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   Chapter 6 No.6

Never-Fail Blake By Arthur Stringer Characters: 6869

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


By the time he was on the noon boat that left for Macao, Blake had quite forgotten about the revolver. As he steamed southward over smooth seas, threading a way through boulder-strewn islands and skirting mountainous cliffs, his movements seemed to take on a sense of finality. He stood at the rail, watching the hazy blue islands, the forests of fishing-boats and high-pooped junks floating lazily at anchor, the indolent figures which he could catch glimpses of on deck, the green waters of the China Sea. He watched them with intent, yet abstracted, eyes. Some echo of the witchery of those Eastern waters at times penetrated his own preoccupied soul. A vague sense of his remoteness from his old life at last crept in to him.

He thought of the watching green lights that were flaring up, dusk by dusk, in the shrill New York night, the lamps of the precinct stations, the lamps of Headquarters, where the great building was full of moving feet and shifting faces, where telephones were ringing and detectives were coming and going, and policemen in uniform were passing up and down the great stone steps, clean-cut, ruddy-faced, strong-limbed policemen, talking and laughing as they started out on their night details. He could follow them as they went, those confident-striding "flatties" with their ash night-sticks at their side, soldiers without bugles or banner, going out to do the goodly tasks of the Law, soldiers of whom he was once the leader, the pride, the man to whom they pointed as the Vidoc of America.

And he would go back to them as great as ever. He would again compel their admiration. The newspaper boys would again come filing into his office and shake hands with him and smoke his cigars and ask how much he could tell them about his last haul. And he would recount to them how he shadowed Binhart half way round the world, and gathered him in, and brought him back to Justice.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon when Blake's steamer drew near Macao. Against a background of dim blue hills he could make out the green and blue and white of the houses in the Portuguese quarters, guarded on one side by a lighthouse and on the other by a stolid square fort. Swinging around a sharp point, the boat entered the inner harbor, crowded with Chinese craft and coasters and dingy tramps of the sea.

Blake seemed in no hurry to disembark. The sampan into which he stepped, in fact, did not creep up to the shore until evening. There, ignoring the rickshaw coolies who awaited him as he passed an obnoxiously officious trio of customs officers, he disappeared up one of the narrow and slippery side streets of the Chinese quarter.

He followed this street for some distance, assailed by the smell of its mud and rotting sewerage, twisting and turning deeper into the darkness, past dogs and chattering coolies and oil lamps and gaming-house doors. Into one of these gaming houses he turned, passing through the blackwood sliding door and climbing the narrow stairway to the floor above. There, from a small quadrangular gallery, he could look down on the "well" of the fan-tan lay out below.

He made his way to a seat at the rail, took out a cigar, lighted it, and let his veiled gaze wander about the place, point by point, until he had inspected and weighed and appraised every man in the building. He continued to smoke, listlessly, like a sightseer with time on his hands and in no mood for m

ovement. The brim of his black boulder shadowed his eyes. His thumbs rested carelessly in the arm-holes of his waistcoat. He lounged back torpidly, listening to the drone and clatter of voices below, lazily inspecting each newcomer, pretending to drop off into a doze of ennui. But all the while he was most acutely awake.

For somewhere in that gathering, he knew, there was a messenger awaiting him. Whether he was English or Portuguese, white or yellow, Blake could not say. But from some one there some word or signal was to come.

He peered down at the few white men in the pit below. He watched the man at the head of the carved blackwood table, beside his heap of brass "cash," watched him again and again as he took up his handful of coins, covered them with a brass hat while the betting began, removed the hat, and seemed to be dividing the pile, with the wand in his hand, into fours. The last number of the last four, apparently, was the object of the wagers.

Blake could not understand the game. It puzzled him, just as the yellow men so stoically playing it puzzled him, just as the entire country puzzled him. Yet, obtuse as he was, he felt the gulf of centuries that divided the two races. These yellow men about him seemed as far away from his humanity, as detached from his manner of life and thought, as were the animals he sometimes stared at through the bars of the Bronx Zoo cages.

A white man would have to be pretty far gone, Blake decided, to fall into their ways, to be satisfied with the life of those yellow men. He would have to be a terrible failure, or he would have to be hounded by a terrible fear, to live out his life so far away from his own kind. And he felt now that Binhart could never do it, that a life sentence there would be worse than a life sentence to "stir." So he took another cigar, lighted it, and sat back watching the faces about him.

For no apparent reason, and at no decipherable sign, one of the yellow faces across the smoke-filled room detached itself from its fellows. This face showed no curiosity, no haste. Blake watched it as it calmly approached him. He watched until he felt a finger against his arm.

"You clum b'long me," was the enigmatic message uttered in the detective's ear.

"Why should I go along with you?" Blake calmly inquired.

"You clum b'long me," reiterated the Chinaman. The finger again touched the detective's arm. "Clismas!"

Blake rose, at once. He recognized the code word of "Christmas." This was the messenger he had been awaiting.

He followed the figure down the narrow stairway, through the sliding door, out into the many-odored street, foul with refuse, bisected by its open sewer of filth, took a turning into a still narrower street, climbed a precipitous hill cobbled with stone, turned still again, always overshadowed and hemmed in by tall houses close together, with black-beamed lattice doors through which he could catch glimpses of gloomy interiors. He turned again down a wooden-walled hallway that reminded him of a Mott Street burrow. When the Chinaman touched him on the sleeve he came to a stop.

His guide was pointing to a closed door in front of them.

"You sabby?" he demanded.

Blake hesitated. He had no idea of what was behind that door, but he gathered from the Chinaman's motion that he was to enter. Before he could turn to make further inquiry the Chinaman had slipped away like a shadow.

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