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First published in The World's News, Sydney, Australia, 4 Nov 1931

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2021
Version Date: 2021-04-11
Produced by Terry Walker Colin Choat and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright

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In 1931 Aidan de Brune wrote a series of stories for The World's News, Sydney, featuring an Australian Customs inspector by the name of Joe Porter.

The stories were given headline-style titles and sub-titles and printed with illustrated headpieces. Some included an in-text illustration. The byline under which the stories appeared was "A.D.B." The titles and publication dates were:

• Proof of the Pudding: The Dope in the Duff (8 Jul 1931)
• The Wedding Cake: Clever Drug-Running Ruse (12 Aug 1931)
• Wiles of a Heathen Chinee: Customs Officer Innocently Smuggles Opium (2 Sep 1931)
• Beautiful Girl Victimised: Cocaine Smuggler's Ruse (23 Sep 1931)
• The Elusive Mr. Chon: Smart Smuggling Scheme (4 Nov 1931)

The RGL editions of the Joe Porter stories were built from files found in the digital newspaper archive of the National Library of Australia. Thanks and credit go to the Australian bibliophile Terry Walker for locating these stories and making them available for publication in RGL.

—Roy Glashan, 7 April 2021


WHEN Customs Officer Joe Porter walked into the office at No. 1 Wharf, Circular Quay, Sydney, he received the message that Detective-Sergeant Westerham had been asking for him and had left the message to ring him up immediately he returned.

For some moments Porter hesitated. What did Sergeant Westerham want? He ran over the list of his activities for the past few days. So far as he could remember he had not deliberately stepped on the detective's mental toes.

With a shrug of his shoulders he turned to the telephone and rang up police headquarters. A few minutes' wait and Westerham came to the instrument:

"That Customs Officer Porter? Oh, yes, that you, Joe? Well, I can't talk now. Can you meet me up-town, usual place, in about half an hour? Right! Explain then!"

Hastily clearing up the few details that remained from his day's work, Porter sauntered up-town, to the café. He knew he had guessed right immediately he had entered the doors, for in a quiet corner was seated Sergeant Westerham, his satellite, Constable Malcolm, in close attendance.

Westerham, after a brief greeting, waited until the attendant had supplied Porter's requirements, then suddenly planked on the marble-topped table a cable-flimsy.

"What do you make of that, Joe Porter?" he asked.

Methodically the Customs man read the half-dozen words:—


"Well, what's the trouble?" he asked, perplexedly. "I guess there's a few dozen similar telegrams in Sydney like this one. People seem to think that any friend taking a sea voyage becomes automatically helpless, and wastes quite a lot of good splosh cabling round for him to be met and taken in charge."

"Who's Mr. Chon?"

"I don't know."

"I'd give a week's pay to get a line on Mr. Chon!" spluttered Westerham, explosively.

"He's not Chinese." The Customs man spoke suddenly. "There's not more than a hundred Chinese family names and 'Chon' isn't one, I'll swear."

"Only a hundred family names among five hundred million Chinese?" queried the sergeant, incredibly. "Go on!"

"True!" Porter scanned the flimsy again. "Where did you get this?"

"Raided 'Dingbats' Floriani yesterday," explained Westerham. "Didn't get a line on anything; someone had probably tipped him off; but Malcolm found that in the side-pocket of a jacket in the wardrobe. 'Dingbats' said that he wore the suit the previous day. Now look at the date." The sergeant's stubby forefinger jabbed at the flimsy. "See? Date the day before we raided him. I asked him who 'Mr. Chon' was, and he only grinned."

This was more serious. The dope merchants of Sydney are not in the habit of meeting incoming liners, unless rising at that unusually early hour is directly to their advantage. Again the Customs man scanned the few words. What meaning lay behind them?

"What do you want me to do?" he asked, at length. "Keep a watch for this Mr. Chon, or...."

Then a new light dawned on his puzzled brain, and he sat back in his chair, staring at the sergeant He wanted to laugh outright—loudly, uproariously.

"So that's it!" A grin gradually widened on his face, until it almost stretched from ear to ear. "Want to be at the wharf to welcome in the Maratui, eh, sergeant? Well, you've the freedom of the wharves. I can't keep you out. Only your guilty conscience can do that, eh? Kick up a shine when I go into the city after a suspect—and think I'll retaliate when you come on the wharf." He drank up his coffee and rose to his feet, still grinning broadly.

"Well, I'll get along," he concluded. "Just to be kind and polite, I'll add: Customs Inspector Joe Porter has the honor of requesting the company of Sergeant Westerham and Constable Malcolm to welcome to dock the Maratui—and 'Mr. Chon.'"

