Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tales of Chinatown DAN KERRY, JUNIOR

Dan Kerry, junior, was humorously like his father, except that he was larger-boned and promised to grow into a much bigger man. His hair was uncompromisingly red, and grew in such irregular fashion that the comb was not made which could subdue it. He had the wide-open, fighting blue eyes of the Chief Inspector, and when he smiled the presence of two broken teeth lent him a very pugilistic appearance.

On his advent at the school of which he was now one of the most popular members, he had promptly been christened "Carrots." To this nickname young Kerry had always taken exception, and he proceeded to display his prejudice on the first day of his arrival with such force and determination that the sobriquet had been withdrawn by tacit consent of every member of the form who hitherto had favoured it.

"I'll take you all on," the new arrival had declared amidst a silence of stupefaction, "starting with you"--pointing to the biggest boy. "If we don't finish to-day, I'll begin again to- morrow."

The sheer impudence of the thing had astounded everybody. Young Kerry's treatment of his leading persecutor had produced a salutary change of opinion. Of such kidney was Daniel Kerry, junior; and when, some hours after his father's departure on the night of the murder in the fog, the 'phone bell rang, it was Dan junior, and not his mother, who answered the call.

"Hallo!" said a voice. "Is that Chief Inspector Kerry's house?"

"Yes," replied Dan.

"It has begun to rain in town," the voice continued, "Is that the Chief Inspector's son speaking?"

"Yes, I'm Daniel Kerry."

"Well, my boy, you know the way to New Scotland Yard?"


"He says will you bring his overall? Do you know where to find it?"

"Yes, yes!" cried Dan excitedly, delighted to be thus made a party to his father's activities.

"Well, get it. Jump on a tram at the Town Hall and bring the overall along here. Your mother will not object, will she?"

"Of course not," cried Dan. "I'll tell her. Am I to start now?"

"Yes, right away."

Mrs. Kerry was sewing by the fire in the dining room when her son came in with the news, his blue eyes sparkling excitedly. She nodded her head slowly.

"Ye'll want ye'r Burberry and ye'r thick boots," she declared, "a muffler, too, and ye'r oldest cap. I think it's madness for ye to go out on such a night, but----"

"Father said I could," protested the boy.

"He says so, and ye shall go, but I think it madness a' the same."

However, some ten minutes later young Kerry set out, keenly resenting the woollen muffler which he had been compelled to wear, and secretly determined to remove it before mounting the tram. Across one arm he carried the glistening overall which was the Chief Inspector's constant companion on wet nights abroad. The fog had turned denser, and ten paces from the door of the house took him out of sight of the light streaming from the hallway.

Mary Kerry well knew her husband's theories about coddling boys, but even so could not entirely reconcile herself to the present expedition. However, closing the door, she returned philosophically to her sewing, reflecting that little harm could come to Dan after all, for he was strong, healthy, and intelligent.

On went the boy through the mist, whistling merrily. Not twenty yards from the house a coupe was drawn up, and by the light of one of its lamps a man was consulting a piece of paper on which, presumably, an address was written; for, as the boy approached, the man turned, his collar pulled up about his face, his hat pulled down.

"Hallo!" he called. "Can you please tell me something?"

He spoke with a curious accent, unfamiliar to the boy. "A foreigner of some kind," young Kerry determined.

"What is it?" he asked, pausing.

"Will you please read and tell me if I am near this place?" the man continued, holding up the paper which he had been scrutinizing.

Dan stepped forward and bent over it. He could not make out the writing, and bent yet more, holding it nearer to the lamp. At which moment some second person neatly pinioned him from behind, a scarf was whipped about his head, and, kicking furiously but otherwise helpless, he felt himself lifted and placed inside the car.

The muffler had been thrown in such fashion about his face as to leave one eye partly free, and as he was lifted he had a momentary glimpse of his captors. With a thrill of real, sickly terror he realized that he was in the hands of Chinamen!

Perhaps telepathically this spasm of fear was conveyed to his father, for it was at about this time that the latter was interviewing Zani Chada, and at about this time that Kerry recognized, underlying the other's words, at once an ill- concealed suspense and a threat. Then, a few minutes later, had come the three strokes of the gong; and again that unreasonable dread had assailed him, perhaps because it signalized the capture of his son, news of which had been immediately telephoned to Limehouse by Zani Chada's orders.

Certain it is that Kerry left the Eurasian's house in a frame of mind which was not familiar to him. He was undecided respecting his next move. A deadly menace underlay Chada's words.

"Consult your wife," he kept muttering to himself. When the door was opened for him by the Chinese servant, he paused a moment before going out into the fog. There were men on duty at the back and at the front of the house. Should he risk all and raid the place? That Lady Rourke was captive here he no longer doubted. But it was equally certain that no further harm would come to her at the hands of her captors, since she had been traced there and since Zani Chada was well aware of the fact. Of the whereabouts of Lou Chada he could not be certain. If he was in the house, they had him.

