“I want you, Jacqueline,” I heard him say, in a voice which betrayed no throb of passion. “And I am going to have you. I always have my way, I am not like that weak fool, Hewlett.”
“It was I sent him away, not you,” she cried. “Do you think he was afraid of you?”
Leroux looked at her in admiration.
“You are a splendid woman, Jacqueline,” he said. “I like the way you defy me. But you are quite at my mercy. And you are going to yield! You will yield your will to mine——”
“Never!” she cried. “I will fling myself into the lake before that shall happen. Ah, monsieur”—her voice took on a pleading tone—“why will you not take all we have and let us go? We are two helpless people; we shall never betray your secrets. Why must you have me too?”
“Because I love you, Jacqueline,” he cried, and now I heard an undertone of passion which I had not suspected in the man. “I am not a scoundrel, Jacqueline. Life is a hard game, and I have played it hard. And I have loved you for a long time, but I would not tell you until I had the right as well as the power—but now my love is my law, and I will conquer you!”
He caught her in his arms. She uttered a little, gasping cry, and struggled wildly and ineffectually in his grasp.
I was quite cold, for I knew that was to be the last of his villainies. I entered the room and walked up to the table, my pistol raised, aiming at his heart, and I felt my own heart beat steadily, and the will to kill rise dominant above every hesitation.
Leroux spun round. He saw me, and he smiled his sour smile. He did not flinch, although he must have seen that my hand was as steady as a rock. I could not withhold a certain admiration for the man, but this did not weaken me.
“What, you again, monsieur?” he asked mockingly. “You have come back? You are always coming back, aren’t you?”
The truth of the diagnosis struck home to me. Yes, I was always coming back. But this time I had come back to stay.
“Can I do anything further for you, M. Hewlett?” he asked. “Was not your bed comfortable? Do you want something, or is it only habit that has brought you back here where nobody wants you?”
“I have come back to kill you, Leroux,” I answered, and pulled the trigger six times.
And each time I heard nothing but the click of the hammer.
Then, with his bull’s bellow, Simon was upon me, dashing his fists into my face, and bearing me down. My puny struggles were as ineffective as though I had been fighting ten men. He had me on the floor and was kneeling on my chest, and in a trice the other ruffians had come dashing along the hall.
Jacqueline was beating with her little fists upon Leroux’s broad back, but he did not even feel the blows. I heard old Charles Duchaine’s piping cries of fear, and then somebody held me by the throat, and I was swimming in black water.