Saturday, 23 March 2013
In the Toils of Tagore! Part x of y
In the Toils of Tagore!
CAPTAIN JUSTICE beaten by TERRIFIC and UNCANNY POWERS!
Part x of y
By Murray Roberts
From The Modern Boy magazine, 23 March 1935, No. 372, Vol. 15. Contributed by Keith Hoyt; digitized by Doug Frizzle, March 2013.
The Call to Surrender!
GREAT SCOTT—the Flying Cloud! She's done it! Got here just in time!"
Captain Justice, Dr. O'Mally, Len Connor, Midge, and the rest of the desperate handful of men who had so gloriously defended Professor Flaznagel's main workshop, on Justice Island, since dawn could scarcely believe their own eyes. Dazed, weary, half-stunned by the crashing shell-bursts which had at last reduced their fortress to a mere battered hulk, the little party stood limp with joy.
They were men whom only a miracle had saved from certain massacre. Less than a minute before—though it seemed like a year—the spectre of doom had leered in their faces. Backs to the wall, the exhausted garrison had prepared themselves for a last heroic stand against the savage warriors of Prince Tagore, Wolf of Bhuristan—the high caste, educated Indian who had raided Justice Island with disciplined troops, shells, gas, and grenades! The charging Bhuristanis had almost gained their objective. In another few seconds, triumphant besiegers and stubborn defenders would have clashed in the final brief struggle. But now—
"By James!" Captain Justice swallowed hard. He screwed his eyes uptight, then opened them slowly, as if afraid to find it was all a dream.
But no! The Bhuristanis were running right enough—running like terrified hares! Those same tall, hawk-faced warriors who had swept down upon the garrison so tumultuously were scattering wildly now, yelling, pointing to the skies, fighting each other in their frenzied efforts to get to the boats.
For there, out beyond the bay, the sleek, silver Flying Cloud, Justice's monster airship, was heading for the island at amazing speed.
Captain Justice's tired eyes shone. The Flying Cloud, with Professor Flaznagel and the rest of the captain's men aboard, was coming to the rescue in the nick of time. The SOS that Justice had managed to send out by wireless had been received.
"Forward, lads! It's our turn now! Don't give the swabs a chance to turn back and make for the hills!” exclaimed Justice suddenly, and stumbled on down the beach, his bearded jaw firm as granite, the sweat streaming down his hard, sun-tanned face. Dr. O'Mally, Justice's second-in-command, was at his leader's heels. Behind them panted Len, the young wireless operator, red-haired Midge and the rest of the island defenders.
BETWEEN Len and Midge ran Prince Budrudin Ananda, rightful heir to the throne of far-off Bhuristan—the Indian lad whom the Wolf, his ambitious cousin, had hunted half round the world.
"Buddy's" dark, handsome face looked pinched with strain and privation, but his deep, brown eyes flashed fiercely now with excitement and the thrill of victory. As he ran, he kept tight hold of the superb ruby that hung round his neck. For that was the most precious thing in his life—the ancient hereditary Tulwar of Bhuristan, the fateful talisman whoso magnetic power had brought the Wolf in pursuit of him to Justice Island.
"Cowards! Lubbers! Bilge rats!" shrilled the boy prince, in the unpolished English he had picked up from his rough-and-ready old friend, Cap'n Bully Blake, who lay seriously wounded back in the workshop. "Come on, scupper them! Sink the mutinous swabs! Pull up the socks, Cap'n Justice, sahib!"
Captain Justice & Co. were doing so. They were running as fast as fatigue, heat, and soft, yielding sand would permit. And the scrambling Bhuristanis had eyes only for the approaching monster in the skies.
"All right—slow up!" Captain Justice stopped short. "No need to waste breath. We can leave 'em to the Flying Cloud now! By Jove, Tagore and his fellow-ruffians are just about scared out of their wits!"
It was true. By this time every ex-raider had quitted the island. The surface of the small bay was dotted with dinghies and launches, all racing towards the powerful white yacht anchored out between the headlands. The cries of the demoralised natives swelled to a high thin wail as the Flying Cloud closed in. The splendid dirigible skimmed along, barely two hundred feet above the waves.
