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With the skirt. But a woman, that's no reason for killing a man, is it, sir? If it had been money now. Kind of dandy, say a shop clerk or something like that? Then he replied, 'Well, yes, I did see him a few times with a tallish fellow who was rather neatly dressed in a blue gown. I asked Seng-san who he was and what they were talking about so busily, but he just told me to shut up and mind my own business.

Which I did. They met after dark, in the front yard of the temple. He had no beard, I think. Only a moustache. I hope you told all you know. For your own sake! But somebody went out of his way to make Ah-liu the scapegoat. He is safer in jail, for the time being. Tell the headman that the session is adjourned till tomorrow, Sergeant. I must change now, for I promised my ladies I would take the noon-rice with them, on this festive day.

Afterwards, Hoong, I shall go with you and the headman to the deserted temple, to view the scene of the double murder. As for you, Ma Joong, I want you to go this afternoon to the north-west quarter where the Tartars, Uigurs and other barbarians live. Since the murderer used a Tartar axe, he may well have been a Tartar, or a Chinese citizen who associates with those foreigners.

You have to be very familiar with those axes with crooked handles to use them as effectively as the murderer did. Just go round the low-class eating-houses where the rabble hangs out, and make discreet inquiries! Tulbee was an Uigur prostitute whom Ma Joong had violently fallen in love with six months before.

It had been a brief affair, for he had soon tired of her rather overwhelming charms, while she proved to have an incurable fondness for rancid butter-tea and an equally incurable aversion to washing herself properly. When he had, moreover, discovered that she had a steady lover already, a Mongolian camel driver whom she had given two boys of four and seven, he ended the relationship in an elegant manner. He used his savings for buying her out, and established her in an open-air soup kitchen of her own. The camel driver married her, Ma Joong acting as best man at a wedding feast of roast lamb and Mongolian raw liquor that lasted till dawn and gave him the worst hangover he had had for years.

After a brief pause, Judge Dee said cautiously, 'As a rule those people are very reticent concerning the affairs of their own race. However, since you know the girl well, she might talk more freely to you. Anyway, it's worth a try-out. Come and report to me when you are back. Ma Joong had ordered a soldier to bring a large jug of wine from the nearest tavern. Now I'd better change into old clothes, so as not to be too conspicuous. Good luck with the search in the temple! The old 23 housemaster informed him that, after the noon-rice, the judge had gone to the back garden, together with his three ladies.

The sergeant nodded and walked on. He was the only male member of the personnel of the tribunal allowed to enter Judge Dee's women's quarters, and he was very proud of that privilege. It was fairly cool in the garden, for it had been laid out expertly by a previous magistrate whose hobby was landscape gardening. High oak and acacia trees spread their branches over the winding footpath that was paved with smooth black stones of irregular shape.

At every turn one heard the murmur of the brook that meandered through the undergrowth, here and there broken by clusters of flowering shrubs of carefully matched colours. The last turn brought the sergeant to a small clearing, bordered by mossy rocks. The Second and Third Ladies, sitting on a rustic stone bench under high, rustling bamboos, were gazing at the lotus pond farther down, on the garden's lowest level. Beyond was the outer wall, camouflaged by cleverly spaced pine trees. In the centre of the lotus pond stood a small water-pavilion, its pointed roof with the gracefully upturned eaves supported by six slender, red-lacquered pillars.

Judge Dee and his First Lady were inside, bent over the table by the balustrade. The judge is going to write,' the Second Lady informed Hoong. It was her task to supervise the household accounts. The Third Lady, slender in her long-sleeved gown of blue silk, gathered under the bosom by a red sash, wore her hair in an elaborate high chignon which set off to advantage her sensitive, finely chiselled face. Her main interests were painting and calligraphy, while she was also fond of outdoor sports, especially horse-riding.

