There was blood on the feet of the golden idol!
All this I detected at a glance, but ere I had time to speak:
“You can’t tell me that tale, Ma!” cried Harley. “I believe ’e was smokin’ in ’ere when we knocked.”
The woman shrugged her fat shoulders.
“No, hab,” she repeated. “You two johnnies clear out. Let me sleep.”
But as I turned to her, beneath the nonchalant manner I could detect a great uneasiness; and in her dark eyes there was fear. That Harley also had seen the bloodstains I was well aware, and I did not doubt that furthermore he had noted the fact that the only mat which the room boasted had been placed before the joss— doubtless to hide other stains upon the boards.
As we stood so I presently became aware of a current of air passing across the room in the direction of the open door. It came from a window before which a tawdry red curtain had been draped. Either the window behind the curtain was wide open, which is alien to Chinese habits, or it was shattered. While I was wondering if Harley intended to investigate further:
“Come on, Jim!” he cried boisterously, and clapped me on the shoulder; “the old fox don’t want to be disturbed.”
He turned to the woman:
“Tell him when he wakes up, Ma,” he said, “that if ever my pal Jim wants a pipe he’s to ’ave one. Savvy? Jim’s square.”
“Savvy,” replied the woman, and she was wholly unable to conceal her relief. “You clear out now, and I tell Kwen Lung when he come in.”
“Righto, Ma!” said Harley. “Kiss ‘im on both cheeks for me, an’ tell ’im I’ll be ’ome again in a month.”
Grasping me by the arm he lurched up the steps, and the two of us presently found ourselves out in the street again. In the growing light the squalor of the district was more evident than ever, but the comparative freshness of the air was welcome after the reek of that room in which the golden idol sat leering, with blood at his feet.
“You saw, Harley?” I exclaimed excitedly. “You saw the stains? And I’m certain the window was broken!”
Harley nodded shortly.
“Back to Wade Street!” he said. “I allow myself fifteen minutes to shed Bill Jones, able seaman, and to become Paul Harley, of Chancery Lane.”
As we hurried along:
“What steps shall you take?” I asked.
“First step: search Kwen Lung’s house from cellar to roof. Second step: entirely dependent upon result of first. The Chinese are subtle, Knox. If Kwen Lung has killed his daughter, it may require all the resources of Scotland Yard to prove it.”
“There is no ‘but’ about it. Chinatown is the one district of London which possesses the property of swallowing people up.”
Half an hour later, as I sat in the inner room before the great dressing-table laboriously removing my disguise—for I was utterly incapable of metamorphosing myself like Harley in seven minutes—I heard a rapping at the outer door. I glanced nervously at my face in the mirror.