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12: The Final Count Takes Place

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Author Topic: 12: The Final Count Takes Place  (Read 7 times)
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« on: November 20, 2023, 07:20:43 am »

HOW MUCH of it was true? We had confirmation of a certain amount with our own eyes. We had seen the pipe, lowered over the cliff: we had seen the mysterious signal from the sea. Above all we had seen Wilmot's dirigible actually filling up with the poison. So much, therefore, we knew. But what of the rest?

What of the astounding story of the Hermione? Had we discovered the solution of the yacht's disappearance, or had we been wasting our time reading the hallucination of a madman's brain? Had Gaunt---having read in the papers of the loss of the Hermione---imagined the scene he had described?

Against that theory was the fact---as I have mentioned before---that neither in the writing nor the phraseology could we detect any sign of insanity. And surely if the whole thing was a delusion, traces of incoherence and wildness would have been bound to appear.

So we reasoned, and still could come to no conclusion. It seemed so wildly fantastic: so well-nigh incredible. And if those epithets could be used in connection with the Hermione, what was to be said concerning the amazing fragment about the Megalithic? Even granted for the moment that the description of the loss of the Hermione was correct, were we seriously to imagine that the same thing could be done to a great Atlantic liner?

From the very first moment Drummond made up his mind and never changed it. I admit that I was sceptical until the last damning proof came to us, but he never hesitated.

"It's the truth," he said quietly. "I am convinced of it. The mystery of the Hermione is solved. And with regard to the Megalithic it is the truth also."

I suppose he saw my look of incredulity, for he then addressed himself exclusively to me.

"Stockton, ever since the time in Ashworth Gardens when that woman recognised me, I've known that we were up against Peterson. I've felt it in every fibre of my being. Now it's proved beyond a shadow of doubt. Whatever may or may not be true in that diary of Gaunt's, that fact is obvious. Wilmot is Peterson: nothing else could account for his asking Gaunt if he knew me."

He lit a cigarette, and I was struck by the gravity of his face.

"You've asked once or twice about Peterson," he went on after a while. "But though we've told you a certain amount, to you he is merely a name. To us, and to me particularly, he's rather more than that. That is why I am certain in my own mind that that scrawled message about the Megalithic is true. And the principal reason for making me think it is true lies in the last few words. That is Peterson all over."

I glanced at the scrap of paper.

"Hydrogen not helium. . . . Not changed. . . . Sacrifice ship. . . . Fire. . . ."

"My God! you fellows"---Drummond was almost shouting in his excitement---"it's stupendous. Don't you see the tear in the paper there between sacrifice and ship? Ship doesn't refer to the Megalithic: the word 'air' has been torn out. It's the airship he is going to sacrifice. It is still full of hydrogen: Peterson wasn't going to the expense of refilling with helium."

He was pacing up and down, his hands in his pockets.

"That's it: I'll swear that's it. It's the Peterson creed. It's the loophole of escape that he always leaves himself. He has decided to attack the Megalithic; why, we don't know. Possibly a boatload of American multi-millionaires on board. He's got thirty of his own men in the ship, and that strange craft of his alongside. Let's suppose the attack is successful. The liner disappears: sinks with all hands. Right: there's nothing further to worry about. But supposing it isn't successful. With the best of luck and arrangement it's a pretty big job to tackle---even for Peterson. What's going to happen then? In a few seconds the astounding news will be wirelessed all over the world that Wilmot's dirigible is carrying out an act of piracy on the high seas of such unbelievable devilry that it would make our old pal Captain Hook rotate in his coffin if he heard of it. Suppose another thing too. Suppose it is successful, but that the wireless people in the Megalithic manage to get a message through before their gear is put out of action. Peterson gets that message on his own installation. What's he going to do? He may be an institution all right at the moment, but he won't have the mayor and a brass band out to welcome him on his return once the truth is known. So he descends from his airship either into this mysterious vessel of his, or else on to dry land. We know he can do that. What he does with the crew is immaterial. Probably leaves them with a few ripe and fruity instructions, and a bomb timed to explode a little later. And so Wilmot's dirigible pays the just retribution for an astounding and diabolical crime, while Wilmot himself retires to Monte Carlo on the proceeds thereof. It's what he has always said: there's nothing like dying to put people off the scent. No police in the world are going to bother to look for the blighter if they think he is a perfectly good corpse in his own burnt-out airship. It's a pity in a way," he concluded regretfully, "a great pity. I should have liked to deal with him personally."

