Our journey back through campus didn’t take as long as I had expected. Cross, silent and focused, still carried most of my weight on my right side, so that my injured leg barely touched the ground. I was grateful for that and marveled at his ability to half-carry a man for such a distance without seeming to expend any great effort. The change in my usual stride had my breathing doubled, at least, and a slight twinge down my left leg reminded me how much it was compensating for its partner’s injury. But, Cross never broke a sweat, or his concentration, for that matter.
Once back inside the lab, he lowered me into the chair behind the desk and then proceeded to pace the entire length of the lab, occasionally glancing out the window at the students passing below. So intense was his focus and so manic his pacing, that I was hesitant to interrupt. Rather than remain the redundant and useless lump I suddenly felt, sitting injured without a clue what to do next, I reached for the nearest pen and paper and began listing everything I knew about Corbet Adams and his death. As it seemed there was little else I could do until Cross had formulated some plan in his own mind, I had hoped that listing all the facts might make things clearer for me.
Cross moved with almost frantic impatience. His shoes thudded along the wooden floor, his fingers drummed along the windowsills and grabbed at the window covering. He hissed his breath in and out, an occasional sigh breaking through, not for one second, since lowering me into the desk chair, did he stop moving.
The only sound, aside from his thudding shoes and hissing breath, was the soft clink of test tubes and beakers spread along the lab table. His frantic pacing jarred the workspace just enough to shake the glassware.
His movements were such that they made me dizzy if I watched him for any length of time. So, I repeatedly glanced at the short list I had compiled concerning Corbet Adam and his murder, as I was now inclined to agree that his death was no accident. Unfortunately, my list seemed to be lacking most of the important details that would have pointed to who committed the murder and for what exact reason, as well as, how the murder was actually carried out.
Focused as I was on my list of facts, with the sound of Cross’s thudding shoes drumming in my ears, I lost awareness of everything else. So intense had my own focus become—a direct result of Cross’s focused energy filling the lab, I am sure—that when the lab door was thrown open, I nearly fell from my lab chair in surprise.
The figure standing in the doorway blocked enough of the light coming in from the hallway, that he might as well have been a door himself. Cross spun around from his pacing and regarded the stranger, a sly grin spreading across his face.
The sudden stop of Cross’s movements, the sudden absence of his thudding shoes and hissed breath and the sudden shock of our intruder, sent a roaring hollow spinning in my head. I don’t know how long the three of us remained still, silently regarding one another as time all but stopped.
“Why did you follow me?” growled the figure in the doorway. And, as he took a step into the lab, I became aware that our strange intruder was, indeed, Miss Adell’s suitor, that we had lost earlier in the twists of the city’s alleyways.
“I don’t take kindly to people meddling in things that don’t concern them, so, I ask again, gentlemen, why did you follow me?” The suitor moved into the center of the lab, standing on the opposite side of the lab table from Cross.
“We were looking for information about Corbet Adam’s death,” Cross began, the grin never leaving his lips. “We were hoping you could give us some answers.”
“I know nothing about his death, and you would do well to stay away from me and my fiancée.” The suitor picked up a glass beaker from the lab table. “You’ll find that I’m not the sort of person you should be interfering with.”
“So, you know nothing about who murdered Corbet Adams?” His grin still firmly in place, Cross took a step closer to the lab bench so that he was directly in front of the stranger, only the distance of the table top separating them. “You know nothing about who poisoned him and who tried to make it look like suicide?”
The suitor released a guttural cry and hurled the beaker against the lab wall behind Cross’s head. The shattered glass, spraying Cross’s back. Then, dragging his thick arms along the worktable, the suitor slung all the glassware to the floor, before storming back to the lab door.
“This is your only warning. Stay away from me and stay away from the Adell estate!” He slammed the lab door with such force behind him that it trembled for a few seconds in the doorframe before popping open once more.
The silence after our intruder’s departure was broken by the almost hysterical laughter of Cross as he moved across the lab toward the door. Once he had reclosed it securely, he turned to me, a wild, excited look in his eyes. “What an amiable gentleman! This does add some color to our investigation!”
Cross slid back across the lab and pulled back the curtain. From his guarded pose, I could assume that he was watching the suitor storm through the campus grounds. When the tension in his back released, I gathered the suitor was no longer in Cross’s line of sight. And, it was only then, that he turned back to me, his eyes dancing around the lab.
“Surely, we’ve done enough with this case.” I implored. “Don’t you think it’s time we took what we know and this threat to the police?”
“What? And have them mess everything up? No, no, no…” Again, Cross paced. “No, we’ve been given some powerful information and I mean to have the answers. We’ll give it a few days, to let our excitable friend cool off and to let that knee of yours heal.” He stopped his pacing and came to stand next to my desk.
“Then, I think, we shall have everything we need to uncover the truth.”