nothing–and still–my God!–they were there!"
His whole body was trembling. I put my hand across his wrist and he threw it off.
"Last night I made Johnson–he's my secretary, you saw him–I made him sit up with me. He was like you; he thought I was crazy. But now he knows. They touched my throat last night, gently like the wings of a moth; but they were there–I saw them–jet-black in the blue mist. And when we switched on the lights, it was seven minutes after midnight."
He leaned back in his chair, tipping his glass between trembling thumb and forefinger. "Johnson saw them. Now do you believe?"
I gulped down my coffee, lit a cigarette, and got to my feet before answering. "I don't know, Tony, whether you're a picturesque story-teller or just a damned liar, but I'm going home. Thanks for the dinner and the legend."
Tony's face lost its white tenseness for a look of blank. "You're leaving me, Mac? You're leaving me?" He sprang up and caught me by the shoulders. "You can't go! Don't you understand? It's tonight I need your help–tonight! You've got to help me, Mac." His voice sank to a whisper. "Are you afraid to stay?"
My temper got the better of me. "I've had enough of your lying!"
He looked straight at me. "What I've been telling you is the truth, Mac."
"The truth!" But something in his eyes kept me from pure jeering, led me to explain. "There's a flaw in your tale that you overlooked, Tony," I said quietly. "Why if you were so afraid of hands, did you wait for them in the dark?"
"Not in the dark," he said without a moment's hesitation.
I drew him toward the elevators. "The room was lighted, eh? Very sensible precaution! Then why did you have to turn on the Lights to find out the time?"
He turned to me in complete boyish amazement. "Why–why, I don't know. It must have got dark gradually. I don't remember."
"Next time," I suggested, "be more consistent in your story-telling."
"It's the truth," he said. "They must have gone off. I can't explain it. but that's the truth."
Back in his apartment, I continued to pick flaws. "Well, now, admitting it was light at, say, eleven-thirty, and that it was dark at twelve-five or thereabouts, and that you didn't realize when the change occurred, tell me this: how could you see black fingers in a dark room? You don't suppose you fell asleep and dreamed it all?"
"You've got to stay, you've got to help me, Mac! Together we can keep them off. Alone–I'll die!" He looked suddenly nothing more than a boy, and I was sorry for him. "Think what you like of me, Mac, demand what you like. I'll pay anything to break their power. I want to live!" The high, feverish voice broke to a low, dead monotone. "You'll have to stay. You understand about the priests of that damned idol. You'll know what to do when they come to get me."
"Wouldn't half a dozen cops with guns be more useful?"
"You won't do that–you can't! They'd say I was crazy and lock me up. And when the time came, I'd be alone with no one to help me." He put his arm through mine. "You'll stay, Mac?"
"If only to prove you a liar." I said cheerfully.
He told Johnson that I was staying, and the man left us for his own room