There followed a tense moment during which he bent in a close inspection over its fascinating depths. Presently Fred caught a distinct ticking sound, and he knew that Storch had set in motion the clock upon which depended the bomb's explosion at the appointed hour. But withal he remained curiously unmoved. The cry of a belated newsboy floated through the open front door.
Fred Starratt sat down again... Shortly after this the gathering broke up. Storch went to sleep immediately. Fred blew out the light. But he did not throw himself upon his couch this time. Instead he opened the door softly and crept out. A bright moon was riding high in the sky. He went swiftly down the lane and stood for a moment upon the edge of the cliff which plunged down toward the docks.
And in that swift and yet prolonged exchange of glances Fred Starratt read Storch's purpose completely... There followed a moment of swift action in which Storch made a clipt movement toward his hip pocket, and in a trice Fred Starratt felt himself bear quickly down upon the shattered lamp, grasp it firmly in his two hands, and bring it crashing against Storch's upflung forehead.
"Well ... well ... fancy how things turn out!" Fred made no reply, and after a time a gentle snoring told that Storch had fallen asleep. Fred tossed about, oppressed by the close air. But, in the end, even he fell into a series of fitful dozes. He dreamed the room in which he was sleeping was suddenly transformed into a huge spider web from which there was no escape.
Storch finished his cup of coffee and wiped a dark-brown ooze from his upper lip with a paper napkin. "Better take a slice of bread or two," he advised Fred, "and then call it quits. You'll feel better in the long run. A starved stomach shouldn't be surprised with too much food." Fred obeyed. He could see that this man understood many things. Gradually the crowd thinned.
When they were outside Storch made a little gesture of surrender. "You lead ... I'll follow," he said, indulgently. The night was breathless still touched with the vagrant warmth of an opulent April day. The spring of blossoming acacias was over, but an even fuller harvest of seasonal unfolding was sweeping the town.
And if Hilmer were the eternal questioner made flesh, the gamekeeper beating the furtive birds from the brush, this man Storch was the eternal hunter, at once patient and relentless for his quarry. And now the hunter slept with a smile on his lips. Of what could he be dreaming? Was it possible to dream of smile-fashioning themes with potential destruction within a stone's throw?
A little after three o'clock in the afternoon a man came to the door and handed Storch a carefully wrapped package. They did not exchange a word. Storch took the package and stowed it away in a corner, covering it with a ragged quilt. "That is the bomb!" flashed through Fred's mind. From that moment on this suggestive corner of the room was filled with a mysterious fascination.
And at that moment he felt the mysterious Presence that had swept so close to him on that heartbreaking Christmas Eve at Fairview. Storch was standing at the lodging-house door when Fred stepped into the street. "Well, what now?" Storch inquired, with mock politeness. "Let's go home!" Fred returned, emphatically. Almost as soon as the phrase had escaped him he had a sense of its grotesqueness.
Your kind take a lot of punishment before they see the light. But you're a good prospect a damned good prospect. You're a good deal like a young fellow I met last fall when I was working over in the shipyards in Oakland. He " "Shipyards?" interrupted Fred. "Not Hilmer's shipyards, by any chance?" Storch leaned forward, drawing his shaggy eyebrows together. "Why?" "I know Hilmer, that's all."