"She's got 'em!" babbled O'Mally, brandishing his rifle. "Bcgorrah, she's got 'em like rats in a trap! They'll never get that yacht away in time, and if they do the Cloud'll sink her!"
Captain Justice kept his eyes riveted on Prince Tagore. It was not difficult to keep that arch-schemer under observation, even without glasses. His tall, supple figure and the green silk turban he wore distinguished him plainly from the mob as he stood in the stern of the leading launch, vigorously urging the toiling dinghies to greater speed. His own boat swept alongside the yacht at last. He was the first to spring out on to the ladder, which he climbed with the agility of a cat.
For a second or two Justice lost sight of him after Tagore vaulted the rail. Then again the green turban bobbed into view. The Wolf, paying no heed to his rattled followers now, was making aft towards the broad platform-deck that extended out over the vessel's taffrail. On that deck, its metal sides flashing back the sunlight, stood a sturdy, long-range seaplane.
Captain Justice's lips curled as he watched the distant figure of his enemy lurch up to the plane. Then ho shot a calculating glance aloft and smiled.
"Trying to make a getaway on your own, are you, you beauty!" he said. “Leaving your men in the lurch, eh? Well, you're unlucky, my friend—you're too late!"
There was a yell from the watchers on the beach as a great dark shadow rushed across the face of the waters, dulling the yacht's whiteness. Next moment the Flying Cloud pounced, blocking the mouth of the bay with her tremendous bulk. Perfectly handled, she came round broadside-on, then sank lower under whining air-screws. She sank a fraction too low—and the yacht's foremast, snapping like a matchstick, crashed overside.
Then clear above the bedlam of cries and howls sounded the rattle of the airship's guns, spitting out their harsh call to surrender.
On the yacht, groups of cowed Bhuristanis huddled together, their hands fluttering in the air, their abject eyes fixed on the leviathan above them. Justice could see Tagore himself standing, arms folded and head bowed, beside the seaplane's wing. The Wolf's whole attitude proclaimed his defeat.
"And, by James," muttered Justice, as he watched the distant figure, "I'll see to it that you don't get another opportunity to make mischief on this island!"
Caging the Wolf!
SOMETHING like two hours elapsed before Captain Justice and his old friend and partner, Professor Flaznagel, were able to compare notes.
Meanwhile, the dejected raiders had been disarmed, brought ashore, and herded into a barbed-wire pen which had been erected on the beach for their exclusive use!
Young Buddy, overcome by weakness and excitement, had collapsed, and with Cap'n Bully Blake and the two wounded islanders had been removed to the garden behind Justice's shell-wrecked bungalow.
"How the deuce we're going to feed these infernal prisoners for long, as well as ourselves, the dickens only knows!" Justice growled; for the merciless shell-fire had laid waste store and equipment sheds, in addition to the men's quarters, the wireless-house, hospital, and Professor Flaznagel's laboratory and workshops.
As for the professor, never had Justice & Co. beheld him in such a temper.
"Monstrous! Wicked! By heavens. Justice, someone shall pay for this!" spluttered the scientist-inventor, striding up to the captain and his comrades after a tour of inspection. Flaznagel's short-sighted eyes were snapping with rage behind his huge, horn-rimmed spectacles. His long, lanky form quivered as he stamped to a halt.
"Ruined!" he blared. "My machines, apparatus, everything!" The old man tugged savagely at his straggly white beard. "Where is the leader of these confounded barbarians? Bring the scoundrel to me, someone! I'll teach him to destroy my property!"
One of the men marched up with Tagore, and silence fell as Justice & Co. surveyed their attacker.
By now, Prince Tagore, the Wolf of Bhuristan, had recovered some of his arrogance and poise. He stood calmly erect, turbaned head thrown back and a faintly contemptuous smile on his lips. His wrists were bound, and the escort's grip was firm on his arm, but neither indignity seemed to affect him in the least. Nor did he appear troubled by thoughts of punishment. Only the deep, hard glitter in his narrowed eyes warned Justice that the Indian's spirit was still unbroken—still dangerous.
Professor Flaznagcl, however, unimpressed by Tagore's disdainful bearing, snorted:
"So you're the saddle-coloured scamp who has caused us all this loss, danger—and inconvenience!" he stormed, and had the satisfaction of seeing Tagore stiffen at the withering insult. "You rascally bully! All this for the sake of vengeance on a mere boy, whose royal father you have slain simply to install your own worthless sire on an Indian throne! By Jove, it passes all bounds!
