The Invisible Ring
Another true detective story starring the Mounted Police in a battle of wits with the master brain of a Vancouver dope ring
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH
THE Vancouver working day had ended hours before, but an illuminated square in the gloom of a downtown office building signified that the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was still busy. On the November night in question, Sergeant Fripps, herder of hopheads, scarecrow to snowbirds, veteran on that stealthiest of battlefields, the underworld, stepped more than once to the open window to drink in the cool air from the nearby Pacific. For he was weary.
He wore civilian clothes, as almost always, but they did not conceal the trained physical readiness of a man who must always be prepared to cope muscularly with frantic junkers. Grey in the closely-cropped sandy hair admitted that his thirties were passing. The planes of the face were strong, and the sea air revived a tall body which had grown to manhood beside another ocean, at Halifax. But not even a rugged man can stand more than so much, and the constant strain of the last six months’ suspense had produced puckers of fatigue under the steady grey eyes.
The last seven years of Fripps’ eighteen-year service had been spent in Vancouver, and of these seven, four had brought great responsibility with the assignment to take charge of the Drug Squad under Inspector Reames. Before coming to the Pacific Coast the traffic in mud, as the bunk smokers called opium, and snow, as they called cocaine, was almost as unfamiliar to Fripps as it was unknown to mast Canadians. True, the Chinese population of the prairie towns had occasionally provided material for a mild raid, resulting in a number of dreamy-eyed opium-joint habitués leaving their restaurants and laundries to appear in court and contribute to the revenue. But most people had tolerantly felt that opium smoking and its allied practices were the negligible amusements of the poor self-exiled heathen and thought that the police might as well leave them alone so long as they annoyed no one.
End of a Seven-Year Chase
BUT the years succeeding the Great War revealed profound differences in effect. The Oriental still smoked his opium inconspicuously enough, but others than the slant-eyed began to indulge. Morphine, cocaine, heroin, far worse in their ravages, were being imported to add variety to vice. Mohammed’s ancient ban on alcoholic beverages was followed by an increase of drug usage in the train of Islam. Canada, toying with prohibition, seemed to be seeking release down the same dark avenue. At least that is what the wets argued; and, whatever the cause, the result was growing daily plainer for all to see. And the new school of criminals, whose limits of crime were measured often
by the power of a gun in the hands of a crazed addict, vividly illustrated the argument.
In Canada the two great seaports of Montreal and Vancouver vied for supremacy as a drug market. Both cities were natural refuges for national and international criminals. Both sustained a considerable Chinese population. To both narcotics could be brought by boat. Vancouver had slightly the edge on Montreal owing to its being nearer the Orient. Already the Mounted Police had come to realize the large and sinister ramifications of the traffic. They had laboriously devised new methods and trained trustworthy instruments to aid in the attack. This had been slow work and difficult. The enormous profits of the traffic offered a lure to the morally tainted that most enterprises lacked, furnishing a human chain that started with the pitiful addict who begged to obtain the stimulation that his wasted body craved and went up through a variety of suppliers, increasing in importance, until the inaccessible, invisible and nameless heads of the illegal industry were reached.
By the time that Fripps took over the Drug Squad the results of the patient spade work were beginning to be seen. Painstakingly the invisible ground was plotted, a middleman arrested here, or a distributor convicted there. Each time a case came up in court the evidence gave away some cherished method of the Police; and others, thinking they were wiser, carried on the nefarious undertaking.
But no source had been touched, none of the higher-
ups caught. With his new job Fripps had inherited his predecessor’s efforts to enmesh the Chinese merchant who dominated Vancouver’s Chinatown. The breath of suspicion had condensed upon this cold-hearted man, whose spiderlike activities embraced many forms of crime with narcotics as the background for them all. His wealth and cunning and reputation for quiet vengeance had built a barrier about him, from behind which he imported hi3 poisonous supplies direct from China, distributing them through connections in Seattle, Montreal, and other large cities. He was reputed to be the biggest dealer in drugs on the Pacific Coast and perhaps one of the biggest in North America.
