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Death Stalks the Jury

By Jean Francis Webb

THE little foxes that gnaw at the vines. That phrase from the Bible kept running through Mike Barkley's head. Turbulent eddies of feeling washed over him as he watched the progress of those clock hands over the jury room door.

Not that either the District Attorney or the defense lawyer looked much like a fox. Big Tom Fugazzi, a governor's job his next political aim, was a suave, faintly swarthy six-footer. His manner, in a different profession, might have been described as "bedside." And wily old Hadrian Dempsey, the veteran defense attorney, was an explosive, craggy-browed dynamo, despite his short, squat build.

And how that pair of law battlers could keep gnawing!

Fugazzi was still at bat, questioning Mike's jury qualifications. "You know nothing of this case, then, except what you read in the papers at the time defendant was arrested and charged with Bertram Whitney's murder?"


Twelve-thirty! Mike fidgeted uneasily. Faustine would be tearing the country club apart by now! She hated to be kept waiting. He was to have met her at ten, for golf before their lunch date.

"Has what you read at that time prejudiced your opinion?" Fugazzi asked.

The papers had landed hard on David Leyden, the accused man. As prosecutor, Fugazzi would be hoping for a jury prepared to convict.

"I've worked for newspapers long enough not to believe headlines," Mike said dryly.

"I see." The flicker of dissatisfaction Mike had hoped to see did not ruffle Big Tom's bland face. "No prejudice, then. If proven facts conclusively indicate the guilt of the accused—"

Mike was getting sore. It had never occurred to him he wouldn't be able to get off jury duty within a half hour or so. After all, he had friends. The trouble was that those same friends—like Judge Iglehart, for instance—were all likely to turn up at the country club themselves later that day. If they found out that the "urgent business" demanding Mike's exemption from jury duty was a date with Faustine—no, it wouldn't do. But he'd been here three hours now!

"Mr. Fugazzi!" Mike said. "I—you didn't ask me if I believe in capital punishment."

"And do you, Mr. Barkley?" Fugazzi purred.

Mike tried to look severe, knowing the prosecution would never accept a juror who might acquit because of the mandatory death sentence. He said, "Has one human being ever the right to take the life of another?"

"Feeling as you do," Fugazzi said smoothly, "you certainly do not approve of leaving brutal, willful murder unpunished. Your type of man will not permit such unbridled violence to go unchecked. The state passes Mr. Barkley for cause."

HADRIAN DEMPSEY, the defense attorney, began to fire questions as he jerked his spare, untidy little body forward. Had Mr. Barkley ever met the accused socially? In business, then? Had he ever dealt with the Whitney Airplane Corporation, until its recent sale under David Leyden's General Managership?

Twenty minutes to one! Mike could picture Tina storming up and down the club veranda; a slim, dark cyclone watching the driveway for his red sports roadster. He remembered, ruefully, what happened when he'd kept her waiting once before. That was the first time she'd threatened to marry Willie Laidlaw, the glamour boy. Willie, it seemed, knew how to treat a girl.

"I asked you a question, Mr. Barkley! I doubt if its answer is on the face of that clock you're watching so intently. Let me repeat. You are, I believe, a university graduate?"

"Yale. 1931."

The crooked twitch which passed as Dempsey's smile went into action. "The same year my client, David Leyden, was graduated from Princeton. You should consider his case with insight and sympathy."

"B-but Princeton!" It was a fool's remark, and Mike knew it. But Dempsey, too, was about to accept him! He had to do something! "You know about Yale and Princeton! I mean—"

For once, Dempsey sounded almost as bland as Big Tom Fugazzi. "Competition breeds a bond among men who share it, Mr. Barkley; a bond which should assure my client a fair hearing. We pass Mr. Barkley for cause."

A figure in a nightmare, Mike obeyed the Court's terse order to rise and lift his right hand. Twelve other men and women rose with him. Twelve. For the morning's crowning irony was the fact that he wasn't even a juror. He was the thirteenth man picked; the alternate, the spare tire, who saw active service only if one of his dozen predecessors came down with an emergency appendix.

On the veranda, by now, Tina would be in a white hot rage. But—the clerk of court was speaking his piece again.

"—accompany the Sergeant to your jury accommodations, where lunch will be served. You will communicate with no one on the outside. Personal effects will be collected at your residences and delivered to you. This way, please, ladies and gentlemen."

Sheep-like, the jury began to file past him. Three women and nine men. One of the women was young, pretty. Very pretty, in fact, although her blond coolness didn't register at first if you were used to dark, exotic Tina. Ellen Coburn, Mike recalled. Fugazzi had established her as somebody's secretary.

"You too, Mr. Barkley. This way."

THOSE jury room windows overlooked a parking space and a certain red roadster. But a discouragingly big revolver bulged at the sergeant's hip and he had the flat, expressionless face of one who'd know how to use it if a juror made trouble.

"Look, Mac, if I could get to a telephone for three minutes—" A neatly folded bill peeped out from Mike's left fist.

The sergeant looked through him. "Don't let the judge catch you tryin' to bribe an officer! This way, buddy!"

A long corridor back of the jury room led to side stairs ending at the side door of the courthouse. Mike knew the layout of old. Tramping glumly along beside his red-faced chaperone, he pictured Faustine as she called up Willie Laidlaw in sheer fury.

The passageway was dingy, lighted by glass panes in the ceiling overhead. Closed doors lined both walls, tossing back an echo to the shuffling jury. Their somber plodding was like a death march. The death of all chance to square himself with Faustine—

That was as far as he had thought when it happened.

The scream was a woman's. It rose in the cramped confines of the corridor like a cry splitting through the ceiling of hell itself. Unbridled terror, raw and sudden, seemed to be striking at all of them.

And then the ghastly upsweep of panic turned into words, starkly clear.

"H-he's dead! Oh, my God, he's dead! Dead!"

Things happened fast then. Mike's own reaction was simple, curiously direct. He sprang forward, flung a protective arm about the shoulders of the Coburn girl and drew her back against him. He heard himself saying, "Don't look. It's not pretty."

The man who had plunged so suddenly from one of the doors along the left-hand wall hit the stone flooring of the passage with a ghastly thud. When he hit, he lay still. A tin pail bumped grotesquely across the floor ahead of him and brought up clattering a few yards away.

The sergeant and his two uniformed patrolmen were quicker on their feet than Mike had expected. Kneeling at the prone man's side, the burly officer lifted that slight weight against himself and stared down stonily.

"It's Murphy, the janitor from across the way." That was all the sergeant said, but you realized at once that he meant more.

A patrolman flung wide the door through which the emaciated little janitor had come staggering. Mike saw what was inside, glancing over Ellen Coburn's head. It was a closet—a broom closet, empty except for mops and brushes and brooms and scrub pails.

Murphy was dead. Somebody had pulled a knotted rope about his scrawny neck and jerked it tight—mercilessly tight.

The flesh of the janitor's skinny throat bulged out above and below the hemp line in hideous little swells. Agonized, staring eyes fairly popped in the man's twisted face. Mike turned the Coburn girl's head away. Horrible thing for her to see—!

"One of you boys get movin'," growled the sergeant. "The Cap'n will want to take over here." One of his satellites obeyed. "Keep your eye on these folks here." Bad temper seemed to be the sergeant's reaction to murder; he snarled, "Rigor mortis, huh? Must have been dead three, four hours. Somebody propped him up amongst the junk inside there. Stiffening up made him fall over."

The captain and his men appeared on the stairs so rapidly that Mike blinked twice before he remembered Police Headquarters adjoined the court house. The discovery of Murphy was out of the sergeant's hands now. He turned over responsibility with the deadpan efficiency of long routine.

"He's janitor for our jury quarters across the street at the Liberty, sir. Been on the city payroll twenty years," he said.

The captain was a direct man, shrewd-eyed and unemotional. "You'd better get your people over to their lunch, McCoy. This hasn't anything to do with the Leyden trial."

"Yes, sir." McCoy, in the very act of lowering the rigid little corpse to the floor, said sharply, "Hello! What's this? Something in Murphy's fist, sir. A bit of cloth, it looks like."

Not one of them there in the hallway missed seeing it, as the sergeant forced back fingers death itself had tightened. The fragment of silk was green, with a stripe of yellow running transversely across it. Almost beyond question, it was part of a man's necktie.

THE Liberty Hotel, directly across the street on which the courthouse sided, rose fifteen stories into the sky, topped with gargoyles and fancy trim, its architecture between Moorish and Gothic.

The jury was herded into an elevator and was actually on the way up before Mike realized his fingers still gripped Ellen Coburn's elbow. Embarrassed, he released his hold.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to bruise you."

The girl smiled; a nice smile, friendly, but reserved. "I don't bruise easily. Thanks for wanting to protect a total stranger. None of our other friends bothered to think of it."

"Where the devil are we going now?" a square- faced, bald man who had answered to the name of Meek, asked McCoy.

"Jury quarters, for lunch. Fifteenth floor here has been taken over for juries that get locked in for duration of trial. Used to be a penthouse." It was a long speech for McCoy. Now he looked straight at Mike, saying, "Too high up for anybody to get in or out of. The switchboard doesn't accept jury folks' calls, either."

The direct taunt brought Faustine back into the foreground of Mike's consciousness, dulling the memory of that dead, distorted face of the janitor across the street. It even spoiled the pleasing effect of Miss Ellen Coburn's yellow hair, as the cage jolted to a stop.

The penthouse stood well above the roof of its tallest neighbor. A railed balcony-terrace hung over the busy intersection fifteen floors below.

"Pretty high up, aren't we?" The juror who made the observation, close to Mike's elbow, was—what was his name? Irving Miller. Thirtyish, buck-toothed, mild—his owlishness further accentuated by round, horn-rimmed glasses— Miller had a sleepy look, but not a stupid one.

"You couldn't count to twenty before you splashed," Mike said, and he spoke bitterly, for he himself had been staring out those windows, wondering.

"Lunch," McCoy said departing, "is out yonder on the table."

"Could any of us swallow a mouthful?" That was a Mrs. MacRea, a woman with billowing outlines. "That dreadful janitor at the courthouse! Enough to paralyze a person!"

"Doubtless, madam, he did it on purpose," sneered the foreman of their jury. His name was George Eberlin, agent for some small apartment houses.

"You needn't be rude! If Mr. MacRea were here, you'd never address me in that fashion!"

A soft voice at Mike's elbow murmured, "Just one happy family, we're going to be! All for one, and one for all!"

Grinning, he glanced down into Ellen Coburn's attractive face. The stronger light of the penthouse seemed to illumine it, underscoring its freshness. Mike thought of it in terms of advertising. One of these English toilet soap concerns could have made money on Ellen Coburn. Her picture, in color, over copy about white May in Devon and the scent of lavender and blue skies. Her eyes were so blue—

"At least you and I can eat," he said. "Tell you what; I'll fill a couple of plates from the table. We can try out the terrace."

ELLEN was waiting for him, relaxed in the vivid sunlight, when he came with food. They settled down, in white iron chairs, and smiled at each other.

"I wonder how long we'll be shut up here?" she ventured. "Will it be one of those marathon trials, do you think?"

"No telling. We won't lack excitement, will we? They were lining up inside, some for MacRea, some for Eberlin, when I came out. That Glickman woman was egging everybody on."

"She told me this trial was a boon to her." Ellen nibbled a pickle. "A positive boon, she put it. Seems she writes hair-raising mysteries."

"It was Mrs. MacRea who screamed over poor Murphy," said Mike. "For a while there, I thought it might be that blond willow—that Nottage chap. Walter Nottage."

Ellen smiled. "Walter decorates. He even confided in me, coming up in the elevator, that he'd once done this penthouse over a dance star who struck it rich."

