I heard the clock strike one as I walked up the hospital steps. Ordinarily I would have been in bed and
asleep, but there was a case in which I was much interested, and Braile, my assistant, had telephoned me
of certain developments which I wished to observe. It was a night in early November. I paused for a
moment at the top of the steps to look at the brilliancy of the stars. As I did so an automobile drew up at
the entrance to the hospital.
As I stood, wondering what its arrival at that hour meant, a man slipped out of it. He looked sharply up
and down the deserted street, then threw the door wide open. Another man emerged. The two of them
stooped and seemed to be fumbling around inside. They straightened and then I saw that they had locked
their arms around the shoulders of a third. They moved forward, not supporting but carrying this other
man. His head hung upon his breast and his body swung limply.
A fourth man stepped from the automobile.
I recognized him. He was Julian Ricori, a notorious underworld chieftain, one of the finished products of
the Prohibition Law. He had been pointed out to me several times. Even if he had not been, the
newspapers would have made me familiar with his features and figure. Lean and long, with silvery white
hair, always immaculately dressed, a leisured type from outward seeming, rather than leader of such
activities as those of which he was accused.
I had been standing in the shadow, unnoticed. I stepped out of the shadow. Instantly the burdened pair
halted, swiftly as hunting hounds. Their free hands dropped into the pockets of their coats. Menace was
in that movement.
"I am Dr. Lowell," I said, hastily. "Connected with the hospital. Come right along."
They did not answer me. Nor did their gaze waver from me; nor did they move. Ricori stepped in front
of them. His hands were also in his pockets. He looked me over, then nodded to the others; I felt the
"I know you, Doctor," he said pleasantly, in oddly precise English. "But that was quite a chance you
took. If I might advise you, it is not well to move so quickly when those come whom you do not know,
and at night-not in this town."
"But," I said, "I do know you, Mr. Ricori."
"Then," he smiled, faintly, "your judgment was doubly at fault. And my advice doubly pertinent."
There was an awkward moment of silence. He broke it.
"And being who I am, I shall feel much better inside your doors than outside."
I opened the doors. The two men passed through with their burden, and after them Ricori and I. Once
within, I gave way to my professional instincts and stepped up to the man the two were carrying. They
shot a quick glance at Ricori. He nodded. I raised the man's head.
A little shock went through me. The man's eyes were wide open. He was neither dead nor unconscious.
But upon his face was the most extraordinary expression of terror I had ever seen in a long experience
with sane, insane and borderland cases. It was not undiluted fear. It was mixed with an equally disturbing
horror. The eyes, blue and with distended pupils, were like exclamation points to the emotions printed
upon that face. They stared up at me, through me and beyond me. And still they seemed to be looking
inward-as though whatever nightmare vision they were seeing was both behind and in front of them.
"Exactly!" Ricori had been watching me closely. "Exactly, Dr. Lowell, what could it be that my friend has
seen-or has been given-that could make him appear so? I am most anxious to learn. I am willing to
spend much money to learn. I wish him cured, yes-but I shall be frank with you, Dr. Lowell. I would
give my last penny for the certainty that those who did this to him could not do the same thing to
me-could not make me as he is, could not make me see what he is seeing, could not make feel what he
At my signal, orderlies had come up. They took the patient and laid him on a stretcher. By this time the
resident physician had appeared. Ricori touched my elbow.
"I know a great deal about you, Dr. Lowell," he said. "I would like you to take full charge of this case."
He continued, earnestly: "Could you drop everything else? Spend all your time upon it? Bring in any
others you wish to consult-don't think of expense-"
"A moment, Mr. Ricori," I broke in. "I have patients who cannot be neglected. I will give all the time I
can spare, and so will my assistant, Dr. Braile. Your friend will be constantly under observation here by
people who have my complete confidence. Do you wish me to take the case under those conditions?"
He acquiesced, though I could see he was not entirely satisfied. I had the patient taken to an isolated
private room, and went through the necessary hospital formalities. Ricori gave the man's name as Thomas
Peters, asserted that he knew of no close relations, had himself recorded at Peters' nearest friend,
assumed all responsibility, and taking out a roll of currency, skimmed a thousand dollar bill from it,
passing it to the desk as "preliminary costs."
