"Battling" Barney Calhoun in

The Bat-Men of the Yinga River!



An 8-Chapter Two-Fister in the South China Sea!

by "Doc" R.B. Danby


What Has Gone Before: Barney Calhoun has been hired to captain a boat taking the lovely Arlene Wentworth up the Yinga River on a mission to ransom her father from jungle cultists who worship a mythical race of Bat-Men. In the dark of night, the boat is besieged. The attackers are driven off, but not before one of them is revealed to have been carrying a cage that contained what appeared to be a bat...

 
 

Chapter Three -   The Gambling Den


 BARNEY LAY IN HIS CABIN, restless from the tropical heat, and wired from the activities of an hour ago. The Lucky Anne had just barely repelled boarders, and now that the ship was anchored for the night, he was worried they'd return.

Lanterns had been set out all along the deck, lightening up the boat and the water immediately around her. He wasn't worried about giving away their position -- clearly that was known. But light might send any would-be rats slinking back into the darkness.

There were four men on board, and they were taking turns in two man shifts to keep watch. Seth Rashad and one of the tight-lipped Chinese sailors had the first watch; Barney and the other Chinese would take the second.

The two Chinese crewmen hadn't been happy about being split up, but Barney still didn't entirely trust them. After all, they worked for Daimon Farnsworth III, and he still wasn't sure what the Englishman's stake in all this was. Still, one of the Chinese had saved his life in the fight, and the other had been slightly wounded, so he was reasonably sure, whatever ulterior agenda they might be pursuing, it was unconnected to the attack.

The attackers he still hadn't pegged, yet. He had assumed they were bandits working for one of the warlords that staked out territory in the jungle, bandits after the jade figurine they were returning to the interior. But why had they attempted to kidnap Arlene Wentworth? Oh, he wasn't naive. He knew why someone might try to abscond with the beautiful, nubile young Englishwoman. But surely that would be a pleasant plus for them, after they had secured the statue. Instead, they grabbed her first.

As well, one of the men seemed to be carrying a cage with some sort of bat in it -- at least, it looked like a bat in the instant it flew away. And they were travelling deep into the jungle to find a cult that worshipped a mythical race of Bat-Men.

Coincidence? Barney just wasn't sure.

Suddenly he froze as the door to his cabin trembled, then creaked inward. Stealthily, he reached for the pistol concealed beneath his pillow. Then he relaxed.

"Mr. Calhoun?"

The moonlight through the porthole revealed Arlene Wentworth, dressed in a filmy nightgown.

"Are you awake?"

"Damnation, girl," he hissed quietly. "I could've shot you." Then he shrugged. "Ah, forget it. What can I do for you, princess?"

"My heart's still all a-patter from our terrifying ordeal." She smiled at him, a tad sheepishly. Her mass of blonde curls spilled around her smooth, oval face in a way that made her look less like an English lady and a little more...wild. The twin mounds of her breasts seemed to surge against the fragile fabric of her nightgown, as if verifying her claim. "I couldn't sleep."

Barney licked his lips and tried to stay focused. "Uh..." he said.

"I wondered if I might sleep in your bed?"

"Uh..." he repeated.

She hooked her thumbs in the straps of her gown, then with a flick of both wrists, sent the garment slinking down her supple flesh to pool at her feet. Her breasts were proud, gleaming slightly in the moonlight, her waist narrow with just a slight roundness to her belly, her hips were wide and her legs surprisingly long, tapering to delicate ankles. The curls between her legs were of the same shading as those on her head.

She stepped forward and Barney, not being one to resist any offer so intoxicating, grabbed her in his mighty arms, crushing her to him. She gasped, startled by his fierceness, then clutched his face and kissed him hungrily, her tongue like darting honey. One of his powerful hands closed about the soft roundness of her buttocks and they fell back onto the bed...

* * *
"EVERYBODY UP!" ROARED BARNEY, rattling the pilot house bell for all he was worth. The second Chinese sailor, his wounded arm wrapped in cloth, tossed Barney a rifle even as he held a second one in the crook of his arm. Barney caught it in one hand, then raced out onto the forward deck, his other hand unconsciously checking the pistol and gun belt around his waist.

The sun glimmered low in the eastern sky, and there was an early morning mist swirling lazily on the body of the river.

"What is it? What's happened, Mr. Calhoun?" Arlene said, coming on deck. She was dressed once more demurely in a pretty dress. Barney, in spite of himself and of the circumstances, grinned at her. She looked away sheepishly.

A little confused by her actions, he pointed to the water, "They're what's happened."

Two boats approached, engines droning in the muggy stillness of the morning. Even from here he could see the armed men on board.

"We must weigh anchor," exclaimed Arlene.

"We'd never out-race them. We'll have to out-fight them instead." He glanced at her. "There are weapons in the pilot house."

She looked at him, as though unsure what he meant, then looked back at the approaching boats. Catching up her dress in her hands, she hurried to grab a rifle, joining Rashad and the other Chinese sailor who were already helping themselves to armaments.

