THE GATES OF TIEN T'ZE
THE YELLOW MAN
BEING THE THIRD OF A SERIES OF STORiES
LESLIE HOWARD GORDON
DON CRAIG had had occasion many a time dur ing those two years when he and Kyrle had wan dered in the unmapped portions of the globe to remark wonderingly on the apparently inexhaustible fund of vitality which Kyrle possessed, and which enabled her to pass gaily through suf ferings and privations which would have come near to killing the average city-1red girl, and he therefore forbore to remark up on the girl's decision when, two hours after her release from the burning building in Limehouse, she refused to quit the "den" in Don's house and go to bed until she had heard in full Mclvor's end of the story. "Unfortunately there's not much of any sort at my end of the story," the superin tendent told her, in response to her insistent demand for information. "We bagged si~ Chinks in the little tobacco-shop, but as they were doing nothing more heinous than playing we don't look like having much of a case against them. Certainly we discovered a tunnel leading from the yard of the tobaccoshop to the yard of the house where they took you, but we've got no proof that the fellows we've caught knew of its existence, though we may have a moral certainty that they did. No, Miss Durande, we haven't done a lot to-night; the bag's yours. You got H'si An Men and we got a part of his gang, that's as sure as sitting down, but you come out on top because your men have got what I may call a life sentence, whereas the most we can do with ours is to jug them for gambling, and pray that while they're doing time for that we'll hit up something else to strike them with. And now I'm going. Good-night, or rather good-morning."
HE ROSE to his feet, but Kyrie manoeuvred for a strategic position between him and the door. “Oh no, you’re not,” she assured him; “I want to know some more.” Mclvor sighed plaintively. “It’s all right for you,” he pointed out; ‘you seem to thrive, and grow fat on this sort of thing, but I tell you I’m most devilish tired.” “Just two questions,” Kyrie bargained, “and then you shall go.” “What are they?” he smiled. “Well, then, firstly,” she said, “how did you know that that innocent little tobaccoshop was worth investigating?”
“By the diagram on its wall,” he answered.
“I thought you’d say that,” she returned, “but, though I admit that its walls were of a light color, there was no diagram on them.” “Pardon me,” Mclvor corrected her,
“there was. If you didn’t see it it must have been because you were looking for black lines on a white wall, but remember this: in non-orthochrómatic sensitizing solutions such as are used in most cases in kinematography, because they are more rapid in action, blue photographs white and yellow photographs black; the wall of the shop is blue-grey, and on it in faint yellow lines is the diagram.”
Kyrie laughed. “I wish I hadn’t asked you now,” she said. “Why?” he demanded. “Because it’s so simple, and I’ve been thinking you such a genius,” she pouted. “Sic transit gloria mundil” sighed Mclvor. Don grinned.
“Well,” he said, “if you will go home to-night, I’ll run you back to your place in the side-car.” He rose to his feet. “Kyrie,” he added, “you’d better go to bed. I shan’t be away more than half an hour.”
He moved out into the hall, and Mclvor, having taken his leave of Kyrie, followed him. Don led the way out by the front door and round to the little garage which stood on one side of the house.
“What’s the next move, Mclvor?" he questioned as he swung open the garage door and switched on the electric light within.
“I’m not at all sure I know,” Mclvor replied as he followed Don into the building; “it’s not too easy to decide. You see, it’s practically impossible for us to take the initiative in this job, because we simply don’t know where to look for these fellows. Just think a minute how this gang works. We may be morally certain, you and I, that the
fellows we come in contact with are simply members of the subdivisions of one big gang, and we are confirmed in the belief by what H’si An Men said to Miss Durande when he imagined that she was no longer a danger to him, but that is as far as we’ve got. These subgangs work so independently of each other that there doesn't appear to be any connecting-link by which the capture of one would lead us to the others. We hoped when we withdrew the charge against Sir Trevor Warrington's daughter and household that when once they believed themselves free from suspicion they would lead us to the others. What happened? Sonia Warrington retired to her late father’s country house in Devonshire with the whole of her father’s staff. She is
apparently crushed by the tragedy of her father’s real life and the suddenness of his death, and she’s living a life as a babe. Not a solitary action of hers or of those around her has offered the smallest loophole for suspicion to creep in. What can we do? Mere suspicion is not a sufficient reason for holding people indefinitely. There was some doubt from the start whether we could have made much of a case against them, and, having withdrawn our charge, it’s obvious that we can’t renew it without some additional evidence. Incidentally there seems, on the face of it, a fairly good probability that Sonia Warrington and her household are actually innocent.”
“It’s a devil of a tangle, isn’t it?” he remarked ruefully, as he prepared to light the big headlight of the bicycle. “What about this H’si An Men bunch?”
Mclvor shrugged none too hopefully. “That looks a pretty slim chance, too,” he confessed. “As I said before, we can hold these fellows on a few trivial charges for a week or so, but it doesn’t do us a lot of good. Even if Tien T’ze gets busy again right now, you can bet your boots the job won’t reflect back on to these fellows. That’s the strong point of their organization! If the whole gang is split into four subgangs, as we suspect, we’ll have to make four separate campaigns to get them, and then, mark you, unless we absolutely annihilate each subgang as we find it, we’re leaving behind us the risk of finding when we have done in subgang number four that subgang number one, and possibly numbers two and three also, have sprung into life again. For all the guarantee we’ve got to the contrary this kind of thing may go on in a kind of endless chain.” “What’s the answer?” Don asked. JV/fcIVOR tugged contemplatively at his moustache.
“The only answer is this,” he replied; “all these subgangs must have a head, a focus, and it’s that head or focus we’ve got to find. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But how? How, when we only come into contact with the subgangs; when we don’t know where to look for the head, and we can’t find the connecting-link which joins the gangs to it? What is Tien T’ze? A person, a council, a kind of abstract idea which holds all these fellows together like a religion? We’ve got to find it, and we don’t know what to look for. If it’s a person he must have some means of communication between himself and his lieutenants, but what method? There has been no sign of it so far. Someone killed Patrick Leverton, presumably it was Sir Trevor Warrington, but presumably, also, Sir Trevor Warrington was only the instrument of Tien T’ze. Now, what kind of an organization can this be which numbers amongst its instruments such names as Warrington’s? Again, Sir Trevor Warrington is dead; he died, you may say, a few hours after Leverton; we excluded all chances of publicity from the affair, yet H’si An Men is sufficiently well informed on the subject to be able to refer to it in detail to Miss Durande. Nor did he get that information, as far as we can judge, from Sonia Warrington or any other member of the Warrington household, since they have been under our surveillance from the moment of Sir Trevor’s death. The suggestion is that Sir Trevor and H’si An Men both subgang leaders, we presume have no means of mutual communication other than through the head of the thing itself. In other words, the subgangs are like the radii of a circle from which the periphery has been removed. It’s therefore no kind of good our making wholesale arrests of members of the various Subgangs unless we ve actually got a real case against them as individuals, since no act on the part of one group will incriminate the members of another. Do you see the proportions which the thing has stretched to? We're not lighting individuals, we’re lighting the links in an invisible chain."
