THE GOLDEN SCARAB
HERBERT HOPKINS MOORHOUSE
"CREDIT me with paying you the compliment of taking precautions, old bean,” drawled the cool, insolent voice of Alceste.
“You surely would not expect me to leave the cartridge clip in the magazine of the gun you keep in that drawer?—particularly when I have been rather expecting this showdown at any moment?”
He favored the novelist with the condescending smile one might bestow upon a blundering child; but it was a smile of the lips only. Behind the levelled weapon were alert eyes, cold and hard. Kent met them with a strained look.
“You see, you have such an unfortunate habit of making a nuisance of yourself—a bad habit that has been growing upon you of late. I had decided it was time for us to part company and was planning to leave our happy home this evening. That was why I instructed Gridley to tell you I would not be home before midnight; I hoped to be gone before you arrived, and had you given me another twenty minutes—But, pardon me—you may sit down, of course. I said—sit down!"
Obediently Addison Kent backed into a chair without altering the focus of his steady gaze. He spoke no word.
“Make yourself comfortable, my dear fellow. Now that you’ve put your foot in it, we may as well have this thing out and be done with it. There are quite a few things to say—I beg your pardon, but were you trying to speak?”
“You, Malabar! Of all men —you!”
“I do hope you are not going to indulge in sentiment and all that sort of rot, my dear Kent!
Let us drop pretence. You did not come here to-night to greet your old friend, Dick Malabar; you already suspected the truth when you stepped into this room. Your real object in provoking a quarrel over that message was to uncover proof of your suspicions—playing for a look at that molar of mine with the gold band around it!
Very clever of you! But although you were about to reach into that drawer for your automatic—just to be on the safe side, as it were—you were none too sure of yourself. You are not sure, even now, that I am not playing a wild prank upon you!”
“I wish to God I could think
Slowly, crushingly, the thought forced itself upon Addison Kent’s astonished intelligence. Dick Malabar, his friend and closest confidant, and Alceste, the arch-criminal, were one and the same person. The eyes behind the levelled weapon were not the eyes of a friend—they were cold and hard as steel. And the voice was implacable.
special dye which would fade out and leave no trace after the lapse of—say some months. You should have known me better than to think I would ruin my eyes for all time to come, just to escape a momentary inconvenience. Yes, you were rather disappointing in that item!
“Suppose we try another. Take the matter of my height. According to your measurements of Alceste—carefully ascertained by you, I believe, on the former occasion of our meeting—m e a s u r e m ents by which you seemed to set great store— according to those measurements, Dick Malabar is over three inches taller than Alceste! What about that? That, too, has been difficult to account for, has it not?” “Yes—until I remembered that you stop at nothing to obtain your ends.” “Goon. You interest me greatly.”
“The intensity with which you say that betrays a degree
of sentimentality which I find distressing in one who has so much cleverness to commend him. It is one of your weaknesses—”
“To have given you my honest friendship?—to have trusted you?—a weakness? What manner of man are you?”
“At least one who can keep his head in an emergency. Let us proceed to analyze this so-called friendship over which you are inclined to become maudlin. Let me put some straight questions to you and I want straight answers. Is what I have surmised correct? Did you come here to-night, expecting and believing that I was Alceste?’
“Very good. You are sufficiently satisfied of that to pull a gun on me?—to hand me over to the police?”
“In spite of the fact that Dick Malabar’s eyes are blue, with no sign of the tattooed brown which you expected had disfigured the eyes of Alceste for life? How do you account for that?”
“I do not know. It is one of the discrepancies which I cannot explain—unless the tattooing dye has faded—•”
“Well, we may put that down as one point scored on you, my dear Kent. If you will recall, the tattooing operation performed by the late lamented Dr. MacMurrough was by a special process of his own which enabled him to perform the operation quickly. You apparently lost sight of the fact that intentionally he might have used a
“And if I told you that Naida rescued you the other night because I instructed her to do so and that I kept Wasserhaus and McGonnigle otherwise engaged while she did it— would you believe that?”
“I thought as much! Which brings us back to where we started, you see —this wonderful friendship you have for Dick Malabar! If I put that friendship to the test by asking you to let bygones be bygones—by asking you to believe that things are often not what they seem—by pleading with you to trust in Dick Malabar, even though you now know him to be Alceste—what would you say? If I appealed to that friendship you throw at me as a reproach and asked you to believe that in due course I could explain everything to your satisfaction—asked you to forget that I was Alceste and to join me to-night in the rescue of Naida—would you trust me, Addison Kent? Answer that! Would you?”
For a long moment the novelist looked at him steadily, seeking to fathom this new and unexpected tack, while the other watched him closely—studied every inflection of the tense face.
“There are some things which wound too deeply to be readily forgiven—some things which are beyond explanation,” answered Kent at length in a flat voice.
“Quite so! Your boasted friendship is but surface sentimentality, incapable of any acid test! Knowing me to be Alceste, you have room in your generous heart only for enmity!” There was a tinge of bitterness in the accusation.
“Alceste has placed himself outside the pale, Malabar -—if that is your real name. My duty is clear before me— to hand you straight over to the police! How dare you expect any other treatment from me! You damned scoundrel! You—!”
