Weird Tales/Volume 41/Issue 4/The Antimacassar

The Antimacassar  (1949) 
by Greye La Spina

The Antimacassar


Page 62 (Weird Tales v41n04 1949-05).jpg

Heading by Lee Brown Coye

“SHE didn’t last very long,” said Mrs. Renner’s resentful voice.

Lucy Butterfield turned her head on the pillow so that she might hear better the whisperings outside her bedroom door. She was not loath to eavesdrop in that house of secret happenings, if by listening she might find some clue to Cora Kent’s mysterious disappearance.

"Because she was not a well woman, missus. It was just too much for her. You should’ve knowed it, if Kathy didn’t.”

That, Lucy knew, was the voice of Aaron Gross, the ancient pauper whom her landlady explained she had taken from the county poor-farm to do her outdoor chores. It was a high, cackling voice quite in character with the dried-up little man to whom it belonged.

"Sh-sh-sh! Want to wake her up?”

Lucy sat upright in bed, by now keenly attuned to those low voices in the corridor outside her room. The knowledge that she was not supposed to hear what her landlady and the hired man were discussing lent a certain allure—half mischievous, half serious—to her almost involuntary eavesdropping.

"Kathy had to be fed,” said Mrs. Renner’s sharp whisper. "Listen at her now! How’m I going to put her off? Tell me that!”

Lucy, too, listened. From one of the locked rooms along the corridor she heard a soft moaning and knew that what she had been hearing for several nights was not a dream. Twelve-year-old Kathy Renner, confined to her bed with rheumatic fever and denied the solace of sympathetic company for fear the excitement might bring on a heart attack, was wailing softly.

"Mom! I’m hungry! Mom! I’m hungry!"

Why, the poor kid! Lying there alone all day with no one to talk to, and crying all night with hunger. Lucy’s gorge rose against the hard efficiency of Mrs. Renner. How could a mother bear hearing that pitiful pleading? As if some relentless intuition pushed her into explanation, Mrs. Renner’s voice came huskily.

"Listen at her! Oh, my little Kathy! I just can’t bear it. I can’t get at them tonight but tomorrow I’m going to take out that honeysuckle!”

Lucy’s gray eyes roved across the room to rest with puzzlement upon a tail vase of yellow-blossomed honeysuckle dimly seen in the half light on one shelf of the old bureau between the two south windows. She had thought it pleasant that her landlady brought them in fresh daily, for their high perfume was sweet and they seemed part of the country life to which she had given herself for a two-week vacation from her new and responsible buyer’s position in the linen department of Munger Brothers in Philadelphia.

"Don’t do it, missus. You’ll just be sorry if' you do. Don’t do it!” Sharp protest in old Aaron’s querulous voice. "You know what happened with that other gal. You can’t keep that up, missus. If this one goes, it won’t be like the first one and then you’ll have double trouble, missus, mark my words. Don’t do it! Accidents are one thing; on purpose is another. Let me get a sharp stake, missus—?”

"Hush! Get back to bed, Aaron. Leave this to me. After all, I’m Kathy’s mother. You’re not going to stop me. I’m not going to let her go hungry. Get back to bed, I tell you.”

"Well, her door's locked and there’s honeysuckle inside. You can’t do anything tonight,” grudgingly acceded Aaron.

Footsteps receded, softly down the corridor. The old Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse out in the Haycock sank into silence, save only for that plaintive moaning from the child’s room.

"Mom! I’m hungry! Mom!”

LUCY lay long awake. She could not compose herself to sleep while that unhappy whimper continued. Against its eerie background her thoughts went to the reason for her stay at Mrs. Renner’s out-of-the-way farmhouse in Bucks County. It had begun with the non-appearance of Cora Kent, Lucy’s immediate superior in Munger Brothers’s linen department. Cora had not returned to work at the expiration of her vacation period and inquiries only emphasized the fact of her disappearance. She had left for the country in her coupe, taking a small table loom and boxes of colored thread.

Lucy had liked Miss Kent as a business associate and felt reluctant at taking over her job. Somebody had had to assume the responsibility and Lucy stood next in line. Her vacation had come three weeks after Miss Kent^s and she had insisted upon taking it as a partial preparation for taking over the job. In her heart she determined to scout about the country side to find if she could find some clue to Cora Kent’s mysterious disappearance. She felt that Cora would not have gone far afield and so she took up her headquarters in Doylestown, county seat of Bucks, while she carried on her self-imposed detective work.