I asked Ricori if he would like to be present at my examination. He said that he would. He spoke to his
two men, and they took positions at each side of the hospital doors-on guard. Ricori and I went to the
room assigned to the patient. The orderlies had stripped him, and he lay upon the adjustable cot, covered
by a sheet. Braile, for whom I had sent, was bending over Peters, intent upon his face, and plainly
puzzled. I saw with satisfaction that Nurse Walters, an unusually capable and conscientious young
woman, had been assigned to the case. Braile looked up at me. He said: "Obviously some drug."
"Maybe," I answered. "But if so then a drug I have never encountered. Look at his eyes-"
I closed Peters' lids. As soon as I had lifted my fingers they began to rise, slowly, until they were again
wide open. Several times I tried to shut them. Always they opened: the terror, the horror in them,
I began my examination. The entire body was limp, muscles and joints. It was as flaccid, the simile came
to me, as a doll. It was as though every motor nerve had gone out of business. Yet there was none of the
familiar symptoms of paralysis. Nor did the body respond to any sensory stimulus, although I struck
down into the nerve trunks. The only reaction I could obtain was a slight contraction of the dilated pupils
under strongest light.
Hoskins, the pathologist, came in to take his samples for blood tests. When he had drawn what he
wanted, I went over the body minutely. I could find not a single puncture, wound, bruise or abrasion.
Peters was hairy. With Ricori's permission, I had him shaved clean-chest, shoulders, legs, even the head.
I found nothing to indicate that a drug might have been given him by hypodermic. I had the stomach
emptied and took specimens from the excretory organs, including the skin. I examined the membranes of
nose and throat: they seemed healthy and normal; nevertheless, I had smears taken from them. The blood
pressure was low, the temperature slightly subnormal; but that might mean nothing. I gave an injection of
adrenaline. There was absolutely no reaction from it. That might mean much.
"Poor devil," I said to myself. "I'm going to try to kill that nightmare for you, at any rate."
I gave him a minimum hypo of morphine. It might have been water for all the good it did. Then I gave him
all I dared. His eyes remained open, terror and horror undiminished. And pulse and respiration
Ricori had watched all these operations with intense interest. I had done all I could for the time, and told
"I can do no more," I said, "until I receive the reports of the specimens. Frankly, I am all at sea. I know
of no disease nor drug which would produce these conditions."
"But Dr. Braile," he said, "mentioned a drug-"
"A suggestion only," interposed Braile hastily. "Like Dr. Lowell, I know of no drug which would cause
Ricori glanced at Peters' face and shivered.
"Now," I said, "I must ask you some questions. Has this man been ill? If so, has he been under medical
care? If he has not actually been ill, has he spoken of any discomfort? Or have you noticed anything
unusual in his manner or behavior?"
"No, to all questions," he answered. "Peters has been in closest touch with me for the past week. He has
not been ailing in the least. Tonight we were talking in my apartments, eating a late and light dinner. He
was in high spirits. In the middle of a word, he stopped, half-turned his head as though listening; then
slipped from his chair to the floor. When I bent over him he was as you see him now. That was precisely
half after midnight. I brought him here at once."
"Well," I said, "that at least gives us the exact time of the seizure. There is no use of your remaining, Mr.
Ricori, unless you wish."
He studied his hands a few moments, rubbing the carefully manicured nails.
"Dr. Lowell," he said at last, "if this man dies without your discovering what killed him, I will pay you the
customary fees and the hospital the customary charges and no more. If he dies and you make this
discovery after his death, I will give a hundred thousand dollars to any charity you name. But if you make
the discovery before he dies, and restore him to health-I will give you the same sum."
We stared at him, and then as the significance of this remarkable offer sank in, I found it hard to curb my
"Ricori," I said, "you and I live in different worlds, therefore I answer you politely, although I find it
difficult. I will do all in my power to find out what is the matter with your friend and to cure him. I would
do that if he and you were paupers. I am interested in him only as a problem which challenges me as a
physician. But I am not interested in you in the slightest. Nor in your money. Nor in your offer. Consider
it definitely rejected. Do you thoroughly understand that?"
He betrayed no resentment.
"So much so that more than ever do I wish you to take full charge," he said.
"Very well. Now where can I get you if I want to bring you here quickly?"
"With your permission," he answered, "I should like to have-well, representatives-in this room at all
times. There will be two of them. If you want me, tell them-and I will soon be here."
