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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

The Veil Is Raised

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Seeing Harley on the step, she paused for a moment, then, recovering herself:

"Ellen!" she shouted down the dim passageway revealed by the opening of the door. "Somebody to see you."

Leaving the door open, she hurried past the visitor with averted face. It was well done, and, thus disguised by the thick veil, another man than Paul Harley might have failed to recognize one of whom he had never had more than an imperfect glimpse. But if Paul Harley's memory did not avail him greatly, his unerring instinct never failed.

He grasped the girl's arm. "One moment, Miss Jones," he said, quietly, "it is you I am here to see!"

The girl turned angrily, snatching her arm from his grasp. "You've made a mistake, haven't you?" she cried, furiously. "I don't know you and I don't want to!"

"Be good enough to step inside again. Don't make a scene. If you behave yourself, you have nothing to fear. But I want to talk to you."

He extended his arm to detain her. But she thrust it aside. "My boy's waiting round the corner!" she said, viciously. "Just see what he'll do when I tell him!"

"Step inside," repeated Harley, quietly. "Or accompany me to Kennington Lane Police Station--whichever you think would be the more amusing."

"What d'you mean!" blustered the girl. "You can't kid me. I haven't done anything."

"Then do as I tell you. You have got to answer my questions--either here or at the station. Which shall it be?"

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He had realized the facts of the situation from the moment when the girl had made her sudden appearance, and he knew that his only chance of defeating his cunning opponents was to frighten her. Delicate measures would be wasted upon such a character. But even as the girl, flinging herself sullenly about, returned into the passage, he found himself admiring the resourcefulness of his unknown enemies.

A tired-looking woman carrying a child appeared from somewhere and stared apathetically at Harley.

Addressing the angry girl: "Another o' your flames, Polly?" she inquired in a dull voice. "Has he made you change your mind already?"

The girl addressed as "Polly" dropped her grip on the floor and, banging open a door, entered a shabby little sitting room, followed by Harley. Dropping onto a ragged couch, she stared obstinately out of the dirty window.

"Excuse me, madam, for intruding," said Harley to the woman with the baby, "but Polly has some information of use to the police. Oh, don't be alarmed. She has committed no crime. I shall only detain her for a few minutes."

He bowed to the tired-looking woman and closed the sitting-room door. "Now, young woman," he said, sternly, adopting this official manner of his friend, Inspector Wessex, "I am going to give you one warning, and one only. Although I don't think you know it, you have got mixed up with a gang of crooks. Play the game with me, and I'll stand by you. Try any funny business and you'll go to jail."

The official manner had its effect. Miss Jones looked sharply across at the speaker. "I haven't done anything," she said, sullenly.

Paul Harley advanced and stood over her. "What about the trick with the serviettes at Sir Charles Abingdon's?" he asked, speaking the words in slow and deliberate fashion.

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