
on Miss Cornelia's revolver which Anderson had taken from beside
Fleming's body and still held clasped in his hand.
"If you'll give me that revolver - " he began in an offhand tone,
hoping Anderson would not see through his little ruse. Once wiped
clean of fingerprints, the revolver would not be such telling
evidence against Dale Ogden.
But Anderson was not to be caught napping. "That revolver will
stay where it is," he said with a grim smile.
Jack Bailey knew better than to try and argue the point, he followed
Billy reluctantly out of the door, giving Dale a surreptitious glance
of encouragement and faith as he did so. The Japanese and he mounted
to the second floor as stealthily as possible, prying into dark
corners and searching unused rooms for any clue that might betray
the source of the startling phone call from nowhere. But Bailey's
heart was not in the search. His mind kept going back to the figure
of Dale - nervous, shaken, undergoing the terrors of the third degree
at Anderson's hands. She couldn't have shot Fleming of course, and
yet, unless he and Billy found something to substantiate her story
of how the killing had happened, it was her own, unsupported word
against a damning mass of circumstantial evidence. He plunged with
renewed vigor into his quest.
Back in the living-room, as he had feared, Anderson was subjecting
Dale to a merciless interrogation.
"Now I want the real story!" he began with calculated brutality.
"You lied before!"
"That's no tone to use! You'll only terrify her," cried Miss
Cornelia indignantly. The detective paid no attention, his face
had hardened, he seemed every inch the remorseless sleuthhound of
the law. He turned on Miss Cornelia for a moment.
"Where were you when this happened?" he said.
"Upstairs in my room." Miss Cornelia's tones were icy.
"And you?" badgeringly, to Lizzie.
"In my room," said the latter pertly, "brushing Miss Cornelia's
Anderson broke open the revolver and gave a swift glance at the
"One shot has been fired from this revolver!"
Miss Cornelia sprang to her niece's defense.
"I fired it myself this afternoon," she said.
The detective regarded her with grudging admiration.
"You're a quick thinker," he said with obvious unbelief in his
voice. He put the revolver down on the table.
Miss Cornelia followed up her advantage.
"I demand that you get the coroner here," she said.
"Doctor Wells is the coroner," offered Lizzie eagerly. Anderson
brushed their suggestions aside.
"I'm going to ask you some questions!" he said menacingly to Dale.
But Miss Cornelia stuck to her guns. Dale was not going to be
bullied into any sort of confession, true or false, if she could
help it - and from the way that the girl's eyes returned with
fascinated horror to the ghastly heap on the floor that had been
Fleming, she knew that Dale was on the edge of violent hysteria.
"Do you mind covering that body first?" she asked crisply. The
detective eyed her for a moment in a rather ugly fashion - then
grunted ungraciously and, taking Fleming's raincoat from the
chair, threw it over the body. Dale's eyes telegraphed her aunt
a silent message of gratitude.
"Now - shall I telephone for the coroner?" persisted Miss Cornelia.
The detective obviously resented her interference with his methods
but he could not well refuse such a customary request.
"I'll do it," he said with a snort, going over to the city telephone.
"What's his number?"
"He's not at his office; he's at the Johnsons'," murmured Dale.
Miss Cornelia took the telephone from Anderson's hands.
"I'll get the Johnsons', Mr. Anderson," she said firmly. The
detective seemed about to rebuke her. Then his manner recovered
some of its former suavity. He relinquished the telephone and
turned back toward his prey.
"Now, what was Fleming doing here?" he asked Dale in a gentler
Should she tell him the truth? No - Jack Bailey's safety was too
inextricably bound up with the whole sinister business. She must
lie, and lie again, while there was any chance of a lie's being
"I don't know," she said weakly, trying to avoid the detective's
Anderson took thought.
"Well, I'll ask that question another way," he said. "How did he
get into the house?"
Dale brightened - no need for a lie here.
"He had a key."
"Key to what door?"
"That door over there." Dale indicated the terrace door of the
The detective was about to ask another question - then he paused.
Miss Cornelia was talking on the phone.
"Hello - is that Mr. Johnson's residence? Is Doctor Wells there?
No?" Her expression was puzzled. "Oh - all right - thank you -
good night - "
Meanwhile Anderson had been listening - but thinking as well. Dale
saw his sharp glance travel over to the fireplace - rest for a
moment, with an air of discovery, on the fragments of the roll of
blue-prints that remained unburned among ashes - return. She shut
her eyes for a moment, trying tensely to summon every atom of
shrewdness she possessed to aid her.
He was hammering at her with questions again. "When did you take
that revolver out of the table drawer?"
"When I heard him outside on the terrace," said Dale promptly and
truthfully. "I was frightened."
Lizzie tiptoed over to Miss Cornelia.
"You wanted a detective!" she said in an ironic whisper. "I hope
you're happy now you've got one!"
Miss Cornelia gave her a look that sent her scuttling back to her
former post by the door. But nevertheless, internally, she felt
thoroughly in accord with Lizzie.
Again Anderson's questions pounded at the rigid Dale, striving to
pierce her armor of mingled truth and falsehood.
"When Fleming came in, what did he say to you?"
"Just - something about the weather," said Dale weakly. The whole
scene was, still too horribly vivid before her eyes for her to
furnish a more convincing alibi.
"You didn't have any quarrel with him?"
"He just came in that door - said something about the weather - and
was shot from that staircase. Is that it?" said the detective in
tones of utter incredulity.
Dale hesitated again. Thus baldly put, her story seemed too flimsy
for words; she could not even blame Anderson for disbelieving it.
And yet - what other story could she tell that would not bring ruin
Her face whitened. She put her hand on the back of a chair for
"Yes - that's it," she said at last, and swayed where she stood.
Again Miss Cornelia tried to come to the rescue. "Are all these
questions necessary?" she queried sharply. "You can't for a
moment believe that Miss Ogden shot that man!" But by now, though
she did not show it, she too began to realize the strength of the
appalling net of circumstances that drew with each minute tighter
around the unhappy girl. Dale gratefully seized the momentary
respite and sank into a chair. The detective looked at her.
"I think she knows more than she's telling. She's concealing
something!" he said with deadly intentness. "The nephew of the
president of the Union Bank - shot in his own house the day the
bank has failed - that's queer enough - " Now he turned back to
Miss Cornelia. "But when the only person present at his murder
is the girl who's engaged to the guilty cashier," he continued,
watching Miss Cornelia's face as the full force of his words sank
into her mind, "I want to know more about it!"
He stopped. His right hand moved idly over the edge of the table
- halted beside an ash tray - closed upon something.
Miss Cornelia rose.
"Is that true, Dale?" she said sorrowfully.
Dale nodded. "Yes." She could not trust herself to explain at
Then Miss Cornelia made one of the most magnificent gestures of
"Well, even if it is - what has that got to do with it?" she said,
turning upon Anderson fiercely, all her protective instinct for
those whom she loved aroused.
Anderson seemed somewhat impressed by the fierceness of her query.
When he went on it was with less harshness in his manner.
