Bart arrives at a hotel in San Francisco and finds Bret playing poker in his room. The brothers greet each other and Bret introduces him to the other players. He then returns to playing one man, Longhurst, and raises the pot to $6,000. Longhurst doesn't have $3,000 with him and Bret offers to take him at his word. Bret says that they owe him $9,000 and says that he figures the $9,000 will buy him into their ring. Longhurst agrees and Bret reveals the winning hand. As the players go, Longhurst says that there's a small auction the next day for a ship, the Flying Scudd.
Once they're alone Bret says that he thought he needed Bart's help to get into the ring but he pulled it off on his own. He then takes Bart out on the town.
The next day the brothers attend the auction. The auctioneer declares that the Flying Scudd is valued at $10,000 and the buyer assumes all costs for the beached ship. Bret tells Bart that they'll get it for $300, and after expenses they'll clear $8,000. The auction begins and Longhurst raises the bidding to $300 before dropping out. A lawyer, Bellairs, bids $350. Bret continues raising the bid and Bellairs matches the bids. Bart wonders if Bret is getting whipsawed, but Bret continues bidding and Bellairs continues raising.
Longhurst calls an end to the bidding, and tells Bret that he doesn't know who Bellairs is and says that the ring will back Bret's bid up to $5,000. The bidding continues to $5,000, but Bellairs outbids him. When Bret asks for a few minutes to consider, Bellairs says that Bret will have to bid within one minute and the auctioneer agrees. Longhurst refuses to back Bret and leaves, and Bret figures that there's something on the Flying Scudd that Bellairs wants. He notes that there's a war in China and something like bullion was smuggled out on the ship.
Bart agrees to support Bret, and the bidding continues to $21,000. Bellairs says that he's representing his principal and has gone $500 over his limit. He asks for 20 minutes to see his client, but the auctioneer tells him that it's against the auction house policy. Bellairs drops out and Bret wins the Flying Scudd.
Bart goes to the hotel to get the money, and sees Bellairs drinking at the bar. Sitting down next to him, Bart offers to buy Bellairs a drink. Bellairs breaks into tears saying the Mavericks outbid him, and refuses to his identify his client. He admits that he doesn't know why his client wanted the Flying Scudd, and Bart offers Bellairs $500 to cover his commission and tell him who the client is. He says that for $500 he's hired Bellairs and his first obligation is to tell him the client is. Bellairs gives him the name and address of the client, James Dixon.
When he arrives at the address, Bart knocks on the door and claims that he has a telegram. Dixon approaches the door with the gun, and Bart admits who he is and says that he's there about the Flying Scudd. He explains that he owns the ship and suggests that they discuss the matter. Dixon refuses to talk to him, and Bart leaves.
A few hours later, Bart meets with Bret and tells him that Dixon never came out. Bret has learned the Flying Scudd is registered with the commission, and the captain, Wicks and the crew have disappeared when they got to San Francisco. Wicks contacted the owners and they put the ship up for auction. Bret has signed 60-day notes to cover the bid, and Bart gives him the money to pass the word about finding the crew.
The brothers check the docks and Bart finds a sailor. He pays the man to direct him to a crewman, Jerome Braus. Bart goes there and finds empty liquor bottles but no sign of Braus. Dixon knocks Bart out and Braus comes in. he addresses "Dixon" by his real name, Paul Carthew, and insists that they kill Bart. Carthew refuses and tells Braus that he had share, and tells him to leave but be where he can find him. He says that he'll take care of Bart if it becomes necessary and Braus leaves.
After Bart wakes up, he goes back to Bret's room and tells his brother what happened. Bart figures that they need to hire a captain and a crew, and Bret says that there's probably a captain who will work for them on commission. They go back to the docks and Bart finds a captain, Nares. Nares knows they bought the Flying Scudd for $20,000, and Bart convinces him that Bret is onto a good thing. Nares demands $40,000 and they haggle the price to $35,000. The captain tells Bart to be aboard the Nora Creina in the morning.
