Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: Doctor Zero and Others
Author: Paul Chadwick
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0604081.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2015

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to

Title: Doctor Zero and Others
Author: Paul Chadwick




The night glowed purple! From the black vault of the heavens came a
hissing ball of purple light. As if possessing uncanny human
intelligence, it rocketed straight for the victim it had marked. The
police were helpless before that sinister sphere of Doctor Zero's. And
now, Wade Hammond, explorer and criminal investigator, had stepped
into the eerie glow of the Purple Peril.



"WHAT'S that?" Detective O'Conner's voice was a nasal bleat. His eyes
bulged under the brim of his soft felt hat. His dank cigarette slipped
from trembling fingers. He stared off into the darkness across the
wide lawn of Gordon Munn's suburban house.

A fellow dick, one of a cordon thrown around the place to protect its
owner from the mysterious menace of "Doctor Zero," shook his head. He
also was staring in amazement.

"It looks like a rocket," O'Conner went on. "No--it's coming nearer.
Hell, we ought to warn Munn."

He started off across the lawn at a lumbering gallop. The sky behind
him had turned into a vivid violet. There was a strange, hissing sound
in the air. A fantastic ball of eerie purple light was descending
toward the house. It moved as though some unseen power were directing
it--moved with horrible certainty toward the window of Munn's study.

O'Conner waved his arms and shouted. At that instant the ball of
purple fire touched the window panes. There came a noise like the
crack of a giant whip, then a deafening concussion that shattered
every piece of glass in the sash, sending gleaming slivers inward and
outward and searing the boards along the side of the house.

A stinging needle of glass struck the detective. He bawled loudly and
clutched at his face. Men were shouting to each other out on the lawn
now. A half-score of plainclothes men came running up, converging on
the house from three sides. A babble of voices sounded.

"It's a bomb--who threw it?"

"See if Munn's hurt!"

"Turn in an alarm!"

Questions, orders and explanations tumbled over each other. Then
O'Conner spoke again. "There's another one coming--look out!"

The ball this time seemed to swoop out of the black night sky like a
sinister will-o'-the-wisp. It appeared first as a pinpoint of light,
hardly distinguishable from the stars. It might have been a shooting
star as it flashed across the sky.

But as it came nearer its speed diminished. Again there was that
uncanny effect of diabolical intelligence. The hissing, whirling ball
of purple fire followed its predecessor. The first one had cleared the
way. The second plunged through the gaping hole of the shattered
window while detectives screamed a warning.

They heard a muffled explosion this time. Lurid tongues of light
speared from the window, dancing like an aurora borealis. The room
inside looked for a moment to those staring from the darkness like the
mouth of some fantastic inferno such as the hand of a Doré might have

Above the noise of the concussion they heard a single, horrible cry.
Then blackness descended and the night seemed to close in, bringing
silence with it. The voices of the detectives grew hushed with
amazement and the awe of the unknown.

O'Conner entered the house with his men behind him. They found the
servants huddled into a frightened, whispering group near the hall
stairway. Then they climbed to the floor above, entered Munn's study
and swore harshly at the thing they saw.

Gordon Munn, director in a great and powerful bank, and shareholder in
a dozen corporations, was lying face downward on the rug, his clothing
in singed tatters, his body twisted and blackened into an unsightly
caricature of a man.

THREE miles away in Wade Hammond's apartment the French-type telephone
jangled into life. The curio-lined walls of the living room threw the
sound back harshly. The stuffed heads of big game, collected in a
dozen far corners of the world, stared down with unblinking eyes as
though listening.

Hammond, sprawled in a big armchair, dropped his cigarette into an
ashtray, untangled his legs and got up. He crossed the room in four
quick strides. Ten years of newspaper and police work had taught him
to answer phone calls promptly. But his deeply tanned face was
impassive as he picked the instrument up. People were always giving
him a buzz for one thing or another. His lips below their thin
mustache line barely moved in the mouthpiece.

"Hello! Hammond speaking."

Words came from the other end of the wire in an excited quaver.

"Listen, Hammond--this is Sergeant O'Conner. All hell's popping.
Gordon Munn's been knocked off in spite of us."

"Gordon Munn?"

"Yeah--the bank man. You know who he is. Can you come out? The chief
wants you. Follow Parkway Boulevard and make the first turn to your
right. It's the big yellow house with the iron fence in front of it.
Step on it!"

"O.K." Again Wade's lips moved. No use asking questions now. The dope
would come later after he got to the scene of the killing. When
Inspector Thompson called, it meant there was a tough nut to be

Wade's movements in the next few seconds were like those of a well-
oiled machine--a machine taut with blued-steel springs and rapid-action
mechanism. But the springs were his muscles and the motivating
mechanism was the flashing power of his quick-fire brain.

He threw off his dressing gown, pulled on a coat, stuck his feet into
shoes, shoved a flat, wicked-looking automatic into his pocket and
grabbed a hat. Three minutes later wind was whistling past the
radiator cap on the battleship nose of his sport roadster.

He held the button on the steering column down at every intersection,
defying traffic lights and making the night raucous. Twice he lifted a
gloved hand at red-faced cops who stared belligerently. The fighting
expressions left their faces when they saw who it was.

It was known that Wade Hammond carried a special investigator's card
bearing the signature of the commissioner himself. It was also known
that it didn't pay to interfere with him.

He swung into the driveway of the Munn estate. Gravel snapped under
fat balloon tires as he roared up to the front steps. The headlights
of his car goggled into the shrubbery. Almost before the motor stopped
ticking over he was up the steps and inside the house.

Inspector Thompson, the grizzled chief of the City Homicide Bureau,
was coming forward through the hallway to meet him, his expression
owlish as always.

"Sorry to dig you out of bed, Hammond. They caught me at a banquet--
right in the middle of a steak, smothered with onions. It's tough when
a fellah can't enjoy his grub."

"Tough is right. What's going on here, chief? O'Conner sounded fussed
when he called."

"Why wouldn't he? Didn't he tell you Munn had got his?"

Wade nodded grimly. Thompson's features suddenly reddened. His voice
was thick with anger.

"I'm going to burn up somebody for this. Munn asked for protection. I
sent enough men out here to guard the sub-treasury--and they let that
devil rub him out anyway."


"Doctor Zero."

Wade shook his head.

"You'll have to start from scratch, chief. You've been holding out on
me. Who's Doctor Zero?"

"I wish I knew. That's what he calls himself. He tried to get cash out
of Munn--sent him a scare letter--and a bundle."

"A bundle? What was in it?"

"Come here, I'll show you."

THOMPSON turned and Wade followed him. They climbed to the second
floor, to the room where Munn had been killed. The place was filled
with headquarters' men; detectives, the medical examiner and his
assistant, and experts from the bomb squad. Munn was still sprawled on
the rug near a table, pieces of glass all around him from the
shattered window. Thompson spoke in Wade's ear.

"Look here."

The inspector was lifting an odd-looking contraption from a pasteboard
box. There was a handful of thin, collapsed rubber; a small metal ball
attached to it, and a long brass cylinder with a tube at its end
stoppered by a brass valve.

"What is it--a bomb?" Wade spoke grimly.

"No, a balloon, Hammond--with a tank of compressed gas to fill it, and
a place to put the cash."

"A present from Doctor Zero, eh?"

"Yeah. Munn was supposed to put fifty thousand dollars into that tea-
ball gadget and send the balloon up when it got dark. I don't know how
the hell Zero expected to get it back. It might land any place within
a thousand miles. He must be a nut."

Wade did not answer. He was looking interested, staring at the balloon
keenly, and fingering the small round cash box. It was made of some
lightweight metal. There was a coating on it. Some sort of waterproof
paint apparently.

"Munn would have done better to have followed instructions," he said.
Thompson swore under his breath and nodded.

"He had plenty of dough, but he didn't want to send fifty thousand of
it sky-hooting all over the landscape--you can't blame him. He sat
tight and called on us. Now it'll get out that the department fell
down on the job. It's going to raise a stink."

Wade fired a sudden question. "What sort of a bomb did Doctor Zero use
and where did it come from?"

Thompson shrugged. "Nobody knows yet. Carmichael and Parks are working
on it now. The fellahs who saw it say it wasn't a bomb at all. It
floated through the air, they say. It seemed to come from the sky--
sort of purple fire."

Wade spoke quickly, his voice hard.

"This Doctor Zero is no nut, chief. You can bet on that. He must have
known what he was doing when he sent that balloon. We've both heard of
scientific criminals, and read yarns about them. Now we're up against
one. It's the smartest extortion racket I've ever bumped into, with
murder as a side line. Some guy who's half genius and half devil is
behind this--and he must want the money bad."

Thompson grunted and Wade spoke again.

"We won't learn much here. That's a cinch. Mind if I go off with that

"I can't let you, Hammond." Thompson spoke regretfully. "My men have
got to have it to trace the material--see where it was bought."

Wade made an impatient gesture.

"They'll have a good time doing it. Let me have a few scrapings then.
I think there's something queer here--and deep, too."

Inspector Thompson stared uncomprehendingly while Wade took a penknife
from his pocket and scraped some of the paint and metal off the
ball-like cash receptacle onto a paper. He stuffed this into his pocket
and spoke slowly.

"That's the angle I'm going to work on first, chief. I got a hunch
about something. I think--"

He stopped suddenly. A girl was standing in the door of the room; a
girl with blonde hair, frightened eyes, and bloodless lips. She made a
little whimpering sound in her throat, and moved forward; but a
detective held her back.

"Better not look at him, miss. It won't do any good."

The girl burst into a spasm of crying, her slim shoulders shaking.

"That's Munn's daughter, Arlene," Thompson whispered. "She must have
just come. We'll have to get her out."

Wade followed the inspector, and as they neared the doorway he saw a
man standing behind the girl. Thompson was speaking in a kindly voice.

"We'd better go downstairs, Miss Munn. There was an explosion--you'd
better remember your father the way he was."

He led the girl gently out into the hall while Wade sized up her
escort. The man was thin and aristocratic looking with features so
clean-cut as to be almost harsh. He was dressed elegantly, and wore an
aloof expression. Wade had seen the face somewhere before.

Arlene Munn recovered enough to introduce him when they got
downstairs. The formalities had been bred into her.

"Professor Ornstein," she said. "We were dancing at the Belmont when
they paged us--and told me about father." She choked again.

"I came here as fast as I could," Ornstein said. "It's a terrible
thing. I'm awfully sorry." His words were sympathetic, but his tone
sounded casual. Wade's thoughts were active, building up impressions,
remembering scraps of information.

He had Professor Harold Ornstein checked now. The man was connected
with the Technological Institute--a brilliant scientist specializing
in physics; a dapper society light when he cared to be, and a person
of independent means. It was an odd combination. Wade recalled
Ornstein's name in connection with a recent breach-of-promise suit.
The man, who was at least twenty years older than Arlene Munn, had a
bad reputation with women. Science was his life work; philandering his
recreation. He had won the Nobel Prize for his researches into the
nature of matter, and the "ignoble" prize in his dealings with the
ladies. Wade smiled grimly at the bad pun.

But he didn't like Ornstein, and sensed a certain hostility in the
man. Still, the professor was a genius in his line. He might even be
able to help in this strange case. Wade started to speak, but Arlene
Munn interrupted, weeping again.

