AND THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG.
By TERRANCE d.i.c.kS.
1 Terror in the Fog
They were having a good night at the Palace. Even though it was only the first performance of the evening the theatre was packed. In the boxes and the front stalls sat the toffs, men immaculate in evening dress, ladies in fine evening gowns, all down in the East End for a night at the Music Hall. The body of the theatre and the Grand Circle above were filled with local people, tradesmen and their wives and families, bank clerks and shop a.s.sistants. High above in the top-most balcony, known as the 'G.o.ds,' the poorer people were crowded onto hard wooden benches. Laborers, dock workers, soldiers and sailors, even some of the half-starved unemployed - they'd all managed to sc.r.a.pe together a few coppers for the big night of the week. They were a tough crowd up in the 'G.o.ds,' ready to show their feelings with boos, catcalls and rotten fruit if an act wasn't to their liking. But now, like everyone else in the theatre, they were staring entranced at the gorgeously robed figure on stage, the famous Chinese magician Li H'sen Chang.It was a tough, savage place, this London of the eighteen nineties; a place of contrasts. Victoria was on the throne, and the British Empire covered much of the globe. England was powerful and prosperous, and London was the trading capital of the world. There were those in the theatre who shared their country's prosperity, spending gold sovereigns with a free hand, living comfortable lives, with servants to look after them. Yet there were many more who were short of the money to pay for their next meal, or even for a roof over their heads. However, tonight they were united in a common aim, to forget their troubles and have a thoroughly good time.The audience watched spellbound as Chang ushered a smiling chorus girl into a metal cabinet in the center of the stage. He closed the door, and slid sword after sword through the slots in the cabinet's sides. He waved his hands, withdrew the swords. There was a bang and a flash, and he threw open the door, to reveal the chorus girl, smiling and unharmed. There was a roar of applause. Chang folded his hands in his sleeves and bowed low, and the curtain came down.Immediately stage hands rushed on, clearing away the props from Chang's act, setting things up for the first act of the second house. Chang went over to a chair, where Mr. Sin sat waiting for him.Mr. Sin was a ventriloquist's dummy. He was larger than most, as big as a child or a dwarf. He wore silk trousers and jacket and a little round cap, and his little face was a wooden parody of Chang's handsome Oriental features. The little dummy was one of the most popular features of Chang's act. Most magicians performed in mysterious silence, but for much of the time Chang worked with the dummy on his arm. Throughout the act Mr. Sin kept up a running fire of disrespectful comment.Carrying Mr. Sin, Chang was making for his dressing room when Jago, the manager and proprietor of the theatre, intercepted him in the wings. A stout, red-faced figure resplendent in evening dress with diamond studs, Jago was positively glowing with happiness. 'Mr. Chang! Wonderful, sir, wonderful. Words fail me!'Chang bowed. 'Most unusual,' he said ironically.'Never, in my thirty years on the halls have I seen such a dazzling display of l.u.s.trous legerdemain, so many feats of superlative, supernatural skill.'It was Mr. Sin who answered the flood of compliments. 'Honorable Master,' he piped eerily. 'You are most kind to bestow praise on miserable, unworthy head of humble Chang.'Jago grinned appreciatively. 'Dashed clever, the way you work the little fellow. Wires in the sleeves, eh?' He held up a hand, interrupting himself. 'Oh, but I'll not pry, Mr. Chang. The secrets of the artiste are sacred to me.'There was a sudden scuffle by the stage door at the far end of the corridor. Casey, the skinny little Irish doorkeeper, was trying to prevent a burly tough-looking character from forcing his way into the theatre. As they watched, the man broke free and he came running up to them. Jago was outraged. Members of the public were never allowed backstage. 'What the deuce? You've no right to burst in here like this. Who are you?''Name's Buller, sir. Cab driver. I've no quarrel with you, Mr. Jago, it's him him I want.' He shook a ma.s.sive fist at Chang. 'My Emma came in here last night, and n.o.body ain't seen her since . Now I'm asking you, mister, what's happened to her?' I want.' He shook a ma.s.sive fist at Chang. 'My Emma came in here last night, and n.o.body ain't seen her since . Now I'm asking you, mister, what's happened to her?'Jago grabbed him by the arm. 'Don't trouble yourself, Mr. Chang, the fellow's drunk, or mad! I'll have him ejected.'Buller wrenched himself free. 'You do and I go straight to the police.''It is all right, Mr. Jago,' said Chang smoothly. 'Do not trouble yourself. I'm sure we can settle this misunderstanding peacefully. If you will come to my dressing room, Mr. Buller?'There was something almost hypnotic about Chang's soothing voice, and with surprising meekness, Buller allowed himself to be led away.Jago shrugged at Casey who'd come up to help. 'Courteous coves, these Chinese. I'd have propelled him on to the pavement with a punt up the posterior!' Casey grinned, and went back to the stage door.Setting Mr. Sin on a stool, Chang turned to face his angry visitor. 'Now then, Mr. Buller, this missing lady. She was your wife?''That's right. Emma Buller. Don't deny she was here, because I saw her with my own eyes.''Many ladies come to the theatre...''Not round the stage door they don't. Look, mister, I was pa.s.sing in my cab, and I saw her as plain as plain.''What makes you think it was me she was calling on?''She's been acting queer ever since you put the 'fluence on her last week.'Chang smiled. 'Ah, now I see. She came up on the stage, for one of my demonstrations of hypnotism?''That's right - last week. Levitated her, you did. Had her floating up in the air as stiff as a board. She's not been the same since. Affected her reason, I shouldn't wonder. She's been talking about you ever since. And last night she came back to this theatre.''Perhaps. But not to see me.''Don't come the innocent,' said Buller furiously. 'She's disappeared disappeared . n.o.body's seen her since she came here. I want to know where she is, or I'm calling the law, clear?' . n.o.body's seen her since she came here. I want to know where she is, or I'm calling the law, clear?'Chang looked at him impa.s.sively. 'We have a saying in my country, Mr. Buller. The man who goes too fast may step in bear trap.'Buller stared at him in baffled anger, then turned to the door. 'You've had your chance. I'm going straight to the peelers.'As the door slammed behind him, Chang turned to Mr. Sin. A very strange thing happened. Although it was on the other side of the room, the dummy turned its head toward him - and smiled malevolently.Outside the theatre, thick fog swirled through grimy deserted streets that sloped down toward dockland. Gas lamps flared dimly through the fog, and occasionally there came a burst of laughter from some street-corner pub. There was no one about. These little streets had an evil reputation of late. There was fear in the air, almost as thick as the swirling mist.In a cobbled alley close by the river there was a wheezing, groaning sound, and a square blue shape materialized out of the fog. It was a London police call box, of a type that would not come into use for many years. Out of this anachronism stepped a tall brown-haired girl, and an even taller man. The girl was wearing a kind of tweed knickerbocker suit with matching cap, and she seemed obviously uncomfortable in the thick, bulky garments. 'These clothes are ridiculous. Why must I wear them?'Her companion, that mysterious traveler in s.p.a.ce and Time known only as 'the Doctor', was dressed for the period too, in checked cape and deerstalker cap. He smiled indulgently at her. It was natural enough that Leela should find Victorian clothes constricting. She had been born on a distant tropical planet, one of a colony of settlers from Earth who had degenerated to a near Stone Age level. Leela had grown up as a warrior of the Sevateem, and she usually dressed, and acted, rather like a female Tarzan.'Be reasonable, Leela,' said the Doctor soothingly. 'You can't walk round Victorian London dressed in skins. Don't want to be conspicuous, do we?' The Doctor turned up the collar of his cape, and adjusted his deerstalker to a jaunty angle.There came a low, booming roar, and Leela dropped into a fighting crouch, reaching for the knife that no longer hung at her waist. 