The Cases of Susan Dare
The Cases of Susan Dare
"BUT IT IS FANTASTIC," SAID SUSAN Dare, clutching the telephone. "You can't just be afraid. You've got to be afraid of something." She waited, but there was no reply.
"You mean," she said presently, in a hushed voice, "that I'm to go to this perfectly strange house, to be the guest of a perfectly strange woman"
"To you," said Jim Byrne. "Not, I tell you, to me."
"But you said you had never seen her-"
"Don't maunder," said Jim Byrne sharply. "Of course I've never seen her. Now, Susan, do try to get this straight. This woman is Caroline Wray. One of the Wrays."
"Perfectly clear," said Susan. "Therefore I'm to go to her house and see why she's got an attack of nerves. Take a bag and prepare to spend the next few days as her guest. I'm sorry, Jim, but I'm busy. I've got to do a murder story this week and-"
"Sue," said Jim, "I'm serious."
Susan paused abruptly. He was serious.
"It's-I don't know how to explain it, Susan," he said. "It's just-well, I'm Irish, you know. And I'm-fey. Don't laugh."
"I'm not laughing," said Susan. "Tell me exactly what you want me to do."
"Just-watch things. There ought not to be any danger-don't see how there could be. To you."
Susan realized that she was going. "How many Wrays are there, and what do you think is going to happen?"
"There are four Wrays. But I don't know what is going on that has got Caroline so terrified. It was that-the terror in her voice-that made me call you."
"What's the number of the house?" said Susan.
He told her. "It's away north," he said. "One of those old houses-narrow, tall, hasn't changed, I suppose, since old Ephineas Wray died. He was a close friend, you know, of my father's. Don't know why Caroline called me: I suppose some vague notion that a man on a newspaper would know what to do. Now let me see-there's Caroline. She's the daughter of Ephineas Wray. David is his grandson and Caroline's nephew and the only man-except the houseman-in the place. He's young-in his twenties, I believe. His father and mother died when he was a child."
"You mean there are three women?"
"Naturally. There's Marie-she is old Wray's adopted daughter-not born a Wray, but more like him than the rest of them. And Jessica-she's Caroline's cousin; but she's always lived with the Wrays because her father died young. People always assume that the three women are sisters. Actually, of course, they are not. But old Ephineas Wray left his fortune divided equally among them."
"And they all live there together?"
"Yes. David's not married."
"Is that," said Susan, at the note of finality in his voice, "all you know about them?"
"Absolutely everything. Not much for you to go on, is it? It was just," said Jim Byrne soberly, with the effect of a complete explanation, "that she was so-so horribly scared. Old Caroline, I mean."
Susan retraced the address slowly before she said again: "What was she afraid of?"
"I don't know," said Jim Byrne. "And-it's queer-but I don't think she knew either."
It was approaching five o'clock, with a dark fog rolling up from the lake and blending itself with the early winter twilight, when Susan Dare pressed the bell beside the wide old door-pressed it and waited. Lights were on in the street, but the house before her was dark, its windows curtained. The door was heavy and secretive.
But they were expecting her-or at least Caroline Wray was; it had all been arranged by telephone. Susan wondered what Caroline had told them; what Jim Byrne had told Caroline to say to explain her presence; and, suddenly, what Caroline was like.
"Little Johnny hung his sister.
She was dead before they missed her. Johnny's always up to tricks,
Ain't he cute, and only six-"
The jingle had been haunting her with the persistency of a popular dance tune, and