Chapter SEVEN

“FLOATING in the air,” Myra said scornfully. “What kind of an imagination is that?” She was lying full length in a basket chair with her feet up. She still looked pale, but there was a sparkle in her eyes that l was glad to see.

The evening sun had sunk below the mountains and in the fading light, the verandah was quiet and restful. A cool wind rustled the scorched leaves of the overhead cypresses and the square was deserted. Ansell and I lolled in our chairs near Myra, while Bogle sat at the table, fondling a bottle half-filled with whisky.

“Drink’s going to be Samuel’s downfall,” Myra went on. “He can’t have his D.T.’s like an ordinary decent citizen. He has to be different. So he sees floating women instead of pink snakes.”

I looked across at Bogle. He worried me. Sitting in a heap, drinking whisky steadily, he looked like a man embarking on a long and serious illness. He kept shaking his head and muttering to himself and every now and then a muscle would flutter in his cheek and his eyes would twitch.

“Now, wait a minute,” I said. “He must have seen something to get him in that condition. A man doesn’t go to pieces like that for fun.”

“Phooey!” Myra snapped. “He’s trying to be temperamental. You came in two minutes after he’d rushed out. You didn’t see me floating in the air, did you?”

“I wouldn’t be sitting here, if I had,” I said with a grin. “I’d be running somewhere in the desert.”

“Well, there you are,” Myra said. “He’s suffering from delusions.”

“Suppose you go over your story again, Sam?” Ansell said kindly.

Bogle gave a little shiver and poured himself out another drink “I’ll go screwy if I even think about it,” he said in husky voice.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Myra told him. “You’re as far gone as you ever will be. After all, there is a limit even to lunacy.”

Bogle screwed up his fists and faced us. “I don’t care what you punks say,” he snarled. “I believe my own peepers. I went into that room and there she was lying on the bed. I didn’t even have time to ask her how she was when she suddenly rose off the bed with the blanket over her and floated up to the ceiling, stiff, like she was held up by wires.”

We all exchanged glances.

“She just floated off the bed, eh?” I said. “You’ve never seen anyone else just float off a bed before, have you?”

Bogle shook his head. “No,” he said simply, “I ain’t and what’s more, I don’t ever want to see it again.”

Ansell said in a low voice to me: “Sun stroke.”

I nodded. “Now, look pal,” I said. “We’ve had a pretty hard day. Suppose you go to bed? You’ll be fine to-morrow.”

Bogle groaned. “Do you think I’ll ever be able to sleep again?” he said, pouring himself out another whisky.

Myra swung her feet to the ground and stood up. She was wearing a dark blue shirt and a pair of grey flannel trousers. The outfit certainly suited her neat little figure. She walked over to Bogle and took the whisky away from him.

“Go on,” she said. “Get off to bed or I’ll do more than float over you.”

Bogle shrank away from her. “Don’t come near me,” he said in horror.

“Leave him alone,” Ansell said. “It looks to me as if he were suffering from delayed shock.”

Myra hesitated, then keeping the whisky bottle she moved back to her chair.

I snapped the bottle out of her hand as she passed. “I’ll have what’s left,” I said and took a long pull from the bottle.

Myra sat down again. “Well, we’re right where we started, aren’t we?” she said. “We’ve spent the best part of an hour listening to Samuel’s drivel about floating women.”

“Yeah,” I said. “This isn’t getting us anywhere.”

“What I want to know,” Ansell said, sitting up, “is what happened in that hut? Did you or did you not get anything out of Quintl?”

“Of course, I didn’t,” Myra said. “I’ve told you over and over again. He put me in a hut and I went to sleep. I don’t remember a thing.”

“Well, that’s that,” I said dismally. “You can kiss your snake-bite remedy good-bye. Now Quintl’s dead no one will have it.”

“It looks like it,” Ansell said. “And yet… why was he in the hut with her? She was alone when she went to sleep, yet we find Quintl with her when we break in. There’s something behind all this.” He scratched his chin, staring at Myra with questioning eyes. “You don’t feel any different, do you?” he asked cautiously.