I smiled at that, but he did not.
"You have reminded me," he said, "that we live in different worlds. You take your precautions to go
safely in your world-and I order my life to minimize the perils of mine. Not for a moment would I
presume to advise you how to walk among the dangers of your laboratory, Dr. Lowell. I have the
counterparts of those dangers. Bene-I guard against them as best I can."
It was a most irregular request, of course. But I found myself close to liking Ricori just then, and saw
clearly his point of view. He knew that and pressed the advantage.
"My men will be no bother," he said. "They will not interfere in any way with you. If what I suspect to be
true is true they will be a protection for you and your aids as well. But they, and those who relieve them,
must stay in the room night and day. If Peters is taken from the room, they must accompany him-no
matter where it is that he is taken."
"I can arrange it," I said. Then, at his request, I sent an orderly down to the doors. He returned with one
of the men Ricori had left on guard. Ricori whispered to him, and he went out. In a little while two other
men came up. In the meantime I had explained the peculiar situation to the resident and the
superintendent and secured the necessary permission for their stay.
The two men were well-dressed, polite, of a singularly tight-lipped and cold-eyed alertness. One of them
shot a glance at Peters.
"Christ!" he muttered.
The room was a corner one with two windows, one opening out on the Drive, the other on the side
street. Besides these, there were no outer openings except the door to the hall; the private bathroom
being enclosed and having no windows. Ricori and the two inspected the room minutely, keeping away, I
noticed, from the windows. He asked me then if the room could be darkened. Much interested, I
nodded. The lights were turned off, the three went to the windows, opened them and carefully scrutinized
the six-story sheer drop to both streets. On the side of the Drive there is nothing but the open space
above the park. Opposite the other side is a church.
"It is at this side you must watch," I heard Ricori say; he pointed to the church. "You can turn the lights on
He started toward the door, then turned.
"I have many enemies, Dr. Lowell. Peters was my right hand. If it was one of these enemies who struck
him, he did it to weaken me. Or, perhaps, because he had not the opportunity to strike at me. I look at
Peters, and for the first time in my life I, Ricori-am afraid. I have no wish to be the next, I have no wish
to look into hell!"
I grunted at that! He had put so aptly what I had felt and had not formulated into words.
He started to open the door. He hesitated.
"One thing more. If there should be any telephone calls inquiring as to Peters' condition let one of these
men, or their reliefs, answer. If any should come in person making inquiry, allow them to come up-but if
they are more than one, let only one come at a time. If any should appear, asserting that they are
relations, again let these men meet and question them."
He gripped my hand, then opened the door of the room. Another pair of the efficient-appearing retainers
were awaiting him at the threshold. They swung in before and behind him. As he walked away, I saw that
he was crossing himself vigorously.
I closed the door and went back into the room. I looked down on Peters.
If I had been religious, I too would have been doing some crossing. The expression on Peters' face had
changed. The terror and horror were gone. He still seemed to be looking both beyond me and into
himself, but it was a look of evil expectancy-so evil that involuntarily I shot a glance over my shoulder to
see what ugly thing might be creeping upon me.
There was nothing. One of Ricori's gunmen sat in the corner of the window, in the shadow, watching the
parapet of the church roof opposite; the other sat stolidly at the door.
Braile and Nurse Walters were at the other side of the bed. Their eyes were fixed with horrified
fascination on Peters' face. And then I saw Braile turn his head and stare about the room as I had.
Suddenly Peters' eyes seemed to focus, to become aware of the three of us, to become aware of the
entire room. They flashed with an unholy glee. That glee was not maniacal-it was diabolical. It was the
look of a devil long exiled from his well-beloved hell, and suddenly summoned to return.
Or was it like the glee of some devil sent hurtling out of his hell to work his will upon whom he might?
Very well do I know how fantastic, how utterly unscientific, are such comparisons. Yet not otherwise can
I describe that strange change.
Then, abruptly as the closing of a camera shutter, that expression fled and the old terror and horror came
back. I gave an involuntary gasp of relief, for it was precisely as though some evil presence had
withdrawn. The nurse was trembling; Braile asked, in a strained voice: "How about another
"No," I said. "I want you to watch the progress of this-whatever it is-without drugs. I'm going down to
the laboratory. Watch him closely until I return."
