Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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A waddling, quacking, wandering duck whose feathers drip with human blood, leads Doc Turner to his most spine-tingling duel with death!
"OI, Meester Toiner! Look it vat ees here!" There was hysteric laughter in the boyish pipe shrilling from the front of the Morris Street drugstore, laughter—and fright. "Ah dock! Ah dock! Qveek! Come qveek!"
"A dock! Abie, what on earth...?" The white-haired little druggist dropped an ointment-smeared spatula and whipped out through the prescription room door. His errand boy was staring at something on the floor, something that moved with a peculiar scraping sound. Abe's thick lips were twisted in a laugh, but his heavy-browed black eyes were scared.
Doc Turner got past the sales counter that screened from him what the boy was looking at. "Good Lord!" the exclamation ripped from under the pharmacist's bushy white mustache. He stopped stock-still, and gazed unbelievingly at the queerest visitor the old drugstore had ever had.
With the ludicrous dignity of its kind, a duck, a white duck, was waddling towards him! The flat-footed progression of its webbed claws, the perky poise of its little head and the grotesque disproportion of its huge, flat bill brought a quick smile to the druggist's face, a smile that vanished as quickly when, upon a sudden awkward swerve of the astounding fowl, he saw that its back and one side were stained by a crimson fluid that gleamed dully in the grimy light. "Good Lord!" Andrew Turner exclaimed once more, and knelt to the bird. "It's hurt, Abe. It's bleeding!"
"Ain't I kin see dot?" the boy responded. "So mooch blood and eet kin valk yet!"
"That is queer!" Doc snatched at the duck, and it scuttled away with ungainly agility. "There's at least a pint spilled."
"Quack," said the duck, "quack, quack!"
The pharmacist reached for the bird again, and once more it evaded him.
"Close the door," he shouted. "Don't stand there gawking!" There was a peculiar tension in his voice and there was no longer any humor in his faded but still keen old eyes. "Help me catch it!"
The boy moved into action, and the Morris Street pharmacy saw a strange sight as its usually dignified proprietor, a Hebraic countenanced small boy, and a wing-flapping, open-beaked waterfowl engaged in a scuttering, scrambling game of tag.
And the duck taunted both of them with its "Quack—Quack-quack-quack" as it dodged, and turned, and scuttled among showcases and pyramided displays. White feathers, red-dyed, flew as the chase went on.
At last the hard-pressed bird scampered into what looked like the dark safety of the telephone booth, and was cornered. A quick movement, and the druggist had the duck by the neck. Disregarding its struggles, an acid-stained thumb probed under the gory feathers, "Queer," Doc murmured. "There isn't any wound. This blood came from somewhere else. But it is fresh, hasn't started to clot yet."
"Maybe from Lapidus' Kosher Live Poultry Market eet comes, hah?" Abe ventured.—Maybe anodder boid got away from de shochet und eets blood got on dees one."
Turner shook his head. "On Friday night, Abie?" he said reprovingly. "Since when do the slaughterers work on the Sabbath eve? And besides, Lapidus' Market is two blocks away from here, down at the river front. I can't see how the duck could have come all that way without there being a parade of youngsters behind him. It's still early."
ANDREW TURNER came honestly by his familiarity with the strange customs of Abie's co-religionists. That their poultry was bought alive by the ultimate consumer and killed according to ancient usage by duly ordained representatives of the synagogue hierarchy, and that no orthodox Hebrew would perform labor from Friday sundown to Saturday night, were as well known to him as the tenets of his own faith. Just as familiar was he with the penates of the half-dozen other alien groups who huddle together in the teeming warrens bordering Morris Street. For the slightly built, kindly old man had spent more years among them than he cared to think; long years of gentle, unassuming service to these bewildered strangers in a strange land.
Fortunate for the dwellers in Morris Street that he did. And unfortunate, bitterly unfortunate, for certain individuals who saw even in the poverty of this city slum opportunity for unlawful gain at the expense of these poor. Andrew Turner did not confine his activities in his neighbors' behalf to the careful dispensing of pills and powders and mixtures, nor to the relief of ailing women and colicky babies. Not he, not the age-stooped, face-wrinkled, bright-eyed, indomitable "Doc."
