Twice in the Graveyard Watch

The phantom lights startle Billy Stone again—but this time lead him closer to a solution of the amazing mystery.

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR September 15 1924

Twice in the Graveyard Watch

The phantom lights startle Billy Stone again—but this time lead him closer to a solution of the amazing mystery.

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR September 15 1924

Twice in the Graveyard Watch

The phantom lights startle Billy Stone again—but this time lead him closer to a solution of the amazing mystery.

BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR

MARKHAM had seen nothing more impressive than rocky shoreline backed by thickets and shadowy forest. It was ten o’clock when they got together aboard the Wasp. They rested awhile, ate luncheon, and went ashore to talk with Joe Molter about timber and land and such chances as the B.C. coast offered a man who had to make his way without much capital. Stone was not wholly simulating interest in those matters. For all he knew he might be on a wild goose chase. If it turned out that way, opportunity might still beckon somewhere along these wooded shores.

When the noon hour ended in the bolt camp the conversation ended also. Molter had business at Elk Bay, a few miles along the Strait, and he departed thence in a gas-

CHAPTER IX.

boat that was almost the double of the Wasp.

“We’re going to start loading a scow with shingle bolts to-morrow,” he said before he left. “You’d better come along and take a look if you have nothing else to do. I’m going to tow the scow into a bight near the other end sometime to-night.”

Stone and Markham went back aboard and took a nap. Dark closed in without Molter’s appearance with the scow, but that made no difference in either their plan or intentions. They slid their rowboat into the water and rowed softly down the eastern shore of Helmcken. Little swirls twisted them this way and that. A hundred feet offshore the tidal stream swept by like a river in flood, strongly on the ebb. Clouds that were fleecy tufts at sundown banked thick above, hiding the stars. In that narrow waterway, little more than a deep cleft between high forested slopes, the dark of a cloudy night was like a shroud of crepe. The channel was only a vague paleness in the general gloom; the shore a mass of solid black.

In that uncanny blackness Stone made repeated efforts to locate the cove that held the hidden launch, but failed.

Half the time they rubbed the rocks on shore without being able to see them. At the best they could only feel with an oar and listen. Poking tentatively into one place after another they presently found themselves nearing the Northern end of Helmcken, far past the spot they wished to locate.

“No good. Too black to find anything against that timbered land,” Billy grumbled. “May as well go ashore here on the point and wait for slack tide. We could never row back against this current. And the clouds may break after a while.”

They landed, fumbled their way to a seat on a . mossy ledge. In the silence Billy Stone reflected how futile, how aimless, a course they must follow. Yet they could do nothing else. Be opportunists; wait and watch; they could do no more than that.

Through the fringe of shore trees over the lower end lights gleamed aboard the Arethusa. In the stillness, broken only by the monotone of broken water grumbling over Earl’s Ledge down channel, they could hear voices over the water, laughter, the faint tinkle of the ship’s bell ringing off thirtyminute stretches. Someone on the wrecker began to play an accordion, and ceased at ten-thirty. The lights blinked out, all but a bright lamp at the masthead. The night was warm. Inaction made for drowsiness. At midnight the changing tide brought slack water.

“I tell you, Mark, we’re foolish. We can’t go all day and all night too. this way,” Billy said. “Suppose you take the dinghy and row back. I’ll stick around here until it begins to break day. Then to-morrow night you can take a shot at doing this sentinel stuff.”

Markham, thoroughly sleepy, grunted assent, got into the dinghy and pushed off.

They had come down there very quietly. Their talking had been done in discreet whispers. Even if they had not felt the necessity for caution, the hour and the surroundings and their quest would have called for silence, indeed for stealth. Their oarlocks were muffled with bits of clotK Markham vanished without a sound, melted into the darkness, and for half an hour thereafter Billy sat amid a hush that was tomb-like. The sepulchers of long dead kings knew no silence and darkness more profound.

BILLY STONE fell to regarding matters dubi-' ' ously. He began to doubt the wisdom of being there at all. What could be seen,, heard, discovered? The dark border of a forest at midnight awed him a little, it was so melancholy, so utterly forsaken of light and life. The night air began to chill his body. A vain watch and a futile undertaking. In the little hours a man leans toward pessimism.

Then his shifting gaze marked the lights of a steamershowing far up Johnstone Strait. He reckoned her position as about opposite Blenkinsop Bay. She had a turn of speed by the way she bore down on Helmcken. In less time than it took to weary his eyes with watching she was abreast of Earl’s Ledge, surging up on the breast of a fair tide. Stone could see the phosphorescent gleam where hei bow wave curled aside — luminous waves spreading out in a great V.

From his rock he marked her lights and estimated her size, felt a touch of envy for the man on her bridge. To feel a ten-thousand ton ship surging under his feet! Never again—except as a passenger. A lump rose suddenly in Billy’s throat. He had chosen the sea because the sea drew him with all its subtle magic. And it still drew him—the sea and all that moved upon it by steam or sail. It hurt him to sit by like a discarded lover; hurt him the more because he had not failed his chosen mistress. He had simply been a victim of chance. That or a sinister purpose that took no reckoning of him as a factor.

