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The Intruder

     She sat up in bed, instantly awake at the sound of a footfall on the fire escape. Her hand immediately reached under her pillow to touch the sack of uncut diamonds, with the fabulous Rose Diamond among them. After her ingenious smuggling scheme, was she to be robbed in an obscure hotel in the slums of New York? She had been facing the window, but as a feeling of inexpressible terror crept over her, she turned her face to the wall. "Maybe if I'm quiet," she thought, fearfully, "whoever it is will go away."
     By some unexplainable premonition she had counted the metal steps up from the drop-off of the fire escape. There had been fifteen, and---her heart leaped again---two had been stepped on so far. As a third metallic clank sounded softly on the night air, she thought for an instant that it might be all a dream. But no, the diamonds, hard and cold under her pillow; the air, still and humid; and her breathing, loud and strained, told her that she was awake. Another step sounded---four. What if she hadn't heard the first few? Impossible! Her nerves had been so tight the night before that now she couldn't help but hear the first one. There was a slight scraping sound, and she felt relieved as she supposed that the mysterious intruder had jumped to the ground.
     She closed her eyes gratefully and fell back on the pillow. It might have been a bad dream after all, or a strange figment of her imagination. As a cold, strong hand grasped her throat, she knew that she was mistaken.