"I can't stand it!" she said. "I can't! Take me away from here,

"That's a good idea," said Inspector Thompson. "We can talk to you
later, Miss Munn."

"I'll take her to her aunt's," said Ornstein smoothly. "She'll feel
better when she's had a drink and quieted down a bit. If I can be of
any service, let me know."

The two of them moved toward the front door; Arlene slender and
wilting, Ornstein tall and bland, looking somehow like a suave Satan.

"A pretty slick bird," said Thompson. "If there's science mixed up in
this as you say, Hammond, we'd better check up on him. I wonder if he
was at the Belmont with Miss Munn all evening?"

Thompson called one of his men and had a low-voiced conversation with
him. Then he whirled, facing Wade and listening.

Shouts had suddenly come from outside, then the sound of two pistol
shots in quick succession. Wade was already headed for the door.

"Come on, chief," he said. "This seems to be our busy night!"



WHEN Wade Hammond reached the broad side veranda of Munn's house he
saw three figures coming up the steps. Two of them were detectives.
The man in the middle seemed to be their prisoner. They had him by the
arms and were pushing him forcibly forward.

One of the detectives, a man with a red, perspiring face, turned to
Inspector Thompson and spoke.

"We found this bird snooping around outside, chief. He started to run
and Bill had to pull a gun on him. He's lucky he didn't get bumped
off. He would have if I'd done the shooting."

"Bring him in the house," said Thompson. "Who is he?"

"You've got me, chief; but he looks like a bad actor."

The two plainclothes men shoved their prisoner into the lighted
hallway. Wade stared at the man sharply. He was young, somewhere in
his early twenties apparently, and he had the gangling look of a
student with bookish tendencies. This was accentuated by the heavy
shell-rimmed spectacles he wore. His face had a sullen expression as
he stood blinking his eyes in the light.

"What's your name?" asked Thompson harshly. "What were you doing out
there on the lawn?"

The young man continued to blink. Then he spoke in a surly monotone.

"I was just looking around. I'm Zadok Smith."

"Looking around!" The inspector's voice was sarcastic. "What were you
looking for--did you lose a nickel or something?"

Smith's face reddened. He pressed his lips together and shook his
head. Thompson flared up.

"You won't talk, eh? You're one of those tight-lipped guys! Frisk him,
Ed, and see if he's heeled."

The red-faced detective began going through Zadok Smith's pockets with
professional thoroughness. He gave an excited exclamation as he drew
something from the young man's coat where a conspicuous bulge had
showed. It was an oblong leatherette case with two button fasteners.
Thompson took it out of his hand and opened it while Wade stared over
his shoulder.

Inside the case were two round glass dials with a knurled screw head
in the center. Needle-shaped indicators behind the glass of the dials
were quivering. Wade spoke tensely.

"That's a galvanometer, I think. The other's a compass. They seem to
be hitched together. It's a funny-looking gadget."

"What's a galvanometer?" asked Thompson peevishly.

"It shows when there's an electric current," said Wade. "What were you
doing with this thing, Smith?"

Smith stared at Wade as sullenly as he had at the inspector. "It's my
business," he said. "I wasn't hurting anybody, was I?"

The cords in Inspector Thompson's neck swelled. "No?" he shouted.
"Well--somebody hurt Gordon Munn here tonight--killed him! You've got
a lot of explaining to do, Smith. You'd better answer our questions."

Wade nodded. "It'll save you trouble," he said. "Tell us what you
know, Smith. You wouldn't be carrying that thing around if you weren't
in on something. There's been a murder in this house---and murder
can't be laughed off."

Smith's sullen face turned pale, but he maintained a stony silence.
Wade shrugged. "Have it your own way. You'll talk later if you don't

"You bet he will," said Thompson angrily. "Take him down to
headquarters, Ed. We can find a way to unbutton his lip down there."

Thompson, Wade saw, was still smarting under the knowledge that the
police department had fallen down in its attempt to protect Munn. The
inspector handed the leatherette case to one of the detectives.

"Give this to Carmichael and Parks. They're going down with that
balloon contraption. They can take Smith along with them. Go out and
see if anybody else is snooping around here."

The two detectives turned their prisoner over to Parks and Carmichael
who were just coming down the stairs with the cardboard box containing
the balloon. Wade spoke.

"I think I'll follow after them, chief. There's not much I can do
here--and I'm curious about that gadget of Smith's. He wasn't carrying
it just for fun."

Wade left the house with the two headquarters men and their prisoner.
He had no clear picture of the crime in his mind as yet. He'd taken an
active part in many other strange homicide cases; but this murder gave
indications of being the most sinister and fantastic he'd ever bumped
into. His mind reverted to the sprawled and blackened form of Gordon
Munn and to the weeping figure of Arlene as he had first seen her in
the doorway of the room where her father had met death. What human
fiend was behind this? Who was Doctor Zero, and what did Zadok Smith
know about the case that he was not willing to tell?

WADE was still asking himself these questions as the police car
containing Parks, Carmichael and their prisoner turned out of the
driveway. He followed it in his own fast roadster. He wanted to be on
hand when an expert in the criminal investigation bureau examined the
instrument that Smith carried.

The tail-light of the police car stared unwinkingly out of the
darkness ahead like the eye of some monster. They passed other rich
men's estates; big houses set far back on well-kept lawns. An
indefinable pall of horror seemed to blend with the shadows of the

The police car neared Parkway Boulevard with Wade's roadster a hundred
feet behind. There were no other cars in sight. For a distance
equaling two city blocks an embankment rose on either side of the road
and the pole lights were spaced far apart.

Wade, occupied with his own thoughts, became aware suddenly of an
unnatural glow on the distant horizon. Eerie reflections danced on the
vibrating windshield of his roadster. His eyes, registering that glow
and those faint reflections, telegraphed a warning to his subconscious
mind. A sensation that was like the touch of chill fingers ran up his

Then he cried out. The glow had deepened. It was concentrated in a
pinpoint of light like a shooting star--a star that was coming nearer
and which shed a lurid, uncanny radiance.

Wade heard a sudden squeal of brakes ahead. Then a scream of human
terror sounded, followed by the noise of breaking glass. The police
car swerved toward the side of the road, and, in the glare of his own
car's headlights, Wade saw a gangling, bespectacled form jump from the
auto in front of him.

He recognized it as Zadok Smith. He saw Smith stumble and drop to his
knees. Pinpoints of orange flame speared the darkness over his head as
one of the detectives fired at the escaping prisoner. Then with an
awkward leap Smith vanished into the shadows of the shrub-clothed
embankment. Behind him the night was made ghastly by another unearthly

The cause of Smith's terror was plain now. It wasn't his fear of the
detectives' bullets. It was that dancing, fantastic pinpoint of light
which had now become a ball of purple fire headed straight toward the
police car.

Wade heard one of the detectives shout a warning. They, too, had
become aware of their peril. He saw the police car slew around and
leap forward under the powerful thrust of a suddenly speeded motor.

Carmichael and Parks were trying to escape their doom.

Wade held his breath in horror. That lethal will-o'-the-wisp of light
had changed its course now.

Some hidden intelligence acting through unknown physical forces was
guiding it. It curved down in a hawk-like swoop and followed the
flying police car. For seconds that seemed to Wade like an eternity
the terrible purple death pursued the speeding vehicle. It gained foot
by foot, hovered over the car for an instant, then dropped like a
falling meteor.



WADE hadn't been on the scene when Munn was killed. But he heard a
ripping, crackling burst of sound now. Then a terrible detonation
blasted the air like an exploding bomb. He saw the top of the police
car disintegrate in a pall of smoke and flame and zigzag streamers of

The swiftly-moving car swerved from the road and headed up the
embankment. He got a blurred glimpse of churning wheels, flying grass
and thrashing bushes. Then the car swerved again in its erratic
course. It turned turtle and came rolling back down the bank, where it
lay, a smoking, twisted ruin beside the ditch.

The darkness of the night closed in, and Wade, feeling momentarily
sick and weak for all the violent deaths he had seen in his life,
brought his own roadster to a halt. He got out and walked forward

A man was lying dead in the roadway. It was one of the detectives,
blown clear of the car when the fireball had exploded, shattering the
vehicle's top. Another man, whom Wade identified with a shudder, as
Parks, was half-pinned under the battered wreckage. He, too, had been
killed instantly.

Wade wiped beads of sweat from his forehead. The thing he had just
seen was enough to shake any man's nerves. He remembered Zadok Smith
then. Smith's frantic, terrified screams seemed still to ring in his
ears. The young man had sensed his danger in time to jump from the
car. His fear of the Purple Peril had driven him to risk the
detectives' bullets.

Any evidence that the police car had contained had been destroyed.

Wade went back to his roadster and pulled a flashlight from under the
front seat. He walked along the road to the spot where he'd seen Smith
dive from the moving car. The dirt here was kicked up, showing the
marks of Smith's knees. Up the embankment the branches of a number of
bushes were broken, marking the trail of Smith's mad flight to escape

Then Wade caught his breath. His probing flashlight had revealed a
gleam of metal in the shrubbery. He focused the beam and stooped down.

A small fraternity pin with some sort of cabalistic markings on it was
lying at his feet. It had apparently been brushed from Zadok Smith's
clothing. Wade picked it up and slipped it into his pocket.

There seemed to be little use in trying to follow Smith now. He should
be a half-mile away by this time. Terror had lent speed to his feet
and the darkness would act as an all-concealing curtain.

Wade had been the sole witness of this grisly double murder. He lifted
the body of the slain detective from the road and laid it beside the
ruins of the police car.

Then he got into his roadster. He wanted to reach the nearest
telephone quickly and let Inspector Thompson know that the sinister
hand of Doctor Zero had brought death again.

He came to a filling station a mile down the road and stopped. There
was a telephone in it. Wade's own voice was hoarse as he talked to the
inspector over the wire.

Images of the killing he had witnessed and echoes of Zadok Smith's
terrified screams still seemed to pulsate through his brain.

He felt as though the whole thing were a mad nightmare--but he knew it
wasn't. In brief sentences he gave the details of the double murder to
Thompson. He wound up with his own conclusions.

"We're dealing with a murderer who kills as unemotionally as a
machine. He had nothing against Parks and Carmichael personally. He
killed them because they carried evidence which might be dangerous."

Thompson's voice came back with a tremor in it.

"I can't have my men knocked off like this. We've got to find Doctor

WADE knew that the inspector wasn't taking the deaths of his two
assistants lightly. The old crime-hunter concealed human emotion under
a bluff, hard-boiled exterior. Parks and Carmichael had been with him
for years.

"We'll find him," said Wade grimly. "There's a question mark after his
name now--but it'll be a death sentence before we're through."

"What'll you do next, Hammond--try to trace Smith?"

"Yes. Then I want to have a talk with Professor Ornstein. Have you any
more dope on him, chief?"

"He stayed at the Belmont all evening with Miss Munn, as he told us.
He left her only once to make a short telephone call. The house
detective helped us check up on him. His alibi is watertight."

"You and I've seen alibis break down before," Wade said. "Smith has an
alibi, too, now. He was in the police car when the fireball came, But
he hasn't explained yet what he was doing prowling around Munn's house
at the exact time of the murder."

