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Authors: Nick Carter

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BOOK: Temple of Fear
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Johnny Chow went out and closed the door. Tonaka locked it. She went back to the divan and sat down, crossing her legs again with a flourish. She rested the Walther in her lap, the dark eyes watching him.
She gave him a triumphant smile. "Why don't you admit it, Nick? You're totally surprised. Shocked. You never dreamed it."
He was testing the handcuffs. There was just a little play. Not enough to help him now. But they were not snug around his big bony wrists.
"You're right," he admitted. "You conned me, Tonaka. Conned me good. The thought did occur to me, just after your father was killed, but I never went back to it. I was thinking too much about Kunizo and not enough about you. I'm pretty stupid at times."
"Yes. You have been very stupid. Or perhaps not. How could you possibly have guessed? Everything fell into place so perfectly for me — everything fitted so well. Even my father sending me for you. It was a remarkable piece of luck for us."
"Your father was a pretty smart guy. I'm surprised he didn't catch on."
Her smile vanished. "I am not happy about what happened to my father. Yet it had to be. He was causing too much trouble. We have organized the Eta men very well — the Society of the Bloody Buddha keeps them in line — but the Eta women are another matter. They were getting out of hand. Even I, pretending to be their leader, could not handle it. Father was beginning to bypass me and work directly with some of the other women. He had to be killed, as much as I regret it."
Nick studied her with narrowed eyes. "Can I have a cigarette now?"
"No. I am not going to get that close to you." Her smile came again. "That is another thing I regret, that I will never be able to keep that promise I made. I think it would have been nice."
He nodded. "It might at that." So far there had been no slightest hint that she, or Chow, knew anything of Philston's plot to kill the Emperor. It was a trump he held; at the moment he had no idea how to play it, or if it should be played at all.
Tonaka crossed her legs again. The cheongsam hiked up to reveal the curve of her buttock.
"Before Johnny Chow comes back I had better warn you, Nick. Don't antagonize him. He is, I think, just a little crazy. And he is a sadist. You received the — the parcel?"
He stared at her. "I got it. I thought it was yours." He shifted his glance to her full breasts. "Obviously it wasn't."
She did not look at him. He sensed the uneasiness in her. "No. That was — nasty. But I could not prevent it. I can only control Johnny to a point. He has these — these compulsions to cruelty. Sometimes I have to let him have his way. Afterwards he is docile and easy to handle for a time. That — flesh he sent was from an Eta girl we had to kill."
He nodded. "This place is the killing ground, then?"
"Yes. And for torture. It is not a thing I like, but it must be done."
"It's very handy. Next to the harbor."
Her smile was weary behind the makeup. The Walther drooped in her hand. She brought it up again, holding it in both hands. "Yes. But we are at war and in war terrible things must be done. But enough of that. We must talk about you, Nick Carter. I want to get you to Peking safely. That is why I warn you about Johnny."
His Took was sardonic. "Peking, eh? I've been there a couple of times. Incognito, of course. I don't like the place. Dull. Very dull."
"I doubt that you will find it dull this time. They are preparing quite a reception for you. And for me. In case you have not guessed, Nick, I am Hai-Wai."
He tested the handcuffs again. He was going to have to break a hand, if the chance came.
Hai-Wai Tio Pu. Chinese intelligence.
"It had just occurred to me," he said. "What rank and name, Tonaka?" She wouldn't tell him.
She surprised him. "I am a full Colonel. My Chinese name is Mei Foy. It is one of the reasons I had to remain so estranged from my father — he still had many contacts and sooner or later he would have found out. So I had to pretend to hate him because he deserted his people, the Eta, when he was young. He
Eta. As I am. But he passed over, he forgot his people and served the imperialist establishment. Until he was old and sick. Then he tried to make amends!"
Nick did not resist the sneer. "While you remained an Eta? Faithful to your people — so you could infiltrate and betray them. Use them. Destroy them."
She did not respond to the taunt. "You would not understand, of course. My people will never be anything until they revolt and take over Japan. I am leading them in that direction."
