Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER V. In the Hands of the Devil Princess.
“The Archbishop,” Miss Kun replied, “has gone to a better place.”
“You’ve killed him?” I asked incredulously.
“He’s on retreat in Wilkes-Barre,” she replied, “which is a much better place for him than here at the moment.” She dropped the robe in a puddle of fabric on the floor, and we could see that she was a very fit young woman, thanks to the iridescent red fabric that outlined every line and curve of her flesh. “I have taken charge of the archdiocese in his absence. Every suffragan bishop, every parish priest, every deacon and sexton and church secretary is now under my command, which means that they are all now in my father’s employ.”
“You fiend in human form!” Weyland hissed.
Miss Kun began to approach him. “I take that as a very high compliment, Mr. Weyland. And my father has told me a great deal about you.”
“Indeed?” said Weyland. He was maintaining a defiant stance, but I knew him well enough to discern that he was not immune to the beauty of the Devil Princess.
“He has always told me that the members of the non-Andorran race are merely stupid,” she said as she stopped right in front of him, her face rather nearer his than etiquette would usually suggest on such short acquaintance. “But he always made one important exception.”
“He flatters me,” said Weyland.
“Indeed he does. ‘Most of the non-Andorran race are merely stupid,’ he always told me, ‘but Norbert Weyland is stupid and lucky.’ ”
“l do my best,” Weyland said.
Her lips were very near his. “My father is eager to speak with you in person.”
“I’ve been hoping to catch up with him as well.”
“However,” she continued, “he has kindly consented to allow me to play with you for a while, as long as I don’t damage you too badly.”
Her lips touched his very briefly, but before he could react she drew back and laughed.
“I suppose he’ll be satisfied if you can answer simple yes-or-no questions,” she said, walking back toward the middle of the room. She turned to face Weyland again. “That still leaves me plenty of room to amuse myself. You’ll be surprised. I have a very creative mind.”
“Suppose he doesn’t want to be your plaything,” I said. Weyland looked almost surprised by the idea, but I continued. “Suppose he decides to leave. I see two of us and only one of you.”
“Oh, Mr. Peevish,” said the Devil Princess, “you are amusing. I think I shall play with you a little, too, and I shall not be obliged to leave you in speaking condition. I hate having limits put on my fun. To answer your question, I have but to summon my loyal priests, which can be done with a mere snap of my fingers, thus activating the wireless relay in my ring. Before you could go two feet, they would be here, and they are very well armed.” She turned again and walked back to the window. “You see, then, why I expect no trouble from you. I rely on your sense of self-preservation, a quality usually possessed even by non-Andorrans.”
While her back was turned, Weyland whispered to me, “I am about to try something rather diabolically clever, though desperate. Be ready to follow my lead.”
“So, gentlemen,” Miss Kun continued, “I suppose I could entertain you by telling you all the details of my father’s plan, but I doubt whether your puny non-Andorran minds could follow me. But I think you will be impressed by the broad outline. We now control the entire archdiocese.” She waved a hand at the window as if to indicate the entire darkened landscape beyond. “With the archdiocese comes the entire Mid-Atlantic region. With the Mid-Atlantic comes the capital. With the capital comes domination of the North American continent. With North America as his base, my father will be able to control St.-Pierre and Miquelon, and from there he will be able to infiltrate the French Republic.”
“But wouldn’t it be easier to get to France directly from Andorra?” I asked.
She sighed. “I didn’t expect your small minds to understand.”
“I think I see it,” said Weyland. “By approaching France through her North American possessions,—” Suddenly he pointed to the far corner of the room. “WHAT’S THAT OVER THERE?”
Miss Kun looked away from us, and Weyland ran for a side door, with me close behind him. We were almost through the door before we heard the Devil Princess speak again.
“What do you mean? I see nothing but— Priests!”
Just as we slammed the door behind us, we heard the sound of her snapping her fingers.
Weyland and I found ourselves in a library, and we managed to move a heavy bookcase in front of the door just before pounding began from the other side. We also heard Miss Kun’s voice berating her guards in language I should not have considered suitable for a young lady.
“It’s only a matter of time before they remember they have guns,” I said. “What now?”
“Perhaps in there,” said Weyland. He indicated a panel in the wall where the bookcase had been—a panel that was slightly ajar.
“A secret passage!” I whispered.
“It would hardly be a proper palace without a secret passage,” Wevland said. “I suggest you grab that remarkably convenient flashlight on the shelf, and let’s find out where it leads.”
I picked up the flashlight he indicated, and we opened the panel and stepped into the darkness. I turned on the flashlight, and Weyland closed the door behind us.
Stone steps curved down between cold but dry stone walls. We stepped down about two storeys’ worth, and then the steps ended and we found a level passage before us. We heard nothing behind us, so we kept going until the passage suddenly expanded into a broad chamber. The narrow beam of light from the flashlight was reflected in something metallic and gold.
“This may help,” said Weyland. There was a click, and the room was flooded with light. Weyland had found a wall switch.
Unimaginable treasures lay before us. It was a vast chamber filled with gold and silver objects in untidy stacks, along with a few boxes of glittering gems.
“The legendary Lost Treasure of the Archbishops!” Weyland exclaimed.
“No wonder there was a secret passage,” I remarked. “What should we do?”
“Keep going, Peevish. In my time I’ve seen quite a few lost treasures, and I’ve learned it’s best not to let them distract you. Just be careful not to trip over a priceless artifact.”
We carefully picked our way through mounds of statues and platters and tapestries and chests full of jewelry, until on the other side of the chamber we reached another stairway going up.
“If my calculations are correct,” said Weyland, “we should be directly under the fourth hole of the Archbishop’s private golf course.”
At the top of the stairs was a trap door that pulled downward, and above that, oddly, another trap door that pushed upward.
We ascended through the two trap doors and found ourselves in a chamber with windows along two sides and, even more oddly, a ship’s wheel in front of the far windows, through which dawn was just beginning to break.
“Well, that’s very odd,” said Weyland. “I’m absolutely sure this is where the fourth hole was, and I’m quite positive there was no structure on the fourth hole when I last played golf with the Archbishop.”
“Quite correct,” said the voice of the Devil Princess. She had appeared behind us with four of her gun-toting priests, apparently from a connecting chamber.
“You mean you built this thing on the Archbishop’s golf course?” asked Weyland, apparently horrified by the idea of such desecration.
“No,” she said. “I mean that I landed my own private air yacht on the fourth hole, and you have very conveniently found your way into it, as I expected you would. Have a look out the window, if you like.” When we hesitated, she added, “I insist,” and the priests made gestures with their guns to indicate that we ought to oblige her.
Weyland and I walked a few steps over to the windows and looked out. We were already several hundred feet in the air, and the ground was rapidly dropping away.
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling episode: