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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 17. The Missing Revolver
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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 17. The Missing Revolver Post by :hammer23 Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :May 2012 Read :851

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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 17. The Missing Revolver

CHAPTER XVII. THE MISSING REVOLVER

Tarling walked out of Scotland Yard on to the sunlit Embankment, trouble in his face. He told himself that the case was getting beyond him and that it was only the case and its development which worried him. The queer little look which had dawned on the Commissioner's face when he learnt that the heir to the murdered Thornton Lyne's fortune was the detective who was investigating his murder, and that Tarling's revolver had been found in the room where the murder had been committed, aroused nothing but an inward chuckle.

That suspicion should attach to him was, he told himself, poetic justice, for in his day he himself had suspected many men, innocent or partly innocent.

He walked up the stairs to his room and found Ling Chu polishing the meagre stock of silver which Tarling possessed. Ling Chu was a thief-catcher and a great detective, but he had also taken upon himself the business of attending to Tarling's personal comfort. The detective spoke no word, out went straight to the cupboard where he kept his foreign kit. On a shelf in neat array and carefully folded, were the thin white drill suits he wore in the tropics. His sun helmet hung on a peg, and on the opposite wall was a revolver holster hanging by a strap. He lifted the holster. It was empty. He had had no doubts in his mind that the holster would be empty and closed the door with a troubled frown.

"Ling Chu," he said quietly.

"You speak me, Lieh Jen?" said the man, putting down the spoons and rubber he was handling.

"Where is my revolver?"

"It is gone, Lieh Jen," said the man calmly.

"How long has it been gone?"

"I miss him four days," said Ling Chu calmly;

"Who took it?" demanded Tarling.

"I miss him four days," said the man.

There was an interval of silence, and Tarling nodded his head slowly.

"Very good, Ling Chu," he said, "there is no more to be said."

For all his outward calm, he was distressed in mind.

Was it possible that anybody could have got into the room in Ling Chu's absence--he could only remember one occasion when they had been out together, and that was the night he had gone to the girl's flat and Ling Chu had shadowed him.

What if Ling Chu----?

He dismissed the thought as palpably absurd. What interest could Ling Chu have in the death of Lyne, whom he had only seen once, the day that Thornton Lyne had called Tarling into consultation at the Stores?

That thought was too fantastic to entertain, but nevertheless it recurred again and again to him and in the end he sent his servant away with a message to Scotland Yard, determined to give even his most fantastic theory as thorough and impartial an examination as was possible.

The flat consisted of four rooms and a kitchen. There was Tarling's bedroom communicating with his dining and sitting-room. There was a spare-room in which he kept his boxes and trunks--it was in this room that the revolver had been put aside--and there was the small room occupied by Ling Chu. He gave his attendant time to get out of the house and well on his journey before he rose from the deep chair where he had been sitting in puzzled thought and began his inspection.

Ling Chu's room was small and scrupulously clean. Save for the bed and a plain black-painted box beneath the bed, there was no furniture. The well-scrubbed boards were covered with a strip of Chinese matting and the only ornamentation in the room was supplied by a tiny red lacquer vase which stood on the mantelpiece.

Tarling went back to the outer door of the flat and locked it before continuing his search. If there was any clue to the mystery of the stolen revolver it would be found here, in this black box. A Chinaman keeps all his possessions "within six sides," as the saying goes, and certainly the box was very well secured. It was ten minutes before he managed to find a key to shift the two locks with which it was fastened.

The contents of the box were few. Ling Chu's wardrobe was not an extensive one and did little more than half fill the receptacle. Very carefully he lifted out the one suit of clothes, the silk shirts, the slippers and the odds and ends of the Chinaman's toilet and came quickly to the lower layer. Here he discovered two lacquer boxes, neither of which were locked or fastened.

The first of these contained sewing material, the second a small package wrapped in native paper and carefully tied about with ribbon. Tarling undid the ribbon, opened the package and found to his surprise a small pad of newspaper cuttings. In the main they were cuttings from colloquial journals printed in Chinese characters, but there were one or two paragraphs evidently cut from one of the English papers published in Shanghai.

