Nick Carter, Detective: The Solution of a Remarkable Case

CHAPTER IX.
A SCOUNDREL'S SCHEME.

It is needless to say that Tony, the strangler, went down beneath the fist of Nick Carter as though he had been shot.

Neither did he attempt to rise, for the force of the blow had rendered him as senseless as a dead man.

Nick drew nearer and regarded him earnestly, but an angry hiss warned him not to go too close, and at the same instant, two bead-like eyes, glowing like sparks of fire, swayed to and fro above the strangler's heart.

The deadly cobra was there, and with a serpent's wisdom, it knew that its master had been hurt.

With a shudder Nick turned away, knowing that Tony would presently revive, and that the snake would not leave him.

Fearing, however, that some person might come along who would attempt to rouse the senseless form of Tony and so get bitten by the cobra, he stepped into a door-way near at hand and waited.

No one came, fortunately, and presently Tony began to show signs of returning consciousness.

After a little he sat up and rubbed his head in a dazed sort of way, as though he wondered where he was and how he got there.

Recollection returned very suddenly when it did come, for he leaped quickly to his feet and started away at a rapid pace.

Nick followed, changing his disguise again as he went.

The opportunity was too good a one to be lost.

Evidently Tony had no use for cars, for he continued to walk until he had covered the whole distance from Forty-seventh street to East Houston.

Down that he went to Georck street, where he suddenly darted into the hall-way of a high and dirty tenement, house of the very worst description.

Nick was not far behind him.

The strangler mounted to the topmost floor of the house and Nick kept close behind, moving silently as a shadow.

He reached the door through which Tony had passed, almost as soon as it was closed, and his ear was instantly at the keyhole.

"Well!" he heard the gruff voice of John demand, "did you do it?"

"No."

"Why not?

"Let that be your answer!" and Tony pointed to the contusion between his eyes.

John laughed audibly.

"Ye found one feller that yer string didn't fit, didn't ye?" he jeered.

"It will fit you," was the meaning reply, and it evidently had its effect upon John, for he jeered no more.

"I went out to strangle the detective to-night," continued Tony, "because the captain wished him out of the way. Now I will pursue him until he is dead, because he struck me-because he defeated me."

"Mebby he'll be so fly that ye can't git the string onto him at all."

"Then there is another way, even surer."

"How?"

"Look!"

A loud hiss told Nick that Tony had taken the cobra from his breast.

"Ugh!" grunted John. "I hate that thing! What d'ye bring it here for anyway?"

"The cobra is always with me. We are never apart."

"Ugh! whew! Say Tony, I've had snakes afore now! but I'm blamed if I'd want 'em always. I don't like 'em."

"They were not of this kind."

"No, most of mine were green, an' some of 'em had seven heads. Say, put that thing away, or I'll have 'em again; it makes me shake all over."

"You're a fool, John!"

"Why? 'Cos I don't like snakes? Mebby so, but that's a matter of opinion. . Now that that pretty little pet o' yourn is outer sight, tell me how you'd use it to 'do up' the fly cop if the string didn't work."

"I would not use this one, but others like it."

"Ye've got more, hey?"

"I have many. What would be easier than to turn them loose in the detective's house?"

"By thunder! that's a great idea!"

"A bite from the cobra means certain death."

"But, I say!"

"Well?"

"Others would be bitten too, wouldn't they? The whole family, hey?"

"What matter?"

"Oh, nothin'; jest curious, that's all."

"So that the detective dies, I do not care how many go with him. And he shall die!"

"Shake, Tony."

The two men sealed the compact of death by clasping hands.

"When are ye goin' ter do it?" continued John.

"I shall try the string once more. If it fails me again, then the snakes."

"Can ye git in the house?"

"Have you ever seen a house that I could not enter?"

"No."

"I have but to open the front door, remove the cover from my basket and toss the whole thing inside. The jar and the sudden awakening will make the cobras angry. They will crawl out and scatter over the house. If they find a bed, they will enter it. If a person is there, so much the better, for it will be warmer. When the person moves, against whom they are coiled, the cobra will be angry again, for they have bad tempers. The person may turn over in his sleep and so roll upon the cobra; if so, he will be bitten. He may waken and attempt to leave the bed - if so, the cobra will do its work before he can got out of reach. He may wake suddenly and find a swaying head, a darting tongue, and two bright eyes within a foot of his face. He will scream with horror and attempt to escape. The scream and the attempt will be fatal. His only chance of safety would be in keeping perfectly still and closing his eyes, but what man would have strength enough to do it? Would you?"

"No, I'm cussed if I would."

"Next time you have the snakes, try it, John."

"I have, Tony, and then, instead of one, I would have four thousand, But say."

"What?"

"There won't be anything left alive in the house but snakes, when morning comes."

"No-nothing."

"B-i-r-r! I think I'd rather be hung."

"You will probably have your wish, unless you get familiar with my cobras."

"Which I'll take care not to do. No offense, Tony, but it strikes me that you're a snakey lot. Even the girl Eug-"

"Stop! How many times must I tell you never to mention that name!"

Tony's voice was intense with anger. He paused a second and then continued : "John, I swear if you speak that name again, in my presence, or allude to the manner of her death, I will set my cobra upon you by throwing him in your face. Remember, for I mean what I say."

"I'm sorry, Tony. I forgot."

"See that you do not forget again. You may rest assured that Sindahr will not. Bah! pass that bottle unless you want it all."

There were a few moments of silence, and then John's voice asked:

"When are you going to the 'nest'?

"Time enough for that when the detective, Nick Carter, is dead."

"Sure!"

"We can do nothing with that fellow constantly about our heels."

"He's a baby terror, he is."

"Ay, he has the strength of three men."

"Of three? A dozen would be nearer the mark. He's quicker'n a flash, an' ain't afraid of nothin'."

"He is doomed."

"Well, I'd rather be John Crispy than Nick Carter jest now. Where'd you meet him to-night?"

"At his house. He went in and came out again."

"Spose he hadn't come out again?"

"I should have gone in."

"And strangled him in bed, eh?"

"Precisely."

"That's yer favorite way, ain't it?"

"I like it best."

"When are ye goin' to try the trick on again, Tony?"

"The first time that I think he has gone to sleep in his own bed. Let him do that once, after to-night, and he will never waken. I will strangle him so quickly and so silently that a person in the same bed will not know what has happened until in his struggles he awakens somebody."

There were short snatches of conversation after that, but in a few moments the two scoundrels threw themselves upon their beds and went soundly to sleep.

Then Nick turned away, well satisfied to go home.

But his heart was filled with dread for his Ethel.

Of himself he did not think, but the recollection of Tony's threat, and the vivid description he had given of the consequences to be expected from the presence of cobras in the house, made Nick realize more than ever before, something of the danger to which he was constantly exposing himself.

"Ah, well; forewarned is forearmed," he murmured, "and I do not believe that Fate meant me or my beloved wife for a victim of Tony, the strangler. Tony will be after me early to-morrow, and I must be ready for him."

And he was.

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