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how to prevent or reduce a scar

How to Prevent or Reduce a Scar

A scar screams look at me.

That’s what it can feel like anyway, to the individual bearing such a physical marker of trauma to the body. And on those warm, clothing-optional days of summer, or in the privacy of your bedroom, with a loved one or partner, that stings.

Some folks go to extreme lengths to conceal their scars with clothes and make-up. That’s sad, because a little scar prevention and scar treatment cream for developing and existing scars can reduce a scar or even prevent it completely.

In this article we’ll review how to care for a wound, to nip a scar before it develops. We’ll also articulate how to care for existing scars, and how a scar treatment system, like Dermefface FX7 Scar Reduction Therapy can fade a scar and the damage it does to your self-confidence.

Get a Scar Before it Develops

The single best thing you can do to prevent a scar is to get it early.

Scars form for a variety of reasons, including acne, chicken pox, surgery, an injury or child-birth via caesarian section. Depending on the origins of and severity of the trauma, a scar can take anywhere from several months to two years to develop.

Though surgery, serious injury and more severe trauma to the body tend to cause the most noticeable scarring, even a light scrape can become a scar if you don’t take basic precautions. For basic scar prevention, do the following:

Clean a Fresh Scrape or Cut – Run the wound under clean water. Remove pebbles or splinters with alcohol-sterilized tweezers. Carefully wash the wound with soap and a clean cloth. Avoid harsh soaps, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and iodine for minor wounds, as these can delay the healing process.

Cover Up – Cover your scrape or wound to reduce bacteria, dirt and irritants. Keep the wound moist, preferably with an antibiotic cream or ointment. The last point is especially important, as it will reduce the appearance of your scar should it develop.

Don’t Pick the Scabs – After an injury, the body immediately starts the healing process, with white blood cells that attack bacteria and red blood cells, platelets and fibrin that form a clot over the wound. Pick at the scabbing that develops and not only do you risk re-opening the wound, you open the door for bacteria that can create a larger, more prominent scar.

Stubborn Wounds and Existing Scars

Despite your best efforts, it’s not impossible that a scar will form regardless of the time and TLC you’ve put into scar prevention. That’s life – some folks are more prone to scarring than others.

A deep scar involves all three dermal tissues: the subcutaneous, dermis and epidermis, and can take up to two years to develop. In other words, if the wound is lingering, it’s time to shift to reduction mode.

First, be aware that scars tend to develop in areas of the body that are constantly being pulled and strained. The chest and shoulders are common areas for scarring to develop, and in that light, it’s a good idea to avoid heavy lifting or upper-body exercises as your wound continues to heal.

Second, consider a scar reduction system as the scar develops. This should reduce the severity of the scar and makes a less painful treatment than laser surgery, which is usually done after the scar is completely formed.

Scar Reduction Therapy With a Cream

A scar treatment cream is formulated with active natural ingredients, moisturizers and patented peptides to interact with the skin’s 28-day regeneration process. Specifically, it should:

Stimulate Natural Collagen Production – Both skin-healing type III and skin-strengthening collagen I.

Push Scarred Skin Cells to the Surface – A scar treatment cream gently nudges the skin healing process so that dead and damaged cells rise to the surface of the skin, where they’re sloughed away.

Increase Production of Healthy Skin Cells – With more collagen production and exfoliation of dead skin cells, normal, healthy skin cells replace scarred skin, for visible reduction of scarring.

Studies show that niacinamide, beta glucans and some antioxidants, including tocopherols, can reduce hyperpigmentation and encourage natural, healthy turn-over of skin cells. Such natural ingredients moisturize, exfoliate, and ultimately, reduce and even prevent scarring.

If you want to prevent or reduce scarring without steroids or laser treatment, opt for Dermefface FX7 Scar Reduction Therapy by the Skinception line of skin-care products, which as clinical studies suggest, may reduce scarring in as little as four weeks.

10 real ways to make money from facebook

Make Money on Facebook: 10 Ways to Monetize Facebook You have a personal Facebook account. You may have a Facebook business page, too. Until now, you’ve used the platform to share content in hopes it gets people to your website. Or, at least getting them in touch with you for services or direct sales. You’re getting a couple likes and shares, but it hasn’t translated to sales. What you want is a way to monetize the social networking site. This post covers the real ways to make money on Facebook. This requires some extra effort but will ultimately pay off. Use the following for personal or business – they’ll work for both. Let’s get into it. 1. Promote Your Business, Products, and Services Don’t have a Facebook business page? Make one. The business page becomes your central “hub” to all things Facebook. Nike — Business Sales This is the place where you’ll share content driving traffic to your business site. It’s where you’ll gain feedback for improvements. There are several ways to make money on Facebook when pairing it with your business: Funnel Traffic – Create and share great blog/site content for your community like tutorials, guides, reviews, and interviews. This content is shared on your FB page giving followers helpful, insightful, or fun information. Each post is an opportunity to get followers to the site, sending them through the sales funnel. Live Video – Live videos are perfect for sharing product use, announcing big news, or simply taking questions from your community. This gives a real face to the business. You could hold weekly live chats with followers building engagement – eventually leading to sales. Share/Engage – Sometimes it’s about keeping your brand on the mind of your audience. Your page could include interesting finds and shares from around the Web. Or, just musing about what’s happening at the business, photos, and videos showing behind-the-scenes. Ads/Promos – Test the Facebook advertising platform by creating a great ad and targeting lookalike audiences by importing a customer list. Or, use boosted post options to quickly spread content to followers, friends of followers, or target audiences. Shop — Use the shop feature to create product listings or import products from your store. This lets followers discover products within Facebook while receiving help through Messenger chat and chatbots. Check out our massive list of Facebook content types that’ll boost engagement. These should give you plenty of ideas to update every day for the foreseeable future. What else do you need to do? Interact with the community responding to their comments and messages Use the platform as a customer service channel by integrating it on your site Connect with fellow business owners to create joint referral programs Put the social back in social media – the sales will come as the result of your on-going, engaging efforts with the Facebook community. 2. Sell Stuff on the Facebook Marketplace The Facebook Marketplace has basically replaced Craigslist as the go-to place for buying/selling goods locally. It’s a great alternative to popular apps like LetGo and OfferUp. You can find just about anything on the marketplace – and lots of people buying. The Facebook Marketplace You could: Sell unwanted items you find around the house Flip items you find at thrift stores and local markets Sell other’s items on consignment (taking a cut) Sell things you’ve made like crafts, arts, and such The marketplace is integrated with your account so there are no extra steps. This is handy if you want to verify who’d buy your goods – making sure everything is safe. You do have to deal with some low-ballers, but don’t let that deter you. We recommend meeting in a public area for the transaction to stay safe. 3. Create a Meme or Niche Group Meme pages and niche FB groups are quite a popular way to monetize Facebook. These pages attract thousands of users through fun, engaging, and sometimes shocking content. Or, through a shared interest in a topic, lifestyle, business, or general idea. For the Meme Page: Crawl the Web for memes, videos, quotes, and interesting finds Create a stream of shares (pretty much every 20-mins to 1-hour using scheduling tools) Keep building the page by sharing more and more content Hold contests, “tag” call-outs, and other interactive elements getting people to engage Throw in the occasional promotion (yours, an affiliate offer, or sponsored post) Meme pages need a lot of followers to make money. But, there’s always neat ideas to try especially if you’re having fun interacting with followers. Your better option is a Facebook group as this collects highly-engaged users. Creating a Facebook Group to Make Money with the Social Network 1,000 strong followers in a private FB group could show higher sales and engagement than a page with 10,000+. It all depends on the quality you’re putting forth. And, how active you are in the community. The Facebook group follows the same routine but with a few tweaks: Funnel users from your site, email list, or professional networks Include neat incentives to join the tight-knit community like freebies or cross-promotion Create a schedule for daily discussions and times to self-promote Brands may reach out offering products and services to review. Or, to include their marketing message as a post to the group – you get to set the prices! This could become a regular money-maker if the group grows while remaining highly-active and moderated (from spam). If brands don’t reach out: Try contacting them with group stats and/or try promoting affiliate products. 4. Funnel Facebook Users to a Monetized Newsletter Facebook is perfect for funneling people to your email newsletter. If you don’t know: Many people use an email newsletter like they do a blog. They get people to sign up to their email list, then share updates, content, and promotions. Funneling Facebook Users to a Monetize Email List You own this list effectively letting you make money without a website – neat, huh? Combine these two to start: Our Email Marketing Guide for Beginners How to Use FB to Build an Email List The goal is sending people to a landing page using your personal, fan page, or ads. There, people can subscribe to your email list – often paired with a free course or download though not always necessary. Try monetizing Facebook and email lists like this: Share great content on your FB page and/or promote posts building a big following Sign up for email marketing services Create a simple website using site building tools or a landing page Include your opt-in form (provided by the email service) on the page Create the basic email sequence (thank you, confirmation, and first email) Start funneling followers to this email list through content, shares, and mentions Treat the email like a blog while promoting stuff or selling premium sponsorship Only a small percentage of people will click links in your email (around 2-3%). But, if your list is in the thousands, then you could create a couple sales each time you promote something! 5. Sell Promoted or Sponsored Shares An active group or business page with authority and reach attracts sponsorship offers. Promoted and sponsored offers are when you’re paid to promote a brand. The process typically goes like this: A brand gets in touch through your contact details asking if you’ll promote them You negotiate the offer – setting prices and terms – then they pay You schedule and share the promotion – usually theirs unless negotiated These opportunities crop up all the time especially if the page/group has targeted users. A brand wants their products or services in front of those targeted fans vs going through paid ad channels. This is the basis of influencer marketing. Making Money on Facebook through Sponsored Posts How can you find these sponsorship opportunities if they’re not getting in touch? Send a relevant business or brand an email about your page, stats, and opportunity Consistently content and media creating a high engagement (likes, shares, comments) Build out your page/group so it’s showing up in Google and FB internal search (popular!) Create a media kit and inquiry blurb letting others know you’re open to the idea Mention it on your portfolio or blog/website as a service There are some sponsorship marketplaces, but these take a cut. It’s better you reach out to interested brands. Or, they come to you – let you negotiate higher pricing and better terms. Remember: You need to disclose your sponsorship if you accept otherwise it’s legal troubles and possibly “burning” your audience. 6. Promote Affiliate Products and/or Services Position yourself effectively and you can make a lot of money promoted affiliate products. For those that don’t know: Affiliate marketing is when you get paid to promote other people’s products. You earn a commission for every sale you help generate. Often, this is 5 – 10% of the sale. Don’t know where to start with affiliate marketing on Facebook? Do this: Research what people are buying, talking about, and sharing Check the top-sellers list on Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, and other online markets Find and join affiliate programs related to your topics and audience Fill in the partner details, get your affiliate link, and create a promotional plan Affiliate programs are free to join – it’s very likely your favorite brands offer one. Example of a Page using Affiliate Marketing to Monetize Facebook These let you make money on Facebook promoting everything from makeup and shoes, to electronics and financial services. How can you promote these products? Content Shares – Create content for your website/blog and share it on your personal and Facebook page. This directs friends, extended connections, and followers to the page. They can read a review, tutorial, or list of tips clicking through to the affiliated product. Ads – This leverages content and site pages with the Facebook advertising platform. Here, you’ll combine compelling headlines and copy with images. This ad links to your page where visitors can discover your affiliate promotions. Groups – Operate a group? In a group allowing promotions? You could promote the product directly (we don’t recommend this because it irks people). Or, as with the others, send people to a helpful content piece for them to discover the promos on their own. Video – Share a YouTube video on Facebook getting people to go to the YT page or channel. The affiliate links are included in the YT video description. Or, linked to a page on your site. This tends to add extra value since video is highly interactive. If this is something you could get serious about then we recommend our free Affiliate Marketing Guide. The guide provides a complete, step-by-step to finding your niche, joining affiliate programs, and promoting offers to make money online. You can use the same principles to make money on Facebook! Note: You’ll want to disclose your affiliation just as you would on a website or blog. 7. Land Freelance Work and Side Gigs Combining Facebook and Freelance/Side Gigs is a match made in heaven. Facebook is, after all, the largest social network with more than 2-billion users. There’s more than one chance to land a client! You’ll want a few preliminary items before landing clients: A portfolio website to show your skills, services, and provide contact details A Facebook business page so you can use promoted posts to spread the word We recommend you start a blog, too, as this will help drive organic traffic. WordPress is a fantastic platform to build a portfolio site with all it’s portfolio themes and plugins. Where do you go to look for clients and gigs on Facebook? Business Facebook groups Buy/Sell/Barter FB pages Direct messaging businesses Regularly contribute to groups Promoting your best content Pitch services with a goal in mind while conveying your value. Example of Freelance Gigs on Facebook to Monetize Your Work It helps to redirect prospects to your portfolio site where they can find reviews and case studies exhibiting your skills. Or, simply scheduling a follow-up discussion you can hold over-the-phone or using FB messenger. You can go one further with landing gigs: Create a fantastic offer with an eye-catching image Fill in the details of your work and effort in the body Promote the post to users (like local businesses or people interesting in X) Your promoted posts act like a flyer on the community board. Will it work? Possibly! You’d be surprised how many people and business owners keep an eye out for talent. This is especially true in local groups so get your name out there and see if anyone is willing to pay for your skills! 8. Do Facebook Marketing for Businesses Small business owners usually don’t have time to manage their Facebook activity. They’ll pay hundreds, sometimes thousands, each month for social media managers to handle it for them. Here’s the thing: You’re likely an expert at Facebook by way of always using it. You could position yourself as a service provider by contacting small businesses: Send an FB message to a neglected small business FB page Check if local businesses websites have Facebook linked and if they’re updating Reach out to friends, family, and business contacts asking if anyone needs help If you could land one or two business accounts – each paying $50 – $100 a week – you’d pull in some decent money. Job Listings for Facebook Social Media Manager This could scale if you’re helping to drive sales. And, really get the engagement going. Here’s how to get into making money by providing Facebook marketing: Brush up on your Facebook marketing skills and learn about the business Learn how to use tools like Buffer (to schedule posts) and PicMonkey (to create great photos) Pitch the idea to small businesses in your community or through referrals Fix up their business page with updated information, a new cover photo, and features Publish great content, engage with the followers, and forward leads to the business You could scale this to handle all their social media marketing if you show results! You’ll only need about 15-30-minutes a day to manage the page. Not too bad a money-maker, right? 9. Make a Few Bucks with Referral Programs Many of your favorite apps and websites offer referral programs. These brands and companies will pay if you bring in new users – usually through: Money deposited to your account (or check) Bonus points and app credits Gift cards and coupons Extended services and rebates The ones to look for are those you’ll actually use giving you a better understanding and ability to promote the app/service to others. What are some favorites of ours? Swagbucks – Where people can do surveys, view media, and make money Robinhood – Where people get into stock trading and investments Ibotta – Where people can get cash back for grocery and online shopping eBates – Where people get cash back for online purchases Ibotta, for example, pays $5 – $10 for every new referral. This is one of the easiest referral programs because it saves them money through everyday purchases. Referring Users through Facebook to Ibotta You’re not pushing a hard sell on something people don’t really want. Here’s how we’d recommend promoting referrals to make money on Facebook: Share your experience using the app and include the referral link/code Create a Facebook group about saving money and budgeting with it as a regular promo Write a stellar review and get it shared (and promoted) on your profile + fan page You won’t replace your 9-to-5 but it is a great way to make a few bucks here and there especially when you’re already logged into Facebook. 10. Create and Sell Facebook Video Creation Services Most businesses cite video marketing as an incredible channel and opportunity. We couldn’t agree more seeing the prolific rise of YouTube, Twitch, IG, and video sharing. Video media will likely replace written blog posts in the future. It’s the perfect medium for content and promotions. But… Small businesses are stretch on time and resources. They’re also not that great at creating videos. This is where you come in. First, read, understand, and bookmark these guides: A Beginner Guide to Video Production on a Budget The Only Video Marketing Checklist You’ll Ever Need Can you create a video using your phone? Do you like posting videos to Instagram? Or, are fully invested in video creation using tools? If so, then you’ve got an awesome money-making Facebook opportunity. There are several Facebook video types you could offer: Vlogging Interviews Event Coverage Promotional Tutorial Review Testimonial We recommend reaching out to small business offering your video services. This could include direct contact while browsing Facebook business pages. Or, be part of a promotion through your fan page — or using marketplaces like Fiverr. Fiverr Video Marketplace Consider pricing video services by the hour, or by the project. Kudos if you can work with a local business offering the full suite of video services. You could swing by their offices, shoot the raw video, edit/format it, and shoot it back. Don’t got time to visit offices? Edit RAW – Create the video from the raw footage they send you Screencasts – Record your screen using Screencasting tools Skype/Hangouts – Record their content via video conferencing and edit later They may give you access to their Facebook page to upload video – this is a great opportunity to pitch social media management services! Which Way to Make Money on Facebook Will You Use? This post covered 10 ways to make some money with your Facebook account, pages, or simply knowing how to use the platform. Some are easy, others take serious effort. Ultimately, you should always try to drive Facebook traffic to your website or blog as this gives you more control. And, an opportunity to get people to buy stuff, subscribe to a newsletter, or leave reviews. But… If you’re solely looking for ways to monetize Facebook, our list should give you plenty to work with. So, get started and see what you can do with that account!

HERSOLUTION GEL

Please your Man with Female Libido Enhancers

Sometimes it seems daunting when you start to think about how to sex up your sex life. There is an overwhelming amount of information in women’s magazines, on the TV, and certainly on the internet. There are sex products for every conceivable scenario; increase libido, increase desire, increase orgasms, and the list goes on and on. It used to be the media focused solely on increasing the man’s pleasure, but now that the sexual enhancement companies realized the woman’s market was ripe for the picking, there is now seemingly way too much information and way too many choices. Now in the times of media overload, from going completely uninformed to completely overwhelmed, sometimes it may seem easier just to put finding that perfect sexual enhancement product on the back burner.

But luckily for you, Hersolution Gel has everything you’ll need and more in one small, discrete package. With this amazing new product, you will soon find out that there really is nothing else you need to really improve your desire, increase your sensations, and make every orgasm the best one!

This simple product has been created by a team of researchers and doctors so all the guess work has been taken out of the bedroom. This gel created especially for women, will not only improve your sex life but will also please your man as well. He will be so turned on knowing how much more pleasurable your experience is that he will certainly want to spend even more time giving you everything you need and more.

Turn your bedroom into a real haven of pleasure for you and your man with just one squeeze of a tube. The Hersolution Gel will make your vagina primed and ready and wet, your libido over the top, and your man only too happy to take you there. So don’t wait until a planned special night to make your next loving making session the best you’ve ever had. Your man will be more than just a little pleased to learn that just a little drop of this magic gel will turn you on more than he can do just on his own. The herbal ingredients naturally increase blood flow to your clitoris, therefore increasing sensation and turning you into a wild animal that can’t get enough!

Why not order your own tube of Hersolution Gel now and make every night, even during the week the potential to be spectacular. You’ll love this product so much you will even order a few extra tubes to keep at his house so you’ll never forget to have one on hand. Now you can look forward to pleasing your man just the way he likes. This product will make increasing his satisfaction and yours simple and convenient. So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to take one step forward to making your man happy and making you feel great too knowing that he’ll be looking forward to your next special night together. Now’s the time. Just visit Hersolution Gel and get shopping.

For more information, go to HersolutionGel.com

the Invisible Man

The Invisible Man

by

Herbert George Wells

Web-Books.Com

The Invisible Man

1.

The Strange Man’s Arrival ……………………………………………………………………………… 4

2.

Mr. Teddy Henfrey’s First Impressions ……………………………………………………………. 8

3.

The Thousand and One Bottles……………………………………………………………………… 12

4.

Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger…………………………………………………………………… 16

5.

The Burglary at the Vicarage………………………………………………………………………… 21

6.

The Furniture that Went Mad ……………………………………………………………………….. 23

7.

The Unveiling of the Stranger……………………………………………………………………….. 26

8.

In Transit……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 33

9.

Mr. Thomas Marvel …………………………………………………………………………………….. 34

10.

Mr. Marvel’s Visit to Iping ……………………………………………………………………….. 39

11.

In the Coach and Horses …………………………………………………………………………… 41

12.

The Invisible Man Loses His Temper…………………………………………………………. 44

13.

Mr. Marvel Discusses His Resignation……………………………………………………….. 49

14.

At Port Stowe………………………………………………………………………………………….. 52

15.

The Man Who Was Running …………………………………………………………………….. 57

16.

The Jolly Cricketers …………………………………………………………………………………. 59

17.

Doctor Kemp’s Visitor ……………………………………………………………………………… 62

18.

The Invisible Man Sleeps………………………………………………………………………….. 69

19.

Certain First Principles …………………………………………………………………………….. 72

20.

At the House in Great Portland Street…………………………………………………………. 76

21.

In Oxford Street ………………………………………………………………………………………. 83

22.

In the Emporium ……………………………………………………………………………………… 87

23.

In Drury Lane………………………………………………………………………………………….. 91

24.

The Plan that Failed …………………………………………………………………………………. 98

25.

The Hunting of the Invisible Man…………………………………………………………….. 102

26.

The Wicksteed Murder …………………………………………………………………………… 104

27.

The Siege of Kemp’s House…………………………………………………………………….. 107

28.

The Hunter Hunted ………………………………………………………………………………… 114

The Epilogue……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 118

  1. The Strange Man’s Arrival

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggered into the Coach and Horses, more dead than alive as it seemed, and flung his portmanteau down. “A fire,” he cried, “in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!” He stamped and shook the snow from off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs. Hall into her guest parlour to strike his bargain. And with that much introduction, that and a ready acquiescence to terms and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his quarters in the inn.

Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare him a meal with her own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in the wintertime was an unheard-of piece of luck, let alone a guest who was no “haggler,” and she was resolved to show herself worthy of her good fortune. As soon as the bacon was well under way, and Millie, her lymphatic aid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glasses into the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost eclat. Although the fire was burning up briskly, she was surprised to see that her visitor still wore his hat and coat, standing with his back to her and staring out of the window at the falling snow in the yard. His gloved hands were clasped behind him, and he seemed to be lost in thought. She noticed that the melted snow that still sprinkled his shoulders dropped upon her carpet. “Can I take your hat and coat, sir,” she said, “and give them a good dry in the kitchen?”

“No,” he said without turning.

She was not sure she had heard him, and was about to repeat her question. He turned his head and looked at her over his shoulder. “I prefer to keep them on,” he said with emphasis, and she noticed that he wore big blue spectacles with sidelights, and had a bushy side-whisker over his coat-collar that completely hid his cheeks and face.

“Very well, sir,” she said. “As you like. In a bit the room will be warmer.” He made no answer, and had turned his face away from her again, and Mrs. Hall, feeling that her conversational advances were ill-timed, laid the rest of the table things in a quick staccato and whisked out of the room. When she returned he was still standing there, like a man of stone, his back hunched, his collar turned up, his dripping hat-brim turned down, hiding his face and ears completely. She put down the eggs and bacon with considerable emphasis, and called rather than said to him, “Your lunch is served, sir.”

“Thank you,” he said at the same time, and did not stir until she was closing the door. Then he swung round and approached the table with a certain eager quickness. As she went behind the bar to the kitchen she heard a sound repeated at regular intervals. Chirk, chirk, chirk, it went, the sound of a spoon being rapidly whisked round a basin. “That girl!” she said. “There! I clean forgot it. It’s her being so long!” And while she herself finished mixing the mustard, she gave Millie a few verbal stabs for her excessive slowness. She had cooked the ham and eggs, laid the table, and done everything, while Millie (help indeed!) had only succeeded in delaying the mustard. And him a new guest and wanting to stay! Then she filled the mustard pot, and, putting it with a certain stateliness upon a gold and black tea-tray, carried it into the parlour. She rapped and entered promptly. As she did so her visitor moved quickly, so that she got but a glimpse of a white object disappearing behind the table. It would seem he was picking something from the floor. She rapped down the mustard pot on the table, and then she noticed the overcoat and hat had been taken off and put over a chair in front of the fire, and a pair of wet boots threatened rust to her steel fender. She went to these things resolutely. “I suppose I may have them to dry now,” she said in a voice that brooked no denial.

“Leave the hat,” said her visitor, in a muffled voice, and turning she saw he had raised his head and was sitting and looking at her.

For a moment she stood gaping at him, too surprised to speak.

He held a white cloth –it was a serviette he had brought with him –over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws were completely hidden, and that was the reason of his muffled voice. But it was not that which startled Mrs. Hall. It was the fact that all his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. It was bright, pink, and shiny just as it had been at first. He wore a darkbrown velvet jacket with a high, black, linen-lined collar turned up about his neck. The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the strangest appearance conceivable. This muffled and bandaged head was so unlike what she had anticipated, that for a moment she was rigid.

He did not remove the serviette, but remained holding it, as she saw now, with a brown gloved hand, and regarding her with his inscrutable blue glasses. “Leave the hat,” he said, speaking very distinctly through the white cloth.

Her nerves began to recover from the shock they had received. She placed the hat on the chair again by the fire. “I didn’t know, sir,” she began, “that –” and she stopped embarrassed.

“Thank you,” he said drily, glancing from her to the door and then at her again.

“I’ll have them nicely dried, sir, at once,” she said, and carried his clothes out of the room. She glanced at his white-swathed head and blue goggles again as she was going out of the door; but his napkin was still in front of his face. She shivered a little as she closed the door behind her, and her face was eloquent of her surprise and perplexity. “I never,” she whispered. “There!” She went quite softly to the kitchen, and was too preoccupied to ask Millie what she was messing about with now, when she got there. The visitor sat and listened to her retreating ‘feet. He glanced inquiringly at the window before he removed his serviette, and resumed his meal. He took a mouthful, glanced suspiciously at the window, took another mouthful, then rose and, taking the serviette in his hand, walked across the room and pulled the blind down to the top of the white muslin that obscured the lower panes. This left the room in a twilight. This done, he returned with an easier air to the table and his meal.

“The poor soul’s had an accident or an opration or something,” said Mrs. Hall. “What a turn them bandages did give me, to be sure!”

She put on some more coal, unfolded the clothes-horse, and extended the traveller’s coat upon this. “And they goggles! Why, he looked more like a divin’ helmet than a human man!” She hung his muffler on a corner of the horse. “And holding that handkercher over his mouth all the time. Talkin’ through it! . . . Perhaps his mouth was hurt too –maybe.”

She turned round, as one who suddenly remembers. “Bless my soul alive!” she said, going off at a tangent; “ain’t you done them taters yet, Millie?” When Mrs. Hall went to clear away the stranger’s lunch, her idea that his mouth must also have been cut or disfigured in the accident she supposed him to have suffered, was confirmed, for he was smoking a pipe, and all the time that she was in the room he never loosened the silk muffler he had wrapped round the lower part of his face to put the mouthpiece to his lips. Yet it was not forgetfulness, for she saw he glanced at it as it smouldered out. He sat in the corner with his back to the window-blind and spoke now, having eaten and drunk and being comfortably warmed through, with less aggressive brevity than before. The reflection of the fire lent a kind of red animation to his big spectacles they had lacked hitherto.

“I have some luggage,” he said, “at Bramblehurst station,” and he asked her how he could have it sent. He bowed his bandaged head quite politely in acknowledgement of her explanation. “To-morrow!” he said. “There is no speedier delivery?” and seemed quite disappointed when she answered, “No.” Was she quite sure? No man with a trap who would go over?

Mrs. Hall, nothing loath, answered his questions and developed a conversation. “It’s a steep road by the down, sir,” she said in answer to the question about a trap; and then, snatching at an opening, said, “It was there a carriage was upsettled, a year ago and more. A gentleman killed, besides his coachman. Accidents, sir, happen in a moment, don’t they?”

But the visitor was not to be drawn so easily. “They do,” he said through his muffler, eyeing her quietly through his impenetrable glasses.

“But they take long enough to get well, sir, don’t they? . . . There was my sister’s son, Tom, jest cut his arm with a scythe, tumbled on it in the ‘ayfield, and, bless me! he was three months tied up sir. You’d hardly believe it. It’s regular given me a dread of a scythe, sir.”

“I can quite understand that,” said the visitor.

“He was afraid, one time, that he’d have to have an opration –he was that bad, sir.” The visitor laughed abruptly, a bark of a laugh that he seemed to bite and kill in his mouth. “Was he? . . . he said.

“He was, sir. And no laughing matter to them as had the doing for him, as I had –my sister being took up with her little ones so much. There was bandages to do, sir, and bandages to undo. So that if I may make so bold as to say it, sir –”

“Will you get me some matches?” said the visitor, quite abruptly. “My pipe is out.” Mrs. Hall was pulled up suddenly. It was certainly rude of him, after telling him all she had done. She gasped at him for a moment, and remembered the two sovereigns. She went for the matches.

“Thanks,” he said concisely, as she put them down, and turned his shoulder upon her and stared out of the window again. It was altogether too discouraging. Evidently he was sensitive on the topic of operations and bandages. She did not “make so bold as to say, however, after all. But his snubbing way had irritated her, and Millie had a hot time of it that afternoon.

The visitor remained in the parlour until four o’clock, without giving the ghost of an excuse for an intrusion. For the most part he was quite still during that time; it would seem he sat in the growing darkness in the firelight, perhaps dozing.

Once or twice a curious listener might have heard him at the coals, and for the space of five minutes he was audible pacing the room. He seemed to be talking to himself. Then the armchair creaked as he sat down again.

  1. Mr. Teddy Henfrey’s First Impressions

At four o’clock, when it was fairly dark and Mrs. Hall was screwing up her courage to go in and ask her visitor if he would take some tea, Teddy Henfrey, the clock-jobber, came into the bar. “My sakes! Mrs. Hall,” said he, “but this is terrible weather for thin boots!” The snow outside was falling faster.

Mrs. Hall agreed with him, and then noticed he had his bag, and hit upon a brilliant idea. “Now you’re here, Mr. Teddy,” said she, “I’d be glad if you’d give th’ old clock in the parlour a bit of a look. ‘Tis going, and it strikes well and hearty; but the hour-hand won’t do nuthin’ but point at six.”

And leading the way, she went across to the parlour door and rapped and entered. Her visitor, she saw as she opened the door, was seated in the armchair before the fire, dozing it would seem, with his bandaged head drooping on one side. The only light in the room was the red glow from the fire –which lit his eyes like adverse railway signals, but left his downcast face in darkness –and the scanty vestiges of the day that came in through the open door. Everything was ruddy, shadowy, and indistinct to her, the more so since she had just been lighting the bar lamp, and her eyes were dazzled. But for a second it seemed to her that the man she looked at had an enormous mouth wide open, –a vast and incredible mouth that swallowed the whole of the lower portion of his face. It was the sensation of a moment: the white-bound head, the monstrous goggle eyes, and this huge yawn below it. Then he stirred, started up in his chair, put up his hand. She opened the door wide, so that the room was lighter, and she saw him more clearly, with the muffler held up to his face just as she had seen him hold the serviette before. The shadows, she fancied, had tricked her.

“Would you mind, sir, this man a-coming to look at the clock, sir?” she said, recovering from her momentary shock.

“Look at the clock?” he said, staring round in a drowsy manner, and speaking over his hand, and then, getting more fully awake, certainly.”

Mrs. Hall went away to get a lamp, and he rose and stretched himself. Then came the light, and Mr. Teddy Henfrey, entering, was confronted by this bandaged person. He was, he says, “taken aback.”

“Good-afternoon,” said the stranger, regarding him, as Mr. Henfrey says, with a vivid sense of the dark spectacles, “like a lobster.”

“I hope,” said Mr. Henfrey, “that it’s no intrusion.”

“None whatever,” said the stranger. “Though, I understand,” he said turning to Mrs. Hall, “that this room is really to be mine for my own private use.”

“I thought, sir,” said Mrs. Hall, “you’d prefer the clock –” She was going to say

“mended.”

“Certainly,” said the stranger, “certainly –but, as a rule, I like to be alone and undisturbed.

“But I’m really glad to have the clock seen to,” he said, seeing a certain hesitation in Mr. Henfrey’s manner. “Very glad.” Mr. Henfrey had intended to apologise and withdraw, but this anticipation reassured him. The stranger stood round with his back to the fire-place and put his hands behind his back. “And presently,” he said, “when the clock-mending is over, I think I should like to have some tea. But not till the clockmending is over.” Mrs. Hall was about to leave the room, –she made no conversational advances this time, because she did not want to be snubbed in front of Mr. Henfrey, –when her visitor asked her if she had made any arrangements about his boxes at Bramblehurst. She told him she had mentioned the matter to the postman, and that the carrier could bring them over on the morrow. “You are certain that is the earliest?” he said. She was certain, with a marked coldness.

“I should explain,” he added, “what I was really too cold and fatigued to do before, that I am an experimental investigator.”

“Indeed, sir,” said Mrs. Hall, much impressed.

“And my baggage contains apparatus and appliances.”

“Very useful things, indeed, they are, sir,” said Mrs. Hall.

“And I’m naturally anxious to get on with my inquiries.”

“Of course, sir.”

“My reason for coming to Iping,” he proceeded, with a certain deliberation of manner,

“was –a desire for solitude. I do not wish to be disturbed in my work. In addition to my work, an accident –”

“I thought as much,” said Mrs. Hall to herself.

” –necessitates a certain retirement. My eyes –are sometimes so weak and painful that I have to shut myself up in the dark for hours together. Lock myself up. Sometimes –now and then. Not at present, certainly. At such times the slightest disturbance, the entry of a stranger into the room, is a source of excruciating annoyance to me –it is well these things should be understood.”

“Certainly, sir,” said Mrs. Hall. “And if I might make so bold as to ask –”

“That I think, is all,” said the stranger, with that quietly irresistible air of finality he could assume at will. Mrs. Hall reserved her question and sympathy for a better occasion. After Mrs. Hall had left the room, he remained standing in front of the fire, glaring, so Mr. Henfrey puts it, at the clock-mending. Mr. Henfrey not only took off the hands of the clock, and the face, but extracted the works; and he tried to work in as slow and quiet and unassuming a manner as possible. He worked with the lamp close to him, and the green shade threw a brilliant light upon his hands, and upon the frame and wheels, and left the rest of the room shadowy. When he looked up, coloured patches swam in his eyes. Being constitutionally of a curious nature, he had removed the works –a quite unnecessary proceeding –with the idea of delaying his departure and perhaps falling into conversation with the stranger. But the stranger stood there, perfectly silent and still. So still, it got on Henfrey’s nerves. He felt alone in the room and looked up, and there, grey and dim, was the bandaged head and huge blue lenses staring fixedly, with a mist of green spots drifting in front of them. It was so uncanny-looking to Henfrey that for a minute they remained staring blankly at one another. Then Henfrey looked down again. Very uncomfortable position! One would like to say something. Should he remark that the weather was very cold for the time of year?

He looked up as if to take aim with that introductory shot. “The weather” –he began.

“Why don’t you finish and go?” said the rigid figure, evidently in a state of painfully suppressed rage. “All you got to do is to fix the hour-hand on its axle. You’re simply humbugging –”

“Certainly, sir –one minute more, sir. I overlooked –” and Mr. Henfrey finished and went.

But he went off feeling excessively annoyed. “Damn it!” said Mr. Henfrey to himself, trudging down the village through the thawing snow; “a man must do a clock at times, sure lie.”

And again “Can’t a man look at you? –Ugly!”

And yet again: “Seemingly not. If the police was wanting you you couldn’t be more wrooped and bandaged.”

At Gleeson’s corner he saw Hall, who had recently married the stranger’s hostess at the Coach and Horses, and who now drove the Iping conveyance, when occasional people required it, to Sidderbridge junction, coming towards him on his return from that place. Hall had evidently been “stopping a bit” at Sidderbridge, to judge by his driving. “‘Ow do, Teddy?” he said, passing.

“You got a rum un up home!” said Teddy.

Hall very sociably pulled up. “What’s that?” he asked.

“Rum-looking customer stopping at the Coach and Horses,” said Teddy. “My sakes!” And he proceeded to give Hall a vivid description of his grotesque guest. “Looks a bit like a disguise, don’t it? I’d like to see a man’s face if I had him stopping in my place,” said Henfrey. “But women are that trustful, –where strangers are concerned. He’s took your rooms and he ain’t even given a name, Hall.”

“You don’t say so!” said Hall, who was a man of sluggish apprehension.

“Yes,” said Teddy. “By the week. Whatever he is, you can’t get rid of him under the week. And he’s got a lot of luggage coming to-morrow, so he says. Let’s hope it won’t be stones in boxes, Hall.”

He told Hall how his aunt at Hastings had been swindled by a stranger with empty portmanteaux. Altogether he left Hall vaguely suspicious. “Get up, old girl,” said Hall. “I s’pose I must see ’bout this.”

Teddy trudged on his way with his mind considerably relieved.

Instead of “seeing ’bout it,” however, Hall on his return was severely rated by his wife on the length of time he had spent in Sidderbridge, and his mild inquiries were answered snappishly and in a manner not to the point. But the seed of suspicion Teddy had sown germinated in the mind of Mr. Hall in spite of these discouragements. “You wim’ don’t know everything,” said Mr. Hall, resolved to ascertain more about the personality of his guest at the earliest possible opportunity. And after the stranger had gone to bed, which he did about half-past nine, Mr. Hall went very aggressively into the parlour and looked very hard at his wife’s furniture, just to show that the stranger wasn’t master there, and scrutinised closely and a little contemptuously a sheet of mathematical computation the stranger had left. When retiring for the night he instructed Mrs. Hall to look very closely at the stranger’s luggage when it came next day.

“You mind your own business, Hall,” said Mrs. Hall, “and I’ll mind mine.” She was all the more inclined to snap at Hall because the stranger was undoubtedly an unusually strange sort of stranger, and she was by no means assured about him in her own mind. In the middle of the night she woke up dreaming of huge white heads like turnips, that came trailing after her, at the end of interminable necks, and with vast black eyes. But being a sensible woman, she subdued her terrors and turned over and went to sleep again.

  1. The Thousand and One Bottles

So it was that on the twenty-ninth day of February, at the beginning of the thaw, this singular person fell out of infinity into Iping Village. Next day his luggage arrived through the slush. And very remarkable luggage it was. There were a couple of trunks indeed, such as a rational man might need, but in addition there were a box of books, –big, fat books, of which some were just in an incomprehensible handwriting, –and a dozen or more crates, boxes, and cases, containing objects packed in straw, as it seemed to Hall, tugging with a casual curiosity at the straw –glass bottles. The stranger, muffled in hat, coat, gloves, and wrapper, came out impatiently to meet Fearenside’s cart, while Hall was having a word or so of gossip preparatory to helping bring them in. Out he came, not noticing Fearenside’s dog, who was sniffing in a dilettante spirit at Hall’s legs.

“Come along with those boxes,” he said. “I’ve been waiting long enough.” And he came down the steps towards the tail of the cart as if to lay hands on the smaller crate.

No sooner had Fearenside’s dog caught sight of him, however, then it began to bristle and growl savagely, and when he rushed down the steps it gave an undecided hop, and then sprang straight at his hand. “Whup!” cried Hall, jumping back, for he was no hero with dogs, and Fearenside howled, “Lie down!” and snatched his whip. They saw the dog’s teeth had slipped the hand, heard a kick, saw the dog execute a flanking jump and get home on the stranger’s leg, and heard the rip of his trousering. Then the finer end of Fearenside’s whip reached his property, and the dog, yelping with dismay, retreated under the wheels of the waggon. It was all the business of a swift halfminute. No one spoke, every one shouted. The stranger glanced swiftly at his torn glove and at his leg, made as if he would stoop to the latter, then turned and rushed swiftly up the steps into the inn. They heard him go headlong across the passage and up the uncarpeted stairs to his bedroom.

“You brute, you!” said Fearenside, climbing off the waggon with his whip in his hand, while the dog watched him through the wheel. “Come here,” said Fearenside –“You’d better.”

Hall had stood gaping. “He wuz bit,” said Hall. “I’d better go and see to en,” and he trotted after the stranger. He met Mrs. Hall in the passage. “Carrier’s darg,” he said, “bit en.”

He went straight upstairs, and the stranger’s door being ajar, he pushed it open and was entering without any ceremony, being of a naturally sympathetic turn of mind. The blind was down and the room dim. He caught a glimpse of a most singular thing, what seemed a handless arm waving towards him, and a face of three huge indeterminate spots on white, very like the face of a pale pansy. Then he was struck violently in the chest, hurled back, and the door slammed in his face and locked. It was so rapid that it gave him no time to observe. A waving of indecipherable shapes, a blow, and a concussion. There he stood on the dark little landing, wondering what it might be that he had seen.

A couple of minutes after, he rejoined the little group that had formed outside the Coach and Horses. There was Fearenside telling about it all over again for the second time; there was Mrs. Hall saying his dog didn’t have no business to bite her guests; there was Huxter, the general dealer from over the road, interrogative; and Sandy Wadgers from the forge, judicial; besides women and children, –all of them saying fatuities:

“Wouldn’t let en bite me, I knows;”

“‘Tasn’t right have such dargs;” “Whad ‘e bite’n for then?” and so forth. Mr. Hall, staring at them from the steps and listening, found it incredible that he had seen anything so very remarkable happen upstairs. Besides, his vocabulary was altogether too limited to express his impressions.

“He don’t want no help, he says,” he said in answer to his wife’s inquiry. “We’d better be a-takin’ of his luggage in.”

“He ought to have it cauterised at once,” said Mr. Huxter; “especially if it’s at all inflamed.”

“I’d shoot en, that’s what I’d do,” said a lady in the group. Suddenly the dog began growling again.

“Come along,” cried an angry voice in the doorway, and there stood the muffled stranger with his collar turned up, and his hat-brim bent down. “The sooner you get those things in the better I’ll be pleased.” It is stated by an anonymous bystander that his trousers and gloves had been changed.

“Was you hurt sir?” said Fearenside. “I’m rare sorry the darg –”

“Not a bit,” said the stranger. “Never broke the skin. Hurry up with those things.” He then swore to himself, so Mr. Hall asserts.

Directly the first crate was, in accordance with his directions, carried into the parlour, the stranger flung himself upon it with extraordinary eagerness, and began to unpack it, scattering the straw with an utter disregard of Mrs. Hall’s carpet. And from it he began to produce bottles, –little fat bottles containing powders, small and slender bottles containing coloured and white fluids, fluted blue bottles labeled Poison, bottles with round bodies and slender necks, large green-glass bottles, large white-glass bottles, bottles with glass stoppers and frosted labels, bottles with fine corks, bottles with bungs, bottles with wooden caps, wine bottles, salad-oil bottles, –putting them in rows on the chiffonier, on the mantel, on the table under the window, round the floor, on the bookshelf, –everywhere. The chemist’s shop in Bramblehurst could not boast half so many. Quite a sight it was. Crate after crate yielded bottles, until all six were empty and the table high with straw; the only things that came out of these crates besides the bottles were a number of test-tubes and a carefully packed balance.

And directly the crates were unpacked, the stranger went to the window and set to work, not troubling in the least about the litter of straw, the fire which had gone out, the box of books outside, nor for the trunks and other luggage that had gone upstairs. When Mrs. Hall took his dinner in to him, he was already so absorbed in his work, pouring little drops out of the bottles into test-tubes, that he did not hear her until she had swept away the bulk of the straw and put the tray on the table, with some little emphasis perhaps, seeing the state that the floor was in. Then he half turned his head and immediately turned it away again. But she saw he had removed his glasses; they were beside him on the table, and it seemed to her that his eye sockets were extraordinarily hollow. He put on his spectacles again, and then turned and faced her. She was about to complain of the straw on the floor when he anticipated her.

“I wish you wouldn’t come in without knocking,” he said in the tone of abnormal exasperation that seemed so characteristic of him.

“I knocked, but seemingly –”

“Perhaps you did. But in my investigations –my really very urgent and necessary investigations –the slightest disturbance, the jar of a door –I must ask you –”

“Certainly, sir. You can turn the lock if you’re like that, you know, –any time.”

“A very good idea,” said the stranger.

“This stror, sir, if I might make so bold as to remark –”

“Don’t. If the straw makes trouble put it down in the bill.” And he mumbled at her –words suspiciously like curses. He was so odd, standing there, so aggressive and explosive, bottle in one hand and test-tube in the other, that Mrs. Hall was quite alarmed. But she was a resolute woman.

“In which case, I should like to know, sir, what you consider –”

“A shilling. Put down a shilling. Surely a shilling ‘s enough?”

“So be it,” said Mrs. Hall, taking up the table-cloth and beginning to spread it over the table. “If you’re satisfied, of course –”

He turned and sat down, with his coat-collar towards her.

All the afternoon he worked with the door locked and, as Mrs. Hall testifies, for the most part in silence. But once there was a concussion and a sound of bottles ringing together as though the table had been hit, and the smash of a bottle flung violently down, and then a rapid pacing athwart the room. Fearing “something was the matter,” she went to the door and listened, not caring to knock.

“I can’t go on,” he was raving. “I can’t go on. Three hundred thousand, four hundred thousand! The huge multitude! Cheated! All my life it may take met Patience! Patience indeed! Fool and liar!”

There was a noise of hobnails on the bricks in the bar, and Mrs. Hall had very reluctantly to leave the rest of his soliloquy. When she returned the room was silent again, save for the faint crepitation of his chair and the occasional clink of a bottle. It was all over. The stranger had resumed work. When she took in his tea she saw broken glass in the corner of the room under the concave mirror, and a golden stain that had been carelessly wiped. She called attention to it.

“Put it down in the bill,” snapped her visitor. “For God’s sake don’t worry me. If there’s damage done, put it down in the bill;” and he went on ticking a list in the exercise book before him.

“I’ll tell you something,” said Fearenside, mysteriously. It was late in the afternoon, and they were in the little beer-shop of Iping Hanger.

“Well?” said Teddy Henfrey.

“This chap you’re speaking of, what my dog bit. Well –he’s black. Leastways, his legs are. I seed through the tear of his trousers and the tear of his glove. You’d have expected a sort of pinky to show, wouldn’t you? Well –there wasn’t none. just blackness. I tell you, he’s as black as my hat.”

“My sakes!” said Henfrey. “It’s a rummy case altogether. Why, his nose is as pink as paint!”

“That’s true,” said Fearenside. “I knows that. And I tell ee what I’m thinking. That marn’s a piebald, Teddy. Black here and white there –in patches. And he’s ashamed of it. He’s a kind of half-breed, and the colour’s come off patchy instead of mixing. I’ve heard of such things before. And it’s the common way with horses, as any one can see.” 4. Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger

I have told the circumstances of the stranger’s arrival in Iping with a certain fulness of detail, in order that the curious impression he created may be understood by the reader. But excepting two odd incidents, the circumstances of his stay until the extraordinary day of the Club Festival may be passed over very cursorily. There were a number of skirmishes with Mrs. Hall on matters of domestic discipline, but in every case until late in April, when the first signs of penury began, he over-rode her by the easy expedient of an extra payment. Hall did not like him, and whenever he dared he talked of the advisability of getting rid of him; but he showed his dislike chiefly by concealing it ostentatiously, and avoiding his visitor as much as possible. “Wait till the summer,” said Mrs. Hall, sagely, “when the artisks are beginning to come. Then we’ll see. He may be a bit overbearing, but bills settled punctual is bills settled punctual, whatever you like to say.” The stranger did not go to church, and indeed made no difference between Sunday and the irreligious days, even in costume. He worked, as Mrs. Hall thought, very fitfully. Some days he would come down early and be continuously busy. On others he would rise late, pace his room, fretting audibly for hours together, smoke, sleep in the arm-chair by the fire. Communication with the world beyond the village he had none. His temper continued very uncertain; for the most part his manner was that of a man suffering under almost unendurable provocation, and once or twice things were snapped, torn, crushed, or broken in spasmodic gusts of violence. He seemed under a chronic irritation of the greatest intensity. His habit of talking to himself in a low voice grew steadily upon him, but though Mrs. Hall listened conscientiously she could make neither head nor tail of what she heard.

He rarely went abroad by daylight, but at twilight he would go out muffled up invisibly, whether the weather were cold or not, and he chose the loneliest paths and those most overshadowed by trees and banks. His goggling spectacles and ghastly bandaged face under the penthouse of his hat, came with a disagreeable suddenness out of the darkness upon one or two home-going labourers, and Teddy Henfrey, tumbling out of the Scarlet Coat one night, at half-past nine, was scared shamefully by the stranger’s skull-like head (he was walking hat in hand) lit by the sudden light of the opened inn door. Such children as saw him at nightfall dreamt of bogies, and it seemed doubtful whether he disliked boys more than they disliked him, or the reverse, –but there was certainly a vivid dislike enough on either side.

It was inevitable that a person of so remarkable an appearance and bearing should form a frequent topic in such a village as Iping. Opinion was greatly divided about his occupation. Mrs. Hall was sensitive on the point. When questioned, she explained very carefully that he was an “experimental investigator,” going gingerly over the syllables as one who dreads pitfalls. When asked what an experimental investigator was, she would say with a touch of superiority that most educated people knew such things as that, and would thus explain that he “discovered things.” Her visitor had had an accident, she said, which temporarily discoloured his face and hands, and being of a sensitive disposition, he was averse to any public notice of the fact.

Out of her hearing there was a view largely entertained that he was a criminal trying to escape from justice by wrapping himself up so as to conceal himself altogether from the eye of the police. This idea sprang from the brain of Mr. Teddy Henfrey. No crime of any magnitude dating from the middle or end of February was known to have occurred. Elaborated in the imagination of Mr. Gould, the probationary assistant in the National School, this theory took the form that the stranger was an Anarchist in disguise, preparing explosives, and he resolved to undertake such detective operations as his time permitted. These consisted for the most part in looking very hard at the stranger whenever they met, or in asking people who had never seen the stranger, leading questions about him. But he detected nothing.

Another school of opinion followed Mr. Fearenside, and either accepted the piebald view or some modification of it; as, for instance, Silas Durgan, who was heard to assert that “if he choses to show enself at fairs he’d make his fortune in no time,” and being a bit of a theologian, compared the stranger to the man with the one talent. Yet another view explained the entire matter by regarding the stranger as a harmless lunatic. That had the advantage of accounting for everything straight away.

Between these main groups there were waverers and compromisers. Sussex folk have few superstitions, and it was only after the events of early April that the thought of the supernatural was first whispered in the village. Even there it was only credited among the women folks.

But whatever they thought of him, people in Iping, on the whole, agreed in disliking him. His irritability, though it might have been comprehensible to an urban brain-worker, was an amazing thing to these quiet Sussex villagers. The frantic gesticulations they surprised now and then, the headlong pace after nightfall that swept him upon them round quiet corners, the inhuman bludgeoning of all the tentative advances of curiosity, the taste for twilight that led to the closing of doors, the pulling down of blinds, the extinction of candles and lamps, –who could agree with such goings on? They drew aside as he passed down the village, and when he had gone by, young humourists would up with coat-collars and down with hat-brims, and go pacing nervously after him in imitation of his occult bearing. There was a song popular at that time called the “Bogey Man”; Miss Statchell sang it at the schoolroom concert (in aid of the church lamps), and thereafter whenever one or two of the villagers were gathered together and the stranger appeared, a bar or so of this tune, more or less sharp or flat, was whistled in the midst of them. Also belated little children would call “Bogey Man!” after him, and make off tremendously elated.

Cuss, the general practitioner, was devoured by curiosity. The bandages excited his professional interest, the report of the thousand and one bottles aroused his jealous regard. All through April and May he coveted an opportunity of talking to the stranger, and at last, towards Whitsuntide, he could stand it no longer, but hit upon the subscription-list for a village nurse as an excuse. He was surprised to find that Mr. Hall did not know his guest’s name. “He give a name,” said Mrs. Hall, –an assertion which was quite unfounded, –“but I didn’t rightly hear it.” She thought it seemed so silly not to know the man’s name.

Cuss rapped at the parlour door and entered. There was a fairly audible imprecation from within. “Pardon my intrusion,” said Cuss, and then the door closed and cut Mrs. Hall off from the rest of the conversation.

She could hear the murmur of voices for the next ten minutes, then a cry of surprise, a stirring of feet, a chair flung aside, a bark of laughter, quick steps to the door, and Cuss appeared, his face white, his eyes staring over his shoulder. He left the door open behind him, and without looking at her strode across the hall and went down the steps, and she heard his feet hurrying along the road. He carried his hat in his hand. She stood behind the door, looking at the open door of the parlour. Then she heard the stranger laughing quietly, and then his footsteps came across the room. She could not see his face where she stood. The parlour door slammed, and the place was silent again.

Cuss went straight up the village to Bunting the vicar. “Am I mad?” Cuss began abruptly, as he entered the shabby little study. “Do I look like an insane person?”

“What’s happened” said the vicar, putting the ammonite on the loose sheets of his forth-coming sermon.

“That chap at the inn –”

“Well?”

“Give me something to drink,” said Cuss, and he sat down.

When his nerves had been steadied by a glass of cheap sherry, –the only drink the good vicar had available, –he told him of the interview he had just had. “Went in,” he gasped, “and began to demand a subscription for that Nurse Fund. He’d stuck his hands in his pockets as I came in, and he sat down lumpily in his chair. Sniffed. I told him I’d heard he took an interest in scientific things. He said yes. Sniffed again. Kept on sniffing all the time; evidently recently caught an infernal cold. No wonder, wrapped up like that!

I developed the nurse idea, and all the while kept my eyes open. Bottles –chemicals –everywhere. Balance, test-tubes in stands, and a smell of –evening primrose. Would he subscribe? Said he’d consider it. Asked him, point-blank, was he researching. Said he was. A long research? Got quite cross. ‘A damnable long research,’ said he, blowing the cork out, so to speak. ‘Oh,’ said I. And out came the grievance. The man was just on the boil, and my question boiled him over. He had been given a prescription, most valuable prescription –what for he wouldn’t say. Was it medical? ‘Damn you! What are you fishing after?’ I apologised. Dignified sniff and cough. He resumed. He’d read it. Five ingredients. Put it down; turned his head. Draught of air from window lifted the paper. Swish, rustle. He was working in a room with an open fireplace, he said. Saw a flicker, and there was the prescription burning and lifting chimneyward. Rushed towards it just as it whisked up chimney. So! Just at that point, to illustrate his story, out came his arm.”

“Well?”

No hand, –just an empty sleeve. Lord! I thought, that’s a deformity! Got a cork arm, I suppose, and has taken it off. Then, I thought, there’s something odd in that. What the devil keeps that sleeve up and open, if there’s nothing in it? There was nothing in it, I tell you. Nothing down it, right down to the joint. I could see right down it to the elbow, and there was a glimmer of light shining through a tear of the cloth. ‘Good God!’ I said. Then he stopped. Stared at me with those black goggles of his, and then at his sleeve.”

“Well?”

“That’s all. He never said a word; just glared, and put his sleeve back in his pocket quickly. ‘I was saying,’ said he, ‘that there was the prescription burning, wasn’t I?’

Interrogative cough. ‘How the devil,’ said I, ‘can you move an empty sleeve like that?’

‘Empty sleeve?’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘an empty sleeve.’

“‘It’s an empty sleeve, is it? You saw it was an empty sleeve?’ He stood up right away. I stood up too. He came towards me in three very slow steps, and stood quite close. Sniffed venomously. I didn’t flinch, though I’m hanged if that bandaged knob of his, and those blinkers, aren’t enough to unnerve any one, coming quietly up to you.

“‘You said it was an empty sleeve?’ he said. ‘Certainly,’ I said. At staring and saying nothing a barefaced man, unspectacled, starts scratch. Then very quietly he pulled his sleeve out of his pocket again, and raised his arm towards me as though he would show it to me again. He did it very, very slowly. I looked at it. Seemed an age. ‘Well?’ said I, clearing my throat, ‘there’s nothing in it.’ Had to say something. I was beginning to feel frightened. I could see right down it. He extended it straight towards me, slowly, slowly, – just like that, –until the cuff was six inches from my face. Queer thing to see an empty sleeve come at you like that! And then –”

“Well?”

“Something –exactly like a finger and thumb it felt –nipped my nose.” Bunting began to laugh.

“There wasn’t anything there!” said Cuss, his voice running up into a shriek at the

“there.” It’s all very well for you to laugh, but I tell you I was so startled, I hit his cuff hard, and turned round, and cut out of the room –I left him –”

Cuss stopped. There was no mistaking the sincerity of his panic. He turned round in a helpless way and took a second glass of the excellent vicar’s very inferior sherry. “When I hit his cuff,” said Cuss, “I tell you, it felt exactly like hitting an arm. And there wasn’t an arm! There wasn’t the ghost of an arm!”

Mr. Bunting thought it over. He looked suspiciously at Cuss. “It’s a most remarkable story,” he said. He looked very wise and grave indeed. “It’s really,” said Mr. Bunting with judicial emphasis, “a most remarkable story.”

  1. The Burglary at the Vicarage

The facts of the burglary at the vicarage came to us chiefly through the medium of the vicar and his wife. It occurred in the small hours of Whit-Monday, –the day devoted in Iping to the Club festivities. Mrs. Bunting, it seems, woke up suddenly in the stillness that comes before the dawn, with the strong impression that the door of their bedroom had opened and closed. She did not arouse her husband at first, but sat up in bed listening. She then distinctly heard the pad, pad, pad of bare feet coming out of the adjoining dressing-room and walking along the passage towards the staircase. As soon as she felt assured of this, she aroused the Rev. Mr. Bunting as quietly as possible. He did not strike a light, but putting on his spectacles, her dressing-gown and his bath slippers, he went out on the landing to listen. He heard quite distinctly a fumbling going on at his study desk down-stairs, and then a violent sneeze.

At that he returned to his bedroom, armed himself with the most obvious weapon, the poker, and descended the staircase as noiselessly as possible. Mrs. Bunting came out on the landing.

The hour was about four, and the ultimate darkness of the night was past. There was a faint shimmer of light in the hall, but the study doorway yawned impenetrably black. Everything was still except the faint creaking of the stairs under Mr. Bunting’s tread, and the slight movements in the study. Then something snapped, the drawer was opened, and there was a rustle of papers. Then came an imprecation, and a match was struck and the study was flooded with yellow light. Mr. Bunting was now in the hall, and through the crack of the door he could see the desk and the open drawer and a candle burning on the desk. But the robber he could not see. He stood there in the hall undecided what to do, and Mrs. Bunting, her face white and intent, crept slowly downstairs after him. One thing kept Mr. Bunting’s courage: the persuasion that this burglar was a resident in the village. They heard the chink of money, and realised that the robber had found the housekeeping reserve of gold, –two pounds ten in half-sovereigns altogether. At that sound Mr. Bunting was nerved to abrupt action. Gripping the poker firmly, he rushed into the room, closely followed by Mrs. Bunting. “Surrender!” cried Mr. Bunting, fiercely, and then stooped amazed. Apparently the room was perfectly empty.

Yet their conviction that they had, that very moment, heard somebody moving in the room had amounted to a certainty. For half a minute, perhaps, they stood gaping, then Mrs. Bunting went across the room and looked behind the screen, while Mr. Bunting, by a kindred impulse, peered under the desk. Then Mrs. Bunting turned back the windowcurtains, and Mr. Bunting looked up the chimney and probed it with the poker. Then Mrs. Bunting scrutinised the waste-paper basket and Mr. Bunting opened the lid of the coalscuttle. Then they came to a stop and stood with eyes interrogating each other.

“I could have sworn –” said Mr. Bunting.

“The candle!” said Mr. Bunting. “Who lit the candle?”

“The drawer!” said Mrs. Bunting. “And the money’s gone!” She went hastily to the doorway.

“Of all the extraordinary occurrences –”

There was a violent sneeze in the passage. They rushed out, and as they did so the kitchen door slammed. “Bring the candle,” said Mr. Bunting, and led the way. They both heard a sound of bolts being hastily shot back.

As he opened the kitchen door he saw through the scullery that the back door was just opening, and the faint light of early dawn displayed the dark masses of the garden beyond. He is certain that nothing went out of the door. It opened, stood open for a moment, and then closed with a slam. As it did so, the candle Mrs. Bunting was carrying from the study flickered and flared. It was a minute or more before they entered the kitchen.

The place was empty. They refastened the back door, examined the kitchen, pantry, and scullery thoroughly, and at last went down into the cellar. There was not a soul to be found in the house, search as they would.

Daylight found the vicar and his wife, a quaintly-costumed little couple, still marvelling about on their own ground floor by the unnecessary light of a guttering candle.

  1. The Furniture that Went Mad

Now it happened that in the early hours of Whit-Monday, before Millie was hunted out for the day, Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall both rose and went noiselessly down into the cellar. Their business there was of a private nature, and had something to do with the specific gravity of their beer. They had hardly entered the cellar when Mrs. Hall found she had forgotten to bring down a bottle of sarsaparilla from their joint-room. As she was the expert and principal operator in this affair, Hall very properly went upstairs for it. On the landing he was surprised to see that the stranger’s door was ajar. He went on into his own room and found the bottle as he had been directed.

But returning with the bottle, he noticed that the bolts of the front door had been shot back, that the door was in fact simply on the latch. And with a flash of inspiration he connected this with the stranger’s room upstairs and the suggestions of Mr. Teddy Henfrey. He distinctly remembered holding the candle while Mrs. Hall shot these bolts overnight. At the sight he stopped, gaping, then with the bottle still in his hand went upstairs again. He rapped at the stranger’s door. There was no answer. He rapped again; then pushed the door wide open and entered.

It was as he expected. The bed, the room also, was empty. And what was stranger, even to his heavy intelligence, on the bedroom chair and along the rail of the bed were scattered the garments, the only garments so far as he knew, and the bandages of their guest. His big slouch hat even was cocked jauntily over the bed-post.

As Hall stood there he heard his wife’s voice coming out of the depth of the cellar, with that rapid telescoping of the syllables and interrogative cocking up of the final words to a high note, by which the West Sussex villager is wont to indicate a brisk impatience.

“Gearge! You gart what a wand?”

At that he turned and hurried down to her. “Janny,” he said, over the rail of the cellar steps, “‘tas the truth what Henfrey sez. ‘E’s not in uz room, ‘e ent. And the front door’s unbolted.”

At first Mrs. Hall did not understand, and as soon as she did she resolved to see the empty room for herself. Hall, still holding the bottle, went first. “If ‘e ent there,” he said,

“his close are. And what’s ‘e doin’ without his close, then? ‘Tas a most curious basness.” As they came up the cellar steps, they both, it was afterwards ascertained, fancied they heard the front door open and shut, but seeing it closed and nothing there, neither said a word to the other about it at the time. Mrs. Hall passed her husband in the passage and ran on first upstairs. Some one sneezed on the staircase. Hall, following six steps behind, thought that he heard her sneeze. She, going on first, was under the impression that Hall was sneezing. She flung open the door and stood regarding the room. “Of all the curious!” she said.

She heard a sniff close behind her head as it seemed, and turning, was surprised to see Hall a dozen feet off on the topmost stair. But in another moment he was beside. her. She bent forward and put her hand on the pillow and then under the clothes.

“Cold,” she said. “He’s been up this hour or more.” As she did so, a most extraordinary thing happened, –the bed-clothes gathered themselves together, leapt up suddenly into a sort of peak, and then jumped headlong over the bottom rail. It was exactly as if a hand had clutched them in the centre and flung them aside. Immediately after, the stranger’s hat hopped off the bed-post described a whirling flight in the air through the better part of a circle, and then dashed straight at Mrs. Hall’s face. Then as swiftly came the sponge from the washstand; and then the chair, flinging the stranger’s coat and trousers carelessly aside, and laughing drily in a voice singularly like the stranger’s, turned itself up with its four legs at Mrs. Hall, seemed to take aim at her for a moment, and charged at her. She screamed and turned, and then the chair legs came gently but firmly against her back and impelled her and Hall out of the room. The door slammed violently and was locked. The chair and bed seemed to be executing a dance of triumph for a moment, and then abruptly everything was still. Mrs. Hall was left almost in a fainting condition in Mr. Hall’s arms on the landing. It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr. Hall and Millie, who had been roused by her scream of alarm, succeeded in getting her downstairs, and applying the restoratives customary in these cases.

“‘Tas sperits,” said Mrs. Hall. “I know ‘tas sperits. I’ve read in papers of en. Tables and chairs leaping and dancing! –”

“Take a drop more, Janny,” said Hall. “‘T will steady ye.”

“Lock him out,” said Mrs. Hall. “Don’t let him come in again. I half guessed –I might ha’ known. With them goggling eyes and bandaged head, and never going to church of a Sunday. And all they bottles –more’n it’s right for any one to have. He’s put the sperits into the furniture. –My good old furniture! ‘Twas in that very chair my poor dear mother used to sit when I was a little girl. To think it should rise up against me now!”

“Just a drop more, Janny,” said Hall. “Your nerves is all upset.” They sent Millie across the street through the golden five o’clock sunshine to rouse up Mr. Sandy Wadgers, the blacksmith. Mr. Hall’s compliments and the furniture upstairs was behaving most extraordinary. Would Mr. Wadgers come round? He was a knowing man, was Mr. Wadgers, and very resourceful. He took quite a grave view of the case.

“Arm darmed ef thet ent witchcraft,” was the view of Mr. Sandy Wadgers. “You warnt horseshoes for such gentry as he.”

He came round greatly concerned. They wanted him to lead the way upstairs to the room, but he didn’t seem to be in any hurry. He preferred to talk in the passage. Over the way Huxter’s apprentice came out and began taking down the shutters of the tobacco window. He was called over to join the discussion. Mr. Huxter naturally followed over in the course of a few minutes. The Anglo-Saxon genius for parliamentary government asserted itself; there was a great deal of talk and no decisive action. “Let’s have the facts first,” insisted Mr. Sandy Wadgers. “Let’s be sure we’d be acting perfectly right in bustin’

that there door open. A door onbust is always open to bustin’, but ye can’t onbust a door once you’ve busted en.”

And suddenly and most wonderfully the door of the room upstairs opened of its own accord, and as they looked up in amazement, they saw descending the stairs the muffled figure of the stranger staring more blackly and blankly than ever with those unreasonably large blue glass eyes of his. He came down stiffly and slowly, staring all the time; he walked across the passage staring, then stopped.

“Look there!” he said, and their eyes followed the direction of his gloved finger and saw a bottle of sarsaparilla hard by the cellar door. Then he entered the parlour, and suddenly, swiftly, viciously, slammed the door in their faces.

Not a word was spoken until the last echoes of the slam had died away. They stared at one another. “Well, if that don’t lick everything!” said Mr. Wadgers, and left the alternative unsaid.

“I’d go in and ask’n ’bout it,” said Wadgers, to Mr. Hall. “I’d demand an explanation.” It took some time to bring the landlady’s husband up to that pitch. At last he rapped, opened the door, and got as far as, “Excuse me –”

“Go to the devil!” said the stranger in a tremendous voice, and “Shut that door after you.” So that brief interview terminated.

  1. The Unveiling of the Stranger

The stranger went into the little parlour of the Coach and Horses about half-past five in the morning, and there he remained until near midday, the blinds down, the door shut, and none, after Hall’s repulse, venturing near him.

All that time he must have fasted. Thrice he rang his bell, the third time furiously and continuously, but no one answered him. “Him and his ‘go to the devil’ indeed!” said Mrs. Hall. Presently came an imperfect rumour of the burglary at the vicarage, and two and two were put together. Hall, assisted by Wadgers, went off to find Mr. Shuckleforth, the magistrate, and take his advice. No one ventured upstairs. How the stranger occupied himself is unknown. Now and then he would stride violently up and down, and twice came an outburst of curses, a tearing of paper, and a violent smashing of bottles. The little group of scared but curious people increased. Mrs. Huxter came over; some gay young fellows resplendent in black ready-made jackets and pique paper ties, for it was Whit-Monday, joined the group with confused interrogations. Young Archie Harker distinguished himself by going up the yard and trying to peep under the window-blinds. He could see nothing, but gave reason for supposing that he did, and others of the Iping youth presently joined him.

It was the finest of all possible Whit-Mondays, and down the village street stood a row of nearly a dozen booths, a shooting gallery, and on the grass by the forge were three yellow and chocolate waggons and some picturesque strangers of both sexes putting up a cocoa-nut shy. The gentlemen wore blue jerseys, the ladies white aprons and quite fashionable hats with heavy plumes. Wodger, of the Purple Fawn, and Mr. Jaggers, the cobbler, who also sold second-hand ordinary bicycles, were stretching a string of unionjacks and royal ensigns (which had originally celebrated the jubilee) across the road…. And inside, in the artificial darkness of the parlour, into which only one thin jet of sunlight penetrated, the stranger, hungry we must suppose, and fearful, hidden in his uncomfortable hot wrappings, pored through his dark glasses upon his paper or chinked his dirty little bottles, and occasionally swore savagely at the boys, audible if invisible, outside the windows. In the corner by the fireplace lay the fragments of half a dozen smashed bottles, and a pungent twang of chlorine tainted the air. So much we know from what was heard at the time and from what was subsequently seen in the room. About noon he suddenly opened his parlour door and stood glaring fixedly at the three or four people in the bar. “Mrs. Hall,” he said. Somebody went sheepishly and called for Mrs. Hall.

Mrs. Hall appeared after an interval, a little short of breath, but all the fiercer for that. Hall was still out. She had deliberated over this scene, and she came holding a little tray with an unsettled bill upon it. “Is it your bill you’re wanting, sir?” she said.

“Why wasn’t my breakfast laid? Why haven’t you prepared my meals and answered my bell? Do you think I live without eating?”

“Why isn’t my bill paid?” said Mrs. Hall. “That’s what I want to know.”

“I told you three days ago I was awaiting a remittance –”

“I told you two days ago I wasn’t going to await no remittances. You can’t grumble if your breakfast waits a bit, if my bill’s been waiting these five days, can you?” The stranger swore briefly but vividly.

“Nar, nar!” from the bar.

“And I’d thank you kindly, sir, if you’d keep your swearing to yourself, sir,” said Mrs. Hall.

The stranger stood looking more like an angry diving-helmet than ever. It was universally felt in the bar that Mrs. Hall had the better of him. His next words showed as much.

“Look here, my good woman –” he began.

“Don’t good woman me,” said Mrs. Hall.

“I’ve told you my remittance hasn’t come –”

“Remittance indeed!” said Mrs. Hall.

“Still, I daresay in my pocket –”

“You told me two days ago that you hadn’t anything but a sovereign’s worth of silver upon you.

“Well, I’ve found some more –”

“Ul-lo!” from the bar.

“I wonder where you found it?” said Mrs. Hall.

That seemed to annoy the stranger very much. He stamped his foot. “What do you mean?” he said.

“That I wonder where you found it,” said Mrs. Hall. “And before I take any bills or get any breakfasts, or do any such things whatsoever, you got to tell me one or two things I don’t understand, and what nobody don’t understand, and what everybody is very anxious to understand. I want know what you been doing t’ my chair upstairs, and I want know how ‘t is your room was empty, and how you got in again. Them as stops in this house comes in by the doors, –that’s the rule of the house, and that you didn’t do, and what I want know is how you did come in. And I want know –”

Suddenly the stranger raised his gloved hands clenched, stamped his foot, and said,

“Stop!” with such extraordinary violence that he silenced her instantly.

“You don’t understand,” he said, “who I am or what I am. I’ll show you. By heaven!

I’ll show you.” Then he put his open palm over his face and withdrew it. The centre of his face became a black cavity. “Here,” he said. He stepped forward and handed Mrs. Hall something which she, staring at his metamorphosed face, accepted automatically. Then, when she saw what it was, she screamed loudly, dropped it, and staggered back. The nose

–it was the stranger’s nose! pink and shining –rolled on the floor.

Then he removed his spectacles, and every one in the bar gasped. He took off his hat, and with a violent gesture tore at his whiskers and bandages. For a moment they resisted him. A flash of horrible anticipation passed through the bar. “Oh, my Gard!” said some one. Then off they came.

It was worse than anything. Mrs. Hall, standing open-mouthed and horror-struck, shrieked at what she saw, and made for the door of the house. Every one began to move. They were prepared for scars, disfigurements, tangible horrors, but nothing! The bandages and false hair flew across the passage into the bar, making a hobbledehoy jump to avoid them. Every one tumbled on every one else down the steps. For the man who stood there shouting some incoherent explanation, was a solid gesticulating figure up to the coat-collar of him, and then –nothingness, no visible thing at all!

People down the village heard shouts and shrieks, and looking up the street saw the Coach and Horses violently firing out its humanity. They saw Mrs. Hall fall down and Mr. Teddy Henfrey jump to avoid tumbling over her, and then they heard the frightful screams of Millie, who, emerging suddenly from the kitchen at the noise of the tumult, had come upon the headless stranger from behind. These ceased suddenly.

Forthwith every one all down the street, the sweetstuff seller, cocoa-nut shy proprietor and his assistant, the swing man, little boys and girls, rustic dandies, smart wenches, smocked elders and aproned gipsies, began running towards the inn, and in a miraculously short space of time a crowd of perhaps forty people, and rapidly increasing, swayed and hooted and inquired and exclaimed and suggested, in front of Mrs. Hall’s establishment. Every one seemed eager to talk at once, and the result was babel. A small group supported Mrs. Hall, who was picked up in a state of collapse. There was a conference, and the incredible evidence of a vociferous eye-witness. “O Bogey!” “What’s he been doin,’ then?” “Ain’t hurt the girl, ‘as ‘e?” “Run at en with a knife, I believe.” “No

‘ed, I tell ye. I don’t mean no manner of speaking, I mean marn ‘ithout a ‘ed!” “Narnsense!

‘tas some conjuring trick.” “Fetched off ‘is wrappin’s ‘e did –” In its struggles to see in through the open door, the crowd formed itself into a straggling wedge, with the more adventurous apex nearest the inn. “He stood for a moment, I heerd the gal scream, and he turned. I saw her skirts whisk, and he went after her. Didn’t take ten seconds. Back he comes with a knife in uz hand and a loaf; stood just as if he was staring. Not a moment ago. Went in that there door. I tell ‘e, ‘e ain’t gart no

‘ed ‘t all. You just missed en –”

There was a disturbance behind, and the speaker stopped to step aside for a little procession that was marching very resolutely towards the house, –first Mr. Hall, very red and determined, then Mr. Bobby Jaffers, the village constable, and then the wary Mr. Wadgers. The had come now armed with a warrant.

People shouted conflicting information of the recent circumstances. “‘Ed or no ‘ed,” said Jaffers, “I got to ‘rest en, and ‘rest en I will.”

Mr. Hall marched up the steps, marched straight to the door of the parlour and flung it open. “Constable,” he said, “do your duty.”

Jaffers marched in, Hall next, Wadgers last. They saw in the dim light the headless figure facing them, with a gnawed crust of bread in one gloved hand and a chunk of cheese in the other.

“That’s him!” said Hall.

“What the devil’s this?” came in a tone of angry expostulation from above the collar of the figure.

“You’re a damned rum customer, mister,” said Mr. Jaffers. “But ‘ed or no ‘ed, the warrant says ‘body,’ and duty’s duty –”

“Keep off!” said the figure, starting back.

Abruptly he whipped down the bread and cheese, and Mr. Hall just grasped the knife on the table in time to save it. Off came the stranger’s left glove and was slapped in Jaffers’ face. In another moment Jaffers, cutting short some statement concerning a warrant, had gripped him by the handless wrist and caught his invisible throat. He got a sounding kick on the shin that made him shout, but he kept his grip. Hall sent the knife sliding along the table to Wadgers, who acted as goal-keeper for the offensive, so to speak, and then stepped forward as Jaffers and the stranger swayed and staggered towards him, clutching and hitting in. A chair stood in the way, and went aside with a crash as they came down together.

“Get the feet,” said Jaffers between his teeth.

Mr. Hall, endeavouring to act on instructions, received a sounding kick in the ribs that disposed of him for a moment, and Mr. Wadgers, seeing the decapitated stranger had rolled over and got the upper side of Jaffers, retreated towards the door, knife in hand, and so collided with Mr. Huxter and the Siddermorton carter coming to the rescue of law and order. At the same moment down came three or four bottles from the chiffonnier and shot a web of pungency into the air of the room.

“I’ll surrender,” cried the stranger, though he had Jaffers down, and in another moment he stood up panting, a strange figure, headless and handless, –for he had pulled off his right glove now as well as his left. “It’s no good,” he said, as if sobbing for breath. It was the strangest thing in the world to hear that voice coming as if out of empty space, but the Sussex peasants are perhaps the most matter-of-fact people under the sun. Jaffers got up also and produced a pair of handcuffs. Then he started.

“I say!” said Jaffers, brought up short by a dim realisation of the incongruity of the whole business, “Darm it! Can’t use ’em as I can see.”

The stranger ran his arm down his waistcoat, and as if by a miracle the buttons to which his empty sleeve pointed became undone. Then he said something about his shin, and stooped down. He seemed to be fumbling with his shoes and socks.

“Why!” said Huxter, suddenly, “that’s not a man at all. It’s just empty clothes. Look!

You can see down his collar and the linings of his clothes. I could put my arm –” He extended his hand; it seemed to meet something in mid-air, and he drew it back with a sharp exclamation. “I wish you’d keep your fingers out of my eye,” said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage expostulation. “The fact is, I’m all here: head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I’m invisible. It’s a confounded nuisance, but I am. That’s no reason why I should he poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?” The suit of clothes, now all unbuttoned and hanging loosely upon its unseen supports, stood up, arms akimbo.

Several other of the men folks had now entered the room, so that it was closely crowded. “Invisible, eigh?” said Huxter, ignoring the stranger’s abuse. “Who ever heard the likes of that?”

“It’s strange, perhaps, but it’s not a crime. Why am I assaulted by a policeman in this fashion?”

“Ah! that’s a different matter,” said Jaffers. “No doubt you are a bit difficult to see in this light, but I got a warrant and it’s all correct. What I’m after ain’t no invisibility, –it’s burglary. There’s a house been broken into and money took.”

“Well?”

“And circumstances certainly point –”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said the Invisible Man.

“I hope so, sir; but I’ve got my instructions.”

“Well,” said the stranger, “I’ll come. I’ll come. But no handcuffs.”

“It’s the regular thing,” said Jaffers.

“No handcuffs,” stipulated the stranger.

“Pardon me,” said Jaffers.

Abruptly the figure sat down, and before any one could realise what was being done, the slippers, socks, and trousers had been kicked off under the table. Then he sprang up again and flung off his coat.

“Here, stop that,” said Jaffers, suddenly realising what was happening. He gripped the waistcoat; it struggled, and the shirt slipped out of it and left it limp and empty in his hand. “Hold him!” said Jaffers, loudly. “Once he gets they things off –!”

“Hold him!” cried every one, and there was a rush at the fluttering white shirt which was now all that was visible of the stranger.

The shirt-sleeve planted a shrewd blow in Hall’s face that stopped his open-armed advance, and sent him backward into old Toothsome the sexton, and in another moment the garment was lifted up and became convulsed and vacantly flapping about the arms, even as a shirt that is being thrust over a man’s head. Jaffers clutched at it, and only helped to pull it off; he was struck in the mouth out of the air, and incontinently drew his truncheon and smote Teddy Henfrey savagely upon the crown of his head.

“Look out!” said everybody, fencing at random and hitting at nothing. “Hold him!

Shut the door! Don’t let him loose! I got something! Here he is!” A perfect babel of noises they made. Everybody, it seemed, was being hit all at once, and Sandy Wadgers, knowing as ever and his wits sharpened by a frightful blow in the nose, reopened the door and led the rout. The others, following incontinently, were jammed for a moment in the corner by the doorway. The hitting continued. Phipps, the Unitarian, had a front tooth broken, and Henfrey was injured in the cartilage of his ear. Jaffers was struck under the jaw, and, turning, caught at something that intervened between him and Huxter in the melee, and prevented their coming together. He felt a muscular chest, and in another moment the whole mass of struggling, excited men shot out into the crowded hall.

“I got him!” shouted Jaffers, choking and reeling through them all, and wrestling with purple face and swelling veins against his unseen enemy.

Men staggered right and left as the extraordinary conflict swayed swiftly towards the house door, and went spinning down the half-dozen steps of the inn. Jaffers cried in a strangled voice, –holding tight, nevertheless, and making play with his knee, –spun round, and fell heavily undermost with his head on the gravel. Only then did his fingers relax.

There were excited cries of “Hold him!” “Invisible!” and so forth, and a young fellow, a stranger in the place whose name did not come to light, rushed in at once, caught something, missed his hold, and fell over the constable’s prostrate body. Half-way across the road a woman screamed as something pushed by her; a dog, kicked apparently, yelped and ran howling into Huxter’s yard, and with that the transit of the Invisible Man was accomplished. For a space people stood amazed and gesticulating, and then came Panic, and scattered them abroad through the village as a gust scatters dead leaves. But Jaffers lay quite still, face upward and knees bent.

  1. In Transit

The eighth chapter is exceedingly brief, and relates that Gibbins, the amateur naturalist of the district, while lying out on the spacious open downs without a soul within a couple of miles of him, as he thought, and almost dozing, heard close to him the sound as of a man coughing, sneezing, and then swearing savagely to himself; and looking, beheld nothing. Yet the voice was indisputable. It continued to swear with that breadth and variety that distinguishes the swearing of a cultivated man. It grew to a climax, diminished again, and died away in the distance, going as it seemed to him in the direction of Adderdean. It lifted to a spasmodic sneeze and ended. Gibbins had heard nothing of the morning’s occurrences, but the phenomenon was so striking and disturbing that his philosophical tranquillity vanished; he got up hastily, and hurried down the steepness of the hill towards the village, as fast as he could go.

  1. Mr. Thomas Marvel

You must picture Mr. Thomas Marvel as a person of copious, flexible visage, a nose of cylindrical protrusion, a liquorish, ample, fluctuating mouth, and a beard of bristling eccentricity. His figure inclined to embonpoint; his short limbs accentuated this inclination. He wore a furry silk hat, and the frequent substitution of twine and shoe-laces for buttons, apparent at critical points of his costume, marked a man essentially bachelor. Mr. Thomas Marvel was sitting with his feet in a ditch by the roadside over the down towards Adderdean, about a mile and a half out of Iping. His feet, save for socks of irregular open-work, were bare, his big toes were broad, and pricked like the ears of a watchful dog. In a leisurely manner –he did everything in a leisurely manner –he was contemplating trying on a pair of boots. They were the soundest boots he had come across for a long time, but too large for him; whereas the ones he had were, in dry weather, a very comfortable fit, but too thin-soled for damp. Mr. Thomas Marvel hated roomy shoes, but then he hated damp. He had never properly thought out which he hated most, and it was a pleasant day, and there was nothing better to do. So he put the four shoes in a graceful group on the turf and looked at them. And seeing them there among the grass and springing agrimony, it suddenly occurred to him that both pairs were exceedingly ugly to see. He was not at all startled by a voice behind him.

“They’re boots, anyhow,” said the voice.

“They are –charity boots,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with his head on one side regarding them distastefully; “and which is the ugliest pair in the whole blessed universe, I’m darned if I know!”

“H’m,” said the voice.

“I’ve worn worse, –in fact, I’ve worn none. But none so owdacious ugly, –if you’ll allow the expression. I’ve been cadging boots –in particular –for days. Because I was sick of them. They’re sound enough, of course. But a gentleman on tramp sees such a thundering lot of his boots. And if you’ll believe me, I’ve raised nothing in the whole blessed county, try as I would, but THEM. Look at ’em! And a good county for boots, too, in a general way. But it’s just my promiscuous luck. I’ve got my boots in this county ten years or more. And then they treat you like this.”

“It’s a beast of a county,” said the voice. “And pigs for people.”

“Ain’t it?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel. “Lord! But them boots! It beats it.” He turned his head over his shoulder to the right, to look at the boots of his interlocutor with a view to comparisons, and lo! where the boots of his interlocutor should have been were neither legs nor boots. He was irradiated by the dawn of a great amazement. “Where are yer?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel over his shoulder and coming on all fours. He saw a stretch of empty downs with the wind swaying the remote greenpointed furze bushes.

“Am I drunk?” said Mr. Marvel. “Have I had visions? Was I talking to myself? What the –”

“Don’t be alarmed,” said a voice.

“None of your ventriloquising me,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rising sharply to his feet. “Where are yer? Alarmed, indeed!”

“Don’t be alarmed,” repeated the voice.

“You’ll be alarmed in a minute, you silly fool,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel. “Where are yer? Lemme get my mark on yer –“Are you buried?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, after an interval. There was no answer. Mr. Thomas Marvel stood bootless and amazed, his jacket nearly thrown off.

“Peewit,” said a peewit, very remote.

“Peewit, indeed!” said Mr. Thomas Marvel. “This ain’t no time for foolery.” The down was desolate, east and west, north and south; the road with its shallow ditches and white bordering stakes, ran smooth and empty north and south, and, save for that peewit, the blue sky was empty too. “So help me,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, shuffling his coat on to his shoulders again. “It’s the drink! I might ha’ known.”

“It’s not the drink,” said the voice. “You keep your nerves steady.”

“Ow!” said Mr. Marvel, and his face grew white amidst its patches. “It’s the drink!” his lips repeated noiselessly. He remained staring about him, rotating slowly backwards. “I could have swore I heard a voice,” he whispered.

“Of course you did.”

“It’s there again,” said Mr. Marvel, closing his eyes and clasping his hand on his brow with a tragic gesture. He was suddenly taken by the collar and shaken violently, and left more dazed than ever. “Don’t be a fool,” said the voice.

“I’m –off –my –blooming –chump,” said Mr. Marvel. “It’s no good. It’s fretting about them blarsted boots. I’m off my blessed blooming chump. Or it’s spirits.”

“Neither one thing nor the other,” said the voice. “Listen!”

“Chump,” said Mr. Marvel.

“One minute,” said the voice, penetratingly, –tremulous with self-control.

“Well?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, with a strange feeling of having been dug in the chest by a finger.

“You think I’m just imagination? just imagination?”

“What else can you be?” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Very well,” said the voice, in a tone of relief. “Then I’m going to throw flints at you till you think differently.”

“But where are yer?”

The voice made no answer. Whizz came a flint, apparently out of the air, and missed Mr. Marvel’s shoulder by a hair’s-breadth. Mr. Marvel, turning, saw a flint jerk up into the air, trace a complicated path, hang for a moment, and then fling at his feet with almost invisible rapidity. He was too amazed to dodge. Whizz it came, and ricochetted from a bare toe into the ditch. Mr. Thomas Marvel jumped a foot and howled aloud. Then he started to run, tripped over an unseen obstacle, and came head over heels into a sitting position.

“Now,” said the voice, as a third stone curved upward and hung in the air above the tramp. “Am I imagination?”

Mr. Marvel by way of reply struggled to his feet, and was immediately rolled over again. He lay quiet for a moment. “If you struggle any more,” said the voice, “I shall throw the flint at your head.”

“It’s a fair do,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel, sitting up, taking his wounded toe in hand and fixing his eye on the third missile. “I don’t understand it. Stones flinging themselves. Stones talking. Put yourself down. Rot away. I’m done.”

The third flint fell.

“It’s very simple,” said the voice. “I’m an invisible man.”

“Tell us something I don’t know,” said Mr. Marvel, gasping with pain. “Where you’ve hid –how you do it –I don’t know. I’m beat.”

“That’s all,” said the voice. “I’m invisible. That’s what I want you to understand.”

“Any one could see that. There is no need for you to be so confounded impatient, mister. Now then. Give us a notion. How are you hid?”

“I’m invisible. That’s the great point. And what I want you to understand is this –”

“But whereabouts?” interrupted Mr. Marvel.

“Here! Six yards in front of you.”

“Oh, come! I ain’t blind. You’ll be telling me next you’re just thin air. I’m not one of your ignorant tramps –”

“Yes, I am –thin air. You’re looking through me.”

“What! Ain’t there any stuff to you? Vox et –what is it? –jabber. Is it that?”

“I am just a human being –solid, needing food and drink, needing covering too –but I’m invisible. You see? Invisible. Simple idea. Invisible.”

“What, real like?”

“Yes, real.”

“Let’s have a hand of you,” said Marvel, “if you are real. It won’t be so darn out-ofthe-way like, then –Lord!” he said, “how you made me jump! –gripping me like that!” He felt the hand that had closed round his wrist with his disengaged fingers, and his fingers went timorously up the arm, patted a muscular chest, and explored a bearded face. Marvel’s face was astonishment.

“I’m dashed!” he said. “If this don’t beat cock-fighting! Most remarkable! –And there I can see a rabbit clean through you, ‘arf a mile away! Not a bit of you visible –except –” He scrutinised the apparently empty space keenly. “You ‘aven’t been eatin’ bread and cheese?” he asked, holding the invisible arm.

“You’re quite right, and it’s not quite assimilated into the system.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Marvel. “Sort of ghostly, though.”

“Of course, all this isn’t half so wonderful as you think.”

“It’s quite wonderful enough for my modest wants,” said Mr. Thomas Marvel.

“Howjer manage it! How the dooce is it done?”

“It’s too long a story. And besides –”

“I tell you, the whole business fair beats me,” said Mr. Marvel.

“What I want to say at present is this: I need help. I have come to that –I came upon you suddenly. I was wandering, mad with rage, naked, impotent. I could have murdered. And I saw you –”

“Lord!” said Mr. Marvel.

“I came up behind you –hesitated –went on –”

Mr. Marvel’s expression was eloquent.

” –then stopped. ‘Here,’ I said, ‘is an out-cast like myself. This is the man for me.’ So I turned back and came to you –you. And –”

“Lord!” said Mr. Marvel. “But I’m all in a dizzy. May I ask –How is it? And what you may be requiring in the way of help? –Invisible!”

“I want you to help me get clothes –and shelter –and then, with other things. I’ve left them long enough. If you won’t –well! But you will –must.”

“Look here,” said Mr. Marvel. “I’m too flabbergasted. Don’t knock me about any more. And leave me go. I must get steady a bit. And you’ve pretty near broken my toe. It’s all so unreasonable. Empty downs, empty sky. Nothing visible for miles except the bosom of Nature. And then comes a voice. A voice out of heaven! And stones! And a fist

–Lord!”

“Pull yourself together,” said the voice, “for you have to do the job I’ve chosen for you.”

Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks, and his eyes were round.

“I’ve chosen you,” said the voice. “You are the only man except some of those fools down there, who knows there is such a thing as an invisible man. You have to be my helper. Help me –and I will do great things for you. An invisible man is a man of power.” He stopped for a moment to sneeze violently.

“But if you betray me,” he said, “if you fail to do as I direct you –” He paused and tapped Mr. Marvel’s shoulder smartly. Mr. Marvel gave a yelp of terror at the touch. “I don’t want to betray you,” said Mr. Marvel, edging away from the direction of the fingers.

“Don’t you go a-thinking that, whatever you do. All I want to do is to help you –just tell me what I got to do. (Lord!) Whatever you want done, that I’m most willing to do.” 10.

Mr. Marvel’s Visit to Iping

After the first gusty panic had spent itself Iping became argumentative. Scepticism suddenly reared its head –rather nervous scepticism, not at all assured of its back, but scepticism nevertheless. It is so much easier not to believe in an invisible man; and those who had actually seen him dissolve into air, or felt the strength of his arm, could be counted on the fingers of two hands. And of these witnesses Mr. Wadgers was presently missing, having retired impregnably behind the bolts and bars of his own house, and Jaffers was lying stunned in the parlour of the Coach and Horses. Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations. Iping was gay with bunting, and everybody was in gala dress. Whit-Monday had been looked forward to for a month or more. By the afternoon even those who believed in the Unseen were beginning to resume their little amusements in a tentative fashion, on the supposition that he had quite gone away, and with the sceptics he was already a jest. But people, sceptics and believers alike, were remarkably sociable all that day.

Haysman’s meadow was gay with a tent, in which Mrs. Bunting and other ladies were preparing tea, while, without, the Sunday-school children ran races and played games under the noisy guidance of the curate and the Misses Cuss and Sackbut. No doubt there was a slight uneasiness in the air, but people for the most part had the sense to conceal whatever imaginative qualms they experienced. On the village green an inclined strong, down which, clinging the while to a pulley-swung handle, one could be hurled violently against a sack at the other end, came in for considerable favour among the adolescent, as also did the swings and the cocoanut shies. There was also promenading, and the steam organ attached to the swings filled the air with a pungent flavour of oil and with equally pungent music. Members of the Club, who had attended church in the morning, were splendid in badges of pink and green, and some of the gayer-minded had also adorned their bowler hats with brilliant-colored favours of ribbon. Old Fletcher, whose conceptions of holiday-making were severe, was visible through the jasmine about his window or through the open door (whichever way you chose to look), poised delicately on a plank supported on two chairs, and whitewashing the ceiling of his front room. About four o’clock a stranger entered the village from the direction of the downs. He was a short, stout person in an extraordinarily shabby top hat, and he appeared to be very much out of breath. His cheeks were alternately limp and tightly puffed. His mottled face was apprehensive, and he moved with a sort of reluctant alacrity. He turned the corner of the church, and directed his way to the Coach and Horses. Among others old Fletcher remembers seeing him, and indeed the old gentleman was so struck by his peculiar agitation that he inadvertently allowed a quantity of whitewash to run down the brush into the sleeve of his coat while regarding him.

This stranger, to the perceptions of the proprietor of the cocoanut shy, appeared to be talking to himself, and Mr. Huxter remarked the same thing. He stopped at the foot of the Coach and Horses steps, and, according to Mr. Huxter, appeared to undergo a severe internal struggle before he could induce himself to enter the house. Finally he marched up the steps, and was seen by Mr. Huxter to turn to the left and open the door of the parlour. Mr. Huxter heard voices from within the room and from the bar apprising the man of his error. “That room’s private!” said Hall, and the stranger shut the door clumsily and went into the bar.

