The Golden Scarab
HERBERT HOPKINS MOORHOUSE
THE hands of the little clock under its tiny electric bulb beside the speedometer pointed 2.40. At 3.45 Slipper Dagg and his men would be putting out to sea. Fastest going by the shortest route to the rendezvous mentioned by Pomereski would eat up at least three-quarters of an hour. Twenty minutes leeway - that was all!
Addison Kent stepped on the accelerator as they swung a corner into Westchester Avenue. They tore across Westchester Creek and sped through Westchester Square without a check. If a policeman stopped them the novelist had only to show his badge; Kent explained this to the Nubian and instructed him to drop to the floor of the sedan, if necessary, and cover himself with the plaid rugs. The Bronx bridge slipped away in the darkness and Kent headed southwest towards 3rd Avenue at East 150th St.
In this, the concluding instalment, Mr. Moorhouse brings Jus thrilling serial to a crashing climax with a recital of the desperate deeds which took place aboard the rum-runner, Albatross, on that cold gray morning which was to mean so much to Addison Kent.
“Now talk, Kellani. I want the whole story of your connection with this man, Wasserhaus, or Von Strom. Ee quick!”
In the Nubian’s large black eyes glowed quiet admira" tion for this friend at the wheel of the flying car— the man who knew how to get to places quickly, how to handle policemen, how to command the situation and bring them both out of all difficulties. The beautiful “Daughter of the Morning,” as Kellani had named her, had said this gentleman was good and brave and Kellani was glad to obey him. With straightforward simplicity the brown giant from the distant Nile country told all that he knew.
Nor did he spare himself in the telling. He had not realized when he first drifted into Ludwig Von Strom’s service that the latter was nothing less than a bandit chief. Finding Professor Caron, securing employment under him, marooning him in the desert and finally delivering him—accidentally—at Von Strom’s rendezvous - all that had been carried out at Von Strom’s direction. There had been one slip—they had really lost their way in the desert. The water had run low and it was then that Kellani had learned to love the little Frenchman who, even in his extremity, had shared the precious fluid with his guide.
Van Strom had ordered him to come to America but he had been glad to obey orders this time because he wanted to be near his master, to protect him from some danger— a danger which had put a hunted look in the little Frenchman’s eyes.
Then, Van Strom had appeared in New York and the next night he had found his master, dead. That night of the murder, he had not told the truth to Kent because he did not know the latter was a friend. The next night he had been seized by Von Strom’s men and carried off to the Albatross where he had been held prisoner until the Little Lady had helped him to escape. She had passed him a key to his room and he had slipped over the bow into a quarterboat and floated off into the heaving blackness. After an hour’s steady rowing he had been almost run down by an inbound tug. His boat had fouled a trailing cable to which he had managed to make fast. As a result he had been towed in most of the fifteen miles.
So ran the Nubian’s recital. He was unable to give Addison Kent further particulars as to the plans of Von Strom or the activities aboard the Albatross, except to say that he believed the vessel would weigh anchor not long after daybreak.
For minutes there was no other sound save the roar of the engine under the hood.
“Did you ever hear of the Golden Scarab, Kellani?” It was Kent who finally spoke.
“Yes, sidi. It is the sign of the secret council to which only the elect gain entrance. Von Strom is a member. His hand is red with wickedness. He is a shaitan!" Another silence. Then:
“A live beetle, Kellani—what does that mean to the members of this Golden Scarab society?”
“It is the warning of the death decree, sidi.”
So, thought Kent, the little professor had known what was coming. There remained only the question of Von Strom’s knowledge of the existence of the roulette wheel in the Lamont residence. He queried Kellani once more. Had the Frenchman told Von Strom of the wheel?
“No, sidi, but I heard talk of it when the master met Lamont Effendi at Cairo. Afterward, the devil’s dog asked many questions about this meeting and I told him what was said.”
“Kismet!” muttered Addison Kent as he bent over the steering wheel.
nr HE sea-going tug Nancy B churned steadily through the darkness, outward bound. The lights of New York threw a luminous penumbra in the sky eighteen miles astern, where Bartholdi’s statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” on Bedloe’s Island held her tall torch against a thin mist that was drifting in from the Atlantic. Just ahead the white blaze of Sandy Hook Beacon smeared the black water at the entrance to the lower bay and beyond Ambrose Lightship the ocean swell heaved slowly in out of the night.
Dawn was not far off, but as yet it was pitch dark and cold. The spray which occasionally flew at the bow as the tug dipped froze where it struck. Except for her running lights and an occasional glow in the engine-room, the Nancy B, with a plume of black smoke trailing from her funnel, was but a shadow, headed south west.
Innocent enough, her appearance—a tug setting forth to pick up an early morning tow. But beneath the tarpaulins, heaped so carelessly abaft the deckhouse, lay a shivering huddle of cursing humanity in blue jerseys and sailor caps—masquerade seamen—ten carefully picked gunmen from theNew York underworld, friends of “Slipper” Dagg, eager to join in any mad hazard which promised sufficient return for the risk and discomfort. And piracy on the high seas—nothing less!—was the mission on which the Nancy B was tossing away into the blackness towards open water!
As Addison Kent watched the lean, alert face of the “Slipper,” standing in oilskins beside the man at the wheel, he marvelled. Addison Kent, forsooth!—writer of popular detective stories, sometime associate of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, friend and confidante of the Police Commissioner himself—of the 'District Attorney! Here was he on board this tug, companion of notorious gunmen, outward bound on an expedition that belonged in the repertoire of the late redoubtable Captain Kidd!
Madness! Under the excitement and strain of the night’s events he had not realized fully into what he was heading. True, he had made it very plain to Slipper Dagg that his presence must not be misconstrued as offering either official approval or police protection in the lawless venture upon which Dagg-and his men were embarking. The matter was entirely personal. He had explained frankly the urgency of his visit to the Albatross; he could not seek help through official channels without involving the young lady he was trying to rescue in an awkward tangle with the authorities. Forced to act independently and secretly and knowing of the expedition which was setting forth for the very destination he must reach in the shortest possible time, he had asked merely to be taken along as a passenger who would attend strictly to his own business, once aboard the rum carrier.
That had been how he explained it. And Slipper Dagg, wise in his day and generation, had listened with a faint smile at the corners of his wide, humorous mouth—had looked at the huge Kellani, just ashore from the very vessel they sought—had then studied his watch and grinned widely as he nodded assent. For he knew that Addison Kent would keep his promise not to interfere and Slipper Dagg was not unmindful of past favors. Besides, if “the rib” was “wanted” and Kent was trying to save her from the police—that was enough!
A hand pulled at the novelist’s coatsleeve and he found the Nubian beside him.
“We must reach the ship, master, before the day falls,” spoke Kellani with a trace of anxiety. He pointed. “More over that way—and faster. We are still far from the ship.”
Addison Kent’s face cleared and his jaws set resolutely. This had been the only way to reach Naida in time and it was not for him to hesitate but to go through with it without questioning the means to the end. Naida must come first. He stepped forward and repeated to Dagg what Kellani had said.
Promptly the Nancy B swung off two points to starboard and the rhythmic beat of her engine quickened to the signal for full speed ahead.
Braced against the side of the deckhouse, Kent pulled his sou’-wester tighter upon his head, restless under the enforced inactivity. Out there somewhere across the tossing water in the blackness she was waiting —waiting for him—depending upon him—Naida! She had sent for him in the hour of danger and difficulty and he was coming—coming closer to her with every throb of this, fast, strong tug. Eut there was need for speed. God alone knew in what extremity he would find her or what the next few house held in store!
