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"The rest of it?" queried Dale with a show of bewilderment, silently thanking her stars that, for the moment at least, the incriminating fragment had passed out of her possession.
Her reply seemed only to infuriate the detective.
"Don't tell me Fleming started to go out of this house with a blank scrap of paper in his hand," he threatened. "He didn't start to go out at all!"
Dale rose. Was Anderson trying a chance shot in the dark - or had he stumbled upon some fresh evidence against her? She could not tell from his manner.
"Why do you say that?" she feinted.
"His cap's there on that table," said the detective with crushing terseness. Dale started. She had not remembered the cap - why hadn't she burned it, concealed it - as she had concealed the blue-print? She passed a hand over her forehead wearily.
Miss Cornelia watched her niece.
"It you're keeping anything back, Dale - tell him," she said.
"She's keeping something back all right,", he said. "She's told part of the truth, but not all." He hammered at Dale again. "You and Fleming located that room by means of a blue-print of the house. He started - not to go out - but, probably, to go up that staircase. And he had in his hand the rest of this!" Again he displayed the blank corner of blue paper.
Dale knew herself cornered at last. The detective's deductions were too shrewd; do what she would, she could keep him away from the truth no longer.
"He was going to take the money and go away with it!" she said rather pitifully, feeling a certain relief of despair steal over her, now that she no longer needed to go on lying - lying - involving herself in an inextricable web of falsehood.
"Dale!" gasped Miss Cornelia, alarmed. But Dale went on, reckless of consequences to herself, though still warily shielding Jack.
"He changed the minute he heard about it. He was all kindness before that - but afterward - " She shuddered, closing her eyes. Fleming's face rose before her again, furious, distorted with passion and greed - then, suddenly, quenched of life.
Anderson turned to Miss Cornelia triumphantly.
"She started to find the money - and save Bailey," he explained, building up his theory of the crime. "But to do it she had to take Fleming into her confidence - and he turned yellow. Rather than let him get away with it, she - " He made an expressive gesture toward his hip pocket.
Dale trembled, feeling herself already in the toils. She had not quite realized, until now, how damningly plausible such an explanation of Fleming's death could sound. It fitted the evidence perfectly - it took account of every factor but one - the factor left unaccounted for was one which even she herself could not explain.
"Isn't that true?" demanded Anderson. Dale already felt the cold clasp of handcuffs on her slim wrists. What use of denial when every tiny circumstance was so leagued against her? And yet she must deny.
"I didn't kill him," she repeated perplexedly, weakly.
"Why didn't you call for help? You - you knew I was here."
Dale hesitated. "I - I couldn't." The moment the words were out of her mouth she knew from his expression that they had only cemented his growing certainty of her guilt.
"Dale! Be careful what you say!" warned Miss Cornelia agitatedly. Dale looked dumbly at her aunt. Her answers must seem the height of reckless folly to Miss Cornelia - oh, if there were only someone who understood!
Anderson resumed his grilling.
"Now I mean to find out two things," he said, advancing upon Dale. "Why you did not call for help - and what you have done with that blue-print."
"Suppose I could find that piece of blue-print for you?" said Dale desperately. "Would that establish Jack Bailey's innocence?"
The detective stared at her keenly for a moment.
"If the money's there - yes."
Dale opened her lips to reveal the secret, reckless of what might follow. As long as Jack was cleared - what matter what happened to herself? But Miss Cornelia nipped the heroic attempt at self-sacrifice in the bud.
She put herself between her niece and the detective, shielding Dale from his eager gaze.
"But her own guilt!" she said in tones of great dignity. "No, Mr. Anderson, granting that she knows where that paper is - and she has not said that she does - I shall want more time and much legal advice before I allow her to turn it over to you.
All the unconscious note of command that long-inherited wealth and the pride of a great name can give was in her voice, and the detective, for the moment, bowed before it, defeated. Perhaps he thought of men who had been broken from the Force for injudicious arrests, perhaps he merely bided his time. At any rate, he gave up his grilling of Dale for the present and turned to question the Doctor and Beresford who had just returned, with Jack Bailey, from their grim task of placing Fleming's body in a temporary resting place in the library.
"Well, Doctor?" he grunted.
The Doctor shook his head
"Poor fellow - straight through the heart."
"Were there any powder marks?" queried Miss Cornelia.
"No - and the clothing was not burned. He was apparently shot from some little distance - and I should say from above."
The detective received this information without the change of a muscle in his face. He turned to Beresford - resuming his attack on Dale from another angle.
"Beresford, did Fleming tell you why he came here tonight?"
Beresford considered the question.
"No. He seemed in a great hurry, said Miss Ogden had telephoned him, and asked me to drive him over."
"Why did you come up to the house?"
"We-el," said Beresford with seeming candor, "I thought it was putting rather a premium on friendship to keep me sitting out in the rain all night, so I came up the drive - and, by the way!" He snapped his fingers irritatedly, as if recalling some significant incident that had slipped his memory, and drew a battered object from his pocket. "I picked this up, about a hundred feet from the house," he explained. "A man's watch. It was partly crushed into the ground, and, as you see, it's stopped running."
