Stanly Bromly: The Sydney Ducks (2)
"Dear, I know how you get so bored sitting around the house and how you are not interested in the usual business activities, so I have a suggestion."
"What is it Elizabeth?"
"Have you ever heard of the 'Sydney Ducks'? They are a despicable gang of escaped English convicts who had been shipped to Australia. The word among my friends is that they prey upon defenseless citizens, murdering and stealing with impunity. They appear to be a loosely organized group of miscreants who are terrorizing many neighborhoods in our city. Gossip has it that they won't be long getting to our neighborhood."
"No, dear, I had not heard of them. Why don't the police deal with them?"
"There are simply too many for the police to handle, with all of the other things they have to do. The many fires that have burned out of control lately are also attributed to the Sidney Ducks.
"Anyway, I thought that you certainly don't need the money you get from you 'troubleshooting' escapades, so why don't you concentrate on trying to relieve San Francisco of this subhuman blight? This would give you something useful to do that you would probably enjoy and the activity would keep you near to home, which is something that I would enjoy."
"Very well, my dear Elizabeth, since you ask so nicely, I will look into it immediately," Stan said with a grin. He stood up, buckled on his bowie knife, cocked his hat at a jaunty angle, and set off to catch a cab into the main part of town.
Stan's first stop was at a saloon popular with the business crowd. It was now the middle of the afternoon, so many men had stopped in for a beer. He bought a beer and began to wander around the saloon, eavesdropping on the various conversations he heard as he passed. There was no mention of the Sydney Ducks, but several men seemed worried about the fires that had been happening around the city. Many of the fires had started in empty buildings which would not have appeared to be in any danger from catching fire. Several of the businessmen had lost quite a bit of money as a result of the fires.
Stan didn't think that he would get much useful information from this crowd, so he headed for police headquarters. He asked to speak to a supervisor and was directed to Sgt. James Wilson. Stan asked for what was known about the Sidney Ducks and was given a little information, but nothing he didn't already know. Sgt. Wilson did ask him to stop by if he had any solid evidence that the police could use. Stan agreed to do that and left.
Stan talked to some other people and was warned to stay out of the Telegraph Hill neighborhood known as Sydney-Town. This was the stronghold of the Sydney Ducks and they quickly swallowed up any "gentleman" who happened to wander in without a strong escort. Stan decided that he had to have a look at Sydney-Town in order to understand what he faced.
He returned home and changed clothes to the most disreputable he could find. He feared that he was still too well dressed to get by without notice in Sydney-Town, but it would just have to do. He took his shotgun and bandoleer, as well as his array of knives, and returned to Sydney-Town. He was immediately approached by a pimp.
"I got just tha trollop to fit yer fancy, guvner. Just come wit' me an' we'll have ya singin' a gay tune in no time."
"No thank you, my good man. I am here for a drink and nothing else. Now, begone!" Stan glowered and pointed the shotgun at the man, who shambled off. Stan found that he had to fight off pimps and panhandlers every few steps, so he decided that he wasn't accomplishing anything this way. He decided for one more try, but after dark, this time. He went home and breathed a sigh of relief to get to some clean air, at last.
He decided to try to keep completely out of sight this time and to spy through windows and such to see what was going on. He found a completely black outfit with a hood he could fasten under his chin to hide his light colored features. He also decided to wear black kid gloves so that he could still use his shotgun and knives while wearing the gloves.
He hated to do it, but he had a servant blacken the leather of his bandoleer. Fortunately, the shotgun shells did not project from their loops far enough for the brass to be a problem with its shine. His shotgun was already darkened so that he did not think that it would attract too much attention. He now was ready to stalk his game!
That evening, he went to the opera with Elizabeth and said nothing to her about his plans for the night. As was proper at that time for married people of their class, they had separate bedrooms, so it was easy for Stan to change his clothes and slip out of the house undetected.
He made his way to Sidney-Town and climbed to the roof of a saloon. It was the practice in San Francisco at that time to build business buildings with flat roofs and to put the buildings close together. Thus, one could travel over the roofs for an entire block, and often for several blocks, without ever descending to the ground.
Tonight was just a scouting expedition and Stan had no particular target in mind. He just want to see the layout of the neighborhood and what he needed to do to get around undetected. He did notice right away that he needed boots with a softer sole; he made too much noise if he tried to run over a roof. He'd take care of that tomorrow.
