Juarez Tino gasped in astonishment. He stood irresolute, then wheeled around and started for the back stairs.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” Nancy cried. With a lightning lunge she was after him, reaching for his clenched right hand.
“Give me that key!” she demanded.
“I will not!” Juarez muttered.
Nancy was desperate now. She tore at his right hand with both of her own and managed, for a moment, to wrest the key from the man’s grasp. But not for long. With an angry oath, Juarez wrenched his arms free and pushed her violently through the bedroom doorway. Prying her fingers loose, he once more took possession of the key, dropping it into his breast pocket.
“Help! Help!” Nancy screamed, hoping Mrs. Gruen was near the house.
“That won’t do you any good.” Juarez leered triumphantly, and forced Nancy to her knees. “I’ll teach you,” he sneered.
His knee against her back, he sent her sprawling face downward. Then he seized both her hands and pinned them behind her. With his necktie, he quickly tied her wrists together.
Nancy twisted and thrashed away from him. Though she was powerless to escape, the struggle delayed him a few seconds. She tried to scream again, but Juarez clamped a hand over her mouth.
“When I get through with you, you won’t be able to talk,” the swarthy man threatened. He whipped a handkerchief from his breast pocket to gag her. Nancy saw the half-key fly through the air. Then he gagged her, and she did not see the key land. Juarez, apparently, did not know he had lost it.
Next, he tore a blanket from her bed and stretched it on the floor. He rolled her over and over until it encased her from toes to shoulders. Then he tied it with a sheet.
At that moment the front door slammed, and Hannah Gruen called, “Nancy, are you home?”
Muttering to himself, Juarez pushed Nancy out of sight under the bed.
“You should have stayed at the fire a while longer. Detective Drew,” he sneered. Creaking footsteps told Nancy he was sneaking down the back stairs.
If only she could scream Hannah’s name! She could barely moan.Nancy desperately tried to roll out from under the bed. She heaved against the night table and shook the lamp. The noise brought Mrs.Gruen to her side immediately.
Hands trembling, she removed the gag from the girl’s mouth. As Hannah untied the sheet, Nancy explained what had happened.
“Juarez Tino started that fire and tied you up?” Hannah Gruen cried.“If I ever get my hands on that—that—I”
She flew to the window. Not seeing him, she rushed to the telephone.
As Mrs. Gruen dialed police headquarters, she stormed:“They shouldn’t have let that daytime plainclothesman go. Leaving you here at the mercy of that maniac!”
Nancy got to her feet stiffly, rubbing her arms to bring back the circulation. She stood deep in thought, wondering about the key. It was not in sight. Had Juarez discovered his loss and retrieved the key?
Hopeful that he had not taken the precious relic with him, she examined every inch of carpet. The key was not in sight.