Nick Carter, Detective: The Solution of a Remarkable Case

CHAPTER V.
TRAPPED.

"Hey, there!" said the captain, in a voice loud enough for Nick to hear, and yet with considerable caution.

Nick ceased sculling, but did not reply.

"Do you want to earn a dollar or two?" was the first question.

"Sure!" was Nick's laconic reply.

"Take me aboard, then."

"What fur?"

"I want to go down the bay a little way."

"Ye've struck the wrong party, boss. I ain't on that kind of a lay."

"I'll make it five."

"Haw fur d'ye wanter go?"

"About half a mile."

"What fur?"

"That's my business. Come, will you take me or won't you? I can't stand here arguing all night."

"Cops after you, boss?"

The man shrugged his shoulders and turned away.

"I'll take ye ef it ain't too fur," called Nick. "Climb in."

The captain returned. The boat was drawn up close to the dock, and with a quick spring the stranger alighted upon one of the midship seats.

"Now make haste," he ordered.

"Which way, boss?"

"Down."

"How fur?"

"Go until I tell you to stop."

Nick obeyed.

The tide was with them and was running like a millrace, so that they made quick time, and a mile was passed over in silence.

Then Nick stopped rowing.

"Say, boss," he remarked, "you said half a mile, an' we've already came over a mile. - Is the place much furder?"

"Only a little way. Row on."

"Well, I want my five dollars afore I go any furder.

"You do, eh? Well, look at this."

He was pointing a six-shooter directly at Nick's heart.

"I'm a-lookin'," said Nick, coolly, "but that ain't no five dollars."

"Will you row on?"

"No, not till I gits me pay."

"Curse you, do as I tell you or I'll put a hole in you big enough to see through."

Nick calmly drew the oars into the boat.

"Look ahere," he said, "wot d'ye take me fur, anyhow, boss? D'ye think that I'm a rabbit that I'm afraid o' that pop-gun o' yourn? Not much! Don't ye s'pose I know ye dassent use it out here at this time o' night?

"It's too early for killin', boss. I've done a job 'r two of that kind myself, an' I'm posted. Fork over, an' I'll row ye where ye wanter go, but I'm blowed ef I will ef ye don't, see?"

The passenger growled out something which sounded very much like a curse, but he drew a gold piece from his pocket and flung it to Nick.

"Now go ahead," he muttered, "for I'm losing time."

"Nobody's fault but yer own," was Nick's reply, and then he seized the oars and the boat shot ahead again.

"Easy, there, easy," said the passenger, suddenly. "Do you see that sloop yonder?"

"I do."

"Put me aboard of her."

"Keyreckt, boss. I've had my eye on her before."

"You have, eh? Why?"

"That's my bizness, see? To have my eye on such things."

"Ah! a river pirate, eh?"

"Me? Oh, no! I'm a harbor-broker. Here you are. Ketch hold of the rail. So."

The passenger climbed aboard of the sloop, while Nick allowed his boat to remain just where it was.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" asked the captain.

"Fur you. Don't ye want me to take ye back?"

"No. I do not."

"Nor come after ye?"

"No."

"What are ye goin' ter do? Swim ashore?"

"Perhaps."

"Well, good-night, boss. Be keerful of the pop-gun; it may go off sometime."

"It will be very apt to if you don't become scarce around here pretty soon."

Nick laughed lightly and pushed his boat away from the sloop. Then he picked up his oars and rowed away in the darkness.

"I wonder what he would say if he knew that it was Nick Carter who rowed him down the river to-night?" thought the young detective.

Not very far away from where the sloop was anchored was another craft of less pretentious build, although considerably larger.

It was a schooner, and Nick pointed his boat's prow directly at it.

The outlines were just visible, for the night was growing steadily darker.

Huge clouds were rolling up from the eastward, and the detective noticed with satisfaction that ere another half-hour the night would be literally black.

He reached the schooner, passed it, and then ceased rowing, allowing his boat to drift slowly back until he was thoroughly concealed behind the black hull.

Then an entire half hour he sat there and waited.

Darker and darker grew the night.

The darkness became so intense that he could not see his hand before his eyes, and great drops of rain began to spatter upon him.

"A perfect night for this sort of work," he mused, as he pushed his boat free from thes schooner's side, "and unless I am greatly mistaken, I can make fast to that sloop without being seen or heard. I'm going to try, anyhow."

The tide was still running very strong, and it was hardly necessary for him to do more than steer in order to reach the desired spot.

Not a thing could be seen. It seemed as though the whole world had suddenly gone out of existence, having naught but blackness behind.

Presently he drew in his oar and went to the bow.

He was not a moment too soon.

Knowing instinctively, rather than seeing, that he was about to collide with the hull of the sloop, he put out his right hand, and was thus enabled to prevent the shock and noise of a collision. Certain discovery would have followed, and his plans would have failed.

Thus far he had made not a sound.

Nick climbed aboard, and crept softly toward the companion-way, pausing every second step to listen, but hearing nothing.

He went over the entire deck, and finally descended to the cabin, - moving with the same stealthy caution.

Nick had almost decided that he had been outwitted, and that the sloop was deserted, when suddenly, without any warning whatever, he received a violent blow on the head and sank senseless to the deck.

"Did you lay him out, John?" asked the cool tone of the man whom we know as captain.

"As stiff as a door, cap."

"Good. Close the hatch so that no light can get out, and we'll have a look at him."

"Better chuck him into the river now," said John, gruffly. "I hit him hard enough to break a dozen heads."

"No. Do as I say. Time enough to throw him overboard when we know he's dead."

The hatch-way was closed and a light procured.

The captain bent over the senseless form of Nick Carter and closely examined his face.

"Boys," he said, presently, "this fellow is made up. He is a fly cop, as I more than half suspected, and he must die."

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