Part 2 out of 6
"An hour. No more. There's a lot to do before the papers come out in
the morning. By breakfast time all England, including the murderer,
will know I'm in charge of the case. I wish I could muzzle the Press."
"'Tis a murder, then? The Lord gi'e us grace. Ye'll be wishin' to tell
"Yes. I'm stumped!"
"Ye've time for a rest an' a smoke. Put ye're slippers on."
"I've no time for that, Mary."
She stood up and took the slippers from the hearth.
"Put ye're slippers on," she repeated firmly.
Kerry stooped without another word and began to unlace his brogues.
Meanwhile from a side-table his wife brought a silver tobacco-box and
a stumpy Irish clay. The slippers substituted for his shoes, Kerry
lovingly filled the cracked and blackened bowl with strong Irish
twist, which he first teased carefully in his palm. The bowl rested
almost under his nostrils when he put the pipe in his mouth, and how
he contrived to light it without burning his moustache was not readily
apparent. He succeeded, however, and soon was puffing clouds of
pungent smoke into the air with the utmost contentment.
"Now," said his wife, seating herself upon the arm of the chair, "tell
Thereupon began a procedure identical to that which had characterized
the outset of every successful case of the Chief Inspector. He rapidly
outlined the complexities of the affair in old Bond Street, and Mary
Kerry surveyed the problem with a curious and almost fey detachment of
mind, which enabled her to see light where all was darkness to the man
on the spot. With the clarity of a trained observer Kerry described
the apartments of Kazmah, the exact place where the murdered man had
been found, and the construction of the rooms. He gave the essential
points from the evidence of the several witnesses, quoting the exact
times at which various episodes had taken place. Mary Kerry, looking
straightly before her with unseeing eyes, listened in silence until he
ceased speaking; then:
"There are really but twa rooms," she said, in a faraway voice, "but
the second o' these is parteetioned into three parts?"
"A door free the landing opens upon the fairst room, a door free a
passage opens upon the second. Where does yon passage lead?"
"From the main stair along beside Kazmah's rooms to a small back
stair. This back stair goes from top to bottom of the building, from
the end of the same hallway as the main stair."
"There is na either way out but by the front door?"
"Then if the evidence o' the Spinker man is above suspeecion, Mrs.
Irvin and this Kazmah were still on the premises when ye arrived?"
"Exactly. I gathered that much at Vine Street before I went on to Bond
Street. The whole block was surrounded five minutes after my arrival,
and it still is."
"What ither offices are in this passage?"
"None. It's a blank wall on the left, and one door on the right--the
one opening into the Kazmah office. There are other premises on the
same floor, but they are across the landing."
"A solicitor and a commission agent."
"The floor below?"
"It's all occupied by a modiste, Renan."
"The top floor?"
"Cubanis Cigarette Company, a servants' and an electrician."
"Where does yon back stair open on the topmaist floor?"
"In a corridor similar to that alongside Kazmah's. It has two windows
on the right overlooking a narrow roof and the top of the arcade, and
on the left is the Cubanis Cigarette Company. The other offices are
across the landing."
Mary Kerry stared into space awhile.
"Kazmah and Mrs. Irvin could ha' come down to the fairst floor, or
gene up to the thaird floor unseen by the Spinker man," she said
"But they couldn't have reached the street, my dear!" cried Kerry.
"No--they couldn'a ha' gained the street."
She became silent again, her husband watching her expectantly. Then:
"If puir Sir Lucien Pyne was killed at a quarter after seven--the time
his watch was broken--the native sairvent did no' kill him. Frae the
Spinker's evidence the black man went awe' before then," she said.
Kerry shook his head.
"From all accounts a slip of a woman," he replied. "It was a strong
hand that struck the blow."
"Mr. Quentin Gray came back wi' a cab and went upstairs, free the
Spinker's evidence, at aboot a quarter after seven, and came doon five
meenites later sair pale an' fretful."
Kerry surrounded himself and the speaker with wreaths of stifling
"We have only the bare word of Mr. Gray that he didn't go in again,
Mary; but I believe him. He's a hot-headed fool, but square."
"Then 'twas yon Kazmah," announced Mrs. Kerry. "Who is Kazmah?"
Her husband laughed shortly.
"That's the point at which I got stumped," he replied. "We've heard of
him at the Yard, of course, and we know that under the cloak of a
dealer in Eastern perfumes he carried on a fortune-telling business.
He managed to avoid prosecution, though. It took me over an hour
tonight to explore the thought-reading mechanism; it's a sort of
Maskelyne's Mysteries worked from the inside room. But who Kazmah is
or what's his nationality I know no more than the man in the moon."
"Pairfume?" queried the far-away voice.
"Yes, Mary. The first room is a sort of miniature scent bazaar. There
are funny little imitation antique flasks of Kazmah preparations,
creams, perfumes and incense, also small square wooden boxes of a kind
of Turkish delight, and a stock of Egyptian mummy-beads, statuettes,
and the like, which may be genuine for all I know."
"Nae books or letters?"
"Not a thing, except his own advertisements, a telephone directory,
and so on."
"The inside office bureau?"
"Empty as Mother Hubbard's cupboard!"
"The place was ransacked by the same folk that emptied the dead man's
pockets so as tee leave nae clue," pronounced the sibyl-like voice.
"Mr. Gray said he had choc'lates wi' him. Where did he leave them?"
"Mary, you're a wonder!" exclaimed the admiring Kerry. "The box was
lying on the divan in the first room where he said he had left it on
going out for a cab."
"Does nane o' the evidence show if Mrs. Irvin had been to Kazmah's
"Yes. She went there fairly regularly to buy perfume."
"No' for the fortune-tellin'?"
"No. According to Mr. Gray, to buy perfume."
"Had Mr. Gray been there wi' her before?"
"No. Sir Lucien Pyne seems to have been her pretty constant
"Do ye suspect she was his lady-love?"
"I believe Mr. Gray suspects something of the kind."
"And Mr. Gray?"
"He is not such an old friend as Sir Lucien was. But I fancy
nevertheless it was Mr. Gray that her husband doubted."
"Do ye suspect the puir soul had cause, Dan?"
"No," replied Kerry promptly; "I don't. The boy is mad about her, but
I fancy she just liked his company. He's the heir of Lord Wrexborough,
and Mrs. Irvin used to be a stage beauty. It's a usual state of
affairs, and more often than not means nothing."
"I dinna ken sich folk," declared Mary Kerry. "They a'most desairve
all they get. They are bound tee come tee nae guid end. Where did ye
say Sir Lucien lived?"
"Albemarle Street; just round the corner."
"Ye told me that he only kepit twa sairvents: a cook, hoosekeper, who
lived awe', an' a man--a foreigner?"
"A kind of half-baked Dago, named Juan Mareno. A citizen of the United
States according to his own account."
"Ye dinna like Juan Mareno?"
"He's a hateful swine!" flashed Kerry, with sudden venom. "I'm
watching Mareno very closely. Coombes is at work upon Sir Lucien's
papers. His life was a bit of a mystery. He seems to have had no
relations living, and I can't find that he even employed a solicitor."
"Ye'll be sairchin' for yon Egyptian?"
"The servant? Yes. We'll have him by the morning, and then we shall
know who Kazmah is. Meanwhile, in which of the offices is Kazmah
Mary Kerry was silent for so long that her husband repeated the
"In which of the offices is Kazmah hiding?"
"In nane," she said dreamily. "Ye surrounded the buildings too late, I
"Eh!" cried Kerry, turning his head excitedly. "But the man Brisley
was at the door all night!"
"It doesna' matter. They have escapit."
Kerry scratched his close-cropped head in angry perplexity.
"You're always right, Mary," he said. "But hang me if--Never mind!
When we get the servant we'll soon get Kazmah."
"Aye," murmured his wife. "If ye hae na' got Kazmah the now."
"But--Mary! This isn't helping me! It's mystifying me deeper than
"It's no' clear eno', Dan. But for sure behind this mystery o' the
death o' Sir Lucien there's a darker mystery still; sair dark. 'Tis
the biggest case ye ever had. Dinna look for Kazmah. Look tee find why
the woman went tee him; and try tee find the meanin' o' the sma'
window behind the big chair. . . . Yes"--she seemed to be staring at
some distant visible object--"watch the man Mareno--"
"Is in God's guid keepin'--"
"You don't think she's dead!"
"She is wairse than dead. Her sins have found her out." The fey light
suddenly left her eyes, and they became filled with tears. She turned
impulsively to her husband. "Oh, Dan! Ye must find her! Ye must find
her! Puir weak hairt--dinna ye ken how she is suffering!"
"My dear," he said, putting his arms around her, "What is it? What is
She brushed the tears from her eyes and tried to smile. "'Tis
something like the second sight, Dan," she answered simply. "And it's
escapit me again. I a'most had the clue to it a' oh, there's some
horrible wickedness in it, an' cruelty an' shame."
The clock on the mantel shelf began to peal. Kerry was watching his
wife's rosy face with a mixture of loving admiration and wonder. She
looked so very bonny and placid and capable that he was puzzled anew
at the strange gift which she seemingly inherited from her mother, who
had been equally shrewd, equally comely and similarly endowed.
