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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

"The Gates Of Hell"

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Silence fell again, and Paul Harley, staring down at Nicol Brinn, realized that this indeed was the most hopelessly mystifying case which fate had ever thrown in his way. This millionaire scholar and traveller, whose figure was as familiar in remote cities of the world as it was familiar in New York, in Paris, and in London, could not conceivably be associated with any criminal organization. Yet his hesitancy was indeed difficult to explain, and because it seemed to Harley that the cloud which had stolen out across the house of Sir Charles Abingdon now hung threateningly over those very chambers, he merely waited and wondered.

"He referred to an experience which had befallen him in India," came Nicol Brinn's belated reply.

"In India? May I ask you to recount that experience?"

"Mr. Harley," replied Brinn, suddenly standing up, "I can't."

"You can't?"

"I have said so. But I'd give a lot more than you might believe to know that Abingdon had told you the story which he told me."

"You are not helping, Mr. Brinn," said Harley, sternly. "I believe and I think that you share my belief that Sir Charles Abingdon did not die from natural causes. You are repressing valuable evidence. Allow me to remind you that if anything should come to light necessitating a post-mortem examination of the body, you will be forced to divulge in a court of justice the facts which you refuse to divulge to me."

"I know it," said Brinn, shortly.

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He shot out one long arm and grasped Harley's shoulder as in a vice. "I'm counted a wealthy man," he continued, "but I'd give every cent I possess to see 'paid' put to the bill of a certain person. Listen. You don't think I was in any way concerned in the death of Sir Charles Abingdon? It isn't thinkable. But you do think I'm in possession of facts which would help you find out who is. You're right."

"Good God!" cried Harley. "Yet you remain silent!"

"Not so loud--not so loud!" implored Brinn, repeating that odd, almost furtive glance around. "Mr. Harley--you know me. You've heard of me and now you've met me. You know my place in the world. Do you believe me when I say that from this moment onward I don't trust my own servants? Nor my own friends?" He removed his grip from Harley's shoulder. "Inanimate things look like enemies. That mummy over yonder may have ears!"

"I'm afraid I don't altogether understand you."

"See here!"

Nicol Brinn crossed to a bureau, unlocked it, and while Harley watched him curiously, sought among a number of press cuttings. Presently he found the cutting for which he was looking. "This was said," he explained, handing the slip to Harley, "at the Players' Club in New York, after a big dinner in pre-dry days. It was said in confidence. But some disguised reporter had got in and it came out in print next morning. Read it."

Paul Harley accepted the cutting and read the following:

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