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40. Coil Of The Pigtail
The inner room was in darkness and the fume-laden air almost unbreathable. A
dull and regular moaning sound proceeded from the corner where the bed was
situated, but of the contents of the place and of its other occupant or occupants
Kerry had no more than a hazy idea. His imagination supplied those details which
he had failed to observe. Mrs. Monte Irvin, in a dying condition, lay upon the bed,
and someone or some thing crouched on the divan behind Kerry as he lay
stretched upon the matting-covered floor. His wrists, tied behind him, gave him
great pain; and since his ankles were also fastened and the end of the rope drawn
taut and attached to that binding his wrists, he was rendered absolutely helpless.
For one of his fiery temperament this physical impotence was maddening, and
because his own handkerchief had been tied tightly around his head so as to
secure between his teeth a wooden stopper of considerable size which possessed
an unpleasant chemical taste and smell, even speech was denied him.
How long he had lain thus he had no means of judging accurately; but hours--long,
maddening hours--seemed to have passed since, with the muzzle of Sin Sin Wa's
Mauser pressed coldly to his ear, he had submitted willy-nilly to the adroit
manipulations of Mrs. Sin. At first he had believed, in his confirmed masculine
vanity, that it would be a simple matter to extricate himself from the fastenings
made by a woman; but when, rolling him sideways, she had drawn back his heels
and run the loose end of the line through the loop formed by the lashing of his
wrists behind him, he had recognized a Chinese training, and had resigned himself
to the inevitable. The wooden gag was a sore trial, and if it had not broken his spirit
it had nearly caused him to break an artery in his impotent fury.
Into the darkened inner chamber Sin Sin Wa had dragged him, and there Kerry
had lain ever since, listening to the various sounds of the place, to the coarse
voice, often raised in anger, of the Cuban- Jewess, to the crooning tones of the
imperturbable Chinaman. The incessant moaning of the woman on the bed
sometimes became mingled with another sound more remote, which Kerry for long
failed to identify; but ultimately he concluded it to be occasioned by the tide flowing
under the wharf. The raven was silent, because, imprisoned in his wicker cage, he
had been placed in some dark spot below the counter. Very dimly from time to time
a steam siren might be heard upon the river, and once the thudding of a screw-
propeller told of the passage of a large vessel along Limehouse Reach.
In the eyes of Mrs. Sin Kerry had read menace, and for all their dark beauty they
had reminded him of the eyes of a cornered rat. Beneath the contemptuous
nonchalance which she flaunted he read terror and remorse, and a foreboding of
doom--panic ill repressed, which made her dangerous as any beast at bay. The
attitude of the Chinaman was more puzzling. He seemed to bear the Chief
Inspector no personal animosity, and indeed, in his glittering eye, Kerry had
detected a sort of mysterious light of understanding which was almost mirthful, but
which bore no relation to Sin Sin Wa's perpetual smile. Kerry's respect for the one-
eyed Chinaman had increased rather than diminished upon closer acquaintance.