Page:Weird Tales volume 28 number 02.djvu/37

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

manager was struck dead just as he said something about the roulette wheel?"

"Yes," said Gest. "It was as though this Doctor Satan were right there with us and killed him with a soundless bullet just before he could talk."

Keane's eyes glittered.

"I'd like to look over the roulette room."

"The police are here," said Grays, turning from his phone.

Keane stared at Gest. "Keep them out of the roulette room for a few minutes."

He strode out to the elevators....

His first concern, after locking himself into the room where nine people had been stricken with something which, if it persisted, was worse than any death, was the thing the assistant manager had mentioned before death hit him. The roulette wheel.

He bent over this, with a frown of concentration on his face. And his quick eyes caught at once a thing another person might have overlooked for quite a while.

The wheel was dish-shaped, as all roulette wheels are. In its rounded bottom were numbered slots, where the little ivory ball was to end its journey and proclaim gambler's luck.

But the little ball was not in one of the bottom slots!

The tiny ivory sphere was half up the rounded side of the wheel, like a pea clinging alone high up on the slant of a dish!

An exclamation came from Keane's lips. He stared at the ball. What in heaven's name kept it from rolling down the steep slant and into the rounded bottom? Why would a sphere stay on a slant? It was as if a bowl of water had been tilted—and the water's surface had taken and retained the tilt of the vessel it was in instead of remaining level!

He lifted the ball from the sloping side of the wheel. It came away freely, but with an almost intangible resistance, as if an unseen rubber band held it. When he released it, it went back to the slope. He rolled it down to the bottom of the wheel. Released, it rolled back up to its former position, like water running up-hill.

Keane felt a chill touch him. The laws of physics broken! A bail clinging to a slant instead of rolling down it! What dark secret of nature had Doctor Satan mastered now?

But the query was not entirely unanswered in his mind. Already he was getting a vague hint of it. And a little later the hint was broadened.

The phone rang. He answered it.

"Mr. Keane? This is Doctor Grays. The autopsy on Wilson has been begun, and already a queer thing has been disclosed. It's about his heart."

"Yes," said Keane, gripping the phone.

"His heart is ruptured in a hundred places—as though a little bomb had exploded in it! Don't ask me why, because I can't even give a theory. It's unique in medical history."

"I won't ask you why," Keane said slowly. "I think—in a little while—I'll tell you why."

He hung up and strode toward the door. But at the roulette table he paused and stared at the wheel with his gray eyes icily blazing.

It seemed to him the wheel had moved a little!

He had unconsciously lined up the weirdly clinging ball with the knob on the outer door, as he examined it awhile ago. Now, as he stood in the same place, the ball was not quite in that line. As if the wheel had rotated a fraction of an inch!