The Popular Magazine/Volume 72/Number 1/Dragour, the Drugmaster

The Popular Magazine, Volume 72, Number 1 (1924)
Dragour, the Drugmaster, II.—The Barford Heirlooms by Bertram Atkey
3838949The Popular Magazine, Volume 72, Number 1Dragour, the Drugmaster, II.—The Barford Heirlooms1924Bertram Atkey

Dragour, the Drugmaster
By Bertram Atkey
Author of “The Entry of Dragour,“ “The Man With the Yellow Eyes,” Etc.


The invincible partners—Dass, the mountainous craven, and Chayne, the diminutive lion—investigate further the hideous doings of Dragour, that implacable master of villainy.

LITTLE Mr. Salaman Chayne gently put the goldfinch which, perched on his right forefinger, had been pecking busily at a small spray of groundsel proffered by his left hand, upon the edge of a near-by nesting box, and with the air of one who has made a sudden decision turned and left the “bird room” into which he and his partner, Kotman Dass, had transformed the top floor of their joint residence, No. 10 Green Square.

It was the morning after the wasplike Salaman quite unexpectedly had found himself a witness of the suicide of Sir James Argrath. The tragic death of the ruined financier had provided dramatic corroboration of the truth of the statements, evolved from certain obscure but effective processes of thought, by that remarkable man and, as he himself had put it, “notable coward,” Mr. Kotman Dass.

This mountainous person, whose physical shortcomings, due to an astounding excess of avoirdupois, were, in a sense, more than counterbalanced by an amazing brain which, though working obscurely, never seemed to work wrongly or to fail to solve any puzzle upon which it fixed itself, had been requested by his fierce though diminutive partner to consider one or two small points which Salaman had observed in the relations between his cousin Sir James Argrath and his beautiful wife, Creuse Argrath.

This Kotman Dass had done—arriving along his customary tortuous, darkly intricate and wholly unorthodox channels of thought, at the conclusion that Lady Argrath was a drug addict securing her supplies of what probably was some strange, possibly new, drug from a person who controlled and operated a huge organization for its illegal supply and distribution. In return the woman, her affection for her husband killed, her moral fiber sapped, had disclosed certain secrets of her husband, a financier, to the drugmaster.

All of which Salaman Chayne, a man of no marked intellect but extraordinary courage, at first had received with angry derision, contempt and menace—even going so far as to threaten physical retribution for the slander of Lady Argrath upon the courageless and shrinking Mr. Dass—as a tiny hawk may menace a large and flustered barnyard hen.

But within twenty-four hours events had more than justified Kotman Dass. Sir James Argrath had shot himself, in the presence of his beautiful, soulless wife, of Salaman Chayne—and of one Mr. Gregory Kiss, a private detective, who, working silently on a drug case, had also come upon the trail of the secret drugmaster. And, more than that, Salaman had learned the name and seen the face of the secret pest of whose existence the elephantine Dass had spoken. He was called Dragour—by his slaves and victims—and he had snatched Lady Argrath into obscurity from under the very eyes of Salaman and the silent Mr. Kiss.

Both had disappeared.

Kotman Dass had been wholly right.

From the well-hidden flat in the London theater district, in which the tragedy had occurred, Salaman Chayne, once a devoted admirer of Lady Argrath, fiercely swearing to devote himself to the capture and destruction of that very real enemy of mankind, Dragour, had gone straight back to Green Square to fetch his partner Dass. But that one had gone to bed and, behind a locked door, refused to be awakened.

Now Salaman, fresh from feeding his birds, found him, while awaiting breakfast, lost in contemplation of a perfectly appalling chess problem in which white was inevitably to checkmate black with a knight and a rook in eighteen, or some equally complicated number of moves.

“You were right about that drug dealer Dragour, Dass,” he said abruptly, without preliminaries. “Argrath was ruined—he's shot himself—and his wife has disappeared with Dragour. I want you to come to the flat where it happened and take a look round. That weird brain of yours may notice something that will help me find Dragour. The brute held me up—me—with a pistol, Dass.”

The colossal, dark-skinned man sitting enormously in a big chair by the window, continued to pore over the chessboard.