"I'm not accusing this girl," he said more gently. "But behind
every crime there is a motive. When we've found the motive for
this crime, we'll have found the criminal."
Unobserved, Dale's hand instinctively went to her bosom. There it
lay - the motive - the precious fragment of blue-print which she had
torn from Fleming's grasp but an instant before he was shot down.
Once Anderson found it in her possession the case was closed, the
evidence against her overwhelming. She could not destroy it - it
was the only clue to the Hidden Room and the truth that might clear
Jack Bailey. But, somehow, she must hide it - get it out of her
hands - before Anderson's third-degree methods broke her down or
he insisted on a search of her person. Her eyes roved wildly about
the room, looking for a hiding place.
The rain of Anderson's questions began anew.
"What papers did Fleming burn in that grate?" he asked abruptly,
turning back to Dale.
"Papers!" she faltered.
"Papers! The ashes are still there."
Miss Cornelia made an unavailing interruption.
"Miss Ogden has said he didn't come into this room."
The detective smiled.
"I hold in my hand proof that he was in this room for some time,"
he said coldly, displaying the half-burned cigarette he had taken
from the ash tray a moment before.
"His cigarette - with his monogram on it." He put the fragment of
tobacco and paper carefully away in an envelope and marched over
to the fireplace. There he rummaged among the ashes for a moment,
like a dog uncovering a bone. He returned to the center of the
room with a fragment of blackened blue paper fluttering between his
"A fragment of what is technically known as a blue-print," he
announced. "What were you and Richard Fleming doing with a
blue-print?" His eyes bored into Dale's.
Dale hesitated - shut her lips.
"Now think it over!" he warned. "The truth will come out, sooner
or later! Better be frank NOW!"
If he only knew how I wanted to be - he wouldn't be so cruel,
thought Dale wearily. But I can't - I can't! Then her heart gave
a throb of relief. Jack had come back into the room - Jack and
Billy - Jack would protect her! But even as she thought of this
her heart sank again. Protect her, indeed! Poor Jack! He would
find it hard enough to protect himself if once this terrible
man with the cold smile and steely eyes started questioning him.
She looked up anxiously.
Bailey made his report breathlessly.
"Nothing in the house, sir."
Billy's impassive lips confirmed him.
"We go all over house - nobody!"
Nobody - nobody in the house! And yet - the mysterious ringing of
the phone - the groans Miss Cornelia had heard! Were old wives'
tales and witches' fables true after all? Did a power - merciless
- evil - exists outside the barriers of the flesh - blasting that
trembling flesh with a cold breath from beyond the portals of the
grave? There seemed to be no other explanation.
"You men stay here!" said the detective. "I want to ask you some
questions." He doggedly returned to his third-degreeing of Dale.
"Now what about this blue-print?" he queried sharply.
Dale stiffened in her chair. Her lies had failed. Now she would
tell a portion of the truth, as much of it as she could without
"I'll tell you just what happened," she began. "I sent for Richard
Fleming - and when he came, I asked him if he knew where there were
any blue-prints of the house."
The detective pounced eagerly upon her admission.
"Why did you want blue-prints?" he thundered.
"Because," Dale took a long breath, "I believe old Mr. Fleming took
the money himself from the Union Bank and hid it here."
"Where did you get that idea?"
Dale's jaw set. "I won't tell you."
"What had the blue-prints to do with it?"
She could think of no plausible explanation but the true one.
"Because I'd heard there was a Hidden Room in this house."
The detective leaned forward intently. "Did you locate that room?"
Dale hesitated. "No."
"Then why did you burn the blue-prints?"
Dale's nerve was crumbling - breaking - under the repeated,
monotonous impact of his questions.
"He burned them!" she cried wildly. "I don't know why!"
The detective paused an instant, then returned to a previous query.
"Then you didn't locate this Hidden Room?"
Dale's lips formed a pale "No."
"Did he?" went on Anderson inexorably.
Dale stared at him, dully - the breaking point had come. Another
question - another - and she would no longer be able to control
herself. She would sob out the truth hysterically - that Brooks,
the gardener, was Jack Bailey, the missing cashier - that the
scrap of blue-print hidden in the bosom of her dress might unravel
the secret of the Hidden Room - that -
But just as she felt herself, sucked of strength, beginning to
slide toward a black, tingling pit of merciful oblivion, Miss
Cornelia provided a diversion.
"What's that?" she said in a startled voice.
The detective turned away from his quarry for an instant.
"I heard something," averred Miss Cornelia, staring toward the
All eyes followed the direction of her stare. There was an instant
Then, suddenly, traveling swiftly from right to left across the
shades of the French windows, there appeared a glowing circle of
brilliant white light. Inside the circle was a black, distorted
shadow - a shadow like the shadow of a gigantic black Bat! It
was there - then a second later, it was gone!
"Oh, my God!" wailed Lizzie from her corner. "It's the Bat - that's
Jack Bailey made a dash for the terrace door. But Miss Cornelia
halted him peremptorily.
"Wait, Brooks!" She turned to the detective. "Mr. Anderson, you
are familiar with the sign of the Bat. Did that look like it?"
The detective seemed both puzzled and disturbed. "Well, it looked
like the shadow of a bat. I'll say that for it," he said finally.
On the heels of his words the front door bell began to ring. All
turned in the direction of the hall.
"I'll answer that!" said Jack Bailey eagerly.
Miss Cornelia gave him the key to the front door.
"Don't admit anyone till you know who it is," she said. Bailey
nodded and disappeared into the hall. The others waited tensely.
Miss Cornelia's hand crept toward the revolver lying on the table
where Anderson had put it down.
There was the click of an opening door, the noise of a little
scuffle - then men's voices raised in an angry dispute. "What do
I know about a flashlight?" cried an irritated voice. "I haven't
got a pocket-flash - take your hands off me!" Bailey's voice
answered the other voice, grim, threatening. The scuffle resumed.
Then Doctor Wells burst suddenly into the room, closely followed
by Bailey. The Doctor's tie was askew - he looked ruffled and
enraged. Bailey followed him vigilantly, seeming not quite sure
whether to allow him to enter or not.
"My dear Miss Van Gorder," began the Doctor in tones of high
dudgeon, "won't you instruct your servants that even if I do make
a late call, I am not to be received with violence?"
"I asked you if you had a pocket-flash about you!" answered Bailey
indignantly. "If you call a question like that violence - " He
seemed about to restrain the Doctor by physical force.
Miss Cornelia quelled the teapot-tempest.
"It's all right, Brooks," she said, taking the front door key from
his hand and putting it back on the table. She turned to Doctor
"You see, Doctor Wells," she explained, "just a moment before you
rang the doorbell a circle of white light was thrown on those
The Doctor laughed with a certain relief.
"Why, that was probably the searchlight from my car!" he said. "I
noticed as I drove up that it fell directly on that window."
His explanation seemed to satisfy all present but Lizzie. She
regarded him with a deep suspicion. "'He may be a lawyer, a
merchant, a Doctor...'" she chanted ominously to herself.
