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´╗┐Title: The Bat
Author: Hopwood, Avery, 1882-1928, Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 1876-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bat" ***

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The Bat


by

Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood



CONTENTS


        ONE  THE SHADOW OF THE BAT
        TWO  THE INDOMITABLE MISS VAN GORDER
      THREE  PISTOL PRACTICE
       FOUR  THE STORM GATHERS
       FIVE  ALOPECIA AND RUBEOLA
        SIX  DETECTIVE ANDERSON TAKES CHARGE
      SEVEN  CROSS-QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS
      EIGHT  THE GLEAMING EYE
       NINE  A SHOT IN THE DARK
        TEN  THE PHONE CALL FROM NOWHERE
     ELEVEN  BILLY PRACTICES JIU-JITSU
     TWELVE  "I DIDN'T KILL HIM."
   THIRTEEN  THE BLACKENED BAG
   FOURTEEN  HANDCUFFS
    FIFTEEN  THE SIGN OF THE BAT
    SIXTEEN  THE HIDDEN ROOM
  SEVENTEEN  ANDERSON MAKES AN ARREST
   EIGHTEEN  THE BAT STILL FLIES
   NINETEEN  MURDER ON MURDER
     TWENTY  "HE IS--THE BAT!"
 TWENTY-ONE  QUITE A COLLECTION



THE BAT



CHAPTER ONE

THE SHADOW OF THE BAT

"You've got to get him, boys--get him or bust!" said a tired police
chief, pounding a heavy fist on a table.  The detectives he bellowed
the words at looked at the floor.  They had done their best and failed.
Failure meant "resignation" for the police chief, return to the hated
work of pounding the pavements for them--they knew it, and, knowing it,
could summon no gesture of bravado to answer their chief's.  Gunmen,
thugs, hi-jackers, loft-robbers, murderers, they could get them all in
time--but they could not get the man he wanted.

"Get him--to hell with expense--I'll give you carte blanche--but get
him!" said a haggard millionaire in the sedate inner offices of the
best private detective firm in the country.  The man on the other side
of the desk, man hunter extraordinary, old servant of Government and
State, sleuthhound without a peer, threw up his hands in a gesture of
odd hopelessness.  "It isn't the money, Mr. De Courcy--I'd give every
cent I've made to get the man you want--but I can't promise you
results--for the first time in my life."  The conversation was ended.

"Get him?  Huh!  I'll get him, watch my smoke!"  It was young ambition
speaking in a certain set of rooms in Washington.  Three days later
young ambition lay in a New York gutter with a bullet in his heart and
a look of such horror and surprise on his dead face that even the
ambulance-Doctor who found him felt shaken.  "We've lost the most
promising man I've had in ten years," said his chief when the news came
in.  He swore helplessly, "Damn the luck!"

"Get him--get him--get him--get him!"  From a thousand sources now the
clamor arose--press, police, and public alike crying out for the
capture of the master criminal of a century--lost voices hounding a
specter down the alleyways of the wind.  And still the meshes broke and
the quarry slipped away before the hounds were well on the
scent--leaving behind a trail of shattered safes and rifled jewel
cases--while ever the clamor rose higher to "Get him--get him--get--"

Get whom, in God's name--get what?  Beast, man, or devil?  A specter--a
flying shadow--the shadow of a Bat.

From thieves' hangout to thieves' hangout the word passed along
stirring the underworld like the passage of an electric spark. "There's
a bigger guy than Pete Flynn shooting the works, a guy that could have
Jim Gunderson for breakfast and not notice he'd et." The underworld
heard and waited to be shown; after a little while the underworld began
to whisper to itself in tones of awed respect. There were bright stars
and flashing comets in the sky of the world of crime--but this new
planet rose with the portent of an evil moon.

The Bat--they called him the Bat.  Like a bat he chose the night hours
for his work of rapine; like a bat he struck and vanished, pouncingly,
noiselessly; like a bat he never showed himself to the face of the day.
He'd never been in stir, the bulls had never mugged him, he didn't run
with a mob, he played a lone hand, and fenced his stuff so that even
the fence couldn't swear he knew his face.  Most lone wolves had a moll
at any rate--women were their ruin--but if the Bat had a moll, not even
the grapevine telegraph could locate her.

Rat-faced gunmen in the dingy back rooms of saloons muttered over his
exploits with bated breath.  In tawdrily gorgeous apartments, where
gathered the larger figures, the proconsuls of the world of crime,
cold, conscienceless brains dissected the work of a colder and swifter
brain than theirs, with suave and bitter envy.  Evil's Four Hundred
chattered, discussed, debated--sent out a thousand invisible tentacles
to clutch at a shadow--to turn this shadow and its distorted genius to
their own ends.  The tentacles recoiled, baffled--the Bat worked
alone--not even Evil's Four Hundred could bend him into a willing
instrument to execute another's plan.

The men higher up waited.  They had dealt with lone wolves before and
broken them.  Some day the Bat would slip and falter; then they would
have him.  But the weeks passed into months and still the Bat flew
free, solitary, untamed, and deadly.  At last even his own kind turned
upon him; the underworld is like the upper in its fear and distrust of
genius that flies alone.  But when they turned against him, they turned
against a spook--a shadow.  A cold and bodiless laughter from a pit of
darkness answered and mocked at their bungling gestures of hate--and
went on, flouting Law and Lawless alike.

Where official trailer and private sleuth had failed, the newspapers
might succeed--or so thought the disillusioned young men of the Fourth
Estate--the tireless foxes, nose-down on the trail of news--the
trackers, who never gave up until that news was run to earth. Star
reporter, leg-man, cub, veteran gray in the trade--one and all they
tried to pin the Bat like a caught butterfly to the front page of their
respective journals--soon or late each gave up, beaten.  He was
news--bigger news each week--a thousand ticking typewriters clicked his
adventures--the brief, staccato recital of his career in the morgues of
the great dailies grew longer and more incredible each day.  But the
big news--the scoop of the century--the yearned-for headline, "Bat
Nabbed Red-Handed", "Bat Slain in Gun Duel with Police"--still eluded
the ravenous maw of the Linotypes.  And meanwhile, the red-scored list
of his felonies lengthened and the rewards offered from various sources
for any clue which might lead to his apprehension mounted and mounted
till they totaled a small fortune.

Columnists took him up, played with the name and the terror, used the
name and the terror as a starting point from which to exhibit their own
particular opinions on everything and anything.  Ministers mentioned
him in sermons; cranks wrote fanatic letters denouncing him as one of
the even-headed beasts of the Apocalypse and a forerunner of the end of
the world; a popular revue put on a special Bat number wherein eighteen
beautiful chorus girls appeared masked and black-winged in costumes of
Brazilian bat fur; there were Bat club sandwiches, Bat cigarettes, and
a new shade of hosiery called simply and succinctly Bat.  He became a
fad--a catchword--a national figure.  And yet--he was walking
Death--cold--remorseless. But Death itself had become a toy of
publicity in these days of limelight and jazz.

A city editor, at lunch with a colleague, pulled at his cigarette and
talked.  "See that Sunday story we had on the Bat?" he asked. "Pretty
tidy--huh--and yet we didn't have to play it up.  It's an amazing
list--the Marshall jewels--the Allison murder--the mail truck
thing--two hundred thousand he got out of that, all negotiable, and two
men dead.  I wonder how many people he's really killed.  We made it six
murders and nearly a million in loot--didn't even have room for the
small stuff--but there must be more--"

His companion whistled.

"And when is the Universe's Finest Newspaper going to burst forth with
'Bat Captured by BLADE Reporter?'" he queried sardonically.

"Oh, for--lay off it, will you?" said the city editor peevishly. "The
Old Man's been hopping around about it for two months till everybody's
plumb cuckoo.  Even offered a bonus--a big one--and that shows how
crazy he is--he doesn't love a nickel any better than his right
eye--for any sort of exclusive story.  Bonus--huh!" and he crushed out
his cigarette.  "It won't be a Blade reporter that gets that bonus--or
any reporter.  It'll be Sherlock Holmes from the spirit world!"

"Well--can't you dig up a Sherlock?"

The editor spread out his hands.  "Now, look here," he said.  "We've
got the best staff of any paper in the country, if I do say it. We've
got boys that could get a personal signed story from Delilah on how she
barbered Samson--and find out who struck Billy Patterson and who was
the Man in the Iron Mask.  But the Bat's something else again.  Oh, of
course, we've panned the police for not getting him; that's always the
game.  But, personally, I won't pan them; they've done their damnedest.
They're up against something new.  Scotland Yard wouldn't do any
better--or any other bunch of cops that I know about."

"But look here, Bill, you don't mean to tell me he'll keep on getting
away with it indefinitely?"

The editor frowned.  "Confidentially--I don't know," he said with a
chuckle: "The situation's this: for the first time the super-crook--the
super-crook of fiction--the kind that never makes a mistake--has come
to life--real life.  And it'll take a cleverer man than any Central
Office dick I've ever met to catch him!"

"Then you don't think he's just an ordinary crook with a lot of luck?"

"I do not." The editor was emphatic.  "He's much brainier.  Got a
ghastly sense of humor, too.  Look at the way he leaves his calling
card after every job--a black paper bat inside the Marshall safe--a bat
drawn on the wall with a burnt match where he'd jimmied the Cedarburg
Bank--a real bat, dead, tacked to the mantelpiece over poor old
Allison's body.  Oh, he's in a class by himself--and I very much doubt
if he was a crook at all for most of his life."

"You mean?"

"I mean this.  The police have been combing the underworld for him; I
don't think he comes from there.  I think they've got to look higher,
up in our world, for a brilliant man with a kink in the brain.  He may
be a Doctor, a lawyer, a merchant, honored in his community by
day--good line that, I'll use it some time--and at night, a
bloodthirsty assassin.  Deacon Brodie--ever hear of him--the Scotch
deacon that burgled his parishioners' houses on the quiet?
Well--that's our man."

"But my Lord, Bill--"

"I know.  I've been going around the last month, looking at everybody I
knew and thinking--are you the Bat?  Try it for a while.  You'll want
to sleep with a light in your room after a few days of it.  Look around
the University Club--that white-haired man over
there--dignified--respectable--is he the Bat?  Your own lawyer--your
own Doctor--your own best friend.  Can happen you know--look at those
Chicago boys--the thrill-killers.  Just brilliant students--likeable
boys--to the people that taught them--and cold-blooded murderers all
the same."

"Bill!  You're giving me the shivers!"

"Am I?"  The editor laughed grimly.  "Think it over.  No, it isn't so
pleasant.--But that's my theory--and I swear I think I'm right." He
rose.

His companion laughed uncertainly.

"How about you, Bill--are you the Bat?"

The editor smiled.  "See," he said, "it's got you already.  No, I can
prove an alibi.  The Bat's been laying off the city recently--taking a
fling at some of the swell suburbs.  Besides I haven't the brains--I'm
free to admit it."  He struggled into his coat. "Well, let's talk about
something else.  I'm sick of the Bat and his murders."

His companion rose as well, but it was evident that the editor's theory
had taken firm hold on his mind.  As they went out the door together he
recurred to the subject.

"Honestly, though, Bill--were you serious, really serious--when you
said you didn't know of a single detective with brains enough to trap
this devil?"

The editor paused in the doorway.  "Serious enough," he said.  "And yet
there's one man--I don't know him myself but from what I've heard of
him, he might be able--but what's the use of speculating?"

"I'd like to know all the same," insisted the other, and laughed
nervously.  "We're moving out to the country next week ourselves--right
in the Bat's new territory."

"We-el," said the editor, "you won't let it go any further?  Of course
it's just an idea of mine, but if the Bat ever came prowling around our
place, the detective I'd try to get in touch with would be--"  He put
his lips close to his companion's ear and whispered a name.

The man whose name he whispered, oddly enough, was at that moment
standing before his official superior in a quiet room not very far
away.  Tall, reticently good-looking and well, if inconspicuously,
clothed and groomed, he by no means seemed the typical detective that
the editor had spoken of so scornfully.  He looked something like a
college athlete who had kept up his training, something like a pillar
of one of the more sedate financial houses.  He could assume and
discard a dozen manners in as many minutes, but, to the casual
observer, the one thing certain about him would probably seem his utter
lack of connection with the seamier side of existence. The key to his
real secret of life, however, lay in his eyes.  When in repose, as now,
they were veiled and without unusual quality--but they were the eyes of
a man who can wait and a man who can strike.

He stood perfectly easy before his chief for several moments before the
latter looked up from his papers.

"Well, Anderson," he said at last, looking up, "I got your report on
the Wilhenry burglary this morning.  I'll tell you this about it--if
you do a neater and quicker job in the next ten years, you can take
this desk away from me.  I'll give it to you.  As it is, your name's
gone up for promotion today; you deserved it long ago."

"Thank you, sir," replied the tall man quietly, "but I had luck with
that case."

"Of course you had luck," said the chief.  "Sit down, won't you, and
have a cigar--if you can stand my brand.  Of course you had luck,
Anderson, but that isn't the point.  It takes a man with brains to use
a piece of luck as you used it.  I've waited a long time here for a man
with your sort of brains and, by Judas, for a while I thought they were
all as dead as Pinkerton.  But now I know there's one of them alive at
any rate--and it's a hell of a relief."

"Thank you, sir," said the tall man, smiling and sitting down. He took
a cigar and lit it.  "That makes it easier, sir--your telling me that.
Because--I've come to ask a favor."

"All right," responded the chief promptly.  "Whatever it is, it's
granted."

Anderson smiled again.  "You'd better hear what it is first, sir. I
don't want to put anything over on you."

"Try it!" said the chief. "What is it--vacation?  Take as long as you
like--within reason--you've earned it--I'll put it through today."

Anderson shook his head, "No sir--I don't want a vacation."

"Well," said the chief impatiently.  "Promotion?  I've told you about
that.  Expense money for anything--fill out a voucher and I'll O.K.
it--be best man at your wedding--by Judas, I'll even do that!"

Anderson laughed.  "No, sir--I'm not getting married and--I'm pleased
about the promotion, of course--but it's not that.  I want to be
assigned to a certain case--that's all."

The chief's look grew searching.  "H'm," he said.  "Well, as I say,
anything within reason.  What case do you want to be assigned to?"

The muscles of Anderson's left hand tensed on the arm of his chair. He
looked squarely at the chief.  "I want a chance at the Bat!" he replied
slowly.

The chief's face became expressionless.  "I said--anything within
reason," he responded softly, regarding Anderson keenly.

"I want a chance at the Bat!" repeated Anderson stubbornly.  "If I've
done good work so far--I want a chance at the Bat!"

The chief drummed on the desk.  Annoyance and surprise were in his
voice when he spoke.

"But look here, Anderson," he burst out finally.  "Anything else and
I'll--but what's the use?  I said a minute ago, you had brains--but
now, by Judas, I doubt it!  If anyone else wanted a chance at the Bat,
I'd give it to them and gladly--I'm hard-boiled.  But you're too
valuable a man to be thrown away!"

"I'm no more valuable than Wentworth would have been."

"Maybe not--and look what happened to him!  A bullet hole in his
heart--and thirty years of work that he might have done thrown away!
No, Anderson, I've found two first-class men since I've been at this
desk--Wentworth and you.  He asked for his chance; I gave it to
him--turned him over to the Government--and lost him.  Good detectives
aren't so plentiful that I can afford to lose you both."

"Wentworth was a friend of mine," said Anderson softly.  His knuckles
were white dints in the hand that gripped the chair.  "Ever since the
Bat got him I've wanted my chance.  Now my other work's cleaned up--and
I still want it."

"But I tell you--" began the chief in tones of high exasperation. Then
he stopped and looked at his protege.  There was a silence for a time.

"Oh, well--" said the chief finally in a hopeless voice.  "Go
ahead--commit suicide--I'll send you a 'Gates Ajar' and a card, 'Here
lies a damn fool who would have been a great detective if he hadn't
been so pig-headed.' Go ahead!"

Anderson rose.  "Thank you, sir," he said in a deep voice.  His eyes
had light in them now.  "I can't thank you enough, sir."

"Don't try," grumbled the chief.  "If I weren't as much of a damn fool
as you are I wouldn't let you do it.  And if I weren't so damn old, I'd
go after the slippery devil myself and let you sit here and watch me
get brought in with an infernal paper bat pinned where my shield ought
to be.  The Bat's supernatural, Anderson.  You haven't a chance in the
world but it does me good all the same to shake hands with a man with
brains and nerve," and he solemnly wrung Anderson's hand in an iron
grip.

Anderson smiled.  "The cagiest bat flies once too often," he said. "I'm
not promising anything, chief, but--"

"Maybe," said the chief.  "Now wait a minute, keep your shirt on,
you're not going out bat hunting this minute, you know--"

"Sir?  I thought I--"

"Well, you're not," said the chief decidedly.  "I've still some little
respect for my own intelligence and it tells me to get all the work out
of you I can, before you start wild-goose chasing after this--this bat
out of hell.  The first time he's heard of again--and it shouldn't be
long from the fast way he works--you're assigned to the case.  That's
understood.  Till then, you do what I tell you--and it'll be work,
believe me!"

"All right, sir," Anderson laughed and turned to the door.  "And--thank
you again."

He went out.  The door closed.  The chief remained for some minutes
looking at the door and shaking his head.  "The best man I've had in
years--except Wentworth," he murmured to himself.  "And throwing
himself away--to be killed by a cold-blooded devil that nothing human
can catch--you're getting old, John Grogan--but, by Judas, you can't
blame him, can you?  If you were a man in the prime like him, by Judas,
you'd be doing it yourself.  And yet it'll go hard--losing him--"

He turned back to his desk and his papers.  But for some minutes he
could not pay attention to the papers.  There was a shadow on them--a
shadow that blurred the typed letters--the shadow of bat's wings.



CHAPTER TWO

THE INDOMITABLE MISS VAN GORDER

Miss Cornelis Van Gorder, indomitable spinster, last bearer of a name
which had been great in New York when New York was a red-roofed Nieuw
Amsterdam and Peter Stuyvesant a parvenu, sat propped up in bed in the
green room of her newly rented country house reading the morning
newspaper.  Thus seen, with an old soft Paisley shawl tucked in about
her thin shoulders and without the stately gray transformation that
adorned her on less intimate occasions,--she looked much less
formidable and more innocently placid than those could ever have
imagined who had only felt the bite of her tart wit at such functions
as the state Van Gorder dinners.  Patrician to her finger tips,
independent to the roots of her hair, she preserved, at sixty-five, a
humorous and quenchless curiosity in regard to every side of life,
which even the full and crowded years that already lay behind her had
not entirely satisfied.  She was an Age and an Attitude, but she was
more than that; she had grown old without growing dull or losing touch
with youth--her face had the delicate strength of a fine cameo and her
mild and youthful heart preserved an innocent zest for adventure.

Wide travel, social leadership, the world of art and books, a dozen
charities, an existence rich with diverse experience--all these she had
enjoyed energetically and to the full--but she felt, with ingenious
vanity, that there were still sides to her character which even these
had not brought to light.  As a little girl she had hesitated between
wishing to be a locomotive engineer or a famous bandit--and when she
had found, at seven, that the accident of sex would probably debar her
from either occupation, she had resolved fiercely that some time before
she died she would show the world in general and the Van Gorder clan in
particular that a woman was quite as capable of dangerous exploits as a
man.  So far her life, while exciting enough at moments, had never
actually been dangerous and time was slipping away without giving her
an opportunity to prove her hardiness of heart.  Whenever she thought
of this the fact annoyed her extremely--and she thought of it now.

She threw down the morning paper disgustedly.  Here she was at
65--rich, safe, settled for the summer in a delightful country place
with a good cook, excellent servants, beautiful gardens and
grounds--everything as respectable and comfortable as--as a limousine!
And out in the world people were murdering and robbing each other,
floating over Niagara Falls in barrels, rescuing children from burning
houses, taming tigers, going to Africa to hunt gorillas, doing all
sorts of exciting things!  She could not float over Niagara Falls in a
barrel; Lizzie Allen, her faithful old maid, would never let her!  She
could not go to Africa to hunt gorillas; Sally Ogden, her sister, would
never let her hear the last of it.  She could not even, as she
certainly would if the were a man, try and track down this terrible
creature, the Bat!

She sniffed disgruntledly.  Things came to her much too easily. Take
this very house she was living in.  Ten days ago she had decided on the
spur of the moment--a decision suddenly crystallized by a weariness of
charitable committees and the noise and heat of New York--to take a
place in the country for the summer.  It was late in the renting
season--even the ordinary difficulties of finding a suitable spot would
have added some spice to the quest--but this ideal place had
practically fallen into her lap, with no trouble or search at all.
Courtleigh Fleming, president of the Union Bank, who had built the
house on a scale of comfortable magnificence--Courtleigh Fleming had
died suddenly in the West when Miss Van Gorder was beginning her house
hunting.  The day after his death her agent had called her up.  Richard
Fleming, Courtleigh Fleming's nephew and heir, was anxious to rent the
Fleming house at once.  If she made a quick decision it was hers for
the summer, at a bargain.  Miss Van Gorder had decided at once; she
took an innocent pleasure in bargains.  The next day the keys were
hers--the servants engaged to stay on--within a week she had moved.
All very pleasant and easy no doubt--adventure--pooh!

And yet she could not really say that her move to the country had
brought her no adventures at all.  There had been--things.  Last night
the lights had gone off unexpectedly and Billy, the Japanese butler and
handy man, had said that he had seen a face at one of the kitchen
windows--a face that vanished when he went to the window. Servants'
nonsense, probably, but the servants seemed unusually nervous for
people who were used to the country.  And Lizzie, of course, had sworn
that she had seen a man trying to get up the stairs but Lizzie could
grow hysterical over a creaking door. Still--it was queer!  And what
had that affable Doctor Wells said to her--"I respect your courage,
Miss Van Gorder--moving out into the Bat's home country, you know!"
She picked up the paper again. There was a map of the scene of the
Bat's most recent exploits and, yes, three of his recent crimes had
been within a twenty-mile radius of this very spot.  She thought it
over and gave a little shudder of pleasurable fear.  Then she dismissed
the thought with a shrug. No chance!  She might live in a lonely house,
two miles from the railroad station, all summer long--and the Bat would
never disturb her.  Nothing ever did.

She had skimmed through the paper hurriedly; now a headline caught her
eye.  Failure of Union Bank--wasn't that the bank of which Courtleigh
Fleming had been president?  She settled down to read the article but
it was disappointingly brief.  The Union Bank had closed its doors; the
cashier, a young man named Bailey, was apparently under suspicion; the
article mentioned Courtleigh Fleming's recent and tragic death in the
best vein of newspaperese. She laid down the paper and
thought--Bailey--Bailey--she seemed to have a vague recollection of
hearing about a young man named Bailey who worked in a bank--but she
could not remember where or by whom his name had been mentioned.

Well--it didn't matter.  She had other things to think about.  She must
ring for Lizzie--get up and dress.  The bright morning sun, streaming
in through the long window, made lying in bed an old woman's luxury and
she refused to be an old woman.

"Though the worst old woman I ever knew was a man!" she thought with a
satiric twinkle.  She was glad Sally's daughter--young Dale Ogden--was
here in the house with her.  The companionship of Dale's bright youth
would keep her from getting old-womanish if anything could.

She smiled, thinking of Dale.  Dale was a nice child--her favorite
niece.  Sally didn't understand her, of course--but Sally wouldn't.
Sally read magazine articles on the younger generation and its wild
ways.  "Sally doesn't remember when she was a younger generation
herself," thought Miss Cornelia.  "But I do--and if we didn't have
automobiles, we had buggies--and youth doesn't change its ways just
because it has cut its hair.  Before Mr. and Mrs. Ogden left for
Europe, Sally had talked to her sister Cornelia ... long and weightily,
on the problem of Dale."  "Problem of Dale, indeed!" thought Miss
Cornelia scornfully.  "Dale's the nicest thing I've seen in some time.
She'd be ten times happier if Sally wasn't always trying to marry her
off to some young snip with more of what fools call 'eligibility' than
brains!  But there, Cornelia Van Gorder--Sally's given you your innings
by rampaging off to Europe and leaving Dale with you all summer and
you've a lot less sense than I flatter myself you have, if you can't
give your favorite niece a happy vacation from all her immediate
family--and maybe find her someone who'll make her happy for good and
all in the bargain."  Miss Cornelia was an incorrigible matchmaker.

Nevertheless, she was more concerned with "the problem of Dale" than
she would have admitted.  Dale, at her age, with her charm and
beauty--why, she ought to behave as if she were walking on air, thought
her aunt worriedly.  "And instead she acts more as if she were walking
on pins and needles.  She seems to like being here--I know she likes
me--I'm pretty sure she's just as pleased to get a little holiday from
Sally and Harry--she amuses herself--she falls in with any plan I want
to make, and yet--"  And yet Dale was not happy--Miss Cornelia felt
sure of it.  "It isn't natural for a girl to seem so lackluster
and--and quiet--at her age and she's nervous, too--as if something were
preying on her mind--particularly these last few days.  If she were in
love with somebody--somebody Sally didn't approve of
particularly--well, that would account for it, of course--but Sally
didn't say anything that would make me think that--or Dale
either--though I don't suppose Dale would, yet, even to me.  I haven't
seen so much of her in these last two years--"

Then Miss Cornelia's mind seized upon a sentence in a hurried flow of
her sister's last instructions--a sentence that had passed almost
unnoticed at the time--something about Dale and "an unfortunate
attachment--but of course, Cornelia, dear, she's so young--and I'm sure
it will come to nothing now her father and I have made our attitude
plain!"

"Pshaw--I bet that's it," thought Miss Cornelia shrewdly.  "Dale's
fallen in love, or thinks she has, with some decent young man without a
penny or an 'eligibility' to his name--and now she's unhappy because
her parents don't approve--or because she's trying to give him up and
finds she can't.  Well--"  and Miss Cornelia's tight little gray curls
trembled with the vehemence of her decision, "if the young thing ever
comes to me for advice I'll give her a piece of my mind that will
surprise her and scandalize Sally Van Gorder Ogden out of her seven
senses.  Sally thinks nobody's worth looking at if they didn't come
over to America when our family did--she hasn't gumption enough to
realize that if some people hadn't come over later, we'd all still be
living on crullers and Dutch punch!"

She was just stretching out her hand to ring for Lizzie when a knock
came at the door.  She gathered her Paisley shawl more tightly about
her shoulders.  "Who is it--oh, it's only you, Lizzie," as a pleasant
Irish face, crowned by an old-fashioned pompadour of graying hair,
peeped in at the door.  "Good morning, Lizzie--I was just going to ring
for you.  Has Miss Dale had breakfast--I know it's shamefully late."

"Good morning, Miss Neily," said Lizzie, "and a lovely morning it is,
too--if that was all of it," she added somewhat tartly as she came into
the room with a little silver tray whereupon the morning mail reposed.

We have not yet described Lizzie Allen--and she deserves description.
A fixture in the Van Gorder household since her sixteenth year, she had
long ere now attained the dignity of a Tradition.  The slip of a
colleen fresh from Kerry had grown old with her mistress, until the
casual bond between mistress and servant had changed into something
deeper; more in keeping with a better-mannered age than ours.  One
could not imagine Miss Cornelia without a Lizzie to grumble at and
cherish--or Lizzie without a Miss Cornelia to baby and scold with the
privileged frankness of such old family servitors.  The two were at
once a contrast and a complement.  Fifty years of American ways had not
shaken Lizzie's firm belief in banshees and leprechauns or tamed her
wild Irish tongue; fifty years of Lizzie had not altered Miss
Cornelia's attitude of fond exasperation with some of Lizzie's more
startling eccentricities.  Together they may have been, as one of the
younger Van Gorder cousins had, irreverently put it, "a scream," but
apart each would have felt lost without the other.

"Now what do you mean--if that were all of it, Lizzie?" queried Miss
Cornelia sharply as she took her letters from the tray.

Lizzie's face assumed an expression of doleful reticence.

"It's not my place to speak," she said with a grim shake of her head,
"but I saw my grandmother last night, God rest her--plain as life she
was, the way she looked when they waked her--and if it was my doing
we'd be leaving this house this hour!"

"Cheese-pudding for supper--of course you saw your grandmother!" said
Miss Cornelia crisply, slitting open the first of her letters with a
paper knife.  "Nonsense, Lizzie, I'm not going to be scared away from
an ideal country place because you happen to have a bad dream!"

"Was it a bad dream I saw on the stairs last night when the lights went
out and I was looking for the candles?" said Lizzie heatedly. "Was it a
bad dream that ran away from me and out the back door, as fast as
Paddy's pig?  No, Miss Neily, it was a man--Seven feet tall he was, and
eyes that shone in the dark and--"

"Lizzie Allen!"

"Well, it's true for all that," insisted Lizzie stubbornly.  "And why
did the lights go out--tell me that, Miss Neily?  They never go out in
the city."

"Well, this isn't the city," said Miss Cornelia decisively.  "It's the
country, and very nice it is, and we're staying here all summer. I
suppose I may be thankful," she went on ironically, "that it was only
your grandmother you saw last night.  It might have been the Bat--and
then where would you be this morning?"

"I'd be stiff and stark with candles at me head and feet," said Lizzie
gloomily.  "Oh, Miss Neily, don't talk of that terrible creature, the
Bat!"  She came nearer to her mistress.  "There's bats in this house,
too--real bats," she whispered impressively.  "I saw one yesterday in
the trunk room--the creature!  It flew in the window and nearly had the
switch off me before I could get away!"

Miss Cornelia chuckled.  "Of course there are bats," she said. "There
are always bats in the country.  They're perfectly harmless,--except to
switches."

"And the Bat ye were talking of just then--he's harmless too, I
suppose?" said Lizzie with mournful satire.  "Oh, Miss Neily, Miss
Neily--do let's go back to the city before he flies away with us all!"

"Nonsense, Lizzie," said Miss Cornelia again, but this time less
firmly.  Her face grew serious.  "If I thought for an instant that
there was any real possibility of our being in danger here--" she said
slowly.  "But--oh, look at the map, Lizzie!  The Bat has been flying in
this district--that's true enough--but he hasn't come within ten miles
of us yet!"

"What's ten miles to the Bat?" the obdurate Lizzie sighed.  "And what
of the letter ye had when ye first moved in here?  'The Fleming house
is unhealthy for strangers,' it said.  Leave it while ye can."

"Some silly boy or some crank." Miss Cornelia's voice was firm.  "I
never pay any attention to anonymous letters."

"And there's a funny-lookin' letter this mornin', down at the bottom of
the pile--" persisted Lizzie.  "It looked like the other one. I'd half
a mind to throw it away before you saw it!"

"Now, Lizzie, that's quite enough!" Miss Cornelia had the Van Gorder
manner on now.  "I don't care to discuss your ridiculous fears any
further.  Where is Miss Dale?"

Lizzie assumed an attitude of prim rebuff, "Miss Dale's gone into the
city, ma'am."

"Gone into the city?"

"Yes, ma'am.  She got a telephone call this morning, early--long
distance it was.  I don't know who it was called her."

"Lizzie!  You didn't listen?"

"Of course not, Miss Neily."  Lizzie's face was a study in injured
virtue.  "Miss Dale took the call in her own room and shut the door."

"And you were outside the door?"

"Where else would I be dustin' that time in the mornin'?" said Lizzie
fiercely.  "But it's yourself knows well enough the doors in this house
is thick and not a sound goes past them."

"I should hope not," said Miss Cornelia rebukingly.  "But--tell me,
Lizzie, did Miss Dale seem--well--this morning?"

"That she did not," said Lizzie promptly.  "When she came down to
breakfast, after the call, she looked like a ghost.  I made her the
eggs she likes, too--but she wouldn't eat 'em."

"H'm," Miss Cornelia pondered.  "I'm sorry if--well, Lizzie, we mustn't
meddle in Miss Dale's affairs."

"No, ma'am."

"But--did she say when she would be back?"

"Yes, Miss Neily.  On the two o'clock train.  Oh, and I was almost
forgettin'--she told me to tell you, particular--she said while he was
in the city she'd be after engagin' the gardener you spoke of."

"The gardener?  Oh, yes--I spoke to her about that the other night. The
place is beginning to look run down--so many flowers to attend to.
Well--that's very kind of Miss Dale."

"Yes, Miss Neily." Lizzie hesitated, obviously with some weighty news
on her mind which she wished to impart.  Finally she took the plunge.
"I might have told Miss Dale she could have been lookin' for a cook as
well--and a housemaid--" she muttered at last, "but they hadn't spoken
to me then."

Miss Cornelia sat bolt upright in bed.  "A cook--and a housemaid? But
we have a cook and a housemaid, Lizzie!  You don't mean to tell me--"

Lizzie nodded her head.  "Yes'm.  They're leaving.  Both of 'em. Today."

"But good heav--  Lizzie, why on earth didn't you tell me before?"

Lizzie spoke soothingly, all the blarney of Kerry in her voice. "Now,
Miss Neily, as if I'd wake you first thing in the morning with bad news
like that!  And thinks I, well, maybe 'tis all for the best after
all--for when Miss Neily hears they're leavin'--and her so
particular--maybe she'll go back to the city for just a little and
leave this house to its haunts and its bats and--"

"Go back to the city?  I shall do nothing of the sort.  I rented this
house to live in and live in it I will, with servants or without them.
You should have told me at once, Lizzie.  I'm really very much annoyed
with you because you didn't.  I shall get up immediately--I want to
give those two a piece of my mind.  Is Billy leaving too?"

"Not that I know of--the heathern Japanese!" said Lizzie sorrowfully.
"And yet he'd be better riddance than cook or housemaid."

"Now, Lizzie, how many times have I told you that you must conquer your
prejudices?  Billy is an excellent butler--he'd been with Mr. Fleming
ten years and has the very highest recommendations.  I am very glad
that he is staying, if he is.  With you to help him, we shall do very
well until I can get other servants."  Miss Cornelia had risen now and
Lizzie was helping her with the intricacies of her toilet.  "But it's
too annoying," she went on, in the pauses of Lizzie's deft
ministrations.  "What did they say to you, Lizzie--did they give any
reason?  It isn't as if they were new to the country like you.  They'd
been with Mr. Fleming for some time, though not as long as Billy."

"Oh, yes, Miss Neily--they had reasons you could choke a goat with,"
said Lizzie viciously as she arranged Miss Cornelia's transformation.
"Cook was the first of them--she was up late--I think they'd been
talking it over together.  She comes into the kitchen with her hat on
and her bag in her hand.  'Good morning,' says I, pleasant enough,
'you've got your hat on,' says I.  'I'm leaving,' says she.  'Leaving,
are you?' says I.  'Leaving,' says she.  'My sister has twins,' says
she.  'I just got word--I must go to her right away.'  'What?' says I,
all struck in a heap.  'Twins,' says she, 'you've heard of such things
as twins.'  'That I have,' says I, 'and I know a lie on a face when I
see it, too.'"

"Lizzie!"

"Well, it made me sick at heart, Miss Neily.  Her with her hat and her
bag and her talk about twins--and no consideration for you. Well, I'll
go on.  'You're a clever woman, aren't you?' says she--the impudence!
'I can see through a millstone as far as most,' says I--I wouldn't put
up with her sauce.  'Well!' says she, 'you can see that Annie the
housemaid's leaving, too.'  'Has her sister got twins as well?' says I
and looked at her.  'No,' says she as bold as brass, 'but Annie's got a
pain in her side and she's feared it's appendycitis--so she's leaving
to go back to her family.' 'Oh,' says I, 'and what about Miss Van
Gorder?'  'I'm sorry for Miss Van Gorder,' says she--the falseness of
her!--'But she'll have to do the best she can for twins and
appendycitis is acts of God and not to be put aside for even the best
of wages.' 'Is that so?' says I and with that I left her, for I knew if
I listened to her a minute longer I'd be giving her bonnet a shake and
that wouldn't be respectable.  So there you are, Miss Neily, and that's
the gist of the matter."

Miss Cornelia laughed.  "Lizzie--you're unique," she said.  "But I'm
glad you didn't give her bonnet a shake--though I've no doubt you
could."

"Humph!" said Lizzie snorting, the fire of battle in her eye.  "And is
it any Black Irish from Ulster would play impudence to a Kerrywoman
without getting the flat of a hand in--but that's neither here nor
there.  The truth of it is, Miss Neily," her voice grew solemn, "it's
my belief they're scared--both of them--by the haunts and the banshees
here--and that's all."

"If they are they're very silly," said Miss Cornelia practically. "No,
they may have heard of a better place, though it would seem as if when
one pays the present extortionate wages and asks as little as we do
here--but it doesn't matter.  If they want to go, they may.  Am I
ready, Lizzie?"

"You look like an angel, ma'am," said Lizzie, clasping her hands.

"Well, I feel very little like one," said Miss Cornelia, rising. "As
cook and housemaid may discover before I'm through with them. Send them
into the livingroom, Lizzie, when I've gone down.  I'll talk to them
there."

An hour or so later, Miss Cornelia sat in a deep chintz chair in the
comfortable living-room of the Fleming house going through the pile of
letters which Lizzie's news of domestic revolt had prevented her
reading earlier.  Cook and housemaid had come and gone--civil enough,
but so obviously determined upon leaving the house at once that Miss
Cornelia had sighed and let them go, though not without caustic
comment.  Since then, she had devoted herself to calling up various
employment agencies without entirely satisfactory results.  A new cook
and housemaid were promised for the end of the week--but for the next
three days the Japanese butler, Billy, and Lizzie between them would
have to bear the brunt of the service.  Oh, yes--and then there's
Dale's gardener, if she gets one, thought Miss, Cornelia.  "I wish he
could cook--but I don't suppose gardeners can--and Billy's a treasure.
Still, its inconvenient--now, stop--Cornelia Van Gorder--you were
asking for an adventure only this morning and the moment the littlest
sort of one comes along, you want to crawl out of it."

