Part 4 out of 5
formed slowly in Miss Cornelia's mind, grew more definite.
"Dale, watch that door and warn me if anyone is coming!" she
commanded, indicating the door into the hall. Dale obeyed,
marveling silently at her aunt's extraordinary force of character.
Most of Miss Cornelia's contemporaries would have called for a quiet
ambulance to take them to a sanatorium some hours ere this - but
Miss Cornelia was not merely, comparatively speaking, as fresh as a
daisy; her manner bore every evidence of a firm intention to play
Sherlock Holmes to the mysteries that surrounded her, in spite of
Doctors, detectives, dubious noises, or even the Bat himself.
The last of the Van Gorder spinsters turned to Bailey now.
"Get some soot from that fireplace," she ordered. "Be quick.
Scrape it off with a knife or a piece of paper. Anything."
Bailey wondered and obeyed. As he was engaged in his grimy task,
Miss Cornelia got out a piece of writing paper from a drawer and
placed it on the center table, with a lead pencil beside it.
Bailey emerged from the fireplace with a handful of sooty flakes.
"Is this all right?"
"Yes. Now rub it on the handle of that bag." She indicated the
little black bag in which Doctor Wells carried the usual
paraphernalia of a country Doctor.
A private suspicion grew in Bailey's mind as to whether Miss
Cornelia's fine but eccentric brain had not suffered too sorely
under the shocks of the night. But he did not dare disobey. He
blackened the handle of the Doctor's bag with painstaking
thoroughness and awaited further instructions.
"Somebody's coming!" Dale whispered, warning from her post by the
Bailey quickly went to the fireplace and resumed his pretended
labors with the fire. Miss Cornelia moved away from the Doctor's
bag and spoke for the benefit of whoever might be coming.
"We all need sleep," she began, as if ending a conversation with
Dale, "and I think - "
The door opened, admitting Billy.
"Doctor just go upstairs," he said, and went out again leaving the
A flash passed across Miss Cornelia's face. She stepped to the door.
"Doctor! Oh, Doctor!"
"Yes?" answered the Doctor's voice from the main staircase. His
steps clattered down the stairs - he entered the room. Perhaps he
read something in Miss Cornelia's manner that demanded an explanation
of his action. At any rate, he forestalled her, just as she was
about to question him.
"I was about to look around above," he said. "I don't like to leave
if there is the possibility of some assassin still hidden in the
"That is very considerate of you. But we are well protected now.
And besides, why should this person remain in the house? The murder
is done, the police are here."
"True," he said. "I only thought - "
But a knocking at the terrace door interrupted him. While the
attention of the others was turned in that direction Dale, less
cynical than her aunt, made a small plea to him and realized before
she had finished with it that the Doctor too had his price.
"Doctor - did you get it?" she repeated, drawing the Doctor aside.
The Doctor gave her a look of apparent bewilderment.
"My dear child," he said softly, "are you sure that you put it
Dale felt as if she had received a blow in the face.
"Why, yes - I - " she began in tones of utter dismay. Then she
stopped. The Doctor's seeming bewilderment was too pat - too
plausible. Of course she was sure - and, though possible, it
seemed extremely unlikely that anyone else could have discovered
the hiding-place of the blue-print in the few moments that had
elapsed between the time when Billy took the tray from the room
and the time when the Doctor ostensibly went to find it. A cold
wave of distrust swept over her - she turned away from the Doctor
Meanwhile Anderson had entered, slamming the terrace-door behind
"I couldn't find anybody!" he said in an irritated voice. "I think
that Jap's crazy.
The Doctor began to struggle into his topcoat, avoiding any look
"Well," he said, "I believe I've fulfilled all the legal requirements
- I think I must be going." He turned toward the door but the
detective halted him.
"Doctor," he said, "did you ever hear Courtleigh Fleming mention a
Hidden Room in this house?"
If the Doctor started, the movement passed apparently unnoted by
Anderson. And his reply was coolly made.
"No - and I knew him rather well."
"You don't think then," persisted the detective, "that such a room
and the money in it could be the motive for this crime?"
The Doctor's voice grew a little curt.
"I don't believe Courtleigh Fleming robbed his own bank, if that's
what you mean," he said with nicely calculated emphasis, real or
feigned. He crossed over to get his bag and spoke to Miss Cornelia.
"Well, Miss Van Gorder," he said, picking up the bag by its blackened
handle, "I can't wish you a comfortable night but I can wish you a
Miss Cornelia watched him silently. As he turned to go, she spoke.
"We're all of us a little upset, naturally," she confessed. "Perhaps
you could write a prescription - a sleeping-powder or a bromide of
"Why, certainly," agreed the Doctor at once. He turned back. Miss
Cornelia seemed pleased.
"I hoped you would," she said with a little tremble in her voice
such as might easily occur in the voice of a nervous old lady. "Oh,
yes, here's paper and a pencil," as the Doctor fumbled in a pocket.
The Doctor took the sheet of paper she proffered and, using the side
of his bag as a pad, began to write out the prescription.
"I don't generally advise these drugs," he said, looking up for a
moment. "Still - "
He paused. "What time is it?"
Miss Cornelia glanced at the clock. "Half-past eleven."
"Then I'd better bring you the powders myself," decided the Doctor.
"The pharmacy closes at eleven. I shall have to make them up myself."
"That seems a lot of trouble."
"Nothing is any trouble if I can be helpful," he assured her,
smilingly. And Miss Cornelia also smiled, took the piece of paper
from his hand, glanced at it once, as if out of idle curiosity about
the unfinished prescription, and then laid it down on the table with
a careless little gesture. Dale gave her aunt a glance of dumb
entreaty. Miss Cornelia read her wish for another moment alone with
"Dale will let you out, Doctor," said she, giving the girl the key
to the front door,
The Doctor approved her watchfulness.
"That's right," he said smilingly. "Keep things locked up.
Discretion is the better part of valor!"
But Miss Cornelia failed to agree with him.
"I've been discreet for sixty-five years," she said with a sniff,
"and sometimes I think it was a mistake!"
The Doctor laughed easily and followed Dale out of the room, with a
nod of farewell to the others in passing. The detective, seeking
for some object upon whom to vent the growing irritation which
seemed to possess him, made Bailey the scapegoat of his wrath.
"I guess we can do without you for the present!" he said, with an
angry frown at the latter. Bailey flushed, then remembered himself,
and left the room submissively, with the air of a well-trained
servant accepting an unmerited rebuke. The detective turned at once
to Miss Cornelia.
"Now I want a few words with you!"
"Which means that you mean to do all the talking!" said Miss Cornelia
acidly. "Very well! But first I want to show you something. Will
you come here, please, Mr. Anderson?"
She started for the alcove.
"I've examined that staircase," said the detective.
"Not with me!" insisted Miss Cornelia. "I have something to show
He followed her unwillingly up the stairs, his whole manner seeming
to betray a complete lack of confidence in the theories of all
amateur sleuths in general and spinster detectives of sixty-five in
particular. Their footsteps died away up the alcove stairs. The
living-room was left vacant for an instant.
Vacant? Only in seeming. The moment that Miss Cornelia and the
detective had passed up the stairs, the crouching, mysterious
Unknown, behind the settee, began to move. The French window-door
opened - a stealthy figure passed through it silently to be
swallowed up in the darkness of the terrace.
And poor Lizzie, entering the room at that moment, saw a hand
covered with blood reach back and gropingly, horribly, through the
broken pane, refasten the lock.
She shrieked madly.
Dale had failed with the Doctor. When Lizzie's screams once more
had called the startled household to the living-room, she knew she
had failed. She followed in mechanically, watched an irritated
Anderson send the Pride of Kerry to bed and. threaten to lock her
up, and listened vaguely to the conversation between her aunt and
the detective that followed it, without more than casual interest.
Nevertheless, that conversation was to have vital results later on.
"Your point about that thumbprint on the stair rail is very
interesting," Anderson said with a certain respect. "But just what
does it prove?"
"It points down," said Miss Cornelia, still glowing with the memory
of the whistle of surprise the detective had given when she had
shown him the strange thumbprint on the rail of the alcove stairs.
"It does," he admitted. "But what then?"
Miss Cornelia tried to put her case as clearly and tersely as
"It shows that somebody stood there for some time, listening to my
niece and Richard Fleming in this room below," she said.