The door was closed by the Chinaman, and Kerry stood out in the darkness of the dismal, brick-walled street, feeling something as nearly akin to dejection as was possible in one of his mercurial spirit. Something trickled upon the brim of his hat, and, raising his head, Kerry detected rain upon his upturned face. He breathed a prayer of thankfulness. This would put an end to the fog.

He began to walk along by the high brick wall, but had not proceeded far before a muffled figure arose before him and the light of an electric torch was shone into his face.

"Oh, it's you, Chief Inspector!" came the voice of the watcher.

"It is," rapped Kerry. "Unless there are tunnels under this old rat-hole, I take it the men on duty can cover all the exits?"

"All the main exits," was the reply. "But, as you say, it's a strange house, and Zani Chada has a stranger reputation."

"Do nothing until you hear from me."

"Very good, Chief Inspector."

The rain now was definitely conquering the fog, and in half the time which had been occupied by the outward journey Kerry was back again in Limehouse. police station. Unconsciously he had been hastening his pace with every stride, urged onward by an unaccountable anxiety, so that finally he almost ran into the office and up to the desk where the telephone stood.

Lifting it, he called his own number and stood tapping his foot, impatiently awaiting the reply. Presently came the voice of the operator: "Have they answered yet?"


"I will ring them again."

Kerry's anxiety became acute, almost unendurable; and when at last, after repeated attempts, no reply could be obtained from his home, he replaced the receiver and leaned for a moment on the desk, shaken with such a storm of apprehension as he had rarely known. He turned to the inspector in charge, and:

"Let me have that envelope I left with you," he directed. "And have someone 'phone for a taxi; they are to keep on till they get one. Where is Sergeant Durham?"

"At the mortuary."


"Any developments, Chief Inspector?"

"Yes. But apart from keeping a close watch upon the house of Zani Chada you are to do nothing until you hear from me again."

"Very good," said the inspector. "Are you going to wait for Durham's report?"

"No. Directly the cab arrives I am going to wait for nothing."

Indeed, he paced up and down the room like a wild beast caged, while call after call was sent to neighbouring cab ranks, for a long time without result. What did it mean, his wife's failure to answer the telephone? It might mean that neither she nor their one servant nor Dan was in the house. And if they were not in the house at this hour of the night, where could they possibly be? This it might mean, or--something worse.

A thousand and one possibilities, hideous, fantastic, appalling, flashed through his mind. He was beginning to learn what Zani Chada had meant when he had said: "I have followed your career with interest."

At last a taxi was found, and the man instructed over the 'phone to proceed immediately to Limehouse station. He seemed so long in coming that when at last the cab was heard to pause outside, Kerry could not trust himself to speak to the driver, but directed a sergeant to give him the address. He entered silently and closed the door.

A steady drizzle of rain was falling. It had already dispersed the fog, so that he might hope with luck to be home within the hour. As a matter of fact, the man performed the journey in excellent time, but it seemed to his passenger that he could have walked quicker, such was the gnawing anxiety within him and the fear which prompted him to long for wings.

Instructing the cabman to wait, Kerry unlocked the front door and entered. He had noted a light in the dining room window, and entering, he found his wife awaiting him there. She rose as he entered, with horror in her comely face.

"Dan!" she whispered. "Dan! where is ye'r mackintosh?"

"I didn't take it," he replied, endeavouring to tell himself that his apprehensions had been groundless. "But how was it that you did not answer the telephone?"

"What do ye mean, Dan?" Mary Kerry stared, her eyes growing wider and wider. "The boy answered, Dan. He set out wi' ye'r mackintosh full an hour and a half since."


The truth leaped out at Kerry like an enemy out of ambush.

"Who sent that message?"

"Someone frae the Yard, to tell the boy to bring ye'r mackintosh alone at once. Dan! Dan------"

She advanced, hands outstretched, quivering, but Kerry had leaped out into the narrow hallway. He raised the telephone receiver, listened for a moment, and then jerked it back upon the hook.

"Dead line!" he muttered. "Someone has been at work with a wire- cutter outside the house!"

His wife came out to where he stood, and, clenching his teeth very grimly, he took her in his arms. She was shaking as if palsied.

"Mary dear," he said, "pray with all your might that I am given strength to do my duty."

She looked at him with haggard, tearless eyes.

"Tell me the truth: ha' they got my boy?"

His fingers tightened on her shoulders.

"Don't worry," he said, "and don't ask me to stay to explain. When I come back I'll have Dan with me!"

He trusted himself no further, but, clapping his hat on his head, walked out to the waiting cab.

"Back to Limehouse police station," he directed rapidly.

"Lor lumme!" muttered the taximan. "Where are you goin' to after that, guv'nor? It's a bit off the map."

"I'm going to hell!" rapped Kerry, suddenly thrusting his red face very near to that of the speaker. "And you're going to drive me!"

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