In the course of a few minutes he reappeared, wiping his lips with the back of his hand with an air of quiet satisfaction that somehow impressed Mr. Huxter as assumed. He stood looking about him for some moments, and then Mr. Huxter saw him walk in an oddly furtive manner towards the gates of the yard, upon which the parlour window opened. The stranger, after some hesitation, leant against one of the gate-posts, produced a short clay pipe, and prepared to fill it. His fingers trembled while doing so. He lit it clumsily, and folding his arms began to smoke in a languid attitude, an attitude which his occasional quick glances up the yard altogether belied.

All this Mr. Huxter saw over the canisters of the tobacco window, and the singularity of the man’s behaviour prompted him to maintain his observation.

Presently the stranger stood up abruptly and put his pipe in his pocket. Then he vanished into the yard. Forthwith Mr. Huxter, conceiving he was witness of some petty larceny, leapt round his counter and ran out into the road to intercept the thief. As he did so, Mr. Marvel reappeared, his hat askew, a big bundle in a blue table-cloth in one hand, and three books tied together –as it proved afterwards with the Vicar’s braces –in the other. Directly he saw Huxter he gave a sort of gasp, and turning sharply to the left, began to run. “Stop thief!” cried Huxter, and set off after him. Mr. Huxter’s sensations were vivid but brief. He saw the man just before him and spurting briskly for the church corner and the hill road. He saw the village flags and festivities beyond, and a face or so turned towards him. He bawled, “Stop!” again. He had hardly gone ten strides before his shin was caught in some mysterious fashion, and he was no longer running, but flying with inconceivable rapidity through the air. He saw the ground suddenly close to his face. The world seemed to splash into a million whirling specks of light, and subsequent proceedings interested him no more.

11.

In the Coach and Horses

Now in order clearly to understand what had happened in the inn, it is necessary to go back to the moment when Mr. Marvel first came into view of Mr. Huxter’s window. At that precise moment Mr. Cuss and Mr. Bunting were in the parlour. They were seriously investigating the strange occurrences of the morning, and were, with Mr. Hall’s permission, making a thorough examination of the Invisible Man’s belongings. Jaffers had partially recovered from his fall and had gone home in the charge of his sympathetic friends. The stranger’s scattered garments had been removed by Mrs. Hall and the room tidied up. And on the table under the window where the stranger had been wont to work, Cuss had hit almost at once on three big books in manuscript labelled “Diary.”

“Diary!” said Cuss, putting the three books on the table. “Now, at any rate, we shall learn something.” The Vicar stood with his hands on the table.

“Diary,” repeated Cuss, sitting down, putting two volumes to support the third, and opening it. “H’m –no name on the fly-leaf. Bother! –cypher. And figures.” The Vicar came round to look over his shoulder.

Cuss turned the pages over with a face suddenly disappointed. “I’m –dear me! It’s all cypher, Bunting.”

“There are no diagrams?” asked Mr. Bunting. “No illustrations throwing light –”

“See for yourself,” said Mr. Cuss. “Some of it’s mathematical and some of it’s Russian or some such language (to judge by the letters), and some of its Greek. Now the Greek I thought you –”

“Of course,” said Mr. Bunting, taking out and wiping his spectacles and feeling suddenly very uncomfortable, –for he had no Greek left in his mind worth talking about;

“yes –the Greek, of course, may furnish a clue.”

“I’ll find you a place.”

“I’d rather glance through the volumes first,” said Mr. Bunting, still wiping. “A general impression first, Cuss, and then, you know, we can go looking for clues.” He coughed, put on his glasses, arranged them fastidiously, coughed again, and wished something would happen to avert the seemingly inevitable exposure. Then he took the volume Cuss handed him in a leisurely manner. And then something did happen. The door opened suddenly.

Both gentlemen started violently, looked round, and were relieved to see a sporadically rosy face beneath a furry silk hat. “Tap?” asked the face, and stood staring.

“No,” said both gentlemen at once.

“Over the other side, my man,” said Mr. Bunting. And “Please shut that door,” said Mr. Cuss, irritably.

“All right,” said the intruder, as it seemed in a low voice curiously different from the huskiness of its first inquiry. “Right you are,” said the intruder in the former voice. “Stand clear!” and he vanished and closed the door.

“A sailor, I should judge,” said Mr. Bunting. “Amusing fellows, they are. Stand clear!

indeed. A nautical term, referring to his getting back out of the room, I suppose.”

“I daresay so,” said Cuss. “My nerves are all loose to-day. It quite made me jump –the door opening like that.” Mr. Bunting smiled as if he had not jumped. “And now,” he said with a sigh, “these books.”

“One minute,” said Cuss, and went and locked the door. “Now, I think we are safe from interruption.”

Some one sniffed as he did so.

“One thing is indisputable,” said Bunting, drawing up a chair next to that of Cuss.

“There certainly have been very strange things happen in Iping during the last few days –very strange. I cannot of course believe in this absurd invisibility story –”

“It’s incredible,” said Cuss, ” –incredible. But the fact remains that I saw –I certainly saw right down his sleeve –”

“But did you –are you sure? Suppose a mirror, for instance, –hallucinations are so easily produced. I don’t know if you have ever seen a really good conjuror –”

“I won’t argue again,” said Cuss. “We’ve thrashed that out, Bunting. And just now there’s these books –Ah! here’s some of what I take to be Greek! Greek letters certainly.” He pointed to the middle of the page. Mr. Bunting flushed slightly and brought his face nearer, apparently finding some difficulty with his glasses. Suddenly he became aware of a strange feeling at the nape of his neck. He tried to raise his head, and encountered an immovable resistance. The feeling was a curious pressure, the grip of a heavy, firm hand, and it bore his chin irresistibly to the table. “Don’t move, little men,” whispered a voice, “or I’ll brain you both!” He looked into the face of Cuss, close to his own, and each saw a horrified reflection of his own sickly astonishment.

“I’m sorry to handle you roughly,” said the Voice, “but it’s unavoidable.

“Since when did you learn to pry into an investigator’s private memoranda,” said the Voice; and two chins struck the table simultaneously, and two sets of teeth rattled.

“Since when did you learn to invade the private rooms of a man in misfortune?” and the concussion was repeated.

“Where have they put my clothes?

“Listen,” said the Voice. “The windows are fastened and I’ve taken the key out of the door. I am a fairly strong man, and I have the poker handy –besides being invisible. There’s not the slightest doubt that I could kill you both and get away quite easily if I wanted to –do you understand? Very well. If I let you go will you promise not to try any nonsense and do what I tell you?”

The Vicar and the Doctor looked at one another, and the Doctor pulled a face. “Yes,” said Mr. Bunting, and the Doctor repeated it. Then the pressure on the necks relaxed, and the Doctor and the Vicar sat up, both very red in the face and wriggling their heads.

“Please keep sitting where you are,” said the Invisible Man. “Here’s the poker, you see.

“When I came into this room,” continued the Invisible Man, after presenting the poker to the tip of the nose of each of his visitors, “I did not expect to find it occupied, and I expected to find, in addition to my books of memoranda, an outfit of clothing. Where is it? No, –don’t rise. I can see it’s gone. Now, just at present, though the days are quite warm enough for an invisible man to run about stark the evenings are chilly. I want clothing –and other accommodation; and I must also have those three books.” 12.

The Invisible Man Loses His Temper

It is unavoidable that at this point the narrative should break off again, for a certain very painful reason that will presently be apparent. And while these things were going on in the parlour, and while Mr. Huxter was watching Mr. Marvel smoking his pipe against the gate, not a dozen yards away were Mr. Hall and Teddy Henfrey discussing in a state of cloudy puzzlement the one Iping topic.

Suddenly there came a violent thud against the door of the parlour, a sharp cry, and then –silence.

“Hul-lo!” said Teddy Henfrey.

“Hul-lo!” from the Tap.

Mr. Hall took things in slowly but surely. “That ain’t right,” he said, and came round from behind the bar towards the parlour door.

He and Teddy approached the door together, with intent faces. Their eyes considered.

“Summat wrong,” said Hall, and Henfrey nodded agreement. Whiffs of an unpleasant chemical odour met them, and there was a muffled sound of conversation, very rapid and subdued.

“You all raight thur?” asked Hall, rapping.

The muttered conversation ceased abruptly, for a moment silence, then the conversation was resumed, in hissing whispers, then a sharp cry of “No! no, you don’t!” There came a sudden motion and the oversetting of a chair, a brief struggle. Silence again.

“What the dooce?” exclaimed Henfrey, sotto voce.

“You –all –raight –thur?” asked Mr. Hall, sharply, again. The Vicar’s voice answered with a curious jerking intonation: “Quite ri –ight. Please don’t –interrupt.”

“Odd!” said Mr. Henfrey.

“Odd!” said Mr. Hall.

“Says, ‘Don’t interrupt,'” said Henfrey.

“I heerd’n,” said Hall.

“And a sniff”, said Henfrey.

They remained listening. The conversation was rapid and subdued. I can’t,” said Mr. Bunting, his voice rising; “I tell you, sir, I will not.”

“What was that?” asked Henfrey.

“Says he wi’ nart,” said Hall. “Warn’t speaking to us, wuz he?”

“Disgraceful!” said Mr. Bunting, within.

“‘Disgraceful,'” said Mr. Henfrey. “I heard it –distinct.

“Who’s that speaking now?” asked Henfrey.

“Mr. Cuss, I s’pose,” said Hall. “Can you hear –anything?” Silence. The sounds within indistinct and perplexing.

“Sounds like throwing the table-cloth about,” said Hall.

Mrs. Hall appeared behind the bar. Hall made gestures of silence and invitation. This aroused Mrs. Hall’s wifely opposition. “What yer listenin’ there for, Hall?” she asked.

“Ain’t you nothin’ better to do –busy day like this?”

Hall tried to convey everything by grimaces and dumb show, but Mrs. Hall was obdurate. She raised her voice. So Hall and Henfrey, rather crestfallen, tiptoed back to the bar, gesticulating to explain to her.

At first she refused to see anything in what they had heard at all. Then she insisted on Hall keeping silence, while Henfrey told her his story. She was inclined to think the whole business nonsense –perhaps they were just moving the furniture about. “I heerd’n say ‘disgraceful’; that I did,” said Hall.

“I heerd that, Mis’ Hall,” said Henfrey.

“Like as not –” began Mrs. Hall.

“Hsh!” said Mr. Teddy Henfrey. “Didn’t I hear the window?”

“What window?” asked Mrs. Hall.

“Parlour window,” said Henfrey.

Everyone stood listening intently. Mrs. Hall’s eyes, directed straight before her, saw without seeing the brilliant oblong of the inn door, the road white and vivid, and Huxter’s shop-front blistering in the June sun. Abruptly Huxter’s door opened and Huxter appeared, eyes staring with excitement, arms gesticulating. “Yap!” cried Huxter. “Stop thief!” and he ran obliquely across the oblong towards the yard gates, and vanished. Simultaneously came a tumult from the parlour, and a sound of windows being closed. Hall, Henfrey, and the human contents of the Tap rushed out at once pell-mell into the street. They saw some one whisk round the corner towards the down road, and Mr. Huxter executing a complicated leap in the air that ended on his face and shoulder. Down the street people were standing astonished or running towards them.

Mr. Huxter was stunned. Henfrey stopped to discover this, but Hall and the two labourers from the Tap rushed at once to the corner, shouting incoherent things, and saw Mr. Marvel vanishing by the corner of the church wall. They appear to have jumped to the impossible conclusion that this was the Invisible Man suddenly become visible, and set off at once along the lane in pursuit. But Hall had hardly run a dozen yards before he gave a loud shout of astonishment and went flying headlong sideways, clutching one of the labourers and bringing him to the ground. He had been charged just as one charges a man at football. The second labourer came round in a circle, stared, and conceiving that Hall had tumbled over of his own accord, turned to resume the pursuit, only to be tripped by the ankle just as Huxter had been. Then, as the first labourer struggled to his feet, he was kicked sideways by a blow that might have felled an ox.

As he went down, the rush from the direction of the village green came round the corner. The first to appear was the proprietor of the cocoanut shy, a burly man in a blue jersey. He was astonished to see the lane empty save for three men sprawling absurdly on the ground. And then something happened to his rear-most foot, and he went headlong and rolled sideways just in time to graze the feet of his brother and partner, following headlong. The two were then kicked, knelt on, fallen over, and cursed by quite a number of over-hasty people.

Now when Hall and Henfrey and the labourers ran out of the house, Mrs. Hall, who had been disciplined by years of experience, remained in the bar next the till. And suddenly the parlour door was opened, and Mr. Cuss appeared, and without glancing at her rushed at once down the steps towards the corner. “Hold him!” he cried. “Don’t let him drop that parcel! You can see him so long as he holds the parcel.” He knew nothing of the existence of Marvel. For the Invisible Man had handed over the books and bundle in the yard. The face of Mr. Cuss was angry and resolute, but his costume was defective, a sort of limp white kilt that could only have passed muster in Greece. “Hold him!” he bawled. “He’s got my trousers! And every stitch of the Vicar’s clothes!

“‘Tend to him in a minute!” he cried to Henfrey as he passed the prostrate Huxter, and, coming round the corner to join the tumult, was promptly knocked off his feet into an indecorous sprawl. Somebody in full flight trod heavily on his finger. He yelled, struggled to regain his feet, was knocked against and thrown on all fours again, and became aware that he was involved not in a capture, but a rout. Everyone was running back to the village. He rose again and was hit severely behind the ear. He staggered and set off back to the Coach and Horses forthwith, leaping over the deserted Huxter, who was now sitting up, on his way.

Behind him as he was halfway up the inn steps he heard a sudden yell of rage, rising sharply out of the confusion of cries, and a sounding smack in someone’s face. He recognised the voice as that of the Invisible Man, and the note was that of a man suddenly infuriated by a painful blow.

In another moment Mr. Cuss was back in the parlour. “He’s coming back, Bunting!” he said, rushing in. “Save yourself! He’s gone mad!”

Mr. Bunting was standing in the window engaged in an attempt to clothe himself in the hearth-rug and a West Surrey Gazette. “Who’s coming?” he said, so startled that his costume narrowly escaped disintegration.

“Invisible Man,” said Cuss, and rushed to the window. “We’d better clear out from here! He’s fighting mad! Mad!”

In another moment he was out in the yard.

“Good heavens!” said Mr. Bunting, hesitating between two horrible alternatives. He heard a frightful struggle in the passage of the inn, and his decision was made. He clambered out of the window, adjusted his costume hastily, and fled up the village as fast as his fat little legs would carry him.

From the moment when the Invisible Man screamed with rage and Mr. Bunting made his memorable flight up the village, it became impossible to give a consecutive account of affairs in Iping. Possibly the Invisible Man’s original intention was simply to cover Marvel’s retreat with the clothes and books. But his temper, at no time very good, seems to have gone completely at some chance blow, and forthwith he set to smiting and overthrowing, for the mere satisfaction of hurting.

You must figure the street full of running figures, of doors slamming and fights for hiding-places. You must figure the tumult suddenly striking on the unstable equilibrium of old Fletcher’s planks and two chairs, –with cataclysmal results. You must figure an appalled couple caught dismally in a swing. And then the whole tumultuous rush has passed and the Iping street with its gauds and flags is deserted save for the still raging unseen, and littered with cocoanuts, overthrown canvas screens, and the scattered stock in trade of a sweet-stuff stall. Everywhere there is a sound of closing shutters and shoving bolts, and the only visible humanity is an occasional flitting eye under a raised eyebrow in the corner of a window pane.

The Invisible Man amused himself for a little while by breaking all the windows in the Coach and Horses, and then he thrust a street lamp through the parlour window of Mrs. Gribble. He it must have been who cut the telegraph wire to Adderdean just beyond Higgins’ cottage on the Adderdean road. And after that, as his peculiar qualities allowed, he passed out of human perceptions altogether, and he was neither heard, seen, nor felt in Iping any more. He vanished absolutely.

But it was the best part of two hours before any human being ventured out again into the desolation of Iping street.

13.

Mr. Marvel Discusses His Resignation

When the dusk was gathering and Iping was just beginning to peep timorously forth again upon the shattered wreckage of its Bank Holiday, a short, thickset man in a shabby silk hat was marching painfully through the twilight behind the beechwoods on the road to Bramblehurst. He carried three books bound together by some sort of ornamental elastic ligature, and a bundle wrapped in a blue table-cloth. His rubicund face expressed consternation and fatigue; he appeared to be in a spasmodic sort of hurry. He was accompanied by a Voice other than his own, and ever and again he winced under the touch of unseen hands.

“If you give me the slip again,” said the Voice; “if you attempt to give me the slip again –”

“Lord!” said Mr. Marvel. “That shoulder’s a mass of bruises as it is.”

” –on my honour,” said the Voice, “I will kill you.”

“I didn’t try to give you the slip,” said Marvel, in a voice that was not far remote from tears. “I swear I didn’t. I didn’t know the blessed turning, that was all! How the devil was I to know the blessed turning? As it is, I’ve been knocked about –”

“You’ll get knocked about a great deal more if you don’t mind,” said the Voice, and Mr. Marvel abruptly became silent. He blew out his cheeks, and his eyes were eloquent of despair.

“It’s bad enough to let these floundering yokels explode my little secret, without your cutting off with my books. It’s lucky for some of them they cut and ran when they did!

Here am I –No one knew I was invisible! And now what am I to do?”

“What am I to do?” asked Marvel, sotto voce.

“It’s all about. It will be in the papers! Everybody will be looking for me; everyone on their guard –” The Voice broke off into vivid curses and ceased.

The despair of Mr. Marvel’s face deepened, and his pace slacked.

“Go on!” said the Voice.

Mr. Marvel’s face assumed a greyish tint between the ruddier patches.

“Don’t drop those books, stupid,” said the Voice, sharply –overtaking him.

“The fact is,” said the Voice, “I shall have but to make use of you. You’re a poor tool, but I must.”

“I’m a miserable tool,” said Marvel.

“You are,” said the Voice.

“I’m the worst possible tool you could have,” said Marvel.

“I’m not strong,” he said after a discouraging silence.

“I’m not over strong,” he repeated.

“No?”

“And my heart’s weak. That little business –I pulled it through, of course –but bless you! I could have dropped.”

“Well?”

“I haven’t the nerve and strength for the sort of thing you want.”

“I’ll stimulate you.”

“I wish you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t like to mess up your plans, you know. But I might, –out of sheer funk and misery.”

“You’d better not,” said the Voice, with quiet emphasis.

“I wish I was dead,” said Marvel.

“It ain’t justice,” he said; “you must admit –It seems to me I’ve a perfect right –”

“Get on!” said the Voice.

Mr. Marvel mended his pace, and for a time they went in silence again.

“It’s devilish hard,” said Mr. Marvel.

This was quite ineffectual. He tried another tack.

“What do I make by it?” he began again in a tone of unendurable wrong.

“Oh! shut up!” said the Voice, with sudden amazing vigour. “I’ll see to you all right. You do what you’re told. You’ll do it all right. You’re a fool and all that, but you’ll do –”

“I tell you, sir, I’m not the man for it. Respectfully –but it is so –”

“If you don’t shut up ! shall twist your wrist again,” said the Invisible Man. “I want to think.”

Presently two oblongs of yellow light appeared through the trees, and the square tower of a church loomed through the gloaming. “I shall keep my hand on your shoulder,” said the Voice, “all through the village. Go straight through and try no foolery. It will be the worse for you if you do.”

“I know that,” sighed Mr. Marvel, “I know all that.” The unhappy-looking figure in the obsolete silk hat passed up the street of the little village with his burdens, and vanished into the gathering darkness beyond the lights of the windows.

14.

At Port Stowe

Ten o’clock the next morning found Mr. Marvel, unshaven, dirty, and travel-stained, sitting with the books beside him and his hands deep in his pockets, looking very weary, nervous, and uncomfortable, and inflating his cheeks at frequent intervals, on the bench outside a little inn on the outskirts of Port Stowe. Beside him were the books, but now they were tied with string. The bundle had been abandoned in the pinewoods beyond Bramblehurst, in accordance with a change in the plans of the Invisible Man. Mr. Marvel sat on the bench, and although no one took the slightest notice of him, his agitation remained at fever heat. His hands would go ever and again to his various pockets with a curious nervous fumbling.

When he had been sitting for the best part of an hour, however, an elderly mariner, carrying a newspaper, came out of the inn and sat down beside him. “Pleasant day,” said the mariner.

Mr. Marvel glanced about him with something very like terror. “Very,” he said.

“Just seasonable weather for the time of year,” said the Mariner, taking no denial.

“Quite,” said Mr. Marvel.

The mariner produced a toothpick, and (saving his regard) was engrossed thereby for some minutes. His eyes meanwhile were at liberty to examine Mr. Marvel’s dusty figure, and the books beside him. As he had approached Mr. Marvel he had heard a sound like the dropping of coins into a pocket. He was struck by the contrast of Mr. Marvel’s appearance with this suggestion of opulence. Thence his mind wandered back again to a topic that had taken a curiously firm hold of his imagination.

“Books?” he said suddenly, noisily finishing with the toothpick. Mr. Marvel started and looked at them. “Oh, yes,” he said. “Yes, they’re books.”

“There’s some extraordinary things in books,” said the mariner.

“I believe you,” said Mr. Marvel.

“And some extra-ordinary things out of ’em,” said the mariner.

“True likewise,” said Mr. Marvel. He eyed his interlocutor, and then glanced about him.

“There’s some extraordinary things in newspapers, for example,” said the mariner.

“There are.”

“In this newspaper,” said the mariner.

“Ah!” said Mr. Marvel.

“There’s a story,” said the mariner, fixing Mr. Marvel with an eye that was firm and deliberate; “there’s a story about an Invisible Man, for instance.” Mr. Marvel pulled his mouth askew and scratched his cheek and felt his ears glowing.

“What will they be writing next?” he asked faintly. “Ostria, or America?”

“Neither,” said the mariner. “Here!”

“Lord!” said Mr. Marvel, starting.

“When I say here,” said the mariner, to Mr. Marvel’s intense relief, “I don’t of course mean here in this place, I mean hereabouts.”

“An Invisible Man!” said Mr. Marvel. “And what’s he been up to?”

“Everything,” said the mariner, controlling Marvel with his eye, and then amplifying:

“Every Blessed Thing.”

“I ain’t seen a paper these four days,” said Marvel.

“Iping’s the place he started at,” said the mariner.

“In-deed!” said Mr. Marvel.

“He started there. And where he came from, nobody don’t seem to know. Here it is: Pe Culiar Story from Iping. And it says in this paper that the evidence is extraordinary strong

–extra-ordinary.”

“Lord!” said Mr. Marvel.

“But then, it’s a extra-ordinary story. There is a clergyman and a medical gent witnesses, –saw ‘im all right and proper –or leastways didn’t see ‘im. He was staying, it says, at the Coach an’ Horses, and no one don’t seem to have been aware of his misfortune, it says, aware of his misfortune, until in an Altercation in the inn, it says, his bandages on his head was torn off. It was then ob-served that his head was invisible. Attempts were At Once made to secure him, but casting off his garments it says, he succeeded in escaping, but not until after a desperate struggle, In Which he had inflicted serious injuries, it says, on our worthy and able constable, Mr. J. A. Jaffers. Pretty straight story, eigh? Names and everything.”

“Lord!” said Mr. Marvel, looking nervously about him, trying to count the money in his pockets by his unaided sense of touch, and full of a strange and novel idea. “It sounds most astonishing.”

“Don’t it? Extra-ordinary, I call it. Never heard tell of Invisible Men before, I haven’t, but nowadays one hears such a lot of extra-ordinary things –that –”

“That all he did?” asked Marvel, trying to seem at his ease.

“It’s enough, ain’t it?” said the Mariner.

“Didn’t go Back by any chance?” asked Marvel. “Just escaped and that’s all, eh?”

“All!” said the Mariner. “Why! –ain’t it enough?”

“Quite enough,” said Marvel.

“I should think it was enough,” said the Mariner. “I should think it was enough.”

“He didn’t have any pals –it don’t say he had any pals, does it?” asked Mr. Marvel, anxious.

“Ain’t one of a sort enough for you?” asked the Mariner. “No, thank Heaven, as one might say, he didn’t.”

He nodded his head slowly. “It makes me regular uncomfortable, the bare thought of that chap running about the country! He is at present At Large, and from certain evidence it is supposed that he has –taken –took, I suppose they mean –the road to Port Stowe. You see we’re right in it! None of your American wonders, this time. And just think of the things he might do! Where’d you be, if he took a drop over and above, and had a fancy to go for you? Suppose he wants to rob –who can prevent him? He can trespass, he can burgle, he could walk through a cordon of policemen as easy as me or you could give the slip to a blind man! Easier! For these here blind chaps hear uncommon sharp, I’m told. And where-ever there was liquor he fancied –”

“He’s got a tremenjous advantage, certainly,” said Mr. Marvel. “And –well.”

“You’re right,” said the Mariner. “He has.”

All this time Mr. Marvel had been glancing about him intently, listening for faint footfalls, trying to detect imperceptible movements. He seemed on the point of some great resolution. He coughed behind his hand.

He looked about him again, listened, bent towards the Mariner, and lowered his voice:

“The fact of it is –I happen –to know just a thing or two about this Invisible Man. From private sources.”

“Oh!” said the Mariner, interested. “You?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Marvel. “Me.”

“Indeed!” said the Mariner. “And may I ask –”

“You’ll be astonished,” said Mr. Marvel behind his hand. “It’s tremenjous.”

“Indeed!” said the Mariner.

“The fact is,” began Mr. Marvel eagerly in a confidential undertone. Suddenly his expression changed marvellously. “Ow!” he said. He rose stiffly in his seat. His face was eloquent of physical suffering. “Wow!” he said.

“What’s up?” said the Mariner, concerned.

“Toothache,” said Mr. Marvel, and put his hand to his ear. He caught hold of his books. “I must be getting on, I think,” he said. He edged in a curious way along the seat away from his interlocutor. “But you was just ageing to tell me about this here Invisible Man!” protested the Mariner. Mr. Marvel seemed to consult with himself. “Hoax,” said a voice. ‘It’s a hoax,” said Mr. Marvel.

“But it’s in the paper,” said the Mariner.

“Hoax all the same,” said Marvel. “I know the chap that started the lie. There ain’t no Invisible Man whatsoever –Blimey.”

“But how ’bout this paper? D’you mean to say –?”

“Not a word of it,” said Marvel, stoutly.

The Mariner stared, paper in hand. Mr. Marvel jerkily faced about. “Wait a bit,” said the Mariner, rising and speaking slowly. “D’you mean to say –?”

“I do,” said Mr. Marvel.

“Then why did you let me go on and tell you all this blarsted stuff, then? What d’yer mean by letting a man make a fool of himself like that for? Eigh?”

Mr. Marvel blew out his cheeks. The Mariner was suddenly very red indeed; he clenched his hands. “I been talking here this ten minutes,” he said; “and you, you little pot-bellied, leathery-faced son of an old boot, couldn’t have the elementary manners –”

“Don’t you come bandying words with me,” said Mr. Marvel.

“Bandying words! I’m a jolly good mind –”

“Come up,” said a voice, and Mr. Marvel was suddenly whirled about and started marching off in a curious spasmodic manner. “You’d better move on,” said the Mariner.

“Who’s moving on?” said Mr. Marvel. He was receding obliquely with a curious hurrying gait, with occasional violent jerks forward. Some way along the road he began a muttered monologue, protests and recriminations.

“Silly devil!” said the Mariner, legs wide apart, elbows akimbo, watching the receding figure. “I’ll show you, you silly ass, –hoaxing me! It’s here –on the paper!” Mr. Marvel retorted incoherently and, receding, was hidden by a bend in the road, but the Mariner still stood magnificent in the midst of the way, until the approach of a butcher’s cart dislodged him. Then he turned himself towards Port Stowe. “Full of extraordinary asses,” he said softly to himself. “Just to take me down a bit –that was his silly game –It’s on the paper!”

And there was another extraordinary thing he was presently to hear, that had happened quite close to him. And that was a vision of a “fist full of money” (no less) travelling without visible agency, along by the wall at the corner of St. Michael’s Lane. A brother mariner had seen this wonderful sight that very morning. He had snatched at the money forthwith and had been knocked headlong, and when he had got to his feet the butterfly money had vanished. Our mariner was in a mood to believe anything, he declared, but that was a bit too stiff. Afterwards, however, he began to think things over. The story of the flying money was true. And all about that neighbourhood, even from the august London and Country Banking Company, from the tills of shops and inns –doors standing that sunny weather entirely open –money had been quietly and dexterously making off that day in handfuls and rouleaux, floating quietly along by walls and shady places, dodging quickly from the approaching eyes of men. And it had, though no man had traced it, invariably ended its mysterious flight in the pocket of that agitated gentleman in the obsolete silk hat, sitting outside the little inn on the outskirts of Port Stowe.

15.

The Man Who Was Running

In the early evening time Doctor Kemp was sitting in his study in the belvedere on the hill overlooking Burdock. It was a pleasant little room, with three windows, north, west, and south, and bookshelves covered with books and scientific publications, and a broad writing-table, and, under the north window, a microscope, glass slips, minute instruments, some cultures, and scattered bottles of reagents. Doctor Kemp’s solar lamp was lit, albeit the sky was still bright with the sunset light, and his blinds were up because there was no offence of peering outsiders to require them pulled down. Doctor Kemp was a tall and slender young man, with flaxen hair and a moustache almost white, and the work he was upon would earn him, he hoped, the fellowship of the Royal Society, so highly did he think of it.

And his eye presently wandering from his work caught the sunset blazing at the back of the hill that is over against his own. For a minute perhaps he sat, pen in mouth, admiring the rich golden colour above the crest, and then his attention was attracted by the little figure of a man, inky black, running over the hill-brow towards him. He was a shortish little man, and he wore a high hat, and he was running so fast that his legs verily twinkled.

“Another of those fools,” said Doctor Kemp. “Like that ass who ran into me this morning round a corner, with his “Visible Man a-coming, sir!’ I can’t imagine what possesses people. One might think we were in the thirteenth century.” He got up, went to the window, and stared at the dusky hillside, and the dark little figure tearing down it. “He seems in a confounded hurry,” said Doctor Kemp, “but he doesn’t seem to be getting on. If his pockets were full of lead, he couldn’t run heavier.

“Spurted, sir,” said Doctor Kemp.

In another moment the higher of the villas that had clambered up the hill from Burdock had occulted the running figure. He was visible again for a moment, and again, and then again, three times between the three detached houses that came next, and the terrace hid him.

“Asses!” said Doctor Kemp, swinging round on his heel and walking back to his writing-table.

But those who saw the fugitive nearer, and perceived the abject terror on his perspiring face, being themselves in the open roadway, did not share in the doctor’s contempt. By the man pounded, and as he ran he chinked like a well-filled purse that is tossed to and fro. He looked neither to the right nor the left, but his dilated eyes stared straight downhill to where the lamps were being lit, and the people were crowded in the street. And his ill-shaped mouth fell apart, and a glairy foam lay on his lips, and his breath came hoarse and noisy. All he passed stopped and began staring up the road and down, and interrogating one another with an inkling of discomfort for the reason of his haste.

And then presently, far up the hill, a dog playing in the road yelped and ran under a gate, and as they still wondered something, –a wind –a pad, pad, pad, –a sound like a panting breathing, –rushed by.

People screamed. People sprang off the pavement: It passed in shouts, it passed by instinct down the hill. They were shouting in the street before Marvel was halfway there. They were bolting into houses and slamming the doors behind them, with the news. He heard it and made one last desperate spurt. Fear came striding by, rushed ahead of him, and in a moment had seized the town.

“The Invisible Man is coming! The Invisible Man!”

16.

The Jolly Cricketers

The jolly Cricketers is just at the bottom of the hill, where the tram-lines begin. The barman leant his fat red arms on the counter and talked of horses with an anaemic cabman, while a black-bearded man in grey snapped up biscuit and cheese, drank Burton, and conversed in American with a policeman off duty.

“What’s the shouting about!” said the anaemic cabman, going off at a tangent, trying to see up the hill over the dirty yellow blind in the low window of the inn. Somebody ran by outside. “Fire, perhaps,” said the barman.

Footsteps approached, running heavily, the door was pushed open violently, and Marvel, weeping and dishevelled, his hat gone, the neck of his coat torn open, rushed in, made a convulsive turn, and attempted to shut the door. It was held half open by a strap.

“Coming!” he bawled, his voice shrieking with terror. “He’s coming. The ‘Visible Man! After me! For Gawd’s sake! Elp! Elp! Elp!”

“Shut the doors,” said the policeman. “Who’s coming? What’s the row?” He went to the door, released the strap, and it slammed. The American closed the other door.

“Lemme go inside,” said Marvel, staggering and weeping, but still clutching the books. “Lemme go inside. Lock me in –somewhere. I tell you he’s after me. I give him the slip. He said he’d kill me and he will.”

“You’re safe,” said the man with the black beard. “The door’s shut. What’s it all about?”

“Lemme go inside,” said Marvel, and shrieked aloud as a blow suddenly made the fastened door shiver and was followed by a hurried rapping and a shouting outside.

“Hullo,” cried the policeman, “who’s there?” Mr. Marvel began to make frantic dives at panels that looked like doors. “He’ll kill me –he’s got a knife or something. For Gawd’s sake!”

“Here you are,” said the barman. “Come in here.” And he held up the flap of the bar. Mr. Marvel rushed behind the bar as the summons outside was repeated. “Don’t open the door,” he screamed. “Please don’t open the door. Where shall I hide?”

“This, this Invisible Man, then?” asked the man with the black beard, with one hand behind him. “I guess it’s about time we saw him.”

The window of the inn was suddenly smashed in, and there was a screaming and running to and fro in the street. The policeman had been standing on the settee staring out, craning to see who was at the door. He got down with raised eyebrows. “It’s that,” he said. The barman stood in front of the bar-parlour door which was now locked on Mr. Marvel, stared at the smashed window, and came round to the two other men. Everything was suddenly quiet. “I wish I had my truncheon,” said the policeman, going irresolutely to the door. “Once we open, in he comes. There’s no stopping him.”

“Don’t you be in too much hurry about that door,” said the anaemic cabman, anxiously.

“Draw the bolts,” said the man with the black beard, “and if he comes –” He showed a revolver in his hand.

“That won’t do,” said the policeman; “that’s murder.”

“I know what country I’m in,” said the man with the beard. “I’m going to let off at his legs. Draw the bolts.”

“Not with that thing going off behind me,” said the barman, craning over the blind.

“Very well,” said the man with the black beard, and stooping down, revolver ready, drew them himself. Barman, cabman, and policeman faced about.

“Come in,” said the bearded man in an undertone, standing back and facing the unbolted doors with his pistol behind him. No one came in, the door remained closed. Five minutes afterwards when a second cabman pushed his head in cautiously, they were still waiting, and an anxious face peered out of the bar-parlour and supplied information.

“Are all the doors of the house shut?” asked Marvel. “He’s going round –prowling round. He’s as artful as the devil.”

“Good Lord!” said the burly barman. “There’s the back! Just watch them doors! I say! –” He looked about him helplessly. The bar-parlour door slammed and they heard the key turn. “There’s the yard door and the private door. The yard door –” He rushed out of the bar.

In a minute he reappeared with a carving-knife in his hand. “The yard door was open!” he said, and his fat underlip dropped. “He may be in the house now!” said the first cabman.

“He’s not in the kitchen,” said the barman. “There’s two women there, and I’ve stabbed every inch of it with this little beef slicer. And they don’t think he’s come in. They haven’t noticed –”

“Have you fastened it?” asked the first cabman.

“I’m out of frocks,” said the barman.

The man with the beard replaced his revolver. And even as he did so the flap of the bar was shut down and the bolt clicked, and then with a tremendous thud the catch of the door snapped and the bar-parlour door burst open. They heard Marvel squeal like a caught leveret, and forthwith they were clambering over the bar to his rescue. The bearded man’s revolver cracked and the looking-glass at the back of the parlour started and came smashing and tinkling down.

As the barman entered the room he saw Marvel, curiously crumpled up and struggling against the door that led to the yard and kitchen. The door flew open while the barman hesitated, and Marvel was dragged into the kitchen. There was a scream and a clatter of pans. Marvel, head down, and lugging back obstinately, was forced to the kitchen door, and the bolts were drawn.

Then the policeman, who had been trying to pass the barman, rushed in, followed by one of the cabmen, gripped the wrist of the invisible hand that collared Marvel, was hit in the face and went reeling back. The door opened, and Marvel made a frantic effort to obtain a lodgment behind it. Then the cabman collared something. “I got him,” said the cabman. The barman’s red hands came clawing at the unseen. “Here he is!” said the barman.

Mr. Marvel, released, suddenly dropped to the ground and made an attempt to crawl behind the legs of the fighting men. The struggle blundered round the edge of the door. The voice of the Invisible Man was heard for the first time, yelling out sharply, as the policeman trod on his foot. Then he cried out passionately and his fists flew round like flails. The cabman suddenly whooped and doubled up, kicked under the diaphragm. The door into the bar-parlour from the kitchen slammed and covered Mr. Marvel’s retreat. The men in the kitchen found themselves clutching at and struggling with empty air.

“Where’s he gone?” cried the man with the beard. “Out?”

“This way,” said the policeman, stepping into the yard and stopping. A piece of tile whizzed by his head and smashed among the crockery on the kitchen table.

“I’ll show him,” shouted the man with the black beard, and suddenly a steel barrel shone over the policeman’s shoulder, and five bullets had followed one another into the twilight whence the missile had come. As he fired, the man with the beard moved his hand in a horizontal curve, so that his shots radiated out into the narrow yard like spokes from a wheel.

A silence followed. “Five cartridges,” said the man with the black beard. “That’s the best of all. Four aces and the joker. Get a lantern, someone, and come and feel about for his body.”

17.

Doctor Kemp’s Visitor

Doctor Kemp had continued writing in his study until the shots aroused him. Crack, crack, crack, they came one after the other.

“Hullo!” said Doctor Kemp, putting his pen into his mouth again and listening. “Who’s letting off revolvers in Burdock? What are the asses at now?”

He went to the south window, threw it up, and leaning out stared down on the network of windows, beaded gas-lamps and shops, with its black interstices of roofs that made up the town at night. “Looks like a crowd down the hill,” he said, “by the Cricketers,” and remained watching. Thence his eyes wandered over the town to far away where the ships’

lights shone, and the pier glowed, a little illuminated faceted pavilion like a gem of yellow light. The moon in its first quarter hung over the western hill, and the stars were clear and almost tropically bright.

After five minutes, during which his mind had travelled into a remote speculation of social conditions of the future, and lost itself at last over the time dimension, Doctor Kemp roused himself with a sigh, pulled down the window again, and returned to his writing-desk.

It must have been about an hour after this that the front-door bell rang. He had been writing slackly, and with intervals of abstraction, since the shots. He sat listening. He heard the servant answer the door, and waited for her feet on the staircase, but she did not come. “Wonder what that was,” said Doctor Kemp.

He tried to resume his work, failed, got up, went downstairs from his study to the landing, rang, and called over the balustrade to the housemaid as she appeared in the hall below. “Was that a letter?” he asked.

“Only a runaway ring, sir,” she answered.

“I’m restless to-night,” he said to himself. He went back to his study, and this time attacked his work resolutely. In a little while he was hard at work again, and the only sounds in the room were the ticking of the clock and the subdued shrillness of his quill, hurrying in the very centre of the circle of light his lampshade threw on his table. It was two o’clock before Doctor Kemp had finished his work for the night. He rose, yawned, and went downstairs to bed. He had already removed his coat and vest, when he noticed that he was thirsty. He took a candle and went down to the dining-room in search of a syphon and whiskey.

Doctor Kemp’s scientific pursuits have made him a very observant man, and as he recrossed the hall, he noticed a dark spot on the linoleum near the mat at the foot of the stairs. He went on upstairs, and then it suddenly occurred to him to ask himself what the spot on the linoleum might be. Apparently some subconscious element was at work. At any rate, he turned with his burden, went back to the hall, put down the syphon and whiskey, and bending down, touched the spot. Without any great surprise he found it had the stickiness and colour of drying blood.

He took up his burden again, and returned upstairs, looking about him and trying to account for the blood-spot. On the landing he saw something and stopped astonished. The door-handle of his own room was blood-stained.

He looked at his own hand. It was quite clean, and then he remembered that the door of his room had been open when he came down from his study, and that consequently he had not touched the handle at all. He went straight into his room, his face quite calm –perhaps a trifle more resolute than usual. His glance, wandering inquisitively, fell on the bed. On the counterpane was a mess of blood, and the sheet had been torn. He had not noticed this before because he had walked straight to the dressing-table. On the further side the bedclothes were depressed as if someone had been recently sitting there. Then he had an odd impression that he had heard a loud voice say, “Good Heavens! –Kemp!” But Dr. Kemp was no believer in Voices. He stood staring at the tumbled sheets. Was that really a voice? He looked about again, but noticed nothing further than the disordered and blood-stained bed. Then he distinctly heard a movement across the room, near the wash-hand stand. All men, however highly educated, retain some superstitious inklings. The feeling that is called

“eerie” came upon him. He closed the door of the room, came forward to the dressingtable, and put down his burdens. Suddenly, with a start, he perceived a coiled and bloodstained bandage of linen rag hanging in mid-air, between him and the wash-hand stand. He stared at this in amazement. It was an empty bandage, a bandage properly tied but quite empty. He would have advanced to grasp it, but a touch arrested him, and a voice speaking quite close to him.

“Kemp!” said the Voice.

“Eigh?” said Kemp, with his mouth open.

“Keep your nerve,” said the Voice. “I’m an Invisible Man.” Kemp made no answer for a space, simply stared at the bandage. “Invisible Man,” he said.

“I’m an Invisible Man,” repeated the Voice.

The story he had been active to ridicule only that morning rushed through Kemp’s brain. He does not appear to have been either very much frightened or very greatly surprised at the moment. Realisation came later.

“I thought it was all a lie,” he said. The thought uppermost in his mind was the reiterated arguments of the morning. “Have you a bandage on?” he asked.

“Yes,” said the Invisible Man.

“Oh!” said Kemp, and then roused himself. “I say!” he said. “But this is nonsense. It’s some trick.” He stepped forward suddenly, and his hand, extended towards the bandage, met invisible fingers.

He recoiled at the touch and his colour changed.

“Keep steady, Kemp, for God’s sake! I want help badly. Stop!” The hand gripped his arm. He struck at it.

“Kemp!” cried the Voice. “Kemp! Keep steady!” and the grip tightened. A frantic desire to free himself took possession of Kemp. The hand of the bandaged arm gripped his shoulder, and he was suddenly tripped and flung backwards upon the bed. He opened his mouth to shout, and the corner of the sheet was thrust between his teeth. The Invisible Man had him down grimly, but his arms were free and he struck and tried to kick savagely.

“Listen to reason, will you?” said the Invisible Man, sticking to him in spite of a pounding in the ribs. “By Heaven! you’ll madden me in a minute!

“Lie still, you fool!” bawled the Invisible Man in Kemp’s ear. Kemp struggled for another moment and then lay still.

“If you shout, I’ll smash your face,” said the Invisible Man, relieving his mouth.

“I’m an Invisible Man. It’s no foolishness, and no magic. I really am an Invisible Man. And I want your help. I don’t want to hurt you, but if you behave like a frantic rustic, I must. Don’t you remember me, Kemp? Griffin, of University College?”

“Let me get up,” said Kemp. “I’ll stop where I am. And let me sit quiet for a minute.” He sat up and felt his neck.

“I am Griffin, of University College, and I have made myself invisible. I am just an ordinary man –a man you have known –made invisible.”

“Griffin?” said Kemp.

“Griffin,” answered the Voice, –“a younger student, almost an albino, six feet high, and broad, with a pink and white face and red eyes, –who won the medal for chemistry.”

“I am confused,” said Kemp. “My brain is rioting. What has this to do with Griffin?”

“I am Griffin.”

Kemp thought. “It’s horrible,” he said. “But what devilry must happen to make a man invisible?”

“It’s no devilry. It’s a process, sane and intelligible enough –”

“It’s horrible!” said Kemp. “How on earth –?”

“It’s horrible enough. But I’m wounded and in pain, and tired –Great God! Kemp, you are a man. Take it steady. Give me some food and drink, and let me sit down here.” Kemp stared at the bandage as it moved across the room, then saw a basket chair dragged across the floor and come to rest near the bed. It creaked, and the seat was depressed the quarter of an inch or so. He rubbed his eyes and felt his neck again. “This beats ghosts,” he said, and laughed stupidly.

“That’s better. Thank Heaven, you’re getting sensible!”

“Or silly,” said Kemp, and knuckled his eyes.

“Give me some whiskey. I’m near dead.”

“It didn’t feel so. Where are you? If I get up shall I run into you? There! all right. Whiskey? Here. Where shall I give it you?”

The chair creaked and Kemp felt the glass drawn away from him. He let go by an effort; his instinct was all against it. It came to rest poised twenty inches above the front edge of the seat of the chair. He stared at it in infinite perplexity. “This is –this must be – hypnotism. You must have suggested you are invisible.”

“Nonsense,” said the Voice.

“It’s frantic.”

“Listen to me.”

“I demonstrated conclusively this morning,” began Kemp, “that invisibility –”

“Never mind what you’ve demonstrated! –I’m starving,” said the Voice, “and the night is –chilly to a man without clothes.”

“Food!” said Kemp.

The tumbler of whiskey tilted itself. “Yes,” said the Invisible Man rapping it down.

“Have you got a dressing-gown?”

Kemp made some exclamation in an undertone. He walked to a wardrobe and produced a robe of dingy scarlet. “This do?” he asked. It was taken from him. It hung limp for a moment in mid-air, fluttered weirdly, stood full and decorous buttoning itself, and sat down in his chair. “Drawers, socks, slippers would be a comfort,” said the Unseen, curtly. “And food.”

“Anything. But this is the insanest thing I ever was in, in my life!” He turned out his drawers for the articles, and then went downstairs to ransack his larder. He came back with some cold cutlets and bread, pulled up a light table, and placed them before his guest. “Never mind knives,” said his visitor, and a cutlet hung in mid-air, with a sound of gnawing.

“Invisible!” said Kemp, and sat down on a bedroom chair.

“I always like to get something about me before I eat,” said the Invisible Man, with a full mouth, eating greedily. “Queer fancy!”

“I suppose that wrist is all right,” said Kemp.

“Trust me,” said the Invisible Man.

“Of all the strange and wonderful –”

“Exactly. But it’s odd I should blunder into your house to get my bandaging. My first stroke of luck! Anyhow I meant to sleep in this house to-night. You must stand that! It’s a filthy nuisance, my blood showing, isn’t it? Quite a clot over there. Gets visible as it coagulates, I see. I’ve been in the house three hours.”

“But how’s it done?” began Kemp, in a tone of exasperation. “Confound it! The whole business –it’s unreasonable from beginning to end.”

“Quite reasonable,” said the Invisible Man. “Perfectly reasonable.” He reached over and secured the whiskey bottle. Kemp stared at the devouring dressing gown. A ray of candle-light penetrating a torn patch in the right shoulder, made a triangle of light under the left ribs. “What were the shots?” he asked. “How did the shooting begin?”

“There was a fool of a man –a sort of confederate of mine –curse him! –who tried to steal my money. Has done so.”

“Is he invisible too?”

“No.”

“Well?”

“Can’t I have some more to eat before I tell you all that? I’m hungry –in pain. And you want me to tell stories!”

Kemp got up. “You didn’t do any shooting?” he asked.

“Not me,” said his visitor. “Some fool I’d never seen fired at random. A lot of them got scared. They all got scared at me. Curse them! –I say –I want more to eat than this, Kemp.”

“I’ll see what there is more to eat downstairs,” said Kemp. “Not much, I’m afraid.” After he had done eating, and he made a heavy meal, the Invisible Man demanded a cigar. He bit the end savagely before Kemp could find a knife, and cursed when the outer leaf loosened. It was strange to see him smoking; his mouth, and throat, pharynx and nares, became visible as a sort of whirling smoke cast.

“This blessed gift of smoking!” he said, and puffed vigorously. “I’m lucky to have fallen upon you, Kemp. You must help me. Fancy tumbling on you just now! I’m in a devilish scrape. I’ve been mad, I think. The things I have been through! But we will do things yet. Let me tell you –”

He helped himself to more whiskey and soda. Kemp got up, looked about him, and fetched himself a glass from his spare room. “It’s wild –but I suppose I may drink.”

“You haven’t changed much, Kemp, these dozen years. You fair men don’t. Cool and methodical –after the first collapse. I must tell you. We will work together!”

“But how was it all done?” said Kemp, “and how did you get like this?”

“For God’s sake, let me smoke in peace for a little while! And then I will begin to tell you.”

But the story was not told that night. The Invisible Man’s wrist was growing painful, he was feverish, exhausted, and his mind came round to brood upon his chase down the hill and the struggle about the inn. He spoke in fragments of Marvel, he smoked faster, his voice grew angry. Kemp tried to gather what he could.

“He was afraid of me, I could see he was afraid of me,” said the Invisible Man many times over. “He meant to give me the slip –he was always casting about! What a fool I was!”

“The cur!

“I should have killed him –”

“Where did you get the money?” asked Kemp, abruptly.

The Invisible Man was silent for a space. “I can’t tell you to-night,” he said. He groaned suddenly and leant forward, supporting his invisible head on invisible hands. “Kemp,” he said, “I’ve had no sleep for near three days, –except a couple of dozes of an hour or so. I must sleep soon.”

“Well, have my room –have this room.”

“But how can I sleep? If I sleep –he will get away. Ugh! What does it matter?”

“What’s the shot-wound?” asked Kemp, abruptly.

“Nothing –scratch and blood. Oh, God! How I want sleep!”

“Why not?”

The Invisible Man appeared to be regarding Kemp. “Because I’ve a particular objection to being caught by my fellow-men,” he said slowly.

Kemp started.

“Fool that I am!” said the Invisible Man, striking the table smartly. “I’ve put the idea into your head.”

18.

The Invisible Man Sleeps

Exhausted and wounded as the Invisible Man was, he refused to accept Kemp’s word that his freedom should be respected. He examined the two windows of the bedroom, drew up the blinds, and opened the sashes, to confirm Kemp’s statement that a retreat by them would be possible. Outside the night was very quiet and still, and the new moon was setting over the down. Then he examined the keys of the bedroom and the two dressingroom doors, to satisfy himself that these also could be made an assurance of freedom. Finally he expressed himself satisfied. He stood on the hearth rug and Kemp heard the sound of a yawn.

“I’m sorry,” said the Invisible Man, “if I cannot tell you all that I have done to-night. But I am worn out. It’s grotesque, no doubt. It’s horrible! But believe me, Kemp, in spite of your arguments of this morning, it is quite a possible thing. I have made a discovery. I meant to keep it to myself. I can’t. I must have a partner. And you –We can do such things –But to-morrow. Now, Kemp, I feel as though I must sleep or perish.” Kemp stood in the middle of the room staring at the headless garment. “I suppose I must leave you,” he said. “It’s –incredible. Three things happening like this, overturning all my preconceptions, would make me insane. But it’s real! Is there anything more than I can get you?”

“Only bid me good-night,” said Griffin.

“Good-night,” said Kemp, and shook an invisible hand. He walked sideways to the door. Suddenly the dressing-gown walked quickly towards him. “Understand me!” said the dressing-gown. “No attempts to hamper me, or capture me! Or –” Kemp’s face changed a little. “I thought I gave you my word,” he said. Kemp closed the door softly behind him, and the key was turned upon him forthwith. Then, as he stood with an expression of passive amazement on his face, the rapid feet came to the door of the dressing-room and that too was locked. Kemp slapped his brow with his hand. “Am I dreaming? Has the world gone mad –or have I?” He laughed, and put his hand to the locked door. “Barred out of my own bedroom, by a flagrant absurdity!” he said.

He walked to the head of the staircase, turned, and stared at the locked doors. “It’s fact,” he said. He put his fingers to his slightly bruised neck. “Undeniable fact.”

“But –”

He shook his head hopelessly, turned, and went downstairs.

He lit the dining-room lamp, got out a cigar, and began pacing the room, ejaculating. Now and then he would argue with himself.

“Invisible!” he said.

“Is there such a thing as an invisible animal? In the sea, yes. Thousands! millions! All the larvae, all the little nauplii and tornarias, all the microscopic things, the jelly-fish. In the sea there are more things invisible than visible! I never thought of that before. And in the ponds tool All those little pond-life things, –specks of colourless translucent jelly!

But in air? No!

“It can’t be.

“But after all –why not?

“If a man was made of glass he would still be visible.”

His meditation became profound. The bulk of three cigars had passed into the invisible or diffused as a white ash over the carpet before he spoke again. Then it was merely an exclamation. He turned aside, walked out of the room, and went into his little consulting-room and lit the gas there. It was a little room, because Dr. Kemp did not live by practice, and in it were the day’s newspapers. The morning’s paper lay carelessly opened and thrown aside. He caught it UP, turned it over, and read the account of a

“Strange Story from Iping” that the mariner at Port Stowe had spelt over so painfully to Mr. Marvel. Kemp read it swiftly.

“Wrapped up!” said Kemp. “Disguised! Hiding it! ‘No one seems to have been aware of his misfortune.’ What the devil is his game?”

He dropped the paper, and his eye went seeking. “Ah!” he said, and caught up the St. James’ Gazette, lying folded up as it arrived. “Now we shall get at the truth,” said Dr. Kemp. He rent the paper open; a couple of columns confronted him. “An Entire Village in Sussex goes Mad” was the heading.

“Good Heavens!” said Kemp, reading eagerly an incredulous account of the events in Iping, of the previous afternoon, that have already been described. Over the leaf the report in the morning paper had been reprinted.

He re-read it. “Ran through the streets striking right and left. Jaffers insensible. Mr. Huxter in great pain –still unable to describe what he saw. Painful humiliation –vicar. Woman ill with terror! Windows smashed. This extraordinary story probably a fabrication. Too good not to print –cum grano!”

He dropped the paper and stared blankly in front of him. “Probably a fabrication!” He caught up the paper again, and re-read the whole business. “But when does the Tramp come in? Why the deuce was he chasing a Tramp?”

He sat down abruptly on the surgical couch. “He’s not only invisible,” he said, “but he’s mad! Homicidal!”

When dawn came to mingle its pallor with the lamp-light and cigar smoke of the dining-room, Kemp was still pacing up and down, trying to grasp the incredible. He was altogether too excited to sleep. His servants, descending sleepily, discovered him, and were inclined to think that over-study had worked this ill on him. He gave them extraordinary but quite explicit instructions to lay breakfast for two in the belvedere study

–and then to confine themselves to the basement and ground-floor. Then he continued to pace the dining-room until the morning’s paper came. That had much to say and little to tell, beyond the confirmation of the evening before, and a very baldly written account of another remarkable tale from Port Burdock. This gave Kemp the essence of the happenings at the jolly Cricketers, and the name of Marvel. “He has made me keep with him twenty-four hours,” Marvel testified. Certain minor facts were added to the Iping story, notably the cutting of the village telegraph-wire. But there was nothing to throw light on the connexion between the Invisible Man and the Tramp; for Mr. Marvel had supplied no information about the three books, or the money with which he was lined. The incredulous tone had vanished and a shoal of reporters and inquirers were already at work elaborating the matter.

Kemp read every scrap of the report and sent his housemaid out to get every one of the morning papers she could. These also he devoured.

“He is invisible!” he said. “And it reads like rage growing to mania! The things he may do! The things he may do! And he’s upstairs free as the air. What on earth ought I to do?

“For instance, would it be a breach of faith if –? No.”

He went to a little untidy desk in the corner, and began a note. He tore this up half written, and wrote another. He read it over and considered it. Then he took an envelope and addressed it to “Colonel Adye, Port Burdock.”

The Invisible Man awoke even as Kemp was doing this. He awoke in an evil temper, and Kemp, alert for every sound, heard his pattering feet rush suddenly across the bedroom overhead. Then a chair was flung over and the wash-hand stand tumbler smashed. Kemp hurried upstairs and rapped eagerly.

19.

Certain First Principles

“What’s the matter?” asked Kemp, when the Invisible Man admitted him.

“Nothing,” was the answer.

“But, confound it! The smash?”

“Fit of temper,” said the Invisible Man. “Forgot this arm; and it’s sore.”

“You’re rather liable to that sort of thing.”

“I am.”

Kemp walked across the room and picked up the fragments of broken glass. “All the facts are out about you,” said Kemp, standing up with the glass in his hand; “all that happened in Iping, and down the hill. The world has become aware of its invisible citizen. But no one knows you are here.”

The Invisible Man swore.

“The secret’s out. I gather it was a secret. I don’t know what your plans are, but of course I’m anxious to help you.”

The Invisible Man sat down on the bed.

“There’s breakfast upstairs,” said Kemp, speaking as easily as possible, and he was delighted to find his strange guest rose willingly. Kemp led the way up the narrow staircase to the belvedere.

“Before we can do anything else,” said Kemp, “I must understand a little more about this invisibility of yours.” He had sat down, after one nervous glance out of the window, with the air of a man who has talking to do. His doubts of the sanity of the entire business flashed and vanished again as he looked across to where Griffin sat at the breakfast-table,

–a headless, handless dressing-gown, wiping unseen lips on a miraculously held serviette.

“It’s simple enough –and credible enough,” said Griffin, putting the serviette aside and leaning the invisible head on an invisible hand.

“No doubt, to you, but –” Kemp laughed.

“Well, yes; to me it seemed wonderful at first, no doubt. But now, great God! –But we will do great things yet! I came on the stuff first at Chesilstowe.”

“Chesilstowe?”

“I went there after I left London. You know I dropped medicine and took up physics? No! –well, I did. Light –fascinated me.”

“Ah!”

“Optical density! The whole subject is a network of riddles –a network with solutions glimmering elusively through. And being but two and twenty and full of enthusiasm, I said, ‘I will devote my life to this. This is worth while.’ You know what fools we are at two and twenty?”

“Fools then or fools now,” said Kemp.

“As though Knowing could be any satisfaction to a man!

“But I went to work –like a slave. And I had hardly worked and thought about the matter six months before light came through one of the meshes suddenly –blindingly! I found a general principle of pigments and refraction, –a formula, a geometrical expression involving four dimensions. Fools, common men, even common

mathematicians, do not know anything of what some general expression may mean to the student of molecular physics. In the books –the books that Tramp has hidden –there are marvels, miracles! But this was not a method, it was an idea, that might lead to a method by which it would be possible, without changing any other property of matter, –except, in some instances, colours, –to lower the refractive index of a substance, solid or liquid, to that of air –so far as all practical purposes are concerned.”

“Phew!” said Kemp. “That’s odd! But still I don’t see quite –I can understand that thereby you could spoil a valuable stone, but personal invisibility is a far cry.”

“Precisely,” said Griffin. “But consider: Visibility depends on the action of the visible bodies on light. Either a body absorbs light, or it reflects or refracts it, or does all these things. If it neither reflects nor refracts nor absorbs light, it cannot of itself be visible. You see an opaque red box, for instance, because the colour absorbs some of the light and reflects the rest, all the red part of the light, to you. If it did not absorb any particular part of the light, but reflected it all, then it would be a shining white box. Silver! A diamond box would neither absorb much of the light nor reflect much from the general surface, but just here and there where the surfaces were favourable the light would be reflected and refracted, so that you would get a brilliant appearance of flashing reflections and translucencies, –a sort of skeleton of light. A glass box would not be so brilliant, not so clearly visible, as a diamond box, because there would be less refraction and reflection. See that? From certain points of view you would see quite clearly through it. Some kinds of glass would be more visible than others, a box of flint glass would be brighter than a box of ordinary window glass. A box of very thin common glass would be hard to see in a bad light, because it would absorb hardly any light and refract and reflect very little. And if you put a sheet of common white glass in water, still more if you put it in some denser liquid than water, it would vanish almost altogether, because light passing from water to glass is only slightly refracted or reflected or indeed affected in any way. It is almost as invisible as a jet of coal gas or hydrogen is in air. And for precisely the same reason!”

“Yes,” said Kemp, “that is pretty plain sailing.”

“And here is another fact you will know to be true. If a sheet of glass is smashed, Kemp, and beaten into a powder, it becomes much more visible while it is in the air; it becomes at last an opaque white powder. This is because the powdering multiplies the surfaces of the glass at which refraction and reflection occur. In the sheet of glass there are only two surfaces; in the powder the light is reflected or refracted by each grain it passes through, and very little gets right through the powder. But if the white powdered glass is put into water, it forthwith vanishes. The powdered glass and water have much the same refractive index; that is, the light undergoes very little refraction or reflection in passing from one to the other.

“You make the glass invisible by putting it into a liquid of nearly the same refractive index; a transparent thing becomes invisible if it is put in any medium of almost the same refractive index. And if you will consider only a second, you will see also that the powder of glass might be made to vanish in air, if its refractive index could be made the same as that of air; for then there would be no refraction or reflection as the light passed from glass to air.”

“Yes, yes,” said Kemp. “But a man’s not powdered glass!”

“No,” said Griffin. “He’s more transparent!”

“Nonsense!”

“That from a doctor! How one forgets! Have you already forgotten your physics, in ten years? just think of all the things that are transparent and seem not to be so. Paper, for instance, is made up of transparent fibres, and it is white and opaque only for the same reason that a powder of glass is white and opaque. Oil white paper, fill up the interstices between the particles with oil so that there is no longer refraction or reflection except at the surfaces, and it becomes as transparent as glass. And not only paper, but cotton fibre, linen fibre, wool fibre, woody fibre, and bone, Kemp, flesh, Kemp, hair, Kemp, nails and nerves, Kemp, in fact the whole fabric of a man except the red of his blood and the black pigment of hair, are all made up of transparent, colourless tissue. So little suffices to make us visible one to the other. For the most part the fibres of a living creature are no more opaque than water.”

“Great Heavens!” cried Kemp. “Of course, of course! I was thinking only last night of the sea larvae and all jelly-fish!”

“Now you have me! And all that I knew and had in mind a year after I left London –six years ago. But I kept it to myself. I had to do my work under frightful disadvantages. Oliver, my professor, was a scientific bounder, a journalist by instinct, a thief of ideas, –he was always prying! And you know the knavish system of the scientific world. I simply would not publish, and let him share my credit. I went on working, I got nearer and nearer making my formula into an experiment, a reality. I told no living soul, because I meant to flash my work upon the world with crushing effect, –to become famous at a blow. I took up the question of pigments to fill up certain gaps. And suddenly, not by design but by accident, I made a discovery in physiology.”

“Yes?”

“You know the red colouring matter of blood; it can be made white –colourless –and remain with all the ‘functions it has now!” Kemp gave a cry of incredulous amazement. The Invisible Man rose and began pacing the little study. “You may well exclaim. I remember that night. It was late at night, –in the daytime one was bothered with the gaping, silly students, –and I worked then sometimes till dawn. It came suddenly, splendid and complete in my mind. I was alone; the laboratory was still, with the tall lights burning brightly and silently. In all my great moments I have been alone. ‘One could make an animal –a tissue –transparent! One could make it invisible! All except the pigments –I could be invisible!’ I said, suddenly realizing what it meant to be an albino with such knowledge. It was overwhelming. I left the filtering I was doing, and went and stared out of the great window at the stars. ‘I could be invisible!’ I repeated.

“To do such a thing would be to transcend magic. And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man, –the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none. You have only to think! And I, a shabby, povertystruck, hemmed-in demonstrator, teaching fools in a provincial college, might suddenly become –this. I ask you, Kemp if you –Anyone, I tell you, would have flung himself upon that research. And I worked three years, and every mountain of difficulty I toiled over showed another from its summit. The infinite details! And the exasperation, –a professor, a provincial professor, always prying. ‘When are you going to publish this work of yours?’ was his everlasting question. And the students, the cramped means!

Three years I had of it –“And after three years of secrecy and exasperation, I found that to complete it was impossible, –impossible.”

“How?” asked Kemp.

“Money,” said the Invisible Man, and went again to stare out of the window. He turned round abruptly. “I robbed the old man –robbed my father.

“The money was not his, and he shot himself.”

20.

At the House in Great Portland Street

For a moment Kemp sat in silence, staring at the back of the headless figure at the window. Then he started, struck by a thought, rose, took the Invisible Man’s arm, and turned him away from the outlook. “You are tired,” he said, “and while I sit, you walk about. Have my chair.”

He placed himself between Griffin and the nearest window.

For a space Griffin sat silent, and then he resumed abruptly: –“I had left the Chesilstowe cottage already,” he said, “when that happened. It was last December. I had taken a room in London, a large unfurnished room in a big ill-managed lodging-house in a slum near Great Portland Street. The room was soon full of the appliances I had bought with his money; the work was going on steadily, successfully, drawing near an end. I was like a man emerging from a thicket, and suddenly coming on some unmeaning tragedy. I went to bury him. My mind was still on this research, and I did not lift a finger to save his character. I remember the funeral, the cheap hearse, the scant ceremony, the windy frost-bitten hillside, and the old college friend of his who read the service over him, –a shabby, black, bent old man with a snivelling cold.

“I remember walking back to the empty home, through the place that had once been a village and was now patched and tinkered by the jerry builders into the ugly likeness of a town. Every way the roads ran out at last into the desecrated fields and ended in rubble heaps and rank wet weeds. I remember myself as a gaunt black figure, going along the slippery, shiny pavement, and the strange sense of detachment I felt from the squalid respectability, the sordid commercialism of the place.

“I did not feel a bit sorry for my father. He seemed to me to be the victim of his own foolish sentimentality. The current cant required my attendance at his funeral, but it was really not my affair.

“But going along the High Street, my old life came back to me for a space, for I met the girl I had known ten years since. Our eyes met.

“Something moved me to turn back and talk to her. She was a very ordinary person.

“It was all like a dream, that visit to the old places. I did not feel then that I was lonely, that I had come out from the world into a desolate place. I appreciated my loss of sympathy, but I put it down to the general inanity of things. Re-entering my room seemed like the recovery of reality. There were the things I knew and loved. There stood the apparatus, the experiments arranged and waiting. And now there was scarcely a difficulty left, beyond the planning of details.

“I will tell you, Kemp, sooner or later, all the complicated processes. We need not go into that now. For the most part, saving certain gaps I chose to remember, they are written in cypher in those books that tramp has hidden. We must hunt him down. We must get those books again. But the essential phase was to place the transparent object whose refractive index was to be lowered between two radiating centres of a sort of ethereal vibration, of which I will tell you more fully later. No, not these Rontgen vibrations –I don’t know that these others of mine have been described. Yet they are obvious enough. I needed two little dynamos, and these I worked with a cheap gas engine. My first experiment was with a bit of white wool fabric. It was the strangest thing in the world to see it in the flicker of the flashes soft and white, and then to watch it fade like a wreath of smoke and vanish.

“I could scarcely believe I had done it. I put my hand into the emptiness, and there was the thing as solid as ever. I felt it awkwardly, and threw it on the floor. I had a little trouble –finding it again.

“And then came a curious experience. I heard a miaow behind me, and turning, saw a lean white cat, very dirty, on the cistern cover outside the window. A thought came into my head. ‘Everything ready for you,’ I said, and went to the window, opened it, and called softly. She came in, purring, –the poor beast was starving, –and I gave her some milk. All my food was in a cupboard in the corner of the room. After that she went smelling round the room, –evidently with the idea of making herself at home. The invisible rag upset her a bit; you should have seen her spit at it! But I made her comfortable on the pillow of my truckle-bed. And I gave her butter to get her to wash.”

“And you processed her?”

“I processed her. But giving drugs to a cat is no joke, Kemp! And the process failed.”

“Failed!”

“In two particulars. These were the claws and the pigment stuff –what is it? –at the back of the eye in a cat. You know?”

“Tapetum.”

“Yes, the tapetum. It didn’t go. After I’d given the stuff to bleach the blood and done certain other things to her, I gave the beast opium, and put her and the pillow she was sleeping on, on the apparatus. And after all the rest had faded and vanished, there remained two little ghosts of her eyes.”

“Odd!”

“I can’t explain it. She was bandaged and clamped, of course, –so I had her safe; but she woke while she was still misty, and miaowed dismally, and someone came knocking. It was an old woman from downstairs, who suspected me of vivisecting, –a drink-sodden old creature, with only a white cat to care for in all the world. I whipped out some chloroform, applied it, and answered the door. ‘Did I hear a cat?’ she asked. ‘My cat?’ ‘Not here,’ said I, very politely. She was a little doubtful and tried to peer past me into the room; strange enough to her no doubt, –bare walls, uncurtained windows, truckle-bed, with the gas engine vibrating, and the seethe of the radiant points, and that faint ghastly stinging of chloroform in the air. She had to be satisfied at last and went away again.”

“How long did it take?” asked Kemp.

“Three or four hours –the cat. The bones and sinews and the fat were the last to go, and the tips of the coloured hairs. And, as I say, the back part of the eye, tough iridescent stuff it is, wouldn’t go at all.

“It was night outside long before the business was over, and nothing was to be seen but the dim eyes and the claws. I stopped the gas engine, felt for and stroked the beast, which was still insensible, and then, being tired, left it sleeping on the invisible pillow and went to bed. I found it hard to sleep. I lay awake thinking weak aimless stuff, going over the experiment over and over again, or dreaming feverishly of things growing misty and vanishing about me, until everything, the ground I stood on, vanished, and so I came to that sickly falling nightmare one gets. About two, the cat began miaowing about the room. I tried to hush it by talking to it, and then I decided to turn it out. I remember the shock I had when striking a light –there were just the round eyes shining green –and nothing round them. I would have given it milk, but I hadn’t any. It wouldn’t be quiet, it just sat down and miaowed at the door. I tried to catch it, with an idea of putting it out of the window, but it wouldn’t be caught, it vanished. Then it began miaowing in different parts of the room. At last I opened the window and made a bustle. I suppose it went out at last. I never saw any more of it.

“Then –Heaven knows why –I fell thinking of my father’s funeral again, and the dismal windy hillside, until the day had come. I found sleeping was hopeless, and, locking my door after me, wandered out into the morning streets.”

“You don’t mean to say there’s an invisible cat at large!” said Kemp.

“If it hasn’t been killed,” said the Invisible Man. “Why not?”

“Why not?” said Kemp. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“It’s very probably been killed,” said the Invisible Man. “It was alive four days after, I know, and down a grating in Great Tichfield Street; because I saw a crowd round the place, trying to see whence the miaowing came.”

He was silent for the best part of a minute. Then he resumed abruptly: –“I remember that morning before the change very vividly. I must have gone up Great Portland Street. I remember the barracks in Albany Street, and the horse soldiers coming out, and at last I found myself sitting in the sunshine and feeling very ill and strange, on the summit of Primrose Hill. It was a sunny day in January, –one of those sunny, frosty days that came before the snow this year. My weary brain tried to formulate the position, to plot out a plan of action.

“I was surprised to find, now that my prize was within my grasp, how inconclusive its attainment seemed. As a matter of fact I was worked out; the intense stress of nearly four years’ continuous work left me incapable of any strength of feeling. I was apathetic, and I tried in vain to recover the enthusiasm of my first inquiries, the passion of discovery that had enabled me to compass even the downfall of my father’s grey hairs. Nothing seemed to matter. I saw pretty clearly this was a transient mood, due to overwork and want of sleep, and that either by drugs or rest it would be possible to recover my energies.

“All I could think clearly was that the thing had to be carried through; the fixed idea still ruled me. And soon, for the money I had was almost exhausted. I looked about me at the hillside, with children playing and girls watching them, and tried to think of all the fantastic advantages an invisible man would have in the world. After a time I crawled home, took some food and a strong dose of strychnine, and went to sleep in my clothes on my unmade bed. Strychnine is a grand tonic, Kemp, to take the flabbiness out of a man.”

“It’s the devil,” said Kemp. “It’s the palaeolithic in a bottle.”

“I awoke vastly invigorated and rather irritable. You know?”

“I know the stuff.”

“And there was someone rapping at the door. It was my landlord with threats and inquiries, an old Polish Jew in a long grey coat and greasy slippers. I had been tormenting a cat in the night, he was sure, –the old woman’s tongue had been busy. He insisted on knowing all about it. The laws in this country against vivisection were very severe, –he might be liable. I denied the cat. Then the vibration of the little gas engine could be felt all over the house, he said. That was true, certainly. He edged round me into the room, peering about over his German-silver spectacles, and a sudden dread came into my mind that he might carry away something of my secret. I tried to keep between him and the concentrating apparatus I had arranged, and that only made him more curious. What was I doing? Why was I always alone and secretive? Was it legal? Was it dangerous? I paid nothing but the usual rent. His had always been a most respectable house –in a disreputable neighbourhood. Suddenly my temper gave way. I told him to get out. He began to protest, to jabber of his right of entry. In a moment I had him by the collar; something ripped, and he went spinning out into his own passage. I slammed and locked the door and sat down quivering.

“He made a fuss outside, which I disregarded, and after a time he went away.

“But this brought matters to a crisis. I did not know what he would do, nor even what he had power to do. To move to fresh apartments would have meant delay; all together I had barely twenty pounds left in the world, –for the most part in a bank, –and I could not afford that. Vanish! It was irresistible. Then there would be an inquiry, the sacking of my room –“At the thought of the possibility of my work being exposed or interrupted at its very climax, I became angry and active. I hurried out with my three books of notes, my cheque-book, –the tramp has them now, –and directed them from the nearest Post Office to a house of call for letters and parcels in Great Portland Street. I tried to go out noiselessly. Coming in, I found my landlord going quietly upstairs; he had heard the door close, I suppose. You would have laughed to see him jump aside on the landing as I came tearing after him. He glared at me as I went by him, and I made the house quiver with the slamming of my door. I heard him come shuffling up to my floor, hesitate, and go down. I set to work upon my preparations forthwith.

“It was all done that evening and night. While I was still sitting under the sickly, drowsy influence of the drugs that decolourise blood, there came a repeated knocking at the door. It ceased, footsteps went away and returned, and the knocking was resumed. There was an attempt to push something under the door –a blue paper. Then in a fit of irritation I rose and went and flung the door wide open. ‘Now then?’ said I.

“It was my landlord, with a notice of ejectment or something. He held it out to me, saw something odd about my hands, I expect, and lifted his eyes to my face.

“For a moment he gaped. Then he gave a sort of inarticulate cry, dropped candle and writ together, and went blundering down the dark passage to the stairs. I shut the door, locked it, and went to the looking-glass. Then I understood his terror. My face was white

–like white stone.

“But it was all horrible. I had not expected the suffering. A night of racking anguish, sickness and fainting. I set my teeth, though my skin was presently afire, all my body afire; but I lay there like grim death. I understood now how it was the cat had howled until I chloroformed it. Lucky it was I lived alone and untended in my room. There were times when I sobbed and groaned and talked. But I stuck to it. I became insensible and woke languid in the darkness.

“The pain had passed. I thought I was killing myself and I did not care. I shall never forget that dawn, and the strange horror of seeing that my hands had become as clouded glass, and watching them grow clearer and thinner as the day went by, until at last I could see the sickly disorder of my room through them, though I closed my transparent eyelids. My limbs became glassy, the bones and arteries faded, vanished, and the little white nerves went last. I gritted my teeth and stayed there to the end. At last only the dead tips of the fingernails remained, pallid and white, and the brown stain of some acid upon my fingers.

“I struggled up. At first I was as incapable as a swathed infant, –stepping with limbs I could not see. I was weak and very hungry –I went and stared at nothing in my shavingglass, at nothing save where an attenuated pigment still remained behind the retina of my eyes, fainter than mist. I had to hang on to the table and press my forehead to the glass.

“It was only by a frantic effort of will that I dragged myself back to the apparatus and completed the process.

“I slept during the forenoon, pulling the sheet over my eyes to shut out the light, and about midday I was awakened again by a knocking. My strength had returned. I sat up and listened and heard a whispering. I sprang to my feet and as noiselessly as possible began to detach the connections of my apparatus, and to distribute it about the room, so as to destroy the suggestions of its arrangement. Presently the knocking was renewed and voices called, first my landlord’s, and then two others. To gain time I answered them. The invisible rag and pillow came to hand and I opened the window and pitched them out on to the cistern cover. As the window opened, a heavy crash came at the door. Someone had charged it with the idea of smashing the lock. But the stout bolts I had screwed up some days before stopped him. That startled me, made me angry. I began to tremble and do things hurriedly.

“I tossed together some loose paper, straw, packing paper and so forth, in the middle of the room, and turned on the gas. Heavy blows began to rain upon the door. I could not find the matches. I beat my hands on the wall with rage. I turned down the gas again, stepped out of the window on the cistern cover, very softly lowered the sash, and sat down, secure and invisible, but quivering with anger, to watch events. They split a panel, I saw, and in another moment they had broken away the staples of the bolts and stood in the open doorway. It was the landlord and his two step-sons, sturdy young men of three or four and twenty. Behind them fluttered the old hag of a woman from downstairs.

“You may imagine their astonishment to find the room empty. One of the younger men rushed to the window at once, flung it up and stared out. His staring eyes and thicklipped bearded face came a foot from my face. I was half minded to hit his silly countenance, but I arrested my doubled fist. He stared right through me. So did the others as they joined him. The old man went and peered under the bed, and then they all made a rush for the cupboard. They had to argue about it at length in Yiddish and Cockney English. They concluded I had not answered them, that their imagination had deceived them. A feeling of extraordinary elation took the place of my anger as I sat outside the window and watched these four people –for the old lady came in, glancing suspiciously about her like a cat, trying to understand the riddle of my behaviour.

“The old man, so far as I could understand his patois, agreed with the old lady that I was a vivisectionist. The sons protested in garbled English that I was an electrician, and appealed to the dynamos and radiators. They were all nervous against my arrival, although I found subsequently that they had bolted the front door. The old lady peered into the cupboard and under the bed, and one of the young men pushed up the register and stared up the chimney. One of my fellow lodgers, a costermonger who shared the opposite room with a butcher, appeared on the landing, and he was called in and told incoherent things.

“It occurred to me that the radiators, if they fell into the hands of some acute welleducated person, would give me away too much, and watching my opportunity, I came into the room and tilted one of the little dynamos off its fellow on which it was standing, and smashed both apparatus. Then, while they were trying to explain the smash, I dodged out of the room and went softly downstairs.

“I went into one of the sitting-rooms and waited until they came down, still speculating and argumentative, all a little disappointed at finding no ‘horrors,’ and all a little puzzled how they stood with regard to me. Then I slipped up again with a box of matches, fired my heap of paper and rubbish, put the chairs and bedding thereby, led the gas to the affair, by means of an india-rubber tube, and waving a farewell to the room left it for the last time.”

“You fired the house!” exclaimed Kemp. “Fired the house. It was the only way to cover my trail –and no doubt it was insured. I slipped the bolts of the front door quietly and went out into the street. I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realise the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.

21.

In Oxford Street

“In going downstairs the first time I found an unexpected difficulty because I could not see my feet; indeed I stumbled twice, and there was an unaccustomed clumsiness in gripping the bolt. By not looking down, however, I managed to walk on the level passably well.

“My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people’s hats astray, and generally revel in my extra-ordinary advantage.

“But hardly had I emerged upon Great Portland Street, however (my lodging was close to the big draper’s shop there), when I heard a clashing concussion and was hit violently behind, and turning saw a man carrying a basket of soda-water syphons, and looking in amazement at his burden. Although the blow had really hurt me, I found something so irresistible in his astonishment that I laughed aloud. ‘The devil’s in the basket,’ I said, and suddenly twisted it out of his hand. He let go incontinently, and I swung the whole weight into the air.

“But a fool of a cabman, standing outside a public house, made a sudden rush for this, and his extending fingers took me with excruciating violence under the ear. I let the whole down with a smash on the cabman, and then, with shouts and the clatter of feet about me, people coming out of shops, vehicles pulling up, I realised what I had done for myself, and cursing my folly, backed against a shop window and prepared to dodge out of the confusion. In a moment I should be wedged into a crowd and inevitably discovered. I pushed by a butcher boy, who luckily did not turn to see the nothingness that shoved him aside, and dodged behind the cabman’s four-wheeler. I do not know how they settled the business. I hurried straight across the road, which was happily clear, and hardly heeding which way I went, in the fright of detection the incident had given me, plunged into the afternoon throng of Oxford Street.

“I tried to get into the stream of people, but they were too thick for me, and in a moment my heels were being trodden upon. I took to the gutter, the roughness of which I found painful to my feet, and forthwith the shaft of a crawling hansom dug me forcibly under the shoulder blade, reminding me that I was already bruised severely. I staggered out of the way of the cab, avoided a perambulator by a convulsive movement, and found myself behind the hansom. A happy thought saved me, and as this drove slowly along I followed in its immediate wake, trembling and astonished at the turn of my adventure. And not only trembling, but shivering. It was a bright day in January and I was stark naked and the thin slime of mud that covered the road was freezing. Foolish as it seems to me now, I had not reckoned that, transparent or not, I was still amenable to the weather and all its consequences.

“Then suddenly a bright idea came into my head. I ran round and got into the cab. And so, shivering, scared, and sniffing with the first intimations of a cold, and with the bruises in the small of my back growing upon my attention, I drove slowly along Oxford Street and past Tottenham Court Road. My mood was as different from that in which I had sallied forth ten minutes ago as it is possible to imagine. This invisibility indeed! The one thought that possessed me was –how was I to get out of the scrape I was in.

“We crawled past Mudie’s, and there a tall woman with five or six yellow-labelled books hailed my cab, and I sprang out just in time to escape her, shaving a railway van narrowly in my flight. I made off up the roadway to Bloomsbury Square, intending to strike north past the Museum and so get into the quiet district. I was now cruelly chilled, and the strangeness of my situation so unnerved me that I whimpered as I ran. At the northward corner of the Square a little white dog ran out of the Pharmaceutical Society’s offices, and incontinently made for me, nose down.

“I had never realised it before, but the nose is to the mind of a dog what the eye is to the mind of a seeing man. Dogs perceive the scent of a man moving as men perceive his vision. This brute began barking and leaping, showing, as it seemed to me, only too plainly that he was aware of me. I crossed Great Russell Street, glancing over my shoulder as I did so, and went some way along Montagu Street before I realised what I was running towards.

“Then I became aware of a blare of music, and looking along the street saw a number of people advancing out of Russell Square, red shirts, and the banner of the Salvation Army to the fore. Such a crowd, chanting in the roadway and scoffing on the pavement, I could not hope to penetrate, and dreading to go back and farther from home again, and deciding on the spur of the moment, I ran up the white steps of a house facing the museum railings, and stood there until the crowd should have passed. Happily the dog stopped at the noise of the band too, hesitated, and turned tail, running back to Bloomsbury Square again.

“On came the band, bawling with unconscious irony some hymn about ‘When shall we see his Face?’ and it seemed an interminable time to me before the tide of the crowd washed along the pavement by me. Thud, thud, thud, came the drum with a vibrating resonance, and for the moment I did not notice two urchins stopping at the railings by me.

‘See ’em,’ said one. ‘See what?’ said the other. ‘Why –them footmarks –bare. Like what you makes in mud.’

“I looked down and saw the youngsters had stopped and were gaping at the muddy footmarks I had left behind me up the newly whitened steps. The passing people elbowed and jostled them, but their confounded intelligence was arrested. ‘Thud, thud, thud, When, thud, shall we see, thud, his face, thud, thud.’ ‘There’s a barefoot man gone up them steps, or I don’t know nothing,’ said one. ‘And he ain’t never come down again. And his foot was a-bleeding.’

“The thick of the crowd had already passed. ‘Looky there, Ted,’ quoth the younger of the detectives, with the sharpness of surprise in his voice, and pointed straight to my feet. I looked down and saw at once the dim suggestion of their outline sketched in splashes of mud. For a moment I was paralysed.

“‘Why, that’s rum,’ said the elder. ‘Dashed rum! It’s just like the ghost of a foot, ain’t it?’ He hesitated and advanced with outstretched hand. A man pulled up short to see what he was catching, and then a girl. In another moment he would have touched me. Then I saw what to do. I made a step, the boy started back with an exclamation, and with a rapid movement I swung myself over into the portico of the next house. But the smaller boy was sharp-eyed enough to follow the movement, and before I was well down the steps and upon the pavement, he had recovered from his momentary astonishment and was shouting out that the feet had gone over the wall.

“They rushed round and saw my new footmarks flash into being on the lower step and upon the pavement. ‘What’s up?’ asked someone. ‘Feet! Look! Feet running!’ Everybody in the road, except my three pursuers, was pouring along after the Salvation Army, and this blow not only impeded me but them. There was an eddy of surprise and

interrogation. At the cost of bowling over one young fellow I got through, and in another moment I was rushing headlong round the circuit of Russell Square, with six or seven astonished people following my footmarks. There was no time for explanation, or else the whole host would have been after me.

“Twice I doubled round corners, thrice I crossed the road and came back on my tracks, and then, as my feet grew hot and dry, the damp impressions began to fade. At last I had a breathing space and rubbed my feet clean with my hands, and so got away altogether. The last I saw of the chase was a little group of a dozen people perhaps, studying with infinite perplexity a slowly drying footprint that had resulted from a puddle in Tavistock Square, –a footprint as isolated and incomprehensible to them as Crusoe’s solitary discovery.

“This running warmed me to a certain extent, and I went on with a better courage through the maze of less frequented roads that runs hereabouts. My back had now become very stiff and sore, my tonsils were painful from the cabman’s fingers, and the skin of my neck had been scratched by his nails; my feet hurt exceedingly and I was lame from a little cut on one foot. I saw in time a blind man approaching me, and fled limping, for I feared his subtle intuitions. Once or twice accidental collisions occurred and I left people amazed, with unaccountable curses ringing in their ears. Then came something silent and quiet against my face, and across the Square fell a thin veil of slowly falling flakes of snow. I had caught a cold, and do as I would I could not avoid an occasional sneeze. And every dog that came in sight, with its pointing nose and curious sniffing, was a terror to me.

“Then came men and boys running, first one and then others, and shouting as they ran. It was a fire. They ran in the direction of my lodging, and looking back down the street I saw a mass of black smoke streaming up above the roofs and telephone wires. It was my lodging burning; my clothes, my apparatus, all my resources indeed, except my chequebook ‘and the three volumes of memoranda that awaited me in Great Portland Street, were there. Burning! I had burnt my boats –if ever a man did! The place was blazing.” The Invisible Man paused and thought. Kemp glanced nervously out of the window.

“Yes?” he said. “Go on.”

22.

In the Emporium

“So last January, with the beginnings of a snowstorm in the air about me –and if it settled on me it would betray me! –weary, cold, painful, inexpressibly wretched, and still but half convinced of my invisible quality, I began this new life to which I am committed. I had no refuge, no appliances, no human being in the world in whom I could confide. To have told my secret would have given me away –made a mere show and rarity of me. Nevertheless, I was half minded to accost some passerby and throw myself upon his mercy. But I knew too clearly the terror and brutal cruelty my advances would evoke. I made no plans in the street. My sole object was to get shelter from the snow, to get myself covered and warm; then I might hope to plan. But even to me, an Invisible Man, the rows of London houses stood latched, barred, and bolted impregnably.

“Only one thing could I see clearly before me, the cold exposure and misery of the snowstorm and the night.

“And then I had a brilliant idea. I turned down one of the roads leading from Gower Street to Tottenham Court Road, and found myself outside Omniums, the big

establishment where everything is to be bought, –you know the place, –meat, grocery, linen, furniture, clothing, oil paintings even, –a huge meandering collection of shops rather than a shop. I had thought I should find the doors open, but they were closed, and as I stood in the wide entrance a carriage stopped outside, and a man in uniform –you know the kind of personage with ‘Omnium’ on his cap –flung open the door. I contrived to enter, and walking down the shop –it was a department where they were selling ribbons and gloves and stockings and that kind of thing –came to a more spacious region devoted to picnic baskets and wicker furniture.

“I did not feel safe there, however; people were going to and fro, and I prowled restlessly about until I came upon a huge section in an upper floor containing multitudes of bedsteads, and this I clambered, and found a resting-place at last among a huge pile of folded flock mattresses. The place was already lit up and agreeably warm, and I decided to remain where I was, keeping a cautious eye on the two or three sets of shopmen and customers who were meandering through the place, until closing time came. Then I should be able, I thought, to rob the place for food and clothing, and disguised, prowl through it and examine its resources, perhaps sleep on some of the bedding. That seemed an acceptable plan. My idea was to procure clothing to make myself a muffled but acceptable figure, to get money, and then to recover my books and parcels where they awaited me, take a lodging somewhere and elaborate plans for the complete realisation of the advantages my invisibility gave me (as I still imagined) over my fellow-men.

“Closing time arrived quickly enough; it could not have been more than an hour after I took up my position on the mattresses before I noticed the blinds of the windows being drawn, and customers being marched doorward. And then a number of brisk young men began with remarkable alacrity to tidy up the goods that remained disturbed. I left my lair as the crowds diminished, and prowled cautiously out into the less desolate parts of the shop. I was really surprised to observe how rapidly the young men and women whipped away the goods displayed for sale during the day. All the boxes of goods, the hanging fabrics, the festoons of lace, the boxes of sweets in the grocery section, the displays of this and that, were being whipped down, folded up, slapped into tidy receptacles, and everything that could not be taken down and put away had sheets of some coarse stuff like sacking flung over them. Finally all the chairs were turned up on to the counters, leaving the floor clear. Directly each of these young people had done, he or she made promptly for the door with such an expression of animation as I have rarely observed in a shop assistant before. Then came a lot of youngsters scattering sawdust and carrying pails and brooms. I had to dodge to get out of the way, and as it was, my ankle got stung with the sawdust. For some time, wandering through the swathed and darkened departments, I could hear the brooms at work. And at last a good hour or more after the shop had been closed, came a noise of locking doors. Silence came upon the place, and I found myself wandering through the vast and intricate shops, galleries, showrooms of the place, alone. It was very still; in one place I remember passing near one of the Tottenham Court Road entrances and listening to the tapping of boot-heels of the passersby.

“My first visit was to the place where I had seen stockings and gloves for sale. It was dark, and I had the devil of a hunt after matches, which I found at last in the drawer of the little cash desk. Then I had to get a candle. I had to tear down wrappings and ransack a number of boxes and drawers, but at last I managed to turn out what I sought; the box label called them lambswool pants, and lambswool vests. Then socks, a thick comforter, and then I went to the clothing place and got trousers, a lounge jacket, an overcoat and a slouch hat, –a clerical sort of hat with the brim turned down. I began to feel a human being again, and my next thought was food.

“Upstairs was a refreshment department, and there I got cold meat. There was coffee still in the urn, and I lit the gas and warmed it up again, and altogether I did not do badly. Afterwards, prowling through the place in search of blankets, –I had to put up at last with a heap of down quilts, –I came upon a grocery section with a lot of chocolate and candied fruits, more than was good for me indeed –and some white burgundy. And near that was a toy department, and I had a brilliant idea. I found some artificial noses –dummy noses, you know, and I thought of dark spectacles. But Omniums had no optical department. My nose had been a difficulty indeed –I had thought of paint. But the discovery set my mind running on wigs and masks and the like. Finally I went to sleep in a heap of down quilts, very warm and comfortable.

“My last thoughts before sleeping were the most agreeable I had had since the change. I was in a state of physical serenity, and that was reflected in my mind. I thought that I should be able to slip out unobserved in the morning with my clothes upon me, muffling my face with a white wrapper I had taken, purchase, with the money I had taken, spectacles and so forth, and so complete my disguise. I lapsed into disorderly dreams of all the fantastic things that had happened during the last few days. I saw the ugly little Jew of a landlord vociferating in his rooms; I saw his two sons marvelling, and the wrinkled old woman’s gnarled face as she asked for her cat. I experienced again the strange sensation of seeing the cloth disappear, and so I came round to the windy hillside and the sniffing old clergyman mumbling ‘Dust to dust, earth to earth,’ and my father’s open grave.

“‘You also,’ said a voice, and suddenly I was being forced towards the grave. I struggled, shouted, appealed to the mourners, but they continued stonily following the service; the old clergyman, too, never faltered droning and sniffing through the ritual. I realised I was invisible and inaudible, that overwhelming forces had their grip on me. I struggled in vain, I was forced over the brink, the coffin rang hollow as I fell upon it, and the gravel came flying after me in spadefuls. Nobody heeded me, nobody was aware of me. I made convulsive struggles and awoke.

“The pale London dawn had come, the place was full of a chilly grey light that filtered round the edges of the window blinds. I sat up, and for a time I could not think where this ample apartment, with its counters, its piles of rolled stuff, its heap of quilts and cushions, its iron pillars, might be. Then, as recollection came back to me, I heard voices in conversation.

“Then far down the place, in the brighter light of some department which had already raised its blinds, I saw two men approaching. I scrambled to my feet, looking about me for some way of escape, and even as I did so the sound of my movement made them aware of me. I suppose they saw merely a figure moving quietly and quickly away.

‘Who’s that?’ cried one, and ‘Stop there!’ shouted the other. I dashed around a corner and came full tilt –a faceless figure, mind you! –on a lanky lad of fifteen. He yelled and I bowled him over, rushed past him, turned another corner, and by a happy inspiration threw myself flat behind a counter. In another moment feet went running past and I heard voices shouting, ‘All hands to the doors!’ asking what was ‘up,’ and giving one another advice how to catch me.

