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The Adventures of Jimmie Dale

II.4. The Innocent Bystander
There was not a sound. That stillness, weird, unnerving, that permeated, as it
were, everywhere through that mysterious house, was, if that were possible,
accentuated now. The four masked men in evening dress, five including their
leader, for the man who had appeared in that other room with the rabbit was not
here, were as silent, as motionless, as the dead man who was lashed there in
the chair. And to Jimmie Dale it seemed at first as though his brain, stunned and
stupefied at the shock, refused its functions, and left him groping blindly, vaguely,
with only a sort of dull, subconscious realisation of menace and a deadly peril,
imminent, hanging over him.
He tried to rouse himself mentally, to prod his brain to action, to pit it in a fight for
life against these self-confessed criminals and murderers with their mask of
culture, who surrounded him now. Was there a way out? What was it the Tocsin
had said--"the most powerful and pitiless organisation of criminals the world has
ever known--the stake a fortune of millions--her life!" There had, indeed, been no
overemphasis in the words she had used! They had taken pains themselves to
make that ominously clear, these men! Every detail of the strange house, with its
luxurious furnishings, its cleverly contrived appointments, breathed a horribly
suggestive degree of power, a deadly purpose, and an organisation swayed by a
master mind; and, grim evidence of the merciless, inexorable length to which
they would go, was the ghastly white face of the dead chauffeur, bound hand and
foot, in the chair before him!
That EMPTY glass in the hand of one of the men! He could not take his eyes
from it--except as his eyes were drawn magnetically to that FULL glass in the
hand of one of the others. What height of sardonic irony! He was to drink that
other glass, to die because he refused to answer questions that for years, with
every resource at his command, risking his liberty, his wealth, his name, his life,
with everything that he cared for thrown into the scales, he had struggled to
solve--and failed!
 
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