Книга Quest of the Spider. Содержание - Chapter v. the bronze rescuer


THE giant bronze form of Doc Savage moved to the window. He did not see Lefty and Bugs, because they were already out of sight.

Dropping lightly through the window, Doc searched the two dazed monkey men. He threw their weapons away. They seemed to grow light in his powerful grasp, and sailed through the window into the house. They tumbled end over end across the floor, such was the momentum with which they had been tossed.

Doc did not bother to tie them. When one tried to flee, he was knocked flat on his back before he had taken a single step. They had no more chance of escaping Doc than a captured mouse has of evading the cat that caught it.

"Where are the people who were taken away?" Doc's compelling voice filled all the room.

"No savvy what yo' talk about!" muttered one of the vile swamp denizens.

"Have you any idea what will happen to you if you don't talk?"

The pair were scared. But it was not a drooling, cowardly fear. They were determined not to talk.

"Yo' nevair geet one single word from us!"

Doc was convinced they were right. He knew men. He felt these half-savage swampers could be tortured to death without a word escaping their lips.

Standing erect, Doc strode over to the lifeless body of the pilot. Then his gaze went to a cheap ring on a finger of the dead man.

The pilot had used the upraised setting of his ring to scratch three letters and a number in the wall plaster:


Doc Savage's eyes ranged over the sprawling inscription. He examined the pilot's ring and made sure traces of plaster still clung in the setting. The pilot had undoubtedly scrawled the cipher.

Perhaps a minute, Doc remained motionless. Then he nodded slightly, as if to himself. He had solved the puzzle of those letters. There was a telephone in the adjacent room.

The two evil little swampmen found themselves batted head over heels into the next room. They wound up in a corner, dazed, aching. It was not pleasant treatment they were receiving.

Standing with one golden eye on the unsavory pair, Doc picked up the phone. He was connected with the leading morning newspaper in New Orleans.

"I would like to get the location of Worldwide Sawmills No. 3 plant," he requested.

This, Doc had decided, was the meaning of the "W. W. S. 3" scratched in the closet plaster.

In a moment, the information came rattling over the phone wire.

"Thank you." Doc hung up.

The two swamp rats squirmed uneasily, expecting the worst. Their captor seemed to have no more regard for their kind than a lion has for a jackal. And he handled them in about the same fashion.

"Come on, come on!" Doc told them. "We're leaving here!"

Half an hour later, the two swampmen were sleeping in a hotel room. Their sleep was caused by a drug, the effects of which would not wear off for weeks. The two would not be disturbed by the hotel attendants.

In a day or so, a mysterious stranger would arrive. He would take the two men to an amazing institution in the northern part of New York State. This place was run by one of the greatest experts on psychology and criminal minds alive. This wizard made a business of curing men of their criminal tendencies, whether they wanted to be cured or not. No one released from his institution as cured had ever been known to go back to his former life of crime!

This remarkable place was supported by Doc Savage's fabulous wealth. Doc Savage never sent a villain who opposed him to a prison. The police never got them. Instead, they went to this weird establishment to be renovated into decent citizens.

Doc telegraphed the man at the institution to send for the two swamp natives. Then he selected a small garage that seemed to need business and bought a good used roadster for cash.

The car carried him rapidly out of New Orleans. He was headed for the No. 3 plant of Worldwide Sawmills concern.

Night wind whipped his bronze face and deeper bronze hair, but with no more effect than had he been a man of metal. Tires whined on the concrete. The speedometer flirted with seventy.

* * *

DAWN was not far off when the charging roadster neared the vicinity of Worldwide Sawmills Plant No. 3. It was in a cypress logging district. Off to the right the surface of a bayou shimmered in the bright moonlight. An occasional late-feeding fish leaped, casting ring after ring of ripples.

A floating sawmill was on the bayou. It consisted of a head saw, edger, trimmer, and cut-off saws mounted on a big scow. It was shut down for the night, but a tendril of smoke strung from the boiler stack. A fireman was puttering about, preparing to get up steam for the new day's work.

Doc turned off the roadster headlights. The windshield had become splattered with night moths, and he had turned it down. His eyes roved alertly. It was only a few miles more.

Great branches overhung the road. Tendrils of moss draped low enough to whip his face occasionally. It was a somber, macabre region.

Kicking the gears into neutral, Doc switched off the motor. The machine, going seventy, would roll a mile on this road. After the engine died, the call of night birds was audible. The tires buzzed on the pavement.

Before his momentum was gone, Doc wheeled off the road into a brushy lane. He left the car masked by a thicket of swamp maples.

