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Sexton Blake versus Fu Manchu

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					                                                                   Commissioner           the breakthrough.
                                                                   Denis Nayland          He and his 'guv'nor' were recovering
                                                                   Smith. Blake           from their third run-in with Satira. It
                                                                   reported to 'C', the   had ended in a blazing inferno and
                                                                   head of the British    they both felt battered, bruised and
                                                                   Secret Intelligence    exhausted. A long healing sleep had
                                                                   Service, as he         helped somewhat and now they were
              The Prologue                   always did after an encounter with the       enjoying one of Mrs Bardell's
        The Other Organisation               Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle.            extravagant breakfasts; a proven
In the box there was a huge pearl of         During the meeting he mentioned the Si       restorative!
outstanding purity and a small square of     Fan and asked where he might find the        Blake, as he ate, was reading The Daily
white card which bore the message:           commissioner.                                Radio. Tinker was concentrating only
'For services rendered and with sincere      C gave a surprising reply: "Under no         on the scrambled eggs, devilled
gratitude — the Si Fan'.                     circumstances are you to contact him.        kidneys, grilled bacon and tomatoes,
Sexton Blake placed the box and its          Nor are you to investigate this other        fried eggs and mushrooms, toast and
contents on the mantelpiece and gazed        organisation. Leave it alone, Blake.         marmalade. His thoughts — what
at it thoughtfully. This Si Fan business     That's a direct order!"                      thoughts he had — were meandering.
had him puzzled.                             No explanation was offered.                  And as so often happens when a brain
A few days previously he and his young       Blake returned home. In his absence, a       is at rest, an obscure memory popped
assistant, Tinker, had investigated the      small box had been delivered. It             into it for no apparent reason.
murder of a shopkeeper and the theft         contained the pearl and the message.         He stopped eating and stared at Blake,
from his premises of a Chinese tapestry      Sexton Blake was intrigued — but             an expression of astonishment on his
with a dragon woven upon it — a              orders are orders so, with a shrug of his    face.
'miankse'. Blake traced the crime to the     shoulders, he let the matter rest.           "My hat!"
Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle, that       This was the first occasion that Sexton      Blake looked up from the newspaper.
nefarious organisation headed by Prince      Blake ignored the Si Fan.                    "What is it, young'un?"
Wu Ling. The Brotherhood was trying                                                       "Do you recall the affair of the dragon
to keep the miankse out of the hands of      Months passed. Frantic months! The           miankse? The Si Fan?"
its rightful owners; a rival tong named      detective found himself pushed to the        "Of course. What about it?"
the Si Fan.                                  limits as he finally overthrew the           "I just remembered where I heard
Tinker had wrested the silk banner from      Criminals' Confederation, struggled          about 'em before! I always thought the
the hands of Wu Ling himself and it was      with an increasingly active Zenith the       name sounded strangely familiar!"
returned to the shopkeeper's family. At      Albino, and battled Doctor Satira.           "Me too! Where?"
their request, and with help from one of     Occasionally the words 'Si Fan' popped       "You'll think this ridiculous but it was
his contacts in London's Chinatown,          into his head unbidden and seemed to         in a story book, years ago! You
Blake arranged for its sale to the Si Fan.   stir in him a memory but, for the life of    remember when our first encounter
An astonishing sum of money was              him, he could not dredge it up out of his    with Wu Ling was written up in the
exchanged for the silk and the family        subconscious, so he dismissed it — for       Union Jack?"
breathed a sigh of relief when it was        Blake's memory was eidetic where crime       Blake smiled. "Yes, a masterful
taken off their hands, for it was            was concerned, which meant that if he        example of misinformation and
obviously a dangerous item to possess.       couldn't recall where he'd heard of the      exaggeration! Thank goodness Lord
The case was closed with a final word        Si Fan, then it was of no importance, for    Northcliffe is on our side!"
from Blake's contact, who advised him        it could not be connected with crime.        "Well," continued Tinker, "that same
to seek an audience with Assistant           It was Tinker who eventually provided        week — when the story was published
                                                                                                                                 3

 — a book came out which told a very,         organisation every bit as dangerous as                  The First Chapter
and I mean a very, similar tale. It was       The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle;                The Scheming Begins
about a Chinese warlord named Fu              its leader as cunning and merciless as      Ever since he was sprung from gaol by
Manchu, who led an organisation called        Prince Wu Ling.                             Prince Wu Ling's men after the failure
the Si Fan. He was opposed by an              Assistant Commissioner Sir Denis            of the Great Canal Plot, George
Englishman named — "                          Nayland Smith and his assistant Doctor      Marsden Plummer had been laying low
"Nayland Smith!" interrupted Blake.           Petrie had successfully opposed the Si      in the Rif Mountains of Morocco. He
"Yes! Well guv'nor, you know what             Fan's various schemes for some              had adopted his other identity — that
these publishers are like! They take one      considerable time now. They been            of Sakr-el-Droog, the Hawk of the Peak
story, give it a tweak, change the names,     granted a 'roving commission', which        — and had eaten and fought side by
and republish it under a different title.     allowed them to exercise authority over     side with the wild tribesmen of those
How many of our cases have ended up           any group that could help in their          untamed heights.
being attributed to Nelson Lee or             mission against the Si Fan. It was the      Although he hated the lifestyle, as a
Fenlock Fawn, fr'instance?"                   same commission that Sexton Blake           bandit he excelled. His latent anger, so
"True," nodded Blake.                         and Tinker had been given by the            easily aroused and so ferocious in its
"So I guess I just dismissed the story as a   Secret Intelligence Service to help with    expression, together with his naturally
copy and haven't thought about it since!      their struggle against Wu Ling.             arrogant bearing, impressed the
And now here we are a few months after        Essentially, Blake and Nayland Smith        Riffians; they regarded him as a born
a brush with an organisation called the       were doing the same job for the British     leader. This appealed immensely to his
Si Fan and suddenly that giddy book           government but against different            egotistical nature, so he put up with the
pops into my head!"                           opponents. What angered Blake,              harsh environment and poor food and
"Curious!" said Blake thoughtfully. The       though, was the fact that those             in doing so he gained something that
fact that the Si Fan had featured in an       opponents were ranged against each          he'd never experienced before — a
adventure book explained why he had           other — so why had C kept the               vague sense of loyalty.
so easily, though not consciously,            investigators apart when they could         It was reciprocated. There was a
dismissed it from his mind. He paused         have worked together to exchange            sizeable army of Riffians hidden amid
and glanced at the pearl displayed on         intelligence and to increase the rivalry    the crags and the men would follow
the     mantelpiece.      "Tinker,    after   between the Si Fan and The                  him into Hell's teeth if he so ordered —
breakfast, why don't you track down a         Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle?           and he had so ordered on more than
copy of that book for me?"                    After all, if the two groups were fully     one occasion during the their long and
"Rightie-ho, guv'nor!"                        occupied with each other, they would        violent war against the united forces of
Later that day, Sexton Blake, spread-         have less resources with which to           Spain and France.
eagled in his armchair, lay aside a copy      operate against the British Empire!         Now, though, the ragged army was at a
of 'The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu', lit         C was having none of it.                    low ebb. It had lost its figurehead, Abd
his pipe and started smoking furiously.       "Blake," he explained curtly, "I want the   el-Krim, who had surrendered to the
The consulting room quickly filled with       groups handled separately. You have         French just a few months previously
noxious fumes, causing Pedro, the great       proven to be the best man to oppose         and was currently exiled on the island
bloodhound, to abandon his place on           Wu Ling's group. You and your               of Réunion. It was also in dire need of
the rug to seek the more pleasantly           assistant have been doing it for years      supplies and munitions.
scented air of Mrs Bardell's domain.          and I'm extremely pleased with the          For this reason, Plummer was on his
"I wonder ... " muttered the detective. "I    results. Similarly with Nayland Smith       way to England to appeal to a rather
wonder ... "                                  and the Si Fan. You each have one           shady financier named Fairfax who had
Tinker had gone to the Odeon to see           great force that would like to see you      provided funds to the army on previous
'Big Business', the latest Laurel and         dead. If you combine your talents, you      occasions. In return for his support, the
Hardy film. When he returned, eager to        will each have two great forces plotting    Riffians saw to it that Fairfax received
entertain his guv'nor with the duo's          to cut your throats. If one of you is       concessions on some of the most
latest antics, he found the consulting        done in, the other will be left to battle   productive of the country's phosphate
room empty.                                   overwhelming odds. I cannot afford          mines. He was also guaranteed further
"Hmm, where's he gone off to?" mused          that risk! I don't even want any contact    trade rights when the Riffians secured
the youngster. "Hope I haven't missed         between you two! Nayland Smith is off       territory from their European enemies.
the start of another case!"                   limits, understood?"                        However, if truth be told, Plummer's
Sexton Blake was, in fact, at the             So that was that.                           motivation was rather more selfish than
headquarters of the Secret Intelligence       Sexton Blake didn't agree with C's logic    it seemed, for he regarded himself as a
Service, deep in discussion with C.           but he knew an order when he heard it,      gentleman — and gentlemen require
The mention of Doctor Fu Manchu had           so he returned to Baker Street and          the comforts of civilisation. Luxury was,
broken C's silence concerning Assistant       crossed the 'other organisation' off his    in his opinion, his birthright, and after
Commissioner Denis Nayland Smith              list of unfinished business.                so many months of austerity he could
and the Si Fan.                               It was the second time that Sexton          no longer resist the temptation of
What Blake was now learning infuriated        Blake ignored the Si Fan.                   London's hotels and clubs, even though
him.                                          Thanks to George Marsden Plummer,           that particular city was home to his arch
The Si Fan, he was informed, was an           there would not be a third.                 nemesis, Sexton Blake.
4
So Plummer rode to Tangier and                the beans. Speak!"                            'Colonel Ash's' behalf. A mere three
boarded a boat which, under cover of          Fairfax spilled the beans.                    hours later, Ash was summoned to a
darkness, dropped him on the coast of         Afterwards Plummer sat in silence for         meeting.
Spain just north of Gibraltar. The            ten minutes, his chin resting on his fist,    It took place underground, in a large
Iberian peninsular was dangerous              a frown creasing his brow.                    chamber accessed via a café in the
ground for him. Should the Spanish            Then he looked up and said, "Very well.       Limehouse district of England's capital.
authorities discover Sakr-el-Droog in         So you have the two million they              The chamber was draped with yellow
their territory, he would doubtlessly         demanded?"                                    silks and sumptuously carpeted. Against
share the same fate as Abd el-Krim.           "Y-yes! But parting with it will ruin         one wall there was a raised platform
Even without the significant part he had      me!"                                          upon which stood a carved throne-like
played in the Riff war, Plummer would         "Ruination or death! Which is it to be?       chair. A lamp hung over it, suspended
have found Spain an uncomfortable land        Listen Fairfax, if you want to live, you'll   by golden chains from the ceiling, and
through which to travel. Under the            do exactly as I say. Pay the usual            out of it tendrils of incense slowly
authoritarian rule of General Miguel          amount to the Riffians — put it into the      coiled, filling the room with a sweet
Primo de Rivera, the country was              account we established for that               aroma. The man who sat upon the chair
fragmenting. Its politics were careening      purpose. As for this other matter, let me     was unlike any individual Plummer had
out of control, becoming ever more            deal with it. Give me one and a half          ever encountered before.
extreme, setting neighbours against           million. I'll deliver it to this group and    His eyes, oblique and as intensely green
neighbours, even dividing families. Civil     I'll tell them that you're raising the rest   as Plummer's own, were like those of
war seemed inevitable and an                  and will have it soon. But I'll try to        the mythical dragon depicted on several
atmosphere of lawlessness pervaded the        negotiate with them — make them see           of the cloths and decorations. They
hot, dusty and passionate land.               reason. Maybe you won't have to cough         were the eyes of a sorcerer; serpentine;
Plummer travelled with his head held          up that quarter of a million at all."         hypnotic; terrible. The irises were mere
low and his lips sealed. He rode hard, ate    "But these people ..." quaked Fairfax.        pinpricks and, weirdly, there appeared
little, evaded bandits and eventually         "Never you mind ‘these people'. Leave         to be an inner membrane, white and
made it to the Pyrenees, which he             everything to me."                            filmy, which occasionally blinked
thankfully crossed. He entered France         "But — but —"                                 independently of the outer eyelid. The
and two days later traversed the              "Damn you! Do it or I will wring your         man's shoulders were high, almost
Channel, landed in Southampton and            neck right here, right now!"                  hunched; his body long and slender; his
took a train to London. Finally, tired,       Reluctantly, with no vestige of courage       hands large and bony with long, talon-
irritated and in no mood for an               left to help him resist, Fairfax agreed.      like nails. But more overpowering than
argument, he stood face to face with          Two hours later, George Marsden               any aspect of his physique was the
Fairfax who said: "It's impossible! I can't   Plummer left the office with one and a        intense malignancy that radiated out
finance the Rif army any more!"               half million pounds in cheques in his         from him.
Plummer's agate green eyes flared             pocket. He had given the financier the        Plummer felt as if he was in the
dangerously.                                  address of a safe-house and ordered           presence of pure evil.
"You refuse? Explain!"                        him to hide there until negotiations          He was in the presence of Doctor Fu
"Please," begged Fairfax, "You have to        were complete. Plummer fully intended         Manchu.
understand that the situation has             to contact the mysterious other group.        "It is dangerous," purred the doctor,
changed!"                                     He wanted to know who they were and           "for a Westerner to seek an audience
Plummer placed his knuckles on                what they were up to. However, there          with me."
Fairfax's desk and leaned forward on his      would be no negotiations and they             "Of that I am aware," said Colonel Ash.
muscular arms, bringing his strange eyes      would never receive the money.                "But I come as one who fought at the
closer to the financier's round, fat face.    That was his.                                 side of Abd el-Krim."
"How so?"                                                                                   "The defeated," said Fu Manchu,
"I-I-I'm being bled dry!"                     George Marsden Plummer adopted a              without a trace of sarcasm.
"Not by us!" snapped Plummer.                 disguise and a new identity — that of         "Defeated? Yes. He surrendered to the
"No! No!" stammered Fairfax. "There's         Colonel Ash, disgraced army officer —         French this May past. But his army
another group! They are asking for two        and approached Fairfax's contact, a           remains defiant ... and it is mine to
million. Two million!"                        Chinaman named Sing. This man — he            command."
Plummer reeled backwards. Another             was a clerk in a lawyer's office — told       "Indeed?" Fu Manchu's left eyebrow
group? Two million? Who would                 him a great deal.                             raised slightly. "You don't appear to be
demand such a staggering amount?              Plummer had already worked with the           a Mohammadan."
"What!" he barked. "Who are they?"            Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle and          "I am not!" answered Plummer.
Fairfax dropped his head into his hands       found it to be a profitable experience.       "Nevertheless, the Rif army will obey
and blubbered, "I daren't tell! I can't!      Now he was learning of another                me."
They'll kill me!"                             organisation of the same ilk — and it         "And why should this be of interest to
Plummer reached out and grabbed the           wasn't long before a scheme occurred          me, white man?"
man's collar, hauling him halfway across      to him.                                       "Because I am at your disposal! With
the desk.                                     Sing took a carefully worded message to       your financial backing, my men can
"I will kill you right now unless you spill   the leader of the organisation on             regroup and re-arm. Then you need but
                                                                                                                               5

