“Catalepsy!” I suggested, for I was beginning to see light.
“That’s it, sir! He said he was afraid of being buried alive! He asked me, as a favor, if he should die in prison to go to a friend of his and get a syringe with which to inject some stuff that would do away with all chance of his coming to life again after burial.”
“You had no right to talk to the prisoner!” roared Colonel Warrington.
“I know that, sir, but you’ll admit that the circumstances were peculiar. Anyway, he died in the night, sure enough, and from heart failure, according to the doctor. I managed to get a couple of hours leave in the evening, and I went and fetched the syringe and a little tube of yellow stuff.”
“Do you understand, Petrie?” cried Nayland Smith, his eyes blazing with excitement. “Do you understand?”
“It’s more than I do, sir,” continued Morrison, “but as I was explaining, I brought the little syringe back with me and I filled it from the tube. The body was lying in the mortuary, which you’ve seen, and the door not being locked, it was easy for me to slip in there for a moment. I didn’t fancy the job, but it was soon done. I threw the syringe and the tube over the wall into the lane outside, as I’d been told to do.
“What part of the wall?” asked Smith.
“Behind the mortuary.”
“That’s where they were waiting!” I cried excitedly. “The building used as a mortuary is quite isolated, and it would not be a difficult matter for some one hiding in the lane outside to throw one of those ladders of silk and bamboo across the top of the wall.”
“But, my good sir,” interrupted the Governor irascibly, “whilst I admit the possibility to which you allude, I do not admit that a dead man, and a heavy one at that, can be carried up a ladder of silk and bamboo! Yet, on the evidence of my own eyes, the body of the prisoner, Samarkan, was removed from the mortuary last night!”
Smith signaled to me to pursue the subject no further; and indeed I realized that it would have been no easy matter to render the amazing truth evident to a man of the Colonel’s type of mind. But to me the facts of the case were now clear enough.
That Fu-Manchu possessed a preparation for producing artificial catalepsy, of a sort indistinguishable from death, I was well aware. A dose of this unknown drug had doubtless been contained in the cognac (if, indeed, the decanter had held cognac) that the prisoner had drunk at the time of his arrest. The “yellow stuff” spoken of by Morrison I recognized as the antidote (another secret of the brilliant Chinese doctor), a portion of which I had once, some years before, actually had in my possession. The “dead man” had not been carried up the ladder; he had climbed up!
“Now, Morrison,” snapped Nayland Smith, “you have acted wisely thus far. Make a clean breast of it. How much were you paid for the job?”