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Mrs. Sin, aroused by her husband from the deep opium sleep, came out into the fume-laden vault. Her dyed hair was disarranged, and her dark eyes stared glassily before her; but even in this half-drugged state she bore herself with the lithe carriage of a dancer, swinging her hips lazily and pointing the toes of her high-heeled slippers.
"Awake, my wife," crooned Sin Sin Wa. "Only a fool seeks the black smoke when the jackals sit in a ring "
Mrs. Sin gave him a glance of smiling contempt--a glance which, passing him, rested finally upon the prone body of Chief Inspector Kerry lying stretched upon the floor before the stove. Her pupils contracted to mere pin-points and then dilated blackly. She recoiled a step, fighting with the stupor which her ill-timed indulgence had left behind.
At this moment Kerry groaned loudly, tossed his arm out with a convulsive movement, and rolled over on to his side, drawing up his knees.
The eye of Sin Sin Wa gleamed strangely, but he did not move, and Sam Tuk who sat huddled in his chair where his feet almost touched the fallen man, stirred never a muscle. But Mrs. Sin, who still moved in a semi-phantasmagoric world, swiftly raised the hem of her kimona, affording a glimpse of a shapely silk-clad limb. From a sheath attached to her garter she drew a thin stilletto. Curiously feline, she crouched, as if about to spring.
Sin Sin Wa extended his hand, grasping his wife's wrist.
"No, woman of indifferent intelligence," he said in his queer sibilant language, "since when has murder gone unpunished in these British dominions?"
Mrs. Sin snatched her wrist from his grasp, falling back wild-eyed.
"Yellow ape! yellow ape!" she said hoarsely. "One more does not matter --now."
"One more?" crooned Sin Sin Wa, glancing curiously at Kerry.
"They are here! We are trapped!"
"No, no," said Sin Sin Wa. "He is a brave man; he comes alone."
He paused, and then suddenly resumed in pidgin English:
"You likee killa him, eh?"
Perhaps unconscious that she did so, Mrs. Sin replied also in English:
"No, I am mad. Let me think, old fool!"
She dropped the stiletto and raised her hand dazedly to her brow.
"You gotchee tired of knifee chop, eh?" murmured Sin Sin Wa.
Mrs. Sin clenched her hands, holding them rigidly against her hips; and, nostrils dilated, she stared at the smiling Chinaman.
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
Sin Sin Wa performed his curious oriental shrug.
"You putta topside pidgin on Sir Lucy alla lightee," he murmured. "Givee him hell alla velly proper."
The pupils of the woman's eyes contracted again, and remained so. She laughed hoarsely and tossed her head.
"Who told you that?" she asked contemptuously. "It was the doll-woman who killed him--I have said so."
"You tella me so--hoi, hoi! But old Sin Sin Wa catchee wonder. Lo!"-- he extended a yellow forefinger, pointing at his wife--"Mrs. Sin make him catchee die! No bhobbery, no palaber. Sin Sin Wa gotchee you sized up allee timee."
Mrs. Sin snapped her fingers under his nose then stooped, picked up the stiletto, and swiftly restored it to its sheath. Her hands resting upon her hips, she came forward, until her dark evil face almost touched the yellow, smiling face of Sin Sin Wa.
"Listen, old fool," she said in a low, husky voice; "I have done with you, ape-man, for good! Yes! I killed Lucy, I killed him! He belonged to me--until that pink and white thing took him away. I am glad I killed him. If I cannot have him neither can she. But I was mad all the same."
She glanced down at Kerry, and:
"Tie him up," she directed, "and send him to sleep. And understand, Sin, we've shared out for the last time--You go your way and I go mine. No stinking Yellow River for me. New York is good enough until it's safe to go to Buenos Ayres."
"Smartest leg in Buenos Ayres," croaked the raven from his wicker cage, which was set upon the counter.
Sin Sin Wa regarded him smilingly.
"Yes, yes, my little friend," he crooned in Chinese, while Tling-a-Ling rattled ghostly castanets. "In Ho-Nan they will say that you are a devil and I am a wizard. That which is unknown is always thought to be magical, my Tling-a-Ling."
Mrs. Sin, who was rapidly throwing off the effects of opium and recovering her normal self-confident personality, glanced at her husband scornfully.
"Tell me," she said, "what has happened? How did he come here?"
