Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Seabury Quinn: The Man in Crescent Terrace

Seabury Quinn:, The Man in Crescent Terrace, Tales of mystery, Relatos de terror, Horror stories, Short stories, Science fiction stories, Italo Calvino, Leggenda di Carlomagno, Anthology of horror, Antología de terror, Anthology of mystery, Antología de misterio, Scary stories, Scary Tales, Science Fiction Short Stories, Historias de ciencia ficcion


BUT THIS is most pleasant, vraiment,” Jules told me as we reached the corner where the black-and-orange sign announced a bus stop. “The moteur, he is a convenience. Yes, Whiz-pouf! he takes you where you wish to go all quickly, and sifflement! he brings you back all soon. But where there is no need for haste — non. It is that we grow soft and lazy substituting gasoline for walking-muscle, Friend Trowbridge. Is it not better that we walk on such a lovely evening?”
The brief October dusk had deepened into dark as if a curtain had been drawn across the sky, and in the east a star sprang out and a cluster of little stars blinked after it. A little breeze came up and rustled faintly in the almost-leafless maples, but it seemed to me a faint sound of uneasiness came from them, not the comfortable cradle-song of evening, but a sort of restrained moaning.
And with the sibilation of the wind there came the sound of running footsteps, high heels pounding in a sharp staccato on the sidewalk with a drumming-like panic made audible. The diffused glow of a street showed her to us as she ran, hurrying with the awkward, knock-kneed gait of a woman unused to sprinting, casting fearful looks across her shoulder each few steps, but never slackening her terror-goaded pace. It was not until she was almost within touching distance that she saw us, and gave vent to a gasp of relief mingled with fright.
“Help!” she panted, then, almost fiercely, “run — run! He
— it’s coming....”
“Tenez, who is it comes, Mademoiselle?” de Grandin asked. “Tell us who it is annoys you. I shall take pleasure in tweaking his nose—”
“Run — run, you fool!” the girl broke in hysterically, clutching at my lapel as a drowning person might clutch at a floating plank. “If it catches me—” Her breathless words blurred out and the stiffness seemed to go from her knees as she slumped against me, flaccid as a rag-doll.
I braced her slight weight in my arms, half turning as I did so, and felt the warm stickiness of fresh blood soak through my glove. “De Grandin,” I exclaimed, “she’s been hurt —
bleeding—”
“Hein?” he deflected the sharp gaze which he had leveled down the darkened street. “What is it that you say — mordieu, but you have right, Friend Trowbridge! We must see to her — hola, taxi, à moi, tout vite!” he waved imperatively at the rattletrap cab that providentially emerged from the tree-arched tunnel of the street.

“Sorry, gents,” the driver slowed but did not halt his
vehicle, “I’m off duty an’ got just enough gas to git back to
the garage—”
“Pardieu, then you must reassume the duty right away, at
once, immediately!” de Grandin broke in. “We are
physicians and this lady has been injured. We must convey
her to the surgery for treatment, and I have five — non, three
— dollars to offer as an incentive—”
“I heard you the first time, chief,” the cabby interrupted.
“For five dollars it’s a deal. Hop in. Where to?”
Our impromptu patient had not regained consciousness
when we reached my house, and while de Grandin concluded
fiscal arrangements with the chauffeur I carried her
up the front steps and into the surgery. She could not have
weighed a hundred pounds, for she was slightly, almost
boyishly built, and the impression of boyishness was
heightened by the way in which her flaxen blond hair was
cropped closely at back and sides and combed straight back
from her forehead in short soft waves. Her costume added
little to her weight. It was a dress of black watered silk consisting
of a sleeveless blouse cut at the neckline in the
Madame Chiang manner and a pleated skirt that barely
reached her knees. She wore no hat, but semi-elbow length
gloves of black suede fabric were on her hands and her slim,
small, unstockinged feet were shod with black suede sandals
criss-crossed with straps of gold. If she had had a handbag it
had been lost or thrown away in her panic-stricken flight.
“Ah — so, let us see what is to be done,” de Grandin
ordered as I laid my pretty burden on the examination table.
Deftly he undid the row of tiny jet buttons that fastened the
girl’s blouse at the shoulder, and with a series of quick,
gentle tweaks and twitches drew the garment over her head.
She wore neither slip nor bandeau, only the briefest of sheer
black-crêpe step-ins; we had only to turn her on her side to
inspect her injury.
This was not very extensive, being an incised wound some
four inches long beginning just beneath the right scapula and
slanting toward the vertebral aponeurosis at an angle of
about sixty degrees. At its commencement it was quite deep,
striking through the derma to subcutaneous tissue, but at
termination it trailed off to a mere superficial skin wound. It
was bleeding freely, and its clean-cut edges gaped widely
owing to the elasticity of the skin and the retraction of the
fibrous tissue. “H’m,” de Grandin murmured as he bent
above the wound. “From the cleanness of its lips this cut was
THE MAN IN CRESCENT TERRACE 1327
evidently inflicted by a razor or a knife that had been honed
to razor-sharpness. Do not you agree, Friend Trowbridge?”
I looked across his shoulder and nodded.
“Précisément. And from the way it slants and from the
fact that it is so much deeper at commencement than at
termination, one may assume the miscreant who inflicted it
stole up behind her, hoping to take her by surprise, but struck
a split-second too late. The blow was probably directed with
a slicing motion at her neck, but she was already in flight
when her assailant struck. Tiens, as things are, she had luck
with her, this little pretty poor one. A little deeper and the
weapon might have struck into the rhomboideus, a little to
the right, it might have sliced an artery. As it is—” He wiped
the welling blood away, sponged the wound and surrounding
epidermis with alcohol and pinched the gaping lips of the
incision together in perfect apposition, then laid a pad of
gauze on the closed wound and secured it with a length of
adhesive plaster. “Voilà,” he looked up with an elfin grin.
“She are almost good like new now I damn think, Friend
Trowbridge. Her gown is still too wet with blood for
wearing, but—” he paused a moment, eyes narrowed in
thought, then: “Excuse me one small, little second, if you
please,” he begged and rushed from the surgery.