"You vandal! I am not in the least interested in your confounded Bhuristani politics, but I am interested in the wanton damage you have wrought here! And for that, as well as your other crimes, I shall see that you pay the severest penalty!"
"How dreadfully alarming!" drawled Tagore, in his faultless English, then darted, a flashing-glance at the captain. "Do you usually torture prisoners by compelling them to listen to this vapouring old fool?" he sneered. "Come, enough of this! For the present, I am helpless in your hands, but I demand the treatment that is due to my rank. May I remind you that I am Prince Tagore Ananda, of Bhuristan, and not a dog to be dragged about or cooped up in a wire cage? I will, of course, offer you my royal parole—"
"Thank you; I think not!" Justice's icy voice froze the man's insolence. '"You are a dangerous prisoner, Tagore, and you'll be treated as such!"
TAKING a sudden stride forward, Justice looked his enemy squarely in the eye.
"Also," he snapped, "I am telling you now that I shall exert all the energy and influence I possess on behalf of your cousin, Budrudin Ananda. You and your father—who, I gather, is but a puppet in your ambitious schemes—have robbed the boy of his throne and friends and turned him into an exiled orphan and fugitive. It is useless his appealing to our Indian Government, or any other, since Bhuristan is an independent kingdom, so I'll take the job on myself. By James, I'll not rest until I see Budrudin Ananda restored to his rightful position as Rajah of Bhuristan—if I have to hang you, your father, and all the rascally priests who aided you."
Thus Captain Justice proclaimed himself Budrudin's champion. Professor Flaznagel nodded his satisfaction, but Tagore stood very still. It seemed to have dawned on the imperious Indian that, in tackling Captain Justice & Co., he had twisted the tiger's tail!
The sneer passed from his face. As he opened his lips to speak, Justice made a brusque gesture.
"Baker," he said, "you will escort the prisoner to the Flying Cloud. He'll be safer inside, and we'll go deeper into this matter after a night's rest. Lock him in that spare cabin next the wireless-office—see that he is bound securely! Post a sentry outside, and give orders for a relief to take over every two hours. And feed him. That's all."
Baker shifted his grip a little, preparatory to marching the captured Wolf away. As he did so, Tagore wrenched himself free, with sudden violence, and thrust his distorted face into the captain's.
"That is all, you say?" he snarled, his eyes glowing like hot coals. "By the gods you are wrong, Captain Justice! This is not ended yet! You will win back Budrudin's throne! You will fight for that brat and wreck my hopes and plans!" He flung a taunting laugh in Justice's teeth.
"You puny fool! You feeble, dull-witted white clod, what do you know or even guess of the power of Tagore and the Priests of Bhuristan? Nothing! But you will! I tell you that—"
"Oh, take him away, Baker!" snapped Justice irritably; and the escort took another grip on his man.
When he had gone, Justice produced his cigar-case and tapped it meditatively, and Professor Flaznagel polished his spectacles with energy.
"A very pretty rascal, that, Justice!" he exclaimed, and shook his shaggy head. "Bhuristan, eh? Sandwiched between the Afghan-Kirghaz borders, I believe. Curiously enough, Justice, we have been exploring in that direction—surveying and photographing the hidden mineral lands in Kurdistan, to be precise. And really, I am positive that I have made some discoveries of great scientific value. Er—h'm! Yes, quite so."
Realising suddenly that his comrades were becoming restive, the enthusiastic but absent-minded professor brought himself back to the subject in hand.
"Naturally, we did not visit this Bhuristan country. To be candid, we really did not relish crossing the extremely high and dangerous mountains in that region; and I fear that if you are seriously intent on—er—invading Bhuristan you will find yourself faced with some exceedingly formidable obstacles. But, of course, my dear fellow," he added hastily, "we shall surmount them! I am with you heart and soul in this campaign on behalf of that most unfortunate youth—if only to punish his scoundrelly cousin and uncle!
"My goodness!" Again the professor blinked angrily at the blackened buildings, rapidly blurring into shapelessness in the dusk. "The villain has done us an evil turn! Thank Heaven we were on our way back to-day! Near enough, in fact, to pick up your rather indistinct SOS!"