“It does look pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?” Don agreed. “It does look like a long job,” Mclvor admitted, “and I can see only one hope of shortening it just a little. We've got to make ourselves such an infernal nuisance to Tien T'zc that Tien T’ze will be forced to try and out us right away. In that way, if we can put up a big fight, we can possibly draw the whole gang on to our track, and if we can do that we shall have them just about where we want them. Only. . . .” He hesitated. “It’s a big risk. I don’t mind the risk personally it’s my job; but with you and Miss Durande it’s different, Craig, I’d advise you two to keep out of this; it’s not your job, you’ve nothing to gain by smashing this gang, and devot ion to the public good is well, perhaps I as a police officer shouldn’t say it, but, Craig, the public is a mighty forgetful kind of bird sometimes.”
Don shrugged. “To some extent I’m in this on principle, certainly,” he returned, “but I’m also in it because well, because I went in some years ago and it beat me. Now I want to make an end oí it.”
“That’s well enough,” Mclvor agreed, “but there’s Miss Durande. You owe her protection, I believe, and, believe me, you’ll have your hands full in protecting yourself.”
WELL,” Don smiled, “you can take it from me that Kyrie doesn’t look too kindly upon people who try to protect her. I may owe her plenty of protection, but she’s mighty careful I never pay. Seriously, though, I don’t believe it’s any kind of good your trying to keep her out of this; she’s tasted it, and you won’t be able to hold her from it. I’ll put it up to her as strongly as I can, but I don’t think, if I were you,
I’d bank on the result.” He turned back to the motorbicycle, which in his interest in the discussion he had almost forgotten, and wheeled it out of the garage. “Now,” he said, “jump aboard.”
Mclvor approached the side-car and swung open the little door. Then it seemed to Don as though an invisible hand had reached out and struck the superintendent a staggering blow. There was no audible sound, no visible movement, yet even as Mclvor made the first movement to step into the side-cai he recoiled, swung half round, and fell on to one knee.
Like a flash, Don Craig was off the bicycle and at Mclvor’s side.
“What is it?” he demanded. Mclvor, supporting himself by his left arm, took his right hand from his side and stared at it dazedly for a moment in the light which reached them from the front door of the house.
“I’m hit,” he muttered with a puzzled inflection, “but I didn’t hear a gun and I don’t seem to be bleeding.” Then quite suddenly his supporting arm bent and he collapsed on to the ground.
For a fraction of time Don hesitated, while two conflicting impulses clamored through his mind. The assailant must be near at hand, since from any great distance the dim light from the front door would have precluded any chance of his hitting his mark. Therefore, if Don acted quickly the man might be captured. This is what Mclvor would have ordered had he retained consciousness. But Mclvor might be seriously hurt, dying even; a moment’s delay might very well mean the finish of the superintendent.
SWIFTLY Don caught up the unconscious man and ran for the house. His latch-key saved him the necessity of waiting until someone within should open the door, and in a moment he had carried his burden into the “den.”
Kyrie had not gone to bed, and at Don’s appearance she acted with a promptitude and a presence of mind which even in the whirl of the moment Don found himself applauding. One swift glance she allowed herself, then she caught up the telephone, gave a number to the exchange and in under a minute was saying:
“Dr. Peyton? Kyrie Durande speaking. Come quickly, can you? Thanks. Now, please.” Then she hurried to a large cabinet in one corner of the
room, took from it a black first-aid case, and carried it to where Don, having laid the superintendent on a couch, was rapidly removing the clothing from the upper part of the unconscious man’s body. Two years in ;the unmapped lands had not been without their effect on Kyrie.
“What’s happened?” she asked, as she opened the case. While he worked Don told her, and as he finished the
account he laid bare Mclvor’s chest; then a troubled frown creased his forehead. He had expected a bullet wound, but he found something very different, and the difference made him uneasy. Over Mclvor’s right breast was a small slitlike wound such as no bullet ever made, and which was bleeding but little. Don was something of an amateur surgeon; he probed the wound, found the missile which had caused it, and extracted it neatly. It was a miniature arrowhead no more than half an inch wide across the shoulders and beautifully modelled in steel, but Don had little time at the moment to study it. The nature of the missile had raised grim fears that it might have been poisoned, and he took what immediate steps he could. Quickly he caught up a narrow-bladed hunting-knife, heated the blade in the flame of a smoking-lamp, and cauterized the wound.
As he finished, a double knock on the front door announced the arrival of the doctor, and Kyrie hastened to admit him. Then, as he passed into the “den,” she slipped out of the front door.
Immediately before the garage, some few yards to the right, Don’s motor-bicycle still stood with engine throbbing. Don’s account of the affair, though brief, had been admirably clear, and she found little difficulty in taking up a position which came quite close enough to the one which Mclvor had assumed at the moment when the missile was discharged. Then she took her bearings.
T MMEDIATELY in front of her was a fairly large clump A of rhododendrons, set in the centre of a wedge-shaped grass plot which lay between the left-hand wall of the garden and the carriage sweep from the gates to the front door; along the line of the left-hand wall itself stood six great poplar trees; away to the right front, on the opposite side of the carriage sweep, an ancient and twisted oak offered the sole other point of cover which could have screened Mclvor’s assailant. It seemed that there should
and in fact there wasjiot. The loose earth of the bed in which the shrub was set held clearly as damp sand the imprint of footmarks, and showed, too, where the assailant had rested on one knee while he had trained his weapon on Mclvor. So much was instantly visible by the aid of an electric torch which she had caught up when she had left the house. So much, but no more; there was no clue which might lead to the identification of the wouldbe assassin.
CHE returned to the mo^ tor-bicycle and made a careful examination of the ground around it, and now she was looking for something other than footmarks. After a moment she found what she sought. On the ground, close to the spot where Mclvor must have fallen, there lay what at first glance appeared to be an ordinary lead pencil, but which on closer scrutiny turned out to be a miniature arrow-shaft, some eight inches long and something under half an inch in diameter.
Kyrie pounced upon her find and examined it eagerly by the light of her torch. Stamped upon the shaft, in exactly the same way as the maker’s name is stamped upon a lead pencil, was a familiar design, the cross in the ellipse, and the minute star which stood against one arm of the cross showed the weapon to have belonged to that sub-branch known as H’si An Men.
A little frown puckered Kyrle’s forehead. It seemed that the blow which they had struck against H’si An Men had not been severe enough to prevent H’si An Men from striking back, and that with disconcerting promptitude.
Mclvor’s fears were finding justification. Tien T’ze was proving a problem every bit as big as they had feared it to be.
Bruce Mclvor was recovering, slowly, it is true, but to the complete satisfaction of his doctor and the unbounded relief of Don Craig, whose prompt action in cauterizing the wound had alone made recovery possible.
