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The Butcher of Hell

By Steve Fisher

Lieutenant Guy Carpenter, Navy Sleuth, Plunges into Fast Action on the Trail of a Brutal Killer Aboard the U. S. S. Arizona.

THE U. S. S. Arizona was moving slowly through the water away from the huge Panama sun that was sinking below the horizon, when Lieutenant Carpenter, criminology expert of the U. S. Navy, leaped from the motor boat, and clambered up the Jacob's ladder that hung over the crimson-tinted side of the ship.

An urgent command had flashed through from the Commander-in-chief of the Fleet for Carpenter to report to duty on a new murder case.

His service automatic strapped to his side, his thin lips clamped tight and his short black hair bristling beneath his white-topped officer's cap, the famous sea-going sleuth was ready for anything.

Two seamen stepped forward to aid him onto the deck. Behind them stood a broad-shouldered, red-faced commander. The man's blue eyes were wild, and his red hair, faintly specked with grey, was in a confused mess over his hatless head.

"Lieutenant Carpenter?" he asked. "Yes, sir!" Carpenter snapped, straightening his linen coat.

The officer turned and started down deck motioning Carpenter to follow.

Carpenter caught up. They proceeded down a hatch and into the officers wardroom.

"Lord—" the huge red-haired commander gasped, "this is a murder that'll make even you shudder, Carpenter. The crew doesn't know yet."

THEIR heels were clicking down a long corridor. "How long ago did it happen?" Carpenter asked.

"Just an hour or so," the officer replied. He turned. "Here's the room—er—you'd better go on in."

Carpenter pushed by the green drapes and into the small cabin. He stopped abruptly, and his black eyes widened. Tied up next to the outside bulkhead, his arms outstretched and his clothing stripped to his waist, was the gory sight of an officer.

His hands had been cut off, and the stumps that were his wrists had bled profusely and now were clogged with black-looking blobs of blood. Several deep slits had been cut down the officer's chest and blood had rushed out of them, but now it was stiff and hard and clung there gruesomely.

The face was contorted horribly. The mouth was hanging open limply and his eyes were wide, staring like glass buttons out past Carpenter.

A heavy hand fell on Carpenter's shoulder. The lieutenant turned about and faced the commander of the Arizona.

"HE was the marine captain in charge of the company of marines on board," he said in a dull toneless voice. "I wanted you to see his body just as it was found."

"Who found it?" Carpenter snapped.

"A Filipino mess boy."

"I'll want to see him later," Carpenter said, stepping forward into the death cabin.

The huge commander followed. "My name is Taylor," he said simply. "I'm the executive officer on board and I'm going to work this thing out with you, if you don't mind.

It's the most ghastly thing I've ever experienced."

Carpenter nodded. "What have you picked up so far?"

"This," the executive turned and brought a small shoe box from the officer's desk.

He took off the top and handed the box to Carpenter. The Navy detective took it, stared into the contents. Wrapped in the tissue was the white skeleton of a hand.

"This is pretty ancient," Carpenter commented.

"It's the only clue we have," Commander Taylor answered. "I don't believe the marine captain had an enemy. He was, in fact, a very popular officer with his men. The sailors on the ship hardly knew him, since most of his business was confined to his company of seventy-five detailed leathernecks aboard. Therefore, it's hard to believe one of my sailors guilty, and still harder to think that one of his own marines did it"

"Where did this skeleton come from?"

"Lewis received it just before we left Panama," Taylor asserted. "He thought some marine or army officer friend was trying to kid him. In Panama and around South America where the graves rot and the earth turns up, one could easily walk through a graveyard and pick up a dozen such specimens as that."

Carpenter studied it.

"Evidently, though," the commander regretted bitterly, "that old cluster of bones wasn't a joke—it was a death notice." He repressed a shudder as his eyes slid to the bloody corpse of the marine captain. "The poor fellow laughed over it."

The lieutenant nodded, his hard black eyes searching the room.

"Well," he said presently, "a knife had to slash the man's body and—" His fingers snapped. "Did you find the two missing—"

"Hands?" Taylor rasped. "Lord— that's the awful part of it. Getting this old skeleton of a hand and then having his own hands chopped off. No, Carpenter, we didn't find them."

"SOME one," Carpenter said grimly, "has those hands. He might have tossed the knife out the port hole and covered up any other prints, but for some idiotic reason he's taken what he butchered—the hands."

He looked up into the deep blue eyes of the executive officer. "That's our first ace."

"Shall we go to my room?" the commander asked. "I'll have them cut down the body, treat it, and shut this room until we get to port."