I could hear him rummaging about upstairs, and wondered
what amazing notion might have taken possession of his
active, unpredictable French brain, but before I had a chance
to call to him he came back with a pleased smile on his lips
and a Turkish towel from the linen closet draped across his
arm. “Regard me, Friend Trowbridge,” he ordered. “See
what a fellow of infinite resource I am.” He wrapped the
soft, tufted fabric about the girl’s slim torso, covering her
from armpits to knees, and fastened the loose end of the
towel with a pair of safety pins. “Morbleu, I think perhaps a
brilliant couturier was lost when I decided to become a
physician,” he announced as he surveyed his handiwork.
“Does she not look très chic in my creation? By damn it, I
shall say she does!”
“Humph,” I admitted, “she’s adequately covered, if that’s
any satisfaction to you.”
“I had expected more enthusiastic praise,” he told me as
he drew the corners of his mouth down, “but — que voulezvous?
— the dress-designer like the prophet must expect to
be unhonored in his own country. Yes.” He nodded gloomily
and lifted the girl from the table to an easy chair, taking care
to turn her so her weight would not impinge upon her injured
shoulder.
He passed a bottle of ammonium carbonate beneath her
nostrils, and as the pungent fumes made her nose wrinkle in
the beginnings of a sneeze and her pale lids fluttered faintly:
“So, Mademoiselle, you are all better now? But certainly.
Drink this, if you will be so kind.” He held a glass of brandy
to her lips. “Ah, that is good, n’est-ce-pas? Morbleu, I think
it is so good that I shall have a small dose of the same!
“And now,” with small fists on his hips and arms akimbo
he took his stand before her, “will you have the kindness to
tell us all about it?”
She cowered back in the chair and we could see a pulse
flutter in her throat. Her eyes were almost blank, but fear
stared from them like a death’s head leering from a window.
“Who are — where am I?” she begged piteously. “Where is
it? Did you see it?” As her fingers twisted and untwisted
themselves in near-hysteria, then came in contact with the
towel swathed round her. They seemed to feel it
unbelievingly, as if they had an intelligence separate from
the rest of her. Then she looked down, gave a startled,
gasping cry and leaped from the chair. “Where am I?” she
demanded. “What has happened to me? Why am I dressed in
— in this?”
De Grandin pressed her gently back in the chair. “One
question and one answer at a time, if you please, Mademoiselle.
You are in the house of Dr. Samuel Trowbridge.
This is he,” he bowed in my direction, “and I am Dr. Jules de
Grandin. You have been injured, though not seriously, and
that is why you were brought here when you swooned in the
street. The garment you are wearing is fashioned from a bath
towel. I am responsible for it, and thought it quite chic,
though neither you nor Dr. Trowbridge seem to fancy it,
which is a great pity and leaves your taste in dress open to
question. You have it on because your gown was disfigured
when you were hurt; also it is a little soiled at present. That
can and will be remedied shortly.
“Now,” his little round blue eyes twinkled and he laughed
reassuringly, “I have answered your questions. Will not you
be so kind as to answer ours?”
Some of the fear went out of her eyes and she managed to
contrive a little smile. People usually smiled back at de
Grandin. “I guess I’ve been seeing too many horror films,”
she confessed. “I saw the operating table and the bandages
and instruments, and smelled the medicines, then when I
realized I was dressed in this my first thought was that I’d
been kidnaped and—”
De Grandin’s shout of laughter drowned her half-ashamed
confession. “Mordieu, you thought that you were in the
house of Monsieur Dracula J. Frankenstein, and that the evil,
mad surgeons were about to make a guinea-pig or white
rabbit of you, n’est-ce-pas, Mademoiselle? I assure you that
fear is quite groundless. Dr. Trowbridge is an eminently
respectable practitioner, and while I have been accused of
many things, human vivisection is not one of them.
“Some three-quarters of an hour ago Dr. Trowbridge and
I stood at Colfax and Dorondo Streets, waiting for an
1328 THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURES OF JULES DE GRANDIN
omnibus. We observed you coming toward us, running like
Atalanta racing from the suitors, and obviously very much
afraid. When you reached us you cried out for us to run also,
then swooned in Dr. Trowbridge’s arms. It was then we saw
that you had been injured. Alors, we did the proper thing.
We bundled you into a taxi and brought you here for
treatment. You know why we removed your dress, and why
you wear my own so smart creation.
“That puts you in possession of the facts, Mademoiselle.
It is for you to tell us what transpired before we met. You
may speak freely, for we are physicians, and anything you
say will be held in strict confidence. Also, if we can, we
shall be glad to help you.”
She gave him a small grateful smile. “I think you’ve done
a lot to help me already, sir. I am Edina Laurace and I live
with my aunt, Mrs. Dorothy Van Artsdalen at 1840
Pennington Parkway. This afternoon I called on some friends
living in Clinton Avenue, and walked through Crescent
Terrace to Dorondo Street to take a number four bus. I was
almost through the Terrace when—” she stopped, and we
could see the flutter of a little blue vein at the base of her
throat as her heart action quickened — “when I heard
someone running.”
“Parbleu, another runner?” murmured Jules de Grandin.
Aloud he ordered: “Proceed, if you please, Mademoiselle.”
“Naturally, I looked around. It was getting dark, and I was
all alone—”
“One understands. And then what was it that you saw?”
“A man was running toward me. Not exactly toward me,
but in the same direction I was going. He was a poor-looking
man; that is, his clothes were out of press and seemed too
loose for him, and his shoes scuffed on the pavement as he
ran — you know how a bum’s shoes sound — as if they
were about two sizes too large? He seemed almost out of
breath and scared of something, for every few steps he’d
glance back across his shoulder. Then I saw what he was
running from, and started to run, too. It was—” her hands
went up to her eyes, as if to shut some frightful vision out,
and she trembled as if a sudden draft of cold air had blown
on her — “it was a mummy!”
“A what?” I demanded.
“Comment?” Jules de Grandin almost barked.
“All right,” she answered as a faint flush stained her pale
cheeks, “tell me I’m crazy. I still say it was a mummy; one
of those things you see in museums, you know. It was tall,
almost six feet, and bone-thin. As far as I could make out it
was about the color of a tan shoe and seemed to be entirely
unclothed. It ran in a peculiar sort of way, not like a man, but
sort o’ jerkily, like a marionette moved by unseen wires; but
it ran fast. The man behind me ran with all his might, but it
kept gaining on him without seeming to exert itself at all.”