"Abie," he was saying now, pondering the gory duck, "get out my microscope from under the counter. And then put the Nastin's Coughex in the window. Something tells me I'm going to want to talk to Jack Ransom before long."
As the boy shambled off to obey excitement danced in his dark eyes. The placing of the blue carton in the display window was a signal of adventure. It summoned a certain loose-jointed, squat and barrel-bodied garage mechanic from his duties, a carrot- topped, smiling young man whose swelling biceps were instantly at Doc Turner's command. And when that oddly assorted pair got together something was due to happen on Morris Street.
Bright light gleamed from the polished brass tube of the microscope through which Doc Turner peered. Jack Ransom on one side, and Abe on the other watched eagerly as the druggist's long, almost transparent fingers delicately revolved a knurled wheel, making the last fine adjustment of the instrument. The duck quacked disapproval of the proceedings from a slatted box hastily improvised as its cage. In a beaker on the laboratory table one of its feathers floated, washed clean of the blood that stained it. That blood, having passed through many intricate processes, was now a droplet on the glass slide lying across the microscope's flat bed. Somehow it shone ominously red as a concave mirror reflected intense light through it from below.
"I may be all wrong, Jack," the old druggist muttered. "All wrong. But you must admit it isn't every day that a duck waddles into a city drugstore. It is still more unusual for that duck to be covered with blood not its own. And..." he stopped.
Tightening muscles made a ridge along the still firm angle of his jaw. A sudden tautness quivered in the aromatic atmosphere and an expectant hush seemed to muffle even the clatter of a passing "El train. "And the situation loses all humor," the words dripped slowly from Doc's thin lips, "when that blood is—from human veins!"
Pent breath released made two flat plops. "Oi," Abie exclaimed. "Oi, mein Gott!"
"Hell you say," Jack Ransom gritted. "Are you sure, Doc? Sure?"
"Of course I'm sure." The old druggist turned brooding eyes to his young friend. "The agglutination test is infallible. I can even tell you that the gore came from a white man. The red corpuscles are characteristic. Besides, the fluid is arterial blood. I can explain it only by a sudden gush from a severe wound."
"Good Lord, somebody has been hurt badly. We ought to call the police at once. They—"
"Would laugh at us for our pains. No, Jack, it's up to us again. We've got to run this down."
"But how are we going to start? Where did the thing come from?"
"Lapidus' Kosher Poultry..."
"Abe, for Heaven's sake keep your Lapidus out of this. I told you before someone would have seen it before it got as far as this!"
"Look here, Doc. Maybe the kid's right. After all the market is the only place around here where there are live fowl."
Turner drummed on the top of the prescription counter. "It doesn't sound reasonable. The place has been closed for hours now, otherwise I'd say the duck might have dropped off a truck coming from there."
"We've got to start looking somewhere," Jack urged. He clamored for action; static deliberation over a problem did not appeal to him. "I'll get out the old bus and take a look around there."
Doc arched shaggy gray eyebrows. "No holding you, is there? Well," he shrugged. "All right. It's pretty late, I'll close up and go with you. Abe, sweep up quick and get on home."
"Aw chee, Meester Toiner. Ken't I go along. Maybe dere's somevun dere vot ken only talk Yeedish, hah? Maybe..."
"No!" His employer's negative was flat, uncompromising. "You'll only make a pest of yourself." But this was hardly fair, as he knew. More than once the boy had proved himself exceedingly useful during the old pharmacist's exploits. But Doc and Jack Ransom had met with deadly danger before now in their adventures and a sixth sense warned the old man that peril lurked close by in this new affair.
"Ai!" Abie sniffled. "Alvays you go mitout me." But as he turned away he winked at the crated duck. The bird winked solemnly back, and his flat bill opened to emit an understanding "Quack."
FOG cloaked the East River, a smothering, murky blanket out of which came the melancholy hoots of blinded ships. Fog- tendrils reached their clammy fingers to the dark, deserted shore and seemed to clot more thickly around one wooden structure on a pier-end. Here the mist was thickened by a musty, pungent odor, a reek once smelled never to be forgotten, the foul stench of pent- up, crowded barnyard fowl.