"God bless us all!" he said, kissed her heartily, and stood up. "Back
to bed you go, my dear. I must be off. There's Mr. Irvin to see in the
A few minutes later he was swinging through the deserted streets, his
mind wholly occupied with lover-like reflections to the exclusion of
those professional matters which properly should have been engaging
his attention. As he passed the end of a narrow court near the railway
station, the gleam of his silver mounted malacca attracted the
attention of a couple of loafers who were leaning one on either side
of an iron pillar in the shadow of the unsavory alley. Not another
pedestrian was in sight, and only the remote night-sounds of London
broke the silence.
Twenty paces beyond, the footpads silently closed in upon their prey.
The taller of the pair reached him first, only to receive a back-
handed blow full in his face which sent him reeling a couple of yards.
Round leapt the assaulted man to face his second assailant.
"If you two smarts really want handling," he rapped ferociously, "say
the word, and I'll bash you flat."
As he turned, the light of a neighboring lamp shone down upon the
savage face, and a smothered yell came from the shorter ruffian:
"Blimey, Bill! It's Red Kerry!"
Whereupon, as men pursued by devils, the pair made off like the wind!
Kerry glared after the retreating figures for a moment, and a grin of
fierce satisfaction revealed his gleaming teeth. He turned again and
swung on his way toward the main road. The incident had done him good.
It had banished domestic matters from his mind, and he was become
again the highly trained champion of justice, standing, an unseen
buckler, between society and the criminal.
A PACKET OF CIGARETTES
Following their dismissal by Chief Inspector Kerry, Seton and Gray
walked around to the latter's chambers in Piccadilly. They proceeded
in silence, Gray too angry for speech, and Seton busy with
reflections. As the man admitted them:
"Has anyone 'phoned, Willis?" asked Gray.
"No one, sir."
They entered a large room which combined the characteristics of a
library with those of a military gymnasium. Gray went to a side table
and mixed drinks. Placing a glass before Seton, he emptied his own at
"If you'll excuse me for a moment," he said, "I should like to ring up
and see if by any possible chance there's news of Rita."
He walked out to the telephone, and Seton heard him making a call.
"Hullo! Is that you, Hinkes?" he asked. . . . "Yes, speaking. Is Mrs.
Irvin at home?"
A few moments of silence followed, and:
"Thanks! Good-bye," said Gray.
He rejoined his friend.
"Nothing," he reported, and made a gesture of angry resignation.
"Evidently Hinkes is still unaware of what has happened. Irvin hasn't
returned yet. Seton, this business is driving me mad."
He refilled his glass, and having looked in his cigarette-case, began
to ransack a small cupboard.
"Damn it all!" he exclaimed. "I haven't got a cigarette in the place!"
"I don't smoke them myself," said Seton, "but I can offer you a
"Thanks. They are a trifle too strong. Hullo! here are some."
From the back of a shelf he produced a small, plain brown packet, and
took out of it a cigarette at which he stared oddly. Seton, smoking
one of the inevitable cheroots, watched him, tapping his teeth with
the rim of his eyeglass.
"Poor old Pyne!" muttered Gray, and, looking up, met the inquiring
glance. "Pyne left these here only the other day," he explained
awkwardly. "I don't know where he got them, but they are something
very special. I suppose I might as well."
He lighted one, and, uttering a weary sigh, threw himself into a deep
leather-covered arm-chair. Almost immediately he was up again. The
telephone bell had rung. His eyes alight with hope, he ran out,
leaving the door open so that his conversation was again audible to
"Yes, yes, speaking. What?" His tone changed "Oh, it's you, Margaret.
What? . . . Certainly, delighted. No, there's nobody here but old
Seton Pasha. What? You've heard the fellows talk about him who were
out East. . . . Yes, that's the chap. . . . Come right along."
"You don't propose to lionise me, I hope, Gray?" said Seton, as Gray
returned to his seat.
The other laughed.
"I forgot you could hear me," he admitted. "It's my cousin, Margaret
Halley. You'll like her. She's a tip-top girl, but eccentric. Goes in
"Pilling?" inquired Seton gravely.
"Doctoring. She's an M.R.C.S., and only about twenty-four or so.
Fearfully clever kid; makes me feel an infant."
"Flat heels, spectacles, and a judicial manner?"
"Flat heels, yes. But not the other. She's awfully pretty, and used to
look simply terrific in khaki. She was an M.O. in Serbia, you know,
and afterwards at some nurses' hospital in Kent. She's started in
practice for herself now round in Dover Street. I wonder what she
Silence fell between them; for, although prompted by different
reasons, both were undesirous of discussing the tragedy; and this
silence prevailed until the ringing of the doorbell announced the
arrival of the girl. Willis opening the door, she entered composedly,
and Gray introduced Seton.
"I am so glad to have met you at last, Mr. Seton," she said
laughingly. "From Quentin's many accounts I had formed the opinion
that you were a kind of Arabian Nights myth."
"I am glad to disappoint you," replied Seton, finding something very
refreshing in the company of this pretty girl, who wore a creased
Burberry, and stray locks of whose abundant bright hair floated about
her face in the most careless fashion imaginable.
She turned to her cousin, frowning in a rather puzzled way.
"Whatever have you been burning here?" she asked. "There is such a
curious smell in the room."
Gray laughed more heartily than he had laughed that night, glancing in
"So much for your taste in cigars!" he cried
"Oh!" said Margaret, "I'm sure it's not Mr. Seton's cigar. It isn't a
smell of tobacco."
"I don't believe they're made of tobacco!" cried Gray, laughing louder
yet, although his merriment was forced.
Seton smiled good-naturedly at the joke, but he had perceived at the
moment of Margaret's entrance the fact that her gaiety also was
assumed. Serious business had dictated her visit, and he wondered the
more to note how deeply this odor, real or fancied, seemed to intrigue
She sat down in the chair which Gray placed by the fireside, and her
cousin unceremoniously slid the grown packet of cigarettes across the
little table in her direction.
"Try one of these, Margaret," he said. "They are great, and will quite
drown the unpleasant odor of which you complain."
Whereupon the observant Seton saw a quick change take place in the
girl's expression. She had the same clear coloring as her cousin, and
now this freshness deserted her cheeks, and her pretty face became
quite pale. She was staring at the brown packet. "Where did you get
them?" she asked quietly.
A smile faded from Gray's lips. Those five words had translated him in
spirit to that green-draped room in which Sir Lucien Pyne was lying
dead. He glanced at Seton in the appealing way which sometimes made
him appear so boyish.
"Er--from Pyne," he replied. "I must tell you, Margaret--"
"Sir Lucien Pyne?" she interrupted.
"Not from Rita Irvin?"
Quentin Gray started upright in his chair.
"No! But why do you mention her?"
Margaret bit her lip in sudden perplexity.
"Oh, I don't know." She glanced apologetically toward Seton. He rose
"My dear Miss Halley," he said, "I perceive, indeed I had perceived
all along, that you have something of a private nature to communicate
to your cousin."
But Gray stood up, and:
"Seton! . . . Margaret!" he said, looking from one to the other. "I
mean to say, Margaret, if you've anything to tell me about Rita . . .
Have you? Have you?"
He fixed his gaze eagerly upon her.
Seton prepared to take his leave, but Gray impetuously thrust him
back, immediately turning again to his cousin.
"Perhaps you haven't heard, Margaret," he began. "I have heard what
has happened tonight--to Sir Lucien."
Both men stared at her silently for a moment.
"Seton has been with me all the time," said Gray. "If he will consent
to stay, with your permission, Margaret, I should like him to do so."
"Why, certainly," agreed the girl. "In fact, I shall be glad of his
Seton inclined his head, and without another word resumed his seat.
Gray was too excited to sit down again. He stood on the tiger-skin rug
before the fender, watching his cousin and smoking furiously.
"Firstly, then," continued Margaret, "please throw that cigarette in
the fire, Quentin."
Gray removed the cigarette from between his lips, and stared at it
dazedly. He looked at the girl, and the clear grey eyes were watching
him with an inscrutable expression.
"Right-o!" he said awkwardly, and tossed the cigarette in the fire.
"You used to smoke like a furnace, Margaret. Is this some new 'cult'?"
"I still smoke a great deal more than is good for me," she confessed,
"but I don't smoke opium."
The effect of these words upon the two men who listened was curious.
Gray turned an angry glance upon the brown packet lying on the table,
and "Faugh!" he exclaimed, and drawing a handkerchief from his sleeve
began disgustedly to wipe his lips. Seton stared hard at the speaker,
tossed his cheroot into the fire, and taking up the packet withdrew a
cigarette and sniffed at it critically. Margaret watched him.
He tore the wrapping off, and tasted a strand of the tobacco.
"Good heavens!" he whispered. "Gray, these things are doped!"
SIR LUCIEN'S STUDY WINDOW
Old Bond Street presented a gloomy and deserted prospect to Chief
Inspector Kerry as he turned out of Picadilly and swung along toward
the premises of Kazmah. He glanced at the names on some of the shop
windows as he passed, and wondered if the furriers, jewelers and other
merchants dealing in costly wares properly appreciated the services of
the Metropolitan Police Force. He thought of the peacefully slumbering
tradesmen in their suburban homes, the safety of their stocks wholly
dependent upon the vigilance of that Unsleeping Eye--for to an
unsleeping eye he mentally compared the service of which he was a
A constable stood on duty before the door of the block. Red Kerry was
known by sight and reputation to every member of the force, and the
constable saluted as the celebrated Chief Inspector appeared.
