“Now we are getting down to facts. And this comprises your entire information, doesn’t it? Let’s check up. You connected me with the case because you were with the uncle and her on their call Sunday. You discovered in some way that I had since disappeared from that neighbourhood. Then you accidentally got on to this telephone call, and decided to run me down. Some cute little detective, I’ll say. But what’s the object? What is it you are trying to connect me up with? What possible cause can you have for butting in on this affair?”
“I told you before; merely curiosity.”
“And who was the guy with you?”
“An old servant of the Coolidge family.”
“It was mere curiosity in his case also, I presume?”
“So far as I know, yes.”
Hobart smiled, showing his teeth cruelly.
“West,” he said slowly, “you are a damned good liar, but I am about to spike your gun. Go on out Mike, and send in the first witness.”
THE EDGE OF COMPROMISE
The two men sat silently watching each other, Hobart pretending a carelessness he was far from feeling, uncertain as to West’s real purpose. The latter realized now the true seriousness of his position, yet this only increased his belief in the reality of the crime. Previously his mind had harboured doubts, but the very fact that Hobart would resort to such desperate methods was ample proof of his apprehension of danger. If Percival Coolidge had committed suicide, this fellow would surely have nothing to fear; he could safely ignore any efforts to trap him; indeed would possess no suspicions along that line. It was his own guilty conscience which drove him to desperation. Coolidge had been murdered, and this man was either guilty of the crime, or else knew the one who was, and had personal reasons for protecting the party.
These thoughts took possession of his mind and were convincing. He no longer questioned but what he was on the track of crime, yet his thought at that moment concentrated more vividly on his own personal peril. How could he escape? What was he about to be confronted with? Nothing around him afforded inspiration. He was bound helplessly; Sexton had disappeared, whether dead or a prisoner, he did not know; the walls of the room exhibited no signs of weakness, while Hobart eyed his every movement coldly, evidently enjoying his predicament. Apparently the man comprehended the nature of his thought.
“Perfectly useless, West,” he said carelessly. “This place was constructed for the purpose, and you are not the only one who has tested its strength. You will get out when I say so, and not before.”
“Do you intend to say so?”
“Well, that depends,” shrewdly. “Not if your release means my taking any chances. But frankly, I do not believe it will. So far as I can see you possess no particular interest in this matter—only the attraction a young fellow always feels in a pretty woman. Have I got that doped out right?”