"No--and here's another angle I've just thought of," said Thompson
with a snap in his voice. "It didn't take more than three minutes for
those balls that killed Munn to drop out of the air and explode.
Ornstein's call was made somewhere around the same time. We don't know
what sort of thing we're dealing with."


"Meaning that if there's science mixed up in this, as we think, we've
got a tough job on our hands."

"Tough is right, chief." There was a humorless smile on Wade's face as
he spoke.

It was after eleven when Wade drove to the campus of the Technological
Institute and asked to be directed to Professor Ornstein's quarters. A
night watchman stared at him, then pointed across the campus grounds
to where lights were burning in the third story of a modernistic
looking building.

"He's up there," the watchman said. "That's where he works. I saw his
car go by ten minutes ago."

Wade examined the building that housed Ornstein's laboratory. It
surprised him to find the man at work so late at night. Ornstein, he
figured, must have left Arlene at her aunt's, then come back here. And
he must be a man with stout nerves to go calmly back to work after
being at the scene of Munn's murder such a short time before.

A fire escape snaked down the side of the building, passing Professor
Ornstein's windows. Wade noticed this and also saw the light in the
front vestibule was burning. An automatic elevator connected with the
various floors.

Wade took the elevator to Ornstein's floor and knocked. Ornstein
himself came to the door. He had slipped a white coat over his evening
clothes and looked trim and efficient. For a moment he stared at Wade
blankly. Then he smiled in recognition.

"Hammond," he said. "I remember now. Come in."

"Sorry to interrupt your work, professor."

"Don't mind that. I'm always puttering around. I've got so I can't
sleep if I don't amuse myself for a while before going to bed."

Wade studied the man for a second, then spoke.

"There was another murder after you left--a double one. Two detectives
were killed. I want to ask you about a man named Zadok Smith. Ever
hear of him?"

Ornstein whistled. Then an odd look came into his eyes. His sharp
features had the satanic quality that Wade had noticed before.

"I know young Smith too well," Ornstein said. "He's a student here--
one of Professor Hartz's, specializing in mineralogy and analytical
chemistry. Frankly I don't like him. He's an impertinent young devil.
He has a habit of coming in here uninvited and making a nuisance of
himself. I think he imagines he's spying on my work. He's annoyed
Arlene, too."

"So Miss Munn knows him then?"

"Yes, slightly. She's good-hearted enough to tolerate his mooning

Wade nodded.

"Smith was found prowling outside the Munn house just after the
murder. He had a queer instrument in his pocket--a compass and a
galvanometer hitched together apparently. Two men started back to
headquarters with him. Then another of those fireballs dropped out of
the sky. Smith jumped and escaped and the two detectives were killed.
Have you any theory, professor, as to what Smith might have been

A veil of suspicion seemed to drop over Ornstein's face for a moment.
He laughed uneasily.

"You're connected with the police, Hammond," he said. "I wouldn't want
to commit myself. I'd advise you, though, to find out all you can
about Smith. Talk to Professor Hartz tomorrow. Smith's actions have
certainly been queer."

"What about those fireballs?" said Wade. "I've got a theory that they
may be electrical. You're a physicist. You ought to know."

"You mean you think they're controlled charges of static, like

"Something of the sort."

"Look here!" Ornstein walked across the room quickly and opened a
door. Through it Wade saw the complex paraphernalia of a modern
scientific laboratory. There were shelves of chemicals, various
electrical apparatus, including static machines of the Whymshurst
type, Geissler tubes, and delicate instruments to demonstrate the
composition of matter.

ORNSTEIN threw a small knife switch which sent current into the
terminals of a ten-inch spark coil. The pungent, pleasant smell of
ozone filled the air as miniature lightning flared between the gaps. A
battery of foil-covered condensers were being charged. Close to them
was an apparatus with adjustable electrodes. At the moment they were
spaced four feet apart. The bottom one consisted of a copper plate two
inches square.

"Watch," said Ornstein. "Here's lightning for you."

He reached into a box on a shelf and drew out a common walnut. He
placed the nut on the copper electrode and stepped back.

"Call that nut a house," he said. "The electrode above is the sky. Now
we have a thunderstorm. The electrode becomes a cloud."

He was speaking in his best classroom manner. Suddenly he turned off
the overhead lights, then pressed another switch attached to a
flexible cord.

There came a sharp, crackling report as a streak of violet light shot
down from the top electrode. It struck the plate below in the
millionth part of a second, passing through the walnut and sending
shattered pieces of shell flying in all directions.

"In the General Electric Laboratories at Schenectady," said Ornstein,
"they've made lightning that can shatter a block of hardwood. I use
this little machine to give practical demonstrations to my students."

"There's more than one kind of lightning," said Wade. "This sort is
known as chain, I believe. Could ball lightning be made in a
laboratory, too, professor?"

Ornstein shot Wade a quick look, then smiled.

"Ball lightning is a rare phenomenon, Hammond. Its existence has been
proven, but unusual atmospheric conditions cause it and it has never
been reproduced artificially. Nothing is impossible, though, in the
light of modern science. Lightning is the result of an electrical
disturbance in the atoms of the air. The atoms in turn are made up of
electrons. If a man found a way of controlling the electrons
themselves, he might do wonders. Professor Osterhout of Harvard
estimates that there is enough potential electronic energy in a
teaspoonful of water to drive a train across the continent."

Wade nodded, staring around him. There seemed to be other rooms
connected with the main laboratory, but Ornstein didn't offer to show
them. Wade sensed that the man was an adept at disguising his real
thoughts. He was something of an enigma, always disarmingly pleasant.

Wade thanked the professor for his information and was preparing to go
when the telephone in the outer room jangled. Ornstein picked the
instrument up, then his face suddenly stiffened.

"My God--no!"

It was the first time Wade had seen any sign of emotion on Ornstein's
part. The professor held the receiver to his ear for nearly a minute,
then whirled around. He spoke tensely.

"Arlene--Miss Munn--has been kidnapped. I left her at her aunt's. She
was going to spend the night there. A maid went to her room a few
minutes ago and found her gone. The window was open and a ladder was
leaning against it from the outside."



ORNSTEIN began slipping out of his white jacket. He put on his
overcoat, and in a moment he and Wade were descending in the elevator
together. Two minutes later they turned out of the campus driveway in
Wade's car and began speeding through the night toward the home of
Arlene Munn's aunt.

When they reached it Wade saw more evidences of wealth, though the
house wasn't quite as pretentious as Gordon Munn's. The dead man's
sister, a large, florid woman of about forty, was in the drawing room
with a bottle of smelling salts in her hand. She was close to
hysteria, and the servants were running about panic stricken.

"Have you called the police?" asked Wade. The woman nodded. Her voice
was a wail.

"This is terrible, terrible, terrible! Arlene came to me for
protection--and now the poor girl is gone, and my poor dear brother,

"She's not dead yet," said Wade. "We'll get her back."

With a flashlight in his hand, he went outside. He saw that nothing had
been touched. The window was still open in the room Arlene had been
given for the night. The ladder still leaned against the house.

He walked carefully so as not to disturb any footprints before men
from the bureau of identification came with their cameras and
measuring instruments. He stooped over once, and a puzzled look
flashed into his eyes. Two imprints of a girl's high-heeled slipper
showed in a spot where the grass was thin. It looked to him as though
Arlene Munn had walked calmly away from the house.

He waited till the police arrived, then left them to their methodical
search for clews of the missing girl and drove Ornstein back to his
quarters near the Technological Institute. Behind the professor's calm
exterior, Wade was aware of nervous tenseness. But Ornstein refused to
admit that he was worried.

"Arlene has a lot of spirit," he said. "She can generally take care of

THE next day Wade began systematically checking up on Zadok Smith. No
trace of Smith had been found as yet. Arlene Munn hadn't been located,
and the killing of Gordon Munn was still veiled in mystery.

The morning editions of the papers had run the stories of the Purple
Peril and newsboys were still shouting in the streets. The whole city
was agog with dread interest over the sinister series of murders which
had taken place the previous night. The police department was coming
in for a storm of criticism and Inspector Thompson was beside himself.

At a little after nine Wade Hammond drove into the campus grounds of
the Technological Institute again. He went directly to the
administration office and asked to see Professor Hartz.

"The police are anxious to check up on one of the students here named
Zadok Smith," he told the girl at the desk. "Perhaps you've seen the
morning papers. I believe Smith's name is mentioned."

The girl nodded. There was a scared look in her eyes.

"Professor Hartz has his laboratory in No. 14, Newton Hall," she said.
"Follow the walk at the right as you go out."

Wade did as directed and found Hartz located in the top of one of the
old brick buildings which had formed the nucleus of the institute
before modern additions had been made. The Professor, with his woolly,
white hair and his long, benign face, seemed as much a fixture as the
building itself. He was dressed with comfortable simplicity in a baggy
gray suit. The only touches of ornateness about him were the large
diamond ring on his finger and the diamond scarf pin in his tie. These
looked like heirlooms. A morning paper was carefully folded on the
desk before him.

Wade introduced himself, displaying his special investigator's card.

"Sit down," said Hartz in a rumbling bass voice. "I suppose you've
come about young Smith, one of my students. I see he's got his name in
the papers." There was, thought Wade, a note of sadness in the
professor's voice.

He nodded.

"Smith's wanted as a witness in connection with the murder of Gordon
Munn and those two detectives. He's technically under arrest now.
What's your opinion of his character?"

Hartz shook his white head slowly, and tapped the paper.

"They already have him branded as the murderer here," he said. "He was
a brilliant student but an erratic one. I don't know what to say. It's
hard to believe he'd do a thing like this."

"Where is he, then?" asked Wade. "What made him refuse to answer
questions, and what was he doing on Munn's lawn?"

"I can't imagine where he is," said Hartz. "Curiosity might have led
him to the scene of the murder; but none of it looks right."

"Professor Ornstein says that Smith is inclined to be impertinent,"
said Wade.

Hartz smiled and shrugged. His tone was slightly bitter.

"There's jealousy even in the halls of learning, Mr. Hammond. I
sometimes think Professor Ornstein fears Smith as a future rival.
Ornstein is a little erratic himself at times. He works too hard---
often late at night. And he goes in for social life a great deal. We
all wonder how he stands up under it."

After his interview with Professor Hartz, Wade got permission to
search Zadok Smith's dormitory room. He hoped to find a diary, or
papers that might throw more light on his character. But he found only
an endless quantity of scientific notes written in Smith's painfully
neat hand.

The room was neat, too, and Smith's few personal belongings had been
chosen with care. He was evidently a serious-minded student who felt
that he had a career before him.

Wade spent the rest of the day going over every detail of the case
with Inspector Thompson.

A footprint had been found outside the window of Arlene Munn's room,
just beside the ladder. It compared with another footprint discovered
on the lawn of Munn's house. Both had been made by Zadok Smith
apparently. This led to the belief that he had kidnapped her. A police
dragnet was thrown out in an effort to trap the missing man.

Wade went back to his apartment late that evening and for a time paced
the floor in deep thought.

He wondered grimly if the Purple Peril would strike again. Would the
police find the man who hid behind the name of Doctor Zero before
another victim had been claimed?

