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||The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer|
|Page 7 of 7||
A bright glare dazzled my eyes. A crowd surged about us, and a clangor and shouting drew momentarily nearer.
"It's the engines coming," explained Smith, seeing my bewilderment. "Shen-Yan's is in flames. It was your shot, as you fell through the trap, broke the oil-lamp."
"Is everybody out?"
"So far as we know."
Smith shrugged his shoulders.
"No one has seen him. There was some door at the back--"
"Do you think he may--"
"No," he said tensely. "Not until I see him lying dead before me shall I believe it."
Then memory resumed its sway. I struggled to my feet.
"Smith, where is she?" I cried. "Where is she?"
"I don't know," be answered.
"She's given us the slip, Doctor," said Inspector Weymouth, as a fire-engine came swinging round the corner of the narrow lane. "So has Mr. Singapore Charlie--and, I'm afraid, somebody else. We've got six or eight all-sorts, some awake and some asleep, but I suppose we shall have to let 'em go again. Mr. Smith tells me that the girl was disguised as a Chinaman. I expect that's why she managed to slip away."
I recalled how I had been dragged from the pit by the false queue, how the strange discovery which had brought death to poor Cadby had brought life to me, and I seemed to remember, too, that Smith had dropped it as he threw his arm about me on the ladder. Her mask the girl might have retained, but her wig, I felt certain, had been dropped into the water.
It was later that night, when the brigade still were playing, upon the blackened shell of what had been Shen-Yan's opium-shop, and Smith and I were speeding away in a cab from the scene of God knows how many crimes, that I had an idea.
"Smith," I said, "did you bring the pigtail with you that was found on Cadby?"
"Yes. I had hoped to meet the owner."
"Have you got it now?"
"No. I met the owner."
I thrust my hands deep into the pockets of the big pea-jacket lent to me by Inspector Ryman, leaning back in my corner.
"We shall never really excel at this business," continued Nayland Smith. "We are far too sentimental. I knew what it meant to us, Petrie, what it meant to the world, but I hadn't the heart. I owed her your life-- I had to square the account."
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