“Oah, yess, yess,” he said vaguely. It was palpable that he had not heard a word.

The fiery Mr. Chayne stiffened, and his narrow, sharp-pointed, corn-colored hair and beard seemed to bristle.

“Damn you, Dass, do you mean to insult me?” he demanded, his voice booming. “Put away those toys and wake up before I kick them into the Square!”

Kotman Dass started violently—a weakness to which, like many seriously absent-minded men, he was prone.

“Oah, ten thousand apologies, my dear fellow, Mister Chayne,” he said, intensely agitated, and, in his agitation markedly using the queer, clipped pronunciation which, like his dark skin, more than hinted at a long line of native Indian ancestry. Mr. Dass called himself an Anglo-Indian but, pressed, would concede that he was Eurasian, and, threatened, would paint his ancestors at least as black as they probably were.

Salaman repeated his news—and instantly Kotman Dass was in a flurry of panic-stricken protest.

“Oah, noa—certainlee I can by no means screw myself to point of visiting room of tragedy. I am veree sorree, dear Mister Chayne, but personal investigation of scene of suicide is out of question for me. I should be so veree afraid that I should be off no service. My brain would refuse stubbornlee to function—owing to intense agitation of nerve centers—which are at all times intenselee responsive and highlee sensitive to immediate outside influence. Thatt is reason why at all times I am so veree disgusting coward—thee sensitive nerve centers, oah, yess. I beg off you—excuse me, if you please, my dear mister.”

Salaman stared, his hot yellowish-gray eyes glittering.

“Pah!” he said explosively. “You sicken me, Dass. You nauseate me. Suppose everybody shirked everything on account of 'sensitive nerve centers.' Why, damn you, I shall be there to hold your hand!”

“Noa, noa—if you please, excuse disgusting white-livered cowardice by me. I will veree gladlee consider thee matter here in my chair and evolve theories off possible value. Thee spirit is veree willing onlee flesh is deplorablee weak.”

The huge flabby body was quaking.

“Veree sensitive nerves—most highlee strung, yess,” mumbled Mr. Dass, looking as if he were on the verge of tears.

Salaman Chayne, grinning with sheer rage and mystification—for he was wholly incapable of understanding his vast partner's shortcomings—restrained himself with an effort. He made an attempt to meet Kotman Dass halfway.

“Now look here, you spineless mass,” he said truculently, “will you come as far as the door of the flat and look in—through the chink if you like—bah!—and give me what information you can glean from that? I'll give you my word that I will not use force to make you enter the room.”

“Oah, if you please, noa—I am greatlee preferring not——

The fiery Salaman ground his teeth.

“Now look here, Dass,” he shouted. “Understand me, once and for all. This man, this monster, Dragour, is an enemy to mankind and he is going to be scotched—like an adder. And I am going to scotch him—and you are going to help me. I intend to go ahead regardless of anything—I shall brush aside any opposition. I want to warn you—to warn you just as seriously as I can that if you decline to come along to this flat—as far as the open door only, I promise that—and give me the benefit of your, freak brainwork, I will go straight up to the bird room and wring the neck of your talking starling like a dog's.”

It was the most dreadful threat Salaman Chayne could think of and one which he was wholly incapable of carrying out, as Kotman Dass would have realized at once had he been less perturbed. For, like his quaking partner, Mr. Chayne was a bird man, and was as passionately fond of the host of little feathered folk inhabiting the bird room upstairs as Dass. It was, indeed, the hobby for birds which had brought them together in the first place, though it was the successful application of their combined talents to the task of making a sufficient income which kept them together.

Kotman Dass succumbed instantly to his dreadful threat to murder the starling he had so patiently and wonderfully taught to talk. He agreed to go to the flat, as their man Hollerton brought in breakfast.

“Very good, Dass,” said Salaman. “You're doing a sound thing—sound and citizenlike.”

Kotman Dass shook his mighty head sorrowfully.

“It will react seriouslee upon my general health and I shall suffer agonies. I shall be bilious again,” he stated gloomily. “I am always soa after occasions when my nerve centers have been too greatly vibrated by outside influences. I shall eat hearty breakfast for purpose of supporting my physical strength.”