He sat probably within a hundred yards of the two tumbledown cabins, not more than two hundred yards from the beached Manchu. As the oncoming steamer drove down on Helmcken, swung a little to port to make the fairway end on and avoid being set ashore by the eddy, Billy Stone half rose and involuntarily gasped.

In mid-channel, dead in the path of the steamer, he saw another steamer’s running lights — the red port lantern, above it the white, the range light higher aft. Incredible— but there it was. Stone knew no steamer bore those lights. From his fixed position he could see that they were trick lights, false beacons. They simulated an approaching steamer, but they were fixed, immovable. .

For a moment he was tempted to cry out, to warn that southbound vessel. Then he realized how useless that would be, and in the same instant there flashed across his mind the possibility that here, now, tonight, he perhaps stood within grasping distance of the key to the Helmcken riddle which looked like an impenetrable mystery.

He stood tense, eager-eyed. Two shrill blasts woke a resounding echo. Stone started. She wasn’t going to alter her course. He could interpret the mind of the man on the bridge. Perhaps he had heard how the Mandarin and Manchu had been put ashore. Or, faced as he thought, by the alternative of stranding or collision, he took the chance of crashing into the other vessel rather than the certainty of being swept ashore by the eddy. Stone could understand.

She came on full speed, undeviating by a hair’s breadth. Her searchlight flashed on, a dazzling behm. But before it fell on {he phantom lights, burning where no lights should burn, they vanished—but not so quickly that Stone failed to note that they did not simply blink out. The ruby red and the yellow lamps seemed to move backwards in a short arc before they snapped out. And the southbound steamer passed fairly over the spot where they had shone so bright, the blazing ray of her searchlight playing from side to side, revealing nothing but gray-green water broken by swirls and eddies and miniature tide-rips. She drove on past Helmckèn, vanished up the channel toward Discovery Passage, with only the bright speck of her stern light and a few dim portholes showing astern.

Stone leaned against a tree pondering. He had seen the unexpected, but he was little the wiser. He wondered if the night watch on the Arethusa marked those lights. He doubted if they were visible from the salvage ship’s position, but he determined to find out in the morning.

ALERT in spite of concentrated thought, he got an ■L* impression, out of one corner of his eye, of something moving in the line of his vision between himself and the Manchu. For just a moment he thought to distinguish against the lighter background of a small open space a blurred shape or shapes that moved, flitted iq and out of the field of his gaze. He didn’t move. He didn’t think his eyes had played any trick. He was quite sure that he had seen momentarily a dim figure or two moving softly.

It struck him for the first time that the situation might contain an element of personal danger. He was spying. He was unarmed. If he did by chance, under cover of the night, come into the vicinity of those wrecking and robbing operations he would certainly be up against men who would slit his throat and throw him to the dogfish if they caught him warm on their trail.

There was no sound and no further movement though Billy held his post till dawn brought a pallid gleam into the east. He waited until the sun cleared the Coast Range, hunting the heavy shadows before it. And when the Strait began to sparkle and the forest glowed warm as green plush he made his way down the shingle-bolt trail and out the float landing to board the Wasp.

Markham poked his head out the cabin door. He grinned and pointed to the dinghy, hauledouton the float,

What the devil!” Stone exclaimed as his gaze took in the little boat.

One side was badly splintered all along the rubstrake. Her upper planking along that side was cracked till the joints gaped. One rowlock block was torn clean off.

‘‘That’s what I said," Markham grunted. “Believe me I come near taking my final bath in the salt-chwcfc, last night.”

“How come?” Billy inquired.

“I don’t know, exactly, but I have my suspicions,” Markham told him. “I was rowing along a little offshore. You know if you got in too close under those

trees you couldn’t see past the end of your nose. It was black enough anywhere. First thing I knew there was a phooo-oo and a humming like a big bee and something hit me biff. I was rowing with my back upchannel. I only see a faint shape slide past. Pretty near spilled me. I heard somebody say: ‘Damn it all,’ and the shape’s gone. Then the rumble stops. Somebody plays a bright little flash lamp on me out of the dark, holds it on me till they get a good look, I suppose, then shuts it off. I’m still afloat, although she’s leaking like a sieve. Then the light snaps off. I hear this hum and the phoo-oo sound again for a few seconds. Then I don’t hear anything at all. After which I bail and row and bail and row until I land in here with water in the bottom up to my ankles. And I’d guess it was your hidden speed launch that bumped into me.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” Billy said slowly. “It strikes me we’d better get breakfast and go look see if she’s still there—or if she’s been used. And we’d better stick a gun apiece in our pockets—because—”

As tersely as possible he related to Markham what had befallen after he left. Markham whistled. Billy sat in the cockpit of the Wasp smoking a cigarette as he talked. Markham began fussing with the galley stove. He paused with one lid uplifted in his hand.

“I wonder,” said he, “if those, birds that ran me down weren’t on their way to the upper end of the island to do their stuff with those lights?”