She had reached the bottom of her pile of letters--these to be thrown
away, these to be answered--ah, here was one she had overlooked
somehow.  She took it up.  It must be the one Lizzie had wanted to
throw away--she smiled at Lizzie's fears.  The address was badly typed,
on cheap paper--she tore the envelope open and drew out a single
unsigned sheet.

If you stay in this house any longer--DEATH.  Go back to the city at
once and save your life.

Her fingers trembled a little as she turned the missive over but her
face remained calm.  She looked at the envelope--at the postmark--while
her heart thudded uncomfortably for a moment and then resumed its
normal beat.  It had come at last--the adventure--and she was not
afraid!



CHAPTER THREE

PISTOL PRACTICE

She knew who it was, of course.  The Bat!  No doubt of it.  And
yet--did the Bat ever threaten before he struck?  She could not
remember.  But it didn't matter.  The Bat was unprecedented--unique. At
any rate, Bat or no Bat, she must think out a course of action.  The
defection of cook and housemaid left her alone in the house with Lizzie
and Billy--and Dale, of course, if Dale returned.  Two old women, a
young girl, and a Japanese butler to face the most dangerous criminal
in America, she thought grimly. And yet--one couldn't be sure.  The
threatening letter might be only a joke--a letter from a crank--after
all.  Still, she must take precautions; look for aid somewhere.  But
where could she look for aid?

She ran over in her mind the new acquaintances she had made since she
moved to the country.  There was Doctor Wells, the local physician, who
had joked with her about moving into the Bat's home territory--He
seemed an intelligent man--but she knew him only slightly--she couldn't
call a busy Doctor away from his patients to investigate something
which might only prove to be a mare's-nest.  The boys Dale had met at
the country club--"Humph!" she sniffed, "I'd rather trust my gumption
than any of theirs." The logical person to call on, of course, was
Richard Fleming, Courtleigh Fleming's nephew and heir, who had rented
her the house.  He lived at the country club--she could probably reach
him now.  She was just on the point of doing so when she decided
against it--partly from delicacy, partly from an indefinable feeling
that he would not be of much help.  Besides, she thought sturdily, it's
my house now, not his.  He didn't guarantee burglar protection in the
lease.

As for the local police--her independence revolted at summoning them.
They would bombard her with ponderous questions and undoubtedly think
she was merely a nervous old spinster.  If it was just me, she thought,
I swear I wouldn't say a word to anybody--and if the Bat flew in he
mightn't find it so easy to fly out again, if I am sixty-five and never
shot a burglar in my life!  But there's Dale--and Lizzie.  I've got to
be fair to them.

For a moment she felt very helpless, very much alone.  Then her courage
returned.

"Pshaw, Cornelia, if you have got to get help--get the help you want
and hang the consequences!" she adjured herself.  "You've always
hankered to see a first-class detective do his detecting--well, get
one--or decide to do the job yourself.  I'll bet you could at that."

She tiptoed to the main door of the living-room and closed it
cautiously, smiling as she did so.  Lizzie might be about and Lizzie
would promptly go into hysterics if she got an inkling of her
mistress's present intentions.  Then she went to the city telephone and
asked for long distance.

When she had finished her telephoning, she looked at once relieved and
a little naughty--like a demure child who has carried out some piece of
innocent mischief unobserved.  "My stars!" she muttered to herself.
"You never can tell what you can do till you try."  Then she sat down
again and tried to think of other measures of defense.

Now if I were the Bat, or any criminal, she mused, how would I get into
this house?  Well, that's it--I might get in 'most any way--it's so big
and rambling.  All the grounds you want to lurk in, too; it'd take a
company of police to shut them off.  Then there's the house itself.
Let's see--third floor--trunk room, servants' rooms--couldn't get in
there very well except with a pretty long ladder--that's all right.
Second floor--well, I suppose a man could get into my bedroom from the
porch if he were an acrobat, but he'd need to be a very good acrobat
and there's no use borrowing trouble.  Downstairs is the problem,
Cornelia, downstairs is the problem.

"Take this room now."  She rose and examined it carefully.  "There's
the door over there on the right that leads into the billiard room.
There's this door over here that leads into the hall.  Then there's
that other door by the alcove, and all those French windows--whew!" She
shook her head.

It was true.  The room in which she stood, while comfortable and
charming, seemed unusually accessible to the night prowler.  A row of
French windows at the rear gave upon a little terrace; below the
terrace, the drive curved about and beneath the billiard-room windows
in a hairpin loop, drawing up again at the main entrance on the other
side of the house.  At the left of the French windows (if one faced the
terrace as Miss Cornelia was doing) was the alcove door of which she
spoke.  When open, it disclosed a little alcove, almost entirely
devoted to the foot of a flight of stairs that gave direct access to
the upper regions of the house.  The alcove itself opened on one side
upon the terrace and upon the other into a large butler's pantry.  The
arrangement was obviously designed so that, if necessary, one could
pass directly from the terrace to the downstairs service quarters or
the second floor of the house without going through the living-room,
and so that trays could be carried up from the pantry by the side
stairs without using the main staircase.

The middle pair of French windows were open, forming a double door.
Miss Cornelia went over to them--shut them--tried the locks.  Humph!
Flimsy enough!  she thought.  Then she turned toward the billiard room.

The billiard room, as has been said, was the last room to the right in
the main wing of the house.  A single door led to it from the
living-room.  Miss Cornelia passed through this door, glanced about the
billiard room, noting that most of its windows were too high from the
ground to greatly encourage a marauder.  She locked the only one that
seemed to her particularly tempting--the billiard-room window on the
terrace side of the house.  Then she returned to the living-room and
again considered her defenses.

Three points of access from the terrace to the house--the door that led
into the alcove, the French windows of the living room--the
billiard-room window.  On the other side of the house there was the
main entrance, the porch, the library and dining-room windows.  The
main entrance led into a hall-living-room, and the main door of the
living-room was on the right as one entered, the dining-room and
library on the left, main staircase in front.  "My mind is starting to
go round like a pinwheel, thinking of all those windows and doors," she
murmured to herself.  She sat down once more, and taking a pencil and a
piece of paper drew a plan of the lower floor of the house.

And now I've studied it, she thought after a while, I'm no further than
if I hadn't.  As far as I can figure out, there are so many ways for a
clever man to get into this house that I'd have to be a couple of
Siamese twins to watch it properly.  The next house I rent in the
country, she decided, just isn't going to have any windows and
doors--or I'll know the reason why.

But of course she was not entirely shut off from the world, even if the
worst developed.  She considered the telephone instruments on a table
near the wall, one the general phone, the other connecting a house line
which also connected with the garage and the greenhouses.  The garage
would not be helpful, since Slocum, her chauffeur for many years, had
gone back to England for a visit. Dale had been driving the car.  But
with an able-bodied man in the gardener's house--

She pulled herself together with a jerk.

"Cornelia Van Gorder, you're going to go crazy before nightfall if you
don't take hold of yourself.  What you need is lunch and a nap in the
afternoon if you can make yourself take it.  You'd better look up that
revolver of yours, too, that you bought when you thought you were going
to take a trip to China.  You've never fired it off yet, but you've got
to sometime today--there's no other way of telling if it will work.
You can shut your eyes when you do it--no, you can't either--that's
silly.

"Call you a spirited old lady, do they?  Well, you never had a better
time to show your spirit than now!"

And Miss Van Gorder, sighing, left the living-room to reach the kitchen
just in time to calm a heated argument between Lizzie and Billy on the
relative merits of Japanese and Irish-American cooking.

Dale Ogden, taxiing up from the two o'clock train some time later, to
her surprise discovered the front door locked and rang for some time
before she could get an answer.  At last, Billy appeared, white-coated,
with an inscrutable expression on his face.

"Will you take my bag, Billy--thanks.  Where is Miss Van Gorder--taking
a nap?"

"No," said Billy succinctly.  "She take no nap.  She out in srubbery
shotting."

Dale stared at him incredulously.  "Shooting, Billy?"

"Yes, ma'am.  At least--she not shoot yet but she say she going to
soon."

"But, good heavens, Billy--shooting what?"

"Shotting pistol," said Billy, his yellow mask of a face preserving its
impish repose.  He waved his hand.  "You go srubbery.  You see."

The scene that met Dale's eyes when she finally found the "srubbery"
was indeed a singular one.  Miss Van Gorder, her back firmly planted
against the trunk of a large elm tree and an expression of ineffable
distaste on her features, was holding out a blunt, deadly looking
revolver at arm's length.  Its muzzle wavered, now pointing at the
ground, now at the sky.  Behind the tree Lizzie sat in a heap, moaning
quietly to herself, and now and then appealing to the saints to avert a
visioned calamity.

As Dale approached, unseen, the climax came.  The revolver steadied,
pointed ferociously at an inoffensive grass-blade some 10 yards from
Miss Van Gorder and went off.  Lizzie promptly gave vent to a shrill
Irish scream.  Miss Van Gorder dropped the revolver like a hot potato
and opened her mouth to tell Lizzie not to be such a fool.  Then she
saw Dale--her mouth went into a round O of horror and her hand clutched
weakly at her heart.

"Good heavens, child!" she gasped.  "Didn't Billy tell you what I was
doing?  I might have shot you like a rabbit!" and, overcome with
emotion, she sat down on the ground and started to fan herself
mechanically with a cartridge.

Dale couldn't help laughing--and the longer she looked at her aunt the
more she laughed--until that dignified lady joined in the mirth herself.

"Aunt Cornelia--Aunt Cornelia!" said Dale when she could get her
breath.  "That I've lived to see the day--and they call US the wild
generation!  Why on earth were you having pistol practice, darling--has
Billy turned into a Japanese spy or what?"

Miss Van Gorder rose from the ground with as much stateliness as she
could muster under the circumstances.

"No, my dear--but there's no fool like an old fool--that's all," she
stated.  "I've wanted to fire that infernal revolver off ever since I
bought it two years ago, and now I have and I'm satisfied. Still," she
went on thoughtfully, picking up the weapon, "it seems a very good
revolver--and shooting people must be much easier than I supposed.  All
you have to do is to point the--the front of it--like this and--"

"Oh, Miss Dale, dear Miss Dale!" came in woebegone accents from the
other side of the tree.  "For the love of heaven, Miss Dale, say no
more but take it away from her--she'll have herself all riddled through
with bullets like a kitchen sieve--and me too--if she's let to have it
again."

"Lizzie, I'm ashamed of you!" said Lizzie's mistress.  "Come out from
behind that tree and stop wailing like a siren.  This weapon is
perfectly safe in competent hands and--"  She seemed on the verge of
another demonstration of its powers.

"MISS DALE, FOR THE DEAR LOVE O' GOD WILL YOU MAKE HER PUT IT AWAY?"

Dale laughed again.  "I really think you'd better, Aunt Cornelia. Or
both of us will have to put Lizzie to bed with a case of acute
hysteria."

"Well," said Miss Van Gorder, "perhaps you're right, dear."  Her eyes
gleamed.  "I should have liked to try it just once more though," she
confided.  "I feel certain that I could hit that tree over there if my
eye wouldn't wink so when the thing goes off."

"Now, it's winking eyes," said Lizzie on a note of tragic chant, "but
next time it'll be bleeding corpses and--"

Dale added her own protestations to Lizzie's.  "Please, darling, if you
really want to practice, Billy can fix up some sort of target
range--but I don't want my favorite aunt assassinated by a ricocheted
bullet before my eyes!"

"Well, perhaps it would be best to try again another time," admitted
Miss Van Gorder.  But there was a wistful look in her eyes as she gave
the revolver to Dale and the three started back to the house.

"I should never have allowed Lizzie to know what I was doing," she
confided in a whisper, on the way.  "A woman is perfectly capable of
managing firearms--but Lizzie is really too nervous to live, sometimes."

"I know just how you feel, darling," Dale agreed, suppressed mirth
shaking her as the little procession reached the terrace.  "But--oh,"
she could keep it no longer, "oh--you did look funny, darling--sitting
under that tree, with Lizzie on the other side of it making banshee
noises and--"

Miss Van Gorder laughed too, a little shamefacedly.

"I must have," she said.  "But--oh, you needn't shake your head, Lizzie
Allen--I am going to practice with it.  There's no reason I shouldn't
and you never can tell when things like that might be useful," she
ended rather vaguely.  She did not wish to alarm Dale with her
suspicions yet.

"There, Dale--yes, put it in the drawer of the table--that will
reassure Lizzie.  Lizzie, you might make us some lemonade, I
think--Miss Dale must be thirsty after her long, hot ride."

"Yes, Miss Cornelia," said Lizzie, recovering her normal calm as the
revolver was shut away in the drawer of the large table in the
living-room.  But she could not resist one parting shot.  "And thank
God it's lemonade I'll be making--and not bandages for bullet wounds!"
she muttered darkly as she went toward the service quarters.

Miss Van Gorder glared after her departing back.  "Lizzie is really
impossible sometimes!" she said with stately ire.  Then her voice
softened.  "Though of course I couldn't do without her," she added.

Dale stretched out on the settee opposite her aunt's chair.  "I know
you couldn't, darling.  Thanks for thinking of the lemonade."  She
passed her hand over her forehead in a gesture of fatigue.  "I AM
hot--and tired."

Miss Van Gorder looked at her keenly.  The young face seemed curiously
worn and haggard in the clear afternoon light.

"You--you don't really feel very well, do you, Dale?"

"Oh--it's nothing.  I feel all right--really."

"I could send for Doctor Wells if--"

"Oh, heavens, no, Aunt Cornelia."  She managed a wan smile.  "It isn't
as bad as all that.  I'm just tired and the city was terribly hot and
noisy and--"  She stole a glance at her aunt from between lowered lids.
"I got your gardener, by the way," she said casually.

"Did you, dear?  That's splendid, though--but I'll tell you about that
later.  Where did you get him?"

"That good agency, I can't remember its name."  Dale's hand moved
restlessly over her eyes, as if remembering details were too great an
effort.  "But I'm sure he'll be satisfactory.  He'll be out here this
evening--he--he couldn't get away before, I believe.  What have you
been doing all day, darling?"

Miss Cornelia hesitated.  Now that Dale had returned she suddenly
wanted very much to talk over the various odd happenings of the day
with her--get the support of her youth and her common sense.  Then that
independence which was so firmly rooted a characteristic of hers
restrained her.  No use worrying the child unnecessarily; they all
might have to worry enough before tomorrow morning.

She compromised.  "We have had a domestic upheaval," she said.  "The
cook and the housemaid have left--if you'd only waited till the next
train you could have had the pleasure of their company into town."

"Aunt Cornelia--how exciting!  I'm so sorry!  Why did they leave?"

"Why do servants ever leave a good place?" asked Miss Cornelia grimly.
"Because if they had sense enough to know when they were well off, they
wouldn't be servants.  Anyhow, they've gone--we'll have to depend on
Lizzie and Billy the rest of this week.  I telephoned--but they
couldn't promise me any others before Monday."

"And I was in town and could have seen people for you--if I'd only
known!" said Dale remorsefully.  "Only," she hesitated, "I mightn't
have had time--at least I mean there were some other things I had to
do, besides getting the gardener and--"  She rose.  "I think I will go
and lie down for a little if you don't mind, darling."

Miss Van Gorder was concerned.  "Of course I don't mind but--won't you
even have your lemonade?"

"Oh, I'll get some from Lizzie in the pantry before I go up," Dale
managed to laugh.  "I think I must have a headache after all," she
said.  "Maybe I'll take an aspirin.  Don't worry, darling."

"I shan't.  I only wish there were something I could do for you, my
dear."

Dale stopped in the alcove doorway.  "There's nothing anybody can do
for me, really," she said soberly.  "At least--oh, I don't know what
I'm saying!  But don't worry.  I'm quite all right.  I may go over to
the country club after dinner--and dance.  Won't you come with me, Aunt
Cornelia?"

"Depends on your escort," said Miss Cornelia tartly.  "If our landlord,
Mr. Richard Fleming, is taking you I certainly shall--I don't like his
looks and never did!"

Dale laughed.  "Oh, he's all right," she said.  "Drinks a good deal and
wastes a lot of money, but harmless enough.  No, this is a very sedate
party; I'll be home early."

"Well, in that case," said her aunt, "I shall stay here with my Lizzie
and my ouija-board.  Lizzie deserves some punishment for the very
cowardly way she behaved this afternoon--and the ouija-board will
furnish it.  She's scared to death to touch the thing.  I think she
believes it's alive."

"Well, maybe I'll send you a message on it from the country club," said
Dale lightly.  She had paused, half-way up the flight of side stairs in
the alcove, and her aunt noticed how her shoulders drooped, belying the
lightness of her voice.  "Oh," she went on, "by the way--have the
afternoon papers come yet?  I didn't have time to get one when I was
rushing for the train."

"I don't think so, dear, but I'll ask Lizzie."  Miss Cornelia moved
toward a bell push.

"Oh, don't bother; it doesn't matter.  Only if they have, would you ask
Lizzie to bring me one when she brings up the lemonade?  I want to read
about--about the Bat--he fascinates me."

"There was something else in the paper this morning," said Miss
Cornelia idly.  "Oh, yes--the Union Bank--the bank Mr. Fleming, Senior,
was president of has failed.  They seem to think the cashier robbed it.
Did you see that, Dale?"

The shoulders of the girl on the staircase straightened suddenly. Then
they drooped again.  "Yes--I saw it," she said in a queerly colorless
voice.  "Too bad.  It must be terrible to--to have everyone suspect
you--and hunt you--as I suppose they're hunting that poor cashier."

"Well," said Miss Cornelia, "a man who wrecks a bank deserves very
little sympathy to my way of thinking.  But then I'm old-fashioned.
Well, dear, I won't keep you.  Run along--and if you want an aspirin,
there's a box in my top bureau-drawer."

"Thanks, darling.  Maybe I'll take one and maybe I won't--all I really
need is to lie down for a while."

She moved on up the staircase and disappeared from the range of Miss
Cornelia's vision, leaving Miss Cornelia to ponder many things. Her
trip to the city had done Dale no good, of a certainty.  If not
actually ill, she was obviously under some considerable mental strain.
And why this sudden interest, first in the Bat, then in the failure of
the Union Bank?  Was it possible that Dale, too, had been receiving
threatening letters?

I'll be glad when that gardener comes, she thought to herself. He'll
make a MAN in the house at any rate.

When Lizzie at last came in with the lemonade she found her mistress
shaking her head.

"Cornelia, Cornelia," she was murmuring to herself, "you should have
taken to pistol practice when you were younger; it just shows how
children waste their opportunities."



CHAPTER FOUR

THE STORM GATHERS

The long summer afternoon  wore away, sunset came, red and angry, a
sunset presaging storm.  A chill crept into the air with the twilight.
When night fell, it was not a night of silver patterns enskied, but a
dark and cloudy cloak where a few stars glittered fitfully.  Miss
Cornelia, at dinner, saw a bat swoop past the window of the dining room
in its scurrying flight, and narrowly escaped oversetting her glass of
water with a nervous start.  The tension of waiting--waiting--for some
vague menace which might not materialize after all--had begun to prey
on her nerves.  She saw Dale off to the country club with relief--the
girl looked a little better after her nap but she was still not her
normal self. When Dale was gone, she wandered restlessly for some time
between living-room and library, now giving an unnecessary dusting to a
piece of bric-a-brac with her handkerchief, now taking a book from one
of the shelves in the library only to throw it down before she read a
page.

This house was queer.  She would not have admitted it to Lizzie, for
her soul's salvation--but, for the first time in her sensible life, she
listened for creakings of woodwork, rustling of leaves, stealthy steps
outside, beyond the safe, bright squares of the windows--for anything
that was actual, tangible, not merely formless fear.

"There's too much ROOM in the country for things to happen to you!" she
confided to herself with a shiver.  "Even the night--whenever I look
out, it seems to me as if the night were ten times bigger and blacker
than it ever is in New York!"

To comfort herself she mentally rehearsed her telephone conversation of
the morning, the conversation she had not mentioned to her household.
At the time it had seemed to her most reassuring--the plans she had
based upon it adequate and sensible in the normal light of day.  But
now the light of day had been blotted out and with it her security.
Her plans seemed weapons of paper against the sinister might of the
darkness beyond her windows.  A little wind wailed somewhere in that
darkness like a beaten child--beyond the hills thunder rumbled, drawing
near, and with it lightning and the storm.

She made herself sit down in the chair beside her favorite lamp on the
center table and take up her knitting with stiff fingers.  Knit
two--purl two--Her hands fell into the accustomed rhythm
mechanically--a spy, peering in through the French windows, would have
deemed her the picture of calm.  But she had never felt less calm in
all the long years of her life.

She wouldn't ring for Lizzie to come and sit with her, she simply
wouldn't.  But she was very glad, nevertheless, when Lizzie appeared at
the door.

"Miss Neily."

"Yes, Lizzie?" Miss Cornelia's voice was composed but her heart felt a
throb of relief.

"Can I--can I sit in here with you, Miss Neily, just a minute?"
Lizzie's voice was plaintive.  "I've been sitting out in the kitchen
watching that Jap read his funny newspaper the wrong way and listening
for ghosts till I'm nearly crazy!"

"Why, certainly, Lizzie," said Miss Cornelia primly.  "Though," she
added doubtfully, "I really shouldn't pamper your absurd fears, I
suppose, but--"

"Oh, please, Miss Neily!"

"Very well," said Miss Cornelia brightly.  "You can sit here,
Lizzie--and help me work the ouija-board.  That will take your mind off
listening for things!"

Lizzie groaned.  "You know I'd rather be shot than touch that uncanny
ouijie!" she said dolefully.  "It gives me the creeps every time I put
my hands on it!"

"Well, of course, if you'd rather sit in the kitchen, Lizzie--"

"Oh, give me the ouijie!" said Lizzie in tones of heartbreak.  "I'd
rather be shot and stabbed than stay in the kitchen any more."

"Very well," said Miss Cornelia, "it's your own decision,
Lizzie--remember that."  Her needles clicked on.  "I'll just finish
this row before we start," she said.  "You might call up the light
company in the meantime, Lizzie--there seems to be a storm coming up
and I want to find out if they intend to turn out the lights tonight as
they did last night.  Tell them I find it most inconvenient to be left
without light that way."

"It's worse than inconvenient," muttered Lizzie, "it's criminal--that's
what it is--turning off all the lights in a haunted house, like this
one.  As if spooks wasn't bad enough with the lights on--"

"Lizzie!"

"Yes, Miss Neily--I wasn't going to say another word."  She went to the
telephone.  Miss Cornelia knitted on--knit two--purl two--  In spite of
her experiments with the ouija-board she didn't believe in ghosts--and
yet--there were things one couldn't explain by logic. Was there
something like that in this house--a shadow walking the corridors--a
vague shape of evil, drifting like mist from room to room, till its
cold breath whispered on one's back and--there!  She had ruined her
knitting, the last two rows would have to be ripped out.  That came of
mooning about ghosts like a ninny.

She put down the knitting with an exasperated little gesture.  Lizzie
had just finished her telephoning and was hanging up the receiver.

"Well, Lizzie?"

"Yes'm," said the latter, glaring at the phone.  "That's what he
says--they turned off the lights last night because there was a storm
threatening.  He says it burns out their fuses if they leave 'em on in
a storm."

A louder roll of thunder punctuated her words.

"There!" said Lizzie.  "They'll be going off again to-night."  She took
an uncertain step toward the French windows.

"Humph!" said Miss Cornelia, "I hope it will be a dry summer."  Her
hands tightened on each other.  Darkness--darkness inside this house of
whispers to match with the darkness outside!  She forced herself to
speak in a normal voice.

"Ask Billy to bring some candles, Lizzie--and have them ready."

Lizzie had been staring fixedly at the French windows.  At Miss
Cornelia's command she gave a little jump of terror and moved closer to
her mistress.

"You're not going to ask me to go out in that hall alone?" she said in
a hurt voice.

It was too much.  Miss Cornelia found vent for her feelings in crisp
exasperation.

"What's the matter with you anyhow, Lizzie Allen?"

The nervousness in her own tones infected Lizzie's.  She shivered
frankly.

"Oh, Miss Neily--Miss Neily!" she pleaded.  "I don't like it!  I want
to go back to the city!"

Miss Cornelia braced herself.  "I have rented this house for four
months and I am going to stay," she said firmly.  Her eyes sought
Lizzie's, striving to pour some of her own inflexible courage into the
latter's quaking form.  But Lizzie would not look at her. Suddenly she
started and gave a low scream;

"There's somebody on the terrace!" she breathed in a ghastly whisper,
clutching at Miss Cornelia's arm.

For a second Miss Cornelia sat frozen.  Then, "Don't do that!" she said
sharply.  "What nonsense!" but she, looked over her shoulder as she
said it and Lizzie saw the look.  Both waited, in pulsing
stillness--one second--two.

"I guess it was the wind," said Lizzie at last, relieved, her grip on
Miss Cornelia relaxing.  She began to look a trifle ashamed of herself
and Miss Cornelia seized the opportunity.

"You were born on a brick pavement," she said crushingly.  "You get
nervous out here at night whenever a cricket begins to sing--or scrape
his legs--or whatever it is they do!"

Lizzie bowed before the blast of her mistress's scorn and began to move
gingerly toward the alcove door.  But obviously she was not entirely
convinced.

"Oh, it's more than that, Miss Neily," she mumbled.  "I--"

Miss Cornelia turned to her fiercely.  If Lizzie was going to behave
like this, they might as well have it out now between them--before Dale
came home.

"What did you really see last night?" she said in a minatory voice.

The instant relief on Lizzie's face was ludicrous; she so obviously
preferred discussing any subject at any length to braving the dangers
of the other part of the house unaccompanied.

"I was standing right there at the top of that there staircase," she
began, gesticulating toward the alcove stairs in the manner of one who
embarks upon the narration of an epic.  "Standing there with your
switch in my hand, Miss Neily--and then I looked down and," her voice
dropped, "I saw a gleaming eye!  It looked at me and winked!  I tell
you this house is haunted!"

"A flirtatious ghost?" queried Miss Cornelia skeptically.  She snorted.
"Humph!  Why didn't you yell?"

"I was too scared to yell!  And I'm not the only one."  She started to
back away from the alcove, her eyes still fixed upon its haunted
stairs.  "Why do you think the servants left so sudden this morning?"
she went on.  "Do you really believe the housemaid had appendicitis? Or
the cook's sister had twins?"

She turned and gestured at her mistress with a long, pointed
forefinger.  Her voice had a note of doom.

"I bet a cent the cook never had any sister--and the sister never had
any twins," she said impressively.  "No, Miss Neily, they couldn't put
it over on me like that!  They were scared away.  They saw--It!"

She concluded her epic and stood nodding her head, an Irish Cassandra
who had prophesied the evil to come.

"Fiddlesticks!" said Miss Cornelia briskly, more shaken by the recital
than she would have admitted.  She tried to think of another topic of
conversation.

"What time is it?" she asked.

Lizzie glanced at the mantel clock.  "Half-past ten, Miss Neily."

Miss Cornelia yawned, a little dismally.  She felt as if the last two
hours had not been hours but years.

"Miss Dale won't be home for half an hour," she said reflectively. And
if I have to spend another thirty minutes listening to Lizzie shiver,
she thought, Dale will find me a nervous wreck when she does come home.
She rolled up her knitting and put it back in her knitting-bag; it was
no use going on, doing work that would have to be ripped out again and
yet she must do something to occupy her thoughts.  She raised her head
and discovered Lizzie returning toward the alcove stairs with the
stealthy tread of a panther.  The sight exasperated her.

"Now, Lizzie Allen!" she said sharply, "you forget all that
superstitious nonsense and stop looking for ghosts!  There's nothing in
that sort of thing."  She smiled--she would punish Lizzie for her
obdurate timorousness.  "Where's that ouija-board?" she questioned,
rising, with determination in her eye.

Lizzie shuddered violently.  "It's up there--with a prayer book on it
to keep it quiet!" she groaned, jerking her thumb in the direction of
the farther bookcase.

"Bring it here!" said Miss Cornelia implacably; then as Lizzie still
hesitated, "Lizzie!"

Shivering, every movement of her body a conscious protest, Lizzie
slowly went over to the bookcase, lifted off the prayer book, and took
down the ouija-board.  Even then she would not carry it normally but
bore it over to Miss Cornelia at arms'-length, as if any closer contact
would blast her with lightning, her face a comic mask of loathing and
repulsion.

She placed the lettered board in Miss Cornelia's lap with a sigh of
relief.  "You can do it yourself!  I'll have none of it!" she said
firmly.

"It takes two people and you know it, Lizzie Allen!" Miss Cornelia's
voice was stern but--it was also amused.

Lizzie groaned, but she knew her mistress.  She obeyed.  She carefully
chose the farthest chair in the room and took a long time bringing it
over to where her mistress sat waiting.

"I've been working for you for twenty years," she muttered.  "I've been
your goat for twenty years and I've got a right to speak my mind--"

Miss Cornelia cut her off.  "You haven't got a mind.  Sit down," she
commanded.

Lizzie sat--her hands at her sides.  With a sigh of tried patience,
Miss Cornelia put her unwilling fingers on the little moving table that
is used to point to the letters on the board itself.  Then she placed
her own hands on it, too, the tips of the fingers just touching
Lizzie's.

"Now make your mind a blank!" she commanded her factotum.

"You just said I haven't got any mind," complained the latter.

"Well;" said Miss Cornelia magnificently, "make what you haven't got a
blank."

The repartee silenced Lizzie for the moment, but only for the moment.
As soon as Miss Cornelia had settled herself comfortably and tried to
make her mind a suitable receiving station for ouija messages, Lizzie
began to mumble the sorrows of her heart.

"I've stood by you through thick and thin," she mourned in a low voice.
"I stood by you when you were a vegetarian--I stood by you when you
were a theosophist--and I seen you through socialism, Fletcherism and
rheumatism--but when it comes to carrying on with ghosts--"

"Be still!" ordered Miss Cornelia.  "Nothing will come if you keep
chattering!"

"That's why I'm chattering!" said Lizzie, driven to the wall.  "My
teeth are, too," she added.  "I can hardly keep my upper set in," and a
desolate clicking of artificial molars attested the truth of the
remark.  Then, to Miss Cornelia's relief, she was silent for nearly two
minutes, only to start so violently at the end of the time that she
nearly upset the ouija-board on her mistress's toes.

"I've got a queer feeling in my fingers--all the way up my arms," she
whispered in awed accents, wriggling the arms she spoke of violently.

"Hush!" said Miss Cornelia indignantly.  Lizzie always exaggerated, of
course--yet now her own fingers felt prickly, uncanny.  There was a
little pause while both sat tense, staring at the board.

"Now, Ouija," said Miss Cornelia defiantly, "is Lizzie Allen right
about this house or is it all stuff and nonsense?"

For one second--two--the ouija remained anchored to its resting place
in the center of the board.  Then--

"My Gawd!  It's moving!" said Lizzie in tones of pure horror as the
little pointer began to wander among the letters.

"You shoved it!"

"I did not--cross my heart, Miss Neily--I--" Lizzie's eyes were round,
her fingers glued rigidly and awkwardly to the ouija.  As the movements
of the pointer grew more rapid her mouth dropped open--wider and
wider--prepared for an ear-piercing scream.

"Keep quiet!" said Miss Cornelia tensely.  There was a pause of a few
seconds while the pointer darted from one letter to another wildly.

"B--M--C--X--P--R--S--K--Z--" murmured Miss Cornelia trying to follow
the spelled letters.

"It's Russian!" gasped Lizzie breathlessly and Miss Cornelia nearly
disgraced herself in the eyes of any spirits that might be present by
inappropriate laughter.  The ouija continued to move--more
letters--what was it spelling?--it couldn't be--good
heavens--"B--A--T--Bat!" said Miss Cornelia with a tiny catch in her
voice.

The pointer stopped moving: She took her hands from the board.

"That's queer," she said with a forced laugh.  She glanced at Lizzie to
see how Lizzie was taking it.  But the latter seemed too relieved to
have her hands off the ouija-board to make the mental connection that
her mistress had feared.

All she said was, "Bats indeed!  That shows it's spirits.  There's been
a bat flying around this house all evening."

She got up from her chair tentatively, obviously hoping that the seance
was over.

"Oh, Miss Neily," she burst out.  "Please let me sleep in your room
tonight!  It's only when my jaw drops that I snore--I can tie it up
with a handkerchief!"

"I wish you'd tie it up with a handkerchief now," said her mistress
absent-mindedly, still pondering the message that the pointer had
spelled.  "B--A--T--Bat!" she murmured.
Thought-transference--warning--accident? Whatever it was, it
was--nerve-shaking.  She put the ouija-board aside.  Accident or not,
she was done with it for the evening.  But she could not so easily
dispose of the Bat. Sending a protesting Lizzie off for her reading
glasses, Miss Cornelia got the evening paper and settled down to what
by now had become her obsession.  She had not far to search for a long
black streamer ran across the front page--"Bat Baffles Police Again."

She skimmed through the article with eerie fascination, reading bits of
it aloud for Lizzie's benefit.

"'Unique criminal--long baffled the police--record of his crimes shows
him to be endowed with an almost diabolical ingenuity--so far there is
no clue to his identity--'"  Pleasant reading for an old woman who's
just received a threatening letter, she thought ironically--ah, here
was something new in a black-bordered box on the front page--a
statement by the paper.

She read it aloud.  "'We must cease combing the criminal world for the
Bat and look higher.  He may be a merchant--a lawyer--a Doctor--honored
in his community by day and at night a bloodthirsty assassin--'"  The
print blurred before her eyes, she could read no more for the moment.
She thought of the revolver in the drawer of the table close at hand
and felt glad that it was there, loaded.

"I'm going to take the butcher knife to bed with me!" Lizzie was saying.

Miss Cornelia touched the ouija-board.  "That thing certainly spelled
Bat," she remarked.  "I wish I were a man.  I'd like to see any lawyer,
Doctor, or merchant of my acquaintance leading a double life without my
suspecting it."

"Every man leads a double life and some more than that," Lizzie
observed.  "I guess it rests them, like it does me to take off my
corset."

Miss Cornelia opened her mouth to rebuke her but just at that moment
there, was a clink of ice from the hall, and Billy, the Japanese,
entered carrying a tray with a pitcher of water and some glasses on it.
Miss Cornelia watched his impassive progress, wondering if the Oriental
races ever felt terror--she could not imagine all Lizzie's banshees and
kelpies producing a single shiver from Billy.  He set down the tray and
was about to go as silently as he had come when Miss Cornelia spoke to
him on impulse.

"Billy, what's all this about the cook's sister not having twins?" she
said in an offhand voice.  She had not really discussed the departure
of the other servants with Billy before.  "Did you happen to know that
this interesting event was anticipated?"

Billy drew in his breath with a polite hiss.  "Maybe she have twins,"
he admitted.  "It happen sometime.  Mostly not expected."

"Do you think there was any other reason for her leaving?"

"Maybe," said Billy blandly.

"Well, what was the reason?"

"All say the same thing--house haunted."  Billy's reply was prompt as
it was calm.

Miss Cornelia gave a slight laugh.  "You know better than that, though,
don't you?"

Billy's Oriental placidity remained unruffled.  He neither admitted nor
denied.  He shrugged his shoulders.

"Funny house," he said laconically.  "Find window open--nobody there.
Door slam--nobody there!"

On the heels of his words came a single, startling bang from the
kitchen quarters--the bang of a slammed door!



CHAPTER FIVE

ALOPECIA AND RUBEOLA

Miss Cornelia dropped her newspaper.  Lizzie, frankly frightened, gave
a little squeal and moved closer to her mistress.  Only Billy remained
impassive but even he looked sharply in the direction whence the sound
had come.

Miss Cornelia was the first of the others to recover her poise.

"Stop that!  It was the wind!" she said, a little irritably--the "Stop
that!" addressed to Lizzie who seemed on the point of squealing again.

"I think not wind," said Billy.  His very lack of perturbation added
weight to the statement.  It made Miss Cornelia uneasy.  She took out
her knitting again.

"How long have you lived in this house, Billy?"

"Since Mr. Fleming built."

"H'm." Miss Cornelia pondered.  "And this is the first time you have
been disturbed?"

"Last two days only." Billy would have made an ideal witness in a
courtroom.  He restricted himself so precisely to answering what was
asked of him in as few words as possible.

Miss Cornelia ripped out a row in her knitting.  She took a deep breath.

"What about that face Lizzie said you saw last night at the window?"
she asked in a steady voice.

Billy grinned, as if slightly embarrassed.  "Just face--that's all."

"A--man's face?"

He shrugged again.

"Don't know--maybe.  It there!  It gone!"

Miss Cornelia did not want to believe him--but she did.  "Did you go
out after it?" she persisted.

Billy's yellow grin grew wider.  "No thanks," he said cheerfully with
ideal succinctness.

Lizzie, meanwhile, had stood first on one foot and then on the other
during the interrogation, terror and morbid interest fighting in her
for mastery.  Now she could hold herself in no longer.

"Oh, Miss Neily!" she exploded in a graveyard moan, "last night when
the lights went out I had a token!  My oil lamp was full of oil but, do
what I would, it kept going out, too--the minute I shut my eyes out
that lamp would go.  There ain't a surer token of death!  The Bible
says, 'Let your light shine'--and when a hand you can't see puts your
lights out--good night!"

She ended in a hushed whisper and even Billy looked a trifle
uncomfortable after her climax.

"Well, now that you've cheered us up," began Miss Cornelia undauntedly,
but a long, ominous roll of thunder that rattled the panes in the
French windows drowned out the end of her sentence. Nevertheless she
welcomed the thunder as a diversion.  At least its menace was a
physical one--to be guarded against by physical means.

She rose and went over to the French windows.  That flimsy bolt! She
parted the curtains and looked out--a flicker of lightning stabbed the
night--the storm must be almost upon them.

