I knew about the house, too. So that's where I was! In the old Chambers house on Pringle Street! Many a story I've heard from the old folks when I was a boy about the old man, Ezekiel Chambers, whose wizard tricks bequeathed him such an unsavory reputation in Colonial days. I knew about Jonathan Dark, the other owner, who had been tried for smuggling just before the terrible days of 1818, and the abhorrent practise of grave-robbing he had been said to pursue in the ancient cemetery directly behind the house, on the hill.
Many peculiar rumors were circulated about the moldering house with the iron door in the cellar at this time—about the door, particularly, which Dark was said to use as a passageway for bringing his stolen cadavers back to dispose of. It was even claimed that the door had never been opened when Dark was tried, because of his astounding and hideous claim that the key which locked it was on the other side. Dark had died during the trial, while in prison, babbling blasphemies that no man dared believe; monstrous hints of what lay beneath the old graveyard on the hill; of tunnels and burrows and secret vaults used in witch-days for unhallowed rites. He spoke of tenants in these vaults, too, and of what sometimes would come to visit the house from below when a wizard invoked it with the proper spells and sacrifice. There was more, too—but then, Dark was quite mad. At least, everyone thought it better to believe so.
Old tales die. The house had stood deserted for many years, until most men forgot the reason for which it had been forsaken, ascribing its vacancy only to age. The public today were utterly unaware of the legends. Only the old ones remembered—the old ones who whispered their stories to me when I was a boy.
So this was the Dark house to which I had been brought! And this was the very cellar of the tales in question! I gathered from the remarks between Regetti and the superstitious Pole that another gang had recently used it for a hideaway until the death of their leader; indeed, I even vaguely remembered some newspaper reports of Tony Fellippo's mysterious murder.
And now Regetti had come from New York to use it as a base.
Clever scheme of his, evidently—coming to an old New England town and kidnapping the local gentry to hold for ransom; then hiding them away in some old, deserted house so conveniently protected by superstition. I supposed that there would be more victims after me, too; the man was smart and cunning enough to get away with it.
These thoughts flashed through my mind during the argument between the Pole and his leader. But their altercation came to an abrupt halt.
"I wish you get out of here," the Pole was saying. "If you stay only one night dot t'ing he come. Dot's all Tony Fellippo stay."
"Shut up, you fool. Didn't we stay here last night, too, before the job? And nothing happened."
"Yeah, sure. I know. But we stay upstairs, not by cellar. Why not keep feller upstairs?"
"Because we can't afford to risk being seen," Regetti snapped, wearily. "Now, cut the chatter."
He turned to me.
"Listen, you. I'm sending this guy out with a ransom letter right now, to your friends back at the party. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut and sit tight. But any funny business means you're through, see?"
I kept silent.
"Take him in there, Polack, and tie