Chapter 9. THE COLD KILLER

DOC SAVAGE moved toward the bows of the corsair craft. He desired to ascertain what had become of the bodies of Squint’s unlucky companions. He had noted that the one who had died from the shock of a dismembered hand no longer reposed upon the deck.

The bodies had been added to the grisly exhibits of pirate butchery in the hold. A few garments of the seventeenth century had been drawn carelessly upon the bodies. So realistic was the rest of the exhibit that the real corpses fitted in perfectly with the ghastly scene. They could hardly be told from the papier-mвchй victims of corsair lust.

Doc began at the bows and searched the buccaneer craft minutely.

He soon found a twisted pair of insulated wires of a telephone line. These came aboard inside one of the rope hawsers that moored the vessel to the wharf. So cleverly were they concealed that they would have escaped any but an unusually intent inspection.

Doc traced the wires. They descended to the very keel, near the limber board. Here they were covered with rubber for protection from the bilge water. They progressed aft. At times Doc was forced to tear up planking to keep track of them.

Near the stern, the wires suddenly passed through the hull into the water.

Doc returned to the deck. He stood near the taffrail. His golden eyes roved the river surface.

Entering the deck house, he removed his outer clothing and shoes. An amazing figure of bronze, he returned to the stern. He poised at the taffrail.

But he did not dive overboard immediately to follow the wires underwater.

A great bubble arose a few yards out in the river. A second came. Then a blub-blub-blubseries of them!

This was air leaving the underwater cell in which Monk was imprisoned. The escaping air made room for the water that was drowning Monk.

But Doc knew only that the phenomenon was something suspicious. He waited to see what would happen next. Nothing did, except that the bubbles ceased to arise.

Doc dropped into the river. He drew plenty of air into his lungs before he struck. He swam, beneath the surface, out to the spot where the bubbles arose.

His powerful hands soon touched the steel tanklike submersible which lay on the river bottom. He explored along it. He found a box of a protuberance. This was the size of a very large trunk.

He heard faint struggle sounds from within the box.

Instantly, his great fingers went to work on the hatch which gave admission to the box. He got it open.

Monk toppled out.

* * *

MONK was a mighty distressed man, but far from dead. Opening his eyes, he could see Doc faintly in the water.

Monk’s ill-timed bark of pleasure expelled the last vestige of air from his lungs. As a result, his drowning was nearly finished before Doc could get him to the surface.

“Imagine finding you here!” Doc chuckled. “You pick the strangest places to visit!”

Monk spouted a prodigious quantity of river water. He held up his manacled arms.

“Get these off, Doc!” he roared. “I’m gonna dive back down there and give them babies a taste of their own medicine! I’ll tear a hole in the thing if nothing else!”

Doc Savage grasped the first of the three handcuffs on Monk’s wrists. He brought the manacle close to his great chest and pulled.

Monstrous muscles popped out on his arms and shoulders. The handcuff chain snapped apart.

With successive duplications of this remarkable feat, Doc shattered the other cuffs securing Monk’s wrists and ankles.

Monk immediately prepared to dive to the tank of a submarine on the river bottom. His pleasantly ugly face sank. He was thirsting for vengeance on the men who had tried to murder him.

Doc Savage followed him down.

Doc it was who found a way to attack those inside the sunken tank of the craft. He discovered the dogs which held the entrance lid could be worked from the outside as well as the inside. They operated on the principle which is occasionally applied to the hatches of regulation submarines.

With a twist, Doc threw them. His powerful arms wrenched up the lid. With a great rush, water poured in.

Doc stroked back to the surface. Monk sputtered and splashed there, his simian face disappointed.

“I had no luck!” he growled.

“Watch it!” Doc called. “They’ll be swimming out!”

Hardly had the warning been voiced when a streaming head broke water. Monk’s fist swung like a sledge. The victim would have drowned had Monk not seized and held him.

A second of Kar’s men came up from the tanklike craft, which, no doubt, was already filled with water. Doc captured that one. For the next few seconds, half-drowned villains bobbed on all sides.

Snorting and chuckling uproariously, Monk laid about briskly with his long, furry arms. He sounded like a porpoise disporting atop the water. Monk liked plenty of noise when he fought.

Monk kept count of their bag.

“That’s all of ‘em!” he announced at length. “Every rat of them got to the top.”

The conquest had not been a difficult one. Kar’s men were all but unconscious as they reached the surface. It became a matter of simply stunning each one, a simple process for such fists and strength as Doc and Monk possessed.

They made a human raft out of their captives and shoved them to the Jolly Roger. Monk held them there, keeping them afloat. He administered a judicious belt with a hairy fist when one showed signs of reviving. He grinned, “How I like this job!”

Doc stroked to a wharf pile. He climbed it with a rapidity that made the feat seem ridiculously easy.

* * *

COILED on the after deck, Doc Savage found a rope which would support the weight of a man. He lowered the end. Monk looped it under a prisoner’s arms.

They had all the captives on the after deck of the Jolly Rogerwithin a few seconds.

