him up." Regetti indicated a fruit-cellar adjacent to the stairs.
The Pole, still grumbling, dragged me across the floor and into the room. He lit a candle, casting strange shadows over the cobwebbed, dust-drowned shelving on the walls. Jars of preserves still stood untouched, storing, perhaps, the crop of a hundred years ago. Broken jars were still strewn about on the tottering table. As I glanced about, the Pole tossed me into a chair beside the rickety board, and proceeded to lash me to it firmly with a stout rope. I was not gagged or blindfolded again, though the choking atmosphere about me served as a good substitute for both.
He left me, closing the door. I was alone in the candle-lit quiet.
I strained my ears, and was rewarded by hearing Regetti dismiss his henchman for the night, evidently to deliver the ransom note to the proper authorities. He, Regetti, would stay behind on guard.
"Don't run into any ghosts on your way," he called after his companion, as the big Pole lumbered up the stairs.
A slamming outer door was his only response. From the ensuing quiet I judged Regetti had gone back to his solitaire.
Meanwhile, I looked about for some means of escape. I found it at last, on the table beside me. The broken jars—glass edges to cut my bonds!
Purposefully I edged my chair closer to the table end. If I could get a piece of that glass in my hands...
As I moved, I strained my ears once more to make sure that any noise made by the chair would be inaudible to Regetti, waiting outside. There was no sound from the chair as I reached the table, and I sighed with relief as I maneuvered my pinioned hands until they grasped a piece of glass firmly. Then I began to rub it against the edge of the rope which bound them.
It was slow work. Minutes ticked away into hours, and still no sound from outside, save a muffled series of snores. Regetti had fallen asleep over his cards. Good! Now, if I could get my wrists free and work on my feet, I would be able to make it.
My right hand was loose at last, though my wrist was damp with mingled sweat and blood. Cutting away from behind was not a precise, calculated sort of job. Quickly I finished the work on my left, then rubbed my swollen fingers and bent over to saw at the ropes on my legs.
Then I heard the sound.
It was the grating of rusty hinges. Anyone who has lived in archaic houses all his life learns to recognize the peculiar, eery clang. Rusty hinges grating from the cellar beyond... from an iron door? A scuffling sound among the coal... the iron door is concealed by the coal-pile. Fellippo only stayed down here one night. All they found was his leg.
Jonathan Dark, babbling on his death-bed. The door locked from the other side. Tunnels to the graveyard. What lurks in graveyards, ancient and unseen, then creeps from crypts to feast?
A scream rose in my throat, but I choked it back. Regetti still snored. Whatever was going on in the outer room, I must not wake him and lose my only chance of escape. Instead, I had best hasten and free my legs. I worked feverishly, but my ears were alert for developments.
They came. The noise in the coal-pile abruptly ceased, and I went limp with relief. Perhaps rats were at work.
A moment later I would have given anything to have heard the coal rattling again, if only to drown out the new noise.
There was something creeping across the cellar floor; something crawling, as if