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Black Shadows and Other Stories by J.C. Kofoed

Black Shadows and Other Stories by J.C. Kofoed

Black Shadows and Other Stories – Three novelettes of suicides and murder mysteries by J.C. Kofoed.

Book Details

Book Details

Black Shadows and Other Stories – Three novelettes of suicides and murder mysteries by J.C. Kofoed.

Brothers-of-the-Coast (1920) – Among the Pirates of Port Royal. A novelette in four chapters.

The Mystery of the Marseilles Express (1920) – One Man Murdered. Four Confessions. A novelette in six chapters.

Black Shadows (1920) – A Series of Murders. A novelette in seven chapters.

John Christian Kofoed (1894-1979) and his twin brother William were born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1894. John died in 1979. The Kofoed twins began to become interested in writing in high school when they contributed to their school newsletter. After graduation from high school, the brothers began to work for The Philadelphia Daily Public Ledger.

During World War I, brother William served in the infantry while Jack served as a war correspondent in France. After the war, the brothers resumed their literary careers with William becoming a founding editor for Fiction House and Jack writing for a number of magazines such as Fight Stories, Sport Story, All-American Sports, Champion Sports, Ace Sports, Thrilling Football, Popular Sports, Popular Detective, G-Men, and Thrilling Adventures.

Black Shadows and Other Stories has 4 illustrations.


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Excerpt: Brothers-of-the-Coast

Among the Pirates of Port Royal

I  DROPPED over the side of the Mary Rose when she steamed out of Port Royal, and swam back to the wharf. It was a foolish thing to do, for the harbor was full of ground sharks, but the heat and rather too much rum-and-sugar had made me reckless. Probably, too, I had imbibed some of the devil-may-care spirit of this ancient nesting place of the buccaneers.

When I reached the dock I was dizzy and blown from my exertions. It was terribly hot. Something seemed dragging at the nape of my neck, and the winking lights in Port Royal harbor looked like the blazing eyes of mammoth animals. I sat down on a cask, and watched the red lantern on the Mary Rose’s stack disappear into the night. I couldn’t quite recall why I had come back to Port Royal. It was because of something someone had told me—damn that rum! My head was like an empty barrel. I could not remember a thing.

After a bit I lit my pipe, having tobacco and matches safe in a waterproof bag, as all sailormen should. Gradually the fog in my brain started to shred out. I began to remember.

First it was Mary Logan. She had promised to marry me back in New Bedford. She had laid her little hands in my great, horny ones, and pressed her lips against my cheeks, murmuring words of endearment, and promising to wed me in a fortnight. All the time she knew she was lying, for her plans had been laid to run away with Benjy Harrison that very night. Something snapped inside of me then; the world went black before my eyes. . . . Later I shipped on the Mary Rose, bound for Port Royal.

But it wasn’t Mary’s treachery that had made me leave the old tramp. What was it? I pressed my fists against my aching temples, and tried to think.

Ah, I had it!

It was on account of what Hong Fat showed me—that and the sugared rum, I guess. The filthy, slit-eyed Chinaman was a magician in his own country, he said, and I’ll give it to him that he was clever. For two dollars he went through his whole bag of tricks, but it didn’t satisfy me. I’m a deep water sailor, and I come from a long line of blue-nosed, psalm-singing Puritans, but there’s a streak of the mystic in me. I always wanted to look behind the veil, and Hong Fat said he could lift it for me.

So I gave him five dollars to do it. He brought out a little bronze bowl from under his robe, and made some passes over it with his lean, long-nailed fingers. A thick, oily smoke curled up from it and almost hid his emaciated yellow face and beady eyes.

Then he asked me in his crooked Shantung dialect if I could understand Chinese. I told him yes, rather sourly, for the smoke was making me drowsy.

“Sailor man,” he said in his sing-song way. “You are a brave one—a brave man, but you have done enough wrong to offend the gods; wrongs that you must atone for.”

“Wrongs?” I said. “I’ve led a pretty rough life, but a square one, and I can’t call to mind anyone in particular that I’ve wronged. I’d like to kill Benjy Harrison, but I haven’t done it, so you can’t call that a wrong. As for Mary Logan—

“No, I can’t call any to mind,” I said.

What of the smoke there was a tightening around my throat, and my arms and legs had lost all feeling. “Hurry up—tell me—what was it—when—?”

“Not in this life.” droned Hong Fat. “Long, long ago—”

The smoke flattened out like a gray screen. There were pictures on it, but so jumbled and twisted at first that I could not make head or tail of them. I seemed to see Mary’s face peep out, but I couldn’t be sure. Then the pictures began to take shape. Familiar things flashed up. I seemed to be going back into the past—centuries ago—

Suddenly there sprang into view the old city of Panama, with its houses of aromatic rosewood and the tower of the great Cathedral of St. Anastasius. I could see the slave markets, where black men were being sold, while their buyers sat at tables, sipping Peruvian wine. Beyond the city rolled the green savannahs, and on one side an arm of the sea crept inland. It was the Panama of the old days, before Sir Henry Morgan sacked it.

I don’t know why I recognized it, for the ancient city was gone long before I was born. There is left only a tangle of weeds and sun-cracked limestone. The slave-market is a swamp; the haven a stretch of surf-beaten mud, inhabited by pelicans quarreling over the stinking remains of fish. But, in spite of that, I saw old Panama there in the smoke, and felt as a man does when he comes upon a forgotten nook. Except for this: At sight of all that beauty a crawling horror whelmed up in my throat, and I would have screamed and beat the air, but it was as though only my brain was present. I had no consciousness of a physical body.

Men came into the picture. They were muscular and bronzed, with the rolling gait of sailors. They wore hats, wide of brim and running into a peak, dirty linen shirts and knickerbockers. Around their waists were sashes, bristling with knives, and they carried guns of a make that would seem strange to modern eyes. They were Morgan’s buccaneers on their way to the sack of Panama—to pillage and burn and torture and rape. I recognized them: Dubosc, with his swagger and black mustachios, squat Sawkins, one-eyed Peter Harris, Ringrose, and then—God pity me!—I saw myself, running with the rest, sweat stained, ragged, but with the lust of battle flushing my cheeks. At the head of the troop was a tall man, with a face framed by lank gray curls —as cruel and evil and ruthless a face as this old world has ever seen. His clothes, of silks and satin and lace, were as weatherworn as those of his men. No need to ask myself who it was. I knew him as I had known the others— Morgan, the damned!—the man I had followed in a forgotten century across the blood-smeared waters of the Caribbean!”

Excerpt From: J.C. Kofoed. “Black Shadows and Other Stories.”

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