Not always does the past bury its dead. Out of the yellow waters of Pei Po came a strange vengeance to single out Dorus Noel in the tangle of New Yorks Chinatown.
'China had left her mark upon Dorus Noel. He thought of that now as he sat musing, in his house on Mott Street, in New York’s Chinatown. From somewhere out in the street, or perhaps in a store next door, a clock sounded the hour of three in the afternoon. At the same time some of his own priceless clocks began to strike. One of them he especially loved because it always gave him a smile. It was a beautiful gem encrusted thing which had been given to Emperor Ch’ien Lung by Louis Fifteenth of France ... and when it struck the hour eight tiny human figures in blue came out on its top and danced a tinkling minuet.
A second clock was all of glass, save for its works, which were surrounded like a serpent by a circular staircase. When this clock struck three it did it in odd fashion. A gold ball came through a hole in the fourth step and rolled down three steps, making a tinkling noise. At four o’clock the ball fell a step further, taking the additional hour to travel back up the circular stairway.
Now the one clock danced the minuet, the other rolled its golded ball down the three steps, thus striking the hour. Dorus Noel sighed.
“Thank all the gods,” he murmured, 'that Chu Chul is dead. He must be. With my own eyes I saw his clutching yellow hand sink under the muddy waters of the Pei Ho at Tientsin, and I waited for two months for his resurrection, which did not transpire. My work here in New York will be easy compared to the years-long game of hide and seek with The Cricket.”
Noel had formed the habit of talking to himself because he found it easier to think, and he did not speak in Chinese because, in China, anybody who listened might have been a minion of Chu Chul. Now he rose from his desk and strode to a mirror on the wall, threading his way through the many treasures which filled his study. He passed the red lacquer screen with its decorations of tiny bird feathers. He circled the crooked screen just inside the door, which kept out evil spirits because they could only travel in a straight line.
Death of the Flute
A Dorus Noel Mystery
Publication date: 09.10.2011
Not always does the past bury its dead.
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