NEVERTHELESS, recovering though he was, Mclvor had been placed hors de combat more completely than he had hoped would be the case. The irritation which had been set up by the poison in the few minutes which had elapsed between the infliction of the wound and the application of Don’s improvised cautery had sufficed to react badly on even such an iron system as the superintendent’s, and his doctor had imperiously ordered a somewhat imposing period of sick leave.
Mclvor had resisted valiantly, but he had been defeated at last by the commissioner himself going over to the enemy. There had followed an interview in the commissioner’s own office, short and heated, and the commissioner had emerged victorious, for he had commanded troops.
Mclvor had been conveyed, to all intents and purposes by force, to a small house which he possessed on the Sussex Downs just five miles east of Cocking, and there he had been delivered into the hands of an ancient retainer who had once belonged to his mother. That accomplished, Don and Kyrie, who, needless to say, had formed part of the escort, had returned to Hampstead.
For a fortnight all had gone smoothly, and Tien T’ze had, with commendable consideration, lain low. It seemed, however, that this consideration was less real than apparent for at the end of that fortnight Tien T’ze sat up and, stretching its rested limbs, looked around for a little diversion.
It chanced that the Red Crescent Shipping Company chose this precise moment to make a transition from a paying concern into complete bankruptcy, in a manner which seemed more consistent with a meteor than with a crescent. At the same moment, too, Spencer Thornton, Lord Invercairn, moved into Tien T’ze’s range of vision, though he was in no way connected with the shipping company. He was a man who, strange as it may seem, did not hold his title on account of any infantile aptitude for brass-polishing, nor as a reward for any revolution in the art of soapmaking, but purely by right of direct descent from the first Lord Invercairn, who had received his at the hands of James IV. of Scotland. It chanced also, which under the circumstances was still stranger, that Lord Invercairn was a wealthy man.
THEREFORE it came about that at eight-thirty one morning, just two weeks after Mclvor had gone to Sussex, Spencer Thornton, Lord Invercairn, was arrested suddenly, in the act of drawing on his bath-robe, by a cry which echoed along the corridor of the big house in Portland Place. The cry was followed by the crash of breaking china, and then by the sound of the hurried footsteps of a man-servant as he dashed up from the floor below to the scene of the outcry. The fact that in the ordinary course of events the women of Lord Invercairn’s household did not scream and smash things, and, moreover, the fact that the cry came from the direction of his daughter’s room and was undoubtedly in a woman’s voice, brought Lord Invercairn out of his own room with mingled feelings of apprehension for what might have happened and annoyance at the disturbance, but half a dozen steps along the corridor sufficed to fill him with a vastly deeper emotion. Headlong from the Hon. Deborah Thornton’s room, and almost into his master’s arms, dashed his lordship’s valet, André. For a fraction of a second the man stared blankly at Invercairn; his face was ghastly pale, and in his eyes flamed the essence of fright ; then he started to gibber unintelligibly.
Roughly, by reason of his own fear, Lord Invercairn jostled the man aside and entered his daughter’s room. Just within the doorway he came to an abrupt stop.
The room was perfectly orderly, not an article of furniture was displaced, but stretched face downwards on the floor at the foot of the bed lay the body of a man. For one motionless second Lord Invercairn stood, then he acted. Quickly he crossed to the prostrate body and rolled it on to its back. The man was a Chinaman; he was clad in full evening dress, and he was quite dead. Lord Invercairn allowed his eyes to roam around the room, and then he noticed something else; across the bottom rail of the bed hung the evening wrap which his daughter had worn, but
the bed had not been slept in; one corner of the clothes was turned back just as the maid had left it the previous night, but the silk bedcover was disarranged, and there was a slight tear in it. From the bed his eyes moved to where, over by the door, leaning weakly against the wall and staring, panic-stricken, at the body of the dead Chinaman, stood Josette, Deborah Thornton’s maid; at her feet a small tray and the litter of broken china where the tray had fallen from her hands, but of Deborah Thornton herself there was no sign. The various articles on the dressingtable had evidently not been touched since the maid had arranged them on the previous evening after her mistress’s departure for Lady Daynton’s dance.
Lord Invercairn moved close to Josette. “Where’s your mistress?” he demanded.
The girl stared at him blankly; her lips trembled, but she seemed incapable of speech, and it was some moments before he got her story out of her. She had brought her mistress’s tea at the usual time; she had almost fallen over the body of the dead man; it seemed that after that she had had no eyes for anything else, even she had failed to notice the absence of her mistress. She knew nothing; she had nothing to tell.
A thorough search of the house revealed nothing that was out of order, and a careful cross-examination of the servants elicited only the information that Smithson, the butler, had sat up for Deborah Thornton, and admitted her to the house. He had then bolted the front door in the usual way and gone to bed; in the morning the underbutler had reported having found the front door bolts drawn back and the door only held shut by its Yale lock.
IT SEEMED that the Hon. Deborah had walked out of 1 her father’s house in the small, dark hours, clad only in the thin evening clothes which she had worn at the dance. But as young girls of eighteen years who come of good families do not commonly indulge such nocturnal tendencies, Lord Invercairn found himself faced with an anxious and doubly-trying situation. The absence of all signs of a struggle seemed to hint at certain reasons for his daughter’s disappearance which the good name of the Thornton family might justly wish should not be made public, yet the presence of the dead Chinaman in Deborah’s bedroom seemed to point to a forcible abduction, and,
moreover, removed any chance which might otherwise have existed of Lord Invercairn handling the matter in a way to preclude publicity. There was no alternative, therefore, to communicating with the police, and it was as a result of this communication that Inspector John MacNish called on Donald Craig at twelve-thirty the same morning at the latter’s house in Hampstead.
“I’m not drinking to-day, Mr. Craig,” MacNish announced in reply to Don’s offer of refreshment. “I’m having all the stimulant I want just now with this business at Portland Place, you understand, what with Superintendent Mclvor being away in Sussex on sick leave, and the doctor’s order that he is not to be troubled with any kind of business for two months! You see this affair has a Chinaman in it, though he is a dead one, and the superintendent always took charge personally of all cases which had Chinamen in them, since we had orders to keep our eyes open for some sign of their Chinese organization, Tien T’ze. The superintendent has been as close as an oyster of late on the subject. It’s little I know of Tien T’ze except what you’ve told me, Mr. Craig, and I’m hard put to it to get the hang of this case, so I’ve come to you; for I understand the superintendent has asked you to work with him to clear up the mystery of Tien T’ze, and already you’ve bested two of the leading men of the organization.”