For seven years the Mounted Police had been after this astute trafficker, without getting close enough to him to move. Now a new attempt was made, after elaborate preparations and the concocting of new methods of approach, including the grooming of a special agent in Eastern drug circles before bringing him to Vancouver. Wily as the coke capitalist was, often as he checked up his visitor, deeply as he sounded him out, the agent was deeper and wilier. The big man was caught. Irrefutable evidence of the extent of his operations brought a sentence of four years—little enough in comparison with the ruin he had sown. But the big man who had let so many others go to jail for him did not relish relinquishing his luxuries for that term. He had resources; he had white friends. He gambled on them, appealed. The Mounted Police met his move with an application for an increased sentence, and when the
smoke of the legal battle had cleared away the big man wished he had accepted the first penalty, for now he found that he had seven years for reflection on his past instead of four. The Drug Squad believed they had at last struck an effectual blow.
Sun Yai’s Baffling Proceduie
"DUT to their surprise, the sensational arrest, the resulting disclosures, even the increased term made little difference in the extent of the Vancouver traffic after the first few days. The price of the black stuff had stiffened somewhat, the distributors were more cautious; but the addicts were still being served. The significance was unmistakable. Either the big man had partners or rivals who had gladly stepped into his place. A new contest in ingenuity was in the making.
By good luck, which means by happening to notice one suspicious Chinese while shadowdng another suspect, Sergeant Fripps began to focus the Drug Squad spotlight on an astute middle-aged little Chinese by the name of Sun Yai. An informer was sped upon his trail, but the informer was not of a calibre to equal Sun Yai, and failed miserably. Sun Yai, as Fripps found out through subtler channels, suspected the informer’s rôle.
Now there is no harm in your telling the enemy what he suspects, and so Fripps arranged for an agent to w'arn Sun Yai against the one who had already failed. The ruse proved an admirable bond, and in the face of this seemingly mutual anti-Police spirit Sun Yai’s
Chinese caution relaxed. From confidence to confidence the new agent led the way until the merchant intimated that he would supply his new friend with any kind or quantity of drugs he might wish to buy, so the quantity be big, and he arranged a code for convenience of the connection. Sun Yai had lost the first trick.
Fripps was heartened. He instructed the agent to arrange for a purchase of drugs. The Drug Squad, hidden from Sun Yai’s view, was to check up on the transaction of the agent, thus supplying evidence for court. The rendezvous was Hastings Park. Fripps and two of his men sought the seclusion of convenient shrubbery an hour ahead of time. Sun Yai appeared, meeting the agent at one of the gates. As they talked the Chinese directed his gaze on all sides until assured, then he left.
“Gone for it,” the agent signalled.
Fifteen minutes of suspense and the Chinese reappeared. This was absurdly easy. Fripps awaited the agent’s signal tensely. None came. Instead, as the hidden Police watched, the agent and Sun Yai left the park. To follow openly was out of the question, but, by using the shelter of bushes and trees, Fripps prowled close enough to see the two walk across an open space and turn into a side road. In a few minutes the agent returned. Sun Yai had taken him to a roadside bush, he declared disappointedly, and, after one more careful scrutiny of the surroundings, had pointed out a packet of drugs hidden in the long grass. The sergeant had the drugs, Sun Yai had the money, but the cause had
not been advanced. Without witnesses for corroboration, a ton of drugs was worthless. Sun Yai had taken the second trick.
Now began an intenser phase of the ingenuity battle. Three deliveries of drugs were arranged for in the vicinity of the park. Sun Yai refused to make them in daylight. Fripps placed his men near the places that Sun Yai favored, only to have the little Chinese meet the agent and conduct him to a new spot each time. It would be far enough away from where the Police were in hiding to prevent them from seeing what actually transpired, and even then Sun Yai would not hand the drugs to the agent but point to a place in the grass where they lay. No one could say that he had seen him with incriminating narcotics in his possession.
Sun Yai had obviously profited by the experiences of his convicted countrymen. By following his baffling procedure, Sun Yai pocketed more and more of the scanty Police funds and trumped epch trick of Fripps with finer guile. He refused to make immediate delivery of drugs, saying that he had to have plenty of notice, thus effectually preventing the Drug Squad from trailing him to the source. All attempts to shadow him on his goings-about had failed and were too dangerous to continue in the face of his caution. The hidden watchers had been increased from five to seven; men had been placed at each new point of delivery in the hope he would repeat. But, like Shakespeare, he would not, and on each occasion a thick raw fog had conspired with him to render his movements invisible. At the second and third tries, a Hindu had acted as go-between, showing the agent where the drugs lay.