"Well, why not?" said Jerningham.

"It's too big altogether, Ted," answered Drummond. "I never mind chancing things a certain amount with MacIver, but I don't think we'd be justified this time. The consequences of failure would be too appalling. Let's dump the sentries inside the hut, and then push off and have some breakfast. After that we'll make for London and MacIver. Whatever is believed or is not believed, there's one thing that Peterson is going to find it hard to explain. Why are his ballast tanks full of Gaunt's poison?"

So we carried the men, who still lay bound and gagged, into the wooden hut. And there, having locked the door, we left them, with the scent of death still heavy in the air and their four gruesome companions.

"It breaks my heart," said Drummond disconsolately as we strolled towards the car, "to think that we've got to pull in Scotland Yard. Still, we've had a bit of fun. . . ."

"We have," I agreed grimly. "Incidentally what on earth are we going to do with Gaunt?"

"Well, since the poor bloke is bug house, I suppose we'll have to stuff him in a home or something. Anyway that comes later: the first thing is to lead him to an egg or possibly a kipper. We can pretend he's eccentric, if the staff go up the pole when they see him."

And so we returned to the hotel, which I certainly had never expected to see again. Now that it was all over the reaction had set in, and I even found myself wondering whether it hadn't all been some terrible nightmare. Only there sat Robin Gaunt to prove the reality, and in my pocket I could feel the sheets of his diary.

Sleep! I wanted it almost more than food: sleep and something to get rid of the racking headache which the fumes of that foul liquid had produced. And even as I waited for breakfast I found my head nodding on to the table. It was over: the strain and tension was past. One could relax. . . .

"Good Lord!" Drummond's startled exclamation roused us all. He was staring at a newspaper, whilst his neglected cigarette burnt the table-cloth beside him.

"What's the day of the week?"

"Thursday," said someone sleepily.

"Look here, you fellows," he said gravely, "pull yourselves together and wake up. The Megalithic sails to-day from Liverpool for New York."

We woke up all right at that, and his next remark completed the arousing process.

"To-day, mark you---carrying thirty million in bullion on board."

"Instantaneous, universal death," babbled Gaunt, but we paid no attention. We just sat there---all ideas of sleep banished---staring at Drummond.

"They must be warned," he said decisively. "Even at the risk of making ourselves look complete and utter fools. The Megalithic must be wirelessed."

He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out some letters.

"Give me a pencil: I'll scribble down a message."

And then suddenly he broke off, and sat looking blankly at something he held.

"Well, I'm damned," he muttered. "I'd forgotten all about that. To-night is the night of Wilmot's Celebrated Farewell Gala Night Trip. Somebody sent me two complimentary tickets for it. Couldn't think who'd done it or why. Phyllis was keen on going."

Once more he fell silent as he stared at the two tickets.

"I've got it now," he said at length, and his voice was ominously quiet. "Yes---I've got it all now. Peterson sent me those two tickets, and there's no need to ask why."

He turned to the girl, who was putting the breakfast on the table.

"How long will it take to get through to London on the telephone? Anyway I must do it. Get me Mayfair 3XI. Now then, you fellows---food. And after that we'll drive to London as even the old Hispano has never moved before."

"What are you ringing up Algy for?" said Darrell.

"I want four more tickets, Peter, for to-night's trip. And above all I want some of that antidote. Peterson is not the only man who can play that particular game."

"What about wirelessing the Megalithic?" I asked.

He looked at me with a queer smile.

"No necessity now, Stockton. If there is one thing in this world that is certain beyond all others it is that Wilmot's dirigible will be at the aerodrome when we get back to London. For I venture to think---without undue conceit---that there is one desire in Mr. Wilmot's heart that runs even the possession of thirty million fairly close. And that desire is my death."

I stared at him incredulously, but he was perfectly serious.

"Had I not known that he was going to be there, it would have been imperative to warn the Megalithic. Now the situation is different. If we wireless, don't forget that he will get the message. We warn him equally with the ship."

"Yes, but even so," I objected, "dare we run the risk?"

"There is no risk," said Drummond calmly. "Now that I know who Wilmot is---there is no risk. And to-night I'm going to have my final settlement with the gentleman."

