Simpkins called a cab and started for police headquarters at breakneck speed, but on the way he stopped at Brander’s rooms; for a miserable suspicion was growing in his brain. “If that really was Isis,” he was thinking, “it’s funny she didn’t nail me before I got to the door, even with the start I had.”
On his representation that he had called on a matter of life and death, the janitor admitted him to Brander’s rooms. They were empty, and the bed had not been slept in.
It was just after three o’clock when Simpkins, an officer on either side, entered the Oriental Building again, and hurried up the stairs to the Society’s office.
There they were halted, for Simpkins had left his key sticking in the spring lock inside and slammed the door behind him, a piece of carelessness over which the officers were greatly exercised; for he had not confided to them that he had started off in a hurry. In the end, they sent the door crashing in with their shoulders and preceded Simpkins—and he was scrupulously polite about this—into the ante-chamber.
There an incandescent lamp over the youth’s desk gave them light and Simpkins momentary relief. The men used hard language when they found the second door in the same condition as the first, but Simpkins took their rating meekly. They tried their shoulders again, but the oak was stout and long withstood their assaults. When at last it yielded it gave way suddenly, and they all tumbled pell-mell into the hall. Simpkins jumped up with incredible agility, and was back in the lighted ante-chamber before the others had struggled to their feet. Suddenly they stopped swearing. They looked around them. Then they, too, stepped back into the ante-chamber.
“Ain’t there any way of lighting this place?” asked one of them rather sullenly.
“Nothing but three incandescents over the desks,” answered Simpkins.
“Use your lantern then, Tom; come on now, young feller, and show us where this woman is,” he said roughly, and he pushed Simpkins through the door.
As the officers followed him, he fell back between them and linked his arms through theirs. And silently they advanced on the altar, a grotesque and rather unsteady trio, the bull’s eyes on either side flashing ahead into the darkness.
“The lamp’s still burning,” whispered Simpkins. They were far enough into the hall now to see the glow from it in the corner. “Flash your lights around those pillars, boys. There, over there!”
The bull’s eyes jumped about searching her out. “There! now! Hold still!” cried Simpkins as they focused on the chair.
The black mummy lay as he had left it, the cloth still on the face, but the chair was empty. Straight to the veil the reporter ran, and pulled the cord. Light broke from above, and beat down on an altar heaped with dying roses and the statue of a woman, smiling. And at her feet there crouched a great black cat, that arched its back and snarled at Simpkins.