Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.

ARTHUR LEO ZAGAT
WRITING AS MORGAN LAFAY

CARGO FOR HELL

Cover

RGL e-Book Cover 2016



First published in First published in Spicy Mystery Stories, February 1936
This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Produced by Colin Choat, Paul Moulder and Roy Glashan
Version date: 2016-11-28

Only the original raw text of this book is in the public domain.
All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author



Argosy, June 8, 1940

Spicy Mystery Stories, February 1936, with "Cargo For Hell"



A SHIVER of eerie apprehension ran through Alma Thorne's slim frame. The warm languor of the tropic dusk was suddenly tainted with a strange chill that seeped queasily into her blood, and Mount Crehena was an unfamiliar, brooding loom above the thatched huts bordering the crescent of Papeete's sheltered harbor. Alma's small hand cupped the swelling, soft round of her virginal breast to feel beneath it the flutter of her heart like the struggles of a captured bird.

A mutter of voices had brought her out of the schooner's tiny cabin, and now she shrank against the hatchway jamb, trying to pierce the gloom lying heavily along the scrubbed deck, wondering what there was about the shadowy, cloaked figure at the rail that had affected her so strangely.

A moment ago she had been tremulously happy, her veins feverish with mingled trepidation and longing for the coming of the lover who only an hour ago had become her husband. Now, a feathery touch stroked her spine with icy tremors and her scalp was a tight cap for her skull.

"No, I tell you," Dan's growl came to her from where he stood, straddle-legged, barrel-bodied, facing the mysterious stranger. "I won't do it. I'm not shipping any cargo this trip. I'm just married and this voyage is my honeymoon. I want nothing on my mind but the Taio and the wife I've brought aboard her."

"A crate lashed to your deck will not interfere with your love-making." The man's voice was like the rustle of the breeze in the sere foliage of a dead coco-palm, or the whisper of foam on the beach when the gray combers roll out. "And a thousand in gold will sweeten the bridal kiss." Enveloped in darkness, the speaker was an ebony-plumaged, huge bird perched on the taffrail, an ominous albatross.

"A thousand—" Dan gasped. Then, "Damn it, no! I've a fair wind for Apia and the tide's at the turn. Overboard with you, mister, I wait for no one and nothing."

"It is right here, in the canoe that brought me. My boys will put it aboard while yours weigh anchor; there will be not a moment's delay... A thousand francs, captain! How many weeks would it take you to make that, tacking from island to frowsy island? How many weary days of barter?"

"Where's the money?"

"Here." Alma saw a bag pass from the stranger's hand to Dan's, saw him vanish over the rail. She wanted to cry out, to call to Dan not to take it, to fling it after its owner, but her parched palate refused speech.

"Pokara," Dan bellowed. "Up anchor. Make sail." A rush of unshod feet thudded from the bow. The forecastle hatch was a sudden rectangle of yellow light, framing lithe, golden forms clad only in loin-girdles of tapa cloth. The deck was animated with purposeful bustle, with the liquid, unintelligible commands of Dan's native mate. A windlass clanked, a rope screeched, reeving through protesting sheaves, and above Alma, the starless sky was blotted by an unfurling sail.

The ship's fabric quivered, came alive. "Dan," the girl called, finding voice at last. "Dan."

"What is it, hon?" He was coming toward her, his long strides eating space. "What's the matter?"

He was huge, almost brutally huge. Silky muscles rippled under his singlet. There was strength, competence, in the set of his great, square-jawed head on his spreading shoulders. Power to meet any threat, any disaster. Her fears were silly, childish. If she voiced them, he would laugh at her, call her a puling infant. . .

"Nothing, sweetheart. Only, you haven't paid me any attention since we came on board. You've already forgotten your brand-new wife."

"Forgotten! You little damn' fool!" His laugh roared about her. He seized her, swept her up, one-armed, from the deck, crushed her against him. Man-sweat, pungent, lusty, was in her nostrils and hot lips seared her cheek, slid fumbling to find her own. The kiss was a torch setting her blood aflame to consume her; to consume the clothing between them so that she throbbed against his pulsing flesh.