HE went to bed toward eleven that night and read a book for half an
hour before dropping off to sleep. His brain was tired but restless
from beating against the blank wall that had been reached in the Munn
murder case.

Sometime after midnight he woke up suddenly. His nerves were tingling
oddly and he had a strange feeling--a sense that someone or something
had been in the room with him while he slept.

Was it a dream brought on by the happenings of the past twenty-four
hours? Or had someone really entered his apartment?

He got up, half ashamed of himself, and snapped on the lights. So far
as he could see nothing had been disturbed. There was no one hiding in
the place, and the doorway into the hall was locked. But he had used
skeleton keys often enough himself to know that locks were not
invulnerable. Someone might have entered.

He took the precaution now of snapping the special night latch on his
door into place. Then he turned off the lights and went back to bed

But he couldn't sleep. Back in his mind was a feeling of uneasiness
that refused to be shaken off. Something else was growing out of it--
an intangible sense of menace, which deepened steadily like a
thickening gray cloud.

He tried to ignore it, tried to tell himself that it was only his
imagination playing tricks on him. But he kept on tossing restlessly.

He turned on his pillow for the tenth time and faced the window. Then
suddenly his body tensed and his eyes grew wide with horror.

The oblong patch of sky that he could see was growing lighter, turning
from the dark of night into a weird purple.

He leaped out of bed and reached the window with one bound. There,
over the housetops, he could see it plainly now--a strange pinpoint of
light like a shooting star. As he watched, it gained in size,
revolving itself into a whirling, eerie ball of fire.

The Purple Peril! The beacon of death itself!

With cold fingers clutching at his heart, Wade Hammond realized that
the sinister ball of light was coming straight toward the window of
his own apartment!



HE stared for seconds at the onrushing messenger of doom, unable to
move. The ball came nearer, hovered overhead for an instant, then
began a parabolic swoop toward earth. As it did so Wade's brain
whipped the paralyzed muscles of his body into action.

He'd been a fighter all his life. Now he had a fight on his hands
against the unknown forces of Doctor Zero.

He jumped to the window and slammed it shut, then turned and grabbed
for his coat on the wall. He pulled it over his night clothes and
reached the door in three strides. To stay in that room meant being
blasted into eternity as Gordon Munn had been.

He snapped the lock open, stepped into the hallway and banged the door
shut behind him. At the instant he did so the fireball reached its

There came again that sound like a giant whip being cracked, then a
jarring concussion and the noise of shattering glass. The door
strained on its hinges and slivers of glass tinkled against it.

Wade went down the apartment house stairs three at a time. He wanted
to reach the street and see if another ball were coming. His brain was
grappling with the mystery of the thing. It looked as though this
visit had something to do with the deadly certainty of the fireball's

He ran across the dimly lighted foyer, stepped out into the street and
looked up. A purple glow was visible again. Another of the lethal
spheres was on its way. The street was deserted; but lights were
beginning to show in nearby windows.

The glow deepened as Wade watched. Then the ball flashed into sight.
It was coming across the housetops like a comet.

Wade stared, and his face whitened in horror. The ball hung overhead
for an instant as the first one had done, then curved downward, a
darting will-o'-the-wisp of destruction. But it wasn't headed for his
window now. Its single glowing eye was moving straight toward him with
terrible purpose, as though it possessed human intelligence.

Dampness broke out on Wade's forehead as he dashed headlong up the
street. The ball dropped past his window and reached the spot where he
had been a second before. It hung over the pavement, a glowing,
incandescent globe of death. Then it floated after him in the same way
that it had pursued the police ear.

Screams came from those looking on overhead. Wade's breath whistled
through his teeth in labored, horrified gasps. He zigzagged, trying to
escape the terror that followed him like Fate itself. He could feel
the heat of it close behind him now. Any instant it might make contact
with his body and accomplish its work of destruction. His feet seemed
weighted with lead and his flapping overcoat hampered him.

Then he noticed something he hadn't been conscious of before. The left
pocket of his coat seemed to sag. He thrust his hand in. His groping
fingers closed over a piece of oblong metal, cold to the touch.

He hadn't put it there himself. What was it? Where had it come from? A
strange look came into his eyes. He glanced over his shoulder and saw
the purple ball of light close behind. He could hear the hissing,
crackling noise it made as it swept through the air.

His hand came out of his pocket grasping the oblong piece of metal.
With a fierce gesture he flung it away--and then a miracle seemed to

The purple ball flashed off at a sudden tangent, hissing and whirling
as it went, then dropped toward the spot where the strange metal had
skidded to a stop.

Wade threw himself flat on the pavement as the air behind him seemed
to explode with a roar. A wave of deafening sound came, followed by a
battering current of wind. Stones and asphalt flew up in shattered

Where the metal had been all was darkness except for a few glowing
sparks. These faded, and Wade, panting for breath, lifted himself to
his feet.

He understood now. Someone had visited his room. Someone had dropped
that piece of metal into his coat. Doctor Zero had visited him and
marked him for death with this element that would attract the Purple

WADE went grimly back to his apartment with the ripping, crackling
sound of the exploding fireball still ringing in his ears. An alarm
had been turned in by someone. He could hear a fire engine tearing up
the street with its siren shrieking.

Bric-a-brac around the apartment had been broken by the explosion, and
the telephone had been knocked off its table. Wade picked it up and
called Inspector Thompson's number. Thompson would want to know that
he was all right when reports of the attack came. The voice of the
inspector reached him over the wire, sleepy and peevish.

"A hell of a time to get a man out of bed, Hammond."

"That's what I thought just now when Doctor Zero tried to bump me
off," said Wade. "He pretty nearly succeeded, chief. My room here
looks like a Texas cyclone had struck it."

He heard Thompson's gasp of surprise.

"He tried to get you, Hammond? Did you find out anything?"

"Yes, it's scientific stuff we're dealing with all right. I'm going to
see someone about it."


"Professor Ornstein, chief. He can tell me a lot of things if he wants
to, I'll bet."

Wade was dressed at the end of five minutes and on his way downstairs
again. A huge crowd had collected in the street outside. People were
staring up at his broken windows, at the shattered glass, and at the
hole in the pavement.

He shouldered his way through them and got his roadster out of the
garage. He shoved the accelerator down to the floorboards as he headed
for the Technological Institute campus.

This time he parked his car outside the grounds and went toward
Ornstein's laboratory without letting the night watchman see him.
Lights were burning in Ornstein's place again. The professor was
evidently hard at work.

Wade started to go in the front way; then hesitated and walked around
to the fire escape. He wondered if he could jump up and reach the
bottom ladder which was balanced and hung up from the ground by a
weight. Then suddenly he shrank back into the shadows. He had heard
the sound of footsteps on the iron rungs. Someone was coming down.

A moment more and Wade got a glimpse of a muffled black form
descending the fire escape. As he watched, the man stepped on the
ladder which automatically lowered itself as the weight went up. Rusty
pivots squeaked in protest. The figure in black seemed hardly more
than a sinister shadow.

Who was he and what was he doing there?

Wade leaped forward. But a flower box close to the building and hidden
by the darkness caught his foot. He half-tripped over it, fell to his
knees on the grass, and his shoe clattered on the box.

The man on the ladder gave a muttered curse. He leaped sidewise,
landing on his feet on the grass below, then turned and darted away,
blending with the night shadows before Wade could reach him.

Wade didn't try to give chase. There were a score of places on the
campus where the black-robed stranger could hide. Wade ran into the
building and pressed the button controlling the automatic elevator.

He waited impatiently while the car crawled up. Who was this stranger
he had seen? Was it Ornstein himself?

He ran along the corridor and knocked loudly on Ornstein's door. He
waited, knocked again, but there was no answer. Then he examined the
door. He could see a thin glow of light coming from beneath it.
Someone must be inside--unless the man he had seen had been Ornstein--
or unless---

Wade suddenly reached into his pocket and drew out a bunch of skeleton
keys. They were marvelously delicate. One was more than a key. It was
a complicated little tool with an adjusting screw at the end and teeth
that could be set into any size lock. It was Wade's own invention.

He thrust it into the lock on Ornstein's door, turned the knurled
screw head with sensitive fingers, and in a moment had the door open.

The lights in Ornstein's laboratory were still burning brightly. He
stared around, then his eyes suddenly came to rest on the far end of
the room. They widened in horror.

The huddled figure of Professor Ornstein was lying on the floor, his
white coat thrown open. And at one side of the coat was a sinister
circle of spreading crimson!



"MURDERED!" Wade's lips framed the word silently.

The man whom he had more than half-suspected of being the killer was
now lying dead at his feet! The handle of a small, sharp knife
projected from Ornstein's side.

It was a knife that Wade remembered having seen on a shelf at the time
of his former visit. Ornstein had used it as a paper cutter.

There were no signs of a struggle. The killer must have taken Ornstein
by surprise.

Then Wade saw a half-open door into the next room. He walked to it,
opened it farther, and saw that it gave into a small laboratory with a
window opening on a fire escape.

Something was lying in the center of the floor. It was a crumpled
cambric handkerchief. He picked it up, then whistled. In one corner of
the handkerchief were the initials "Z.S."

He went to the window and stared at it tensely. A square had been cut
cleverly out of the pane and the glass pushed in so that someone could
reach the lock. It had been done so neatly and quietly that Ornstein
in the next room hadn't heard anyone enter.

Wade examined the edges of the cut pane. The cuts were deep but
uneven. They hadn't been made by any regular glass cutter; but they
had been effective.

He went back into the main laboratory, picked up the telephone and
called Thompson's number again.

"You might as well stay out of bed, chief," he said. "You won't get
any sleep tonight. Ornstein has been bumped off now. Not a fireball
this time. Someone sneaked up and stabbed him with his own knife.
You'll want to come over and take a look."

In fifteen minutes the siren of a fast police car made complaining
echoes over the campus grounds. Wade had spent those fifteen minutes
prowling around Ornstein's laboratory. But he hadn't found anything of
interest. The still, marble-white face of the professor kept its
secret. There was surprise rather than fear written on his dead

When Thompson arrived Wade told him all that he had seen and found,
including the handkerchief with the initials Z.S. on it.

"It's Smith all right," said Thompson grimly. "But how to find him? He
must have a hideout somewhere near here."

The inspector turned and snapped orders to two of his men.

"Hunt around the campus. Look for his tracks. If you find one of his
footprints near the fire escape we'll have him nailed as the murderer.
Then we'll smoke him out of his hole if it takes a year."

He sent two other men on the run to Smith's dormitory.

"We've had the place shadowed," he said. "But he may have sneaked in."

All over the campus, lights were springing up as the news of the
murder spread to students and sleepy faculty members.

Wade began to examine the window again with Thompson at his side. Then
the telephone in the outer laboratory began ringing harshly.

A detective picked it up, listened, then held the instrument out.
There were tense lines in his face.

"Someone's calling for help!" he said.

Wade, stepping forward first, snatched the phone from the man's hand
and put the receiver to his ear. A voice he recognized at once came
over the wire.

"For God's sake--I'm being attacked--here in my laboratory--help--I--"

The voice trailed off in a wheezing gasp. It was Professor Hartz

Wade verified this from the frightened operator downstairs. Hartz had
called the Institute switchboard and the operator had transferred the
call to Ornstein's room, knowing the police were there.

