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  Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Wessex Gets Busy

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Innes rose from the chair usually occupied by Paul Harley as Detective Inspector Wessex, with a very blank face, walked into the office. Innes looked haggard and exhibited unmistakable signs of anxiety. Since he had received that dramatic telephone message from his chief he had not spared himself for a moment. The official machinery of Scotland Yard was at work endeavouring to trace the missing man, but since it had proved impossible to find out from where the message had been sent, the investigation was handicapped at the very outset. Close inquiries at the Savoy Hotel had shown that Harley had not been there. Wessex, who was a thorough artist within his limitations, had satisfied himself that none of the callers who had asked for Ormuz Khan, and no one who had loitered about the lobbies, could possibly have been even a disguised Paul Harley.

To Inspector Wessex the lines along which Paul Harley was operating remained a matter of profound amazement and mystification. His interview with Mr. Nicol Brinn had only served to baffle him more hopelessly than ever. The nature of Paul Harley's inquiries--inquiries which, presumably from the death of Sir Charles Abingdon, had led him to investigate the movements of two persons of international repute, neither apparently having even the most remote connection with anything crooked--was a conundrum for the answer to which the detectlve inspector sought in vain.

"I can see you have no news," said Innes, dully.

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"To be perfectly honest," replied Wessex, "I feel like a man who is walking in his sleep. Except for the extraordinary words uttered by the late Sir Charles Abingdon, I fail to see that there is any possible connection between his death and Mr. Nicol Brinn. I simply can't fathom what Mr. Harley was working upon. To my mind there is not the slightest evidence of foul play in the case. There is no motive; apart from which, there is absolutely no link."

"Nevertheless," replied Innes, slowly, "you know the chief, and therefore you know as well as I do that he would not have instructed me to communicate with you unless he had definite evidence in his possession. It is perfectly clear that he was interrupted in the act of telephoning. He was literally dragged away from the instrument."

"I agree," said Wessex. "He had got into a tight corner somewhere right enough. But where does Nicol Brinn come in?"

"How did he receive your communication?"

"Oh, it took him fairly between the eyes. There is no denying that. He knows something."

"What he knows," said Innes, slowly, "is what Mr. Harley learned last night, and what he fears is what has actually befallen the chief."

Detective Inspector Wessex stood beside the Burmese cabinet, restlessly drumming his fingers upon its lacquered surface. "I am grateful for one thing," he said. "The press has not got hold of this story."

"They need never get hold of it if you are moderately careful."

"For several reasons I am going to be more than moderately careful. Whatever Fire-Tongue may be, its other name is sudden death! It's a devil of a business; a perfect nightmare. But--" he paused--

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