"All right - I'll grant that to save argument," retorted the
detective. "But the moment that shot was fired the lights came on.
If somebody on that staircase shot him, and then came down and took
the blue-print, Miss Ogden would have seen him."
He turned upon Dale.
She hesitated. Why hadn't she thought of such an explanation before?
But now - it would sound too flimsy!
"No, nobody came down," she admitted candidly. The detective's
face altered, grew menacing. Miss Cornelia once more had put
herself between him and Dale.
"Now, Mr. Anderson - " she warned.
The detective was obviously trying to keep his temper.
"I'm not hounding this girl!" he said doggedly. "I haven't said
yet that she committed the murder - but she took that blue-print and
I want it!"
"You want it to connect her with the murder," parried Miss Cornelia.
The detective threw up his hands.
"It's rather reasonable to suppose that I might want to return the
funds to the Union Bank, isn't it?" he queried in tones of heavy
sarcasm. "Provided they're here," he added doubtfully.
Miss Cornelia resolved upon comparative frankness.
"I see," she said. "Well, I'll tell you this much, Mr. Anderson,
and I'll ask you to believe me as a lady. Granting that at one
time my niece knew something of that blue-print - at this moment
we do not know where it is or who has it."
Her words had the unmistakable ring of truth. The very oath from
the detective that succeeded them showed his recognition of the
"Damnation," he muttered. "That's true, is it?"
"That's true," said Miss Cornelia firmly. A silence of troubled
thoughts fell upon the three. Miss Cornelia took out her knitting.
"Did you ever try knitting when you wanted to think?" she queried
sweetly, after a pause in which the detective tramped from one side
of the room to the other, brows knotted, eyes bent on the floor.
"No," grunted the detective. He took out a cigar - bit off the end
with a savage snap of teeth - lit it - resumed his pacing.
"You should, sometimes," continued Miss Cornelia, watching his
troubled movements with a faint light of mockery in her eyes. "I
find it very helpful."
"I don't need knitting to think straight," rasped Anderson
indignantly. Miss Cornelia's eyes danced.
"I wonder!" she said with caustic affability. "You seem to have
so much evidence left over."
The detective paused and glared at her helplessly.
"Did you ever hear of the man who took a clock apart - and when he
put it together a gain, he had enough left over to make another
clock?" she twitted.
The detective, ignoring the taunt, crossed quickly to Dale.
"What do you mean by saying that paper isn't where you put it?"
he demanded in tones of extreme severity. Miss Cornelia replied
for her niece.
"She hasn't said that."
The detective made an impatient movement of his hand and walked
away - as if to get out of the reach of the indefatigable spinster's
tongue. But Miss Cornelia had not finished with him yet, by any
"Do you believe in circumstantial evidence?" she asked him with
"It's my business," said the detective stolidly. Miss Cornelia
"While you have been investigating," she announced, "I, too, have
not been idle."
The detective gave a barking laugh. She let it pass. "To me,"
she continued, "it is perfectly obvious that one intelligence has
been at work behind many of the things that have occurred in this
Now Anderson observed her with a new respect.
"Who?" he grunted tersely.
Her eyes flashed.
"I'll ask you that! Some one person who, knowing Courtleigh Fleming
well, probably knows of the existence of a Hidden Room in this house
and who, finding us in occupation of the house, has tried to get rid
of me in two ways. First, by frightening me with anonymous threats
- and, second, by urging me to leave. Someone, who very possibly
entered this house tonight shortly before the murder and slipped up
The detective had listened to her outburst with unusual
thoughtfulness. A certain wonder - perhaps at her shrewdness,
perhaps at an unexpected confirmation of certain ideas of his own
- grew upon his face. Now he jerked out two words.
Miss Cornelia knitted on as if every movement of her needles added
one more link to the strong chain of probabilities she was piecing
"When Doctor Wells said he was leaving here earlier in the evening
for the Johnsons' he did not go there," she observed. "He was not
expected to go there. I found that out when I telephoned."
"The Doctor!" repeated the detective, his eyes narrowing, his head
beginning to sway from side to side like the head of some great cat
just before a spring.
"As you know," Miss Cornelia went on, "I had a supplementary bolt
placed on that terrace door today." She nodded toward the door that
gave access into the alcove from the terrace. "Earlier this evening
Doctor Wells said that he had bolted it, when he had left it open -
purposely, as I now realize, in order that he might return later.
You may also recall that Doctor Wells took a scrap of paper from
Richard Fleming's hand and tried to conceal it - why did he do that?"
She paused for a second. Then she changed her tone a little.
"May I ask you to look at this?"
She displayed the piece of paper on which Doctor Wells had started
to write the prescription for her sleeping-powders - and now her
strategy with the doctor's bag and the soot Jack Bailey had got from
the fireplace stood revealed. A sharp, black imprint of a man's
right thumb - the Doctor's - stood out on the paper below the broken
line of writing. The Doctor had not noticed the staining of his
hand by the blackened bag handle, or, noticing, had thought nothing
of it - but the blackened bag handle had been a trap, and he had
left an indelible piece of evidence behind him. It now remained to
test the value of this evidence.
Miss Cornelia handed the paper to Anderson silently. But her eyes
were bright with pardonable vanity at the success of her little
piece of strategy.
"A thumb-print," muttered Anderson. "Whose is it?"
"Doctor Wells," said Miss Cornelia with what might have been a
little crow of triumph in anyone not a Van Gorder.
Anderson looked thoughtful. Then he felt in his pocket for a
magnifying glass, failed to find it, muttered, and took the reading
glass Miss Cornelia offered him.
"Try this," she said. "My whole case hangs on my conviction that
that print and the one out there on the stair rail are the same."
He put down the paper and smiled at her ironically. "Your case!"
he said. "You don't really believe you need a detective at all,
"I will only say that so far your views and mine have failed to
coincide. If I am right about that fingerprint, then you may be
right about my private opinion."
And on that he went out, rather grimly, paper and reading glass in
hand, to make his comparison.
It was then that Beresford came in, a new and slightly rigid
Beresford, and crossed to her at once.
"Miss Van Gorder," he said, all the flippancy gone from his voice,
"may I ask you to make an excuse and call your gardener here?"
Dale started uncontrollably at the ominous words, but Miss
Cornelia betrayed no emotion except in the increased rapidity of
"The gardener? Certainly, if you'll touch that bell," she said
Beresford stalked to the bell and rang it. The three waited - Dale
in an agony of suspense.
The detective re-entered the room by the alcove stairs, his mien
unfathomable by any of the anxious glances that sought him out at
"It's no good, Miss Van Gorder," he said quietly. "The prints are
not the same."
"Not the same!" gasped Miss Cornelia, unwilling to believe her ears.
Anderson laid down the paper and the reading glass with a little
gesture of dismissal.
"If you think I'm mistaken, I'll leave it to any unprejudiced person
or your own eyesight. Thumbprints never lie," he said in a flat,
convincing voice. Miss Cornelia stared at him - disappointment
written large on her features. He allowed himself a little ironic
"Did you ever try a good cigar when you wanted to think?" he queried
suavely, puffing upon his own.
But Miss Cornelia's spirit was too broken by the collapse of her
dearly loved and adroitly managed scheme for her to take up the
gauge of battle he offered.
"I still believe it was the Doctor," she said stubbornly. But her
tones were not the tones of utter conviction which she had used
"And yet," said the detective, ruthlessly demolishing another link
in her broken chain of evidence, "the doctor was in this room
tonight, according to your own statement, when the anonymous letter
came through the window."
Miss Cornelia gazed at him blankly, for the first time in her life
at a loss for an appropriately sharp retort. It was true - the
Doctor had been here in the room beside her when the stone bearing
the last anonymous warning had crashed through the windowpane. And
Billy's entrance in answer to Beresford's ring made her mind turn
to other matters for the moment. Why had Beresford's manner changed
so, and what was he saying to Billy now?
"Tell the gardener Miss Van Gorder wants him and don't say we're
all here," the young lawyer commanded the butler sharply. Billy
nodded and disappeared. Miss Cornelia's back began to stiffen - she
didn't like other people ordering her servants around like that.
The detective, apparently, had somewhat of the same feeling.
"I seem to have plenty of help in this case!" he said with obvious
sarcasm, turning to Beresford.
The latter made no reply. Dale rose anxiously from her chair, her
"Why have you sent for the gardener?" she inquired haltingly.
