As I stood there with Henry Drew's dead body at my feet and those sill_andles flaring wanly at my side, I heard the big clock in the hallway strik_he half hour, and then the scurry of feet on the stairs. Cleared now of it_irst amazement, my mind was unusually keen. Henry Drew done for at last! B_hom? Again my eye fell upon the open French window and, stepping to it, _ooked out. My heart stopped beating — for amid the shadows and the fog _hought I saw a blacker shadow, which passed in the twinkling of an eye.
I stepped quickly from the room. The light from the window at my bac_enetrated a few feet only on a narrow veranda, from which steps led down int_ garden, I judged. It was unexplored country to me, the dark wa_mpenetrable, but I stepped off into tall damp grass almost to my knees.
The tule-fog seemed glad to have me back. Its clammy embrace was about m_nkles; from the bare branches of the trees above, it dripped down on m_efenseless head. I took several steps to the right, and ran into a_nexpected ell of the house. As I stood there, uncertain which way to go, something brushed against my face, something rough, uncanny, that sent _hiver down my spine. Wildly I swung my arms in all directions, but the_ouched only empty air and fog.
Still swinging my arms, stumbling amid flower beds, hunting in vain for _ath, I continued to explore. My feet caught in a tangle of vines, and I cam_ear sprawling on the wet grass. Righting myself with difficulty, I stoppe_nd looked about me. The light from the room I had left was no longer visible.
I was lost in a jungle that was only the Drew back yard. For a moment, I stoo_ense and silent. How I knew it I can not say, but I was conscious that I wa_ot alone. Close at hand some human creature waited, holding its breath, alert, prepared. I did not see, I did not hear — I felt. Suddenly I lunged i_he direction where I imagined it to be — and instantly my intuition wa_roved correct. I heard someone back away, and then quick heavy footstep_runched on a gravel walk.
He had shown me the path, and for that I thanked him. Following as speedily a_ could in his wake, I came to a gate in the high wall at the rear. It wa_winging open. Through this, no doubt, the murderer had gone, and I steppe_ut into the alley. I could see no one; there was no sound whatever. Then _tarted and almost cried aloud — but it was only an alley cat brushing agains_y legs.
My quarry had vanished into the fog, and to look for him would be to hunt th_roverbial needle in the good old haystack. It came to me then that I had bee_ll kinds of a fool, rushing out of the Drew house like that at the moment o_y gruesome discovery. I had not meant to come so far, of course — but here _as, and there was nothing to do but hurry back. How about Mary Will? Had she, perhaps, been the second person to enter the dining room and been frightene_alf to death by what she found there?
I swung back to reenter the garden — and at that instant the gate banged shu_n my face. The wind? Nonsense, there was no wind. With a sickening sense o_eing tricked, I put my hand on the knob. I turned and pushed. As I expected, the gate was securely locked on the inside.
What should I do now? Wait here at the gate, holding my friend of the fog _risoner inside? Useless, I reflected; there must be many ways of escape — _eighbor's yard on either side. Before I had waited five minutes, he would b_ell on his way to safety. No — I must get back to the house as quickly as _ould. Since I could not return by way of the garden, only one course remained — I must follow the alley until I came to a cross-street, then travel tha_ntil I came to the street where Henry Drew's house stood. But what was th_ame of the street where it stood?
All at once I realized that I hadn't the faintest idea. No matter, I must ge_ack to that front door somehow. A short distance down, an alley lamp made a_dd shape in the fog. I hurried toward it. Just beyond I stepped out into th_ross-street and paused. Left or right? Left, of course.
The clammy yellow fog stuck closer than a brother. On my feet I wore paten_eather shoes, recently purchased on my return to human society in Shanghai.
Their soles were almost as they had been when I left the shop, and I slippe_nd skidded unmercifully on the damp sidewalk. A small matter — but one tha_omehow filled me with a feeling of helplessness and rage. What a spectacle _ust present! Served me right, though. I had no business at Henry Drew'_onfounded party.
As best I could, I hurried on, staring at the house-fronts. But their owner_ouldn't have told them apart in the mist. My search was hopeless. I had give_p and was standing beneath a street lamp when I heard footsteps.
Debonairly out of the fog walked Parker, the ship's doctor, humming a tune a_e walked. He stopped and stared at me. A fine sight I must have been, too — wild-eyed, with evening clothes, no overcoat, no hat.
"Good lord, Winthrop!" he said. "What's happened to you?"
There was no friendliness in his tone, and it came to me suddenly — _ickening premonition — that this was the last man it was good for me to mee_ust now. I resolved to make the best of my plight.
"Parker, a terrible thing has happened. Old man Drew has been murdered."
"You don't say? Who killed him?"
"I don't know. How the devil should I?" His cool unconcerned tones maddene_e. "I had reached the house, and was waiting for him in the library. Hearin_ cry, I ran into the diningroom. He was there — dead — on the floor."
"Really? And now you are wildly, running the streets. Hunting for a policeman, perhaps?"
I was not unaware of the sneering implication in his words, but I strove t_eep my temper.
"I'm trying to get back to the house," I said calmly. "As I was standin_eside the old man's body I saw someone moving outside an open window."
I outlined briefly the series of small adventures that had followed. He hear_e out, then tossed away his cigarette, and I saw a faint smile on his crue_ace. It occurred to me that I would have to repeat my story — repeat it agai_nd again — and that I was destined to see that smile of unbelief on othe_aces.
"Very interesting," said Parker, still smiling. "I wish I could be of som_elp, old man. But as a matter of fact I'm in the same fix as you. I starte_o walk to the house, and lost my way."
"At any rate," I answered, "you must know the address."
"Don't you?" He laughed loudly. "I say, that's funny."
"To you, perhaps," I said.
"Pardon me. My sense of humor breaks out at most unseemly times. I do know th_ddress, of course. The house is on California Street." He mentioned a number.
"There are no street signs on the lamps," I said.
"No. But at each corner the name of the street is carved in the sidewalk.
Let's try that."
We walked along to the nearest crossing. Neither of us had a match; but b_tooping and running his fingers along the damp walk Parker came upon the nam_arved in the stone. I leaned over beside him, and we began to spell it out.
It was in such a silly posture that Riley the policeman found us as his bi_ulk emerged from the fog.
"What the hell?" said Riley, not without reason.
"It's Riley!" I cried. "Good enough!"
"Who are you?" he wanted to know.
"A friend of Mr. Drew," I told him. "I was there a while ago when you calle_o see if everything was okay."
"Sure," he said "You was sitting in the library."
"Of course. Riley — Mr. Drew has bees murdered."
"Murdered! He can't be. I was just talkin' to him."
I told him of the events since his call at the Drew house, and repeated th_ame story of my actions following my discovery of the crime. He made n_omment.
"How about you?" he said, turning to Parker.
"I met this young man by chance,' Parker told him. "I was on my way to Mr.
Drew's house, where I had been invited for dinner, and I became confused i_he fog."
Riley shook his head.
"I don't mind sayin' you both sound fishy to me," he remarked. "We'll go bac_o the house. You lads follow me — wait a bit. Second thoughts is best. Yo_ead the way."
He pointed with his night stick, and meekly we set out. Riley pounded along a_ur heels. We must have been far afield, for we walked some distance, passin_everal corners where motorcars honked dubiously. At last Riley halted u_efore the Drew house, and we climbed the steps. Finding the door unlocked, w_ntered with Riley close behind.