Kirk was roused from a heavy, senseless slumber the next morning by a vigorous rapping at his door. He lay still for a time, vaguely resentful of the noise, then glanced at his watch, and found, with a shock, that it was quite late. Realizing only that he was due at the office, he leaped out of bed. He opened the door and Runnels rushed in.
“Have you heard?”
“I heard your infernal pounding; that’s what woke me up.”
Runnels calmed his excitement, which Kirk now observed was intense.
“Where did you go after I left you last night?”
“I came here, of course.” As the memory of the previous night swept over him he scowled.
“Did you stay here?”
“No. I went out again, and was out nearly all night trying to walk it off.”
Runnels’ face blanched, and he drew back.
“Then of course you know?”
“About Cortlandt. He’s dead!”
It was Kirk’s turn to start and grow pale. The last cobweb was swept from his brain, and he gasped:
“Dead! When? Where? How did it happen?”
“Nobody knows just how. He was found on the sea-wall near Alfarez’ house, shot.”
“Shot! Good Lord!”
“It happened some time early this morning, and the whole city is talking about it. I came to you the first thing.”
“We’d better hurry down there. Mrs. Cortlandt must be all broken up.” Kirk began to dress hastily, but paused as his friend stammered:
“Wait! I—I—let’s understand each other first. I met Wade just now. The news has rattled him, and he’s been talking.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you see Cortlandt again after I left you?” Runnels swallowed hard.
Kirk whirled about and faced him. “Great heavens! No! See here, that idea is ridiculous.”
Runnels sank weakly into a chair and mopped his face. “I’m glad to hear you say that. It frightened me just the same, for I remembered you acted so queerly when I left you, and Wade seemed to think, perhaps—When you said you’d gone out again, it knocked me flat, understand?”
“I can prove where I was, for Allan was with me. I couldn’t sleep, so I tried to walk off my excitement. No, no. I couldn’t do a thing like that. I thought last night that I could, but—I couldn’t, really.”
“I’m afraid Wade will tell all about the party if we don’t stop him.”
“Then we’d better hunt him up.” Kirk resumed his dressing, while Runnels consulted his watch.
“No. 5 is due in twenty minutes. We’ll probably find him at the office.”