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The "Dope Trust"
by [?]

As we hurried into Chinatown from Chatham Square we could see that the district was celebrating its holidays with long ropes of firecrackers, and was feasting to reed discords from the pipes of its most famous musicians, and was gay with the hanging out of many sunflags, red with an eighteen-rayed white sun in the blue union. Both the new tong truce and the anniversary were more than cause for rejoicing.

Hurried though it was, the raid on the Hep Sing joint had been carefully prepared by O’Connor. The house we were after was one of the oldest of the rookeries, with a gaudy restaurant on the second floor, a curio shop on the street level, while in the basement all that was visible was a view of a huge and orderly pile of tea chests. A moment before the windows of the dwellings above the restaurant had been full of people. All had faded away even before the axes began to swing on the basement door which had the appearance of a storeroom for the shop above.

The flimsy outside door went down quickly. But it was only a blind. Another door greeted the raiders. The axes swung noisily and the crowbars tore at the fortified, iron-clad, “ice box” door inside. After breaking it down they had to claw their way through another just like it. The thick doors and tea chests piled up showed why no sounds of gambling and other practices ever were heard outside.

Pushing aside a curtain we were in the main room. The scene was one of confusion showing the hasty departure of the occupants.

Kennedy did not stop here. Within was still another room, for smokers, anything but like the fashionable place we had seen uptown. It was low, common, disgusting. The odour everywhere was offensive; everywhere was filth that should naturally breed disease. It was an inferno reeking with unwholesome sweat and still obscured with dense fumes of smoke.

Three tiers of bunks of hardwood were built along the walls. There was no glamour here; all was sordid. Several Chinamen in various stages of dazed indolence were jabbering in incoherent oblivion, a state I suppose of “Oriental calm.”

There, in a bunk, lay Clendenin. His slow and uncertain breathing told of his being under the influence of the drug, and he lay on his back beside a “layout” with a half-cooked pill still in the bowl of his pipe.

The question was to wake him up. Craig began slapping him with a wet towel, directing us how to keep him roused. We walked him about, up and down, dazed, less than half sensible, dreaming, muttering, raving.

A hasty exclamation from O’Connor followed as he drew from the scant cushions of the bunk a long-barreled pistol, a .44 such as the tong leaders used, the same make as had shot Bertha Curtis and Nichi. Craig seized it and stuck it into his pocket.

All the gamblers had fled, all except those too drugged to escape. Where they had gone was indicated by a door leading up to the kitchen of the restaurant. Craig did not stop but leaped upstairs and then down again into a little back court by means of a fire- escape. Through a sort of short alley we groped our way, or rather through an intricate maze of alleys and a labyrinth of blind recesses. We were apparently back of a store on Pell Street.

It was the work of only a moment to go through another door and into another room, filled with smoky, dirty, unpleasant, fetid air. This room, too, seemed to be piled with tea chests. Craig opened one. There lay piles and piles of opium tins, a veritable fortune in the drug.

Mysterious pots and pans, strainers, wooden vessels, and testing instruments were about. The odour of opium in the manufacture was unmistakable, for smoking opium is different from the medicinal drug. There it appeared the supplies of thousands of smokers all over the country were stored and prepared. In a corner a mass of the finished product lay weltering in a basin like treacle. In another corner was the apparatus for remaking yen-shee or once- smoked opium. This I felt was at last the home of the “dope trust,” as O’Connor had once called it, the secret realm of a real opium king, the American end of the rich Shanghai syndicate.