I found only his pipe, cane, and empty brandy flask, flung down when he had escaped night, life, everything.
Swaying up, I fired the pistol six times here into the unanswering earth, a dumb thing gone stupid as I finished and staggered over his instant graveyard, his locked-in tomb, listening for muffled screams, shrieks, cries, but heard none. I ran in circles, with no ammunition save my weeping shouts. I would have stayed all night, but a downpour of leaves, a great spidering flourish of broken branches, fell to panic and suffer my heart. I fled, still calling his name to a silence lidded by clouds that hid the moon.
At his estate, I beat on the door, wailing, yanking, until I recalled: it opened inward, it was unlocked.
Alone in the library, with only liquor to help me live, I read the letter that Sir Robert had left behind:
My dear Douglas:
I am old and have seen much but am not mad. Finnegan exists. My chemist had provided me with a sure poison that I will mix in my brandy for our walk. I will drink all. Finnegan, not knowing me as a poisoned morsel will give me a swift invite. Now you see me, now you don’t. I will then be the weapon of his death, minutes after my own. I do not think there is another outsize nightmare like him on earth. Once gone, that’s the end.
Being old, I am immensely curious. I fear not death, for my physicians tell me that f no accidents kill me, cancer will.
I thought of giving a poisoned rabbit to our nightmare assassin. But then I’d never know where he was or if he really existed. Finnegan would die unseen in his monstrous closet, and I never the wiser. This way, for one victorious moment, I will know. Fear for me. Envy me. Pray for me. Sorry to abandon you without farewells. Dear friend, carry on.
I folded the letter and wept.
No more was ever heard of him.
Some say Sir Robert killed himself, an actor in his own melodrama, and that one day we shall unearth his brooding, lost, and Gothic body and that it was he who killed the children and that his preoccupation with doors and hinges, and more doors, led him, crazed, to study this one species of spider, and wildly plan and build the most amazing door in history, an insane burrow into which he popped to die, before my eyes, thus hoping to perpetuate the incredible Finnegan.
But I have found no burrow. I do not believe a man could construct such a pit, even given Sir Robert’s overwhelming passion for doors.
I can only ask, would a man murder, draw his victims’ blood, build an earthen vault? For what motive? Create the finest secret exit in all time? Madness. And what of those large grayish balls of earth supposedly tossed forth from the spider’s lair?
Somewhere, Finnegan and Sir Robert lie clasped in a velvet-lined unmarked crypt, deep under. Whether one is the paranoiac alter ego of the other, I cannot say. But the murders have ceased, the rabbits once more rush in Chatham Forest, and its bushes teem with butterflies and birds. It is another spring, and the children run again through a loud glade, no longer silent.
Finnegan and Sir Robert, requiescat in peace.
THAT WOMAN ON THE LAWN
Very late at night he heard the weeping on the lawn in front of his house. It was the sound of a woman crying. By its sound he knew it was not a girl or a mature woman, but the crying of someone eighteen or nineteen years old. It went on, then faded and stopped, and again started up, now moving this way or that on the late-summer wind.
He lay in bed listening to it until it made his eyes fill with tears. He turned over, shut his eyes, let the tears fall, but could not stop the sound. Why should a young woman be weeping long after midnight out there?
He sat up and the weeping stopped.
At the window, he looked down. The lawn was empty but covered with dew. There was a trail of footsteps across the lawn to the middle where someone had stood turning, and another trail going off toward the garden around the house.