“You mean do I want to start floating or something like that?” Myra asked tartly. “Are you going nuts, too?”

“Maybe there’s something in what Bogle said,” Ansell went on. “Maybe he wasn’t mistaken.”

“A pair of them,” Myra said to me. “Good Lord! Put them in strait jackets.”

I stared at Ansell in alarm. “What are you getting at?”

Before he could reply a party of horsemen rode into the Square, scattering dust and breaking the stillness of the evening.

“What’s this?” Myra asked, looking over her shoulder at the dark group of horsemen. “A rodeo?”

I sat up in alarm. One of the horsemen was immensely tall and fat. That was enough for me.

“Quick, Doc,” I said. “Get inside and phone for the Federal troops. These guys are bandits.”

Ansell stiffened in alarm. “What do you mean?” he asked, sitting like a paralysed rabbit.

“Okay, okay, stay where you are. They’ve seen us.”

Myra looked at me blankly. “What are you talking about?”

“Hornets, my pet,” I said grimly, and she caught her breath in a little gasp.

From the group of sixteen men, three detached themselves and walked towards the verandah steps. The others remained with the horses, watching. One of the three men was immensely fat and tall. He walked just ahead of the other two. He came up the verandah steps that creaked under his weight.

It was the fat party we had met on the mountain road and he had a mean look on his dark greasy face as he stood under the lamp, looking at us. Particularly he looked at Myra. Then he took out a pale silk handkerchief and blew his nose. While he was doing this, his eyes remained on Myra’s face.

Myra eyed him up and down. She was in no way disturbed to meet him again.

“Haven’t we seen that fat boy before?” Myra said to me.

The fat party moved a little nearer. His companions remained in the shadows.

Bogle, suddenly feeling the hostile atmosphere, decided that he ought to assert himself.

“Lookin’ for anyone, pal?”

The fat party felt in his pocket. “Somewhere I had a very interesting notice,” he said.

“Now, where did I put it?” He fumbled again, frowning slightly.

“Try your paunch,” Myra said, lighting a cigarette and flipping the match into the darkness. I tapped her arm. “Would you mind keeping quiet?” I said pleadingly. “It’s not much to ask in these days of acute crisis.”

The fat man pulled out a crumpled newspaper and began smoothing it between his great hands. He peered at it and then at Myra. Then his face lit up and he actually smiled. It didn’t reassure me. You know how it would be if you met a snake and it smiled at you, it wouldn’t reassure you.

“Yes,” he said, “here it is. Very interesting. Very interesting indeed.”

“He seems happy enough talking to himself,” Myra said, yawning. “Don’t you think we can go to bed?”

“I have a sneaking idea that before very long we’ll get involved in his monologue,” I said helplessly. “I think we ought to be as cautious as possible.”

Bogle blinked at the fat party, muttered to himself and then eased his great muscles. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Who’s this guy, anyway?”

“I am Pablo,” the fat party returned with a furtive look at Myra. “You are strangers to this country, you would not know me.”

Ansell started as if he’d been stung.

“Pablo,” Myra repeated. “Sounds like something to rub on your chest.”

The fat party smiled again. “The little man has heard of me. Is it not so, se?or?”

I’d heard of him, too, and when Ansell said “Yes” very feebly, I sympathized with him.

“Then tell your friends who I am,” Pablo went on. “Tell them that Pancho Villa and Zapata finished where I began. Tell them about my fortress in the mountains and of the men that have been bricked up in its walls. Tell them of the excellent fellows that work under me, and of the trains we have dynamited. Come, se?or, where is your tongue?”

Ansell looked round at us and nodded his head. “That’s the boy,” he said nervously.

“If Samuel will play the harmonica, we’ll give him a civic reception,” Myra said lightly.

“After which he’ll be presented with a little flag and a string beg to keep his silly looking hat in and then, with luck, we’ll all go to bed.”

I felt she wasn’t being exactly helpful.

Pablo played with his handkerchief. “It is Myra Shumway… that is the name, yes?”

“Fame at last,” Myra said, a little surprised. “How are you, Doctor Livingstone?”

“And you, se?or, Ross Millan?”