Carrots in the Park
THRIPPS met the challenge with new efforts. This case,
so ordinary seeming at first, was revealing significant proportions. Sun Yai apparently had unlimited supplies, and was willing and able to fill an order for any amount at a few hours notice. This in itself was queer. Usually the big man in the traffic did not consider making personal deliveries. Invisibility was his one safeguard. Yet here was a man who, if not one of the heuds, must be close to the top, a very important catch. Fripps planned the fourth attempt with the entire Drug Squad covering each point of vantage and detailing two men especially to shadow Sun Yai and the Hindu. Fripps hoped that Sun Yai’s previous vigilance would relax in the seeming safety of his other operations. The fog was deeper than ever.
For an hour the Police remained hidden in the dripping gloom, the agent waiting at the place appointed, when the sound of a motor was heard approaching. The car came to a stop directly opposite Fripps. It turned slowly in a circle and the glare of its headlights played on the trees and shrubbery, making each drop, each mote of moisture, glisten. Fripps, cold and wet and miserable already under his bush, held his betraying breath. The beam ol light passed on; and, as if satisfied with the survey, the driver backed slowly down the road, swinging his lights from side to side as he went. Still dazzled, Fripps smiled in grudging admiration of Sun Yai’s caution. This latest display, did it mean suspicion or not? One thing, caution must be matched by caution, for too much money had been invested in this case to risk any premature alarm. So Fripps settled himself in his damp nest to wait.
It seemed an eternity to the uncomfortable watchers before the agent appeared from an unexpected quarter and whispered his story as he handed over the batch of
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Continued from gage 15
drugs. A few minutes after the car had backed away, he said, the Hindu had appeared alone and given him the parcel. Sun Yai had not been in evidence while the delivery was being made, but one of the constables had seen him get out of the car with the Hindu.
This was disquieting. It too much resembled suspicion and as if Sun Yai had turned trailer. This possibility kept Fripps and his Squad at their cheerless lairs until well after midnight before it ; was deemed safe to leave.
No wonder that Sergeant Fripps had puckers of fatigue under his steady grey eyes as he worked after hours in the lonely office.
Two constables entered with the agent, Constable Black, whose slim youthfulness failed to suggest the terror which his efforts had recently lodged in the hearts of unholy traffickers, and Constable McGibbon.
“You’d better try to get a call through, George,” said Fripps to the agent. “Black will take one phone and I the other.” The Squad members were silent as the agent called Sun Yai’s number.
“ ’Lo,” came a voice at the other end.
Fripps and Black exchanged happy glances, this being the first time an answer had been received despite repeated attempts.
“Is Jimmie there?” asked the agent. “This is George.”
“Jimmie speaking,” came the reply in Sun Yai’s high-pitched voice. “What you want?”
“I want, a ton of carrots,” said the agent. Decoded, this meant an ounce of cocaine, but Sun Yai’s daylight rôle as vegetable merchant had determined vegetables as being the safest order.
“Too late,” came the singsong voice. "Tomollow.”
“No, right now,” insisted the agent. “I must have it right away for a customer leaving early tomorrow morning.
“Too late now,” came the Chinese. “Tomollow molning. How much? Can give one ton potato seven o’clock tomollow molning. You bling money same place.” Potatoes signified morphine.
The agent caught Fripps’ head-shake.
“No. Must have one ton carrots. Eight o’clock tomorrow morning will do, but I can’t wait after that.”
“Not much callots out at that place,” objected Sun Yai. “I meet you at same place and you bling money, you get stuff same time.”
So at seven Fripps and four of his men were back at Hastings Park. It was fogless for a change and Fripps felt his pessimism departing in the beauty of his surroundings. Constable Black was posted where he could see anyone leaving the rendezvous, the other men were placed just outside the park in positions controlling views of all directions heretofore taken by the Chinese and the Hindu.
Promptly at eight Fripps saw the little Chinese appear from one of the side streets and call to the agent. The two, in sight of the watchers, walked a block east to a vacant store where they stopped in the porch. Sun Yai left in a few minutes and turned into a path leading into the woods. One of the watchers took up the trail and silently stole behind. The Chinese kept on through the woods, past an open field, and so toward a mill where Chinese and Hindus were employed. The trailer had to stop at open ground. In fifteen minutes he observed Sun Yai and the Hindu returning, so he scuttled hack to his hiding place. The Orientals continued to where the agent was waiting, and to the surprise and delight of the watching Fripps, handed him a package. Then the Orientals hurried to the nearest street-car line and Sun Yai boarded the first car to come along, the Hindu mean-
while returning to the wood’s path in the direction of the mill.
