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By Robert Leslie Bellem

CLIFF DOWNEY, ace operative of the Consolidated Detective Agency, strode down the thick-carpeted hallway of the fifth floor of the Hotel Cosmopole in Shanghai on the heels of a soft-footed Cantonese bellhop.

Cliff s hairy right fist was thrust deep into the pocket of his coat, the capable fingers clenched around the comforting butt of a service .38 automatic. In the breast pocket of that same coat reposed a yellow cablegram. Every time Cliff Downey thought of that cablegram his square jaw jutted, his icy gray eyes narrowed and his mouth became a grim slit in the hard granite of his face.

The Chink bellhop stopped before a closed door at the end of the corridor and raised his saffron knuckles to knock. Cliff Downey's left hand shot out, catching the yellow boy's fingers in a steel grip. "No!" the American grunted. Then he slipped a coin into the servant's startled palm. "Beat it— scat—get out! Savvee?"

The other nodded, grinned in silent Oriental fashion, and pad-padded away. While Cliff Downey waited for the clang of the elevator gates around a bend in the corridor, signifying the departure of the bellhop, he thought once more of that cablegram.

It was from the home office of the Consolidated, back in Chicago, and it had reached him here in Shanghai just the day before. "Argus Agency has operative on Muller's trail. Watch your step," the message read.

Muller was the man Cliff Downey was after; the man he had trailed over three continents; the man he had finally run to earth here in the Hotel Cosmopole, Shanghai. Muller was in the room behind that closed door.

Downey hunched his broad shoulders. That was the end of a long trail—a trail that had led from Chicago to New York, from New York to Europe, from Europe to China. Muller was a jewel thief. Muller had stolen diamonds valued at three quarters of a million from the Vandervort mansion in Chicago. Old Man Vandervort had offered a reward of ten thousand dollars for the return of the missing jewels. Cliff Downey was after that ten grand reward and had his mind made up to get it.

There was just one hitch: the cablegram from Chicago. Downey realized its full significance, and the short red hairs around the nape of his neck bristled combatively. The Argus Agency was a blackleg crowd who wouldn't hesitate to wait until Cliff Downey had recovered the stolen plunder, then slip a knife between his ribs, make away with the retrieved diamonds, return them to Old Man Vandervort and claim the reward for themselves.

HE STARED INTO the piquant, youthful features of a girl—a slender, elfin person whose tawny yellow hair tumbled in a ...

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