And after a minute he added:

“You wouldn’t think that even the damndest sort of pirate would try to wreck everything that comes down the channel, would you? They’ll pull that stuff just once too often and something’ll come down on ’em like a ton of bricks. It looks to me like we got a good start, Bill.”

CHAPTER X.

DILLY lay down to take a sleep. His forty winks extended well into the forenoon. Having stowed away a bite of luncheon, he and Markham patched up the sprung seams and torn rubstrake of their little rowboat. After this task they went ashore. Noon had passed. No one but a grinning Japanese cook was about the place, and his converation was limited to two words, “No sabe.”

“Probably loading that scow Joe mentioned,” Billy surmised. “Let’s row along and see. Incidentally we’ll take a look for that hiding-place. I can find that speedboat by day, all right.”

He located the tiny cove after one or two trials. Coming at the place by water, it was even more effectually concealed than he had thought. But the launch was gone.

“Flown the coop,” Markham commented. “Well, it looks suspicious and yet for all that it might be a blind ' lead, Bill. The crowd responsible for this launch might not have anything to do with the wrecking.”

“That,” Billy replied, “remains to be seen.”

“Well, what next?”

“You go on alongshore in the dinghy,” Stone directed. “I’ll take another cruise through the woods. If you see ’em at work stick around until I turn up. If I don’t see any scow-loading I’ll walk on to the point.”

Stone plunged into the brush. He had no object except to look over the ground. Chance must supply him with anything more than general results. It would do no harm to know Helmcken from end to end, inside out and across. Such knowledge might at any moment become important. For anything more he trusted to luck. He had seen enough in twenty-four hours to convince him that Helmcken Island had some very peculiar aspects, to say the least.

Halfway between the little bight and the northern end Stone, moving softly through the thickets and timber, stopped to listen. Unconsciously he had flitted through the woods as stealthily as a hunting Indian—a reversion to the days spent as a youngster with a rifle after deer in the Olympics. Now he stood still with ears a-cock. He had been arrested by a sound, a breaking branch, the rustle of foliage —something. He paused beside the bole of a massive fir. Salai stood all about him; wide-fronded bracken grew waist high. Beyond that thickets lifted in a jungle that might hold anything besides the tall trees that.thrust pillar trunks toward the sky. Stone had no reason to suspect danger. But for the moment he was swayed by a primitive instinct to be wary.

And as he stood at attention, listening, looking, something flashed by his head with a faint, swishing sound. He didn’t know what it was. A small bird darting might have made such a whir. He hadn’t seen it. But he had felt the breath of its strange passing and heard the rustle of slightly disturbed foliage beyond. He stared. It was like a flash of something in the air. And while he stared, within the space of ten seconds, he heard very faintly a sound that he recognized and instantly there came a second flash and something went pluck in the bark of the fir tree at about the level of his breast.

The human eye is quick; and the mind quicker. Billy Stone’s optic and aural nerves conveyed a definite message to his brain. He dropped prone among the fir and salai. There he lay looking curiously at a missile lodged in the tough brown bark, knowing now what that first flash had been and realizing just how narrowly he had escaped death.

It quivered a little yet—a long, broad-head arrow— the clothyard shaft of the old English archer. Stone himself had practised archery as a sport for a year or two before he went to sea. He knew the history of the bow, more especially the English longbow, which the careless modern reckons as obsolete, except for savages and children playing Robin Hood. But Billy Stone was aware of it as a very deadly weapon. He knew the broadhead, the hunting shaft of the bowman. Twentyeight inches from nock to point, three-eighths of an inch in diameter, barbed with a piece of spring steel an inch and a quarter wide by three inches long that was ground to a lancet edge. He lay looking up at a beautiful specimen now, a deadlier killer that the revolver his hand gripped. He noted the white cock feather, the scarlet binding. The barb was buried deep. Driven from a longbow full drawn that arrow would have gone through his body like a knife. He had seen like shafts range a deer from shoulder to flank and fall twenty yards beyond. He would be a dead man now where he lay, instead of being very much alive and angry and vindictively hopeful that the hidden bowman would show himself.

DUT though he lay there until an hour had elapsed ■L-' and his body grew cramped with inaction, his eyes beheld no enemy, nor did his ears warn him of any movement in the surrounding brush. He, therefore, decided that it was his move. Finding that the arrow stood at about the level of the fern-tops where he could reach it without exposing more than his hands, he dug around the buried barb with his knife and gently worked the arrow loose. After which, with his trophy in hand, he crept and stole from tree to tree until he was well clear of that vicinity.

It might have been accidént. But Billy knew that no

archer sufficiently up in the craft to possess such equipment would ever drive two shafts at random. Nor, having missed his mark, woül'd he fail to seek his shafts on the line of flight. A good bowman treasures his arrows. No, that was not an accident. The broadhead was meant for him.

But by whom? And why? Stone’s face darkened. He thought he knew the answer to the second query. It was not a pleasant or encouraging conclusion. He perceived himself at a grave disadvantage. He didn’t fancy that particular mode of assassination.

