Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Terror of the Death Sting" by Ellen Lynn

Terror of the Death Sting
Ellen Lynn

In every bee hive there are thousands of bees. But only one Queen Bee. All the other thousands of bees dedicate their lives to the protection of their Queen. The Teller Bees are the most jealous of all in this respect. They are man-killers. When their Queen is molested they attack relentlessly!

The rear of the house led to a dim grave of trees. Shadows and sunlight made a queer pattern on the rich, dark grass. Stepping out of the door you were struck by a soft, strange sound—a humming that never stopped. Deeper in the grave the hum became louder and louder, becoming a buzzing noise that rang in the ears incessantly. The initiated would know the sound meant BEES!

Fred and Jane Geer raised bees. It had seemed strange to the young bride to learn that her husband was a bee-raiser. When the tall, lean young man had come to her little village he had seemed so romantic; in a short week she had promised to marry him although she knew little about him. It wasn't hard to be "swept off her feet" by the good-looking stranger—every girl in the drab town was jealous of her capture.

On their way to his home in Garretsville, he told her about his bees.

"You'll have to learn all about insect breeding, Jane. I raise bees and you'll be my helper."

"Bees!" Jane was astonished. She had noted that he had never mentioned anything to give a clue to his business. But it had drifted from her mind. They had known each other so briefly before they were married, her mind had been filled with the excitement of the courtship, and her good fortune in getting away from the unromantic boys of her own factory town.

When they had arrived at Fred's house, Jane had been immediately struck by the loneliness of the place. It was quite a distance from the center of town—there were no other habitations visible from his property. A high hedge surrounded the place and the small brown house was set far back amongst the trees. It was always dim and green and to the rear—an incessant sound of humming, humming.

Jane was slow to learn the art of bee-raising. She had dreamed of a house and garden, and of running her home in the role of housewife. But Fred insisted on a housekeeper so that she, Jane, could be his aide with the bees. Her heart wasn't in the job and she lacked the interest and patience required for the delicate handling of the insects and their honeycombs.

And Fred was losing patience with her. "Why don't you take an interest in what you're doing?" he yelled.

"They frighten me," she protested. "I—I'm terrified of them. I'm sick. I—I—dream that they've all broken loose, that they're stinging me to death." She broke into tears.

"A fine wife of a bee-raiser you are," he mocked.

"Then—why—don't you get another assistant—a trained one?" she pleaded.

"Because," Fred retorted, "I want to be able to keep my eye on you."

"Why, what do you mean?" Jane asked, taken aback by the insinuation. "Surely, it can't be that you don't—trust me?"

"I wouldn't trust any woman. That new young doctor that's come to town—Bob Shore—he's a wolf and all the females in town, young—old, married, single—are suddenly discovering ailments they never dreamed about before. I suppose you concocted your illness to take you to consult with the young..." Fred burst out in a torrent of words.

"Why—you—must be mad, Fred!" Jane interrupted indignantly. "He wasn't the doctor I visited. I don't even know Dr. Shore!"

"So—you don't even know him, you liar! Then why did he tip his hate to you and say good-bye to you when you came out of the drugstore together yesterday? I was driving by and I caught the scene," Fred answered triumphantly.

Jane hesitated, thinking. "So that was Dr. Shore!" She suddenly remembered. "I didn't even know who he was. I dropped some packages in the store and he picked them up. I thanked him as I left and he tipped his hat. Why, Fred, you can't go imagining things like that!"

"I'm not imagining. And don't lie to me again. That man has an eye for a pretty girl—and he's never seen a beauty like you in his life," Fred seethed. "But he'd better stay away from my wife."

This episode was the first intimation Jane had of Fred's jealousy. It astonished her. To her, marriage was sacrosanct. Other men were just—other men. One's husband was one's entire world, other people mere passerby, outsiders. How could Fred even inject such an idea—another man—into the quiet, busy life they led? Since he brought it up she faced the truth—it was all a great disappointment. Bee-raising instead of housekeeping and—child-raising! And their life was so limited, dull! There were no friends, no visitors—just bees, bees, bees. She had acted too hastily in marrying Fred—knowing him only a week—but there it was, for better or for worse, and she would try to be satisfied.

