"All right, if you say so," he murmured. "Now tell me about that night--the other time. Drill--"
Drill Morgan laughed. The laugh was jerky, forced. The hand with which he scratched the match to light his cigarette made the little flame dance like a will-o'-the-wisp.
"I'm over there at the box, see?" he began. "I've just got it open, and I'm hauling out the junk. Morrison's out in the hall, listening to see if anyone comes down the stairs.
"The butler sneaks in through another door and hops me before I'm wise that he's within a dozen miles. I let him have it between the eyes. He drops like a log.
"Everybody in the house wakes up and starts yelling. Jim and me, we take it on the lam and slide clear by the skin of our teeth. We hop it back to my room and finish the night there. We lay doggo there for a couple of days. I'm wise that the bulls have got a line on us. We're on the list. Sooner or later, one of us is going to get rapped.
"The afternoon of the second day, while Morrison's taking a nap, I shift guns on him. That night we make a run for it.
"Outside my place, we split. Morrison gets away clean. I'm pinched half an hour after I've soaked the junk with Rosy, the fence.
"I've got a .32 calibre gun on me, the same size as the bullet that's in the butler. I've got a record. They're all set to shove me the works.
"I tell them to go pick up Jim Morrison, look at his gat, notice it's a .32, also--and then compare the scratch markings on the bullets out of it with the one that killed the butler .
"They do. When they fire test cartridges out of Jim's gun and mine, the marks on the bullets prove that the slug that smoked the butler was shot out of the gat he's carrying, and not out of the one I've got on me.
"So that's all there is to it--Morrison burns, I get five years and then a pardon."
A light of admiring awe glowed in Meekers' button-brown eyes.
"Gee!" he murmured. "As easy as that--and you got away with it!"
"Sure, I got away with it," Morgan laughed. It had been the way he expected. Now that he had talked, confessed, he felt better. His nerve was back again. "When you've got brains and nerve, you can get away with anything, cull," he said meaningly.
Rabbit did not say anything. He shrank back from the diabolical expression on Morgan's lips. His eyes bulged. His weak, purposeless face began to twitch and tremble with sudden terror.
Morgan got up out of the chair he had been sitting in as he talked, and pitched his cigarette into the fireplace.
"Well, now that you know all about it, sap, let's travel," he said. "You go ahead first--and don't try to lose me, see?"
Rabbit started to walk around Morgan, back toward the fireplace.
"That gas gun--my fingerprints are all over it. I wanta wipe 'em off," he explained.
Morgan grinned. His right hand slipped down into his coat pocket. The other hand flicked into Meekers' pocket and came out with the little man's gun.
"You're wipin' off nothing. Get it punk?" he growled.
"Why--why, Drill, what d'yuh mean?" Rabbit quavered. His face was white and horrified. "Yuh--yuh don't mean you're goin' to frame me. Drill? Yuh ain't goin' to put me on the spot to take the rap for this--"
"I mean you're goin' to jam your yap and get lammin' outa here--or you won't never go," Morgan growled. He twitched the gat out of his pocket and jabbed the cold snout into Rabbit's ribs. "I smoked one guy here and another man just took the hot rap for it. If you don't wanta be another one, you savvy what's good for you. Get movin', dumb-wit."
Rabbit did not move. A stubborn look--the crazy daring of utter terror--froze his ashy-white lips.
"I ain't goin'! I won't!" he screamed. "You're framin' me! You're goin' to leave my prints here for me to get caught. I know the rest of it, too. At Rosy's you're goin' to kill us both and then switch the guns, the same as you did on Morrison, so it'll look like we killed each other."
The little pickpocket's shrill voice rasped up into a shriek. "You lousy double-crossing rat, you! Give me my gun--"
Screeching at the top of his lungs in a frenzy of hysterical rage, Rabbit threw himself onto Morgan. He hammered one puny fist into his face while with the other he clutched for his automatic.
Morgan snarled out a curse. His face was livid green in the moonlight. With one smashing blow of his fist, he sent Meekers reeling backward.
"Take it, then, you screechin' idiot," he snarled. "How d'yuh like this--"
Six times in half as many seconds, Drill jerked the trigger as he drew bead on Rabbit's heart.
EVEN while he was still firing, a dazed, uncomprehending expression muddled Drill Morgan's face, his jaw dropped. His eyes bulged in bewilderment.
Six times, faint empty clickings instead of the roar of exploding powder popped grim mockery into his ears.
"Those were all fake cartridges in your gun, Morgan."
A cool, far-away voice that Drill dimly recognized as Meekers' cut through the whirling daze that made his head spin. The Rabbit's face, grinning mockingly, swam round and round in front of him.
