Dope by Sax Rohmer
Part Third. The Man from Whitehall
Chapter XXXI. The Story of 719
In a top back room of the end house in the street which also boasted the residence of Sin Sin Wa, Seton Pasha and Chief Inspector Kerry sat one on either side of a dirty deal table. Seton smoked and Kerry chewed. A smoky oil-lamp burned upon the table, and two notebooks lay beside it.
"It is certainly odd," Seton was saying, "that you failed to break my neck. But I have made it a practice since taking up my residence here to wear a cap heavily padded. I apprehend sandbags and pieces of loaded tubing."
"The tube is not made," declared Kerry, "which can do the job. You're harder to kill than a Chinese-Jew."
"Your own escape is almost equally remarkable," added Seton. "I rarely miss at such short range. But you had nearly broken my wrist with that kick."
"I'm sorry," said Kerry. "You should always bang a door wide open suddenly before you enter into a suspected room. Anybody standing behind usually stops it with his head."
"I am indebted for the hint, Chief Inspector. We all have something to learn."
"Well, sir, we've laid our cards on the table, and you'll admit we've both got a lot to learn before we see daylight. I'll be obliged if you'll put me wise to your game. I take it you began work on the very night of the murder?"
"I did. By a pure accident--the finding of an opiated cigarette in Mr. Gray's rooms--I perceived that the business which had led to my recall from the East was involved in the Bond Street mystery. Frankly, Chief Inspector, I doubted at that time if it were possible for you and me to work together. I decided to work alone. A beard which I had worn in the East, for purposes of disguise, I shaved off; and because the skin was whiter where the hair had grown than elsewhere, I found it necessary after shaving to powder my face heavily. This accounts for the description given to you of a man with a pale face. Even now the coloring is irregular, as you may notice.
"Deciding to work anonymously, I went post haste to Lord Wrexhorough and made certain arrangements whereby I became known to the responsible authorities as 719. The explanation of these figures is a simple one. My name is Greville Seton. G is the seventh letter in the alphabet, and S the nineteenth; hence--'seven-nineteen.'
"The increase of the drug traffic and the failure of the police to cope with it had led to the institution of a Home office inquiry, you see. It was suspected that the traffic was in the hands of orientals, and in looking about for a confidential agent to make certain inquiries my name cropped up. I was at that time employed by the Foreign office, but Lord Wrexborough borrowed me." Seton smiled at his own expression. "Every facility was offered to me, as you know. And that my investigations led me to the same conclusion as your own, my presence as lessee of this room, in the person of John Smiles, seaman, sufficiently demonstrates."
"H'm," said Kerry, "and I take it your investigations have also led you to the conclusion that our hands are clean?"
Seton Pasha fixed his cool regard upon the speaker.
"Personally, I never doubted this, Chief Inspector," he declared. "I believed, and I still believe, that the people who traffic in drugs are clever enough to keep in the good books of the local police. It is a case of clever camouflage, rather than corruption."
"Ah," snapped Kerry. "I was waiting to hear you mention it. So long as we know. I'm not a man that stands for being pointed at. I've got a boy at a good public school, but if ever he said he was ashamed of his father, the day he said it would be a day he'd never forget!"
Seton Pasha smiled grimly and changed the topic.
"Let us see," he said, "if we are any nearer to the heart of the mystery of Kazmah. You were at the Regent Street bank today, I understand, at which the late Sir Lucien Pyne had an account?"
"I was," replied Kerry. "Next to his theatrical enterprises his chief source of income seems to have been a certain Jose Santos Company, of Buenos Ayres. We've traced Kazmah's account, too. But no one at the bank has ever seen him. The missing Rashid always paid in. Checks were signed 'Mohammed el-Kazmah,' in which name the account had been opened. From the amount standing to his credit there it's evident that the proceeds of the dope business went elsewhere."
"Where do you think they went?" asked Seton quietly, watching Kerry.
"Well," rapped Kerry, "I think the same as you. I've got two eyes and I can see out of both of them."
"And you think?"
"I think they went to the Jose Santos Company, of Buenos Ayres!"
"Right!" cried Seton. "I feel sure of it. We may never know how it was all arranged or who was concerned, but I am convinced that Mr. Isaacs, lessee of the Cubanis Cigarette Company offices, Mr. Jacobs (my landlord!), Mohammed el-Kazmah--whoever he may be--the untraceable Mrs. Sin Sin Wa, and another, were all shareholders of the Jose Santos company.
"I'm with you. By 'another' you mean?"
"Sir Lucien! It's horrible, but I'm afraid it's true."