"Well, if you take it like that..." The sergeant spoke in obvious embarrassment.

"I do." Porter waved a lordly hand. "Thank heavens, I'm not of a jealous disposition. Come and do your bit, Saturday—but that ain't to say I'll spill the beans to you, if I get on to anything."

He turned to the door. He was determined to beat the Drug Squad to Mr. Chon, and bent his wits to the task. Who was Mr. Chon? For what reason had 'Dingbats' Floriani been cabled to meet him at the wharf?

During the intervening days, before the Maratui arrived in Sydney, Joe Porter gave a lot of thought to his problem. He journeyed into Chinatown and questioned several of his Chinese acquaintances regarding Mr. Chon. His inquiries met with no success; he only met confirmation of his theory that 'Chon' was not a Chinese family name.


Porter's inquiries in Chinatown were without result.

Incidentally he learned that Westerham was covering the same ground. Again he grinned, yet he was worried. The Maratui came in the next morning and he had not a single line on 'Mr. Chon'.

One of his first acts had been to consult the shipping list of passengers, on the boat. Mr. Chon's name did not figure there; yet that was not to say that he was not on board the boat. Always many names were missing from the list. The man might have booked at the last moment, after the lists had been made up; he might be aboard, under another name;

Sergeant Westerham and Constable Malcolm were on the wharf long before half-past seven the next morning. To their surprise they could find no signs of Customs-officer Porter. They were worried when eight o'clock drew near, and the inspector did not put in an appearance. The watchman informed them that Porter had been at the wharf very early that morning, soon after six, but he had not seen him for more than an hour.

'"Course, he's stolen a march on us," Constable Malcolm remarked bitterly, as he and Westerham watched the big ship draw into its berth. "Just what he would do. I'll bet anything he's on board now. Went down to quarantine and boarded her there. Yes, look there, sergeant. There he is—and he's got the cheek to be waving to us!"

"Of course!" Westerham echoed. "We give him the dinkum dope and he collars all the kudos!"

There was no mistaking Porter, standing close to the bulwarks, waving to them. Malcolm stared across the harbor, and Westerham deliberately turned his back. Yet, when the gangway was lowered, they could not resist being the first on board.

"Well?" The sergeant's face was flushed, angrily. "Where's this Mr. Chon?"

"'Mister Chon's right!" Porter's grin almost exasperated the police officer beyond endurance. "Come along, Westerham, and I'll give you a special introduction."

He dragged the reluctant sergeant to the crew's quarters. In one of the mess-rooms they found a ship's officer standing guard over a sailor. Beside the seated man was a large, locked box.

"Very good of you to relieve me, so that I could welcome Sergeant Westerham aboard." Porter was all affability. "Oh, by the way—Sergeant Westerham and Constable Malcolm—Mr. Varney, one of the ship's officers."

"So you say this is Mr. Chon?" Westerham stood before the seated man. He turned suddenly on the Customs man. "Say, who handcuffed him?"

"Captain's orders, sergeant. I found him and reported the matter to the captain while the ship was in quarantine. He ordered his arrest and detention until you could take him over. By the way, his name's not 'Mr. Chon'; he's Serge Morayitch; says he's a Russian."

"What the—" Westerham stared.

"Course you couldn't guess the solution of your problem. Have to have something of an education to get at these things." Porter did not explain that the ship's doctor had "educated" him on the subject a bare half-hour previous. "It's like this. I went down to meet the ship, in quarantine, because I fancied that if anything passed it would be somewhere there. And I was right, too."

"Think yourself mighty clever—" commenced the sergeant; but Porter interrupted:

"Oh, come on, Westerham! Take your man and let Mr. Varney have his dainty bracelets. He's a busy man when the ship's at the wharf."

Dazedly the police officer removed the ship's handcuffs, substituting a pair from his own pocket. Then he turned his attention to the box. He tried to open it, but it was locked. A rather strained smile on his face, he turned to the Customs man.

"Seems you've scored, Joe. Well, I'll buy! Suppose this is the dope? Now, straight. Where's Mr. Chon?"

"Here." Porter placed his hand on the box. "This box is full of Chon—only your cable flimsy didn't spell his name quite right. It should be—"

He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, and handed it to the dazed sergeant. Westerham read, half-aloud, yet did not understand:—


"Simple, ain't it?" Porter chortled. "Leave out them little figures and you get 'CHON.' They put a 'Mr.' before it to puzzle you, if you got on to the cable; But it didn't puzzle me."

He waited a few minutes, but the bewilderment on Westerham's face did not abate.

"Don't you understand?" The Customs man was impatient. "Why, they teach it in the schools! 'Chon's' the chemical name for heroin!"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.