Pomereski had met them with oilskins and sea-boots. He had wanted to come along; but Kent had ordered him back. Following their raid on the Albatross, Dagg planned to be set ashore with his men opposite the scene of the operation; the gangsters would scatter, finding their way back to their New York haunts one by one or by twos and threes, so that if everything went all right, Kent, Naida and Kellani could return safely on the Nancy B without attracting unwelcome attention.
If everything went all right? That was just it! On a desperate adventure like this any number of things might go wrong and Addison Kient wanted Pomereski in reserve for emergencies. If the Pole did not hear from Kent by a given hour he was to report immediately to Inspector Lowry at Police Headquarters and start official action.
For there was Wasserhaus - Ludwig Von Strom—to consider. The man was a criminal of the worst type who would hesitate not an instant to go to any lengths for revenge if the cards played into his hands. Out here at sea, beyond territorial waters, he could laugh at United States revenue cutters and coastguard boats. Boarded by modern pirates—“hi-jackers”—he would be free to fight with every gun at his command. The problem of bringing
him within reach of the New York police on a charge of murder seemed insurmountable—unless Kent kidnapped his man without regard to complications.
Eut, Naida first! Nothing mattered so much as her safety. If Von Strom had dared—! Kent gritted his teeth as he fought torturing thoughts. Aboard that vessel there must be some real men who would not permit— good Canadian sailor men—men of Lunenburg—salt bitten young Nova Scotian fishermen, fearing neither man nor devil yet holding womankind in respect—Kent knew them and he found solace in the thought that the Albatross was manned by such a crew. They would turn on the German and his gunmen if need arose—laugh in the face of any odds.
A Canadian vessel, the Albatross—steel coaster, 24 ft. beam. 2,000 tons—chartered by Von Strom, alias Wasserhaus, upon the recommendation of Singer Lieb. That much Kent had learned from Slipper Dagg. Apparently the proprietor of the Cafe Belgique had joined the German in some sort of deal for this cargo of. liquor which was being run ashore. Eut aside from all financial speculations, Addison Kent knew that Yon Strom’s real reason for chartering the vessel was to provide a base from which to carry out the special object of the visit to New Y ork.
In his slow, humorous way Slipper Dagg had admitted that he and his men were gambling their lives on the issue of their voygae. What concerned them most was the strength of the enemy. Dagg mustered enough men to take care of the rival gunmen unless, as he half suspected, Berlin Harry was planning to “double-cross” his employer. In that case, it would be quite within the possibilities that additional men had been smuggled aboard the Albatross when the rumrunning lighter had gone out for its cargo of liquor.
“Y ou mean that Berlin Harry would turn hi-jacker himself and rob Wasserhaus after the money was paid over for the cargo?” Kent had asked with interest.
“Y^ou’ve said it!” the Slipper had confirmed tersely. “There’s only one guy that bird aint double-crossin’ an’ that’s himself! An’ knowin’ him for what he is, I can’t seem to see him sittin’ around, suckin’ his thumb beside a hundred grand when all he’s got to do is to reach out an’ grab the dough!”
“But this man, Wasserhaus—What about the crew?”
“Ain’t likely they’d butt in on what ain’t any o’ their funeral. An’ out here on the blue an’ boundin’ deep there aint nobody goin’ to holler ‘Cop!’ ”
“ ‘One hundred grand’—You mean one hundred thousand dollars? Would there be that much money on board?”
“Thinkin’ we was cornin’ out here for our health?" grinned Dagg. “This aint no piker’s game o’ penny-ante we’re sittin’ in on, brother! We takes our chances o’ gettin’ plugged; but not for a nickle! Why, say, a hundred grand aint more’n half what some o’ these birds sails away with, figure it out. Booze is sellin’ at fifty a case out here on ‘The Row’ and the guys runnin’ it ashore gets another twenty on top o’ that. How many cases in a shipload? Say, I know some guys—” and Slipper Dagg spoke feelingly of certain hi-jacking windfalls which were breath-taking.
ALIGHT off the port bow! Dim, blurred through the mist it showed—the riding light of some anchored vessel. At once aboard the Nancy B the tension grew. Low-spoken orders and all lights on the tug were obliterated; she changed her course slightly, slipping through the water with undiminished speed, merely a blacker shadow in the darkness.
“That’ll be one o’ them Gloucester fishin’ smacks on Rum Row,” Slipper Dagg vouchsafed confidently. “They carry two thousand cases apiece for a syndicate that has ’em under contract. We’re due to be alongside them about now. Keep well off to the right, cap. There’s a flock o’ them schooners anchored within half a mile o’ each other an’ they’re layin’ south right along the coast to about twelve miles east o’ Seabright. We got to kick free o’ them an’ the big bird we want ought to be off by itself a couple o’ miles farther on.”
It was evident that Slipper Dagg knew what he was about. He stepped aft to look over his gang and Kent could hear him carefully emphasizing instructions. The deliberateness of the whole thing was appalling—vicious rats of the underworld, stealing in upon their victim to kill or to be killed—for a riffle of ill-gotten money! It seemed good to Kent to note the great bulk of the simple Nubian from the far-off desert spaces presently looming beside him at the rail.
“The day is not long away, sidi,” muttered Kellani. Kent peered eastward and did indeed imagine a faint change in the depth of the blackness.
“We are getting close to the Albatross now,” he reassured.
“Remember what I have said about Von Strom—the Law must take its course. I want him—”
“Alive, Kellani! You understand?—Answer me!”
“And we are not concerned with this murderous rabble. We keep out of the fight—unless attacked. We are here to rescue the Little Lady.”
“May her day be blessed!” murmured Kellani.
They fell silent. It was quiet now on board the Nancy B. The only sounds were the swirl of the water at her bow and the dull regular beat of the propeller, churning under the counter. Time passed. Occasionally off in the mist a faint speck of light swam in view for a moment or two and passed astern. Presently the Nubian’s hand touched the novelist on the shoulder and over the port bow Addison Kent saw dim lights that floated slowly towards them out of the distance—a green light, a red light, a white anchor light on a foremast, a black shadow that blotted out the vague grayness eastward.
The tug’s propeller stopped, then resumed—a slow beat that was scarcely audible. It stopped again. Not a sound as they floated in the dark, lifting slowly to the ocean swell—nothing but the faint washings of the black water.
“His Nibs is sure about that sea-ladder bein’ down, is he?” Kent was startled by Slipper Dagg’s hoarse whisper at his elbow. “We’ll stop right here an’ send the skiff ahead to give her the once-over. We got to put a crimp in the lookout before we can make a break an’ we got to work fast, believe me.” He was gone in the dark before the novelist could reply.
Whisperings aft where shadowy forms clustered. The skiff that had ridden the comber behind the tug was drawn alongside. Three men stepped in, the painter was flung free and they vanished into the gloom.
During the wait that followed Addison Kent strained his eyes towards the vague outline of the Albatross, riding at anchor not far away; but all he could discern was a deeper blackness that bulked on the water. She was, he knew, a steel freighter of 2,000 tons and of the usual type. Kellani had described her adequately and, according to him, a sea-ladder was down on the port side of the for’ard well-deck—left for the convenience of the men who were red-leading the hull and whose quarterboat Kellani had stolen while making his escape.
Kent listened; but there was no stirring of life aboard the vessel. It was almost uncanny. The crew? Asleep, of course—all but the morning watch—one man, probably, as she was at anchor. She carried a crew of twenty-five besides the captain—first and second mates, steward and mess-boy, a bo’sun, a ship’s carpenter, four A. B. seamen and two deck-boys; also there would be a chief engineer, a second and third engineer, an oiler, a donkeyman and eight firemen. Were they all asleep? Where was Von Strom and the Berlin Llarry gang? And where in that black shadow was Naida?
In a fret of impatience Kent sought out Slipper Dagg.
“See here, Dagg—” he began.
“Close your trap!” whispered the Slipper fiercely.
