Dope by Sax Rohmer - HTML preview

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42. A Year Later

Beneath an awning spread above the balcony of one of those modern elegant flats, which today characterize Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, site of perhaps the most ancient seat of learning in the known world, a party of four was gathered, awaiting the unique spectacle which is afforded when the sun's dying rays fade from the Libyan sands and the violet wonder of the afterglow conjures up old magical Egypt from the ashes of the desert.

 "Yes," Monte Irvin was saying, "only a year ago; but, thank God, it seems more like ten! Merciful time effaces sadness but spares joy."

 He turned to his wife, whose flower-like face peeped out from a nest of white fur. Covertly he squeezed her hand, and was rewarded with a swift, half coquettish glance, in which he read trust and contentment. The dreadful ordeal through which she had passed had accomplished that which no physician in Europe could have hoped for, since no physician would have dared to adopt such drastic measures. Actuated by deliberate cruelty, and with the design of bringing about her death from apparently natural causes, the Kazmah group had deprived her of cocaine for so long a period that sanity, life itself, had barely survived; but for so long a period that, surviving, she had outlived the drug craving. Kazmah had cured her! Monte Irvin turned to the tall fair girl who sat upon the arm of a cane rest-chair beside Rita.

 "But nothing can ever efface the memory of all you have done for Rita, and for me," he said, "nothing, Mrs. Seton."

 "Oh," said Margaret, "my mind was away back, and that sounded--so odd." Seton Pasha, who occupied the lounge-chair upon the broad arm of which his wife was seated, looked up, smiling into the suddenly flushed face. They were but newly returned from their honeymoon, and had just taken possession of their home, for Seton was now stationed in Cairo. He flicked a cone of ash from his cheroot.

 "It seems to me that we are all more or less indebted to one another," he declared. "For instance, I might never have met you, Margaret, if I had not run into your cousin that eventful night at Princes; and Gray would not have been gazing abstractedly out of the doorway if Mrs. Irvin had joined him for dinner as arranged. One can trace almost every episode in life right back, and ultimately come--" "To Kismet!" cried his wife, laughing merrily. "So before we begin dinner tonight-which is a night of reunion--I am going to propose a toast to Kismet!" "Good!" said Seton, "we shall all drink it gladly. Eh, Irvin?"

 "Gladly, indeed," agreed Monte Irvin. "You know, Seton," he continued, "we have been wandering, Rita and I; and ever since your wife handed her patient over to me as cured we have covered some territory. I don't know if you or Chief Inspector Kerry has been responsible, but the press accounts of the Kazmah affair have been scanty to baldness. One stray bit of news reached us--in Colorado, I think." "What was that, Mr. Irvin?" asked Margaret, leaning towards the speaker. "It was about Mollie Gretna. Someone wrote and told me that she had eloped with a billiard marker--a married man with five children!"

 Seton laughed heartily, and so did Margaret and Rita.

 "Right!" cried Seton. "She did. When last heard of she was acting as barmaid in a Portsmouth tavern!"

 But Monte Irvin did not laugh.

 "Poor, foolish girl!" he said gravely. "Her life might have been so different--so useful and happy."

 "I agree," replied Seton, "if she had had a husband like Kerry."

 "Oh, please don't!" said Margaret. "I almost fell in love with Chief Inspector Kerry myself."

 "A grand fellow!" declared her husband warmly. "The Kazmah inquiry was the triumph of his career."

 Monte Irvin turned to him.

 "You did your bit, Seton," he said quietly. "The last words Inspector Kerry spoke to me before I left England were in the nature of a splendid tribute to yourself, but I will spare your blushes."

 "Kerry is as white as they're made," replied Seton, "but we should never have known for certain who killed Sir Lucien if he had not risked his life in that filthy cellar as he did."

 Rita Irvin shuddered slightly and drew her furs more closely about her shoulders. "Shall we change the conversation, dear?" whispered Margaret.