“Yes, do,” said Salaman satirically. “But try to keep your meal within reasonable, human bounds—a thing you rarely do—or you certainly will be bilious. In fact, I wonder you aren't always bilious.”

Kotman Dass paused in the middle of taking a truly prodigious supply of kidneys and bacon.

“Iff it were not for my superb digestion,” he said with a nervous chuckle, “my life would be profound burden, yess, indeed.”

Breakfast seemed to have restored his equanimity a good deal—but the restoration was wholly temporary and by the time he had been towed to the door of the flat in which Sir James Argrath had shot himself the big man was in a lamentable state of nerves.

There was no difficulty about entering the flat. Salaman had kept a key found on the mantelpiece overnight. The body had been removed, and as there was ample evidence that it was a plain case of suicide no detectives were there. No doubt the silent Mr. Gregory Kiss had seen to all that when he telephoned for and remained to receive the police overnight.

The place was well, comfortably and normally furnished and the nervousness of Mr. Dass seemed to subside a little as he stood at the door of the sitting room while Salaman Chayne settled down to search the flat.

But twenty minutes' patient searching revealed nothing, and Salaman grew irritable. The glances he threw continually across to the ponderous figure blocking the doorway momentarily grew more savage and contemptuous.

Kotman Dass, however, appeared unconscious of these. His dark eyes had grown dreamy and abstracted, seeming to follow the movements of Salaman almost unconsciously. Not till the little man, having exhausted the possibilities of the ornaments and most of the furniture, scowlingly began to pull up the carpet, presumably with a view to examining the floor, did Kotman Dass speak.

“Iff you please, my dear mister, what is it you wish to find?” he asked mildly.

“Find, you fool? Find?” snarled Salaman: “Birds' nests! Lost golf balls! Why, what do you think I'm looking for? This was Dragour's flat—probably a rendezvous for him and dozens of his clients or victims. I'm looking for papers—drugs—anything of that kind.”

Kotman Dass nodded.

“Please excuse me then if I point out to you thatt you have exhausted most of the possibilities for hiding places of this room—except for floor, which Dragour would not use because of slow and cumbrous business of lifting carpets and soa forth.”

“Oh, he wouldn't use the floor to hide things under, wouldn't he? Well, what else would he use?” jeered Salaman.

“It seems to my mind thatt he would desire hiding places thatt are veree easilee accessible and can be used quicklee and neatlee,” said Kotman Dass mildly.

“Well, come in and show me some, damn you.”

“Oah, noa, please excuse,” ejaculated Dass, his eyes wide on an ominous stain on the carpet.

“But to save time and to accelerate departure from this spot please play me little melody upon piano—just a little scale would suffice perhaps.”

Salaman stared at him, hesitated on the brink of an angry outburst, then thought better of it and went over to a handsome upright piano and, raising the lid, ran a finger tip up the line of ivory keys.

“There's your miserable melody,” he said dryly.

Kotman Dass smiled nervously.

“Oah, yess, veree miserable,” he agreed. “Thee piano is seriously out of tune—no tuner has been allowed to work att thatt piano for considerable period of time. Yet it is good, valuable piano.”

His eyes brightened.

“I venture to advance proposal, Mister Chayne, thatt you take out one of thee keys for me to examine.”

Salaman did so, without comment.

For a moment Kotman Dass turned the beautifully fashioned bit of ivory about in his podgy fingers, then pressed his thumb, with a pushing movement, against the bottom of the apparently solid oblong at the end of the key. The base slid back, revealing a neat oblong cavity about an inch and a half long and an inch wide.

Inside the cavity lay a small bottle full of tiny white tablets.

“Hah!” went Salaman, his eye running greedily over the line of keys.

“And now, iff you please, I will go home,” said Kotman Dass simply. “I am not feeling well in my liver and there is stain on thee carpet thatt makes my nerves jump, and moreover I have just solved chess problem in my mind.”

“Oh, all right, clear off,” snapped Salaman ungraciously, shut the door, and turned to ransack the piano keys.


Perhaps half an hour later Mr. Salaman Chayne, his usually scrupulously flat and neat pockets bulging a little, stepped jauntily into the big, sunny apartment, half library, half smoking room which he and Kotman Dass used mostly.