Beresford deigned to answer at last.
"I'll tell you that in a moment," he said with a grim tightening
of his lips.
There was a fateful pause, for an instant, while Dale roved
nervously from one side of the room to the other. Then Jack Bailey
came into the room - alone.
He seemed to sense danger in the air. His hands clenched at his
sides, but except for that tiny betrayal of emotion, he still kept
his servant's pose.
"You sent for me?" he queried of Miss Cornelia submissively, ignoring
the glowering Beresford.
But Beresford would be ignored no longer. He came between them
before Miss Cornelia had time to answer.
"How long has this man been in your employ?" he asked brusquely,
Miss Cornelia made one final attempt at evasion. "Why should that
interest you?" she parried, answering his question with an icy
question of her own.
It was too late. Already Bailey had read the truth in Beresford's
"I came this evening," he admitted, still hoping against hope that
his cringing posture of the servitor might give Beresford pause for
But the promptness of his answer only crystallized Beresford's
"Exactly," he said with terse finality. He turned to the detective.
"I've been trying to recall this man's face ever since I came in
tonight - " he said with grim triumph. "Now, I know who he is."
"Who is he?"
Bailey straightened up. He had lost his game with Chance - and the
loss, coming when it did, seemed bitterer than even he had thought
it could be, but before they took him away he would speak his mind.
"It's all right, Beresford," he said with a fatigue so deep that it
colored his voice like flakes of iron-rust. "I know you think you're
doing your duty - but I wish to God you could have restrained your
sense of duty for about three hours more!"
"To let, you get away?" the young lawyer sneered, unconvinced.
"No," said Bailey with quiet defiance. "To let me finish what I
came here to do."
"Don't you think you have done enough?" Beresford's voice flicked
him with righteous scorn, no less telling because of its
youthfulness. He turned back to the detective soberly enough.
"This man has imposed upon the credulity of these women, I am quite
sure without their knowledge," he said with a trace of his former
gallantry. "He is Bailey of the Union Bank, the missing cashier."
The detective slowly put down his cigar on an ash tray.
"That's the truth, is it?" he demanded.
Dale's hand flew to her breast. If Jack would only deny it - even
now! But even as she thought this, she realized the uselessness
of any such denial.
Bailey realized it, too.
"It's true, all right," he admitted hopelessly. He closed his eyes
for a moment. Let them come with the handcuffs now and get it over.
- every moment the scene dragged out was a moment of unnecessary
torture for Dale.
But Beresford had not finished with his indictment. "I accuse him
not only of the thing he is wanted for, but of the murder of Richard
Fleming!" he said fiercely, glaring at Bailey as if only a youthful
horror of making a scene before Dale and Miss Cornelia held him back
from striking the latter down where he stood.
Bailey's eyes snapped open. He took a threatening step toward his
accuser. "You lie!" he said in a hoarse, violent voice.
Anderson crossed between them, just as conflict seemed inevitable.
"You knew this?" he queried sharply in Dale's direction.
Dale set her lips in a line. She did not answer.
He turned to Miss Cornelia.
"Yes," admitted the latter quietly, her knitting needles at last at
rest. "I knew he was Mr. Bailey if that is all you mean.
The quietness of her answer seemed to infuriate the detective.
"Quite a pretty little conspiracy," he said. "How in the name of
God do you expect me to do anything with the entire household united
against me? Tell me that."
"Exactly," said Miss Cornelia. "And if we are united against you,
why should I have sent for you? You might tell me that, too."
He turned on Bailey savagely.
"What did you mean by that 'three hours more'?" he demanded.
"I could have cleared myself in three hours," said Bailey with calm
Beresford laughed mockingly - a laugh that seemed to sear into
Bailey's consciousness like the touch of a hot iron. Again he
turned frenziedly upon the young lawyer - and Anderson was just
preparing to hold them away from each other, by force if necessary,
when the doorbell rang.
For an instant the ringing of the bell held the various figures of
the little scene in the rigid postures of a waxworks tableau -
Bailey, one foot advanced toward Beresford, his hands balled up
into fists - Beresford already in an attitude of defense - the
detective about to step in between them - Miss Cornelia stiff in
her chair - Dale over by the fireplace, her hand at her heart.
Then they relaxed, but not, at least on the part of Bailey and
Beresford, to resume their interrupted conflict. Too many
nerve-shaking things had already happened that night for either
of the young men not to drop their mutual squabble in the face
of a common danger.
"Probably the Doctor," murmured Miss Cornelia uncertainly as the
doorbell rang again. "He was to come back with some sleeping-powders."
Billy appeared for the key of the front door.
"If that's Doctor Wells," warned the detective, "admit him. If it's
anybody else, call me."
Billy grinned acquiescently and departed. The detective moved nearer
"Have you got a gun on you?"
"No." Bailey bowed his head.
"Well, I'll just make sure of that." The detective's hands ran
swiftly and expertly over Bailey's form, through his pockets,
probing for concealed weapons. Then, slowly drawing a pair of
handcuffs from his pocket, he prepared to put them on Bailey's
THE SIGN OF THE BAT
But Dale could bear it no longer. The sight of her lover, beaten,
submissive, his head bowed, waiting obediently like a common criminal
for the detective to lock his wrists in steel broke down her last
defenses. She rushed into the center of the room, between Bailey
and the detective, her eyes wild with terror, her words stumbling
over each other in her eagerness to get them out.
"Oh, no! I can't stand it! I'll tell you everything!" she cried
frenziedly. "He got to the foot of the stair-case - Richard Fleming,
I mean," she was facing the detective now, "and he had the blue-print
you've been talking about. I had told him Jack Bailey was here as
the gardener and he said if I screamed he would tell that. I was
desperate. I threatened him with the revolver but he took it from me.
Then when I tore the blue-print from him - he was shot - from the
stairs - "
"By Bailey!" interjected Beresford angrily.
"I didn't even know he was in the house!" Bailey's answer was as
instant as it was hot. Meanwhile, the Doctor had entered the room,
hardly noticed, in the middle of Dale's confession, and now stood
watching the scene intently from a post by the door.
"What did you do with the blue-print?" The detective's voice beat
at Dale like a whip.
"I put it first in the neck of my dress - " she faltered. "Then,
when I found you were watching me, I hid it somewhere else."
Her eyes fell on the Doctor. She saw his hand steal out toward the
knob of the door. Was he going to run away on some pretext before
she could finish her story? She gave a sigh of relief when Billy,
re-entering with the key to the front door, blocked any such attempt
Mechanically she watched Billy cross to the table, lay the key upon
it, and return to the hall without so much as a glance at the tense,
suspicious circle of faces focused upon herself and her lover.
"I put it - somewhere else," she repeated, her eyes going back to
"Did you give it to Bailey?"
"No - I hid it - and then I told where it was - to the Doctor - "
Dale swayed on her feet. All turned surprisedly toward the Doctor.
Miss Cornelia rose from her chair.
The Doctor bore the battery of eyes unflinchingly. "That's rather
inaccurate," he said, with a tight little smile. "You told me where
you had placed it, but when I went to look for it, it was gone."
"Are you quite sure of that?" queried Miss Cornelia acidly.
"Absolutely," he said. He ignored the rest of the party, addressing
himself directly to Anderson.
"She said she had hidden it inside one of the rolls that were on
the tray on that table," he continued in tones of easy explanation,
approaching the table as he did so, and tapping it with the box of
sleeping-powders he had brought for Miss Cornelia.
"She was in such distress that I finally went to look for it. It
"Do you realize the significance of this paper?" Anderson boomed
"Nothing, beyond the fact that Miss Ogden was afraid it linked her
with the crime." The Doctor's voice
was very clear and firm.
Anderson pondered an instant. Then -
"I'd like to have a few minutes with the Doctor alone," he said
The group about him dissolved at once. Miss Cornelia, her arm
around her niece's waist, led the latter gently to the door. As
the two lovers passed each other a glance flashed between them - a
glance, pathetically brief, of longing and love. Dale's finger
tips brushed Bailey's hand gently in passing.
"Beresford," commanded the detective, "take Bailey to the library
and see that he stays there."
Beresford tapped his pocket with a significant gesture and motioned
Bailey to the door. Then they, too, left the room. The door closed.
The Doctor and the detective were alone.
The detective spoke at once - and surprisingly.
"Doctor, I'll have that blue-print!" he said sternly, his eyes the
color of steel.