Miss Cornelia, too, was not entirely at ease.
"In the center of this ring of light," she proceeded, her eyes on
the Doctor's calm countenance, "was an almost perfect silhouette
of a bat."
"A bat!" The Doctor seemed at sea. "Ah, I see - the symbol of
the criminal of that name." He laughed again.
"I think I can explain what you saw. Quite often my headlights
collect insects at night and a large moth, spread on the glass,
would give precisely the effect you speak of. Just to satisfy you,
I'll go out and take a look."
He turned to do so. Then he caught sight of the raincoat-covered
huddle on the floor.
"Why - " he said in a voice that mingled astonishment with horror.
He paused. His glance slowly traversed the circle of silent faces.
BILLY PRACTICES JIU-JITSU
"We have had a very sad occurrence here, Doctor," said Miss Cornelia
The Doctor braced himself.
"Richard Fleming?" gasped the Doctor in tones of incredulous
"Shot and killed from that staircase," said Miss Cornelia tonelessly.
The detective demurred.
"Shot and killed, anyhow," he said in accents of significant
The Doctor knelt beside the huddle on the floor. He removed the
fold of the raincoat that covered the face of the corpse and stared
at the dead, blank mask. Till a moment ago, even at the height of
his irritation with Bailey, he had been blithe and offhand - a man
who seemed comparatively young for his years. Now Age seemed to
fall upon him, suddenly, like a gray, clinging dust - he looked
stricken and feeble under the impact of this unexpected shock.
"Shot and killed from that stairway," he repeated dully. He rose
from his knees and glanced at the fatal stairs.
"What was Richard Fleming doing in this house at this hour?" he
He spoke to Miss Cornelia but Anderson answered the question.
"That's what I'm trying to find out," he said with a saturnine smile.
The Doctor gave him a look of astonished inquiry. Miss Cornelia
remembered her manners.
"Doctor, this is Mr. Anderson."
"Headquarters," said Anderson tersely, shaking hands.
It was Lizzie's turn to play her part in the tangled game of mutual
suspicion that by now made each member of the party at Cedarcrest
watch every other member with nervous distrust. She crossed to her
mistress on tiptoe.
"Don't you let him fool you with any of that moth business!" she
said in a thrilling whisper, jerking her thumb in the direction of
the Doctor. "He's the Bat."
Ordinarily Miss Cornelia would have dismissed her words with a smile.
But by now her brain felt as if it had begun to revolve like a
pinwheel in her efforts to fathom the uncanny mystery of the various
events of the night.
She addressed Doctor Wells.
"I didn't tell you, Doctor - I sent for a detective this afternoon."
Then, with mounting suspicion, "You happened in very opportunely!"
"After I left the Johnsons' I felt very uneasy," he explained. "I
determined to make one more effort to get you away from this house.
As this shows - my fears were justified!"
He shook his head sadly. Miss Cornelia sat down. His last words
had given her food for thought. She wanted to mull them over for
The Doctor removed muffler and topcoat - stuffed the former in his
topcoat pocket and threw the latter on the settee. He took out
his handkerchief and began to mop his face, as if to wipe away some
strain of mental excitement under which he was laboring. His breath
came quickly - the muscles of his jaw stood out.
"Died instantly, I suppose?" he said, looking over at the body.
"Didn't have time to say anything?"
"Ask the young lady," said Anderson, with a jerk of his head. "She
was here when it happened."
The Doctor gave Dale a feverish glance of inquiry.
"He just fell over," said the latter pitifully. Her answer seemed
to relieve the Doctor of some unseen weight on his mind. He drew
a long breath and turned back toward Fleming's body with comparative
"Poor Dick has proved my case for me better than I expected," he
said, regarding the still, unbreathing heap beneath the raincoat.
He swerved toward the detective.
"Mr. Anderson," he said with dignified pleading, "I ask you to use
your influence, to see that these two ladies find some safer spot
than this for the night."
Lizzie bounced up from her chair, instanter.
"Two?" she wailed. "If you know any safe spot, lead me to it!"
The Doctor overlooked her sudden eruption into the scene. He
wandered back again toward the huddle under the raincoat, as if
still unable to believe that it was - or rather had been - Richard
Miss Cornelia spoke suddenly in a low voice, without moving a muscle
of her body.
"I have a strange feeling that I'm being watched by unfriendly eyes,"
Lizzie clutched at her across the table.
"I wish the lights would go out again!" she pattered. "No, I don't
neither!" as Miss Cornelia gave the clutching hand a nervous little
During the little interlude of comedy, Billy, the Japanese,
unwatched by the others, had stolen to the French windows, pulled
aside a blind, looked out. When he turned back to the room his face
had lost a portion of its Oriental calm - there was suspicion in his
eyes. Softly, under cover of pretending to arrange the tray of food
that lay untouched on the table, he possessed himself of the key to
the front door, unperceived by the rest, and slipped out of the room
like a ghost.
Meanwhile the detective confronted Doctor Wells.
"You say, Doctor, that you came back to take these women away from
the house. Why?"
The Doctor gave him a dignified stare.
"Miss Van Gorder has already explained."
Miss Cornelia elucidated. "Mr. Anderson has already formed a
theory of the crime," she said with a trace of sarcasm in her tones.
The detective turned on her quickly. "I haven't said that." He
It had come again - tinkling - persistent. - the phone call from
nowhere - the ringing of the bell of the house telephone!
"The house telephone - again!" breathed Dale. Miss Cornelia made
a movement to answer the tinkling, inexplicable bell. But Anderson
was before her.
"I'll answer that!" he barked. He sprang to the phone.
"Hello - hello - "
All eyes were bent on him nervously - the Doctor's face, in
particular, seemed a very study in fear and amazement. He clutched
the back of a chair to support himself, his hand was the trembling
hand of a sick, old man.
"Hello - hello - " Anderson swore impatiently. He hung up the phone.
"There's nobody there!"
Again, a chill breath from another world than ours seemed to brush
across the faces of the little group in the living-room. Dale,
sensitive, impressionable, felt a cold, uncanny prickling at the
roots of her hair.
A light came into Anderson's eyes. "Where's that Jap?" he almost
"He just went out," said Miss Cornelia. The cold fear, the fear
of the unearthly, subsided from around Dale's heart, leaving her
shaken but more at peace.
The detective turned swiftly to the Doctor, as if to put his case
before the eyes of an unprejudiced witness.
"That Jap rang the phone," he said decisively. "Miss Van Gorder
believes that this murder is the culmination of the series of
mysterious happenings that caused her to send for me. I do not."
"Then what is the significance of the anonymous letters?" broke in
Miss Cornelia heatedly. "Of the man Lizzie saw going up the stairs,
of the attempt to break into this house - of the ringing of that
Anderson replied with one deliberate word.
"Terrorization," he said.
The Doctor moistened his dry lips in an effort to speak.
"By whom?" he asked.
Anderson's voice was an icicle.
