Authors: L. Ron Hubbard
Tags: #Education & Reference, #Words; Language & Grammar, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Sea Adventures, #Short Stories, #Single Author, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Men's Adventure, #Thriller, #Single Authors, #Science Fiction, #Adventure
Then at the point of a sharp knife, they made him march up into the great banquet hall which occupied most of the ground floor.
The hall was of
proportions. Its ceiling was thirty feet high, cut in Gothic arches, dull with cobwebs and grime. It was paved with flat, worn stones on which many huge chairs were placed. The table in the center of the room was fifty feet long and twenty wide. The wrought-iron chandelier hung low and sent men’s shadows flickering along the sides, making their heads as big as barrels.
Perry and Felice Bereau stood thunderstruck, staring about them at the tattered tapestries and the moldy leather chairs. Peg Mannering stood very near Spar.
Folston shed his slicker and idly tossed it to one of the unshaven brutes who stood near and then, after looking slowly about him, smiled. “So you like my little hut, eh? Perhaps that is best, because I am certain you will be here for a long, long time. Do not mind my playmates. They aren’t apt to be rough unless you are. On good behavior, the castle is yours. Plenty of room for all. And the doors, Chacktar. The doors.”
Chacktar bolted the entrance and chained it shut. He locked it with a brass key weighing several pounds and brought it to Folston.
“Ah, yes, you aren’t apt to escape here. All except our good captain may roam at large. And as he is so used to bars, I am certain that he would feel lonesome unless he had only bars to look upon.”
The scream they had heard before came up to them again and Folston frowned. “Who is that?”
A big-chested, hairy-faced man came forward. “Ricardo, Excellency. He has been protesting since we applied the hot iron at your order. It seems he does not like it without his eyes.” The man grinned.
“An ungodly racket, Enrico. Besides, we have no need of his money now.” Folston waved his hand lightly toward the door and Enrico went out.
They heard his footsteps recede in the empty corridor. The scream came louder and then, suddenly, was cut off short. Enrico reappeared a moment later, wiping his knife upon his sash.
“Very good,” said Folston. “A poor merchant. Only worth a few thousand at best. No use playing with him. As I was saying, my guests, the castle is yours. Chacktar, show these good people to their rooms.”
Chacktar thrust Perry and Felice Bereau before him and disappeared. Peg Mannering still stood beside Spar.
“And you, Miss Mannering,” said Folston, “might like the tower room. A very airy place, quite well appointed.”
Peg Mannering dashed the platinum hair out of her blue eyes and glared, chin up, nostrils quivering. “What are you going to do with Captain Spar?”
“Oh, nothing so bad. I might have a use for him again.”
“Set him free,” demanded Peg.
Folston smiled. “And if I do?”
“I might again look upon you as a decent man.”
“Ah,” said Folston. “Enrico, cut Spar’s rope there. And watch the man well. Handle him gently and do not shoot to kill. It is too quick. I am not overly fond of the captain, but, as I said, I have a use for him, you see.”
Folston conducted Peg Mannering up a winding flight of steps. Spar, seeing that no one detained him, followed. They were ascending up the tower Folston had mentioned and came at last to a small door which stood open.
The room was neatly furnished, rather overawed by a monstrous canopied bed. The wind moaned through the arched windows and went sighing down the steps.
Spar said, “What’s the idea of this, Folston?”
Folston turned, smiling. “Try nothing, my captain. Behind you stands Enrico, who is not to shoot to kill. We have no doctor here, you see.”
Enrico smiled amiably, gun in hand.
“Rather witless, isn’t it?” said Spar. “You can’t get away with anything like this, you know.”
“No? My dear captain, a man who is wise enough can get away with anything in this world.”
The door to the room slammed. A bolt grated. Folston whirled and then glared at Spar.
Spar grinned. “With
my dear count!” he said, and went down the steps, humming to himself, Enrico close behind him, gun ready.
Folston knocked on the door, and then, when he received no answer, followed Spar down.
Spar planted himself wearily in a big chair before the mammoth table and surveyed the unholy crew who stood about. There were fifty or more men there, all of them of the worst.
“Nice selection,” mused Spar.
And Folston, who possessed the ego in common with his craving of power, smiled. “Aren’t they? They’ll all kill at a moment’s notice. Recognize any of them?”
“Recognize them? Why should I?”
“Some of your old friends of the penal camps, that’s all. Deeply grateful for my rescues. Most of them went there for murder and such like. Delightful fellows.” He turned to the men. “One of your past brothers,” he said, indicating Spar. “He tipped off the police once that twelve of your former friends were stowed upon his ship, and for pay they sent him to the penal camp, back with your friends.”
