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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
Dr. Fu-Manchu Strikes
|Page 5 of 7||
Burke, a heavy man with a lowering, bull-dog type of face, collapsed onto his knees beside Slattin, and began softly to laugh in little rising peals.
"Drop that!" snapped Smith, and grasping him by the shoulders, he sent him spinning along the hallway, where he sank upon the bottom step of the stairs, to sit with his outstretched fingers extended before his face, and peering at us grotesquely through the crevices.
There were rustlings and subdued cries from the upper part of the house. Carter came in out of the darkness, carefully stepping over the recumbent figure; and the three of us stood there in the lighted hall looking down at Slattin.
"Help us to move him back," directed Smith, tensely; "far enough to close the door."
Between us we accomplished this, and Carter fastened the door. We were alone with the shadow of Fu-Manchu's vengeance; for as I knelt beside the body on the floor, a look and a touch sufficed to tell me that this was but clay from which the spirit had fled!
Smith met my glance as I raised my head, and his teeth came together with a loud snap; the jaw muscles stood out prominently beneath the dark skin; and his face was grimly set in that odd, half-despairful expression which I knew so well but which boded so ill for whomsoever occasioned it.
"Lightning could have done the work no better. Can I turn him over?
Together we stooped and rolled the heavy body on its back. A flood of whispers came sibilantly from the stairway. Smith spun around rapidly, and glared upon the group of half-dressed servants.
"Return to your rooms!" he rapped, imperiously; "let no one come into the hall without my orders."
The masterful voice had its usual result; there was a hurried retreat to the upper landing. Burke, shaking like a man with an ague, sat on the lower step, pathetically drumming his palms upon his uplifted knees.
"I warned him, I warned him!" he mumbled monotonously, "I warned him, oh, I warned him!"
"Stand up!" shouted Smith--"stand up and come here!"
The man, with his frightened eyes turning to right and left, and seeming to search for something in the shadows about him, advanced obediently.
"Have you a flask?" demanded Smith of Carter.
The detective silently administered to Burke a stiff restorative.
"Now," continued Smith, "you, Petrie, will want to examine him, I suppose?" He pointed to the body. "And in the meantime I have some questions to put to you, my man."
He clapped his hand upon Burke's shoulder.
"My God!" Burke broke out, "I was ten yards from him when it happened!"
"No one is accusing you," said Smith, less harshly; but since you were the only witness, it is by your aid that we hope to clear the matter up."
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