"What do you think of that redheaded young truck driver who got picked just after Eberlin? Kearney, he called himself."

"What a memory for names you have!"

"Have to have, in the news racket. For instance, I spotted Howard Ross before Fugazzi called him by name this morning."

"Who is Ross?" Ellen asked.

"That slim, nervous chap, about thirty-five—the one who smokes so fast, one butt after another. He's a grounded transport flyer. We investigated a wreck he was responsible for around six months ago. Messy thing."

It was sheer accident that the faded sea green of her pillow made such a perfect background for Ellen's shining, smooth hair. Even Faustine might be proud of that effect; Faustine, who never left her effects to chance. With a guilty start, Mike realized he hadn't thought of Tina for fifteen minutes!

"We're lucky," he said. "We have the Upper Crust on our jury. Mr. Emil Plimpton, the overbearing and paunchy one, is a big noise on every railroad in this state worth mentioning."

"He doesn't know quite how to take this jury stretch, does he? Indignant at the inconvenience, but—on the other hand—stuck with previous public utterances about 'every citizen's duty.' "

Mike laughed. "That about covers our fellow inmates, except those two I can't tell apart. One is blank and sandy-haired, the other blank and gray- haired. One is a bank teller, and one sells perfumes. One gave his name as Philip Wanzo, the other as Chester Heath. But don't ask me which is which, even at the end of the trial, because I'll never— What's the matter?"

The girl had put up her hands behind her head, while he was talking; a gesture of complete relaxation. But now her slim figure was no longer relaxed. That crumpled object she had drawn from back of the canvas cushion—

"What's the matter?" Mike heard himself asking again. But he was out of his chair, leaning forward, even as he spoke. He was staring down at the thing she was forcing herself to show him.

It was a man's necktie, roughly, almost savagely, rumpled. It was made of green silk, with a yellow stripe running transversely across it. One end was missing entirely, ripped off where a row of ravelings showed distinctly in the early afternoon sunlight. . . .

TIME seemed to drag interminably. What was going on here in the courtroom, Mike kept telling himself, should have interested him more than it did. He was here, after all, solely to judge David Leyden's guilt or innocence. It wasn't his job to prod the police regarding that torn necktie Ellen had found stuffed back of the cushion of her chair on the penthouse terrace!

Nobody had seriously questioned that the rest of that torn tie was the fragment of silk clenched in Murphy's death-stiffened fingers. But beyond that, Mike and the police disagreed. What annoyed him was that they had logic on their side, whereas he had only the instinct a good newshound is born with; an instinct for something important even when it seems trivial.

As McCoy said, Murphy had been janitor of the penthouse, so what was peculiar about one of his neckties lying around? Maybe he'd been cleaning up, see? Maybe the tie had caught on something and ripped. Maybe Murphy had stuffed the smaller fragment into his pocket absentmindedly. The tie would be turned over to the captain, of course—but McCoy wasn't making the mistake of attaching any importance to it.

By sheer willpower, Mike dragged his attention back to the trial.

Tom Fugazzi, his organ-note voice balanced perfectly between quiet indignation and uplifting exhortation, paced up and down on long, graceful legs as he made his opening address, in which the jury was informed of "all known happenings" surrounding Bertram Whitney's violent death.

"I shall ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to go back with me to a certain autumn evening. Last October eleventh, to be exact. And we must be exact, for the life of a fellow man hangs on these details. Bertram Whitney was at home on October eleventh, ladies and gentlemen. He was a man who loved his home. So much so that—"

So much so that he had made up his mind to sell his airplane factories to outside interests. An aging man, he had no kin except one nephew, Gavin Whitney, and Gavin, dying in an Arizona sanatorium, could not be expected to survive his uncle to recover and carry on the family business.

The elder Whitney had loved comfort, yet required few luxuries. Four servants and a chauffeur staffed his narrow old town house: Prescott, the butler who had discovered his body, a Chinese cook, and two maids.

"That last evening of his life, ladies and gentlemen, he had made and filed a new will. His dying nephew was cared for, even should he survive, through an adequate trust fund. There were decent bequests to the servants, and to charity.

"But the bulk of the Whitney estate was to pass to one man, a man much younger than Whitney— indeed, regarded almost as the old man's son. I speak now of David Leyden, the able, brilliant, handsome young general manager who would find himself jobless when its new owners absorbed the factory."

The accused. . . . Mike, along with the others, stared briefly at that dark, straight-backed young man sitting almost unconcernedly at Hadrian Dempsey's side. Leyden looked like an athlete. At Princeton, he might have played football. Mike tried to remember.

Leyden? David Leyden? For once, Mike found himself stumped by a name. He couldn't think back of those tabloids, last October. Leyden Arrested as Benefactor's Slayer!

"Bertram Whitney," intoned Fugazzi, "sat in his second-floor library on the evening of the eleventh. At exactly 11:37, Prescott heard a single sharp report. He attempted to reach his employer. Several knocks and calls were fruitless. Those double doors were locked—on the inside, ladies and gentlemen—Mr. Whitney's side!"

Mike felt a fingernail's sharp edge bite his knee. He glanced down, to discover a folded bit of paper poised there like a butterfly. Ellen Coburn's hand was in the act of retreating.

McCoy is an idiot , the scrawled note ran. That necktie could never have gotten so rumpled just by being pushed back of a cushion. And what janitor ever wore three-dollar ties? Whoever killed Murphy has been messing around in our penthouse!

NIGHT brought a fog in off the river, a fog damp and cottony, and freighted with the dreary moan of horns. The restless whiteness pressed flat to the penthouse windows. Inside the apartment, luxurious despite the way in which Walter Nottage had furnished it for its former owner, even mellow lamplight and a fairly good dinner could not dispel the gloom.

Irving Miller, producing a dog-eared pocket deck, made a somewhat lame bid for cheer by performing card tricks. Hattie MacRea was weepy. Ross, the grounded flyer, paced the long living room like some wild thing in a cage, puffing endlessly on cigarettes.

It was after coffee, downed in complete silence, that Olivia Glickman said thoughtfully, "I've just been thinking. This would be perfect!"

"Eh?" Eberlin shot her a jaundiced glance. "What's perfect?"

"Why, this place! Us! Perhaps you didn't know, but I write mystery novels. I suppose I do see things in terms of plot, but honestly—"

"You didn't," quavered Mrs. MacRea, "mean it was perfect for a murder, did you? Here, where we are now?"

Olivia Glickman laughed. But afterward it was not that laugh the rest of them were to remember. It was the dreadful accuracy with which she began to sketch in their position, their utter helplessness.

"Why not? We're entirely cut off, fifteen stories above the street, except when Sergeant McCoy comes to fetch us. There's no elevator bell, no telephone connection. If one of us were a killer, he might stage a regular carnival of bloodshed! Who could stop it?"

Mike felt Ellen Coburn nudge his elbow, in the ripple of uneasiness which followed. "What gruesome idiocy just before bedtime!" she whispered.

"Let's go where we can talk sense, then," he said, and led her out onto the terrace where they had eaten lunch together.

They avoided the chair where the green necktie had been concealed; stood, instead, close to the railing, staring out across the muffled town. Fog stirred against their faces, damp and uneasy and driftingly white.

"Mike—" (He hadn't even realized just when they had become Ellen and Mike. He seemed to have known her always.) "There is something evil about this place. I can feel it in my bones."

"Are you a gypsy, or the seventh child of a seventh child?"

Ellen moved restlessly. "All right, laugh! But I don't believe a word McCoy said about the tie. I think something none of us knows about happened right here in this dreadful apartment."

Other thoughts which had tormented Mike for hours came to the surface, in a sudden rush. Thoughts about Tina. They had begun to foment while Mrs. Glickman was speaking. Now they became almost resolution, and he said:

"If nobody can get out of here, as our writer friend claims, then nobody's apt to come in, either. I'd have till breakfast time to get back, without being missed. If there were some way down to the windows a floor below us—"


ALTHOUGH his leg had actually been flung across the railing, in a quick determination to try, Mike would have abandoned the plan even without Ellen's startled cry, for the drop below was sheer, down to the setback ledge at floor ten. The smooth wall of the tower offered no toe- hold whatever. Mike was rash—but he was not crazy. He said:

"No. Couldn't do it even with a rope."

Ellen was watching him soberly. "Mike, you must be awfully anxious to break jail, even to consider a stunt like that!"

"Her name is Faustine Ashbrook," said Mike, "and she's had me dizzy for years. I have to square myself. She's impetuous enough to marry someone else before she knows I couldn't help standing her up. She does things like that."

"I've seen her pictures. She looks like a stormy night, dark and turbulent, and rather breathtaking. The papers says she rides like a dream, plays marvelous tennis and golf—"

"A girl like Tina does about everything well— except wait." Abruptly, Mike brightened. "Say! There must be a fire escape somewhere on the outside of this fool dungeon!"

"The door is back of the kitchen," Ellen said glumly. "It's locked. I've been doing a bit of prospecting myself, just in case."

The very quietness of her words seemed ominous.

"You're afraid, Ellen? Afraid something more's going to happen?" he asked.

She nodded jerkily. "But I don't know why, and I don't know what. Maybe— Mike, do you believe Leyden killed Bertram Whitney?"

"Too early to say. Fugazzi made out a pretty convincing case, if his witnesses uphold it. Leyden was Whitney's only caller on that last night, and he toted a gun. There could have been two strong motives; revenge for the loss of a job he'd slaved over, or fury at losing an inheritance."

"I think he's innocent," Ellen said firmly. "Were you watching him in court? He has iron control— but he's suffering terribly. Not from a bad conscience, either. He's being crucified."

"That's a lot to say, so seen. Until the evidence is in—"

She moved impatiently. "Evidence? What about character? Secretaries get to watch lots of men, under different kinds of strain. If ever I saw trapped honesty— Oh!"

Mike had whirled before the sharp exclamation, in that very instant he saw her eyes go wide. He glimpsed it, too. And then it was gone, that vague, dark shadow that had been almost like part of the swirling mist. The window where it had moved was empty.

Even when Mike crossed to it, jerked wide the slightly opened casement, and thrust his head into the gloom of an unlighted bedroom—even then there was no second glimpse of whoever had been crouched there, listening to their talk.

BEDTIME came early. Their bags had arrived and McCoy had assigned temporary quarters at the close of the afternoon session. And another of the city's reasons for taking over the roof apartment to house its juries had become evident. Just thirteen people—no more—could be decently quartered in the penthouse.

The three women shared the master chamber, which had twin beds and a divan. Three smaller bedrooms, facing a narrow hall, took care of two men apiece; Plimpton was with Eberlin, Mike with Irving Miller, Kearney with Ross. Meek and Wanzo each had a narrow servant's cubbyhole to himself. Heath and Nottage used the pair of long couches flanking the living room fireplace.

The penthouse lay still and dark. No moonlight penetrated the fog which still hugged close about the tower. To Mike, lying in bed, the silence seemed like something alive and waiting to pounce. A screwy idea—but today had made anything seem possible.

Who, for instance, had been listening to his talk with Ellen? And why? Was the pitiless slayer of poor Murphy one of their own thirteen—one of the Leyden jurors? How else had that mauled green tie gotten where Ellen found it?

Might not any one of the dozen now sharing this dark apartment have strangled the frail little janitor and hidden his body? McCoy had placed the janitor's death at hours before the grim discovery. It might be possible—

Or wasn't it more likely that someone on the outside intended to murder one of the jury? Murphy might have been killed for the keys in his pocket; among them, doubtless, the key to that fire door, which was the penthouse's second entrance. Yes— that was it!

