The Sky Pirate - Garrett P. Serviss - ebook

The Sky Pirate ebook

Garrett P. Serviss

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For some time, sky pirates took public attention, because everyone was shocked by their brave actions. The handsome and sophisticated captain Alfonso Payton was one of the most daring. They decided to steal the billionaire’s daughter, Helen Grayman, and her servant. Their goal is to squeeze money out of the most wealthy person in the USA. Do these pirates again get what they want?

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Liczba stron: 222

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Contents

PROLOGUE

I. AN AMAZING ABDUCTION

II. AFTER AN ALL-NIGHT FLIGHT

III. A TEN-MILLION DOLLAR RANSOM

IV. HALF A DISCOVERY IN THE WOODS

V. THE POLICE PLAY THEIR HAND

VI. THE FINISH WITH THE POLICE

VII. THE BILLIONAIRE'S PREDICAMENT

VIII. SOME EXTRAORDINARY LETTERS

IX. AN OBLIGING SECRETARY

X. A HARD TASK

XI. THE PIRATE'S LAIR LOCATED

XII. MISS GRAYMAN TRIES FLIGHT

XIII. RUNNING THE PIRATE DOWN

XIV. A NIGHT ATTACK AND AN EXCITING CHASE

XV. A FIGHT NEAR THE CLOUDS

XVI. THE CHAMELEON'S DODGE

XVII. BESIEGED BY THE PIRATE

XVIII. THE TABLES TURNED AGAIN

XIX. ESCAPE FROM A TERRIBLE DEATH

XX. THE LAST OF THE SKY PIRATE

PROLOGUE

The sea pirate has long been a figure of romance but the march of progress has driven him into well-deserved retirement, and he has now been replaced, in fiction at least, by the sky pirate, who is even more mysterious, more daring and more romantic than his predecessor. Read, and there will unfold before you the extraordinary story of Captain Alfonso Payton and his airship, the Chameleon; of William Grayman, the richest man in the world; of his beautiful daughter, for whom ransom $10,000,000 was demanded; of Lieutenant Allen of the Revenue Service; of wonders by wireless and fierce battles above the clouds.

I. AN AMAZING ABDUCTION.

THE extraordinary outbreak of piracy which followed with such astonishing promptness the general adoption of aerial navigation in the fourth decade of the twentieth century will no doubt be regarded by future historians as one of the greatest curiosities of human annals. It has already been the subject of much laborious, research and of many learned disquisitions, while the public has eagerly devoured the “lives” of a dozen of those astounding marauders of the atmosphere, who descended from the sky with the speed and ferocity of famished eagles. Whole towns were sometimes laid under contribution, the terror inspired by dropping bombs banishing all thought of effective resistance.

Of all the desperate adventurers of that period none was so fascinating in personality or had the romantic charm that characterized Captain Alfonso Payton, a Spanish-American, whose real Christian name was probably that which he gave, but who had dropped the name of his family, which was said to be one of the oldest and proudest in Spain, dating back to the days of the conquistadores. Payton’s exploits In his famous aero Chameleon commanded a great deal of attention at times in the newspapers, but this story has never been fully told, and the closing details, the most amazing of all, were with held from public knowledge for reasons which will be apparent in what I am about to relate.

Payton, or “Captain Alfonso,” as his reckless crew always called him, was one of the handsomest men that I have ever, seen. He had a Spaniard’s eyes and complexion, with the stature and rigor of a modern American, while his manners were those of an ideal prince. The charm of his personality was felt by everybody who came in contact with him. He was exceedingly well educated, especially in everything which makes a man attractive to women, and if he had chosen to lead an honest life he could unquestionably have married almost any heiress or any beautiful girl that he might have fancied, and he would have been an ornament to society.

But he was a born pirate. Brave and fearless, he was absolutely reckless of the opinions of mankind, rejoiced in his wickedness, sought only the gratification of his whims and pleasures, and yet he could commit an outrage on the liberty and personal rights of others with such winning gentleness, such delicate consideration for their feelings, that often the sting was not at the moment perceived. Payton’s methods were peculiar. He had chosen his line, and he stuck to it until the end. He never attacked treasure-laden fliers, such as the early transatlantic liners of the International Aero express, which constituted the favorite prey of Morton, the other great pirate of the period, but he made an exclusive specialty of kidnapping, and almost invariably he kidnapped women, whom he treated with the utmost delicacy and consideration consistent with sure capture and safe-keeping. There were many instances familiar to newspaper-readers of his magic personality so working upon his victims that he won their respect and even friendship.

Nevertheless he was without mercy in his exactions. The object of all his abductions was ransom. No tears, no entreaties, no consideration whatever, had the slightest effect upon him. Pay or stay was his word.

The exploit which finally brought Payton’s career to an end was the most extraordinary and romantic in all the long list of his adventures and one which would never have been dreamed of by a man less recklessly daring. At that time the most talked-about and the wealthiest of New York’s billionaires was the late William Grayman. He had accumulated a stupendous fortune by means of a “corner in banks.”

I was a young lieutenant in charge of a government aero engaged in the Revenue Service, and the one thing outside my regular occupation that especially interested me was the progress of invention growing out of the old wireless telegraph.