She was in charge of the tuition of Judge Dee's children. Sergeant Hoong gave them a friendly nod and descended the stone stairs leading down to the lotus pond. He went up the curved marble bridge that spanned the pond. The water-pavilion was built on the highest point of the curve. Judge Dee was standing in front of the table, a large writing-brush in his hand. He looked speculatively at the sheet of red paper spread out on the table top. His First Lady was busily preparing ink on the small side table. She had an oval, regular face, and her hair was done up in three heavy coils, fixed by a narrow, golden hairband.

The tailored robe of blue and white embroidered silk showed her fine figure, inclining to portliness now that she was celebrating her thirty-ninth birthday. The judge had married her when she was nineteen and he twenty. She was the eldest daughter of a high official, his father's best friend. Having received an excellent classical education and being a woman of strong personality, she directed the entire household with a firm hand.

Now she stopped rubbing the ink-cake on the stone, and motioned to her husband that it was ready. Judge Dee moistened the brush, pushed his right sleeve back from his wrist, then wrote the character for 'long life', nearly four feet high, in one powerful sweeping movement. Sergeant Hoong, who had been waiting on the bridge till the judge was ready, now stepped into the pavilion. They clapped their hands excitedly. I must be leaving now, for I have to go and have a look at the deserted temple.

Some vagabonds had a scuffle there last night. If there's time, I shall call on the Abbess in the Hermitage and tell her that I am planning to post a regular guardpost on the hill,' 'Please do that! That would save her coming such a long way on the days she teaches us flower arrangement. His ladies liked the Abbess, who was one of the few nice friends they had in Lan-fang. I'll try to be back as early as possible.

VI Judge Dee's large official palankeen was standing ready in the front yard, eight sturdy bearers by its side. The headman was also waiting there, accompanied by ten constables on horseback. Judge Dee entered the palankeen, followed by Sergeant Hoong. While they were being carried to the east gate, the sergeant asked : 'Why should the murderer have gone to all the trouble of severing the heads of his victims, sir? And why switch the bodies? At the same time he wanted to conceal the fact that there had been a second murder, and he wanted to hide the identity of his second victim.

But there could be also other, less obvious reasons. However, let's not worry about that yet. Our first task is to discover Seng-san's body, and the head of the other victim. Those must be hidden somewhere in or near the deserted temple. But the headman raised his whip and barked at them to stay behind. A little further on an ornamental stone arch at the foot of the wooded mountain slope indicated the beginning of the flight of steps leading uphill. The headman and 25 the constables dismounted.

While the bearers were lowering Judge Dee's palankeen to the ground, he said to the sergeant quickly : 'Remember, Hoong, that our men are not to know exactly what we are looking for! I'll tell them it's a large box or something like that. But it's the quickest way. Behind the temple there's a footpath that goes down the slope in an easy descent to the highway, and from there it's but a short walk to the north city gate. But then it takes you more than an hour to reach the top of the hill. Only hunters and woodgatherers use that road. The riff-raff that stay in the temple overnight go up these stairs.

Half-way up the judge ordered a brief rest, for he had noticed that the sergeant was breathing heavily. Arrived on the top of the stairs, they saw a weed-overgrown clearing among tall trees. On the other side rose a triple temple gate of grey stone with, on either side, a formidable-looking high wall. I haven't asked them yet whether they heard or saw anything last night. I have to admit, however, that from a technical point of view the Indian builders did a good job. Those two towers are absolutely symmetrical. I gather that this temple was built three hundred years ago, and it is still in a remarkably good state of repair.

Where did you find Ah-liu, headman? On the right was a piece of wasteland, strewn with large boulders. The judge noticed that it was slightly cooler here than down in the city. The warm air was filled with the incessant strident chirping of cicadas. It is said that there are many poisonous snakes. My conjecture is that he meant to take to his heels after he had murdered Seng-san.


