Part 1 out of 6
This etext was prepared by Alan Johns (email@example.com).
by Sax Rohmer
KAZMAH THE DREAM-READER
A MESSAGE FOR IRVIN
Monte Irvin, alderman of the city and prospective Lord Mayor of
London, paced restlessly from end to end of the well-appointed library
of his house in Prince's Gate. Between his teeth he gripped the stump
of a burnt-out cigar. A tiny spaniel lay beside the fire, his beady
black eyes following the nervous movements of the master of the house.
At the age of forty-five Monte Irvin was not ill-looking, and, indeed,
was sometimes spoken of as handsome. His figure was full without being
corpulent; his well-groomed black hair and moustache and fresh if
rather coarse complexion, together with the dignity of his upright
carriage, lent him something of a military air. This he assiduously
cultivated as befitting an ex-Territorial officer, although as he had
seen no active service he modestly refrained from using any title of
Some quality in his brilliant smile, an oriental expressiveness of the
dark eyes beneath their drooping lids, hinted a Semitic strain; but it
was otherwise not marked in his appearance, which was free from
vulgarity, whilst essentially that of a successful man of affairs.
In fact, Monte Irvin had made a success of every affair in life with
the lamentable exception of his marriage. Of late his forehead had
grown lined, and those business friends who had known him for a man of
abstemious habits had observed in the City chophouse at which he
lunched almost daily that whereas formerly he had been a noted
trencherman, he now ate little but drank much.
Suddenly the spaniel leapt up with that feverish, spider-like activity
of the toy species and began to bark.
Monte Irvin paused in his restless patrol and listened.
"Lie down!" he said. "Be quiet."
The spaniel ran to the door, sniffing eagerly. A muffled sound of
voices became audible, and Irvin, following a moment of hesitation,
crossed and opened the door. The dog ran out, yapping in his
irritating staccato fashion, and an expression of hope faded from
Irvin's face as he saw a tall fair girl standing in the hallway
talking to Hinkes, the butler. She wore soiled Burberry, high-legged
tan boots, and a peaked cap of distinctly military appearance. Irvin
would have retired again, but the girl glanced up and saw him where he
stood by the library door. He summoned up a smile and advanced.
"Good evening, Miss Halley," he said, striving to speak genially--for
of all of his wife's friends he liked Margaret Halley the best. "Were
you expecting to find Rita at home?"
The girl's expression was vaguely troubled. She had the clear
complexion and bright eyes of perfect health, but to-night her eyes
seemed over-bright, whilst her face was slightly pale.
"Yes," she replied; "that is, I hoped she might be at home."
"I am afraid I cannot tell you when she is likely to return. But
please come in, and I will make inquiries."
"Oh, no, I would rather you did not trouble and I won't stay, thank
you nevertheless. I expect she will ring me up when she comes in."
"Is there any message I can give her?"
"Well"--she hesitated for an instant--"you might tell her, if you
would, that I only returned home at eight o'clock, so that I could not
come around any earlier." She glanced rapidly at Irvin, biting her
lip. "I wish I could have seen her," she added in a low voice.
"She wishes to see you particularly?"
"Yes. She left a note this afternoon." Again she glanced at him in a
troubled way. "Well, I suppose it cannot be helped," she added and
smilingly extended her hand. "Good night, Mr. Irvin. Don't bother to
come to the door."
But Irvin passed Hinkes and walked out under the porch with Margaret
Halley. Humid yellow mist floated past the street lamps, and seemed to
have gathered in a moving reef around the little runabout car which
was standing outside the house, its motor chattering tremulously.
"Phew! a beastly night!" he said. "foggy and wet."
"It's a brute isn't it?" said the girl laughingly, and turned on the
steps so that the light shining out of the hallway gleamed on her
white teeth and upraised eyes. She was pulling on big, ugly, furred
gloves, and Monte Irvin mentally contrasted her fresh, athletic type
of beauty with the delicate, exotic charm of his wife.
She opened the door of the little car, got in and drove off, waving
one hugely gloved hand to Irvin as he stood in the porch looking after
her. When the red tail-light had vanished in the mist he returned to
the house and re-entered the library. If only all his wife's friends
were like Margaret Halley, he mused, he might have been spared the
insupportable misgivings which were goading him to madness. His mind
filled with poisonous suspicions, he resumed his pacing of the
library, awaiting and dreading that which should confirm his blackest
theories. He was unaware of the fact that throughout the interview he
had held the stump of cigar between his teeth. He held it there yet,
pacing, pacing up and down the long room.
Then came the expected summons. The telephone bell rang. Monte Irvin
clenched his hands and inhaled deeply. His color changed in a manner
that would have aroused a physician's interest. Regaining his
self-possession by a visible effort, he crossed to a small side-table
upon which the instrument rested. Rolling the cigar stump into the
left corner of his mouth, he took up the receiver.
"Hallo!" he said.
"Someone named Brisley, sir, wishes--"
"Put him through to me here."
"Very good, sir."
A short interval, then:
"Yes?" said Monte Irvin.
"My name is Brisley. I have a message for Mr. Monte Irvin."
"Monte Irvin speaking. Anything to report, Brisley?"
Irvin's deep, rich voice was not entirely under control.
"Yes, sir. The lady drove by taxicab from Prince's Gate to Albemarle
"Went up to chambers of Sir Lucien Pyne and was admitted."
"Twenty minutes later came out. Lady was with Sir Lucien. Both walked
around to old Bond Street. The Honorable Quentin Gray--"
"Ah!" breathed Irvin.
"--Overtook them there. He got out of a cab. He joined them. All three
up to apartments of a professional crystal-gazer styling himself
Kazmah 'the dream-reader.'"
A puzzled expression began to steal over the face of Monte Irvin. At
the sound of the telephone bell he had paled somewhat. Now he began to
recover his habitual florid coloring.
"Go on," he directed, for the speaker had paused.
"Seven to ten minutes later," resumed the nasal voice, "Mr. Gray came
down. He hailed a passing cab, but man refused to stop. Mr. Gray
seemed to be very irritable."
The fact that the invisible speaker was reading from a notebook he
betrayed by his monotonous intonation and abbreviated sentences, which
resembled those of a constable giving evidence in a police court.
"He walked off rapidly in direction of Piccadilly. Colleague followed.
Near the Ritz he obtained a cab. He returned in same to old Bond
Street. He ran upstairs and was gone from four-and-a-half to five
minutes. He then came down again. He was very pale and agitated. He
discharged cab and walked away. Colleague followed. He saw Mr. Gray
enter Prince's Restaurant. In the hall Mr. Gray met a gent unknown by
sight to colleague. Following some conversation both gents went in to
dinner. They are there now. Speaking from Dover Street Tube."
"Yes, yes. But the lady?"
"A native, possibly Egyptian, apparently servant of Kazmah, came out a
few minutes after Mr. Gray had gone for cab, and went away. Sir Lucien
Pyne and lady are still in Kazmah's rooms."
"What!" cried Irvin, pulling out his watch and glancing at the disk.
"But it's after eight o'clock!"
"Yes, sir. The place is all shut up, and other offices in block closed
at six. Door of Kazmah's is locked. I knocked and got no reply."
"Damn it! You're talking nonsense! There must be another exit."
"No, sir. Colleague has just relieved me. Left two gents over their
wine at Prince's."
Monte Irvin's color began to fade slowly.
"Then it's Pyne!" he whispered. The hand which held the receiver
shook. "Brisley--meet me at the Piccadilly end of Bond Street. I am
He put down the telephone, crossed to the wall and pressed a button.
The cigar stump held firmly between his teeth, he stood on the rug
before the hearth, facing the door. Presently it opened and Hinkes
"The car is ready, Hinkes?"
"Yes, sir, as you ordered. Shall Pattison come round to the door?"
"Very good, sir."
He withdrew, closing the door quietly, and Monte Irvin stood staring
across the library at the full-length portrait in oils of his wife in
the pierrot dress which she had worn in the third act of The Maid of
The clock in the hall struck half-past eight.
THE APARTMENTS OF KAZMAH
It was rather less than two hours earlier on the same evening that
Quentin Gray came out of the confectioner's shop in old Bond Street
carrying a neat parcel. Yellow dusk was closing down upon this bazaar
of the New Babylon, and many of the dealers in precious gems, vendors
of rich stuffs, and makers of modes had already deserted their shops.
Smartly dressed show-girls, saleswomen, girl clerks and others crowded
the pavements, which at high noon had been thronged with ladies of
fashion. Here a tailor's staff, there a hatter's lingered awhile as
iron shutters and gratings were secured, and bidding one another good
night, separated and made off towards Tube and bus. The working day
was ended. Society was dressing for dinner.
Gray was about to enter the cab which awaited him, and his
fresh-colored, boyish face wore an expression of eager expectancy,
which must have betrayed the fact to an experienced beholder that he
was hurrying to keep an agreeable appointment. Then, his hand resting
on the handle of the cab-door, this expression suddenly changed to one
of alert suspicion.
