Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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When little Nan Redloe told about that grinning, luminous face she had seen in the night, everyone laughed at her—but no one laughed when the thing struck; when the neat environs of Camp Orinol were turned into a shambles of blood and horror!
NAN REDLOE was the only girl in the male world of Camp Orinol. The flaming red top of her pert head came exactly three inches below the broad shoulders of John Corbett, youthful but hulking Head Councilor, Director and sole owner of the camp. He could have spanned her waist with his great hands—and would have gotten soundly slapped if he'd tried it.
The campers called her "Tiny." From eight-year-old Bantams to Seniors of sixteen they cussed her—and adored her. Tiny had fought her way up out of the squalid poverty of Tenth Avenue. She had won her nurse's cap the hard way, and it had left its mark upon her.
When a boy went to the infirmary with a bruise or a cut finger, he whimpered only till he saw the contempt in Tiny's cool grey eyes. But when a fellow really was sick, when he was burning up with fever, when his throat was dry and rasping, no hands could be more deft and tender than Tiny's, no voice more comforting.
She wasn't literally the only female there. A hundred yards from her infirmary, across the clearing behind the pine grove that screened it from Orinol's main precincts, was the big camp laundry. Here Meg Fulton, hairy-chinned and deep-voiced, presided over her two heavy-bodied, red-handed helpers. Pearl and Jennie lived in the long, low-roofed building where they worked. Meg ate there with them, but, for the sake of the proprieties, shared Nan's bedroom in the little hospital.
The three laundresses, however, were never in evidence. Tiny, on the other hand, was always around, in her green shorts and scarlet jersey. Unless some bedridden patient required her presence in the infirmary, she ate at the director's table. A pigmy among giants, she stowed away as much grub as any, and found time between bites to hand out sharp-tongued banter with the best.
This August evening, however, she wasn't grinning. She hadn't said a word since hurrying into Mess Hall five minutes late. But "Pop" Hamlin, seamed and leathery senior councilor who had been connected with the camp longer than anyone there could remember, was the only one who took notice of her distraction.
"Oh, Nan," he called softly. "What's troubling you? You look as glum as Typo Marx after someone's forgotten to turn in a ping-pong bat, or something serious like that."
Marx, the slim bespectacled youth who ran the office and acted as bookkeeper flushed. "If I didn't keep track of equipment," he said hotly, "you wouldn't have enough left to run camp on two weeks after opening day. Now, if I could get some co-op..." The rest was muffled by Corbett's big palm.
"Come on, wench," the latter grinned at Nan. "Pop's right. Give."
Tiny didn't look up from her plate. "It's nothing." There was an odd tightening in her voice. "At least... Oh, I couldn't really have seen it."
"YOU couldn't have seen what?" Pop Hamlin prompted. "Don't brood, kitten." Officially, Hamlin was in charge of Science and Nature Study; unofficially he was father confessor to the campers, and to the husky young athletes who were Orinol's junior councilors. "Get it off your chest and you'll feel better."
"But—" Nan hesitated, and now the tension that held her was clearly evident. "But I'm not sure—"
"I want to hear what you saw, Nan." Corbett spoke quietly but there was command in his low voice. "Out with it."
Nan's hands twisted. Deep in her eyes was crawling something very like fear, and that was altogether out of character for Tiny. "Skip it," she pleaded. "Please, John."
"Sorry," the head councilor said, "I can't." He stood four inches over six feet and he was built so beautifully in proportion that one didn't realize it. "If you've seen anything even a little out of the way around the place, I've got to know about it. I'm responsible for the health and safety of a lot of youngsters here, and so are you. Understand?"
"I—I understand," Tiny half-whispered. She glanced around almost furtively. The two rows of tables, one to each six campers with a junior councilor at the head, ran away down the wide, rafter-beamed tunnel of the Mess Hall, but the nearest was well out of earshot, especially in the din made by ninety-odd feeding males. "All right, John. I'll tell you."
"Do that, please."
A tiny muscle twitched in the girl's freckled cheek. "You know how dark it gets in among the pines between the infirmary and the campus, along about sundown, don't you?
"Well, I got washed up for supper pretty quick and decided to look around in there for an arrow which I'd overshot the archery target this afternoon. I was off the path, kicking around in the underbrush, when I thought I heard someone else doing the same thing. There shouldn't be anyone else around just at that time, so I stopped kicking, peered around. But the instant I'd stopped, the other noise stopped, too."
"You'd heard some trick echo," Typo Marx suggested.
"The bugle blew," Tiny ignored the interruption, "and I turned again to go back to the path and come on down. I heard a giggle behind me."
Her breath pulled in between her lips, sharply. The men at the table were looking at her now, and they were all motionless. It wasn't what she was saying that held them, it was something in her face. In her voice.
"It was the queerest little giggle," she went on. "Almost like an infant might make, when you tickle it. I guess—I guess it was because I heard it here, miles away from any place an infant could possibly be, that the cold prickles started scampering my spine.
"Just for a second. 'The devil,' I told myself. 'It's just one of the boys getting funny, spying on me.' I twisted around, set to give him hell. But I didn't. I didn't make a sound. I couldn't have, if my life had depended on it.
"Leering at me out of the gloom was a face only half human. It—Oh, I can't describe it, except that it didn't have any hair at all, not even eyebrows. Its ears were pointed like a dog's and—this was the worst—it had no color. It was just a dreadful kind of silver-white that shone as if it were lighted from inside."
"What was the rest of it like?" Corbett asked.
"There wasn't any rest," Nan whispered. "There was only that terrible face, shining there in the dimness."
"GOOD Lord," Pop laughed. "What you saw was merely some fungus on a tree-trunk, phosphorescent in the gloom. Your imagination made it into a face—"
"Did my imagination make it drift away from me?" Tiny demanded. "Drift away, and vanish? Could a fungus do that?"
"No," Hamlin admitted. "But if you were staring hard, your eyes could make it seem to move, and perhaps the sun just then got low enough to strike horizontally into the pine grove and pale out the luminescence that had made it visible."
"Yes," Tiny breathed. "Yes. The sun did just that." The tenseness was draining out of her. "You're right, Pop." But she did not sound convinced. "It was just a phosphorescent toadstool or something, and I'm a damn fool."
"Not a fool, kitten," Hamlin smiled. "Just—jumpy, shall we say? All through the ages experiences like yours have given rise to tales of ghosts and disembodied spirits, and other supernatural beings peopling the night. It is only in comparatively recent years that scientists have traced their origin to the self-light given out by fungi and rotting vegetation."