say the word and they will sweep into       him and he sent von Horst as his            financial coups? That was a puzzle, for
Spain like a swarm of locusts, as did the   representative. It seems that Hitler's      Franklyn Bennett confided in no one.
Mohammadans of yore. They will              plans are bigger even than the rest of      His dealings in the money-markets
conquer the Iberian peninsular and          Europe can imagine. If he gains the         were for the benefit of one man only —
make it their own. And once                 power he craves, the consequences           and that man was Franklyn Bennett!
established, they will give you             could destabilise the entire Western        His vast wealth — and no one knew
sovereignty. Spain will be your             hemisphere. This would be to my             how many millions the man was worth
foothold. From it, you can expand your      advantage, especially if, through you, I    — was directed in its flow by his brain
operations into the whole of Europe."       secure Spain as my stronghold before        only. The torrent of it would often
Fu Manchu looked thoughtful.                Hitler makes his move, for in the           sweep through the markets, crushing all
"Interesting," he said. "Spain is like a    Pyranees it has the most easily             opposition like an avalanche, leaving
sick dog. There is no strength to its       defended land border in Europe. Von         devastation and chaos in its wake.
bite. Doubtlessly, it could be easily       Horst has asked me to fund the Nazi         When that happened, ruined men
taken. But why would I wish to see it       party and to quietly exert my influence     cursed his name, but Franklyn Bennett
cower under the flag of Islam?"             over events to ensure that Hitler gains     sat in his office and smiled as he raked
"The East is the East," said Plummer.       control of Germany ... and I am             in thousands more.
"That is so," muttered the man they         inclined to fall in with his scheme. But    Recently, though, that smile had been
called the Devil Doctor. "You are an        frankly, Colonel Ash, I loathe von          less frequent, for Bennett had invested
intriguing individual, Colonel Ash. But     Horst and mean to test the extent of        in an organisation that had promised
tell me: how do you intend to profit        his loyalty to me. I think you can help."   him much but which, so far, had
from this?"                                 "Ah," smiled Plummer, "and ‘helping'        delivered little. Worse: it was taking
"I want the Andalus."                       will be a test of my loyalty too?"          more and more! And for once, his
"You want ... ?"                            "Of course."                                ruthlessness was being weakened by an
"The Andalus."                              Plummer dipped his head. "As I have         emotion he had never felt before —
Doctor Fu Manchu's eyes glittered.          already stated, I am yours to               fear!
"Ah, I see. You would be a Lord, with       command."                                   At a quarter to four, when George
peasants to serve you, pay you rent and     "Very well. We will retire to the next      Marsden Plummer was in conference
fawn at your feet?"                         room to discuss our plans further.          with Doctor Fu Manchu, a man named
Plummer grinned and said, "Precisely!"      Then, as your first test, I want you to     Thompson, who was one of Bennett's
Fu Manchu surveyed him silently for a       locate a man named Fairfax. At noon         clerks, knocked on the door of his
moment. Then:                               today he should have supplied my            employer's private room. In his hand
"An army sweeping across Spain. The         organisation with a certain sum of          Thompson held the cup of tea that
concept interests me. It interests me a     money. He failed and has now                Franklyn Bennett always drank around
great deal!"                                vanished. This is the second time in        this time of the afternoon. The clerk
Plummer gave a slight bow. "I offer my      the past few days that a financier has      silently set the cup down and retired.
services as military advisor."              betrayed me. The first is being dealt       Bennett, who was deeply engrossed in
"Hmmm. Tell me Colonel Ash, have            with even as we speak. Now it is            some documents, did not acknowledge
you ever encountered a man named            Fairfax's turn to pay the price ... and     his clerk. There was nothing unusual
von Horst; a German?"                       you, my dear colonel, must witness the      about that.
"No," answered Plummer, and he              consequences of betrayal!"                  An hour later, Thompson re-entered
couldn't help but sneer, for despite                                                    the room the room and this time
being born in Melbourne, he                          The Second Chapter                 encountered        a    very      unusual
considered himself an Englishman and               Death Has Green Hands                circumstance indeed: Franklyn Bennett
possessed a low opinion of the German       Franklyn Bennett, financier, had a          was lying back in his chair stone dead!
race.                                       small office near the Bank of England.      His tea still stood at his elbow,
Doctor Fu Manchu noted the reaction         But though his office was small, the        untouched.
and said, "I feel the same way, Colonel.    business done within its cramped walls      Thompson, a thin, nervous-looking
Von Horst is an army officer, an            was exceedingly large. For Franklyn         man with white hair, stood tottering on
extremist, and a man I do not               Bennett was one of the richest men in       the carpet as he gazed at the dead man.
altogether trust. However, he recently      the City of London, and his knowledge       It was not the face at which he stared —
brought to me an interesting proposal.      of international money matters was          a face now white as chalk — but at the
He is an adherent of Hitler and his         masterly. He was a heavily built man of     hands.
Nazi party. You are aware of that           middle-age, with very little hair on a      For Franklyn Bennett's lifeless hands
individual?"                                round, shining skull, a red face, and       were resting upon the documents he
"Of course!"                                rather small eyes that never looked         had been reading ... and they were
Hitler is, by all accounts, something of    anyone straight in the face.                bright green!
a fantatic —"                               What lay beneath that bald skull was
"A madman, more like!" interrupted          more or less a mystery. A restlessly        "Very strange," murmured Sexton
Plummer.                                    active and crafty brain, of course;         Blake, a frown upon his strong, aquiline
"Maybe so, but even madmen have             anyone could recognise that. But what       face.
their uses. I recently made contact with    schemes and plottings and dawning           The famous detective of Baker Street
6
was pacing the rug by the fireplace in his       confabulation with you, Mr Blake."              good as dead!" he repeated wildly.
consulting room. He had just tossed the          The detective glanced at the name on           "Please try to remain calm," advised
morning paper on to the table. In it he had      the card: Mr Malcolm Fairfax.                  Blake. "Can I offer you a cigarette?"
read of the amazing death of Franklyn            "I don't know him. But show him up,            He held a box of cigarettes out to the
Bennett.                                         please, Mrs Bardell."                          trembling man. Fairfax leaned forward
“You're right there, guv'nor! What a             The housekeeper departed and a few             and took one, lit it with shaking
mystery!" agreed Tinker.                         moments later there came hurried               fingers, and dropped back heavily into
Blake's youthful but highly capable              footsteps on the stairs. A short, stout        the chair again.
assistant reached out from his chair and         man in a morning-coat, carrying a silk         "Green hands!" they heard him mutter,
picked the Daily Radio off the table, and        hat, practically ran into the room.            almost to himself. "The dragon's
again scanned the glaring headlines of the       "Sit down please, Mr Fairfax. You              claws!"
special edition:                                 wished to see me?" said Blake.                 He held out his own, staring down at
                                                 Malcolm Fairfax collapsed panting into         them in horror, as though he thought
   FAMOUS FINANCIER DEATH                        an armchair, which Sexton Blake                to see them turn green before his eyes.
MYSTERY! HANDS PAINTED GREEN!                    ruefully noted was his own rather than         "Mine will be like that! You see, I
                                                 the one generally favoured by clients.         defied them too! They asked too
The paragraph below, which had been              Blake's chair, to the left of the fireplace,   much ... "
written by their friend Derek 'Splash' Page,     was a decrepit saddlebag affair which          Suddenly he gave a tremulous sigh and
the paper's irrepressible crime reporter,        had, over the years, perfectly adapted         closed his eyes.
went on to describe how Franklyn Bennett         itself to his contours. By contrast,           In a moment Blake was beside him.
had been found dead at his desk yesterday        Tinker's armchair, on the right —              "He's fainted, Tinker."
afternoon.                                       which doubled as the clients' chair —          He stared down at the short, stout
The doctors declared that the cause of his       was newer, smarter and in every way            figure with a frown. "It looked as
demise, as far as they could tell from an        more respectable-looking.                      though we were about to hear
initial examination, was heart-failure, and                                                     something uncommonly interesting.
one of them gave it as his opinion, judging                                                     Well, I suppose he'll have his wits back
from the expression on the man's face, that                                                     in a moment. The strain of his fear and
the heart attack had been caused by fear —                                                      excitement has been too much for
a great and terrible fear — the                                                                 him."
circumstances of which could not be                                                             As he spoke, Blake loosened Fairfax's
guessed at.                                                                                     collar.
But the great thing was, of course, the                                                         They heard a sudden knock on the
mystery of the green hands. What was the                                                        street door.
meaning of that startling fact?                                                                 "Hallo! Another one! It's getting like
"The doctors can't say whether his hands                                                        Clapham Junction here! Who is it this
were daubed with the paint while he was                                                         time?" said Tinker.
alive or after he died," muttered Tinker,        The face of the man now occupying              The door opened a minute later and
glancing across at Blake.                        Blake's chair had gone a peculiar grey         Mrs Bardell appeared. "Land sakes! I'm
"So I read," nodded the detective.               colour. His eyes seemed wild with              up an' down them stairs like a you-
"They are going to analyse the paint," went      terror.                                        you!" she began but then broke off
on the youngster thoughtfully. "There's an       "It-it's awful! Terrible !" he stammered,      with a little cry when she saw Fairfax's
idea that in some way it may have been the       moistening his lips. His hands were            condition.
cause of death — blood-poisoning or              trembling. He could not sit still, and in      "Don't be alarmed. He's only fainted,"
something."                                      another moment he had jumped to his            said Blake soothingly. "He was over-
"I scarcely think that is likely," said Blake.   feet again. "The green hands —"                excited. Who has called now?"
“I'm strongly inclined to favour the opinion     He broke off with a shudder.                   "A gentleman what gave 'is name as
of the doctor who states that Bennett died       Blake took the opportunity to gently           Colonel Hash. He seemed very
from terror. But what scared him? What did       guide Fairfax to the client chair,             hanxious to see you, sir. Shall I show
he see in his last moments that numbed his       lowering him into it. He glanced at            'im up? He asked if Mr Fairfax was
soul with such fear that it slew him?"           Tinker and saw, with amusement, that           'ere."
"But why the green hands?" exclaimed             his assistant had noted the manoeuvre          "You told him that he was?"
Tinker.                                          and was grinning broadly.                      "Yes, sir."
There was a muffled knock heard from the         "Please control yourself, Mr Fairfax,"         "Show him up then, Mrs Bardell."
street door below.                               Blake said quietly. "Let us hear your          "And you mean 'yo-yo'!" quipped
"Who's this?" the youngster wondered             business clearly. Am I to understand           Tinker.
aloud.                                           that it is in connection with the death        The old housekeeper glared at him and
They heard the footsteps of Mrs Bardell,         of Mr. Franklyn Bennett?"                      muttered “I'll yo-yo you!” as she
the housekeeper, going along the hall to         "Yes! Heavens, I just read it in the           hurried from the room. A few
open the door. A minute later she brought a      paper! It's ghastly! I want to break           moments later, with her returning
visiting card up to the consulting room and      loose, but-but now, if it's known I have       footsteps came the heavier tread of a
declared, "A gentleman what wants to 'ave a      come here, I am as good as dead. As            man.
                                                                                                                                     7




Colonel Ash proved to be a large              The visitor shrugged his shoulders.         I can't allow that," he said sharply. "He
individual: six foot if an inch, and with a   "You must not attach too much               must stay here until he recovers
wide chest and muscular shoulders.            importance to that, Mr Blake," he           consciousness. I cannot have him taken
"Strong as an ox!" was Tinker's inward        replied. "My friend, I fear, is on the      away. Remember, I do not know you,
description of him. His face was burned       verge of a nervous breakdown. He has        though I must confess, I have the strangest
dark by the sun, and a long black             been very much overworked of late, and      feeling that we have met before. Have we,
moustache, thick and bristly, grew with       I fear for his mind if he does not obey     Colonel Ash?"
a downward sweep upon his lip. From           the doctors and take a year's rest. He      "No! Come now! This is absurd!"
behind a pair of smoked spectacles,           was intimately acquainted with poor         exclaimed the colonel impatiently.
deep-set eyes of an indeterminate             Franklyn Bennett, and his death — and       But he sat Fairfax back down in a chair —
colour swept round the room, taking in        the strange mystery surrounding it, in      Sexton Blake's chair, to Tinker's intense
the unconscious man in the chair, and         particular, I fancy — has pushed him        amusement.
Blake and Tinker, at a single                 over the brink. I suppose he had some       Suddenly there was a low, ominous growl
penetrating glance.                           idea of asking you to investigate the       from the the other side of the room.
"Mr Blake?" he boomed, in a loud but          mystery. That's why he's here and why       Pedro had padded up the stairs from Mrs
mellow voice.                                 he's worked up so emotionally."             Bardell's domain and had nosed through
"I am he," answered the detective. "You       He glanced around again in an odd way.      the door. He was now watching the big
are Colonel Ash?"                             "Did he tell you much before he             man with a ferocious light in his eyes.
Instead of offering a reply, the              fainted?" he asked.                         Clearly something about Ash had aroused
newcomer moved across with quick              "A little," answered Blake guardedly.       the bloodhound's antagonism.
strides to the chair where Fairfax lay.       Again the odd look flashed into the half-   Colonel Ash recoiled with an oath.
Ash was wearing a thick motoring coat         concealed eyes of Colonel Ash.              Quickly he plunged a hand into his breast
that increased his big frame. He carried      "I think I had better take him home at      pocket and took out what seemed to be a
a tweed cap under his arm.                    once," he said abruptly. "I have a car      syringe.
"My friend is ill?" he cried, in alarm.       outside."                                   "Look out!" cried Blake.
"Mr Fairfax has fainted, that is all," said   In a moment he stooped and scooped          With a hiss, a spray of liquid came
Blake calmly. "You say he is a friend of      the plump little figure into his great      shooting from the tiny nozzle. It took the
yours? Can you tell us the cause of his       arms.                                       detective full in the face even as he tried to
great alarm and excitement?"                  But Blake stepped forward quickly. "No,     leap aside. He reeled back, hands to his
8
eyes, in agony. The spray was pure             whereabouts of the financier, for he        Crossing the grease-encrusted room,
ammonia.                                       himself had told Fairfax where to lay       he opened another door behind which
With a loud snarl, Pedro flew for Ash's        low. However, he was certain that at        was revealed the top of a flight of steps.
throat.                                        least two members of the Si Fan were        He descended these until he came to a
The man wheeled, directing the blinding,       shadowing him, so this morning,             short corridor blocked at the end by a
suffocating spray at the dog's face. It        having enjoyed his first night in a         third door. When he knocked upon
drenched Pedro's head even as the              comfortable bed for many a month, he        this, a panel slid back and a voice
bloodhound was in mid-air. Pedro crashed       made a show of visiting the financier's     whispered, "Tell me of vengeance!"
into the colonel — who stumbled                office and home, and of following up        "Vengeance is the dragon's claw!"
backwards — and fell, yelping and              nonexistent leads. Then he went to the      answered Plummer.
frantically shaking his great head.            safe house where Fairfax was hiding         The door swung open. He stepped
Tinker, with blazing eyes, hurled himself at   only to be told by the landlady that the    through into the thickly carpeted
the big man but was met with a staggering      financier had departed half an hour         chamber in which he had been
blow to the point of the jaw. Back he          earlier to visit Sexton Blake, the famous   interviewed the previous day. The
crashed, and lay inert; Colonel Ash's fist     detective.                                  carved throne was unoccupied. A few
had found its mark, sending the youngster      The news came as a shattering blow.         Chinamen and dacoits looked up at
into oblivion.                                 The very last thing that Plummer            him from the cushions on which they
With a grim laugh, Ash thrust the syringe      desired was another encounter with          squatted. Then they resumed their
back into his pocket, scooped Fairfax out of   Blake. For a few moments he                 games of fan tan, their meditations and
the chair again, flung him across one          considered abandoning his schemes           their mumbled conversations. He
shoulder like a bundle of rags, and strode     and fleeing the country ... but with so     ignored them, strode across the soft
swiftly out of the room. Blake, blindly        much money at stake his greed               carpet, knocked upon a scarlet-painted
staggering about with his hands to his eyes,   empowered him with reckless courage         door, and stood waiting. In answer to
was powerless to stop him.                     and, leaping into the car put at his        the soft "Come in!" that he heard, he
Mrs Bardell saw Ash in the passage and         disposal by Fu Manchu, he ordered the       pushed the portal open and passed
gave a cry of alarm at sight of his burden.    chauffeur to drive to Baker Street,         through into Doctor Fu Manchu's
He thrust her roughly aside and growled,       making one quick stop en route to           study. He was still wearing his
"Tell your master that George Marsden          purchase a syringe and a bottle of          motoring coat and carrying a cap. A
Plummer called this morning!" before           ammonia.                                    long cigar protruded in an aggressive
darting out through the door, across the       His mission had been successful.            way from the side of his mouth.
pavement and into a car which was drawn        But Plummer was furious with himself        Like the outer chamber, the study was
up and waiting. A moment later it had          for revealing his identity as he had left   furnished with the gaudy lavishness of
driven off into the wet gloom and vanished     the Baker Street house. It had been an      the East. Chinese carvings, furniture
in the direction of Piccadilly.                act of unthinking bravado ... and an act    and statuary, were set against walls
Colonel Ash had gone, swallowed in the         guaranteed to put Blake on his trail.       hidden by soft hanging silk. The ceiling
teeming millions of London. And with him       "Fool that I am," muttered the master       was painted with inscriptions and
was Malcolm Fairfax, the man who had           crook to himself, "Now I will have to       figures in scarlet and gold. The carpets
stammered about the green hands of             get this business over with as soon as      were bright with a wealth of colour —
Franklyn Bennett!                              possible!"                                  the general effect was such that
                                               After securing Fairfax and delivering       Plummer, who had removed his
            The Third Chapter                  him to a certain premises in Woolwich,      smoked spectacles, blinked once or
                 The Café                      he lunched in the restaurant of the         twice as he entered, as if dazzled.
George Marsden Plummer had spent most          Argent Hotel, spending a happy couple       Fu Manchu was seated on a cushion at
of the previous day in the company of          of hours indulging his passion for the      a low, ornate table.
Doctor Fu Manchu. The Chinese warlord          finest foods, wines, brandies and cigars.   Plummer took his cigar from his
had questioned him at great length about       On top of the one and a half million        mouth.
the strengths and weaknesses of the Riffian    Plummer had acquired from Fairfax, Fu       "I've got him."
forces; about their history and their          Manchu had paid him a generous              "Put your cigar out," ordered the head
ambitions. Plummer responded to this           'retainer', and when George Marsden         of the Si Fan. "I do not allow smoking
interrogation with the truth, and it is as     Plummer had money in his pocket,            in my presence."
well he did, for the Devil Doctor was far      there was nothing he liked better than      Plummer hesitated a moment, then
better informed than his guest suspected,      to spend it!                                dropped his cigar to the carpet and
and had Plummer lied or made an error in       It was a rather worse-for-wear 'Colonel     crushed it into the expensive fabric
his replies, he would have been swatted        Ash', who, slightly unsteadily, entered     with his foot.
with the same casual, murderous disdain        the café in Limehouse that afternoon.       A quiet sibilant hiss escaped from the
with which one treats an irritating fly.       He walked past the tables with an ill-      doctor. There was a moment's silence,
As it was, Fu Manchu was satisfied and sent    concealed expression of contempt            then he asked, "So he tried to get to the
him on his mission to find Fairfax believing   directed at the rag-tag collection of       detective, Sexton Blake?'
that in Colonel Ash he had discovered a        Asiatics who were gathered there and,       Plummer nodded. He was right: he had
valuable — though as yet untested — ally.      unchallenged, he pushed through a           been shadowed!
Plummer had no need to trace the               door leading to a filthy kitchen.           "He did get there. But I got him away,
                                                                                                                                   9

