FICTION

The Pirating of the Nanking

RAYMOND MAURICE CARLSON April 1 1935
FICTION

The Pirating of the Nanking

RAYMOND MAURICE CARLSON April 1 1935

The Pirating of the Nanking

RAYMOND MAURICE CARLSON

IT WAS early yet in the Blue Moon, a waterfront dive over a ship-chandler’s shop in Shanghai. Joe Brady, new second mate of the liner Nanking, sat at a table near the back of the room. His ears were ringing to a quick, whispered warning:

“Go now! You are in great danger!”

Sibilant, passionate words. A faint exotic perfume lingered with their echo. The warning had come from behind.

Joe stiffened. But he did not immediately turn round. That would betray the speaker. Instead, for a moment he clinked impatiently on the drink-stained blackwood tabletop a small stack of Shanghai dimes.

His white-clad figure, big-boned and rangy, loomed sharply out of place against the murky background. It gave an impression of great muscular strength. A broken nose enhanced the look of determination on a strong-jawed, bronzed face that was suddenly alert and wary.

Commanding blue eyes flicked coldly inch by inch over the room.

Sunk in shadows, a few nondescripts, hard-eyed and pastyfaced, hunched over scattered tables. The muted wail of some reed instrument drifted through a muttering of stealthy voices. Festoons of gaudy lanterns, dim-lit, pointed with fitful gleams high spots on red-lacquer dragons that writhed on yellow walls. Over all swirled the reek of opium, whisky, Chinese tobacco.

A moment passed. Suddenly across Joe’s vision, sinuous in clinging orange silk, glided the dusky-haired ivory beauty of the cigarette girl. An enigmatic glance from her slumbrous black eyes flashed him a second warning and she was gone. He had never seen her before in his life. Why had she warned him? Of what?

It was then that he felt a watchful stare boring into the back of his neck.

“Now, what?” muttered Joe. He made a sudden move as if to depart. The trick worked. Two rat-faced, black-robed Chinese started up from a near-by table. Joe sank back. The Chinese did likewise.

Joe was puzzled as to their purpose. “Nasty looking devils,” he grunted. “Can’t be my money they want.” He glanced cynically at his total fortune—the small stack of Shanghai dimes.

Yet even then something vaguely familiar about the two Chinese stirred an uneasy memory in the back of his mind ; something particularly unpleasant that he could not bring immediately to the front.

Of a sudden the whole thing was shattered into temporary oblivion at the sight of a familiar, powerful figure barging between tables toward him. A seaman, grizzled and brown, crowned with a mop of unruly white hair. On the back of his massive head perched a weathered petty-officer’s cap.

Joe leaped to his feet. His hand was grabbed in a crushing grip. A choked, deep-sea voice was rumbling:

“Joe—my boy—”

“Dave Malone! You old pirate. What—where—?” His eyes caught the quartermaster’s insignia on Dave’s cap.

“Nanking,” grunted Dave. “Same as you. Been lookin’ for ye ever since I heard ye signed on. Reported aboard yet?”

Joe shook his head. “Signed on at the Consulate. Had an errand or two...”

They took chairs, sent a boy scurrying for drinks. Dave jerked his cap forward on his head with a violent gesture.

Joe chuckled. The action made him feel at home. Dave always jerked that cap about when he had something on his mind.

When Joe started to speak Dave held up his hand, said to save the reunions till later. Then he cleared his throat. “Joe, there’s trouble ahead for ye.”

Joe’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “Yeh?”

“Wert’s aboard the Nanking as mate.”

Joe tightened. His voice came hard as steel.

“ ‘Parson’ Wert?”

“Joined in ’Frisco. Smooth as ever. Got the skipper eatin’ out o’ his hand already.”

“But how—”

“Seems that some powerful Chinese shipper engineered it with the owners. His ticket’s clear enough, though he should have lost it long ago.”

“Why, that—”

“He knows you’re joinin’. He’s already got the skipper believin’ you always come aboard late and jump ship when the notion hits ye. Even tried to keep him from hospitalizin’ the other second mate so’s they wouldn’t need ye.”

Joe’s eyes blazed.

“He caused the death of my father,” he said grimly. “Set out deliberately to ruin him.”

“Don’t I know? Wasn’t I with him when he died? Broken heart. Ship gone, ticket gone, all because he befriended a girl from Wert’s foul hands. Couldn’t prove it, though. Wert’s swore to get you, too, Joe. Swore he’d drive ye from the sea.”

“Listen,” said Joe. “I’ve another score to settle with Wert.”

“Now, Joe, you got to be careful. This is your last chance. Twice ye got yourself paid off in foreign ports—”

“My own business, too.”

“You’re just like your daddy. Can’t keep from fightin’ somebody else’s battles. Remember, if ye get in trouble now you’ll be blackballed out o’ the service. Why, everybody knows that right here in Shanghai ye ran off somewhere to help some girl find the Seven Gold Buddhas of Wang Tsai. When ye’d gone through hell to get ’em, she up and leaves ye for the enemy’s cami. Here ye drag yourself back to the coast near dead, a knife wound hardly healed in your side—” Joe slammed his fist down on the table.

“That’s it!” he grated suddenly. “That’s where I saw those two gorillas before!”