He would say no more: all the way back to London, when he drove like a man possessed with ten devils, he hardly opened his lips. And sitting beside him, busy with my own thoughts, the spell of his extraordinary personality began to obsess me. Never had he seemed so completely sure of himself---so absolutely confident.

And yet the whole thing was bizarre and strange enough to cause all sorts of doubts. I, too, had forgotten the much-advertised final trip of the airship, until Drummond had pulled the tickets out of his pocket. The dinner was to be even more wonderful than usual, and every guest was to receive a memento of the occasion from Mr. Wilmot himself. The thing that defeated me was why Wilmot should waste the time. Granted that Drummond's theory was correct, and that after having attacked the Megalithic the airship was to come down in flames, why fool around with a two or three hours' cruise beforehand? There was no longer any necessity to pose as an "institution."

Drummond smiled at my remarks.

"Why of necessity should you assume that it's going to be three hours wasted? You don't imagine, do you, that a man like Peterson would consider it necessary to return to the aerodrome and deposit his passengers?"

"But, great Scott, man," I exploded, "he can't carry out an attack on the Megalithic with fifty complete strangers on board his airship."

"Can't he? Why not? Once granted that he's going to carry out the attack at all, I don't see that fifty or a hundred and fifty strangers would matter. You seem to forget that an integral part of his plan is that none of them should return alive to tell the tale."

"It's inconceivable that such a man can exist," I said.

"He's mother's bright boy all right is Carl Peterson," agreed Drummond. "I confess that I'm distinctly intrigued to see what is going to happen to-night."

"But surely, Drummond," I said, "we're not justified in going through with this. An inspection of his ballast tanks will prove the presence of the poison. And then the matter passes into the hands of Scotland Yard."

"I'm perfectly aware that that is what we ought to do," he said gravely. "Moreover, it is what we would do if it was possible."

"But why isn't it possible?" I cried.

"Think, man," he answered. "At a liberal estimate we shall have an hour in which to change and get to the aerodrome. If we puncture we shan't have as much. Let us suppose that during that hour we can persuade MacIver and Co. that we are not mad---a supposition which I think is very doubtful. But for the sake of argument we will suppose it. What is going to happen then? MacIver appears at the aerodrome with a bunch of his pals, and attempts to board the airship. Peterson, who can spot MacIver a mile off, either sheers off at once in his dirigible, leaving MacIver dancing a hornpipe on the ground; or, what is just as likely, lets him come on board and then murders him. Don't you see, Stockton, the one fundamental factor of the whole thing is that that airship is never going to return. It doesn't matter one continental hoot to Peterson whether he is suspected or whether he isn't suspected---once he has started. He may be branded as the world's arch-devil: what does he care? A just retribution has overtaken him: he has perished miserably in the flames of his machine. No---I've thought it over, and I'm convinced that our best chance is to let his plans go on as he has arranged them. Don't let him suspect that we suspect. It won't seem strange to him that I turn up: he'll merely assume that I've utilised the ticket he sent me in utter ignorance of who he is. And then . . ."

"Yes," I said curiously as he paused. "And then---what?"

"Why---just one thing. The one vital thing, Stockton, which knocks the bottom out of his entire scheme. If we're right, and I know we're right, his whole plan depends on his ability to leave the airship. And he's not going to leave the airship. . . ."

"For all that," I argued, "he may cause the most ghastly damage to the Megalithic."

"I think not," said Drummond quietly. "I've made out a rough time-table, and this is how I see it. He plans to attack her somewhere off the south coast of Ireland, probably in the early hours of to-morrow morning. Long before that the guests will have realised that something is wrong. The instant that occurs he will show his hand, and matters will come to a head. One way or another it will be all over by eleven o'clock."

"My God! it's an awful risk we're running," I muttered.

"And an unavoidable one," he answered. "There's not a human being in England who would not believe us to be absolutely crazy if we told them what we know. So that any possibility of preventing people going on board that airship to-night may be ruled out of court at once."

It was half-past five when we arrived, and we found Algy Longworth waiting for us at Drummond's house.

"Done everything you told me, old lad," he cried cheerfully. "They thought I was mad at the War House. Great Scott!" he broke off suddenly as he saw Gaunt, "who's your pal?"

"Doesn't matter about him, Algy. You've got the antidote?"

"A bucket of it, old boy. Saw Stockton's pal---one Major Jackson."