“I don’t think anyone knows much about Tien T’ze, MacNish,” Don returned, “except that it does exist for some unknown purpose. Is there any reason for supposing that the Portland Place affair is an exploit of Tien T’ze?” “I’m not saying that there is,” MacNish replied, “but it has that look to me. However, I’ll tell you the details in their proper sequence. You may know that Lord Invercairn is a widower with one son at Sandhurst and a daughter. It’s the daughter we’re concerned with at the moment. Only two months ago she made her début into society at the Duke of Carcaster’s affair. Just eighteen she is, and as pretty a lassie—if one may speak so of a lord’s daughter— as ever walked the earth; the papers were full of her portrait at the time. Well, only last night the Hon. Deborah— that’s her name, you understand—went to a little affair at Lady Daynton’s place in Cavendish Square. She returned to her house at one-thirty this morning, and went straight to her room. Her maid Josette went to assist her, but the Continued on page 1*9 lassie told her to get to bed and that she could manage for herself. That’s the last that was seen of the Hon. Deborah, Mr. Craig. This morning, when the maid went into the lassie’s bedroom, the first thing she found was the body of a dead Chinaman lying on the floor at the foot of the bed, but the Hon. Deborah was gone.
The Yellow Man
Continued from page 11
“Now, Mr. Craig, I’ve examined every foot of space in that house; there’s not a sign of an entry having been forced, and there is nothing in the girl’s room to suggest that any violence took place save the body of the Chinaman and the fact that the bed-cover—the bed hadn’t been slept in, you understand—was a little disarranged and had a slight tear in it. The girl’s evening wrap was hanging over the rail of the bed just as she might have thrown it off, and from the look of things you’d say she had just walked out of her own accord—but for the body of that Chinaman, and the only help he gives is to deepen the mystery. He’s been identified as Mr. Huan Tung, of the Chinese Embassy; he was at Lady Daynton’s dance last night, and he left about an hour before the Hon. Deborah, as near as Lady Daynton can remember. Now, Mr. Craig, I have discovered that about half an hour before Lord Invercairn’s daughter arrived back at her home a police constable called at the house and told the butler that their kitchen window was open; the butler left the constable at the door for a pioment while he fetched him a drink. That being against the regulations, I reported it, and it appears that the constable who called at Lord Invercairn’s house doesn’t tally in description with the constable who was on duty at that point. It’s my belief that the kitchen-window business was a plant, and that while the butler went to get the supposed constable a drink—leaving the door open, you understand—the people whose accomplice the constable was just slipped into the house. So far so good; but now we come to the real trouble. This Mr. Huan Tung is a well-known man; and though he’s a young man, he held an influential position at the Chinese Embassy, yet in his waistcoat pocket we found this.”
He produced from his pocket an ordinary envelope, and shook the contents on to the little table by Don’s chair. Don bent over the table and gently fingered several small pieces of broken iyory. Under MacNish’s hand the pieces quickly took shape as a fiat rectangle of ivory which bore carved upon it a rough St. Andrew’s Cross surrounded by an irregular ellipse. The rectangle was complete save for one small wedge-shaped fragment which left a small gap extending from one edge of the ivory to part way down one arm of the cross.
“It’s the sign of Tien T’ze all right,” Don nodded; “but go on.”
WELL,” MacNish continued, “as far as we’ve been able to discover, Mr. Huan Tung had never met Lord Invercaim’s daughter until last night at Lady Daynton’s dance. Now, from the statement which Lady Daynton has made, we know that he seemed deeply interested in the Hon. Deborah. He asked to be presented to her, and he followed her about so much that Lady Daynton was glad when he went, for fear the other guests would notice.
“One of two things must be the case, then; either Mr. Huan Tung was actively connected with the girl’s disappearance or he was not. If he was not, how did he come to be in her room; and, if he was, who killed him? There’s a queer point, too, about the way he was killed. He was just pricked in the right wrist by some sharp instrument which had been poisoned; the puncture is no bigger than a pin-prick.” “Doesn’t it look as if Mr. Huan Tung had made some kind of attack on the girl, and she had killed him?” Don suggested; “then, seeing what she had done, grew scared and bolted?”
Inspector MacNish shook his head. “It does not to me,” he answered bluntly. “In the first place, a girl, being suddenly confronted by a strange man in her own bedroom, would naturally scream, and as her aunt, who accompanied her to the dance, slept in the next room, the cry would certainly have been heard. Then there is the manner of the killing. Now, I ask you Mr. Craig, do young ladies in the position of Deborah Thornton keep within reach a
small poisoned pin or stiletto such asjmust have been used?” Don smiled faintly.
“I believe you’ve got me,” he admitted; “it doesn’t seem probable. How about this aunt you mentioned; can’t she throw any light on the affair?”
“None in the least,” MacNish replied gloomily. “She has a long tale to tell about it, but there’s never a word in it of interest, except that the girl seemed depressed on the way home; she never spoke a word except to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the aunt’s questions. Moreover, the lady’s not a young woman, and is so nearsighted she can’t even be relied upon when she says that she is sure no one was hanging about either when they left Lady Daynton’s house or when they arrived home. As a witness, Mr. Craig, she’s a bad egg.”
T"YON CRAIG rose from his chair and fell to pacing the room, as was his habit when his thoughts were working at high pressure.
“Have you got any notion, Mac,” he asked after a moment, “why the girl should have been carried off, supposing this to be a case of abduction?”
“Not the slightest,” MacNish admitted, “unless it’s just a vulgar case of ransom.” “Hardly likely, do you think?” Don objected; “any sane person would be able to visualize the hornet’s nest which they would raise in attacking a girl in her position.”
MacNish tugged at his moustache reflectively.
“Yet there doesn’t seem any other explanation,” he replied. “His lordship maintains that he hasn’t an enemy in the world that he knows of, and he can’t think of any reason why his daughter should run away.”
“No love affair which did not find favor in his eyes, I suppose?”
“He has never heard a mention of one.” “And there is no clue in the house?” “Not a sign of one.”
The telephone-bell over Don’s desk whirred stridently, and Don picked up the receiver; the next moment he turned to MacNish.
“They want to speak to you from the Yard,” he said.
MacNish took the instrument and growled into the mouthpiece, and for some seconds Don was forced to listen to a series of nasal grunts in rapidly-changing key from the inspector. At last, with a cautioning “Stand by” into the mouthpiece, MacNish cut off and turned towards him.
“Peterson on the other end,” he announced, his brows drawn low and a grimness around his mouth, “and with a yarn that would make a body doubt his sanity. He’s got on the trail of the girl—or so he says. Report just come through from Cocking, in West Sussex. Someone’s told the police that a car went through there this morning early, containing two men and a girl; girl seemed ill; she was leaning against one of the men’s shoulder, head lolling, eyes closed ; she was in evening dress, and answers to the description of Deborah Thornton.”
In Don’s eyes interest gleamed. “Do they know in which direction the car was going?” he questioned. MacNish nodded sharply.
“They know more than that,” he answered; “the fellow who noticed the girl followed the car on a bicycle. It went right through Cocking and along a road on the Downs; five miles east of Cocking it stopped at a house, and the two men carried the girl in.”
“Good!” Don leapt up from the chair into which he had thrown himself while MacNish had been on the ’phone. “It only remains to find the owner of that house, and we’re on a hot trail.”
