Bruce and Julia are threading their sailboat through a narrow channel. Julia says another boat has been chasing them for an hour and is concerned as she believes it to be a ghostboat with a dead man for a pilot.
Earlier, they had nearly collided, and they saw no crew, only a corpse at the wheel — moldy clothes on a bony frame, and rotten flesh. On the other hand, there is also a radiant golden siren (the breasty kind, not the police car kind). They play cat and mouse around the islands, but Bruce runs aground and their boat is lost.
As always in these stories, there is a house in this unlikely location. The door is opened by Jerry Dunn, wielding a gun. Cuthbert Stapleton is not keen on letting them in, but the owner George Kober thinks it is OK. There is another man named Slim — apparently named for his characterization — his presence is barely commented upon and he quickly ends up mysteriously slashed “from chin to navel” in Julia’s bedroom that night.
Julia did not witness the murderer, but Bruce says he saw a grotesque face at the window making an escape. There are several accusations of jewelry smuggling and tax evasion. Dunn quietly reveals to Bruce that he is actually a G-man on the case. Bruce and Dunn hear a scream and find that Kober has also been killed in the same grizzly fashion. The empty safe next to the bloody corpse suggests that Stapleton has made off with the treasure.
In the mean time, Julia has disappeared. Despite having zero reason to believe the ghostboat was involved, Bruce decides to swim — swim, I tells ya — in pursuit of the black schooner. After an hour of swimming through the wild surf, he reaches the ghostboat and, unlike the dumbbells in Adrift, is able to climb the anchor chain. He is quickly conked on the head.
He awakens in the cabin, which is covered in tapestries. Two sword-wielding, turbaned Arabs are flanking a golden snake-god statue. There is also a woman with cascading hair like spun gold posed seductively on a couch wearing “a thin transparent gossamer which enshrouded, but did not conceal her voluptuous charms.”
Just in case we don’t get it, we are also subtly informed that she has “breasts like ripe melons.”
The woman, Thyra — another good Barsoom name — offers to take him away and make him emperor to her empress, but he demands to see Julia. She orders the swordsmen to bring in Julia, who she promptly orders to be “stripped to the waist!” revealing the lack of follow-through that will prevent her from ever really being successful.
Turns out, she is just a common ho’ and Dunn is not a G-Man, he is in cahoots with her. There is blood and killing and dismemberment. And Thyra also being stripped to the waist — you know this Lazar Levi guy just doesn’t know how to close a deal.
- First published in Mystery Novels and Short Stories Magazine in September 1939, the same issue as Bride of the Ape.
- Also that month: Germany invades Poland and conducts first air attacks on Great Britain. FDR declares US neutral as such blood-thirsty, savage nations as New Zealand, Canada, Australia and even France declare war.
- Archaic words: welter, incarnadined, objurgations, flossie. Or, at least unknown to me.