and before he had told anything.             Their eyes were still paining them          sitting inside."
Blake's eyes must be smarting still. I       terribly from the effects of the            "So you think there's some sort of meeting
used ammonia when he tried to stop           ammonia, which had left them                place accessible through the café?"
me taking Fairfax."                          absolutely helpless while Colonel Ash       "It's the only explanation, guv'nor! I went
"A narrow shave, Colonel Ash," purred        escaped from the Baker Street house         'round to the back for a while but there
the soft voice. "Where is Fairfax now?"      with the insensible Fairfax. Then Mrs       was no activity there, so I don't think the
"At Woolwich. He'd fainted at Blake's        Bardell broke the news that Ash was,        Celestials I saw shuffling through the
place — that's why he told nothing. But      in fact, Sexton Blake's oldest enemy:       front door were then shuffling out the
he came to after I got him away. He's        George Marsden Plummer!                     back!"
nearly off his head with terror."            Tinker had gone to Scotland Yard to         "Hmmm. What's the address?"
"He has cause to be afraid!" The             report Fairfax's kidnapping and the         "Number 8, Harbour Wall Street."
slanting eyes gleamed. "He is a fool."       presence of Plummer in London to            "And, orientals, you say?"
Plummer grunted. An uneasy look              Detective-Inspector Coutts. On his          Tinker nodded. "A lot of 'em! You don't
came into his face as he met the eyes of     way back, the youngster had passed          suppose Plummer is still working with Wu
the doctor. He, too, was afraid of this      the Argent Hotel and had recognised         Ling?"
oriental and that was a new experience       the big figure of 'Colonel Ash'             "It's highly probable, Tinker. Remember,
for him, for hitherto he had been afraid     stumbling out of the entrance and into      Wu Ling broke him out of prison after
of no man except, perhaps, for Sexton        a waiting car.                              'The Great Canal Plot' earlier this year! I
Blake.                                       Tinker had not been seen by the             thought he'd fled back to Morocco but it
"What are you going to do with him?"         colonel. So he had promptly climbed         may be that The Brotherhood of the
he asked, suddenly.                          into an empty taxi and cried, "Follow       Yellow Beetle is calling in the debt!"
The Chinaman smiled.                         that car and keep out of sight! I'll give   "Phew!" gasped Tinker. "Up against those
"Fairfax is finished," he said.              you an extra ten-bob if you stick to it     two again!"
"Tomorrow night von Horst will be            without being seen!"                        "Indeed!" said Blake. He looked
tested in the Temple of the Dragon.          "Ha!" cried the driver. "'Oo do you         thoughtful for a moment then: "Are you
Fairfax will play a major role in that       think you are, boy assistant to Sexton      fit enough for an all-nighter, young'un? I
test."                                       bloomin' Blake?"                            want you to watch the place while I try to
Plummer nodded.                              "As a matter of fact, yes! And less of      find out what Wu Ling has been up to
"I thought that would be it," he said,       the 'boy', if you don't mind!" snapped      since the Suez affair."
evading the jade eyes that were              Tinker, throwing a handful of coins         "Fit as a fiddle and raring to go, guv'nor!"
directed upon him. "Any news from            into the driver's lap. "Now drive!"         "Good lad! Take a detour down to the
Canton?" he added.                           "Bloomin' 'eck! Watch me earn it!"          kitchen first. Have Mrs Bardell slap
"Yes. A ship is arranged. Guns and           grinned the driver.                         together some sandwiches for you!"
munitions will be loaded within the          They sped away.                             An hour or so later, Tinker was strolling
week. Then it will sail for Tangier.         The car in front entered Limehouse          along Harbour Wall Street again. He had
Incidentally, I have not seen the paper.     some time later and parked outside          beef sandwiches in his pocket and chicken
What is said about Franklyn Bennett?"        the café. The taxi passed it, rounded a     sandwiches in his stomach. All was good
"The public is set by the ears over that,"   corner and stopped. Tinker dismissed        with the world — there was nothing he
grinned Plummer grimly.                      it and, poking his head around the          liked more than good grub and a mission
"Franklyn Bennett was very unwise —          corner, watched Plummer go into the         from Sexton Blake! The rain had started
as big a fool as Fairfax. And speaking of    café. A couple of hours later, his          to fall and was pattering on his glistening
fools, von Horst will be waiting for you     quarry had still not emerged and the        macintosh. He had a cap well pulled down
at eight o'clock in the temple. But          youngster decided to report to his          over his ears. From beneath its peak, he
before you go to introduce yourself, sit     master.                                     shot a sideways glance at number 8. The
down. We must discuss your role in           Five o'clock was striking when Sexton       café was open but seemed to be empty.
tomorrow's ceremony, among other             Blake's assistant got back to Baker         A few yards farther on, he ran into a
things."                                     Street.                                     constable. The youngster stopped and
Plummer drew a large silk cushion up         The detective, his eyes still red and       greeted him. "Hallo Lomax! How goes it?"
to the table, seating himself opposite       watery, listened to his story with rapt     "Evenin'      laddie!"     exclaimed      the
the doctor.                                  interest.                                   policeman. "Wet as usual! What's your
Some time later, outside the café, a         "So he was alone? Fairfax was not with      game?"
figure detached itself from the shadows      him?"                                       "Oh, just nosing around for the guv'nor. Is
of a doorway and, with head down,            "No, guv'nor! He must have taken him        this your regular beat?"
hurried off. It was Tinker.                  somewhere before going to the Argent        Police Constable Lomax gave a heartfelt
                                             and then on to this greasy chopstick        sigh. "Ufff! Yes, for my sins! I gave the
Sheer luck had enabled Tinker to trace       place. Plummer went in but, when I          sergeant some cheek and the silly old
George Marsden Plummer to the                managed to get a peek in through the        duffer got his own back by posting me to
Limehouse café.                              window, he wasn't at any of the tables      Limehouse! I'll probably end up with a
When the youngster had recovered his         or anywhere in sight. There were a lot      knife in my back! And you should watch
senses after that knock-down blow, he        of oriental types coming and going as       yourself too, m'lad! This is a dangerous
had attended to Blake and to Pedro.          well but only ever a few customers          neighbourhood!"
10
Tinker smiled. "And don't I know it! Me and       the evidence isn't enough to convince        "I AM the police!" roared Coutts.
the guv'nor have had plenty of run-ins in this    me. I think you and I should have a          "What in heaven's name is all this racket
area! Say, Lomax, what do you know about          nose around. What do you say?"               about?" came Sexton Blake's voice from
that café over there?"                            "You're on! I'll be with you in a jiffy!"    the stairs. "Inspector Coutts, unhand my
"Well, I wouldn't eat in it!" grunted the         Half an hour after Coutts had slammed        landlady at once!"
constable. "I'm not so keen on fried cat and      down the telephone receiver, there           "But — But —" burbled Coutts,
noodles or boiled rat and rice!"                  came a thunderous pounding at Sexton         snatching his hand from Mrs Bardell. "I
Tinker chuckled. "A Chinese place, then?"         Blake's front door, accompanied by a         was only trying to calm —"
"I should say so! I've seen floods of 'em         frenzied clanging of the doorbell.           A tall Chinaman stepped into view
comin' and goin'!" Lomax grinned. "I bet          "Good ‘eavens!" cried Mrs Bardell. "If       behind Mrs Bardell. His skin was like
you've read about the 'yellow peril' in your      that ain't Defective-Suspector Scoots,       yellow parchment, translucent, and so
story books! Well, maybe this is where it's all   then I'm the Duchess of Devonshire!          criss-crossed by fine wrinkles that it
planned, eh lad? ha ha!"                          Always a-hammerin' the polish hoff the       looked almost mummified. His oblique
"I'll bet," said Tinker with a laugh. "Well,      door 'e is! Alrightie! Alrightie! Hold       eyes were thickly hooded and jet black.
thanks Lomax. Go safely! And give my              your horsies! I'm a-comin'!"                 From his upper lip, long thin moustaches
regards to Mrs Lomax when you get home!"          Sexton Blake's formidable landlady           drooped to either side of his thin-lipped
"I will, if I can get a word in edgeways!"        flung open the door and stood                mouth, reaching to just below his chin.
The constable moved on.                           blocking the entrance, glaring at            He was wearing a felt hat and long yellow
Two hours later, Tinker left the shadow of a      Detective-Inspector Coutts.                  robes with voluminous sleeves into
doorway, slouched past the café window and        "If I've told you once, I've told you 'alf   which his hands were thrust. His sinister,
surreptitiously peered in. It was an ill-timed    a dozen times," she declared. "If you        unblinking eyes fixed on those of
act, for just as he passed the door, it opened,   will hinsist on banging the polish off       Detective-Inspector Coutts and the Yard
throwing a glow of light out across the wet       the woodworm, then do it with that           man took an involuntary step backwards.
pavement, and the large figure of Colonel         thick 'ead of yours and not with your        "Who — who — who the dickens are
Ash stepped out straight into the youngster's     bally fisticuffs. At least thataways you     you?"
path. Tinker, startled, took a step back and      might knock some sense into yerself!"        "I velly solly," said the Celestial, "But you
looked up into Plummer's agate eyes.              "Stand aside, my good woman! I'm             no put hands on Mr Brake's randrady!
"Blake's whelp!" gasped the crook. In a flash,    here on police business!" snapped            She velly plecious! Cook velly velly
Plummer's fist shot out and caught Tinker         Coutts.                                      good! Must not be manhandled by fatty
smack on the bruise that marked its previous      "I don't care if you're a-thumping my        man flom Scotrand Yard!"
impact, with exactly the same result. Tinker      polish for the perlice or for 'is madjesty   "Fatty!" exploded Coutts in indignation.
crumpled.                                         the King of Hingland, gawd bless 'im!"       "Ha! That's right!" exclaimed Mrs
"Well well!" muttered Plummer, "You're just       announced Mrs Bardell. "Just stop it!        Bardell. "You tell 'im, Mr Blake!"
what I need!”                                     It's uncivilated! And you can give the       "What?" cried Coutts. "Brake? I mean
                                                  doorbell a rest too! Goodness, my            Blake? That's you, Blake?"
              The Fourth Chapter                  nerves are all a-jangle what with the        The Chinaman gave a dignified bow of
Detective-Inspector Coutts Gets Involved          noise of it. Thought there was an            his head.
The next morning, Sexton Blake telephoned         hearthcake, I did!"                          "Pah!" exploded Coutts, punching his
Scotland Yard and asked to be put through to      Through all this, Detective-Inspector        already dented bowler again before
Detective-Inspector Coutts. The Yard man's        Coutts had been trying, unsuccessfully,      slamming it back onto his head.
voice, gruff as always, barked: "Blake, is that   to push past the old dame — but Mrs          "I'll give you 'pah'!" noted Mrs Bardell.
you? What is it? Any news of Plummer?"            Bardell was having none of it. With          "You're lucky I don't take a broom to
"No, but Tinker hasn't reported in this           hands on ample hips and legs braced,         yer!"
morning," said Blake.                             she stood her ground and resisted the        "No need for that!" advised the Celestial
"In? In from where?"                              Yard man. Never a patient fellow at the      in Sexton Blake's voice. "Don't worry
"I had him watching a café in Limehouse.          best of times, Coutts snatched off his       yourself further, Mrs Bardell. I shall have
He'd traced Plummer to it. It's a Chinese         bowler and drove a fist into it, roaring,    stern words with the inspector here
place!"                                           "By the Lord Harry! I'll have you            about the intensity of his ... er ..."
"What! Chinese!"                                  clapped in irons, woman! Let me              "Knockering and ringifying!"
Blake heard distinctly over the telephone         through!"                                    "Yes, quite!"
wire the sound of Coutts's bowler hat being       "Oh, clappered in irons, is it!"             With a final glare at Coutts, Mrs Bardell
vigorously thrown against the wall. Coutts        screeched Mrs Bardell. "That's 'ow           turned and waddled back towards her
had a habit of expressing himself with            you'd treat an old widder woman what         kitchen. "Intensity, he calls it!" she
assaults against his headgear. "Are you           is only trying to protectionise the          grumbled. "More like insanity! Got a
suggesting," the Yard man shouted, "that the      respeckerbility of her master's front        screw loose, that's 'is problem. 'ow 'e ever
scoundrel has hooked up with Wu Ling              door! 'ooligan! Vandal!"                     got to be a defective-suspector fair
again?"                                           "My good woman, please calm                  boggles me mind!"
"As far as I've been able to ascertain from the   yourself" insisted Coutts more softly.       Detective-Inspector Coutts mopped his
admittedly flimsy evidence, Prince Wu Ling        He lay a soothing hand on the                face with a large red and white checked
went straight back to China after we              landlady's arm.                              handkerchief as Blake exited the house,
scuppered his Suez Canal plot. But as I say,      "Help! Help!" she yelled. "Perlice!"         closing the door behind him.
                                                                                                                                 11

