“Did no one see the flash of the pistol?”
“No one that I have got hold of yet. Of course this kind of evidence is very unreliable; these people regularly go out of their way to mislead the police.”
“You think the body may have been carried here from somewhere else?”
“Oh, no; this is where it fell, right enough. You can see where his head struck the stones.”
“He has not been moved at all?”
“No; I shall not move him until I’ve worked out where in heaven’s name he can have fallen from! You and I have seen some mysterious things happen, Mr. Cavanagh, since the slipper of the Prophet came to England and brought these people”—he nodded toward the thing at our feet—“in its train; but this is the most inexplicable incident to date. I don’t know what to make of it at all. Quite apart from the question of where the dwarf fell from, who shot at him and why?”
“Have you no theory?” I asked. “The incident to my mind points directly to one thing. We know that this uncanny creature belonged to the organization of Hassan of Aleppo. We know that Hassan implacably pursues one object—the slipper. In pursuit of the slipper, then, the dwarf came here. Bristol!”—I laid my hand upon his arm, glancing about me with a very real apprehension—“the slipper must be somewhere near!”
Bristol turned to the constable standing hard by.
“Remain here,” he ordered. Then to me: “I should like you to come up on to the roof. From there we can survey the ground and perhaps arrive at some explanation of how the dwarf came to fall upon that spot.”
Passing the constable on duty at one of the doorways and making our way through the group of loiterers there, we ascended amid conflicting odours to the topmost floor. A ladder was fixed against the wall communicating with a trap in the ceiling. Several individuals in their shirt sleeves and all smoking clay pipes had followed us up. Bristol turned upon them.
“Get downstairs,” he said—“all the lot of you, and stop there!”
With muttered imprecations our audience dispersed, slowly returning by the way they had come. Bristol mounted the ladder and opened the trap. Through the square opening showed a velvet patch spangled with starry points. As he passed up on to the roof and I followed him, the comparative cleanness of the air was most refreshing after the varied fumes of the staircase.
Side by side we leaned upon the parapet looking down into the dirty courtyard which was the theatre of this weird mystery; looking down upon the stage, sordidly Western, where a mystic Eastern tragedy had been enacted.
I could see the constable standing beside the crushed thing upon the stones.
“Now,” said Bristol, with a sort of awe in his voice, “where did he fall from?”
And at his words, looking down at the spot where the dwarf lay, and noting that he could not possibly have fallen there from any of the buildings surrounding the courtyard, an eerie sensation crept over me; for I was convinced that the happening was susceptible of no natural explanation.