A Serpent's Tooth
Kelly Robinson was getting worried.
For the past twenty minutes or so, Scotty had been raising a ruckus, banging around inside the metal container in which he'd been placed, and shouting at the top of his lungs. "Hey!... Anybody out there?...Come on, let me out of this....Hey!" Alexander Scott was not one to lose his cool, at least not very often. But Kelly could detect an edge of panic in his partner's voice. It was an edge he'd never heard before. And so he was worried.
"Hey, Man," he said, finally.
"You want to hold it down over there? I'm trying to meditate. You know, that Zen stuff you told me about."
"I don't like this, Man."
"I don't like it much, either, frankly. But hey, look at the bright side. Obviously they're not going to kill us. Right? I mean, they would have already. So, sooner or later, they'll...."
"No, Kel," groaned Scott. "No, not sooner. Not later. Now. I don't like...being cooped up like this."
"Yeah, it kinda cramps my style, too, you know. No pun intended."
Robinson sighed. It was obvious that levity wasn't going to work. How long could Scotty hold on? If they had to stay in these lockers or whatever they were for hours, his friend was going to lose it. Really lose it.
"Hey, Scotty, did I ever tell you about the dog I had when I was a kid?"
"You had a dog when you were a kid? No way. You don't like dogs."
"Not true, not true. I like dogs. It's just that dogs don't like me."
"So you had a dog. What about it?"
"It was just your basic mutt, you know. Kind of on the small side. And one day my mother and I were going to my uncle's farm, and we were all packed to go but I couldn't find my dog anywhere. My mother decided it had gone out through the back screen door. I didn't want to leave until he came home, but we couldn't wait. We were gone almost a week. And when we got back my mom opened the door to the hall closet and there he was. He'd been in there all that time."
"No wonder dogs don't like you," said Scott.
"Funny thing is, he didn't seem any the worse for wear. And I . . ."
Moving light flashed briefly through the small holes at the end of the locker.
"It's me. George."
"Hackaby!" shouted Scott. "Get us out of these things."
"Right, old chap. Hold on a minute."
Robinson groaned. "Get Scotty out first. By that time I'll make up my mind whether I want to be rescued by you or not."
He heard a banging, metal on metal, followed by the clang of something heavy falling on the deck. And then there was a much louder banging, on the lid of the locker in which he lay. A moment later the lid opened, and Hackaby blinded him with the flashlight beam.
"Are you okay, old boy?"
"You bet. Just fetch me a seeing-eye dog and I'll be good to go."
Scott and Hackaby lifted him out of the locker. Robinson looked around. They were in the cargo hold of a ship. It was empty safe for a few dozen wooden crates and the two metal lockers.
"A freighter," he muttered, then glanced sharply at Hackaby. "Where?"
"Just beyond the harbor. She's flying a Panamanian flag. But her crew is Cuban."
"We've got to find Lily," said Scott.
"She's not aboard," said Hackaby. "We've already searched."
"We?" asked Robinson.
"I've been ably assisted by several members of the Ocho Rios police force. The crew didn't give us any trouble after we shot one of them," he added cheerily. 'In fact, the Mr. Rojas jimself was kind enough to inform me that Miss Pringle was taken ashore by launch. I'm afraid his daughter handed her over to Poto's men."
"Poto!" exclaimed Scott. "What's going on, George? Why did they give her to Poto?"
"I honestly have no idea. But Mr. Rojas also told me that the two of you were bound for Havana. Just as soon as someone came along to offload those crates over there. Very talkative fellow. Already trying to cut a deal."
"Life behind bars sounds like a good deal for him," said Scott.
Robinson took the claw hammer with which Hackaby had broken the padlocks that had secured the lids of the lockers and went to the nearest stack of crates. He pried open the lid, and the three of them gazed at AK-47s stacked neatly within. Robinson took one out, checked it over. He was very familiar with the AK-47 -- as well as just about every other modern firearm. Scott wandered away, and a moment later announced that he'd found some grenades, also of Soviet manufacture.
"Seems the two of you were payment for these weapons," said Hackaby. "With Rojas being the go-between."
"We've got to find Lily," said Scott.
"Yeah," said Robinson curtly. "Any idea where to start looking?"
"He's in The Cockpit, somewhere," said Hackaby. "That's all I know."
"That's a big help," said Robinson dryly.
"Well, you haven't even thanked me for saving you, yet," said Hackaby, feigning hurt feelings.
Robinson rolled his eyes. "It pains me to say this. Thank you, George. I'll never forget it. And I'm sure you'll never let me."
"We follow these," said Scott, gesturing at the weapons shipment. "They're going to Poto too, right? That's how we find Lily."
"The police will want to confiscate this," said Hackaby.
Robinson put an arm around the British spy's shoulder. "Yeah, but George, all you've got to do is use some of that world-famous charm and savoir-faire on the local fuzz, right?"
"Um, right," said Hackaby dubiously.