“We know him,” MacNish announced. “Splendid! Who is he?” Don’s interest showed just a suspicion of flagging now the case seemed so near completion, but MacNish’s answer caused it to leap into a flame again.
“The house belongs to Superintendent Mclvor,” he replied grimly; “he’s spending his sick leave there.”
npHE immediate result of this telephone -*■ bomb-shell from New Scotland Yard was to stimulate Don Craig and Inspector MacNish into quick action, and somehow from that moment onwards it was Don Craig who took the lead. Inspector MacNish seemed content to act in a subordinate capacity, so great was his respect for the judgment which had prevailed upon Superintendent Mclvor to accept Don’s collaboration in matters pertaining to Tien T’ze.
Don’s first action, therefore, was to call Kyrie Durande into conference, and explain fully to her all that was known of the case.
“And now, Kyrie,” Don finished his statement of the case, “you must handle the London end of this job for the time being. Call upon Lord Invercairn, examine the girl’s room, and make sure that no clue has been missed; then call on Lady Daynton, get her version of what happened at the dance, and search for clues there. Two points might bear keeping in mind:
“1. Does Lady Daynton remember any of her guests wearing a similar dress to Deborah Thornton’s?
“2. What were the movements of this man Huan Tung after he left Lady Daynton’s dance?”
“The police would probably be able to supply information on the second part more quickly than you could collect it. Perhaps MacNish will get into touch with the Yard and ask them to give you every assistance.”
MacNish nodded silently, and, crossing to the ’phone, spoke a few terse words to his subordinate, Peterson. This done, Don rapidly sketched in their own probable movements.
“We’ll have to go down to Mclvor,” he said; “it seems impossible that he should be ignorant of what’s going on, but if he isn’t I don't understand his silence. I can’t credit. ...”
He broke off again as the telephone-bell interrupted him. Once more the call was for MacNish.
FOR a moment the inspector listened in silence to the voice at the other end of the line, and then suddenly his self-control broke.
“What!” he roared into the mouthpiece. “Say that again, man; it’s damn daft you’re talking! Who says so? Bring it round here now.” He clicked the receiver up smartly, but remained for a moment staring vacantly at the instrument; then abruptly he swung round on Don.
“Mr. Craig,” he said slowly, “could you by any stretch of imagination come to think of Superintendent Mclvor as a wrong’un?”
Don’s brows came together sharply. “Not by any stretch of imagination, Mac. Why?” For a long time MacNish gnawed his thumb-nail in gloomy silence.
“Peterson reports,” he said at length, “that he has just received a letter forwarded from Lord Invercairn which demands five thousand pounds of his lordship for the safe return of his daughter. Boughley, the handwriting expert at the Yard, says that he can detect no sign of the letter being a forgery, and that it is in the handwriting of Superintendent Mclvor.” The muscles round Don’s jaw tightened a trifle, but he answered immediately.
“It’s a fake, Mac,” he said. “My lord, man, it’s—it’s got to be a fake.”
“There’s another point,” MacNish pursued heavily: “there’s a thumb-print on the paper. It’s Mclvor’s thumb-print.” Instantly Don’s face cleared, and he leapt to his feet.
“Then it is a fake!” he almost shouted. “Why, Mac, you dear old ass, don’t you see it can’t be anything else? Mclvor, honest man or crook, is at least a clever man. Would he make two such mistakes? Two? No, three! Supposing he had carried off this girl, would he take her to his own house in the country, where the slightest miscarriage of his plans would immediately stamp him as the criminal? Or supposing he did so far forget himself, would he make a second blunder and write the letter demanding ransom with his own hand, instead of typing it, and then cap the whole affair by allowing his thumb-print to appear on the writing-paper? Why, man, he’s Superintendent of the C.I.D.! He knows the methods employed in the detection of crime backwards. Don’t you see. that the evidence is too conclusive? It’s not accidental—it’s planned. Why, damn it, man, it sticks out a mile!” MacNish’s scowl lightened at this, and he ceased his gastronomic foray on the thumb-nail.
“Yes,” he admitted, “maybe you’re
right, My land, Mr. Craig, I hope you are!” Don turned to Kyrie.
“Go on, Kyrie, my dear,” he said, “get busy. Mac is suffering from temporary paralysis of the grey matter; he’ll be all right in a minute, but we’ve got to get a hustle on.”
“Right,” the girl replied. “Where’ll I get you if I need you?’
"Better wire me at Mclvor’s place,” he answered; "if I’m not there, he’ll know how to get me.”
Kyrie took her departure, and some five minutes after she had left, Peterson arrived with the letter. For some moments Don and MacNish pored over the small sheet of note-paper; but if the handwriting experts at New Scotland Yard had been unable to discover any sign of forgery about it, it was hopeless for these two to try, while both realized that a forged finger-print could defy the most expert examination. Barely ten minutes elapsed, therefore, between the arrival of Peterson and the departure of Don and MacNish on the former’s big red Indian and side-car for Mclvor’s house in Sussex.
PACING restlessly before the window in his den in the little house in Sussex, Superintendent Bruce Mclvor paused for a moment and gazed unseeingly across the roll and dip of the Downs to where the Channel gleamed a snow-flecked blue strip to the south.
Mclvor had just listened to a clear statement of the case against him from Don Craig, who now sat in a deep armchair chewing perplexedly on the unlit butt of a cigar, and glancing from time to time at the knit-browed face of Inspector John MacNish, who sat near him.
At last Mclvor turned from the window. “Of course,” he said, with a slight smile, “it isn’t necessary for me to tell you two that this whole business is a plant. Â11 the same, it is one which may have very serious consequences for me. Just recently I have lost four thousand pounds by the failure of the Red Crescent Shipping Company. That provides an additional motive for my supposed crime. Secondly, although I wasn’t actually in London last night, I certainly was away from this house from three o’clock in the afternoon to five o’clock this morning, and I can’t prove where I was.”
MacNish sat up in his chair as though he had been electrocuted.
“My land, chief,” he ejaculated, “the thing’s getting worse and worse! What were you doing away from here last night of all nights?” Mclvor’s smile broadened a trifle.
“I understand some things now which I didn’t get the hang of last night,” he replied. “It was this way: After lunch yesterday I was prowling over the Downs, as I generally do, when I became conscious of being followed. I didn’t appear to notice the fact, but first opportunity I got I lay low and waited. Sure enough, my shadow hove in sight. He was a Chinaman in European dress. Of course, my mind instantly flew to Tien T’ze, so I continued in hiding until he got sick of looking for me, then I followed him. I should think I walked nearly a hundred miles, but I wasn’t going to lose him if I could help it. Eventually, however, I did lose him; he headed for Worthing, and in Worthing he disappeared. Finally I caught an early morning train to Midhurst and walked home. Oh, yes; unless we can produce the real criminal in a very short time, Mr. Tien T’ze has got me in pretty deep.”
