“It was a signal,” snapped Smith. “Ki-Ming stood in the court below and looked up at the window,” I objected.
“In that event,” snapped Smith, “he would have spoken softly, through the letter-box of the door!”
“You immediately resumed your interrupted trance,” continued McCabe, “and by hypnotic suggestion impressed upon you earlier in the evening, you were ingeniously led up to a point at which, under what delusion I know not, you fired at Mr. Smith. I had the privilege of studying an almost parallel case in Simla, where an officer was fatally stabbed by his khitmatgar (a most faithful servant) acting under the hypnotic prompting of a certain fakir whom the officer had been unwise enough to chastise. The fakir paid for the crime with his life, I may add. The khitmatgar shot him, ten minutes later.”
“I had no chance at Ki-Ming,” snapped Smith. “He vanished like a shadow. But has has played his big card and lost! Henceforth he is a hunted man; and he knows it! Oh!” he cried, seeing me watching him in bewilderment, “I suspected some Lama trickery, old man, and I stuck closely to the arrangements proposed by the mandarin, but kept you under careful observation!”
“But, Smith—I shot you! It was impossible to miss!”
“I agree. But do you recall the report?”
“The report? I was too dazed, too horrified, by the discovery of what I had done....”
“There was no report, Petrie. I am not entirely a stranger to Indo-Chinese jugglery, and you had a very strange look in your eyes. Therefore I took the precaution of unloading your Browning!”
Legal business, connected with the estate of a distant relative, deceased, necessitated my sudden departure from London, within twenty-four hours of the events just narrated; and at a time when London was for me the center of the universe. The business being terminated—and in a manner financially satisfactory to myself—I discovered that with luck I could just catch the fast train back. Amid a perfect whirl of hotel porters and taxi-drivers worthy of Nayland Smith I departed for the station ... to arrive at the entrance to the platform at the exact moment that the guard raised his green flag!
“Too late, sir! Stand back, if you please!”
The ticket-collector at the barrier thrust out his arm to stay me. The London express was moving from the platform. But my determination to travel by that train and by no other over-rode all obstacles; If I missed it, I should be forced to wait until the following morning.
I leapt past the barrier, completely taking the man by surprise, and went racing up the platform. Many arms were outstretched to detain me, and the gray-bearded guard stood fully in my path; but I dodged them all, collided with and upset a gigantic negro who wore a chauffeur’s uniform—and found myself level with a first-class compartment; the window was open.