Part First. Kazmah the Dream-Reader
Chapter V. The Door is Opened
 

Quentin Gray and Seton strolled out of Prince's and both paused whilst Seton lighted a long black cheroot.

"It seems a pity to waste that box," said Gray. "Suppose we look in at the Gaiety for an hour?"

His humor was vastly improved, and he watched the passing throngs with an expression more suited to his boyish good looks than that of anger and mortification which had rested upon him an hour earlier.

Seton Pasha tossed a match into the road.

"My official business is finished for the day," he replied. "I place myself unreservedly in your hands."

"Well, then," began Gray--and paused.

A long, low car, the chauffeur temporarily detained by the stoppage of a motorbus ahead, had slowed up within three yards of the spot where they were standing. Gray seized Seton's arm in a fierce grip.

"Seton," he said, his voice betraying intense excitement, "Look! There is Monte Irvin!"

"In the car?"

"Yes, yes! But--he has two police with him! Seton, what can it mean?"

The car moved away, swinging to the right across the traffic stream and clearly heading for old Bond Street. Quentin Gray's mercurial color deserted him, and he turned to Seton a face grown suddenly pale.

"Good God," he whispered, "something has happened to Rita!"

Neglectful of his personal safety, he plunged out into the traffic, dodging this way and that, and making after Monte Irvin's car. Of the fact that his friend was close beside him he remained unaware until, on the corner of old Bond Street, a firm grip settled upon his shoulder. Gray turned angrily. But the grip was immovable, and he found himself staring into the unemotional face of Seton Pasha.

"Seton, for God's sake, don't detain me! I must learn what's wrong."

"Pull up, Gray."

Quentin Gray clenched his teeth.

"Listen to me, Seton. This is no time for interference. I--"

"You are about to become involved in some very unsavory business; and I repeat--pull up. In a moment we shall learn all there is to be learned. But are you determined openly to thrust yourself into the family affairs of Mr. Monte Irvin?"

"If anything has happened to Rita I'll kill that damned cur Pyne!"

"You are determined to intrude upon this man in your present frame of mind at a time of evident trouble?"

But Gray was deaf to the promptings of prudence and good taste alike.

"I'm going to see the thing through," he said hoarsely.

"Quite so. Rely upon me. But endeavor to behave more like a man of the world and less like a dangerous lunatic, or we shall quarrel atrociously."

Quentin Gray audibly gnashed his teeth, but the cool stare of the other's eyes was quelling, and now as their glances met and clashed, a sympathetic smile softened the lines of Seton's grim mouth, and:

"I quite understand, old chap," he said, linking his arm in Gray's. "But can't you see how important it is, for everybody's sake, that we should tackle the thing coolly?"

"Seton"--Gray's voice broke--"I'm sorry. I know I'm mad; but I was with her only an hour ago, and now--"

"And now 'her' husband appears on the scene accompanied by a police inspector and a sergeant. What are your relations with Mr. Monte Irvin?"

They were walking rapidly again along Bond Street.

"What do you mean, Seton?" asked Gray.

"I mean does he approve of your friendship with his wife, or is it a clandestine affair?"

"Clandestine?--certainly not. I was on my way to call at the house when I met her with Pyne this evening."

"That is what I wanted to know. Very well; since you intend to follow the thing up, it simplifies matters somewhat. Here is the car."

"At Kazmah's door! What in heaven's name does it mean?"

"It means that we shall get a very poor reception if we intrude. Question the chauffeur."

But Gray had already approached the man, who touched his cap in recognition.

"What's the trouble, Pattison?" he demanded breathlessly. "I saw police in the car a moment ago."

"Yes, sir. I don't rightly know, sir, what's happened. But Mr. Irvin drove from home to the corner of old Bond Street a quarter of an hour ago and told me to wait, then came back again and drove round to Vine Street to fetch the police. They're inside now."

Even as he spoke, with excitement ill-concealed, a police-sergeant came out of the doorway, and:

"Move on, there," he said to Seton and Gray. "You mustn't hang about this door."

"Excuse me, Sergeant," cried Gray, "but if the matter concerns Mrs. Monte Irvin I can probably supply information."

The Sergeant stared at him hard, saw that both he and his friend wore evening dress, and grew proportionately respectful.