"I think you may have just uninvited        not engage his attention for very long      master to establish passwords for each of
yourself to Christmas dinner," the          because, before much more than ten          his outposts in this godless country. Has
Baker Street man mused.                     minutes had passed, he had witnessed        my guidance been followed?"
The look of horror that passed across       a number of individuals passing             "It has!"
Coutts's face was so comical that under     through the dining room and                 "And the passwords are changed
normal circumstances Blake would            disappearing into the kitchen. He had       frequently, as I suggested?"
have burst out laughing. These,             also seen others emerge from the            "Yes! Yes! We change them each week!"
though,         were      not     normal    kitchen to leave the premises. None of      Sexton Blake placed a hand on the man's
circumstances. He was worried about         them stopped to eat. All of them            shoulder and gave a slight smile. "You
Tinker.                                     looked rather better off than the café's    serve the master well, honourable one! I
A great many times in the past, Tinker      customers.                                  will be sure to mention this to him!"
had not reported back to Blake at the       After twenty minutes or so, and leaving     The little man looked pathetically pleased,
time arranged. Usually it was because       the unpalatable slop half finished, he      his plump cheeks bunching into an eager
he was following up a new lead or           rose and moved towards the kitchen.         smile as he rapidly bowed his head over
shadowing a suspect. However, when          "Hi! You there!" came a cry in              and over.
George Marsden Plummer was                  Cantonese.                                  "Of course," continued Blake, "I have been
involved ... well, anything could have      Blake turned and levelled his gaze at       at sea these weeks past, so have not yet
happened!                                   the café's proprietor, a short but very     been informed of the current password."
"Come along, let's get to work!" said       fat Chinaman.                               "You will hear the statement 'Tell me of
Blake tersely.                              "Where do you think you are going?"         vengeance!'"      whispered      the    little
They hailed a taxi and climbed into it.     Blake bowed and replied in flawless         Chinaman. "You must answer 'Vengeance
"My guess is, you're going to try to get    Cantonese: "Forgive me, honourable          is the dragon's claw!'"
into that café!" said Coutts.               sir. I have an appointment."                Blake nodded, patted the man's shoulder
"Thus the disguise, yes," answered          "I have not seen you before!" came the      and left him, crossing to the kitchen.
Blake. "And sorry about that 'fatty'        challenge.                                  Inside it were two men — cooks — whose
remark. I was just playing the role."       "This is true. I have not been here         general appearance made the detective
"Hmmph! Well, quite so! But I mean,         before. I have just arrived in this         regret the few spoonfuls of soup he'd
really, I don't see that it was necessary   accursed country."                          tasted. They ignored him as he opened the
to ... hmmph! ... I say, Blake old man,     "And now, like a hungry dog, you seek       door at the top of the stairs, went through,
you don't think she'll really strike me     to ingratiate yourself with the master,     and pulled it shut behind him.
off the Christmas list?"                    is that it?" sneered the short man.         Back in the café, the fat proprietor had
Sexton Blake smiled. "I don't think so,     The detective blinked rapidly and said,     stepped behind a counter. He bent over a
old chap. Despite the bluster, the old      "Why no! The master sent for me! I          speaking tube and began talking into it.
girl is terribly fond of you!"              have travelled halfway around the
Detective-Inspector Coutts reddened         world in answer to his summons!             Detective-Inspector Coutts was painfully
and rubbed his bristly moustache.           Would you now stop me?"                     reminded of the time when he had
"The thing is," he muttered, "there's       The proprietor suddenly looked ill at       patrolled the streets as a mere constable.
nothing quite like Mrs Bardell's            ease. As Blake had guessed he would         His feet were aching abominably! He was
Christmas pudding!"                         be, the man was intimidated by the          hungry too. It was lunchtime and though
The taxi dropped Coutts a couple of         sound of a cultured, well-educated          he had never tasted Chinese food — and
streets away from the café and Blake        Cantonese voice.                            didn't like the theory of it — he was
on a corner near it. It wouldn't do for     The café owner rubbed a dirty cloth         nevertheless rather envious of Sexton
them to be seen together, so they had       over a filthy plate and coughed. "Of        Blake, who he imagined sitting in the café
arranged that the Yard man would            course I won't stop you," he mumbled.       wolfing down a bowl of noodles or
stroll around the area keeping the          "I was just checking, that's all! But be    aromatic rice.
establishment within sight and taking       aware, honourable one, that the master      "I don't hold with that foreign muck,"
note of whatever comings and goings         is not here now! He has gone to the         Coutts muttered to himself, "but at least
might arise, while Blake would enter        temple!"                                    it'd line the stomach! How Blake expects
the café and attempt to gain entry to       "Then I would speak with those who          me to keep on my feet without sustenance
whatever secret meeting place it was        are close to him!"                          is beyond me!"
covering.                                   The fat man nodded and gestured             He had just patrolled the area around the
The first part of Blake's task was easy     towards the kitchen.                        back of the café and was now turning into
enough; he simply shuffled through          Blake began to move towards it but          an alleyway that led through to the main
the door, sat at a table and ordered a      then hesitated and turned back to the       street. He intended to saunter past the
bowl of soup. The place was by no           proprietor.                                 premises and peer through the window to
means crowded and the few diners            "Faithful one," he said, "Come closer!"     see what his colleague was up to. Or
present were of the most disreputable       The Chinaman approached warily, his         rather, to see what he was eating.
class of Celestial that inhabits the        eyes peering nervously at his tall          "Hope it's a boiled squirrel!" he grunted.
Limehouse region; poorly clothed,           visitor.                                    The passage lay in the shadows and as the
hardly washed, shifty-eyed.                 "Listen well," said Blake in a low voice.   Yard man came abreast of a pile of wooden
These men at the tables, though, did        "It is some time since I advised the        crates, four figures stepped out of the
                                            master to establish passwords for each
                                            of his outposts in this godless country.
12
gloom; two in front of him and two behind.       Chinese. The other was an Indian.          one, urging Detective-Inspector Coutts
"Here! What's this?" he exclaimed. He           One of the Celestials — a short man of      to follow. Arriving at its base, Blake
whipped off his bowler and rapped his           average build, his head shaven but for a    shifted his position, lifted his legs and
knuckles on it threateningly. "Keep back!       long pigtail — spoke. He did so in          kicked it open.
I'm Detective-Inspector Coutts of the           English and his voice was cultured,         With the big chamber behind them
CID!"                                           without a trace of an accent. He said: "I   rapidly becoming hazy with smoke, the
He should have kept his hat on. It may have     congratulate you. You have both scored      two men rolled through into an ornately
done something to soften the blow as a          a victory."                                 decorated room and kicked closed the
length of thick rubber tubing crashed           "Please?" asked Blake in Cantonese.         door. Sexton Blake looked around.
against his skull.                              The man repeated himself, this time in      There was a low table, some cushions,
Detective-Inspector Coutts of the CID           that language. He went on, first in         and various items of statuary lining the
went out like a light.                          English then again in the Asian tongue:     walls. One of the latter depicted a
                                                "This meeting place is useless to us        Chinese warrior, his hand resting on the
               The Fifth Chapter                now. Your presence demonstrates that        hilt of a sword, its point resting on the
                    Inferno!                    it is known to The Brotherhood of the       plinth upon which he stood. The sword
"Are you alright, old man?"                     Yellow Beetle and also to the police.       was not real — it was merely a carving
Sexton Blake's voice seemed to come from        You leave us no alternative but to shut     — and was not sharp ... but it was, at
a great distance, piercing through layers of    it down."                                   least, an edge.
pain.                                           Coutts snorted, "Sorry to spoil your        Blake rolled across to the statue and
"I say, buck up Coutts! We're in it up to our   fun!"                                       heaved himself into a sitting position.
necks!"                                         The Chinaman simply bowed and               He began rubbing his bound wrists
Consciousness        slowly    returned    to   silently left the room with his             against the blade.
Detective-Inspector Coutts. His head            companions.                                 "Hurry man!" cried Coutts. "There's
throbbed, his mouth was dry, his wrists and     For some minutes the two captives lay       smoke coming through under the door!"
ankles were bound with viciously tight          still and silent. Then Blake muttered:      Both men could now see dark tendrils
cords.                                          "It never even occurred to them that we     coiling through the air. Coutts fancied
He opened his eyes. He was laying on his        were working together. They're so           that he could hear flames and the room
side on a thick carpet in a large room hung     convinced that I'm one of the               was definitely getting hotter.
with yellow silks. Sexton Blake lay beside      Brotherhood. And, of course, a Yellow       "The place is going up like dry tinder!"
him, also bound. The Baker Street               Beetle would never be seen hand in          exclaimed the Yard man. "It's all that
detective's face — still in the guise of a      hand with a bluebottle!"                    silk! This is it, Blake! We're not going to
celestial — was bruised, his eyes blackened,    "Very funny," growled Coutts. "Blast! I     get out of this one!"
his lips split and bleeding.                    can't move a muscle, I'm trussed up so      As if to illustrate his point, an orange
The Yard man licked his lips. "Where are        tight! How about you, Blake?"               light flickered beneath the door, the
we?" he croaked.                                "The same!"                                 temperature jumped higher, and the
"Under the café," answered Blake. "In a sort    They struggled but only succeeded in        crackling of flames came from the
of basement which extends, I think,             scraping the skin off their wrists.         chamber beyond.
beneath the houses on either side and some      They rested, catching their breath.         Detective-Inspector       Coutts     began
way under the road."                            "What do they intend to do with us,         coughing. "How are you doing?" he
"How'd they get you?"                           anyway?" panted Coutts.                     gasped. "Almost free?"
"My own fault!" grunted Blake. "I was           "Has that knock on the head robbed          "I'm afraid not," came Blake's hoarse
overconfident! Dived straight into a trap —     you of your sense of smell?" snapped        voice. "And having recently experienced
gave the password, walked through the           Blake.                                      a blaze courtesy of Doctor Satira, I can
door, and a dozen or so of the blighters        "What? What are you gibbering abou—         honestly say that this is becoming
jumped on me!"                                  Great Scott! Fire!"                         extremely tiresome!"
"I hope you broke some oriental teeth. Any      Alerted to it by his friend, Coutts could   The minutes passed and the heat
sign of Wu Ling?"                               now smell smoke.                            increased. The Baker Street detective
"Well that's the funny thing. They seem to      "They've set the place alight! Help!        made no progress. The cords were too
think that I'm a spy for The Brotherhood of     Help!" he hollered.                         strong; the edge too blunt.
the Yellow Beetle. They've been trying to       "Stop that!" ordered Blake. "We're          The room was by now so filled with
beat an admission out of me. They were          underground! No one is going to hear        smoke that Coutts could barely see him.
just about to try a spot of torture when four   your racket so you might as well pack it    "These cords aren't giving at all!" gasped
of their chaps dragged you in. They tied        in!"                                        Blake.
you up then all retired to another room for     The Baker Street detective twisted his      Both men's eyes were watering and their
a conflab. They've been gone for half an        head this way and that, searching the       lungs were wheezing like old leathery
hour or so."                                    room for a sharp edge against which to      bellows. Coutts was trying to use his feet
"So they haven't seen through your              rub his bonds. There was nothing. And       to push himself farther from the door
disguise," said Coutts, "and they obviously     now the smell of smoke was
aren't Wu Ling's mob! But, in that case,        strengthening.
who in blazes are they?"                        There were three doors visible between
Before Sexton Blake could answer, three         the hanging silks. Blake rolled across
men entered the chamber. Two were               the carpet towards a scarlet-painted
                                                                                                                                 13
but his strength was giving out and he       body is switched on but ‘is brain is        "Of course," said the Indian. "I am Dr
couldn't catch his breath.                   switched hoff! Which I says, Defective-     Petrie, a friend of Assistant Commissioner
Sexton Blake toppled sideways and lay        Suspector Scoots, if'n you bring ‘im        Sir Denis Nayland Smith's."
on the carpet. His mind began to             ‘ome in this rendition again, you'll not
wander; swimming in and out of               be welcombed in this ‘ouse not for any                   The Sixth Chapter
consciousness. He remembered his             hoccasion,      an'    that    concludes                     Revelations
parents, who had been murdered by a          Christmas! An' another, thing: I don't      It was half past four in the afternoon and
man named Francois Leroux; his elder         like no hindians in my ‘ouse!"              the rain was pattering against the window
brother, Henry, who had been driven          "I assure you, dear lady," came a voice,    of the consulting room.
to crime by a crook known as The             "that I am not an Indian, despite           Tinker had been missing for almost
Baron and who had faked his own              appearances to the contrary!"               twenty-four hours.
suicide only to resurface some years         Who was that? Blake didn't recognise        Sexton Blake and Detective-Inspector
later; and his younger brother, Nigel,       the voice. He peered through watering       Coutts had washed away the soot and had
who had also turned to crime before          eyes. A dark chap, standing near the        drunk copious amounts of tea to ease their
being exiled to Africa.                      window.                                     scorched throats. Blake was no longer
No! He mustn't lose focus! Escape!           "Mrs Bardell."                              disguised as a Chinaman.
Save Coutts!                                 Ah, that was Coutts, though he              Dr Petrie was also transformed. In place of
Dimly, he was aware of a bright              sounded strangely hoarse.                   a shifty-looking Indian, there now sat a
rectangle of flame — the place where         "Look for yourself, my dear. He             handsome, well-built Englishman with
the door had been, now the mouth of a        appears to be coming around. Perhaps        clear blue eyes and a broad intelligent-
furnace! A shadow seemed to move             now would be an ideal time to put the       looking forehead. He was wrapped in
against the glare of the raging inferno.     kettle on. I'm sure he'll need a good       Sexton Blake's disreputable acid-stained
Was it Tinker? Brave, clever,                cuppa once his wits return!"                dressing gown.
extraordinary Tinker! They had met           "Good gracious, I think you're right!"      The three men were sitting around the
when — operating under the                   warbled Mrs Bardell. "Lookit the way        fireplace discussing the events of the day.
pseudonym of Richard Allandale —             ‘is eyes are a-wanderin' ... Like ‘e's      As Sexton Blake had suspected since his
Blake had finally caught up with The         noticin' things for the first time since    bruising interrogation, he had not fallen
Baron. Tinker, a mere street Arab at         you dragged ‘im up them stairs!             into the hands of The Brotherhood of the
the time, had stumbled into the thick of     Lordy!"                                     Yellow Beetle but into those of the Si Fan.
it and had provided the means through        Blake saw a blurred shaped cross the        "Seeing you both there, on the verge of
which Blake could, at last, take revenge     room and exit through the door. Mrs         being burned to death, well ..." said Petrie,
for the apparent death of Henry. Since       Bardell's footsteps descended the stairs.   "obviously I had no choice but to wait until
then, the youngster had saved Blake's        His eyes cleared.                           my Chinese companions were out of the
life on countless occasions.                 Detective-Inspector Coutts was sitting      way and then return to the chamber and
"Tinker," he whispered.                      opposite. His skin — what showed of it      drag you out of there."
Coutts's voice, a hoarse rasp, came          beneath a layer of soot — was even          "An act of courage for which I am
from a great distance: "Don't leave          redder than usual. He smiled, showing       immensely grateful, Doctor Petrie!"
him! He's not a Chinaman! He's               his buck teeth.                             "Hear, hear!" cheered Coutts.
Sexton Blake!"                               "Back in the land of the living?"           "When did you infiltrate the Si Fan?" asked
Good old Coutts.                             Blake opened his mouth and croaked,         Blake.
A face swam into view in his mind's          "Brandy!"                                   "Me, about a month ago, in the guise of
eye: Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier.            The figure at the window turned. It was     Arjun Narayan, a Hindi doctor with
No. Wait. The face was altogether too        the Indian who had accompanied the          questionable ethics. Nayland Smith, more
dark! It wasn't Yvonne. It was a man's       three Chinamen into the chamber             recently."
face. In fact, thought Blake as he           beneath the café.                           "Doctor Petrie," said Blake earnestly,
slipped into oblivion, it was an Indian's.   "Of course!" he said, in perfect Oxford     "Whatever they are, I must apologise for
                                             English. "Allow me!"                        interfering with your plans. I had no idea
Home.                                        He crossed to the drinks cabinet in the     that it was the Si Fan I was dealing with. In
Baker Street.                                corner and poured three generous            fact, I've been given a very clear order to
The consulting room.                         brandies.                                   steer clear of them. I hope you understand,
Comfortable slippers.                        "I think we all need this!"                 though, that with George Marsden
His thoughts were meandering and he          Stepping to where Blake and Coutts          Plummer involved and with my assistant
may have been dreaming. Was he really        sat, he bent and handed them both a         missing, I had little choice but to pursue
slumped in his armchair? Was the             glass.                                      my investigations!"
weight on his right thigh really Pedro's     "Are you with us, Mr Blake?"                "I understand perfectly, old chap," said
head? Was that Mrs Bardell he could          Sexton Blake took a gulp of the fiery       Petrie. "Let me fill you in on the story so
hear?                                        liquid and smiled up at the smoke-          far, perhaps it will give you some clue as to
" ... Looking like one of ‘em chimbley       blackened stranger. He felt his lips        what this scoundrel Plummer is up to.
sweeps and with a voice what is as           crack.                                      Nayland Smith and I are investigating two
creaky as a door in an ‘aunted ‘ouse!        "Thank you," he said. "Yes, I am. May I
And a-shufflin' around the place like ‘is    ask your name?"                                       Continued on page 16 .
14
Normal Services
Do you remember the early days of television      appear in THE UNION JACK or THE
when the old goggle-box took a couple of          SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY or in one of
hours to warm up and most of the night to         the countless other story papers. Of
cool down? Back then, the rather frequent         course, the facts were exaggerated out of
breaks in service were always accompanied by      all proportion. Names and dates were
the reassurance that "normal services will be     purposely changed and reality got
resumed as soon as possible." Nearly half a       obscured by 'disinformation'.
decade ago, I would have liked to have said       Which is just what we wanted!
those words to you, dear reader, but, alas, the
guv'nor and I knew that what passed for                *      *        *
'normal' in our lives was changing rapidly and
things would never be the same again. For a       Confused? You Will Be!
start, the publication of our various             This technique, created by Sexton Blake
adventures (albeit in a rather exaggerated        and later developed to an extraordinary
form) had to end.                                 degree by Eustace Craille, was used to
You see, old Eustace Craille had other plans      confound our enemies. The average villain
for us, and what Craille wanted, Craille got!     didn't know where Blake was, what he was
At this moment, I can't say any more about        capable of, or even if he actually existed!                        consider it at all, then
that – George Coutts Jr., who now runs The        Which meant that in a great many cases,                            we do so as if it was
Craille Institute – would have my hide if I       the mere name 'Sexton Blake' was enough                            something entirely
tried! Suffice to say, though, that all these     to confuse and discourage the crook,                               fictitious!
years later, there are hints that an “almost      disorientating him (or 'her' – there were     Sexton Blake and myself, The Craille
normal service” might be resumed!                 plenty of 'her's'!) and making him            Institute, and a whole host of criminals
                                                  relatively 'easy pickings' for the Scotland   rely on this phenomenon to obfuscate,
       *       *                  *               Yard boys.                                    deceive and misguide.
                                                  In the meantime, the guv'nor and I, having    If you doubt the existence of the
Cases Old and New!                                manipulated ourselves into a sort of          Credibility Gap or think you are immune
For a start, The Craille Institute has            'mythical' status, were left free to tackle the
                                                                                                to its influence, I can demonstrate that
authorised the release of some of Sexton          rather special breed of criminals who were    you are wrong by making a statement and
Blake's unpublished cases. These were             appearing from the other side of the          asking you to consider whether it's true or
considered too 'delicate' for public              'Credibility Gap'.                            not. The statement is this: 'Sexton Blake
consumption back when they actually                                                             is not a fictional character; he really
occurred, so they never even made it onto
good old Twy's desk. Apparently some of our
                                                             *           *          *           exists!”
                                                                                                If you don't believe that, then Bob's your
new cases might also see the light of day.
                                                  Credibility Gap                               uncle; the Credibility Gap is functioning
                                                  Phew! How to explain the Credibility just fine, thanks!
      *       *                   *               Gap? It's a concept with staggering
The Old System                                    implications -- again, a theory of the                 *           *           *
Perhaps I should explain how we used to do        guv'nor's which was expanded upon by old Dazzle!
things. It was a simple process. The guv'nor      Craille. Okay, let's give this a try. Take a To get back to what I was saying, thanks
and I would get into a gigantic scrap with a      look at the illustration on the facing page. to the Credibility Gap, The Craille
loopy villain, such as Professor Kew or Dr.       That's called a Necker Cube. As you can Institute (which you don't believe in
Huxton Rymer or Kestrel or … well, there          see, there are no clues to suggest which either, huh?) is now starting to release
were hundreds of the blighters! Then, having      plane is the front and which is the back. accounts of some of our cases – old and
successfully foiled Whatsisname's evil plan,      Your perception tends to alternate new – in order to dazzle the public once
the guv'nor would laze around in his stinky       between the two possibilities. However, more with the genius of Sexton Blake
old dressing gown while yours truly had to        what if one option was constantly and, of course, of his plucky assistant!
write up the case. Now I don't mind writing –     reinforced by other peoples' opinion and it The operative word here is 'dazzle'.
I do a lot of it – but describing being bashed    was also supported by apparent 'evidence'?
over the head, thrown into a river, gassed,       Then the alternative version becomes                   *          *            *
poisoned and thumped just hours after those       more and more difficult to perceive. In
events took place, and while my flesh and         fact, it quickly becomes 'impossible'.        Blake is Back!
bones were still throbbing … well, as you can     The Credibility Gap is the gulf that exists Why do we need to dazzle you? Because
imagine, my notes weren't exactly                 between one option and the other. If we all we're back in business, that's why! And
Shakespeare!                                      stand on the side that supports the notion that means the old techniques are being
So my next job was to wrap 'em up and post        that we are looking at the cube from a left- dusted off to ensure that me and the
them to Twy – H. W. Twyman – one of the           hand perspective, then it becomes almost guv'nor and those around us remain on
'high-ups' at Amalgamated Press and a great       impossible to cross the gap to the place the 'other side of the gap', as it were
friend of the guv'nor and I. Twy would then       where it could be said that we are looking (and yes, the phenomenon is so
assign the notes to whichever writer he felt      at it from a right-hand perspective. In fact, powerful that I can even signal our
could do 'em justice, and, not long after, a      the notion of a right-hand perspective intentions knowing that you still won't
splendidly written tale of derring-do would       becomes so unrealistic to us that, if we can believe it!).
                                                                                                                                15
                                          A Quick Catch Up                                The Couttses
                                          So, anyway, that's enough about the past,       Another thing not made clear in our old
                                          now let's take a look at the present. I         adventures was that fact that after
                                          expect you're dying to know more about          Detective-Inspector Coutts retired we
                                          the current state of affairs with 'Sexton       worked with his son, also named George,
                                          Blake and Tinker'. Well, first of all, we are   who       became        a      Detective-
                                          back living in Baker Street, though it          Superintendent. In other words, the
                                          hardly resembles the thoroughfare of old!       Coutts of the '50s and '60s was not the
                                          From the outside, you would never suspect       same man as the Coutts of the '20s and
                                          that our building is a domestic paradise        '30s, though he had all his father's bull-
                                          but, thanks to Mrs Bardell, who is still        headedness and dogged determination.
                                          going strong, that's exactly what it is! Mrs    The younger Coutts went on to become
                                          B is unchanged; still mangling her words,       Sir George William Coutts III and he
                                          still keeping us fed, and still giving the      took over the running of The Craille
                                          Coutts family plenty of cheek!"                 Institute after Eustace Craille finally
                                                                                          passed away (aged 112!). Recently, Sir
Censorship!                                                                               George retired and handed leadership
These unpublished cases                                                                   over to his son, George William Coutts
were originally withheld                                                                  IV. The younger Coutts bears an
-- in the case of the older                                                               uncanny resemblance to his grandfather,
stories by the Secret                                                                     both in appearance and temperament --
Intelligence Service and,                                                                 which causes the guv'nor and myself no
with the more recent                                                                      end of amusement, especially when Mrs
ones, by The Craille                                                                      B harangues him for failing to wipe his
Institute -- for a variety of                                                             feet upon entry to the Baker Street
reasons.                                                                                  domain!
Sometimes it was for the
protection of innocent                                                                    Youthful Good Looks!
parties who had been                                                                      I daresay that you are asking yourself how it is
involved in the events                                                                    that Sexton Blake and I are still around,
and whose real identity                                                                   seemingly unchanged after all these years. The
was      impossible        to                                                             answer to that question concerns one of the
disguise. Sometimes it                                                                    most remarkable discoveries ... one made by the
was for political reasons.                                                                guv'nor's father (who was murdered because of
And on occasions, as with                                                                 it) and later brought to fruition by events that
this issue's tale of                                                                      occurred in 1908. A small group of people -- the
SEXTON BLAKE VS.                         THE NECKER CUBE                                  guv'nor and I, Mrs Bardell, Sir Richard Losely
FU MANCHU, it was                                                                         and Lobangu, George Marsden Plummer
because the delicate                                                                      (regretably) and one or two others who can't be
balance of the Credibility Gap might
have been threatened.                      Pedro
Imagine if multiple sources suggested It was never really made clear in the old
that Fu Manchu really existed. In no stories but there have been quite a few
time at all the public would begin to Pedros. The original (one of the most
believe ... and if that happened, the remarkable dogs who ever lived) sired
subsequent fear and unrest would have generations of talented bloodhounds who
given the 'Devil Doctor' far too much all received intensive training to bring                 INFORMATION BLOCKED
power!                                     them up to their forebear's standard.
                                           Over the years, whenever our 'current
                                                                                               THE CRAILLE INSTITUTE
                                           Pedro' became too old to continue with us,
          *            *        *          he would be packed off to luxurious
The Fu Manchu Case                         accommodation with a loving family while                 REF. FILE 000027489
The account you hold in your hands one of his descendents took over the job.
records an encounter that left the guv'nor I'll say this: every Pedro has been
profoundly dissatisfied. He was not at all incredible and I have loved them all. The
happy with the orders issued from 'C' of remarkable thing is, though, that the
the Secret Intelligence Service. He felt breeding program has been so pure, and
they lacked logic and wasted an the training so effective, that I honestly feel
opportunity. Sexton Blake, though, like there's only ever been the one
knows when to obey an order; and he bloodhound with us for all this time!
never breaks his word; so this really was Ha! ... He knows I'm writing about him!
the only time that he faced Fu Manchu.     The tail is going nine to the dozen!
16