Kent saw that the gunman was leaning forward, anxious gaze rivetted on one spot. Presently he drew back with a sigh of relief as three quick flashes of an electric torch winked in the darkness.
“They got ’m!” came his exultant whisper. “All set, Ben! —Easy now! Kick her straight past an’ drift in alongside on the right.”
“Keep close to me, Kellani!” admonished Kent tensely.
Noiselessly the tug approached. The black bulk of the Albatross towered slowly in upon them.
THE deckhouse of the tug was almost on a level with the after well-deck of the coastal steamer and like shadowy wolves the hi-jackers swarmed aboard. They crouched by the bulwark while their leader received the murmured reports of the three scouts he had sent ahead. They had experienced no touble in surprising the lone watch on deck. The fellow proved to be one of Berlin Harry’s men and had been more interested in what was transpiring in the engineers’ messroom than in attending to his duties; they had blackjacked him without a sound while he looked through a porthole into the messroom and—
“What’s the lay?” cut in Slipper Dagg impatiently. “Dey’s countin’ de coin on de table an’ de gang—” “How many?”
“Fourteen, countin’ de big guy wid de bump on his bean.”
“An’ the crew?”
“Beat it somewheres. De bunkhouse is empty—”
Addison Kent waited to hear no more. With a warning squeeze of the Nubian’s arm he slipped, away and, Kellani at his heels, lost no time in climbing the ladder to the waist. There was no sign of anyone about the engine-room deckhouse as they slipped past and Kent was in a fever of anxiety. What was going on—had already happened? Where were the crew if their f o’castle bunks were empty? It could not be possible that they had deserted the ship while Berlin Harry and his thugs—!
“Go, Kellani! You know your way about. Search! Do not stop searching until you find some trace of her. Then you are to rejoin me here at once. Make haste! Hell’s breaking loose in a minute!”
Beyond the engine-room two alleys divided the rest of the waist into three sections—officers’ quarters and messroom, steward’s pantry and stores, the main saloon and above that the bridge, chartroom and captain’s cabin. The engineers’ messroom was directly in front of Kent as he crept forward to look through one of the. portholes which faced the engine-room deckhouse. The portholes were closed; but through the thick glass he could see clearly enough to take in the lighted room and its occupants.
It was packed with men, all craning their necks to look over one another’s shoulders. At the table, directly under a swing lamp, sat Berlin Harry and Nifty Dean, absorbed in counting a litter of greenbacks into neat piles, each secured by an elastic band. So startling was the sight of that cluster of avaricious faces encircling that great pile of money that for a moment Kent’s gaze was fixed.
Then his eyes roved eagerly in search of Von Strom, alias Wasserhaus. Even more startled, the novelist located him in a corner of the room, entirely ignored— trussed up by his thumbs to a beam in the ceiling! Only by standing on tip-toe could the German relieve the torture of his position and it was apparent that he was fighting a physical agony that matched the mental distress of his financial losses.
For Slipper Dagg had prophesied well. Berlin Harry was running true to form—even now counting the loot— hi-jacking the man who had hired him to safeguard the very fortune which lay on the table! And it was because they believed that the German was holding out on them— had still more money in concealment—that they were mistreating him in this diabolical manner.
Kent drew back from the porthole, thinking quickly. It was a matter of moments only before the Dagg faction would close in. The opportunity of bottling up the enemy inside the messroom would be apparent at a glance to the keen-witted Slipper; but would Dagg stop at that or would he and his men proceed to convert the messroom into a charnel house by shooting down the helplessly crowded occupants in cold blood? It could be done easily enough through the skylight and portholes and at the single door that opened on the port alleyway; it would be wholesale murder! On the other hand, once let those desperate thugs of Berlin Harry out of that messroom and the decks of the Albatross would run red in a gunfight to the finish—! They must be taken prisoner somehow—disarmed—Von Strom must be captured—How? How?
There was Dagg now, creeping around the corner of the engine-room deckhouse on the starboard side, followed by one of his men! Another was sticking his head out on the port side. They were shadowy and indistinct in the growing grayness of the dawn. Kent started towards Slipper Dagg with warning hand upraised—
A stumble in the darkness on the port side of the engine-room deckhouse!—the sharp accidental discharge of an automatic pistol as the man went sprawling over the saddle-bunker hatch!— a bitter oath as Slipper Dagg leaped like a cat for the cover afforded by the saddlebunker hatch to starboard!
More Thrilling Than
is the story of Poundmaker’s defiance of the North West Mounted Police. In MACLEAN’S May i issue, W. B. Cameron, an eye-witness of one of the most dramatic scenes in Canadian history, tells how extraordinary coolness won the day for the law of the Dominion and averted what might have been a bloody massacre.
It was on the knees of the gods now! One breathless moment of utter silence—then wild commotion in the engineers’ messroom! The light went out. The door was being opened with stealth.
Addison Kent jumped for the starboard alleyway that gave him free access through to the for’ard well-deck. He had barely time to crowd in behind the heavy iron door. Automatic in hand, he watched through the crack.
TWO flashes of red darted in the gloom; the bark of the pistols was like a single shot. The hi-jacker who had given the alarm inadvertently by stumbling pitched again across the saddle-bunker hatch opposite the port alleyway, now lay there, inert. But he had got his man— the first to come out of the messroom; the latter lay in a huddle across the iron coping of the alleyway door-sill.
With an involuntary curse the fellow crowding out behind him, tripped over the body and fell headlong into the open. As he picked himself up in a panic Slipper Dagg got him from a crouched position behind the starboard saddle-bunker; the shot spun him upright. Then he suddenly crumpled, his boots threshing a brief tattoo on the deck before he lay still.
Dead silence followed. The faint lap of the water against the sides of the vesel was audible to Kent’s straining ears. Behind the iron door, eye glued to the crevice, he stood, tensed.
Again the report of Dagg’s automatic was like the crack of a snake whip—three quick shots. Smash!— tinkle! That would be the glass of the nearest porthole Crack! Zul! Zip! Wh—i—nd—a fusilade in reply and a choked cry of pain from the direction of the starboard saddle-bunker! The hatch was not within Kent’s line of vision; but he knew that Dagg or one of his men had been hit.
Silence once more— so complete that his ears throbbed. The water gently slapped. Somewhere aloft something
or other creaked as the Albatross lifted to the slow ocean swell.
After an interval he caught a new sound—a slight rubbing as if someone very carefully were slithering along the wall of the engineers’ messroom, closely hugging the shadow. There was the drag of a boot—a hoarse whisper, alarmingly close. With bated breath, the novelist realized that the Berlin Harry gang were crawling out from the dangerous trap in which they had been caught like foolish flies, lured by sugar to indiscretion.
Dagg’s last quick shots, then, had been a bluff to cover his retreat to the after well-deck where he had commanded his men to remain while he and two of the scouts reconnoitered the position. That must be it. The Slipper had seen the wisdom of getting his men under cover and the enemy into the open because objects rapidly were becoming more distinct in the first cold blue of the daylight.
Not a muscle did Addison Kent move. His very life depended upon what happened in the next minute or two. Would these thugs search the alleyways toward the for’ard well-deck or would they locate the position of the Dagg gang and concentrate aft? If they looked behind the door which concealed him he could hardly hope to shoot his way through; he would be riddled—!
A sharp exclamation came from the direction of the port saddle-bunker where the unfortunate stumbler lay across the hatch cover. They had recognized him as one of Slipper Dagg’s men and a steam of blasphemy greeted the discovery. At the same instant the morning breeze brought a vagrant swirl of acrid black smoke curling in on them and at once the tug alongside the after well-deck drew their attention.
A shrill whistle through a pair of fingers was followed by the shuffle of crowding feet and a murmur of hurried instructions. Kent saw the figures within his vision slink beyond the corner of the engine room deckhouse on the port side. His tense muscles relaxed. With a breath of
relief he passed the sleeve of his sweater acioss his moist forehead.