"So it was little me and the wireless that saved the day after all!"
"Yes, that was good work, Len!" smiled Justice, clapping the young wireless operator on the shoulder. "But I'm afraid I've got to ask you to put in still more work on the wireless before the night's out. Go along now and snatch some sleep, and I'll leave word for you to be called just before twelve. Then get aboard the Flying Cloud and get through to Oliver, our Trinidad agent, by wireless. Tell him what's happened. We need a full cargo of supplies as quickly as he can get them out to us. And we'll want temporary frame-huts, and so on, while the township's being rebuilt. Is that clear?
"Right! Well, that ought to take about half an hour, I suppose, so when you've finished, Len, relieve the guard and stand by Tagore till you are relieved. Take a good look at his bonds, and see that he can't get up to mischief. Otherwise, give him anything he wants, in reason, and leave him alone. But have a sleep first—you need it."
"Right!" Len grinned cheerfully. "And if Mister Tagore wants trouble I'll give him that, too, and welcome."
"Now, doc," resumed Justice, when Len had hurried off in search of sleeping quarters, "you'll take charge of your patients, of course. Midge, you help Ham Chow to rustle up some sort of meal—and try not to scoff it all yourself, you imp! I'll attend to the guards round the barbed wire, and we'll sleep turn and turn about." Justice yawned, and smiled wryly. "I could sleep on a bale of barbed wire this moment. It's been what you might call a trying day!"
"Cut My Bonds!"
IT was eleven-forty-five when Len Connor, who had bedded down on the beach, was awakened by his leader. The tall youngster sat up with a start, blinked hazily at the stars while his drowsy wits stirred, then scrambled up. Captain Justice, he saw, was leaden-eyed.
"Gosh, you look all-in, skipper!" he exclaimed.
"I am rather tired," Justice admitted. "However, I've made my last round, lad, so I can turn in now, thank goodness! Here's a flask of Ham Chow's coffee for you. Be off now, and get in touch with Oliver !"
"I'll get him, sir. Good-night!" And Len was off.
The Flying Cloud had been berthed with her stern on the debris-littered airship ramp, her slender bows jutting out over the waterline of the bay and pointing directly to the ghostly shape of Tagore's yacht, which rocked at anchor three hundred yards off-shore. Len, refreshed by the cool night breeze, ascended to the airship's central car. In the communicating-way, where a single light burned, the sentry awaited him.
"Not a bit, Mr. Connor!" grinned Johnson. "Reckon he's a mighty tame wolf now, sir! Anything you want me to do before I pop off?"
"No, thanks, old son! I'll look in on him presently." Then Len entered the wireless cabin, where, for the next five and twenty minutes, he was busy wirelessing the stirring tidings to a certain discreet and energetic gentleman in Trinidad. Then he went next door.
Tagore lay on the bunk, fully clad, his wrists and ankles tied. A shaded bulb filled the cabin with soft light. On Len's entry, the prisoner turned his head.
"Ah! The estimable Mr. Connor, I believe?" he purred, shifting his position a little. Len stepped nearer.
"Is there anything you require?" he asked coldly, but politely.
Tagore stared at him for a moment intently.
"You are gracious," he replied at last. "To tell the truth, Mr. Connor, I am positively dying for a smoke—that is, if prison rules permit. None of my former guards would come near me, alas! My cigarette-case? Yes, it is here in my breast-pocket. Ah, thank you! That is kind!"
Len, whose good nature was a byword among his comrades, fumbled inside the Indian's tussore jacket, then took out a gold and platinum case. Captain Justice had said that the prisoner might have what he wanted—in reason. Len placed a thin brown Russian cigarette between Tagore's lips, lighted it, and the Wolf puffed contentedly.
"The Good Samaritan, eh?" he murmured. "I needed this, Mr. Connor. If you like to empty out the cigarettes, you may keep the case as a souvenir. No?" He laughed softly as Len shook his head, and eyed him keenly again,
"Let me see," he drawled. "You are the wireless officer in this most interesting organisation, are you not? Indeed, from what I hear it was you who brought this detestable airship in such haste to the rescue—yes?"