"That'll hold you for a while." He had jerked her away from him, had set her down on her own feet. "For a little while, anyway. I've got to get this vessel out of the harbor." His utterance was thick, shaken.

"Be quick, Dan," Alma whispered. "Be quick."

"And how!" He lurched around, as if he were breaking steel chains that bound him to her, swayed to meet the sway of the deck, started away. Stopped suddenly, a low growl in his throat. Was staring at an angular, black bulk out of which the mainmast seemed to spring. "What the..."

"Cap'n Thorne." Pokara was beside Dan, a slender silhouette in the murk. "You see? You see w'at dem boy put'em on deck?"

"Yeah. I see it," Dan blurted, and twisted to where the bulwark was jagged by four black knobs that dipped down and vanished in the instant Alma glimpsed them. "Avast there," he shouted. "Wait, you lubbers." He flung himself to the rail. "Wait!"

Alma heard a harsh grunt gust from Dan, a rasping exhalation. Somehow, she was running across the lifting boards, was beside him. The black water of the bay seethed, hissing under the Taio's counter, rippled sibilantly away. But it was starkly empty of the outrigger canoe she had expected to see, of any craft. Empty! From what then, had Dan's unwilling cargo been brought aboard? From where did the laugh come that rustled, dry and mocking, in the ambient gloom?

"Dan," the girl whimpered. "Dan. Where did they go?" He didn't answer. His fists were clenched on the wooden rim against which his thighs pressed, were clenched so tightly that white spots dotted his knuckles. His face was a grim, frozen mask out of which his eyes glowered, smoldering with rage, and with something else. With something, incredibly, very like fear.

"We no sail," Pokara's voice was no longer limpid, it was taut, shrill. "We no sail wid evil on boa'd, wid coffin..."

Alma whirled, her startled glance darting to the thing that lay under the mainmast. It was a coffin, its gradually slanting sides, the truncated triangle of its one end, left no doubt of that. A box for the dead, couchant, funereal, at the very door of her nuptial chamber. Like some grim augury of disaster, it invested her with frigid dread.

Beyond it, an obscure semi-circle of the native seamen loomed, their swarthy shapes clotting the night, their eyes glittering white orbs of superstitious fear— "Two-time evil," the Samoan's protest yammered in her ears "Coffin an' a woman..."

Smack! A fist exploded against flesh and Pokara hurtled past the girl, pounded to the deck, skidded to crash against the casket. "Woman, eh," Dan gritted. "Keep your dirty tongue off my wife." His heels pounded, he stalked stiff-legged to stand, jutting-jawed, hulking-shouldered, somehow ape-like above the prostrate, gasping mate. "We sail, woman and coffin aboard. And I'll give you the rest of it too. Our port is Lutuo Island. Do you get it? Lutuo Island."

A murmur, almost a chattering squeal, ran around the human crescent at which he glared. It echoed in Alma's brain, as her skin was suddenly an icy sheath for her body. Lutuo! The tan-skinned people with whom her father had traded before he died whispered queer, shivery tales about the lonely, shunned islet that dotted the watery wastes far off the beaten track of the trading schooners. Lutuo! The accursed island, the Hell of the Dead-Alive. What a port-of-call for a honeymoon trip!

"Well?" There was bestial ferocity in Dan's growled question, lethal threat in the way his arms hung along his flanks, huge and muscle-knotted, like coiled springs fighting to be unleashed. "Any more objections?"

A sob of pain wrenched from the prostrate man at his feet. Canvas slatted overhead and the sea hissed along the Taio's hulk. But there was no other sound. More appalling than the abysmal fear of ancient evil twisting within them was the seamen's terror of Dan Thorne's wrath, of his ham-like fists that bunched, steel-hard and eager, against his corded thighs.

"No," the crouching captain lipped. "You're smart—Tamariki!"

"Here, cap'n."

