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The Opium Joint
by [?]

O’Connor drew back the sheet which covered her and in the calf of the leg disclosed an ugly bullet hole. Ugly as it was, however, it was anything but dangerous and seemed to indicate nothing as to the real cause of her death. He drew from his pocket a slightly misshapen bullet which had been probed from the wound and handed it to Kennedy, who examined both the wound and the bullet carefully. It seemed to be an ordinary bullet except that in the pointed end were three or four little round, very shallow wells or depressions only the minutest fraction of an inch deep.

“Very extraordinary,” he remarked slowly. “No, I don’t think this was a case of suicide. Nor was it a murder for money, else the jewels would have been taken.”

O’Connor looked approvingly at me. “Exactly what I said,” he exclaimed. “She was dead before her body was thrown into the water.”

“No, I don’t agree with you there,” corrected Craig, continuing his examination of the body. “And yet it is not a case of drowning exactly, either.”

“Strangled?” suggested O’Connor.

“By some jiu jitsu trick?” I put in, mindful of the queer-acting Jap at Clendenin’s.

Kennedy shook his head.

“Perhaps the shock of the bullet wound rendered her unconscious and in that state she was thrown in,” ventured Walker Curtis, apparently much relieved that Kennedy coincided with O’Connor in disagreeing with the harbour police as to the suicide theory.

Kennedy shrugged his shoulders and looked at the bullet again. “It is very extraordinary,” was all he replied. “I think you said a few moments ago, O’Connor, that there had been some queer doings about here. What did you mean?”

“Well, as I said, the work of the harbour squad isn’t ordinarily very remarkable. Harbour pirates aren’t murderous as a rule any more. For the most part they are plain sneak thieves or bogus junk dealers who work with dishonest pier watchmen and crooked canal boat captains and lighter hands.

“But in this instance,” continued the deputy, his face knitting at the thought that he had to confess another mystery to which he had no solution, “it is something quite different. You know that all along the shore on this side of the island are old, dilapidated and, some of them, deserted houses. For several days the residents of the neighbourhood have been complaining of strange occurrences about one place in particular which was the home of a wealthy family in a past generation. It is about a mile from here, facing the road along the shore, and has in front of it and across the road the remains of an old dock sticking out a few feet into the water at high tide.

“Now, as nearly as any one can get the story, there seems to have been a mysterious, phantom boat, very swift, without lights, and with an engine carefully muffled down which has been coming up to the old dock for the past few nights when the tide was high enough. A light has been seen moving on the dock, then suddenly extinguished, only to reappear again. Who carried it and why, no one knows. Any one who has tried to approach the place has had a scare thrown into him which he will not easily forget. For instance, one man crept up and though he did not think he was seen he was suddenly shot at from behind a tree. He felt the bullet pierce his arm, started to run, stumbled, and next morning woke up in the exact spot on which he had fallen, none the worse for his experience except that he had a slight wound that will prevent his using his right arm for some time for heavy work.

“After each visit of the phantom boat there is heard, according to the story of the few neighbours who have observed it, the tramp of feet up the overgrown stone walk from the dock and some have said that they heard an automobile as silent and ghostly as the boat. We have been all through the weird old house, but have found nothing there, except enough loose boards and shutters to account for almost any noise or combination of noises. However, no one has said there was anything there except the tramp of feet going back and forth on the old pavements outside. Two or three times shots have been heard, and on the dock where most of the alleged mysterious doings have taken place we have found one very new exploded shell of a cartridge.”