Twice in the Graveyard Watch
Here is a Treasure to Attract Monte Cristo, and a Cave to Lure Ali Baba
BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR
THE Heavens may open and the floods descend; the tragic consequences
of human folly may set ugly specters stalking abroad but;
even in the midst of battle, pestilence, murder and sudden death, a healthy man must eat when he is hungry.
So Billy Stone busied himself in the Wasp’s galley. He wasn’t worrying. He was saddened a little without being depressed. If anything, he was angry—and determined. It was not his idea of a happy ending to lie stark and stiff in the forest or drift dead on the tide like his partner. But neither could he entertain the idea of drawing back now' that the going promised to be rough. There was a dirty mess to be cleaned up here on Helmcken and the cleaningup seemed to be quite definitely his job—more so now than ever. He felt as if he somehow had a debt to pay on behalf of Markham. His own vital interest seemed even less than the obligation.
So he cooked and ate, and meanwhile pondered, without getting any light on what might come next, nor what his next move logically should be. While he was thus engaged the police launch from Campbell River drew up alongside, then Molter’s launch with Joe, his partner and the Scandinavian. And finally a strange cruiser which sidled up against the Wasp and made fast to her bow and stern. Through a porthole in this craft, to Stone’s amazement, he saw Martha Powell’s face, wearing a strained, anxious look. She put her fingers on her lips and beckoned him to come aboard.
There were two men on this trim, raised deck cruiser. They sat down on the top deck and lit pipes. Beyond a nod and a brief “howdy do,” they paid no attention when Billy stepped aboard and went down the companion ladder.
MARTHA met him at the foot of the steps. She put both hands on his shoulders, looked long and earnestly into his face before she kissed him with a passion that set Stone’s blood dancing. Yet that shadow never left her face and there was a suspicious hint of wetness in her eyes.
“Is Joe Molter on the Arethusa?” she asked. “I thought I saw him look over the rail as you came aboard.” “Yes. He just came from his camp. Why? And how come you to be here?”
“I don’t want him to see me,” she confessed. “That’s why I kept inside. I heard about your partner getting
killed. They wired in to the coroner and the police and there was a lot of talk. I just had to come,
Bill. I’m scared stiff something will happen to you. Something will happen you if you stay around Helmcken Island.
Billy, it isn’t worth while.”
“Sometimes a man há’, to go through with a thing he has started, whether it’s worth while or not,” he answered quietly.
“But what are you scared of? Look here, you don’t get away from me this time without telling me exactly what’s on your mind.”
“I don’t want to get away from you, ever,” she sighed, and lay passively within his encircling arms.
“I’d be willing to stick right at your elbow from now on,
Billum, if we could just put about two hundred miles between us and this place by snapping our fingers.”
“Well,” he said tenderly, “I’d be willing as far as the first part goes. But that’s not
telling me exactly what has frightened you this way.” “Joe did—the day you left Seattle. You remember we met him when you were getting a car? Well, he came back to the house later in the evening,” she said. “I think he must be crazy. He acted like a crazy man. You know he always had quite a crush on me, Bill?”
I KNEW he did once,” Stone replied. “But I thought he’d got over it long ago.”
“So did I,” she murmured. “But evidently not. He’s been dropping in at the house more or less the last three months. I always liked Joe—only not the way he wanted me to like him. I thought he understood that well enough. But somehow or other Papa Powell began to take an interest in Joe’s case. Joe’s made some money. At least he has made that sort of impression on dad. The pressure began to grow. I didn’t say anything to you. It only amused me. I didn’t take it seriously. Then the day you left Seattle to take up this wreck thing, Joe came as I told you. He asked me to marry him. Insisted that I must. Got quite excited about it. And when I managed to make it quite plain that there wasn’t the ghost of a show he—well, he simply went wild. He raved. I never saw a man in such a state. Before he got through he had assured me with the most frantic earnestness that he’d wipe you off the map. He hinted all sorts of dark, mysterious things. I can’t begin to describe the way he talked and acted. It was like the raving of a maniac. Only when he did calm down he apologized for frightening me; but he came back from the door to repeat that I might just as well forget about you, because you were done. He wouldn’t explain what he meant by that. But it sounded like a threat. And he seemed to fairly gloat when he was putting forward these hints and threats. He’d do any-
thing to you, Billy. I know it."
“Was that what worried you so?” Billy asked. “Why didn’t you tell me at Campbell River?”
“I wanted to—intended to when I wrote you to come,”
she confessed. “And then I was afraid to, for fear you’d come back here and start something. It did seem childish.”
“And it is childish,” Billy soothed her. “Joe can’t do anything to me, and I don’t believe he’d want to. You know he always was like a tornado for a few minutes when he lost his temper. But I’rn as good a man as he is if it did come to a clash. I go armed around here, besides. I’m much less worried about what Joe might try to do to me in a spasm of jealousy than I am about other things that go on here at Helmcken Island. Hang it all, Mart, if it was childish to warn me of Joe Molter at Campbell River wasn’t it even more so to hire a boat and come all the way here to tell me now?”
“It seemed a good deal more significant when I heard that your friend Markham had been murdered,” she shivered a little. “I am afraid of Joe Molter. There’s no use talking, Bill. I know how devilish he looked and acted. He’d do anything. Maybe he mistook Markham for you. If you’re going to be in danger of that sort I want to be with you.”
“You couldn’t scandalize everybody by staying here with me offhand,” Billy smiled down at her.
“There’s a Church of England minister at Rock Bay,” Martha whispered against his breast.
Billy stood with one arm around her, stroking her hair. He was sorely tempted.
“You’d want me to drop this job,” he muttered. “And I can’t. Don’t you sabe what it means to me, Martha, to clear myself of this wrecLand robbery? They’re trying to hang this bullion theft on.me now. There’s more than just a jealous man camping on my trail. I’ve got to go through with this, or at least try.”