"Bring some candles, Billy," she said.  "The lights may be going out
any moment--and Billy," as he started to leave, "there's a gentleman
arriving on the last train.  After he comes you may go to bed.  I'll
wait up for Miss Dale--oh, and Billy," arresting him at the door, "see
that all the outer doors on this floor are locked and bring the keys
here."

Billy nodded and departed.  Miss Cornelia took a long breath.  Now that
the moment for waiting had passed--the moment for action come--she felt
suddenly indomitable, prepared to face a dozen Bats!

Her feelings were not shared by her maid.  "I know what all this
means," moaned Lizzie.  "I tell you there's going to be a death, sure!"

"There certainly will be if you don't keep quiet," said her mistress
acidly.  "Lock the billiard-room windows and go to bed."

But this was the last straw for Lizzie.  A picture of the two long,
dark flights of stairs up which she had to pass to reach her bedchamber
rose before her--and she spoke her mind.

"I am not going to bed!" she said wildly.  "I'm going to pack up
tomorrow and leave this house."  That such a threat would never be
carried out while she lived made little difference to her--she was
beyond the need of Truth's consolations.  "I asked you on my bended
knees not to take this place two miles from a railroad," she went on
heatedly.  "For mercy's sake, Miss Neily, let's go back to the city
before it's too late!"

Miss Cornelia was inflexible.

"I'm not going.  You can make up your mind to that.  I'm going to find
out what's wrong with this place if it takes all summer.  I came out to
the country for a rest and I'm going to get it."

"You'll get your heavenly rest!" mourned Lizzie, giving it up.  She
looked pitifully at her mistress's face for a sign that the latter
might be weakening--but no such sign came.  Instead, Miss Cornelia
seemed to grow more determined.

"Besides," she said, suddenly deciding to share the secret she had
hugged to herself all day, "I might as well tell you, Lizzie.  I'm
having a detective sent down tonight from police headquarters in the
city."

"A detective?" Lizzie's face was horrified.  "Miss Neily, you're
keeping something from me!  You know something I don't know."

"I hope so.  I daresay he will be stupid enough.  Most of them are. But
at least we can have one proper night's sleep."

"Not I.  I trust no man," said Lizzie.  But Miss Cornelia had picked up
the paper again.

"'The Bat's last crime was a particularly atrocious one,'" she read.
"'The body of the murdered man...'"

But Lizzie could bear no more.

"Why don't you read the funny page once in a while?" she wailed and
hurried to close the windows in the billiard room.  The door leading
into the billiard room shut behind her.

Miss Cornelia remained reading for a moment.  Then--was that a sound
from the alcove?  She dropped the paper, went into the alcove and stood
for a moment at the foot of the stairs, listening.  No--it must have
been imagination.  But, while she was here, she might as well put on
the spring lock that bolted the door from the alcove to the terrace.
She did so, returned to the living-room and switched off the lights for
a moment to look out at the coming storm. It was closer now--the
lightning flashes more continuous.  She turned on the lights again as
Billy re-entered with three candles and a box of matches.

He put them down on a side table.

"New gardener come," he said briefly to Miss Cornelia's back.

Miss Cornelia turned.  "Nice hour for him to get here.  What's his
name?"

"Say his name Brook," said Billy, a little doubtful.  English names
still bothered him--he was never quite sure of them at first.

Miss Cornelia thought.  "Ask him to come in," she said.  "And
Billy--where are the keys?"

Billy silently took two keys from his pocket and laid them on the
table.  Then he pointed to the terrace door which Miss Cornelia had
just bolted.

"Door up there--spring lock," he said.

"Yes." She nodded.  "And the new bolt you put on today makes it fairly
secure.  One thing is fairly sure, Billy.  If anyone tries to get in
tonight, he will have to break a window and make a certain amount of
noise."

But he only smiled his curious enigmatic smile and went out.  And no
sooner had Miss Cornelia seated herself when the door of the billiard
room slammed open suddenly and Lizzie burst into the room as if she had
been shot from a gun--her hair wild--her face stricken with fear.

"I heard somebody yell out in the grounds--away down by the gate!" she
informed her mistress in a loud stage whisper which had a curious note
of pride in it, as if she were not too displeased at seeing her doleful
predictions so swiftly coming to pass.

Miss Cornelia took her by the shoulder--half-startled, half-dubious.

"What did they yell?"

"Just yelled a yell!"

"Lizzie!"

"I heard them!"

But she had cried "Wolf!" too often.

"You take a liver pill," said her mistress disgustedly, "and go to bed."

Lizzie was about to protest both the verdict on her story and the
judgment on herself when the door in the hall was opened by Billy to
admit the new gardener.  A handsome young fellow, in his late twenties,
he came two steps into the room and then stood there respectfully with
his cap in his hand, waiting for Miss Cornelia to speak to him.

After a swift glance of observation that gave her food for thought she
did so.

"You are Brooks, the new gardener?"

The young man inclined his head.

"Yes, madam.  The butler said you wanted to speak to me."

Miss Cornelia regarded him anew.  His hands look soft--for a
gardener's, she thought.  And his manners seem much too good for one--
Still--

"Come in," she said briskly.  The young man advanced another two steps.
"You're the man my niece engaged in the city this afternoon?"

"Yes, madam."  He seemed a little uneasy under her searching scrutiny.
She dropped her eyes.

"I could not verify your references as the Brays are in Canada--" she
proceeded.

The young man took an eager step forward.  "I am sure if Mrs. Bray were
here--" he began, then flushed and stopped, twisting his cap.

"Were here?" said Miss Cornelia in a curious voice.  "Are you a
professional gardener?"

"Yes."  The young man's manner had grown a trifle defiant but Miss
Cornelia's next question followed remorselessly.

"Know anything about hardy perennials?" she said in a soothing voice,
while Lizzie regarded the interview with wondering eyes.

"Oh.  yes," but the young man seemed curiously lacking in confidence.
"They--they're the ones that keep their leaves during the winter,
aren't they?"

"Come over here--closer--" said Miss Cornelia imperiously.  Once more
she scrutinized him and this time there was no doubt of his discomfort
under her stare.

"Have you had any experience with rubeola?" she queried finally.

"Oh, yes--yes--yes, indeed," the gardener stammered.  "Yes."

"And--alopecia?" pursued Miss Cornelia.

The young man seemed to fumble in his mind for the characteristics of
such a flower or shrub.

"The dry weather is very hard on alopecia," he asserted finally, and
was evidently relieved to see Miss Cornelia receive the statement with
a pleasant smile.

"What do you think is the best treatment for urticaria?" she propounded
with a highly professional manner.

It appeared to be a catch-question.  The young man knotted his brows.
Finally a gleam of light seemed to come to him.

"Urticaria frequently needs--er--thinning," he announced decisively.

"Needs scratching you mean!" Miss Cornelia rose with a snort of disdain
and faced him.  "Young man, urticaria is hives, rubeola is measles, and
alopecia is baldness!" she thundered.  She waited a moment for his
defense.  None came.

"Why did you tell me you were a professional gardener?" she went on
accusingly.  "Why have you come here at this hour of night pretending
to be something you're not?"

By all standards of drama the young man should have wilted before her
wrath, Instead he suddenly smiled at her, boyishly, and threw up his
hands in a gesture of defeat.

"I know I shouldn't have done it!" he confessed with appealing
frankness.  "You'd have found me out anyhow!  I don't know anything
about gardening.  The truth is," his tone grew somber, "I was
desperate! I HAD to have work!"

The candor of his smile would have disarmed a stonier-hearted person
than Miss Cornelia.  But her suspicions were still awake.

"'That's all, is it?"

"That's enough when you're down and out."  His words had an
unmistakable accent of finality.  She couldn't help wanting to believe
him, and yet, he wasn't what he had pretended to be--and this night of
all nights was no time to take people on trust!

"How do I know you won't steal the spoons?" she queried, her voice
still gruff.

"Are they nice spoons?" he asked with absurd seriousness.

She couldn't help smiling at his tone.  "Beautiful spoons."

Again that engaging, boyish manner of his touched something in her
heart.

"Spoons are a great temptation to me, Miss Van Gorder--but if you'll
take me, I'll promise to leave them alone."

"That's extremely kind of you," she answered with grim humor, knowing
herself beaten.  She went over to ring for Billy.

Lizzie took the opportunity to gain her ear.

"I don't trust him, Miss Neily!  He's too smooth!" she whispered
warningly.

Miss Cornelia stiffened.  "I haven't asked for your opinion, Lizzie,"
she said.

But Lizzie was not to be put off by the Van Gorder manner.

"Oh," she whispered, "you're just as bad as all the rest of 'em. A
good-looking man comes in the door and your brains fly out the window!"

Miss Cornelia quelled her with a gesture and turned back to the young
man.  He was standing just where she had left him, his cap in his
hands--but, while her back had been turned, his eyes had made a
stealthy survey of the living-room--a survey that would have made it
plain to Miss Cornelia, if she had seen him, that his interest in the
Fleming establishment was not merely the casual interest of a servant
in his new place of abode.  But she had not seen and she could have
told nothing from his present expression.

"Have you had anything to eat lately?" she asked in a kindly voice.

He looked down at his cap.  "Not since this morning," he admitted as
Billy answered the bell.

Miss Cornelia turned to the impassive Japanese.  "Billy, give this man
something to eat and then show him where he is to sleep."

She hesitated.  The gardener's house was some distance from the main
building, and with the night and the approaching storm she felt her own
courage weakening.  Into the bargain, whether this stranger had lied
about his gardening or not, she was curiously attracted to him.

"I think," she said slowly, "that I'll have you sleep in the house
here, at least for tonight.  Tomorrow we can--the housemaid's room,
Billy," she told the butler.  And before their departure she held out a
candle and a box of matches.

"Better take these with you, Brooks," she said.  "The local light
company crawls under its bed every time there is a thunderstorm. Good
night, Brooks."

"Good night, ma'am," said the young man smiling.  Following Billy to
the door, he paused.  "You're being mighty good to me," he said
diffidently, smiled again, and disappeared after Billy.

As the door closed behind them, Miss Cornelia found herself smiling
too.  "That's a pleasant young fellow--no matter what he is," she said
to herself decidedly, and not even Lizzie's feverish "Haven't you any
sense taking strange men into the house?  How do you know he isn't the
Bat?" could draw a reply from her.

Again the thunder rolled as she straightened the papers and magazines
on the table and Lizzie gingerly took up the ouija-board to replace it
on the bookcase with the prayer book firmly on top of it.  And this
time, with the roll of the thunder, the lights in the living-room
blinked uncertainly for an instant before they recovered their normal
brilliance.

"There go the lights!" grumbled Lizzie, her fingers still touching the
prayer book, as if for protection.  Miss Cornelia did not answer her
directly.

"We'll put the detective in the blue room when he comes," she said.
"You'd better go up and see if it's all ready."

Lizzie started to obey, going toward the alcove to ascend to the second
floor by the alcove stairs.  But Miss Cornelia stopped her.

"Lizzie--you know that stair rail's just been varnished.  Miss Dale got
a stain on her sleeve there this afternoon--and Lizzie--"

"Yes'm?"

"No one is to know that he is a detective.  Not even Billy."  Miss
Cornelia was very firm.

"Well, what'll I say he is?"

"It's nobody's business."

"A detective," moaned Lizzie, opening the hall door to go by the main
staircase.  "Tiptoeing around with his eye to all the keyholes. A body
won't be safe in the bathtub."  She shut the door with a little slap
and disappeared.  Miss Cornelia sat down--she had many things to think
over--"if I ever get time really to think of anything again," she
thought, because with gardeners coming who aren't gardeners--and Lizzie
hearing yells in the grounds and--

She started slightly.  The front door bell was ringing--a long trill,
uncannily loud in the quiet house.  She sat rigid in her chair,
waiting.  Billy came in.

"Front door key, please?" he asked urbanely.  She gave him the key.

"Find out who it is before you unlock the door," she said.  He nodded.
She heard him at the door, then a murmur of voices--Dale's voice and
another's--"Won't you come in for a few minutes?  Oh, thank you." She
relaxed.

The door opened; it was Dale.  "How lovely she looks in that evening
wrap!" thought Miss Cornelia.  But how tired, too.  I wish I knew what
was worrying her.

She smiled.  "Aren't you back early, Dale?"

Dale threw off her wrap and stood for a moment patting back into its
smooth, smart bob, hair ruffled by the wind.

"I was tired," she said, sinking into a chair.

"Not worried about anything?" Miss Cornelia's eyes were sharp.

"No," said Dale without conviction, "but I've come here to be company
for you and I don't want to run away all the time."  She picked up the
evening paper and looked at it without apparently seeing it. Miss
Cornelia heard voices in the hall--a man's voice--affable--"How have
you been, Billy?"--Billy's voice in answer, "Very well, sir."

"Who's out there, Dale?" she queried.

Dale looked up from the paper.  "Doctor Wells, darling," she said in a
listless voice.  "He brought me over from the club; I asked him to come
in for a few minutes.  Billy's just taking his coat." She rose, threw
the paper aside, came over and kissed Miss Cornelia suddenly and
passionately--then before Miss Cornelia, a little startled, could
return the kiss, went over and sat on the settee by the fireplace near
the door of the billiard room.

Miss Cornelia turned to her with a thousand questions on her tongue,
but before she could ask any of them, Billy was ushering in Doctor
Wells.

As she shook hands with the Doctor, Miss Cornelia observed him with
casual interest--wondering why such a good-looking man, in his early
forties, apparently built for success, should be content with the
comparative rustication of his local practice.  That shrewd, rather
aquiline face, with its keen gray eyes, would have found itself more at
home in a wider sphere of action, she thought--there was just that
touch of ruthlessness about it which makes or mars a captain in the
world's affairs.  She found herself murmuring the usual
conventionalities of greeting.

"Oh, I'm very well, Doctor, thank you.  Well, many people at the
country club?"

"Not very many," he said, with a shake of his head.  "This failure of
the Union Bank has knocked a good many of the club members sky high."

"Just how did it happen?" Miss Cornelia was making conversation.

"Oh, the usual thing." The Doctor took out his cigarette case. "The
cashier, a young chap named Bailey, looted the bank to the tune of over
a million."

Dale turned sharply toward them from her seat by the fireplace.

"How do you know the cashier did it?" she said in a low voice.

The Doctor laughed.  "Well--he's run away, for one thing.  The bank
examiners found the deficit.  Bailey, the cashier, went out on an
errand--and didn't come back.  The method was simple enough--worthless
bonds substituted for good ones--with a good bond on the top and bottom
of each package, so the packages would pass a casual inspection.
Probably been going on for some time."

The fingers of Dale's right hand drummed restlessly on the edge of her
settee.

"Couldn't somebody else have done it?" she queried tensely.

The Doctor smiled, a trifle patronizingly.

"Of course the president of the bank had access to the vaults," he
said.  "But, as you know, Mr. Courtleigh Fleming, the late president,
was buried last Monday."

Miss Cornelia had seen her niece's face light up oddly at the beginning
of the Doctor's statement--to relapse into lassitude again at its
conclusion.  Bailey--Bailey--she was sure she remembered that name--on
Dale's lips.

"Dale, dear, did you know this young Bailey?" she asked point-blank.

The girl had started to light a cigarette.  The flame wavered in her
fingers, the match went out.

"Yes--slightly," she said.  She bent to strike another match, averting
her face.  Miss Cornelia did not press her.

"What with bank robberies and communism and the income tax," she said,
turning the subject, "the only way to keep your money these days is to
spend it."

"Or not to have any--like myself!" the Doctor agreed.

"It seems strange," Miss Cornelia went on, "living in Courtleigh
Fleming's house.  A month ago I'd never even heard of Mr.
Fleming--though I suppose I should have--and now--why, I'm as
interested in the failure of his bank as if I were a depositor!"

The Doctor regarded the end of his cigarette.

"As a matter of fact," he said pleasantly, "Dick Fleming had no right
to rent you the property before the estate was settled.  He must have
done it the moment he received my telegram announcing his uncle's
death."

"Were you with him when he died?"

"Yes--in Colorado.  He had angina pectoris and took me with him for
that reason.  But with care he might have lived a considerable time.
The trouble was that he wouldn't use ordinary care.  He ate and drank
more than he should, and so--"

"I suppose," pursued Miss Cornelia, watching Dale out of the corner of
her eye, "that there is no suspicion that Courtleigh Fleming robbed his
own bank?"

"Well, if he did," said the Doctor amicably, "I can testify that he
didn't have the loot with him."  His tone grew more serious.  "No! He
had his faults--but not that."

Miss Cornelia made up her mind.  She had resolved before not to summon
the Doctor for aid in her difficulties, but now that chance had brought
him here the opportunity seemed too good a one to let slip.

"Doctor," she said, "I think I ought to tell you something.  Last night
and the night before, attempts were made to enter this house. Once an
intruder actually got in and was frightened away by Lizzie at the top
of that staircase."  She indicated the alcove stairs. "And twice I have
received anonymous communications threatening my life if I did not
leave the house and go back to the city."

Dale rose from her settee, startled.

"I didn't know that, Auntie!  How dreadful!" she gasped.

Instantly Miss Cornelia regretted her impulse of confidence.  She tried
to pass the matter off with tart humor.

"Don't tell Lizzie," she said.  "She'd yell like a siren.  It's the
only thing she does like a siren, but she does it superbly!"

For a moment it seemed as if Miss Cornelia had succeeded.  The Doctor
smiled; Dale sat down again, her expression altering from one of
anxiety to one of amusement.  Miss Cornelia opened her lips to dilate
further upon Lizzie's eccentricities.

But just then there was a splintering crash of glass from one of the
French windows behind her!



CHAPTER SIX

DETECTIVE ANDERSON TAKES CHARGE

"What's that?"

"Somebody smashed a windowpane!"

"And threw in a stone!"

"Wait a minute, I'll--"  The Doctor, all alert at once, ran into the
alcove and jerked at the terrace door.

"It's bolted at the top, too," called Miss Cornelia.  He nodded,
without wasting words on a reply, unbolted the door and dashed out into
the darkness of the terrace.  Miss Cornelia saw him run past the French
windows and disappear into blackness.  Meanwhile Dale, her listlessness
vanished before the shock of the strange occurrence, had gone to the
broken window and picked up the stone.  It was wrapped in paper; there
seemed to be writing on the paper.  She closed the terrace door and
brought the stone to her aunt.

Miss Cornelia unwrapped the paper and smoothed out the sheet.

Two lines of coarse, round handwriting sprawled across it:

  Take warning!  Leave this house at once!  It is threatened with
  disaster which will involve you if you remain!

There was no signature.

"Who do you think wrote it?" asked Dale breathlessly.

Miss Cornelia straightened up like a ramrod--indomitable.

"A fool--that's who!  If anything was calculated to make me stay here
forever, this sort of thing would do it!"

She twitched the sheet of paper angrily.

"But--something may happen, darling!"

"I hope so!  That's the reason I--"

She stopped.  The doorbell was ringing again--thrilling, insistent. Her
niece started at the sound.

"Oh, don't let anybody in!" she besought Miss Cornelia as Billy came in
from the hall with his usual air of walking on velvet.

"Key, front door please--bell ring," he explained tersely, taking the
key from the table.

Miss Cornelia issued instructions.

"See that the chain is on the door, Billy.  Don't open it all the way.
And get the visitor's name before you let him in."

She lowered her voice.

"If he says he is Mr. Anderson, let him in and take him to the library."

Billy nodded and disappeared.  Dale turned to her aunt, the color out
of her cheeks.

"Anderson?  Who is Mr.--"

Miss Cornelia did not answer.  She thought for a moment.  Then she put
her hand on Dale's shoulder in a gesture of protective affection.

"Dale, dear--you know how I love having you here--but it might be
better if you went back to the city."

"Tonight, darling?" Dale managed a wan smile.  But Miss Cornelia seemed
serious.

"There's something behind all this disturbance--something I don't
understand.  But I mean to."

She glanced about to see if the Doctor was returning.  She lowered her
voice.  She drew Dale closer to her.

"The man in the library is a detective from police headquarters," she
said.

She had expected Dale to show surprise--excitement--but the white mask
of horror which the girl turned toward her appalled her.  The young
body trembled under her hand for a moment like a leaf in the storm.

"Not--the police!" breathed Dale in tones of utter consternation. Miss
Cornelia could not understand why the news had stirred her niece so
deeply.  But there was no time to puzzle it out, she heard crunching
steps on the terrace, the Doctor was returning.

"Ssh!" she whispered.  "It isn't necessary to tell the Doctor.  I think
he's a sort of perambulating bedside gossip--and once it's known the
police are here we'll NEVER catch the criminals!"

When the Doctor entered from the terrace, brushing drops of rain from
his no longer immaculate evening clothes, Dale was back on her favorite
settee and Miss Cornelia was poring over the mysterious missive that
had been wrapped about the stone.

"He got away in the shrubbery," said the Doctor disgustedly, taking out
a handkerchief to fleck the spots of mud from his shoes.

Miss Cornelia gave him the letter of warning.  "Read this," she said.

The Doctor adjusted a pair of pince-nez--read the two crude sentences
over--once--twice.  Then he looked shrewdly at Miss Cornelia.

"Were the others like this?" he queried.

She nodded.  "Practically."

He hesitated for a moment like a man with an unpleasant social duty to
face.

"Miss Van Gorder, may I speak frankly?"

"Generally speaking, I detest frankness," said that lady grimly.
"But--go on!"

The Doctor tapped the letter.  His face was wholly serious.

"I think you ought to leave this house," he said bluntly.

"Because of that letter?  Humph!"  His very seriousness, perversely
enough, made her suddenly wish to treat the whole matter as lightly as
possible.

The Doctor repressed the obvious annoyance of a man who sees a warning,
given in all sobriety, unexpectedly taken as a quip.

"There is some deviltry afoot," he persisted.  "You are not safe here,
Miss Van Gorder."

But if he was persistent in his attitude, so was she in hers.

"I've been safe in all kinds of houses for sixty-odd years," she said
lightly.  "It's time I had a bit of a change.  Besides," she gestured
toward her defenses, "this house is as nearly impregnable as I can make
it.  The window locks are sound enough, the doors are locked, and the
keys are there," she pointed to the keys lying on the table.  "As for
the terrace door you just used," she went on, "I had Billy put an extra
bolt on it today.  By the way, did you bolt that door again?"  She
moved toward the alcove.

"Yes, I did," said the Doctor quickly, still seeming unconvinced of the
wisdom of her attitude.

"Miss Van Gorder, I confess--I'm very anxious for you," he continued.
"This letter is--ominous.  Have you any enemies?"

"Don't insult me!  Of course I have.  Enemies are an indication of
character."

The Doctor's smile held both masculine pity and equally masculine
exasperation.  He went on more gently.

"Why not accept my hospitality in the village to-night?" he proposed
reasonably.  "It's a little house but I'll make you comfortable. Or,"
he threw out his hands in the gesture of one who reasons with a willful
child, "if you won't come to me, let me stay here!"

Miss Cornelia hesitated for an instant.  The proposition seemed logical
enough--more than that--sensible, safe.  And yet, some indefinable
feeling--hardly strong enough to be called a premonition--kept her from
accepting it.  Besides, she knew what the Doctor did not, that help was
waiting across the hall in the library.

"Thank you, no, Doctor," she said briskly, before she had time to
change her mind.  "I'm not easily frightened.  And tomorrow I intend to
equip this entire house with burglar alarms on doors and windows!" she
went on defiantly.  The incident, as far as she was concerned, was
closed.  She moved on into the alcove.  The Doctor stared at her,
shaking his head.

She tried the terrace door.  "There, I knew it!" she said triumphantly.
"Doctor--you didn't fasten that bolt!"

The Doctor seemed a little taken aback.  "Oh--I'm sorry--" he said.

"You only pushed it part of the way," she explained.  She completed the
task and stepped back into the living-room.  "The only thing that
worries me now is that broken French window," she said thoughtfully.
"Anyone can reach a hand through it and open the latch."  She came down
toward the settee where Dale was sitting. "Please, Doctor!"

"Oh--what are you going to do?" said the Doctor, coming out of a brown
study.

"I'm going to barricade that window!" said Miss Cornelia firmly,
already struggling to lift one end of the settee.  But now Dale came to
her rescue.

"Oh, darling, you'll hurt yourself.  Let me--" and between them, the
Doctor and Dale moved the heavy settee along until it stood in front of
the window in question.

The Doctor stood up when the dusty task was finished, wiping his hands.

"It would take a furniture mover to get in there now!" he said airily.

Miss Cornelia smiled.

"Well, Doctor--I'll say good night now--and thank you very much," she
said, extending her hand to the Doctor, who bowed over it silently.
"Don't keep this young lady up too late; she looks tired." She flashed
a look at Dale who stood staring out at the night.

"I'll only smoke a cigarette," promised the Doctor.  Once again his
voice had a note of plea in it.  "You won't change your mind?" he asked
anew.

Miss Van Gorder's smile was obdurate.  "I have a great deal of mind,"
she said.  "It takes a long time to change it."

Then, having exercised her feminine privilege of the last word, she
sailed out of the room, still smiling, and closed the door behind her.

The Doctor seemed a little nettled by her abrupt departure.

"It may be mind," he said, turning back toward Dale, "but forgive me if
I say I think it seems more like foolhardy stubbornness!"

Dale turned away from the window.  "Then you think there is really
danger?"

The Doctor's eyes were grave.

"Well--those letters--" he dropped the letter on the table. "They mean
something.  Here you are--isolated the village two miles away--and
enough shrubbery round the place to hide a dozen assassins--"

If his manner had been in the slightest degree melodramatic, Dale would
have found the ominous sentences more easy to discount.  But this calm,
intent statement of fact was a chill touch at her heart. And yet--

"But what enemies can Aunt Cornelia have?" she asked helplessly.

"Any man will tell you what I do," said the Doctor with increasing
seriousness.  He took a cigarette from his case and tapped it on the
case to emphasize his words.  "This is no place for two women,
practically alone."

Dale moved away from him restlessly, to warm her hands at the fire. The
Doctor gave a quick glance around the room.  Then, unseen by her, he
stepped noiselessly over to the table, took the matchbox there off its
holder and slipped it into his pocket.  It seemed a curiously useless
and meaningless gesture, but his next words evinced that the action had
been deliberate.

"I don't seem to be able to find any matches--" he said with assumed
carelessness, fiddling with the matchbox holder.

Dale turned away from the fire.  "Oh, aren't there any?  I'll get you
some," she said with automatic politeness, and departed to search for
them.

The Doctor watched her go--saw the door close behind her.  Instantly
his face set into tense and wary lines.  He glanced about--then ran
lightly into the alcove and noiselessly unfastened the bolt on the
terrace door which he had pretended to fasten after his search of the
shrubbery.  When Dale returned with the matches, he was back where he
had been when she had left him, glancing at a magazine on the table.

He thanked her urbanely as she offered him the box.  "So sorry to
trouble you--but tobacco is the one drug every Doctor forbids his
patients and prescribes for himself."

Dale smiled at the little joke.  He lit his cigarette and drew in the
fragrant smoke with apparent gusto.  But a moment later he had crushed
out the glowing end in an ash tray.

"By the way, has Miss Van Gorder a revolver?" he queried casually,
glancing at his wrist watch.

"Yes--she fired it off this afternoon to see if it would work." Dale
smiled at the memory.

The Doctor, too, seemed amused.  "If she tries to shoot anything--for
goodness' sake stand behind her!" he advised.  He glanced at the wrist
watch again.  "Well--I must be going--"

"If anything happens," said Dale slowly, "I shall telephone you at
once."

Her words seemed to disturb the Doctor slightly--but only for a second.
He grew even more urbane.

"I'll be home shortly after midnight," he said.  "I'm stopping at the
Johnsons' on my way--one of their children is ill--or supposed to be."
He took a step toward the door, then he turned toward Dale again.

"Take a parting word of advice," he said.  "The thing to do with a
midnight prowler is--let him alone.  Lock your bedroom doors and don't
let anything bring you out till morning."  He glanced at Dale to see
how she took the advice, his hand on the knob of the door.

"Thank you," said Dale seriously.  "Good night, Doctor--Billy will let
you out, he has the key."

"By Jove!" laughed the Doctor, "you are careful, aren't you!  The place
is like a fortress!  Well--good night, Miss Dale--"

"Good night."  The door closed behind him--Dale was left alone.
Suddenly her composure left her, the fixed smile died.  She stood
gazing ahead at nothing, her face a mask of terror and apprehension.
But it was like a curtain that had lifted for a moment on some secret
tragedy and then fallen again.  When Billy returned with the front door
key she was as impassive as he was.

"Has the new gardener come yet?"

"He here," said Billy stolidly.  "Name Brook."

She was entirely herself once more when Billy, departing, held the door
open wide--to admit Miss Cornelia Van Gorder and a tall,
strong-featured man, quietly dressed, with reticent, piercing eyes--the
detective!

Dale's first conscious emotion was one of complete surprise.  She had
expected a heavy-set, blue-jowled vulgarian with a black cigar, a
battered derby, and stubby policeman's shoes.  "Why this man's a
gentleman!" she thought.  "At least he looks like one--and yet--you can
tell from his face he'd have as little mercy as a steel trap for anyone
he had to--catch--"  She shuddered uncontrollably.

"Dale, dear," said Miss Cornelia with triumph in her voice.  "This is
Mr. Anderson."

The newcomer bowed politely, glancing at her casually and then looking
away.  Miss Cornelia, however, was obviously in fine feather and
relishing to the utmost the presence of a real detective in the house.

"This is the room I spoke of," she said briskly.  "All the disturbances
have taken place around that terrace door."

The detective took three swift steps into the alcove, glanced about it
searchingly.  He indicated the stairs.

"That is not the main staircase?"

"No, the main staircase is out there," Miss Cornelia waved her hand in
the direction of the hall.

The detective came out of the alcove and paused by the French windows.

"I think there must be a conspiracy between the Architects' Association
and the Housebreakers' Union these days," he said grimly. "Look at all
that glass.  All a burglar needs is a piece of putty and a
diamond-cutter to break in."

"But the curious thing is," continued Miss Cornelia, "that whoever got
into the house evidently had a key to that door."  Again she indicated
the terrace door, but Anderson did not seem to be listening to her.

"Hello--what's this?" he said sharply, his eye lighting on the broken
glass below the shattered French window.  He picked up a piece of glass
and examined it.

Dale cleared her throat.  "It was broken from the outside a few minutes
ago," she said.

"The outside?"  Instantly the detective had pulled aside a blind and
was staring out into the darkness.

"Yes.  And then that letter was thrown in."  She pointed to the
threatening missive on the center table.

Anderson picked it up, glanced through it, laid it down.  All his
movements were quick and sure--each executed with the minimum expense
of effort.

"H'm," he said in a calm voice that held a glint of humor.  "Curious,
the anonymous letter complex!  Apparently someone considers you an
undesirable tenant!"

Miss Cornelia took up the tale.

"There are some things I haven't told you yet," she said.  "This house
belonged to the late Courtleigh Fleming."  He glanced at her sharply.

"The Union Bank?"

"Yes.  I rented it for the summer and moved in last Monday.  We have
not had a really quiet night since I came.  The very first night I saw
a man with an electric flashlight making his way through the shrubbery!"

"You poor dear!" from Dale sympathetically.  "And you were here alone!"

"Well, I had Lizzie.  And," said Miss Cornelia with enormous
importance, opening the drawer of the center table, "I had my revolver.
I know so little about these things, Mr. Anderson, that if I didn't hit
a burglar, I knew I'd hit somebody or something!" and she gazed with
innocent awe directly down the muzzle of her beloved weapon, then waved
it with an airy gesture beneath the detective's nose.

Anderson gave an involuntary start, then his eyes lit up with grim
mirth.

"Would you mind putting that away?" he said suavely.  "I like to get in
the papers as much as anybody, but I don't want to have them say--omit
flowers."

Miss Cornelia gave him a glare of offended pride, but he endured it
with such quiet equanimity that she merely replaced the revolver in the
drawer, with a hurt expression, and waited for him to open the next
topic of conversation.

He finished his preliminary survey of the room and returned to her.

"Now you say you don't think anybody has got upstairs yet?" he queried.

Miss Cornelia regarded the alcove stairs.

"I think not.  I'm a very light sleeper, especially since the papers
have been so full of the exploits of this criminal they call the Bat.
He's in them again tonight."  She nodded toward the evening paper.

The detective smiled faintly.

"Yes, he's contrived to surround himself with such an air of mystery
that it verges on the supernatural--or seems that way to newspapermen."

"I confess," admitted Miss Cornelia, "I've thought of him in this
connection."  She looked at Anderson to see how he would take the
suggestion but the latter merely smiled again, this time more broadly.

"That's going rather a long way for a theory," he said.  "And the Bat
is not in the habit of giving warnings."

"Nevertheless," she insisted, "somebody has been trying to get into
this house, night after night."

Anderson seemed to be revolving a theory in his mind.

"Any liquor stored here?" he asked.

Miss Cornelia nodded.  "Yes."

"What?"

Miss Cornelia beamed at him maliciously.  "Eleven bottles of home-made
elderberry wine."

"You're safe."  The detective smiled ruefully.  He picked up the
evening paper, glanced at it, shook his head.  "I'd forget the Bat in
all this.  You can always tell when the Bat has had anything to do with
a crime.  When he's through, he signs his name to it."

Miss Cornelia sat bolt upright.  "His name?  I thought nobody knew his
name?"

The detective made a little gesture of apology.  "That was a figure of
speech.  The newspapers named him the Bat because he moved with
incredible rapidity, always at night, and by signing his name I mean he
leaves the symbol of his identity--the Bat, which can see in the dark."

"I wish I could," said Miss Cornelia, striving to seem unimpressed.
"These country lights are always going out."

Anderson's face grew stern.  "Sometimes he draws the outline of a bat
at the scene of the crime.  Once, in some way, he got hold of a real
bat, and nailed it to the wall."

Dale, listening, could not repress a shudder at the gruesome
picture--and Miss Cornelia's hands gave an involuntary twitch as her
knitting needles clicked together.  Anderson seemed by no means
unconscious of the effect he had created.

"How many people in this house, Miss Van Gorder?"

"My niece and myself." Miss Cornelia indicated Dale, who had picked up
her wrap and was starting to leave the room.  "Lizzie Allen--who has
been my personal maid ever since I was a child--the Japanese butler,
and the gardener.  The cook and the housemaid left this
morning--frightened away."

She smiled as she finished her description.  Dale reached the door and
passed slowly out into the hall.  The detective gave her a single,
sharp glance as she made her exit.  He seemed to think over the factors
Miss Cornelia had mentioned.

"Well," he said, after a slight pause, "you can have a good night's
sleep tonight.  I'll stay right here in the dark and watch."

"Would you like some coffee to keep you awake?"

Anderson nodded.  "Thank you."  His voice sank lower.  "Do the servants
know who I am?"

"Only Lizzie, my maid."

His eyes fixed hers.  "I wouldn't tell anyone I'm remaining up all
night," he said.

A formless fear rose in Miss Cornelia's mind.  "You don't suspect my
household?" she said in a low voice.

He spoke with emphasis--all the more pronounced because of the quietude
of his tone.

"I'm not taking any chances," he said determinedly.



CHAPTER SEVEN

CROSS-QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS

All unconscious of the slur just cast upon her forty years of
single-minded devotion to the Van Gorder family, Lizzie chose that
particular moment to open the door and make a little bob at her
mistress and the detective.

"The gentleman's room is ready," she said meekly.  In her mind she was
already beseeching her patron saint that she would not have to show the
gentleman to his room.  Her ideas of detectives were entirely drawn
from sensational magazines and her private opinion was that Anderson
might have anything in his pocket from a set of terrifying false
whiskers to a bomb!

Miss Cornelia, obedient to the detective's instructions, promptly told
the whitest of fibs for Lizzie's benefit.

"The maid will show you to your room now and you can make yourself
comfortable for the night."  There--that would mislead Lizzie, without
being quite a lie.

"My toilet is made for an occasion like this when I've got my gun
loaded," answered Anderson carelessly.  The allusion to the gun made
Lizzie start nervously, unhappily for her, for it drew his attention to
her and he now transfixed her with a stare.

"This is the maid you referred to?" he inquired.  Miss Cornelia
assented.  He drew nearer to the unhappy Lizzie.

"What's your name?" he asked, turning to her.

"E-Elizabeth Allen," stammered Lizzie, feeling like a small and
distrustful sparrow in the toils of an officious python.

Anderson seemed to run through a mental rogues gallery of other
criminals named Elizabeth Allen that he had known.

"How old are you?" he proceeded.

Lizzie looked at her mistress despairingly.  "Have I got to answer
that?" she wailed.  Miss Cornelia nodded--inexorably.

Lizzie braced herself.  "Thirty-two," she said, with an arch toss of
her head.

The detective looked surprised and slightly amused.

"She's fifty if she's a day," said Miss Cornelia treacherously in spite
of a look from Lizzie that would have melted a stone.

The trace of a smile appeared and vanished on the detective's face.

"Now, Lizzie," he said sternly, "do you ever walk in your sleep?"

"I do not," said Lizzie indignantly.

"Don't care for the country, I suppose?"

"I do not!"

"Or detectives?" Anderson deigned to be facetious.

"I DO NOT!" There could be no doubt as to the sincerity of Lizzie's
answer.

"All right, Lizzie.  Be calm.  I can stand it," said the detective with
treacherous suavity.  But he favored her with a long and careful
scrutiny before he moved to the table and picked up the note that had
been thrown through the window.  Quietly he extended it beneath
Lizzie's nose.

"Ever see this before?" he said crisply, watching her face.

Lizzie read the note with bulging eyes, her face horror-stricken. When
she had finished, she made a gesture of wild disclaimer that nearly
removed a portion of Anderson's left ear.

"Mercy on us!" she moaned, mentally invoking not only her patron saint
but all the rosary of heaven to protect herself and her mistress.

But the detective still kept his eye on her.

"Didn't write it yourself, did you?" he queried curtly.

"I did not!" said Lizzie angrily.  "I did not!"

