How long it was before drowsiness stole upon him he did not know, but it came, and for a few moments at a time, as his eyes closed, it robbed him of his caution. And then, for a space, he slept. A sound brought him suddenly into wide wakefulness. His first impression was that the sound had been a cry. For a moment or two, as his senses adjusted themselves, he was not sure. Then swiftly the thing grew upon him.
He rose to his feet and widened the crack of his door. A bar of light shot across the upper hall. It was from Marette’s room. He had taken off his boots to deaden the sound of his feet, and he stepped outside his door. He was positive he heard a low cry, a choking, sobbing cry, only barely audible, and that it came from down the stair.
No longer hesitating, he moved quickly to Marette’s room and looked in. His first glimpse was of the bed. It had not been used. The room was empty.
Something cold and chilling gripped at his heart, and an impulse which he no longer made an effort to resist pulled him to the head of the stair. It was more than an impulse—it was a demand. Step by step he went down, his hand on the butt of his Colt.
He reached the lower hall, which was still lighted, and a step or two brought him to a view of the door that opened into the big living-room beyond. That door was partly open, and the room itself was filled with light. Soundlessly Kent approached. He looked in.
What he saw first brought him relief together with shock. At one end of the long desk table over which hung a great brass lamp stood Marette. She was in profile to him. He could not see her face. Her hair fell loose about her, glowing like a rich, sable cape in the light of the lamp. She was safe, alive, and yet the attitude of her as she looked down was the thing that gave him shock. He was compelled to move a few inches more before he could see what she was staring at. And then his heart stopped dead still.
Huddled down in his chair, with his head flung back so that the terrible ghastliness of his face fronted Kent, was Kedsty. And Kent, in an instant, knew. Only a dead man could look like that.
With a cry he entered the room. Marette did not start, but an answering cry came into her throat as she turned her eyes from Kedsty to him. To Kent it was like looking upon the dead in two ways. Marette Radisson, living and breathing, was whiter than Kedsty, who was white with the unbreathing pallor of the actually dead. She did not speak. She made no sound after that answering cry in her throat. She simply looked. And Kent spoke her name gently as he saw her great, wide eyes blazing dully their agony and despair. Then, like one stunned and fascinated, she stared down upon Kedsty again.
Every instinct of the man-hunter became alive in Kent’s brain as he, too, turned toward the Inspector of Police. Kedsty’s arms hung limp over the side of his chair. On the floor under his right hand was his Colt automatic. His head was strained so far over the back of the chair that it looked as though his neck had been broken. On his forehead, close up against his short-cropped, iron-gray hair, was a red stain.