Bobby released the slender fingers. He saw them vanish through the opening. He left the bed and reluctantly approached the door to the private hall. Excited phrases roared in his ears. He scarcely dared listen because of their possible confirmation of his doubt. The fingers, he repeated to himself, had been too slender. The moment that had freed him from fear of his own guilt had constructed in its place an uncertainty harder to face. Yet there was nothing to be gained by waiting. Sooner or later he must learn whether Katherine had hidden the evidence, whether she had used the stout and deadly hatpin, whether she struggled now in the grasp of vindictive men.
A voice from the corridor arrested him.
With a glad cry he swung around. Katherine stood in the opposite doorway. Her presence there, beyond a doubt, was her exculpation. He crossed the sombre room. He grasped her hands. He smiled happily. After all, the hand he had held was not as slender as hers.
“Thank heavens you’re here.”
In a word he recited the result of his vigil.
“It clears you,” she said. “Quick! We must see who it is.”
But he lingered, for he wanted that ugly fear done with once for all.
“You can tell me now how the evidence got in your room.”
“I can’t,” she said. “I don’t know.”
The truth of her reply impressed him. He looked at her and wondered that she should be fully dressed.
“Why are you dressed?” he asked.
She was puzzled.
“Why not? I don’t think any one had gone to bed.”
“But it must be very late. I supposed it was the same time—half-past two.”
She started to cross the room. She laughed nervously.
“It isn’t eleven.”
He recalled his interminable anticipation among the shadows of the old room.
“I’ve watched there only a little more than an hour!”
“Not much more than that, Bobby.”
“What a coward! I’d have sworn it was nearly daylight.”
She pressed his hand.
“No. Very brave,” she whispered. “Let us see if it was worth it.”
They stepped through the doorway. Half way down the hall Robinson, Graham, and Rawlins held a fourth, who had ceased struggling. Bobby paused, yet, since seeing Katherine step from the corridor, his reason had taught him to expect just this.
The fourth man was Paredes, nearly effeminate, slender-fingered.
“Carlos!” Bobby cried. “You can’t have done these unspeakable things!”
The Panamanian stared without answering. Evidently he had had time to control his chagrin, to smother his revolt from the future; for the thin face was bare of emotion. The depths of the eyes as usual turned back scrutiny. The man disclosed neither guilt nor the outrage of an assumed innocence; neither confession nor denial. He simply stared, straining a trifle against the eager hands of his captors.