“Those piano keys were full of things, he said. “Drugs, mainly, but other things as well. Among 'em, these. It required six keys to hold them.”

He poured on to the table before the abstracted eyes of his partner a handful of pinkly flashing rubies—huge things, much too huge to be devoid of flaws. But the flaws which would have prejudiced a dealer in jewels solely as jewels against them, mattered little for, as Salaman Chayne proceeded to point out, the value of the gems lay more in the exquisite and microscopic carving into which their surfaces had been wrought.

“D'ye 'know what you're looking at, Dass?”

That remarkable coward nodded.

“Oah, yess, dear mister. These are thee famous Barford Heirlooms, rubies which were said to have been stolen from thee Lord Barford few weeks ago. Thatt was occasion upon which thee jockey Ferank Sover was arrested and charged with theft of these gems.”

Salaman Chayne nodded.

“Yes, Dass. If I had half your memory, Dass, and you had a quarter of my courage we should be an astonishing pair. Let me see—what happened? Sover, the jockey, was discharged, wasn't he?”

Kotman Dass nodded, keeping his finger tip carefully marking his place on a pageful of nightmareish algebraical symbols, hooks, Xs, Zs, zigzags, jazz twists, small circles, decimal dots, lines, curves and minute figures which he appeared to have been reading with keen delight.

“Oah, yess, jockey was discharged by magisterates for reasons of lack of evidence and excellent, first-class testimony to the man's high character furnished by Countess of Barford,” said Kotman. “Thee lady stated that she had found him person of high character. But police stated that he was waster, no good, a jollee bad hat. Veree humorous difference of opinion, you see!”

“He was Lady Barford's jockey, retained by her to ride the race horses she had in training, wasn't he?”

“Oah, yess. There was a report in scandalmongering paper that lady in question was in love with thee man Sover.”

“True, d'you think, Dass?”

“There was no real data upon which to base conclusion. Probablee it was untrue, though the man Ferank Sover was undoubtedlee handsome blackguard.”

“H'm, yes—so he was. Promising horseman once, too,” mused Mr. Chayne. “But he went to the bad altogether. Drinks like the intake end of a fire hose, I've heard.”

Salaman reflected.

“But if Frank Sover did not steal the rubies somebody did, or how has Dragour got hold of them?”

Kotman Dass smiled.

“It was not proved that Sover did not steal thee jewels—it was only proved thatt there was no evidence to show thatt he-did steal articles in question. Veree different matter, you see, do you not, dear Mister Chayne?”

“Humph! So you think he did steal 'em?”

Kotman Dass yawned a little and glanced at his book. Clearly he was getting bored with this elementary stuff.

“Oah, I am of opinion that Countess of Barford gave jewels to Sover to take to Dragour in return for drug or for other reason—blackmail perhaps—I do not know.”

He turned a ruby over between his huge fingers.

“Thee carving is rare old Chinese work but thee stones are veree abominably full of flaws, though carving is exquisite. They are not veree valuable except to collector of antiques and soa forth. Dragour evidently has weakness for collecting rare specimen objects.”

“How d'you know that, man?”

Kotman Dass indicated the miscellany of small objects mixed up with the bottles on the table by the rubies.

“Many off those things—cameos, seals, tiny ivories, scarabs and soa forth are of interest to collectors onlee. Some are good.”

Salaman Chayne stared at his partner with unwilling admiration in his hot eyes.

“Oh, are they? You've got a rare gift of quick observation, Dass. I hadn't noticed that these were specially rare things, but if you say so it's true, no doubt. You haven't got the pluck of a dead fowl, but I'll not deny that your brains are fair—very fair. I'll ask you to stretch 'em another trifle, in fact. How will this help me get on the track of Dragour?”

Without an instant's pause the mountainous Mr. Dass replied:

“Oah, see the Lady Barford, get Sover's address from her if possible, tell Sover you have proof of his passing rubies to Dragour, exhibit rubies to him, and make ugly threats till he betrays Dragour—if he can. Veree simple matter. Please excuse further just at present, dear Mister Chayne—my mind is occupied with little mathematical problem in this small work.”

And so saying Kotman relapsed ponderously into his book.