They stepped out into the passage-way and walked swiftly up deck. The tall commander turned in at a large stateroom and held the door open for Carpenter.

Carpenter sat down while the executive officer went to his desk, scattered his hands around in some papers, then lifted the ship's phone from its hook and gave instructions for the doctor and hospital corpsmen.

"I'd like to see the mess attendant who found the body," Carpenter said.


THE executive officer pressed a bell that was just above his desk. He turned on his swivel chair. Presently a sleek little Filipino edged into the room.

"I want you to tell Mr. Carpenter how you happened to find Mr. Lewis."

The small brown boy shuddered. His dark eyes were rolling.

"Me go to clean up room—"

Carpenter glanced at his watch. "You went to clean up the room— when?"

"I—er—just an hour so ago, sir."

"Uh-huh," Carpenter grunted. He turned to the executive officer whose eyes were blazing. "What time are mess boys supposed to clean officers' rooms on this ship?"

"Mornings, of course," the executive snapped.

"What about it?" Carpenter asked the mess boy.

The Filipino twisted his hands. Small beads of sweat were standing out on his brow,

"Sir, I—er—he rang for me."

"It would be a lot easier to tell the truth," Carpenter suggested.

Tears came to the mess boy's eyes. "I did not mean harm but Meester Lewis take away my money, need very badly, when gambling—"

"And you were going to steal it back, eh?" Carpenter asked.

The Filipino didn't look up.

"That's all," Carpenter said. The small servant looked at the commander for release.

The huge officer turned to Carpenter.

"Suspect him?"

The lieutenant shook his head. "A man of his size would have a devil of a time hoisting Lewis' body, and besides, his alibi is so shaky that guilt of murder is impossible. My questions are direct and if he'd done murder, the psychological effect of them would either break a man of his character or make him lie blandly, without faltering. He is, however, a thief."

Commander Taylor wrote something down.

"Very well, Banam," he said, "we'll take care of you later."

The mess boy was departing when the phone in the commander's room began buzzing shrilly. Taylor took it off the hook, listened intently. Then he dropped it and stared, his lips clamping together.

"Carpenter," he said hoarsely, "another murder has been committed!"

LIEUT. GUY CARPENTER followed grimly after Commander Taylor as he stalked up the ladder to the main deck, through the compartments of the marine guard and up another ladder, past the ship's main galleys and finally to the armory.

A young ensign was standing guard by the door while several sailors stood about, whispering, gawking and watching the proceedings. Commander Taylor pushed by the young officer as he and Carpenter entered the armory.

The first thing Carpenter saw was a broad, weather-beaten face contorted into a grim, hard look. He saw the lead-like lips drooping down and the blood still trickling from them. The second thing he saw was the stumps where the man's hands had been.

The deck was covered with blood. That there had been a brutal fight was evident. This marine's head had been bashed in, but that wound was minor compared to the other butchering that had been done.

ALONG the bulkhead there was a neat row of rifles. Laid on top of them was the white mate to the skeleton hand Carpenter had seen in the officer victim's room.

Commander Taylor's thick lips parted a little. His blue eyes were hard.

"That man," he indicated the gory sight, "was Nick Brooks, the top sergeant of the marines."

Carpenter's mind was turning quickly. "This makes the case much easier," he said, "as horrible as this second death is. It brings us down to an indicated motive of hatred. The hatred is for marines—and two who are perhaps the oldest and most serviced aboard."

"Yes? What does that mean?"

"I'd like to see the service records of both Captain Lewis and Sergeant Brooks."

"I'll get you Lewis' record," Taylor answered. "You can go to my office and the yeoman will give you Brooks'. I'll meet you there."

Carpenter stepped from the armory and went swiftly across the deck. He turned down a ladder, and hurried through a main deck compartment while several sailors gawked after him. It was dark now, and the lights had been turned on all over the ship.

The Navy detective went down the ladder to the engine room deck and forward to the executive office. He pushed open the door. Two yeomen, one at a desk, and another sitting in a corner reading a magazine, looked up.

"Let me see Sergeant Brooks' service record." The short yeoman who had been reading the magazine jumped up and jerked open a file. He fingered through it quickly, and brought out a small booklet. Brooks' name and service number were written on the outside of it.

Carpenter glanced through the pages. He saw an old entry and read it carefully:

Nicaragua, 1928: Commended for heroic services in action during native uprising. Saved two American lives and fought fearlessly against rebel troops.

He turned to the yeoman. "Are there any Nicaraguans on board?" The yeoman stared.