“At least we know exactly where we stand, old bean! Now, kindly drop all sentiment and let us proceed—”
"Gridley!" shouted Kent at the top of his voice. "Gridley!"
“npHERE is an apparatus on the market for stretching the body, of course— a system of spinal treatment that allows the articular and intervertebral cartilages to expand. By gradually thickening the twenty-three rubber-like cartilages which act as cushions between the vertebral bodies in the spinal column it is possible to increase the height by natural growth—a matter of approximately two inches. You could probably gain another inch or two through correction of posture.”
“Capital, my dear fellow! Splendid! It took me just about six months to obtain the desired result and it is permanent. When you pass maturity and your spinal shock-absorbers begin to wear thin, I recommend you to try a little systematic stretching; it will make a new man of you!
“So it was your concentrated study of my mouth the other night which gave you a glimmer of the truth, eh? I rather expected it would, you know; but it was a risk I was forced to run in order to duly impress my friend, Otto.”
“I—do not understand. I am in no mood for cryptograms!”
“Nor in any position to resent them!” reminded Alceste incisively. “There are so many things you do not understand! If I told you that Wasserhaus was so far from being any friend of mine that he was my worst enemy—not even excepting present company—would you believe me?”
“I have seen no evidence of it,” said Addison Kent wearily.
“ A MOST unseemly bellow!” protested the mocking TA voice. “If there is something you are wanting, why not allow me to ring?” He reached out and pressed the push-button that summoned the butler.
Gridley was not far away and he came on the run, checking his haste abruptly at the archway.
“Ah, Gridley, Mr. Kent wants you, I believe. It would be in order for you to sing for him that beautiful thing of Cadman’s—‘Call Me No More!’ ”
For a moment only Addison Kent regarded the grinning servant, then he waved his hand hopelessly.
“Permit me to make you acquainted with a very good friend of mine, Kent—Mr. Bert Gridley, the well known character actor. You have heard me speak of Mr. Kent, of course, Gridley. You might see that rope of yours is handy. Much as I regret it, I find we are going to need it. What’s that, Kent? Oh, I thought you said something!
“You will understand that we are quite alone in the house—just we three. Gaston was anxious to get off tonight to attend his grandmother’s funeral or something and I sent Sandy away with a letter which it will take him all night to deliver. About Gridley—the opportunity of having his companionship here was too great a temptation for me to resist when the vacancy occurred. He’s really a splendid fellow—reliable, strong and udlling—aren’t you, Gridley? Alongside him Barkis was a mere beginner in willingness! You will take good care of Mr. Kent when I leave, Gridley. Better go for your rope now and hang it over that chair—”
“It’s out in the dining-room, Dick.”
“Then, get it. Sit quiet, Kent! You are much too fidgety. I hope you are not planning to try anything foolish? I would strongly advise you not to!”
“What do you propose to do—if I might be so bold as to enquire?”
With smoldering eyes the novelist tallied the net result of his sarcasm—a faint, cynical smile at the corners of that mouth.
“Well, now, I have been considering. Inasmuch as you seem so anxious to rush me to the police-station and as that is something which undoubtedly would interfere with my night’s activities and my future plans—to tell you the truth, dear old chap. I thought we would tie you up tight to a chair in here in the library where it is so cozy and warm. Gridley will remain with you, of course, for company, and will keep the fire replenished so that you can gaze into the flames and conjure mental pictures to
your heart’s content—think out the plot of a new detective story, if you like. If you behave yourself, I have no doubt that Gridley will get you something to eat before morning and perhaps he might even read you a bedtime story—”
Quick as a flash of light Addison Kent acted. Nothing was to be gained by attempting to secure the automatic from the table drawer. With the clip of cartridges missing it would be utterly useless. Equally futile would be any effort to overcome Alceste by sudden assault. The powerfully-built Gridley would bring the fight to a termination no less sudden than unsatisfactory. A single chance only lay open—a slim one—of flight. If Kent could dodge out through the library archway without being shot down, there was a chance that he might reach the front door before Gridley reappeared. The pointing automatic was too great a risk to wrestle with the catches of the glass doors which opened on the tiled portico: he would be riddled with bullets! No, the only chance was to duck and run for it—a dangerous hazard. With apparent weariness, Kent yawned prodigiously, stretching wide his arms and knotting his muscles. The moment his right hand came in contact with the little onyx table beside his chair his fingers darted for the neck of the heavy Venetian vase that stood upon it. With that backward grip came his sudden forward leap—one single movement—the overhand fling of his arm that sent the vase hurtling through the air with the full weight of big muscles behind it—the cat-like sidespring which threw his body low and landed him half way across the space separating him from the archway.
He did not wait to note the accuracy of his aim. The loud crash of the vase was in his ears as he lunged for the portieres with a desperate energy which he had never surpassed in the wildest Rugby rush of his college days.
“Get him, Gridl"
Through the archway catapulted Kent. To the left he dashed—down the wide hall where the polished floors and panelling caught the sheen of the lights. He wondered why Alceste did not fire. He was conscious of the startled Gridley behind him, near the archway, with a coiled rope in his hand. Then, just as hope was lending wings to his flying feet—just as he was straining for the vestibule—
Hiss-ss-ss-ssl Along that smooth, slippery, well waxed floor like a long black snake shot Gridley’s rope. The next instant Addison Kent was jerked on his face—flung
prone with a force which whacked the breath out of his body!
