Authors: Nick Carter
The Terrible Ones
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The Men of the Secret Services of the
United States of America
How did beautiful women come to be known as ‘The Terrible Ones’?
Nick Carter, top agent of AXE, sometimes known as Killmaster, had his hands full finding out.
Not that he didn’t have other things on his mind. The Chinese Communists weren’t in beautiful Dominica to sun themselves — and ‘Operation Blast’ wasn’t the nickname of a drinking-contest. Tnujillo’s last diabolical joke had been to leave a hundred million dollars in potential munitions money — a fortune in gold and jewels buried somewhere on the island, tantalisingly hidden right under everybody’s nose!
And as if Nick Carter didn’t have enough trouble on his hands, there was always the danger of an ecstatic death from
THE TERRIBLE ONES.
Table of Contents
Pride Goes Before a Fall
In the lush green hills, now soot-black beneath a moonless sky, the silent watchers waited. There were many of them, but only one knew—or was supposed to know—that on this night of all nights there was something in particular to wait for. And that one, though knowing where to look, was too cautious to steal out from cover and risk alerting the others who did not know what approached them through the night. Still, the watcher was close enough to hear if there was anything to be heard; and knowing what to listen for, the watcher wondered at the silence from the sea. Waves slapped against the rocks and a low wind hissed, but that was all. Perhaps it was just as well, but it was disturbing.
Below, two men in a boat ducked instinctively as the bright shaft of light sliced through the sky and arced down over the black swell of the sea. They both knew the searchlight’s swath would pass them by, for the landing had been carefully planned. The Republic of Haiti was in no sort of financial shape to guard its entire border, land and sea, to close the gaps against all comers. The little madman who was its lifetime president was trying to do exactly that, for all sorts of adventurers swarmed through his tiny land—Cubans, Dominicans, Americans, Venezuelans, assassins, and photographers from
—and he had had enough of interference from outside. Thus the searchlights and armed watchers at all the likely points of entry. Yet he could not completely cordon off his side of the island with a solid ring of men, and no one in his right mind would have regarded Cap St. Michel as a landing place.
The vast sword of light swung back from sea to land. Neither those who manned the light nor those who watched from clifftops saw the slender conning tower nosing above the wind-tossed sea, nor the small dark shape, the color of midnight, that rode the waves toward the rocky inlet. Even the men were dark, the younger because he had been born in Port au Prince and the other because he had thought it wise to match the shadows while he traveled at night.
Jean Pierre Turnier guided the small craft into the treacherous shallows. The boat was silent, an engineering marvel devised by those for whom the two men worked. The principle on which it operated was far too complex for most men, even Jan Pierre, to grasp, but that did not matter to him. He only knew that it was miraculously silent, that the coastline of his boyhood was as familiar to him as to any man alive, and that when it came to running any kind of boat he could damn near sail it up that cliffside and land his passenger exactly where he had to go. Damn near, but not quite.
He glanced up at the rock face now towering above them. Two hundred feet of almost insuperable obstacle. Flies, he thought to himself, had been known to fall off. He looked at the other man and wondered if even he would be able to make it. Coordination, balance, endurance, all that he had. Six-foot- plus of whipcord strength and steely nerve would help,
but was it going to be enough? Jean Pierre was dubious. No one had ever succeeded in climbing this slippery hunk of treachery. Pirates of bygone days had dared their captives to escape them by scaling this precipice. None of them, according to history, had ever made it. Scores had plunged to their deaths on the rocks below.
The other man looked back at him and grinned suddenly in the darkness. Only the whiteness of his teeth showed in the gloom, and the faintest of glints from his eyes, but Jean Pierre could see the strong bearded face in his mind. He thought of their careful preparations and what he had seen of the man in action. Well, maybe, he thought. Maybe. If anyone can do it, he would be the one. But
what a hideous fall it would be, if there were a fall.
The rocks were very close and sharp as shark’s teeth. A high gust slammed against the little boat and swatted it perilously close to a jagged fringe of stone lining the foot of the cliff. Jean Pierre touched a lever and brought the craft almost to a standstill, as if it were a silent hydrocopter, then eased it slowly and with infinite skill toward the lowest and least jagged of the boulders. He lightly fingered a button and an automatic boathook reached out over one buffered side of the boat and tethered it in place. The boat bobbed erratically in the surf but the tethering hook held firm.
Jean Pierre’s companion glanced at the wall of rock. The first few vertical feet were wet and slippery with spray. Above, the cliff face was apparently dry but bland and featureless as a column of concrete. High above, at the rim of the cliff, low bushes grew in profusion. Beyond them was a thick stand of luxuriant trees.
The older man nodded with satisfaction. The foliage would offer him plenty of cover and his dark green fatigues would make him virtually invisible among the night-dark trees. His eyes stared into the dimness above. Yes, there was the narrow break Jean Pierre had told him about, the small patch of space between the trees that became a narrow, natural path into the hills beyond. Silently, he finished what he was doing. No need to stare any longer at that cliff face. He’d be close enough to it in a minute. He checked the straps that held the curved spikes to his boots and found them firm. Wrist-straps, too, were in place; the knuckle duster devices on his fingers fitted snugly and the sharp, clawlike appendages seemed to grow straight out of his muscular hands.