A tall, dark man, accompanied by a woman muffled in grey furs and
wearing a silk scarf over her hair, had passed on foot along the
opposite side of the street. Gray had seen them through the cab
His smooth brow wrinkled and his mouth tightened to a thin straight
line beneath the fair "regulation" moustache. He fumbled under his
overcoat for loose silver, drew out a handful and paid off the
Sometimes walking in the gutter in order to avoid the throngs upon the
pavement, regardless of the fact that his glossy dress-boots were
becoming spattered with mud, Gray hurried off in pursuit of the pair.
Twenty yards ahead he overtook them, as they were on the point of
passing a picture dealer's window, from which yellow light streamed
forth into the humid dusk. They were walking slowly, and Gray stopped
in front of them.
"Hello, you too!" he cried. "Where are you off to? I was on my way to
call for you, Rita."
Flushed and boyish he stood before them, and his annoyance was
increased by their failure to conceal the fact that his appearance was
embarrassing if not unwelcome. Mrs. Monte Irvin was a petite, pretty
woman, although some of the more wonderful bronzed tints of her hair
suggested the employment of henna, and her naturally lovely complexion
was delicately and artistically enhanced by art. Nevertheless, the
flower-like face peeping out from the folds of a gauzy scarf, like a
rose from a mist, whilst her soft little chin nestled into the fur,
might have explained even in the case of an older man the infatuation
which Quentin Gray was at no pains to hide.
She glanced up at her companion, Sir Lucien Pyne, a swarthy, cynical
type of aristocrat, imperturbably. Then: "I had left a note for you,
Quentin," she said hurriedly. She seemed to be in a dangerously
"But I have booked a table and a box," cried Gray, with a hint of
"My dear Gray," said Sir Lucien coolly, "we are men of the world--and
we do not look for consistency in womenfolk. Mrs. Irvin has decided to
consult a palmist or a hypnotist or some such occult authority before
dining with you this evening. Doubtless she seeks to learn if the play
to which you propose to take her is an amusing one."
His smile of sardonic amusement Gray found to be almost insupportable,
and although Sir Lucien refrained from looking at Mrs. Irvin whilst he
spoke, it was evident enough that his words held some covert
"You know perfectly well that I have a particular reason for seeing
him," she said.
"A woman's particular reason is a man's feeble excuse," murmured Sir
Lucien rudely. "At least, according to a learned Arabian philosopher."
"I was going to meet you at Prince's," said Mrs. Irvin hurriedly, and
again glancing at Gray. There was a pathetic hesitancy in her manner,
the hesitancy of a weak woman who adheres to a purpose only by supreme
"Might I ask," said Gray, "the name of the pervert you are going to
Again she hesitated and glanced rapidly at Sir Lucien, but he was
staring coolly in another direction.
"Kazmah," she replied in a low voice.
"Kazmah!" cried Gray. "The man who sells perfume and pretends to read
dreams? What an extraordinary notion. Wouldn't tomorrow do? He will
surely have shut up shop!"
"I have been at pains to ascertain," replied Sir Lucien, "at Mrs.
Irvin's express desire, that the man of mystery is still in session
and will receive her."
Beneath the mask of nonchalance which he wore it might have been
possible to detect excitement repressed with difficulty; and had Gray
been more composed and not obsessed with the idea that Sir Lucien had
deliberately intruded upon his plans for the evening, he could not
have failed to perceive that Mrs. Monte Irvin was feverishly
preoccupied with matters having no relation to dinner and the theatre.
But his private suspicions grew only the more acute.
"Then if the dinner is not off," he said, "may I come along and wait
"At Kazmah's?" asked Mrs. Irvin. "Certainly." She turned to Sir
Lucien. "Shall you wait? It isn't much use as I'm dining with
"If I do not intrude," replied the baronet, "I will accompany you as
far as the cave of the oracle, and then bid you good night."
The trio proceeded along old Bond Street. Quentin Gray regarded the
story of Kazmah as a very poor lie devised on the spur of the moment.
If he had been less infatuated, his natural sense of dignity must have
dictated an offer to release Mrs. Irvin from her engagement. But
jealousy stimulates the worst instincts and destroys the best. He was
determined to attach himself as closely as the old Man of the Sea
attached himself to Es-Sindibad, in order that the lie might be
unmasked. Mrs. Irvin's palpable embarrassment and nervousness he
ascribed to her perception of his design
A group of shop girls and others waiting for buses rendered it
impossible for the three to keep abreast, and Gray, falling to the
rear, stepped upon the foot of a little man who was walking close
"Sorry, sir," said the man, suppressing an exclamation of pain--for
the fault had been Gray's.
Gray muttered an ungenerous acknowledgment, all anxiety to regain the
side of Mrs. Irvin; for she seemed to be speaking rapidly and
excitedly to Sir Lucien.
He recovered his place as the two turned in at a lighted doorway. Upon
the wall was a bronze plate bearing the inscription:
Gray fully expected Mrs. Irvin to suggest that he should return later.
But without a word she began to ascend the stairs. Gray followed, Sir
Lucien standing aside to give him precedence. On the second floor was
a door painted in Oriental fashion. It possessed neither bell nor
knocker, but as one stepped upon the threshold this door opened
noiselessly as if dumbly inviting the visitor to enter the square
apartment discovered. This apartment was richly furnished in the Arab
manner, and lighted by a fine brass lamp swung upon chains from the
painted ceiling. The intricate perforations of the lamp were inset
with colored glass, and the result was a subdued and warm
illumination. Odd-looking oriental vessels, long-necked jars, jugs
with tenuous spouts and squat bowls possessing engraved and figured
covers emerged from the shadows of niches. A low divan with gaily
colored mattresses extended from the door around one corner of the
room where it terminated beside a kind of mushrabiyeh cabinet or
cupboard. Beyond this cabinet was a long, low counter laden with
statuettes of Nile gods, amulets, mummy-beads and little stoppered
flasks of blue enamel ware. There were two glass cases filled with
other strange-looking antiquities. A faint perfume was perceptible.
Sir Lucien entering last of the party, the door closed behind him, and
from the cabinet on the right of the divan a young Egyptian stepped
out. He wore the customary white robe, red sash and red slippers, and
a tarbush, the little scarlet cap commonly called a fez, was set upon
his head. He walked to a door on the left of the counter, and slid it
noiselessly open. Bowing gravely, "The Sheikh el Kazmah awaits," he
said, speaking with the soft intonation of a native of Upper Egypt.
It now became evident, even to the infatuated Gray, that Mrs. Irvin
was laboring under the influence of tremendous excitement. She turned
to him quickly, and he thought that her face looked almost haggard,
whilst her eyes seemed to have changed color--become lighter, although
he could not be certain that this latter effect was not due to the
peculiar illumination of the room. But when she spoke her voice was
"Will you see if you can find a cab," she said. "It is so difficult at
night, and my shoes will get frightfully muddy crossing Piccadilly. I
shall not be more than a few minutes." She walked through the doorway,
the Egyptian standing aside as she passed. He followed her, but came
out again almost immediately, reclosed the door, and retired into the
cabinet, which was evidently his private cubicle.
Silence claimed the apartment. Sir Lucien threw himself nonchalantly
upon the divan, and took out his cigarette-case.
"Will you have a cigarette, Gray?" he asked.
"No thanks," replied the other, in tones of smothered hostility. He
was ill at ease, and paced the apartment nervously. Pyne lighted a
cigarette, and tossed the extinguished match into a brass bowl.
"I think," said Gray jerkily, "I shall go for a cab. Are you
"I am dining at the club," answered Pyne, "but I can wait until you
"As you wish," jerked Gray. "I don't expect to be long."
He walked rapidly to the outer door, which opened at his approach and
closed noiselessly behind him as he made his exit.
Mrs. Monte Irvin entered the inner room. The air was heavy with the
perfume of frankincense which smouldered in a brass vessel set upon a
tray. This was the audience chamber of Kazmah. In marked contrast to
the overcrowded appointments, divans and cupboards of the first room,
it was sparsely furnished. The floor was thickly carpeted, but save
for an ornate inlaid table upon which stood the tray and incense-
burner, and a long, low-cushioned seat placed immediately beneath a
hanging lamp burning dimly in a globular green shade, it was devoid of
decoration. The walls were draped with green curtains, so that except
for the presence of the painted door, the four sides of the apartment
appeared to be uniform.
Having conducted Mrs. Irvin to the seat, the Egyptian bowed and
retired again through the doorway by which they had entered. The
visitor found herself alone.
She moved nervously, staring across at the blank wall before her. With
her little satin shoe she tapped the carpet, biting her under lip and
seeming to be listening. Nothing stirred. Not even an echo of busy
Bond Street penetrated to the place. Mrs. Irvin unfastened her cloak
and allowed it to fall back upon the settee. Her bare shoulders looked
waxen and unnatural in the weird light which shone down upon them. She
was breathing rapidly.