"You're mate from now on. Pokara takes your place in your watch. And see to it that he don't sailor. That's all. I'll take the wheel till we get out of the roadstead."

He twisted to Alma. "That's the way to handle these fellows." His scowl, his mien of an enraged beast, was gone. The granite of his countenance broke into a smile. The endearing, boyish smile tugged at Alma's heartstrings as always it had, yearning her to him. "Get this business out of your pretty head, sweet, and go get ready for me. I'll be with you as soon as we pass the headland."

He strode away. "Go. Get ready." Dread, livid fear could not remain in the face of that injunction. Alma's nights of longing were ended, her endless nights of empty arms. Daughter of an austere American missionary though she was, the exotic passion of the South Seas was in the girl's veins, was bred into her every cell.

The urge for completion, for mating, instinctive as that of the doves she resembled, had been nurtured in her by the warm and tender breeze, by the soft sough of the moonlit sea, by the nostalgic, infinitely sweet songs of lovers underneath the darkling palms.

It was a hot surge in her veins, now that its consummation was so near, a pulse in her throat. It was a haze before her eyes, so that, gliding toward the cabin, she did not see the stygian casket she passed, did not see Pokara roll over, lift, gaze after her with a slitted, meaningful stare. Did not hear the groan of pain wrenched from him. Only the song in her heart was audible to her, only the liquid lapping of the sea that murmured a litany of love.

* * * * *

DAN had screwed a long mirror to the cabin-rail. Alma stood before it, trembling a bit. Light spilled from the kerosene lamp swinging overhead to glint in the russet nimbus of her short-cropped hair, to slide lingeringly over the downy oval of her small face, pausing at eyes half-closed and slumberous, at pursed lips moist and ardent.

With slow, caressing fingers, it stroked the long, lilting curve that began in the melodic gracefulness of her neck and drifted across glowing shoulders to mould over nubile half-globes whose pearly, almost iridescent hemispheres were netted by a faint blue tracery of threadlike veins.

There the light paused, paused there, as who would not, and left in shadow the deep vales between those maiden, untouched breasts, the precincts rounding to veiled allure below them. Then Alma's arms lifted and a gossamer web swished softly over her head, over shoulders and twin-orbed bosom and sun-bronzed flanks; the white, sheer silk of her bridal nightdress. Her hand lifted again.

The pad of bare feet on a bare floor sounded in the curtaining darkness, the creak of a bunk spring and the whisper of pulled-up sheets.

The Taio lifted and dipped on the long swell, lifted and dipped smoothly, sleepily. But there was no sleep for Alma, no sleep. Only waiting for the moment when the door behind her should open and Dan should come in.

It was long, infinitely long. But at last he was there, somewhere in the dark. A wave of panic overwhelmed the girl as the fragrance of tobacco and brine came to her, as she heard his muted movements, the rasp of fabric, the thud of shoes hastily dropped. Then he was alongside her, and she was close against him at last.

She was in his arms, her breasts flattened against his heaving chest, her lips burning against his, her tongue fluttering madly...

She had not dreamed it would be like this. In her wildest imaginings, she had not envisaged this blaze that consumed her, this electric thrill that followed the gentle, almost intangible caress of his hand on her cheek, her neck, drifting down in the course the light had found. . .

"Dan," she moaned. "Dan. Dearest!"

* * * * *

DRAINED, empty momentarily of emotion, there was yet the memory of ecstasy to cherish, the knowledge that there were months and years ahead, months and years of nights when Dan would come to her, when he would be with her like this, would take her in his cradling arms...

A scream cut across Alma's thoughts; a high, shrill, affrighting scream, suddenly cut off. The bunk lurched, throwing her against Dan, and running feet, somewhere outside, crescendoed to a rattling pound at the cabin door and a fright-thinned yell.

"Cap'n! Cap'n Thorne."

"What th' hell!" Dan sprang to his feet "What's up, Tamariki?" He had the door open, and in the sky-glow Alma could see the Samoan in the doorway, his body taut, shaking. The ship yawed again and a sail cracked like a pistol-shot. "Why isn't there someone at the wheel?"