Was someone crouched out there now, waiting until everyone was asleep? Who—were that true— was on the killer's list? What deadly secret lay behind—behind which commonplace, dull face of these people of the jury?

What about Ellen? Could it be Ellen the killer wanted to harm? Could some secret knowledge of danger to herself have made her so certain the penthouse was a dangerous place? Was that why that formless shadow had spied on them out on the terrace? Was—

A sudden, shrill, insistent clamor had him on his feet before he could properly place it. Telephone! Mike lurched past the other bed, on which Irving Miller's dim form was struggling erect. That telephone wasn't supposed to be connected! McCoy had sworn it wouldn't ring!

In the drab blackness, he groped for the knob and threw the door wide. Behind him, Miller muttered a thickened query: "W-what—?"

"I don't know—but I'm going to find out."

Other rousing voices, Jumbled and confused, lifted through the big apartment. Somewhere a bed lamp snapped on. Someone stumbled against a light chair and overturned it with crashing abruptness. Mike was well into the living room now. Even in the darkness, he could locate the phone.

"Hello?" He grabbed up the instrument in fumbling haste. "Hello?"

Nottage, his blond hair on end, had stumbled to a nearby lamp and yanked its chain. He swayed there, more willowy than ever in his sea-green silk pajamas, blinking distractedly across the sudden brilliance. But Mike was not watching him.

"I recognize your voice, Barkley," a low, curiously disembodied sequence of words came whispering out of the receiver. "You are the one I wanted. You wouldn't like harm to come to Miss Coburn. I advise you to change her opinion of David Leyden's innocence before your jury votes."

And then—the click of a connection breaking!

MIKE nested the receiver slowly, aware of the excited questions pouring at him from all corners of the suddenly crowded room. Like fragments of a dizzy kaleidoscope, faces eddied. The Glickman woman's, framed in metal curlers. Those oddly haunted eyes of Ross's, staring. Plimpton. MacRea, whimpering for her husband.

"What was it, Mike?" Ellen's voice carried above the others with a cool clarity which, as he alone could understand, hid a deadly fear. Her honest eyes never wavered from his, as she brushed sleep-fluffed yellow hair back from a face as colorless as a cameo.

There was no point in lying. "It was somebody warning me you'd better not vote for Leyden's innocence, if you want to stay healthy. I gathered he meant all of us."


"I thought it was a man, but I'm not sure. The voice was deliberately muffled, as if— Great Scott!"

He grabbed for the phone, jiggled wildly at the hook. He kept the receiver close to his ear, but there was no sound from the other end—no sound at all. The switchboard, through which the call must of necessity have passed, did not answer.

Kearney, the redheaded truck driver, gathered the significance of Mike's behavior. "Mother of heaven, the man's right! The sergeant himself told us there'd be no answer!"

"Somebody called in, though!" Mike said, between set teeth. "We didn't all just imagine it. And that call must have come through the board downstairs. Unless—unless—"

He was half across the room, shouldering past the milling group of wakened jurors; while the last word still trailed unfinished. Back along the narrow railway hall flanking the bedrooms he sprinted. The hall ended in a swinging door to the kitchen.

He had to grope along the side wall until his fingers found the light switch. Immaculate whiteness leaped at him out of the inky dark. The room was empty. His eyes sped about it, eager for any hint of recent occupancy, but still a trifle dimmed on account of the contrasting brightness.

HE HADN'T been wrong about that service extension telephone he'd half-remembered, in one corner near the stove! It hung there like a square black wart on the tiled wall. Mike dove for it, snatched up the receiver, and knew his sudden hunch was right.

A faint warmth of human contact still vivified the receiver's dull black surface. Sometime within the past two minutes, another hand had gripped this same receiver! Mike turned with a tight, mirthless grin to greet the babbling vanguard from the living room.

"My brainstorm happened to work. That call didn't come from outside. It was made right here in the penthouse, from this kitchen extension. But the phone couldn't ring—so where was the alarm clock ringing? Who turned it on and then off again?"

"You mean," Nottage squeaked, "that dreadful ringing wasn't the telephone at all?"

"It couldn't have been if the switchboard connection to these rooms is dead!"

Ellen was following the direction of his glance with widening eyes, and suddenly the incisive clarity of her voice rang across the silence.

"The fire door! Someone used Murphy's key!" She hurried forward, to twist and tug in vain at the brass handle. "It's locked fast now, but somebody must have come through it—and gone out again."

Since he had never quite sorted Heath and Wanzo out in his mind, Mike could not be certain which one spoke now. Anyway, it was the gray-haired one.

"You mean somebody got in here just to make that call to you?" he said. "B-but Miss Coburn just now tried the door!"

"There's at least one key somewhere in the world," Mike answered softly. "Murphy must have had one—and someone killed him."

"So he could spy on us and threaten us, if we decided to vote for Leyden's acquittal? By the great horned spoon! Nobody ought to get away with such foul tactics! Unless the evidence proves he's guilty beyond the least little doubt, by golly, I'm fixing now to vote Leyden free!"

It didn't occur to any of them then—not even to Mike—that the puffing, indignant little bantam was pronouncing his own death sentence. . . .

THE State's first witness was a paunchy, over- manicured person named Halliday. There was assurance in the way he sat in the chair, brick efficiency in his responses to Big Tom Fugazzi's opening questions.

"Your present business connection, Mr. Halliday?"

"I am Chairman of the Board of Ajax Aircraft, Inc., one of the largest manufacturing aircraft concerns in the country."

"Bertram Whitney, deceased, founded a similar concern?"

"Yes. Ajax bought out Whitney's plant early last October."

Fugazzi's smile was like something painted on porcelain. "I see, Mr. Halliday, will you tell the jury exactly what this sale would mean—in relation to employees of the Whitney plant?"

"It meant most of them were out of jobs." Halliday spoke unconcernedly. "A few of the technical experts were absorbed by our outfit, but the office force and executive staff were of no use to us."

"And Mr. David Leyden, sir—Mr. Whitney's general manager—was there an opening for him with your concern?"

"There was not. Our own man has been with us for a considerable period. We contemplated no change."

Staring at the grimy ceiling, Mike understood the reason for these questions. The District Attorney was out to prove that Leyden, robbed of a job he had worked years to achieve, had believed he had a serious grievance against the employer who wiped out that job.

Half Mike's mind listened to the outlay of technical details. The other half kept slipping back to the penthouse, to last night, and the shrilling of that buzzer which everyone had assumed to be a telephone bell.

Afterward, nobody had felt very much like sleeping. It had been well on toward morning before the apartment had settled back into its former quiet. The knowledge that someone had access to them as they slept—someone with a sinister and secret purpose—had not been exactly conducive to repose.

In the end, the men had taken hour-long sentry turns, two men a trick, sitting in the kitchen where that fire door opened. But even then, sleep had come to the others only in uneasy catnaps. They had been dazed with exhaustion, most of them, when McCoy's helpers came in with breakfast trays.

McCoy had been prone to ridicule their anxiety. After all, no one had seen an intruder. A man going to such lengths merely to use the kitchen telephone extension—it was absurd on the face of it. The department would post a patrolman on the fire escape, of course, but if you asked McCoy, all this to-do was a lot of claptrap.

Hadrian Dempsey waived cross-examination of Halliday, obviously intent on discounting the importance of Leyden's lost job. The State's next witness, Miss Jackman, took the stand. A trim, wren-like spinster, she had been Bertram Whitney's confidential secretary.

"And in his employ a long time?"

She nodded. "For fifteen years, last January."

"Therefore," Fugazzi smiled, "we can assume you were quite well acquainted with your employer's private affairs?"

"I doubt if poor Mr. Whitney ever made an important move of which I was ignorant." Miss Jackman sniffed delicately, dabbing at her eyes with a surprisingly feminine lace handkerchief.

"Think back to last autumn, please. What was the last important move of which you have any recollection?"

"You mean the sale of the plant to Ajax?"

"Later than that," Fugazzi prodded.

"His new will, then?" Jackman had a mind as orderly as one of her file cabinets. "Mr. Whitney dictated it to me, and had it properly signed, just a little before—before—I w-was one of the witnesses."

The District Attorney veered briefly toward the Bench. "We have here the original copy of that will. If the Court pleases, we will ask that it be received in evidence. Meanwhile, Miss Jackman, tell the jury what you remember of this document's contents."

"Objection!" Dempsey growled. "Hearsay evidence—"

"As the deceased's confidante, Your Honor," said that smooth oil that was Fugazzi's voice, "and as the employee who transcribed the will, Miss Jackman can hardly be called a mere repeater of rumors."

Before Dempsey lost his hot battle over that point, it was time for the court's noon recess. McCoy appeared from nowhere to lead the jurors back to the jury room.

MISS JACKMAN remounted the stand as the afternoon session opened. David Leyden, Mike noticed, watched the woman with a dark, still detachment which made you wonder if he really saw her at all. What was it Ellen had said? "He's being crucified."

"Miss Jackman, you were about to tell the jury—to the best of your ability—what provisions Bertram Whitney made in his new testament for the disposition of his wealth."

The secretary cleared her throat. "It was not a complicated will. A tubercular nephew, Gavin, was to receive the income from a trust fund for life. Upon his death, the trust was to pass to the private hospital in Arizona which was caring for him."

"Other bequests?"

"A chauffeur, a maid, a cook, all of them employees of long standing, inherited a thousand dollars each. I myself received certain bonds Mr. Whitney believed would assure me a modest income. His butler was left ten thousand. A like sum went to another maid, Mary Dolan."

"But your employer was a very wealthy man. What you have told us does not indicate the disposition of a major part of his fortune."

"I was coming to that. The bulk of the estate, fully seventy-five per cent, was left in one piece. To Mr. Whitney's manager, Mr. David Leyden."

"In your opinion," Fugazzi purred, "was that bequest not a strong, overwhelming reason for a newly jobless man to wish Whitney dead? Would not a man murder—?"

"Objection!" snarled Hadrian Dempsey.

This time, the protest was upheld.

Fugazzi had no further point to establish through Miss Jackman. But the defense swooped down on her for cross-examination like a hawk attacking a chicken run. Miss Jackman had known David Leyden over a period of years. Had she ever heard his quarrel with Whitney? Was it not true that their relationship was like that of father and son? Would an astute judge of character like Bertram Whitney leave his fortune to anyone he believed capable of the act of murder?

"Nice work!" Ellen whispered.

"Our friend the Whisperer won't like it," Mike murmured back. "And whoever he is, he certainly believes in action!"

THE prosecution's third witness settled on the chair like a groundhog at the maw of his burrow. The uneasiness of the man, as Big Tom Fugazzi faced him, was so obvious that one wanted to squirm with him and twist some yielding object as he twisted a battered driver's cap.

"Your name?"

"Otto Goldhume."

"Your occupation?"

"I drive a taxi. For the Blue Star Company."

"Mr. Goldhume, you were brought here to tell these people what you remember of a certain fare you drove on the evening of October eleventh last."

"Yes, sir. Raining. A real chill in the air. I picked up a young couple after the early show at the movies. They wanted to drive round the park and—well, I never looks into me mirror. I drove them till along about quarter to 'leven, I'd guess."

"And after eleven?"

"The fellow takes the girl home. I'm just circling back downtown when a tall, dark fellow hails me from the curb. I open up and he climbs in. Wants to be driven to the Whitney party's house."

"He said specifically the Whitney house?"

Goldhume shuffled his feet. "No, sir, he gave a number. But I read the papers after. That's where the old gent got croaked all right."

"So you drove your fare to this address." Fugazzi paused slyly. "Without, I presume, looking into your mirror?"

