“That’s simple enough,” answered Inspector Weymouth. “Although we knew of this Cafe de l’Egypte, we have never had the slightest trouble there. It’s a Bohemian resort, where members of the French Colony, some of the Chelsea art people, professional models, and others of that sort, foregather at night. I’ve been there myself as a matter of fact, and I’ve seen people well known in the artistic world come in. It has much the same clientele as, say, the Cafe Royal, with a rather heavier sprinkling of Hindu students, Japanese, and so forth. It’s celebrated for Turkish coffee.”
“What do you know of this Ismail?”
“Nothing much. He’s a Levantine Jew.”
“And something more!” added Smith, surveying himself in the mirror, and turning to nod his satisfaction to the well-known perruquier whose services are sometimes requisitioned by the police authorities.
We were ready for our visit to the Cafe de l’Egypte, and Smith having deemed it inadvisable that we should appear there openly, we had been transformed, under the adroit manipulation of Foster, into a pair of Futurists oddly unlike our actual selves. No wigs, no false mustaches had been employed; a change of costume and a few deft touches of some water-color paint had rendered us unrecognizable by our most intimate friends.
It was all very fantastic, very reminiscent of Christmas charades, but the farce had a grim, murderous undercurrent; the life of one dearer to me than life itself hung upon our success; the swamping of the White world by Yellow hordes might well be the price of our failure.
Weymouth left us at the corner of Frith Street. This was no more than a reconnaissance, but—
“I shall be within hail if I’m wanted,” said the burly detective; and although we stood not in Chinatown but in the heart of Bohemian London, with popular restaurants about us, I was glad to know that we had so stanch an ally in reserve.
The shadow of the great Chinaman was upon me. That strange, subconscious voice, with which I had become familiar in the past, awoke within me to-night. Not by logic, but by prescience, I knew that the Yellow doctor was near.
Two minutes walk brought us to the door of the cafe. The upper half was of glass, neatly curtained, as were the windows on either side of it; and above the establishment appeared the words: “Cafe de l’Egypte.” Between the second and third word was inserted a gilded device representing the crescent of Islam.
We entered. On our right was a room furnished with marble-topped tables, cane-seated chairs and plush-covered lounges set against the walls. The air was heavy with tobacco smoke; evidently the cafe was full, although the night was young.
Smith immediately made for the upper end of the room. It was not large, and at first glance I thought that there was no vacant place. Presently, however, I espied two unoccupied chairs; and these we took, finding ourselves facing a pale, bespectacled young man, with long, fair hair and faded eyes, whose companion, a bold brunette, was smoking one of the largest cigarettes I had ever seen, in a gold and amber cigar-holder.