Книга Quest of the Spider. Содержание - Chapter xv. the buzzing death



Periodic, vicious little storms were sweeping the voodoo hill in the great swamp. The storms were lead—driven by the machine guns of the voodoo men. The little devils completely ringed the hill around.

Trees sheltered them. Foliage concealed them. An army of forty thousand men would have had trouble stamping them out. When danger threatened one particular group, they had but to fire and lose themselves in the steaming, cankerous morass.

Doc and his five men were in a state of siege upon the hill. They had ripped planks off the shacks of Buck Boontown's settlement, and used them to scoop out gun pits. In these they had installed the machine guns which they had taken from their erstwhile swamp guards.

Employing the same planks, they had rigged substantial dugouts—a precaution that proved highly worth while.

"Listen!" Monk barked. "There's a plane coming!"

The craft soon swept into view. It dived on the hill. Crude bombs, fizzing fuses attached, dropped overside.

Exploding, these threw up great fountains of mud and vegetation. Thanks to the dugouts, no harm was inflicted upon Doc and his men.

"Get that crate!" Doc directed. "It may come back with more efficient bombs!"

The rapid-firers snarled in chorus. Ragged patches appeared in the wings of the plane. The craft banked away. Apparently it was not seriously damaged. Now it was lost to view, flying very low.

But a few minutes later, the sound of the engine suddenly ceased. A short silence, a gruesome whistling of wind through flying wires—and a resounding crash!

"Motor conked!" Monk grinned. "From the sound of it, he made a landing he won't walk away from."

"I think we riddled his gas tank," Doc offered. Only his keen golden eyes had discerned the leakage of gasoline from the plane as it departed.

"We're all set here!" Monk chuckled. "Regular little war! And we could fight for a year without anybody in the outside world being the wiser."

"Can you go without eating for a year?" Ham asked sarcastically.


"Maybe you haven't noticed our lack of grub?"

"Yeah—I knowed there was somethin' I had missed," Monk grinned. "It was my breakfast ham—the six slices I eat daily in your honor!"

Ham scowled threateningly at the big, homely Monk. Any reference to a porker that Monk made was always sure to get Ham's goat. Ham racked his keen brain for some verbal thorn he could stick into Monk, couldn't find any, and held his tongue.

* * *

DOC SAVAGE now launched into his daily two-hour routine of exercises. This was a ritual he did each day of his life, without fail. Not once since childhood had he skipped that intensive one hundred and twenty minutes spent conditioning his marvelous bronze body and his remarkable brain.

The routine included every possible form of muscular exercise. In addition, he had an apparatus which emitted sound waves above and below the audible range—and so keen had his ears become through long practice that he could hear many of these sounds which would have escaped an ordinary person.

He identified scores of vague odors contained in small bottles, afterward inspecting the bottle labels to be sure he was right. He performed intricate problems in high calculus, entirely within his head.

The apparatus for these exercises was contained in a tiny, waterproof metal case Doc carried always with him.

Doc went through his ritual at a terrific pace—often doing a number of things at once. Ten minutes of it would have left an ordinary man panting and exhausted—granting the unlikely chance that such a man could muster the enormous degree of concentration necessary to do the exercises as furiously as Doc did them.

Watching this routine, it was no mystery to his five friends and aids where Doc Savage got his incredible physique and brain. Monk, Renny, Ham, Long Tom, and Johnny, themselves far above the average in mentality and brawn, knew to a surety that they would never have maintained such a grueling ritual from childhood. It took a man of steel will power to do that.

The exercises completed, Doc moved over to speak with Sill Boontown. The half-wit boy crouched in the dugout.

"He is safer here," Doc had explained. "If he wanders around in the swamp, he might get shot or injured."

Doc exchanged many words with Sill Boontown. He examined the youth, concentrating on the spot where Sill Boontown had been struck on the head a couple of years before.

Suddenly Doc joined his friends.

"I’m going to leave you for a while," he declared.

They were thunderstruck. They did not see how even Doc could escape safely from their makeshift fortress on the cleared knoll.

Working swiftly, Doc kindled a fire. He used wood which the voodoo men had been employing in their snakelike ceremonial blazes. The sulphur-treated stuff gagged them and nearly made their dugouts untenantable.

The blaze mounted high, however. Doc heaped on a pile of soggy green grass and bushes.

Smoke now rolled. It poured across the open slope of the hill and into the matted swamp growth.

"Build a fire like this when you hear me come back!" Doc directed.

A streaking blur of bronze, he raced through the smoke for the encircling jungle. The smudge hid him partially.