Len nodded. He began to back away, made uneasy by the man's curiously penetrating stare, yet unable for some reason to shift his own gaze. A frown appeared on his brow as he stood looking down into Tagore's tranquil face wreathed in wisps of smoke.
Len's worried air deepened unconsciously. He was no longer edging back, though he did try halfheartedly to turn away. He became dimly aware that a queer sensation of rigidity was stiffening his muscles, yet, oddly enough, the fact seemed unimportant. A return of weariness, perhaps. Tagore had begun talking again, in a flat, toneless voice.
"I—" began Len. But whatever remark he had intended to make halted on his lips. Again he strove to turn away, and again the impulse died. There was something wrong, he told himself. But what was it?
That smooth brown countenance on the pillow was utterly devoid of expression. Only the brilliant eyes had any life in them. But the pupils—almost jet-black they looked now seemed suddenly larger—more piercing than ever. And still Tagore lay motionless in his bonds, talking quietly, trickling smoke through his nostrils, and staring—staring—
It dawned on Len that Tagore's look had changed subtly to one of terrific intensity—as though with all his Oriental soul he was striving to do—what? Len's mind felt sleepy—clogged. Then suddenly a wild throb of fear fluttered his heart.
With every jot of mental energy he possessed, the youngster struggled to turn then—to fling off the weird inertia stealing over him—to fight against the Indian's hypnotic stare? A numbing coldness was spreading through him—the lethargy, as he realised with sick despair, of departing will-power. He tried to turn and run, but his feet were leaden weights. And still Tagore continued to talk gently at him through the cigarette-smoke.
"Yes, you are the wireless officer, Mr. Connor. It was you who summoned help," he droned on; then suddenly smiled, a slow, mirthless smile. Without raising his voice, he said:
"And now will you please cut my bonds, Mr. Connor?"
Len moved forward. His penknife seemed to come out of its own accord. The blade sliced through knotted cords. Prince Tagore of Bhuristan rose slowly, stretched himself, and rubbed his wrists.
LEN CONNOR stood and watched him. The young wireless operator's eyes were glazed, like the eyes of a sleepwalker. His arms dangled loosely at his sides; his face was a blank. He was in a state of suspended animation. One could have heard a pin drop in the cabin as the Wolf of Bhuristan studied his victim closely.
Tagore expelled a long breath at last, and lit another cigarette.
“And there you are, Mr. Connor!" he said. "As I explained to your bumptious captain, my young friend, there is much he does not know of Tagore's peculiar powers—of the powers of the East. Hypnotism, dear Mr. Connor—one of our finer arts! Being tired, you succumbed even more easily than I anticipated!"
His hands—long and slender—moved rhythmically to and fro across Len's eyes. But Len never blinked. Tagore shrugged, and flicked him spitefully on the chin.
"Ay, hypnotism!" he rapped "Now listen to me! You will do exactly as I tell you! You will obey every order! You are mine, do you understand? Speak!"
"I will obey," Len replied unemotionally. Again the smile lighted the Indian's eyes.
" Good! Now answer questions! Are there any more men on board?"
"Any men aboard my yacht? Has the yacht or the seaplane been tampered with in any way? Speak!"
"Two sentries on the yacht. The seaplane has not been touched."
"Excellent!" The Wolf tossed up his head exultantly. "Then I will inspect this wonderful airship now—the engine-room first, I think! Lead the way, Mr. Connor. And tread very quietly. Go!"
Len turned, stiffly as a clockwork figure. He opened the door, and marched unseeingly along the alleyway. His rubber-soled shoes made hardly a sound. Tagore prowled behind him, stride for stride.
All was as still and dark as a vault. They came to the huge forward car—the engine-room and nerve centre of the mighty dirigible. Len's hand went out automatically to the electric switchboard, but Tagore forestalled him. He shoved the youngster farther on into the darkness, then patted Len's pockets, and found his flash-lamp.
The torch-ray travelled down the long, narrow compartment, revealing rows of shining levers, the intricate array of control-dials and gauges, the four powerful engines, like sleeping monsters under their sleek, open-ended casings. For several minutes Tagore eyed, them thoughtfully. Then suddenly the swaying beam picked out a door at the far end.
The Wolf asked no question, but some uncanny flash of thought-telepathy compelled the mesmerised Len to speak.
