Thunder—lightning—dashing of rain on the streaming glass of the windows—the storm hallooing its hounds. Dale huddled close to her lover as they groped their way back to the living-room, cautiously, doing their best to keep from stumbling against some heavy piece of furniture whose fall would arouse the house.
“There’s a candle on the table, Jack, if I can find the table.” Her outstretched hands touched a familiar object. “Here it is.” She fumbled for a moment. “Have you any matches?”
“Yes.” He struck one—another—lit the candle—set it down on the table. In the weak glow of the little taper, whose tiny flame illuminated but a portion of the living-room, his face looked tense and strained.
“It’s pretty nearly hopeless,” he said, “if all the walls are paneled like that.”
As if in mockery of his words and his quest, a muffled knocking that seemed to come from the ceiling of the very room he stood in answered his despair.
“What’s that?” gasped Dale.
They listened. The knocking was repeated—knock—knock—knock —knock.
“Someone else is looking for the Hidden Room!” muttered Brooks, gazing up at the ceiling intently, as if he could tear from it the secret of this new mystery by sheer strength of will.
THE GLEAMING EYE
“It’s upstairs!” Dale took a step toward the alcove stairs. Brooks halted her.
“Who’s in this house besides ourselves?” he queried.
“Only the detective, Aunt Cornelia, Lizzie, and Billy.”
“Billy’s the Jap?”
Brooks paused an instant. “Does he belong to your aunt?”
“No. He was Courtleigh Fleming’s butler.”
Knock—knock—knock—knock the dull, methodical rapping on the ceiling of the living-room began again.
“Courtleigh Fleming’s butler, eh?” muttered Brooks. He put down his candle and stole noiselessly into the alcove. “It may be the Jap!” he whispered.
Knock—knock—knock—knock! This time the mysterious rapping seemed to come from the upper hall.
“If it is the Jap, I’ll get him!” Brooks’s voice was tense with resolution. He hesitated—made for the hall door—tiptoed out into the darkness around the main staircase, leaving Dale alone in the living-room beset by shadowy terrors.
Utter silence succeeded his noiseless departure. Even the storm lulled for a moment. Dale stood thinking, wondering, searching desperately for some way to help her lover.
At last a resolution formed in her mind. She went to the city telephone.
“Hello,” she said in a low voice, glancing over her shoulder now and then to make sure she was not overheard. “1-2-4—please—yes, that’s right. Hello—is that the country club? Is Mr. Richard Fleming there? Yes, I’ll hold the wire.”