The Adventures of Jimmie Dale HTML version

II.1. Below The Dead Line
Whisperings! Always whisperings, low, sibilant, floating errantly from all sides,
until they seemed a component part of the drug-laden atmosphere itself. And
occasionally another sound: the soft SLAP- SLAP of loose-slippered feet, the
faint rustle of equally loose- fitting garments. And everywhere the sweet, sickish
smell of opium. It was Chang Foo's, simply a cellar or two deeper in Chang Foo's
than that in which Dago Jim had quarrelled once--and died!
Larry the Bat, vicious-faced, unkempt, disreputable, lay sprawled out on one of
the dive's bunks, an opium pipe beside him. But Larry the Bat was not smoking;
instead, his ear was pressed closely against the boarding that formed the rather
flimsy partition at the side of the bunk. One heard many things in Chang Foo's if
one cared to listen--if one could first win one's way through the carefully guarded
gateway, that to the uninitiated offered nothing more interesting than the
entrance to a Chinese tea-shop, and an uninviting one at that!
HAD HE BEEN FOLLOWED IN HERE? He had been shadowed for the last hour;
of that, at least, he was certain. Why? By whom? For an hour he had dodged in
and out through the dens of the underworld, as only one who was at home there
and known to all could do--and at last he had taken refuge in Chang Foo's like a
fox burrowing deep into its hole.
Few could find their way into the most infamous opium den in all New York,
where not only the poppy ruled as master, but where crime was hatched, ay, and
carried to its ghastly consummation, sometimes, as well; and of those few, not
one but was of the underworld itself. And it was that fact which held his muscles
strained and rigid now under the miserable rags that covered them, and it was
that which kept the keen, quick brain alert and active, every faculty keyed up and
tense. If it were the police, he had little to fear, for they could not force their way
in without warning; but if it were the underworld, he was in imminent peril, and