TAON CRAIG rose abruptly. "Look here, Mclvor,” he said, “we shan’t do any good stopping here and admiring the strength of the case against you. Surely the first thing to be done is to go through the house and see whether the girl has actually been hidden here. If she is hidden here, it’s better that we should find her than that the police should.” Mclvor nodded.
“We’ll search the place, certainly,” he agreed, “but I can tell you now she’s not in the house. You see, the presence of that Chinaman suggested to me that some attack might be made upon me, so when I got in this morning I went all through the place. True, I was looking for a concealed assassin or an infernal machine, but I’d hardly have missed her if she had been here.”
“All the same,” Don shrugged, “we’d better look.” The little house contained only five rooms and a kitchen, and these five rooms they searched thoroughly, but without result.
When their search was over, they gathered in a little group in the hall, and for a moment no one spoke. It was MacNish who at last broke the silence.
“The body who followed that car out from Cocking this morning,” he ruminated, “says he saw it stop by the gate of this house and the girl lifted out; then he rode back to Cocking. He didn’t say anything about the girl being carried into the house.” He stalked across to the window and studied the prospect. Situated at the back of the house, the outlook from the room gave on to a square, picturesque garden surrounded by a light-colored stone wall barely three feet high; there was nowhere in the garden where the girl might have been concealed, but beyond the wall, directly facing the window, at a distance of some ten yards from it, what looked to be an old barn reared its black-tarred wooden bulk. On this building MacNish’s gaze focused.
“What’s that shed yonder?” he questioned abruptly.
Mclvor came up behind him, and, looking over the other’s shoulder, instantly sensed the thought behind the question.
“It’s disused,” the superintendent replied. “I don’t know how it came there; it doesn’t belong to me. We’ll look inside now. I haven’t searched there.”
GpHE door of the structure was unfas-Itened and the three trooped in; but at first glance the place appeared empty, and then MacNish, running his eyes to the roof, grunted suddenly.
Following the direction of his gaze, they saw her. She was half reclining with her legs stretched out along a broad beam which ran across under the roof. Her ankles and knees were lashed to the beam, while cords around her waist and arms and across her breast held the upper part of her body securely against a short upright rising from the beam to the sloping roof. She was dressed in her thin evening clothes, her head was lolling on one shoulder, and across her mouth ran a broad band of some dark material.
It was none too easy a matter to get her to the ground, and when at last they had her lying on the couch in Mclvor’s den it was an anxious trio who bent over her and worked to restore that consciousness which had been driven out of her, first by an anaesthetic and later by her painful captivity in the barn. The hope lay in the possibility that when Deborah Thornton should be able to tell of her experiences she might reveal something which would smash the case against Mclvor; but when at last she was able to talk in a dazed way, the hope was shattered. She could tell very little.
At Lady Daynton’s she had felt a little faint, and had gone into the conservatory, where she had asked to be left alone. The moment after her wish had been granted an arm had shot over her shoulder and a saturated pad of something pressed over her nose and mouth. She had struggled, but she had been overpowered, and had lost consciousness without seeing her assailant, though she knew the arm had been a woman’s. Next she remembered being in an automobile; but here, again, she had seen nothing, for she had found her hands bound behind her, a gag covering her mouth, and a band of something over her eyes. For a long time the car had continued to run at what she judged to be a high speed; then the pad had been pressed again over her nose, and again she had lost consciousness. Once or twice, while she had remained lashed to the beam close under the roof of the barn, she had regained her senses, but that part of her experiences had resolved itself into short flashes of consciousness alternating with long periods of black emptiness.
AS FAR as Deborah Thornton’s story •TV. went, the case against Mclvor still stood. And then Kyrle’s wire to Don Craig arrived.
“Come now,” the telegram read, “all of you. Meet me Victoria Station tea-room. I shall await you. Very important.”
Deborah Thornton they turned over to the care of Mclvor’s housekeeper, and then, leaving MacNish on guard, the superintendent and Don Craig set out in the red Indian and the side-car.
Don Craig had for many years suffered from a gnawing propensity to rend the speed laws into shreds; now he had the
opportunity and he took it. The red Indian became a lurid streak on the road, and its passage sounded like a machine-gun nest. The distance from Mclvor’s house to Victoria was close on forty-eight miles; they accomplished the journey in an hour and a half.
In the tea-room at Victoria Station Kyrie met them.
“We’ve got some of them if we’re quick,” she said by way of greeting. “This is a ‘Hou Men’ job. I’ll tell you all about it on our way up. Shall we go now?” “Where to?” Don asked. “Zeisman’s Hotel, Pepper Street, just off Tottenham Court Road,” she replied. Don Craig garaged the Indian, and the three piled into a taxi. On the way Kyrie told of her discoveries.
“First of all,” she said, “I went to Lady Daynton’s house and made a thorough search. The result of that was that I fixed three points. I found first of all a tassel from an evening wrap exactly similar to the one that was left behind in the girl’s room at Lord Invercairn’s, and which I had examined very closely, but in the case of Deborah Thornton’s wrap no tassel was missing. This seemed to suggest that someone had been present at Lady Daynton’s dance who might have been dressed exactly like Lord Invercairn’s daughter, and that in its turn suggested that possibly Deborah Thornton had been seized while she was actually in Lady Daynton’s house. Some other girl, dressed in an identical manner, might have returned with Deborah’s aunt, who, you remember, is fearfully short-sighted, and probably would not notice the change if the substitute was a sufficiently good actress and kept quiet during the ride home—which is presumably what she did according to the aunt’s story. I sensed that was your idea, Don, when you told me to be particularly careful to find out whether anyone wearing a dress similar to Deborah’s was at Lady Daynton’s place.
WELL, working along these lines, I took the evidence of the tassel to be sufficiently significant to bear following up. Someone would have to be in a position to know, some little time beforehand, all details of the dress which the girl intended wearing. That didn’t seem possible unless Deborah happened to be having a new dress made especially for this dance, in which case the first place to look for a suspect was with her dressmakers. Fortunately, Lady Daynton knew who the dressmakers were, and I posted round there. Amongst the employees there was one girl who, with a little careful make-up, would have passed for Deborah provided one had no time to study her too closely. I found that this particular girl, whose name is Margery Wakely, had received permission to-day to go off duty at five o’clock. When she left I followed her; she went straight to Zeisman’s Hotel. I telephoned Peterson at New Scotland Yard, told him what progress I had made, and asked him if he could put two men on to watching the main and back entrances. He said he would. I waited there for the men. A few moments after the girl had gone in someone switched on a light in a room on the second floor, and then came to the window to pull the blind down. It was a Chinaman. Presently Peterson’s men arrived, and I wired you.
“After that I filled in the time I knew must elapse before you could arrive by visiting the lodging-house where Margery Wakely lives—I had got the address from her employers. I’m afraid, to all intents, I burgled that house, Mr. Mclvor, but I learnt one or two useful things. In the first place, the girl is leaving there tomorrow; and in the second, there is at the bottom of her trunk an evening frock which corresponds exactly with the description of Deborah’s, and an evening wrap with one tassel missing.
