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Weird Tales FEBRUARY, 1936

Coils of the Silver Serpent

By FORBES PARKHILL

A horrifying terror-tale of a gigantic anaconda and a murderous biologista story of a thousand thrills

1. Trail of Terror

UTTER terror was in the muffled shriek that arose from the penthouse. A man's scream. Bloodchilling. The despairing, horror-laden cry of one face to face with an appalling, frightful death.

It brought Patrolman Barry McClave bounding into action. He had been crouching, his ear at the keyhole of the door opening upon the roof from the stairway leading from the floor below— the last elevator stop.

Barry snapped erect. He spat on his hands, and his blue eyes sparkled with eagerness for battle as he whipped forth his automatic. He yanked the door open. Through the darkness he dashed across the roof of the twenty-eight story apartment building, toward the penthouse. Excitement and exertion sent the blood pounding through his veins. His florid face became beet-red. He cried:

"Man, oh man! What a break! And me little more'n a rookie! What'll Adell say when she hears——"

The blood-curdling scream cut him short. Without changing his grip on the weapon, he hammered on the penthouse door with the butt of the automatic.

"Open up, there! It's the law! Open up, you——"

The knob turned under his left hand. The door was unlocked. He kicked it open. That fearful, harrowing shriek burst upon him with piercing intensity.

He plunged forward. He failed to see the little, brown, monkey-like man behind the door, for his attention was fixed upon the figure dead ahead. A man; a man in evening clothes; a man with a pointed Vandyke beard; a short man, potbellied; a man wearing high, Cuban heels.

Oddly, it was the high heels that impressed Barry as he burst through the door. For the man had been facing the library on the left of the reception hall, and merely turned his head as Barry lunged in.

The young patrolman yelled:

"Where is Mr. Treheame? Man, what are you doing to——"

And then his question was answered, not by the short man with the high heels, but by Salisbury Treheame himself. Treheame, the wealthy, elderly broker who lived alone in an apartment on the eighteenth floor—whose uneasy look and whose half-expressed feeling of dread had led the officer on the beat to follow him here to the penthouse apartment of Doctor Cloxton Vroom, the zoologist.

Treheame came staggering backward through the library door. Coiled about him from knees to shoulders was a gigantic, silver serpent, an immense, thirty-foot anaconda, giant among reptiles! Its scaly hide was a leprous silver, glowing with faint phosphorescence.

One of Trehearne's arms was pinned against his side by the gigantic serpent's coils. With the other he pounded, clawed and scratched at the armor-like scales of the monster.

Never had Barry seen such an expression of stark terror on a man's face. Every vestige of color was drained from his cheeks. His eyes seemed about to burst from their sockets—whether from horror or pressure, Barry could not tell. His head was thrown far back. His mouth was open wide. From his throat came that heart-sickening shriek—weaker now than a moment since.

FOR an instant Barry was paralyzed with astonishment. An involuntary chill coursed up his spine. A musty, sickening odor pervaded the apartment.

"Help!" shrieked Treheame hoarsely. "For God's sake, help me!"

The screaming plea brought Barry back to his senses. He raised his automatic.

Doctor Cloxton Vroom, the pot-bellied zoologist in the high heels, was gloating. His eyes, so pale they were almost colorless, were opened wide. Thin lips were drawn back from white teeth. Oddly enough, despite his pot-paunch, Vroom's cheeks were sunken, almost haggard. He spat:

"So! Treheame, you played for time —too long!"

Vroom was unarmed. At the moment, he seemed in the grip of some sort of hypnosis, for he evidenced no fear of the officer or his weapon.

Barry trained his pistol on the squirming, twisting, silvery folds of the monster reptile. But the instant he was ready to fire, the serpent had twisted with its prey. The steel-jacketed bullet would have pierced Trehearne's body, as well as the serpent's.

Barry dared not fire. The silvery anaconda's head was arched, weaving back and forth in front of Trehearne's eyes. Barry saw its powerful folds constrict.

An explosive gasp came from Treheame's mouth as the last bit of breath was squeezed from his lungs. Barry heard two or three short, sharp little reports, as of twigs snapping. He knew it was the bones of Treheame's pinioned arm, and perhaps his ribs, breaking under the terrific pressure.

Suddenly Treheame went limp. His jaw sagged, his head fell lolling back. His free arm dangled loose. His knees buckled. Serpent and man plopped to the floor.

Barry whirled on the zoologist.

"You—you devil!" he exploded. "Get that—that thing off of Treheame—man, do you hear me?—before I kill you!"

He leveled his automatic. From the comer of his eye he could see the jaws of the monstrous silver serpent distending— distending tremendously. He had read that such reptiles could swallow an ox easily. He shuddered. Was this fearful reptile about to——

Cloxton Vroom went white. He leaped sidewise, behind a huge, Indian pottery vase. His colorless eyes shot past Barry. They rested upon the little, brown, monkey-like man behind the door.

"Cariaco!" he bleated appealingly. "Kill him, Cariaco!"

The little monkey-man snatched a machete from the wall. He bounded toward Barry like a spider-monkey leaping from tree to tree.

Barry whirled, just as the machete descended. Primal instinct led him to throw up his arm to protect himself, rather than to send a bullet into the little brown man.

Cariaco's arm glanced off the patrolman's. Instead of the edge, the flat of the blade descended glancingly, shearing away Barry's cap and striking him upon the skull.

The pistol dropped from his fingers. He pitched forward upon the thick carpet. He was still semi-conscious, but the blow from the machete had sapped his strength. Through the ringing in his ears he could hear Vroom saying:

"So! It is well, Cariaco!... Tie him up, so! Swiftly, swiftly, Cariaco, while I drive this beast back to its cage!"

Barry was conscious that the little monkey-like brown man was lashing his ankles and wrists. He tried to struggle, but his sinews refused to respond to the lash of his will. He was dazed, partly unconscious, and incapable of protecting himself.

He could hear the tap of Vroom's high heels as the pot-bellied zoologist sped into the library. And then, a moment later, shouts and stamping.

"Back! ... Away, you demon from hell! ... Back to your cage, you silver rascal! ... So! You would, would you? Take that!"

Barry's brain was beginning to clear. He opened his eyes. He was on his bade. On a stand just above him he saw a deCanter. He longed for a stiff swig from the decanter. His lips were fearfully dry. He rolled his head sidewise.

There, on the floor, lay a shapeless thing, a formless something, within the clothing of a man—Trehearne's clothing. The trunk was elongated. Barry blinked. But it had Treheame's head.

Barry's stomach suddenly went cold and roily. He rolled his head to the other side. There was Vroom, stamping his high heels and shouting, as he drove the gigantic silver serpent back from its prey. The reptile was weaving and darting. Vroom lunged and struck at it with a red-hot poker.

"Back!" he shouted, and stamped. "Back, I tell you!"

BARRY saw the immense serpent swing swiftly sidewise. With a movement almost as swift as lightning, its blunt head shot past the stamping zoologist. Its scaly body slithered and scraped across the floor.

"So!" croaked Vroom savagely. "So! You want your supper, eh?... Take that!... I'll show you who's master here!... So!"

The glowing poker slashed through the air. It...

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