"Anything to report, constable?"
"The ambulance has been for the body, and another gentleman has been."
Kerry stared at the man.
"Another gentleman? Who the devil's the other gentleman?"
"I don't know, sir. He came with Inspector Whiteleaf, and was inside
for nearly an hour."
"Inspector Whiteleaf is off duty. What time was this?"
Kerry chewed reflectively ere nodding to the man and passing on.
"Another gentleman!" he muttered, entering the hallway. "Why didn't
Inspector Warley report this? Who the devil--" Deep in thought he
walked upstairs, finding his way by the light of the pocket torch
which he carried. A second constable was on duty at Kazmah's door. He
"Anything to report?" rapped Kerry.
"Yes, sir. The body has been removed, and the gentleman with
"Damn that for a tale! Describe this gentleman."
"Rather tall, pale, dark, clean-shaven. Wore a fur-collared overcoat,
collar turned up. He was accompanied by Inspector Whiteleaf."
"H'm. Anything else?"
"Yes. About an hour ago I heard a noise on the next floor--"
"Eh!" snapped Kerry, and shone the light suddenly into the man's face
so that he blinked furiously.
"Eh? What kind of noise?"
"Very slight. Like something moving."
"Like something! Like what thing? A cat or an elephant?"
"More like, say, a box or a piece of furniture."
"And you did--what?"
"I went up to the top landing and listened."
"What did you hear?"
"Nothing at all."
Chief Inspector Kerry chewed audibly.
"All quiet?" he snapped.
"Absolutely. But I'm certain I heard something all the same."
"How long had Inspector Whiteleaf and this dark horse in the fur coat
been gone at the time you heard the noise?"
"About half an hour, sir."
"Do you think the noise came from the landing or from one of the
"An office I should say. It was very dim."
Chief Inspector Kerry pushed upon the broken door, and walked into the
rooms of Kazmah. Flashing the ray of his torch on the wall, he found
the switch and snapped up the lights. He removed his overall and
tossed it on a divan with his cane. Then, tilting his bowler further
forward, he thrust his hands into his reefer pockets, and stood
staring toward the door, beyond which lay the room of the murder, in
"Who is he?" he muttered. "What's it mean?"
Taking up the torch, he walked through and turned on the lights in the
inner rooms. For a long time he stood staring at the little square
window low down behind the ebony chair, striving to imagine uses for
it as his wife had urged him to do. The globular green lamp in the
second apartment was worked by three switches situated in the inside
room, and he had discovered that in this way the visitor who came to
consult Kazmah was treated to the illusion of a gradually falling
darkness. Then, the door in the first partition being opened, whoever
sat in the ebony chair would become visible by the gradual uncovering
of a light situated above the chair. On this light being covered again
the figure would apparently fade away.
It was ingenious, and, so far, quite clear. But two things badly
puzzled the inquirer; the little window down behind the chair, and the
fact that all the arrangements for raising and lowering the lights
were situated not in the narrow chamber in which Kazmah's chair stood,
and in which Sir Lucien had been found, but in the room behind it--the
room with which the little window communicated.
The table upon which the telephone rested was set immediately under
this mysterious window, the window was provided with a green blind,
and the switchboard controlling the complicated lighting scheme was
also within reach of anyone seated at the table.
Kerry rolled mint gum from side to side of his mouth, and absently
tried the handle of the door opening out from this interior room--
evidently the office of the establishment--into the corridor. He knew
it to be locked. Turning, he walked through the suite and out on to
the landing, passing the constable and going upstairs to the top
floor, torch in hand.
From the main landing he walked along the narrow corridor until he
stood at the head of the back stairs. The door nearest to him bore the
name: "Cubanis Cigarette Company." He tried the handle. The door was
locked, as he had anticipated. Kneeling down, he peered into the
keyhole, holding the electric torch close beside his face and chewing
Ere long he stood up, descended again, but by the back stair, and
stood staring reflectively at the door communicating with Kazmah's
inner room. Then walking along the corridor to where the man stood on,
the landing, he went in again to the mysterious apartments, but only
to get his cane and his overall and to turn out the lights.
Five minutes later he was ringing the late Sir Lucien's door-bell.
A constable admitted him, and he walked straight through into the
study where Coombes, looking very tired but smiling undauntedly, sat
at a littered table studying piles of documents.
"Anything to report?" rapped Kerry.
"The man, Mareno, has gone to bed, and the expert from the Home office
Inspector Kerry brought his cane down with a crash upon the table,
whereat Coombes started nervously.
"So that's it!" he shouted furiously, "an 'expert from the Home
office'! So that's the dark horse in the fur coat. Coombes! I'm fed up
to the back teeth with this gun from the Home office! If I'm not to
have entire charge of the case I'll throw it up. I'll stand for no
blasted overseer checking my work! Wait till I see the Assistant
Commissioner! What the devil has the job to do with the Home office!"
"Can't say," murmured Coombes. "But he's evidently a big bug from the
way Whiteleaf treated him. He instructed me to stay in the kitchen and
keep an eye on Mareno while he prowled about in here."
"Instructed you!" cried Kerry, his teeth gleaming and his steel-blue
eyes creating upon Coombes' mind an impression that they were emitting
sparks. "Instructed you! I'll ask you a question, Detective-Sergeant
Coombes: Who is in charge of this case?"
"Well, I thought you were."
"You thought I was?"
"Well, you are."
"I am? Very well--you were saying--?"
"I was saying that I went into the kitchen--"
"Before that! Something about 'instructed.'"
Poor Coombes smiled pathetically.
"Look here," he said, bravely meeting the ferocious glare of his
superior, "as man to man. What could I do?"
"You could stop smiling!" snapped Kerry. "Hell!" He paced several
times up and down the room. "Go ahead, Coombes."
"Well, there's nothing much to report. I stayed in the kitchen, and
the man from the Home office was in here alone for about half an
"Inspector Whiteleaf stayed in the dining-room."
"Had he been 'instructed' too?"
"I expect so. I think he just came along as a sort of guide."
"Ah!" muttered Kerry savagely, "a sort of guide! Any idea what the
bogey man did in here?"
"He opened the window. I heard him."
"That's funny. It's exactly what I'm going to do! This smart from
Whitehall hasn't got a corner in notions yet, Coombes."
The room was a large and lofty one, and had been used by a former
tenant as a studio. The toplights had been roofed over by Sir Lucien,
however, but the raised platform, approached by two steps, which had
probably been used as a model's throne, was a permanent fixture of the
apartment. It was backed now by bookcases, except where a blue plush
curtain was draped before a French window.
Kerry drew the curtain back, and threw open the folding leaves of the
window. He found himself looking out upon the leads of Albemarle
Street. No stars and no moon showed through the grey clouds draping
the wintry sky, but a dim and ghostly half-light nevertheless rendered
the ugly expanse visible from where he stood.
On one side loomed a huge tank, to the brink of which a rickety wooden
ladder invited the explorer to ascend. Beyond it were a series of iron
gangways and ladders forming part of the fire emergency arrangements
of the neighboring institution. Straight ahead a section of building
jutted up and revealed two small windows, which seemed to regard him
like watching eyes.
He walked out on to the roof, looking all about him. Beyond the tank
opened a frowning gully--the Arcade connecting Albemarle Street with
old Bond Street; on the other hand, the scheme of fire gangways was
continued. He began to cross the leads, going in the direction of Bond
Street. Coombes watched him from the study. When he came to the more
northerly of the two windows which had attracted his attention, he
knelt down and flashed the ray of his torch through the glass.
A kind of small warehouse was revealed, containing stacks of packages.
Immediately inside the window was a rough wooden table, and on this
table lay a number of smaller packages, apparently containing
Kerry turned his attention to the fastening of the window. A glance
showed him that it was unlocked. Resting the torch on the leads, he
grasped the sash and gently raised the window, noting that it opened
almost noiselessly. Then, taking up the torch again, he stooped and
stepped in on to the table below.
It moved slightly beneath his weight. One of the legs was shorter than
its fellows. But he reached the floor as quietly as possible, and
instantly snapped off the light of the torch.
A heavy step sounded from outside--someone was mounting the stairs--
and a disk of light suddenly appeared upon the ground-glass panel of
Kerry stood quite still, chewing steadily.
"Who's there?" came the voice of the constable posted on Kazmah's
The inspector made no reply.
"Is there anyone here?" cried the man.
The disk of light disappeared, and the alert constable could be heard
moving along the corridor to inspect the other offices. But the ray
had shone upon the frosted glass long enough to enable Kerry to read
the words painted there in square black letters. They had appeared
reversed, of course, and had read thus:
.OC ETTERAGIC SINABUC
THE DRUG SYNDICATE
At six-thirty that morning Margaret Halley was aroused by her maid--
the latter but half awake--and sitting up in bed and switching on the
lamp, she looked at the card which the servant had brought to her, and
read the following:
CHIEF INSPECTOR KERRY,
New Scotland Yard, S.W.I.