"Sinyo," the mate blurted. "Sinyo was there."

"Was there? He's not there now?" Dan had plunged over the coaming, his bellow came from outside. "Where is he?"

"Nowhere." The two-syllable word reached Alma like a whisper of dread. "He gone. No can find him."

"Damnation! Get someone else there before she rips a pole out. Pango! Hop to that wheel and get back on the course. Nor' West by West. Shoo a leg, you scum, before I break it for you. Now, Tamariki, tell me what it's all about."

"See calm, little wind, I leave Sinyo on deck an' go have coffee in galley. Little while, Sinyo scream, I run out. No Sinyo. Nobody. I call you."

"The damn' fool was scared of Lutuo, dived in to swim ashore before we got too far away. If anyone else tries that..."

"No, Cap'n Thorne. Sinyo no dare swim here. Maonu-ali, ocean, full of sharks. Sure death."

"Then he's on board somewhere. He's up to some trick. Come on. Rout out the boys. We'll search the ship, and God help him when I lay hands on him! Come on. What are you scared of, you yellow- livered rat?"

They were moving away. They were leaving her here alone, in the dark! Alma leaped out, was momentarily at a loss to remember where she had left her dressing-robe. Feet slithered along the deck and a voice dripped low-toned, liquid Samoan.

"Sinyo did not swim, he did not plunge into the water. But we will not find him. The Dead-Alive has taken him. It will take us one by one, and sail the Taio to Lutuo alone."

* * * * *

SHE had found the garment, had flung it about her. She was out of the cabin just in time to see two murky figures sling forward and disappear. Had one of them been Pokara? Alma was not sure.

"Dan!" she called. "Dan!"

"Alma. Why did you get up?" He was there, by the mainmast. She went to him.

"Dan. Did you hear what they are saying? That the..."

"I heard," grimly. "And I'll settle that nonsense just as soon as we turn up Sinyo. Pokara's sore about his demotion and he's trying to stir up trouble."

Alma reached out, laid a cold hand on Dan's bare arm. He had not fully realized as yet that the Taio was no longer an Eveless Eden, had not bothered to don even so much as a shirt. "But dear," the girl managed, "maybe—maybe he's right. I've got a queer feeling as though—as though there were some—evil thing—all about us. Something that came aboard with that coffin. I wish..."

"Hell! You're as jittery as the imbeciles I have for a crew. It's nothing but a casket, screwed down tight, and inside it some poor devil who wants to be buried at home."

"Are you sure? Dan, how can you be sure?"

"I'm sure and I'll make you sure. Tamariki! Tamariki! Bring a lantern and a screwdriver."

"Dan, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to open the bloody casket and show you the corpse inside. You and the rest of them."

* * * * *

DAN and Tamariki were, Alma thought, like a couple of ghouls working at the casket that lay black and gruesome in a pool of lantern light. Their gigantic shadows slid over the grisly box, flitted silently across the deck.

Beneath her feet there were the muffled sounds of the search in the hold for the man who had screamed and vanished; and viscid, almost tangible about her, was the miasma of creeping dread.

Her trembling fingers strayed to her throat. What would they find? What awful thing was within that coffin?

The last screw came out, tinkled to the boards below. The stooped forms of Dan and Tamariki straightened, a long, dark board lifting with them. It still hid the casket's interior from them. They moved aside to rid themselves of it. Lantern light filtered past them, invaded the macabre crate like a slothful, yellow flood...

A scream twisted in Alma's breast, seared her throat, aborted at her lips in a gusting rasp. The coffin lid thumped to the deck. Dan whirled.

"What?" His startled glance followed her out-flung pointing hand. "Mother of Mercy!"

He saw it too, then, naked on a bed of earth, the corpse the light revealed. He saw the waxen, death-rigid limbs, the drawn-in stomach, the contorted face out of which glazed eyes stared, mirroring ghastly terror even when sight had fled. He saw the face of Sinyo, of the helmsman for whom the crew still hunted. He saw the ripped and gaping throat...

