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Fire-Tongue

1. A Client For Paul Harley
Some of Paul Harley's most interesting cases were brought to his notice in an
almost accidental way. Although he closed his office in Chancery Lane sharply at
the hour of six, the hour of six by no means marked the end of his business day.
His work was practically ceaseless. But even in times of leisure, at the club or
theatre, fate would sometimes cast in his path the first slender thread which was
ultimately to lead him into some unsuspected labyrinth, perhaps in the
underworld of London, perhaps in a city of the Far East.
His investigation of the case of the man with the shaven skull afforded an
instance of this, and even more notable was his first meeting with Major Jack
Ragstaff of the Cavalry Club, a meeting which took place after the office had
been closed, but which led to the unmasking of perhaps the most cunning
murderer in the annals of crime.
One summer's evening when the little clock upon his table was rapidly
approaching the much-desired hour, Harley lay back in his chair and stared
meditatively across his private office in the direction of a large and very
handsome Burmese cabinet, which seemed strangely out of place amid the filing
drawers, bookshelves, and other usual impedimenta of a professional man. A
peculiarly uninteresting week was drawing to a close, and he was wondering if
this betokened a decreased activity in the higher criminal circles, or whether it
was merely one of those usual quiescent periods which characterize every form
of warfare.
Paul Harley, although the fact was unknown to the general public, occupied
something of the position of an unofficial field marshal of the forces arrayed
against evildoers. Throughout the war he had undertaken confidential work of the
highest importance, especially in regard to the Near East, with which he was
intimately acquainted. A member of the English bar, and the last court of appeal
to which Home Office and Foreign Office alike came in troubled times, the brass
plate upon the door of his unassuming premises in Chancery Lane conveyed
little or nothing to the uninitiated.
 
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