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Action Stories June 1940

CAPTAIN CUT-THROAT

By ALBERT RICHARD WETJEN

Thirteen brigands in a sleek-black bark! Greedy sea-wolves
scenting ripe pearl plunder in Typhoon Bradley's bailiwick.

TYPHOON BRADLEY broke one of the written laws of the islands when he interfered. It was at Funafuti, toward the close of the pearling season. A score of ships were anchored in the lagoon. Half a hundred canoes and whaleboats dotted the surface of the limpid water. On the beach was a small city of tents, shacks, huts and lean-tos, such as always sprang up when a lagoon was being worked. Native women and children were scattered along the sand. White men sprawled here and there on the hastily built verandas. Pearl buyers from all the world rested in the shade and sipped their drinks. Typhoon Bradley was sitting with Chang, the Chinese pearl buyer, when it began.

First of all a slender native, or rather a half-caste from the look of him, came hurtling out of the bar door. He fell heavily on the sand and the next moment there was standing over him a burly, tall man with a ragged black beard and thick hairy arms.

"I'll teach you, you nigger swine!" he roared, and the whip rose and fell. The half-caste writhed, tried to crawl away, was kicked back and at last resigned himself to whimpering and crying out, his head buried in his arms.

A small crowd gathered. No one said anything. A man had a right to punish his own natives. The Islands were not being tamed by prayers and good wishes. The South was raw and a man's crew might at any time turn and rip him to shreds if they thought him soft enough. Typhoon Bradley drew on his cheroot and frowned a little.

"Who is he?" he asked quietly. Chang shrugged.

"The bearded one? A Captain Tench. Came in two days ago with that rakish bark over there. No one seems to know much about him. The thin, pock-marked man standing by him is his mate, I believe."

The whip rose and fell, the bearded man swore viciously. The half-caste's back was cut and raw, beginning to bleed. Soon his writhing and screaming ceased. He had fainted. Still no one said anything and no one moved. But the whip lifted and fell with sickening soft sounds and blood spattered the crowd.

TYPHOON BRADLEY got up, shook off Chang's detaining arm and tossed away his cheroot.

"Don't you think that's enough?" he asked mildly. Captain Tench paused for a moment and glared at him.

"You mind your own damned business!" he grated. "The damned swine stole a belt out of my cargo!"

Bradley looked and saw the unconscious half-caste was still clutching a cheap, patent leather belt such as was used for trade in the outer islands, a thing worth, perhaps, two cents.

"Stealing's bad when it gets started in a crew," Bradley agreed, "but you don't need to kill the man."

"Shut up!" snarled the other and brought the whip down again with a vicious swish upon the unconscious man's back. Typhoon's gray eyes hardened and his six feet of lean muscle tightened a little.

"I said that's enough!" he snapped. He. caught the arm that held the whip, wrenched the weapon away and flung the owner aside. There was a silence that could almost be felt. Men stared. Captain Tench choked with wrath. The veins corded in his bull neck and the blood ran red in his face.

"You!... damn you!" he choked. Someone caught his arm.

"Careful there. That's Typhoon Bradley!"

Captain Tench hurled the cautioning hand aside.

"I don't give a damn who he is! He can't tell me what to do!"

"Listen..."

"Get out of my blasted way!" roared Tench, and he charged, his great fists flailing and his head lowered. Someone laughed. Typhoon Bradley was reputed to be the strongest man in the South and no one but a stranger would have been as big a fool as Tench.

There was a hard smacking noise and the bearded captain went sidewise and to the sand, sprawling a good six feet before he lighted. Typhoon Bradley rubbed his knuckles and waited.

Tench got up, shaking his head, undoubtedly surprised and sobered. He whipped 'round, cooler now, his eyes slits.

"Tough, eh?" he sneered and came in with the weaving gait of a practiced fighter. Bradley was no boxing man but he knew the rough-and-ready fighting of the outlands as few other men did. Even first-rate boxers are not always good fighters outside the ring, and champions have been known to be knocked out in a rough-house by men they could cut to pieces in a squared circle and under rules. But Tench was good. There could be no mistake about that.

He ducked Typhoon's right hook and landed with a stinging left jab that would have sent most men to their knees. Typhoon took half a step back and smack! Tench staggered, almost fell and covered up by instinct. He made the mistake then of going into a clinch and Bradley got him under the heart with a right hook that nearly broke Tench's ribs.

Tench was game. He came back, landed a right jab, crossed with a hard left and left himself open. Typhoon laughed and put his body behind his blow. Tench's feet left the sand and .lie was hurled twice his own length before crashing into the crowd and falling. He was out before his body hit the sand and his left ear was all but torn off.

"WELL," someone drawled, "he's pretty good. He hit Typhoon three times. That's one above the record." Someone else laughed. Typhoon stared at his inert foe for a moment and thoughtfully rubbed his knuckles.

"You ain't heard the last of this," a voice said beside him and he turned sharply to see the thin, pock-marked man who was Tench's mate. The man was snarling and obviously savage and his right hand kept clawing at his gun butt, as if he had a hard time to control himself. But you can't shoot another man on Funafuti beach without giving him an even draw, and Typhoon's gunbelt hung over the back of his chair near Chang.

"Are you proposing to fight too?" inquired Typhoon mildly. The other licked his lips, breathed hard and then shook his head.

"Not now, Bradley. But I'm Tench's mate and I know him. He'll get back at you some way. We've heard of you! Big guy in the Islands, eh? You won't be for long."

Bradley shrugged. "You'd better pick up the wreck," he said indifferently, jerking his head toward Tench who was still unconscious. The other glared at him, cooling off.

"I suppose you don't object if I take our man along too ?" he asked sarcastically. Bradley glanced down at the now groaning half-caste and shook his head.

"If he's your man he's yours. But I wouldn't beat him up any more."

"No?"

"That's what I said."

"And what would you do, big guy? Board our packet?"

"I don't know just what I'd do but it wouldn't be pleasant."

"You're not the damned magistrate here!"

Someone snickered and Typhoon smiled grimly.

"That happens to be exactly what I am. Appointed for the duration of the season."

THE other's jaw dropped. He mumbled something, backed off, then, calling sharply to several of his crew he saw standing about, he had the half-caste and Captain Tench carried down to the water's edge and taken on board the bark.

The crowd broke up, some few men congratulating Typhoon. He merely shrugged and returned to his seat beside Chang. It had been the first time that season he had ever had to interfere as a magistrate and then he had handled the matter outside of officialdom. When Typhoon Bradley held authority no one cared to cause trouble.

"He's bad, that Captain Tench," said Chang quietly. Typhoon nodded.

"Damned bad. I wonder what his game is?"

"I have been wondering too," said Chang dryly. "I heard a short while ago that he has Gentleman Harry on board."

"What?" Bradley ripped out, turning to st...

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