“I’d like you to quit, Bill,” she said softly, after a brief silence. “I’ll have my heart in my mouth until it’s over. Do you imagine it’s nice for me to think of them holding an inquest on you? But I’m not yellow. I’ll do whatever you say. If I can’t help I won’t tty to hinder. If you’ll only be careful.”
Stone stood for a little while holding her close to him. Then said he:
“You put me in a hard place, old girl, and I’ve got to lay down the law to you. You have to go back to Campbell River. I have to go on with this. If, in a week or ten
days, I get nowhere, and the people who are backing me are satisfied, I’ll quit. We’ll get mai ried and make a fresh start somewhere. We have waited long enough, haven’t we?”
“Yes,” Martha murmured agreement. “Too long. I’ve only begun to realize that. Oh, Bill, Idon’t like it. I don’t want to be a cry-baby. But I’m afraid—for you. I don’t like it—I don’t.” “Neither do I, much,” Stone admitted. “But it’s got to be done.”
“ ‘From out the mesh of fate our heads we thrust
We can’t do what we would but what we must,’ ” Martha quoted plaintively. “Ho, Stone!”
A voice from the Arethusa's rail broke in. Billy put his head out the hatch. The Rock Bay constable beckoned him.
“Inquest’s on. Come up. You’re wanted.”
“I’ve got to go,” he said to Martha. “Go straight home. Don’t
worry. Any time I have a chance I’ll send you word.” “You’ll be careful, won’t you, Bill?” She clung to him for a second.
“Careful!” he echoed. “Careful is my middle name. I’ll be so darned careful I’ll sidestep my own shadow. You’ll see. I’ll come out right side up. I always do. So-long, honeybunch.”
HE TURNED at the head of the ship’s ladder. The launch was swinging free of the IFosp, the exhaust of her motor beating like a snare drum. She bore off southward. And there wasn't even a wave of Martha’s hand. Stone turned to face along the Arethusa's deck. Joe Molter stood looking along the rail at him. Joe nodded.
“Kinda tough thing to happen to Markham,” he said casually. “Wonder how it happened? Kinda creepy to think of somebody around here bumping him off like that. Helmcken’ll get a bad rep if this rough stuff keeps on.”
“Liable to,” Stone returned. Fresh from that conversation with Martha Powell he felt a quick stirring of anger against Molter for so disturbing her, a touch of contempt for a man who blustered and threatened an absent lover. But he no more than exchanged those brief sentences than he was called before the empanelled jury backed by a little knot of witnesses, all clustered around the Wasp's dinghy with the dead man huddled in the bottom.
How little one man counted in the general scheme, Billy Stone reflected as he listened to the inquiry. Forward the great crane swung slings of dripping cargo up from where the divers worked in the submerged holds. The winches puffed and whirred. A tug lay by pouring black smoke from her funnel, getting ready to tow away two heavy-loaded scows. Industry proceeded in spite of death and disaster. Markham’s life, his own, the life of any single one there counted for so little in the unremitting mass effort—yet the mass effort was made up of individual efforts. That was why, Billy surmised, a man couldn’t lie down on the job without a penalty because of the mass pressure behind him, unseen, perhaps never even comprehended, but a driving force always. Always something to be lived up to, to be tarried on—countless little necessary jobs making up the one big job -which was life itself.
He roused out of this abstraction. The coroner summoned him by name. He was sworn. He identified his partner. Gave a full account of his own movements.
The Rock Bay constable took him in hand for a minute or two. Afterward Billy stood by, alert. Man by man they' testified, not to anything of far-reaching importance, but to simple facts. No one remotely connected with the affair, having acquaintance with the dead man, was overlooked. The watch that saw and rescued the masterless boat: the wharfinger from Salmon Bay who saw Markham bring Stone to the steamer and go away in the Wasp alone; Molter, the Swede and Perez, who saw'him last alive-who in fact conversed with Markham on their own float late the evening before. The constable had them all tabbed. He put scores of questions. None'shed light on either the nature or motive of the killing, nor gave the faintest clue to a possible murderer. That remained a blank. No one even hazarded a guess. In the end the only possible verdict was rendered by the jury: “Death by wounding at the hands of some person or persons unknown.”
ONLY when it was over did Stone realize that neither the mate nor the constable had once mentioned the bow and arrow. Why? It was an important point. He got the constable’s ear and asked him. That worthy shrugged his shoulders. He glanced about to see that no one was within hearing.
“Don’t do to get romantic,” said he, in a low tone. “Take a tip from me. Keep that arrow stuff dark for the present. Might ’a’ been a knife. If it was a bowman—” He spread his hands in a gesture of indecision.
“Keep your weather eye peeled around here, Stone,” he concluded quietly'. "You don’t tell all you know. Neither
do I. There’s a few queer kinks to this whole business. Y'ou going to stick around Helmcken?”
“Yes,” Stone informed him curtly.
“All right,” the constable nodded. “I’m cornin’ back to-morrow to talk things over with you.”
Markham’s body was wrapped in a canvas, lowered to
the police launch for shipment to Seattle. The bloodstained dinghy was dropped astern of the Wasp. And as Billy prepared to follow overside he paused by the Arelhusa's rail, his eye caught by the sharp bow of the green speedster showing from under its canvas housing. Markham had been right—the craft Billy had found hauled up in the cove was the one that now stood in chocks on the deck. But he couldn’t establish any connection. The green boat might be an implement of piracy; it might be a perfectly innocent part of the Arethusa's equipment. It was merely another tantalizing angle of affairs. He stood looking at it, wondering if it would be prudent to quiz a deckhand, or perhaps the mate, about this green packet.
And while he hesitated by the rail a short, thick-bodied man in blue trousers and khaki shirt, a benevolent-looking individual with the butt of an unlighted cigar clamped in one corner of his mouth sidled up, laid elbows on the rail and appeared to gaze earnestly down into the green depths overside. In reality he was addressing Billy Stone without looking at him, speaking in a very discreet tone out of one corner of his mouth.
“Don’t pay any attention to me at all,” he said. “I’m here on the same lay you are—tryin’ to get a line on these hellish pirates for the insurance people, see? I sneak around in the green speeder at night now an’ then. Bumped your partner in the dinghy the other night. That was me. You wanta keep close watch this end of the island. That’s where them fake lights is worked from. Watch out they don’t get you.”
“Who?” Billy muttered.
“Like to know myself,” the man answered. “I’d know it all then.”
“What about your arching mate?” Billy asked.
“Got nothin’ on him yet. But nobody’s barred in this game. Blind alley so far. Cinch he didn’t kill Markham. I see the watch wake him up, and the man hadn’t been dead more’n half an hour then. Look. You got a police whistle?”
“I’ll drop one by my foot. You pick it up, after I go. Case you get in a mix-up and need help. Blow one long, two short, and I’ll get to you if I can. She’ll sound half a mile. If you hear that signal from me hop to it as fast as you can, because I’ll be needin’ help darned bad. Get the idea?”
“Yes,” Billy answered—a little dubiously. It sounded plausible enough, and it was more than likely that the underwriters would have several strings to their bow. But it might also be a trap. Billy couldn’t help being suspicious of everything and everybody, the mood he was in just then.
THERE was a faint tinkle in the scuppers. The man strolled forward. Stone looked down. A bit of bright metal glistened. He moved sidewise. After a few seconds he picked it up, put it in his pocket and went down a rope ladder to the Wasp. Molter and his partner had nodded and gone as soon as the inquest ended. Billy looked at the nickel-plated police whistle when he got aboard and wondered if he had found an ally. Or if part of the Arethusa crowd did have some connection with those wrecks and were craftily preparing a deadfall of some sort for him. The mate was almost too convincing with his demonstration of archery to the Rock Bay constable and his story of being shot at from the shore. Certainly he had two arrows of the same sort as were shot at Billy in the woods. It was all damnably puzzling, exasperating.
From the spot where the Mandarin had struck and afterward sunk, to where the Manchu lay beached, was a matter of two hundred feet. Between, a cleft in the rocky shore seemed to offer a mooring for the Wasp out of the sweep of the big eddy that made the Arethusa strain at her cables. Into this nook Billy headed his launch. He had no desire to go back to Molter’s bay. Here he was on the spot where things had happened and where, he had an unreasoning conviction, they might happen again before long.
With the Wasp swinging between two anchor lines so as scantily to clear the rocks at low tide Billy lay down on his berth to consider his next move. For the life of him he couldn’t see any positive action indicated. There was no clue that led anywhere or pointed to a single man. Nothing but mere conjecture. All he could do was to watch and prowl, wait his chance.
He fell into a doze. When he wakened from an hour or two of fitful napping the sun had dropped behind the ragged backbone of Vancouver Island. Billy sat in the cockpit with a cup of tea. The evening hush lay heavy as a fog. Not a voice sounded nor a solitary gear clanked of the salvage ship. The eastern mainland rose from dusky green slopes to rocky palisades, beyond which loomed tall peaks shining with a rosy tinge in the afterglow. Smells from the forest drifted on imperceptible airs. It was very beautiful with a holy sort of peace that charmed Billy Stone into momentary forgetfulness.
He presently roused himself out of that. Certain aspects of nature, the forest and those majestic mountain ranges and the cool green sea hurrying in its channel might be lovely indeed, but the works of man as lately demonstrated on and about Helmcken had a decidedly evil cast. And he had to do something about that, besides sit and admire scenery. There was a matter which he thought that he would attend to that very evening.
HE PUT his revolver in one pocket, a fairly powerful but compact electric flashlight in the other and went ashore in the dinghy. The dark stains in the bottom gave him a queer feeling for a moment, a distinctly unpleasant feeling. Once on shore he passed through the thicket and bordering trees into the shingle-boat slashing and so struck the trail that led up to the other end of the island.
For the time he was not so much concerned with wrecks and wreckers, with murder and mystery, as he was with himself and Martha Powell. He had been brooding more or less on that for several hours, and the more he thought the more resentful he grew at Molter’s outburst which had frightened Martha so. Direct, outspoken, aboveboard in everything, Billy felt an overwhelming desire to tell Joe Molter that caveman stuff with a girl was out of date. He was headed for Molter’s camp for that specific purpose.
But he changed his mind. Halfway up Helmcken, in the gathering shadows, he stopped, sat down on a log. What was the use? He wasn’t angry with Molter. Merely irritated, annoyed. Molter had made his wild declarations to Martha. He was not likely to repeat them. He knew Joe’s explosive, ungovernable temper; had in fact wondered sometimes at its manifestations when they were youngsters together. And he had liked Joe in spite of his occasional spasms of fury. Billy wasn’t afraid of Molter because he was not afflicted with fear of anything in the shape of a man. But he did realize that for him to broach such a subject to Joe would almost surely lead to a direct clash. Better to pass it up this time.
So he reasoned. Also the thought struck him that with the slow gathering dusk he made a fine mark sitting there in the edge of the open. He didn’t become at all uneasy, but motives of prudence urged him to caution. He had Markham’s memory to suggest that caution did not come amiss anywhere or at any time, on Helmcken. So he moved quietly back into a screen of brush. There he waited until dark made an archer’s aim uncertain. Then he decided that he would camp on the point outside the two cabins and keep watch.
He fingered the police whistle in his pocket. Would its shrill blast bring help if he needed help? From whom and from where? Or would that signal bring a hornet’s nest about his ears? In the mood of that moment one possibility seemed as likely as the other.