'A swamp creature. That was its attack cry!''On the contrary, that was a boat on the river. Excellent. It means we can't be far away.''Far away from where?''From where we're going!' said the Doctor provokingly.Leela gave an unlady-like snort. 'You make me wear strange clothes, you bring me to this evil place and you tell me, nothing - ' she began.'I'm trying to re-educate you, Leela, to broaden your mind. You want to see how your ancestors from Earth enjoyed themselves, don't you?' Ignoring Leela's shrug of indifference the Doctor continued, 'Of course you do. I'm taking you to the theatre.' A garish poster on a nearby wall caught his eye. 'Here we are.' The poster bore a Chinese face and the words, 'LI H'SEN CHANG. MASTER OF MAGIC AND MESMERISM'. 'Li H'sen Chang, eh? I'd rather hoped it would be Little Tich. Still never mind. Come on, Leela, we'll just be in time for the second house.'The Doctor strode off into the fog, and Leela followed. For all the Doctor's protestations, she was sure this was more for his enjoyment than her education.Jago closed his handsome gold watch and returned it to his pocket. Anxiously he surveyed the bustle of backstage activity. The first-house crowd had gone, the second-house audience was filing in, and soon it would be time for curtain-up again. A belated chorus girl scurried by on the way to her dressing room, and Jago gave her a friendly slap on the rump. 'Prance along there, Della, it's time you had your tail pinned on!' The girl giggled and hurried past. Jago's eyes widened as he saw the skinny figure of Casey staggering along the corridor toward him. Casey was doorman, caretaker and general odd job man. He was reliable enough as a rule, though with a weakness for the bottle. Just now he had eyes like saucers, his straggly gray hair was all on end and his grimy collar wildly askew. Jago stared at him. 'What's the matter with you, Casey, got the oopizootics coming on?''Mr. Jago, I seen it, I seen it again...'Glancing round worriedly, Jago dragged the little Irishman to a quiet corner. 'Quiet, will you? I've told you before...'Casey was beyond all reason. 'It was horrible, Mr. Jago, horrible! A great glowing skull coming at me out of the dark...'Jago clapped a hand over the doorman's mouth. 'Do you want to bankrupt me? Keep your voice down. I'll be threadbare in Carey Street if people get the notion the place is haunted.'Casey's m.u.f.fled voice emerged from beneath Jago's palm. 'Nine foot tall it was, chains clanking...''You've been drinking, Casey!''Not a drop, sir, I swear it.''Then it's time you started.' Jago produced a silver hip flask. 'Take a drop of this to steady your nerves.'Casey swigged gratefully at the brandy. 'I ain't never going down that cellar again, Mr. Jago. I was just fixing the trapdoor when this apparition rose out of the ground... hideous, it was.'He took another swig at the flask and Jago s.n.a.t.c.hed it back. 'That's enough. It's just your imagination.''Never, Mr. Jago. Never.''Tell you what, I'll come down there with you tonight, soon as the house is clear, and we'll have a good look around. Probably find it's a stray cat...''It's no cat, sir, it's a horrible phantom. I've seen seen it I tell you.' it I tell you.''All right, Casey, mum's the word. Get back to your work, it's almost time to ring the bell for curtain-up.'Casey hurried away, and Jago looked worriedly after him. Several times recently the little man had come to him with these tales of a ghost in the cellar. Jago had put it down to a mixture of gin and imagination, but now he wasn't so sure. Whatever it was, he'd get to the bottom of it when the theatre closed. No phantom was going to disturb the smooth running of his his theatre. theatre.Collar turned up against the cold, hat pulled down over his eyes, Alf Buller hurried through the empty streets toward the local police station. In his mind he was going over and over his story. Probably they wouldn't believe him at first, but he wouldn't go away until he got satisfaction. An English policeman would know how to deal with that smooth-talking foreigner.Something dropped from a wall, landing just in front of him. Buller looked down unbelievingly. It was Mr. Sin, Chang's evil-looking dummy, and in its hand glinted a long-bladed knife.Buller stood frozen in terror as the little figure stalked toward him.
2 The Horror in the River
The Doctor and Leela were nearing the end of the long alleyway. Leela looked up at the tall buildings all around them. 'A big village, this. What is the name of the tribe that lives here?'The Doctor grinned. 'c.o.c.kneys,' he said briefly.A hoa.r.s.e scream pierced the fog - and suddenly cut off. Leela froze. 'The sound of death!''Wait here,' snapped the Doctor, and disappeared into the fog. Ignoring his command, Leela hurried after him.The Doctor turned the corner and came upon a bizarre and terrifying scene. Four black-clad Chinese were dragging a dead body along the pavement.'Can I help you?' asked the Doctor politely. The nearest man flew at him, knife in hand, and the Doctor promptly knocked him down. Dropping the body, the other three hurled themselves on the Doctor, and he went down beneath a pile of bodies. Leela sprinted round the corner and hurled herself joyfully into the struggle.There was a wild and confused melee, arms and legs whirling wildly in the tumbled heap of bodies. Somewhere on the bottom of the pile the Doctor was clubbed behind the ear with a blackjack, and fell to the ground semi-conscious. The attackers concentrated their attention on Leela. She fought like a wildcat, wis.h.i.+ng desperately that she had ignored the Doctor's ridiculous ban on carrying weapons. But she was considerably outnumbered and soon things were going badly for her. Her arms and legs held fast, she saw the glint of a knife coming nearer and nearer to her throat. Suddenly the shrill blast of a police whistle cut through the fog.Immediately the gripping hands released her as the Chinese ran off. They s.n.a.t.c.hed up the dead body, which had been left sprawled in the gutter, and carried it away with them.Leela made a desperate grab at the last attacker to flee but he wriggled free of her grip and dashed away - only to be tripped by the Doctor's out-stretched foot. He pitched headlong into the road, and Leela pounced like a great cat, grabbing the man's long pigtail and winding it round his throat.The Doctor staggered to his feet, and set off after the fleeing Chinese with their grisly burden. Through the fog he saw them turn a nearby corner and disappear into a side street. He hurried after them, turned the corner and stopped in amazement. The long straight street stretched away empty before him. The Chinese and their burden had vanished.The Doctor stood for a moment, rubbing his chin. He had been only minutes behind the Chinese, so they should still have been in sight. There were no side turnings, no alleyways, and they had been hampered by the weight of a dead body. How could they have disappeared so quickly?The Doctor moved a few paces forward and paused by a round metal shape in the middle of the road. A manhole cover. He knelt and touched the rim with a finger. Blood.Aware of angry voices behind him in the fog, he reluctantly straightened up and went back the way he had come.The Doctor turned the corner to see two burly oil-skinned and helmetted figures dominating the scene. The police had arrived. One held the remaining Chinaman in a powerful grip, the other was steadily advancing upon Leela, with the traditional cry of the British officer in times of crisis. 'Now then, now then, what's going on?'Leela backed away. 'Touch me and I'll break your arm.'The policeman smiled tolerantly. 'Come along now, miss, don't be foolish...'Well aware that Leela was more than capable of carrying out her threat, the Doctor hurried to intervene. 'Good evening, officer,' he said cheerily.'Keep back, Doctor,' shouted Leela. 'Blue guards! They may be hostile.'The Doctor ignored her. 'Can I be of a.s.sistance, constable?''Do you know this young lady, sir?''She's my ward. We were on our way to the theatre when we were attacked by this man - and several others.'The constable nodded ponderously. 'They'd cleared off by the time we got here. All except for this one - the young lady was strangling him with his own pigtail.''Girlish enthusiasm,' suggested the Doctor hopefully.'You can call it that if you like, sir. I I call it making an affray. I must ask you to come down to the station with me.' call it making an affray. I must ask you to come down to the station with me.'Puffing contentedly at his cigar, Jago stood watching in the wings, as Chang moved toward the climax of his act. Mr. Sin on his arm, the magician stood beside three gilt chairs lined up across the center of the stage. Lying across the chairs was the same scantily dressed chorus girl who had survived the Cabinet of Death at the end of the first house. She lay stiff and motionless, her eyes closed.Chang gestured to the audience. 