"Sir, you know the Navy doesn't ship in men who—"

"Any mess boys from Panama?"

"I couldn't say, sir. Most of them are Filipinos."

"Colon is an American possession," Carpenter snapped. "It's possible that we have one who came from there. Go through the cooks' records and check up."

The door swung open and Commander Taylor came in. Both yeomen snapped to attention. Taylor motioned them to be at ease. In his hand was the record of Captain Lewis. He handed it to Carpenter.

The lieutenant turned the pages, found an entry:

Nicaragua, 1928: Was second in command of company seeing action during uprising of natives. Commended for splendid presence of mind and expert handling of men during this conflict.

CARPENTER'S lips went together grimly. He turned to the yeoman who was pouring through the service records. The yeoman fingered one, at least, reading it carefully.

"Yes, sir," he beamed, "a man named Lopez, sir, a half-negro. He shipped in from Colon in '27, and was accepted as an officer's steward because the submarine base there was short of men. Later he was transferred to the fleet. He's on board now. Works in the first officer's mess."

Commander Taylor rubbed a hand through his red and grey hair. His red face was flushed a deeper hue.

"There's your man," Carpenter said coldly. "Let's go."

They stepped out of the office, and walked briskly through the doors that led into the officers' wardroom. Carpenter's hand stole to his automatic. He was walking beside Taylor and they were almost to the small galley.

Suddenly the lights went out!

A SCREAM pierced the air, shuddered down the corridors, and echoed back from the green bulkheads. And then, abruptly, a body thudded in front of Carpenter's feet!

There was a fraction of a second of tense silence. Commander Taylor sucked in his breath. Carpenter leaped ahead, crashed into the officers' galley. There was a still figure hunched in the corner.

Carpenter gripped his gun. The figure moved forward, leaped. Carpenter's automatic cracked out. The figure fell on its face, with a movement more rapid than a wounded person would make. Hearing a noise behind him, Carpenter whirled — and in that instant the figure on the deck came to life, tackled the lieutenant's legs.

Carpenter crashed to the deck. He felt pawing hands climbing over him. His gun slipped across the tile out of reach. He reached out for it. A hard, bony fist cracked into his face.

Carpenter whirled, his cat-like body of tense muscles reacted in perfect coordination. The man on top was hurled off. He crawled to one side to leap again. Carpenter met him halfway.

The two men became locked, and went crashing down on deck again.

The lieutenant's viselike legs were gripped about his assailant's waist. He clasped down tightly, heard a moan break from the man's lips, and pressed down tighter.

Then the lights snapped on.

Commander Taylor stood by the switch, Carpenter's automatic was gripped in his hand. Carpenter stared at the man he had fought. He was a khaki-clad marine corporal—a man his own size. His face was leathery, and there were hard lines about his mouth.

Carpenter released his scissors grip and scrambled to his feet. The marine got up, his green eyes popping. He had a flat nose that looked as if it had received treatment in the prize ring. There was a slight scar across his right cheek.

"I—gee, sir," he breathed, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry!" Commander Taylor ejaculated. Carpenter brushed his white linen uniform. "Well," he muttered, "explain yourself." The marine was stammering. "I was just in this mess room talkin' to Mendoza, the captain's boy, when suddenly the lights went out and I heard some one scream. I didn't know who you were in the dark and I tried to capture you."

"There was no one else in here with you?" Carpenter asked.

The marine was at attention. "No, sir."

"And yet," Commander Taylor said sarcastically. "Mendoza is dead. A knife in his back."

"He is?" the marine quavered. "What were you doing here in the galley?" Carpenter asked. "This is a restricted part of the ship for all but cooks, isn't it?"

"I came back to ask Mendoza some questions, sir," the leathery-faced corporal replied.

"About what?" Carpenter snapped. "About the murder of our top sergeant. He was a pal of mine and—"

Carpenter turned to the commander. There were several men outside in the passageway, eager to see what had happened. Carpenter indicated them.

"I think I'd like to see this man's service record, too," he said, "will you ask one of them to go and get it?"

"What's your name?" Taylor asked the marine.

"Hart, sir. Joseph Hart."

THE executive officer turned and snapped some orders. One of the mess boys moved away quickly.

"Were you in Nicaragua in 1928?" Carpenter asked.

"No, sir."

Carpenter shrugged.

"What kind of a knife was in Mendoza's back?" he asked the commander.

"Regular scullery knife, Carpenter."