Leading them to massacre. If Philston did manage to kill the Emperor and foist blame on the Chinese, the
would be the nearest scapegoat at hand. The enraged Japanese might not be able to reach into Peking — they could, and would, murder every Eta man, woman and child they could find. Behead them, gut them, hang them, shoot them. If it happened the Sanya district was going to be a charnel house indeed.
For a moment the AXE agent struggled with conscience and judgment. If he told them of Philston's plot they might believe him enough to set an additional watch on the man. Or they might not believe him at all. They might foul it up somehow. And Philston, if he suspected that he was suspected, would simply cancel his plans and wait for another opportunity. Nick kept his mouth shut and his eyes down, watching the tiny red high-heeled slipper swing on Tonaka's foot. Light glinted along her bare brown thigh.
A rap came on the door. Tonaka admitted Johnny Chow. "The Russian is taken care of. How is our friend getting along? The great Nick Carter! Killmaster! The man that makes all the poor little spies tremble when they hear his name."
Chow walked to the chair and stood glowering down at Nick Carter. His dark hair was thick and tangled, growing low on his neck. His bushy brows made a black slant over his nose. His teeth were big and chalky white, gapped in the middle. He spat on the AXEman and slapped him heavily across the face.
"How does it feel, cheap killer? How do you like being on the receiving end?"
Nick kept his eyes narrowed against another blow. He could taste the blood from a cut lip. He saw Tonaka shake her head in warning. She was right. Chow was a manic killer, consumed with hate, and this was no time to goad him. Nick was silent.
Chow slapped him again, then again, back and forth. "What's the matter, big man? Nothing to say?"
Tonaka said: "That will be enough, Johnny."
He swung on her, snarling. "Who says it will be enough!"
"I say it. And I command here. Peking wants him alive and in good shape. A corpse or a cripple will not do them much good."
Nick watched with interest. A quarrel in the family. Tonaka swung the Walther ever so slightly, so that it covered Johnny Chow as well as Nick. There was a moment of silence.
Chow emitted a final snarl. "I say screw you and Peking too. Do you know how many of our comrades, all over the world, that this bastard has killed?"
"He will pay for that. In time. But first Peking wants him for questioning — and do not think that
will be pleasant for him! So come on, Johnny. Calm down. This must be done in the proper way. We have orders and they must be followed."
"All right. All right! But I know what I'd do to this stinking bastard if I had my way. I'd cut off his balls and make him eat..."
His rumbling of discontent died away. He went to the divan and slouched down, sullen, his full red mouth pouting like a child's.
Nick felt the cold seeping along his spine. Tonaka was right. Johnny Chow was a sadist and a homicidal maniac. He wondered that the Chinese apparatus had tolerated him so far. Men like Chow could be a liability and the Chinese were anything but fools. But there was another side to it — Chow would be an absolutely dependable and ruthless killer. The fact probably canceled out his sins.
Johnny Chow sat upright on the divan. He grinned, showing his gap teeth. "At least we can make the sonofabitch watch us work the girl over. The man just brought her in. It won't hurt him and it might even convince him of a thing or two — like maybe that AXE is all washed up."
He turned to glare at Tonaka. "And it's no use you trying to stop me! I'm doing most of the work in this lousy operation and I'm going to have some fun out of it."
Nick, watching Tonaka narrowly, saw her capitulate. She nodded slowly. "All right. Johnny. If you want to. But be very careful — he's as tricky and slippery as an eel."
"Hah!" Chow came to Nick and struck him across the face again. "I hope he does try tricks. That's all I want — an excuse to kill him. A real good excuse — then I can tell Peking to go fly a kite."
He hauled Nick to his feet, cuffed him a couple of times and pushed him toward the door. "Walk, Mr. Killmaster. You ve got a treat coming. I'm going to show you what happens to people that disagree with us."
He snatched the Walther from Tonaka. She surrendered it meekly and would not meet Nick's eyes. He began to have a nasty premonition. A girl? Just brought in? He remembered the orders he had given the girls in the geisha house. To Mato, Sato and Kato. God! If something had gone wrong he was to blame. His fault...
