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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Questing Hands
|Page 4 of 4||
"Come downstairs," replied Smith quietly, "and see for yourself." He turned his head aside from the bed.
Very unsteadily I followed him down the stairs and through the rambling old house out into the stone-paved courtyard. There were figures moving at the end of a long alleyway between the glass houses, and one, carrying a lantern, stooped over something which lay upon the ground.
"That's Burke's cousin with the lantern," whispered Smith in my ear; "don't tell him yet."
I nodded, and we hurried up to join the group. I found myself looking down at one of those thick-set Burmans whom I always associated with Fu-Manchu's activities. He lay quite flat, face downward; but the back of his head was a shapeless blood-dotted mass, and a heavy stock-whip, the butt end ghastly because of the blood and hair which clung to it, lay beside him. I started back appalled as Smith caught my arm.
"It turned on its keeper!" he hissed in my ear. "I wounded it twice from below, and you severed one arm; in its insensate fury, its unreasoning malignity, it returned--and there lies its second victim . . ."
"Then . . ."
"It's gone, Petrie! It has the strength of four men even now. Look!"
He stooped, and from the clenched left hand of the dead Burman, extracted a piece of paper and opened it.
"Hold the lantern a moment," he said.
In the yellow light he glanced at the scrap of paper.
"As I expected--a leaf of Burke's notebook; it worked by scent." He turned to me with an odd expression in his gray eyes. "I wonder what piece of my personal property Fu-Manchu has pilfered," he said, "in order to enable it to sleuth me?"
He met the gaze of the man holding the lantern.
"Perhaps you had better return to the house," he said, looking him squarely in the eyes.
The other's face blanched.
"You don't mean, sir--you don't mean . . ."
"Brace up!" said Smith, laying his hand upon his shoulder. "Remember-- he chose to play with fire!"
One wild look the man cast from Smith to me, then went off, staggering, toward the farm.
"Smith," I began . . .
He turned to me with an impatient gesture.
"Weymouth has driven into Upminster," he snapped; "and the whole district will be scoured before morning. They probably motored here, but the sounds of the shots will have enabled whoever was with the car to make good his escape. And exhausted from loss of blood, its capture is only a matter of time, Petrie."
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