The throat whose lacerated sinews, whose slashed windpipe, were blanched, grey-white, bloodless. The throat from which no blood oozed, though it had been gashed through to the livid spine...

"Ai-ee," Tamariki wailed. "Ai-ee. He has drunk. The Dead-Alive has slaked his thirst and now he is the Living- Dead. He prowls the ship. He seeks from whose veins he may drink. Pokara was right, evil is upon us. You have delivered us to evil."

Dan spun. His great arms flailed out, his fists clenched on the native's throat. Tamariki hung in mid-air, his countenance a purple mask, his eyes bulging from their sockets. Alma flung herself at Thorne, clawed at his swollen arms.

"Dan!" she screamed. "Dan, you're killing him! You're... Stop it! Stop it! If you don't, I'll run away, I'll throw myself overboard...!"

Thorne's fingers jerked open. The strangled Samoan dropped to the deck, lay there moaning. Dan pulled a shaking hand across his forehead. "God." he muttered. "I—I saw red then. I would have ripped him apart—if you hadn't stopped me."

"What is to become of us, Dan? The vampire..."

"Vampire, hell! The vampire has a brown skin and wears tapa cloth around his middle. Someone's pulling a fast one, and by Joseph and Mary and Paul, I'm going to find out who it is before you're a half-hour older. Everybody on deck! Hoo, below there! Everybody on deck!"

They poured out of the hatches with a rush, were coming aft, a dark, chattering horde. Dan paced forward to meet them, to halt them before they got near enough to glimpse the coffin and its grisly contents. "I want to talk to you," he growled. "And I want the truth out of you. One of you is a killer. Who is it? Who sneaked up behind Sinyo and knifed him?"

He waited. There was no answer from the knot before him. "All right. If you won't talk I know how to make you! Oletao!"

"Yahs, cap'n." A huge Fijian stepped out, his black face bisected by a humorless grin, his blue tongue licking thick lips with an anticipation somehow evil.

"You're not one of these apes! I can trust you. Get the blacksnake whip out of the foc'sle! You're going to have some fun to pay for the way they torment you."

"Yahsuh. Right now, cap'n." He trotted away.

"Alma, you get back in the cabin and lock the door. This isn't going to be pretty. Not pretty at all."

"What are you going to do?" the girl gasped. "What..."

"That's none of your affair, young woman." There was no tenderness in his voice now, there was only steel-edged command. "Do as you're told! I'm master of this vessel and the sooner everyone aboard learns it, the better off they'll be. Get—into—that—cabin."

She must obey. She must force leg after slow leg through the viscid, invisible fluid that seemed to cling to them and resist their passage. She must step over the coaming—from behind her, a whiplash whistled virulently, cracked sharply on human flesh. A scream knifed the night, a high, piercing shriek of unutterable anguish.

Alma slammed the door behind her, shutting herself in with darkness, with quivering dismay. With a terrible fear of the cruel monster into which the man she loved had changed. She flung herself on the bunk, trying not to hear the shrill ululations of agony the cabin walls did not muffle, trying to drive the horror from her mind, the terrible vision of the corpse in the coffin from which the blood had been sucked till it was an empty, horrible shell.

Tamariki's cry rang in her ears. "The Dead-Alive prowls the ship! The Living-Dead seeks from whose veins he may drink!" The half-forgotten legend of Lutuo came back to her with all its dreadful details.

Of how, long ago, no one in all the Islands was safe from the attack of those who could not die, but must forever wander in darkness, to drink the blood of the living and make them as their own dread selves. Of how the hero Tanatoa went to the great god Ndengi and demanded relief from the terrible prowlers of the night.

Of how Ndengi commanded that the Living-Dead be placed in coffins and carried in great canoes to Lutuo, there to remain for all eternity. Of how, in one canoe, the condemned had burst from their coffins, had overwhelmed their captors and, putting them in their places, had made good their escape.