'Please to see, ladies and gentlemen, my subject is now in a state of deep hypnosis.'Mr. Sin's piping, skeptical voice cut through the spattering of applause. 'She has fallen asleep!'The crowd roared, and Chang looked down at the dummy on his arm. 'No, Mr. Sin! She is not asleep.''She sleeps! She has been smoking pipe of poppy!'Again the crowd laughed, this time at the reference to the habit of opium smoking, undoubtedly wide-spread among the Chinese population of Limehouse.'Be quiet,' said Chang sternly. 'I will prove young lady not asleep.' He waved to his a.s.sistant Lee, who took away the central chair. The girl's body remained rigid, supported only at head and heels.There was a gasp of astonishment from the crowd, and more applause, interrupted once again by Mr. Sin. 'She is lying on metal bar!''She is not not lying on metal bar!' Chang nodded to Lee, who took away the two remaining chairs, leaving the girl floating in mid-air. lying on metal bar!' Chang nodded to Lee, who took away the two remaining chairs, leaving the girl floating in mid-air.Even this wasn't enough to convince Mr. Sin. 'You can't fool me. She is held up by wires!''Enough!' roared Chang. He dumped the dummy on to one of the gilt chairs, and drew the ceremonial sword at his waist.The dummy let out a shrill squeak of fear. 'Don't touch me. Help! Police! Murder!'Chang swished the sword through the air, above the floating girl. 'You see,' he said triumphantly. 'No wires, Mr. Sin!'Jago looked on appreciatively as the act moved toward its climax. No doubt about it, he was a real wonder, this Li H'sen Chang. He congratulated himself on his shrewdness in booking the Chinese magician.Jago had. first heard of Li H'sen Chang through the theatrical grapevine of fellow theatre managers. Previously unknown in the profession, the magician had appeared from nowhere. Perhaps he really was from China as he claimed. After all he really was Chinese, unlike most Oriental magicians who were usually English enough once the makeup was off.Whatever his origins, Chang's act was brilliant enough to pack any theatre. He was completely professional, never argued about money and never performed for more than a few weeks at any one theatre. He seemed to prefer the smaller halls on the outskirts of London . Jago knew for a fact that Chang had refused several lucrative offers to appear in the West End .Perhaps he was perfecting his act, thought Jago, planning to take London by storm when he was ready. Not that the act needed perfecting. Jago had watched it night after night, and still had no idea how much of it was done. Take that dummy for instance - sinister-looking thing. But it was wonderful how Chang used it to give variety to his act, lightening the mysterious effect of his magic with Mr. Sin's disrespectful jokes.'I will now demonstrate art of levitation,' Chang was saying. 'I shall raise most beautiful young lady high above own topknot!'He raised his hand and the stiff body of the girl rose slowly in the air.This time the storm of applause was uninterrupted by Mr. Sin. Jago glanced at the little dummy, slumped on its chair. His eyes narrowed and he looked again. There was a tiny pool of some dark liquid beneath the chair, and as Jago looked another drop splashed from the dummy's hand. It looked exactly like blood....Leela looked around the room disparagingly. If this was the hone of the ruler, she didn't think much of it. A small whitewalled chamber, furnished with a desk, chairs and a table, all in plain battered wood. More of the blue guards, and behind the desk an older one with strange markings on his sleeve. He was writing in an enormous book, using a metal pen which he dipped into thick blue fluid in a metal pot.Sergeant Kyle finished his entry, blotted it and looked up at the strange pair before him. He had seen pretty well everything during his service in London's East End, and it was going to take more than a couple of vagabonds to worry him. Routine was routine, and everything had to be dealt with in the proper order.He stroked his heavy moustache and addressed the Doctor. 'Now then, sir, a few preliminary details if you please. Name?''Just call me the Doctor. The young lady's name is Leela.'Sergeant Kyle gave him a skeptical look, but made an entry in his ledger. 'Place of residence?''We've only just arrived here.''Your home address will do for the moment,' said Kyle patiently. He looked hard at the Doctor. 'You do have a permanent address somewhere somewhere , sir?' , sir?''No, Sergeant. We're travellers.''I see. Persons of no fixed abode.''Oh, we have an abode all right, but it isn't fixed. It's called the TARDIS.'Kyle put down his pen. 'I could give you and the young lady a fixed abode, sir. Quite easily.' He glanced meaningfully at the heavy iron door that led to the cells.The Doctor turned to Leela. 'Flat-footed peeler,' he muttered.'What was that sir?' asked Kyle sharply.'Nothing complimentary, Sergeant.'Kyle sighed wearily, and decided to try again. 'Now look, sir, we've got our hands full here at the moment. I don't know if you know it, but there's quite a few girls gone missing from this area. If you'll just cooperate by answering my questions, we'll get on a lot quicker.'The Doctor was fast losing patience. 'See here, Sergeant, all this nonsense about who we are and where we come from is completely irrelevant. I came here to give information about a serious crime...''We'll come to that in good time, sir...''Well come to it now now . We stumbled across a kidnapping, perhaps even a murder, and my friend here caught one of the criminals for you.' . We stumbled across a kidnapping, perhaps even a murder, and my friend here caught one of the criminals for you.'The captured Chinaman was sitting at the wooden table, guarded by a constable. He was staring straight ahead, apparently oblivious to his surroundings.Kyle gave the man a puzzled look. 'Well, he isn't saying much, sir. And we've only your word about all this.''And mine,' said Leela angrily. 'This man and the others were carrying the body of one who had been stabbed through the heart.''Indeed, miss? And how can you be so sure of that?''I am a warrior of the Sevateem. I know the different sounds of death.' Leela pointed to the motionless Chinaman. 'Now, put our prisoner to the torture and get the truth from him!''Well if that don't take the biscuit,' said Kyle wonderingly. 'This ain't the dark ages, you know, miss. Torture, indeed!''Make him talk!''He happens to be a Chinee, miss, if you hadn't noticed. We get a lot of 'em round here, Limehouse being so close. So we shouldn't understand him if he did did talk.' talk.'Sergeant Kyle eame out from behind his desk and leaned over the prisoner. 'You jaw-jaw-plenty by'n by eh Johnny?'The man ignored him.'You see?' said Sergeant Kyle. 'I've sent for an interpreter. We'll get a statement from him soon.''Quite unnecessary,' snapped the Doctor. 'I speak Mandarin, Cantonese and most of the dialects.''Very remarkable, Doctor. Still, you being a party to the case, it wouldn't really be proper...'From somewhere nearby there came the sound of police whistles. Kyle went to the door and looked out into the fog. 'Came from down by the river, that did. They've probably found another floater...'The police constable shone his torch out over the river. Beside him a raggedly dressed man jumped up and down with impatience. 'I tell you I saw it, Guv. Look, there it is, see?' He pointed to a dark shape bobbing on the water.The policeman looked over his shoulder. 'Where's that boat hook, then? Hurry, or we'll have to get a boat.'A second policeman appeared and thrust a boat hook into his hand. The constable leaned out over the rus.h.i.+ng water and made a desperate lunge, hooking the floating shape.'You got him, Guv,' shrieked the ragged man. 'Don't forget I spotted him first, I gets the reward.'But as the policeman drew in his catch, even the ragged man's greed was silenced. The policeman looked down in horror. He had taken many a corpse from the river, but never one like this. Beside him, the ragged man echoed his thoughts. 'On my oath. Never seen anything like that in all my puff!'United in their horror, they stared down at the body. It was savagely mutilated, torn almost to pieces, by giant fangs...