Spar sat forward, his silver gray eyes as luminous as a wolf’s, his hands clutching the table and his mouth set in a twisted snarl.
“So,” said Spar, “I have the pleasure of meeting
friend, the Saint.”
Folston bowed, mockingly. “Aye, the Saint.”
“And someday,” said Spar, “I am going to have the extreme pleasure of tearing out your throat with my bare hands and watching you kick out your life.”
“I am overwhelmed,” said the Saint. “At your pleasure.”
They nodded to each other and Spar sat back, smiling, looking at Folston’s throat, and back at his hands.
doleful clacks of a big clock were loud in the brooding solemnness of the gray hall. Far away the sea muttered and clawed at the black cliffs, a restless grasping sea shifting uneasily under the midnight sky.
The guard at Spar’s door grunted wearily, leaning against the panel, staring with vacant eyes into the gray gloom, holding a rifle carelessly before him on the rough stone.
The bearded, wasted face of the guard was creased with a hundred deep lines, each one more evil than the next. For murder, for assault, to the prison camps, and then, after rescue, to the festering sore called Hurricane Hill.
The panel moved an inch, unheard. A white hand slid easily through the crack, sinuous, softly venomous. The fingers advanced slowly. Suddenly the hand blurred. The guard dropped his gun and jerked his fists to his throat, eyes already staring.
Another hand caught the rifle before it fell, propped it against the wall. The body of the guard was laid its length upon the flinty stone.
Spar stepped all the way out of his room and looked up and down the corridor. Only the moaning wind greeted him there in the drafty dimness. He put away the length of bedspring wire with which he had quietly picked the lock.
Feeling his way, with never a backward glance at the dead guard, Spar went along through the shadows, melting into them.
He reached the main room. One bulb burned in the chandelier, casting down a pool of yellow light over the mammoth table, deepening the blackness of the arches, thickening rather than lightening the dense gloom.
Spar saw that the place was empty of men. He approached the staircase with cautious steps and started up. A faint stream of light came from the top landing and with it the scuff of leather on stone.
Spar continued his silent ascent, peering before him with all the intensity of his silver gray eyes. At last he saw that the light came from a slit under the door and that a shadow stood before it. Doubtless, it was a guard.
Without the least sound, Spar reached the landing. The guard suddenly moved forward, sensing another presence. Spar struck out. The sharp crack of the blow echoed through the dismal hallways and then the monotonous clacking of the clock was once more all the sound.
He eased the unconscious guard to the floor. The fellow’s mouth was running a thin trickle of sticky blood. The blow had been clean. Using a belt and the rifle sling, Spar securely bound the man.
He was about to rap on Peg Mannering’s door when he heard footsteps below. Looking down the stairway he could see that Enrico and Count Folston—the Saint—had entered the great hall. Not daring to make another move, Spar knelt and watched intently.
The words came up to him, hollow in the great emptiness of the place.
“Have you sent it?” said Folston.
“Ten minutes ago,” replied Enrico. “Chacktar attended to it. He should be back shortly with the answer.”
“If the fools in Martinique relay that radio, yes.”
“I do not quite understand. . . .” said Enrico, cautiously.
“What matter if you do not?” flared Folston.
“I . . . was merely thinking. . . .”
“You were not brought here to think,” said Folston.
“The men were wondering, that was all.”
Folston studied the other, rapping his well-kept nails on the table the while. Then, evidently deciding that the men were entitled to some sort of explanation, he leaned forward. “We are all about to become very rich.”
Enrico nodded as though he had fully expected that.
“Frederick Perry thinks a great deal of his son in spite of the fool’s actions. He thinks that Tom upholds the precious virtue of the Perry family and that Tom will come around in a few years. Old Perry was very wild in his youth.”
“But why is Tom Perry here?” asked Enrico.
“Fool,” replied Folston. “If I say that I will turn young Perry over to the French authorities, to save his name old Perry will do almost anything. If I hand young Perry to the French, they will send him to the penal colony. Is not that enough?”
“But what has he done?”
Spar, who only saw that these two were blocking his one avenue of escape, writhed with impatience. But now he began to listen intently.
The Saint went on. “Tom Perry thinks he killed two men in Martinique. As a matter of fact, he did not. We were visited by this fellow who calls himself Captain Spar. Henri received a letter from DeJong in Paramaribo, saying that this fellow I had caused to be put away was heading north, intent on killing me.
“At the moment I had need of a corpse. And so I had Henri send this Captain Spar to a certain tavern with a package full of nothing. Spar was to wait there for other men, but in reality, Spar was waiting for his own execution.