If he were correct, then certainly he was getting on a warm trail. But it was a blind one yet; and promised to be a rough one. A dead man here and there didn’t seem to matter much to the crowd whose applecart Billy Stone was seeking to upset.

CHAPTER XI.

SOUND guided Billy to the scow-loading. He hid the arrow in a hollow cedar near the bolt trail and went down to the shore. Markham sat on a log talking to the Scandinavian. Perez was on the scow, and Molter was fussing around in a rowboat, outside the boomsticks—a string of which, chained end to end across a dent in the shore, confined hundreds of cedar bolts four feet long and roughly a foot thick, shingle material in the raw. Japanese in pairs heaved them up on the scow with stout pikepoles. Others stowed them in place. There was a lot of activity, none of which greatly interested Billy Stone after he had watched for half an hour.

^ Perez and Molter remained on the boom and scow directing operations. The Swede did not bestir himself except to drawl an occasional order to a Jap. So Billy left Markham to continue his converation and strolled on to the end of the island to stand staring at the wreck of the Manchu and the salvage operations that went on apace. And while he stood looking a curious thing happened.

A man on the high navigator’s bridge squared himself erectly and thrust one arm straight out before his body, drew the other back to his jaw. Something glistened in his hand.

Involuntarily Billy dodged behind the nearest tree. He recognized the archer’s stable stand and he took no chances. But a second look convinced him the shaft was not aimed his way. As it flew his eye followed the low, graceful arc of its swift flight, and marked its quarry—a hair seal hauled out on a flat rock above tidewater. The shaft missed by inches only. The animal raised on its flippers, sniffing. The archer drew his bow again. His second arrow struck home. The beast flopped off the rock into a shallow pool. There, lacking strength to gain the deep, it threshed in its death struggle.

A boat put off from the Arethusa. Billy walked quickly to the spot, looked down at the dead seal, retrieved the shaft which had missed and the other which had passed clear through the animal’s body and dropped a few feet beyond. The points of both were turned and blunted by contact with the granite. But they were true broadheads, clothyard shafts, beautifully feathered, painted and barbed.

So a skilled bowman stood on the Arethusa’s bridge. And two hours since a skilled bowman had tried to spit hi,m as this one had spitted the dog seal.

What if the two were one? Stone stared at the arrows in his hand. He knew shafts as a dealer in antiques knows period furniture. The arrow he had hidden in the cedar was a hunting shaft like these, as beautifully fashioned. There the resemblance ceased. There was a different finish to the nock that fitted the bowstring; a different cut of feather; a decided variation in the broadhead point; a distinctive color scheme.

Every archer worthy of the name has his individual colors, his own style of finish, whereby he identifies his shafts in addition to elaborating his personal idiosyncrasies in arrow-making. Having once known the sport, Billy was aware that the shafts in his hand as well as the hidden one were equally the work of a practised fletcher; and they had likewise all been shot by a practised bowman.

He didn’t know what to think. Now he turned his attention to the man stepping ashore from the rowboat and saw at a glance that he was a typical deckhand.

“You kill the seal?” Billy feigned ignorance.

“Lord, no,” the man grinned as he hauled the animal by a flipper to the dry bank. “That was the mate. Regular bug on the bow ’n’ arrow. Some shot, too, I’ll say. Hate to have him plunk one of them things through my gizzard.”

The man talked on while he skinned the seal. It was part of his job, Billy learned, to retrieve arrows and game for the Arethusa’s mate.

“Was he ashore hunting this morning?” Billy asked.

“Dunno. Don’t think so,” the man answered indifferently. “He don’t shoot much ashore. Mostly from the deck—unless he takes a target on the beach to shoot light arrows. He’s always making new ones. Spends all his spare time monkeying with them things.”

So that was that. The bowman off the Arethusa might have been in the woods that day—and he might not. But if there was uncertainty about the man, there was no uncertainty in Billy’s mind about the weapon and the intent. The archer who shot at him in the forest meant to get him. He was master of his weapon. Here was also a master of the bow, who could put a shaft through a seal at eighty yards.

Billy went back to the scow-loading with this added complication turning over in his mind. The work continued monotonously. Mid-afternoon was gone. Markham and the Swede still sat on the log carrying on their interminable conversation. They had been joined by Perez and Molter. They sat comfortably in the shade while the Japs sweated in the hot sun. They talked timber and hunting and navigation along the Pacific coast until five o’clock ended the day’s labor. Then the woodsmen took the path to camp.

Billy signed Markham to wait. When the others had vanished up the trail through the slashing he slipped through the brush to his hollow cedar and retrieved the arrow. As they rowed alongshore he told his tale to Markham.

“The plot thickens to beat hell, don’t it?” Markham frowned. “I got a sort of an eyeful this afternoon myself.”

“How?”

“Your green speedboat is stowed in chocks on the

afterdeck of the Arethusa,” Markham stated bluntly.

“Are you sure? How did y ou find out? How do you know it’s the same boat that I found cached in the cove?” Billy asked.

“T CAN’T swear to it, naturally,” Markham replied.