"And you've got four tickets for Wilmot's dirigible this evening?"

"Got 'em at Keith and Prowse. What is the fun and laughter?"

"Peterson, Algy. Our one and only Carl. He's Wilmot."

Algy Longworth stared at him incredulously.

"My dear old bird," he said at length, "you're pulling my leg."

"Wilmot is Carl Peterson, Algy. Of that there is no shadow of doubt. And that's why you've got four tickets. We renew our acquaintance to-night."

"Good Lord! Well, the tickets are a tenner each, including dinner, and I got the last. So we must get our money's worth."

"You'll get that all right," said Drummond grimly. "Have you brought everybody's clothes round? Good. Get changed, you fellows: we start at six."


And now I come to the final act in the whole amazing drama. Though months have elapsed, every detail of that last flight is as clear in my mind as if it had happened yesterday.

We started at six, leaving Denny in charge of Robin. Each of us had in our pockets a pot of the antidote and a revolver; and no one talked very much. Drummond, his face set like granite, stared at the road in front of him. Algy Longworth polished and repolished his eyeglass ceaselessly. In fact, in sporting parlance---I don't know about Drummond, but as far as the rest of us were concerned---we had got the needle.

The evening was calm and still as we motored into the aerodrome. Great flaring arc lights lit up everything with the brightness of day: whilst above our heads, attached to the mooring mast, floated the graceful vessel, no longer dark and sinister as we had seen her the night before, but a blaze of light from bows to stern.

She was due to start at seven o'clock, and at ten minutes to the hour we stepped out of the lift at the top of the mast into the main corridor of the dirigible. Everywhere the vessel was gaily decorated with festoons of brightly coloured paper and fairy-lights. And in the first of the big cabins ahead we caught a glimpse of a crowd of fashionably dressed women gathered round a thick-set good-looking man in evening clothes. Mr. Wilmot was welcoming his guests.

"Is that Peterson?" I whispered to Drummond.

He laughed shortly.

"Do you mean---do I recognise him? No, I don't. I never have yet, by looking at his face. But it's Peterson all right."

Drummond was handing his coat and hat to a diminutive black boy in a bright red uniform, and I glanced at his face. A faint smile was hovering round his lips, but his eyes were expressionless. And even the smile vanished as he strolled towards the group in the ante-room: he was just the ordinary society man attending some function.

And what a function it proved. It was the first time that I had ever been inside an airship, and the thing that impressed me most was the spaciousness of everything---and the luxury. Even granting that it was a special occasion, one had to admit that the whole thing was marvellously well done. The lighting effect was superb; and in every corner great masses of hot-house flowers gave out a heavy scent.

"It's Eastern," I said to Drummond. "Oriental."

"Peterson has always been spectacular," he answered. "But I agree that he has spared no pains with the coffin."

"I simply can't believe it," I said. "Now that we're actually here, surrounded by all this, it seems incredible that he proposes to sacrifice it all."

"There are a good many things about Peterson that strike one as incredible," said Drummond quietly. "But I wish I had even an inkling of what he's going to do."

Suddenly the eyes of the two men met over the heads of the women. It was the moment I had been waiting for and I watched Wilmot intently. For perhaps the fraction of a second he paused in his conversation and it seemed to me that a gleam of triumph showed on his face: then once again he turned to the woman beside him with just the correct shade of deference which is expected of those who converse with a Duchess.

Drummond also had turned away and was chatting with someone he knew, but I noticed that he continually edged nearer and nearer to the place where Wilmot was standing a little apart from the others. At last he stopped in front of them and bowed.

"Good-evening, Duchess," he remarked. "Why aren't you slaughtering birds up North?"

"How are you, Hugh? Same thing applies to you. By the way---do you know Mr. Wilmot?---Captain Drummond?"

The two men bowed, and Jerningham and I, talking ostensibly, drew closer. I know my hands were clammy with excitement, and I don't think the others were in much better condition.

"Your last trip, Mr. Wilmot, I believe," said Drummond.

"That is so," answered the other. "In England, I regret to say, the weather is so treacherous that after the early part of September flying ceases to be a pleasure."

"He has got some wonderful surprise for us, Hugh," said the Duchess.

"Merely a trifling souvenir, my dear Duchess," answered Wilmot suavely.

"Of what has become quite an institution, Mr. Wilmot," put in Drummond.