3 Death of a Prisoner
Stage makeup removed, dressed in everyday clothing, Li H'sen Chang came into the police station and nodded to Sergeant Kyle.'You sent for me, Sergeant?'Kyle bustled forward. 'That's right, sir. Good of you to come so prompt.'Chang spread his hands. 'Not at all. I am finished at the theatre - and I'm always pleased to be of service to London 's wonderful police. What can I do for you?''Complaint against one of your fellow countrymen, sir, I'm afraid. Lady and gentleman here swear they saw him, together with others not in custody, carrying what appeared to be a dead body. A European body, as I understand it, sir.''Indeed.' Chang stared thoughtfully at the Doctor and Leela, who returned the look with equal interest. 'What happened to the others involved in this strange incident?'It was Leela who answered. 'They escaped. I caught only this one.'' You You caught him?' Chang seemed both incredulous and amused. 'How very remarkable!' caught him?' Chang seemed both incredulous and amused. 'How very remarkable!'The Doctor was studying Chang's face with absorbed interest. 'Don't I know you from somewhere?'Chang turned away and said abruptly, 'I think not.''I'm sure I've seen you somewhere before...''I understand that to you European gentlemen, we humble Chinese all look alike.'The Doctor shook his head. 'It's funny, I could have sworn... Mind you, I haven't been in China for at least four hundred years...'Chang looked significantly at the Sergeant. 'You are taking this gentleman's statement seriously?''We have to look into it, sir. Will you be good enough to question this man for me?''Of course.' Chang went over to the table and sat down opposite the prisoner. 'Perhaps you could provide me with pen and paper?''Of course, sir.'Kyle went over to his desk, and Chang moved so that his body screened the prisoner from view. He touched the ornate dragon-seal ring on his finger, and a small black pill dropped from the hidden compartment, rolled across the table and landed before the prisoner's folded hands. The prisoner's eyes widened, then he bowed his head submissively. As Kyle brought pen and paper to the table, the man s.n.a.t.c.hed up the pill and slipped it into his mouth.'Li H'sen Chang!' said the Doctor suddenly. 'I saw your face on the poster. Master of Magic and Mesmerism, eh? Show us a trick!'The prisoner gave a sudden choking cry, rose to his feet, then slumped dead across the table.'Very good,' said the Doctor appreciatively. 'How did you do that?''I did nothing,' said Chang in a shocked voice. 'Clearly the man has killed himself.'The Doctor gave him a thoughtful look and went to examine the body, feeling in vain for any sign of a pulse. 'Concentrated poison of some kind. Could be scorpion venom.' He turned over the dead man's hand, displaying the inside of the forearm. 'Do you know what this is, Sergeant?'Kyle looked at the scorpion tattoo. 'It's a Tong sign, isn't it, sir?''The Tong of the Black Scorpion. Probably one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the world - wouldn't you agree, Li H'sen Chang?'Chang rose from the table. 'If it is a Tong sign, Sergeant, your mystery is solved. Many of my misguided countrymen belong to these organizations - they have frequent wars among themselves. I imagine you stumbled upon an incident in such a war. Your prisoner committed suicide, rather than be forced to speak - the other killers and their victim will never be found. A truly regrettable incident, but one that is now closed.' Chang moved toward the door, pausing a moment in front of Leela. 'Perhaps we shall meet again in more pleasant circ.u.mstances?' There was an undertone of menace in the remark that made it sound almost like a challenge.'Perhaps we shall,' said Leela flatly. Chang nodded coolly to the Doctor, and disappeared into the night.Sergeant Kyle scratched his head, looking at the body of his late prisoner, then back to the Doctor and Leela. 'Blowed if I know what to do about all this, and that's a fact.''Then I'll tell you,' said the Doctor crisply. 'You can start by getting this body to the nearest mortuary and arranging for an immediate post mortem. I need to know whether my theory about scorpion venom is correct.'' You You need to know, sir?' need to know, sir?''My dear Sergeant, if the Tong of the Black Scorpion is active here in London , you're going to need my help. Now come along and do as I ask.'Such was the authority in the Doctor's voice that Kyle found himself obeying without question. 'Constable,' he called. 'Get out the ambulance cart and wheel this body round to the mortuary. Ask Professor Litefoot to perform an immediate post mortem.'In the Palace Theatre all was dark and still. The audience had gone, the performers and stage staff had gone, and Casey the caretaker was alone backstage - alone, that is, except for Jago who appeared suddenly in the backstage corridor and said reproachfully, 'Twinkle, twinkle out in front, Casey. The gallery lights are still burning.''Just going to see to them, Mr. Jago.''Everyone else gone?''That they have, Mr. Jago. I've just locked the stage door.''I hope those girls have the sense to go straight home to their digs.''That they will, sir, with all these disappearances in the papers.' He lowered his voice to a ghoulish whisper. 'There's nine of 'em now, sir. Nine girls missing, vanished off the streets - and all in this area too.'Jago shrugged. 'They were probably stony broke. Scarpered because they couldn't pay the rent. You cut along and turn those gallery lights out. I'll wait for you here.'Casey headed for the stairs and Jago paused for a moment, lost in thought. Slowly, almost unwillingly, he began walking toward Chang's dressing room.He opened the door cautiously and looked inside. Everything was quiet. He went to the wicker hamper that lay beside Chang's makeup and opened the lid. Mr. Sin lay staring lifelessly up at him.Jago reached into the basket and lifted the wooden hand - and the dummy's eyes flew open. Letting go the hand, Jago jumped back in alarm. Then he grinned ruefully. Moving the arm must have operated the eye mechanism. He gave the dummy a cautious shake and the eyes clicked shut.He lifted the arm again, and rubbed the wooden hand with his handkerchief. There was a faint red stain on the white silk. 'It was was blood,' muttered Jago. 'Blood all over the hand. Now how did that get there?' blood,' muttered Jago. 'Blood all over the hand. Now how did that get there?'Behind him the door creaked slowly open. For a moment Jago stayed where he was, frozen with terror. He dropped the lid of the hamper and turned - to see Casey in the doorway. 'Ready, Mr. Jago?''Casey! Don't ever do that to me again. If Chang caught me prying into his secrets...''What were you after doing, sir?'Jago decided to say nothing about the blood. Casey was panicky enough already. 