Alongside the crazily leaning building two phantom shapes moved stealthily. No light reached there, but the haze itself was slightly luminous, so that the prowling figures were darker bulks in its gloom. Finger-tips scraped along board.
"Phew!" Jack Ransom muttered. "We ought to have worn gas masks."
"Quiet!" Doc's low voice was just audible. "There's a window here. It's boarded up but there are chinks between. And I think I hear something."
"Sure. Place is full of live birds."
"No. It's not birds. Something else. Let me listen."
The peculiar silence of the city settled down, the silence that is not soundless but a continuous rumble of distant noise. Nearer at hand the crouching listeners heard the rustle of feathers rubbing against feathers, drowsy cluck of a wakeful hen.
Suddenly Doc's fingers clenched on the other's arm. "There!" excitement did not raise his guarded voice, but there was sharpness in it. "Did you hear that?"
"I thought I did. It sounded like—"
"Someone moaning! I'm sure of it. Jack, there's someone in there, hurt! We've got to get in there, quick."
"Come on. I've got keys, maybe they'll fit the door. Hurry!"
Dark shapes flitted through veiling mist. Metal clinked against metal. A rusted padlock grated; and hinges squealed. "That did it," Jack grunted as he and Doc slid through a narrow opening between leaf-edges of a huge door, a door through which trucks could roll. "How's that for a home-made skeleton key?"
"Shut up and get the door closed. Quick."
Wood thudded against wood. The two stared into blackness. There was sawdust under their feet, ahead of them they could sense by nose and ear the high-piled cages of doomed fowl. The moan they had heard was not repeated, but somehow danger quivered in the close fetor of the place; danger—and death.
From outside came the fog-muffled wail of a ferry, and a dull putt-putt that was a night-cruising motor-boat. There was something inimical in the sound. The druggist's head jerked to it, but it died away.
"We can't move around here in the dark, we'll bring the whole place down on our heads." Ransom spoke just above the threshold of hearing, his voice could not be heard at half the distance a whisper's sibilance would have carried. "Can we chance a light?"
"We'll have to."
On the word a slender thread of light shot from a fountain-pen flash in the redhead's hand, a narrow beam that darted over tall ranks of long, slatted crates within which heaved feathered masses, gray and white and parti-colored. "Nothing there," Doc breathed. "Nothing at all."
A low quacking was startling in the eerie darkness, and Jack's light swerved to a cage near the floor within which a half-dozen ducks could be seen. "Funny," Turner murmured.
"Those fellows are the only ones awake. And unless I'm wrong that's just about where the window is at which we were listening."
"Hunh! That's right. Let's see." The impulsive youth was striding to the indicated box, reached it and knelt to the feather-covered floor. He thrust his free hand between two separated boards, plunged his arm through the warm bodies of the white birds. And jerked it out again! "God!" he breathed. "God!"
HE shifted the torch so that it illuminated the hand he held out to the pharmacist. It was red, glaring red, and ruby droplets dripped slowly from the finger-ends. "Look!"
Doc's exclamation was squeezed from a tightened throat. "Good Lord! He's in there. Behind the ducks..."
"Yes." Hushed panic quivered in the younger man's voice as he fought to control it. "Yes. I—I felt him."
Turner dropped to his knees. "We've got to get him out." His old hands closed around a slat, tugged at it. It bent and broke. Jack seized another. Nails screeched from their fastenings. A flat beak stabbed at his fingers, he pulled away, and the imprisoned birds scuttered out, emitting shrill squalls. Their pale shapes vanished in the darkness, but not before the trembling pair saw the red fluid smeared across their white feathers. The box was a black oblong, mysterious. The imprint of a webbed foot just before it was a red stamp in the sawdust.
"Throw the light inside, Jack. Inside."
A motion of Ransom's trembling hand responded. The beam showed a dark pool of gore, showed a barred partition. And behind—there was no movement, no movement at all in the limp corpse!
