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Curse of the Crimson Horde by Brant House

Curse of the Crimson Horde by Brant House

(Secret Agent “X”, 39)

Across six thousand miles and spanning two continents an unseen hand moved living pawns over a chessboard of death. The stake was the life blood of a nation, the symbol — the Red Maggot — a fire to unholy ambition, the possession of which bound a man’s soul to the Devil.

Book Details

Book Details

Across six thousand miles and spanning two continents an unseen hand moved living pawns over a chessboard of death. The stake was the life blood of a nation, the symbol — the Red Maggot — a fire to unholy ambition, the possession of which bound a man’s soul to the Devil.

And Secret Agent X — man of a thousand faces and conqueror of kings of crime — found himself parried by the ageless weapons and black magic of the Far East.

Curse of the Crimson Horde (1938) by Joseph Chadwick writing as Brant House
A Complete Book-Length Novel Based on the Records of Secret Agent “X”

Chapter I – Death on Fifth Avenue
Chapter II – The Girl in the Road
Chapter III – Forty Fathom Fight
Chapter IV – Death Strikes in Mid-Ocean
Chapter V – Pall of Green Death
Chapter VI – The Pearl Kings
Chapter VII – Sting of Doom
Chapter VIII – The Man Without A Face
Chapter IX – The Cobra Death
Chapter X – Message From the Dead
Chapter XI – Secret of Lost Island
Chapter XII – Prisoners of Lost Island

Brant House was a “house name” of Periodical House, Inc., the publishers of the Secret Agent “X” magazine. There are four recognized authors that used the pseudonym Brant House. The author of Curse of the Crimson Horde was Paul Chadwick (1902–1972), the originator of the character Secret Agent “X,” the man of a thousand faces.

Secret Agent “X” is a master of disguise and his true identity is never revealed. He adopts several different identities in each story. What we do know about “X” is that he served in the War (World War I) in intelligence and was wounded from which he got an X shaped scar. He is a dedicated crime-fighter working undercover for the U.S. government, although this is unknown to local police who consider him an outlaw. His true role is known only to newspaper reporter Betty Dale and his mysterious Washington controller, K-9.

Curse of the Crimson Horde was published in the September, 1938 issue of Secret Agent “X”.

Curse of the Crimson Horde has 14 illustrations.

SAX1938 09 Curse of the Crimson Horde by Brant House
Secret Agent X, 1938-09


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Excerpt: Curse of the Crimson Horde

Chapter I

Death on Fifth Avenue

THE TALL, mahogany-skinned man was breathing quickly, white teeth slightly apart. His obsidian eyes sparkled with a purpose undeniably sinister. A faint spot of crimson glowed darkly in each cheek. Then his teeth clicked together like an inexorable steel trap, and his lips curled like those of a starved wolf scenting its kill.

He pulled his expensive overcoat closer about his shoulders. The night was cold, far below freezing. Bitter weather for this man who bore the stamp of warm and tropical climes.

A block away an advertising clock gave the hour as three minutes of seven. New York’s Fifth Avenue was singularly free of pedestrians and motors care. The bitter cold had sent office workers scurrying homeward from the icy blasts yowling in from the river. Tonight even taxicabs and the lumbering doubledecked buses seemed scarce.

The scattering of pedestrians staggered breathlessly against a battering wind. It was too cold for any thought save that of warmth and no one paid the slightest attention to the tall man at the curb.

Up the street a few yards, a smoldering tar vat of the portable type was being attended by an employee of the Department of Streets. The employee adjusted the oil flame under the bubbling mixture and inspected a heat gauge. Apparently the mixture within the vat was not yet ready to poor Into the small spot in the street needing repair.

The dark man noticed the repair outfit. and a fleeting smile twisted his red lips into a snarling grin. With same difficulty he extracted a white Sumatra cheroot from a silver case and held a windproof lighter flame to its tip. He sucked in the smoke, turned his head slightly. His profile was vulturine, sharp as if hewn of brown flint. But what he saw made the brief grin retain to his red lips.

A man, also in the garb of a city employee, was working over the brass spout of a fire plug between two stores. The quiet elegance of the store farther from the dark man told of its exclusiveness, that its patronage came only from the wealthy. The neat sign affixed to its marble front read simply:

VAN der VEER Pearls

That was all, just those few letters. But behind that sign was an establishment famed wherever fine and costly things were appreciated. Henrik Van der Veer dealt only in pearls. His far-flung group of agents purchased pearls from every section of the world, dispatched them to Van der Veer shops in New York, Paris, London and a score of other cities.

