The Strangling Hands
The story of the Eye that was stolen from an idol in a jungle shrine, and the weird doom that pursued those who stole it
THERE was no explanation, but just a brief telegram, which was delivered to me at the lake where I was spending the summer:
NEED HELP STOP FORGIVE PAST AND COME AT ONCE
It took me some three hours to decide to leave my comparatively cool summer cabin for Tony Henderson's little apartment, but finally, curiosity overcoming my hatred of the man, I packed an overnight case and headed my Ford for the city.
I remember looking back at my little cabin with a twinge of regret; I wonder how much longer that look would have been had I known then it was to be my last! But personal danger had never entered my mind; danger to Tony Henderson, perhaps, but then I felt no sympathy for him. It was only curiosity that took me to him now–curiosity to know why he had appealed for help from me, of all people.
We had not spoken to each other for over two years; that telegram was the first direct word I had had from him since the day his book had come out. His book! The very thought sent a flash of red before my eyes, blinding them to the road ahead. And we had been friends before that, close friends, close as only terrific hardships can make men.
There had been five of us on the Clark-Milroy African Expedition in 1925. We had come back with tales of discoveries and adventures which, though perhaps not the most important, were certainly the most interesting of the decade. They were tales that needed no fictional skill to make them gripping, no colorful adjectives to vivify them; they thrilled for the mere telling. And I was to tell them to the world; that was the point–I was to be the teller, but Anthony Henderson, in the end, was the man who told.
There had been no legal bond to keep him from writing that book, but it had certainly been a gentleman's agreement that I was to write it. Both Clark and Milroy had asked me to join for just that purpose, and Tony knew it. But what rankled chiefly was his not telling me, letting me prepare the lengthy manuscript only to find on submitting it to my publishers that his book was already on the press. Some said I took my bad luck too heavily; others called Tony Henderson a thief and a cad, but no one who heard that quarrel we staged in the lobby of the Metropolitan Theatre wondered that he and I did not speak again.
And here he was asking me to visit him. He had ten friends to my one, friends who would give him time, money, anything he needed. The only possibility was that something had come up about the expedition, and that he needed advice from someone who had been with it. Captain Clark, Bobbie Milroy, and the Persian–"Cheeky," we called him–they were dead. But what thing important enough could have brought Anthony Henderson to ask me to forgive the past?