He slewed round in his chair. But the two Chinese had vanished. He turned back to Dave.

“Listen. We found those buddhas. Then Eve Kenyon disappeared. The buddhas disappeared with her—they’re small, but, jewels and all, worth a quarter million. A note said not to follow. I followed anyway. Got to the river just in time to see the steamer pull out. And there stood Eve, big as life, at the rail alongside the biggest Chinaman you ever saw. She doublecrossed me.”

A sharp, scornful bitterness took his eyes.

“But that’s not all. Wert was skipper of that ship. His pal, Shaw, chief engineer. I found that out afterward. The big Chinaman was Kwon Yut, China’s Number One pirate. Wert and Shaw were in cahoots with him. A gang of their cutthroats cut me down.”

Dave jerked his cap to the back of his head.

“Joe,” he said, leaning forward impressively. “Shaw’s aboard the Nanking, too. Second engineer. And there’s

five million in gold at this moment in her specie tanks!” For an instant their eyes met and held. Each saw in the other’s the same thought. Wert and Shaw with Kwon Yut. Five million in gold.

A MOMENT LATER Dave left on some errand of his own. For a space Joe sat staring at a small wet ring left on the table by a liquor glass. His face was grim. So Wert was going to run him from the sea.

He sprang to his feet. Best get aboard right now. To show up late would be to play directly into Wert’s hands. He paid his chit, started with determined stride for the door.

Menace thick as smoke oiled through the mephitic dusk of the Blue Moon. He felt its subtle chill creep over him as he crossed the room. Suddenly, near a doorway leading to the back, he was brought up as if by an invisible blow.

A faint cry had reached his ears from somewhere in the depths of that black maw. A cry for help—a woman’s cry! For an instant he stood very still.

“I can’t do it,” he finally muttered. “I’ve got to get aboard that ship!”

He started on his way, stopped again. In the whispering, shuffling stillness of the Blue Moon the echo of that cry would not leave his ears. Pulses hammering, it jerked him about.

“That was a white girl,” he grated. In one swift leap he plunged into the darkness beyond the door.

Odor of rotting bamboo assailed his nostrils. Thick silence beat his eardrums. He stood balanced on the balls of his feet, peering into the gloom, taking his bearings. Then, a few yards ahead, stinging the blackness near the floor, his eyes

caught a thin jet of yellow light.

He advanced cautiously several paces. A prickly feeling of imminent danger ran up his spine. He instinctively put out a hand, jerked it back. He had touched human flesh.

A trap ! Why had he been so blind? With a choking curse he whirled to fight his way out. He struck out blindly at a sound ahead. His heavy fist smashed into a body. The passageway, was black as a coal hole. But his white clothes must have made him a fine target for his attackers.

Smack ! His fist cracked into a face. The darkness was awful. They were trying to get a cloth of some sort tight-

ened about his neck. A whirling, smashing battle ensued. His fists slammed home again and again. Grunts, cries, fetid aroma of unwashed Chinese. The cloth pulled taut about Joe’s neck. His wind was cut off. He got one fellow’s wrist in his two hands. With a heave he whirled him clear of the floor, threw him crashing against a wall.

But they were too many. They smothered him, clung to his arms, his legs. He went down. His hands were bound, a gun shoved into his ribs and he was forced down the passageway, flung into a lighted room.

HIS EYES blinked an instant, then they received a startling impression of Oriental luxury bathed in soft amber light. Yellow and purple silk hangings, rich blue rugs, heavily carved blackwood furniture. A slender column of smoke from an incense pot filled the room with an odor of sandalwood. Incongruously, on the wall a small cheap clock ticked loudly, its short metal pendulum swinging frantically to each tick.

From behind a great blackwood screen, inset with motherof-pearl, two thin coils of cigarette smoke drifted upward.

At their source, suave, triumphant, a voice said :

“A chip off the old block. I told you he’d fall for it.”

“Parson” Wert. For an instant, intense, overwhelming despair swept over Joe.

Wert’s tall, black-dressed form moved into view. Small black eyes peered from a lean, burned face whose forehead showed fishbelly white where headgear had always shaded it from the sun. Long, hairy-backed fingers moved constantly with quick spidery motions.

“What’s the idea, Wert?” asked Joe quietly.

Wert smiled benignly. “Ah,” he said suavely. “\ou don’t like it? \ “Quit stalling. So you’re going to keep me from joining my ship to satisfy your petty revenge, eh?” "You will be kept here awhile, yes.”

“Yeh?”

“You will be ven.comfortable. After your ship sails you shall be released”—he drew closer—“maybe!” Mad hatred crossed his eyes as he spat the last word. At the same time he flicked his cigarette ashes viciously into Joe’s face.

The hot ashes spilled from Joe’s cheek down on to his tom coat. His whole helpless being screamed to leap forward, to throttle that mocking figure. Yet he made no move or sign. But his eyes turned to ice and his tone matched Wert’s own in silkiness.

“You always were yellow,” he said evenly.

“You cursed Brady,” said Wert in a low tense voice. “You meddling Brady. You’re never going to have a chance to interfere like the other one did. Wait—”

The man’s face was distorted with passion. What insane twist of his brain had kept alive such a hatred? Joe watched him intently. Wert stepped back to the screen, whispered to someone behind.