The minutes passed by in unbroken silence. So still was the room that
Mrs. Irvin could hear the faint crackling sound made by the burning
charcoal in the brass vessel near her. Wisps of blue-grey smoke arose
through the perforated lid and she began to watch them fascinatedly,
so lithe they seemed, like wraiths of serpents creeping up the green
So she was seated, her foot still restlessly tapping, but her gaze
arrested by the hypnotic movements of the smoke, when at last a sound
from the outer world, penetrated to the room. A church clock struck
the hour of seven, its clangor intruding upon the silence only as a
muffled boom. Almost coincident with the last stroke came the sweeter
note of a silver gong from somewhere close at hand.
Mrs. Irvin started, and her eyes turned instantly in the direction of
the greenly draped wall before her. Her pupils had grown suddenly
dilated, and she clenched her hands tightly.
The light above her head went out.
Now that the moment was come to which she had looked forward with
mingled hope and terror, long pent-up emotion threatened to overcome
her, and she trembled wildly.
Out of the darkness dawned a vague light and in it a shape seemed to
take form. As the light increased the effect was as though part of the
wall had become transparent so as to reveal the interior of an inner
room where a figure was seated in a massive ebony chair. The figure
was that of an oriental, richly robed and wearing a white turban. His
long slim hands, of the color of old ivory, rested upon the arms of
the chair, and on the first finger of the right hand gleamed a big
talismanic ring. The face of the seated man was lowered, but from
under heavy brows his abnormally large eyes regarded her fixedly.
So dim the light remained that it was impossible to discern the
details with anything like clearness, but that the clean-shaven face
of the man with those wonderful eyes was strikingly and intellectually
handsome there could be no doubt.
This was Kazmah, "the dream reader," and although Mrs. Irvin had seen
him before, his statuesque repose and the weirdness of his unfaltering
gaze thrilled her uncannily.
Kazmah slightly raised his hand in greeting: the big ring glittered in
the subdued light.
"Tell me your dream," came a curious mocking voice; "and I will read
Such was the set formula with which Kazmah opened all interviews. He
spoke with a slight and not unmusical accent. He lowered his hand
again. The gaze of those brilliant eyes remained fixed upon the
woman's face. Moistening her lips, Mrs. Irvin spoke.
"Dreams! What I have to say does not belong to dreams, but to
reality!" She laughed unmirthfully. "You know well enough why I am
"Why are you here?"
"You know! You know!" Suddenly into her voice had come the
unmistakable note of hysteria. "Your theatrical tricks do not impress
me. I know what you are! A spy--an eavesdropper who watches--watches,
and listens! But you may go too far! I am nearly desperate--do you
understand?--nearly desperate. Speak! Move! Answer me!"
But Kazmah preserved his uncanny repose.
"You are distracted," he said. "I am sorry for you. But why do you
come to me with your stories of desperation? You have insisted upon
seeing me. I am here."
"And you play with me--taunt me!"
"The remedy is in your hands."
"For the last time, I tell you I will never do it! Never, never,
"Then why do you complain? If you cannot afford to pay for your
amusements, and you refuse to compromise in a simple manner, why do
you approach me?"
"Oh, my God!" She moaned and swayed dizzily--"have pity on me! Who are
you, what are you, that you can bring ruin on a woman because--" She
uttered a choking sound, but continued hoarsely, "Raise your head. Let
me see your face. As heaven is my witness, I am ruined--ruined!"
"I cannot wait for tomorrow--"
That quivering, hoarse cry betrayed a condition of desperate febrile
excitement. Mrs. Irvin was capable of proceeding to the wildest
extremities. Clearly the mysterious Egyptian recognized this to be the
case, for slowly raising his hand:
"I will communicate with you," he said, and the words were spoken
almost hurriedly. "Depart in peace--"; a formula wherewith he
terminated every seance. He lowered his hand.
The silver gong sounded again--and the dim light began to fade.
Thereupon the unhappy woman acted; the long suppressed outburst came
at last. Stepping rapidly to the green transparent veil behind which
Kazmah was seated, she wrenched it asunder and leapt toward the figure
in the black chair.
"You shall not trick me!" she panted. "Hear me out or I go straight to
the police--now--now!" She grasped the hands of Kazmah as they rested
motionless, on the chair-arms.
Complete darkness came.
Out of it rose a husky, terrified cry--a second, louder cry; and then
a long, wailing scream . . . horror-laden as that of one who has
touched some slumbering reptile. . . .
THE ClOSED DOOR
Rather less than five minutes later a taxicab drew up in old Bond
Street, and from it Quentin Gray leapt out impetuously and ran in at
the doorway leading to Kazmah's stairs. So hurried was his progress
that he collided violently with a little man who, carrying himself
with a pronounced stoop, was slinking furtively out.
The little man reeled at the impact and almost fell, but:
"Hang it all!" cried Gray irritably. "Why the devil don't you look
where you're going!"
He glared angrily into the face of the other. It was a peculiar and
rememberable face, notable because of a long, sharp, hooked nose and
very little, foxy, brown eyes; a sly face to which a small, fair
moustache only added insignificance. It was crowned by a wide-brimmed
bowler hat which the man wore pressed down upon his ears like a Jew
"Why!" cried Gray, "this is the second time tonight you have jostled
He thought he had recognized the man for the same who had been
following himself, Mrs. Irvin and Sir Lucien Pyne along old Bond
A smile, intended to be propitiatory, appeared upon the pale face.
"No, sir, excuse me, sir--"
"Don't deny it!" said Gray angrily. "If I had the time I should give
you in charge as a suspicious loiterer."
Calling to the cabman to wait, he ran up the stairs to the second
floor landing. Before the painted door bearing the name of Kazmah he
halted, and as the door did not open, stamped impatiently, but with no
At that, since there was neither bell nor knocker, he raised his fist
and banged loudly.
No one responded to the summons.
"Hi, there!" he shouted. "Open the door! Pyne! Rita!"
Again he banged--and yet again. Then he paused, listening, his ear
pressed to the panel.
He could detect no sound of movement within. Fists clenched, he stood
staring at the closed door, and his fresh color slowly deserted him
and left him pale.
"Damn him!" he muttered savagely. "Damn him! he has fooled me!"
Passionate and self-willed, he was shaken by a storm of murderous
anger. That Pyne had planned this trick, with Rita Irvin's consent, he
did not doubt, and his passive dislike of the man became active hatred
of the woman he dared not think. He had for long looked upon Sir
Lucien in the light of a rival, and the irregularity of his own
infatuation for another's wife in no degree lessened his resentment.
Again he pressed his ear to the door, and listened intently. Perhaps
they were hiding within. Perhaps this charlatan, Kazmah, was an
accomplice in the pay of Sir Lucien. Perhaps this was a secret place
To the manifest absurdity of such a conjecture he was blind in his
anger. But that he was helpless, befooled, he recognized; and with a
final muttered imprecation he turned and slowly descended the stair. A
lingering hope was dispelled when, looking right and left along Bond
Street, he failed to perceive the missing pair.
The cabman glanced at him interrogatively. "I shall not require you,"
said Gray, and gave the man half-a-crown.
Busy with his poisonous conjectures, he remained all unaware of the
presence of a furtive, stooping figure which lurked behind the
railings of the arcade at this point linking old Bond Street to
Albemarle Street. Nor had the stooping stranger any wish to attract
Gray's attention. Most of the shops in the narrow lane were already
closed, although the florist's at the corner remained open, but of the
shadow which lay along the greater part of the arcade this alert
watcher took every advantage. From the recess formed by a shop door he
peered out at Gray, where the light of a street lamp fell upon him,
studying his face, his movements, with unrelaxing vigilance.
Gray, following some moments of indecision, strode off towards
Piccadilly. The little man came out cautiously from his hiding-place
and looked after him. Out of a dark porch, ten paces along Bond
Street, appeared a burly figure to fall into step a few yards behind
Gray. The little man licked his lips appreciatively and returned to
the doorway below the premises of Kazmah.
Reaching Piccadilly, Gray stood for a time on the corner, indifferent
to the jostling of passers-by. Finally he crossed, walked along to the
Prince's Restaurant. and entered the lobby. He glanced at his wrist-
watch. It registered the hour of seven-twenty-five.
He cancelled his order for a table and was standing staring moodily
towards the entrance when the doors swung open and a man entered who
stepped straight up to him, hand extended, and:
"Glad to see you, Gray," he said. "What's the trouble?"
Quentin Gray stared as if incredulous at the speaker, and it was with
an unmistakable note of welcome in his voice that he replied:
"Seton! Seton Pasha!"
The frown disappeared from Gray's forehead, and he gripped the other's
hand in hearty greeting. But:
"Stick to plain Seton!" said the new-comer, glancing rapidly about
him. "Ottoman titles are not fashionable."