For a moment his partner surveyed him as he hunched, shapeless and huge over the “small work,” then muttering something to the effect that “if he had the pluck of a severed earthworm he would be a man in a million—but as it was he wasn't,” Salaman gathered together his spoil from the flat and left him to his little problem.


Fortune favors even the precipitate at times and it favored Mr. Salaman Chayne to-day.

At the steps of the Barford town house he met a lean little man, who would have been handsome had his face not been so deplorably engraved with the hall marks of unrestrained excess. This one was coming away scowling and angry, evidently having received the worst of a verbal conflict with a flushed butler who, from the door, was watching him go down the steps.

It was the ex-jockey Sover.

Salaman, who had often seen him riding in his palmy days, recognized him at once, and promptly stopped him.

“Just a moment, Sover, my man. I want a word with you,” he said peremptorily.

“Oh, you do—and who the devil might you be?” responded the man aggressively.

Salaman, instant, even anxious, as usual, to discover offense, thrust his fierce face close to that of Mr. Sover.

“I am Salaman Chayne—remember that. And I allow no man to be insolent with me. Remember that, also, Sover. I am engaged at present in aiding the law to run down an employer of yours—a man called Dragour.”

The flush on the jockey's thin face died down suddenly, and his eyes grew hard and watchful.

“Dragour!” repeated Mr. Chayne softly, his eyes fast on his man. “Between whom and the Countess of Barford you acted as go-between—jackal—in the matter of the Barford carved rubies.”

“Forget it, Solomon,” said Sover jauntily. “It's old stuff, all that. I've been arrested on that charge once—and proved innocent—and the case was dismissed.”

He laughed—but his eyes were searching the hawky face of Mr. Chayne, and his laugh was uneasy.

“Yes, I know, my man. There was no evidence. But I have all the evidence I need—and the rubies—which I am now on my way to return to Lord Barford. I advise you to come with me—and to be very careful to behave yourself—or I'll have you in a cell within ten minutes.”

He rapped out his threat with the clean-cut and forceful explicitness of a deadly quick firer.

“I deny everything,” said Sover uneasily. “And even if that was true, everything I've ever done was done by the direct orders of Lady Barford.”

“You'll have a chance of explaining that to Lord Barford in a moment. I haven't an atom of doubt that you've just been repulsed at the door in an attempt to blackmail Lady Barford.”

The jockey started, his eyes narrowing.

“You're going to see Lord Barford?”

“I am—now. And you are coming with me.”

“Oh, am I?”

“If I have to kick you up those steps to get you there,” said Salaman grimly.

The jockey stared at him. Small though he, too, was, yet he topped Salaman by some inches and he was not unversed in violence. But, nevertheless he found something in the air of little Mr. Chayne which strangely daunted him. The little man looked all steel wire and whipcord, and there was an odd yearning look in his hot, yellowish-gray eyes that was unmistakable. Sover, conscious that he was far from being in condition to withstand the “pressure” which the grim little hawk clearly intended to exert on him, if necessary, capitulated swiftly.

Be shrugged.

“You think you're doing a clever thing by running to Lord Barford with your cock-and-bull story—but you'll only manage to ruin Lady Barford and do yourself no good,” he said with an air of warning. “Why can't you let sleeping dogs lie? They're 'some' dogs, I'll tell you! Wake 'em and you'll be sick and sorry before you're a week older”—his voice fell to a flat whisper—“if you live that long.”

Salaman laughed acidly.

“A man like you advising a man like me what to do about sleeping dogs!” he said. “Why, it's like a situation in a bad farce. Come along.”

Reluctantly Sover accompanied Salaman to the door.

The butler, eying Sover, was inclined to make difficulties—the Earl of Barford was on the point of leaving England with the countess, he explained loftily, and could see nobody.

“You are playing with fire, my man,” said Salaman acridly. “And for every second you keep me waiting you place your situation in more serious jeopardy. Now, that's enough—go to Lord Barford at once and inform him that Mr. Salaman Chayne is desirous of restoring to him the Barford carved rubies which were lost recently.”

The butler gaped, wide-eyed, then showed them into the hall, left them to a footman from whom he had evidently taken over the matter of dealing with Sover, and hurried up the broad flight of stairs.

