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All Detective, May 1933

Dorus Noel




"I DON'T know," Dorus Noel spoke softly into the telephone, addressing his police superior out on Park Avenue, the man who had taken on the titanic task of ridding New York's Chinatown of criminals, "whether the death of Chu Chul ends the reign of terror in Chinatown. I hope so. Knowing China and the Chinese, and that Chu Chul had all the nine lives of a cat, I'm inclined to doubt it, despite the urge of reason. I saw Chu Chul, dead, with my own eyes. But I'm not forgetting that I saw him dead once before, sinking in the Pei Ho near Tientsin."

"There is danger for you in Chinatown, Noel?" asked his superior softly.

Dorus Noel, from the depths of his many years of experience with Chinese evildoers, laughed casually.

"In Chinatown, in Timbuctu, in Kamchatka, there is danger for the man who caused the death of Chu Chul," he said. "Chu Chul headed a vast organization. That organization had multitudinous roots. When the head of such an organization is lopped off, a fresh one grows. To destroy such an organization is to harvest the stars with a carving knife."

"Then what is the use?"

"There's always use. We can, you know, keep lopping off heads."

"I leave it to you, Noel," said the unknown.

"Thanks. Then I'll stay in Chinatown, but remember what I said about Chinese organizations. I could tell you many tales of the Society of the White Lily, or the Red Spears and the Hung Hu Tze. But never mind. I'll let you know what happens."

Dorus Noel clicked up the receiver. He was calling from a pay phone on Lafayette Street. Now he hurried back to Pell and Mott Streets, near the intersection of which he had a home. It was a strange home. It was like stepping out of New York City into China with a single stride.

There were many clocks in the room, and always they were synchronized.

One had a group of figures inside it which came forth and danced a minuet when the hour struck. Another rolled a gold ball down a flight of steps to count the hours.

There were dragon screens in the corners and paintings on the walls—paintings of dead and gone men and women.

There were feather screens and lacquer screens. The place was China, and to Dorus Noel, China was home. In color he was white, in inclination he was a yellow man, because his many years in the far East had inoculated him with the virus of the ancient land. So was he fitted for the strange part he was to play in the criminal annals of Chinatown. Sometimes, even, in the solitude of his sleeping room, he dressed in the splendor of China in the days of the Empire, and then even his eyes seemed to take on an almond shape.

He went to his study. Above his head hung a wooden fish, a hollow piece of wood shaped like a fish, and used as a gong. He smote the gong three times with a wooden mallet and his "boy" entered. This was his second boy. The first had died in his service, trying to save his life from the vengeance of Chu Chul The Cricket. This new one he scarcely knew, but that didn't matter. If he could win the confidence of the boy the latter would be faithful during his lifetime.

"Bring me tea, Wang," he said.

The boy bowed, hands in sleeves, and vanished.

Even as he moved away Dorus Noel was conscious of an irritating buzzing sound in the room. There was something strange about the sound. He had heard it before, at times, but for the moment he could not place it. It merely irritated him. But it chilled him, too, and he shivered.

"Pshaw!" he said to himself. "I'm shivery. Chu Chul hasn't cooled long enough yet on a slab for my nerves to settle."

BUT what made the buzzing sound? He squinted his eyes and searched the air above him. It wasn't a mosquito's buzzing. it was stronger, harsher, somehow more malevolent. He couldn't rid himself of the idea that there was menace in it.

"Wang!" he yelled, wasting no time on the wooden fish. "Come here!"

Almost instantly, so fast it seemed he could scarcely have left the room, Wang returned.

"Yes, master?"

"There's a bee or something in the room, Wang," said Dorus Noel, "and I can't locate the thing. Bee stings bloat me up all over like a poisoned pup. Find the blasted buzzer."

"Yes, master," said Wang. His yellow face was impassive. He was larger than the usual Cantonese, and Noel suspected that his ancestry might be traced to some p...

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