The speaker was a man of arresting personality. Above medium height,
well but leanly built, the face of Seton "Pasha" was burned to a
deeper shade than England's wintry sun is capable of producing. He
wore a close-trimmed beard and moustache, and the bronze on his cheeks
enhanced the brightness of his grey eyes and rendered very noticeable
a slight frosting of the dark hair above his temples. He had the
indescribable air of a "sure" man, a sound man to have beside one in a
tight place; and looking into the rather grim face, Quentin Gray felt
suddenly ashamed of himself. From Seton Pasha he knew that he could
keep nothing back. He knew that presently he should find himself
telling this quiet, brown-skinned man the whole story of his
humiliation--and he knew that Seton would not spare his feelings.
"My dear fellow," he said, "you must pardon me if I sometimes fail to
respect your wishes in this matter. When I left the East the name of
Seton Pasha was on everybody's tongue. But are you alone?"
"I am. I only arrived in London tonight and in England this morning."
"Were you thinking of dining here?"
"No; I saw you through the doorway as I was passing. But this will do
as well as another place. I gather that you are disengaged. Perhaps
you will dine with me?"
"Splendid!" cried Gray. "Wait a moment. Perhaps my table hasn't gone!"
He ran off in his boyish, impetuous fashion, and Seton watched him,
The table proved to be available, and ere long the two were discussing
an excellent dinner. Gray lost much of his irritability and began to
talk coherently upon topics of general interest. Presently, following
an interval during which he had been covertly watching his companion:
"Do you know, Seton," he said, "you are the one man in London whose
company I could have tolerated tonight."
"My arrival was peculiarly opportune."
"Your arrivals are always peculiarly opportune." Gray stared at Seton
with an expression of puzzled admiration. "I don't think I shall ever
understand your turning up immediately before the Senussi raid in
Egypt. Do you remember? I was with the armored cars."
"I remember perfectly."
"Then you vanished in the same mysterious fashion, and the C. O. was a
sphinx on the subject. I next saw you strolling out of the gate at
Baghdad. How the devil you'd got to Baghdad, considering that you
didn't come with us and that you weren't with the cavalry, heaven only
"No," said Seton judicially, gazing through his uplifted wine-glass;
"when one comes to consider the matter without prejudice it is
certainly odd. But do I know the lady to whose non-appearance I owe
the pleasure of your company tonight?"
Quentin Gray stared at him blankly.
"Really, Seton, you amaze me. Did I say that I had an appointment with
"My dear Gray, when I see a man standing biting his nails and glaring
out into Piccadilly from a restaurant entrance I ask myself a
question. When I learn that he has just cancelled an order for a table
for two I answer it."
Gray laughed. "You always make me feel so infernally young, Seton."
"Yes, it's good to feel young, but bad to feel a young fool; and
that's what I feel--and what I am. Listen!"
Leaning across the table so that the light of the shaded lamp fell
fully upon his flushed, eager face, Gray, not without embarrassment,
told his companion of the "dirty trick"--so he phrased it--which Sir
Lucien Pyne had played upon him. In conclusion:
"What would you do, Seton?" he asked.
Seton sat regarding him in silence with a cool, calculating stare
which some men had termed insolent, absently tapping his teeth with
the gold rim of a monocle which he carried but apparently never used
for any other purpose; and it was at about this time that a long low
car passed near the door of the restaurant, crossing the traffic
stream of Piccadilly to draw up at the corner of old Bond Street.
From the car Monte Irvin alighted and, telling the man to wait, set
out on foot. Ten paces along Bond Street he encountered a small,
stooping figure which became detached from the shadows of a shop door.
The light of a street lamp shone down upon the sharp, hooked nose and
into the cunning little brown eyes of Brisley, of Spinker's Detective
Agency. Monte Irvin started.
"Ah, Brisley!" he said, "I was looking for you. Are they still there?"
"Probably, sir." Brisley licked his lips. "My colleague, Gunn, reports
no one came out whilst I was away 'phoning."
"But the whole thing seems preposterous. Are there no other offices in
the block where they might be?"
"I personally saw Mr. Gray, Sir Lucien Pyne and the lady go into
Kazmah's. At that time--roughly, ten to seven--all the other offices
had been closed, approximately, one hour."
"There is absolutely no possibility that they might have come out
unseen by you?"
"None, sir. I should not have troubled a client if in doubt. Here's
Old Bond Street now was darkened and deserted; the yellow mist had
turned to fine rain, and Gunn, his hands thrust in his pockets, was
sheltering under the porch of the arcade. Gunn possessed a purple
complexion which attained to full vigor of coloring in the nasal
region. His moustache of dirty grey was stained brown in the centre as
if by frequent potations of stout, and his bulky figure was
artificially enlarged by the presence of two overcoats, the outer of
which was a waterproof and the inner a blue garment appreciably longer
both in sleeve and skirt than the former. The effect produced was one
of great novelty. Gunn touched the brim of his soft felt hat, which he
wore turned down all round apparently in imitation of a flower-pot.
"All snug, sir," he said, hoarsely and confidentially, bending forward
and breathing the words into Irvin's ear. "Snug as a bee in a hive.
You're as good as a bachelor again."
Monte Irvin mentally recoiled.
"Lead the way to the door of this place," he said tersely.
"Yes, sir, this way, sir. Be careful of the step there. You may remark
that the outer door is not yet closed. I am informed upon reliable
authority as the last to go locks the door. Hence we perceive that the
last has not yet gone. It is likewise opened by the first to come of a
mornin'. Here we are, sir; door on the right."
The landing was in darkness, but as Gunn spoke he directed the ray of
a pocket lamp upon a bronze plate bearing the name "Kazmah." He rested
one hand upon his hip.
"All snug," he repeated; "as snug as a eel in mud. The decree nisi is
yours, sir. As an alderman of the City of London and a Justice of the
Peace you are entitled to call a police officer--"
"Hold your tongue!" rapped Irvin. "You've been drinking: and I place
no reliance whatever in your evidence. I do not believe that my wife
or any one else but ourselves is upon these premises."
The watery eyes of the insulted man protruded unnaturally. "Drinkin'!"
he whispered, "drink--"
But indignation now deprived Gunn of speech and:
"Excuse me, sir," interrupted the nasal voice of Brisley, "but I can
absolutely answer for Gunn. Reputation of the Agency at stake. Worked
with us for three years. Parties undoubtedly on the premises as
"Drink--" whispered Gunn.
"I shall be glad," said Monte Irvin, and his voice shook emotionally,
"if you will lend me your pocket lamp. I am naturally upset. Will you
kindly both go downstairs. I will call if I want you."
The two men obeyed, Gunn muttering hoarsely to Brisley; and Monte
Irvin was left standing on the landing, the lamp in his hand. He
waited until he knew from the sound of their footsteps that the pair
had regained the street, then, resting his arm against the closed
door, and pressing his forehead to the damp sleeve of his coat, he
stood awhile, the lamp, which he held limply, shining down upon the
His lips moved, and almost inaudibly he murmured his wife's name.
THE DOOR IS OPENED
Quentin Gray and Seton strolled out of Prince's and both paused whilst
Seton lighted a long black cheroot.
"It seems a pity to waste that box," said Gray. "Suppose we look in at
the Gaiety for an hour?"
His humor was vastly improved, and he watched the passing throngs with
an expression more suited to his boyish good looks than that of anger
and mortification which had rested upon him an hour earlier.
Seton Pasha tossed a match into the road.
"My official business is finished for the day," he replied. "I place
myself unreservedly in your hands."
"Well, then," began Gray--and paused.
A long, low car, the chauffeur temporarily detained by the stoppage of
a motorbus ahead, had slowed up within three yards of the spot where
they were standing. Gray seized Seton's arm in a fierce grip.
"Seton," he said, his voice betraying intense excitement, "Look! There
is Monte Irvin!"
"In the car?"
"Yes, yes! But--he has two police with him! Seton, what can it mean?"
The car moved away, swinging to the right across the traffic stream
and clearly heading for old Bond Street. Quentin Gray's mercurial
color deserted him, and he turned to Seton a face grown suddenly pale.
"Good God," he whispered, "something has happened to Rita!"
Neglectful of his personal safety, he plunged out into the traffic,
dodging this way and that, and making after Monte Irvin's car. Of the
fact that his friend was close beside him he remained unaware until,
on the corner of old Bond Street, a firm grip settled upon his
shoulder. Gray turned angrily. But the grip was immovable, and he
found himself staring into the unemotional face of Seton Pasha.
"Seton, for God's sake, don't detain me! I must learn what's wrong."
"Pull up, Gray."
Quentin Gray clenched his teeth.
"Listen to me, Seton. This is no time for interference. I--"
"You are about to become involved in some very unsavory business; and
I repeat--pull up. In a moment we shall learn all there is to be
learned. But are you determined openly to thrust yourself into the
family affairs of Mr. Monte Irvin?"
"If anything has happened to Rita I'll kill that damned cur Pyne!"