He was back almost at once, his manner extremely deferential—to Salaman.

He showed them into a charming little room, wholly feminine in its mode of decoration on the first floor.

“Will you wait here, if you please. Her ladyship will see you at once.”

A door at the other side of the room opened as he spoke and a woman entered—a slim, tall, fair woman, extraordinarily graceful, with deep, dark-blue eyes and a mass of pale-gold, gleaming hair. But her perfect lips were not red with the redness of natural health and the dark shadows about her eyes were not normal. She was very pale. Her glance darted from Salaman Chayne to Sover the jockey.

She looked at Salaman's card.

“I understand that you have something to say to me about—the—Barford rubies, Mr. Chayne?” she said, a curious reserve in her manner and voice.

Salaman smiled and bowed.

“Permit me to remind you of the old adage that deeds speak louder than words, Lady Barford,” he said rather floridly—he was always prone to be florid with ladies—and poured the handful of rubies on a table close by, with a gesture.

“The rubies! You really have recovered them! I did not believe——” she gasped. “But—where did you get them? From whom? In what way did you—secure them? I don't understand.”

There was no sign of relief or pleasure in her manner. Rather, she seemed afraid, startled, uneasy and tremendously surprised. She must have sensed that Salaman was noting this, for she looked at him steadily.

“This is so very unexpected,” she said with a pale smile. “I congratulate you,” she added. Sover, she ignored wholly.

Then the door opened quick!y and a tall, bronzed, youthful-looking man came impulsively in.

“Enid, we shall——” he said as he came, but broke off sharply as he saw Salaman and the jockey. It was Lord Barford.

“Oh, I'm sorry—am I intruding? I——” His blue eyes caught sight of the rubies on the table and he stopped short, his mouth open.

“Why—the rubies!”

There was very real relief in his pleasant voice, for the stones were heirlooms and, though he owned them, yet serious legal difficulties were liable to arise should they ever pass permanently out of his possession.

“This will save an enormous amount of bother,” he went on gayly.

His wife nodded, almost reluctantly, it seemed.

“We have to thank this gentleman, Mr. Salaman Chayne, for restoring them,” she said.

Lord Barford turned at once to Salaman, smiling and offering his hand.

“Then let me make haste to do so. You have extricated me from a tiresome difficulty, Mr. Chayne, and I am tremendously grateful.”

Salaman waved a jaunty hand.

“It happened to crop up, Lord Barford—on my way,” he said. “It was quite simple.”

Lord Barford smiled—he was quite young and looked like a man who would be far more at home on a polo pony or a hunter than anywhere else.

Then he looked at Sover and his face hardened.

“Had you anything to do with the recovery of the stones, Sover?”

“Oh, no—on the contrary,” said Salaman.

“Ah! 'On the contrary,' you say, Mr. Chayne? Then you were guilty after all, were you, Sover?”

The jockey's jaw thrust forward.

“What d'yah mean, 'guilty?' I was discharged, wasn't I?” he said impudently. “I'll say this while I'm at it. This man dragged me in here with threats—I believe he's armed or I'd have changed his tactics for him. I know nothing about the rubies.”

His eyes were fixed on Lady Barford.

“At least, nothing. I'll say—unless I'm forced. But I want to warn you, Lord Barford, that I shall be easily forced. I haven't been treated so well by you and Lady Barford that it would give me any heartache or lose me any money if I told the truth about them—and I'm pretty sure that if you guessed the truth you'd be nearer going on your knees to keep me quiet than ringing for your servants to throw me out—as you seem to be intending to do!”

His eyes were on Lady Barford throughout, in a stare of undisguised menace. Both Barford and Salaman saw that—and they saw, too, the deadly pallor which had crept to her face, the strange fear which dilated her eyes.

Salaman spoke, his beard bristling, his eyes and voice aggressive.

“Permit me to advise you both,” he said. “Lady Barford, there are things which sooner or later will have to be told to your husband. Wouldn't you sooner tell him yourself than allow this creature to tell him? He's no longer fit to ride for his living and he intends to try blackmail instead. And you, Lord Barford, wouldn't you prefer to have a—difficult story—an account of a trouble which will call for your sympathy and forgiveness—from your wife's lips rather than from this man's?”

