Caribbean Crisis

by Desmond Reid

14. violent finale

Captain Tarratona's eyebrows arched in sleepy, Latin astonishment. "Why! Seņor Blake? What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that you're a communist," Blake snapped. "You were the man who imposed press censorship on the bathysphere story. You're the man who did all the inside work for Amelia Tucker, and you're the man who's been trying to impede my investigations ever since I arrived!"

"But this is rubbish!" the police chief protested. "It was I who allowed you to visit this ship in spite of the censorship--"

"Because you wanted me to report back to London that Jules Harben was dead! You even tried to tell me he was!"

"But it was I who saved your life just now -- by killing the communist woman, Miss Tucker--"

"You killed her because she was compromised," snapped Blake. "Because if she'd lived she could have compromised you! You suddenly saw where your own interests lay!"

Something glittered behind Tarratona's eyes.

"Get his gun!" Blake shouted.

Kellaher was nearest. He leaped towards the cornered police chief. But long before he got there Tarratona's gun was clearing its holster.

Something else moved then.

From the corner of his eye Blake saw the man beside him move -- Navarro the Mexican. His right arm flashed up with the speed of a cat, to his shoulder. It flashed back down again. It held something black and small -- something that barked out three staccato shots before Tarratona even fired one!

The Maliban Police Chief froze and shuddered in one great convulsion; his eyes popping in his head, bulging from their sockets in stark disbelief.

Then, very slowly, he leaned over, staggered and pitched headlong on the deck -- a lifeless corpse.

Sexton Blake looked at the gun in the Mexican's hand and it was his turn to say fervently: "I'm glad you're on our side."

Navarro looked grim. "I hope you're right about that guy. A G-man needs a good reason for shooting a foreign police chief. Are you sure he's the right guy?"

Blake nodded grimly. "I knew as soon as I was sure why he tried to make me believe Harben was dead -- because Harben is really alive."

"Where is he now, this Harben guy?"

"He's with the rebels waiting to seize control," Blake said bleakly, "and I've got to get there before it happens!"

*            *            *

Blake took the police launch back to the harbour and hailed a taxi on the waterfront. He had to get to Juan Callas to warn him that the communists were still a very real menace -- that they were still at large!

"Drive me to the Ostra!" he told the cab driver.

Somehow he had to find the girl, Francesca. She was his only link with the rebels.

The cab lurched away from the quayside and soon was tearing towards the centre of town.

It was when they reached the town centre and were turning off towards the narrow slum quarter that Blake heard the shots...

A staccato burst of machine-gun fire, fifty yards away across the main square.

A low-slung, gleaming Cadillac had just come down the central avenue from the Presidential palace, flanked by a police escort of motor-cycle out-riders. One moment it was a serene, swift-moving convoy -- and the next, all hell had broken loose!

Blake's cab lurched to a halt as the driver stabbed the footbrake, his eyes bulging in shock towards the scene ahead.

Burst after burst of gunfire raked the Cadillac. It rained down from rooftops on all sides. And the heavy crunch of grenades was added to the din as explosives were thrown in for good measure.

The Cadillac held to its course for a moment, its windscreen shattered and its paintwork punched with bullet holes. Then it went mad.

It veered crazily off the road, swung around in an arch towards the Municipal Museum. It crossed the road, felling and crushing one of the police out-riders. It shot straight across the pavement and began mounting the museum steps.

It got halfway up before gravity brought it to a halt. Then it stood poised. For a bare instant it hung balanced on the side of the steps while the gunfire continued to thunder into it. Then one side rose slowly from the upper steps as the other began to slide.

It did a slow motion somersault and went crashing down to the pavement, its four wheels pointing towards the vacant blue sky.

It began to burn.

*            *            *

Sexton Blake watched grimly as the flames licked hungrily upwards from the naked underbelly of the Cadillac. No screams came from the overturned vehicle. Nothing inside it lived.

Blake knew that President Nonales was dead.

And then he knew something else. From the distant outskirts of the town he heard the first rolling salvo of artillary fire -- and he knew the revolution had begun.

The fighting had started and when it stopped there could only be one outcome: the communists would be in control of Maliba! The Caribbean island would be another communist satellite.

Unless someone could intervene -- and only one man could.


He was the only man who knew. But what could he do? How could he warn the rebels that the communists were in control?

The answer was he couldn't. Because one thing he knew for sure -- he would not find Francesca Cardenez at the Ostra bar. This was her day of days -- the day she wouldn't be there.

Where was she?

*            *            *

Suddenly Blake knew. The answer leaped into his mind. He knew exactly where Francesca would be because she had told him: "I shall be by Juan's side when he speaks to the people."

And suddenly Blake knew exactly where and when the Soviet agents would carry out their coup.

The detective leaned forward in his seat and slapped the stupified driver on the back: "The Radio Station! Drive me to the Radio Station!"

"Si, seņor!" The driver suddenly came to life. He slammed the cab into reverse and did a three-point turn in the road. He needed no second bidding to leave that scene of devastation. A moment later the cab was careering wildly through a network of narrow side streets.