TqRIPPS felt something like satisfaction. ■** At last Sun Yai had grown careless, had delivered himself. The Squad could well afford to wait a little longer, however, in the hope that the cache of drugs might he disclosed, though now they could make the arrest of the narcotic merchant at any time. The agent had been searched before he had gone to meet Sun Yai; he had been in full view of the hidden Squad throughout; he had been seen to receive the package of drugs; it was taken from him before witnesses; the case was complete as it stood, and, best of all, Sun Yai was still admirably unsuspicious.
Now agents are hard to find, tedious to train, rare to trust, and Inspector Reames decided that there was no need to rush the Sun Yai case, for if only Fripps and his men could close in on the Chinese and the Hindu the next time with the drugs in possession, the agent who had done such good work would not be exposed by having to give evidence in court. So a few days later found the Squad back in its now familiar park surroundings at seven in the morning.
At eight o’clock, when the purveyor of carrots by the ton in small packages dropped off the car, he gave only a casual glance at the roughly-dressed workingman who was just passing. Nor did he take notice of an obviously out-of-work loiterer who happened to be near when he greeted the agent. Sun Yai repeated his previous performance of going through the wood to return with the Hindu. The Hindu gave the agent a package but said it was only part of the order. He was short of goods for the moment but would have the rest that evening. While Sun Yai was boarding a street-car, Constable Black, the workingman with a dinner-pail, kept the Hindu in sight and suppressed his exultation as he saw the swarthy man disappear into a shack by the waterfront.
Within a week the Mounted Police knew all that was necessary about the Hindu. He was an old man and very poor, an instrument of Sun Yai’s. The time had not come to close in on the pair. Search warrants were obtained for the merchant’s places of business and the waterfront shack, and a last deal was arranged, the largest order of all, to take place at the usual spot the next morning.
This time the watchers were distributed to cover every stage of the way taken by the Hindu in coming to meet Sun Yai. Again a number of laboring men could be observed here and there, the hour having been chosen to make their appearance seem natural.
As Sun Yai met the agent and exchanged greetings, they moved off to where the path led into the wood.
“Next time I come in afternoon,” said the merchant, “about two o’clock. Too much in molning. Change about all the time much better. See!” he hissed as a workingman jostled his elbow in passing.
But there was no one in sight a little later as the Hindu appeared at the deserted store where the agent was waiting to receive the drugs.
“Where is Sun?” asked the agent.
“Gone,” laconically replied the Hindu.
Constable Black and another trailed the Hindu. They had seen the entire transaction, and Fripps had given the signal to go ahead. When it was certain that the Hindu was heading for the waterfront shack, Black closed in and arrested him. The Hindu shivered with fear but refused to say anything. A search of the shack revealed nothing incriminating, but a padlocked shed behind yielded an impressive quantity of mor-
phine and cocaine. The key to the padlock was on the Hindu.
Sun Yai, meanwhile, as if alarmed, had made his way back to the street-car stop, where Fripps arrested him. The little Chinese was dumbfounded for a second, but his duplicity soon asserted itself and he protested vigorously, denying having met anyone near the park, and asserting that he had just gone to see his cousin at the shingle mill. On his way back two men had stepped from the bushes and taken some of his money.
The two prisoners were taken to jail, while Fripps and his Squad eagerly hurried to Chinatown to search Sun Yai’s two stores. They found nothing. The merchant was too subtle to take crude chances. It was very disappointing. At any rate Sun Yai was secure, and all his craft could avail nothing when Fripps and his men gave their evidence in court. The judge sentenced him unhesitatingly to five years in the penitentiary. The Hindu, being aged and but a tool, was given two years and a fine. Sun Yai also contributed a fine.
The unvarnished evidence created a striking impression in professional circles. The judge mentioned Fripps’ “wonderful work,” saying that rarely if ever had he seen “a case where everything was so complete,” adding that the sergeant had given his evidence “so fairly that I think it only right to call attention to it.”
All of which was very nice; but Fripps felt wholly unsatisfied. Sun Yai had gone to jail and could do no more harm for some time. But the secret of where he obtained his drugs was still a secret, a rankling one.