"I wonder, Pop," Muscles Tobey, the squat, powerfully muscled boxing instructor, drawled, "how your scientists would explain a fungus that giggles."
"I—I've just thought of something I want to do," quavered Typo Marx. The camp clerk's chair scraped back, and he was out of it, was diving out through the near-by screen door into a dusk that was swiftly deepening to night.
"Our four-eyed friend seemed a little greenish around the gills," Tobey chuckled. "Looks like his digestion is affected by stories of giggling fungi. But, to get back to Tiny's goblin, fellows, I think she was right in her first idea. One of the brats got the brilliant notion to play a jack-o-lantern Halloween stunt on her, and she fell for it like a ton of brick."
"That's my vote," Corbett agreed. "And that means some camper was out of bounds when he should have been getting ready for supper. That's something I've got to take care of right away. If discipline starts going haywire we're going to have trouble." He heaved up out of his seat, pulling his whistle from his pocket as he rose.
His shrill blast cut off the clatter of dishes, the chatter of boyish voices. Even the waiters stopped dead in their tracks, and every eye was turned to Corbett, spraddle-legged and burly in his grey sweat-shirt and slacks.
For a moment he stood there, his steady gaze drifting over the seated ranks of sweatered, clean-limbed lads, the eager young faces that watched him, wondering and expectant.
And then into the throbbing hush of that great raftered hall came a thin, piercing sound. A scream it was, from out of the darkness that had closed down on Orinol. There was terror in it. Unbearable agony. It cut short, abruptly as it had begun, and its sudden ending was somehow more terrible than if it had been heard at all.
IN THE split second before panic could seize the eighty boys, John Corbett was saying, very calmly, very audibly: "You've caught a rabbit in one of your snares, Pop. You'd better go and make sure it's dead."
The quick, pat explanation drained all terror out of the scream. "Bet you a dollar he got away," Muscles Tobey challenged, starting to rise.
"It's a bet," Pop snapped, already on his feet. "Come along and see." He turned to Fish Williams, the sleek, nut-browned swimming councilor. "Come along, Fish, I'll show you two how a cord and a bent sapling will feed you if you're ever lost in the woods." With a litheness that concealed haste, the three went toward the Mess Hall door.
"You stay here, Tiny," Fish Williams heard Corbett order. "We're going to have a sing before we break up, and I want you to lead it." And then he was out in the night, Misty Mountain looming high and black over the deserted campus, the forest whispering, somehow ominously, beyond the high-stilted, open-sided bunkhouses, the ripple of Lake Tarsus' waters coming with a queer distinctness from behind the unlighted bulk of Recreation Hall.
The others hesitated, at a loss as to which way to go. "It came from the lake," Fish whispered, turning toward the swimming cribs that were his domain. Tobey's hand grabbed his shoulder, fingers tense.
"Listen," the boxing instructor grunted, his fingers bruising Williams' shoulder. "Shut up a minute and listen. I thought I heard—there it is again!"
Sounds carry far in the thin, clear air of the mountain heights, even such a low sound as a moan of pain. "Beyond the pines!" Fish exclaimed. "Come on!" He broke into a run. The feet of the others thudded beside him as they went headlong across the sparsely lit campus, past the last of the bunks, into the dense darkness of the pines.
A low branch lashed his cheek. A protruding root almost tripped him. Then a white beam, from Pop's flashlight, scythed the dark. They burst through into the clearing beyond. The torch beam darted along the bark-shingled wall of the little infirmary, flashed along the path between there and the laundry...
The beam fixed on something that writhed at the edge of the pines' black mass, moaning pitifully. "God!" Fish gulped. The thing was shoving up from the ground. It was a woman, but where the face of the woman should be there was only a seared horror.
Williams went to his knees beside her, and he saw that her face had been scorched as if by a flame so hot that it turned flesh not black, but a crisp and sickening white. The eyes were blank, were without iris or pupil. The nose was an unrecognizable excrescence. The shapeless mouth was spewing jumbled, meaningless syllables.
"Easy," the swimmer managed to say. "Take it easy—"
"Meg!" Pop gasped. "It's Meg Fulton." He was kneeling alongside Williams, his flash full on the laundress. "What happened to you, Meg?"
Her jabber of mindless pain stopped for an instant. In that instant Fish Williams was poignantly conscious of the uneasy shifting of Muscles Tobey's feet, of the shrill, nocturnal piping of a myriad insects hymning the dark, of the distant strains of Orinol's campfire song.
"Tell us, Meg," Pop insisted. "Tell us what did this to you."
A curious, almost bestial squeal came from the woman. Her soap-cracked hands clawed at her throat. Their fingers caught in a cord that, strangely enough, was loosely knotted around it. The cord came away and Meg's squeal was making words. Incredible words.
"Shining devil—dog's ears—white fire burns!" Meg shrieked and collapsed, slumping forward like a doll out of which the sawdust stuffing has burst.
"A SHINING devil," Fish heard someone croak. "And dog's ears. The face Tiny saw..."
"What about your phosphorescent fungi now, Pop?" Muscles drawled. "Do you still think you can explain this with your science?"
Williams thought he saw a sudden rage flare in Hamlin's eyes, some of his torch's light on his face as he squatted, his free hand circling Meg's limp wrist. But Pop said nothing for a long moment, and the swimming councilor decided that he had been mistaken. When the older man did speak, what he said had nothing to do with Tobey's mocking query.
"No pulse," he murmured. "The shock killed her."
"What shock?" John Corbett's deep voice demanded. "Who is that?" Startlingly, he was standing huge above them, the light from below giving his face weirdly misplaced high lights and shadows, sinking his eyes into black-filled sockets. "What's happened here?"
It was Tobey who answered him as Corbett's hands tightened into fists at his sides. "We've got to keep this from the kids," he clipped, when Muscles got through. And then he asked the two questions that were pounding at Williams' brain.
"Why are the lights out in the infirmary and the laundry? What about Pearl and Jennie?"
As Fish came up off his haunches, shaking his head, Corbett snapped. "Muscles! You stay here with Meg while we look for the girls. Give him your flash, Pop. I've got another." He plucked it from his belt as they moved off toward the laundry. Its rays flashed back from the glass of window panes behind which lay blackness that might conceal—almost anything.
What they did find in that sudsy-smelling dark when they trampled in through the door, was two girls clutched in each other's arms, paralyzed and dumb with terror, but unharmed. The sight of the three stalwart men restored speech to Pearl, the younger, but her teeth chattered as she tried to answer John's questions coherently.
