EM EM : monthly magazine - 01.07.1941, Blaðsíða 33

EM EM : monthly magazine - 01.07.1941, Blaðsíða 33
Em Em 33 i Tne eapranrs eyes naraened as |he met mine and a grim smile jcame to his lips. “I can think, 'lieutenant, of a very excellent jreason.” I waited, but he did not say jmore. He shrugged his shoulders lat last, as though trying to shake joff an oppressive and unpleasant iburden. Then he stepped briskly itoward the door. “You’ll have to excuse me, lieu- itenant,” he said tersely. “I want ito talk to you again, after I in- (vestigate this affair below. You ; can wait here or drop back in, say, jhalf an hour.” He looked over his jshoulder and added sharply: “And ' for the Lord’s sake, man, keep íthis matter to yourself.” "You needn’t worry, captain. ril keep mum. There is just one thing*more I want to^ mention. Francisco Carretos, who is minis- ter of finance of the Republic of Andegoya, is aboard this ship. I happen to know that he took pass- age at the last minute; he was scheduled to attend an important cabinet meeting in Caimora to- morrow.” “Well?” The captain eyed me curiously. I shrugged. “Carretos is a mil- lionaire. He has a 200-foot yacht which is in commission and ready to go. You must have seen her anchored in the harbor at Cai- mora.” Eldridge nodded briefly. “I saw her. . . . Well?” I didn’t think ít necessary to mention Mildred Baird. I said: “Doesn’t it strike you as odd that with a big steam yacht at his disposal he should take passage aboard the Alderbaron?” “Perhaps.” The captain nodded slowly. “Perhaps.” I took a step toward him. “See here, sir!” You said a moment ago there was an excellent reason why certain parties might like to sink this ship. Does the presence of Carretos aboard tie in with your theory?” Eldridge sighed. All at once he looked older, and grayer, and rather tired. “Carretos, you say, is minister of finance. . . . H-m. . . . Leslie,” he said shortly. “I don’t see the pattem. The pieces don’t fit. But I have a strong hunch that the pattem is there. And it is damnable, my boy. Damnable!” He turned then and hurried out the door. I heard him say, before the door slammed behind him: “Come on, Bailey! Let’s look jinto this thing.” r* CHAPTER III After a while I got up and went down to C deck. I found the pur- ser’s office still open. I got a pas- senger list, found Mildred Baird v/as in 205, and strolled up to the smoking room. Mildred was gone. But Carretos, with three or four otlicr men, was drinking at the bar. He saw me and hailed me. “Lieutenant Leslie! Come and have an absinthe frappe weeth me.” I had no desire to drink with Carretos. Was he drunk ? I doubt- ed it. He handled his liquor well. But why that look of tension, of excitement only partially sup- pressed? And why had he asked me to drink with him when but a short while before I had deliber- ately ignored him? I walked over to the bar and leaned there, look- ing at him. “I’U have a Scotch and soda,” I said. "You left Caimora rather unexpectedly, didn’t you, Carre- tos?” His slack mouth twitched and then grew tight. “Een Panama I have business. Unexpected. Boy! One Scotch and soda!” I never knew exactly when the Alderbaron started to list. There had been three glasses of whisky standing on the bar when I walked over to it. Now they began to slide to starboard. I watched them sliding slowly along the smoothly polished bar, and my heart began to pound. The steward caught the glasses, said over his shoulder to his as- sistant! “Break out that rubber mat, Joe. We’re running into a little sea.” I looked at Carretos. The tall Andegoyan was standing straight and tense, steadying himself with one hand on the bar. The color had gone out. of his face and left it a pasty yellow. One of the other men at the bar said: “I say, steward! What’s gone wrong here?” He showed no excitement, only a mild annoy- ance. “It’s nothing, sir,” the steward answered solicitously. “Just a bit of ground swell. I’ll put out a mat, sir, and then the glasses wont’ slide.” Only Carretos and I seemed to realize that the Alderbaron was showing no inclination to return to an even keel. On the contrary, the list was very slowly but none the less inexorably increasing. The steward was spreading his mat on the bar when Carretos ut- tered a low, strangling cry and leaped toward the deck. He dis- appeared in the darkness outside. I picked up my drink and downed it in three swift gulps. As I put the glass back on the bar one of the men shouted: “My tord, boys! The ship’s sink- ing!” I turned, as calmty as I could, and got out of there. The deck was still quiet when I left the smoking room. Several passengers who had becn dozing in their deck chairs were stirring restlessly. Three or four state- room doors were open and inquir- ing men and women were looking out on deck. But as yet there was no excitement or apprehension— only a mild disquiet. I walked forward with an out- ward semblance of calmness. I reached my cabin, threw open the door and turned on the light. The deck suddenly was dead; the faint vibration which comes from whirl- ing turbines was stilled. “This,” I said grimly to myself, “looks bad.” Frorn the rack above the upper berth I pulled two lifebelts. At that moment I heard a woman scream somewhere aft. A door banged. Then another. A man shouted, and his cry was taken up and carried along the deck. Some one raced past my door. Feet pounded. A woman broke into hysterical sobbing. And then panic, like a fire through tinder-dry grass, swept the big liner from stem to stern. With the lifebelts clasped under my arms I dashed out on deck, dodged into a passageway and reached the port side. A moment later I was at room 205. The door was open and I saw at a glance that the cabin was empty. Then I heard my name called and, swinging around, I saw Mil- dred Baird and Carretos standing at the rail. They both wore tightly strapped lifebelts. As I started toward them I was struck by the singular fact, of all the scurrying, frightened people on the Alderbaron, Mildred and the Andegoyan seemed to be the only ones who had had time to find life belts, get into them and strap them properly across their chests. Other passengers were dragging them around, struggling with them, trying to don thern. I won- dered. Had Carretos and Mildred known what was coming? Had . they had time to rehearse their J parts? ‘ The Andegoyan’s face was still a dirty yellow. He had none of 5 his usual calm assurance and I t knew he held tight to the rail to


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