In the Haycock region outside Quakertown, where many isolated farms were located, she came upon a clue. She had learned at the Doylestown Museum the names of weavers and inquiries had taken her to Mrs. Renner’s farm. On the third day of her vacation Lucy had come to an agreement with Mrs. Renner for a week’s board and weaving lessons. In the upstairs front room that was to be hers, Lucy exclaimed with enthusiasm over the coverlet on the old spool bed, at the runners on the wash-stand and the antique bureau with its tall shelves and drawers, on either side of the high mirror. A stuffed chair upholstered in material that Mrs. Renner said was woven by herself caught Lucy’s attention and the antimacassar pinned on the back caught her eye particularly. Mrs. Renner said with a certain uneasiness that she hadn’t woven it herself and her eyes evaded Lucy’s shiftily. Lucy offered to buy it and Mrs. Renner at once unpinned it.

She said shortly: "Take it. I never did like it. Glad to be shut of it.”

When Lucy went back to Doylestown to pick up her belongings, she wrote a brief note to Stan’s mother and enclosed the weaving. She gave her prospective mother-in-law Mrs. Renner’s address. Lucy knew that Stan's mother, with whom she was on exceptionally good terms, would be pleased with the odd bit of weaving and was sure it would be shown to Stan when he came home over the week-end from his senior medical course studies.

The antimacassar wasn’t as crazy-looking as she had at first imagined. It was a neat piece of work, even if the central design was loosely haphazard. The decorative blocks at corners and center top and bottom weren’t so poorly designed and the irregular markings through the center were amusing; they looked like some kind of ancient symbols. Mrs. Brunner would be charmed to receive an authentic piece of obviously original weaving. Lucy promised herself to find out about the weaver, once she had gained her landlady’s confidence.

She had asked Mrs. Renner outright if ever a Miss Cora Kent had been at the Renner place and her landlady had eyed her strangely and denied ever having heard the name, even. On Friday morning, her second day on the Renner farm, Aaron Gross brought Lucy a package from the Doylestown laundry, where she had left lingerie. He acted so suspicious and fearful that she was puzzled. When she stripped the covering from the package, he took it and crumpled it as if he were afraid someone would know she had given her address freely before going to the farm. Lucy counted the small pieces; there were eleven instead of ten. There was an extra handkerchief and it was initialed. It was then that Lucy received the first impact of ominous intuition. The handkerchief carried the intials "C. K." Cora Kent must have lived somewhere in the vicinity.

There was a penciled note from the laundry. The handkerchief had been mistakenly delivered to another customer and was now being returned apologetically to its owner’s address. Cora Kent had been to the Renner farm. Mrs. Renner had lied deliberately when she said she had never heard the name.

Lucy looked up at the sound of a rustling starched skirt, to find Mrs. Renner staring down at Cora’s handkerchief, sallow brow furrowed, lips a straight line, black eyes narrowed. Mrs. Renner said nothing; she only stared. Then she turned suddenly on her heel and marched into the house. Lucy was disturbed without actually knowing why, yet Mrs. Renner’s deliberate lie was in itself a puzzle.

THIS was only one of the small things that began to trouble her, like the locked door that confined Kathy Renner. Mrs. Renner had said definitely that she didn’t want people barging in on Kathy, perhaps getting her all excited, what with the danger of heart trouble on account of the rheumatic fever. Kathy, it would appear, slept all day for Lucy was asked to be very quiet about the house in daytime. At night noise didn’t disturb the little sick girl because then she would be awake anyway.

Lucy sat up in bed now and listened to the child’s whining complaint. Why didn’t Kathy’s mother give the poor child’s something to eat? Surely starvation was not included in a regimen for rheumatic fever? There was the faint sound of a door opening and the wails subsided. Lucy lay down then and slipped comfortably off to sleep, feeling that Kathy’s needs had been met.

Mrs. Renner’s enigmatic remarks and Aaron’s peevish disapproval of his employer’s behavior on some former occasion dimmed as sleep stilled Lucy’s active mind. It was not until afternoon of the following day that Lucy, entering her room to get her scissors so that she might use them when weaving, noticed with sudden sharp recollection of her landlady’s whispered words of the previous night that the vase of honeysuckle was conspicuous by its absence. She asked herself vainly what connection had honeysuckle to do with Kathy’s wailing cry of hunger? Or, for that matter, with herself?