Bogle sat up. “I’m Sam Bogle,” he said. “Please to meet you.”

“Shut your mouth, you dog,” Pablo said, his eyes boring holes into Bogle, “or I will cut your tongue out.”

Bogle gaped at him. “Well, I’ll be…!” he gasped.

I kicked his chin under the table and told him to take it easy.

Pablo wandered over to the table, drew up a chair and sat down near Myra. He moved very lightly for his bulk.

Myra drew away from him.

“There is much to talk about,” he said, reaching for the jar of wine that stood on the table. He poured the sour red wine into Myra’s glass, then held the glass up to the light of the lamp.

“Your pretty mouth leaves marks,” he said smiling at Myra. “Your kisses could be dangerous,” and he shook with a spasm of laughter.

“Mind you don’t bust your corset,” Myra said, alarmed.

Pablo crushed the glass in his hand. The wine and glass splinters spattered the table. Bogle half started from his chair, but I again touched him under the table. I could have smacked Myra. Either she was being the dumbest of all blondes or else she had more guts than I and the rest of us put together. Whichever way it was, she was making things bad for us all.

The men in the Square made a move forward. Several of them dropped their hands to their gun butts.

Pablo wiped his hand on his handkerchief and looked with interest at the cut on his palm.

“That was careless of me,” he said, looking at Myra.

“Don’t apologize,” Myra returned. “I had a cousin who was also a mental defective. He had to have cast-iron feeding utensils. I dare say I could arrange the same thing for you at a cut rate.”

“When my women are insolent,” Pablo said dreamily, “I peg them out in the hot sun on an ant-hill.”

Myra twisted round, facing him. “But, I’m not your woman, fat boy,” she said. “You can take your little bandits out of here and feed them through a sausage machine.”

I said quickly: “Don’t mind her. That’s just her sense of humour.”

Pablo wrapped his handkerchief round his hand. “Very interesting sense of humour. If my woman talks like that I cut her tongue out. She loses her sense of humour very quick then.”

I felt it was time to take a more active part in the conversation. “Tell me, se?or, is there something particular that you wish to discuss with us?” I asked, offering him a cigarette from my case.

“Yes,” he said, waving away the cigarette. “Something very important” He picked up the newspaper which he had dropped on the floor. I recognized the Recorder. “You will see why I am interested in the se?orita,” and he spread the newspaper on the table.

I knew what was coming, but even then I hardly dared to look at the splash headlines that were smeared across the front page. Somehow, this thug had got hold of the issue containing Maddox’s story of the kidnapped blonde. There was a big shot of Myra and in the biggest type of all was the announcement about the 25,000-dollars reward.

“Brother,’ I thought. “Have you got to be smart to talk yourself out of this?’

Before I could stop her, Myra had snatched up the paper, while Bogle and Ansell crowded round her.

“That’s quite a good likeness of you they’ve got there,” I said carelessly. “I always thought the Recorder was unreliable, but this is the end. Kidnapped by bandits indeed. That is a laugh.”

Myra looked at me over the top of the paper. There was a disagreeable look in her eye.

“Isn’t it?” she said, between her teeth. “I’m suffocating with mirth.”

There was a long silence while the three of them went through the article, then Myra folded the paper with slow deliberation and put it on the table.

“Twenty-five thousand dollars,” she said gently. “And I was going to call you by your first name!”

“But there is’ more,” Pablo said, picking at his great white teeth with his thumb nail.

“There is a man called Bastino who lives in the mountains. He is a good friend of mine. He tells me that he is to kidnap this young woman. Later it has been arranged for Se?or Millan to rescue her, but Se?or Millan says nothing to Bastino about the reward. He pays Bastino a mere three hundred dollars and Bastino feels sore about it. He comes to me and shows me the paper, so I think I had better do something about it.” He waved his fat hand. “So here I am.”

Myra looked at me. “What a lovely little serpent you’ve turned out to be,” she said with terrifying restraint. “You must let me know when your parents marry, I’ll send them a wreath.”

Even Ansell was looking at me with hurt eyes.