He thought at first that these were records of cases in which Ling Chu had been engaged, and though he was surprised that the Chinaman should have taken the trouble to collect these souvenirs--especially the English cuttings--he did not think at first that there was any significance in the act. He was looking for some clue--what he knew not--which would enable him to explain to his own satisfaction the mystery of the filched pistol.

He read the first of the European cuttings idly, but presently his eyes opened wide.

"There was a fracas at Ho Hans's tea-room last night, due apparently to the too-persistent attentions paid by an English visitor to the dancing girl, the little Narcissus, who is known to the English, or such as frequent Ho Hans's rooms, as The Little Daffodil----"

He gasped. The Little Daffodil! He let the cutting drop on his knee and frowned in an effort of memory. He knew Shanghai well. He knew its mysterious under-world and had more than a passing acquaintance with Ho Hans's tea-rooms. Ho Hans's tea-room was, in fact, the mask which hid an opium den that he had been instrumental in cleaning up just before he departed from China. And he distinctly remembered the Little Daffodil. He had had no dealings with her in the way of business, for when he had had occasion to go into Ho Hans's tea-rooms, he was usually after bigger game than the graceful little dancer.

It all came back to him in a flash. He had heard men at the club speaking of the grace of the Little Daffodil and her dancing had enjoyed something of a vogue amongst the young Britishers who were exiled in Shanghai.

The next cutting was also in English and ran:

"A sad fatality occurred this morning, a young Chinese girl, O Ling, the sister of Inspector Ling Chu, of the Native Police, being found in a dying condition in the yard at the back of Ho Hans's tea-rooms. The girl had been employed at the shop as a dancer, much against her brother's wishes, and figured in a very unpleasant affair reported in these columns last week. It is believed that the tragic act was one of those 'save-face' suicides which are all too common amongst native women."

Tarling whistled, a soft, long, understanding whistle.

The Little Daffodil! And the sister of Ling Chu! He knew something of the Chinese, something of their uncanny patience, something of their unforgiving nature. This dead man had put an insult not only upon the little dancing girl, but upon the whole of her family. In China disgrace to one is a disgrace to all and she, realising the shame that the notoriety had brought upon her brother, had taken what to her, as a Chinese girl, had been the only way out.

But what was the shame? Tarling searched through the native papers and found several flowery accounts, not any two agreed save on one point, that an Englishman, and a tourist, had made public love to the girl, no very great injury from the standpoint of the Westerner, a Chinaman had interfered and there had been a "rough house."

Tarling read the cuttings through from beginning to end, then carefully replaced them in the paper package and put them away in the little lacquer box at the bottom of the trunk. As carefully he returned all the clothes he had removed, relocked the lid and pushed it under the iron bedstead. Swiftly he reviewed all the circumstances. Ling Chu had seen Thornton Lyne and had planned his vengeance. To extract Tarling's revolver was an easy matter--but why, if he had murdered Lyne, would he have left the incriminating weapon behind? That was not like Ling Chu--that was the act of a novice.

But how had he lured Thornton Lyne to the flat? And how did he know--a thought struck him.

Three nights before the murder, Ling Chu, discussing the interview which had taken place at Lyne's Stores, had very correctly diagnosed the situation. Ling Chu knew that Thornton Lyne was in love with the girl and desired her, and it would not be remarkable if he had utilised his knowledge to his own ends.

But the telegram which was designed to bring Lyne to the flat was in English and Ling Chu did not admit to a knowledge of that language. Here again Tarling came to a dead end. Though he might trust the Chinaman with his life, he was perfectly satisfied that this man would not reveal all that he knew, and it was quite possible that Ling Chu spoke English as well as he spoke his own native tongue and the four dialects of China.

"I give it up," said Tarling, half to himself and half aloud.

