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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 4 of 5||
A wail, low but singularly penetrating, falling in minor cadences to a new silence, came from somewhere close at hand.
"My God!" hissed Guthrie, "what was that?"
"The Call of Siva," whispered Smith.
"Don't stir, for your life!"
Guthrie was breathing hard.
I knew that we were three; that the hotel detective was within hail; that there was a telephone in the room; that the traffic of the Embankment moved almost beneath us; but I knew, and am not ashamed to confess, that King Fear had icy fingers about my heart. It was awful--that tense waiting--for--what?
Three taps sounded--very distinctly upon the window.
Graham Guthrie started so as to shake the bed.
"It's supernatural!" he muttered--all that was Celtic in his blood recoiling from the omen. "Nothing human can reach that window!" "S-sh!" from Smith. "Don't stir."
The tapping was repeated.
Smith softly crossed the room. My heart was beating painfully. He threw open the window. Further inaction was impossible. I joined him; and we looked out into the empty air.
"Don't come too near, Petrie!" he warned over his shoulder.
One on either side of the open window, we stood and looked down at the moving Embankment lights, at the glitter of the Thames, at the silhouetted buildings on the farther bank, with the Shot Tower starting above them all.
Three taps sounded on the panes above us.
In all my dealings with Dr. Fu-Manchu I had had to face nothing so uncanny as this. What Burmese ghoul had he loosed? Was it outside, in the air? Was it actually in the room?
"Don't let me go, Petrie!" whispered Smith suddenly. "Get a tight hold on me!"
That was the last straw; for I thought that some dreadful fascination was impelling my friend to hurl himself out! Wildly I threw my arms about him, and Guthrie leaped forward to help.
Smith leaned from the window and looked up.
One choking cry he gave--smothered, inarticulate--and I found him slipping from my grip--being drawn out of the window--drawn to his death!
"Hold him, Guthrie!" I gasped hoarsely. "My God, he's going! Hold him!"
My friend writhed in our grasp, and I saw him stretch his arm upward. The crack of his revolver came, and he collapsed on to the floor, carrying me with him.
But as I fell I heard a scream above. Smith's revolver went hurtling through the air, and, hard upon it, went a black shape-- flashing past the open window into the gulf of the night.
"The light! The light!" I cried.
Guthrie ran and turned on the light. Nayland Smith, his eyes starting from his head, his face swollen, lay plucking at a silken cord which showed tight about his throat.
"It was a Thug!" screamed Guthrie. "Get the rope off! He's choking!"
My hands a-twitch, I seized the strangling-cord.
"A knife! Quick!" I cried. "I have lost mine!"
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