The Quest of the Sacred Slipper HTML version

19. A Rapping At Midnight
Inspector Bristol finished his whisky at a gulp and stood up, a tall, massive figure,
stretching himself and yawning.
"The detective of fiction would be hard at work on this case, now," he said, smiling, "but
I don't even pretend to be. I am at a standstill and I don't care who knows it."
"You have absolutely no clue to the whereabouts of Earl Dexter?"
"Not the slightest, Mr. Cavanagh. You hear a lot about the machinery of the law, but as a
matter of fact, looking for a clever man hidden in London is a good deal like looking for
a needle in a haystack. Then, he may have been bluffing when he told you he had the
Prophet's slipper. He's already had his hand cut off through interfering with the beastly
thing, and I really can't believe he would take further chances by keeping it in his
possession. Nevertheless, I should like to find him."
He leaned back against the mantelpiece, scratching his head perplexedly. In this
perplexity he had my sympathy. No such pursuit, I venture to say, had ever before been
required of Scotland Yard as this of the slipper of the Prophet. An organization founded
in 1090, which has made a science of assassination, which through the centuries has
perfected the malign arts, which, lingering on in a dark spot in Syria, has suddenly
migrated and established itself in London, is a proposition almost unthinkable.
It was hard to believe that even the daring American cracksman should have ventured to
touch that blood-stained relic of the Prophet, that he should have snatched it away from
beneath the very eyes of the fanatics who fiercely guarded it. What he hoped to gain by
his possession of the slipper was not evident, but the fact remained that if he could be
believed, he had it, and provided Scotland Yard's information was accurate, he still
lurked in hiding somewhere in London.
Meanwhile, no clue offered to his hiding-place, and despite the ceaseless vigilance of the
men acting under Bristol's orders, no trace could be found of Hassan of Aleppo nor of his
fiendish associates.
"My theory is," said Bristol, lighting a cigarette, "that even Dexter's cleverness has failed
to save him. He's probably a dead man by now, which accounts for our failing to find
him; and Hassan of Aleppo has recovered the slipper and returned to the East, taking his
gruesome company with him - God knows how! But that accounts for our failing to find
I stood up rather wearily. Although poor Deeping had appointed me legal guardian of the
relic, and although I could render but a poor account of my stewardship, let me confess
that I was anxious to take that comforting theory to my bosom. I would have given much
to have known beyond any possibility of doubt that the accursed slipper and its blood-