“What do we do with ‘em?” Monk inquired.

“See what they know of Kar,” Doc explained. He inspected the array of prisoners. “They may know something. None of them were with the group who met Squint.”

“Squint — who’s he?” Monk inquired. “Say, Doc, I still don’t know what this is all about!”

Doc began with the fiendish murder of Jerome Coffern by the Smoke of Eternity and sketched briefly what had occurred.

“Whew!” muttered Monk. “And you think this Smoke of Eternity is a substance which shatters the atom! In that case, it certainly must have something new and hitherto undiscovered for its basic ingredient!”

“Exactly,” Doc agreed. “It is possible Gabe Yuder discovered this new element, or whatever it is, on Thunder Island. He may be Kar.”

They relieved their prisoners of arms, throwing the waterlogged weapons into the river. The pockets of the men disgorged nothing that might lead to Kar.

One by one, the villainous group regained consciousness. One or two tried to escape. They didn’t have a chance against Doc’s flashing speed. And Monk, for all his anthropoid appearance, was a hairy blur when he wanted to move quickly.

The prisoners were herded forward. Doc forced them down in the fore hold, which held the unnerving display of pirate bloodthirstiness. He wanted them to have a good look at the three of Kar’s men who were already dead there. The sight might loosen their tongues.

The gruesome exhibit proved to be potent medicine. The captives shuddered. They became pale.

“Where can Kar be found?” Doc demanded, his powerful voice holding a ring of command.

He got no answer. He had not expected one yet.

Monk picked up a big, gleaming cutlass. He whetted it suggestively on a soggy shoe sole, then whacked an ear off a papier-mвchй likeness of a bearded pirate, just to show Kar’s men how it might go.

“Only say the word, Doc!” He slanted a great arm at a wizened fellow who looked the most cowardly of the lot. “I’ll start on the little one, there!”

The man in question whimpered in fright.

Doc’s golden eyes came to rest on the cowardly one. The play of flaky gleamings within those orbs seemed to increase. The golden eyes gathered a compelling, hypnotic quality. They searched the very soul of the quailing captive.

“I — I — ” the fellow frothed.

There was no question but that in a very few minutes he could have been made to tell all he knew.

But he never got the chance.

* * *

A DECK planking creaked above their heads. Some one lurked up there!

“Duck!” Doc breathed.

He and Monk faded into shadowy corners of the hold with the speed and silence of men accustomed to danger.

The man at the deck hatch must have caught a fleeting glimpse of Doc’s bronze form.

A machine gun erupted down the hatch. The reports of the weapon were surprisingly mild — it was fitted with a silencer of some sort. The hosing metal torrent tore great, splinter-edged rents in the floor planks. It reduced a papier-mвchй replica of a corsair victim to a chewed pile of paper-and-glue pulp.

Sudden silence fell.

Kar’s men milled under the hatch, not knowing what to do. They looked up.

“Kar — “

The cowardly man of the group had started to speak. But he got no further than that one word.

Bur-r-rip!

A machine-gun volley poured into him. His wizened body seemed to lose all its shape under the murderous leaden stream.

The rapid-firer did not stop with his death. It ripped into the other members of Kar’s gang.

Doc Savage knew that the first man to die had seen Kar at the hatch above. Kar was slaying the whole group so none of them could give information concerning him.

It was one of the most cold-blooded, fiendish things Doc had ever witnessed.

In a half dozen ticks of a stop watch, every man of Kar’s in the hold died under the gobbling machine gun.

Then Kar ran wildly away from the hatch, across the deck. Both Doc and Monk heard the master murderer’s leap to the wharf.

Doc’s bronze, giant form flashed from the shadows. It seemed to slide upward on invisible wires. Powerful fingers seized the hatch rim. Doc looked out.

A man raced furiously shoreward along the wharf. He wore a dark raincoat. It enveloped his form down to the ankles. He had a large, nondescript, concealing hat.

Kar — for he it must be — still carried his submachine gun. He whirled suddenly and let fly a volley of bullets.

Doc dropped back into the hold an instant before slivers flew from the hatch edge. But he had seen that Kar’s face was wrapped in a great mask of dark cloth. It covered even his neck.

Whether Kar was Gabe Yuder it was impossible to tell. The fleeing figure couldbe Gabe Yuder, though.

Doc did not try to leave by the hatch again. He raced aft. Monk trailed him.

“What a cold killer!” Monk grated.

“There should be guns in the deck house!” Doc breathed.

They found the guns. A rack held quite an arsenal of modern weapons. Kar had prepared well. They sprang out on deck.

But Kar was something of a sprinter. Already, he had scampered well up the bluff which was surmounted by Riverside Drive. He kept to the concealment of scrawny shrubbery.

Doc saw a bush shake and fired into it. Machine gun missiles came screaming back in a second. They forced Doc to cover.

Kar reached the low stone wall at the bluff rim. He dived over it.

Doc and Monk found no trace of the fiendish killer when they reached Riverside Drive.

* * *

Contents