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Ten Little Niggers: Page 30
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Somehow - now - nothing seems to matter... not in daylight... I feel full of power -
I feel that I can't die..."
Blore was looking at his wrist-watch. He said:
"It's two o'clock. What about lunch?"
Vera said obstinately:
"I'm not going back to the house. I'm going to stay here - in the open."
"Oh, come now, Miss Claythorne. Got to keep your strength up, you know."
"If I even see a tinned tongue, I shall be sick! I don't want any food. People go
days on end with nothing sometimes when they're on a diet."
"Well, I need my meals regular. What about you, Mr. Lombard?"
"You know, I don't relish the idea of tinned tongue particularly. I'll stay here with
Blore hesitated. Vera said:
"I shall be quite all right. I don't think he'll shoot me as soon as your back is
turned if that's what you're afraid of."
"It's all right if you say so. But we agreed we ought not to separate."
"You're the one who wants to go into the lion's den. I'll come with you if you like?"
"No, you won't," said Blore. "You'll stay here."
"So you're still afraid of me? Why, I could shoot you both this very minute if I
"Yes, but that wouldn't be according to plan. It's one at a time, and it's got to be
done in a certain way."
"Well," said Philip, "you seem to know all about it."
"Of course," said Blore, "it's a bit jumpy going up to the house alone -"
Philip said softly:
"And therefore, will I lend you my revolver? Answer, no, I will not! Not quite so
simple as that, thank you."
Blore shrugged his shoulders and began to make his way up the steep slope to
Lombard said softly:
"Feeding time at the Zoo! The animals are very regular in their habits!"
Vera said anxiously:
"Isn't it very risky, what he's doing?"
"In a sense you mean - no, I don't think it is! Armstrong's not armed, you know,
and anyway Blore is twice a match for him in physique and he's very much on his
guard. And anyway it's a sheer impossibility that Armstrong can be in the house.
I know he's not there."
"But - what other solution is there?"
Philip said softly:
"Oh - do you really think -?"
"Listen, my girl. You heard Blore's story. You've got to admit that if it's true, I
can't possibly have had anything to do with Armstrong's disappearance. His story
clears me. But it doesn't clear him. We've only his word for it that he heard
footsteps and saw a man going downstairs and out at the front door. The whole
thing may be a lie. He may have got rid of Armstrong a couple of hours before
Lombard shrugged his shoulders.
"That we don't know. But if you ask me, we've only one danger to fear - and that
danger is Blore! What do we know about the man? Less than nothing! All this ex-
policeman story may be bunkum! He may be anybody - a mad millionaire - a
crazy business man - an escaped inmate of Broadmoor. One thing's certain. He
could have done every one of these crimes."
Vera had gone rather white. She said in a slightly breathless voice:
"And supposing he gets - us?"
Lombard said softly, patting the revolver in his pocket:
"I'm going to take very good care he doesn't."
Then he looked at her curiously.
"Touching faith in me, haven't you, Vera? Quite sure I wouldn't shoot you?"
"One has got to trust some one... As a matter of fact I think you're wrong about
Blore. I still think it's Armstrong."
She turned to him suddenly.
"Don't you feel - all the time - that there's some one. Some one watching and
Lombard said slowly:
"That's just nerves."
Vera said eagerly:
"Then you have felt it?"
She shivered. She bent a little closer.
"Tell me - you don't think -" She broke off, went on: "I read a story once - about
two judges that came to a small American town - from the Supreme Court. They
administered justice - Absolute Justice. Because - they didn't come from this
world at all..."
Lombard raised his eyebrows.
"Heavenly visitants, eh? No, I don't believe in the supernatural. This business is
Vera said in a low voice:
"Sometimes - I'm not sure..."
Lombard looked at her. He said:
"That's conscience..." After a moment's silence he said very quietly: "So you did
drown that kid after all?"
Vera said vehemently:
"I didn't! I didn't! You've no right to say that!"
He laughed easily.
"Oh, yes, you did, my good girl! I don't know why. Can't imagine. There was a
man in it probably. Was that it?"
A sudden feeling of lassitude, of intense weariness, spread over Vera's limbs. She
said in a dull voice:
"Yes - there was a man in it..."
Lombard said softly:
"Thanks. That's what I wanted to know..."
Vera sat up suddenly. She exclaimed:
"What was that? It wasn't an earthquake?"
"No, no. Queer, though - a thud shook the ground. And I thought - did you hear a
sort of cry? I did."
They stared up at the house.
"It came from there. We'd better go up and see."
"No, no, I'm not going."
"Please yourself. I am."
Vera said desperately:
"All right. I'll come with you."
They walked up the slope to the house. The terrace was peaceful and innocuous-
looking in the sunshine. They hesitated there a minute, then instead of entering
by the front door, they made a cautious circuit of the house.
They found Blore. He was spread-eagled on the stone terrace on the east side, his
head crushed and mangled by a great block of white marble.
Philip looked up. He said:
"Whose is that window just above?"
Vera said in a low shuddering voice:
"It's mine - and that's the clock from my mantelpiece... I remember now. It was -
shaped like a bear."
She repeated and her voice shook and quavered:
'It was shaped like a bear..."
Philip grasped her shoulder.
He said, and his voice was urgent and grim:
"This settles it. Armstrong is in hiding somewhere in that house. I'm going to get
But Vera clung to him. She cried:
"Don't be a fool. It's us now! We're next! He wants us to look for him! He's
counting on it!"
Philip stopped. He said thoughtfully:
"There's something in that."
"At any rate, you do admit now I was right."
"Yes - you win! It's Armstrong all right. But where the devil did he hide himself?
We went over the place with a fine-tooth comb."
Vera said urgently:
"If you didn't find him last night, you won't find him now... That's common-
Lombard said reluctantly:
"Yes, but -"
"He must have prepared a secret place beforehand - naturally - of course it's just
what he would do. You know, like a Priest's Hole in old manor houses."
"This isn't an old house of that kind."
"He could have had one made."
Philip Lombard shook his head.
"We measured the place - that first morning. I'll swear there's no space
"There must be..."
"I'd like to see -"
"Yes, you'd like to see! And he knows that! He's in there - waiting for you."
Lombard said, half bringing out the revolver from his pocket:
"I've got this, you know."
"You said Blore was all right - that he was more than a match for Armstrong. So
he was physically, and he was on the lookout too. But what you don't seem to
realize is that Armstrong is mad! And a madman has all the advantages on his
side. He's twice as cunning as any one sane can be."
Lombard put back the revolver in his pocket. He said:
"Come on, then."
Lombard said at last:
"What are we going to do when night comes?"
Vera didn't answer. He went on accusingly:
"You haven't thought of that?"
She said helplessly:
"What can we do? Oh, my God, I'm frightened..."
Philip Lombard said thoughtfully:
"It's fine weather. There will be a moon. We must find a place - up by the top
cliffs perhaps. We can sit there and wait for morning. We mustn't go to sleep...
We must watch the whole time. And if any one comes up towards us, I shall
"You'll be cold, perhaps, in that thin dress?"
Vera said with a raucous laugh:
"Cold? I should be colder if I were dead!"
Philip Lombard said quietly:
"Yes, that's true..."
Vera moved restlessly.
"I shall go mad if I sit here any longer. Let's move about."
They paced slowly up and down, along the line of the rocks overlooking the sea.
The sun was dropping towards the west.
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