That had been too close for tranquility! It was not more than ten minutes since hostilities had opened; but it had seemed an age. The Berlin Harry crowd had not known who was attacking them. Where was the crew of the vessel? What was Kellani doing? He must waste no time. Ah! the battle had begun in the after well-deck!
The staccato of the automatic pistols was a running chatter now. Kent slowly swung the door—then hastily recovered it and crowded back behind it. Up the alleyway, against the oblong of light at the other end of the passage, he saw three black figures. They came towards him on the run, pistols in hand—some of the gang who had gone forward to investigate up the port alleyway and were coming back on the starboard side to get into the fight. It was to recall them that the whistle had been given.
Had they seen him? With finger on the trigger of his automatic, Kent crouched. The pound of boots echoed loudly in the narrow passage. Here they came! The novelist’s quickened pulse seemed suddenly to stand still. They had stopped short just as they reached his hiding-place! His teeth set grimly—
A cautious movement — the creep of feet! Kent raised his automatic and watched the inner edge of the door like a cat, ready to pounce.
“Aw, aint nobody out dere but de stiffs, Badger!” complained a voice. “Get into de scrap!”
With a rush the trio was over the door-sill and leaping for the engine-room deckhouse. Again Kent’s sleeve dried his forehead in relief. The pause had been merely for cautious survey of the open deck before them! The Badger, eh? He seemed fated to be crowding to one side in concealment while the Badger went past on the run! Not very long ago in the underground tunnel with outlets at the Belgique Cafe and Loo Ling’s tea-shop, it
had been the Badger who passed while Naida—
Naida! He must find her without further delay. Quietly Kent closed the heavy door and bolted it. He turned and started along the passage towards the bow of the vessel—then halted with a jerk and quickly threw up the muzzle of his weapon as the oblong of light in front of him was suddenly blotted out—
‘‘This way, sidi,” reassured the even accents of Kellani.
Up on the bridge abaft the chartroom —in the captain’s cabin with the door barricaded and shutters closed, with the woodwork freckled and splintered by bullets—!
“My God!” cried Kent, aghast. He made for the blood-stained rungs of the ladder; but the Nubian reached out and pulled him back hastily.
“The night has been black with evil, sidi,” he cautioned. “It is well to go slowly. If she be alive, she will shoot everyone who approaches by the ladder. Call out, master, and give knowledge of our presence.”
“If she is alive!” echoed Kent thickly. “Naida! Hello, there! Naida! It is I— Kent—Addison Kent and Kellani!— Thank God!”
The slats of a shutter had opened. With her glad cry in his ears Kent fairly ran up the ladder, calling out to know if she was hurt. He could hear her tugging at the barricade inside. When the door finally opened he was there with arms outstretched for her—
But she was standing back, smiling glad welcome, cool and collected! It was unnecessary to ask if she was all right; that fact was apparent in her self-possession. The anxiety went out of Addison Kent’s hungry eyes as he looked—was reborn as he took in the disordered condition of the cabin and the bruises which clutching fingers had left upon that beautiful white throat—
“Naida!” He stepped towards her. “Thank God, we’re in time!”
“I am almost out of ammunition,” she laughed and held out her hand.
He grasped it and eagerly drew her towards him; but she held back, looking beyond him expectantly.
“Where’s Dick?” Then as he did not answer, a sudden look of alarm filled her beautiful eyes. “Did you not come together? Oh, Mr. Kent, what has happened?”
Dick? It was Malabar she was asking for! —Malabar she was anxious about! Had their kisses, then, meant so little? Mister Kent! He was only a “Mister” while Malabar was “Dick.” Sharply Kent took himself in hand—and smiled back at her reassuringly as he explained his presence and what was transpiring on the after well-deck.
At once she was serious, practical. Rapidly she sketched for him the story of the night—just the essentials for him to understand what they must do. The hirelings of Wasserhaus had run amuck! Shortly after midnight the lighter had gone with the cargo of liquor, heading out to sea; but more gunmen had come aboard to join Berlin Harry in his plans to hold up the ship. They had smuggled drugged liquor into the fo’castle and got the crew stupefied. They had blackjacked the officer of the watch and overpowered the others. The first mate and the captain they had chloroformed in their bunks—
“And you?” urged Kent.
She had been awakened by Wasserhaus forcing the door of her stateroom. The German had been celebrating and was half drunk. There had been a struggle, abruptly terminated by Berlin Harry and Nifty Dean who had promptly seized Wasserhaus and carried him off.
“It’s all right, sister,” they had assured her. “You’re under our protection. You stay right here.”
But she knew the breed and she had lost no time in gathering her ammunition and fleeing to the captain’s cabin, where she barricaded the door and waited, automatic in hand. Later they had come back and when she had refused all their invitations to come down and join them they had tried to force her. Not until she had wounded several had they left her alone, promising that they would attend to her in due course.
“What have they done with the crew? Pitched them overboard?”
“No, they’ve locked them up—down there in the storeroom. We must hurry and release them. Captain Head is a
gentleman and—Oh, come, Mr. Kent! Hear that!”
It was Kellani forcing in the small, tight door in the forepeak that gave access to the paint locker. He stood aside with a silent bow as they joined him. The air that smote their nostrils was thick with nauseating odors—the stench of vitiation, the sickening sweetness of chloroform, the smell of—
Kent waved Naida back, beckoned to the Nubian and plunged inside. One by one they brought them out into the open air and laid them on the deck where Naida, with a bucket of cold water beside her, made hurried ministrations. Some of them were in worse conditions than, others; not all of them were unconscious. The second mate was able even to assist in reviving his brother officers; the fresh air quickly restored Captain Head and the first mate, although their faces were yellow with pallor beneath the tan of their weather-beaten skin.
“How long have they been in there? Since midnight? It must be well over six hours since the drugged liquor—”
Kent shook the shoulder of a burly young seaman who was sleeping peacefully and watched his ready response with interest. The deck-boy sat up, blinking. He appeared to be wide awake, suffering no ill effects, and the novelist smiled up at the anxious-faced girl.
“Peraldehyde,” he explained. “It’s action is quick on the knock-out but ends in natural sleep after a couple of hours with little after effects; it is used to quiet inebriates and in severe cases of chorea. If they had used chloral—”
He paused as the firing broke out with renewed vigor among the combatants aft. The noise brought most of the sleeping sailors to a sitting posture. The captain was on his feet now, his pallor rapidly giving place to ruddy anger as he administered some well deserved kicks.
“Get up, ye blithering fools!” he commanded harshly. “Devil take ye if I dinna wallop ye m’sel’ onless ye drive yon scum off the ship! Ochan, dae ye want to lay there an’ be murdered? Dinna ye know there’s a fight gaein’ on?”
In a few words Naida had put the facts of the situation before Captain Head and with kicks and blows and castigations he
rallied his crew to full recovery. The steward, who had scouted aft, returned with the grave report that the gunmen had broken into the saloon and had taken the stand of small arms and all the ammunition. This was bad news; for even the officers had been disarmed and without weapons they were helpless against the thugs. Even so, the mounting rage of the men of Lunenburg as they realized what had happened to them and their vessel would have carried them into the fight with bare fists had the command been given. They shifted uneasily while the officers conferred.
It was just then that a seaman stepped up and drew attention to a speeding launch which was bearing down on them to port out of the thin mist that narrowed vision upon the expanse of heaving water. All eyes watched the rapid approach of the small power-boat which was cutting the water in a streak of foam. The craft was equipped with mufflers; her engine gave out only a subdued vibrant hum as she came down on them at high speed. In the uproar from the after well-deck the new sound was scarcely noticeable.