His tone became urgent, his deep voice began to boom, and curiously he seemed to dominate in that room.

“Be advised, both of you—why, you're only a pair of children anyway—but you love each other, I see that. Lady Barford, be courageous, take your husband into the next room and tell him everything. I will take care of this scoundrel until you both decide what shall be done with him.”

Husband and wife looked at each other. Both were white now.

“Enid—is there really anything to tell?” asked Barford.

She stared at him, her eyes haunted.

“Oh, Geoff—Geoff—there is so much to tell you that I—I am afraid,” she said.

Her eyes were ringed with black circles and she began to tremble.

“You—you will be astonished—disgusted—no, no, I—there is nothing to tell—nothing——

She broke off hopelessly, swaying.

Her husband, puzzled, went to her, slipping his arm about her.

“Why, darling, what is it all about?” he said tenderly. “If there's anything—some absurd slander——

Salaman turned on Sover.

“Get outside and wait for me there,” he snarled softly, and Sover made haste to obey.

The little man locked the door behind him and turned to the Barfords. The woman, close in her husband's arms, was weeping terribly.

Over the fair, gleaming head, Barford looked with mute mystified appeal at Salaman—who spoke earnestly.

“I am old enough to be the father of either of you two,” he said. “There's something to tell you that Lady Barford shrinks from. So I will do it. After all, it's not so deadly. She has been sinned against more than she has sinned. A victim—one of many. What she fears to tell you is this—that she has become a victim to the drug habit——

“Drugs! You, Enid!” Barford was appalled.

“Wait a minute, will you!” rapped Salaman.

“She is only one of many victims to the scoundrel who specializes in entrapping women into the habit—as fowlers entrap linnets. I am seeking him now. Listen carefully. He has a special drug which victims cannot easily obtain except through him—or his agents, for he rarely appears himself. After a period he deprives them of supplies and they become desperate, as drug takers do under deprivation. Then this scoundrel—this pest—the Drugmaster—Dragour, he is called—makes his bargain, always through agents. In the case of Lady Barford, Sover, her jockey, was the agent. He offered to renew her supply of the drug in return for the heirloom rubies. Lady Barford gave Sover the rubies to hand to Dragour. And, remember this—cling to this, Lord Barford—the price was light, a bagatelle compared with the price this reptile has forced from some poor souls. It happened that he has a weakness for collecting old, rare things—such things as these carved jewels—and, for his first demand, these satisfied him. It might have been worse—I tell you, it might have been a thousand times worse! You've heard of the Argrath suicide. That was Dragour's work. He ensnared Lady Argrath, and through her ruined her husband. Never mind that now. That's all your wife has to confess—and what you ought to thank God for is this that it's not come too late. You've got back the heirlooms—though they don't matter much—and you're going to get back your wife! I can see how much that matters. She takes this drug, yes—but, compared with many she's hardly more than a novice at the habit. Be glad of that, Barford, for it affects your whole life. Take her away and protect her. More than that—make sure of her. Get the best medical advice you can and act on it—for whatever it is, it's a deadly drug that Dragour uses and it grips body and soul—body and soul. You'll have to fight for her—she'll have to fight for herself—but you'll win, if you like.”

He stopped.

Lord Barford, his face white and troubled, spoke to the weeping woman.

“Is that true, Enid? All true?” he asked pitifully.

She seemed to nod, sobbing.

His voice dropped to little more than a whisper.

“Oh, my dear, why didn't you come to me and tell me—old Geoff? Haven't we always been pals? It—it just breaks my heart to think that you were afraid to tell me—me—about the miserable rubies. Never mind, never mind all that now. Mr. Chayne's right. We'll do just as he advises. Fight it out together—go round the world, fighting it all the way. Drugs! You won't be a slave to any damned drugs if we're always together, my dear. I'll fight it for you—keep you happy and laughing—laughing, girl—like it used to be. You'll see—oh, you'll see. Look up, now, darling—don't cry any more. It's going to be all right!”

She raised her head, and her face, wet with tears, was close to his.