"Oh, dear," she said sleepily, "what an appallingly early visitor. Is
the bath ready yet, Janet?"
"I'm afraid not," replied the maid, a plain, elderly woman of the
old-fashioned useful servant type. "Shall I take a kettle into the
"Yes--that will have to do. Tell Inspector Kerry that I shall not be
Five minutes later Margaret entered her little consulting-room, where
Kerry, having adjusted his tie, was standing before the mirror in the
overmantle, staring at a large photograph of the charming lady doctor
in military uniform. Kerry's fierce eyes sparkled appreciatively as
his glance rested on the tall figure arrayed in a woollen dressing-
gown, the masculine style of which by no means disguised the beauty of
Margaret's athletic figure. She had hastily arranged her bright hair
with deliberate neglect of all affectation. She belonged to that
ultra-modern school which scorns to sue masculine admiration, but
which cannot dispense with it nevertheless. She aspired to be assessed
upon an intellectual basis, an ambition which her unfortunate good
looks rendered difficult of achievement.
"Good morning, Inspector," she said composedly. "I was expecting you."
"Really, miss?" Kerry stared curiously. "Then you know what I've come
"I think so. Won't you sit down? I am afraid the room is rather cold.
Is it about--Sir Lucien Pyne?"
"Well," replied Kerry, "it concerns him certainly. I've been in
communication by telephone with Hinkes, Mr. Monte Irvin's butler, and
from him I learned that you were professionally attending Mrs. Irvin."
"I was not her regular medical adviser, but--"
Margaret hesitated, glancing rapidly at the Inspector, and then down
at the writing-table before which she was seated. She began to tap the
blotting-pad with an ivory paper-knife. Kerry was watching her
"Upon your evidence, Miss Halley," he said rapidly, "may depend the
life of the missing woman."
"Oh!" cried Margaret, "whatever can have happened to her? I rang up as
late as two o'clock this morning; after that I abandoned hope."
"There's something underlying the case that I don't understand, miss.
I look to you to put me wise."
She turned to him impulsively.
"I will tell you all I know, Inspector," she said. "I will be
perfectly frank with you."
"Good!" rapped Kerry. "Now--you have known Mrs. Monte Irvin for some
"For about two years."
"You didn't know her when she was on the stage?"
"No. I met her at a Red Cross concert at which she sang."
"Do you think she loved her husband?"
"I know she did."
"Was there any--prior attachment?"
"Not that I know of."
"Mr. Quentin Gray?"
Margaret smiled, rather mirthlessly.
"He is my cousin, Inspector, and it was I who introduced him to Rita
Irvin. I sincerely wish I had never done so. He lost his head
"There was nothing in Mrs. Irvin's attitude towards him to justify her
"She was always frightfully indiscreet, Inspector, but nothing more.
You see, she is greatly admired, and is used to the company of silly,
adoring men. Her husband doesn't really understand the ways of these
Bohemian folks. I knew it would lead to trouble sooner or later."
Chief Inspector Kerry thrust his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
Margaret tapped more rapidly with the paper-knife.
"Sir Lucien belonged to a set of which Rita had been a member during
her stage career. I think--he admired her; in fact, I believe he had
offered her marriage. But she did not care for him in the least--in
"Then in what way did she care for him?" rapped Kerry.
"Well--now we are coming to the point." Momentarily she hesitated,
then: "They were both addicted--"
"Eh?" Kerry's eyes grew hard and fierce in a moment. "What drugs?"
"All sorts of drugs. Shortly after I became acquainted with Rita Irvin
I learned that she was a victim of the drug habit, and I tried to cure
her. I regret to say that I failed. At that time she had acquired a
taste for opium."
Kerry said not a word, and Margaret raised her head and looked at him
"I can see that you have no pity for the victims of this ghastly vice,
Inspector Kerry," she said.
"I haven't!" he snapped fiercely. "I admit I haven't, miss. It's bad
enough in the heathens, but for an Englishwoman to dope herself is
downright unchristian and beastly."
"Yet I have come across so many of these cases, during the war and
since, that I have begun to understand how easy, how dreadfully easy
it is, for a woman especially, to fall into the fatal habit.
Bereavement or that most frightful of all mental agonies, suspense,
will too often lead the poor victim into the path that promises
forgetfulness. Rita Irvin's case is less excusable. I think she must
have begun drug-taking because of the mental and nervous exhaustion
resulting from late hours and over-much gaiety. The demands of her
profession proved too great for her impaired nervous energy, and she
sought some stimulant which would enable her to appear bright on the
stage when actually she should have been recuperating, in sleep, that
loss of vital force which can be recuperated in no other way."
"But opium!" snapped Kerry.
"I am afraid her other drug habits had impaired her will, and shaken
her self-control. She was tempted to try opium by its promise of a new
and novel excitement."
"Her husband, I take it, was ignorant of all this?"
"I believe he was. Quentin--Mr. Gray--had no idea of it either."
"Then it was Sir Lucien Pyne who was in her confidence in the matter?"
Margaret nodded slowly, still tapping the blotting-pad.
"He used to accompany her to places where drugs could be obtained, and
on several occasions--I cannot say how many--I believe he went with
her to some den in Chinatown. It may have been due to Mr. Irvin's
discovery that his wife could not satisfactorily account for some of
these absences from home which led him to suspect her fidelity."
"Ah!" said Kerry hardly, "I shouldn't wonder. And now"--he thrust out
a pointing finger--"where did she get these drugs?"
Margaret met the fierce stare composedly.
"I have said that I shall be quite frank," she replied. "In my opinion
she obtained them from Kazmah."
"Kazmah!" shouted Kerry. "Excuse me, miss, but I see I've been wearing
blinkers without knowing it! Kazmah's was a dope-shop?"
"That has been my belief for a long time, Inspector. I may add that I
have never been able to obtain a shred of evidence to prove it. I am
so keenly interested in seeing the people who pander to this horrible
vice unmasked and dealt with as they merit, that I have tried many
times to find out if my suspicion was correct."
Inspector Kerry was writhing his shoulders excitedly. "Did you ever
visit Kazmah?" he asked.
"Yes. I asked Rita Irvin to take me, but she refused, and I could see
that the request embarrassed her. So I went alone."
"Describe exactly what took place."
Margaret Halley stared reflectively at the blotting-pad for a moment,
and then described a typical seance at Kazmah's. In conclusion:
"As I came away," she said, "I bought a bottle of every kind of
perfume on sale, some of the incense, and also a box of sweetmeat; but
they all proved to be perfectly harmless. I analyzed them."
Kerry's eyes glistened with admiration.
"We could do with you at the Yard, miss," he said. "Excuse me for
Margaret smiled rather wanly.
"Now--this man Kazmah," resumed the Chief Inspector. "Did you ever see
"Never. I have been trying for months and months to find out who he
Kerry's face became very grim.
"About ten trained men are trying to find that out at the present
moment!" he rapped. "Do you think he wore a make-up?"
"He may have done so," Margaret admitted. "But his features were
obviously undisguised, and his eyes one would recognize anywhere. They
were larger than any human eyes I have ever seen."
"He couldn't have been the Egyptian who looked after the shop, for
"Impossible! He did not remotely resemble him. Besides, the man to
whom you refer remained outside to receive other visitors. Oh, that's
out of the question, Inspector."
"The light was very dim?"
"Very dim indeed, and Kazmah never once raised his head. Indeed,
except for a dignified gesture of greeting and one of dismissal, he
never moved. His immobility was rather uncanny."
Kerry began to pace up and down the narrow room, and:
"He bore no resemblance to the late Sir Lucien Pyne, for instance?" he
Margaret laughed outright and her laughter was so inoffensive and so
musical that the Chief Inspector laughed also.
"That's more hopeless than ever!" she said. "Poor Sir Lucien had
strong, harsh features and rather small eyes. He wore a moustache,
too. But Sir Lucien, I feel sure, was one of Kazmah's clients."
"Ah!" said Kerry. "And what leads you to suppose Miss Halley, that
this Kazmah dealt in drugs?"
"Well, you see, Rita Irvin was always going there to buy perfumes, and
she frequently sent her maid as well."
"But"--Kerry stared--"you say that the perfume was harmless."
"That which was sold to casual visitors was harmless, Inspector. But I
strongly suspect that regular clients were supplied with something
quite different. You see, I know no fewer than thirty unfortunate
women in the West End of London alone who are simply helpless slaves
to various drugs, and I think it more than a coincidence that upon
their dressing-tables I have almost invariably found one or more of
Kazmah's peculiar antique flasks."
Chief Inspector Kerry's jaw muscles protruded conspicuously.
"You speak of patients?" he asked.
Margaret nodded her head.
"When a woman becomes addicted to the drug habit," she explained, "she
sometimes shuns her regular medical adviser. I have many patients who
came to me originally simply because they dared not face their family
doctor. In fact, since I gave up Army work, my little practice has
threatened to develop into that of a drug-habit specialist."
"Have you taxed any of these people with obtaining drugs from Kazmah?"
"Not directly. It would have been undiplomatic. But I have tried to
surprise them into telling me. Unfortunately, these poor people are as
cunning as any other kind of maniac, for, of course, it becomes a form
of mania. They recognize that confession might lead to a stoppage of
supplies--the eventuality they most dread."