"Well—I did look back once. The guy was impatient, like, to get where he was goin', but pavements were too wet to speed."

"That once you glanced into the glass, did you see anything unusual?"

"Depends what you call unusual," answered Goldhume, gulping. "Me, I ain't used to guns. When I noticed what it was he was holdin' in his lap, clenchin' it sort of tight, I put on the speed then, all right!"

Fugazzi beamed on the jury box as if its occupants had shared with him some personal triumph. "And do you see that well armed fare of yours anywhere in this courtroom, Goldhume?"

"Yes, sir." The taxi driver's stained hand lifted, one finger extended. The finger pointed straight at David Leyden.

THE penthouse, already dark as early twilight deepened, seemed to have been awaiting their return—but not in any comfortable, homey sense. The waiting, rather, might have been that of a spider. Mike shook himself impatiently. Tabloid imagination! That's what was wrong with him!

"Open and shut case," the dour Eberlin declared, as dinner trays were removed an hour later. "Mr. Fugazzi established two motives for Leyden's deed, and the taxi man cinched the case."

Ellen glanced up at him from the chair where she sat quietly like a white-and-gold forest nymph. "Isn't that what they call purely circumstantial evidence, Mr. Eberlin?"

"Young lady," the landlord said ponderously, "when you've lived as long as I have, you'll know things are pretty much what they seem in this life. We know Leyden went to Whitney's home at the hour of the slaying. We know he carried a gun. Therefore—"

"Therefore," Ellen flashed, with sudden, quiet ferocity, "you are quite certain Leyden is a murderer—even though Dempsey proved later that the R.O.T.C. was holding target practice in Bertram Whitney's own garden! I know your kind!"


"There's something called character, too. What about the suffering in Leyden's eyes? And can't you read what's back of his stiff, unmoving attitude? Dempsey told us all. It isn't just his own life. He loved old Whitney like a father—that's the cruel thing!"

With a swift, silent movement, she was across the living room and out the French doors. Mike followed her, leaving behind him a startled silence and Eberlin's unspoken answer. Mike had glimpsed the glitter of tears in her blue eyes, and that was enough for him.

"Ellen—don't take it so hard!" he pleaded.

She jerked back from the railing, where she had been standing between a pair of evergreens in heavy stone urns. "The sheep! A glib talker like Fugazzi—! Oh, it's dreadful to watch someone you know is fine being torn to shreds by an ambitious, unscrupulous hound!"

"Someone you know?" Mike's voice was hoarse. "Ellen, look at me! Did you know Leyden before this trial started? Does he mean something to you personally? You and he—aren't—?"

It was funny, the relief that coursed through him when she shook her head.

"Of course not. It's just that—Mike, weren't you ever sure about somebody you didn't know from Adam?"

Well, of course he had been. He felt sure about Ellen herself, for instance. There was something about her, despite the appealing softness of her and the sweetness of her mouth, which was firm and strong, and true as steel. Some lucky man would learn, some day, just how deeply he could feel sure.

When they went silently back into the big room, new undercurrents of emotion already seemed to have swept away those they had left behind. Leo Kearney and Irving Miller were just returning from the kitchen, where they appeared to have been doing some favor for timorous Hattie MacRea.

"Now, ma'am," the redheaded truck driver grinned, with appealing Irish charm, "there's nothin' more to worry you. We've just rigged up that string o' brass temple bells dead in front of the fire door. The door opens inward, ma'am, and not a mouse could squeeze past without settin' those bells to janglin'."

"B-but he's so clever! That telephone trick—"

Heath—or was it Wanzo?—cleared his throat resentfully, off in one corner. "Hurrumph! Threatening us if we don't vote his way! I wouldn't trust that Tom Fugazzi smoothie. It's intimidation!"

"Tom Fugazzi is a brilliant lawyer, not a crook," snapped Emil Plimpton, pompous with authority. "He's handled legal work for our railroad holdings. I'd as soon suspect Judge Iglehart!"

"Well, whoever called last night," grinned Kearney, "he'll not be droppin' in again unannounced. Them bells'll warn us."

Olivia Glickman stood up slowly, somberly, one hand pressed flat to her shallow breast and her haggard face aglow. "I wonder! I wonder if whoever telephoned last night needs keys and doors? Couldn't it perhaps be dead Bertram Whitney himself, demanding his revenge? A hand from beyond the Brink, reaching out to warn all of us that we must not let his murder pass unchallenged?"

With only the ghost of a moan, Hattie MacRea slid forward onto the floor in a dead faint.

IT WAS impossible for Mike to say how long he slept. It seemed, when his eye opened, that they must have closed only a few seconds earlier. Yet the patch of moonlight which had flung its oblique out line over the carpet between his bed and Miller's, the last thing he could remember, had moved. Now it hung on the opposite wall, like a stain left on old wallpaper where a picture has been taken down.

He lay still, listening for the sound which had awakened him.

Or had it been a sound? Had the deep stillness of the penthouse actually been disturbed by even the scratching of a mouse? Pushing back deep veils of sleep, Mike still could not be certain.

Something—something not as it should be, here in the darkness—

His bare feet were thrusting toward the floor by instinct, when the sound came again; or at least what he fancied must be the sound. Half-sitting on the edge of his bed, Mike grinned wryly. Jumpy nerves certainly made a man weak in the head! For of all undramatic, unmenacing, completely natural noises in the night, a loose casement creaking in the wind must certainly win the prize. Only a numbskull, overwrought by worry about Faustine and uneasiness about circumstances here in the pent—

"Great galloping ginger!" Mike muttered suddenly, and leaped to the middle of the floor, his heart thudding. What a dope he was! Casements of modern apartment buildings like the Liberty don't swing loose—they're held firm on adjustable metal elbows, so the wind can't swing them. Besides— there was no wind blowing!

Mike hesitated an instant near the of Irving Miller's bed. Apparently his roommate had not been awakened by the nearby sound. He lay so motionless in the darkness, a mere long lump of shadow beneath the covers, that he might have been dead. Well—no need of pulling the guy out of a deep sleep, just on a mere hunch.

Mike eased back the door into the long hall and slid through it, bare-footed, but pulling his dressing gown about him. The penthouse silence was like a muffling layer of felt; soft, thick. He paused, uncertain, and then decided that the sound had come from somewhere near the living room.

Starting forward again, walking catlike on the balls of his feet, he realized abruptly that he was not alone in this ribbon of inky impenetrability.

Just how that awareness came to him, Mike was never sure. He flattened to the wall, tense, listening. There was some motion without sound, without visibility, far ahead of him in the blackness. How it managed to communicate itself to him was not the least of its mystery.

Then whoever had stood there, near the spot where the hall merged with the living room, moved on toward the windows facing the terrace. For a brief flash, a shadow slid through betraying moonlight. Then the small sound of a chair brushed by something passing gave evidence of a presence more substantial than shadow.

Mike started forward again, quietly taking up the trail. Whoever it was that preceded him had gotten clear across the living room by now. Once again, moonlight revealed a moving blotch. Then the man was past the tall windows and out on the terrace.

A coffee table drawn out of place during the after-dinner conversation bit abruptly into Mike's shins, cracking them painfully. He sucked in his breath, setting his teeth, and bent swiftly, quietly rubbing the smarting bones.

It came so swiftly, so totally without warning, that the scream from the terrace took him unawares just as he was straightening. It was a scream of mortal terror such as Mike Barkley never had heard in all his thirty years. "Ahhhhh!"

The ghastly sound was like a comet's tail, hurtling through space. It diminished in volume, but not in the dreadful revelation of panic underscoring it. Before the thud of a solid weight striking the parapet five stories below could come, Mike was racing forward.

A table, and the sofa on which Walter Nottage was grunting as if the scream had penetrated his dreams, conspired to slow up that fleet advance, but even so, not sixty seconds could have elapsed before Mike felt the cold slap of fresh air on his forehead. He vaulted to the railing, where Ellen had stood a few hours earlier, and looked down.

The moonlight was bright enough, even this late, to throw heavy shadow. Half in and half out of a black pool staining the terrace which topped the tenth-floor setback, a motionless figure sprawled grotesquely. Broken neck. Mike saw the hideous twisted angle of the fallen man's head, even before the face and figure.

Philip Wanzo lay where he had fallen, no longer filled with defiance, no longer able to snort indignant repetitions of his ability to think for himself, despite intimidation.

No mistaking the truth, even at first glance, even before someone from the freshly aroused penthouse brought a flashlight to play across the railing onto that pitiful, fear-distorted face.

Wanzo was dead.

THEY huddled near the railing long after the grim truth had been brought home to them all—the twelve who were left. Sleep abandoned them, as on the night before—but this time it was more than fear of the unknown lashing their raw nerves. This time, death was a stark reality.

"You were the first to get here, Barkley?" Howard Ross demanded.

"I was. Except for whoever threw the poor devil over."

"What makes you certain he was thrown?" demanded Plimpton, a waddling Kewpie in monogrammed silk pajamas. "You say you saw no one."

"No one. But a reasonably active man could have gotten through that open window at the end of the row—the pantry window. I heard it being cautiously opened. That's what awakened me. Someone was preparing a getaway."

"You think Wanzo heard it too, poor devil? You think he came out here to investigate? Who roomed with him?"

"He had one of the maid's rooms, back of the others." Mike frowned. "I doubt if the sound I heard could have carried way back there. Anyhow, it would be too pat. Wanzo, the one man here who came right out and announced he was voting for acquittal, didn't just happen to be the one who went over that railing."

Olivia Glickman, haggard as a witch, stared at him in morbid fascination. "You don't mean—you can't mean it was premeditated murder?"

"Why not? Murphy didn't die by accident."

The woman swayed slightly, but she did not faint as Mrs. MacRea had done earlier. "Then someone must have lured him out here. Someone had an appointment with him, or—or carried him out."

"I think," Mike mused, "that he came out under his own power. I'm positive now that it was Wanzo I followed down the hall. Whoever did the job was waiting here—by appointment, as you say. Wanzo was as light as a reed. And he wasn't expecting— this."

"What about the bells?" demanded Eberlin sourly. "Those bells Kearney and Miller fixed up in front of the fire door? None of us heard them. Nobody could have come in here!"

"Perhaps—nobody did," Mike said. . . .

THE city lay below them, sleeping, a pattern of shadow on which only a few thin spangles of light still shone. By contrast to last night's fog, the sky overhead was almost too clear, the stars as sharply defined as dagger pricks. This isolated terrace, cut off from all other human beings, seemed the loneliest place in the universe. It was a tiny kingdom, and Death was its liege lord.

"We don't have to stand out here in the cold, do we?" Chester Heath shuddered. "It won't bring poor Wanzo back. And—"

"Mother of Heaven!"

They all were too used to Leo Kearney's easygoing ways not to be startled by the hoarse, unnatural horror in his low voice now. Not one of them, turning toward him in startled surprise, had to voice the instinctive query on every lip. For the wild, stunned look of Kearney's Irish eyes was a signpost a blind man could not miss.

Mike caught it first, the tiny pinpoint of reflected light deep in among those low-spreading boughs of the trimmed evergreen to his left. He bent forward, seeing what Leo had seen, thrusting the dry pine filaments aside. It was a gold ring, a man's heavy signet ring, against which the moonlight sparkled.

The ring was still on a finger, and the finger was on a hand—a human hand which dropped inertly against the stone rim of the urn as Mike jerked at the little tree.

The dead man might have been any age past forty, this man stuffed so ruthlessly into the urn so recently emptied of nourishing earth. Streaks of loam stained the forehead and cheeks, the shoulders of the commonplace gray business suit, the thinning, blondish hair. It had been a quick job, this entombing of the nameless and lifeless thirteenth occupant of jury quarters.