"I imagine by Miss Van Gorder's servants. By that woman there - "
he pointed at Lizzie, who rose indignantly to deny the charge. But
he gave her no time for denial. He rushed on, " - who probably
writes the letters," he continued. "By the gardener - " his pointing
finger found Bailey " - who may have been the man Lizzie saw slipping
up the stairs. By the Jap, who goes out and rings the telephone," he
Miss Cornelia seemed unimpressed by his fervor.
"With what object?" she queried smoothly.
"That's what I'm going to find out!" There was determination in
Miss Cornelia sniffed. "Absurd! The butler was in this room when
the telephone rang for the first time."
The thrust pierced Anderson's armor. For once he seemed at a loss.
Here was something he had omitted from his calculations. But he
did not give up. He was about to retort when - crash! thud! - the
noise of a violent struggle in the hall outside drew all eyes to the
An instant later the door slammed open and a disheveled young man
in evening clothes was catapulted into the living-room as if slung
there by a giant's arm. He tripped and fell to the floor in the
center of the room. Billy stood in the doorway behind him,
inscrutable, arms folded, on his face an expression of mild
satisfaction as if he were demurely pleased with a neat piece of
housework, neatly carried out.
The young man picked himself up, brushed off his clothes, sought
for his hat, which had rolled under the table. Then he turned on
"Damn you - what do you mean by this?"
"Jiu-jitsu," said Billy, his yellow face quite untroubled. "Pretty
good stuff. Found on terrace with searchlight," he added.
"With searchlight?" barked Anderson.
The young man turned to face this new enemy.
"Well, why shouldn't I be on the terrace with a searchlight?" he
The detective moved toward him menacingly.
"Who are you?"
"Who are you?" said the young man with cool impertinence, giving
him stare for stare.
Anderson did not deign to reply, in so many words. Instead he
displayed the police badge which glittered on the inside of the
right lapel of his coat. The young man examined it coolly.
"H'm," he said. "Very pretty - nice neat design - very chaste!"
He took out a cigarette case and opened it, seemingly entirely
unimpressed by both the badge and Anderson. The detective chafed.
"If you've finished admiring my badge," he said with heavy sarcasm,
"I'd like to know what you were doing on the terrace."
The young man hesitated - shot an odd, swift glance at Dale who
ever since his abrupt entrance into the room, had been sitting
rigid in her chair with her hands clenched tightly together.
"I've had some trouble with my car down the road," he said finally.
He glanced at Dale again. "I came to ask if I might telephone."
"Did it require a flashlight to find the house?" Miss Cornelia
"Look here," the young man blustered, "why are you asking me all
these questions?" He tapped his cigarette case with an irritated
Miss Cornelia stepped closer to him.
"Do you mind letting me see that flashlight?" she said.
The young man gave it to her with a little, mocking bow. She
turned it over, examined it, passed it to Anderson, who examined
it also, seeming to devote particular attention to the lens. The
young man stood puffing his cigarette a little nervously while the
examination was in progress. He did not look at Dale again.
Anderson handed back the flashlight to its owner.
"Now - what's your name?" he said sternly.
"Beresford - Reginald Beresford," said the young man sulkily. "If
you doubt it I've probably got a card somewhere - " He began to
search through his pockets.
"What's your business?" went on the detective.
"What's my business here?" queried the young man, obviously fencing
with his interrogator.
"No - how do you earn your living?" said Anderson sharply.
"I don't," said the young man flippantly. "I may have to begin now,
if that is of any interest to you. As a matter of fact, I've
studied law but - "
The one word was enough to start Lizzie off on another trail of
distrust. "He may be a LAWYER - " she quoted to herself sepulchrally
from the evening newspaper article that had dealt with the
mysterious identity of the Bat.
"And you came here to telephone about your car?" persisted the
Dale rose from her chair with a hopeless little sigh. "Oh, don't
you see - he's trying to protect me," she said wearily. She turned
to the young man. "It's no use, Mr. Beresford."
Beresford's air of flippancy vanished.
"I see," he said. He turned to the other, frankly. "Well, the
plain truth is - I didn't know the situation and I thought I'd play
safe for Miss Ogden's sake."
Miss Cornelia moved over to her niece protectingly. She put a hand
on Dale's shoulder to reassure her. But Dale was quite composed
now - she had gone through so many shocks already that one more or less
seemed to make very little difference to her overwearied nerves.
She turned to Anderson calmly.
"He doesn't know anything about - this," she said, indicating
Beresford. "He brought Mr. Fleming here in his car - that's all."
Anderson looked to Beresford for confirmation.
"Is that true?"
"Yes," said Beresford. He started to explain. "I got tired of
waiting and so I - "
The detective broke in curtly.
He took a step toward the alcove.
"Now, Doctor." He nodded at the huddle beneath the raincoat.
Beresford followed his glance - and saw the ominous heap for the
"What's that?" he said tensely. No one answered him. The Doctor
was already on his knees beside the body, drawing the raincoat
gently aside. Beresford stared at the shape thus revealed with
frightened eyes. The color left his face.
"That's not - Dick Fleming - is it?" he said thickly. Anderson
slowly nodded his head. Beresford seemed unable to believe his
"If you've looked over the ground," said the Doctor in a low voice
to Anderson, "I'll move the body where we can have a better light."
His right hand fluttered swiftly over Fleming's still, clenched fist
- extracted from it a torn corner of paper....
Still Beresford did not seem to be able to take in what had happened.
He took another step toward the body.
"Do you mean to say that Dick Fleming - " he began. Anderson
silenced him with an uplifted hand.
"What have you got there, Doctor?" he said in a still voice.
The Doctor, still on his knees beside the corpse, lifted his head.
"What do you mean?"
"You took something, just then, out of Fleming's hand," said the
"I took nothing out of his hand," said the Doctor firmly.
Anderson's manner grew peremptory.
"I warn you not to obstruct the course of justice!" he said forcibly.
"Give it here!"
The Doctor rose slowly, dusting off his knees. His eyes tried to
meet Anderson's and failed. He produced a torn corner of blue-print.
"Why, it's only a scrap of paper, nothing at all," he said evasively.
Anderson looked at him meaningly.
"Scraps of paper are sometimes very important," said with a side
glance at Dale.
Beresford approached the two angrily.
"Look here!" he burst out, "I've got a right to know about this thing.
I brought Fleming over here - and I want to know what happened to him!"
"You don't have to be a mind reader to know that!" moaned Lizzie,
As usual, her comment went unanswered. Beresford persisted in his
"Who killed him? That's what I want to know!" he continued, nervously
puffing his cigarette.
"Well, you're not alone in that," said Anderson in his grimly
The Doctor motioned nervously to them both.
"As the coroner - if Mr. Anderson is satisfied - I suggest that the
body be taken where I can make a thorough examination," he said
Once more Anderson bent over the shell that had been Richard Fleming.
He turned the body half-over - let it sink back on its face. For a
moment he glanced at the corner of the blue-print in his hand, then
at the Doctor. Then he stood aside.
"All right," he said laconically.