The detective took the object and examined it carefully. A man's open-face gold watch, crushed and battered in as if it had been trampled upon by a heavy heel.
"Yes," he said thoughtfully. "Stopped running at ten-thirty."
Beresford went on, with mounting excitement.
"I was using my pocket-flash to find my way and what first attracted my attention was the ground - torn up, you know, all around it. Then I saw the watch itself. Anybody here recognize it?"
The detective silently held up the watch so that all present could examine it. He waited. But if anyone in the party recognized the watch - no one moved forward to claim it.
"You didn't hear any evidence of a struggle, did you?" went on Beresford. "The ground looked as if a fight had taken place. Of course it might have been a dozen other things."
Miss Cornelia started.
"Just about ten-thirty Lizzie heard somebody cry out, in the grounds," she said.
The detective looked Beresford over till the latter grew a little uncomfortable.
"I don't suppose it has any bearing on the case," admitted the latter uneasily. "But it's interesting."
The detective seemed to agree. At least he slipped the watch in his pocket.
"Do you always carry a flashlight, Mr. Beresford?" asked Miss Cornelia a trifle suspiciously.
"Always at night, in the car." His reply was prompt and certain.
"This is all you found?" queried the detective, a curious note in his voice.
"Yes." Beresford sat down, relieved. Miss Cornelia followed his example. Another clue had led into a blind alley, leaving the mystery of the night's affairs as impenetrable as ever.
"Some day I hope to meet the real estate agent who promised me that I would sleep here as I never slept before!" she murmured acridly. "He's right! I've slept with my clothes on every night since I came!"
As she ended, Billy darted in from the hall, his beady little black eyes gleaming with excitement, a long, wicked-looking butcher knife in his hand.
"Key, kitchen door, please!" he said, addressing his mistress.
"Key?" said Miss Cornelia, startled. "What for?"
For once Billy's polite little grin was absent from his countenance.
"Somebody outside trying to get in," he chattered. "I see knob turn, so," he illustrated with the butcher knife, "and so - three times."
The detective's hand went at once to his revolver.
"You're sure of that, are you?" he said roughly to Billy.
"Sure, I sure!"
"Where's that hysterical woman Lizzie?" queried Anderson. "She may get a bullet in her if she's not careful."
"She see too. She shut in closet - say prayers, maybe," said Billy, without a smile.
The picture was a ludicrous one but not one of the little group laughed.
"Doctor, have you a revolver?" Anderson seemed to be going over the possible means of defense against this new peril.
"How about you, Beresford?"
"Yes," he admitted finally. "Always carry one at night in the country." The statement seemed reasonable enough but Miss Cornelia gave him a sharp glance of mistrust, nevertheless.
The detective seemed to have more confidence in the young idler.
"Beresford, will you go with this Jap to the kitchen?" as Billy, grimly clutching his butcher knife, retraced his steps toward the hall. "If anyone's working at the knob - shoot through the door. I'm going round to take a look outside."
Beresford started to obey. Then he paused.
"I advise you not to turn the doorknob yourself, then," he said flippantly.
The detective nodded. "Much obliged," he said, with a grin. He ran lightly into the alcove and tiptoed out of the terrace door, closing the door behind him. Beresford and Billy departed to take up their posts in the kitchen. "I'll go with you, if you don't mind - " and Jack Bailey had followed them, leaving Miss Cornelia and Dale alone with the Doctor. Miss Cornelia, glad of the opportunity to get the Doctor's theories on the mystery without Anderson's interference, started to question him at once.
"Yes." The Doctor turned, politely.
"Have you any theory about this occurrence to-night?" She watched him eagerly as she asked the question.
He made a gesture of bafflement.
"None whatever - it's beyond me," he confessed.
"And yet you warned me to leave this house," said Miss Cornelia cannily. "You didn't have any reason to believe that the situation was even as serious as it has proved to be?"
"I did the perfectly obvious thing when I warned you," said the Doctor easily. "Those letters made a distinct threat."
Miss Cornelia could not deny the truth in his words. And yet she felt decidedly unsatisfied with the way things were progressing.
"You said Fleming had probably been shot from above?" she queried, thinking hard.
The Doctor nodded. "Yes."
"Have you a pocket-flash, Doctor?" she asked him suddenly.
"Why - yes - " The Doctor did not seem to perceive the significance of the query. "A flashlight is more important to a country Doctor than - castor oil," he added, with a little smile.
Miss Cornelia decided upon an experiment. She turned to Dale.
"Dale, you said you saw a white light shining down from above?"
"Yes," said Dale in a minor voice.
Miss Cornelia rose.
"May I borrow your flashlight, Doctor? Now that fool detective is out of the way," she continued some what acidly, "I want to do something."
The Doctor gave her his flashlight with a stare of bewilderment. She took it and moved into the alcove.
"Doctor, I shall ask you to stand at the foot of the small staircase, facing up."
"Now?" queried the Doctor with some reluctance.
The Doctor slowly followed her into the alcove and took up the position she assigned him at the foot of the stairs.
