Part Fourth. The Eye of Sin Sin Wa
Chapter XLIII. The Story of the Crime
 

"You are all aware," Seton continued, "that Sir Lucien Pyne was an admirer of Mrs. Irvin. God knows, I hold no brief for the man, but this love of his was the one redeeming feature of a bad life. How and when it began I don't profess to know, but it became the only pure thing which he possessed. That he was instrumental in introducing you, Mrs. Irvin, to the unfortunately prevalent drug habit, you will not deny; but that he afterwards tried sincerely to redeem you from it I can positively affirm. In seeking your redemption he found his own, for I know that he was engaged at the time of his death in extricating himself from the group. You may say that he had made a fortune, and was satisfied; that is your view, Gray. I prefer to think that he was anxious to begin a new life and to make himself more worthy of the respect of those he loved.

"There was one obstacle which proved too great for him--Mrs. Sin. Although Juan Mareno was the spokesman of the group, Lola Mareno was the prompter. All Sir Lucien's plans for weaning Mrs. Irvin from the habits which she had acquired were deliberately and malignantly foiled by this woman. She endeavored to inveigle Mrs. Irvin into indebtedness to you, Gray, as you know now. Failing in this, she endeavored to kill her by depriving her of that which had at the time become practically indispensable. A venomous jealousy led her to almost suicidal measures. She risked exposure and ruin in her endeavors to dispose of one whom she looked upon as a rival.

"During Sir Lucien's several absences from London she was particularly active, and this brings me to the closing scene of the drama. On the night that you determined, in desperation, Mrs. Irvin, to see Kazmah personally, you will recall that Sir Lucien went out to telephone to him?"

Rita nodded but did not speak.

"Actually," Seton explained, "he instructed Mareno to go across the leads to Kazmah's directly you had left the flat, and to give you a certain message as 'Kazmah.' He also instructed Mareno to telephone certain orders to Rashid, the Egyptian attendant. In spite of the unforeseen meeting with Gray, all would have gone well, no doubt, if Mrs. Sin had not chanced to be on the Kazmah premises at the time that the message was received!

"I need not say that Mrs. Sin was a remarkable woman, possessing many accomplishments, among them that of mimicry. She had often amused herself by taking Mareno's place at the table behind Kazmah, and, speaking in her brother's oracular voice, had delivered the 'revelations.' Mareno was like wax in his sister's hands, and on this fateful night, when he arrived at the place--which he did a few minutes before Mrs. Irvin, Gray and Sir Lucien--Mrs. Sin peremptorily ordered him to wait upstairs in the Cubanis office, and she took her seat in the room from which the Kazmah illusions were controlled.

"So carefully arranged was every detail of the business that Rashid, the Egyptian, was ignorant of Sir Lucien's official connection with the Kazmah concern. He had been ordered--by Mareno speaking from Sir Lucien's flat--to admit Mrs. Irvin to the room of seance and then to go home. He obeyed and departed, leaving Sir Lucien in the waiting- room.

"Driven to desperation by 'Kazmah's' taunting words, we know that Mrs. Irvin penetrated to the inner room. I must slur over the details of the scene which ensued. Hearing her cry out, Sir Lucien ran to her assistance. Mrs. Sin, enraged by his manner, lost all control of her insane passion. She attempted Mrs. Irvin's life with a stiletto which habitually she carried--and Sir Lucien died like a gentleman who had lived like a blackguard. He shielded her--"

Seton paused. Margaret was biting her lip hard, and Rita was looking down so that her face could not be seen.

"The shock consequent upon the deed sobered the half crazy woman," continued the speaker. "Her usual resourcefulness returned to her. Self-preservation had to be considered before remorse. Mrs. Irvin had swooned, and"--he hesitated--"Mrs. Sin saw to it that she did not revive prematurely. Mareno was summoned from the room above. The outer door was locked.

"It affords evidence of this woman's callous coolness that she removed from the Kazmah premises, and--probably assisted by her brother, although he denies it--from the person and garments of the dead man, every scrap of evidence. They had not by any means finished the task when you knocked at he door, Gray. But they completed it, faultlessly, after you had gone.

"Their unconscious victim, and the figure of Kazmah, as well as every paper or other possible clue, they carried up to the Cubanis office, and from thence across the roof to Sir Lucien's study. Next, while Mareno went for the car, Mrs. Sin rifled the safe, bureaus and desks in Sir Lucien's flat, so that we had the devil's own work, as you know, to find out even the more simple facts of his everyday life.

"Not a soul ever came forward who noticed the big car being driven into Albemarle Street or who observed it outside the flat. The chances run by the pair in conveying their several strange burdens from the top floor, down the stairs and out into the street were extraordinary. Yet they succeeded unobserved. Of course, the street was imperfectly lighted, and is but little frequented after dusk.

"The journey to Limehouse was performed without discovery--aided, no doubt, by the mistiness of the night; and Mareno, returning to the West End, ingeniously inquired for Sir Lucien at his club. Learning, although he knew it already, that Sir Lucien had not been to the club that night, he returned the car to the garage and calmly went back to the flat.

"His reason for taking this dangerous step is by no means clear. According to his own account, he did it to gain time for the fugitive Mrs. Sin. You see, there was really only one witness of the crime (Mrs. Irvin) and she could not have sworn to the identity of the assassin. Rashid was warned and presumably supplied with sufficient funds to enable him to leave the country.

"Well, the woman met her deserts, no doubt at the hands of Sin Sin Wa. Kerry is sure of this. And Sin Sin Wa escaped, taking with him an enormous sum of ready money. He was the true genius of the enterprise. No one, his wife and Mareno excepted--we know of no other--suspected that the real Sin Sin Wa was clean-shaven, possessed two eyes, and no pigtail! A wonderfully clever man!"

The native servant appeared to announce that dinner was served; African dusk drew its swift curtain over the desert, and a gun spoke sharply from the Citadel. In silence the party watched the deepening velvet of the sky, witnessing the birth of a million stars, and in silence they entered the gaily lighted dining-room.

Seton Pasha moved one of the lights so as to illuminate a small oil painting which hung above the sideboard. It represented the head and shoulders of a savage-looking red man, his hair close-cropped like that of a pugilist, and his moustache trimmed in such a fashion that a row of large, fierce teeth were revealed in an expression which might have been meant for a smile. A pair of intolerant steel-blue eyes looked squarely out at the spectator.

"What a time I had," said Seton, "to get him to sit for that! But I managed to secure his wife's support, and the trick was done. You are down to toast Kismet, Margaret, but I am going to propose the health, long life and prosperity of Chief Inspector Kerry, of the Criminal Investigation Department."