"It—it's horrible!" Olivia Glickman whispered weakly.

Mike realized that Ellen, a simple blue corduroy housecoat encasing her clear blond loveliness, had turned to him blindly in this moment of shock. Her eyes were wide open, a dazed patina over their blueness. "When? When did it happen, Mike?" she said huskily.

"He's been dead a long time, I think. Since yesterday morning."

"Then it could have been before we came here! This doesn't mean—it doesn't have to have anything to do with us, nor with the Leyden case!" She was trying to reason through to some dim fact only glimpsed, but terribly important. Her voice sounded stunned.

"We'll all be murdered!" the MacRea woman was moaning, her face a mottled gray. "Whoever is doing this killing gets in and out of here by magic!"

Young Kearney had recovered a little from the shock of his gruesome discovery. "Maybe so. But I'm takin' a look at that fire door and them bells, nonetheless. If they're still in their place, the devil himself couldn't have come in without ringin' 'em!"

A moment later, Kearney was back in the living room, where the rest of them had gathered, the long terrace windows shut against a night wind suddenly chill and biting. A puzzled scowl etched deep lines between his quizzical red eyebrows.

"Nobody left that way, I'll be guaranteein'. I balanced a bit of paper atop the lowest bell, where it'd flutter off if the door was opened. Not an inch has it moved. Maybe—maybe—"

"You mean it's one of us!" croaked Nottage hysterically. "One of us, here in this room, who pushed poor Wanzo over! One of us who killed the little janitor and that—him, in the urn out there!"

Mike's voice was brutal. "Shut up, you idiot! There are women here. Whatever happens, we can't let it get us!"

"What all of us need," said Ellen, with cool control, "is hot coffee. I think I saw the makings in the kitchen. It'll be good for all of us. No, never mind, Mike—I can manage, thanks. And doing something—anything—will be a Godsend."

She left the room, erect and graceful, and there was a feeling in Mike's heart that some sort of subtle radiance had left with her.

THEY all did their best to rally from the double horror of the past half-hour. Irving Miller, blinking behind his spectacles, even volunteered to entertain them with a few new tricks, but nobody encouraged him. He departed for his bedroom, nonetheless, to fetch his worn-out cards.

Mrs. Glickman paced the long room, dramatizing the situation. Eberlin and Meek sought the terrace again, drawn by that somber fascination a scene of violence exercises over some temperaments.

Ross, gnawing uneasily at his lower lip, prowled off somewhere on a mission of his own. The others milled about aimlessly, too restless to settle down, too stabbed with dread to return to separate quarters.

And then—the lights went out.

Blackness—all the more sinister, all the more startling, for its total unexpectedness—swooped over them like a monstrous crow. One instant, lamps shed their soft glow over haggard faces. The next, there was nothing; only a void over which evil spread an inky stain.

From the rear of the penthouse, high and thin and clear, a cry rose against the darkness, was throttled, and died away. Mike knew, despite the paralyzing shock of that swift blackout, exactly where the interrupted cry had arisen: the kitchen!

He was hurtling along the passageway, bumping from one side wall to the other in blind desperation, before any other conscious thought than Ellen's name occurred to him. Coffee—Ellen—that fire door! Like something in his own throbbing brain, he heard a new sound: the sharp click of a closing latch, and the brassy jangle of chimes suddenly disturbed.

The kitchen door swept backward as his weight surged against it. He was sprawling in the blackness, in the next instant, saving his head with upswept arms as his feet tangled with a warm, yielding mass and tripped him. Grunting, shaken, he crashed to the floor, struggling free of the thing which had thrown him. Then, up again, he fumbled wildly about in the darkness.

The ribbed smoothness of Ellen's coat identified her to his groping hands, even before they found loose hair and the cool softness of her cheek. She still was breathing, thank God! He gathered her close, cradling her head against him in unthinking protection. Only then he remembered that somewhere in this darkness, closing in on them—

A growl of sheer, primitive hatred stirred in Mike, rising out of something ten thousand years older than himself. He heard other footfalls in the passageway, heard the shrill cries and questions of stumbling fellow jurors, heard the swinging door bat open again, and yelled without knowing who it was.

"Look out! Something's happened to Miss Coburn. Someone was in this kitchen!"

LIGHTS snapped on again, blindingly sudden. Faces flooded past him as he crouched there, still shielding Ellen. Beside her on the floor lay a crumpled garment which he recognized instantly. Howard Ross's worn leather flying jacket!

Ellen opened her eyes, slowly. "Mike . . . M- Mike?"

Somebody—Leo Kearney—shouted from near the fire door, in queer, hoarse disbelief. "My bit o' paper! It's been knocked off the bell, and I'll eat me granny if I didn't hear these bells ringin' out a minute back!"

"You mean whoever it was really came in that door?" cried Walter Nottage wildly. "He can come and go as he likes? We're locked in here at his mercy, in the dark, never knowing—?"

But Mike wasn't listening. He had gathered up Ellen's feather-light form as he straightened. His arms felt as if she always had belonged in them, as he carried her along the hallway and into the living room, where lamps once more shone softly.

Maybe it was the gentleness with which he laid her down on one of the long touches that made her eyes fly to his lowered face and cling there. Just for that one long moment, they looked deep into each other. Then Mike's tense mouth was groping for hers, searching.

"Ellen—oh, darling, if he'd hurt you—"

"Don't, Mike!" Just before he could kiss her, she managed to twist her face away. Even then, he could tell that she hadn't wanted to. "Please don't. It might mean too much, if you called me darling again."

Mike knew what she was remembering. His arms fell away from her slowly, and after a moment he buried his throbbing head in them. What had he said, only last night? "Her name is Faustine Ashbrook, and she's had me dizzy for years. . . ."

Ellen remembered that.

THAT night's tragic happenings had at last shaken the elephantine calm of Sergeant McCoy. Seated in the jury box—no longer the thirteenth juror, no longer a spare—Mike went over events grimly. Wanzo dead. Ellen attacked in the dark kitchen, with Ross's jacket thrown over her head. The chimes. The fallen bit of paper. And that lifeless, pitiful stranger in the urn . . .

McCoy, in a veritable frenzy, had grilled the patrolman supposedly on duty near the fire escape; eliciting, thereby, earnest oaths that no one had used it during the night. After that, the sergeant had searched the penthouse fruitlessly; examined the body in the urn with inarticulate fury; and pronounced a hollow, unconvincing theory that Wanzo had been walking in his sleep.

Whatever weak conviction this line of reasoning might have carried had been invalidated by McCoy himself, immediately thereafter, when he shouted that, by heaven, a department man was going to guard every last room of the penthouse from tonight forward, and there'd be no more murdering monkey business! Mike remembered that with definite satisfaction, as Judge Iglehart came into the courtroom.

People stood up, then sat down again. An odd, prickling sensation raced along Mike's scalp as the second day of the Leyden trial began. For now he had a vote in the verdict—Wanzo's vote. And Wanzo, the only one of them who had announced a clear, firm decision for acquittal, was dead. . . .

THE State's star witness of the morning, taking the stand after others of the staff of Bertram Whitney's residence had contributed no new facts, was Bertram Whitney's butler, Prescott. The man had the traditional butler's long, deadpan face; the automatic speech; the stiffness and icy respectfulness of manner. He was almost too perfect.

Where had Prescott been on the evening of October eleventh? On duty at the residence of his master, naturally. And during that evening, had he admitted any guests to the house?

Only one guest. Mr. Leyden. Yes, that same gentleman who sat now at Hadrian Dempsey's side and crushed an unsmoked cigarette between his fingers.

"No, sir, I'm not mistaken. I've known Mr. David for several years. Mr. Whitney was exceptionally fond of him."

Now Big Tom Fugazzi had almost finished warming up. "In your own words, Prescott, please tell these ladies and gentlemen what happened after you had admitted Mr. Leyden to Mr. Whitney's library."

Prescott's own words were as stiff and formal as a rehearsed oration; yet with nothing dishonest about them. He had left David Leyden alone with his employer at 11:15 and gone below to the kitchens. Leyden had not produced the gun, already established, while in Prescott's presence. But he had kept his right hand deep in his pockets.

After that? Nothing, until 11:35, when the telephone had rung. It was a wrong number. A woman had wanted her baby's doctor. Prescott no sooner had hung up the receiver than the muffled sound of a shot had sent him bounding upstairs.

Mr. Whitney's door was closed, locked from the inside. Several knocks and calls, in which a maid had assisted, proved of no avail. Prescott had telephoned for the police.

No, he had not shown Mr. Leyden out of the house. But the library window stood open, a tree grew just beyond, and if a gentleman had some reason for wishing to leave hastily—

"Objection!" Dempsey fairly screamed the word.

Fugazzi did not even bother to defend the Prosecution's star witness. Smiling in triumph, he bowed to his opponent. "Your witness, sir."

That cross-examination was Hadrian Dempsey at his fieriest. By every means at his command he sought to confuse, to Upset, to discredit the stolid butler. For this, as he well knew, was the most damning testimony so far presented against his client.

"You are certain you did not see Mr. Leyden again, once you had shown him to Mr. Whitney's study?"

"Positive, sir."

"But you admit being in the kitchen most of the intervening time. Mr. Leyden might have let himself out the front door?"

"It's possible, but not likely, sir, unless Mr. Bertram Whitney were very upset. He was the soul of politeness, sir."

That damning business of the open window and the tree still stood before the jury, unbelittled. Dempsey, Mike figured, must be desperate about that. What was he going to try now?

"You say Whitney has a nephew, Prescott? A blood heir?"

"Mr. Gavin Whitney." Prescott nodded solemnly. "He is a consumptive, sir. His uncle has kept him at the Eagle Mesa Rest, in Arizona, for almost three years now."

"I submit," flashed Dempsey, "that Gavin Whitney had good and sufficient reason for wanting his uncle dead! Even a dying man may want money. Ignorant of his uncle's new will leaving the estate to my client, he might have murdered Bertram Whitney to obtain his supposed legacy. Mr. Leyden could have waited to inherit. Gavin Whitney, dying, could not. Did he know of the new will, Prescott?"

"I—why, I wouldn't know about that, sir."

Mike glanced toward Big Tom Fugazzi, astonished that no objection to this course of questioning had arisen from that quarter; but the District Attorney was staring at the ceiling, smiling to himself. For some reason, what his opponent was striving to establish seemed to worry him not at all.

Dempsey himself seemed surprised, for his eyes sought the bigger lawyer appraisingly before he formed his next question. "We do not know, after all, that Gavin Whitney was still in Arizona the night his uncle was murdered. Prior to the shooting, Prescott, when was the last direct contact you had with your employer's nephew?"

"Not for several months, sir. He sent me a birthday remembrance from Eagle Mesa. My birthday is June twenty-second."

"Ah!" Dempsey pounced on that. "Then it is possible he left the Rest without your knowledge? That he was, in fact, right here in this city the night his uncle died? That my client left Bertram Whitney alive, using the door, and Gavin Whitney later fired the fatal shot—gaining access via that tree and window?"

"I think not," said Prescott, his calm unbroken. "As soon as the police physician told me Mr. Whitney was dead, sir, I put through a long- distance call to Arizona. I personally spoke, first to his nurse, then to Mr. Gavin, there at the Rest. I told them what had happened."

The court buzzed suddenly, as if a swarm of bees had been let loose in it. But above the clamor rose Dempsey's outraged voice, still fighting. "You can't be sure of that! It could have been someone else! Someone Gavin Whitney had left in his place!"

"I'd know Mr. Gavin's voice anywhere," came Prescott's quiet answer. "He lived with us from the time his own parents died. Poor lad, he kept saying the same thing over and over: 'I can't believe it! Uncle Bert? I can't believe it!'"