"What is your name, sir?" he asked. "I'll mention it to the officer in charge."

"Quentin Gray. Inform Mr. Monte Irvin that I wish to speak to him."

"Very good, sir." He turned to the chauffeur. "Hand me out the bag I gave you at Vine Street." Pattison leaned over the door at the front of the car, and brought out a big leather grip. With this in hand the police-sergeant returned into the doorway.

"We're in for it now," said Seton grimly, "whatever it is."

Gray returned no answer, moving restlessly up and down before the door in a fever of excitement and dread. Presently the Sergeant reappeared.

"Step this way, please," he said.

Followed by Seton and Gray he led the way up to the landing before Kazmah's apartments. It was vaguely lighted by two police-lanterns. Four men were standing there, and four pairs of eyes were focussed upon the stair-head.

Monte Irvin, his features a distressing ashen color, spoke.

"That you, Gray?" Quentin Gray would not have recognized the voice. "Thanks for offering your help. God knows I need all I can get. You were with Rita tonight. What happened? Where is she?"

"Heaven knows where she is!" cried Gray. "I left her here with Pyne shortly after seven o'clock."

He paused, fixing his gaze upon the face of Brisley, whose shifty eyes avoided him and who was licking his lips in the manner of a dog who has seen the whip.

"Why," said Gray, "I believe you are the fellow who has been following me all night for some reason."

He stepped toward the foxy little man but:

"Never mind, Gray," interrupted Irvin. "I was to blame. But he was following my wife, not you. Tell me quickly: Why did she come here?"

Gray raised his hand to his brow with a gesture of bewilderment.

"To consult this man, Kazmah. I actually saw her enter the inner room, I went to get a cab, and when I returned the door was locked."

"You knocked?"

"Of course. I made no end of a row. But I could get no reply and went away."

Monte Irvin turned, a pathetic figure, to the Inspector who stood beside him.

"We may as well proceed, Inspector Whiteleaf," he said. "Mr. Gray's evidence throws no light on the matter at all."

"Very well, sir," was the reply; "we have the warrant, and have given the usual notice to whoever may be hiding inside. Burton!"

The Sergeant stepped forward, placed the leather bag on the floor, and stooping, opened it, revealing a number of burglarious-looking instruments.

"Shall I try to cut through the panel?" he asked.

"No, no!" cried Monte Irvin. "Waste no time. You have a crowbar there. Force the door from its hinges. Hurry, man!"

"It doesn't work on hinges!" Gray interrupted excitedly. "It slides to the right by means of some arrangement concealed under the mat."

"Pass that lantern," directed Burton, glancing over his shoulder to Gunn.

Setting it beside him, the Sergeant knelt and examined the threshold of the door.

"A metal plate," he said. "The weight moves a lever, I suppose, which opens the door if it isn't locked. The lock will be on the left of the door as it opens to the right. Let's see what we can do."

He stood up, crowbar in hand, and inserted the chisel blade of the implement between the edge of the door and the doorcase.

"Hold steady!" said the Inspector, standing at his elbow.

The dull metallic sound of hammer blows on steel echoed queerly around the well of the staircase. Brisley and Gunn, standing very close together on the bottom step of the stair to the third floor, watched the police furtively. Irvin and Gray found a common fascination in the door itself, and Seton, cheroot in mouth, looked from group to group with quiet interest.

"Right!" cried the Sergeant.

The blows ceased.

Firmly grasping the bar, Burton brought all his weight to bear upon it. There was a dull, cracking sound and a sort of rasping. The door moved slightly.

"There's where it locks!" said the Inspector, directing the light of a lantern upon the crevice created. "Three inches lower. But it may be bolted as well."

"We'll soon get at the bolts," replied Burton, the lust of destruction now strong upon him.

Wrenching the crowbar from its place he attacked the lower panel of the door, and amid a loud splintering and crashing created a hole big enough to allow of the passage of a hand and arm.

The Inspector reached in, groped about, and then uttered an exclamation of triumph.

"I've unfastened the bolt," he said. "If there isn't another at the top you ought to be able to force the door now, Burton."

The jimmy was thrust back into position, and:

"Stand clear!" cried Burton.

Again he threw his weight upon the bar--and again.

