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The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu


my ears, attuned to trifling disturbances, the trap creaked and
groaned noisily.
Nayland Smith waved to me to take a stand on the other side of
the opened door—behind it, in fact, where I should be concealed
from the view of any one descending the stair.
I stood up and crossed the floor to my new post.
A dull thud told of the trap fully raised and resting upon some
supporting joist. A faint rustling (of discarded garments, I told
myself) spoke to my newly awakened, acute perceptions, of the
visitor preparing to lower himself to the landing. Followed a groan
of woodwork submitted to sudden strain—and the unmistakable
pad of bare feet upon the linoleum of the top corridor.
I knew now that one of Dr. Fu-Manchu's uncanny servants had
gained the roof of the house by some means, had broken through
the skylight and had descended by means of the trap beneath on to
the landing.
In such a tensed-up state as I cannot describe, nor, at this hour
mentally reconstruct, I waited for the creaking of the stairs which
should tell of the creature's descent.
I was disappointed. Removed scarce a yard from me as he was, I
could hear Nayland Smith's soft, staccato breathing; but my eyes
were all for the darkened hallway, for the smudgy outline of the
stair-rail with the faint patterning in the background which, alone,
indicated the wall.
It was amid an utter silence, unheralded by even so slight a
sound as those which I had acquired the power of detecting—that I
saw the continuity of the smudgy line of stair-rail to be interrupted.
A dark patch showed upon it, just within my line of sight,
invisible to Smith on the other side of the doorway, and some ten
or twelve stairs up.
No sound reached me, but the dark patch vanished and
reappeared three feet lower down.
Still I knew that this phantom approach must be unknown to my
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