Page:Weird Tales volume 28 number 02.djvu/40

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
167
MASK OF DEATH

"I'll have Miss Dale go in first. If Madame Sin is undressed or—entertaining—Miss Dale can apologize and retreat. But I am sure Madame Sin will be unaware of intrusion. In spite of the conviction of your key clerk that she is in, I am quite sure that, at least figuratively, she is out."

"Figuratively out?" echoed Gest. "I don't understand."

"You will later—unless this is my fated time to lose in the fight I have made against the devil who calls himself Doctor Satan. Are Chichester and Kroner in the hotel?"

Gest shook his head.

"Kroner is in the Turkish bath two blocks down the street. Chichester went home ten minutes ago."

"Madame Sin will be unaware of intrusion," Keane repeated enigmatically and with seeming irrelevance.

He turned to Beatrice, and the two went to the woman's rooms.


Keane softly closed Madame Sin's hall door behind him after Beatrice had entered first and reported that the woman was alone and in what seemed a deep sleep. At first, with a stifled scream, she had called out that Madame Sin was dead; then she had pronounced it sleep....

Keane went at once to the central figure of the living-room: the body of Madame Sin, on a chaise-longue near the window. The woman was in blue negligee, with her shapely legs bare and her arms and throat pale ivory against the blue silk. Her eyes were not quite closed. Her breast rose and fell, very slowly, almost like the breathing of a chloroformed person.

Keane touched her bare shoulder. She did not stir. There was no alteration of the deep, slow breathing. He lifted one of her eyelids. The eye beneath stared blindly at him, the lid went nearly closed again at the cessation of his touch.

"Trance," Keane said. "And the most profound one I have ever seen. It's about what I had expected."

"I've seen her somewhere before," said Beatrice suddenly.

Keane nodded. "You have. She is a movie extra, working now and then for the Long Island Picture Company. But I'm not much interested in this beautiful shell. For that's all she is at the moment—a shell, now emptied and unhuman. We'll look around. You give me your impressions as they come to you, and we'll see if they match mine."

They went to the bedroom of the apartment. Bedroom was like living-room in that it was impersonal, a standard chamber in a large hotel. But this seemed almost incredibly impersonal! There was not one picture, not one feminine touch. In the bath there were scarcely any toilet articles; and in the closet there was only an overnight bag and a suitcase by way of luggage, with neither of them entirety emptied of their contents.

"One impression I get is that these rooms have not been lived in even for twenty-four hours!" said Beatrice.

Keane nodded. "If Madame Sin retreated here only to fall into that deep trance, and did not wake again till it was time for her to venture out, the rooms would have just this look. And I think that is exactly what she has done!"

Beatrice looked deftly through Madame Sin's meager wardrobe. Keane searched dresser and table and bureau drawers. He wasn't looking for anything definite, just something that might prove the final straw to point him definitely toward the incredible goal he was more and more convinced was near.

He found it in the top of the woman's suitcase.

His fingers were tense as he unfolded a