Barney allowed himself one lingering thought for the girl. It had been pretty obvious last night that Arlene Wentworth was no virgin -- in fact, he had a sneaking suspicion thatt, despite her veneer of timidity when fully clothed, more than a few men stood between him and her virginity. That didn't really bother him. But despite his world wise ways, at heart he was still a small island boy from Cape Breton, Canada, and he liked to think a night like the one they had just had meant something. Then again, maybe she was just worried how he would react now that it was morning.

Well, he thought, time enough to work that out -- assuming they survived the next few minutes. "That's far enough, you mangy curs!" Barney roared, his voice echoing like the cry of a tiger.

One of the boats sputtered to a halt, while the other veered off, tracing a wide circle around the Lucky Anne, its wake sending lapping waves to thud against her hull.

Barney crouched behind the gunwale, so as not to be an obvious target. The others were likewise arrayed around the ship, watching all sides in case of treachery from the rear.

"What'd you want, eh?" shouted Barney.

A small, primly dressed Chinese man shouldered his way through the armed men, sunlight glinting off his wire rimmed spectacles. "We merely wished to ascertain that you were all right," he called over the breast of the river. "We saw you stalled here in the night, and I was sent to check on you."

"Well, we're just dandy," shouted Barney. "You can be on your way. Thanks for the thought. See ya. Bye bye. Ciao."

Acting as if Barney had said nothing, the little man said, "And I was to proffer to you an invitation to visit with my master, Lo Phat."

Barney's eyes flared. Arlene, who had crawled close to him, saw his reaction. "Who?" she asked.

"A local warlord," he hissed. "Damnation."

"My master was really quite insistent."

Barney cast an eye around his boat. There were only five of them, and he doubted Arlene or Rashad had much experience with guns. That meant three fair to good shots against two boatloads of professional gunmen. He wiped a knuckle across his upper lip nervously. "Do we have his guarantee of safe passage? That we can leave any time we want?"

"Of course. On his honour."

"What are you doing?" Arlene said in a muted shriek, her eyes wide. "Are you insane?"

"Warlords are bandits, scoundrels, murderers and thieves," Barney said tightly. "But they're also businessmen. They have to deal with rival warlords, freelance smugglers, and various clients. Hell, Lo Phat has an illegal gambling den somewhere in the jungle that the cream of Moyalai society -- such as it is -- frequents. Lo Phat's word has to be seen to be trustworthy, or everything breaks down. I can't believe he'd jeopardize that just for the few thousand pounds your jade figurine is worth."

"But no one knows he's given us his word, except those...those men," she said that last with distaste, "who work for him."

"Who also have to be able to believe they can trust his word. If he'd lie to us, he might lie to them. Look, princess, I don't like it any more than you do, but the alternative is to try and shoot it out." He looked at her intently, then shrugged. "But it's your expedition. You make the call."

Moments later, Barney stood up. "We'd be honoured to visit with the renowned Lo Phat," he called.

* * *
THE LUCKY ANNE WAS SHEPHERDED a mile up river by the two smaller boats, then directed into the wide mouth of a tributary river. They chugged wearily up this secondary river, until, listing past an outcropping of heavy branches that jutted from the shore, their destination loomed dramatically in sight.

"I'll be damned," muttered Barney to no one in particular.

Before them on the river was a massive structure, about the size of a small hotel, two storeys from the looks of it, with a decorative veranda surrounding the upper story. It was anchored near the shore, but actually sat upon the still water perched on two massive pontoons.

"What is it?" breathed Arlene.

"Lo Phat's gambling den...the damned thing floats. No wonder the authorities have never been able to shut it down. He can float the thing up or down the river at the first hint of trouble."

"What are those on shore?" she asked. "Logs?"

Barney looked in the direction she indicated, and a humourless grin twisted his lips. "Crocodiles. I wouldn't recommend any morning dips, princess."

Arlene put a hand daintily to her face and turned away.

Barney turned his attention back to the huge houseboat. Moored to its side, like remoras feeding off a shark, were a collection of smaller boats that had ferried the gambling den's customers here. At least that meant an audience, Barney figured. He was more and more confident that he could talk his way out of this. "Wait here," he said. "I think I saw a jacket in my cabin that must've been left by the previous owner."

"A jacket?"

"You look good, princess, but me? I think I'd better spruce up a bit, eh? We've been invited to the closest thing this river'll see to a fancy dress soiree." With that, he hurried off. He also figured it would be a good idea to do something with the jade figurine, just in case Lo Phat sent someone to "acquire" it while he and the others were being entertained.

It took him all of a minute to decide on where he could hide it that no one would think to look for it.

Two minutes later, hair combed back with his fingers, a jacket straining to fit around his broad shoulders, and guns, reluctantly, left upon the Lucky Anne, Barney Calhoun disembarked from his boat and onto one of the huge pontoons of the gambling boat. Barney would never have been let through the door of one of Moyalai's better restaurants, but he affected at least a hint of suave sophistication. It helped that he had the beautiful, elegant Englishwoman at his side, and the immaculately groomed Seth Rashad at his back. It gave him an air of posh-by-association. He had left the two sailors on his boat, and none of Lo Phat's men seemed to object.

"This way," said the little man with glasses. "My master is most anxious to see you."

But what Barney wondered was: why?


Previous episode: Attack in the Dark

Next episode: Casino of Death


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The Bat-Men of the Yinga River is copyright 2001 the author.