A little while after supper bugle call, they had been waiting for Meg to come over for supper from the infirmary, where she'd gone to wash up. Suddenly there was a terrible scream, and then the lights went out. "It fair turned our limbs to water," she said, her eyes big and frightened. Since then they had clung to each other, afraid to move, afraid to cry out.
No. They hadn't seen anything—
"I did," Jennie interrupted. "T'rough the winder. I seen something white an' shinin' fly up in the sky."
"That was probably my flashlight on the treetops." Pop Hamlin said soothingly, "as we came through the pines. Good thing we heard Meg scream and came running. She was throwing a fit out there on the path, and she might have done herself plenty of damage for all the help you two were to her."
"Oh, poor Meg!" Pearl exclaimed, starting for the door. Pop grabbed her.
"NO use going to her now," he said. "She's unconscious. We're taking her to the infirmary and Nurse Redloe will take care of her there. You girls stay here and eat your supper."
"In the dark!" Jennie squealed. "Not—" She cut off as the unshaded bulbs hanging from the ceiling of wooden boards came on. "Oh. They're fixed!"
"Yes," John Corbett agreed. "They're fixed. We were having a little trouble down at the power plant, but now everything's all right." He was smiling at them. "But look, girls. If I were you, I'd keep my doors and windows locked tonight, and the shades drawn. I've given the campers permission for a 'Late Night,' and you know what that means. No telling what tricks they'll be up to."
"No tellin' is right," Jennie sniffed. "Them imps got in here the last time, an' tied a million knots in every sheet we had in the place. Well. They won't be gettin' in again, you bet, unless they've got burglar tools along."
"That's the spirit," John approved, and motioned for the other men to follow him out. A light fastened to a tree midway over the path from the infirmary had also come on, and they could see Tobey standing above Meg's sprawled body.
Bolts rattled in the door behind them. "Thanks, Pop," Corbett said. "That was a sweet bit of quick thinking. We've got hell enough on our hands without a couple of hysterical dames being added to the mess."
"I was thinking of the boys," Hamlin responded. "That rabbit-snare story wouldn't have gone over with them a second time if those two had started squalling. What's next, John?"
"You, Pop, go down to the power plant and see if you can discover what made the lights go off and on like that. Fish! Take a swift scout around camp and try to locate Typo."
"Huh!" Williams grunted. "Isn't he in the office?"
Corbett's look moved to him, and it was somber. "No. I went there first, after Tiny got the sing going good, thinking he'd tell me which way you fellows had gone. He wasn't there. Now I recall that he wasn't in evidence for some time before supper bugle-call. Or did one of you see him around?"
Their head shakes answered that. "You don't think," Williams asked, "that Typo—?"
"I don't know what to think," Corbett shut him off. "But I'd feel a damned sight more comfortable if I knew where he is right now. Get going, fellows. Report to me in Rec Hall. As soon as I help Muscles stow Meg in the infirmary, I'm going to get the boys over there and keep them all together there for safety. I've got more than a hunch that this thing is just starting."
Hamlin and Williams kept together till they got through the pines, then Pop angled off in the direction of the small power plant down by the lake. The voices of the campers came more clearly to Fish now from the lighted Mess Hall. He veered toward the black bulk of the bunk-house, behind the office shack, that was the quarters of the camp's staff. There was no rhyme nor reason, he thought, to Meg's murder. No one could possibly have anything against her.
Someone was laughing, in the black thicket behind the director's house! Someone was laughing, lightly, chucklingly, as an infant laughs. Not quite! There was something in that tiny laughter, some maniac quality, that halted Fish Williams, sheathing his lithe frame with ice.
He got into motion again, lunging into that stygian brush, his hands fisted, his jaws set.
TINY REDLOE stood wide-legged on the director's table in Mess Hall, her arms, her carrot-topped head, all her small body, beating out the rhythm for the song that came clear and sweet from eighty boyish throats.
The entrance door was opening. John? No. It wasn't John whom Nan saw coming in, out of the corner of her eye. It was Typo Marx.
Typo was the only one at Orinol she didn't quite like. His lips were too thick and moist. His eyes were too big and goggling behind his thick lenses. He had a way of getting too close to her in the darkness of the Rec Hall, when the boys were putting on a play. His fingers were too long and thin and white.
Marx reached the table. Nan continued to beat time for the singing as she looked down at him.
"Where's Corbett?" he asked, lowtoned. The greenish tinge Fish Williams had kidded him about, lay under the dark shadow of his close-shaved, sunken cheeks. His nostrils flared. "Where's Fish Williams?"
"I—I don't know. Typo! What's the matter?"
"I can't tell you here. Get someone else to do that stuff and come outside."
Fingers squeezed Tiny's heart. "Something's happened," she thought, beating time mechanically. "Something dreadful's happened!" Typo's long white fingers had caught hold of the table-edge, as though to stop them from shaking. There was a strange, jittery light in his eyes, grotesquely magnified by his glasses.
"Hurry," he urged.
"Frank! Frank Lane." Nan called to the nearest junior councilor. "Hop up here and take over. There's a long distance 'phone call for me."
"Never do anything out of the usual routine without giving the campers an explanation," John had said at the very first staff conference. "If you don't they'll find one of their own, and it may be just the one we don't want. We can handle any emergency as long as they don't start milling around. Once let panicky rumors start and there's no telling what might happen."
Frank Lane vaulted up on the table. Tiny jumped down. Typo grabbed her arm and she could feel his excitement now, flowing through the contact like an electric current. He was pulling her toward the door. Suddenly Nan was afraid of him. "What do you want?" she demanded, trying to hold back.
His strange fervor gave him too much strength for her to overcome without a tussle. She didn't dare chance that. "I'll show you outside." He jerked open the screen door.
The door swung shut behind them. The boys had stopped singing. "Nuts with this," Dick Dorgan's voice yelled. "Let's go back to the bunks."
"Yay bunks!" Someone else shouted, and then they were all yelling, inside there, "To the bunks. To the bunks." A rhythmic roar. "To the bunks." Their feet were tramping in unison. "To the bunks."
JOHN had ordered her to keep them here!
"Let go of me," Tiny cried. "I've got to get back in there. Frank can't do anything with them."
"You're going with me," Marx gritted, his fingers abruptly digging in, hurting her. Nan twisted to face him... An arm shot over her shoulder, smashed a fist against Typo's sharp chin. His fingers ripped away. He went down, clean out.
