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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
A Scream In The Night
|Page 3 of 4||
"Our big chance," whispered Mostyn, "is in the fact that any day may change the conditions. They can't afford to wait."
He ceased abruptly, grasping my arm. From somewhere, somewhere outside the building, we all three had heard a soft whistle. A moment of tense listening followed.
"If only we could have had the place surrounded," whispered Bristol - " but it was impossible, of course."
A faint grating noise echoed through the lofty Burton Room. Bristol slipped past me in the semi-gloom, and gently opened the communicating door a few inches.
A-tiptoe, I joined him, and craning across his shoulder saw a strange and wonderful thing.
The newly glazed east window again was shattered with a booming crash! The yellow blind was thrust aside. A long something reached out toward the broken case. There was a sort of fumbling sound, and paralyzed with the wonder of it - for the window, remember, was thirty feet from the ground - I stood frozen to my post.
Not so Bristol. As the weird tentacle (or more exactly it reminded me of a gigantic crab's claw) touched the case, the Inspector leapt forward. A white beam from his electric torch cut through to the broken cabinet.
The thing was withdrawn . . . and with it went the slipper of the Prophet.
"Raise the blinds!" cried Bristol. "Mr. Cavanagh! Mr. Mostyn! We must not let them give us the slip!"
I got up the blind of the nearer window as Bristol raised the other. Not a living thing was in sight from either!
Mostyn was beside me, his hand resting on my shoulder. I noted how he trembled. Bristol turned and looked back at us. The light from his pocket torch flashed upon the curator's face; and I have never seen such an expression of horrified amazement as that which it wore. Faintly, I could hear the constable racing up the steps from the hall.
Ideas of the supernatural came to us all, I know; when, with a scuffling sound not unlike that of a rat in a ceiling, something moved above us!
"Damn my thick head!" roared Bristol, furiously. "He's on the roof! It's flat as a floor and there's enough ivy alongside the water-spout on your house adjoining, Mr. Mostyn, to afford foothold to an invading army!"
He plunged off toward the open door, and I heard him racing down the Assyrian Room.
"He had a short rope ladder fixed from the gutter!" he cried back at us. "Graham! Graham!" (the constable on duty in the hall) - "Get the front door open! Get . . . His voice died away as he leapt down the stairs.
>From the direction of Orpington Square came a horrid, choking scream. It rose hideously; it fell, rose again - and died.
The thief escaped. We saw the traces upon the ivy where he had hastened down. Bristol ascended by the same route, and found where the ladder-hooks had twice been attached to the gutterway. Constable Graham, who was first actually to leave the building, declared that he heard the whirr of a re-started motor lower down Great Orchard Street.
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