Stan approached an alley when he heard some grunts and groans coming from its depths. He looked over the edge of the roof and saw three men beating a well-dressed man. Stan had rigged a sling for his shotgun so that he would have both hands free for climbing; therefore, he was relatively unencumbered as he dropped over the side of the building to stop the beating.
Stan drew his bowie knife and waded in. Only a fool warned another of his intentions in a knife fight, so Stan struck the first blow without warning. He drove his knife into the back of the first man he could reach, angling it up from the kidney, through the diaphragm, and into the lungs and heart. He twisted the knife and withdrew it with relative ease; Mr. Bowie had known what he was doing when he designed the knife.
The other two men were so intent on the beating they were delivering that they did not notice the attack on the first man until he was already dead and on the ground. Stan stabbed the second man in the groin; it may not have been an immediately killing blow, but it certainly was disabling. The third man realized that he was in the presence of a killing machine and turned to run. He had hardly got turned around before Stan drove his bowie knife into his brain, starting at the base of his skull.
With all three villains out of the picture, Stan turned to the victim who had fallen to the ground. He examined the beaten man and found that the three attackers had not done their victim any permanent harm as far as Stan could tell. The man was going to be sore for days, but he would live.
Stan emptied his pockets looking for identification, but found none. However, there was a considerable sum of money on the man. He was certainly stupid to walk around carrying that much cash. Stan slung the man over his shoulder and carried him, by back alleys and dark streets, to the nearest police station. Stan laid him out in front of the door where he would surely be noticed, and Stan left before he was spotted.
It was still early by Sydney-Town time, so Stan went back to see what he could find. By the time he got back, the three corpses were missing from the alley, and Stan had no idea what had happened to them. He climbed back to the roof and resumed prowling around. At one point, he saw a naked man thrown out of a second floor window; the man didn't move so Stan was sure that he was dead.
He did see one shooting, but he didn't know the details so he didn't interfere. On the surface, at least, the contest had the appearance of a conventional duel, so Stan considered it to be a matter of honor and none of his business. Though why two men would fight a duel in the middle of the night on a poorly lighted public street was completely beyond him. He assumed that they were both drunk, since they both missed.
He kept up his patrol until nearly dawn without seeing anything else of note. Maybe this was a slow night. In any case, it was time to go home. Stan arrived at home and went to bed without disturbing the rest of the household.
Stan slept late the next day and this caused some comment from the servants, since Stan was usually an early riser. This unusual event went unnoticed by Elizabeth, as she rarely arose before 10:00 AM. Stan and Elizabeth had brunch together on the back veranda and enjoyed a pleasant conversation while they were eating. Elizabeth did notice that Stan was more relaxed this morning than he had been in some time.
After brunch, Stan dressed in his business suit and went to see his bootmaker; this man was definitely more than just another cobbler. Stan explained that he wanted a sturdy, but supple, pair of boots with a soft sole that would not make a lot of noise if he had to move fast.
"Mr. Bromly, I may have what you need. It is a product of Malaya called gutta-percha. Under the right conditions, it can be made to resemble rubber, but it does not become brittle. I have been experimenting with it for boot soles and may have found a formulation which will remain flexible, but have surprising wear resistance."
"Very well, then. Please fashion a pair of boots for me from this gutta-percha at your earliest convenience. When can I expect to see them?"
"Since your last was recently updated and I have all of the materials on hand, it should only take me four or five days to provide you with a completed pair of the boots. I'll send word to you when they are ready."
"Excellent, I'll be waiting anxiously to hear from you. Thank you and good day."
Stan next went to a ship's chandler looking for a small, but sturdy grappling hook. He had to try three different stores before he found what he was looking for. He also bought 50 feet of stout, but small diameter rope. He planned to tie it to the grappling hook and use it for climbing where no convenient hand holds were available. He could tie large knots every 10 to 12 inches in the rope so that it would be easy to grasp even though it was small in diameter. That afternoon, he experimented in his carriage house until he had the arrangement he was looking for. The rope was supposed to be able to hold 400 pounds, so he thought that he could safely trust himself to it. Stan figured that 20 feet of knotted rope would be sufficient for his projected needs.
Stan waited until Elizabeth had retired for the night before leaving for Sydney-Town. He was dressed as he had been the night before and he had his shotgun, knives, and grappling hook. He was anxious to try out the grappling hook on a building he had not been able to scale the previous night.
