Книга Quest of the Spider. Содержание - Chapter iv. two dead men
Chapter IV. TWO DEAD MEN
AN ominous silence gripped the room where the three limp, unmoving forms lay. The slow tick-tock of a wooden clock in another part of the mansion was a sound like the bony footsteps of death. The motor of an electric refrigerator ran softly back in the kitchen regions.
From the Mississippi River in the distance came the forlorn toot of a packet boat. A radio played through an open window in the more immediate neighborhood. There was a party where the radio played. Glasses clinked. Giddy laughter cackled.
A voice said: "Me guess coast ees clear!"
Two queer-looking men stepped out of a closet.
They were undersized. Their skins had an unusual yellowish-brown color. Their features were pinched.
They looked like nothing so much as big, hairless monkeys, whose tails had been cut off.
Dungaree pants bobbed above the knees. Ragged, filthy shirts comprised their only other attire. They were barefooted.
Each man carried a long, slim tube.
They bent over the unconscious forms of Big Eric, Edna, and Ham. Their clumsy, foul fingers picked from each prostrate body a tiny dart. These they replaced in small leather sacks.
It was these blowgun darts which had brought disaster to Big Eric, Edna, and Ham. They had been propelled expertly through a keyhole. The long, slim tubes were the blowguns.
The two men now went to the door. They made a queer, snakelike hissing note.
In answer to that signal, several more men appeared. They looked enough like the first pair to be their brothers.
It was as though the big monkeys with bobbed tails and hair singed off were having a convention.
Big Eric stirred slightly. He was reviving!
The monkey men hastily bound him, as well as Edna and Ham. The fellows spoke a fair grade of English to each other at times, but on other occasions they lapsed into an amazing lingo. This jabber was a combination of French, English, bush African, and Spanish, all intermingled so as to be unrecognizable.
The ugly little men seemed to be as polyglot a breed as their lingo.
An expert on languages would have explained that they were a strange and little-known class of humans who have come into existence deep within the Southern swamps. For the most part, they were offsprings of criminals who had fled to the swamps for safety, down through the scores of years. From such breeding, they could hardly be less than degenerates. As a class, they were shunned by the more respectable swamp dwellers.
It was among these ignorant, vicious people that the sinister and oftentimes bloodcurdling rites of voodooism were known to be practiced. Awful things were continually happening in the fastnesses of the vast swamps, grapevine rumors had it. But officers of the law dispatched into the labyrinths of the great morasses never came back with anything definite enough to prove the tales were aught else than the imaginings of some one who had walked past a graveyard at night.
BUT it was widely known that voodooism did exist.
The leader of the monkey men strode over to the slick-haired man and the pilot of the gas plane.
"What ees wrong with yo’?"
The two men made a meaningless gibberish in reply. Their words expressed no coherent thought.
rasped the monkey man. "Yo' answer me!"
The fellow slapped the faces of the two he was questioning. They merely swayed in their chairs. They did not strike back. The monkey man's little eyes began to protrude.
"Heem hexed!" he muttered.
The ignorant fellow thought a voodoo spell had been laid upon the pair!
"Yo' bat!" gulped another. "Ol' hex got heem both, sure!"
The evil crew stood about. They shifted from one bare foot to another. Sweat, like hot paraffin, came to their foreheads. They looked at the slick-haired man and the pilot as though the pair were particularly undesirable ghosts.
"What yo' want do?" one asked the leader.
The man considered. Then he grinned fiercely, as though pleased with the idea his weak brain had evolved.
he ejaculated. "Keel heem both! That ees make heem all O.K."
But a couple of the others doubted whether the two should be murdered.
"Yo' reckon Gray Spider like that?" one inquired.
"Mebbe so—sure!" growled the leader. "Thees feller make beeg flop at job Gray Spider ees geeve heem! Yo' know what that ees always mean!"
"Death!" muttered the other.
"Maybe we better take heem along anyhow."
leered the leader. "Eet ees too much trouble. Me—I feex heem!"
With that, the evil fellow flashed a knife from inside his shirt.
He stabbed twice. Both the slick-haired man and the pilot fell out of their chairs after the blade sank into their bodies.
"That way to knockum dead, huh?" chuckled the killer. "Both plenty feenished!"
Pretty Edna Danielsen, now recovered, brought herself to realize cold murder had really been committed before her eyes. She parted her lips and screamed as loud as she could.
The leader of the monkey men struck her cruelly, knocking her senseless.
As the foul fist fell upon his daughter, a frenzy seized Big Eric. Rage made him a maniac. It gave him a maniac's wild strength. He lunged against his bonds.
Big Eric was a product of the old lumberman's school, where an employer was expected to be able to lick every man he had working for him. The massive lumberman was very strong. The ropes snapped off his wrists.
