“Devil Marked” by Edwin L. Sabin

59 Devil Marked

Book 59 is “Devil Marked” by Edwin L. Sabin, returning to the series for the first time, since his inclusion with Book 2 in the original run.

The tale was originally printed in Argosy All-Story Weekly (1922 Sep: 9, 16, 23) in three installments, and also credited H. Bedford-Jones as a co-writer.

The date and era are never properly given to the reader, although we understand that it takes place some time during the mid-1800s. We are given real-life Governor Armijo, along with Bent’s Fort already being in existence.

The story opens with a backstabbing murder during a game of cards in New Orleans. A fourth player at the table steals away into the night and the remaining two take the money and likewise disappear.

Fast-forward a number of years, and we have two Cuban refugees (a boy and a girl) on a river boat. Of upper class, their parents are dead and they are seeking to locate their uncle in Santa Fe. While aboard, the boy is tricked into a game of cards and loses his family fortune. However, a brute of a man calls the bluff and announces the game to be “fixed.” Going by the name of Captain Badger, he takes he pair of Cubans under his assumed protective wing, while his true intentions are the gold doubloons.

Also aboard ship is the brother (Duprez) of the assassinated card-player. He has been hunting the killers his whole life, but is unaware that Badger is the backstabber.

After disembarking, Badger places the pair in a semi-reputable hotel (of sorts) and the girl stashes the gold among chimney ashes. The boy is lured away that night to play cards with Badger and company. Hours later, deeply drunk, he is duped by a note to hurry back to his sister. Likewise, the sister is informed that her brother is injured. She foolishly leaves hotel and gold behind, and is led away and confused in the by-streets and alleys, before the leading villain disappears without a trace. Lost and alone, she is shocked to find Duprez there and he brings her back to the hotel, only to find that ruffians are (falsely) assaulting the boy and Captain Badger.

Duprez vanishes too. In truth he snuck into the hotel, found the gold, and seized it for safekeeping, realizing the Captain to be a scoundrel.

However, one of the villains spotted Duprez depart the hotel and they convince the boy that he is a thief. The boy is entirely a (schmuck) throughout the entire novel, earnestly believing Badger and his claims.

Hiring a couple wagons to train down to Santa Fe, Badger insists on freely escorting the pair to the town. Meanwhile, he has abandoned the gold and wishes to avail himself of the girl.

Things go slightly awry, as the gold is recovered by the gang after they ambush Duprez in the desert and leaving him for dead. However, despite having been shot in the head (likely only grazed) he stalks the wagons and when a band of marauders attack the wagons, he rides in to save the day, only to ride out again when the girl is kidnapped.

Badger and the gang spot Duprez among the marauders and convince the boy that it was Duprez himself whom abducted the girl, and, has the gold, too! when in fact Badger has the bag of gold.

The whole story eventually shifts climatically to Santa Fe, where Duprez and Badger fight it out with large knives. You know the rest. Duprez slays Badger, gets the girl, and a ton of other details hanging in the wind prior as irrelevant suddenly manifest as important, but I rather not bog down this blog by ruining the background plot devices at work.

Unless “Loaded Dice,” this novelette here is far superior to that horrendous earlier piece, and while I dislike this genre, I do great dishonor to the tale itself were I not to recommend it for future reading among you fellow pulpsters!

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“Devil Marked” by Edwin L. Sabin

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