About the Author Our foremost storyteller of the American West, Louis L’Amour has thrilled a nation by chronicling the adventures of the brave men and woman who settled the frontier. There are more than three hundred million copies of his books in print around the world. Read more Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. East of Gorontalo Ponga Jim Mayo leaned against the hogshead of tobacco and stared out at the freighter. His faded khaki suit was rumpled, his heavy jaw unshaven. The white-topped cap carried the label “Captain” in gold lettering, but Ponga Jim looked like anything but a master mariner, and felt even less like one. Being broke was a problem anywhere. In Gorontalo it became an emergency of the first water. Everything he owned in the world was on him, from the soft, woven-leather shoes on his feet to the white-topped cap to the big Colt automatic in its shoulder holster. Jim pushed his cap back on his head and glanced at Major Arnold, sitting on a bitt at the edge of the wharf. In his neat white drill and military mustache he could have been nothing but a British officer. “Tell me, William,” Jim said, “just what brings a big-shot intelligence officer to Celebes? Something in the wind?” “You get around a lot, don’t you?” Major William Arnold lighted a cigarette and glanced up at Jim. “Yeah, when I can.” Ponga Jim grinned. “Right now I’m on the beach, and it looks like I’m not getting off for a while. But there isn’t much in the Indies I don’t know.” Arnold nodded. “I know. You might do me some good, Jim. If you see anything suspicious, give me a tip, will you? There’s a rumor around that while England’s busy in Europe, there will be a move to pick up some of her colonies in the Far East. This is a Dutch colony, but we’re cooperating.” “Then,” Mayo said thoughtfully, nodding his head toward the broadbeamed, battered tramp freighter, “you might add her to your list of suspects.” “That’s the Natuna out of Surabaya, isn’t it? Didn’t you used to be her skipper?” “Yeah.” Ponga Jim shifted his position to let the breeze blow under his coat. He was wearing a gun, and the day was hot. “Then the company sold her to Pete Lucieno, and I quit. I wouldn’t work for that dope peddler on a bet. I’m no lily of the valley, and frankly, I’m not making any boasts about being above picking up a slightly illegal dollar—I’ve made some of your British pearl fisheries out of season before now, and a few other things—but I draw the line at Pete’s kind of stuff.” “No love lost, I guess?” Arnold squinted up at Jim, smiling. “Not a bit. He’d consider it a privilege to cut my heart out. So would Dago Frank, that majordomo of his, or Blue Coley. And I don’t fancy them.” Major Arnold soon left, walking back up toward the club. Ponga Jim lighted a cigarette and stared thoughtfully at the Natuna. Then his eyes shifted to the other ship in port, a big white freighter, the Carlsberg. Although there were three or four schooners, and a scattering of smaller craft, it was the two freighters that held his attention. “Now, William,” he said whimsically, “you should never miss a bet. Being an old seafaring man, it strikes me as being somewhat phony for that native scow to be shoving herself around in circles. Especially, when she goes behind the Carlsberg riding high and comes out with darn little freeboard. Then she wanders around, gets behind the Natuna, and comes out riding high in the water again. “Now the only Carlsberg I ever knew sailed out of Bremen, not Copenhagen.” Mayo’s eyes flickered to the sleek white Carlsberg. “So, putting a possibility of registry changed from Bremerhaven to Copenhagen, some mysterious goings-on connected with the Natuna, a scow whose owners would frame their mothers for a dollar six-bits, a war, and William’s rumors, what do you have?” Ponga Jim Mayo straightened up and sauntered off down the dock. It was nearly sundown, and the seven guilders that remained in his pocket suggested food. After that— JIM WALKED INTO Chino John’s and stopped at the bar. “Give me a beer,” he said, glancing around. A man standing nearby turned to face Mayo. “Well, if it isn’t my old friend Ponga Jim!” he sneered. “On the beach again, no?” Jim looked at Dago Frank coolly and then past him at Luci­eno. The fat little Portuguese glistened with perspiration and ill-concealed hatred. “Yeah,” Jim said. “Anytime to keep out of the company of rats.” “I disdain that remark,” Lucieno said. “I disdain it.” “You’d better,” Jim said cheerfully. “If you took it up, I’d pull your fat nose for you!” Dago Frank’s eyes narrowed. He stepped closer. “Then maybe you pull mine, eh?” he challenged. Ponga Jim’s right fist snapped up in a jarring right that knocked every bit of wind from Dago Frank’s body. Then jerking him erect, Mayo jolted another six-inch punch into his midsection and dropped him to the floor. Coolly, he picked up his beer and drank it, and then he turned and looked at Lucieno. The fat Portuguese began to back away, his face white. Jim grinned. “Okay, pal,” he said cheerfully. “It was just a little lesson to teach your boyfriend to talk nice to his superiors. Next time—” He shook his finger warningly and turned away. Arnold was standing on the boardwalk as Jim strode through the swinging doors. He chuckled, clapping Jim on the shoulder. “That was great! Everybody in the Dutch East Indies has been hoping to see that pair get called. But you’ve made an enemy, and a nasty one.” “That’s just the fifth episode,” Mayo said, shrugging. “I beat them out of a cargo of copra and pearl shell down in the Friendly Islands about three years ago. About six months later they tried to kidnap old Schumann’s daughter over in the Moluccas. They were going to sell her to some native prince. I put a stop to that, and a couple of their boys got tough.” “What happened to them?” “You know, William,” Jim said seriously, “I was trying to remember the other day. They had an accident or something.” He straightened his tie, and gave the automatic a hitch into a better position. “By the way, William,” he asked carelessly, “where’s the Natuna bound this trip?” “To Port Moresby, with general cargo.” Ponga Jim walked down the street, and when he turned at the corner, glanced back. Major Arnold, his neat, broad-shouldered, compact figure very casual, was standing in front of Chino John’s. Jim grinned, and turned the corner carelessly. Then, suddenly alert, he wheeled and darted down an alley, turned into a side street, and cut through the scattering of buildings toward the dock. The British Intelligence was convenient at times, at others, a nuisance. There was no one in sight when he reached the dock. He let himself down the piling and crawled into a skiff moored there in the dark. Quickly, he shoved off. Overhead there was a heavy bank of clouds. The night was very still, and the skiff made scarcely a shadow as it slipped through the dark water. Staying a hundred yards off, Ponga Jim avoided the lighted gangway and cautiously sculled the boat around to the dark side of the Natuna. There was no one in sight, so with painstaking care he drifted the boat nearer and nearer to the silent ship. When he came alongside he laid his paddle down and stood up, balancing himself. Fortunately, the sea was still. Picking up the heaving line lying in the stern of the boat, Mayo tossed the monkey’s fist around a stanchion of the taffrail, and catching the ball, he pulled it down. Read more