“But remember I lived aboard the Arethusa until a month ago, or less. I know her boats inside out. You described this launch to me. I took a look at the wreck with a pair of corking good binoculars I borrowed from Perez. And I got about a ten-second squint at this speedboat when a deckhand lifted off the canvas cover.

The green tarp you mentioned was folded across her forward deck. A green speedboat about twenty-five feet long with a hard-knuckled bilge and automobile controls.There aren’t likely to be two such combinations here at Helmcken at the same time, is there?”

“What about this archer mate?”

Billy asked. “Ever see him shoot?”

Markham shook his head.

“He’s a new one on me. Never saw him or a bow and arrow aboard the Arethusa in my time.”

The dinghy slipped into Molter’s bay and Markham sidled up alongside the Wasp. He sat holding the rubstrake, his gaze on the camp ashore.

‘‘Another thing,” said he slowly. “That big Swede foreman of your friend’s is a diver. He don’t *know I’ve got his number but he tipped his hand talking to me this afternoon. I recalled him perfectly when he made the slip. Worked with him once. I was on a job in San Diego about ten years ago—where he was head diver.”

“Huh!” Stone grunted. “By the way, were all three of them at the scow when you rowed down there?” “Now, I’ll be darned if I can say for sure,” Markham replied. “I started talking to the Scandihoovian and I don’t remember. Maybe they were. And again I have a sort of impression Molter and Perez came along after a while. Strikes me one of ’em came in a boat, and the other come hiking down the trail.”

“Oh hell!” Billy threw out his hands. “It’s getting so darned complicated it makes my head swim. We’re up against something that isn’t small time stuff by a long shot. It isn’t exactly a healthy place for us, Mark, this Helmcken Island.”

“I wouldn’t fancy being found in the brush with one of those things sticking through my middle,” Markham eyed the broadhead distastefully and appeared to be thinking seriously.

“Nor I,” Billy agreed. “But I’m not quitting. There’s a combination here that has started in to hunt me— and I’m going to hunt back. Watch and wait. Go armed. Be careful. There’s no reason anybody, should try to pink me like that fellow did to-day, except that I’m getting close to something that needs to be kept dark. I don’t like crooks and 1 don’t like murder. But I’m willing to take my chance.”

“Same here,” Markham returned. “I’m with you. Do you suppose, Bill, that this shingle-bolt crowd, including your friend Molter, is in the show?”

“Do you suppose,” Stone enlarger! the field of speculation, "that the Arethusa crowd may be putting it over? It isn’t a small undertaking to wreck two steamers and get away with close to a hundred and fifty thousand in gold out of their strong-rooms. That looks almost too big for a couple of ordinary men, don’t it?”

“Maybe they’re all in cahoots,” Markham suggested. “Whether they are or not how was it worked? How is it worked?”

“God only knows,” Billy Stone replied soberly, “and He’s not telling. It’s our job to find out.”

CHAPTER XII.

TF THE first forty-eight hours had given them something to chew upon in the way of incident, the succeeding forty-eight proved utterly barren. The salvage work went on at the wreck. The bolt-loading continued. Stone and Markham visited more or less at Molter’s camp. They watched, and by night they prowled surreptitiously around the northern end— drawing only a blank. They seemed to have come to a dead stop after a fairly exciting start.

“Let’s run down to Rock Bay,” Billy suggested the third morning. “There should be some mail for me.” The Wasp chugged down stream to this branch postoffice at a big railway logging camp. Billy’s journey was rewarded by a letter from Martha Powell. It was brief, but slightly, disturbing, inasmuch as Billy sensed an agitation uncommon to his sweetheart. It ran:

“Dear Bill: I must see you as soon as possible.

Since we always take a two weeks’ vacation somewhere during the summer, I’ve persuaded Papa Powell to go to Campbell River for a few days. He likes the salmon fishing there. We leave Victoria on a Union boat early the tenth, and arrive at Campbell River late that night. I do want to see you, Bill. I can’t tell you why in a letter. I’ll be looking for you every day till you come. Lovingly,

Martha.”

Billy looked up the date—the eleventh. Martha was at Campbell River now, expecting him. He wondered what could so trouble her. He felt that she was troubled beyond the mere wording of her letter. And he wanted to see her. He always wanted to see her. That longing had been coming over him at intervals for five years like touches of homesickness. Yet he was of a divided mind as he sat on the Rock Bay wharf reading his letter. Helmcken Island claimed his attention. Even in this short run to the postoffice he felt himself derelict in a duty. Any hour, he felt, might see some clue put in his hand there. The same sense of responsibility that rides a ship’s officer on watch bore on Stone in this task of seeking the key to the mysterious agency which had destroyed his ship. Yet it was a task wholly selfimposed, a matter in which he was comparatively his own master.

In the end he decided that he must see Martha. He could not carry on wholeheartedly his job at Helmcken while any sort of appeal from her went unanswered. She was too sturdy a soul to be troubled without cause.