"We had the bullets drawn, the powder dumped out, and the shells reloaded with salt behind the bullets. It seemed safer under the circumstances."
Drill rubbed his eyes. Lights were blazing up in the room. From hiding places behind the long draperies that fell to the floor on either side of the windows, men in uniform, with guns in their hands, came pouring out.
"Come on, Morgan. The game's up. Throw up your hands and don't make any trouble," the foremost one shouted. "We've got you with the goods."
Directly opposite Drill, a young girl appeared and stood looking at him with scornful triumph gripping her face. Drill snarled a curse. She was the sister of Jim Morrison. Day after day, during the trial, she had sat in court gazing at him, the speechless hatred in her blue eyes lashing him like fiery whips.
The big man in uniform stepped up and snapped the handcuffs around Morgan's wrists.
"Let me introduce you to Eddie Carmichael, the cleverest detective in America." the officer grinned, nodding at the Rabbit. "He spent a dozen years on the stage before he went on the cops. He never does anything by halves. Maybe you realize that now, Morgan. He put in a clean seven months up at the big house just so you would get used to seeing him around and not suspect him for a dick when he finally conned you. Annie Hope is another one of our cops that got her experience in the real game before she went to work for the Secret Service of the United States. The Government just lent her to us. That house down there we dressed up just for tonight. It's all up with you, Drill. We had six witnesses behind those curtains listening to your confession how you killed the butler--"
Drill Morgan burst into wild, mocking laughter.
"You're tellin' me something? What good will it do you, you saps? They burned Morrison half an hour ago. You can't rap two men for the same job--"
"Oh, no, they didn't burn Morrison. Not even a little bit," Carmichael grinned. With the laying aside of his part of the Rabbit, he seemed taller, straighter. His face had lost its sly, simian linings. His brown eyes were keen as knife blades as they bored into Drill Morgan's apoplectic countenance.
"The Governor granted him a week's reprieve, to give us a chance to try this out on you. But all the papers got the word that he was going to die tonight. McCracken's family are all upstairs, keeping out of the way. That society notice in the papers was another come-on plant--just for you. Cedarcrest Lodge was opened a month ago." The Rabbit--Eddie Carmichael--lit a cigarette, and puffed the smoke in Morgan's face.
"You were a hundred per cent sucker, Drill, all the way through," he grinned. "You bit for everything like a big hay-and-hen man from the sticks. And it was a woman's brain that doped out the plant. Edna Morrison here. She's been to college and studied psychology--if you know what that is.
"She was determined her brother shouldn't die for a job he never did. She knew that when a crook goes back to the scene of his crime, he always has a wild craving to talk about it. It was her idea to get you here at the very hour when Jim was due to go to the chair, and kid this confession out of you."
Drill Morgan did not hear what Carmichael was saying. He was fighting like a wild animal with the burly figures that pinioned him on either side. Fighting and screaming through his foaming lips as they dragged him away toward the shadow of the chair.
THE DOOR INTO INFINITY.
By Edmond Hamilton
1. The Brotherhood of the Door "Where leads the Door?"
"It leads outside our world."
"Who taught our forefathers to open the Door?"
"They Beyond the Door taught them."
"To whom do we bring these sacrifices?"
"We bring them to Those Beyond the Door."
"Shall the Door be opened that They may take them?"
"Let the Door be opened!"
Paul Ennis had listened thus far, his haggard face uncomprehending in expression, but now he interrupted the speaker.
"But what does it all mean, inspector? Why are you repeating this to me?"
"Did you ever hear anyone speak words like that?" asked Inspector Pierce Campbell, leaning tautly forward for the answer.
"Of course not--it just sounds like gibberish to me," Ennis exclaimed. "What connection can it have with my wife?"
He had risen to his feet, a tall, blond young American whose good-looking face was drawn and worn by inward agony, whose crisp yellow hair was brushed back from his forehead in disorder, and whose blue eyes were haunted with an anguished dread.
He kicked back his chair and strode across the gloomy little office, whose single window looked out on the thickening, foggy twilight of London. He bent across the dingy desk, gripping its edges with his hands as he spoke tensely to the man sitting behind it.
"Why are we wasting time talking here?" Ennis cried. "Sitting here talking, when anything may be happening to Ruth!
"It's been hours since she was kidnapped. They may have taken her anywhere, even outside of London by now. And instead of searching for her, you sit here and talk gibberish about Doors!"
Inspector Campbell seemed unmoved by Ennis' passion. A bulky, almost bald man, he looked up with his colorless, sagging face, in which his eyes gleamed like two crumbs of bright brown glass.
"You're not helping me much by giving way to your emotions, Mr. Ennis," he said in his flat voice.
"Give way? Who wouldn't give way?" cried Ennis. "Don't you understand, man, it's Ruth that's gone--my wife! Why, we were married only last week in New York. And on our second day here in London, I see her whisked into a limousine and carried away before my eyes! I thought you men at Scotland Yard here would surely act, do something. Instead you talk crazy gibberish to me!"
"Those words are not gibberish," said Pierce Campbell quietly. "And I think they're related to the abduction of your wife."
"What do you mean? How could they be related?"
The inspector's bright little brown eyes held Ennis'. "Did you ever hear of an organization called the Brotherhood of the Door?"
Ennis shook his head, and Campbell continued, "Well, I am certain your wife was kidnapped by members of the Brotherhood."
"What kind of an organization is it?" the young American demanded. "A band of criminals?"
"No, it is no ordinary criminal organization," the detective said. His sagging face set strangely. "Unless I am mistaken, the Brotherhood of the Door is the most unholy and blackly evil organization that has ever existed on this earth. Almost nothing is known of it outside its circle. I myself in twenty years have learned little except its existence and name. That ritual I just repeated to you, I heard from the lips of a dying member of the Brotherhood, who repeated the words in his delirium."
Campbell leaned forward. "But I know that every year about this time the Brotherhood come from all over the world and gather at some secret center here in England. And every year, before that gathering, scores of people are kidnapped and never heard of again. I believe that all those people are kidnapped by this mysterious Brotherhood."
"But what becomes of the people they kidnap?" cried the pale young American. "What do they do with them?"
Inspector Campbell's bright brown eyes showed a hint of hooded horror, yet he shook his head. "I know no more than you. But whatever they do to the victims, they are never heard of again."
"But you must know something more!" Ennis protested. "What is this Door?"
Campbell again shook his head. "That too I don't know, but whatever it is, the Door is utterly sacred to the members of the Brotherhood, and whomever they mean by They Beyond the Door, they dread and venerate to the utmost."
"Where leads the Door? It leads outside our world," repeated Ennis. "What can that mean?"
"It might have a symbolic meaning, referring to some secluded fastness of the order which is away from the rest of the world," the inspector said. "Or it might----"
He stopped. "Or it might what?" pressed Ennis, his pale face thrust forward.
"It might mean, literally, that the Door leads outside our world and universe," finished the inspector.
Ennis' haunted eyes stared. "You mean that this Door might somehow lead into another universe? But that's impossible!"
"Perhaps unlikely," Campbell said quietly, "but not impossible. Modern science has taught us that there are other universes than the one we live in, universes congruent and coincident with our own in space and time, yet separated from our own by the impassable barrier of totally different dimensions. It is not entirely impossible that a greater science than ours might find a way to pierce that barrier between our universe and one of those outside ones, that a Door should be opened from ours into one of those others in the infinite outside."
"A door into the infinite outside," repeated Ennis broodingly, looking past the inspector. Then he made a sudden movement of wild impatience, the dread leaping back strong in his eyes again.
"Oh, what good is all this talk about Doors and infinite universes doing in finding Ruth? I want to do something! If you think this mysterious Brotherhood has taken her, you must surely have some idea of how we can get her back from them? You must know something more about them than you've told."
"I don't know anything more certainly, but I've certain suspicions that amount to convictions," Inspector Campbell said. "I've been working on this Brotherhood for many years, and block after block I've narrowed down to the place I think the order's local center, the London headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Door."
"Where is the place?" asked Ennis tensely.
"It is the waterfront cafe of one Chandra Dass, a Hindoo, down by East India Docks," said the detective officer. "I've been there in disguise more than once, watching the place. This Chandra Dass I've found to be immensely feared by everyone in the quarter, which strengthens my belief that he's one of the high officers of the Brotherhood. He's too exceptional a man to be really running such a place."
"Then if the Brotherhood took Ruth, she may be at that place now!" cried the young American, electrified.
Campbell nodded his bald head. "She may very likely be. Tonight I'm going there again in disguise, and have men ready to raid the place. If Chandra Dass has your wife there, we'll get her before he can get her away. Whatever way it turns out, we'll let you know at once."
"Like hell you will!" exploded the pale young Ennis. "Do you think I'm going to twiddle my thumbs while you're down there? I'm going with you. And if you refuse to let me, by heaven I'll go there myself!"
Inspector Pierce Campbell gave the haggard, fiercely determined face of the young man a long look, and then his own colorless countenance seemed to soften a little.