LIKE a roped steer the novelist was dragged ignominJ iously along the hall, feet first, through the archway into the library. Half stunned, he was placed on a straight-backed chair around which flew coil after coil of the lariat until he was pinned there, as helpless as if he were encased in a strait-jacket.
“ ‘Western Stuff’, I believe they call it,” was Alceste’s amused comment as he slid his automatic into his hip pocket. “Good work, Grid! Tie his feet to the front legs of the chair and I guess we may come to the conclusion that the gentlemen is in for the night and guaranteed a quiet evening at home among the friendliest of companions—oh, not you, Grid! I refer to good books—such as you see lining the walls of this beautiful room. It is hardly likely that Mr. Kent will be feeling any too kindly towards you for that nasty bruise on his head and—JU-JU— his lip is cut! Wipe that trickle of blood off his chin—ah, that’s charitable of you, Gridley. You may go now and finish packing. I’ll ring when I need you.”
As he spoke he tapped the end of a cigarette vertically upon the silver case from -which he had taken it. Carefully he inserted it in an amber mouthpiece, methodically lighted it and exhaled a cloud of blue vapor at the ceiling.
“I warned you not to try anything silly, Kent. Perhaps I should have told you that Mr. Gridley at one time was a motion-picture star—the original ‘Pinto Pete’ in a series of famous cowboy pictures—and throws a lariat with the best of them. I don’t know what your friend, Lamont, is going to say to you for smashing that rare vase of his. Just look at it! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
He lolled back in a big leather chair and regarded the prisoner quizzically. Then his eyes narrowed and he leaned forward quickly.
“You fool! Do you think this is some five-o’clock teaparty? Lucky for you that Gridley’s lariat got you or I should have been under the painful necessity of potting you from the portico!”
Addison Kent rolled his head impatiently.
“Are you man enough to answer three questions truthfully?” he challenged bitterly.
“What is worrying you, dear boy?”
“Is that message from Naida genuine?”
“Why, of course it is!”
“Am I right in supposing that you claim to love her?”
“Yes, she is very dear to me indeed!”
“Then, in God’s name, why are you wasting time here when you ought to be flying to her rescue? What happens to me doesn’t matter; but for God’s sake, go to her at once!”
There was no doubting the sincerity in the husky voice, the honest anxiety in his eyes.
“ You believe me to be a—shall we say, rival—for the lady’s favor? And, believing that, you would send me to her to become her hero?”
“Quit your everlasting gab! What do our differences matter when she stands in need of help? Good heavens! man. don’t you realize that her very life and honor—?” He paused at the other’s raised hand; at the strange smile that warmed the face for a moment—the smile that for just an instant revealed the old Dick Malabar he had known with affection.
“You are worrying unnecessarily, old chap. Forgive me for not advising you at once that everything is being done for Naida that can be done at the moment. Already I have taken action—over the telephone—and she will be protected. She was removed from the address given in that note very shortly after she despatched it; so it would be useless to go there. I know where she is; you do not. I know how to rescue her in the surest way; you do not. But I cannot make the final moye in the matter for a few hours and I swear to you that I am telling you only the truth.
“With so much at stake you may begin to understand why I would have shot you down without hesitation had you escaped from the house! Affairs of which you have no inkling are coming to a swift and dangerous culmination and I can brook no interference with my movements from you or the police!” Alceste paused and the flinty lines repossessed his lean face. “Understand this, Addison Kent: So far as you are concerned the game is over; the pieces presently will be laid away in a wooden box and the chessboard folded on you. You are going to be put where your interference with me will cease. At last, it ischeckmate!"
“Must I remind you that a cut lip is hardly the right condition for laughing,” drawled Kent contemptuously. “Your tragic theatricality is passable comedy; but when
so long drawn out it becomes a boring performance. If you seek to entertain me, I am more interested in these affairs of which you say I have no inkling. I hope you are hot going to tell me that you are going in for bootlegging! It would be so declasse after your artistic activities in acquisition of the Treasure of Osiris!”
“Ah, I can see that you are feeling better, my dear Kent,” purred Alceste. “You ought to do more public speaking! Yes, it has been rather a pretty little game, although you have been too easily fooled for it to have been very exciting. Shall we hold a post-mortem on it7 Would you care to have me point out your bad plays?” “It was you who took the golden scarab ruby from the breast of the mummy that night!” accused Kent bluntly.
“Something you certainly should have found out long before this,” admitted Alceste coolly.
“And the mummy of the cat—you stole that also?”
“Assuredly, old top! Inasmuch as the cat was the hiding-place for a fortune in precious stones— diamonds, rubies, pearls, sapphires and so forth— you would scarcely expect me to overlook it!
Besides, had I not taken possession of these trinkets somebody else would have got them that same night.”
“The man I saw on the wall in the rain, of tourse.”
“Gridley’s lariat seems to have jarred some of the cobwebs out of your brain! Your perspicacity amazes me!”
“So your story of the supposed fight you had 'with the intruder out there in the midst of the thunder-storm—that was a pure fabrication!”