"Come on," said Wade, turning to Thompson. "I know where Hartz is.
Someone is up there with him--Doctor Zero, I think."

He went downstairs with Thompson and a detective at his side. They ran
across a section of the campus and Wade led them to the building, on
the top floor of which Hartz had his place.

Thompson fumed with impatience as the old-fashioned elevator in Hartz's
building went skyward sluggishly.

"Hell," he said, "this place is like the Ark. He'll be dead by the
time we get there."

But Hartz wasn't dead. A muffled voice called out in answer to their

"Come in!"

HARTZ was on the floor, his head and shoulders resting against a
couch. His collar and tie were ripped open. He was fingering his neck
and gasping hoarsely. The room was in complete disorder with books and
papers scattered around and a chair tipped over. The window was open.
Hartz pointed toward it.

"He came through there--and left the same way." Hartz's voice was a
hoarse croak. "I didn't see him. He grabbed me from behind."

Wade ran to the window. A fire escape zigzagged down here, too, and
night shadows obscured its bottom.

Thompson lifted Hartz onto the sofa, then went and got him a drink of
water from the cooler.

"Was it young Smith? Didn't you get a glimpse of him?"

Hartz shook his white head.

"No, but it was his hands I felt. The poor boy must have gone insane."

"Ornstein was murdered a few minutes ago," said Thompson. "We've got
to locate Smith now. He and Doctor Zero are the same man."

Hartz nodded.

"An egomaniac," he said. "A man with a Napoleonic complex."

Wade recognized phrases from the terminology of popular psychology. He
was staring around Hartz's laboratory. A skylight window lighted it in
the daytime. Batteries of powerful bulbs hung down with silvered
reflectors behind them to make the place bright at night. On three
sides of the room the walls were lined with books and cabinets
containing minerals and chemicals.

Wade seemed suddenly to lose interest in Hartz and what he was
saying. He walked over to a bookshelf and began taking down volumes.
The professor turned his white head to stare at Wade's back. Inspector
Thompson turned, too. His voice was sarcastic.

"We've got a murder investigation on our hands, Hammond. If you want
to read why don't you join a library?"

But Wade wasn't reading. He couldn't seem to find a book that
satisfied him. He was pulling them out now and piling them on a nearby
table. Thompson spoke again.

"What the hell's the matter with you, Hammond? Have you gone nuts?
Leave those books alone!"

Professor Hartz lifted his feet off the sofa and banged them down on
the floor. His expression had suddenly changed.

"Keep away from my books," he snapped. "Leave them alone, young man."

Harsh lines had come into the professor's face all at once. They were
lines of poisonous bitterness; lines that seemed to have been etched
there by hidden, unhealthy emotions and secret hell fires.

He rose and moved toward Wade, one claw-like hand stretched out and
his eyes blazing. For Wade had paid no attention to either him or
Thompson. He was pulling out more books and reaching in behind them.

Suddenly he grabbed two large red volumes. They left a hole in the
shelf, and Wade's hand darted in. For a moment his fingers groped.
Then there came a click of metal.

Wade stepped back and Inspector Thompson gasped. The shelves of books
covering the whole side of the room were swinging outward, disclosing
a door in the wall behind them.

"My God, Hammond--what's this?"

Thompson was staring in amazement at the secret door.

Professor Hartz seemed suddenly to have turned into a madman. He
leaped toward Wade, his withered old features a hideous mask of hate.
His eyes seemed inhuman in their ferocity. He wasn't the cool
scientist now. His hands reached toward Wade's throat like talons. But
Wade stepped aside and whirled. He gave Hartz a sudden violent push
that sent him staggering back across the room.

"Watch him, chief. See that he doesn't pull a gun or a knife. I want
to take a look in here."

WADE spoke with an air of confidence that left Thompson speechless. He
pulled the hidden door open and stepped into the room behind it after
snapping on a light switch. The room was another laboratory, compact
and efficient, with a cement floor and a strange, squat piece of
mechanism crouching in the center like an evil monster.

"Look!" Wade was pointing up toward the skylight.

There were windows up there which could be slid back on rollers, and,
close to them, was the end of a telescoping metal shaft which had its
base in the strange machine.

"I'm not enough of a scientist to tell you just what it is," said
Wade. "But here's where those fireballs that killed Munn and the two
detectives came from. It's an electro-atomic generator of some sort,
capable of creating ball lightning, which can be directed by means of a
radioactive metal."

A noise interrupted his words. It was the sound of thumping feet.
Someone was kicking on wood. It came from the door of a nearby closet.
Wade walked over and flung it open. His face showed little surprise;
but Thompson muttered in amazement.

Inside the closet a young man with a gag in his mouth was tied hand
and foot and lying on the floor. He had drawn his knees up and was
thumping his heels against the wall lustily. It was Zadok Smith.

Wade took a penknife from his pocket, reached down and freed the young
man. Smith was willing to talk this time. Words tumbled over each
other, "What did that old buzzard mean--tying me up? Did Ornstein put
him up to it--and what's this place here?"

"This," said Wade softly, "is Doctor Zero's laboratory. Our old friend,
Hartz, has a dual personality. He's Doctor Zero, master criminal, with
a brain fired by ambitious schemes, and Professor Hartz, Ph.D., savant
of science. You've been studying with a versatile man, Smith. You should
feel honored."

"Good God--you don't mean it! Hartz has been doing all this?"

"Yes, look over there, Smith. Even I can guess what he was doing here
besides making lethal ball lightning. That was a side issue."

Wade was pointing toward one side of the secret laboratory. A big
electric furnace stood on a metal table. There was a cooling tank
beside it and a shelf of glass jars containing hundreds of carbon

"I knew he was bugs on the notion of making artificial diamonds," said
Smith. "But I didn't guess he'd ever tried it."

"That was the motive behind his killings," said Wade. "He had to have
money and lots of it for his experiments. It was why he thought of his
extortion plot against Munn. He was nuts on diamonds. I felt when I
first met him that those two stones he wore were somehow out of
character. He even used a diamond to cut the glass on Ornstein's
window. He must have thought Ornstein was getting suspicious and he
went there to plant a chunk of metal as he did in my apartment and
then send a couple of fireballs to do the trick. Ornstein caught him
at it and Hartz used a knife to cover his tracks. He used you, Smith,
to spy on Ornstein's electrical work and keep track of him."

Smith stammered and flushed.

"I thought Ornstein was the murderer," he said.

"Yes," said Wade. "You thought you were being a pretty clever amateur
detective with that gadget of yours. I suppose you found that the
fireballs came from the direction of the Institute."

"Yes, I thought Ornstein was sending them."

"So did I for a while," said Wade. "Hartz was clever. His acting just
now showed that. He knew we'd suspect Ornstein and you. He dropped
your handkerchief when he went to Ornstein's place to make sure."

Thompson edged forward. "There's one thing I don't get," he said. "Who
kidnapped Miss Munn? Where is she?"

Wade nodded toward Smith. "I've got an idea you can answer that," he

Smith nodded and turned red again.

"I didn't kidnap her," he said. "I warned her that she was in danger
and got her to hide for a while in a safe place. She was scared. She
didn't like Ornstein as much as she seemed to. She always trusted me.
She's in a hotel in the country."

"That's another reason I began to think Smith wasn't the criminal,"
said Wade. "I figured by the tracks that Arlene Munn had left her
aunt's willingly. Then that clue of the handkerchief in Ornstein's
place was a little too obvious. That and the diamond scratches on the
window made me think that Hartz was the murderer. With Ornstein dead
and Smith out, there seemed to be no one else. This room of Hartz's
didn't look big enough to take up all the space here. I figured there
was another room behind one of those book shelves."

Thompson wiped his face.

"You've done a swell job, Hammond. We may not land Hartz in the hot
seat. They may send him to the bughouse instead. But with Doctor Zero
out of the way we'll be able to get a good night's sleep again and the
department will have some peace."


STEPHEN DEMEREST stopped when he saw the figure coming toward him
across the desolate, rain-drenched fields. It was his first glimpse of
a human being since his car had mired in the thick mud of the country

He was on foot now, lost in a dreary region of deserted farms and
rocky fields, from which all fertility seemed to have been pressed by
the weight of ages. Even the spring rain had brought no life back to
the barren, eroded earth.

He waited beside the rough path he'd followed. The figure was only a
dimly moving shape in the dusk, at first. Then, it materialized into a
human form enveloped in some sort of dark cloak, with a stiff, wide-
brimmed hat standing out queerly from the head, reminding him of a
fantastic figure out of the mists of antique Spanish legend. But this
was New England he was in, not ancient Spain, and the approaching
figure was incongruous.

Then Stephen Demerest started. For the lowering sunset clouds broke
apart a little. A sulphurous glow came through them, touching the wet
landscape with a weird, sickly saffron light. And he saw that the
person coming toward him was a woman.

She moved with stately grace. There was something so odd about her
presence in this lonely spot, something so arresting in her costume,
that Demerest stared in growing wonder.

She got closer. He saw that she was youthful, hardly more than a girl.
A girl with pale, impassive features, beautifully molded, and great
dark eyes that were strangely fixed upon him.

He stood speechless, breathless. She was directly opposite before he
pulled himself out of his trance sufficiently to speak. "Can you tell
me," he said, "if I'm anywhere near the Benjamin Halliday house?"

Her eyes remained fixed upon him, but she didn't answer. Demerest
hurriedly explained: "My car got stuck in the mud. I had to leave it.
I thought I was taking a short-cut across country to the Halliday
house, but apparently I'm lost."

Still she was silent, her oval, cameo-clear face unchanging in its
expression, her dark, unfathomable eyes staring at him as though he
were something less than human.

Demerest, wet, cold, weary and annoyed, stepped quickly toward her--
and at once stopped with a stifled gasp. For a sound reached him that
he hadn't heard before--the soft, rustling patter of many feet. He saw
suddenly that the girl wasn't alone.

Behind her, their shaggy bodies almost invisible against the dark
ground, six great black dogs padded two abreast in somber escort.
Their huge muzzles hung close to the earth. They rolled their eyes
upward, until a dozen points of sinister, greenish fire glared at
Demerest. He stood transfixed, spellbound, feeling his spine crawl
with horror.

Yet they were only dogs after all, he reasoned, and this girl
constituted his one hope of finding his way out of the wilderness
before night came.

He took another step toward her. The dogs, as though obeying a quick,
unspoken command, broke their strange formation and suddenly ringed
him, the giant leaders slinking around to his back, the others
stationing themselves one on each side and two in front. They stood
stiff-legged, fangs bared, the fur on their necks lifting in savage

Demerest felt a moment of instinctive, cringing dread. He wasn't a
coward. But his good sense told him that he stood in the presence of
violent death. In a concerted attack these dogs would rip out his
throat, literally tear him to pieces.

The girl stopped, too. Tall, imperious, and lovely in spite of her
grotesque garb, she regarded him searchingly for many seconds, her
great, dark eyes lingering on his face. Then her lips moved. She made
a clucking sound to the dogs.

They fell out of their ring formation as quickly as they had assumed
it, and slunk behind her again, following with silent obedience as she
moved away.