Two people came out. One of great size, the other small. One an opulent-looking Chinese in a robe of grey silk whose fat, oily face was decorated on the right cheek with a large wart from which two long coarse hairs curled downward.

The other was a slender flame of a girl—dark-eyed, darkhaired, North American to her fingertips. Dressed in white, she stood, chin up, carmine lips sharply etched.

“Eve!"

TOE’S HEART gave an unaccountable twist as the word J was forced involuntarily from his lips. Then quick scorn flashed from his eye^. So she had betrayed him for the second time.

“Nice little playmates you have.” he said icily.

Her eyes were no less scornful.

“How clever you are!”

Stung by her tone he flushed.

“I got you what you wanted,” he told her hotly. Then

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Continued from page 13—Starts on page 12

you picked up the marbles and ran to split with your pals.”

“And you had to stick your head right back in the noose for the second time, Don Quixote,” she flared.

“Thanks.” he retorted bitterly. “I’ll know better next time.”

She drew nearer at this. But he stared i with smoldering eyes over her head at the J little clock with its frantically swinging ! pendulum. She looked up, so close that the j perfume from her hair reached his nostrils, I and he cursed himself for the unaccountable J trembling that took his limbs.

But he did not look down.

I “You fool,” she finally said in exasperation. With a quick imperious toss of her ’ head she turned to Kwon Yut.

“All right,” she said in a low voice.

Kwon Yut chuckled gutturally. They left. And Joe thought he heard faintly his name float back from the blackness beyond the door. “Bah!” he thought bitterly. Just another trick. Part of Wert’s scheme for revenge.

“What’s next in your bag of tricks?” he asked wearily. “Come on, let’s get it over I with.”

Wert thrust his lean, malicious face closer ; to Joe’s, and then Joe saw something in his j eyes that had ecaped him before. “The felI low’s a hop-head,” he thought. “Cocaine, probably.” So that accounted for his queer j maniacal hatred flaring to such lengths.

“Love her, don’t you,” Wert stated mali! ciously.

“Nuts,” said Joe. But for just an instant j he looked startled.

“Thought so,” continued Wert in a low I intimate tone. “You love her. And she’s a slave concubine to that fat, oily Chinese.”

“You lie! You—”

“It’s true,” said Wert. “He’s taking her to Bias—

A swift light leaped into Joe’s eyes.

“Bias Bay, eh? Kwon Yut’s headquarters. After that specie, are you?”

“You’re crazy,” hurriedly flared Wert. “They’re going up from Hong Kong.” Then he laughed. “So old Captain Brady thought once he could put something over on Parson Wert. I’ve been waiting a long time to finish squaring that account.”

Suddenly he read the purpose in Joe’s eyes; the purpose to leap upon him even with bound hands. He jerked a gun from his pocket.

“Stay where you are,” he warned thinly. He moved warily back.

Joe stayed. Fie was not foolish enough to leap in the face of a gun. But sweat poured from his face as he fought to keep himself under control.

Wert signed to the Chinese.

“Tie him up,” he ordered.

In a moment Joe was triced securely, dragged into a small adjoining room that was bare and foul as the other was luxurious. It was also dark, and stank to high heaven of the rotten smells of China.

“Yes,” said Wert. “You will be very comfortable here.” He flipped into Joe’s face the butt of his cigarette, and then he was gone.

The door slammed, a heavy bolt shot to on the outside.

THE CIGARETTE BUTT had raised a L blister on Joe's neck where it had fallen

before he could shake it off. Intense pain from the burn was submerged in despair of the blackest sort that swept over him.

He was bound so tightly at ankle and wrist that he could hardly move hands or feet. Fie was in a bolted room. The ugly sucking sound of the black water whispered beneath his cell of his eventual fate. He knew too much now to be left alive. There would be a swift knife-thrust—his body weighted, thrown into the river by one of Kwon Yut’s gorillas.

Joe struggled with his bonds. Sweat dripped from his face. But they only cut

deeper. A sharp edge of some sort might chafe them. He got his back to the wall, wormed as near upright as possible. With tedious side movements of his feet he worked his way about the room. But he found nothing. Twice he fell. Dust choked him. F'inally he had to give up, and he lay there exhausted.

He wondered grimly how long it w’ould be. Silence pressed in, and the rotten smells of China. Hours passed, so it seemed. Sounds began to come through the darkness; muted river sounds, insects of some sort rustling across the floor, boards creaking. And the ceaseless ugly whispering of the water below. He struggled again, frantically, uselessly.

Of a sudden his ears caught a different sound. At the door. He inched upright again, standing against the wall, bound and tense, nostrils dilated, jaw set. determined to sell his life as dearly as possible.

The bolt slid softly back. The door opened, but no light came in. He heard someone breathing. He stiffened. A faint exotic perfume reached his nostrils, a soft voice whispered:

“Be quiet.”

“Who is it?” whispered Joe hoarsely.

“It is I, Ah Fx>y.”

“Ah Loy?”

“Missy send me.”

Then Joe remembered the smell of the perfume that had come to him when he had first been warned that evening.