"And--you're sure you don't walk in your sleep?"  The bare idea
strained Lizzie's nerves to the breaking point.

"When I get into bed in this house I wouldn't put my feet out for a
million dollars!" she said with heartfelt candor.  Even Anderson was
compelled to grin at this.

"Then I won't ask you to," he said, relaxing considerably; "That's more
money than I'm worth, Lizzie."

"Well, I'll say it is!" quoth Lizzie, now thoroughly aroused, and
flounced out of the room in high dudgeon, her pompadour bristling,
before he had time to interrogate her further.

He replaced the note on the table and turned back to Miss Cornelia. If
he had found any clue to the mystery in Lizzie's demeanor, she could
not read it in his manner.

"Now, what about the butler?" he said.

"Nothing about him--except that he was Courtleigh Fleming's servant."

Anderson paused.  "Do you consider that significant?"

A shadow appeared behind him deep in the alcove--a vague, listening
figure--Dale--on tiptoe, conspiratorial, taking pains not to draw the
attention of the others to her presence.  But both Miss Cornelia and
Anderson were too engrossed in their conversation to notice her.

Miss Cornelia hesitated.

"Isn't it possible that there is a connection between the colossal
theft at the Union Bank and these disturbances?" she said.

Anderson seemed to think over the question.

"What do you mean?" he asked as Dale slowly moved into the room from
the alcove, silently closing the alcove doors behind her, and still
unobserved.

"Suppose," said Miss Cornelia slowly, "that Courtleigh Fleming took
that money from his own bank and concealed it in this house?"  The
eavesdropper grew rigid.

"That's the theory you gave headquarters, isn't it?" said Anderson.
"But I'll tell you how headquarters figures it out.  In the first
place, the cashier is missing.  In the second place, if Courtleigh
Fleming did it and got as far as Colorado, he had it with him when he
died, and the facts apparently don't bear that out.  In the third
place, suppose he had hidden the money in or around this house. Why did
he rent it to you?"

"But he didn't," said Miss Cornelia obstinately, "I leased this house
from his nephew, his heir."

The detective smiled tolerantly.

"Well, I wouldn't struggle like that for a theory," he said, the
professional note coming back to his voice.  "The cashier's
missing--that's the answer."

Miss Cornelia resented his offhand demolition of the mental card-castle
she had erected with such pride.

"I have read a great deal on the detection of crime," she said hotly,
"and--"

"Well, we all have our little hobbies," he said tolerantly.  "A good
many people rather fancy themselves as detectives and run around
looking for clues under the impression that a clue is a big and vital
factor that sticks up like--well, like a sore thumb.  The fact is that
the criminal takes care of the big and important factors.  It's only
the little ones he may overlook.  To go back to your friend the Bat,
it's because of his skill in little things that he's still at large."

"Then you don't think there's a chance that the money from the Union
Bank is in this house?" persisted Miss Cornelia.

"I think it very unlikely."

Miss Cornelia put her knitting away and rose.  She still clung
tenaciously to her own theories but her belief in them had been badly
shaken.

"If you'll come with me, I'll show you to your room," she said a little
stiffly.  The detective stepped back to let her pass.

"Sorry to spoil your little theory," he said, and followed her to the
door.  If either had noticed the unobtrusive listener to their
conversation, neither made a sign.

The moment the door had closed on them Dale sprang into action. She
seemed a different girl from the one who had left the room so
inconspicuously such a short time before.  There were two bright spots
of color in her cheeks and she was obviously laboring under great
excitement.  She went quickly to the alcove doors--they opened
softly--disclosing the young man who had said that he was Brooks the
new gardener--and yet not the same young man--for his assumed air of
servitude had dropped from him like a cloak, revealing him as a young
fellow at least of the same general social class as Dale's if not a
fellow-inhabitant of the select circle where Van Gorders revolved about
Van Gorders, and a man's great-grandfather was more important than the
man himself.

Dale cautioned him with a warning finger as he advanced into the room.

"Sh!  Sh!" she whispered.  "Be careful!  That man's a detective!"

Brooks gave a hunted glance at the door into the hall.

"Then they've traced me here," he said in a dejected voice.

"I don't think so."

He made a gesture of helplessness.

"I couldn't get back to my rooms," he said in a whisper.  "If they've
searched them," he paused, "as they're sure to--they'll find your
letters to me."  He paused again.  "Your aunt doesn't suspect anything?"

"No, I told her I'd engaged a gardener--and that's all there was about
it."

He came nearer to her.  "Dale!" he murmured in a tense voice.  "You
know I didn't take that money!" he said with boyish simplicity.

All the loyalty of first-love was in her answer.

"Of course!  I believe in you absolutely!" she said.  He caught her in
his arms and kissed her--gratefully, passionately.  Then the galling
memory of the predicament in which he stood, the hunt already on his
trail, came back to him.  He released her gently, still holding one of
her hands.

"But--the police here!" he stammered, turning away.  "What does that
mean?"

Dale swiftly informed him of the situation.

"Aunt Cornelia says people have been trying to break into this house
for days--at night."

Brooks ran his hand through his hair in a gesture of bewilderment. Then
he seemed to catch at a hope.

"What sort of people?" he queried sharply.

Dale was puzzled.  "She doesn't know."

The excitement in her lover's manner came to a head.  "That proves
exactly what I've contended right along," he said, thudding one fist
softly in the palm of the other.  "Through some underneath channel old
Fleming has been selling those securities for months, turning them into
cash.  And somebody knows about it, and knows that that money is hidden
here.  Don't you see?  Your Aunt Cornelia has crabbed the game by
coming here."

"Why didn't you tell the police that?  Now they think, because you ran
away--"

"Ran away!  The only chance I had was a few hours to myself to try to
prove what actually happened."

"Why don't you tell the detective what you think?" said Dale at her
wits' end.  "That Courtleigh Fleming took the money and that it is
still here?"

Her lover's face grew somber.

"He'd take me into custody at once and I'd have no chance to search."

He was searching now--his eyes roved about the
living-room--walls--ceiling--hopefully--desperately--looking for a
clue--the tiniest clue to support his theory.

"Why are you so sure it is here?" queried Dale.

Brooks explained.  "You must remember Fleming was no ordinary defaulter
and he had no intention of being exiled to a foreign country.  He
wanted to come back here and take his place in the community while I
was in the pen."

"But even then--"

He interrupted her.  "Listen, dear--"  He crossed to the billiard-room
door, closed it firmly, returned.

"The architect that built this house was an old friend of mine," he
said in hushed accents.  "We were together in France and you know the
way fellows get to talking when they're far away and cut off--"  He
paused, seeing the cruel gleam of the flame throwers--two figures
huddled in a foxhole, whiling away the terrible hours of waiting by
muttered talk.

"Just an hour or two before--a shell got this friend of mine," he
resumed, "he told me he had built a hidden room in this house."

"Where?" gasped Dale.

Brooks shook his head.  "I don't know.  We never got to finish that
conversation.  But I remember what he said.  He said, 'You watch old
Fleming.  If I get mine over here it won't break his heart.  He didn't
want any living being to know about that room.'"

Now Dale was as excited as he.

"Then you think the money is in this hidden room?"

"I do," said Brooks decidedly.  "I don't think Fleming took it away
with him.  He was too shrewd for that.  No, he meant to come back all
right, the minute he got the word the bank had been looted.  And he'd
fixed things so I'd be railroaded to prison--you wouldn't understand,
but it was pretty neat.  And then the fool nephew rents this house the
minute he's dead, and whoever knows about the money--"

"Jack!  Why isn't it the nephew who is trying to break in?"

"He wouldn't have to break in.  He could make an excuse and come in any
time."

He clenched his hands despairingly.

"If I could only get hold of a blue-print of this place!" he muttered.

Dale's face fell.  It was sickening to be so close to the secret--and
yet not find it.  "Oh, Jack, I'm so confused and worried!" she
confessed, with a little sob.

Brooks put his hands on her shoulders in an effort to cheer her spirits.

"Now listen, dear," he said firmly, "this isn't as hard as it sounds.
I've got a clear night to work in--and as true as I'm standing here,
that money's in this house.  Listen, honey--it's like this."  He
pantomimed the old nursery rhyme of The House that Jack Built, "Here's
the house that Courtleigh Fleming built--here, somewhere, is the Hidden
Room in the house that Courtleigh Fleming built--and
here--somewhere--pray Heaven--is the money--in the Hidden Room--in the
house that Courtleigh Fleming built.  When you're low in your mind,
just say that over!"

She managed a faint smile.  "I've forgotten it already," she said,
drooping.

He still strove for an offhand gaiety that he did not feel.

"Why, look here!" and she followed the play of his hands obediently,
like a tired child, "it's a sort of game, dearest.  'Money,
money--who's got the money?'  You know!"  For the dozenth time he
stared at the unrevealing walls of the room.  "For that matter," he
added, "the Hidden Room may be behind these very walls."

He looked about for a tool, a poker, anything that would sound the
walls and test them for hollow spaces.  Ah, he had it--that driver in
the bag of golf clubs over in the corner.  He got the driver and stood
wondering where he had best begin.  That blank wall above the fireplace
looked as promising as any.  He tapped it gently with the golf
club--afraid to make too much noise and yet anxious to test the wall as
thoroughly as possible.  A dull, heavy reverberation answered his
stroke--nothing hollow there apparently.

As he tried another spot, again thunder beat the long roll on its iron
drum outside, in the night.  The lights blinked--wavered--recovered.

"The lights are going out again," said Dale dully, her excitement sunk
into a stupefied calm.

"Let them go!  The less light the better for me.  The only thing to do
is to go over this house room by room."  He pointed to the billiard
room door.  "What's in there?"

"The billiard room." She was thinking hard.  "Jack!  Perhaps Courtleigh
Fleming's nephew would know where the blue-prints are!"

He looked dubious.  "It's a chance, but not a very good one," he said.
"Well--"  He led the way into the billiard room and began to rap at
random upon its walls while Dale listened intently for any echo that
might betray the presence of a hidden chamber or sliding panel.

Thus it happened that Lizzie received the first real thrill of what was
to prove to her--and to others--a sensational and hideous night.  For,
coming into the living-room to lay a cloth for Mr. Anderson's night
suppers not only did the lights blink threateningly and the thunder
roll, but a series of spirit raps was certainly to be heard coming from
the region of the billiard room.

"Oh, my God!" she wailed, and the next instant the lights went out,
leaving her in inky darkness.  With a loud shriek she bolted out of the
room.

Thunder--lightning--dashing of rain on the streaming glass of the
windows--the storm hallooing its hounds.  Dale huddled close to her
lover as they groped their way back to the living-room, cautiously,
doing their best to keep from stumbling against some heavy piece of
furniture whose fall would arouse the house.

"There's a candle on the table, Jack, if I can find the table." Her
outstretched hands touched a familiar object.  "Here it is." She
fumbled for a moment.  "Have you any matches?"

"Yes."  He struck one--another--lit the candle--set it down on the
table.  In the weak glow of the little taper, whose tiny flame
illuminated but a portion of the living-room, his face looked tense and
strained.

"It's pretty nearly hopeless," he said, "if all the walls are paneled
like that."

As if in mockery of his words and his quest, a muffled knocking that
seemed to come from the ceiling of the very room he stood in answered
his despair.

"What's that?" gasped Dale.

They listened.  The knocking was repeated--knock--knock--knock--knock.

"Someone else is looking for the Hidden Room!" muttered Brooks, gazing
up at the ceiling intently, as if he could tear from it the secret of
this new mystery by sheer strength of will.



CHAPTER EIGHT

THE GLEAMING EYE

"It's upstairs!"  Dale took a step toward the alcove stairs.  Brooks
halted her.

"Who's in this house besides ourselves?" he queried.

"Only the detective, Aunt Cornelia, Lizzie, and Billy."

"Billy's the Jap?"

"Yes."

Brooks paused an instant.  "Does he belong to your aunt?"

"No.  He was Courtleigh Fleming's butler."

Knock--knock--knock--knock the dull, methodical rapping on the ceiling
of the living-room began again.

"Courtleigh Fleming's butler, eh?" muttered Brooks.  He put down his
candle and stole noiselessly into the alcove.  "It may be the Jap!" he
whispered.

Knock--knock--knock--knock!  This time the mysterious rapping seemed to
come from the upper hall.

"If it is the Jap, I'll get him!" Brooks's voice was tense with
resolution.  He hesitated--made for the hall door--tiptoed out into the
darkness around the main staircase, leaving Dale alone in the
living-room beset by shadowy terrors.

Utter silence succeeded his noiseless departure.  Even the storm lulled
for a moment.  Dale stood thinking, wondering, searching desperately
for some way to help her lover.

At last a resolution formed in her mind.  She went to the city
telephone.

"Hello," she said in a low voice, glancing over her shoulder now and
then to make sure she was not overheard.  "1-2-4--please--yes, that's
right.  Hello--is that the country club?  Is Mr. Richard Fleming there?
Yes, I'll hold the wire."

She looked about nervously.  Had something moved in that corner of
blackness where her candle did not pierce?  No!  How silly of her!

Buzz-buzz on the telephone.  She picked up the receiver again.

"Hello--is this Mr. Fleming?  This is Miss Ogden--Dale Ogden.  I know
it must seem odd my calling you this late, but--I wonder if you could
come over here for a few minutes.  Yes--tonight."  Her voice grew
stronger.  "I wouldn't trouble you but--it's awfully important.  Hold
the wire a moment."  She put down the phone and made another swift
survey of the room, listened furtively at the door--all clear!  She
returned to the phone.

"Hello--Mr. Fleming--I'll wait outside the house on the drive. It--it's
a confidential matter.  Thank you so much."

She hung up the phone, relieved--not an instant too soon, for, as she
crossed toward the fireplace to add a new log to the dying glow of the
fire, the hall door opened and Anderson, the detective, came softly in
with an unlighted candle in his hand.

Her composure almost deserted her.  How much had he heard?  What
deduction would he draw if he had heard?  An assignation, perhaps!
Well, she could stand that; she could stand anything to secure the next
few hours of liberty for Jack.  For that length of time she and the law
were at war; she and this man were at war.

But his first words relieved her fears.

"Spooky sort of place in the dark, isn't it?" he said casually.

"Yes--rather."  If he would only go away before Brooks came back or
Richard Fleming arrived!  But he seemed in a distressingly chatty frame
of mind.

"Left me upstairs without a match," continued Anderson.  "I found my
way down by walking part of the way and falling the rest.  Don't
suppose I'll ever find the room I left my toothbrush in!"  He laughed,
lighting the candle in his hand from the candle on the table.

"You're not going to stay up all night, are you?" said Dale nervously,
hoping he would take the hint.  But he seemed entirely oblivious of
such minor considerations as sleep.  He took out a cigar.

"Oh, I may doze a bit," he said.  He eyed her with a certain approval.
She was a darned pretty girl and she looked intelligent. "I suppose you
have a theory of your own about these intrusions you've been having
here?  Or apparently having."

"I knew nothing about them until tonight."

"Still," he persisted conversationally, "you know about them now." But
when she remained silent, "Is Miss Van Gorder usually--of a nervous
temperament?  Imagines she sees things, and all that?"

"I don't think so." Dale's voice was strained.  Where was Brooks? What
had happened to him?

Anderson puffed on his cigar, pondering.  "Know the Flemings?" he asked.

"I've met Mr. Richard Fleming once or twice."

Something in her tone caused him to glance at her.  "Nice fellow?"

"I don't know him at all well."

"Know the cashier of the Union Bank?" he shot at her suddenly.

"No!"  She strove desperately to make the denial convincing but she
could not hide the little tremor in her voice.

The detective mused.

"Fellow of good family, I understand," he said, eyeing her.  "Very
popular.  That's what's behind most of these bank embezzlements--men
getting into society and spending more than they make."

Dale hailed the tinkle of the city telephone with an inward sigh of
relief.  The detective moved to answer the house phone on the wall by
the alcove, mistaking the direction of the ring.  Dale corrected him
quickly.

"No, the other one.  That's the house phone."  Anderson looked the
apparatus over.

"No connection with the outside, eh?"

"No," said Dale absent-mindedly.  "Just from room to room in the house."

He accepted her explanation and answered the other telephone.

"Hello--hello--what the--"  He moved the receiver hook up and down,
without result, and gave it up.  "This line sounds dead," he said.

"It was all right a few minutes ago," said Dale without thinking.

"You were using it a few minutes ago?"

She hesitated--what use to deny what she had already admitted, for all
practical purposes.

"Yes."

The city telephone rang again.  The detective pounced upon it.

"Hello--yes--yes--this is Anderson--go ahead."  He paused, while the
tiny voice in the receiver buzzed for some seconds.  Then he
interrupted it impatiently.

"You're sure of that, are you?  I see.  All right.  'By."

He hung up the receiver and turned swiftly on Dale.  "Did I understand
you to say that you were not acquainted with the cashier of the Union
Bank?" he said to her with a new note in his voice.

Dale stared ahead of her blankly.  It had come!  She did not reply.

Anderson went on ruthlessly.

"That was headquarters, Miss Ogden.  They have found some letters in
Bailey's room which seem to indicate that you were not telling the
entire truth just now."

He paused, waiting for her answer.  "What letters?" she said wearily.

"From you to Jack Bailey--showing that you had recently become engaged
to him."

Dale decided to make a clean breast of it, or as clean a one as she
dared.

"Very well," she said in an even voice, "that's true."

"Why didn't you say so before?"  There was menace beneath his suavity.

She thought swiftly.  Apparent frankness seemed to be the only resource
left her.  She gave him a candid smile.

"It's been a secret.  I haven't even told my aunt yet."  Now she let
indignation color her tones.  "How can the police be so stupid as to
accuse Jack Bailey, a young man and about to be married?  Do you think
he would wreck his future like that?"

"Some people wouldn't call it wrecking a future to lay away a million
dollars," said Anderson ominously.  He came closer to Dale, fixing her
with his eyes.  "Do you know where Bailey is now?"  He spoke slowly and
menacingly.

She did not flinch.

"No."

The detective paused.

"Miss Ogden," he said, still with that hidden threat in his voice, "in
the last minute or so the Union Bank case and certain things in this
house have begun to tie up pretty close together.  Bailey disappeared
this morning.  Have you heard from him since?"

Her eyes met his without weakening, her voice was cool and composed.

"No."

The detective did not comment on her answer.  She could not tell from
his face whether he thought she had told the truth or lied. He turned
away from her brusquely.

"I'll ask you to bring Miss Van Gorder here," he said in his
professional voice.

"Why do you want her?" Dale blazed at him rebelliously.

He was quiet.  "Because this case is taking on a new phase."

"You don't think I know anything about that money?" she said, a little
wildly, hoping that a display of sham anger might throw him off the
trail he seemed to be following.

He seemed to accept her words, cynically, at their face value.

"No," he said, "but you know somebody who does."  Dale hesitated,
sought for a biting retort, found none.  It did not matter; any
respite, no matter how momentary, from these probing questions, would
be a relief.  She silently took one of the lighted candles and left the
living-room to search for her aunt.

Left alone, the detective reflected for a moment, then picking up the
one lighted candle that remained, commenced a systematic examination of
the living-room.  His methods were thorough, but if, when he came to
the end of his quest, he had made any new discoveries, the reticent
composure of his face did not betray the fact.  When he had finished he
turned patiently toward the billiard room--the little flame of his
candle was swallowed up in its dark recesses--he closed the door of the
living-room behind him.  The storm was dying away now, but a few
flashes of lightning still flickered, lighting up the darkness of the
deserted living-room now and then with a harsh, brief glare.

A lightning flash--a shadow cast abruptly on the shade of one of the
French windows, to disappear as abruptly as the flash was blotted
out--the shadow of a man--a prowler--feeling his way through the
lightning-slashed darkness to the terrace door.  The detective?
Brooks?  The Bat?  The lightning flash was too brief for any observer
to have recognized the stealing shape--if any observer had been there.

But the lack of an observer was promptly remedied.  Just as the shadowy
shape reached the terrace door and its shadow-fingers closed over the
knob, Lizzie entered the deserted living-room on stumbling feet.  She
was carrying a tray of dishes and food--some cold meat on a platter, a
cup and saucer, a roll, a butter pat--and she walked slowly, with
terror only one leap behind her and blank darkness ahead.

She had only reached the table and was preparing to deposit her tray
and beat a shameful retreat, when a sound behind her made her turn.
The key in the door from the terrace to the alcove had clicked.
Paralyzed with fright she stared and waited, and the next moment a
formless thing, a blacker shadow in a world of shadows, passed swiftly
in and up the small staircase.

But not only a shadow.  To Lizzie's terrified eyes it bore an eye, a
single gleaming eye, just above the level of the stair rail, and this
eye was turned on her.

It was too much.  She dropped the tray on the table with a crash and
gave vent to a piercing shriek that would have shamed the siren of a
fire engine.

Miss Cornelia and Anderson, rushing in from the hall and the billiard
room respectively, each with a lighted candle, found her gasping and
clutching at the table for support.

"For the love of heaven, what's wrong?" cried Miss Cornelia
irritatedly.  The coffeepot she was carrying in her other hand spilled
a portion of its boiling contents on Lizzie's shoe and Lizzie screamed
anew and began to dance up and down on the uninjured foot.

"Oh, my foot--my foot!" she squealed hysterically.  "My foot!"

Miss Cornelia tried to shake her back to her senses.

"My patience!  Did you yell like that because you stubbed your toe?"

"You scalded it!" cried Lizzie wildly.  "It went up the staircase!"

"Your toe went up the staircase?"

"No, no!  An eye--an eye as big as a saucer!  It ran right up that
staircase--" She indicated the alcove with a trembling forefinger. Miss
Cornelia put her coffeepot and her candle down on the table and opened
her mouth to express her frank opinion of her factotum's sanity.  But
here the detective took charge.

"Now see here," he said with some sternness to the quaking Lizzie,
"stop this racket and tell me what you saw!"

"A ghost!" persisted Lizzie, still hopping around on one leg.  "It came
right through that door and ran up the stairs--oh--" and she seemed
prepared to scream again as Dale, white-faced, came in from the hall,
followed by Billy and Brooks, the latter holding still another candle.

"Who screamed?" said Dale tensely.

"I did!" Lizzie wailed, "I saw a ghost!"  She turned to Miss Cornelia.
"I begged you not to come here," she vociferated.  "I begged you on my
bended knees.  There's a graveyard not a quarter of a mile away."

"Yes, and one more scare like that, Lizzie Allen, and you'll have me
lying in it," said her mistress unsympathetically.  She moved up to
examine the scene of Lizzie's ghostly misadventure, while Anderson
began to interrogate its heroine.

"Now, Lizzie," he said, forcing himself to urbanity, "what did you
really see?"

"I told you what I saw."

His manner grew somewhat threatening.

"You're not trying to frighten Miss Van Gorder into leaving this house
and going back to the city?"

"Well, if I am," said Lizzie with grim, unconscious humor, "I'm giving
myself an awful good scare, too, ain't I?"

The two glared at each other as Miss Cornelia returned from her survey
of the alcove.

"Somebody who had a key could have got in here, Mr. Anderson," she said
annoyedly.  "That terrace door's been unbolted from the inside."

Lizzie groaned.  "I told you so," she wailed.  "I knew something was
going to happen tonight.  I heard rappings all over the house today,
and the ouija-board spelled Bat!"

The detective recovered his poise.  "I think I see the answer to your
puzzle, Miss Van Gorder," he said, with a scornful glance at Lizzie.
"A hysterical and not very reliable woman, anxious to go back to the
city and terrified over and over by the shutting off of the electric
lights."

If looks could slay, his characterization of Lizzie would have laid him
dead at her feet at that instant.  Miss Van Gorder considered his
theory.

"I wonder," she said.

The detective rubbed his hands together more cheerfully.

"A good night's sleep and--" he began, but the irrepressible Lizzie
interrupted him.

"My God, we're not going to bed, are we?" she said, with her eyes as
big as saucers.

He gave her a kindly pat on the shoulder, which she obviously resented.

"You'll feel better in the morning," he said.  "Lock your door and say
your prayers, and leave the rest to me."

Lizzie muttered something inaudible and rebellious, but now Miss
Cornelia added her protestations to his.

"That's very good advice," she said decisively.  "You take her, Dale."

Reluctantly, with a dragging of feet and scared glances cast back over
her shoulder, Lizzie allowed herself to be drawn toward the door and
the main staircase by Dale.  But she did not depart without one
Parthian shot.

"I'm not going to bed!" she wailed as Dale's strong young arm helped
her out into the hall.  "Do you think I want to wake up in the morning
with my throat cut?"  Then the creaking of the stairs, and Dale's
soothing voice reassuring her as she painfully clambered toward the
third floor, announced that Lizzie, for some time at least, had been
removed as an active factor from the puzzling equation of Cedarcrest.

Anderson confronted Miss Cornelia with certain relief.

"There are certain things I want to discuss with you, Miss Van Gorder,"
he said.  "But they can wait until tomorrow morning."

Miss Cornelia glanced about the room.  His manner was reassuring.

"Do you think all this--pure imagination?" she said.

"Don't you?"

She hesitated.  "I'm not sure."

He laughed.  "I'll tell you what I'll do.  You go upstairs and go to
bed comfortably.  I'll make a careful search of the house before I
settle down, and if I find anything at all suspicious, I'll promise to
let you know."

She agreed to that, and after sending the Jap out for more coffee
prepared to go upstairs.

Never had the thought of her own comfortable bed appealed to her so
much.  But, in spite of her weariness, she could not quite resign
herself to take Lizzie's story as lightly as the detective seemed to.

"If what Lizzie says is true," she said, taking her candle, "the upper
floors of the house are even less safe than this one."

"I imagine Lizzie's account just now is about as reliable as her
previous one as to her age," Anderson assured her.  "I'm certain you
need not worry.  Just go on up and get your beauty sleep; I'm sure you
need it."

On which ambiguous remark Miss Van Gorder took her leave, rather grimly
smiling.

It was after she had gone that Anderson's glance fell on Brooks,
standing warily in the doorway.

"What are you?  The gardener?"

But Brooks was prepared for him.

"Ordinarily I drive a car," he said.  "Just now I'm working on the
place here."

Anderson was observing him closely, with the eyes of a man ransacking
his memory for a name--a picture.  "I've seen you somewhere--" he went
on slowly.  "And I'll--place you before long."  There was a little
threat in his shrewd scrutiny.  He took a step toward Brooks.

"Not in the portrait gallery at headquarters, are you?"

"Not yet." Brooks's voice was resentful.  Then he remembered his pose
and his back grew supple, his whole attitude that of the respectful
servant.

"Well, we slip up now and then," said the detective slowly.  Then,
apparently, he gave up his search for the name--the pictured face. But
his manner was still suspicious.

"All right, Brooks," he said tersely, "if you're needed in the night,
you'll be called!"

Brooks bowed.  "Very well, sir."  He closed the door softly behind him,
glad to have escaped as well as he had.

But that he had not entirely lulled the detective's watchfulness to
rest was evident as soon as he had gone.  Anderson waited a few
seconds, then moved noiselessly over to the hall door--listened--opened
it suddenly--closed it again.  Then he proceeded to examine the
alcove--the stairs, where the gleaming eye had wavered like a
corpse-candle before Lizzie's affrighted vision.  He tested the terrace
door and bolted it.  How much truth had there been in her story?  He
could not decide, but he drew out his revolver nevertheless and gave it
a quick inspection to see if it was in working order.  A smile crept
over his face--the smile of a man who has dangerous work to do and does
not shrink from the prospect. He put the revolver back in his pocket
and, taking the one lighted candle remaining, went out by the hall
door, as the storm burst forth in fresh fury and the window-panes of
the living-room rattled before a new reverberation of thunder.

For a moment, in the living-room, except for the thunder, all was
silence.  Then the creak of surreptitious footsteps broke the
stillness--light footsteps descending the alcove stairs where the
gleaming eye had passed.

It was Dale slipping out of the house to keep her appointment with
Richard Fleming.  She carried a raincoat over her arm and a pair of
rubbers in one hand.  Her other hand held a candle.  By the terrace
door she paused, unbolted it, glanced out into the streaming night with
a shiver.  Then she came into the living-room and sat down to put on
her rubbers.

Hardly had she begun to do so when she started up again.  A muffled
knocking sounded at the terrace door.  It was ominous and determined,
and in a panic of terror she rose to her feet.  If it was the law, come
after Jack, what should she do?  Or again, suppose it was the Unknown
who had threatened them with death?  Not coherent thoughts these, but
chaotic, bringing panic with them.  Almost unconscious of what she was
doing, she reached into the drawer beside her, secured the revolver
there and leveled it at the door.



CHAPTER NINE

A SHOT IN THE DARK

A key clicked in the terrace door--a voice swore muffledly at the rain.
Dale lowered her revolver slowly.  It was Richard Fleming--come to meet
her here, instead of down by the drive.

She had telephoned him on an impulse.  But now, as she looked at him in
the light of her single candle, she wondered if this rather dissipated,
rather foppish young man about town, in his early thirties, could
possibly understand and appreciate the motives that had driven her to
seek his aid.  Still, it was for Jack!  She clenched her teeth and
resolved to go through with the plan mapped out in her mind.  It might
be a desperate expedient but she had nowhere else to turn!

Fleming shut the terrace door behind him and moved down from the
alcove, trying to shake the rain from his coat.

"Did I frighten you?"

"Oh, Mr. Fleming--yes!" Dale laid her aunt's revolver down on the
table.  Fleming perceived her nervousness and made a gesture of apology.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I rapped but nobody seemed to hear me, so I used
my key."

"You're wet through--I'm sorry," said Dale with mechanical politeness.

He smiled.  "Oh, no."  He stripped off his cap and raincoat and placed
them on a chair, brushing himself off as he did so with finicky little
movements of his hands.

"Reggie Beresford brought me over in his car," he said.  "He's waiting
down the drive."

Dale decided not to waste words in the usual commonplaces of social
greeting.

"Mr. Fleming, I'm in dreadful trouble!" she said, facing him squarely,
with a courageous appeal in her eyes.

He made a polite movement.  "Oh, I say!  That's too bad."

She plunged on.  "You know the Union Bank closed today."

He laughed lightly.

"Yes, I know it!  I didn't have anything in it--or any other bank for
that matter," he admitted ruefully, "but I hate to see the old thing go
to smash."

Dale wondered which angle was best from which to present her appeal.

"Well, even if you haven't lost anything in this bank failure, a lot of
your friends have--surely?" she went on.

"I'll say so!" said Fleming, debonairly.  "Beresford is sitting down
the road in his Packard now writhing with pain!"

Dale hesitated; Fleming's lightness seemed so incorrigible that, for a
moment, she was on the verge of giving her project up entirely. Then,
"Waster or not--he's the only man who can help us!"  she told herself
and continued.

"Lots of awfully poor people are going to suffer, too," she said
wistfully.

Fleming chuckled, dismissing the poor with a wave of his hand.

"Oh, well, the poor are always in trouble," he said with airy
heartlessness.  "They specialize in suffering."

He extracted a monogrammed cigarette from a thin gold case.

"But look here," he went on, moving closer to Dale, "you didn't send
for me to discuss this hypothetical poor depositor, did you?  Mind if I
smoke?"

"No."  He lit his cigarette and puffed at it with enjoyment while Dale
paused, summoning up her courage.  Finally the words came in a rush.

"Mr. Fleming, I'm going to say something rather brutal.  Please don't
mind.  I'm merely--desperate!  You see, I happen to be engaged to the
cashier, Jack Bailey--"

Fleming whistled.  "I see!  And he's beat it!"

Dale blazed with indignation.

"He has not!  I'm going to tell you something.  He's here, now, in this
house--" she continued fierily, all her defenses thrown aside. "My aunt
thinks he's a new gardener.  He is here, Mr. Fleming, because he knows
he didn't take the money, and the only person who could have done it
was--your uncle!"

Dick Fleming dropped his cigarette in a convenient ash tray and crushed
it out there, absently, not seeming to notice whether it scorched his
fingers or not.  He rose and took a turn about the room.  Then he came
back to Dale.

"That's a pretty strong indictment to bring against a dead man," he
said slowly, seriously.

"It's true!" Dale insisted stubbornly, giving him glance for glance.

Fleming nodded.  "All right."

He smiled--a smile that Dale didn't like.

"Suppose it's true--where do I come in?" he said.  "You don't think I
know where the money is?"

"No," admitted Dale, "but I think you might help to find it."

She went swiftly over to the hall door and listened tensely for an
instant.  Then she came back to Fleming.

"If anybody comes in--you've just come to get something of yours," she
said in a low voice.  He nodded understandingly.  She dropped her voice
still lower.

"Do you know anything about a Hidden Room in this house?" she asked.

Dick Fleming stared at her for a moment.  Then he burst into laughter.

"A Hidden Room--that's rich!" he said, still laughing.  "Never heard of
it!  Now, let me get this straight.  The idea is--a Hidden Room--and
the money is in it--is that it?"

Dale nodded a "Yes."

"The architect who built this house told Jack Bailey that he had built
a Hidden Room in it," she persisted.

For a moment Dick Fleming stared at her as if he could not believe his
ears.  Then, slowly, his expression changed.  Beneath the well-fed,
debonair mask of the clubman about town, other lines appeared--lines of
avarice and calculation--wolf-marks, betokening the craft and petty
ruthlessness of the small soul within the gentlemanly shell.  His eyes
took on a shifty, uncertain stare--they no longer looked at Dale--their
gaze seemed turned inward, beholding a visioned treasure, a glittering
pile of gold.  And yet, the change in his look was not so pronounced as
to give Dale pause--she felt a vague uneasiness steal over her,
true--but it would have taken a shrewd and long-experienced woman of
the world to read the secret behind Fleming's eyes at first glance--and
Dale, for all her courage and common sense, was a young and headstrong
girl.

She watched him, puzzled, wondering why he made no comment on her last
statement.

"Do you know where there are any blue-prints of the house?" she asked
at last.

An odd light glittered in Fleming's eyes for a moment.  Then it
vanished--he held himself in check--the casual idler again.

"Blue-prints?" He seemed to think it over.  "Why--there may be some.
Have you looked in the old secretary in the library?  My uncle used to
keep all sorts of papers there," he said with apparent helpfulness.

"Why, don't you remember--you locked it when we took the house."

"So I did."  Fleming took out his key ring, selected a key.  "Suppose
you go and look," he said.  "Don't you think I'd better stay here?"

"Oh, yes--" said Dale, blinded to everything else by the rising hope in
her heart.  "Oh, I can hardly thank you enough!" and before he could
even reply, she had taken the key and was hurrying toward the hall door.

He watched her leave the room, a bleak smile on his face.  As soon as
she had closed the door behind her, his languor dropped from him. He
became a hound--a ferret--questing for its prey.  He ran lightly over
to the bookcase by the hall door--a moment's inspection--he shook his
head.  Perhaps the other bookcase near the French windows--no--it
wasn't there.  Ah, the bookcase over the fireplace!  He remembered now!
He made for it, hastily swept the books from the top shelf, reached
groping fingers into the space behind the second row of books.  There!
A dusty roll of three blue-prints!  He unrolled them hurriedly and
tried to make out the white tracings by the light of the
fire--no--better take them over to the candle on the table.

He peered at them hungrily in the little spot of light thrown by the
candle.  The first one--no--nor the second--but the third--the bottom
one--good heavens!  He took in the significance of the blurred white
lines with greedy eyes, his lips opening in a silent exclamation of
triumph.  Then he pondered for an instant, the blue-print itself--was
an awkward size--bulky--good, he had it!  He carefully tore a small
portion from the third blue-print and was about to stuff it in the
inside pocket of his dinner jacket when Dale, returning, caught him
before he had time to conceal his find.  She took in the situation at
once.

"Oh, you found it!" she said in tones of rejoicing, giving him back the
key to the secretary.  Then, as he still made no move to transfer the
scrap of blue paper to her, "Please let me have it, Mr. Fleming.  I
know that's it."

Dick Fleming's lips set in a thin line.  "Just a moment," he said,
putting the table between them with a swift movement.  Once more he
stole a glance at the scrap of paper in his hand by the flickering
light of the candle.  Then he faced Dale boldly.

"Do you suppose, if that money is actually here, that I can simply turn
this over to you and let you give it to Bailey?" he said. "Every man
has his price.  How do I know that Bailey's isn't a million dollars?"

Dale felt as if he had dashed cold water in her face.  "What do you
mean to do with it then?" she said.

Fleming turned the blue-print over in his hand.

"I don't know," he said.  "What is it you want me to do?"

But by now Dale's vague distrust in him had grown very definite.

"Aren't you going to give it to me?"

He put her off.  "I'll have to think about that."  He looked at the
blue-print again.  "So the missing cashier is in this house posing as a
gardener?" he said with a sneer in his tones.

Dale's temper was rising.

"If you won't give it to me--there's a detective in this house," she
said, with a stamp of her foot.  She made a movement as if to call
Anderson--then, remembering Jack, turned back to Fleming.

"Give it to the detective and let him search," she pleaded.

"A detective?" said Fleming startled.  "What's a detective doing here?"

"People have been trying to break in."

"What people?"

"I don't know."

Fleming stared out beyond Dale, into the night.

"Then it is here," he muttered to himself.

Behind his back--was it a gust of air that moved them?--the double
doors of the alcove swung open just a crack.  Was a listener crouched
behind those doors--or was it only a trick of carpentry--a gesture of
chance?

The mask of the clubman dropped from Fleming completely.  His lips drew
back from his teeth in the snarl of a predatory animal that clings to
its prey at the cost of life or death.

Before Dale could stop him, he picked up the discarded blue-prints and
threw them on the fire, retaining only the precious scrap in his hand.
The roll blackened and burst into flame.  He watched it, smiling.

"I'm not going to give this to any detective," he said quietly, tapping
the piece of paper in his hand.

Dale's heart pounded sickeningly but she kept her courage up.

"What do you mean?" she said fiercely.  "What are you going to do?"

