20: Welcome to Shanghai

11th April 1925


Shanghai, China

11:44 AM:

We arrived in Shanghai on Saturday 11th April 1925.

Sure New York has a busy waterfront, but this place is chaos. Vast crowds of people gathered everywhere. Coolies, Soldiers, officials, junks, rafts, and tiny row boats swarm all over and around our freighter. The officials grab our crates; crowbar them, before finally asking us what their contents were. It is frenzied.

Our records told us there were different zones in Shanghai in addition to the Bund area where all the big buildings were located. The zones were run by the British, French, Japanese and Americans. There were also large numbers of White Russian émigrés present. Each zone had its own police force too. Then there was the old city run by the Chinese. All these separate areas overflowed into each other. It could only have led to chaos. Somehow, it worked of a fashion but business there was never easy.

Eventually after having failed to reason with the customs officials, we resorted to folding green instead.

Greg had stayed on board but the sheer numbers of people surging their way up the gangplank prevented him making any effective defence of his beloved ironmongery. Trent and Simon force their way to shore.

They meet a slightly built, suited Chinese man. He is clean, tidy and polite with very good English. The pair spotted quite early on that he carried a bible too. They both figured out that this guy would be as trustworthy a man as we would ever find here. We had our guide. He introduced himself as Lee Weng Chen. He added that he could easily find us a hotel. He led us to a less savoury man, our agent.

Words were exchanged in Chinese that enabled us to unload our crates intact. A hand carts appeared as if by magic. Our crates were loaded and subsequently taken to a bonded warehouse. Greg elbowed his way forward, sat himself on a crate on a handcart and gestured to have the porters take him with the crates to the warehouse, wherever that was.

Lee Weng Chen showed the rest of us to a quietish hotel on Nan King Road next to the Bund called the Palace Hotel. Homey, but definitely not the London Savoy. It was a 6 storey hotel. We were able to take 3 rooms.

Meanwhile Greg arrived at the warehouse. It was pleasantly intact with small windows and good locks. There were armed guards inside. Greg started to get worried that they were going to rob him. He reached into his bag, took a handful of Benny’s and sat on a crate with his sawed double-barrelled shotgun in his lap. If the Chinese guards thought it odd that the gun came out of a doctor’s bag, they showed no sign of it, suitably inscrutable.

At the hotel, everyone got unpacked, screwed the new bolts on the doors, and then settled down to a pleasant night’s sleep. The city was loud but after New York, everyone was able to sleep.

Ho Fong’s Junk – Luxuriant Goddess

12th April 1925

Our First Day Out in Shanghai
Our First Day Out in Shanghai

Our First Day In Shanghai:

 09:00 AM

In the morning Joseph thought he had better check on Greg if he had an episode. No-one wanted Greg slaughtering anyone just yet. We didn’t know who the cultists were.

Outside the hotel the roads around the Bund were very busy. Joe was transfixed by the traffic, composed as it was of such an interesting mix of motorised and less twentieth century human-powered modes of transport. A car would wind its way around followed by a handcart, a rickshaw or even a sedan chair.

There were also some horses but wherever possible it seemed to Joe that if something needed doing there was a human to do it. Messages were a good example of this. Shanghai didn’t have corner drug stores with phones like New York. Sure there were phones there but they were mainly between the larger businesses and the international hotels, so it made then of limited use. However outside every teahouse you just needed to wave and half a dozen men would appear from nowhere ready to run off with your message to any part of the city.

Joseph found Greg in strangely good spirits. Oh god! What was worse than Greg suffering from acute paranoid delusions? Greg on a handful of Benny’s with a loaded shotgun. Joe needed to stay. He hoped there were some headache pills in the medicine bag. He had a feeling that he was going to need them.

Around him the bored Chinese warehouse guards laughed and joked in their own language or played Mah Jong. If they only knew.

Back at the Hotel, it may be Sunday but the group decide to do some investigating. First they looked for Penhurst, the owner of the boat named The Dark Mistress which had featured in a photo found with poor Jackson’s notes. There was no entry there.

Next they looked for Ho Fong. Only his warehouse or business premises were listed. It was the same address as the crates we had found in Limehouse:

15 Kow Yang Street

After finishing the unpacking it was close to 10pm in the evening when the group eventually left the hotel leaving Wesley and Irma to field calls.

Trent, Gupta, Simon and Trixie all headed out to Ho Fong’s in a motorised taxi. They completed their usual walk around the building or infernal “perimeter check” as Gaidar was forever calling it. This circuitous walk confirmed that it was a very well maintained secure building. All its windows were above head height. Trent also noted that there were sturdy padlocks on all the doors.

