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    Chapter 51

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    Chapter 51
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    The House of Sadi

    Jim had a brief consultation with the chief of police before Lord Creith guided him to the spot where Joan had disappeared.

    "I thought it was here!"

    He said something in a low voice to the police chief and Lord Creith saw the officer shake his head and heard him say:

    "I can't help you there. It may lead to serious trouble for me. The only thing I can do is to be on hand if you want me."

    "That will do," said Jim.

    There was a small door in the wall and to this he went and knocked. After a time the wicket opened and a black face appeared in the opening.

    "The Shereef is not in the house," said the slave in guttural accents.

    Jim looked round. The police officer had withdrawn to a discreet distance.

    "Open the door, my rose of Sharon," he breathed. "I am from the basha, with news for the Shereef."

    The woman hesitated and shook her head.

    "I must not open," she said, but there was an indecision in her tone of which Jim took immediate advantage.

    "This message is from Hamon," he said in a low voice. "Go to the Shereef and tell him."

    The wicket closed. Jim glanced round at the troubled Lord Creith.

    "You had better join our friend," he said under his breath.

    "But if she is there, I can insist----"

    Jim shook his head.

    "The only form of insistence is the one I shall employ," he said grimly. "You would help me greatly, Lord Creith, if you did not interfere."

    Soon after his lordship had walked reluctantly to the unhappy police chief, Jim heard the sound of bolts being drawn, a key squeaked in the rusty lock, and the gate was opened a few inches to admit him to a familiar quadrangle. He glanced at the ancient fountain, and the untidy verandah and its faded chairs, and then, as a man appeared in the doorway, he walked swiftly across the untidy space and went up the steps of the verandah in one bound.

    "Sadi Hafiz, I want you," he said, and at the sound of his voice the man started back.

    "God of Gods!" he gasped. "I did not know that you were in Tangier, Milaka!"

    It seemed that his pale face had gone a shade whiter.

    "Now what can I do for you, my dear Captain Morlake?" he said in his excellent English. "Really this is a surprise--a pleasant surprise. Why did you not send your name----"

    "Because you would not have admitted me," said Jim. "Where is Lady Joan Carston?"

    The man's face was a blank.

    "Lady Joan Carston? I don't seem to remember that name," he said. "Is she a lady at the British Embassy?"

    "Where is the girl who was lured into this place half-an-hour ago?" asked Jim. "And I warn you, Sadi Hafiz, that I will not leave this house without her."

    "As God lives," protested the fat man vigorously, "I do not know the lady and I have not seen her. Why should she be here, in my poor house, for she is evidently of the English nobility."

    "Where is Lady Joan Carston?" asked Jim deliberately. "By God, you had better answer me, Sadi, or there will be a dead man for me to explain."

    He jerked his gun from his pocket, and the gleam of it seemed to blind the Moor, for he half closed his eyes and blinked.

    "This is an outrage," he said, and, as he grew more and more excited, his English suffered. "I will report this matter to the Consulate----"

    Jim pushed him aside and strode into the flagged hall. A door was on the left; he kicked it open. It was evidently Sadi's smoking-room, for it reeked with a scent of hashish and tobacco. At one end was an iron circular staircase leading to an upper floor, an incongruous object in that primitive Oriental setting. Without hesitation he flew up the stairs, and, with a scream, a girl who was lolling on a lounge jumped up and pulled her veil across her face.

    "Where is the English lady?" asked Jim quickly.

    "Lord," said the trembling girl, "I have seen no English woman."

    "Who else is here?"

    He ran across the half-darkened room, pulling aside the curtains of its three sleeping places, but Joan was not there. He came down the stairs to confront the outraged Sadi Hafiz.

    Jim knew what was going to happen before Sadi fired, for he had committed the unpardonable sin of invading the women's apartments of an Oriental magnate.

    "Drop your gun, Sadi," he said sternly, "or you die. I've got you covered."

    Sadi fired at the place where Jim had disappeared, and then, unexpectedly, the intruder came into view from behind a pillar, and Sadi put up his hands. In another instant Jim was upon him and had snatched his pistol away.

    "Now," he said, breathing through his nose. "Where is Joan Carston?"

    "I tell you I don't know."

    Outside the door was a small knot of frightened servants, and Jim slammed the heavy open doors into their place and shot the bars.

    "Where is Joan Carston?'

    "She's gone," said the man sullenly.

    "You lie. She hasn't had time to go."

    "She was here only for a minute, then she went into the Street of the School--there is another door in the yard."

    "With whom?"

    "I don't know," was the defiant reply.

    Jim towered over him, his hands on his hips, his eyes scarcely visible.

    "Sadi," he said softly, "do you know Zafouri? Last night he told me that he will have your head because you betrayed him to the Government, took money from him to buy rifles, and used it for yourself. I will save your life."

    "I have been threatened before, Mr. Morlake," said Sadi Hafiz, recovering a little of his audacity, "and what has happened? I am still alive. I tell you I know nothing about this lady."

    "You told me just now she was in the courtyard and had been taken out of the door into the Street of the Schools. Who took her?"

    "As Allah lives, I do not know," cried the man in Arabic, and Jim struck him across the face with the back of his hand.

    "You will keep, Sadi Hafiz."

    Jim turned as he unbarred the doors and flung them open, and he pointed to his throat with a long forefinger.

    "Zafouri will get you--that is certain. But more certain than that is, that, if any harm comes to this lady, I will find you and kill you inch by inch."

    He slammed the doors behind him and strode out of the house and into the courtyard.

    A brief examination showed him that the man had spoken the truth to this extent, that there was another door leading to the narrow street which Lord Creith had searched.

    And then he remembered that Joan's father had seen four men carrying a heavy case. He strode into the street and beckoned the policeman.

    "I want your people to trace four men who were carrying a heavy case up the Street of The Schools. They must have crossed the sok."

    The movements of the party were easy to follow. A native policeman had seen them crossing to the Fez Road and load the case upon a light car which had been waiting there all the morning. A camel driver, who had been resting by the side of the road near the car, confirmed this, and said that something inside the box had moved, and he had asked the man in charge of the carrying party what it was, and had been told it was a crate of chickens.

    "Wait here," said Jim.

    He ran back through the crowd that had gathered in the market, and disappeared in their midst. Ten minutes later Lord Creith saw a big car come flying along the road, and Jim was at the wheel.

    "I found it outside the Hotel d'Angleterre," he said breathlessly. "God knows who is the owner."

    Lord Creith jumped into the car.

    "I'm afraid I can't come with you," said the police officer, who was a Frenchman and regarded all regulations as inelastic. "Beyond here is outside my jurisdiction."

    Jim nodded curtly and sent the car flying along the Fez Road. The tracks of the motor-van were visible for a long way, but ten miles out of Tangier....

    "There's the car!" said Jim.

    It was abandoned by the side of the road, and the case was still intact. Suppose he were wrong, and they were on the wrong track? His heart grew heavy at the thought.

    He pulled the car up at the tail of the trolley and leapt on to the float. And then he saw that the box was empty, the lid having been thrown into the undergrowth on the side of the road.

    Not wholly empty, for in the bottom lay a little white shoe, and, as he lifted it out, Lord Creith groaned.

    "That was Joan's," he said.
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