Plunder of the Sun

Plunder of the Sun

by David Dodge
Plunder of the Sun

Plunder of the Sun

by David Dodge

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This globe-spanning treasure-hunt adventure is filled with “action, suspense, and excitement . . . Pure escape” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Al Colby should never have said yes. When asked to smuggle a package from Chile to Peru, he should have run in the other direction. But he needed money, and he wanted the adventure. Now a man is dead, and two beautiful women seem out to seduce Al or kill him—or maybe both.
A handful of gunmen, however, definitely aren’t planning on seducing him first. And it all has something to do with that package, an ancient manuscript that reads like a treasure map . . .
From the bestselling author of the classic To Catch a Thief—the basis for the Hitchcock film—this is an entertaining, fast-paced story of international intrigue and danger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626816039
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 09/01/2018
Series: Al Colby , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 223
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

David Dodge (August 18, 1910–August 1974) was an author of mystery/thriller novels and humorous travel books. His first book was published in 1941. Dodge's fiction is characterized by tight plotting, brisk dialogue, memorable and well-defined characters, and (often) exotic locations. His travel writing documented the (mis)adventures of the Dodge family (David, his wife, Elva, and daughter, Kendal) as they roamed around the world. Practical advice and information for the traveler on a budget are sprinkled liberally throughout the books.

Read an Excerpt


The man who had made an appointment to meet me in Santiago's Parque Forestal was late getting there, and the sun shining on the bench where I waited made me sleepy. I dozed off, so I didn't hear him coming. When he said, "Mr. Colby?" I opened my eyes and looked up, expecting to see him standing in front of me.

I saw a girl. She was Latin and pretty, with big dark eyes, smooth dark hair, a bright skin and a slim figure. She was wearing white, a kind of nurse's uniform minus the starch, with a white ribbon in her hair instead of a cap. That much I saw before I looked at the man she was pushing in a wheel chair.

He was about fifty, at a guess. He looked ugly and soft and helpless, like a slug. His skin was corpse-gray. His hands, lying on the lap robe spread over his knees, were younger than the rest of him, so he might not have been as old as I thought. I never did find out how old he really was, and it doesn't matter now, to him or to anybody else.

I said, "Señor Berrien?"


I stood up. He said in Spanish, "This is my nurse, Ana Luz."

I said it enchanted me to make her acquaintance, wondering whether her name was Señorita Luz or whether he had introduced her by her first name to show that she was only a servant, the way you would say, "This is Mary Jane, the scullery maid." Nothing in her manner gave me a hint either way. She said tanto gusto and swung the wheel chair around so that it faced the bench. After she had arranged Berrien's lap robe, she went to the far end of the bench and sat down. I sat at the near end, next to Berrien.

We talked in English. His was book English, with an accent I couldn't identify except that it sounded more Central European than South American.

"I hope you will excuse me for insisting that we meet in the park," he said. "A wheel chair is easier to manage on a path than in most other places."

"I could have come to see you."

"It wasn't necessary. I visit the park daily for my exercise."

I looked at his shoes, which showed below the lap robe. They were worn.

"I can walk," he said, seeing my eyes move. "I'm not supposed to do any more of it than is necessary to keep my legs functioning."



That was all, for nearly a minute. He was thinking, trying to make up his mind how to say what he had to say. I kept quiet because it wasn't my turn to talk. I didn't know him from the cow that kicked over the lamp. I didn't know who he was or what he wanted or where he had got my name, only that he called himself Alfredo Berrien and had telephoned me to make an appointment to talk business. He hadn't said what kind of business.

After he had studied the design of his lap robe for a while, he said, "The American consul in Valparaíso told me about you. He says that you are capable and trustworthy, and that your services are available for a proper fee."

He waited for me to say something. When I didn't, he said, "Can you arrange to leave Chile within the next few days?"

"To go where?"


"What do you want done in Peru?"

"Nothing. I want you to carry something there for me."

"Go on."

"There is an American ship, the Talca, leaving Valparaíso for the north in three days. I am sailing on her. I want you to be aboard. Before we sail, I will give you a small package which you can put in your pocket. You will keep it until we leave the ship at Callao, where you will return it to me. At that time I will pay you a thousand dollars."

"What's in the package?"

"You won't know."

"It won't be in my pocket, then."

"Not for a thousand dollars?"

"Not for a lot of thousands of dollars. If you feel like telling me what it's all about, I'll listen. Otherwise, the answer is no."

"What if I give you my word that I am not asking you to do anything criminal?"

"I don't know that your word is any good."

He took it as I meant it, without getting his feelings hurt. I said, "And if you're not afraid of trouble, why pay me a thousand dollars?"

He didn't answer the question directly. He had to think again. When I got tired of watching him, I watched his nurse, who was looking at the river.

A breeze twitched the ribbon in her hair. She put up her hand to it. She had small slender hands, the wrists no bigger than a child's. The rest of her was grown-up enough for anybody. She looked about half her patient's age.

Alfredo Berrien picked his words carefully.

