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|The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 1 of 7||
TIME wore on and seemingly brought us no nearer, or very little nearer, to our goal. So carefully had my friend Nayland Smith excluded the matter from the press that, whilst public interest was much engaged with some of the events in the skein of mystery which he had come from Burma to unravel, outside the Secret Service and the special department of Scotland Yard few people recognized that the several murders, robberies and disappearances formed each a link in a chain; fewer still were aware that a baneful presence was in our midst, that a past master of the evil arts lay concealed somewhere in the metropolis; searched for by the keenest wits which the authorities could direct to the task, but eluding all-triumphant, contemptuous.
One link in that chain Smith himself for long failed to recognize. Yet it was a big and important link.
"Petrie," he said to me one morning, "listen to this:
"`. . .In sight of Shanghai--a clear, dark night. On board the deck of a junk passing close to seaward of the Andaman a blue flare started up. A minute later there was a cry of "Man overboard!"
"`Mr. Lewin, the chief officer, who was in charge, stopped the engines. A boat was put out. But no one was recovered. There are sharks in these waters. A fairly heavy sea was running.
"`Inquiry showed the missing man to be a James Edwards, second class, booked to Shanghai. I think the name was assumed. The man was some sort of Oriental, and we had had him under close observation. . . .'"
"That's the end of their report," exclaimed Smith.
He referred to the two C.I.D. men who had joined the Andaman at the moment of her departure from Tilbury.
He carefully lighted his pipe.
"IS it a victory for China, Petrie?" he said softly.
"Until the great war reveals her secret resources--and I pray that the day be not in my time--we shall never know," I replied.
Smith began striding up and down the room,
"Whose name," he jerked abruptly, "stands now at the head of our danger list?"
He referred to a list which we had compiled of the notable men intervening between the evil genius who secretly had invaded London and the triumph of his cause--the triumph of the yellow races.
I glanced at our notes. "Lord Southery," I replied.
Smith tossed the morning paper across to me.
"Look," he said shortly. "He's dead."
I read the account of the peer's death, and glanced at the long obituary notice; but no more than glanced at it. He had but recently returned from the East, and now, after a short illness, had died from some affection of the heart. There had been no intimation that his illness was of a serious nature, and even Smith, who watched over his flock-- the flock threatened by the wolf, Fu-Manchu--with jealous zeal, had not suspected that the end was so near.
"Do you think he died a natural death, Smith?" I asked.
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