“We found this establishment elaborately fitted, and the whole of the fittings were American. Eh bien! This confirmed me in my belief that the establishment was a branch of the wealthy concern I have mentioned in San Francisco. There was also a branch in New York, apparently. We found six or eight people in the place in various stages of coma; and I cannot tell you their names because—among them, were some well-known in the best society"...
“Good Heavens, M. Max, you surprise and shock me!”
“What I tell you is but the truth. We apprehended two low fellows who acted as servants sometimes in the place. We had records of both of them at the Bureau. And there was also a woman belonging to the same class. None of these seemed to me very important, but we were fortunate enough to capture, in addition, a Chinaman—Sen—and a certain Madame Jean—the latter the principal of the establishment!”
“What! a woman?”
“Morbleu! a woman—exactly! You are surprised? Yes; and I was surprised, but full inquiry convinced me that Madame Jean was the chief of staff. We had conducted the raid at night, of course, and because of the big names, we hushed it up. We can do these things in Paris so much more easily than is possible here in London.” He illustrated, delivering a kick upon the person of an imaginary malefactor. “Cochon! Va!” he shrugged. “It is finished!
“The place was arranged with Oriental magnificence. The reception-room—if I can so term that apartment—was like the scene of Rimsky Korsakov’s Sheherezade; I could see that very heavy charges were made at this establishment. I will not bore you with further particulars, but I will tell you of my disappointment.”
“Yes, I was disappointed. True, I had brought about the closing of that house, but of the huge sums of money fraudulently obtained from victims, I could find no trace in the accounts of Madame Jean. She defied me with silence, simply declining to give any account of herself beyond admitting that she conducted an hotel at which opium might be smoked if desired. Blagueur! Sen, the Chinaman, who professed to speak nothing but Chinese—ah! cochon!—was equally a difficult case, Nom d’un nom! I was in despair, for apart from frauds connected with the concern, I had more than small suspicions that at least one death—that of a wealthy banker—could be laid at the doors of the establishment in Rue St. Claude."...
Dr. Cumberly bent yet lower, watching the speaker’s face.
“A murder!” he whispered.
“I do not say so,” replied Max, “but it certainly might have been. The case then must, indeed, have ended miserably, as far as I was concerned, if I had not chanced upon a letter which the otherwise prudent Madame Jean had forgotten to destroy. Triomphe! It was a letter of instruction, and definitely it proved that she was no more than a kind of glorified concierge, and that the chief of the opium group was in London.”