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Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 16 THE REALM OF COLD

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Chapter 16


The lost liner Oceanic lay like something that had died.

Wind still boomed and squealed in the forest of ice-coated, collapsed rigging, it was true. The sand-hard snow still made a billion tiny tinklings as the gale shotted it against the derelict hulk. But gone were the uncanny whisperings and shufflings which had been so unnerving.

Doc Savage went below, moving silently, as had become his habit when he trod the trails of danger. His flashlight beam dabbed everywhere. Sharp, missing nothing, his golden eye took stock of his surroundings. He was seeing everything, yet speeding along at a pace that for another man would have been a lung-tearing sprint.

A squarish, thick-walled little bottle chanced to meet his gaze. He did not pick it up. Yet the printing on the label yielded to his near-telescopic scrutiny.

It was a perfume bottle. Two more like it reposed a bit farther down the passage.

Here was the explanation of the flowery odor of the Eskimos which had so baffled description. To the characteristic stench of blubber, perspiration and plain filth which accompanied them, they had added perfume. The whole had been an effluvium which was unique.

Doc opened the clothes hamper where he had left unconscious Roxey Vail.

Emptiness stared at him.

Doc dropped to a knee. His flashlight beam narrowed, becoming intensely brilliant. The luminance spurted across the carpet on the passage floor. This looked as though it had been laid down yesterday. But the years had taken the springiness out of the nap, so that it would retain footprints.

The girl had gone forward-alone. This told Doc some of the Eskimos had not remained behind and seized her.

"Roxey!" he called.

Doc's shout penetrated the caterwauling of the blizzard in surprising fashion. A sound expert could have explained why. It is well known that certain horn tones, not especially loud, will carry through the noise of a factory better than any others. Doc, because of the perfect control he exercised over his vocal cords, could pitch his voice so as to waft through the blizzard in a manner nearly uncanny.

"Here!" came the girl's faint voice. "I'm hunting my father!"

Doc hurried to her. She was pale. Terror lay like a garish mask on her exquisite features.

"My father — they took him with them!" she said in a small, tight voice.

"They didn't have him when they fled a moment ago," Doc assured her. "I watched closely."

Her terror gave way to amazement.

"They fled?" she murmured wonderingly. "Why?"

Doc neglected to answer. How he produced that mysterious unconsciousness with his mere touch was a secret known only to himself and his five friends.

But no. Doc shivered. His five friends had met their end in the burning plane. So the secret was now known to but one living man — Doc Savage himself.

"The Eskimos must have removed your father before they attacked me," Doc told Roxey Vail.

He wheeled quickly away. The glow of his flashlight reflected off the paneling of the lost liner, and made his bronze form seem even more gigantic than it was. Fierce little lights played in his golden eyes.

"Where are you going?" questioned his entrancing companion.

"To get Victor Vail," Doc replied grimly. "They took him away, and that shows he was alive. No doubt they took him to Keelhaul de Rosa."

* * *

ROXEY VAIL hurried at his side. She was forced to run to keep abreast.

"You haven't told me how you happen to be here," she reminded.

In a few sentences, as they climbed upward to the ice-basted deck of the lost liner, Doc told her of the map on her father's hack which could only be brought out with X rays, of the efforts of Keelhaul de Rosa and Ben O'Gard to kill each other off so one could hog the fifty-million-dollar treasure, and the rest.

'But where is the treasure?" asked the girl.

"I have no idea what became of it," Doc replied. "Keelhaul de Rosa expected to find it in the strong room, judging from his actions as you described them to me. Too, it looks like he suspects the Eskimos of moving it. That's why he gave them liquor. He wanted to get them pie-eyed enough to tell him where they hid it."

"They didn't get it." Roxey Vail said with certainty. "It was removed before the mutineers ever left the liner, more than fifteen years ago."

They were on deck now. Doc moved along the rail, hunting a dangling, ice-clad cable. He could drop the many feet to the glacial ice without damage, but such a drop would bring serious injury or death to the girl.

Roxey Vail was studying Doc curiously. A faint blush suffused her superb features. To some one who had been with Doc a lot, and watched the effect his presence had on the fair sex, this blush would have been an infallible sign.

The blond young goddess of the arctic was going to fail hard for big, handsome Doc.

"Why are you here?" Roxey Vail asked abruptly. "You do not seem to be stricken with the gold madness which has gripped every one else."

Doc let a shrug suffice for an answer.

Probably it was a brand of natural modesty, but Doc did not feel like explaining he was a sort of supreme avenger for the wrongs of the world — the great Nemesis of evildoers in the far corners of the globe.

They found a hanging cable. It terminated about ten feet from the ice. With Roxey Vail clinging to his back like a papoose, Doc carefully went down the cable.

Into the teeth of the moaning blizzard, they strode.

An instant later, Doc's alertness of eye undoubtedly saved their lives. He whipped to one side — carrying Roxey Vail with him.

A volley of rifle bullets spiked through the space they vacated.

The Eskimos had returned, accompanied by Keelhaul de Rosa and four or five riflemen and machine gunners.

* * *

AFTER THE flashing movement which had saved their lives, Doc kept going. He jerked the white hood of the girl's parka over her face to camouflage the warm color of her cheeks. He shrugged deep in his own parka for the same reason.

He wanted to get the girl to safety. Then he was going to hold grim carnival on the glacier with Keelhaul de Rosa and his killer group.

For his share in those hideous murders aboard the Oceanic, Keelhaul de Rosa would pay, as certainly as a breath of life remained in Doc Savage's mighty bronze body.

Another fusillade of shots clattered. The reports were almost puny in the clamor of the blizzard. Lead hissed entirely too close to Doc and his companion.

Doc's fingers slipped inside his capacious parka, came out with an object hardly larger than a high-power rifle cartridge — and shaped somewhat similarly. He flipped a tiny lever on this article, then hurled it at the attackers. The object was heavy enough to be thrown some distance.

Came a blinding flash! The glacier seemed to jump six feet straight up. A terrific, slamming roar blasted against eardrums. Then a rush of air slapped them skidding across the ice like an unseen fist.

There had been a powerful explosive in the little cylinder Doc hurled at his enemies.

Awful quiet followed the blast. The very blizzard seemed to recoil like a beaten beast.

A chorus of agonized squealings and bleatings erupted. Some of the enemy had been incapacitated. They were all shocked. The Eskimos felt a vague, unaccountable terror.

"Up an' at 'em, mateys!" shrilled a coarse tone. "Keelhaul me, but we ain't gonna let 'em get away from us now!"

It was Keelhaul de Rosa's voice. He, at least, had not been damaged.

More lead searched the knobby glacier surface. None of it came dangerously near Doc and his fair companion. They had gotten far away in the confusion.

Doc suddenly jammed the young lady in a handy snowdrift. He wasn't exactly rough about it, but he certainly didn't try to fondle her, as a man of more ordinary caliber might have been tempted to do. And it wasn't because the ravishing young woman would have objected to the caresses. All signs pointed to the contrary.

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