“As a writer of fiction you should be able to appreciate it.”
Kent studied the sardonic smile of his enemy with disturbing realization of the extent to which he had been duped.
“We found you lying in a rain-puddle near the gates—Sandy and I—with a gash on the top of your head, a bad bruise on your brow and sundry bad scratches. At least your wounds were real!” declared Kent caustically. “You had to have an alibi; so you inflicted them upon yourself.”
“Really, my dear fellow, the light of understanding is making you quite bright to-night! If you want to know, I bashed my head against one of the stone gate-posts— ran at it full tilt like a jousting knight. It was a simple matter, of course, to shoot holes through my shirt with my automatic and when you and the gardener arrived I promptly fainted. The only difficulty I experienced was to keep from laughing while you were lugging me to the house.”
“TT WAS typical of you who never do things by halves,” muttered Kent. “Instead of trying to Capture the big man, you passed the jewels to him— your accomplice!” He looked up quickly. “Why did you go to the trouble of faking those footprints outside the cellar window and again up in the bedroom?”
“A clumsy piece of work, I concede. I wanted you to think it was the man who had visited Professor Caron and left the imprint of his golf-boot in the library.”
“That was Wasserhaus!”
“You know it was! You know it was he who killed Caron!”
“Excuse me, Kent! I know nothing about the murder of Professor Caron.”
“Nor who killed Mokra7”
“I do not know.”
“I tell you. my hands are clean!” surged Alceste. He controlled his anger with an effort and reached abruptly for the push-button.
“What was Naida doing there that night?” demanded Kent suddenly.
“I believe you are the only one who insists that she was there at all!” was Alceste’s surprising rejoinder. “Is everything ready, Gridley?”
“All set,” replied the butler, who had just stepped into the room.
“At least it was she who called here early that morning, passing herself off as a newspaper woman.”
“Yes, she called then to see if I was all right,” answered Alceste coldly. “My time is up and I am leaving you now. It is quite possible I may not see you again, Addison Kent. In parting I have only this to say to youIt is unfortunate that a man of your ability should mix so much folly with his cleverness. You should have stuck to your impossible detective stories and left actual police work alone. You are a bungler who succeeds only in making himself an annoyance. You have been a mere child in my hands and I could have killed you times without number. But I chose to let you live in the hope that you would see the error of your ways and mind your own business! It was partly with the idea of studying you at close quarters and perhaps influencing you to drop your meddling in
things outside your legitimate field that I used your acquaintanceship with Richard Malabar to work from the inside on this adventure.”
“You did not play fair! You struck below the belt!” cried Kent furiously.
“Remember what I said about sentiment!” reminded Alceste in sharp reproof. “I have no stomach for friendship which will not stand the test of faith. You have chosen your own bed and you are going to lie in it. As for Naida—”
“As for Naida, she is mine! I do not believe she loves you!”
“Yours!” laughed Alceste. “Well, well! How pretty a conceit! You seem to lose sight of the fact that for you the game is ended, as I have already pointed out. Shortly after three o’clock this morning—it is now just 1:23 by
my watch—a closed car will call here for you. Gridley will go with you, of course, to see that you are safely delivered at the other end of the journey. Every provision will have been made for taking care of you and preventing any further activity on your part. Meanwhile, you will remain right here, just as you are, with Gridley to see that you behave yourself. Much as I would like to loosen that lariat and trust to your word of honor—you would not give your promise as a gentleman I suppose, to make no attempt to escape or communicate—?”
“ No!" refused Kent vehemently.
“Quite so. It is purely a matter of your comfort, dear old chap; but it is just as wdl. And now, I must go; but first, with your permission—”
He stepped across to the library table and from a drawer—the same drawer for which Addison Kent’s hand had been reaching when Alceste stopped him—he lifted the automatic which the novelist kept there. Fascinated, Kent watched him coolly extract a full clip of cartridges from the magazine of the weapon!
“It is fortunate that our automatics are of the same make and calibre, is it not? You see, old bean, you came in on me before I had quite finished my preparations and my own gun was empty. So, if you don’t mind, I will just transfer this full clip now and—” bowing elaborately, “—bid you a fond farewell!”
At the archway he paused and bowed again. Then across the room drove the full-throated mockery of Alceste’s laugh. And for Addison Kent it left an echo of derision and a sense of utter defeat.
TPHE hush of the night hours mantled park and I boulevard. Winding driveways were deserted; only at long intervals did a belated automobile speed loud passage through quiet streets or a footfall upon pavement knock onward with solitary emphasis.
The Lamont residence was in darkness except for chinks of light in one spot. The mellow chime of the huge old clock in the lower hall was followed by two slow strokes — whirr-rr — boom-m-ml — whirr-rr — boom-m-m! The momentary resonance rode arrogantly forth upon the stillness of the house; the stillness came back. In the library the coals rustled softly in the grate as the red heart of the fire settled closer to its thin bed of gray ashes. Through the great room restless shadows tossed, reaching blindly about the rich woodwork— miserly fingers which groped for elusive glints of firelight reflected upon polished surfaces. The heavy curtains were drawn across the French windows; but beyond the glass doors the dimly lighted library doubled itself indistinctly against the lurking blackness outside.