“The cigarette girl.” he breathed incredulously, then asked fiercely: “Where is Eve, where is Missy?”

“Sh-h. She gone on ship.”

“With Kwon Yut?”

“Yes,” answered Ah Lxjy, then added: “She very sad.”

“Oh, she is, eh.”

“Yes. First she tell Ah Loy come this side. She very kind to Ah Loy. Here-—”

She fumbled for Joe’s wrists. A knife was laid to his bonds, they dropped to the floor. In a moment his ankles also were free. “Come,” she said.

He followed her through the dark outer room, down a long passageway, down some stairs, and suddenly he was standing in a low doorway. Spreading before him, broad and mysterious with its winking colored lights and maze of shipping, was the muddy river.

The dark water lapped at slimy concrete steps at his feet. A waiting sampan glided silently up with a single thrust of its long scull. With quick, whispered thanks to Ah Loy, he wras aboard. They shot out into the stream.

It was only a block to the Nanking's jetty. Would he be too late? His watch had been smashed in the fight. He did not know what time it was. An agony of suspense took him. They rounded a bend in the river, his heart leaped. The ship was still alongside. Tier upon tier of gleaming portholes in her black sides, she rose to lofty heights of white superstructure.

His gear had all been sent aboard that afternoon, and ten minutes later in starched white uniform and gold braid Joe Brady stood in the rich simplicity of the captain’s spacious oak-panelled quarters.

"DED-I'ACED and grey-haired above a -tv glittering mass of gold lace, the captain, also in white uniform, faced him with outraged grey eyes.

“Oh, second officer reporting for duty. Well. Fine time to be reporting for duty. We sail in fifteen minutes, mister.” His face purpled. “Listen, you. I’ve heard of your pierhead jumps. Lx-t me tell you something. Things are done differently in this ship. Reporting for duty ! Report—”

Words failed him at the same moment that a knock sounded on the door. The door opened at his command. Slender hairy fingers were curled about the knob. Chief Officer Wert stepped into the room.

He stopped, amazement flashed across his face, then it became a perfect mask, his little black eyes fathomless. He turned to the captain.

“I beg your pardon, Captain McLean. I had intended reporting the second mate not yet aboard.” He turned his dead black eyes on Joe. “But I see I was mistaken.”

“You’re going to be more mistaken than that if you try any more of your nasty tricks,” Joe said in an ominously quiet tone. Wert’s eyebrows went up.

“What kind of raving is this?” he purred. “You’ve probably been drinking.”

“You know very well—”

“Silence!” commanded the captain. “It isn’t enough that you report here at your leisure. You start insulting my chief officer. Are you drunk? Why, you—you. . . Get aft to your station at once!”

Joe left. Wert had the captain’s confidence. He would believe anything Wert told him.

At his station he gave all his attention to duty. The stern-lines came in, he signalled the bridge, “All clear aft.” After a short space there was a jangling of bells far below, the hoarse bellowing of her whistle. The Nanking swept out into the midnight stream. When she had cleared Woosung, Joe found his bunk. His was to be the second watch.

It was dark and warm when he ran up the bridge ladder at four o’clock. He took over from the fourth mate. Overhead vaulted an immense purple darkness shot with a myriad of flaming orange stars. Here and thereon the lofty flying-bridge, bits of polished brasswork caught up with dull gleams their light.

In the extensive port wing Joe could make out the dim bulk of the captain, elbows on rail, gazing steadily ahead into the night. At the wheel, Dave Malone stœd braced as he might have aboard a windjammer. Far below, the Yellow Sea, smr>oth, mysterious, reached away to be lost in the dark curve of the horizon.

Joe paced restlessly. Once he stopped close beside Dave. They resembled two bronzed conspirators crouching there over the binnacle’s dim glow.

“Wert’s got the Old Man fixed,” he whispered guardedly. “You get a look at the steerage?”

“Two hundred tough-looking Chinks. Some with coiled pigtails,” answered Dave. “How about first cabin?”

“Hundred or so, and as many more whites.”

“See anyone resembling Kwon Yut?” “No. But take it from me he’s in one of those cabins.”

“Maybe,” whispered Joe. “Can’t be monkeying round the passenger quarters, though. Penitentiary offense for member of crew caught in a cabin not in line of duty.” “What you goin’ to do?”

“Stand by till I sec what I can do with the skipper. If Wert catches me below he’ll prefer charges in a minute. That means the brig—”

Joe suddenly broke off, crossed to the forward rail. He had seen the captain leave the rail, start pacing the bridge. He passed Joe once or twice, staring at him suspiciously as though he expected him suddenly to do some strange and unaccountable thing.

Joe was filled with a sharp sense of uncertainty. Was all this pirate business a figment of his overwrought imagination? Was Wert framing him again, planning to trap him into some rash action such as entering some passenger’s cabin seeking evidence of Kwon Yut?

It was possible. The great ship stretching out astern, driving down the China Sea, seemed impregnable. This spacious bridge, the nerve centre of the majestic liner, with its uniformed men, its quick discipline, radiated law and order and power.

This feeling was strengthened when the blazing orange sun broke above the horizon. The events of the night faded farther than ever into the background. Captain McLean,

still on the bridge, made some professional remark in clipped accents. But he seemed to show no especial animosity. Joe’s hopes rose.