'I had some idea the dummy might be a midget dressed up. But it's just an ordinary ventriloquist's doll.''Are we going to take a look down the cellar, Mr. Jago - like you said?''Of course, Casey, of course. When I promise to do something, it gets done. Determination, Casey. Character. That's the secret of my success. We'll go and hunt for your ghost.' Outside Chang's dressing room, Jago paused. There was something rather un-attractive about the thought of poking about in the cellar. 'Tell you what, Casey, we'll go to my office and have a little drink before we start, eh? Maybe one kind of spirit will help us to deal with the other!'The Doctor strode confidently through the swirling fog, Leela hurrying to keep up with him. 'Where are we going now, Doctor?''To the mortuary, the place where they keep the dead bodies. A doctor is going to examine the body of that prisoner.''Why? He is dead.''We may still be able to learn something more about how how he died.' he died.'Leela shook her head, baffled. There was no point in worrying about the body of a dead enemy. Live ones were far more important. 'What is this Tong of the Black Scorpion, Doctor?''A Chinese secret society, fanatical followers of an ancient Chinese G.o.d called Weng-Chiang. They believe that one day he will return to rule the world.'Leela paused, and looked over her shoulder. She had a kind of tingling sensation between her shoulder blades - usually a sure sign she was being hunted. But the long dark street behind them seemed completely empty. She hurried after the Doctor.(Behind her, a black-clad figure, almost invisible in the darkness, slipped out of an alleyway and followed soundlessly.)Catching up with the Doctor, Leela asked, 'What is he like, this Weng-Chiang?''Not very pleasant company. They say he blew poisonous fumes from his mouth, and killed men with a great light that shone from his eyes.'Leela was impressed. 'Magic?''Superst.i.tious rubbish,' said the Doctor briefly. 'Ah, this looks like the place.' They had reached a long, low building, set back a little from the cobbled street, yellow light s.h.i.+ning from its windows. A couple of steps led up to a central door. The Doctor flung it open, and ushered Leela inside.(As the door closed behind them, a black-clad figure slipped out of the darkness, and peered cautiously through the window.)Leela found herself in a place not unlike the police station they had just left. Whitewashed walls, a desk, wooden benches. This time there was something different, a pervading smell of disinfectant that hung on the air like a gas, and one end of the long bare room was concealed by screens.The Doctor was talking to another of the blue guards. 'You mean nothing's been done? Surely you got the Sergeant's message? He sent a note round with the body of the man.''We got the message right enough, sir!' said the policeman patiently. 'But Professor Litefoot is already doing a post mortem examination. A body was taken from the river, not half an hour ago.''Well, our case is far more urgent.' Brus.h.i.+ng the attendant aside, the Doctor marched behind the screens. A body was laid out on a mortuary slab and a tall, gray-haired man with a beaky nose was holding a test tube up to the light, and frowning fiercely at it. 'Professor Litefoot, I presume?' said the Doctor cheerfully.Litefoot glared at him. 'Who the devil are you, sir?''I'm the Doctor. I've come to help you.''When I need anyone's help in pathology, Doctor, I'll ask for it.' Ignoring the Doctor, Litefoot went on with his examination.Professor Litefoot was a well-known local character. A member of a wealthy upper-cla.s.s family, he could, if he wished, have had a fas.h.i.+onable practice in Harley Street . But after a spell in the Army, he had deliberately chosen to come and work at a hospital in London 's East End . Here he could do real and useful work, instead of, as he put it himself, 'dosing a lot of silly women suffering from the vapours'. Worse still, he had taken the post of police pathologist, deliberately involving himself in the crime so common in the area. His aristocratic relations had long ago given up trying to make him see reason. Litefoot went his own way, and he always would.Deliberately ignoring the Doctor's presence, Litefoot went on with his examination. He was frequently plagued by visiting dignitaries from Seotland Yard, the Home Office and various Government committees, and a.s.sumed the Doctor was another of their number. In Litefoot's experience, if you ignored these people they eventually went away. To his annoyance, the Doctor refused to go away, and began studying the body with almost professional interest. 'I thought the constable said this was a drowning case?''Body was fished from the river. Not drowned, though.''Attacked by some kind of animal too - after after death.' death.'Litefoot looked at his visitor with new respect. 'That was my theory, too. But what kind of animal leaves marks like that?'The Doctor studied the terrible wounds. 'Something with chisel-like incisor teeth. In other words, a rodent.''A rodent? Look at the size of those marks!''What was the actual cause of death?''That's another thing. Not Not drowning, and not these bites, either.' Litefoot pointed. 'The man was killed by a knife blow to the heart.' drowning, and not these bites, either.' Litefoot pointed. 'The man was killed by a knife blow to the heart.'The Doctor glanced at Leela, who had followed him around the screen. 'It seems you were right after all.''About what?''The different sounds of death.' He turned to the policeman. 'Where are the man's clothes?''Here, sir.' The policeman, indicated a shabby bundle on a table in the corner. 'No doc.u.ments on the body, but we found this.' He picked up a big metal disc with a number stamped on it. 'Means he was a licensed cab driver. We'll be able to identify the poor chap by the number easy enough.''The body those men were carrying wore clothing much like this,' whispered Leela.The Doctor picked up the shabby eoat and held it up to the light. He plucked something from the coat between finger and thumb.'What have you found, Doctor?' asked Litefoot curiously.The Doctor held out his hand, a few coa.r.s.e gray hairs in the palm. 'Rat's hairs.'Litefoot stared. 'Do you know what you're saying?''I always know what I'm saying, Professor Litefoot. Others are sometimes a little slow to understand.''But the hairs on a rat must measure less than a quarter of an inch. These are nearly three inches long!'The Doctor nodded. 'Interesting, isn't it?' He looked thoughtfully at Leela. 'You know, I've just remembered something else about Weng-Chiang.''What, Doctor?''He was the G.o.d of abundance,' said the Doctor slowly. 'When he wanted to, he could make things grow very big.' He took a policeman's lantern from a shelf on the wall. 'I'll borrow this if I may,' he said, and made for the door.Leela followed him. 'Where are we going, Doctor?'The Doctor waved her back. 'You're not going anywhere, Leela. I want you to stay here. I'm I'm going out to look for a giant rat!' going out to look for a giant rat!'