So Richard Fleming left the room where he had been struck down so
suddenly and strangely - borne out by Beresford, the Doctor, and
Jack Bailey. The little procession moved as swiftly and softly as
circumstances would permit - Anderson followed its passage with
watchful eyes. Billy went mechanically to pick up the stained rug
which the detective had kicked aside and carried it off after the
body. When the burden and its bearers, with Anderson in the rear,
reached the doorway into the hall, Lizzie shrank before the sight,
affrighted, and turned toward the alcove while Miss Cornelia stared
unseeingly out toward the front windows. So, for perhaps a dozen
ticks of time Dale was left unwatched - and she made the most of
Her fingers fumbled at the bosom of her dress - she took out the
precious, dangerous fragment of blue-print that Anderson must not
find in her possession - but where to hide it, before her chance
had passed? Her eyes fell on the bread roll that had fallen from
the detective's supper tray to the floor when Lizzie had seen the
gleaming eye on the stairs and had lain there unnoticed ever since.
She bent over swiftly and secreted the tantalizing scrap of blue
paper in the body of the roll, smoothing the crust back above it
with trembling fingers. Then she replaced the roll where it had
fallen originally and straightened up just as Billy and the
Billy went immediately to the tray, picked it up, and started to go
out again. Then he noticed the roll on the floor, stooped for it,
and replaced it upon the tray. He looked at Miss Cornelia for
"Take that tray out to the dining-room," she said mechanically.
But Anderson's attention had already been drawn to the tiny incident.
"Wait - I'll look at that tray," he said briskly. Dale, her heart
in her mouth, watched him examine the knives, the plates, even
shake out the napkin to see that nothing was hidden in its folds.
At last he seemed satisfied.
"All right - take it away," he commanded. Billy nodded and vanished
toward the dining-room with tray and roll. Dale breathed again.
The sight of the tray had made Miss Cornelia's thoughts return to
"Lizzie," she commanded now, "go out in the kitchen and make some
coffee. I'm sure we all need it," she sighed.
Lizzie bristled at once.
"Go out in that kitchen alone?"
"Billy's there," said Miss Cornelia wearily.
The thought of Billy seemed to bring little solace to Lizzie's heart.
"That Jap and his jooy-jitsu," she muttered viciously. "One twist
and I'd be folded up like a pretzel."
But Miss Cornelia's manner was imperative, and Lizzie slowly dragged
herself kitchenward, yawning and promising the saints repentance of
every sin she had or had not committed if she were allowed to get
there without something grabbing at her ankles in the dark corner of
When the door had shut behind her, Anderson turned to Dale, the
corner of blue-print which he had taken from the Doctor in his hand.
"Now, Miss Ogden," he said tensely, "I have here a scrap of blue-print
which was in Dick Fleming's hand when he was killed. I'll trouble
you for the rest of it, if you please!"
I DIDN'T KILL HIM."
"The rest of it?" queried Dale with a show of bewilderment, silently
thanking her stars that, for the moment at least, the incriminating
fragment had passed out of her possession.
Her reply seemed only to infuriate the detective.
"Don't tell me Fleming started to go out of this house with a blank
scrap of paper in his hand," he threatened. "He didn't start to go
out at all!"
Dale rose. Was Anderson trying a chance shot in the dark - or had
he stumbled upon some fresh evidence against her? She could not
tell from his manner.
"Why do you say that?" she feinted.
"His cap's there on that table," said the detective with crushing
terseness. Dale started. She had not remembered the cap - why
hadn't she burned it, concealed it - as she had concealed the
blue-print? She passed a hand over her forehead wearily.
Miss Cornelia watched her niece.
"It you're keeping anything back, Dale - tell him," she said.
"She's keeping something back all right,", he said. "She's told part
of the truth, but not all." He hammered at Dale again. "You and
Fleming located that room by means of a blue-print of the house. He
started - not to go out - but, probably, to go up that staircase.
And he had in his hand the rest of this!" Again he displayed the
blank corner of blue paper.
Dale knew herself cornered at last. The detective's deductions were
too shrewd; do what she would, she could keep him away from the
truth no longer.
"He was going to take the money and go away with it!" she said rather
pitifully, feeling a certain relief of despair steal over her, now
that she no longer needed to go on lying - lying - involving herself
in an inextricable web of falsehood.
"Dale!" gasped Miss Cornelia, alarmed. But Dale went on, reckless
of consequences to herself, though still warily shielding Jack.
"He changed the minute he heard about it. He was all kindness before
that - but afterward - " She shuddered, closing her eyes. Fleming's
face rose before her again, furious, distorted with passion and greed
- then, suddenly, quenched of life.
Anderson turned to Miss Cornelia triumphantly.
"She started to find the money - and save Bailey," he explained,
building up his theory of the crime. "But to do it she had to take
Fleming into her confidence - and he turned yellow. Rather than
let him get away with it, she - " He made an expressive gesture
toward his hip pocket.
Dale trembled, feeling herself already in the toils. She had not
quite realized, until now, how damningly plausible such an
explanation of Fleming's death could sound. It fitted the evidence
perfectly - it took account of every factor but one - the factor left
unaccounted for was one which even she herself could not explain.
"Isn't that true?" demanded Anderson. Dale already felt the cold
clasp of handcuffs on her slim wrists. What use of denial when
every tiny circumstance was so leagued against her? And yet she
"I didn't kill him," she repeated perplexedly, weakly.
"Why didn't you call for help? You - you knew I was here."
Dale hesitated. "I - I couldn't." The moment the words were out
of her mouth she knew from his expression that they had only
cemented his growing certainty of her guilt.
"Dale! Be careful what you say!" warned Miss Cornelia agitatedly.
Dale looked dumbly at her aunt. Her answers must seem the height
of reckless folly to Miss Cornelia - oh, if there were only someone
Anderson resumed his grilling.
"Now I mean to find out two things," he said, advancing upon Dale.
"Why you did not call for help - and what you have done with that
"Suppose I could find that piece of blue-print for you?" said Dale
desperately. "Would that establish Jack Bailey's innocence?"
The detective stared at her keenly for a moment.
"If the money's there - yes."
Dale opened her lips to reveal the secret, reckless of what might
follow. As long as Jack was cleared - what matter what happened
to herself? But Miss Cornelia nipped the heroic attempt at
self-sacrifice in the bud.
She put herself between her niece and the detective, shielding Dale
from his eager gaze.
"But her own guilt!" she said in tones of great dignity. "No, Mr.
Anderson, granting that she knows where that paper is - and she has
not said that she does - I shall want more time and much legal advice
before I allow her to turn it over to you.
All the unconscious note of command that long-inherited wealth and
the pride of a great name can give was in her voice, and the
detective, for the moment, bowed before it, defeated. Perhaps he
thought of men who had been broken from the Force for injudicious
arrests, perhaps he merely bided his time. At any rate, he gave up
his grilling of Dale for the present and turned to question the
Doctor and Beresford who had just returned, with Jack Bailey, from
their grim task of placing Fleming's body in a temporary resting
place in the library.