Two a.m.l One more hour of discomfort and tedious monotony to endure! Shortly after three, Alceste had said, the car would call. Addison Kent found himself looking forward to its arrival with a degree of eagerness
which he would not have thought possible. Any kind of action which would bring this torture to an end was to be welcomed. His limbs were growing numb from the stricture of his bonds. He had ceased to plead for relief; the callous Gridley sat slumped in a leather chair, feet sprawled toward the fire, lost in the pages of a book while he abstractedly munched, munched, munched—sslupl— apples!
The champing of Gridley’s jaws irritated Kent. The odor of the apples irritated him. The whole situation was getting on his nerves. Hè tried to doze; but thought was piling, coiling, in his mind and for once he could not bring on that blankness which he had trained so carefully to answer to his call when he wanted to cease thinking and go to sleep. There was nothing for it but to mount the black beast that obsessed him and give rein.
The thoughts which swooped down upon him in the bitterness of that dark hour were sable-winged. Defeat and derision jeered at him in the laughing echoes Alceste had left in his ears. Humiliation dragged at him. Self-reproach pointed a scornful finger. He had failed—miserably! As his enemy had said, for him the game was over and he had lost!
The first ten minutes had been sufficient to satisfy him that there was nothing he could do except to await the will of his captors. Eound to the chair so securely, the hope of working free from the lariat with its Western hitches soon expired. If he moved, the chair would have to go with him. It would be possible to overbalance it; but what advantage would be gained by lying prone upon the floor? Even if it were possible to hunch along toward the telephone over in the corner, Gridley had taken care to plant himself beside it. To tumble onto the fireplace and burn the lariat somehow?— Gridley would be after him at the first move! Shout for help? They were alone in the great house that stood back in its grounds, well away from the deserted highway. Use some pretext to get the butler out of the room?—Gridley was alert, suspicious.
So, Addison Kent sat on, his head sagged in pretense of sleep; but behind his closed eyelids he was busily going over and over the situation from every possible angle— and finding no loophole of escape! His memory retraced the conspiring hours which had led to this cul-de-sac— back over the entire stretch of events to that first night when he and the pseudo Malabar had called upon the late Professor Caron.
Only a few weeks ago! Yet what a change! Frofessor Caron was dead—murdered! Mokra, Lamont’s faithful Algerian butler, was dead—also foully murdered! The mummies and relics of the archaeologist were gone. The golden scarab with its startling ruby was gone. Kellani, the Nubian servant of Caron—that silent brown slave out of the Arabian Nights—was a fugitive! “Dick Malabar” had vanished. Kent alone remained and, according to Alceste, soon he too would be—gone!
What were they going to do with him? The closed automobile would arrive presently. Where would it take him?—to what fate? Was he to be spirited to some outof-the-way spot and deliberately murdered like the others7 Alceste had been free enough with his talk. How much of it was mere bluff?
Bluff! The man was a dare-devil! All through that tense scene between them he had sat there, smiling and bluffing, relying upon an empty gun to enforce his commands—aware all the time that if Kent had reached into that table drawer and possessed himself of the loaded weapon, the whole situation would have been altered in an eye-wink! Yet Alceste had made no move to eliminate the danger; he had been content to bluff it out, as if he revelled in hazards which another man would have hastened to avoid!
Or was it that because he was a past-master of psychology he trusted to mental control? For Alceste had not lied. He had not said that he had removed the cartridgeclip; he had merely suggested that Kent would hardly expect him to leave the gun loaded under the circumstances. He had been confident that Kent would accept the suggestion because no normal individual would act otherwise; to disarm an expected opponent was so palpably the thing to do. if possible. And. like a big fool, Fient had not reasoned clearly; he should have realized what was not very apparent: the fact of Alceste trying to stop him from opening the drawer was proof that the gun was loaded!
AS THE novelist’s mind skipped back nimbly over the weeks during which Alceste had lived close to him under the guise of friendship, it was to marvel at the man’s audacity. The masquerade at times had been edged with difficult situations which had been carried off in convincing manner. Not once had Alceste’s resourcefulness failed him or his sang-froid weakened. Even granting that the thing had been accomplished only by taking unfair advantage of Kent’s trust and friendship, nevertheContinued on page i9
What’s the Matter With the Canadian Athlete?
A DECADE ago Canadian runners were winning Marathons, Canadian walkers were outpacing the pick of other countries, Canadian jumpers were setting world records. In 1924 the Dominion sent twenty-five athletes to the Olympic Games at Paris. Not one of these captured first place. Why? What is the reason for Canada’s decline in these divisions of sport? Read “Where Are Canada’s Field Athletes?” by H. H. Roxborough, in MACLEAN’S for April 15.
Continued from pa ;e 28
less, it had been a daring venture, boldly piloted to success. Only by assuming an identity which would be unquestioned by his enemies dared Alceste return to New York. The heart of the enemy’s camp he had chosen as his safest retreat! He had forestalled suspicion by living and working with the very man he most feared! That had required nerve and Kent conceded reluctant admiration.