“Lying on the ground, I felt scared out of my wits. But –odd as it may seem –it did not occur to me at the moment to take off my clothes as I should have done. I had made up my mind, I suppose, to get away in them, and that ruled me. And then down the vista of the counters came a bawling of ‘Here he is!’

“I sprang to my feet, whipped a chair off the counter, and sent it whirling at the fool who had shouted, turned, came into another round a corner, sent him spinning, and rushed up the stairs. He kept his footing, gave a view hallo! and came up the staircase hot after me. Up the staircase were piled a multitude of those bright-coloured pot things –what are they?”

“Art pots,” suggested Kemp.

“That’s it! Art pots. Well, I turned at the top step and swung round, plucked one out of a pile and smashed it on his silly head as he came at me. The whole pile of pots went headlong, and I heard shouting and footsteps running from all parts. I made a mad rush for the refreshment place, and there was a man in white like a man cook, who took up the chase. I made one last desperate turn and found myself among lamps and ironmongery. I went behind the counter of this, and waited for my cook, and as he bolted in at the head of the chase, I doubled him up with a lamp. Down he went, and I crouched down behind the counter and began whipping off my clothes as fast as I could. Coat, jacket, trousers, shoes were all right, but a lambswool vest fits a man like a skin. I heard more men coming, my cook was lying quiet on the other side of the counter, stunned or scared speechless, and I had to make another dash for it, like a rabbit hunted out of a wood-pile.

“‘This way, policeman!’ I heard someone shouting. I found myself in my bedstead storeroom again, and at the end of a wilderness of wardrobes. I rushed among them, went flat, got rid of my vest after infinite wriggling, and stood a free man again, panting and scared, as the policeman and three of the shopmen came round the corner. They made a rush for the vest and pants, and collared the trousers. ‘He’s dropping his Plunder,’ said one of the young men. ‘He must be somewhere here.’

“But they did not find me all the same.

“I stood watching them hunt for me for a time, and cursing my ill-luck in losing the clothes. Then I went into the refreshment-room, drank a little milk I found there, and sat down by the fire to consider my position.

“In a little while two assistants came in and began to talk over the business very excitedly and like the fools they were. I heard a magnified account of my depredations, and other speculations as to my whereabouts. Then I fell to scheming again. The insurmountable difficulty of the place, especially now it was alarmed, was to get any plunder out of it. I went down into the warehouse to see if there was any chance of packing and addressing a parcel, but I could not understand the system of checking. About eleven o’clock, the snow having thawed as it fell, and the day being finer and a little warmer than the previous one, I decided that the Emporium was hopeless, and went out again, exasperated at my want of success, with only the vaguest plans of action in my mind.”

23.

In Drury Lane

“But you begin now to realise,” said the Invisible Man, “the full disadvantage of my condition. I had no shelter, no covering, –to get clothing, was to forego all my advantage, to make of myself a strange and terrible thing. I was fasting; for to eat, to fill myself with unassimilated matter, would be to become grotesquely visible again.”

“I never thought of that,” said Kemp.

“Nor had I. And the snow had warned me of other dangers. I could not go abroad in snow –it would settle on me and expose me. Rain, too, would make me a watery outline, a glistening surface of a man –a bubble. And fog –I should be like a fainter bubble in a fog, a surface, a greasy glimmer of humanity. Moreover, as I went abroad –in the London air –I gathered dirt about my ankles, floating smuts and dust upon my skin. I did not know how long it would be before I should become visible from that cause also. But I saw clearly it could not be for long.

“Not in London at any rate.

“I went into the slums towards Great Portland Street, and found myself at the end of the street in which I had lodged. I did not go that way, because of the crowd halfway down it opposite to the still smoking ruins of the house I had fired. My most immediate problem was to get clothing. What to do with my face puzzled me. Then I saw in one of those little miscellaneous shops-news, sweets, toys, stationery, belated Christmas tomfoolery, and so forth –an array of masks and noses. I realised that problem was solved. In a flash I saw my course. I turned about, no longer aimless, and went –circuitously in order to avoid the busy ways, towards the back streets north of the Strand; for I remembered, though not very distinctly where, that some theatrical costumiers had shops in that district.

“The day was cold, with a nipping wind down the northward running streets. I walked fast to avoid being overtaken. Every crossing was a danger, every passenger a thing to watch alertly. One man as I was about to pass him at the top of Bedford Street, turned upon me abruptly and came into me, sending me into the road and almost under the wheel of a passing hansom. The verdict of the cab-rank was that he had had some sort of stroke. I was so unnerved by this encounter that I went into Covent Garden Market and sat down for some time in a quiet corner by a stall of violets, panting and trembling. I found I had caught a fresh cold, and had to turn out after a time lest my sneezes should attract attention.

“At last I reached the object of my quest, a dirty, fly-blown little shop in a byway near Drury Lane, with a window full of tinsel robes, sham jewels, wigs, slippers, dominoes and theatrical photographs. The shop was old-fashioned and low and dark, and the house rose above it for four storeys, dark and dismal. I peered through the window and, seeing no one within, entered. The opening of the door set a clanking bell ringing. I left it open, and walked round a bare costume stand, into a corner behind a cheval glass. For a minute or so no one came. Then I heard heavy feet striding across a room, and a man appeared down the shop.

“My plans were now perfectly definite. I proposed to make my way into the house, secrete myself upstairs, watch my opportunity, and when everything was quiet, rummage out a wig, mask, spectacles, and costume, and go into the world, perhaps a grotesque but still a credible figure. And incidentally of course I could rob the house of any available money.

“The man who had entered the shop was a short, slight, hunched, beetle-browed man, with long arms and very short bandy legs. Apparently I had interrupted a meal. He stared about the shop with an expression of expectation. This gave way to surprise, and then to anger, as he saw the shop empty. ‘Damn the boys!’ he said. He went to stare up and down the street. He came in again in a minute, kicked the door to with his foot spitefully, and went muttering back to the house door.

“I came forward to follow him, and at the noise of my movement he stopped dead. I did so too, startled by his quickness of ear. He slammed the house door in my face.

“I stood hesitating. Suddenly I heard his quick footsteps returning, and the door reopened. He stood looking about the shop like one who was still not satisfied. Then, murmuring to himself, he examined the back of the counter and peered behind some fixtures. Then he stood doubtful. He had left the house door open and I slipped into the inner room.

“It was a queer little room, poorly furnished and with a number of big masks in the corner. On the table was his belated breakfast, and it was a confoundedly exasperating thing for me, Kemp, to have to sniff his coffee and stand watching while he came in and resumed his meal. And his table manners were irritating. Three doors opened into the little room, one going upstairs and one down, but they were all shut. I could not get out of the room while he was there, I could scarcely move because of his alertness, and there was a draught down my back. Twice I strangled a sneeze just in time.

“The spectacular quality of my sensations was curious and novel, but for all that I was heartily tired and angry long before he had done his eating. But at last he made an end and putting his beggarly crockery on the black tin tray upon which he had had his teapot, and gathering all the crumbs up on the mustard stained cloth, he took the whole lot of things after him. His burden prevented his shutting the door behind him, –as he would have done; I never saw such a man for shutting doors, –and I followed him into a very dirty underground kitchen and scullery. I had the pleasure of seeing him begin to wash up, and then, finding no good in keeping down there, and the brick floor being cold to my feet, I returned upstairs and sat in his chair by the fire. It was burning low, and scarcely thinking, I put on a little coal. The noise of this brought him up at once, and he stood aglare. He peered about the room and was within an ace of touching me. Even after that examination, he scarcely seemed satisfied. He stopped in the doorway and took a final inspection before he went down.

“I waited in the little parlour for an age, and at last he came up and opened the upstairs door. I just managed to get by him.

“On the staircase he stopped suddenly, so that I very nearly blundered into him. He stood looking back right into my face and listening. ‘I could have sworn,’ he said. His long hairy hand pulled at his lower lip. His eye went up and down the staircase. Then he grunted and went on up again.

“His hand was on the handle of a door, and then he stopped again with the same puzzled anger on his face. He was becoming aware of the faint sounds of my movements about him. The man must have had diabolically acute hearing. He suddenly flashed into rage. ‘If there’s anyone in this house,’ he cried with an oath, and left the threat unfinished. He put his hand in his pocket, failed to find what lie wanted, and rushing past me went blundering noisily and pugnaciously downstairs. But I did not follow him. I sat on the head of the staircase until his return.

“Presently he came up again, still muttering. He opened the door of the room, and before I could enter, slammed it in my face.

“I resolved to explore the house, and spent some time in doing so as noiselessly as possible. The house was very old and tumble-down, damp so that the paper in the attics was peeling from the walls, and rat infested. Some of the door handles were stiff and I was afraid to turn them. Several rooms I did inspect were unfurnished, and others were littered with theatrical lumber, bought second-hand, I judged, from its appearance. In one room next to his I found a lot of old clothes. I began routing among these, and in my eagerness forgot again the evident sharpness of his ears. I heard a stealthy footstep and, looking up just in time, saw him peering in at the tumbled heap and holding an oldfashioned revolver in his hand. I stood perfectly still while he stared about open-mouthed and suspicious. ‘It must have been her,’ he said slowly. ‘Damn her!’

“He shut the door quietly, and immediately I heard the key turn in the lock. Then his footsteps retreated. I realised abruptly that I was locked in. For a minute I did not know what to do. I walked from door to window and back, and stood perplexed. A gust of anger came upon me. But I decided to inspect the clothes before I did anything further, and my first attempt brought down a pile from an upper shelf. This brought him back, more sinister than ever. That time he actually touched me, jumped back with amazement and stood astonished in the middle of the room.

“Presently he calmed a little. ‘Rats,’ he said in an undertone, fingers on lips. He was evidently a little scared. I edged quietly out of the room, but a plank creaked. Then the infernal little brute started going all over the house, revolver in hand and locking door after door and pocketing the keys. When I realized what he was up to I had a fit of rage –I could hardly control myself sufficiently to watch my opportunity. By this time I knew he was alone in the house, and so I made no more ado, but knocked him on the head.”

“Knocked him on the head!” exclaimed Kemp.

“Yes –stunned him –as he was going downstairs. Hit him from behind with a stool that stood on the landing. He went downstairs like a bag of old boots.”

“But –! I say! The common conventions of humanity –”

“Are all very well for common people. But the point was, Kemp, that I had to get out of that house in a disguise without his seeing me. I couldn’t think of any other way of doing it. And then I gagged him with a Louis Quatorze vest and tied him up in a sheet.”

“Tied him up in a sheet!”

“Made a sort of bag of it. It was rather a good idea to keep the idiot scared and quiet, and a devilish hard thing to get out of –head away from the string. My dear Kemp, it’s no good your sitting glaring as though I was a murderer. It had to be done. He had his revolver. If once he saw me he would be able to describe me –”

“But still,” said Kemp, “in England –to-day. And the man was in his own house, and you were –well, robbing.”

“Robbing! Confound it! You’ll call me a thief next! Surely, Kemp, you’re not fool enough to dance on the old strings. Can’t you see my position?”

“And his too,” said Kemp.

The Invisible Man stood up sharply. “What do you mean to say?” Kemp’s face grew a trifle hard. He was about to speak and checked himself. “I suppose, after all,” he said with a sudden change of manner, “the thing had to be done. You were in a fix. But still –”

“Of course I was in a fix –an infernal fix. And he made me wild too –hunting me about the house, fooling about with his revolver, locking and unlocking doors. He was simply exasperating. You don’t blame me, do you? You don’t blame me?”

“I never blame anyone,” said Kemp. “It’s quite out of fashion. What did you do next?”

“I was hungry. Downstairs I found a loaf and some rank cheese –more than sufficient to satisfy my hunger. I took some brandy and water, and then went up past my impromptu bag –he was lying quite still –to the room containing the old clothes. This looked out upon the street, two lace curtains brown with dirt guarding the window. I went and peered out through their interstices. Outside the day was bright –by contrast with the brown shadows of the dismal house in which I found myself, dazzlingly bright. A brisk traffic was going by, fruit carts, a hansom, a four-wheeler with a pile of boxes, a fishmonger’s cart. I turned with spots of colour swimming before my eyes to the shadowy fixtures behind me. My excitement was giving place to a clear apprehension of my position again. The room was full of a faint scent of benzoline, used, I suppose, in cleaning the garments.

“I began a systematic search of the place. I should judge the hunchback had been alone in the house for some time. He was a curious person. Everything that could possibly be of service to me I collected in the clothes storeroom, and then I made a deliberate selection. I found a handbag I thought a suitable possession, and some powder, rouge, and sticking-plaster.

“I had thought of painting and powdering my face and all that there was to show of me, in order to render myself visible, but the disadvantage of this lay in the fact that I should require turpentine and other appliances and a considerable amount of time before I could vanish again. Finally I chose a mask of the better type, slightly grotesque but not more so than many human beings, dark glasses, greyish whiskers, and a wig. I could find no underclothing, but that I could buy subsequently, and for the time I swathed myself in calico dominoes and some white cashmere scarfs. I could find no socks, but the hunchback’s boots were rather a loose fit and sufficed. In a desk in the shop were three sovereigns and about thirty shillings’ worth of silver, and in a locked cupboard I burst in the inner room were eight pounds in gold. I could go forth into the world again, equipped.

“Then came a curious hesitation. Was my appearance really –credible? I tried myself with a little bedroom looking-glass, inspecting myself from every point of view to discover any forgotten chink, but it all seemed sound. I was grotesque to the theatrical pitch, a stage miser, but I was certainly not a physical impossibility. Gathering confidence, I took my looking-glass down into the shop, pulled down the shop blinds, and surveyed myself from every point of view with the help of the cheval glass in the corner.

“I spent some minutes screwing up my courage and then unlocked the shop door and marched out into the street, leaving the little man to get out of his sheet again when he liked. In five minutes a dozen turnings intervened between me and the costumier’s shop. No one appeared to notice me very pointedly. My last difficulty seemed overcome.” He stopped again.

“And you troubled no more about the hunchback?” said Kemp.

“No,” said the Invisible Man. “Nor have I heard what became of him. I suppose he untied himself or kicked himself out. The knots were pretty tight.”

He became silent and went to the window and stared out.

“What happened when you went out into the Strand?”

“Oh! –disillusionment again. I thought my troubles were over. Practically I thought I had impunity to do whatever I chose, everything –save to give away my secret. So I thought. Whatever I did, whatever the consequences might be, was nothing to me. I had merely to fling aside my garments and vanish. No person could hold me. I could take my money where I found it. I decided to treat myself to a sumptuous feast, and then put up at a good hotel, and accumulate a new outfit of property. I felt amazingly confident, –it’s not particularly pleasant recalling that I was an ass. I went into a place and was already ordering a lunch, when it occurred to me that I could not eat unless I exposed my invisible face. I finished ordering the lunch, told the man I should be back in ten minutes, and went out exasperated. I don’t know if you have ever been disappointed in your appetite.”

“Not quite so badly,” said Kemp, “but I can imagine it.”

“I could have smashed the silly devils. At last, faint with the desire for tasteful food, I went into another place and demanded a private room. ‘I am disfigured,’ I said. ‘Badly.’

They looked at me curiously, but of course it was not their affair –and so at last I got my lunch. It was not particularly well served, but it sufficed; and when I had had it, I sat over a cigar, trying to plan my line of action. And outside a snowstorm was beginning.

“The more I thought it over, Kemp, the more I realised what a helpless absurdity an Invisible Man was, –in a cold and dirty climate and a crowded civilised city. Before I made this mad experiment I had dreamt of a thousand advantages. That afternoon it seemed all disappointment. I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got. Ambition –what is the good of pride of place when you cannot appear there? What is the good of the love of woman when her name must needs be Delilah? I have no taste for politics, for the blackguardisms of fame, for philanthropy, for sport. What was I to do? And for this I had become a wrapped-up mystery, a swathed and bandaged caricature of a man!”

He paused, and his attitude suggested a roving glance at the window.

“But how did you get to Iping?” said Kemp, anxious to keep his guest busy talking.

“I went there to work. I had one hope. It was a half ideal I have it still. It is a full blown idea now. A way of getting back! Of restoring what I have done. When I choose. When I have done all I mean to do invisibly. And that is what I chiefly want to talk to you about now.”

“You went straight to Iping?”

“Yes. I had simply to get my three volumes of memoranda and my cheque-book, my luggage and underclothing, order a quantity of chemicals to work out this idea of mine, –I will show you the calculations as soon as I get my books, –and then I started. Jove! I remember the snowstorm now, and the accursed bother it was to keep the snow from damping my pasteboard nose.”

“At the end,” said Kemp, “the day before yesterday, when they found you out, you rather –to judge by the papers –”

“I did. Rather. Did I kill that fool of a constable?”

“No,” said Kemp. “He’s expected to recover.”

“That’s his luck, then. I clean lost my temper, the fools! Why couldn’t they leave me alone? And that grocer lout?”

“There are no deaths expected,” said Kemp.

“I don’t know about that tramp of mine,” said the Invisible Man, with an unpleasant laugh.

“By Heaven, Kemp, you don’t know what rage is! To have worked for years, to have planned and plotted, and then to get some fumbling purblind idiot messing across your course! Every conceivable sort of silly creature that has ever been created has been sent to cross me. “If I have much more of it, I shall go wild, –I shall start mowing ’em.

“As it is, they’ve made things a thousand times more difficult.”

“No doubt it’s exasperating,” said Kemp, drily.

24.

The Plan that Failed

“But now,” said Kemp, with a side glance out of the window, “what are we to do?” He moved nearer his guest as he spoke in such a manner as to prevent the possibility of a sudden glimpse of the three men who were advancing up the hill road –with an intolerable slowness, as it seemed to Kemp.

“What were you planning to do when you were heading for Port Burdock? Had you any plan?”

“I was going to clear out of the country. But I have altered that plan rather since seeing you. I thought it would be wise, now the weather is hot and invisibility possible, to make for the South. Especially as my secret was known, and everyone would be on the lookout for a masked and muffled man. You have a line of steamers from here to France. My idea was to get aboard one and run the risks of the passage. Thence I could go by train into Spain, or else get to Algiers. It would not be difficult. There a man might always be invisible –and yet live. And do things. I was using that tramp as a money box and luggage carrier, until I decided how to get my books and things sent over to meet me.”

“That’s clear.”

“And then the filthy brute must needs try and rob me! He has hidden my books, Kemp. Hidden my books! If I can lay my hands on him!”

“Best plan to get the books out of him first.”

“But where is he? Do you know?”

“He’s in the town police station, locked up, by his own request, in the strongest cell in the place.”

“Cur!” said the Invisible Man.

“But that hangs up your plans a little.”

“We must get those books; those books are vital.”

“Certainly,” said Kemp, a little nervously, wondering if he heard footsteps outside.

“Certainly we must get those books. But that won’t be difficult, if he doesn’t know they’re for you.”

“No,” said the Invisible Man, and thought.

Kemp tried to think of something to keep the talk going, but the Invisible Man resumed of his own accord.

“Blundering into your house, Kemp,” he said, “changes all my plans. For you are a man that can understand. In spite of all that has happened, in spite of this publicity, of the loss of my books, of what I have suffered, there still remain great possibilities, huge possibilities –”

“You have told no one I am here?” he asked abruptly.

Kemp hesitated. “That was implied,” he said.

“No one?” insisted Griffin.

“Not a soul.”

“Ah! Now –” The Invisible Man stood up, and sticking his arms akimbo began to pace the study.

“I made a mistake, Kemp, a huge mistake, in carrying this thing through alone. I have wasted strength, time, opportunities. Alone –it is wonderful how little a man can do alone! To rob a little, to hurt a little, and there is the end.

“What I want, Kemp, is a goal-keeper, a helper, and a hiding-place, an arrangement whereby I can sleep and eat and rest in peace, and unsuspected. I must have a confederate. With a confederate, with food and rest –a thousand things are possible.

“Hitherto I have gone on vague lines. We have to consider all that invisibility means, all that it does not mean. It means little advantage for eavesdropping and so forth –one makes sounds. It’s of little help, a little help perhaps –in housebreaking and so forth. Once you’ve caught me you could easily imprison me. But on the other hand I am hard to catch. This invisibility, in fact, is only good in two cases: It’s useful in getting away, it’s useful in approaching. It’s particularly useful, therefore, in killing. I can walk round a man, whatever weapon he has, choose my point, strike as I like. Dodge as I like. Escape as I like.”

Kemp’s hand went to his moustache. “Was that a movement downstairs?

“And it is killing we must do, Kemp.”

“It is killing we must do,” repeated Kemp. “I’m listening to your plan, Griffin, but I’m not agreeing, mind. Why killing?”

“Not wanton killing, but a judicious slaying. The point is, they know there is an Invisible Man –as well as we know there is an Invisible Man. And that Invisible Man, Kemp, must now establish a Reign of Terror. Yes –no doubt it’s startling. But I mean it. A Reign of Terror. He must take some town like your Burdock and terrify and dominate it. He must issue his orders. He can do that in a thousand ways –scraps of paper thrust under doors would suffice. And all who disobey his orders he must kill, and kill all who would defend them.”

“Humph!” said Kemp, no longer listening to Griffin but to the sound of his front door opening and closing.

“It seems to me, Griffin,” he said, to cover his wandering attention, “that your confederate would be in a difficult position.”

“No one would know he was a confederate,” said the Invisible Man, eagerly. And then suddenly, “Hush! What’s that downstairs?”

“Nothing,” said Kemp, and suddenly began to speak loud and fast. “I don’t agree to this, Griffin,” he said. “Understand me, I don’t agree to this. Why dream of playing a game against the race? How can you hope to gain happiness? Don’t be a lone wolf. Publish your results; take the world –take the nation at least –into your confidence. Think what you might do with a million helpers –”

The Invisible Man interrupted Kemp –arms extended. “There are footsteps coming upstairs,” he said in a low voice.

“Nonsense,” said Kemp.

“Let me see,” said the Invisible Man, and advanced, arm extended, to the door. And then things happened very swiftly. Kemp hesitated for a second and then moved to intercept him. The Invisible Man started and stood still. “Traitor!” cried the Voice, and suddenly the dressing-gown opened, and sitting down the Unseen began to disrobe. Kemp made three swift steps to the door, and forthwith the Invisible Man –his legs had vanished –sprang to his feet with a shout. Kemp flung the door open.

As it opened, there came a sound of hurrying feet downstairs and voices. With a quick movement Kemp thrust the Invisible Man back sprang aside, and slammed the door. The key was outside and ready. In another moment Griffin would have been alone in the belvedere study, a prisoner. Save for one little thing. The key had been slipped in hastily that morning. As Kemp slammed the door it fell noisily upon the carpet.

Kemp’s face became white. He tried to grip the door handle with both hands. For a moment he stood lugging. Then the door gave six inches. But he got it closed again. The second time –it was jerked a foot wide, and the dressing-gown came wedging itself into the opening. His throat was gripped by invisible fingers, and he left his hold on the handle to defend himself. He was forced back, tripped and pitched heavily into the corner of the landing. The empty dressing-gown was flung on the top of him.

Halfway up the staircase was Colonel Adye, the recipient of Kemp’s letter, the chief of the Burdock police. He was staring aghast at the sudden appearance of Kemp, followed by the extraordinary sight of clothing tossing empty in the air. He saw Kemp felled, and struggling to his feet. He saw him rush forward, and go down again, felled like an ox. Then suddenly he was struck violently. By nothing! A vast weight, it seemed, leapt upon him, and he was hurled headlong down the staircase, with the grip at his throat and a knee in his groin. An invisible foot trod on his back, a ghostly patter passed downstairs, he heard the two police officers in the hall shout and run, and the front door of the house slammed violently.

He rolled over and sat up staring. He saw, staggering down the staircase, Kemp, dusty and dishevelled, one side of his face white from a blow, his lip bleeding, and a pink dressing-gown and some underclothing held in his arms.

“My God!” cried Kemp, “the game’s up! He’s gone!” 25.

The Hunting of the Invisible Man

For a space Kemp was too inarticulate to make Adye understand the swift things that had just happened. They stood on the landing, Kemp speaking swiftly, the grotesque swathings of Griffin still on his arm. But presently Adye began to grasp something of the situation.

“He is mad,” said Kemp; “inhuman. He is pure selfishness. He thinks of nothing but his own advantage, his own safety. I have listened to such a story this morning of brutal self-seeking! He has wounded men. He will kill them unless we can prevent him. He will create a panic. Nothing can stop him. He is going out now –furious!”

“He must be caught,” said Adye. “That is certain.”

“But how?” cried Kemp, and suddenly became full of ideas. “You must begin at once. You must set every available man to work. You must prevent his leaving this district. Once he gets away, he may go through the countryside as he wills, killing and maiming. He dreams of a reign of terror! A reign of terror, I tell you. You must set a watch on trains and roads and shipping. The garrison must help. You must wire for help. The only thing that may keep him here is the thought of recovering some books of notes he counts of value. I will tell you of that! There is a man in your police station, –Marvel.”

“I know,” said Adye, “I know. Those books –yes.”

“And you must prevent him from eating or sleeping; day and night the country must be astir for him. Food must be locked up and secured, all food, so that he will have to break his way to it. The houses everywhere must be barred against him. Heaven send us cold nights and rain! The whole country-side must begin hunting and keep hunting. I tell you, Adye, he is a danger, a disaster; unless he is pinned and secured, it is frightful to think of the things that may happen.”

“What else can we do?” said Adye. “I must go down at once and begin organising. But why not come? Yes –you come too! Come, and we must hold a sort of council of war, –get Hopps to help –and the railway managers. By Jove! it’s urgent. Come along –tell me as we go. What else is there we can do? Put that stuff down.”

In another moment Adye was leading the way downstairs. They found the front door open and the policemen standing outside staring at empty air. “He’s got away, sir,” said one.

“We must go to the central station at once,” said Adye. “One of you go on down and get a cab to come up and meet us –quickly. And now, Kemp, what else?”

“Dogs,” said Kemp. “Get dogs. They don’t see him, but they wind him. Get dogs.”

“Good,” said Adye. “It’s not generally known, but the prison officials over at Halstead know a man with bloodhounds. Dogs. What else?”

“Bear in mind,” said Kemp, “his food shows. After eating, his food shows until it is assimilated. So that he has to hide after eating. You must keep on beating, –every thicket, every quiet corner. And put all weapons, all implements that might be weapons, away. He can’t carry such things for long. And what he can snatch up and strike men with must be hidden away.”

“Good again,” said Adye. “We shall have him yet!”

“And on the roads,” said Kemp, and hesitated.

“Yes?” said Adye.

“Powdered glass,” said Kemp. “It’s cruel, I know. But think of what he may do!” Adye drew the air in sharply between his teeth. “It’s unsportsmanlike. I don’t know. But I’ll have powdered glass got ready. If he goes too far –”

“The man’s become inhuman, I tell you,” said Kemp. “I am as sure he will establish a reign of terror –so soon as he has got over the emotions of this escape –as I am sure I am talking to you. Our only chance is to be ahead. He has cut himself off from his kind. His blood be upon his own head.”

26.

The Wicksteed Murder

The Invisible Man seems to have rushed out of Kemp’s house in a state of blind fury. A little child playing near Kemp’s gateway was violently caught up and thrown aside, so that its ankle was broken, and thereafter for some hours the Invisible Man passed out of human perceptions. No one knows where he went nor what he did. But one can imagine him hurrying through the hot June forenoon, up the hill and on to the open downland behind Port Burdock, raging and despairing at his intolerable fate, and sheltering at last, heated and weary, amid the thickets of Hintondean, to piece together again his shattered schemes against his species. That seems the most probable refuge for him, for there it was he re-asserted himself in a grimly tragical manner about two in the afternoon. One wonders what his state of mind may have been during that time, and what plans he devised. No doubt he was almost ecstatically exasperated by Kemp’s treachery, and though we may be able to understand the motives that led to that deceit, we may still imagine and even sympathise a little with the fury the attempted surprise must have occasioned. Perhaps something of the stunned astonishment of his Oxford Street experiences may have returned to him, for he had evidently counted on Kemp’s cooperation in his brutal dream of a terrorised world. At any rate he vanished from human ken about midday, and no living witness can tell what he did until about half-past two. It was a fortunate thing, perhaps, for humanity, but for him it was a fatal inaction. During that time a growing multitude of men scattered over the countryside were busy. In the morning he had still been simply a legend, a terror; in the afternoon, by virtue chiefly of Kemp’s drily worded proclamation, he was presented as a tangible antagonist, to be wounded, captured, or overcome, and the countryside began organising itself with inconceivable rapidity. By two o’clock even he might still have removed himself out of the district by getting aboard a train, but after two that became impossible. Every passenger train along the lines on a great parallelogram between Southhampton, Manchester, Brighton, and Horshman, travelled with locked doors, and the goods traffic was almost entirely suspended. And in a great circle of twenty miles round Port Burdock, men armed with guns and bludgeons were presently setting out in groups of three and four, with dogs, to beat the roads and fields.

Mounted policemen rode along the country lanes, stopping at every cottage and warning the people to lock up their houses, and keep indoors unless they were armed, and all the elementary schools had broken up by three o’clock, and the children, scared and keeping together in groups, were hurrying home. Kemp’s proclamation –signed indeed by Adye –was posted over almost the whole district by four or five o’clock in the afternoon. It gave briefly but clearly all the conditions of the struggle, the necessity of keeping the Invisible Man from food and sleep, the necessity for incessant watchfulness and for a prompt attention to any evidence of his movements. And so swift and decided was the action of the authorities, so prompt and universal was the belief in this strange being, that before nightfall an area of several hundred square miles was in a stringent state of siege. And before nightfall, too, a thrill of horror went through the whole watching nervous countryside. Going from whispering mouth to mouth, swift and certain over the length and breadth of the county, passed the story of the murder of Mr. Wicksteed.

If our supposition that the Invisible Man’s refuge was the Hintondean thickets, then we must suppose that in the early afternoon he sallied out again bent upon some project that involved the use of a weapon. We cannot know what the project was, but the evidence that he had the iron rod in hand before he met Wicksteed is to me at least overwhelming. Of course we can know nothing of the details of the encounter. It occurred on the edge of a gravel pit, not two hundred yards from Lord Burdock’s Lodge gate. Everything points to a desperate struggle, –the trampled ground, the numerous wounds Mr. Wicksteed received, his splintered walking-stick; but why the attack was made –save in a murderous frenzy –it is impossible to imagine. Indeed the theory of madness is almost unavoidable. Mr. Wicksteed was a man of forty-five or forty-six, steward to Lord Burdock, of inoffensive habits and appearance, the very last person in the world to provoke such a terrible antagonist. Against him it would seem the Invisible Man used an iron rod dragged from a broken piece of fence. He stopped this quiet man, going quietly home to his midday meal, attacked him, beat down his feeble defences, broke his arm, felled him, and smashed his head to a jelly.

Of course he must have dragged this rod out of the fencing before he met his victim; he must have been carrying it ready in his hand. Only two details beyond what has already been stated seem to bear on the matter. One is the circumstance that the gravel pit was not in Mr. Wicksteed’s direct path home, but nearly a couple of hundred yards out of his way. The other is the assertion of a little girl to the effect that, going to her afternoon school, she saw the murdered man “trotting” in a peculiar manner across a field towards the gravel pit. Her pantomine of his action suggests a man pursuing something on the ground before him and striking at it ever and again with his walking-stick. She was the last person to see him alive. He passed out of her sight to his death, the struggle being hidden from her only by a clump of beech trees and a slight depression in the ground. Now this, to the present writer’s mind at least, lifts the murder out of the realm of the absolutely wanton. We may imagine that Griffin had taken the rod as a weapon indeed, but without any deliberate intention of using it in murder. Wicksteed may then have come by and noticed this rod inexplicably moving through the air. Without any thought of the Invisible Man –for Port Burdock is ten miles away –he may have pursued it. It is quite conceivable that he may not even have heard of the Invisible Man. One can then imagine the Invisible Man making off –quietly in order to avoid discovering his presence in the neighbourhood, and Wicksteed, excited and curious, pursuing this unaccountably locomotive object, –finally striking at it.

No doubt the Invisible Man could easily have distanced his middle-aged pursuer under ordinary circumstances, but the position in which Wicksteed’s body was found suggests that he had the ill luck to drive his quarry into a corner between a drift of stinging nettles and the gravel pit. To those who appreciate the extraordinary irascibility of the Invisible Man, the rest of the encounter will be easy to imagine.

But this is pure hypothesis. The only undeniable facts –for stories of children are often unreliable –are the discovery of Wicksteed’s body, done to death, and of the bloodstained iron rod flung among the nettles. The abandonment of the rod by Griffin, suggests that in the emotional excitement of the affair, the purpose for which he took it –if he had a purpose –was abandoned. He was certainly an intensely egotistical and unfeeling man, but the sight of his victim, his first victim, bloody and pitiful at his feet, may have released some long pent fountain of remorse which for a time may have flooded whatever scheme of action he had contrived.

After the murder of Mr. Wicksteed, he would seem to have struck across the country towards the downland. There is a story of a voice heard about sunset by a couple of men in a field near Fern Bottom. It was wailing and laughing, sobbing and groaning, and ever and again it shouted. It must have been queer hearing. It drove up across the middle of a clover field and died away towards the hills.

That afternoon the Invisible Man must have learnt something of the rapid use Kemp had made of his confidences. He must have found houses locked and secured; he may have loitered about railway stations and prowled about inns, and no doubt he read the proclamations and realised something of the nature of the campaign against him. And as the evening advanced, the fields became dotted here and there with groups of three or four men, and noisy with the yelping of dogs. These men-hunters had particular instructions in the case of an encounter as to the way they should support one another. He avoided them all. We may understand something of his exasperation, and it could have been none the less because he himself had supplied the information that was being used so remorselessly against him. For that day at least he lost heart; for nearly twenty-four hours, save when he turned on Wicksteed, he was a hunted man. In the night, he must have eaten and slept; for in the morning he was himself again, active, powerful, angry, and malignant, prepared for his last great struggle against the world.

27.

The Siege of Kemp’s House

Kemp read a strange missive, written in pencil on a greasy sheet of paper.

“You have been amazingly energetic and clever,” this letter ran, “though what you stand to gain by it I cannot imagine. You are against me. For a whole day you have chased me; you have tried to rob me of a night’s rest. But I have had food in spite of you, I have slept in spite of you, and the game is only beginning. The game is only beginning. There is nothing for it, but to start the Terror. This announces the first day of the Terror. Port Burdock is no longer under the Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is under me –the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch, –the Epoch of the Invisible Man. I am Invisible Man the First. To begin with the rule will be easy. The first day there will be one execution for the sake of example, –a man named Kemp. Death starts for him to-day. He may lock himself away, hide himself away, get guards about him, put on armour if he likes; Death, the unseen Death, is coming. Let him take precautions; it will impress my people. Death starts from the pillar box by midday. The letter will fall in as the postman comes along, then off! The game begins. Death starts. Help him not, my people, lest Death fall upon you also. To-day Kemp is to die.” When Kemp read this letter twice, “It’s no hoax,” he said. “That’s his voice! And he means it.”

He turned the folded sheet over and saw on the addressed side of it the postmark Hintondean, and the prosaic detail “2d. to pay.”

He got up slowly, leaving his lunch unfinished, –the letter had come by the one o’clock post, –and went into his study. He rang for his housekeeper, and told her to go round the house at once, examine all the fastenings of the windows, and close all the shutters. He closed the shutters of his study himself. From a locked drawer in his bedroom he took a little revolver, examined it carefully, and put it into the pocket of his lounge jacket. He wrote a number of brief notes, one to Colonel Adye, gave them to his servant to take, with explicit instructions as to her way of leaving the house. “There is no danger,” he said, and added a mental reservation, “to you.” He remained meditative for a space after doing this, and then returned to his cooling lunch.

He ate with gaps of thought. Finally he struck the table sharply. “We will have him!” he said; “and I am the bait. He will come too far.”

He went up to the belvedere, carefully shutting every door after him. “It’s a game,” he said, “an odd game –but the chances are all for me, Mr. Griffin, in spite of your invisibility. Griffin contra mundum –with a vengeance.”

He stood at the window staring at the hot hillside. “He must get food every day –and I don’t envy him. Did he really sleep last night? Out in the open somewhere –secure from collisions. I wish we could get some good cold wet weather instead of the heat.

“He may be watching me now.”

He went close to the window. Something rapped smartly against the brickwork over the frame, and made him start violently back.

“I’m getting nervous,” said Kemp. But it was five minutes before he went to the window again. “It must have been a sparrow,” he said.

Presently he heard the front-door bell ringing, and hurried downstairs. He unbolted and unlocked the door, examined the chain, put it up, and opened cautiously without showing himself. A familiar voice hailed him. It was Adye.

“Your servant’s been assaulted, Kemp,” he said round the door.

“What!” exclaimed Kemp.

“Had that note of yours taken away from her. He’s close about here. Let me in.” Kemp released the chain, and Adye entered through as narrow an opening as possible. He stood in the hall, looking with infinite relief at Kemp refastening the door. “Note was snatched out of her hand. Scared her horribly. She’s down at the station. Hysterics. He’s close here. What was it about?”

Kemp swore.

“What a fool I was,” said Kemp. “I might have known. It’s not an hour’s walk from Hintondean. Already!”

“What’s up?” said Adye.

“Look here!” said Kemp, and led the way into his study. He handed Adye the Invisible Man’s letter. Adye read it and whistled softly. “And you –?” said Adye.

“Proposed a trap –like a fool,” said Kemp, “and sent my proposal out by a maid servant. To him.”

Adye followed Kemp’s profanity.

“He’ll clear out,” said Adye.

“Not he,” said Kemp.

A resounding smash of glass came from upstairs. Adye had a silvery glimpse of a little revolver half out of Kemp’s pocket. “It’s a window, upstairs!” said Kemp, and led the way up. There came a second smash while they were still on the staircase. When they reached the study they found two of the three windows smashed, half the room littered with splintered glass, and one big flint lying on the writing table. The two men stopped in the doorway, contemplating the wreckage. Kemp swore again, and as he did so the third window went with a snap like a pistol, hung starred for a moment, and collapsed in jagged, shivering triangles into the room.

“What’s this for?” said Adye.

“It’s a beginning,” said Kemp.

“There’s no way of climbing up here?”

“Not for a cat,” said Kemp.

“No shutters?”

“Not here. All the downstairs rooms –Hullo!”

Smash, and then whack of boards hit hard came from downstairs. “Confound him!” said Kemp. “That must be –yes –it’s one of the bedrooms. He’s going to do all the house. But he’s a fool. The shutters are up, and the glass will fall outside. He’ll cut his feet.”

Another window proclaimed its destruction. The two men stood on the landing perplexed. “I have it!” said Adye. “Let me have a stick or something, and I’ll go down to the station and get the bloodhounds put on. That ought to settle him! They’re hard by –not ten minutes –” Another window went the way of its fellows.

“You haven’t a revolver?” asked Adye.

Kemp’s hand went to his pocket. Then he hesitated. “I haven’t one –at least to spare.”

“I’ll bring it back,” said Adye, “you’ll be safe here.” Kemp, ashamed of his momentary lapse from truthfulness, handed him the weapon.

“Now for the door,” said Adye.

As they stood hesitating in the hall, they heard one of the first-floor bedroom windows crack and clash. Kemp went to the door and began to slip the bolts as silently as possible. His face was a little paler than usual. “You must step straight out,” said Kemp. In another moment Adye was on the doorstep and the bolts were dropping back into the staples. He hesitated for a moment, feeling more comfortable with his back against the door. Then he marched, upright and square, down the steps. He crossed the lawn and approached the gate. A little breeze seemed to ripple over the grass. Something moved near him. “Stop a bit,” said a Voice, and Adye stopped dead and his hand tightened on the revolver.

“Well?” said Adye, white and grim, and every nerve tense.

“Oblige me by going back to the house,” said the Voice, as tense and grim as Adye’s.

“Sorry,” said Adye a little hoarsely, and moistened his lips with his tongue. The Voice was on his left front, he thought. Suppose he were to take his luck with a shot?

“What are you going for?” said the Voice, and there was a quick movement of the two, and a flash of sunlight from the open lip of Adye’s pocket.

Adye desisted and thought. “Where I go,” he said slowly, “is my own business.” The words were still on his lips, when an arm came round his neck, his back felt a knee, and he was sprawling backward. He drew clumsily and fired absurdly, and in another moment he was struck in the mouth and the revolver wrested from his grip. He made a vain clutch at a slippery limb, tried to struggle up and fell back. “Damn!” said Adye. The Voice laughed. “I’d kill you now if it wasn’t the waste of a bullet,” it said. He saw the revolver in mid-air, six feet off, covering him.

“Well?” said Adye, sitting up.

“Get up,” said the Voice.

Adye stood up.

“Attention,” said the Voice, and then fiercely. “Don’t try any games. Remember I can see your face if you can’t see mine. You’ve got to go back to the house.”

“He won’t let me in,” said Adye.

“That’s a pity,” said the Invisible Man. “I’ve got no quarrel with you.” Adye moistened his lips again. He glanced away from the barrel of the revolver and saw the sea far off very blue and dark under the midday sun, the smooth green down, the white cliff of the Head, and the multitudinous town, and suddenly he knew that life was very sweet. His eyes came back to this little metal thing hanging between heaven and earth, six yards away. “What am I to do?” he said sullenly.

“What am I to do?” asked the Invisible Man. “You will get help. The only thing is for you to go back.”

“I will try. If he lets me in will you promise not to rush the door?”

“I’ve got no quarrel with you, said the Voice.

Kemp had hurried upstairs after letting Adye out, and now crouching among the broken glass and peering cautiously over the edge of the study window sill, he saw Adye stand parleying with the Unseen. “Why doesn’t he fire?” whispered Kemp to himself. Then the revolver moved a little and the glint of the sunlight flashed in Kemp’s eyes. He shaded his eyes and tried to see the source of the blinding beam.

“Surely!” he said, “Adye has given up the revolver.”

“Promise not to rush the door,” Adye was saying. “Don’t push a winning game too far. Give a man a chance.”

“You go back to the house. I tell you flatly I will not promise anything.” Adye’s decision seemed suddenly made. He turned towards the house, walking slowly with his hands behind him. Kemp watched him –puzzled. The revolver vanished, flashed again into sight, vanished again, and became evident on a closer scrutiny as a little dark object following Adye. Then things happened very quickly. Adye leapt backwards, swung round, clutched at this little object, missed it, threw up his hands and fell forward on his face, leaving a little puff of blue in the air. Kemp did not hear the sound of the shot. Adye writhed, raised himself on one arm, fell forward, and lay still. For a space Kemp remaining staring at the quiet carelessness of Adye’s attitude. The afternoon was very hot and still, nothing seemed stirring in all the world save a couple of yellow butterflies chasing each other through the shrubbery between the house and the road gate. Adye lay on the lawn near the gate. The blinds of all the villas down the hillroad were drawn, but in one little green summer-house was a white figure, apparently an old man asleep. Kemp scrutinized the surroundings of the house for a glimpse of the revolver, but it had vanished. His eyes came back to Adye. The game was opening well. Then came a ringing and knocking at the front door, that grew at last tumultuous, but pursuant to Kemp’s instructions the servants had locked themselves into their rooms. This was followed by a silence. Kemp sat listening and then began peering cautiously out of the three windows, one after another. He went to the staircase head and stood listening uneasily. He armed himself with his bedroom poker, and went to examine the interior fastenings of the ground-floor windows again. Everything was safe and quiet. He returned to the belvedere. Adye lay motionless over the edge of the gravel just as he had fallen. Coming along the road by the villas were the housemaid and two policemen. Everything was deadly still. The three people seemed very slow in approaching. He wondered what his antagonist was doing.

He started. There was a smash from below. He hesitated and went downstairs again. Suddenly the house resounded with heavy blows and the splintering of wood. He heard a smash and the destructive clang of the iron fastenings of the shutters. He turned the key and opened the kitchen door. As he did so, the shutters, split and splintering, came flying inward. He stood aghast. The window frame, save for one crossbar, was still intact, but only little teeth of glass remained in the frame. The shutters had been driven in with an axe, and now the axe was descending in sweeping blows upon the window frame and the iron bars defending it. Then suddenly it leapt aside and vanished. He saw the revolver lying on the path outside, and then the little weapon sprang into the air. He dodged back. The revolver cracked just too late, and a splinter from the edge of the closing door flashed over his head. He slammed and locked the door, and as he stood outside he heard Griffin shouting and laughing. Then the blows of the axe with its splitting and smashing consequences, were resumed.

Kemp stood in the passage trying to think. In a moment the Invisible Man would be in the kitchen. This door would not keep him a moment, and then –A ringing came at the front door again. It would be the policemen. He ran into the hall, put up the chain, and drew the bolts. He made the girl speak before he dropped the chain, and the three people blundered into the house in a heap, and Kemp slammed the door again.

“The Invisible Man!” said Kemp. “He has a revolver, with two shots –left. He’s killed Adye. Shot him anyhow. Didn’t you see him on the lawn? He’s lying there.”

“Who?” said one of the policemen.

“Adye,” said Kemp.

“We came in the back way,” said the girl.

“What’s that smashing?” asked one of the policemen.

“He’s in the kitchen –or will be. He has found an axe –”

Suddenly the house was full of the Invisible Man’s resounding blows on the kitchen door. The girl stared towards the kitchen, shuddered, and retreated into the dining-room. Kemp tried to explain in broken sentences. They heard the kitchen door give.

“This way,” cried Kemp, starting into activity, and bundled the policemen into the dining-room doorway.

“Poker,” said Kemp, and rushed to the fender. He handed the poker he had carried to the policeman and the dining-room one to the other. He suddenly flung himself backward.

“Whup!” said one policeman, ducked, and caught the axe on his poker. The pistol snapped its penultimate shot and ripped a valuable Sidney Cooper. The second policeman brought his poker down on the little weapon, as one might knock down a wasp, and sent it rattling to the floor.

At the first clash the girl screamed, stood screaming for a moment by the fireplace, and then ran to open the shutters –possibly with an idea of escaping by the shattered window.

The axe receded into the passage, and fell to a position about two feet from the ground. They could hear the Invisible Man breathing. “Stand away, you two,” he said. “I want that man Kemp.”

“We want you,” said the first policeman, making a quick step forward and wiping with his poker at the Voice. The Invisible Man must have started back, and he blundered into the umbrella stand. Then, as the policeman staggered with the swing of the blow he had aimed, the Invisible Man countered with the axe, the helmet crumpled like paper, and the blow sent the man spinning to the floor at the head of the kitchen stairs. But the second policeman, aiming behind the axe with his poker, hit something soft that snapped. There was a sharp exclamation of pain and then the axe fell to the ground. The policeman wiped again at vacancy and hit nothing; he put his foot on the axe, and struck again. Then he stood, poker clubbed, listening intent for the slightest movement.

He heard the dining-room window open, and a quick rush of feet within. His companion rolled over and sat up, with the blood running down between his eye and ear.

“Where is he?” asked the man on the floor.

“Don’t know. I’ve hit him. He’s standing somewhere in the hall. Unless he’s slipped past you. Doctor Kemp –sir.”

Pause.

“Doctor Kemp,” cried the policeman again.

The second policeman began struggling to his feet. He stood up. Suddenly the faint pad of bare feet on the kitchen stairs could be heard. “Yap!” cried the first policeman, and incontinently flung his poker. It smashed a little gas bracket.

He made as if he would pursue the Invisible Man downstairs. Then he thought better of it and stepped into the dining-room.

“Doctor Kemp,” he began, and stopped short –“Doctor Kemp’s in here,” he said, as his companion looked over his shoulder. The dining-room window was wide open, and neither housemaid nor Kemp was to be seen.

The second policeman’s opinion of Kemp was terse and vivid.

28.

The Hunter Hunted

Mr. Heelas, Mr. Kemp’s nearest neighbour among the villa holders, was asleep in his summer house when the siege of Kemp’s house began. Mr. Heelas was one of the sturdy minority who refused to believe “in all this nonsense” about an Invisible Man. His wife, however, as he was subsequently to be reminded, did. He insisted upon walking about his garden just as if nothing was the matter, and he went to sleep in the afternoon in accordance with the custom of years. He slept through the smashing of the windows, and then woke up suddenly with a curious persuasion of something wrong. He looked across at Kemp’s house, rubbed his eyes and looked again. Then he put his feet to the ground, and sat listening. He said he was damned, and still the strange thing was visible. The house looked as though it had been deserted for weeks –after a violent riot. Every window was broken, and every window, save those of the belvedere study, was blinded by the internal shutters.

“I could have sworn it was all right” –he looked at his watch –“twenty minutes ago.” He became aware of a measured concussion and the clash of glass, far away in the distance. And then, as he sat open-mouthed, came a still more wonderful thing. The shutters of the drawing-room window were flung open violently, and the housemaid in her outdoor hat and garments, appeared struggling in a frantic manner to throw up the sash. Suddenly a man appeared beside her, helping her, –Dr. Kemp! In another moment the window was open, and the housemaid was struggling out; she pitched forward and vanished among the shrubs. Mr. Heelas stood up, exclaiming vaguely and vehemently at all these wonderful things. He saw Kemp stand on the sill, spring from the window, and reappear almost instantaneously running along a path in the shrubbery and stooping as he ran, like a man who evades observation. He vanished behind a laburnum, and appeared again clambering a fence that abutted on the open down. In a second he had tumbled over and was running at a tremendous pace down the slope towards Mr. Heelas.

“Lord!” cried Mr. Heelas, struck with an idea; “it’s that Invisible Man brute! It’s right, after all!”

With Mr. Heelas to think things like that was to act, and his cook watching him from the top window was amazed to see him come pelting towards the house at a good nine miles an hour. “Thought he wasn’t afraid,” said the cook. “Mary, just come here!” There was a slamming of doors, a ringing of bells, and the voice of Mr. Heelas bellowing like a bull. “Shut the doors, shut the windows, shut everything! the Invisible Man is coming!” Instantly the house was full of screams and directions, and scurrying feet. He ran himself to shut the French windows that opened on the veranda; as he did so Kemp’s head and shoulders and knee appeared over the edge of the garden fence. In another moment Kemp had ploughed through the asparagus, and was running across the tennis lawn to the house.

“You can’t come in,” said Mr. Heelas, shutting the bolts. “I’m very sorry if he’s after you, but you can’t come in!”

Kemp appeared with a face of terror close to the glass, rapping and then shaking frantically at the French window. Then, seeing his efforts were useless, he ran along the veranda, vaulted the end, and went to hammer at the side door. Then he ran round by the side gate to the front of the house, and so into the hill-road. And Mr. Heelas staring from his window –a face of horror –had scarcely witnessed Kemp vanish, ere the asparagus was being trampled this way and that by feet unseen. At that Mr. Heelas fled precipitately upstairs, and the rest of the chase is beyond his purview. But as he passed the staircase window, he heard the side gate slam.

Emerging into the hill-road, Kemp naturally took the downward direction, and so it was he came to run in his own person the very race he had watched with such a critical eye from the belvedere study only four days ago. He ran it well, for a man out of training, and though his face was white and wet, his wits were cool to the last. He ran with wide strides, and wherever a patch of rough ground intervened, wherever there came a patch of raw flints, or a bit of broken glass shone dazzling, he crossed it and left the bare invisible feet that followed to take what line they would.

For the first time in his life Kemp discovered that the hill-road was indescribably vast and desolate, and that the beginnings of the town far below at the hill foot were strangely remote. Never had there been a slower or more painful method of progression than running. All the gaunt villas, sleeping in the afternoon sun, looked locked and barred; no doubt they were locked and barred –by his own orders. But at any rate they might have kept a lookout for an eventuality like this! The town was rising up now, the sea had dropped out of sight behind it, and people down below were stirring. A tram was just arriving at the hill foot. Beyond that was the police station. Was that footsteps he heard behind him? Spurt.

The people below were staring at him, one or two were running, and his breath was beginning to saw in his throat. The tram was quite near now, and the jolly Cricketers was noisily barring its doors. Beyond the tram were posts and heaps of gravel, –the drainage works. He had a transitory idea of jumping into the tram and slamming the doors, and then he resolved to go for the police station. In another moment he had passed the door of the jolly Cricketers, and was in the blistering fag end of street, with human beings about him. The tram driver and his helper –arrested by the sight of his furious haste –stood staring with the tram horses unhitched. Further on the astonished features of navvies appeared above the mounds of gravel.

His pace broke a little, and then he heard the swift pad of his pursuer, and leapt forward again. “The Invisible Man!” he cried to the navvies, with a vague indicative gesture, and by an inspiration leapt the excavation and placed a burly group between him and the chase. Then abandoning the idea of the police station he turned into a little side street, rushed by a greengrocer’s cart, hesitated for the tenth of a second at the door of a sweetstuff shop, and then made for the mouth of an alley that ran back into the main Hill Street again. Two or three little children were playing here, and shrieked and scattered at his apparition, and forthwith doors and windows opened and excited mothers revealed their hearts. Out he shot into Hill Street again, three hundred yards from the tram-line end, and immediately he became aware of a tumultuous vociferation and running people. He glanced up the street towards the hill. Hardly a dozen yards off ran a huge navvy, cursing in fragments and slashing viciously with a spade, and hard behind him came the tram conductor with his fists clenched. Up the street others followed these two, striking and shouting. Down towards the town, men and women were running, and he noticed clearly one man coming out of a shop-door with a stick in his hand. “Spread out! Spread out!” cried some one. Kemp suddenly grasped the altered condition of the chase. He stopped, and looked round, panting. “He’s close here!” he cried. “Form a line across –”

“Aha!” shouted a voice.

He was hit hard under the ear, and went reeling, trying to face round towards his unseen antagonist. He just managed to keep his feet, and he struck a vain counter in the air. Then he was hit again under the jaw, and sprawled headlong on the ground. In another moment a knee compressed his diaphragm, and a couple of eager hands gripped his throat, but the grip of one was weaker than the other; he grasped the wrists, heard a cry of pain from his assailant, and then the spade of the navvy came whirling through the air above him, and struck something with a dull thud. He felt a drop of moisture on his face. The grip at his throat suddenly relaxed, and with a convulsive effort, Kemp loosed himself, grasped a limp shoulder, and rolled uppermost. He gripped the unseen elbows near the ground. “I’ve got him!” screamed Kemp. “Help! Help hold! He’s down! Hold his feet!”

In another second there was a simultaneous rush upon the struggle, and a stranger coming into the road suddenly might have thought an exceptionally savage game of Rugby football was in progress. And there was no shouting after Kemp’s cry, –only a sound of blows and feet and a heavy breathing.

Then came a mighty effort, and the Invisible Man threw off a couple of his antagonists and rose to his knees. Kemp clung to him in front like a hound to a stag, and a dozen hands gripped, clutched, and tore at the Unseen. The tram conductor suddenly got the neck and shoulders and lugged him back.

Down went the heap of struggling men again and rolled over. There was, I am afraid, some savage kicking. Then suddenly a wild scream of “Mercy! Mercy!” that died down swiftly to a sound like choking.

“Get back, you fools!” cried the muffled voice of Kemp, and there was a vigorous shoving back of stalwart forms. “He’s hurt, I tell you. Stand back!” There was a brief struggle to clear a space, and then the circle of eager faces saw the doctor kneeling, as it seemed, fifteen inches in the air, and holding invisible arms to the ground. Behind him a constable gripped invisible ankles.

“Don’t you leave go of en,” cried the big navvy, holding a blood-stained spade; “he’s shamming.”

“He’s not shamming,” said the doctor, cautiously raising his knee; “and I’ll hold him.” His face was bruised and already going red; he spoke thickly because of a bleeding lip. He released one hand and seemed to be feeling at the face. “The mouth’s all wet,” he said. And then, “Good God!”

He stood up abruptly and then knelt down on the ground by the side of the thing unseen. There was a pushing and shuffling, a sound of heavy feet as fresh people turned up to increase the pressure of the crowd. People now were coming out of the houses. The doors of the jolly Cricketers were suddenly wide open. Very little was said. Kemp felt about, his hand seeming to pass through empty air. “He’s not breathing,” he said, and then, “I can’t feel his heart. His side –ugh!”

Suddenly an old woman, peering under the arm of the big navvy, screamed sharply.

“Looky there!” she said, and thrust out a wrinkled finger.

And looking where she pointed, everyone saw, faint and transparent as though it was made of glass, so that veins and arteries and bones and nerves could be distinguished, the outline of a hand, a hand limp and prone. It grew clouded and opaque even as they stared.

“Hullo!” cried the constable. “Here’s his feet a-showing!” And so, slowly, beginning at his hands and feet and creeping along his limbs to the vital centres of his body, that strange change continued. It was like the slow spreading of a poison. First came the little white nerves, a hazy grey sketch of a limb, then the glassy bones and intricate arteries, then the flesh and skin, first a faint fogginess, and then growing rapidly dense and opaque. Presently they could see his crushed chest and his shoulders, and the dim outline of his drawn and battered features.

When at last the crowd made way for Kemp to stand erect, there lay, naked and pitiful on the ground, the bruised and broken body of a young man about thirty. His hair and beard were white, –not grey with age, but white with the whiteness of albinism, and his eyes were like garnets. His hands were clenched, his eyes wide open, and his expression was one of anger and dismay.

“Cover his face!” said a man. “For Gawd’s sake, cover that face!” and three little children, pushing forward through the crowd, were suddenly twisted round and sent packing off again.

Someone brought a sheet from the jolly Cricketers, and having covered him, they carried him into that house.

The Epilogue

So ends the story of the strange and evil experiment of the Invisible Man. And if you would learn more of him you must go to a little inn near Port Stowe and talk to the landlord. The sign of the inn is an empty board save for a hat and boots, and the name is the title of this story. The landlord is a short and corpulent little man with a nose of cylindrical protrusion, wiry hair, and a sporadic rosiness of visage. Drink generously, and he will tell you generously of all the things that happened to him after that time, and of how the lawyers tried to do him out of the treasure found upon him.

“When they found they couldn’t prove who’s money was which, I’m blessed,” he says,

“if they didn’t try to make me out a blooming treasure trove! Do I look like a Treasure Trove? And then a gentleman gave me a guinea a night to tell the story at the Empire Music’all –just to tell ’em in my own words –barring one.”

And if you want to cut off the flow of his reminiscences abruptly, you can always do so by asking if there weren’t three manuscript books in the story. He admits there were and proceeds to explain, with asseverations that everybody thinks he has ’em! But bless you! he hasn’t. “The Invisible Man it was took ’em off to hide ’em when I cut and ran for Port Stowe. It’s that Mr. Kemp put people on with the idea of my having ’em.” And then he subsides into a pensive state, watches you furtively, bustles nervously with glasses, and presently leaves the bar.

He is a bachelor man –his tastes were ever bachelor, and there are no women folk in the house. Outwardly he buttons –it is expected of him –but in his more vital privacies, in the matter of braces for example, he still turns to string. He conducts his house without enterprise, but with eminent decorum. His movements are slow, and he is a great thinker. But he has a reputation for wisdom and for a respectable parsimony in the village, and his knowledge of the roads of the South of England would beat Cobbett.

And on Sunday mornings, every Sunday morning, all the year round, while he is closed to the outer world, and every night after ten, he goes into his bar parlour, bearing a glass of gin faintly tinged with water, and having placed this down, he locks the door and examines the blinds, and even looks under the table. And then, being satisfied of his solitude, he unlocks the cupboard and a box in the cupboard and a drawer in that box, and produces three volumes bound in brown leather, and places them solemnly in the middle of the table. The covers are weather-worn and tinged with an algal green for once they sojourned in a ditch and some of the pages have been washed blank by dirty water. The landlord sits down in an armchair, fills a long clay pipe slowly –gloating over the books the while. Then he pulls one towards him and opens it, and begins to study it –turning over the leaves backwards and forwards.

His brows are knit and his lips move painfully. “Hex, little two up in the air, cross and a fiddle-de-dee. Lord! what a one he was for intellect!”

Presently he relaxes and leans back, and blinks through his smoke across the room at things invisible to other eyes. “Full of secrets,” he says. “Wonderful secrets!

“Once I get the haul of them –Lord!

“I wouldn’t do what he did; I’d just –well!” He pulls at his pipe. So he lapses into a dream, the undying wonderful dream of his life. And though Kemp has fished unceasingly, and Adye has questioned closely, no human being save the landlord knows those books are there, with the subtle secret of invisibility and a dozen other strange secrets written therein. And none other will know of them until he dies. The End

