"Unable to arrest?" scoffed Mrs. Dent, watching Ackerman's dim figure through the window. "Loophole in the law? What are people about these days, I ask. Honestly."
It was nearing ten o'clock, and everyone had gathered his coat and gloves. No one seemed to want to be the first to leave.
"He seemed like such a kind, decent man," Reverend Vervain said. "I don't believe he could have done such atrocious things."
"I hate to let the man go free, but the law's the law," King said. He shook his head ruefully. "I would like one last word with him before he leaves." The inspector hurried out of the room, through the drafty hall and out the front door.
"Ackerman!" he called out. "I want a word with you."
The man turned, a smile playing across his face. "Yes, Inspector?"
When he was in closer proximity, King lowered his voice. "I don't like this, Eugene; I don't like this one bit. I know what you're about."
Ackerman grinned. "Of course you do. Very clever to pick up on my hints—especially the Africa one."
King scowled. "I'd like to know why exactly we're doing this."
"Don't you see that if our man thought he'd gotten away with it, framing our dear Mr. Boyette, he'd go on his merry way, and we might never hear from him again? No, he must be provoked."
"Are you mad? Taking away his credit like that? That makes our man desperate, more dangerous."
"More dangerous than ever," Ackerman agreed. He reached into his coat pocket and offered King a piece of candy. "Sweet?"
"No. Well, if we're going to do this, we'd better do it properly." He looked around, then led Ackerman to his carriage. "When do you think he'll come after you?"
"Oh, our man's a daring fellow, and rather impatient at that. He'll act almost immediately."
King looked around, half-expecting the villain to leap out at them from the bushes. "I'll send around some of my men straight away."
One hand on the carriage door, the other on King's shoulder, Ackerman said, "No. That's exactly what you mustn't do."
"What? You don't mean to wait for this monster alone? The last thing we need is another murder on our hands. Yours would be a particularly low blow."
Ackerman smiled wryly. "It's got to be me. It's got to be me alone. I've waited too long and worked to hard to catch this rotten scoundrel."
"If this is about credit, you're being foolish."
"Good night, King." Ackerman removed his hand from his old colleague, stepped into his carriage and called for the driver to walk on.
As the carriage disappeared out of sight, Inspector King walked back towards the house. Whether it had been a cat or the wind, he couldn't be sure; but there was a soft rustling in the bushes nearby.