“I hailed him, but he wouldn’t recognise me—simply glared. Presently Red November came in and they went upstairs together. So I stuck around, hoping to get hold of Red and make him drunk enough to talk. Curiously enough when Shaynon left, Red came directly to my table and sat down. But by that time I’d had some champagne on top of whiskey and was beginning to know that if I pumped in anything more, it’d be November’s party instead of mine. And when he tried to insist on my drinking more, I got scared—feeling what I’d had as much as I did.”
“You’re not the fool you try to seem,” P. Sybarite conceded. “I heard November promise Shaynon, at the door, that you wouldn’t remember much when you came to. The old scoundrel didn’t want to be seen—hadn’t expected to be recognised and, when he found you’d followed, planned to fix things so that you’d never tell on him.”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. There’s some sort of shenanigan brewing, or my first name’s Peter, the same as yours—which I wish it was so.... Be quiet a bit and let me think.”
For a little while P. Sybarite sat pondering with vacant eyes; and the wounded boy stared upward with a frown, as though endeavouring to puzzle the answer to this riddle out of the blankness of the ceiling.
“What time does this Hadley-Owen party break up?”
“Not till daylight. It’s the last big fixture of the social season, and ordinarily they keep it up till sunrise.”
“It’ll be still going, then?”
“Strong. They’ll be in full swing, now, of after-supper dancing.”
“That settles it: I’m going.”
The boy lifted on his elbow in amaze, then subsided with a grunt of pain.
“You say you’ve got a costume of some sort here? I’ll borrow it. We’re much of a size.”
“Heaven knows you’re welcome, but—”
“You have no invitation.”
Rising, P. Sybarite smiled loftily. “Don’t worry about that. If I can’t bribe my way past a cordon of mercenary foreign waiters—and talk down any other opposition—I’m neither as flush as I think nor as Irish.”
“But what under the sun do you want there?”
“To see what’s doing—find out for myself what devilment Brian Shaynon’s hatching. Maybe I’ll do no good—and maybe I’ll be able to put a spoke in his wheel. To do that—once—right—I’d be willing to die as poor as I’ve lived till this blessed night!”
He paused an instant on the threshold of his cousin’s bedroom; turned back a sombre visage.
“I’ve little love for Brian Shaynon, myself, or none. You know what he did to me—and mine.”
Late enough in all conscience was the last guest to arrive for the Hadley-Owen masquerade.