 "No, please," said Rita. "You cannot imagine how curious I am to learn the true details--for, as Monte says, we have been out of touch with things, and although we were so intimately concerned, neither of us really knows the inner history of the affair to this day. Of course, we know that Kazmah was a dummy figure, posed in the big ebony chair. He never moved, except to raise his hand, and this was done by someone seated in the inner room behind the figure. But who was seated there?"

 Seton glanced inquiringly at his wife, and she nodded, smiling.

 "Right-o!" he said. "If you will excuse me for a moment I will get my notes. Hello, here's Gray!"

 A little two-seater came bowling along the road from Cairo, and drew up beneath the balcony. It was the car which had belonged to Margaret when in practice in Dover Street. Quentin Gray jumped out, waving his hand cheerily to the quartette above, and went in at the doorway. Seton walked through the flat and admitted him.

 "Sorry I'm late!" cried Gray, impetuous and boyish as ever, although he looked older and had grown very bronzed. "The chief detained me."

 "Go through to them," said Seton informally. "I'm getting my notes; we're going to read the thrilling story of the Kazmah mystery before dinner."

 "Good enough!" cried Gray. "I'm in the dark on many points."

 He had outlived his youthful infatuation, although it was probable enough that had Rita been free he would have presented himself as a suitor without delay. But the old relationship he had no desire to renew. A generous self-effacing regard had supplanted the madness of his earlier passion. Rita had changed too; she had learned to know herself and to know her husband.

 So that when Seton Pasha presently rejoined his guests, he found the most complete harmony to prevail among them. He carried a bulky notebook, and, tapping his teeth with his monocle:

 "Ladies and gentlemen," he began whimsically, "I will bore you with a brief account of the extraordinary facts concerning the Kazmah case."

 Margaret was seated in the rest-chair which her husband had vacated, and Seton took up a position upon the ledge formed by one of the wide arms. Everyone prepared to listen, with interest undisguised.

 "There were three outstanding personalities dominating what we may term the Kazmah group," continued Seton. "In order of importance they were: Sin Sin Wa, Sir Lucien Pyne and Mrs. Sin."

 Rita Irvin inhaled deeply, but did not interrupt the speaker.

 "I shall begin with Sir Lucien," Seton went on. "For some years before his father's death he seems to have lived a very shady life in many parts of the world. He was a confirmed gambler, and was also somewhat unduly fond of the ladies' society. In Buenos Ayres--the exact date does not matter--he made the acquaintance of a variety artiste known as La Belle Lola, a Cuban-Jewess, good-looking and unscrupulous. I cannot say if Sir Lucien was aware from the outset of his affair with La Belle that she was a married woman. But it is certain that her husband, Sin Sin Wa, very early learned of the intrigue, and condoned it.

 "How Sir Lucien came to get into the clutches of the pair I do not know. But that he did so we have ascertained beyond doubt. I think, personally, that his third vice-opium--was probably responsible. For Sin Sin Wa appears throughout in the character of a drug dealer.

 "These three people really become interesting from the time that La Belle Lola quitted the stage and joined her husband in the conducting of a concern in Buenos Ayres, which was the parent, if I may use the term, of the Kazmah business later established in Bond Street. From a music-hall illusionist, who came to grief during a South American tour, they acquired the oriental waxwork figure which subsequently mystified so many thousands of dupes. It was the work of a famous French artist in wax, and had originally been made to represent the Pharaoh, Rameses II., for a Paris exhibition. Attired in Eastern robes, and worked by a simple device which raised and lowered the right hand, it was used, firstly, in a stage performance, and secondly, in the character of 'Kazmah the Dream-reader.' "Even at this time Sir Lucien had access to good society, or to the best society which Buenos Ayres could offer, and he was the source of the surprising revelations made to patrons by the 'dream-reader.' At first, apparently, the drug business was conducted independently of the Kazmah concern, but the facilities offered by the latter for masking the former soon became apparent to the wily Sin Sin Wa. Thereupon the affair was reorganized on the lines later adopted in Bond Street. Kazmah's became a secret dope-shop, and annexed to it was an elaborate chandu-khan, conducted by the Chinaman. Mrs. Sin was the go-between. "You are all waiting to hear--or, to be exact, two are waiting to hear, Gray and Margaret already know--who spoke as Kazmah through the little window behind the chair. The deep-voiced speaker was Juan Mareno, Mrs. Sin's brother! Mrs. Sin's maiden name was Lola Mareno.

