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Dick Graham, Secret Service Ace, Plunges into a Seething Maelstrom of Oriental Terror!
A Power-Mad Chinese Demon Hatches a Fiendish Plan for World Domination!

THE SINISTER DR. WONG

By Robert Wallace

Author of "Notes of Doom,"
The House of Murder, etc
.

CHAPTER I
Blood is Shed

JOHN BRACKET, head of the United States Secret Service, was about to speak. When Bracket spoke, men listened. And when he called a group of his star operatives into the big sound-proof room that was his sub-rosa chamber, there was something mighty important in the wind.

Rolling his cigar from one comer of his mouth to the other, Bracket studied the faces of the men seated before him, his own eyes grave with the concern of the knowledge he had just gained.

"Gentlemen," he said crisply, removing the cigar from between his teeth, "I have to tell you a bit of very disturbing news." Here he paused for a single, impressive instant, while he observed that every eye in the room was fixed on his face. Then—"Doctor Wong is back!"

For a moment following his announcement the men gathered before him made no reply, uttered no sound. Then slowly, gradually, they turned their faces, one toward another, lips parted as if to bite off some lurid oath, eyes narrowed grimly.

So the dirty fox of a heathen was back, eh? And what was he after this time?

Bracket did not keep them waiting long. When he had satisfied himself that his announcement had sunk in firmly, that the full import of his words had struck home with all the force that the wily Oriental's name deserved, he continued.

"Every man of us here," he stated now, "is familiar with Wong's reputation. We have dealt with him before and he can set a tough pace for the best of us. But this time we will get him, and get him right. The man is making himself a power among his people in this country and has now reached a stage where he constitutes the greatest menace to the peace and safety not only of this nation—but to the entire world."

The attentive operatives nodded grimly. The Chinese, as they still remembered, was a ruthless fiend—cruel, resourceful, with a brain as keen and clever as the best among the government's highest officials. But Bracket was still to disclose alarming facts.

"Within the past week," continued the Secret Service chief, "two of this country's greatest scientists have disappeared. This, of course, would be only two citizens under ordinary circumstances; two professional Americans among our millions. But—these gentlemen happen to be something more. They were experts associated with the Bureau of War Gas and Investigation, and they have disappeared. The combination of facts connected with the complete vanishing of these gentlemen, together with information which I have at hand, prompt me to confess to you here in utmost secrecy that Doctor Wong is behind the case."

The chief paused for a moment and glanced toward one of the men in the audience, then added:

"Wong either has these two scientists or—he has disposed of them. I don't have to suggest to you what their fate has likely been. However, we have among us here one man who is equipped to deal with Wong. Most of you know who I refer to, for this man has been in at the kill on more than one case in which Orientals have figured with this department. Will you rise for a moment, Mr. Graham?"

Richard Graham, or Dick, as he was known to his fellow operatives, stood up, slightly embarrassed, and nodded to his chief. He was a tall man, perhaps five feet eleven inches in height, with a noticeably erect figure, square shoulders and a slim but well-knit body. His face was tanned almost to the hue of a native of the flowery kingdom, but it was his eyes that dominated the picture he presented. They were grey eyes, and when he looked at you they gave you a feeling of seriousness.

"MR. GRAHAM," explained Chief Bracket, "is, as some of you know, the son of a missionary to China. He was born there and spent his early youth among the natives of many provinces. Graham speaks, or is familiar with, most of the leading Chinese dialects. And I have decided to assign him to this job of running down Doctor Wong."

Dick Graham nodded again, thoughtfully, and resumed his chair while a score of his associates cast envious glances in his direction. There was no question in their minds about the judgment of John Bracket in assigning Graham to this job.

Dick was one of the aces of the service; had been for seven years. True, he had been born in China, and had started out as a student of Chinese customs and lore. He was the logical choice for the work, and as far as his courage and ability were concerned—well, that was beyond question. Graham was one of the nerviest men who ever carried the government authority into the realm of organized crime.

"When do I start, Chief?" inquired Graham now, as he noted that Bracket seemed to have finished and was frowning at the hot end of his cigar. "I'd like to move out on this right away."

Bracket looked up, rubbed his smooth-shaven chin with the capable fingers of one big hand, and nodded to his interrogator.

"Whenever you're ready, Graham," he agreed. "I merely called the boys together here so everybody would be informed. In case anything happened, you know. They'll know what you're on. You've made your arrangements already, I suppose?"

Dick Graham got up promptly, declared that he had, and without further ceremony, or even a handshake, walked to the door and went out.

Every man left in that room behind him knew that Dick Graham would either "get" the infamous Doctor Wong, or—go down in the smoke.

FOG enveloped the night in a cloak of dully grey gloom. The street lamps shone like pale gobs of phosphorus through the misty veil that hung in draperied festoons, swirling fitfully in the drafts that whispered about the dirty corners where streets that were alleys tangled with one another in the heart of the city's Chinatown.

