Nick Carter Excerpts — Checkmate in Rio

Nick Carter #3, Checkmate in Rio, Award Books A110, 1964
 
Excerpt One:
 
For a moment there was nothing but the absolute blackness. And then, dimly, he knew he was in another room, and faint lights were flickering. He felt his jacket being torn from him, and then his shoes. Something tightened around his wrists, and then his ankles He made his muscles work; he forced them to a tautness his tired brain told him was impossible, and then the fumbling at his wrists and ankles stopped. Something fastened over his waist. He fought against it with his muscles, pushed it as far from him as he could with his straining body, and then that movement also stopped. Murmuring voices faded away. He had an almost over­whelming impulse to throw up. By the time he had conquered it the voices had stopped and the light had flickered out. He heard himself sigh, and then he heard no more.

He had no way of telling how long it was before the door opened again. It must have been some time, be­cause he felt oddly refreshed, as though he had slept. But his head ached furiously, and he was stretched out on something hard with his legs and arms outspread as if he were some kind of hide drying in the sun.
The room was suddenly flooded with light. Silveiro stood beside him, smiling down benignly, his white teeth gleaming.
“How nice to see you resting.” The friendly wrinkles suddenly vanished from the corners of his eyes. “Make the best of it. You don’t have long.”
Silveiro’s closed fist came down on Nick Carter’s flat stomach. Nick braced himself and caught the blow with Yoga-trained muscles.
Silveiro stroked the stubble on his chin and stared down at Nick.
“Where is the reporter?” he asked at last, his voice sounding like a knife blade scraping against stone.
Nick looked up at him innocently. “What reporter?” Nick asked in­terestedly, willing the pain in his head to dissipate. His arms and legs were slowly relaxing, and the cords seemed less tight around his wrists
“The reporter!” hissed Silveiro. “Where is he?”
“I haven’t an idea in the world,” said Nick, “I’ve never even met the fellow. My con­tacts with the press have never been too cordial. Now suppose you tell me what in hell you think you’re doing …”
Silveiro’s fist slammed across his face.
“Don’t play games with me. You had to be working together. Who has he gone to report to? How did he get away?”
Nick shook his head, partly to glance around the base­ment room and partly to get his nostrils clear of Silveiro’s unpleasant-smelling breath.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I don’t know why you’ve got me here. I had a simple business date with Perez Cabral.”
Silveiro’s laugh sounded like a jackal’s bark.
“Yes, you did, didn’t you?” he chuckled. “But it didn’t turn out quite the way you expected, did it? Did it?” His fist punctuated his words. “What were you looking for? How many of you are there?”
“You’re crazy,” said Nick calmly. Unless there was someone right behind his head—and he could sense no presence there—he was alone in this room with Luiz Silveiro. “I tell you, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The ready fist slammed down just below his belt.
Silveiro smiled. “With each foolish answer, I will hit you just a little harder. When I start on your ribs and they begin to crack, I think you will stop trying to be funny.” The hard edge of his hand slashed down on Nick’s rib cage. “You will tell me all about yourself.” The next blow came down like a sledgehammer on his chest. “Starting with the girl.” The hand moved down and chopped viciously at his knee cap. “You think this is a gentle form of persuasion? 1 am a gentle man.” Slam. “But determined. And when I tire, someone else will take over for me.” Slash. “And if you prove to be too stubborn—” Crunch. “—You will find that this is only the beginning. You may also be interested to know that we already have the girl.” Whack!
“What girl?” Nick forced his mind away from the rain of blows and concentrated on a stealthy maneuver­ing of his bound wrists.
“The Montez woman, of course. Who else?” Thud
Nick laughed. His magnificently conditioned body was absorbing punches that would have had a less care­fully trained man gasping with pain. He could feel them. They were too brutally sudden to be easily willed away.
“We shall see how truthful you are.” He hit Nick once again in the midriff.
Beyond him Nick could see the twin-locked door open. A tall man stood in the entrance and watched in silence for a moment. Nick had been close enough to him for long enough to know immediately who he was. Or rather, what he was.