"Did you examine the contents of any of these flasks found on
"I rarely had an opportunity; but when I did they proved to contain
perfume when they contained anything."
"H'm," mused Kerry, and although in deference to Margaret, he had
denied himself chewing-gum, his jaws worked automatically. "I gather
that Mrs. Monte Irvin had expressed a wish to see you last night?"
"Yes. Apparently she was threatened with a shortage of cocaine."
"Cocaine was her drug?"
"One of them. She had tried them all, poor, silly girl! You must
understand that for a habitual drug-taker suddenly to be deprived of
drugs would lead to complete collapse, perhaps death. And during the
last few days I had noticed a peculiar nervous symptom in Rita Irvin
which had interested me. Finally, the day before yesterday, she
confessed that her usual source of supply had been closed to her. Her
words were very vague, but I gathered that some form of coercion was
"With what object?"
"I have no idea. But she used the words, 'They will drive me mad,' and
seemed to be in a dangerously nervous condition. She said that she was
going to make a final attempt to obtain a supply of the poison which
had become indispensable to her. 'I cannot do without it!' she said.
'But if they refuse, will you give me some?'"
"What did you say?"
"I begged of her, as I had done on many previous occasions, to place
herself in my hands. But she evaded a direct answer, as is the way of
one addicted to this vice. 'If I cannot get some by tomorrow,' she
said, 'I shall go mad, or dead. Can I rely on you?'"
"I told her that I would prescribe cocaine for her on the distinct
understanding that from the first dose she was to place herself under
my care for a cure."
"She agreed. Yesterday afternoon, while I was away at an important
case, she came here. Poor Rita!" Margaret's soft voice trembled. "Look
--she left this note."
From a letter-rack she took a square sheet of paper and handed it to
the Chief Inspector. He bent his fierce eyes upon the writing--large,
irregular and shaky.
"'Dear Margaret,'" he read aloud. "'Why aren't you at home? I am wild
with pain, and feel I am going mad. Come to me directly you return,
and bring enough to keep me alive. I--', Hullo! there's no finish!"
He glanced up from the page. Margaret Halley's eyes were dim.
"She despaired of my coming and went to Kazmah," she said. "Can you
doubt that that was what she went for?"
"No!" snapped Kerry savagely, "I can't. But do you mean to tell me,
Miss Halley, that Mrs. Irvin couldn't get cocaine anywhere else? I
know for a fact that it's smuggled in regularly, and there's more than
Margaret looked at him strangely.
"I know it, too, Inspector," she said quietly. "owing to the lack of
enterprise on the part of our British drug-houses, even reputable
chemists are sometimes dependent upon illicit stock from Japan and
America. But do you know that the price of these smuggled drugs has
latterly become so high as to be prohibitive in many cases?"
"I don't. What are you driving at, miss?"
"At this: Somebody had made a corner in contraband drugs. The most
wicked syndicate that ever was formed has got control of the lives of,
it may be, thousands of drug-slaves!"
Kerry's teeth closed with a sharp snap.
"At last," he said, "I see where the smart from the Home office comes
"The Secretary of State has appointed a special independent
commissioner to inquire into this hellish traffic," replied Margaret
quietly. "I am glad to say that I have helped in getting this done by
the representations which I have made to my uncle, Lord Wrexborough.
But I give you my word, Inspector Kerry, that I have withheld nothing
from you any more than from him."
"Him!" snapped Kerry, eyes fiercely ablaze.
"From the Home Office representative--before whom I have already given
Chief Inspector Kerry took up his hat, cane and overall from the chair
upon which he had placed them and, his face a savage red mask, bowed
with a fine courtesy. He burned to learn particulars; he disdained to
obtain them from a woman.
"Good morning, Miss Halley," he said. "I am greatly indebted to you."
He walked stiffly from the room and out of the flat without waiting
for a servant to open the door.
THE MAID OF THE MASQUE
The past life of Mrs. Monte Irvin, in which at this time three
distinct groups of investigators became interested--namely, those of
Whitehall, Scotland Yard, and Fleet Street--was of a character to have
horrified the prudish, but to have excited the compassion of the wise.
Daughter of a struggling suburban solicitor, Rita Esden, at the age of
seventeen, from a delicate and rather commonplace child began to
develop into a singularly pretty girl of an elusive and fascinating
type of beauty, almost ethereal in her dainty coloring, and possessed
of large and remarkably fine eyes, together with a wealth of copper-
red hair, a crown which seemed too heavy for her slender neck to
support. Her father viewed her increasing charms and ever-growing list
of admirers with the gloomy apprehension of a disappointed man who had
come to look upon each gift of the gods as a new sorrow cunningly
disguised. Her mother, on the contrary, fanned the girl's natural
vanity and ambition with a success which rarely attended the
enterprises of this foolish old woman, and Rita proving to be endowed
with a moderately good voice, a stage career was determined upon
without reference to the contrary wishes of Mr. Esden.
Following the usual brief "training" which is counted sufficient for
an aspirant to musical comedy honors, Rita, by the prefixing of two
letters to her name, set out to conquer the play-going world as Rita
Two years of hard work and disappointment served to dispel the girl's
illusions. She learned to appreciate at its true value that masculine
admiration which, in an unusual degree, she had the power to excite.
Those of her admirers who were in a position to assist her
professionally were only prepared to use their influence upon terms
which she was unprepared to accept. Those whose intentions were
strictly creditable, by some malignancy of fate, possessed no
influence whatever. She came to regard herself as a peculiarly unlucky
girl, being ignorant of the fact that Fortune, an impish hierophant,
imposes identical tests upon every candidate who aspires to the throne
of a limelight princess.
Matters stood thus when a new suitor appeared in the person of Sir
Lucien Pyne. When his card was brought up to Rita, her heart leaped
because of a mingled emotion of triumph and fear which the sight of
the baronet's name had occasioned. He was a director of the syndicate
in whose production she was playing--a man referred to with awe by
every girl in the company as having it in his power to make or mar a
professional reputation. Not that he took any active part in the
affairs of the concern; on the contrary, he was an aristocrat who held
himself aloof from all matters smacking of commerce, but at the same
time one who invested his money shrewdly. Sir Lucien's protegee of
today was London's idol of tomorrow, and even before Rita had spoken
to him she had fought and won a spiritual battle between her true self
and that vain, admiration-loving Rita Dresden who favored
She knew that Sir Lucien's card represented a signpost at the
cross-roads where many a girl, pretty but not exceptionally talented,
had hesitated with beating heart. It was no longer a question of
remaining a member of the chorus (and understudy for a small part) or
of accepting promotion to "lead" in a new production; it was that of
accepting whatever Sir Lucien chose to offer--or of retiring from the
profession so far as this powerful syndicate was concerned.
Such was the reputation enjoyed at this time by Sir Lucien Pyne among
those who had every opportunity of forming an accurate opinion.
Nevertheless, Rita was determined not to succumb without a struggle.
She did not count herself untalented nor a girl to be lightly valued,
and Sir Lucien might prove to be less black than rumor had painted
him. As presently appeared, both in her judgment of herself and in
that of Sir Lucien, she was at least partially correct. He was very
courteous, very respectful, and highly attentive.
Her less favored companions smiled significantly when the familiar
Rolls-Royce appeared at the stage door night after night, never
doubting that Rita Dresden was chosen to "star" in the forthcoming
production, but, with rare exceptions, frankly envying her this good
Rita made no attempt to disillusion them, recognizing that it must
fail. She was resigned to being misjudged. If she could achieve
success at that price, success would have been purchased cheaply.
That Sir Lucien was deeply infatuated she was not slow to discover,
and with an address perfected by experience and a determination to
avoid the easy path inherited from a father whose scrupulous honesty
had ruined his professional prospects, she set to work to win esteem
as well as admiration.
Sir Lucien was first surprised, then piqued, and finally interested by
such unusual tactics. The second phase was the dangerous one for Rita,
and during a certain luncheon at Romanos her fate hung in the balance.
Sir Lucien realized that he was in peril of losing his head over this
tantalizingly pretty girl who gracefully kept him at a distance,
fencing with an adroitness which was baffling, and Sir Lucien Pyne had
set out with no intention of doing anything so preposterous as falling
in love. Keenly intuitive, Rita scented danger and made a bold move.
Carelessly rolling a bread-crumb along the cloth:
"I am giving up the stage when the run finishes," she said.
"Indeed," replied Sir Lucien imperturbably. "Why?"
"I am tired of stage life. I have been invited to go and live with my
uncle in New York and have decided to accept. You see"--she bestowed
upon him a swift glance of her brilliant eyes--"men in the theatrical
world are not all like you. Real friends, I mean. It isn't very nice,
Sir Lucien deliberately lighted a cigarette. If Rita was bluffing, he
mused, she had the pluck to make good her bluff. And if she did so? He
dropped the extinguished match upon a plate. Did he care? He glanced
at the girl, who was smiling at an acquaintance on the other side of
the room. Fortune's wheel spins upon a needle point. By an artistic
performance occupying less than two minutes, but suggesting that Rita
possessed qualities which one day might spell success, she had decided
her fate. Her heart was beating like a hammer in her breast, but she
preserved an attitude of easy indifference. Without for a moment
believing in the American uncle, Sir Lucien did believe, correctly,
that Rita Dresden was about to elude him. He realized, too, that he
was infinitely more interested than he had ever been hitherto, and
more interested than he had intended to become.