“Henri and one of his dear friends set out to kill Spar, thus giving me the corpse I wanted, but, unfortunately, Spar killed them.”
“Henri dead?” cried Enrico.
“Yes, yes, very sad. But he was getting temperamental. Wanted more money anyway. He would have sold us if the price had been to his liking. But as I say, Spar killed the pair.
“Then we drugged young Perry and our very efficient Chacktar had the boy carried to the tavern and brought to. It thus appeared, even to Tom, that he had murdered a couple men. He was very pathetic about it, too, and then became very defiant. But he believed he had done it, nonetheless.
“And, too, we had a witness in Spar, who had really done the killing. Spar had nothing to lose and so he said that young Perry had done the deed. As I did not think I had any further use of Spar, I intended to have him killed that night. But Larson, the fool, stalked out of the place and said that he would have nothing more to do with Perry.
“I had already seen to it that the
’s mate was in the hospital because that mate is a hardheaded fool, and Larson’s walkout left me without anyone to captain the
. And you’ll agree, Enrico, my old, that the
is very necessary to us, eh? Be careful of Spar. Do not kill him all the way. Leave him enough body and brains to navigate the
“What do you think of the Saint now, Enrico?”
“Marvelous!” cried Enrico, the perfect yes-man. “But about Perry.”
“To save his name and his son, he will deed over half of the Perry Sugar Central to me. And here, my old, is where the
comes in so neatly. When the deed is made, if anything should happen to Frederick Perry—some unfortunate accident, you see—and if anything should happen to Tom Perry, then the Perry Sugar Central and the bank account of a half million is all mine.”
“And what happens to us?” demanded Enrico.
“You? Why, you will help me, of course.”
“On French territory? Liable to momentary arrest?”
The Saint smiled indulgently. “Of course. Why, I would see to it that you went wherever you wanted to go. That you would all have plenty of money. Or, if you wanted to stay here, I would see to it that the castle would be stocked well with pleasant things.”
“Good,” said Enrico. “Good!”
“We sail with the
in a short while, land at
at night, make our way to the Perry house, surround it, make certain the deed is made out and waiting, and then we go away, leaving Perry mysteriously dead—at the hands of Captain Spar. We will all be far away by then. We will get another captain in Martinique—any black
captain could do it for us. We return here, wait for some little while, and then I go back to claim my part of the bargain. Then I return here with whatever we need.”
“Excellent,” said Enrico. “Is there anything you wish me to do?”
“Why, yes, you might make very certain that Captain Spar sleeps well. We need him worse than we need Perry.”
Spar instantly remembered the dead guard in front of his open door. He felt his palms moisten. Reaching for the rifle at his side, he snicked the bolt and held the weapon across his chest.
He could easily shoot the Saint, but he suddenly remembered that he was no longer responsible only for himself. He had other lives in his care. To turn this mad horde of penal colony convicts loose with the rest of the party still imprisoned would be a terrible thing.
His own fate was secondary to him. He considered himself as good as dead already. What would it avail him to get free from this place? All he knew was the sea, and when he returned to New York, he would be very apt to discover his record had preceded him. France would probably extradite him for his escape.
But no, he told himself, gripping that wet rifle stock there in the dark. These were not the real reasons. He was trying to persuade himself that he no longer dreamed. There, on the other side of that door, was Peg Mannering. He was watching the Saint and he told himself that five years of plotting should certainly find him true to a blood vow. But he did not hate the Saint for the things the Saint had done to Captain Spar. He hated the man for what he might do to Peg Mannering.
Perplexed, shaken by the blinding truth of it, Spar listened to the footsteps of Enrico, going up the corridor toward a dead guard who, in his stiff silence, would shout betrayal and the news of escape.
Spar’s heart was banging against his ribs until he thought Count Folston himself must hear it.
The footsteps of Enrico were receding. Spar listened for the shout which must follow. He watched the Saint, watched the confident expression of the thin face, watched the nervousness of the long, well-kept hands. Odd that so much deviltry could hide behind so bored a mask.
Spar was thinking about Peg Mannering. That night in Martinique when she had worn a blue dinner gown and a string of pearls. He remembered how her platinum hair had shimmered in the light, how her frank, deep eyes had regarded him with a queer intensity.
In a moment now, Enrico would shout and Spar’s fine plans for escape would crumple into a choking dust heap.
Spar thought about Tom Perry. About the whining, blustering drunkard who would someday possess Peg Mannering as his wife. Even if they got out of this, that would happen.
Spar felt all alone, defeated, fighting against a whole world and himself.
Enrico’s piercing cry ripped through the solemn gray tomb like a diamond drill rips through sandstone.