The Doctor gave him a wary little glance.
"But I've just made the statement that I didn't find the blue-print,"
he affirmed flatly.
"I heard you!" Anderson's voice was very dry. "Now this situation
is between you and me, Doctor Wells." His forefinger sought the
Doctor's chest. "It has nothing to do with that poor fool of a
cashier. He hasn't got either those securities or the money from
them and you know it. It's in this house and you know that, too!"
"In this house?" repeated the Doctor as if stalling for time.
"In this house! Tonight, when you claimed to be making a
professional call, you were in this house - and I think you were
on that staircase when Richard Fleming was killed!"
"No, Anderson, I'll swear I was not!" The Doctor might be acting,
but if he was, it was incomparable acting. The terror in his voice
seemed too real to be feigned.
But Anderson was remorseless.
"I'll tell you this," he continued. "Miss Van Gorder very cleverly
got a thumbprint of yours tonight. Does that mean anything to you?"
His eyes bored into the Doctor - the eyes of a poker player bluffing
on a hidden card. But the Doctor did not flinch.
"Nothing," he said firmly. "I have not been upstairs in this house
in three months."
The accent of truth in his voice seemed so unmistakable that even
Anderson's shrewd brain was puzzled by it. But he persisted in his
attempt to wring a confession from this latest suspect.
"Before Courtleigh Fleming died - did he tell you anything about a
Hidden Room in this house?" he queried cannily.
The Doctor's confident air of honesty lessened, a furtive look
appeared in his eyes.
"No," he insisted, but not as convincingly as he had made his
The detective hammered at the point again.
"You haven't been trying to frighten these women out of here with
anonymous letters so you could get in?"
"No. Certainly not." But again the Doctor's air had that odd
mixture of truth and falsehood in it.
The detective paused for an instant.
"Let me see your key ring!" he ordered. The Doctor passed it over
silently. The detective glanced at the keys - then, suddenly, his
revolver glittered in his other hand.
The Doctor watched him anxiously. A puff of wind rattled the panes
of the French windows. The storm, quieted for a while, was gathering
its strength for a fresh unleashing of its dogs of thunder.
The detective stepped to the terrace door, opened it, and then
quietly proceeded to try the Doctor's keys in the lock. Thus located
he was out of visual range, and Wells took advantage of it at once.
He moved swiftly toward the fireplace, extracting the missing piece of
blue-print from an inside pocket as he did so. The secret the
blue-print guarded was already graven on his mind in indelible
characters - now he would destroy all evidence that it had ever been
in his possession and bluff through the rest of the situation as best
He threw the paper toward the flames with a nervous gesture of relief.
But for once his cunning failed - the throw was too hurried to be sure
and the light scrap of paper wavered and settled to the floor just
outside the fireplace. The Doctor swore noiselessly and stooped to
pick it up and make sure of its destruction. But he was not quick
enough. Through the window the detective had seen the incident, and
the next moment the Doctor heard his voice bark behind him. He turned,
and stared at the leveled muzzle of Anderson's revolver.
"Hands up and stand back!" he commanded.
As he did so Anderson picked up the paper and a sardonic smile
crossed his face as his eyes took in the significance of the print.
He laid his revolver down on the table where he could snatch it
up again at a moment's notice.
"Behind a fireplace, eh?" he muttered. "What fireplace? In what
"I won't tell you!" The Doctor's voice was sullen. He inched,
gingerly, cautiously, toward the other side of the table.
"All right - I'll find it, you know." The detective's eyes turned
swiftly back to the blue-print. Experience should have taught him
never to underrate an adversary, even of the Doctor's caliber, but
long familiarity with danger can make the shrewdest careless. For
a moment, as he bent over the paper again, he was off guard.
The Doctor seized the moment with a savage promptitude and sprang.
There followed a silent, furious struggle between the two. Under
normal circumstances Anderson would have been the stronger and
quicker, but the Doctor fought with an added strength of despair
and his initial leap had pinioned the detective's arms behind him.
Now the detective shook one hand free and snatched at the revolver
- in vain - for the Doctor, with a groan of desperation, struck at
his hand as its fingers were about to close on the smooth butt and
the revolver skidded from the table to the floor. With a sudden
terrible movement he pinioned both the detective's arms behind him
again and reached for the telephone. Its heavy base descended on
the back of the detective's head with stunning force. The next
moment the battle was ended and the Doctor, panting with exhaustion,
held the limp form of an unconscious man in his arms.
He lowered the detective to the floor and straightened up again,
listening tensely. So brief and intense had been the struggle that
even now he could hardly believe in its reality. It seemed
impossible, too, that the struggle had not been heard. Then he
realized dully, as a louder roll of thunder smote on his ears, that
the elements themselves had played into his hand. The storm, with
its wind and fury, had returned just in time to save him and drown
out all sounds of conflict from the rest of the house with its giant
He bent swiftly over Anderson, listening to his heart. Good - the
man still breathed; he had enough on his conscience without adding
the murder of a detective to the black weight. Now he pocketed the
revolver and the blue-print - gagged Anderson rapidly with a knotted
handkerchief and proceeded to wrap his own muffler around the
detective's head as an additional silencer. Anderson gave a faint
The Doctor thought rapidly. Soon or late the detective would return
to consciousness - with his hands free he could easily tear out the
gag. He looked wildly about the room for a rope, a curtain - ah, he
had it - the detective's own handcuffs! He snapped the cuffs on
Anderson's wrists, then realized that, in his hurry, he had bound
the detective's hands in front of him instead of behind him. Well -
it would do for the moment - he did not need much time to carry out
his plans. He dragged the limp body, its head lolling, into the
billiard room where he deposited it on the floor in the corner
farthest from the door.
So far, so good - now to lock the door of the billiard room.
Fortunately, the key was there on the inside of the door. He quickly
transferred it, locked the billiard room door from the outside, and
pocketed the key. For a second he stood by the center table in the
living-room, recovering his breath and trying to straighten his
rumpled clothing. Then he crossed cautiously into the alcove and
started to pad up the alcove stairs, his face white and strained with
excitement and hope.
And it was then that there happened one of the most dramatic events
of the night. One which was to remain, for the next hour or so, as
bewildering as the murder and which, had it come a few moments sooner
or a few moments later, would have entirely changed the course of
It was preceded by a desperate hammering on the door of the terrace.
It halted the Doctor on his way upstairs, drew Beresford on a run into
the living-room, and even reached the bedrooms of the women up above.
"My God! What's that?" Beresford panted.
The Doctor indicated the door. It was too late now. Already he
could hear Miss Cornelia's voice above; it was only a question of
a short time until Anderson in the billiard room revived and would
try to make his plight known. And in the brief moment of that
resumee of his position the knocking came again. But feebler,
as though the suppliant outside had exhausted his strength.
As Beresford drew his revolver and moved to the door, Miss Cornelia
came in, followed by Lizzie.
"It's the Bat," Lizzie announced mournfully. "Good-by, Miss Neily.
Good-by, everybody. I saw his hand, all covered with blood. He's
had a good night for sure!"
But they ignored her. And Beresford flung open the door.
Just what they had expected, what figure of horror or of fear they
waited for, no one can say. But there was no horror and no fear;
only unutterable amazement as an unknown man, in torn and muddied
garments, with a streak of dried blood seaming his forehead like a
scar, fell through the open doorway into Beresford's arms,
"Good God!" muttered Beresford, dropping his revolver to catch the
strange burden. For a moment the Unknown lay in his arms like a
corpse. Then he straightened dizzily, staggered into the room, took
a few steps toward the table, and fell prostrate upon his face - at
the end of his strength.
"Doctor!" gasped Miss Cornelia dazedly and the Doctor, whatever
guilt lay on his conscience, responded at once to the call of his
He bent over the Unknown Man - the physician once more - and made
a brief examination.
"He's fainted!" he said, rising. "Struck on the head, too."
"But who is he?" faltered Miss Cornelia.
"I never saw him before," said the Doctor. It was obvious that he
spoke the truth. "Does anyone recognize him?"
All crowded about the Unknown, trying to read the riddle of his
identity. Miss Cornelia rapidly revised her first impressions of
the stranger. When he had first fallen through the doorway into
Beresford's arms she had not known what to think. Now, in the
brighter light of the living-room she saw that the still face,
beneath its mask of dirt and dried blood, was strong and fairly
youthful; if the man were a criminal, he belonged, like the Bat, to
the upper fringes of the world of crime. She noted mechanically
that his hands and feet had been tied, ends of frayed rope still
dangled from his wrists and ankles. And that terrible injury on
his head! She shuddered and closed her eyes.