This seemingly trivial conversation was a turning point, and twelve
months later Rita Dresden was playing the title role in The Maid of
the Masque. Sir Lucien had discovered himself to be really in love
with her, and he might quite possibly have offered her marriage even
if a dangerous rival had not appeared to goad him to that desperate
leap--for so he regarded it. Monte Irvin, although considerably Rita's
senior, had much to commend him in the eyes of the girl--and in the
eyes of her mother, who still retained a curious influence over her
daughter. He was much more wealthy than Pyne, and although the latter
was a baronet, Irvin was certain to be knighted ere long, so that Rita
would secure the appendage of "Lady" in either case. Also, his
reputation promised a more reliable husband than Sir Lucien could be
expected to make. Moreover, Rita liked him, whereas she had never
sincerely liked and trusted Sir Lucien. And there was a final reason--
of which Mrs. Esden knew nothing.
On the first night that Rita had been entrusted with a part of any
consequence--and this was shortly after the conversation at Romanos--
she had discovered herself to be in a state of hopeless panic. All her
scheming and fencing would have availed her nothing if she were to
break down at the critical moment. It was an eventuality which Sir
Lucien had foreseen, and he seized the opportunity at once of securing
a new hold upon the girl and of rendering her more pliable than he had
hitherto found her to be. At this time the idea of marriage had not
presented itself to Sir Lucien.
Some hours before the performance he detected her condition of abject
fright . . . and from his waistcoat pocket he took a little gold
At first the girl declined to follow advice which instinctively she
distrusted, and Sir Lucien was too clever to urge it upon her. But he
glanced casually at his wrist-watch--and poor Rita shuddered. The gold
box was hidden again in the baronet's pocket.
To analyze the process which thereupon took place in Rita's mind would
be a barren task, since its result was a foregone conclusion. Daring
ambition rather than any merely abstract virtue was the keynote of her
character. She had rebuffed the advances of Sir Lucien as she had
rebuffed others, primarily because her aim in life was set higher than
mere success in light comedy. This she counted but a means to a more
desirable end--a wealthy marriage. To the achievement of such an
alliance the presence of an accepted lover would be an obstacle; and
true love Rita Dresden had never known. Yet, short of this final
sacrifice which some women so lightly made, there were few scruples
which she was not prepared to discard in furtherance of her designs.
Her morality, then, was diplomatic, for the vice of ambition may
sometimes make for virtue.
Rita's vivacious beauty and perfect self-possession on the fateful
night earned her a permanent place in stageland: Rita Dresden became a
"star." She had won a long and hard-fought battle; but in avoiding one
master she had abandoned herself to another.
The triumph of her debut left her strangely exhausted. She dreaded the
coming of the second night almost as keenly as she had dreaded the
ordeal of the first. She struggled, poor victim, and only increased
her terrors. Not until the clock showed her that in twenty minutes she
must make her first entrance did she succumb. But Sir Lucien's gold
snuff-box lay upon her dressing-table--and she was trembling. When at
last she heard the sustained note of the oboe in the orchestra giving
the pitch to the answering violins, she raised the jewelled lid of the
So she entered upon the path which leads down to destruction, and
since to conjure with the drug which pharmacists know as methylbenzoyl
ecgonine is to raise the demon Insomnia, ere long she found herself
exploring strange by-paths in quest of sleep.
By the time that she was entrusted with the leading part in The Maid
of the Masque, she herself did not recognize how tenacious was the
hold which this fatal habit had secured upon her. In the company of
Sir Lucien Pyne she met other devotees, and for a time came to regard
her unnatural mode of existence as something inseparable from the
Bohemian life. To the horrible side of it she was blind.
It was her meeting with Monte Irvin during the run of this successful
play which first awakened a dawning comprehension; not because she
ascribed his admiration to her artificial vivacity, but because she
realized the strength of the link subsisting between herself and Sir
Lucien. She liked and respected Irvin, and as a result began to view
her conduct from a new standpoint. His life was so entirely open and
free from reproach while part of her own was dark and secret. She
conceived a desire to be done with that dark and secret life.
This was a shadow-land over which Sir Lucien Pyne presided, and which
must be kept hidden from Monte Irvin; and it was not until she thus
contemplated cutting herself adrift from it all that she perceived the
Gordian knot which bound her to the drug coterie. How far, yet how
smoothly, by all but imperceptible stages she had glided down the
stream since that night when the gold box had lain upon her dressing-
table! Kazmah's drug store in Bond Street had few secrets for her; or
so she believed. She knew that the establishment of the strange,
immobile Egyptian was a source from which drugs could always be
obtained; she knew that the dream-reading business served some double
purpose; but she did not know the identity of Kazmah.
Two of the most insidious drugs familiar to modern pharmacy were
wooing her to slavery, and there was no strong hand to hold her back.
Even the presence of her mother might have offered some slight
deterrent at this stage of Rita's descent, but the girl had quitted
her suburban home as soon as her salary had rendered her sufficiently
independent to do so, and had established herself in a small but
elegant flat situated in the heart of theatreland.
But if she had walked blindly into the clutches of cocaine and
veronal, her subsequent experiments with chandu were prompted by
indefensible curiosity, and a false vanity which urged her to do
everything that was "done" by the ultra-smart and vicious set of which
she had become a member.
Her first introduction to opium-smoking was made under the auspices of
an American comedian then appearing in London, an old devotee of the
poppy, and it took place shortly after Sir Lucien Pyne had proposed
marriage to Rita. This proposal she had not rejected outright; she had
pleaded time for consideration. Monte Irvin was away, and Rita
secretly hoped that on his return he would declare himself. Meanwhile
she indulged in every new craze which became fashionable among her
associates. A chandu party took place at the American's flat in Duke
Street, and Rita, who had been invited, and who had consented to go
with Sir Lucien Pyne, met there for the first time the woman variously
known as "Lola" and "Mrs. Sin."
A CHANDU PARTY
From the restaurant at which she had had supper with Sir Lucien, Rita
proceeded to Duke Street. Alighting from Pyne's car at the door, they
went up to the flat of the organizer of the opium party--Mr. Cyrus
Kilfane. One other guest was already present--a slender, fair woman,
who was introduced by the American as Mollie Gretna, but whose weakly
pretty face Rita recognized as that of a notorious society divorcee,
foremost in the van of every new craze, a past-mistress of the
Kilfane had sallow, expressionless features and drooping, light-
colored eyes. His straw-hued hair, brushed back from a sloping brow,
hung lankly down upon his coat-collar. Long familiarity with China's
ruling vice and contact with those who practiced it had brought about
that mysterious physical alteration--apparently reflecting a mental
change--so often to be seen in one who has consorted with Chinamen.
Even the light eyes seemed to have grown slightly oblique; the voice,
the unimpassioned greeting, were those of a son of Cathay. He carried
himself with a stoop and had a queer, shuffling gait.
"Ah, my dear daughter," he murmured in a solemnly facetious manner,
"how glad I am to welcome you to our poppy circle."
He slowly turned his half-closed eyes in Pyne's direction, and slowly
turned them back again.
"Do you seek forgetfulness of old joys?" he asked. "This is my own
case and Pyne's. Or do you, as Mollie does, seek new joys--youth's
Rita laughed with a careless abandon which belonged to that part of
her character veiled from the outer world.
"I think I agree with Miss Gretna," she said lightly. "There is not so
much happiness in life that I want to forget the little I have had."
"Happiness," murmured Kilfane. "There is no real happiness. Happiness
is smoke. Let us smoke."
"I am curious, but half afraid," declared Rita. "I have heard that
opium sometimes has no other effect than to make one frightfully ill."
"Oh, my dear!" cried Miss Gretna, with a foolish giggling laugh, "you
will love it! Such fascinating dreams! Such delightful adventures!"
"Other drugs," drawled Sir Lucien, "merely stimulate one's normal
mental activities. Chandu is a key to another life. Cocaine, for
instance enhances our capacity for work. It is only a heretic like De
Quincey who prostitutes the magic gum to such base purposes. Chandu is
misunderstood in Europe; in Asia it is the companion of the aesthete's
"But surely," said Rita, "one pipe of opium will not produce all these
"Some people never experience them at all," interrupted Miss Gretna.
"The great idea is to get into a comfortable position, and just resign
yourself--let yourself go. Oh, it's heavenly!"
Cyrus Kilfane turned his dull eyes in Rita's direction.
"A question of temperament and adaptability," he murmured. "De
Quincey, Pyne"--slowly turning towards the baronet--"is didactic, of
course; but his Confessions may be true, nevertheless. He forgets, you
see, that he possessed an unusual constitution, and the temperament of
a Norwegian herring. He forgets, too, that he was a laudanum drinker,
not an opium smoker. Now you, my daughter"--the lustreless eyes again
sought Rita's flushed face--"are vivid--intensely vital. If you can
succeed in resigning yourself to the hypnosis induced your experiences
will be delightful. Trust your Uncle Cy."