Tiny whipped around. She was staring into Muscles Tobey's face, grim, a pulse throbbing in the temples. "To the bunks," the boys shouted, inside, and the tramp of their feet was nearing the door.
"Pull him into the darkness over there," Tobey ordered, "where the kids won't see him. Tie him up. He'll be out long enough for you to find something to do that with. I've got to stop those youngsters." He lunged past Nan. "All right, gang," Tiny heard him yell as she bent to Typo's motionless body. "Everybody over to Rec Hall. Fast. We're going to put on some bouts."
She had hold of Marx's shoulders, was dragging him into the bushes that made a dark clump against the long wall of the Mess Hall. "Junior councilors!" Muscles shouted. "See that every one of your kids gets over there. No straggling, now, or I'll know the reason why."
Just as Tiny got Typo off the path, someone came hurrying out of the door, went thudding down the path to the Rec Hall. He reached its dark bulk, and then it was dark no longer. It was a yellow blaze in the night. Its side walls came only waist high except where spaced, vertical pillars rose to support the slanting roof. It had hinged flaps that could be let down in stormy weather, but these were folded up now, so that it was more of a pavilion than a building. The forest behind it swallowed its light, and the tree-tops were a black, overhanging cloud.
The boys started thronging out of the Mess Hall, the junior councilors holding them in a rough, unruly line, steering them in the direction they were to go. They were babbling shrilly, excitedly. Of all the activities of Orinol, a set of boxing bouts gave them the biggest kick.
Tiny shoved Typo in under the bushes, twisted and darted to the kitchen door at the other end of the Mess Hall. Just inside this was the storage room. She kicked the big corrugated paper box the ice cream had come in and sawdust spilled from the hole her foot made. She glimpsed what she wanted on a shelf, a package bound with heavy rope. Untying this, she glanced through an inner door to the kitchen proper. The waiters were busy cleaning off dishes, stacking them to be washed. "Cookie" Gallato was directing operations. They were too busy to notice her.
By the time Tiny got back to Typo's recumbent, motionless body, the last of the campers were vanishing within the Rec Hall. Muscles Tobey must have hung back a moment, perhaps looking for her, because she could see his chunky, powerful form halfway between the two buildings, hurrying after the boys. She knelt, found Marx's thin wrists by feel, started lashing them together.
While she worked, questions flooded Tiny's brain. What had Typo been about to show her? Or was that a subterfuge to get her somewhere alone in the dark? Why had Muscles, hearing at most only Marx's last phrase, "you're going with me," pounded him down, instantly, viciously? Why had he commanded her to tie the fellow up, and been in such a rush to stop the campers from trooping out and scattering that he'd left her alone to do it?
She shifted a little to reach Typo's legs. They were folded under him and she had to tug at them to get their ankles together. That was queer. They should be stretched out flat, the way she had dragged him here. They must have jerked up in some reflex motion.
Her hands, icy but deft, were knotting the rope again. Where was John? Where were Pop Hamlin and Fish Williams? What, in the name of all that was holy, was going on?
There. That was finished. If Typo should come to now, he'd never get away. Wait. He might start yelling, alarm the boys. Better gag him.
Nan fumbled along a wool-covered leg, groping for the pocket in which Typo kept his handkerchief. She had to roll the body a bit to get her hand into it, and the sodden, lifeless feel of it sent a shudder through her. A cheer came to her from the Rec Hall. A gong clanged. The first bout must be starting.
Typo's sweater was rough against Tiny's fingertips. They found his neck, his face. The skin crackled under her touch—crumbled like the crisp crust of a burned bread-loaf! Under that crust was the feel of flesh unnaturally hard!
Tiny had felt something like this before, tending in the hospital—a foundry worker horribly cooked by a spurt of molten iron. A breeze swung some pendant lamp. Its light slid over the ghastly, chalk-white blur on which her fingers rested, her fingers that had reached for Typo Marx's face.
The light slid away. Wild yells from the Rec Hall heralded some vigorous flurry of sparring.
Nan Redloe didn't hear them. She crouched, rigid in a nightmare paralysis. Her mouth was open as if to scream, but no scream came from it.
CARRYING Meg Fulton's stiffening corpse into the infirmary and laying it out on a bed in the ward had been a gruesome task. That accomplished, John Corbett had dispatched Muscles Tobey to relieve Tiny. "I'll run off a set of matches with the gloves," Tobey had grunted. "That will keep their minds off everything else. But I sure would like to lay my hands on Typo."
Now Corbett was back at the place where they'd found Meg, examining the ground for traces of that which had killed the hairy-chinned laundress.
The area was covered with layers of brown needles from the boughs of the pines arching over it. These were pretty well scuffed up by the discoverers of Meg's body, but the two foot space between where that body had lain and the line of the last trees of the grove was unmarked.
That was strange. If Meg had been attacked by any human, he should have leaped out at her from that side, since the other side of the path was in the open. If her attacker had been there, she would certainly have seen him lying in wait for her, would have challenged him and been heard by the girls in the laundry. If it were not a human, but some natural phenomenon that had burned her as she was burned, it was still more strange that her hair, her clothes, these inflammable evergreen needles, showed not even the slightest trace of scorching.
Corbett poked his beam into the grove. It revealed a thick interlacing of underbrush, some slender birch saplings that had sprung up here at the edge of the clearing. The brown, gnarled, thick trunks of the older pines, bleeding resin. The light showed up no sign that anyone had been in there recently. True, some twigs of a bush close at hand were broken. They hung by shreds of bark, but their leaves were browning at the edges and it would take hours for that to come about.
Corbett stiffened suddenly. Somewhere within the weeds was the sound of movement. It came from quite far in, but in the nocturnal hush it was distinct and unmistakable. It seemed to be coming closer.
"Who's there?" Corbett demanded, sharply. "Who's in there?"
There was no reply, but that rustle of brush kept approaching. It was no animal, then. Any beast would have been scared off, at least halted, by his shout. He went into the thicket to meet that threshing, the white shaft from his torch casting a weird shadow-dance among the ancient boles, his every muscle taut, ready for instant action.
Something black and shapeless heaved, low-down, among the bushes. It took form. It was a man crawling on hands and knees.
"Holy Moses!" Corbett gasped. "Fish!"
Fish Williams stopped crawling, lifted his head. Blood dripped across his face from a matted scalp-wound. His mouth was twisted. Corbett dropped to his knees beside him.
"Good Lord, man!" he rasped. "What on earth—?"
