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The Grand Babylon Hotel

13. In The State Bedroom
IT was of course plain to Racksole that the peculiar passageway which he had,
at great personal inconvenience, discovered between the bathroom of No. 111
and the State bathroom on the floor below must have been specially designed by
some person or persons for the purpose of keeping a nefarious watch upon the
occupants of the State suite of apartments. It was a means of communication at
once simple and ingenious. At that moment he could not be sure of the precise
method employed for it, but he surmised that the casing of the waterpipes had
been used as a 'well', while space for the pipes themselves had been found in
the thickness of the ample brick walls of the Grand Babylon. The eye-hole,
through which he now had a view of the bedroom, was a very minute one, and
probably would scarcely be noticed from the exterior. One thing he observed
concerning it, namely, that it had been made for a man somewhat taller than
himself; he was obliged to stand on tiptoe in order to get his eye in the correct
position. He remembered that both Jules and Rocco were distinctly above the
average height; also that they were both thin men, and could have descended
the well with comparative ease. Theodore Racksole, though not stout, was a
well-set man with large bones.
These things flashed through his mind as he gazed, spellbound, at the
mysterious movements of Rocco. The door between the bathroom and the
bedroom was wide open, and his own situation was such that his view embraced
a considerable portion of the bedroom, including the whole of the immense and
gorgeously-upholstered bedstead, but not including the whole of the marble
washstand. He could see only half of the washstand, and at intervals Rocco
passed out of sight as his lithe hands moved over the object which lay on the
marble. At first Theodore Racksole could not decide what this object was, but
after a time, as his eyes grew accustomed to the position and the light, he made
it out.
It was the body of a man. Or, rather, to be more exact, Racksole could discern
the legs of a man on that half of the table which was visible to him. Involuntarily
he shuddered, as the conviction forced itself upon him that Rocco had some
unconscious human being helpless on that cold marble surface. The legs never
moved. Therefore, the hapless creature was either asleep or under the influence
of an anaesthetic - or (horrible thought!) dead.
Racksole wanted to call out, to stop by some means or other the dreadful
midnight activity which was proceeding before his astonished eyes; but
fortunately he restrained himself.
On the washstand he could see certain strangely-shaped utensils and
instruments which Rocco used from time to time. The work seemed to Racksole
to continue for interminable hours, and then at last Rocco ceased, gave a sign of
satisfaction, whistled several bars from 'Cavalleria Rusticana', and came into the
bath-room, where he took off his coat, and very quietly washed his hands. As he
stood calmly and leisurely wiping those long fingers of his, he was less than four
feet from Racksole, and the cooped-up millionaire trembled, holding his breath,
 
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