Leaving Rita chatting with Miss Gretna, Kilfane took Pyne aside,
offering him a cigarette from an ornate, jewelled case.
"Hello," said the baronet, "can you still get these?"
"With the utmost difficulty," murmured Kilfane, returning the case to
his pocket. "Lola charges me five guineas a hundred for them, and only
supplies them as a favor. I shall be glad to get back home, Pyne. The
right stuff is the wrong price in London."
Sir Lucien laughed sardonically, lighting Kilfane's cigarette and then
"I find it so myself," he said. "Everything except opium is to be had
at Kazmah's, and nothing except opium interests me."
"He supplies me with cocaine," murmured the comedian. "His figure
works out, as nearly as I can estimate it, at 10s 7 1/2d. a grain. I
saw him about it yesterday afternoon, pointing out to the brown guy
that as the wholesale price is roughly 2 1/4d., I regarded his margin
of profit as somewhat broad."
"The first time I had ever seen him, Pyne. I brought an introduction
from Dr. Silver, of New York, and Kazmah supplied me without question
--at a price."
"You always saw Rashid?"
"Yes. If there were other visitors I waited. But yesterday I made a
personal appointment with Kazmah. He pretended to think I had come to
have a dream interpreted. He is clever, Pyne. He never moved a muscle
throughout the interview. But finally he assured me that all the
receivers in England had amalgamated, and that the price he charged
represented a very narrow margin of profit. Of course he is a liar. He
is making a fortune. Do you know him personally?"
"No," replied Sir Lucien. "outside his Bond Street home of mystery he
is unknown. A clever man, as you say. You obtain your opium from
"Yes. Kazmah sent her to me. She keeps me on ridiculously low rations,
and if I had not brought my own outfit I don't think she would have
sold me one. Of course, her game is beating up clients for the
"You have visited 'The House of a Hundred Raptures'?"
"Many times, at week-ends. Opium, like wine, is better enjoyed in
"Does she post you the opium?"
"Oh, no; my man goes to Limehouse for it. Ah! here she is."
A woman came in, carrying a brown leather attache case. She had left
her hat and coat in the hall, and wore a smart blue serge skirt and a
white blouse. She was not tall, but she possessed a remarkably
beautiful figure which the cut of her garments was not intended to
disguise, and her height was appreciably increased by a pair of suede
shoes having the most wonderful heels which Rita ever remembered to
have seen worn on or off the stage. They seemed to make her small feet
appear smaller, and lent to her slender ankles an exaggerated frontal
Her hair was of that true, glossy black which suggests the blue sheen
of raven's plumage, and her thickly fringed eyes were dark and
southern as her hair. She had full, voluptuous lips, and a bold self-
assurance. In the swift, calculating glance which she cast about the
room there was something greedy and evil; and when it rested upon Rita
Dresden's dainty beauty to the evil greed was added cruelty.
"Another little sister, dear Lola," murmured Kilfane. "of course, you
know who it is? This, my daughter," turning the sleepy glance towards
Rita, "is our officiating priestess, Mrs. Sin."
The woman so strangely named revealed her gleaming teeth in a swift,
unpleasant smile, then her nostrils dilated and she glanced about her
"Someone smokes the chandu cigarettes," she said, speaking in a low
tone which, nevertheless, failed to disguise her harsh voice, and with
a very marked accent.
"I am the offender, dear Lola," said Kilfane, dreamily waving his
cigarette towards her. "I have managed to make the last hundred spin
out. You have brought me a new supply?"
"Oh no, indeed," replied Mrs. Sin, tossing her head in a manner oddly
reminiscent of a once famous Spanish dancer. "Next Tuesday you get
some more. Ah! it is no good! You talk and talk and it cannot alter
anything. Until they come I cannot give them to you."
"But it appears to me," murmured Kilfane, "that the supply is always
"Of course. The best goes all to Edinburgh now. I have only three
sticks of Yezd left of all my stock."
"But the cigarettes."
"Are from Buenos Ayres? Yes. But Buenos Ayres must get the opium
before we get the cigarettes, eh? Five cases come to London on
Tuesday, Cy. Be of good courage, my dear."
She patted the sallow cheek of the American with her jewelled fingers,
and turned aside, glancing about her.
"Yes." murmured Kilfane. "We are all present, Lola. I have had the
room prepared. Come, my children, let us enter the poppy portico."
He opened a door and stood aside, waving one thin yellow hand between
the first two fingers of which smouldered the drugged cigarette. Led
by Mrs. Sin the company filed into an apartment evidently intended for
a drawing-room, but which had been hastily transformed into an opium
Tables, chairs, and other items of furniture had been stacked against
one of the walls and the floor spread with rugs, skins, and numerous
silk cushions. A gas fire was alight, but before it had been placed an
ornate Japanese screen whereon birds of dazzling plumage hovered amid
the leaves of gilded palm trees. In the centre of the room stood a
small card-table, and upon it were a large brass tray and an ivory
pedestal exquisitely carved in the form of a nude figure having one
arm upraised. The figure supported a lamp, the light of which was
subdued by a barrel-shaped shade of Chinese workmanship.
Mollie Gretna giggled hysterically.
"Make yourself comfortable, dear," she cried to Rita, dropping down
upon a heap of cushions stacked in a recess beside the fireplace. "I
am going to take off my shoes. The last time, Cyrus, when I woke up my
feet were quite numb."
"You should come down to my place," said Mrs. Sin, setting the leather
case on the little card-table beside the lamp. "You have there your
own little room and silken sheets to lie in, and it is quiet--so
"Oh!" cried Mollie Gretna, "I must come! But I daren't go alone. Will
you come with me, dear?" turning to Rita.
"I don't know," was the reply. "I may not like opium."
"But if you do--and I know you will?"
"Why," said Rita, glancing rapidly at Pyne, "I suppose it would be a
"Let me arrange it for you," came the harsh voice of Mrs. Sin. "Lucy
will drive you both down--won't you, my dear?" The shadowed eyes
glanced aside at Sir Lucien Pyne.
"Certainly," he replied. "I am always at the ladies' service."
Rita Dresden settled herself luxuriously into a nest of silk and fur
in another corner of the room, regarding the baronet coquettishly
through her half-lowered lashes.
"I won't go unless it is my party, Lucy," she said. "You must let me
"A detail," murmured Pyne, crossing and standing beside her.
Interest now became centred upon the preparations being made by Mrs.
Sin. From the attache case she took out a lacquered box, silken-lined
like a jewel-casket. It contained four singular-looking pipes, the
parts of which she began to fit together. The first and largest of
these had a thick bamboo stem, an amber mouthpiece, and a tiny,
disproportionate bowl of brass. The second was much smaller and was of
some dark, highly-polished wood, mounted with silver conceived in an
ornate Chinese design representing a long-tailed lizard. The
mouthpiece was of jade. The third and fourth pipes were yet smaller, a
perfectly matched pair in figured ivory of exquisite workmanship,
"These for the ladies," said Mrs. Sin, holding up the pair. "You"--
glancing at Kilfane--"have got your own pipe, I know."
She laid them upon the tray, and now took out of the case a little
copper lamp, a smaller lacquered box and a silver spatula, her
jewelled fingers handling the queer implements with a familiarity bred
"What a strange woman!" whispered Rita to Pyne. "Is she an oriental?"
"Cuban-Jewess," he replied in a low voice.
Mrs. Sin carefully lighted the lamp, which burned with a short, bluish
flame, and, opening the lacquered box, she dipped the spatula into the
thick gummy substance which it contained and twisted the little
instrument round and round between her fingers, presently withdrawing
it with a globule of chandu, about the size of a bean, adhering to the
end. She glanced aside at Kilfane.
"Chinese way, eh?" she said.
She began to twirl the prepared opium above the flame of the lamp.
From it a slight, sickly smelling vapor arose. No one spoke, but all
watched her closely; and Rita was conscious of a growing, pleasurable
excitement. When by evaporation the chandu had become reduced to the
size of a small pea, and a vague spirituous blue flame began to dance
round the end of the spatula, Mrs. Sin pressed it adroitly into the
tiny bowl of one of the ivory pipes, having first held the bowl
inverted for a moment over the lamp. She turned to Rita.
"The guest of the evening," she said. "Do not be afraid. Inhale--oh,
so gentle--and blow the smoke from the nostrils. You know how to
"The same as a cigarette?" asked Rita excitedly, as Mrs. Sin bent over
"The same, but very, very gentle."
Rita took the pipe and raised the mouthpiece to the lips.
IN THE SHADE OF THE LONELY PALM
Persian opium of good quality contains from ten to fifteen percent
morphine, and chandu made from opium of Yezd would contain perhaps
twenty-five per cent of this potent drug; but because in the act of
smoking distillation occurs, nothing like this quantity of morphine
reaches the smoker. To the distilling process, also, may be due the
different symptoms resulting from smoking chandu and injecting morphia
--or drinking tincture of opium, as De Quincey did.
Rita found the flavor of the preparation to be not entirely
unpleasant. Having overcome an initial aversion, caused by its marked
medicinal tang, she grew reconciled to it and finished her first smoke
without experiencing any other effect than a sensation of placid
contentment. Deftly, Mrs. Sin renewed the pipe. Silence had fallen
upon the party.