I eased my collar which threatened to strangle me. “It’s all a mistake,” I said hurriedly. “If you’ll just let me explain…”

“There is nothing to explain,” Pablo said. “I do the talking now.’

Myra turned on him furiously. “You keep your snout out of this. I’ve got something to say to this two-faced, double- crossing rattle-snake.”

“Now, don’t let us quarrel,” I said hastily. “You wouldn’t have come to any harm and I was keeping the reward as a surprise for you. Just think of all that money and how nice it’ll be to spend.”

“I’m thinking,” Myra said, tapping on the table. “I’m thinking what I’m going to do to you.”

Ansell broke in: “And what about us?” be demanded. “We weren’t going to be in this either.”

I drew myself up. “This is becoming sordid,” I said. “Here am I, trying to give the great American public an epic story and all you can do is to yap about money.”

“So you were not even interested in the reward?” Myra said, smiling at me. “You just wanted to give the great American public an epic story?”

“That’s all,” I said. “Why should I worry about a little thing like 25,000 dollars? I’m a newspaper man.”

“A minute,” Pablo said, “I have not finished. I take the se?orita now. Se?or Millan writes of the kidnapping. Then we discuss the reward.”

We all four stared at him. “You take the se?orita?” I said, suddenly realizing the spot we were in.

“Certainly,” Pablo returned, smiling at Myra. “The newspaper says she has been kidnapped, therefore I kidnap her. I shall hold her for ransom. I shall demand 50,000 dollars and you will pay. If there is much delay, I will send you her right ear and after three days I send you her left ear and then if I do not get the money, I send you a finger every day.”

Myra went a little pale. “That’ll make a swell headline in your rag,” she said to rue. “High rates for piecework or Blonde mailed in installments.”

I said: “I don’t think you’d better do that. It would mean U.S. reprisals. Maybe we’ll send troops as we did a few years ago when we chased Pancho into the mountains.”

Pablo laughed. “I go now,” he said, and reached out, taking Myra’s arm in his great hand. She spun round. “Take your greasy paw off me!” she flared. “Who do you think you are? You can’t scare me, you over-filled sausage!”

Pablo quaked with laughter. “Such spirit,” he said and hit her across her face with the side of his hand.

She and the chair she was sitting on went over backwards. She sprawled on the ground.

The two Mexicans who had remained in the shadows, now pulled their guns and stepped forward. “Sit still,” one of them said to me. The other threatened Bogle and Ansell who had stiffened when Myra went over.

I felt myself go white and ignoring the gunmen I bent over Myra.

Pablo hit me on the back of my neck with the jar of wine. The jar splintered and the wine splashed Myra’s shirt. I found myself on my hands and knees and white hot lights seemed to be exploding in my head.

I heard Pablo laughing a long way away and then I shook my head clear and got to my feet. Myra clutched at me. “Are you hurt?” she asked anxiously.

Before I could assure her, Pablo reached out and jerked her round to face him. “Never, mind him, my little rabbit,” he said, drawing her towards him. “Now I am here, I like to have all your attention.”

Myra caught her breath sharply. She moved in quickly and drove her clenched fist into the middle of his face.

One of the Mexican gunmen kicked her legs from under her. She hit the wooden floor of the verandah with a thud that shook the breath out of her body.

Pablo started to his feet, hissing like a snake. A patch of split skin just by his thick nose showed where Myra had hit him.

“Go for ’em, Sam,” I bawled. And we both went into action together.

With a roar, Bogle tossed the table at the nearest gunman who was covering him. The gun went off; the slug shearing a furrow in the table. I jumped the gunman who had tripped Myra before he could regain his balance. We crashed over, almost on top of Myra.

Ansell who dodged into a neutral corner said afterwards that it was a pretty good scrap. While I was trying to pin my greaser, Pablo got hurriedly to his feet, tittering with excitement. “Come,” he shouted to the other Mexicans in the Square. “They want to fight.”

Sam had closed with the other gunman. Grabbing him round his waist he tossed him into the middle of the surging Mexicans below.

I got a grip on my man’s hair and hammered his head on the boards. He seemed to have a soft head because he went out like a light. As I got up, I heard Myra scream. The Mexicans were pouring up on to the verandah.