"You are determined to intrude upon this man in your present frame of
mind at a time of evident trouble?"
But Gray was deaf to the promptings of prudence and good taste alike.
"I'm going to see the thing through," he said hoarsely.
"Quite so. Rely upon me. But endeavor to behave more like a man of the
world and less like a dangerous lunatic, or we shall quarrel
Quentin Gray audibly gnashed his teeth, but the cool stare of the
other's eyes was quelling, and now as their glances met and clashed, a
sympathetic smile softened the lines of Seton's grim mouth, and:
"I quite understand, old chap," he said, linking his arm in Gray's.
"But can't you see how important it is, for everybody's sake, that we
should tackle the thing coolly?"
"Seton"--Gray's voice broke--"I'm sorry. I know I'm mad; but I was
with her only an hour ago, and now--"
"And now 'her' husband appears on the scene accompanied by a police
inspector and a sergeant. What are your relations with Mr. Monte
They were walking rapidly again along Bond Street.
"What do you mean, Seton?" asked Gray.
"I mean does he approve of your friendship with his wife, or is it a
"Clandestine?--certainly not. I was on my way to call at the house
when I met her with Pyne this evening."
"That is what I wanted to know. Very well; since you intend to follow
the thing up, it simplifies matters somewhat. Here is the car."
"At Kazmah's door! What in heaven's name does it mean?"
"It means that we shall get a very poor reception if we intrude.
Question the chauffeur."
But Gray had already approached the man, who touched his cap in
"What's the trouble, Pattison?" he demanded breathlessly. "I saw
police in the car a moment ago."
"Yes, sir. I don't rightly know, sir, what's happened. But Mr. Irvin
drove from home to the corner of old Bond Street a quarter of an hour
ago and told me to wait, then came back again and drove round to Vine
Street to fetch the police. They're inside now."
Even as he spoke, with excitement ill-concealed, a police-sergeant
came out of the doorway, and:
"Move on, there," he said to Seton and Gray. "You mustn't hang about
"Excuse me, Sergeant," cried Gray, "but if the matter concerns Mrs.
Monte Irvin I can probably supply information."
The Sergeant stared at him hard, saw that both he and his friend wore
evening dress, and grew proportionately respectful.
"What is your name, sir?" he asked. "I'll mention it to the officer in
"Quentin Gray. Inform Mr. Monte Irvin that I wish to speak to him."
"Very good, sir." He turned to the chauffeur. "Hand me out the bag I
gave you at Vine Street." Pattison leaned over the door at the front
of the car, and brought out a big leather grip. With this in hand the
police-sergeant returned into the doorway.
"We're in for it now," said Seton grimly, "whatever it is."
Gray returned no answer, moving restlessly up and down before the door
in a fever of excitement and dread. Presently the Sergeant reappeared.
"Step this way, please," he said.
Followed by Seton and Gray he led the way up to the landing before
Kazmah's apartments. It was vaguely lighted by two police-lanterns.
Four men were standing there, and four pairs of eyes were focussed
upon the stair-head.
Monte Irvin, his features a distressing ashen color, spoke.
"That you, Gray?" Quentin Gray would not have recognized the voice.
"Thanks for offering your help. God knows I need all I can get. You
were with Rita tonight. What happened? Where is she?"
"Heaven knows where she is!" cried Gray. "I left her here with Pyne
shortly after seven o'clock."
He paused, fixing his gaze upon the face of Brisley, whose shifty eyes
avoided him and who was licking his lips in the manner of a dog who
has seen the whip.
"Why," said Gray, "I believe you are the fellow who has been following
me all night for some reason."
He stepped toward the foxy little man but:
"Never mind, Gray," interrupted Irvin. "I was to blame. But he was
following my wife, not you. Tell me quickly: Why did she come here?"
Gray raised his hand to his brow with a gesture of bewilderment.
"To consult this man, Kazmah. I actually saw her enter the inner room,
I went to get a cab, and when I returned the door was locked."
"Of course. I made no end of a row. But I could get no reply and went
Monte Irvin turned, a pathetic figure, to the Inspector who stood
"We may as well proceed, Inspector Whiteleaf," he said. "Mr. Gray's
evidence throws no light on the matter at all."
"Very well, sir," was the reply; "we have the warrant, and have given
the usual notice to whoever may be hiding inside. Burton!"
The Sergeant stepped forward, placed the leather bag on the floor, and
stooping, opened it, revealing a number of burglarious-looking
"Shall I try to cut through the panel?" he asked.
"No, no!" cried Monte Irvin. "Waste no time. You have a crowbar there.
Force the door from its hinges. Hurry, man!"
"It doesn't work on hinges!" Gray interrupted excitedly. "It slides to
the right by means of some arrangement concealed under the mat."
"Pass that lantern," directed Burton, glancing over his shoulder to
Setting it beside him, the Sergeant knelt and examined the threshold
of the door.
"A metal plate," he said. "The weight moves a lever, I suppose, which
opens the door if it isn't locked. The lock will be on the left of the
door as it opens to the right. Let's see what we can do."
He stood up, crowbar in hand, and inserted the chisel blade of the
implement between the edge of the door and the doorcase.
"Hold steady!" said the Inspector, standing at his elbow.
The dull metallic sound of hammer blows on steel echoed queerly around
the well of the staircase. Brisley and Gunn, standing very close
together on the bottom step of the stair to the third floor, watched
the police furtively. Irvin and Gray found a common fascination in the
door itself, and Seton, cheroot in mouth, looked from group to group
with quiet interest.
"Right!" cried the Sergeant.
The blows ceased.
Firmly grasping the bar, Burton brought all his weight to bear upon
it. There was a dull, cracking sound and a sort of rasping. The door
"There's where it locks!" said the Inspector, directing the light of a
lantern upon the crevice created. "Three inches lower. But it may be
bolted as well."
"We'll soon get at the bolts," replied Burton, the lust of destruction
now strong upon him.
Wrenching the crowbar from its place he attacked the lower panel of
the door, and amid a loud splintering and crashing created a hole big
enough to allow of the passage of a hand and arm.
The Inspector reached in, groped about, and then uttered an
exclamation of triumph.
"I've unfastened the bolt," he said. "If there isn't another at the
top you ought to be able to force the door now, Burton."
The jimmy was thrust back into position, and:
"Stand clear!" cried Burton.
Again he threw his weight upon the bar--and again.
"Drive it further in!" said Monte Irvin; and snatching up the heavy
hammer, he rained blows upon the steel butt. "Now try."
Burton exerted himself to the utmost.
"Take hold up here, someone!" he panted. "Two of us can pull."
Gray leapt forward, and the pair of them bent to the task.
There came a dull report of parting mechanism, more sounds of
splintering wood . . . and the door rolled open!
A moment of tense silence, then:
"Is anyone inside there?" cried the Inspector loudly.
Not a sound came from the dark interior.
"The lantern!" whispered Monte Irvin.
He stumbled into the room, from which a heavy smell of perfume swept
out upon the landing. Quentin Gray, snatching the lantern from the
floor, where it had been replaced, was the next to enter.
"Look for the switch, and turn the lights on!" called the Inspector,
Even as he spoke, Gray had found the switch, and the apartment of
Kazmah became flooded with subdued light.
A glance showed it to be unoccupied.
Gray ran across to the mushrabiyeh cabinet and jerked the curtains
aside. There was no one in the cabinet. It contained a chair and a
table. Upon the latter was a telephone and some papers and books.
"This way!" he cried, his voice high pitched and unnatural.
He burst through the doorway into the inner room which he had seen
Mrs. Irvin enter. The air was laden with the smell of frankincense.
"A lantern!" he called. "I left one on the divan."
But Monte Irvin had caught it up and was already at his elbow. His
hand was shaking so that the light danced wildly now upon the carpet,
now upon the green walls. This room also was deserted. A black gap in
the curtain showed where the material had been roughly torn. Suddenly:
"My God, look!" muttered the Inspector, who, with the others, now
stood in the curious draped apartment.
A thin stream of blood was trickling out from beneath the torn
Monte Irvin staggered and fell back against the Inspector, clutching
at him for support. But Sergeant Burton, who carried the second
lantern, crossed the room and wrenched the green draperies bodily from
They had masked a wooden partition or stout screen, having an aperture
in the centre which could be closed by means of another of the sliding
doors. A space some five feet deep was thus walled off from this
second room. It contained a massive ebony chair. Behind the chair, and
dividing the second room into yet a third section, extended another
wooden partition in one end of which was an ordinary office door; and
immediately at the back of the chair appeared a little opening or
window, some three feet up from the floor. The sound of a groan,
followed by that of a dull thud, came from the outer room.
"Hullo!" cried Inspector Whiteleaf. "Mr. Irvin has fainted. Lend a
"I am here," replied the quiet voice of Seton Pasha.
"My God!" whispered Gray. "Seton! Seton!"
"Touch nothing," cried the Inspector from outside, "until I come!"