Arrest of Sing Yong
TT WAS Constable Black who nosed out the next clue. There lived a Chinese over on Hastings Street, he learned, who was supposed to have access to high places. He would negotiate only in large quantities. Unfortunately, Black’s informant could not play the rôle of buyer, and Black himself was too well known, so he arranged for the informant to introduce one of the Drug Squad, Constable McGibbon, to the Chinese as a big American buyer.
Once again a knowledge of Seattle drug circles proved convincing; the fat Chinese was impressed. He mentioned mournfully how hard it had grown to do business in Vancouver with the Mounted Police so cruel. McGibbon called the Mounted Police names, too. Sing Yong heard him gratefully and admitted that he wanted to do business. But he wanted to do it only with one or two customers, for big orders, often repeated. He handled only the best goods, he asserted, and McGibbon could depend on him. The first deal was arranged for and the constable paid over the money. The drugs were to be ready that afternoon at his apartment.
When McGibbon arrived he found a one-legged Chinese waiting.
“Sit down,” said the cripple hospitably. “The other fellow, he here soon.”
Sing Yong soon came in, saw that McGibbon was there, and went out, returning almost immediately to hand over the packet of drugs.
“Good weight and guaranteed,” said Sing. “When you come again?”
McGibbon hefted the package, looked at the morphine and said:
“Maybe Monday, perhaps Tuesday.” “Good,” smiled Sing, rubbing his fat hands. “If nobody here, leave note.” From two points of vantage, Constable Black and another watched McGibbon leave the apartment, and received the signal that the deal had gone through. A second deal was arranged for a week later.
“I don’t like coming up here,” objected McGibbon.
“Plenty safe. Jap’s place. No policeman come here. You come back way next time. Come tlee o’clock. Walk light in.”
And so it was. That afternoon the two yellow men were in the apartment when McGibbon walked in. Sing Yong walked to the door saying “One minute,” and went out, returning shortly to hand McGibbon a packet, then push him through the door.
“Quick,” he said. “Go.”
This was surprisingly different, and Fripps allowed another week to pass that Sing might rest his nerves; then he ordered Black and McGibbon to close in since there seemed little to be gained by waiting.
This time there was no one at the apartment and McGibbon waited at the downstairs door. In ten minutes Sing Yong appeared, but passed by and went on up to his room without a sign of recognition. McGibbon followed, finding the door open, and arranged for a purchase of five ounces, three of morphine and two of cocaine. The money, in marked bills, was paid over, and Sing said the drugs would be ready in a couple of hours.
Ten minutes before that time, Constable Black, looking like any business man, entered the building to use the phone booth not far from Sing’s door. He spent enough time searching for the number to allow for McGibbon’s appearance. Meanwhile the building, front and back, was being covered by other members of the Squad.
McGibbon knocked at Sing’s door and stepped in. Sing was alone.
“You catch it?” asked the constable.
“Yes, yes,” replied Sing.
As he started to take a package from his hip pocket, McGibbon slipped off the door latch. Black rushed in Sing looked up, startled. His portly form commenced to tremble. With unexpected liveliness he made a dive for the window, but Black had him. McGibbon took the package. A search of the apartment disclosed no other drugs, and the hall cupboard where Sing had been seen getting drugs was empty.
Trailing the New Dope King
ALTHOUGH it was another victory it looked like a fruitless one. But new results, unthought of, were to follow, for when Sing was brought before Inspector Reames he went to pieces. With nothing but a long jail term and deportation afterward to look forward to, the pudgy Chinese determined that the burden should be at least shared. It was the cripple who obtained the drugs for him, he protested. He would find him for the Police.
Inspector Reames smiled tolerantly.
“We’ll get him without any trouble,” he said
Sing Yong was shaken. He had hoped to bargain for a lenient sentence, but the dark, impassive countenance of the officer dashed his hopes. In despair the Chinese threw all caution to the winds. The Police might catch the cripple, he said, but they would never trap the supplier, the big man, the new king of dope since the old king had gone to jail, the old king’s partner—and Sing’s voice trembled lower—Leong Kip.