Wilmot bowed.

"I had hoped perhaps to have made it even more of an institution," he answered. "But the public takes to new things slowly. Ah! we're off."

"And what," asked Drummond, "is our course to-night?"

"I thought we would do the Thames Valley. Duchess---a cocktail?"

A waiter with a row of exquisite glasses containing an amber liquid was handing her a tray.

"Captain Drummond? You, I'm sure, will have one."

"Why, certainly, Mr. Wilmot. I feel confident that what the Duchess drinks is safe for me."

And once again the eyes of the two men met.

Personally I think it was at that moment that the certainty came to Wilmot that Drummond knew. But just as certainly no sign of it showed on his face. All through the sumptuous dinner that followed, when he and Drummond sat one on each side of the Duchess, he played the part of the courteous host to perfection. I was two or three places away myself, so much of their conversation I missed. But some of it I did hear, and I marvelled at Wilmot's nerve.

Deliberately Drummond brought up the subject of the Robin Gaunt mystery, and of the fate of the Hermione. And just as deliberately Wilmot discussed them both. But all the time he knew and we knew that things were moving inexorably towards their appointed end. And what was that end going to be?

That was the question I asked myself over and over again. It seemed impossible, incredible that the suave, self-possessed man at the head of the table could possess a mind so infamously black that, without a qualm, he would sacrifice all these women. And yet he had not scrupled to murder the women in the Hermione.

It seemed so needless---so unnecessary. Why have brought them at all? Why not have flown with his crew alone? Why have drawn attention to himself with his much-advertised gala night?

"Have you noticed the rate at which we are going? She's positively quivering."

Jerningham's sudden question broke in on my thoughts, and I realised that the whole great vessel was vibrating like a thing possessed. But no one seemed to pay any attention: the band still played serenely on, scarcely audible over the loud buzz of conversation.

At last dinner was over, and a sudden silence fell as Wilmot rose to his feet. A burst of applause greeted him, and he bowed with a faint smile.

"Your Grace," he began, "Ladies and Gentlemen. It is, believe me, not only a pleasure but an honour to have had such a distinguished company to-night to celebrate this last trip in my airship. I am no believer in long speeches, certainly not on occasions of this sort. But, before distributing the small souvenirs which I have obtained as a memento of this---I trust I may say---pleasant evening, there is one thing which as loyal subjects of our gracious Sovereign it is our duty to perform. Before, however, requesting the distinguished officer on my right"---he bowed to Drummond, and suddenly with a queer thrill I noticed that Drummond's face was shining like an actor's with grease paint---"to propose His Majesty's health, I would like to mention one fact. The liqueur in which I would ask you to drink the King is one unknown in this country. It is an old Chinese wine the secret of which is known only to a certain sect of monks. Its taste is not unpleasant, but its novelty will lie in the fact that you are drinking what only two Europeans have ever drunk before. One of those is dead---not, I hasten to assure you, as a result of drinking it: the other is myself. I will now ask Captain Drummond to propose the King."

In front of each of us had been placed a tiny glass containing a few drops of the liqueur, and Drummond rose to his feet, as did all of us.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said mechanically, and I could tell he was puzzled---"the King."

The band struck up the National Anthem, and we stood there waiting for the end. Suddenly on Drummond's face there flashed a look of horror, and he swung round staring at Wilmot. And then came his mighty shout---drowning the band with its savage intensity.

"Don't drink. For God's sake---don't drink. It's death."

Unconsciously I sniffed the contents of my glass: smelt that strange sickly scent: realised that the liquid was Gaunt's poison.

The band stopped abruptly, and a woman started to laugh hysterically. And still Drummond and Wilmot stared at one another in silence, whilst the great vessel drove on throbbing through the night.

"What's all this damned foolery?" came in angry tones from a red-faced man half-way down the table. "You're frightening the women, sir. What do you mean---death?"

He raised the glass to his lips, and before any of us could stop him, he drained it. And drinking it he crashed forward across the table---dead.

It was then that real pandemonium broke loose. Women screamed and huddled together in little groups, staring at the man who had spoken---now lying rigid and motionless with broken glass and upset flower vases all round him.

And still Drummond and Wilmot stared at one another in silence.

"The doors, you fellows." Drummond's voice reached us above the din. "And line up the servants and keep them covered."