Of how they still existed in their dreadful living death, drinking always and always unable to slake their awful thirst.

Had one of these been recaptured after the long centuries? Had he been dispatched aboard the Taio to the island graveyard for corpses that were not wholly dead? Had he repeated that ancient evasion, breaking from his coffin prison to ravage the vessel?

Wild, impossible as these speculations were, Alma could see no other explanation for what had occurred. Strange things come to pass among these islands where the world still is young, where nature still disputes Man's conquest and the old gods still secretly are worshiped.

More than one vessel had gone for weeks unreported, to be rediscovered, derelict but undamaged, with sails spread and not a single living soul aboard. Was the Taio doomed to be one of these? Would the vampire prowl the schooner, unseen, unseeable, to spring one by one upon its shrieking people and, gorging his unnatural, insatiable thirst, leave the ship at last an empty hulk?

Whose throat would be the next to feel his tearing fangs, his sucking lips?

The mad speculations reeled through Alma's brain like a moving picture film edged with corrosive, biting acid—and suddenly, frantic terror struck at her from the pitchy murk. A slither of sound, close by, underlay the muffled voices of torment from without. It was the merest hint of movement in the blackness; she was not certain she had heard it.

She listened, her temples pounding, the little hairs at the nape of her neck bristling. Silence, dead silence, fell again within the tight enclosure walling her from the world. But out of it, out of the hush and the impenetrable gloom, came the sense of a steady gaze upon her, of eyes seeking her, and finding her, and fastening their baneful, avid glance on her throbbing throat.

Nightmare paralysis held her rigid on the bunk. The sound came again, more distinct. Like the rustle of dry leaves blowing across whispering sands. Like the scales of a creeping, deadly snake.

Someone was in the cabin! Someone—something—was coming closer, closer with a stealthy, slow certitude, infinitely menacing. Her scorched, dilated eyes could see it now, a blacker blotch against the black, looming above her. She could hear the muted rasp of its indrawn breath, and in her nostrils there was the heavy, foul stench of mouldering loam, of earth from an unnamable grave. Of a grave—oh God!—from which the terrible dead nightly arose to ravage and destroy!

Gelid, phantasmal fingers clutched her throat, throttling the scream she could not utter. The Thing swooped down upon her. The touch on her neck was real now, shudderingly real, the touch of a cold and clammy palm, of fleshless digits that surged with sudden swift avidity under the neck of her dressing gown, that ripped the flimsy stuff of her nightgown and plunged downward to her breast.

The spectral hand reached the tumid mound caressed only such a little while ago by the husband who was so far beyond reach, so unaware of her desperate need. And now her quivering thighs recoiled from the touch of another hand, another skeleton hand that groped up along its icy flesh...

The scream of a whipped sailor ripped the gruesome silence. It was Alma herself who screamed, the pent frenzy of her terror unleashed by that last desecration. The violating hands left their unhallowed play, flew to her lips, her throat, cutting off her shrill cries. Alma battered at a meager, emaciated form, tore frantically at the hands that choked her.

An exclamation spewed from her weird antagonist. "Merde, alors! Tais toi!"

Mad laughter burbled in Alma's heaving chest. It spoke French. The vampire was telling her to keep quiet in French! Even in the midst of that tossing, terrible battle, it was incongruous, a cosmic jest.

But he was conquering her, was forcing her down. In seconds, his teeth would be at her throat, would tear into her soft tissues. Her blood would spurt... The world exploded in a sudden, rending crash; in a thunderous, infuriated bellow.

Light from somewhere showed her a skull-like, terrible visage close to her own, thin lips snarling back from yellow, needle- pointed teeth...

And suddenly, it was no longer there. Its fetid breath gusted no longer in her face, the clutching hands were gone. It had vanished! No! It was sweeping upward in a huge arc, was being swept upward at the end of Dan's great arms. Dan was planted four-square in the center of the cabin, his raw-boned countenance a contorted, terrifying mask of bestial fury.