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Copycat ripper

Copycat Ripper Bryan Stark Chapter 1 Detective Chief Inspector John Anderson walked across the grass and stood just inside the taped-off area, well away from the activity in the centre of the park. He was not pleased. Five minutes later Comben joined him. Anderson waited but his new Detective Sergeant said nothing. Then Anderson raised his left hand so that the sleeve of his coat slipped easily over the thin disc of his watch and fell back down his arm. Black hands and black Arabic figures showed up well on the dulled-metal dial and showed it was a few minutes past six. He nodded in Comben‘s direction. The younger man raised his own hand but had to push his sleeve over the bulk that Anderson imagined was some sort of multi-functioning computer. The figures could have been read from a yard away but Anderson stooped and read off 06.04. ‗Sorry sir,‘ said Comben. Anderson didn‘t reply; he‘d made his point. He did expect his sergeants to be quicker off the mark. He had no doubt that Comben slept sounder and longer than he did himself and it was true that the phone call from the station hadn‘t woken him: the first light of dawn creeping round his curtains had done that. But he had taken his time getting there: two – or was it three – cups of Lavazza, a shower and then he always took a little time deciding what to wear. He felt the pang of an unhealed wound as he thought about his clothes and he was not quick enough to stop his mouth twitching into a grimace. Whenever he stood in front of his wardrobe, he still yearned to put on the suits that hung to the left – the pre-Comben clothes – but he never did. He had his old Detective Sergeant, Patricia Fielding, to thank for that and now, as a newly promoted Detective Inspector, she reminded him about it every time they met in the station. Not that she said anything – she wouldn‘t say anything – but her eyes were more expressive than words could ever be, as they examined the texture and shade of his suits. Anderson dragged his mind away from the unpleasantness. He was in time to put his arm out and restrain his sergeant as the man turned towards the centre of the park. ‗Let the scene-of-crime officers do their job,‘ he said. ‗This isn‘t a TV show and the fewer people tramping over the ground the better.‘ Anderson turned away from the hubbub and looked behind him at the rows of houses across the street. There was no sign of movement: no early worker opening doors and glumly setting out; no sounds of cars being started up; milk bottles stood untouched on doorsteps. This was not working-class land and the occupants were not expected in their offices before ten, if they worked at all. It was the best street in the neighbourhood, overlooking Queen‘s Park; Anderson held no hope of anyone across there having seen anything over here. They had canvassed the street before, after they found the first body and nothing had come out of it. Still, they would have to do it again. Anderson turned back and saw that the activity had died down, so he sent Comben across. The Detective Sergeant came back and told Anderson what he already knew from the phone call earlier: it was a second strangulation of a middle-aged woman and she had died elsewhere. The murderer had carried the body to the park, pushed it over the railings, climbed over himself and then dragged it across the grass. Only after he had been done all this, had he mutilated the corpse. However, this one was different and Anderson had to trek across to see. The first had multiple stab wounds; this one had been partly eviscerated. A memory tugged at Anderson‘s mind but he didn‘t struggle to bring it to the surface. It would come soon enough. As he leaned forward, the tails of his long coat struggled towards the corpse — not far, since he had fastened each button carefully before walking across, although it wasn‘t cold. He drew the coat back and, as he did so, he wondered what had happened to him. When was it that he became more worried about contaminating his coat than the tragedy that lay before him? He looked up at the faces around him. No, he wasn‘t the only one. He was surrounded by cool, unemotional expressions. Familiarity, that was what it was. Homicides hadn‘t yet reached American levels but they were getting there. Clarissa looked again at the story she had been reading. This was the writer‘s second attempt. The first had contained a violent murder and this one did too but was more special. It contained details of a slashed throat and an abdomen sliced from top to bottom. She was sure that she knew where the idea had come from. She walked into Mark‘s room. Sugden‘s book was easy to find on Mark‘s bookshelf: it looked forlorn and lonely with only two or three others to keep it company. She flicked over a few pages and there it was — Martha and now Poole with intestines hanging around all over the place. Her anonymous writer was basing his stories on Jack the Ripper and putting them into a modern setting. Well she supposed it was a legitimate strategy, although it wasn‘t a genre she favoured. Still, she was there to criticise quality not subject matter. She didn‘t like being too critical of students‘ work, they were too easily discouraged but she judged that the gory descriptions had taken over in the second story and that the plot and the characterisation had become sketchy. So that was what she decided to write on the typescript. But had her distaste for the subject matter spilled over and influenced her critical judgement? She had a little struggle with herself and decided it hadn‘t. As she wrote, she heard his footsteps on the path but she didn‘t get up. Then came the rattle of his key in the lock, the sound of the door slamming behind him and there he was. She could see him out of the corner of her eye, standing in the doorway of her study. But she didn‘t stir until he flung the newspaper on to her desk, which he did every evening. Then and only then did she jerk her head back in mock surprise. ‗I‘m home from work darling,‘ he said, ‗what‘s for dinner?‘ She looked up at him through her reading glasses. The outline of his face was blurred — another sign of ageing: needing two sets of glasses. ‗Work‘, every evening he insisted on using that word, as though she didn‘t know where he had been all day. Yes, he went out to work and she stayed at home, so apparently she must cook. It didn‘t matter that she owned the house and paid for everything in it and that his money – hard-earned money she was sure he would say – paid solely for his amusements: entertainment that excluded her. Was this the price for marrying a younger man? She took off her reading glasses and put her others on to get him into focus. The effort was worth it. She could see why she had to have him. It was part of her spree when she was best selling author of the year. She had decided to spend: the house, clothes, a divorce and then a beautiful new man to adorn the whole edifice. And there he was — blond hair, square shoulders and firm muscles, kept that way by adequate but not excessive exercise. Six foot two of male pulchritude without an unsightly bulge — it was a pity that he didn‘t choose to use his body to please her. During her first marriage, she had learnt the truth of the old saying that if you put a sixpence in a pot for every time you made love during the first year of a marriage and then took one out each time subsequently, it would take ten years to empty the pot. This time it applied equally to the number of evenings they spent together. She didn‘t know who he was fucking but she was damn sure she wasn‘t going to subsidise it for much longer. She might not have published for a year  her last effort had been refused: she had wanted to do something better but her publisher did not agree  and she may now be occupied earning peanuts teaching others to write but she had no intention of becoming a dutiful housewife. Nor had she the inclination to keep her husband in the style to which he wished to become accustomed. Not that she couldn‘t have, had she wanted. The royalties kept flooding in and she could hardly keep pace spending them. That she supposed had been one of the motives for marrying. Rich men marry so that their spouses can spend, so she did too. Very feminist – or perhaps post-feminist – of her she imagined, but now she had changed her mind. He smiled and left the room. She had not said a word. Thank god for take-away. The number was top of her pre-programmed list; she pressed the button. This time she varied the order; very confusing for them but after a repetition or two, they got the message. She glanced down at her desk. Black huge headlines had caught her eye. She couldn‘t read them but one of the words suggested something to her. Back came her reading glasses: SECOND RIPPER VICTIM. It caused her to read on. There was no doubt: a modern Jack was copying the Ripper of a century before and he had reached number two last night — after she had received the second story. She used her diary to check but it was as she had thought: both typescripts had reached her before the actual murders. How the first real murder had escaped her she didn‘t know. It was true that she hardly ever glanced at the daily paper or the evening one Mark brought home but the radio must have been full of it. She took the copy of the first story and the original of the second downstairs with the paper and handed them to Mark. He was sitting in an armchair a glass poised in his left hand; his head back on the rest as though the day had been almost too much. ‗Chinese again, I suppose,‘ he said. ‗Look at this,‘ she said, ‗it‘s important.‘ The doorbell rang and she left the room. She needed to find her handbag before going to the front door, and then it took a little time to fumble in her purse and add a tip. By the time she called Mark into the kitchen, he had had plenty of time to scan the pieces and absorb their meaning. ‗You didn‘t remember this the first time.‘ Clarissa heard the reproach in his voice. Was he saying she was responsible in some way? ‗No, I thought nothing of it. Why should I?‘ ‗The police have been here. I mentioned it to you.‘ ‗Well, I don‘t remember,‘ she said. ‗It‘s clear he‘s the Ripper. You must ring the police immediately.‘ ‗I don‘t know who he is.‘ It was a surprising fact that John Anderson had got used to: the few difficult cases that came his way kept him on the ‗right‘ side of Queen‘s Park. Murder didn‘t often take him to the ‗other side of the tracks‘. In those areas, there were plenty of muggings and burglaries but few murders that needed solving. Violent deaths, when they occurred, mostly resulted in immediate arrests. This side of the train station – an enclave of bourgeois occupation – was where the interesting deaths happened. This was where his special expertise was called for. But this case was different. The killings had not been carried out where the bodies had been found — in the park opposite where he was now standing. So, what big cat was bringing home dead trophies for which mummy owner? And would the pathway he was walking up lead him to the killer? He recognised the woman who opened the door of one of the large and prestigious houses lining the park but was still surprised. He shouldn‘t have been. Knowing the ways of advertising, he should have understood. Her novels dealt with very young people in love and very young people think that anyone over thirty is passed it. He hadn‘t read Clarissa Downing but no one could pass a bookshop without seeing her image in the window. But it was an image of a woman a decade younger than the one who stood at her threshold. Then there was the husband hovering behind her, obviously as young as she had been in the photo. Inside their own living room, they sat together on the settee. Detective Sergeant Comben and Anderson himself sat opposite on chairs. But there was something wrong with the couple: a sort of magical force field kept them apart. The settee was a two-seater and even strangers find it difficult to sit down in comfort without touching each other. Clarissa and her husband managed it. Anderson let her tell her story. ‗At first, I thought the writer shy. Many new members are and that was why I allow people, who want me to read something, to put them in a box one week and collect them the next. Those who wish to discuss their piece or read them out loud can do so but there‘s no pressure on those who don‘t.‘ She had seemed so stiff between the front door and the living room but now, telling a story, she was animated. Anderson could see much more of the young woman who had written those early books. Her eyes glinted with enthusiasm; her limbs moved with welcoming, reaching movements. She lent forward in her eagerness. She was enjoying the drama. Anderson supposed that it was the author in her. He must be careful to separate the truth from the fiction that might creep in to make a good story. ‗I got the first piece three weeks ago. Neither of the two stories were signed but one was collected.‘ ‗You couldn‘t make up your mind who wrote it during the discussions that took place?‘ asked Comben. Anderson leaned back in his chair as he waited for her answer. He was happy to let Comben lead. While he did so, he compared the two young men: both were in their early thirties but the husband – Mark somebody – obviously paid attention to his appearance. The old-fashioned word ‗gigolo‘ slipped involuntarily into his mind when he looked at him. He had the same build as Comben but with blond hair compared to Comben‘s dark brown and his was a self-conscious handsomness, while Comben‘s was thoughtless. Anderson had to stop himself falling into the natural prejudice of a man of his own age. Why shouldn‘t a rich woman in her forties take herself a young lover? Men did it all the time and no one thought it wrong. Clarissa answered Comben‘s question. ‗No, it wasn‘t possible. I wonder whether he was there at all.‘ ‗He?‘ Anderson asked. ‗Don‘t you think it must be a man?‘ Anderson smiled at her answer. Her novels were firmly set in a more pleasant era than London was in the twentieth-first century. ‗We mustn‘t jump to conclusions. The writer may not be the killer and anyway we can‘t eliminate half the population just yet.‘ Comben waited for a while and then continued. ‗Still he or she must have come to your classes some time to have left his stories and then collect one of them.‘ Clarissa nodded but was silent. ‗I must ask you why you didn‘t come forward before,‘ said Anderson. ‗My officers knocked on your door soon after the first murder.‘ ‗My wife never listens to me,‘ said Mark. ‗I spoke to a policeman and mentioned it to Clarissa over a fortnight ago.‘ So he does speak. Anderson scolded himself for being so ungenerous towards the man. Was it envy for his youth? Or was it jealousy? A woman of Clarissa‘s maturity should have an older man — forty-four would be a good age and it just happened to be his own. ‗I‘m sorry,‘ Clarissa said. ‗Do you think the second murder‘s my fault?‘ Anderson looked sternly at her and she leaned forward, as though pleading to be exonerated. He smiled and then let her off the hook. ‗You mustn‘t blame yourself. Your information is useful but I don‘t think he‘s going to be that easy to find. As I said before, the writer may not even be the killer.‘ ‗Is my wife in danger?‘ asked Mark. ‗If so, can you protect her?‘ ‗You look as though you can look after your wife,‘ said Comben. ‗But I‘m out at work all day,‘ Mark said. So she makes him work. Anderson imagined that Clarissa Downing could well afford to keep her husband in luxury without that. ‗How long have you been married?‘ he asked. ‗Is that relevant?‘ Clarissa asked. It gave him the opportunity to say what all TV detectives say but he left it to Comben. ‗Everything‘s relevant in a murder investigation. We like to have the whole background. It‘s just routine.‘ Clarissa was enjoying his visit, although calling Anderson‘s interrogation ‗a visit‘ was stretching the meaning of the term. She hadn‘t felt inspected in that way for some time but there was no mistake: he was looking at her with a distinctly hungry gaze. She didn‘t imagine he had a loving wife at home. If he had a wife at all, theirs would be a very dull affair. She allowed herself an expansiveness as she told her story. It was a good story, apart from the poor victims that was. She wondered whether Mark noticed her new found vibrancy, because she did feel it herself and Anderson‘s half smile encouraged it. After she stopped talking, she wondered whether she had made anything up. Had she been carried away into misleading them? They rose and so did she, stretching herself to show off her best feature. It was as though she were a teenager again and delighted in her new-grown breasts and the way the boys looked at them. Mark and the young sergeant looked through her but Anderson, she thought, gazed at her with a degree of admiration. She wondered whether he had read any of her books and if he liked them. But probably not: she was known as a woman‘s author. She walked in front to the door and opened it for the policemen to leave. Up to then she had thought only of his interest in her; now she looked at him more carefully: forties, perhaps a year or two older than herself; greying hair receding in front but no sign of baldness behind; six foot tall at least and a pleasant straight back; a face that did not pretend to be beautiful but a demeanour that spoke of importance and even power. She turned back to her husband once they had gone. He was beautiful but then what was it they say: power and money are sexy. Anderson reeked of power and she had the money. ‗Making a play for him were you?‘ Was it so obvious? But then Mark was a man who spent his life making plays for his livelihood. It was his profession. She should have realised that it was impossible to fool a professional. ‗Mark,‘ she said, ‗have you got a lover?‘ ‗Yes my sweet, you.‘ ‗If that‘s so, why haven‘t I noticed it?‘ He came towards her and grasped her by the throat. One of his hands was enough to encompass her neck but it was a gentle grip and she felt no fear. It might have been Anderson‘s visit and his interest but she suddenly felt excited by this man. His sudden eagerness made her remember why she had wanted him and why she had bought him. He drew her to him and kissed her on the lips. Her hip was pressed into his groin and she could feel his arousal. The stiffness sent messages that had been absent for months now and her lips pressed back. He lifted her easily into his arms and carried her upstairs, kissing her all the time. She did not want him to stop. She felt as though she were reading one of her own novels and she was enjoying it. The phrase ‗willing suspension of disbelief‘ came to her mind. In his bedroom, he laid her down and undressed her. She drove all thought of professional expertise out of her mind, as he unzipped and removed her trousers and briefs. She lay passively except to raise her hips and then arch her back as he undid her bra. She wanted him and if the price was to forget the last year their life together and to sink into the plot, then so be it. But she was not ready and was pleased that he knew it and used his tongue to moisten her labia so they parted when he pressed his tongue between them and moved around the entrance to her vagina. She opened for him and his tongue slipped inside. Then she breathed more fiercely as he used his fingers to thrust into and then twist inside her until she came. She kept still as she heard him undress and then gave small yelps of delight when he nibbled at her breasts, while slipping his penis into her. His movements suited her own and increased in frequency and intensity as she was driven closer to her orgasm. She felt no worry that he would come too soon and disappoint her — he never had yet. Then she came and he was very still as she stretched her neck and arched her back. As soon as she relaxed, he started again and she wondered whether this time he would come and it would be all over. There had been times when she had felt him become bored and make himself climax to get it over. But this time he was cooler and moved in and out of her with long slow movements that made her thrust at him violently. He controlled her with the weight of his hips and she shivered with anticipation each time he withdrew until he thrust in again. Then strange incoherent noises came from between her lips. She came yet again and he was still. He paused for a few seconds and then turned her over and held her hips so that he could come into her vagina from behind. She waited for his own need to take over. This was how he best enjoyed women and she knew he would gradually increase the frequency until he finished in a flurry that often ended suddenly with him gripping her to him, so that she could feel the tremor of his orgasm erupt into the fiercest of cries. This time he was slow to come to his climax and she came once more before she heard his jubilant sounds. Afterwards he lay on top of her for a few seconds before releasing her and going to the bathroom. She was hoping – expecting – him to come back and they would lie together and perhaps she would be allowed to spend the night in his bed. But she heard him shower and then come back to dress. The fantasy was over. He was going out. She didn‘t ask where. It hadn‘t exactly been discussed but it was clear between them. She was not to ask him what he did and he wouldn‘t ask her. Unfortunately, she had nothing to tell him anyway. She stayed for a while in his bed after he left. His room was a masculine enclave in what was her feminine domain. The interior designer had used blacks, whites, and greys for the carpet, bedclothes and paintwork, with a small number of geometrical abstract paintings on the wall providing a few splashes of primary colours. It was the archetypal bachelor pad with one black leather Chesterfield for the preliminary seduction and nothing else soft except the bed. David, her interior designer, had tried harder in this room than the rest of the house and Clarissa had wondered whether it was a form of wish-fulfilment for him: did he fancy being seduced by Mark in this very room? They had laughed about that together — it was a time when they did that sort of thing. But Mark had taken it further and wondered whether he should oblige, since David had put a great deal of effort into the place for them both. Clarissa hadn‘t taken him seriously at the time and they had ended by giggling at the thought and agreeing that the man was being well paid for what he did. There was no need to consider tipping him with sexual favours, which, Clarissa accepted, would not have been welcome if provided by her. Later she had thought it over. Had Mark slipped up? Paying a gay man with sex was not the sort of thought that Clarissa imagined passed through many heterosexual man‘s minds but perhaps that was the type of thing Mark had done in the past to get by. She had never probed into his past; clearly, he had no profession and the job he had now was low down in the office hierarchy. She had no idea what he had been driven to do before she had rescued him. Anderson was in front, as they left Clarissa‘s house and walked out to the BMW. Before he unlocked the car, he walked around it once to make sure it was all right. He had felt that the neighbourhood was reasonably safe and had been confident about leaving it there but he still needed to check. Comben watched him in silence and, when Anderson noticed his sergeant stroke the paintwork admiringly, he toyed with the idea of throwing the younger man the keys but he didn‘t. Comben had been in the passenger‘s seat on the way to Clarissa‘s and that‘s the way it stayed — Anderson couldn‘t bring himself to let the car fall into someone else‘s hands. Instead he settled himself comfortably behind the wheel and watched as the young man sunk into the leather upholstery with a comforting wiggle that suggested he might one day want something of the sort for himself. Anderson was pleased that Comben‘s admiration had been silent. After all, the car was part of his previous image; post-Fielding, he now felt uneasy about being judged by his possessions. The car though was in pewter-grey and could hardly be called ostentatious: a word that constantly came to his mind when he thought back to the finery he used to wear. The ride was short and Comben contented himself with little nods and murmurs of agreement, as he listened to Anderson‘s speculations. There wasn‘t much time for a thorough dialogue but still Anderson was disappointed: it looked as though Comben had not been blessed with a great imagination. He himself would be providing the theorising in this case but that might be a relief: Fielding had had a lot to say for herself and sometimes it was better to have a quiet helper. Comben lived alone in a small flat across the tracks and Anderson had to drive back close to the infamous park to get home. He parked the car in a rented garage – a safer alternative to the car park five floors below his apartment – and then let himself in through the main front door of his block before taking the lift to the top floor. It was not yet eleven — too early for bed and he had eaten before driving to Clarissa‘s. Anderson liked to keep his calorie intake controlled: he was too old to eat every time he felt a little bored, so he poured himself an Armagnac and slid on to his leather Chesterfield. Then he loosened his tie and took off his jacket leaving it folded neatly on the floor. His shoes he unlaced so they came off without straining the stitching. Stretched full length along the sofa, he allowed himself to think over the events of the day. There was still not enough information to concoct a theory for the murders. He would have to endure a great deal more legwork – and maybe a death or two more – before closing the case. Two Cs occupied his mind instead: Clarissa and Comben. Just at this moment, Clive Comben was not looking like detective material; still he had passed all the exams and had been recommended. Anderson wouldn‘t jump to conclusions but neither did he like running a detective school and right now that was what he was doing. Clarissa was a more pleasant subject for his reflections. Good figure, pleasant face, rich and intelligent — it was a perfect specification if he was ever to think about settling down again. He was not a once-bitten-twice-shy sort of man and it had been years now since Gabriella had found someone more to her liking. His thoughts kept him going until midnight, when he roused himself for his bedtime ritual. First the shower, then the interdental toothbrushing as recommended by his dentist and finally the exercises advised by his osteopath to prevent any breakdown due to his incipient back problem. John Anderson was not about to let his body deteriorate for lack of necessary maintenance. Then he remembered it was Wednesday and, before getting into bed, he made ready his dirty clothes for his ‗daily‘ who washed on Thursdays. Chapter 2 The next morning Comben was at the station first — Anderson was pleased that the man could take a hint. Then the sergeant spoilt it by coming into Anderson‘s office and sitting on the edge of his desk. Anderson motioned him to sit lower, on a chair in front of the desk. He did so without acknowledging his mistake. Outside the incident room was quiet. That‘s the way Anderson liked it: the men – and women – were out and busy, only the odd operator clicked away on their computer keyboard. Comben recapped aloud for them both. ‗The bodies were found arranged in the centre of the park — a large open field fringed by trees. There was plenty of cover elsewhere but the murderer chose open ground. Two mornings now the park keeper has phoned at first light. The park is always locked at night: the bodies would need to be carried over metal railings each time.‘ ‗You have to be making a point to do all that and Clarissa Downing is right: it really does have to be a man,‘ said Anderson. ‗The fence is of a traditional metal design and is seven foot high. It would have to be an unusually strong woman to get a body over that fence.‘ ‗And we‘ve cleared everyone who had keys to the park gates,‘ said Comben. ‗So what have we got?‘ ‗We haven‘t located either of the two places where the women were killed.‘ Anderson nodded. ‗It‘s not unusual for killers to display their victims in special ways; it‘s not unusual for them to copy famous murderers and it‘s not unusual for them to move the bodies.‘ Comben stopped. ‗And now we have the stories.‘ ‗But no author. He didn‘t sign in for the class and, as far as Clarissa Downing is concerned, he remained entirely invisible.‘ ‗Fingerprints?‘ ‗Lots on the typescripts — Clarissa Downing‘s and her husband‘s and an unknown set,‘ said Comben. ‗Why … why Mark what-ever-his-name-is? Why his prints?‘ ‗He read the stories before phoning the station.‘ Anderson nodded. He really must stop himself — there was no reason at all to suspect the husband except that he didn‘t like him. ‗And the unknown ones are presumably the writer‘s.‘ ‗We have to find him first to confirm that,‘ said Comben. ‗We will find him though,‘ said Anderson. ‗ If he is the killer, he wants to be found and he will be found,‘ said Comben. ‗But not before he‘s killed as many as the real Jack the Ripper.‘ Comben continued. ‗Left to himself, he‘ll keep on. But he‘s left too many clues to stay free long.‘ ‗Where‘s the list?‘ Anderson asked. Comben handed him two sheets of paper. The writing class had a large and changeable membership. ‗What night do they meet?‘ asked Anderson. Comben looked at his watch. Anderson wondered if the man had mistaken his question but the face of his watch showed the day of the week and the date as well as the time. He soon had his answer. ‗Tonight sir, eight this evening.‘ ‗We‘ll join them,‘ Anderson said. The library was closed but a room was opened especially for the group each week. Like most public buildings, it was too hot. Anderson felt a tinge of annoyance: he was paying for all this extra heat and it was making him sweat. It made it difficult to pull up the knees of his trousers as he sat and his collar was sticking to his neck. He thought of taking off his jacket as he saw Comben do but decided not to. His shirt would soon show signs of wetness under his arms and maybe even on its front; he preferred to hide the signs of his discomfort. They sat on the periphery of the group. Some latecomers did the same, while a few bunched themselves around the table, their eager faces leaning forward trying to capture their heroine‘s attention. By narrowing his eyes and so blurring their faces, Anderson was able to visualise them as infants with hands raised in urgent supplication. He imagined that this was how it always was: six or so frantic to read, who formed the core of the group. He glanced at the attendance sheet he had removed from the table, and then he passed the sheet to someone on his left who had deliberately shifted his chair outside the harsh light that glared from above the table. The man passed the sheet on without signing his name. He could see now how Clarissa would not know who came and went. She was totally taken up by those few who clamoured around her. There were two young men in their twenties and four youngish women. Certainly, these few showed no need or inclination to communicate with those outside this inner grouping. As the evening went on, the circle of talk became narrower until only Clarissa and two or three others felt capable of opening their mouths. Some on the periphery, who, Anderson imagined, may have come for the first time to see how the Writers‘ Circle worked had already left. Only the most brash could survive the competition. They would not find their author that evening but they might collect some leads from questioning Clarissa‘s regulars — obligingly she ended the session early and told those who had stayed to the end what the police wanted. Comben and Anderson interviewed each separately. At the end of an hour, they had a good idea of what the man looked like but no indication of where he lived. They did not expect to get more from those who had left early and whose names the constable outside had been told to collect. ‗The blonde girl seemed clearer about him than the rest,‘ said Anderson. ‗If we can trust her memory,‘ said Comben. Anderson nodded and followed Comben outside to allow the caretaker to lock the library for the night. They both noticed the husband across the street. He got out of his car, crossed over and kissed Clarissa on the cheek. He came to walk his wife to her car — just in case, he said. Anderson noticed that he could spare no glance at all for the young blonde. There were not many men who would refuse to look at her, even though their wife might be next to them. Amanda was her name and she did take an interest in Mark but then turned away, as though she had dismissed him from her mind but Anderson imagined that Mark was not so easily ignored by women as all that. Amanda sat at the end of the long table furthest away from Clarissa. Dave and Pete struggled with themselves but eventually, after standing around and leaning on chairs, they sat at Clarissa‘s end of the table. Their four satellites followed them — four older women in their thirties: maybe married, possibly divorced, at least one a single mother. She hadn‘t taken much notice of them. During the time she had attended the group, she hadn‘t noticed any developments. Dave and Pete accepted their bitch-like devotion but Amanda imagined they thought of the women as ‗passed it‘. She hoped she would have better judgement when she was as old as the women were. This was Amanda‘s sixth visit and at first both Dave and Pete had tried to persuade her to cluster with them around their star, Clarissa Downing. Then Pete had given way to Dave — had they discussed it and come to an agreement? Apparently, he was allowed to have first shot at her but his need to suck up to Clarissa constantly got in his way. His invitations to stay behind and drink with them in the bar downstairs never seemed very urgent, not that Amanda would have accepted anyway. Clarissa, of course, had no eyes for anyone but Pete but managed to keep a look of sophisticated amusement on her face rather than reveal the appetite that Amanda could see she felt for the young man. Amanda felt her lips curl in distaste. It was not very long into the session before Amanda noticed a change in Clarissa. She was effusively pouring out praise as usual and Dave and Pete were lapping it up but her eyes strayed from time to time. Amanda followed her gaze. Two new members had crept in and were sitting just outside the bright circle of light cast by the hanging lamp above the table. One was older, as old as Clarissa, the other much younger and very well built. It wasn‘t until near the end of the session that Clarissa revealed who they were and why they were there. Amanda knew immediately whom they were seeking. Jewish, yes, he looked Jewish and when she described him she couldn‘t help thinking that she was mapping a stereotype. Was she being accurate, or had she given the man such cursory glances, that she was making it all up? The older man questioned her, as though he were filling in a passport application form for the man: age? height? build? distinguishing features? She answered just as succinctly: hair, dark brown, usually too long and uncombed; clothes, jeans with holes, sweatshirt, probably the same one each time. But ‗no‘, she didn‘t know his name or where he lived and ‗no‘, it was not unusual for visitors not to sign in. The street was usually deserted by the time Felicity got home. But this time, after she‘d parked her car under a lamppost and got out, she saw a figure walking away from her. Was it Amanda‘s man? She was secretive about him and he always left before Felicity came home but that night she was early; it had been a slack night at the club. She stood for a while bathed by the light above her but he didn‘t look round. There was something familiar about him but she couldn‘t say what. Inside the flat, she could see a light under Amanda‘s door. She went in. Amanda was in bed. ‗You didn‘t quite catch us,‘ she said smiling, ‗but next time knock. He‘s very shy.‘ ‗Married I suppose.‘ ‗Wouldn‘t you know it. But they don‘t sleep together.‘ ‗That‘s what they all say.‘ ‗But this time it‘s true.‘ ‗So, why can‘t I see him?‘ ‗He doesn‘t want any witnesses until he walks out.‘ ‗And when will that be?‘ ‗Soon.‘ ‗That‘s what they all say.‘ ‗Felicity.‘ Felicity caught the sudden serious tone in her voice and turned back from the door. ‗Yes.‘ ‗I might be moving very soon; will you be able to manage?‘ ‗I‘ll manage and I wish you luck but you know what they say don‘t you?‘ Amanda smiled, Felicity knew she knew what was coming. ‗They never leave.‘ ‗Not this time,‘ Amanda said. Felicity smiled. ‗The police came to the group tonight.‘ ‗About the murders?‘ ‗They think it‘s one of the men who came there sometimes,‘ said Amanda. ‗And did dear Clarissa tell them all they wanted to know?‘ ‗I don‘t think she remembered him at all. She‘s always too busy with her favourites.‘ Felicity remembered that. It was one of the reasons she stopped going. ‗And were you able to tell them anything?‘ ‗Not much,‘ Amanda said but she was already turning on to her side and Felicity switched off the light and shut her door. Chapter 3 It was at least half an hour before he was due at Clarissa‘s house when Anderson walked through the park gates heading towards Kingswood Avenue. He was early and took his time. The pathways and central field were deserted although the sun shone brightly and the temperature had not dropped to winter levels. There were no children on the swings or toddlers chasing balls, so clearly the locals felt differently about the park now that it had been turned into a mortuary. The leaves on the trees hadn‘t changed colour yet but the summer flowers in the corner garden had all been dug up and had not yet been replaced. Anderson wondered whether they would be or whether the park authorities shared the general distaste for the place and would shrink from decorating a double murder scene. In daylight the house looked more impressive than at night. It overlooked the trees and greenery of the park and its condition was better than most of the adjacent properties and no one could say they were neglected. The front gate was wooden and not one of those modern wrought iron anachronisms, the front path was paved in brick and the pot plants and shrubs healthy but well trimmed, while the street door was ill-fitting enough to be original. No expense had been spared to produce a good initial impression. Clarissa opened the door herself, said nothing but smiled and turned rapidly. As she walked down the hall, her low-heeled shoes made clacking noises on the ceramic-tiled floor. Anderson wondered whether the tiles were the originals. Those outside – on either side of the door – were too perfect to have been there for a hundred years but they were from the right period. Anderson could see that a great deal of time and effort had been made to restore the house to its original Victorian state. Anaglypta wallpaper under a rail in the hall and the wall above covered with a variety of framed prints and objects completed the feeling of old-fashioned clutter. He preferred a cleaner modern look. Still, he thought it right that, if one bought an old house, it should be decorated in character. At the entrance to the sitting room she stopped. ‗Here or in my study?‘ ‗Why don‘t you show me your lair, where it all happens?‘ She walked back passed him and Anderson moved slowly so that she had to squeeze passed him to reach the door. Then he walked after her and through the open door into her office. There was only one chair and, apart from the computer on her desk, nothing else cluttered up its surface. ‗Why don‘t you sit down and I‘ll perch on the desk,‘ she said. He did so and slid the office chair back so that she had enough room for her legs to dangle diagonally across the corner of the desk. Then she crossed her legs and one of her slippers fell to the floor. Anderson picked it up and held her right foot as he put the shoe back on. ‗Too small,‘ he said. ‗For what?‘ ‗The murderer, he left shoe prints.‘ She smiled. ‗So what can I do for you?‘ ‗Can you explain exactly how typescripts find their way from the library on to your desk,‘ he said. She was very precise and looked into the distance and swung her leg as she thought and described the process, if you could call it that. Quite simply Clarissa carried the box to her car and then carried it into her office to be read the next day. She made something of a meal of the telling and it gave Anderson the opportunity to look around him. The walls were fitted with glass fronted bookshelves, packed, as might have been expected in an author‘s study, with books of all sizes. The colour of the wood and the mouldings looked as though they might have come from the library of a much larger Victorian house. And maybe they did. Anderson knew it was common for old furniture including built-in units to be re-cycled. What struck Anderson was the lack of any sign of work in progress. There were no papers on the desk and he was sure that Clarissa had not been at her keyboard when he knocked. Although he had dawdled, he had still been early, so, if she had been working, the screen would still be alive. ‗So there would be no occasion when you would read them the same night?‘ he asked. ‗No, the next day would be my first opportunity.‘ ‗And do you sometimes leave the box in the hallway?‘ ‗I might do but normally I bring the box and my briefcase into my study after every class.‘ ‗But there would be no opportunity for someone to add to the box between the library and your home.‘ ‗No.‘ ‗And you‘re clear that the writer does not appear on this list.‘ Anderson handed her the typed list, which she read through slowly and apparently thoroughly. ‗I can visualise each one of them and their work. I‘m sure he never signed himself in. But that‘s not unusual. There‘s no charge and often no secretary. I remember a number of shadowy figures who stayed out at the edge. They seldom spoke and, if they handed in pieces, it was very rarely.‘ Anderson understood: Clarissa paid so much attention to those few sitting round the table that she had no time for anyone else. ‗We have a suspect. He‘s described as young – in his twenties – thin, always dressed in torn jeans and a sweater that had seen better days, never opens his mouth and disappears quickly once the session finishes. Does that jog your memory?‘ Clarissa thought for a while. As she did so, she swung her foot again and her slipper fell once more to the floor. This time before Anderson put it back on her foot he squeezed her ankle. She looked at him and Anderson wondered whether he would be told off for stepping over the mark. She looked like the sort of woman used to giving reprimands. She said nothing. ‗Are you and your husband happy together?‘ he asked. ‗Is that one of those routine questions that you feel you must ask in a murder enquiry?‘ she said. ‗Are you going to answer it?‘ It wasn‘t entirely clear even to Anderson where the question fitted into his investigation but then he wouldn‘t have minded if Clarissa realised it didn‘t. He would, though, like to know the answer. ‗No but I‘ll tell you something much more interesting. The man you describe, I‘ve seen him outside this house. Once I thought he was going to speak to me but he didn‘t. I wasn‘t frightened but neither did I recognise him. It‘s only now that I see it must have been him.‘ ‗Do you think he lives around here?‘ ‗He could come from anywhere within the borough.‘ ‗Looking at the addresses on your membership list it seems as if everyone is within walking distance of the library.‘ She had no more to tell him but still Anderson lingered. She hadn‘t yet told him about her husband. Her silence told him she wasn‘t prepared to do that yet, so he left. Clarissa wondered why she hadn‘t told Anderson about her marriage, because she would, if he asked again. She had reached that point when covering up made no more sense. She supposed every bad marriage goes through a process that ends finally with one or other giving up hope. And it is then that the couple is almost proud to announce that it is all over. ‗Proud‘, perhaps not quite that, perhaps ‗brazen‘: a sort of brazen admission that the supposed loving couple hate each other and that all those public displays – Mark picking her up from the library for instance – were quite meaningless and only carried out to maintain the public face that hides the rot beneath. But there was another reason for her reticence. To imagine that Anderson ought to know every personal detail of her life suggested that she was part of these murders – that Mark might be involved – and that the connection was not simply accidental: via a weird student. And this she certainly did not believe. So, to announce her unhappiness too early, would be tantamount to an accusation. Infidelity was the sole source of her complaint against her husband — not murder. But she would tell Anderson quite soon. If Mark had strayed and she was certain he had, she would dismiss him. After that, Anderson might very well suit her. He was sensibly the right age. But more than that she would feel comfortable in his arms and with his body between her legs. She had enjoyed the caress of his hand on her ankle. It was sweetly chaste, almost antediluvian in its modesty but it had made her heart beat just that bit faster all the same. And maybe he had money too: she would feel more at ease if that problem were removed. She had thought it emancipated of her to buy a man. Now it didn‘t feel so good. The suits were a good sign: a change from two days before and they looked expensive. There was none of that gaping at the neck or flying away behind the waist at the back and the lapels stayed flat even when he sat. Then there was his watch, his tie, his shoes and his shirt: discrete, a touch conservative and tasteful, nothing brash. The message was clear: this man had nothing to prove. He was no cock-bird fluttering around to attract the female. He seemed to know that a woman of perception and taste would have no difficulty in seeing the attraction and she was certainly that sort of woman and she did feel it. Yes, he spent a great deal – but discreetly – on his appearance and she imagined that he thought as much about what went underneath as on top. Comben couldn‘t imagine that Amanda Clayden would have anything more to tell them and hadn‘t hurried himself. It was evening before he got around to visiting but it was not Amanda who opened the door. The girl on the threshold was only two inches or so shorter than himself, dark hair, good figure. Just the right size, Comben thought to himself. But whom was he kidding? His size was anything from five foot two upwards. He hung out his warrant card. ‗Detective Sergeant Comben,‘ he said, ‗is Amanda Clayden in?‘ The woman was dressed to go out in a gown that finished well above her knees but a neckline that was tight underneath her chin. The material clung around her making the most of her waist, hips and breasts. Comben wondered whether it was one of those dresses ‗cut on the bias‘ he had watched fashion-models parade up and down in on TV fashion shows — figure hugging with their nipples sticking out. Comben could see this girl wasn‘t wearing a bra either. ‗She‘s not in,‘ the woman said. ‗Can I ask who you are,‘ said Comben. ‗Felicity Galloway,‘ she said. ‗Would it be possible for me to come inside and ask you a few questions,‘ said Comben. ‗I am on my way out,‘ she said. ‗It is important,‘ he said. She turned abruptly and walked down the hall. Her dress was cut down to the waist at the back — he had been right: she wasn‘t wearing a bra. Unless, of course, it was an example of some miracle of cantilevered construction. Comben followed her into the sitting room. She sat down and crossed her legs. Comben stood and gazed. It was a good sight: those legs. ‗I hope you‘re not going to be long; I have to get to work.‘ It was nine o‘clock in the evening. He wondered what kind of work started at that time and needed the sort of dress she was wearing but he said nothing. Instead, he looked at her with an eyebrow raised. Anderson did this and often produced a stream of new information. He thought he might as well try it too. ‗I work in a club. A gambling club.‘ ‗Where‘s that.‘ ‗In the West End.‘ Comben raised his eyebrows again but this time nothing happened. ‗How long have you known Amanda?‘ he asked. ‗Only since I moved in about six months ago. Blonde and brunette,‘ she said touching her hair, ‗we thought we were Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.‘ Comben remembered the films but only just. Was she some sort of film buff? ‗Where did you meet?‘ he asked. She leaned her head to the side as if querying his right to question her. Comben was patient and waited. She did answer. ‗I joined Clarissa Downing‘s group for one or two sessions then I got fed up. We both needed to move, so we got this together. Is that all right by you?‘ He nodded, another of Anderson‘s ploys. ‗I suppose you‘re on the Ripper case,‘ she said. He didn‘t answer directly. ‗Have you anything to tell me?‘ he asked. ‗No,‘ she said and shook her head. He continued to gaze at the woman. If Anderson could do it with Clarissa Downing, he felt that a Detective-Sergeant could do the same with Felicity Galloway. And he reckoned he had the best of the bargain. ‗If you‘ve finished, I must go.‘ He offered his hand to help her to her feet. But she refused to take it. ‗I‘m not in my dotage yet,‘ she said and stood up. He followed her into the hall and she took a fur coat from a hook and slipped her arms inside before he could help. ‗I hope it‘s fake,‘ he said. Not that he cared but she might be the sort of woman who did. He had met animal lovers before and you had to be careful to say the right thing. ‗It is,‘ she said, ‗I can‘t afford the real thing.‘ ‗That‘s not what I meant,‘ he said. She smiled. ‗I know,‘ she said. They walked outside to her car, which was parked immediately in front of the house. She got in. He lent down and she opened her window. ‗I might need to speak to you again,‘ he said. She turned to him and smiled. ‗Next time come at about noon. I‘m just getting up then.‘ He watched her drive off. Chapter 4 Julian sat just inside the park railings, propped up against a tree facing South. He had a book open in his lap but seldom glanced down. There was a stretch of grass ten yards or so to his right separating him from the path that formed the boundary of the main field, where the bodies had been found. To his left and down the hill in front of him was Clarissa‘s house. There were no trees or bushes between him and the front door, so it was in clear view. He stayed there all day. At first, he wore a sweater but it was still September and became warm from eleven in the morning. At noon he stripped off his sweater but left his shirt on for the rest of the day. There were a few young men and women dotted around him in the afternoon who stripped down to shorts and tops or swimsuits and the odd topless girl sunbathed discreetly behind a tree. No one stayed very long in the centre of the field. The day after his vigil, Julian was sitting in the same place before eight in the morning. Clarissa‘s husband left the house to go to work soon after. The cleaner was due to arrive at about nine and Clarissa would be in bed until then. As soon as Mark walked off down the road and around the corner, Julian left the park and walked down the hill to Clarissa‘s front gate. A number of people walked past him on their way to the station and work but did not turn their heads. Now that Mark had left, the front door was secured only with a Yale type lock. When Julian reached the door, he bent down as a postman would — as though to put something into her letterbox. Then he pushed a credit card hard between the door and its jam. The door was as old as the house, so the fit in the frame was not perfect. The door eased open quietly and he stepped inside. He closed the door carefully behind him with only the slightest of clicks. In the hall, there was a table and on the table, a box. After one or two minutes shuffling, he found his piece. He left the pages on the table and looked up at the staircase in front of him. Three times he paused on the way up when a stair tread creaked but there was no sound from above. At the top, he walked along the landing towards the front of the house. Her bedroom was the large one — front left from outside. He stood in front of the door and his hand touched the handle, then he lent forward and pressed his ear against a panel. There was no sound. Downstairs he picked up his typescript and was at the street door when he turned back and walked through the first door on his right. It was a detached house with rooms on either side of the hallway but the one he was now in was the smallest — it was her study. She could often be seen from outside sitting at her desk and looking out on to the park. On her desk, there was a pad; the first page was blank. He picked up a pen but put it down again without writing anything. A moment later he had joined the throng hurrying to the station. But, before he reached the corner, he turned back on himself and walked home. Back home he spread his typescript over his desk. The margins were full of inked notes — many more than on his first piece. He started to turn over the pages but, before reaching the end of the story, he gave up, walked over to the window and opened it wide. He took several deep breaths and then lay down on his bed. His sleep was agitated and then he rolled off the bed on to the floor. He woke later at twilight with an arm pinned underneath him. He stirred and then hauled himself up and propped himself against the bed. His left arm hung uselessly by his side until he massaged it. After a while he exercised it by bending it and swinging it up and down. He sat for a while still on the floor then he glanced towards the open window. Howling sirens outside drew him to the window, where he blinked every second or so as the twirling beam from a police car struck his eyes. Then the noise stopped but the bright flicker of blue light continued to flash across the back wall of his room. He stood watching until it was quite dark. A continuous flow of men and women ebbed and flowed in and out of a house a few doors down the street on the opposite side of the road. Throughout the time he stood at the window, there had been no ambulance arriving only uniformed officers and plain-clothes detectives in police cars. Then, without switching on a light, he dressed in a short waist-length coat over his shirt and jeans below, put some money in his pocket and left. Julian arrived at his parents‘ house on the eve of Yom Kippur. His mother shepherded him to the table and his father‘s eyes sparkled. Later they went to the synagogue together. Julian followed his father exactly: he wore his kippah as soon as they left the house; he clutched his talloth around him and murmured before they entered the synagogue; and he stood and sat and prayed quietly in tune with the rest of the congregation. They attended services three times: before and after and for most of the day during Yom Kippur. Later, at home, they broke their fast as a family. The first time Julian had joined them for the event since leaving for university. It wasn‘t until much later that his parents allowed themselves to ask their son about his life. Inevitably his father asked him to come back and live in their home. After they had gone to bed, he left without disturbing them. Back in his flat, the next morning Julian started the third story. It took him no more than two days to complete it and print it out. He used Sugden and named the victim Annie. Then he sat and read and re-read and reprinted the piece all day. Piles of paper built up around his desk. He pushed the paper into the only grate with a patent chimney but did not set it alight. When it was dark, he made the ten-minute journey to and then from the Downing house and placed the new piece in her letterbox. He was away for less than half an hour and, when he got back, he burnt the scrap paper in the grate. Then he played some Mozart on his CD player and lay on his bed. He was not interrupted, as he had so often been, by the woman across the hall, complaining about the volume level of his system. The next day after he had delivered his story Julian phoned. A man‘s voice answered. He asked for Clarissa and there was silence. He spoke his name and the man told him the police needed to speak to him about the murders. He rang off. As soon as he had put the phone down, he gathered up a few things and put them in a bag. Then he went to the window and looked out. Opposite there was some movement in a flat that had been empty for some time. The flat was one of four forming a modern block purpose-built on a spare plot between Victorian houses. The space had been created by German bombs during the war. The squat brick building was dwarfed by substantial properties on either side, many divided as Julian‘s was. It had been built at a time when accommodation of any sort was in short supply. Aesthetics had played little part in the building programme then. While Julian stood there, a young woman walked out of the kitchen into her living room and towards the window. He recognised her as one of the group who went to Clarissa‘s evenings. He was never going to be a DIY man and so Amanda decided to fix her own things. And there it was: a new rack of kitchen knives. She promised herself that she would make use of them. It would be a preparation for when he freed himself and was with her always. She stood back to appreciate her work, much as if it were an Impressionist painting that needed to be viewed from a distance to allow the eye to assemble each brush stroke into a recognisable image. It had been an absorbing hour‘s work and she allowed herself a minute of deep concentrated delight. Just when she knew he was there she couldn‘t tell but her body told her to swivel round and stop its absurd admiration. She was sure she had shut the door but there he was, his body firmly set against her only method of escape. There wasn’t any doubt in her mind: this was the man the police wanted to question and his presence in her flat was not good news. To scream or not to scream: Amanda really didn‘t know. Creating some sort of ‗fuss‘ was advised but he looked nervous and she didn‘t want to startle him into doing something foolish. Her hand went to her neck and she was pleased that she was wearing a high-necked sweatshirt and a pair of baggy cloth trousers underneath – hardly a sexual come-on. But this man killed; did it really matter what happened first? He spoke with no preamble, his voice wavering nervously. The outline of his body appeared to shimmer. Amanda wondered which one of them was shivering uncontrollably. ‗I‘m not guilty,‘ he said. She understood and she believed him. She really believed him but was that wishful thinking? Was that what happened in these cases: the victim is lulled by a false sense of peace making it easy for the murderer to strike? ‗So why don‘t you give yourself up to the police?‘ she asked. ‗ They won‘t believe me. I wrote those stories and they came true.‘ ‗You haven‘t got an alibi?‘ ‗No, sometimes I have fits and when I wake I remember nothing.‘ Amanda felt less reassured now. It was one thing to believe in the man‘s denial but another to do so when he had blackouts or whatever they were. She wondered whether she could persuade him to come away from the door. ‗Sit down,‘ she said and at the same time walked out of the kitchen into the living room — away from the knives. At the threshold, she paused: the knives would soon be out of reach. Should she go back? But, no, it was impossible: she could never sink a blade into human flesh. She continued walking into the room and sat in the chair nearest the door with her back to him. For a few moments she was rigid with fear wondering whether he would attack her from behind but he walked passed her and sat opposite on the settee. Her little gamble had worked. He was beginning to trust her and now she was nearer the door than he was. ‗So what do you think happened?‘ she asked and then sat back and waited for his answer. She tried to give the impression that they were having a normal friendly conversation. She would take her time. She didn‘t want him to become suspicious. She could only get to the door if she took him by surprise. At some time she would stand up and offer him coffee, if he stayed in his place she could make it to the door. ‗I don‘t think it could have been me. God has forgiven me.‘ The contradiction in this didn‘t seem to strike him at all. If God had forgiven him, then he must have done something. ‗What do you mean?‘ she asked. ‗It doesn‘t matter,‘ he said. ‗I did nothing. But the stories: they are to blame.‘ ‗Would you like some coffee?‘ she asked. He hardly seemed to understand what she said. His head lolled and his eyes were cast down. Amanda got to her feet: not fast but not too slow. She hoped it seemed casual. Then she turned away from him and took a step towards the kitchen before dashing to the door. His agility was impressive and she would have enjoyed the sight of his leap on other occasions. She had hardly got the door open before he was upon her. At first, she felt she might be stronger: he was slim and hardly much taller than herself. She imagined she was heavier but the difference between male and female impressed itself as he forced her aside. Then he caught her hand, twisted her so that her back was against his chest and placed his hand over her mouth. ‗I‘m not going to harm you,‘ he said as he pushed the door closed with his back. Once again, Amanda wondered whether all murderers say something like that before they attack their victims but she was still thinking and that was good: all the authorities said it was important. ‗I‘ll take my hand away if you promise not to scream,‘ he said. She nodded vigorously and he took his hand from her mouth but kept her tight against him with his other arm. She breathed deeply but kept quiet, nor did she struggle. He let her go and she sat where he had before, while he took her place. Now he was nearer the door. The entry-phone buzzed. Julian sat up straighter and his body quivered with new tension. Amanda‘s prayed that the caller would be persistent. The buzzer sounded again. ‗They‘re not going away,‘ she said. ‗My car‘s outside. Whoever they are, they know I‘m home.‘ There was no car and Amanda hadn‘t felt the need for one until then  she wished now that she had. Then, a third buzz sent a ripple of relaxation and relief along her body. It was true: they were not leaving. Then it was all over. Julian covered the distance between his seat and the door as quickly then he had done before. Then he was gone. She looked out of the window on to the street and saw him hurry away. She heard her visitor climb the stairs and there she was. Felicity, her saviour, stood at the open door. ‗Who was that rushing out?‘ she asked. Amanda rushed into her arms and sobbed on her shoulder. Chapter 5 The phone on Anderson‘s desktop rang. The sound was in sharp contrast to the buzz of the phones outside. He preferred the old-fashioned sound that came from solid black phones that didn‘t move when the handset was picked up. He answered the call. ‗I‘ve had a letter.‘ There was no need to ask who it was. Clarissa‘s voice was soft, clear, and melodious. ‗From whom?‘ ‗From Julian with a new story.‘ Anderson heard the urgency in her voice; this was no ordinary letter. ‗What does the letter say?‘ ‗I‘m scared. He threatens to kill me.‘ ‗Are you at home?‘ ‗Yes.‘ ‗Is your husband there?‘ ‗No, he‘s at work.‘ ‗Stay where you are. I‘ll be right over.‘ He took Comben. It took them less than five minutes to walk round to Clarissa‘s house. The letter was in her hand when she opened the door. Comben put on a pair of rubber gloves before taking the single sheet of paper and placing into a bag. Then they all stood in the hall while Anderson and Comben read the note through the transparent plastic. The letter threatened to cut her throat and spread her intestines over her body. Anderson put his arm around Clarissa‘s waist and shepherded her into the sitting room. They sat on the settee together. He was turned towards her with his hand on her shoulder. He could feel that she was still trembling. Comben was in a chair opposite them. ‗Shall I call your husband?‘ he asked. Clarissa shook her head. Anderson ignored Comben‘s interruption. ‗Does the story contain a description similar to the letter?‘ he asked. ‗Yes,‘ she said, ‗and I looked at Sugden‘s book on Jack the Ripper: it was a description of how Annie Chapman was found. But there‘s something else.‘ Anderson waited. ‗The typescript of the second story has disappeared. I don‘t know when but he must have been inside the house to get it.‘ ‗Let‘s not worry too much about that now. The first thing is to keep you safe. I want you to stay somewhere away from here.‘ ‗Can‘t you protect me here?‘ ‗It would be better if no one knew where you were.‘ ‗We‘ll have to let Mr Turney know, sir,‘ said Comben. They both looked at the sergeant and then Clarissa turned back to Anderson. ‗No one,‘ she said, ‗you really mean no one.‘ He nodded, ‗no one,‘ he confirmed. It was as though Comben had never spoken and there was no need to elaborate. They both knew that it was to apply to Mark Turney as well as everyone else. As they spoke, Anderson could feel Comben‘s disapproving eyes burn into his neck. Was it his prejudice against the husband that made him take such drastic action? When he turned to face his sergeant, he could see in the man‘s face that Comben certainly thought so. There was nothing more to say and Anderson offered to drive her to the safe place. She accepted. The three of them walked back to the station. Comben carried a small suitcase she had packed before they left. In the car, Clarissa waited until they were out of sight of the station before speaking. ‗Nice car,‘ she said. ‗Is it your own?‘ ‗Yes,‘ he said, ‗It‘s very reliable.‘ ‗And that‘s the reason you bought it.‘ Anderson turned and smiled shyly. ‗I could have bought a cheaper one and I probably would now.‘ He didn‘t say why ‗now‘ was be different and Clarissa didn‘t ask him. Clarissa stretched her hand out, touched his shoulder, and then ran her fingers around his collar. One finger touched his neck. Anderson immediately felt a shiver spread over his neck that made him tense his shoulders. He wondered at her recovery. Had she been as frightened as she‘d made out? ‗You still spend money on your clothes, though. This suit fits too well to be off the peg.‘ ‗Does that worry you?‘ asked Anderson. ‗I wouldn‘t‘ve married Mark if it worried me. I like men who take an interest in their appearance.‘ Anderson pulled up at the kerb outside a small parade of shops. He turned towards her. She showed no inclination to get out. ‗I‘ll carry your case upstairs and see you settled,‘ he said. ‗Will you have time for a coffee?‘ she asked. ‗There will be coffee there won‘t there?‘ He smiled and got out. Upstairs she found a carton of real coffee in the fridge. ‗I expect you only drink real coffee,‘ she said. ‗Was this your doing?‘ she asked holding up the box. ‗I suppose it might have been but it‘s probably quite old,‘ Anderson said. There had been a time when refusing instant coffee was regarded as a symptom of homosexuality or worse, as revealing an undue regard for food and drink. Anderson remembered suffering for it then but now real coffee was almost standard. She boiled the kettle and then used the cafetière that Anderson had also provided to make the coffee. He wondered just how long ago it had been since he had been on duty at the flat. The taste of the coffee told him that it had been some years. ‗I‘ll get you some more of this,‘ he said, holding up the coffee carton. ‗So you think I‘m going to be here long enough to need it, do you?‘ ‗I can‘t believe that it will be more than a few days and you won‘t be entirely isolated,‘ he said gesturing towards the phone. ‗Will you call your husband?‘ he asked. ‗My sergeant seems to be worried about him.‘ ‗No,‘ she said, ‗ and I don‘t think it was him he was worried about.‘ Anderson ignored the implication of her remark. ‗You don‘t have to tell him where you are. You could just tell him you‘re safe.‘ ‗You said I should tell no one, so that‘s what I will do. I left him a note.‘ ‗So why won‘t you phone him?‘ ‗It‘s personal.‘ Anderson took the hint. ‗And the letter? Does he know about that?‘ ‗He will do when he reads my own note.‘ ‗What did you write?‘ ‗I told him about the threat to kill me but that I‘m in good hands, so not to worry about me.‘ Anderson was pleased. ‗The writer,‘ he said, ‗our suspect. Were you very scathing about his last piece?‘ he asked. ‗I can‘t quite remember everything I wrote but it would disappoint him.‘ ‗It must have been for him to want to kill you. Maybe it will stop him from writing any more.‘ ‗Do you think that would stop the killings?‘ ‗Probably not,‘ he said. ‗So how long do you think I should stay here?‘ ‗I don‘t know but try to be patient. If there‘s anything you want from home, I‘ll arrange to fetch it.‘ ‗And will I be protected?‘ ‗I‘ll have someone here twenty-four hours a day and a man outside as well.‘ ‗And who‘s going to keep me company tonight?‘ Anderson didn‘t answer immediately but Clarissa‘s gaze followed him around the room as he paced from one side to the other. The question made up his mind. He looked at her. ‗I am,‘ he said. ‗Isn‘t that an unusual sort of duty for a Detective Chief Inspector? What will your wife think?‘ ‗You‘re a special person and I haven‘t got a wife.‘ A buzz from Anderson‘s mobile stopped Clarissa from having to answer – if she had intended to. It was Comben: something had happened. He waited until a uniformed officer came and then he apologised and said he would be back. He drove to Amanda‘s new flat and met Comben outside, who told him the story of Julian‘s intrusion. Inside Amanda was huddled in the comfort of Felicity‘s arms. Anderson imagined that she probably had been there ever since Julian had left. From time to time, their bodies shook a little as though Amanda was shuddering at the memory of her ordeal but no real damage seemed to have been done. Was that because Felicity had interrupted him or had Julian really meant to do no harm? He let Comben ask his questions and fill in the details while he inspected the couple. They stood very still as Comben spoke to them. It was as if their two intertwined figures were sculptured in marble but painted, as classical statues originally were. Anderson smiled: he was admiring them as though they were exhibits in an art gallery. Then he noticed the angle of Comben‘s head and his eyes were drawn downwards. Felicity‘s short skirt made it difficult to do otherwise. She was not a woman to hide her best features with too much material. The two women showed each other off to advantage: blonde and brunette, matched for height but with radically different eye colours and complexions. Amanda‘s skin was very pale, the sort that burns within five minutes of exposure to the sun and there were just the odd sign or two of powder or foundation covering the remains of teenage spots on her cheek. She was wearing loose trousers with a top that would have hidden her waist, except that the light from behind her in the kitchen shone through the lacy material and exposed the curves underneath. Anderson thought she might be a natural blonde, just as Felicity‘s olive complexion made her dark brown hair appear entirely natural. He hadn‘t seen Felicity before but imagined that she would not appear so stunning alone. Anderson turned away and walked to the window. He was too old for all of this. He needed a woman of an appropriate maturity these days. He brought his mind back to the reason he was there – Julian. But there was something else: why this, why the new flat? Where had the money come from? Amanda had spent some hundreds on furnishing the living room, where they were, and he could see there had been recent improvements to the kitchen. Then there was the location: fifty or so yards down the road from where the first woman had been murdered. Was it a coincidence? And how did Julian know where she lived? Had he seen her by chance or was there some other explanation? He turned away from the window. ‗Why did you leave your old flat?‘ he asked. Comben stopped his writing and turned. Anderson could see he had irritated the man. He clearly didn‘t like being interrupted. ‗We weren‘t getting on,‘ said Amanda looking at Felicity. As if to reinforce the message, Felicity let her arm drop and Amanda straightened and moved a little away from her support. It was possible. People can remain friends but not enjoy living together. But there was still the money. ‗I‘m surprised you can afford this without sharing,‘ Anderson said, looking around him. ‗I do work,‘ Amanda answered. Anderson raised his eyebrows. ‗I may be an out-of-work actor but I don‘t scrounge on the state. I do promotions and in the summer I work with children on play schemes and I‘m a film extra.‘ Anderson ignored her explanation. ‗How do you think Julian found you?‘ Anderson asked. Amanda looked at the others and then shrugged her shoulders. ‗How am I supposed to know how that madman found me?‘ It was clear that she thought Anderson a fool for asking her such an idiotic question. Later, looking out of the bay window of Julian‘s flat, Anderson had no need to wonder how the man had spotted Amanda. He looked over and through Amanda‘s living room window and saw that Felicity was still there. He turned back to the room. The place hadn‘t taken much finding. They had intended to start in that street and work outwards. Anderson had mobilised fifty officers and told the Commander it might take several days. There was disappointment all round when the expected over-time didn‘t materialise. A short search of the flat revealed some more typescripts of short stories but, more importantly, it showed that Julian hadn‘t packed any clothes, so they waited awhile. A cup on the table half full of coffee, suggested he had rushed out. Anderson imagined he had seen Amanda for the first time and had run over to her. After an hour, it was clear that he wouldn‘t be back. There had been too many police in the street earlier for that. With hindsight, it would have been better not to have had the search but then he was not to know the man had been so close. ‗Have you spoken to the rest of the tenants?‘ Anderson asked. ‗All but the woman across the hall,‘ said Comben. ‗She‘s out.‘ ‗What sort of woman is she?‘ he asked. ‗The other tenants say she is a pensioner, very quiet,‘ Comben answered. When was the last time she was seen?‘ Anderson asked. Anderson could see a spark light up behind Comben‘s eyes. The man said nothing but turned and went out of the flat. Anderson heard him knock on the door opposite and the one downstairs. When he came back, the spark had burst into flames. ‗Nobody has seen her for over a week,‘ he said. The sturdiness of the property was not reflected in the strength of the front doors put in during its conversion into flats. There was no need for any specialised equipment – Comben‘s foot was enough. They had to go in but it wasn‘t necessary. The smell and the bloodstains on the hall carpet made it clear enough. They had the body, now they knew where the second victim had died. Anderson wondered to himself what had made him so lucky that week: both murder sites and the murderer‘s home all found in the same street. The case had practically solved itself. They had bodies, they had fingerprints and they had Julian‘s appointment card for the psychiatric wing of the local hospital. All they needed was the man himself and then they could close the file. One small hurdle appeared once they got back to the station. There were no prints matching Julian‘s on the threatening letter to Clarissa but there were on the short-story typescripts. ‗He was careful,‘ said Comben. ‗He wasn‘t careful with the typescripts,‘ said Anderson. ‗They were different,‘ said Comben. ‗Why?‘ Anderson asked. Comben shrugged his shoulders. Later Anderson went to the safe flat and relieved the officer on duty. The constable was surprised but happy to get home early; Anderson could see he had expected to stay all night. The flat had one bedroom and no other bed: the officer on duty was expected to stay awake throughout the night and Anderson was to be relieved at eight the next morning. Anderson told Clarissa about Julian, then they talked until midnight before Clarissa went to her room. By that time, Anderson thought he knew enough about writing as he would ever need and he supposed Clarissa felt the same way about police work. Before settling down, Anderson looked out of the window and checked that there was another man on duty outside. He was taking Clarissa Downing‘s safety very seriously indeed. He had one of her books with him and lay on the sofa to read it. The situation reminded him of his junior days, when such duties routinely came his way. He switched off the main light in the room and read by a reading lamp set on a table next to the settee. He noticed that the light he could see under Clarissa‘s door stayed on for some minutes before she turned it off. Then an hour or so later it came on again and stayed on. He was not surprised that she had difficulty in sleeping. At about three in the morning Clarissa came out of her room. She had on a pair of very modest satin pyjamas, buttoned up to the neck. Anderson made room with his feet and she sat at the opposite end of the settee. He could see she had no slippers on. ‗Your feet will get cold,‘ he said and then he pulled her feet towards him and under his legs. She nodded and they looked at each other for some seconds. Then she drew her legs back, knelt and leant her body towards him. ‗Will you hug me,‘ she said. ‗I feel frightened.‘ He stretched out his arms and she lowered herself on top of him. ‗There‘s no need to be worried,‘ he said. ‗We will protect you.‘ ‗But for how long,‘ she said. ‗I don‘t want to land up in the park cut into pieces once you‘ve forgotten me.‘ He put his arms around her and squeezed her to him. She rested her head on his shoulder and he could feel her breath on his neck. He moved his hands up and down her spine. Her whole weight was resting on him and he could feel her breasts flattened against his chest. He became excited and tried to move his legs to hide his stiffness but, as soon as he opened his legs, she slid her thigh between then and pressed against him. ‗You‘re not happy with your husband, are you?‘ he asked. She lifted her head and smiled at him. ‗Is it that obvious?‘ she said. He said nothing but felt as gauche as a schoolboy: he was out of practice. ‗No,‘ he said. ‗I meant something different.‘ She held herself away from him for a few moments. ‗If you think this is because I‘m simply randy, I‘ll leave you alone.‘ ‗I hope it isn‘t,‘ he said. ‗Mark is a good lover even when his heart isn‘t in it. I married a professional. I‘m not ―gasping‖ for it.‘ ‗I‘m no professional,‘ he said and then pulled her towards him and kissed her on the mouth. She pulled away from him. ‗If we‘re found out, will you get into trouble?‘ she asked. ‗Yes,‘ he answered but again kissed her hard on the mouth. This time she pressed back and they took their time before drawing apart. ‗I‘d feel a lot safer if you were with me in my room,‘ she said. ‗Isn‘t making me feel secure one of your duties?‘ She got off him and walked into her bedroom. He left the lamp on and followed her. She unbuttoned her top and took it off while facing away from him. Then she slipped out of her pyjama trousers and turned towards him. Anderson could sense her need for appreciation. He came forward to her and leant down to kiss her breasts. ‗You‘ve a fine figure,‘ he said. ‗So have you,‘ she answered. ‗Do you exercise?‘ ‗Do you?‘ he asked. She watched him strip. He did look as though he exercised. She wondered whether the police force required their older officers to keep fit. He looked a little embarrassed under her gaze but, since she had stood naked in front of him first, she felt she had a right to look. She could see he was proud of his body, as she was of hers. She imagined that he, like herself, thought he looked younger than he was. Once he had stripped and stood naked in front of her, she moved towards him and looked pointedly at his erect penis. Then she grasped it with her hand and felt a shiver in herself that echoed itself in his body and face. She leant forward until the tips of her nipples just touched his chest and then kissed him on the neck. Her head rested comfortably under his chin and she had to tilt her head to kiss him. They stood opposite each other and moved their hands over the other‘s body. Clarissa‘s nipples remained just touching his chest, while his penis gently moved against her mound. At first, Clarissa thought he was self-conscious of their nakedness but she could see him relax after a few minutes of caressing her side and then her buttocks and breasts. She kept her hands on his chest and massaged him up to his shoulders while he explored her. Then he put two fingers into her mouth and she sucked them. His penis pushed harder against her and she parted her legs and held it down so that it was underneath her and rested between her labia. He moved against her and as she became more excited his penis slid comfortably along her now moist labia. She grasped hold of it and moved its exposed head around the entrance to her vagina. He broke away from her and turned towards his jacket. She had wondered whether he had come prepared or was he one of those men who always carried condoms – just in case. When he turned back, they closed again and then, giving way to his pressure, he was suddenly inside her. Then they stood very still, pressed against each other. He ran his fingers along her lips and then they kissed mouth to mouth. She pushed her tongue inside him and he pushed back into her so that he was inside her mouth and her vagina at the same time. She liked that. Then he grasped her underneath her thighs and lifted her up. She linked her feet behind his back and he walked them both over to the bed. She was surprised that he moved so easily. Mark could pick her up with no apparent effort but Anderson was a much slimmer man. Then he tilted her on to the bed but remained upright and ran his hand lightly over her nipples while thrusting into her. They were tight together allowing very little movement of his penis inside her. She wondered whether he did that to prevent himself coming too quickly. She leant her head back and relaxed her arms and legs so that her feet touched the floor. He grasped her hips and started to move in and out of her with longer thrusts. Then he lightly touched her above his penis stimulating her clitoris. She abandoned herself to the sensations and her open mouth expressed her pleasure. Then she came and arched her back and he stopped while she climaxed and then relaxed before he moved again. She came once more in that position before he came out of her and moved her fully on to the bed; then he laid himself over her body and placed himself into her again. This time he kept is weight on his arms and moved long and slow, brushing her nipples with his lips and then pushing his tongue into her mouth. Finally, his pace and the force of his thrusts increased until he came with a sharp stifled cry. Afterwards, he moved again more tentatively and she could feel the shiver of his effort but it was sufficient and she came again. They rolled over on their side together and after a moment or two, when he had fallen out of her, she turned and lay with her back against his chest. She knew that making love to someone new always made her feel good and she supposed it would be the same with him. Was that all it was, a cheap thrill? Was that why he had put himself at risk and why he had been the first to guard her at night? Surely not, it must be more than that; but it was too early to ask. Instead she said something else. ‗There‘s something I should tell you about Mark.‘ she said. ‗What?‘ ‗He has a mistress.‘ ‗You‘re sure about that,‘ he said. ‗He disappears every night and comes back in the early hours of the morning, so I‘m damn sure,‘ she said. Chapter 6 Next day at the station, Anderson could sense that there was an atmosphere. A few more faces than usual looked up when he walked across the incident room and the chatter was livelier than the day before. At first Anderson thought they knew something that he didn‘t. That they‘d struck lucky – that the case was about to break but back in his office with Comben sitting in front of him, he knew that wasn‘t it. He wanted to slap away the half smirk on Comben‘s face; instead he kept his lips tight wondered how they had slipped up. Secrets were not easy to keep in the force – after all he was running a team of detectives. There were two ways they might have got caught out. First, his relief might have come earlier than expected in the morning and left quietly when he saw what was happening or maybe the officer outside had popped in for a hot drink during the night and heard them. On the other hand his taking on the job of guard duty was not very sensible. His motivation was pretty obvious. Whatever it was, he hadn‘t been careful enough. There was only one thing to do and he did it: get on with the job. He wanted to get Comben out of there and away from him. ‗See if you can get anything more from Amanda what‘s-her-name and then see if Mrs Downing needs anything. I‘ll visit Mark Turney to tell him what‘s happened to his wife.‘ Both men could see that was an unfortunate phrase and the half became a full smirk on Comben‘s face. It was not a good start to the day. The two men parted in silence. Anderson wondered how long it would take for those above to find out. And if they did, would they do anything? It was hardly a capital offence. Still there was no point in worrying: he had a murder case to solve. Later that day, he drove to the park and waited across the street in his car until Mark came home from work. Then he followed Turney up his front path. Mark turned and Anderson could see that he was not surprised to see him. Why should he be? Clarissa had been spirited away and he had been promised information that he hadn‘t yet got. A visit from the police was the most likely of events. Anderson knew what to expect from him and was not disappointed. ‗Where‘s my wife?‘ he asked. Anderson motioned to him to unlock the door. The man neither said anything further nor did he open his front door. ‗Shall we go inside,‘ said Anderson. Mark let them both in and then walked ahead to the kitchen. He sat down and hung one shoulder of his jacket over the seat back so that the other draped itself half way down on the other side. Turney had wide shoulders and he didn‘t seem to mind creasing the jacket. One fell forward revealing a label Anderson recognised. It wasn‘t his own style, since he went in for tailored suits while Turney‘s was unstructured but Mark was younger and Anderson had to accept that he knew how to dress his age. Anderson wondered where the money came from. Did Clarissa give him a dress allowance? Anderson hitched up his wool trousers and sat upright across the table. Mark lounged and allowed his cotton ‗chinos‘ to fall into natural folds. Anderson thought back a few years and imagined that, then, Mark would have been considered scruffy. But now the carefully chosen shades of blue that co-ordinated his outfit from mid-blue jacket through his lighter shirt and darker trousers down to his deep blue suede sporty shoes produced anything but that effect. He was smart but at ease with himself. Anderson felt himself to be stuffy, stuck in an age when only suits were considered smart and ties were essential. ‗I can‘t tell you where she is,‘ he said. ‗Why not? Do you think she‘s in danger from me?‘ ‗No, but where security is concerned, the less people who know, the better.‘ ‗Can‘t she phone me?‘ Clarissa had refused to do this. Anderson wondered whether to tell him. Then he decided. ‗She doesn‘t want to. It‘s something between the two of you. Nothing to do with the case.‘ ‗Will you take a letter to her?‘ Anderson nodded and Turney got up and walked out of the kitchen into another room to write his note. Anderson watched him move. He was about the same height as himself but broader in the chest. His tee shirt showed off his upper musculature and arms, while his loose trousers hid his legs but Anderson imagined they were equally well proportioned. A few years back he would have fancied his chances but now it would be sensible to leave any physical stuff to Comben, where Turney was concerned – if it ever came to that. He didn‘t yet resemble those TV detectives who were too fat or too old or unfit through drink to chase criminals or take them on physically but it was coming. As he waited, he wondered why he was thinking like this. He had no evidence to suspect Turney: it was purely personal prejudice. His judgement was becoming clouded and it had to stop, he couldn‘t do a good job this way. A few minutes later Turney came back with his note sealed in an envelope. ‗When will she get it?‘ ‗I‘ll make sure it gets to her tonight.‘ ‗Will you take it yourself?‘ ‗Probably not, one of the relief officers can do that.‘ Anderson had the note in his hand as he climbed the steps to the safe flat. Anderson would have preferred it to be a busier district and it had been at one time. Now half the shops were boarded up and, at night, there was little activity. It was odd, as he climbed a distinct itchy fuzzy or tingly feeling pervaded his legs and then travelled upwards. He felt like a teenager again going to see his girl. This time the ‗girl‘ was a woman in her forties and not fifteen or twenty years younger as they had been since Gabriella had walked out on him. Was he growing up at last? Was adulthood beckoning? Anderson thought it was about time and his legs sprung him upwards. Clarissa was bored. Anderson could see that in the languid way she looked up from her new laptop on the table in front of her. There wasn‘t a glimmer of life in her eyes. Clearly, the changing personnel were making little impression on her. The succession of young uniforms was not in the least attractive. Clarissa was grown up: she was looking for a mature man. Or was all that simply wishful thinking? Gratifyingly her eyes did light when she recognised him. He sent Tompkins out for tea and told him to leave his gun. The young man was doubtful but Anderson told him he had taken the firearm course. The constable acquiesced, although Anderson could see that the man felt naked without his weapon. Anderson walked across the room and Clarissa stood up but stayed behind the small table, brought especially from her house so she could work. There really was no immediate future in it, since he couldn‘t stay and anyway Tompkins would be back far too soon but he still lent across and kissed her. She didn‘t respond but kept very still without leaning in to him. It was a small reprimand but Anderson felt he had been slapped across the face – had he blushed? He kissed her again on the mouth and this time she pressed back and opened her mouth. He had been forgiven. ‗Where have you been?‘ she asked. ‗Trying to solve two murders,‘ he said. ‗And have you?‘ ‗Maybe.‘ She moved away from the table and sat on the settee. He sat next to her. ‗Have you caught him?‘ ‗Who?‘ ‗Whatever his name is – Julian?‘ ‗No, but we know where he lives or lived.‘ ‗So I‘m still in danger?‘ ‗Until we catch him, yes. Are you bored?‘ ‗I have my work.‘ ‗But you‘re still bored.‘ ‗I wouldn‘t be if you came around more often.‘ ‗I can‘t do that.‘ ‗And when I go home?‘ Anderson was close to her and she had turned towards him and lent over so that he could feel her body – her breasts – next to his chest. It was a good feeling but he had to ask. ‗Are you and Mark very unhappy together?‘ ‗I already told you he has another woman.‘ ‗That doesn‘t mean that you‘re unhappy with him.‘ ‗It does in my world.‘ ‗And I came along at a convenient time,‘ Anderson said. ‗Yes, good isn‘t it,‘ she said, ‗aren‘t you happy about that?‘ Anderson smiled. He couldn‘t believe he had said that. What was next: ‗do you really love me?‘ This was too adolescent; where was his new found maturity? ‗Does Mark inherit if you die?‘ he asked. Clarissa hesitated before answering. Her frown told Anderson that she didn‘t like the implication of his question. ‗You don‘t really believe this has anything to do with Mark and myself do you?‘ she asked. ‗We have to cover everything,‘ he said. ‗You mean, ―it‘s just routine‖ don‘t you.‘ ‗But he does,‘ he said. ‗Yes,‘ she said. ‗Has Mark money of his own?‘ ‗Not a lot. I make him work.‘ ‗Where did you meet?‘ ‗At a party given by an acquaintance. I‘m often asked and used to accept. It was flattering to be lionised.‘ ‗And you were single.‘ ‗No,‘ she said, ‗but I was quite soon afterwards. And you?‘ ‗Divorced,‘ he said. ‗I always did think Mark made a play for me because of my money. At the time, it didn‘t seem to matter.‘ She waited for his reaction. ‗Are you scandalised? It‘s the sort of thing men do all the time. Look at the number of old rich men with young adoring wives.‘ Anderson was scandalised but he wasn‘t going to say so. His new found maturity meant he didn‘t like to see old men with teenage brides either. He got up. ‗I must go,‘ he said. She stood as well and they kissed. This time it was simple. ‗You will release me as soon as you can won‘t you?‘ she asked. ‗But no sooner,‘ he said, ‗I don‘t want another corpse on my hands.‘ ‗No,‘ she said, ‗I can‘t see you as a necrophiliac.‘ Tompkins was waiting outside the door when Anderson opened it. He could have hoped for less tact on the part of junior officers. Chapter 7 Comben was at the station before him the next morning and, when the sergeant came into the office, he sat down in a chair without being asked. Anderson was pleased that the new boy‘s education was progressing. He wasn‘t so pleased when Comben fluttered a piece of paper in front of his boss. There was an air of triumph in the younger man‘s words when he announced that Turney had no criminal record. Anderson was very sorry indeed that he had been indiscreet. ‗Did you locate the Simanoviczs?‘ he asked. ‗We have an address in North London. Shall we get the locals to visit?‘ ‗No, let‘s go ourselves. It will give us an idea of who we‘re after.‘ They took Anderson‘s car but he let Comben drive. It was a hard decision, he had stood for a full minute next to the driver‘s door before tossing the keys to the younger man and walking round to the passenger‘s side – he was continuing to grow up. The journey was tedious, as cross-town journeys in London always were but Comben looked pleased with himself when they arrived. Anderson‘s was a little tense and his right foot ached from pressing where the brake should have been. The couple was older than he expected. Julian was thirty but Mrs Simanovicz must have been in her seventies; had that been the problem with their son? They thought him innocent, of course, didn‘t every parent? But they had to admit to his peculiarity. Schizophrenia? Well yes, they had heard the term used about Julian but it didn‘t mean he was mad or violent. Mr. was retired and Mrs. had never worked since they had been married. She was Mr.‘s second wife and had worked for him in his factory. Mr. had been a widower with no children. Julian had come along late in life; he had been the son he had always wanted who would take over the family business. Comben fidgeted as they sat in plush brocade covered armchairs and listened to the old couple show their bemusement at what had happened. They knew little that could help the investigation. They had seen Julian at Yom Kippur the week before but he had left suddenly and they hadn‘t heard from him since. ‗Yes‘ they did keep him. They didn‘t like to think of him sponging on the state while they had money. Anderson looked around him. Twenty years ago there had been ample money and the curtains, upholstery, mirrors and carpet showed it. They were too ornate for Anderson‘s taste and would have been two decades before but they did cost money. They seem to have spent nothing since then but the place was clean and tidy and the couple had not expected visitors. Anderson could almost feel Comben discomfort when he accepted the offer of tea. Comben obviously didn‘t think there was much to gain from the couple and wanted to get away. Anderson was sorry he had brought him; it might have been better to have left him in Kilburn. Julian might have been found there by now. Once prodded Mr Simanovicz was happy to tell them how it had been when Julian had first been born and then how, later, he had taken him to his work as a small boy and showed him the business. The father had trained as a Master Cutter and at that time, was responsible for cutting patterns for samples and then laying out the cloth when the orders came in. He would cut hundreds of identical pieces of garments for the machinists upstairs to make up and pass on to the pressers. ‗Yes‘, Julian had enjoyed the factory. He had listened while his father explained the intricacies of laying patters out to make the best use of the cloth and the extra profit made by skilful cutting. ‗No, he didn‘t understand everything, of course not‘ but Simanovicz thought he respected his father‘s trade. ‗And the factory?‘ ‗Closed, empty, a ruin waiting for demolition.‘ ‗Far away?‘ ‗No‘, he had walked to work. He had never been one of those who had wanted to escape from Stoke Newington by moving to Edgware or Stanmore. Outside Anderson wondered whether Comben had been listening at all or whether he had fallen asleep with his eyes open. ‗Back to Kilburn,‘ he said, ‗we might just beat the traffic if we start now.‘ ‗No,‘ said Anderson. ‗Let‘s have a look at the factory.‘ It was in a cul-de-sac off one of those main north-south highways that were lined with shops in various states of prosperity or bankruptcy. North London had never yet reached the same standard of affluence as the more central Islington or the suburbs to the West. There were always as many shops in the process of closing down, as there were opening up. This allowed charity shops on short leases to flourish along the High Street by recycling clothes from the rich to the poor. But it meant that the factory site had not yet reached a value sufficient to encourage a speculator to tear it down and build something new – certainly not housing now that the government had pulled the plug on public provision. Mr Simanovicz was right: the building was derelict. Windows were missing and had been boarded up at the front and notices plastered all over warning of the danger of imminent collapse. Anderson wondered whether old man Simanovicz dared to look at what the place had become and, if he did, how he felt to see the building he had spent most of his working life in look as it did now. But then he might have detested the place. Maybe he would like to tear it down brick by brick himself. They found where Julian had got in round the back. A padlock was only loosely hooked over eyelets. It had rusted and Julian had used a lever to break it but he could only loop it back to simulate security when he went out. Anderson knew it had to be Julian before they went inside and saw the nest. He had created it from scraps of cloth left behind by his own father. Bits and pieces – rags – that jumbled together made a decent enough mattress. Comben went back outside and replaced the padlock. Then they waited. When Julian came, Comben followed him in. Anderson thought his sergeant looked annoyed that his boss had been right again. When he saw Anderson, Julian froze like a frightened deer and turned to run but, seeing Comben, he relaxed and waited patiently as Comben handcuffed him. Anderson drove both of them to the local police station. ‗We‘re not going back to Kilburn, sir?‘ asked Comben. ‗No,‘ said Anderson. They were allowed an interview room. There was no fuss. It was unusual but the superintendent accepted that Anderson had his reasons. In Kilburn by some mysterious means, the press would have gathered at the station even before the three arrived – but not here. The three seated themselves around a table. Anderson sat almost at one end to form a triangle, as though this was a social occasion – a chat between equals. Comben made the necessary noises into the tape recorder and then they waited. Anderson was sure that Julian would want to tell them everything. ‗Mrs Curry, I saw it all,‘ Julian said. Anderson raised his eyebrows. Comben fiddled with a pencil. ‗A tunnel, they were in a tunnel with a door at the end. He was this side of the door and then when she opened the door he went through.‘ ‗Was this a dream. Do you often dream about tunnels?‘ Anderson was acting the therapist. At one time, it had been his career choice. Later in life, he imagined he would have done very well at it. He would give Julian the benefit of his expertise – well not expertise exactly, more intuitive empathy. ‗I don‘t think it was a dream but the figures were odd – distorted. I couldn‘t recognise her face.‘ ‗So how did you know it was Mrs Curry?‘ asked Comben. It was too direct a question for Anderson‘s liking but he had no quarrel with Comben. He hadn‘t told him to stay silent and two differing styles might work well. ‗I knew the door.‘ ‗But the door was at the end of a tunnel. How could you recognise it?‘ ‗I just knew.‘ There was a pause that Anderson thought might lengthen into a complete hiatus. He prompted the young man. ‗Go on, there must be more.‘ ‗There were noises and then the door opened. The man came out. He looked at me.‘ ‗So you saw his face?‘ asked Comben. ‗Yes, he had an enormous nose and it got larger as he came closer to me.‘ ‗How far apart were you?‘ asked Comben. ‗His nose almost touched mine. His face was huge.‘ ‗So you must be able to recognise him. Do you know who he was?‘ ‗No, I don‘t know. He was not like anyone I have ever seen.‘ ‗And then?‘ asked Anderson. ‗He went back and carried her out. She was limp. I heard a car.‘ ‗Was she dead?‘ ‗I think so. He was big and carried her downstairs into the boot of his car. Then he drove off.‘ ‗Do you have car, Julian?‘ ‗No.‘ ‗Do you drive?‘ ‗No.‘ Anderson wondered whether Comben was as worried about these answers as he was. The two murders took place at least quarter of a mile from the park. The murderer needed a vehicle. ‗Then I saw him in the park.‘ ‗How did you get there?‘ Comben asked. ‗I ran.‘ ‗How did you know where to go?‘ Anderson asked. ‗I just did.‘ ‗Go on,‘ said Anderson. ‗He was already in the centre of the field. He did something, I don‘t know what. Then he climbed over the fence.‘ ‗Where did he go then?‘ ‗I don‘t remember. I was scared. I didn‘t follow.‘ Anderson charged him but left him at Stoke Newington. There was to be no news release. The capture and arrest were Anderson and Comben‘s secrets. Back at the Simanoviczs, Anderson asked about the car in the driveway. Comben had noticed that it had no tax disc. ‗We don‘t use it,‘ they said. Mrs. had never driven while Mr. felt he was too old to be safe. ‗So why not sell it?‘ asked Comben. ‗We thought Julian might want it,‘ said Mr Simanovicz. ‗Does he drive?‘ asked Comben. ‗He had lessons and even passed his test but he never drove afterwards.‘ At the station, Julian denied he could drive. It had been years ago since he took his test and he hadn‘t driven since. Anderson allowed Comben to lead this time. ‗Why did you kill those women?‘ he asked. Julian surprised them. ‗Did I?‘ he asked. It seemed as if he genuinely wanted them to tell him. ‗Don‘t you know?‘ continued Comben. ‗I wrote the stories. Did I kill them as well? I don‘t remember.‘ ‗Do you know how they were killed?‘ asked Anderson. ‗She was cut open. I saw the knife. He left it in the flat and then came back for it.‘ ‗I suppose you still couldn‘t see him clearly,‘ said Comben. ‗The tunnel.‘ ‗Yes, the tunnel.‘ Anderson could hear the exasperation in Comben‘s voice. If Julian were guilty they would never do anything more than put him in hospital. But was he? They needed a psychiatrist. They could get no further without knowing whether he was sane or mad. The car had to be close, so he parked it immediately outside. There was a risk but at three in the morning, it was worth taking. He had her keys and let himself in through the front door and then into her flat. She was no longer rigid. The house was quiet and he rolled her gently into the carpet he had brought. Then he opened the flat door, walked across to the door opposite, no light showed. It took one minute to carry the body downstairs and place it in the boot. He had left that open and propped the street door wide to make it possible. Upstairs again he closed the door to her flat. In the centre of the park, he unrolled the carpet. A few minutes later he climbed the metal fence easily but left the carpet behind. Then he crossed the road and went into one of the houses. Anderson read the transcript. Julian knew so much but then, if he had done it, so very little. He had filled in some of the details of how the murderer dealt with the second body but seemed to know little about how she was killed or what had been inflicted on the body in the park. And yet he had spoken as if he were the murderer. All that about taking a chance with the car and how did he know that the body had passed through the rigor mortis phase, before it was wrapped up in the carpet? ‗So, doctor,‘ he asked, ‗did he do it? And, if so, is he mad?‘ Stephens smiled. It was the smile of someone used to having responsibility thrust on to his shoulders. But Anderson could see he was as used to shedding that burden as receiving it. ‗He is not legally mad in my opinion but I dare say the defence could find someone who would say he was.‘ He stopped. Anderson waited for him to go on. He didn‘t. ‗Did he do it?‘ ‗Hypnotism can only tell you so much. Maybe he is narrating a dream, maybe he saw something, or maybe he is assuaging his guilt by imagining a third person. Of course, that person could be himself or rather another part of him he does not want to accept. He has blackouts – you know that don‘t you.‘ Anderson nodded. ‗How does it all fit in with what he told us?‘ asked Comben. ‗Strangely, his evidence to you seems more like a dream than the story he revealed to me. I simply don‘t know. You‘ll have to solve this one on your own.‘ ‗Did he say who ―the murderer‖ was? Did he recognise him?‘ Anderson was asking a great deal but he had to ask. Stephens shook his head. Then they all smiled and shook hands. That was the end of that. They had enough to arrest Julian but, in Anderson‘s opinion, not enough to convict. He had said nothing about the injuries to the bodies and seemed unclear how the two women were killed. In fact all he had said – in the interview or under hypnosis – could have been gleaned from the newspapers, or at least constructed from their stories with a bit of imagination. ‗Are we taking him back, sir?‘ asked Comben. ‗No,‘ he said, ‗and I don‘t want a word of this to get out. Is that clear.‘ ‗Yes, sir.‘ Anderson could see the man was offended, so he attempted to smooth his feathers. ‗We‘ve had far too many leaks lately from the station. I don‘t want one this time.‘ ‗Before my time, sir,‘ Comben was right. He could hardly be blamed for what had gone on before he got there. ‗All right, I understand. Just don‘t say anything to anyone.‘ Comben nodded with less enthusiasm than Anderson could have wished. He was, of course, breaking with convention. He couldn‘t get his forensic team working on Julian unless they had him to examine. But then what could they link him to? There were no traces of the killer at the murder sites or at the park. Anderson imagined he had been covered from head to foot with something impermeable. And that was another thing: Julian was hardly the right sort of person to go to that trouble. The killer didn‘t want to be caught and was clever enough to take precautions. Julian Simanovicz didn‘t even know whether he was responsible. He hadn‘t even known what day it was, when they questioned him. It was about seven in the evening when they got back from Stoke Newington. Comben had left his car at the station and, after Anderson drove off, he sat in the driving seat for a while. Then, instead of going home, he drove the short distance to Felicity‘s flat and parked his car outside. There was no light inside, so he waited. Before long he saw car headlights; the car slowed and parked behind him – it was her. Comben opened his own door first and walked round to the pavement so that she could see him clearly under a lamppost. She got out and came to him. ‗Is this a professional call?‘ she asked. ‗Yes,‘ he said, ‗are you going to send me away?‘ She placed a hand on his shoulder. He was close enough for her to bend her elbow. ‗I didn‘t think I had the right to do that. I wouldn‘t want you to accuse me of impeding police enquiries.‘ Then she smiled and opened the street door. They climbed the stairs in silence and, inside the flat, he followed her down the hall into the sitting room. She stopped, turned and stood in front of him. He came close but she didn‘t back away. Then she turned away from him and sat down. He looked around him, searching in his mind for a beginning. ‗The number‘s unusual for a second floor flat, ―one‖,‘ he said. ‗Yes,‘ she said, ‗but that‘s the only unusual feature, otherwise it‘s a very ordinary flat.‘ ‗Much like mine,‘ he said, ‗can you afford it now that Amanda has left?‘ She turned and smiled. ‗Is that what you came for?‘ she asked, ‗to find out whether I‘m solvent.‘ Comben didn‘t answer and cursed himself for being such a blockhead. It was impossible now to think up any thing clever and he had almost decided to go but he didn‘t. ‗Nice dress,‘ he said. ‗It‘s my uniform,‘ she said. It was not the same dress as the last he had seen her in. This time the plunge was at the front while the back was high – right up to the neck. He wondered how the punters could concentrate on their cards when she lent forward but that, he supposed, was the point. He knew how they felt and it stopped his retreat dead in its tracks. ‗Would you like a drink or aren‘t you allowed to.‘ ‗I‘m not exactly on duty,‘ he said. ‗So, should you be paying social calls on witnesses?‘ she asked. ‗No,‘ he said. She handed him a scotch and they sat down together on the settee. She fidgeted as though uncomfortable in her dress. ‗Do you mind if I get out of this. It‘s not very relaxing,‘ she said. Comben smiled and watched as she walked towards her bedroom. When she got to the door, she turned and smiled. Comben got up and walked after her. ‗Do you need a hand with the zip?