Williams made a pathetic try at a grin. "Sprained ankle," he explained, laboriously. "Can't stand on it, but getting it saved my life."
"Heard a baby laughing, behind our shack. A baby, so help me. Went for it, saw Nan's shining devil, leer and all. Root caught my foot, threw me. Something whizzed over my head, swiped my scalp and I went out like a light. If it had caught me an inch lower, I'd have had a bashed-in skull."
"The son-of-a-gun probably thought that was what you had. Left you for dead."
Fish's lips twitched with a twinge of pain. "Woke up in a puddle of my own blood." His voice was fading, he was speaking with increasing effort. "Started—find you..."
"Why didn't you yell for help? They'd have heard you down in Mess Hall."
"That's—why. Didn't want—panic kids. John! Find—giggling fiend. Must—find him—before—more hell—" The injured man pitched forward, was a still, unmoving heap on the dank forest loam.
John Corbett's countenance was a granite mask, his eyes smouldering coals, as his hand seized the other's wrist. There was a pulse, sluggish, but a pulse nevertheless. Corbett clicked off his flashlight and clipped it on his belt. He got arms under the flaccid form, heaved it across his shoulder, and started back towards the infirmary.
He'd get Fish in a bed, get Tiny to tend to him. No! He didn't dare send Tiny up there, away from the others, with death prowling camp. Death that giggled like an infant, that killed with a crisping flame. That was visible only in the darkness, and then by a silver-white, internal glow. This thing was mad. It was utterly mad, but it was so. It must be so. Three people had seen the "shining devil." Nan. Jennie. And now Williams. Twice it had struck.
At Meg. At Fish. Not yet at one of the youngsters. Would that come next?
John Corbett's skin grew cold as the light in the clearing glimmered through the close-set, ebony pillars of the trees. The boys must be protected. They had been entrusted to him, and trusted him. As long as they were here, he was their father, their big brother. If it cost his life, if it cost the life of every member of the staff...
What about Tiny? Invisible fingers tightened on his throat. What if the killer should strike at her?
In that instant John Corbett knew how dear, how infinitely dear to him Tiny had become. And in the next his plodding progress had halted, the skin across the back of his shoulders puckering into goose-flesh. He wasn't breathing at all as he stared up into the black roof of the grove.
Up there, high and a little ahead of him, something glowed silvery-white in the blackness, shapeless and appalling. Was the fiery killer crouching there, waiting to pounce upon him, to sear him with its lethal blast?
He snatched the flashlight from his belt, sent its beam slicing up there. A piney bough sprang into existence, green-needled and swaying. Nothing else. He could see nothing else.
He clicked off the torch. The thing was there again, shining with that weird, heart-stopping luminance.
FROM the Rec Hall the gong clanged to signal the end of a round, and Tiny heard Muscle's voice, shouting something she could not make out. Muscles! She had to get to him. She had to tell him about—this! She managed to come erect, but her legs refused, momentarily, to obey the command of her brain, and when she did get them to move, it was with a strange reluctance, as though they were clogged by some viscous, invisible fluid that flooded the path.
A shadow moved among the shadows ahead, and Tiny halted again, terror freezing her. It was Pop! It was only Pop Hamlin, coming from the direction of Corbett's cabin, but before she could call to him he was inside the Rec Hall, beyond her view.
Somehow she must reach Pop or Muscles, unobtrusively, tell either of them the terrible thing that had happened to Typo Marx. She got moving again.
The gong clanged for the start of another round, for the start of the crowd's exhortations, their cheers, before Tiny reached the entrance to the Hall. The thwack of blows reached her as she clung to the jamb of the door and peered in. Two youngsters, stripped to the waist, were going at it, hot and heavy, on the stage at the other end of the pavilion. Tobey was dancing around them, utterly absorbed. Between her and the platform the yelling campers were closely packed, wall to wall, and it would be impossible for her to get to Muscles without moving through them, impossible for her to speak to him unobserved.
Tiny's burning eyes looked for Pop. He was standing against the wall clear across the Hall. One mittened hand on a pillar, close behind him the rustling dark of the forest, his mackinaw's loose folds lending unfamiliar bulk to his gaunt frame. She would have to push through less of a crowd to get to him, but that still would attract unwanted attention to her, and there was a better, easier way. All she had to do was go around outside the Hall, speak to him over the waist-high partition there.
She could run now, but as soon as she got off the path the ground was uneven, stubbing her toes, slowing her. She went around one corner, along the short end of the building, around the other corner. The woods were black, terrible for what they might conceal. Tiny kept her eyes inward on the shouting pandemonium.
She did not see Pop and wondered if she had run past him.
Then, suddenly, with startling swiftness, the forest blackness leaped past her and into the Rec Hall!—Every light in there, every light in camp was out!
THE sudden smashing down of the night cut off the tumult inside there as though a thick, ebon quilt had blanketed the thronged pavilion. Before that first startled split-second was past, someone giggled, as an amused infant might.
It was the weird, tiny laugh Nan had heard in the pine grove! High up beneath the Rec Hall's ceiling, she saw the thing that had leered at her from out of the darkling gloom!
A pallid glow it was, a leprous luminance hanging high in the velvety black. Dog-eared, browless and lashless, its simpering mouth was wide in the silvery blankness of an idiot's countenance.
The boys saw it, too. A great gasp of fear gusted from them as the grinning thing swooped downward! Its infantile chuckle, so incongruous to the chilling fear it spread and adding infinitely to that fear, was clearly audible as it dropped. And then the laugh was drowned in pandemonium, in yells and shrieks and the rush of scattering feet. A black pile blotted the paler glimmer of the Rec Hall door. Pop Hamlin was shouting incoherent directions. The shining head was only feet above the top of the tossing sea of panic. A stygian form, some courageous councilor, leaped for it—and screamed in agony as he lurched down again! A flashlight leaped out and caught him in its circle as he fell. Struck out of the blackness his face, blanched and featureless, a thing of retching horror.
Something black and formless came over the low pavilion wall, so close to Tiny that it almost brushed her. It lurched into the woods, was swallowed by them, but the underbrush was threshing as though some heavy body forced a path through it, racing toward the dark lake.
Instinct it must have been that flung Nan away from the pavilion wall, sent her headlong after it in pursuit. Instinctive courage, not thought, for her brain was a welter of inchoate fear, her blood an icy surge in her veins.