In flash seconds, Big Eric had his feet free. He leaped up.
The leader of the monkey men flung his knife.
Seizing a chair, Big Eric caught the blade on its bottom in the same manner his ancestors had probably caught tossed spears on their war shields. He wrenched the knife out and started to slice Ham's bindings. But there was no time. The vile little men rushed him.
THE heavy chair whistled around Big Eric's head. No whiskered Norseman fighting overwhelming hordes of Britons ever stood more staunchly.
The chair met a skull, and broke it as though a baseball bat had hit an egg. A pistol flamed. The lead missed. Before the gun could fire again, the whirling chair downed the man who held it.
"Sacrй—hees fight lak debbil!" wailed a monkey man.
Ham flounced to the knife Big Eric had dropped. He reached it. But brownish-yellow men piled atop him. The little fiends were tough. Laying hold of one of them was like grabbing a weasel. They held Ham helpless.
Ham saw the odds were overwhelming.
"Beat it!" he yelled at Big Eric. "Take Edna and high-tail it out of here!"
Much as he hated to leave Ham, Big Eric knew this was the best advice. The safety of Edna came first. And the odds were too great to hope for victory.
A monkey man, racing to the senseless form of Edna, would have slain the young woman with his knife.
shrieked the leader. "Gray Spider ees want either gal or Beeg Eric alive! Hees want 'em both alive eef can do! Eet be better eef they sign some papers!"
Big Eric digested this as he fought. It proved what he had already suspected. The Gray Spider was after the Danielsen & Haas lumber concern. Whatever hold the fiend expected to get on the company would be strengthened if he had papers signed by Big Eric and Edna to back his claims.
Reaching Edna's limp form, Big Eric scooped it up with his left arm. With his right arm, he flailed the chair.
Two men went down, neither hurt badly. Big Eric got his back to a door. He twisted the knob.
It was locked. One of the monkey men had turned the key, hoping to keep him from escaping the room.
The heavy chair swung, driven by the old lumberman's muscular arms. The door caved outward. It was as though a mule had kicked a banana crate.
Big Eric waded through the wreckage. The moist night breeze from the Gulf washed against his flushed face. He raced down the walk. He quickly outdistanced his short-legged pursuers.
He neared the street.
Two men suddenly leaped out of the high shrubbery that bordered the walk. Both held cold blue revolvers.
Big Eric still grasped what was left of the chair. He lifted it threateningly. But he didn't strike. A loud bark of delight came from his lungs.
These men worked for him! They were "Lefty" Shea and "Bugs" Ballard. They were special policemen for the lumber firm of Danielsen & Haas. It was their duty to run down timber poachers and ferret out professional radicals who might be causing labor troubles in the sawmill and lumber camps.
Big Eric didn't stop to reflect that it was strange these men should be here. They were his employees. They were here. That was enough.
"The Gray Spider's men!" Big Eric bellowed. "Lefty! Bugs! Come on! We’ll make the pack of rats hard to catch!"
"Lead us to 'em" boomed Lefty.
Both lumber detectives were burly fellows. They had hard features and a tough manner.
Big Eric whirled to lead the way.
THE moment Big Eric's back was turned, Lefty struck heavily with his revolver barrel. The weapon parted the lumber king's thatch of blond hair. He fell heavily with his unconscious daughter.
He had been stricken down by one of his own employees.
The vicious little monkey men ran up, greeting Lefty and Bugs as friends!
Yo' gat heem, huh?" ejaculated the leader of the gang.
"Yeah, an' blasted lucky for you that we did!" sneered Lefty. "It looks like he blamed near smeared the whole mess of you swamp snipes!"
The monkey man showed his teeth in a weasellike snarl. He did not like the razzing that Lefty was handing him. However, he knew there was no time to argue about it.
"Yo' stow the sass!" he growled. "Yo' stay here. Beeg bronze man ees come back. Get heem. Me—I leeve four my boys so yo' have plenty men fo' job."
"Take your four men along!" Lefty snorted. "Me and Bugs don't need any help to croak one man!"
The leader of the monkey men leered knowingly. He had seen Doc Savage. And he was not too ignorant to know a Hercules of a fighting man when he saw one. He had an idea it would be the finish of Lefty and Bugs if they jumped the bronze giant without re-enforcements.
The monkey man rather fancied the thought of Lefty and Bugs meeting disaster. But should he fail to leave some of his men, he feared the wrath of the Gray Spider. And that wrath was a terrible thing.
"Me—I leeve my four boys, anyhow," he grumbled.
"Sure," chuckled Lefty. "They can stand around and watch two good men work!"
The insult was carefully ignored. Ham, Big Eric, and Edna were picked up bodily.