He was undecided as to whether he should wait for his subordinate's return from Scotland Yard and tax him with the crime, or whether he should let matters slide for a day or two and carry out his intention to visit Odette Rider. He took that decision, leaving a note for the Chinaman, and a quarter of an hour later got out of his taxi at the door of the West Somerset Hotel.

Odette Rider was in (that he knew) and waiting for him. She looked pale and her eyes were tired, as though she had slept little on the previous night, but she greeted him with that half smile of hers.

"I've come to tell you that you are to be spared the ordeal of meeting the third degree men of Scotland Yard," he said laughingly, and her eyes spoke her relief.

"Haven't you been out this beautiful morning?" he asked innocently, and this time she laughed aloud.

"What a hypocrite you are, Mr. Tarling!" she replied. "You know very well I haven't been out, and you know too that there are three Scotland Yard men watching this hotel who would accompany me in any constitutional I took."

"How did you know that?" he asked without denying the charge.

"Because I've been out," she said naively and laughed again. "You aren't so clever as I thought you were," she rallied him. "I quite expected when I said I'd not been out, to hear you tell me just where I'd been, how far I walked and just what I bought."

"Some green sewing silk, six handkerchiefs, and a tooth-brush," said Tarling promptly and the girl stared at him in comic dismay.

"Why, of course, I ought to have known you better than that," she said. "Then you do have watchers?"

"Watchers and talkers," said Tarling gaily. "I had a little interview with the gentleman in the vestibule of the hotel and he supplied me with quite a lot of information. Did he shadow you?"

She shook her head.

"I saw nobody," she confessed, "though I looked most carefully. Now what are you going to do with me, Mr. Tarling?"

For answer, Tarling took from his pocket a flat oblong box. The girl looked wonderingly as he opened the lid and drew forth a slip of porcelain covered with a thin film of black ink and two white cards. His hand shook as he placed them on the table and suddenly the girl understood.

"You want my finger prints?" she asked and he nodded.

"I just hate asking you," he said, "but----"

"Show me how to do it," she interrupted and he guided her.

He felt disloyal--a very traitor, and perhaps she realised what he was thinking, for she laughed as she wiped her stained finger tips.

"Duty's duty," she mocked him, "and now tell me this--are you going to keep me under observation all the time?"

"For a little while," said Tarling gravely. "In fact, until we get the kind of information we want."

He put away the box into his pocket as she shook her head.

"That means you're not going to tell us anything," said Tarling. "I think you are making a very great mistake, but really I am not depending upon your saying a word. I depend entirely upon----"

"Upon what?" she asked curiously as he hesitated.

"Upon what others will tell me," said Tarling

"Others? What others?"

Her steady eyes met his.

"There was once a famous politician who said 'Wait and see,'" said Tarling, "advice which I am going to ask you to follow. Now, I will tell you something, Miss Rider," he went on. "To-morrow I am going to take away your watchers, though I should advise you to remain at this hotel for a while. It is obviously impossible for you to go back to your flat."

The girl shivered.

"Don't talk about that," she said in a low voice. "But is it necessary that I should stay here?"

"There is an alternative," he said, speaking slowly, "an alternative," he said looking at her steadily, "and it is that you should go to your mother's place at Hertford."

She looked up quickly.

"That is impossible," she said.

He was silent for a moment.

"Why don't you make a confidant of me, Miss Rider?" he said. "I should not abuse your trust. Why don't you tell me something about your father?"

"My father?" she looked at him in amazement. "My father, did you say?"

He nodded.

"But I have no father," said the girl.

"Have you----" he found a difficulty in framing his words and it seemed to him that she must have guessed what was coming. "Have you a lover?" he asked at length.

"What do you mean?" she countered, and there was a note of hauteur in her voice.

"I mean this," said Tarling steadily. "What is Mr. Milburgh to you?"

Her hand went up to her mouth and she looked at him in wide-eyed distress, then:

"Nothing!" she said huskily. "Nothing, nothing!"

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