“I’ll have the man removed who is watching the house, and you can reckon on forty-eight hours to make yourself scarce.”
With never another word he seized me by the arm and hurried me out of the place! Ten paces along the street a shabby-looking fellow was standing, leaning against a pillar. Harley stopped, and:
“Even the greatest men make mistakes sometimes, Hewitt,” he remarked. “I’m throwing up the case; probably Inspector Wessex will do the same. Good morning.”
On towards the Causeway he led me—for not a word was I capable of uttering; and just before we reached that artery of Chinatown, from down-river came the deep, sustained note of a steamer’s siren, the warning of some big liner leaving dock.
“That will be the Patna,” said Harley. “She sails at twelve o’clock, I think you said?”
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
“Pull that light lower,” ordered Inspector Wessex. “There you are, Mr. Harley; what do you make of it?”
Paul Harley and I bent gingerly over the ghastly exhibit to which the C.I.D. official had drawn our attention, and to view which we had journeyed from Chancery Lane to Wapping.
This was the body of a man dressed solely in ragged shirt and trousers. But the remarkable feature of his appearance lay in the fact that every scrap of hair from chin, lip, eyebrows and skull had been shaved off!
There was another facial disfigurement, peculiarly and horribly Eastern, which my pen may not describe.
“Impossible to identify!” murmured Harley. “Yes, you were right, Inspector; this is a victim of Oriental deviltry. Look here, too!”
He indicated three small wounds, one situated on the left shoulder and the others on the forearm of the dead man.
“The divisional surgeon cannot account for them,” replied Wessex. “They are quite superficial, and he thinks they may be due to the fact that the body got entangled with something in the river.”
“They are due to the fact that the man had a birthmark on his shoulder and something—probably a name or some device—tattooed on his arm,” said Harley quietly. “Some few years ago, I met with a similar case in the neighbourhood of Stambul. A woman,” he added, significantly.
Detective-Inspector Wessex listened to my companion with respect, for apart from his established reputation as a private inquiry-agent which had made his name familiar in nearly every capital of the civilized world, Paul Harley’s work in Constantinople during the six months preceding war with Turkey had merited higher reward than it had ever received. Had his recommendations been adopted the course of history must have been materially changed.
“You think it’s a Chinatown case, then, Mr. Harley?”