SEATED on the same mossy rock where he and Markham had kept vigil not so long before Billy felt the chill and gloom of night creep into his soul rather than into his bones. To sit alone on the edge of a brooding forest with the sea making faint mysterious noises in its tidal race, and darkness hanging like a shroud about him is not a joyful occupation for any normal man. Dim racial memories quicken in him; old ancestral impressions of fearsome things questing in the dark.
When in addition he has a real sense of personal danger haunting him his nerves are apt to tighten, his hearing grow abnormally sensitive. He becomes, by proxy, his savage forbear of a forgotten generation, caught in the forest by night listening warily for the sabre-tooth tiger nosing his trail in the dark.
Thus not a leaf stirred nor a bough scraped nor any little lapping of water by the shore but came with uncanny distinctness to Billy Stone’s ears. And by midnight sheer inaction, pure nerve strain, made it impossible for him to sit still. He began to move very softly across the point in the direction of the Arethusa. He would stir his blood and settle his mind by a reconnaisance of the whole lower end of the island. As well that, futile as it might be, as sitting still like Micawber.
Halfway between his abandoned roost and the log cabin he froze against the base of a tree in brush shoulder high. He had heard a noise, faint, indefinable as to cause or direction. Still as the dark forest itself he waited.
The clear evening sky had grown •hazy with clouds. Only a slight glimmer of reflected light from the sea-lane enabled any sort of vision whatever. And in this gloom Billy strained eyes and ears to an ultimate reward.
He had stopped just short of the comparative open about the
two cabins and now across his narrow field of view certain dim shapes seemed to move slowly. The subdued noise he had heard and could still hear at intervals was the cautious tread of feet. Whether one or more persons he couldn’t tell. There was only an indistinguishable moving blur, shadowy but in motion. He was quite positive of that.
They passed almost immediately from view. Men who prowled by night on lower Helmcken had a vital
interest for Billy Stone. Risk or no risk he must follow them, learn who they were, what they did, why they stole through the forest like nocturnal animals.
He moved stealthily. Ahead he could hear slight sounds of these others’ progress. They were distancing him but he dared not hurry. Haste meant betraying noise. He took a pace or two and listened, another pace or two and listened again. Eventually all sound ahead of him ceased. He stopped.
The formless shape of the log cabin showed before him. Was that the destination of these night hawks? What rendezvous could it be they held there?
There was only one mode of learning. He went on. Drawing nearer he got down on all fours, crawled on his belly even, until he could touch the wall of the cabin under the paneless east window. There he lay listening breathlessly. His guess had been correct. Whoever they were they had business in that deserted cabin. He could hear movements, scrapings. Whatever they did was done without speech. Honest men, Stone reflected sardonically, do not prowl silently in unlighted houses after dark. His heart quickened. His mind took cognizance of various possibilities, modes of action. To find out who they were and what they were about without betraying himself as the watcher. Foolhardy to break in on them. Better wait. Luck might be with him for once.
He waited. Sound ceased. The night hush held the spot so jealously and so long that Stone was tempted to believe himself the victim of his own imagination. Then a faint scuffling within the cabin that continued for several minutes. After that a man’s body loomed, scarcely discernible at one corner of the cabin. Then
another and a third. They melted into the night one behind the other, each stooped a little as if he bore some burden.
He lay quiet for half an hour. Then he crept to the door. It gave to his fumble at the wooden latch. Once within he took to his hands and knees again and with the torch shaded so that it cast only a round spot on the floor and no gleam could be reflected from the walls he began a systematic exploration of the floor. The scuffling sounds had been low. Back and forth he moved until he had covered the sixteen-foot square area save the space under the decrepit bedstead in one corner upon which rested a torn, mildewed mattress. Searching beneath this his hands encountered loose soil, which his flashlight showed him had been freshly disturbed. He pawed and scraped, burrowed his fingers in the loose earth, encountered something hard. He swept the loam aside until he reached a depth of six inches. Then he bared flat iron. Moving still more
For one instant the desire to flash his light on them tugged at Stone. He had the torch in one hand, his thumb on the button, his revolver gripped in the other. But he desisted. Better first explore that cabin. There must be something important to be discovered in there. If there was aught to draw those prowlers they would return. If not that night then another.
earth and gradually baring this surface he laid clear a square of boilerplate with a ring handle. Tapping of knuckles gave a hollow sound. He tugged at the ring and lifted the iron sheet clear of a square hole.
For a depth of three feet it was cribbed with timber. Below that stood walls of solid rock. Stone stared down into a shaft three feet square, ten feet in depth. It was like a well, down one side of which a ladder ran. He could see the floor and an opening leading thence ten or twelve feet below.
Without an instant’s hesitation he let himself down. Playing the light below, carrying his gun ready for he knew not what, with every nerve in his body tight as a fiddlestring, Stone descended.
He found himself in the mouth of a tunnel cut through solid granite. It ran toward the shore, dipping down at a moderate incline. His light picked out the way. For fifty feet, a hundred, two hundred almost, he followed and came at last into a chamber twelve feet across hewn out of solid rock, and stood there in amazement.
For it seemed to him that of a certainty he had entered the cavern of the Forty Thieves, with all the equipment of modern science and industry suborned to their unlawful ends.
HE GUESSED that this room stood at or about the level of high tide. Another tunnel, man-high and fairly wide dipped clown under the sea. Stone traversed it a little way until his feet touched water. He marked the pulsating rise and knew that the tide was on the flood. He went back to the storeroom, powerhouse, magazine. It was all these things. He stood in the centre casting his beam over the separate items, cataloguing in wonder.