"Blinga filly doggy," murmured Sin Sin Wa. "Knockee Ah Fung on him head and comee down here, lo. Ah Fung allee lightee now--topside. Chasee filly doggy. Allee velly proper. No bhobbery."
"Talk less and act more," said Mrs. Sin. "Tie him up, and if you must talk, talk Chinese. Tie him up."
She pointed to Kerry. Sin Sin Wa tucked his hands into his sleeves and shuffled towards the masked door communicating with the inner room.
"Only by intelligent speech are we distinguished from the other animals," he murmured in Chinese.
Entering the inner room, he began to extricate a long piece of thin rope from amid a tangle of other materials with which it was complicated. Mrs. Sin stood looking down at the fallen man. Neither Kerry nor Sam Tuk gave the slightest evidence of life. And as Sin Sin Wa disentangled yard upon yard of rope from the bundle on the floor by the bed where Rita Irvin lay in her long troubled sleep, he crooned a queer song. It was in the Ho-Nan dialect and intelligible to himself alone.
"Shoa, the evil woman (he chanted), the woman of many strange loves. . . . Shoa, the ghoul. . . . Lo, the Yellow River leaps forth from the nostrils of the mountain god. . . . Shoa, the betrayer of men. . . . Blood is on her brow. Lo, the betrayer is betrayed. Death sits at her elbow. See, the Yellow River bears a corpse upon its tide. . . Dead men hear her secret. Shoa, the ghoul. . . . Shoa, the evil woman. Death sits at her elbow. Black, the vultures flock about her. . . . Lo, the Yellow River leaps forth from the nostrils of the mountain god."
Meanwhile Kerry, lying motionless at the feet of Sam Tuk was doing some hard and rapid thinking. He had recovered consciousness a few moments before Mrs. Sin had come into the vault from the inner room. There were those, Seton Pasha among them, who would have regarded the groan and the convulsive movements of Kerry's body with keen suspicion. And because the Chief Inspector suffered from no illusions respecting the genius of Sin Sin Wa, the apparent failure of the one- eyed Chinaman to recognize these preparations for attack nonplussed the Chief Inspector. His outstanding vice as an investigator was the directness of his own methods and of his mental outlook, so that he frequently experienced great difficulty in penetrating to the motives of a tortuous brain such as that of Sin Sin Wa.
That Sin Sin Wa thought him to be still unconscious he did not believe. He was confident that his tactics had deceived the Jewess, but he entertained an almost superstitious respect for the cleverness of the Chinaman. The trick with the ball of leaf opium was painfully fresh in his memory.
Kerry, in common with many members of the Criminal Investigation Department, rarely carried firearms. He was a man with a profound belief in his bare hands--aided when necessary by his agile feet. At the moment that Sin Sin Wa had checked the woman's murderous and half insane outburst Kerry had been contemplating attack. The sudden change of language on the part of the Chinaman had arrested him in the act; and, realizing that he was listening to a confession which placed the hangman's rope about the neck of Mrs. Sin, he lay still and wondered.
Why had Sin Sin Wa forced his wife to betray herself? To clear Mareno? To clear Mrs. Irvin--or to save his own skin?
It was a frightful puzzle for Kerry. Then--where was Kazmah? That Mrs. Irvin, probably in a drugged condition, lay somewhere in that mysterious inner room Kerry felt fairly sure. His maltreated skull was humming like a bee-hive and aching intensely, but the man was tough as men are made, and he could not only think clearly, but was capable of swift and dangerous action.
He believed that he could tackle the Chinaman with fair prospects of success; and women, however murderous, he habitually disregarded as adversaries. But the mummy-like, deceptive Sam Tuk was not negligible, and Kazmah remained an unknown quantity.
From under that protective arm, cast across his face, Kerry's fierce eyes peered out across the dirty floor. Then quickly he shut his eyes again.
Sin Sin Wa, crooning his strange song, came in carrying a coil of rope --and a Mauser pistol!
"P'licemanee gotchee catchee sleepee," he murmured, "or maybe he catchee die!"
He tossed the rope to his wife, who stood silent tapping the floor with one slim restless foot.
"Number one top-side tie up," he crooned. "Sin Sin Wa watchee withum gun!"
Kerry lay like a dead man; for in the Chinaman's voice were menace and warning.
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