Her recitation seemed to recall her terror, for her breathing
quickened as she spoke and she paused to swallow every few
words. “At first I thought the mummy had a cane in its hand,
but as it came neater I saw it was a stick about two — maybe
three — feet long, tipped with a long, flat spearhead made of
gold, or perhaps copper.
“You know how it is when you’re frightened that way.
You run for all you’re worth, yet somehow you have to keep
looking back. That’s the way I was. I’d run a little way, then
feel I had to look back. Maybe I couldn’t quite convince
myself it was a mummy. It was, all right, and it was gaining
steadily on the man behind me.
“Just as I reached Dorondo Street I heard an awful cry.
Not exactly a scream, and not quite a shout, but a sort of
combination of the two, like ‘ow-o-o-oh!’ and I looked back
just in time to see the mummy slash the man with its spear.
It didn’t stab him. It chopped him with the edge of its
weapon. That’s when he yelled.” She paused a moment and
let her breath out in a long, quivering sigh. “He didn’t fall;
not right away. He sort o’ staggered, stumbling over his own
feet, or tripping over something that wasn’t there, then reeled
forward a few steps, with his arms spread out as if he
reached for something to break his fall. Then he went down
upon his face and lay there on the sidewalk perfectly still,
with his arm. and legs spread out like an X.”
“And then?” de Grandin prompted softly as she paused
again.
“Then the thing stood over him and began sticking him
with its spear. It didn’t move fast nor seem in any hurry; it
just stood over him and stuck the spear into him again and
again, like — like a woman testing a cake with a broomstraw,
if that means anything to you.”
De Grandin nodded grimly. “It does, indeed, Mademoiselle.
And then?”
“Then I did start to run, and presently I saw it coming
after me. I kept looking back, like I told you, and for a while
I didn’t see it; then all at once there it was, moving jerkily,
and sort o’ weaving back and forth across the sidewalk,
almost as if it weren’t quite sure which way I’d gone. That
gave me an idea. I ran until I came to a dark spot in the road,
the point between two street lamps where the light was
faintest, and rushed across the street, running on tiptoes.
Then I ran quietly as I could down the far side of the road,
keeping to the shadows as much as possible. For a time I
thought I’d shaken it, for when it came to where I’d crossed
the street it seemed to pause and look about. Then it seemed
to realize what I’d done and came across to my side. Three
times I crossed the street, and each time I gained a few yards
on it; but I was getting out of breath and knew I couldn’t
keep the race up much longer.
THE MAN IN CRESCENT TERRACE 1329
“Then I had another idea. From the way the creature ran
it seemed to me it must be blind, or almost so, and followed
me by sound more than sight. So next time I crossed the
street instead of running I hid behind a big tree. Sure enough,
when the thing came over it seemed at fault, and stood there,
less than ten feet from me, turning round and round, pointing
its spear first one way, then another, like a blind man feeling
with his cane for some familiar object.
“It might have missed me altogether if I could have stayed
stock-still, but when I got a close-up look at it — it was so
terrible I couldn’t keep a gasp of terror back. That did it. In
an instant it was after me again, and I was dodging, round
and round the tree.
“You can’t imagine how horrible it was. The thing was
blind, all right. Once I got a good look at its face — its lips
were like tanned leather and I could see the jagged line of its
teeth where the dried-up mouth had come a little open, and
both its eyes were tightly shut. But blind or not it could hear
me, and it was like a dreadful game of blind man’s buff, I
dodging back to keep the tree between us, then crouching for
a sprint to the next tree and doubling and turning around that,
and all the time that dreadful thing following, sometimes
thrusting at me with its spear, sometimes chopping at me
with it, but never hurrying. If it had rushed or sprung or
jumped at me it wouldn’t have seemed half so terrifying. But
it didn’t. It just kept after me, seeming to know that sooner
or later it would find me.
“I’d managed to get back my breath while we were dodging
back and forth around the trees, and finally I made
another break for freedom. That gave me a short respite, for
when I started running this time I kept on the parking, and
my feet made no noise on the short grass, but before I’d run
a hundred feet I trod on a dried, curled-up leaf. It didn’t
make much noise, just the faintest crackling, but that was
enough to betray me, and in another second the mummy was
after me. D’ye remember that awful story in Grimms’ Fairy
Tales where the prince is captured by a giant, and manages
to blind him, but finds that the charmed ring upon his finger
forces him to keep calling, ‘Here am I,’ each time he eludes
his pursuer? That’s the way it was with me. The thing that
followed me was blind, but any slightest sound was all it
needed for direction, and no matter how still I tried to be, I
couldn’t help making some small noise to betray my
position.
“Twice more I halted to play blind man’s buff with it
around the streetside trees, and the last time it slashed me
with its spear. I felt the cut like a switch on my shoulder, it
didn’t hurt so much as smart, but in a moment I could feel
the blood run down my back and knew that I’d been
wounded. Then I lost my head completely and rushed
straight down the sidewalk, running for my life. That would
have been the end of me had it not been for the cat.”
“The cat, Mademoiselle?” de Grandin asked.
“Yes, sir. It — the mummy — was about a hundred and
fifty feet behind me, and gaining every step, when a big
black cat came across the sidewalk. I don’t know where it
came from, but I hope that it has cream for dinner and two
nice, fat mice for dessert every day for the rest of its life.
You know how cats act sometimes when they see something
coming at them — how they sort o’ crouch down and stay
still, as if they hope whatever it is that threatens ’em won’t
see ’em if they don’t move? That’s the way this cat did — at
first. But when the mummy was almost on it, it jumped up
and arched its back, puffed out its tail and made every hair
along its spine stand straight up. Then it let out a miaul
almost loud enough to wake the dead.
“That stopped the mummy in its tracks. You know how
deceptive a caterwaul can be — how it rises and falls like a
banshee’s howl, and seems to come from half a dozen places
at once? I think that’s what must have happened. The
mummy was attuned to catch the slightest sound vibration,
like a delicate radio instrument, but it couldn’t seem to locate
the exact place whence the cat’s miaul came.