With a snarl that was scarcely human Wilmot sprang forward. He snatched up the Duchess's liqueur glass and flung the contents in Drummond's face. And Drummond laughed.

"Your mistake, Peterson," he said. "You only got half the antidote when you murdered Sir John Dallas. Ah! no---your hands above your head."

The barrel of his revolver gleamed in the light, and once again silence fell as, fascinated, we watched the pair of them. They stood alone, at the head of the table, and Drummond's eyes were hard and merciless, while Peterson plucked at his collar with hands that shook.

"Where are we driving to at this rate, Carl Peterson?" said Drummond.

"There's some mistake," muttered the other.

"No, Peterson, there is no mistake. To-night you were going to do to the Megalithic what you did to the Hermione---sink her with every soul on board. There's no good denying it: I spent last night in Black Mine."

The other started uncontrollably, and the blazing hatred in his eyes grew more maniacal.

"What are you going to do, Drummond?" he snarled.

"A thing that has been long overdue, Peterson," answered Drummond quietly. "You unspeakable devil: you damnable wholesale murderer."

He slipped the revolver back in his pocket, and picked up his own liqueur glass.

"The good host drinks first, Peterson." His great hand shot out and clutched the other's throat. "Drink, you foul brute: drink."

Never to my dying day shall I forget the hoarse yell of terror that Peterson uttered as he struggled in that iron grip. His eyes stared fearfully at the glass, and with a sudden stupendous effort he knocked it out of Drummond's hand.

And once again Drummond laughed: the contents had spilled on the other's wrist.

"If you won't drink---have it the other way, Carl Peterson. But the score is paid."

His grip relaxed on Peterson's throat: he stood back, arms folded, watching the criminal. And whether it was the justice of fate, or whether it was that previous applications of the antidote had given Peterson a certain measure of immunity, I know not. But for full five seconds did he stand there before the end came. And in that five seconds the mask slipped from his face, and he stood revealed for what he was. And of that revelation no man can write. . . .

Thus did Carl Peterson die on the eve of his biggest coup. As he had killed, so was he killed, whilst, all unconscious of what had happened, the navigator still drove the airship full speed towards the west.


And now but little remains to be told. It was Drummond who walked along the corridor and found the control cabin. It was Drummond who put a revolver in the navigator's neck, and forced him to swing the airship round and head back to London. It was Drummond who commanded the dirigible till finally we tied up once more to the mooring mast.

And then it was Drummond who, revolver in hand to stop any rush of the crew, superintended the disembarkation of the guests. Lift load after lift load of white-faced women and men went down to the ground till only we six remained. One final look did we take at the staring glassy eyes of the man who sprawled across the chair in which he had sat to entertain Royalty, and then we too dropped swiftly downwards.

News had already passed round the aerodrome, and excited officials thronged round us as we stepped out of the lift. But Drummond would say nothing.

"Ring up Inspector MacIver at Scotland Yard," he remarked curtly. "Leave all the rest of them on board till he comes. I will stop here."

But, as all the world knows, it was decreed otherwise. Barely had we sat down in one of the waiting-rooms when an agitated man rushed in.

"She's off," he cried. "Wilmot's dirigible is under way."

We darted outside to see the great airship slowly circling round. She still blazed with light, and from the windows leaned men, waving their arms mockingly. Then she headed north-east. And she was barely clear of the aerodrome when it happened. What looked to me like a yellow flash came from amidships, followed by a terrible rending noise. And before our eyes the dirigible became a roaring furnace of flame. Then, splitting in two, she dropped like a stone.

What caused the accident no one will ever know. Personally I am inclined to agree with Drummond that one of the crew, realising that Wilmot was dead, decided to ransack his cabin to see what he could steal. And in the cabin he found some infernal device for causing fire, which in his unskilful hands exploded suddenly. It is a possible solution: that is all I can say for it. Anyway the point is immaterial. For twelve hours no man could approach the wreckage, so intense was the heat. And when at length it was possible, the bodies were so terribly burned as to be unrecognisable. Two only could be traced: the two in evening clothes. Though which was the red-faced man who had drunk and which was Wilmot no one could say. And again the point is immaterial. For when a man is dead he's dead, and there's not much use in worrying further. What did matter was that one of those two charred corpses was all that remained of the super-criminal known to the world as Wilmot---and known to Drummond as Carl Peterson.

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