“What steps have you taken to protect yourself?”
Again the short laugh reached my ears.
“I’m afraid long residence in the East has rendered me something of a fatalist, Cavanagh! Beyond keeping my door locked, I have taken no steps whatever. I fear I am quite accessible!”
A while longer we talked; and with every word the conviction was more strongly borne in upon me that some uncanny menace threatened the peace, perhaps the life, of Professor Deeping.
I had hung up the receiver scarce a moment when, acting upon a sudden determination, I called up New Scotland Yard, and asked for Detective-Inspector Bristol, whom I knew well. A few words were sufficient keenly to arouse his curiosity, and he announced his intention of calling upon me immediately. He was in charge of the case of the severed hand.
I made no attempt to resume work in the interval preceding his arrival. I had not long to wait, however, ere Bristol was ringing my bell; and I hurried to the door, only too glad to confide in one so well equipped to analyze my doubts and fears. For Bristol is no ordinary policeman, but a trained observer, who, when I first made his acquaintance, completely upset my ideas upon the mental limitations of the official detective force.
In appearance Bristol suggests an Anglo-Indian officer, and at the time of which I write he had recently returned from Jamaica and his face was as bronzed as a sailor’s. One would never take Bristol for a detective. As he seated himself in the armchair, without preamble I plunged into my story. He listened gravely.
“What sort of house is Professor Deeping’s?” he asked suddenly.
“I have no idea,” I replied, “beyond the fact that it is somewhere in Dulwich.”
“May I use your telephone?”
Very quickly Bristol got into communication with the superintendent of P Division. A brief delay, and the man came to the telephone whose beat included the road wherein Professor Deeping’s house was situated.
“Why!” said Bristol, hanging up the receiver after making a number of inquiries, “it’s a sort of rambling cottage in extensive grounds. There’s only one servant, a manservant, and he sleeps in a detached lodge. If the Professor is really in danger of attack he could not well have chosen a more likely residence for the purpose!”
“What shall you do? What do you make of it all?”
“As I see the case,” he said slowly, “it stands something like this: Professor Deeping has . . . "
The telephone bell began to ring.
I took up the receiver.
“Cavanagh!—is that Cavanagh?”
“Yes! yes! who is that?”
“Deeping! I have rung up the police, and they are sending some one. But I wish . . . "
His voice trailed off. The sound of a confused and singular uproar came to me.