Continued from page 13.                          Manchu is, we think, attempting to         for persuading western financiers to
                                                 foment war in the West but has taken       make what might be called 'donations'.
matters which are causing much gnashing          his eye off the ball in China. Wu Ling,    He selects the rather more shady species
of teeth among the higher-ups of the Secret      by contrast, has just suffered a           of financier and fools them into
Intelligence Service. The first relates to the   sequence of huge defeats here, thanks      believing that they're investing in a
political situation in Germany. As I'm sure      to you, Blake, but is now focusing his     cause which will bring them great riches
you're aware, there are some worrying            energy on the preparation of a puppet      in the near future. Of course, he has no
developments over there. Hitler's Nazi           leader in China, a man named Chiang        intention of coming good on the
party is rising fast and some of our people      Kai-shek. If he is successful in that —    promise!"
are convinced that if he gains control of        and Nayland Smith is convinced that he     "Do you know who these financiers are?"
Germany he will re-arm and attempt to            will be — then he'll be occupied there     "We have a list of suspects, yes."
expand that country's territory."                for years to come, which is very good      "Are the names Bennett and Fairfax on
"But what about the Treaty of Versailles?"       news for England!"                         that list?"
muttered Coutts.                                 "Indeed!" agreed Sexton Blake. "In the     "Why, yes! You know them?"
"As far as he's concerned it's an insult to      meantime, though, we have a possible       "In your role of Arjun Narayan,"
the Fatherland and 'es ist keinen Pfennig        alliance between Doctor Fu Manchu          answered Blake, "I don't suppose you
wert'!"                                          and Herr Hitler?"                          got to see yesterday's newspapers. It was
"Beg pardon?" said Coutts.                       "Perhaps 'potential' would be a better     reported that a financier named Bennett
"Not worth a brass farthing," supplied           word, Blake. There's no solid evidence     was found dead. The coroner has
Blake.                                           of it as yet. There's been contact,        speculated that something literally
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Coutts. "Is the           certainly, but whether anything has        frightened the man to death. And his
man really such a warmonger?"                    come of it; that we don't know.            hands were painted green!"
"It's too early to say," answered Petrie. "But   Nayland Smith and I have been having       Doctor Petrie suddenly sat bolt upright.
there are men in high places who are afraid      a poke around to see whether there's       "Green! Then it's begun!" he cried.
that he is. They are also afraid that he         anything to find."                         "What has?"
might form an alliance with Doctor Fu            Blake grunted and reached for his pipe.    "Wait! Wait!" said Petrie, holding up a
Manchu!"                                         Then he thought better of it and           hand. "What of this Fairfax fellow?"
"Fu Man who?"                                    withdrew his hand. His lungs had been      "Yesterday he came to me babbling
"He's a Chinese warlord, Coutts; the head        fumigated enough for one day.              something about green hands but was
of the Si Fan," interjected Sexton Blake.        "I still can't see how Plummer fits into   then carried off — from right under my
"Or to put it in layman's terms: he's            the picture," he ruminated. "However       nose, regrettably — by Plummer."
another Wu Ling!"                                deep the criminal kink in his brain may    "Then he's a dead man! Earlier, Blake, I
"Great heavens!"                                 run — and there's no doubt that it runs    mentioned a second reason for
"More like the opposite side of the same         very deep indeed — there's ample           infiltrating the Si Fan. Nayland Smith
coin, Blake," said Petrie. "He claims to be      evidence to suggest that it doesn't        and I wanted to get to the root of a
directly descended from the Manchu               impinge on that part where his             rumour that Fu Manchu recently
Dynasty while Wu Ling claims to be a child       patriotism is located. Plummer             regained possession of an ancient
of the Ming. Both consider it to be their        considers himself to be a member of the    artifact; a green dragon miankse."
God-given right to rule China — and              British aristocracy. As such, it's         "What the dickens is that?" muttered
beyond! And they are both plotting to            inconceivable that he would align          Coutts.
destabilise and ultimately conquer the           himself with Fu Manchu, especially if      "Nothing but an embroidered silk
West."                                           that man is involved with the Nazis."      banner, on the face of it," said Petrie.
"But keep getting in each other's way?"          "But Blake!" put in Coutts, "He aligned    "But a very dangerous artifact!"
mused Blake.                                     himself with Wu Ling without much          "How so?" grunted the inspector.
"Exactly. Also, of course, you've done a fine    hesitation!"                               "The miankse was lost to the Si Fan
job of foiling Wu Ling's various schemes!"       "That's true but his motivation wasn't     about eighty years ago when it was
"As have you and Commissioner Nayland            political, it was financial!"              stolen from them by the Brotherhood of
Smith with regard to the Si Fan!"                "It always is! Money, plain and simple!    the Yellow Beetle. Without it, the Si Fan
"Phew!" gasped Coutts. "Imagine if the           The villain cares for nothing else!"       could not perform the ceremony of the
Yellow Beetles and the Si Fan started            declared Detective-Inspector Coutts.       dragon's claw ... a sort of initiation
working together!"                               "Ah! You may have something there!"        which not only binds the initiate to them
"It will never happen!" said Petrie. "And        said Blake with a snap of his fingers.     for life but all his descendants too."
that's something we can be thankful for!         "Doctor Petrie, how is the Si Fan          "They couldn't perform the ceremony?
Individually, neither group is strong            financed?"                                 Why not?" asked Coutts.
enough to exert any meaningful influence         "Hmmm, well that's rather interesting,"    Doctor Petrie shrugged. "Even after all
in China and the West at the same time. So       answered Petrie. "Each member of the       my experiences battling Celestials, I still
they tend to alternate. In recent years          Si Fan pays what amounts to a small        don't understand the oriental mind. The
Doctor Fu Manchu has been strong in the          tax. There are literally millions of       vital significance they often attach to
East but weak in the West, while with            members, so the twice-yearly payments      items which, for us, would seem to
Prince Wu Ling, it was the other way             add up to a vast and growing fortune.      possess nothing but decorative value, is
around. Now the tides are turning. Fu            On top of that, Fu Manchu has a talent     astonishing. The miankse, Detective-
                                                                                                                                     17
Inspector, is a symbol and nothing more.       ancestors. Already Bennett has fallen                     The Seventh Chapter
But what a symbol! Through that one            victim to it. Fairfax will be next, if he's            Plummer's Machinations
silk, hundreds of thousands of innocent        not dead already, and countless more          Some hours after the meeting at Baker
people can be enslaved — shackled to the       will follow! Which is why Nayland             Street had broken up, the German, von
Si Fan by bonds of fear and superstition!      Smith and I have dedicated ourselves          Horst, climbed into a taxi and told the
No Celestial would even consider defying       to the destruction of that miankse!"          driver to take him to Carnival Row,
the dictates of the dragon; it would be        Blake suddenly stood. "Then, despite          Woolwich. He had a second appointment
fatal!"                                        my orders, I must also pledge myself to       with Colonel Ash, a man to whom he'd
Sexton Blake frowned and steepled his          that cause, doctor. For it was me who         taken an instant dislike when they'd met
fingers together. "Fatal, doctor?" he          placed that dreadful symbol into the          the night before. Von Horst had tried to
asked.                                         hands of the Si Fan!"                         engage him in conversation — tried to
"Yes! They call it death by the claw! How      "What!" exclaimed Petrie and Coutts in        find out more about where he came from
the execution used to be carried out, I        unison.                                       and why he'd allied himself to the Si Fan
don't know. But whatever was originally        Blake paced the room, rubbing his             — but Ash had seemed distant and
involved, the prospect of it was so terrible   hands together.                               preoccupied, almost to the point of
that now, just the possibility of it is        "A mistake! The Secret Intelligence           rudeness. Now the German didn't want to
enough to kill!"                               Service had been keeping information          spend any more time with him than he had
"Kill how?" barked Coutts.                     about Doctor Fu Manchu from me. I             to — but this evening, Doctor Fu Manchu
"Through fear! Simply knowing that             was not aware of him or his                   was initiating von Horst into his Si Fan
you've been marked for death by the claw       organisation.        Somehow,          the    organisation and Colonel Ash had been
is enough to induce heart failure!"            Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle lost         assigned to guide him through the
"Proposterous!"                                the miankse until, earlier this year, it      ceremony, so there was no choice. He was
Blake shook his head. "Not at all, Coutts.     turned up in a junk shop. They killed         not going to be able to avoid the big
Take, for example, the voodoo rites of the     the shopkeeper and Wu Ling himself            Englishman.
Caribbean. It's a well-documented fact         tried to flee with the banner in his          Sitting stiffly in the taxi, von Horst was a
that practitioners of that black art can       possession. Tinker and I intercepted          rather atypical example of the German
induce heart failure simply by informing       him and, though he escaped, we                race. He was tall and lean, with a square-
their victims that they've been marked for     managed to get the silk. It was passed        cut intellectual face, short blonde straight
death."                                        to the shopkeeper's family who, with          hair, a close-cropped pointed beard and
The Baker Street detective turned his          my help, sold it to the Si Fan. I was         steely but honest-looking eyes behind
attention back to Petrie. "When the Si         acting merely to keep it out of Wu            round,        metal-rimmed        spectacles.
Fan execute a man in this fashion, do they     Ling's hands, without the slightest           However, in character, he was everything
paint the corpse's hands green?"               suspicion that I was passing it to a man      an Englishman expects of a German:
"Yes!" exclaimed the doctor. "It's a           and an organisation that are in every         abrupt, ruthlessly efficient, cold and
message to the victim's family, to remind      way as dangerous!"                            disciplined. He held himself straight as a
them that they are slaves to the Si Fan!       "I'm with you, of course!" declared           plumb-line. On this particular night he was
They are in the grip of the dragon!"           Coutts. "We have to get that banner;          wearing full evening-dress — tails and a
"So," murmured Blake thoughtfully, "the        we have to find Tinker; and, once and         white waistcoat.
miankse gives the Si Fan the symbolic          for all, we have to stop Plummer in his       He had picked up the taxi in Piccadilly
right to enslave and tax complete              tracks. But what's our next move?"            Circus and as he was being driven past the
innocents."                                    "A police raid!" said Petrie.                 Venetia Hotel he suddenly slammed down
"That is correct. Let me ask you               "Now you're talking my language,              the window and called to the driver to
something, Blake — in your dealings with       Doctor Petrie. But what do we raid?           stop.
Prince Wu Ling have you ever considered        The café and the chambers beneath are         He had seen a familiar figure issuing from
him an honourable man?"                        burnt-out and the chinks have                 the glittering portals of the Venetia.
Sexton Blake's brows rose at the rather        scarpered!"                                   "Hallo," he cried, "Hier! Colonel Ash!"
odd question. "As a matter of fact, yes!"      "True. But there is still the Temple of       At the foot of the hotel's steps, George
he answered. "On a number of occasions         the Dragon!"                                  Marsden Plummer stopped and turned
he has given me his word concerning            Blake stopped his pacing.                     with a start.
some matter or other and he has been           "And you know where it is?"                   "Von Horst!" he cried, in surprise.
true to it. His idea of ‘honour' may not be    Petrie gave a grim smile. "Arjun              A minute later he had crossed to the taxi
the same as an Englishman's but,               Narayan is expected there tonight! And        and climbed in.
nevertheless, he is honourable. Why do         he shall go! And while he's there, he         "Drive on — Carnival Row!" von Horst
you ask?"                                      will thump the sentries over the head,        ordered the driver.
"Because until recently, Doctor Fu             unlock the outer doors, and leave the         "I've just been having a good feed!"
Manchu has also been somewhat                  way clear for you two to lead in the          grinned Plummer who, like his
restrained by his notion of honour.            boys in blue!"                                companion, was wearing evening-dress.
Possession of the miankse has changed          Detective-Inspector Coutts's eyes             He seemed much more cheerful than the
that. As a Manchu symbol, it gives him a       sparkled. It was going to be a very           previous night and was breathing rather
terrible freedom; casting away the bonds       interesting evening.                          heavily, as though his meal had been a very
of civilisation and allowing him to act                                                      good one indeed — obviously including
with all the utter ruthlessness of his                      *      *      *                  wine! He gave a sideways glance at von
18

Horst who, noticing his companion's sly      continued. "They are bitter rivals and     pocketed. George Marsden Plummer
expression, snapped, "You look forward       their organisations — Wu Ling's            was playing a very dangerous game
to the occasion tonight, no? I am to be      Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle and       indeed and he was beginning to worry
humiliated?"                                 Fu Manchu's Si Fan — are constantly        that exposure was inevitable. And what
"What makes you say that? There's            at each other's throats. That's what's     would happen then? He shuddered.
nothing to it! I've been through the         kept them from achieving their aims so     Von Horst, misinterpreting the motion,
ceremony myself!" Then he added              far. But Fu Manchu is in the               glanced up swiftly.
quickly: "It's the Celestial's way, of       ascendancy at the moment, thanks to        "Fairfax?" he said. "The other financier?
course! Just a tomfool idea of the           the detective I saw today, Sexton Blake,   What has happened to him?"
doctor's. And one has to humour him.         who has single-handedly dashed Wu          "Oh, he got the wind up him after
It's worth it! If you can keep in with Fu    Ling's every scheme."                      Bennett's death," grunted Plummer
Manchu you are a made man, von Horst.        "Ja, I have heard of this Blake. But       rather nervously. "He went to split to
Why, look at me! I've just dined at the      come now, Colonel, let us talk of          Sexton Blake, hoping the detective
Venetia Hotel!"                              tonight. What am I to expect in the        would scupper Fu Manchu the way he's
"Ja, a man who is most days with Arabs is    Temple of the Dragon?"                     been scuppering Wu Ling. But as I say,
not often to be found at a hotel like the    "Oh, just the usual hocus-pocus.           the doctor cottoned on to it and now —
Venetia, is that not so?" agreed von         There's nothing in it. You'll swear        well, Fairfax is finished."
Horst with a dry chuckle. Plummer            allegiance to Fu Manchu, then there        "Dead?" muttered von Horst.
flushed. He did not like Germans and, in     are one or two rituals." He avoided his    "I don't know," lied Plummer. "As good
particular, he did not like this one.        companion's eye. "Nothing to worry         as dead, anyway!"
"And what of the men who pledge              about," he added in a loud, determined     The taxi rounded a corner.
themselves to Hitler, Germany's answer       voice.                                     "We're here," said Plummer, and his
to Charlie Chaplin?" he snarled.             "Melodramatic nonsense," grumbled          voice was oddly hoarse. He put his head
Von Horst shot him an ugly look and          the German.                                out of the window and found that it was
Plummer laughed.                             "The sort of thing to expect from a        still raining. "Right you are," he called to
"Oh, cut it out, Mr Nazi!" he said. "No      yellow man," assented Plummer. "But        the driver, "put us down at the corner
need to have a row. We shall be seeing       Fu Manchu is deadly serious over it.       here."
too much of each other from now on to        Understand that! The oath of               The taxi drew to a standstill.
be on bad terms. If Fu Manchu's plans        allegiance means a lot to him. If ever     Plummer and the German alighted, paid
work out as he hopes, we've got a life job   you break it, look out! Remember           the taxi-driver, and watched him drive
together. And even if they crash, we shall   Franklyn Bennett."                         away. Then Plummer spun on his heels.
see a lot of each other first!"              "That is just what I don't like to         "This way," he said, taking the German
"You think they will crash?" muttered        remember," grumbled the German.            by the arm. "This way, von Horst."
von Horst.                                   "Nevertheless, I was sent here by my       They hurried along the ill-lit pavement.
George Marsden Plummer shrugged his          master to establish a relationship with    Tall, grimy buildings rose high around
shoulders.                                   Fu Manchu, so I shall do exactly that,     them. Plummer turned and led his
"When a man sets his sights as high as       even if it means I have to prove myself    companion down a dark alley, with a
our yellow friend has done, who knows        by going through with this ridiculous      spike-surmounted wall on either side.
what'll happen!" he grunted, "But he         ceremony. But I shall not grovel to a      Opposite a low door, he stopped. He
looks to me as if he's a fair way towards    Chinaman, I tell you. He needs me;         rapped upon it.
achieving his ends. He's got huge            and a man like me isn't found on every     "The sun sets in the West!" came a low
swathes of China now, thanks to the          street corner!"                            foreign voice from behind the portal.
millions he's spent there. He's well on      "Don't flatter yourself too much!"         "The dawn is in the East!" answered
the way to having India, too, to say         grinned Plummer unpleasantly. "He'll       Plummer.
nothing of Mongolia and Turkestan.           treat you as he treated Franklyn           They were the passwords to the Temple
With Asia at his command, he can             Bennett as soon as look at you,            of the Dragon. The door swung open
conquer the white races, especially if he    especially if he suspects that you've      and the two men glimpsed a square
sets them at each others' throats first!"    double-crossed him!"                       yellow face with oblique eyes — the
"But can nothing stop him?" von Horst        He broke off suddenly, unnerved by his     custodian of the door.
interrupted. "I ask, you understand,         own words. He was responsible for          Plummer pushed von Horst through and
because I wish to know who our enemies       Fairfax's failure to contribute the        followed him. The door closed behind
are!"                                        money demanded by the Si Fan — a           them with a soft click.
"Oh, he has plenty of them!" said            failure for which the financier was        They crossed a room and passed through
Plummer. "Last night he told me about a      about to suffer. Furthermore, though       another door which opened onto a
man named Wu Ling. Prince Wu Ling."          he would see to it that the Riffians       narrow yard, with low buildings on all
Plummer had, of course, met and worked       received some of the munitions that the    four sides. Plummer led von Horst in
Prince Wu Ling in the recent past but in     doctor was shipping to Tangier, he         through a door on the left and into an
his role as Colonel Ash, he could not        would also sell a large amount of them     office of sorts. But before he entered von
reveal this fact.                            for his own personal gain. And money       Horst noticed two other doorways; and
"Wu Ling is to the Ming Dynasty what         that Fu Manchu had given him to help       the one on the opposite side of the yard
Fu Manchu is to the Manchus," he             increase his Rif army had also been        was painted a startlingly vivid green.
                                                                                                                                  19