Along the tunnel that ran seaward there was stretched a pair of lead-insulated electric cables leading away from a switchboard that was in turn connected up to a storage battery. Likewise along this passage and out—to
the channel he surmised—ran a quarter-inch flexible steel rope wound on a drum with a handle like a small winch—an arrangement very much like that of a steering cable on a boat. For other items there were tools, a box half full of sticks of sixty-per-cent, dynamite, a complete diving suit with all its equipment, air pump and hose, signal rope.
Lastly, but almost first in importance to Billy Stone
Continued on page 62
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because it verified the significance of all the rest, was a small wooden box which he recognized. There were others, but the end of this one he remembered very well. He had examined it himself when it was being lowered into the Mandarin’s strongroom at Skagway with more than casual interest. If he had not known, the name of the consignee lettered in black, U.S. Assay Office, Seattle, Wn., would have told its own tale. The lids of all had been forced. Billy looked into the Mandarin box. It was still half full of small canvas bags. He opened one. Yes, the gold was there—part of the loot at least.
The modus operandi, all but a few unimportant details, flashed clear to Stone. He knew enough about mechanics to guess that from this secret chamber those false running lights were raised and lowered, flashed off and on. Electricity and some mechanical contraption operated by that steel rope and winch. That was obvious. The tunnel gave egress under the sea. A diver could reach either wreck unseen. He could walk the bottom without risk and do his nefarious work at his leisure.
So then, here was the wreckers’ nest, and all the tools of their trade.
WITH that Billy realized that he was in a very deadly trap indeed if those pirates returned while he was underground. He knew enough now. He could trap them in their own rendezvous —once he was out and they were in.
He moved quickly to the foot of the ladder, eager now to "be above ground, all at once a little apprehensive. Life had never looked so good to him as it did at that moment. The key to a deadly mystery, his own rehabilitation in his chosen career, the recovery of the plunder—he held it all in the hollow of his hand once clear of that pit. And he wondered briefly as he paused to listen at the foot of the ladder why he should at that moment feel the deadly implication that he might not get out.
Above him the silence and the dark. He snapped off his torch, climbed the ladder, listened again, shoved the iron cover into place, drew the earthback over it.
Then as his head and shoulders emerged from beneath the rude bedstead the darkness of the cabin interior became for him a blackness in which he floated for one sickening instant before unconsciousness freed him from a blast of pain that seemed fairly to shatter his head.
STONE came back to consciousness in the characteristic fashion of a man clubbed insensible; that is he opened his eyes in very much the same bewilderment that affects one untimely awakened from a sound sleep. Only there was in addition to mental confusion an intolerable ache in the back of his head. His body felt as if it had been beaten with a club.
11 is head cleared in an instant. He recognized his surroundings. He was back in the rock chamber, back in the
thieves’ den. Electric light from two bulbs shed a glow over the details he had picked out by the gleam of his torch. Feeling his hands cramped beneath his body as he lay flat on his back Billy essayed to move. Unavailing—his wrists were lashed tight. So were his ankles. He twisted himself over on his side and so faced Joe Molter sitting on a box and staring at him with a curious blend of derision and triumph. When their eyes met Molter’s face broke into an ugly smile.
Billy looked at him. He hadn’t quite expected that. If it had been the bowman off the Arethusa he would not have been surprised. And still—at any rate there sat Molter and he seemed wholly at his ease. The inference was obvious. Perez and the big Swede, whom Markham had asserted was a diver, would be confederates. They were the three figures he had seen stealing up to and away from the log house. He continued to look at Molter. There didn’t seem to be anything to say.
“Have a good sleep?” Molter inquired sardonically. “You’ll have a better one by and by.”
“Think you can get away with it?” Billy tried to make his tone casual.
Molter didn’t answer. He continued to stare. There was a strange fixity in his gaze, as if he saw something besides Billy Stone.
“Dog draw, stable stand,
Back berond, bloody hand.”
He droned the words twice, and yet a third time.
The unfamiliar phrases, curious terms, seemed meaningless to Billy—for a second. Then he recalled them as a couplet in an old work on medieval archery which he had once read. It dealt, in the chapter that carried that blunt rhyme, with the drastic penalties bestowed by the early Normans on a Saxon suspected of hunting the king’s deer. If the man was caught following a hunting dog, set in the pose of an archer, with venison on his back or the blood of butchery on his hands he was hanged forthwith to the nearest tree with his own bowstring!
And Molter was mumbling this.
“You would butt in,” Molter growled presently. “I knocked you on the head and chucked you back below. But I’d rather have hunted you in the forest. The good yew bow and the clothyard shaft!”
His eyes glowed with a sudden fire.
“Blast your soul,” he cried fiercely. “I’ll get you all. All! Down to yon upstart archer who stands on the bridge of a ship and shoots my seal. Broadhead for broadhead I’ll match him if he’ll come ashore. You”—he snorted con-
temptuously—“you and your diver partner. I nicked him with a good, clean shot at daylight.”
HE STOPPED, cocked his head on one side in an attitude of listening. Billy could hear sounds in the passage echoing hollowly. The grim expression faded suddenly from Molter’s face.
“Come on; look what I got,” he said in an entirely different tone. “Lord, you fellows are slow.”
The Swede and Perez advanced into the light. They looked startled at sight of Stone bound on the floor.
“Caught him crawling out of the shaft,” Molter chuckled. “Tapped him on the bean and here he is.”
“What’ll we do with him?” Perez drawled. “Why didn’t you tap him for keeps?”
“Oh, we’ll leave him here with the works when we take the last of the stuff out,” Molter said. He shrugged his heavy shoulders. “He’ll be dead safe— down here.”
The Swede looked down at Stone, across at Molter. He passed one huge hand absently over his forehead.
“Ay am seek of dis keel, keel,” he said thickly. There was disgust, a trace of something like horror in his tone and on his face. “You are a dam butcher, Joe.”