4 The Monster in the Tunnel
Closing the mortuary door behind him, the Doctor strode rapidly along the deserted street. A black-clad figure slid around the corner of the building and set off in pursuit.As he padded silently after the Doctor, the Tong a.s.sa.s.sin slipped a hatchet from beneath his tunic. Truly Weng-Chiang was smiling upon him this night. He had been ordered to kill the two strangers, quietly without fuss. When they had entered the place where there were more accursed police he thought he had missed his chance. Now the tall man had come out - alone and unprotected. When the man was dead, he would return and wait for the girl.The tall Doctor paused by a lamp-post before a row of terraced houses. There would never be a better chance. Drawing back his arm, the a.s.sa.s.sin hurled the deadly hatchet with all his force... just as the Doctor took a step forward. The hatchet whizzed past his ear and thudded into a doorpost be-side his head.The Doctor whirled around. The a.s.sa.s.sin was standing motionless on the pavement some way behind him. He was quite still, as if paralyzed by the failure of his attack. The Doctor wrenched the hatchet from the doorpost and strode grimly toward his attacker. 'I take it you were trying to attract my attention?'The a.s.sa.s.sin did not move or speak. He stared bulging-eyed at the Doctor for a moment, then pitched forward, falling face down on to the cobbles. Leela stepped from the doorway behind him, tucking a small pointed object back into the waistband of her suit.'Leela, what is that?' demanded the Doctor sternly.'A Janis thorn.'The Janis thorn was a product of Leela's native planet. It produced instant paralysis, followed by inevitable death. 'I thought I told you never to use those things again.''He was trying to kill kill you, Doctor.' you, Doctor.'The Doctor considered. He was against killing of course. But he was also against being killed. 'All right,' he said ungraciously. 'Since you're here, you'd better come along.'Leela grinned, and followed him down the street.He led her to a road junction, close to the spot where they had first seen the four Chinese with the body. Kneeling on the cobbles, he shone his lantern onto the round manhole cover.Leela looked down at it. 'What is it, Doctor?''This is where they took the body when they disappeared so suddenly.''Where does it lead?''Into the Thames , eventually. All the sewers must be connected.' The Doctor was busily prizing up the manhole cover. It landed on the cobbles with an echoing clang, revealing a dark opening with a ladder bolted to the side. Swinging nimbly on to the ladder, the Doctor disappeared into the darkness, and a moment later, Leela followed him.They climbed down into a dank and echoing tunnel, through the centre of which flowed an evil-smelling stream. Lantern held high, the Doctor moved ahead, Leela close behind him. She felt she had never been in a more unpleasant place. 'What are we looking for, Doctor?'Anything we can find.' The Doctor shone the lantern down the tunnel, and Leela caught a glimpse of bright-eyed, gray shapes scurrying away into the darkness.'What are those creatures?''Rats.''They don't look too dangerous.''Not singly, perhaps. But they hunt in packs, and they're very cunning. Besides if my theory is correct, we may well run into something rather - 'The Doctor broke off. From the darkness ahead came a high squealing sound, and the patter of hundreds of scampering feet. The beam of the lantern showed a flood of gray shapes rus.h.i.+ng toward them.Leela grasped the Doctor's arm. 'We must flee. The rat creatures are ma.s.sing to attack us.'The Doctor stood his ground. 'I don't think so. They're running from from something.' Sure enough, the stream of gray shapes flowed by ignoring them. There was a moment of silence and then another sound, like the squealing of rats magnified a hundred times. something.' Sure enough, the stream of gray shapes flowed by ignoring them. There was a moment of silence and then another sound, like the squealing of rats magnified a hundred times.The Doctor raised his lantern. Scurrying down the tunnel toward them was a enormous rat.Leela gasped. The creature was huge and savage, at least twice as big as a man. It paused, red eyes blinking in the light, then with a trumpeting scream it charged them, the yellow fangs bared in fury.'Run!' yelled the Doctor. They turned and fled, back down the sewer tunnel. When they reached the ladder, Leela clambered up with frantic speed. The Doctor paused and hurled his lantern at the huge gray shape rus.h.i.+ng out of the darkness. As the Doctor scrambled up the ladder, the lantern smashed on the stone pavings and burst into a sheet of flame. The monster retreated with a scream of pain.The Doctor shot out of the manhole like a jack-in-the-box, slammed the cover back in place and sat on it, gasping for breath. From below came a m.u.f.fled roar, as a vast bulk hurled itself against the ladder.Leela looked disapprovingly at the Doctor. 'That was foolishness. We might have been killed.''Well, at least we know I was on the right track,' said the Doctor defensively. 'What a whopper, eh? Ten feet, from whiskers to tail!''We should have taken weapons.''What kind of weapons? You'd need a cannon to stop that brute.''Shall we tell the blue guards?''The police? They'd never believe us. At most they'd send a sanitary inspector - and he might get a nasty shock!'The roaring below had died away. The Doctor got cautiously to his feet. 'You know, Leela, I think that thing was a kind of guard, to keep people like us away. So there must be something worth guarding down there, eh? Come on!'' Now Now where are we going?' where are we going?''Back to the police station. I want to see if they've got a plan of the sewers.'When they reached the station, Sergeant Kyle listened to the Doctor's request with his usual air of weary patience. 'A plan of the sewers, Doctor? We don't keep one here, I'm afraid. Why do you ask? If you've any information - ''At the moment, Sergeant, we're looking for information ourselves.'Kyle stroked his moustache. 'I see,' he said heavily, though he didn't see at all. 'I do have a message for you though, sir. From Professor Litefoot. He'd like to see you at the mortuary as soon as possible.''Still there, is he?''Oh yes, sir, he's still there. Apparently they found another body, soon after you left. Another Chinese. He was in the street, not far away.''Very convenient,' said the Doctor blandly.'Very mysterious, sir. Don't suppose you know anything about it?''Of course we do,' said Leela helpfully. 'As a matter of fact, I - ''Thank you for the message, Sergeant,' interrupted the Doctor hastily. 'We'll go and see Professor Litefoot at once.'It took quite a few little drinks before Jago and Casey were ready to go looking down the dark cellar. But they screwed up their courage at last, and pleasantly aglow with brandy, they made their way down to the huge cellar that ran underneath the stage. 'Black as Newgate's knocker down here, Mr. Jago,' said Casey, as they came down the cellar stairs.Jago shone his lantern. The cellar was piled high with all kinds of junk, acc.u.mulated during the long life of the theatre. There were boxes, crates, baskets, coils of rope, abandoned stage props. Jago decided he really must get it cleared out some day.Casey pointed to an arched recess in the wall. 'That's where I saw it, Mr. Jago.''Flickering shadows,' said Jago, trying to convince himself he wasn't frightened. 'Just a trick of the light.''Shadows don't groan,' whispered Casey sinisterly. 'Shadows don't clank chains and moan, like all the tormented souls in h.e.l.l.'Jago held up his lantern and advanced determinedly toward the recess. He jumped back as a demoniacally grinning face jumped out of the darkness. 'There's your ghost.' He held the lantern up to a carved Indian totem pole leaning against the wall. 'Six-gun Sadie and her Wild West Troupe left it behind. Lombard Street to a china orange that's what frightened you.'Casey said stubbornly, 'Weren't that old thing. I saw a ghost - and heard it too, I tell you.''Look,' said Jago patiently, 'the old Fleet River runs under here. Running water makes all kinds of noises...' He paused and picked up something from the floor. 'What's this, Casey, you been bringing a lady friend down here? Lady's glove, monogrammed "E.B." ' He slipped the glove into his pocket. 'Come on, Casey, we've wasted enough time on your spook.' He led the way upstairs, and ushered the still-grumbling Casey to the stage door. 