Pablo grabbed Myra. She fought him, kicking and scratching like a wild cat, but he handled her effortlessly. He didn’t even get up from his chair. He captured her hands in one of his, grinding and squeezing her fingers. White and furious, she dragged away from him, kicking at him wildly.

Giggling with excitement, he suddenly gave her a jerk. She came forward as if she had been shot from a cannon and thudded against him. With his free hand, he twined his great fingers, in her hair and pulled her head back steadily until Doc thought he was going to break her neck.

“If you had longer ears, I would pull them for you, too, little rabbit,” he said, grinning at her. “Go down on your knees,” and he forced her on to the boards.

Sam suddenly emerged from the heap of men. He looked like a massive bear attacked by wolves. He hadn’t had a fight like this in years. With three men clinging to his legs, and a little greaser on his back, he stared round, looking for Myra. When he saw what Pablo was doing, he gave a great roar of fury. Bending down, he clubbed at the men holding his legs. His great fists, like two rocks, smashed down on their upturned faces. The greaser on his back redoubled his efforts, biting, scratching and thumping. Bogle didn’t even notice him. He freed his legs, kicked the men clear and charged down on Pablo.

The little greaser shifted his hands and drove his fist into Bogle. Bogle bellowed like a wounded bull. One of his hands groped behind him and closed over the greaser’s face. His thick fingers began to squeeze. The greaser clawed at the steel fingers: Then Bogle suddenly threw him away. He crashed against the verandah rail and went limp.

In the meantime, I was under a pile of Mexicans and one of them caught me a smack under the chin and I went out like a light.

These Mexicans scrambled to their feet and made for Bogle, but they were a little late. Pablo found this immensely exciting and amusing. He dodged Bogle’s first charge, then as he came in again, Pablo snatched Myra up by her shirt-front, gripping her ankles in his other hand, he slammed her at Bogle like a battering rain. Bogle went over with a thud, clinging to Myra. By holding her close to him, he saved her the shock of landing on the wooden floor.

“Go for him, you dogs,” Pablo exclaimed, waving his men to Bogle.

The Mexicans piled on top of them.

Pablo skipped round the struggling mass of men, laughing until tears ran down his fat cheeks. He saw a leg and snatched at it. Pulling steadily he drew Myra out of the mass of kicking, flaying limbs. Before he could get her out, he had to drag away two Mexicans. This he did by seizing them one after the other by their hair and tossing them away as if they were kittens.

Myra came out of this struggling pile of men, more dead than alive. Leaving her on the floor, Pablo skipped back to the struggling men, ploughed his way down to Bogle.

The Mexicans got to their feet and drew off.

Pablo stirred Myra with his foot She opened her eyes and stared at him. “You were nearly skinned that time, little rabbit,” he said, quaking with laughter. “Ho! Ho! What excitement! What an evening! What beautiful fighting!”

He bent suddenly and knotted his fist in her shirt, then he heaved her to her feet .Holding her lightly, he walked across the verandah, straightened a chair and sat down. All the fight had gone out of Myra. He pulled her down on his knees. She just sat there limply, her head down and her face hidden by her hair.

The Mexicans gathered in a little bunch at the top of the steps. They talked excitedly together in whispers.

Bogle and I were still counting stars. Ansell edged further into his corner and hoped no one could notice him.

Myra suddenly began to struggle again. “Let me go, you fat toad,” she gasped.

Pablo giggled. “Of course, little rabbit,” he said and set her on her feet.

Without his supporting hand, her legs buckled and she nearly fell. He caught her as she was going over. “Come, come,” he jeered at her. “Where is your strength?”

Making an effort, she pushed him away and tottered over to me. As she came, I began to sit up. I saw her through a dazed mist.

“How are we doing?” I asked feebly as she sank down on her knees beside me. “Did we win or do we start fighting again?”

“We lost, you dope,” Myra said savagely. “Now, what do you think we’re going to do?”

I looked round, spotted the bunch of greasers standing on the verandah steps, blocking our exit, looked sadly at Bogle who was beginning to move and then over at Pablo.