“Now about another thread. At Lady Daynton’s I found the missing fragment from the broken sign of Tien T’ze which was found on the body of Huan Tung. It had worked deep into the carpet in the cloak-room. Here it is.”
SHE passed the tiny wedge of ivory across, and the two men examined it closely by the light of her electric torch.
“As you see,” she went on, “it bears a small star carved on it, and from the position of that star in the design it stands for Hou Men, doesn’t it? Well, now, wait a minute—there’s more! The girl who looked after the cloak-room remembers that when she took the coat of one of the men guests she thought something fell out of it. She looked, but could see nothing. Mr. Huan Tung was standing a little way off, and she saw him pick up something and look at it. She told him she had thought ! something had fallen from the other man’s 1 coat, and asked him what he had found; j but he showed her a little broken piece of ivory, and said he had dropped it himself. It was soon after that, it appears, that he took such a sudden interest in Deborah. I discovered that he left Lady Daynton’s at one o’clock and took a taxi, although, mind you, his own car was waiting outside. I think there could have been only one reason for that; he must have been in a great hurry, and as there happened to be a taxi on the rank close at hand, he took it rather than wait until his own chauffeur could be brought up from the servants’ quarters, where refreshments had been provided for the guests’ servants. The same taximan was on the rank when I left Lady Daynton’s, and I had a long talk with him. Huan Tung stopped him by a call office and used the telephone, and then he told the man to drop him at Portland Place. When the taxi stopped Huan Tung gave the man a pound note, and hurried away without waiting for any change.”
She stopped, and for a moment no one spoke.
“So that as things stand now,” Mclvor said at last, “we have pretty strong evidence against this girl, Margery Wakely, but we still have no light on the reason for the murder of Huan Tung.”
“The likely suggestion seems to be that he knew of the existence of Tien T’ze,” Don remarked; “that he recognized the ivory token which he picked up; and, discovering something was on foot against Deborah Thornton, he dashed to her house in hopes of upsetting the plot, was found there by Margery Wakely, and done in. But how about this policeman accomplice of MacNish’s discovery, and who presumably played his part to enable Huan Tung to enter the house?”
“Not much difficulty about that,” Mclvor replied; “after all, every embassy is a kind of detective force. He would have arranged that when he had that ’phone call.” Then he turned to Kyrie. “We’ll need a search-warrant to enter this hotel,” he said, “and some authority to make arrests.”
“Peterson has arranged all that,” she nodded; “one of the plain-clothes men will have them waiting for us.”
ZEISMAN’S HOTEL was a dingy double-fronted affair in a still more dingy thoroughfare off the Tottenham Court Road. The taxi, under Kyrle’s direction, drew up at the corner of Pepper Street and the three walked slowly up to the hotel. Against a lamp-post facing the hotel’s main entrance ä seedy-looking individual reclined ungracefully, the glowing stump of a cigarette failing by some miracle to set light to his ragged moustache, an evening contents bill draped apronlike around his lean hips, and a bundle of papers tucked under one arm.
“Pyper, sir?” he questioned. “Mysterious disappearance of a peer’s daughter. News, sir? Yes, sir.” And as he handed the paper to Mclvor he added in a different tone: “They’re still inside, sir. The warrants are inside the paper. 086 L Division is watching the back entrance. Nothing to report, sir.”
“Keep here,” Mclvor replied as he felt for a penny. “If you hear my whistle, raise Cain on your own, and send the constable who answers the call in to us. Tell 086.”
In the hotel front hall they ran directly into a big, prosperous-looking individual in a bowler hat and pink tie. For a moment he and Mclvor eyed each other with mutual suspicion.
“Now, see, Pug,” Mclvor said quietly, “we’ve got nothing against you this jour• ney. You’ll just lie low if you’re wise.”
Pug Fischer, fence and safe-breaker, also proprietor of Zeisman’s Hotel, grinned pleasantly.
“Sure as you’re alive, superintendent,” he replied, “aint any of my shindy, but it must be a pretty big feller to fetch you out. Who is it?”
“No friend of yours,” Mclvor replied; “the job’s not in your line. Now mind what I say, keep out, and keep your boarders out too, or your licence is gone for good. What room has the Chinaman got?” “Forty-three, first floor,” Pug replied promptly. “So he’s the pigeon, is he?
Don’t know him. He’s got a bird with him now.”
BEFORE the door of room No. 43 the trio stood for a moment listening intently to the sound of a girl’s voice which came from within; then Mclvor tried the door gently; it was locked. He stepped back, and then, raising his foot, struck sharply with the sole of his boot just above the lock. Carne a sharp snap, and the door flew open. ^ . ,.
For one brief instant Don Craig caught a glimpse of a tall, sallow-faced man in a dark lounge suit standing behind a table, and the pretty, scared face of a girl; the next he found himself entangled with that girl, and compelled to use considerably more force than he cared about to retain his grip on her subtly twisting body. She was strong, active, and clever in her efforts to escape him, but after a moment his strength prevailed and he was able to give more notice to the other events which were in progress.
Over by the window a battle royal raged between Mclvor and the Chinaman. By far the more powerful man of the two, the superintendent found, nevertheless, that the advantage which should have accrued from this was more than neutralized by his opponent’s unusual science and abnormal agility. The Chinaman broke—apparently with ease—every hold which Mclvor got, and yet up to the moment when Don gave them his attention he had never succeeded in getting completely free. The two twisted and wrestled, whirling and doubling like a pair of crazy Apache dancers, and still the struggle remained undecided.
Don Craig longed to take a hand, but the sudden, spasmodic efforts of his own prisoner condemned him to the rôle of spectator.
Suddenly, with a ducking twist which seemed to ridicule the idea that he could have a single bone in his body of more than one inch in length, the Chinaman broke from Mclvor completely, at the same time whirling the superintendent half across the room. Once free, the Chinaman straightened up, his hand flashed to his jacket pocket, and came away grasping a .38 automatic.
For Don it seemed as if that evil blue barrel covered the superintendent for an eternity, yet in reality barely a fraction of time elapsed before something whizzed through the air and caught the Chinaman fairly between the eyes. He staggered back under the blow, and before he could recover, Kyrie had leapt from an overlooked corner, snatched the revolver from his weakened grip, and held him covered.
Mclvor picked himself up from the floor.
“Umph!” he grunted; “what in heaven did you hit him with?” Then his eyes fell on Kyrle’s heavy electric torch, which lay at the Chinaman’s feet, and he smiled. “Who taught you to throw things with an aim like that?” he questioned.
“A certain little Mexican in Villa’s army,” she answered. “It’s just one of those useful things I’ve picked up travelling with Don. Are you going to handcuff this gentleman; he’d be safer.”
