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Chinatown Challenge

By Arden X. Pangborn

As inscrutable as China itself—
until guns start barking!

MIKE LENAHAN saw it coming. First a skulking, slender figure in a cotton jacket; a saffron face, half-hidden in the shadows of a Mott Street doorway; a scrawny, yellow fist. Then that flash of light on steel.

The detective saw it just in time. He dropped to the sidewalk as the knife, hurtling through the air, whistled over the spot where he had been standing.

He heard the clatter of the blade behind him on the concrete as he rolled, clambered again to his feet. Death had whispered in his ear, he knew; and death still lurked in the shadows of that doorway. His .38 was in his right fist as he raced forward, crouching.

Mike heard a sudden scuffling of slippered feet; the banging of a door. Lee Moy's door. Lee Moy imported tea and ginger and lotus buds from China—and maybe a little opium on the side.

The detective rattled the knob. The door was locked. He did not hesitate. He stepped back, lowered his shoulder, leaped forward like a two- hundred-pound battering-ram propelled by massive springs. The door crashed inward.

Mike stood in the center of the little shop. It was a damp, musty place, heavy with the odors of stale incense, strange Chinese herbs.

The wooden floor was bare. On one side were stools—teakwood stools inlaid with mother-of- pearl. On the other was a counter and Lee Moy's meager stock. At the rear, a swinging door led into mysterious regions within the bowels of the old brick building.

The detective had started toward this door before he realized he was not alone in the shop. So quiet had Lee Moy sat upon his high stool in the corner that, in the dim light of the one electric globe, Mike had not seen him. Mike paused.

"I saw him come in here. Where'd he go?" Lee Moy shrugged his round shoulders. He was a soft man, fat and oily, and folds of skin drooped beneath his little almond eyes.

"Heaven sees many things that the eyes of man do not," Lee Moy murmured.

Mike let out a snort. He wouldn't get anywhere stopping to question Lee Moy. He'd only give his assailant more time to get away. He hurried through the swinging door into a little boxlike room where there were tables, another counter. Fan-tan, he thought, and lottery—but closed now.

A second swinging door led the detective into a long hall and to the rear of the building. This was the way the scrawny Oriental must have come. But here the trail ended, for from the courtyard in the rear a dozen different exits opened.

Mike shrugged and turned back. He hadn't been a detective on the Chinatown squad for six years without learning enough to know when he was stumped.

MIKE found Lee Moy still sitting on his stool in the silent shop. Lee Moy was puffing quietly upon a slender bamboo pipe, and his little eyes, buried in their mounds of flesh, showed only peace and contentment.

It was as if attempted murder and the breaking down of his door by the police were an everyday occurrence.

"You saw him, anyway," Mike said. "Who was he?"

Again Lee Moy shrugged. "It is most unfortunate," he murmured, "but his face was unfamiliar. I did not know him."

"Horsefeathers! Are you telling me you sat over there in the corner while someone you didn't know dashed in, locked the door, then beat it out the back way?"

"It was no concern of mine. Besides, I could not have stopped him."

Mike considered. Lee Moy's fat face remained impassive; there was no hint upon it of the thoughts that surged be...

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