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But he stumbled in the dark over that tree root. Drunk as he was, the fall knocked him out completely,' 'I see. Let's go inside. Judge Dee went up the 26 three broad stone stairs, stepped over the high threshold, and looked curiously at the cavernous, half-dark hall. On the right and left a row of six heavy stone pillars supported the thick rafters high above, from which dust-laden cobwebs hung down like so many grey pennons. At the far end, against the back wall, the judge saw vaguely an altar table of solid ebony, more than twelve feet long and about five feet high.

In the side wall was a small narrow door, and above it, high up in the wall, a square window, boarded up with planks. Pointing at the window, Judge Dee asked, 'Can't your men open that, headman? It's too dark in here! They took two halberds from it. With those they set to work on the boarded-up window. While they were busy, Judge Dee walked on to the centre of the hall and silently surveyed it, slowly caressing his long sidewhiskers.

The clammy, oppressive air seemed to clog up his lungs. Except for the holes bored at regular intervals in the wall for placing burning torches in, there was nothing left to suggest the orgies that had taken place there years ago, yet the hall emanated a subtle atmosphere of evil. Suddenly the judge had the uncanny feeling that unseen eyes were fixing him with a hostile stare. Seeing the leer freeze on the headman's face, he asked, more friendly, 'Where do you think those ashes on the floor behind the pillars come from, headman?

They come to stay here overnight, especially during the cold months, for the thick walls protect them against rain and snow. The ashes were lying in a shallow round cavity, hollowed out in one of the flagstones. Around the cavity a wreath of lotus petals had been carved into the stone. The judge noticed that this particular flagstone was located in the exact centre of the floor.

The eight flags surrounding it were marked by incised letters of a foreign script. The boards that had covered the window at the back of the hall fell down with a thud. Two black shapes hurtled down from the rafters. One came flapping past Judge Dee's head with an eerie, piercing screech. Then the bats made for the dark cavity over the front entrance. Sergeant Hoong had been studying the floor in front of the altar table.


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  8. He righted himself and said, 'Now that we have better light, sir, you can see clearly that there was a veritable pool of blood here. But the thick layer of dust and refuse has absorbed it. And there are so many confused footprints all over that it's hard to draw any conclusions. Headman, get your men around me!

    We shall begin inside. I'll take the left wing with Sergeant Hoong and three men, the headman takes the right with the others. It must have been a fairly large box, so look for hidden cup27 boards, stone flags that show signs of having been taken up recently, trap doors and so on.

    Get to work! Besides the two long halberds which they had put back there, the niche contained one Tartar double axe, an exact replica of the murder weapon. They entered a narrow corridor about twenty-five feet long, with four door-openings on either side. These proved to give access to long, narrow rooms, each lit by a gaping window; the paper-covered latticework had disappeared long ago.

    Hey, come here, you! They don't seem to fit closely. Your two colleagues can inspect the floors of the cells opposite. Three could be raised easily. We can skip the other cells. The murderer will have gone on to the tower, to see whether there's a hollow space under the floor.

    He—' 'Come and have a look, please, Your Honour! Six tiles in the centre of the cell had been removed and neatly piled up in the corner. Judge Dee rubbed his finger over the one on top : it was covered with a thin film of dust. In some cells the tiles had been neatly replaced, in others they had been carelessly thrown into a corner.

    He passed through the door-opening at the end of the corridor and entered the spacious octagonal hall that constituted the ground floor of the west tower. Here the floor had not been tampered with. You need a pickaxe to make a hole here. But look at the wainscoting! Come along, Sergeant! We'll climb up to the top, to get some fresh air! Judge Dee stood at the low balustrade.

    Folding his hands in his wide sleeves, he stared at the mass of green treetops below. After a while he turned to the sergeant and said, with a smile : 'Sorry that I was so short with you downstairs, Hoong. This is really a most vexing case. Now we have obtained our first clue, but that seems to have no bearing at all upon our murder! This temple was searched, and very thoroughly too. But not for a place to hide a body and a severed head, and not yesterday, but some time ago. The object of the search was something small, not larger than a few inches square, I'd say. Then he asked, 'How do you know that the object they were looking for was so small, sir?

