She had risen slowly from the bed—a gaunt, pitiful figure, pitifully clothed, the black hair, gray-streaked, streaming thinly over her shoulders, still clutching the baby that, too, was crying now.
The officers looked at one another and nodded.
“Guess she’s handing it straight—we’ll have a look on our own hook,” the leader muttered.
She paid no attention to them—she was walking straight to Jimmie Dale.
“It’s you, is it,” she whispered fiercely through her sobs “that would bring more shame and ruin here—you that’s selling my man’s life away with your filthy lies for what they’re paying you—it’s you, is it, that—” Her voice broke.
There was a frightened, uneasy look in Larry the Bat’s eyes, his lips were twitching weakly, he drew far back against the wall—and then, glancing miserably at the officers, as though entreating their permission, began to edge toward the door.
For a moment she watched him, her face white with outrage, her hand clenched at her side—and then she found her voice again.
“Get out of here!” she said, in a choked, strained way pointing to the door. “Get out of here—you dirty skate!”
“Sure!” mumbled Larry the Bat, his eyes on the floor. “Sure!” he mumbled—and the door closed behind him.
PART TWO: THE WOMAN IN THE CASE
BELOW THE DEAD LINE
Whisperings! Always whisperings, low, sibilant, floating errantly from all sides, until they seemed a component part of the drug-laden atmosphere itself. And occasionally another sound: the soft slap-slap of loose-slippered feet, the faint rustle of equally loose-fitting garments. And everywhere the sweet, sickish smell of opium. It was Chang Foo’s, simply a cellar or two deeper in Chang Foo’s than that in which Dago Jim had quarrelled once—and died!
Larry the Bat, vicious-faced, unkempt, disreputable, lay sprawled out on one of the dive’s bunks, an opium pipe beside him. But Larry the Bat was not smoking; instead, his ear was pressed closely against the boarding that formed the rather flimsy partition at the side of the bunk. One heard many things in Chang Foo’s if one cared to listen—if one could first win one’s way through the carefully guarded gateway, that to the uninitiated offered nothing more interesting than the entrance to a Chinese tea-shop, and an uninviting one at that!
Had he been followed in here? He had been shadowed for the last hour; of that, at least, he was certain. Why? By whom? For an hour he had dodged in and out through the dens of the underworld, as only one who was at home there and known to all could do—and at last he had taken refuge in Chang Foo’s like a fox burrowing deep into its hole.