This had been the whole purpose of Reames’ interview with Sing, but he masked his excitement. His police instincts told him that the shaking snowdispenser before him was telling the truth, and if so, if Leong Kip was the new mystery spider at the centre of the web, the long months of leading up to his capture through Sun Yai and Sing Yong would have been well spent. The cripple, rounded up immediately, showed some of the marked money on him, and corroborated Sing’s tale when confronted with Sing’s confession
Leong Kip was already known to Reames and Fripps, not as a drug source, for he had never been suspected by the
Police of anything more serious than selling liquor to the odd patron, but as one of the pillars of Chinatown, a prosperous hotelkeeper who had been enjoying Canada’s hospitality for twenty-five years. But within the last year or so, it now appeared, he had entered the drug game. The deference with which the cripple and Sing Yong referred to him added impressiveness to their statements that he was about the biggest dealer on the Coast. Twenty pedlars were in his employ.
The cripple was one of these, having been compelled to make a living as best he could since losing the leg. He had been promoted to messenger and liaison man between Leong Kip and his pedlars, getting the money and taking the supplies. Other than this he had nothing to do with drugs, he said, except that he was an addict.
The cripple read Reames’ silence and Fripps’ impassive face as signs of doubt and redoubled his assurances that the story was true. He was even willing, he asserted, to make a purchase from Leong Kip to prove his innate honesty. He was, itwas true, highly perturbedat thethought of what would happen when his part became known, and the Mounted Police would have to shelter him if he was expected to testify in court. Sing Yong, hoping that he would somehow benefit, announced his willingness to do his share in trapping Leong Kip. And he, with the cripple, would advance the money for the deal. Fripps felt that things were turning his way at last.
About nine that night the cripple slowly made his way on crutches toward Leong Kip’s hotel. He had been searched by the Drug Squad, the numbers of the bills had been taken, he had not been allowed out of sight. Shadowing him came Black and another constable, following every move until he entered the hotel. Five minutes later he came out and reported that he had paid over the money and was to return in thirty minutes.
The hotel had only one entrance in spite of its hundred rooms, but there was a fire escape at the rear. The Drug Squad guarded these exits and presently the cripple came back for the drugs. In a short while he had delivered a package to Black, returning to the custody of two Mounted Police around the corner. Fripps, Black and four constables entered the hotel, finding a sleek-haired Chinese in the office. While one engaged him and seized the register, McGibbon explored the lower floor. A Chinese was sitting in the kitchen having his supper, a long, thin, ugly-visaged man.
The Chewing Gum Clue
rT'HE CHINESE turned a sceptical eye on the stranger, as Fripps asked:
“Are you Leong Kip?”
“No,” replied the Chinese.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Jackson, or Leong Kip,” said Fripps, “we are members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and we have a warrant to search your hotel for drugs.”
The yellow face went leaden, but the compressed lips said nothing. A search of his clothing produced a liquor permit in the name of Leong Kip and a huge bunch of keys. Leaving one of the men to guard him, Fripps and Black and McGibbon joined the others, who were busy searching. A few Chinese were found asleep in the bedrooms, but no signs of drugs. Fripps worked along the second floor until he came to Room 27. Locked. He sent for Leong Kip, none of whose keys would open the door. Fripps warned the prisoner that he would have to break the door in, but got no reply. It was a bedroom, unused.
At this stage of the search Inspector Reames arrived. Fripps pointed out to him a pair of scales for weighing drugs, but nothing more incriminating was in evidence. Fripps threw back the bed-
clothes to find, mystifyingly, a number of banknotes between the blankets. A quick check of the numerals showed that these notes had figured in the recent deals with Sing Yong and the cripple. Beneath the mattress was a shirt. Fripps held it up and pointed significantly to Inspector Reames. There were twelve pockets in it, a shirt used by traffickers for carrying opium cans upon their persons.
A constable appeared in the doorway.
“There’s another room down here that we can’t open, sir," he said to Reames. This was No. 30 and had a Yale lock on the door. Again the prisoner’s keys would not work. Black, who had been studying the lay-out of the place, suggested that he effect entrance through the ventilation shaft. He discovered an unlocked room opening on the shaft and climbed across to a window which looked as if it might be No. 30’s.
There was little furniture, and a number of files and documents showed that the room was used for an office. A hat hung on a nail, and the sweatband showed the initials L. M. K. Black got the prisoner.
“Is this your hat?” asked the Inspector of Kip.
“Is this your room?”
Reames tried Leong Kip's keys on a locked cashbox and opened it, to find a bundle of notes, fives and tens, twenties and fifties, totalling $1,145. Ten twenties and two tens had been paid to Sing Yong by McGibbon. There were many letters and documents, as well as Leong Kip’s immigration certificate.
“Is this your box?” asked Reames.
“Is this your money?” continued the inspector.