They became silent for a while. Kerry chewed and Seton smoked. Then:
"The significance of the fact that Sir Lucien's study window was no more than forty paces across the leads from a well-oiled window of the Cubanis Company will not have escaped you," said Seton. "I performed the journey just ahead of you, I believe. Then Sir Lucien had lived in Buenos Ayres; that was before he came into the title, and at a time, I am told, when he was not overburdened with wealth. His man, Mareno, is indisputably some kind of a South American, and he can give no satisfactory account of his movements on the night of the murder.
"That we have to deal with a powerful drug syndicate there can be no doubt. The late Sir Lucien may not have been a director, but I feel sure he was financially interested. Kazmah's was the distributing office, and the importer--"
"Was Sin Sin Wa!" cried Kerry, his eyes gleaming savagely. "He's as clever and cunning as all the rest of Chinatown put together. Somewhere not a hundred miles from this spot where we are now there's a store of stuff big enough to dope all Europe!"
"And there's something else," said Seton quietly, knocking a cone of grey ash from his cheroot on to the dirty floor. "Kazmah is hiding there in all probability, if he hasn't got clear away--and Mrs. Monte Irvin is being held a prisoner!"
"If they haven't--"
"For Irvin's sake I hope not, Chief Inspector. There are two very curious points in the case--apart from the mystery which surrounds the man Kazmah: the fact that Mareno, palpably an accomplice, stayed to face the music, and the fact that Sin Sin Wa likewise has made no effort to escape. Do you see what it means? They are covering the big man--Kazmah. Once he and Mrs. Irvin are out of the way, we can prove nothing against Mareno and Sin Sin Wa! And the most we could do for Mrs. Sin would be to convict her of selling opium."
"To do even that we should have to take a witness to court," said Kerry gloomily; "and all the satisfaction we'd get would be to see her charged ten pounds!"
Silence fell between them again. It was that kind of sympathetic silence which is only possible where harmony exists; and, indeed, of all the things strange and bizarre which characterized the inquiry, this sudden amity between Kerry and Seton Pasha was not the least remarkable. It represented the fruit of a mutual respect.
There was something about the lean, unshaven face of Seton Pasha, and something, too, in his bright grey eyes which, allowing for difference of coloring, might have reminded a close observer of Kerry's fierce countenance. The tokens of iron determination and utter indifference to danger were perceptible in both. And although Seton was dark and turning slightly grey, while Kerry was as red as a man well could be, that they possessed several common traits of character was a fact which the dissimilarity of their complexions wholly failed to conceal. But while Seton Pasha hid the grimness of his nature beneath a sort of humorous reserve, the dangerous side of Kerry was displayed in his open truculence.
Seated there in that Limehouse attic, a smoky lamp burning on the table between them, and one gripping the stump of a cheroot between his teeth, while the other chewed steadily, they presented a combination which none but a fool would have lightly challenged.
"Sin Sin Wa is cunning," said Seton suddenly. "He is a very clever man. Watch him as closely as you like, he will never lead you to the 'store.' In the character of John Smiles I had some conversation with him this morning, and I formed the same opinion as yourself. He is waiting for something; and he is certain of his ground. I have a premonition, Chief Inspector, that whoever else may fall into the net, Sin Sin Wa will slip out. We have one big chance."
"What's that?" rapped Kerry.
"The dope syndicate can only have got control of 'the traffic' in one way--by paying big prices and buying out competitors. If they cease to carry on for even a week they lose their control. The people who bring the stuff over from Japan, South America, India, Holland, and so forth will sell somewhere else if they can't sell to Kazmah and Company. Therefore we want to watch the ships from likely ports, or, better still, get among the men who do the smuggling. There must be resorts along the riverside used by people of that class. We might pick up information there."
Kerry smiled savagely.
"I've got half a dozen good men doing every dive from Wapping to Gravesend," he answered. "But if you think it worth looking into personally, say the word."
"Well, my dear sir,"--Seton Pasha tossed the end of his cheroot into the empty grate--"what else can we do?"
Kerry banged his fist on the table.
"You're right!" he snapped. "We're stuck! But anything's better than nothing. We'll start here and now; and the first joint we'll make for is Dougal's."
"Dougal's?" echoed Seton Pasha.
"That's it--Dougal's. A danger spot on the Isle of Dogs used by the lowest type of sea-faring men and not barred to Arabs, Chinks, and other gaily-colored fowl. If there's any chat going on about dope, we'll hear it in Dougal's."
Seton Pasha stood up, smiling grimly. "Dougal's it shall be," he said.