Page:Weird Tales volume 31 number 02.djvu/109

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235
THE PIPER FROM BHUTAN

the gaping Rumster. That worked on him for several minutes, and after we gave him smelling-salts, and he still weakly refused to sign, Professor Du Bois brought the Bhutanese piper into the room.


The wizened old man's eyes lit up when he saw the corpse; he tuned up his pipe with several sharp squeaks and waited eagerly for the signal from Professor Du Bois.

"Ready?" the lieutenant rapped at Rumster, gripping him by the collar to keep him from turning away from the corpse.

That was my cue. I sidled over to the corner, so that catch just barely protruding from the rug would be in easy reach of my toe, to set the second record going.

"Ready?" repeated the lieutenant, shaking Rumster."

"Wh-what f-for?"

"To talk to Mason, as soon as he comes back. To tell him——"

Rumster cried that he couldn't, wouldn't.

"All right, then, sign that confession!"

I had the idea that Rumster sobbed out "Yes!" But Lieutenant Crane nodded to the professor and the professor signaled to the Bhutanese, who proceeded to fill the room with his eery music. Low, weirdly wailing, precisely as on the first record, it gained strength slowly, somehow beating through you, gripping you. Fascinated, I stared at Rumster's blood-drained, open-mouthed face. I saw him gain control of himself abruptly, leaping a full yard off the sofa, bolting madly for the door.

Screaming, "Let me out!" He was collared at the door by Lieutenant Crane. And he signed the confession there, scribbling his name as if his life depended on it, and was pushed out, into the arms of a waiting detective.

I saw Professor Du Bois walk toward the grinning lieutenant, while the Bhutanese wailed away–and with startling suddenness, there broke into the weird strain–a voice!

The voice of Richford Mason, groaning ghastlily! Horrified, I whirled on the corpse. And as God is my judge, gentlemen–the explanations and skeptical remarks of Professor Du Bois to the contrary–I swear I saw those thin blue lips part, the eyelids of that yellowish waxy face flutter.

Maybe I did go temporarily berserk, but, what I saw–and heard–I rushed headlong for that piper, bore him into the sofa, ripping the pipe away from his mouth and smashing it over my knee.

The professor and the lieutenant grabbed me, crying out if I had gone stark crazy. I yelled out what had happened.

"Why," the professor said, while the lieutenant guffawed, "you yourself set the record going."

I fell back when he said that, for the second record was designed just that way; but then I fairly leaped at him, telling him the truth, gentlemen:

"In my excitement, I completely forgot to tug the catch!"

Professor Du Bois' face went pale at that. He stooped behind the sofa, examining the phonograph. He emerged with the record in his hand.

"You're wrong, dead wrong," he said slowly, huskily. A look a little bit like fright was on his face. "You did set this record off. That voice we… you heard was from the record."

"Why sure," Lieutenant Crane put in, "only a guy as guilty as Rumster would believe this music humbug. When you're dead——"

But I looked down at the catch protruding from the rug. Not a centimeter