And as the dark man shot another glance up and down the street, his dark eyes suddenly became pools of ominous flame, narrowed to glinting slits. He peered sharply at the entrance to the Van der Veer store. Inside, standing near the door, he saw the small, slim figure of a man. The dark man on the curb saw a white handkerchief show as the one within the store wiped at the glass of the door.

From down the block came a faint bong-bong-bong. . . .

It was exactly seven o’clock.

The tall man tossed his cheroot aside on the instant, strode toward the door of the Van der Veer establishment. As his slim fingers found the latch, the last stroke of the hour sounded, and there was a sinister finality to it that again made the dark man’s red lips twitch into a fleeting wolfish grin.

HENRIK VAN DER VEER, fabulously wealthy owner of the pearl establishments, was short and rotund. He had the apple-rosy cheeks which are a part of the Dutch makeup, sea blue eyes of twinkling and ready friendliness, a trim goatee of white. His hands on the desk were a bit pudgy but they felt tenderly of a bulky something encased in a bag of softest Carpathian chamois.

“You are about to see the Red Maggot, Herr Pope,” Henrik Van der Veer said with no trace of accent to the man seated across the desk. “It is wondrous, the Red Maggot. A wondrous but terrible thing. For it kings and princes and just plain people have died. It has devastated whole countries, mein freund, has the Red Maggot.

“The possessor of this pearl is accursed, for the lust for power seethes in the brain of its owner. It is true, what I tell you. Just as the destroying maggot enters the bodies of all living creatures after death and consumes them, so does the Red Maggot destroy the brain and soul of its possessor. That is why it bears its unholy name. I tell you this because you have asked, because tomorrow you are to leave for the Far East on a scientific expedition.”

“But you, sir,” Arnold Pope, famous explorer, said gently, “you are not accursed because of the Red Maggot.”

Arnold Pope was a man of forty-one or -two, rather tall and slim, deeply tanned of face and with eyes that were half-narrowed as if perpetually squinting against a tropic sun. He was in dinner clothes, wore a small white carnation in his coat lapel. He ran slim fingers through black hair slightly tinged with gray at the temples, smiled at Henrik Van der Veer.

The owner of the pearl store shook his head. “For two reasons, Mynheer. One is that I do not trust myself to look upon it save on occasions such as this. The other is that I hold it in trust, as it were, for the safety of that territory we call the South Seas. Should the Red Maggot return to that hell of islands, there would be revolt from Manila to Batavia, from Bangkok to the far Fijis. Who knows but what America might also be embroiled before it was over? I speak truth, Herr Pope.

“I leave tonight by plane for San Francisco, the first stop on my regular trip to my pearling interests in the Far East. But I dare not carry the Red Maggot with me. The knowledge of its return would spread like an electric spark, cause the superstitious natives to believe the overthrow of the foreign races was at last possible. I would destroy it — utterly — before I would allow its return! But look yourself, Herr Pope, and feel its malignancy like a blow in the face. The Red Maggot, Mynheer, the only blood-red pearl I have ever seen!”

With the words Henrik Van der Veer loosened the draw strings of the chamois bag and placed what it contained before Arnold Pope’s eager eyes.

The explorer gasped. Before him on the desk glowed the immense pearl that was the Red Maggot. Strangely, it was in the shape of a heart, but a living, pulsing heart! It seemed to expand and contract under Pope’s staring eyes, to exude red, incandescent life. Yet it was a malignant life, a red malevolency that had all the horror of aeons of unspeakable outrages concentrated in its baleful being. For the Red Maggot had a being, an entity.

Arnold Pope closed his eyes, drew a sharp breath. The huge blood-red heart beneath his eyes had all at once seemed to intensify its demoniacal influence in waves of ruby light that battered into the explorer’s very soul. He could understand how this accursed thing would gnaw at the brain and reason of men.

Arnold Pope covered the pearl with a trembling hand. It was soft as velvet to his touch, yet an electrical emanation from it coursed through his veins like liquid fire.

“O-o-over five hundred and fifty grains of — of concentrated evil!”  Arnold Pope faltered. He averted his gaze, narrowed lids cloaking what was in his eyes.”

Excerpt From: Brant House. “Curse of the Crimson Horde”

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