But somebody had to be on the job. It wouldn’t do to go on to Campbell River with the Wasp. She was too slow. They would lose too much time. He remembered

that coasting steamers invariably called at Salmon Ba a little distance above the northern end of Helmckei They were fairly fast boats. If he could get one | afternoon—

He inquired of the Rock Bay storekeeper. Yes, tw local boats southbound touched Salmon Bay the afternoon, one at two o’clock, one in the evening. Tb following morning early a north-bound steamer calle at Campbell River. He could make close connections.

He talked it over with Markham.

“Sure, I’ll hold it down,” Markham declared.

“We can easil make Salmon Ba to catch that tw o’clock boat. Te you what I’ll d while you’re gont I’ll go aboard th Arethusa, just fo luck. They don’ think much of m since I fudged oi the Mandarin’ job But the skippe won’t throw m off. And I migh pick up a thread.’ That settled they drove Wasp up channe to Salmon Bay catching the stea mer with a litti« time to spare.

In the dusk of that evening Billy strode into tht office of a quaint old hotel built tc house guests who came from far afield to try their angling skill on the Tyee salmon that had made the place famous. He looked over the register, and turned from that to see Martha coming toward him across the lobby.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she suggested. “Papa Powell is roaming around the hotel somewhere. If he finds you’re here he’ll stick so close we won’t have a chance to talk.”

They left the hotel, went down past a row of cottages and found a seat on a beached log facing the tide that streamed like a river current toward the choked gate of Seymour Narrows

“Shoot,” Billy said. “What’s on your mind? What’s the trouble?”

“Did I sound like trouble?” she murmured. ■ “I didn’t mean to But I was disturbed when I wrote that letter. In fact I was really frightened. Perhaps I exaggerated things a little. And the funny thing is I can’t tell you why. Except that if you love me, Billum, you won’t stay around Helmcken Island.”

“Why?” he asked quickly.

“I can’t explain,” she answered. “I simply can’t. Only it worries me to think of you being at that place. I’m afraid. It’s dangerous. Let the old wreck go, Bill, and come back to Seattle. You can get into something there. We can manage. I’ve been a dutiful daughter long enough. I’m about ready to—to break away.”

DÍLLY STONE’S heart fluttered. He knew what she meant. He knew also that they could manage. Waiting because he wanted promotion, a decent income on which to make a home, had been partly dissembling between them. There had always been Captain Powell and his necessities, his natural demands. Martha’s sense of loyalty to a rather exacting parent had been as much of a bar to marriage as material circumstances. But there was more behind this mood of Martha’s than a weariness of sacrifice to her father and a longing for her lover. And Billy tried to find out what it was. He had an impression that Martha was afraid, not for herself but for him.

“I wish you’d tell me why, Mart,” he repeated gently. “You know I’d chuck almost anything, honeybunch, to play the game with you. But I’m in this rather deep—other people too. It seems to me there’s something important at stake. My own reputation as an officer—even if I never go to sea again. What has scared you so? Why do you think Helmcken is a dangerous place for me?”

Continued on page 39

Twice in the Graveyard Watch

Continued from page 20

“I can’t tell you,” she sighed. “It doesn’t seem like a logical or sensible reason sometimes. Not even to me. And I’m sure it wouldn’t to you. But just the same, I’d give anything if you’d drop this detective work. I’ll be uneasy as long as you’re around in Johnstone Strait.”

Dangerous to him on Helmcken! Well, Billy recalled that broadhead shaft quivering in the fir tree on a level with his breast and was quite willing to concede danger, danger with malice behind it. If on or about Helmcken Island those responsible for the wrecks were aware of his presence and purpose then certainly the element of danger was very real. But he had discounted that risk, and he wondered where Martha Powell got this new, keen apprehension for his safety. Was it based on something she had learned? Or merely on something she felt? Billy had never taken much stock in pure intuition. He knew that there was that odd thing called a “hunch.” Of late he had been inclined to believe that a “hunch” was as likely to be correct as an elaborately reasoned process.

But he couldn’t get anything definite out of Martha. She put her arms about him and pleaded with him to go back to Seattle. She would marry him on twentyfour hours’ notice. Anything. And the more she talked the more certain Billy grew that Martha had acquired a definite cause for fear on his behalf. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t tell what she knew—only what she felt.

And Billy’s pride was involved. He had set his hand to the job. He didn’t want to quit. He wouldn’t be a yellow dog. He told Martha that. She could see his point. Still, being a woman and fearing for him (although she stubbornly refused to say on what valid grounds; she pleaded that after all neither their lives nor their real material welfare depended on his personally solving the Helmcken Island mystery.

And in the end Billy said good-bye to catch the north-bound steamer rather unhappy and no wiser for his coming.

He brooded over unanswerable ques-

tions all the way north. He knew Martha pretty thoroughly. She wasn’t panicky. He was still pondering when he debarked on the Salmon Bay wharf and looked about for the Wasp.

NEITHER the Wasp nor his partner was in sight, although it was getting on for noon. Billy cooled his heels on the wharf for two hours, growing both uneasy and impatient until at last he hired a fisherman to run him across to Helmcken.