"Well, Doctor?" he grunted.
The Doctor shook his head
"Poor fellow - straight through the heart."
"Were there any powder marks?" queried Miss Cornelia.
"No - and the clothing was not burned. He was apparently shot from
some little distance - and I should say from above."
The detective received this information without the change of a
muscle in his face. He turned to Beresford - resuming his attack
on Dale from another angle.
"Beresford, did Fleming tell you why he came here tonight?"
Beresford considered the question.
"No. He seemed in a great hurry, said Miss Ogden had telephoned
him, and asked me to drive him over."
"Why did you come up to the house?"
"We-el," said Beresford with seeming candor, "I thought it was
putting rather a premium on friendship to keep me sitting out in
the rain all night, so I came up the drive - and, by the way!" He
snapped his fingers irritatedly, as if recalling some significant
incident that had slipped his memory, and drew a battered object
from his pocket. "I picked this up, about a hundred feet from the
house," he explained. "A man's watch. It was partly crushed into
the ground, and, as you see, it's stopped running."
The detective took the object and examined it carefully. A man's
open-face gold watch, crushed and battered in as if it had been
trampled upon by a heavy heel.
"Yes," he said thoughtfully. "Stopped running at ten-thirty."
Beresford went on, with mounting excitement.
"I was using my pocket-flash to find my way and what first attracted
my attention was the ground - torn up, you know, all around it.
Then I saw the watch itself. Anybody here recognize it?"
The detective silently held up the watch so that all present could
examine it. He waited. But if anyone in the party recognized the
watch - no one moved forward to claim it.
"You didn't hear any evidence of a struggle, did you?" went on
Beresford. "The ground looked as if a fight had taken place. Of
course it might have been a dozen other things."
Miss Cornelia started.
"Just about ten-thirty Lizzie heard somebody cry out, in the grounds,"
The detective looked Beresford over till the latter grew a little
"I don't suppose it has any bearing on the case," admitted the
latter uneasily. "But it's interesting."
The detective seemed to agree. At least he slipped the watch in
"Do you always carry a flashlight, Mr. Beresford?" asked Miss
Cornelia a trifle suspiciously.
"Always at night, in the car." His reply was prompt and certain.
"This is all you found?" queried the detective, a curious note
in his voice.
"Yes." Beresford sat down, relieved. Miss Cornelia followed his
example. Another clue had led into a blind alley, leaving the
mystery of the night's affairs as impenetrable as ever.
"Some day I hope to meet the real estate agent who promised me that
I would sleep here as I never slept before!" she murmured acridly.
"He's right! I've slept with my clothes on every night since I came!"
As she ended, Billy darted in from the hall, his beady little black
eyes gleaming with excitement, a long, wicked-looking butcher knife
in his hand.
"Key, kitchen door, please!" he said, addressing his mistress.
"Key?" said Miss Cornelia, startled. "What for?"
For once Billy's polite little grin was absent from his countenance.
"Somebody outside trying to get in," he chattered. "I see knob turn,
so," he illustrated with the butcher knife, "and so - three times."
The detective's hand went at once to his revolver.
"You're sure of that, are you?" he said roughly to Billy.
"Sure, I sure!"
"Where's that hysterical woman Lizzie?" queried Anderson. "She may
get a bullet in her if she's not careful."
"She see too. She shut in closet - say prayers, maybe," said Billy,
without a smile.
The picture was a ludicrous one but not one of the little group
"Doctor, have you a revolver?" Anderson seemed to be going over
the possible means of defense against this new peril.
"How about you, Beresford?"
"Yes," he admitted finally. "Always carry one at night in the
country." The statement seemed reasonable enough but Miss Cornelia
gave him a sharp glance of mistrust, nevertheless.
The detective seemed to have more confidence in the young idler.
"Beresford, will you go with this Jap to the kitchen?" as Billy,
grimly clutching his butcher knife, retraced his steps toward the
hall. "If anyone's working at the knob - shoot through the door.
I'm going round to take a look outside."
Beresford started to obey. Then he paused.
"I advise you not to turn the doorknob yourself, then," he said
The detective nodded. "Much obliged," he said, with a grin. He
ran lightly into the alcove and tiptoed out of the terrace door,
closing the door behind him. Beresford and Billy departed to take
up their posts in the kitchen. "I'll go with you, if you don't
mind - " and Jack Bailey had followed them, leaving Miss Cornelia
and Dale alone with the Doctor. Miss Cornelia, glad of the
opportunity to get the Doctor's theories on the mystery without
Anderson's interference, started to question him at once.
"Yes." The Doctor turned, politely.
"Have you any theory about this occurrence to-night?" She watched
him eagerly as she asked the question.
He made a gesture of bafflement.
"None whatever - it's beyond me," he confessed.
"And yet you warned me to leave this house," said Miss Cornelia
cannily. "You didn't have any reason to believe that the
situation was even as serious as it has proved to be?"
"I did the perfectly obvious thing when I warned you," said the
Doctor easily. "Those letters made a distinct threat."
Miss Cornelia could not deny the truth in his words. And yet she
felt decidedly unsatisfied with the way things were progressing.
"You said Fleming had probably been shot from above?" she queried,
The Doctor nodded. "Yes."
"Have you a pocket-flash, Doctor?" she asked him suddenly.
"Why - yes - " The Doctor did not seem to perceive the significance
of the query. "A flashlight is more important to a country Doctor
than - castor oil," he added, with a little smile.
Miss Cornelia decided upon an experiment. She turned to Dale.
"Dale, you said you saw a white light shining down from above?"
"Yes," said Dale in a minor voice.
Miss Cornelia rose.
"May I borrow your flashlight, Doctor? Now that fool detective is
out of the way," she continued some what acidly, "I want to do
The Doctor gave her his flashlight with a stare of bewilderment.
She took it and moved into the alcove.
"Doctor, I shall ask you to stand at the foot of the small staircase,
"Now?" queried the Doctor with some reluctance.
The Doctor slowly followed her into the alcove and took up the
position she assigned him at the foot of the stairs.
"Now, Dale," said Miss Cornelia briskly, "when I give the word,
you put out the lights here - and then tell me when I have reached
the point on the staircase from which the flashlight seemed to come.
Two silent nods gave assent. Miss Cornelia left the room to seek
the second floor by the main staircase and then slowly return by
the alcove stairs, her flashlight poised, in her reconstruction of
the events of the crime. At the foot of the alcove stairs the
Doctor waited uneasily for her arrival. He glanced up the stairs
- were those her footsteps now? He peered more closely into the
An expression of surprise and apprehension came over his face.
He glanced swiftly at Dale - was she watching him? No - she sat
in her chair, musing. He turned back toward the stairs and made a
frantic, insistent gesture - "Go back, go back!" it said, plainer
than words, to - Something - in the darkness by the head of the
stairs. Then his face relaxed, he gave a noiseless sigh of relief.