“As soon as I get my second wind,” I said hurriedly, “we’ll start another little session. But you’ve got to beat it. Make for the woods. Once you’re there, you ought to be able to hide from them. Do you understand?”

“You don’t think I’m going to run out on you three, do you?” Myra demanded fiercely.

“We’re all in this together.”

“Famous last words,” I said, thinking it was pretty fine of her. “You get out and don’t be a little fool. They’ll give you hell when they start on you and besides who’s going to pay 50,000 dollars for you?”

“Why, you big drip!” Myra said angrily. “Wouldn’t you pay that for me?”

“Look out behind,” I said and tried to struggle to my feet. Pablo, losing patience, was coming over like an express train. He caught Myra before she could even begin to move.

“Now,” he said, shaking her, “we talk no more and we go!”

“Take your hands off me!” she sad furiously. “Do you hear? Get back into your skin, you fat sausage!”

Then it happened.

There was a sudden puff of white smoke that enveloped Pablo and when it had cleared away, he had vanished.

I had been watching the whole time. Pablo hadn’t run into the lounge. He hadn’t darted into the shadows. He had simply dissolved into smoke. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.

Myra backed away with a little cry, then she spun on her heel and ran to me. I held her while I watched the wisp of smoke trail slowly into the darkness.

You ought to have seen those Mexicans. They gave one look at us and then they stampeded for their horses. And what a stampede! The bigger greasers trampled on the smaller greasers in their mad panic to get off the verandah. In under four seconds, they and their horses were pounding out of Orizaba. The Square was deserted.

“What happened?” I asked, holding Myra tightly. In spite of my scare, I liked holding her tightly. She was the kind of girl to be held tightly and I was doing a swell job. “What in Pete’s name happened?”

Of course, Bogle had seen it all. “I can’t stand it,” he wailed, beating the floor with his fists.

“First, she floats in the air and now he disappears into smoke. I tell you, I can’t stand any more of it. I’m going nuts! Lemme get out of here. I wanta go home!”

“Quiet!” Ansell said, coming out of his corner. “Hold your noise!” He came over to Myra and me. “I saw what happened,” he went on in a low voice. “Now do you believe in witchcraft? He just vanished into smoke, didn’t he? You both saw it.” He looked at Myra searchingly. “What did you do?”

Myra shivered. “Do?” she said. “You’re not trying to pin this on me?”

“Of course, it’s you,” Ansell returned sharply. “I suspected it when Sam saw you floating. You’ve become a Naguale. Don’t you understand? Quintl did pass on his secrets to you without you knowing it. You have the Nagualism power of witchcraft.”

Myra backed away from him. Her eyes wide in horror. “I don’t believe it!” she said, then turning on me “Tell him he’s crazy! I won’t believe it!”

“Then what happened to him?” Ansell persisted. “Men don’t just vanish into smoke.”

“Maybe he’s hiding somewhere,” I said, looking round, but knowing that it was a waste of time. Then I suddenly saw something on the floor and I moved forward. “What’s this?” I said.

Under the table was the longest and most appetizing sausage I had ever seen. I picked it up.

“Where the devil did that come from?”

Myra took one look at it, gave a little moan and fell at my feet in a faint.

Ansell clutched my arm. “Didn’t you hear what she said?” he gasped, pointing a trembling finger at the sausage. “That’s Pablo. That’s all that’s left of Pablo.”

I dropped the sausage as if it had bitten me. “Am I going nutty or are you?” I demanded.

“She told him to get back into a sausage skin,” Ansell screamed, his eyes bolting out of his head. “She’s got the power to do it!”

“You’re mad!” I said backing away. “Such things can’t happen.”

Bogle came limping over and gaped at Doc. “What the hell are you squealing about?” he said, then looking down at Myra. “What she think she’s doing?”

I jerked my attention from the sausage to Myra. “I’ll take her inside,” I said, and picking her up I carried her into the lounge. When I had laid her on a couch, I yelled for Doc. “Come on,” I shouted. “Help me, will you?”

