Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fu Manchu Chapter Nineteen

 (I'm reading The Invidious Dr Fu-Manchu and have reached Chapter Nineteen. Our heroes have arrived to discover the American inventor Frank Norris West unconscious and his aero-torpedo plans missing)

To recap, West locked the plans for his aero-torpedo in the safe and told no one the combination; he locked and bolted his door so the police had to break it down to get in; "No human being could climb up or down to your windows." Yet some Chinese men came in, drugged West and now the plans are missing. It is a genuine locked room mystery.* So - inside job?

Petrie makes a deduction and West admits to taking two chloral tablets. West had a dream that there were horrible Chinamen in his rooms. At the climax he saw a sound coming from his mouth that Smith suggests was the combination. He also remembered the name "Bayard Taylor."

Smith thinks on this, on Petrie's suggestion of the Frenchman Moreau, and "ANDAMAN -SECOND"; puts together these gnomic clews and asks "when is the first train to Tilbury?" "Five twenty-two from Fenchurch Street," comes the answer. Smith is unimpressed.

"Too late! Jump in a taxi and pick up two good men to leave for China at once**! Then go and charter a special to Tilbury to leave in twenty-five minutes. Order another cab to wait outside for me." A special train! Sounds expensive.

Bayard Taylor's book The Land of the Saracen apparently contains a passage describing the sensation of being under the influence of hashish; West's unconscious mind has linked the his symptoms and so they assume that is what he was drugged with. "I have no doubt that now you experience a feeling of nausea and intense thirst, with aching in the muscles, particularly the deltoid," says Petrie, apparently familiar with it***. West had a visit from a foreign lady who they assume was Karamaneh, because who else would it be, and switched his chloral tablets for some containing hashish.

West admits that two European governments have attempted to get hold of his plans, but a Chinaman is a novelty; Smith describes Fu-Manchu as "the greatest novelty of his age," perhaps an understatement.

This is all very well, but they still don't know how Fu-Manchu entered the rooms and in any case Smith doesn't care; he wants to be at Tilbury within the hour.

* Smith asked West if anyone could have been hidden in his chambers; no because West looked. He invariably did. Sounds a bit paranoid to me.

** Does... does Scotland Yard really have two men standing by to go to the other side of the world? Just in case?

*** "Canabis indicia. Indian Hemp." Yes, yes Petrie. No need to show off.

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