    Then he went on to search the empty space behind the wainscoting, and that is only a few inches from the brick wall, as you saw just now. One had much experience in this work; he tried to cover up his searching by carefully replacing the tiles. The other didn't care, he just threw the discarded tiles into a corner, and tore down the wainscoting.

    But we know that Seng-san used to frequent this temple. There might be a link between the murder and the search, even though the search took place long before the murder was committed. That's a possibility we must seriously consider. Perhaps Seng-san and the other man were murdered because they found what a second party had been looking for in vain!

    You'll have noticed that there isn't a drop of blood anywhere, nor any signs of blood having been wiped up. Quite a job, for from here you can see clearly how large the temple grounds are. Well, we'd better go down again. The walls had no wainscoting, and the bricks had not been tampered with. The headman was standing in the hall, wiping his dirt-smeared, moist face with his neckcloth. His men were standing around him, talking in whispers. By the way, where does that narrow door near the altar over there lead to?

    I saw no back gate in the surrounding wall when I was standing on the top floor of the west tower. Formerly there was a gate in the wall, but it has been bricked up for many years. Take all your men to the garden. Look for a spot where some digging has been done recently. In the meantime we shall pay a visit to the Hermitage, Sergeant. To drag Seng-san's body all the way outside, smear blood on Ahliu's jacket, then bury the body and the other man's head somewhere in that dense wilderness—that isn't exactly a one-man job!

    Two murderers, and no motive! I don't like this at all, Hoong. Judge Dee resumed: 'In times of political unrest, Buddhist monks often bury golden statues and other valuable objects of worship in order to prevent their being stolen. If there should be such a buried treasure in this deserted temple, then we would have a sound motive. The only trouble is that I have never heard a buried treasure mentioned in connection with this particular place!

    Suppose that the man then engaged three or four scoundrels to help him to make a secret search for the hidden treasure? If Seng-san and the other man were among them, and tried to keep the whole loot for themselves, that would give the others a good motive for murdering them. This theory would establish a logical link between the search and the murders. The judge halted and turned round. The hill goes down rather steeply directly behind the back wall.

    That's why the path leading down to the highway makes all those sharp turns. We must try to learn more about the history of the temple, Hoong. When we are back in the tribunal, I want you to investigate the old files in the chancery. Find out when exactly the authorities ordered the inmates to evacuate the temple, who the Abbot was and where he went, and whether there was ever any rumour about buried treasure. The roof was decked with green-glazed tiles; the curved ridge ended in upturned points shaped like dragon-tails. They heard faintly the quacking of ducks.

    Except for that there was only the constant drone of the cicadas. Sergeant Hoong rattled the knocker of polished copper on the red-lacquered gate. After he had repeated this several times, the peephole opened and a girl's face appeared behind the grating. She studied the two visitors suspiciously with her large, alert eyes, then asked sharply : 'What do you want? Evidently she was the maid, for she wore a simple dark-blue jacket and wide trousers of the same material. Judge Dee noticed that she had a common but rather pretty face; there were dimples in her round 30 cheeks.

    The grey flagstones of the yard were scrupulously clean and had been sprinkled with water to keep the air cool. On the left stood a small building of red brick, on the right a larger one with a veranda. The walls of the temple hall at the back were plastered a spotless white and the pillars supporting the curved eaves were lacquered red.

    Beside the well in the corner stood a rack carrying a row of potted plants, and on the highest shelf a few porcelain vases with tastefully arranged flowers. The judge recognized the style of flower arrangement practised by his wives and guessed that these were the work of the Abbess. The subtle fragrance of orchids drifted in the air. The judge reflected that, after the deserted temple, these refined surroundings were a pleasant change indeed.

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    If you insist, I shall. Some vagabonds were making trouble in the deserted temple. About midnight. Indicating the buildings with a sweeping gesture, she went on : 'All this I have to keep clean, all alone by myself, mind you! It's a very small temple, but there are a lot of knick-knacks on the altar that need to be dusted.