LUNCHEON recess passed so quickly that, as the Leyden jury filed back into the courtroom, those reported words of Gavin Whitney's anguished disbelief still seemed to whisper about the smoke-stained rafters.

Mike pulled out Ellen's chair, and then his own. He wasn't especially surprised to discover that her thoughts had been running parallel to his. She said;

"If Dempsey could only prove the opportunity to kill for that Gavin Whitney! There's certainly a motive there."

"Wishful thinking, lady. After what happened to Wanzo, and all the rest of it, you're set and determined on Leyden's acquittal. But look at the facts: A hospital, a dying man, a long-distance telephone call that Prescott swears to."

"I know," admitted the girl unwillingly.

It was those very facts which packed double dynamite into the bombshell Hadrian Dempsey waited to hurl, the moment court had reconvened. The little veteran popped up from his chair alongside David Leyden like a jack-in-the-box. And what he said fell on the sudden stillness like a shattering explosion.

"May it please the Court, at this time the defense most urgently requests a postponement of trial in the light of new evidence."

Big Tom Fugazzi leaped to his feet, protesting wildly. But Judge Iglehart overrode that impassioned protest with one sharp crack of his gavel.

"Before recess," Dempsey continued excitedly, "I attempted to indicate a stronger motive for Gavin Whitney's desiring Bertram Whitney's death than any motive attributable to my client. Your Honor will perhaps recall that one witness's testimony, as to his telephone conversation with Gavin Whitney on the murder night, appeared to discredit this effort?"

"My memory hasn't started to fail me yet," His Honor said dryly. "Well?"

"Here is the affidavit of Joseph Kunz, feature writer for this city's Reporter-Dispatch"— Dempsey handed up a folded document across the bench—"as to the reply received by Kunz half an hour ago, following telegraph inquiries to Eagle Mesa Rest in Arizona."

"Inquiries?" Judge Iglehart cocked one eyebrow.

"Sensing a headline in Gavin Whitney's story, because of Prescott's testimony, Kunz wired his colleague there for details, According to the Reporter-Dispatch correspondent's reply, Whitney is not now present at the Rest. Nor was he at the Rest last October eleventh!"

"Nonsense!" Fugazzi protested. "A sick man—"

"Gavin Whitney has taken frequent 'vacations,' as much as two weeks at a time from Eagle Mesa. He is taking one now. He is listed on their records—despite Prescott's alleged conversation— as having left for another five days before his uncle was murdered."

The opportunity Ellen had been wishing for! As Mike glanced at her excited face the courtroom hummed. But Big Tom Fugazzi was far from defeated. He said smoothly:

"Your Honor, this is the case of the State versus David Leyden. Its postponement, on the grounds that someone connected with it only by far-fetched reasoning is taking a weekend, would be absurd! No evidence beyond Mr. Dempsey's vivid. imagination has linked Gavin Whitney with this case in any way. Prescott's contrary testimony is already a matter of record."

Judge Iglehart tapped the affidavit reflectively. "The Court is inclined to agree. Nothing in this paper bears legally on Bertram Whitney's death, nor on the actions of the accused."

"But Your Honor—!" cried Dempsey, his eyes wild with protest.

"Motion for postponement denied." And down cracked the judicial gavel. "The Prosecution will proceed with its next witness."

MARY DOLAN was the maid who had assisted Prescott in his efforts to arouse their employer. China-blue eyes, blond hair which had not always been blond, a body flamboyantly proud of its own curvesome perfection, a mouth as wise as Eve's behind its scarlet slash of paint. Dolan wouldn't always be a maid; but she might never become anything better. Mike knew her type.

"You have heard the testimony of the last witness, Miss Dolan. You agree with its account of the night in question?"

"Why should Prescott lie?" The girl wriggled in her chair, but not nervously. "Servants quarters are third floor rear. The shot woke me up. I ran downstairs and Prescott was in the hall, hammering on the library doors. From there on in, you got the story straight."

"Thank you, Miss Dolan." Fugazzi bowed suavely. "I merely wished to have corroboration for Prescott's statements. You saw no sign, yourself, of Mr. Leyden?"

"I did not. And being I was in my nightgown, I'd have noticed if there was a man about. Prescott's too old to count."

Amid a wave of snickers rising from the gallery, Fugazzi bowed toward the defense attorney. "Your witness."

Watching Dempsey rise out of his chair, Mike felt a queer presentiment that something vital was about to happen. That made no sense, as Dolan was the least important witness called to date. Yet something in the way the old wolf hunched his ugly body forward, his head thrust ahead of him, his eyes gleaming—

"How long had you been in Whitney's employ, Miss Dolan?" Dempsey said.

The girl shrugged. "About three years."

"We have been told the staff included three others; a cook, another maid, a chauffeur. What about them?"

"People didn't walk out on jobs at the old man's," said Mary. "Work was easy and pay high. Ching had cooked there eight years. Lizzie, the other girl, had worked two years before I came. Nick—he's the chauffeur—had been with the family since 1918."

IT WAS then, and head-on into the middle of Mary Dolan's brassy confidence, that Dempsey attacked. Mike, watching, was reminded of a cobra and its prey.

"All in Whitney's employ far longer than yourself! Yet Miss Jackman reports you received a far handsomer bequest. Why? Why?"

The girl turned so white that her rouge stood out like a circus clown's. "I—listen here, you! If you're insinuating—"

"I insinuate nothing. I happen to have known Bertram Whitney. I couldn't suspect him of carrying on with a servant girl, one young enough to be his granddaughter, at that. That's why I consider it important for the jury to learn what lay behind that gift!"

Trapped, Mary Dolan glared at him. "I won't tell!"

"Will Your Honor," requested Dempsey, suddenly gentle, "instruct the witness in the penalties for contempt of court?"

Judge Iglehart said, "Witness will answer the question."

"I—" The maid obviously started to lie. But she was shaken now, thoroughly frightened. "Mr. Whitney owed me that money. He promised me a life job, and a slice of change when he kicked off, for—something I did for him."

"Just exactly what?"

She swallowed painfully. "When I first came there, I was Mrs. Whitney's personal maid—Mrs. Gavin Whitney's I mean. I'd been her dresser at the theater, and she took me along when she married into the upper crust."

Even Dempsey looked startled at what he had uncovered. "Gavin Whitney has a wife? Who? Why has there been no previous mention of her?"

"She was Louise LaSalle, in the show business," muttered Dolan. "Plenty of looks. On the make, like what smart girl isn't? So young Whitney marries her and takes her home to Uncle. The old gent sees through her right off and figures to bust things up."

"And so?"

"For a month or better, he just watches. Then one day he comes to me and asks can I help him prove that LaSalle is cheating on Gavin, with the hoofer she used to team with in show business. A steady job and cash when the old buck passes on— that's talk a girl out on her own can understand."

"So you took on the proposition?" Dempsey was a past master of contemptuous goading.

Dolan laughed sharply, a burst of sheer bravado. "Who wouldn't? He could have found out other places, anyhow, about her and Barry Jamison. The team of Jamison and LaSalle used to headline in vaudeville. But everyone on Broadway knew they were bats about each other."

"Hoofer?" The bantam lawyer frowned. "That means dancer, I believe. They did a dancing routine, as partners?"

"With new angles," Dolan nodded. "They always had plenty of angles, those two. He'd come out in white tie and opera cape, like a magician, and work a couple of conjuring gags—you know, like pulling a white rabbit out of his hat."

"Go on."

The maid didn't seem to be relishing her spotlight. "Well, then Barry'd take off the cape, twirl it around his head, hold it up in front of him, let it drop—and there would be LaSalle, popped up through a trap door. What little she had on was like a rabbit costume, all in sequins. They'd go into their dance. It was plenty hot, too. All the old boys in the front rows went overboard every performance."

HADRIAN DEMPSEY had been pacing before the jury box with vigorous strides. "Not exactly the wife a man like Bertram Whitney would want for his nephew! And you say she was unfaithful to him?"

"Sure. It was Barry she was wild about. Sometimes, as Gavin came in the front door, Barry went out her window. That tree outside it was a regular ladder for his exits and entrances. Downstairs, we used to lay bets on whether Gavin would ever catch on. Prescott told the old man, and that's how he caught on. Gavin never did know."

"And you found little difficulty in—er— cooperating with your employer regarding his request for proof of Mrs. Gavin Whitney's unfaithfulness?"

"Why should I have had any difficulty?" the brassy blonde smirked. "LaSalle trusted me. I turn over some notes, old Whitney keeps his promise, and I'm in clover. Mrs. Gavin knew when she was licked. She cleared out without a murmur, to avoid the trouble the old boy could make for her."

"What about the nephew?"

"Him? He was just stupid about the whole business, and remained friendly with the old man. But not long after they found out his lungs were bad and sent him off to Arizona. I guess—"

The sharp, thin horror of Hattie MacRea's shriek split the calm of the courtroom like a rock shattering a mirror. Someone else—someone outside the jury box—stood up and shouted.

Mike reached for Ellen, drew her protectively against him, though she was already shielded by the thin figure of Irving Miller on the other side of her. And then—

And then the spare, sedate figure of Prescott, Whitney's butler, seemed to rise a little from its front row chair outside the railing. For a perilous instant it rode some invisible seesaw, and then it toppled forward against the oak rail. There was a neat black hole in the butler's forehead, drilled expertly between his suddenly staring eyes.

WHY Prescott? That one question formed an undercurrent for all the others, eddying in fitful horror across the penthouse living room. The court's adjournment had been so sudden that McCoy was herding his charges away even as someone else discovered that small-caliber revolver lying in the narrow aisle back of the jury box.

"Why Prescott?" muttered Emil Plimpton. "Right in front of our eyes! Right in the midst of a murder trial! It's impossible!"

"But it happened," George Eberlin said dourly. "We all saw it. And the bullet came from our direction."

Olivia Glickman clenched her thin hands together. "P-Prescott! If Gavin Whitney were present anywhere in the courtroom, Prescott could identify him. That's the only reason—Gavin's the only possible person Prescott might—"

"They haven't proved the old man's nephew came East, either now or last October," Ross pointed out. "The back wall of the jury box is what interests me. It's at least four feet high. Crouching behind it, a man could shoot and be out the side door before—but I didn't hear any shot."

"The gun," observed Mike, "had a silencer. I saw the guard turn it over to McCoy. Looked like a toy—but it worked."

Eberlin, never pleasant, snorted. "Silencer? Mrs. MacRea let out a yell to cover the shot. A very providential yell for the killer, you folks might observe."

"C-could I help that?" Not since tragedy had hit the courtroom, half an hour earlier, had the portly matron responsible for that first outcry stopped sobbing. "I saw a mouse—a big m-mouse— scuttling right past my f-foot. I—I just opened my mouth and—"

"—covered what noise the gun did make!" Harrison Meek finished for her sourly. "By Jupiter, it must be the nephew! He must be lurking hereabouts, somehow, somewhere! Why should anyone else want to kill Prescott! To silence him!"

"Why silence a man who's already spoken his piece?" Mike heard himself voicing that thought, the biggest stumbling block of all. "Why not kill him before he took the stand, if he could say anything dangerous? Logic does point to a Gavin somewhere—somewhere close to us all, able to strike when he likes. Except for him, Prescott was already out of the case."

It was like Ellen, so cool and logical, to have pondered that ahead of him. "I think I have an idea, Mike. But it's so fantastic, so difficult to imagine in detail—"

Mike glanced around the circle of tense listeners curiously. Grim, strained, afraid, they stared at Ellen. But so much had happened, facial expressions didn't mean much any more. Howard Ross's taut lips were twitching. Walter Nottage looked about ready to faint. The MacRea woman was whimpering in terror.