He stepped nearer the captain. He was going to try to square himself some way. “Captain McLean—’’

“Well, mister?”

Joe hesitated as to just what to say. At that moment the mate came running up the bridge-ladder.

“Captain, may I have a word? Very important, sir.”

“Well, what is it?”

“We have found some contraband while searching ship this morning, sir. Worst kind in these waters.”

“What— what’s that you say?” “Contraband, sir.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Guns, sir. A case of guns.”

“Guns! Where—?”

“In the second mate’s cabin!”

WERT STARED at Joe with malicious, triumphant eyes. Joe was for tire minute dumbfounded. The captain’s stare was cold and menacing.

“Well, mister, what have you got to say to that?”

For one sickening moment Joe saw his hopes fade to nothingness. Then he blazed: “It’s a lie, sir.”

“A lie?”

“If there are guns there, he planted them.” “That’s a serious accusation, mister.” “Here, look at this, sir,” said Wert suavely. He handed the captain a letter. “This was found with the guns, covered with the second mate’s clothing in the seatlocker of his cabin.”

“. . . rilles consigned to Hop Lee, Hong Kong,” read the captain. He turned on Joe. “Your name is on thisdocument,” he barked. “It’s a frame-up,” grated Joe.

“Frame-up, eh? Say, mister, what kind of a game are you playing in this ship, anyway?”

“There’s the man behind this,” flashed Joe. And in no uncertain terms he informed Caiitain McLean of what had transpired, including his suspicions of Kwon 4 ut.

The captain’s face purpled.

“A ship of this size? Preposterous! Mr. Wert here? In with Chinese pirates? Why, the owner, Captain Buck himself, recommended this man. It looks to me like you’re trying to talk yourself out of a jam, mister.” He called a messenger. “Have the third officer come up here at once.”

Relieved of further duty and confined to quarters till the captain decided what to do with him. And there was no out this time. Wert had played a master stroke. With his connections with Kwon Yut, they could frame an ironclad case against Joe. He paced the deck of his small cabin like an animal caged, trying to figure some way to clear himself. But there was none.

Shortly after dark there was a tapping on his forward port. Joe snapped out the light. Dave was standing close to the bulkhead in the dark as though examining the winking light of some ship ahead. He whispered to Joe:

“Wert’s dam near got the skipper believin’ you’d got those guns for pirates yourself.”

“Yeh?”

“Captain ordered search of steerage passengers for arms.”

“Find anything?”

“No. Wert was in charge.”

“Look’s like we’re stuck,” said Joe bitterly.

“Well, nothin’ would happen this soon anyway. Ain’t likely to till tomorrow night.” But the next night was as the first. They were well down the coast, not far from the notorious Bias Bay. It grew later, still nothing happened. Dave sneaked down again. It was eleven o’clock.

“I been all over the ship,” he whispered. “See anything?”

“Not a sign of anythin’ unusual. Chinks playin’ fan tan in the steerage, no signs o’ any excitement. Dancin’ in first class.” “You got a gun?” asked Joe.

“No.”

“Neither have I. They took mine,” whispered Joe. Then: “Come down right after midnight.”

“Can’t. Got to take Brigg’s watch. He’s sick.”

Dave left. Joe stood for awhile, staring out the port. The heavy fragrance of salt air fanned his cheek. The peace of night covered the world with a soft velvety blackness. Far off on the horizon, flares of blue lightning danced to muttering drums of thunder. The ship rose and fell with a long washing sound on an almost imperceptible swell.

Suddenly across the night a shot rang out. Another, and another! A hoarse yell, “They got Captain McLean!” Now the night was hideous with shrill cries. From the radio room came a single shot, a gurgling cry. 1 Pirates! They had struck at last. The vital spots of the ship first. Kwon Yut had planned well.

IN ONE swift dive Joe scrambled out a ■ forward porthole. In another he made the dark shelter of the port light-tower. From this place of concealment he could watch his room. Unarmed, he was helpless against the pirates. These deadly yellow men who had been innocent-looking first cabin and steerage passengers. From the shouts of the men he knew how quickly the ship had been surprised. He knew also that Wert would be looking for him very soon.

Even then there was a crashing against his cabin door. A band of ugly yellow faces flicked by the lighted porthole. Guttural cries. They had found the cabin empty.

Then Joe heard Wert’s voice. “Kwon Yut, we’ve got to get that second mate.” Quick, harsh commands in Chinese. A cry went up. They were going to hunt him down.

Joe slipped unobserved from his hiding place to near-by boat falls. Taking a loose end of heavy line, he dropped it over the side, slid down to the promenade deck below. A hoarse yell went up. He had been sighted.

He made a dash for the main lobby to get below. They pattered at his heels. Into the lobby he fled, crashing into a knife-wielding yellow man. Joe hit hard. The fellow went sprawling. No time to get his weapon. He dashed below. He could lose them forward.

Down the creaking, whispering stillness of the passageway he ran. And behind him. spreading over the ship in pursuit, the yellow killers of Kwon Yut on stealthy padded feet flitted like swift shadows.

