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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/27

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from the next tower, came a voice: "What's the matter, Pete?"

"I thought I saw something move on the wall," said the near guard. "Looked like a guy climbing. But I don't see it now. Guess it was the fog—or else I'm nuts."

For minutes Littell hung there. Then nearing exhaustion warned him that he must move again. He wasn't made for this kind of thing. He wasn't trained for it. His body was soft with fat living on the income from Elizabeth Moore's fortune, which he had handled till she was twenty-one.

He drew himself slowly up to the top of the wall, lay there till he saw the near guard look in the opposite direction, and then rolled across. There, he hung by his hands and dropped. An even longer drop than the one from his cell window. But he was free! Free!

He could have shouted and sung. But he did neither. He ran. He ran till his lungs were bursting, through the outlying street of the small town in which the penitentiary was located. He had to get clothes, now, and get away from here before the cell block guard sauntered by on his next round and saw an empty cell....

A woman was coming toward him along the deserted sidewalk. Littell abruptly slowed his pace. He hadn't seen her before. She must have turned suddenly out of one of the houses lining the street. The walk had seemed empty, then—there she was.

He started to race across the street, then remembered the fantastic thing that protected him.

He stepped to a big tree beside the walk, and leaned against the rough bark, He would simply stand there, blending with the tree, till she had passed.

She came closer, walking slowly but evenly. In spite of his knowledge of the way he was shielded, Littell shrank back against the tree bole.

She came up to where he stood, and stopped there. She half turned on the walk till she was facing him. And she looked squarely at him.

Looked squarely at him. And saw him! After ten terrible seconds Littell knew that. There was no mistaking the comprehension of her level gaze.

And then he saw who the woman was, and all else was lost in that tremendous realization. Scream after scream struggled to his lips and burst soundlessly there, unable to tear free.

"Murderer!" said the woman.

And her face was the face of murdered Elizabeth Moore!

"It beats me," said the warden, standing with the cell block guard and the prison doctor in Littell's cell. "He had the bar all sawed and ready for an attempted escape. And then he commits suicide by swallowing that stuff. What did you say it was?"

"Strychnin, mainly," said the doctor. "I suppose he got it from the prison hospital."

"All ready to try to crush out, and he takes strychnin," repeated the warden. "Maybe he took one look at the way the yard was lighted, realized he hadn't the guts to try a break for the wall, and downed the poison in a fit of despair."

"Maybe," shrugged the doctor. "But what I'd like to know is why he took all his clothes off before doing it. What on earth did he have in his mind when he did that?"

The warden grunted and looked at the flaccid body on the lower bunk. In death as in life, Littell was the opposite of attractive.

"Stir-simple, I guess. Anyway, who cares?"