    Do you think I feel like sitting up late at night after a day's hard work? We don't eat meat or fish— worse luck! The Abbess lets me keep them, for the eggs. They are ever so cute, the small ones. Come along, Hoong. Let's see how things are progressing at the temple. The judge shrugged his shoulders. Well, I am glad to have seen the Hermitage.

    The elegant atmosphere confirms the high opinion my ladies have of the Abbess. They jumped up when they saw Judge Dee enter the courtyard. I'd swear that no one has been into that accursed wilderness over there for a long, long time! There isn't even a pathway. And there are no traces of 31 any digging that we could see. The other men are still trying to get through by skirting the outer wall. They would have run the risk of meeting other vagabonds, and those are very inquisitive folk.

    The garden is our best bet, I think. They shook their heads. The judge rose. We'd better go back to the tribunal. Seal the doors of the hall, headman. Leave two men here to guard the place. And see to it that they are relieved at nightfall. In that disreputable attire he would attract no undue attention in the north-west city ward, the quarter assigned to the Tartars, Indians, Uigurs and other foreign barbarians.

    It was a long walk, but he made good progress, for most of the shops were closed for the afternoon siesta and there were few people about. After he had passed the Drum Tower, however, the narrow streets became more lively : having hurriedly gobbled down their noodles at noon, the poor people living there had at once to set to work again, to scrape together the few coppers for their evening meal. Picking his way through the motley crowd of Central-Asian coolies and Chinese hawkers jostling one another in the smelly back streets, he at last reached the alley where Tulbee had established her soup kitchen.

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    He saw her from afar, standing in front of the oven and scolding her elder boy, who was stirring the fire under the huge iron cauldron. Her other boy was clinging to her skirt. It was too early yet for customers. He sauntered up to her. But you look like nothing on earth! Has your boss kicked you out? I always told you that you are far too good a man to serve as thief-catcher.

    You should—' 'Hush! He promptly began to bawl at the top of his voice. His brother gave Ma Joong a scornful look, then spat into the fire. Ma Joong noticed the all too familiar smell of rancid butter, and he saw that her nose wasn't clean. She was getting fat too. He sent up a silent prayer of thanks to the merciful Heaven for having spared him all this! He groped in his sleeve and brought out a string of coppers.

    But she raised her hand and said, pouting : 'Shame on you, Ma Joong! You offering me money for it, you of all people! The boys'll mind the shop and—' 'I told you I am out on a job! Let's sit down on that bench there. It's nice to be out of the business, of course, but.

    And you know how I feel about you, Ma Joong!

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    He pressed her down on the bench and took a seat close by her. I am in a hurry, honestly! I am supposed to find out about a quarrel some of your people had with Seng-san, that's a bully from the quarter near the east gate. A real bad quarrel, you know. Seng-san got his head chopped off. My boss just wants to prevent further trouble; he likes to keep an orderly house, as they say in the business.

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    Come on, think girl! Didn't you overhear your customers mention a fight in the old temple, outside the east gate?

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    Then she said, slowly, 'The only big thing I heard of recently is the killing of a Tartar chieftain, over the border. In settlement of a blood-feud. Four streets down lives a weird woman, a Tartar sorceress. Tala, her name is. A real witch, knows past and future. If ever one of our people wants to start something big, he consults her first. She knows everything, Ma Joong, absolutely everything!

    But that doesn't mean she tells what she knows! The people are getting sour with her, nowadays. They maintain she gives out wrong advice, perhaps on purpose. If they weren't so afraid of her, they'd. It's a bad neighbourhood! Thanks ever so much! After he had pointed out a somewhat larger house half-way down that had a pointed roof vaguely reminiscent of a Tartar tent, the boy scurried away. The only people about were three Tartars, squatting with their backs against the wall opposite the house of the sorceress.

    They wore baggy leather trousers with broad belts; their muscular torsos were bare. The midday sun shone on their round heads, closely shaven but for one long lock of hair at the back. When Ma Joong passed them, one said in broken Chinese to his companions, 'She even receives Chinese scum nowadays!