Demerest stood weak and trembling, a light sweat beading his forehead,
as the weird cavalcade passed on. The dogs appeared to vanish almost
at once, their great shapes blending with the darkness of the ground.

For a full minute he watched the girl move off, and got a suggestion
of the lithe loveliness of her figure beneath her cloak, the exquisite
grace of her carriage. He stared until her imperious shoulders blurred
and disappeared in the gathering dusk.

Then, resolutely, he turned and followed. She had refused to speak to
him. Her dogs had menaced his life. She'd treated him as something to
be ignored or scorned. But there must, he reasoned, be some human
habitation in the direction she had taken.

DARKNESS came. The sulphurous glow faded from the west, extinguished
by the dying day, and blotted out by the low-seeping rain clouds that
were gathering again. A wind whimpered across the soggy fields like a
tortured spirit. Demerest strayed from the path several times.

He bumped into jagged rocks, scratched himself on ground-clinging
bushes. At the end of half an hour it was pitch-black. His small
flashlight, with its battery nearly exhausted and its bulb already
weakly red, shed hardly enough illumination for him to see a yard
ahead. Finally he caught sight of a wan glimmer in the darkness.

He moved toward it, seeing in imagination the shapes of the great
black dogs creeping close. The glimmer became an old-fashioned porch
lantern swinging above the door of a massive stone house.

Demerest stooped and groped for a stick. If the black beasts served as
watchdogs for this mansion, they might attack him.

He got closer, stared at the imposing front of the building, and
realized that this must be the Halliday place. A sudden sense of the
strangeness of his mission came to him. It was deeper, more eerie than
when he'd received the letter in his pocket, every word of which he
remembered clearly. It read:

Dear Stephen:

You probably have forgotten me, but your dear father and I were very
close friends. And now, because I'm in desperate trouble, I'm turning
to you, his son.

I've heard that you're engaged in radio work. Please come to my
country home at once. Pretend you're nothing more than a radio repair
man whom I've summoned. Don't admit that you know me. Be formal when
we meet, unless we get a chance to talk alone. Guard every action,
every word. Be ready to help me when the signal is given. There's no
one else on the outside I'd dare turn to.

I've made many mistakes. I've been a wicked, selfish old fool. But,
for the sake of one I love more than life itself, I ask you to help
me. The enclosed check for five hundred dollars will defray expenses.

Thinking back, Stephen Demerest shook his head. He had no inkling of
the letter's meaning. He remembered Benjamin Halliday only dimly,
recalling, however, that he had once been his father's friend. Only a
few meager bits of information had come to him about Halliday. The man
had grown wealthy in Europe. He had married brilliantly but unhappily.
His wife had run off with another man, leaving him with an infant
daughter. Then no further reports of Halliday had reached Demerest
until, two years ago, he'd seen a brief notice in the paper of
Halliday's arrival in America.

What the man's trouble now was, why he had buried himself in the
wildest part of New England, Demerest could not imagine.

But the size of the house before him indicated wealth. He believed it
was Halliday's place. He approached the door, lifted the old-fashioned
knocker and heard the hollow thud of it echo far inside the house.

Footsteps approached. The door was opened and Demerest froze into
startled wonder. It was as though the mouth of some fantastic sub-
chamber of hell had opened. Never had he seen such a revoltingly ugly
man as the one who stood in the threshold.

A single, glaring eye gazed out of a scarred, pockmarked face. The
man's nose had been eaten away by accident or disease. His mouth was
twisted into a misshapen hole that showed two broken teeth. The place
where his other eye should have been was a gaping, horrible cavity in
his cadaverous face.

Demerest made an effort to keep his voice steady. "Is this Mr.
Halliday's house?" he asked.

For almost a minute the single eye of the man before him searched his
face, probed like a bright gimlet, trying, it seemed, to read his
thoughts. Then the ugly head bobbed. The man stood waiting.

"I'm a radio specialist," went on Demerest. "Mr. Halliday asked me to
come to do some repairing. My car, with all my tools in it, got mired
in the mud. I'll have to get it in the morning. I wonder if I can stay
here for the night?"

Again the noseless face bobbed. The man could understand, but seemed
incapable of speech. It came to Demerest with another pang of horror
that he was not only disfigured but also mute.

The hideous servant stood aside and motioned for Demerest to enter.
Demerest did so and found himself in a richly decorated hall. He
started to look about him, then jumped as a voice suddenly spoke at
his side. "This way if you please!"

He had seen no one else come in, but when he looked around, there was
another man almost as ugly as the first--a gnome-like figure with
immensely broad shoulders and arms that nearly reached the floor. His
simian, brutal face appeared hardly human, yet it was he who had
spoken. He added gruffly: "You can't see Mr. Halliday now. The
doctor's with him. Wait in here."

The gnome-man ushered Demerest into a big drawing-room, then turned
and left him. Demerest nervously drew a cigarette from his coat and
lit it. But he'd barely taken a puff when a shuffling step sounded.

He whirled, went close to the door. An old man carrying a physician's
black satchel came slowly down the stairs. He, too, was hideously
ugly, chinless, with a great projecting nose like the beak of some
bird, and a pompadour of stiff white hair, giving him the look of an
evil, crested parrot. He nodded at the servant, turned red-rimmed eyes
on Demerest.

Demerest shuddered. Every human being he had seen in this fantastic
place had been ugly as Satan.

The gnome-man saw the doctor to the door, then came back and planted
himself in front of Demerest. "You may now go up and see Mr.
Halliday," he said, harshly. "I understand he's expecting you."

Demerest didn't answer. He moved up the stairs, heard the gnome-man's
step close behind him. The servant was dogging his footsteps like an
evil shadow.

"Right here!" The servant held open a door and followed Demerest into
a room where there was a huge, old-fashioned canopied bed.

Demerest's eyes swung to the figure on it, then to the two others who
stood beside it.

THE man in the bed was obviously Halliday. That wrinkled, crafty face,
prematurely aged, stirred vague memories in Demerest's mind. The other
two, a youngish, fair-haired couple, were the first civilized-looking
people he'd seen in the house. The woman had fair skin, a shapely body
and washed-out but still attractive blue eyes. The man bore a striking
resemblance to her. Both seemed well-bred, quiet.

Halliday turned feverish eyes on his visitor. Demerest could sense the
hideous, gnome-like servant standing close behind him; and Halliday's
expression seemed to plead craftily for Demerest to be discreet.

"You've come about the radio," said Halliday in a thin, flat voice.
"I'm glad. It hasn't been acting right. I'm an old man, bedridden,
helpless. The radio, which keeps me in touch with the outside world,
is one of my few pleasures."

"I won't be able to fix it until tomorrow," Demerest said. "My car,
with all my tubes and testing equipment, is stuck in the road a mile
from here. If you'll let me spend the night, I'll start on the radio

"I expected you to spend the night," said Halliday. "We're far from
things here--isolated, as you see." He waved his thin hand toward the
man and the woman. "My good friends, Eric and Nana Larsen! They and my
daughter, Gail, are taking turns nursing me."

Demerest looked into the faded blue eyes of the man and the woman, and
knew that these two must be brother and sister.

The woman favored him with a smile that made her look younger and
glamorously appealing, in a foreign sort of way. "Please to meet you,"
she said, with a slight, becoming accent. Then her eyes fell on the
hideous gnome standing behind Demerest. The smile left her face and
she shuddered. An air of tenseness settled over the room.

Halliday's features, now that the first effort of greeting was over,
had become wan and corpselike, their only expression one of
inscrutable, deep-seated terror. He said, listlessly: "Dinner will soon
be ready. I'm sorry I can't join you; but I shall not be alone. Either
Eric or Nana will stay with me."

The invitation to dinner seemed also dismissal. The hideous servant,
standing so close behind Demerest that he could feel the man's breath
on his neck, said: "Come, Mr. Demerest. I'll find you a room."

Demerest had only a small grip with him. He followed the squat-bodied
servant down a long hall. The man thrust open a door, lighted an oil
lamp and favored Demerest with a curious leer. He said: "Here's where
you'll sleep."

There was another canopied bed in the room---like the one Halliday
had. The house was obviously ancient, all the furnishings dating back
to Colonial times. The servant withdrew, then abruptly thrust his ugly
face back around the door. "Dinner will be ready in ten minutes," he

Demerest unpacked his things, went out into the hall, and saw Nana
Larsen descending the staircase. She had changed her gown, as though
for his especial benefit. Her low-cut dress revealed the shapeliness
and alluring whiteness of her shoulders.

But a moment later the pale beauty of Nana Larsen was eclipsed by the
lush, dark loveliness of the girl who entered the hall below, through
another door.

Demerest started, stared, felt his heart contract. For he was again
looking at the classic, inscrutable features of the mystery girl,
whose great dogs had menaced his life.

Nana Larsen smiled. "Miss Halliday, this is Mr. Demerest, your
father's radio man."

The mystery girl's dark eyes searched Demerest's face. She nodded
briefly, acknowledging the introduction. There was something both
haughty and tragic in her bearing. She preceded them into the dining
room, and Demerest noticed that she was dressed almost as strangely as
before. Her gown was individual and exquisitely becoming, but old-
fashioned, Victorian in its cut, as though the girl were costumed for
some part in a play.

A third repulsive and gnome-like servant, seeming to be a brother of
the one who had given Demerest his orders, was in the dining room.
Gail Halliday seated herself with all the hauteur of a princess. Nana
Larsen smiling slid into her chair. Demerest took a place facing the
two women.

He had a strange feeling of unreality. No one spoke. The candles on
the table shed a light that barely penetrated to the corners of the
big Colonial room. The presence of the monster-like servants cast a
damper on the meal. Demerest could feel their eyes boring into him,
watching his every move.

Each time one of them went near Nana Larsen, to present a dish, she
cringed away, as though the white, bare skin of her arms and shoulders
shrank from any possible contact with their simian hands.

GAIL HALLIDAY kept her eyes steadfastly on her plate. Demerest found
himself watching her with ever-increasing fascination. He'd never seen
a girl like her, never beheld such a mixture of strange beauty and
chill aloofness. Once, when she raised her dark eyes and glanced at
him, he had a sense of hidden, unaroused depths, tragic and exciting.
He was attracted by her and afraid of her, at one and the same time.
Nana Larsen made conversation finally by asking him about his trip
from the city, slurring soft words in her peculiarly accented voice.

The meal ended at last. Gail Halliday slipped away as mysteriously, as
silently, as she had come. Nana Larsen went upstairs and Eric Larsen
came down. But he did not attempt to talk to Demerest, and Demerest
went to his room, after one cigarette.

There seemed nothing else to do. Halliday hadn't called him, and he
found himself wondering if the old man's strange letter had not been
the product of delirium.

As he went along the hall to his chamber, he caught sight of the most
hideous of the servants, the one with the single burning eye and
noseless face, watching him. The ugly mute stared, as though in
secret, diabolical speculation.

Demerest paced his room nervously, smoking cigarette after cigarette.
The whimpering wind rose outside to a tortured moan. Spurts of rain
rapped against his window with a sound like bony knuckles. Demerest
drew the shade, gazed out.

He started when he looked across to another wing of the house, where
there were lighted shades, across which a figure moved--the tall,
lithe, glorious figure of Gail Halliday. She was also pacing,
appearing and reappearing against the shades.