"Drive it further in!" said Monte Irvin; and snatching up the heavy hammer, he rained blows upon the steel butt. "Now try."

Burton exerted himself to the utmost.

"Take hold up here, someone!" he panted. "Two of us can pull."

Gray leapt forward, and the pair of them bent to the task.

There came a dull report of parting mechanism, more sounds of splintering wood . . . and the door rolled open!

A moment of tense silence, then:

"Is anyone inside there?" cried the Inspector loudly.

Not a sound came from the dark interior.

"The lantern!" whispered Monte Irvin.

He stumbled into the room, from which a heavy smell of perfume swept out upon the landing. Quentin Gray, snatching the lantern from the floor, where it had been replaced, was the next to enter.

"Look for the switch, and turn the lights on!" called the Inspector, following.

Even as he spoke, Gray had found the switch, and the apartment of Kazmah became flooded with subdued light.

A glance showed it to be unoccupied.

Gray ran across to the mushrabiyeh cabinet and jerked the curtains aside. There was no one in the cabinet. It contained a chair and a table. Upon the latter was a telephone and some papers and books. "This way!" he cried, his voice high pitched and unnatural.

He burst through the doorway into the inner room which he had seen Mrs. Irvin enter. The air was laden with the smell of frankincense.

"A lantern!" he called. "I left one on the divan."

But Monte Irvin had caught it up and was already at his elbow. His hand was shaking so that the light danced wildly now upon the carpet, now upon the green walls. This room also was deserted. A black gap in the curtain showed where the material had been roughly torn. Suddenly:

"My God, look!" muttered the Inspector, who, with the others, now stood in the curious draped apartment.

A thin stream of blood was trickling out from beneath the torn hangings!

Monte Irvin staggered and fell back against the Inspector, clutching at him for support. But Sergeant Burton, who carried the second lantern, crossed the room and wrenched the green draperies bodily from their fastenings.

They had masked a wooden partition or stout screen, having an aperture in the centre which could be closed by means of another of the sliding doors. A space some five feet deep was thus walled off from this second room. It contained a massive ebony chair. Behind the chair, and dividing the second room into yet a third section, extended another wooden partition in one end of which was an ordinary office door; and immediately at the back of the chair appeared a little opening or window, some three feet up from the floor. The sound of a groan, followed by that of a dull thud, came from the outer room.

"Hullo!" cried Inspector Whiteleaf. "Mr. Irvin has fainted. Lend a hand."

"I am here," replied the quiet voice of Seton Pasha.

"My God!" whispered Gray. "Seton! Seton!"

"Touch nothing," cried the Inspector from outside, "until I come!"

And now the narrow apartment became filled with all the awe-stricken company, only excepting Monte Irvin, and Brisley, who was attending to the swooning man.

Flat upon the floor, between the door and the ebony chair, arms extended and eyes staring upward at the ceiling, lay Sir Lucien Pyne, his white shirt front redly dyed. In the hush which had fallen, the footsteps of Inspector Whiteleaf sounded loudly as he opened the final door, and swept the interior of an inner room with the rays of the lantern.

The room was barely furnished as an office. There was another half- glazed door opening on to a narrow corridor. This door was locked.

"Pyne!" whispered Gray, pale now to the lips. "Do you understand, Seton? It's Pyne! Look! He has been stabbed!"

Sergeant Burton knelt down and gingerly laid his hand upon the stained linen over the breast of Sir Lucien.

"Dead?" asked the Inspector, speaking from the inner doorway.

"Yes."

"You say, sir," turning to Quentin Gray, "that this is Sir Lucien Pyne?"

"Yes."

Inspector Whiteleaf rather clumsily removed his cap. The odor of Seton's cheroot announced itself above the oriental perfume with which the place was laden.

"Burton!"

"Yes?"

"See if this telephone in the office is in order. It appears to be an extension from the outer room."

While the others stood grouped about that still figure on the floor, Sergeant Burton entered the little office.

"Hello!" he cried. "Yes?" A momentary interval, then: "It's all right, sir. What number?"

"Gentlemen," said the Inspector, firmly and authoritatively, "I am about to telephone to Vine Street for instructions. No one will leave the premises."

Amid an intense hush:

"Regent 201," called Sergeant Burton.