It was an emotional moment. It seemed to have penetrated even through the haze enveloping the injured man in his chair. Slowly he got up, like a man who has been waiting for his moment, and now that it had come was in no hurry about it. With equal deliberation he drew the revolver and took a step forward. And at that instant a red glare appeared outside the open window and overhead could be heard the feet of the searchers, running.
“Fire!” screamed Lizzie, pointing to the window, even as Beresford’s voice from the roof rang out in a shout. “The garage is burning!”
They turned toward the door to escape, but a strange and menacing figure blocked their way.
It was the Unknown—no longer the bewildered stranger who had stumbled in through the living-room door—but a man with every faculty of mind and body alert and the light of a deadly purpose in his eyes. He covered the group with Miss Cornelia’s revolver.
“This door is locked and the key is in my pocket!” he said in a savage voice as the red light at the window grew yet more vivid and muffled cries and tramplings from overhead betokened universal confusion and alarm.
“He is—the bat!”
Lizzie opened her mouth to scream. But for once she did not carry out her purpose.
“Not a sound out of you!” warned the Unknown brutally, almost jabbing the revolver into her ribs. He wheeled on Bailey.
“Close that satchel,” he commanded, “and put it back where you found it!”
Bailey’s fist closed. He took a step toward his captor.
“You—” he began in a furious voice. But the steely glint in the eyes of the Unknown was enough to give any man pause.
“Jack!” pleaded Dale. Bailey halted.
“Do what he tells you!” Miss Cornelia insisted, her voice shaking.
A brave man may be willing to fight with odds a hundred to one— but only a fool will rush on certain death. Reluctantly, dejectedly, Bailey obeyed—stuffed the money back in the satchel and replaced the latter in its corner of shadows near the window.
“It’s the Bat—it’s the Bat!” whispered Lizzie eerily, and, for once her gloomy prophecies seemed to be in a fair way of justification, for “Blow out that candle!” commanded the Unknown sternly, and, after a moment of hesitation on Miss Cornelia’s part, the room was again plunged in darkness except for the red glow at the window.
This finished Lizzie for the evening. She spoke from a dry throat.
“I’m going to scream!” she sobbed hysterically. “I can’t keep it back!”
But at last she had encountered someone who had no patience with her vagaries.
“Put that woman in the mantel-room and shut her up!” ordered the Unknown, the muzzle of his revolver emphasizing his words with a savage little movement.