The next morning, Bart and Bret arrive at the Nora Creina. Bret is going to stay to deal with the creditors, and suggests that they forget the whole thing. Bart refuses and goes aboard the Nora Creina, and the crew cast off. Carthew is secretly among them.
The Nora Creina heads to sea and Carthew brings the seasick Bart some food. Bart thinks that he recognizes Carthew from his voice but Carthew denies knowing him and leaves.
Later, Bart goes up on deck and mentions Carthew bringing his food. Nares doesn't know him, and later asks Carthew if he knows Bart and what's aboard the Flying Skudd. Carthew reminds Nares that he paid him $2,000 to bring him aboard and not ask question, and Nares seemingly dismisses the matter.
The Nora Creina soon arrives at the Flying Scudd, which is hung up on an underwater reef. Nares takes Bart there and has Carthew go with them, while the rest of the crew scout the nearby Midway Island for fresh fruit and water. The three men go aboard the Flying Scudd and check the hold, and confirm that there's rice and silk. Nares figures the cargo isn't worth more than $3,000, and Bart has him order the crew to tear the ship apart. Once Nares sends Carthew to get the crew, he points out to Bart that the ship could have been lifted off the reef and wonders why the original crew left the Flying Scudd there.
The crew search the ship but find nothing. Bart notices Carthew going below and follows him, and finds him searching the captain's cabin. He finds a small box belonging to the ship's first mate, and Bart gets the drop on Carthew. Carthew offers Bart whatever he wants in San Francisco, and says that Bart will have to kill him to get the box. Bart figures that Carthew isn't bluffing and lets him go. He follows Carthew out and discovers that the crew have found opium hidden in the rice bales. Nares says that it's only worth $13,000 but there are ways of getting the opium into the U.S. Bart tells him to dump it overboard, and Nares draws his gun on Bart. Carthew takes Bart's gun but then knocks the gun out of Nares' hand and draws his own gun on him.
Bart ties Nares up and Carthew tells him that Bart could have killed him but didn't so he repaid the favor. They have the rest of the crew disarm, and then he and Carthew tie them up. Nares wonders how they're going to sail away without him and his crew, and warns that Carthew will double-cross Bart just like he double-crossed him. Bart doesn't believe it, and he and Carthew dump the opium. Carthew says that they'll have to let the crew loose and can't watch them the entire time, and suggests that they take one of the small boats. Bart agrees, even though the chances of them being picked up are small.
The two men sail off and drift out of the trade lanes. Bart asks what Carthew's story is, and Carthew explains that he was a remittance man in New Zealand and stole the first mate's log. There was murder aboard the Flying Scudd and he was part of it. He and his crew of pearl fishers made a haul, fled a Dutch cutter, and cracked up on Midway. The Flying Scudd saw their fire and picked them up, but the crew wanted all of their pearls. A fight started and Carthew was hit across the head. When he woke up, Wicks and his crew were dead. Carthew and the fishermen pretended to be the crew and were picked up and taken to San Francisco. The log has all of their names listed, and if he had gone to the authorities then he would have been arrested for murder. Carthew had enough money from selling the pearls to buy the Flying Scudd, go back, and get the log. Bart tells Carthew that he believes him.
The boat continues drifting, and Bart and Carthew run low on supplies. Bart sees a ship in the distance, wakes up a sleeping Carthew, and Carthew says that he deserves to die. He blames himself for Bart being there when he didn't tell him what was going on in San Francisco. Carthew doesn't see the ship, and says that he'd make things up to Bart if he could, and Bart notes that Bret is up to his neck in debt. He asks what Carthew would do if he could, and Carthew says that he has $50,000 in the bank in San Francisco and would pay it all. Bart suggests that he'd rather die a rich man and asks Carthew to write him a draft, and Carthew humors him.
Bret is aboard the ship, and a crewman spots Bart and Carthew. Watching through a telescope, Bret sees his brother and says that they can head back to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Bart has Carthew look over his shoulder before he can hand over the draft. Carthew gives it to Bart anyway and Bart tosses the log into the ocean. The two men smile and shake hands.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 1, 2019