"That," muttered Plummer, in answer to       He stood, unlocked the door and             The big crook turned and crossed to a
the German's unspoken question, "That        stepped into a small square room,           shelf, reached up and took down a folded
is the door to the Temple of the             which was dimly lit by a flickering oil     sheet of green silk.
Dragon!"                                     lamp. There was a cracked, web-shaded       "This," he said to Fairfax, "was meant for
                                             window in the wall opposite.                you!"
George Marsden Plummer glanced at            On the floor were two figures, both         He draped the sheet over Sexton Blake's
his watch. "We've three-quarters of an       tightly bound and gagged. One was           assistant.
hour to wait," he said.                      Tinker, the other was Malcom Fairfax.       He then returned to Fairfax and began to
The two men seated themselves by an          Tinker was in the grip of a drug-           untie the man's bonds. "The window
electric heater, and for a long while sat    induced sleep. The youth had proven         there," he said, nodding his head towards
in silence, listening to the patter of the   to Plummer far too many times that,         the wall, "opens onto a yard. I'm going to
rain. Once they heard the custodian of       conscious, he was as slippery as an eel     lower you out and you're going to cross
the door speak in a low voice, and           and far too adept at the art of             the yard and go through a door which
though they could not hear the               escapology. The crook had given him a       opens onto an alleyway. I've unlocked the
answering passwords, they knew they          strong enough dose to keep him quiet        door to aid your escape. Turn left and run
must have been given, for the door was       for a while.                                along the alleyway to its end, then turn
opened and someone entered the yard.         Fairfax, by contrast, was awake and         right. Keep running. You'll reach a road
"Wonder who that is?" grunted                staring at Plummer with wide,               where a taxi can be flagged down. Now
Plummer.                                     frightened eyes.                            listen Fairfax: go straight to your office
He stood and pulled the door open            The master crook crouched beside him        and secure the funds. Then leave and
slightly, putting his eye to the gap.        and pulled down the gag.                    under no circumstances go home or back
Outside, a tall Indian was passing           "Stay silent and listen to me!" he          to the office. Take the taxi to Ilford and
through the door that led into the           hissed. "Your life depends on it!"          rent a room in a tavern called The Spoon,
temple. One of Fu Manchu's many              Mutely, Fairfax nodded.                     on the Cranbrook Road. Use the name
lackeys.                                     "I'm going to give you a chance to live!"   Darwin. Lay low. Understand?"
Again he glanced at watch.                   whispered Plummer. "But it will cost        "Darwin. Yes."
"I have an errand to run. You stay here.     you the half million that remains from      "In two days, at noon exactly, I will come
I'll be back soon."                          the two million the Si Fan demanded!"       and visit you and you will hand over the
"Where are you going, Ash?" demanded         "N-no!" stuttered Fairfax. "I have to       funds."
the German.                                  give it to the Si Fan! They're going to     The bonds fell away from Fairfax's ankles.
"Mind      your     business!"    snapped    kill me otherwise! Where's the rest?        His wrists were already free. He sat up,
Plummer. "And it's 'Colonel' Ash, if you     Why — why didn't you give it to             rubbing his numb limbs.
please!"                                     them?"                                      "And the Si Fan?" he asked in a tremulous
He strode from the room, closed the          "That's my affair! And they'll kill you     voice.
door behind him, glanced around the          anyway, you fool!" snapped Plummer.         "By then they will think you dead. I will
yard and seeing that it was now empty,       "If you want to live you'll pay me that     confirm to you the truth of this when I see
crossed to one of the other doors — the      other half a million! It's your only        you. If all goes as planned, you will be able
one that did not lead to the mysterious      chance! Do so and I'll get you out of       to walk out of that tavern a safe man. But
temple. Pulling a key from his pocket, he    here. I'll also see to it that the Si Fan   be warned! If you cross me, you will have
unlocked it and stepped through, pulling     will think you dead. That way you'll        both me and the Si Fan hot on your
it shut behind him. He was in a long,        know they won't be coming after you.        heels!"
dark, low-roofed warehouse, piled with       But no tricks! If, when I come for the      Fairfax nodded miserably and heaved
crates and sacks. Rain drummed against       money, you refuse to hand it over, I'll     himself to his feet.
skylights in the roof. In a couple of        tell them that you're alive and how to      "Alright," said Plummer, "let's get you out
places, the panes were broken and the        find you!"                                  of here!"
water dribbled through onto the              Fairfax swallowed and nodded. "Yes!
concrete floor, its liquid pattering         Yes! Anything you say! Just get me out                 The Eighth Chapter
echoing through the silence.                 of here!"                                            A Ceremony Interrupted
Plummer pulled an electric torch from        "Very well!"                                Thirty minutes later, von Horst looked up
his pocket and flicked it on. A rat          Plummer moved across to Tinker and          as Colonel Ash returned and announced,
scurried away from the cone of light.        looked down at the youngster.               "Time to get you ready, von Horst."
Through corridors formed by the crates,      "You have caused me countless               He went to a cupboard and produced a
the big man passed until, about two          problems for a great many years," he        silken robe of dazzling yellow,
thirds of the way along the length of the    said through gritted teeth, though          ornamented with strange Asiatic designs
warehouse, he bore to the right and          Tinker was oblivious to the words. "It's    in blue and green.
came to a door.                              time to pay your dues. I am not a killer    "Put this on over your other clothes."
He crouched down outside it and              — perhaps it's my one saving grace —        Von Horst slipped the robe over his tall,
carefully removed the false moustache        but that doesn't mean I won't place you     athletic frame. It hung loose and open,
that decorated his upper lip. His wig        in the path of one. Tonight you'll die      showing his evening dress beneath.
followed, and then the false teeth that      and I'll be happy to see the back of you.   Colonel Ash grinned.
fitted so smoothly over his own.             Goodbye, Tinker!"                           "Now you look like a proper initiate!" he
20
said. "Fu Manchu ought to be a theatrical       Then von Horst noticed a figure             into the shape of a dragon's foot with
manager — he obviously loves to ham it          stretched out at the bottom of the steps    ferociously sharp talons. It was studded
up! Come on! Put your coat on again —           — a human figure it appeared to be,         with jade and might have been admired
it's still raining."                            but hidden beneath a green silken           for its beautiful craftsmanship were it
The German put on his overcoat, which           shroud that gave only the vaguest           not so deadly-looking. He took it.
was long one, falling below his knees and       impression of a man's outline.              "What do I do with this?"
hiding the yellow robe beneath. Ash             "What's that?" he whispered.                Colonel Ash licked his lips.
opened the door and the two hurried             "Only a dummy," answered Colonel            "The big ceremony now," he muttered
across the yard towards the door of the         Ash softly. "Purely symbolic. Hush          thickly. "You must plunge the blades
Temple of the Dragon. The colonel               now!"                                       into the dummy, at the heart. It's a
knocked softly upon it.                         A deep-muttered chant had come from         symbol. As you strike you must cry
"Who comes?" came a soft, gutteral voice.       the rows of watching Asiatics. It filled    aloud: 'So shall the claw strike at the foes
"One who answers the summons of the             the hall with rhythmic sound, almost        of the Si Fan!'"
dragon," he answered.                           like a heartbeat. Then, as von Horst        Von Horst stepped slowly forward and
The door swung open and von Horst and           and Ash reached the steps, it died away.    raised the greenly-gleaming shaft.
Colonel Ash stepped through into a kind         Doctor Fu Manchu's voice sounded            "So shall the claw strike —"
of low vestibule, hung with silk, with a pair   purringly in the stillness; he was          Suddenly he hooked the blades into the
of heavy silken curtains at the end.            speaking Chinese. Colonel Ash               green silk and yanked it aside. The
An uncharacteristically tall and muscular       answered in the same tongue —               unconscious figure of a youth lay there,
Chinaman had opened the door. Now he            surprising von Horst, who had not           bound hand and foot and gagged, lashed
led them to the curtains and flung them         known that his companion could speak        down so that he could scarcely move a
aside.                                          it.                                         finger.
Ash and von Horst passed through, and           In a chanting tone, Fu Manchu and           Doctor Fu Manchu's eyes flickered from
the curtains fell back softly behind them.      Colonel Ash continued their exchange        von Horst to the prone form of the
A long, narrow room, very lofty, stretched      of ritualised statements. Von Horst         youngster to the suddenly white face of
before them. The Temple of the Dragon!          gave no indication that he understood       Colonel Ash.
Aligned along the gaudily ornamented            the words, though he did and found          "You!" he hissed. "Who is this boy?"
walls were rows upon rows of men, with          them to be thoroughly menacing.             "It's — It's the assistant to Sexton Blake!
faces that varied from light yellow to          The atmosphere of the place was             I caught him spying on us!" stuttered the
blackish brown — Asiatics all, and clad in      oppressive. His eyes were fixed on the      colonel.
the costumes of their native countries —        shrouded dummy before him. It looked        "And so," said the doctor with
Chinese in their blue overalls and felt-        horribly like a dead man, he thought.       mesmerising slowness, "Rather than
soled shoes, Indians with turbans,              His pulse had quickened. His eyes           bringing him before me, you took it
Burmese and Siamese and Japanese, half-         began to roam, and suddenly he              upon yourself to substitute him for
castes and Africans. Von Horst caught his       noticed the banner hanging on the wall      Fairfax!"
breath. His eyes roamed up the serried          behind the bowls of incense — on it         "Yes! He's dangerous! You know how
ranks, impressed with the number and            was depicted a ferocious green dragon       Sexton Blake has opposed Wu Ling!"
variety of attendees.                           with savage, clutching claws. The           "Colonel Ash, you have defied me!
"Come on,' muttered Ash, and with a tight       words chanted by Fu Manchu and              Where is the dog Fairfax?"
grip on the German's arm he strode              Colonel Ash seemed to have been             "You don't understand! Blake is a devil!
forward along the stone floor, which, like      inspired by this image, for they spoke      If we deprive him of his assistant, it
the ceiling, was painted with inscriptions.     of the ‘the talons' that would strike any   could break him!"
The air was heavy with drifting incense,        man who betrayed the Si Fan.                Doctor Fu Manchu sat, calm and
which obscured the end of the room. The         Fu Manchu and Colonel Ash fell silent.      motionless but for the restless green
whole place was lit with shaded lamps,          Quietly, the chanting began again,          flames of his slanted eyes.
filling the hall with a soft yellow light.      throbbing against the walls, filling von    "I repeat, Colonel Ash, and for the last
As von Horst's eyes grew more used to the       Horst's head. He wanted to press his        time: where is Fairfax?"
hazy atmosphere he saw Doctor Fu                hands against his ears as the pulsing       "He —"
Manchu.                                         voices grew louder. The sound seemed        Ash was interrupted by a sudden loud
The Devil Doctor was seated on a carved         supernatural, as if channelled through      beating on the door behind the curtains
ivory throne at the top of three broad          the gathered throng from a distant time     at the other end of the hall. There was a
steps. Behind him was a row of great brass      and place. On it went, the voices rising,   splintering crash and the thud of many
bowls, hung from the ceiling on slender         falling, rising, falling.                   booted feet. The next moment, a horde
chains. From these the coils of the incense     Then, suddenly, silence.                    of blue-clad figures came bursting into
drifted.                                        He felt Ash tugging at his sleeve and       sight — stalwart police constables, led
Fu Manchu's yellow skin, the oblique eyes       turned with a start.                        by the short burly figure of Detective-
that glimmered with dark inscrutability,        "Here you are — take this!" the             Inspector Coutts and, beside him,
and the large, claw-like hands with their       Colonel was whispering.                     Sexton Blake.
long nails, seemed the personification of       Von Horst saw that his companion held       Along the length of the hall, the Baker
the mysterious East, with all its riddles,      a long trident-shaped weapon; a long        Street detective's eyes locked with the
slumbering ambitions and vast dreams.           handle with a three-bladed end carved       agate-green ones of Colonel Ash.
                                                                                                                                21

"Coutts, get that man with the black         a common thief?" said von Horst, his        Chinamen were hurriedly removing the
moustache!" he cried, "He's Plu— "           grip on Plummer loosening slightly.         dragon miankse from the wall.
He broke off as a wiry, vicious-looking      Plummer met von Horst's eyes. "There        Without another word, Nayland Smith,
dacoit grabbed him by the throat and         is nothing," he snarled, "common            Sexton Blake and Doctor Petrie bounded
dragged him to the floor.                    about me!" He broke free from the           up the steps and went crashing into the
The end of the hall erupted into             erstwhile German's grip and his fist        Celestials.
violence. The Si Fan leaped upon the         slammed into von Horst's face, sending      The seven men on the dais instantly
police with knives and garrottes in their    the man staggering backwards into a         became the focal point of the entire battle
hands. Blake struggled with his assailant,   knot of Si Fan men.                         as Si Fan men rushed to defend the
who'd dropped a cord around the              Plummer leaped onto the dais.               miankse and constables raced after them.
detective's neck and was throttling him,     Sexton Blake's voice rose above the         Had anyone been watching from the back
while Coutts was also dragged to the         din: "Plummer! Give yourself up!"           of the hall the scene would have been too
floor by two dark-skinned assailants.        The master crook ignored the                chaotic to follow. Limbs whirled, blades
Fu Manchu rose to his feet, his eyes not     command and passed around the               flashed, truncheons swung down onto
leaving the quaking form of Colonel Ash.     throne, pulling aside the curtains to the   heads; there were screams and shouts and
"So!" His voice was sulphuric. "What was     right of it and revealing an open door.     groans and, from time to time, rising above
he about to say, white man? Who are          He stepped through into a long              the cacophony, the sound of Detective-
you? How deep is your treachery?"            corridor and closed the portal behind       Inspector Coutts roaring instructions and
George Marsden Plummer stood, frozen         him. He found three large bolts which,      encouragement to his men:
with fear. His jaw worked spasmodically      with a grim smile of relief, he slid into   "Hughes! Johnson! Montgomery! Keep
but no sound emerged from him.               place. Turning, he spotted some way         that exit guarded! Don't let any of the
Three Chinese suddenly pushed him and        ahead of him the two Asiatics carrying      blighters slip away!"
von Horst aside and ran up the steps to      Tinker. They did not see him and soon       "Good work Lomax! You show ‘em what's
Fu Manchu. They bowed then                   stepped out of sight around a corner.       what!"
whispered urgently. Without taking his       Plummer waited a few moments to             "Dickson! Mitchell! Stop ‘em grouping up
eyes off Plummer, the Devil Doctor           allow them to get farther ahead, then       there on the right!"
nodded and said something. Then he           cautiously followed.                        "Lowry! Behind you, man! Watch out!"
broke his gaze, turned and quickly           Back in the hall, as von Horst picked       The Si Fan men fought viciously but
stepped behind the carved throne,            himself off the floor, Sexton Blake shot    gradually they succumbed, overwhelmed
disappearing behind a curtain. Two of        past him and flung himself against the      by the bravery, strength and determination
the Chinamen ran down to Tinker,             door through which Plummer had              of the British 'bobbies'. Up on the dais,
picked him up and followed their master.     passed. It held firm. A pair of Si Fan      Doctor Petri had unashamedly wrapped
The third drew a long knife from the         men suddenly pounced on the                 the miankse around his left forearm to
folds of his sleeve and stepped towards      detective and threw him backwards,          stem the flow of blood caused by a slashing
Plummer. As he lifted the blade to strike,   down the steps and straight into von        knife. He stood, propped against the wall
von Horst swung the trident into the         Horst who found himself sprawled on         and visibly pale even through his dark
Chinaman's face. The celestial went          the floor again.                            make-up, while Blake and Nayland Smith
flying backwards and landed in a heap on     "Stay down!" panted Blake. "You'll be       fought off the remaining Asiatics. These
the dais.                                    arrested in a moment! There's no point      last few men — mostly dacoits — were
"Good work!" cried Plummer. "Now let's       in trying to run!"                          particularly savage, driven by their
get the blazes out of here!"                 "I'm Nayland Smith!" snapped von            desperation to recover the silk banner.
But before he could move he found            Horst.                                      However,       when      Detective-Inspector
himself held in an iron grip.                "Good man!" cried Blake. "Help me           Coutts came smashing into them from the
"Let go, von Horst! What are you             catch up with Plummer!"                     rear, their game was up. One by one they
playing at!"                                 "Who?" asked Assistant Commissioner         fell; some conscious, some unconscious,
"Stand still!" snapped von Horst,            Denis Nayland Smith as Blake helped         but all handcuffed and helpless.
without the slightest trace of a German      him back to his feet.                       For a moment, everything seemed still.
accent.                                      "Colonel Ash is George Marsden              The strange quietness was broken by
"Let me go I say! The police won't be        Plummer, the notorious crook!"              Doctor Petrie's unsteady voice:
delayed for much longer!"                    "Great Scott! That explains a lot!          "As a medical man, may I make a
"You're not going anywhere Colonel           From out of the battling police and Si      suggestion?"
Ash!" came the steely reply. "You are a      Fan men, an Indian leaped and in four       Nayland Smith turned and took his friend
filthy traitor!"                             long strides reached Nayland Smith          by the uninjured elbow. "What is it, old
Plummer's eyes suddenly blazed. "You         and gripped his hand.                       man?"
fool!" he hissed, "I'm no traitor! That      "Petrie, old man!" exclaimed the            "That we treat this silk the same way we
Chinaman was never going to get an           commissioner.                               treat all used dressings!"
army from me! I was just out for his         "Smith! We've got to stop them!" cried      "You mean —?"
money!"                                      Petrie, who was in his guise as Arjun       "We burn the damnable thing!"
"What!"                                      Narayan. He pointed over his friend's
"I was swindling the damned chink!"          shoulder to the area directly behind Fu
"Do you mean to tell me that you're just     Manchu's throne. There, four                            *        *        *
22




           The Ninth Chapter                  Pedro's nose discovered areas where         expressionless, unreadable eyes.
     Two Remarkable Conversations             Tinker had obviously been but there         He had followed three of them,
George Marsden Plummer had escaped,           was no trail that could be followed.        separately, upon their release but in all
Tinker was still missing, and Sexton Blake    The many members of the Si Fan who          three cases the men had gone straight
was not happy.                                had been rounded up were, for the           to Southampton and had boarded an
He had caught a glimpse of the                most part, slowly being released. There     East-bound liner. Doctor Fu Manchu
unconscious body of his assistant during      were few charges that could be levelled     was obviously financing the mass
the raid on the Temple of the Dragon and      against them, other than resisting arrest   evacuation of all the men who'd fallen
knew that Tinker was in the hands of the Si   and assaulting a police officer. Serious    into the hands of the police.
Fan. Two days had passed since that           charges, it's true, but not the kind that   Even Teng Zao Ping of the "rat-pie and
eventful night and no clue to his             can be used to hold a man in a cell for     dog-sausage shop" — a man who
whereabouts had been forthcoming. The         very long. And once liberated, the men      seemed to know everything about
detective was beside himself with worry.      melted away and were never seen again.      everything where his own race was
For hour after hour he had examined every     Those that were subjected to an             concerned — could tell Blake nothing
inch of the burnt-out rooms beneath the       interrogation — with Detective-             on this occasion.
now abandoned Limehouse café. He had          Inspector Coutts's permission — by the      "You can but wait, Mr Blake," he
scoured the temple and other rooms in         Baker     Street     detective,    simply   advised. "The Devil Doctor has no
Woolwich. He had found nothing.               remained silent and stared at him with      direct argument with you or with
                                                                                                                                23