With the vague idea of blocking Mrs. Renner’s contemplated design hinted to Aaron Friday night, Lucy managed to pluck several sprays of lilac and honeysuckle from her open window, smartly avoiding carrying them through the house. She put them into the heavy stoneware tooth-mug that stood on the washstand. To remove these flowers, Mrs. Renner must come out into the open and explain her reason for taking them away, thought Lucy mischievously.

In the big downstairs living-room where Mrs. Renner’s enormous lofty loom occupied space, the landlady had cleared a table and upon it stood a small loom about fifteen inches wide. Lucy examined this with interest for she recognized it at once as a model carried in the store where she worked. She said nothing of this but eyed Mrs. Renner surreptitiously when that lady explained that it was an old machine given her years ago by a former student who had no need for it. There was a white warp threaded in twill, for a plain weave, Mrs. Renner explained.

"What kind of weaving can you do on twill?” Lucy queried, thinking of the antimacassar she had sent to Stan’s mother, the piece with the queer little hand inlaid figures woven into it.

"All manner of things,” Mrs. Renner said. "On a twill, you can do almost anything, Miss. Mostly hand work.” She manipulated the levers in illustration as she talked. "You’d better stick to plain weaving at first. Hand work isn’t so easy and takes a heap more time.”

"That antimacassar you let me have is hand work, isn’t it?” Lucy probed.

Mrs. Renner flung her an oddly veiled look.

"Tomorrow you can weave a white cotton towel with colored borders," she said abruptly. "No use starting tonight. Hard to work with kerosene lamps.”

Lucy opined that she could hardly wait. It seemed incredible that she was actually to manufacture the fabric of a towel with her own hands and within the brief limits of a day. She went up to her room fairly early and, as she had done from the first, locked her door, a habit acquired from living in city boarding houses. From deep sleep she stirred once into half waking at the sound of a cautious turning of the doorknob and retreating foot-steps and the moaning plaint of the little sick girl’s "Mom, I'm hungry!” which seemed so close that for a moment she could have believed the child to be standing closely without her locked door. She thought she heard the child say, "Mom, I can’t get in! I can’t get in!”

Mrs. Renner was obviously feeling far from well the following morning. Her eyes were ringed by dark circles and she wore a loosely knotted kerchief about her neck, although the sweltering heat would have seemed sufficient to have made her discard rather than wear any superfluous article of clothing. When Lucy was seated at the loom, she showed her how to change the sheds and throw the shuttle for a plain weave, then left her working there while she went upstairs to tidy her guest’s room. When she came down a few moments later, she walked up to Lucy, her face dark and grim, her lips a hard uncompromising line.

"Did you put those flowers up in your room?” she demanded.

Lucy stopped weaving and turned her face to Mrs. Renner in feigned surprise but her intuition told her that there was more to the inquiry than was apparent on the surface.

"I love flowers so much,” she murmured, deprecatorily.

"Not in a room at night,” snapped Mrs. Renner. "They're unhealthy at night. That’s why I took out the others. I don’t want flowers in my bedrooms at night.”

The tone was that of an order and Lucy’s natural resentment, as well as her heightened curiosity, made her rebel.

"I’m not afraid of having flowers in my room at night, Mrs. Renner,” she persisted stubbornly.

"Well, I won’t have it,” said her landlady with determined voice and air.

Lucy raised her eyebrows.

"I see no good reason to make an issue of a few flowers, Mrs. Renner.”

"I’ve thrown those flowers out, Miss. You needn’t bring any more, for I'll just throw them out, too. If you want to stay in my house, you’ll have to get along without flowers in your room.”

"If you feel so strongly about it, of course I won’t bring flowers inside. But I must say frankly that it sounds silly to me, their being unhealthful.”

Mrs. Renner stalked away. She appeared satisfied at the assertion of her authority as hostess and the balance of Sunday was spent initiating Lucy into the intricacies of decorative twill weaves, to such good effect that by the time evening came Lucy had completed a small towel in white cotton with striped twill borders in color.

Lucy fell half asleep in the hammock that evening. The fresh country air and the lavish supply of good country food combined to bring early, drowsiness to her eyes. She came awake when a small mongrel dog she had seen from time to time in and out of the Renner barn began to dig furiously around the roots of a nearby shrub, unearthing eventually a small blue bottle half filled with white tablets. She pushed the dog away and picked up the bottle. She looked at it curiously. A shiver of apprehension went over her body. She had seen just such a container on Cora Kent’s office desk and Cora had said something about garlic being good for tubercular-inclined people. Lucy unscrewed the bottle cap and sniffed at the contents. The odor was unmistakable. She quickly slipped the bottle inside her blouse. She knew now beyond the shadow of a doubt that Cora Kent had preceded her as a guest in the Renner household. She knew, now that the small loom must have been Cora's. The initialed handkerchief was yet another silent witness.