He faced her across the fireplace, his airy manner coming back to him
just enough to add an additional touch of the sinister to the cold
self-revelation of his words.

"Let us suppose a few things, Miss Ogden," he said.  "Suppose my price
is a million dollars.  Suppose I need money very badly and my uncle has
left me a house containing that amount in cash.  Suppose I choose to
consider that that money is mine--then it wouldn't be hard to suppose,
would it, that I'd make a pretty sincere attempt to get away with it?"

Dale summoned all her fortitude.

"If you go out of this room with that paper I'll scream for help!" she
said defiantly.

Fleming made a little mock-bow of courtesy.  He smiled.

"To carry on our little game of supposing," he said easily, "suppose
there is a detective in this house--and that, if I were cornered, I
should tell him where to lay his hands on Jack Bailey.  Do you suppose
you would scream?"

Dale's hands dropped, powerless, at her sides.  If only she hadn't told
him--too late!--she was helpless.  She could not call the detective
without ruining Jack--and yet, if Fleming escaped with the money--how
could Jack ever prove his innocence?

Fleming watched her for an instant, smiling.  Then, seeing she made no
move, he darted hastily toward the double doors of the alcove, flung
them open, seemed about to dash up the alcove stairs.  The sight of him
escaping with the only existing clue to the hidden room galvanized Dale
into action.  She followed him, hurriedly snatching up Miss Cornelia's
revolver from the table as she did so, in a last gesture of desperation.

"No!  No!  Give it to me!  Give it to me!" and she sprang after him,
clutching the revolver.  He waited for her on the bottom step of the
stairs, the slight smile still on his face.

Panting breaths in the darkness of the alcove--a short, furious
scuffle--he had wrested the revolver away from her, but in doing so had
unguarded the precious blue-print--she snatched at it desperately,
tearing most of it away, leaving only a corner in his hand.  He
swore--tried to get it back--she jerked away.

Then suddenly a bright shaft of light split the darkness of the alcove
stairs like a sword, a spot of brilliance centered on Fleming's face
like the glare of a flashlight focused from above by an invisible hand.
For an instant it revealed him--his features distorted with fury--about
to rush down the stairs again and attack the trembling girl at their
foot.

A single shot rang out.  For a second, the fury on Fleming's face
seemed to change to a strange look of bewilderment and surprise.

Then the shaft of light was extinguished as suddenly as the snuffing of
a candle, and he crumpled forward to the foot of the
stairs--struck--lay on his face in the darkness, just inside the double
doors.

Dale gave a little whimpering cry of horror.

"Oh, no, no, no," she whispered from a dry throat, automatically
stuffing her portion of the precious scrap of blue-print into the bosom
of her dress.  She stood frozen, not daring to move, not daring even to
reach down with her hand and touch the body of Fleming to see if he was
dead or alive.

A murmur of excited voices sounded from the hall.  The door flew open,
feet stumbled through the darkness--"The noise came from this room!"
that was Anderson's voice--"Holy Virgin!" that must be Lizzie--

Even as Dale turned to face the assembled household, the house lights,
extinguished since the storm, came on in full brilliance--revealing her
to them, standing beside Fleming's body with Miss Cornelia's revolver
between them.

She shuddered, seeing Fleming's arm flung out awkwardly by his side.
No living man could lie in such a posture.

"I didn't do it!  I didn't do it!" she stammered, after a tense silence
that followed the sudden reillumining of the lights.  Her eyes wandered
from figure to figure idly, noting unimportant details. Billy was still
in his white coat and his face, impassive as ever, showed not the
slightest surprise.  Brooks and Anderson were likewise completely
dressed--but Miss Cornelia had evidently begun to retire for the night
when she had heard the shot--her transformation was askew and she wore
a dressing-gown.  As for Lizzie, that worthy shivered in a gaudy
wrapper adorned with incredible orange flowers, with her hair done up
in curlers.  Dale saw it all and was never after to forget one single
detail of it.

The detective was beside her now, examining Fleming's body with
professional thoroughness.  At last he rose.

"He's dead," he said quietly.  A shiver ran through the watching group.
Dale felt a stifling hand constrict about her heart.

There was a pause.  Anderson picked up the revolver beside Fleming's
body and examined it swiftly, careful not to confuse his own
fingerprints with any that might already be on the polished steel. Then
he looked at Dale.  "Who is he?" he said bluntly.

Dale fought hysteria for some seconds before she could speak.

"Richard Fleming--somebody shot him!" she managed to whisper at last.

Anderson took a step toward her.

"What do you mean by somebody?" he said.

The world to Dale turned into a crowd of threatening, accusing eyes--a
multitude of shadowy voices, shouting, Guilty!  Guilty!  Prove that
you're innocent--you can't!

"I don't know," she said wildly.  "Somebody on the staircase."

"Did you see anybody?"  Anderson's voice was as passionless and cold as
a bar of steel.

"No--but there was a light from somewhere--like a pocket-flash--" She
could not go on.  She saw Fleming's face before her--furious at
first--then changing to that strange look of bewildered surprise--she
put her hands over her eyes to shut the vision out.

Lizzie made a welcome interruption.

"I told you I saw a man go up that staircase!" she wailed, jabbing her
forefinger in the direction of the alcove stairs.

Miss Cornelia, now recovered from the first shock of the discovery,
supported her gallantly.

"That's the only explanation, Mr. Anderson," she said decidedly.

The detective looked at the stairs--at the terrace door.  His eyes made
a circuit of the room and came back to Fleming's body.  "I've been all
over the house," he said.  "There's nobody there."

A pause followed.  Dale found herself helplessly looking toward her
lover for comfort--comfort he could not give without revealing his own
secret.

Eerily, through the tense silence, a sudden tinkling sounded--the
sharp, persistent ringing of a telephone bell.

Miss Cornelia rose to answer it automatically.  "The house phone!" she
said.  Then she stopped.  "But we're all here."

They looked attach other aghast.  It was true.  And
yet--somehow--somewhere--one of the other phones on the circuit was
calling the living-room.

Miss Cornelia summoned every ounce of inherited Van Gorder pride she
possessed and went to the phone.  She took off the receiver.  The
ringing stopped.

"Hello--hello--" she said, while the others stood rigid, listening.
Then she gasped.  An expression of wondering horror came over her face.



CHAPTER TEN

THE PHONE CALL FROM NOWHERE

"Somebody groaning!" gasped Miss Cornelia.  "It's horrible!"

The detective stepped up and took the receiver from her.  He listened
anxiously for a moment.

"I don't hear anything," he said.

"I heard it!  I couldn't imagine such a dreadful sound!  I tell
you--somebody in this house is in terrible distress."

"Where does this phone connect?" queried Anderson practically.

Miss Cornelia made a hopeless little gesture.  "Practically every room
in this house!"

The detective put the receiver to his ear again.

"Just what did you hear?" he said stolidly.

Miss Cornelia's voice shook.

"Dreadful groans--and what seemed to be an inarticulate effort to
speak!"

Lizzie drew her gaudy wrapper closer about her shuddering form.

"I'd go somewhere," she wailed in the voice of a lost soul, "if I only
had somewhere to go!"

Miss Cornelia quelled her with a glare and turned back to the detective.

"Won't you send these men to investigate--or go yourself?" she said,
indicating Brooks and Billy.  The detective thought swiftly.

"My place is here," he said.  "You two men," Brooks and Billy moved
forward to take his orders, "take another look through the house--don't
leave the building--I'll want you pretty soon."

Brooks--or Jack Bailey, as we may as well call him through the
remainder of this narrative--started to obey.  Then his eye fell on
Miss Cornelia's revolver which Anderson had taken from beside Fleming's
body and still held clasped in his hand.

"If you'll give me that revolver--" he began in an offhand tone, hoping
Anderson would not see through his little ruse.  Once wiped clean of
fingerprints, the revolver would not be such telling evidence against
Dale Ogden.

But Anderson was not to be caught napping.  "That revolver will stay
where it is," he said with a grim smile.

Jack Bailey knew better than to try and argue the point, he followed
Billy reluctantly out of the door, giving Dale a surreptitious glance
of encouragement and faith as he did so.  The Japanese and he mounted
to the second floor as stealthily as possible, prying into dark corners
and searching unused rooms for any clue that might betray the source of
the startling phone call from nowhere.  But Bailey's heart was not in
the search.  His mind kept going back to the figure of Dale--nervous,
shaken, undergoing the terrors of the third degree at Anderson's hands.
She couldn't have shot Fleming of course, and yet, unless he and Billy
found something to substantiate her story of how the killing had
happened, it was her own, unsupported word against a damning mass of
circumstantial evidence.  He plunged with renewed vigor into his quest.

Back in the living-room, as he had feared, Anderson was subjecting Dale
to a merciless interrogation.

"Now I want the real story!" he began with calculated brutality. "You
lied before!"

"That's no tone to use!  You'll only terrify her," cried Miss Cornelia
indignantly.  The detective paid no attention, his face had hardened,
he seemed every inch the remorseless sleuthhound of the law.  He turned
on Miss Cornelia for a moment.

"Where were you when this happened?" he said.

"Upstairs in my room." Miss Cornelia's tones were icy.

"And you?" badgeringly, to Lizzie.

"In my room," said the latter pertly, "brushing Miss Cornelia's hair."

Anderson broke open the revolver and gave a swift glance at the bullet
chambers.

"One shot has been fired from this revolver!"

Miss Cornelia sprang to her niece's defense.

"I fired it myself this afternoon," she said.

The detective regarded her with grudging admiration.

"You're a quick thinker," he said with obvious unbelief in his voice.
He put the revolver down on the table.

Miss Cornelia followed up her advantage.

"I demand that you get the coroner here," she said.

"Doctor Wells is the coroner," offered Lizzie eagerly.  Anderson
brushed their suggestions aside.

"I'm going to ask you some questions!" he said menacingly to Dale.

But Miss Cornelia stuck to her guns.  Dale was not going to be bullied
into any sort of confession, true or false, if she could help it--and
from the way that the girl's eyes returned with fascinated horror to
the ghastly heap on the floor that had been Fleming, she knew that Dale
was on the edge of violent hysteria.

"Do you mind covering that body first?" she asked crisply.  The
detective eyed her for a moment in a rather ugly fashion--then grunted
ungraciously and, taking Fleming's raincoat from the chair, threw it
over the body.  Dale's eyes telegraphed her aunt a silent message of
gratitude.

"Now--shall I telephone for the coroner?" persisted Miss Cornelia. The
detective obviously resented her interference with his methods but he
could not well refuse such a customary request.

"I'll do it," he said with a snort, going over to the city telephone.
"What's his number?"

"He's not at his office; he's at the Johnsons'," murmured Dale.

Miss Cornelia took the telephone from Anderson's hands.

"I'll get the Johnsons', Mr. Anderson," she said firmly.  The detective
seemed about to rebuke her.  Then his manner recovered some of its
former suavity.  He relinquished the telephone and turned back toward
his prey.

"Now, what was Fleming doing here?" he asked Dale in a gentler voice.

Should she tell him the truth?  No--Jack Bailey's safety was too
inextricably bound up with the whole sinister business.  She must lie,
and lie again, while there was any chance of a lie's being believed.

"I don't know," she said weakly, trying to avoid the detective's eyes.

Anderson took thought.

"Well, I'll ask that question another way," he said.  "How did he get
into the house?"

Dale brightened--no need for a lie here.

"He had a key."

"Key to what door?"

"That door over there." Dale indicated the terrace door of the alcove.

The detective was about to ask another question--then he paused. Miss
Cornelia was talking on the phone.

"Hello--is that Mr. Johnson's residence?  Is Doctor Wells there? No?"
Her expression was puzzled.  "Oh--all right--thank you--good night--"

Meanwhile Anderson had been listening--but thinking as well.  Dale saw
his sharp glance travel over to the fireplace--rest for a moment, with
an air of discovery, on the fragments of the roll of blue-prints that
remained unburned among ashes--return.  She shut her eyes for a moment,
trying tensely to summon every atom of shrewdness she possessed to aid
her.

He was hammering at her with questions again.  "When did you take that
revolver out of the table drawer?"

"When I heard him outside on the terrace," said Dale promptly and
truthfully.  "I was frightened."

Lizzie tiptoed over to Miss Cornelia.

"You wanted a detective!" she said in an ironic whisper.  "I hope
you're happy now you've got one!"

Miss Cornelia gave her a look that sent her scuttling back to her
former post by the door.  But nevertheless, internally, she felt
thoroughly in accord with Lizzie.

Again Anderson's questions pounded at the rigid Dale, striving to
pierce her armor of mingled truth and falsehood.

"When Fleming came in, what did he say to you?"

"Just--something about the weather," said Dale weakly.  The whole scene
was, still too horribly vivid before her eyes for her to furnish a more
convincing alibi.

"You didn't have any quarrel with him?"

Dale hesitated.

"No."

"He just came in that door--said something about the weather--and was
shot from that staircase.  Is that it?" said the detective in tones of
utter incredulity.

Dale hesitated again.  Thus baldly put, her story seemed too flimsy for
words; she could not even blame Anderson for disbelieving it. And
yet--what other story could she tell that would not bring ruin on Jack?

Her face whitened.  She put her hand on the back of a chair for support.

"Yes--that's it," she said at last, and swayed where she stood.

Again Miss Cornelia tried to come to the rescue.  "Are all these
questions necessary?" she queried sharply.  "You can't for a moment
believe that Miss Ogden shot that man!"  But by now, though she did not
show it, she too began to realize the strength of the appalling net of
circumstances that drew with each minute tighter around the unhappy
girl.  Dale gratefully seized the momentary respite and sank into a
chair.  The detective looked at her.

"I think she knows more than she's telling.  She's concealing
something!" he said with deadly intentness.  "The nephew of the
president of the Union Bank--shot in his own house the day the bank has
failed--that's queer enough--"  Now he turned back to Miss Cornelia.
"But when the only person present at his murder is the girl who's
engaged to the guilty cashier," he continued, watching Miss Cornelia's
face as the full force of his words sank into her mind, "I want to know
more about it!"

He stopped.  His right hand moved idly over the edge of the
table--halted beside an ash tray--closed upon something.

Miss Cornelia rose.

"Is that true, Dale?" she said sorrowfully.

Dale nodded.  "Yes."  She could not trust herself to explain at greater
length.

Then Miss Cornelia made one of the most magnificent gestures of her
life.

"Well, even if it is--what has that got to do with it?" she said,
turning upon Anderson fiercely, all her protective instinct for those
whom she loved aroused.

Anderson seemed somewhat impressed by the fierceness of her query. When
he went on it was with less harshness in his manner.

"I'm not accusing this girl," he said more gently.  "But behind every
crime there is a motive.  When we've found the motive for this crime,
we'll have found the criminal."

Unobserved, Dale's hand instinctively went to her bosom.  There it
lay--the motive--the precious fragment of blue-print which she had torn
from Fleming's grasp but an instant before he was shot down. Once
Anderson found it in her possession the case was closed, the evidence
against her overwhelming.  She could not destroy it--it was the only
clue to the Hidden Room and the truth that might clear Jack Bailey.
But, somehow, she must hide it--get it out of her hands--before
Anderson's third-degree methods broke her down or he insisted on a
search of her person.  Her eyes roved wildly about the room, looking
for a hiding place.

The rain of Anderson's questions began anew.

"What papers did Fleming burn in that grate?" he asked abruptly,
turning back to Dale.

"Papers!" she faltered.

"Papers!  The ashes are still there."

Miss Cornelia made an unavailing interruption.

"Miss Ogden has said he didn't come into this room."

The detective smiled.

"I hold in my hand proof that he was in this room for some time," he
said coldly, displaying the half-burned cigarette he had taken from the
ash tray a moment before.

"His cigarette--with his monogram on it."  He put the fragment of
tobacco and paper carefully away in an envelope and marched over to the
fireplace.  There he rummaged among the ashes for a moment, like a dog
uncovering a bone.  He returned to the center of the room with a
fragment of blackened blue paper fluttering between his fingers.

"A fragment of what is technically known as a blue-print," he
announced.  "What were you and Richard Fleming doing with a
blue-print?"  His eyes bored into Dale's.

Dale hesitated--shut her lips.

"Now think it over!" he warned.  "The truth will come out, sooner or
later!  Better be frank NOW!"

If he only knew how I wanted to be--he wouldn't be so cruel, thought
Dale wearily.  But I can't--I can't!  Then her heart gave a throb of
relief.  Jack had come back into the room--Jack and Billy--Jack would
protect her!  But even as she thought of this her heart sank again.
Protect her, indeed!  Poor Jack!  He would find it hard enough to
protect himself if once this terrible man with the cold smile and
steely eyes started questioning him. She looked up anxiously.

Bailey made his report breathlessly.

"Nothing in the house, sir."

Billy's impassive lips confirmed him.

"We go all over house--nobody!"

Nobody--nobody in the house!  And yet--the mysterious ringing of the
phone--the groans Miss Cornelia had heard!  Were old wives' tales and
witches' fables true after all?  Did a power--merciless--evil--exists
outside the barriers of the flesh--blasting that trembling flesh with a
cold breath from beyond the portals of the grave?  There seemed to be
no other explanation.

"You men stay here!" said the detective.  "I want to ask you some
questions."  He doggedly returned to his third-degreeing of Dale.

"Now what about this blue-print?" he queried sharply.

Dale stiffened in her chair.  Her lies had failed.  Now she would tell
a portion of the truth, as much of it as she could without menacing
Jack.

"I'll tell you just what happened," she began.  "I sent for Richard
Fleming--and when he came, I asked him if he knew where there were any
blue-prints of the house."

The detective pounced eagerly upon her admission.

"Why did you want blue-prints?" he thundered.

"Because," Dale took a long breath, "I believe old Mr. Fleming took the
money himself from the Union Bank and hid it here."

"Where did you get that idea?"

Dale's jaw set.  "I won't tell you."

"What had the blue-prints to do with it?"

She could think of no plausible explanation but the true one.

"Because I'd heard there was a Hidden Room in this house."

The detective leaned forward intently.  "Did you locate that room?"

Dale hesitated.  "No."

"Then why did you burn the blue-prints?"

Dale's nerve was crumbling--breaking--under the repeated, monotonous
impact of his questions.

"He burned them!" she cried wildly.  "I don't know why!"

The detective paused an instant, then returned to a previous query.

"Then you didn't locate this Hidden Room?"

Dale's lips formed a pale "No."

"Did he?" went on Anderson inexorably.

Dale stared at him, dully--the breaking point had come.  Another
question--another--and she would no longer be able to control herself.
She would sob out the truth hysterically--that Brooks, the gardener,
was Jack Bailey, the missing cashier--that the scrap of blue-print
hidden in the bosom of her dress might unravel the secret of the Hidden
Room--that--

But just as she felt herself, sucked of strength, beginning to slide
toward a black, tingling pit of merciful oblivion, Miss Cornelia
provided a diversion.

"What's that?" she said in a startled voice.

The detective turned away from his quarry for an instant.

"What's what?"

"I heard something," averred Miss Cornelia, staring toward the French
windows.

All eyes followed the direction of her stare.  There was an instant of
silence.

Then, suddenly, traveling swiftly from right to left across the shades
of the French windows, there appeared a glowing circle of brilliant
white light.  Inside the circle was a black, distorted shadow--a shadow
like the shadow of a gigantic black Bat!  It was there--then a second
later, it was gone!

"Oh, my God!" wailed Lizzie from her corner.  "It's the Bat--that's his
sign!"

Jack Bailey made a dash for the terrace door.  But Miss Cornelia halted
him peremptorily.

"Wait, Brooks!"  She turned to the detective.  "Mr. Anderson, you are
familiar with the sign of the Bat.  Did that look like it?"

The detective seemed both puzzled and disturbed.  "Well, it looked like
the shadow of a bat.  I'll say that for it," he said finally.

On the heels of his words the front door bell began to ring.  All
turned in the direction of the hall.

"I'll answer that!" said Jack Bailey eagerly.

Miss Cornelia gave him the key to the front door.

"Don't admit anyone till you know who it is," she said.  Bailey nodded
and disappeared into the hall.  The others waited tensely. Miss
Cornelia's hand crept toward the revolver lying on the table where
Anderson had put it down.

There was the click of an opening door, the noise of a little
scuffle--then men's voices raised in an angry dispute.  "What do I know
about a flashlight?" cried an irritated voice.  "I haven't got a
pocket-flash--take your hands off me!"  Bailey's voice answered the
other voice, grim, threatening.  The scuffle resumed.

Then Doctor Wells burst suddenly into the room, closely followed by
Bailey.  The Doctor's tie was askew--he looked ruffled and enraged.
Bailey followed him vigilantly, seeming not quite sure whether to allow
him to enter or not.

"My dear Miss Van Gorder," began the Doctor in tones of high dudgeon,
"won't you instruct your servants that even if I do make a late call, I
am not to be received with violence?"

"I asked you if you had a pocket-flash about you!" answered Bailey
indignantly.  "If you call a question like that violence--"  He seemed
about to restrain the Doctor by physical force.

Miss Cornelia quelled the teapot-tempest.

"It's all right, Brooks," she said, taking the front door key from his
hand and putting it back on the table.  She turned to Doctor Wells.

"You see, Doctor Wells," she explained, "just a moment before you rang
the doorbell a circle of white light was thrown on those window shades."

The Doctor laughed with a certain relief.

"Why, that was probably the searchlight from my car!" he said.  "I
noticed as I drove up that it fell directly on that window."

His explanation seemed to satisfy all present but Lizzie.  She regarded
him with a deep suspicion.  "'He may be a lawyer, a merchant, a
Doctor...'" she chanted ominously to herself.

Miss Cornelia, too, was not entirely at ease.

"In the center of this ring of light," she proceeded, her eyes on the
Doctor's calm countenance, "was an almost perfect silhouette of a bat."

"A bat!"  The Doctor seemed at sea.  "Ah, I see--the symbol of the
criminal of that name."  He laughed again.

"I think I can explain what you saw.  Quite often my headlights collect
insects at night and a large moth, spread on the glass, would give
precisely the effect you speak of.  Just to satisfy you, I'll go out
and take a look."

He turned to do so.  Then he caught sight of the raincoat-covered
huddle on the floor.

"Why--" he said in a voice that mingled astonishment with horror. He
paused.  His glance slowly traversed the circle of silent faces.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

BILLY PRACTICES JIU-JITSU

"We have had a very sad occurrence here, Doctor," said Miss Cornelia
gently.

The Doctor braced himself.

"Who?"

"Richard Fleming."

"Richard Fleming?" gasped the Doctor in tones of incredulous horror.

"Shot and killed from that staircase," said Miss Cornelia tonelessly.

The detective demurred.

"Shot and killed, anyhow," he said in accents of significant omission.

The Doctor knelt beside the huddle on the floor.  He removed the fold
of the raincoat that covered the face of the corpse and stared at the
dead, blank mask.  Till a moment ago, even at the height of his
irritation with Bailey, he had been blithe and offhand--a man who
seemed comparatively young for his years.  Now Age seemed to fall upon
him, suddenly, like a gray, clinging dust--he looked stricken and
feeble under the impact of this unexpected shock.

"Shot and killed from that stairway," he repeated dully.  He rose from
his knees and glanced at the fatal stairs.

"What was Richard Fleming doing in this house at this hour?" he said.

He spoke to Miss Cornelia but Anderson answered the question.

"That's what I'm trying to find out," he said with a saturnine smile.

The Doctor gave him a look of astonished inquiry.  Miss Cornelia
remembered her manners.

"Doctor, this is Mr. Anderson."

"Headquarters," said Anderson tersely, shaking hands.

It was Lizzie's turn to play her part in the tangled game of mutual
suspicion that by now made each member of the party at Cedarcrest watch
every other member with nervous distrust.  She crossed to her mistress
on tiptoe.

"Don't you let him fool you with any of that moth business!" she said
in a thrilling whisper, jerking her thumb in the direction of the
Doctor.  "He's the Bat."

Ordinarily Miss Cornelia would have dismissed her words with a smile.
But by now her brain felt as if it had begun to revolve like a pinwheel
in her efforts to fathom the uncanny mystery of the various events of
the night.

She addressed Doctor Wells.

"I didn't tell you, Doctor--I sent for a detective this afternoon."
Then, with mounting suspicion, "You happened in very opportunely!"

"After I left the Johnsons' I felt very uneasy," he explained.  "I
determined to make one more effort to get you away from this house. As
this shows--my fears were justified!"

He shook his head sadly.  Miss Cornelia sat down.  His last words had
given her food for thought.  She wanted to mull them over for a moment.

The Doctor removed muffler and topcoat--stuffed the former in his
topcoat pocket and threw the latter on the settee.  He took out his
handkerchief and began to mop his face, as if to wipe away some strain
of mental excitement under which he was laboring.  His breath came
quickly--the muscles of his jaw stood out.

"Died instantly, I suppose?" he said, looking over at the body. "Didn't
have time to say anything?"

"Ask the young lady," said Anderson, with a jerk of his head.  "She was
here when it happened."

The Doctor gave Dale a feverish glance of inquiry.

"He just fell over," said the latter pitifully.  Her answer seemed to
relieve the Doctor of some unseen weight on his mind.  He drew a long
breath and turned back toward Fleming's body with comparative calm.

"Poor Dick has proved my case for me better than I expected," he said,
regarding the still, unbreathing heap beneath the raincoat. He swerved
toward the detective.

"Mr. Anderson," he said with dignified pleading, "I ask you to use your
influence, to see that these two ladies find some safer spot than this
for the night."

Lizzie bounced up from her chair, instanter.

"Two?" she wailed.  "If you know any safe spot, lead me to it!"

The Doctor overlooked her sudden eruption into the scene.  He wandered
back again toward the huddle under the raincoat, as if still unable to
believe that it was--or rather had been--Richard Fleming.

Miss Cornelia spoke suddenly in a low voice, without moving a muscle of
her body.

"I have a strange feeling that I'm being watched by unfriendly eyes,"
she said.

Lizzie clutched at her across the table.

"I wish the lights would go out again!" she pattered.  "No, I don't
neither!" as Miss Cornelia gave the clutching hand a nervous little
slap.

During the little interlude of comedy, Billy, the Japanese, unwatched
by the others, had stolen to the French windows, pulled aside a blind,
looked out.  When he turned back to the room his face had lost a
portion of its Oriental calm--there was suspicion in his eyes.  Softly,
under cover of pretending to arrange the tray of food that lay
untouched on the table, he possessed himself of the key to the front
door, unperceived by the rest, and slipped out of the room like a ghost.

Meanwhile the detective confronted Doctor Wells.

"You say, Doctor, that you came back to take these women away from the
house.  Why?"

The Doctor gave him a dignified stare.

"Miss Van Gorder has already explained."

Miss Cornelia elucidated.  "Mr. Anderson has already formed a theory of
the crime," she said with a trace of sarcasm in her tones.

The detective turned on her quickly.  "I haven't said that."  He
started.

It had come again--tinkling--persistent.--the phone call from
nowhere--the ringing of the bell of the house telephone!

"The house telephone--again!" breathed Dale.  Miss Cornelia made a
movement to answer the tinkling, inexplicable bell.  But Anderson was
before her.

"I'll answer that!" he barked.  He sprang to the phone.

"Hello--hello--"

All eyes were bent on him nervously--the Doctor's face, in particular,
seemed a very study in fear and amazement.  He clutched the back of a
chair to support himself, his hand was the trembling hand of a sick,
old man.

"Hello--hello--" Anderson swore impatiently.  He hung up the phone.

"There's nobody there!"

Again, a chill breath from another world than ours seemed to brush
across the faces of the little group in the living-room.  Dale,
sensitive, impressionable, felt a cold, uncanny prickling at the roots
of her hair.

A light came into Anderson's eyes.  "Where's that Jap?" he almost
shouted.

"He just went out," said Miss Cornelia.  The cold fear, the fear of the
unearthly, subsided from around Dale's heart, leaving her shaken but
more at peace.

The detective turned swiftly to the Doctor, as if to put his case
before the eyes of an unprejudiced witness.

"That Jap rang the phone," he said decisively.  "Miss Van Gorder
believes that this murder is the culmination of the series of
mysterious happenings that caused her to send for me.  I do not."

"Then what is the significance of the anonymous letters?" broke in Miss
Cornelia heatedly.  "Of the man Lizzie saw going up the stairs, of the
attempt to break into this house--of the ringing of that telephone
bell?"

Anderson replied with one deliberate word.

"Terrorization," he said.

The Doctor moistened his dry lips in an effort to speak.

"By whom?" he asked.

Anderson's voice was an icicle.

"I imagine by Miss Van Gorder's servants.  By that woman there--" he
pointed at Lizzie, who rose indignantly to deny the charge.  But he
gave her no time for denial.  He rushed on, "--who probably writes the
letters," he continued.  "By the gardener--" his pointing finger found
Bailey "--who may have been the man Lizzie saw slipping up the stairs.
By the Jap, who goes out and rings the telephone," he concluded
triumphantly.

Miss Cornelia seemed unimpressed by his fervor.

"With what object?" she queried smoothly.

"That's what I'm going to find out!"  There was determination in
Anderson's reply.

Miss Cornelia sniffed.  "Absurd!  The butler was in this room when the
telephone rang for the first time."

The thrust pierced Anderson's armor.  For once he seemed at a loss.
Here was something he had omitted from his calculations.  But he did
not give up.  He was about to retort when--crash!  thud!--the noise of
a violent struggle in the hall outside drew all eyes to the hall door.

An instant later the door slammed open and a disheveled young man in
evening clothes was catapulted into the living-room as if slung there
by a giant's arm.  He tripped and fell to the floor in the center of
the room.  Billy stood in the doorway behind him, inscrutable, arms
folded, on his face an expression of mild satisfaction as if he were
demurely pleased with a neat piece of housework, neatly carried out.

The young man picked himself up, brushed off his clothes, sought for
his hat, which had rolled under the table.  Then he turned on Billy
furiously.

"Damn you--what do you mean by this?"

"Jiu-jitsu," said Billy, his yellow face quite untroubled.  "Pretty
good stuff.  Found on terrace with searchlight," he added.

"With searchlight?" barked Anderson.

The young man turned to face this new enemy.

"Well, why shouldn't I be on the terrace with a searchlight?" he
demanded.

The detective moved toward him menacingly.

"Who are you?"

"Who are you?" said the young man with cool impertinence, giving him
stare for stare.

Anderson did not deign to reply, in so many words.  Instead he
displayed the police badge which glittered on the inside of the right
lapel of his coat.  The young man examined it coolly.

"H'm," he said.  "Very pretty--nice neat design--very chaste!" He took
out a cigarette case and opened it, seemingly entirely unimpressed by
both the badge and Anderson.  The detective chafed.

"If you've finished admiring my badge," he said with heavy sarcasm,
"I'd like to know what you were doing on the terrace."

The young man hesitated--shot an odd, swift glance at Dale who ever
since his abrupt entrance into the room, had been sitting rigid in her
chair with her hands clenched tightly together.

"I've had some trouble with my car down the road," he said finally. He
glanced at Dale again.  "I came to ask if I might telephone."

"Did it require a flashlight to find the house?" Miss Cornelia asked
suspiciously.

"Look here," the young man blustered, "why are you asking me all these
questions?"  He tapped his cigarette case with an irritated air.

Miss Cornelia stepped closer to him.

"Do you mind letting me see that flashlight?" she said.

The young man gave it to her with a little, mocking bow.  She turned it
over, examined it, passed it to Anderson, who examined it also, seeming
to devote particular attention to the lens.  The young man stood
puffing his cigarette a little nervously while the examination was in
progress.  He did not look at Dale again.

Anderson handed back the flashlight to its owner.

"Now--what's your name?" he said sternly.

"Beresford--Reginald Beresford," said the young man sulkily.  "If you
doubt it I've probably got a card somewhere--"  He began to search
through his pockets.

"What's your business?" went on the detective.

"What's my business here?" queried the young man, obviously fencing
with his interrogator.

"No--how do you earn your living?" said Anderson sharply.

"I don't," said the young man flippantly.  "I may have to begin now, if
that is of any interest to you.  As a matter of fact, I've studied law
but--"

The one word was enough to start Lizzie off on another trail of
distrust.  "He may be a LAWYER--" she quoted to herself sepulchrally
from the evening newspaper article that had dealt with the mysterious
identity of the Bat.

"And you came here to telephone about your car?" persisted the
detective.

Dale rose from her chair with a hopeless little sigh.  "Oh, don't you
see--he's trying to protect me," she said wearily.  She turned to the
young man.  "It's no use, Mr. Beresford."

Beresford's air of flippancy vanished.

"I see," he said.  He turned to the other, frankly.  "Well, the plain
truth is--I didn't know the situation and I thought I'd play safe for
Miss Ogden's sake."

Miss Cornelia moved over to her niece protectingly.  She put a hand on
Dale's shoulder to reassure her.  But Dale was quite composed now--she
had gone through so many shocks already that one more or less seemed to
make very little difference to her overwearied nerves. She turned to
Anderson calmly.

"He doesn't know anything about--this," she said, indicating Beresford.
"He brought Mr. Fleming here in his car--that's all."

Anderson looked to Beresford for confirmation.

"Is that true?"

"Yes," said Beresford.  He started to explain.  "I got tired of waiting
and so I--"

The detective broke in curtly.

"All right."

He took a step toward the alcove.

"Now, Doctor."  He nodded at the huddle beneath the raincoat. Beresford
followed his glance--and saw the ominous heap for the first time.

"What's that?" he said tensely.  No one answered him.  The Doctor was
already on his knees beside the body, drawing the raincoat gently
aside.  Beresford stared at the shape thus revealed with frightened
eyes.  The color left his face.

"That's not--Dick Fleming--is it?" he said thickly.  Anderson slowly
nodded his head.  Beresford seemed unable to believe his eyes.

"If you've looked over the ground," said the Doctor in a low voice to
Anderson, "I'll move the body where we can have a better light." His
right hand fluttered swiftly over Fleming's still, clenched
fist--extracted from it a torn corner of paper....

Still Beresford did not seem to be able to take in what had happened.
He took another step toward the body.

"Do you mean to say that Dick Fleming--" he began.  Anderson silenced
him with an uplifted hand.

"What have you got there, Doctor?" he said in a still voice.

The Doctor, still on his knees beside the corpse, lifted his head.

"What do you mean?"

"You took something, just then, out of Fleming's hand," said the
detective.

"I took nothing out of his hand," said the Doctor firmly.

Anderson's manner grew peremptory.

"I warn you not to obstruct the course of justice!" he said forcibly.
"Give it here!"

The Doctor rose slowly, dusting off his knees.  His eyes tried to meet
Anderson's and failed.  He produced a torn corner of blue-print.

"Why, it's only a scrap of paper, nothing at all," he said evasively.

Anderson looked at him meaningly.

"Scraps of paper are sometimes very important," said with a side glance
at Dale.

Beresford approached the two angrily.

"Look here!" he burst out, "I've got a right to know about this thing.
I brought Fleming over here--and I want to know what happened to him!"

"You don't have to be a mind reader to know that!" moaned Lizzie,
overcome.

As usual, her comment went unanswered.  Beresford persisted in his
questions.

"Who killed him?  That's what I want to know!" he continued, nervously
puffing his cigarette.

"Well, you're not alone in that," said Anderson in his grimly humorous
vein.

The Doctor motioned nervously to them both.

"As the coroner--if Mr. Anderson is satisfied--I suggest that the body
be taken where I can make a thorough examination," he said haltingly.

Once more Anderson bent over the shell that had been Richard Fleming.
He turned the body half-over--let it sink back on its face.  For a
moment he glanced at the corner of the blue-print in his hand, then at
the Doctor.  Then he stood aside.

"All right," he said laconically.

So Richard Fleming left the room where he had been struck down so
suddenly and strangely--borne out by Beresford, the Doctor, and Jack
Bailey.  The little procession moved as swiftly and softly as
circumstances would permit--Anderson followed its passage with watchful
eyes.  Billy went mechanically to pick up the stained rug which the
detective had kicked aside and carried it off after the body.  When the
burden and its bearers, with Anderson in the rear, reached the doorway
into the hall, Lizzie shrank before the sight, affrighted, and turned
toward the alcove while Miss Cornelia stared unseeingly out toward the
front windows.  So, for perhaps a dozen ticks of time Dale was left
unwatched--and she made the most of her opportunity.

Her fingers fumbled at the bosom of her dress--she took out the
precious, dangerous fragment of blue-print that Anderson must not find
in her possession--but where to hide it, before her chance had passed?
Her eyes fell on the bread roll that had fallen from the detective's
supper tray to the floor when Lizzie had seen the gleaming eye on the
stairs and had lain there unnoticed ever since. She bent over swiftly
and secreted the tantalizing scrap of blue paper in the body of the
roll, smoothing the crust back above it with trembling fingers.  Then
she replaced the roll where it had fallen originally and straightened
up just as Billy and the detective returned.

Billy went immediately to the tray, picked it up, and started to go out
again.  Then he noticed the roll on the floor, stooped for it, and
replaced it upon the tray.  He looked at Miss Cornelia for instructions.

"Take that tray out to the dining-room," she said mechanically. But
Anderson's attention had already been drawn to the tiny incident.

"Wait--I'll look at that tray," he said briskly.  Dale, her heart in
her mouth, watched him examine the knives, the plates, even shake out
the napkin to see that nothing was hidden in its folds. At last he
seemed satisfied.

"All right--take it away," he commanded.  Billy nodded and vanished
toward the dining-room with tray and roll.  Dale breathed again.

The sight of the tray had made Miss Cornelia's thoughts return to
practical affairs.

"Lizzie," she commanded now, "go out in the kitchen and make some
coffee.  I'm sure we all need it," she sighed.

Lizzie bristled at once.

"Go out in that kitchen alone?"

"Billy's there," said Miss Cornelia wearily.

The thought of Billy seemed to bring little solace to Lizzie's heart.