He nodded at Jean Pierre, raised one clawed hand in salute, and swung lightly from the bobbing boat to the lowlying boulder. Once, and once only, he looked up, and then he began to climb. The clawlike pitons on his hands and feet scrabbled quietly at the rock face, found tiny holds, and moved on like cautious crabs.
It was agonizingly slow. Jean Pierre watched, the sick feeling growing in his stomach as little rivulets of sand slid down the cliff and stopped when there was no longer any sand to fall. Only rock, the barest of rock, met the climbing claws. Ten feet . . . fifteen . . . twenty. God, it was slow. Twenty-five. . . . For one heart-stopping moment the booted feet swung free. Jean Pierre sucked in his breath and looked involuntarily at the sharp rocks near the boat. A pebble rolled down with a clatter and a tiny splash. When he looked up again he saw that the clawing feet had regained their hold and were slowly, slowly, moving upward. Thirty feet . . . another few inches . . . another couple of feet. It was time he left; there was nothing more for him to do.
He backed the silent boat away from the murderous rocks and turned it once again toward the open sea and the waiting submarine. The muted glow of his wristwatch dial told him that he must hurry. The baby sub had been ordered not to wait for stragglers. He looked back once. About forty-five, fifty feet, he reckoned, and climbing like a hesitant snail up a garden wall.
The man who was climbing was anything but a snail, and the rock face was anything but a garden wall. The night was warm, and the effort of clawing his way up the precipice was taking every ounce of his will power and endurance. He tried to make his hands and feet work automatically while he thought of other things—other things, like the sweat beginning to pinprick his skin and the itch of his new beard. Mentally, he checked the contents of his gear: Castro-like fatigues, with extra inner pockets. Large sums of money, in several denominations and for various uses, including bribery. A back pack, containing a miracle-fiber suit that was supposed to be absolutely wrinkle proof. He hoped it was. Accessories for the suit.
Other accessories . . . including a Luger named Wilhelmina, a stiletto known as Hugo, and a gas-bomb called Pierre.
Nick Carter went on climbing.
The claws roved over the rock face, biting into its surface and holding him there by minute fractions of inches of knife-sharp steel. There was no way to hurry, nothing to hold onto, nothing but the claw-blades to keep him from the deadly rocks below.
Not quite halfway, yet. And the strain on his body was becoming unbearable. It was not as if he even knew what would be waiting for him at the top. Sure, he had a name to go on, but not much more. The briefing Hawk had given him flashed through his mind. The name was Paolo, and Paolo should be waiting in that mountain cave a mile and a half away.
“Why Paolo?” he had asked the head of AXE.
Hawk had glowered at him. “What do you mean, ‘Why Paolo?’ ”
“An Italian name for a Dominican?”
Hawk had chewed irritably at his cigar. “So? They’re as mixed a lot as we are. Anyway, it may be a code name. Whatever it is, that’s the name you’ll have to use for him. Paolo’s your contact, not Tomas or Ricardo or—or Enrico.”
be a code name!” Nick repeated. “We don’t know much, do we?”
Hawk eyed him coldly. “No, we don’t. If we knew as much as you seem to think we ought to, we probably wouldn’t be sending you. ‘Matter of fact, Carter, we don’t even know that this isn’t a trap.”
A trap, yeah. Encouraging thought. Nick gritted his teeth and went on climbing. The sweat poured down his face. Every muscle and nerve screamed for rest. For the first time he began to wonder, to doubt, if he could really make it to the top.
It was still a long way up. It was also a long way down. And there’d be no second chance.
Get on with it, goddamn you! he told himself fiercely. He knew that he was good for little more of this. It was becoming physical agony. His hands clawed, found nothing, clawed again, and held. He dragged himself up another painful notch.
No, this was ridiculous. He could not afford to think of the sheer impossibility of it. So he forced himself to think back to that unsatisfactory briefing.
“If it is a trap,” he had said, “what sort of trap do you think It might be?”
He remembered Hawk’s answer but it slipped from his clutching mind as the claws on his feet lost their grip. His body slithered downward with appalling speed and the raking pitons scraped uselessly against unyielding stone. He clung like a leech, willing his limbs and his body to plaster themselves against the cliffside and praying that some infinitesmal outcropping would be hooked by the wildly probing, scraping claws and stop his deadly slide.
Nick dug against the rock wall like some giant cat searching desperately for a clawhold. His flailing feet bit into the flinty surface. Found a tiny fault. And held.
He clung there for a moment, breathing heavily and blinking his eyes against the hot sweat. But he knew his toehold was too slight to support him there for more than seconds and he made himself move on. Sideways first, then slowly upward with a surge of desperate effort that took his last reserve of strength. He knew it would not last him to the top.
This is it, he thought dully. What a hell of a way to go.
Then his feet found a two-inch-wide ledge. Miraculously, the rock wall above it was at a slight angle so that he could lean inward and snatch some sort of respite. He took a deep, grateful breath and made himself relax as best he could. A minute passed. Another. His breathing slowed to normal and the knots in his muscles gradually unwound. The searchlight beam that he had forgotten about cut through the sky behind him. Again he became conscious of it, but he knew it would not find him here. Haitian officialdom was so sure the cliff was unscalable—and God knows it looked as though they were right—that they did not even bother to keep an eye on it. Or so said Hawk’s Intelligence reports.