The white-haired pharmacist was flat on his stomach, was haunching himself into the narrow crate where the ducks had been. "Is—is he dead?" Jack husked.
"I—don't know." Sound of splintering wood shocked the staring youth, and then a rubbing sound. Doc heaved backward. Blood was smeared across his chin, his chest, on his extended arms that pulled something after them. His hands were gloved with blood, and the thing they strained at, the limp arm, was blood- soaked. A head slid out of the crate, hairless scalp first. Jack saw glassy, staring eyes, a lax mouth from which a black tongue- tip protruded, a beard matted and soaked with gore.
The body was out on the floor. Its once-white apron was slashed across just above the waist; clothing, flesh underneath were sliced in a deep cut angling upward. The man's other hand was pressed against the wound as if he had tried to hold his entrails from pouring out. And blood still oozed between the cramped fingers.
Doc's taut voice was sick. "Gutted like one of his own chickens," he murmured. "Jake Lapidus has sold his last broiler."
"But he moaned, just now! We heard him."
"A belly-wound doesn't kill at once. But it hurts. How it hurts!"
"Doc! It's murder. He's been—"
A flutter of wings and a chicken's scream twisted Jack and the Doc to them. The startled fowls lifted—straight into white glare exploding from blackness. "Reach!" a voice boomed from behind the light. "Grab air, you bozos!"
Two pairs of arms shot high. "Gripes!" Jack blurted. "Who—"
"Shut up!" Footfalls thudded, and the light-source moved nearer. Doc blinked as he tried to pierce the curtaining glare but it was useless. "Hey, Monk," the hoarse voice called, lower now, more cautious. "Dere's two guys up here. Dey got the stiff uncovered."
"Nuts!" Startling the hollow response came from somewhere underneath. "Quit yer horsin' an' get busy. We ain't got all night."
"Naw. Honest. Come on up an' see. I got 'em covered."
There were scraping sounds. Where the light-spread ended a close-cropped bullet head seemed to rise from the very floor itself. The black eyes under a black-sloping brow were tiny, the nose was flattened, the mouth was a cruel gash. With no interval for a neck, bulking shoulders rose into view.
Doc realized that the man was climbing up through a trap-door from beneath the pier. He was fully revealed now—a gigantic figure with long, gorilla-like arms swinging loose-jointed almost to his curiously bent knees.
"Hell!" The newcomer grunted, his lips unmoving. "Who's dese boids?" His right hand fumbled behind him, reappeared clutching a long, cruelly-keen knife. "Dicks?" He slithered toward them.
"Naw. They don't look like dicks to me. More likely G men." There was something blood-curdling, almost disinterested in the way the two were discussing the situation, something uncanny in the expressionless monotony of their voices. "Dey're too damn nosy, whoever dey are."
"Yeh. What we gonna do wid 'em?"
"Bump 'em an' dump 'em. Can't leave 'em here."
THE Monk licked his lips, lasciviously, and his thumb felt slowly along the edge of his knife. He crept closer still. But there was hesitancy in his little eyes. "Gees, Gimpy. De chief didn't say nuttin' like dat. He just said fer us ter get de double-crossin' kike an' de one crate o' red chickens. He didn't say nuttin' 'bout bumpin' nobody else."
Doc found his voice then. "I wouldn't advise you to do anything without consulting the chief first," he said calmly. "He sent us here to see that you didn't make any more mistakes, like you did when you let that duck go strolling around the city with blood on his back."
The fellow with the light grunted. "What duck? Watcha blattin' about?"
"A duck got in your car somehow," the druggist stabbed in the dark. "And slipped out when you stopped for the light on Morris Street. If the chief hadn't been tailing you and picked it up it would have given the whole show away." It was not quite a wild guess—only thus could the bird's arrival in his store be accounted for. But needles prickled along Doc's spine as he waited for the reaction. At least it might give them more time.
"See, Monk," it came. "I tol' yuh dere was sumthin' movin' aroun' in de back seat an' yuh said I was nuts. Look what yuh went an' done. Now dese guys is gonna split in on de pay- off."