And now the narrow apartment became filled with all the awe-stricken
company, only excepting Monte Irvin, and Brisley, who was attending to
the swooning man.
Flat upon the floor, between the door and the ebony chair, arms
extended and eyes staring upward at the ceiling, lay Sir Lucien Pyne,
his white shirt front redly dyed. In the hush which had fallen, the
footsteps of Inspector Whiteleaf sounded loudly as he opened the final
door, and swept the interior of an inner room with the rays of the
The room was barely furnished as an office. There was another half-
glazed door opening on to a narrow corridor. This door was locked.
"Pyne!" whispered Gray, pale now to the lips. "Do you understand,
Seton? It's Pyne! Look! He has been stabbed!"
Sergeant Burton knelt down and gingerly laid his hand upon the stained
linen over the breast of Sir Lucien.
"Dead?" asked the Inspector, speaking from the inner doorway.
"You say, sir," turning to Quentin Gray, "that this is Sir Lucien
Inspector Whiteleaf rather clumsily removed his cap. The odor of
Seton's cheroot announced itself above the oriental perfume with which
the place was laden.
"See if this telephone in the office is in order. It appears to be an
extension from the outer room."
While the others stood grouped about that still figure on the floor,
Sergeant Burton entered the little office.
"Hello!" he cried. "Yes?" A momentary interval, then: "It's all right,
sir. What number?"
"Gentlemen," said the Inspector, firmly and authoritatively, "I am
about to telephone to Vine Street for instructions. No one will leave
Amid an intense hush:
"Regent 201," called Sergeant Burton.
Chief Inspector Kerry, of the Criminal Investigation Department, stood
before the empty grate of his cheerless office in New Scotland Yard,
one hand thrust into the pocket of his blue reefer jacket and the
other twirling a malacca cane, which was heavily silver-mounted and
which must have excited the envy of every sergeant-major beholding it.
Chief Inspector Kerry wore a very narrow-brimmed bowler hat, having
two ventilation holes conspicuously placed immediately above the band.
He wore this hat tilted forward and to the right.
"Red Kerry" wholly merited his sobriquet, for the man was as red as
fire. His hair, which he wore cropped close as a pugilist's, was
brilliantly red, and so was his short, wiry, aggressive moustache. His
complexion was red, and from beneath his straight red eyebrows he
surveyed the world with a pair of unblinking, intolerant steel-blue
eyes. He never smoked in public, as his taste inclined towards Irish
twist and a short clay pipe; but he was addicted to the use of
chewing-gum, and as he chewed--and he chewed incessantly--he revealed
a perfect row of large, white, and positively savage-looking teeth.
High cheek bones and prominent maxillary muscles enhanced the
truculence indicated by his chin.
But, next to this truculence, which was the first and most alarming
trait to intrude itself upon the observer's attention, the outstanding
characteristic of Chief Inspector Kerry was his compact neatness. Of
no more than medium height but with shoulders like an acrobat, he had
slim, straight legs and the feet of a dancing master. His attire, from
the square-pointed collar down to the neat black brogues, was
spotless. His reefer jacket fitted him faultlessly, but his trousers
were cut so unfashionably narrow that the protuberant thigh muscles
and the line of a highly developed calf could quite easily be
discerned. The hand twirling the cane was small but also muscular,
freckled and covered with light down. Red Kerry was built on the lines
of a whippet, but carried the equipment of an Irish terrier.
The telephone bell rang. Inspector Kerry moved his square shoulders in
a manner oddly suggestive of a wrestler, laid the malacca cane on the
mantleshelf, and crossed to the table. Taking up the telephone:
"Yes?" he said, and his voice was high-pitched and imperious.
He listened for a moment.
"Very good, sir."
He replaced the receiver, took up a wet oilskin overall from the back
of a chair and the cane from the mantleshelf. Then rolling chewing-gum
from one corner of his mouth into the other, he snapped off the
electric light and walked from the room.
Along the corridor he went with a lithe, silent step, moving from the
hips and swinging his shoulders. Before a door marked "Private" he
paused. From his waistcoat pocket he took a little silver convex
mirror and surveyed himself critically therein. He adjusted his neat
tie, replaced the mirror, knocked at the door and entered the room of
the Assistant Commissioner.
This important official was a man constructed on huge principles, a
man of military bearing, having tired eyes and a bewildered manner. He
conveyed the impression that the collection of documents, books,
telephones, and other paraphernalia bestrewing his table had reduced
him to a state of stupor. He looked up wearily and met the fierce gaze
of the chief inspector with a glance almost apologetic.
"Ah, Chief Inspector Kerry?" he said, with vague surprise. "Yes. I
told you to come. Really, I ought to have been at home hours ago. It's
most unfortunate. I have to do the work of three men. This is your
department, is it not, Chief Inspector?"
He handed Kerry a slip of paper, at which the Chief Inspector stared
"Murder!" rapped Kerry. "Sir Lucien Pyne. Yes, sir, I am still on
His speech, in moments of interest, must have suggested to one
overhearing him from an adjoining room, for instance, the operation of
a telegraphic instrument. He gave to every syllable the value of a rap
and certain words he terminated with an audible snap of his teeth.
"Ah," murmured the Assistant Commissioner. "Yes. Divisional Inspector
--Somebody (I cannot read the name) has detained all the parties. But
you had better report at Vine Street. It appears to be a big case."
He sighed wearily.
"Very good, sir. With your permission I will glance at Sir Lucien's
"Certainly--certainly," said the Assistant Commissioner, waving one
large hand in the direction of a bookshelf.
Kerry crossed the room, laid his oilskin and cane upon a chair, and
from the shelf where it reposed took a squat volume. The Assistant
Commissioner, hand pressed to brow, began to study a document which
lay before him.
"Here we are," said Kerry, sotto voce. "Pyne, Sir Lucien St. Aubyn,
fourth baronet, son of General Sir Christian Pyne, K.C.B. H'm! Born
Malta. . . . Oriel College; first in classics. . . . H'm. Blue. . . .
India, Burma. . . . Contested Wigan. . . . attached British Legation.
. . . H'm! . . ."
He returned the book to its place, took up his overall and cane, and:
"Very good, sir," he said. "I will proceed to Vine Street."
"Certainly--certainly," murmured the Assistant Comissioner, glancing
up absently. "Good night."
"Oh, Chief Inspector!"
Kerry turned, his hand on the door-knob.
"I--er--what was I going to say? Oh, yes! The social importance of the
murdered man raises the case from the--er--you follow me? Public
interest will become acute, no doubt. I have therefore selected you
for your well known discretion. I met Sir Lucien once. Very sad. Good
"Good night, sir."
Kerry passed out into the corridor, closing the door quietly. The
Assistant Commissioner was a man for whom he entertained the highest
respect. Despite the bewildered air and wandering manner, he knew this
big, tired-looking soldier for an administrator of infinite capacity
and inexhaustive energy.
Proceeding to a room further along the corridor, Chief Inspector Kerry
opened the door and looked in.
"Detective-Sergeant Coombes." he snapped, and rolled chewing-gum from
side to side of his mouth.
Detective-Sergeant Coombes, a plump, short man having lank black hair
and a smile of sly contentment perpetually adorning his round face,
rose hurriedly from the chair upon which he had been seated. Another
man who was in the room rose also, as if galvanized by the glare of
the fierce blue eyes.
"I'm going to Vine Street," said Kerry succinctly; "you're coming with
me," turned, and went on his way.
Two taxicabs were standing in the yard, and into the first of these
Inspector Kerry stepped, followed by Coombes, the latter breathing
heavily and carrying his hat in his hand, since he had not yet found
time to put it on.
"Vine Street," shouted Kerry. "Brisk."
He leaned back in the cab, chewing industriously. Coombes, having
somewhat recovered his breath, essayed speech.
"Is it something big?" he asked.
"Sure," snapped Kerry. "Do they send me to stop dog-fights?"
Knowing the man and recognizing the mood, Coombes became silent, and
this silence he did not break all the way to Vine Street. At the
"Wait," said Chief Inspector Kerry, and went swinging in, carrying his
overall and having the malacca cane tucked under his arm.
A few minutes later he came out again and reentered the cab.
"Piccadilly corner of Old Bond Street," he directed the man.
"Is it burglary?" asked Detective-Sergeant Coombes with interest.
"No," said Kerry. "It's murder; and there seems to be stacks of
evidence. Sharpen your pencil."
"Oh!" murmured Coombes.
They were almost immediately at their destination, and Chief Inspector
Kerry, dismissing the cabman, set off along Bond Street with his
lithe, swinging gait, looking all about him intently. Rain had ceased,
but the air was damp and chilly, and few pedestrians were to be seen.
A car was standing before Kazmah's premises, the chauffeur walking up
and down on the pavement and flapping his hands across his chest in
order to restore circulation. The Chief Inspector stopped, "Hi, my
man!", he said.
The chauffeur stood still.
