Kenneth Robeson

The Pirate of the Pacific

Chapter 1


THREE laundry trucks stopped in the moonlight near a large commercial airport on Long Island. They made little noise. The machines bore the name of a New York City laundry firm.

The drivers peered furtively up and down the road. They seemed relieved that no one was in sight. Getting out, they walked slowly around the trucks, eyes probing everywhere, ears straining.

They were stocky, yellow-skinned, slant-eyed men. Their faces were broad and flat, their hair black and coarse. They looked like half-castes.

Satisfied, the three exchanged glances. They could see each other distinctly in the moonlight. No word was spoken. One driver lifted an arm — a silent signal.

Each Mongol dragged a dead man from the cab of his truck. All three victims had been stabbed expertly through the heart. They wore the white uniforms of laundry drivers, and on each uniform was embroidered the same name the trucks bore.

A roadside ditch received the three bodies.

Rear doors of the trucks were now opened. Fully a dozen Mongols and half-castes crawled out of the vehicles. They clustered beside the road.

Their faces were inscrutable; no muscle twitched, not a slant eye wavered. They were like a collection of placid, evil yellow images.

No weapons were in sight. But their clothing bulged suspiciously.

The first driver's arm elevated in another noiseless signal. The fellow seemed to lie in charge.

The whole crowd glided quietly down the side road that led to the airport.

Plane hangars were an orderly row of fat, drab humps ahead. Faint strains of radio music came from one of them. A high fence of heavy woven wire encircled both hangars and plane runways.

Near the main gate in the fence, a guard lounged. His only movement was an occasional lusty swing at a night insect.

'These blasted mosquitoes are bigger'n hawks!' he grumbled, speaking aloud for his own company. 'They must be flyin' over from the Jersey marshes.'

The guard discerned a man approaching. He forgot his mosquitoes as he peered into the darkness to see who was approaching. When the man came within a few yards, the guard was able to distinguish his features.

'Hy'ah, yellow boy!' he grinned. 'You can't poke around here at night. This is private property.'

The Mongol replied with a gibberish that was unintelligible to the watchman.

'No savvy!' said the g'guard. 'Splickee English!'

The Oriental came closer, gesturing earnestly with his hands.

The unfortunate guard never saw another figure glide up in the moonlight behind him. Moonlight flickered on a thick, heavy object. The weapon struck with a vicious, sidewise swipe.

The sound, as it hit, was like a loud, heavy thump. The guard piled down on the ground, out in a second.

* * *

THE other Mongols and half-castes now came up. They strode past the unconscious guard as though they hadn't seen him, passed through the gate in the high fence, and continued purposefully for the hangars.

No commands had been spoken. They were functioning like a deadly machine, following a deliberate plan.

Music from the radio was thumping a more rapid tempo — the musicians were working up to one of those grand slam endings. The radio instrument itself was a midget set, no larger than a shoe box.

Another night worker of the airport had plugged it into a power outlet on a workbench in a corner of the hangar. He lolled in the cockpit of a plane and listened to the music.

'Get hot!' he exhorted the radio, and beat time on the taut fuselage fabric with his palms.

Night traffic at this airport was negligible, and two men were the extent of the airport staff — this man, and the one at the gate.

The radio music came to an end. The station announcer introduced the next feature — a regular fifteen- minute news broadcast.

The man scowled and slouched more lazily in the plane cockpit. He was not enthusiastic about this particular news broadcaster. The fellow handled the news in too dignified and con ervative a fashion. He didn't set things afire.

'Good evening.' said the radio commentator. 'To-night, somewhere out on long Island Sound, the under- the-polar-ice submarine, Helldiver, is coming. The craft was sighted by an airplane pilot shortly before darkness. She was headed toward New York.

'Arrival of the Helldiver in New York will bring to a close one of the most weird and mystifying adventures of modern days. The submarine left the United States many weeks ago, and vanished into the arctic regions. Approximately forty persons started the trip. Yet the craft is returning to-night with but six living men aboard, the others having perished in the polar wastes.'

The man listened with more attention. This was quite a change from the news broadcaster's usual routine of foreign and political stuff.

Another fact made the news interesting and surprising to the listener. This was the first he had heard of the submarine Helldiver, on an expedition into the arctic regions. About forty had started out. and six were coming back!

Here was something worth listening to! Strange the papers had not carried a lot of ballyhoo about the start of the expedition! Explorers were usually anxious to get their pictures on the front pages.

The next words from the radio clarified this mystery.

'From the beginning. this polar submarine expedition has been a strangely secret affair,' continued the commentator. 'Not a newspaper carried a word of the sailing. Indeed, the world might still know nothing of the amazing feat, had several radio operators not tipped newspaper reporters that messages were being sent and received which disclosed the submarine was in the vicinity of the north pole. This information was something of a shock to the newspapermen. It meant they were losing out on one of the big news stories of the year. They had not even known the expedition was under way.

'During the last few days, there has been a great rush among newspapers striving to be first to carry a story of the expedition. They seem to be up against a blank wall. The men aboard the underseas boat sent word by radio that they wanted no publicity and that no story of the trip would be given out.

'Only two facts have been learned. The first is that but six men out of approximately forty are returning. The second bit of information was that the expedition is commanded by one of the most mysterious and remarkable men living in this day.

'That man is Doc Savage!'

* * *

THE news broadcaster paused to give emphasis to the name he had just pronounced.

The listening man was leaning over the cockpit edge, all interest. He did not see the yellow murder mask of a face framed in a small, open side door of the hangar. Nor did he see hands like bundles of yellowed bones as they silently lifted a strange death instrument and trained it on him.

'Doc Savage!' grunted the man. 'Never heard of the guy!'

The voice from the radio continued. 'Doc Savage is a man practically unknown to the public. Yet in scientific circles, he has a fame that is priceless. His name is something to conjure with.

'Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend a banquet given by scientific men here in New York. Many learned men attended In the course of the evening, I heard references to important discoveries made by Doc

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