A swamp man saw him. A machine gun guttered fiercely. But the bronze flash was gone. The verdant mat of the morass had swallowed Doc Savage.

* * *

A GREAT deal of excitement followed the cunning escape. Voodoo men dashed about, pushing a wild search.

However, Doc Savage was half a mile distant before they had operations under way. He did not linger in the vicinity. Clearing bottomless quagmires of slime with gigantic springs, running along draped vines with his hands, swinging from limb to limb, he made good time.

His journey brought him to the spot where Johnny had hidden the low-wing, tri-motored speed plane. Sinewy bronze fingers parted the moss that curtained the craft. Doc entered the cabin.

It required less than five minutes to get what he needed. When he reappeared, a bundle about the size of a bushel basket was lashed to his back with stout cord.

He now returned to the spot where his friends were besieged. Circling, he took a position upwind from the mound. But he kept fully two hundred yards distant.

His weird, mellow trilling sound now filtered through the tangled vegetation of the morass. Although it seemed no louder than ever, it carried clearly to his five friends.

"That means we're to light a fire!" Monk grunted. The blaze was forthwith kindled. Flames leaped high. Wet grass and branches were thrown on. Dense smoke rolled.

The voodoo men were wily. They knew the giant bronze man had escaped through such a smudge. They reasoned he would come back by the same means. So they turned every available machine gun loose into the smoke.

The smoke all but assumed the color of lead, so thickly did the bullets fly. Slugs tore the ground until it looked like it had been gone over with a disc cultivator.

All of which merely made it simpler for Doc to reach his friends! He came, not through the smoke, but from the opposite direction. He ran silently and like the wind.

A lone pistol popped its magazine empty in his direction. The marksman might have been shooting at one of the pale clouds ten thousand feet overhead, for all the result his bullets produced.

Doc dropped lightly into one of the dugouts.

* * *

THE bundle brought by the big bronze man was now opened. First, there came to light some concentrated foods. Next, Long Tom was handed a package of apparatus.

"What's this?" questioned the electrical wizard.

"All you need to make a supersensitive microphonic 'ear'," Doc explained. "Set it up in the center of our fortress. When night comes, the voodoo men will no doubt try to creep up close enough to hurl bombs into our dugouts. But with your apparatus, you can hear them."

Long Tom nodded, then fell to examining his apparatus. He became elated. With this stuff, he could make a microphonic listening and amplifying device that would pick up the buzz of a fly at the distance of half a mile. Scant chance would skulkers stand of creeping upon them now.

Doc Savage busied himself with poor, half-witted Sill Boontown. A kit which he had brought from the plane proved to be a compact set of surgical instruments. It even included hypodermic needles for administering a form of local anaesthetic, a pain-deadener which affected only the part being worked upon.

"He's gonna operate on the kid!" Monk grunted.

"Two bits says the kid is normal as you or me when Doc finishes!" Ham offered.

"You would want to bet on a sure thing!" Monk snorted.

Both Ham and Monk were fully aware of Doc's magical skill in surgery. For it was at this, above all else, that the mighty bronze man excelled.

Surgery had been Doc's first training in life. It had been his most intensive. Although his ability at other lines of endeavor might seem uncanny, his accomplishments with surgery and medicine were far more marvelous.

It was an interested group that watched the delicate operation. Sinewy bronze fingers, steady as steel on a foundation of bedrock, laid back the scalp. A small aperture was opened in the skull.

As Doc had expected, a fragment of bone was pressing upon the brain, paralyzing certain of its functions. The blow on the head two years before had caused the trouble.

The bone fragment was removed. Swiftly, Doc completed the delicate operation. With catgut, which would dissolve of itself about the time the wound was healed, he stitched the scalp in place.

The effects of the anaesthetic wore off.

"How do you feel, sonny?" Doc inquired.

"I got one whopper of de headache!" replied the boy.

His tone showed that he was perfectly sane!

It was magic! Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, Johnny—they all exchanged strange glances. Accustomed as they were to the marvelous things Doc Savage did, and knowing that such a brain operation was not unique in surgery, they were nevertheless awed.

Lost from the outside world, beseiged here in the steaming, festering swamp, volleys of machine-gun slugs storming over them every minute or so, the feat could not but impress them as uncanny.

They scattered to their gun emplacements, wriggling through the shallow trenches they had dug.

Time now dragged. Long Tom finished his microphonic listening device. It was something like the apparatus used by the defenders of London during the Great War to listen for Zeppelins and planes—although far more perfected.

It was well after noon when Doc Savage caught sight of Buck Boontown. The man was directing the seige.

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