The following week Fred was glum and hardly spoke to her. He was really annoyed about the episode in the drugstore. Privately, she almost laughed to think he could make such a fuss over a polite exchange of "Thank you," and "Good-bye." Dr. Shore was certainly a good-looking fellow, and so gracious and charming—so soft-voiced and gentle, but she hadn't even known it was he at the time.

It was Monday at six that she returned from town, her arm in a sling, her forehead and right cheek covered with bandages. She knew Fred would be back from his trip to Denver and would miss her in the house. The pain had been so terrible, she hadn't stopped to leave a note telling how she had upset a hive and how the bees attacked her because she wasn't masked. First she had retrieved the Queen Bee and placed it in Fred's field jacket after first putting it in a tube so he would surely find it. Then she had hurried to town for help for her tortured face.

There Fred was, sitting in a chair, waiting. "Where were you?" he demanded.

"Oh, Fred, it was horrible—the bees—all around me—stinging me... look at me," she began.

"Those bees couldn't hurt you badly—but you went to the doctor, didn't you? Dr. Shore!" he persisted.

"Well, yes—of course. That's where the druggist took me," Jane said falteringly.

"I wondered how long it would take you to find an excuse to visit the handsome young wife-stealer," Fred blurted out venomously. "He did a good job on your face, I see. Did he steal a kiss at the same time?"

Jane burst into tears of helplessness. "Fred, Fred, what's got into you? How can you say such preposterous things?"

Two days passed, with Fred acting strangely pleasant and considerate. Jane had come to fear his unexpected moods but it was nice to have him smiling and friendly for a change.

"Darling, would you come with me up to the Stone Caverns this morning?" he suggested surprisingly. He had never asked her before. She hated the idea of helping him bring back a new species of bee, but it was a good sign, his wanting her along. Jane hurried to get ready.

They brought a picnic basket along and while she was measuring out the coffee to put on the grill he had forgotten some equipment and would rush back to get it.

Fred had not forgotten any equipment. He went straight to the office of Dr. Robert Shore.

"My wife, Jane, is in great trouble. You know, those bee stings you treated on her face—they're infected. She was up with me in the Stone Caverns and I left her writhing in agony. Please go and help her," Fred told Dr. Shore.

"Why didn't you bring her here? Why did you leave her...?" the doctor inquired.

"No time for questions. You must hurry," Fred answered. His plan was working.

What no one else knew was that a few days before, Fred, while visiting those caves looking for new species, had found a swarm of Teller Bees—those vampirish, relentless, blood-sucking man-killers. Masked and protected, Fred entered the caves and removed the Queen. After placing the Queen in a tube Fred hid the tube. Now he had it with him.

Carefully, he moved the tube from his pocket and slipped it into the pocket of Dr. Shore. Now, let Jane and her lover have a rendezvous! he leered to himself. A whole army of bees will undoubtedly join them—blood-sucking man-eaters, at that!

Dr. Shore was puzzled by this man's strange behavior, but he'd better see what it was all about. Mrs. Geer, Jane, was a beautiful, sad-looking girl. He felt troubled when he thought of her—as though she really needed help.

When Dr. Shore entered the caves he was preceded by Fred. They went deeper and the doctor saw Jane. As he went to her Fred started to run.

"Now let the bees come," laughed Fred. They came—swarms of them. But they didn't head for Dr. Shore!

A piercing scream rang through the air. Jane and Bob stood in tense silence. It came again. They ran to the next cave, in the direction of the screams. There lay Fred, writhing in agony, almost completely covered with enormous bees which were stinging his skin so that blood oozed from every part of him. "Help, help!" yelled Fred. "I'm dying. I—thought—I put the Teller Queen into—the—doctor's—pocket—but—it was the wrong one. It was in my—own—pocket—all—the—time... help, help..."

There was no way to save him. Bob put a protecting arm around the terrified Jane and rushed her away from the horrible scene. Then Jane remembered the tube she had put into Fred's pocket—the one with the harmless Queen!

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