Out on the bayou, a tug whistle honked stentoriously. Through the trees, Doc saw the tug was escorting a raft of logs fully half a mile long. Evidently they were being rushed to some mill in time for the day's work.

But they were not headed for Worldwide Sawmills No. 3! The plant was shut down!

A soundless wraith in the roadside brush, Doc reconnoitered.

Judging from appearance, the sawmill had been shut down about a month. It was an expensive plant, too. The capacity must have been nearly a hundred thousand board feet. Storage sheds for dry lumber were large enough to hold supplies of twenty million or so board feet.

It was obvious these sheds were nearly empty! That explained it! The Gray Spider's men were selling off the lumber from the dry sheds.

The plant was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence of surprising height. The steel poles extended twenty feet above the ground.

Doc started to run lightly up the fence. Halfway to the top, he suddenly released his grip and dropped to the ground.

"A narrow squeak!" he told himself sagely.

Finding a wet limb, he tossed it against the upper part of the fence. The twig came in contact with two of the barbed strands.

There was a sputtering burst of unholy green fire. Smoking, the twig fell to earth.

The fence carried a high-voltage electric current!

Only the sharpness of Doc's eyes in noting that the wires ran through insulators at the steel posts had saved him from death by electrocution!

* * *

AROUND the fence, the bronze giant worked. He found a tree. It had one branch which extended beyond the electrified fence.

A great leap launched Doc's powerful form several feet up the tree. He ran on up as easily as a squirrel. He worked out on the branch, balancing like a tight-rope walker.

It was a full thirty feet to the ground. Yet great muscles cushioned his drop until it seemed he had hardly more than stepped off a chair.

Doc's golden eyes were alert. He knew this was the most dangerous moment of his entrance. If there was a guard, it was likely the fellow would see him.

He was right.

An eye of flame batted from behind a dry kiln. It licked so rapidly it was an ugly glow. Bullets passing Doc's head made a ringing sound like a nail tapping against a bottle. Then came the tumbling gobble of a machine gun.

Doc flattened against the ground. He moved with a bewildering speed. His bronze skin and dark clothing blended surprisingly with the earth.

The gunner stopped firing. He had completely lost track of his target He stepped out into the moonlight He held his weapon ready. It was not one of the submachine or "Tommy" guns firing .45-caliber pistol cartridges, but a regulation aircraft type gun shooting the big cartridges. It was harnessed to a wide leather belt about the guard's middle so he could handle the powerful recoil.

"Eet's de bronze guy!" bellowed the fellow. "Hee's over de fence!"

"Non, non!"

called another monkeylike member of the Cult of the Moccasin. "Hees could nevair find dis place!"

"Mebbe so—but he done be in here right now!"

The second man came running. He vaulted a row of live rollers, a conveyor formerly used to move sawed lumber to the kilns.

A mighty bronze arm flashed up from the shadowy side of the conveyor. It pulled the man down. A piercing scream tore from his lips.

The gunner, hearing that scream, but not seeing what had happened because he was looking elsewhere at the instant, ran over. He took one look on the other side of the conveyor.

He turned pale as though his heart had started pumping whitewash.

His companion lay there, crimson spilling slowly from the corners of his open mouth. The man was only unconscious, but the gunner took it for granted he was dead.

He let out a howl that rivaled the one he had just heard. He tore full speed for one of the storage sheds which still held dry lumber. He considered it impossible that anything of flesh and blood could have moved from the spot under the tree to the conveyor with such swiftness. And without being seen?

He couldn't fight a bronze ghost!

* * *

HE dived into the great shed. The interior was rather dark. Rough, dry lumber was here. The piles were fully sixteen feet high. Back into the labyrinth, the scared swampman worked.

He thought he heard a noise behind. He whirled wildly with his gun. But he saw nothing to alarm.

"Vat's wrong weeth yo'?" came a harsh whisper.

The gunner gulped his relief. This was the voice of one of his own evil kind.

"A debbil!" he gulped. "A bronze debbil man! Heem move like cloud that ees tie to rabbit's tail!"

"A debbil?" The other voice was muffled.

"Yo' bat!" The gunner shuddered.

It was darker than the inside of an owl here in the rough-dry shed.

"Me—I don' hear nottin'!" declared the other man.

The gunner licked his lips. He couldn't hear anything, either.

"Yo' don' nevair hear dat debbil man!" he muttered. "Say, vat yo' out here for? Boss ees say fo' ever'body stay outta sight, except for us two on guard!"

"Me—I come out get drink," said the other shortly. "I'm dang if l can find way back."

"Ho, yo' lost?"


I tell yo' I'm dang if I can find way back, ain't I?"

The gunner gave a harsh snort.

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