Dale, rousing from her brown study, turned out the floor lamp by
the table and went over to the main light switch, awaiting Miss
Cornelia's signal to plunge the room in darkness. The Doctor stole,
another glance at her - had his gestures been observed? - apparently
Unobserved by either, as both waited tensely for Miss Cornelia's
signal, a Hand stole through the broken pane of the shattered French
window behind their backs and fumbled for the knob which unlocked
the window-door. It found the catch - unlocked it - the window-door
swung open, noiselessly - just enough to admit a crouching figure
that cramped itself uncomfortably behind the settee which Dale and
the Doctor had placed to barricade those very doors. When it had
settled itself, unperceived, in its lurking place - the Hand stole
out again - closed the window-door, relocked it.
Hand or claw? Hand of man or woman or paw of beast? In the name
of God - WHOSE HAND?
Miss Cornelia's voice from the head of the stairs broke the silence.
"All right! Put out the lights!"
Dale pressed the switch. Heavy darkness. The sound of her own
breathing. A mutter from the Doctor. Then, abruptly, a white,
piercing shaft of light cut the darkness of the stairs - horribly
reminiscent of that other light-shaft that had signaled Fleming's
"Was it here?" Miss Cornelia's voice came muffledly from the head
of the stairs.
Dale considered. "Come down a little," she said. The white spot
of light wavered, settled on the Doctor's face.
"I hope you haven't a weapon," the Doctor called up the stairs with
an unsuccessful attempt at jocularity.
Miss Cornelia descended another step.
"That's about right," said Dale uncertainly. Miss Cornelia was
"Lights, please." She went up the stairs again to see if she could
puzzle out what course of escape the man who had shot Fleming had
taken after his crime - if it had been a man.
Dale switched on the living-room lights with a sense of relief. The
reconstruction of the crime had tried her sorely. She sat down to
recover her poise.
"Doctor! I'm so frightened!" she confessed.
The Doctor at once assumed his best manner of professional
"Why, my dear child?" he asked lightly. "Because you happened to
be in the room when a crime was committed?"
"But he has a perfect case against me," sighed Dale.
"YOU DON'T MEAN?" said the Doctor aghast.
Dale looked at him with horror in her face.
"I didn't kill him!" she insisted anew. "But, you know the piece
of blue-print you found in his hand?"
"Yes," from the Doctor tensely.
Dale's nerves, too bitterly tested, gave way at last under the
strain of keeping her secret. She felt that she must confide in
someone or perish. The Doctor was kind and thoughtful - more than
that, he was an experienced man of the world - if he could not
advise her, who could? Besides, a Doctor was in many ways like a
priest - both sworn to keep inviolate the secrets of their
"There was another piece of blue-print, a larger piece - " said
Dale slowly, "I tore it from him just before - "
The Doctor seemed greatly excited by her words. But he controlled
"Why did you do such a thing?"
"Oh, I'll explain that later," said Dale tiredly, only too glad to
be talking the matter out at last, to pay attention to the logic of
her sentences. "It's not safe where it is," she went on, as if the
Doctor already knew the whole story. "Billy may throw it out or
burn it without knowing - "
"Let me understand this," said the Doctor. "The butler has the
"He doesn't know he has it. It was in one of the rolls that went
out on the tray."
The Doctor's eyes gleamed. He gave Dale's shoulder a sympathetic
"Now don't you worry about it - I'll get it," he said. Then, on
the point of going toward the dining-room, he turned.
"But - you oughtn't to have it in your possession," he said
thoughtfully. "Why not let it be burned?"
Dale was on the defensive at once.
"Oh, no! It's important, it's vital!" she said decidedly.
The Doctor seemed to consider ways and means of getting the paper.
"The tray is in the dining-room?" he asked.
"Yes," said Dale.
He thought a moment, then left the room by the hall door. Dale
sank back in her chair and felt a sense of overpowering relief
steal over her whole body, as if new life had been poured into her
veins. The Doctor had been so helpful - why had she not confided
in him before? He would know what to do with the paper - she would
have the benefit of his counsel through the rest of this troubled
time. For a moment she saw herself and Jack, exonerated, their
worries at an end, wandering hand in hand over the green lawns of
Cedarcrest in the cheerful sunlight of morning.
Behind her, mockingly, the head of the Unknown concealed behind the
settee lifted cautiously until, if she had turned, she would have
just been able to perceive the top of its skull.
THE BLACKENED BAG
As it chanced, she did not turn. The hall door opened - the head
behind the settee sank down again. Jack Bailey entered, carrying
a couple of logs of firewood.
Dale moved toward him as soon as he had shut the door.
"Oh, things have gone awfully wrong, haven't they?" she said with
a little break in her voice.
He put his finger to his lips.
"Be careful!" he whispered. He glanced about the room cautiously.
"I don't trust even the furniture in this house to-night!" he said.
He took Dale hungrily in his arms and kissed her once, swiftly, on
the lips. Then they parted - his voice changed to the formal voice
of a servant.
"Miss Van Gorder wishes the fire kept burning," he announced, with
a whispered "Play up!" to Dale.
Dale caught his meaning at once.
"Put some logs on the fire, please," she said loudly, for the benefit
of any listening ears. Then in an undertone to Bailey, "Jack - I'm
Bailey threw his wood on the fire, which received it with
appreciative crackles and sputterings. Then again, for a moment, he
clasped his sweetheart closely to him.
"Dale, pull yourself together!" he whispered warningly. "We've got
a fight ahead of us!"
He released her and turned back toward the fire.
"These old-fashioned fireplaces eat up a lot of wood," he said in
casual tones, pretending to arrange the logs with the poker so the
fire would draw more cleanly.
But Dale felt that she must settle one point between them before
they took up their game of pretense again.
"You know why I sent for Richard Fleming, don't you?" she said, her
eyes fixed beseechingly on her lover. The rest of the world might
interpret her action as it pleased - she couldn't bear to have
But there was no danger of that. His faith in her was too complete.
"Yes - of course - " he said, with a look of gratitude. Then his
mind reverted to the ever-present problem before them. "But who
in God's name killed him?" he muttered, kneeling before the fire.
"You don't think it was - Billy?" Dale saw Billy's face before her
for a moment, calm, impassive. But he was an Oriental - an alien -
his face might be just as calm, just as impassive while his hands
were still red with blood. She shuddered at the thought.
Bailey considered the matter.
"More likely the man Lizzie saw going upstairs," he said finally.
"But - I've been all over the upper floors."
"And - nothing?" breathed Dale.
"Nothing." Bailey's voice had an accent of dour finality. "Dale,
do you think that - " he began.
Some instinct warned the girl that they were not to continue their
conversation uninterrupted. "Be careful !" she breathed, as
footsteps sounded in the hall. Bailey nodded and turned back to
his pretense of mending the fire. Dale moved away from him slowly.
The door opened and Miss Cornelia entered, her black knitting-bag
in her hand, on her face a demure little smile of triumph. She
closed the door carefully behind her and began to speak at once.