"That Jap and his jooy-jitsu," she muttered viciously.  "One twist and
I'd be folded up like a pretzel."

But Miss Cornelia's manner was imperative, and Lizzie slowly dragged
herself kitchenward, yawning and promising the saints repentance of
every sin she had or had not committed if she were allowed to get there
without something grabbing at her ankles in the dark corner of the hall.

When the door had shut behind her, Anderson turned to Dale, the corner
of blue-print which he had taken from the Doctor in his hand.

"Now, Miss Ogden," he said tensely, "I have here a scrap of blue-print
which was in Dick Fleming's hand when he was killed.  I'll trouble you
for the rest of it, if you please!"



CHAPTER TWELVE

"I DIDN'T KILL HIM."

"The rest of it?" queried Dale with a show of bewilderment, silently
thanking her stars that, for the moment at least, the incriminating
fragment had passed out of her possession.

Her reply seemed only to infuriate the detective.

"Don't tell me Fleming started to go out of this house with a blank
scrap of paper in his hand," he threatened.  "He didn't start to go out
at all!"

Dale rose.  Was Anderson trying a chance shot in the dark--or had he
stumbled upon some fresh evidence against her?  She could not tell from
his manner.

"Why do you say that?" she feinted.

"His cap's there on that table," said the detective with crushing
terseness.  Dale started.  She had not remembered the cap--why hadn't
she burned it, concealed it--as she had concealed the blue-print?  She
passed a hand over her forehead wearily.

Miss Cornelia watched her niece.

"It you're keeping anything back, Dale--tell him," she said.

"She's keeping something back all right," he said.  "She's told part of
the truth, but not all."  He hammered at Dale again.  "You and Fleming
located that room by means of a blue-print of the house.  He
started--not to go out--but, probably, to go up that staircase. And he
had in his hand the rest of this!"  Again he displayed the blank corner
of blue paper.

Dale knew herself cornered at last.  The detective's deductions were
too shrewd; do what she would, she could keep him away from the truth
no longer.

"He was going to take the money and go away with it!" she said rather
pitifully, feeling a certain relief of despair steal over her, now that
she no longer needed to go on lying--lying--involving herself in an
inextricable web of falsehood.

"Dale!" gasped Miss Cornelia, alarmed.  But Dale went on, reckless of
consequences to herself, though still warily shielding Jack.

"He changed the minute he heard about it.  He was all kindness before
that--but afterward--"  She shuddered, closing her eyes.  Fleming's
face rose before her again, furious, distorted with passion and
greed--then, suddenly, quenched of life.

Anderson turned to Miss Cornelia triumphantly.

"She started to find the money--and save Bailey," he explained,
building up his theory of the crime.  "But to do it she had to take
Fleming into her confidence--and he turned yellow.  Rather than let him
get away with it, she--"  He made an expressive gesture toward his hip
pocket.

Dale trembled, feeling herself already in the toils.  She had not quite
realized, until now, how damningly plausible such an explanation of
Fleming's death could sound.  It fitted the evidence perfectly--it took
account of every factor but one--the factor left unaccounted for was
one which even she herself could not explain.

"Isn't that true?" demanded Anderson.  Dale already felt the cold clasp
of handcuffs on her slim wrists.  What use of denial when every tiny
circumstance was so leagued against her?  And yet she 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.

"No."

"How about you, Beresford?"

Beresford hesitated.

"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.

"Doctor."

"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.

"Now, please."

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.

"How's this?"

"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.

"That's absurd!"

"No."

"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.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

THE BLACKENED BAG

As it chanced, she did not turn.  The hall door opened--the head behind
the settee sank down again.  Jack Bailey entered, carrying a couple of
logs of firewood.

Dale moved toward him as soon as he had shut the door.

"Oh, things have gone awfully wrong, haven't they?" she said with a
little break in her voice.

He put his finger to his lips.

"Be careful!" he whispered.  He glanced about the room cautiously.

"I don't trust even the furniture in this house to-night!" he said. He
took Dale hungrily in his arms and kissed her once, swiftly, on the
lips.  Then they parted--his voice changed to the formal voice of a
servant.

"Miss Van Gorder wishes the fire kept burning," he announced, with a
whispered "Play up!" to Dale.

Dale caught his meaning at once.

"Put some logs on the fire, please," she said loudly, for the benefit
of any listening ears.  Then in an undertone to Bailey, "Jack--I'm
nearly distracted!"

Bailey threw his wood on the fire, which received it with appreciative
crackles and sputterings.  Then again, for a moment, he clasped his
sweetheart closely to him.

"Dale, pull yourself together!" he whispered warningly.  "We've got a
fight ahead of us!"

He released her and turned back toward the fire.

"These old-fashioned fireplaces eat up a lot of wood," he said in
casual tones, pretending to arrange the logs with the poker so the fire
would draw more cleanly.

But Dale felt that she must settle one point between them before they
took up their game of pretense again.

"You know why I sent for Richard Fleming, don't you?" she said, her
eyes fixed beseechingly on her lover.  The rest of the world might
interpret her action as it pleased--she couldn't bear to have Jack
misunderstand.

But there was no danger of that.  His faith in her was too complete.

"Yes--of course--" he said, with a look of gratitude.  Then his mind
reverted to the ever-present problem before them.  "But who in God's
name killed him?" he muttered, kneeling before the fire.

"You don't think it was--Billy?"  Dale saw Billy's face before her for
a moment, calm, impassive.  But he was an Oriental--an alien--his face
might be just as calm, just as impassive while his hands were still red
with blood.  She shuddered at the thought.

Bailey considered the matter.

"More likely the man Lizzie saw going upstairs," he said finally.
"But--I've been all over the upper floors."

"And--nothing?" breathed Dale.

"Nothing."  Bailey's voice had an accent of dour finality.  "Dale, do
you think that--" he began.

Some instinct warned the girl that they were not to continue their
conversation uninterrupted.  "Be careful!" she breathed, as footsteps
sounded in the hall.  Bailey nodded and turned back to his pretense of
mending the fire.  Dale moved away from him slowly.

The door opened and Miss Cornelia entered, her black knitting-bag in
her hand, on her face a demure little smile of triumph.  She closed the
door carefully behind her and began to speak at once.

"Well, Mr. Alopecia--Urticaria--Rubeola--otherwise BAILEY!" she said in
tones of the greatest satisfaction, addressing herself to Bailey's
rigid back.  Bailey jumped to his feet mechanically at her mention of
his name.  He and Dale exchanged one swift and hopeless glance of utter
defeat.

"I wish," proceeded Miss Cornelia, obviously enjoying the situation to
the full, "I wish you young people would remember that even if hair and
teeth have fallen out at sixty the mind still functions."

She pulled out a cabinet photograph from the depths of her knitting-bag.

"His photograph--sitting on your dresser!" she chided Dale.  "Burn it
and be quick about it!"

Dale took the photograph but continued to stare at her aunt with
incredulous eyes.

"Then--you knew?" she stammered.

Miss Cornelia, the effective little tableau she had planned now
accomplished to her most humorous satisfaction, relapsed into a chair.

"My dear child," said the indomitable lady, with a sharp glance at
Bailey's bewildered face, "I have employed many gardeners in my time
and never before had one who manicured his fingernails, wore silk
socks, and regarded baldness as a plant instead of a calamity."

An unwilling smile began to break on the faces of both Dale and her
lover.  The former crossed to the fireplace and threw the damning
photograph of Bailey on the flames.  She watched it shrivel--curl
up--be reduced to ash.  She stirred the ashes with a poker till they
were well scattered.

Bailey, recovering from the shock of finding that Miss Cornelia's sharp
eyes had pierced his disguise without his even suspecting it, now threw
himself on her mercy.

"Then you know why I'm here?" he stammered.

"I still have a certain amount of imagination!  I may think you are a
fool for taking the risk, but I can see what that idiot of a detective
might not--that if you had looted the Union Bank you wouldn't be trying
to discover if the money is in this house.  You would at least
presumably know where it is."

The knowledge that he had an ally in this brisk and indomitable
spinster lady cheered him greatly.  But she did not wait for any
comment from him.  She turned abruptly to Dale.

"Now I want to ask you something," she said more gravely.  "Was there a
blue-print, and did you get it from Richard Fleming?"

It was Dale's turn now to bow her head.

"Yes," she confessed.

Bailey felt a thrill of horror run through him.  She hadn't told him
this!

"Dale!" he said uncomprehendingly, "don't you see where this places
you?  If you had it, why didn't you give it to Anderson when he asked
for it?"

"Because," said Miss Cornelia uncompromisingly, "she had sense enough
to see that Mr. Anderson considered that piece of paper the final link
in the evidence against her!"

"But she could have no motive!" stammered Bailey, distraught, still
failing to grasp the significance of Dale's refusal.

"Couldn't she?" queried Miss Cornelia pityingly.  "The detective thinks
she could--to save you!"

Now the full light of revelation broke upon Bailey.  He took a step
back.

"Good God!" he said.

Miss Cornelia would have liked to comment tartly upon the singular lack
of intelligence displayed by even the nicest young men in trying
circumstances.  But there was no time.  They might be interrupted at
any moment and before they were, there were things she must find out.

"Where is that paper, now?" she asked Dale sharply;

"Why--the Doctor is getting it for me." Dale seemed puzzled by the
intensity of her aunt's manner.

"What?" almost shouted Miss Cornelia.  Dale explained.

"It was on the tray Billy took out," she said, still wondering why so
simple an answer should disturb Miss Cornelia so greatly.

"Then I'm afraid everything's over," Miss Cornelia said despairingly,
and made her first gesture of defeat.  She turned away.  Dale followed
her, still unable to fathom her course of reasoning.

"I didn't know what else to do," she said rather plaintively, wondering
if again, as with Fleming, she had misplaced her confidence at a moment
critical for them all.

But Miss Cornelia seemed to have no great patience with her dejection.

"One of two things will happen now," she said, with acrid, logic.
"Either the Doctor's an honest man--in which case, as coroner, he will
hand that paper to the detective--" Dale gasped.  "Or he is not an
honest man," went on Miss Cornelia, "and he will keep it for himself.
I don't think he's an honest man."

The frank expression of her distrust seemed to calm her a little. She
resumed her interrogation of Dale more gently.

"Now, let's be clear about this.  Had Richard Fleming ascertained that
there was a concealed room in this house?"

"He was starting up to it!" said Dale in the voice of a ghost,
remembering.

"Just what did you tell him?"

"That I believed there was a Hidden Room in the house--and that the
money from the Union Bank might be in it."

Again, for the millionth time, indeed it seemed to her, she reviewed
the circumstances of the crime.

"Could anyone have overheard?" asked Miss Cornelia.

The question had rung in Dale's ears ever since she had come to her
senses after the firing of the shot and seen Fleming's body stark on
the floor of the alcove.

"I don't know," she said.  "We were very cautious."

"You don't know where this room is?"

"No, I never saw the print.  Upstairs somewhere, for he--"

"Upstairs!  Then the thing to do, if we can get that paper from the
Doctor, is to locate the room at once."

Jack Bailey did not recognize the direction where her thoughts were
tending.  It seemed terrible to him that anyone should devote a thought
to the money while Dale was still in danger.

"What does the money matter now?" he broke in somewhat irritably.
"We've got to save her!" and his eyes went to Dale.

Miss Cornelia gave him an ineffable look of weary patience.

"The money matters a great deal," she said, sensibly.  "Someone was in
this house on the same errand as Richard Fleming.  After all," she went
on with a tinge of irony, "the course of reasoning that you followed,
Mr. Bailey, is not necessarily unique."

She rose.

"Somebody else may have suspected that Courtleigh Fleming robbed his
own bank," she said thoughtfully.  Her eye fell on the Doctor's
professional bag--she seemed to consider it as if it were a strange
sort of animal.

"Find the man who followed your course of reasoning," she ended, with a
stare at Bailey, "and you have found the murderer."

"With that reasoning you might suspect me!" said the latter a trifle
touchily.

Miss Cornelia did not give an inch.

"I have," she said.  Dale shot a swift, sympathetic glance at her
lover, another less sympathetic and more indignant at her aunt. Miss
Cornelia smiled.

"However, I now suspect somebody else," she said.  They waited for her
to reveal the name of the suspect but she kept her own counsel. By now
she had entirely given up confidence if not in the probity at least in
the intelligence of all persons, male or female, under the age of
sixty-five.

She rang the bell for Billy.  But Dale was still worrying over the
possible effects of the confidence she had given Doctor Wells.

"Then you think the Doctor may give this paper to Mr. Anderson?" she
asked.

"He may or he may not.  It is entirely possible that he may elect to
search for this room himself!  He may even already have gone upstairs!"

She moved quickly to the door and glanced across toward the
dining-room, but so far apparently all was safe.  The Doctor was at the
table making a pretense of drinking a cup of coffee and Billy was in
close attendance.  That the Doctor already had the paper she was
certain; it was the use he intended to make of it that was her concern.

She signaled to the Jap and he came out into the hall.  Beresford, she
learned, was still in the kitchen with his revolver, waiting for
another attempt on the door and the detective was still outside in his
search.  To Billy she gave her order in a low voice.

"If the Doctor attempts to go upstairs," she said, "let me know at
once.  Don't seem to be watching.  You can be in the pantry.  But let
me know instantly."

Once back in the living-room the vague outlines of a plan--a
test--formed slowly in Miss Cornelia's mind, grew more definite.

"Dale, watch that door and warn me if anyone is coming!" she commanded,
indicating the door into the hall.  Dale obeyed, marveling silently at
her aunt's extraordinary force of character. Most of Miss Cornelia's
contemporaries would have called for a quiet ambulance to take them to
a sanatorium some hours ere this--but Miss Cornelia was not merely,
comparatively speaking, as fresh as a daisy; her manner bore every
evidence of a firm intention to play Sherlock Holmes to the mysteries
that surrounded her, in spite of Doctors, detectives, dubious noises,
or even the Bat himself.

The last of the Van Gorder spinsters turned to Bailey now.

"Get some soot from that fireplace," she ordered.  "Be quick. Scrape it
off with a knife or a piece of paper.  Anything."

Bailey wondered and obeyed.  As he was engaged in his grimy task, Miss
Cornelia got out a piece of writing paper from a drawer and placed it
on the center table, with a lead pencil beside it.

Bailey emerged from the fireplace with a handful of sooty flakes.

"Is this all right?"

"Yes.  Now rub it on the handle of that bag."  She indicated the little
black bag in which Doctor Wells carried the usual paraphernalia of a
country Doctor.

A private suspicion grew in Bailey's mind as to whether Miss Cornelia's
fine but eccentric brain had not suffered too sorely under the shocks
of the night.  But he did not dare disobey.  He blackened the handle of
the Doctor's bag with painstaking thoroughness and awaited further
instructions.

"Somebody's coming!" Dale whispered, warning from her post by the door.

Bailey quickly went to the fireplace and resumed his pretended labors
with the fire.  Miss Cornelia moved away from the Doctor's bag and
spoke for the benefit of whoever might be coming.

"We all need sleep," she began, as if ending a conversation with Dale,
"and I think--"

The door opened, admitting Billy.

"Doctor just go upstairs," he said, and went out again leaving the door
open.

A flash passed across Miss Cornelia's face.  She stepped to the door.
She called.

"Doctor!  Oh, Doctor!"

"Yes?" answered the Doctor's voice from the main staircase.  His steps
clattered down the stairs--he entered the room.  Perhaps he read
something in Miss Cornelia's manner that demanded an explanation of his
action.  At any rate, he forestalled her, just as she was about to
question him.

"I was about to look around above," he said.  "I don't like to leave if
there is the possibility of some assassin still hidden in the house."

"That is very considerate of you.  But we are well protected now. And
besides, why should this person remain in the house?  The murder is
done, the police are here."

"True," he said.  "I only thought--"

But a knocking at the terrace door interrupted him.  While the
attention of the others was turned in that direction Dale, less cynical
than her aunt, made a small plea to him and realized before she had
finished with it that the Doctor too had his price.

"Doctor--did you get it?" she repeated, drawing the Doctor aside.

The Doctor gave her a look of apparent bewilderment.

"My dear child," he said softly, "are you sure that you put it there?"

Dale felt as if she had received a blow in the face.

"Why, yes--I--" she began in tones of utter dismay.  Then she stopped.
The Doctor's seeming bewilderment was too pat--too plausible.  Of
course she was sure--and, though possible, it seemed extremely unlikely
that anyone else could have discovered the hiding-place of the
blue-print in the few moments that had elapsed between the time when
Billy took the tray from the room and the time when the Doctor
ostensibly went to find it.  A cold wave of distrust swept over
her--she turned away from the Doctor silently.

Meanwhile Anderson had entered, slamming the terrace-door behind him.

"I couldn't find anybody!" he said in an irritated voice.  "I think
that Jap's crazy."

The Doctor began to struggle into his topcoat, avoiding any look at
Dale.

"Well," he said, "I believe I've fulfilled all the legal
requirements--I think I must be going."  He turned toward the door but
the detective halted him.

"Doctor," he said, "did you ever hear Courtleigh Fleming mention a
Hidden Room in this house?"

If the Doctor started, the movement passed apparently unnoted by
Anderson.  And his reply was coolly made.

"No--and I knew him rather well."

"You don't think then," persisted the detective, "that such a room and
the money in it could be the motive for this crime?"

The Doctor's voice grew a little curt.

"I don't believe Courtleigh Fleming robbed his own bank, if that's what
you mean," he said with nicely calculated emphasis, real or feigned.
He crossed over to get his bag and spoke to Miss Cornelia.

"Well, Miss Van Gorder," he said, picking up the bag by its blackened
handle, "I can't wish you a comfortable night but I can wish you a
quiet one."

Miss Cornelia watched him silently.  As he turned to go, she spoke.

"We're all of us a little upset, naturally," she confessed.  "Perhaps
you could write a prescription--a sleeping-powder or a bromide of some
sort."

"Why, certainly," agreed the Doctor at once.  He turned back.  Miss
Cornelia seemed pleased.

"I hoped you would," she said with a little tremble in her voice such
as might easily occur in the voice of a nervous old lady.  "Oh, yes,
here's paper and a pencil," as the Doctor fumbled in a pocket.

The Doctor took the sheet of paper she proffered and, using the side of
his bag as a pad, began to write out the prescription.

"I don't generally advise these drugs," he said, looking up for a
moment.  "Still--"

He paused.  "What time is it?"

Miss Cornelia glanced at the clock.  "Half-past eleven."

"Then I'd better bring you the powders myself," decided the Doctor.
"The pharmacy closes at eleven.  I shall have to make them up myself."

"That seems a lot of trouble."

"Nothing is any trouble if I can be helpful," he assured her,
smilingly.  And Miss Cornelia also smiled, took the piece of paper from
his hand, glanced at it once, as if out of idle curiosity about the
unfinished prescription, and then laid it down on the table with a
careless little gesture.  Dale gave her aunt a glance of dumb entreaty.
Miss Cornelia read her wish for another moment alone with the Doctor.

"Dale will let you out, Doctor," said she, giving the girl the key to
the front door.

The Doctor approved her watchfulness.

"That's right," he said smilingly.  "Keep things locked up. Discretion
is the better part of valor!"

But Miss Cornelia failed to agree with him.

"I've been discreet for sixty-five years," she said with a sniff, "and
sometimes I think it was a mistake!"

The Doctor laughed easily and followed Dale out of the room, with a nod
of farewell to the others in passing.  The detective, seeking for some
object upon whom to vent the growing irritation which seemed to possess
him, made Bailey the scapegoat of his wrath.

"I guess we can do without you for the present!" he said, with an angry
frown at the latter.  Bailey flushed, then remembered himself, and left
the room submissively, with the air of a well-trained servant accepting
an unmerited rebuke.  The detective turned at once to Miss Cornelia.

"Now I want a few words with you!"

"Which means that you mean to do all the talking!" said Miss Cornelia
acidly.  "Very well!  But first I want to show you something.  Will you
come here, please, Mr. Anderson?"

She started for the alcove.

"I've examined that staircase," said the detective.

"Not with me!" insisted Miss Cornelia.  "I have something to show you."

He followed her unwillingly up the stairs, his whole manner seeming to
betray a complete lack of confidence in the theories of all amateur
sleuths in general and spinster detectives of sixty-five in particular.
Their footsteps died away up the alcove stairs.  The living-room was
left vacant for an instant.

Vacant?  Only in seeming.  The moment that Miss Cornelia and the
detective had passed up the stairs, the crouching, mysterious Unknown,
behind the settee, began to move.  The French window-door opened--a
stealthy figure passed through it silently to be swallowed up in the
darkness of the terrace.

And poor Lizzie, entering the room at that moment, saw a hand covered
with blood reach back and gropingly, horribly, through the broken pane,
refasten the lock.

She shrieked madly.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

HANDCUFFS

Dale had failed with the Doctor.  When Lizzie's screams once more had
called the startled household to the living-room, she knew she had
failed.  She followed in mechanically, watched an irritated Anderson
send the Pride of Kerry to bed and threaten to lock her up, and
listened vaguely to the conversation between her aunt and the detective
that followed it, without more than casual interest.

Nevertheless, that conversation was to have vital results later on.

"Your point about that thumbprint on the stair rail is very
interesting," Anderson said with a certain respect.  "But just what
does it prove?"

"It points down," said Miss Cornelia, still glowing with the memory of
the whistle of surprise the detective had given when she had shown him
the strange thumbprint on the rail of the alcove stairs.

"It does," he admitted.  "But what then?"

Miss Cornelia tried to put her case as clearly and tersely as possible.

"It shows that somebody stood there for some time, listening to my
niece and Richard Fleming in this room below," she said.

"All right--I'll grant that to save argument," retorted the detective.
"But the moment that shot was fired the lights came on. If somebody on
that staircase shot him, and then came down and took the blue-print,
Miss Ogden would have seen him."

 He turned upon Dale.

"Did you?"

She hesitated.  Why hadn't she thought of such an explanation before?
But now--it would sound too flimsy!

"No, nobody came down," she admitted candidly.  The detective's face
altered, grew menacing.  Miss Cornelia once more had put herself
between him and Dale.

"Now, Mr. Anderson--" she warned.

The detective was obviously trying to keep his temper.

"I'm not hounding this girl!" he said doggedly.  "I haven't said yet
that she committed the murder--but she took that blue-print and I want
it!"

"You want it to connect her with the murder," parried Miss Cornelia.

The detective threw up his hands.

"It's rather reasonable to suppose that I might want to return the
funds to the Union Bank, isn't it?" he queried in tones of heavy
sarcasm.  "Provided they're here," he added doubtfully.

Miss Cornelia resolved upon comparative frankness.

"I see," she said.  "Well, I'll tell you this much, Mr. Anderson, and
I'll ask you to believe me as a lady.  Granting that at one time my
niece knew something of that blue-print--at this moment we do not know
where it is or who has it."

Her words had the unmistakable ring of truth.  The very oath from the
detective that succeeded them showed his recognition of the fact.

"Damnation," he muttered.  "That's true, is it?"

"That's true," said Miss Cornelia firmly.  A silence of troubled
thoughts fell upon the three.  Miss Cornelia took out her knitting.

"Did you ever try knitting when you wanted to think?" she queried
sweetly, after a pause in which the detective tramped from one side of
the room to the other, brows knotted, eyes bent on the floor.

"No," grunted the detective.  He took out a cigar--bit off the end with
a savage snap of teeth--lit it--resumed his pacing.

"You should, sometimes," continued Miss Cornelia, watching his troubled
movements with a faint light of mockery in her eyes.  "I find it very
helpful."

"I don't need knitting to think straight," rasped Anderson indignantly.
Miss Cornelia's eyes danced.

"I wonder!" she said with caustic affability.  "You seem to have so
much evidence left over."

The detective paused and glared at her helplessly.

"Did you ever hear of the man who took a clock apart--and when he put
it together again, he had enough left over to make another clock?" she
twitted.

The detective, ignoring the taunt, crossed quickly to Dale.

"What do you mean by saying that paper isn't where you put it?" he
demanded in tones of extreme severity.  Miss Cornelia replied for her
niece.

"She hasn't said that."

The detective made an impatient movement of his hand and walked
away--as if to get out of the reach of the indefatigable spinster's
tongue.  But Miss Cornelia had not finished with him yet, by any means.

"Do you believe in circumstantial evidence?" she asked him with seeming
ingenuousness.

"It's my business," said the detective stolidly.  Miss Cornelia smiled.

"While you have been investigating," she announced, "I, too, have not
been idle."

The detective gave a barking laugh.  She let it pass.  "To me," she
continued, "it is perfectly obvious that one intelligence has been at
work behind many of the things that have occurred in this house."

Now Anderson observed her with a new respect.

"Who?" he grunted tersely.

Her eyes flashed.

"I'll ask you that!  Some one person who, knowing Courtleigh Fleming
well, probably knows of the existence of a Hidden Room in this house
and who, finding us in occupation of the house, has tried to get rid of
me in two ways.  First, by frightening me with anonymous threats--and,
second, by urging me to leave.  Someone, who very possibly entered this
house tonight shortly before the murder and slipped up that staircase!"

The detective had listened to her outburst with unusual thoughtfulness.
A certain wonder--perhaps at her shrewdness, perhaps at an unexpected
confirmation of certain ideas of his own--grew upon his face.  Now he
jerked out two words.

"The Doctor?"

Miss Cornelia knitted on as if every movement of her needles added one
more link to the strong chain of probabilities she was piecing together.

"When Doctor Wells said he was leaving here earlier in the evening for
the Johnsons' he did not go there," she observed.  "He was not expected
to go there.  I found that out when I telephoned."

"The Doctor!" repeated the detective, his eyes narrowing, his head
beginning to sway from side to side like the head of some great cat
just before a spring.

"As you know," Miss Cornelia went on, "I had a supplementary bolt
placed on that terrace door today."  She nodded toward the door that
gave access into the alcove from the terrace.  "Earlier this evening
Doctor Wells said that he had bolted it, when he had left it
open--purposely, as I now realize, in order that he might return later.
You may also recall that Doctor Wells took a scrap of paper from
Richard Fleming's hand and tried to conceal it--why did he do that?"

She paused for a second.  Then she changed her tone a little.

"May I ask you to look at this?"

She displayed the piece of paper on which Doctor Wells had started to
write the prescription for her sleeping-powders--and now her strategy
with the doctor's bag and the soot Jack Bailey had got from the
fireplace stood revealed.  A sharp, black imprint of a man's right
thumb--the Doctor's--stood out on the paper below the broken line of
writing.  The Doctor had not noticed the staining of his hand by the
blackened bag handle, or, noticing, had thought nothing of it--but the
blackened bag handle had been a trap, and he had left an indelible
piece of evidence behind him.  It now remained to test the value of
this evidence.

Miss Cornelia handed the paper to Anderson silently.  But her eyes were
bright with pardonable vanity at the success of her little piece of
strategy.

"A thumb-print," muttered Anderson.  "Whose is it?"

"Doctor Wells," said Miss Cornelia with what might have been a little
crow of triumph in anyone not a Van Gorder.

Anderson looked thoughtful.  Then he felt in his pocket for a
magnifying glass, failed to find it, muttered, and took the reading
glass Miss Cornelia offered him.

"Try this," she said.  "My whole case hangs on my conviction that that
print and the one out there on the stair rail are the same."

He put down the paper and smiled at her ironically.  "Your case!" he
said.  "You don't really believe you need a detective at all, do you?"

"I will only say that so far your views and mine have failed to
coincide.  If I am right about that fingerprint, then you may be right
about my private opinion."

And on that he went out, rather grimly, paper and reading glass in
hand, to make his comparison.

It was then that Beresford came in, a new and slightly rigid Beresford,
and crossed to her at once.

"Miss Van Gorder," he said, all the flippancy gone from his voice, "may
I ask you to make an excuse and call your gardener here?"

Dale started uncontrollably at the ominous words, but Miss Cornelia
betrayed no emotion except in the increased rapidity of her knitting.

"The gardener?  Certainly, if you'll touch that bell," she said
pleasantly.

Beresford stalked to the bell and rang it.  The three waited--Dale in
an agony of suspense.

The detective re-entered the room by the alcove stairs, his mien
unfathomable by any of the anxious glances that sought him out at once.

"It's no good, Miss Van Gorder," he said quietly.  "The prints are not
the same."

"Not the same!" gasped Miss Cornelia, unwilling to believe her ears.

Anderson laid down the paper and the reading glass with a little
gesture of dismissal.

"If you think I'm mistaken, I'll leave it to any unprejudiced person or
your own eyesight.  Thumbprints never lie," he said in a flat,
convincing voice.  Miss Cornelia stared at him--disappointment written
large on her features.  He allowed himself a little ironic smile.

"Did you ever try a good cigar when you wanted to think?" he queried
suavely, puffing upon his own.

But Miss Cornelia's spirit was too broken by the collapse of her dearly
loved and adroitly managed scheme for her to take up the gauge of
battle he offered.

"I still believe it was the Doctor," she said stubbornly.  But her
tones were not the tones of utter conviction which she had used before.

"And yet," said the detective, ruthlessly demolishing another link in
her broken chain of evidence, "the Doctor was in this room tonight,
according to your own statement, when the anonymous letter came through
the window."

Miss Cornelia gazed at him blankly, for the first time in her life at a
loss for an appropriately sharp retort.  It was true--the Doctor had
been here in the room beside her when the stone bearing the last
anonymous warning had crashed through the windowpane.  And yet--

Billy's entrance in answer to Beresford's ring made her mind turn to
other matters for the moment.  Why had Beresford's manner changed so,
and what was he saying to Billy now?

"Tell the gardener Miss Van Gorder wants him and don't say we're all
here," the young lawyer commanded the butler sharply.  Billy nodded and
disappeared.  Miss Cornelia's back began to stiffen--she didn't like
other people ordering her servants around like that.

The detective, apparently, had somewhat of the same feeling.

"I seem to have plenty of help in this case!" he said with obvious
sarcasm, turning to Beresford.

The latter made no reply.  Dale rose anxiously from her chair, her lips
quivering.

"Why have you sent for the gardener?" she inquired haltingly.

Beresford deigned to answer at last.

"I'll tell you that in a moment," he said with a grim tightening of his
lips.

There was a fateful pause, for an instant, while Dale roved nervously
from one side of the room to the other.  Then Jack Bailey came into the
room--alone.

He seemed to sense danger in the air.  His hands clenched at his sides,
but except for that tiny betrayal of emotion, he still kept his
servant's pose.

"You sent for me?" he queried of Miss Cornelia submissively, ignoring
the glowering Beresford.

But Beresford would be ignored no longer.  He came between them before
Miss Cornelia had time to answer.

"How long has this man been in your employ?" he asked brusquely, manner
tense.

Miss Cornelia made one final attempt at evasion.  "Why should that
interest you?" she parried, answering his question with an icy question
of her own.

It was too late.  Already Bailey had read the truth in Beresford's eyes.

"I came this evening," he admitted, still hoping against hope that his
cringing posture of the servitor might give Beresford pause for the
moment.

But the promptness of his answer only crystallized Beresford's
suspicions.

"Exactly," he said with terse finality.  He turned to the detective.

"I've been trying to recall this man's face ever since I came in
tonight--" he said with grim triumph.  "Now, I know who he is."

"Who is he?"

Bailey straightened up.  He had lost his game with Chance--and the
loss, coming when it did, seemed bitterer than even he had thought it
could be, but before they took him away he would speak his mind.

"It's all right, Beresford," he said with a fatigue so deep that it
colored his voice like flakes of iron-rust.  "I know you think you're
doing your duty--but I wish to God you could have restrained your sense
of duty for about three hours more!"

"To let you get away?" the young lawyer sneered, unconvinced.

"No," said Bailey with quiet defiance.  "To let me finish what I came
here to do."

"Don't you think you have done enough?" Beresford's voice flicked him
with righteous scorn, no less telling because of its youthfulness.  He
turned back to the detective soberly enough.

"This man has imposed upon the credulity of these women, I am quite
sure without their knowledge," he said with a trace of his former
gallantry.  "He is Bailey of the Union Bank, the missing cashier."

The detective slowly put down his cigar on an ash tray.

"That's the truth, is it?" he demanded.

Dale's hand flew to her breast.  If Jack would only deny it--even now!
But even as she thought this, she realized the uselessness of any such
denial.

Bailey realized it, too.

"It's true, all right," he admitted hopelessly.  He closed his eyes for
a moment.  Let them come with the handcuffs now and get it over--every
moment the scene dragged out was a moment of unnecessary torture for
Dale.

But Beresford had not finished with his indictment.  "I accuse him not
only of the thing he is wanted for, but of the murder of Richard
Fleming!" he said fiercely, glaring at Bailey as if only a youthful
horror of making a scene before Dale and Miss Cornelia held him back
from striking the latter down where he stood.

Bailey's eyes snapped open.  He took a threatening step toward his
accuser.  "You lie!" he said in a hoarse, violent voice.

Anderson crossed between them, just as conflict seemed inevitable.

"You knew this?" he queried sharply in Dale's direction.

Dale set her lips in a line.  She did not answer.

He turned to Miss Cornelia.

"Did you?"

"Yes," admitted the latter quietly, her knitting needles at last at
rest.  "I knew he was Mr. Bailey if that is all you mean."

The quietness of her answer seemed to infuriate the detective.

"Quite a pretty little conspiracy," he said.  "How in the name of God
do you expect me to do anything with the entire household united
against me?  Tell me that."

"Exactly," said Miss Cornelia.  "And if we are united against you, why
should I have sent for you?  You might tell me that, too."

He turned on Bailey savagely.

"What did you mean by that 'three hours more'?" he demanded.

"I could have cleared myself in three hours," said Bailey with calm
despair.

Beresford laughed mockingly--a laugh that seemed to sear into Bailey's
consciousness like the touch of a hot iron.  Again he turned frenziedly
upon the young lawyer--and Anderson was just preparing to hold them
away from each other, by force if necessary, when the doorbell rang.

For an instant the ringing of the bell held the various figures of the
little scene in the rigid postures of a waxworks tableau--Bailey, one
foot advanced toward Beresford, his hands balled up into
fists--Beresford already in an attitude of defense--the detective about
to step in between them--Miss Cornelia stiff in her chair--Dale over by
the fireplace, her hand at her heart. Then they relaxed, but not, at
least on the part of Bailey and Beresford, to resume their interrupted
conflict.  Too many nerve-shaking things had already happened that
night for either of the young men not to drop their mutual squabble in
the face of a common danger.

"Probably the Doctor," murmured Miss Cornelia uncertainly as the
doorbell rang again.  "He was to come back with some sleeping-powders."

Billy appeared for the key of the front door.

"If that's Doctor Wells," warned the detective, "admit him.  If it's
anybody else, call me."

Billy grinned acquiescently and departed.  The detective moved nearer
to Bailey.

"Have you got a gun on you?"

"No." Bailey bowed his head.

"Well, I'll just make sure of that."  The detective's hands ran swiftly
and expertly over Bailey's form, through his pockets, probing for
concealed weapons.  Then, slowly drawing a pair of handcuffs from his
pocket, he prepared to put them on Bailey's wrists.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

THE SIGN OF THE BAT

But Dale could bear it no longer.  The sight of her lover, beaten,
submissive, his head bowed, waiting obediently like a common criminal
for the detective to lock his wrists in steel broke down her last
defenses.  She rushed into the center of the room, between Bailey and
the detective, her eyes wild with terror, her words stumbling over each
other in her eagerness to get them out.

"Oh, no!  I can't stand it!  I'll tell you everything!" she cried
frenziedly.  "He got to the foot of the stair-case--Richard Fleming, I
mean," she was facing the detective now, "and he had the blue-print
you've been talking about.  I had told him Jack Bailey was here as the
gardener and he said if I screamed he would tell that.  I was
desperate.  I threatened him with the revolver but he took it from me.
Then when I tore the blue-print from him--he was shot--from the
stairs--"

"By Bailey!" interjected Beresford angrily.

"I didn't even know he was in the house!" Bailey's answer was as
instant as it was hot.  Meanwhile, the Doctor had entered the room,
hardly noticed, in the middle of Dale's confession, and now stood
watching the scene intently from a post by the door.

"What did you do with the blue-print?"  The detective's voice beat at
Dale like a whip.

"I put it first in the neck of my dress--" she faltered.  "Then, when I
found you were watching me, I hid it somewhere else."

Her eyes fell on the Doctor.  She saw his hand steal out toward the
knob of the door.  Was he going to run away on some pretext before she
could finish her story?  She gave a sigh of relief when Billy,
re-entering with the key to the front door, blocked any such attempt at
escape.

Mechanically she watched Billy cross to the table, lay the key upon it,
and return to the hall without so much as a glance at the tense,
suspicious circle of faces focused upon herself and her lover.

"I put it--somewhere else," she repeated, her eyes going back to the
Doctor.

"Did you give it to Bailey?"

"No--I hid it--and then I told where it was--to the Doctor--" Dale
swayed on her feet.  All turned surprisedly toward the Doctor. Miss
Cornelia rose from her chair.

The Doctor bore the battery of eyes unflinchingly.  "That's rather
inaccurate," he said, with a tight little smile.  "You told me where
you had placed it, but when I went to look for it, it was gone."

"Are you quite sure of that?" queried Miss Cornelia acidly.

"Absolutely," he said.  He ignored the rest of the party, addressing
himself directly to Anderson.

"She said she had hidden it inside one of the rolls that were on the
tray on that table," he continued in tones of easy explanation,
approaching the table as he did so, and tapping it with the box of
sleeping-powders he had brought for Miss Cornelia.

"She was in such distress that I finally went to look for it.  It
wasn't there."

"Do you realize the significance of this paper?" Anderson boomed at
once.

"Nothing, beyond the fact that Miss Ogden was afraid it linked her with
the crime." The Doctor's voice was very clear and firm.

Anderson pondered an instant.  Then--

"I'd like to have a few minutes with the Doctor alone," he said
somberly.