Lucy crept up to her room and again locked the door. She slipped the back of a chair under the knob as a further precaution. For the first time, she began to sense some threat to her own safety. Her thoughts flew to the flowers Mrs. Renner had tossed from the window. Why should her landlady take such a stand? Why had she told old Aaron that she was going to "take out the honeysuckle?” What was there about honeysuckle that made Mrs. Renner wish to remove it from her guest’s room, as if it had something to do with Kathy Renner’s plaintive, "Mom, I’m hungry!"

Lucy could not fit the pieces of the puzzle together properly. But the outstanding mention of honeysuckle determined her to pull several more sprays from the vine clambering up the wall outside her window. If Mrs. Renner did not want them in the room, then Lucy was determined to have them there. She removed the screen quietly and leaned out. It struck her with a shock. Every spray of flowering honeysuckle within reaching distance had been rudely broken off and dropped to the ground below. Somebody had foreseen her reaction. She replaced the screen and sat down on the edge of her bed, puzzled and disturbed. If Mrs. Renner was entertaining nefarious designs that mysteriously involved the absence of honeysuckle, then Lucy knew she would be unable to meet the situation suitably.

It might have been amusing in broad daylight. She could just walk away to the shed where her car was garaged. Even if "they” had done something to it, Lucy figured that she could walk or run until she reached the main road where there ought to be trucks and passenger cars; not the solitude of the secluded Renner farm, hidden behind thickly wooded slopes.

She told herself sharply that she was just being an imaginative goose, just being silly and over-suspicious. What could honeysuckle have to do with her personal security? She got ready for bed, resolutely turned out the kerosene lamp. Drowsiness overcame her and she sank into heavy sleep.

She did not hear Mrs. Renner’s sibilant whisper: "Sh-sh-sh! Kathy! You can come now, Kathy. She’s sound asleep. Mother took out the honeysuckle. You can get in now. Sh-sh-sh!”

She did mot hear old Aaron’s querulous protest: "You can’t do this, missus. Let me get the stake, missus. It’d be better that way. Missus. . .

To Lucy, soundly sleeping within her locked room, no sound penetrated. Her dreams were strangely vivid and when she finally wakened Monday morning she lay languidly recalling that final dream wherein a white-clad child had approached her bed timidly, had crept in beside her until her arms had embraced the small, shy intruder. The child had put small warm lips against her throat in what Lucy felt was a kiss, but a kiss such as she had never in her life experienced. It stung cruelly. But when she yielded to the child’s caress, a complete relaxation of mind and muscle fell upon her and it was as if all of herself were being drawn up to meet those childish lips that clung close to her neck. It was a disturbing dream and even the memory of it held something of mingled antipathy and allure.

LUCY knew it was time to rise and she sat up, feeling tired, almost weak, and somehow disinclined to make the slightest physical effort. It was as if something had gone out of her, she thought exhaustedly. She lifted one hand involuntarily to her neck. Her fingers sensed a small roughness, like two pin prickes, where the dream child had kissed her so strangely, so poignantly. Lucy got out of bed then and went to the mirror. Clear on her neck were those two marks, as if a great beetle had clipped the soft flesh with sharp mandibles. She cried out softly at the sight of those ruddy punctures.

That there was something wrong, she was now convinced. That it also concerned herself, she felt certain. She was unable to analyze the precise nature of the wrongness but knew that it held something inimical in the very atmosphere of the Renner farmhouse and unreasoning terror mounted within her. Could she get to her car and escape? Escape. . .? She stared at her neck in the mirrored reflection and fingered the red marks gingerly. Her thoughts could not be marshalled into coherence and she found herself thinking of but one thing—flight. She could not have put into words just what it was from which she ought to flee but that she must leave the Renner farmhouse at the earliest possible moment became a stronger conviction with every passing moment. In her mind one ugly, incontrovertible fact stood out only too dearly: Cora Kent had visited the Renner farm and had not been seen since.

