He had not looked for this. He knew, of course, that the process of the Law would take its course, but he had not anticipated this bloodthirsty suddenness. He had expected, first of all, to talk with Kedsty as man to man. And yet—it was the Law. He realized this as his eyes traveled from Kedsty’s rock-like face to the expressionless immobility of his old friends, Constables Pelly and Brant. If there was sympathy, it was hidden except in the faces of Cardigan and Father Layonne. And Kent, exultantly hopeful a little while before, felt his heart grow heavy within him as he waited for the moment when he would begin the fight to repossess himself of the life and freed which he had lost.
For some time after the door to Kent’s room had closed upon the ominous visitation of the Law, young Mercer remained standing in the hall, debating with himself whether his own moment had not arrived. In the end he decided that it had, and with Kent’s fifty dollars in his pocket he made for the shack of the old Indian trailer, Mooie. It was an hour later when he returned, just in time to see Kent’s door open again. Doctor Cardigan and Father Layonne reappeared first, followed in turn by the blonde stenographer, the magistrate, and Constables Pelly and Brant. Then the door closed.
Within the room, sweating from the ordeal through which he had passed, Kent sat bolstered against his pillows, facing Inspector Kedsty with blazing eyes.
“I’ve asked for these few moments alone with you, Kedsty, because I wanted to talk to you as a man, and not as my superior officer. I am, I take it, no longer a member of the force. That being the case, I owe you no more respect than I owe to any other man. And I am pleased to have the very great privilege of calling you a cursed scoundrel!”
Kedsty’s face was hot, but as his hands clenched slowly, it turned redder. Before he could speak, Kent went on.
“You have not shown me the courtesy or the sympathy you have had for the worst criminals that ever faced you. You amazed every man that was in this room, because at one time—if not now—they were my friends. It wasn’t what you said. It was how you said it. Whenever there was an inclination on their part to believe, you killed it—not honestly and squarely, by giving me a chance. Whenever you saw a chance for me to win a point, you fell back upon the law. And you don’t believe that I killed John Barkley. I know it. You called me a liar the day I made that fool confession. You still believe that I lied. And I have waited until we were alone to ask you certain things, for I still have something of courtesy left in me, if you haven’t. What is your game? What has brought about the change in you? Is it—”
His right hand clenched hard as a rock as he leaned toward Kedsty.
“Is it because of the girl hiding up at your bungalow, Kedsty?”