The group about him dissolved at once.  Miss Cornelia, her arm around
her niece's waist, led the latter gently to the door.  As the two
lovers passed each other a glance flashed between them--a glance,
pathetically brief, of longing and love.  Dale's finger tips brushed
Bailey's hand gently in passing.

"Beresford," commanded the detective, "take Bailey to the library and
see that he stays there."

Beresford tapped his pocket with a significant gesture and motioned
Bailey to the door.  Then they, too, left the room.  The door closed.
The Doctor and the detective were alone.

The detective spoke at once--and surprisingly.

"Doctor, I'll have that blue-print!" he said sternly, his eyes the
color of steel.

The Doctor gave him a wary little glance.

"But I've just made the statement that I didn't find the blue-print,"
he affirmed flatly.

"I heard you!" Anderson's voice was very dry.  "Now this situation is
between you and me, Doctor Wells."  His forefinger sought the Doctor's
chest.  "It has nothing to do with that poor fool of a cashier.  He
hasn't got either those securities or the money from them and you know
it.  It's in this house and you know that, too!"

"In this house?" repeated the Doctor as if stalling for time.

"In this house!  Tonight, when you claimed to be making a professional
call, you were in this house--and I think you were on that staircase
when Richard Fleming was killed!"

"No, Anderson, I'll swear I was not!"  The Doctor might be acting, but
if he was, it was incomparable acting.  The terror in his voice seemed
too real to be feigned.

But Anderson was remorseless.

"I'll tell you this," he continued.  "Miss Van Gorder very cleverly got
a thumbprint of yours tonight.  Does that mean anything to you?"

His eyes bored into the Doctor--the eyes of a poker player bluffing on
a hidden card.  But the Doctor did not flinch.

"Nothing," he said firmly.  "I have not been upstairs in this house in
three months."

The accent of truth in his voice seemed so unmistakable that even
Anderson's shrewd brain was puzzled by it.  But he persisted in his
attempt to wring a confession from this latest suspect.

"Before Courtleigh Fleming died--did he tell you anything about a
Hidden Room in this house?" he queried cannily.

The Doctor's confident air of honesty lessened, a furtive look appeared
in his eyes.

"No," he insisted, but not as convincingly as he had made his previous
denial.

The detective hammered at the point again.

"You haven't been trying to frighten these women out of here with
anonymous letters so you could get in?"

"No.  Certainly not."  But again the Doctor's air had that odd mixture
of truth and falsehood in it.

The detective paused for an instant.

"Let me see your key ring!" he ordered.  The Doctor passed it over
silently.  The detective glanced at the keys--then, suddenly, his
revolver glittered in his other hand.

The Doctor watched him anxiously.  A puff of wind rattled the panes of
the French windows.  The storm, quieted for a while, was gathering its
strength for a fresh unleashing of its dogs of thunder.

The detective stepped to the terrace door, opened it, and then quietly
proceeded to try the Doctor's keys in the lock.  Thus located he was
out of visual range, and Wells took advantage of it at once. He moved
swiftly toward the fireplace, extracting the missing piece of
blue-print from an inside pocket as he did so.  The secret the
blue-print guarded was already graven on his mind in indelible
characters--now he would destroy all evidence that it had ever been in
his possession and bluff through the rest of the situation as best he
might.

He threw the paper toward the flames with a nervous gesture of relief.
But for once his cunning failed--the throw was too hurried to be sure
and the light scrap of paper wavered and settled to the floor just
outside the fireplace.  The Doctor swore noiselessly and stooped to
pick it up and make sure of its destruction.  But he was not quick
enough.  Through the window the detective had seen the incident, and
the next moment the Doctor heard his voice bark behind him.  He turned,
and stared at the leveled muzzle of Anderson's revolver.

"Hands up and stand back!" he commanded.

As he did so Anderson picked up the paper and a sardonic smile crossed
his face as his eyes took in the significance of the print. He laid his
revolver down on the table where he could snatch it up again at a
moment's notice.

"Behind a fireplace, eh?" he muttered.  "What fireplace?  In what room?"

"I won't tell you!"  The Doctor's voice was sullen.  He inched,
gingerly, cautiously, toward the other side of the table.

"All right--I'll find it, you know."  The detective's eyes turned
swiftly back to the blue-print.  Experience should have taught him
never to underrate an adversary, even of the Doctor's caliber, but long
familiarity with danger can make the shrewdest careless.  For a moment,
as he bent over the paper again, he was off guard.

The Doctor seized the moment with a savage promptitude and sprang.
There followed a silent, furious struggle between the two.  Under
normal circumstances Anderson would have been the stronger and quicker,
but the Doctor fought with an added strength of despair and his initial
leap had pinioned the detective's arms behind him. Now the detective
shook one hand free and snatched at the revolver--in vain--for the
Doctor, with a groan of desperation, struck at his hand as its fingers
were about to close on the smooth butt and the revolver skidded from
the table to the floor.  With a sudden terrible movement he pinioned
both the detective's arms behind him again and reached for the
telephone.  Its heavy base descended on the back of the detective's
head with stunning force.  The next moment the battle was ended and the
Doctor, panting with exhaustion, held the limp form of an unconscious
man in his arms.

He lowered the detective to the floor and straightened up again,
listening tensely.  So brief and intense had been the struggle that
even now he could hardly believe in its reality.  It seemed impossible,
too, that the struggle had not been heard.  Then he realized dully, as
a louder roll of thunder smote on his ears, that the elements
themselves had played into his hand.  The storm, with its wind and
fury, had returned just in time to save him and drown out all sounds of
conflict from the rest of the house with its giant clamor.

He bent swiftly over Anderson, listening to his heart.  Good--the man
still breathed; he had enough on his conscience without adding the
murder of a detective to the black weight.  Now he pocketed the
revolver and the blue-print--gagged Anderson rapidly with a knotted
handkerchief and proceeded to wrap his own muffler around the
detective's head as an additional silencer.  Anderson gave a faint sigh.

The Doctor thought rapidly.  Soon or late the detective would return to
consciousness--with his hands free he could easily tear out the gag.
He looked wildly about the room for a rope, a curtain--ah, he had
it--the detective's own handcuffs!  He snapped the cuffs on Anderson's
wrists, then realized that, in his hurry, he had bound the detective's
hands in front of him instead of behind him.  Well--it would do for the
moment--he did not need much time to carry out his plans.  He dragged
the limp body, its head lolling, into the billiard room where he
deposited it on the floor in the corner farthest from the door.

So far, so good--now to lock the door of the billiard room.
Fortunately, the key was there on the inside of the door.  He quickly
transferred it, locked the billiard room door from the outside, and
pocketed the key.  For a second he stood by the center table in the
living-room, recovering his breath and trying to straighten his rumpled
clothing.  Then he crossed cautiously into the alcove and started to
pad up the alcove stairs, his face white and strained with excitement
and hope.

And it was then that there happened one of the most dramatic events of
the night.  One which was to remain, for the next hour or so, as
bewildering as the murder and which, had it come a few moments sooner
or a few moments later, would have entirely changed the course of
events.

It was preceded by a desperate hammering on the door of the terrace. It
halted the Doctor on his way upstairs, drew Beresford on a run into the
living-room, and even reached the bedrooms of the women up above.

"My God!  What's that?" Beresford panted.

The Doctor indicated the door.  It was too late now.  Already he could
hear Miss Cornelia's voice above; it was only a question of a short
time until Anderson in the billiard room revived and would try to make
his plight known.  And in the brief moment of that resumee of his
position the knocking came again.  But feebler, as though the suppliant
outside had exhausted his strength.

As Beresford drew his revolver and moved to the door, Miss Cornelia
came in, followed by Lizzie.

"It's the Bat," Lizzie announced mournfully.  "Good-by, Miss Neily.
Good-by, everybody.  I saw his hand, all covered with blood.  He's had
a good night for sure!"

But they ignored her.  And Beresford flung open the door.

Just what they had expected, what figure of horror or of fear they
waited for, no one can say.  But there was no horror and no fear; only
unutterable amazement as an unknown man, in torn and muddied garments,
with a streak of dried blood seaming his forehead like a scar, fell
through the open doorway into Beresford's arms.

"Good God!" muttered Beresford, dropping his revolver to catch the
strange burden.  For a moment the Unknown lay in his arms like a
corpse.  Then he straightened dizzily, staggered into the room, took a
few steps toward the table, and fell prostrate upon his face--at the
end of his strength.

"Doctor!" gasped Miss Cornelia dazedly and the Doctor, whatever guilt
lay on his conscience, responded at once to the call of his profession.

He bent over the Unknown Man--the physician once more--and made a brief
examination.

"He's fainted!" he said, rising.  "Struck on the head, too."

"But who is he?" faltered Miss Cornelia.

"I never saw him before," said the Doctor.  It was obvious that he
spoke the truth.  "Does anyone recognize him?"

All crowded about the Unknown, trying to read the riddle of his
identity.  Miss Cornelia rapidly revised her first impressions of the
stranger.  When he had first fallen through the doorway into
Beresford's arms she had not known what to think.  Now, in the brighter
light of the living-room she saw that the still face, beneath its mask
of dirt and dried blood, was strong and fairly youthful; if the man
were a criminal, he belonged, like the Bat, to the upper fringes of the
world of crime.  She noted mechanically that his hands and feet had
been tied, ends of frayed rope still dangled from his wrists and
ankles.  And that terrible injury on his head!  She shuddered and
closed her eyes.

"Does anyone recognize him?" repeated the Doctor but one by one the
others shook their heads.  Crook, casual tramp, or honest laborer
unexpectedly caught in the sinister toils of the Cedarcrest affair--his
identity seemed a mystery to one and all.

"Is he badly hurt?" asked Miss Cornelia, shuddering again.

"It's hard to say," answered the Doctor.  "I think not."  The Unknown
stirred feebly--made an effort to sit up.  Beresford and the Doctor
caught him under the arms and helped him to his feet. He stood there
swaying, a blank expression on his face.

"A chair!" said the Doctor quickly.  "Ah--"  He helped the strange
figure to sit down and bent over him again.

"You're all right now, my friend," he said in his best tones of
professional cheeriness.  "Dizzy a bit, aren't you?"

The Unknown rubbed his wrists where his bonds had cut them.  He made an
effort to speak.

"Water!" he said in a low voice.

The Doctor gestured to Billy.  "Get some water--or whisky--if there is
any--that'd be better."

"There's a flask of whisky in my room, Billy," added Miss Cornelia
helpfully.

"Now, my man," continued the Doctor to the Unknown.  "You're in the
hands of friends.  Brace up and tell us what happened!"

Beresford had been looking about for the detective, puzzled not to find
him, as usual, in charge of affairs.  Now, "Where's Anderson? This is a
police matter!" he said, making a movement as if to go in search of him.

The Doctor stopped him quickly.

"He was here a minute ago--he'll be back presently," he said, praying
to whatever gods he served that Anderson, bound and gagged in the
billiard room, had not yet returned to consciousness.

Unobserved by all except Miss Cornelia, the mention of the detective's
name had caused a strange reaction in the Unknown.  His eyes had
opened--he had started--the haze in his mind had seemed to clear away
for a moment.  Then, for some reason, his shoulders had slumped again
and the look of apathy come back to his face.  But, stunned or not, it
now seemed possible that he was not quite as dazed as he appeared.

The Doctor gave the slumped shoulders a little shake.

"Rouse yourself, man!" he said.  "What has happened to you?"

"I'm dazed!" said the Unknown thickly and slowly.  "I can't remember."
He passed a hand weakly over his forehead.

"What a night!" sighed Miss Cornelia, sinking into a chair. "Richard
Fleming murdered in this house--and now--this!"

The Unknown shot her a stealthy glance from beneath lowered eyelids.
But when she looked at him, his face was blank again.

"Why doesn't somebody ask his name?" queried Dale, and, "Where the
devil is that detective?" muttered Beresford, almost in the same
instant.

Neither question was answered, and Beresford, increasingly uneasy at
the continued absence of Anderson, turned toward the hall.

The Doctor took Dale's suggestion.

"What's your name?"

Silence from the Unknown--and that blank stare of stupefaction.

"Look at his papers."  It was Miss Cornelia's voice.  The Doctor and
Bailey searched the torn trouser pockets, the pockets of the muddied
shirt, while the Unknown submitted passively, not seeming to care what
happened to him.  But search him as they would--it was in vain.

"Not a paper on him," said Jack Bailey at last, straightening up.

A crash of breaking glass from the head of the alcove stairs put a
period to his sentence.  All turned toward the stairs--or all except
the Unknown, who, for a moment, half-rose in his chair, his eyes
gleaming, his face alert, the mask of bewildered apathy gone from his
face.

As they watched, a rigid little figure of horror backed slowly down the
alcove stairs and into the room--Billy, the Japanese, his Oriental
placidity disturbed at last, incomprehensible terror written in every
line of his face.

"Billy!"

"Billy--what is it?"

The diminutive butler made a pitiful attempt at his usual grin.

"It--nothing," he gasped.  The Unknown relapsed in his chair--again the
dazed stranger from nowhere.

Beresford took the Japanese by the shoulders.

"Now see here!" he said sharply.  "You've seen something!  What was it!"

Billy trembled like a leaf.

"Ghost!  Ghost!" he muttered frantically, his face working.

"He's concealing something.  Look at him!"  Miss Cornelia stared at her
servant.

"No, no!" insisted Billy in an ague of fright.  "No, no!"

But Miss Cornelia was sure of it.

"Brooks, close that door!" she said, pointing at the terrace door in
the alcove which still stood ajar after the entrance of the Unknown.

Bailey moved to obey.  But just as he reached the alcove the terrace
door slammed shut in his face.  At the same moment every light in
Cedarcrest blinked and went out again.

Bailey fumbled for the doorknob in the sudden darkness.

"The door's locked!" he said incredulously.  "The key's gone too.
Where's your revolver, Beresford?"

"I dropped it in the alcove when I caught that man," called Beresford,
cursing himself for his carelessness.

The illuminated dial of Bailey's wrist watch flickered in the darkness
as he searched for the revolver--as round, glowing spot of
phosphorescence.

Lizzie screamed.  "The eye!  The gleaming eye I saw on the stairs!" she
shrieked, pointing at it frenziedly.

"Quick--there's a candle on the table--light it somebody.  Never mind
the revolver, I have one!" called Miss Cornelia.

"Righto!" called Beresford cheerily in reply.  He found the candle, lit
it--

The party blinked at each other for a moment, still unable quite to
co-ordinate their thoughts.

Bailey rattled the knob of the door into the hall.

"This door's locked, too!" he said with increasing puzzlement.  A gasp
went over the group.  They were locked in the room while some devilment
was going on in the rest of the house.  That they knew. But what it
might be, what form it might take, they had not the remotest idea.
They were too distracted to notice the injured man, now alert in his
chair, or the Doctor's odd attitude of listening, above the rattle and
banging of the storm.

But it was not until Miss Cornelia took the candle and proceeded toward
the hall door to examine it that the full horror of the situation burst
upon them.

Neatly fastened to the white panel of the door, chest high and hardly
more than just dead, was the body of a bat.

Of what happened thereafter no one afterward remembered the details. To
be shut in there at the mercy of one who knew no mercy was intolerable.
It was left for Miss Cornelia to remember her own revolver, lying
unnoticed on the table since the crime earlier in the evening, and to
suggest its use in shattering the lock.  Just what they had expected
when the door was finally opened they did not know.  But the house was
quiet and in order; no new horror faced them in the hall; their candle
revealed no bloody figure, their ears heard no unearthly sound.

Slowly they began to breathe normally once more.  After that they began
to search the house.  Since no room was apparently immune from danger,
the men made no protest when the women insisted on accompanying them.
And as time went on and chamber after chamber was discovered empty and
undisturbed, gradually the courage of the party began to rise.  Lizzie,
still whimpering, stuck closely to Miss Cornelia's heels, but that
spirited lady began to make small side excursions of her own.

Of the men, only Bailey, Beresford, and the Doctor could really be said
to search at all.  Billy had remained below, impassive of face but
rolling of eye; the Unknown, after an attempt to depart with them, had
sunk back weakly into his chair again, and the detective, Anderson, was
still unaccountably missing.

While no one could be said to be grieving over this, still the belief
that somehow, somewhere, he had met the Bat and suffered at his hands
was strong in all of them except the Doctor.  As each door was opened
they expected to find him, probably foully murdered; as each door was
closed again they breathed with relief.

And as time went on and the silence and peace remained unbroken, the
conviction grew on them that the Bat had in this manner achieved his
object and departed; had done his work, signed it after his usual
fashion, and gone.

And thus were matters when Miss Cornelia, happening on the attic
staircase with Lizzie at her heels, decided to look about her up there.
And went up.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

THE HIDDEN ROOM

A few moments later Jack Bailey, seeing a thin glow of candlelight from
the attic above and hearing Lizzie's protesting voice, made his way up
there.  He found them in the trunk room, a dusty, dingy apartment lined
with high closets along the walls--the floor littered with an
incongruous assortment of attic objects--two battered trunks, a clothes
hamper, an old sewing machine, a broken-backed kitchen chair, two
dilapidated suitcases and a shabby satchel that might once have been a
woman's dressing case--in one corner a grimy fireplace in which,
obviously, no fire had been lighted for years.

But he also found Miss Cornelia holding her candle to the floor and
staring at something there.

"Candle grease!" she said sharply, staring at a line of white spots by
the window.  She stooped and touched the spots with an exploratory
finger.

"Fresh candle grease!  Now who do you suppose did that?  Do you
remember how Mr. Gillette, in Sherlock Holmes, when he--"

Her voice trailed off.  She stooped and followed the trail of the
candle grease away from the window, ingeniously trying to copy the
shrewd, piercing gaze of Mr. Gillette as she remembered him in his most
famous role.

"It leads straight to the fireplace!" she murmured in tones of
Sherlockian gravity.  Bailey repressed an involuntary smile.  But her
next words gave him genuine food for thought.

She stared at the mantel of the fireplace accusingly.  "It's been going
through my mind for the last few minutes that no chimney flue runs up
this side of the house!" she said.

Bailey stared.  "Then why the fireplace?"

"That's what I'm going to find out!" said the spinster grimly.  She
started to rap the mantel, testing it for secret springs.

"Jack!  Jack!" It was Dale's voice, low and cautious, coming from the
landing of the stairs.

Bailey stepped to the door of the trunk room.

"Come in," he called in reply.  "And shut the door behind you."

Dale entered, turning the key in the lock behind her.

"Where are the others?"

"They're still searching the house.  There's no sign of anybody."

"They haven't found--Mr. Anderson?"

Dale shook her head.  "Not yet."

She turned toward her aunt.  Miss Cornelia had begun to enjoy herself
once more.

Rapping on the mantelpiece, poking and pressing various corners and
sections of the mantel itself, she remembered all the detective stories
she had ever read and thought, with a sniff of scorn, that she could
better them.  There were always sliding panels and hidden drawers in
detective stories and the detective discovered them by rapping just as
she was doing, and listening for a hollow sound in answer.  She rapped
on the wall above the mantel--exactly--there was the hollow echo she
wanted.

"Hollow as Lizzie's head!" she said triumphantly.  The fireplace was
obviously not what it seemed, there must be a space behind it
unaccounted for in the building plans.  Now what was the next step
detectives always took?  Oh, yes--they looked for panels; panels that
moved.  And when one shoved them away there was a button or something.
She pushed and pressed and finally something did move. It was the
mantelpiece itself, false grate and all, which began to swing out into
the room, revealing behind a dark, hollow cubbyhole, some six feet by
six--the Hidden Room at last!

"Oh, Jack, be careful!" breathed Dale as her lover took Miss Cornelia's
candle and moved toward the dark hiding-place.  But her eyes had
already caught the outlines of a tall iron safe in the gloom and in
spite of her fears, her lips formed a wordless cry of victory.

But Jack Bailey said nothing at all.  One glance had shown him that the
safe was empty.

The tragic collapse of all their hopes was almost more than they could
bear.  Coming on top of the nerve-racking events of the night, it left
them dazed and directionless.  It was, of course, Miss Cornelia who
recovered first.

"Even without the money," she said; "the mere presence of this safe
here, hidden away, tells the story.  The fact that someone else knew
and got here first cannot alter that."

But she could not cheer them.  It was Lizzie who created a diversion.
Lizzie who had bolted into the hall at the first motion of the
mantelpiece outward and who now, with equal precipitation, came bolting
back.  She rushed into the room, slamming the door behind her, and
collapsed into a heap of moaning terror at her mistress's feet.  At
first she was completely inarticulate, but after a time she muttered
that she had seen "him" and then fell to groaning again.

The same thought was in all their minds, that in some corner of the
upper floor she had come across the body of Anderson.  But when Miss
Cornelia finally quieted her and asked this, she shook her head.

"It was the Bat I saw," was her astounding statement.  "He dropped
through the skylight out there and ran along the hall.  I saw him I
tell you.  He went right by me!"

"Nonsense," said Miss Cornelia briskly.  "How can you say such a thing?"

But Bailey pushed forward and took Lizzie by the shoulder.

"What did he look like?"

"He hadn't any face.  He was all black where his face ought to be."

"Do you mean he wore a mask?"

"Maybe.  I don't know."

She collapsed again but when Bailey, followed by Miss Cornelia, made a
move toward the door she broke into frantic wailing.

"Don't go out there!" she shrieked.  "He's there I tell you.  I'm not
crazy.  If you open that door, he'll shoot."

But the door was already open and no shot came.  With the departure of
Bailey and Miss Cornelia, and the resulting darkness due to their
taking the candle, Lizzie and Dale were left alone.  The girl was faint
with disappointment and strain; she sat huddled on a trunk, saying
nothing, and after a moment or so Lizzie roused to her condition.

"Not feeling sick, are you?" she asked.

"I feel a little queer."

"Who wouldn't in the dark here with that monster loose somewhere near
by?"  But she stirred herself and got up.  "I'd better get the smelling
salts," she said heavily.  "God knows I hate to move, but if there's
one place safer in this house than another, I've yet to find it."

She went out, leaving Dale alone.  The trunk room was dark, save that
now and then as the candle appeared and reappeared the doorway was
faintly outlined.  On this outline she kept her eyes fixed, by way of
comfort, and thus passed the next few moments.  She felt weak and dizzy
and entirely despairing.

Then--the outline was not so clear.  She had heard nothing but there
was something in the doorway.  It stood there, formless, diabolical,
and then she saw what was happening.  It was closing the door.
Afterward she was mercifully not to remember what came next; the figure
was perhaps intent on what was going on outside, or her own movements
may have been as silent as its own.  That she got into the mantel-room
and even partially closed it behind her is certain, and that her
description of what followed is fairly accurate is borne out by the
facts as known.

The Bat was working rapidly.  She heard his quick, nervous movements;
apparently he had come back for something and secured it, for now he
moved again toward the door.  But he was too late; they were returning
that way.  She heard him mutter something and quickly turn the key in
the lock.  Then he seemed to run toward the window, and for some reason
to recoil from it.

The next instant she realized that he was coming toward the
mantel-room, that he intended to hide in it.  There was no doubt in her
mind as to his identity.  It was the Bat, and in a moment more he would
be shut in there with her.

She tried to scream and could not, and the next instant, when the Bat
leaped into concealment beside her, she was in a dead faint on the
floor.

Bailey meanwhile had crawled out on the roof and was carefully
searching it.  But other things were happening also.  A disinterested
observer could have seen very soon why the Bat had abandoned the window
as a means of egress.

Almost before the mantel had swung to behind the archcriminal, the top
of a tall pruning ladder had appeared at the window and by its
quivering showed that someone was climbing up, rung by rung.
Unsuspiciously enough he came on, pausing at the top to flash a light
into the room, and then cautiously swinging a leg over the sill.  It
was the Doctor.  He gave a low whistle but there was no reply, save
that, had he seen it, the mantel swung out an inch or two.  Perhaps he
was never so near death as at that moment but that instant of
irresolution on his part saved him, for by coming into the room he had
taken himself out of range.

Even then he was very close to destruction, for after a brief pause and
a second rather puzzled survey of the room, he started toward the
mantel itself.  Only the rattle of the doorknob stopped him, and a call
from outside.

"Dale!" called Bailey's voice from the corridor.  "Dale!"

"Dale!  Dale!  The door's locked!" cried Miss Cornelia.

The Doctor hesitated.  The call came again.  "Dale!  Dale!" and Bailey
pounded on the door as if he meant to break it down.

The Doctor made up his mind.

"Wait a moment!" he called.  He stepped to the door and unlocked it.
Bailey hurled himself into the room, followed by Miss Cornelia with her
candle.  Lizzie stood in the doorway, timidly, ready to leap for safety
at a moment's notice.

"Why did you lock that door?" said Bailey angrily, threatening the
Doctor.

"But I didn't," said the latter, truthfully enough.  Bailey made a
movement of irritation.  Then a glance about the room informed him of
the amazing, the incredible fact.  Dale was not there!  She had
disappeared!

"You--you," he stammered at the Doctor.  "Where's Miss Ogden?  What
have you done with her?"

The Doctor was equally baffled.

"Done with her?" he said indignantly.  "I don't know what you're
talking about, I haven't seen her!"

"Then you didn't lock that door?" Bailey menaced him.

The Doctor's denial was firm.

"Absolutely not.  I was coming through the window when I heard your
voice at the door!"

Bailey's eyes leaped to the window--yes--a ladder was there--the Doctor
might be speaking the truth after all.  But if so, how and why had Dale
disappeared?

The Doctor's admission of his manner of entrance did not make Lizzie
any the happier.

"In at the window--just like a bat!" she muttered in shaking tones.
She would not have stayed in the doorway if she had not been afraid to
move anywhere else.

"I saw lights up here from outside," continued the Doctor easily. "And
I thought--"

Miss Cornelia interrupted him.  She had set down her candle and laid
the revolver on the top of the clothes hamper and now stood gazing at
the mantel-fireplace.

"The mantel's--closed!" she said.

The Doctor stared.  So the secret of the Hidden Room was a secret no
longer.  He saw ruin gaping before him--a bottomless abyss.
"Damnation!" he cursed impotently under his breath.

Bailey turned on him savagely.

"Did you shut that mantel?"

"No!"

"I'll see whether you shut it or not!"  Bailey leaped toward the
fireplace.  "Dale!  Dale!" he called desperately, leaning against the
mantel.  His fingers groped for the knob that worked the mechanism of
the hidden entrance.

The Doctor picked up the single lighted candle from the hamper, as if
to throw more light on Bailey's task.  Bailey's fingers found the knob.
He turned it.  The mantel began to swing out into the room.

As it did so the Doctor deliberately snuffed out the light of the
candle he held, leaving the room in abrupt and obliterating darkness.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

ANDERSON MAKES AN ARREST

"Doctor, why did you put out that candle?" Miss Cornelia's voice cut
the blackness like a knife.

"I didn't--I--"

"You did--I saw you do it."

The brief exchange of accusation and denial took but an instant of
time, as the mantel swung wide open.  The next instant there was a rush
of feet across the floor, from the fireplace--the shock of a collision
between two bodies--the sound of a heavy fall.

"What was that?" queried Bailey dazedly, with a feeling as if some
great winged creature had brushed at him and passed.

Lizzie answered from the doorway.

"Oh, oh!" she groaned in stricken accents.  "Somebody knocked me down
and tramped on me!"

"Matches, quick!" commanded Miss Cornelia.  "Where's the candle?"

The Doctor was still trying to explain his curious action of a moment
before.

"Awfully sorry, I assure you--it dropped out of the holder--ah, here it
is!"

He held it up triumphantly.  Bailey struck a match and lighted it. The
wavering little flame showed Lizzie prostrate but vocal, in the
doorway--and Dale lying on the floor of the Hidden Room, her eyes shut,
and her face as drained of color as the face of a marble statue.  For
one horrible instant Bailey thought she must be dead.

He rushed to her wildly and picked her up in his arms.  No--still
breathing--thank God!  He carried her tenderly to the only chair in the
room.

"Doctor!"

The Doctor, once more the physician, knelt at her side and felt for her
pulse.  And Lizzie, picking herself up from where the collision with
some violent body had thrown her, retrieved the smelling salts from the
floor.  It was onto this picture, the candlelight shining on strained
faces, the dramatic figure of Dale, now semi-conscious, the desperate
rage of Bailey, that a new actor appeared on the scene.

Anderson, the detective, stood in the doorway, holding a candle--as
grim and menacing a figure as a man just arisen from the dead.

"That's right!" said Lizzie, unappalled for once.  "Come in when
everything's over!"

The Doctor glanced up and met the detective's eyes, cold and menacing.

"You took my revolver from me downstairs," he said.  "I'll trouble you
for it."

The Doctor got heavily to his feet.  The others, their suspicions
confirmed at last, looked at him with startled eyes.  The detective
seemed to enjoy the universal confusion his words had brought.

Slowly, with sullen reluctance, the Doctor yielded up the stolen
weapon.  The detective examined it casually and replaced it in his hip
pocket.

"I've something to settle with you pretty soon," he said through
clenched teeth, addressing the Doctor.  "And I'll settle it properly.
Now--what's this?"

He indicated Dale--her face still and waxen--her breath coming so
faintly she seemed hardly to breathe at all as Miss Cornelia and Bailey
tried to revive her.

"She's coming to--" said Miss Cornelia triumphantly, as a first faint
flush of color reappeared in the girl's cheeks.  "We found her shut in
there, Mr. Anderson," the spinster added, pointing toward the gaping
entrance of the Hidden Room.

A gleam crossed the detective's face.  He went up to examine the secret
chamber.  As he did so, Doctor Wells, who had been inching
surreptitiously toward the door, sought the opportunity of slipping out
unobserved.

But Anderson was not to be caught napping again.  "Wells!" he barked.
The Doctor stopped and turned.

"Where were you when she was locked in this room?"

The Doctor's eyes sought the floor--the walls--wildly--for any possible
loophole of escape.

"I didn't shut her in if that's what you mean!" he said defiantly.
"There was someone shut in there with her!"  He gestured at the Hidden
Room.  "Ask these people here."

Miss Cornelia caught him up at once.

"The fact remains, Doctor," she said, her voice cold with anger, "that
we left her here alone.  When we came back you were here. The corridor
door was locked, and she was in that room--unconscious!"

She moved forward to throw the light of her candle on the Hidden Room
as the detective passed into it, gave it a swift professional glance,
and stepped out again.  But she had not finished her story by any means.

"As we opened that door," she continued to the detective, tapping the
false mantel, "the Doctor deliberately extinguished our only candle!"

"Do you know who was in that room?" queried the detective fiercely,
wheeling on the Doctor.

But the latter had evidently made up his mind to cling stubbornly to a
policy of complete denial.

"No," he said sullenly.  "I didn't put out the candle. It fell.  And I
didn't lock that door into the hall.  I found it locked!"

A sigh of relief from Bailey now centered everyone's attention on
himself and Dale.  At last the girl was recovering from the shock of
her terrible experience and regaining consciousness.  Her eyelids
fluttered, closed again, opened once more.  She tried to sit up,
weakly, clinging to Bailey's shoulder.  The color returned to her
cheeks, the stupor left her eyes.

She gave the Hidden Room a hunted little glance and then shuddered
violently.

"Please close that awful door," she said in a tremulous voice.  "I
don't want to see it again."

The detective went silently to close the iron doors.  "What happened to
you?  Can't you remember?" faltered Bailey, on his knees at her side.

The shadow of an old terror lay on the girl's face, "I was in here
alone in the dark," she began slowly--"Then, as I looked at the doorway
there, I saw there was somebody there.  He came in and closed the door.
I didn't know what to do, so I slipped in--there, and after a while I
knew he was coming in too, for he couldn't get out.  Then I must have
fainted."

"There was nothing about the figure that you recognized?"

"No.  Nothing."

"But we know it was the Bat," put in Miss Cornelia.  The detective
laughed sardonically.  The old duel of opposing theories between the
two seemed about to recommence.

"Still harping on the Bat!" he said, with a little sneer, Miss Cornelia
stuck to her guns.

"I have every reason to believe that the Bat is in this house," she
said.

The detective gave another jarring, mirthless laugh.  "And that he took
the Union Bank money out of the safe, I suppose?" he jeered. "No, Miss
Van Gorder."

He wheeled on the Doctor now.

"Ask the Doctor who took the Union Bank money out of that safe!" he
thundered.  "Ask the Doctor who attacked me downstairs in the
living-room, knocked me senseless, and locked me in the billiard room!"

There was an astounded silence.  The detective added a parting shot to
his indictment of the Doctor.

"The next time you put handcuffs on a man be sure to take the key out
of his vest pocket," he said, biting off the words.

Rage and consternation mingled on the Doctor's countenance--on the
faces of the others astonishment was followed by a growing certainty.
Only Miss Cornelia clung stubbornly to her original theory.

"Perhaps I'm an obstinate old woman," she said in tones which obviously
showed that if so she was rather proud of it, "but the Doctor and all
the rest of us were locked in the living-room not ten minutes ago!"

"By the Bat, I suppose!" mocked Anderson.

"By the Bat!" insisted Miss Cornelia inflexibly.  "Who else would have
fastened a dead bat to the door downstairs?  Who else would have the
bravado to do that?  Or what you call the imagination?"

In spite of himself Anderson seemed to be impressed.

"The Bat, eh?" he muttered, then, changing his tone, "You knew about
this hidden room, Wells?" he shot at the Doctor.

"Yes." The Doctor bowed his head.

"And you knew the money was in the room?"

"Well, I was wrong, wasn't I?" parried the Doctor.  "You can look for
yourself.  That safe is empty."

The detective brushed his evasive answer aside.

"You were up in this room earlier tonight," he said in tones of
apparent certainty.

"No, I couldn't get up!" the Doctor still insisted, with strange
violence for a man who had already admitted such damning knowledge.

The detective's face was a study in disbelief.

"You know where that money is, Wells, and I'm going to find it!"

This last taunt seemed to goad the Doctor beyond endurance.

"Good God!" he shouted recklessly.  "Do you suppose if I knew where it
is, I'd be here?  I've had plenty of chances to get away! No, you can't
pin anything on me, Anderson!  It isn't criminal to have known that
room is here."

He paused, trembling with anger and, curiously enough, with an anger
that seemed at least half sincere.

"Oh, don't be so damned virtuous!" said the detective brutally. "Maybe
you haven't been upstairs but--unless I miss my guess, you know who
was!"

The Doctor's face changed a little.

"What about Richard Fleming?" persisted the detective scornfully.

The Doctor drew himself up.

"I never killed him!" he said so impressively that even Bailey's faith
in his guilt was shaken.  "I don't even own a revolver!"

The detective alone maintained his attitude unchanged.

"You come with me, Wells," he ordered, with a jerk of his thumb toward
the door.  "This time I'll do the locking up."

The Doctor, head bowed, prepared to obey.  The detective took up a
candle to light their path.  Then he turned to the others for a moment.

"Better get the young lady to bed," he said with a gruff kindliness of
manner.  "I think that I can promise you a quiet night from now on."

"I'm glad you think so, Mr. Anderson!" Miss Cornelia insisted on the
last word.  The detective ignored the satiric twist of her speech,
motioned the Doctor out ahead of him, and followed.  The faint glow of
his candle flickered a moment and vanished toward the stairs.

It was Bailey who broke the silence.

"I can believe a good bit about Wells," he said, "but not that he stood
on that staircase and killed Dick Fleming."

Miss Cornelia roused from deep thought.

"Of course not," she said briskly.  "Go down and fix Miss Dale's bed,
Lizzie.  And then bring up some wine."

"Down there, where the Bat is?" Lizzie demanded.

"The Bat has gone."

"Don't you believe it.  He's just got his hand in!"

But at last Lizzie went, and, closing the door behind her, Miss
Cornelia proceeded more or less to think, out loud.

"Suppose," she said, "that the Bat, or whoever it was shut in there
with you, killed Richard Fleming.  Say that he is the one Lizzie saw
coming in by the terrace door.  Then he knew where the money was for he
went directly up the stairs.  But that is two hours ago or more.  Why
didn't he get the money, if it was here, and get away?"

"He may have had trouble with the combination."

"Perhaps.  Anyhow, he was on the small staircase when Dick Fleming
started up, and of course he shot him.  That's clear enough.  Then he
finally got the safe open, after locking us in below, and my coming up
interrupted him.  How on earth did he get out on the roof?"

Bailey glanced out the window.

"It would be possible from here.  Possible, but not easy."

"But, if he could do that," she persisted, "he could have got away,
too.  There are trellises and porches.  Instead of that he came back
here to this room."  She stared at the window.  "Could a man have done
that with one hand?"

"Never in the world."

Saying nothing, but deeply thoughtful, Miss Cornelia made a fresh
progress around the room.

"I know very little about bank-currency," she said finally.  "Could
such a sum as was looted from the Union Bank be carried away in a man's
pocket?"

Bailey considered the question.

"Even in bills of large denomination it would make a pretty sizeable
bundle," he said.

But that Miss Cornelia's deductions were correct, whatever they were,
was in question when Lizzie returned with the elderberry wine.
Apparently Miss Cornelia was to be like the man who repaired the clock:
she still had certain things left over.

For Lizzie announced that the Unknown was ranging the second floor
hall.  From the time they had escaped from the living-room this man had
not been seen or thought of, but that he was a part of the mystery
there could be no doubt.  It flashed over Miss Cornelia that, although
he could not possibly have locked them in, in the darkness that
followed he could easily have fastened the bat to the door.  For the
first time it occurred to her that the archcriminal might not be
working alone, and that the entrance of the Unknown might have been a
carefully devised ruse to draw them all together and hold them there.

Nor was Beresford's arrival with the statement that the Unknown was
moving through the house below particularly comforting.

"He may be dazed, or he may not," he said.  "Personally, this is not a
time to trust anybody."

Beresford knew nothing of what had just occurred, and now seeing Bailey
he favored him with an ugly glance.