Joe got to the end of the passageway with a good lead. But when he started athwart -ship he heard guttural cries ahead. They had cut him off. In a moment they would be upon him. He heard Wert’s coarse shouting.

Joe turned desperately. There was a stateroom to his left. He flung open the door, slipped inside, locked the door after him. For a minute he was safe. He glanced about. There were a few Chinese bundles, a grey silk robe, giving evidence that the luxurious room had been occupied by Chinese. He crossed quickly to the portholes. Nothing but the sea below.

He whirled about. Reclining on a settee, heavily enamelled and powdered, a Chinese woman in elaborate native costume, met his surprised gaze. She had been covered with the grey robe. Then he understood.

“Eve!” In an instant he was beside her, had clapped a hand over her mouth. “One move or soun—” His threat died on his lips. He was staring at her wrists folded across her breast. They were securely fastened together by a pair of handcuffs.

“Quick,” she cried, “Kwon Yut. If he finds you—”

“But what’s the meaning of this?” “Never mind. You must go,” she pleaded. His horrified gaze saw that her ankles were also secured. And then he was beginning to understand.

“You have been a prisoner all this time,” he said accusingly. “Even upriver—”

“Just for a short time there,” she said hurriedly. “I was released after he got the buddhas—”

“And they got you again in Shanghai?”

"1 tried so hard to warn you,” she said. "The cigarette girl ”

"But why have you taken such horrible risks?"

“They threatened to kill you if I didn’t do as thev told.”

"But—”

"Do you think 1 wanted your precious blood on my head?” she flared sarcastically. "But did that tiend

"No. He hasn’t touched me. Now will you go?”

"I’m going to get you out of this right now.”

There was shouting and pounding outside the door.

* "Quick,” she cried. "In there. Ton will lx; of no use if they catch you.”

In half a minute he was concealed in the full-length locker she had pointed to. Through ventilation slits in the door he could watch.

Kwon Yut’s voice shouted to open the door. There was a heavy crashing against the door lock, it broke. Kwon Yut, followed by Wert, burst into the room.

WERT’S LITTLE black eyes danced about the room. Kwon Yut crossed to the bathroom, peered inside. He turned back. Wert muttered, "He must have come in here.” Then his thin face wreathed in smiles. "Oh, yes. I see,” he said, and started with drawn gun toward the locker in which Joe was concealed. It: was quite obvious that it was the only hiding-place in the room.

"All right, Brady. Come on out,” he said suavely.

Joe hesitated.

“Just three seconds more,” snarled Wert, "and I’ll empty this gun through that door.” He started to raise the gun.

Joe came out at the same moment that Eve, who was directly behind Wert and fearing he was going to shoot, brought her handcuffed wrists down on Wert’s gun arm. Joe leaped. The gun exploded harmlessly into the deck. Joe’s heavy list caught Wert a glancing blow on the jaw, knocked him back against the bulkhead.

But even as he struck, Kwon Yut’s gun cracked down on his head. He dropped to the deck in a flash of light ending in complete darkness.

Then Eve let out a lowr cry of horror. They had got Joe between them and were raising him toward an open porthole. With a stifled cry she tried to reach them, fell, clutching with helpless fingers Kwon Yut’s clothing. And because she interfered with the work at hand, he struck her alongside the head, knocking her moaning to the deck.

Joe was slowly coming to. But already they had him nearly through the porthole. Eve’s pitiful moaning reached his ears. He began to struggle. But in his position, struggling was only an aid to his captors. Finally with a mighty thrust he went through.

He hung by his fingers forty feet above the black waters of the China Sea.

Wert and Kwon Yut hammered at his fingers. The pain was intolerable. He dangled there in the darkness. A hand, numb and bleeding, was forced loose. He twisted about. Then the other one let go.

He dropped. A heavy blow struck him across the stomach. He lost consciousness.

He awakened in thick darkness to the sound of rushing water seeming to come from overhead. His nose was bleeding, a dreadful nausea took him. Then he was swept with a wave of horror.

He found he was hanging head downward over a steel door open from the side of the ship. The sea was thirty feet below. He had only dropix:d a few feel. Kwon Yut’s porthole was just above him. The steel dx>r opened forward, secured in that position by a light manila line that led forward and up to the main deck. Joe’s Ixxiy was partly wedged in a narrow, V-shaped space between the ship’s side and the door.

Wert undoubtedly thought him a few miles back feeding the sharks. He might just as well be, he thought bitterly. Every turn of the screws brought the ship nearer Bias Bay and looting.

Then Joe heard muffled voices coming from the jx>rthole above. Kwon Yut and

Wert. Evidently he had been unconscious only a few seconds. The thought of hive with those two fiends galvanized him to action. The fact that she had risked everything to save his life sent a surge of selfcondemnation through him. Could he reach that porthole, draw himself through?

Inch by inch lie worked his body upright. He teetered precariously, a groan escaped his lips. He missed reaching the port by a g(x>d twelve inches. But he could now hear clearly the speakers.

"We must leave more men on guard,” Kwon Tut was saying in his harsh voice.

"Don’t need ’em,” argued Wert. "That second mate’s done for. Everybody else is locked up.”

"T ou forget you are under my orders,” came the harsh voice.