“I glanced back once, and if it hadn’t been so horrible it
would have seemed ludicrously funny, that murderous blind
mummy standing there, swaying back and forth as if the
unseen strings that moved it had suddenly come loose,
turning its leathery, unseeing face this way and that, and that
big black tomcat standing stiff-legged in its path, its back
arched up, its tail fluffed out, and its eyes blazing like two
little spots of green fire. They might have stayed that way for
two minutes, maybe more. I didn’t stop to watch, but kept on
running for dear life. The last I saw of them the puss was
circling round the mummy, walking slowly and stiff-kneed,
the way cats do before they close for a fight, never taking its
eyes off the thing, and growling those deep belly-growls that
angry cats give. I think the mummy slashed at it with its
spear, but I can’t be sure of that. I know the cat did not give
a scream as it almost certainly would have if it had been
struck. Then I saw you and Dr. Trowbridge standing by the
bus stop, and” she spread her slim hands in a gesture of
finality — “here we are.”
“We are, indeed,” de Grandin conceded with a smile, “but
we cannot remain so. It grows late and Tante Dorothée will
worry. Come, we will take you to her and tomorrow you
may come to have your wound dressed, or if you prefer you
may go to your own family physician.” He took his chin
between his thumb and forefinger and looked thoughtfully at
her. I fear your dress is not yet quite dry, Mademoiselle, and
from my own experience I know blood-wet garments are
most uncomfortable. We shall ride in Dr. Trowbridge’s
moteur — do you greatly mind retaining the garment I
1330 THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURES OF JULES DE GRANDIN
devised for you, wearing one of my topcoats above it? No
one would notice—”
“Why, of course, sir,” the girl smiled up into his eyes.
“This is really quite a scrumptious dress; I’m sorry I said
horrid things about it.”
“Tiens, the compliment is much appreciated,
Mademoiselle, even though it is a bit late,” he returned with
a bow. “Now, if we are all ready....” He stood aside to let her
precede us to the hall.
“Perhaps it would be best if you did not tell Tante
Dorothée all your adventure,” he advised as I drew up before
the modest but attractive little house where she lived with
her aunt. “She might not understand—”
“You mean she’d never believe me!” the girl broke in
with what was more than the suggestion of a giggle. “I don’t
think I’d believe a person who told me such a story.” Her air
of gaiety dropped from her and her laughing eyes became
serious. “I know it really couldn’t have happened,” she
admitted. “Mummies just don’t run around the streets killing
people like that — but all the same, it’s so!”
“Tu, parles, ma petite,” de Grandin chuckled. “When you
have grown as old as I, which will not be for many years,
you’ll know as I do that most of the impossible things are
quite true. Yes, I say it.”
“You mean you actually believe that cock and bull yarn
she told us,” I demanded as we drove home.
“But certainly.”
“But it’s so utterly fantastic. Mummies, as she herself
admitted, don’t run about the streets and kill people—”
“Mummies ordinarily do not run about the streets at all,”
he corrected. “Nevertheless, I believe her.”
“Humph. Next thing, I suppose, you’ll be calling Costello
in on the case.”
“If I am not much more mistaken than I think the good
Costello will not need my summons,” he returned as we
reached my driveway. “Is not that he at our front door?”
“Hola, mon lieutenant,” he called as he leaped from the
car. “What fortunate breeze has wafted you hither?”
“Good evenin’ gentlemen,” Detective-Lieutenant Jeremiah
Costello answered as he stepped back from the door.
“’Tis luck I’m in, fer Mrs. McGinnis wuz just afther tellin’
me as how ye’d driv away, wid yer dinner practic’ly on th’
table, an’ hadn’t said a word about when ye’d come back.”
“But now that we are so well met, you will have dinner
with us?” asked the Frenchman.
“Thank ye kindly, sor. I’ve had me supper, an’ I’m on
duty—”
“Ah bah,” de Grandin interrupted, “I fear you are
deteriorating. Since when have you not been competent to
eat two dinners, then smack your lips and look about for
more? But even if you have no appetite, you will at least
lend us your company and share a cup of coffee, a liqueur
and a cigar?”
“Why, yes, sor, I’ll be glad o’ that,” Costello returned.
“An’ would ye be afther listenin’ to me tale o’ woe th’
while?”
“Assuredly, mon vieux. Your shop-talk is invariably
interesting.”
“Well, sors,” Costello told us as he drained his demi-tasse
and took a sip from the glass of old whiskey de Grandin had
poured for him, “it’s like this way: I wuz about to lave the
office an’ call it a day, fer this bein’ a lootenant ain’t as easy
as it wuz when I wuz sergent, d’ye understand, an’ I’d been
hard at it since eight o’clock this mornin’, when all to onct
me tellyphone starts ringin’ like a buzz-saw cuttin’ through
a nail, an’ Dogherty o’ th’ hommyside squad’s on th’ other
end. He an’ Schmelz, as fine a lad as never ate a bite o’
bacon wid his breakfast eggs an’ fasted all day on Yom
Kippur, had been called to take a look into th’ killin’ o’
Louis Westbrook, also known as Looie th’ Louse. He wuz a
harmless sort o’ bum, th’ Louse, never doin’ much agin th’
law except occasionally gettin’ drunk an’ maybe just a mite
disorderly, an’ actin’ as a stooly fer th’ boys sometimes—”
“A stooly?” echoed de Grandin. “And what is that, if you
please?”
“Sure, sor, ye know. A stool pigeon.”
“Ah, yes, one comprehends. A dénonciateur, we use them
in the Sûreté, also.”
“Yes, sor. Just so. Well, as I wuz sayin’, Looie’d been
found dead as a mackerel in Crescent Terrace, an’—”
“Morbleu, do you say it? In Crescent Terrace?”
“That same, sor. An’, like I says—”
“One moment, if you please. He was dead by a wound
inflicted from the rear, possibly in the head, but more likely
in the neck, and on his body were numerous deep punctured
wounds—”
“Howly Mither! He wuz all o’ that, sor. How’d ye guess
it?”
“I did not guess, my friend. I knew. Proceed with your
description of the homicide.”
“Well, sor, like ye said, Looie had been cut down from th’
rear, swiped acrost th’ neck wid a sword or sumpin like that.
His spinal column wuz hacked through just about here—” he
turned his head and held his finger to his neck above the
second cervical vertebra. “I’ve seen men kilt just so when I
was in th’ Fillypines. They’re willin’ workers wid th’ bolo,
those Fillypino johnnies, as many a bloody Jap can certify.