"Tell us, Ellen."

"Well," she began, feeling her way, "I think that Prescott's murder proves that Leyden is innocent. He didn't fire it. And the only person who would have taken a chance like that is the man who killed Bertram Whitney."

"The real murderer?"

She nodded eagerly. "Yes. Fighting for Leyden's conviction in order to save himself from suspicion. Everything that's happened to us here must be part of the killers desperate play for safety. If Prescott had suddenly remembered something, or recognized someone—and if, somehow, the murderer were watching and realized it—"

"He was in the courtroom!" Hattie MacRea cried wildly. "In the same courtroom with us! Mr. Barkley said the killer is close enough to strike when he likes. That b-butler was looking straight our way when he died. It's one of us, one of the jury, right here in this room! Gavin Whitney's here! He'll kill us all! Tonight!"

ELLEN'S hand flashed upward with calm deliberateness. Before anyone else could move, she slapped the woman's discolored face—slapped it hard. The hysterical crescendo choked to a moaning echo of its frenzy, as Hattie collapsed onto one of the divans. "You're a d- dreadful girl—a w-wicked girl! I think you killed him!" she sobbed.

"One thing," said Chester Heath, in the silence that followed. "I doubt if we'll have to spend another night in this damned place. After Prescott, they can declare a mistrial. This ought to be our last lock-up."

"The last one together, anyhow," sneered Eberlin, enjoying his bombshell. "Where did the bullet come from? That's what they'll ask. They'll lock us up in separate cells, investigating us from the ground up. Maybe one of us fired that gun."

"Holy saints!" came Leo Kearney's gasp. "Never did I think of it, but the man's right! We'll be on the carpet ourselves now. By what I've been hearin' of third degrees and the like—"

"Maybe eleven of you will be grilled. Not me! Not me, because I'm cracking this death trap now, and not one of you is going to stop me!"

As those words struck across the high tension which bound them together, Howard Ross stepped back into the mouth of the passageway leading to the kitchen. He was eying them alertly, as if he hoped someone would try to stop him. His thin face was as expressionless as stone, except for two little muscles near his mouth which twitched uncontrollably.

He was covering them all with an army Colt.

"He's going to shoot!" Olivia Glickman wailed.

Mike didn't think he was; not unless one of them moved. He prayed silently that someone wouldn't be Ellen. Somehow, she had gotten too far away from him. No quick move on his part could shield her from that unwavering muzzle now. If only she realized this man was too dangerous to be treated like Hattie MacRea—

"Stay where you are, so you won't get hurt." Ross spoke now with deadly calm. "I'm getting out of here. I'm backing down this hall and bolting the kitchen door behind me. I can shoot off the lock on the fire exit."

"Steady, Ross!" Mike said. "You can't get away. The police will be after you as soon as we can smash through into the kitchen. With the fire door open—"

"I'll have time enough!" The ex-flyer laughed shortly. "A head start's better than nothing. Suppose I waited here for the law to find out how I hate Leyden's guts? What'd they make of my sitting on their jury, waiting to hang the rat?"

"Y-you knew him before?" Plimpton managed to drown even his panic in startled surprise. "But you swore to the attorneys—"

"What's a little item like perjury?" demanded the man behind that motionless gun. "I'd sell my soul to pay Leyden off for firing me because that transport cracked up while I had a few drinks in me!"

"Ross! You—"

"Let him suffer, I told myself. Let him find out what it's like to be branded. When they drew me for jury duty, when Fugazzi and Dempsey couldn't spot me, who was I to turn down the chance to get Leyden? Sure I wanted to see Leyden dead! But I never bumped old Whitney. I never bumped that janitor, or Wanzo, or the fellow in the urn."

"You've as good as confessed!" Olivia Glickman, too, had her moments of rising above terror. "It's not probable two enemies of Leyden 'happened' to get onto this particular jury!"

"Believe what you like! I'll never hang. I'm leaving now—and don't start after me!"

Then he was gone from the archway. His swift backward retreat along the hall sent its staccato echoes back to them. Mike started for the French doors to the terrace. Ellen raced after him, suddenly comprehending, and he had to force her away from him. The others stood rooted where they were, stunned, incapable of action.

ALONG the open terrace Mike raced, and in at the last window of the line—the pantry window which Ross might, or might not, have forgotten in his hurried calculations. The sharp sound of a bolt sliding, shutting off the rest of the penthouse from the kitchen for at least a few moments, coincided with the outward jerk of a sash as Mike pulled it.

As he eased across the sill and onto the pantry floor, the desperate swiftness of Ross's movements sounded in the room beyond. Stumbling across the linoleum, the fugitive flyer had reached the fire door, which stood almost opposite the barricaded exit to the hall. Apparently he meant to shoot that lock at close range, so as to waste no bullets.

Mike picked up a cheap glass water jug from the pantry shelf.

The sharp report of Ross's first shot sounded triply loud in the narrow pantry. But through it, above or below it, came the sharp, swift rasp of the flyer's breathing. His composure had cracked now; had left only the driving terror of a mortal need.

Mike spoke from the pantry door. "Ross!"

The man whirled, his finger jerking at his trigger almost before he could identify the source of that challenge. Mike's arm had lofted. He let the carafe fly, in the split-second that Ross's gun-arm swerved. Mike had once pitched for Yale, and he always kept in condition.

Ross's first shot went wild. There wasn't a second one, for the carafe hit him on the flat of his right wrist. The gun sprang from his hand like a startled rabbit. Mike plunged forward in a jackknife dive, oblivious to the pandemonium of shrieks and poundings beyond the barred hall door.

He drove a square fist hard up under Howard Ross's jaw.

LICKING the salty blood from a split lip, five minutes later, Mike jerked back the bolt and kicked the door open, ushering his battered prisoner into the crowded hallway. He had Ross's automatic, with only two slugs shot out of it; he held it one inch from Ross's back.

"We're going into the living room," he said grimly, "and get down to business. If any of us knows what's been happening since the Leyden jury was sworn in, he's going to spill it now. We're going to have the answers ready when Sergeant McCoy comes."

No one protested, not even Eberlin, who, as jury foreman, might have resented this switch in authority. Standing against the fireplace, the gun dangling lightly from his fingers, Mike faced them.

"Most of the 'business,'" growled Plimpton, "seems to be taken care of. Ross's break proves who's guilty. What more do you need?"

"A confession might help, for one thing. Any of us might have lost his head and tried to get out of this mess we're all in."

The railroad tycoon snorted. "But blast it, man, Ross hated David Leyden! And what about that leather jacket of his—the one that was used on Miss Coburn last night?"

"I wouldn't use it myself, would I?" the battered owner of the jacket flared. "It was there in my room, for anyone to pick up. You, for instance. Suppose your railroads had had some fuss with the Whitney aircraft outfit? How do we know—"

"Why, you miserable, drunken, gun toting—"

"That's enough from both of you!" Mike put into his voice something surprisingly reminiscent of the recent gunshots in the kitchen. "Because I wouldn't have used my own jacket for a job like that, I'm willing to concede that perhaps Ross wouldn't either. Anyway, we're both going to get all the evidence we can."

"On what?"

"First, the shot that killed Prescott after he'd testified. I'm going to start along the jury box, in order, and I want each one of you to wrack your brains for anything you might have noticed at just that instant. Nottage, you sit in the left-hand rear seat—"

"But—really, Mr. Barkley, that ghastly scream! Mrs. MacRea's, I mean. I'm afraid I only put my fingers in my ears."

Mike's lips twisted. "I see. Mrs. Glickman?"

"Honestly, I can't help. I was watching Mr. Leyden listen to that Dolan creature. Then, suddenly, I heard the scream. That's all."

"Mr. Miller?"

Irving Miller had been nervously fingering through the dog-eared deck of cards he had fished from his pocket. He looked up blankly, as if his mind had been on the disappearance of an Ace of Spades. "I've been trying to remember. There wasn't anything I thought odd then."

"But now?"

"Well, admitting things look bad for Ross, still I'm wondering if anybody but myself heard a floor board in the aisle back of the jury box creak ever so lightly. Just before Mrs. MacRea's mouse."

DEAD silence filled the room, a silence of waiting. Nobody broke it, and at last Miller cleared his throat and said diffidently, "I suppose I could be wrong."

"Miss Coburn"—Mike almost stumbled over the formality—"you sat between Miller and myself. What about you?"

Standing there against a background circle of masculine shoulders—Miller's, Eberlin's, Leo Kearney's—Ellen seemed even slimmer and more fragile than before. Her head caught the noon light like a single golden jonquil. And Ross might have harmed her! If she'd made a wrong move, while that man had held his gun—

"I—I'm not sure, Mike. I keep having the strangest feeling that I did notice something— something important, but not the sound Mr. Miller believes he heard. It was something I saw, I'm almost sure."

"Try, Ellen! Try to remember!"

It was while his eyes were pleading with her, fixed earnestly on her face, that the change came. One instant, a frown of concentration puckered her forehead. The next, the frown was gone and her face was utterly expressionless, like a wiped slate.

She wasn't trying to remember anything any more—but not because she had succeeded in remembering.

"Sorry," she said reluctantly. "It's no use. I can't call it back, if it was anything."

That made no sense, yet something in Mike's heart told him why that change had come. He knew, and his blood pounded furiously to that knowledge.

No, it made no sense. And yet somehow, in that breathless interval, someone had managed to tell Ellen she would die if her lips formed the words that were on her tongue!

Yet no one had spoken. In the tense, listening silence, the merest breath of sound would have been underscored. No one could have warned her to silence that way. And any gesture visible to her would also have been visible to others. In any event, she had been looking straight back into Mike's own eyes. She couldn't have seen—

But she could have felt!

MIKE knew the answer, even as the sharp sting of realization penetrated the numb surprise in his brain. Felt what? Only a gun muzzle or a knife, surely, could have communicated so instantly and unmistakably a message of peril. Gun? Knife?

The words beat over and over again in his mind as he looked past the girl's bright head and took in its background. Miller, spectacled and mild. Eberlin, with his hard-bitten face and mean little eyes. Kearney—tough, redheaded, now as watchful as a lynx. Only one of those three could possibly be touching Ellen now!

An instant instinct to guard Ellen, to shield her, prompted him to pass on hastily; to question himself, and then Meek who had sat on his right, and then the others; to push the unspoken threat of this moment back into oblivion, as if it never had been. For the killer would not shoot or stab if the danger of revelation passed him by.

Yes, but that danger, once become a fact, could not pass. For now that Ellen knew what she had seen was vital, the murderer couldn't let her live. It might not happen now, while Mike was on his guard against it, but later—before she could speak—

"You're certain it was nothing?" He had to spar for time.

"Quite sure." It wasn't Ellen's voice; it was remote and brittle and toneless, something shut away from him behind a glass wall. Mike knew that the wall's name was Terror.

"I—that disappoints me. We don't seem to be getting very far." Miller? No; Miller had been in bed in the room they shared when Wanzo had gone to his death. Eberlin? He'd been the one to urge Leyden's conviction, but— Kearney?

It had been Kearney who thought up the chimes-and-paper gag, that stunt to prove—no, to seem to prove—they were menaced by some outside peril. Kearney, again, who claimed the paper scrap had fallen from its perch after that first attack on Ellen. Kearney who called their attention to that body in the urn—which someone else must surely have discovered eventually, and perhaps less opportunely.