Red dawn was in the sky and it was Addison Kent who first caught the glint of the machine-gun, mounted in the bow of the oncoming launch. At his shout of warning everybody dropped below the bulwarks except Naida. She was too absorbed in peering eagerly at the stranger to heed anything.
Kent seized her and carried her bodily across the deck as fast as he could go with the idea of getting her within the shelter of the paint-locker. But at the door she protested so effectively that she struggled free and deliberately ran back to the rail. Before anyone could prevent it, she climbed up in full view, hanging onto the ratlines and waving her hand.
“Dick! Dick!” she called.
And at that Kent halted in his tracks. One quick glance satisfied him that it was indeed Richard Malabar who was standing up in the launch and waving back at her. He came up the sea-ladder, hand over hand with the agility of a monkey. He was no sooner over the side than Naida threw herself wildly into his arms!
A bullet whanged against the steel foremast and whizzed overboard!
“VJOU appear to be having a little exJL citement aboard, captain,” smiled the newcomer. “I regret that we-are so late; but certain necessary formalities caused unavoidable delay. If it is not presumption, may I express the hope that we are in time, to be of service?”
“And who the devil are you, sir?” demanded the astonished Captain Jabez Head with a dignity befitting the other’s unctuous diction.
“The gentlemen below, sir, are attaches of the British Embassy at Washington and with your permission—” He stepped to the side with a beckoning gesture, then glanced aft as a second stray bullet zinged off the foremast. “May I enquire, Captain Head, as to the position of affairs? Just before setting out we learned that you were liable to be boarded by hi-j ackers and we ventured to bring along some sawed-off shot-guns and two machine-guns—”
At that they surrounded him eagerly. Explanations were as brief and incisive as the occasion demanded.
“Allow me to present Colonel Weatherby and Captain Wilcox. We are here to arrest a man known as ‘Wasserhaus’ but who is really Ludwig Von Strom wanted by the Egyptian Government upon evidence supplied by the British Secret Service, represented here by this young lady. The matter is before the Canadian authorities at Ottawa, captain, and everything is in order. First, however, you will want to stop that nonsense aft.” While the machine-guns and ammunition were being hastily hoisted aboard Richard Malabar slowly approached Addison Kent, who had listened dumbly.
“Ah, my dear fellow, there are times when you really do show some ability,” was the suave admission with that mocking inflection of Alceste. “Your presence here ahead of me is indeed a delightful surprise, although you will hardly, expect me to approve of your traveling companions. I trust you left my good friend Gridley in the best of health—” A dig in the ribs! A sudden grin! “Come to life, old top!” and it was the old Dick Malabar who now shook him by the shoulders.
“Wasserhaus—” began Kent stupidly. “You can have what is left of him when I get through with him!” Malabar’s face sobered quickly. “I say, I want you to keep out of this show. It is not going to amount to much; but I want you to escort my sister into that launch and take her out there beyond all possibility of stray bullets. God knows she’s run enough risks already—!”
“Escort—your—whät?. Your sis-~
sis—!” stuttered Kent.
“—ter," supplied Malabar. “Bravest and best sister in the world, dear old bean! I säy, what did you think she was?—my grandmother?”
FROM a safe distance they watched the progress of affairs aboard the Albatross. The bitter fight between the rival gangs of gunmen was in full swing still; so completely absorbed were the feudists that they were entirely unaware of what had been transpiring in the fore part of the vessel. Events had moved so swiftly that the actual time which had elapsed since Slipper Dagg and his men had stolen aboard was short.
“Look!” exclaimed Naida. “No, over to the left—the man running. See, he’s just starting up the ladder to the bridge. Isn’t that Von Strom?”
The crew already had crept aft through the alleyways to take up position for the attack on the gunmen in the after welldeck; for the moment the for’ard welldeck was deserted. Kent picked up the binoculars from the plush seat beside him.
“Yes!—Von Strom—with Kellani chasing him!” as a second figure came into sight, climbing after the first. “And I told him—!”
“I know Kellani’s story,” murmured Naida. “He has great cause to hate Von Strom—”
“I told him he was not to take the law into his own hands notwithstanding—” Captain Jabez Head’s stentorian bellow through a megaphone was punctuated by a warning ripple of machine-gun fire. At the whistle of the bullets overhead a yell of dismay arose from the surprised gunmen. There was a wild scramble for cover from this new and unexpected menace.
“He is firing at Kellani!” cried Naida anxiously. "What madness for Kellani to Continued on page ¿.i
The Golden Scarab
Continued from page 26
expose himself that way! He seems to be unarmed. He will be killed!”
“Possibly,” was Kent’s comment. “Kellani has that curved knife of his in his hand. I supplied him with an automatic; but evidently he has lost it or distrusts it—there! See that? There is a method in his madness; he is deliberately drawing the other’s fire—to empty the gun! God help that German if they ever get to grips!—Here, take a look and see if you can make out what Von Strom is clutching in his left hand.”
“It looks like—money!”
“That’s it!—a huge bundle of greenbacks! Trust him to think of the swag!” Kent searched for a second pair of glasses, found them in a locker and focused them eagerly on the Albatross.
At a cry from Naida, the novelist switched his glasses back to the bridge just in time to see Kellani tumble behind the chartroom. In a flash Von Strom was off the bridge sliding unseen down the ladder. With a breath of relief Kent saw the Nubian crawling cautiously on hands and knees, stalking his enemy.
Across the well-deck fled Von Strom. He was making for the ratlines and was half way up the foremast by the time Kellani missed him.
_ Down the ladder raged the swarthy giant, looking to right and left like a black bloodhound who momentarily has been thrown off the scent.
Deliberately the huge German paused to level his pistol. He fired—and missed! He fired again twice in quick succession, then climbed madly upward as he felt the Nubian’s nimble feet on the ratlines below.
There was no stopping Kellani. On he went, hand over hand, the knife held in his teeth; in the red sunrise it gleamed athwart his dark face. Von Strom flung his empty weapon downward. Kellani
merely turned his frizzled head as the pistol sped past his shoulder—and climbed without a pause.
The terrified German had reached the crow’s nest at the foretruck, which was as high as the ratlines went. Against the red haze eastward the steel mast etched thin and straight; beyond the foretruck it tapered to a mere black whip with the wireless yard near the top, a flimsy stick which seemed scarcely strong enough to carry the threads of the aerial.
Throwing one desperate glance aloft, Von Strom knelt at the foretruck and held out the great package of money. Ignoring this plea for his life, the Nubian climbed steadily closer. Again the German looked aloft; again he pleaded. He left the money at the crows-nest and shinned up the mast till he got one leg over the signal yard. Once more the gesture of supplication!
At the foretruck Kellani paused to pick up the bundle of bills. Never before in his life had the simple Nubian seen so much money at one time in one spot, let alone actually held it in his hands. He took the knife from between his teeth long enough to throw back his head in open laughter. The attitude was eloquent of a magnificent derision.
Suddenly he hurled the money at the man above him. It struck Von Strom in the face and hit against the mast. The impact broke the bank-notes loose; they scattered and flew, the paper bills caught by the freshening morning breeze which showered them in a cloud, fluttering, wobbling. Against the bright sky it was like a flock of black swallows which soared and dipped, sailed, dropped—down into the sea!
Hastily Addison Kent swung his glasses aft. The firing had ceased abruptly and Continued on page f6
Continued from page 43 the captain was bawling through the megaphone. At that distance it was impossible to hear what was being said; but apparently the fight was over. The tug was pulling away at full speed!
Was there time yet to stop Kellani? Had nobody aboard noted the pair on the foremast? It was useless to shout—useless to attempt to speed in to the rescue of the German. Whatever was to happen would have happened before—
It was happening even now! Breathless, the watchers in the launch gazed helplessly at the drama. Von Strom was straddling the signal yard. He dared go no higher! Yet relentlessly the Nubian was climbing and reaching for him! Panic-stricken, completely obsessed by fear, the German began to back out on the signal yard, his full weight bearing upon the starboard guy that held the yard in a horizontal position.