“Oh, Geoff, I am so sorry—so sorry and ashamed and humble. If You will help me—I have been mad, I think. It was so insidious. It began when I was so interested in the two year olds at Newmarket. You remember how I used to go out early to watch them? I used to have headaches and one day Sover offered me a headache cure—and somehow, without thinking, I got to rely upon it. Oh, if only you will help me to make things as they used to be, Geoff!”

“Yes—I know, I understand. It's all right now, dear,” he murmured, soothing her, comforting her. “It might have happened to anybody.”

Salaman, smiling benign approval, went quietly out to deal with Sover.

But that one was no longer there.

To Salaman's furious inquiry the butler, hovering uneasily about the hall, replied that Sover had left ten minutes before, picking up a taxicab immediately outside the door.

“I had received no instructions to detain the man, sir,” said the butler.

Salaman conceded that it was his own fault, and stood for a moment pondering whether he should return to the Barfords or not. He decided that he would not. It was so much more dramatic that way—just to drop into their lives, do them an immense service, and disappear. Yes, it would be very dramatic—and like many physically small men, Salaman Chayne had a great weakness for dramatic effects.

And, in any case, he could always see the Barfords later. Just at present it was Dragour who demanded all his attention. So he reasoned.

But, as he walked jauntily homeward he was forced to confess that the affair had brought him no nearer to grips with the drugmaster. True, he had snatched a victim and certain spoil from the powerful and elusive scoundrel but he had not advanced more than a very little upon the trail which he was following and intended still to follow with such grim tenacity.

“But I shall come up with him in the long run—if it takes me half my lifetime,” muttered Salaman, reaching for his cigar case. “For Sover should be easily enough located again. And sooner or later, if watched, he will let fall a clew, a thread that will lead to Dragour.”

But there Salaman miscalculated—and realized as much when he saw that evening's paper.

It was Kotman Dass who handed it to him, pointing out some flaring headlines:




Salaman read through the account. There was little information beyond the bare facts.

Early that afternoon one, Mr. Gregory Kiss, a private detective investigating the suicide of Sir James Argrath, had visited the flat in which the suicide had taken place. He found the hall door open and, as no answer to his repeated rings was forthcoming, he had entered, discovering the body of the jockey Sover stretched on the floor of the chief room. He was quite dead—the doctor whom Mr. Kiss had called at once stating emphatically that he had been shot through the heart from behind. A curious feature of the crime was that the dead man's fingers were closed tightly on an ivory piano key which he evidently had taken from the piano in the room. The rest of the report was conjecture and a brief account of Sover's life career as a jockey.

“Well, what do you make of that, Dass? Who killed the man?” asked Mr. Chayne.

Kotman Dass blinked dully at his partner over a bookful of hieroglyphic symbols.

“Itt is peretty obvious that thee man Sover was shot by Dragour or one of his creatures,” he mumbled absently, as their man brought in a note for Salaman.

“Why?” demanded the little man.

“Highlee probablee because Dragour suspected him of treacheree—or anticipated that he would turn traitor; maybe also that he had discovered in some way secret of piano keys—too late; maybe he knew too much—thatt can be dangerous fault in people who work for men such as Dragour.”

“But that's only guesswork, Dass,” objected Salaman, opening his note and beginning to read.

The elephantine Mr. Dass shook his head.

"Oah, noa—there are six good reasons why——"

"One's enough—and here it is!" said Salaman sharply, and read his note aloud—thus:

"Mr. Salaman Chayne.

"Sover became the subject of newspaper headlines because he made a nuisance of himself and because he knew too much. Take care that you do not make the same mistake. You are beginning to invite the closer attention of


Kotman Dass looked startled.

"Veree dangerous villain, thatt man," he ejaculated. Then, as his singular brain worked on, despite his shock, he added:

"There are curious revelations in thatt letter."

"What revelations?" demanded Salaman.

"It shows that Sover is not at all first person killed by Dragour or his men and also that Dragour does not know yet that you are person who ransacked his piano-key hiding places. But you must be careful, dear Mister Chayne—you are in grave danger."

"So is Dragour," jarred Salaman.

Kotman Dass studied the angry eyes of the little man.

"Oah, yess, obviouslee thatt is so!" he murmured hastily and returned to his book.

Another story of this series will appear in the next issue.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1952, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 71 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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