The strategical advantages of the situation were at once apparent. Everything had played right into his enemy’s hands! The visit to Professor Caron, as Kent’s sponsored friend, had put him at once in touch with the object of his visit to America— the priceless golden scarab ruby and the other jewels. To plan the theft had been easy; it was Alceste who had suggested that the scarab be kept on the premises instead of being placed at once in a safety-deposit vaultthat it be placed on the breast of the mummy, nice and handy for him—that he should stand guard during the first half of the night! No wonder he had said Kent was easy to fool and was nothing but a bungler!
“It’s just as he says; I have been the veriest child in his hands!” muttered the novelist in self-abasement. “He has played with me at will from the first! —c was meeting Nalcia—
.Nalcia! Wildly Kent’s mind raced down this hew avenue of surmise. In an agony ne wrestled with the problem of the girl’s part in the pUzzle. Only fof one heartstopping momfeftt did black doubt assail him; then he s’ftfèpt.i.t abide impatiently. No matter what Alceste declared—no matter how^ appearances might point— he must believe in her. It was the one thing to which he clung. He knew she was all right—true blue. These devils who had her in their power—any part she had played in the maze of events she had been forced to play. He must not allow crafty suggestion to mislead him a second time.
Those words of Alceste—“Affairs of which you have no inkling are coming to a swift and dangerous culmination!” What had he meant? Some drama altogether outside this Caron case?—a dire something, the evil roots of which reached backward into the past?—into the East? Had it to do with that nebulous “Order of the Golden Scarab” which poor Caron had mentioned with bated breath? Alceste was involved in that somehow— “Dead he may be; but his evil lives after him!” had been Caron’s comment—in the presence of Alceste himself! And Caron had been murdered within the next, few hours!
Yet Alceste had denied angrily all knowledge of the murder, declaring that his hands were clean. Suppose that were true. Suppose Alceste himself were in the dark. He had been pale with worry that night when they rode homeward after their visit to the excited professor, They
had talked of Caron’s evident fear and its cause; Alceste had admitted his belief that the golden scarab was at the bottom of it. In what way? “God knows!” had been his solemn reply to that question.
But Alceste’s mystification explained nothing. How had that magnificent ruby come into the Frenchman’s possession? Like all such outstanding jewels, no I doubt the shadows of dark deeds lurked upon the path it had traveled through time and distance. Here in New York it had come unexpectedly to light and here 1 in New York—almost immediately—its evil influence had been manifested. Had Alceste’s interest in it been other than the mere theft of a valuable gem? Had he known it was on its way across the At: lantic and dared everything for some j deeper purpose? And now the event— 1 whatever it was— was coming to this i “swift and dangerous culmination.”
If it was an affair of which Addison Kent could have no inkling, what was the use in attempting to speculate upon it? He was traveling in a circle. Yet it intrigued him worried him. Alceste was i, concerned in it; who else might be involved?— Wasserhaus? Kellani? Naida? There was no telling what—no tell—
FOR a moment Addison Kent’s thoughts came to a full stop. He sat there in blank astonishment, staring straight before him. He listened—listened for the slightest sound—listened for a repetition of the queer thing that had obtruded upon his vagrant attention. He was entirely alive to his immediate surroundings; for he was almost certain he had caught a slight sound that belonged outside that room.
Slowly he turned his head till he had full observation of Gridley. But that phlegmatic individual gave no evidence of having heard anything. He was still engrossed in the book—still munching apples. The plate was empty, Kent noticed, and Gridley’s great teeth were just biting into the last red apple. No, he had heard nothing.
Yet Kent’s ears were acute and he was sure he had heard a sound out there on the portico somewhere—like the soft scrape of a boot upon the portico tiles— a heavy boot, placed with infinite caution. He watched the glass doors keenly, unwaveringly; but all he saw was the dimly red reflection—
No! Beyond that—out there in the blackness beyond—what was that point of light?—two points—three points of light—as if something out there caught a gleam from the room? Scarcely breathing, he watched, watched. Then he realized that slowly these points of light were creeping closer and—in a moment—
His thrill of excitement increased. He knew now what it was—a pair of eyes and a TOW 'öf white teeth beneath! But they
seemed to be disembodied—to be floating in the dark without a face to make them human!
Then he saw the face! It was coming nearer. Presently it was being pressed against one of the little bevelled panes of glass. The eyes rolled as the man quickly surveyed the room within. And the face was swarthy—black—negroid! Upon the large head was a round cap such as seamen wear.
Astounded, Kent stared. He could not believe his eyes! Was he dreaming? Yet, there was no mistake! It was Kellani!—the huge Nubian who had fled from the house the night Mokra was murdered—the man for whom the whole police machine had combed the city in vain!—Kellani himself, widely grinning now—grinning in at him and suddenly signalling him, warning silence!
KELLANI!—alive and in New York!— back here at the very scene of the murder for which he was “wanted” by the police! They were searching for him everywhere. How had he escaped them? Why did he come here in the night to the Lamont residence, of all places? Was he friend or foe?
The sight of those large rolling black eyes in that negroid face out there in the dark had startled Addison Kent. It took him a few minutes to recover from the sudden thrusting upon him of an identity so unexpected and almost uncanny. From the first this mountainous bronze creature had seemed like some slave from the Arabian Nights—a genie—bizarre, theatrical. He had vanished the night of the storm as if upon a magic carpet; he reappeared now as if summoned from the air by the rubbing of a magic Aladdin’s lamp!