Mr. Grayman, who had long been a widower, had an only child, Miss Helen Grayman who was one of the most beautiful girls in the richest social circle of New York and was doted on by her father. She was about eighteen years of age, and it was the common report that several European counts and dukes and one prince sought her hand. But it was also averred that she had refused them all.

This made Miss Grayman popular with thousands who had never met her. I recall that my interest in Miss Grayman was first pleasantly awakened by seeing her portrait in a Sunday journal over the title of “An American Girl Who Is True to America.”

One evening late in June 1930, Miss Grayman had retired to her room on the third story of her father’s splendid mansion in Fifth Avenue and was about to begin her toilet for the night with the aid of her maid, Susan Jackson, when a peculiar noise at one of the windows facing Central Park attracted their attention. Miss Grayman had a favorite cat, which sometimes signified its desire to enter her room by tapping on the door, and she directed Susan to open the lattice. The girl threw the window wide open, expecting, like her mistress, to see the cat leap in.

But instead of the cat a man stepped inside.

He was instantly followed by a companion. Before the affrighted girls could utter the scream that was upon their lips they were seized and gagged, though with all possible gentleness, and then were swiftly carried out of the window and upon the deck of an aero which floated against the wall of the house. The leader darted back into the room, saying, “I’ll put out the light.”

He was gone only a minute. As soon as he emerged, leaving the room in darkness, the aero glided out over the trees of the park. The hour was not very late; but, although the avenue and the park in places were brilliantly lighted, no passer-by seems to have noticed the presence of the aero.

Neither of the men who had entered the room wore a mask or made any attempt at personal concealment. In fact, the leader immediately impressed Miss Grayman with his remarkably handsome and refined face, as well as his instinctive politeness and gentility.

In a few minutes the aero had risen to a considerable elevation, revealing the fiery lines of the streets below, and then it flitted out into the darkness over the Hudson. The handkerchiefs that had been bound over the captives’ mouths were now removed, and they were led into a beautiful little cabin, brilliantly illuminated with colored electric lights, near the center of the deck.

Both sank into chairs, and Captain Payton–for of course it was he–took a seat opposite to them. He smiled in so friendly and reassuring a manner that it was impossible for Miss Grayman to be afraid of him. The idea of a criminal attempt upon her liberty never entered her thoughts. She imagined that it was a huge practical joke perpetrated by some of her intimate friends, and she tried to think who among them would be most likely to venture upon such an exploit.

“I must beg a thousand pardons for carrying you off in this way, Miss Grayman,” Payton said, “and I wish at once to offer my absolute assurance that no possible harm to you is intended. I have been in a manner compelled to act as I have done for reasons which you will shortly understand. Since I know your charitable disposition and your sympathy with the unfortunate, I feel sure that I can count upon your heartfelt support in an enterprise which has been undertaken in order to afford a great and a fully deserved gratification to certain persons who have not been treated by the world with even-handed justice. For the carrying out of this enterprise your co-operation and presence have been thought essential.”

This extraordinary speech was delivered in a manner as confiding and gracious and with a smile so winning that Miss Grayman was far from detecting the irony that lurked in it. She now became more than ever convinced that this was really a ruse of some of her friends to engage her in a romantic adventure, although she could not imagine why they should have chosen so singular a method of enlisting her. But it had the charm of great novelty, and youth, inexperience and high spirits united to give her a delightful thrill of undefined interest in the escapade. She felt quite at her ease and was prepared to enjoy some most pleasant surprises. She answered, therefore, with no little gayety of manner:

“Mr.––of course I do not know your name, you know––”

“Brown,” Payton replied promptly and with an even more engaging smile than that which had before illumined his countenance, “Commodore Frederick Brown of the Washington Aero-Yacht Club.”

It was a lucky hit, though made entirely at random. It happened that Miss Grayman had many close friends in Washington, and now she could no longer entertain the least doubt of the correctness of her original surmise. This Commodore Brown evidently belonged to the best circle of society at the capital and had been selected by her friends to act as intermediary in their plot. The extravagance of the notion of having her carried off without the least warning or preparation at such an hour and by a stranger did not occur to her excited imagination. It seemed all as delightful as a fairy-tale, and she tingled with the desire to witness the dénouement which could not fail to be most entertaining. With girlish eagerness she asked, with a knowing look:

“Where have they told you to take me?”

Payton was the shrewdest of the shrewd. He saw in a second the trend of Miss Grayman’s thoughts and the advantage which it would give him. So, assuming an appearance of some confusion at being so quickly found out, he answered:

“Oh, you know I mustn’t tell you that. It would spoil all the fun. You’ll understand everything when we get there.”

And then he broke out with a laugh so joyous, hearty and insinuating that the girl laughed with him, while Susan, stretched her mouth in a broad grin over the unexpected hilarity.

“We’ve got quite a run before us,” Payton resumed in a more serious manner, “and I think, if you will permit the suggestion, that it would be well for you to turn in, as we navigators say. I have a little cabin which, I hope, that you will find comfortable, and, with your permission, I will show you to it.”

He led the way, courteously opened a door amidships, touched a knob to turn on the electric light within the apartment and as soon as the girls had entered bowed low’ with formal politeness, saying as he turned on his heel:

“I wish you pleasant dreams. Good-night!”

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