"That door” he announced woodenly, his voice hollow and lifeless, "opens into the small laboratory which Professor Flaznagel maintains on board."
"Ah!" Tagore's eyes widened at the importance of the discovery. His fingers dug into Len's shoulders like steel hooks.
"You will stay here! Do not move or speak—understand?" he snapped, and was away in a moment.
Unfortunately, in his haste to get ashore, Professor Flaznagel had neglected to lock the door of the adjoining room, which was his most cherished and perfectly equipped laboratory, Tagore purred as he swept the torchlight across well-stocked shelves, shockproof cabinets and containers, and the wondrous collection of instruments, apparatus, and electric switches. Then he flitted across to a glass-topped bench and fell swiftly to work, selecting bottles, phials, and retorts with practised ease.
Twenty tense minutes passed in a silence broken only by the occasional clink of glass and the soft hum of an electric furnace. Outside, the silence of the night brooded over Justice Island undisturbed.
Tagore vacated the laboratory at last, walking with quick steps and hugging something under his jacket. He set it down with care, and flashed the torch on Len, who still stood as Tagore had left him, his dormant facilities chained to the will of the Indian master. Tagore nodded, then went to work again, faster than before.
Five minutes later the stinging fumes of acid tainted the air, and a flush of triumph darkened his face. He dragged Len out into the alleyway once more.
"And now," hissed Tagore of Bhuristan, "for my yacht! Since you were chiefly instrumental in capturing me, Mr. Connor, you will continue to assist in my escape."
“You will Silence the Sentries!"
UNDER the light in the alleyway the Indian halted, and again his hands flickered across Len's immobile face. Satisfied, he caught the young wireless operator by the wrist and stole on to the open doorway through which Len had entered the Flying Cloud.
Tagore peered out warily. Not a light showed anywhere down below, but he made out the dim figures of the sentries moving round the wire pen farther up the beach. He went down a few rungs of the ladder, and, craning his neck, saw a line of captured dinghies and launches beached beneath the Flying Cloud's bows. He chuckled softly, returned to Len's side, and once again brought his uncanny powers of thought-transmission into play.
The road was clear. In another moment the escaping Wolf of Bhuristan was climbing noiselessly down to the beach, Len following like an automaton. The inky shadows under the airship engulfed them both. Tagore eased a light yacht's lifeboat into the water and lifted his helpless assistant bodily on to a thwart.
For a second he remained staring up the beach.
"I would dearly love to rescue my men, Mr. Connor, but"—he shrugged callously and slipped into his own seat—"it is too risky, I fear, and I can always find more men. As for that brat, Budrudin, and the Tulwar" —Tagore scowled as he fitted an oar soundlessly into the rowlock—"they must wait, too! The battle is not nearly over yet."
Strongly, skilfully, the Wolf began to pull. The bows of the Flying Cloud screened the dinghy from possible watchers until it was safely out into the bay—a phantom shape amid black waves. In any case, there were no watchers near by—only tired men fast asleep on the sands.
Two yawning sentries on his own yacht were all that barred the fugitive's way now.
Half-way to the yacht he swerved off in a wide detour that brought him unobserved under the vessel's stern. From there he allowed the current to sweep him round to the ship's ladder on the starboard side. As the little boat floated on, he steered it deftly with one oar. Suddenly he pressed a heavy brass rowlock into Len's limp hand.
"And now," he directed coolly, "you will go aboard my yacht, and you will silence the guards! You understand? Go!"
Poor Len obeyed. Like one in a trance, he stepped quietly out on to the ladder while Tagore steadied the boat, and climbed up it. There sounded a quick, startled cry and the patter of feet as his head and shoulders loomed over the rail. Then a light flashed in his eyes and two voices sang out breathlessly:
"What's up? Great Scott, it's you, Mr. Connor! Anything wrong ashore?"
The guards stopped and stared, struck by Len's peculiar expression. Then suddenly, without warning—Thud! Crack! Swiftly, jerkily, Len's loaded fist shot out twice in bewildering succession.
Those punches broke down Tagore's last obstacle. Both blows snapped home with fearful force and precision, and the two sentries dropped flat, knocked clean out. Hearing the dull thuds on deck, Tagore came swarming up the ladder.