An’ also like ye said, sor, he wuz punctured full o’ deep,
wide wounds all up his back an’ down his legs. Like a big,
wide-bladed knife or sumpin’ had been pushed into him.
“Ever see th’ victim o’ one o’ them Comorra tortureTHE
MAN IN CRESCENT TERRACE 1331
killin’s — th’ Sfregio or Death o’ th’ Seventy Cuts, as they
calls it? Well, th’ way this pore Joe had been mangled
reminded me o’ them, on’y—”
“A moment, if you please,” de Grandin interrupted. “This
Joseph of whom you speak? We were discussing the
unhappy demise of Monsieur Louis the Louse; now you
introduce a new victim—”
“Arrah, Dr. de Grandin, sor, be aisy,” Costello cut in,
halfway between annoyance and laughter, “when I say Joe
I mean Looie—”
“Ha? It is that they are identical?”
“Yes, sor. Ye might say so.”
De Grandin glanced at me with quizzically raised brows
then lifted narrow shoulders in the sort of shrug a Frenchman
gives when he wants to indicate complete dissociation with
the matter. “Say on, my friend,” he ordered in a weary voice.
“Tell us more of this Monsieur Joseph-Louis and his so
tragic dissolution.”
“Well, sor, like I wuz tellin’ ye, Looie’d done a bit o’
stoolin’ now an’ then, but it wuz mostly small-fry, unimportant
stuff puttin’ th’ finger on dips an’ dope-peddlers, or
tippin’ th’ department off when a pawnbroker acted as a
fence; sometimes slippin’ us th’ office when a loft burglary
wuz cookin’, an’ th’ like o’ that. We hadn’t heard that he’d
been mixed up with any of these now black-handers, so
when he turns up dead an’ all butchered like I said, we’re
kind o’ wondering who kilt him, an’ why.”
“I have the answer to one part of your question, mon
lieutenant,” de Grandin informed him with a grave nod.
“An’ have ye, now, sor? That’s just grand. Would ye be
afther tellin’ me who done it, just for old times’ sake? That
is, if it’s not a military secret.”
“Mais non. Point du tout. He was killed by a mummy.”
“A — glory be to God!” Costello drained his glass of
whiskey at a gulp. “Th’ man says he wuz kilt be a mummy!
Sure, Dr. de Grandin, sor, ye wuz always a great one for
kiddin’, but this is business.”
De Grandin’s little round blue eyes were hard and cold as
ice as they looked into Costello’s. “I am entirely serious, my
friend. I who speak to you say he was slain by a mummy.”
“O.K., sor. If ye say so, I s’pose it’s so. I’ve never known
ye to give me a bum steer, but sayin’ a gink’s been kilt be a
mummy is pretty close to tryin’ to tell me that pigs fly an’
tomcats sing grand op’ry. Now, th’ question is, ‘How’re we
gonna find this murderin’ mummy?’ Do they kape him in a
museum, or does he run loose in th’ streets?”
“Le bon Dieu only knows,” the little Frenchman answered
with a shrug, “but perhaps we can narrow down our search.
Tomorrow I shall go to the morgue and inspect the corpse of
Monsieur Joseph-Louis. Meantime there is something you
can do to aid the search. This Crescent Terrace, as I recall it,
is a little street. Secure the names of every householder and
compile as complete a dossier on each as is possible: what
his habits are, whence he comes, how long he has lived there
— everything. The smallest little detail is important. There
are no unimportant things in such a case as this. You
comprehend?”
“I do, sor.”
“Très bon.” He cast a speculative look at the decanter of
whiskey. “There is at least three-quarters of a quart left in the
bottle, my friends. Let us do a little serious drinking.”
The street lights were coming on and the afterglow was
faint in the west under the first cold stars when we gathered
in my study for a council of war next evening. De Grandin
tapped a sheaf of neatly piled pages lying on the table before
him. This Monsieur Grafton Loftus is our most likely
suspect,” he announced. “This is the dossier compiled on
him by your department, Friend Costello:
No. 18 Crescent Terrace — Loftus, Grafton. Unmarried,
about fifty. Born in England. Came to this country from
London four years ago. No occupation, maintains fair
account in the Clifton Trust Co., periodically replenished
by foreign bank drafts. Pays all bills promptly. Goes out
very little, has no intercourse with neighbors. Few visitors.
Nothing known of personal habits, hobbies, etc. No pets.
Neighbors on each side speak of having heard low,
peculiar whistle, no tune, coming from his home at night,
sometimes continuing for half hour at a time, have also
noted strong smell like that of Chinese incense coming
from his house at times.
“Perhaps I am a trifle dull,” I said sarcastically, “but I fail
to see where anything in that dossier gives ground for
suspicion. We haven’t any personal description of Mr.
Loftus. Does he look like a mummy?”
“I would not say so,” de Grandin replied. “I took occasion
to call on him this afternoon, pretending to ask direction to
the house of an entirely mythical Monsieur John Garfield.
Monsieur Loftus came to the door — after I had rung his
doorbell unremittingly for half an hour — and seemed
considerably annoyed. He is a big man, most decidedly stout,
bald-headed, with a red face and fat cheeks threatening to
engulf his small eyes. His lips are very red, his mouth is
small, and pouts like that of a petulant child. Also, he was
distressingly uncivil when I asked most courteously for the
non-existent Monsieur Garfield’s address. I did not like his
looks. I do not like him. No. Not at all.”
“All the same, there’s nothing in what you’ve told us to
indicate he goes around disguised as a mummy and
murdering inoffensive bums,” I persisted.
“Ah bah!” he answered. “You vex me, Friend Trowbridge.
Attend me, if you please. When I had seen this Monsieur
1332 THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURES OF JULES DE GRANDIN
Loftus I called New Scotland Yard on Transatlantic
telephone, and talked with my friend Inspector Grayson,
formerly of the British Intelligence. He told me much I
wished to know. By example: Monsieur Loftus served with
the British troops in Egypt and Mesopotamia during the first
World War. While there he forgathered with decidedly
unsavory characters, and was three times court-martialed for
being absent without leave when native pow-wows were in
progress. Of no importance, you say? Very, well, to
continue: When he returned to England he became identified
with several malodorous secret societies. The first of these
was the Gorgons, ostensibly a nature-worship cult, but
actually concerned with diabolism. He appears to have
grown tired of these and joined the cult of Lokapala, which
comprised as sinister a company of blackguards as could be
found anywhere. They were known to have sacrificed
animals with revolting cruelties, and were suspected of
having indulged in human sacrifice at least on one occasion.
