Page:Weird Tales volume 31 number 02.djvu/7

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133
FROZEN BEAUTY

every window; yet between their bottoms and the sills were little lines of luminance which showed against the darkness like a line of gray-white eyeball glimpsed between the lowered eyelids of a corpse.

We hurried down the wide hall to a big room at the rear and paused upon the threshold as the glare of half a dozen strong, unshaded lamps stabbed at our eyes. Everything about the place was topsy-turvy. Drawers had been jerked from desks and literally turned out upon the floor, their contents scattered in fantastic heaps as though they had been stirred with a gigantic spoon. The davenport was pulled apart, its mattress tipped insanely sidewise; pillows were ripped open and gaped like dying things, their gasping mouths disgorging down and kapok. The whole room might have been a movie set at the conclusion of a slapstick farce, except for that which occupied the center of the floor.

In the midst of the fantastic jumble lay a man in dinner clothes, save for the jacket which, sleeves turned half out and linings slit to tatters, was crumpled on a chair. He lay upon his back, his partly-opened eyes fixed on the ceiling where a cluster of electric bulbs blazed white and hard as limelight. He was a big man with a big mustache curled in the fashion of the pre-war days, and what hair he had was touched with gray.

“Gawd, sir, he ain’t moved since I left ’im!” the houseman whispered. “Is ’e paralyzed, d’ye think?”

“Completely,” nodded Jules de Grandin. “He is very dead, my friend.”

“Dead?”

“Like a herring, and unless I miss my guess, he died of murder.”

“But there’s no blood, no sign of any wound,” I interrupted. “I don’t believe there was a struggle, even. The place has been ransacked, but——

“No wound, you say, mon vieux?” he broke in as he knelt beside the dead man’s head. “Regardez, s’il vous plaît.” He raised the massive, almost hairless head, and pointed with a well-groomed finger to a gleaming silver stud protruding from the flesh. Plunged in the rather beefy neck a tiny silver-headed bodkin showed. Less than half an inch of haft protruded, or the little awl was driven deep into that fatal spot, the medulla oblongata, with deadly accuracy. Death had been instantaneous and bloodless.

“How——” I began, but he shut me off with an unpleasant laugh as he rose and brushed his knees.

Cherchez la femme,” he murmured. “This is undoubtlessly a woman’s work, and the work of one who knew him quite well. All the evidence suggests it. A little, tiny bodkin driven into the brain; a woman’s weapon. Probably she did it with her arms about his neck; a woman’s finesse, that. Who she was and why she did it, and what she and her confederates looked for when they made a bears’ den of this place is for the police to determine.”

Turning to the servant he demanded: “This Doctor Pavlovitch, did he have callers in the afternoon?”

“No sir, not as I knows of. He was a queer ’un, sir, though he was a proper gentleman. Never had no callers I remember, never used th’ telephone while I was here. If anybody ever come to see ’im they done it while I was away.”

“One sees. Did he ever mention fearing anyone, or suspecting that he might be robbed?”

“Him? Lor, sir, no! Six foot three in ’is stockin’s, ’e was, an’ could bend iron bars in ’is bare hands. I seen ’im do it more’n once. Had a regular harsenal o’ guns an’ things, too, ’e did, an’ kept th’ house locked like a jail. Didn’t take