"Thank you, Mr. Connor! You are quite a hitter!" he sneered, snatching the rowlock and stooping over the prostrate sentries. "Yes, both insensible. There remains only one more task for you, my friend."
Chuckling to himself, Tagore seized Len and dragged him along the deck and up on to the bridge. At the head of the companion a machine-gun stood mounted on a swivel tripod. He jerked off the tarpaulin hood, clicked an ammunition drum into the breech, and swung the weapon round till its muzzle pointed down at the deck and rails. And then he snapped more orders into Len's passive brain.
"You will do as I bid you! You will not stir from here! You understand that? You are still mine!" he snarled. "By the gods, it will be a sweet revenge! Hark!"
A roaring explosion on shore shattered the stillness of Justice Island.
With the terrifying violence of a tropical thunderclap the savage detonation crashed through the night. It shook the air, set the seabirds screaming and wheeling, and jerked men headlong from their slumber. Captain Justice came staggering to his feet, and other figures sprang up all around him. It was Midge who first realised the awfulness of the catastrophe.
"The Flying Cloud!" he yelled. "Look—look!"
"By James! Tagore!" rasped Justice instinctively.
Disaster had overtaken the Flying Cloud. Through splintered windows and ports in the forward car smoke gushed—smoke that was tinged with the hot, red glare of leaping flames.
"The engine-room!" shouted a score of voices, and Flaznagel uttered a heartrending groan. These men rushed onwards, up the ladders, into the central car.
There they stopped. It was impossible to go forward into the danger zone, for the communicating-way was filled with dense clouds of smoke and bitter fumes. Justice sniffed once and clapped a hand over mouth and nostrils, his face pale beneath its coat of tan.
"Picric acid!" he gasped. "Set off by a fuse-bomb, too, I'll swear! Someone's been at the professor's laboratory! Back, everyone!"
Spinning round, Justice made a dash for Tagore's cabin. He was back again in seconds, bristling like an angry panther.
"He's gone! Connor's missing, too! By James, I'll—What's that?" Justice exclaimed fiercely, and everyone froze to a standstill.
IT was a sudden outburst of sound from the bay—the hoarse roar of an aero engine warming up! Justice reeled for a moment under the shock; the next he was on his way to the ladder once more.
"Come on!" he barked. "Into the launches! We might stop the beggar yet! Midge, tell the guards to watch those prisoners! Baker, take charge of the fire-squad! Follow me, the rest of you!"
Recklessly the pursuers slid down to the beach, piling into launches, dinghies—anything that would float. The increasing bellow of the seaplane's engines spurred them on. Justice's speedboat, piloted by O'Mally, won the race to the yacht. Without a word, the captain went aloft hand over fist, and then:
Brr-rr-rr-rrrr-r ! The crowning blow descended just as he drew his revolver and whipped over the rail. Only coolness and miraculous agility saved him in that moment. He clucked and rolled over, warning his followers back as he did so. From the bridge another burst of bullets slashed down, cutting up the deck, rattling against the rails. Justice's blood ran cold.
“Connor—Len!" he croaked, for at that instant the lights in the seaplane's cabin went on, casting a bright glow over the bridge and its solitary occupant. A harsh shout rang out from the boats in the bay. Captain Justice clasped his aching head.
He felt stupefied, unable to think or move. The Flying Cloud's engine-room wrecked, Tagore escaping in his own plane, and now Connor was covering the Wolf's retreat! Len was up there on the bridge behind a machine-gun, waiting to mow down his own comrades as they rushed aboard.
It must be a dream! Len Connor, sharer of so many of his adventures, would never aid Tagore to escape and turn on his comrades like this!
But it was no dream. There on the bridge stood Len, waiting to shoot anybody who approached him!
"Connor! Len, my boy!" cried Justice; but his husky appeal was blotted out by the sound of a full-throated roar as a huge, all-metal seaplane skimmed off its runway and zoomed into the star-spangled heavens, pursued by futile shots from the water. Tagore, the Wolf of Bhuristan, had slipped his chain!
With true Indian cunning Tagore has made his getaway, but he has not finished with Captain Justice & Co. yet. He hands them a VERY startling reminder of himself in Next Saturday's Murray Roberts thriller!
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.