By Hereward Carrington
All day long Orloff had paced his cell. The blackness of the sky outside was equaled only by the blackness of his thoughts. The deep rolling of the thunder reverberated through the thick stone walls of his prison, and every now and then a fitful gust of rain swirled through the tiny broken window, wetting his face as he stared out into the night. Orloff cursed, wiped the water from his face with his grimy fingers, and turned to pacing his cell once more.
For seven long years Orloff had been thus confined – but a small fraction of the life sentence he was serving for the horrible crime he had committed. But at times he had asked himself, “Was it not worth it, after all?” He could still feel the wet, warm blood trickling between his fingers, and see the whites of his victim’s eyes. Then, too, there was that great day of the trial, when so many officials, in their splendid uniforms and gold braid, and so many beautiful women, clad in their furs and satins, had gazed at him, horror-struck, unable to avert their eyes from his face, or miss one word that fell from his lips…At such times Orloff would rub his hands and smile to himself, in memory of that great day.
But tonight Orloff was in a different mood. Black despair and vengeance reigned supreme in his soul; he wished only to escape, in order that he might seek out his destroyers and in turn destroy them. His steps became more feverishly agitated; perspiration gathered on his forehead and he clenched his hands until the nails bit into his flesh and little trickles of blood oozed from between his fingers. A brilliant lightning flash illuminated the far wall of his cell –lighting it as it had never been lighted before. Orloff’s eyes became riveted upon a huge stone, on the lowest tier…Were his eyes deceiving him, or had he in truth seen a tiny crack surrounding it, as though the cement had been scraped away or altogether removed? Hardly daring to breathe he tip-toed...