“They are to raise the wooden lid, Mr. Smith!” cried Weymouth eagerly.
“Look! there is a hollow in each to accommodate the fingers!”
“Aren’t you going to open it?” I demanded excitedly—“aren’t you going to open it?”
“Might I invite you to accompany me into the bedroom yonder for a moment?” he replied in a tome of studied reserve. “You also, Weymouth?”
Smith leading, we entered the room where the dead man lay stretched upon the bed.
“Note the appearance of his fingers,” directed Nayland Smith.
I examined the peculiarity to which Smith had drawn my attention. The dead man’s fingers were swollen extraordinarily, the index finger of either hand especially being oddly discolored, as though bruised from the nail upward. I looked again at the ghastly face, then, repressing a shudder, for the sight was one not good to look upon, I turned to Smith, who was watching me expectantly with his keen, steely eyes.
From his pocket the took out a knife containing a number of implements, amongst them a hook-like contrivance.
“Have you a button-hook, Petrie,” he asked, “or anything of that nature?”
“How will this do?” said the Inspector, and he produced a pair of handcuffs. “They were not wanted,” he added significantly.
“Better still,” declared Smith.
Reclosing his knife, he took the handcuffs from Weymouth, and, returning to the sitting-room, opened them widely and inserted two steel points in the hollows of the golden pomegranates. He pulled. There was a faint sound of moving mechanism and the wooden lid lifted, revealing the interior of the coffer. It contained three long bars of lead—and nothing else!
Supporting the lid with the handcuffs—
“Just pull the light over here, Petrie,” said Smith.
I did as he directed.
“Look into these two cavities where one is expected to thrust one’s fingers!”
Weymouth and I craned forward so that our heads came into contact.
“My God!” whispered the Inspector, “we know now what killed him!”
Visible, in either little cavity against the edge of the steel handcuff, was the point of a needle, which evidently worked in an exquisitely made socket through which the action of raising the lid caused it to protrude. Underneath the lid, midway between the two pomegranates, as I saw by slowly moving the lamp, was a little receptacle of metal communicating with the base of the hollow needles.
The action of lifting the lid not only protruded the points but also operated the hypodermic syringe!
“Note,” snapped Smith—but his voice was slightly hoarse.
He removed the points of the bracelets. The box immediately reclosed with no other sound than a faint click.
“God forgive him,” said Smith, glancing toward the other room, “for he died in my stead!—and Dr. Fu-Manchu scores an undeserved failure!”