Overall it was quite a large imposing structure at 160 feet long by 60 feet wide. It had two clear sections of the building. An office area and the warehouse proper. No easy or obvious ways in. One good thing was that the lights were only on in the warehouse area. They surmised that if they could climb up to the roof they could probably have a nose around with drawing the attention of any guards.

While walking around Trixie noticed a possible route in via small boat under the pier.

A quick overview of the pitched roof and small windows confirmed the best way in may be from below after all. Climbing would be simple, gaining access along the roof and in through those small windows would not.

It was too early in our investigations to draw attention to themselves so the group sneaked off without any attempt at entry.

However the bunch remained keyed up and didn’t want to return to the hotel. Instead they hailed another motor taxi and got it to take them to “The Stumbling Tiger Bar” from the match-book.

When they arrived they saw that it was a small and seedy drinking hole near several low market brothels or “flower houses”. The quartet entered the bar. The bartender was quite a friendly Anglo Chinese man named Fergus Chum.

When they looked around they saw that the decor inside the bar was lurid prints illuminated by harsh yet inadequate lighting. It was a mainly male clientele numbering less than 10 within so the group nearly double their customers.

The most notable patron was a better dressed Japanese guy at a corner table.

Simon checked him out. While he pretended to be a loud jolly drunkard he was faking it. He wasn’t as drunk as he appeared as he was surreptitiously spilling far more of his drink on the floor than he ever imbibed himself.

Trent spotted this too. So the group bought him a drink which he swiftly reciprocated. As they looked at him more closely they noticed that beneath his flash suit he was very lean and well- muscled like an athlete or Boxer.

As a distraction Trixie struck up a conversation with Fergus about starting up an import export business. It was a quiet night so they soon all left.

Almost as soon as the investigators walked out of the door of the bar several of them saw that a gang of Chinese men from another bar had followed them round a narrow alleyway.

To make of their suspicions Trixie and Gupta went one way, while Trent and Simon another.

The men continued to follow so Trent challenged one of them by asking them what they wanted. An obvious question but it bought time to slip on brass knuckles, pull guns out of shoulder holsters or otherwise make ready. At first one said briskly “no English”.

After a brief pause another of the men said: “You know Jack Brady. We want him.”

That was really odd. We had never made any mention of Jack Brady in the bar or anywhere in Shanghai. In fact no-one had mentioned him since we left Erica Carlyle at the Waldorf 2 months and a different continent ago. Where on earth had this come from? Someone, as usual for this caper, was on to us.

Gupta looked at their fluid martial arts moves, thought of his own lack of dexterity and then promptly shot one with his Tommy gun. Another of the Chinese men grabbed Trixie but she was already on the balls of her sensibly shod feet and spun round kicking him in the head as he moved in on her. He wasn’t the only martial artist in this burg. He fell down unconscious with her shoe print on his cheek.

Trent had on his brass knuckles and tried to punch his adversary into orbit with an enormous pile driver of an uppercut. He wasn’t east coast collegiate boxing champ for nothing. Unfortunately his opponent blocked that blow and every subsequent blow which Trent tried to land. However Trent’s boxing cross served him well also and the Chinaman was unable to get a hit on Trent either. Stalemate. Trixie watched for a moment but rapidly became bored. She walked up to the Chinaman and somewhat un-sportingly kicked the thug in the back. He fell dropping a small hatchet with a monkey on it. Guess the Chinese were not sporting either so just as well Trixie had adopted dirty infighting tactics after all. The hatchet landed at Gupta’s feet so he grabbed it and threw it at Simon’s assailant.

The remaining man was quite badly wounded from the axe but still continued to challenge all four investigators with no less fury. It was all in reassuringly defiant, mad-cultist style. We were definitely on the right track then, thought Trent.

Simon pulled out a shotgun to quell the posturing but the thug just prepared to attack, leaving Simon no choice but to discharge the very large shotgun he was still pointing. The man falls dead.

That’s all four killed. As the quartet took stock and caught their breath they looked around to see the Japanese man from the corner table at the Stumbling Tiger bar watching them. They wasted no more time, hurriedly stripped the bodies of their small possessions, and then quickly left.

They took a circuitous route back to the Palace Hotel but didn’t detect any pursuit.

12th April 1925

Back At The Hotel
Back At The Hotel

Back At The Hotel:

02:00 AM

Back at the hotel they told Wes and Irma about the fight. Wes then examined what had been taken off the thugs. They had darts. With them were a few small vials of liquid.

After his chemical examination Wes confirmed that the liquid was 12 doses of Krait poison, a very, very virulent toxin derived from a snake.