Then Demerest heard the throaty howling of dogs, a strange, clamorous,
oddly menacing chorus, out in the darkness of the night. Somewhere on
the other side of the court, in the girl's wing of the house, the
great black beasts were imprisoned, stirred apparently by the noise of
the storm, and by a macabre, vaguely-felt restlessness that filled the
air. Demerest suddenly had a sense that unknown, devilish forces were
all about; that some storm other than the wind and the rain was
gathering, creeping closer and closer, threatening them all.

The girl finally stopped pacing. She disappeared from a window, then
came back. For a moment he saw her figure eerily silhouetted without
the strange gown on it; saw the chaste, proud lines of her body. Then
her light went out.

Demerest lay down on his bed without undressing. Steadily, above the
wind and rain, he heard the mournful howling of the dogs. He dozed
into fitful slumber, their animal voices ringing in his ears like some
weird devil's chorus.

A scream awakened him, brought him bolt upright in bed, then sent him
lunging off it, straight toward the door. For there was terror, anger
in the shrill cry, and it was in the hall outside.

Demerest flung the door open, leaped into the corridor. In the glow of
a hanging lamp near the stairway he saw two struggling figures. One
was the hideous, apelike gnome-man who had spoken to him. The other
was Nana Larsen.

She tried to break away as Demerest stood gaping. Her face was
convulsed in terror and loathing. The servant clutched her with arms
that writhed like constricting pythons. He lifted her bodily, tried to
carry her toward the stairs.

With a cry Demerest leaped forward. But he stopped almost at once, as
though steel cables were looped about his wrists. He stooped and
whirled, gasping, with the clutch of muscular fingers around his arms.
He looked back, saw that the other gnome-man had sneaked up behind

THE inhuman-appearing monster was incredibly strong, so strong that,
with the surprise hold he had taken, Demerest was helpless. He cursed,
kicked back, but the gnome-man twisted his arms until they ached,
blocking all movement.

Nana Larsen shrieked, trying desperately to get free. Demerest saw her
frantic movements tear her gown, saw the gleam of bare flesh, white as
alabaster. The gnome-man's fingers twined closer around her. He
clutched her desperately, jaws clenched, eyes glaring, panting with
his efforts.

Then the tall form of Eric Larsen bounded into the hall. His eyes were
blazing. He had a gun in his hand. With a nerve that Demerest admired,
he took aim, waited a brief instant till his sister's squirmings left
a portion of the servant's chest uncovered. Then he fired, twice.

With a hideous howl, the ugly servant dropped the woman. He took three
steps backward, clutched at his chest, toppled down the stairs, with
death glazing his eyeballs. The man holding Demerest whimpered and
broke away. He was quick as he darted along the hall, but Eric Larsen
was quicker. He slapped a bullet after the retreating figure.

Demerest heard the spat of it against flesh, saw the gnome-man's arm
jerk, heard his moan of pain. Then the man was gone through a door.
And Demerest turned and strode toward the fallen woman.

She was just picking herself up, her clothes half-torn from her. But in
her agitation she didn't seem to notice them. Her brother, Eric, was
panting with fury, face tense and white. The sound of the shots had
aroused the dogs still more. Their barking rose to a frenzied pitch,
blended with the moaning of the wind. Nana shivered, pressed her arms
across her body. Eric tensely said: "Stay here. Miss Halliday is in
danger. I've got to see."

Demerest started to follow, but Nana clutched him. "No, stay with me!
I've got to go back to Mr. Halliday. He is in danger, too, but--" She
suddenly turned, ran down the stairs to where the fallen gnome-man lay
in a tumbled heap. Demerest saw her stoop and retrieve a small
automatic, which the man had evidently taken from her. She came
running up the stairs, her torn clothes flapping wide.

Eric Larsen had gone, and Nana motioned Demerest to follow her into
Halliday's room. Halliday was sitting up in bed, wild-eyed, staring.
His face whitened at sight of Demerest and Nana. He said in a
strangled whisper: "What--what has happened?"

Nana went to him, laid her hand on his forehead, and pushed him gently
but firmly back. "Nothing, my friend. Please calm yourself. One of
your servants attacked me, and Eric had to shoot him. The man was mad.
But there is nothing to fear. Eric has gone to see that Gail isn't

An unearthly howling came from the dogs, rising in a crescendo louder
than at any time before. Halliday pushed himself up, bright feverish
spots burning in his gaunt cheeks, eyes like living coals. "No, no!"
he cried. "Something must be done. Demerest, go to Gail. Help her!"

Demerest turned toward the door, but a sudden icy voice checked him.
"Fool--stay quiet! Another step, and I'll kill you."

He whirled. Nana Larsen was clutching the automatic, had pointed it
straight at his heart. Her pale blue eyes were glittering and deadly,
chill as ice. Her voluptuous body was as rigid as a figure carved from
snow. He saw her finger tighten on the trigger as she read defiance in
his eyes, saw murder on her face.

He did the one thing possible, leaped sidewise and dropped flat. He
heard the report of the gun, felt the fanning flame of the bullet
above his head. He caught hold of a light chair and flung it at her.
As she leaped aside screaming, he rushed her in the brief instant that
her gun was deflected.

She swung wildly, crashed two more shots his way. But she missed him.
He closed with her, thrusting her wrist downward and aside in a grip
of iron.

She fought like a trapped panther. She kicked him, scratched him. When
he wrestled the gun from her fingers, made her drop it, she bent
suddenly and sank her white teeth into his arm.

He cried out, hugged her in a restricting grip that made her hardly
able to move. She hissed like a cat, came up out of her bursting
dress, her body gleaming, and tried to scratch out his eyes. Demerest,
in the straining emergency of the moment, did something he'd never
done before, something ungallant but necessary. He crashed a fist to
the point of her chin, dropping her, senseless, to the floor.

He turned away, picked up her gun, and ran to the door, with Halliday
shouting for him to hurry. He didn't know what weird conspiracy he had
to face. He only knew that Gail Halliday was in some sort of danger.
He seemed to feel her dark, unfathomable eyes upon him, no longer
arrogant, but helpless and appealing.

He ran through the corridor down a flight of stairs, around another
hall into that other wing of the mansion. He heard a sound of battle,
saw Eric Larsen struggling with the second gnome-like figure. The
servant had evidently jumped him, taken him by surprise. With his one
good arm, he was trying to hold Larsen, clutching both wrists, to
prevent him from again using his weapon. Larsen was snarling, cursing,
and the dogs in a nearby room were howling frightfully, leaping
against a closed door, scratching and whining with desperate claws.

DEMEREST ran straight toward the fighting figures. He raised the gun
he had taken from Nana Larsen. Then Eric Larsen saw him. With a
superhuman wrench, he broke away from the servant. He whirled, his gun
aimed straight at Demerest.

Demerest pumped the trigger of the small automatic. He felt a brief,
sickening sensation inside when no shot sounded. The gun's magazine
was empty.

He saw the quick flash of Larsen's pistol, felt a hot, stinging pain
at the top of his head. He sank to his knees, as though a burning iron
had been laid across his scalp. He sank inertly, saw Larsen turn and
fire straight into the gnome-man's face. The ugly creature went down
spouting blood.

Larsen turned and disappeared through a door. Demerest could still
see. His eyes were half-open. His mind was even capable of registering
impressions. But the stunning force of the bullet that had laid his
scalp open, almost seared his brain, made movement impossible. He
could only lie and stare through half-closed lids.

Dimly he heard a scream, then silence--except for the fearful racket
of the dogs. A moment later, Larsen came through the door. He was
carrying Gail Halliday. There was a bruise on the girl's white
forehead. She was in her nightdress, with her white legs trailing.
Larsen, without a single glance at Demerest, bore her along the hall
and out into the night.

Demerest tried to rise. He fought within himself, as a man fights a
horrible, paralyzing force; fought while his brain burned in agony,
and hot blood trickled down his face. But he couldn't rise. And he saw
a shadow, as in a nightmare, creep along the hall when Larsen had

It was the horrible, noseless servant with the single eye. The eye was
glaring now, burning with the fierce light of a devil's torch. The man
was shaking. His lips were moving, writhing across his broken teeth,
though no sound came from them.

He moved straight toward the door, from behind which the howling of
the dogs sounded. He sprang a bolt, drew the door outward. He went
down writhing under a mad rush of flying black bodies.

Like the moving ribbon of some satanic cyclorama, Demerest saw the
snarling, wicked heads of the great black dogs. He saw their green
eyes, their slavering lips, their bared and glistening fangs. He saw
them come straight toward him in a surging flood of fury. They loomed
as large as mammoths, their fangs were curving scimitars that seemed,
to his dazed brain, to sweep the whole hallway. He already thought he
felt them, rending, tearing at his throat, thought he felt his own hot
blood choking him.

But instead the dogs passed over him, unheedingly trampled him with
their flying paws, went by so near him that he could feel their fetid
breaths on his face. They passed on along the hall, turned in a column
and plunged through the open doorway out into the night.

Demerest lay weakly, sheer terror bringing his numb brain slowly back.
He watched as the one-eyed, monstrous servant got to his feet. He saw a
hideous, sinister expression on the man's scarred face. The servant
disappeared for a brief moment, returned, and came toward Demerest
with something in his fingers.

Demerest cringed with returning consciousness, gasped and shrank back
in horror as the one-eyed servant pressed a cold substance against his
face. Then reason asserted itself. Demerest relaxed for an instant,

The one-eyed man was pressing a wet cloth to his skin, trying to
revive him. Demerest helped, battling the cloudy pain in his head. The
servant got two more cloths, then dragged Demerest to his feet. He
plucked at Demerest's coat sleeve, made strange, inarticulate whimpers
in his scarred throat, pointed out the door through which the dogs had

Demerest understood that he was to follow them. The servant drew an
old-fashioned lantern from a closet. He shuffled ahead of Demerest,
still beckoning fiercely.

As he neared the doorway, Demerest heard a sound he was never to
forget, a sound of mortal, bloodcurdling horror coming out of the
darkness---a scream torn from a human throat. Above it, he heard the
snarling of the dogs like that of a pack of ravening wolves.

The one-eyed servant hurried forward. Demerest, weak and trembling,
followed. The cold rain on his face helped to revive him, washed the
blood from the crease along his scalp. The sound of the horrible
battle ahead lent speed to his feet.

Then under the glow of the lantern, he saw what was happening; saw a
bloodstained body leap upward, like a huge white fish, above a sea of
tossing black muzzles. The sea of savage animal forms was speared with
green points of light, like stars blazing above water.

LARSEN, stripped from the waist up, his flesh torn already into awful
ribbons, was striking right and left with his gun butt. But the fierce
dogs pulled him down. His crimson-stained back disappeared under a
tidal wave of furry bodies. He didn't appear again, and the sound of
gurgling, bubbling worryings that followed sickened Demerest.

The servant waved his skinny arms, again making meaningless noises.
The dogs snarled and broke away a little. Demerest caught sight of the
still, shapeless thing that had a moment before been Larsen. Faint and
sickened, he turned toward the slumped form on the ground a little way

The dogs, jaws dripping, instantly sprang away from their dead quarry.
Demerest thought for an instant they were going to fly at him. But
they ringed the form of Gail Halliday and snarled their menace at him
until the clucking of the noseless servant made them draw off.