Blackness enveloped her. Low branches slapped her across the face, brambles tore her arms, her bare legs. Behind her were the sounds of panic, ahead of her that swift threshing of the thing that had caused the panic. Alone, weaponless, she followed it because she knew that if she lost track of it, it would escape scot-free.
Only that thought was clear to her as the black woods slashed her, clubbed her in insensate fury. It must not get away! She was gaining on it. The sounds of its passage were nearer. Abruptly it was silhouetted against the glimmer of the lake, malformed, grotesque. It had halted, seemed for an instant to be at a loss. Beyond it were the black lines of the canoe breakwater, the swimming crib, reaching out into the glinting waters.
"Stop!" Tiny's brain shrieked to her. "Stop while you're still hidden by the woods. Watch what it does. Where it goes." She tried to obey, but her feet went out from under her, slipping in some mud-slick where a swimming suit had been wrung out. She skidded out into the open, face down, clawing at the sloping earth of the narrow beach...
A tremendous buffet on the back of her head sent her spinning down to oblivion.
JOHN CORBETT swiftly slid his inanimate burden to the ground, straddled Fish Williams, half-crouched, ready to defend as best he could the unconscious man, and himself, from the shining menace in the treetop. It was moving—! No. That was just the tree swaying in the breeze. The thing itself had not stirred. His eyes narrowed. It was high up there, just a silvery glow. He could not make out its shape, anything about it. It hadn't moved yet. It wasn't going to move. But he had to know what it was. He stooped, keeping his eyes on it, groped around till he had a stone in his hand. He rose, aimed carefully, hurled the stone at the eerie glow.
The missile threshed through pine-needles, made a dull thud as it hit its mark. The white luminosity plummeted down, hit the ground at Corbett's feet. Yellow light, sifting in from the lamp over the path in the clearing, paled the phosphorescence. A sort of mad laughter formed in Corbett's throat and he stooped. His fingers closed on the thing... and suddenly the light on the path blinked out.
"Again!" John grunted. "What—" He could see through the tree-trunks that there was no light in the laundry windows, either. For an instant a strange, throbbing hush hung over him, over the camp. Then out of the dark came a chorus of shrieks, yells, the pandemonium of panic. It was coming from one of the common buildings down near the lake. The Mess Hall or Rec.
Corbett shoved the thing he'd picked up into his pocket, scooped Fish Williams up into his arms. He lunged out of the pines, across the clearing to the infirmary, carrying the swimming councilor's big body as if it had no weight at all. He raced into the little building, deposited Williams on a cot, whirled and was out again, was speeding across the dark campus, his heart pounding his ribs with the certainty that the thing he feared had come.
The camp grounds, the bunks, the Mess Hall, were dark. All the lights strung above the paths were out. There were lights in the Rec Hall though, the darting lights of the hand torches all the councilors and most of the boys always carried after dark. They were pouring out of the Rec Hall. Dancing like so many fireflies around it.
Shouts, too, came from there. The high-pitched yells of the campers, the deeper-toned voices of their leaders.
Corbett redoubled his speed, but it seemed to him an eternity before he was among the milling, panicky youngsters, was grabbing at the arm of a husky Junior Councilor and demanding, "What is it, Harry? What's broken loose here?"
The youth stared at him with dilated pupils, his grey lips twisting. "A devil out of hell!" he jabbered. "I saw it myself, shining at us. Giggling. If you want proof, go in there," he jerked a stiff arm at the Rec Hall, "and see what it did to Frank Lane."
The shining devil! John Corbett knew an awful instant of panic, then he had hold of himself. His whistle was at his lips, he was blowing it. The shrill blast cut through the fear-ridden darkness, the blast that every camper, every councilor had for a month been drilled to obey. That drilling paid dividends now. The frightened scurrying stopped. The yelling died down. Small forms, everywhere, were turning to him, expectant.
"All right, fellows," Corbett shouted. "There's nothing to be scared of any more. Something went wrong with the lighting system, and someone got hurt by a flash from a short circuit." Did that fit the facts well enough to get by? "But it's all over now. The danger is past."
Some youngster laughed, hysterically. Laughter was sweeping the campus, laughing relief at how simply Corbett had explained away their fright. Kids are like that. It was because he knew how kids are, that John Corbett ran the most successful boys' camp in the East.
"All right," he shouted, consolidating his advantage. "I don't want a lot of milling around while we're getting things straightened out. Every camper is to go to Mess Hall at once, and stay there. Each junior councilor will check off his group, report to me at once anyone who's missing. Any boy who isn't there within five minutes will be packed up, first thing in the morning, and sent home." That was the severest punishment known at Orinol. "Get going!" The command cracked like a whiplash. "Double quick!"
They were moving, were surging toward the dining pavilion, steadied by his fearless manner, his apparent command of the situation. Corbett twisted to Harry Small, the councilor he'd questioned at first. "Pass the word to the other councilors to be on the watch for any strangers," he snapped. "Keep all available flashlights going and if the batteries start to give out send someone over to the storehouse for more."
"Yes, sir," the boy replied, crisply. "You can depend on us." He was hurrying off, full of importance. Corbett pulled breath in between his clenched teeth. He'd gained a breathing space, but that was all. What was going to happen next? What terrible thing was harrying Orinol? How was he going to stop it?
Where the devil were the others of the staff? Were they in the Rec Hall, with Frank Lane? There was no light in there, no sign of life. He started toward it, pulling his flashlight from his belt.
It resisted his pull. A piece of cord was tangled about it and his belt. He jerked. The torch came away, and something else came with it, out of his pocket. The glowing bit of fungus that he had knocked down out of the tree, back there, hung at the other end of the thin but strong twine that was snarled about his torch.
John Corbett slowed, staring at this, his brows knitting. In that instant the lights came on, yellow, dazzling after the murk.
And in the next a jabbered squealing arose, down near the Mess Hall. Corbett whirled, saw a white ghost-like shape just beyond the dining pavilion's entrance, spurted into motion toward it. He made the distance in nothing flat, dug fingers into the shoulder of the white-capped, white-aproned chef.
"Cut that noise, you damned fool," he gritted. "Cut it, or I'll slug you." Cookie Galatto's incoherent squeals choked off. "What's got into you?"
"I come look find out w'at all da dark, all da yell' about," the chef gasped. "Got no torch, stick close to da wall. My foot goes bump an' just then is lights, an' I see dat." His arm jerked stiffly down at the ground before him.
He was pointing at the stiffened body of Typo Marx, hands and feet lashed, face a terrible replica of Meg Fulton's.