MARGERY WAKELY, believing
firmly in the axiom “Safety first,” was obliging enough to save the police a great deal of trouble and tell them the full story of Deborah Thornton’s abduction. The story differed hardly at all from that outlined by Kyrle’s deduction. She had worked for the accused Chinaman—whom she spoke of as Mr. Hou Men—for some considerable time. It was he who, acting under orders, she believed, had arranged the whole affair. He who had got her a job with Deborah Thornton’s dressmakers so that she might make an identical copy of the evening frock; he who had provided plans of Lady Daynton’s house which had enabled her to gain an entrance on the night of the dance, conceal herself in the conservatory, drug Deborah Thornton, hide her unconscious body, to be picked up by other agents of his and conveyed to Mclvor’s place in Sussex. And then at this point her story ran from merely confirming what the superintendent already believed to be the case to explaining the mystery of Huan Tung. .
During the time she had been in hiding in the conservatory a man—presumably one of Lady Daynton’s guests—had entered and stood near her, while in a low tone he told her that Huan Tung was one of Tien T’ze’s most dangerous enemies^ that he had got wind of this job, and that if she
ran up against him she must strike quickly, for it would be her life or his. Her informant then gave her a stiletto no thicker in blade than a hat-pin, and told her that a mere scratch with it would be sufficient. Her whole plan had gone through smoothly and she had seen nothing of Huan Tung until she was in Deborah Thornton’s room, where he had suddenly entered shortly after she had sent the maid to bed. She had kept her back to him at first, and he, mistaking her for Deborah, had warned her of Tien T’ze’s plot; then she had turned and struck quickly.
TT HAD certainly not been Hou Men’s A intention that Huan Tung should be murdered in Lord Invercaim’s house, but, the deed once committed, it had, of course, been impossible to remove the body. It seemed, too, that Huan Tung, who had for years sought the secret of Tien T’ze, was considered well out of the way under any circumstances.
For a long time Mclvor questioned and cross-examined the girl, but at last he was convinced that she knew nothing more of Tien T’ze, nor did she know who had been, employed to assist her in the abduction of Deborah Thornton; the man in the conservatory she had never seen before.
It seemed, therefore, that to all intents and purposes they had advanced hardly at all in their fight against Tien T’ze. Certainly another subgang leader had been accounted for, but if Mclvor’s theory went for anything, the loss of Hou Men would mean no more to Tien T’ze than the loss of one individual, and on the whole it was rather a disappointed trio which gathered in the “den’^ of the house at Hampstead pretty late that evening.
Nevertheless, disappointed though they were, Don and Kyrie found themselves under the necessity of dissembling the fact before Mclvor for that evening at least. The superintendent was still little better than convalescent, and the activities of the last few hours seemed unlikely to prove wholly beneficial. By means of strategy, therefore, Mclvor was inveigled into turning-in in the room which Don had placed at his disposal at an hour considerably earlier than the superintendent had counted on. .
Next morning the council of war took place.
“I needn’t tell you two how I feel about all this,” Mclvor said as they rose from the breakfast-table. “We’ll jug Mr. Hou Men for quite a lengthy period, but I’ve got a notion to stretch a point on Margery Wakely’s account and put in a strong case for her release. She has turned King’s Evidence, and we owe her something for that. Certainly she murdered Huan Tung, but she’s more likely to be useful to society if we set her free than if we send her up for that. If I can get the Home Secretary’s consent I’ll promise her to lie low about her turning King’s Evidence and set her free. She seems to be almost without money, and it’s on the cards that she’ll try and hunt up some of her old Tien T’ze friends again just as soon as she believes she’s free from police observation—which, of course, she never will be; also, having pulled off her part of the job rather well, it seems likely that they’ll be glad enough to get her back again, and if they do that we’ve made a step in the right direction.
NOW another point! Tien T’ze has staged this last stunt purely in my honor; true, if Lord Invercairn had paid out the ransom which they demanded for his daughter in my name, they would have been five thousand pounds to the good, but that was more or less on the side; their object obviously was to entangle me so closely that I’d be eliminated from the game. And so right now I’m going to make myself a kind of bait for these fellows. Just as soon as I’ve cleared up this case and made sure that the watching of Margery Wakely is in good hands, I’m going to put in for the remainder of my sick leave, with some arrears of annual leave tacked on to the end of it, and I’m going back to Sussex, just as if I believed that by the removal of Hou Men I’d got clear of the danger. That’s my new scheme, and it seems to me to be a likely one. I’ve got a notion it’ll work out.”
“I’ve got a notion it’ll work too well,” Kyrie objected; “you’re such a tempting bait, it seems likely they’ll swallow you.” Mclvor smiled.
“That wouldn’t fit in with my ideas at all,” he confessed; “but after all, one’s got to take some kind of risk.”
“I suppose we have,” Kyrie nodded. Melvor glanced at her quickly. “I said ‘one,’ not ‘we,’ ” he corrected her. But now Don entered the firing-line.
“Melvor,” he remarked, “for a real live sleuth you’re guileless as a babe. Do you think you’re going down to Sussex to hog all the limelight, while we stay here in London and call you a hero? Oh no, my son; if you’re going to qualify for a halo, so are we.”
“I’d rather like my portrait in the illustrated dailies with ‘She died defending Society’ underneath it,” Kyrie put in. “I’ve got a fine photograph of myself somewhere, with draped shoulders and my hair down; it only wants a halo printed in to make it complete; I’ll find it before we start,”
MCIVOR was perplexed. In the short time during which he had known them he had come to look upon these two with something like affection, and for that reason he regretted more deeply day by day their share in his danger; he was a man whose work absorbed him at times to the exclusion of all else, and it could not be denied that the three of them together would offer a more tempting bait by far. Also it occurred to him that by remaining together they did not run any greater risk than by separating, since Tien T’ze had demonstrated that it could strike with equal power in Sussex or in London. By remaining apart they would only necessi-
tate two blows being struck, and by keeping together the chance of warding off the blows might be the greater. This last thought decided him.
“All right,” he agreed; “we’re in this together; let’s stick together. It may be safer, and it will certainly be a great deal more pleasant.”
So it came about that something under three weeks after the arrest of Hou Men, Don and Kyrie found themselves installed in a small grey stone house on the Downs, something under a mile from Mclvor’s place, where the narrow, dusty road wound past and away into the green dip of a hollow, and where the wind whipped in from the Channel.
There they waited, alert and watchful, for the attack of Tien T’ze; waited and watched while the sunlit days, slipping drowsily away without event, blunted their alertness and dimmed the keenness of their watch.
Tien T’ze was waiting, and they knew it, but familiarity with that knowledge had bred the inevitable contempt of it. True, they still talked of Tien T’ze, still spent their evenings pushing their way experimentally into the darkness of its secret, but they discussed it more impersonally, as something which would make itself manifest in due course, but which might be allowed to sleep until it did.
Meanwhile Tien T’ze waited. (Another story will appear in the next issue)