The police broke this gang up and Loftus, with several
others, was sentenced to a short term in the workhouse.
“We next hear of him as a member of the gang known as
Los Leopardos, the Human Leopards, whose headquarters in
the Shooter’s Hill locality of Blackheath was raided by the
police in 1938. Again the estimable Monsieur Loftus served
a short term in jail. He was also implicated in the deviltries
of Rowely Thorne, whose nemesis our mutual friend John
Thunstone is. Now,” he swept us with a cold, challenging
stare, “you will admit the company he kept was something
less than desirable.”
“That may be so,” I conceded, “but all the same—”
“But all the same he was a member of the Esoteric Society
of the Resurrection. You comprehend?”
“I can’t say that I do. Was that society one of those halfbaked
religious organizations?”
“Neither half-baked nor religious, in the true sense of the
term, my friend. They were drawn from every stratum of
society, from every country, every race. Scientists some of
them were, men and women who had perverted their knowledge
to base ends. Others were true mystics, Indian,
Egyptian, Syrian, Druse, Chinese, English, French, Italian,
even some Americans. They brought together the wisdom —
all the secret, buried knowledge — of the East, and mated —
not married — it to the science of the West. The offspring
was a dreadful, illegitimate monster. Here, let me read you
a transcription of an eyewitness’ account of a convocation of
the society:
The members of the cult, all robed in flowing white
draperies, gathered in the courtyard of the society’s
headquarters around the replica of an Egyptian tomb with
heavy doors like those of an ice box held fast with triple
locks and bolts of solid silver. After a brief ceremony of
worship four members of the society wearing black and
purple draperies came out of the house, led by the Grand
Hierophant robed in red vestments. They halted before the
tomb and at a sign from the High Priest all members of the
congregation stopped their ears with their fingers while
the Hierophant and his acolytes mumbled the secret
formula while the silver locks and bolts were being
unfastened. Then the High Priest cried the Secret Word of
Power while his assistants threw incense on the brazier
burning before the tomb.
In a moment they emerged bearing a black-painted bier
or stretcher on which lay the unwrapped body of an
Egyptian mummy. Three times they bore the embalmed
corpse around the courtyard that every member of the
congregation might look on it and know that it was dead.
Then they went back into the tomb.
More incense was burned while everybody knelt on the
bare earth and stared fixedly at the entrance of the tomb.
Minutes passed, then at the gaping doorway of the tomb
appeared the mummy, standing upright and moving
slowly and mechanically, like a marionette moved by
invisible wires. In its right hand it held a short spear tipped
with the tempered copper that only the ancient Egyptians
knew how to make.
The Chief Hierophant walked before the mummy,
blowing softly on a silver whistle each few steps, and the
revivified lich seemed to bear and follow the sound of the
whistle. Three times the mummy followed the High Priest
in a circuit of the courtyard, then priest and living corpse
went back into the tomb. The priest came out in a few
moments and quickly fastened the silver locks of the tomb
door. He was perspiring profusely, although the night was
cold.
The strictest silence was enjoined during the entire
ceremony, and instant dismissal from the society was the
penalty decreed for any member making even the slightest
sound while the mummy was out of the tomb. Once, it
was said, a woman member became hysterical when the
mummy emerged from the tumulus, and burst into a fit of
weeping. The lich leaped on her in an instant and struck
her down with its spear, then hacked her body to ribbons
as she lay writhing on the earth. It was only by the
shrilling of the High Hierophant’s whistle that the thing
was finally persuaded to give over its bloody work and
lured back to the tomb.
“What do you think from that, hein?” he demanded as he
finished reading.
“It sounds like the ravings of a hashish-eater, or the
recollection of a most unpleasant dream,” I volunteered.
There was no hint of impatience in the smile he turned on
me. “I agree, Friend Trowbridge. It are assuredly extra
ordinem — outside things’ usual and accepted order — as
the lawyers say; but most of us make the mistake of drawing
the line of the possible too close. When I read this
transcription over the ’phone to our friend Monsieur Manly
Wade Wellman this afternoon he agreed it was entirely
THE MAN IN CRESCENT TERRACE 1333
possible for such things to be.
“Now,” once more he swept us with his fixed, unwinking
cat-stare, “me, I have evolved an hypothesis: This so odious
Loftus, who had been a member of this altogether detestable
society, has made use of opportunity to cheat. While others
stopped their ears as the Hierophant pronounced the secret
invocation — the Word of Power as the witness to the
ceremony calls it — he listened and became familiar with it.
He anticipated making similar experiments, I have no doubt,
but the onset of the war and the bombings of London
interfered most seriously with his plans. Alors, he came to
this country, took up residence in the quietly respectable
Crescent Terrace, and proceeded with his so unholy trials.
That would account for the incense his neighbors smelled at
night, also for the whistlings they heard. Do not you agree?”
“I don’t agree,” I answered, “but if we grant your
premises I see the logic of your conclusions.”
“Triomphe!” he exclaimed with a grin. “At last good
skeptical Friend Trowbridge agrees with me, even though he
qualifies his agreement. We make the progress.
“And now, my friends,” he turned from me to Costello,
Dogherty and Schmelz, “if we are ready, let us go. The
darkness comes and with it — eh bien, who shall say what
will eventuate?”
Crescent Terrace was a short semilunar by way connecting
Clinton Avenue and Dorondo Street built up on the
west side with neat houses. There were only twenty of them
in the block, and their numbers ran consecutively, since a
small park faced the east curb of the street.
We drew up at the far side of the park and walked across
its neatly clipped lawns between beds of coleus and scarlet
sage. At the sidewalk we halted and scanned the blank-faced
houses opposite. “The second building from the end is
Number 18,” Jules de Grandin whispered. “Do you take
station behind yonder clump of shrubs, Friend Costello, and
Sergeants Dogherty and Schmelz will form an ambuscade
just behind that hedge of hemlock. Friend Trowbridge, it is
best that you remain with the Lieutenant, so that we shall
have two parties of two each for reserves.”
“An’ where will you be, sor?” Costello asked.
“Me, I shall be the lure, the bait, the stalking-horse. I shall
parade as innocently as an unborn lamb before his lair.”