The black-haired officer's eyes searched the galley carefully. Several large jars were under the sink. He went to them. Corporal Hart's eyes followed him. Carpenter jerked open the first one, then the second.

When he tore the lid from the last one he drew back. An odor of alcohol slipped up into his nostrils. He came forward again and peered in.

"Here's the service record," came Commander Taylor's voice from behind.

Carpenter turned and took the record. He glanced through it quickly, absently taking his revolver from the commander at the same time and putting it in his holster.

He came to the last entry:

January, 1935: At sea, en route Colon, C. Z., Hart was tried by a Summary Court-martial and found guilty of the following charges: (a) drunkenness ashore and aboard; (b) fighting several civilians, and smashing the front out of a store in Panama City; (c) evading local authorities; (d) hitting, while intoxicated, Captain Lewis, USMR, using obscene language and threatening to render him harm. The board found Hart guilty of all charges, specified and proved, and ordered the following punishment: to be discharged dishonorably from the United States Marine Corps upon arrival at port.

Hart's head bent a little. "I—er—" he stammered, "got a little too much and—"

Carpenter looked up. "A motive all written out, eh?" He passed on through the pages, and turned to Commander Taylor.

"Captain Lewis may have been popular, but here's one man who evidently didn't like him."

Hart gulped. "Why I thought he was a fine man, sir," he said. "As I say, you see, I—"

"You've said enough!" the executive officer barked shrilly.

Carpenter shook his head. "Just a minute, Commander." Taylor stared.

Carpenter turned back to Hart. "You can help us most by telling us what Mendoza told you."

The marine looked grim, eyed the jars.

"HE was going to say something about that jar down there—" Hart's lips clamped— "and tell who he thought was the murderer."

Carpenter nodded. "In the jar," he said coldly, "there are four human hands. Those of Lewis and Brooks."

The atmosphere froze.

Carpenter stepped to the passageway, and ordered the crowding sailors back to their places. They cleared away. The prone body of Mendoza lay where it had fallen.

"I've already sent for Lopez," the commander said, "I know you want to see him."

"That's right," Carpenter answered. The trio waited for the man who had shipped aboard in Panama. The galley was deathly still. Presently there were footsteps coming up the corridor.

CARPENTER felt the butt of his gun, but the white-clad officer's steward came up perfectly calm and at ease. His eyes held what looked to be a timid, frightened expression.

He was huge, and had a dark, South American mixture of blood in his veins. His hair was short and kinky; yet his eyes were almond-shaped like those of a Filipino. Carpenter judged his intellect to be on a par with that of a child.

The sleeves of Lopez's jumper were torn out, and the two huge black arms swung at his sides, bulging muscles rippling.

"You sent for me, sir?" he asked the commander in a slow, throaty voice.

"Yes, er—"

Carpenter interrupted him. "He's your murderer," he said calmly. Faster than a streak of lightning, the huge man jerked a small gun from his jumper. His arm swung with it. A shot crashed past Carpenter, spun the marine corporal around and sent him hurling to the deck.

Carpenter's automatic cracked with a bullet that tore through Lopez's jumper. Another shot lammed out from Lopez's small weapon. It missed the commander, and the huge man leaped in, crashed the butt of his gun on the executive officer's head, and in the same sweep slammed Carpenter across the temple.

The Navy detective staggered back, his head whirling. His automatic was still in his hand, and he snapped a quick shot at Lopez. The bullet ripped through the negro's right arm, his gun falling out of his limp fingers.

In a flash the black man whirled, and before Carpenter could bring up his automatic again, he had dashed out of the galley.

The detective swiftly followed. At the bottom of the ladder, he paused. Directly ahead of him was the steering engine room, a wheel shaft compartment aft. Gripping his automatic tightly, Carpenter ventured forward.

Suddenly a powerful black arm shot out of the half-gloom. The automatic clattered to the deck.

CARPENTER lashed out with his left arm, and heard a grunt as his fist landed solidly. The next moment, however, he was sent, spinning across the room by a jarring punch.

He saw Lopez leaping toward him, drawing a knife from his waist. Carpenter tensed his arms on the deck; and as the black man lunged at him, his feet came up, crashed on Lopez's jaw and sent the huge man hurling back.

Carpenter was up. Lopez clutched the blade of the knife between his fingers. He raised it over his head. Carpenter ducked, wove. The knife went whizzing by him. He crashed at the huge man. His fingers clutched at the black throat. Lopez gurgled, wriggled, tried to turn.

A clatter of feet beat down the ladder that led into the after steering room. Carpenter saw Commander Taylor, his head lumped with a large blotch of dried blood. Several sailors followed him into the compartment; the marine corporal, Hart, with one arm hanging limply.

