THE SHIPS THAT WORE FALSE FACES
Complete Story, taken from The Hotspur issue: 1034 September 1st 1956.
A deep sea detective seeks a fleet of stolen ships!
THE MISSING SHIPS
A few days after he had brought the s.s. Condor safely to port, through the wildest Atlantic storm for years, Captain Thomas Jameson received the following cablegram from the owners—
“Request you come
Need special investigator. Dangerous proposition.
Wire reply—John Somers, general manager,
American Steam Transport Company.”
Captain Jameson was a man who could never resist a challenge. His reply was both short and to the point. “Catching first train,” he wired.
A few days later Captain Jameson
was ushered into the presence of John Somers. “Captain,” the magnate said. “I
am very glad you accepted my invitation to call here, and I very much hope that
you’ll accept my proposition.” Somers leaned back in his chair and placed his
fingertips together and stared at Jameson. “Tell me,” he said, “did you ever
hear of the s.s.
Captain Jameson’s frown had
deepened. “What exactly do you suspect?” he asked. “Nothing definite yet,” said
John Somers quietly. “But something which happened quite recently may give us a
lead. “As you know in each case, the crews disappeared with the ships. Well, a
few weeks ago, down in the South American
The skipper frowned, and then he read the typescript through again. “What’s behind all this?” he demanded. “Just this,” said John Somers quietly, “if you undertake this work I shall cause this paragraph to be published exactly as you see it here in all the San Marlino newspapers. If, as I fancy, the men concerned in this mystery have their headquarters at San Marlino, they will become alerted at once. In all probability, Captain Jameson, they will lay themselves out to murder you as soon as you set foot on shore. That’s why I told you my proposition was dangerous.” He spoke now with great distinctness. “Don’t you see,” he said, “if these men attempt to murder you, and you’re able to outwit them, you’ll at once obtain a line of their identity.” He relit his cigar. Jameson heaved his hefty frame up and adjusted his peaked cap. “I reckon you can sign me on,” he said. Two days later Captain Jameson boarded a ship for San Marlino.
THE K.O. DRINK
When his arrived at San Marlino, Jameson made no attempt to disguise himself. He went down the gang-plank, carrying his small suitcase and attired in his usual double-breasted suit of navy blue, with his peaked cap clapped firmly on his head.
He strolled slowly along the quayside, and finally came out into the streets of San Marlino. It appeared he was having trouble in lighting his pipe, for several times he stopped and applied a match to it. Each time he lit a match Jameson turned round as if to shield the flame from the wind, so that he was looking back the way he had come. On each occasion he noticed a tall, comparatively well-dressed man who was strolling along behind him. When Jameson entered the first hotel he came to, the tall man was not far behind him. As the ship had docked early in the afternoon, the skipper decided to explore San Marlino that evening. When he left the hotel he had effected several changes in his appearance. First of all, the suit he was wearing was very old and ill-fitting, while his peaked cap had given way to an old, battered felt hat. Jameson made his way towards the docks, and he hadn’t walked the length of three streets before he realised that his shadower was again behind him. Moreover, the latter was rapidly overtaking him. Reaching Jameson, he touched him on the shoulder. “Pardon me,” he said, “but you’re a Britisher, aren’t you?” “Yes,” said Jameson shortly. “I’m British all right. Name’s Captain Tom Smith. I’m trying to get a job in this blinkin’ hole.” “I’m English myself,” said the other casually. “I’ve got a job ashore here. But I like to help a fellow countryman whenever I get the chance. You’d better come along with me to Pete’s Saloon. Pete’s is a kind of clubhouse for all the men in the coastal shipping services. If there’s any jobs going you’ll hear about them there. What d’you say?” Jameson shrugged his shoulders. Pete’s Saloon it is,” he answered.
Pete’s proved to be a dirty-looking
den in a very dingy side street. There was no doubt about it being popular with
seafaring folk, however. The place was crowded with them. The stranger piloted
Jameson to a corner alcove, inside which were a table and a couple of chairs.
“What’ll you drink?” he invited. “Anything that’s cool,” Jameson said. The
other nodded, crossing to the bar, and after a short time he returned with two
glasses, one of which he placed in front of Jameson. “Swig that over,” he
invited. The captain made to pick up his glass, and then he suddenly stopped.
“Why,” he exclaimed, “don’t tell me that’s old Ted Phillips, from
Suddenly the engines began to
thump, and the ship began to move. Climbing out of the bunk he listened, but
the forward part of the ship seemed to be deserted. It was towards the fo’c’sle
bell that Jameson made his way, for he knew that the name of the ship would be
written on it. When he reached it, there was jut sufficient light for him to
make out the letters. The name inscribed upon the bell was the name of the s.s.