    In the dark interior he vaguely discerned two shapes huddled over a small fire that was burning in a hole in the floor of stamped earth. Since they didn't pay the slightest attention to him, he sat down on a low stool just inside the door opening. He couldn't see much, for his eyes had not yet adjusted themselves after the glare of the sun outside. The cool air was scented with an outlandish incense that reminded him of a 34 pharmacy; he thought it might be camphor wood.

    The hooded figure squatting with her back towards him kept up a long monologue in a foreign, guttural tongue. It was an old crone, clad in a Tartar felt coat. The woman facing her on the other side of the fire seemed to be seated on a low chair. He couldn't make out her shape, for she was entirely enveloped in a long, shapeless cloak that hung from her shoulders down to the floor.

    Her head was bare; a mass of long, black hair cascaded down over her shoulders and half screened her downcast face. The sorceress was listening to the voice of the old crone, which droned on and on.

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    Ma Joong folded his arms. Settling down for a long wait, he surveyed the scanty furnishings. Against the wall behind the sorceress stood a low, roughly-made plank bed, flanked by two bamboo tabourets. On one stood a brass hand-bell with a long, elaborately moulded handle. From the wall above the bed two large rolling eyes stared down at him. They belonged to a more than lifesize picture of a fierce god, painted in full colours. His long hair stood on end, forming a kind of nimbus round the large head. One arm brandished a strange-looking ritual weapon; in his left hand he held a cup made of a human skull.

    The obese red body was naked but for a tiger skin wound round the loins. A writhing snake hung round his shoulders. Was it the effect of the flickering fire, or did the gaping mouth with the lolling tongue move in a derisive sneer? He got a fleeting impression that it wasn't a picture at all, but a statue.

    He couldn't be sure, for behind the monstrous deity there were only dark shadows. Annoyed, he averted his eyes from the repulsive sight and scanned the rest of the room. In the far corner lay a heap of rubbish. Animal skins were piled up against, the side wall, beside it stood a large water container of beaten brass. Feeling increasingly ill at ease, he drew his jacket closer round his shoulders, for it was actually getting chilly now. Trying to think of other, more pleasant, things, he reflected that Tulbee wasn't so bad, after all.

    He ought to look her up some day and take her a few presents. Then he thought of the woman called Jade, and of her mysterious message which they had found in the ebony box. Had she been saved after all, and where could she be now? Jade was a beautiful name, suggesting cool, aloof beauty. He had a feeling that she was a most desirable woman. The voice of the old crone had ceased at last. A white hand appeared from the folds of the cloak enveloping the sorceress. She stirred up the fire with a thin stick, then drew with the red-glowing tip a few diagrams in the ashes, whispering to the crone.

    The old woman nodded eagerly. She laid a few greasy coppers beside the fire, scrambled up with a grunt and disappeared through the felt door-curtain. Ma Joong went to get up to introduce himself, but the sorceress lifted her head, and he sat down again abruptly. Two large, burning eyes were staring at him.

    The same eyes that had glared at him that morning in the street. She had a very beautiful but cold face, and her bloodless lips were curved in a disdainful sneer. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. It is a fiction based on the real character of Judge Dee Ti Jen-chieh or Di Renjie , a county magistrate and statesman of the Tang court, who lived roughly — The book also has a postscript where the author places all the novels and stories into a coherent timeline for his semi-fictional character.

    Judge Dee, a magistrate in Imperial China is a crime solver, a detective. In these stories Judge Dee solves a series of un-related crimes from different times in his career. There is no over-all narrative to these stories. Listen to this article Thanks for reporting this video! Our magic isn't perfect You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.


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    8. The cover is visually disturbing. The cover is not a good choice. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Save For Later. Create a List. Summary Judge Dee presided over his imperial Chinese court with a unique brand of Confucian justice. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. Start your free 30 days.