"Pontoon" Jack Carnac
Hell hath the Hindenburg!

A 10-chapter novella

By Jeffrey Blair Latta

Previously: Setting out to rescue Jack, Skook stepped in a leghold trap and was about to be shot when a timely arrow saved his life. The mysterious author of that arrow stepped out of the trees...Meanwhile, in the hidden base, Dubois, Jack's rival, seemed to be playing some game of his own, having failed to tell his "master", Reichnitzer, about Skook. Reichnitzer, wanted to know where Jack hid the crate whose contents could mean "the end of the world!" When Jack refused to talk, Reichnitzer ordered the girl, Angelique, thrown into the cage with the man-beast, Keewaykeno...

Episode Seven:

"I Kill Them All!"

While the guard with the whip stood watch, the other guard unlocked the door of the cage. Instantly, the massive creature shot to its feet and started forward.

"Nein!" exclaimed the guard, and the whip shot between the bars, cracking viciously across the brute's hairy shoulders.

With a cry of pain, the beast reeled back. It was evident both guards were terrified of the thing. Hurriedly the second guard flung the girl into the cage, then threw closed the door.

Angelique landed sprawled on the floor, twisting even as she fell and crawling frantically to the opposite corner away from the giant ape. There she crouched, nearly naked in the tatters of her dress, dark eyes wide with terror, her slim body shivering.

But she didn't reveal the location of the package; not even with certain death only moments away. Jack's heart pounded to see such bravery.

"In the name of God, m'sieu!" cried Michel from the floor. "That thing will tear 'er to pieces! My sister! If you know where the package is 'idden, you must tell them!"

But now Reichnitzer gave another command--this one evidently directed at the monster. "Kill her! Keewaykeno, kill the girl!"

For a moment, the creature hesitated. Then it began to shamble forward, toward the small, trembling thing cringing in the dark corner of its cage. The girl drew back with a scream, one hand flying to her lips. The creature paused abruptly at the sound. Reichnitzer snarled in disgust.

"Encourage him," he hissed.

The guard lashed through the bars with the whip. It struck the creature across the back and the beast started forward again.

Jack had had enough. Whatever the cost, he could not let the girl be torn to pieces by that thing. He would tell them what they wanted to know. Perhaps, if he was lucky, Skook might already have moved the package to another hiding place.

He had barely drawn a breath, though, preparing to reveal his secret--when the ape-creature paused again. Once more, the guard lashed the thing across its broad, hairy shoulders. But, this time, though the monster flinched, it refused to take a step closer to the whimpering girl. Again and again the whip flew, cracking loudly in the cabin--but it was useless. The creature simply stood there, regarding the girl with oddly wondering eyes.

Suddenly Jack recalled the scene in the night, when the creature had knelt and gently brushed the hair from the unconscious girl's face. Was it possible? Had the beast developed some sort of affection for the girl? In killing the bull moose, perhaps it had been...protecting her? It was bizarre, but how else to explain what he was seeing?

For, now, tormented by the whip, the ape-creature turned and shuffled back to its dark corner. Once more, it squatted on his mighty haunches. Though the whip continued to find it there, the beast would not budge. It just sat, its dark, glittering eyes watching the trembling girl, watching with a steady, strangely longing gaze.

Herr Reichnitzer was not pleased...

The girl's name was Kachesy.

It meant "Little Hare" in her native tongue, Cree. It was she who had saved Skook when death had seemed so certain. Her arrow had found its mark and to her he owed his life.

But there wasn't time for thank yous.

Recognizing the guard would not have been alone, Kachesy had quickly freed the burly engineer from the leghold trap and helped him to stand. The trap had done no permanent damage, but still Skook could walk only with her assistance. As they stumbled through the mysterious gloom of the waking forest, Skook found himself again and again casting furtive glances down into the young face of his female saviour.

She was beautiful, breathlessly so, in a wholesome, natural way. Her body was lithely supple, with long raven hair and deep, lustrous eyes. Her features were elfin, softly delicate, with satiny brown skin molded over high regal cheekbones. She wore a thigh-length shift of soft fringed doe-skin gaily ornamented with coloured porcupine quills, a band around her forehead and throat, and ankle-length moccasins on her small shapely feet. She carried a quiver filled with arrows on her back, and a bow in one hand.

She was a mystery, one which baffled the engineer the whole way. Where had she come from? There were no villages around here. And her skill with the bow and arrow was remarkable. But Skook did not dare ask questions for fear they should be overheard in their flight. And so they continued on in silence.

Eventually, they reached their destination. As they stopped, Skook frowned wonderingly. Before them towered a massive chico, a standing tree of "dry" wood, long dead from an ancient lightning strike. A bush apparently grew beside the chico--apparently, that is, until the girl spread the branches revealing a hole in the pale bole purposely concealed by the foliage. She helped Skook through the hole and into the hollow trunk.