"The — object — which I want you to take to Peru is a Peruvian antique. It belongs in Peru, and the Peruvian law was broken when it was taken out of the country. I want to return it there. But the Chilean law also restricts exportation of native antiques, and the Chilean authorities would refuse to recognize the Peruvian origin of the object if they discovered it. It will have to be smuggled."

"Why can I smuggle it any easier than you can?"

He smiled, leaning forward to arrange a loose corner of the lap robe.

"I am a dealer in antiques. They know me here, in Chile. I ..."

The smile became a death's-head grin that made his face look like a skull. The gray of his cheeks turned a dirty blue. He made a gasping noise, and rolled his eyes toward his nurse, trying at the same time to get his hand up to his breast pocket.

She beat him to it. He had a handkerchief there, and something small made of glass that she wrapped in the handkerchief and crushed with her fingers before she shoved the handkerchief up against his nose. His eyes, as he struggled to inhale, popped with the effort he was making.

I said, "Shall I try to find a glass of water?"

The nurse didn't answer. I had said it in English, wanting to find out if Berrien was talking that language because it came easier to him than another or because he didn't want her to know what we were talking about. She didn't tumble. I said it again, in Spanish.

"No, gracias." She helped his groping hand up to the handkerchief. "He will be all right in a moment."

The stuff, whatever it was, took hold fast. Berrien's breathing stopped sounding as if it came from a cut throat. The blue faded from his face. Thirty seconds later, when he took the handkerchief away from his nose, there was a little water in his eyes. Otherwise he looked like the same old healthy corpse.

"I'm sorry," he said faintly.

The nurse was taking his pulse — not timing it, but feeling for the thread of life in his arteries to see if he was in shape to go on talking. He lay back in the wheel chair, looking shrunken and dead, his eyes closed, waiting for her to make up his mind. After a moment she put his wrist in his lap, touched him lightly on the shoulder with what might have been an encouraging pat, and went back to her seat at the end of the bench.

When his eyes opened, I said, "Do you get those things very often?"

"Too often. One of them will kill me some day."

"It's not a nice thing to think about."

"I try not to think about it. I keep my mind occupied with other things — such as the matter we were discussing."

He wiped his eyes before he put the handkerchief back in his breast pocket.

"You were asking why it would be easier for you to smuggle the package," he said, as if nothing had happened. "I am a dealer in antiques, well known in all these countries. I and my baggage will be thoroughly searched, both at Valparaíso and at Callao. You, as an American — presumably a tourist — will have no trouble. They will not go through your pockets, even if they bother to search your luggage. You will have a ten-day sea trip and a thousand dollars for enjoying the sea air."

"This antique must be pretty valuable."

He turned his hands palm up in his lap.

"Who can say? What is the value of a rare coin containing two cents worth of copper, for example? Whatever someone wishes to pay for it."

"You're speculating a thousand dollars that it's worth a lot more than that to somebody."

"I speculate every day of my life, Mr. Colby." The lines in his gray face deepened. "Each morning when I awake, I wonder if it is for the last time. Then I put it out of my mind and try to interest myself in other things. There is little pleasure that I can buy with my money, except through using it to surround myself with things of beauty. Sometimes I sell them, sometimes I keep them for what they are. But their value — to me — is not something that can be measured in terms of the money I will leave behind when I die."

He turned his head toward the nurse as he finished speaking. It may have been only a coincidence, but I wondered. Just then she was a thing of beauty in anybody's language. The breeze had stiffened suddenly, flipping the ribbon in her hair so that she put up both hands to secure it. That particular gesture is one of the most feminine things a woman can do, to my mind. Her back straightens, her breasts push forward, her head comes up, her arms curve like the handles on a Grecian vase. Even a homely woman looks different when she is fixing her hair. Berrien's nurse wasn't homely.

She saw us watching her. I don't know if there was any particular expression in Berrien's face, but there must have been something in mine, because she flushed and dropped her arms. I looked at Berrien again.

"Before I say yes or no, tell me one more thing. What happens to me if I'm caught?"

"You must not be caught. They would confiscate the — object."

"What else?"

"You would be fined, possibly put in jail. But you must not be caught, Mr. Colby. I came to you because I heard that you were a resourceful man. I am counting on your resourcefulness. You must not be caught!"

He was trying so hard to sell me the idea that he leaned forward in the wheel chair and raised his voice. The nurse said warningly, "Cuídese, don Alfredo."

He relaxed.

"I'm as interested in staying out of jail as you are in keeping your antique," I said. "If it were left to me, I'd take a plane from here. They're a lot easier with inspections at the airport than they are at the aduana in Valparaíso."

"No. No. I cannot travel by air, and I want you where I can see what you are doing."

"You think I might run out?"

"If I thought that, I would not have come to you. But if something goes wrong, there may be things I can do to help if I am on hand. You must sail with me on the Talca."

It was reasonable enough. I knew a heart case as bad as he was couldn't board a plane, even with an oxygen tank to keep him company. He watched me anxiously while I thought it over.

