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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 3 of 5||
"He has not hitherto left his cousin's plantations at all," replied Weymouth. "He seems to think that openly to communicate with the authorities, or with you, would be to seal his death warrant."
"He's right," snapped Smith.
"Therefore he came and returned secretly," continued the inspector; "and if we are to do any good, obviously we must adopt similar precautions. The market wagon, loaded in such a way as to leave ample space in the interior for us, will be drawn up outside the office of Messrs. Pike and Pike, in Covent Garden, until about five o'clock this afternoon. At, say, half past four, I propose that we meet there and embark upon the journey."
The speaker glanced in my direction interrogatively.
"Include me in the program," I said. "Will there be room in the wagon?"
"Certainly," was the reply; "it is most commodious, but I cannot guarantee its comfort."
Nayland Smith promenaded the room, unceasingly, and presently he walked out altogether, only to return ere the inspector and I had had time to exchange more than a glance of surprise, carrying a brass ash-tray. He placed this on a corner of the breakfast table before Weymouth.
"Ever seen anything like that?" he inquired.
The inspector examined the gruesome relic with obvious curiosity, turning it over with the tip of his little finger and manifesting considerable repugnance--in touching it at all. Smith and I watched him in silence, and, finally, placing the tray again upon the table, he looked up in a puzzled way.
"It's something like the skin of a water rat," he said.
Nayland Smith stared at him fixedly.
"A water rat? Now that you come to mention it, I perceive a certain resemblance--yes. But"--he had been wearing a silk scarf about his throat and now he unwrapped it--"did you ever see a water rat that could make marks like these?"
Weymouth started to his feet with some muttered exclamation.
"What is this?" he cried. "When did it happen, and how?"
In his own terse fashion, Nayland Smith related the happenings of the night. At the conclusion of the story:
"By heaven!" whispered Weymouth, "the thing on the roof--the coughing thing that goes on all fours, seen by Burke . . ."
"My own idea exactly!" cried Smith . . .
"Fu-Manchu," I said excitedly, "has brought some new, some dreadful creature, from Burma . . ."
"No, Petrie," snapped Smith, turning upon me suddenly. "Not from Burma--from Abyssinia."
That day was destined to be an eventful one; a day never to be forgotten by any of us concerned in those happenings which I have to record. Early in the morning Nayland Smith set off for the British Museum to pursue his mysterious investigations, and having performed my brief professional round (for, as Nayland Smith had remarked on one occasion, this was a beastly healthy district), I found, having made the necessary arrangements, that, with over three hours to spare, I had nothing to occupy my time until the appointment in Covent Garden Market. My lonely lunch completed, a restless fit seized me, and I felt unable to remain longer in the house. Inspired by this restlessness, I attired myself for the adventure of the evening, not neglecting to place a pistol in my pocket, and, walking to the neighboring Tube station, I booked to Charing Cross, and presently found myself rambling aimlessly along the crowded streets. Led on by what link of memory I know not, I presently drifted into New Oxford Street, and looked up with a start--to learn that I stood before the shop of a second-hand book-seller where once two years before I had met Karamaneh.
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