After his first astonishment Kent began to think quickly. The friendliness of the Nubian’s grin seemed genuine enough. At a glance he had taken in the situation and it was evident from his actions that he intended to do something about it. Hence his warning for Kent to remain silent. The novelist waited, not a little curious as to the procedure Kellani would adopt.
The swarthy face had vanished. Not a sound revealed the presence of an intruder. The Nubian was familiar with the Lamont mansion and it was likely he would attempt to gain admittance through a basement entry in the deserted servants’ wing. In that case he might be expected to approach the library silently from the inside.
Kent yawned noisily. Without seeming to do so intentionally, he managed to shift his chair slightly so that the archway into the hall came within his linejof vision. At the movement Gridley looked up from his book and grinned across the white apple-core poised in his hand.
“Gettin’ tired, Kent? We won’t be on the move till about an hour from now, I guess; so there’s time for another of those nice naps of yours. Say, those apples were great! You don’t know what you’re missing—”
“Might poke up the fire a little, Gridley, if you don’t mind,” Kent suggested.
“Not a bad idea at that,” conceded Gridley as he rose, luxuriating in a satisfying stretch. “Beats all how cramped a fellow gets, just sitting, don’t it?”
He stepped to the fireplace and with the brass tongs stirred the coals and added a lump of fresh fuel.
Kent threw a swift glance towards the archway. Yes, Kellani was there! Leaning out from the concealment of the portieres, the Nubian flashed a signal which Kent answered with a nod of understanding.
“I have been studying that wonderful painting up there above the _ mantel, Gridley,” he remarked in an intimate, interested way. “I’ve looked at that Turner many times; but I do not believe I fully appreciated it before. Perhaps the subdued lighting is just right for it. Come here. Take a good long look at it—No, stand over there and you’ll get it at a better angle! I want you to tell me, now, if you don’t agree with me that the color tones of that sunset are simply marvelous. They seem almost the real thing, don’t they?”
Flattered by the respectful tone in which Addison Kent was deferring to his judgment upon this artistic matter, Gridley cleared his throat importantly and stood with legs apart, gazing up at the canvas with his head inclined critically to one side.
But his judgment was never pro-
nounced! Creeping with the stealth of a leopard, the Nubian crossed the intervening space—and was upon hind Not with a rush and a jump—just a quiet contact of his body against his victim’s back, followed by a quick double twist which interlocked the two bodies in an immovable embrace.
Gridley was no weakling. His amazement, however, was so complete that for a moment he just stood there. Then when he summoned his muscles to action he found himself as helpless as if wedged in a vise. About his legs were twined legs more powerful than his: his arms had been drawn up behind his back and interlocked there as by a bolt of muscular iron. He could not move! He had been grasped in such a way that any increased pressure produced sharp, penetrating pain as if a nerve centre were impinged. Perspiration stood out upon his forehead.
Then he saw the great brown hand with fingers spread, advancing up his chest towards his throat and he opened his mouth to voice his panic. But the fingers darted in, closing his windpipe in a throttling grip; so that only a mere gurgle escaped.
Kellani looked over his shoulder and grinned reassuringly at Addison Kent. There was so much calm confidence in the grin—the mahogany countenance was so impassive that for a little Kent scarcely realized what was happening. Gridley’s eyes were protruding and his face had blackened before the novelist perceived that the man was being slowly but surely choked to death!
Kent’s cry of protest was ignored. Kellani continued to grin. Not until the big body of the butler went limp did the Nubian remove his strangling clutch. With the untangling of the limbs Gridley’s body slumped to the floor and rolled over inertly like a sack of meal.
“You’ve killed him!” gasped Kent, staring down in horror.
“No, Sidi,” murmured Kellani quietly, already busy with the knots of the lariat. “Soon the breath of life will come again into the son of a dog! There is need for haste, master.”
HE SPOKE in Arabic, a language Addison Kent understood better than he could talk it. Kellani’s French, on the other hand, was poor, Kent remembered, although the Nubian seemed to understand well enough what was said to him in that language. Between the two, they should be able to get along satisfactorily.
There was a lot of talking to do. Kent had many questions to ask and Kellani seemed to evince anxiety that no time be lost. He already had lifted the unconscious Gridley from the floor to the chair Kent had just vacated and, using the same lariat, was rapidly trussing the plastic butler securely while the novelist stamped about the library, kicking his legs and swinging his arms to restore them to normal state. By the time Kellani’s task was completed Gridley was showing signs of coming back to a full knowledge of life’s vicissitudes. The Nubian lifted the chair with its human freight as if it had been a roped bundle for a camel’s back; he stood with it perched high on_ one powerful shoulder and looked enquiringly at Kent.
“Where do you want this viper put, Sidi?” . ,
“We’ll stick him down cellar—in the furnace room—where he will be out of earshot,” was t*-e novelist’s prompt decision and förtin. til the human package was transported there like a sack of apples and deposited with a thump.
“There is much to say, Sidi, and many things to do before the coming up of the sun,” Kellani began as soon as they were back in the library. “This night is possessed by deeds of black devils! Allah save us from evil! I have come far, and by shadowed ways to bring you my message, master. I come from the Daughter of The Morning—from the Little Lady who is as beautiful as morning light across the sands. She bids you make haste to join her.”
