The Grand Babylon Hotel
14. Rocco Answers Some Questions
ROCCO turned round with the swiftness of a startled tiger, and gave Theodore
Racksole one long piercing glance.
'D--n!' said Rocco, with as pure an Anglo-Saxon accent and intonation as
Racksole himself could have accomplished.
The most extraordinary thing about the situation was that at this juncture
Theodore Racksole did not know what to say. He was so dumbfounded by the
affair, and especially by Rocco's absolute and sublime calm, that both speech
and thought failed him.
'I give in,' said Rocco. 'From the moment you entered this cursed hotel I was
afraid of you. I told Jules I was afraid of you. I knew there would be trouble with a
man of your kidney, and I was right; confound it! I tell you I give in. I know when
I'm beaten. I've got no revolver and no weapons of any kind. I surrender. Do what
And with that Rocco sat down on a chair. It was magnificently done. Only a truly
great man could have done it. Rocco actually kept his dignity.
For answer, Racksole walked slowly into the vast apartment, seized a chair, and,
dragging it up to Rocco's chair, sat down opposite to him. Thus they faced each
other, their knees almost touching, both in evening dress. On Rocco's right hand
was the bed, with the corpse of Reginald Dimmock. On Racksole's right hand,
and a little behind him, was the marble washstand, still littered with Rocco's
implements. The electric light shone on Rocco's left cheek, leaving the other side
of his face in shadow. Racksole tapped him on the knee twice.
'So you're another Englishman masquerading as a foreigner in my hotel,'
Racksole remarked, by way of commencing the interrogation.
'I'm not,' answered Rocco quietly. 'I'm a citizen of the United States.'
'The deuce you are!' Racksole exclaimed.
'Yes, I was born at West Orange, New Jersey, New York State. I call myself an
Italian because it was in Italy that I first made a name as a chef - at Rome. It is
better for a great chef like me to be a foreigner. Imagine a great chef named
Elihu P. Rucker. You can't imagine it. I changed my nationality for the same
reason that my friend and colleague, Jules, otherwise Mr Jackson, changed his.'
'So Jules is your friend and colleague, is he?'
'He was, but from this moment he is no longer. I began to disapprove of his
methods no less than a week ago, and my disapproval will now take active form.'
'Will it?' said Racksole. 'I calculate it just won't, Mr Elihu P. Rucker, citizen of the
United States. Before you are very much older you'll be in the kind hands of the
police, and your activities, in no matter what direction, will come to an abrupt
'It is possible,' sighed Rocco.
'In the meantime, I'll ask you one or two questions for my own private
satisfaction. You've acknowledged that the game is up, and you may as well
answer them with as much candour as you feel yourself capable of. See?'
'I see,' replied Rocco calmly, 'but I guess I can't answer all questions.