Nick Carter, Detective: The Solution of a Remarkable Case

CHAPTER VI.
TONY, THE STRANGLER.

An ominous silence followed the captain's discovery, which was presently broken by the voice of John, who growled:

"Shall I stick him now?"

"No-no; wait. Haste never does any good. Besides, I want to question him before he takes his bath."

Some brandy was poured into Nick's mouth, and he presently opened his eyes, and looked around him.

He saw that five men were in the cabin with him, and realized instantly that he was in the hands of a gang who would not hesitate at murder, and by the expression of their faces he judged that they meant to mete out small mercy for him.

That he was right, the sequel proved.

The captain stood nearest him, and Nick noticed that his face was hard and cruel.

He also noticed another thing with a great amount of satisfaction.

The men were so confident of the strength of superior numbers, and the meekness consequent upon the force of the blow that their victim had received, that they had not thought it worth their while to bind him.

It did not occur to them that one man could get away from five, particularly when they surrounded him in a little cabin like that of the sloop.

"Who are you?" asked the captain, coldly.

"Jest what I was wonderin'," replied Nick. "I feel sorter dazed with the hit on my head."

"Answer me!"

The voice was cold and stern, and the demand was emphasized by the exhibition of a glittering knife held menacingly before the detective's eyes.

"I'm a river broker," said Nick, coolly.

"Let me remind you that we are not now on the open river, young man, and that this thing makes no noise. You were plucky enough when you knew that I would not shoot, but I promise you that I will cut if you trifle with us now. Answer me; who are you?"

"I'm Flood-tide-Billy. Ever heard of me?"

"That's too thin, my friend. We all know Billy."

"Do,eh? Allright. Then what did ye ask me fur?"

"Your name?"

"Well, ye got it, didn't ye?"

"Not the right one."

"Mebby you know more about it than I do."

"Why did you return to this sloop?"

"Why do I go to any sloop, or schooner, or any other craft? say!"

"Come-come! you can't play that game on us. We're onto you, my man. River pirates don't go around with wigs and false mustaches."

"Don't eh?"

"You're a fly cop."

"Am, eh?"

"And we want to know your lay."

"Do, eh?"

"Yes, we do, eh I We're not out here to-night for pleasure."

"Neither was I."

"For what, then?"

"Profit."

Nick had been gaining both time and strength during the short conference, as well as studying the faces and comparative strength of the men around him.

He had made up his mind to make a bold dash for liberty, relying upon his wonderful strength and agility to accomplish it.

He was still flat upon the deck, but to him that fact made little difference, for his muscles were so active that he could leap to his feet from such a position as quickly as from a chair.

The captain quietly took out his watch.

"I will give you one minute in which to decide whether you will make a clean breast of the whole thing, or die," he said. "Draw your knives, boys, and when I drop this handkerchief, you may make short work of the cop."

Five knives glittered in as many hands upon the instant.

"Fifteen seconds," said the captain.

Nick's eyes roamed from face to face, seeking that which belonged to the man whom he wanted to attack first.

"Thirty seconds."

Still Nick remained quiet, while the ruffians seemed to grow eager for the instant to arrive when they could fall upon him and hack him to pieces.

"Forty-five seconds."

Nothing could be heard but the ticking of the watch which the captain held in his hand.

"Fifty seconds."

Then Nick acted.

Like a flash of lightning he was upon his feet.

His fist shot out like a cannon-ball, and John, who was a little in advance of the others, fell back like a stricken bullock.

With cries resembling the roar of wild beasts, the others then threw themselves forward with uplifted knives and murderous hearts.

But again Nick was too much for them.

His foot flew up and knocked the knife from the foremost man's hand. His fist followed, and the fellow was hurled backward against his companion, utterly confusing them for an instant.

Nick quickly followed up the advantage thus gained.

He bounded forward and seized in an iron grasp the man whom he had just struck,

Then, raising him from the floor as though he were a babe, the detective hurled him bodily, straight at the now advancing men.

The human missile flew true to its aim, and three of the ruffians went down as though laid low by the sweep of a scythe.

The fourth was the captain.

He leaped toward Nick, doubly infuriated by the fact that he was now thoroughly satisfied that it was none other than Nick Carter, the little giant, who was before him.

But Nick met him half way.

With a lightning-like movement be seized the hand which held the knife.

Then, exerting all of his great strength, he bent the captain's wrist quickly backward.

There was a snap like the breaking of a pipe-stem, and a yell of pain from the captain.

Nick's left arm shot out and his fist landed with terrific force squarely on the fellow's nose.

Now was the detective's time, if ever.

He turned, and with one bound reached the hatchway.

It was closed and fastened, but again his strength proved too great for ordinary opposition.

In an instant he tore the hatch open and leaped out into the darkness, followed by the report of two revolvers and the ringing of a couple of bullets in his ears.

But he was unhurt.

The night was as black as Erebus as he bounded forward and crouched behind a small boat that was overturned upon the sloop's deck.

The men rushed upon the deck in their eager haste to capture him.

One of them had been thoughtful enough to seize a bull's-eye lantern which was already lighted, and with it he searched the water around the sloop as far as the rays ,would reach.

Of course he could see nothing of Nick.

"Let's search the deck," said one of them. "Mebby he didn't go overboard."

"Bah! d'ye think held stay here? Not much!"

"He's a terror, ain't he?"

"Lightnin's nothin' to that feller."

"Who is he?"

"Look here, Tony, there's only one man in New York who could do what he did, an' that's the young devil they call Nick Carter."

"Ah! the little giant.

"That's him, an' he's, got to be done up."

The man called Tony chuckled audibly.

"A job for me, eh, Morgan?" he said; and Nick was conscious of a shiver when he heard the exultation in the man's voice.

"Yes-you an' yer string."

"I am never without it, Morgan. The time I spent in India wasn't lost, and there is nothing like the string for making a corpse. Do you remember Red Mike?"

"B-i-r-r-r!" said Morgan. "You give me the horrors, Tony. I kin stand knifin' a man, or puttin' a chunk o' cold lead into him, but when it comes to windin' that cord o' yourn 'round a feller's throat, and a-makin' his tongue an' his eyeballs stick out like fingers, I ain't in it."

A low laugh was Tony's reply, and then the men began a search of the deck.

But they had no idea that Nick remained aboard of the sloop, and not expecting to find their man, the search was only a half-hearted one, so that the detective had no difficulty in keeping out of their way by dodging around the boat.

The light thrown by a bull's-eye lantern reaches only the point at which it is directed, and renders the surrounding darkness much greater by contrast.

This fact was a great advantage to Nick, and he did not fail to make the most of it.

When he had first heard, the word string mentioned in connection with killing he had become greatly interested in the conversation, and from the subsequent remarks made by the men it became evident that Tony was a strangler.

His reference to India as the place where he had learned the art of using his peculiar yet terrible weapon was full of meaning.

Everybody knows of that strange wild sect The are as stealthy as a cat, as determined as Fate, and as deadly as a cobra.

Eugenie La Verde was strangled to death. Could it be possible that there was any connection between her murder and this gang of men who made a sloop in New York Bay their place of rendezvous?

Had Nick stumbled upon a clew to the crime in Forty-seventh street, where he least expected it?

At all events he resolved to have a good look at the man Tony, and to learn more concerning the purposes of these five men.

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