The interior was as roomy as a teepee, and soft fragrant pine boughs had been spread on the floor. While Skook watched in silence, Kachesy made a fire, the smoke escaping greyly through a hole overhead. Soon sparks showered the darkness, the light casting wondrously shifting shadows across the girl's lovely concentrating features. She put on tea and made bannock--all without saying a word.

Then, finally, as they settled down to eat, she spoke.

"Josef Oleskow was my husband," she told him, her lush voice quiet, choked with emotion. "We were not married in any official sense, but we were husband and wife just the same. You understand?"

Skook nodded. Out here, in the Keewaydin, men and women often formed unions which would never have been accepted in the so-called civilized world, the "Outside". Here, in the ageless North, where each day brought new challenges and struggles, hardships and perhaps even death, the bonds formed were far stronger and more permanent that mere ritual and law could accomplish.

"He was always looking for colour--gold," she continued. "Always hunting for the motherload. We met on the Yellowknife and fell in love. I've travelled with him ever since, caring for him." A small remembering smile touched her lips. It seemed to light the gloom like the morning sun.

Then the smile vanished. Fear entered her dark eyes, thrummed in her voice.

"Two months ago, men came to these woods. Josef saw them land on the lake in their bushplanes. He saw the bands they wore on their arms and he grew frightened. He told me to run and hide in the woods. I didn't want to but I obeyed. The men came..." She paused, swallowing. Tears brimmed in her eyes, fingers clenched in her lap. "They took him behind the cabin and shot him--in the back of the head, they shot him. There was no reason, no argument. They simply killed the man I loved."

"Oui," nodded Skook grimly. "Je sais. We found 'is body."

Abruptly, a remarkable transformation took place. As if water had suddenly stilled in a shallow stream, the Native girl's eyes grew sharp, glittering and dangerous. In an instant, the fear gave back to be replaced by something else--passionate hatred.

"Since then," she said, "I have hidden here in this chico. I hunt them in the night. Sometimes I blow up their gas tanks, even their planes. I make life hard for them. They cannot find me. In the woods, they are helpless as a papoose. I kill them. For Josef, I will kill them all."

In that moment, in her anger, in her sworn vengeance, she was possibly the most alluring creature the engineer had ever met. Her dark eyes flashed with deadly purpose. Her curving breast rose and fell with the urgency of her passion.

"But who are these men?"

She looked at him quickly, blinking as if woken startled from a sleep. Finally she said, "I do not know. I only know that they wear a symbol on their arms and that, when he saw that symbol, my husband was very afraid."

Carefully she spread the pine boughs beneath her slim brown legs and scratched a swastika in the dirt. Skook blew out in surprise.

"Tonnerre! They're Nazis!" he exclaimed. "What could they want out 'ere in the Rockies?"

"I don't know," Kachesy replied. "For two months, the planes have come and gone, landing on a lake several miles west of here. They have a large camp there, with many cabins and many men with guns. I think they are building something, but, whatever it is, it is protected by a high electric fence, and guards, and I have never been able to get close enough to see."

Skook considered this a moment, then asked: "M'sieu Robitaille was killed by some sort of creature--'e called it a monster."

The girl stiffened, eyes growing enormous. "Yes. The monster. I have seen it. They call it Keewaykeno--the Northwind Man. It is huge, and man-like, but furry, like a bear, you know? Once they sent it after me, but it lost my scent in a stream. Since then, I have been very careful."

Having finished his bannock, the engineer now drew a pipe and pouch from his fringed jacket. From the pouch, he took some kinnikinnik, Indian tobacco made from the inner bark of the willow, and filled his pipe. A few seconds later, he was contemplatively puffing away.

After a pensive lull, he asked: "You say you 'ave been making things difficult for them, uh? Comment? 'Ow? What weapons do you 'ave--apart from your bow and arrows? Do you 'ave guns?"

The engineer lifted his own Lee-Enfield carbine and carefully loaded a cartridge.

"My husband had a rifle, but the men took it. My only weapons are my arrows, which I make myself. I returned to the cabin after they had left but they had taken everything. All I have is the few things we had cached beneath the floorboards, which they didn't find--food and cigars."

She indicated a flat wood box in the corner. Skook laughed. "Cigars?"

She nodded wistfully. "My husband didn't even smoke. I don't know why he kept them, but now they are all I have to remember him by."

To his surprise, a slight smile flickered in her eyes and a clever laugh sprang to her lips.

"You smoke," she said. "Maybe you would smoke just one cigar for me? I think that is what my husband would have wanted. He told me he was saving them for when he struck the motherload. But now that he is dead, he never will--smoke them, I mean. Will you? Will you smoke just one?"

But, before Skook could respond, from outside the chico, there arose a coarse bellow. The girl's slim hand flew to the engineer's fringed sleeve, clutching with frantic fear. She caught her breath!

"All right, you clowns," the voice called out. "We know you're in there, see, so you might as well come out. We got the tree surrounded. In six seconds, we start shooting. And, trust me, to these bullets, that dead wood is gonna be about as tough as wet toilet paper!"

Next episode....Burned Alive!

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Hell hath the Hindenburg is copyright 2000, Jeffrey Blair Latta. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)