Dan's arms bent, straightened. That which he had held catapulted across the cabin's confined space, into the bulkhead. Mingled with the impact's meaty thud was a sickening crunch of smashed bone, a juicy plop as of a rotten plum flung to the ground. The thing lay at the foot of the bulkhead, a twitching, pulped heap, tortured and formless.

Dan swung around to Alma. His mouth was a black gash in his face, his eyes two burning coals. "He—? Did he...?"

Alma shook her head no, but her gaze was back to the thing on the deck that Dan had smashed. A slow pool grew around it, its edge curled into the light and glinted darkly scarlet. Whose blood? A moan came from the heap whose writhings were feebler, almost still. Long, thin fingers twitched in the gory wet.

Fingers that were covered by tight skin, fleshless, but human. Human! She slid out of the bunk, brushed past Dan, knelt. She must make sure.

"Pardonnez-moi—forgive me." The words were a mere breath, hardly audible. "So long—so long since—I—saw a beautiful woman—so near. I went—mad—" The last syllable whispered into silence. The man was still. He would never move again.

"Alma!" Dan's grip was on her shoulders, was lifting her. She turned to him, sobbing. His arms slid around her...

Over his shoulder, she saw the jagged, crazy rectangle of the door he had crashed and a mast cutting it in two. Lantern light fell on the thick pole, on the limp, naked back of the Samoan lashed to it. That back was a crisscross of carmine weals, a chopped and bloody horror. The Taio rolled and in grisly rhythm with its sway the seaman's lolling head rolled flaccid on his red-smeared shoulders. Alma's small fists beat on Dan's hairy chest and she flung herself back and away from him.

"No," she gibbered. "No. Keep away from me. Monster! Murderer!"

"Murderer!" He grinned, astonishingly. "There's the murderer, there, hanging to the mast. Pokara!"

"Pokara!"

"Sure. I guessed it was him and had Oletao beat the truth out of him. He cut Sinyo's throat, drained the blood out of him overside, and stuffed him into the coffin from which he had freed his confederate."

The cabin whirled giddily around Alma. "I—I don't understand. Why—why—?"

"Listen then, you little nut. He made a full confession before he—died. This fellow here escaped from the French penal settlement at Noumea, stowed away on a vessel that brought him to Papeete. His name is Renard. It appears that there's a regular organization that helps the escapers, for pay.

"From Papeete they send them to Lutuo, which makes a swell hiding place because no ship with a native crew will go near it. After the search dies down, the escaped convicts are called for at Lutuo and taken to whatever destination they choose.

"Their regular sloop had been wrecked in a typhoon and they dared not keep Renard in Tahiti too long, as it is a French colony. They approached Pokara and propositioned him. He was greedy, didn't want to share what they offered with me and the rest of the crew. The old legend of Lutuo gave him an idea, he concocted the scheme of smuggling Renard on board in a coffin, knowing that the superstitions of the others would make sure they would not investigate the box too closely."

"But it was Pokara who argued against your taking the coffin."

"Hell! He was shrewd as blue blazes. He was afraid I'd throw the thing overboard when I saw what it was. He had sailed with me for years, knew me better than myself, knew that the surest way to make me do a thing was to argue against it. But he overplayed his hand, and when I sloughed him and demoted him, his greed turned into murderous hate that included the crew because they did not back him up. He set out to kill them off one by one, covering himself and terrorizing them meanwhile by making it seem that a vampire had escaped from the coffin.

"He hid Renard in the hold. The rest I can only guess at. I imagine that, when the boys went down the fore hatch to search for Sinyo, the Frenchman slipped up through the after hatch and dived into the cabin to hide in here. Then you came in. Remember, he had been a prisoner for years, and the sight of a woman—he forgot everything when he saw you and..."

"And... Oh Dan, it was horrible."

"Forget it, honey. It was only a bad dream. Come here. I know how to make you forget."

She was in his arms again, was melting against him, against the tumult of his love. The heat of his body was flame against hers, flame that rose into her brain, consuming memory of terror, consuming everything but her insatiable thirst.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.