'Now, straight home with you, Casey, and no lingering on the way. Someone might mistake you for a pretty girl. Doubtless I shall descry your lugubrious lineaments at the crepuscular hour.''What's that, sir?'Jago gave him a friendly shove. 'See you in the morning!''You're a card, Mr. Jago. A card and a half, you are.' Still chuckling, Casey went off down the alley.Locking the stage door Jago turned - to find Chang looming over him. His heart gave a great leap, and he caught his breath. 'By Jiminy, you gave me a shock, Mr. Chang. I thought you'd gone.''I had, Mr. Jago. But I have returned to see you.''Nothing wrong, I hope?''Be so kind as to step into my dressing room.' Jago put on his most jovial manner as he entered the little dressing room. 'If it's about your contract, Mr. Chang, let me say right away that I plan to offer you better terms. We've been attracting such good houses, it's the least I can do.'Chang made no reply. He stared at Jago, eyes glittering hypnotically. Jago stumbled on. 'I venture to say no management in London could offer an artiste better terms. What would you say to an extra two per cent of the gross, Mr. Chang? I think that's fair... that's fair...' Jago's voice faltered and died away. 'Hear me, Jago,' said Chang softly. 'You will forget everything about Buller, the cab driver who came here earlier. You did not see him.''I did not see him.''You will go to your office, and remember only that you have just said goodnight to Casey.''I have just said goodnight to Casey.''Good. Now go.'Jago turned at once and walked from the room. A few minutes later he found himself sitting down at his desk, going through the accounts for the evening. He rubbed his hand over his eyes. He'd felt a bit queer for a moment. Must have been old Casey, with all that nonsense about ghosts in the cellar. Lighting a fresh cigar, Jago went on with his work.Chang made his way through the darkened theatre and down the cellar steps. He went to the recess where Casey had seen his 'ghost,' took an iron bar from its hiding place in the corner, and knocked three times on the stone flags. There was a grinding sound, and a flagstone slid back revealing a wooden ladder that led down into darkness. Chang started to descend.The ladder ended in a vaulted chamber deep below the theatre. It was furnished with a strange mixture of Chinese-style drapes and hangings, and ultra-modern scientific equipment. A shallow culvert ran along the far side of the room. It ended in a barred arch, through which could be heard the sound of running water.Waiting at the foot of the ladder was a strange and terrifying figure. It was tall and thin, dressed in close-fitting black garments and an all-enveloping black cloak. A soft black-leather mask covered the face, which was overshadowed by a broad-brimmed black hat. Chang dropped from the ladder, and bowed low before the sinister apparition. This was his lord and master Greel, living embodiment of the G.o.d Weng-Chiang.Greel spoke in a dry rasping voice, each word forced out with painful effort. 'You are late.''I am sorry, Lord. I was delayed.'Suddenly Greel staggered, supporting himself against the wall with a long-taloned hand. Chang looked up in concern. 'You should not go out tonight, Lord.'Greel hobbled painfully across the chamber, and sank wearily on to a stool. 'I must. Tonight, every every night, until the Time Cabinet is found.' night, until the Time Cabinet is found.''You are ill.''I am dying dying , Chang. You must bring another linnet to my cage.' Greel waved toward a sinister-looking complex of machinery that stood against the far wall. Its dominant feature was a transparent cabinet from the top of which were suspended two golden metal b.a.l.l.s. , Chang. You must bring another linnet to my cage.' Greel waved toward a sinister-looking complex of machinery that stood against the far wall. Its dominant feature was a transparent cabinet from the top of which were suspended two golden metal b.a.l.l.s.'Already, Lord?' whispered Chang. There was fear in his voice. 'But only yesterday...''My disease grows worse,' rasped Greel. 'Each distillation has less effect than the one before.''But Lord, each missing girl increases the panic, and the suspicion. Even tonight, there was danger.' Hurriedly Chang told his master of Buller's suspicions, of the murder on the way to the police station, and his hypnotising of Jago.Greel showed little appreciation of the many efforts of his servant. 'I have given you mental powers undreamed of in this primitive century, Chang. What have you to fear from these savages?''True, Lord: I read their minds with ease. But tonight there was a stranger, one whose thoughts were hidden from me.''Describe him.''He calls himself the Doctor. Tall with wide, pale eyes, and hair that curls close like the ram. He asks questions, many questions.'Greel made a dismissive gesture. 'A Time Agent would not ask questions, Chang. A Time Agent would know know .' .'Chang was not convinced. 'I sensed danger from him and from his companion. I have ordered your servants to slay them.''Opium-addicted sc.u.m of the Tongs! They are all bunglers. You should have seen to it yourself.''I will do so, Lord, should he trouble us further.'Greel wrapped his cloak about him, and made for the ladder. 'We are wasting time. Come, we must begin our task.'Outside the theatre a carriage was waiting, a black-clad, pigtailed driver at the reins. Soon Greel and his servant Chang were rattling through the cobbled streets on their terrifying errand.
5 The Quest of Greel
Professor Litefoot rolled down his sleeves and slipped into the coat held for him by a respectful constable. 'I must confess, Doctor, this thing has me beaten. One of those Chinese was poisoned orally, the other p.r.i.c.ked by some poisoned instrument. Different poisons in each case. Understand you suggested scorpion venom, for the first chap?'The Doctor pa.s.sed Litefoot his overcoat. 'It's a possibility. Highly concentrated of course.''And the second?'The Doctor coughed and shot Leela a warning glance. 'I really couldn't say.'Litefoot seemed positively stimulated by the dramatic events of the evening. 'What a night, eh?' he said gleefully. 'Most of the corpses around here are very dull. Now I've got a couple of mysteriously dead Chinese and a poor perisher who was bitten by a giant rat after being stabbed by a midget!'Leela stared at him. 'A midget?'Litefoot made an upward stabbing gesture. 'Angle of the wound - sorry, my dear.''What for?'Litefoot looked embarra.s.sed. 'For mentioning such indelicate topics in the presence of a lady.'Leela gave the Doctor a baffled look. 'Does he mean me?''I think so,' said the Doctor solemnly.Leela turned back to Litefoot. 'You can tell the height of the attacker by the way the blade was thrust?''Quite so, my dear. But you mustn't bother your pretty head...''We were always taught to strike upward under the breast-bone when aiming for the heart.''Well, upon my soul, young lady...'The Doctor took Litefoot aside. 'Raised by savages,' he whispered. 'Found floating down the Amazon in a hatbox!''A hatbox?'Before the Doctor had a chance to elaborate on his story, they were interrupted by the return of the police constable who had been on duty earlier. He was strangely bright and cheerful, despite the foggy night. 'Still here then, Professor? I've just traced your cab driver for you.' He produced his notebook with a flourish. 'Name of Alfred Buller, of Fourteen, Fish Lane , this parish.''Splendid work, Constable Quick,' said Litefoot heartily. 'The coroner will want the details for his report. Did someone identify the clothing?'P.C. Quick produced his notebook. 'Mother-in-law, Mrs. Nellie Gossett, of the same address. Deceased had lived with her since his marriage six months ago,'The Doctor's nostrils twitched. A familiar odor had come into the room with P.C. Quick - a faint but unmistakable whiff of gin. 'You stayed for a drink with Mrs. Gossett, I think, constable. What else did she have to say?'Guiltily Quick wiped his moustache with the back of his hand. 'Well as the bearer of sad tidings, sir, I did share a gla.s.s or two, just to help the poor old dear get over the shock.' He consulted his notebook. 'She said the deceased had been in a state all day, owing to the fact that his wife, Emma Buller, didn't come home last night. Deceased had several drinks then went off to the Palace Theatre where he believed his wife was to be found. Mrs. Gossett said he went off making horrible threats.'The Doctor rubbed his chin. 