Silveiro went on working diligently. Nick spoke no more. He knew that if Silveiro kept up with this much longer he would be badly hurt—too badly hurt to snatch at a lucky break if it should ever come. So when the one blow came that was just a little too hard he took ad­vantage of it.
Silveiro’s bunched hand thudded savagely into his tem­ple. Nick let his head jerk sharply to one side, and he gave a long, shuddering groan. His eyes closed and his whole body slumped limply on its uncomfortable support. Silveiro snorted, and slapped him several times across the face.
“Enough, Silveiro,” said the deep-toned voice from the door. “You don’t want to damage his pretty face too soon. Save something for me. Come out here. You’re wanted.”
Silveiro grumbled and left the room. The other man was already out of sight.
Nick’s body was pounding and aching. You have not been hurt, he told himself severely. There is no pain. You are resting. Rest, damn you. Gradually he made himself relax. For a few moments he actually did rest.
He raised his head to look around. He was alone in the room. There were no windows, and only the one door. The thing he was lying on appeared to be a shelf of some kind, with a low rung at each end to which his hands and feet were tied. The surface of the shelf was cold metal, solid in some areas and a series of narrow bars in others. A shelf .. . or a rack? He twisted his body to try to locate some sort of driving mechanism. He gave up. There was nothing to be seen from his confining viewpoint.
Then he heard the voices filtering through the door. One of them was a woman’s.
His blood turned to ice water. The doorknob turned.He closed his eyes and let his head roll to one side. The door opened and someone stood at the entrance….
Excerpt Two:
She was beautiful in a shimmering evening gown. There was a vividness about her that was not the woman he had first met but the woman who had made such ecstatic love to him.
“What a pity, that such a wonderful body should belong to a man like you.” She closed the door behind her.
“What kind of a man do you think I am, Carla?” She walked slowly towards him„ looking down at his outstretched body.
Her hand shot out suddenly and raked his face, first one cheek and then the other.
“So you thought you’d make a fool of me!” she hissed. “You didn’t want to be mixed up with the police! And you walked out on me! You walked out on me!” The long fingernails lashed out again. He felt a trickle of blood beneath his eyes.
He laughed again. “Nice, Carla. Nice. I like a wildcat. Tell me something—are you the Boss Lady, or are you just Silveiro’s whore?”
“Silveiro!” she spat, and the flat of her hand smarted against his face. “That slug!”
She stared down at him. Slowly, her hand reached out and touched his face, gently wiped the blood that oozed out from the scratch marks. It moved down, caressed his swollen lips, his chin, his throat . . . loosened the neck of his shirt, softly stroked his chest.
Nick closed his eyes as if enjoying her caresses.
She fondled him provocatively”
She leaned over him and kissed him lightly on his bruised lips.
“Now it is your turn to talk,” she said. “I can make it very pleasant for you.” She was licking him, the bitch, licking at the scratches and the streaks of blood.
The hands, mercifully, stopped their probing.
She said flatly. “Where are they?”
“If you don’t know, I don’t know,” he said easily.
” I don’t think you get the point. You will tell me all you know in exchange for what I can do for you. Believe me, believe me, I will make it worth your while.” Carla leaned over him. Her breath seemed to singe his raw skin. “I can give you so much. . . .”
Those goddamn probing fingers started feeling around again. They almost felt good, for a moment. Inside him­self, Nick pulled himself together.
“You can start by getting these damn cords loose.” His voice was irritable. “I can’t talk lying down.”
Carla slapped his bleeding face.
“You don’t have much choice,” Carla was saying. “You can turn me down once more, and only once. Or you can accept everything I have to offer. Money, love, excitement . . .”
She swayed beside him, trembling with suppressed passion.
She said very softly. “Life with me or death with nothing.”
“I’ll think about it,” he said reasonably.
“Do that,” she answered quietly. “It’s this . . .” and her predatory hands roamed casually up and down his thighs. “Or this!” And her hand darted down suddenly and did a very painful thing to him. He gasped. “There now…that was good, wasn’t it?” Carla murmur­ed seductively. Her lips were twisted into a parody of a smile “I’ll leave you now—but with something to re­member me by.”
Her hand reached for something at the foot of Nick’s rack—and a low humming sound filled the basement room.
