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39. The Empty Wharf
The suspected area of Limehouse was closely invested as any fortress of old when
Seton Pasha once more found himself approaching that painfully familiar
neighborhood. He had spoken to several pickets, and had gathered no news of
interest, except that none of them had seen Chief Inspector Kerry since some time
shortly before dusk. Seton, newly from more genial climes, shivered as he
contemplated the misty, rain-swept streets, deserted and but dimly lighted by an
occasional lamp. The hooting of a steam siren on the river seemed to be in
harmony with the prevailing gloom, and the most confirmed optimist must have
suffered depression amid those surroundings.
He had no definite plan of action. Every line of inquiry hitherto followed had led to
nothing but disappointment. With most of the details concerning the elaborate
organization of the Kazmah group either gathered or in sight, the whereabouts of
the surviving members remained a profound mystery. From the Chinese no
information could be obtained. Distrust of the police resides deep within the
Chinese heart; for the Chinaman, and not unjustly, regards the police as ever
ready to accuse him and ever unwilling to defend him; knows himself for a pariah
capable of the worst crimes, and who may therefore be robbed, beaten and even
murdered by his white neighbors with impunity. But when the police seek
information from Chinatown, Chinatown takes its revenge--and is silent.
Out on the river, above and below Limehouse, patrols watched for signals from the
Asiatic quarter, and from a carefully selected spot on the Surrey side George
Martin watched also. Not even the lure of a neighboring tavern could draw him
from his post. Hour after hour he waited patiently--for Sin Sin Wa paid fair prices,
and tonight he bought neither opium nor cocaine, but liberty.
Seton Pasha, passing from point to point, and nowhere receiving news of Kerry,
began to experience a certain anxiety respecting the safety of the intrepid Chief
Inspector. His mind filled with troubled conjectures, he passed the house formerly
occupied by the one-eyed Chinaman--where he found Detective-Sergeant
Coombes on duty and very much on the alert--and followed the bank of the
Thames in the direction of Limehouse Basin. The narrow, ill-lighted street was
quite deserted. Bad weather and the presence of many police had driven the
Asiatic inhabitants indoors. But from the river and the docks arose the incessant
din of industry. Whistles shrieked and machinery clanked, and sometimes remotely
came the sound of human voices.
Musing upon the sordid mystery which seems to underlie the whole of this dingy
quarter, Seton pursued his way, crossing inlets and circling around basins dimly
divined, turning to the right into a lane flanked by high eyeless walls, and again to
the left, finally to emerge nearly opposite a dilapidated gateway giving access to a
small wharf.
All unconsciously, he was traversing the same route as that recently pursued by
the fugitive Sin Sin Wa; but now he paused, staring at the empty wharf. The
annexed building, a mere shell, had not escaped examination by the search party,