The result was inevitable. Under the strain the guy snapped! Instantly the yard flew up on the starboard side and down like a pump-handle on the port side of the mast. Unprepared for that swift jack-knife closing to the vertical, Von Strom spilled off backwards!
Like a plummet he plunged headlong to the. steel deck below!
For a long moment Kellani gazed downward. Then he slid to the fore-truck and stood erect, facing the east where the morning sun hung just above the horizon, a blood-red ball in the haze. Slowly and solemnly against that blood-red disc the Nubian’s arm was raised aloft. Thus he stood.
And it seemed to the white-faced watchers that the silhouetted figure symbolized the fatalism of the East which ever bows its forehead to the sands before the mystic decree of the stars and the wisdom of the Infinite.
CONSIDERABLY more than the day’s sensation was the arrival of the death ship, Albatross, in New York Harbor. As she sailed up the bay with her bloodspattered deck and her bullet-splinteredwoodwork, the vessel herself was a sensation; for thus did her doughty skipper deliver her in confirmation of the remarkable story he had to tell the United States authorities. But when it became known that he had brought with him eleven dead bodies and almost as many prisoners, mostly wounded; that among these were numbered some of the underworld’s most notorious gunmen; that dead on board lay the self-confessed murderer of the late Professor Caron and Armaund Lamont’s faithful servant, Mokra—it was little wonder that the newspaper extras set New York agog! The fact, too, that the vessel had been taken in charge by representatives of the British Embassy from Washington and that startling revelations might be pending concerning contraband liquor operations—here was background aplenty upon which to spread lengthy and lurid descriptions of battle at sea.
It was a hectic day for all concerned, particularly for Mr. Addison Kent. He had reached the dying Von Strom just in time to get from him a confession of his guilt in the Caron case—that he was responsible for the death of both victims. But the German had passed away without revealing anything except the bare fact of his guilt. However, the details of the crime, as reconstructed by Addison Kent, were substantiated by the statement of the St. Boniface Kid to the police; in every particular the novelist had surmised the truth. Only the motive remained a mystery.
To the best of his ability Kent piloted his friends through the tedious formalities and stood between them and undue annoyance by newspaper reporters, who clustered like flies around a honey-pot. At the end of the day he was glad to relax and he set out for Westchester with pleasurable anticipation of the quiet evening they had planned—just the three of them—Dick, Naida and himself.
AS THEY sat in front of the library fire after dinner it seemed to Addison Kent that he had never felt so contented. His cigar had never had such flavor and fragrance. The dinner itself had been a pleasantly cheerful affair—a conversational treat as well as a culinary triumph for the painstaking Gaston. The service —considering that Kellani was just being initiated to his new duties—had been quite satisfactory; he had the makings
of a fine servant, Kellani, and Kent had sent the poor fellow into the seventh heaven of happiness by his words of commendation. But, even had there been cause for complaint, it is extremely doubtful if Addison Kent would have been aware of it—not acutely, at any rate; for in the presence of Naida Malabar—!
He looked across at her and smiled and she smiled back at him—for no particular reason at all; they just smiled. She had managed to get some much needed sleep during the afternoon and had awakened greatly refreshed. Kent thought he had never seen her looking so beautiful, although he had not seen her very oftennever before in a dinner gown. She was positively stunning!
■‘Even to you, Kent, whose business it is to weave bright threads of romance on the loom of a soaring imagination— even to you the facts I am about to lay before you will seem well nigh incredible.”
Richard Malabar’s tones were weighted with solemnity as he spoke without preamble; he had been sitting in silence for some time, staring at the grate and finding in the red coals long avenues of retrospection.
“Yet I swear to you that I shall state only the plain honest truth in every particular. Naida agrees with me that you are entitled to know the full facts from the very beginning and they will be given you without reserve in order that you may judge my case upon its merits. That is all I ask.
“Last night, Kent, quite justifiably, you were prepared to turn me over to the police, knowing me to be a notorious crook—‘Alceste,’ whom you had every reason to regard as your most dangerous enemy and a man who was a menace to society!
“To-night, here we sit, safe and sound, and can talk of the thing calmly in the past tense! Von Strom is dead, his power to injure unjustly—gone! I am able to reveal the truth to you and do so gladly, knowing that you will be fair in your judgment of the strangest predicament which an honest man was ever called upon to face. For, like poor Caron, I turn to you, Addison Kent, for advice and help. God alone knows what lies ahead!”
AND then Richard Malabar told his
Waifs of the sea were Richard and Naida Malabar—lost children—little Nobodies from Nowhere!—washed ashore on the Coast of Malabar on the west side of India, after a severe tropical storm! They were found, lashed to a fragment of wreckage from some unknown vessel— the tiny baby girl tightly held in the arms of the unconscious boy. In spite of the best efforts of the kind whites who finally took the foundlings in charge, who the children were and where they came from remained a mystery. Without family and without name, they were given the name of the coast upon which they had been cast; they grew up under the name of Malabar in England, where they were sent by their foster parents to be educated.
The mystery of his birth remained with Richard Malabar through life as a tantalizing quest, luring him with beckoning finger upon a trail that had no end. After leaving school the boy gravitated into journalism, which had for him a strange attraction; also it enabled him in the course of his professional activities to wander about the earth, always seeking, always studying—hoping that some day he would chance upon a clue to his question: “Who and What am I?” Mastery of languages came easily to him. His newspaper commissions took him into many strange ports. There he mingled with the underworld flotsam in the belief that in such surroundings he was most likely to find some derelict of the sea who had the information for which he hungered.
At times strange penchants and whims had obsessed him—a mad urge to be up and away to Somewhere Beyond—restless as the sea which had cast him ashore, figuring in many an adventure, broadminded, talented, brilliant—a strange mixture of kindly impulses, keen enjoyments, artistic appreciations and spells of sadness and loneliness.
In the whole world was but one who knew and understood and shared—his sister, Naida. She was his all in love and tenderness. At all times he had safeguarded her—through those terrible beginnings of memory--those jungle years when they had romped together upon the sands and threaded dire tangled paths.
He had taught her all his boyish skill and together they had learned secret modes of communication; so that like children of the wild they had lived those first hard years—had lived by their wits!
Later, during school days -in England, they had not seen much of each other. The girl, however, had grown to young womanhood with an ingrained love of outdoor life and in many respects with almost a man’s outlook. Delightfully feminine, she nevertheless had too much independence of spirit to be content with a “clinging-vine” existence. Like her clever brother, she had exceptional intellectual powers and abilities. It was almost foreordained that she should find in the British Secret Service the work for which she was so peculiarly adapted.
Then, without warning, had come that strange break in Richard Malabar’s life, leading directly to the present trouble in which he was enmeshed. His paper had sent him to Morocco to look into a disturbance which threatened to develop into serious disagreement between the Riffs and the French. Having discharged this commission, he had drifted to Algiers and there one night in a dark alley he was set upon by a band of thieves who coveted his purse and received a blow on the head, which laid him out in the gutter, where his assailants left him for dead.
And as good as dead, in very truth, was Richard Malabar, the journalist, from that night on! As if the earth had opened and swallowed him, he vanished! Even his paper with all its resources failed to locate him and, after a year had gone by, regretfully ceased to regard him merely as “missing.” Time passed. Even his sorrowing sister at last gave up hope of again seeing him alive.
North beyond Le Pas—north beyond Sturgeon Lake where a trail across the ice led into the country of Canada’s latest gold fields—a crude prospector’s cabin banked with snow. Inside, blazing logs in an open fire-place and a grizzled “sourdough” stirring at a steaming pot! Across the single room another “old-timer,” industriously mending a broken snow-shoe. The skin of a huge timber wolf stretched on the wall and a pack of pelts in a corner. Steel traps! Rifles! Samples of quartz! Mining tools! A colored calendar!