The Wasp lay in her accustomed berth. But her dinghy was gone. Billy scanned the beach in vain. He looked in the cabinJ. The galley stove was cold. He stood a moment wondering where Markham could be—why he hadn’t met the steamer.

Stone was just about to start the engine when a boat came swinging around the point. By the Blue Ensign aft, Billy knew she was in the government service. One man made fast her lines to the float; the other stepped into the Wasp's cockpit.

“My name is Pearce, provincial constable from Rock Bay,” he (announced briskly. “Are you William Stone, one of the two men on this Seattle powerboat?” Billy verified this.

“Where you been the last twenty-four hours?”

The man put the question bluntly, almost brusquely. Both the tone and question nettled Billy.

“I don’t see how or why that’s any of your business,” he replied. “But as a matter of fact, I was at Campbell River.” “I guess that accounts for you,” the constable nodded. “Now, who do you know around here that had it in for your partner? Anybody he was likely to quarrel with?”

“Nobody that I know of. What’s wrong?” Billy demanded. “Markham was to meet me with the Wasp at Salmon Bay. Has something happened him?”

“I’ll say something happened him,” the man replied grimly. “Somebody killed him. He come drifting down past that wrecking ship about daylight this morning laying dead in a rowboat.”

“How was he murdered?”

“That,” the constable said, “is one of the funny things about it. Looks like a knife. But I never saw a knife that would make a neat slit about an inch wide clean through a man’s body.”

IN THE gray of dawn that morning the anchor watch aboard the Arethusa had seen the Wasp's little dinghy drift on the tide out from behind the eastern shore of Helmcken. Caught in the sweep of the big eddy it circled within a few yards of the wreck, and the watch saw then that it was not empty as he first thought. There was something in it that looked like a man, asleep or drunk or disabled. Whereupon he called an officer. They lowered away a boat. Thus they found Markham lying in a pool of blood that was still warm.

This Stone learned upon boarding the Arethusa with the constable. They had lifted the dingy to chocks on the afterdeck and Markham still lay huddled in the bottom with his sightless eyes staring at the blue sky when Billy drew aside the canvas they had spread over him.

“Is there anything going on here,” the constable murmured quizzically, “more than can be seen with the naked eye? If there is, seems like I ought to be in on it as a matter of businesses.”

“Maybe. I don’t know for sure,” Billy returned. “This rather looks it.”

“I’ll say so,” the constable agreed. “Murder’s no parlor game. I wonder what he was killed with.”

“With a thing like this,” said a voice behind them.

Billy turned. At his e'bow stood a man who come up silently in rubber-soled shoes, a compactly built man in uniform. He carried in his left hand the most perfect specimen of an archer’s weapon Billy Stone had ever seen. The bow was of fine-grained yew, the rich brown heartwood worked into graceful tapered contours, its back of sapwood gleaming white as polished ivory.

THE mate carried in his hand a broadhead arrow, banded with blue, green, gold, the feathering on the shaftment of snow-white turkey wing.

Stone stiffened to attention on the man’s words. He noted, that the mate’s eyes glowed with feeling and that his speech, though concise enough, was shot through with a peculiar tensity—as if he Continued on page 1+2

Continued from page 1+0 were repressing anger, or laboring under some excitement.

“That may surprise you. But it is true. I know what I am talking about. I happen to be an archer,” he continued, addressing himself to the constable. “I have been shooting the bow for years. I have killed a variety of game with the bow. The thing that killed your man was an arrow like this—nothing else could make that precise sort of wound.”

He held out the broadhead.

“A bow drive an arrow clean through a man?” The constable’s tone was slightly incredulous.

“Take a good look at it,” the mate handed over the arrow.

The constable fingered the broad steel blade, edged like a knife, brushed the symmetrical feathers contemplatively, balanced the shaft across a finger.

“Nasty little sticker all right,” he commented. “But it don’t look reasonable that the stick in your hand could shoot it through a foot or more of flesh and bone.”

“You think not? Try this.”

The mate of the Aiethusa placed the lower nock under his left instep, grasped the bow midway with his left hand, and slid his right palm to the top of the upper limb, heaved sharply till the yew arched and so slid the loop into the slotted horn. He twanged the rigid bowstring»with his thumb. It gave out a faint musical note.

“This is an eightypound bow,” said he. “You are a strong man, I should say. You cannot draw it arrow length. Try.”

The constable braced himself, drew till his face reddened and the cords in his neck stood out like small ropes—yet the bowstring was still short of his face.

“Left arm fully extended. Bowstring back to a point on the jaw directly below the right eye. You’re five inches short. Draw full.”

There was a peremptory note in his voice. The constable let down the bow, looked at it with respect.

“It ain’t so much of a toy as it looks,” he conceded. “It might do the trick. Still—”

“Watch.”

The mate picked up a piece of board fully an inch thick, set it up against a boat chock. He took up his bow, walked back a few paces, nocked an arrow, drew the head to his jaw, back till the wide end of the barb touched his gripping-finger, and let fly.