“What—what the devil are you trying to say?” puzzled Kent. “Where have you been hiding? On some vessel? Is that why you are wearing these sailor togs? How did you get here? What brings you?” “Allah is great and good!” smiled Kellani. “I have been held in bondage, Sidi. I have escaped by swimming through troubled waters. See, I have been very wet! The Little Lady, whose face of Continued on page 52
Continued from page 50 Beauty is the reflection of a beautiful heart, was kind to me and helped me to escape. She sent me here to find you, master. She is known to you as Naida and may Allah preserve—!”
“What!” Kent seized the Nubian’s great arm and regarded him with startled eyes. “Naida! You say Naida sent you? You know where she is? Speak man!’’ “Her eyes that are like the morningstar—”
“Speak!” commanded Kent impatiently. “Where is she?”
“—will be clouded over, Sidi, unless we reach the ship before the day falls,” finished Kellani composedly.
“The ship? What ship?”—Then he knew! “You mean the Albatross?— Wasserhaus?—he has taken her there?” “Yes, Sidi, even so has it come to pass.” For just an instant Addison Kent eyed the Nubian keenly, searching the inscrutable brown face for possible trickery. But a few direct questions dispelled all doubts; Kellani knew the facts of Kent’s narrow escape from his enemies through the underground passage with Naida— things which only Naida could have told him.
“Let me get this straight, Kellani. You saw her brought aboard the Albatross by Wasserhaus himself. You have been on that vessel ever since the night you ran away from this house. You had been siezed by Wasserhaus and his gang because you knew too much and you were taken out there for safe-keeping—locked up—a prisoner. Naida was considered safe, once on the ship, and was allowed to move freely about the vessel. She found out you were a prisoner and assisted you to escape. She sent you to me and you swam away from the vessel and were picked up by a launch and brought to the waterfront. There you boarded a river boat and came up the Hudson to a point above here, landed and came down to Westchester from the north after dark. Is that correct?”
“You know the location of the Albatross now7”
“And can take me there?”
“Why did you run away from here the night Mokra was killed? Do you know that the police are trying to find you and that if they do, you will be arrested for— murder?”
The Nubian’s eyes looked frankly back at him.
“I did not kill Mokra,” he stated evenly. “I went away because it was so commanded and I was afraid, Sidi, to disobey. Knowledge had not been opened to me then; but I have learned since from the Book of Truth.” A flicker of hate gleamed in his eyes—and was gone. “By the Grace of Allah, I go from here, master, to bring punishment upon the man who killed Mokra. Time presses.”
“And who is that, Kellani? Wasserhaus? It was Wasserhaus who killed Mokra that night?”
“Yes, Sidi. But the man’s real name is not Wasserhaus. In the East he is known as Von Strom—Ludwig Von Strom!”
AS KELLANI said, time was pressing.
Questions would have to wait. Action! Action! Tingling with the prospect, Addison Kent sprang to the telephone. Already his clear-thinking brain was canvassing the situation swiftly— gauging the hazards, discarding, deciding. The sudden turn of the wheel that had lifted him out of dark despondency had elevated him to pinnacles of hope. Naida had sent for him and he was going to her! His youth sang in his veins as he responded to the call.
In a fever of impatience he fumed at the delay in getting telephone connection. He wanted Pomereski and he wanted him at once. Pomereski might be asleep— might be out—might be—ah, the luck had changed! Pomereski’s voice came over the wire—that special wire communicating with the Pole’s personal quarters— with his bedroom.
Rapidly Addison Kent asked his questions and issued his instructions. No, Slipper Dagg and his men had not left yet; but they would be starting in an hour from now. Yes, Pomereski knew where to find him. Yes, Pomereski thought it could be arranged.
Kent swung from the telephone.
“The servants are all away, Kellani. Out in the garage—the sedan—I'll drive it myself. It is the quickest way—and
safest. You can tell me the rest as we travel. Are you armed?”
With a slow smile the Nubian thrust a hand under his jersey and produced a long dagger with a curved point. It gleamed wickedly in the fireshine. Kent shook his head.
“You’ll need a gun. Wait!”
Upstairs to his room he raced, three steps at a time. He slipped on a sweater, kicked off his shoes, pulled on his golfboots and snatched a cap from a hook. He strapped on a loaded police automatic in its holster, slipped a spare revolver into his pocket and, with a large package of cartridges in his hand, plunged downstairs again.
Down to the cellar to take a look at Gridley! The butler had recovered consciousness and glared sullenly up at him.
“Your friends will be along soon, Gridley. You will hardly be able to attract their attention down here. The servants will look after you later on. I am leaving a note for Sandy, who will hand you over to the police in due course. You are too full of apples to need anything to eat; if you do get hungry—you can lick your chops!”
He slammed the furnace-room door behind him and locked it. Out in the garage he measured the gasoline in the tank of the sedan, scribbled a note to Sandy in explanation and pinned this to a post where the gardener could not fail to see it as soon as he opened the door.
A moment later they were rolling out between the stone gate-posts —and shot away with roaring engine splitting the night.
To be Continued