Tinker. Therefore he will not strike at       tone caught the detective's attention.      Blake recovered himself. "To taunt
you. Be patient. We men of the East act       He sat up, his eyes suddenly alert, his     me?" he asked, in a harsh metallic voice.
when the auspices suit the action, and not    jaw tightening.                             "No. To reassure you."
before!"                                      "Yes. I'm Sexton Blake. Who's this?"        "How so?" The detective couldn't hide
So Sexton Blake waited.                       Another pause.                              his surprise.
Then, on that second day, at eight o'clock    "Good evening Mr Blake. I am Prince         "By telling you that your honourable
in the evening, he received a most            Wu Ling."                                   assistant is alive, unharmed, and well-
surprising telephone call.                    For once in his life, Blake was taken       looked after."
He had been slumped in his old saddlebag      aback and his voice failed him. "Wu -       "How do you know this?"
chair, wrapped in his thoughts and            Wu Ling?" he stuttered.                     "I have spies, Mr Blake. Do you not
threadbare red dressing gown, smoking         Two or three seconds passed before          think that an opponent like Doctor Fu
his pipe and filling the room with a blue     there came a reply, indicating that the     Manchu is one worth watching? My
haze, when the telephone jangled.             caller was some distance away, though       people have infiltrated the Si Fan as, I
Wearily, he reached across to the             by no means, it occurred to Blake, as far   am sure, the Si Fan have, regrettably,
occasional table and lifted the receiver to   away as China.                              infiltrated the Brotherhood of the
his ear.                                      "Do not be alarmed, Mr Blake," — the        Yellow Beetle."
"Yes?"                                        voice was silken even through the static    Blake remained silent.
There was a pause; crackles on the line,      on the line — "Though you are my            "I feel certain," continued Wu Ling,
then:                                         honourable enemy, a man I shall one         "that you will be contacted soon. But be
"I am speaking to Mr Sexton Blake."           day strike like a troublesome mosquito,     prepared to make a deal. Were I an
Oddly, it sounded more like a statement       this is not that day. I am calling as one   American — and I thank the gods that I
than a question ... and something in its      who holds you in the highest esteem."       am not — I might tell you that the cards
24
are stacked in Fu Manchu's favour. But do       "How gratifying," drawled Blake              Intelligence Service. And perhaps, after
not be afraid that he will harm your            sarcastically.                               all, 'C' was right in issuing that order;
assistant for as an American might also         Fu Manchu appeared not to notice the         maybe it was better that he, Sexton
say: he owes you one."                          detective's tone.                            Blake, dedicated himself to the fight
"How so?"                                       "The occasion had already been turned        against Prince Wu Ling while Nayland
"The miankse. It meant a great deal to          into a farce by the treacherous Colonel      Smith, in turn, opposed Fu Manchu.
him. I possessed it and you wrested it from     Ash," he continued, "though I was not        "You are aware," he said, "that if I leave
me and passed it to him. He will see to it      aware of that fact until your assistant      your organisation alone, there are
that the debt is repaid."                       was revealed."                               others who will not?"
There was a pause and then, with ice in his     Blake remained silent.                       "You refer to Assistant Commissioner
voice, Prince Wu Ling said: "As will I."        After a pause, Fu Manchu continued:          Denis Nayland Smith?" purred the
The line went dead.                             "My point, Mr Blake, is that I still         doctor.
Blake replaced the receiver. He was             consider myself to be somewhat               "Him, yes. But others, too. The British
astonished and yet also encouraged, for         indebted to you over the miankse affair.     will not sit back and allow you to
despite their history, he trusted Prince Wu     Despite what has happened to it since,       destroy our democracy! You will not
Ling's word implicitly.                         it was you who returned it to the Si Fan     rob us of the freedoms we have toiled
Three hours later, just as he made the          after it had been lost for eighty years.     for so long to establish! You will not
decision to go to bed, Blake was roused by      For that reason, I am willing to return      undermine        the     principles     of
a gentle knock at the door. Not the front       the esteemed Tinker to you alive and         civilisation! Look back at the long
door downstairs, but the door of his            unharmed ... and at very little cost to      history of the West, Doctor! You will
consulting room. It did not sound like Mrs      yourself."                                   see progress! You will see an ongoing
Bardell's knock.                                "Cost," said Blake flatly.                   process of enlightenment that brings
"Come!" he said.                                Fu Manchu gave a slight shrug of his         with it ever more impressive
The door swung open and Doctor Fu               shoulders and seemed to wince, as if he      achievements         —      technologies,
Manchu glided into the room, his hands          felt that the conversation was taking a      governmental           systems         and
clasped behind his back, his head held          rather unpleasant turn. "Hear me out,        organisations that will ultimately help
high, his eyes filmy and unreadable.            please; I will not be asking much of         every man, woman and child to live a
"Good evening, Mr Blake!"                       you; I simply seek an assurance and a        happier,       healthier    and      more
"How the blue blazes did you get in?"           little information."                         comfortable life! We have a class
snapped Blake, rising to his feet.              Blake fished his pipe from his dressing      system that gives every one of us a
"Via the front door," said Fu Manchu. He        gown pocket. "Go on."                        clearly defined place in society; a
crossed the room and stood beside the           The Chinaman looked on with distaste         function; a means to contribute to, and
detective, facing the fireplace. The Si Fan     as Blake filled and lit the pipe. "I         benefit from, the great culture in which
pearl stood on the mantelpiece before him.      understand," he said, "that the Secret       we live! Can the same be said of the
"Did you know," he said in a voice that was     Intelligence Service has ordered you to      East? No! Most definitely not! So hear
barely above a whisper, "that this pearl was    avoid contact with the Si Fan."              me, doctor, and hear me well: the
once owned by Ki Kwan, wife of                  Sexton Blake shot upright in his seat        Secret Intelligence Service issued an
Confucius?"                                     and the pipe dropped from his mouth          order. I will obey that order not
"No," snapped Blake. "Where is my               into his lap.                                because you ask me to but because it is
assistant? I demand an answer!"                 "How can you possibly know that!" he         my duty and my place to do so."
Without taking his eyes from the pearl, Fu      barked. "The order was given in the          "You give me your word that you will
Manchu said, "You demand, Mr Blake?             strictest confidence during a meeting        not intentionally interfere with the Si
Really? But come now, there is no need for      attended only by myself and the man          Fan?" said Fu Manchu quietly.
such crudity. I assure you that the plucky      who issued it!"                              "I give you my word that I will not
young Tinker is well cared for!"                "Ah, Mr Blake! There is a great deal         intentionally engage with the Si Fan.
He turned and looked the detective              that I know! A very great deal! The          However, I will add that, if I happen
straight in the eye. "I have come to            point is that the order was given and I      across information that will help
negotiate. Perhaps you realise how much         want you to obey it! If you give me          oppose you, then I will not hesitate to
of a ... novelty ... that is for me? I do not   your word that you will do so — that         pass that information on to the Secret
normally negotiate, Mr Blake. May I sit?"       you will not interfere with the affairs of   Service."
Blake gave a curt nod.                          the Si Fan — then I will return Tinker       "But you will not actively seek such
Fu Manchu lowered himself into the guest        to you unharmed. I will also give you        information?"
armchair and, with his elbows on its arms       my assurance that the Si Fan will not        "I shall not."
and his hands steepled before his face, he      interfere in the affairs of Sexton Blake!"   "Then we have a deal, Mr Blake. I have
contemplated Blake, who had also seated         Blake retrieved his pipe and busied          one further request."
himself.                                        himself refilling and lighting it while      Sexton Blake narrowed his eyes,
"First," said the doctor, "I want you to        considering his visitor's proposal.          wondering what was coming next; half
know that I do not hold you responsible         Doctor Fu Manchu was, in essence,            expecting trickery of some sort.
for the disruption of my little gathering the   simply asking him to do something that       Fu Manchu leaned forward in the chair.
other night nor for the subsequent burning      he would do anyway: obey the orders          That peculiar milky film in his eyes
of the dragon miankse."                         given him by the head of the Secret          flickered across the pinpoint irises.
                                                                                                                                25

"Colonel Ash. I want him. Tell me             "The pearl of Ki Kwan was a gift, Mr        past. However, Plummer had visited each
where I might find him!"                      Blake. Now, perhaps, you will look          one in his Colonel Ash guise when he
The        Baker      Street      detective   upon it as a memento — a memento of         deposited the Si Fan money — and that is
contemplated the question. Plainly, Fu        our one and only encounter! Please          what terrified him, for if Sexton Blake had
Manchu did not know the colonel's true        know that I have enjoyed meeting the        discovered that fact, then the banks in
identity.                                     world's most famous and accomplished        question might at this very moment be
George Marsden Plummer's crime spree          detective. And, of course, I wish you       under observation. Even worse, Blake
had so far lasted for two decades and         nothing but success in your campaign        might have asked Scotland Yard to order
there was no end to it in sight. The man      against our common opponent, Prince         the accounts frozen.
was an out-and-out scoundrel who had,         Wu Ling."                                   Plummer needed that money. He had to
time and again, eluded Blake and police       Blake bowed his head in                     move it to an account in Gibraltar, where
forces worldwide. He was, undoubtedly,        acknowledgement. When he raised his         it would be more easily accessible to him.
the most persistent of Blake's foes, and      eyes, Doctor Fu Manchu had gone.            He knew, though, that getting it from the
while it was true that a great many of his                                                five banks — if, indeed, he could get it —
schemes had been foiled by the                            The Tenth Chapter               would mean taking a massive risk. When
detective, it was also true that a great                         Flight!                  depositing the cheques, in his Colonel
many had not.                                 For two days George Marsden                 Ash disguise, he had told the bank
Here was an opportunity to finally            Plummer had been keeping out of sight,      managers that it he would be returning in
curtail Plummer's activities. With the Si     not once leaving his room in a small        a few days to withdraw the cash — they
Fan on his heels, the master-crook            B&B in Gillingham. Despite                  were expecting Ash! But thanks to Sexton
would spend the rest of his life —            abandoning his Colonel Ash disguise         Blake's raid on the temple, Colonel Ash
probably a short life — looking over his      and donning instead a grey wig and          was a very risky man to be!
shoulder fearfully. He would flinch away      false beard, he felt extremely unsafe,      What Plummer didn't know was that
from every yellow face he ever saw. He        was filled with terror and wanted to get    Sexton Blake was currently occupied
would be forced to retreat ever deeper        out of the country as soon as possible.     sifting through the ashes of the café and
into the shadows; maybe even fleeing to       He knew that Sexton Blake would be          the rooms beneath. It was, in fact, the Si
the remotest of regions. Not even his         investigating the recent movements of       Fan who posed the greatest danger, for
beloved Rif Mountains could offer him a       'Colonel Ash'. Plummer had developed        they were combing London in search of
safe haven, for Blake had but to inform       an almost superstitious fear of the         Colonel Ash. Indeed, when Plummer
Fu Manchu of his possible presence            detective's abilities, for time and again   stepped off the train at Charing Cross
there in order to fill those rocky peaks      his schemes had been foiled by the          Station, he was observed by a pair of dark,
with a swarm of vengeful Chinamen.            Baker Street man.                           slanted eyes … and from that moment, his
Plummer would be hunted like an               He sat on his bed, gnawed his               every movement was followed.
animal and, sooner or later, he would be      fingernails, and tried to figure out what   He proceeded to the first of the banks
caught — and God help him then! The           clues he might have left and how Blake      and, with very little trouble, withdrew the
Asiatics have ways of ensuring that a         might use them to trace him.                cash and placed it into a plain leather
man's final excruciating hours, days,         After many hours of this, with his nerve    holdall. He left the building expecting to
weeks — even months! — are                    almost shattered, he paid the landlady      be nabbed by Scotland Yard men — but
prolonged beyond anything imaginable          and walked to the train station, a          nothing of the sort happened.
by a Westerner. The Christian vision of       suitcase in one hand, an empty holdall      It was the same story at each of the banks
Hell pales by comparison to the physical      in the other. When the London-bound         and, later that morning, it was a far more
agonies a Celestial can inflict.              locomotive came rattling up to the          confident Plummer who arrived at
Plummer's end would be ... horrible!          platform, belching smoke and soot,          Liverpool Street. His holdall heavy with a
Sexton Blake looked up, straight into         Plummer jumped aboard almost before         fortune in banknotes.
the slanted green eyes of Doctor Fu           it had stopped and sat alone, shaking, in   It was at this point that the flaw in his
Manchu.                                       a first-class compartment. He fumbled a     character took over.
"I know of no individual named Colonel        cigar from his pocket, bit off the end      Had Plummer been content with the
Ash," he said. "And if such an individual     and lit it, the trembling flame crackling   money currently in his hand, chances are
exists, I have no idea where he might         down its side.                              that he would have got clear and left the
be."                                          For the duration of the short journey,      country a very rich man indeed. Plummer,
The eyes of the Chinese warlord and the       he chain-smoked, filling the small space    though, knew that a further half-a-million
criminal investigator held. There was         with smoke. Under its cover, and for        was waiting for him. It was something he
silence. Then Fu Manchu blinked and           the final time, he transformed himself      couldn't ignore.
stood up.                                     into Colonel Ash.                           Greed motivated him.
"Very well, Mr Blake, in that case our        The one-and-a-half million he had           Overconfidence made him careless.
business is done. We shall never meet         taken from Fairfax, plus the large          He forgot to remove his disguise.
again, is that understood?"                   amounts of money he had accepted            So he stepped aboard a train and, less
"Yes," said Blake, also standing.             from Doctor Fu Manchu, had been             than an hour later, he was in Ilford and
Fu Manchu crossed the room to the             divided between five bank accounts. All     walking along the Cranbrook Road.
door then turned and looked back at the       the accounts had been opened under          The previous few days of rain had given
detective.                                    assumed names at various times in the       way to a uniform but bright greyness. A
26

thin unbroken blanket of cloud stretched          straight at Plummer.                          opened onto a main road. He veered to
across the sky. It was the kind of weather        Fairfax's hands, dangling at his sides,       the left and raced along it hoping to see
that left most people feeling flat and            were painted bright green.                    a taxi but none came. He glanced
depressed — but Plummer was feeling               Plummer stumbled backwards and fell           behind him and saw a Celestial in hot
exuberant. He was rich! And he was about          against the hallway wall. For a moment,       pursuit.
to get richer!                                    all rational thought left him and his         The Si Fan had been looking for
After about fifteen minutes, the Spoon Inn        eyes, the whites completely visible           Malcom Fairfax and for Colonel Ash!
hove into view ahead of him. He entered           around the green irises, twitched             They had found both!
the tavern, walked up to the bar and asked        frantically from side to side like those of   Desperately, Plummer ran, dodging
for the landlord. A tall bearded individual       a trapped animal. His knees buckled           and turning through street after street,
appeared beside him and placed a tray of          and he began to slide down the wall but       his legs pumping, his lungs sucking in
empty glasses on the bar. "That's me!" he         his wits suddenly returned and, heaving       huge draughts of air. He cursed himself
said in a loud, jovial voice. "'Ow can I 'elp?"   himself upright, he leaned forward and        bitterly. Why had he bothered with half
"You have a Mr Darwin rooming here?"              pulled the door shut.                         a million when he already had more
asked Plummer.                                    Grabbing his suitcase and still clutching     than three times that amount in his
"Aye! A rummy sort o' chap! Unsociable!"          the holdall, he hurried back along the        hands?
"Ah, that's my fault, I'm afraid!"                passageway and down the stairs.               The Asiatic was closing on him.
"Really? 'Ow's that then?" asked the              "Hallo!" boomed the landlord, "That           Plummer could hear the soft thud thud
landlord, scratching his head.                    was a quick visit! Ain't there nothin' you    thud of the man's feet at his back.
"I'm his doctor. I told him to go stay            can do for the poor chap?" And he             Then, as he came alongside a high
somewhere. Take a rest. See no one. Read          roared with laughter at his own joke.         fence, Plummer noticed a gap where a
books!"                                           Plummer pushed past him, heading for          couple of planks had become detached
"Oh ho! A doctor hey? Funny, I took you           the exit, and muttered, "He wasn't            and he quickly veered into the
for a military man!"                              there!"                                       opening. As he passed through, his foot
Plummer realised that he was still in his         "Wasn't there? Wasn't there?" shouted         caught on something and he fell head
disguise. He nodded.                              the landlord as the master crook              first down a steep slope. His skin was
"And you are correct. I'm a military doctor.      reached the door. "Why he ain't been          lacerated and bruised as he rolled and
Will you announce me?"                            nowhere but there for two blinkin'            slid in a shower of debris down the
The landlord clicked his heels and gave an        days!"                                        incline to the bottom, where he
over-theatrical salute.                           Plummer staggered out of the Spoon            slammed into hard gravel. He lay
"No need for that, sir! You can go straight       Inn and started running back towards          panting and winded.
up, sir! Stairs are in the corner over there,     the train station. As he came abreast the     A shower of earth and stones warned
sir! The gentleman is in room four, what is       mouth of an alleyway, a figure suddenly       him that the Chinaman had followed
to your left at the top 'o the stairs, sir!"      leaped out and dragged him into it,           and was picking his way down the
Plummer smiled and drawled: "At ease, my          using the big man's own momentum to           slope.
man!"                                             send him sprawling into the gloomy            Plummer forced himself to his knees
The landlord saluted again as Plummer left        passageway.                                   and then to his feet. He clutched the
him, crossed the lounge bar and ascended          Plummer twisted to his knees, expecting       holdall to his chest and quickly glanced
the stairs. A suitcase was in his right hand;     to see Sexton Blake and Tinker leaping        around. He was in a railway cutting,
the holdall in his left. At the top, he turned    towards him. Instead, he saw two              next to the tracks, which were starting
and passed along a dingy hall until he came       Chinamen. He screamed and jerked the          to hum and vibrate as an unseen train
to room four. Then he placed the suitcase         holdall up as a knife flashed down. It        approached. How fast would it be
on the floor and knocked on the door.             half severed the handle of the bag and        travelling? Could he somehow board it
There was no reply. He knocked again.             plunged into its brown leather.               and get away? All he required was a
Silence. He gripped and turned the door           Plummer yanked the bag away, bringing         place where, free from prying eyes, he
handle. The door was locked.                      the knife with it, and, with his other        could remove his Ash disguise. The Si
There are certain locks which, for an ex-         hand, he sent the suitcase smashing into      Fan had never seen his real features.
Scotland Yard man like Plummer —                  the side of his attacker's head. The case     He just needed to pull off the wig and
especially one possessing his strength —          exploded and the Celestial was sent           false moustache, wipe away the
provide no barrier at all. He braced himself,     reeling, collapsing to the pavement, out      carefully applied lines and wrinkles,
turned the handle again, lifted and pushed.       cold, with clothes and various toiletries     then he could walk right past Fu
With a slight splintering sound, the door         falling around him.                           Manchu himself without being
opened and Plummer stood on the                   The second man dived at Plummer but           recognised!
threshold, staring into the room.                 was caught by the suitcase's back-swing       He turned just as his pursuer reached
He blinked. The muscles at either side of         which smashed into his face, causing          the bottom of the slope. The oriental
his jaw pulsed.                                   him to tumble sideways into a dustbin.        dived at him. Plummer's fist shot out.
Malcom Fairfax was hanging by the neck            As his assailant thrashed about amid          His opponent ducked and wound his
from the light fitting in the middle of the       clattering tin and stinking refuse,           wiry arms around Plummer's waist,
ceiling. His face was purple and his tongue,      Plummer shot to his feet, dropped the         hooked his leg around the bigger man's
thick and black, was protruding from his          suitcase, turned on his heel and fled         ankle, and pushed. Losing his balance,
mouth. His glazed, dead eyes stared               farther down the alleyway. At its end it      the master crook toppled backwards
                                                                                                                            27