Ansell came in white and trembling. “I can’t believe it! It’s the most fantastic…”

“Aw, shut up!” I said roughly. “There’s plenty of time to talk when we’ve taken care of this kid. After all, we were in a damn tight spot before this happened. We should be grateful.”

It took some little time to bring Myra round. She opened her eyes at last and blinked unhappily up at me. “I’ve had such an awful dream,” he said sleepily. “Such an awful dream.”

“That’s all right,” I said soothingly. “You go to sleep. I’m right by your side, so there’s nothing to be soared about.”

She smiled at me and then closed her eyes again. In a moment she was breathing regularly.

“I’d be a hit as a father,” I said, pleased. “Did you see that piece of technique?”

Bogle came in. “How’s she doing?” he asked.

“She’s okay,” I said abruptly. “What have you done with the sausage? I want it in here.”

“I’ve given it to the innkeeper’s dawg,” Bogle said indifferently. “He’s a good dawg and I’ve been promising him something…”

“Given it to a dog?” I shouted, grabbing him by the arm.

“Why not?” Bogle said, on the offensive. “Want to make anything of it? Do you think it’s too good for a dawg?”

“Listen, you fat jerk,” I exclaimed. “That wasn’t a sausage. It was Pablo.”

Bogle’s eyes opened. “What was that?” he asked, starting.

“That sausage wasn’t a sausage at all. It was Pablo turned into a sausage,” I explained, trying to keep my voice down.

“The sausage wasn’t a sausage, it was Pablo?” Bogle repeated in a dazed voice. “Was that what you said?”

“Yes, you fat fool!”

“Iszatso? Well, it certainly looked like a sausage to me.”

“I don’t care what it looked like to you! It’s Pablo done up like a sausage.”

“Done up like a sausage?” Bogle’s eyes looked scared. “I see.”

“No, you don’t,” I said savagely. “You don’t see at all. Where is the dog? Tell me that and we won’t argue.”

“You’d better take a look at this guy, Doc,” Bogle said to Ansell. “Something’s got loose in his dome.”

“Try to understand,” Ansell said. “Myra has turned Pablo into a sausage.”

A look of horror came into Bogle’s eyes. “You, too?” he whispered, backing away. “Don’t you think you guys ought to sit down or something?”

“I tell you Pablo’s in that sausage!” Ansell snapped. “You’ve got to get it back at once.” Bogle shivered. “Maybe I’m going bats, too,” he said hoarsely. “Maybe it ain’t you two but me. Maybe I’m just hearing voices in my brain.”

“What are you drivelling about?” I stormed at him.

“Someone keeps telling me that Pablo’s a sausage,” Bogle wailed. “I’ve gone nuts! I knew I’d go nuts and by God I’ve gone nuts!”

“I tell you, Pablo has been turned into a sausage,” Ansell hissed, pushing his face into Bogle’s. “Now will you do something about it, you large lump of useless blubber!”

Bogle closed his eyes and sat abruptly on the floor. “This is going to be a pretty sad day for my old lady,” he said, as if to himself. “I wouldn’t like to be the guy to tell her her only son’s gone bugs,” and he lay flat on his back and began making humming noises.

“Come on, Doc,” I said. “We’ve got to find the dog by ourselves.”

We didn’t have to go far. Just outside on the verandah there was an enormous wolfhound lying on the floor who glanced up with bored overfed eyes as we came out. There was no sign of the sausage. As we stood staring, the wolfhound dosed his eyes luxuriously and licked his chops.

“He’s eaten Pablo,” I said in a hushed, horrified voice. “That’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”

Doc took off his hat and lowered his head.

Then a sudden thought struck me and I gripped his arm in alarm. “Doc!” I gasped. “Do you realize what this means? She’s got the whip hand over us all. We won’t be able to open our mouths.”

Doc put on his hat again and blinked at me. “What do you mean?” he asked, bewildered.

“Can’t you see what she can do if she decides she doesn’t like any of us?” I looked furtively over my shoulder, then lowering my face close to his, I whispered: “She might even turn you into a pork pie and give you to me for my lunch. How would you like that?”

Doc just fainted away in ray arms.

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