“But we can’t let ye take th’ risk all by yerself, sor,”
Costello objected, only to be cut short by de Grandin’s
sharp:
“Zut! You will do exactly as I say, mon ami. Me, I have
worked this strategy out mathematically and know what I am
doing. Also, I was not born yesterday, or even day before. A
bientôt, mes amis.” He slipped into the shadows silently as
a bather letting himself down into dark water. In a moment
we saw him emerge from the far side of the park into Clinton
Avenue, turn left and enter Crescent Terrace. Somehow, as
he strode along the footway with an air of elaborate
unconcern, his silver-headed ebony stick tucked beneath his
left elbow, he reminded me of a major strutting before a
band, and heard him humming to himself as if he had not a
care in the world.
He had almost traversed the three hundred yards of the
short half-moon of the Terrace, walking slower and more
slowly as he approached Dorondo Street. “Nothin’ doin’
yet,” breathed Dogherty. “I been lookin’ like a tomcat at a
mouse-hole, an’ don’t see nothin’—”
“Zat so?” whispered Costello sharply. “If ye’d kape yer
eyes on th’ street an’ not on Dr. de Grandin, maybe ye’d see
more than ye have. What’s that yonder in th’ doorway o’
Number 18, I dunno?”
Dogherty, Schmelz and I turned at his sharp question. We
had, as he said, been watching Jules de Grandin, not the
street behind him. Now, as we shifted our glances, we saw
something stirring in the shadow that obscured the doorway
of Number 18. At first it seemed to be no more than a chance
ray of light beamed into the vestibule by the shifting of a
tree-bough between house and street lamp, but as we kept
our eyes glued to it we saw that it was a form — a tall,
attenuated, skeletally-thin form moving stealthily in the
shadow.
Slowly the thing emerged from the gloom of the doorway,
and despite the warning I had had, I felt a prickling sensation
at the back of my neck just above my collar, and a feeling as
of sudden chill ran through my forearms. It was tall, as we
had been told, fully six feet from its bare-boned feet to
hairless, parchment-covered skull, and the articulation of its
skeleton could be seen plainly through the leathery skin that
clung to the gaunt, staring bones. The nose was large, highbridged
and haughty, like the beak of a falcon or eagle, and
the chin was prominent beneath the sheath of skin that
stretched across it. The eyes were closed and showed only as
twin depressions in the skull-like countenance, but the
mummified lips had retracted to show a double line of teeth
in a mirthless grin. Its movements were irregular and stiff,
like the movements of some monstrous mechanical doll or,
as Edina Laurace had expressed it, like a marionette worked
by unseen wires. But once it had emerged from the doorway
it moved with shocking quickness. Jerkily, and with
exaggeratedly high knee-action, it crossed the lawn, came to
the sidewalk, turned on its parchment-soled feet as if on a
pivot, and started after de Grandin.
The luckless bum it had pursued the night before had run
from it. De Grandin waited till the scraping of its fleshless
feet against the flagstones was almost at his elbow, then
1334 THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURES OF JULES DE GRANDIN
wheeled to face it, little round blue eyes ablaze, small teeth
showing in a grin as mirthless and menacing as the
mummy’s own. “Sa-ha, Monsieur le Cadavre,” he spoke
almost pleasantly, “it seems we meet to try conclusions,
hein? Monsieur Joe-Louis the Louse you killed, but me you
shall not kill. Oh, no!”
Glinting like a flash of silver lightning in the street lamp’s
glow the blade of his sword cane ripped from its sheath, and
he fell into guard position.
The mummy paid no more attention to his sword than if
it had been a straw. It never faltered in its advance, but
pressed upon him, broad-bladed spear raised like an axe.
Down came the chopping spearhead, up went de Grandin’s
rapier, and for a moment steel and spear-shaft locked in an
impasse. Then nimbly as an eel escaping from a gloved hand
the Frenchman’s weapon disengaged and he leaped back
beyond the reach of the spear.
But the mummy came on relentlessly or, more exactly,
insensately, with the utter lack of caution of an automaton.
The rapier played lightning-like, weaving glittering patterns
in the pale light of the street lamps; de Grandin danced as
agilely as the shadow of a wind-blown leaf, avoiding heavy
slash and devastating lunge, then closed in quickly as a
winking eye, thrusting, stabbing, driving with a blade that
seemed more quicksilver than steel. Once, twice, three times
we saw his rapier pass clear through the lich, its point
emerging four full inches from the leather-skinned back, but
for all the effect his thrusts had, he might have been driving
a pin into a pincushion.
The mummy could not have weighed much more than
fifty pounds, and the little Frenchman’s devastating thrusts
drove it back on its heels like blows from a fist, rocking it
from perpendicular until it leant at an angle of forty degrees
to the earth, but it seemed endowed with devilish equilibrium
and righted itself like a gyroscope each time he all but forced
it off its balance.
“Mais c’est l’enfantillage — this is childishness!” we
heard de Grandin pant as we closed in and sought a chance
to seize his skeleton-like antagonist. “He who fights an imp
of Satan as if he were human is a fool!
“Stand back, my friends,” he called to us as we
approached, “this is my task, and I will finish it, by blue!”
He dodged back from the chopping of the mummy’s spear,
fumbling in his pocket with his left hand, then once more
drove in savagely, his rapier slipping past the weapon of his
adversary to pierce clear through the bony body.
And as the sword hilt struck against the mummy’s ribs
and swayed it backward, he thrust forward with his left hand.
There was a click, a spurt of sparks, and the blue point of a
little cone of flame as the wick of his cigarette lighter
kindled.
The tiny blue flame touched the mummy’s wrinkled skin,
a flickering tongue of yellow fire bloomed like a golden
blossom from the point of contact, and in an instant the
whole bony, bitumen-smeared body of the lich was ablaze.
If it had been composed of oil-soaked cotton waste it could
not have caught fire more quickly or blazed more fiercely.
The flame licked up its wasted torso, seized greedily upon
emaciated limbs, burned scrawny neck and scraggy,
parchment-covered head as if they had been tinder. The
stiffness went from thigh- and shin-bones as they crumbled
into ashes, and the blazing torso fell with a horrifying thud
to the flagstones, flame crackling through its dryness.