"Mr. Monte Irvin's."
Kerry turned on his heel and stepped to the office door. It was ajar,
and Kerry, taking an electric torch from his overall pocket, flashed
the light upon the name-plate. He stood for a moment, chewing and
looking up the darkened stairs. Then, torch in hand he ascended.
Kazmah's door was closed, and the Chief Inspector rapped loudly. It
was opened at once by Sergeant Burton, and Kerry entered, followed by
The room at first sight seemed to be extremely crowded. Monte Irvin,
very pale and haggard, sat upon the divan beside Quentin Gray. Seton
was standing near the cabinet, smoking. These three had evidently been
conversing at the time of the detective's arrival with an
alert-looking, clean-shaven man whose bag, umbrella, and silk hat
stood upon one of the little inlaid tables. Just inside the second
door were Brisley and Gunn, both palpably ill at ease, and glancing at
Inspector Whiteleaf, who had been interrogating them.
Kerry chewed silently for a moment, bestowing a fierce stare upon each
face in turn, then:
"Who's in charge?" he snapped.
"I am," replied Whiteleaf.
"Why is the lower door open?"
"Don't think. Shut the door. Post your Sergeant inside. No one is to
go out. Grab anybody who comes in. Where's the body?"
"This way," said Inspector Whiteleaf hurriedly; then, over his
shoulder: "Go down to the door, Burton."
He led Kerry towards the inner room, Coombes at his heels. Brisley and
Gunn stood aside to give them passage; Gray and Monte Irvin prepared
to follow. At the doorway Kerry turned.
"You will all be good enough to stay where you are," he said. He
directed the aggressive stare in Seton's direction. "And if the
gentleman smoking a cheroot is not satisfied that he has quite
destroyed any clue perceptible by the sense of smell I should be glad
to send out for some fireworks."
He tossed his oilskin and his cane on the divan and went into the room
of seance, savagely biting at a piece of apparently indestructible
The torn green curtain had been laid aside and the electric lights
turned on in the inside rooms. Pallid, Sir Lucien Pyne lay by the
ebony chair glaring horribly upward.
Always with the keen eyes glancing this way and that, Inspector Kerry
crossed the little audience room and entered the enclosure contained
between the two screens. By the side of the dead man he stood, looking
down silently. Then he dropped upon one knee and peered closely into
the white face. He looked up.
"He has not been moved?"
Kerry bent yet lower, staring closely at a discolored abrasion on Sir
Lucien's forehead. His glance wandered from thence to the carved ebony
chair. Still kneeling, he drew from his waistcoat pocket a powerful
lens contained in a washleather bag. He began to examine the back and
sides of the chair. Once he laid his finger lightly on a protruding
point of the carving, and then scrutinised his finger through the
glass. He examined the dead man's hands, his nails, his garments. Then
he crawled about, peering closely at the carpet.
He stood up suddenly. "The doctor," he snapped.
Inspector Whiteleaf retired, but returned immediately with the
clean-shaven man to whom Monte Irvin had been talking when Kerry
"Good evening, doctor," said Kerry. "Do I know your name? Start your
"My name is Dr. Wilbur Weston, and I live in Albemarle Street."
"Who called you?"
"Inspector Whiteleaf telephoned to me about half an hour ago."
"You examined the dead man?"
"You avoided moving him?
"It was unnecessary to move him. He was dead, and the wound was in the
left shoulder. I pulled his coat open and unbuttoned his shirt. That
"How long dead?"
"I should say he had been dead not more than an hour when I saw him."
"What had caused death?"
"The stab of some long, narrow-bladed weapon, such as a stiletto."
"Why a stiletto?" Kerry's fierce eyes challenged him. "Did you ever
see a wound made by a stiletto?"
"Several--in Italy, and one at Saffron Hill. They are characterised by
very little external bleeding."
"Right, doctor. It had reached his heart?"
"Yes. The blow was delivered from behind."
"How do you know?"
"The direction of the wound is forward. I have seen an almost
identical wound in the case of an Italian woman stabbed by a jealous
"He would fall on his back."
"Oh, no. He would fall on his face, almost certainly."
"But he lies on his back."
"In my opinion he had been moved."
"Right. I know he had. Good night, doctor. See him out, Inspector."
Dr. Weston seemed rather startled by this abrupt dismissal, but the
steel-blue eyes of Inspector Kerry were already bent again upon the
dead man, and, murmuring "good night," the doctor took his departure,
followed by Whiteleaf.
"Shut this door," snapped Kerry after the Inspector. "I will call when
I want you. You stay, Coombes. Got it all down?"
Sergeant Coombes scratched his head with the end of a pencil, and:
"Yes," he said, with hesitancy. "That is, except the word after
'narrow-bladed weapon such as a' I've got what looks like
"Try taking the cotton-wool out of your ears," he suggested. "The word
was stiletto, s-t-i-l-e-t-t-o--stiletto."
"Oh," said Coombes, "thanks."
Silence fell between the two men from Scotland Yard. Kerry stood
awhile, chewing and staring at the ghastly face of Sir Lucien. Then:
"Go through all pockets," he directed.
Sergeant Coombes placed his notebook and pencil upon the seat of the
chair and set to work. Kerry entered the inside room or office. It
contained a writing-table (upon which was a telephone and a pile of
old newspapers), a cabinet, and two chairs. Upon one of the chairs lay
a crush-hat, a cane, and an overcoat. He glanced at some of the
newspapers, then opened the drawers of the writing-table. They were
empty. The cabinet proved to be locked, and a door which he saw must
open upon a narrow passage running beside the suite of rooms was
locked also. There was nothing in the pockets of the overcoat, but
inside the hat he found pasted the initials L. P. He rolled chewing-
gum, stared reflectively at the little window immediately above the
table, through which a glimpse might be obtained of the ebony chair,
and went out again.
"Nothing," reported Coombes.
"What do you mean--nothing?"
"His pockets are empty!"
"All of them?"
"Good," said Kerry. "Make a note of it. He wears a real pearl stud and
a good signet ring; also a gold wrist watch, face broken and hands
stopped at seven-fifteen. That was the time he died. He was stabbed
from behind as he stood where I'm standing now, fell forward, struck
his head on the leg of the chair, and lay face downwards."
"I've got that," muttered Coombes. "What stopped the watch?"
"Broken as he fell. There are tiny fragments of glass stuck in the
carpet, showing the exact position in which his body originally lay;
and for God's sake stop smiling."
Kerry threw open the door.
"Who first found the body?" he demanded of the silent company.
"I did," cried Quentin Gray, coming forward. "I and Seton Pasha."
"Seton Pasha!" Kerry's teeth snapped together, so that he seemed to
bite off the words. "I don't see a Turk present."
Seton smiled quietly.
"My friend uses a title which was conferred upon me some years ago by
the ex-Khedive," he said. "My name is Greville Seton."
Inspector Kerry glanced back across his shoulder.
"Notes," he said. "Unlock your ears, Coombes. He looked at Gray. "What
is your name?"
"Who are you, and in what way are you concerned in this case?"
"I am the son of Lord Wrexborough, and I--"
He paused, glancing helplessly at Seton. He had recognized that the
first mention of Rita Irvin's name in the police evidence must be made
"Speak up, sir," snapped Kerry. "Sergeant Coombes is deaf."
Gray's face flushed, and his eyes gleamed angrily.
"I should be glad, Inspector," he said, "if you would remember that
the dead man was a personal acquaintance and that other friends are
concerned in this ghastly affair."
"Coombes will remember it," replied Kerry frigidly. "He's taking
"Look here--" began Gray.
Seton laid his hand upon the angry man's shoulder.
"Pull up, Gray," he said quietly. "Pull up, old chap." He turned his
cool regard upon Chief Inspector Kerry, twirling the cord of his
monocle about one finger. "I may remark, Inspector Kerry--for I
understand this to be your name--that your conduct of the inquiry is
not always characterised by the best possible taste."
Kerry rolled chewing-gum, meeting Seton's gaze with a stare intolerant
and aggressive. He imparted that odd writhing movement to his
"For my conduct I am responsible to the Commissioner," he replied.
"And if he's not satisfied the Commissioner can have my written
resignation at any hour in the twenty-four that he's short of a
pipe-lighter. If it would not inconvenience you to keep quiet for two
minutes I will continue my examination of this witness."
The examination of Quentin Gray was three times interrupted by
telephone messages from Vine Street; and to the unsatisfactory
character of these the growing irascibility of Chief Inspector Kerry
bore testimony. Then the divisional surgeon arrived, and Burton
incurred the wrath of the Chief Inspector by deserting his post to
show the doctor upstairs.
"If inspired idiocy can help the law," shouted Kerry, "the man who did
this job is as good as dead!" He turned his fierce gaze in Gray's
direction. "Thank you, sir. I need trouble you no further."
"Do you wish me to remain?"
