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|The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
The Wire Jacket
|Page 1 of 6||
I suppose we were not more than a dozen paces from the lamp when we heard the thudding of the motor. The car was backing out!
It was a desperate moment, for it seemed that we could not fail to be discovered. Nayland Smith began to look about him, feverishly, for a hiding-place, a quest in which I seconded with equal anxiety. And Fate was kind to us--doubly kind as after events revealed. A wooden gate broke the expanse of wall hard by upon the right, and, as the result of some recent accident, a ragged gap had been torn in the panels close to the top.
The chain of the padlock hung loosely; and in a second Smith was up, with his foot in this as in a stirrup. He threw his arm over the top and drew himself upright. A second later he was astride the broken gate.
"Up you come, Petrie!" he said, and reached down his hand to aid me.
I got my foot into the loop of chain, grasped at a projection in the gatepost and found myself up.
"There is a crossbar on this side to stand on," said Smith.
He climbed over and vanished in the darkness. I was still astride the broken gate when the car turned the corner, slowly, for there was scanty room; but I was standing upon the bar on the inside and had my head below the gap ere the driver could possibly have seen me.
"Stay where you are until he passes," hissed my companion, below. "There is a row of kegs under you."
The sound of the motor passing outside grew loud--louder--then began to die away. I felt about with my left foot; discerned the top of a keg, and dropped, panting, beside Smith.
"Phew!" I said--"that was a close thing! Smith--how do we know--"
"That we have followed the right car?" he interrupted. "Ask yourself the question: what would any ordinary man be doing motoring in a place like this at two o'clock in the morning?"
"You are right, Smith," I agreed. "Shall we get out again?"
"Not yet. I have an idea. Look yonder."
He grasped my arm, turning me in the desired direction.
Beyond a great expanse of unbroken darkness a ray of moonlight slanted into the place wherein we stood, spilling its cold radiance upon rows of kegs.
"That's another door," continued my friend--I now began dimly to perceive him beside me. "If my calculations are not entirely wrong, it opens on a wharf gate--"
A steam siren hooted dismally, apparently from quite close at hand.
"I'm right!" snapped Smith. "That turning leads down to the gate. Come on, Petrie!"
He directed the light of the electric torch upon a narrow path through the ranks of casks, and led the way to the further door. A good two feet of moonlight showed along the top. I heard Smith straining; then--
"These kegs are all loaded with grease!" he said, "and I want to reconnoiter over that door."
"I am leaning on a crate which seems easy to move," I reported. "Yes, it's empty. Lend a hand."
We grasped the empty crate, and between us, set it up on a solid pedestal of casks. Then Smith mounted to this observation platform and I scrambled up beside him, and looked down upon the lane outside.
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