“Ha, that was a trick you had not thought of, Monsieur le
Cadavre!” De Grandin thrust the tip of his sword into the
fast-crumbling remnants of the lich, stirring them as he might
have stirred a coal-fire with a poker. “You were invulnerable
to my steel, for you had no life in you to be let out with a
sword, but fire you could not stand against. Oh, no, my old
and very naughty one, you could kill poor Monsieur Joe-
Louis the Louse, you could frighten poor Mademoiselle
Edina, and wound her most sorely in the shoulder, but me
you could not overcome, for Jules de Grandin is one devilish
clever fellow and more than a match for all the mummies
ever made in Egypt. Yes, certainly; of course!
“And now, my friends,” he turned to us, “there is
unfinished business on the agendum. Let us have some
pointed conversation with this so offensive Monsieur
Loftus.”
A brass knocker hung on the door of Number 18 Crescent
Terrace, and de Grandin seized its ring and beat a thunderous
tattoo. For some time there was no response, but finally a
shuffling step came in the hall, and the door opened a few
inches. The man who stared at us was big in every way, tall,
broad and thick. His fat checks hung down like the dewlaps
of a hound, his little mouth was red and full-lipped, like that
of a spoiled child or wilful woman, and he stared at us
through the thick lenses of rimless spectacles with that
expression of vague but vast kindliness which extreme shortsightedness
often confers. “Yes?” he asked in a soft
oleaginous voice.
“Monsieur Loftus, one assumes?” de Grandin countered.
The man looked at him searchingly. “Oh, so it’s you?” he
replied. “You’re the man who came here today—”
“Assurément, Monsieur, and I have returned with these
gentlemen of the police. We would speak with you if you
can spare us a few minutes. If you find it inconvenient — eh
bien, we shall speak with you nevertheless.”
“With me? About what?”
“Oh, various matters. The matter of the so abominable
mummy you endowed with pseudo-life by means of certain
THE MAN IN CRESCENT TERRACE 1335
charms you learned as a member of la Société de la
Résurrection Esotérique, by example. Also about the death
of Monsieur Joe-Louis the Louse which was occasioned
yesternight by that same mummy, and of the attack on
Mademoiselle Edina Laurace by your utterly detestable
mummy-creature—”
The fat face looking at us underwent sudden transformation.
The childish, peevish mouth began to twist convulsively
and little streams of saliva dribbled from its corners.
“You can’t do anything to me!” Loftus exclaimed. “I deny
everything. I never had a mummy; never raised it from the
dead; never sent it out to kill — who would believe you if
you tried to bring me into court on such a charge? No judge
would listen to you; no jury would convict me—”
“Silence, cochon!” cried de Grandin sharply. “Go up the
stairs and pack a valise. We take you to the Bureau de Police
all soon.”
The fat man stepped back, looking at him with an almost
pitying smile. “If you wish to make a fool of yourself—”
“Allez vous-en!” the Frenchman pointed to the stairs. “Go
pack your things, or we shall take you as you stand. Your
execrable mummy we have burned to ashes. For you the fire
of the electric chair awaits. Yes.”
As Loftus turned to mount the stairs the little Frenchman
whispered to Costello: “He has right, by damn it! He could
not be convicted in a modern court of law, especially in this
country. We might as well charge him with riding on a
broomstick or turning himself into a wolf.”
“Be dad, sor, ye’ve got sumpin there,” Costello admitted
gloomily. “We seen th’ whole thing wid our own ten eyes;
we seen ye fight wid it an’ finally make a bonfire out o’ it,
but if we tried to tell it to a judge he’d have all five o’ us in
th’ bughouse quicker’n ye could say ‘Scat!’ so he would.”
“Précisément. For that reason I ask that you will go out on
the porch and await me. I have a plan.”
“I don’t see how ye’re goin’ to work it, sor—”
“It is not necessary that you see, my friend. Indeed, it is
far better that you do not. Be swift and do as I say. In a
moment he will be among us; then it will be too late.”
We filed out the door and waited on the little roofless
porch before the house. “If this ain’t screwy,” Dogherty
began but got no further, for a sharp cry, half of protest, half
of terror, sounded from the house, and we rushed back into
the vestibule. The door had swung to behind us and the lock
had snapped, so while Costello and Dogherty beat on it
Schmelz and I raced to a window.
“We’re coming!” I called as Sergeant Schmelz broke the
glass, thrust his hand through the opening and undid the
lock. “We’re coming, de Grandin!”
Costello and Dogherty forced the front door as Schmelz
and I broke through the window, and the four of us charged
into the hall together. “Howly Mither!” exclaimed Costello.
Loftus lay at the foot of the stairs as oddly and grotesquely
lifeless as an over-stuffed scarecrow. His head was bent at an
utterly impossible angle, and his arms and legs splayed out
from his gross body, unhinged and nastily limp at knees and
elbows.
De Grandin stood above him, and from the expression on
his face I could not determine whether laughter fought with
weeping or weeping with laughter. “Je suis desolée — I am
completely desolated, my friends!” he told us. “Just as
Monsieur Loftus was about to descend the stairs his foot
slipped and he fell heavily. Hélas, I fear his neck is broken.
Indeed, I am quite sure of it. He are completely dead. Is it
not deplorable?”
Costello looked at Jules de Grandin, Jules de Grandin
looked at Costello, and nothing moved in either of their
faces. “Ye wouldn’t ’a’ helped him be any chanct, would ye,
sor?” the Irishman asked at length.
“Helped him, mon lieutenant? Alas, no. He was below me
when he fell. I could not possibly have caught him. It is
unfortunate, disastrous, most regrettable — but that is how
things are. Yes.”
“Yes, sor,” Costello answered in a toneless, noncommittal
voice. “I had a hunch that’s how things would turn out.
“Schmelz, Dogherty, why th’ divil are ye standin’ there
gapin’ like ye’d never seen a dead corpse before, an’ ye both
members o’ th’ hommyside squad? Git busy ye omadhauns.
Tellyphone th’ coroner an’ tell him we’ve a customer for
him.
“An’ now, sor, what’s next?” he asked de Grandin.
“Eh bien, my old and rare, what should men do when they
have finished a good day’s work?”
“Sure, Dr. de Grandin, sor, ye’d never be advisin’ that we
take a wee dhrap o’ th’ potheen, would ye?”
They exchanged a long, solemn wink.

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