Lucy dressed hastily and managed to slip out of the house without encountering her landlady. She found her car under the shed at the rear of the barn, where she had left it. It looked all right but when she got closer, she saw to her dismay that it had two flats. She had, as was usual, but one spare tire. She did not know how to take off or put on even that one spare tire, let alone manage to repair the second flat. She would be unable to drive away from the Renner farm in her car. She stood staring in dismay at the useless vehicle.

Aaron Gross’s whining voice came softly to her ear. She whirled to confront him accusingly.

"What happened to my car? Who—?”

"You can’t be using it right away, miss, with them two tires flat,” Aaron volunteered, whiningly. "Want I should take them down to a service station for you?”

She cried with relief: "That would be splendid, Aaron. But I don’t know how to get them off.”

"Neither do I, miss. I dunno nothing about machines."

Impatience and apprehension mingled in the girl’s voice. She threw open the luggage compartment and began to pull out the tools.

"I think I can jack up the car, Aaron. I’ve never done it before, but I do want the car so that I can get to town. Shopping,” she added quickly, trying to smile carelessly.

Aaron made no comment. He stood at the end of the shed watching her as she managed to get the jack under the rear axle and began to pump the car off the ground.

"I’ll need a box to hold this up when I put the jack under that other tire,” she suggested.

Aaron shuffled away.

Lucy managed to pry off the hub cap but with all her feverish attempts at the nuts and bolts, she could stir nothing. She stopped in despair, waiting for Aaron to return with the box. She thought she might get him to have a mechanic come up from town. Panting and disheveled, she walked out of the shed to look for him. As she emerged, Mrs. Renner confronted her, grim-lipped, narrow-eyed.

"Anything wrong?” inquired Mrs. Renner, both fat hands smoothing down blue checkered apron over ample hips.

"My car has two flats. I can’t understand why,” blurted Lucy.

Mrs. Renner’s face remained impassive. She stated rather than asked. "You don’t need to go into town. Aaron can do your errands.”

"Oh, but I do want to get to town,” insisted Lucy with vehemence.

"You don’t need your car until you’re leaving here,” said Mrs. Renner coldly. She regarded Lucy with impassive face, then turned her back and walked toward the house without another word.

Lucy called: "Mrs. Renner! Mrs. Renner! I’d like to have Aaron take these two wheels into town to be repaired but I can’t get them off.”

Mrs. Renner continued on her way and disappeared into the house without turning or giving the least sign that she had heard a word.

From the interior of the barn Aaron’s querulous voice issued cautiously.

"Miss, want I should ask the mechanic to come out here?"

"Oh, Aaron, that would be wonderful! I’d be glad to pay him—and you—well. Tell him I just can't get those tires off by myself."

THAT would do it, she told herself. Once the mechanic was there, she would bring down her suitcase and manage to get into town and have him send someone to bring out her car when the tires were repaired. She would manage to leave before night. While Aaron was away, she would work on the loom that she was convinced had been Cora Kent’s property. That might disarm Mrs. Renner's suspicions.

She walked slowly back to the house. She was thankful that Mrs. Renner was upstairs tidying the bedroom; Lucy could hear her steps as she walked from one side to the other of the big bed. Lucy sat down at the loom and began to experiment with a colored thread, to see if she would make an ornamental border like that of the antimacassar she had sent to Stan’s mother. It was not as difficult as she had thought it might be and went faster than she believed possible; it was almost as if other fingers laid the threads in place for her. She began to build up the border emblems with growing excitement. The corner inserts looked for all the world like curving serpents standing upright on their tails and the center one was like a snake with its tail in its mouth. Time passed. The weaving grew under what she felt were guided fingers.

"Why," she said aloud, amazed at what she had woven in so short a time. "It looks like S-O-S!”

"So?” hissed Mrs. Renner significantly. She was standing directly behind Lucy, staring at the woven symbols with narrowed eyes and grim mouth. She picked up the scissors lying on the table and slashed across the weaving with deliberate intent. In a moment it had been utterly destroyed.

"So!” she said with dark finality.

Lucy's hands had flown to her mouth to shut off horrified protest. She could not for a moment utter a word. The significance of that action was all too clear. She knew suddenly who had woven the antimacassar. She knew why the adaptable serpents had been chosen for decor. She looked at Mrs. Renner, all this knowledge clear on her startled face and met the grim determination with all the opposing courage and strength of purpose she could muster.