"Nothing like that, boys." The pharmacist tried to keep out of his voice the surge of joy at the success of his ruse. "We're on the other end, we get ours from what's in the hens." He was pushing his luck, using everything that these moronic killers had let drop. He brought his hands down warily, and nothing happened. Jack, dazed at the sudden turn of events, followed suit. "Come on you fellows," Doc went on. "Get busy. Do you want the cops bustin' in here?"
"Awright boss!" Gimpy growled obsequiously. "Awright, don't rush us. Monk, you git back in de boat an' I'll let de stiff down to yuh..." His light flicked away, sought the twisted corpse.
Doc moved closed to Jack, and they watched the grisly operations.
"Let's make a dash for it," Ransom whispered as Gimpy, a limping replica of the dull-brained Monk, heaved Lapidus' flaccid cadaver to the square hole through which Monk had again disappeared. "We can make it without any trouble, call the cops..."
"No! They'll get away before the police can get here. I want to get them, and I want to get the man behind them, the chief."
"How in the name of all that's holy are you going to..."
"Shhh! He's trying to listen." Gimpy, indeed, was casting uneasy glances toward them, his troubled expression betraying a glimmering that all was not well. Doc moved away. "Listen, you," he said. "Are you taking the whole crate of hens?"
"Sure. Ain't dat de orders?"
"Not on your tintype. Cut their craws open and get the junk out." The old man had unraveled the mystery of these midnight doings thus far. Murder was not committed for a dozen barnyard fowl.
"Hell, I ain't no butcher."
Turner's voice dropped a register. Even to Jack it sounded hard, menacing. "You're a butcher or whatever else the chief wants you to be. If you don't like what you're told you can say so, an' take what's coming to you. I don't think you'll like it."
THE tough's big hand moved toward his armpit. Doc imitated his motion, although he had no gat nestling in a shoulder-holster. Faded old eyes clashed with beady black ones, and electrical tension quivered in the murky, foul interior of the shadowed poultry-market. Had the druggist pushed his bluff too far? Was all he had gained to be lost? Jack's breath stopped, and his knees bent for a desperate leap. But the gorilla's hand dropped. "Cripes," he growled. "I didn't mean nothin'. I only thought..."
"You aren't paid to think," Turner snapped. "We'll do all of that that's necessary. Snap it up."
Gimpy picked up his torch and moved to the other side of the space, seeming to know exactly where to go. He slid a case down, his great strength manifest in the ease with which he handled the long, slatted box. Hens squawked as he pulled off a slat, plunged a gripping hand in among them. The hand came out with a bundle of russet feathered fury. A knife sliced into the fowl's chest while great wings still fanned in the death spasm, and a red fountain spurted over Jack. A second dexterous twist of the thug's fist pulled a bag of greenish membrane out of the gash. He tossed the headless fowl aside to let it roll in insensate agony. The city- bred youth's eyes clung to the apparently still living thing, and his stomach twisted.
A low exclamation from Doc pulled his eyes back to Gimpy. That ape-like individual was just pulling his fingers from a slice he had made in the hen's craw and from those fingers splintered light darted in a rainbow coruscation that brought sudden glory into the gloomy precincts of the slaughter-house.
"Oh, Lord," Jack groaned, "Di..."
Doc kneed him, choking off the rest. "You fool," he murmured, as Gimpy thrust the stones into a pocket and the squall of another victim covered his voice. "You're supposed to know all about that. We've got the layout now. They're diamond smugglers, this was a landing station from the bay and the jewels were shipped out in hens' craws. Lapidus crossed them somehow, and paid for it. Now listen..." He muttered swift instructions to the youth.
The thing was ended. The crate was empty, a heaving mass of eviscerated hens lay in a corner, and their killer's pocket bulged with a fortune in diamonds. Gimpy turned, his beady eyes glittering strangely from out of a mask of blood. "Well, big shot," he husked. "Yuh satisfied?"
"Yes," Doc snapped. "Now come on, let's get going." He started toward the trap door.
"Doc," Ransom groaned. "Doc..."