“Look,” said Wert. "Passengers are locked in the social hall, all the officers in the mate’s rixim. The rest are all secured below and they’re all of them unarmed. Two guards to each batch should be enough.”

“They shall have orders to kill.”

“That gold is heavy,” said Wert. “We need most of the men in the hold. Half a dozen besides the winchman will do on deck.”

“All right, all right,” finally agreed the big Chinese.

"Keep that gun on me all the time you’re in sight of anybody. We got to be sure that it looks like I’m being forced. . .” Their voices died out as they left the room. The door slammed.

The great ship throbbed steadily through the purple night. A muffled screaming of a woman was borne thinly above the softly sighing wind. Joe sought some way of escape from his perilous foothold.

A heavy padlocked screen covered the opening in the ship’s side. Joe’s glance crawled along the slender manila line. Would it be possible to cling to extending edges of the side plates where one overlapped another and edge along that line to the main deck? It was the only way out. He kicked off his shoes.

A series of horrors followed. He slipped, balanced over the water far below. Fits of trembling took him, of nausea. His nails split. Once the slack line shot out with his feet, and he clung with raw, bleeding fingertips, almost horizontal. He whispered a prayer, wormed his hxxly up the steel side of the ship—the black, paint-smelling steel he had begun to hate but to which he clung in an agony of desperation.

Finally, utterly exhausted, he found himself on the main-deck. 1 le sank in the waterway shadowed by a thwartship bulkhead.

His life had been saved for the moment anyway. But he was no farther ahead than before. The ship was nearly in Bias Bay. ( iold-mad yellow men would soon have their own junks alongside. Looting would follow, possible murder—and worse. Joe swore in his helplessness. If he only had a weapon.

And then suddenly he became very still. His eyes lighted. “Would it be ix>ssible?” he muttered softly. He slammed a list down on the deck. There was one chance in a million that it would. In another instant he was swarming up the steel ladder to the promenade deck.

HANGING over the side he edged himself along the rail till he had crossed the opening left in the deck housing by number five hatch, where the pirates were taking out the specie. Well past, he swung again to the deck. From the shelter of a weather door he had a good view of what was going on.

Surrounded by a wall of darkness, in a close group on the edge of the hatch, about a dozen tough-looking, savagely armed Chinese chattered in a circular blaze of light thrown down from a floodlight rigged to a kingpost. Half the hatch was open.

A winchman had a sling below. Muffled shouts sounded hollowly from the bowels of the ship, where Wert undoubtedly directed operations. He was the only one who could get into the specie tanks without dynamite. He had the keys, and the combination had probably been forced from the purser. Towering over the ragged, bloodthirsty crew on deck, fat and grey-robed Kwon Yut rubbed together his long-nailed hands.

Here then was the vital centre of their operations. The men below, to get out of the hatch, had to come through the hatch opening. The others, guarding doors where ship’s people were imprisoned, were isolated without leadership.

Joe looked up. A pirate in command of the bridge held a gun to the head of a quartermaster—a massive head whose mop of unruly white hair was topjxxl with a weathered petty officer’s cap. A dirty, halfnaked Chinese soiling the bridge with his bare feet, his bridge! Joe’s—was he not now her commander? The captain was dead, the mate had betrayed her, and Joe alone carried on his shoulders the whole burden of upholding the traditions of a shipmaster.

The Nanking, moving at half speed, throbbed slowly onward.

Joe sprang suddenly to action. In one quick, lithe move he was atop the promenade deck rail, another and he pulled himself up to the boat deck. He listened a minute. There was the far-away sobbing of a woman, the rushing sound of the sea, a soft wind in the rigging.

Unobserved, he hurried along the boat deck. 1 íe made the ladder to the deck above, slipped over the rail like a shadow.

On the topmost deck of the liner he dodged swiftly aft through a weird forest of black shadows, of ventilators, stays, tanks, generator-houses and skylights. In a moment he stixxl before a chestlike affair about four feet square. He raised the lid, leaned clear over, put both arms inside. Neck corded,

perspiration streaming down his face, he strained the muscles of his arms and back. With a final heave he lifted out on to the deck a small-sized cannon. It was the Lyle lifeline gun.

lie prayed that he might find something with which to load it. He pawed alxxit. There were three charges of powder in canvas sacks, a box of primers—but nothing that could lx: used for shot. He looked frantically about.

The bos’n’s locker! It backed against the gun-house. He dived into it. came up with his hands full of nuts, bolts, bits of old iron. Then he set to work. And drumming frantically through the back of his mind was the need for hurry. Lights were showing ahead on the |x>rt bow; it was a matter of minutes.

A few feet at a time. Joe managed to drag the gun forward. Funnel stays blocked his way. steampipe casing held him back. But he struggled relentlessly on in the dark.

Once a stay caught him on the forehead. He jerked back, slipp'd. the gun crashed to the deck. But the clatter of the steamwinch at that moment drowned the noise.

The great liner was very near her ravagers now. Only luck could save her and her cargo of humanity.

SWEAT POURED down Joe’s face, his muscles ached with the terrific beating they had received in the past few hours. But he made it. Sheltered by the welcome shadow of a water tank, he set up the Lyle gun. Charged to the hilt, ready to deal death instead of sending a lifeline of mercy, he trained it directly at the group on deck below.