‘ he asked. She said nothing but stood still as he unzipped her dress at the back. Then she stepped out of it and Comben slipped his hands around her midriff. She shivered a little as she tossed the dress on to a chair. Comben kept a loose grip on her waist as she did so and then kissed her on her neck. She kicked her shoes off, stepped forward and stripped off her tights. For a moment, he stood transfixed by the beauty of her back and neck and legs. In the corner of his eye, he saw Felicity look at him in the long freestanding mirror across the room. Then she turned to him and waited. He let his eyes run up and down her body. Her hair was caught up in a chignon to reveal her slim neck and her breasts seemed larger than when they were encased in the strapless bra she had thrown aside. He moved closer to hug her and kiss her firmly on the lips. His penis pressed against her mound and suddenly he needed to break away. He did not want to seem like an over-eager teenager and come before he was inside her. ‗Why don‘t you slip under the covers while I undress,‘ he said. She obeyed but first he watched as she removed the clips that kept her hair up and tossed her head, letting the tresses fall to her shoulder. Then he undressed, while she watched him with her head propped up on a pillow. He glimpsed himself in the long mirror – all that exercise now seemed worthwhile. He was proud of his body and, although he worked out, he was careful to avoid looking as though he meant to enter a Mr. World competition. His erect penis escaped prematurely through the slit in his pants but he carefully placed it back inside, before walking over and lying next to her. Then he twisted to reach the light switches on the wall behind and switched off the central bulb. ‗You‘re not cold are you?‘ he asked. She shook her head. He drew aside the duvet and knelt in front of her. He kissed her breasts and then her mouth. She bent her knees as he did this and slipped off her briefs. Then, while he knelt in front of her she drew down his pants and grasped his penis. He slipped his pants over his feet as she did so. She moved both hands over the stem of his penis moving the skin over the firmness beneath. Then she placed her hands underneath and squeezed him gently. He could feel the tremor of his own excitement as if he was outside himself and wondered whether she had gone too far. Then she brought his penis towards her and ran the tip between her labia, which were now moist and allowed him to slide up and over her clitoris. An exquisite thrill ran up his penis and caused him to breathe faster and deeper. He was pleased that she also sounded excited but he needed to keep control. He lent back and to the side towards the bedside cabinet to her left. Inside he was pleased to see a packet of condoms. He took one out and then allowed her to take it from him and slide over his penis. Then she slid down the bed while pushing his penis inside of her. He lent forward on to his forearms and pushed up high inside her; again, sounds of excitement escaped from her lips. Then he rested his hips and belly on her and took up her rhythm – smoothing out the irregular tremors that ran through her body as he moved. He could feel the tension enveloping him as he fought against his rising excitement. But reluctantly and inevitably, he was caught up in his own tempo. When he heard high small shrieks of pleasure, he allowed his thrusts to become faster and more violent and then came with a deep roar of satisfaction. He collapsed on to her and tried to struggle free but she hugged him to her. Finally, when he imagined that his weight had squeezed all the air from her chest, she relaxed her grip and he rolled over with her, so that now her lighter body rested on him. They stayed locked together until he felt himself shrink from her, then she raised herself and smiled at him and they kissed. He extricated himself, went to the bathroom, then, back in bed, lay on his back, and clasped her to him. She bent her knee so that it rested on his limp penis. ‗I hope you came. I thought you did,‘ he said. ‗Yes,‘ she said, ‗I did.‘ He smiled but said nothing. There seemed nothing else to say. Then, he felt her breathing become shallower and more regular as she dozed off. He gently moved her on to her back and then slid the duvet down and to the side to look at her lying naked and relaxed. Her hair lay untidily over her face and lifted with her breath. He swept it away from her mouth. He allowed his eyes to gaze lazily along her body and then his hand followed, touching her gently: down her neck; over her shoulder; up and down her breasts; then over her belly; finally skirting round the raised triangle of public hair and on to her thigh. From his angle, the mound between her legs stood up above the crease between belly and leg. He placed his hand on it. He did not want to wake her but he became aware that her breathing rhythm had changed and, when he looked up at her, he saw she was looking at him with a smile on her face. He too smiled – shamefacedly, as if he had been caught out doing something naughty. She turned on to her side, held his hand and pressed his finger into her as she parted her legs. ‗Finger fuck me,‘ she said, ‗but keep your eyes on mine.‘ He moved one finger and then two inside her and watched as her eyes blinked but only closed completely when she came to a climax with a deep intake of breath, which she let out slowly. Then she opened her eyes and looked down at his groin. ‗I see your ready again,‘ she said looking at his penis. He turned away from her towards the drawer but she stopped him, clambered over him, and placed her hands on his shoulders. Then she bent and massaged his penis between her breasts. This time he was more in control and knew that he would not come too soon; he lay there, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the sensations streaming up his body. He opened his eyes again when she lent back to reached over to the drawer and take out a condom, which she rolled on to his penis with both hands. Then she turned around and lent forward, so that she could place his penis at the entrance to her vagina. She moved the tip of it around and then slid it inside her while pushing back towards him. The position was awkward for him and he had to prop himself up while she moved and brought herself to a climax. He was entirely passive as her buttocks thrust backwards and then slid forwards, pulling his penis uncomfortably. But he enjoyed her rising excitement and the sight of his penis inside her, between her cheeks with her anus above. She climaxed once more but the position prevented him from coming. Then she turned and faced him kneeling in front of him and again she pushed him inside her. This time she moved on him quickly and violently bringing him to his own orgasm. They rested in each other‘s arms for a few minutes before walking together to the bathroom where they showered together. Comben was beginning to feel awkward. It hadn‘t turned out as he had imagined it would. It had been too good and he didn‘t want to spoil it. He wanted it to continue and yet he knew that what he had to do might ruin everything. But it had to be done. Anderson thought him a fool and he had been intimidated. He needed something to take back to his boss. Back in the bedroom, he put his pants on as she slipped into bed. Then he sat on the edge of the bed before putting anything else on. ‗Do you know who Amanda‘s boyfriend is?‖ he asked. He tried to be casual but it didn‘t work. Felicity sat up and frowned. ‗Is that why you‘re here, to question me about Amanda?‘ she asked. ‗You know that‘s not true,‘ he said. ‗If it was as good for you as it was for me, you know that‘s not true.‘ She paused before answering. ‗I don‘t know. She won‘t tell me. I suppose he‘s married.‘ Comben rested his hand on her thigh. She didn‘t move it away. It was a good sign. ‗You‘re not lying to me are you?‘ he asked. ‗No,‘ she said. ‗Why should I? Anyway what does it matter who Amanda‘s man is, I thought Julian‘s the one you want?‘ Comben shook his head, stood up and reached for his shirt. ‗You‘re leaving,‘ she said. ‗Is it because you think I‘m lying?‘ ‗No, it will look suspicious if I‘m not at home and someone calls.‘ ‗Anderson?‘ Comben nodded. ‗Aren‘t policemen allowed a private life?‘ Comben smiled. Anderson was allowed one but a junior officer? He couldn‘t take the chance. ‗It will be better after we‘ve caught the murderer,‘ he said. He waited for her reply and wondered whether she would respond to the implication that there would be an ‗after‘. ‗Do you think Julian did it?‘ He let it go. A fuck was a fuck, it didn‘t mean there had to be something else. ‗ I do but Anderson has his reasons for thinking otherwise. I don‘t think they‘re good reasons.‘ ‗Come to the club tomorrow night,‘ she said, ‗come and see what I do. You might find out something useful.‘ ‗Will I?‘ he said. ‗Only if Julian is not the murderer.‘ ‗Do you know something that might help?‘ ‗Why don‘t you wait and see.‘ Chapter 8 Detective Inspector Patricia Fielding was bored. The screen in front of her flickered and a new series of paragraphs stared at her. Were they different to the last lot? She really didn‘t know; after a while – a very short while – the English text on display looked like a foreign language. She could pronounce it to herself but the meaning escaped her. It was like reading a book before going to sleep at night and the next day needing to start at the same place again. This she had experienced a lot recently. Promotion had cost her a great deal of time and effort; other things had taken a back seat. So, alone in bed each night, there was no more amusing way of getting tired. She hadn‘t imagined that promotion would be like this. She had worked with John Anderson for five years and she thought he rated her. How else had she got where she was? Why else had Anderson recommended her, if she couldn‘t do the job? She had never thought him petty — petty enough to have got her stuck in front of a screen all day. But it simply had to be down to him. ‗John Anderson is a bastard‘; she repeated these words to herself as if they were a mantra – every hour on the hour – or, at least, when she remembered. Unfortunately, they didn‘t give her the calm a mantra was supposed to. If it hadn‘t been for those few foolish words, she would be out there, where she had proved herself. Had he fancied her and was that why he was so vindictive? She wondered what she would have done if he had asked, which he never had. He was almost ten years older than she was and wasn‘t exactly handsome. But then men didn‘t have to be. He was too fussy for her liking and his ex-wife had left him, so there might be something there. Still, policemen‘s marriages were always breaking up; it was the job, so maybe it hadn‘t been his fault. She still couldn‘t answer her own question, though: ‗would she or wouldn‘t she?‘ But then she would probably never have to decide. The new job — she tried to think of its good points. The best aspect of all came to her mind first: it was temporary. It was preparation for higher things, so the Super said. Just what those higher things were he didn‘t specify. Then there were the occasional courses — naturally: there were always courses. And then there was this: FBI-speak scrolling down her screen endlessly for what seemed hours — psychological profiles, sociological analyses all struggling to explain why they did it, what sort of people they were but never how to catch them. Serial killers, had they invented them over there and exported them to over here? The cases were so diverse she wondered whether they were a special category at all. The one in front of her on the screen for example, according to the FBI, this one latched on to other killers, copied their technique and added an extra corpse. The real killers, always eager to own up to their guilt and brazenly proud of their work, had to be believed. Three such murderers, now serving life sentences, said they didn‘t do the extra one and one had been caught before the copycat murder had been committed. Fielding thought that, if he existed at all, this particular mother‘s little treasure lacked imagination. He travelled to where there had been publicity about a series of murders and then added one. Sometimes the press had been too lazy to prise out of the police the exact circumstances of the original crimes, so he had improvised. The last line of the report though, was the one that led her to fax the States. They thought he had come to Britain, or, to be precise – if the Americans knew how to be precise in this case – to England. After lunch, she looked at the answering fax. Agent Jim Stevens was interested in her enquiry. Why didn‘t they communicate by E-mail or a Chat programme? She had the facility didn‘t she? She certainly did. What were all those courses for if she didn‘t know how to use a computer? The messages flicked backwards and forwards. It was the nearest thing to a conversation with Jim that she could have apart from the telephone and much cheaper — the finance department would be pleased about that. Jim understood her scepticism. If he hadn‘t been to four States and examined the evidence in detail, so would he be. But he had and he was convinced. There was one man and he had gone to England and, yes, he did know the difference between England, Britain and the United Kingdom. She was beginning to like Jim. She was about to ask him whether he had a wife and how old he was, when he did so first. She invited him over to find out for himself. He said he‘d like to. The case was his pigeon and he hated to let it go. If he could get permission, he would come and help but that was unlikely: he had enough in his own patch to be getting on with. She wondered whether this was how E-mail romances got started  hadn‘t there been a film about that? She could see herself inventing the long blonde hair and the 36/22/36 figure she had wanted as a teenager. But what happened when you had to meet and found that your partner was a fifty-year-old fat balding dentist? Jim suggested she get in touch with the Heathrow police. They hadn‘t seemed keen to follow up his lead and they hadn‘t come up with much but she should know what they did find out. He did, though, know someone over there who would want to co-operate. National calls she could make; they didn‘t make an unnecessary dent in the budget, so she phoned Sheffield. Detective Inspector Mark Wright knew all about Jim Stevens. He suggested she came up and talked to him. Officially his own case had been closed by orders from above but he hadn‘t been satisfied. Why didn‘t she get all the details on her screen before coming? She said she would and that she would travel north as soon as possible but first she needed to go to Hounslow. She set the computer to work and left the office. She felt like a truant and slunk out as though trying to avoid the prefects. Kilburn to Heathrow Central was best done by Tube. She left her car at the station and, not for the first time, wondered whether keeping a car in London was worthwhile. Then, squeezed into a corner by an embarrassed man anxious to turn sideways, she re-convinced her of the superiority of the motor car. As long she could breath, she would drive. As she suspected, Hounslow hadn‘t done much. They had checked every male American landing at Heathrow on the right day and they had a list of hundreds. He probably wouldn‘t have had time to get a false passport so, at some time, the names might be useful. But, since the FBI had no name and only the vaguest of descriptions given by one fortunate escapee, until he was caught the list was one for the filing cabinet. It was rumoured that the Northern Line was the worst but Fielding made the Bakerloo a close second and the Piccadilly not far behind. By the time her ordeal by confinement was over and she arrived back at Queen‘s Park, it was home time. She left the car at the station yard and walked home up the hill and across towards the Kilburn High Road. At one time, the houses there had been the residences of families with servants. Nowadays single people like herself occupied the servants‘ quarters. Living high up on the fourth floor gave her exercise each day and it was warm, cosy, and quiet — it was home. Inside her own front door there was another set of stairs leading to a small landing from which her kitchen, living room and a bedroom opened. She hung up her coat on a hook. It was six and the heating had come on, so it would soon be warm. Out there, September had turned chilly as the sun went down. At six, she settled down in front of the television with a glass of wine from a box she kept in the fridge. She felt it was her duty to keep up with events, although the news seldom interested her. The different items, so similar from year to year, had no power to keep her mind occupied. There were times, after she had been listening to her grandfather‘s stories of the War, that she blessed the normality of murder and rape. After the slaughter of millions, what else could be considered serious? The weatherman came and went and, although she knew all that had happened that day in the skies, tomorrow‘s forecast escaped her. It was always the way. Why couldn‘t they give the forecast first when people are paying attention? She knew it would never happen. Who on this earth would give up their chance of extending their star billing for as long as possible? And the weather girls and boys certainly stretched it out these days. A microwave meal, a look at The Bill on the box and then early to bed. She wanted to be in the station early the next day to see whether the computer had been working hard. And so she was, at six in the morning. Her machine looked calm and composed sitting on her office desk but she felt it was quivering with excitement. She woke it up and there they were — pages of answers. She had been right: its programmes had been bursting with anticipation. She printed the info out and read solidly for an hour. There had been five multiple murderers caught in Britain over the previous two years but only three were of interest. Each one of those cases displayed the telltale signs: a number of murders and an extra one denied by a killer who had been happy to admit to the rest. The forces concerned had been variable in their thoroughness but in the end, all three final murders had been put down to the original killer and the cases closed. On each of these three occasions, the last murder in the series was similar to the others but also had distinct differences. She wondered why no one had noticed the pattern but then she remembered: Mark Wright had but hadn‘t been allowed to follow it up. She was the only officer in the country specially assigned to make such connections. She needed to interview the case officers concerned and she had to tackle Anderson. She wouldn‘t want him to accuse her of hiding something that might help. It was mid-morning before she left for Sheffield; it seemed easier to get to than Hounslow: ten minutes to Euston a short walk to St Pancras and a seat all the way to Yorkshire even though she was in 2nd class. On the way she read through her print-outs again. She hoped Mark Wright had more to offer; she needed something else when she presented herself to Anderson. There was still half an hour to go when she had had enough and she sat back to contemplate the paper that covered the table in front of her. Luckily the carriage was empty but it would be a security risk when at busier times. First class would be better, did Anderson travel first class or was that reserved for superintendents and commissioners? She must look at the rulebook someday; perhaps she was selling herself short. DI Wright picked her up at the station and took her back to his office. It looked the same as hers in London: she supposed police stations were all built using a pattern book like housing estates used to be and probably still were. Still he did have an office to himself while she shared hers. Mark Wright was helpful and was very keen to get her interested. It made her wary, was he one of those men who get fixated and can‘t let go even when the evidence is against them? She spent the whole afternoon looking at photos and reading descriptions. The local force had been thorough. They had learnt from the modern Ripper murders. In Sheffield these days things were done by the book. The original interviews had been gone over a number of times. Detective Inspector Mark Wright was convinced they had another murderer on their hands and that he was among those already questioned. ‗What makes you think the last one isn‘t down to Walton?‘ Fielding asked. ‗He won‘t admit to it and the timing‘s wrong.‘ ‗Timing?‘ ‗He never murdered two prostitutes in one night and he would have had to be quick doing the first and then driving to the second — too quick. No, this one was someone different.‘ ‗Walton‘s been co-operative?‘ ‗We‘ve interviewed him three times in prison. He‘s given us every detail about the other murders but not this one.‘ Only three men amongst those questioned measured up to the description Stevens had given Wright. Tall men, muscular men in their twenties but not body builders. Fielding was puzzled. It seemed too detailed. Stevens hadn‘t said anything about any witness having had a close look at the man. ‗I thought no one had seen the man clearly?‘ she asked. ‗You seem to know exactly what he looks like.‘ ‗So, you don‘t know why Jim Stevens is so keen on catching this man?‘ Fielding did not know but she wasn‘t about to slip into Wright‘s sense of certainty. ‗If he exists,‘ she said. ‗The evidence seems very shaky to me. I‘m not yet convinced that there is one man who‘s doing all this.‘ ‗Stevens is absolutely sure and he‘s convinced me. He believes the man is his twin.‘ Fielding waited. What did he mean? ‗Everywhere Stevens has been, people thought he was the man they were looking for. The man looks just like he does.‘ ‗A lot of people probably look like he does.‘ ‗Maybe so but, the way he tells it, as soon as they saw him, they were amazed at the likeness. The woman attacked near the airport thought they‘d brought him in as a suspect.‘ Wright showed her a photo of Stevens. Tall heavily built with close-cropped hair and an open wide face. No, there were not a lot like him around but then he wasn‘t around was he. Would he ever make the flight across? Fielding brought her mind back to the case. ‗And that‘s another thing,‘ she said, ‗just because he attacked a woman near an airport, it doesn‘t mean he took a plane.‘ ‗Well, they haven‘t heard from him since that day and the woman saw him get in a car and head towards the airport car park. Later they found an abandoned hire car rented from the last place he‘d been seen.‘ ‗Or possible been seen,‘ Fielding was not going to fall headlong into Stevens‘s obsession and she was beginning to feel unhappy about Mark Wright. She could see how Stevens could be affected by his experiences but it shouldn‘t affect Wright‘s judgement. And she certainly wasn‘t allowing it to influence her. She needed to keep a clear mind on this, especially if she was going to convince Anderson. ‗He could have flown to a dozen countries apart from Britain,‘ she said. ‗Stevens thinks that it‘s unlikely that he speaks anything but English – American English – so Heathrow was his best guess.‘ Fielding knew that the local police at Heathrow had been unimpressed. They had enough to do policing illegal immigrants; so they had done the minimum they needed to do and left it at that. She knew why. The Americans couldn‘t prove to them that their information applied to one man. The person who caught the plane – if he caught it – might not be the same one who killed in Virginia or California or Maine. He might not have killed at all. The only witness had been attacked in the dark, which is why she could give no clear description, and it was only surmised that he had been the man identified in the FBI profile. They only had Stevens‘s peculiar experience to picture the man. Fielding tried to be sympathetic to Stevens‘s theory but it was difficult. ‗I can see you still feel doubtful,‘ Mark Wright said. ‗But Stevens is an experienced agent. I believe he‘s on to something.‘ She nodded. ‗Do you know anything more about the three you‘ve picked out?‘ ‗Officially, no. Unofficially, yes.‘ Fielding put her head on one side. ‗The case is closed – officially Walton did them all – but from time to time I try to find out what they‘re all doing. It‘s not easy.‘ ‗Harassment‘ that was the word they all dreaded. If a case was closed then those who had been questioned should be left alone. ‗No fingerprints then?‘ Fielding asked. ‗We never had any to match, so I obeyed orders and blew them away.‘ Fielding looked again at her three photos. Walton went to his desk and came back with a small notebook. ‗Two are married and living locally. Both have had kids since the murder. They‘re at the bottom of my list.‘ ‗And the third?‘ ‗The man with the American accent. He‘s gone, no trace.‘ ‗It doesn‘t say anything about an accent down here.‘ Walton looked at the record. ‗No, it doesn‘t but I remember him. It wasn‘t much of an accent but he came from America. I‘m sure about that.‘ But was she as sure? Fielding knew how easy it was to get a fixed idea and then interpret everything to fit in with it. ‗Did he show you his passport?‘ ‗No, it never came up,‘ he said. Fielding wondered whether this was all but looking up at Wright‘s face, she saw it was clear there was something else. ‗Did Stevens send you the papers about the man they caught in New York?‘ Wright asked. Fielding nodded. It didn‘t stop Wright going over the case. ‗He confessed to six murders but wouldn‘t admit to the attack that failed. It was the same pattern as the one identified in three other States. It‘s the same pattern as three cases over here.‘ Fielding wondered how she would put all this down on paper. It looked thin even to her and she wanted it to be true. ‗Isn‘t it all down to their so-called psychological profiling. Isn‘t that really why they think he exists?‘ ‗It started that way, yes. In each case a series of murders was put down to one killer and then there was a final one that almost but didn‘t quite fit the pattern. They believe Veronica Symonds – she‘s the attack victim in New York – was lucky.‘ ‗You think the identification of Stevens‘s ―twin‖ makes his theory plausible?‘ ‗Yes I do,‘ Wright said. He couldn‘t have been more firm. Fielding imagined he was good giving evidence in court. ‗You haven‘t told me yet why you‘re interested in all of this,‘ he said. ‗No I haven‘t,‘ she said. ‗I will when I can.‘ On the way back to London, she had time to think it over. It was a pity that Anderson had the ‗Ripper‘ case and it was a pity that the connection she was trying to make with it was so vague. Copying a murderer from a century ago and adding to his score was hardly going to fool anyone. But he might be an opportunist and flexible enough to ply his trade in a variety of ways. She had to try to convince Anderson that she was on to something. What use was her work with records and patterns of crime if she couldn‘t apply them? The Super would surely see the point and, if Anderson agreed, she had a good chance of getting her way and joining the investigation. If she succeeded, it would get her out of her office and on to a case — and that was what counted. And there was a bonus: she would be working with Anderson again. She would keep Jim Stevens and his ideas under wraps. He was too eager, too keen and he had made the case too personal  and he was American. No, she didn‘t think he would go down well with Anderson or the Super. A short report in writing to pave the way was the right way to do it. And she would make sure that it was on Anderson‘s desk before he came in the next day. The rest of the printouts she would bundle into a file and she would carry it into Anderson‘s office when summoned. There was nothing like a large pack of papers to impress. And anyway, their sheer size would be intimidating. Anderson wouldn‘t want to plough through so much paper, so he wouldn‘t become aware of the thinness of her evidence. It had gone quiet and it wasn‘t simply the lack of noise in his office that made Anderson think that. Comben sat silently opposite him, the desk between. There was no point in going over again what they had and what they didn‘t have. Julian was their best bet but Anderson didn‘t want to end the investigation yet. Outside the office was silent but they were all there — waiting. Anderson wondered whether there had been a leak but maybe they were all waiting for the next one. Two murders were not enough; it didn‘t fit any sort of pattern. There had to be more and maybe that was what he was waiting for too. Forensics certainly had given them nothing to go on for the first two. Anderson picked up the single sheet of paper that lay in his in-tray. It was from Fielding. He wondered whether she was enjoying her assignment. Promotion it might have been but Anderson imagined she would still prefer to be out there not stuck in an office. Responsibility for information processing and the hours in front of a computer screen that meant would not, Anderson thought, be her choice of job. Still she could hope for more active service in the years that followed and it was more money. The paper drew attention to a pattern. It was the sort of analysis pioneered in the States and used to track serial killers there. Anderson had only the slightest familiarity with the process and he had gleaned that from American detective novels. Still anything was worth following up right then. Anderson picked up his phone and summoned Fielding to him. Before she came, he dismissed Comben. Fielding came into his office with an exaggerated air of confidence. Anderson knew her: her manner betrayed her discomfort. But was it the case or was it personal? He hadn‘t thought he had made too much of it  in public at least. But maybe he was giving off signals that he didn‘t know about. He had been hurt; he had to accept that. It had been an insult and it was still there lying between them. Anderson wondered whether she thought he had been instrumental in confining her to a desk because of it. He hadn‘t thought of that before. ‗Is it of interest to you?‘ she asked pointing at the sheet of paper in his hand. ‗We‘ve nothing else. Until we catch the writer, that is,‘ Anderson said. ‗There are three areas in this country that show up crimes that could be linked to the American data,‘ she said. ‗So what are you saying?‘ He wasn‘t prepared to give her too much just yet. Was that professional or personal? There he was, back again scratching old wounds; he really must sort the thing out once and for all. He didn‘t want it interfering with his work or hers. ‗It could be that their serial killer came over here and has been practising his trade around the country.‘ ‗And how does this…,‘ Anderson waved her single sheet of paper much as Chamberlain had done sixty years before, ‗tell us that.‘ ‗It‘s not a usual pattern. The man‘s an opportunist. He adapts his technique to the exigencies of the moment.‘ ‗So in this case, he just found out about Jack the Ripper and decided to add one of his own. Or maybe he happened to know about the stories and decided to copy them. Unless you think Julian‘s the American, of course.‘ This time he didn‘t even try to keep the disbelief out of his voice. ‗It‘s a thought,‘ she said. ‗Have you any real proof that all this American stuff refers to one man?‘ ‗The FBI think so.‘ ‗Have you any real proof he is in England — if he exists.‘ Anderson was trying – but not trying too hard – to keep the inflection out of his voice. He didn‘t believe in long shots and all this psychological profiling was one big long shot. And the odds would be even longer if Fielding couldn‘t be sure the stuff was relevant to England. ‗I didn‘t think you wanted it all but I have more.‘ She produced a bulging file and placed it on the desk in front of her. ‗And what does all that say?‘ Anderson asked. ‗It‘s a lot of evidence – not conclusive – but it seems to show that there is a man. His description rang bells in at least three places where murders of the type we‘re considering took place.‘ ‗In England?‘ ‗Yes, a lot of it‘s hearsay but reasonably reliable. Do you want to read this stuff?‘ Fielding pushed the file towards him. She was silent as he stared into her eyes. He knew what she wanted. She wanted to follow it up out there and he could ask her to do this. Upstairs would release her temporarily on his recommendation. But maybe it wasn‘t simply wishful thinking on her part, maybe she really did have something. Her intuition – if one was allowed to use that phrase about a policewoman these days – had always been good. Anderson waved the papers away and then he was silent. He decided to trust her. ‗I‘m sorry if I hurt you,‘ she said. ‗Hurt me when?‘ he said. He had been quick to answer — too quick. He was angry for betraying himself. But still, he was pleased that she had said something. It was enough that she had acknowledged what she had done. There was no need for anything further. Fielding relaxed back into the seat. She was a fine woman: not beautiful but she had a small lithe body and she was intelligent — to Anderson that meant a lot in a woman. But she was still his subordinate — it could never happen. But, when they worked together, he had wanted it to. And that was what made it painful. He tried to fight the memory off but her few words had brought back the moment. It was the day her promotion was announced officially, although he had known about it a week before. It had been polite of the Super to do this. It was his own strong recommendation that had made her promotion possible, so the Super‘s consideration made sense. If she had failed it would have been as much a black mark against himself as against Fielding, perhaps even more so. She was young to be considered for promotion from Sergeant to Inspector; her time would have come again. But those above would have looked askance at his own judgement should she have given a bad performance. She came back to the station in triumph and Anderson came of his office with a broad smile on his face to congratulate her. She came towards him with elation in her eyes and then she ignored his outstretched hand and hugged him to her. He felt her warm breath on his neck and the softness of her breasts through her shirt. Then she drew back and ran her hands down the sleeves of his suit. ‗You‘ll have to be careful,‘ she said ‗I might overtake you in the promotion stakes and then you‘ll have to take orders from a woman.‘ He smiled. It was a weak joke and it did irritate him. He had never thought of himself as sexist and reckoned he could take orders from a woman as easily as from a man. But it would still have been all right if she had stopped there. She didn‘t; she fingered his lapel and his tie and then his shirt. ‗I suppose bright ties are acceptable these days,‘ she said, ‗but greens and blues that rivalled peacocks are hardly the colours for a man approaching middle-age who wishes to be taken seriously.‘ He had felt a flush come to his face. She had spoken quietly and it was possible that no one else heard but he could never know. No one would dare mention it to him. Fielding saw immediately that she had made a mistake. But it was too late: the words had escaped with the full force of their spontaneity. And she couldn‘t apologise with everyone gathered around. Nowadays sober grey and dark blue suits had taken the place of those other brighter cloths and hung on the right of his wardrobe. It had occurred to him many times that she could have apologised later – in private – but then his own reaction and the immediate changes in his wardrobe must have made it difficult. He had always supposed she had taken the decision to say nothing because she thought it the best thing to do for both of them. Her change of mind, he supposed, meant that she blamed him for her office job. Why else would she speak now? ‗Nice suit,‘ she said. He smiled. She had made the nearest to an apology that he wanted or needed. It was probably two words too many. What counted was that she knew it had hurt. ‗So why don‘t you follow this up,‘ he said. ‗You mean join the team?‘ ‗Yes,‘ he said. ‗And my present work?‘ ‗If you prefer to get on with that …‘ he didn‘t finish. ‗You‘ll have a word with the Super then,‘ she said. He nodded and a smile broke out over her face. He smiled back. Later that day Fielding found herself in one of those country towns where the agricultural show is the event of the year and murders take place elsewhere. She drove under a small arch and then up the main street, which looked as though it had stopped growing sometime in the nineteenth century. She parked and went inside a teashop that sold toasted teacakes and at eleven in the morning was full of matronly figures with white hair. Fielding wondered where the poor working people lived. Later at the local nick, Inspector Carstairs was not happy to see her. She felt like an alien in a foreign land rather than a fellow police officer; he gave her the impression that he had declared Ludlow independent of the rest of the UK some time ago. He was old to be an inspector still; clearly he was near to retirement and didn‘t want his last years marred by the activities of criminals. Still she understood; her presence reminded him of recent unpleasantness. In his mind, murder was an intrusion from the outside and murderers were invaders to be thrown back at the beachhead. He thought it impossible that the culprit – who must have been an ‗outsider‘ – was still in the town. He seemed to have forgotten that this was the second murder in one year — an unprecedented statistic. To him the ‗incident‘ was an aberration best forgotten together with the well-publicised rapes that had recently occurred in his patch. More photos, more descriptions but no American accent. One of the photos, though, looked too similar to the picture she had of Stevens to be ignored. Carstairs seemed more than pleased to tell her that the man had moved on. He had been a visitor. Fielding imagined that this constituted an adequate explanation for whatever the man was guilty of in Carstairs‘s mind. She took a tour around the castle before she left but had to cut it short. Fulsome praise for the local lord was one thing but pints of sickly adulation could pall on even the most ardent royalist and Fielding was not one of those. She hadn‘t got much but, on the way back South, she felt good. Back on the team — that was what she liked. And Anderson? Well maybe – but this she wasn‘t sure of yet – maybe he had forgiven her. But then she could have been mistaken about him; she couldn‘t believe he had been so mean-minded as to keep her behind a desk. They had worked together for five years and she had never seen that side of him. And he‘d never treated her like a bimbo and never never said anything out of line. Not that she would have been upset. He was impressive and she liked impressive men. Mark Wright now, there was a man she could tolerate but he lived three hundred miles north of Kilburn. Still, realistically it couldn‘t be called a successful investigation yet. The pattern was there if one wanted to look. The man tagged along after others: he read about a murder and then decided he would do one too — no great originality there. Sheffield one year, Ludlow the next, Watford the year after and then Kilburn? Watford was better than Ludlow. There was an American and he had made a friend. They drank together hunted together – women not foxes – and gambled together. They were as near friends as made no difference in the male world. They had swopped tips at the local gym and lifted hods of bricks at the many building sites in expanding Watford. Fielding visited. Kevin was sweaty and his singlet showed off some of his gleaming muscles. The foreman tapped him on the shoulder and pointed in Fielding‘s direction. She imagined they would want her off the site fast. There hadn‘t been any whistles – they all seemed to know she was police – but there were plenty of eyes which should have been looking one way and which were pointing another. Kevin Walker strode across. The smile on his face was, Fielding imagined, a permanency where women were concerned. She supposed it was winning. Still, she did need him, so she smiled back and was pleased she had put on a skirt. Kevin tried to make her more pleased by moving his eyes up from her feet to her breasts — there they stuck. ‗What do you want, love?‘ he asked. Fielding decided to ignore the ‗love‘. It was, after all, said in a northern accent. ‗I want to know about Tony Adams?‘ she asked. ‗The brief story now or do you want to wait until later for the full version?‘ he asked. ‗Is there so much to tell?‘ ‗Depends how interested you are.‘ Fielding wondered who was supposed to be interested in whom. ‗Very interested,‘ she said. ‗After work?‘ ‗I can‘t wait that long,‘ she said. ‗I‘m taking a half-day — personal business. But I don‘t mind spending an hour with you.‘ ‗It won‘t take that long.‘ ‗It does with me,‘ he said. Fielding found it hard but she kept smiling. Later they met at his flat. Kevin made it clear why he was there and when she had to leave. ‗You don‘t mind do you,‘ he said, ‗but she mightn‘t understand.‘ ‗Have I time to sit down?‘ she asked. Kevin waved his arms around the room. Fielding was surprised at the place. It was clean tidy, well furnished — it was comfortable. Kevin noticed her survey. ‗We don‘t all live like pigs,‘ he said. ‗We?‘ ‗Working stiffs, this is my home I have a cleaner and I‘m proud of the place.‘ Fielding nodded. She could imagine herself being entertained in such a flat. He was right; she hadn‘t expected this. ‗And Tony Adams?‘ ‗He was a drifter. And that wasn‘t his real name.‘ ‗You know that?‘ ‗He picked up a paper one day and saw the name.‘ Fielding knew who he meant: Arsenal and England centre back. She wasn‘t one of those women who took no interest in the national sport. ‗Where did he come from?‘ ‗America, he tried to hide the accent but it came through. He obviously didn‘t want anyone to know, so I never said anything to him.‘ So that was how Kevin got his Americanisms. ‗So where is he now?‘ ‗In London chatting up rich women.‘ ‗You‘re in touch?‘ ‗No, that‘s what he said he would do and I suppose he did.‘ Fielding lent back in her chair. She gave every sign that she might become a permanency. She even allowed her skirt to ride up and show some inner thigh. Kevin noticed it. She was pleased; she wouldn‘t have wanted her efforts to fall flat. Then Kevin started to look at his watch. She could see he was torn between keeping her chatting and seeing what would happen and clearing the place before the next one arrived. ‗So what else do you want to know?‘ He had decided: a bird in the bed was worth two on the couch. He would be looking at his watch next. ‗Tell me how you know what he was going to do?‘ Kevin struggled a little. Fielding could see it on his face. Was this a male thing: covering up. Did he have to get rid of his scruples about giving away a fellow man‘s secrets before talking? Finally Fielding saw that the struggle was over — she had won. ‗We went up to town to gamble. At the Sporting Club, I‘m a member.‘ Fielding nodded. ‗Tony saw what was going on. Y‘know young guys with old birds.‘ ‗And the opposite?‘ ‗Well yeah, that‘s normal but this was different. I wouldn‘t do it myself but Tony had a go. He scored a couple of times.‘ ‗Only twice?‘ ‗He said it wasn‘t worth the effort, they expected too much and anyway it wasn‘t where the real money was. The Sporting is not that sort of place — well they wouldn‘t let me in if it was.‘ Fielding was beginning to like him. ‗So Tony went upmarket.‘ Kevin nodded enthusiastically. ‗He could do it too. I saw him once on his way into town before he moved. He didn‘t see me. He was smart, real smart, classy clothes and I bet he finally beat the accent.‘ ‗What‘s the matter with an American accent?‘ ‗Nothing but Tony was secretive. I guess I thought he‘d been inside.‘ ‗And Patricia Rathbone?‘ The smile vanished from Kevin‘s face. He looked miserable. Fielding didn‘t imagine he could fake it that well. ‗I had nothing to do with that.‘ ‗You were both questioned.‘ ‗I knew her elder sister. We went out. The four of us met up sometimes.‘ ‗The papers put it down to Goulding. He‘s the guy who murdered Suzie Lampart.‘ ‗I know who he is. I don‘t know why the police bothered with us, if he did it.‘ ‗They had their reasons,‘ she said. Kevin lifted his chin as though he were a whinnying horse. Fielding knew what that meant: he didn‘t think much of the police. ‗I‘m going to visit the Rathbone family are there any messages?‘ ‗No, I haven‘t seen them since Lesley went to London. I haven‘t heard from her or from them.‘ ‗So they lost two daughters.‘ ‗And none of it was my fault,‘ he said. By the time she left, Kevin seemed to have forgotten about the time. He looked genuinely unhappy. Still, she was sure he would perk up when the time came. It was a short walk to the Rathbone‘s and she left her car in Kevin‘s road. The semi looked as though they were still in mourning. The front garden was a mass of weeds compared to the neat paving or grass of the neighbours‘. All curtains were drawn and she had to ring the bell several times before hearing anything happen inside. A man answered. He opened the door a fraction as though ready to slam it shut at the slightest provocation. Fielding imagined the place must have been besieged by the press. But six months later? ‗Yes,‘ he said. Patricia had been in her early twenties and her father would have been fifty-five at the most. This man looked sixty-five she wondered whether it was the right house. ‗Mr Rathbone?‘ He nodded. She showed her police badge. He put his nose up close. ‗Kilburn? That‘s a long way from here.‘ ‗Can I ask you a few questions?‘ His weary face dropped further. Fielding knew what was coming. ‗I‘ve told all I know a thousand times before to you lot. What good did it do?‘ ‗Please.‘ It was as though she had said ‗open sesame‘ he smiled or so she supposed, it wasn‘t easy to tell. There was no sign of anyone else inside and they sat opposite each other in the lounge. ‗My wife‘s upstairs,‘ he said, ‗she seldom comes down these days.‘ She had seen it before but each time it shocked. The corpse was terrible the first few times, then you became acclimatised to dead flesh. It was the dead living that had the power to continually upset. The parents or maybe the husband or wife – seldom the children, occasionally a brother or sister – it was as though life had been sucked away, as if only the husk remained. ‗I‘ve just spoken to Kevin,‘ she said. Mr Rathbone let his face fall and his eyes survey the carpet. ‗We blame him, well Mrs Rathbone does.‘ ‗Why?‘ ‗Don‘t get me wrong, we don‘t think he killed her but he did leave them together.‘ ‗Them?‘ ‗The other guy, the American.‘ ‗There was no evidence against him.‘ Rathbone continued as if she hadn‘t spoken. ‗Lesley felt so too.‘ Fielding nodded. ‗Where is she?‘ ‗She went up to London. She couldn‘t stand it here after …‘ His voice tailed away. Fielding could see he couldn‘t yet spell it out even to himself. ‗Have you an address?‘ ‗No, she keeps on moving. I think she wants to cut herself off — to forget.‘ ‗How do you know she‘s in London?‘ ‗We get cards. Birthday cards, Christmas cards that sort of thing.‘ ‗And the postmark?‘ ‗London, different postal districts but always in London.‘ There was a photo on the mantelpiece — two young women. ‗Are they your daughters?‘ she asked, pointing at the photo. ‗‘Yes,‘ he said. ‗Have you a copy?‘ ‗I have one of Lesley. Would that do? I can‘t give you that one.‘ Fielding nodded and he went out of the room, returning a few minutes later with a snapshot. He sat down as she got up to leave. She wondered whether he would even notice but he did and looked up sharply. ‗Do you know anything?‘ he asked. ‗I‘d like him caught.‘ Fielding shook her head. ‗We‘ll let you know if anything turns up,‘ she said. He got up and they walked to the front door together. ‗It‘s not her case you‘re working on is it?‘ ‗No,‘ she said and walked away. She looked back as she reached the pavement but he had already closed the front door. She didn‘t imagine he had been too disappointed by her remark. It looked as though he had given up hope long before. Kevin was outside when she came back to collect her car. She waited for him to speak. ‗I didn‘t tell you everything before,‘ he said. She nodded. ‗I was in touch with Lesley Rathbone. I told her where she might find Tony Adams.‘ ‗Do you know where she lives?‘ ‗No, she moved not long ago and she hasn‘t been in touch since.‘ ‗So, where do you think I might find Lesley or Tony?‘ ‗You ought to start at Whistlers, it‘s a posh club in Mayfair. Tony said that was the place for him. Old birds with lots of their dead husbands‘ money.‘ ‗And do you think Lesley found him?‘ ‗No, I don‘t think she has yet; she‘d tell me if she had. But she does work there. That‘s where you‘ll find her.‘ ‗Maybe Tony moved on.‘ ‗Could be.‘ Back in Kilburn, she still couldn‘t shake off the pall of unhappiness. Maybe she should have insisted on speaking to Mrs Rathbone but she was please she hadn‘t. The job could take just so much out of you and she had had enough for that day. Chapter 9 Another day spent at Stoke Newington got Anderson no further. If Simanovicz were the one, he would never go to prison; though a secure hospital for the rest of his life was no picnic either. It would be an easy conviction and he would chalk up another success. Then everyone could go home and start living again. But it didn‘t add up and it wasn‘t because he didn‘t want Clarissa to go home. He supposed that was what Comben thought: he was dragging his feet because of her. Driving back home that evening Anderson picked at it but soon realised it wouldn‘t work. There was something there but it was like a name that wouldn‘t come to the surface. He would leave it a while to simmer peacefully. At home, a dry sherry settled him down but he was hungry and he couldn‘t think before eating. He took off his jacket and put on the plain blue apron he used always when in front of the stove. His refrigerator was well-stocked but it was one of the days he had chosen to eat vegetables only  for his health. So he peeled and chopped a variety of fresh and canned vegetables on the chopping board that fitted the drainer on his sink and added Quorn. Then he heated up some sesame oil in the wok that always hung to the left of the hob and added his ingredients. The cooking was over ten times quicker than the preparation. The eating was slower; he took his time with chopsticks and a bowl. Soon he felt capable of using his judgement sensibly but waited until he had cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher. Then he lay on his sofa and let his mind run over the whole thing. Julian Simanovicz was guilty unless someone had set him up. His short stories and the murders that mimicked them could not be explained otherwise. And, if there was someone framing Julian, then it had to be Mark Turney. The problem was whether he could trust his judgement. He was sleeping with the man‘s wife and that gave him an excellent reason for not liking the man. It gave him an even better reason for wanting him to be guilty. But where was the evidence? He phoned Fielding at home; she might have something. The Simanovicz situation had allowed him to forget Fielding‘s long shot but a bulls-eye on her part would come in handy right then. There was no answer and there was none from her mobile. Well, he could understand that. There were times when it was necessary to be unavailable and he hadn‘t thought Fielding essential to the investigation. She wasn‘t supposed to be on call. He could wait until morning but he needed to know what if anything she had found before taking the next step. Julian could not be kept isolated for much longer without being brought back to Kilburn. Fielding had been offered drinks twice and she hadn‘t been there more than fifteen minutes but the drinks had a bill attached to them that she would prefer not to pay. The men didn‘t mind; they found the next young female without jewellery and expensive watches — signals that they were not yet the property of a man as rich as themselves. It was the sort of commerce that Kevin had made clear happened at the Sporting Club and she was beginning to wonder whether all gambling clubs were the same. Men and women went to such places for reasons other than gambling and she was very definitely pleased that she was not in the market. Fielding had felt herself dressed well enough. Not haute couture of course but her dress was a copy and not cheap and she couldn‘t claim the price back off expenses. At first, she had wondered why she had looked like goods on sale, until she understood about the diamonds. The thought occurred to her that she ought to accept one of those drink invitations just to pay for the dress but then the thought of those flabby bodies and scented clothes – bedclothes – made her shudder. She wandered around the tables. The professionals – both men and women – were easy to spot. They were always alert for the faintest sign that they had been noticed and they never gambled — with their own money that was. The real customers were in deep concentration. Little balls or cards it didn‘t make much difference. Each table had a cluster of bulky men and scrawny women who threw chips worth hundreds on to the table with the same gusto as she had seen children buy ‗instants‘. Many of the clients looked middle eastern and appeared to be throwing barrels of oil on to the table, so little did they seem to care when they lost. And then there was the evening-suited staff, who oversaw the tables and settled disputes or simply eased themselves around, trying not to get in the way of the customers throwing their money away. It had been a successful evening. The manager quickly recognised Tony Adams from her description and she had another name: Toby Langdale. The management had not been pleased when he had disappeared with one of their best customers. His sort was an asset but not when their clients never came back. The staff was encouraged to speak to her about Tony or was it Toby. Not that it would help much. He would, she was sure, look different now and have a new name. Even the new blond hair would be brown or black or red and the English accent would be perfect. But why had he left the scene? He had been a popular figure and his exploits had been part of the service. Young men were an attraction for the richer widows and Toby had been a big draw. The manager didn‘t exactly say so but she gathered that for him, like herself, there had been no entrance fee. He had moved on and up from the pastures of the Sporting in Park Lane to the greener ones of Mayfair — a bit like Monopoly. But from here, there was nowhere else to go, so where did he go? There was no point in talking to the customers, first she would have been thrown out and secondly no woman would want to speak about her gigolo. If she had been looking for a woman, it would have been different. She could have left after an hour or so before, since she had got as much as she imagined she could. But it had taken a great deal of persuasion for the management to let her in and she didn‘t want to waste the experience. She wouldn‘t be back, so she would see how the rich played. It would be educational and the place was impressive. It was set in a nineteenth century mansion – chandeliers and all – the staff was in evening dress, the customers wore ties and the real clients had money — lots of it. Chips of various hues and sizes sloshed around the table with careless energy. Fielding couldn‘t imagine she would see so much money change hands so rapidly ever again. A tall figure caught her eye across the room. Young in his thirties but somehow not alert enough to be one of the professionals. There were young men with money who gambled but this one‘s attention didn‘t seem to be focussed on the cards. From the back, Fielding could see from the angle of his neck that his eyes were on the dealer more than the table, especially when she leant forwards and showed off a great deal of her assets. The players were too interested in the cards to notice her most of the time. Occasionally they deigned to look up but inevitably, they decided they were more hungry for cards than flesh and very quickly looked down again at the table. She circled. Was it a jealous boyfriend? If this was so, she was surprised. She couldn‘t imagine the management would allow anything to spoil the vicarious enjoyment of its clientele and pretty girls showing off their breasts seemed part of the package they were selling. She walked round the table behind the dealer to get a better look. It was a surprise but Fielding kept calm. She didn‘t want to blow Comben‘s cover if he was on a job. He looked better dressed than usual. Fielding wondered whether he had hired the suit for the occasion. But what really interested her was the coincidence. She didn‘t believe in coincidences; no police officer did. Unravelling coincidences was their job. Two colleagues who were on the same case, meeting in the same place, was a double coincidence. If he were working, it would explain how Clive got in. But it didn‘t explain why he was looking at the girl so intensely. Was she that beautiful that he had forgotten his mission? She walked back round the table to have a good look at her. Clive‘s eyes never left the girl. Fielding wondered whether he was expecting a nipple or two to appear and hadn‘t wanted to miss it. She was tall, two inches more than her own five foot eight. Very dark-haired, very good figure, very nimble hands but then that went with the job. Fielding took the photo out of her pocket just to make sure but it wasn‘t necessary: the girl was Lesley Rathbone. She must have just come on duty since Fielding hadn‘t seen her before. She touched Clive‘s back and he turned quickly. Then she walked away into a quiet corner and waited for him. ‗What are you doing here?‘ she asked. ‗It‘s a private matter,‘ he answered. ‗Don‘t you think it‘s peculiar that we should both be here together?‘ Comben nodded. ‗I‘m looking for my man,‘ she said. ‗The American.‘ ‗Yes, it looks as though this was one of his haunts. He picked up women for money.‘ ‗So you‘re sure he exists?‘ ‗The staff is good at recognising their guests. They know who‘s on the make and who‘s there to play. My man stood out — Toby Langdale.‘ Comben shook his head as if she had expected him to recognise the name. ‗You could ask your girlfriend.‘ ‗Girlfriend?‘ ‗I don‘t think you would be allowed to stare if she wasn‘t.‘ Comben stared at her for a few seconds before speaking. ‗Okay detective,‘ he said, ‗I will but will you do me a favour?‘ Fielding nodded. ‗Don‘t tell Anderson I was here.‘ Fielding lifted her head. She couldn‘t do that if it was anything to do with the case. It was up to Comben to persuade her that it wasn‘t. She looked at him quizzically and waited. ‗Felicity‘s nothing to do with the case. She‘s Amanda Clayden‘s friend,‘ he said nodding in the dealer‘s direction. ‗Too many coincidences,‘ she said, ‗you can‘t keep this a secret. Your friend‘s real name is Lesley Rathbone. She‘s the sister of Patricia who was murdered last year in Watford. My American might have killed her. Still, look at it this way, Anderson‘s in no position to make a fuss.‘ Comben looked at her. She smiled. ‗Clarissa Downing — I‘d‘ve thought he might go for someone younger; he always used to. He‘s not quite the upright copper he pretends to be is he?‘ ‗Who else knows?‘ asked Comben. ‗Just about the whole station I suppose. But that‘s not going to help you,‘ she said. Comben nodded. She knew that he had got the point. Anderson had a reputation — he had proved himself, so a bit of scandal might wash off. But a new Detective Sergeant, well that was different. Was she worth it to him? Fielding wondered what conclusion the young man would come to. ‗So, what‘s the story about Felicity?‘ ‗Well, there‘s no proof but a number of people think my American murdered her sister. She‘s probably down in London looking for him.‘ They stood for a while and then Felicity was relieved from her duties and came across to them. ‗I‘ve got half an hour break,‘ she said, ‗Anthony, the assistant manager, says both of you might want to question me.‘ Fielding was impressed. She was giving a very good show of not knowing Comben and in providing him with a respectable reason for being there. ‗I‘ve been questioning everyone about a man,‘ said Fielding. She reeled off the description and waited. ‗I‘ve heard about him but I‘ve only been working here six months. He was before my time.‘ Fielding knew that. She said nothing. Comben seemed surprised. ‗You‘ve heard about him?‘ he asked and raised his eyebrows Anderson fashion. ‗He was very successful. He pretended to have some sort of English pedigree but his clients didn‘t seem to care about that. He never used his own money at the table.‘ ‗You know that?‘ asked Fielding. ‗We girls have sharp eyes behind the tables. The women didn‘t want to give him too much, he might walk off, so they tended to slip a few chips at a time into his hand.‘ ‗So, what made him retire. It sounded like he was quite a success,‘ said Fielding. ‗Why don‘t you talk to Gaby,‘ Felicity said pointing at the woman who had relieved her. ‗She‘s finished when I get back on.‘ Felicity went to the rest room. Fielding admired the rear view and the slow languid walk. She didn‘t imagine Clive would think twice about risking his career. ‗She‘s very discreet,‘ she said, ‗you might get away with it but it‘s a risk.‘ Comben looked cross but said nothing. Gaby came across when Felicity took over her position. The same slow walk — Fielding just knew they had been practising for hours. ‗You want to know about Toby,‘ Gaby said, looking at Comben. Fielding had spoken to her earlier and kept silent. She could see Clive trying very hard to keep his eyes on Gaby‘s face. Truthfully, though, there was no competition between the two croupiers. Gaby‘s was all uplift; Felicity had the real thing and plenty of it. A slight nod by Comben and Gaby was off — a real talker. Not that she had much to tell them that they wanted to know. Yes, he had been around for a few months and then he disappeared. As she talked, Fielding wondered just what Gaby and the others were at the club for. Was it totally legitimate? She imagined it was against the rules but still a clever girl could make a great deal more than her salary after work — on her own time. Maybe she would say more if Comben were not around. It wasn‘t simply the matter of gender; there was Felicity and loyalty, if she got Gaby away from under ‗the boyfriend‘s‘ eyes, something might happen. She was pleased, very pleased, that she hadn‘t gone home earlier. I‘m going,‘ she said to Comben, ‗are you waiting for Felicity?‘ Comben looked uncomfortable. Gaby was still standing with them and it looked as though he had wanted to pretend she didn‘t know about his connection with Felicity. Well, it was too late now and Comben would have had to be a simpleton to believe it hadn‘t been too late before. Didn‘t they know that women talk? Fielding wondered just how much self-deception men could handle. She thought back to Anderson and his ‗young-man‘ suits — obviously a great deal. ‗No, I‘ve found out all I needed. I‘ll drive back now. I suppose you‘ve got your own car?‘ Fielding nodded and stood still waiting for him to go. Gaby stayed on. She was obviously enjoying the pantomime and Clive‘s discomfort. Eventually Comben managed to drag himself away without even a glance in Felicity‘s direction. Fielding turned to Gaby and waited. Gaby fidgeted silently but Fielding knew something would emerge. ‗What?‘ the girl said. Fielding gave her a small prod, she was sure it wouldn‘t need more. ‗There‘s something more isn‘t there?‘ she asked. ‗Something you didn‘t tell me earlier.‘ Gaby looked around nervously towards the table Felicity was standing behind. ‗I shouldn‘t really,‘ she said, ‗but you are the police and I don‘t want to get in trouble.‘ Fielding nodded encouragingly. ‗It‘s about Felicity and Toby. She might have told you this anyway and it is true that she never saw him here but she does know what happened to him, because I told her. He married some rich author who doesn‘t approve of gambling. But then I suppose he wasn‘t here for that was he? She‘s quite famous; her name‘s Clarissa Downing.‘ ‗How do you know that?‘ ‗One of the punters told me. She was invited to the wedding. And what‘s more Toby had changed his name to Mark.‘ ‗And you told Felicity all this.‘ ‗Oh yes, she knew all about the wedding.‘ ‗So when you discussed what to tell the police, you weren‘t supposed to tell me this?‘ ‗Well, it was for Clive‘s benefit. She didn‘t want him to feel he was doing something wrong in dating her.‘ ‗So hiding evidence was supposed to make that better.‘ Gaby smiled wryly. ‗I‘m sorry,‘ she said. I hope I don‘t get into trouble.‘ Fielding didn‘t smile back. She wouldn‘t be in trouble of course but she was damned if she‘d tell the girl that. It looked as though Clive Comben was in deeper than he knew. Chapter 10 Where were Comben and Fielding? Anderson was nervy. It was always the same when the book said one thing and he felt another. He went over the whole thing yet again: the case against Julian would probably get the lad locked up for life somewhere. But was he guilty? The interviews with Julian had been unsatisfactory and the psychologist had been no help. He couldn‘t keep the man locked up at another station indefinitely. He would have to bring him back and the press would have to know. Still he would like to hang on until he saw Comben and Fielding. Then the other occupant of his desk, the telephone, rang and, very soon, he knew it was decision time. As soon as he got into the Super‘s office, before he had time to accept the seat offered, the Super spoke. ‗I‘ve got something to say to you,‘ he said, ‗and it‘s serious.‘ Anderson took his time settling himself in leather tub chair in front of the desk. He knew what Kearney was going to say and he prepared himself. He didn‘t believe that his indiscretion with Clarissa had affected his handling of the case, so there was no need for the Super to interfere. He would want to get that across. ‗Now you‘re not going to like this but it‘s for your own good.‘ Anderson nodded. Married with two teenage children and a wife ten years his junior: what did Kearney know about ‗his own good‘? ‗There‘s not much that goes on at the station I don‘t hear about and you weren‘t exactly discreet.‘ Anderson nodded again. ‗John,‘ the Super said, leaning forward and placing his elbows gingerly on his desk, ‗we go back a long way. I feel that I can say things to you I can‘t to other officers.‘ Anderson stiffened. Had he come down to this: a contemporary talking to him like a ‗Dutch uncle‘. ‗You know how sorry Diana and I were when you and Gabriella split up.‘ ‗She walked out on me,‘ Anderson said. ‗You put too much into the job, John. There are other things in life.‘ Anderson was silent. How long was this going on? He could walk out; Kearney wouldn‘t complain, since this was hardly police business. And then Kearney said something that kept him there rigid in his chair. ‗Look, you mustn‘t take this the wrong way but your judgement of women: it‘s not good. I haven‘t said anything before but I can tell you now that you‘re over it. Daphne and I had a bet the night you got married to Gabriella: I won. It couldn‘t last; you two wanted different things.‘ So, was he ‗over it‘? His wedding day, Kearney‘s words brought it all back; it was as though he had bitten into one of Proust‘s Madeleines that had the power of inducing instant recall. But it wasn‘t the early fumblings of their honeymoon nights that came back to him but that last evening the day before she left and the divorce deposition. The deposition, Anderson didn’t want to go over that again even in his mind. He looked up at Kearney and wondered just how long his reverie had lasted. He nodded again. Kearney looked relieved that he was paying attention. Anderson imagined he wouldn‘t mention Gabriella again. ‗I don‘t want to hear any more about this, John. You understand me don‘t you?‘ Anderson understood. The Super couldn‘t care less about his sex life; he simply didn‘t want to hear about it. Comben was in his office when he got back to it. ‗So you‘ve finally arrived,‘ Anderson said. ‗I was out late on the job last night,‘ Comben said. ‗Did you tell the Super about Simanovicz?‘ ‗No.‘ ‗Good.‘ Anderson looked up at him. He had imagined Comben would be pleased if he had told the Super. He thought Comben believed that the case had been over as soon as they caught Julian. ‗Fielding might have something to tell us,‘ Comben said. Anderson waited. ‗She‘s got some information on the American.‘ ‗Anything definite.‘ ‗I think so. Isn‘t she in yet?‘ They had left the club at the same time, so Fielding didn‘t think it was too early when she rang the doorbell the next morning. Lesley did. Fielding could tell by the length of time she took to open the door and then by the smallness of the crack through which she peered. Still, pleasing Lesley was not the purpose of her visit. If the girl had been more open the night before, there would have been no need to worry her in the morning. And clearly, Comben wasn‘t there either. Warm pyjamas buttoned up to the neck spoke of a cold flat not a passionate night. Fielding was pleased about that; she didn‘t want to get the young man into trouble but, if he was in the way, so be it. Lesley had to be very young: under twenty-five. Even without makeup the girl‘s skin looked smooth and taut and there were no signs of the late night before. Fielding hadn‘t used cosmetics until she was thirty but these days, nearing thirty-five, she used some discreet shading to the eyes and a modicum of face foundation. It created the right sort of illusion, which was that she had no time for cosmetics but without the inevitable result of such a decision — blotchy skin with fine lines and bags under the eyes after a late night. Still it all came off at night whether she was alone or not and she imagined Lesley did the same but with more confidence than dim lights in the bedroom provided for Fielding herself. Fielding followed the woman into her sitting room and they sat opposite each other. Fielding lent back into the cushion behind her and waited. The girl knew what it was about, Fielding had told her the night before that they must talk and she must know by now that Fielding knew she knew about Toby – now Mark – and Clarissa Downing. ‗It‘s worse than you think,‘ Lesley said. Fielding raised her eyebrows — worse meant better in her line of work. ‗I know who Mark Turney really is.‘ ‗So do I,‘ said Fielding. ‗I also know who you really are. What I want to know is why you didn‘t tell me about him.‘ ‗So you know that my sister Patricia was murdered by Mark when he called himself Tony Adams.‘ ‗There was no evidence.‘ ‗So your lot in Watford said, that‘s why I couldn‘t see the point of telling you about Mark Turney.‘ ‗So what are you doing here?‘ ‗Keeping my eyes on him. He‘ll make a mistake and I want to be there.‘ ‗If we‘d known about him, we‘d have been able to keep our eyes open rather better than you.‘ Lesley smiled but without joy. ‗He murdered before killing my sister. You knew all about that but it didn‘t help did it?‘ ‗What makes you think that?‘ Fielding asked. ‗Not all policemen are tight-lipped. I know all about Sheffield.‘ So Mark Wright had done a little more than he had owned up to. Still she couldn‘t blame him. ‗I don‘t see how telling us could do any harm.‘ ‗You‘d question him over these murders and he would be warned. If he took off, I might not find him again.‘ ‗How did you find him this time?‘ ‗Kevin knew the sort of place I‘d find him in. I suppose he told you.‘ ‗You know I spoke to Kevin Walker?‘ ‗We keep in touch.‘ ‗So, that‘s why you started work at the club. You thought Mark would still go there.‘ ‗No, I knew he‘d moved on as he had from other clubs. Anyway, I didn‘t want him to know I was around. But it‘s good money and the girls there could tell me what happened to him.‘ ‗So his marriage was lucky for you.‘ ‗Yes, now he‘s stuck and I can keep tabs on him.‘ ‗Amanda?‘ ‗I met her at Clarissa Downing‘s writers‘ class. I left when we started to live together. I knew I could find out about Mark and Clarissa through Amanda.‘ ‗Is Mark her man?‘ Lesley stiffened as though the idea was not only new but also repulsive. Fielding could see that the idea had never occurred to her. ‗I know she must have someone and that he‘s married but I think she would have told me if it was Mark.‘ ‗Why? He would have every reason to ask Amanda not to tell you about him.‘ ‗No,‘ Lesley said, ‗I don‘t believe this. Mark has never seen me and I have never used my real name.‘ ‗Still, she hasn‘t told you who she‘s living with has she? Will you ask her now? She may tell you but not the police.‘ Lesley was silent and Fielding let her stew a little. ‗You don‘t see your parents much,‘ she said. Lesley looked up, startled as though she had forgotten Fielding was there. ‗I was never close.‘ ‗But you were close to your sister.‘ ‗Oh yes, we used to go around together a lot. I introduced her to Mark.‘ So that was it: guilt. Fielding knew that a little guilt went a long way. She knew that Lesley would find out for her what she wanted to know. She merely had to wait. ‗You won‘t keep me in the dark again will you?‘ she said and then stood. Lesley said nothing and followed her to the front door. Her expression hadn‘t changed since the spectre of Mark Turney making love to Amanda Clayden had crossed her mind. The force had failed her as she had failed her sister and Fielding felt the strength of her resentment. Mark woke and the silence surprised him until he remembered where he was. There was always some traffic passing outside his bedroom window at home but here there was none. It was dark but Amanda had bought opaque linings for the curtains, so it might be light outside. He glanced across to his bedside table but he hadn‘t yet bought his digital alarm clock from home, so he switched on his lamp and looked at his watch. He was late for work; it had been one of those nights — tossing and turning. There was one good thing about being on bad terms with Clarissa: he‘d had a bed to himself each night, which he hadn‘t got with Amanda. Amanda stayed sleeping while he showered and made coffee and then let himself out of the flat. Marrying a rich woman, sleeping with a young mistress they were supposed to be fun things and he had worked hard for them. But both women habitually slept on while he went to work: that was no fun. He let himself out of the flat and walked to the corner of the avenue towards the Underground station. It had been an important street for him and he wondered whether Anderson appreciated his thoughtfulness. Both murder sites and the supposed murderer in the same short stretch of road — hadn‘t that make it easy for Mr Plod? As he reached the corner, two cars came down the hill. Visibility was bad because of cars parked right up to the corner of the road and the drivers slowed to walking pace before turning into the avenue. He had a good view of both of the women drivers as they passed him. He recognised Lesley immediately. He stopped at the corner to see where she was going and saw her slow outside the flat; then she drove on, clearly looking for a space to park. The second car overtook her as she slowed for a second time. It was very early in the morning for Lesley to be making a friendly visit. Croupiers work into the early hours and rise late. What could possibly have brought her there so early? His heart and his quivering limbs told him something bad had happened but he controlled them. He reminded himself not to panic; it hadn‘t helped in the past. There was at least one good thing: on foot, he was inconspicuous. Lesley certainly would not have noticed him since she had concentrated on avoiding parked cars and looking ahead for possible traffic and that widened his options. He remembered his feelings when he had first seen her that night outside Amanda‘s old flat. It had to have been Kevin and he might have to kill the bastard  afterwards he might just do that. He had moved Amanda out soon after the night he had spotted Lesley. It was a pity he couldn‘t have managed it before but it probably didn‘t matter. It was inconceivable that it was all a coincidence: Lesley must have tracked him down. Amanda had never said anything and he had begun to assume that she had done as she was asked and not told anyone about him — even her flatmate. But maybe it was Lesley who had been quiet; perhaps she didn‘t want to alarm Amanda. It was obviously good for her if Amanda kept tabs on him, then Lesley would have him in her sights too. Although just what the skinny bitch could do he really couldn‘t think. Let them all imagine what they liked. They had nothing to pin on him. But now Amanda was about to discover something about him she wouldn‘t like. Did it matter? Afterwards, though, if he stuck to his plan, would it matter then? Should he cut his losses and run? It wasn‘t a good thought. He had put effort and planning into the whole thing. To leave without a pay-off — that was unthinkable. He had run in the past but that had been because he had acted on impulse — it had merely been a fun thing to do at the time. He hadn‘t expected to get anything from it. Now it was different. He walked back down the road and let himself in through the front door — quietly. Upstairs he could hear the two of them talking. Their raised voices meant they hadn‘t heard him come in from the street. He climbed the stairs and opened the door to the flat. They both turned their heads. ‗Hello Lesley,‘ he said, ‗I haven‘t seen you for some time. What a coincidence.‘ ‗It‘s not a coincidence,‘ said Amanda, ‗she‘s been trailing you for months, calling herself Felicity Galloway. Did you know she was my flatmate?‘ Mark was pleased with the tone of Amanda‘s voice. It looked like she was sticking up for him. ‗No I didn‘t,‘ he said to Amanda and then he turned towards Lesley. ‗You know Lesley,‘ he said calmly, ‗you‘d do better to forget about me and get on with your own life. I didn‘t kill your sister.‘ ‗I don‘t believe you Tony, or is it Toby or maybe Mark. You‘re a murdering bastard and the police are on to you.‘ ‗You‘re beautiful when you‘re angry‘, the cliché came to Mark‘s mind as he looked at her. She was a much better shape than her sister was. That had been no loss. ‗The police know all about me,‘ he said. ‗I was interviewed several times and they cleared me.‘ As he finished, he turned towards Amanda. It would be useful to keep her on his team for the moment at least. Amanda walked over to him and nestled in the arm he stretched out towards her. They formed a small phalanx against the furious Lesley. She turned to walk out. ‗I hope you‘re not going to tell more lies to the police,‘ said Mark. ‗What‘s the point,‘ Lesley said, ‗they didn‘t believe me last time. But you‘ll make a mistake and, when you do, I‘ll be there cheering. I hope you spend most of your life from now on behind bars.‘ The slam of the front door confirmed in Mark‘s mind that she wouldn‘t be back. When she had gone he let go of Amanda and lent over the settee. His face fell forward and he hoped that Amanda could see the few teardrops that he had forced into his eyes. She came to him and put her arm around his waist. ‗I hope you don‘t believe that bitch,‘ he said without looking round, ‗I liked Patricia although I wasn‘t in love with her. I would never have harmed her and I wouldn‘t harm you.‘ A ring on the doorbell stopped Amanda from answering but Mark felt he knew what she would have said. When Lesley came out, Fielding stopped her in the road before she got into her car. ‗Well,‘ she said. Lesley lent on the bonnet of her car and Fielding could see her chest move up and down fast. She wondered whether the girl would burst into tears. ‗You were right,‘ she said, ‗it is the bastard. He is Amanda‘s man and she won‘t believe what I say.‘ Fielding nodded. ‗I know he‘s got away with it up to now but I‘ve a feeling this is the end of the road for him.‘ Lesley looked up. Fielding didn‘t enjoy the scornful look on her face. ‗You mean like before, when Pat was alive.‘ She drove off and Fielding walked over to the flat looked at the list of four names on the entryphone and rang. Upstairs she was able for the first time to see Mark in the flesh. Now she could understand why Stevens was so obsessed: the likeness was amazing. The man in front of her was the image of the photo that had been sent from New York. Fielding showed them her badge. Amanda was the first to react. ‗Are you going to harass him again,‘ she said, ‗I thought you‘d finished with that up at Watford.‘ Fielding could see now why Lesley had been so upset. Amanda was on Mark‘s team and she was staying there. ‗So you haven’t been lonely while your wife has been away,‘ she said to Mark. ‗Amanda and I are going to be together always. Not that it‘s any of your business.‘ Fielding translated Mark‘s words in her own mind: ‗always‘, meaning, ‗together for the rest of her life, which may be very short‘. She couldn‘t say it aloud it was after all defamatory. ‗I agree it isn‘t any of my business — yet,‘ she said and then paused to allow the thought to sink in. ‗I just called in because I wondered if you had any idea where Julian Simanovicz was,‘ she said looking at both of them. ‗Is that the writer?‘ asked Amanda. Fielding nodded. ‗No we don‘t,‘ said Mark. ‗If we did, we‘d have told you. What possible advantage is there for us to keep him free?‘ ‗It‘s only that a car like your own was seen near here on the day he disappeared.‘ It wasn‘t true but she wondered whether Turney would feel he needed to deny the implication. But he said nothing. ‗Are you mad,‘ said Amanda, ‗do you think Mark would help him get away after he‘d threatened me?‘ Fielding nodded. She really had nothing to gain from the confrontation but she had needed to see Mark Turney for herself. Now she had and it made her a convert. Stevens, Wright and Fielding — they were lined up together now. After she had gone, Mark took stock of the situation. On the bad side was that he had been tracked from Watford and maybe from Sheffield and Ludlow. He couldn‘t believe that the police traced him solely through Lesley. On the good side, it appeared that Julian was still free. That was the best news. The old factory had seemed a good place to hide for a while but he never imagined that the boy could stay hidden for long before Anderson found him. But he hadn‘t much time: it had to happen soon. As he walked away from the flat, he smiled. It was clearly better to know what was going on and both Lesley and Fielding had helped him do that. But where was Clarissa? As her husband he surely had a right to know. At work, he made a phone call. The Superintendent was sympathetic. Mark got the impression that Anderson had gone too far. Had he been right about Clarissa and Anderson? Fielding got back home before ten. She imagined she deserved a rest and spent some time in the bath before having breakfast. When she got in just before noon, there was an urgent note on her desk. Anderson wanted to see her ASAP. She had been out of touch for a bit and she imagined Comben had too. Had something happened? She joined Anderson and Comben in the Chief Inspector‘s office. ‗I suppose you have never heard of communication,‘ Anderson said ‗keeping in touch.‘ Comben looked at her as though he were doing the accusing. It looked as though he had said nothing about the night before. ‗I hadn‘t thought until now that I was anything but on the periphery of your investigation,‘ she said. ‗I‘m here now.‘ ‗Comben tells me you might have something?‘ She had had a little time to prepare but, however she saw it, she couldn‘t keep Clive‘s name out of it. The two of them meeting up at the same place, Lesley Rathbone being the common link and then Mark Turney and Amanda, it made no sense to her yet. But the coincidence was too much and Comben was part of it. ‗Has Clive told you about last night yet?‘ she asked. ‗I haven‘t had time, I‘ve just got in myself.‘ Fielding could see by the prompt way Clive answered that he had also been doing some quick thinking. She left it to him to explain his part first. She wouldn‘t want to expose his thing with Lesley unless absolutely necessary but how else would Clive explain his presence at the club. ‗We both met at a gambling club in town last night. That‘s why we were in late; those things finish in the early hours.‘ Was that it? Did Clive imagine that would satisfy his boss? Fielding waited but she had no need to speak. Anderson continued to look at his sergeant expectantly. ‗Felicity, Amanda‘s ex-flatmate works there. She told me she had some information.‘ Fielding waited again. This was taking an age and she had no doubt that Anderson would get impatient very soon. ‗Well?‘ Anderson said. ‗I interviewed her again yesterday but she had to go to work. She said she‘d speak to me there.‘ ‗And what did she say.‘ ‗She told me about Mark Turney.‘ It was time for Fielding to help out, so she did. ‗I‘m sure that he‘s the American. I traced him from Ludlow to Sheffield, then on to Watford and now Kilburn. Felicity is really Lesley Rathbone the sister of the murdered Patricia Rathbone from Watford. She believes Mark Turney alias Toby Langdale, alias Tony Adams killed her sister.‘ ‗But there was no proof and there‘s no proof he is the American,‘ said Anderson. ‗The FBI descriptions are so exact that I‘m certain that Mark Turney is their suspect but, you‘re right, we‘ve no proof.‘ ‗I thought the American evidence did not include a detailed description?‘ So Anderson had read the file, Fielding was surprised. But it did mean he was taking her theory seriously. ‗Stevens the American investigating officer sent a photo. It looks exactly like Mark Turney.‘ ‗How‘s that?‘ ‗Stevens got the idea that the man looked like his twin and sent his own photo. The resemblance is uncanny. The only real witness in New York thought Stevens was the man who assaulted her.‘ Anderson let the silence in the room last long enough to become oppressive. There was something he wasn‘t being told. Why had Comben waited until Fielding turned up before telling his story? Why his reticence? Was this what they called teamwork? It wasn‘t as though Fielding had much. All she had was a series of coincidences. Nothing linked Mark Turney to the two murders except Clarissa and her student writer — it would never get to court and it couldn‘t save Julian. ‗We have Julian Simanovicz,‘ he announced. Fielding looked at him — puzzled. He knew what she was thinking. If they had him, why the mystery. ‗His story‘s confused. I‘m not sure he‘s the man. That‘s why I‘m interested in what you’ve got to say.‘ Anderson waited as Fielding took her time. He appreciated her caution, it was a sort of compliment to himself: she wouldn‘t want to overstate the case. ‗We‘ve got some evidence to suggest that Mark Turney is the man they are looking for in the States but not enough to be certain,‘ she said, then she stopped. Anderson waited. ‗The pattern of the American murders is different but there are similarities,‘ Fielding continued, ‗the American commits senseless murders which are pinned on others — so he gets off.‘ Anderson interrupted. ‗But this time there‘s no recent pattern for him to latch on to,‘ he said. ‗Just because the others were senseless, it doesn‘t mean it wasn‘t him,‘ said Comben, ‗the others might have been practice for the real thing.‘ The three of them sat in silence for a minute or so. They had come to a hiatus and they all knew it. Soon the pressure to release or charge Julian would be too great and Anderson knew he could and would be convicted. ‗I need time,‘ Anderson said, ‗If anyone wants me, you don‘t know where I‘ve gone. Is that understood? I need twenty-four hours. Can you do that?‘ Fielding nodded. Anderson could see that she wasn‘t sure how to do it but he trusted her. ‗You two work together on this okay.‘ They nodded and he was off. Back at his flat, he unplugged all his telephone receivers and left his mobile off. It was time for silence broken only by the calm of Mozart. The next day would be soon enough to see to Simanovicz and release Clarissa from her incarceration. Fielding watched with quiet satisfaction as Anderson walked out of his office. She was in charge. It might only be for a day but she would make the most of it. ‗So let‘s go and get him,‘ she said. Comben was on his feet in an instant. Fielding was just as eager to leave the station. They wouldn‘t want to be there that day. A great deal of shit from above might descend and they would prefer Anderson to be under it first. ‗Wait a minute,‘ she said, ‗there‘s something I must do.‘ She picked up the phone and dialled. ‗George, Fielding here. My mobile‘s on the blink. It could be the battery. Can I leave it with you tonight,‘ she said and then after a short silence. ‗No, I‘ll take a chance and keep it for today.‘ When she hung up, she saw Comben looking at her quizzically. ‗We can‘t have two out of service at the same time it will look suspicious,‘ he said. ‗Shall I accidentally leave mine behind?‘ ‗No,‘ she said, ‗we might need both. If you‘re asked anything, just play dumb. Say Anderson put me in charge and you don‘t know where either of us is.‘ They used Fielding‘s car but Mark Turney was not at work, nor was he at Amanda‘s flat nor at Clarissa‘s house. Then they collected Comben‘s car from the station car park so they could watch for him at both houses: Fielding at Clarissa‘s, Comben at Amanda‘s. Chapter 11 At about four in the afternoon, Clarissa came home. Fielding guessed it had been authorised by Kearney, Anderson would never have agreed. She phoned Comben‘s mobile and told him the news, then she knocked on Clarissa‘s door. She had never seen anyone so relieved to see her before. Clarissa Downing was worried. ‗I was surprised when they sent me home without an escort,‘ she said. ‗I had to get a taxi.‘ ‗This wasn‘t John Anderson‘s doing you know that don‘t you?‘ Clarissa didn‘t know but she looked pleased when Fielding told her. ‗I‘ll stay with you until Anderson can be reached,‘ Fielding said. Clarissa was duly grateful. They had tea together and Fielding spent the next hour or so fending off questions about John Anderson‘s private life. Luckily, she hadn‘t been working with him when he had been married, so she didn‘t have to lie about that. ‗I‘m hungry,‘ Clarissa said at about six, ‗Chinese takeaway?‘ ‗My staple diet,‘ Fielding said. ‗I expect Anderson cooks, don‘t you?‘ Clarissa asked. ‗The station gossip says he does it very well,‘ said Fielding. Clarissa paused with the receiver in her hand before dialling. ‗Has he cooked for you?‘ ‗Once or twice when I was his sergeant but it was all very proper,‘ she said. ‗He doesn‘t like mixing business with pleasure does he,‘ Clarissa said. Fielding wasn‘t sure whether she was asking a question or trying to establish his innocence. She kept a straight face and hoped she looked ignorant of what was going on. Clarissa never ordered the meal. Before she could dial, Mark Turney walked in. He wasn‘t as surprised to see them as Fielding imagined he would be. ‗So my complaint worked,‘ he said, ‗Anderson couldn‘t keep you to himself any longer.‘ ‗What do you mean,‘ said Clarissa. ‗I spoke to the Superintendent, he said he would do what he could to get you home and here you are.‘ They both looked at Fielding and she felt that they must have a great deal to talk over. It was impossible for her to stay although she wanted to, so she sat outside in her car and waved back when they drove away later. Back home, Clarissa felt frightened. John, she was sure, had a good reason to keep her safe in that flat and now she had been sent packing and there was no John around. She had no idea who had ordered it but it was a relief when Patricia Fielding arrived. They chatted a while and discovered that Fielding had been Anderson‘s sergeant before Comben. She wondered whether the woman had been John‘s lover as well but it didn‘t seem so, although she wasn‘t giving anything away. She learnt very little about John‘s life that she didn‘t know already. She couldn‘t even find out whether Patricia knew about John and herself. When Mark came home, she wanted to tell him to get out of her house. It simply wasn‘t possible to ignore what had happened, now that there was John Anderson. What hadn‘t changed was her marriage. Mark was having an affair that was certain but then she knew before as much about Mark‘s infidelity as she had wanted to know. But now she felt differently: that had been the big change. But she couldn‘t say anything with Fielding there. When Fielding left, she had her chance but Mark seemed so pleased to see her and hugged her with such gentle enthusiasm that she couldn‘t say it straight off. Then he took her out to eat and paid with his own money. They waved to Fielding, as she sat in her car, on the way out and the way back. Afterwards at home, Clarissa felt herself to be woozy and vulnerable and she couldn‘t help thinking how very expert Mark was. There was no doubt that he was going to make love to her. Clearly, he wasn‘t going to accept his dismissal easily. She wondered how she would tell Anderson but then, of course, she wouldn‘t and anyway it might never come to that. Afterwards she had to admit she enjoyed her husband. This time she expected him to stay with her but yet again she was disappointed. After his shower and without one word, he went out. Normally, as soon as she heard Mark‘s key in the lock, she would be up and into his arms immediately he had shut the door, however late he had come. But now it was different. He had moved in while Clarissa was away and she had hoped it would be permanent, so Amanda sat squeezed into the corner of the settee and continued to watch the TV when he came into the room. He sat on the settee in the opposite corner but he was still near enough for her to smell his after-shave or body lotion or whatever it was. It meant he had freshly showered and that was unusual and suspicious. Clarissa had been sent home and she understood that he needed to see her but had that been all? It unsettled her but she said nothing, although something bubbled up inside her and the effort of keeping it down made her face feel hot. She knew he must know there was something wrong but he gave no indication that he was aware of it. He said nothing and watched as though he was trying not to disturb her. But she was not paying attention and was irritated by his pretence. ‗Why are you so late?‘ she asked. He turned to her and put his finger to his mouth. ‗I thought you were listening,‘ he said. She launched herself at him and would have slapped his face if he hadn‘t caught her hand. Then he grasped her other wrist and twisted her round, so that her back was against his side. She cried out with the pain from her wrists and tears came to her eyes. ‗You‘re hurting me,‘ she said. ‗I know,‘ he said. Then using one arm to pin both her arms to her breasts, he lifted her with the other under her thighs and carried her into the bedroom. She tried to bite his hand but he moved his arm up under her chin so that she couldn‘t do so. She soon found herself short of breath as the weight of her body pushed his arm into her neck. He threw her on to the bed on her stomach and she lay there recovering as he fumbled with something she couldn‘t see. Then he turned her over and rested his weight on her. She felt it useless to say anything. Then she saw what he had in his hands: the cords from their dressing gowns. They hadn‘t done it before but they had talked about it and Amanda had said she wouldn‘t like it but it didn‘t seem to her as if he cared what she thought right then. He tied her wrists to the bedposts and then sat up. She was relieved, since her breathing was becoming difficult with him lying on her. Up to then she had been frightened but, when he unbuttoned her blouse, removed her bra and caressed and sucked her nipples, she felt better. He was not after all an intruder who might rape and kill her. He had no need to rape and so no need to kill. He ran his fingers down her flank where he knew she was ticklish but her immobility and rising excitement meant it produced only a new increment of pleasure. She closed her eyes and imagined that he understood that she was signalling to him that her struggling was over and that he could do what he wanted with her. She had never surrendered to anyone like this before and there was still some residual fear. But, despite this, she acquiesced as he manipulated her: he stripped her naked and then sat between her legs and pushed her knees up and, before she imagined she was ready, he thrust a finger inside of her. She gave a half-hearted shout as though he had hurt her but he hadn‘t. He seemed to know before she did what she wanted and could stand. He thrust in and out of her with one finger and then another but left her clitoris alone, so she felt the pleasurable sensation of it without coming near a climax. Then he put a finger into her anus and she thought he must have used lubricant because it also slipped inside her easily. She had never before felt what she did then. His two fingers pressed against each other: one inside her vagina the other her rectum. She shivered and pulled desperately against the rope expecting any moment to feel pain but he kept her at a level of excitement that precluded pain and his fingers went deeper and deeper inside her. Then he lay his head on her belly and licked her clitoris while keeping both his fingers active inside her. She soon climaxed as a wave of pleasurable sensation tinged with mild pain swept up and over her. She thought for a moment she would faint but, when he sat up and withdrew his fingers, she relaxed. Then he stripped and knelt over her breasts so that his penis was over her mouth. He bent it downwards and propped her head up with his hand so that she could take it into her mouth. She had done this before but only when she was above him. This time, with him over her, she felt him penetrate so far into her mouth and on to the back of her throat that she felt she might wretch or actually vomit. But, every time it seemed as if he might go too far, he withdrew. She sucked at him each time he went in and wondered whether he was going to come into her mouth. But, before he came, he slid down her body, reached over to the drawer by the bed, took out a condom and put it on. Then he lifted her legs and placed his penis at the entrance to her anus. She was scared at what he might do and shook her head but he appeared to take no notice, although he made no attempt to force himself into her but stroked her anus with the tip of his penis. Then he placed her legs over his shoulder, cupped her clitoris, and moved the whole area around until she was close to a climax. Before she came, he pressed into her and slid into her rectum. She felt only the slightest discomfort and then as he went deeper a different sort of pleasure crept over her until she came again. When he came out of her he changed his condom and then undid her shackles. She lay as passively as if she were still tied and allowed him to turn her over and position her so he could come into her vagina from behind. She was used to the position and accepted his uninhibited thrusting while pressing back into him. They both came close together but she had never heard him cry out with such delight and triumph as he did when he eventually came. Afterwards she noticed the redness on her wrists caused by her own struggles. She had constantly pulled at her bonds while tied and now found her wrists raw from the chafing they had received. But, snuggled up to him against his chest with his arms enclosing her as she was, she did not mind. A little later, she wondered what would have happened had she objected more strongly to begin with. Would he have stopped and untied her? He hadn‘t waited for her consent but then she had been so passive that he could have been justified in believing she had tacitly given it. Had she been intimidated into accepting what he did, had he forced her? The problem was that she had enjoyed his power over her. She was sure that it was how he expressed his love and she had responded and would do so in the future. If this was all, it was okay. But was it? This was the first time, would there be more and different — worse? They lay together for some minutes in silence. Amanda gripped him fiercely as though challenging him to break free. Then he surprised her. ‗I‘m staying the night,‘ he said. ‗What about Clarissa?‘ she asked. ‗She doesn‘t matter anymore.‘ ‗Why now?‘ she asked. ‗I‘m moving in with you whatever she says.‘ he said. They had never spoken about him leaving his wife. They had been together less than a year and Amanda felt it too soon to talk about it herself but she was pleased he had said something. ‗If that‘s what you want,‘ she said. ‗Do you want it too?‘ he asked. ‗Yes,‘ she said. So it was decided. Whether Mark intended to divorce and then marry her, she didn‘t know but marriage was too remote for her and too definite — all that could wait. Amanda was pleased. She thought back to those Wednesday evenings and the way the old bag made up to Pete and Dave. It was disgusting but no more so than her attempted ownership of Mark. Still those Wednesdays were always a comfort to her: Clarissa‘s hunger was some sort of indication that Mark was not lying when he said they were not fucking each other. Amanda didn‘t believe she would have allowed that, if she had been convinced that they were. She remembered how jealous she had been the time Mark had met his wife after the class. It was the night the two policemen had come. They had left as a group and, on the way out, she saw Mark in his car. She had almost walked across but stopped herself. Had anyone seen her hesitation? Then she had watched as he had got out of the car and kissed Clarissa on the cheek. Amanda had felt invisible and had turned away to walk quickly home. She had felt the same way that evening before he had come to her. She wasn‘t worried about money but she knew he was. She wished Clarissa was poor but she wasn‘t. He wanted some of her millions and that meant he needed to keep her sweet. Just how was he doing that, Amanda wondered and then asked herself whether she wished to know? There was a gap. Anderson knew what that meant. It was going to be a sleepless night. He needed more data before he could close the gap. He might lie in bed trying to sleep but he wouldn‘t be able to. He would still be trying to fill that gap however hopeless it was. His bedroom was very dark. The curtains had special linings and there was a pelmet. On summer mornings it was necessary for him to have complete darkness to sleep until the alarm sounded. In the past, the ticking of his clock had kept him awake. Now he had succumbed to a quieter digital radio alarm but tonight even its quiet whirr reverberated in his ear, shattering the silence around him. He glanced over it was 00.15; the sight offended him. He had tried but without success to get a radio alarm clock with hands. But these were simply night thoughts. In the morning it would be better. Chapter 12 The next morning Mark went home before work. Clarissa was still in bed and her daily had not arrived. He did pause for a moment at the foot of the stairs but it wouldn‘t do — and especially not with Fielding outside. He wondered whether she had been there all night. No, it was one thing to rid the world of friendless strangers but he would always be the first suspect as far as his wife was concerned. No, it would take more careful planning than that, especially now. He went to the back of the house and took the key from its place by the back door. Then he drove to a parade of shops some distance away to get it copied. He wore a crash helmet while the man did the job. Mark thought it unlikely that he could be recognised. By the time he got back, Clarissa was awake and having breakfast. He didn‘t think she knew he had come there earlier. ‗Have you got the key to the back door?‘ she asked. ‗It‘s missing; Mrs Duggan couldn‘t get outside. He took the original from his pocket, put it into the keyhole and unlocked the door. ‗Now she can,‘ he said. ‗Why did you take it?‘ ‗I thought you might bolt the street door but you can‘t do that to the back door,‘ he said. ‗You didn‘t come back last night anyway,‘ she said. ‗No,‘ he said. Clarissa stared at him for a few seconds and he stared back. ‗Don‘t you think it‘s about time you moved out altogether,‘ she said. ‗If that‘s what you want,‘ he said. ‗I do,‘ she said. Fielding rang Clarissa‘s doorbell once she saw Mark Turney drive off for the second time that morning. She had seen him go off at night and Comben had told her where he had been all night. It seemed the right time to get Clarissa‘s co-operation. They searched Turney‘s bedroom together. Turney hadn‘t moved out completely and his passport was not hard to find. She took a selection of his clothes but doubted that they would tell them anything. The American passport was enough to be going on with, surprisingly it was in the name of Mark Turney. She arranged to meet Comben at Turney‘s workplace. An office was made available for the three of them. Fielding assured him that her questions were unofficial and that no record would be kept. He seemed very calm and, as Fielding expected, had a plausible explanation. Yes, he was American and he had left the States because of harassment from the FBI. He had hoped for a calmer life over her but it hadn‘t turned out that way, so he had changed his name again. ‗And again.‘ said Fielding. ‗And back again,‘ he said, pointing at his passport. They left him and took his clothes to the station. He agreed to that with disappointing alacrity. When Anderson woke, he felt as though he had been groping towards an answer all night — a solution that lay, now, just beyond his consciousness. Julian was innocent – the feeling was still there – but how could he prove it. Before it had been a hunch and the situation with Clarissa could have affected his judgement, but this morning it appeared more concrete, as if the evidence were there if he only knew where to look. He squashed his down pillow into the back of his neck and lay on his back. Then he moved his legs and took pleasure in the smooth feel of the Egyptian cotton sheets. The distraction loosened some memory and he got the impression that he was on the edge of something. But it was no good lying there searching for it; like those names that come when they are least expected, this thought would too. He simply had to ignore it for a while until it wanted to be recognised. The taste in his mouth drove him up and into the bathroom. Toothbrushing first, followed by a shower and a shave, then he dressed but did not yet put on a jacket. He wanted more time and was not yet ready to go into the station and face the inevitable queries about progress that would come down from above. He had had quite enough of Kearney for that week. He went into his study and took the file that included Julian‘s confession – if his remembrances could be called that – from the middle desk drawer. He hadn‘t thought it prudent to leave it at the station while he was hiding Simanovicz‘s arrest from the Super. He took it into the lounge. This was not a desk job; he needed to relax and let his mind wander a little. He sat in a leather buttoned Chesterfield armchair and read the relevant documents. It was not a fat file. Simanovicz had not said a great deal. He apparently had little to say and what he had said sounded confused. Anderson imagined that if Julian ever reached the witness stand he would agree to anything a good counsel would put to him. He would not make a good witness but, more than that, there was enough in his testimony to send him away. Anderson knew he could chalk up a success in this case right then if he wanted. The peculiar thing was that the dream confession sounded more real than the one he gave while wide-awake. Stevens had tried to explain this; he assured them it wasn‘t unusual for hypnosis to produce greater clarity than straightforward probing. He was equally sanguine about Julian living in the same street as the two murder victims. If he was the murderer, Stevens said, it showed he really didn‘t want to get away with it; he wanted to be punished. There was always that ‗if‘. Stevens wouldn‘t commit himself; proving Julian had murdered was not something for a psychologist, he said, it was Anderson‘s job. What stuck in Anderson‘s mind was the coincidence of Amanda living opposite Simanovicz. Mark Turney had moved his mistress into the same road as Julian. It was as though he had wanted Julian to see her, as though he had wanted Julian to reveal himself. But, if he knew where the man was, why hadn‘t he told them earlier? Why had he exposed Amanda to such danger? But then, if Julian was harmless, there never had been any danger? Suddenly a small image came to his mind. It was the outside of the door to Julian‘s flat. He needed to see it again. It took him less than ten minutes to walk to the house and let himself in from the street with Julian‘s keys — something else he hadn‘t yet officially lodged at the station. He took the stairs two at a time and there it was: the door to Julian‘s flat had a spyhole. Anderson knew what one saw through a spyhole; he also knew what happened when a person came up close and looked into the spyhole from the other side. He opened the door of the flat and looked through the spyhole. With the opposite door open Julian could have clearly seen into the flat. Julian‘s testimony was realistic; his account was accurate. He had seen the murderer through his spyhole that was why his view was distorted. Then he must have followed the man on foot and seen the body dumped in the park. It wouldn‘t have been too difficult. If Julian had followed the car to the corner by the park, he could have seen it stop further down the road near Clarissa‘s house. Julian had then walked down the hill himself but had arrived too late to see the murderer mutilate the body but he had seen the man go into a house by the side of the park. They had the wrong man and Anderson was certain now who the right one was. He walked back home and drove to Mark‘s office. He had left work for that day so he went to Amanda‘s flat: there was no one at home. It was a long shot but Anderson then drove to the park. Clarissa‘s house was empty. He wasn‘t there either. He turned back towards the park and wondered what to do next. The light was fading but the last shafts of sunlight lit up the leaves that remained on the trees in the park. He needed to think so he walked into the park and watched the luminous yellows and oranges fade as the sun finally went down, then he drove home. Clarissa had to be told but he was shy of doing so. He sipped his Early Grey tea and, for the moment, was uncharacteristically passive. He had now been out of contact with the station for over twenty-four hours. The Super would want to know what was happening and the Stoke Newington station needed some reason to hang on to Simanovicz. He couldn‘t continue like this. He needed to make some decisions. First though he should speak to Clarissa. She had a right to know what was going on. If she was married to a murderer, he should tell her. It was dark by the time he arrived at the safe flat and there were no lights on inside and no officer outside. He rang the bell but got no answer. He phoned Comben‘s mobile. ‗Where are you?‘ he asked. ‗Outside Amanda Clayden‘s flat. Mark Turney‘s inside.‘ That was the good news, then his sergeant told him the bad news. ‗Kearney wants to see you,‘ he said. ‗He wants to know why the officer in charge of a murder case cannot be reached and he wants to know what progress you‘ve made.‘ ‗And what did you tell him?‘ ‗I said your line was out of order and that you probably didn‘t know since your mobile was switched off.