Gimpy glared at Turner, surprise twisting his brutal visage. But the old pharmacist was riding his luck high, and it served. "Come on. Come on. What are you waiting for?" His foot fumbled through the trap door, found a ladder step, and he descended. Gimpy followed—and Jack, white-faced, trembling, watched the cover sliding across the opening shut light out of the market.
"God!" he blurted into the darkness. "What guts!" Then turned and stumbled out of the place.
As the door opened and let him out into less foully tainted air, the putt-putt of a motorboat sounded from beneath him, then from the foggy river. Jack twisted, ran out to the pier-end. A tiny light, low-down, drifted along the water, was quenched in the haze. Noting the direction of its movement, he wrenched himself away. What little chance Doc had for life depended now on him.
As he turned a shadowy figure moved in the dimness. His heart leaped into his mouth. He had so little time to do what was needed, if anything were to stop him now...
"Jeck! Jeck! Ees that you?" The thin pipe quavered from the fog. "Jeck."
"Abie, you rascal," Jack almost shouted with relief. "What are you doing here?"
The weazened figure of the errand boy materialized from the mist. "Oi! How glad I am to see you! So long you been eensite dere, unt I vas afraid to go een. Vere ees Meester Toiner?"
"Out on the water. Come on, imp. We've got something to do, and it's got to be done quickly."
SEEN from the shore the moving shapes on the river had been phantom-like, but they were doubly eerie now to Doc as the little launch glided among them. Its ghastly freight bulked dimly in the stern, the twisted cadaver of a murdered man. And up ahead two much more deadly passengers loomed...
The little druggist let the torch he had been holding overside drop into the water. It was useless now, Jack could no longer see it from the shore. But the craft had already turned downstream, if it didn't change its course he had at least that clue to work on.
If! There were so many ifs in the wild plan he had hatched on the unexpected success of his daring bluff to the lack-witted thugs. Monk was lurching toward him, moving clumsily as the boat rocked on the tidal swell. Panic seized the old man.
"Dis is de place we dump de stiff," Monk growled. "I got a anchor tied round him; he'll lay easy down below wid de rest o' de garbage."
A plop, a few bubbles, and the grisly bundle was gone. The thug worked back to the bow. The boat's course continued straight ahead. Straight ahead—thank God!—in the direction Ransom would expect him to go.
Doc moved closer to the motor. There was a hank of twine in his hand, twine that had been intended to truss together the feet of slaughtered hens. It would serve a different purpose now.
The pharmacist did something with it, moved back to his place. He struck a match, its flame made an aureole in the fog. He lit a cigar with it, tossed it overside. And then the boat swerved, a dark wall loomed overhead. The low hull of a darkened vessel. A whistle trilled from one of the two gorillas, was answered from on deck. The motor sputtered, died; a boat-hook reached out and pulled the smaller craft to what Doc saw was a hundred-foot cabin-launch. "About time you men got here," a voice sounded silkily. "You've been hellish long."
"Gee, chief," Gimpy grumbled. "I couldn't cut the craws uv a dozen chickens any quicker. I..."
"Cut the craws!" The voice coming from the dim-seen form was suddenly sharp. "What did you do that for? I told you to bring the hens..."
"Hell! Dis guy said you changed dem orders. I t'ought..."
"What guy? Who's that with you?" Light glinted on, the barrel of a gun that snouted Doc. "Who is it, you ox?"
Gimpy's tones were suddenly alarmed. "He sez you sent him. He sez as how a duck got away an' you picked him up..."
"I sent nobody! What's all this about a duck?" The man's words were like the stuttering of a machine-gun. "Someone's run a game on you, wangled you into bringing him here. He's a spy, a G man! Grab him. Grab him quick, stick a knife into him and dump him over. Quick, you mud-brained fools. Quick!" The two thugs snarled, scrambled toward Doc.
"Wait a minute," Doc said calmly. "Wait a minute. I've got something to say." Rough hands clutched his arms, jerked him erect. He saw knife-gleam, saw blood-lust in Monk's grim face. "A minute won't make any difference."
"Hold it," the man on deck said. "And hold him too. Well, what is it? Talk quick!"