"Does anyone recognize him?" repeated the Doctor but one by one
the others shook their heads. Crook, casual tramp, or honest
laborer unexpectedly caught in the sinister toils of the
Cedarcrest affair - his identity seemed a mystery to one and all.
"Is he badly hurt?" asked Miss Cornelia, shuddering again.
"It's hard to say," answered the Doctor. "I think not." The
Unknown stirred feebly - made an effort to sit up. Beresford and
the Doctor caught him under the arms and helped him to his feet.
He stood there swaying, a blank expression on his face.
"A chair!" said the Doctor quickly. "Ah - " He helped the
strange figure to sit down and bent over him again.
"You're all right now, my friend," he said in his best tones of
professional cheeriness. "Dizzy a bit, aren't you?"
The Unknown rubbed his wrists where his bonds had cut them. He
made an effort to speak.
"Water!" he said in a low voice.
The Doctor gestured to Billy. "Get some water - or whisky - if
there is any - that'd be better."
"There's a flask of whisky in my room, Billy," added Miss Cornelia
"Now, my man," continued the Doctor to the Unknown. "You're in the
hands of friends. Brace up and tell us what happened!"
Beresford had been looking about for the detective, puzzled not to
find him, as usual, in charge of affairs. Now, "Where's Anderson?
This is a police matter!" he said, making a movement as if to go in
search of him.
The Doctor stopped him quickly.
"He was here a minute ago - he'll be back presently," he said,
praying to whatever gods he served that Anderson, bound and gagged
in the billiard room, had not yet returned to consciousness.
Unobserved by all except Miss Cornelia, the mention of the
detective's name had caused a strange reaction in the Unknown. His
eyes had opened - he had started - the haze in his mind had seemed
to clear away for a moment. Then, for some reason, his shoulders
had slumped again and the look of apathy come back to his face. But,
stunned or not, it now seemed possible that he was not quite as
dazed as he appeared.
The Doctor gave the slumped shoulders a little shake.
"Rouse yourself, man!" he said. "What has happened to you?"
"I'm dazed!" said the Unknown thickly and slowly. "I can't
remember." He passed a hand weakly over his forehead.
"What a night!" sighed Miss Cornelia, sinking into a chair.
"Richard Fleming murdered in this house - and now - this!"
The Unknown shot her a stealthy glance from beneath lowered eyelids.
But when she looked at him, his face was blank again.
"Why doesn't somebody ask his name?" queried Dale, and, "Where the
devil is that detective?" muttered Beresford, almost in the same
Neither question was answered, and Beresford, increasingly uneasy
at the continued absence of Anderson, turned toward the hall.
The Doctor took Dale's suggestion.
"What's your name?"
Silence from the Unknown - and that blank stare of stupefaction.
"Look at his papers." It was Miss Cornelia's voice. The Doctor
and Bailey searched the torn trouser pockets, the pockets of the
muddied shirt, while the Unknown submitted passively, not seeming
to care what happened to him. But search him as they would - it
was in vain.
"Not a paper on him," said Jack Bailey at last, straightening up.
A crash of breaking glass from the head of the alcove Stairs put a
period to his sentence. All turned toward the stairs - or all
except the Unknown, who, for a moment, half-rose in his chair, his
eyes gleaming, his face alert, the mask of bewildered apathy gone
from his face.
As they watched, a rigid little figure of horror backed slowly down
the alcove stairs and into the room - Billy, the Japanese, his
Oriental placidity disturbed at last, incomprehensible terror
written in every line of his face.
"Billy - what is it?"
The diminutive butler made a pitiful attempt at his usual grin.
"It - nothing," he gasped. The Unknown relapsed in his chair -
again the dazed stranger from nowhere.
Beresford took the Japanese by the shoulders.
"Now see here!" he said sharply. "You've seen something! What
Billy trembled like a leaf.
"Ghost! Ghost!" he muttered frantically, his face working.
"He's concealing something. Look at him!" Miss Cornelia stared at
"No, no!" insisted Billy in an ague of fright. "No, no!"
But Miss Cornelia was sure of it.
"Brooks, close that door!" she said, pointing at the terrace door
in the alcove which still stood ajar after the entrance of the
Bailey moved to obey. But just as he reached the alcove the terrace
door slammed shut in his face. At the same moment every light in
Cedarcrest blinked and went out again.
Bailey fumbled for the doorknob in the sudden darkness.
"The door's locked!" he said incredulously. The key's gone too.
Where's your revolver, Beresford?"
"I dropped it in the alcove when I caught that man," called
Beresford, cursing himself for his carelessness.
The illuminated dial of Bailey's wrist watch flickered in the darkness
as he searched for the revolver - as round, glowing spot of
Lizzie screamed. "The eye! The gleaming eye I saw on the stairs!"
she shrieked, pointing at it frenziedly.
"Quick - there's a candle on the table - light it somebody. Never
mind the revolver, I have one!" called Miss Cornelia.
"Righto!" called Beresford cheerily in reply. He found the candle,
lit it -
The party blinked at each other for a moment, still unable quite to
co-ordinate their thoughts.
Bailey rattled the knob of the door into the hall.
"This door's locked, too!" he said with increasing puzzlement. A
gasp went over the group. They were locked in the room while some
devilment was going on in the rest of the house. That they knew.
But what it might be, what form it might take, they had not the
remotest idea. They were too distracted to notice the injured man,
now alert in his chair, or the Doctor's odd attitude of listening,
above the rattle and banging of the storm.
But it was not until Miss Cornelia took the candle and proceeded
toward the hall door to examine it that the full horror of the
situation burst upon them.
Neatly fastened to the white panel of the door, chest high and
hardly more than just dead, was the body of a bat.
Of what happened thereafter no one afterward remembered the details.
To be shut in there at the mercy of one who knew no mercy was
intolerable. It was left for Miss Cornelia to remember her own
revolver, lying unnoticed on the table since the crime earlier in
the evening, and to suggest its, use in shattering the lock. Just
what they had expected when the door was finally opened they did
not know. But the house was quiet and in order; no new horror faced
them in the hall; their candle revealed no bloody figure, their ears
heard no unearthly sound.
Slowly they began to breathe normally once more. After that they
began to search the house. Since no room was apparently immune from
danger, the men made no protest when the women insisted on
accompanying them. And as time went on and chamber after chamber
was discovered empty and undisturbed, gradually the courage of the
party began to rise. Lizzie, still whimpering, stuck closely to
Miss Cornelia's heels, but that spirited lady began to make small
side excursions of her own.
Of the men, only Bailey, Beresford, and the Doctor could really be
said to search at all. Billy had remained below, impassive of
face but rolling of eye; the Unknown, after an attempt to depart
with them, had sunk back weakly into his chair again, and the
detective, Anderson, was still unaccountably missing.
While no one could be said to be grieving over this, still the
belief that somehow, somewhere, he had met the Bat and suffered at
his hands was strong in all of them except the Doctor. As each
door was opened they expected to find him, probably foully murdered;
as each door was closed again they breathed with relief.
And as time went on and the silence and peace remained unbroken, the
conviction grew on them that the Bat had in this manner achieved his
object and departed; had done his work, signed it after his usual
fashion, and gone.
And thus were matters when Miss Cornelia, happening on the attic
staircase with Lizzie at her heels, decided to look about her up
there. And went up.
THE HIDDEN ROOM
A few moments later Jack Bailey, seeing a thin glow of candlelight
from the attic above and hearing Lizzie's protesting voice, made
his way up there. He found them in the trunk room, a dusty, dingy
apartment lined with high closets along the walls - the floor
littered with an incongruous assortment of attic objects - two
battered trunks, a clothes hamper, an old sewing machine, a
broken-backed kitchen chair, two dilapidated suitcases and a shabby
satchel that might once have been a woman's dressing case - in one
corner a grimy fireplace in which, obviously, no fire had been
lighted for years.
But he also found Miss Cornelia holding her candle to the floor and
staring at something there.