 "Many of these details were provided by Mareno, who, after the death of his sister, to whom he was deeply attached, volunteered to give crown evidence. Most of them we have confirmed from other sources.

 "Behold 'Kazmah the dream-reader,' then, established in Buenos Ayres. The partners in the enterprise speedily acquired considerable wealth. Sir Lucien--at this time plain Mr. Pyne--several times came home and lived in London and elsewhere like a millionaire. There is no doubt, I think, that he was seeking a suitable opportunity to establish a London branch of the business."

 "My God!" said Monte Irvin. "How horrible it seems!"

 "Horrible, indeed!" agreed Seton. "But there are two features of the case which, in justice to Sir Lucien, we should not overlook. He, who had been a poor man, had become a wealthy one and had tasted the sweets of wealth; also he was now hopelessly in the toils of the woman Lola.

 "With the ingenious financial details of the concern, which were conducted in the style of the 'Jose Santos Company,' I need not trouble you now. We come to the second period, when the flat in Albemarle Street and the two offices in old Bond Street became vacant and were promptly leased by Mareno, acting on Sir Lucien's behalf, and calling himself sometimes Mr. Isaacs, sometimes Mr. Jacobs, and at other times merely posing as a representative of the Jose Santos Company in some other name.

 "All went well. The concern had ample capital, and was organized by clever people. Sin Sin Wa took up new quarters in Limehouse; they had actually bought half the houses in one entire street as well as a wharf! And Sin Sin Wa brought with him the good-will of an illicit drug business which already had almost assumed the dimensions of a control.

 "Sir Lucien's household was a mere bluff. He rarely entertained at home, and lived himself entirely at restaurants and clubs. The private entrance to the Kazmah house of business was the back window of the Cubanis Cigarette Company's office. From thence down the back stair to Kazmah's door it was a simple matter for Mareno to pass unobserved. Sir Lucien resumed his role of private inquiry agent, and Mareno recited the 'revelations' from notes supplied to him. "But the 'dream reading' part of the business was merely carried on to mask the really profitable side of the concern. We have recently learned that drugs were distributed from that one office alone to the amount of thirty thousand pounds' worth annually! This is excluding the profits of the House of a Hundred Raptures and of the private chandu orgies organized by Mrs. Sin.

 "The Kazmah group gradually acquired control of the entire market, and we know for a fact that at one period during the war they were actually supplying smuggled cocaine, indirectly, to no fewer than twelve R.A.M.C. hospitals! The complete ramifications of the system we shall never know.

 "I come, now, to the tragedy, or series of tragedies, which brought about the collapse of the most ingenious criminal organization which has ever flourished, probably, in any community. I will dare to be frank. Sir Lucien was the victim of a woman's jealousy. Am I to proceed?"

 Seton paused, glancing at his audience; and:

 "If you please," whispered Rita. "Monte knows and I know--why--she killed him. But we don't know--"

 "The nasty details," said Quentin Gray. "Carry on, Seton. Are you agreeable, Irvin?"

 "I am anxious to know," replied Irvin, "for I believe Sir Lucien deserved well of me, bad as he was."

 Seton clapped his hands, and an Egyptian servant appeared, silently and mysteriously as is the way of his class.

 "Cocktails, Mahmoud!"

 The Egyptian disappeared.

 "There's just time," declared Margaret, gazing out across the prospect, "before sunset."