Upon these things did Richard Malabar, the journalist, open his eyes. So did he return to his world—to the memory of his life, his sister, his profession—to the memory of sudden attack in a dark, alleylike street in Algiers! He lay in a rough bunk, beneath red blankets—warm Hudson Bay point blankets—and wondered to find himself so. His head hurt and he felt weak.
They brought him hot soup to drink and asked him if he felt better. They related to him strange things—that he had spent the night at their cabin three nights ago and had told them then that his name was Bob Elliott and that he had been up at Rice Lake; that he was anxious to get away before the spring break-up made traveling impossible by dog-team; that he had left the next morning with six huskies and a carriole; that he had met with an accident, had lost the trail and fallen into a crevice, severely striking his head; that the noise of his dogs had attracted the attention of Bill Davis, who had turned aside to investigate, and had rescued him and brought him to the cabin; that he had been lying on the bunk for many hours, unconscious.
But, strangest of all, the calendar showed that nearly two years had elapsed since that night in Algiers! Two years! He had sense enough to conceal from his rough but kindly hosts the sudden problem which this startling fact threw at him. Behind closed eyes his mind groped for the solution and he strove to turn the pages of memory for answers to the questions that throbbed upon him. But there were whole pages missing.
Amnesia!—a straight case of amnesia! —the thing he had so frequently read about in the news columns.
He was soon able to get up and move about. He awaited an opportunity to overhaul his dunnage-bag without interruption: it came one afternoon when both prospectors set out together to visit their traplines. Eagerly Malabar examined everything that had been in the possession of “Bob Elliott.”
It was evident that he had not lacked the means to equip himself with a prospector’s outfit which represented the best quality that money could buy. Among the first things he found were several books of traveler's cheques in favor of several
different names. To his amazement he discovered that the signatures for all these names were in his own unmistakable handwriting. “Robert Elliott,” then, was but one of the names by which he had been known? That was strange.
But not as strange as what was to come? He found a secret pocket in the lining of the leather cases in which his military brushes were enclosed and the little lumps which had aroused his curiosity turned out to be diamonds— —a dozen of them, none of them exceptionally large but all of them of pure water and valuable! He found no less than eleven keys to safety-deposit boxes in various cities of Canada and the United States. He found a booklet, entitled: “How to Increase Your Height.” He found certain other papers which mystified him and a little amulet or charm of curious design—made of pure gold, wrought in the form of a scarab, with the Egyptian symbol of Osiris, the God of the Dead, engraved upon its flat side.
Finally, carefully hidden away, he came across the little black book. It was small enough to go inside a cigarette case; but the information it contained was as dangerous as dynamite. On the surface it was innocent enough—a simple record of business transactions and general trade conditions; but, concealed cleverly within the report, was a cipher. Intuitively Malabar seemed to realize this fact and, having set to work to discover the key to it, was not long in learning the hidden information—secrets of criminal organization, passwords, records of theft— information which convinced the journalist that during the period which was blank in his memory he had played the part of a crook.
After the first panic into which the discovery threw him, Richard Malabar bent every wit to the decision of what he must do. There must be no mistakes made. A single misstep and his fate might be sealed. He allowed his beard to grow during the time he remained at the prospectors’ cabin and he felt reasonably sure that the silent and unsociable man who finally came down out of the north country would pass unrecognized. At Winnipeg he found a room in a quiet lodging-house and there settled himself to await an answer to the cable he had despatched to his sister, Naida.
T'his cable he had sent in their own secret code. He told her that he was alive and well but in grave trouble and he must see her as soon as possible; either he would go to her or she could come to him. When her overjoyed reply reached him at last he found that she was in New York, where her work had taken her. This was highly satisfactory and he wired her that he would join her there within a week.
They had met, as arranged, and together had gone over the strange situation carefully. It seemed to them, then, that Fate was playing with them— treating them like pawns in a game, as indeed Fate had done in the beginning; for the work upon which Naida was engaged—the case which had brought her to the United States on behalf of the Egyptian Government—concerned the theft of certain valuable antiques from the museum at Cairo and the bold activities of a secret known to the underworld as the “Order of the Golden Scarab.” She was in New York to await the arrival of a French Egyptologist of undoubted standing but known erratic tendencies—Professor Emil Caron. She had been assigned to keep an eye upon him in America, certain suspicion having fallen upon him in secretservice circles. According to the papers in her brother’s possession Malabar had had dealings of some kind with the very group of criminals in which Naida was interested.
Brother and sister had stared at each other in dismay. There was only one honorable thing Richard Malabar could do, of course—join his sister in an effort to get to the bottom of the situation; help her to recover for the Fgyptian authorities as many as possible of the stolen antiques; run this_ “Golden Scarab” crowd to earth and, if he found out what his connection with them had been, do his best to redeem himself.
It was just at this time that Malabar had renewed his acquaintanceship with Addison Kent, immediately becoming interested in the work the novelist had been doing for the police. Their mutual hobby —the study of criminology—brought them together quickly in a common interest and Malabar had been astonished to find that Kent had had an encounter with “Alceste”—a notorious jewel thief
who had been creating something of a stir internationally in police circles.
In the little black book which Malabar had found in his dunnage-bag the name, “Alceste,” was mentioned several times in such a way that it seemed to be the name Malabar had used in his nefarious dealings during the blank period which he was now trying to penetrate. As he studied the Radeliffe case, in which Kent had encountered “Alceste,” Richard Malabar was conscious cf faint stirrings of memory—an elusive sense of familiarity which made him wonder if he were indeed “Alceste” himself—the very man with whom Kent had matched wits.
Then came Kent’s casual revelation of the fact that at police headquarters “Alceste” was recorded officially as dead and eliminated! The novelist little knew the difficulty Richard Malabar had experienced that night in restraining himself at this tremendous news. It meant the removal of his greatest worry.
Later that same night, at the Lamont place in Westchester—when he heard Professor Caron s strange story and held the golden scarab itself in his hand—again Malabar had glimmers of memory. He realized that he was on the trail of important discoveries in connection with the case upon which his sister was working. After Kent had left him at his hotel he had rushed to Naida with the news and to them both it seemed like a gift of the gods —the opportunity of getting Caron’s story from the inside.
That, however, was not to be. The death of the Frenchman brought things to a climax more rapidly than expected. From the first Naida had been positive that the professor had been put out of the way by criminal associates. Already she had investigated the passenger lists of all recently arrived trans-Atlantic liners and had got a lead which tallied with her official recordsa description which had put her at once upon the trail of “Wasserhaus,” who was none other than the notorious Ludwig Von Strom.
The strategical advantage of her brother’s position on the inside as Addison Kent’s friend had enabled her to foil Von Strom in his second attempt to secure the golden scarab and the other jewels which, she was now satisfied, had been in Professor Caron’s possession. Her brother’s relation of the evening’s incidents had convinced her that the precious stones had been smuggled into the United States, concealed within the case which contained the mummy of the sacred cat. It was arranged, therefore, that they should act without delay, Malabar securing the jewels and passing them out to his sister who thereupon would lose no time in placing them in official hands.
Not a moment too soon had they acted. In the midst of the storm Von Strom had arrived and but for Malabar’s promptness and Naida’s presence on the scene to assist him, the German undoubtedly would have succeeded in the theft. Poor Mokra’s interference with Von Strom had been as unforeseen as it was unfortunate.
This and Kent’s subsequent establishment of the Frenchman’s death as a crime had complicated the situation by setting the police upon the track of Von Strom. For Malabar and Von Strom had come almost face to face the night of the storm and Malabar was sure that he had been recognized as “Alceste.” If the German fell into the hands of the police he would not hesitate to direct them to Alceste— with fatal consequences to Malabar!