"I'm not a government man. I'm not a dick of any kind. I took a chance on this way of getting to you because I wanted to throw in with you. Isn't it about time you stopped working with brainless brutes like these? I might just as well have been a customs man, and then where would you have been? You need me and I need you."
Something in his steady voice, his calm assurance, carried conviction. "Who are you?"
"If I told you you'd know me. I was one of the best carriers working the lines till a pal turned me up, and I was sent to Atlanta for a V spell." Doc hoped his attempt at underworld argot was not too amateurish. "I've lost my connections and I've got to get another one. That's why I'm here. Let me come on board and I'll show you I'm regular."
"We-e-ell," the other man hesitated.
"I haven't a rod on me. These heavies can frisk me. There's three of you and I'm alone. What do you lose?"
A hand prodded him. "That's right," Gimpy growled, eager to justify his own error. "He's clean, chief."
"All right then. You can come up and give me your spiel. But it had better be damn good..."
"Suits me," Turner responded. The hands fell away and he leaped for the deck. His cigar had somehow vanished.
Seen close to, the smuggler was a slight, tall man. A trim vandyke pointed his chin and his eyes were saturnine. "Get ahead of me into the cabin, and we'll talk." He motioned to a closed door with the automatic in his white hand. "And remember, one false move..."
The little room's blinds were drawn. It was warmly lighted, was tastefully furnished. Doc turned to his host. The man smiled, tight-lipped. "Well?"
"How about a drink before we talk? I'm thirsty." The little druggist's eyes were fixed on the automatic.
"We'll talk first and drink afterwards. What's the—"
A thunderous explosion outside jerked the tall man's eyes away for an instant. In that instant Doc lunged for him, got a hand on the gun. It crashed, a bullet spat into the flooring. Turner's free hand fisted, pounded into the bearded man's face. The flooring heaved, threw his antagonist headlong across the cabin floor. They swirled in a mad maelstrom of combat. The deck heaved again—the light was gone. No! Red glare beat into the room from somewhere, and Doc slugged at a white-toothed mouth. A knee ripped into his groin, agonizing pain shot through him. But still he clung to the gun, clung to it despite the other's desperate twisting.
A siren howled. Something crashed against the launch, shook it and shook the gun free from Doc's hold. The smuggler writhed away, twisted to his knees. The automatic rose, steadied. Turner's agonized brain sent a message to limbs that refused to obey...
And the door crashed open. A redheaded thunderbolt hurtled through the air, slammed into the killer. The gun flew from his hand, and oblivion closed around the old druggist. But just as he sank into soft darkness he heard a familiar voice shout dimly, "Doc! Doc Turner—"
A PUNGENT liquid dribbled between Doc Turner's lips, exploded in his throat. His lids snapped open. He saw an anxious face bending over him, a weather-reddened face topped by a blue, peaked cap. The mouth moved in the face, and someone said, "That's a good fellow. You'll be all right now." It drifted out of his vision.
Jack's beaming countenance swam into its place. "Doc," he said. "You're all right Doc. And your plan worked like a dream."
"Killed when the small boat blew up. But how did you manage it Doc?"
The druggist found it hard to talk. "Fuse into gas tank. Twine. Lit it with cigar—when heard—motor stop."
"Some stunt, Doc. Some stunt. I had the Coast Guard on the phone in seconds after you left. They shot a speed-boat up to me, picked me up and turned down the river the way your light had moved. Then we saw the explosion, and it was only a quarter mile away."
"Good thing. Another second and—no more Doc." Andrew Turner smiled.
"And do you know who the chief is? Roy Corbin. The wiliest diamond smuggler on the Eastern coast; they've been after him for years. Knew he was bringing the stuff in but never could find out how. Took a bloody duck and Doc Turner's brains to work that out."
"Und dun't forget eet Abie, de boy detecatiff," a new voice piped. "Who vas eet saw de dock de foist, hah?"
Doc Turner's tired eyes found the smiling, soiled visage of the errand boy. "Abie, you brat," he said. "Wipe your face, Abie. And don't be late tomorrow morning. You've got to feed that duck!"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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