Johnny Chow pushed him down a long hall and then down twisting stairs, rotting and creaking, to a filthy basement where rats scuttled at their approach. Tonaka came after them and Nick could sense the reluctance in her step. She really doesn't like the nasty parts, he thought bitterly. Yet she does it because she's dedicated to her unholy Communist cause. He would never understand them. All he could do was fight them.
They went down another corridor, narrow and stinking of human feces. It was lined by doors, each with a tiny barred window set high up. He sensed, rather than heard, movement behind the doors. This was their prison, their execution ground. From somewhere outside, penetrating even to these dismal depths, came the deep lowing of a tug in the harbor. So near to the salt-washed freedom of the sea — and so far.
Suddenly he knew, with absolute clarity, what he was going to see.
The corridor ended in another door. It was guarded by a roughly dressed Japanese wearing rubber shoes. He had an old Chicago-type Tommy gun slung over one shoulder. The AXEman, as preoccupied as he was, still noticed the man's round eyes and heavy stubble. Ainu. The hairy people of Hokkaido, of aboriginal stock and not Japanese at all. The Chicoms were casting a wide net in Japan.
The man stood aside with a bow. Johnny Chow opened the door and shoved Nick into a glare of light shed by the single 350-watt bulb. After the dimness his eyes rebelled and he blinked for a moment. Gradually he made out the face of a woman enclosed in a shiny stainless steel Buddha. The Buddha had no head and from the truncated neck, lolling and limp, eyes closed, blood trickling from nose and mouth, protruded the livid face of a woman.
Chapter 12
Johnny Chow pushed Nick to one side, then closed and locked the door. He went toward the shining Buddha. Nick vented his rage the only way he could — he tugged at the handcuffs until he felt the skin break.
Tonaka was whispering. "I am really sorry about this, Nick. It could not be helped. I forgot something important and had to go back to my apartment. Kato was there. I don't know why. Johnny Chow was with me and she saw him. We had to take her then — there was nothing else I could do."
He was savage. "So you had to take her. Do you have to torture her?"
She bit her lip and nodded toward Johnny Chow. "He does. I told you — it is how he gets his kicks. I did try, Nick, I really did I I wanted to kill her quickly and painlessly."
"You're an angel of mercy."
Chow said: "How do you like it, big Killmaster man? She don't look so good now, huh? Not as good as when you banged her this morning, I'll bet."
That, of course, would be part of the man's perversion. Intimate questions asked under torture. Nick could imagine the leer and the frenzy...
He knew the risk, yet. all the threats in the world could not have kept him from saying it. It was not in his nature
to say it. He
to say it.
He said it calmly and coldly, his voice dripping ice. "You're a miserable, nasty, perverted sonofabitch, Chow. One of the great pleasures of my life will be killing you."
Tonaka hissed softly. "No! Don't..."
If Johnny Chow heard the words he was too engrossed to pay any attention. His pleasure was obvious. He twined a hand into Kato's thick black hair and jerked her head back. Her face was bloodless, as chalky white as though she wore geisha makeup. Her pale tongue protruded from the bloody mouth. Chow began to slap her, working himself into a rage.
"She's faking, the little bitch. She's not dead yet."
Nick wished her dead with all his heart. It was all he could do. He watched the slow trickle of the blood, sluggish now, in the upcurved gutter built around the base of the Buddha;. The machine was well named — the Bloody Buddha.
It was his fault. He had sent Kato to Tonaka's apartment to wait. He had wanted her out of the geisha house, which he had judged unsafe, and he had wanted her out of the way and near a phone in case he needed her. Goddamn it to hell! He twisted at the cuffs in a fury. Pain lanced through his wrists and forearms. He had sent Kato straight into the trap. It was not his fault, in any realistic sense, yet the onus lay on his heart like a stone.
Johnny Chow stopped slapping the unconscious girl. He scowled. "Maybe she
dead already," he said doubtfully. "None of these little whores have any strength."
At that moment Kato opened her eyes. She was dying. She was down to her last drop of blood. Yet she looked across the room and saw Nick. Somehow, perhaps with the clarity that is said to come just before death, she recognized him. She tried to smile, a pitiful effort. Her whisper, the ghost of a voice, quavered across the room.
BOOK: Temple of Fear
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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