John Corbett stared down at the slaughtered clerk, unable to think for a moment at all. Inconsequentially he noticed that the sweater sleeve on one lifeless arm was powdered with sawdust.
"Mr. Corbett." The sound of his name brought him out of that horrified trance. "Mr. Corbett." He came around, saw Harry Small starting towards him from the entrance to the Mess Hall, moved swiftly to meet him, to keep him from seeing the corpse.
"What is it, son?" he managed to ask.
"We've checked the campers," the youth told him. "They're all inside here except one of the Bantams. Bobby Stone. None of the kids remember seeing him since the lights went out."
Corbett flinched, hearing that. Pop Hamlin came around the corner of the Mess Hall. "All right, Harry," Corbett managed to say calmly. "We'll take care of Bobby." Muscles Tobey was on the path from Rec Hall, hurrying toward them. "Get back inside and work out something to keep the rest of the boys busy." Small ducked back through the door and John Corbett twisted to Pop and Muscles.
"Did you hear that?" he gasped. "One of the kids is missing, now." He was shaking, within. He hoped the others didn't notice that.
Pop seemed to, for he said, "Steady, John. Get a grip on yourself. We'll find him. Get the waiters to hunt through the bunks and buildings, and in the meantime the three of us will scout around the edges of camp to see if we can find traces of where he was taken out of it. If he was."
"Listen, fellows," Muscles exclaimed. "Where's Tiny?"
A DULL pain throbbed at the back of Tiny Redloe's skull. Her eyes were open, but they might as well have been closed, so impenetrable was the darkness that surrounded her. She lay on something wet and hard and cold. There was a stench of corruption in her nostrils. Somewhere far off was a steady lapping of uneasy waters, somewhere near the tick, tick of dripping moisture. Somewhere near, also, a soft sound of difficult breathing.
Vaguely she had a sense of time elapsed since she had been struck down into unconsciousness. Of movement, of being carried. She must have been carried. This was rock underneath her, and there was no rock on the beach at Camp Orinol.
The breathing she heard, fluttered, catching her attention. Someone very sick breathed like that. There was someone very sick, here in this fetid dark with her. Still half-stunned, she was aware only of the necessity to find him, to help him.
She rolled, came up on her hands and knees. Some sixth sense warned her that she was in an enclosed space, that a roof weighed low over her. She dared not rise erect, but started crawling toward that pitiful breathing.
The floor was wet, slippery with slime, uneven. Her hand touched something yielding. A recumbent form, that twitched away from her. The breathing, very near now, broke into a low moan.
Nan hung there a moment, straining her eyes. They must be getting accustomed to the darkness; she could make out a shape here before her. A small shape, about the size of an eight-year-old child. Was he from camp?
Vision was becoming more and more acute. She could make out the Orinol uniform now. Could make out the boy's face, in a bluish luminance. Blond, curly hair, a small chin, a sensuous little mouth. This was Bobby Stone! Son of the chairman of the Stone Trust.
He lay motionless on black, wet stone, against a rugged stone wall dripping moisture. His arms, his legs were lashed with strong cord, there was a gag in his mouth. How was it that she could see all this so clearly? How was it that the light, bluish-silver, had grown so strong?
A scream formed in her throat, was caught there. There was a giggle behind her, the eerie, fearful giggle of the shining devil that had appeared in the Rec Hall. She twisted, gasped, sprang to her feet, panic-stricken.
It was there before her. The light by which she'd seen Bobby came from its luminous and appalling countenance. Dogeared, blank-countenanced, it leered at her from across the floor of a low-roofed, small cave, laughing its tiny, revolting laugh. Only the head, the browless, lashless face, was illumined, but there was a body beneath that face now, a torso and legs she could barely discern, and it was advancing upon her. Giggling. Giggling triumphantly.
Voiceless, trembling, Nan backed away from before that slow, infinitely terrible advance. Backed for one step, another, and then could back no longer because the cave wall stopped her. The giggling monster came on. She whirled to dart sidewise. It leaped. Clammy hands seized her arm, jerked her into a loathsome embrace.
BLOOD pumped in John Corbett's arteries at Tobey's demand, "Where's Tiny?" For the space of a watch-tick he stared voiceless at the man, then the cords in his neck pulled tight and he was croaking commands.
"Never mind Tiny. We've got the kid to think of just now. Pop has the right idea. Get going you two, while I get the waiters organized."
They were gone into the dimness. Corbett wheeled to Galatto who, goggle-eyed, was still gaping at Typo Marx's corpse. Before John could start giving him orders to round up his assistants, the chef was spluttering excited speech.
"I tell him he get into trouble, all time bodder. Right after supper I tell him dat, he bodder me 'out da dry ice from da ice cream, who take it. Who care w'at become of da dry ice—"
"What's that?" Corbett exclaimed. "What's that you said?" But he wasn't listening to Galatto's reply. He was staring down at his flashlight, still in his hand. He was staring at the string tangled about it, and comprehension was dawning on his face. Then he was whirling away from the astonished cook, was pelting pell-mell toward the Rec Hall, was going past its end and was lunging through the woods.
"Got it!" he snarled. "By all that's holy, I've got it!" His passage through the thicket was like the rush of enraged bull. "If I'm right—but I've got to be..."
He plunged out on the beach, planted heels as a black, silhouetted form lunged at him from the water's edge. A club-like fist drove past his guard, rocked him and in the pallid moonlight he saw the glaring countenance of Muscles Tobey.
TINY'S body arched to bring her head against the monster's chest. Her small fists flailed in futile desperation against a form muscle-knotted and hard and horrible. The monstrous attacker chuckled, held her easily with one hand. The other caught in the neck of her sweater, ripped it from her. The cave's gravelike chill lay against her nude flanks, her uncovered breasts.
Terror lent Nan new strength. She kicked viciously, got free of the grip on her arm, darted for the black outline of the cave entrance. A bony arm slid around her unclothed waist, dragged her back. She yielded to the pull, threw herself backwards! The unexpected maneuver got her free again, but her antagonist was between her and the exit.
She stumbled against the further wall, panting, trying to cover her nakedness with crossed arms. The monster stood motionless, leering, as though drinking in forbidden joys. The only sound in the cave was the whimper in Tiny's throat, and the delighted giggle of a child pleased with a new and pretty toy—a child touched by madness.
And now it was moving again, slowly, sure of its prey. Nan crouched, launched herself in a desperate low dive. Her shoulder struck stiffened legs, brought the monster toppling down on her. Before she could squirm free, it had twisted around, had caught hold of her, was pinning her to the rocky cave floor.