'Thank you, that's very interesting.'Professor Litefoot didn't seem to think so. 'Just put the relevant information in your report, constable. Clearly the man got stupidly drunk, then got into a fight with a dwarf!''Yessir, very good sir,' said Quick woodenly, and disappeared to make out his report.Litefoot turned to the Doctor and Leela. 'A busy night does wonders for my appet.i.te. I'd be honored if you'd both come home and share a spot of supper with me.'The Doctor stood lost in thought, and didn't seem to hear the Professor's invitation. Leela nudged him in the ribs, and he looked up. 'What's that Professor, supper? I'd be delighted.'Litefoot had a hackney-cab waiting outside, and soon they were rattling over the cobbles. It was very late now. The pubs and theatres had closed, the last revellers had made their way home and the foggy streets were dark and empty.Litefoot produced a huge curved pipe, and began trying to light it with a succession of matches. 'Normally the police would have these cases cleared up in no time. But with these Chinese involved - different kettle of fish, what?'Leela had been watching Litefoot's efforts with fascination. 'Why are you making a fire in your mouth?'''Pon my soul, girl, haven't you ever seen a pipe before?'The Doctor smiled. 'People don't smoke where Leela comes from. In any case, it's a most unhealthy habit.''Quite agree,' said Litefoot, taking another puff at his pipe. 'Yes, as I was saying, they're a mysterious lot, the Chinese. I never came anywhere near understanding 'em, and I grew up in China .''How did that come about?' asked the Doctor curiously.'Father was an Army man. Brigadier, actually. Went out with the punitive expedition in 1860. Stayed on in Peking , as a palace attache. Poor old buffer died out there in the end. Fireworks at the funeral, I remember.' Litefoot puffed meditatively at his pipe. 'Odd custom. Odd sort of people altogether.'The Doctor reached up and rapped sharply on the roof of the cab, to signal to the driver to stop. He swung his long legs out of the carriage and stood beside it looking thoughtfully up at them. 'Evil spirits,' he said suddenly. 'They use fireworks to frighten off evil spirits.''I know that,' spluttered Litefoot. 'What's the matter, Doctor?'The Doctor ignored him. 'You go on with the Professor, Leela. I'll join you later.''Where are you going?''To the Palace Theatre. All right, cabbie, drive on!'The Doctor slapped the side of the carriage, and before Leela could protest further, the carriage was jolting on its way, leaving the Doctor behind.Litefoot shook his head. 'Extraordinary feller. How can he join us later? He doesn't know my address.''Four, Ranskill Gardens ,' said Leela promptly. 'He heard you tell the driver.'Litefoot stared admiringly at her. 'Gad! That's amazing. You're as sharp as a trout.''Trout?''It's a kind of fish, my dear...'The hackney-carriage rattled on its way.Jago had just finished totting up the night's takings when he heard a persistent banging. He climbed wearily to his feet, went along the corridor and opened the stage door. A very tall man slipped nimbly through the gap, and stood beaming at him. 'Thank you very much. Terrible fog tonight.' Calmly the stranger closed the stage door behind him. 'Are you the manager?''Manager and owner, sir. Henry Gordon Jago, at the end of a long, hard day. So if you will kindly state your business - 'The Doctor seized Jago's hand and shook it warmly. 'A very great pleasure, Mr. Jago. I'm the Doctor. How do you do?''The Doctor?''Exactly.'Jago nodded understandingly. 'Aha! Now I've rumbled your game. I admire your bra.s.s, sir, but it won't do. Call back on Sat.u.r.day. Auditions commence at ten sharp, supporting acts booked for one week only.'Suddenly the Doctor realized that Jago had taken him for a music-hall performer trying to get a booking. He smiled delightedly. 'Just one moment, Mr. Jago.' The Doctor s.n.a.t.c.hed the white handkerchief from Jago's breast-pocket and flourished it. Immediately the handkerchief turned into a string of flags of all nations. Still beaming, the Doctor crumpled the flags into a ball, and they turned into a live dove, which fluttered away down the corridor.Jago shook his head. 'I'm sorry, Doctor, we've already got a very good magician.'The Doctor gave a disappointed sigh. 'Dramatic recitations? Tap dancing?' he said hopefully. 'I can play the Trumpet Voluntary in a tank of live gold-fis.h.!.+'Jago waved him toward the door. 'Don't bother about coming back on Sat.u.r.day...'The Doctor grinned, and abandoned his masquerade. 'As a matter of fact, Mr. Jago, I didn't come here for a job. I came to ask you a few questions - about a cab driver by the name of Buller.'Immediately Jago's face went blank. 'Never heard of him.'The Doctor looked hard at Jago. It was as if a shutter had suddenly slammed down behind Jago's eyes. 'I'm also a master hypnotist,' said the Doctor sternly. 'How long since you you were under the influence?' were under the influence?'Jago was indignant. 'Me, sir? I am a man of character and determination. The Rock of Gibraltar would be more easily... more easily...' Jago's voice faltered. The wide staring eyes of the stranger held him transfixed.'As I thought,'. said the Doctor gently. 'Now, what was your last order?''To remember nothing since I said goodnight to Casey,' said Jago tonelessly.The Doctor spoke in a low, compelling voice. 'Henry Gordon Jago, I want you to tell me everything you were ordered to forget. You will remember everything when I count to three. One... two... three!'Jago blinked. 'I tell you sir, I have a will of iron. What the blazes were we talking about? Oh yes, that fellow Buller. Burst in and accosted Mr. Chang between houses. Something to do with a lady called Emma.''His wife, Emma Buller. She disappeared last night. What's the matter?'Jago was staring blankly at him. 'Emma Buller.' He fished a crumpled glove from his pocket, and handed it to the Doctor.The Doctor read the monogrammed initials. 'E.B. Where did you find this?''In the cellar. I say, are you from the police?''I'm helping them. Now, Mr. Jago, I want to take a look at this cellar of yours.'While Litefoot's carriage carried the Professor and Leela back toward his neat suburban villa, another carriage was rattling through the deserted streets not far away. Inside were Greel, Li H'sen Chang - and Mr. Sin. Greel was holding a saucer-shaped crystal pendant in his hands. He stared hard at the pendant, and sighed with disappointment. 'You are certain these are different different streets?' streets?''The driver knows his orders, Lord. Every night we search a new area.''Yes! And for how much longer? How many more nights must I spend in this endless quest?''Patience, Lord. The city is large. But we know that the Time Cabinet is here, in the house of some infidel. We shall shall recover it.' recover it.''I grow weary, Chang. Weary!' Greel slumped disconsolately back in his seat.Chang looked worriedly at the black-masked visage of his master. It is no small responsibility to be the servant of a dying G.o.d. He made his voice encouraging. 'Tomorrow I will bring you two new donors. Young and vigorous girls. The distillation of their life-essences will quickly restore your powers.'Greel nodded wearily. Chang looked sadly at his master. Greel was weakening fast. Unless the Time Cabinet was found soon, it would be too late to save him - however many young girls were sacrificed.Jago held up his lantern. 'The glove was lying just here, Doctor. I came down to rea.s.sure Casey, my caretaker. He's taken to seeing ghosts lately.' Jago jumped back. Disturbed by the light of his lantern, a huge round black shape had scuttled away into a dark corner. 'What a spider, eh? That must be the grand-dad of them all.''It's a money spider,' said the Doctor absently. He shone his lantern around the cellar.Jago laughed nervously. 'Money spider, eh? Don't kill it, Doctor, it'll bring us luck. Why's it so big though?''Genetic disruption,' said the Doctor to himself . 'Affecting the size of the local fauna - like that rat. Emanations of some kind... but where are they coming from, eh?' He swung around to Jago. 'Is there anything under us here, Mr. Jago?''Under here? Where we're standing you mean? Well, this theatre was built on the site of a much older building. And they say the
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