“What the hell!” Perez grumbled. “We got to protect ourselves. If these guys will butt in!”
“Dat Markham he don’t butt in,” the Swede muttered resentfully. “He don’t see nothin’, hear nothin’, know nothin’. Joe keel heem for fon—dat same crazy fon Ay tank why he shoot the arrow at the Arethusa’s mate. You like to keel with the bow. Ay tank you go crazy, Molter. You keel an’ keel until the whole
dam contray is hunt dis island, anch by aneh.”
“You started it, Ole, by bumping off that first diver,” Molter laughed.
“Ay was scare when he come on me by the hole,” the Swede muttered. “I bump him before Ay tairk. Ay want dat gold, but Ay don’t wan keel no more man.”
“Nevermind. Don’t be scared,” Molter told him easily. “VCe’ll take the last of this stuff this time. We can divide it up to-night and you can take your share and beat it, Ole, if you’re getting cold feet. Back to Sweden and the flaxyhaired dames for yours, eh? I’m going to stay around here. It’s good hunting.”
THE Swede shuddered. Perez grinned broadly. Molter laughed outright. Something seemed to amuse him vastly.
“I’ll be back in a second,” Molter said, rising from his seat on the box. “There’s just about a good load for one man, but you can split it in two if you like. We’ll go together. And we’ll seal up the tomb for keeps this time.”
He bent a malicious grimace on Billy Stone and stepped into the tunnel that ran undersea. Stone turned his gaze on the other two. They paid no attention to him. There was nothing to be gained by talk. He was trapped. They had him. It was his life or theirs. And though he was sure the Scandinavian was horrorstricken, aghast at this new turn in which both Molter and Perez held a man’s life so very cheaply an appeal was useless. The Swede might be inclined to mercy in that revulsion of feeling, but he wouldn’t dare. Billy lay still, looking on. If he was not butchered like a sheep before they left, he might have a fighting chance.
Perez and his companion emptied the wooden box into a stout packsack, muttering brief comment on whether the load be packed singly or divided between them. Both men were bent over a little. Their backs were turned to the tunnel.
Something flashed silently in the rock room. Perez straightened with a cry, clutching at his middle. Stone stared at the sight with a fascination bordering on horror. Perez was transfixed by an arrow. The yellow and black and scarlet shaft with a white cock feather that Stone knew and hated now had buried itself in him to the feathered shaftment. As he spun around and around uttering fearful sounds Billy saw the steel broadhead stand clear of his ribs.
And as the Swede stood hesitating, openmouthed, another arrow, aimed higher, struck him fair in the throat. It passed through, smashed against the rock wall and clattered to the floor.
The Swede’s knees buckled under him. He wilted, cursing hoarsely with his last breath, fumbling with uncertain hands for some weapon in his pocket. But he was dead before he could get it free. Perez, too, had ceased his spasmodic struggling. He sprawled face down on the floor, the barb of the clothyard shaft standing straight up out of his back like a miniature spear.
And Molter stepped out of the tunnel into the light, a quiver in one hand, a short, beautifully finished yew bow in the other. He stood head up and chest thrown out looking first at one dead man and then at the other, resting the lower nock of his weapon on his toe. Then in a terrible sing-song voice he began to chant:
“Oh, Robin Hood was a merry, merry wight
Who slew his enem-e-e-e With a clothyard shaft from the good yew bow
Beneath the greenwood tree.
Under the greenwood tree.”
Then he laughed. He leaned on his bow and shook with laughter—a hollow mockery of ribald mirth.
“Dead men tell no tales and divide no prizes,” he chuckled to himself. “To the victor belongs the spoil. Good old Horrible.”
It struck Stone with an inward chill that he was not listening to a normal man gone bad, but to a homicidal maniac afflicted with an archery complex.
“They were all against me,” Molter said boastfully, “and I’ve beaten them all. If I could find a few men like myself we’d take the damned country. But I
guess I’m the last of the bowmen. And I have to keep it dark. Hunt ’em when they don’t see. Hunt ’em in the green forest. Hunt ’em on the shore. I’ve got one more to get on Helmcken. He thinks he’s a bowman but he isn’t.”
He muttered away to himself for a minute. Then he strode up and down the rock chamber, back and forth three steps and a turn, three steps and a turn, like a caged leopard, mumbling unintelligible phrases. At last he sat down again and put his head in his hands. He kept this posture so long Stone thought he had fallen asleep.
When he looked up again there was a totally different expression on his face. The wild-eyed look had vanished. He gazed down at Stone with a calm, satisfied air.
“I won’t waste steel and wood and good turkey feathers on you,” he said with a touch of contempt. “You’re here and you’re damned well tied, and you can stay here to keep this carrion company until you all rot together. You couldn’t get out even if you were loose. When I leave I’ll pile rocks over the iron door and set a match to the old cabin. I’ve got the plunder—enough to last me a long time—in spite of you. If I ever need more maybe I’ll come back and hoist the running lights again and put another Ocean Service boat ashore. I can easily get a diver who knows how to handle giant powder to walk the bottom and blow in a plate so he can get at the strongroom. And after he’s got it for me I’ll add his bones to the collection. It was handy to have been a skipper on the O.S.S. once. I know the ropes. I’ll beach the Ming for them some day. They beached me. But I have a good stake now. I can hunt and hunt—with the bow. A good yew bow, a quiver full of broadheads, a flagon of ale, and a maiden fair. Ah, she can’t refuse me now! You fool,” he frowned darkly, “you should have kept away from here.”
He turned to the wooden boxes and examined them. Satisfied that they were empty he belted on his quiver that bristled with feathered shafts, shouldered the packsack with the last of the gold and took up his bow. His footsteps died away up the rock passage.
Lying there, Billy expected that any moment the lights would blink out and leave him in utter darkness with two dead men for company. The full realization of his plight brought a clammy sweat out on his face.
