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0105_001E The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

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Of course I went, but I cast him an appealing look as I did so. It evidently had its effect, for his expression changed as his band fell on the doorknob. Would he snap the lock tight, and so shut me out from what concerned me as much as it did any one in the whole world? Or would he recognize my anxiety--the necessity I was under of knowing just the ground I was standing on--and let me hear what this man had to report?

I watched the door. It closed slowly, too slowly to latch. Would he catch it anew by the knob? No; he left it thus, and, while the crack was hardly perceptible, I felt confident that the least shake of the floor would widen it and give me the opportunity I sought. But I did not have to wait for this. The two men in the office I had just left began to speak, and to my unbounded relief were sufficiently intelligible, even now, to warrant me in giving them my fullest attention.

After some expressions of astonishment on the part of the inspector as to the plight in which the other presented himself, the latter broke out:

"I've just escaped death! I'll tell you about that later. What I want to tell you now is that the man we want is in town. I saw him last night, or his shadow, which is the same thing. It was in the house in Eighty-sixth Street,--the house they all think closed. He came in with a key and--"

"Wait! You have him?"

"No. It's a long story, sir--"

"Tell it!"

The tone was dry. The inspector was evidently disappointed.

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"Don't blame me till you hear," said the other. "He is no common crook. This is how it was: You wanted the suspect's photograph and a specimen of his writing. I knew no better place to look for them than in his own room in Mr. Fairbrother's house. I accordingly got the necessary warrant and late last evening undertook the job. I went alone I was always an egotistical chap, more's the pity--and with no further precaution than a passing explanation to the officer I met at the corner, I hastened up the block to the rear entrance on Eighty-seventh Street. There are three doors to the Fairbrother house, as you probably know. Two on Eighty-sixth Street (the large front one and a small one connecting directly with the turret stairs), and one on Eighty-seventh Street. It was to the latter I had a key. I do not think any one saw me go in. It was raining, and such people as went by were more concerned in keeping their umbrellas properly over their heads than in watching men skulking about in doorways.

"I got in, then, all right, and, being careful to close the door behind me, went up the first short flight of steps to what I knew must be the main hall. I had been given a plan of the interior, and I had studied it more or less before starting out, but I knew that I should get lost if I did not keep to the rear staircase, at the top of which I expected to find the steward's room. There was a faint light in the house, in spite of its closed shutters and tightly-drawn shades; and, having a certain dread of using my torch, knowing my weakness for pretty things and how hard it would be for me to pass so many fine rooms without looking in, I made my way up stairs, with no other guide than the hand-rail. When I had reached what I took to be the third floor I stopped. Finding it very dark, I first listened--a natural instinct with us--then I lit up and looked about me.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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