Carpenter leaped to his feet, as the sailors jerked Lopez up. He turned to the commander.

"Lopez is the assassin, but arrest Hart also for his part in the plot— and for the murder of Mendoza."

Lopez gaped, his mouth hanging open. Hart's face drained of color.

"You told—" he screamed.

"No, no!" Lopez muttered, dumbly. "He didn't have to," Carpenter said calmly, "you slipped into the wardroom and killed Mendoza because he knew too much. You lied very well when you were cornered, as you had everything figured out to blame on Lopez."

Lopez stared at the marine, hatred bubbling in his child-like eyes.

"I—I didn't have anything to do with it," Hart muttered excitedly.

"Then why did you murder Mendoza?" Carpenter snapped.

"Because he—" Hart staggered.

"Because he what?"

Carpenter turned to Lopez.

"You're a Nicaraguan, aren't you?" The other nodded. "I thought so. Your people hold grudges a long time. Some marines shot up your town, and you swore to get even, right?"

The black man's eyes glittered. "Captain Lewis and Sergeant Brooks were the two men, during the siege of our village, who killed my mother. They shot off her hands!"

"You saw them shoot off your mother's hands?"

"No, but I was told that—"

"YOU'RE an idiotic fool," Carpenter spat, "and your weak mind will take any story and believe it true. Didn't Hart give you those skeleton hands, and tell you they were those of your mother?"

Lopez nodded, trembling.

"He did not give them to me; he said that I would find them in Mr. Lewis' room and in Mr. Brooks' locker."

"And you didn't know that he'd gone to some old graveyard in Panama City and picked them up, did you?"

"He—" Lopez's eyes flamed. "He told me Brooks and Mr. Lewis brought them back after killing my mother, for souvenirs."

"The truth is," Carpenter said quickly, "that you weren't even in Nicaragua in 1928, isn't it?"

"Yes," Lopez admitted. "But my mother lived there—"

"And you let Hart make you believe, you poor moron, that the marine captain and sergeant shot your mother's hands off?"


"That enraged you into doing those two awful murders, didn't it?"


HE whirled on Hart who was trembling under the flood of mounting evidence against him.

"Your plan didn't work out so well. In the first place no one could have thrown a knife and hit Mendoza, because Mr. Taylor and I were between him and the outside passageway. The light switch was right by the door. No one but you could have turned it off when you did."

"But, I, er—" Hart was gulping. Sweat streaked down his face.

Carpenter's voice cracked like a machine-gun.

"Tell me, Hart. Why did you want your captain and top sergeant killed?"

"I didn't, I—"

"Why? Answer me. Lopez will appear against you. You tricked him because of his childish mind. But he knows now, and you haven't a chance."

Hart broke under the strain, went hysterical. "Because," he screamed, "I killed a man in Panama, accidentally. The top-kick and the skipper found out about it and were going to kick me out when we got to port. Kick me out of the corps, and send me to the authorities in Panama where I'd get lined up against a wall and shot. They were the only two who knew about what I'd done, besides the men in Panama. Mendoza found out on the ship. So I got the bones and—" Carpenter's voice was calm, level again.

"Yes, we know the rest of the story." More sailors were crowding into the compartment.

"Take Hart and Lopez to the brig," the commander ordered.

Carpenter watched as the group proceeded out. He took a cigarette from his pocket, lit it, drained deeply. Taylor eyed him curiously.

"How did you know that Hart hadn't also committed the other two crimes?"

"Well—" Carpenter said slowly, exhaling some smoke. "It really wasn't so hard, after I suspected that Lopez came from Nicaragua." He exposed himself completely by stretching up the victim's arms and allowing them to hang that way."

"What do you mean?" Taylor prodded, puzzled.

Carpenter put the cigarette in his lips and drew in.

"The favorite method of painful death in and around South and Central Americas, if you recall, is crucifixion. It's been that way for years. Lopez was raised in that doctrine, and even though he cut off the hands, his fevered brain subconsciously made him crucify both Captain Lewis and Sergeant Brooks."

THERE was a gleam of admiration in the commander's eyes. "And now, tell me how in the devil you knew Lopez wasn't in Nicaragua during the shooting?"

Carpenter let smoke escape from his nostrils.

"Rather simple," he answered. "The Nicaragua shooting was in 1928. Your yeoman said that Lopez shipped in the Navy in 1927."

He put out the cigarette, smiling.

"Well—guess I'll be going back to my ship."