"Candle grease!" she said sharply, staring at a line of white spots
by the window. She stooped and touched the spots with an
"Fresh candle grease! Now who do you suppose did that? Do you
remember how Mr. Gillette, in Sherlock Holmes, when he - "
Her voice trailed off. She stooped and followed the trail of the
candle grease away from the window, ingeniously trying to copy the
shrewd, piercing gaze of Mr. Gillette as she remembered him in his
most famous role.
"It leads straight to the fireplace!" she murmured in tones of
Sherlockian gravity. Bailey repressed an involuntary smile. But
her next words gave him genuine food for thought.
She stared at the mantel of the fireplace accusingly. "It's been
going through my mind for the last few minutes that no chimney flue
runs up this side of the house!" she said.
Bailey stared. "Then why the fireplace?"
"That's what I'm going to find out!" said the spin-ter grimly. She
started to rap the mantel, testing it for Secret springs.
"Jack! Jack!" It was Dale's voice, low and cautious, coming from
the landing of the stairs.
Bailey stepped to the door of the trunk room.
"Come in," he called in reply. "And shut the door behind you."
Dale entered, turning the key in the lock behind her.
"Where are the others?"
"They're still searching the house. There's no sign of anybody."
"They haven't found - Mr. Anderson?"
Dale shook her head. "Not yet."
She turned toward her aunt. Miss Cornelia had begun to enjoy
herself once more.
Rapping on the mantelpiece, poking and pressing various corners and
sections of the mantel itself, she remembered all the detective
stories she had ever read and thought, with a sniff of scorn, that
she could better them. There were always sliding panels and hidden
drawers in detective stories and the detective discovered them by
rapping just as she was doing, and listening for a hollow sound in
answer. She rapped on the wall above the mantel - exactly - there
was the hollow echo she wanted.
"Hollow as Lizzie's head!" she said triumphantly. The fireplace
was obviously not what it seemed, there must be a space behind it
unaccounted for in the building plans. Now what was the next step
detectives always took? Oh, yes - they looked for panels; panels
that moved. And when one shoved them away there was a button or
something. She pushed and pressed and finally something did move.
It was the mantelpiece itself, false grate and all, which began to
swing out into the room, revealing behind a dark, hollow cubbyhole,
some six feet by six - the Hidden Room at last!
"Oh, Jack, be careful!" breathed Dale as her lover took Miss
Cornelia's candle and moved toward the dark hiding-place. But her
eyes had already caught the outlines of a tall iron safe in the
gloom and in spite of her fears, her lips formed a wordless cry of
But Jack Bailey said nothing at all. One glance had shown him that
the safe was empty.
The tragic collapse of all their hopes was almost more than they
could bear. Coming on top of the nerve-racking events of the night,
it left them dazed and directionless. It was, of course, Miss
Cornelia who recovered first.
"Even without the money," she said; "the mere presence of this safe
here, hidden away, tells the story. The fact that someone else
knew and got here first cannot alter that."
But she could not cheer them. It was Lizzie who created a diversion.
Lizzie who had bolted into the hall at the first motion of the
mantelpiece outward and who now, with equal precipitation, came
bolting back. She rushed into the room, slamming the door behind
her, and collapsed into a heap of moaning terror at her mistress's
feet. At first she was completely inarticulate, but after a time
she muttered that she had seen "him" and then fell to groaning again.
The same thought was in all their minds, that in some corner of the
upper floor she had come across the body of Anderson. But when Miss
Cornelia finally quieted her and asked this, she shook her head.
"It was the Bat I saw," was her astounding statement. "He dropped
through the skylight out there and ran along the hall. I saw him
I tell you. He went right by me!"
"Nonsense," said Miss Cornelia briskly. "How can you say such a
But Bailey pushed forward and took Lizzie by the shoulder.
"What did he look like?"
"He hadn't any face. He was all black where his face ought to be."
"Do you mean he wore a mask?"
"Maybe. I don't know."
She collapsed again but when Bailey, followed by Miss Cornelia, made
a move toward the door she broke into frantic wailing.
"Don't go out there!" she shrieked. "He's there I tell you. I'm
not crazy. If you open that door, he'll shoot."
But the door was already open and no shot came. With the departure
of Bailey and Miss Cornelia, and the resulting darkness due to their
taking the candle, Lizzie and Dale were left alone. The girl was
faint with disappointment and strain; she sat huddled on a trunk,
saying nothing, and after a moment or so Lizzie roused to her
"Not feeling sick, are you?" she asked.
"I feel a little queer."
"Who wouldn't in the dark here with that monster loose somewhere near
by?" But she stirred herself and got up. "I'd better get the smelling
salts," she said heavily. "God knows I hate to move, but if there's
one place safer in this house than another, I've yet to find it."
She went out, leaving Dale alone. The trunk room was dark, save
that now and then as the candle appeared and reappeared the doorway
was faintly outlined. On this outline she kept her eyes fixed, by
way of comfort, and thus passed the next few moments. She felt
weak and dizzy and entirely despairing.
Then - the outline was not so clear. She had heard nothing but
there was something in the doorway. It stood there, formless,
diabolical, and then she saw what was happening. It was closing
the door. Afterward she was mercifully not to remember what came
next; the figure was perhaps intent on what was going on outside,
or her own movements may have been as silent as its own. That she
got into the mantel-room and even partially closed it behind her
is certain, and that her description of what followed is fairly
accurate is borne out by the facts as known.
The Bat was working rapidly. She heard his quick, nervous movements;
apparently he had come back for something and secured it, for now
he moved again toward the door. But he was too late; they were
returning that way. She heard him mutter something and quickly turn
the key in the lock. Then he seemed to run toward the window, and
for some reason to recoil from it.
The next instant she realized that he was coming toward the
mantel-room, that he intended to hide in it. There was no doubt in
her mind as to his identity. It was the Bat, and in a moment more
he would be shut in there with her.
She tried to scream and could not, and the next instant, when the
Bat leaped into concealment beside her, she was in a dead faint on
Bailey meanwhile had crawled out on the roof and was carefully
searching it. But other things were happening also. A disinterested
observer could have seen very soon why the Bat had abandoned the
window as a means of egress.
Almost before the mantel had swung to behind the archcriminal,
the top of a tall pruning ladder had appeared at the window and by
its quivering showed that someone was climbing up, rung by rung.
Unsuspiciously enough he came on, pausing at the top to flash a
light into the room, and then cautiously swinging a leg over the
sill. It was the Doctor. He gave a low whistle but there was no
reply, save that, had he seen it, the mantel swung out an inch or
two. Perhaps he was never so near death as at that moment but
that instant of irresolution on his part saved him, for by
coming into the room he had taken himself out of range.
Even then he was very close to destruction, for after a brief pause
and a second rather puzzled survey of the room, he started toward
the mantel itself. Only the rattle of the doorknob stopped him,
and a call from outside.
"Dale!" called Bailey's voice from the corridor. "Dale!"
"Dale! Dale! The door's locked!" cried Miss Cornelia.
The Doctor hesitated. The call came again. "Dale! Dale!" and
Bailey pounded on the door as if he meant to break it down.
The Doctor made up his mind.
"Wait a moment!" he called. He stepped to the door and unlocked it.
Bailey hurled himself into the room, followed by Miss Cornelia with
her candle. Lizzie stood in the doorway, timidly, ready to leap
for safety at a moment's notice.
"Why did you lock that door?" said Bailey angrily, threatening the
"But I didn't," said the latter, truthfully enough. Bailey made a
movement of irritation. Then a glance about the room informed him
of the amazing, the incredible fact. Dale was not there! She had
"You - you," he stammered at the Doctor. "Where's Miss Ogden? What
have you done with her?"
The Doctor was equally baffled.
"Done with her?" he said indignantly. "I don't know what you're
talking about, I haven't seen her!"
"Then you didn't lock that door?" Bailey menaced him.
The Doctor's denial was firm.
"Absolutely not. I was coming through the window when I heard your
voice at the door!"
Bailey's eyes leaped to the window - yes - a ladder was there -
the Doctor might be speaking the truth after all. But if so, how
and why had Dale disappeared?
The Doctor's admission of his manner of entrance did not make
Lizzie any the happier.
"In at the window - just like a bat!" she muttered in shaking
tones. She would not have stayed in the doorway if she had not
been afraid to move anywhere else.
"I saw lights up here from outside," continued the Doctor easily.
"And I thought - "
Miss Cornelia interrupted him. She had set down her candle and
laid the revolver on the top of the clothes hamper and now stood
gazing at the mantel-fireplace.