"Well, Mr. Alopecia - Urticaria - Rubeola - otherwise BAILEY!" she
said in tones of the greatest satisfaction, addressing herself to
Bailey's rigid back. Bailey jumped to his feet mechanically at
her mention of his name. He and Dale exchanged one swift and
hopeless glance of utter defeat.
"I wish," proceeded Miss Cornelia, obviously enjoying the situation
to the full, "I wish you young people would remember that even if
hair and teeth have fallen out at sixty the mind still functions."
She pulled out a cabinet photograph from the depths of her
"His photograph - sitting on your dresser!" she chided Dale. "Burn
it and be quick about it!"
Dale took the photograph but continued to stare at her aunt with
"Then - you knew?" she stammered.
Miss Cornelia, the effective little tableau she had planned now
accomplished to her most humorous satisfaction, relapsed into a
"My dear child," said the indomitable lady, with a sharp glance at
Bailey's bewildered face, "I have employed many gardeners in my time
and never before had one who manicured his fingernails, wore silk
socks, and regarded baldness as a plant instead of a calamity."
An unwilling smile began to break on the faces of both Dale and her
lover. The former crossed to the fireplace and threw the damning
photograph of Bailey on the flames. She watched it shrivel - curl
up - be reduced to ash. She stirred the ashes with a poker till
they were well scattered.
Bailey, recovering from the shock of finding that Miss Cornelia's
sharp eyes had pierced his disguise without his even suspecting it,
now threw himself on her mercy.
"Then you know why I'm here?" he stammered.
"I still have a certain amount of imagination! I may think you are
a fool for taking the risk, but I can see what that idiot of a
detective might not - that if you had looted the Union Bank you
wouldn't be trying to discover if the money is in this house. You
would at least presumably know where it is."
The knowledge that he had an ally in this brisk and indomitable
spinster lady cheered him greatly. But she did not wait for any
comment from him. She turned abruptly to Dale.
"Now I want to ask you something," she said more gravely. "Was
there a blue-print, and did you get it from Richard Fleming?"
It was Dale's turn now to bow her head.
"Yes," she confessed.
Bailey felt a thrill of horror run through him. She hadn't told
"Dale!" he said uncomprehendingly, "don't you see where this places
you? If you had it, why didn't you give it to Anderson when he
asked for it?"
"Because," said Miss Cornelia uncompromisingly, "she had sense
enough to see that Mr. Anderson considered that piece of paper the
final link in the evidence against her!"
"But she could have no motive!" stammered Bailey, distraught, still
failing to grasp the significance of Dale's refusal.
"Couldn't she?" queried Miss Cornelia pityingly. "The detective
thinks she could - to save you!"
Now the full light of revelation broke upon Bailey. He took a step
"Good God!" he said.
Miss Cornelia would have liked to comment tartly upon the singular
lack of intelligence displayed by even the nicest young men in
trying circumstances. But there was no time. They might be
interrupted at any moment and before they were, there were things
she must find out.
"Where is that paper, now?" she asked Dale sharply;
"Why - the Doctor is getting it for me." Dale seemed puzzled by the
intensity of her aunt's manner.
"What?" almost shouted Miss Cornelia. Dale explained.
"It was on the tray Billy took out," she said, still wondering why
so simple an answer should disturb Miss Cornelia so greatly.
"Then I'm afraid everything's over," Miss Cornelia said despairingly,
and made her first gesture of defeat. She turned away. Dale
followed her, still unable to fathom her course of reasoning.
"I didn't know what else to do," she said rather plaintively,
wondering if again, as with Fleming, she had misplaced her confidence
at a moment critical for them all.
But Miss Cornelia seemed to have no great patience with her dejection.
"One of two. things will happen now," she said, with acrid, logic.
"Either the Doctor's an honest man - in which case, as coroner, he
will hand that paper to the detective - " Dale gasped. "Or he is not
an honest man," went on Miss Cornelia, "and he will keep it for
himself. I don't think he's an honest man."
The frank expression of her distrust seemed to calm her a little.
She resumed her interrogation of Dale more gently.
"Now, let's be clear about this. Had Richard Fleming ascertained
that there was a concealed room in this house?"
"He was starting up to it!" said Dale in the voice of a ghost,
"Just what did you tell him?"
"That I believed there was a Hidden Room in the house - and that the
money from the Union Bank might be in it."
Again, for the millionth time, indeed it seemed to her, she reviewed
the circumstances of the crime.
"Could anyone have overheard?" asked Miss Cornelia?"
The question had rung in Dale's ears ever since she had come to her
senses after the firing of the shot and seen Fleming's body stark
on the floor of the alcove.
"I don't know," she said. "We were very cautious."
"You don't know where this room is?"
"No, I never saw the print. Upstairs somewhere, for he - "
"Upstairs! Then the thing to do, if we can get that paper from the
Doctor, is to locate the room at once."
Jack Bailey did not recognize the direction where her thoughts were
tending. It seemed terrible to him that anyone should devote a
thought to the money while Dale was still in danger.
"What does the money matter now?" he broke in somewhat irritably.
"We've got to save her!" and his eyes went to Dale.
Miss Cornelia gave him an ineffable look of weary patience.
"The money matters a great deal," she said, sensibly. "Someone was
in this house on the same errand as Richard Fleming. After all,"
she went on with a tinge of irony, "the course of reasoning that
you followed, Mr. Bailey, is not necessarily unique."
"Somebody else may have suspected that Courtleigh Fleming robbed
his own bank," she said thoughtfully. Her eye fell on the Doctor's
professional bag - she seemed to consider it as if it were a strange
sort of animal.
"Find the man who followed your course of reasoning," she ended,
with a stare at Bailey, "and you have found the murderer."
"With that reasoning you might suspect me!" said the latter a trifle
Miss Cornelia did not give an inch.
"I have," she said. Dale shot a swift, sympathetic glance at her
lover, another less sympathetic and more indignant at her aunt.
Miss Cornelia smiled.
"However, I now suspect somebody else," she said. They waited for
her to reveal the name of the suspect but she kept her own counsel.
By now she had entirely given up confidence if not in the probity
at least in the intelligence of all persons, male or female, under
the age of sixty-five.
She rang the bell for Billy. But Dale was still worrying over the
possible effects of the confidence she had given Doctor Wells.
"Then you think the Doctor may give this paper to Mr. Anderson?"
"He may or he may not. It is entirely possible that he may elect
to search for this room himself! He may even already have gone
She moved quickly to the door and glanced across toward the
dining-room, but so far apparently all was safe. The Doctor was
at the table making a pretense of drinking a cup of coffee and
Billy was in close attendance. That the Doctor already had the
paper she was certain; it was the use he intended to make of it
that was her concern.
She signaled to the Jap and he came out into the hall. Beresford,
she learned, was still in the kitchen with his revolver, waiting
for another attempt on the door and the detective was still outside
in his search. To Billy she gave her order in a low voice.
"If the Doctor attempts to go upstairs," she said, "let me know at
once. Don't seem to be watching. You can be in the pantry. But
let me know instantly."
Once back in the living-room the vague outlines of a plan - a test -