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The Yellow Claw

East 18642
In a pitiable state of mind, Soames walked away from the Post Office. Gianapolis had
hurried off in the direction of Victoria Station. Something was wrong! Some part of the
machine, of the dimly divined machine whereof he formed a cog, was out of gear. Since
the very nature of this machine--its construction and purpose, alike--was unknown to
Soames, he had no basis upon which to erect surmises for good or ill.
His timid inquiries into the identity of East 18642 had begun and terminated with his
labored perusal of the telephone book, a profitless task which had occupied him for the
greater part of an evening.
The name, Gianapolis, did not appear at all; whereas there proved to be some two
hundred and ninety Kings. But, oddly, only four of these were on the Eastern Exchange;
one was a veterinary surgeon; one a boat-builder; and a third a teacher of dancing. The
fourth, an engineer, seemed a "possible" to Soames, although his published number was
not 18642; but a brief--a very brief--conversation, convinced the butler that this was not
his man.
He had been away from the flat for over an hour, and he doubted if even the lax sense of
discipline possessed by Mr. Leroux would enable that gentleman to overlook this
irregularity. Soames had a key of the outer door, and he built his hopes upon the
possibility that Leroux had not noticed his absence and would not hear his return.
He opened the door very quietly, but had scarcely set his foot in the lobby ere the
dreadful, unforgettable scene met his gaze.
For more years than he could remember, he had lived in dread of the law; and, in Luke
Soames' philosophy, the words Satan and Detective were interchangeable. Now, before
his eyes, was a palpable, unmistakable police officer; and on the floor . . .
Just one glimpse he permitted himself--and, in a voice that seemed to reach him from a
vast distance, the detective was addressing HIM! . . .
Slinking to his room, with his craven heart missing every fourth beat, and his mind in
chaos, Soames sank down upon the bed, locked his hands together and hugged them,
convulsively, between his knees.
It was come! He had overstepped that almost invisible boundary- line which divides
indiscretion from crime. He knew now that the voice within him, the voice which had
warned him against Gianapolis and against becoming involved in what dimly he had
perceived to be an elaborate scheme, had been, not the voice of cowardice (as he had
supposed) but that of prudence.
And it was too late. The dead woman, he told himself--he had been unable to see her very
clearly--undoubtedly was Mrs. Leroux. What in God's name had happened! Probably her
husband had killed her . . . which meant? It meant that proofs--PROOFS--were come into
his possession; and who should be involved, entangled in the meshes of this fallen
conspiracy, but himself, Luke Soames!
 
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