"The mantel's - closed!" she said.
The Doctor stared. So the secret of the Hidden Room was a secret
no longer. He saw ruin gaping before him - a bottomless abyss.
"Damnation!" he cursed impotently under his breath.
Bailey turned on him savagely.
"Did you shut that mantel?"
"I'll see whether you shut it or not!" Bailey leaped toward the
fireplace. "Dale! Dale!" he called desperately, leaning against
the mantel. His fingers groped for the knob that worked the
mechanism of the hidden entrance.
The Doctor picked up the single lighted candle from the hamper, as
if to throw more light on Bailey's task. Bailey's fingers found
the knob. He turned it. The mantel began to swing out into the
As it did so the Doctor deliberately snuffed out the light of the
candle he held, leaving the room in abrupt and obliterating darkness.
ANDERSON MAKES AN ARREST
"Doctor, why did you put out that candle?" Miss Cornelia's voice
cut the blackness like a knife.
"I didn't - I - "
"You did - I saw you do it."
The brief exchange of accusation and denial took but an instant of
time, as the mantel swung wide open. The next instant there was a
rush of feet across the floor, from the fireplace - the shock of a
collision between two bodies - the sound of a heavy fall.
"What was that?" queried Bailey dazedly, with a feeling as if some
great winged creature had brushed at him and passed.
Lizzie answered from the doorway.
"Oh, oh!" she groaned in stricken accents. "Somebody knocked me
down and tramped on me!"
"Matches, quick!" commanded Miss Cornelia. "Where's the candle?"
The Doctor was still trying to explain his curious action of a
"Awfully sorry, I assure you - it dropped out of the holder - ah,
here it is!"
He held it up triumphantly. Bailey struck a match and lighted it.
The wavering little flame showed Lizzie prostrate but vocal, in
the doorway - and Dale lying on the floor of the Hidden Room, her
eyes shut, and her face as drained of color as the face of a marble
statue. For one horrible instant Bailey thought she must be dead.
He rushed to her wildly and picked her up in his arms. No - still
breathing - thank God! He carried her tenderly to the only chair
in the room.
The Doctor, once more the physician, knelt at her side and felt for
her pulse. And Lizzie, picking herself up from where the collision
with some violent body had thrown her, retrieved the smelling salts
from the floor. It was onto this picture, the candlelight shining
on strained faces, the dramatic figure of Dale, now semi-conscious,
the desperate rage of Bailey, that a new actor appeared on the scene.
Anderson, the detective, stood in the doorway, holding a candle - as
grim and menacing a figure as a man just arisen from the dead.
"That's right!" said Lizzie, unappalled for once. "Come in when
The Doctor glanced up and met the detective's eyes, cold and menacing.
"You took my revolver from me downstairs," he said. "I'll trouble
you for it."
The Doctor got heavily to his feet. The others, their suspicions
confirmed at last, looked at him with startled eyes. The detective
seemed to enjoy the universal confusion his words had brought.
Slowly, with sullen reluctance, the Doctor yielded up the stolen
weapon. The detective examined it casually and replaced it in his
"I've something to settle with you pretty soon," he said through
clenched teeth, addressing the Doctor. "And I'll settle it
properly. Now - what's this?"
He indicated Dale - her face still and waxen - her breath coming so
faintly she seemed hardly to breathe at all as Miss Cornelia and
Bailey tried to revive her.
"She's coming to - " said Miss Cornelia triumphantly, as a first
faint flush of color reappeared in the girl's cheeks. "We found
her shut in there, Mr. Anderson," the spinster added, pointing
toward the gaping entrance of the Hidden Room.
A gleam crossed the detective's face. He went up to examine the
secret chamber. As he did so, Doctor Wells, who had been inching
surreptitiously toward the door, sought the opportunity of slipping
But Anderson was not to be caught napping again. "Wells!" he barked.
The Doctor stopped and turned.
"Where were you when she was locked in this room?"
The Doctor's eyes sought the floor - the walls - wildly - for any
possible loophole of escape.
"I didn't shut her in if that's what you mean!" he said defiantly.
"There was someone shut in there with her!" He gestured at the
Hidden Room. "Ask these people here."
Miss Cornelia caught him up at once.
"The fact remains, Doctor," she said, her voice cold with anger,
"that we left her here alone. When we came back you were here.
The corridor door was locked, and she was in that room -
She moved forward to throw the light of her candle on the Hidden
Room as the detective passed into it, gave it a swift professional
glance, and stepped out again. But she had not finished her story
by any means.
"As we opened that door," she continued to the detective, tapping
the false mantel, "the Doctor deliberately extinguished our only
"Do you know who was in that room?" queried the detective fiercely,
wheeling on the Doctor.
But the latter had evidently made up his mind to cling stubbornly
to a policy of complete denial.
"No," he said sullenly. "I didn't put out the candle.
It fell. And I didn't lock that door into the hall. I
found it locked!"
A sigh of relief from Bailey now centered everyone's attention on
himself and Dale. At last the girl was recovering from the shock
of her terrible experience and regaining consciousness. Her
eyelids fluttered, closed again, opened once more. She tried to
sit up, weakly, clinging to Bailey's shoulder. The color returned
to her cheeks, the stupor left her eyes.
She gave the Hidden Room a hunted little glance and then shuddered
"Please close that awful door," she said in a tremulous voice. "I
don't want to see it again."
The detective went silently to close the iron doors. "What happened
to you? Can't you remember?" faltered Bailey, on his knees at her side.
The shadow of an old terror lay on the girl's face, "I was in here
alone in the dark," she began slowly - "Then, as I looked at the
doorway there, I saw there was somebody there. He came in and
closed the door. I didn't know what to do, so I slipped in - there,
and after a while I knew he was coming in too, for he couldn't get
out. Then I must have fainted."
"There was nothing about the figure that you recognized?"
"But we know it was the Bat," put in Miss Cornelia. The detective
laughed sardonically. The old duel of opposing theories between the
two seemed about to recommence.
"Still harping on the Bat!" he said, with a little sneer, Miss
Cornelia stuck to her guns.
"I have every reason to believe that the Bat is in this house,"
The detective gave another jarring, mirthless laugh. "And that he
took the Union Bank money out of the safe, I suppose?" he jeered.
"No, Miss Van Gorder."
He wheeled on the Doctor now.
"Ask the Doctor who took the Union Bank money out of that safe!" he
thundered. "Ask the Doctor who attacked me downstairs in the
living-room, knocked me senseless, and locked me in the billiard
There was an astounded silence. The detective added a parting shot
to his indictment of the Doctor.
"The next time you put handcuffs on a man be sure to take the key
out of his vest pocket," he said, biting off the words.
Rage and consternation mingled on the Doctor's countenance - on the
faces of the others astonishment was followed by a growing certainty.
Only Miss Cornelia clung stubbornly to her original theory.
"Perhaps I'm an obstinate old woman," she said in tones which
obviously showed that if so she was rather proud of it, "but the
Doctor and all the rest of us were locked in the living-room not
ten minutes ago!"
"By the Bat, I suppose!" mocked Anderson.
"By the Bat!" insisted Miss Cornelia inflexibly. "Who else would
have fastened a dead bat to the door downstairs? Who else would
have the bravado to do that? Or what you call the imagination?"
In spite of himself Anderson seemed to be impressed.
"The Bat, eh?" he muttered, then, changing his tone, "You knew
about this hidden room, Wells?" he shot at the Doctor.
"Yes." The Doctor bowed his head.
"And you knew the money was in the room?"
"Well, I was wrong, wasn't I?" parried the Doctor. "You can look
for yourself. That safe is empty."
The detective brushed his evasive answer aside.
"You were up in this room earlier tonight," he said in tones of
"No, I couldn't get up!" the Doctor still insisted, with strange
violence for a man who had already admitted such damning knowledge.
The detective's face was a study in disbelief.
"You know where that money is, Wells, and I'm going to find it!"
This last taunt seemed to goad the Doctor beyond endurance.
"Good God!" he shouted recklessly. "Do you suppose if I knew
where it is, I'd be here? I've had plenty of chances to get away!
No, you can't pin anything on me, Anderson! It isn't criminal to
have known that room is here."
He paused, trembling with anger and, curiously enough, with an
anger that seemed at least half sincere.
"Oh, don't be so damned virtuous!" said the detective brutally.