Soft-slippered feet shuffled amid the drifting, ghostly fog like the padding of velvet-sheathed claws of jungle beasts hunting the night for prey. Under the spell of the dreary gloom there seemed to stalk at large the very spirit of some evil monster; some hissing, many-headed dragon whose giant body lurked behind, secure in its darkened den, where the bones of its victims crunched beneath its horny saber-shod claws.

Chinatown!

Tonight it pulsed with the very throb of the evil power that crouched beneath its mantle of serenity, for a great force had come to take possession of the quarter, a force masterful enough to command, to move a finger at which the yellow horde would cringe and bow low to the earth. Doctor Wong!

Wedged snugly between two dirty, ill-smelling tenements, where the lodgers were crowded like vermin in foul, dark dungeon rooms, stood a bleak-fronted building that had one day been the home of a merchant prince. Rusting elaborate fire-escapes clung like rotting skeletons to its front. The windows, streaked and crusted with the dirt of years, stared like the sightless eyes of a blind man into the thickening fog. There was no outward sign of life about the building; no sound filtered from the windows and the door.

Yet here was hidden Doctor Wong.

Back of these musty, dank walls he had established his headquarters, and here he waited, like a spider squatting in a web.

And along the Chinatown street a figure shuffled. Nearer and nearer to this house it came like a fluttering phantom, until, at last, with furtive glances behind through the mist it darted into the solemn, darker shadow that was the doorway.

A yellow, wiry hand snaked out from beneath the voluminous folds of a huge sleeve and one long thin finger moved unerringly to a signal bell hidden cleverly in the pattern of the wall.

Quickly and without a word the caller stepped inside. To the casual passerby this house was a forlorn, drab face of brick with dead eyes. Inside—a palace. As the muffled visitor shuffled along the hall, his slippered feet deep in the soft luxury of priceless Oriental rugs, his slant eyes glittered in full appreciation of the richness of the furnishings, the gorgeous beauty of the hangings, the splendor of the polished teakwood and ivory.

The man in the great hall breathed a prayer to his ancestors as he halted before a portal of polished ebony.

ONCE again his finger was pressed to an electric button, a signal bell fixed cleverly in the eye of a dragon whose sinuous body glittered with jewels.

This time, from somewhere beyond, in the depths of the building there was heard the resonant clang of a brass gong. The huge panel of ebony slid silently into the wall, revealing a broad, sumptuous chamber into which the visitor stepped.

One step he took, a single move that carried him across the groove where the massive ebony panel slid, and here he halted while the door itself closed swiftly behind him.

"Greetings, most high-born prince, from the humble slave Ho Lee," bowed the newcomer, his tone filled with reverence, his body almost doubled in his salutation.

From a dais at the far end of the room, a handsomely gowned yellow man stared at his guest with eyes that were motionless. Like a figure carved from ivory and yellowed with age it gazed down from a veritable throne, stiffly, emotionless; while on either side of him stood six towering giants, armed with heavy Oriental two-handed swords, their only sign of life a slow blinking of beady black eyes.

Ho Lee waited with proper respect for the majestic figure on the throne to reply, to recognize him. It was like waiting in a tomb for a mummy to arise from a sarcophagus. He heard the breathing of the huge guards flanking the figure on the throne, and saw that their bodies were stripped to the waist, smooth and hairless in the soft light that seemed to sift through the room from nowhere.

But his eyes could not remain long from the imposing occupant of the throne. Ho Lee, expressionless, immovable, saw the eyes of the other yellow man. They were hungry eyes, lustful, set in a tight-skinned mask of parchment shade, behind which a fiend might have watched, seeking his chance to kill, to reek a bitter hatred on all of the world.

Then Ho Lee saw a finger move and his eyes were drawn to the hands. They were slim as a woman's with long tapering fingers that might have been the steel- sharp claws of a tiger. And yet these fingers were graceful; the beauty of the gem-studded rings that adorned them swept away all suggestion of force, of the surging power that smoldered in the man's eyes, until one let his gaze rest on the hideous nails which were protected by jeweled guards.

HO LEE saw but he did not tremble. It was not good for one to tremble within sight of—but lo, silence. The lips of the man on the dais were about to move.

"Ho Lee," the lips intoned. "You have come, and it is well. You bring me the word as I wish it? Speak!"

Shuffling forward three steps nearer, Ho Lee prostrated himself, and rising, began in a sing-song:

"Ahn Wong—the celestial born—the king of kings! This miserable slave cherishes the honor of serving. He comes to report that Ahn Wong's well-conceived plans are carried out. The guards will be at the house of the infidel Raynor at midnight. All is well."

Wong stared at Ho Lee, and his slant eyes narrowed until they were slits that blended with the crow's feet in his polished skin.

"Ho Lee is wrong," snarled Wong, leaning a trifle forward on his perch, his rich satin garments rustling with the movement. "All is not well, my slave!"

Lee lifted his suddenly frightened eyes to those of his master. What he saw there caused a chill to clutch at his heart. His bland face lengthened in a terrified start.

...

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