The horror of the suitor’s expression only ceased when Cross pulled the lids over Manuel’s vacant and lifeless eyes. Had I stared into the abyss of those swollen pupils for much longer, I would most probably have gone mad. In fact, even once the suitor’s eyes had been closed, I still found myself staring at his face, envisioning in my mind’s eye the fierce black pupils gaping up at me. It was the sound of Cross, struggling to his feet that finally broke the hold the dead body on the floor had over me.
Pain creased Cross’s brow once more. The effort to stand drained all color from his face, and where his piercing eyes had once been, a glassy, dull expression was set—his penetrating sharpness suddenly swallowed in agony.
I moved to help him stand, placing one hand behind his back and the other around the arm nearest to me. “I’m alright, I’m alright … I can manage.” He squeaked the words at me with as much gruffness as he could muster, though he made no attempt to push me away.
I guided Cross back to the sitting room and lowered him, once more, to the couch. Being in the sitting room, I found, was a most wonderful thing for clearing my mind. With the death of the suitor no longer consuming me and plaguing my thoughts, I was able to finally realize that there were things to be taken care of, though my taxed brain could make no clear plan.
“What do we do now, Cross?” A small bubble of panic was suddenly welling up inside of me.
“Well, first and foremost,” he squeaked through gasping breaths. “You must send for the police. One cannot allow a body to lay in one’s entranceway.”
“Of course.” I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I’m sure they were glowing with such a redness that they could have lit the sitting room without the aid of fire or candle. Going for the police should have been so obvious, but my struggle to free myself from the thoughts of the suitor’s death had quite emptied my mind of any common reasoning ability.
“And, then, once you’ve secured the police, I’m afraid you’re going to have to return to the Adell estate.” Cross’s breaths were coming easier, but his voice was barely a whisper.
“Return to the Adell estate?” I doubted that I had the strength of stomach or the strength of heart to set foot on that property once more.
“Yes, dear friend, I’m afraid you must.” There was such conviction in his insistence that a knot of fear began to twist in my stomach.
“Do you know what’s going on? Do you know what’s killed Miss Adell’s suitor?” My heart pounded against my chest.
“Not what, but who…and as to knowing what’s going on, I only know as much as the facts suggest.” His face, that had been releasing the tensions of pain suddenly went firm, almost cold. “But, if what I surmise is correct, then you must act!” He locked his penetrating eyes on mine. “Other lives may depend on it!”