"Maybe you haven't been upstairs but - unless I miss my guess, you
know who was!"
The Doctor's face changed a little.
"What about Richard Fleming?" persisted the detective scornfully.
The Doctor drew himself up.
"I never killed him!" he said so impressively that even Bailey's
faith in his guilt was shaken. "I don't even own a revolver!"
The detective alone maintained his attitude unchanged.
"You come with me, Wells," he ordered, with a jerk of his thumb
toward the door. "This time I'll do the locking up."
The Doctor, head bowed, prepared to obey. The detective took up
a candle to light their path. Then he turned to the others for
"Better get the young lady to bed," he said with a gruff
kindliness of manner. "I think that I can promise you a quiet
night from now on."
"I'm glad you think so, Mr. Anderson!" Miss Cornelia insisted on
the last word. The detective ignored the satiric twist of her
speech, motioned the Doctor out ahead of him, and followed. The
faint glow of his candle flickered a moment and vanished toward the
It was Bailey who broke the silence.
"I can believe a good bit about Wells," he said, "but not that he
stood on that staircase and killed Dick Fleming."
Miss Cornelia roused from deep thought.
"Of course not," she said briskly. "Go down and fix Miss Dale's
bed, Lizzie. And then bring up some wine."
"Down there, where the Bat is?" Lizzie demanded.
"The Bat has gone."
"Don't you believe it. He's just got his hand in!"
But at last Lizzie went, and, closing the door behind her, Miss
Cornelia proceeded more or less to think, out loud.
"Suppose," she said, "that the Bat, or whoever it was shut in there
with you, killed Richard Fleming. Say that he is the one Lizzie
saw coming in by the terrace door. Then he knew where the money
was for he went directly up the stairs. But that is two hours ago
or more. Why didn't he get the money, if it was here, and get away?"
"He may have had trouble with the combination."
"Perhaps. Anyhow, he was on the small staircase when Dick Fleming
started up, and of course he shot him. That's clear enough. Then
he finally got the safe open, after locking us in below, and my
coming up interrupted him. How on earth did he get out on the
Bailey glanced out the window.
"It would be possible from here. Possible, but not easy."
"But, if he could do that," she persisted, "he could have got away,
too. There are trellises and porches. Instead of that he came
back here to this room." She stared at the window. "Could a man
have done that with one hand?"
"Never in the world."
Saying nothing, but deeply thoughtful, Miss Cornelia made a fresh
progress around the room.
"I know very little about bank-currency," she said finally. "Could
such a sum as was looted from the Union Bank be carried away in a
Bailey considered the question.
"Even in bills of large denomination it would make a pretty sizeable
bundle," he said.
But that Miss Cornelia's deductions were correct, whatever they
were, was in question when Lizzie returned with the elderberry wine.
Apparently Miss Cornelia was to be like the man who repaired the
clock: she still had certain things left over.
For Lizzie announced that the Unknown was ranging the second floor
hall. From the time they had escaped from the living-room this man
had not been seen or thought of, but that he was a part of the
mystery there could be no doubt. It flashed over Miss Cornelia
that, although he could not possibly have locked them in, in the
darkness that followed he could easily have fastened the bat to
the door. For the first time it occurred to her that the
archcriminal might not be working alone, and that the entrance of
the Unknown might have been a carefully devised ruse to draw them
all together and hold them there.
Nor was Beresford's arrival with the statement that the Unknown
was moving through the house below particularly comforting.
He may be dazed, or he may not," he said. "Personally , this is
not a time to trust anybody."
Beresford knew nothing of what had just occurred, and now seeing
Bailey he favored him with an ugly glance.
"In the absence of Anderson, Bailey," he added, "I don't propose
to trust you too far. I'm making it my business from now on to
see that you don't try to get away. Get that?"
But Bailey heard him without particular resentment.
"All right," he said. "But I'll tell you this. Anderson is here
and has arrested the Doctor. Keep your eye on me, if you think
it's your duty, but don't talk to me as if I were a criminal. You
don't know that yet."
"The Doctor!" Beresford gasped.
But Miss Cornelia's keen ears had heard a sound outside and her
eyes were focused on the door.
"That doorknob is moving," she said in a hushed voice.
Beresford moved to the door and jerked it violently open.
The butler, Billy, almost pitched into the room.
THE BAT STILL FLIES
He stepped back in the doorway, looked out, then turned to them
"I come in, please?" he said pathetically, his hands quivering.
"I not like to stay in dark."
Miss Cornelia took pity on him.
"Come in, Billy, of course. What is it? Anything the matter?"
Billy glanced about nervously.
"Man with sore head."
"What about him?"
"Act very strange." Again Billy's slim hands trembled.
Beresford broke in. "The man who fell into the room downstairs?"
"Yes. On second floor, walking around."
Beresford smiled, a bit smugly.
"I told you!" he said to Miss Cornelia. "I didn't think he was as
dazed as he pretended to be."
Miss Cornelia, too, had been pondering the problem of the Unknown.
She reached a swift decision. If he were what he pretended to be -
a dazed wanderer, he could do them no harm. If he were not - a
little strategy properly employed might unravel the whole mystery.
"Bring him up here, Billy," she said, turning to the butler.
Billy started to obey. But the darkness of the corridor seemed to
appall him anew the moment he took a step toward it.
"You give candle, please?" he asked with a pleading expression.
"Don't like dark."
Miss Cornelia handed him one of the two precious candles. Then
his present terror reminded her of that one other occasion when
she had seen him lose completely his stoic Oriental calm.
"Billy," she queried, "what did you see when you came running down
the stairs before we were locked in, down below?"
The candle shook like a reed in Billy's's grasp.
"Nothing!" he gasped with obvious untruth, though it did not seem
so much as if he wished to conceal what he had seen as that he was
trying to convince himself he had seen nothing.
"Nothing!" said Lizzie scornfully. "It was some nothing that would
make him drop a bottle of whisky!"
But Billy only backed toward the door, smiling apologetically.
"Thought I saw ghost," he said, and went out and down the stairs,
the candlelight flickering, growing fainter, and finally
disappearing. Silence and eerie darkness enveloped them all as
they waited. And suddenly out of the blackness came a sound.
Something was flapping and thumping around the room.
"That's damned odd." muttered Beresford uneasily. "There is
something moving around the room.
"It's up near the ceiling!" cried Bailey as the sound began again.
Lizzie began a slow wail of doom and disaster.
"Oh - h - h - h - "
"Good God!" cried Beresford abruptly. "It hit me in the face!" He
slapped his hands together in a vain attempt to capture the flying
"I'm going!" she announced. "I don't know where, but I'm going!"
She took a wild step in the direction of the door. Then the
flapping noise was all about her, her nose was bumped by an
invisible object and she gave a horrified shriek.
"It's in my hair!" she screamed madly. "It's in my hair!"
The next instant Bailey gave a triumphant cry.
"I've got it! It's a bat!"
Lizzie sank to her knees, still moaning, and Bailey carried the
cause of the trouble over to the window and threw it out.
But the result of the absurd incident was a further destruction of
their morale. Even Beresford, so far calm with the quiet of the
virtuous onlooker, was now pallid in the light of the matches they
successively lighted. And onto this strained situation came at
last Billy and the Unknown.
The Unknown still wore his air of dazed bewilderment, true or
feigned, but at least he was now able to walk without support.
They stared at him, at his tattered, muddy garments, at the threads
of rope still clinging to his ankles - and wondered. He returned
their stares vacantly.
"Come in," began Miss Cornelia. "Sit down." He obeyed both
commands docilely enough.
"Are you better now?"
"Somewhat." His words still came very slowly.
"Billy - you can go."
"I stay, please!" said Billy wistfully, making no movement to leave.
His gesture toward the darkness of the corridor spoke louder than
Bailey watched him, suspicion dawning in his eyes. He could not
account for the butler's inexplicable terror of being left alone.
"Anderson intimated that the Doctor had an accomplice in this house,"
he said, crossing to Billy and taking him by the arm. "Why isn't
this the man?" Billy cringed away. "Please, no," he begged pitifully.
Bailey turned him around so that he faced the Hidden Room.
"Did you know that room was there?" he questioned, his doubts still
Billy shook his head.
"He couldn't have locked us in," said Miss Cornelia. "He was with
Bailey demurred, not to her remark itself, but to its implication
of Billy's entire innocence.