Nan screamed then, high and loud and shrill. The monster's head was rolling across the floor, a shining, unbelievable ball. His bruising fingers were digging into her flesh, his threshing weight was bearing her down, vanquished and helpless. She had put her last strength into that scream. She was defenceless now... White light blazed in her eyes, a fierce and blinding glare.
The monster's weight was no longer on her. Shouts were in her ears, someone cursing. And John Corbett's voice: "Tiny. Tiny darling. Are you all right?" John Corbett's arms were around her. She was sliding down, down into darkness once more, but it was a warm ecstatic dark. Just before it swallowed her she saw the chunky, squat form of Muscles Tobey, beyond John's head. Saw, in the blaze of a hand torch that lay on the cave floor, that Tobey's left hand held upright a gaunt, twitching form, that his right arm was lifting and falling, lifting and falling, rhythmically smashing a fist into a battered and bloody face.
It was the face of Pop Hamlin that Muscles Tobey was methodically pounding into pulp.
NAN REDLOE lay on her own cot in the infirmary. John Corbett sat on the edge of it. On the one that had belonged to Meg Fulton squatted Muscles Tobey.
"Yes," John was saying, "it was Pop Hamlin. He raised all that hell to kidnap one of the campers and hold him for ransom. It didn't matter which one, of course. Their fathers were all wealthy, and any of them would be good for plenty."
Tiny shook her head. "He didn't have to murder half the staff to do that, did he?"
"He didn't intend to. But working alone, he had to disrupt our organization, scatter us all over camp, to get away with what he did. Remember that we're more on the watch here than most camps, considering the kind of kids we have. Besides, the more chaos he created the better, for the rest of what he had in mind."
"He wanted to thoroughly discredit me, so that I would sell him back Orinol for the ransom money—"
"Sell it back to him!"
"Yes. Didn't you know that I bought it from him five years ago, the physical properties, that is? He started it but made a failure of it, and I imagine he never forgave me for that. However, he was not a killer. Meg died from heart-shock. He didn't intend anything more than to terrify her into screaming and pulling us up there to the infirmary clearing."
"He—but he was at the table with us when that happened."
"That was part of his scheme, to divert suspicion from him. He'd fixed up a modification of the very rabbit-snare that I used to get him and the others out of the Mess Hall without alarming the boys. It consists of a flexible sapling bent like a spring with a cord loosely held by a peg in the ground. A rabbit, trotting along its runway gets its head in a noose in the cord, releases the sapling and is jerked high into the air, throttled to death.
"Hamlin fixed in the path Meg always took, a contraption very much like that, except that he'd attached to the cord a phosphorescent fungus carved into a devil's head. When her foot struck the trigger cord, the released sapling pulled this out of the bushes where it was hidden and at the same time flung into her face a cake of dry ice."
"The solidified carbon dioxide packed around the ice cream when it's shipped to us. That's at a temperature of sixty to seventy degrees below zero, and it has the same action on flesh as burning, except that it doesn't char. He intended it to burn Meg, that's all, but the cord tangled around her neck and it held it there long enough to practically blot out her face. She broke it, rolling in agony, and the released sapling flung the fungus up into a treetop, where I found it, later.
"I should have guessed what was going on when I saw the cord tied to the smashed fungus, but I didn't till Cookie Galatto told me Typo had been questioning him about some dry ice that was missing. I got it then, though. Typo, shaving pennies for us, had gone out to make sure that the dry ice was properly covered with sawdust, because he'd arranged to sell it back to the express company. He discovered that most of it had been stolen, got all excited about it, was starting back to complain to me when that scream came. He saw that the lights up here were out, ran down to the power plant and replaced a fuse that Hamlin had removed. By the time he got back you were the only one of the staff around. He was dragging you out of the Mess Hall to show you the rifled box—"
"When I came up and slugged him," Tobey groaned. "I thought he'd killed Meg and was after Tiny."
"Exactly," Corbett agreed. "That gave Pop the chance to silence him for good. Hamlin had overheard him, thought that poor Typo was on to him. It's lucky he just scared Tiny away, earlier, when she heard him in the thicket, going to set the trap that killed Meg.
"As soon as the answer to the way Meg and Typo and Frank Lane were apparently burned dawned on me," John went on, "I realized that it was either Muscles or Pop who was responsible for what was going on. Since both had showed up so soon after Bobby's disappearance, the kid must be near-by. That gave me the last clue, for I recalled Pop's showing me the cave on that little island in the lake, when I was looking over the site while negotiating with him. It was boarded up and kept secret for fear some kids might visit it and break a leg, and only Pop and I knew about it. I started down for the lake, and Muscles jumped me—"
"You came at me so suddenly I didn't have time to think."
"But we recognized each other at once, grabbed a boat and got to you—just in time."
"Only just," Tiny shuddered. "But how ingenious that sapling trap of his was. How diabolically ingenious!"
"The contraption he rigged up to blow all the fuses down at the power plant while he was in full view in the Rec Hall was just as ingenious. And the way he had another fungus head rigged up by cords in the ceiling, so he could let it down as soon as that happened. He dived into the terrified mob then, used his mittened hand to slam some dry ice into Frank Lane's face. Then he stuffed the shining head under his mackinaw, grabbed the first kid he could lay his hands on, knocked him out and beat it for the canoe he had all ready to ferry him over to the cave on the island. If you hadn't seen and followed him, Tiny, so that he had to conk you and take you along, he might have gotten away with it. You see, if he'd stuck close to me instead of ducking away to get back to you, he might have gotten me off on the wrong track again."
"But why?" Tiny gasped. "Oh John. Why should he—?"
"His was a twisted mind, honey, or he would never have evolved that scheme. Not mad, just—twisted. Forget it, darling. You must forget it ever happened."
"John!" Tiny's grey eyes were shining. "John. You called me darling again! You called me darling when—in the cave there, and I thought it was because you were so excited. But you called me darling just now, and you are not excited at all."
"Yes, I am," Corbett said. "I'm excited by a discovery I made, only tonight."
"What is that, John?"
"That I love you, Tiny Redloe. That I've loved you from the first moment I saw you."
Muscles Tobey tiptoed out of the room, but he might as well have clumped with his full weight for all they noticed him. Fish Williams looked inquiringly at him, from his cot in the infirmary ward and Tobey jerked a spatulate thumb at the door he'd just closed behind him.
"That's one clinch," he grunted, "I figured there wasn't any call for this referee to break."
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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