The second "pill" was no more than half consumed when a growing
feeling of nausea seized upon the novice, becoming so marked that she
dropped the ivory pipe weakly and uttered a faint moan.
Instantly, silently, Mrs. Sin was beside her.
"Lean forward--so," she whispered, softly, as if fearful of intruding
her voice upon these sacred rites. "In a moment you will be better.
Then, if you feel faint, lie back. It is the sleep. Do not fight
The influence of the stronger will prevailed. Self-control and
judgment are qualities among the first to succumb to opium. Rita
ceased to think longingly of the clean, fresh air, of escape from
these sickly fumes which seemed now to fill the room with a moving
vacuum. She bent forward, her chin resting upon her breast, and
gradually the deathly sickness passed. Mentally, she underwent a
change, too. From an active state of resistance the ego traversed a
descending curve ending in absolute passivity. The floor had seemingly
begun to revolve and was moving insidiously, so that the pattern of
the carpet formed a series of concentric rings. She found this
imaginary phenomenon to be soothing rather than otherwise, and
resigned herself almost eagerly to the delusion.
Mrs. Sin allowed her to fall back upon the cushions--so gently and so
slowly that the operation appeared to occupy several minutes and to
resemble that of sinking into innumerable layers of swansdown. The
sinuous figure bending over her grew taller with the passage of each
minute, until the dark eyes of Mrs. Sin were looking down at Rita from
a dizzy elevation. As often occurs in the case of a neurotic subject,
delusion as to time and space had followed the depression of the
But surely, she mused, this could not be Mrs. Sin who towered so
loftily above her. Of course, how absurd to imagine that a woman could
remain motionless for so many hours. And Rita thought, now, that she
had been lying for several hours beneath the shadow of that tall,
graceful, and protective shape.
Why--it was a slender palm-tree, which stretched its fanlike foliage
over her! Far, far above her head the long, dusty green fronds
projected from the mast-like trunk. The sun, a ball of fiery brass,
burned directly in the zenith, so that the shadow of the foliage lay
like a carpet about her feet. That which she had mistaken for the
ever-receding eyes of Mrs. Sin, wondering with a delightful vagueness
why they seemed constantly to change color, proved to be a pair of
brilliantly plumaged parrakeets perched upon a lofty branch of the
This was an equatorial noon, and even if she had not found herself to
be under the influence of a delicious abstraction Rita would not have
moved; for, excepting the friendly palm, not another vestige of
vegetation was visible right away to the horizon; nothing but an ocean
of sand whereon no living thing moved. She and the parrakeets were
alone in the heart of the Great Sahara.
But stay! Many, many miles away, a speck on the dusty carpet of the
desert, something moved! Hours must elapse before that tiny figure,
provided it were approaching, could reach the solitary palm.
Delightedly, Rita contemplated the infinity of time. Even if the
figure moved ever so slowly, she should be waiting there beneath the
palm to witness its arrival. Already, she had been there for a period
which she was far too indolent to strive to compute--a week, perhaps.
She turned her attention to the parrakeets. One of them was moving,
and she noted with delight that it had perceived her far below and was
endeavoring to draw the attention of its less observant companion to
her presence. For many hours she lay watching it and wondering why,
since the one bird was so singularly intelligent, its companion was
equally dull. When she lowered her eyes and looked out again across
the sands, the figure had approached so close as to be recognizable.
It was that of Mrs. Sin. Rita appreciated the fitness of her presence,
and experienced no surprise, only a mild curiosity. This curiosity was
not concerned with Mrs. Sin herself, but with the nature of the burden
which she bore upon her head.
She was dressed in a manner which Rita dreamily thought would have
been inadequate in England, or even in Cuba, but which was appropriate
in the Great Sahara. How exquisitely she carried herself, mused the
dreamer; no doubt this fine carriage was due in part to her wearing
golden shoes with heels like stilts, and in part to her having been
trained to bear heavy burdens upon her head. Rita remembered that Sir
Lucien had once described to her the elegant deportment of the Arab
women, ascribing it to their custom of carrying water-jars in that
The appearance of the speck on the horizon had marked the height of
her trance. Her recognition oF Mrs. Sin had signalized the decline of
the chandu influence. Now, the intrusion of a definite, uncontorted
memory was evidence of returning cerebral activity.
Rita had no recollection of the sunset; indeed, she had failed to
perceive any change in the form and position of the shadow cast by the
foliage. It had spread, an ebony patch, equally about the bole of the
tree, so that the sun must have been immediately overhead. But, of
course, she had lain watching the parrakeets for several hours, and
now night had fallen. The desert mounds were touched with silver, the
sky was a nest of diamonds, and the moon cast a shadow of the palm
like a bar of ebony right across the prospect to the rim of the sky
Mrs. Sin stood before her, one half of her lithe body concealed by
this strange black shadow and the other half gleaming in the moonlight
so that she resembled a beautiful ivory statue which some iconoclast
had cut in two.
Placing her burden upon the ground, Mrs. Sin knelt down before Rita
and reverently kissed her hand, whispering: "I am your slave, my poppy
She spoke in a strange language, no doubt some African tongue, but one
which Rita understood perfectly. Then she laid one hand upon the
object which she had carried on her head, and which now proved to be a
large lacquered casket covered with Chinese figures and bound by three
hoops of gold. It had a very curious shape.
"Do you command that the chest be opened?" she asked.
"Yes," answered Rita languidly.
Mrs. Sin threw up the lid, and from the interior of the casket which,
because of the glare of the moon light, seemed every moment to assume
a new form, drew out a bronze lamp.
"The sacred lamp," she whispered, and placed it on the sand. "Do you
command that it be lighted?"
Rita inclined her head.
The lamp became lighted; in what manner she did not observe, nor was
she curious to learn. Next from the large casket Mrs. Sin took another
smaller casket and a very long, tapering silver bodkin. The first
casket had perceptibly increased in size. It was certainly much larger
than Rita had supposed; for now out from its shadowy interior Mrs. Sin
began to take pipes--long pipes and short pipes, pipes of gold and
pipes of silver, pipes of ivory and pipes of jade. Some were carved to
represent the heads of demons, some had the bodies of serpents
wreathed about them; others were encrusted with precious gems, and
filled the night with the venomous sheen of emeralds, the blood-rays
of rubies and golden glow of topaz, while the spear-points of diamonds
flashed a challenge to the stars.
"Do you command that the pipes be lighted?" asked the harsh voice.
Rita desired to answer, "No", but heard herself saying, "Yes."
Thereupon, from a thousand bowls, linking that lonely palm to the
remote horizon, a thousand elfin fires arose--blue-tongued and
spirituous. Grey pencilings of smoke stole straightly upward to the
sky, so that look where she would Rita could discern nothing but these
countless thin, faintly wavering, vertical lines of vapor.
The dimensions of the lacquered casket had increased so vastly as to
conceal the kneeling figure of Mrs. Sin, and staring at it
wonderingly, Rita suddenly perceived that it was not an ordinary
casket. She knew at last why its shape had struck her as being
It was a Chinese coffin.
The smell of the burning opium was stifling her. Those remorseless
threads of smoke were closing in, twining themselves about her throat.
It was becoming cold, too, and the moonlight was growing dim. The
position of the moon had changed, of course, as the night had stolen
on towards morning, and now it hung dimly before her. The smoke
But was this smoke obscuring the moon? Rita moved her hands for the
first time since she had found herself under the palm tree, weakly
fending off those vaporous tentacles which were seeking to entwine
themselves about her throat. Of course, it was not smoke obscuring the
moon, she decided; it was a lamp, upheld by an ivory figure--a lamp
with a Chinese shade.
A subdued roaring sound became audible; and this was occasioned by the
gas fire, burning behind the Japanese screen on which gaily plumaged
birds sported in the branches of golden palms. Rita raised her hands
to her eyes. Mist obscured her sight. Swiftly, now, reality was
asserting itself and banishing the phantasmagoria conjured up by
In her dim, cushioned corner Mollie Gretna lay back against the wall,
her face pale and her weak mouth foolishly agape. Cyrus Kilfane was
indistinguishable from the pile of rugs amid which he sprawled by the
table, and of Sir Lucien Pyne nothing was to be seen but the
outstretched legs and feet which projected grotesquely from a recess.
Seated, oriental fashion, upon an improvised divan near the grand
piano and propped up by a number of garish cushions, Rita beheld Mrs.
Sin. The long bamboo pipe had fallen from her listless fingers. Her
face wore an expression of mystic rapture like that characterizing the
features of some Chinese Buddhas.
Fear, unaccountable but uncontrollable, suddenly seized upon Rita. She
felt weak and dizzy, but she struggled partly upright.
"Lucy!" she whispered.
Her voice was not under control, and once more she strove to call to
"Lucy!" came the hoarse whisper again.
The fire continued its muted roaring, but no other sound answered to
the appeal. A horror of the companionship in which she found herself
thereupon took possession of the girl. She must escape from these
sleepers, whose spirits had been expelled by the potent necromancer,
opium, from these empty tenements whose occupants had fled. The idea
of the cool night air in the open streets was delicious.
She staggered to her feet, swaying drunkenly, but determined to reach
the door. She shuddered, because of a feeling of internal chill which