Everyone then turned in. Things are hotting up and it’s only been a day.

12th April 1925

The Dark Mistress
The Dark Mistress

Looking For Penhurst & The Black Mistress:

08:00 AM

Gupta and Trent went over to the warehouse to relieve Joe and Greg who come back to meet the others.

As we met up at the hotel swapping news we see our guide in the lobby. Now accompanied by Lee Weng Chen, all 7 of us headed to the harbour area for another look at Ho Fong’s warehouse.

Lee Weng suggested that we check at the Post Office to look for Penhurst. While our bribes didn’t uncover anything we found out that letters for the Dark Mistress were sent ashore care of Ho Fong, thus confirming that they were linked. Another bribe confirmed that the last letter was received 10 days ago.

Further enquiries made at the harbour confirmed that the Dark Mistress only came in to port for a couple of hours about every 2 weeks. The last time was 10 days ago. It berthed near Ho Fong. So we elected to pass it once again. It was closed. We decided to wait until late in the evening before making any move.

This was a good thing because the Benny’s had finally worn off. Greg snored all the way back to the hotel. True to form he even scowled in his sleep.

Sir_Aubrey_Penhew_SmallMr Penhurst? Or Is It Sir Aubrey Penhew

13th April 1925

Entering Ho Fong’s Warehouse & Offices:

01:00 AM

Remembering our earlier findings we thought that the best access to Ho Fong’s warehouse would be from the grill below. We therefore got a boat and sailed beneath the jetty. We found a trapdoor into Fong’s place but it was bolted from the inside making it nearly impossible to saw through.

Instead we left the boat tethered near the jetty and went back to the office via street level. Trent picked the lock of one of large padlocked doors and all six of us went inside. We headed straight upstairs.

However as we ascended we noticed a loose step. We stopped to pry up the risers. When we had finished we found a hiding place large enough for several crates. After a quick look down from the stairwell we put the stair boards back and continued up to the office.

We saw a large door at the end of a corridor. We saw no lights and heard no guards so Trent picked the lock allowing us to walk into Ho Fong’s office. The first we noticed was that he had a collection of very good charts. They were naval quality which showed all the coastal features in minute detail.

We looked around further until we found a safe in the floor. Using Greg’s stethoscope Trent carefully worked out the safe combination and opened it.

Inside we found $600 Mexican silver Dollars, £400 X £5 notes, Sterling not Egyptian, and ¥77,000 Yen in a series of bearer bonds. In addition to the money there were also some ledgers contained within.

Trent immediately pocketed all the money and gold. The bearer bonds were placed in his backpack.

Trent could not read Chinese but did see that the ledgers had several names in them, Penhew, Arja Singh Mombasa, and Mortimer Whycroft of Cumcudgeree, Australia.

While Trent was doing that, Irma left the office to investigate the area below the stairs more carefully. This time Irma entered the hiding place. He didn’t just look from the stairs as he had done before. Inside there were lots of crates. He now also saw items on shelving. There were statues papers and paintings. All of them were mythos related trinkets, ghastly pictures or statuettes of horrible alien gods.

6 small crates were labelled AP – this could have been Aubrey Penhew from Egypt or our new quarry Penhurst, owner of the Dark Mistress. Of course they could be one and the same person too.

Lacking light and room Irma handed one crate up for the others to look at. When it was opened it was found to contain more of the same strange machine parts we had found in London.

Irma came up and took pictures of all the components. We then locked the safe.

Before we left we started a fire among a load of papers. We had already taken the money, ledgers and maps with us.

As we left, the place started to burn.

It lit up the night sky quite well, making a fine spectacle for all the citizens of Shanghai. We made our escape undetected. We only got a cab half of the way. T hen changed for another. No-one had followed us.

After checking on the warehouse we headed to our hotel.

Ho_Fong_SmallHo Fong – Chinese Connection Of Sir Penhew

14th April 1925

Looking At The Clues:

09:00 AM

In the morning Trent studied the ledger. While he was doing this Irma developed pictures of the machine parts to show Wesley who then pored over them for hours with his magnifying glass. However no matter how hard Wesley tried he just could not figure out what the parts were for.

Irma reverted to type, being a news hound he headed to the offices of the Shanghai Courier newspaper. It was not one of Hirst’s but was a reasonable broadsheet published in English.

The remainder of the group went back to Fong Imports. They watched as dozens of coolies cleared up the remaining damage from the burnt aftermath.

As they looked around, Joe and Gupta spied two men with binoculars lying down on a roof watching Fong’s warehouse.

Unfortunately they were too far away to challenge or talk to.

Journal Wesley

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