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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
The Woman With The Basket
|Page 5 of 6||
Then, with that quietly dramatic note which marks real life entrances and differentiates them from the loudly acclaimed episodes of the stage, a third actor took up his cue.
"Both hands, Mr. Cavanagh!" directed an American voice.
Nerves atwitch, I started around in its direction.
>From behind the slightly opened door of No. 48 protruded a steel barrel, pointed accurately at my head!
I hesitated, glancing from the woman toward the open door.
"Do it quick!" continued the voice incisively. "You are up against a desperate man, Mr. Cavanagh. Raise your hands. Carneta, relieve Mr. Cavanagh of his gun!"
Instantly the girl, with deft fingers, had obtained possession of my revolver.
"Step inside," said the crisp, strident voice. Knowing myself helpless and quite convinced that I was indeed in the clutches of desperate people, I entered the doorway, the door being held open from within. She whom I had heard called Carneta followed. The door was reclosed; and I found myself in a perfectly bare and dim passageway. From behind me came the order -
"Go right ahead!"
Into a practically unfurnished room, lighted by one gas jet, I walked. Some coarse matting hung before the two windows and a fairly large grip stood on the floor against one wall. A gas-ring was in the hearth, together with a few cheap cooking utensils.
I turned and faced the door. First entered Carneta, carrying the basket; then came a man with a revolver in his left hand and his right arm strapped across his chest and swathed in bandages. One glance revealed the fact that his right hand had been severed - revealed the fact, though I knew it already, that my captor was Earl Dexter.
He looked even leaner than when I had last seen him. I had no doubt that his ghastly wound had occasioned a tremendous loss of blood. His gaunt face was positively emaciated, but the steely gray eyes had lost nothing of their brightness. There was a good deal about Mr. Earl Dexter, the cracksman, that any man must have admired.
"Shut the door, Carneta," he said quietly. His companion closed the door and Dexter sat down on the grip, regarding me with his oddly humorous smile.
"You're a visitor I did not expect, Mr. Cavanagh," he said. "I expected someone worse. You've interfered a bit with my plans but I don't know that I can't rearrange things satisfactorily. I don't think I'll stop for supper, though - " He glanced at the girl, who stood silent by the door.
"Just pack up the provisions," he directed, nodding toward the basket - "in the next room."
She departed without a word.
"That's a noticeable dust coat you're wearing, Mr. Cavanagh," said the American; "it gives me a great notion. I'm afraid I'll have to borrow it."
He glanced, smiling, at the revolver in his left hand and back again to me. There was nothing of the bully about him, nothing melodramatic; but I took off the coat without demur and threw it across to him.
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