"No. Inspector Whiteleaf, see these two gentlemen past the Sergeant on
"But damn it all!" cried Gray, his pent-up emotions at last demanding
an outlet, "I won't submit to your infernal dragooning! Do you realize
that while you're standing here, doing nothing--absolutely nothing--an
unhappy woman is--"
"I realize," snapped Kerry, showing his teeth in canine fashion, "that
if you're not outside in ten seconds there's going to be a cloud of
dust on the stairs!"
White with passion, Gray was on the point of uttering other angry and
provocative words when Seton took his arm in a firm grip. "Gray!" he
said sharply. "You leave with me now or I leave alone."
The two walked from the room, followed by Whiteleaf. As they
"Read out all the times mentioned in the last witness's evidence,"
directed Kerry, undisturbed by the rencontre.
Sergeant Coombes smiled rather uneasily, consulting his notebook.
"'At about half-past six I drove to Bond Street,'" he began.
"I said the times," rapped Kerry. "I know to what they refer. Just
give me the times as mentioned."
"Oh," murmured Coombes, "Yes. 'About half-past six.'" He ran his
finger down the page. "'A quarter to seven.' 'Seven o'clock.'
'Twenty-five minutes past seven.' 'Eight o'clock.' "
"Stop!" said Kerry. "That's enough." He fixed a baleful glance upon
Gunn, who from a point of the room discreetly distant from the
terrible red man was watching with watery eyes. "Who's the smart in
all the overcoats?" he demanded.
"My name is James Gunn," replied this greatly insulted man in a husky
"Who are you? What are you? What are you doing here?"
"I'm employed by Spinker's Agency, and--"
"Oh!" shouted Kerry, moving his shoulders. He approached the speaker
and glared menacingly into his purple face. "Ho, ho! So you're one of
the queer birds out of that roost, are you? Spinker's Agency! Ah,
yes!" He fixed his gaze now upon the pale features of Brisley. "I've
seen you before, haven't I?"
"Yes, Chief Inspector," said Brisley, licking his lips. "Hayward's
Heath. We have been retained by--"
"You have been retained!" shouted Kerry. "You have!"
He twisted round upon his heel, facing Monte Irvin. Angry words
trembled on his tongue. But at sight of the broken man who sat there
alone, haggard, a subtle change of expression crept into his fierce
eyes, and when he spoke again the high-pitched voice was almost
gentle. "You had employed these men, sir, to watch--"
He paused, glancing towards Whiteleaf, who had just entered again, and
then in the direction of the inner room where the divisional surgeon
was at work.
"To watch my wife, Inspector. Thank you, but all the world will know
tomorrow. I might as well get used to it."
Monte Irvin's pallor grew positively alarming. He swayed suddenly and
extended his hands in a significant groping fashion. Kerry sprang
forward and supported him.
"All right, Inspector--all right," muttered Irvin. "Thank you. It has
been a great shock. At first I feared--"
"You thought your wife had been attacked, I understand? Well--it's not
so bad as that, sir. I am going to walk downstairs to the car with
"But there is so much you will want to know--"
"It can keep until tomorrow. I've enough work in this peep-show here
to have me busy all night. Come along. Lean on my arm."
Monte Irvin rose unsteadily. He knew that there was cardiac trouble in
his family, but he had never realized before the meaning of his
heritage. He felt physically ill.
"Inspector"--his voice was a mere whisper--"have you any theory to
"Mrs. Irvin's disappearance ? Don't worry, sir. Without exactly having
a theory I think I may say that in my opinion she will turn up
"God bless you," murmured Irvin, as Kerry assisted him out on to the
Inspector Whiteleaf held back the sliding door, the mechanism of which
had been broken so that the door now automatically remained half
"Funny, isn't it," said Gunn, as the two disappeared and Inspector
Whiteleaf re-entered, "that a man should be so upset about the
disappearance of a woman he was going to divorce?"
"Damn funny!" said Whiteleaf, whose temper was badly frayed by contact
with Kerry. "I should have a good laugh if I were you."
He crossed the room, going in to where the surgeon was examining the
victim of this mysterious crime. Gunn stared after him dismally.
"A person doesn't get much sympathy from the police, Brisley," he
declared. "That one's almost as bad as him," jerking his thumb in the
direction of the landing.
Brisley smiled in a somewhat sickly manner.
"Red Kerry is a holy terror," he agreed, sotto voce, glancing aside to
where Coombes was checking his notes. "Look out! Here he comes."
"Now," cried Kerry, swinging into the room, "what's the game? Plotting
to defeat the ends of justice?"
He stood with hands thrust in reefer pockets, feet wide apart,
glancing fiercely from Brisley to Gunn, and from Gunn back again to
Brisley. Neither of the representatives of Spinker's Agency ventured
any remark, and:
"How long have you been watching Mrs. Monte Irvin?" demanded Kerry.
"Nearly a fortnight," replied Brisley.
"Got your evidence in writing?"
"Up to tonight?"
"Dictate to Sergeant Coombes."
He turned on his heel and crossed to the divan upon which his oilskin
overall was lying. Rapidly he removed his reefer and his waistcoat,
folded them, and placed them neatly beside his overall. He retained
his bowler at its jaunty angle.
A cud of presumably flavorless chewing-gum he deposited in a brass
bowl, and from a little packet which he had taken out of his jacket
pocket he drew a fresh piece, redolent of mint. This he put into his
mouth, and returned the packet to its resting-place. A slim, trim
figure, he stood looking round him reflectively.
"Now," he muttered, "what about it?"
KERRY CONSULTS THE ORACLE
The clock of Brixton Town Hall was striking the hour of 1 a.m. as
Chief Inspector Kerry inserted his key in the lock of the door of his
house in Spenser Road.
A light was burning in the hallway, and from the little dining-room on
the left the reflection of a cheerful fire danced upon the white paint
of the half-open door. Kerry deposited his hat, cane, and overall upon
the rack, and moving very quietly entered the room and turned on the
light. A modestly furnished and scrupulously neat apartment was
revealed. On the sheepskin rug before the fire a Manx cat was dozing
beside a pair of carpet slippers. On the table some kind of cold
repast was laid, the viands concealed under china covers. At a large
bottle of Guiness's Extra Stout Kerry looked with particular
He heaved a long sigh of contentment, and opened the bottle of stout.
Having poured out a glass of the black and foaming liquid and
satisfied an evidently urgent thirst, he explored beneath the covers,
and presently was seated before a spread of ham and tongue, tomatoes,
and bread and butter.
A door opened somewhere upstairs, and:
"Is that yoursel', Dan?" inquired a deep but musical female voice.
"Sure it is," replied Kerry; and no one who had heard the high
official tones of the imperious Chief Inspector would have supposed
that they could be so softened and modulated. "You should have been
asleep hours ago, Mary."
"Have ye to go out again?"
"I have, bad luck; but don't trouble to come down. I've all I want and
"If 'tis a new case I'll come down."
"It's the devil's own case; but you'll get your death of cold."
Sounds of movement in the room above followed, and presently footsteps
on the stairs. Mrs. Kerry, enveloped in a woollen dressing-gown, which
obviously belonged to the Inspector, came into the room. Upon her
Kerry directed a look from which all fierceness had been effaced, and
which expressed only an undying admiration. And, indeed, Mary Kerry
was in many respects a remarkable character. Half an inch taller than
Kerry, she fully merited the compliment designed by that trite
apothegm, "a fine woman." Large-boned but shapely, as she came in with
her long dark hair neatly plaited, it seemed to her husband--who had
regained her lover--that he saw before him the rosy-cheeked lass whom
ten years before he had met and claimed on the chilly shores of Loch
Broom. By all her neighbors Mrs. Kerry was looked upon as a proud,
reserved person, who had held herself much aloof since her husband had
become Chief Inspector; and the reputation enjoyed by Red Kerry was
that of an aggressive and uncompanionable man. Now here was a lover's
meeting, not lacking the shy, downward glance of dark eyes as steel-
blue eyes flashed frank admiration.
Kerry, who quarrelled with everybody except the Assistant
Commissioner, had only found one cause of quarrel with Mary. He was a
devout Roman Catholic, and for five years he had clung with the
bull-dog tenacity which was his to the belief that he could convert
his wife to the faith of Rome. She remained true to the Scottish Free
Church, in whose precepts she had been reared, and at the end of the
five years Kerry gave it up and admired her all the more for her
Caledonian strength of mind. Many and heated were the debates he had
held with worthy Father O'Callaghan respecting the validity of a
marriage not solemnized by a priest, but of late years he had grown
reconciled to the parting of the ways on Sunday morning; and as the
early mass was over before the Scottish service he was regularly to be
seen outside a certain Presbyterian chapel waiting for his heretical
He pulled her down on to his knee and kissed her.
"It's twelve hours since I saw you," he said.
She rested her arm on the back of the saddle-back chair, and her dark
head close beside Kerry's fiery red one.
"I kenned ye had a new case on," she said, "when it grew so late. How
long can ye stay?"