But the lights shone. Whether Molter would come back or not he did not know. The man might be seized by any sort of vagary, Billy surmised. His first task was to be free.
So he sat looking about for something sharp and found nothing that he could reach or use. Until as a last resort he rolled himself over to Perez, who lay nearest, and fumbled and touched the dead man’s pockets for a knife. He failed there, and hitched himself over to the Scandinavian. Here he had better luck. Lying with his back to the Swede so that he could use his fingers he located a knife and again thanked God—this time that Molter had neglected to search his victims.
It took him minutes to work the knife free, half an hour of fumbling to get a blade open, less than ten seconds to cut the cord; slashing both his wrists in the blind process so that blood ran down his hands ahd made them slippery. But he stood at last free of his iashings-.
HIS revolver and electric flashlight were gone. But he did find a Colt automatic in the hip pocket the Swede had grasped as he fell. Armed with that Stone hurried up the tunnel to the foot of the ladder. The trap-door was in place. He put his shoulder against it and heaved. Solid, unyielding; his greatest effort did not budge it a fraction of an inch. He understood, he thought, why Molter was careless of the lights— what he meant by “sealing the tomb for keeps.” Above that half-inch of iron doubtless by now lay hundreds of pounds of rock. He knew at last that Molter had made good his word, because as he stood on the top rung with his shoulder against the piece of boiler-plate he felt it slowly growing warm. Molter had fired the cabin.
Billy went back to the room, examined every article in it. The dynamite was useless; there was neither fuse nor cap. There was no tool of any service against stone and iron. He stripped naked and
walked down the seaward tunnel underwater until his heart was ready to burst and he was within an ace of drowning before he got back. He couldn’t use the diving suit. A man couldn’t fit the (breastplate and helmet on himself and work the air alone. From any angle that he viewed the situation he was trapped in that rock chamber with two dead men for company. He had no food, no water —unless he drank brine. Already his throat was dry. A pleasant prospect!
Billy sat down again to think. It was an effort. There was a horrible suggestiveness about those two inert figures that disturbed him. Absently he looked at his watch. 3.30. Seven bells in the graveyard within. It was daylight—out in the world of green forest and singing birds and running water.
He leaped to his feet with an exclamation. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? Seizing the handle of the small winch that carried the steel rope running out to sea he began to turn. He wound until it came to a heavy pull and a dead stop; waited five minutes and reversed the winding. He could tell by the greater effort required at a given point that some unseen mechanism was operating. Doggedly he kept this up. Hour after hour, it seemed to him, he turned that handle. His palms blistered with the friction. The blisters broke and the raw skin stung and burned, his back added an ache to the ache in his bruised head, and still he turned.
And the reward of his wits and dogged persistence came at last when he heard a slow dump—dump and looked > heavyeyed from his labor to see the circular, Cyclopean eye of a dripping diver regarding him from the seaward tunnel’s mouth.
BILLY sat down on a box. He didn’t need to be told that the diver came from the Arethusa. His plan had worked. They had seen whatever mechanism and framework Molter and his conf derates had devised rising and falling in midchannel and they had traced it to its source by the run of the steel cable. For a few seconds the sense of relief made him shaky. His knees trembled and he became acutely aware of the soreness of his hands, the dull ache in his head where Molter had struck him, and the great weariness that crept over his body.
The diver advanced a step, fumbled at his helmet. The faceplate and glass came away in his hands. In the opening was framed a rotund face, bright blue eyes, a stubby red mustache.
“By Eke...” said he, looking down at the two dead m n. “What’s been goin’ on here? How come? What’s the big idea?”
“Get me out of here,” Billy said. “We tan talk afterward.”
“How’d you get in?” the diver asked. “Knocked down and dragged in,” Billy told him. “There’s an opening into a tunnel in a log cabin ashore. I have an idea maybe it’s burned though.” “She is. Saw her ablaze a while before daybreak. Regular Hell’s Kitchen this Helmcken Island. Some galoot started shooting arrows at the mate this morning. Spiked him in the arm, too. Mate’s ashore with a bunch of men hunting him yet. And then this framework with lamps on it starts rising up and going down in the water. You worked that, eh?”
“It was the only chance. I figured they had this winch rigged to raise and lower those fake running lights. If I hoisted ’em up and down often enough somebody would see them and work along the cable and in here. Otherwise I was done for. What about the tunnel you came in? Can I make it out there? You could help me on with this suit. One good inflation ought to see me above water.” “Uh-uh. Too far. You’d drown sure as hell,” the diver replied. “I’d better go up and have some of the crew locate that land opening. Where the old log shack stood, you say?”
“The opening was in the northeast comer,” Billy told him. “They’ll probably find rocks piled over it. Then if they root around they’ll find a square of boiler-plate about five or six inches under the level of the dirt. Hurry. I’m kinda keen to see the sun once more. I’m hungry and thirsty, and I don’t like dead men for company.”
“I don’t blame you,” said the diver. “I’ll get up and ring for full speed ahead. Here we go.”
HE SCREWED the window of his helmet back into place and clumpdumped on his heavy leaden soles down the way he came. Billy heard him splash into the water. After that a silence in which he could almost hear the beating of his own heart.
Then he moved up to the shore end of the long tunnel and sat down at the foot of the ladder to wait.
The Rock Bay constable, the archer mate, the underwriter’s representative on the wrecking job, the skipper of the Arethusa, flanked by half a dozen deckhands stood about the mouth of the shaft when Billy Stone climbed the ladder to stand blinking in the bright sunshine. The ground was still hot from the fire. They moved clear. It was good to be out in the clean air once more. He looked at the ring of inquiring faces.
“Well,” the skipper of the Arethusa broke the silence, “looks like you might have something sensational to talk about. Eh?”