onto the rail track, banging his head      But the holdall was no longer there.       me. We played chequers for hours on
against one of the metal runners. For a    He scrambled to his feet and stumbled      end and I got fed and watered on a
brief moment he blacked out and,           along beside the track, past the large     regular basis. Not much different to a
when his senses revived, he found the      smear of blood, to where the notes were    holiday in Margate, apart from the lack
Si Fan man on his chest and a garotte      scattered. He began to gather them up      of sand, sun, donkey rides and freedom
around his throat.                         but there was only a small fraction of     to depart when the whim takes you!"
Beneath him, the track began to            the one-and-a-half million; just a few     Further conversation was interrupted
rumble and jump as the train sped          hundred pounds. He could have wept,        by the sudden appearance of Pedro,
nearer.                                    so biting was his frustration. To be so    who bounded on his young master with
Plummer felt as if his head would          close to the riches he had always          frantic enthusiasm, his tail wagging
burst as the cord cut into his neck. His   dreamed of and then have them              madly. At the same time, a thunderous
vision narrowed to a pinprick, the         snatched away at the last moment!          pounding sounded from the front door
world becoming a distant spark of          Plummer was cut, bruised, covered with     below, accompanied by the urgent
light at the end of a very long tunnel.    soot and dust, and bone-weary. He          clanging of the doorbell and Mrs
With one final, supreme effort, he         moved slowly, all the fight drained out    Bardell's shriek of "Suspector-Defective
swung the heavy holdall into the side      of him. Then he remembered the other       Scoots!"
of his attacker's head. The handle of      Chinaman — the one he had knocked          While the customary battle between the
the bag, already half-sliced through,      cold in the alley. As soon as that man     landlady and Scotland Yard man raged
snapped, and as the Celestial fell         regained his wits, he would put out the    on the doorstep, Tinker settled Pedro
sideways the bag flew over him and         word that Colonel Ash was in the area.     onto the hearthrug, then he and Sexton
bounced away down the track.               It would soon be swarming with the Si      Blake took up position in their
Plummer threw the broken handle            Fan!                                       armchairs.
aside and rolled away from the railway     So Plummer stuffed his pockets with        By the time Coutts made it up the
line, his ears filled with a thunderous    banknotes and began to climb the           stairs, Blake's pipe had polluted the
noise that was partly the sound of         slope. He would find a room                atmosphere to a satisfactory degree and
blood pumping back through his half-       somewhere nearby, clean himself up,        both he and his assistant had their
crushed arteries, and partly the growl     and then get out of the country as fast    noses buried in newspapers.
of the fast approaching locomotive.        as possible. He knew he would be safe      The consultation room door opened
He dug the cord away from his throat       from the Si Fan once he had divested       and a thoroughly harrassed-looking
and gasped for air.                        himself of the Colonel Ash disguise but    George Coutts stepped in. Behind him,
He staggered to his feet. A whistle        there would still remain one               from the bottom of the stairs, came Mrs
blasted. The Si Fan man sat up and         overwhelming danger —                      Bardell's voice: "And you didn't wipe
looked past Plummer, his eyes              The man named Sexton Blake!                'em great clod-hoppin' boots of yours
widening with terror, his mouth                                                       neither! You might 'ave been brung up
opening to scream.                                       The Epilogue                 on a farm with the aminals but
Suddenly Plummer was knocked flying                      Baker Street                 hereabouts we got civilated customs
as a wall of air slapped into him with     That evening, while Plummer was            and don't you ferget it!"
terrible force, sending him rolling over   fleeing across the channel, bitter and     "By the Lord Harry!" panted Coutts,
and over. He was enveloped in thick        defeated, the door to Sexton Blake's       "Her cooking is heavenly but that
burning steam; deafened by an earth-       consulting room opened and Tinker          womans the devil in disguise!"
shattering roar as a locomotive flashed    walked in. Blake leapt up from his chair   Tinker lowered his paper. "Oh, hello
by less than two feet from him. The        and in a couple of long strides was        Couttsy. Didn't hear you coming!"
ground shook wildly as the deafening       gripping his assistant's hand in a         Coutts jerked his hat from his head.
train continued to pass, seeming to go     heartfelt shake. He cleared his throat     "Don't call me 'Couttsy, you young ...
on forever.                                and asked: "Are you in good shape,         What! By all that's holy! Tinker!"
And then it was over and a strange         young'un?"                                 "The one and only!" grinned the
silence descended upon him.                "It was dreadful!" whispered Tinker        youngster, rising the grip the Yard
Plummer lay still with his face pressed    huskily. "I've had nothing but noodles,    man's hand.
into the oily gravel.                      twice a day for three days!"               "Pull up a chair, old friend," advised
He was tired. He wanted to sleep, to       Blake laughed and cuffed the               Sexton Blake. "Tinker will tell you
shut his eyes and wake up somewhere        youngster's head. "Clown! So no harm       about his adventures!"
else, somewhere safe and comfortable.      done, then?"                               Coutts did so and for the next few
After some moments, he lifted his          "Nope! One minute I was looking at         minutes he listened to Tinker's account
head.                                      Plummer, next minute the lights went       of his capture by Plummer and
The Chinaman had vanished. Where           out. When I woke up I had a thumping       imprisonment by the Si Fan.
he had been sitting, the railway           great headache and my wrists and           At the end of it the police inspector
sleepers were wet and red, glistening      ankles were sore — seems I was tied up     gave a whistle. "I can never get the hang
in the pale grey light.                    for a while, though I can't remember it!   of these oriental types," he mused.
Further along the rails, banknotes         I was in a small square room with a        "First they're going to stick a steaming
fluttered through the air.                 mattress, a couple of cushions on the      great fork into you, next they're treating
"No!" groaned Plummer. "No!"               floor, and a Chinaman watching over        you to bed and breakfast!"
  28
  "In fairness," opined Blake, "they didn't its forces while it's divided by these supposition that a member of the Si Fan
  actually know it was Tinker beneath that ancient emnities! Doctor Fu Manchu appeared at his office window — I've
  silk and it was Assistant Commissioner and Prince Wu Ling will never unite, of examined the wall beneath it and it's an
  Nayland Smith, as von Horst, who was that we can be certain!"                                                     easy climb. No doubt Bennett saw him,
  brandishing the fork!"                                     "But to get back to Plummer," said knew that he was an assassin, and died
  "Fiddlesticks! Mere details!" grumbled Coutts, "How the dickens did he fool a on the spot. The man then entered and
  Coutts. "But I'm still in the dark. What was man like Manchu? With the Colonel painted Bennett's hands green."
  Plummer up to?"                                            Ash business, I mean."                                 "The dragon's claw!" said Tinker.
  "Exactly as you predicted!" exclaimed "Simply because he knew what he was Coutts snorted. "Mumbo jumbo, more
  Blake. "He was after money!"                               talking about! Plummer knows the like!"
  "From Doctor Fu Manchu?"                                   Riffian forces inside out. My guess is He brushed cake crumbs from his
  "Yes. But he made exactly the same mistake that, in his guise of Colonel Ash, he trouser leg.
  as I did — he misjudged the hold that offered those forces to Fu Manchu. Sexton Blake turned and gazed at the
  symbols and rituals have over the oriental The so-called Devil Doctor must have pearl of Ki Kwan.
  mind! I was a fool to arrange the sale of the found that irresistible; his own army "Yes indeed," he muttered. "But when it
  dragon miankse to the Si Fan without first poised just the other side of the Straits comes from the right source, mumbo
  researching its history and significance. of Gibraltar! The prospect dazzled jumbo can be as fatal as the thrust of a
  And Plummer was a fool to think that he him; blinded him to the truth — that knife!"
  could substitute Tinker for Fairfax without 'Colonel Ash' was in it for one thing
  Fu Manchu regarding it as an act of and one thing only — personal gain!"                                                             The End
  betrayal!"                                                 "A risky game for Plummer," noted
  "Great heavens if it wasn't bad enough with Tinker.
  Wu Ling, now we have Fu Man-bloomin'- "Indeed," agreed Blake. "But since
                                                                                                                     ____________
  chu!" groaned Coutts.                                      when has Plummer played any other FOOTBALL COMPETITION NO. 9
  "The truth is," said Blake, "that Fu Manchu sort?"                                                               Matches played Saturday X, XXXX
  has been around for a long time. The After a momentary pause, the detective (Date restricted by The Craille Institute)
  Secret Intelligence Service knows all about continued:                                                                                   ___
  him and Nayland Smith and Doctor Petrie "Fu Manchu's lust for power also gave
  have battled him — just as we've battled Assistant Commissioner Nayland                                                             £50 WON.
  Wu Ling — for many a year. Of course, I Smith the opportunity he needed.                                                                 ___
  had been aware that the Manchu and the When he learned that the doctor was
  Ming dynasties were at odds — and I knew making overtures to Hitler, he In this Competition no one succeeded in
  that the Manchu's had an operative in intercepted the man sent to negotiate correctly forecasting the results of all the
  Europe … but I had no idea that the Si Fan on Hitler's behalf and took his place. matches. The Prize of £50 is therefore
  were so powerful. Whenever I saw signs of As von Horst, he gained valuable divided among the following eighteen
  their various machinations — the insight into Fu Manchu's intentions!"                                           competitors, who each sent in a coupon
  attempted           intrigues,         kidnappings, "And Hitler's," muttered Tinker.                             showing twelve correct predictions:
  assassinations, acts of sabotage, and so Detective-Inspector Coutts's hat went Mrs. E. J. Cole, Bishop Sutton, Bristol;
  forth — I had mistakenly attributed them flying across the consulting room, Geo. Parry, Bock House, Ferndale, S.
  to Wu Ling's organisation; they bore the banged against the window and fell to Wales; W. P. Lee, 78, Glandwr Street,
  same unmistakable hallmark of the East!"                   the carpet.                                           Abertillery. S. Wales; John St. Clair, 44,
  "Guv'nor," broke in Tinker, "with these two "Blast it!" he fumed. "Hitler! Wu Ling! Spurstowe Terrace, Hackney, London;
  organisations at work to destabilise Plummer! Fu Manchu! Is there no end Jas. Stewart, 12, Terrace Road,
  Europe, what chance do we have? Do you to these maniacs?"                                                        Greenock; Mr. Robinson, 4 Cain Lane,
  think they'll manipulate us into another His outburst was interrupted by the Southowram, Halifax; C. Hall, 52,
  war?"                                                      arrival of Mrs Bardell bearing a tray Crimpsall Road, Doncaster; E. Ruddiek,
  "Another        war!"       exclaimed         Coutts. upon which stood a teapot and a plate 23, Raglan Row, Philadelphia, Co.
  "Impossible!"                                              of pastries. She lay it on an occasional Durham; John W. Mould, High Street.
  "I'm afraid it's all too possible, old chap," table and was just turning to leave Mow Cop, Cheshire; Mr. A. Boanas, 82,
  said Blake. "Maybe even inevitable. And if when, with a disapproving sigh, she Angus Street, Roath Park, Cardiff; John
  it's anything like as ferocious as the last noticed the hat on the floor. She Radio, 48, North Junction Street, Leith,
  one, then the East need only gather its crossed to it, picked it up, dusted it Scotland; L. J. Gee, 48, Hasland Road,
  forces and have them sweep through the down, then, on her way out of the Chesterfield; W. Rawson, 16, Tunstall
  debris!"                                                   room, silently slapped it onto Coutts's Road, Dewsbury Road, Leeds; J. A.
  "My God!"                                                  head.                                                 Fraser, 132, School Road, Moseley;
  "I never thought I'd say this, guv'nor," said Tinker laughed delightedly.                                        Samuel Gibbs, 6, Russell Street,
  Tinker, "but thank goodness for Prince Wu Coutts frowned and reached for a cake. Heywood, Tree Lanes; Harry Blunt, 80,
  Ling!"                                                     "Incidentally," he said, "according to Bourne Street, Brindley Ford, Stoke-on-
  Sexton Blake chuckled.                                     the coroner, Bennett definitely died of Trent; Mrs. Cooper, 62, Skipworth
  "Well there you have it in a nutshell," he fright."                                                              Street, Leicester; Denis Regan, 55,
  nodded. "The East won't be able to gather                  Sexton Blake nodded. "It's my                         Cardiff Road, Mountain Ash, Glam.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Created by Mark Hodder of BLAKIANA on behalf of The Craille Institute. Copyright Mark Hodder 2009. No part of this publication may be
                         reproduced without the author's express permission. Date restricted by The Craille Institute.
29




A WORD FROM THE SKIPPER                    interesting information, including the       received have each lasted exactly one
My Dear Readers, -- From time to time      rough drafts of new Sexton Blake             week before mysteriously crumbling into
large flat envelopes appear in a postbox   stories -- drafts which, in fact, had more   ash of their own accord!
marked '28 apt. 5'. Your humble            of the appearance of case notes. With a      I am, as you might imagine, on fire with
editor's name and address are stamped      minimum of effort on my part, these          curiosity!
onto these envelopes in jet black ink.     became 'The Séance at Stillwater             The penultimate envelope to date
The postmarks are always British but,      Mansion', 'The Return of the Yellow          contained twenty-six pages upon which
so far, in each instance they have         Beetle', 'Special Dispensation 5 and 6       were written the most startling
indicated a different town as the point    (plus 5, Appendix 1)', 'The Case of the      information so far. And I mean 'written',
of origin. The most recent example, of     Left Hand of Thoth', 'Pedro Pulls            for the contents deviated from the usual
which I am about to write, was sent        Through!', 'The Case of the Flying           in the fact that, rather than being
from Herne Bay, which is a small           Submarine', 'The Day of the Dragon'          printed, everything was penned by hand.
seaside town on the north coast of         and 'The Mystery of Devil's Forest'.         Like the font of the previous missives,
Kent. Beyond the postmark, no return       Of these stories, 'Special Dispensation      the words were tiny in the extreme,
address has ever been indicated.           5 and 6 (plus 5, Appendix 1)' and 'The       written with a narrow-nibbed fountain
To date, I have received eleven of these   Case of the Left Hand of Thoth' are by       pen. The letters were slanted sharply to
envelopes. Each one contained sheets       far the most interesting in that they        the right and were beautifully formed,
of extremely thin white paper with a       suggest that Sexton Blake is alive, is       though somewhat angular in style. There
great number of words printed upon         working for (though independent of) a        were no mistakes; nothing crossed out or
them in a typeface so small as to be just  secret organisation named The Craille        scribbled over; nothing misspelled.
barely legible.                            Institute, and that he uses (and has         The author, whoever he or she may be,
The first envelope was delivered about     always used) fictionalised versions of       had listed key events in Sexton Blake's
eight months after I created the           his cases to maintain his position on the    life, including hitherto unknown 'facts'
BLAKIANA web site. It contained            other side of what is termed 'The            such as his birthdate and a brief (and
fifteen pages. The topmost bore the        Credibility Gap'.                            tragic) history of his family.
following (and rather intriguing)          Now, I must admit that for a                 A small part of this information has been
message:                                   considerable period of time I laboured       used to construct the timeline which
                                           under the impression that I was the          now appears on the BLAKIANA site.
'Re. the web site. Good work. Timely. victim of an extravagant hoax. After all,         More will be added later (yes, of course
We will be in touch.'                      Sexton Blake is just a fictional             the moment I received the envelope I
                                           character, isn't he?                         copied the contents by hand!).
There was no signature or address.         However, when I discovered a certain         So to the most recent delivery:
The remaining fourteen sheets              oddity about the jet black ink of these      It contained case notes, entitled THE
contained a great many additions and       envelopes and their contents ... let's       AFFAIR OF THE DEVIL DOCTOR
corrections to the Sexton Blake            just say that my judgement is well and       and an instruction to 'Write this up'.
bibliography which, at the time, was in truly suspended.                                There was an address (of a post office in
an inadequate shape, to say the least.     This is astonishing but true: if I try to    Tunbridge Wells) to which I was asked --
This new information allowed me to         scan or photocopy the pages, nothing         or, rather, 'ordered' -- to send the results.
transform it into something that           but a blank white page comes out. If I       So I did what I was told.
actually deserved to be called a           try to photograph them, the camera           A few days later I received an email
bibliography! There were also extracts cannot focus on the typeface and                 asking me to explain what had occurred
from various issues of THE UNION           records only blurred lines.                  so far and how I felt about it.
JACK which I was able to use as the        The only way I have found to                 So I wrote this and will send it back to
basis for the article entitled 'Behind the reproduce the information is to sit          the anonymous emailer in a moment.
Scenes in Baker Street'.                   down and copy the sheets by hand.            How do I feel about all this?
Subsequent envelopes held much more It gets worse: the sheets of paper I have           Baffled1 Excited! Intrigued!
The Craille Institute supports
BLAKIANA, the Sexton Blake
resource. Have you experienced the
adventures of the world's greatest
detective? Did you know about the
ECCENTRIC, AMBITIOUS and
DANGEROUS villains he opposes?

				
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