He arrived and moved to the roof of the first building. He had reached the third building when he heard a woman screaming. He couldn't make out what she was saying, but there was no doubt that she was in pain. He found the appropriate window and looked over the edge of the building. This was a rare three-story building and he couldn't get the right angle to see in through the window. He used the grappling hook to hold the rope while he slipped over the edge of the roof and down beside the window. Now he could see in.
A naked woman was tied to a wooden frame and arranged in such a way that she was lying on her back with her head low and her legs high. Her legs were spread very wide and her crotch was exposed for all to see. A man had a riding crop and was beating her, rather forcefully, right on her pussy. Eight to ten men were standing around watching this exhibition, for that was certainly what it was. Every stroke of the crop would produce a blood-curdling scream from the woman and she would whimper between strokes.
Stan didn't know what he was going to do to put a stop to this torture. He couldn't use his shotgun on the men because the woman was in the way. He didn't have enough throwing knives to take care of all the men in the room and he wasn't sure that killing the men was justified, anyway. The only thing that he could do was to wait until the show was over and then rescue the woman.
After a few minutes, the spectators filed out of the room and the man with the crop tossed it onto a nearby table and reached over to untie the woman. When she was finally loose, she reached up and grabbed the man in a fierce hug. She then kissed him like they were frantic lovers meeting for the first time in months. She sighed and Stan heard her say, "That was the best one this week! I think I came at least four times before it was over!" Stan just shook his head and climbed back to the roof.
Stan sat down to think over this experience. Strange things happen in Sydney-Town and he would have to stop jumping to conclusions about them. He would have to be sure that any other such "torture" scenes really were forced before he acted; otherwise, he could be interfering in a relatively harmless show and would not be welcomed, even by the "victim." Stan sat for a while longer gathering his thoughts and then got up to continue his patrol.
He continued to move from building roof to building roof as he worked his way around the district, until he spied a group of six men coming out the rear door of a saloon. These men were moving all in the same direction and appeared headed out of Sydney-Town toward down-town San Francisco. Stan thought that this warranted further investigation so he set out to follow the gang.
They moved furtively by way of back alleys and very dark streets to the financial district. Stan knew he was on to something, now. The men approached the rear of one of the city's largest banks and forced open the rear door. One man stayed on guard while the others went in.
Stan crept up behind the guard and clipped him under the left ear with the butt of his shotgun. Stan thought, "I'll have to start carrying a sap." He tied the man with strips torn from his shirt and gagged him with more of the same material. After pulling the bound and gagged man into the depths of the alley, Stan crept into bank.
He found the rest of the gang trying to force open the safe. They had brought along some pry bars and were trying to get the door off the safe with them. So far, the score was safe 1, crooks 0. Stan almost laughed out loud as he watched the crooks struggle with the safe. So much work by the crooks had produced no more that a few scratches in the paint on the safe door. These were obviously not professional safe crackers; they had no idea how to go about opening the safe. But when they started talking about getting some gun powder to try to blow the door open, Stan knew that it was time for him to act.
Stan unlimbered his shotgun and made himself known. He ordered the five crooks to raise their hands and surrender. Instead of complying, they all charged at Stan. He fired both barrels of his shotgun and wounded three of the men; they fell, but the other two kept coming. Sam dropped his shotgun and drew his bowie knife. He ducked a wild swing of the pry bar in the hand of the nearest man and gutted him as he moved by. The other man tried to use his pry bar as a spear, but Stan knocked it to one side and stabbed the man in the throat. This one was dead by the time he hit the floor. The fight was over! When men fight face-to-face to kill, the struggle never lasts very long.
Stan examined the first three men whom he had shot, two were dead and one nearly was. Stan put the wounded man out of his misery with a quick swipe of the bowie knife. He pulled the guard from the alley into the room with the others and left them to be discovered by the bank's employees when they came in to work.
Sam recovered his shotgun and reloaded. He picked up his other accouterments and left for home. This was enough for one night!
The next morning, over brunch with Elizabeth, Stan read in the paper about an incident two nights ago. It seems that a policeman, as he was reporting for duty at the station, found an unconscious man on their doorstep. This gentleman turned out to be State Representative Rory McDougall. Representative McDougall was reported to have said that he did not remember exactly what had happened to him; he was accosted by three men and dragged into an alley and beaten. He had no idea how he had gotten to the police station. Representative McDougall was resting quietly in his hotel suite at last report.