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Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 18 THE THAWING DEATH

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Rapidly, Doc removed metal caps from the ends of his fingers. These were of bronze. They exactly matched the hue of Doc's skin, and they were so cleverly constructed as to escape detection with the naked eye. However, one might have noticed Doc's fingers were a trifle longer when the caps were in place.

These caps each held a tiny, very sharp needle. A potent chemical of Doc's own concoction fed through glands in those needles. One prick from them meant instant unconsciousness.

This was the secret of Doc's magic touch.

Doc now saw men gathering astern. They were Ben O'Gard's thugs. Victory had evidently fallen to them.

A captive was hauled up from below. He squealed and whimpered and blubbered for mercy.

Two pirates held him. An automatic in Ben O'Gard's hand cracked thunder. The prisoner fell dead.

The man they had murdered was Keelhaul de Rosa. His proper deserts had at last reached the fellow. As an unmitigated villain, he had been equaled only by the devil who now slew him so cold-bloodedly — Ben O'Gard.

Doc Savage suddenly yelled loudly. His great voice tumbled along the ice-coated deck.

Ben O'Gard saw him, shrieked: "Get the bronze guy, mateys!"

Doc whipped over the rail.

This was what he had remained behind for. He wanted Ben O'Gard and the rest to follow him!

Chapter 18


Doc Savage sped away from the lost liner Oceanic. Bullets jarred showers of ice flakes from hummocks behind which he dodged. Other slugs ran about in the snow like little moles that traveled too fast for the eye.

Doc was careful not to offer too good a target. But he showed himself often enough to lure his pursuers on.

Yelling excitedly, huge Ben O'Gard led the pack. The walrus of a pirate was careful not to get too far ahead of his men, though. Once, Doc saw him stumble deliberately so as to permit the others to catch up with him.

The man was cautious. He had felt the frightful strength of Doc Savage once. In fact, he still wore bandages on his hands from that occasion.

Doc's golden eyes ranged ahead. They held anxiety. Had his friends reached the neck of ice?

They had. Doc could see Monk jumping up and down like the gorilla he resembled as he watched the exciting chase. Monk's yells even reached Doc's ears. They sounded like the noise two fighting bulls would make. For a man with such a mild voice, Monk could emit the most blood-curdling howls.

Doc quickened his pace. No doubt the pirates thought he had been going at full speed — for a chorus of surprised shouts arose as they saw the bronze man was leaving them as though they stood still.

"Shake out your sails, mateys!" Ben O'Gard bellowed. He waddled out ahead of his killer gang like an elephant. Then, seized with caution, he was careful to let them catch up.

Doc reached the headland. The ice pack had piled up here. Passing through it was laborious business. It was as though the houses of a great white city had been shoved into one huge pile.

Rifle and submachine-gun bullets swarmed like unseen hornets through the ice hummocks.

Doc finally gained the finger of ice. He sprinted. The footing was only moderately rough here, offering correspondingly less shelter.

There was one point where the ice neck narrowed. Thirty or so steps would have spanned it from one side to the other.

In the middle of this narrow place stood a slightly unnatural-looking drift of snow.

Doc sped past this snow pile without giving it a glance. A rifle slug made such a noise in his ear that he thought he was hit. But the hood of his parka had only been torn.

He doubled low, zigzagged a little — and reached cover.

Here, the ice finger widened again. Doc joined his friends.

Victor Vail stood to one side. He was doing his best to hug both his wife and pretty daughter simultaneously.

"1 hope you got a deck of aces up your sleeve, Doc," Monk said, his voice again mild. "If you ain't, we're in a pretty pickle."

* * *

AS MONK hinted, they were indeed trapped. For it seemed Doc had led them to a spot from which there was no escape. Ben O'Gard and his blood-thirsty pirates had already passed the narrow part of the ice finger. Regaining the shore was now impossible.

To continue their flight in boats, even should Doc have a craft concealed in the rugged ice near by, was also unfeasible. The pirates would have a perfect chance to riddle them with their machine guns.

Doc Savage showed no concern.

"Keep your shirt on, Monk," he suggested. Then, as a burst of rapid-firer slugs all but parted Monk's bristling red hair, he added: "And your head down!"

"Let the missing link get a lead haircut!" Ham clipped. "He needs barbering."

Monk leered at Ham as if he was trying to think of something — got it, and made his inevitable "Hoinck! Hoinck!" of a porker grunting.

Ham subsided.

Doc was now introduced to Victor Vail's long-lost wife. The introduction lacked something in courtliness, considering that it was made with all of them lying as flat as they could, with flocks of bullets passing but a few inches over their backs.

Mrs. Vail was a tall woman, fully as beautiful as her entrancing blond daughter, although in a more mature way. She showed little effects of her long years of isolation on this barren arctic spot.

Doc turned hastily to his men to avoid the heartfelt gratitude Victor Vail's wife sought to express, as well as the adoring look in pretty Roxey's eyes.

"Let me have a pistol!" Doc requested.

His friends were surprised. It was rarely that Doc used firearms on his human foes.

Renny handed over an automatic he had taken from one of his Eskimo guards.

Doc left them. In an instant. he was lost completely to their sight, so expertly did he conceal himself.

They heard his automatic crack once — then four times more.

They stared at the oncoming pirates. Not a man dropped. This was little short of astounding to the five who knew Doc well. Doc was one of the finest marksmen they had ever seen, even if it was seldom that he fired a shot. They had seen him toss up twelve pennies in a single handful, and using two pistols, touch every one with lead before it fell to earth.

Yet he seemed to have missed the easy targets the pirates offered.

"Hey — look!" Monk howled suddenly.

Behind the pirates, where the finger of ice narrowed, a surprising phenomena was in progress.

The ice was melting at great speed!

* * *

MONK WAS first to comprehend. "My chemical mixture for dissolving ice!" he chuckled. "Doc put a supply of it under that snow drift. He simply punctured the containers!"

Ben O'Gard and his pirates came to a stop. They had discovered the melting ice. That worried them. But their thirst for blood got the better of them. They resumed their charge.

"Come!" Doc called. "And keep down low!"

He led them for the end of the ice finger.

It became noticeable that the whole formation of ice was now in motion. Enough of the narrow neck had dissolved to permit the rest to break free. The whole thing was now an ordinary floe, plaything of the currents of the polar sea.

Doc reached his objective. He pointed.

"How does that look?" he questioned.

Monk grinned from ear to ear. "Heaven will never look any better to this sinful soul!"

The under-the-ice submarine, Helldiver, lay before them. It was moored to deadman anchors which had obviously been sunken in the ice by depositing a bit of Monk's remarkable chemical concoction.

They threw off the moorings, then dived down the main hatch.

Doc started the electric motors — there was no time to get the Diesels going. The Helldiver surged away from the floe.


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