For a second he held his graceful archer’s pose, bow arm extended rigidly, string fingers at his ear. The broadhead flashed to its mark, struck with a sharp pluck, passed through the board and split it apart. Twenty feet beyond it stuck in the Arethusa's deck planking as if it had been tapped in with a hammer. The archer lowered his weapon. They walked up to the arrow. The broadhead was driven so deep in the wood that he worked half a minute with a pair of small pliers to draw it free.

The constable eyed the arrow, the bow and the splintered board; then the man.

“That’s reasonable proof that it can be done,” he said slowly. “It also happens to be fairly strong circumstantial evidence as to who killed Cock Robin. Eh? That strike you, Mister Mate? You’re the only bow and arrow expert that I know of running loose in this neck of the woods. If you haven’t got an alibi you’re wide open to suspicion.”

“I have an alibi if I need one,” the officer eyed him gravely. “I merely show you that it can be done. I have something else to show you, friend constable. Likewise something to tell you. There’s a bowman—or a madman—as good or better an archer than I, here on Helmcken Island.”

The constable stared. Billy Stone’s pulse took on a quicker beat.

“Come up on the bridge with me,” the mate continued. “Both of you.”

They followed him.

On the port side, facing the timbered point on which Stone had seen the mate kill the dog seal, he stopped by a latticed door abaft the wheelhouse.

“See that mark—and that?” he asked— pointing.

'TMIEY looked. In two places the teakA wood slats were cut and splintered as if a broad-bladed knife had been driven through with considerable force.

“Now come in.”

Within the cabin he opened a locker and took out an arrow. The barb was bent slightly and the shaft cracked. But as a whole it stood intact, a broadhead hunting shaft—and Billy Stone’s attention

focussed sharply because he had its mate, feather for feather, color for color, nock pattern and general design in every detail, stowed in a drawer aboard the Wasp. It was twin to the shaft that had missed his breast by a hand’s breadth that day in the woods.

“Yesterday evening about sundown,” the ship’s officer told them in a dry, matter of fact tone which his look somehow belied, “I was standing alone on the bridge. I had shot a couple of light arrows at a dead tree on shore. This broadhead whizzed across and drove through the lattice. If I hadn’t seen the flash and known what it was and dodged instinctively it would have spitted me fairly amidships. I’m not panicky. It didn’t occur to me then that I was being shot at. I took it for a wild flight. And I was much interested in the mere fact that another bowman was about. They’re rare. I stood looking at the shaft and glancing toward shore for the archer. Then he shot again. The second landed within a few inches of the first, as you can see. _ I realized then that I was the mark he aimed at.

“Now, I’m not a fool. I know the work of a bowman when I see it. If an archer wants to shoot with me or at me I’ll play the game with him. That’s the way I feel about it. So I put a boat out and went ashore, bow in hand, with one of the crew. We beat the brush together. I didn’t tell him what I was after, except that I had lost an arrow. We heard nothing—saw nothing. Whoever it was shot his shafts at me and stole away. There are his arrows. Perhaps one out of the same quiver killed this man you found in the boat. I don’t know. Take your choice. I didn’t kill him. He was killed by a broadhead. There is a skilled bowman on Helmcken Island. Take your choice.”

“Don’t seem to be a choice so much as a blind guess,” the constable fingered the arrow. Then, after a brief silence he said: “A police boat with the coroner from Campbell River will be here shortly. Perhaps we’ll get some light shed on this at the inquest.”

STONE went back to wherj the Wasp rubbed beside the constable’s powerboat at the Arethusa's quarter. He climbed down, seated himself in his own tiny cabin and tried to figure it out.

Was the mate of the Arethusa lying cleverly? He was a bowman. Everyone aboard his ship knew his weapon and his skill. Was he simply covering up his tracks, establishing an invincible alibi against a possible charge? And if—and why—Stone found himself in a maze of bewildering conjecture out of which only two things emerged clearly: his partner had been murdered. His own life wasn’t worth much in or on or around Helmcken Island.

Behind these sinister events he couldn’t help seeing a definite motive—and that motive had to do with those trick lights and the looted strongrooms. But what had the mate of the Arethusa to do with that? And if he had aught to do with it would he deliberately have made such open display of his skill with the bow?

It was a maze in which Billy Stone felt that he must wander alone from now on. He wondered if Martha had some strange prescience of what had occurred, of what might yet come about, that made her fear for him? Either she had learned something she feared to tell, or she must have the gift of second sight; a phase of the occult Billy frankly disbelieved in.

He couldn’t quit now. He sat on the side of his bunk and fingered the sixshooter in his pocket. He wouldn't. A man couldn’t be broken by plundering crooks, see his friends assassinated, and run when the trail grew dangerous to follow. Somewhere near at hand crafty minds were planning, unseen eyes were watching, strong predatory hands were ready to act with ruthless decision.

It wasn’t precisely a cheerful prospect. Billy knew he had to beat them at their own game if he beat them at all. He conceded that his chances were slender. But he meant to keep trying. It was that or quit cold. And he wasn’t quitting.

To be Continued