I went down to the laboratory. Hoskins looked up at me.
"Nothing wrong, so far. Remarkable health, I'd say. Of course all I've results on are the simpler tests."
I nodded. I had an uncomfortable feeling that the other tests also would show nothing. And I had been
more shaken than I would have cared to confess by those alternations of hellish fear, hellish expectancy
and hellish glee in Peters' face and eyes. The whole case troubled me, gave me a nightmarish feeling of
standing outside some door which it was vitally important to open, and to which not only did I have no
key but couldn't find the keyhole. I have found that concentration upon microscopic work often permits
me to think more freely upon problems. So I took a few smears of Peters' blood and began to study
them, not with any expectation of finding anything, but to slip the brakes from another part of my brain.
I was on my fourth slide when I suddenly realized that I was looking at the incredible. As I had
perfunctorily moved the slide, a white corpuscle had slid into the field of vision. Only a simple white
corpuscle-but within it was a spark of phosphorescence, shining out like a tiny lamp!
I thought at first that it was some effect of the light, but no manipulation of the illumination changed that
spark. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. I called Hoskins.
"Tell me if you see something peculiar in there."
He peered into the microscope. He started, then shifted the light as I had.
"What do you see, Hoskins?"
He said, still staring through the lens:
"A leucocyte inside of which is a globe of phosphorescence. Its glow is neither dimmed when I turn on
the full illumination, nor is it increased when I lessen it. In all except the ingested globe the corpuscle
"And all of which," I said, "is quite impossible."
"Quite," he agreed, straightening. "Yet there it is!"
I transferred the slide to the micro-manipulator, hoping to isolate the corpuscle, and touched it with the
tip of the manipulating needle. At the instant of contact the corpuscle seemed to burst. The globe of
phosphorescence appeared to flatten, and something like a miniature flash of heat-lightning ran over the
visible portion of the slide.
And that was all-the phosphorescence was gone.
We prepared and examined slide after slide. Twice more we found a tiny shining globe, and each time
with the same result, the bursting corpuscle, the strange flicker of faint luminosity-then nothing.
The laboratory 'phone rang. Hoskins answered.
"It's Braile. He wants you-quick."
"Keep after it, Hoskins," I said, and hastened to Peters' room. Entering, I saw Nurse Walters, face chalk
white, eyes closed, standing with her back turned to the bed. Braile was leaning over the patient,
stethoscope to his heart. I looked at Peters; and stood stock still, something like a touch of unreasoning
panic at my own heart. Upon his face was that look of devilish expectancy, but intensified. As I looked, it
gave way to the diabolic joy, and that, too, was intensified. The face held it for not many seconds. Back
came the expectancy then on its heels the unholy glee. The two expressions alternated, rapidly. They
flickered over Peters' face like-like the flickers of the tiny lights within the corpuscles of his blood. Braile
spoke to me through stiff lips:
"His heart stopped three minutes ago! He ought to be dead-yet listen-"
The body of Peters stretched and stiffened. A sound came from his lips-a chuckling sound; low yet
singularly penetrating, inhuman, the chattering laughter of a devil. The gunman at the window leaped to his
feet, his chair going over with a crash. The laughter choked and died away, and the body of Peters lay
I heard the door open, and Ricori's voice: "How is he, Dr. Lowell? I could not sleep-" He saw Peters'
"Mother of Christ!" I heard him whisper. He dropped to his knees.
I saw him dimly for I could not take my eyes from Peters' face. It was the face of a grinning, triumphant
fiend-all humanity wiped from it-the face of a demon straight out of some mad medieval painter's hell.
The blue eyes, now utterly malignant, glared at Ricori.
And as I looked, the dead hands moved; slowly the arms bent up from the elbows, the fingers
contracting like claws; the dead body began to stir beneath the covers-
At that the spell of nightmare dropped from me; for the first time in hours I was on ground that I knew. It
was the rigor mortis, the stiffening of death-but setting in more quickly and proceeding at a rate I had
I stepped forward and drew the lids down over the glaring eyes. I covered the dreadful face.
I looked at Ricori. He was still on his knees, crossing himself and praying. And kneeling beside him, arm
around his shoulders, was Nurse Walters, and she, too, was praying.
Somewhere a clock struck five.