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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Two Reports

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On returning to his office Paul Harley found awaiting him the report of the man to whom he had entrusted the study of the movements of Nicol Brinn. His mood was a disturbed one, and he had observed none of his customary precautions in coming from Doctor McMurdoch's house. He wondered if the surveillance which he had once detected had ceased. Perhaps the chambers of Nicol Brinn were the true danger zone upon which these subtle but powerful forces now were focussed. On the other hand, he was quite well aware that his movements might have been watched almost uninterruptedly since the hour that Sir Charles Abingdon had visited his office.

During the previous day, in his attempt to learn the identity of Ormuz Khan, he had covered his tracks with his customary care. He had sufficient faith in his knowledge of disguise, which was extensive, to believe that those mysterious persons who were interested in his movements remained unaware of the fact that the simple-minded visitor from Vancouver who had spent several hours in and about the Savoy, and Paul Harley of Chancery Lane, were one and the same.

His brain was far too alertly engaged with troubled thoughts of Phil Abingdon to be susceptible to the influence of those delicate etheric waves which he had come to recognize as the note of danger. Practically there had been no development whatever in the investigation, and he was almost tempted to believe that the whole thing was a mirage, when the sight of the typewritten report translated him mentally to the luxurious chambers in Piccadilly.

Again, almost clairvoyantly, he saw the stoical American seated before the empty fireplace, his foot restlessly tapping the fender. Again he heard the curious, high tones: "I'll tell you... You have opened the gates of hell...."

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The whole scene, with its tantalizing undercurrent of mystery, was reenacted before his inner vision. He seemed to hear Nicol Brinn, startled from his reverie, exclaim: "I think it was an owl.... We sometimes get them over from the Green Park...."

Why should so simple an incident have produced so singular an effect? For the face of the speaker had been ashen.

Then the pendulum swung inevitably back: "You are all perfectly cruel and horrible...."

Paul Harley clenched his hands, frowning at the Burmese cabinet as though he hated it.

How persistently the voice of Phil Abingdon rang in his ears! He could not forget her lightest words. How hopelessly her bewitching image intruded itself between his reasoning mind and the problem upon which he sought to concentrate.

Miss Smith, the typist, had gone, for it was after six o'clock, and Innes alone was on duty. He came in as Harley, placing his hat and cane upon the big writing table, sat down to study the report.

"Inspector Wessex rang up, Mr. Harley, about an hour ago. He said he would be at the Yard until six.

"Has he obtained any information?" asked Paul Harley, wearily, glancing at his little table clock.

"He said he had had insufficient time to do much in the matter, but that there were one or two outstanding facts which might interest you."

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