As if brooding on his own misgivings, Mike heaved forward. The scowl of preoccupation never left his face. He wasn't even looking at Ellen, as he strode nearer. He said:

"There must be something! Twelve people couldn't sit mere feet or inches from an exploding gun, even a silenced one, even one camouflaged by a scream, without—"

He stood so close to Ellen, now, that he might have touched her. But he didn't. There wasn't even time to push her out of the way. He merely balled his big fist again, as he had done so recently in the kitchen, and let it fly. Where it flew—with everything he had in the way of muscle behind it— was on a straight line with Irving Miller's lean, pointed jaw. . . .

A GUN barked. It wasn't the gun Mike had held, because he had dropped that in order to free his right hand. Plaster showered down from the ceiling, where the bullet had dug a nasty furrow. White flakes of it powdered Miller's twisted face, as Mike sprang onto him to keep that muzzle pointing high.

The wrist his fingers had closed on was slender, but tough. It writhed away from him like a slippery eel. He had to clamp down hard. His weight carried Miller over backward, completing the work that unexpected blow had begun on the man's balance. When they fell, Mike was on top.

When they fell, something else happened too. The prominent teeth which had given his roommate much of that gaping goldfish look jarred loose and bounced out. Other teeth showed behind them; small, regular, yellow with tobacco stains.

Mike straddled him panting, forcing down the man's writhing body, despite every trick Miller could summon to break his grip. Miller's sharp knee tortured him, Miller's claws left welts along his forearms, Miller's teeth found the flesh of one hand and bit deep. Cursing, Mike held on.

"It had to be somebody," he panted, "with clever fingers. Eberlin's too old, too stiff. Kearney's mitts are muscle-bound from hauling around ten-ton trucks. But you did card tricks and—" Mike broke off. "Say!" he yelled, stung by a new idea. "Wait a minute! By heaven, so did that hoofer Romeo that's sweet on Gavin Whitney's wife—the one Bertram Whitney found out about!"

As Miller began cursing hotly, Mike gave a sharp twist to the man's gun-hand, twisting steadily, willing to snap the wrist, if necessary. He understood a lot of things now. Those false teeth, for instance—

"Barry Jamison—that's who you are!" he gritted. "The dance partner of Gavin Whitney's wife! Only a guy as quick and light on his feet as a dancer could have played phantom all over this penthouse without our catching him!"

"You crazy, raving—"

Mike went on swiftly. "You used all your knowledge of stage makeup, with that phony dental plate and the glasses and—yep—dye in your hair. And so Prescott didn't recognize you—not until Dolan's story began to jog his memory. Then he did. And when you caught him studying you, watching you, you knew he'd catch wise and talk, so—"

The tiny revolver dropped suddenly from fingers aflame with agony. But Mike was too deep in his thoughts to notice that. "You killed Bertram Whitney and planned things so Leyden would die too. Then Gavin could step in, as the nearest of kin, to sue for the unprobated fortune.

"Your lady friend, being Gavin's wife, could grab the money. Or would you have killed him, too?"

"You're breaking my wrist!" Miller snarled.

Inspiration was rattling in Mike's brain now like machine-gun fire. "Miller! Miller must have been one of the jurors actually summoned for our panel! And somehow you got yourself into his place. Where—? The man in the urn! That was the real Miller!"

"My wrist, damn you! My—wrist!"

"You lured him up here, after you'd killed Murphy for his key. No, you'd not even need that. Nottage did this penthouse over for a show girl. Louise LaSalle! You'd have her key."

"Stop! Stop, in God's name—ahh!"

Only then did Mike realize he was still punishing that twisted wrist; that at last he must have snapped it.

Mike stopped—but not until he had looked up into Ellen's sick, white face and Ellen understood what he wanted. She bent swiftly to scoop up the fallen miniature weapon—twin to that gun picked up behind the jury box—from "Miller's" possible reach.

"Now give! That telephone alibi Prescott gave Gavin?" Mike said.

SNARLING in torment, the man beneath him slackened against the rug. "Louise was his 'nurse.' The call came to his private room. She had a record of his voice. The sucker had made it, just the way she told him, while we had him hopped up with dope. We didn't want him suspected, and we knew what the news would be. The only trick was to keep Prescott from asking direct questions. Louise saw to that."

"But Gavin's absences from Eagle Mesa?"

"There's always the outside chance of a slipup—like that damned reporter, that snoop Kunz." It still was difficult for the panting murderer between Mike's knees to talk. "We had to have a cover-up act all ready. That was Gavin."

"Why?" Mike demanded.

"If Leyden got off, and if the scent got hot, we could shove the job off on him. We kept him too doped to remember where he'd been, on those vacations. He had plenty of motive—crazy about Louise, and not really dying, as his uncle thought when he cut him off with a lousy little trust fund."

"Gavin wasn't in this even as a tool, then?"

"Hell, no!" Then a crafty anger came into his eyes. Plainly, Barry Jamison realized he had missed a bet.

Just for remembrance, Mike made a gesture toward the mangled wrist. "You killed Whitney? You came in through his window—using that tree Mary Dolan told us about—after Leyden had gone?"

"I telephoned Leyden that night," Jamison grated between set teeth. "Boasted that I meant to murder the old fool. But I didn't say who I was, of course. I bragged that Whitney was defenseless without a weapon in his house. I made it sound like a screwball, a haywire employee, sore because the factory had been closed."

"Hoping Leyden would dash for Whitney's house, to warn him and leave protection behind—a gun you'd remove later? A gun the State could prove Leyden had brought with him when he came?"

"It worked, didn't it?" the man beneath him said defiantly. "I was watching, outside the window. Then I climbed the tree, up to Louise's old room. She'd had her telephone separate from the regular house line and the wiring was still in. I've done enough stuff with stage lights, in tank road companies, to know my way around with a wire or two."

"What then?"

JAMISON'S stare was onyx-hard, fixed on Mike's unrelenting face. "I called the Whitney number, just as the library door opened, to keep Prescott in the kitchen. I put on an act about a woman with a sick baby. Prescott never saw Leyden leave at all."

"You must have blessed that tree and window," Mike said in a hard tone. "A seeming exit for a 'guilty' Leyden—an actual one for you! You and your girl friend certainly thought of everything, planning to get your hands on Whitney's fortune. Gavin wouldn't have lived long enough to enjoy it, would he, once it came to him?"

"A worm like that? Why shouldn't we get rid of him?" Bravado tinged the words. "It was a natural! We had every angle figured; what I was to do in the courtroom if Dolan or Prescott spotted me— everything. Louise is smart. And she's got oomph—lots of it."

Defiant laughter burst from Jamison's lips.

"Young Gavin couldn't stay away from her, the sucker! She's like breathing or eating, to him. When we first figured the job, she wrote him how he should pretend to be sick, so he could come west to the private hospital of a doctor friend of hers. He scuttled out to her like a shot, because it meant they could be together. Old Whitney couldn't refuse to pay his bills there. And of course nobody figured I was the doc."

None of them heard the elevator door slide open and Sergeant McCoy was well into the room before the frozen little group became aware of him. He stood there, the blue-coated guards he had brought along to post for the night behind him, as if the scene he beheld were proof of the Leyden Jury's mass insanity.

"So you're playin' rough already, eh? Well, you'll be findin' out what rough is, unless one o' you comes clean on that Prescott shootin'! And while we're about it, which of you loonies was playin' practical jokes in the courtroom?"

McCoy held up his hand. In it was the final evidence of that cleverness, that attention to detail, which had marked every move in the ambitious scheme of Barry Jamison and Louise LaSalle. And yet the object itself was so simple, so foolish, that Olivia Glickman burst into a sudden irrepressible giggle and Mike swore softly.

What McCoy held up for them to see was a child's rubber mouse. . . .

IT WAS twilight when the elevator spilled eleven passengers into the ornate lobby of the Liberty. Spring twilight, as purple as smoke, as fragrant as lilacs in the rain. Mike held fast to Ellen's elbow as he guided her out into the fresh air; into a light- gilded street which once had seemed distant sanctuary, but now was only a street again.

"It—it's good to get away from that place and that horrible man," Ellen said breathlessly. "Somehow, everything seemed even more evil and sordid after we'd found out than—than before."

"Sure," agreed Mike morosely. "Sure." He wasn't thinking about Barry Jamison. For now he had that thing which had seemed more important than life itself, so recently: he had his freedom.

"Wanzo would have acquitted Leyden." Ellen seemed to be talking against time, as if she were afraid of silence. "I suppose poor Wanzo did have to die, considering their abominable scheme. I can see why Jamison tricked him into sharing a search for the 'intruder,' met him on the terrace, and threw him over."

"Sure." Mike nodded again.

"But I never did quite understand about Murphy, not even after Sergeant McCoy started asking questions and—and using his fists."

Mike explained dully. "The main point was to scare us into convicting Leyden. But it had to seem as if an outsider was threatening us. Murphy's was the only fire-door key we were at all likely to realize existed, so it had to appear that Murphy was killed for that key. That was just window dressing, Ellen."

"With a man's life!" she cried, aghast.

"Yes. Just window dressing. The same as those rolled-up blankets Jamison admits having fixed in his bed to fool me, if I woke up while he was meeting Wanzo that second night."

"And the tie?" But Ellen didn't sound as if she was really thinking about green neckties with yellow transverse stripes.

"Jamison himself was wearing that tie, when he inveigled the real Miller upstairs to die. Imagine climbing up two stories of a hotel fire escape, Ellen, just because a stranger you'd met in a bar claimed he could introduce you to someone who could quash a jury summons! Yet Jamison says the real Miller did just that."

"You didn't want to serve, either," said Ellen soberly. "But what about that tie?"

"Jamison told McCoy he still had it on when he went after Murphy in the courthouse washroom. Murphy grabbed it, ripped off one end. Jamison had to sprint out and buy a new tie before court convened." Mike was reciting from memory like a kid in school. "He was scared stiff, until he got the evidence out of his pocket there in the penthouse. He meant to burn it that night. But then you—"

Ellen nodded vigorously and, with a wry smile, said:

"I certainly must have been a thorn in his flesh! Even at the end, when I almost remembered noticing he'd used his left hand for fiddling with his cards while his right was in his pocket—just before Mrs. MacRea saw the mouse and screamed."

"That might have hanged him, if you'd ever understood what you saw. He couldn't have risked your telling about it."

She tried to laugh. "I guess I ought to thank you prettily for saving my life, before I call a taxi," she said.

Taxi! That meant Ellen was leaving him. It meant he wouldn't see her again. He could ask her for a date, but—well, the answer to that was in her averted blue eyes. Ellen was so sensible.

Mike fumed and fretted inwardly, trying to think of something to say, and finding not one word that would sound reasonable. Darn it, if Ellen got a cab—

"Here comes one!" She lifted a hand in signal. "Well—good luck, Mike. Have fun tonight. I know that lovely, stormy-eyed girl will forgive you."

"No she won't!" Mike barred her way, determined to hold her. "She doesn't love me— never has and never will Anyway; a girl like Faustine could never forgive a man for what I've done. She's a vain, spoiled—"

He ran out of breath, took a long deep one, and began again. "She never did care—neither did I. Not really. She's so unreasonable and vain—"

Ellen trembled, as if she were cold. "Silly! She must know by now it was jury duty that kept you. Any girl could understand that. You—why, Mike, you had no choice!"

Mike's eyes shone with sudden fervor, and he said:

"You're right. Could I have helped falling in love with you? Could I help getting into this taxi with you now, whether you like it or not? There would have been a choice, maybe, if she and I had really loved each other."

"Mike!" she said, suddenly radiant.

"Ellen!" He pulled her roughly, yet tenderly, into his arms. The taxi driver was grinning. "You will marry me, won't you? You've got to marry me. I darn well didn't save your life for any other man!"

(The End.)