“I will talk no more,” said the maddened Chinese.
Back in Room 27, three hours later,
Fripps was still searching. Every article of furniture had been gone over.
Fripps’ glance returned to the dresser. He had gone over it carefully to look for false drawers, but all space was accounted for. He moved it to one side. The dust lay thick except where the legs had scraped in moving. Then his eyes rested on a joint in the baseboard at an angle in the wall. Fripps knelt and examined the wood closely.
There was a crack in the joint, but neither piece would slide and Fripps could not insert his strong fingers. His mind’s eye saw the long slim fingers of the prisoner, and he forced his own little finger into the opening. It touched something, a piece of string. Fripps curled his finger around it and pulled. There was a rattle, as if a can had been jostled against another. Fripps remembered the many pocketed shirt.
Inspector Reames shared Fripps’ interest in the piece of string which would not come out without breaking, and he told Leong Kip that the hiding place had been found. The tall Chinese showed no change of expression when confronted with the string, and smiled contemptuously when Reames advised him to reveal the method of getting at the cache.
Although convinced that they were on the track of something, both Fripps and his officer felt diffident about chopping down the wall. So far no drugs had been found on the premises. They had only the word of the cripple, an admitted accomplice, and if destruction revealed nothing behind the baseboard, there would be an action for damages. Leong Kip’s attitude left no doubt as to that. Reames turned to Fripps:
“If there’s anything behind the baseboard,” he said, “there must be a secret cache elsewhere, and it must be in some other part of the baseboard. Let’s look again. We’ll find it if we have to stay here until morning.”
On hands and knees the two policemen
resumed the search, Fripps taking the baseboard leading from the joint in one direction, while Reames took the other. Inch by inch the examination went on. Suddenly Fripps stooped closer.
He laughed in self derision.
“I thought I had something here,” he said, “but it’s only a piece of gum.”
As he was speaking his fingers were probing, and he pulled the gum away. Then he gave an exclamation that brought Reames to his side. Where the gum had plugged it up an opening was revealed. Again Fripps’ hands came into play, a finger was inserted. It felt something hard, cold, metallic. Fripps pulled, and—the two pieces of baseboard back at the joint slowly drew apart.
The cavity revealed the haul. There were ninety-seven tins of opium, five large packages of morphine, two of cocaine—a small fortune. The cache had been found, and as the drugs were checked over by the Drug Squad, Fripps knew that Leong Kip would not need to worry about events in the outside world for some time to come. The look of fury in Leong’s eyes as the discovery was made was the best proof that he felt the same way.
THE case took four days to hear.
Leong’s lawyer did everything in his power to save his client. Since there could be no question as to Kip’s identity, it now was claimed that the hotel was owned by a group with the accused only as manager. Kip denied all knowledge of Room 27, saying that it had been occupied and paid for by a Chinese who had lived at the hotel until a day or two before the raid, since when he had not been seen although he had not given up the room or got his belongings. At first he was equally positive that he knew nothing about Room 30 and denied all knowledge of the hat hanging there. But this denial lost something of its force when, during
the second day of the trial, Fripps leaned forward and took the hat from Leong Kip’s head, saying, “So you claim no connection, eh?”
Leong flashed a glance of hatred at the sergeant.
“You’re too smart,” he muttered.
And that about summed it up. The Mounted Police had been too smart for Leong Kip and Sing Yong, and, though the defense lawyer struggled for his client, it was a cause worse than forlorn. Leong’s papers had produced much of interest, when translated. They recorded large sums of money sent to China, the purpose mysteriously vague. A Chinese code when solved was found to contain only words which would describe the operations of drug smuggling from incoming liners.
“7.45 A M B Deck aft, same as before. A deck hatch numbers 4 & 5.
I shall await you there on the day of landing cargo.”
But all this was only color. The charges against Leong Kip were definite and definitely proven and nothing could save him, not even the heart-shaking threats directed against the police translator, or the efforts made to intimidate other police witnesses. He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary, the lenient sentence being due to the order of deportation ensuing.
Leong made a last frantic effort to escape the miserable future. His wife was reported to have gone violently insane and could be cured only by her husband’s presence. The pitiful case of his five children—all under six—was played up. But the appeal was rightfully dismissed. The less important Sing Yong was given two years for his share in the traffic. The cripple was not charged, the Mounted Police giving him the benefit of a doubt because of the invaluable assistance rendered.