Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 9 TOUGH CARGO
Doc liked the looks of this latest of polar-exploring vehicles. He stepped aboard.
A man shoved his head out of the main hatch amidships. All this man needed to make him a walrus was a pair of two-foot tusks. Doc had always believed Monk the homeliest human creation. It was a toss-up between Monk and this man.
The man squeezed out of the hatch. He would tip a pair of scales at three hundred pounds, if he'd budge them at an ounce.
"What the blazes do you want aboard here, matey?" the man demanded.
His voice was a roar that frightened roosting gulls off floatsam in the middle of the bay.
"I'm hunting Captain Chauncey McCluskey," Doc announced.
"You've found him!" roared the walrus. "An' if yer a dinged landlubber just wantin' a look at this bloody hooker, you can take shore leave right now! I been pestered to death by cranks since that piece come out in the papers this mornin'!"
Doc didn't bat an eye. He rather liked to deal with a man who got down to business and said what he thought.
"Let's look your vessel over," he suggested.
The walrus blew noisily through his mustache. "Mean to say you're interested in buyin' a share in this expedition?"
"Exactly — if your craft meets my needs."
"Come below, matey," rumbled Captain McCluskey. "I'll show ye her innards."
They looked at her innards for an hour and a half. They came back on deck.
Doc was satisfied.
"It will take approximately two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to see you through," he said. "I will put up the sum — on one condition."
Captain McCluskey blew through his walrus mustache and eyed Doc as if wondering whether the bronze man had that much money.
The walrus would have been surprised if he had known the true extent of Doc's wealth. For Doc had at his command one of the most fabulous treasure troves in existence — a vast cavern stored with the wealth of the ancient Mayan nation. This was located in a lost canyon, the Valley of the Vanished, in the remote recesses of Central America. Survivors of the ancient Mayan civilization, living isolated from the rest of the world, kept Doc supplied with mule trains of gold whenever he needed it.
"What's the one condition?" McCluskey rumbled.
"The expedition must be entirely in my hands the first two months," Doc explained. "Within that length of time, I shall visit a certain remote spot in the arctic regions, and secure the thing I am going after."
CAPTAIN MCCLUSKEY was surprised. "The thing you're goin' after — what d'you mean, matey?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to swallow your curiosity on that point, captain. The object of our quest will be disclosed when we arrive, and not before. I can assure you, though, that it does not involve breaking the law in any way."
The walrus considered deeply. "All right, matey. I'll sail two months under your sealed orders. But, strike me pink, if yer breakin' the law, I'll throw ye into the brig the minute I finds ye out."
"Cap'n McCluskey is as honest a swab as ever sailed the ocean," the walrus continued his roaring. "I've saved me money many a long year to bank enough to build the Helldiver. The good lads in me crew have done the same. We want to do somethin' to leave our mark in the world, so we'll be remembered after we're in Davy Jones's locker.
"This explorin' v'yage under the pole is our bid for fame, matey. It means a lot to us. We ain't gonna be throwed off our course this late in the game. Maybe ye don't understand our feelin's, but that's the way it is."
"Naturally, my project will not interfere with your goal of sailing under the north pole," Doc replied. "And you may rest assured we shall make no effort to share in the glory of your accomplishment. I shall not permit my name to be mentioned, either as partial backer, or as having accompanied you."
The walrus man seemed deeply moved.
"Yer a generous man, matey," he mumbled. "But one other point, we'd better clar up."
"The hearty lads in me crew," chuckled Captain McCluskey. "Them swabs ain't sissies, matey. They're good men. They've sailed in naval submarines aplenty in their time. But they're hard as iron an' a little rough in their ways. You said you'd bring five of your own mates along. That's all right. But if they ain't got hair on their chests, my crew is liable to haze 'em around some."
Doc smiled faintly. "I don't know about the hair, but I think my lads can hold their own."
"Blow me down!" grinned the walrus. "Then we'll get along like frogs on a log!"
"I wish to make a number of changes in this craft," Doc declared. "I shall pay for them. naturally."
The walrus frowned. "What kinda changes?"
"A special radio. Electrical apparatus for sounding and locating icebergs. A collapsible seaplane. Better diving suits than you have. And other things of that nature."
"Strike me pink." chuckled McCluskey. "Yer a swab that knows his his business, I can see that. How long'lI it take?"
THE TWO weeks had passed.
"Helldiver is right!" Monk grumbled. "The name sure fits!" The under-the-polar-ice submarine was off the Maine coast, sailing northward. The craft had run into a stiff blow. And nothing is quite as disturbing as the movement of a U-boat in heavy going.
As each gigantic sea approached the sharp bows of the sub, the steel cigar of a craft did a sort of devil dance of anticipation. It shimmied from side to side. It squirmed. It groaned like a thing in agony. Then it would sink in the wave as though going to its death.
They had to keep the hatches closed. To breathe the air inside was something like being shut up in a can of axle grease.
"It's an old-fashioned hell ship, if you ask me," Long Tom muttered.
Doc Savage glanced sharply at the frail, unhealthy-looking electrical wizard. This was Long Tom's way of telling important news.
"What do you mean by that, Long Tom?" Doc asked.
"Last night, I had a dream," Long Tom began.
"So did I," groaned Monk, who was slightly seasick. "I dreamed I was Jonah, and the whale had swallowed me."
"Shut up!" snapped Long Tom. "In my dream, I saw somebody bending over me as I slept. I heard a clicking noise, as though a pair of dice were being rattled in somebody's hand."
Strange lights flickered in Doc's golden eyes. "You're not trying to be funny, are you, Long Tom?"
"I never felt less funny. 1 grabbed at the man bending over me in the dream. I got this." Long Tom drew an object from his pocket. It was a black-haired wig.
"Did you get a look at his face?" Doc rapped.
"It was too dark. And he was gone before I could follow."
Doc considered in silence for perhaps a minute.
"This is serious, brothers," he said at length. "That killer of Ben O'Gard's is aboard this sub. And we don't know him by sight."
"It oughta be easy to find him now," snorted Monk, eying the black wig. "Just find the guy whose hair changed color during the night."
It was astounding, the way Monk's seasickness had vanished, now that danger threatened.
'"No good," said Long Tom. "I looked everybody over this morning. And no hair had changed color. That means the man was wearing the wig as a disguise while he did his dirty work."
"What dirty work?" Doc inquired.
"I forgot to mention the fellow had a knife," Long Tom said dryly.
THE UNHEALTHY-LOOKING electrical wizard went below. Long Tom's looks were deceptive. Although the weakling of Doc's crowd, he was man enough to thrash a good nine out of ten of the men you pass on the street.
Long Tom was serving as radio operator. He had installed a radio set so powerful he could keep in touch with the remotest corners of the earth, even while resting on the bottom of the sea.