"Now, Dale," said Miss Cornelia briskly, "when I give the word, you put out the lights here - and then tell me when I have reached the point on the staircase from which the flashlight seemed to come. All ready?"
Two silent nods gave assent. Miss Cornelia left the room to seek the second floor by the main staircase and then slowly return by the alcove stairs, her flashlight poised, in her reconstruction of the events of the crime. At the foot of the alcove stairs the Doctor waited uneasily for her arrival. He glanced up the stairs - were those her footsteps now? He peered more closely into the darkness.
An expression of surprise and apprehension came over his face.
He glanced swiftly at Dale - was she watching him? No - she sat in her chair, musing. He turned back toward the stairs and made a frantic, insistent gesture - "Go back, go back!" it said, plainer than words, to - Something - in the darkness by the head of the stairs. Then his face relaxed, he gave a noiseless sigh of relief.
Dale, rousing from her brown study, turned out the floor lamp by the table and went over to the main light switch, awaiting Miss Cornelia's signal to plunge the room in darkness. The Doctor stole, another glance at her - had his gestures been observed? - apparently not.
Unobserved by either, as both waited tensely for Miss Cornelia's signal, a Hand stole through the broken pane of the shattered French window behind their backs and fumbled for the knob which unlocked the window-door. It found the catch - unlocked it - the window-door swung open, noiselessly - just enough to admit a crouching figure that cramped itself uncomfortably behind the settee which Dale and the Doctor had placed to barricade those very doors. When it had settled itself, unperceived, in its lurking place - the Hand stole out again - closed the window-door, relocked it.
Hand or claw? Hand of man or woman or paw of beast? In the name of God - whose hand?
Miss Cornelia's voice from the head of the stairs broke the silence.
"All right! Put out the lights!"
Dale pressed the switch. Heavy darkness. The sound of her own breathing. A mutter from the Doctor. Then, abruptly, a white, piercing shaft of light cut the darkness of the stairs - horribly reminiscent of that other light-shaft that had signaled Fleming's doom.
"Was it here?" Miss Cornelia's voice came muffledly from the head of the stairs.
Dale considered. "Come down a little," she said. The white spot of light wavered, settled on the Doctor's face.
"I hope you haven't a weapon," the Doctor called up the stairs with an unsuccessful attempt at jocularity.
Miss Cornelia descended another step.
"That's about right," said Dale uncertainly. Miss Cornelia was satisfied.
"Lights, please." She went up the stairs again to see if she could puzzle out what course of escape the man who had shot Fleming had taken after his crime - if it had been a man.
Dale switched on the living-room lights with a sense of relief. The reconstruction of the crime had tried her sorely. She sat down to recover her poise.
"Doctor! I'm so frightened!" she confessed.
The Doctor at once assumed his best manner of professional reassurance.
"Why, my dear child?" he asked lightly. "Because you happened to be in the room when a crime was committed?"
"But he has a perfect case against me," sighed Dale.
"You don't mean?" said the Doctor aghast.
Dale looked at him with horror in her face.
"I didn't kill him!" she insisted anew. "But, you know the piece of blue-print you found in his hand?"
"Yes," from the Doctor tensely.
Dale's nerves, too bitterly tested, gave way at last under the strain of keeping her secret. She felt that she must confide in someone or perish. The Doctor was kind and thoughtful - more than that, he was an experienced man of the world - if he could not advise her, who could? Besides, a Doctor was in many ways like a priest - both sworn to keep inviolate the secrets of their respective confessionals.
"There was another piece of blue-print, a larger piece - " said Dale slowly, "I tore it from him just before - "
The Doctor seemed greatly excited by her words. But he controlled himself swiftly.
"Why did you do such a thing?"
"Oh, I'll explain that later," said Dale tiredly, only too glad to be talking the matter out at last, to pay attention to the logic of her sentences. "It's not safe where it is," she went on, as if the Doctor already knew the whole story. "Billy may throw it out or burn it without knowing - "
"Let me understand this," said the Doctor. "The butler has the paper now?"
"He doesn't know he has it. It was in one of the rolls that went out on the tray."
The Doctor's eyes gleamed. He gave Dale's shoulder a sympathetic pat.
"Now don't you worry about it - I'll get it," he said. Then, on the point of going toward the dining-room, he turned.
"But - you oughtn't to have it in your possession," he said thoughtfully. "Why not let it be burned?"
Dale was on the defensive at once.
"Oh, no! It's important, it's vital!" she said decidedly.
The Doctor seemed to consider ways and means of getting the paper.
"The tray is in the dining-room?" he asked.
"Yes," said Dale.
He thought a moment, then left the room by the hall door. Dale sank back in her chair and felt a sense of overpowering relief steal over her whole body, as if new life had been poured into her veins. The Doctor had been so helpful - why had she not confided in him before? He would know what to do with the paper - she would have the benefit of his counsel through the rest of this troubled time. For a moment she saw herself and Jack, exonerated, their worries at an end, wandering hand in hand over the green lawns of Cedarcrest in the cheerful sunlight of morning.
Behind her, mockingly, the head of the Unknown concealed behind the settee lifted cautiously until, if she had turned, she would have just been able to perceive the top of its skull.
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