A thousand dollars was a thousand dollars. I could use it, although I didn't need it so bad that I had to grab it without thinking. And Berrien's deal gave me the nudge I needed to leave Santiago. Once I had thought I would stay in Chile forever, but forever turned out to be about a year. It was time to move along. I knew that I could probably get his package through without trouble. Breaking the law didn't bother me. If his story was halfway on the level — and I believed part of it — the kind of law I was breaking didn't matter much.

I thought about it, sitting there in the hot sunlight with the breeze from the river hitting me in the face, half-decided to tell him that I would need twenty-four hours to think it over. It was the nurse who made up my mind for me.

She got up to rearrange his lap robe, which the breeze had blown loose again. When she had tucked it in, she stood behind the wheel chair instead of going back to her seat, watching my face the way Berrien was watching it. She might not understand English, but she knew what was going on. And she was as anxious to hear my answer as he was.

I said to Berrien, "You don't want me to know any more about this package than you have told me?"

"No. But what I have told you is the truth."

"After you give it to me, what's to stop me from ..."

"Your word."

"You don't know me. You haven't any more reason to trust my word than I have to trust yours."

"I know your consul in Valparaíso. I trust his judgment. He says that your word is good."

He meant it as a selling point, to show me that he was a man of honor who could understand honor in others. I wasn't sold. Half the crooks I knew expected everybody else to be crooked, and the other half were smart enough to realize that honesty was useful — in somebody else. I thought Alfredo Berrien was pretty smart.

The nurse was still trying to make something out of my expression. On an impulse, I looked her in the eye and said, "O.K., I'll do it."

Everybody in South America knows what O.K. means. She stopped looking anxious. I couldn't tell whether she was relieved or disappointed.


Berrien and I arranged to meet in Valparaíso on the morning of the day the Talca sailed. He had already reserved an extra cabin, but he told me he would cancel it so I could book the reservation in my own name. He didn't want anything in the record to connect us.

At the ticket office I learned that the Talca was a freighter, with eight cabins on the boat deck. The one I got — Berrien's cancellation — was the only one open. I had my passport stamped with a Peruvian tourist visa and spent the next couple of days cleaning up the bills I owed around town and clearing myself with the authorities. On the morning of the third day, I went down to Valparaíso on the train.

The consul there was a friend of mine. I stopped in to see him before I kept my date with Berrien.

"What do you know about Alfredo Berrien?" I asked him.

"Who's he?"

"A heart case in a wheel chair, with a good-looking nurse."

"Oh, him. Nothing much. He had a letter of introduction. He wanted the name of some unattached American he could hire to do what he called an unusual job. You were the only man I knew of in Chile who did unusual jobs, so I sent him along."

"You never met him before he brought the letter of introduction?"

"Never even heard of him."

"He said he wanted to hire me because you had recommended me, and he trusted your judgment."

"Why shouldn't he?"

"No reason. No reason why he should, either."

"You're just suspicious by nature. What was the job?"


His eyebrows went up. He said, "I see what you mean. Did you accept?"

"If I don't tell you, you won't have to worry about it. I'm leaving Chile for Peru, and my mail will come here. Hold it until you hear from me."

"If you get into trouble in Peru, you're on your own, you know. There's nothing the consular service can do to help you."

"I know. Thanks for the recommendation, anyway."

Half an hour later I met Berrien in the Plaza Sotomayor. The package was in his lap. He handed it to me as Ana Luz wheeled him by the bench where I was reading a newspaper. I went on reading until they had time to cross the plaza, then looked at the package.

It was about the size of a small book, wrapped in brown paper and lumped over with gobs of red sealing-wax that had been stamped down with a signet ring or a cameo. The imprint was a tiny llama, ears and tail up, very finely cut. Berrien's confidence in my word didn't prevent him from seeing to it that I wasn't tempted to get nosy.

I didn't care what he thought. What I wanted to know was whether he had hired me because he was really afraid of being searched at the aduana or for some other reason.

I went down to the aduana early. The customs inspectors didn't waste two minutes on me. I had the package in my inside coat pocket — I had to cut the lining to squeeze it in — but I could just as well have wrapped it in a shirt and put it in my bag, because they gave the bag the fast one-two-three that American tourists get in any country where people who have dollars to spend are popular. They asked me the usual questions about firearms, jewelry, and silver. I said I didn't have any. That was all there was to it.

I was sitting in a quiet corner of the aduana when Berrien and Ana Luz showed up. They had four bags with them, and a small box that Berrien declared for duty. The box held odds and ends of jewelry, a gold florero, a piece of carved jade, other junk the inspectors had to take out and weigh and argue about. But Berrien got it through, for a price. Then the inspectors went at his bags.

It was a real job, this time. They took everything out, unfolded clothes, shook them, peered at the lining of the bags, and tapped things to see if they sounded hollower than they should. Ana Luz's baggage got the same treatment. The inspectors had more sport with her than with Berrien, because she owned some pretty fancy underwear. They held things up to the light and made a game out of looking for something concealed in the frills. But even with the horseplay, it was easy to see they meant business. When they finished with the bags, they wheeled Berrien off to a side room for the personal treatment. Ana Luz and a matron went into another room.


Excerpted from "Plunder of the Sun"
by .
Copyright © 1949 David Dodge.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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