Von Strom’s amazement at sight of him had been genuine. Apparently this organization of criminals in the Fast had known “Alceste” and had likewise accepted the reports of his death. Knowing now that Alceste was still alive, there would be no doubt in the German’s mind that Alceste had purloined the jewels Von Strom was after. It seemed likely that overtures would be made for a division of the spoils upon threat of a “tip” to the police. It therefore became imperative for Malabar to learn just what had been his former connection with the gang, of which Von Strom evidently was a leader.
The dangerous task of cultivating “Wasserhaus” to find this out, had been undertaken by Naida and it was while she was engaged in this mission that Addison Kent had followed her. Now that things had assumed perspective, it was easy to see that what Malabar and his sister should have done was to take Addison Kent into their fullest confidence; but at the time the wisdom of this had not been so apparent. It had seemed best to run down the full facts first, Malabar playing
a double role; for, as “Alceste,” he was able to move in underworld circles.
It was during one of his quick excursions after information that unexpectedly he had learned the plans for “silencing” Kent. To save the novelist it had been necessary for Malabar to appear as “Alceste” and, in front of Von Strom, pretend to gloat over the capture. It had been a risky thing to do; but, bearing in mind Kent’s description of the cracksman’s smooth, sneering way of talking, he had flattered himself that he had completely fooled the German, although he could not be sure of Addison Kent. With Naida’s help, Malabar had got him out of the dangerous situation—only to find that Kent had discovered who “Alceste” was.
But things had begun to happen so rapidly then that there was no time for explanations, even had the novelist been in a frame of mind to believe them. Von Strom had discovered that Naida was Alceste’s sister and at once seized the advantage; with Naida in his power he could dictate terms to Alceste, a thing which he had not dared to do before. Naida’s warning message had rushed Malabar into preparations for the “showdown” and he had put through his call to Washington for official action. They knew him there merely as Naida’s brother, working with her on the Cairo case.
“It only remains to add,” Malabar finished, “that with the death of Von Strom and the recovery of the missing antiques and the jewels, which represented the wealth of the Order of the Golden Scarab, Naida’s work has found successful conclusion and the criminal organization in the East is now on the way to a complete break up. We discovered, Kent, that Von Strom was trying to engineer a coup by smuggling a fortune in precious stones into the United States, using Professor Caron as a catspaw. How he got the Frenchman into his power so completely—what took place between them at the so-called lost tomb to which they journeyed—that probably will never be known. It was there the treasure-chest of the organization was concealed and it is my opinion that Von Strom was attempting to turn traitor to his companions in crime by walking off with the whole thing. Undoubtedly Professor Caron was acting under compulsion and was killed because he threatened to reveal what he knew
“As for Alceste’s connection with this golden-scarab crowd, we discovered that while Alceste had helped them to rob certain rich men in Eastern countries, he had proved himself a thorn in the flesh by insisting upon most of the proceeds from these forays being given away to the poor and needy. This Dick Turpin mania appears to have shocked the brigands and to have made Alceste so unpopular that apparently he had been ‘black-balled’ out of the secret council of the Order if, in fact, he had ever been admitted.
“Yet Professor Caron was in great fear of Alceste and the statement, ‘his evil lives after him,’ would seem to indicate Alceste as the founder of the sinister society of the scarab and directly responsible for its acts. I have given this some thought and the only conclusion I can reach is that Von Strom told Professor Caron a great many fabulous tales about the ruthless Alceste, much as one tells a child about the terrible giant who lived at the top of the beanstalk; he would do this in order to build up a bogie with which to frighten the Frenchman as to the consequences of disobedience.
“Naida has been able to supply definite information regarding the golden scarab gem itself. Do you remember the startling robbery of St. Peter’s treasury in the Vatican at Rome some time ago when international crooks succeeded in penetrating to the sacred jewellery strong box? Such a sacrilege had never been known before. It reminds one of the ghouls of ancient Thebes Professor Caron was telling about that night you and I called upon him. The theft, you will remember, included the sacred ring belonging to St. Peter’s statue in the basilica, a gold cross set with pearls and rubies given by the Colombian Republic to Pope Pius IX sixty years ago, and certain other rare gifts donated by monarchs and emperors. Among the items not mentioned in the newspapers at the time was the Great Ruby which many years ago found its way into the sacred treasury from some secret, conscience-stricken source. When the collection of stolen Vatican gems was recovered shortly after the
theit, only the Great Ruby was missing. But even that is now on its way to Rome—”
“The golden scarab!” murmured Addison Kent, with interest.
“Yes. It was the very ruby at which you and I gazed in this room the night Professor Caron showed us the golden scarab. It had fallen into the hands of this secret society and evidently was mounted in its golden scarab setting to become the symbol of the Order. The lure of it undöubtedly turned Von Strom’s head and emboldened him to risk everything in one mad effort to become a Croesus.
“That is all, Kent,” concluded Richard Malabar, “—except that I owe you apology for the worry I have brought you and for my seeming abuse of your friendship. That friendship has come to mean a very great deal to me and the half hour we spent in this room last night was bitter punishment for the hurt I was causing you. The knowledge that our friendship meant something to you also—it was not easy to dissemble—to go through with the program which appeared necessary. I ask your forgiveness, old chap.”
Addison Kent was on his feet. There j was nothing to forgive now—nothing but deep appreciation of the nightmare which this friend of his had been living.
In a long steady grip more eloquent than any words, their hands met while Naida’s eyes shone in silent sympathy.
IT WAS about an hour later that the restlessness of Addison Kent finally took him out of the library into the hall. Mysteriously he poked his head around the portieres and beckoned surreptitiously to Richard Malabar. The latter, obeying the warning finger raised to the novelist’s lips, excused himself and left Naida alone in the room, gazing pensively into the red heart of the fire in the grate.
“What—■” he began in a whisper after he reached the hall.
Addison Kent deliberately stuck a fresh cigar into the journalist’s mouth and lighted it for him—deliberately seized Malabar’s overcoat and helped him into it, then jammed Malabar’s hat upon Malabar’s head.
“You are going out for a breath of fresh air if I have to carry you!” whispered Kent fiercely. “For the love of heaven, take a stroll. Go and see a man about a
With a slow grin of dawning understanding, Richard Malabar went.
THE stars looked down upon that shadowy figure which paced to and fro in the twilight, hands behind back, head bent in thought. The stars twinkled.
Back and forth, tirelessly back and forth, paced Richard Malabar wrestling with his thought. Alceste was dead— and buried. True enough, perhaps, so far as the police were concerned but would there ever be any peace of mind—any rest for him in life—until he had traced backward, step by step, this Thread of Ariadne that had been placed in his hand?
Alceste was dead? If Alceste lived could he undo what had been done? Or, should he stay buried? No, Alceste must reappear, must seek out what lay behind the eleven keys and the little black book. A dangerous business! But that way and that way alone lay redemption.
And as he fought it out with himself and reached his decisions under the quiet stars, something of their peace descended upon him like a benediction.
Almost without volition his feet trended towards the portico upon which fell the subdued squares of light from the library of the great house. Gn tip-toe he approached until he could look in upon the library—just a glance. For a moment his gaze lingered upon two heads close together. Addison Fent’s arm was about Naida’s shoulder, as if in fond protection, and Naida’s head was resting upon that broad chest— What mates they were! The look on their faces!—
Softly Richard Malabar withdrew. A quick moisture stung his eyes. To him she had always been the “little” Naida of the Storm; now she had come safely into her port of happiness.
And, as Richard Malabar raised his eyes to the constant stars, a lonely figure in the shadowy night, his heart was filled with a greater contentment than he had ever known.