“Somebody—something moved in that room where he—he’s dead.”
“Nonsense,” the detective said. “Both doors are locked, and I have the keys in my pocket.”
Paredes fumbled with a cigarette.
“You’re forgetting what I said about my sensitive apprehension of strange things—”
The detective interrupted him loudly, confidently:
“I tell you the room is empty except for the murdered man—unless someone’s broken down a door.”
Katherine cried out:
“No. I heard that same stirring. Something moved in there.”
The detective turned brusquely and entered the old corridor.
The others followed. Katherine was close to Bobby. He touched her hand.
“He’s right, Katherine. No one’s there. No one could have been there. You mustn’t give way like this. I’m depending on you—on your faith.”
She pressed his hand, but her assurance didn’t diminish.
The key scraped in the lock. They crowded through the doorway after the detective. He struck a match and lighted the candle. He held it over the bed. He sprang back with a sharp cry, unlike his level quality, his confident conceit. He pointed. They all approximated his helpless gesture, his blank amazement. For on the bed had occurred an abominable change.
The body of Silas Blackburn no longer lay peacefully on its back. It had been turned on its side, and remained in a stark and awkward attitude. For the first time the back of the head was disclosed.
Their glances focussed there—on the tiny round hole at the base of the brain, on the pillow where the head had rested and which they saw now was stained with an ugly and irregular splotch of blood.
Bobby saw the candle quiver at last in the detective’s hand. The man strode to the door leading to the private hall and examined the lock.
“Both doors,” he said, “were locked. There was no way in—”
He turned to the others, spreading his hands in justification. The candle, which he seemed to have forgotten, cast gross, moving shadows over his face and over the face of the dead man.
“At least you’ll all grant me now that he was murdered.”
They continued to stare at the body of Silas Blackburn. Cold for many hours, it was as if he had made this atrocious revealing movement to assure them that he had, indeed, been murdered; to expose to their startled eyes the sly and deadly method.
HOWELLS DELIVERS HIMSELF TO THE ABANDONED ROOM
For a long time no one spoke. The body of Silas Blackburn had been alone in a locked room, yet before their eyes it lay, turned on its side, as if to inform them of the fashion of this murder. The tiny hole at the base of the brain, the blood-stain on the pillow, which the head had concealed, offered their mute and ghastly testimony.