They had entered the second room. This, like the other, was a pseudo-bedroom; but here the movable wall was already down. Ranged along the right-hand side were a great number of cabinets that slid in and out, much after the style and fashion used by clothing dealers to stock and display their wares. These cabinets were now all open, displaying hundreds of costumes of all kinds and descriptions, and evidently complete to the minutest detail. The cabinets were flanked by full-length mirrors at each end of the room, and on little tables before the mirrors was an assortment, that none better than Jimmie Dale himself could appreciate, of make-up accessories.
The man smiled apologetically.
“I am afraid this is rather uninteresting,” he said. “I have shown it to you simply that you may understand that we are alive to the importance of detail. Disguise, that is daily vital to us, is an art that depends essentially on detail. I venture to say we could impersonate any character or type or nationality or class in the United States at a moment’s notice. But”—he took Jimmie Dale’s arm again and conducted him out into the corridor, while the two men who were evidently acting the role of guards followed closely behind—“there is still the third room—here.” He halted Jimmie Dale before the door. “I have asked you to answer two questions, Mr. Dale,” he said softly. “I ask you now to remember the alternative.”
They still stood before the door. There was that uncanny silence again—it seemed to Jimmie Dale to last interminably. Neither of the three men surrounding him moved nor spoke. Then the door before him was opened on an unlighted room, and he was led across the threshold. He heard the door close behind him. The lights came on. And then it seemed as though he could not move, as though he were rooted to the spot—–and the colour ebbed from his face. Three figures were before him: the two men who had carried the glasses from the first room, and the chauffeur who had driven him in the taxicab. The two men still held the glasses—the chauffeur was bound hand and foot in a chair. One of the glasses was empty; the other was still significantly full.
Jimmie Dale, with a violent effort at self-control, leaned forward.
The man in the chair was dead.
THE INNOCENT BYSTANDER
There was not a sound. That stillness, weird, unnerving, that permeated, as it were, everywhere through that mysterious house, was, if that were possible, accentuated now. The four masked men in evening dress, five including their leader, for the man who had appeared in that other room with the rabbit was not here, were as silent, as motionless, as the dead man who was lashed there in the chair. And to Jimmie Dale it seemed at first as though his brain, stunned and stupefied at the shock, refused its functions, and left him groping blindly, vaguely, with only a sort of dull, subconscious realisation of menace and a deadly peril, imminent, hanging over him.