‘ ‗And?‘ ‗I said nothing about Simanovicz. But there is something else.‘ Anderson waited expectantly ‗The Super sent Mrs Downing home.‘ ‗Why?‘ ‗Apparently her husband kicked up a fuss and she was getting bored.‘ ‗What‘s Fielding been up to?‘ ‗She found Turney‘s American passport and we both questioned him. Fielding‘s outside Mrs Downing‘s house now. We‘ve still nothing definite to connect him to the murders.‘ ‗Stay where you are. I‘ll relieve Fielding by the park later.‘ He went back to his flat and phoned the Super at home and asked who‘d authorised Clarissa being sent home. He knew what the answer would be. ‗I sent Clarissa Downing back home. Her husband made a fuss and it was best all round.‘ Anderson felt hot and wondered whether his face was red. He was sorry the Super couldn‘t see how angry he was. ‗This is my case, sir, why wasn‘t I consulted or even told?‘ he said. ‗You couldn‘t be reached. I had to act on my own initiative.‘ ‗I suppose you know that she might be in danger.‘ ‗Look John,‘ the Super said, ‗you‘ve got too close to this. I‘ve been looking at the evidence, there‘s no reason to believe Mrs Downing is caught up in this thing. You‘re worrying unnecessarily.‘ Anderson knew what the man meant. It was his own involvement with Clarissa that had prompted the Super‘s decision. He himself was to blame for putting Clarissa at risk. He rang Fielding‘s mobile and arranged to relieve her later. He wondered how long they would have to keep it up. At about three in the morning he drove round to the park. Fielding got out of her car to speak to him. He was pleased that she had been so alert. ‗You heard about Turney‘s passport,‘ she said. He nodded. ‗He really is Mark Turney — born in Memphis thirty-two years ago. His story‘s plausible, says he‘s been harassed by Stevens and he was on flight from the States at the right time. I took some of his clothes back to the station but I don‘t think we‘ll find anything.‘ ‗Is he still at Amanda‘s?‘ ‗Comben says so. We‘ve been phoning each other every hour. He seems content to stay all night.‘ ‗Can he stay awake?‘ Anderson was sorry he asked that. ‗He‘s young, so, yes, he can stay awake.‘ Anderson was even sorrier about the answer but didn‘t rise to the bait. He was sure in his own mind that he could stay awake. He would feel better inside with Clarissa but that wouldn‘t be right in the circumstances. There had been too much talk already; he didn‘t want any more to get back to Kearney. Chapter 13 They went to bed at eleven and Mark dutifully made love to Amanda. His heart wasn‘t in it but experience saw him through. It wasn‘t long after he was back in bed that he heard the regular pattern of Amanda‘s breathing. He lay on his back so that he didn‘t fall into a deep sleep but for two or three hours dozed and woke intermittently. When the digital display on his clock showed ‗03.00‘ and not a second before, he set the clock in the alarm mode to ‗07.30‘ so that it wouldn‘t change. It was possible that she would wake when he got out of bed and he wanted her to think it was the right time for him to get up for work. He should be back by then to set it correctly. The alarm he didn‘t set. He didn‘t want that going off even if he wasn‘t back. Then, before getting out of bed, he turned around several times to see what Amanda would do. Her breathing became more irregular and she turned towards him; her eyes briefly opened. He said he was getting up but, before he was out of bed, her eyes closed again. He didn‘t imagine she would remember him speaking. Downstairs the back door to the flats opened into a garden bounded by a brick wall at its rear. Over the wall there was a disused cemetery, bounded on its south side by an old mews used now for light industry and garaging. Mark climbed over the first wall and walked over to the southern edge of the cemetery where he climbed a second wall and then scrambled on to the roof of a garage. It was the garage he rented under an alias. Neither the owner nor his agent had ever seen him; he had done it all by post and that‘s the way he paid the rent. The mews wasn‘t residential so no one was around as he climbed down on to the roadway and unlocked the garage door. Inside the garage were his special things. He undressed and put on a waterproof overall plus hood used for de-contamination work; on his hands he wore latex gloves, on his feet a pair of cheap trainers — all new. The others he had dumped and burnt in a hospital incinerator soon after use. He ignored the ten-year-old car he garaged there and had used for the other episodes. This time he needed no car, so he took an upright bicycle from the wall brackets on which it was stored and propped it up outside. His watch told him the time was 3.30am. He checked in his pockets for the keys he needed and cycled off. Half way down a road at right angles to Clarissa‘s street, a passageway led to a path behind the houses. He cycled up it and then along so that he was behind a house three doors down from Clarissa. He lent the cycle against a fence and used a fence post to lever himself up and then down into the garden. He did the same with the three fences that lay between him and Clarissa‘s garden. Her back door had been locked and the key placed in its usual place. He unlocked the door and then placed the old key in the lock and shut the door. There would be no signs of a break-in but no one could guarantee that the back door had been locked. And no one – not even a distant locksmith – knew he had a spare. As soon as he walked out of the kitchen into the hall, he saw that something was wrong. It was too light; the porch light had been left on. Ideally, he wanted to switch all the electricity off at the mains, so that, should something go wrong, he couldn‘t be identified. But, if he did that, then the porch light would go off. Was there someone outside watching? It was possible. But it was probably worth the chance so he turned the mains off and walked quietly upstairs. Clarissa‘s bedroom door was open and he gazed at her for a while without going into the room. She was very still and then groaned and turned before becoming quiet again. He stepped lightly across her carpet slid his hands around her neck and squeezed. Her back was towards him and he pushed her head into the pillow as she struggled. He then laid his whole weight on her body to reduce her thrashing and waited. Every time he did this, he thought back to Hitchcock. In one of his films there was a protracted struggle while Cary Grant aided by his leading lady killed a Russian agent. He had read that the purpose of the scene was to show how difficult it was to kill someone. But he had never found it so. The film was pure fantasy. He supposed she was dead by the time he heard the doorbell ringing but he would have preferred to hang on for a minute or two longer. But the sound of footsteps along the side passage sent him across the room and down to the landing before he could satisfy himself. There was a figure between himself and ground floor but the man‘s attempt to switch on the lights showed that he was not seeing in the dark as well as Mark himself. He bundled past him and with a couple of sharp kicks broke through the man‘s grasp. He was out of the back door, over four fences and then away on his cycle with no further trouble. He stopped off at the garage to change his clothes and take the discarded overall, shoes and gloves away with him in a plastic bag. This he left behind a bush in the cemetery before climbing over two walls to make his way to the back door of the flats. It was quiet and dark inside. Upstairs he let himself into Amanda‘s flat, undressed and joined her in bed. Amanda gave a half groan and turned away from him. He wondered whether she had been in the same position all the time he had been away. The clock he reset; its display then showed ‗04.27‘. Anderson had asked her to keep the porch light on and it did help. No one could open the front door without him seeing. It wasn‘t long after he had relieved Fielding that he felt distinctly sleepy. It had been a long time since he had done such work. He tried to remember the tricks they had all used to prevent themselves falling asleep. Smoking was always out; matches and lighters could be seen and maybe even the glow of a cigarette end. But then he no longer smoked anyway. Chewing sweets or peppermints? He thought not, he would feel sick in the morning. Sheer willpower — that should not be beyond him. He had his duty to perform plus a personal interest, what else could he possibly need. Of course, if he could have relied on the Super‘s support, then a team of youngsters could have been doing this, not two senior detectives. He hoped it hadn‘t been dozing but he had to admit that he hadn‘t seen it go off. But there it was: the porch was dark. He was out of the car and up the front path very quickly. The old-fashioned bell rang clearly in the hall when he pulled the lever. No one could sleep through that. He rang again but no lights appeared in the house and no sounds came from the hallway when he opened the letter flap. He ran down the side of the house and tried the door into the kitchen: it was unlocked and he was inside. There was still no sound. The largest room in the house was on the first floor front — that was where she slept. There was a glimmer of light that came through a hallway window from a street-lamp twenty yards down the road. He tried several light switches but none worked. He took the first flight of stairs two at a time. As he climbed the stairs, he saw a dark shape move along the banisters on the first floor and then, as he reached the landing, a hand on the end of a stiff arm landed in his chest. It reminded him of his Rugby days at school. It was a good hand-off and cleared the way for the man as Anderson fell back into the corner a few steps down in front of him. The figure was almost passed him when he thrust out both hands and held tight on to the man‘s left foot. The man was heavy and his impetus took them both down the final flight. They landed in a heap at the bottom but the other man was quicker on to his feet and Anderson felt the air squeezed from his body as the man stamped on his belly. The man had reached the ground floor before Anderson managed to leap forward and grasp another foot. This time the man spun round and used his other foot to stamp on Anderson‘s neck. Anderson‘s grasp loosened and the man was away out the back door. There was little hope of catching him but Anderson didn‘t intend to leave the house. He went back upstairs into the front bedroom. Clarissa was lying on the bed very still, very passive. He drew the curtains and the light from the street allowed him to see the tell-tale red marks around her throat. She had been strangled like the others. He went across and felt her neck. For a moment he was not sure but the excitement in his own heart and the thumping in his chest told him he was right before his mind allowed him to accept it. She was alive. He turned her on to her back before phoning for an ambulance. Then his lips sought hers with a fervour not matched during their one night together. He inflated her lungs, felt for her heart and gave six fierce pumping movements with both hands. He had repeated the procedure six times before the ambulance men were ringing the bell. Once they had taken over, he called Comben. Anderson felt sure it had been Turney but, at ten to five, it was far too late for Comben to catch him before he got back to Amanda‘s flat. He asked his sergeant to wait for him and soon they were both standing on Amanda Clayden‘s doorstep. Mark Turney answered the entry-phone. He let them in. Anderson looked at his bare feet as he opened the door upstairs. He was wearing a man‘s dressing gown but apparently nothing else. There were no marks around his ankles, no scratches, so there wouldn‘t be any signs of the struggle under Anderson‘s own nails. For the first time he cursed his habit of cutting and buffing his nails close to the tops of his fingers. Clarissa might have struggled, of course, but then any signs of a wife on her husband could easily be explained away. Even if she recovered, she might not have seen him and so might not be able to give evidence against him. He would get away with it. Still, Anderson was sure it was Turney‘s ankles and firm muscular limbs that he had held and felt in the pit of his stomach. And there was something else, something that explained the paucity of material sent for forensic analysis. He had a memory of feeling shiny material and of seeing a fuzziness about the face that he had sensed even in the faint light. And the hands — no sense of flesh more like rubber. Turney had not been dressed normally and Anderson did not think they‘d find those clothes in Amanda‘s flat. Turney had a hiding place. Chapter 14 Kearney tried not to say so but it had been his mistake. One tactic would have been to blame Anderson for being out of contact for twenty-four hours but Anderson knew he couldn‘t do that. If he did, then it was tantamount to an admission that his decision had been faulty. No, his strategy was a combination of bluster and reproach about Anderson‘s secrecy. Why had he not been told about Anderson‘s suspicions? Why had he been left to suppose Simanovicz was the culprit? And anyway was Anderson so sure it wasn‘t him? Anderson was not prepared to allow Kearney one iota of comfort. He sat and drew his chair up to Kearney‘s desk even before being asked to take a seat. Then he lent forward until Kearney, although he was a yard or so away across the desktop, flinched backwards. Finally, as though in consideration of his superior‘s feelings, Anderson lent back and relaxed into the leather of his chair before speaking. ‗David,‘ he said using the Super‘s first name. It was the first time he had breached protocol since Kearney had been promoted over him — the Super would understand the significance. ‗We‘ve worked well together for a number of years and on my part I‘ve been very happy at the arrangement. Your talents suit the job you do, a job that I could not do.‘ He paused. Kearney said nothing. ‗One of the strengths of our arrangement is that you let me do the detective work. You let me run my cases and I believe we‘ve both benefited from that.‘ Kearney nodded. The corollary to what Anderson was saying did not have to be spelt out. This one intervention could have disastrous consequences for both their careers. Anderson could see that Kearney was waiting to see whether his old friend and colleague could get him out of the hole he had dug for himself. ‗Maybe I should have kept you in the picture but in the past you haven‘t wanted that. And I‘ve been happy to take the responsibility until I could present you with the completed case. I have felt no need to burden you with doubts as I went along. That‘s what being in charge of a case means.‘ For a moment, Anderson thought Kearney was going to intervene. He knew that the man must have been bursting with suppressed indignation as Anderson spelt out to him the basics of their arrangement but he deserved the lecture. It wasn‘t as though Anderson was doing it simply to enjoy himself – although he was getting pleasure out of the situation – it was a lesson that he hoped would produce results for the future. Anderson had no intention of working under a man who did not know his own limits. ‗But now this has happened, you must be burdened with the details. First, I have Simanovicz. Comben and I arrested him and he is at Stoke Newington. We‘ve questioned him and I have been doubtful about his guilt ever since. He was in custody when Mrs Downing was attacked.‘ Anderson paused and was pleased to see Kearney‘s mouth drop. Then it was Kearney‘s turn to surprise him. ‗I know you had Simanovicz; that‘s why I released Mrs Downing. The Super at Stoke Newington phoned me. What I didn’t know was that you were so doubtful about him.‘ ‗I see,‘ Anderson said, ‗the old boy network came into play. Well, you understand now why I wanted Mrs Downing to be kept safe. What you don‘t know about is the work DI Fielding has been doing. She‘s discovered that we might have an American serial killer on the loose over here and we suspect that Mark Turney is that man.‘ ‗So I released Mrs Downing into the arms of a murderer.‘ Anderson nodded. Kearney had got the message loud and clear. The two men looked at each other. There was no need to spell out the consequences for Kearney if Clarissa died. Interfering with the conduct of a case was a serious breech of police etiquette. To get it wrong and cause a death was a resignation matter. ‗Have you arrested Turney?‘ ‗No,‘ said Anderson, ‗we have absolutely no evidence to do so.‘ ‗He stands to gain from her death?‘ It was hardly a question. They both knew what was at stake. ‗Yes,‘ said Anderson, ‗millions.‘ Anderson wasn‘t sure about this, maybe it was just hundreds of thousands but ‗millions‘ sounded better. Kearney opened his mouth. Anderson imagined he was going to ask questions and make suggestions. He didn‘t. ‗I‘ve great confidence in you,‘ he said, ‗I won‘t interfere further.‘ When he got back to his office, Fielding and Comben were poring over a detailed map of the area. They had marked a wide channel between Amanda‘s flat and Clarissa‘s house. Inside the area, a street was marked out in green. Fielding didn‘t look up as Anderson came into the office. She continued to look at the map but she did explain. ‗What we‘re looking for cannot be far from both Clarissa‘s house and Amanda‘s flat. He had to have time to change and then change back between his journeys and we know he was back and in bed within forty-five minutes of the attack.‘ ‗And Amanda Clayden?‘ ‗She only woke up when I rang the bell,‘ said Comben. ‗They went to bed at eleven and, as far as she knows, Turney was beside her all night.‘ ‗She doesn‘t take sleeping pills?‘ asked Anderson. ‗No,‘ said Comben, ‗apparently they have better ways of getting sleepy.‘ Anderson met Comben‘s smirk without a smile. The boy must learn when to be serious. ‗What‘s that?‘ he asked, pointing at the green area marked on the map. ‗It‘s an old-fashioned mews. There are a number of lock-up garages rented out there,‘ said Comben. Anderson looked at Fielding. ‗We should have search warrants very soon now.‘ It was good to have Fielding on the case. It had been much more tiring doing all the thinking. Anderson felt very weary and decided to go home. ‗I must rest,‘ he said. ‗Do so,‘ said Fielding, ‗I had a good sleep last night. Mrs Downing has twenty-four hour protection and, if anything turns up at the garages, I‘ll phone you.‘ ‗Where‘s Simanovicz?‘ he asked. ‗I asked Stoke Newington to take him back to his parents,‘ Fielding said. ‗Who knows about that?‘ ‗Mark Turney doesn‘t,‘ said Comben. The garage was not hard to find and Fielding had her forensic team at work within the hour. The car inside had been stolen and there was no way of tracing the bicycle. Fielding did not imagine that Turney would have left any evidence connecting him to the place. She felt sorry for Comben‘s hangdog expression but she couldn‘t allow morale to slump. The rest of the team she sent out to trace the owner of the garage and to get some sort of a lead on the tenant. Then there was the car. It would help to know when and where it had been stolen. She took Comben to the hospital to look over the security arrangements. She was shocked to see Turney sitting by Clarissa‘s bed. There was a constable in the room but there were too many vulnerable tubes and wires connecting the poor woman to the machine that kept her alive. Comben sat down beside Turney and Fielding went in search of the senior surgeon in charge of the case. The doctor came back with her and banished Turney from the room. The constable was allowed to stay but only sitting at a distance. The surgeon gave a convincing performance about his medical concerns to the supposedly grieving husband. Fielding had already thanked him in advance. It was his opinion, he said to Turney, that the presence of emotional relatives would spoil the calmness of the ward and was not good for the patient. Turney left: in a hospital, a surgeon‘s opinion is tantamount to law. Fielding asked the Super for two more officers to be permanently at the hospital — one in the corridor outside the ward as well as the one inside and one other. The ward was on the first floor but an agile person could easily climb up from the enclosed garden outside. She stationed a third in the quadrangle. Kearney made no fuss about the overtime and the cost involved. Turney spent the rest of the morning at the hospital. The site plans helped and were displayed everywhere for the benefit of patients and visitors. But there was not enough detail and he walked around the grounds to see for himself how easy it was going to be. Finding the incinerator was essential and, when he did, he found the place locked with no one on duty. It had been the same at Central Middlesex where he had disposed of his gear in the past; the facility was used intermittently and mostly at night when the smoke it emitted could not be seen by nearby residents. It would do nicely when the time came; he could easily force the lock and add his green plastic bag to the rest waiting to be burnt. No one would rummage around a pile of clinical waste to find his overalls. Then he walked round the block where Clarissa was receiving intensive care. It was built in the form of a hollow square around a quadrangle. The wards were on the upper two floors with the service areas in the basement. He wandered as though lost at ground level and then took the stairs down. He wandered at will without being challenged. It was always a surprise to him that people felt safe in a hospital. The imponderable was Anderson. If he could jostle him mentally into doing what was wanted, then it would be easy. Before he drove north to Watford he fetched his gear from the cemetery and left it close to the hospital incinerator. Back home in the light of day, Anderson slept. It was unusual of him to be able to do so but his exhaustion allowed it. When he woke it was two in the afternoon and he was angry with himself. He had dreamt and blamed himself as he dreamed. He awoke as tired as he had been that morning or so he thought. But once he got out of bed, he realised that his limbs, at least, did feel stronger. Turney had managed to stay ahead of them: that was what irritated him. He had to put that right. It was time to take a jump forward and anticipate instead of reacting. And that meant getting inside the man and understanding what made him work. Clearly money did. This whole case had been about money — Clarissa‘s money. The first two murders had been blinds. Turney had used his previous experience to jump on Simanovicz‘s ideas as he had done before. But this time he was doing so for profit. The two dead women had never been important to him. They were as irrelevant to Turney as Patricia Rathbone and the other victims in Britain and the States. There was no motive for those senseless killings; all they indicated was Turney‘s psychopathic tendencies. But he had now found a way of making use of his apprenticeship for profit. An idea came to him, a notion that needed developing. He needed coffee. Lavazza, of course, twice the amount recommended by the percolator manufacturers. For some reason, it appeared that the British had a taste for weak coffee or at least coffee-making machine manufacturers thought so. He was sure that in France or Italy the number of recommended scoops per cup would be greater. He watched the water dribble into the top of the filter and drip out underneath a dark brown colour. He did not try to think. The coffee would bring his mind into focus soon enough. Any forcing would distract the processes that were continuing beneath the surface of his consciousness. Two cups later he was certain what Turney would do. He would be attracted by killing two birds with one stone — that was it. He was an economical killer. If one murder could serve two purposes that was what he would go for. Then he phoned Fielding‘s mobile and asked if Turney was still at the hospital. He had left four hours ago at least. Then he tried to phone Kevin Walker but his line was unobtainable. The local mechanics would look into it so they said. The Watford police were alerted and a few hours later phoned back. Walker‘s lines had been cut and he had seen Mark Turney from his flat window. He was scared. Anderson understood. Turney was a frightening man especially if you had crossed him and he must know by now that Walker had been responsible for Felicity turning up in London. But if he was right, then being seen by Walker was only part of Turney‘s plan. He would want to see Anderson himself or at least Fielding or Comben. He would want his diversion to distract from the hospital bed in Camden. Anderson phoned Fielding and told him about the Turney sighting. They agreed that Comben should go and that he should be armed. Anderson could not allow another murder to take place while he was looking the other way. It might be a feint on Turney‘s part but then it might not. Still he expected Turney back in Camden quite soon and he made his plans. Turney made quite sure that Walker saw him and his car. Then he parked it across the street and waited. Kevin wouldn‘t want to come outside to get help but he couldn‘t phone the police from home, nor could he ask a neighbour to phone for him. Turney had cut most of the lines going to the block of flats. It was a gamble and it might not prove much of a distraction but he felt confident in Anderson. The man would eventually think of Walker. And, since Turney imagined they regarded him as a wild animal, it was logical to imagine he would take revenge on Walker. It was two or three hours later than Comben arrived. Turney stayed in full view of Kevin‘s window, then, as soon as Walker, with Comben at his side, pointed to him, Turney got out of the car and walked away towards the station. There was plenty of time. Watford Junction to Willesden Junction took thirty minutes then the train to Hampstead Heath another thirty. Leaving time for connections, he should be at the hospital in less than two hours. He had a few minutes to wait for his train, so he phoned the Royal Free Hospital. Clarissa was stable but still under intensive care, so they said. Should he believe them? Probably not. He phoned again and asked for the private wing. Then he asked whether his wife had yet been transferred. There was enough delay before they said ‗no‘ to tell him what he wanted to know. At the hospital he ignored the main entrance and skirted around the back to where he could climb a low wall behind the incinerator. He was very fond of incinerators; they had helped him to rid himself of unwanted baggage in the past. By the side of the low brick-built building, under a bush, he had hidden the clothes he had stolen from a hospital cupboard earlier. He dressed himself in the nondescript green overalls that distinguished those employees of low status from the doctors and nurses. Absolutely no one would take any notice of him. When he had worked at a hospital in the States, one of his duties was to collect waste from the wards and take them to the incinerator. There was a high turnover of staff in this section and, he supposed it would be the same over here, so his unfamiliarity should pass unnoticed — no one would be likely make any enquiries. It was possible that, later, some nurse would remember seeing a new face but it was unlikely that she would be able to recognise him again. He felt secure as he found a trolley in the basement and wheeled it into the Private Wing. The policeman outside one of the rooms was enough of an indication for him. He left his trolley and went downstairs to the outside of the building to work out how he could get into the room without being seen. It was difficult but he reckoned he could climb up to the window. To get inside, though, he needed someone to leave a window ajar. A trip back to the incinerator gave him what he needed. Inside and upstairs again he wheeled his trolley into Clarissa‘s room. The officer outside followed him in and the one inside watched him carefully. He wore a mask this time to collect the waste and his bin was marked with the words ‗Clinical Waste‘. The two men kept well away from him. Before he left, he hid a cloth soaked in chloroform behind the waste bin. It would take a while but the officer inside would open the window eventually. As he wheeled his trolley past the bed, he glanced over at his wife. There were some wires attaching her to a machine but no tubes or oxygen masks. He had not done very well last time. This time it would be easier. A pillow should do the job as long as he held it there long enough. He couldn‘t imagine that she would struggle much or for long. All he had to remember was to disconnect the machine. Then he went back to the incinerator and prepared himself. It was five o‘clock and dark but he would wait until the night shift took over at six. The changeover traffic should lead to enough confusion to cover any noise he might make or, hopefully, Clarissa‘s machine if it sent out a warning when disconnected. If he could get into the room, then he reckoned that the officer inside should be reasonably easy to subdue with a cloth soaked in more chloroform. But he could afford to leave no traces. If he wanted to inherit, they mustn‘t be able to prove anything. Suspicions he could live with. He wouldn‘t be coming from inside the hospital, so he could cover his face with a mask. All his clothing would go into the incinerator before he left the hospital grounds. Trainers were necessary for climbing but he had bought them from a multiple store and he had stolen the decontamination gear from a building site he had worked on at Watford. Nor was the garage a problem: when they found it and they would – nothing inside would connect the place to him. Now he had to think about what Anderson had been doing. Would he wait all night at Intensive Care? He thought not. He must know that tonight was the best night. At any time Clarissa might gain consciousness. Turney didn‘t imagine that she could tell them anything but it was just possible that she could. Anderson would know he couldn‘t take the risk. So, at some point Anderson would check on the Private Ward and it was impossible to know when. Turney decided that he would give him a good reason to stay put. Access to the quadrangle outside the Intensive Care ward window was through a single door. But, at the semi-basement level, there were a number of windows that opened wide enough for him to get through. Turney walked around inside the building at the semi-basement level below the main hospital corridors. There was no one there at that time of the evening. Through a window Turney saw him. The man Anderson had stationed was restless and, after a few minutes, he walked to and for in front of the wall under where Clarissa was supposed to be. Turney guessed that Anderson would be above. Turney eased out of a window into a shadow. The moon illuminated part of the officer‘s beat and he crept around until he was crouching below the man‘s line of sight in the shadow at the end where the man would turn. But this time he didn‘t come that far. Instead, the man stopped and crouched down himself. Turney stayed very still. His right hand was in his pocket clutching a chloroformed cloth sealed in a plastic bag. After two or three minutes, the policeman fidgeted and Turney knew he would be up quite soon. Turney prepared himself and the cloth. This time when he came close and turned, Turney rose as well and placed his chloroformed rag over the man‘s mouth as he pressed into his neck with his spare arm. Turney sank down with him on to the ground. He had wanted some noise to attract Anderson‘s attention but there was none; he would have to wait. It was eight o‘clock. Then Turney crawled back through the window but did not attempt to close it. He walked to the far end of the corridor and waited. It was half an hour before Anderson came out on to the balcony above and shouted. Then he came down the staircase that served as a fire escape into the garden. Turney imagined that he would have thirty minutes at least to do what he had to. Anderson worried about his decision. The hospital had wanted to free an expensive bed and, though he could have resisted, it appeared to fit in well with his strategy. Moving Clarissa to another ward – now she was fit enough – seemed to be a sensible safety measure. If there had been a struggle in the intensive care ward, Clarissa could have been harmed while they overpowered the man. But then there was the unscheduled visit to her room in the Private Wing. It was easily possible that Turney now knew Clarissa was there and that had meant splitting his forces. And it had meant moving Clarissa once more despite the hospital‘s objections. And then there was Fielding — that was a worry too. Every half-hour he checked round by phone and then at about eight Wilkins didn‘t answer. He climbed out of the window on to the fire escape and shouted. There was no answering call and downstairs the smell of chloroform told him why. There was an open window but no sign of Turney. He alerted Fielding and then trotted through the hospital grounds towards the Private Wing. Chapter 15 Turney looked up and saw one window illuminated from inside. He was also pleased to see from the angle of reflection of the light that the window was ajar. He climbed up a drainpipe and then looked in through the window; a uniformed officer sat across from the bed, which he could not see. A strut held the window partly open; if he could manage to lift it off without being heard, he could probably be on top of the man before he could raise the alarm. It was a chance he had to take. He was waiting for the officer to show signs of tiredness, when Anderson came into the room. That was enough; he began to slide quietly down the drainpipe. He would have to try another time — if he ever got another chance. Then he heard a woman‘s voice from above and stopped. He heaved himself up and saw that Fielding was in the room with Anderson. She was dressed in a hospital night-gown. Turney understood immediately what had happened: Anderson must have expected him and put the policewoman in the bed instead of Clarissa. He had not been as inconspicuous earlier as he had hoped. Down on the ground, he slipped out of his outside clothing. Then, dressed in hospital greens, he went into the Private Wing through the basement and walked up the internal stairs until he was on the right floor. He looked down the corridor so that he could see the door outside of which sat a uniformed policeman. He was in time to see the three police officers come out of the room. He heard Anderson send Fielding – now dressed – and the two uniformed officers arrange a search of the grounds. Anderson then went into another room across the corridor from the first. Now Turney knew where Clarissa was and, better still, there was no one outside her room. He walked along until he was beside her door and glanced through the glass panel set into it. Anderson had settled himself into a chair opposite to the bed half way between the door and the window. Turney appreciated his caution — he wouldn‘t want to be surprised from either direction. Then Turney put on a surgeon‘s facemask and crouched below the level of the window before reaching for the door handle. The light went off almost immediately after Anderson heard the door open. Then time slowed. He wondered whether he could honestly say he recognised Turney in the half-light with a hospital mask over his face. And if he did, whether it would stand up in court. Before he could decide, he was thrown to the floor and felt the sweet smell of chloroform engulf him. It was tempting to give in to its charms but deep down he knew that Turney could not allow him to live. A jury might believe his identification. Now he had two very good reasons for fighting. He relaxed and, because the chair was half under him, his body tipped over. Turney rolled with him and couldn‘t resist the momentum as Anderson continued the roll until he was on top. Turney no longer had his weight to keep the rag in place and Anderson lent back far enough so that Turney had to stretch to reach him. Anderson knocked Turney‘s arm aside and breathed in fresh air — if dry hot hospital air could ever be fresh. Then Anderson made a grab for Turney‘s mask but he shouldn‘t have done so, because it gave the man time to throw a punch at his face. Anderson jerked back to ride the blow and this gave Turney the opportunity to push him aside. Turney was quickly on to his feet and Anderson felt the power of the man‘s legs yet again as Turney kicked him in the ribs. But, just like last time at the house, his feet in trainers couldn‘t do too much damage and Anderson rolled aside and was up on his feet as Turney launched himself. The two men landed on top of the bed and Anderson felt Clarissa squirm beneath him. On another occasion, Anderson would have been pleased to feel signs of life coming from the woman. But the pressure of two men on top of her made him think that her revival might be short lived. He grasped Turney and rolled with him on to the floor. Turney was on top and heavier. Anderson felt the breath being squeezed from him and then felt his chin forced upwards by Turney‘s head. He tried to force the man‘s head away with his hands but then had to grasp Turney‘s wrists as the man‘s hands encircled his unguarded neck. Turney used his weight and his head to push Anderson‘s chin up, so that he could dig his fingers deep into Anderson‘s windpipe. Anderson began to lose hope. Then, just as Anderson felt he was about to lose consciousness, Turney jumped up and away from him and was across the room and out of the door before he could recover. Over him stood a shape and, when he regained proper vision, he saw it was Clarissa. She fell on top of him. He helped her back to bed and called for a nurse, then he called Fielding on her mobile. As he ran, he felt with his right hand over his left shoulder. He didn‘t seem to be bleeding much, so Clarissa had not hit an artery. Turney knew that must be so otherwise he would be dead. An inch or two higher and to the right and he would have been badly hurt but luckily for him, she had only hit the muscles above his shoulder blade. It hurt but he made himself hold the scissors in place to reduce the bleeding. He wouldn‘t want his own blood spattered in a trail leading from her room. He was thinking fast. He needed time to dispose of his overalls and the scissors and dress in his normal clothes, then there‘d be nothing but the wound to connect him with the hospital. That was the main problem. It would take him longer to get home than Anderson or the others, so they would be waiting for him. He had to have some story for them. He needed Amanda. He needed her to do something for him and he needed her to get away from the flat before the police got there. But first his clothes. He changed and then bundled everything else into a green bag, levered open the door to the incinerator and placed the bag under the pile already there. His shoulder hurt but it hadn‘t stiffened up yet. The adrenaline was flowing and that kept him going, even though the blood began to flow with the effort. He phoned from a call box a hundred yards or so down the road from the hospital. She answered and he was in time: the police had not yet arrived. He had a chance but it was a slim one. She was surprised at his request but said she would do as he asked and meet him outside the gates to the cemetery. She was waiting when he got there. She was holding the kitchen knife in her right hand and, before she could ask him anything, he got hold of her hand turned his back to her and dug the blade through his jacket and shirt into his wound. He reckoned he knew just where it was. He nearly fainted. Amanda screamed and tried to withdraw her hand from the blade but he kept a firm grip until the blade penetrated. Then he let go. He turned and saw Amanda‘s horrified face before he dropped to the ground. ‗Have you got a handkerchief,‘ he said, ‗I‘m bleeding.‘ She rummaged in her pocket and came out with a small dainty cloth. ‗That will have to do,‘ he said and took the cloth and pressed it firmly below his neck with his left hand. Then he grasped her around the waist with his right arm and pulled himself upright. They walked off with him leaning towards her with his right arm around her shoulders. She staggered under his weight but steadied herself after a few strides. ‗Better put the knife in your pocket,‘ he said. She hadn‘t said a word yet and Turney could see she was stunned, so he opened the pocket of her coat wide so that she could drop the knife into it. Then she spoke. ‗Why?‘ she asked. ‗I wanted us to be together always,‘ he said. She looked puzzled, so he went on. ‗I‘ve done something bad or tried to but it was for us,‘ he said. ‗What did you do?‘ ‗I tried to kill Clarissa.‘ ‗Did you succeed?‘ ‗No thank god,‘ he said, then he staggered a little as though about to faint and Amanda took more of his weight. The trip round the cemetery back to the flat took half an hour. Anderson, Comben and Fielding were waiting for them when they arrived. Fielding drove Amanda back to the station. Anderson wondered whether to take Turney to hospital but the man seemed lively enough, so he got Comben to take him back to the station in a police car. He didn‘t want to use his BMW and have the man bleeding all the way on to his leather upholstery. No one was to speak to them on the way and they couldn‘t speak to each other. Anderson wanted this to be played by the book. He did not intend to allow Turney to get out of this. At the station, he got the doctor to look at his wound. With a corpse, it would have been easier to discover what sort of sharp instrument had caused the wound but the doctor was more interested in stopping the bleeding than carrying out a forensic investigation. Still, Turney could hardly claim that he had cut his shoulder shaving. The blade had penetrated an inch into him. Anderson wondered what sort of story he would concoct to explain that. Amanda seemed shaken and Anderson allowed Fielding to question her. She seemed confused and all they found out was that the blood on the knife in her pocket came from Turney. Outside the interview room, he discussed it with Fielding. ‗If she stands by him, we haven‘t got enough,‘ Anderson said. Fielding looked puzzled. ‗But you saw him,‘ she said, ‗the two of you struggled with him.‘ ‗Mrs Downing is too ill to be a good witness. And my testimony will be made to look like jealousy. Remember he had a mask on all the time.‘ ‗I see,‘ said Fielding, ‗so he‘ll say he had a fight with Amanda and she stabbed him. His wound had nothing to do with Mrs Downing.‘ ‗Quite and, if she backs his story, he‘ll get away with it — probably.‘ ‗But you and Mrs Downing — no one will say anything.‘ ‗In court they will and remember Turney already suspects something happened between us. No one‘s going to risk their career to dig me out of a hole.‘ Fielding wondered whether to tell him that she would but maybe he wouldn‘t like that. She said something different. ‗Let her go. No, even better, let‘s get Lesley Rathbone to pick her up and take her home. She‘ll be pleased to do so once we tell her what has happened.‘ Chapter 16 He came back from the bathroom and slipped under the covers. Clarissa turned and they hugged each other. Anderson waited patiently for Clarissa to break away. His marriage had taught him not to be the first to slip out of an embrace. Now they were barely touching as he lay on his back waiting for the right moment to turn, switch off his table lamp and search for sleep. She spoke and, in a moment, he was wide-awake. It was unusually tactful of her to wait for the right moment. Anderson had soon learnt that, as an independent woman, she had long since given up pandering to male egos. It had to be something unpleasant but nothing serious enough to row over. So, she had brought it to surface at a moment of special intimacy. Anderson appreciated her timing. It was not too soon, which would spoil the exquisite pleasure that pervades a couple after sex and persuades them that they have merged and are now one. But it was not too late; reason had not yet resurfaced and shattered the illusion of oneness. He turned his head. She kept her eyes on the ceiling. ‗Will Mark go to prison for a long time?‘ she asked. He lent over and ran his fingers over her neck. It was still red and sensitive and even his light touch caused her to flinch. He wanted to show her that he understood that Mark‘s release would be an imprisonment for her; a confinement defined by the man‘s ability to reach her and harm her. But what could he say. ‗We‘ve a meeting with the CPS tomorrow,‘ he said. She turned towards him. ‗CPS?‘ ‗Crown Prosecution Service,‘ he said. ‗What‘s the meeting for?‖ she asked. Anderson took a deep breath. She hadn‘t yet found the courage to step inside her own home. That was why they were in his flat, in his bed. What he had to say would not be pleasant. ‗It‘s the CPS who decide whether to prosecute and, if so, what the charges would be.‘ Clarissa raised herself on her elbow. He could see that his words had shocked her. Fear, he had seen its signs many times: the special whiteness of the skin, the glistening of sweat suddenly released and the fine quivering of muscles. Her free hand clasped her neck. ‗Are you saying he might be set free?‘ ‗It‘s possible.‘ ‗After trying to kill me and all those others.‘ ‗It‘s the lack of evidence. I‘ll do all I can but it‘s still up to them.‘ Clarissa slumped on to her back. ‗We both recognised him in the hospital and surely the Clayden girl won‘t defend him now?‘ ‗You were sick and Mark was masked. They may not believe that either of us could identify him to the satisfaction of a jury.‘ ‗And Amanda?‘ ‗Mark says he was about to jilt her. A jury might believe she‘s lying about the knife episode.‘ ‗Forensic evidence? There must be some of that to connect him to us and maybe some of the others as well.‘ ‗No, he destroyed everything that might have incriminated him. We‘ve got no forensic evidence.‘ Anderson wondered when the questions would stop. Each one when answered sent a tremor through his lover. Each answer made her clasp her neck. Then her left elbow slid away from her and she collapsed back. ‗There‘s something else,‘ she said. Anderson waited. ‗My solicitor thinks I should sue the police.‘ Anderson had no need to ask why. ‗I know it was not your decision, so I hope it doesn‘t embarrass you.‘ ‗It would be better if you didn‘t do it before Mark‘s trial, if we ever do get him into court.‘ Clarissa turned again. Anderson could see she was puzzled. ‗What difference would it make?‘ she asked. ‗Kearney knew about us. He made the decision to send you home to avoid scandal. If we shovel dirt on to him, he might do the same to me. He might even decide not to back me in the case against Mark.‘ ‗So that‘s the way it works,‘ she said. ‗Yes, that‘s the way it works. Mark already suspects that there‘s something between us. It might come up at trial anyway. It wouldn‘t help.‘ ‗And tomorrow?‘ Anderson had thought about that. Kearney wouldn‘t mention it; it wouldn‘t help him. Fielding and Comben? Of course not and not only because of loyalty to him. They wanted Turney behind bars as much as he did. But where had the gossip stopped? They had decided that three of them would make the case. Anderson as officer in charge, Kearney to ensure they knew he was fully behind his man and Fielding to present the American side of the case. The files they all carried were thick, too thick for Anderson‘s comfort. His own contribution had been fulsome. It had been example of trying to cover up a lack of hard evidence with reams of circumstantial nonsense. Then Fielding had added to it. It might just work in court in front of a jury but Anderson knew that it wouldn‘t work here. Anderson admired Fielding‘s judgement. She had thought about presentation, as he had, and was wearing a suit with a skirt, a jacket with wide power-shoulders and a discreet amount of jewellery and make-up. She had even phoned him to find out what colour suit he would be wearing. He had said grey; she was in dark blue. Kearney as the senior man had allowed himself a touch of frivolity: a bright tie. Anderson had a waistcoat to show solidity. He wondered whether it was Kearney‘s influence that had got them a second chance. He couldn‘t believe that it was the public‘s safety that had made the difference. They had been summoned to the CPS headquarters and it was the Director‘s deputy who was sitting at the head of the table. Anderson had met him before but years ago, when the man did this sort of thing regularly before his promotions. Obviously, he felt this case was something special. Next to him were a man and a woman Anderson had never seen before. They were much younger. Clearly, it was their case and Anderson supposed they had rejected it. Anderson noticed that apart from the thick files he had passed on to the CPS each of the three had a thinner file. Did it contain a distillation of his own overblown report or was it something else? Either way it didn‘t look good. The three of them sat together on one of the long sides of the table, Kearney nearest the Deputy Director, Anderson next and then Fielding. Opposite the two senior police officers sat the two younger prosecutors. There were introductions but no pleasantries. The weather was not mentioned and there were no polite enquiries about families or wives. Anderson knew that Kearney and Matteson had known each other for years. He even had the suspicion that they went to school together. Perhaps that was why they were allowed this audience. But whatever connection the two men had, was not revealed by their initial exchanges. Matteson spoke first. ‗There are one or two matters I want to clear up first before we get down to the main agenda,‘ he said. A committeeman, the word came easily to Anderson‘s mind. ‗Is this meeting to be minuted?‘ asked Kearney. The question seemed to surprise the prosecutors. The woman had a pencil and pad at the ready. Anderson could see a heading already in place. ‗As you can see,‘ said Matteson, indicating with the upturned palm of his left hand the young woman introduced to them as Miss Joanna Smythe. ‗You won‘t mind then if we do the same.‘ Matteson‘s nod was curt rather than affable. Fielding reached inside her handbag for a pen and pad. Anderson saw that Kearney might want to cover himself and the station should anything go wrong but that would be cold comfort to Clarissa. It was looking much worse. This whole thing could be a charade set up by Kearney to assuage his troops. He might know already what the decision was going to be. Matteson continued. ‗I understand that Mrs Downing was released from protective custody the day before she was attacked. Was that her own choice?‘ Anderson answered before Kearney. He wanted to show willing even if it was hopeless. If he tried to protect Kearney then he could expect the same from his superior. ‗Mrs Downing was very bored. She wanted to get home and back to work. She‘s a writer.‘ ‗So she asked to be allowed to go home?‘ There was no way to avoid it now and although Anderson was willing to continue, Kearney interrupted him. ‗I sent her home. I knew Simanovicz our suspect was in custody and I thought it was safe.‘ ‗But it wasn‘t,‘ said Matteson. ‗You know she might sue?‘ Kearney didn‘t know and Anderson had not thought to tell him. ‗No,‘ said Kearney. ‗But I understand Detective Chief Inspector Anderson was in charge of the case. Why was it left to you?‘ asked Matteson. ‗He could not be reached,‘ said Kearney. Matteson glanced at Anderson. ‗My home phone was out of order,‘ he said. ‗You have a mobile instrument, haven‘t you?‘ ‗I switch it off at home.‘ ‗Well we‘ll leave that to Mrs Downing‘s solicitors shall we. I‘m sure they‘ll have a great deal more to ask but it really isn‘t our affair. The more important question is Turney‘s allegation. ‗What allegation?‘ asked Kearney. Matteson turned to his left and Chandler spoke for the first time. ‗Turney‘s solicitor has alleged that his wife is having an affair with a police officer and that is why he‘s being persecuted.‘ ‗He‘s a murderer,‘ Anderson said, ‗and that‘s why we‘re trying to put him behind bars. There is no other reason.‘ ‗Quite,‘ said Matteson, ‗but it‘s the impression we make on a jury that counts. I‘m not going into court and made to look a fool.‘ ‗Then let someone more keen do it,‘ said Kearney. Anderson was impressed. It looked as though Kearney had some steel about him. He was beginning to fight. If Turney was let out and killed again, as he would, then Kearney was not going to be blamed this time. ‗I meant I‘m not going to allow the department to look foolish,‘ said Matteson. ‗We‘re all going to look very bad indeed if Turney gets out,‘ said Anderson. ‗The question is not whether Turney is locked up. It‘s whether he‘s locked up before he kills again. You‘ve all read the evidence. Is there anyone around this table who doesn‘t think Turney is a violent serial killer and a menace?‘ ‗That‘s hardly the point,‘ said Chandler. Anderson didn‘t let him continue. ‗Oh yes it is. What isn‘t important is whether you get egg on your face. We‘ve got to have a go and try and convict Turney. I certainly won‘t sleep in peace if we let him go and he kills again. The question is will you?‘ ‗And do you think DCI Anderson that you‘ve done all you could to bring this man to justice?‘ replied Chandler. Anderson knew what he was insinuating. He could not allow it to pass. ‗Can we go off the record for a moment?‘ he asked looking at Matteson. He nodded and both the women put down their pads. ‗You may think I‘ve made a mistake by getting involved with Clarissa Downing but remember this: unless I had, I wouldn‘t have had my suspicions about Turney. She would be dead by now and Turney would be a millionaire.‘ ‗Still,‘ said Matteson, ‗it doesn‘t help the case. What have we got that would prevent a judge from throwing it out?‘ ‗Amanda Clayden‘s evidence,‘ said Fielding. It was the first time she had spoken and her clear firm feminine voice brought the men back from the brink. ‗I take it that we would all like to put Turney away. And I believe the best way to do this is to work together.‘ It was a refreshing counter to the belligerency that had swept over the table and Anderson was thankful for it. ‗Unfortunately, we‘ve had a number of high profile failures in the department recently. The Director is keen not to have another fiasco.‘ Miss Smythe matched Fielding in tone, although her accent was several points up the class scale from Fielding‘s. She continued. ‗Is Miss Clayden going to make a good witness? She‘s an adulterer, she‘s young and pretty which can work both ways and Turney alleges that she‘s lying because he jilted her. A woman scorned and all that. It‘s not a good list.‘ ‗Turney‘s account isn‘t credible. Why break up with Amanda outside a cemetery three hundred yards from the flat they share? Why phone her and ask her to bring a knife?‘ Smythe continued. ‗We can‘t prove Turney asked her to bring a knife but we do know about the phone call and we do know it was made at a call box near the hospital.‘ The two women had managed to bring the discussion back to the nitty-gritty of the evidence and Anderson could see that they were enjoying their limelight. It was a friendly sparring. Smythe was trying to find chinks in Fielding‘s argument but hoping not to. Smythe continued. ‗In my mind it depends on DCI Anderson. Miss Clayden‘s evidence is neutralised by Turney himself — I‘m sure he‘ll make an excellent witness; psychopaths often do. The question is, Detective Chief Inspector, can you convince the jury that you recognised Turney and can you do it when the defence starts throwing mud in your face?‘ ‗Yes I can,‘ said Anderson. There wasn‘t much either side could say after that and there was a full three minutes of silence. Anderson continued to look hard at Matteson who looked down at the table and polished the space in front of him with his fingers while they waited. All six got up without any formal end to the meeting. Anderson looked around him. It wasn‘t a room with the patina of history about it. Modern, with low ceilings, cushioned vinyl floors and lots of diffused lighting — it spoke to Anderson of pragmatism and a lack of principle. Bad decisions would be taken in such a room. Defendable decisions that guaranteed pensions and steady promotion but decisions that gave little hope to those outside. Anderson felt a wave of pessimism flow over him. They left. It was up to the Director, Matteson said. Kearney was not hopeful either. Chapter 17 Turney felt as if he were emerging from a crystalline state. It was as though he had been frozen to preserve his body until a cure could be found for his disease. Well the disease had been short-lived and the cure miraculous: he was free. He hadn‘t faced the possibility of defeat. He had no idea what would happen to him if he was forced to spend years inside prison. He had thought about it. He had known it was more than likely to come and often he had thought it would be a peaceful place. But now there was so much to do and now he had the chance to complete his task. He went back to the flat. She had left, naturally she had left but he would find her. It wasn‘t so much her rejection; it was more the treachery of it. Lovers – especially women – should be loyal. Why else did the law prevent wives from giving evidence against their husbands? And they would have been married had he got rid of Clarissa. No, it was clear that she had been in the wrong to give him up and his freedom did not make it right. And then there was Kevin. Men should stick together, everyone knew that. No, it was clear that Kevin had been in the wrong too. Clarissa was unfinished business and he hated to leave a task undone. ‗Stick at it‘ isn‘t that what his father always said? He would be watched, of course, so he would take his time. The police had to do their job and he felt no animosity towards Anderson. He wasn‘t the brightest of men but he didn‘t hold that against him. American cops were no better. No, he would leave Anderson alone as long as Anderson left him alone. First, he had to look after the money side. He needed to buy time and he had no job. There was an officer on duty outside Clarissa‘s house, so he forced a window at the back. Inside he found the key to the side door. The back way over the fence that he had used before would come in useful again. Bits of jewellery, video and Hi Fi equipment he could carry over the fence so he took whatever was portable. He knew she wouldn‘t be back in time to notice the loss until it was too late. It was a treasure chest that he could raid intermittently for some time. Her laptop was still there and so were the PC, carpets, original paintings and he supposed much else that was saleable. Given time he could manoeuvre much of it over fences and on to the street. He knew where she had gone and he knew where Anderson lived. For a day or two he would hang around outside, so he could be seen. That should keep the great detective busy for a while. Kevin would be the first. Would he have run already? He thought not. Kevin would know that he could trace him and that he would be persistent. He would stay where he was and hope that whatever precautions he took would work. Building sites were good places for ‗accidents‘. Kevin‘s flat would by now have all sorts of security devices fitted but building sites were different. He allowed Clarissa a week of looking at him through Anderson‘s top floor window before taking the train to Watford. It was a surprise to Anderson that, of the two women, Amanda held herself together best. Clarissa refused to move from his apartment and couldn‘t sleep without pills once Turney began to stand outside. The doctor had left him in charge of her medication and Clarissa accepted that with surprising docility. They both knew she was hanging on desperately. He knew he had to do something even if it wasn‘t strictly legal and he was forced to have a word to a uniformed sergeant. But Turney disappeared from the front of the flats before the any action could be taken. It had been a long shot anyway. They couldn‘t have done much to Turney even if they had arrested him and taken him down to the station. Anderson knew he shouldn‘t have involved others in the force but he was becoming desperate. Soon he would have to decide how desperate. His respect for ‗law and order‘ had taken a battering. If the authorities couldn‘t protect the innocent citizen then he would have to take the law into his own hands. It was not a phrase that he had any liking for. ‗Taking the law into one‘s own hands‘ had been a recipe for corruption in the force. Was that the way he was going? Amanda Clayden was back living with Lesley Rathbone. Fielding had been to see her and reported to Anderson that she was being careful. But Anderson wondered just how careful that was and whether it was careful enough. He thought he had some idea now of Turney‘s mind. Most murderers want to get away with it. This was what protected their potential victims but he saw Turney as being different. Consequences didn‘t seem to matter to him. He might wish to keep his freedom but it didn‘t seem to Anderson that it was this that was most important to him. He was probably reconciled to being in prison at some time. Anderson imagined that he would be inexorable in carrying out unfinished business. His thoughts constantly harked back to the meeting with the CPS. If the law couldn‘t stop him then someone must. A tour around the town for one morning was enough to find Kevin. He had expected to have to return another day but his chance came earlier than expected. While the crew went off-site for a break he got in through a wire fence at the back and climbed to the top floor. He had seen Kevin up there and he knew that‘s where he would be: they both enjoyed the exhilaration of leaning out over nothingness and balancing on foot-wide girders. There were nets but, as usual, there were holes and no one had tested them. A little push and he would be over and he would make sure there were no witnesses, then it would be one man‘s word against another if it didn‘t work. Turney could see that Kevin was being cautious as the crew came back on site. He looked around him and allowed others to climb before him. Turney hid in a cupboard and waited. He left the cupboard door ajar so he could see something of what was going on. The opportunity came sooner than he had a right to expect. Kevin was calling down for more bricks when Turney placed his hand on his back. The man turned but it was too late. Turney was pleased that Kevin had seen him before falling. The men took time down at ground level checking for life and then covering the body and calling for an ambulance. Turney was away before the police came. In one way Kevin‘s death was a comfort to Anderson, although he wouldn‘t tell Clarissa about Turney‘s attack. There was no evidence, so, yet again, no way of arresting Turney; he hadn‘t even threatened the man. But, each time he acted, there was a chance. A chance that he would make a mistake. Anderson took Fielding and Comben to Watford. Maybe they could find something. The local police had been thorough but the only result was a possible charge against the builders for an unsafe site. No one had caught even a glimpse of Turney. It looked as though twenty-four hour surveillance of the man was the only way to catch him and they couldn‘t afford that. Kearney was sympathetic. If the three of them wanted to, they could take their holidays early and see what they could do. So they took turns outside Amanda‘s and Anderson‘s flats. There was no point in trying to stay with Turney. He had too many ways of leaving his flat without being seen. And then he disappeared entirely. Chapter 18 Anderson swung his legs over the side of the bed and, before he had rested them on the floor, he had the impression that something had been decided. It had happened to him before – the clarification of some problem or decision following a good night’s sleep – and normally he welcomed it. ‗Sleep on it‘ that was the cliché but it had worked for him many times. Now, this time, he allowed the idea remained below the level of his consciousness. Or rather, he made an act of will to keep it there. He moved quietly to the bedroom door and cautiously turned the knob. Lately, even pills did not prevent Clarissa from waking when he got up but this time she didn‘t stir and he was pleased. The fear in her eyes as she reached consciousness was one of the reasons for his decision. Outside in the hall he realised that it was already there in the front of his mind and that he had begun to argue with himself. It was not much of a debate. He knew that the argument, if there had been such a thing, had already been settled. It didn‘t mean that there wouldn‘t be anxieties and regrets. He saw himself as a virgin who had lost their virginity or perhaps had decided to lose it and was feeling a little ashamed in anticipation. The thought brought a wry smile to his mouth. That sort of moral debate dated him. He couldn‘t imagine that many young girls and certainly no young men went through that sort of struggle these days. Later he would look back and try to decide when the idea had come to him and how it had escaped the censor that he imagined had saved him in the past. He had always imagined that it was his well-developed conscience that had separated him from those in his own force who allowed crime to creep over them. Turney would have to die. He allowed the thought to become concrete in his mind and then, as if he were taking some sort of vow, he spoke the words aloud: ‗Turney must die‘. But it was a passive vow: it didn‘t seem to commit him to anything personal, he could still contemplate the words without feeling he was implicated in the act. Afterwards, what would happen afterwards? Could he remain in the police force if he killed a man, if he killed Turney? There it was: he had put it into words — silent words, he wasn‘t sure whether he would ever be able to say them aloud. Perhaps he would have to but it would be only to Clarissa. There wasn‘t anyone else he could ask to do the job for him and so there would be no collusion, no one else that needed or should know. ‗Job‘, was that what it was? Murder the man — that was what he really meant. He busied himself. There was the coffee to make the breakfast to prepare. He let his mind concentrate on those things. He got the newspaper out of the letterbox and read the headlines as though they were important. He gave himself a respite, a sort of moral respite. But it was short lived. How was he going to justify it? Clearly it would be easy to do so to Clarissa but impossible to anyone else. And he didn‘t want to be caught. He was no Raskalnikov. There would be no confession. It wasn‘t so much a decision he had made; it was more an inevitability that had overtaken him. Not that he could or would pretend to himself that he was not responsible. However it was arranged, however he managed to provoke the man, however he camouflaged the event, it would still be murder. He took his first sip of coffee that day — he had crossed the line. For him the thought was equivalent to the act itself — morally to have decided to cross that line was the turning point. Whatever might come between him and the finality of Turney‘s death now mattered little to the judgement he must make about himself. He sat at the table for a while and considered. Murder was murder but perhaps there were degrees of murder? Maybe he could distinguish the act he was set upon from the crude slaying that constituted the raw material of his work. It was worth the attempt, since he had no way of knowing how he would live the rest of his life now that he had decided to make his life‘s work a nonsense. So, he tried, much as a judge who was sympathetic to a plaintiff might subtly allow his feelings to alter the course of his legal judgement and so seek the obscure precedent for what he had wanted to do all along. He tried on some obvious defences: was his act worse than killing for self-defence? If not then he could exonerate himself completely. But where was the immediate threat? He would not have accepted such an excuse from others. Was he doing it to save his loved ones, as though he were a soldier sent to war? But was the danger as real as that? Was it Clarissa‘s or his own welfare that was at stake? What use to him was a woman too scared to live? Was his decision like those others: driven by some overwhelming necessity or temptation into corruption? He had hoped he was better than they were. But then stealing was not the same as murder. If he couldn‘t excuse corruption that was concerned only with money, how could he forgive the taking of a human life? By the time he had taken his first cup of coffee of the day, he had given up. Killing Turney is what he wanted to do and must do. Morality did not come into it, so justification was irrelevant. All that counted now was how to do it and get away with it. He had thought himself as a man ruled by ethics — his particular version of moral behaviour. Was that not why he was a policeman? But it wasn‘t so; it was a hard lesson and a salutary blow to his pride. By the end of his second cup of coffee, he had put the philosophy behind him. It would take planning and he couldn‘t be distracted by his conscience if he was to pull it off. Then he discovered that while he had been debating so seriously with himself, another part had already made certain practical decisions. He would have to shoot Turney and he would have to do it in ‗the line of duty.‘ Turney would have to be provoked and he would need to have a gun in his hand when the provocation had born fruit. The first thing to do was get firearms issued to himself, Comben and Fielding. Not that he wanted to involve the two younger officers but, if they were not armed too, then his own decision to draw a weapon would look suspicious. It was a sort of thin smokescreen. He would want to provide an excuse for his superiors to forgive him — to exonerate him. They may then chose not to understand his true motives. In public they could expound with a straight face the pretext that Anderson would provide for them. He felt calmer now. The principles of the affair had been laid out. He felt confident about filling in the details. Once he had developed his plan he would then decide what to tell Clarissa. It would be safer to tell her nothing but he might need her cooperation. And then he couldn‘t expect to succeed immediately. Clarissa would have to wait for some time and knowing his intentions might help her survive the strain. He couldn‘t imagine that she would regret Turney‘s death. It would all depend on offering Turney his chance. Anderson was sure Turney would try to kill Clarissa once he thought she had been left unguarded. It would take a little time to set the situation up since Turney would wait patiently until he imagined Anderson had forgotten about him. But Anderson knew the man. He was mad, of course, but inexorable. Anderson could see that Turney would not rest until his enemies had been vanquished. It was a war the man was waging against the world and those in it who stood against his desires. He had revenged himself on Kevin and would want to do the same with Amanda and Clarissa. Yes, Anderson felt he could set Turney up and he was sure he could pull the trigger when necessary. All that needed to be decided was how long to wait and then how to signal to the man that his chance had apparently arrived. In the end, it was Clarissa‘s health that decided the timing more than Anderson‘s judgement. Turney hadn‘t been seen for three weeks and Anderson was due to go back on duty, Comben and Fielding had gone back sooner. Clarissa‘s growing hysteria when the time came for her to be guarded by others rather than Anderson himself made him decide to act. Throughout the waiting period, Anderson had been careful to stick to a routine. He wanted Turney to know exactly what he did and when. When the time came for him to deliberately alter that routine then he wanted Turney to know about it. A trip to the off-licence alone, an early morning visit to the dentist or even the station, an evening excursion to buy some item forgotten earlier — that was the sort of variation Turney would be looking for and Anderson had every intention of providing it. But first he wanted to know where Turney was watching from; for that was what Anderson knew the man must be doing. But he had stopped his obvious surveillance. His car was nowhere to be seen in the streets outside the flats and he had never been seen inside one of the houses opposite. For some time Anderson had realised that the rear of the flats must be providing Turney with a vantage point. He had made no attempt up to then to find out exactly where Turney was positioning himself. He hadn‘t wanted the man to be frightened away. The bins for the rubbish were kept at the car park level at the back so that vans could drive down a service road each week and empty them. The caretaker kept them neat and the surrounding area clean; residents had no need to visit the are since their own rubbish was left out each day and was collected. That Saturday morning, early, Anderson took his own rubbish down an hour or so before the caretaker would begin his round. He waited behind the bins. He got lucky. A short while before the caretaker was expected, Turney drove past the back entrance to the flats and parked further down the service road. The road ended fifty yards or so along and had been used by the owners of two garages, which had fallen into disuse for the same reason as the space under his own block to remain empty of cars: vandalism. Turney opened one of the garage doors and drove the car inside. He didn‘t come out. Anderson waited awhile and then worked his way along the fence dividing the refuse area from the next door garden. Finally, he was close enough to see the side of the garage and the window through which Turney was watching. He got even closer and saw that the window was very clean and then he saw the binoculars. From where Turney was sitting there was a direct view into Anderson‘s kitchen. Nothing would have been easier than to open the door of the garage and shoot the man. Anderson caressed the pistol in his pocket. But that would not do. He needed a reason. Turney would not be armed. The man would use his hands when the time came as he had before. But how would Turney know when Clarissa was alone? The man would need to know that and Anderson needed him to know it. Chapter 19 As soon as Julian woke, he knew something had changed. His mind had cleared up much as a cold might do or a boil. The mist that each day had sat across his forehead was gone. But the clarity brought him discomfort as well as joy. He felt very strongly that he had no excuse now; that were certain responsibilities he needed to fulfil and that these duties needed to be carried out soon. He got up and showered. The clothes, which had lain where he had thrown them across the chair the night before, he gathered up and put in the laundry basket in the bathroom. They smelt and he grimaced as he carried them along the hallway. He could not remember when last he had changed into clean underwear  maybe he hadn‘t bathed or showered for some time either. No one was in the kitchen but there was a place laid for him. The egg was cold as usual. Julian couldn‘t imagine why his mother had such faith in the little jackets she placed over the eggs  the small knitted woolly hats he remembered from two decades before. He supposed she had boiled the egg at nine and then had left it on the table under its jacket until eleven, when he had got up. He imagined that she had been doing that ever since he had been returned home by the police. Apparently, she had the energy to care for him but not the patience to wait to cook breakfast until he got up. He sat back and looked at the table. He could hear them outside, squabbling in the garden. It was a bright day, was it summer? He thought it must be. How long had he been that way  living but not living, seeing but not seeing? Was he better now? He supposed he must be. The healing must have started some days ago. He remembered that he had started to listen to his parents‘ voices: was that good or bad? Oh how they wished he was a small boy again: the endless stories of his childhood and how he had done this and said this; the mimicking sound, tuk, tuk, as his mother broke the shell of his egg; the smiles that came over their faces when they looked at the photos on the wall  of him on his ‗Mickey Mouse‘ tricycle, of him clutching his father on the merry-go-round; of him in blazer and cap, old-fashioned even then for all but the stuffiest of private schools. Would they have felt so nostalgic if he had made a success of himself? It was time to go. To leave again but it was different this time. Before when he had left he had been off to university and had known he would not be back. He hadn‘t known what he was going to do but he had known that it was to be the end of childhood. This time he had a mission. He had been too passive up to then — too reactive. It was time to become active  proactive  that was the way they put it, those people who did things and made an impression on life. He would take life by the ‗scruff of its neck‘, isn‘t that what people said you should do? He would no longer be the one who took it without giving back. He had been made the scapegoat and had only escaped by the merest of lucky chances. No it hadn‘t been luck; he owed Anderson, he owed him his life. John had believed in him, he had been the only one to do so, even though the woman had pretended later that she had too. He was determined: he was going to earn the right to call him buy his first name  it was time to pay the man back. It had been last week that they had come, he thought. It could have been before, because time had meant so little. He had, they thought, a right to know but they had left, he realised that now, without being certain that he had understood. Maybe he hadn‘t then but he did now. Turney was free. The man – Comben, Detective-sergeant Comben, was his name, Julian remembered now – had apologised. The other, the woman, had said she knew he had never been responsible. He wished he had more to tell them but there had been no connection, except the telephone call and the lift Turney have given him to the factory and they knew all about that. Turney had lied about the note – the one he had never sent – and Julian had told them so right at the beginning. Had he told them about it again, when they came this time? He supposed he had and hadn‘t they smiled and said it was not enough? And now Anderson was on leave and Clarissa distraught. That wasn‘t right and it was up to him to make it right. They came in from the garden and the chatter began. He couldn‘t listen, so he left the egg on the table and went to his room, ignoring, as he did so, to plaintive cries form behind him — ‗aren‘t you going to eat the egg, I made it specially for you.‘ Yes, especially for him two hours before. There wasn‘t much to pack but he had to wait until they went to bed in the afternoon. Then he left. His old flat was no longer a crime scene and neither was the one across the hall. That one was still empty and he supposed the landlords might have to wait a while until memories grew dim before trying to let it again. Blood would have seeped into the wooden floors through the carpet. There would be traces if one cared to look. The next tenant needed to be ignorant enough to look at the stains and imagine they had been made by spilt red wine. He slept well that first night and in the morning rang up a few numbers from the phonebook. John Anderson was a common name but he knew the flat was nearby, Comben had let that out and he had only to phone three numbers. Anderson wasn‘t there and Clarissa took a long time to answer; he could understand that. But she seemed pleased to hear from him. He could tell she wasn‘t well. After speaking to her, he knew he had been right in his decision. He walked round to see her and she gave him her house keys: that settled it. She even asked him to bring back her laptop. He thought that was a good sign. The next day he took up his post. That was how he thought about it. He was a soldier on duty. He was a scout and he would need patience but he knew that the man would come. He sat just inside the park railings, propped up against a tree facing South. He had a book open in his lap but seldom glanced down. There was a stretch of grass ten yards or so to his right separating him from the path that formed the boundary of the main field, where the bodies had been found. To his left and down the hill in front of him was Clarissa‘s house. There were no trees or bushes between him and the front door, so it was in clear view. He enjoyed the idea that he had been there before in that same spot. Last time it had been for his own sake but this time he was on mission of mercy or was it revenge. At first, he wore a sweater but it was August and became warm from eleven in the morning. At noon he stripped off his sweater but left his shirt on for the rest of the time. There were a few others who sat or lay or played football in the centre of the field. Soon no one would remember what had been found there. At dusk he put his sweater back on. Turney came late in the evening, he walked passed the house on the park side of the street and then walked back on the other side. Julian supposed that Turney was looking for police cars but all the parked cars were empty. Julian imagined that the police had long ago given up watching although they knew where Turney lived. Following a man who wasn‘t wanted couldn‘t be justified as a reasonable expense — that is what he had been told. Turney turned first left after he had passed the house and, when he did so, Julian moved. He walked down the grass towards the gate and sat again nearer the railings this time. He was higher than the road and could look over Clarissa‘s hedge and along the side of house. Although it was gloomy, he soon saw Turney come from behind the house and let himself in through the side door. Julian waited but no light was switched on inside. It had got too dark to see much now from where he sat and anyway the park was closing, so he walked out of the park across the road and stood behind the hedge in front of the house. He was out of sight of the road and positioned himself so that he could see the side path. He crouched down and was very still. Turney very soon left the way he had come without even looking in his direction. Julian saw him climb over the fence at the back of the house. As soon as Turney had gone, Julian let himself into the house through the front door. He had keys for the latch and the deadlock. He switched on the hall light, walked into Clarissa‘s study, and switched on the light there. Both Clarissa‘s desktop and her laptop had gone. Would she have been able to write again, even if he had brought the laptop to her? Probably not. Julian was disappointed for her. He understood; he himself hadn‘t yet started to write again. After this, Julian walked around the house. Everything portable had gone: television sets; microwave; video recorders; computers; ornaments; paintings. He guessed that Turney had sold them. He had been living off his wife since his release, as he had done before. Now the place looked empty. Anything else that Turney wanted to remove would require a van and Turney couldn‘t afford that. It would be noticed. The man would have to find work now. Upstairs Julian found out what he wanted to know. Turney was sleeping in his old room; his clothes were scattered around and the covers loosely thrown back over the bed. He hadn‘t wanted any of them to know, that was why he didn‘t use the front door to the house. He had wanted to appear from nowhere and surprise them. Julian did not intend to allow him to do that again. As he had told Clarissa, he was waiting no longer. It was his turn now. Turney had had his chance. He wasn‘t Turney‘s target. He had helped Turney – albeit unwittingly – and the man would have no grudge against him. That was what made the whole thing possible. And, in a strange way, he really ought to thank the man. Turney hadn‘t meant to do him a favour. He had wanted him locked up but it hadn‘t worked like that thanks to Anderson. Instead, the shock had helped. He no longer felt helpless and his headaches had gone. It was time to give thanks – not to God he would leave that to his father – but to Anderson and Clarissa and to Amanda. They had had a hard time one way or another and it was payback time. He left the house in darkness and locked up. Back home a wave of happiness came over him. He had seldom felt this way. He gloried in his freedom — not just from jail but from the claustrophobia of the semi in North London. He would never go back to that and, if he couldn‘t make money from writing, then he would do something else. There was no way he would be a client, sponging on those two old people again. The thought made him uncomfortable as a wave of guilt passed through him. He owed them everything and they had helped him get better. In some ways, if they had been less fussy, it would have been worse. Maybe he would never have left. He walked to the front window of his living room and looked across the road. The curtains were drawn across the window through which he had seen Amanda that time. Was she still living there? He thought not but he would like to know, so he walked across the road and rang the bell. Amanda answered but he could tell she was frightened. His voice calmed her and she buzzed him through the street door. Upstairs, he stood at the front door to the flat and made no attempt to go inside. ‗I came to apologise for the last time I was here,‘ he said. ‗I‘m surprised that you‘re still here, I thought you would have moved.‘ It was Felicity who answered. ‗We moved here when Mark disappeared. I don‘t suppose it worked but we thought he might not find us.‘ Inside Amanda and Felicity clung together. His voice and his demeanour made them more comfortable; he could see that. And he was dressed neatly in jeans, a clean shirt and a short jacket. They all looked newish and pressed; he felt respectable. They smiled and ushered him to a seat and offered coffee. He said he would like that. He joked and stipulated that it had to be real coffee. They nodded and fussed and were pleased. Amanda served him and he was rude enough to hold her hand to steady it as she tried too hard to put his cup on the small table by the side of his seat. Felicity brought him a tissue to mop up the saucer, while Amanda sat opposite and allowed the tears to come to her eyes. Turney of course, he had known that before they had told him. Turney spooking them, ringing their bell at night or when he thought one of them was alone. ‗I‘ve no intention of letting Turney get away with it,‘ he said. Amanda stopped crying and sat up listening attentively. Julian imagined it was a measure of her desperation to have been so affected by his words. They couldn‘t know how he had changed. They could have no reason for feeling confident that he could turn his intention into action. Julian appreciated that. He didn‘t know either but he felt that he might. He would give it a good try and he thought he might very well succeed. ‗And how will you do that?‘ asked Felicity. Julian looked round at her. He knew the story. Did she still want to be called Felicity? In any event, whatever she called herself it was to her he would look for help. ‗Will you help?‘ he asked. ‗What do you want me to do?‘ she answered. ‗We will stalk him just as he has been stalking you.‘ ‗How do you know about that?‘ asked Amanda. Julian was not going to tell her. It wouldn‘t help and it would get Fielding and possibly Anderson into trouble if he told. He would be economical with the truth — wasn‘t that the proper phrase? ‗Clarissa told me what has been happening.‘ ‗Even the police don‘t know where he‘s living,‘ said Felicity. It wasn‘t true of course, Anderson was not at all surprised when he had told him what he had seen but he wasn‘t going to tell them why he knew that. ‗I know,‘ he said. They waited for him to continue but it was too early, they needed time to absorb what he had told them, to understand how he had changed. He finished his coffee and got up. ‗I‘ll call on you, when I need you,‘ he said and left. Back home he thought over their conversation. He had wanted to prepare them but not frighten them and he had done that. They must know deep down what he was going to do but he wasn‘t sure how they would react. He imagined that Felicity would do anything to rid the world of Turney but what of Amanda and, even if she wanted to help, would she be able? Three of them should be enough even if two were women. They would need to be resolute and tomorrow he would test them. He phoned the next day and then visited again. This time, after the coffee was served and he was seated, Julian could see that they expected something. That was an improvement. They had believed him and he would not disappoint them. ‗I know where Turney sleeps,‘ he said. They waited. ‗It was quite simple, if the police had wanted to know they could have found out.‘ He stopped and sipped his coffee. His little white lie had its affect. They waited patiently for him to continue and did not interrupt. He liked it. He was enjoying himself. It hadn‘t happened before that women had taken notice of him and waited on his every word. He took another sip. ‗He lives in Clarissa‘s house. He never switches on the lights and he has been selling her stuff to live on.‘ The two women looked at each other. He had scored and it had been so easy. Now he would see how far they would go. He told them his plans. Amanda was not shaking that morning. The cup she had placed on his table had a clean saucer and when he had grasped her wrist it had been still and cool. She hadn‘t pulled it away either. There hadn‘t been any women as beautiful as Amanda who had left their wrist in his hand so willingly. He looked into her eyes and wondered whether they would seem so appealing afterwards. But, by the time he had left, it had all changed. Felicity had taken Amanda into her arms to quieten her and the girls‘ bodies appeared to vibrate together in front of Julian‘s eyes. Would they be able to do what was necessary? He had to believe that they would. Turney had run out of money; both of them would need to act very soon. Julian felt it had to be that night. Chapter 20 Her hands shook. At first she imagined it was because she hadn‘t been sleeping. Then she ignored it, or rather did not allow the thought to rise high enough in her mind to become unavoidably conspicuous. Then came acceptance: it wasn‘t because she was tired or because she was ill, it was Mark Turney; he had got to her. She had held out with Felicity‘s help through those early weeks when he had stalked her but now, though he was invisible or maybe because he had successfully made himself so, she had succumbed. She knew Felicity must have noticed. When she brought a cup with tea or coffee to the table there was an unmistakable rattle. And, when she made the effort to stop the liquid from slopping over the rim, it rattled even more. She had heard of the same thing happening to people – old people – she had to put a stop to it. Felicity had the night off. When she was out at the club and that was most nights, it was worse. There were bars on the windows and locks – lots of them – but Amanda still sat and shook until she felt she had to be in bed, not to sleep but to be there when Felicity returned. Felicity was keeping them, they both needed her to work but it couldn‘t go on. This night they sat together on the sofa and then, instead of hiding her hand or sitting on it as she often did, she held both hands out towards her friend. They both watched the tremor that danced along her fingers. Felicity lent towards her and grasped her wrists. They sat and looked at each other and Amanda knew that the vibrations of her fear could be felt by the other through their clasp. ‗We must do something,‘ Felicity said. Amanda nodded. ‗I‘ve been watching you. It can‘t go on like this.‘ ‗The police?‘ Amanda knew what Felicity‘s reaction would be. ‗They can do nothing. They couldn‘t save my sister and they can‘t save you. Mark Turney is the devil. We have the right and the duty to get rid of him.‘ ‗How?‘ asked Amanda. ‗We must kill him.‘ Amanda had known she would say that. But it wasn‘t what she said but the determination with which she said it that caused Amanda‘s hands to stop shaking. Felicity let go and Amanda‘s hands feel peacefully on to her lap. It was better now. She was calm. Felicity would know what to do and she would follow. The waiting was over. ‗He wants to come here. He wants to get into our stronghold, our home. And we must let him.‘ Amanda nodded back. Yes, it was their fortress and, in it, they were under siege. They were not safe even though it seemed so for the moment. Every fortress can be breached and given time Mark would do just that. ‗We mustn‘t make it too easy for him and we are going to have to accept some danger. Can you face him?‘ Amanda tried to imagine it. She looked across the room and faced him. She stiffened as she saw him advance towards her with those hands. ‗I‘ll have a knife and so will you. He won‘t know I‘m here. Can you do it? You‘ll have to stab him too.‘ Amanda had no doubts about Felicity. Her friend had such hate for the man. She imagined Felicity had longed for the moment that she would sink a knife into the man‘s back and that she had dreamed about it until it was almost real. Had she worked it out and had been waiting for Amanda to speak? ‗He expects me to go out at night. I‘ve seen him when I‘ve driven round the block before going into town. He‘s waiting for us to become slack. Maybe he‘ll knock and pretend to be a delivery boy or a tradesman.‘ ‗But that won‘t do,‘ said Amanda. ‗He mustn‘t choose the time. It‘s us who must do that.‘ ‗Yes,‘ said Felicity, ‗you‘re right. We have to know where he is what he does during the day. We can‘t sit and wait any longer.‘ Felicity drove Amanda to the police station the next day. Fielding was willing to see them. Anderson was not yet back on duty. ‗Officially I can‘t tell you anything,‘ she said, ‗the man has not been found guilty of any crime.‘ ‗And this is a very official sort of place,‘ said Felicity, looking around her. ‗Yes,‘ said Fielding. ‗Ever feel you want to enjoy the delights of night life again?‘ Felicity asked. ‗Is that an invitation,‘ said Fielding. Felicity smiled and held out her card. ‗Why don‘t you ask for me tonight. Amanda is coming too.‘ Later, at the club, during one of Felicity‘s breaks the three women sat at the bar and sipped their drinks. ‗He‘s around all right,‘ Fielding told them, ‗he has been seen by officers outside Chief Inspector Anderson‘s flat.‘ She stopped. Amanda wondered whether it would be right to ask but Felicity had no such inhibition. ‗Is that where Turney‘s wife is living?‘ Fielding waited before answering. ‗Yes,‘ she said, ‗but don‘t tell anyone I told you so.‘ ‗Do you know where he is living?‘ asked Amanda. ‗We have an idea,‘ said Fielding, ‗but I can‘t tell you.‘ ‗Why not? We have a right to know,‘ said Felicity. ‗You might do something foolish.‘ ‗And that would worry you?‘ asked Amanda. ‗Turney would win either way. First he might be able to harm you in self-defence and secondly if you succeeded in harming him, you‘d go to prison.‘ ‗It might be worth it,‘ said Felicity. ‗No,‘ said Fielding, ‗he‘s not worth that.‘ The next day Julian came. They clutched at the straw he offered. They had no other plan. Chapter 21 Julian‘s plan was simple. He would be waiting for Turney when he came to the house that evening and he would have a knife. He would wear gloves and Amanda and Felicity would help him dispose of the body. The four of them, including Clarissa, would be bound together and there would be no comeback. Turney would be consigned to the past and good riddance. The evening after he had seen them in the morning, Felicity drove him and Amanda to the house but parked around the corner. Julian left them in the car and let himself into the house. It was already dusk and he expected Turney quite soon. He walked up the stairs and into Turney‘s old bedroom. He was sure to hear Turney come through the back door and he would be ready. He had rehearsed the thrust he would make with the knife  one of Felicity‘s kitchen knives. Very soon he heard the back door open and close and footsteps on the stairs. He stood behind the open bedroom door and tensed himself. The steps continued along the hall towards him and then went further to the front of the house. He heard the main bedroom door opening. It was irritating that Turney had not come straight into his own room but there was no reason to be worried. He might have remembered something he could sell in his wife‘s room and had gone to fetch it. He would be back down the hall soon. Half an hour later, Julian could feel that something was not right. He walked slowly and quietly along the hall and looked inside the open bedroom door. A figure lay on the bed but it was too small to be Turney. He walked across and listened to the man‘s deep breathing. It was not cold and the man had lain on top of the covers, he had kept on his overcoat, which Julian could see was very worn. His shoes were on the floor; the soles had holes in them, as did the socks covering his feet. Julian shook the man‘s foot until he woke. ‗Who are you?‘ he asked. ‗He said I could stay here.‘ ‗Who said?‘ asked Julian but he already knew the answer. Turney sat on the grass roughly where he had seen Julian the day before. He saw Felicity drive past the house and turn the corner and then, once he had seen Julian let himself into the house, he walked out of the park round the corner to the library. There was a bench outside and, as usual, one or two derelicts with bottles in their hands sitting there. He told one that he had a place for him to stay the night and offered him money. He had a job pushing the others away. They could all see bottles floating in front of their eyes when they realised he had a twenty pound note in his hand. He told the man he needed to get in the back way and he shepherded him along the alley and helped him over the fence. He told him the door was unlocked and watched him as he went inside. Then he went back down the path and uncovered the can of petrol he had left earlier. He gave the man thirty minutes and then very quietly let himself into the house leaving the back door open. He sprayed the petrol around the ground floor and threw a match inside. It all happened very quickly. There was a great deal of smoke. He walked down the side of the house to the front and waited behind the hedge to see whether anyone came out of the front door. They didn‘t. The sound of fire engines sent him back along the side of the house and over the fence. At Anderson’s flat he waited outside until the man left then he climbed up the fire escape and levered open the small sash window to the side of the back door. It opened more quietly than he thought it would. He thrust himself head first through the window opening and rolled over his back to land on the floor. Anderson took the call in his study. Clarissa was in the lounge and hadn‘t moved towards the phone that sat a foot away from her hand. He wasn‘t surprised; she wasn‘t keen on picking up the phone. Early on, Turney had called frequently and sometimes he had spoken. He told her what had happened and that he would have to go. She didn‘t seem surprised that something had occurred at the house and it made him feel that there was something he should know. Was one of the bodies Julian Simanovicz, she asked? He didn‘t stop to ask her why she thought that. It could wait. He didn‘t use his car and started to walk round. It would have taken him ten minutes, which with the ten minutes to walk back made twenty. It was too long and might be what Turney was waiting for. He turned back. On the way, he considered what it could mean. That two bodies had been found after the fire had died down might mean nothing. The house had appeared to be empty for some time and squatters might have moved in. And even if one were identified as Julian, it didn‘t mean the other was Turney. He didn‘t hesitate further. Turney had staged this to get him out the flat. He was right to go back. He phoned Fielding on his mobile. ‗It was definitely arson,‘ she said, ‗I‘ve had a look at one of the bodies, it could be Julian Simanovicz and what‘s more Amanda and Felicity are here.‘ ‗What are they doing there?‘ he asked. ‗They won‘t say but it looks as though they had some plan with Julian to get rid of Turney. It didn‘t work out.‘ He trotted back to the flat and took the stairs two at a time. He had his key ready at the front door. He pushed it into the lock but it wouldn‘t turn. He heard the sound of footsteps inside. Through the opaque glass he could see a shape running away from him. He tried the key again but realised that Turney must have pushed the knob on the lock on the inside. It wasn‘t going to work. There was no sound from inside but he couldn‘t afford to wait any longer. He mashed the glass with the pistol he took from his pocket. Down the hall he could make out two shapes. One was Turney but Clarissa was right behind him. He couldn‘t shoot. Chapter 22 As soon as she heard the click or creak or whatever it was, she knew. It was how she had imagined it would happen. He would find some chink that John had not thought of or they would be careless one day and leave something unlocked. It had to be the back door. He had watched them from the garage behind for months. He would know that was the best place. The balcony outside could be reached by climbing up the fire-escape ladder at the back. They had both thought of that. But the lock, how had he got through the lock John had installed? She would have wanted to know that and the fire, whose were the bodies? She might never know now. Still it had been clever of him however he had managed it. He‘d won after all but not really. In that short time when her own safety was not yet the only thing she could think about, she had changed the will. Whatever he had wanted he was not going to get; she was pleased about that. But the money meant nothing to him now; she understood  revenge, that was what he wanted. She wondered whether he would kill himself afterwards. But that was an afterwards she would never see. Would he go after the others: Amanda, Felicity, John himself? She couldn‘t believe he would forget them. They had betrayed him, so he thought. She knew that‘s the way he would see it. She was very still. He might think she was in the bedroom. Could she get out? The hope quickened her body and her mind. If he went into the bedroom, she could go through the back door on to the balcony and climb down as he had climbed up. She sat very still in the high backed leather chair that must hide her from his view if he looked through from the kitchen hatch into the room. She could afford no movement that might cause the leather to squeak and reveal her. In the quietness, she imagined she could hear him walk along the hall to the bedroom. Soon he would be able to see her from the open door leading from the hallway. She had to move. She was up very quickly and smoothly. In her bare feet, she walked across the carpet to the opening that led to the kitchen. Her lungs stopped sucking in air for a moment. It was as though her body was catching up with what her mind already knew: he was there and he wanted to kill her. She had to quieten herself before hoisting herself through the hatch into the kitchen. Once inside, she lowered herself gently from the worktop and glanced through the kitchen door: there was no sign of him in the hall. Ahead of her was the back door. She hesitated. There it was: the small window to the side of the door hanging open. So he had not needed to pick the lock or in some devious way get himself a duplicate key. He had levered aside the window lock and slid inside. She could visualise him head first through the open window and then doing a sort of forward roll to land neatly on his feet. But she must have made a sound for suddenly there were frantic footsteps from the bedroom and then down the hall. She turned and there he was in front of her  very large, very strong but different. There was no hope of her making it to the back door. She looked at him and smiled. He was not as he used to be. He was unkempt — the word came easily to mind. And his eyes, they had lost that clearness that confidence. She didn‘t imagine that she would have much time before she found his hands around her neck. But for her own dignity, she would not die without speaking. ‗Well Mark,‘ she said, ‗here you are, how clever of you. Are you going to tell me how you did it?‘ Her voice was calm and strong and she was able to stand and watch the effect without wavering. He rocked back on to his heels. She had stopped him but for how long? He smiled but it was not the warm sexy smile that she had known. It was coarse and cunning. The smile of a crook or a tradesman that has just swindled you out of twenty pounds, the smile of a madman who will soon squeeze the life from your neck. ‗I‘m surprised that you trusted that fool,‘ he said. Clarissa admired the way he now had his voice under control. The hate, the excitement, the brutality — whatever it was that motivated him had been pushed aside. It was his moment of triumph. He was going to tell her how clever he had been. ‗Which fool?‘ ‗Julian,‘ he said, ‗and maybe John Anderson too. He wasn‘t so difficult.‘ ‗Well Mark, I can only say well done. But are you prepared to spend the rest of your days in prison?‘ ‗That‘s not going to happen,‘ he said, ‗I have or two other scores to settle and then …‘ He hesitated and then she knew that he hadn‘t thought further than revenge until that very moment. She looked and she could see him thinking. It wouldn‘t stop him killing her she knew that but he might now have to think about covering it up. Had he left fingerprints? Where were his gloves? Was he now thinking about her neck and the incriminating marks that he would leave? ‗So, you‘re not really prepared are you? Not like the last time. Julian did get to you. By the way, whose was the other body?‘ He didn‘t answer but looked down at himself as if he hadn‘t realised until then that he was without overalls, without rubber gloves. She walked forward and placed her hands on the doorframe, as she did so her right had brushed against something cold. She didn‘t look but knew what it was. A row of knives stood upright stuck to a magnetic strip screwed to the wall. The nearest knife was a ten-inch kitchen knife. She slid her hand towards it and grasped the handle. Could she do it? Could she watch the blade sink into his chest? She didn‘t have time to answer herself. He gave a cry of rage and rushed towards her. She made no attempt to turn or run but offered up her neck as though accepting his execution. She took a deep breath and then found his hands tight around her neck. She was afraid that she would faint. Wasn‘t there some sort of reaction to pressure on the neck that made that happen? Her hand had already slid the knife off the magnetic strip before he had reached her but she had kept it hidden behind the doorframe. She allowed her right arm to drop down but cocked her wrist so that the knife blade pointed upwards. In the film Dial ‘M’ for Murder Grace Kelly had stabbed her attacker to death with scissors from behind but she had never trusted that. It had never seemed to her possible to get enough power that way. No, in her mind, in her dreams, the knife would have to travel up under the rib cage into the heart. At first there was no space between their bodies to do what she intended, so she allowed her legs to buckle and her eyes to close as though she had already fainted. Last time he had been interrupted and had no chance to finish the job but this time she knew he would hold on until certain there was no life left in her. He would not let go. Her weight on his arms now caused him to lean forward from the waist while her torso was upright. There was a huge space between their chests. Her body was limp but to thrust effectively she needed the firmness of her legs to provide a fulcrum, so she bent her knees and then stiffened her whole body. He almost fell on to her as she did this but, after staggering for a second, stayed on his feet. He still hadn‘t seen the knife even though they had staggered through the doorway into the kitchen. She opened her eyes and saw him glance downwards and to his left. The kitchen light must have glinted on the metal of the blade but for him it was too late. She thrust upwards with the knife and straightened her legs at the same time. The point of the knife entered his abdomen below the rib cage and the whole shaft buried itself inside his chest cavity. She could see he had died before his hands released their grip. His body crashed down towards her but she managed to twist and release the knife handle. His face hit the tiled floor of the kitchen as she moved her head and body to the side. There was a metallic sound as the hilt of the knife struck the ceramic. She saw the tip of the knife appear out of his back driven there by the weight of his body falling forward on to knife handle. She found herself alive but trapped by his embrace. She took a deep breath and filled her lungs. It had not been as bad as the last time. She would not need to stay in hospital. When she had recovered her breath, she heard John‘s voice. He must have been speaking for some time but she hadn‘t heard. She looked up and saw him leaning over the two of them. Her eyes flickered and from the expression on his face she knew he had thought her dead. Anderson lifted the dead body of Clarissa and then pulled her on to her feet. He guided her into the lounge and the winged chair and left her there. Then he walked into the kitchen to look at the body lying on the floor. He took a sharp intake of breath as he saw the blood pooling and congealing on the floor and the knife tip sticking out of Turney‘s back. He walked back into the lounge. She turned towards him. ‗I saved you the trouble,‘ she said. Anderson was puzzled. ‗What trouble,‘ he said. ‗Poor Julian,‘ she said. Anderson walked over to her and put his hand on her head and then ran his palm down her neck. She shivered but with pleasure; she seemed calm, so he turned to the phone and called the station. ‗He‘s dead,‘ he said to Clarissa. She turned to him and smiled. ‗I know,‘ she said. ‗What trouble did you save me from?‘ ‗Killing him,‘ she said, ‗isn‘t that what you had in mind?‘ ‗How did you know?‘ ‗We have to thank Julian. I suppose his is one of the bodies.‘ ‗Yes,‘ said Anderson, ‗we don‘t know who the second one is.‘ ‗Did you know he was living there, Julian did?‘ ‗Yes.‘ ‗You could have arrested him for theft. Julian told me he had stolen a lot of my things.‘ ‗You were still married, it would have been difficult to prove.‘ ‗Would you have done it?‘ ‗Yes,‘ he said. Then he called Comben in from the car. 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Bat wing

Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer Web-Books.Com Bat Wing 1. Paul Harley Of Chancery Lane ……………………………………………. 3 2. The Voodoo Swamp …………………………………………………………. 10 3. The Vampire Bat …………………………………………………………….. 17 4. Cray’s Folly …………………………………………………………………….. 21 5. Val Beverley……………………………………………………………………. 25 6. The Barrier…………………………………………………………………….. 31 7. At The Lavender Arms……………………………………………………… 36 8. The Call Of M’kombo……………………………………………………….. 41 9. Obeah …………………………………………………………………………….. 48 10. The Night Walker……………………………………………………………. 53 11. The Shadow On The Blind………………………………………………… 62 12. Morning Mists ………………………………………………………………… 68 13. At The Guest House …………………………………………………………. 72 14. Ysola Camber………………………………………………………………….. 78 15. Unrest…………………………………………………………………………….. 84 16. Red Eve ………………………………………………………………………….. 88 17. Night Of The Full Moon……………………………………………………. 93 18. Inspector Aylesbury Of Market Hilton ………………………………….. 98 18. Complications ……………………………………………………………….. 103 19. A Spanish Cigarette ……………………………………………………….. 109 20. The Wing Of A Bat ………………………………………………………… 114 21. Colin Camber’s Secret …………………………………………………….. 119 23. Inspector Aylesbury Cross-Examines…………………………………… 123 24. An Official Move……………………………………………………………….. 129 25. Aylesbury’s Theory ……………………………………………………………. 134 26. In Madame’s Room …………………………………………………………… 138 27. An Inspiration………………………………………………………………….. 143 28. My Theory Of The Crime …………………………………………………… 146 29. A Lee-Enfield Rifle……………………………………………………………. 150 30. The Seventh Yew Tree……………………………………………………….. 154 31. Ysola Camber’s Confession ………………………………………………… 158 32. Paul Harley’s Experiment………………………………………………….. 165 33. Paul Harley’s Experiment Concluded ………………………………….. 171 34. The Creeping Sickness ………………………………………………………. 174 35. An Afterword …………………………………………………………………… 182 1. Paul Harley Of Chancery Lane Toward the hour of six on a hot summer’s evening Mr. Paul Harley was seated in his private office in Chancery Lane reading through a number of letters which Innes, his secretary, had placed before him for signature. Only one more remained to be passed, but it was a long, confidential report upon a certain matter, which Harley had prepared for His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department. He glanced with a sigh of weariness at the little clock upon his table before commencing to read. “Shall detain you only a few minutes, now, Knox,” he said. I nodded, smiling. I was quite content to sit and watch my friend at work. Paul Harley occupied a unique place in the maelstrom of vice and ambition which is sometimes called London life. Whilst at present he held no official post, some of the most momentous problems of British policy during the past five years, problems imperilling inter-state relationships and not infrequently threatening a renewal of the world war, had owed their solution to the peculiar genius of this man. No clue to his profession appeared upon the plain brass plate attached to his door, and little did those who regarded Paul Harley merely as a successful private detective suspect that he was in the confidence of some who guided the destinies of the Empire. Paul Harley’s work in Constantinople during the feverish months preceding hostilities with Turkey, although unknown to the general public, had been of a most extraordinary nature. His recommendations were never adopted, unfortunately. Otherwise, the tragedy of the Dardanelles might have been averted. His surroundings as he sat there, gaze bent upon the typewritten pages, were those of any other professional man. So it would have seemed to the casual observer. But perhaps there was a quality in the atmosphere of the office which would have told a more sensitive visitor that it was the apartment of no ordinary man of business. Whilst there were filing cabinets and bookshelves laden with works of reference, many of them legal, a large and handsome Burmese cabinet struck an unexpected note. On closer inspection, other splashes of significant colour must have been detected in the scheme, notably a very fine engraving of Edgar Allan Poe, from the daguerreotype of 1848; and upon the man himself lay the indelible mark of the tropics. His clean-cut features had that hint of underlying bronze which tells of years spent beneath a merciless sun, and the touch of gray at his temples only added to the eager, almost fierce vitality of the dark face. Paul Harley was notable because of that intellectual strength which does not strike one immediately, since it is purely temperamental, but which, nevertheless, invests its possessor with an aura of distinction. Writing his name at the bottom of the report, Paul Harley enclosed the pages in a long envelope and dropped the envelope into a basket which contained a number of other letters. His work for the day was ended, and glancing at me with a triumphant smile, he stood up. His office was a part of a residential suite, but although, like some old-time burgher of the city, he lived on the premises, the shutting of a door which led to his private rooms marked the close of the business day. Pressing a bell which connected with the public office occupied by his secretary, Paul Harley stood up as Innes entered. “There’s nothing further, is there, Innes?” he asked. “Nothing, Mr. Harley, if you have passed the Home Office report?” Paul Harley laughed shortly. “There it is,” he replied, pointing to the basket; “a tedious and thankless job, Innes. It is the fifth draft you have prepared and it will have to do.” He took up a letter which lay unsealed upon the table. “This is the Rokeby affair,” he said. “I have decided to hold it over, after all, until my return.” “Ah!” said Innes, quietly glancing at each envelope as he took it from the basket. “I see you have turned down the little job offered by the Marquis.” “I have,” replied Harley, smiling grimly, “and a fee of five hundred guineas with it. I have also intimated to that distressed nobleman that this is a business office and that a laundry is the proper place to take his dirty linen. No, there’s nothing further to-night, Innes. You can get along now. Has Miss Smith gone?” But as if in answer to his enquiry the typist, who with Innes made up the entire staff of the office, came in at that moment, a card in her hand. Harley glanced across in my direction and then at the card, with a wry expression. “Colonel Juan Menendez,” he read aloud, “Cavendish Club,” and glanced reflectively at Innes. “Do we know the Colonel?” “I think not,” answered Innes; “the name is unfamiliar to me.” “I wonder,” murmured Harley. He glanced across at me. “It’s an awful nuisance, Knox, but just as I thought the decks were clear. Is it something really interesting, or does he want a woman watched? However, his name sounds piquant, so perhaps I had better see him. Ask him to come in, Miss Smith.” Innes and Miss Smith retiring, there presently entered a man of most striking and unusual presence. In the first place, Colonel Menendez must have stood fully six feet in his boots, and he carried himself like a grandee of the golden days of Spain. His complexion was extraordinarily dusky, whilst his hair, which was close cropped, was iron gray. His heavy eyebrows and curling moustache with its little points were equally black, so that his large teeth gleamed very fiercely when he smiled. His eyes were large, dark, and brilliant, and although he wore an admirably cut tweed suit, for some reason I pictured him as habitually wearing riding kit. Indeed I almost seemed to hear the jingle of his spurs. He carried an ebony cane for which I mentally substituted a crop, and his black derby hat I thought hardly as suitable as a sombrero. His age might have been anything between fifty and fifty-five. Standing in the doorway he bowed, and if his smile was Mephistophelean, there was much about Colonel Juan Menendez which commanded respect. “Mr. Harley,” he began, and his high, thin voice afforded yet another surprise, “I feel somewhat ill at ease to–how do you say it?–appropriate your time, as I am by no means sure that what I have to say justifies my doing so.” He spoke most fluent, indeed florid, English. But his sentences at times were oddly constructed; yet, save for a faint accent, and his frequent interpolation of such expressions as “how do you say?”–a sort of nervous mannerism–one might have supposed him to be a Britisher who had lived much abroad. I formed the opinion that he had read extensively, and this, as I learned later, was indeed the case. “Sit down, Colonel Menendez,” said Harley with quiet geniality. “Officially, my working day is ended, I admit, but if you have no objection to the presence of my friend, Mr. Knox, I shall be most happy to chat with you.” He smiled in a way all his own. “If your business is of a painfully professional nature,” he added, “I must beg you to excuse me for fourteen days, as I am taking a badly needed holiday with my friend.” “Ah, is it so?” replied the Colonel, placing his hat and cane upon the table, and sitting down rather wearily in a big leathern armchair which Harley had pushed forward. “If I intrude I am sorry, but indeed my business is urgent, and I come to you on the recommendation of my friend, Senor Don Merry del Val, the Spanish Ambassador.” He raised his eyes to Harley’s face with an expression of peculiar appeal. I rose to depart, but: “Sit down, Knox,” said Harley, and turned again to the visitor. “Please proceed,” he requested. “Mr. Knox has been with me in some of the most delicate cases which I have ever handled, and you may rely upon his discretion as you may rely upon mine.” He pushed forward a box of cigars. “Will you smoke?” “Thanks, no,” was the answer; “you see, I rarely smoke anything but my cigarettes.” Colonel Menendez extracted a slip of rice paper from a little packet which he carried, next, dipping two long, yellow fingers into his coat pocket, he brought out a portion of tobacco, laid it in the paper, and almost in the twinkling of an eye had made, rolled, and lighted a very creditable cigarette. His dexterity was astonishing, and seeing my surprise he raised his heavy eyebrows, and: “Practice makes perfect, is it not said?” he remarked. He shrugged his shoulders and dropped the extinguished match in an ash tray, whilst I studied him with increasing interest. Some dread, real or imaginary, was oppressing the man’s mind, I mused. I felt my presence to be unwelcome, but: “Very well,” he began, suddenly. “I expect, Mr. Harley, that you will be disposed to regard what I have to tell you rather as a symptom of what you call nerves than as evidence of any agency directed against me.” Paul Harley stared curiously at the speaker. “Do I understand you to suspect that someone is desirous of harming you?” he enquired. Colonel Menendez slowly nodded his head. “Such is my meaning,” he replied. “You refer to bodily harm?” “But yes, emphatically.” “Hm,” said Harley; and taking out a tin of tobacco from a cabinet beside him he began in leisurely manner to load a briar. “No doubt you have good reasons for this suspicion?” “If I had not good reasons, Mr. Harley, nothing could have induced me to trouble you. Yet, even now that I have compelled myself to come here, I find it difficult, almost impossible, to explain those reasons to you.” An expression of embarrassment appeared upon the brown face, and now Colonel Menendez paused and was plainly at a loss for words with which to continue. Harley replaced the tin in the cupboard and struck a match. Lighting his pipe he nodded good humouredly as if to say, “I quite understand.” As a matter of fact, he probably thought, as I did, that this was a familiar case of a man of possibly blameless life who had become subject to that delusion which leads people to believe themselves threatened by mysterious and unnameable danger. Our visitor inhaled deeply. “You, of course, are waiting for the facts,” he presently resumed, speaking with a slowness which told of a mind labouring for the right mode of expression. “These are so scanty, I fear, of so, shall I say, phantom a kind, that even when they are in your possession you will consider me to be merely the victim of a delusion. In the first place, then, I have reason to believe that someone followed me from my home to your office.” “Indeed,” said Paul Harley, sympathetically, for this I perceived was exactly what he had anticipated, and merely tended to confirm his suspicion. “Some member of your household?” “Certainly not.” “Did you actually see this follower?” “My dear sir,” cried Colonel Menendez, excitement emphasizing his accent, “if I had seen him, so much would have been made clear, so much! I have never seen him, but I have heard him and felt him–felt his presence, I mean.” “In what way?” asked Harley, leaning back in his chair and studying the fierce face. “On several occasions on turning out the light in my bedroom and looking across the lawn from my window I have observed the shadow of someone–how do you say?–lurking in the garden.” “The shadow?” “Precisely. The person himself was concealed beneath a tree. When he moved his shadow was visible on the ground.” “You were not deceived by a waving branch?” “Certainly not. I speak of a still, moonlight night.” “Possibly, then, it was the shadow of a tramp,” suggested Harley. “I gather that you refer to a house in the country?” “It was not,” declared Colonel Menendez, emphatically; “it was not. I wish to God I could believe it had been. Then there was, a month ago, an attempt to enter my house.” Paul Harley exhibited evidence of a quickening curiosity. He had perceived, as I had perceived, that the manner of the speaker differed from that of the ordinary victim of delusion, with whom he had become professionally familiar. “You had actual evidence of this?” he suggested. “It was due to insomnia, sleeplessness, brought about, yes, I will admit it, by apprehension, that I heard the footsteps of this intruder.” “But you did not see him?” “Only his shadow” “What!” “You can obtain the evidence of all my household that someone had actually entered,” declared Colonel Menendez, eagerly. “Of this, at least, I can give you the certain facts. Whoever it was had obtained access through a kitchen window, had forced two locks, and was coming stealthily along the hallway when the sound of his footsteps attracted my attention.” “What did you do?” “I came out on to the landing and looked down the stairs. But even the slight sound which I made had been sufficient to alarm the midnight visitor, for I had never a glimpse of him. Only, as he went swiftly back in the direction from which he had come, the moonlight shining in through a window in the hall cast his shadow on the carpet.” “Strange,” murmured Harley. “Very strange, indeed. The shadow told you nothing?” “Nothing at all.” Colonel Menendez hesitated momentarily, and glanced swiftly across at Harley. “It was just a vague–do you say blur?–and then it was gone. But–” “Yes,” said Harley. “But?” “Ah,” Colonel Menendez blew a cloud of smoke into the air, “I come now to the matter which I find so hard to explain.” He inhaled again deeply and was silent for a while. “Nothing was stolen?” asked Harley. “Nothing whatever.” “And no clue was left behind?” “No clue except the filed fastening of a window and two open doors which had been locked as usual when the household retired.” “Hm,” mused Harley again; “this incident, of course, may have been an isolated one and in no way connected with the surveillance of which you complain. I mean that this person who undoubtedly entered your house might prove to be an ordinary burglar.” “On a table in the hallway of Cray’s Folly,” replied Colonel Menendez, impressively–“so my house is named–stands a case containing presentation gold plate. The moonlight of which I have spoken was shining fully upon this case, and does the burglar live who will pass such a prize and leave it untouched?” “I quite agree,” said Harley, quietly, “that this is a very big point.” “You are beginning at last,” suggested the Colonel, “to believe that my suspicions are not quite groundless?” “There is a distinct possibility that they are more than suspicions,” agreed Harley; “but may I suggest that there is something else? Have you an enemy?” “Who that has ever held public office is without enemies?” “Ah, quite so. Then I suggest again that there is something else.” He gazed keenly at his visitor, and the latter, whilst meeting the look unflinchingly with his large dark eyes, was unable to conceal the fact that he had received a home thrust. “There are two points, Mr. Harley,” he finally confessed, “almost certainly associated one with the other, if you understand, but both these so–shall I say remote?–from my life, that I hesitate to mention them. It seems fantastic to suppose that they contain a clue.” “I beg of you,” said Harley, “to keep nothing back, however remote it may appear to be. It is sometimes the seemingly remote things which prove upon investigation to be the most intimate.” “Very well,” resumed Colonel Menendez, beginning to roll a second cigarette whilst continuing to smoke the first, “I know that you are right, of course, but it is nevertheless very difficult for me to explain. I mentioned the attempted burglary, if so I may term it, in order to clear your mind of the idea that my fears were a myth. The next point which I have concerns a man, a neighbour of mine in Surrey. Before I proceed I should like to make it clear that I do not believe for a moment that he is responsible for this unpleasant business.” Harley stared at him curiously. “Nevertheless,” he said, “there must be some data in your possession which suggest to your mind that he has some connection with it.” “There are, Mr. Harley, but they belong to things so mystic and far away from ordinary crime that I fear you will think me,” he shrugged his great shoulders, “a man haunted by strange superstitions. Do you say ‘haunted?’ Good. You understand. I should tell you, then, that although of pure Spanish blood, I was born in Cuba. The greater part of my life has been spent in the West Indies, where prior to ’98 I held an appointment under the Spanish Government. I have property, not only in Cuba, but in some of the smaller islands which formerly were Spanish, and I shall not conceal from you that during the latter years of my administration I incurred the enmity of a section of the population. Do I make myself clear?” Paul Harley nodded and exchanged a swift glance with me. I formed a rapid mental picture of native life under the governorship of Colonel Juan Menendez and I began to consider his story from a new viewpoint. Seemingly rendered restless by his reflections, he stood up and began to pace the floor, a tall but curiously graceful figure. I noticed the bulldog tenacity of his chin, the intense pride in his bearing, and I wondered what kind of menace had induced him to seek the aid of Paul Harley; for whatever his failings might be, and I could guess at the nature of several of them, that this thin-lipped Spanish soldier knew the meaning of fear I was not prepared to believe. “Before you proceed further, Colonel Menendez,” said Harley, “might I ask when you left Cuba?” “Some three years ago,” was his reply. “Because–” he hesitated curiously–“of health motives, I leased a property in England, believing that here I should find peace.” “In other words, you were afraid of something or someone in Cuba?” Colonel Menendez turned in a flash, glaring down at the speaker. “I never feared any man in my life, Mr. Harley,” he said, coldly. “Then why are you here?” The Colonel placed the stump of his first cigarette in an ash tray and lighted that which he had newly made. “It is true,” he admitted. “Forgive me. Yet what I said was that I never feared any man.” He stood squarely in front of the Burmese cabinet, resting one hand upon his hip. Then he added a remark which surprised me. “Do you know anything of Voodoo?” he asked. Paul Harley took his pipe from between his teeth and stared at the speaker silently for a moment. “Voodoo?” he echoed. “You mean negro magic?” “Exactly.” “My studies have certainly not embraced it,” replied Harley, quietly, “nor has it hitherto come within my experience. But since I have lived much in the East, I am prepared to learn that Voodoo may not be a negligible quantity. There are forces at work in India which we in England improperly understand. The same may be true of Cuba.” “The same is true of Cuba.” Colonel Menendez glared almost fiercely across the room at Paul Harley. “And do I understand,” asked the latter, “that the danger which you believe to threaten you is associated with Cuba?” “That, Mr. Harley, is for you to decide when all the facts shall be in your possession. Do you wish that I proceed?” “By all means. I must confess that I am intensely interested.” “Very well, Mr. Harley. I have something to show you.” From an inside breast pocket Colonel Menendez drew out a gold-mounted case, and from the case took some flat, irregularly shaped object wrapped in a piece of tissue paper. Unfolding the paper, he strode across and laid the object which it had contained upon the blotting pad in front of my friend. Impelled by curiosity I stood up and advanced to inspect it. It was of a dirty brown colour, some five or six inches long, and appeared to consist of a kind of membrane. Harley, his elbow on the table, was staring down at it questioningly. “What is it?” I said; “some kind of leaf?” “No,” replied Harley, looking up into the dark face of the Spanish colonel; “I think I know what it is.” “I, also, know what it is.” declared Colonel Menendez, grimly.” But tell me what to you it seems like, Mr. Harley?” Paul Harley’s expression was compounded of incredulity, wonder, and something else, as, continuing to stare at the speaker, he replied: “It is the wing of a bat.” 2. The Voodoo Swamp Often enough my memory has recaptured that moment in Paul Harley’s office, when Harley, myself, and the tall Spaniard stood looking down at the bat wing lying upon the blotting pad. My brilliant friend at times displayed a sort of prescience, of which I may have occasion to speak later, but I, together with the rest of pur-blind humanity, am commonly immune from the prophetic instinct. Therefore I chronicle the fact for what it may be worth, that as I gazed with a sort of disgust at the exhibit lying upon the table I became possessed of a conviction, which had no logical basis, that a door had been opened through which I should step into a new avenue of being; I felt myself to stand upon the threshold of things strange and terrible, but withal alluring. Perhaps it is true that in the great crises of life the inner eye becomes momentarily opened. With intense curiosity I awaited the Colonel’s next words, but, a cigarette held nervously between his fingers, he stood staring at Harley, and it was the latter who broke that peculiar silence which had fallen upon us. “The wing of a bat,” he murmured, then touched it gingerly. “Of what kind of bat, Colonel Menendez? Surely not a British species?” “But emphatically not a British species,” replied the Spaniard. “Yet even so the matter would be strange.” “I am all anxiety to learn the remainder of your story, Colonel Menendez.” “Good. Your interest comforts me very greatly, Mr. Harley. But when first I came, you led me to suppose that you were departing from London?” “Such, at the time, was my intention, sir.” Paul Harley smiled slightly. “Accompanied by my friend, Mr. Knox, I had proposed to indulge in a fortnight’s fishing upon the Norfolk Broads.” “Fishing?” “Yes.” “A peaceful occupation, Mr. Harley, and a great rest-cure for one who like yourself moves much amid the fiercer passions of life. You were about to make holiday?” Paul Harley nodded. “It is cruel of me to intrude upon such plans,” continued Colonel Menendez, dexterously rolling his cigarette around between his fingers. “Yet because of my urgent need I dare to do so. Would yourself and your friend honour me with your company at Cray’s Folly for a few days? I can promise you good entertainment, although I regret that there is no fishing; but It may chance that there will be other and more exciting sport.” Harley glanced at me significantly. “Do I understand you to mean, Colonel Menendez,” he asked, “that you have reason to believe that this conspiracy directed against you is about to come to a head?” Colonel Menendez nodded, at the same time bringing his hand down sharply upon the table. “Mr. Harley,” he replied, his high, thin voice sunken almost to a whisper, “Wednesday night is the night of the full moon.” “The full moon?” “It is at the full moon that the danger comes.” Paul Harley stood up, and watched by the Spanish colonel paced slowly across the office. At the outer door he paused and turned. “Colonel Menendez,” he said, “that you would willingly waste the time of a busy man I do not for a moment believe, therefore I shall ask you as briefly as possible to state your case in detail. When I have heard it, if it appears to me that any good purpose can be served by my friend and myself coming to Cray’s Folly I feel sure that he will be happy to accept your proffered hospitality.” “If I am likely to be of the slightest use I shall be delighted,” said I, which indeed was perfectly true. Whilst I had willingly agreed to accompany Harley to Norfolk I had none of his passion for the piscatorial art, and the promise of novel excitement held out by Colonel Menendez appealed to me more keenly than the lazy days upon the roads which Harley loved. “Gentlemen”–the Colonel bowed profoundly–“I am honoured and delighted. When you shall have heard my story I know what your decision will be.” He resumed his seat, and began, it seemed almost automatically, to roll a fresh cigarette. “I am all attention,” declared Harley, and his glance strayed again in a wondering fashion to the bat wing lying on his table. “I will speak briefly,” resumed our visitor, “and any details which may seem to you to be important can be discussed later when you are my guests. You must know then that I first became acquainted with the significance belonging to the term ‘Bat Wing’ and to the object itself some twenty years ago.” “But surely,” interrupted Harley, incredulously, “you are not going to tell me that the menace of which you complain is of twenty years’ standing?” “At your express request, Mr. Harley,” returned the Colonel a trifle brusquely, “I am dealing with possibilities which are remote, because in your own words it is sometimes the remote which proves to be the intimate. It was then rather more than twenty years ago, at a time when great political changes were taking place in the West Indies, that my business interests, which are mainly concerned with sugar, carried me to one of the smaller islands which had formerly been under-my jurisdiction, do you say? Here I had a house and estate, and here in the past I had experienced much trouble with the natives. “I do not disguise from you that I was unpopular, and on my return I met with unmistakable signs of hostility. My native workmen were insubordinate. In fact, it was the reports from my overseers which had led me to visit the island. I made a tour of the place, believing it to be necessary to my interests that I should get once more in touch with negro feeling, since I had returned to my home in Cuba after the upheavals in ’98. Very well. “The manager of my estate, a capable man, was of opinion that there existed a secret organization amongst the native labourers operating–you understand?–against my interests. He produced certain evidences of this. They were not convincing; and all my enquiries and examinations of certain inhabitants led to no definite results. Yet I grew more and more to feel that enemies surrounded me.” He paused to light his third cigarette, and whilst he did so I conjured up a mental picture of his “examinations of certain inhabitants.” I recalled hazily those stories of Spanish mismanagement and cruelty which had directly led to United States interferences in the islands. But whilst I could well believe that this man’s life had not been safe in those bad old days in the West Indies, I found it difficult to suppose that a native plot against his safety could have survived for more than twenty years and have come to a climax in England. However, I realized that there was more to follow, and presently, having lighted his cigarette, the Colonel resumed: “In the neighbourhood of the hacienda which had once been my official residence there was a belt of low-lying pest country–you understand pest country?–which was a hot-bed of poisonous diseases. It followed the winding course of a nearly stagnant creek. From the earliest times the Black Belt–it was so called–had been avoided by European inhabitants, and indeed by the coloured population as well. Apart from the malaria of the swampy ground it was infested with reptiles and with poisonous insects of a greater variety and of a more venomous character than I have ever known in any part of the world. “I must explain that what I regarded as a weak point in my manager’s theory was this: Whilst he held that the native labourers to a man were linked together under some head, or guiding influence, he had never succeeded in surprising anything in the nature of a negro meeting. Indeed, he had prohibited all gatherings of this kind. His answer to my criticism was a curious one. He declared that the members of this mysterious society met and received their instructions at some place within the poison area to which I have referred, believing themselves there to be safe from European interference. “For a long time I disputed this with poor Valera–for such was my manager’s name; when one night as I was dismounting from my horse before the veranda, having returned from a long ride around the estate, a shot was fired from the border of the Black Belt which at one point crept up dangerously close to the hacienda. “The shot was a good one. I had caught my spur in the stirrup in dismounting, and stumbled. Otherwise I must have been a dead man. The bullet pierced the crown of my hat, only missing my skull by an inch or less. The alarm was given. But no search-party could be mustered, do you say?–which was prepared to explore the poison swamp–or so declared my native servants. Valera, however, seized upon this incident to illustrate his theory that there were those in the island who did not hesitate to enter the Black Belt popularly supposed to cast up noxious vapours at dusk of a sort fatal to any traveller. “That night over our wine we discussed the situation, and he pointed out to me that now was the hour to test his theory. Orders had evidently been given for my assassination and the attempt had failed. “‘There will be a meeting,’ said Valera, ‘to discuss the next move. And it will take place to-morrow night!’ “I challenged him with a glance and I replied: “‘To-morrow night is a full moon, and if you are agreeable we will make a secret expedition into the swamp, and endeavour to find the clearing which you say is there, and which you believe to be the rendezvous of the conspirators.’ “Even in the light of the lamp I saw Valera turn pale, but he was a Spaniard and a man of courage. “‘I agree, senor,’ he replied. ‘If my information is correct we shall find the way.’ “I must explain that the information to which he referred had been supplied by a native girl who loved him. That this clearing was a meeting-place she had denied. But she had admitted that it was possible to obtain access to it, and had even described the path.” He paused. “She died of a lingering sickness.” Colonel Menendez spoke these last words with great deliberation and treated each of us to a long and significant stare. “Presently,” he added, “I will tell you what was nailed to the wall of her hut on the night that she fell ill. But to continue my narrative. On the following evening, suitably equipped, Valera and myself set out, leaving by a side door and striking into the woods at a point east of the hacienda, where, according to his information, a footpath existed, which would lead us to the clearing we desired to visit. Of that journey, gentlemen, I have most terrible memories. “Imagine a dense and poisonous jungle, carpeted by rotten vegetation in which one’s feet sank deeply and from which arose a visible and stenching vapour. Imagine living things, slimy things, moving beneath the tread, sometimes coiling about our riding boots, sometimes making hissing sounds. Imagine places where the path was overgrown, and we must thrust our way through bushes where great bloated spiders weaved their webs, where clammy night things touched us as we passed, where unfamiliar and venomous insects clung to our garments. “We proceeded onward for more than half an hour guided by the moonlight, but this, although tropically brilliant, at some places scarcely penetrated the thick vapour which arose from the jungle. In those days I was a young and vigorous man; my companion was several years my senior; and his sufferings were far greater than my own. But if the jungle was horrible, worse was yet to come. “Presently we stumbled upon an open space almost quite bare of vegetation, a poisonous green carpet spread in the heart of the woods. Here the vapour was more dense than ever, but I welcomed the sight of open ground after the reptileinfested thicket. Alas! it was a snare, a death-trap, a sort of morass, in which we sank up to our knees. Pah! it was filthy–vile! And I became aware of great-lassitude, do you say?–whilst Valera’s panting breath told that he had almost reached the end of his resources. “A faint breeze moved through the clearing and for a few moments we were enabled to perceive one another more distinctly. I uttered an exclamation of horror. “My companion’s garments were a mass of strange-looking patches. “Even as I noticed them I glanced rapidly down–and found myself in similar condition. As I did so one of these patches upon the sleeve of my tunic intruded coldly upon my bare wrist. At that I cried out aloud in fear. Valera and I commenced what was literally a fight for life. “Gentlemen, we were attacked by some kind of blood-red leeches, which came out of the slime! In detaching them one detached patches of skin, and they swarmed over our bodies like ants upon carrion. “They penetrated beneath our garments, these swollen, lustful, unclean things; and it was whilst we staggered on through the swamp in agony of mind and body that we saw the light of many torches amid the trees ahead of us, and in their smoky glare witnessed the flight of hundreds of bats. The moonlight creeping dimly through the mist, and the torchlight–how do you say?–enflaming the vegetation, created a scene like that of Inferno, in which naked figures danced wildly, uttering animal cries. “Above the shrieking and howling, which rose and fell in a sort of unholy chorus, I heard one long, wailing sound, repeated and repeated. It was an African word. But I knew its meaning. “It was ‘Bat Wing!’ “My doubts were dispersed. This was a meeting-place of Devil-worshippers, or devotees of the cult of Voodoo! One man only could I see clearly so as to remember him, a big negro employed upon one of my estates. He seemed to be a sort of high priest or president of the orgies. Attached to his arms were giant imitations of bat wings which he moved grotesquely as if in flight. There were many women in the throng, which numbered fully I should think a hundred people. But the final collapse of my brave, unhappy Valera at this point brought home to me the nature of the peril in which I stood. “He lay at my feet, moving convulsively, and sinking ever deeper in the swamp, red leeches moving slowly, slowly over his fast-disappearing body.” Colonel Menendez paused in his appalling narrative and wiped his moist forehead with a silk handkerchief. Neither Harley nor I spoke. I knew not if my friend believed the Spaniard’s story. For my own part I found it difficult to do so. But that the narrator was deeply moved was a fact beyond dispute. He suddenly commenced again: “My next recollection is of awakening in my own bed at the hacienda. I had staggered back as far as the veranda, in raving delirium, and in the grip of a strange fever which prostrated me for many months, and which defied the knowledge of all the specialists who could be procured from Cuba and the United States. My survival was due to an iron constitution; but I have never been the same man. I was ordered to leave the West Indies directly it became possible for me to be moved. I arranged my affairs accordingly, and did not return for many years. “Finally, however, I again took up my residence in Cuba, and for a time all went well, and might have continued to do so, but for the following incident. One night, being troubled by insomnia–sleeplessness–and the heat, I walked out on to the balcony in front of my bedroom window. As I did so, a figure which had been-you say lurking?–somewhere under the veranda ran swiftly off; but not so swiftly that I failed to obtain a glimpse of the uplifted face. “It was the big negro! Although many years had elapsed since I had seen him wearing the bat wings at those unholy rites, I knew him instantly. “On a little table close behind me where I stood lay a loaded revolver. I snatched it in a flash and fired shot after shot at the retreating figure.” Colonel Menendez shrugged his shoulders and selected a fresh cigarette paper. “Gentlemen,” he continued, “from that moment until this I have gone in hourly peril of my life. Whether I hit my man or missed him, I have never known to this day. If he lives or is dead I cannot say. But–” he paused impressively–“I have told you of something that was nailed to the hut of a certain native girl? Before she died I knew that it was a death-token. “On the morning after the episode which I have just related attached to the main door of the hacienda was found that same token.” “And it was??” said Harley, eagerly. “It was the wing of a bat! “I am perhaps a hasty man. It is in my blood. I tore the unclean thing from the panel and stamped it under my feet. No one of the servants who had drawn my attention to its presence would consent to touch it. Indeed, they all shrank from me as though I, too, were unclean. I endeavoured to forget it. Who was I to be influenced by the threats of natives? “That night, just at the hour of sunset, a shot was fired at me from a neighbouring clump of trees, only missing me I think by the fraction of an inch. I realized that the peril was real, and was one against which I could not fight. “Permit me to be brief, gentlemen. Six attempts of various kinds were made upon my life in Cuba. I crossed to the United States. In Washington, the political capital of the country, an assassin gained access to my hotel apartment and but for the fact that a friend chanced to call me up on the telephone at that late hour of the night, thereby awakening me, I should have received a knife in my heart. I saw the knife in the dim light; I saw the shadowy figure. I leapt out on the opposite side of the bed, seized a table-lamp which stood there, and hurled it at my assailant. “There was a crash, a stifled exclamation, shuffling, the door opened, and my would-be assassin was gone. But I had learned something, and to my old fears a new one was added.” “What had you learned?” asked Harley, whose interest in the narrative was displayed by the fact that his pipe had long since gone out. “Vaguely, vaguely, you understand, for there was little light, I had seen the face of the man. He wore some kind of black cloak doubtless to conceal his movements. His silhouette resembled that of a bat. But, gentlemen, he was neither a negro nor even a half-caste; he was of the white races, to that I could swear.” Colonel Menendez lighted the cigarette which he had been busily rolling, and fixed his dark eyes upon Harley. “You puzzle me, sir,” said the latter. “Do you wish me to believe that this cult of Voodoo claims European or American devotees?” “I wish you to believe,” returned the Colonel, “that although as the result of the alarm which I gave the hotel was searched and the Washington police exerted themselves to the utmost, no trace was ever found of the man who had tried to murder me, except”–he extended a long, yellow forefinger, and pointed to the wing of the bat lying upon Harley’s table–“a bat wing was found pinned to my bedroom door.” Silence fell for a while; an impressive silence. Truly this was the strangest story to which I had ever listened. “How long ago was that?” asked Harley. “Only two years ago. At about the time that the great war terminated. I came to Europe and believed that at last I had found security. I lived for a time in London amidst a refreshing peace that was new to me. Then, chancing to hear of a property in Surrey which was available, I leased it for a period of years, installing-is it correct?–my cousin, Madame de Staemer, as housekeeper. Madame, alas, is an invalid, but”–he kissed his fingers–“a genius. She has with her, as companion, a very charming English girl, Miss Val Beverley, the orphaned daughter of a distinguished surgeon of Edinburg. Miss Beverley was with my cousin in the hospital which she established in France during the war. If you will honour me with your presence at Cray’s Folly to-morrow, gentlemen, you will not lack congenial company, I can assure you.” He raised his heavy eyebrows, looking interrogatively from Harley to myself. “For my own part,” said my friend, slowly, “I shall be delighted. What do you say, Knox?” “I also.” “But,” continued Harley, “your presence here today, Colonel Menendez, suggests to my mind that England has not proved so safe a haven as you had anticipated?” Colonel Menendez crossed the room and stood once more before the Burmese cabinet, one hand resting upon his hip; a massive yet graceful figure. “Mr. Harley,” he replied, “four days ago my butler, who is a Spaniard, brought me–” He pointed to the bat wing lying upon the blotting pad. “He had found it pinned to an oaken panel of the main entrance door.” “Was it prior to this discovery, or after it,” asked Harley, “that you detected the presence of someone lurking in the neighbourhood of the house?” “Before it.” “And the burglarious entrance?” “That took place rather less than a month ago. On the eve of the full moon.” Paul Harley stood up and relighted his pipe. “There are quite a number of other details, Colonel,” he said, “which I shall require you to place in my possession. Since I have determined to visit Cray’s Folly, these can wait until my arrival. I particularly refer to a remark concerning a neighbour of yours in Surrey.” Colonel Menendez nodded, twirling his cigarette between his long, yellow fingers. “It is a delicate matter, gentlemen,” he confessed. “I must take time to consider how I shall place it before you. But I may count upon your arrival tomorrow?” “Certainly. I am looking forward to the visit with keen interest.” “It is important,” declared our visitor; “for on Wednesday is the full moon, and the full moon is in some way associated with the sacrificial rites of Voodoo.” 3. The Vampire Bat An hour had elapsed since the departure of our visitor, and Paul Harley and I sat in the cosy, book-lined study discussing the strange story which had been related to us. Harley, who had a friend attached to the Spanish Embassy, had succeeded in getting in touch with him at his chambers, and had obtained some few particulars of interest concerning Colonel Don Juan Sarmiento Menendez, for such were the full names and titles of our late caller. He was apparently the last representative of a once great Spanish family, established for many generations in Cuba. His wealth was incalculable, although the value of his numerous estates had depreciated in recent years. His family had produced many men of subtle intellect and powerful administrative qualities; but allied to this they had all possessed traits of cruelty and debauchery which at one time had made the name of Menendez a by-word in the West Indies. That there were many people in that part of the world who would gladly have assassinated the Colonel, Paul Harley’s informant did not deny. But although this information somewhat enlarged our knowledge of my friend’s newest client, it threw no fresh light upon that side of his story which related to Voodoo and the extraordinary bat wing episodes. “Of course,” said Harley, after a long silence, “there is one possibility of which we must not lose sight.” “What possibility is that?” I asked. “That Menendez may be mad. Remorse for crimes of cruelty committed in his youth, and beyond doubt he has been guilty of many, may have led to a sort of obsession. I have known such cases.” “That was my first impression,” I confessed, “but it faded somewhat as the Colonel’s story proceeded. I don’t think any such explanation would cover the facts.” “Neither do I,” agreed my friend; “but it is distinctly possible that such an obsession exists, and that someone is deliberately playing upon it for his own ends.” “You mean that someone who knows of these episodes in the earlier life of Menendez is employing them now for a secret purpose of his own?” “Exactly.” “It renders the case none the less interesting.” “I quite agree, Knox. With you, I believe, that even if the Colonel is not quite sane, at the same time his fears are by no means imaginary.” He gingerly took up the bat wing from the arm of his chair where he had placed it after a detailed examination. “It seems to be pretty certain,” he said, “that this thing is the wing of a Desmodus or Vampire Bat. Now, according to our authority”–he touched a work which lay open on the other arm of his chair–“these are natives of tropical America, therefore the presence of a living vampire bat in Surrey is not to be anticipated. I am personally satisfied, however, that this unpleasant fragment has been preserved in some way.” “You mean that it is part of a specimen from someone’s collection?” “Quite possibly. But even a collection of such bats would be quite a novelty. I don’t know that I can recollect one outside the Museums. To follow this bat wing business further: there was one very curious point in the Colonel’s narrative. You recollect his reference to a native girl who had betrayed certain information to the manager of the estate?” I nodded rapidly. “A bat wing was affixed to the wall of her hut and she died, according to our informant, of a lingering sickness. Now this lingering sickness might have been anaemia, and anaemia may be induced, either in man or beast, by frequent but unsuspected visits of a Vampire Bat.” “Good heavens, Harley!” I exclaimed, “what a horrible idea.” “It is a horrible idea, but in countries infested by these creatures such things happen occasionally. I distinctly recollect a story which I once heard, of a little girl in some district of tropical America falling into such a decline, from which she was only rescued in the nick of time by the discovery that one of these Vampire Bats, a particularly large one, had formed the habit of flying into her room at night and attaching itself to her bare arm which lay outside the coverlet.” “How did it penetrate the mosquito curtains?” I enquired, incredulously. “The very point, Knox, which led to the discovery of the truth. The thing, exhibiting a sort of uncanny intelligence, used to work its way up under the edge of the netting. This disturbance of the curtains was noticed on several occasions by the nurse who occupied an adjoining room, and finally led to the detection of the bat! “But surely,” I said, “such a visitation would awaken any sleeper?” “On the contrary, it induces deeper sleep. But I have not yet come to my point, Knox. The vengeance of the High Priest of Voodoo, who figured in the Colonel’s narrative, was characteristic in the case of the native woman, since her symptoms at least simulated those which would result from the visits of a Vampire Bat, although of course they may have been due to a slow poison. But you will not have failed to note that the several attacks upon the Colonel personally were made with more ordinary weapons. On two occasions at least a rifle was employed.” “Yes,” I replied, slowly. “You are wondering why the lingering sickness did not visit him?” “I am, Knox. I can only suppose that he proved to be immune. You recall his statement that he made an almost miraculous recovery from the fever which attacked him after his visit to the Black Belt? This would seem to point to the fact that he possesses that rare type of constitution which almost defies organisms deadly to ordinary men.” “I see. Hence the dagger and the rifle?” “So it would appear.” “But, Harley,” I cried, “what appalling crime can the man have committed to call down upon his head a I vengeance which has survived for so many years?” Paul Harley shrugged his shoulders in a whimsical imitation of the Spaniard. “I doubt if the feud dates any earlier,” he replied, “than the time of Menendez’s last return to Cuba. On that occasion he evidently killed the High Priest of Voodoo.” I uttered an exclamation of scorn. “My dear Harley,” I said, “the whole thing is too utterly fantastic. I begin to believe again that we are dealing with a madman.” Harley glanced down at the wing of the bat. “We shall see,” he murmured. “Even if the only result of our visit is to make the acquaintance of the Colonel’s household our time will not have been wasted.” “No,” said I, “that is true enough. I am looking forward to meeting Madame de Staemer–” “The Colonel’s invalid cousin,” added Harley, tonelessly. “And her companion, Miss Beverley.” “Quite so. Nor must we forget the Spanish butler, and the Colonel himself, whose acquaintance I am extremely anxious to renew.” “The whole thing is wildly bizarre, Harley.” “My dear Knox,” he replied, stretching himself luxuriously in the long lounge chair, “the most commonplace life hovers on the edge of the bizarre. But those of us who overstep the border become preposterous in the eyes of those who have never done so. This is not because the unusual is necessarily the untrue, but because writers of fiction have claimed the unusual as their particular province, and in doing so have divorced it from fact in the public eye. Thus I, myself, am a myth, and so are you, Knox!” He raised his hand and pointed to the doorway communicating with the office. “We owe our mythological existence to that American genius whose portrait hangs beside the Burmese cabinet and who indiscreetly created the character of C. Auguste Dupin. The doings of this amateur investigator were chronicled by an admirer, you may remember, since when no private detective has been allowed to exist outside the pages of fiction. My most trivial habits confirm my unreality. “For instance, I have a friend who is good enough sometimes to record my movements. So had Dupin. I smoke a pipe. So did Dupin. I investigate crime, and I am sometimes successful. Here I differ from Dupin. Dupin was always successful. But my argument is this–you complain that the life of Colonel Don Juan Sarmiento Menendez, on his own showing, has been at least as romantic as his name. It would not be accounted romantic by the adventurous, Knox; it is only romantic to the prosaic mind. In the same way his name is only unusual to our English ears. In Spain it would pass unnoticed.” “I see your point,” I said, grudgingly; “but think of I Voodoo in the Surrey Hills.” “I am thinking of it, Knox, and it affords me much delight to think of it. You have placed your finger I upon the very point I was endeavouring to make. Voodoo in the Surrey Hills! Quite so. Voodoo in some island of the Caribbean Seas, yes, but Voodoo in the Surrey Hills, no. Yet, my dear fellow, there is a regular steamer service between South America and England. Or one may embark at Liverpool and disembark in the Spanish Main. Why, then, may not one embark in the West Indies and disembark at Liverpool? This granted, you will also grant that from Liverpool to Surrey is a feasible journey. Why, then, should you exclaim, ‘but Voodoo in the Surrey Hills!’ You would be surprised to meet an Esquimaux in the Strand, but there is no reason why an Esquimaux should not visit the Strand. In short, the most annoying thing about fact is its resemblance to fiction. I am looking forward to the day, Knox, when I can retire from my present fictitious profession and become a recognized member of the community; such as a press agent, a theatrical manager, or some other dealer in Fact!” He burst out laughing, and reaching over to a side-table refilled my glass and his own. “There lies the wing of a Vampire Bat,” he said, pointing, “in Chancery Lane. It is impossible. Yet,” he raised his glass, “‘Pussyfoot’ Johnson has visited Scotland, the home of Whisky!” We were silent for a while, whilst I considered his remarks. “The conclusion to which I have come,” declared Harley, “is that nothing is so strange as the commonplace. A rod and line, a boat, a luncheon hamper, a jar of good ale, and the peculiar peace of a Norfolk river–these joys I willingly curtail in favour of the unknown things which await us at Cray’s Folly. Remember, Knox,” he stared at me queerly, “Wednesday is the night of the full moon.” 4. Cray’s Folly Paul Harley lay back upon the cushions and glanced at me with a quizzical smile. The big, up-to-date car which Colonel Menendez had placed at our disposal was surmounting a steep Surrey lane as though no gradient had existed. “Some engine!” he said, approvingly. I nodded in agreement, but felt disinclined for conversation, being absorbed in watching the characteristically English scenery. This, indeed, was very beautiful. The lane along which we were speeding was narrow, winding, and over-arched by trees. Here and there sunlight penetrated to spread a golden carpet before us, but for the most part the way lay in cool and grateful shadow. On one side a wooded slope hemmed us in blackly, on the other lay dell after dell down into the cradle of the valley. It was a poetic corner of England, and I thought it almost unbelievable that London was only some twenty miles behind. A fit place this for elves and fairies to survive, a spot in which the presence of a modern automobile seemed a desecration. Higher we mounted and higher, the engine running strongly and smoothly; then, presently, we were out upon a narrow open road with the crescent of the hills sweeping away on the right and dense woods dipping valleyward to the left and behind us. The chauffeur turned, and, meeting my glance: “Cray’s Folly, sir,” he said. He jerked his hand in the direction of a square, gray-stone tower somewhat resembling a campanile, which uprose from a distant clump of woods cresting a greater eminence. “Ah,” murmured Harley, “the famous tower.” Following the departure of the Colonel on the previous evening, he had looked up Cray’s Folly and had found it to be one of a series of houses erected by the eccentric and wealthy man whose name it bore. He had had a mania for building houses with towers, in which his rival–and contemporary–had been William Beckford, the author of “Vathek,” a work which for some obscure reason has survived as well as two of the three towers erected by its writer. I became conscious of a keen sense of anticipation. In this, I think, the figure of Miss Val Beverley played a leading part. There was something pathetic in the presence of this lonely English girl in so singular a household; for if the menage at Cray’s Folly should prove half so strange as Colonel Menendez had led us to believe, then truly we were about to find ourselves amid unusual people. Presently the road inclined southward somewhat and we entered the fringe of the trees. I noticed one or two very ancient cottages, but no trace of the modern builder. This was a fragment of real Old England, and I was not sorry when presently we lost sight of the square tower; for amidst such scenery it was an anomaly and a rebuke. What Paul Harley’s thoughts may have been I cannot say, but he preserved an unbroken silence up to the very moment that we came to the gate lodge. The gates were monstrosities of elaborate iron scrollwork, craftsmanship clever enough in its way, but of an ornate kind more in keeping with the orange trees of the South than with this wooded Surrey countryside. A very surly-looking girl, quite obviously un-English (a daughter of Pedro, the butler, I learned later), opened the gates, and we entered upon a winding drive literally tunnelled through the trees. Of the house we had never a glimpse until we were right under its walls, nor should I have known that we were come to the main entrance if the car had not stopped. “Looks like a monastery,” muttered Harley. Indeed that part of the building–the north front–which was visible from this point had a strangely monastic appearance, being built of solid gray blocks and boasting only a few small, heavily barred windows. The eccentricity of the Victorian gentleman who had expended thousands of pounds upon erecting this house was only equalled, I thought, by that of Colonel Menendez, who had chosen it for a home. An out-jutting wing shut us in on the west, and to the east the prospect was closed by the tallest and most densely grown box hedge I had ever seen, trimmed most perfectly and having an arched opening in the centre. Thus, the entrance to Cray’s Folly lay in a sort of bay. But even as we stepped from the car, the great church-like oaken doors were thrown open, and there, framed in the monkish porch, stood the tall, elegant figure of the Colonel. “Gentlemen,” he cried, “welcome to Cray’s Folly.” He advanced smiling, and in the bright sunlight seemed even more Mephistophelean than he had seemed in Harley’s office. “Pedro,” he called, and a strange-looking Spanish butler who wore his sidewhiskers like a bull fighter appeared behind his master; a sallow, furtive fellow with whom I determined I should never feel at ease. However, the Colonel greeted us heartily enough, and conducted us through a kind of paved, covered courtyard into a great lofty hall. Indeed it more closely resembled a studio, being partly lighted by a most curious dome. It was furnished in a manner quite un-English, but very luxuriously. A magnificent oaken staircase communicated with a gallery on the left, and at the foot of this staircase, in a mechanical chair which she managed with astonishing dexterity, sat Madame de Staemer. She had snow-white hair crowning the face of a comparatively young woman, and large, dark-brown eyes which reminded me strangely of the eyes of some animal although in the first moment of meeting I could not identify the resemblance. Her hands were very slender and beautiful, and when, as the Colonel presented us, she extended her fingers, I was not surprised to see Harley stoop and kiss them in Continental fashion; for this Madame evidently expected. I followed suit; but truth to tell, after that first glance at the masterful figure in the invalid chair I had had no eyes for Madame de Staemer, being fully employed in gazing at someone who stood beside her. This was an evasively pretty girl, or such was my first impression. That is to say, that whilst her attractiveness was beyond dispute, analysis of her small features failed to detect from which particular quality this charm was derived. The contour of her face certainly formed a delightful oval, and there was a wistful look in her eyes which was half appealing and half impish. Her demure expression was not convincing, and there rested a vague smile, or promise of a smile, upon lips which were perfectly moulded, and indeed the only strictly regular feature of a nevertheless bewitching face. She had slightly curling hair and the line of her neck and shoulder was most graceful and charming. Of one thing I was sure: She was glad to see visitors at Cray’s Folly. “And now, gentlemen,” said Colonel Menendez, “having presented you to Madame, my cousin, permit me to present you to Miss Val Beverley, my cousin’s companion, and our very dear friend.” The girl bowed in a formal English fashion, which contrasted sharply with the Continental manner of Madame. Her face flushed slightly, and as I met her glance she lowered her eyes. “Now M. Harley and M. Knox,” said Madame, vivaciously, “you are quite at home. Pedro will show you to your rooms and lunch will be ready in half an hour.” She waved her white hand coquettishly, and ignoring the proffered aid of Miss Beverley, wheeled her chair away at a great rate under a sort of arch on the right of the hall, which communicated with the domestic offices of the establishment. “Is she not wonderful?” exclaimed Colonel Menendez, taking Harley’s left arm and my right and guiding us upstairs followed by Pedro and the chauffeur, the latter carrying our grips. “Many women would be prostrated by such an affliction, but she–” he shrugged his shoulders. Harley and I had been placed in adjoining rooms. I had never seen such rooms as those in Cray’s Folly. The place contained enough oak to have driven a modern builder crazy. Oak had simply been lavished upon it. My own room, which was almost directly above the box hedge to which I have referred, had a beautiful carved ceiling and a floor as highly polished as that of a ballroom. It was tastefully furnished, but the foreign note was perceptible everywhere. “We have here some grand prospects,” said the Colonel, and truly enough the view from the great, high, wide window was a very fine one. I perceived that the grounds of Cray’s Folly were extensive and carefully cultivated. I had a glimpse of a Tudor sunken garden, but the best view of this was from the window of Harley’s room, which because it was the end room on the north front overlooked another part of the grounds, and offered a prospect of the east lawns and distant park land. When presently Colonel Menendez and I accompanied my friend there I was charmed by the picturesque scene below. Here was a real old herbal garden, gay with flowers and intersected by tiled moss-grown paths. There were bushes exhibiting fantastic examples of the topiary art, and here, too, was a sun-dial. My first impression of this beautiful spot was one of delight. Later I was to regard that enchanted demesne with something akin to horror; but as we stood there watching a gardener clipping the bushes I thought that although Cray’s Folly might be adjudged ugly, its grounds were delightful. Suddenly Harley turned to our host. “Where is the famous tower?” he enquired. “It is not visible from the front of the house, nor from the drive.” “No, no,” replied the Colonel, “it is right out at the end of the east wing, which is disused. I keep it locked up. There are four rooms in the tower and a staircase, of course, but it is inconvenient. I cannot imagine why it was built.” “The architect may have had some definite object in view,” said Harley, “or it may have been merely a freak of his client. Is there anything characteristic about the topmost room, for instance?” Colonel Menendez shrugged his massive shoulders. “Nothing,” he replied. “It is the same as the others below, except that there is a stair leading to a gallery on the roof. Presently I will take you up, if you wish.” “I should be interested,” murmured Harley, and tactfully changed the subject, which evidently was not altogether pleasing to our host. I concluded that he had found the east wing of the house something of a white elephant, and was accordingly sensitive upon the point. Presently, then, he left us and I returned to my own room, but before long I rejoined Harley. I did not knock but entered unceremoniously. “Halloa!” I exclaimed. “What have you seen?” He was standing staring out of the window, nor did he turn as I entered. “What is it?” I said, joining him. He glanced at me oddly. “An impression,” he replied; “but it has gone now.” “I understand,” I said, quietly. Familiarity with crime in many guises and under many skies had developed in Paul Harley a sort of sixth sense. It was a fugitive, fickle thing, as are all the powers which belong to the realm of genius or inspiration. Often enough it failed him entirely, he had assured me, that odd, sudden chill as of an abrupt lowering of the temperature, which, I understood, often advised him of the nearness of enmity actively malignant. Now, standing at the window, looking down into that old-world garden, he was “sensing” the atmosphere keenly, seeking for the note of danger. It was sheer intuition, perhaps, but whilst he could never rely upon its answering his summons, once active it never misled him. “You think some real menace overhangs Colonel Menendez?” “I am sure of it.” He stared into my face. “There is something very, very strange about this bat wing business.” “Do you still incline to the idea that he has been followed to England?” Paul Harley reflected for a moment, then: “That explanation would be almost too simple,” he said. “There is something bizarre, something unclean–I had almost said unholy–at work in this house, Knox.” “He has foreign servants.” Harley shook his head. “I shall make it my business to become acquainted with all of them,” he replied, “but the danger does not come from there. Let us go down to lunch.” 5. Val Beverley The luncheon was so good as to be almost ostentatious. One could not have lunched better at the Carlton. Yet, since this luxurious living was evidently customary in the colonel’s household, a charge of ostentation would not have been deserved. The sinister-looking Pedro proved to be an excellent servant; and because of the excitement of feeling myself to stand upon the edge of unusual things, the enjoyment of a perfectly served repast, and the sheer delight which I experienced in watching the play of expression upon the face of Miss Beverley, I count that luncheon at Cray’s Folly a memorable hour of my life. Frankly, Val Beverley puzzled me. It may or may not have been curious, that amidst such singular company I selected for my especial study a girl so freshly and typically English. I had thought at the moment of meeting her that she was provokingly pretty; I determined, as the lunch proceeded, that she was beautiful. Once I caught Harley smiling at me in his quizzical fashion, and I wondered guiltily if I were displaying an undue interest in the companion of Madame. Many topics were discussed, I remember, and beyond doubt the colonel’s cousin-housekeeper dominated the debate. She possessed extraordinary force of personality. Her English was not nearly so fluent as that spoken by the colonel, but this handicap only served to emphasize the masculine strength of her intellect. Truly she was a remarkable woman. With her blanched hair and her young face, and those fine, velvety eyes which possessed a quality almost hypnotic, she might have posed for the figure of a sorceress. She had unfamiliar gestures and employed her long white hands in a manner that was new to me and utterly strange. I could detect no family resemblance between the cousins, and I wondered if their kinship were very distant. One thing was evident enough: Madame de Staemer was devoted to the Colonel. Her expression when she looked at him changed entirely. For a woman of such intense vitality her eyes were uncannily still; that is to say that whilst she frequently moved her head she rarely moved her eyes. Again and again I found myself wondering where I had seen such eyes before. I lived to identify that memory, as I shall presently relate. In vain I endeavoured to define the relationship between these three people, so incongruously set beneath one roof. Of the fact that Miss Beverly was not happy I became assured. But respecting her exact position in the household I was reduced to surmises. The Colonel improved on acquaintance. I decided that he belonged to an order of Spanish grandees now almost extinct. I believed he would have made a very staunch friend; I felt sure he would have proved a most implacable enemy. Altogether, it was a memorable meal, and one notable result of that brief companionship was a kind of link of understanding between myself and Miss Beverley. Once, when I had been studying Madame de Staemer, and again, as I removed my glance from the dark face of Colonel Menendez, I detected the girl watching me; and her eyes said, “You understand; so do I.” Some things perhaps I did understand, but how few the near future was to show. The signal for our departure from table was given by Madame de Staemer. She whisked her chair back with extraordinary rapidity, the contrast between her swift, nervous movements and those still, basilisk eyes being almost uncanny. “Off you go, Juan,” she said; “your visitors would like to see the garden, no doubt. I must be away for my afternoon siesta. Come, my dear”–to the girl-“smoke one little cigarette with me, then I will let you go.” She retired, wheeling herself rapidly out of the room, and my glance lingered upon the graceful figure of Val Beverley until both she and Madame were out of sight. “Now, gentlemen,” said the Colonel, resuming his seat and pushing the decanter toward Paul Harley, “I am at your service either for business or amusement. I think”–to Harley–“you expressed a desire to see the tower?” “I did,” my friend replied, lighting his cigar, “but only if it would amuse you to show me.” “Decidedly. Mr. Knox will join us?” Harley, unseen by the Colonel, glanced at me in a way which I knew. “Thanks all the same,” I said, smiling, “but following a perfect luncheon I should much prefer to loll upon the lawn, if you don’t mind.” “But certainly I do not mind,” cried the Colonel. “I wish you to be happy.” “Join you in a few minutes, Knox,” said Harley as he went out with our host. “All right,” I replied, “I should like to take a stroll around the gardens. You will join me there later, no doubt.” As I walked out into the bright sunshine I wondered why Paul Harley had wished to be left alone with Colonel Menendez, but knowing that I should learn his motive later, I strolled on through the gardens, my mind filled with speculations respecting these unusual people with whom Fate had brought me in contact. I felt that Miss Beverley needed protection of some kind, and I was conscious of a keen desire to afford her that protection. In her glance I had read, or thought I had read, an appeal for sympathy. Not the least mystery of Cray’s Folly was the presence of this girl. Only toward the end of luncheon had I made up my mind upon a point which had been puzzling me. Val Beverley’s gaiety was a cloak, Once I had detected her watching Madame de Staemer with a look strangely like that of fear. Puffing contentedly at my cigar I proceeded to make a tour of the house. It was constructed irregularly. Practically the entire building was of gray stone, which created a depressing effect even in the blazing sunlight, lending Cray’s Folly something of an austere aspect. There were fine lofty windows, however, to most of the ground-floor rooms overlooking the lawns, and some of those above had balconies of the same gray stone. Quite an extensive kitchen garden and a line of glasshouses adjoined the west wing, and here were outbuildings, coach-houses and a garage, all connected by a covered passage with the servants’ quarters. Pursuing my enquiries, I proceeded to the north front of the building, which was closely hemmed in by trees, and which as we had observed on our arrival resembled the entrance to a monastery. Passing the massive oaken door by which we had entered and which was now closed again, I walked on through the opening in the box hedge into a part of the grounds which was not so sprucely groomed as the rest. On one side were the yews flanking the Tudor garden and before me uprose the famous tower. As I stared up at the square structure, with its uncurtained windows, I wondered, as others had wondered before me, what could have ever possessed any man to build it. Visible at points for many miles around, it undoubtedly disfigured an otherwise beautiful landscape. I pressed on, noting that the windows of the rooms in the east wing were shuttered and the apartments evidently disused. I came to the base of the tower, To the south, the country rose up to the highest point in the crescent of hills, and peeping above the trees at no great distance away, I detected the red brick chimneys of some old house in the woods. North and east, velvet sward swept down to the park. As I stood there admiring the prospect and telling myself that no Voodoo devilry could find a home in this peaceful English countryside, I detected a faint sound of voices far above. Someone had evidently come out upon the gallery of the tower. I looked upward, but I could not see the speakers. I pursued my stroll, until, near the eastern base of the tower, I encountered a perfect thicket of rhododendrons. Finding no path through this shrubbery, I retraced my steps, presently entering the Tudor garden; and there strolling toward me, a book in her hand, was Miss Beverley. “Holloa, Mr. Knox,” she called; “I thought you had gone up the tower?” “No,” I replied, laughing, “I lack the energy.” “Do you?” she said, softly, “then sit down and talk to me.” She dropped down upon a grassy bank, looking up at me invitingly, and I accepted the invitation without demur. “I love this old garden,” she declared, “although of course it is really no older than the rest of the place. I always think there should be peacocks, though.” “Yes,” I agreed, “peacocks would be appropriate.” “And little pages dressed in yellow velvet.” She met my glance soberly for a moment and then burst into a peal of merry laughter. “Do you know, Miss Beverley,” I said, watching her, “I find it hard to place you in the household of the Colonel.” “Yes?” she said simply; “you must.” “Oh, then you realize that you are–” “Out of place here?” “Quite.” “Of course I am.” She smiled, shook her head, and changed the subject. “I am so glad Mr. Paul Harley has come down,” she confessed. “You know my friend by name, then?” “Yes,” she replied, “someone I met in Nice spoke of him, and I know he is very clever.” “In Nice? Did you live in Nice before you came here?” Val Beverley nodded slowly, and her glance grew oddly retrospective. “I lived for over a year with Madame de Staemer in a little villa on the Promenade des Anglaise,” she replied. “That was after Madame was injured.” “She sustained her injuries during the war, I understand?” “Yes. Poor Madame. The hospital of which she was in charge was bombed and the shock left her as you see her. I was there, too, but I luckily escaped without injury.” “What, you were there?” “Yes. That was where I first met Madame de Staemer. She used to be very wealthy, you see, and she established this hospital in France at her own expense, and I was one of her assistants for a time. She lost both her husband and her fortune in the war, and as if that were not bad enough, lost the use of her limbs, too.” “Poor woman,” I said. “I had no idea her life had been so tragic. She has wonderful courage.” “Courage!” exclaimed the girl, “if you knew all that I know about her.” Her face grew sweetly animated as she bent toward me excitedly and confidentially. “Really, she is simply wonderful. I learned to respect her in those days as I have never respected any other woman in the world; and when, after all her splendid work, she, so vital and active, was stricken down like that, I felt that I simply could not leave her, especially as she asked me to stay.” “So you went with her to Nice?” “Yes. Then the Colonel took this house, and we came here, but–” She hesitated, and glanced at me curiously. “Perhaps you are not quite happy?” “No,” she said, “I am not. You see it was different in France. I knew so many people. But here at Cray’s Folly it is so lonely, and Madame is–” Again she hesitated. “Yes?” “Well,” she laughed in an embarrassed fashion, “I am afraid of her at times.” “In what way?” “Oh, in a silly, womanish sort of way. Of course she is a wonderful manager; she rules the house with a rod of iron. But really I haven’t anything to do here, and I feel frightfully out of place sometimes. Then the Colonel–Oh, but what am I talking about?” “Won’t you tell me what it is that the Colonel fears?” “You know that he fears something, then?” “Of course. That is why Paul Harley is here.” A change came over the girl’s face; a look almost of dread. “I wish I knew what it all meant.” “You are aware, then, that there is something wrong?” “Naturally I am. Sometimes I have been so frightened that I have made up my mind to leave the very next day.” “You mean that you have been frightened at night?” I asked with curiosity. “Dreadfully frightened.” “Won’t you tell me in what way?” She looked up at me swiftly, then turned her head aside, and bit her lip. “No, not now,” she replied. “I can’t very well.” “Then at least tell me why you stayed?” “Well,” she smiled rather pathetically, “for one thing, I haven’t anywhere else to go.” “Have you no friends in England?” She shook her head. “No. There was only poor daddy, and he died over two years ago. That was when I went to Nice.” “Poor little girl,” I said; and the words were spoken before I realized their undue familiarity. An apology was on the tip of my tongue, but Miss Beverley did not seem to have noticed the indiscretion. Indeed my sympathy was sincere, and I think she had appreciated the fact. She looked up again with a bright smile. “Why are we talking about such depressing things on this simply heavenly day?” she exclaimed. “Goodness knows,” said I. “Will you show me round these lovely gardens?” “Delighted, sir!” replied the girl, rising and sweeping me a mocking curtsey. Thereupon we set out, and at every step I found a new delight in some wayward curl, in a gesture, in the sweet voice of my companion. Her merry laugh was music, but in wistful mood I think she was even more alluring. The menace, if menace there were, which overhung Cray’s Folly, ceased to exist–for me, at least, and I blessed the lucky chance which had led to my presence there. We were presently rejoined by Colonel Menendez and Paul Harley, and I gathered that my surmise that it had been their voices which I had heard proceeding from the top of the tower to have been only partly accurate. “I know you will excuse me, Mr. Harley,” said the Colonel, “for detailing the duty to Pedro, but my wind is not good enough for the stairs.” He used idiomatic English at times with that facility which some foreigners acquire, but always smiled in a self-satisfied way when he had employed a slang term. “I quite understand, Colonel,” replied Harley. “The view from the top was very fine.” “And now, gentlemen,” continued the Colonel, “if Miss Beverley will excuse us, we will retire to the library and discuss business.” “As you wish,” said Harley; “but I have an idea that it is your custom to rest in the afternoon.” Colonel Menendez shrugged his shoulders. “It used to be,” he admitted, “but I have too much to think about in these days.” “I can see that you have much to tell me,” admitted Harley; “and therefore I am entirely at your service.” Val Beverley smiled and walked away swinging her book, at the same time treating me to a glance which puzzled me considerably. I wondered if I had mistaken its significance, for it had seemed to imply that she had accepted me as an ally. Certainly it served to awaken me to the fact that I had discovered a keen personal interest in the mystery which hung over this queerly assorted household. I glanced at my friend as the Colonel led the way into the house. I saw him staring upward with a peculiar expression upon his face, and following the direction of his glance I could see an awning spread over one of the gray-stone balconies. Beneath it, reclining in a long cane chair, lay Madame de Staemer. I think she was asleep; at any rate, she gave no sign, but lay there motionless, as Harley and I walked in through the open French window followed by Colonel Menendez. Odd and unimportant details sometimes linger long in the memory. And I remember noticing that a needle of sunlight, piercing a crack in the gaily-striped awning rested upon a ring which Madame wore, so that the diamonds glittered like sparks of white-hot fire. 6. The Barrier Colonel Menendez conducted us to a long, lofty library in which might be detected the same note of un-English luxury manifested in the other appointments of the house. The room, in common with every other which I had visited in Cray’s Folly, was carried out in oak: doors, window frames, mantelpiece, and ceiling representing fine examples of this massive woodwork. Indeed, if the eccentricity of the designer of Cray’s Folly were not sufficiently demonstrated by the peculiar plan of the building, its construction wholly of granite and oak must have remarked him a man of unusual if substantial ideas. There were four long windows opening on to a veranda which commanded a view of part of the rose garden and of three terraced lawns descending to a lake upon which I perceived a number of swans. Beyond, in the valley, lay verdant pastures, where cattle grazed. A lark hung carolling blithely far above, and the sky was almost cloudless. I could hear a steam reaper at work somewhere in the distance. This, with the more intimate rattle of a lawn-mower wielded by a gardener who was not visible from where I stood, alone disturbed the serene silence, except that presently I detected the droning of many bees among the roses. Sunlight flooded the prospect; but the veranda lay in shadow, and that long, oaken room was refreshingly cool and laden with the heavy perfume of the flowers. From the windows, then, one beheld a typical English summer-scape, but the library itself struck an altogether more exotic note. There were many glazed bookcases of a garish design in ebony and gilt, and these were laden with a vast collection of works in almost every European language, reflecting perhaps the cosmopolitan character of the colonel’s household. There was strange Spanish furniture upholstered in perforated leather and again displaying much gilt. There were suits of black armour and a great number of Moorish ornaments. The pictures were fine but sombre, and all of the Spanish school. One Velasquez in particular I noted with surprise, reflecting that, assuming it to be an authentic work of the master, my entire worldly possessions could not have enabled me to buy it. It was the portrait of a typical Spanish cavalier and beyond doubt a Menendez. In fact, the resemblance between the haughty Spanish grandee, who seemed about to step out of the canvas and pick a quarrel with the spectator, and Colonel Don Juan himself was almost startling. Evidently, our host had imported most of his belongings from Cuba. “Gentlemen,” he said, as we entered, “make yourselves quite at home, I beg. All my poor establishment contains is for your entertainment and service.” He drew up two long, low lounge chairs, the arms provided with receptacles to contain cooling drinks; and the mere sight of these chairs mentally translated me to the Spanish Main, where I pictured them set upon the veranda of that hacienda which had formerly been our host’s residence. Harley and I became seated and Colonel Menendez disposed himself upon a leather-covered couch, nodding apologetically as he did so. “My health requires that I should recline for a certain number of hours every day,” he explained. “So you will please forgive me.” “My dear Colonel Menendez,” said Harley, “I feel sure that you are interrupting your siesta in order to discuss the unpleasant business which finds us in such pleasant surroundings. Allow me once again to suggest that we postpone this matter until, shall we say, after dinner?” “No, no! No, no,” protested the Colonel, waving his hand deprecatingly. “Here is Pedro with coffee and some curacao of a kind which I can really recommend, although you may be unfamiliar with it.” I was certainly unfamiliar with the liqueur which he insisted we must taste, and which was contained in a sort of square, opaque bottle unknown, I think, to English wine merchants. Beyond doubt it was potent stuff; and some cigars which the Spaniard produced on this occasion and which were enclosed in little glass cylinders resembling test-tubes and elaborately sealed, I recognized to be priceless. They convinced me, if conviction had not visited me already, that Colonel Don Juan Sarmiento Menendez belonged to that old school of West Indian planters by whom the tradition of the Golden Americas had been for long preserved in the Spanish Main. We discussed indifferent matters for a while, sipping this wonderful curacao of our host’s. The effect created by the Colonel’s story faded entirely, and when, the latter being unable to conceal his drowsiness, Harley stood up, I took the hint with gratitude; for at that moment I did not feel in the mood to discuss serious business or indeed business of any kind. “Gentlemen,” said the Colonel, also rising, in spite of our protests, “I will observe your wishes. My guests’ wishes are mine. We will meet the ladies for tea on the terrace.” Harley and I walked out into the garden together, our courteous host standing in the open window, and bowing in that exaggerated fashion which in another might have been ridiculous but which was possible in Colonel Menendez, because of the peculiar grace of deportment which was his. As we descended the steps I turned and glanced back, I know not why. But the impression which I derived of the Colonel’s face as he stood there in the shadow of the veranda was one I can never forget. His expression had changed utterly, or so it seemed to me. He no longer resembled Velasquez’ haughty cavalier; gone, too, was the debonnaire bearing, I turned my head aside swiftly, hoping that he had not detected my backward glance. I felt that I had violated hospitality. I felt that I had seen what I should not have seen. And the result was to bring about that which no story of West Indian magic could ever have wrought in my mind. A dreadful, cold premonition claimed me, a premonition that this was a doomed man. The look which I had detected upon his face was an indefinable, an indescribable look; but I had seen it in the eyes of one who had been bitten by a poisonous reptile and who knew his hours to be numbered. It was uncanny, unnerving; and whereas at first the atmosphere of Colonel Menendez’s home had seemed to be laden with prosperous security, now that sense of ease and restfulness was gone–and gone for ever. “Harley,” I said, speaking almost at random, “this promises to be the strangest case you have ever handled.” “Promises?” Paul Harley laughed shortly. “It is the strangest case, Knox. It is a case of wheels within wheels, of mystery crowning mystery. Have you studied our host?” “Closely.” “And what conclusion have you formed?” “None at the moment; but I think one is slowly crystalizing.” “Hm,” muttered Harley, as we paced slowly on amid the rose trees. “Of one thing I am satisfied.” “What is that?” “That Colonel Menendez is not afraid of Bat Wing, whoever or whatever Bat Wing may be.” “Not afraid?” “Certainly he is not afraid, Knox. He has possibly been afraid in the past, but now he is resigned.” “Resigned to what?” “Resigned to death!” “Good God, Harley, you are right!” I cried. “You are right! I saw it in his eyes as we left the library.” Harley stopped and turned to me sharply. “You saw this in the Colonel’s eyes?” he challenged. “I did.” “Which corroborates my theory,” he said, softly; “for I had seen it elsewhere.” “Where do you mean, Harley?” “In the face of Madame de Staemer.” “What?” “Knox”–Harley rested his hand upon my arm and looked about him cautiously-“she knows.” “But knows what?” “That is the question which we are here to answer, but I am as sure as it is humanly possible to be sure of anything that whatever Colonel Menendez may tell us to-night, one point at least he will withhold.” “What do you expect him to withhold?” “The meaning of the sign of the Bat Wing.” “Then you think he knows its meaning?” “He has told us that it is the death-token of Voodoo.” I stared at Harley in perplexity. “Then you believe his explanation to be false?” “Not necessarily, Knox. It may be what he claims for it. But he is keeping something back. He speaks all the time from behind a barrier which he, himself, has deliberately erected against me.” “I cannot understand why he should do so,” I declared, as he looked at me steadily. “Within the last few moments I have become definitely convinced that his appeal to you was no idle one. Therefore, why should he not offer you every aid in his power?” “Why, indeed?” muttered Harley. “The same thing,” I continued, “applies to Madame de Staemer. If ever I have seen love-light in a woman’s eyes I have seen it in hers, to-day, whenever her glance has rested upon Colonel Menendez. Harley, I believe she literally worships the ground he walks upon.” “She does, she does!” cried my companion, and emphasized the words with beats of his clenched fist. “It is utterly, damnably mystifying. But I tell you, she knows, Knox, she knows!” “You mean she knows that he is a doomed man?” Harley nodded rapidly. “They both know,” he replied; “but there is something which they dare not divulge.” He glanced at me swiftly, and his bronzed face wore a peculiar expression. “Have you had an opportunity of any private conversation with Miss Val Beverley?” he enquired. “Yes,” I said. “Surely you remember that you found me chatting with her when you returned from your inspection of the tower.” “I remember perfectly well, but I thought you might have just met. Now it appears to me, Knox, that you have quickly established yourself in the good books of a very charming girl. My only reason for visiting the tower was to afford you just this opportunity! Don’t frown. Beyond reminding you of the fact that she has been on intimate terms with Madame de Staemer for some years, I will not intrude in any way upon your private plans in that direction.” I stared at him, and I suppose my expression was an angry one. “Surely you don’t misunderstand me?” he said. “A cultured English girl of that type cannot possibly have lived with these people without learning something of the matters which are puzzling us so badly. Am I asking too much?” “I see what you mean,” I said, slowly. “No, I suppose you are right, Harley.” “Good,” he muttered. “I will leave that side of the enquiry in your very capable hands, Knox.” He paused, and began to stare about him. “From this point,” said he, “we have an unobstructed view of the tower.” We turned and stood looking up at the unsightly gray structure, with its geometrical rows of windows and the minaret-like gallery at the top. “Of course”–I broke a silence of some moments duration–“the entire scheme of Cray’s Folly is peculiar, but the rooms, except for a uniformity which is monotonous, and an unimaginative scheme of decoration which makes them all seem alike, are airy and well lighted, eminently sane and substantial. The tower, however, is quite inexcusable, unless the idea was to enable the occupant to look over the tops of the trees in all directions.” “Yes,” agreed Harley, “it is an ugly landmark. But yonder up the slope I can see the corner of what seems to be a very picturesque house of some kind.” “I caught a glimpse of it earlier to-day,” I replied, “Yes, from this point a little more of it is visible. Apparently quite an old place.” I paused, staring up the hillside, but Harley, hands locked behind him and chin lowered reflectively, was pacing on. I joined him, and we proceeded for some little distance in silence, passing a gardener who touched his cap respectfully and to whom I thought at first my companion was about to address some remark. Harley passed on, however, still occupied, it seemed, with his reflections, and coming to a gravel path which, bordering one side of the lawns, led down from terrace to terrace into the valley, turned, and began to descend. “Let us go and interview the swans,” he murmured absently. 7. At The Lavender Arms In certain moods Paul Harley was impossible as a companion, and I, who knew him well, had learned to leave him to his own devices at such times. These moods invariably corresponded with his meeting some problem to the heart of which the lance of his keen wit failed to penetrate. His humour might not display itself in the spoken word, he merely became oblivious of everything and everybody around him. People might talk to him and he scarce noted their presence, familiar faces appear and he would see them not. Outwardly he remained the observant Harley who could see further into a mystery than any other in England, but his observation was entirely introspective; although he moved amid the hustle of life he was spiritually alone, communing with the solitude which dwells in every man’s heart. Presently, then, as we came to the lake at the foot of the sloping lawns, where water lilies were growing and quite a number of swans had their habitation, I detected the fact that I had ceased to exist so far as Harley was concerned. Knowing this mood of old, I pursued my way alone, pressing on across the valley and making for a swing gate which seemed to open upon a public footpath. Coming to this gate I turned and looked back. Paul Harley was standing where I had left him by the edge of the lake, staring as if hypnotized at the slowly moving swans. But I would have been prepared to wager that he saw neither swans nor lake, but mentally was far from the spot, deep in some complex maze of reflection through which no ordinary mind could hope to follow him. I glanced at my watch and found that it was but little after two o’clock. Luncheon at Cray’s Folly was early. I therefore had some time upon my hands and I determined to employ it in exploring part of the neighbourhood. Accordingly I filled and lighted my pipe and strolled leisurely along the footpath, enjoying the beauty of the afternoon, and admiring the magnificent timber which grew upon the southerly slopes of the valley. Larks sang high above me and the air was fragrant with those wonderful earthy scents which belong to an English countryside. A herd of very fine Jersey cattle presently claimed inspection, and a little farther on I found myself upon a high road where a brown-faced fellow seated aloft upon a hay-cart cheerily gave me good-day as I passed. Quite at random I turned to the left and followed the road, so that presently I found myself in a very small village, the principal building of which was a very small inn called the “Lavender Arms.” Colonel Menendez’s curacao, combined with the heat of the day, had made me thirsty; for which reason I stepped into the bar-parlour determined to sample the local ale. I wars served by the landlady, a neat, round, red little person, and as she retired, having placed a foam-capped mug upon the counter, her glance rested for a moment upon the only other occupant of the room, a man seated in an armchair immediately to the right of the door. A glass of whisky stood on the window ledge at his elbow, and that it was by no means the first which he had imbibed, his appearance seemed to indicate. Having tasted the cool contents of my mug, I leaned back against the counter and looked at this person curiously. He was apparently of about medium height, but of a somewhat fragile appearance. He was dressed like a country gentleman, and a stick and soft hat lay upon the ledge near his glass. But the thing about him which had immediately arrested my attention was his really extraordinary resemblance to Paul Harley’s engraving of Edgar Allan Poe. I wondered at first if Harley’s frequent references to die eccentric American genius, to whom he accorded a sort of hero-worship, were responsible for my imagining a close resemblance where only a slight one existed. But inspection of that strange, dark face convinced me of the fact that my first impression had been a true one. Perhaps, in my curiosity, I stared rather rudely. “You will pardon me, sir,” said the stranger, and I was startled to note that he spoke with a faint American accent, “but are you a literary man?” As I had judged to be the case, he was slightly bemused, but by no means drunk, and although his question was abrupt it was spoken civilly enough. “Journalism is one of the several occupations in which I have failed,” I replied, lightly. “You are not a fiction writer?” “I lack the imagination necessary for that craft, sir.” The other wagged his head slowly and took a drink of whisky. “Nevertheless,” he said, and raised his finger solemnly, “you were thinking that I resembled Edgar Allan Poe!” “Good heavens!” I exclaimed, for the man had really amazed me. “You clearly resemble him in more ways than one. I must really ask you to inform me how you deduced such a fact from a mere glance of mine.” “I will tell you, sir,” he replied. “But, first, I must replenish my glass, and I should be honoured if you would permit me to replenish yours.” “Thanks very much,” I said, “but I would rather you excused me.” “As you wish, sir,” replied the American with grave courtesy, “as you wish.” He stepped up to the counter and rapped upon it with half a crown, until the landlady appeared. She treated me to a pathetic glance, but refilled the empty glass. My American acquaintance having returned to his seat and having added a very little water to the whisky went on: “Now, sir,” said he, “my name is Colin Camber, formerly of Richmond, Virginia, United States of America, but now of the Guest House, Surrey, England, at your service.” Taking my cue from Mr. Camber’s gloomy but lofty manner, I bowed formally and mentioned my name. “I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Knox,” he assured me; “and now, sir, to answer your question. When you came in a few moments ago you glanced at me. Your eyes did not open widely as is the case when one recognizes, or thinks one recognizes, an acquaintance, they narrowed. This indicated retrospection. For a moment they turned aside. You were focussing a fugitive idea, a memory. You captured it. You looked at me again, and your successive glances read as follows: The hair worn uncommonly long, the mathematical brow, the eyes of a poet, the slight moustache, small mouth, weak chin; the glass at his elbow. The resemblance is complete. Knowing how complete it is myself, sir, I ventured to test my theory, and it proved to be sound.” Now, as Mr. Colin Camber had thus spoken in the serious manner of a slightly drunken man, I had formed the opinion that I stood in the presence of a very singular character. Here was that seeming mesalliance which not infrequently begets genius: a powerful and original mind allied to a weak will. I wondered what Mr. Colin Camber’s occupation might be, and somewhat, too, I wondered why his name was unfamiliar to me. For that the possessor of that brow and those eyes could fail to make his mark in any profession which he might take up I was unwilling to believe. “Your exposition has been very interesting, Mr. Camber,” I said. “You are a singularly close observer, I perceive.” “Yes,” he replied, “I have passed my life in observing the ways of my fellowmen, a study which I have pursued in various parts of the world without appreciable benefit to myself. I refer to financial benefit.” He contemplated me with a look which had grown suddenly pathetic. “I would not have you think, sir,” he added, “that I am an habitual toper. I have latterly been much upset by–domestic worries, and–er–” He emptied his glass at a draught. “Surely, Mr. Knox, you are going to replenish? Whilst you are doing so, would you kindly request Mrs. Wootton to extend the same favour to myself?” But at that moment Mrs. Wootton in person appeared behind the counter. “Time, please, gentlemen,” she said; “it is gone half-past two.” “What!” exclaimed Mr. Camber, rising. “What is that? You decline to serve me, Mrs. Wootton?” “Why, not at all, Mr. Camber,” answered the landlady, “but I can serve no one now; it’s after time.” “You decline to serve me,” he muttered, his speech becoming slurred. “Am I, then, to be insulted?” I caught a glance of entreaty from the landlady. “My dear sir,” I said, genially, “we must bow to the law, I suppose. At least we are better off here than in America.” “Ah, that is true,” agreed Mr. Camber, throwing his head back and speaking the words as though they possessed some deep dramatic significance. “Yes, but such laws are an insult to every intelligent man.” He sat down again rather heavily, and I stood looking from him to the landlady, and wondering what I should do. The matter was decided for me, however, in a way which I could never have foreseen. For, hearing a light footfall upon the step which led up to the bar-parlour, I turned –and there almost beside me stood a wrinkled little Chinaman! He wore a blue suit and a tweed cap, he wore queer, thick-soled slippers, and his face was like a smiling mask hewn out of very old ivory. I could scarcely credit the evidence of my senses, since the Lavender Arms was one of the last places in which I should have looked for a native of China. Mr. Colin Camber rose again, and fixing his melancholy eyes upon the newcomer: “Ah Tsong,” he said in a tone of cold anger, “what are you doing here?” Quite unmoved the Chinaman replied: “Blingee you chit, sir, vellee soon go back.” “What do you mean?” demanded Mr. Camber. “Answer me, Ah Tsong: who sent you?” “Lilly missee,” crooned the Chinaman, smiling up into the other’s face with a sort of childish entreaty. “Lilly missee.” “Oh,” said Mr. Camber in a changed voice. “Oh.” He stood very upright for a moment, his gaze set upon the wrinkled Chinese face. Then he looked at Mrs. Wootton and bowed, and looked at me and bowed, very stiffly. “I must excuse myself, sir,” he announced. “My wife desires my presence at home.” I returned his bow, and as he walked quite steadily toward the door, followed by Ah Tsong, he paused, turned, and said: “Mr. Knox, I should esteem it a friendly action if you would spare me an hour of your company before you leave Surrey. My visitors are few. Any one, any one, will direct you to the Guest House. I am persuaded that we have much in common. Good-day, sir.” He went down the steps, disappearing in company with the Chinaman, and having watched them go, I turned to Mrs. Wootton, the landlady, in silent astonishment. She nodded her head and sighed. “The same every day and every evening for months past,” she said. “I am afraid it’s going to be the death of him.” “Do you mean that Mr. Camber comes here every day and is always fetched by the Chinaman?” “Twice every day,” corrected the landlady, “and his poor wife sends here regularly.” “What a tragedy,” I muttered, “and such a brilliant man.” “Ah,” said she, busily removing jugs and glasses from the counter, “it does seem a terrible thing.” “Has Mr. Camber lived for long in this neighbourhood?” I ventured to inquire. “It was about three years ago, sir, that he took the old Guest House at MidHatton. I remember the time well enough because of all the trouble there was about him bringing a Chinaman down here.” “I can imagine it must have created something of a sensation,” I murmured. “Is the Guest House a large property?” “Oh, no, sir, only ten rooms and a garden, and it had been vacant for a long time. It belongs to what is called the Crayland Park Estate.” “Mr. Camber, I take it, is a literary man?” “So I believe, sir.” Mrs. Wootton, having cleared the counter, glanced up at the clock and then at me with a cheery but significant smile. “I see that it is after time,” I said, returning the smile, “but the queer people who seem to live hereabouts interest me very much.” “I can’t wonder at that, sir!” said the landlady, laughing outright. “Chinamen and Spanish men and what-not. If some of the old gentry that lived here before the war could see it, they wouldn’t recognize the place, of that I am sure.” “Ah, well,” said I, pausing at the step, “I shall hope to see more of Mr. Camber, and of yourself too, madam, for your ale is excellent.” “Thank you, sir, I’m sure,” said the landlady much gratified, “but as to Mr. Camber, I really doubt if he would know you if you met him again. Not if he was sober, I mean.” “Really?” “Oh, it’s a fact, believe me. Just in the last six months or so he has started on the rampage like, but some of the people he has met in here and asked to call upon him have done it, thinking he meant it.” “And they have not been well received?” said I, lingering. “They have had the door shut in their faces!” declared Mrs. Wootton with a certain indignation. “He either does not remember what he says or does when he is in drink, or he pretends he doesn’t. Oh, dear, it’s a funny world. Well, goodday, sir.” “Good-day,” said I, and came out of the Lavender Arms full of sympathy with the views of the “old gentry,” as outlined by Mrs. Wootton; for certainly it would seem that this quiet spot in the Surrey Hills had become a rallying ground for peculiar people. 8. The Call Of M’kombo Of tea upon the veranda of Cray’s Folly that afternoon I retain several notable memories. I got into closer touch with my host and hostess, without achieving anything like a proper understanding of either of them, and I procured a new viewpoint of Miss Val Beverley. Her repose was misleading. She deliberately subjugated her own vital personality to that of Madame de Staemer, why, I knew not, unless she felt herself under an obligation to do so. That her blue-gray eyes could be wistful was true enough, they could also be gay; and once I detected in them a look of sadness which dispelled the butterfly illusion belonging to her dainty slenderness, to her mobile lips, to the vagabond curling hair of russet brown. Paul Harley’s manner remained absent, but I who knew his moods so well recognized that this abstraction was no longer real. It was a pose which he often adopted when in reality he was keenly interested in his surroundings. It baffled me, however, as effectively as it baffled others, and whilst at one moment I decided that he was studying Colonel Menendez, in the next I became convinced that Madame de Staemer was the subject upon his mental dissecting table. That he should find in Madame a fascinating problem did not surprise me. She must have afforded tempting study for any psychologist. I could not fathom the nature of the kinship existing between herself and the Spanish colonel, for Madame de Staemer was French to her fingertips. Her expressions, her gestures, her whole outlook on life proclaimed the fashionable Parisienne. She possessed a vigorous masculine intelligence and was the most entertaining companion imaginable. She was daringly outspoken, and it was hard to believe that her gaiety was forced. Yet, as the afternoon wore on, I became more and more convinced that such was the case. I thought that before affliction visited her Madame de Staemer must have been a vivacious and a beautiful woman. Her vivacity remained and much of her beauty, so that it was difficult to believe her snow-white hair to be a product of nature. Again and again I found myself regarding it as a powdered coiffure of the Pompadour period and wondering why Madame wore no patches. That a deep and sympathetic understanding existed between herself and Colonel Menendez was unmistakable. More than once I intercepted glances from the dark eyes of Madame which were lover-like, yet laden with a profound sorrow. She was playing a role, and I was convinced that Harley knew this. It was not merely a courageous fight against affliction on the part of a woman of the world, versed in masking her real self from the prying eyes of society, it was a studied performance prompted by some deeper motive. She dressed with exquisite taste, and to see her seated there amid her cushions, gesticulating vivaciously, one would never have supposed that she was crippled. My admiration for her momentarily increased, the more so since I could see that she was sincerely fond of Val Beverley, whose every movement she followed with looks of almost motherly affection. This was all the more strange as Madame de Staemer whose age, I supposed, lay somewhere on the sunny side of forty, was of a type which expects, and wins, admiration, long after the average woman has ceased to be attractive. One endowed with such a temperament is as a rule unreasonably jealous of youth and good looks in another. I could not determine if Madame’s attitude were to be ascribed to complacent self-satisfaction or to a nobler motive. It sufficed for me that she took an unfeigned joy in the youthful sweetness of her companion. “Val, dear,” she said, presently, addressing the girl, “you should make those sleeves shorter, my dear.” She had a rapid way of speaking, and possessed a slightly husky but fascinatingly vibrant voice. “Your arms are very pretty. You should not hide them.” Val Beverley blushed, and laughed to conceal her embarrassment. “Oh, my dear,” exclaimed Madame, “why be ashamed of arms? All women have arms, but some do well to hide them.” “Quite right, Marie,” agreed the Colonel, his thin voice affording an odd contrast to the deeper tones of his cousin. “But it is the scraggy ones who seem to delight in displaying their angles.” “The English, yes,” Madame admitted, “but the French, no. They are too clever, Juan.” “Frenchwomen think too much about their looks,” said Val Beverley, quietly. “Oh, you know they do, Madame. They would rather die than be without admiration.” Madame shrugged her shoulders. “So would I, my dear,” she confessed, “although I cannot walk. Without admiration there is”–she snapped her fingers–“nothing. And who would notice a linnet when a bird of paradise was about, however sweet her voice? Tell me that, my dear?” Paul Harley aroused himself and laughed heartily. “Yet,” he said, “I think with Miss Beverley, that this love of elegance does not always make for happiness. Surely it is the cause of half the domestic tragedies in France?” “Ah, the French love elegance,” cried Madame, shrugging, “they cannot help it. To secure what is elegant a Frenchwoman will sometimes forget her husband, yes, but never forget herself.” “Really, Marie,” protested the Colonel, “you say most strange things!” “Is that so, Juan?” she replied, casting one of her queer glances in his direction; “but how would you like to be surrounded by a lot of drabs, eh? That man, Mr. Knox,” she extended one white hand in the direction of Colonel Menendez, the fingers half closed, in a gesture which curiously reminded me of Sarah Bernhardt, “that man would notice if a parlourmaid came into the room with a shoe unbuttoned. Poof! if we love elegance it is because without it the men would never love us.” Colonel Menendez bent across the table and kissed the white fingers in his courtier-like fashion. “My sweet cousin,” he said, “I should love you in rags.” Madame smiled and flushed like a girl, but withdrawing her hand she shrugged. “They would have to be pretty rags!” she added. During this little scene I detected Val Beverley looking at me in a vaguely troubled way, and it was easy to guess that she was wondering what construction I should place upon it. However: “I am going into the town,” declared Madame de Staemer, energetically.” Half the things ordered from Hartley’s have never been sent.” “Oh, Madame, please let me go,” cried Val Beverley. “My dear,” pronounced Madame, “I will not let you go, but I will let you come with me if you wish.” She rang a little bell which stood upon the tea-table beside the urn, and Pedro came out through the drawing room. “Pedro,” she said, “is the car ready?” The Spanish butler bowed. “Tell Carter to bring it round. Hurry, dear,” to the girl, “if you are coming with me. I shall not be a minute.” Thereupon she whisked her mechanical chair about, waved her hand to dismiss Pedro, and went steering through the drawing room at a great rate, with Val Beverley walking beside her. As we resumed our seats Colonel Menendez lay back with half-closed eyes, his glance following the chair and its occupant until both were swallowed up in the shadows of the big drawing room. “Madame de Staemer is a very remarkable woman,” said Paul Harley. “Remarkable?” replied the Colonel. “The spirit of all the old chivalry of France is imprisoned within her, I think.” He passed cigarettes around, of a long kind resembling cheroots and wrapped in tobacco leaf. I thought it strange that having thus emphasized Madame’s nationality he did not feel it incumbent upon him to explain the mystery of their kinship. However, he made no attempt to do so, and almost before we had lighted up, a racy little two-seater was driven around the gravel path by Carter, the chauffeur who had brought us to Cray’s Folly from London. The man descended and began to arrange wraps and cushions, and a few moments later back came Madame again, dressed for driving. Carter was about to lift her into the car when Colonel Menendez stood up and advanced. “Sit down, Juan, sit down!” said Madame, sharply. A look of keen anxiety, I had almost said of pain, leapt into her eyes, and the Colonel hesitated. “How often must I tell you,” continued the throbbing voice, “that you must not exert yourself.” Colonel Menendez accepted the rebuke humbly, but the incident struck me as grotesque; for it was difficult to associate delicacy with such a fine specimen of well-preserved manhood as the Colonel. However, Carter performed the duty of assisting Madame into her little car, and when for a moment he supported her upright, before placing her among the cushions, I noted that she was a tall woman, slender and elegant. All smiles and light, sparkling conversation, she settled herself comfortably at the wheel and Val Beverley got in beside her. Madame nodded to Carter in dismissal, waved her hand to Colonel Menendez, cried “Au revoir!” and then away went the little car, swinging around the angle of the house and out of sight. Our host stood bare-headed upon the veranda listening to the sound of the engine dying away among the trees. He seemed to be lost in reflection from which he only aroused himself when the purr of the motor became inaudible. “And now, gentlemen,” he said, and suppressed a sigh, “we have much to talk about. This spot is cool, but is it sufficiently private? Perhaps, Mr. Harley, you would prefer to talk in the library?” Paul Harley flicked ash from the end of his cigarette. “Better still in your own study, Colonel Menendez,” he replied. “What, do you suspect eavesdroppers?” asked the Colonel, his manner becoming momentarily agitated. He looked at Harley as though he suspected the latter of possessing private information. “We should neglect no possible precaution,” answered my friend. “That agencies inimical to your safety are focussed upon the house your own statement amply demonstrates.” Colonel Menendez seemed to be on the point of speaking again, but he checked himself and in silence led the way through the ornate library to a smaller room which opened out of it, and which was furnished as a study. Here the motif was distinctly one of officialdom. Although the Southern element was not lacking, it was not so marked as in the library or in the hall. The place was appointed for utility rather than ornament. Everything was in perfect order. In the library, with the blinds drawn, one might have supposed oneself in Trinidad; in the study, under similar conditions, one might equally well have imagined Downing Street to lie outside the windows. Essentially, this was the workroom of a man of affairs. Having settled ourselves comfortably, Paul Harley opened the conversation. “In several particulars,” said he, “I find my information to be incomplete.” He consulted the back of an envelope, upon which, I presumed during the afternoon, he had made a number of pencilled notes. “For instance,” he continued, “your detection of someone watching the house, and subsequently of someone forcing an entrance, had no visible association with the presence of the bat wing attached to your front door?” “No,” replied the Colonel, slowly, “these episodes took place a month ago.” “Exactly a month ago?” “They took place immediately before the last full moon.” “Ah, before the full moon. And because you associate the activities of Voodoo with the full moon, you believe that the old menace has again become active?” The Colonel nodded emphatically. He was busily engaged in rolling one of his eternal cigarettes. “This belief of yours was recently confirmed by the discovery of the bat wing?” “I no longer doubted,” said Colonel Menendez, shrugging his shoulders. “How could I?” “Quite so,” murmured Harley, absently, and evidently pursuing some private train of thought. “And now, I take it that your suspicions, if expressed in words would amount to this: During your last visit to Cuba you (a) either killed some high priest of Voodoo, or (b) seriously injured him? Assuming the first theory to be the correct one, your death was determined upon by the sect over which he had formerly presided. Assuming the second to be accurate, however, it is presumably the man himself for whom we must look. Now, Colonel Menendez, kindly inform me if you recall the name of this man?” “I recall it very well,” replied the Colonel. “His name was M’kombo, and he was a Benin negro.” “Assuming that he is still alive, what, roughly, would his age be to-day?” The Colonel seemed to meditate, pushing a box of long Martinique cigars across the table in my direction. “He would be an old man,” he pronounced. “I, myself, am fifty-two, and I should say that M’kombo if alive to-day would be nearer to seventy than sixty.” “Ah,” murmured Harley, “and did he speak English?” “A few words, I believe.” Paul Harley fixed his gaze upon the dark, aquiline face. “In short,” he said, “do you really suspect that it was M’kombo whose shadow you saw upon the lawn, who a month ago made a midnight entrance into Cray’s Folly, and who recently pinned a bat wing to the door?” Colonel Menendez seemed somewhat taken aback by this direct question. “I cannot believe it,” he confessed. “Do you believe that this order or religion of Voodooism has any existence outside those places where African negroes or descendents of negroes are settled?” “I should not have been prepared to believe it, Mr. Harley, prior to my experiences in Washington and elsewhere.” “Then you do believe that there are representatives of this cult to be met with in Europe and America?” “I should have been prepared to believe it possible in America, for in America there are many negroes, but in England—-” Again he shrugged his shoulders. “I would remind you,” said Harley, quietly, “that there are also quite a number of negroes in England. If you seriously believe Voodoo to follow negro migration, I can see no objection to assuming it to be a universal cult.” “Such an idea is incredible.” “Yet by what other hypothesis,” asked Harley, “are we to cover the facts of your own case as stated by yourself? Now,” he consulted his pencilled notes, “there is another point. I gather that these African sorcerers rely largely upon what I may term intimidation. In other words, they claim the power of wishing an enemy to death.” He raised his eyes and stared grimly at the Colonel. “I should not like to suppose that a man of your courage and culture could subscribe to such a belief.” “I do not, sir,” declared the Colonel, warmly. “No Obeah man could ever exercise his will upon me!” “Yet, if I may say so,” murmured Harley, “your will to live seems to have become somewhat weakened.” “What do you mean?” Colonel Menendez stood up, his delicate nostrils dilated. He glared angrily at Harley. “I mean that I perceive a certain resignation in your manner of which I do not approve.” “You do not approve?” said Colonel Menendez, softly; and I thought as he stood looking down upon my friend that I had rarely seen a more formidable figure. Paul Harley had roused him unaccountably, and knowing my friend for a master of tact I knew also that this had been deliberate, although I could not even dimly perceive his object. “I occupy the position of a specialist,” Harley continued, “and you occupy that of my patient. Now, you cannot disguise from me that your mental opposition to this danger which threatens has become slackened. Allow me to remind you that the strongest defence is counter-attack. You are angry, Colonel Menendez, but I would rather see you angry than apathetic. To come to my last point. You spoke of a neighbour in terms which led me to suppose that you suspected him of some association with your enemies. May I ask for the name of this person?” Colonel Menendez sat down again, puffing furiously at his cigarette, whilst beginning to roll another. He was much disturbed, was fighting to regain mastery of himself. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he said, “for a breach of good behaviour which really was unforgivable. I was angry when I should have been grateful. Much that you have said is true. Because it is true, I despise myself.” He flashed a glance at Paul Harley. “Awake,” he continued, “I care for no man breathing, black or white; but asleep”-he shrugged his shoulders. “It is in sleep that these dealers in unclean things obtain their advantage.” “You excite my curiosity,” declared Harley. “Listen,” Colonel Menendez bent forward, resting his elbows upon his knees. Between the yellow fingers of his left hand he held the newly completed cigarette whilst he continued to puff vigorously at the old one. “You recollect my speaking of the death of a certain native girl?” Paul Harley nodded. “The real cause of her death was never known, but I obtained evidence to show that on the night after the wing of a bat had been attached to her hut, she wandered out in her sleep and visited the Black Belt. Can you doubt that someone was calling her?” “Calling her?” “Mr. Harley, she was obeying the call of M’kombo!” “The call of M’kombo? You refer to some kind of hypnotic suggestions?” “I illustrate,” replied the Colonel, “to help to make clear something which I have to tell you. On the night when last the moon was full–on the night after someone had entered the house–I had retired early to bed. Suddenly I awoke, feeling very cold. I awoke, I say, and where do you suppose I found myself?” “I am all anxiety to hear.” “On the point of entering the Tudor garden–you call it Tudor garden?–which is visible from the window of your room!” “Most extraordinary,” murmured Harley; “and you were in your night attire?” “I was.” “And what had awakened you?” “An accident. I believe a lucky accident. I had cut my bare foot upon the gravel and the pain awakened! me.” “You had no recollection of any dream which had prompted you to go down into the garden?” “None whatever.” “Does your room face in that direction?” “It does not. It faces the lake on the south of the house. I had descended to a side door, unbarred it, and walked entirely around the east wing before I awakened.” “Your room faces the lake,” murmured Harley. “Yes.” Their glances met, and in Paul Harley’s expression there seemed to be a challenge. “You have not yet told me,” said he, “the name of your neighbour.” Colonel Menendez lighted his new cigarette. “Mr. Harley,” he confessed, “I regret that I ever referred to this suspicion of mine. Indeed it is hardly a suspicion, it is what I may call a desperate doubt. Do you say that, a desperate doubt?” “I think I follow you,” said Harley. “The fact is this, I only know of one person within ten miles of Cray’s Folly who has ever visited Cuba.” “Ah.” “I have no other scrap of evidence to associate him I with my shadowy enemy. This being so, you will pardon me if I ask you to forget that I ever referred to his existence.” He spoke the words with a sort of lofty finality, and accompanied them with a gesture of the hands which really left Harley no alternative but to drop the subject. Again their glances met, and it was patent to me that underlying all this conversation was something beyond my ken. What it was that Harley suspected I could not imagine, nor what it was that Colonel Menendez desired to conceal; but tension was in the very air. The Spaniard was on the defensive, and Paul Harley was puzzled, irritated. It was a strange interview, and one which in the light of after events I recognized to possess extraordinary significance. That sixth sense of Harley’s was awake, was prompting him, but to what extent he understood its promptings at that hour I did not know, and have never known to this day. Intuitively, I believe, as he sat there staring at Colonel Menendez, he began to perceive the shadow within a shadow which was the secret of Cray’s Folly, which was the thing called Bat Wing, which was the devilish force at that very hour alive and potent in our midst. 9. Obeah This conversation in Colonel Menendez’s study produced a very unpleasant impression upon my mind. The atmosphere of Cray’s Folly seemed to become charged with unrest. Of Madame de Staemer and Miss Beverley I saw nothing up to the time that I retired to dress. Having dressed I walked into Harley’s room, anxious to learn if he had formed any theory to account for the singular business which had brought us to Surrey. Harley had excused himself directly we had left the study, stating that he wished to get to the village post-office in time to send a telegram to London. Our host had suggested a messenger, but this, as well as the offer of a car, Harley had declined, saying that the exercise would aid reflection. Nevertheless, I was surprised to find his room empty, for I could not imagine why the sending of a telegram should have detained him so long. Dusk was falling, and viewed from the open window the Tudor garden below looked very beautiful, part of it lying in a sort of purplish shadow and the rest being mystically lighted as though viewed through a golden veil. To the whole picture a sort of magic quality was added by a speck of high-light which rested upon the face of the old sun-dial. I thought that here was a fit illustration for a fairy tale; then I remembered the Colonel’s account of how he had awakened in the act of entering this romantic plaisance, and I was touched anew by an unrestfulness, by a sense of the uncanny, I observed a book lying upon the dressing table, and concluding that it was one which Harley had brought with him, I took it up, glancing at the title. It was “Negro Magic,” and switching on the light, for there was a private electric plant in Cray’s Folly, I opened the book at random and began to read. “The religion of the negro,” said this authority, “is emotional, and more often than not associated with beliefs in witchcraft and in the rites known as Voodoo or Obi Mysteries. It has been endeavoured by some students to show that these are relics of the Fetish worship of equatorial Africa, but such a genealogy has never been satisfactorily demonstrated. The cannibalistic rituals, human sacrifices, and obscene ceremonies resembling those of the Black Sabbath of the Middle Ages, reported to prevail in Haiti and other of the islands, and by some among the negroes of the Southern States of America, may be said to rest on doubtful authority. Nevertheless, it is a fact beyond doubt that among the negroes both of the West Indies and the United States there is a widespread belief in the powers of the Obeah man. A native who believes himself to have come under the spell of such a sorcerer will sink into a kind of decline and sometimes die.” At this point I discovered several paragraphs underlined in pencil, and concluding that the underlining had been done by Paul Harley, I read them with particular care. They were as follows: “According to Hesketh J. Bell, the term Obeah is most probably derived from the substantive Obi, a word used on the East coast of Africa to denote witchcraft, sorcery, and fetishism in general. The etymology of Obi has been traced to a very antique source, stretching far back into Egyptian mythology. A serpent in the Egyptian language was called Ob or Aub. Obion is still the Egyptian name for a serpent. Moses, in the name of God, forbade the Israelites ever to enquire of the demon, Ob, which is translated in our Bible: Charmer or wizard, divinator or sorcerer. The Witch of Endor is called Oub or Ob, translated Pythonissa; and Oubois was the name of the basilisk or royal serpent, emblem of the Sun and an ancient oracular deity of Africa.” A paragraph followed which was doubly underlined, and pursuing my reading I made a discovery which literally caused me to hold my breath. This is what I read: “In a recent contribution to the Occult Review, Mr. Colin Camber, the American authority, offered some very curious particulars in support of a theory to show that whereas snakes and scorpions have always been recognized as sacred by Voodoo worshippers, the real emblem of their unclean religion is the bat, especially the Vampire Bat of South America. “He pointed out that the symptoms of one dying beneath the spell of an Obeah man are closely paralleled in the cases of men and animals who have suffered from nocturnal attacks of blood-sucking bats.” I laid the open book down upon the bed. My brain was in a tumult. The several theories, or outlines of theories which hitherto I had entertained, were, by these simple paragraphs, cast into the utmost disorder. I thought of the Colonel’s covert references to a neighbour whom he feared, of his guarded statement that the devotees of Voodoo were not confined to the West Indies, of the attack upon him in Washington, of the bat wing pinned to the door of Cray’s Folly. Incredulously, I thought of my acquaintance of the Lavender Arms, with his bemused expression and his magnificent brow; and a great doubt and wonder grew up in my mind. I became increasingly impatient for the return of Paul Harley. I felt that a clue of the first importance had fallen into my possession; so that when, presently, as I walked impatiently up and down the room, the door opened and Harley entered, I greeted him excitedly. “Harley!” I cried, “Harley! I have learned a most extraordinary thing!” Even as I spoke and looked into the keen, eager face, the expression in Harley’s eyes struck me. I recognized that in him, too, intense excitement was pent up. Furthermore, he was in one of his irritable moods. But, full of my own discoveries: “I chanced to glance at this book,” I continued, “whilst I was waiting for you. You have underlined certain passages.” He stared at me queerly. “I discovered the book in my own library after you had gone last night, Knox, and it was then that I marked the passages which struck me as significant.” “But, Harley,” I cried, “the man who is quoted here, Colin Camber, lives in this very neighbourhood!” “I know.” “What! You know?” “I learned it from Inspector Aylesbury of the County Police half an hour ago.” Harley frowned perplexedly. “Then, why, in Heaven’s name didn’t you tell me?” he exclaimed. “It would have saved me a most disagreeable journey into Market Hilton.” “Market Hilton! What, have you been into the town?” “That is exactly where I have been, Knox. I ‘phoned through to Innes from the village post-office after lunch to have the car sent down. There is a convenient garage by the Lavender Arms.” “But the Colonel has three cars,” I exclaimed. “The horse has four legs,” replied Harley, irritably, “but although I have only two, there are times when I prefer to use them. I am still wondering why you failed to mention this piece of information when you had obtained it.” “My dear Harley,” said I, patiently, “how could I possibly be expected to attach any importance to the matter? You must remember that at the time I had never seen this work on negro sorcery.” “No,” said Harley, dropping down upon the bed, “that is perfectly true, Knox. I am afraid I have a liver at times; a distinct Indian liver. Excuse me, old man, but to tell you the truth I feel strangely inclined to pack my bag and leave for London without a moment’s delay.” “What!” I cried. “Oh, I know you would be sorry to go, Knox,” said Harley, smiling, “and so, for many reasons, should I. But I have the strongest possible objection to being trifled with.” “I am afraid I don’t quite understand you, Harley.” “Well, just consider the matter for a moment. Do you suppose that Colonel Menendez is ignorant of the fact that his nearest neighbour is a recognized authority upon Voodoo and allied subjects?” “You are speaking, of course, of Colin Camber?” “Of none other.” “No,” I replied, thoughtfully, “the Colonel must know, of course, that Camber resides in the neighbourhood.” “And that he knows something of the nature of Camber’s studies his remarks sufficiently indicate,” added Harley. “The whole theory to account for these attacks upon his life rests on the premise that agents of these Obeah people are established in England and America. Then, in spite of my direct questions, he leaves me to find out for myself that Colin Camber’s property practically adjoins his own!” “Really! Does he reside so near as that?” “My dear fellow,” cried Harley, “he lives at a place called the Guest House. You can see it from part of the grounds of Cray’s Folly. We were looking at it to-day.” “What! the house on the hillside?” “That’s the Guest House! What do you make of it, Knox? That Menendez suspects this man is beyond doubt. Why should he hesitate to mention his name?” “Well,” I replied, slowly, “probably because to associate practical sorcery and assassination with such a character would be preposterous.” “But the man is admittedly a student of these things, Knox.” “He may be, and that he is a genius of some kind I am quite prepared to believe. But having had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Colin Camber, I am not prepared to believe him capable of murder.” I suppose I spoke with a certain air of triumph, for Paul Harley regarded me silently for a while. “You seem to be taking this case out of my hands, Knox,” he said. “Whilst I have been systematically at work racing about the county in quest of information you would appear to have blundered further into the labyrinth than all my industry has enabled me to do.” He remained in a very evil humour, and now the cause of this suddenly came to light. “I have spent a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon,” he continued, “interviewing an impossible country policeman who had never heard of my existence!” This display of human resentment honestly delighted me. It was refreshing to know that the omniscient Paul Harley was capable of pique. “One, Inspector Aylesbury,” he went on, bitterly, “a large person bearing a really interesting resemblance to a walrus, but lacking that creature’s intelligence. It was not until Superintendent East had spoken to him from Scotland Yard that he ceased to treat me as a suspect. But his new attitude was almost more provoking than the old one. He adopted the manner of a regimental sergeant-major reluctantly interviewing a private with a grievance. If matters should so develop that we are compelled to deal with that fish-faced idiot, God help us all!” He burst out laughing, his good humour suddenly quite restored, and taking out his pipe began industriously to load it. “I can smoke while I am changing,” he said, “and you can sit there and tell me all about Colin Camber.” I did as he requested, and Harley, who could change quicker than any man I had ever known, had just finished tying his bow as I completed my story of the encounter at the Lavender Arms. “Hm,” he muttered, as I ceased speaking. “At every turn I realize that without you I should have been lost, Knox. I am afraid I shall have to change your duties tomorrow.” “Change my duties? What do you mean?” “I warn you that the new ones will be less pleasant than the old! In other words, I must ask you to tear yourself away from Miss Val Beverley for an hour in the morning, and take advantage of Mr. Camber’s invitation to call upon him.” “Frankly, I doubt if he would acknowledge me.” “Nevertheless, you have a better excuse than I. In the circumstances it is most important that we should get in touch with this man.” “Very well,” I said, ruefully. “I will do my best. But you don’t seriously think, Harley, that the danger comes from there?” Paul Harley took his dinner jacket from the chair upon which the man had laid it out, and turned to me. “My dear Knox,” he said, “you may remember that I spoke, recently, of retiring from this profession?” “You did.” “My retirement will not be voluntary, Knox. I shall be kicked out as an incompetent ass; for, respecting the connection, if any, between the narrative of Colonel Menendez, the bat wing nailed to the door of the house, and Mr. Colin Camber, I have not the foggiest notion. In this, at last, I have triumphed over Auguste Dupin. Auguste Dupin never confessed defeat.” 