Billy made concession to the weariness of his body by sitting down on a convenient stump.
“There’s a tunnel leading to a room hollowed in the rock, where there is all the necessary apparatus for working those fake lights. There is a complete diver’s outfit that I imagine was used to get into the Mandarin and the Manchu from the bottom.”
The skipper nodded.
“Sounds reasonable. We looked over that light rig before we took to following the cable. Very ingenious—and simple. Outfit anchored about ten feet below the surface. Pipe framework on a couple of logs. If a vessel passing over it fouled the thing it merely shoved aside. Electric cables to the lamps. Very ingenious, indeed. How’d you get into their plant?” Billy told them.
“Good work,” the skipper nodded again. “Our diver found a hole in the bottom of the Manchu that he swears was never made by a rock. The diver that went down on the Mandarin didn’t live to tell what he found. You were there when we hauled him up. Markham was right.”
“The big Swede who dived for Molter | killed Curry, Y think, from something I heard said last night,” Billy related. “The bullion was in that room below, ] or most of it, until last night. They were packing it out when I sneaked in on them and they caught me. I have an idea you’ll find most of that gold in or around Molter’s camp. I think they were fixing to make their getaway with it. Only Molter spilled the beans. He was the bow and arrow man who killed Markham. He shot at me twice in the brush one day.
I have one of the arrows aboard the Wasp. Last night—or early this morning —he killed both his partners—shot them with the bow in that place underground. He left me tied hand and foot to keep them company. I got loose and worked that light gear, hoping to attract your attention. That’s all. That’s the solution of the wrecks. Molter and Perez and the big Swede who was a diver. Two of ’em are dead as doornails. Down below.”
“O0ME detective work, I’ll say,” the vj Arethusa’s skipper turned to the stout, jovial-faced man who had dropped the police whistle for Billy the day of the inquest. “He beat you to it, Sullivan.”
The heavy-set man grinned.
“I’ve seen simpler cases of crime,” he observed. “I guess Stone deserves all the credit. He took long chances—and he was pretty lucky to get away with it. I had my suspicions. But he got results. I suppose you know,” he addressed Billy, “that the underwriters offered ten thousand dollars for the recovery of that gold bullion and the identification of the wreckers—if there were wreckers.”
“I didn’t know,” Billy murmured. “They didn’t offer it to me. I only knew I’d never walk a steamer’s bridge again if it wasn’t cleaned up. I knew I saw a steamer’s running lights that night. So did my quartermaster—only he lied.”
“You’ll get a clean sheet now,” the Arethusa’s captain assured him. “By gad, you sure did take long chances with a hard gang. You ought to get a command.”
“All I want, right now,” Billy confessed wearily, “is something to eat and a sleep. But there’s a job to be done yet.
Look here,” he turned to the detective ! and the Rock Bay constable. “We’ll have to get Molter. I think he’s mad—
I in fact I’m sure of it. He’s loose here somewhere, if he hasn’t taken a boat and skipped with the plunder.”
“Don’t worry about Molter,” the Rock Bay man grinned. “He sure is crazy— but we’ve got him. He tried to spike the mate here at sunrise this morning. And the mate—who is some punkins with a bow himself, I want to tell you—went ashore with some men and rounded him up; pinned him to a tree with an arrow through his shoulder. Whaddye know about that? Say, if anybody ever tackles me with a longbow and them broadhead arrows I’ll move in a hurry, believe me. Yes, they’ve got Mr. Molter where he’s harmless—chained to a mast aboard ship.”
And the Captain and mate took Billy Stone abroad the Arethusa.
They passed on.
“Man’s insane—I should say that’s clear,” the mate volunteered quietly. “Something has cracked in his brain. It was a clever piece of crookedness—but there was a streak of madness in it, too, don’t you think? Since we got him aboard and dressed his wound he sits dull and stupid for a while. Then he raves and curses in language that is almost medieval. If he could get loose and get his hands on a bow he’d shoot to kill without realizing what he was doing.”
“And,” the mate said, almost regretfully, “he can shoot. One of the few real bowmen I have ever seen. He has shot at me several times from shore. It’s all of eighty yards. He has never missed me more than a few inches. He nicked my arm this morning—and I was on the watch, too.”
“How did you come to go after him and get him?” Billy asked.
“That Rock Bay man told you. We got him cornered on a point. We were sneaking and he was watching for us when I got a lucky shot. You see, he drove a third arrow into the front of the wheelhouse this morning with a note tied around the shaft, challenging me to come ashore and shoot it out with him,” the mate concluded quietly. “And I went.”
Billy washed his sore hands and doctored them with salve. Then he ate, and lay down to get the sleep he needed so badly. But though his body was wishful for rest, his mind was too abnormally active to permit sleep. He lay on a berth in a shaded cabin dozing lightly, until he heard the unmistakable voice of the Rock Bay constable on deck. He went out to see what luck had brought them in the search, and discovered to his satisfaction that they had found the bullion, still intact in the canvas sacks, up at Molter’s camp, dumped carelessly beneath the covers of Molter’s bed.
Whereupon Billy returned to his berth, heaved a sigh of complete relief, and let himself slide peacefully off into dreamland.
The steamship Ming—rated the crack boat of the Ocean Service Alaska fleet— drove full speed up channel past Heimchen Island. The sun was shining. The sky was as blue as the proverbial maiden’s eyes. The Ming did her seventeen knots per hour so easily that she seemed to glide through the water; an illusion quickly dispelled by a glance over her bows. Then the great white bone in her teeth showed her power.
“This,” said Captain William Stone to his wife, “is a very special privilege, d’ye know it, honeybunch, for a coastwise skipper to be allowed to take his wife with him on his maiden voyage. And there’s the historic spot where all the excitement came off. You know, sometimes it hardly seems as if it really happened to me.”