Blake saw in his mind the beautiful simplicity of the communist plan. Once Juan Callas had made his broadcast and consolidated the loyalty of the population, he would be expendable. Therefore that would be the moment chosen for his liquidation. As soon as he'd finished his speech!

Blake wondered if the Radio Station had fallen or was still being fought for. He leaned over the seat in front to reach the dashboard and switched on the radio.

Then he heard it. His blood ran cold. Juan Callas was already on the air:

"...the time has come to throw off the yoke of dictatorship and to throw it off forever! People of Maliba, on this glorious day of revolution you have not only lost a corrupt, totalitarian demagogue -- you have lost your chains! From this day on..."

Blake's heart missed a beat. Callas was already winding up his speech. When he stopped talking he would die! Could Blake get there in time to save him?

*            *            *

In Number One Studio of the Maliba State Radio Building, Francesca Cardenez sat watching the man who stood by the microphone talking, with a glow of pride. Juan Callas had never looked more handsome in his crisp, starched uniform of Commander-in-Chief of the Liberation Army.

He spoke with sincerity, passion and conviction, as no-one in Maliba had ever spoken before. He was building a whole new future for the island's people -- there before the microphone.

Sitting at the desk behind Francesca was Ramon de VEga, Callas's newly appointed second in command. Francesca looked at him with a warm smile, but de Vega was paying careful attention to the speech, listening to every word with cold-blooded detachment. He did not smile.

The door of the studio opened quietly and a soldier of the Liberation Army came in with a message. He handed it to de Vega who read it with a frown.

"Blake?" he whispered.

Francesca, suddenly alert, took the message and read it. To de Vega she whispered: "Let him in -- he's a friend of ours."

De Vega looked at her with narrow eyes. He nodded thoughtfully to the soldier. "Admit him," he murmured.

The man went out and in a few moments returned with Blake. Blake came in quietly with his arms folded. He gave Francesca a smile and nodded to de Vega. They all listened quietly as Juan Callas came to the end of his speech:

"...and brought to justice in the name of the Council of Revolution! And when the last traitor is purged from our midst we shall go forward together towards the broad uplands of a new and better age!"

The red transmission light went off. Somewhere in another part of the building the strains of the Maliba national anthem began to play as Callas turned round from the microphone, a tall, lean young man with a tanned, handsome face.

Francesca was on her feet and running towards him. She threw her arms about his neck and embraced him passionately.

"Magnificant Juan! You were magnificant!"

Callas turned to his lieutenant. "What do you say, Ramon?"

De Vega nodded. "Quite adequate, Juan," he said. "Quite adequate..."

"Adequate?" Callas looked astonished. "Is that all?"

"What he means," Blake put in grimly, "is that you were quite adequate for the purposes of communist propaganda."

"What?" Callas exclaimed. "Ramon! What is this?"

"His name isn't Ramon," Blake said grimly. "His name is Kraski -- Jakob Kraski. Recently known as Jules Harben. He's the man who murdered Peter Sellingham and he's wanted for crimes against humanity all over the Western World!"

Kraski gave the detective a polite, cynical bow. "Quite right, Mr. Blake. I suspected you knew too much. That is why I allowed you to be admitted. Now you can stay here to perish at the same time as these two fools!"

Kraski drew a revolver from the low-slung holster at his belt. "You see, Callas," he said coldly, "you have served your purpose. Your continued existence is an embarrassment to the process of true revolution. From this point onwards, we take over!"

"No, you don't," Blake said grimly. "Put the gun down!"

Kraski looked at him in astonishment. "You are threatening me?" he said with a quizzical, puzzled smile.

"I don't want to have to kill you," Blake said bleakly. "I want to take you alive."

"You're not taking me anywhere!" Kraski exploded. He moved the gun towards Blake.

Blake shot him. Shot him dead from where he stood with his arms folded. A mere jerk of the shoulder was all it took. Then Blake unfolded his arms for the first time -- with Lieutenant Navarro's snub-nosed automatice in his hand.

Kraski slumped in his chair, a neat red bullet hole in the centre of his forehead.

"Pity," Blake murmured grimly. "We could have got a lot of valuable information out of him."

Juan Callas was staring white faced and stunned. "I don't understand--" he began "--I just don't understand!"

"You don't have to," Blake said swiftly. "First of all you've got something more important to do." He produced the sodden list of agents from his pocket. "Broadcast an immediate operational order for the arrest of these men -- and an order releasing the men you arrested by mistake."

*            *            *

By the middle of the afternoon it was all over. A cease-fire was officially declared at three-thirty and the victory parade began at four'o'clock.

It had been a busy day,

It was a busy day for Juan Callas and Francesca, a busy and joyous day for the people of Maliba, and a busy day for Sexton Blake.

The detective took his leave from the young couple after the official reception at the Presidential palace.

The take-over had been smooth; casualties had been light. Callas was already drafting provisional plans for the holding of new elections.

And Blake had only one more task to do. He had to send three cables.

One was to Paula Dane at Berkeley Square; it would say:


The second to Sir Gordon Sellingham:


And the third for Eustace Craille. It would be to the point. It would say:





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