"In the absence of Anderson, Bailey," he added, "I don't propose to
trust you too far.  I'm making it my business from now on to see that
you don't try to get away.  Get that?"

But Bailey heard him without particular resentment.

"All right," he said.  "But I'll tell you this.  Anderson is here and
has arrested the Doctor.  Keep your eye on me, if you think it's your
duty, but don't talk to me as if I were a criminal.  You don't know
that yet."

"The Doctor!" Beresford gasped.

But Miss Cornelia's keen ears had heard a sound outside and her eyes
were focused on the door.

"That doorknob is moving," she said in a hushed voice.

Beresford moved to the door and jerked it violently open.

The butler, Billy, almost pitched into the room.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

THE BAT STILL FLIES

He stepped back in the doorway, looked out, then turned to them again.

"I come in, please?" he said pathetically, his hands quivering. "I not
like to stay in dark."

Miss Cornelia took pity on him.

"Come in, Billy, of course.  What is it?  Anything the matter?"

Billy glanced about nervously.

"Man with sore head."

"What about him?"

"Act very strange."  Again Billy's slim hands trembled.

Beresford broke in.  "The man who fell into the room downstairs?"

Billy nodded.

"Yes.  On second floor, walking around."

Beresford smiled, a bit smugly.

"I told you!" he said to Miss Cornelia.  "I didn't think he was as
dazed as he pretended to be."

Miss Cornelia, too, had been pondering the problem of the Unknown. She
reached a swift decision.  If he were what he pretended to be--a dazed
wanderer, he could do them no harm.  If he were not--a little strategy
properly employed might unravel the whole mystery.

"Bring him up here, Billy," she said, turning to the butler.

Billy started to obey.  But the darkness of the corridor seemed to
appall him anew the moment he took a step toward it.

"You give candle, please?" he asked with a pleading expression. "Don't
like dark."

Miss Cornelia handed him one of the two precious candles.  Then his
present terror reminded her of that one other occasion when she had
seen him lose completely his stoic Oriental calm.

"Billy," she queried, "what did you see when you came running down the
stairs before we were locked in, down below?"

The candle shook like a reed in Billy's grasp.

"Nothing!" he gasped with obvious untruth, though it did not seem so
much as if he wished to conceal what he had seen as that he was trying
to convince himself he had seen nothing.

"Nothing!" said Lizzie scornfully.  "It was some nothing that would
make him drop a bottle of whisky!"

But Billy only backed toward the door, smiling apologetically.

"Thought I saw ghost," he said, and went out and down the stairs, the
candlelight flickering, growing fainter, and finally disappearing.
Silence and eerie darkness enveloped them all as they waited.  And
suddenly out of the blackness came a sound.

Something was flapping and thumping around the room.

"That's damned odd." muttered Beresford uneasily.  "There is something
moving around the room."

"It's up near the ceiling!" cried Bailey as the sound began again.

Lizzie began a slow wail of doom and disaster.

"Oh--h--h--h--"

"Good God!" cried Beresford abruptly.  "It hit me in the face!"  He
slapped his hands together in a vain attempt to capture the flying
intruder.

Lizzie rose.

"I'm going!" she announced.  "I don't know where, but I'm going!"

She took a wild step in the direction of the door.  Then the flapping
noise was all about her, her nose was bumped by an invisible object and
she gave a horrified shriek.

"It's in my hair!" she screamed madly.  "It's in my hair!"

The next instant Bailey gave a triumphant cry.

"I've got it!  It's a bat!"

Lizzie sank to her knees, still moaning, and Bailey carried the cause
of the trouble over to the window and threw it out.

But the result of the absurd incident was a further destruction of
their morale.  Even Beresford, so far calm with the quiet of the
virtuous onlooker, was now pallid in the light of the matches they
successively lighted.  And onto this strained situation came at last
Billy and the Unknown.

The Unknown still wore his air of dazed bewilderment, true or feigned,
but at least he was now able to walk without support. They stared at
him, at his tattered, muddy garments, at the threads of rope still
clinging to his ankles--and wondered.  He returned their stares
vacantly.

"Come in," began Miss Cornelia.  "Sit down."  He obeyed both commands
docilely enough.

"Are you better now?"

"Somewhat." His words still came very slowly.

"Billy--you can go."

"I stay, please!" said Billy wistfully, making no movement to leave.
His gesture toward the darkness of the corridor spoke louder than words.

Bailey watched him, suspicion dawning in his eyes.  He could not
account for the butler's inexplicable terror of being left alone.

"Anderson intimated that the Doctor had an accomplice in this house,"
he said, crossing to Billy and taking him by the arm.  "Why isn't this
the man?" Billy cringed away.  "Please, no," he begged pitifully.

Bailey turned him around so that he faced the Hidden Room.

"Did you know that room was there?" he questioned, his doubts still
unquieted.

Billy shook his head.

"No."

"He couldn't have locked us in," said Miss Cornelia.  "He was with us."

Bailey demurred, not to her remark itself, but to its implication of
Billy's entire innocence.

"He may know who did it.  Do you?"

Billy still shook his head.

Bailey remained unconvinced.

"Who did you see at the head of the small staircase?" he queried
imperatively.  "Now we're through with nonsense; I want the truth!"

Billy shivered.

"See face--that's all," he brought out at last.

"Whose face?"

Again it was evident that Billy knew or thought he knew more than he
was willing to tell.

"Don't know," he said with obvious untruth, looking down at the floor.

"Never mind, Billy," cut in Miss Cornelia.  To her mind questioning
Billy was wasting time.  She looked at the Unknown.

"Solve the mystery of this man and we may get at the facts," she said
in accents of conviction.

As Bailey turned toward her questioningly, Billy attempted to steal
silently out of the door, apparently preferring any fears that might
lurk in the darkness of the corridor to a further grilling on the
subject of whom or what he had seen on the alcove stairs.  But Bailey
caught the movement out of the tail of his eye.

"You stay here," he commanded.  Billy stood frozen.  Beresford raised
the candle so that it cast its light full in the Unknown's face.

"This chap claims to have lost his memory," he said dubiously.  "I
suppose a blow on the head might do that, I don't know."

"I wish somebody would knock me on the head!  I'd like to forget a few
things!" moaned Lizzie, but the interruption went unregarded.

"Don't you even know your name?" queried Miss Cornelia of the Unknown.

The Unknown shook his head with a slow, laborious gesture.

"Not--yet."

"Or where you came from?"

Once more the battered head made its movement of negation.

"Do you remember how you got in this house?"  The Unknown made an
effort.

"Yes--I--remember--that--all--right" he said, apparently undergoing an
enormous strain in order to make himself speak at all. He put his hand
to his head.

"My--head--aches--to--beat--the--band," he continued slowly.

Miss Cornelia was at a loss.  If this were acting, it was at least fine
acting.

"How did you happen to come to this house?" she persisted, her voice
unconsciously tuning itself to the slow, laborious speech of the
Unknown.

"Saw--the--lights."

Bailey broke in with a question.

"Where were you when you saw the lights?"

The Unknown wet his lips with his tongue, painfully.

"I--broke--out--of--the--garage," he said at length.  This was
unexpected.  A general movement of interest ran over the group.

"How did you get there?" Beresford took his turn as questioner.

The Unknown shook his head, so slowly and deliberately that Miss
Cornelia's fingers itched to shake him in spite of his injuries.

"I--don't--know."

"Have you been robbed?" queried Bailey with keen suspicion.

The Unknown mumbled something unintelligible.  Then he seemed to get
command of his tongue again.

"Everything gone--out of--my pockets," he said.

"Including your watch?" pursued Bailey, remembering the watch that
Beresford had found in the grounds.

The Unknown would neither affirm nor deny.

"If--I--had--a--watch--it's gone," he said with maddening deliberation.
"All my--papers--are gone."

Miss Cornelia pounced upon this last statement like a cat upon a mouse.

"How do you know you had papers?" she asked sharply.

For the first time the faintest flicker of a smile seemed to appear for
a moment on the Unknown's features.  Then it vanished as abruptly as it
had come.

"Most men--carry papers--don't they?" he asked, staring blindly in
front of him.  "I'm dazed--but--my mind's--all--right.  If you--ask
me--I--think--I'm--d-damned funny!"

He gave the ghost of a chuckle.  Bailey and Beresford exchanged glances.

"Did you ring the house phone?" insisted Miss Cornelia.

The Unknown nodded.

"Yes."

Miss Cornelia and Bailey gave each other a look of wonderment.

"I--leaned against--the button--in the garage--" he went on. "Then--I
think--maybe I--fainted.  That's--not clear."

His eyelids drooped.  He seemed about to faint again.

Dale rose, and came over to him, with a sympathetic movement of her
hand.

"You don't remember how you were hurt?" she asked gently.

The Unknown stared ahead of him, his eyes filming, as if he were trying
to puzzle it out.

"No," he said at last.  "The first thing I remember--I was in the
garage--tied."  He moved his lips.  "I was--gagged--too--that's--what's
the matter--with my tongue--now--Then--I got myself--free--and--got
out--of a window--"

Miss Cornelia made a movement to question him further.  Beresford
stopped her with his hand uplifted.

"Just a moment, Miss Van Gorder.  Anderson ought to know of this."

He started for the door without perceiving the flash of keen
intelligence and alertness that had lit the Unknown's countenance for
an instant, as once before, at the mention of the detective's name.
But just as he reached the door the detective entered.

He halted for a moment, staring at the strange figure of the Unknown.

"A new element in our mystery, Mr. Anderson," said Miss Cornelia,
remembering that the detective might not have heard of the mysterious
stranger before--as he had been locked in the billiard room when the
latter had made his queer entrance.

The detective and the Unknown gazed at each other for a moment--the
Unknown with his old expression of vacant stupidity.

"Quite dazed, poor fellow," Miss Cornelia went on.  Beresford added
other words of explanation.

"He doesn't remember what happened to him.  Curious, isn't it?"

The detective still seemed puzzled.

"How did he get into the house?"

"He came through the terrace door some time ago," answered Miss
Cornelia.  "Just before we were locked in."

Her answer seemed to solve the problem to Anderson's satisfaction.

"Doesn't remember anything, eh?" he said dryly.  He crossed over to the
mysterious stranger and put his hand under the Unknown's chin, jerking
his head up roughly.

"Look up here!" he commanded.

The Unknown stared at him for an instant with blank, vacuous eyes. Then
his head dropped back upon his breast again.

"Look up, you--" muttered the detective, jerking his head again. "This
losing your memory stuff doesn't go down with me!"  His eyes bored into
the Unknown's.

"It doesn't--go down--very well--with me--either," said the Unknown
weakly, making no movement of protest against Anderson's rough handling.

"Did you ever see me before?" demanded the latter.  Beresford held the
candle closer so that he might watch the Unknown's face for any
involuntary movement of betrayal.

But the Unknown made no such movement.  He gazed at Anderson,
apparently with the greatest bewilderment, then his eyes cleared, he
seemed to be about to remember who the detective was.

"You're--the--Doctor--I--saw--downstairs--aren't you?" he said
innocently.  The detective set his jaw.  He started off on a new tack.

"Does this belong to you?" he said suddenly, plucking from his pocket
the battered gold watch that Beresford had found and waving it before
the Unknown's blank face.

The Unknown stared at it a moment, as a child might stare at a new toy,
with no gleam of recognition.  Then--

"Maybe," he admitted.  "I--don't--know."  His voice trailed off. He
fell back against Bailey's arm.

Miss Cornelia gave a little shiver.  The third degree in reality was
less pleasant to watch than it had been to read about in the pages of
her favorite detective stories.

"He's evidently been attacked," she said, turning to Anderson. "He
claims to have recovered consciousness in the garage, where he was tied
hand and foot!"

"He does, eh?" said the detective heavily.  He glared at the Unknown.
"If you'll give me five minutes alone with him, I'll get the truth out
of him!" he promised.

A look of swift alarm swept over the Unknown's face at the words,
unperceived by any except Miss Cornelia.  The others started obediently
to yield to the detective's behest and leave him alone with his
prisoner.  Miss Cornelia was the first to move toward the door.  On her
way, she turned.

"Do you believe that money is irrevocably gone?" she asked of Anderson.

The detective smiled.

"There's no such word as 'irrevocable' in my vocabulary," he answered.
"But I believe it's out of the house, if that's what you mean."

Miss Cornelia still hesitated, on the verge of departure.

"Suppose I tell you that there are certain facts that you have
overlooked?" she said slowly.

"Still on the trail!" muttered the detective sardonically.  He did not
even glance at her.  He seemed only anxious that the other members of
the group would get out of his way for once and leave him a clear field
for his work.

"I was right about the Doctor, wasn't I?" she insisted.

"Just fifty per cent right," said Anderson crushingly.  "And the Doctor
didn't turn that trick alone.  Now--" he went on with weary patience,
"if you'll all go out and close that door--"

Miss Cornelia, defeated, took a candle from Bailey and stepped into the
corridor.  Her figure stiffened.  She gave an audible gasp of dismayed
surprise.

"Quick!" she cried, turning back to the others and gesturing toward the
corridor.  "A man just went through that skylight and out onto the
roof!"



CHAPTER NINETEEN

MURDER ON MURDER

"Out on the roof!"

"Come on, Beresford!"

"Hustle--you men!  He may be armed!"

"Righto--coming!"

And following Miss Cornelia's lead, Jack Bailey, Anderson, Beresford,
and Billy dashed out into the corridor, leaving Dale and the frightened
Lizzie alone with the Unknown.

"And I'd run if my legs would!" Lizzie despaired.

"Hush!" said Dale, her ears strained for sounds of conflict.  Lizzie,
creeping closer to her for comfort, stumbled over one of the Unknown's
feet and promptly set up a new wail.

"How do we know this fellow right here isn't the Bat?" she asked in a
blood-chilling whisper, nearly stabbing the unfortunate Unknown in the
eye with her thumb as she pointed at him.  The Unknown was either too
dazed or too crafty to make any answer.  His silence confirmed Lizzie's
worst suspicions.  She fairly hugged the floor and began to pray in a
whisper.

Miss Cornelia re-entered cautiously with her candle, closing the door
gently behind her as she came.

"What did you see?" gasped Dale.

Miss Cornelia smiled broadly.

"I didn't see anything," she admitted with the greatest calm.  "I had
to get that dratted detective out of the room before I assassinated
him."

"Nobody went through the skylight?" said Dale incredulously.

"They have now," answered Miss Cornelia with obvious satisfaction. "The
whole outfit of them."

She stole a glance at the veiled eyes of the Unknown.  He was lying
limply back in his chair, as if the excitement had been too much for
him--and yet she could have sworn she had seen him leap to his feet,
like a man in full possession of his faculties, when she had given her
false cry of alarm.

"Then why did you--" began Dale dazedly, unable to fathom her aunt's
reasons for her trick.

"Because," interrupted Miss Cornelia decidedly, "that money's in this
room.  If the man who took it out of the safe got away with it, why did
he come back and hide there?"

Her forefinger jabbed at the hidden chamber wherein the masked intruder
had terrified Dale with threats of instant death.

"He got it out of the safe--and that's as far as he did get with it,"
she persisted inexorably.  "There's a HAT behind that safe, a man's
felt hat!"

So this was the discovery she had hinted of to Anderson before he
rebuffed her proffer of assistance!

"Oh, I wish he'd take his hat and go home!" groaned Lizzie inattentive
to all but her own fears.

Miss Cornelia did not even bother to rebuke her.  She crossed behind
the wicker clothes hamper and picked up something from the floor.

"A half-burned candle," she mused.  "Another thing the detective
overlooked."

She stepped back to the center of the room, looking knowingly from the
candle to the Hidden Room and back again.

"Oh, my God--another one!" shrieked Lizzie as the dark shape of a man
appeared suddenly outside the window, as if materialized from the air.

Miss Cornelia snatched up her revolver from the top of the hamper.

"Don't shoot--it's Jack!" came a warning cry from Dale as she
recognized the figure of her lover.

Miss Cornelia laid her revolver down on the hamper again.  The vacant
eyes of the Unknown caught the movement.

Bailey swung in through the window, panting a little from his exertions.

"The man Lizzie saw drop from the skylight undoubtedly got to the roof
from this window," he said.  "It's quite easy."

"But not with one hand," said Miss Cornelia, with her gaze now directed
at the row of tall closets around the walls of the room. "When that
detective comes back I may have a surprise party for him," she
muttered, with a gleam of hope in her eye.

Dale explained the situation to Jack.

"Aunt Cornelia thinks the money's still here."

Miss Cornelia snorted.

"I know it's here."  She started to open the closets, one after the
other, beginning at the left.  Bailey saw what she was doing and began
to help her.

Not so Lizzie.  She sat on the floor in a heap, her eyes riveted on the
Unknown, who in his turn was gazing at Miss Cornelia's revolver on the
hamper with the intent stare of a baby or an idiot fascinated by a
glittering piece of glass.

Dale noticed the curious tableau.

"Lizzie--what are you looking at?" she said with a nervous shake in her
voice.

"What's he looking at?" asked Lizzie sepulchrally, pointing at the
Unknown.  Her pointed forefinger drew his eyes away from the revolver;
he sank back into his former apathy, listless, drooping.

Miss Cornelia rattled the knob of a high closet by the other wall.

"This one is locked--and the key's gone," she announced.  A new flicker
of interest grew in the eyes of the Unknown.  Lizzie glanced away from
him, terrified.

"If there's anything locked up in that closet," she whimpered, "you'd
better let it stay!  There's enough running loose in this house as it
is!"

Unfortunately for her, her whimper drew Miss Cornelia's attention upon
her.

"Lizzie, did you ever take that key?" the latter queried sternly.

"No'm," said Lizzie, too scared to dissimulate if she had wished. She
wagged her head violently a dozen times, like a china figure on a
mantelpiece.

Miss Cornelia pondered.

"It may be locked from the inside; I'll soon find out."  She took a
wire hairpin from her hair and pushed it through the keyhole. But there
was no key on the other side; the hairpin went through without
obstruction.  Repeated efforts to jerk the door open failed. And
finally Miss Cornelia bethought herself of a key from the other closet
doors.

Dale and Lizzie on one side--Bailey on the other--collected the keys of
the other closets from their locks while Miss Cornelia stared at the
one whose doors were closed as if she would force its secret from it
with her eyes.  The Unknown had been so quiet during the last few
minutes, that, unconsciously, the others had ceased to pay much
attention to him, except the casual attention one devotes to a piece of
furniture.  Even Lizzie's eyes were now fixed on the locked closet.
And the Unknown himself was the first to notice this.

At once his expression altered to one of cunning--cautiously, with
infinite patience, he began to inch his chair over toward the wicker
clothes hamper.  The noise of the others, moving about the room,
drowned out what little he made in moving his chair.

At last he was within reach of the revolver.  His hand shot out in one
swift sinuous thrust--clutched the weapon--withdrew.  He then concealed
the revolver among his tattered garments as best he could and,
cautiously as before, inched his chair back again to its original
position.  When the others noticed him again, the mask of lifelessness
was back on his face and one could have sworn he had not changed his
position by the breadth of an inch.

"There--that unlocked it!" cried Miss Cornelia triumphantly at last, as
the key to one of the other closet doors slid smoothly into the lock
and she heard the click that meant victory.

She was about to throw open the closet door.  But Bailey motioned her
back.

"I'd keep back a little," he cautioned.  "You don't know what may be
inside."

"Mercy sakes, who wants to know?" shivered Lizzie.  Dale and Miss
Cornelia, too, stepped aside involuntarily as Bailey took the candle
and prepared, with a good deal of caution, to open the closet door.

The door swung open at last.  He could look in.  He did so--and stared
appalled at what he saw, while goose flesh crawled on his spine and the
hairs of his head stood up.

After a moment he closed the door of the closet and turned back,
white-faced, to the others.

"What is it?" said Dale aghast.  "What did you see?"

Bailey found himself unable to answer for a moment.  Then he pulled
himself together.  He turned to Miss Van Gorder.

"Miss Cornelia, I think we have found the ghost the Jap butler saw," he
said slowly.  "How are your nerves?"

Miss Cornelia extended a hand that did not tremble.

"Give me the candle."

He did so.  She went to the closet and opened the door.

Whatever faults Miss Cornelia may have had, lack of courage was not one
of them--or the ability to withstand a stunning mental shock. Had it
been otherwise she might well have crumpled to the floor, as if struck
down by an invisible hammer, the moment the closet door swung open
before her.

Huddled on the floor of the closet was the body of a man.  So crudely
had he been crammed into this hiding-place that he lay twisted and
bent.  And as if to add to the horror of the moment one arm, released
from its confinement, now slipped and slid out into the floor of the
room.

Miss Cornelia's voice sounded strange to her own ears when finally she
spoke.

"But who is it?"

"It is--or was--Courtleigh Fleming," said Bailey dully.

"But how can it be?  Mr. Fleming died two weeks ago.  I--"

"He died in this house sometime tonight.  The body is still warm."

"But who killed him?  The Bat?"

"Isn't it likely that the Doctor did it?  The man who has been his
accomplice all along?  Who probably bought a cadaver out West and
buried it with honors here not long ago?"

He spoke without bitterness.  Whatever resentment he might have felt
died in that awful presence.

"He got into the house early tonight," he said, "probably with the
Doctor's connivance.  That wrist watch there is probably the luminous
eye Lizzie thought she saw."

But Miss Cornelia's face was still thoughtful, and he went on:

"Isn't it clear, Miss Van Gorder?" he queried, with a smile.  "The
Doctor and old Mr. Fleming formed a conspiracy--both needed money--lots
of it.  Fleming was to rob the bank and hide the money here. Wells's
part was to issue a false death certificate in the West, and bury a
substitute body, secured God knows how.  It was easy; it kept the name
of the president of the Union Bank free from suspicion--and it put the
blame on me."

He paused, thinking it out.

"Only they slipped up in one place.  Dick Fleming leased the house to
you and they couldn't get it back."

"Then you are sure," said Miss Cornelia quickly, "that tonight
Courtleigh Fleming broke in, with the Doctor's assistance--and that he
killed Dick, his own nephew, from the staircase?"

"Aren't you?" asked Bailey surprised.  The more he thought of it the
less clearly could he visualize it any other way.

Miss Cornelia shook her head decidedly.

"No."

Bailey thought her merely obstinate--unwilling to give up, for pride's
sake, her own pet theory of the activities of the Bat.

"Wells tried to get out of the house tonight with that blue-print. Why?
Because he knew the moment we got it, we'd come up here--and Fleming
was here."

"Perfectly true," nodded Miss Cornelia.  "And then?"

"Old Fleming killed Dick and Wells killed Fleming," said Bailey
succinctly.  "You can't get away from it!"

But Miss Cornelia still shook her head.  The explanation was too
mechanical.  It laid too little emphasis on the characters of those
most concerned.

"No," she said.  "No.  The Doctor isn't a murderer.  He's as puzzled as
we are about some things.  He and Courtleigh Fleming were working
together--but remember this--Doctor Wells was locked in the living-room
with us.  He'd been trying to get up the stairs all evening and failed
every time."

But Bailey was as convinced of the truth of his theory as she of hers.

"He was here ten minutes ago--locked in this room," he said with a
glance at the ladder up which the doctor had ascended.

"I'll grant you that," said Miss Cornelia.  "But--"  She thought back
swiftly.  "But at the same time an Unknown Masked Man was locked in
that mantel-room with Dale.  The Doctor put out the candle when you
opened that Hidden Room.  Why?  Because he thought Courtleigh Fleming
was hiding there!"  Now the missing pieces of her puzzle were falling
into their places with a vengeance.  "But at this moment," she
continued, "the Doctor believes that Fleming has made his escape!
No--we haven't solved the mystery yet.  There's another element--an
unknown element," her eyes rested for a moment upon the Unknown, "and
that element is--the Bat!"

She paused, impressively.  The others stared at her--no longer able to
deny the sinister plausibility of her theory.  But this new tangling of
the mystery, just when the black threads seemed raveled out at last,
was almost too much for Dale.

"Oh, call the detective!" she stammered, on the verge of hysterical
tears.  "Let's get through with this thing!  I can't bear any more!"

But Miss Cornelia did not even hear her.  Her mind, strung now to
concert pitch, had harked back to the point it had reached some time
ago, and which all the recent distractions had momentarily obliterated.

Had the money been taken out of the house or had it not?  In that mad
rush for escape had the man hidden with Dale in the recess back of the
mantel carried his booty with him, or left it behind?  It was not in
the Hidden Room, that was certain.

Yet she was so hopeless by that time that her first search was purely
perfunctory.

During her progress about the room the Unknown's eyes followed her, but
so still had he sat, so amazing had been the discovery of the body,
that no one any longer observed him.  Now and then his head drooped
forward as if actual weakness was almost overpowering him, but his eyes
were keen and observant, and he was no longer taking the trouble to
act--if he had been acting.

It was when Bailey finally opened the lid of a clothes hamper that they
stumbled on their first clue.

"Nothing here but some clothes and books," he said, glancing inside.

"Books?" said Miss Cornelia dubiously.  "I left no books in that
hamper."

Bailey picked up one of the cheap paper novels and read its title
aloud, with a wry smile.

"'Little Rosebud's Lover, Or The Cruel Revenge,' by Laura Jean--"

"That's mine!" said Lizzie promptly.  "Oh, Miss Neily, I tell you this
house is haunted.  I left that book in my satchel along with 'Wedded
But No Wife' and now--"

"Where's your satchel?" snapped Miss Cornelia, her eyes gleaming.

"Where's my satchel?" mumbled Lizzie, staring about as best she could.
"I don't see it.  If that wretch has stolen my satchel--!"

"Where did you leave it?"

"Up here.  Right in this room.  It was a new satchel too.  I'll have
the law on him, that's what I'll do."

"Isn't that your satchel, Lizzie?" asked Miss Cornelia, indicating a
battered bag in a dark corner of shadows above the window.

"Yes'm," she admitted.  But she did not dare approach very close to the
recovered bag.  It might bite her!

"Put it there on the hamper," ordered Miss Cornelia.

"I'm scared to touch it!" moaned Lizzie.  "It may have a bomb in it!"

She took up the bag between finger and thumb and, holding it with the
care she would have bestowed upon a bottle of nitroglycerin, carried it
over to the hamper and set it down.  Then she backed away from it,
ready to leap for the door at a moment's warning.

Miss Cornelia started for the satchel.  Then she remembered.  She
turned to Bailey.

"You open it," she said graciously.  "If the money's there--you're the
one who ought to find it."

Bailey gave her a look of gratitude.  Then, smiling at Dale
encouragingly, he crossed over to the satchel, Dale at his heels. Miss
Cornelia watched him fumble at the catch of the bag--even Lizzie drew
closer.  For a moment even the Unknown was forgotten.

Bailey gave a triumphant cry.

"The money's here!"

"Oh, thank God!" sobbed Dale.

It was an emotional moment.  It seemed to have penetrated even through
the haze enveloping the injured man in his chair.  Slowly he got up,
like a man who has been waiting for his moment, and now that it had
come was in no hurry about it.  With equal deliberation he drew the
revolver and took a step forward.  And at that instant a red glare
appeared outside the open window and overhead could be heard the feet
of the searchers, running.

"Fire!" screamed Lizzie, pointing to the window, even as Beresford's
voice from the roof rang out in a shout.  "The garage is burning!"

They turned toward the door to escape, but a strange and menacing
figure blocked their way.

It was the Unknown--no longer the bewildered stranger who had stumbled
in through the living-room door--but a man with every faculty of mind
and body alert and the light of a deadly purpose in his eyes.  He
covered the group with Miss Cornelia's revolver.

"This door is locked and the key is in my pocket!" he said in a savage
voice as the red light at the window grew yet more vivid and muffled
cries and tramplings from overhead betokened universal confusion and
alarm.



CHAPTER TWENTY

"HE IS--THE BAT!"

Lizzie opened her mouth to scream.  But for once she did not carry out
her purpose.

"Not a sound out of you!" warned the Unknown brutally, almost jabbing
the revolver into her ribs.  He wheeled on Bailey.

"Close that satchel," he commanded, "and put it back where you found
it!"

Bailey's fist closed.  He took a step toward his captor.

"You--" he began in a furious voice.  But the steely glint in the eyes
of the Unknown was enough to give any man pause.

"Jack!" pleaded Dale.  Bailey halted.

"Do what he tells you!" Miss Cornelia insisted, her voice shaking.

A brave man may be willing to fight with odds a hundred to one--but
only a fool will rush on certain death.  Reluctantly, dejectedly,
Bailey obeyed--stuffed the money back in the satchel and replaced the
latter in its corner of shadows near the window.

"It's the Bat--it's the Bat!" whispered Lizzie eerily, and, for once
her gloomy prophecies seemed to be in a fair way of justification, for
"Blow out that candle!" commanded the Unknown sternly, and, after a
moment of hesitation on Miss Cornelia's part, the room was again
plunged in darkness except for the red glow at the window.

This finished Lizzie for the evening.  She spoke from a dry throat.

"I'm going to scream!" she sobbed hysterically.  "I can't keep it back!"

But at last she had encountered someone who had no patience with her
vagaries.

"Put that woman in the mantel-room and shut her up!" ordered the
Unknown, the muzzle of his revolver emphasizing his words with a savage
little movement.

Bailey took Lizzie under the arms and started to execute the order. But
the sometime colleen from Kerry did not depart without one Parthian
arrow.

"Don't shove," she said in tones of the greatest dignity as she
stumbled into the Hidden Room.  "I'm damn glad to go!"

The iron doors shut behind her.  Bailey watched the Unknown intently.
One moment of relaxed vigilance and--

But though the Unknown was unlocking the door with his left hand the
revolver in his right hand was as steady as a rock.  He seemed to
listen for a moment at the crack of the door.

"Not a sound if you value your lives!" he warned again, he shepherded
them away from the direction of the window with his revolver.

"In a moment or two," he said in a hushed, taut voice, "a man will come
into this room, either through the door or by that window--the man who
started the fire to draw you out of this house."

Bailey threw aside all pride in his concern for Dale's safety.

"For God's sake, don't keep these women here!" he pleaded in low, tense
tones.

The Unknown seemed to tower above him like a destroying angel.

"Keep them here where we can watch them!" he whispered with fierce
impatience.  "Don't you understand?  There's a KILLER loose!"

And so for a moment they stood there, waiting for they knew not what.
So swift had been the transition from joy to deadly terror, and now to
suspense, that only Miss Cornelia's agile brain seemed able to respond.
And at first it did even that very slowly.

"I begin to understand," she said in a low tone.  "The man who struck
you down and tied you in the garage--the man who killed Dick Fleming
and stabbed that poor wretch in the closet--the man who locked us in
downstairs and removed the money from that safe--the man who started
that fire outside--is--"

"Sssh!" warned the Unknown imperatively as a sound from the direction
of the window seemed to reach his ears.  He ran quickly back to the
corridor door and locked it.

"Stand back out of that light!  The ladder!"

Miss Cornelia and Dale shrank back against the mantel.  Bailey took up
a post beside the window, the Unknown flattening himself against the
wall beside him.  There was a breathless pause.

The top of the extension ladder began to tremble.  A black bulk stood
clearly outlined against the diminishing red glow--the Bat, masked and
sinister, on his last foray!

There was no sound as the killer stepped into the room.  He waited for
a second that seemed a year--still no sound.  Then he turned cautiously
toward the place where he had left the satchel--the beam of his
flashlight picked it out.

In an instant the Unknown and Bailey were upon him.  There was a short,
ferocious struggle in the darkness--a gasp of laboring lungs--the thud
of fighting bodies clenched in a death grapple.

"Get his gun!" muttered the Unknown hoarsely to Bailey as he tore the
Bat's lean hands away from his throat.  "Got it?"

"Yes," gasped Bailey.  He jabbed the muzzle against a straining back.
The Bat ceased to struggle.  Bailey stepped a little away.

"I've still got you covered!" he said fiercely.  The Bat made no sound.

"Hold out your hands, Bat, while I put on the bracelets," commanded the
Unknown in tones of terse triumph.  He snapped the steel cuffs on the
wrists of the murderous prowler.  "Sometimes even the cleverest Bat
comes through a window at night and is caught.  Double
murder--burglary--and arson!  That's a good night's work even for you,
Bat!"

He switched his flashlight on the Bat's masked face.  As he did so the
house lights came on; the electric light company had at last remembered
its duties.  All blinked for an instant in the sudden illumination.

"Take off that handkerchief!" barked the Unknown, motioning at the
black silk handkerchief that still hid the face of the Bat from
recognition.  Bailey stripped it from the haggard, desperate features
with a quick movement--and stood appalled.

A simultaneous gasp went up from Dale and Miss Cornelia.

It was Anderson, the detective!  And he was--the Bat!

"It's Mr. Anderson!" stuttered Dale, aghast at the discovery.

The Unknown gloated over his captive.

"I'm Anderson," he said.  "This man has been impersonating me. You're a
good actor, Bat, for a fellow that's such a bad actor!" he taunted.
"How did you get the dope on this case?  Did you tap the wires to
headquarters?"

The Bat allowed himself a little sardonic smile.

"I'll tell you that when I--" he began, then, suddenly, made his last
bid for freedom.  With one swift, desperate movement, in spite of his
handcuffs, he jerked the real Anderson's revolver from him by the
barrel, then wheeling with lightning rapidity on Bailey, brought the
butt of Anderson's revolver down on his wrist.  Bailey's revolver fell
to the floor with a clatter.  The Bat swung toward the door.  Again the
tables were turned!

"Hands up, everybody!" he ordered, menacing the group with the stolen
pistol.  "Hands up--you!" as Miss Cornelia kept her hands at her sides.

It was the greatest moment of Miss Cornelia's life.  She smiled sweetly
and came toward the Bat as if the pistol aimed at her heart were as
innocuous as a toothbrush.

"Why?" she queried mildly.  "I took the bullets out of that revolver
two hours ago."

The Bat flung the revolver toward her with a curse.  The real Anderson
instantly snatched up the gun that Bailey had dropped and covered the
Bat.

"Don't move!" he warned, "or I'll fill you full of lead!"  He smiled
out of the corner of his mouth at Miss Cornelia who was primly picking
up the revolver that the Bat had flung at her--her own revolver.

"You see--you never know what a woman will do," he continued.

Miss Cornelia smiled.  She broke open the revolver, five loaded shells
fell from it to the floor.  The Bat stared at her--then stared
incredulously at the bullets.

"You see," she said, "I, too, have a little imagination!"



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

QUITE A COLLECTION

An hour or so later in a living-room whose terrors had departed, Miss
Cornelia, her niece, and Jack Bailey were gathered before a roaring
fire.  The local police had come and gone; the bodies of Courtleigh
Fleming and his nephew had been removed to the mortuary; Beresford had
returned to his home, though under summons as a material witness; the
Bat, under heavy guard, had gone off under charge of the detective.  As
for Doctor Wells, he too was under arrest, and a broken man, though,
considering the fact that Courtleigh Fleming had been throughout the
prime mover in the conspiracy, he might escape with a comparatively
light sentence. In a little while the newspapermen of all the great
journals would be at the door--but for a moment the sorely tried group
at Cedarcrest enjoyed a temporary respite and they made the best of it
while they could.

The fire burned brightly and the lovers, hand in hand, sat before it.
But Miss Cornelia, birdlike and brisk, sat upright on a chair near by
and relived the greatest triumph of her life while she knitted with
automatic precision.

"Knit two, purl two," she would say, and then would wander once more
back to the subject in hand.  Out behind the flower garden the ruins of
the garage and her beloved car were still smoldering; a cool night wind
came through the broken windowpane where not so long before the bloody
hand of the injured detective had intruded itself.  On the door to the
hall, still fastened as the Bat had left it, was the pathetic little
creature with which the Bat had signed a job--for once, before he had
completed it.

But calmly and dispassionately Miss Cornelia worked out the crossword
puzzle of the evening and announced her results.

"It is all clear," she said.  "Of course the Doctor had the blue-print.
And the Bat tried to get it from him.  Then when the Doctor had stunned
him and locked him in the billiard room, the Bat still had the key and
unlocked his own handcuffs.  After that he had only to get out of a
window and shut us in here."

And again:

"He had probably trailed the real detective all the way from town and
attacked him where Mr. Beresford found the watch."

Once, too, she harkened back to the anonymous letters--

"It must have been a blow to the Doctor and Courtleigh Fleming when
they found me settled in the house!"  She smiled grimly.  "And when
their letters failed to dislodge me."

But it was the Bat who held her interest; his daring assumption of the
detective's identity, his searching of the house ostensibly for their
safety but in reality for the treasure, and that one moment of
irresolution when he did not shoot the Doctor at the top of the ladder.
And thereafter lost his chance--

It somehow weakened her terrified admiration for him, but she had
nothing but acclaim for the escape he had made from the Hidden Room
itself.

"That took brains," she said.  "Cold, hard brains.  To dash out of that
room and down the stairs, pull off his mask and pick up a candle, and
then to come calmly back to the trunk room again and accuse the
Doctor--that took real ability.  But I dread to think what would have
happened when he asked us all to go out and leave him alone with the
real Anderson!"

It was after two o'clock when she finally sent the young people off to
get some needed sleep but she herself was still bright-eyed and
wide-awake.

When Lizzie came at last to coax and scold her into bed, she was
sitting happily at the table surrounded by divers small articles which
she was handling with an almost childlike zest.  A clipping about the
Bat from the evening newspaper; a piece of paper on which was a
well-defined fingerprint; a revolver and a heap of five shells; a small
very dead bat; the anonymous warnings, including the stone in which the
last one had been wrapped; a battered and broken watch, somehow left
behind; a dried and broken dinner roll; and the box of sedative powders
brought by Doctor Wells.

Lizzie came over to the table and surveyed her grimly.

"You see, Lizzie, it's quite a collection.  I'm going to take them
and--"

But Lizzie bent over the table and picked up the box of powders.

"No, ma'am," she said with extreme finality.  "You are not.  You are
going to take these and go to bed."

And Miss Cornelia did.





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