“It usually takes about twenty minutes,” she said con­versationally, “before they start to scream. It’s a little exercise machine, you see, that Luiz and I adapted. But I can slow it down for you.” And now her smile was like the Death’s Head he had seen in Red China’s For­bidden City. “I want you to take it slow and easy .. . and call when you want me. And do be sure to call in time. Or you’ll stretch and stretch like a rubber band . . . and finally you’ll snap. Arms first, usually, and then the legs. It’ll hurt, lover. And you won’t be able to do any loving any more. That would be an awful pity.”
For an eternity she stood there watching him. He could feel the loose cord at his right wrist begin to tighten slowly. Tighter . . . tighter . . . tighter .. .
At long last she sauntered over to the door, the formfitting shimmer of her evening gown revealing every nuance of her languid walk and every beautifully molded line of her exquisite frame.
His ankles began to feel the pull.
“There’s something so restful about the dark, isn’t there?” she crooned mellifluously. “Think well. I’ll be waiting for you.”
The light switch snapped off and Nick’s right hand went into instant, silent action.
She stepped out and closed the door. Nick could hear the padlock click.
Nick maneuvered feverishly.
His spine seemed to be expanding. The rough cord bit viciously into his extended limbs as the cruel stress grew noticeably stronger. The surface beneath him was curving slowly upward, forcing his back into an arch of agony. He put every ounce of energy and concentration into that one cord that he had almost loosened and that now was even tighter than ever. But the tightness, now, was different. It was tight because his arms were stretched out to their limit . . . and there was something faulty about the knot. The very strain was beginning to work for him. He stif­fened his fingers and tugged. The cord dragged like rough, hot coals against his hand. The darkness turned from black to swirling red. His body screamed for mercy.
As the rack extended he could feel each single savage blow of Silveiro like a separate knot of pain, and then the knots merged into one great blob of agony. And he, Nick Carter, was that blob. But pain was an illusion. It did not exist.
The only thing that did exist in that red-black world of thumps and thuds and drums and cymbals and roaring in the ears was one mightily strain­ing hand and the rough cord that tore at it . . . forced its way, too slowly, much too slowly, past his wrist .. . caught at the heel of his thumb . . . dragged over it like a noose trying to tear off a man’s head . . . and suddenly whipped free. His hand dropped like a dead thing.
He worked his fingers frantically, forcing the life back into them. His body was making little snapping sounds —of something beginning to give
Nick’s tortured fingers fumbled at his belt buckle. God­damn you useless fingers work you bastards move open it open it open it!
His left arm took all the aching strain of his upper body and pulled relentlessly away from its companion leg. For a wild, blurred moment, while his fingers groped stiffly with the buckle, he thought the arm had come off altogether and was dangling, stump down, from the rail behind him. Then his brain cleared and the thick metal buckle clicked open. The trembling fingers removed a fine-honed blade. His mind a scream of agony and his hand a barely controllable lump, he brought up his free right arm and slashed away at the cord that strangled his left wrist. He wondered irrelevantly why they had not used leather straps instead. Rope hurts more, he decided, slicing into his hand. The bite of clean steel was like a loving kiss compared with the wrenching and tearing of his body.
He brought his left arm down and let it drop beside him to let the blood flow back into his paralyzed fingers. He lay there gasping. He found the strap across his waist and slashed at it with the blade. It snapped away. The body that had felt like a dried-out starfish seconds before seemed to contract and flow back into something like its normal shape. His back crackled sharply as he made himself first sit up and then lean over to attack the cords that bound his feet. He wiggled them even as he worked, commanding them to live again.
One foot was still caught in its vise of rough rope when he heard the movements at the door. A trumpet thinly wailed the blues from the lavishly decorated room upstairs. He attacked his left foot frantically. The pad­lock clicked as the last thread parted and he leapt clum­sily off the rack, taking in deep gulps of the musty air and willing his pulled muscles to do their work….

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