Across the width of the hatch was the charthouse, above that the flying-bridge with Dave at the wheel. Joe stood ready, firing-line in hand. When he shouted, would Dave have the presence of mind to fell that pilot and capture his gun?

Crouching low, Joe waited for silence from the steamwinch. He was counting on the wide scattering of his shot and on Dave Malone’s alertness. Failure meant disaster.

The Nanking was nearly in. The lights of the pirate junks, waiting to receive the gold and Kwon Yut’s crew, grew brighter. Success was nearly in Wert’s grasp. If their coup went through, the official log would show that Joe had been suspected by the master of smuggling arms for pirates. He would be accused of complicity and W ert would go free !

The sling came up with its cargo of gold. It dropped its heavy wooden platform to the deck. The winch clatter stopped. For an instant there was only the guttural chanting of the ragged crew unloading the sling. Now ! Joe tensed, muttered a prayer. Then, with a wild yell, leaped into full view at the rail.

“Kwon Yut!” he shouted. “Don't move! I’ve got you covered. One move and I’ll blow you all to bits!”

As one man they turned. Open-mouthed, they stared like men turned to stone at this apparition apparently dropped from the skies. The floodlight, cast weird shadows from their yellow, half-naked txxiies as they crouched or stood. Kwon Yut loomed immense above them. Then with snakelike swiftness he jerked up his gun.

There was a flash, a report, a bullet stung Joe’s cheek at the same instant he shouted hoarsely :

“Dave! Get your man!”

Even as he shouted he jerked the trigger of the Lyle gun. A great jet of orange flame seared the night. Boom! A terrific concussion. A cloud of white smoke.

Screams, moans, cries, rent the air. In a flash Joe saw Dave Malone yank the dumbfounded pilot’s gun from his hand, then with powerful arms lift him high, fling him into the writhing group below. The smoke cleared.

Complete devastation. Four Chinese lay in grotesque, lifeless positions. Others lay writhing. Kwon Yut was down but was struggling to his feet. The wide scattering

of the improvised shot had done its work well.

Cries of surprise, yells, came from the hatch below. Wert’s head suddenly appeared above the hatch coaming. In an instant he had scrambled to his feet on deck. At that moment Joe leaped to the boat deck, bounded over the rail to crash below with 180 pounds of fury on top of Wert.

They slammed to the deck. Wert was a powerful man. He struggled to his feet. Joe was up with him. slugged him off just in time to sec Kwon Yut raise his gun. He d(x1ged. yelled. Dave Malone tore around the corner at that moment. The butt of his gun crashed down on the big Chinaman’s head.

Wert flashed his gun. But Joe managed to get him by the gun arm. They fell, got to their feet, threshed wildly about for jxrssession of that gun. Joe slipped, went down. Wert brought up the gun. But .fixwas up again, and with a quick, jxjwerful twist disarmed Wert. Holding the gun by the barrel, he brought it down on the mate’s head. Wert gasped, dropped senseless to the deck.

Joe yelled to Dave, “Quick ! The hatch covers!” They battered down the wild-looking. pig-tailed heads crowding to get out of the hatch one at a time by its only exit —the narrow steel ladder.

TN FIVE MINUTES the hatch covers

were on, the majority of the pirates prisoners below with the gold they could not use. The few guards who had been stationed at locked doors near by had scrambled over the side when their leader had gone down. They were trying to swim to the two junks. There remained only the few below guarding the engine-room.

Leaving Dave to bind securely the mate and the pirate chief, Joe dashed to the bridge. Ringing full ahead, he put the helm hard over. With a splintering crash of steel into timber, the Nanking ran down one junk. With a twist of the wheel, the other one crumpled under her sharp bows.

A short distance out they dropped anchor. The ship’s officers were quickly released and armed to form a mopping-up party. But before starting below, “Parson” Wert and the huge Chinese were handcuffed, locked in separate cells.

Alone, unheard, Joe entered the cabin where Eve Kenyon was imprisoned. He closed the door behind him.

“Sorry, lady, but we need those handcuffs.”

With a low cry she twisted fearfully about. “Oh—”

But when he explained what had happened. released she smiled wryly, {xfinted to a carved teakwood box on the table.

“This was Kwon Yut’s cabin,” she said. “Look inside.”

He opened the box. Serene, in a neat row. the seven golden buddhas of Wang I sai contemplated his battered visage. Hollow they were, and packed with the hoarded jewels of the ancient mandarin.

“They’re half yours, you know,” she said sweetly.

He did know. Yet the way she said it made him suddenly look up. There was something in her eyes.

But Joe backed resolutely toward the door. Nope, he told himself, none of that for him. But, on the bridge, when he had given the order, “Full ahead !” he called a messenger, gave him certain instructions.

And as the Nanking. police flag flying, her hold filled with a ragged horde of Chinese prisoners, steamed slowly into Lyee Moon Pass toward Hong Kong, Eve Kenyon stcx>d on the bridge, watching acting Captain Joe Brady bark his commands to stand by for the pilot.

In response to a withering glance from the whitehaired Dave Malone, Joe managed to growl into Dave’s ear:

“She’s our most important witness.”

“Harumph-h!” was Dave’s only response