10. The Night Walker If luncheon had seemed extravagant, dinner at Cray’s Folly proved to be a veritable Roman banquet. To associate ideas of selfishness with Miss Beverley was hateful, but the more I learned of the luxurious life of this queer household hidden away in the Surrey Hills the less I wondered at any one’s consenting to share such exile. I had hitherto counted an American freak dinner, organized by a lucky plunger and held at the Cafe de Paris, as the last word in extravagant feasting. But I learned now that what was caviare in Monte Carlo was ordinary fare at Cray’s Folly. Colonel Menendez was an epicure with an endless purse. The excellence of one of the courses upon which I had commented led to a curious incident. “You approve of the efforts of my chef?” said the Colonel. “He is worthy of his employer,” I replied. Colonel Menendez bowed in his cavalierly fashion and Madame de Staemer positively beamed upon me. “You shall speak for him,” said the Spaniard. “He was with me in Cuba, but has no reputation in London. There are hotels that would snap him up.” I looked at the speaker in surprise. “Surely he is not leaving you?” I asked. The Colonel exhibited a momentary embarrassment. “No, no. No, no,” he replied, waving his hand gracefully, “I was only thinking that he–” there was a scarcely perceptible pause–“might wish to better himself. You understand?” I understood only too well; and recollecting the, words spoken by Paul Harley that afternoon, respecting the Colonel’s will to live, I became conscious of an uncomfortable sense of chill. If I had doubted that in so speaking he had been contemplating his own death, the behaviour of Madame de Staemer must have convinced me. Her complexion was slightly but cleverly made up, with all the exquisite art of the Parisienne, but even through the artificial bloom I saw her cheeks blanch. Her face grew haggard and her eyes burned unnaturally. She turned quickly aside to address Paul Harley, but I knew that the significance of this slight episode had not escaped him. He was by no means at ease. In the first place, he was badly puzzled; in the second place, he was angry. He felt it incumbent upon him to save this man from a menace which he, Paul Harley, evidently recognized to be real, although to me it appeared wildly chimerical, and the very person upon whose active cooeperation he naturally counted not only seemed resigned to his fate, but by deliberate omission of important data added to Harley’s difficulties. How much of this secret drama proceeding in Cray’s Folly was appreciated by Val Beverley I could not determine. On this occasion, I remember, she was simply but perfectly dressed and, in my eyes, seemed the most sweetly desirable woman I had ever known. Realizing that I had already revealed my interest in the girl, I was oddly self-conscious, and a hundred times during the progress of dinner I glanced across at Harley, expecting to detect his quizzical smile. He was very stern, however, and seemed more reserved than usual. He was uncertain of his ground, I could see. He resented the understanding which evidently existed between Colonel Menendez and Madame de Staemer, and to which, although his aid had been sought, he was not admitted. It seemed to me, personally, that an almost palpable shadow lay upon the room. Although, save for this one lapse, our host throughout talked gaily and entertainingly, I was obsessed by a memory of the expression which I had detected upon his face that morning, the expression of a doomed man. What, in Heaven’s name, I asked myself, did it all mean? If ever I saw the fighting spirit looking out of any man’s eyes, it looked out of the eyes of Don Juan Sarmiento Menendez. Why, then, did he lie down to the menace of this mysterious Bat Wing, and if he counted opposition futile, why had he summoned Paul Harley to Cray’s Folly? With the passing of every moment I sympathized more fully with the perplexity of my friend, and no longer wondered that even his highly specialized faculties had failed to detect an explanation. Remembering Colin Camber as I had seen him at the Lavender Arms, it was simply impossible to suppose that such a man as Menendez could fear such a man as Camber. True, I had seen the latter at a disadvantage, and I knew well enough that many a genius has been also a drunkard. But although I was prepared to find that Colin Camber possessed genius, I found it hard to believe that this was of a criminal type. That such a character could be the representative of some remote negro society was an idea too grotesque to be entertained for a moment. I was tempted to believe that his presence in the neighbourhood of this haunted Cuban was one of those strange coincidences which in criminal history have sometimes proved so tragic for their victims. Madame de Staemer, avoiding the Colonel’s glances, which were pathetically apologetic, gradually recovered herself, and: “My dear,” she said to Val Beverley, “you look perfectly sweet to-night. Don’t you think she looks perfectly sweet, Mr. Knox?” Ignoring a look of entreaty from the blue-gray eyes: “Perfectly,” I replied. “Oh, Mr. Knox,” cried the girl, “why do you encourage her? She says embarrassing things like that every time I put on a new dress.” Her reference to a new dress set me speculating again upon the apparent anomaly of her presence at Cray’s Folly. That she was not a professional “companion” was clear enough. I assumed that her father had left her suitably provided for, since she wore such expensively simple gowns. She had a delightful trick of blushing when attention was focussed upon her, and said Madame de Staemer: “To be able to blush like that I would give my string of pearls–no, half of it.” “My dear Marie,” declared Colonel Menendez, “I have seen you blush perfectly.” “No, no,” Madame disclaimed the suggestion with one of those Bernhardt gestures, “I blushed my last blush when my second husband introduced me to my first husband’s wife.” “Madame!” exclaimed Val Beverley, “how can you say such things?” She turned to me. “Really, Mr. Knox, they are all fables.” “In fables we renew our youth,” said Madame. “Ah,” sighed Colonel Menendez; “our youth, our youth.” “Why sigh, Juan, why regret?” cried Madame, immediately. “Old age is only tragic to those who have never been young.” She directed a glance toward him as she spoke those words, and as I had felt when I had seen his tragic face on the veranda that morning I felt again in detecting this look of Madame de Staemer’s. The yearning yet selfless love which it expressed was not for my eyes to witness. “Thank God, Marie,” replied the Colonel, and gallantly kissed his hand to her, “we have both been young, gloriously young.” When, at the termination of this truly historic dinner, the ladies left us: “Remember, Juan,” said Madame, raising her white, jewelled hand, and holding the fingers characteristically curled, “no excitement, no billiards, no cards.” Colonel Menendez bowed deeply, as the invalid wheeled herself from the room, followed by Miss Beverley. My heart was beating delightfully, for in the moment of departure the latter had favoured me with a significant glance, which seemed to say, “I am looking forward to a chat with you presently.” “Ah,” said Colonel Menendez, when we three men found ourselves alone, “truly I am blessed in the autumn of my life with such charming companionship. Beauty and wit, youth and discretion. Is he not a happy man who possesses all these?” “He should be,” said Harley, gravely. The saturnine Pedro entered with some wonderful crusted port, and Colonel Menendez offered cigars. “I believe you are a pipe-smoker,” said our courteous host to Harley, “and if this is so, I know that you will prefer your favourite mixture to any cigar that ever was rolled.” “Many thanks,” said Harley, to whom no more delicate compliment could have been paid. He was indeed an inveterate pipe-smoker, and only rarely did he truly enjoy a cigar, however choice its pedigree. With a sigh of content he began to fill his briar. His mood was more restful, and covertly I watched him studying our host. The night remained very warm and one of the two windows of the dining room, which was the most homely apartment in Cray’s Folly, was wide open, offering a prospect of sweeping velvet lawns touched by the magic of the moonlight. A short silence fell, to be broken by the Colonel. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I trust you do not regret your fishing excursion?” “I could cheerfully pass the rest of my days in such ideal surroundings,” replied Paul Harley. I nodded in agreement. “But,” continued my friend, speaking very deliberately, “I have to remember that I am here upon business, and that my professional reputation is perhaps at stake.” He stared very hard at Colonel Menendez. “I have spoken with your butler, known as Pedro, and with some of the other servants, and have learned all that there is to be learned about the person unknown who gained admittance to the house a month ago, and concerning the wing of a bat, found attached to the door more recently.” “And to what conclusion have you come?” asked Colonel Menendez, eagerly. He bent forward, resting his elbows upon his knees, a pose which he frequently adopted. He was smoking a cigar, but his total absorption in the topic under discussion was revealed by the fact that from a pocket in his dinner jacket he had taken out a portion of tobacco, had laid it in a slip of rice paper, and was busily rolling one of his eternal cigarettes. “I might be enabled to come to one,” replied Harley, “if you would answer a very simple question.” “What is this question?” “It is this–Have you any idea who nailed the bat’s wing to your door?” Colonel Menendez’s eyes opened very widely, and his face became more aquiline than ever. “You have heard my story, Mr. Harley,” he replied, softly. “If I know the explanation, why do I come to you?” Paul Harley puffed at his pipe. His expression did not alter in the slightest. “I merely wondered if your suspicions tended in the direction of Mr. Colin Camber,” he said. “Colin Camber!” As the Colonel spoke the name either I became victim of a strange delusion or his face was momentarily convulsed. If my senses served me aright then his pronouncing of the words “Colin Camber” occasioned him positive agony. He clutched the arms of his chair, striving, I thought, to retain composure, and in this he succeeded, for when he spoke again his voice was quite normal. “Have you any particular reason for your remark, Mr. Harley?” “I have a reason,” replied Paul Harley, “but don’t misunderstand me. I suggest nothing against Mr. Camber. I should be glad, however, to know if you are acquainted with him?” “We have never met.” “You possibly know him by repute?” “I have heard of him, Mr. Harley. But to be perfectly frank, I have little in common with citizens of the United States.” A note of arrogance, which at times crept into his high, thin voice, became perceptible now, and the aristocratic, aquiline face looked very supercilious. How the conversation would have developed I know not, but at this moment Pedro entered and delivered a message in Spanish to the Colonel, whereupon the latter arose and with very profuse apologies begged permission to leave us for a few moments. When he had retired: “I am going upstairs to write a letter, Knox,” said Paul Harley. “Carry on with your old duties to-day, your new ones do not commence until to-morrow.” With that he laughed and walked out of the dining room, leaving me wondering whether to be grateful or annoyed. However, it did not take me long to find my way to the drawing room where the two ladies were seated side by side upon a settee, Madame’s chair having been wheeled into a corner. “Ah, Mr. Knox,” exclaimed Madame as I entered, “have the others deserted, then?” “Scarcely deserted, I think. They are merely straggling.” “Absent without leave,” murmured Val Beverley. I laughed, and drew up a chair. Madame de Staemer was smoking, but Miss Beverley was not. Accordingly, I offered her a cigarette, which she accepted, and as I was lighting it with elaborate care, every moment finding a new beauty in her charming face, Pedro again appeared and addressed some remark in Spanish to Madame. “My chair, Pedro,” she said; “I will come at once.” The Spanish butler wheeled the chair across to the settee, and lifting her with an ease which spoke of long practice, placed her amidst the cushions where she spent so many hours of her life. “I know you will excuse me, dear,” she said to Val Beverley, “because I feel sure that Mr. Knox will do his very best to make up for my absence. Presently, I shall be back.” Pedro holding the door open, she went wheeling out, and I found myself alone with Val Beverley. At the time I was much too delighted to question the circumstances which had led to this tete-a-tete, but had I cared to give the matter any consideration, it must have presented rather curious features. The call first of host and then of hostess was inconsistent with the courtesy of the master of Cray’s Folly, which, like the appointments of his home and his mode of life, was elaborate. But these ideas did not trouble me at the moment. Suddenly, however, indeed before I had time to speak, the girl started and laid her hand upon my arm. “Did you hear something?” she whispered, “a queer sort of sound?” “No,” I replied, “what kind of sound?” “An odd sort of sound, almost like–the flapping of wings.” I saw that she had turned pale, I saw the confirmation of something which I had only partly realised before: that her life at Cray’s Folly was a constant fight against some haunting shadow. Her gaiety, her lightness, were but a mask. For now, in those wide-open eyes, I read absolute horror. “Miss Beverley,” I said, grasping her hand reassuringly, “you alarm me. What has made you so nervous to-night?” “To-night!” she echoed, “to-night? It is every night. If you had not come–” she corrected herself–“if someone had not come, I don’t think I could have stayed. I am sure I could not have stayed.” “Doubtless the attempted burglary alarmed you?” I suggested, intending to sooth her fears. “Burglary?” She smiled unmirthfully. “It was no burglary.” “Why do you say so, Miss Beverley?” “Do you think I don’t know why Mr. Harley is here?” she challenged. “Oh, believe me, I know–I know. I, too, saw the bat’s wing nailed to the door, Mr. Knox. You are surely not going to suggest that this was the work of a burglar?” I seated myself beside her on the settee. “You have great courage,” I said. “Believe me, I quite understand all that you have suffered.” “Is my acting so poor?” she asked, with a pathetic smile. “No, it is wonderful, but to a sympathetic observer only acting, nevertheless.” I noted that my presence reassured her, and was much comforted by this fact. “Would you like to tell me all about it,” I continued; “or would this merely renew your fears?” “I should like to tell you,” she replied in a low voice, glancing about her as if to make sure that we were alone. “Except for odd people, friends, I suppose, of the Colonel’s, we have had so few visitors since we have been at Cray’s Folly. Apart from all sorts of queer happenings which really”–she laughed nervously–“may have no significance whatever, the crowning mystery to my mind is why Colonel Menendez should have leased this huge house.” “He does not entertain very much, then?” “Scarcely at all. The ‘County’–do you know what I mean by the ‘County?’–began by receiving him with open arms and ended by sending him to Coventry. His lavish style of entertainment they labelled ‘swank’–horrible word but very expressive! They concluded that they did not understand him, and of everything they don’t understand they disapprove. So after the first month or so it became very lonely at Cray’s Folly. Our foreign servants–there are five of them altogether–got us a dreadfully bad name. Then, little by little, a sort of cloud seemed to settle on everything. The Colonel made two visits abroad, I don’t know exactly where he went, but on his return from the first visit Madame de Staemer changed.” “Changed?–in what way?” “I am afraid it would be hopeless to try to make you understand, Mr. Knox, but in some subtle way she changed. Underneath all her vivacity she is a tragic woman, and–oh, how can I explain?” Val Beverley made a little gesture of despair. “Perhaps you mean,” I suggested, “that she seemed to become even less happy than before?” “Yes,” she replied, looking at me eagerly. “Has Colonel Menendez told you anything to account for it?” “Nothing,” I said, “He has left us strangely in the dark. But you say he went abroad on a second and more recent occasion?” “Yes, not much more than a month ago. And after that, somehow or other, matters seemed to come to a head. I confess I became horribly frightened, but to have left would have seemed like desertion, and Madame de Staemer has been so good to me.” “Did you actually witness any of the episodes which took place about a month ago?” Val Beverley shook her head. “I never saw anything really definite,” she replied. “Yet, evidently you either saw or heard something which alarmed you.” “Yes, that is true, but it is so difficult to explain.” “Could you try to explain?” “I will try if you wish, for really I am longing to talk to someone about it. For instance, on several occasions I have heard footsteps in the corridor outside my room.” “At night?” “Yes, at night.” “Strange footsteps?” She nodded. “That is the uncanny part of it. You know how familiar one grows with the footsteps of persons living in the same house? Well, these footsteps were quite unfamiliar to me.” “And you say they passed your door?” “Yes. My rooms are almost directly overhead. And right at the end of the corridor, that is on the southeast corner of the building, is Colonel Menendez’s bedroom, and facing it a sort of little smoke-room. It was in this direction that the footsteps went.” “To Colonel Menendez’s room?” “Yes. They were light, furtive footsteps.” “This took place late at night?” “Quite late, long after everyone had retired.” She paused, staring at me with a sort of embarrassment, and presently: “Were the footsteps those of a man or a woman?” I asked. “Of a woman. Someone, Mr. Knox,” she bent forward, and that look of fear began to creep into her eyes again, “with whose footsteps I was quite unfamiliar.” “You mean a stranger to the house?” “Yes. Oh, it was uncanny.” She shuddered. “The first time I heard it I had been lying awake listening. I was nervous. Madame de Staemer had told me that morning that the Colonel had seen someone lurking about the lawns on the previous night. Then, as I lay awake listening for the slightest sound, I suddenly detected these footsteps; and they paused–right outside my door.” “Good heavens!” I exclaimed. “What did you do?” “Frankly, I was too frightened to do anything. I just lay still with my heart beating horribly, and presently they passed on, and I heard them no more.” “Was your door locked?” “No.” She laughed nervously. “But it has been locked every night since then!” “And these sounds were repeated on other nights?” “Yes, I have often heard them, Mr. Knox. What makes it so strange is that all the servants sleep out in the west wing, as you know, and Pedro locks the communicating door every night before retiring.” “It is certainly strange,” I muttered. “It is horrible,” declared the girl, almost in a whisper. “For what can it mean except that there is someone in Cray’s Folly who is never seen during the daytime?” “But that is incredible.” “It is not so incredible in a big house like this. Besides, what other explanation can there be?” “There must be one,” I said, reassuringly. “Have you spoken of this to Madame de Staemer?” “Yes.” Val Beverley’s expression grew troubled. “Had she any explanation to offer?” “None. Her attitude mystified me very much. Indeed, instead of reassuring me, she frightened me more than ever by her very silence. I grew to dread the coming of each night. Then–” she hesitated again, looking at me pathetically-“twice I have been awakened by a loud cry.” “What kind of cry?” “I could not tell you, Mr. Knox. You see I have always been asleep when it has come, but I have sat up trembling and dimly aware that what had awakened me was a cry of some kind.” “You have no idea from whence it proceeded?” “None whatever. Of course, all these things may seem trivial to you, and possibly they can be explained in quite a simple way. But this feeling of something I pending has grown almost unendurable. Then, I don’t understand Madame and the Colonel at all.” She suddenly stopped speaking and flushed with embarrassment. “If you mean that Madame de Staemer is in love with her cousin, I agree with you,” I said, quietly. “Oh, is it so evident as that?” murmured Val Beverley. She laughed to cover her confusion. “I wish I could understand what it all means.” At this point our tete-a-tete was interrupted by the return of Madame de Staemer. “Oh, la la!” she cried, “the Colonel must have allowed himself to become too animated this evening. He is threatened with one of his attacks and I have insisted upon his immediate retirement. He makes his apologies, but knows you will understand.” I expressed my concern, and: “I was unaware that Colonel Menendez’s health was impaired,” I said. “Ah,” Madame shrugged characteristically. “Juan has travelled too much of the road of life on top speed, Mr. Knox.” She snapped her white fingers and grimaced significantly. “Excitement is bad for him.” She wheeled her chair up beside Val Beverley, and taking the girl’s hand patted it affectionately. “You look pale to-night, my dear,” she said. “All this bogey business is getting on your nerves, eh?” “Oh, not at all,” declared the girl. “It is very mysterious and annoying, of course.” “But M. Paul Harley will presently tell us what it is all about,” concluded Madame. “Yes, I trust so. We want no Cuban devils here at Cray’s Folly.” I had hoped that she would speak further of the matter, but having thus apologized for our host’s absence, she plunged into an amusing account of Parisian society, and of the changes which five years of war had brought about. Her comments, although brilliant, were superficial, the only point I recollect being her reference to a certain Baron Bergmann, a Swedish diplomat, who, according to Madame, had the longest nose and the shortest memory in Paris, so that in the cold weather, “he even sometimes forgot to blow his nose.” Her brightness I thought was almost feverish. She chattered and laughed and gesticulated, but on this occasion she was overacting. Underneath all her vivacity lay something cold and grim. Harley rejoined us in half an hour or so, but I could see that he was as conscious of the air of tension as I was. All Madame’s high spirits could not enable her to conceal the fact that she was anxious to retire. But Harley’s evident desire to do likewise surprised me very greatly; for from the point of view of the investigation the day had been an unsatisfactory one. I knew that there must be a hundred and one things which my friend desired to know, questions which Madame de Staemer could have answered. Nevertheless, at about ten o’clock we separated for the night, and although I was intensely anxious to talk to Harley, his reticent mood had descended upon him again, and: “Sleep well, Knox,” he said, as he paused at my door. “I may be awakening you early.” With which cryptic remark and not another word he passed on and entered his own room. 11. The Shadow On The Blind Perhaps it was childish on my part, but I accepted this curt dismissal very illhumouredly. That Harley, for some reason of his own, wished to be alone, was evident enough, but I resented being excluded from his confidence, even temporarily. It would seem that he had formed a theory in the prosecution of which my cooeperation was not needed. And what with profitless conjectures concerning its nature, and memories of Val Beverley’s pathetic parting glance as we had bade one another good-night, sleep seemed to be out of the question, and I stood for a long time staring out of the open window. The weather remained almost tropically hot, and the moon floated in a cloudless sky. I looked down upon the closely matted leaves of the box hedge, which rose to within a few feet of my window, and to the left I could obtain a view of the close-hemmed courtyard before the doors of Cray’s Folly. On the right the yews began, obstructing my view of the Tudor garden, but the night air was fragrant, and the outlook one of peace. After a time, then, as no sound came from the adjoining room, I turned in, and despite all things was soon fast asleep. Almost immediately, it seemed, I was awakened. In point of fact, nearly four hours had elapsed. A hand grasped my shoulder, and I sprang up in bed with a stifled cry, but: “It’s all right, Knox,” came Harley’s voice. “Don’t make a noise.” “Harley!” I said. “Harley! what has happened?” “Nothing, nothing. I am sorry to have to disturb your beauty sleep, but in the absence of Innes I am compelled to use you as a dictaphone, Knox. I like to record impressions while they are fresh, hence my having awakened you.” “But what has happened?” I asked again, for my brain was not yet fully alert. “No, don’t light up!” said Harley, grasping my wrist as I reached out toward the table-lamp. His figure showed as a black silhouette against the dim square of the window. “Why not?” “Well, it’s nearly two o’clock. The light might be observed.” “Two o’clock?” I exclaimed. “Yes. I think we might smoke, though. Have you any cigarettes? I have left my pipe behind.” I managed to find my case, and in the dim light of the match which I presently struck I saw that Paul Harley’s face was very fixed and grim. He seated himself on the edge of my bed, and: “I have been guilty of a breach of hospitality, Knox,” he began. “Not only have I secretly had my own car sent down here, but I have had something else sent, as well. I brought it in under my coat this evening.” “To what do you refer, Harley?” “You remember the silken rope-ladder with bamboo rungs which I brought from Hongkong on one occasion?” “Yes–” “Well, I have it in my bag now.” “But, my dear fellow, what possible use can it be to you at Cray’s Folly?” “It has been of great use,” he returned, shortly. “It enabled me to descend from my window a couple of hours ago and to return again quite recently without disturbing the household. Don’t reproach me, Knox. I know it is a breach of confidence, but so is the behaviour of Colonel Menendez.” “You refer to his reticence on certain points?” “I do. I have a reputation to lose, Knox, and if an ingenious piece of Chinese workmanship can save it, it shall be saved.” “But, my dear Harley, why should you want to leave the house secretly at night?” Paul Harley’s cigarette glowed in the dark, then: “My original object,” he replied, “was to endeavour to learn if any one were really watching the place. For instance, I wanted to see if all lights were out at the Guest House.” “And were they?” I asked, eagerly. “They were. Secondly,” he continued, “I wanted to convince myself that there were no nocturnal prowlers from within or without.” “What do you mean by within or without?” “Listen, Knox.” He bent toward me in the dark, grasping my shoulder firmly. “One window in Cray’s Folly was lighted up.” “At what hour?” “The light is there yet.” That he was about to make some strange revelation I divined. I detected the fact, too, that he believed this revelation would be unpleasant to me; and in this I found an explanation of his earlier behaviour. He had seemed distraught and ill at ease when he had joined Madame de Staemer, Miss Beverley, and myself in the drawing room. I could only suppose that this and the abrupt parting with me outside my door had been due to his holding a theory which he had proposed to put to the test before confiding it to me. I remember that I spoke very slowly as I asked him the question: “Whose is the lighted window, Harley?” “Has Colonel Menendez taken you into a little snuggery or smoke-room which faces his bedroom in the southeast corner of the house?” “No, but Miss Beverley has mentioned the room.” “Ah. Well, there is a light in that room, Knox.” “Possibly the Colonel has not retired?” “According to Madame de Staemer he went to bed several hours ago, you may remember.” “True,” I murmured, fumbling for the significance of his words. “The next point is this,” he resumed. “You saw Madame retire to her own room, which, as you know, is on the ground floor, and I have satisfied myself that the door communicating with the servants’ wing is locked.” “I see. But to what is all this leading, Harley?” “To a very curious fact, and the fact is this: The Colonel is not alone.” I sat bolt upright. “What?” I cried. “Not so loud,” warned Harley. “But, Harley–” “My dear fellow, we must face facts. I repeat, the Colonel is not alone.” “Why do you say so?” “Twice I have seen a shadow on the blind of the smoke-room.” “His own shadow, probably.” Again Paul Harley’s cigarette glowed in the darkness. “I am prepared to swear,” he replied, “that it was the shadow of a woman.” “Harley—-” “Don’t get excited, Knox. I am dealing with the strangest case of my career, and I am jumping to no conclusions. But just let us look at the circumstances judicially. The whole of the domestic staff we may dismiss, with the one exception of Mrs. Fisher, who, so far as I can make out, occupies the position of a sort of working housekeeper, and whose rooms are in the corner of the west wing immediately facing the kitchen garden. Possibly you have not met Mrs. Fisher, Knox, but I have made it my business to interview the whole of the staff and I may say that Mrs. Fisher is a short, stout old lady, a native of Kent, I believe, whose outline in no way corresponds to that which I saw upon the blind. Therefore, unless the door which communicates with the servants’ quarters was unlocked again tonight–to what are we reduced in seeking to explain the presence of a woman in Colonel Menendez’s room? Madame de Staemer, unassisted, could not possibly have mounted the stairs.” “Stop, Harley!” I said, sternly. “Stop.” He ceased speaking, and I watched the steady glow of his cigarette in the darkness. It lighted up his bronzed face and showed me the steely gleam of his eyes. “You are counting too much on the locking of the door by Pedro,” I continued, speaking very deliberately. “He is a man I would trust no farther than I could see him, and if there is anything dark underlying this matter you depend that he is involved in it. But the most natural explanation, and also the most simple, is this-Colonel Menendez has been taken seriously ill, and someone is in his room in the capacity of a nurse.” “Her behaviour was scarcely that of a nurse in a sick-room,” murmured Harley. “For God’s sake tell me the truth,” I said. “Tell me all you saw.” “I am quite prepared to do so, Knox. On three. occasions, then, I saw the figure of a woman, who wore some kind of loose robe, quite clearly silhouetted upon the linen blind. Her gestures strongly resembled those of despair.” “Of despair?” “Exactly. I gathered that she was addressing someone, presumably Colonel Menendez, and I derived a strong impression that she was in a condition of abject despair.” “Harley,” I said, “on your word of honour did you recognize anything in the movements, or in the outline of the figure, by which you could identify the woman?” “I did not,” he replied, shortly. “It was a woman who wore some kind of loose robe, possibly a kimono. Beyond that I could swear to nothing, except that it was not Mrs. Fisher.” We fell silent for a while. What Paul Harley’s thoughts may have been I know not, but my own were strange and troubled. Presently I found my voice again, and: “I think, Harley,” I said, “that I should report to you something which Miss Beverley told me this evening.” “Yes?” said he, eagerly. “I am anxious to hear anything which may be of the slightest assistance. You are no doubt wondering why I retired so abruptly tonight. My reason was this: I could see that you were full of some story which you had learned from Miss Beverley, and I was anxious to perform my tour of inspection with a perfectly unprejudiced mind.” “You mean that your suspicions rested upon an inmate of Cray’s Folly?” “Not upon any particular inmate, but I had early perceived a distinct possibility that these manifestations of which the Colonel complained might be due to the agency of someone inside the house. That this person might be no more than an accomplice of the prime mover I also recognized, of course. But what did you learn to-night, Knox?” I repeated Val Beverley’s story of the mysterious footsteps and of the cries which had twice awakened her in the night. “Hm,” muttered Harley, when I had ceased speaking. “Assuming her account to be true—-” “Why should you doubt it?” I interrupted, hotly. “My dear Knox, it is my business to doubt everything until I have indisputable evidence of its truth. I say, assuming her story to be true, we find ourselves face to face with the fantastic theory that some woman unknown is living secretly in Cray’s Folly.” “Perhaps in one of the tower rooms,” I suggested, eagerly. “Why, Harley, that would account for the Colonel’s marked unwillingness to talk about this part of the house.” My sight was now becoming used to the dusk, and I saw Harley vigorously shake his head. “No, no,” he replied; “I have seen all the tower rooms. I can swear that no one inhabits them. Besides, is it feasible?” “Then whose were the footsteps that Miss Beverley heard?” “Obviously those of the woman who, at this present moment, so far as I know, is in the smoking-room with Colonel Menendez.” I sighed wearily. “This is a strange business, Harley. I begin to think that the mystery is darker than I ever supposed.” We fell silent again. The weird cry of a night hawk came from somewhere in the valley, but otherwise everything within and without the great house seemed strangely still. This stillness presently imposed its influence upon me, for when I spoke again, I spoke in a low voice. “Harley,” I said, “my imagination is playing me tricks. I thought I heard the fluttering of wings at that moment.” “Fortunately, my imagination remains under control,” he replied, grimly; “therefore I am in a position to inform you that you did hear the fluttering of wings. An owl has just flown into one of the trees immediately outside the window.” “Oh,” said I, and uttered a sigh of relief. “It is extremely fortunate that my imagination is so carefully trained,” continued Harley; “otherwise, when the woman whose shadow I saw upon the blind to-night raised her arms in a peculiar fashion, I could not well have failed to attach undue importance to the shape of the shadow thus created.” “What was the shape of the shadow, then?” “Remarkably like that of a bat.” He spoke the words quietly, but in that still darkness, with dawn yet a long way off, they possessed the power which belongs to certain chords in music, and to certain lines in poetry. I was chilled unaccountably, and I peopled the empty corridors of Cray’s Folly with I know not what uncanny creatures; nightmare fancies conjured up from memories of haunted manors. Such was my mood, then, when suddenly Paul Harley stood up. My eyes were growing more and more used to the darkness, and from something strained in his attitude I detected the fact that he was listening intently. He placed his cigarette on the table beside the bed and quietly crossed the room. I knew from his silent tread that he wore shoes with rubber soles. Very quietly he turned the handle and opened the door. “What is it, Harley?” I whispered. Dimly I saw him raise his hand. Inch by inch he opened the door. My nerves in a state of tension, I sat there watching him, when without a sound he slipped out of the room and was gone. Thereupon I arose and followed as far as the doorway. Harley was standing immediately outside in the corridor. Seeing me, he stepped back, and: “Don’t move, Knox,” he said, speaking very close to my ear. “There is someone downstairs in the hall. Wait for me here.” With that he moved stealthily off, and I stood there, my heart beating with unusual rapidity, listening–listening for a challenge, a cry, a scuffle–I knew not what to expect. Cavernous and dimly lighted, the corridor stretched away to my left. On the right it branched sharply in the direction of the gallery overlooking the hall. The seconds passed, but no sound rewarded my alert listening–until, very faintly, but echoing in a muffled, church-like fashion around that peculiar building, came a slight, almost sibilant sound, which I took to be the gentle closing of a distant door. Whilst I was still wondering if I had really heard this sound or merely imagined it: “Who goes there?” came sharply in Harley’s voice. I heard a faint click, and knew that he had shone the light of an electric torch down into the hall. I hesitated no longer, but ran along to join him. As I came to the head of the main staircase, however, I saw him crossing the hall below. He was making in the direction of the door which shut off the servants’ quarters. Here he paused, and I saw him trying the handle. Evidently the door was locked, for he turned and swept the white ray all about the place. He tried several other doors, but found them all to be locked, for presently he came upstairs again, smiling grimly when he saw me there awaiting him. “Did you hear it, Knox?” he said. “A sound like the closing of a door?” Paul Harley nodded. “It was the closing of a door,” he replied; “but before that I had distinctly heard a stair creak. Someone crossed the hall then, Knox. Yet, as you perceive for yourself, it affords no hiding-place.” His glance met and challenged mine. “The Colonel’s visitor has left him,” he murmured. “Unless something quite unforeseen occurs, I shall throw up the case to-morrow.” 12. Morning Mists The man known as Manoel awakened me in the morning. Although characteristically Spanish, he belonged to a more sanguine type than the butler and spoke much better English than Pedro. He placed upon the table beside me a tray containing a small pot of China tea. an apple, a peach, and three slices of toast. “How soon would you like your bath, sir?” he enquired. “In about half an hour,” I replied. “Breakfast is served at 9.30 if you wish, sir,” continued Manoel, “but the ladies rarely come down. Would you prefer to breakfast in your room?” “What is Mr. Harley doing?” “He tells me that he does not take breakfast, sir. Colonel Don Juan Menendez will be unable to ride with you this morning, but a groom will accompany you to the heath if you wish, which is the best place for a gallop. Breakfast on the south veranda is very pleasant, sir, if you are riding first.” “Good,” I replied, for indeed I felt strangely heavy; “it shall be the heath, then, and breakfast on the veranda.” Having drunk a cup of tea and dressed I went into Harley’s room, to find him propped up in bed reading the Daily Telegraph and smoking a cigarette. “I am off for a ride,” I said. “Won’t you join me?” He fixed his pillows more comfortably, and slowly shook his head. “Not a bit of it, Knox,” he replied, “I find exercise to be fatal to concentration.” “I know you have weird theories on the subject, but this is a beautiful morning.” “I grant you the beautiful morning, Knox, but here you will find me when you return.” I knew him too well to debate the point, and accordingly I left him to his newspaper and cigarette, and made my way downstairs. A housemaid was busy in the hall, and in the courtyard before the monastic porch a negro groom awaited me with two fine mounts. He touched his hat and grinned expansively as I appeared. A spirited young chestnut was saddled for my use, and the groom, who informed me that his name was Jim, rode a smaller, Spanish horse, a beautiful but rather wicked-looking creature. We proceeded down the drive. Pedro was standing at the door of the lodge, talking to his surly-looking daughter. He saluted me very ceremoniously as I passed. Pursuing an easterly route for a quarter of a mile or so, we came to a narrow lane which branched off to the left in a tremendous declivity. Indeed it presented the appearance of the dry bed of a mountain torrent, and in wet weather a torrent this lane became, so I was informed by Jim. It was very rugged and dangerous, and here we dismounted, the groom leading the horses. Then we were upon a well-laid main road, and along this we trotted on to a tempting stretch of heath-land. There was a heavy mist, but the scent of the heather in the early morning was delightful, and there was something exhilarating in the dull thud of the hoofs upon the springy turf. The negro was a natural horseman, and he seemed to enjoy the ride every bit as much as I did. For my own part I was sorry to return. But the vapours of the night had been effectively cleared from my mind, and when presently we headed again for the hills, I could think more coolly of those problems which overnight had seemed well-nigh insoluble. We returned by a less direct route, but only at one point was the path so steep as that by which we had descended. This brought us out on a road above and about a mile to the south of Cray’s Folly. At one point, through a gap in the trees, I found myself looking down at the gray stone building in its setting of velvet lawns and gaily patterned gardens. A faint mist hovered like smoke over the grass. Five minutes later we passed a queer old Jacobean house, so deeply hidden amidst trees that the early morning sun had not yet penetrated to it, except for one upstanding gable which was bathed in golden light. I should never have recognized the place from that aspect, but because of its situation I knew that this must be the Guest House. It seemed very gloomy and dark, and remembering how I was pledged to call upon Mr. Colin Camber that day, I apprehended that my reception might be a cold one. Presently we left the road and cantered across the valley meadows, in which I had walked on the previous day, reentering Cray’s Folly on the south, although we had left it on the north. We dismounted in the stable-yard, and I noted two other saddle horses in the stalls, a pair of very clean-looking hunters, as well as two perfectly matched ponies, which, Jim informed me, Madame de Staemer sometimes drove in a chaise. Feeling vastly improved by the exercise, I walked around to the veranda, and through the drawing room to the hall. Manoel was standing there, and: “Your bath is ready, sir,” he said. I nodded and went upstairs. It seemed to me that life at Cray’s Folly was quite agreeable, and such was my mood that the shadowy Bat Wing menace found no place in it save as the chimera of a sick man’s imagination. One thing only troubled me: the identity of the woman who had been with Colonel Menendez on the previous night. However, such unconscious sun worshippers are we all that in the glory of that summer morning I realized that life was good, and I resolutely put behind me the dark suspicions of the night. I looked into Harley’s room ere descending, and, as he had assured me would be the case, there he was, propped up in bed, the Daily Telegraph upon the floor beside him and the Times now open upon the coverlet. “I am ravenously hungry,” I said, maliciously, “and am going down to eat a hearty breakfast.” “Good,” he returned, treating me to one of his quizzical smiles. “It is delightful to know that someone is happy.” Manoel had removed my unopened newspapers from the bedroom, placing them on the breakfast table on the south veranda; and I had propped the Mail up before me and had commenced to explore a juicy grapefruit when something, perhaps a faint breath of perfume, a slight rustle of draperies, or merely that indefinable aura which belongs to the presence of a woman, drew my glance upward and to the left. And there was Val Beverley smiling down at me. “Good morning, Mr. Knox,” she said. “Oh, please don’t interrupt your breakfast. May I sit down and talk to you?” “I should be most annoyed if you refused.” She was dressed in a simple summery frock which left her round, sun-browned arms bare above the elbow, and she laid a huge bunch of roses upon the table beside my tray. “I am the florist of the establishment,” she explained. “These will delight your eyes at luncheon. Don’t you think we are a lot of barbarians here, Mr. Knox?” “Why?” “Well, if I had not taken pity upon you, here you would have bat over a lonely breakfast just as though you were staying at a hotel.” “Delightful,” I replied, “now that you are here.” “Ah,” said she, and smiled roguishly, “that afterthought just saved you.” “But honestly,” I continued, “the hospitality of Colonel Menendez is true hospitality. To expect one’s guests to perform their parlour tricks around a breakfast table in the morning is, on the other hand, true barbarism.” “I quite agree with you,” she said, quietly. “There is a perfectly delightful freedom about the Colonel’s way of living. Only some horrid old Victorian prude could possibly take exception to it. Did you enjoy your ride?” “Immensely,” I replied, watching her delightedly as she arranged the roses in carefully blended groups. Her fingers were very delicate and tactile, and such is the character which resides in the human hand, that whereas the gestures of Madame de Staemer were curiously stimulating, there was something in the movement of Val Beverley’s pretty fingers amidst the blooms which I found most soothing. “I passed the Guest House on my return,” I continued. “Do you know Mr. Camber?” She looked at me in a startled way. “No,” she replied, “I don’t. Do you?” “I met him by chance yesterday.” “Really? I thought he was quite unapproachable; a sort of ogre.” “On the contrary, he is a man of great charm.” “Oh,” said Val Beverley, “well, since you have said so, I might as well admit that he has always seemed a charming man to me. I have never spoken to him, but he looks as though he could be very fascinating. Have you met his wife?” “No. Is she also American?” My companion shook her head. “I have no idea,” she replied. “I have seen her several times of course, and she is one of the daintiest creatures imaginable, but I know nothing about her nationality.” “She is young, then?” “Very young, I should say. She looks quite a child.” “The reason of my interest,” I replied, “is that Mr. Camber asked me to call upon him, and I propose to do so later this morning.” “Really?” Again I detected the startled expression upon Val Beverley’s face. “That is rather curious, since you are staying here.” “Why?” “Well,” she looked about her nervously, “I don’t know the reason, but the name of Mr. Camber is anathema in Cray’s Folly.” “Colonel Menendez told me last night that he had never met Mr. Camber.” Val Beverley shrugged her shoulders, a habit which it was easy to see she had acquired from Madame de Staemer. “Perhaps not,” she replied, “but I am certain he hates him.” “Hates Mr. Camber?” “Yes.” Her expression grew troubled. “It is another of those mysteries which seem to be part of Colonel Menendez’s normal existence.” “And is this dislike mutual?” “That I cannot say, since I have never met Mr. Camber.” “And Madame de Staemer, does she share it?” “Fully, I think. But don’t ask me what it means, because I don’t know.” She dismissed the subject with a light gesture and poured me out a second cup of coffee. “I am going to leave you now,” she said. “I have to justify my existence in my own eyes.” “Must you really go?” “I must really.” “Then tell me something before you go.” She gathered up the bunches of roses and looked down at me with a wistful expression. “Yes, what is it?” “Did you detect those mysterious footsteps again last night?” The look of wistfulness changed to another which I hated to see in her eyes, an expression of repressed fear, “No,” she replied in a very low voice, “but why do you ask the question?” Doubt of her had been far enough from my mind, but that something in the tone of my voice had put her on her guard I could see. “I am naturally curious,” I replied, gravely. “No,” she repeated, “I have not heard the sound for some time now. Perhaps, after all, my fears were imaginary.” There was a constraint in her manner which was all too obvious, and when presently, laden with the spoil of the rose garden, she gave me a parting smile and hurried into the house, I sat there very still for a while, and something of the brightness had faded from the coming, nor did life seem so glad a business as I had thought it quite recently. 13. At The Guest House I presented myself at the Guest House at half-past eleven. My mental state was troubled and indescribably complex. Perhaps my own uneasy, thoughts were responsible for the idea, but it seemed to me that the atmosphere of Cray’s Folly had changed yet again. Never before had I experienced a sense of foreboding like that which had possessed me throughout the hours of this bright summer’s morning. Colonel Menendez had appeared about nine o’clock. He exhibiting no traces of illness that were perceptible to me. But this subtle change which I had detected, or thought I had detected, was more marked in Madame Staemer than in any one. In her strange, still eyes I had read what I can only describe as a stricken look. It had none of the heroic resignation and acceptance of the inevitable which had so startled me in the face of the Colonel on the previous day. There was a bitterness in it, as of one who has made a great but unwilling sacrifice, and again I had found myself questing that faint but fugitive memory, conjured up by the eyes of Madame de Staemer. Never had the shadow lain so darkly upon the house as it lay this morning with the sun blazing gladly out of a serene sky. The birds, the flowers, and Mother Earth herself bespoke the joy of summer. But beneath the roof of Cray’s Folly dwelt a spirit of unrest, of apprehension. I thought of that queer lull which comes before a tropical storm, and I thought I read a knowledge of pending evil even in the glances of the servants. I had spoken to Harley of this fear. He had smiled and nodded grimly, saying: “Evidently, Knox, you have forgotten that to-night is the night of the full moon.” It was in no easy state of mind, then, that I opened the gate and walked up to the porch of the Guest House. That the solution of the grand mystery of Cray’s Folly would automatically resolve these lesser mysteries I felt assured, and I was supported by the idea that a clue might lie here. The house, which from the roadway had an air of neglect, proved on close inspection to be well tended, but of an unprosperous aspect. The brass knocker, door knob, and letter box were brilliantly polished, whilst the windows and the window curtains were spotlessly clean. But the place cried aloud for the service of the decorator, and it did not need the deductive powers of a Paul Harley to determine that Mr. Colin Camber was in straitened circumstances. In response to my ringing the door was presently opened by Ah Tsong. His yellow face exhibited no trace of emotion whatever. He merely opened the door and stood there looking at me. “Is Mr. Camber at home?” I enquired. “Master no got,” crooned Ah Tsong. He proceeded quietly to close the door again. “One moment,” I said, “one moment. I wish, at any rate, to leave my card.” Ah Tsong allowed the door to remain open, but: “No usee palaber so fashion,” he said. “No feller comee here. Sabby?” “I savvy, right enough,” said I, “but all the same you have got to take my card in to Mr. Camber.” I handed him a card as I spoke, and suddenly addressing him in “pidgin,” of which, fortunately, I had a smattering: “Belong very quick, Ah Tsong,” I said, sharply, “or plenty big trouble, savvy?” “Sabby, sabby,” he muttered, nodding his head; and leaving me standing in the porch he retired along the sparsely carpeted hall. This hall was very gloomily lighted, but I could see several pieces of massive old furniture and a number of bookcases, all looking incredibly untidy. Rather less than a minute elapsed, I suppose, when from some place at the farther end of the hallway Mr, Camber appeared in person. He wore a threadbare dressing gown, the silken collar and cuffs of which were very badly frayed. His hair was dishevelled and palpably he had not shaved this morning. He was smoking a corncob pipe, and he slowly approached, glancing from the card which he held in his hand in my direction, and then back again at the card, with a curious sort of hesitancy. In spite of his untidy appearance I could not fail to mark the dignity of his bearing, and the almost arrogant angle at which he held his head. “Mr–er–Malcolm Knox?” he began, fixing his large eyes upon me with a look in which I could detect no sign of recognition. “I am advised that you desire to see me?” “That is so, Mr. Camber,” I replied, cheerily. “I fear I have interrupted your work, but as no other opportunity may occur of renewing an acquaintance which for my part I found extremely pleasant–” “Of renewing an acquaintance, you say, Mr. Knox?” “Yes.” “Quite.” He looked me up and down critically. “To be sure, we have met before, I understand?” “We met yesterday, Mr. Camber, you may recall. Having chanced to come across a contribution of yours of the Occult Review, I have availed myself of your invitation to drop in for a chat.” His expression changed immediately and the sombre eyes lighted up. “Ah, of course,” he cried, “you are a student of the transcendental. Forgive my seeming rudeness, Mr. Knox, but indeed my memory is of the poorest. Pray come in, sir; your visit is very welcome.” He held the door wide open, and inclined his head in a gesture of curious oldworld courtesy which was strange in so young a man. And congratulating myself Upon the happy thought which had enabled me to win such instant favour, I presently found myself in a study which I despair of describing. In some respects it resembled the lumber room of an antiquary, whilst in many particulars it corresponded to the interior of one of those second-hand bookshops which abound in the neighbourhood of Charing Cross Road. The shelves with which it was lined literally bulged with books, and there were books on the floor, books on the mantelpiece, and books, some open and some shut, some handsomely bound, and some having the covers torn off, upon every table and nearly every chair in the place. Volume seven of Burton’s monumental “Thousand Nights and a Night” lay upon a littered desk before which I presumed Mr. Camber had been seated at the time of my arrival. Some wet vessel, probably a cup of tea or coffee, had at some time been set down upon the page at which this volume was open, for it was marked with a dark brown ring. A volume of Fraser’s “Golden Bough” had been used as an ash tray, apparently, since the binding was burned in several places where cigarettes had been laid upon it. In this interesting, indeed unique apartment, East met West, unabashed by Kipling’s dictum. Roman tear-vases and Egyptian tomb-offerings stood upon the same shelf as empty Bass bottles; and a hideous wooden idol from the South Sea Islands leered on eternally, unmoved by the presence upon his distorted head of a soft felt hat made, I believe, in Philadelphia. Strange implements from early British barrows found themselves in the company of Thugee daggers There were carved mammals’ tusks and snake emblems from Yucatan; against a Chinese ivory model of the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas rested a Coptic crucifix made from a twig of the Holy Rose Tree. Across an ancient Spanish coffer was thrown a Persian rug into which had been woven the monogram of Shah-Jehan and a text from the Koran. It was easy to see that Mr. Colin Camber’s studies must have imposed a severe strain upon his purse. “Sit down, Mr. Knox, sit down,” he said, sweeping a vellum-bound volume of Eliphas Levi from a chair, and pushing the chair forward. “The visit of a fellowstudent is a rare pleasure for me. And you find me, sir,” he seated himself in a curious, carved chair which stood before the desk, “you find me engaged upon enquiries, the result of which will constitute chapter forty-two of my present book. Pray glance at the contents of this little box.” He placed in my hands a small box of dark wood, evidently of great age. It contained what looked like a number of shrivelled beans. Having glanced at it curiously I returned it to him, shaking my head blankly. “You are puzzled?” he said, with a kind of boyish triumph, which lighted up his face, which rejuvenated him and gave me a glimpse of another man. “These, sir,” he touched the shrivelled objects with a long, delicate forefinger “are seeds of the sacred lotus of Ancient Egypt. They were found in the tomb of a priest.” “And in what way do they bear upon the enquiry to which you referred, Mr. Camber?” “In this way,” he replied, drawing toward him a piece of newspaper upon which rested a mound of coarse shag. “I maintain that the vital principle survives within them. Now, I propose to cultivate these seeds, Mr. Knox. Do you grasp the significance, of this experiment?” He knocked out the corn-cob upon the heel of his slipper and began to refill the hot bowl with shag from the newspaper at his elbow. “From a physical point of view, yes,” I replied, slowly. “But I should not have supposed such an experiment to come within the scope of your own particular activities, Mr. Camber.” “Ah,” he returned, triumphantly, at the same time stuffing tobacco into the bowl of the corn-cob, “it is for this very reason that chapter forty-two of my book must prove to be the hub of the whole, and the whole, Mr. Knox, I am egotist enough to believe, shall establish a new focus for thought, an intellectual Rome bestriding and uniting the Seven Hills of Unbelief.” He lighted his pipe and stared at me complacently. Whilst I had greatly revised my first estimate of the man, my revisions had been all in his favour. Respecting his genius my first impression was confirmed. That he was ahead of his generation, perhaps a new Galileo, I was prepared to believe. He had a pride of bearing which I think was partly racial, but which in part, too, was the insignia of intellectual superiority. He stood above the commonplace, caring little for the views of those around and beneath him. From vanity he was utterly free. His was strangely like the egotism of true genius. “Now, sir,” he continued, puffing furiously at his corn-cob, “I observed you glancing a moment ago at this volume of the ‘Golden Bough.'” He pointed to the scarred book which I have already mentioned. “It is a work of profound scholarship. But having perused its hundreds of pages, what has the student learned? Does he know why the twenty-sixth chapter of the ‘Book of the dead’ was written upon lapis-lazuli, the twenty-seventh upon green felspar, the twentyninth upon cornelian, and the thirtieth upon serpentine? He does not. Having studied Part Four, has he learned the secret of why Osiris was a black god, although he typified the Sun? Has he learned why modern Christianity is losing its hold upon the nations, whilst Buddhism, so called, counts its disciples by millions? He has not. This is because the scholar is rarely the seer.” “I quite agree with you,” I said, thinking that I detected the drift of his argument. “Very well,” said he. “I am an American citizen, Mr. Knox, which is tantamount to stating that I belong to the greatest community of traders which has appeared since the Phoenicians overran the then known world. America has not produced the mystic, yet Judaea produced the founder of Christianity, and Gautama Buddha, born of a royal line, established the creed of human equity. In what way did these magicians, for a miracle-worker is nothing but a magician, differ from ordinary men? In one respect only: They had learned to control that force which we have to-day termed Will.” As he spoke those words Colin Camber directed upon me a glance from his luminous eyes which frankly thrilled me. The bemused figure of the Lavender Arms was forgotten. I perceived before me a man of power, a man of extraordinary knowledge and intellectual daring. His voice, which was very beautiful, together with his glance, held me enthralled. “What we call Will,” he continued, “is what the Ancient Egyptians called Khu. It is not mental: it is a property of the soul. At this point, Mr. Knox, I depart from the laws generally accepted by my contemporaries. I shall presently propose to you that the eye of the Divine Architect literally watches every creature upon the earth.” “Literally?” “Literally, Mr. Knox. We need no images, no idols, no paintings. All power, all light comes from one source. That source is the sun! The sun controls Will, and the Will is the soul. If there were a cavern in the earth so deep that the sun could never reach it, and if it were possible for a child to be born in that cavern, do you know what that child would be?” “Almost certainly blind,” I replied; “beyond which my imagination fails me.” “Then I will inform you, Mr. Knox. It would be a demon.” “What!” I cried, and was momentarily touched with the fear that this was a brilliant madman. “Listen,” he said, and pointed with the stem of his pipe. “Why, in all ancient creeds, is Hades depicted as below? For the simple reason that could such a spot exist and be inhabited, it must be sunless, when it could only be inhabited by devils; and what are devils but creatures without souls?” “You mean that a child born beyond reach of the sun’s influence would have no soul?” “Such is my meaning, Mr. Knox. Do you begin to see the importance of my experiment with the lotus seeds?” I shook my head slowly. Whereupon, laying his corn-cob upon the desk, Colin Camber burst into a fit of boyish laughter, which seemed to rejuvenate him again, which wiped out the image of the magus completely, and only left before me a very human student of strange subjects, and withal a fascinating companion. “I fear, sir,” he said, presently, “that my steps have led me farther into the wilderness than it has been your fate to penetrate. The whole secret of the universe is contained in the words Day and Night, Darkness and Light. I have studied both the light and the darkness, deliberately and without fear. A new age is about to dawn, sir, and a new age requires new beliefs, new truths. Were you ever in the country of the Hill Dyaks?” This abrupt question rather startled me, but: “You refer to the Borneo hill-country?” “Precisely.” “No, I was never there.” “Then this little magical implement will be new to you,” said he. Standing up, he crossed to a cabinet littered untidily with all sorts of strangelooking objects, carved bones, queer little inlaid boxes, images, untidy manuscripts, and what-not. He took up what looked like a very ungainly tobacco-pipe, made of some rich brown wood, and, handing it to me: “Examine this, Mr. Knox,” he said, the boyish smile of triumph returning again to his face. I did as he requested and made no discovery of note. The thing clearly was not intended for a pipe. The stem was soiled and, moreover, there was carving inside the bowl. So that presently I returned it to him, shaking my head. “Unless one should be informed of the properties of this little instrument,” he declared, “discovery by experiment is improbable. Now, note.” He struck the hollow of the bowl upon the palm of his hand, and it delivered a high, bell-like note which lingered curiously. Then: “Note again.” He made a short striking motion with the thing, similar to that which one would employ who had designed to jerk something out of the bowl. And at the very spot on the floor where any object contained in the bowl would have fallen, came a reprise of the bell note! Clearly, from almost at my feet, it sounded, a high, metallic ring. He struck upward, and the bell-note sounded on the ceiling; to the right, and it came from the window; in my direction, and the tiny bell seemed to ring beside my ear! I will honestly admit that I was startled, but: “Dyak magic,” said Colin Camber; “one of nature’s secrets not yet discovered by conventional Western science. It was known to the Egyptian priesthood, of course; hence the Vocal Memnon. It was known to Madame Blavatsky, who employed an ‘astral bell’; and it is known to me.” He returned the little instrument to its place upon the cabinet. “I wonder if the fact will strike you as significant,” said he, “that the note which you have just heard can only be produced between sunrise and sunset?” Without giving me time to reply: “The most notable survival of black magic–that is, the scientific employment of darkness against light–is to be met with in Haiti and other islands of the West Indies.” “You are referring to Voodooism?” I said, slowly. He nodded, replacing his pipe between his teeth. “A subject, Mr. Knox, which I investigated exhaustively some years ago.” I was watching him closely as he spoke, and a shadow, a strange shadow, crept over his face, a look almost of exaltation–of mingled sorrow and gladness which I find myself quite unable to describe. “In the West Indies, Mr. Knox,” he continued, in a strangely altered voice, “I lost all and found all. Have you ever realized, sir, that sorrow is the price we must pay for joy?” I did not understand his question, and was still wondering about it when I heard a gentle knock, the door opened, and a woman came in. 14. Ysola Camber I find it difficult, now, to recapture my first impression of that meeting. About the woman, hesitating before me, there was something unexpected, something wholly unfamiliar. She belonged to a type with which I was not acquainted. Nor was it wonderful that she should strike me in this fashion, since my wanderings, although fairly extensive, had never included the West Indies, nor had I been to Spain; and this girl –I could have sworn that she was under twenty–was one of those rare beauties, a golden Spaniard. That she was not purely Spanish I learned later. She was small, and girlishly slight, with slender ankles and exquisite little feet; indeed I think she had the tiniest feet of any woman I had ever met. She wore a sort of white pinafore over her dress, and her arms, which were bare because of the short sleeves of her frock, were of a child-like roundness, whilst her creamy skin was touched with a faint tinge of bronze, as though, I remember thinking, it had absorbed and retained something of the Southern sunshine. She had the swaying carriage which usually belongs to a tall woman, and her head and neck were Grecian in poise. Her hair, which was of a curious dull gold colour, presented a mass of thick, tight curls, and her beauty was of that unusual character which makes a Cleopatra a subject of deathless debate. What I mean to say is this: whilst no man could have denied, for instance, that Val Beverley was a charmingly pretty woman, nine critics out of ten must have failed to classify this golden Spaniard correctly or justly. Her complexion was peach-like in the Oriental sense, that strange hint of gold underlying the delicate skin, and her dark blue eyes were shaded by really wonderful silken lashes. Emotion had the effect of enlarging the pupils, a phenomenon rarely met with, so that now as she entered the room and found a stranger present they seemed to be rather black than blue. Her embarrassment was acute, and I think she would have retired without speaking, but: “Ysola,” said Colin Camber, regarding her with a look curiously compounded of sorrow and pride, “allow me to present Mr. Malcolm Knox, who has honoured us with a visit.” He turned to me. “Mr. Knox,” he said, “it gives me great pleasure that you should meet my wife.” Perhaps I had expected this, indeed, subconsciously, I think I had. Nevertheless, at the words “my wife” I felt that I started. The analogy with Edgar Allan Poe was complete. As Mrs. Camber extended her hand with a sort of appealing timidity, it appeared to me that she felt herself to be intruding. The expression in her beautiful eyes when she glanced at her husband could only be described as one of adoration; and whilst it was impossible to doubt his love for her, I wondered if his colossal egotism were capable of stooping to affection. I wondered if he knew how to tend and protect this delicate Southern girl wife of his. Remembering the episode of the Lavender Arms, I felt justified in doubting her happiness, and in this I saw an explanation of the mingled sorrow and pride with which Colin Camber regarded her. It might betoken recognition of his own shortcomings as a husband. “How nice of you to come and see us. Mr. Knox,” she said. She spoke in a faintly husky manner which was curiously attractive, although lacking the deep, vibrant tones of Madame de Staemer’s memorable voice. Her English was imperfect, but her accent good. “Your husband has been carrying me to enchanted lands, Mrs. Camber,” I replied. “I have never known a morning to pass so quickly.” “Oh,” she replied, and laughed with a childish glee which I was glad to witness. “Did he tell you all about the book which is going to make the world good? Did he tell you it will make us rich as well?” “Rich?” said Camber, frowning slightly. “Nature’s riches are health and love. If we hold these the rest will come. Now that you have joined us, Ysola, I shall beg Mr. Knox, in honour of this occasion, to drink a glass of wine and break a biscuit as a pledge of future meetings.” I watched him as he spoke, a lean, unkempt figure invested with a curious dignity, and I found it almost impossible to believe that this was the same man who had sat in the bar of the Lavender Arms, sipping whisky and water. The resemblance to the portrait in Harley’s office became more marked than ever. There was an air of high breeding about the delicate features which, curiously enough, was accentuated by the unshaven chin. I recognized that refusal would be regarded as a rebuff, and therefore: “You are very kind,” I said. Colin Camber inclined his head gravely and courteously. “We are very glad to have you with us, Mr. Knox,” he replied. He clapped his hands, and, silent as a shadow, Ah Tsong appeared. I noted that although it was Camber who had summoned him, it was to Mrs. Camber that the Chinaman turned for orders. I had thought his yellow face incapable of expression, but as his oblique eyes turned in the direction of the girl I read in them a sort of dumb worship, such as one sees in the eyes of a dog. She spoke to him rapidly in Chinese. “Hoi, hoi,” he muttered, “hoi, hoi,” nodded his head, and went out. I saw that Colin Camber had detected my interest, for: “Ah Tsong is really my wife’s servant,” he explained. “Oh,” she said in a low voice, and looked at me earnestly, “Ah Tsong nursed me when I was a little baby so high.” She held her hand about four feet from the floor and laughed gleefully. “Can you imagine what a funny little thing I was?” “You must have been a wonder-child, Mrs. Camber,” I replied with sincerity; “and Ah Tsong has remained with you ever since?” “Ever since,” she echoed, shaking her head in a vaguely pathetic way. “He will never leave me, do you think, Colin?” “Never,” replied her husband; “you are all he loves in the world. A case, Mr. Knox,” he turned to me, “of deathless fidelity rarely met with nowadays and only possible, perhaps, in its true form in an Oriental.” Mrs. Camber having seated herself upon one of the few chairs which was not piled with books, her husband had resumed his place by the writing desk, and I sought in vain to interpret the glances which passed between them. The fact that these two were lovers none could have mistaken. But here again, as at Cray’s Folly, I detected a shadow. I felt that something had struck at the very root of their happiness, in fact, I wondered if they had been parted, and were but newly reunited for there was a sort of constraint between them, the more marked on the woman’s side than on the man’s. I wondered how long they had been married, but felt that it would have been indiscreet to ask. Even as the idea occurred to me, however, an opportunity arose of learning what I wished to know. I heard a bell ring, and: “There is someone at the door, Colin,” said Mrs. Camber. “I will go,” he replied. “Ah Tsong has enough to do.” Without another word he stood up and walked out of the room. “You see,” said Mrs. Camber, smiling in her naive way, “we only have one servant, except Ah Tsong, her name is Mrs. Powis. She is visiting her daughter who is married. We made the poor old lady take a holiday.” “It is difficult to imagine you burdened with household responsibilities, Mrs. Camber,” I replied. “Please forgive me but I cannot help wondering how long you have been married?” “For nearly four years.” “Really?” I exclaimed. “You must have been married very young?” “I was twenty. Do I look so young?” I gazed at her in amazement. “You astonish me,” I declared, which was quite true and no mere compliment. “I had guessed your age to be eighteen.” “Oh,” she laughed, and resting her hands upon the settee leaned forward with sparkling eyes, “how funny. Sometimes I wish I looked older. It is dreadful in this place, although we have been so happy here. At all the shops they look at me so funny, so I always send Mrs. Powis now.” “You are really quite wonderful,” I said. “You are Spanish, are you not, Mrs. Camber?” She slightly shook her head, and I saw the pupils begin to dilate. “Not really Spanish,” she replied, haltingly. “I was born in Cuba.” “In Cuba?” She nodded. “Then it was in Cuba that you met Mr. Camber?” She nodded again, watching me intently. “It is strange that a Virginian should settle in Surrey.” “Yes?” she murmured, “you think so? But really it is not strange at all. Colin’s people are so proud, so proud. Do you know what they are like, those Virginians? Oh! I hate them.” “You hate them?” “No, I cannot hate them, for he is one. But he will never go back.” “Why should he never go back, Mrs. Camber?” “Because of me.” “You mean that you do not wish to settle in America?” “I could not–not where he comes from. They would not have me.” Her eyes grew misty, and she quickly lowered her lashes. “Would not have you?” I exclaimed. “I don’t understand.” “No?” she said, and smiled up at me very gravely. “It is simple. I am a Cuban, one, as they say, of an inferior race–and of mixed blood.” She shook her golden head as if to dismiss the subject, and stood up, as Camber entered, followed by Ah Tsong bearing a tray of refreshments. Of the ensuing conversation I remember nothing. My mind was focussed upon the one vital fact that Mrs. Camber was a Cuban Creole. Dimly I felt that here was the missing link for which Paul Harley was groping. For it was in Cuba that Colin Camber had met his wife, it was from Cuba that the menace of Bat Wing came. What could it mean? Surely it was more than a coincidence that these two families, both associated with the West Indies, should reside within sight of one another in the Surrey Hills. Yet, if it were the result of design, the design must be on the part of Colonel Menendez, since the Cambers had occupied the Guest House before he had leased Cray’s Folly. I know not if I betrayed my absentmindedness during the time that I was struggling vainly with these maddening problems, but presently, Mrs. Camber having departed about her household duties, I found myself walking down the garden with her husband. “This is the summer house of which I was speaking, Mr. Knox,” he said, and I regret to state that I retained no impression of his having previously mentioned the subject. “During the time that Sir James Appleton resided at Cray’s Folly, I worked here regularly in the summer months. It was Sir James, of course, who laid out the greater part of the gardens and who rescued the property from the state of decay into which it had fallen.” I aroused myself from the profitless reverie in which I had become lost. We were standing before a sort of arbour which marked the end of the grounds of the Guest House. It overhung the edge of a miniature ravine, in which, over a pebbly course, a little stream pursued its way down the valley to feed the lake in the grounds of Cray’s Folly. From this point of vantage I could see the greater part of Colonel Menendez’s residence. I had an unobstructed view of the tower and of the Tudor garden. “I abandoned my work-shop,” pursued Colin Camber, “when the–er–the new tenant took up his residence. I work now in the room in which you found me this morning.” He sighed, and turning abruptly, led the way back to the house, holding himself very erect, and presenting a queer figure in his threadbare dressing gown. It was now a perfect summer’s day, and I commented upon the beauty of the old garden, which in places was bordered by a crumbling wall. “Yes, a quaint old spot,” said Camber. “I thought at one time, because of the name of the house, that it might have been part of a monastery or convent. This was not the case, however. It derives its name from a certain Sir Jaspar Guest, who flourished, I believe, under King Charles of merry memory.” “Nevertheless,” I added, “the Guest House is a charming survival of more spacious days.” “True,” returned Colin Camber, gravely. “Here it is possible to lead one’s own life, away from the noisy world,” he sighed again wearily. “Yes, I shall regret leaving the Guest House.” “What! You are leaving?” “I am leaving as soon as I can find another residence, suited both to my requirements and to my slender purse. But these domestic affairs can be of no possible interest to you. I take it, Mr. Knox, that you will grant my wife and myself the pleasure of your company at lunch?” “Many thanks,” I replied, “but really I must return to Cray’s Folly.” As I spoke the words I had moved a little ahead at a point where the path was overgrown by a rose bush, for the garden was somewhat neglected. “You will quite understand,” I said, and turned. Never can I forget the spectacle which I beheld. Colin Camber’s peculiarly pale complexion had assumed a truly ghastly pallor, and he stood with tightly clenched hands, glaring at me almost insanely. “Mr. Camber,” I cried, with concern, “are you unwell?” He moistened his dry lips, and: “You are returning–to Cray’s Folly?” he said, speaking, it seemed, with difficulty. “I am, sir. I am staying with Colonel Menendez.” “Ah!” He clutched the collar of his pyjama jacket and wrenched so strongly that the button was torn off. His passion was incredible, insane. The power of speech had almost left him. “You are a guest of–of Devil Menendez,” he whispered, and the speaking of the name seemed almost to choke him. “Of–Devil Menendez. You–you–are a spy. You have stolen my hospitality–you have obtained access to my house under false pretences. God! if I had known!” “Mr. Camber,” I said, sternly, and realized that I, too, had clenched my fists, for the man’s language was grossly insulting, “you forget yourself.” “Perhaps I do,” he muttered, thickly; “and therefore”–he raised a quivering forefinger–“go! If you have any spark of compassion in your breast, go! Leave my house.” Nostrils dilated, he stood with that quivering finger outstretched, and now having become as speechless as he, I turned and walked rapidly up to the house. “Ah Tsong! Ah Tsong!” came a cry from behind me in tones which I can only describe as hysterical–“Mr. Knox’s hat and stick. Quickly.” As I walked in past the study door the Chinaman came to meet me, holding my hat and cane. I took them from him without a word, and, the door being held open by Ah Tsong, walked out on to the road. My heart was beating rapidly. I did not know what to think nor what to do. This ignominious dismissal afforded an experience new to me. I was humiliated, mortified, but above all, wildly angry. How far I had gone on my homeward journey I cannot say, when the sound of quickly pattering footsteps intruded upon my wild reverie. I stopped, turned, and there was Ah Tsong almost at my heels. “Blinga chit flom lilly missee,” he said, and held the note toward me. I hesitated, glaring at him in a way that must have been very unpleasant; but recovering myself I tore open the envelope, and read the following note, written in pencil and very shakily: MR. KNOX. Please forgive him. If you knew what we have suffered from Senor Don Juan Menendez, I know you would forgive him. Please, for my sake. YSOLA CAMBER. The Chinaman was watching me, that strangely pathetic expression in his eyes, and: “Tell your mistress that I quite understand and will write to her,” I said. “Hoi, hoi.” Ah Tsong turned, and ran swiftly off, as I pursued my way back to Cray’s Folly in a mood which I shall not attempt to describe. 15. Unrest I sat in Paul Harley’s room. Luncheon was over, and although, as on the previous day, it had been a perfect repast, perfectly served, the sense of tension which I had experienced throughout the meal had made me horribly ill at ease. That shadow of which I have spoken elsewhere seemed to have become almost palpable. In vain I had ascribed it to a morbid imagination: persistently it lingered. Madame de Staemer’s gaiety rang more false than ever. She twirled the rings upon her slender fingers and shot little enquiring glances all around the table. This spirit of unrest, from wherever it arose, had communicated itself to everybody. Madame’s several bon mots one and all were failures. She delivered them without conviction like an amateur repeating lines learned by heart. The Colonel was unusually silent, eating little but drinking much. There was something unreal, almost ghastly, about the whole affair; and when at last Madame de Staemer retired, bearing Val Beverley with her, I felt certain that the Colonel would make some communication to us. If ever knowledge of portentous evil were written upon a man’s face it was written upon his, as he sat there at the head of the table, staring straightly before him. However: “Gentlemen,” he said, “if your enquiries here have led to no result of, shall I say, a tangible character, at least I feel sure that you must have realized one thing.” Harley stared at him sternly. “I have realized, Colonel Menendez,” he replied, “that something is pending.” “Ah!” murmured the Colonel, and he clutched the edge of the table with his strong brown hands. “But,” continued my friend, “I have realized something more. You have asked for my aid, and I am here. Now you have deliberately tied my hands.” “What do you mean, sir?” asked the other, softly. “I will speak plainly. I mean that you know more about the nature of this danger than you have ever communicated to me. Allow me to proceed, if you please, Colonel Menendez. For your delightful hospitality I thank you. As your guest I could be happy, but as a professional investigator whose services have been called upon under most unusual circumstances, I cannot be happy and I do not thank you.” Their glances met. Both were angry, wilful, and self-confident. Following a few moments of silence: “Perhaps, Mr. Harley,” said the Colonel, “you have something further to say?” “I have this to say,” was the answer: “I esteem your friendship, but I fear I must return to town without delay.” The Colonel’s jaws were clenched so tightly that I could see the muscles protruding. He was fighting an inward battle; then: “What!” he said, “you would desert me?” “I never deserted any man who sought my aid.” “I have sought your aid.” “Then accept it!” cried Harley. “This, or allow me to retire from the case. You ask me to find an enemy who threatens you, and you withhold every clue which could aid me in my search.” “What clue have I withheld?” Paul Harley stood up. “It is useless to discuss the matter further, Colonel Menendez,” he said, coldly. The Colonel rose also, and: “Mr. Harley,” he replied, and his high voice was ill-controlled, “if I give you my word of honour that I dare not tell you more, and if, having done so, I beg of you to remain at least another night, can you refuse me?” Harley stood at the end of the table watching him. “Colonel Menendez,” he said, “this would appear to be a game in which my handicap rests on the fact that I do not know against whom I am pitted. Very well. You leave me no alternative but to reply that I will stay.” “I thank you, Mr. Harley. As I fear I am far from well, dare I hope to be excused if I retire to my room for an hour’s rest?” Harley and I bowed, and the Colonel, returning our salutations, walked slowly out, his bearing one of grace and dignity. So that memorable luncheon terminated, and now we found ourselves alone and faced with a problem which, from whatever point one viewed it, offered no single opening whereby one might hope to penetrate to the truth. Paul Harley was pacing up and down the room in a state of such nervous irritability as I never remembered to have witnessed in him before. I had just finished an account of my visit to the Guest House and of the indignity which had been put upon me, and: “Conundrums! conundrums!” my friend exclaimed. “This quest of Bat Wing is like the quest of heaven, Knox. A hundred open doors invite us, each one promising to lead to the light, and if we enter where do they lead?–to mystification. For instance, Colonel Menendez has broadly hinted that he looks upon Colin Camber as an enemy. Judging from your reception at the Guest House to-day, such an enmity, and a deadly enmity, actually exists. But whereas Camber has resided here for three years, the Colonel is a newcomer. We are, therefore, offered the spectacle of a trembling victim seeking the sacrifice. Bah! it is preposterous.” “If you had seen Colin Camber’s face to-day, you might not have thought it so preposterous.” “But I should, Knox! I should! It is impossible to suppose that Colonel Menendez was unaware when he leased Cray’s Folly that Camber occupied the Guest House.” “And Mrs. Camber is a Cuban,” I murmured. “Don’t, Knox!” my friend implored. “This case is driving me mad. I have a conviction that it is going to prove my Waterloo.” “My dear fellow,” I said, “this mood is new to you.” “Why don’t you advise me to remember Auguste Dupin?” asked Harley, bitterly. “That great man, preserving his philosophical calm, doubtless by this time would have pieced together these disjointed clues, and have produced an elegant pattern ready to be framed and exhibited to the admiring public.” He dropped down upon the bed, and taking his briar from his pocket, began to load it in a manner which was almost vicious. I stood watching him and offered no remark, until, having lighted the pipe, he began to smoke. I knew that these “Indian moods” were of short duration, and, sure enough, presently: “God bless us all, Knox,” he said, breaking into an amused smile, “how we bristle when someone tries to prove that we are not infallible! How human we are, Knox, but how fortunate that we can laugh at ourselves.” I sighed with relief, for Harley at these times imposed a severe strain even upon my easy-going disposition. “Let us go down to the billiard room,” he continued. “I will play you a hundred up. I have arrived at a point where my ideas persistently work in circles. The best cure is golf; failing golf, billiards.” The billiard room was immediately beneath us, adjoining the last apartment in the east wing, and there we made our way. Harley played keenly, deliberately, concentrating upon the game. I was less successful, for I found myself alternately glancing toward the door and the open window, in the hope that Val Beverley would join us. I was disappointed, however. We saw no more of the ladies until tea-time, and if a spirit of constraint had prevailed throughout luncheon, a veritable demon of unrest presided upon the terrace during tea. Madame de Staemer made apologies on behalf of the Colonel. He was prolonging his siesta, but he hoped to join us at dinner. “Is the Colonel’s heart affected?” Harley asked. Madame de Staemer shrugged her shoulders and shook her head, blankly. “It is mysterious, the state of his health,” she replied. “An old trouble, which began years and years ago in Cuba.” Harley nodded sympathetically, but I could see that he was not satisfied. Yet, although he might doubt her explanation, he had noted, and so had I, that Madame de Staemer’s concern was very real. Her slender hands were strangely unsteady; indeed her condition bordered on one of distraction. Harley concealed his thoughts, whatever they may have been, beneath that mask of reserve which I knew so well, whilst I endeavoured in vain to draw Val Beverley into conversation with me. I gathered that Madame de Staemer had been to visit the invalid, and that she was all anxiety to return was a fact she was wholly unable to conceal. There was a tired look in her still eyes, as though she had undertaken a task beyond her powers to perform, and, so unnatural a quartette were we, that when presently she withdrew I was glad, although she took Val Beverley with her. Paul Harley resumed his seat, staring at me with unseeing eyes. A sound reached us through the drawing room which told us that Madame de Staemer’s chair was being taken upstairs, a task always performed when Madame desired to visit the upper floors by Manoel and Pedro’s daughter, Nita, who acted as Madame’s maid. These sounds died away, and I thought how silent everything had become. Even the birds were still, and presently, my eye being attracted to a black speck in the sky above, I learned why the feathered! choir was mute. A hawk was hovering loftily overhead. Noting my upward glance, Paul Harley also raised his eyes. “Ah,” he murmured, “a hawk. All the birds are cowering in their nests. Nature is a cruel mistress, Knox.” 16. Red Eve Over the remainder of that afternoon I will pass in silence. Indeed, looking backward now, I cannot recollect that it afforded one incident worthy of record. But because great things overshadow small, so it may be that whereas my recollections of quite trivial episodes are sharp enough up to a point, my memories from this point onward to the horrible and tragic happening which I have set myself to relate are hazy and indistinct. I was troubled by the continued absence of Val Beverley. I thought that she was avoiding me by design, and in Harley’s gloomy reticence I could find no shadow of comfort. We wandered aimlessly about the grounds, Harley staring up in a vague fashion at the windows of Cray’s Folly; and presently, when I stopped to inspect a very perfect rose bush, he left me without a word, and I found myself alone. Later, as I sauntered toward the Tudor garden, where I had hoped to encounter Miss Beverley, I heard the clicking of billiard balls; and there was Harley at the table, practising fancy shots. He glanced up at me as I paused by the open window, stopped to relight his pipe, and then bent over the table again. “Leave me alone, Knox,” he muttered; “I am not fit for human society.” Understanding his moods as well as I did, I merely laughed and withdrew. I strolled around into the library and inspected scores of books without forming any definite impression of the contents of any of them. Manoel came in whilst I was there and I was strongly tempted to send a message to Miss Beverley, but common sense overcame the inclination. When at last my watch told me that the hour for dressing was arrived, I heaved a sigh of relief. I cannot say that I was bored, my ill-temper sprang from a deeper source than this. The mysterious disappearance of the inmates of Cray’s Folly, and a sort of brooding stillness which lay over the great house, had utterly oppressed me. As I passed along the terrace I paused to admire the spectacle afforded by the setting sun. The horizon was on fire from north to south and the countryside was stained with that mystic radiance which is sometimes called the Blood of Apollo. Turning, I saw the disk of the moon coldly rising in the heavens. I thought of the silent birds and the hovering hawk, and I began my preparations for dinner mechanically, dressing as an automaton might dress. Paul Harley’s personality was never more marked than in his evil moods. His power to fascinate was only equalled by his power to repel. Thus, although there was a light in his room and I could hear Lim moving about, I did not join him when I had finished dressing, but lighting a cigarette walked downstairs. The beauty of the night called to me, although as I stepped out upon the terrace I realized with a sort of shock that the gathering dusk held a menace, so that I found myself questioning the shadows and doubting the rustle of every leaf. Something invisible, intangible yet potent, brooded over Cray’s Folly. I began to think more kindly of the disappearance of Val Beverley during the afternoon. Doubtless she, too, had been touched by this spirit of unrest and in solitude had sought to dispel it. So thinking. T walked on in the direction of the Tudor garden. The place was bathed in a sort of purple half-light, lending it a fairy air of unreality, as though banished sun and rising moon yet disputed for mastery over earth. This idea set me thinking of Colin Camber, of Osiris, whom he had described as a black god, and of Isis, whose silver disk now held undisputed sovereignty of the evening sky. Resentment of the treatment which I had received at the Guest House still burned hotly within me, but the mystery of it all had taken the keen edge off my wrath, and I think a sort of melancholy was the keynote of my reflections as, descending the steps to the sunken garden, I saw Val Beverley, in a delicate blue gown, coming toward me. She was the spirit of my dreams, and the embodiment of my mood. When she lowered her eyes at my approach, I knew by virtue of a sort of inspiration that she had been avoiding me. “Miss Beverley,” I said, “I have been looking for you all the afternoon.” “Have you? I have been in my room writing letters.” I paced slowly along beside her. “I wish you would be very frank with me,” I said. She glanced up swiftly, and as swiftly lowered her lashes again. “Do you think I am not frank?” “I do think so. I understand why.” “Do you really understand?” “I think I do. Your woman’s intuition has told you that there is something wrong.” “In what way?” “You are afraid of your thoughts. You can see that Madame de Staemer and Colonel Menendez are deliberately concealing something from Paul Harley, and you don’t know where your duty lies. Am I right?” She met my glance for a moment in a startled way, then: “Yes,” she said, softly; “you are quite right. How have you guessed?” “I have tried very hard to understand you,” I replied, “and so perhaps up to a point I have succeeded.” “Oh, Mr. Knox.” She suddenly laid her hand upon my arm. “I am oppressed with such a dreadful foreboding, yet I don’t know how to explain it to you.” “I understand. I, too, have felt it.” “You have?” She paused, and looked at me eagerly. “Then it is not just morbid imagination on my part. If only I knew what to do, what to believe. Really, I am bewildered. I have just left Madame de Staemer–” “Yes?” I said, for she had paused in evident doubt. “Well, she has utterly broken down.” “Broken down?” “She came to my room and sobbed hysterically for nearly an hour this afternoon.” “But what was the cause of her grief?” “I simply cannot understand.” “Is it possible that Colonel Menendez is dangerously ill?” “It may be so, Mr. Knox, but in that event why have they not sent for a physician?” “True,” I murmured; “and no one has been sent for?” “No one.” “Have you seen Colonel Menendez?” “Not since lunch-time.” “Have you ever known him to suffer in this way before?” “Never. It is utterly unaccountable. Certainly during the last few months he has given up riding practically altogether, and in other ways has changed his former habits, but I have never known him to exhibit traces of any real illness.” “Has any medical man attended him?” “Not that I know of. Oh, there is something uncanny about it all. Whatever should I do if you were not here?” She had spoken on impulse, and seeing her swift embarrassment: “Miss Beverley,” I said, “I am delighted to know that my company cheers you.” Truth to tell my heart was beating rapidly, and, so selfish is the nature of man, I was more glad to learn that my company was acceptable to Val Beverley than I should have been to have had the riddle of Cray’s Folly laid bare before me. Those sweetly indiscreet words, however, had raised a momentary barrier between us, and we walked on silently to the house, and entered the brightly lighted hall. The silver peal of a Chinese tubular gong rang out just when we reached the veranda, and as Val Beverley and I walked in from the garden, Madame de Staemer came wheeling through the doorway, closely followed by Paul Harley. In her the art of the toilette amounted almost to genius, and she had so successfully concealed all traces of her recent grief that I wondered if this could have been real. “My dear Mr. Knox,” she cried, “I seem to be fated always to apologize for other people. The Colonel is truly desolate, but he cannot join us for dinner. I have already explained to Mr. Harley.” Harley inclined his head sympathetically, and assisted to arrange Madame in her place. “The Colonel requests us to smoke a cigar with him after dinner, Knox,” he said, glancing across to me. “It would seem that troubles never come singly.” “Ah,” Madame shrugged her shoulders, which her low gown left daringly bare, “they come in flocks, or not at all. But I suppose we should feel lonely in the world without a few little sorrows, eh, Mr. Harley?” I loved her unquenchable spirit, and I have wondered often enough what I should have thought of her if I had known the truth. France has bred some wonderful women, both good and bad, but none I think more wonderful than Marie de Staemer. If such a thing were possible, we dined more extravagantly than on the previous night. Madame’s wit was at its keenest; she was truly brilliant. Pedro, from the big bouffet at the end of the room, supervised this feast of Lucullus, and except for odd moments of silence in which Madame seemed to be listening for some distant sound, there was nothing, I think, which could have told a casual observer that a black cloud rested upon the house. Once, interrupting a tete-a-tete between Val Beverley and Paul Harley: “Do not encourage her, Mr. Harley,” said Madame, “she is a desperate flirt.” “Oh, Madame,” cried Val Beverley and blushed deeply. “You know you are, my dear, and you are very wise. Flirt all your life, but never fall in love. It is fatal, don’t you think so, Mr. Knox?”–turning to me in her rapid manner. I looked into her still eyes, which concealed so much. “Say, rather, that it is Fate,” I murmured. “Yes, that is more pretty, but not so true. If I could live my life again, M. Knox,” she said, for she sometimes used the French and sometimes the English mode of address, “I should build a stone wall around my heart. It could peep over, but no one could ever reach it.” Oddly enough, then, as it seems to me now, the spirit of unrest seemed almost to depart for awhile, and in the company of the vivacious Frenchwoman time passed very quickly up to the moment when Harley and I walked slowly upstairs to join the Colonel. During the latter part of dinner an idea had presented itself to me which I was anxious to mention to Harley, and: “Harley,” I said, “an explanation of the Colonel’s absence has occurred to me.” “Really!” he replied; “possibly the same one that has occurred to me.” “What is that?” Paul Harley paused on the stairs, turning to me. “You are thinking that he has taken cover from the danger which he believes particularly to threaten him to-night?” “Exactly.” “You may be right,” he murmured, proceeding upstairs. He led the way to a little smoke-room which hitherto I had never visited, and in response to his knock: “Come in,” cried the high voice of Colonel Menendez. We entered to find ourselves in a small and very cosy room. There was a handsome oak bureau against one wall, which was littered with papers of various kinds, and there was also a large bookcase occupied almost exclusively by French novels. It occurred to me that the Colonel spent a greater part of his time in this little snuggery than in the more formal study below. At the moment of our arrival he was stretched upon a settee near which stood a little table; and on this table I observed the remains of what appeared to me to have been a fairly substantial repast. For some reason which I did not pause to analyze at the moment I noted with disfavour the presence of a bowl of roses upon the silver tray. Colonel Menendez was smoking a cigarette, and Manoel was in the act of removing the tray. “Gentlemen,” said the Colonel, “I have no words in which to express my sorrow. Manoel, pull up those armchairs. Help yourself to port, Mr. Harley, and fill Mr. Knox’s glass. I can recommend the cigars in the long box.” As we seated ourselves: “I am extremely sorry to find you indisposed, sir,” said Harley. He was watching the dark face keenly, and probably thinking, as I was thinking, that it exhibited no trace of illness. Colonel Menendez waved his cigarette gracefully, settling himself amid the cushions. “An old trouble, Mr. Harley,” he replied, lightly; “a legacy from ancestors who drank too deep of the wine of life.” “You are surely taking medical advice?” Colonel Menendez shrugged slightly. “There is no doctor in England who would understand the case,” he replied. “Besides, there is nothing for it but rest and avoidance of excitement.” “In that event, Colonel,” said Harley, “we will not disturb you for long. Indeed, I should not have consented to disturb you at all, if I had not thought that you might have some request to make upon this important night.” “Ah!” Colonel Menendez shot a swift glance in his direction. “You have remembered about to-night?” “Naturally.” “Your interest comforts me very greatly, gentlemen, and I am only sorry that my uncertain health has made me so poor a host. Nothing has occurred since your arrival to help you, I am aware. Not that I am anxious for any new activity on the part of my enemies. But almost anything which should end this deathly suspense would be welcome.” He spoke the final words with a peculiar intonation. I saw Harley watching him closely. “However,” he continued, “everything is in the hands of Fate, and if your visit should prove futile, I can only apologize for having interrupted your original plans. Respecting to-night”–he shrugged–“what can I say?” “Nothing has occurred,” asked Harley, slowly, “nothing fresh, I mean, to indicate that the danger which you apprehend may really culminate to-night?” “Nothing fresh, Mr. Harley, unless you yourself have observed anything.” “Ah,” murmured Paul Harley, “let us hope that the threat will never be fulfilled.” Colonel Menendez inclined his head gravely. “Let us hope so,” he said. On the whole, he was curiously subdued. He was most solicitous for our comfort and his exquisite courtesy had never been more marked. I often think of him now–his big but graceful figure reclining upon the settee, whilst he skilfully rolled his eternal cigarettes and chatted in that peculiar, light voice. Before the memory of Colonel Don Juan Sarmiento Menendez I sometimes stand appalled. If his Maker had but endowed him with other qualities of mind and heart equal to his magnificent courage, then truly he had been a great man. 17. Night Of The Full Moon I stood at Harley’s open window–looking down in the Tudor garden. The moon, like a silver mirror, hung in a cloudless sky. Over an hour had elapsed since I had heard Pedro making his nightly rounds. Nothing whatever of an unusual nature had occurred, and although Harley and I had listened for any sound of nocturnal footsteps, our vigilance had passed unrewarded. Harley, unrolling the Chinese ladder, had set out upon a secret tour of the grounds, warning me that it must be a long business, since the brilliance of the moonlight rendered it necessary that he should make a wide detour, in order to avoid possible observation from the windows. I had wished to join him, but: “I count it most important that one of us should remain in the house,” he had replied. As a result, here was I at the open window, questioning the shadows to right and left of me, and every moment expecting to see Harley reappear. I wondered what discoveries he would make. It would not have surprised me to learn that there were lights in many windows of Cray’s Folly to-night. Although, when we had rejoined the ladies for half an hour, after leaving Colonel Menendez’s room, there had been no overt reference to the menace overhanging the house, yet, as we separated for the night, I had detected again in Val Beverley’s eyes that look of repressed fear. I wondered now, as I gazed down into the moon-bathed gardens, if Harley and I were the only wakeful members of the household at that hour. I should have been prepared to wager that there were others. I thought of the strange footsteps which so often passed Miss Beverley’s room, and I discovered this thought to be an uncomfortable one. Normally, I was sceptical enough, but on this night of the full moon as I stood there at the window, the horrors which Colonel Menendez had related to us grew very real in my eyes, and I thought that the mysteries of Voodoo might conceal strange and ghastly truths, “The scientific employment of darkness against light.” Colin Camber’s words leapt unbidden to my mind; and, such is the magic of moonlight, they became invested with a new and a deeper significance. Strange, that theories which one rejects whilst the sun is shining should assume a spectral shape in the light of the moon. Such were my musings, when suddenly I heard a faint sound as of footsteps crunching upon gravel. I leaned farther out of the window, listening intently. I could not believe that Harley would be guilty of such an indiscretion as this, yet who else could be walking upon the path below? As I watched, craning from the window, a tall figure appeared, and, slowly crossing the gravel path, descended the moss-grown steps to the Tudor garden. It was Colonel Menendez! He was bare-headed, but fully dressed as I had seen him in the smoking-room; and not yet grasping the portent of his appearance at that hour, but merely wondering why he had not yet retired, I continued to watch him. As I did so, something in his gait, something unnatural in his movements, caught hold of my mind with a sudden great conviction. He had reached the path which led to the sun-dial, and with short, queer, ataxic steps was proceeding in its direction, a striking figure in the brilliant moonlight which touched his gray hair with a silvery sheen. His unnatural, automatic movements told their own story. He was walking in his sleep! Could it be in obedience to the call of M’kombo? My throat grew dry and I knew not how to act. Unwillingly it seemed, with everhalting steps, the figure moved onward. I could see that his fists were tightly clenched and that he held his head rigidly upright. All horrors, real and imaginary, which I had ever experienced, culminated in the moment when I saw this man of inflexible character, I could have sworn of indomitable will, moving like a puppet under the influence of some unnameable force. He was almost come to the sun-dial when I determined to cry out. Then, remembering the shock experienced by a suddenly awakened somnambulist, and remembering that the Chinese ladder hung from the window at my feet, I changed my mind. Checking the cry upon my lips, I got astride of the window ledge, and began to grope for the bamboo rungs beneath me. I had found the first of these, and, turning, had begun to descend, when: “Knox! Knox!” came softly from the opening in the box hedge, “what the devil are you about?” It was Paul Harley returned from his tour of the building. “Harley!” I whispered, descending, “quick! the Colonel has just gone into the Tudor garden!” “What!” There was a note of absolute horror in the exclamation. “You should have stopped him, Knox, you should have stopped him!” cried Harley, and with that he ran off in the same direction. Disentangling my foot from the rungs of the ladder which lay upon the ground, I was about to follow, when it happened–that strange and ghastly thing toward which, secretly, darkly, events had been tending. The crack of a rifle sounded sharply in the stillness, echoing and re-echoing from wing to wing of Cray’s Folly and then, more dimly, up the wooded slopes beyond! Somewhere ahead of me I heard Harley cry out: “My God, I am too late! They have got him!” Then, hotfoot, I was making for the entrance to the garden. Just as I came to it and raced down the steps I heard another sound the memory of which haunts me to this day. Where it came from I had no idea. Perhaps I was too confused to judge accurately. It might have come from the house, or from the slopes beyond the house, But it was a sort of shrill, choking laugh, and it set the ultimate touch of horror upon a scene macabre which, even as I write of it, seems unreal to me. I ran up the path to where Harley was kneeling beside the sun-dial. Analysis of my emotions at this moment were futile; I can only say that I had come to a state of stupefaction. Face downward on the grass, arms outstretched and fists clenched, lay Colonel Menendez. I think I saw him move convulsively, but as I gained his side Harley looked up at me, and beneath the tan which he never lost his face had grown pale. He spoke through clenched teeth. “Merciful God,” he said, “he is shot through the head.” One glance I gave at the ghastly wound in the base of the Colonel’s skull, and then swayed backward in a sort of nausea. To see a man die in the heat of battle, a man one has known and called friend, is strange and terrible. Here in this moon-bathed Tudor garden it was a horror almost beyond my powers to endure. Paul Harley, without touching the prone figure, stood up. Indeed no examination of the victim was necessary. A rifle bullet had pierced his brain, and he lay there dead with his head toward the hills. I clutched at Harley’s shoulder, but he stood rigidly, staring up the slope past the angle of the tower, to where a gable of the Guest House jutted out from the trees. “Did you hear–that cry?” I whispered, “immediately after the shot?” “I heard it.” A moment longer he stood fixedly watching, and then: “Not a wisp of smoke,” he said. “You note the direction in which he was facing when he fell?” He spoke in a stern and unnatural voice. “I do. He must have turned half right when he came to the sun-dial.” “Where were you when the shot was fired?” “Running in this direction.” “You saw no flash?” “None.” “Neither did I,” groaned Harley; “neither did I. And short of throwing a cordon round the hills what can be done? How can I move?” He had somewhat relaxed, but now as I continued to clutch his arm, I felt the muscles grow rigid again. “Look, Knox!” he whispered–“look!” I followed the direction of his fixed stare, and through the trees on the hillside a dim light shone out. Someone had lighted a lamp in the Guest House. A faint, sibilant sound drew my glance upward, and there overhead a bat circled-circled–dipped–and flew off toward the distant woods. So still was the night that I could distinguish the babble of the little stream which ran down into the lake. Then, suddenly, came a loud flapping of wings. The swans had been awakened by the sound of the shot. Others had been awakened, too, for now distant voices became audible, and then a muffled scream from somewhere within Cray’s Folly. “Back to the house, Knox,” said Harley, hoarsely. “For God’s sake keep the women away. Get Pedro, and send Manoel for the nearest doctor. It’s useless but usual. Let no one deface his footprints. My worst anticipations have come true. The local police must be informed.” Throughout the time that he spoke he continued to search the moon-bathed landscape with feverish eagerness, but except for a faint movement of birds in the trees, for they, like the swans on the lake, had been alarmed by the shot, nothing stirred. “It came from the hillside,” he muttered. “Off you go, Knox.” And even as I started on my unpleasant errand, he had set out running toward the gate in the southern corner of the garden. For my part I scrambled unceremoniously up the bank, and emerged where the yews stood sentinel beside the path. I ran through the gap in the box hedge just as the main doors were thrown open by Pedro. He started back as he saw me. “Pedro! Pedro!” I cried, “have the ladies been awakened?” “Yes, yes! there is terrible trouble, sir. What has happened? What has happened?” “A tragedy,” I said, shortly. “Pull yourself together. Where is Madame de Staemer?” Pedro uttered some exclamation in Spanish and stood, pale-faced, swaying before me, a dishevelled figure in a dressing gown. And now in the background Mrs. Fisher appeared. One frightened glance she cast in my direction, and would have hurried across the hall but I intercepted her. “Where are you going, Mrs. Fisher?” I demanded. “What has happened here?” “To Madame, to Madame,” she sobbed, pointing toward the corridor which communicated with Madame de Staemer’s bedchamber. I heard a frightened cry proceeding from that direction, and recognized the voice of Nita, the girl who acted as Madame’s maid. Then I heard Val Beverley. “Go and fetch Mrs. Fisher, Nita, at once–and try to behave yourself. I have trouble enough.” I entered the corridor and pulled up short. Val Beverley, fully dressed, was kneeling beside Madame de Staemer, who wore a kimono over her night-robe, and who lay huddled on the floor immediately outside the door of her room! “Oh, Mr. Knox!” cried the girl, pitifully, and raised frightened eyes to me. “For God’s sake, what has happened?” Nita, the Spanish girl, who was sobbing hysterically, ran along to join Mrs. Fisher. “I will tell you in a moment,” I said, quietly, rendered cool, as one always is, by the need of others. “But first tell me–how did Madame de Staemer get here?” “I don’t know, I don’t know! I was startled by the shot. It has awakened everybody. And just as I opened my door to listen, I heard Madame cry out in the hall below. I ran down, turned on the light, and found her lying here. She, too, had been awakened, I suppose, and was endeavouring to drag herself from her room when her strength failed her and she swooned. She is too heavy for me to lift,” added the girl, pathetically, “and Pedro is out of his senses, and Nita, who was the first of the servants to come, is simply hysterical, as you can see.” I nodded reassuringly, and stooping, lifted the swooning woman. She was much heavier than I should have supposed, but, Val Beverley leading the way, I carried her into her apartment and placed her upon the bed. “I will leave her to you,” I said. “You have courage, and so I will tell you what has happened.” “Yes, tell me, oh, tell me!” She laid her hands upon my shoulders appealingly, and looked up into my eyes in a way that made me long I to take her in my arms and comfort her, an insane longing which I only crushed with difficulty. “Someone has shot Colonel Menendez,” I said, in a low voice, for Mrs. Fisher had just entered. “You mean–” I nodded. “Oh!” Val Beverley opened and closed her eyes, clutching at me dizzily for a moment, then: “I think,” she whispered, “she must have known, and that was why she swooned. Oh, my God! how horrible.” I made her sit down in an armchair, and watched her anxiously, but although every speck of colour had faded from her cheeks, she was splendidly courageous, and almost immediately she smiled up at me, very wanly, but confidently. “I will look after her,” she said. “Mr. Harley will need your assistance.” When I returned to the hall I found it already filled with a number of servants incongruously attired. Carter the chauffeur, who lived at the lodge, was just coming in at the door, and: “Carter,” I said, “get a car out quickly, and bring the nearest doctor. If there is another man who can drive, send him for the police. Your master has been shot.” 18. Inspector Aylesbury Of Market Hilton “Now, gentlemen,” said Inspector Aylesbury, “I will take evidence.” Dawn was creeping grayly over the hills, and the view from the library windows resembled a study by Bastien-Lepage. The lamps burned yellowly, and the exotic appointments of the library viewed in that cold light for some reason reminded me of a stage set seen in daylight. The Velasquez portrait mentally translated me to the billiard room where something lay upon the settee with a white sheet drawn over it; and I wondered if my own face looked as wan and comfortless as did the faces of my companions, that is, of two of them, for I must except Inspector Aylesbury. Squarely before the oaken mantel he stood, a large, pompous man, but in this hour I could find no humour in Paul Harley’s description of him as resembling a walrus. He had a large auburn moustache tinged with gray, and prominent brown eyes, but the lower part of his face, which terminated in a big double chin, was illbalanced by his small forehead. He was bulkily built, and I had conceived an unreasonable distaste for his puffy hands. His official air and oratorical manner were provoking. Harley sat in the chair which he had occupied during our last interview with Colonel Menendez in the library, and I had realized–a realization which had made me uncomfortable–that I was seated upon the couch on which the Colonel had reclined. Only one other was present, Dr. Rolleston of Mid-Hatton, a slight, fair man with a brisk, military manner, acquired perhaps during six years of war service. He was standing beside me smoking a cigarette. “I have taken all the necessary particulars concerning the position of the body,” continued the Inspector, “the nature of the wound, contents of pockets, etc., and I now turn to you, Mr. Harley, as the first person to discover the murdered man.” Paul Harley lay back in the armchair watching the speaker. “Before we come to what happened here to-night I should like to be quite clear about your own position in the matter, Mr. Harley. Now”–Inspector Aylesbury raised one finger in forensic manner–“now, you visited me yesterday afternoon, Mr. Harley, and asked for certain information regarding the neighbourhood.” “I did,” said Harley, shortly. “The questions which you asked me were,” continued the Inspector, slowly and impressively, “did I know of any negro or coloured people living in, or about, MidHatton, and could I give you a list of the residents within a two-mile radius of Cray’s Folly. I gave you the information which you required, and now it is your turn to give me some. Why did you ask those questions?” “For this reason,” was the reply–“I had been requested by Colonel Menendez to visit Cray’s Folly, accompanied by my friend, Mr. Knox, in order that I might investigate certain occurrences which had taken place here.” “Oh,” said the Inspector, raising his eyebrows, “I see. You were here to make investigations?” “Yes.” “And these occurrences, will you tell me what they were?” “Simple enough in themselves,” replied Harley. “Someone broke into the house one night.” “Broke into the house?” “Undoubtedly.” “But this was never reported to us.” “Possibly not, but someone broke in, nevertheless. Secondly, Colonel Menendez had detected someone lurking about the lawns, and thirdly, the wing of a bat was nailed to the main door.” Inspector Aylesbury lowered his eyebrows and concentrated a frowning glance upon the speaker. “Of course, sir,” he said, “I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but you are not by any chance trying to be funny at a time like this?” “My sense of humour has failed me entirely,” replied Harley. “I am merely stating bald facts in reply to your questions.” “Oh, I see.” The Inspector cleared his throat. “Someone broke into Cray’s Folly, then, a fact which was not reported to me, a suspicious loiterer was seen in the grounds, again not reported, and someone played a silly practical joke by nailing the wing of a bat, you say, to the door. Might I ask, Mr. Harley, why you mention this matter? The other things are serious, but why you should mention the trick of some mischievous boy at a time like this I can’t imagine.” “No,” said Harley, wearily, “it does sound absurd, Inspector; I quite appreciate the fact. But, you see, Colonel Menendez regarded it as the most significant episode of them all.” “What! The bat wing nailed on the door?” “The bat wing, decidedly. He believed it to be the token of a negro secret society which had determined upon his death, hence my enquiries regarding coloured men in the neighbourhood. Do you understand, Inspector?” Inspector Aylesbury took a large handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose. Replacing the handkerchief he cleared his throat, and: “Am I to understand,” he enquired, “that the late Colonel Menendez had expected to be attacked?” “You may understand that,” replied Harley. “It explains my presence in the house.” “Oh,” said the Inspector, “I see. It looks as though he might have done better if he had applied to me.” Paul Harley glanced across in my direction and smiled grimly. “As I had predicted, Knox,” he murmured, “my Waterloo.” “What’s that you say about Waterloo, Mr. Harley?” demanded the Inspector. “Nothing germaine to the case,” replied Harley. “It was a reference to a battle, not to a railway station.” Inspector Aylesbury stared at him dully. “You quite understand that you are giving evidence?” he said. “It were impossible not to appreciate the fact.” “Very well, then. The late Colonel Menendez thought he was in danger from negroes. Why did he think that?” “He was a retired West Indian planter,” replied Harley, patiently, “and he was under the impression that he had offended a powerful native society, and that for many years their vengeance had pursued him. Attempts to assassinate him had already taken place in Cuba and in the United States.” “What sort of attempts?” “He was shot at, several times, and once, in Washington, was attacked by a man with a knife. He maintained in my presence and in the presence of my friend, Mr. Knox, here, that these various attempts were due to members of a sect or religion known as Voodoo.” “Voodoo?” “Voodoo, Inspector, also known as Obeah, a cult which has spread from the West Coast of Africa throughout the West Indies and to parts of the United States. The bat wing is said to be a sign used by these people.” Inspector Aylesbury scratched his chin. “Now let me get this thing clear,” said he: “Colonel Menendez believed that people called Voodoos wanted to kill him? Before we go any farther, why?” “Twenty years ago in the West Indies he had shot an important member of this sect.” “Twenty years ago?” “According to a statement which he made to me, yes.” “I see. Then for twenty years these Voodoos have been trying to kill him? Then he comes and settles here in Surrey and someone nails a bat wing to his door? Did you see this bat wing?” “I did. I have it upstairs in my bag if you would care to examine it.” “Oh,” said the Inspector, “I see. And thinking he had been followed to England he came to you to see if you could save him?” Paul Harley nodded grimly. “Why did he go to you in preference to the local police, the proper authorities?” demanded the Inspector. “He was advised to do so by the Spanish ambassador, or so he informed me.” “Is that so? Well, I suppose it had to be. Coming from foreign parts. I expect he didn’t know what our police are for.” He cleared his throat. “Very well, I understand now what you were doing here, Mr. Harley. The next thing is, what were you doing tonight, as I see that both you and Mr. Knox are still in evening dress?” “We were keeping watch,” I replied. Inspector Aylesbury turned to me ponderously, raising a fat hand. “One moment, Mr. Knox, one moment,” he protested. “The evidence of one witness at a time.” “We were keeping watch,” said Harley, deliberately echoing my words. “Why?” “More or less we were here for that purpose. You see, on the night of the full moon, according to Colonel Menendez, Obeah people become particularly active.” “Why on the night of the full moon?” “This I cannot tell you.” “Oh, I see. You were keeping watch. Where were you keeping watch?” “In my room.” “In which part of the house is your room?” “Northeast. It overlooks the Tudor garden.” “At what time did you retire?” “About half-past ten.” “Did you leave the Colonel well?” “No, he had been unwell all day. He had remained in his room.” “Had he asked you to sit up?” “Not at all; our vigil was quite voluntary.” “Very well, then, you were in your room when the shot was fired?” “On the contrary, I was on the path in front of the house.” “Oh, I see. The front door was open, then?” “Not at all. Pedro had locked up for the night.” “And locked you out?” “No; I descended from my window by means of a ladder which I had brought with me for the purpose.” “With a ladder? That’s rather extraordinary, Mr Harley.” “It is extraordinary. I have strange habits.” Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat again and looked frowningly across at my friend. “What part of the grounds were you in when the shot was fired?” he demanded. “Halfway along the north side.” “What were you doing?” “I was running.” “Running?” “You see, Inspector, I regarded it as my duty to patrol the grounds of the house at nightfall, since, for all I knew to the contrary, some of the servants might be responsible for the attempts of which the Colonel complained. I had descended from the window of my room, had passed entirely around the house east to west, and had returned to my starting-point when Mr. Knox, who was looking out of the window, observed Colonel Menendez entering the Tudor garden.” “Oh. Colonel Menendez was not visible to you?” “Not from my position below, but being informed by my friend, who was hurriedly descending the ladder, that the Colonel had entered the garden, I set off running to intercept him.” “Why?” “He had acquired a habit of walking in his sleep, and I presumed that he was doing so on this occasion.” “Oh, I see. So being told by the gentleman at the window that Colonel Menendez was in the garden, you started to run toward him. While you were running you heard a shot?” “I did.” “Where do you think it came from?” “Nothing is more difficult to judge, Inspector, especially when one is near to a large building surrounded by trees.” “Nevertheless,” said the Inspector, again raising his finger and frowning at Harley, “you cannot tell me that you formed no impression on the point. For instance, was it near, or a long way off?” “It was fairly near.” “Ten yards, twenty yards, a hundred yards, a mile?” “Within a hundred yards. I cannot be more exact.” “Within a hundred yards, and you have no idea from which direction the shot was fired?” “From the sound I could form none.” “Oh, I see. And what did you do?” “I ran on and down into the sunken garden. I saw Colonel Menendez lying upon his face near the sun-dial. He was moving convulsively. Running up to him, I that he had been shot through the head.” “What steps did you take?” “My friend, Mr. Knox, had joined me, and I sent him for assistance,” “But what steps did you take to apprehend the murderer?” Paul Harley looked at him quietly. “What steps should you have taken?” he asked. Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat again, and: “I don’t think I should have let my man slip through my fingers like that,” he replied. “Why! by now he may be out of the county.” “Your theory is quite feasible,” said Harley, tonelessly. “You were actually on the spot when the shot was fired, you admit that it was fired within a hundred yards, yet you did nothing to apprehend the murderer.” “No,” replied Harley, “I was ridiculously inactive. You see, I am a mere amateur, Inspector. For my future guidance I should be glad to know what the correct procedure would have been.” Inspector Aylesbury blew his nose. “I know my job,” he said. “If I had been called in there might have been a different tale to tell. But he was a foreigner, and he paid for his ignorance, poor fellow.” Paul Harley took out his pipe and began to load it in a deliberate and lazy manner. Inspector Aylesbury turned his prominent eyes in my direction. 18. Complications I am afraid of this man Aylesbury,” said Paul Harley. We sat in the deserted dining room. I had contributed my account of the evening’s happenings, Dr. Rolleston had made his report, and Inspector Aylesbury was now examining the servants in the library. Harley and I had obtained his official permission to withdraw, and the physician was visiting Madame de Staemer, who lay in a state of utter prostration. “What do you mean, Harley?” “I mean that he will presently make some tragic blunder. Good God, Knox, to think that this man had sought my aid, and that I stood by idly whilst he walked out to his death. I shall never forgive myself.” He banged the table with his fist. “Even now that these unknown fiends have achieved their object, I am helpless, helpless. There was not a wisp of smoke to guide me, Knox, and one man cannot search a county.” I sighed wearily. “Do you know, Harley,” I said, “I am thinking of a verse of Kipling’s.” “I know!” he interrupted, almost savagely. “A Snider squibbed in the jungle. Somebody laughed and fled–” “Oh, I know, Knox. I heard that damnable laughter, too.” “My God,” I whispered, “who was it? What was it? Where did it come from?” “As well ask where the shot came from, Knox. Out amongst all those trees, with a house that might have been built for a sounding-board, who could presume to say where either came from? One thing we know, that the shot came from the south.” He leaned upon a corner of the table, staring at me intently. “From the south?” I echoed. Harley glanced in the direction of the open door. “Presently,” he said, “we shall have to tell Aylesbury everything that we know. After all, he represents the law; but unless we can get Inspector Wessex down from Scotland Yard, I foresee a miscarriage of justice. Colonel Menendez lay on his face, and the line made by his recumbent body pointed almost directly toward–” I nodded, watching him. “I know, Harley–toward the Guest House.” Paul Harley inclined his head, grimly. “The first light which we saw,” he continued, “was in a window of the Guest House. It may have had no significance. Awakened by the sound of a rifle-shot near by, any one would naturally get up.” “And having decided to come downstairs and investigate,” I continued, “would naturally light a lamp.” “Quite so.” He stared at me very hard. “Yet,” he said, “unless Mr. Colin Camber can produce an alibi I foresee a very stormy time for him.” “So do I, Harley. A deadly hatred existed between these two men, and probably this horrible deed was done on the spur of the moment. It is of his poor little girlwife that I am thinking. As though her troubles were not heavy enough already.” “Yes,” he agreed. “I am almost tempted to hold my tongue, Knox, until I have personally interviewed these people. But of course if our blundering friend directly questions me, I shall have no alternative. I shall have to answer him. His talent for examination, however, scarcely amounts to genius, so that we may not be called upon for further details at the moment. I wonder how I can induce him to requisition Scotland Yard?” He rested his chin in his hand and stared down reflectively at the carpet. I thought that he looked very haggard, as he sat there in the early morning light, dressed as for dinner. There was something pathetic in the pose of his bowed head. Leaning across, I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Don’t get despondent, old chap,” I said. “You have not failed yet.” “Oh, but I have, Knox!” he cried, fiercely, “I have! He came to me for protection. Now he lies dead in his own house. Failed? I have failed utterly, miserably.” I turned aside as the door opened and Dr. Rolleston came in. “Ah, gentlemen,” he said, “I wanted to see you before leaving. I have just been to visit Madame de Staemer again.” “Yes,” said Harley, eagerly; “how is she?” Dr. Rolleston lighted a cigarette, frowning perplexedly the while. “To be honest,” he replied, “her condition puzzles me.” He walked across to the fireplace and dropped the match, staring at Harley with a curious expression. “Has any one told her the truth?” he asked. “You mean that Colonel Menendez is dead?” “Yes,” replied Dr. Rolleston. “I understood that no one had told her?” “No one has done so to my knowledge,” said Harley. “Then the sympathy between them must have been very acute,” murmured the physician, “for she certainly knows!” “Do you really think she knows?” I asked. “I am certain of it. She must have had knowledge of a danger to be apprehended, and being awakened by the sound of the rifle shot, have realized by a sort of intuition that the expected tragedy had happened. I should say, from the presence of a small bruise which I found upon her forehead, that she had actually walked out into the corridor.” “Walked?” I cried. “Yes,” said the physician. “She is a shell-shock case, of course, and we sometimes find that a second shock counteracts the effect of the first. This, temporarily at any rate, seems to have happened to-night. She is now in a very curious state: a form of hysteria, no doubt, but very curious all the same.” “Miss Beverley is with her?” I asked. Dr. Rolleston nodded affirmatively. “Yes, a very capable nurse. I am glad to know that Madame de Staemer is in such good hands. I am calling again early in the morning, and I have told Mrs. Fisher to see that nothing is said within hearing of the room which could enable Madame de Staemer to obtain confirmation of the idea, which she evidently entertains, that Colonel Menendez is dead.” “Does she actually assert that he is dead?” asked Harley. “My dear sir,” replied Dr. Rolleston, “she asserts nothing. She sits there like Niobe changed to stone, staring straight before her. She seems to be unaware of the presence of everyone except Miss Beverley. The only words she has spoken since recovering consciousness have been, ‘Don’t leave me!'” “Hm,” muttered Harley. “You have not attended Madame de Staemer before, doctor?” “No,” was the reply, “this is the first time I have entered Cray’s Folly since it was occupied by Sir James Appleton.” He was about to take his departure when the door opened and Inspector Aylesbury walked in. “Ah,” said he, “I have two more witnesses to interview: Madame de Staemer and Miss Beverley. From these witnesses I hope to get particulars of the dead man’s life which may throw some light upon the identity of his murderer.” “It is impossible to see either of them at present,” replied Dr. Rolleston briskly. “What’s that, doctor?” asked the Inspector. “Are they hysterical, or something?” “As a result of the shock, Madame de Staemer is dangerously ill,” replied the physician, “and Miss Beverley is remaining with her.” “Oh, I see. But Miss Beverley could come out for a few minutes?” “She could,” admitted the physician, sharply, “but I don’t wish her to do so.” “Oh, but the law must be served, doctor.” “Quite so, but not at the expense of my patient’s reason.” He was a resolute man, this country practitioner, and I saw Harley smiling in grim approval. “I have expressed my opinion,” he said, finally, walking out of the room; “I shall leave the responsibility to you, Inspector Aylesbury. Good morning, gentlemen.” Inspector Aylesbury scratched his chin. “That’s awkward,” he muttered. “The evidence of this woman is highly important.” He turned toward us, doubtingly, whereupon Harley stood up, yawning. “If I can be of any further assistance to you, Inspector,” said my friend, “command me. Otherwise, I feel sure you will appreciate the fact that both Mr. Knox and myself are extremely tired, and have passed through a very trying ordeal.” “Yes,” repli