"What happened to Cora Kent?" she demanded point blank, her head high, her eyes wide with horror. "She was here. I know she was here. What did you do to her?” As if the words had been thrust upon her, she continued: "Did you take the honeysuckle from her room?”

AMAZINGLY, Mrs. Renner seemed to be breaking down. She began to wring her hands with futile gestures of despair. Her air of indomintable determination dissipated as she bent her body from one side to the other like an automaton.

"She didn’t last long, did she?” Lucy pursued with cruel relentlessness, as the recollection of that overheard conversation pushed to the foreground of her thoughts.

Mrs. Renner stumbled backward and fell crumpled shaplessly into a chair.

"How did you know that?” she whispered hoarsely. And then, "I didn’t know she was sick. I had to feed Kathy, didn’t I? I thought—”

"You drought she’d last longer, missus, didn’t you? You didn’t really mean to let Kathy kill her, did you?”

Aaron was standing in the kitchen doorway. One gnarled hand held a stout stick, whittled into a sharp point at one end. A heavy wooden mallet weighed down his other hand.

Mrs. Renner’s eyes fastened on the pointed stick. She cried out weakly.

Aaron shuffled back into the kitchen and Lucy heard his footsteps going up the stairs.

Mrs. Renner was sobbing and crying frantically: "No! No!”

She seemed entirely bereft of physical stamina, unable to lift herself from the chair into which her body had sunk weakly. She only continued to cry out pitifully in protest against something which Lucy’s dizzy surmises could not shape into tangibility.

A door opened upstairs. Aaron’s footstep paused. For a long terrible moment silence prevailed. Even Mrs. Renner’s cries ceased. It was as if the house and all in it were awaiting an irrevocable event.

Then there sailed out upon that sea of silence a long quavering shriek of tormented, protesting agony that died away in spreading ripples of sound, ebbing into the finality of deep stillness as if the silence had absorbed them.

Mrs. Renner slipped unconscious to the floor. She said one word only as her body went from chair to floor. "Kathy!” Her lips pushed apart sluggishly to permit the escape of that sound.

Lucy stood without moving beside the loom with its slashed and ruined web. It was as if she were unable to initiate the next scene in the drama and were obliged to await her cue. It came with the sound of wheels and a brake and a voice that repeatedly called her name.

"Lucy! Lucy!”

Why, it was Stan. How was it that Stan had come to her? How was it that his arms were about her shelteringly? She found her own voice then.

"Aaron has killed Kathy with a sharp stick and a mallet,” she accused sickly.

Stan’s voice was full of quiet reassurance.

"Aaron hasn’t killed Kathy. Kathy has been dead for many weeks.”

"Impossible,” whispered Lucy. "I’ve heard her calling for food, night after night.”

"Food, Lucy? All Kathy wanted was blood. Her mother tried to satisfy her and couldn’t, so Kathy took what Cora Kent could give and Cora couldn’t stand the drain.”

“Mrs. Renner said Cora didn’t last long—”

Stan held her closer, comfortingly safe within his man’s protective strength.

"Lucy, did she—?”

LUCY touched her neck. Incomprehensibly, the red points had smoothed away.

She said uncertainly: "I think she came, once, Stan. But I thought it was a dream. Now the red marks are gone.”

"For that you can thank Aaron's action, Lucy. He has put an end to Kathy’s vampirism.”

He bent over the prostrate woman. "Nothing but a faint,” he said briefly.


"He’s perfectly sane and he won’t hurt anybody, Lucy. What he’s done won’t be understood by the authorities but I doubt if they do more than call him insane, for an examination will prove that Kathy was long dead before he drove that wooden stake into her heart.”

"How did you know about her, Stan?”

"From the antimascassar you sent Mother.”

"With the S-O-S worked into the border?” Lucy ventured.

"So you found that, too, Lucy? Did you know that poor girl had woven shorthand symbols all over the piece? As soon as I realized that they stood for 'Vampire, danger, death, Cora Kent', I came for you.”

"What will happen to Mrs. Renner, Stan?”

"That’s hard to say. But she may be charged with murder if they ever find Cora’s body.”

Lucy shuddered.

"The likelihood is that she is mentally unsound, deaf. She probably never realized that Kathy was dead. Her punishment may not be too severe.

"But come on, Lucy, and pack up your things. You’re going back to town with me and we’ll inform the authorities of what’s happened.”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.

Works published in 1949 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1976 or 1977, i.e. at least 27 years after they were first published/registered but not later than 31 December in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1978.

The author died in 1969, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.