The lights from the docks illuminated the ship fairly well, and Jameson could see that most of the crew were congregated at the rails. Looking across at one of the ship’s boats, he read the name written on the side. It was the s.s. Raltone.
But as far as Jameson was
concerned, the mystery was solved. The ship he was standing on was actually the
BACK FROM THE DEAD
His watch done, Captain Buck handed over the wheel to the mate, and made his way to his cabin. He seated himself at the table, and, taking out what was obviously a kind of log book, he began to write in it.
Behind him, the lid of a locker gradually lifted until it was wide open and resting against the wall. Out of the locker crept Captain Jameson. Jameson coughed. Buck spun round in his chair. He stared as if he were looking at a ghost. Poised in his hand, Jameson held a gleaming knife he had taken off the cabin wall. Buck gasped. “It—it was a trick! You—you didn’t go overboard at all?” Next moment Captain Buck had been thumped behind the ear. Jameson tied and gagged his victim, lifted him into the locker, and closed the lid. He proceeded to search the cabin, and in one corner he found something that made his eyes gleam. This was an ex-Army tommy gun—with a few magazines of bullets. Shortly afterwards the door of the captain’s cabin opened, and a figure clad in oilskins came out. The hat pulled down well over his face, and the big collar was turned up. So attired, Captain Jameson set out to explore the ship. In particular, he wanted to find the wireless cabin. Entering it, he saw that the operator was seated inside. “Come out of it,” snapped Jameson. “I want to send a message.” The operator looked puzzled. “But—but you know nothing about wireless!” he cried. Then he stared wide-eyed. “Why, you’re not Captain Buck!” he gasped. “You’re—” Jameson’s big fist took him on the point of the jaw, and he went down in a heap. A few minutes later, Captain Jameson was seated in the operator’s place sending out a message. He spent nearly half an hour inside the wireless cabin, and at the end of that time he chuckled. Leaving the operator bound and gagged, Jameson came out of the cabin and locked the door. Then he began to stroll back to the bridge. Suddenly somebody let out a yell. “Here he is Cap’n!” came the shout. “Here he is.” Instantly from the bridge sounded the bull like roar of Captain Buck. “Get him, men,” he raved. “Make sure of him this time.” A bullet whizzed past Jameson’s head. He realised what had happened. In some fashion Captain Buck must have escaped from the locker. From underneath Jameson’s oilskins came the tommy-gun. Ready to swing the weapon into action at a moment’s notice, the special investigator came along the deck to not far from the fo’c’sle.
Here quite a number of the crew
were waiting for him. But before they could rush forward the tommy-gun had
swung into action, and a hail of bullets was whining over their heads. Swinging
the gun round, Jameson fired half a dozen shots at the bridge, and then he
raced for the bows. It was here, behind a big capstan, that he meant to make
his stand. From this point he could command the ship’s deck. All through the
night, the deck was lit by quick gun flashes as Captain Buck and his crew made
attempt after attempt to storm Jameson’s position. Each time a stream of
tommy-gun bullets forced them back. Then, far to the east, Captain Jameson saw
the sky begin to lighten. Dawn was breaking. Then his eyes narrowed, for,
coming along the deck was a queer-shaped object. As it drew nearer, Jameson saw
it was a great square of sheet metal. It must have been pushed along by men
hiding behind it. Jameson turned his tommy-gun upon it. But the bullets failed
to penetrate the metal. It still moved steadily forward. Jameson saw something
else then. Behind the metal a long, snake-like object was moving. It was a
hosepipe! A booming voice reached him from the bridge “You with the gun,” it
yelled. “We’re giving you a last chance to surrender.” “I’ll see you sunk
first,” bawled back Jameson. But he realised that against a powerful jet of
water he would be helpless. Already6 the men behind the steel plate were close.
Then from the bridge came a roar— “Let ‘er go!” Next moment a jet of steaming
water came over the top of the iron plate, and descended in a cascade upon the
capstan behind which Jameson had taken cover. The shanghaied skipper had not
guessed that Buck would use hot water. He leapt for the rails. For one moment
the crew of the
A cheer went up from the crew. They
were still chortling among themselves when a few moments later, a brilliant
beam of white light suddenly appeared in front of the ship. Slowly it swung
back towards them, and then it focused directly upon the ship. Next moment a
shell came screaming overhead, to splash into the sea in front of the bows. The
astounded crew, from the captain downwards, gaped. They were suddenly silent as
ghosts as they saw the long, grey shape of a cruiser. Quarter of an hour later
an American naval lieutenant had boarded the ship. “We received a wireless
message from a man on board this ship,” the lieutenant snapped. “A Captain
Jameson. He declared that he had been shanghaied, and that he was being taken
out to sea in order to be drowned. He told us that he had obtained proof that
this ship is really the s.s.
Two days later the American cruiser
nosed into the almost land-locked harbour of a certain small island off the
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2007