Then Demerest and the servant bent over Gail Halliday. She lay
unconscious but feebly stirring, the thin, rain-soaked nightdress
plastered to the lovely lines of her body, beautiful, Demerest
thought, as some reclining, fabled goddess. The servant plucked
Demerest's arm, made motions for him to pick the girl up and carry

Demerest did so, feeling a strange, thrilling sense of protective
tenderness as her warm body lay against his chest. Her face was
upturned. Her black, silky hair lay in damp, sweet ringlets on her
glorious shoulders.

As the servant led the way, Demerest bore her toward the house,
leaving that grisly thing out in the dark. The dogs fell into step
behind him, escorting him now, as though in carrying their strange
mistress he had become their master. Demerest thrilled with an
exultant feeling of power as he heard their padding feet.

As he entered the house, and the light fell on Gail Halliday's face,
he stopped in wonder.

The pain in his head seemed to turn to a quivering song; the beat of
tumultuous music. She was beautiful, so beautiful, that he bent
irresistibly, as one in a dream, and pressed his lips against her
warm, damp ones. It was a tender kiss, respectful in its lightness, an
impulse born of the whirling giddiness in his head, and the great
strain he'd been under.

But as he kissed her, Gail Halliday's eyes opened. The lids fluttered
like moth wings for a moment, uncovering the dark, glorious depths
that lay beneath. She lay still in his arms for a breathless second,
looking up, while a slow, strange smile softened her face. Childlike,
trusting, her arms tightened about his neck for the barest instant.
Then color flooded her pale cheeks. She slipped from his grasp, said
huskily: "We must go to my father. He may have been hurt. Those
terrible people!"

She turned and ran down the hall, her damp hair swinging against her
neck. Demerest and the servant followed, around the wing of the house,
up a stairway, into Halliday's room.

HALLIDAY was sitting up in bed, face twitching, hoarsely calling out.
Nana Larsen still lay crumpled.

Halliday sank back gasping and held out his shaking arms to his
daughter. She fled to them, said soft, reassuring things to comfort
him. Then suddenly remembering her thin nightdress, she shrank shyly
away into a corner.

Demerest stared at Halliday, and the sick man, finding his voice,
spoke to his daughter. "Please go outside a minute, Gail. There are
some things I want to tell our friend, Demerest--things he will want
to know."

When the girl had gone, Halliday grasped Demerest's hand in his. "You
have been kind," he said, "so kind to come here. You have saved us."

Demerest shook his head. He pointed to the noseless servant. "Thank
him. He saved things, just now, by turning the dogs on Larsen. Larsen
shot the two others. He is dead, now, himself."

"If you hadn't come," said Halliday, "my servants would never have had
the courage to act. Your arrival was the signal."

"The signal for what?"

"To make an attempt to free ourselves from the bondage of the
Larsens." Halliday bent forward, his voice trembling. "You must have
guessed that they had some hold over me. I know I am dying; I can talk
freely, now. There are many things I've done that I shouldn't, but I
didn't deserve such persecution. The Larsens were criminals, wicked
people trying to steal my money--and Eric Larsen wanted Gail."

"I don't think I quite understand," said Demerest.

"No, no, you wouldn't. But this will help to explain it. I killed the
man who ran off with my wife--shot him in a fair fight after he had
caused her death by his brutal treatment. I am not a murderer,
really--but the law is sometimes cruel. It seemed best to leave
Europe, quickly. I thought nobody knew, but the Larsens learned what I
had done somehow. They followed me here to blackmail me, bleed me.
They threatened to expose me as a criminal, unless I turned over
everything I had. They knew I was old, dying, and when I was stubborn,
Eric Larsen saw a way of accomplishing his ends through Gail. He might
have succeeded---if you hadn't come. He would have taken her away--I
don't know where."

Halliday lay back breathing laboredly for a moment. Demerest could see
the tortured pounding of his heart, and knew that the man's days were
numbered. Halliday went on slowly, huskily:

"In many ways, as I said in my letter, I've been a wicked, selfish
fool. But after my wife, Grace, left me, after I'd brought up Gail
from babyhood, nursed her, watched over her, I made up my mind that no
man should ever take her from me. She had reached lovely young
womanhood when I brought her here. I tried my best to see that no
attractive man should ever meet her. I hired the most hideous servants
I could find. I saw to it that even our family doctor was old and
ugly. I went further, and encouraged a scorn of men in Gail herself,
told her never to speak to any stranger, gave her clothes that were
unconventional, queer. Even the dogs were my doing. She's held in such
terror by the few neighbors we have, that no man would go near her.

"But it was wrong, wicked. What has happened in the last few weeks has
made me see it. She might, even in her loneliness, have been beguiled
by that monster, Larsen. It was wrong, and I want to ask a favor of
you, Demerest. I want to pay you handsomely to see, after I'm dead,
that Gail leads a more normal life: that she meets some good young men
and finds love and marriage, if that is her wish. Will you do that for
me, in memory of the friendship that I bore your father?"

Demerest started to speak, then turned his head. Gail Halliday had
stolen back into the room. She stood just inside the doorway, tall,
white, lovely as a vision, her dark eyes fixed upon him, a strange,
knowing smile softening her lips.

Demerest turned toward her father and bowed his head. "I think I can
promise to take good care of Gail," he said. "Something tells me she
and I are always going to understand each other, and be---dear


WE didn't kill old Doc. The rotten press campaign against us is just
low-down yellow journalism. The vicious attack of District Attorney
Gleason is a lot of political hooey, thrown out to catch a few extra
votes. Patsy Stevens and I are not guilty of the murder of the world's
greatest botanist, Dr. Heinrich Sigmund Bloch. Out of respect for his
family, and because I didn't want to chuck mud at the name of a Nobel
Prize winner, I've kept my mouth shut up till now. I've refused to
give the details of the craziest, creepiest scientific experiment ever
pulled off. Before that nightmare evening when Bloch's mania for
digging into the mysteries of life made him go hog-wild, he was tops
in science. I guess you know that his studies in hybridism and his
four-volume work, Osmotic Irregularities among the Sarraceniaceous
Plants, are classics. I still think of him myself as a sort of
intellectual dynamo, a great botanical genius. And, in spite of the
spine-jolting bumps he put me over, I can separate Bloch the
experimentalist from Bloch the man.

But I can't hold my tongue any longer. The only chance Patsy Stevens
and I have of clearing away the cloud of suspicion that's making life
tough for us is to tell the truth frankly. Then maybe people will stop
heckling us, stop whispering about us, stop pointing at us as if we
were a couple of homicidal crooks.

It all began when I got Sigmund's note, written in his crabbed, old-
maid handwriting:

Dear Jerry: You're the fellow I need to help me in a job of work I've
got on hand. It's terribly important. Please come out to my place this
evening. And--this will probably seem odd to you--don't tell a living
soul you're coming. Destroy this note, Jerry, if you still respect
your cranky old prof.

Yours affectionately,


There were two reasons why that note bothered me. Doc was never one to
be furtive about anything. He was so honest and open he would just as
soon hand his bankbook to a confidence man as not. Now he was acting
as secretive as a spy. And I couldn't see why he had picked on me to
help him in a "terribly important" experiment, inasmuch as I nearly
flunked two of his courses at school.

As Doc had once said himself, I was better at the "dynamic tropisms of
the football field" than I was at lab work. There was something phony
about the whole set-up. But I was flattered up to my neck that he
wanted me to help him.

Grinning, I touched a match to the note and let the ashes drop. I
wouldn't have grinned if I had realized that in burning that note and
accepting Bloch's invitation I was letting myself in for a taste of
unadulterated scientific horror that would haunt me like a nightmare
the rest of my life.

But then, as I've indicated, I'm no mental Titan. I'm just one of
those chaps who was thrown in the first round by the Einstein theory
and who's still fighting a losing battle with math.

I did what old Sigmund asked me to---said nothing to anybody about
where I was going. I slipped away right after supper and headed my
Lizzie, which runs in defiance of the laws of equilibrium, gravitation
and the conservation of energy, toward the Jersey hills where Doc has
his hangout.

It's quite a dump, too. Some of his breeds of crazy plants have been
bought by nurserymen all over the country. Doc has picked up some
dough to play with. He has put it into greenhouses and buildings on
his hundred-acre farm.

I got there just at sunset. Doc met me at the door and I thought at
first it was the sunset light that made him look so queer. Then I
figured he must be sick. For he was just about the color of the
sheepskin I almost didn't get. It was a funny kind of paleness, as if
he had a bad case of anemia.

HIS long nose was white and pinched. There were blue circles under his
eyes and his cheeks were sunken.

His voice was hearty enough when he said: "Hello, Jerry." But I
noticed when he shook hands that his fingers trembled. He turned and
led me into the house and I couldn't help seeing that his legs were
shaky, too.

"You don't feel well, do you, Prof?" I said.

He turned and gave me a funny look. There was something strange in it,
something I'd never seen before. It was almost like suspicion, or

"I never felt better in my life, Jerry," he said. "But I've been
working hard; maybe not eating or sleeping quite enough--and this job
of mine is exacting."

I sensed suddenly that he was being evasive.

"What's the job?" I asked.

He ignored that, led me through several doors into a back room of the
main house, and I noticed something else that struck me as funny.
Every time he went through a door, old Doc locked it after him.

He got more and more excited and shaky. By the time we reached his
back-room den, there were small hectic flushed spots on his paper-white
skin. I was more sure than ever that he was sick.

But he didn't talk like a sick or discouraged man. His voice held
excitement, elation. He seemed to have some big secret under his hat.

"You're curious, aren't you, Jerry?" he said. When I nodded, he added:
"I don't blame you. You've a right to be eaten up with curiosity. But
before I tell you about my work, I want to prepare you a little. I
don't want you to think I've become a crackpot."

He looked at me with an odd mixture of defiance and appeal as though
he were begging me to be indulgent.

"Prof," I said. "I'd have faith in you if you told me you'd
transplanted strawberries to the moon. I'm only wondering why you
picked out a dumbbell like me to help you when you might have got a
whole bunch of sixteen-cylinder, valve-in-the-head brain trusters."

"There's a reason for that," Doc said mysteriously. "I'll explain. But
let me show you a few things first."

He drew a bunch of microphotographs from his desk and shoved them
toward me. They had things on them that looked like little boats with
the bare ribs showing. There were others that were round, like
circular sections of honeycomb with perfectly formed hexagonal cells.

"You know what those are, Jerry?"

I nodded. "Diatoms. You can dredge them out of any pond. Every amateur
microscopist in the country has squinted at them."

Doc chuckled.

"And you know, Jerry, that we botanists like to call them motile
plants. But--" he held up a trembling finger---"there's no absolute
assurance that they're plants except that they show traces of
chlorophyl. Old-timers thought they were tiny marine animals. They
have siliceous skeletons that withstand boiling in sulphuric acid.
They move around and behave very much like mollusks. They may be
plants or animals or both. They may be one of the missing links
between the plant and animal kingdoms."

Doc was on one of his favorite subjects. I nodded again.

"You used to tell us that in the classroom, Prof."

"Forgive an old man's lapse of memory," he murmured. "I just wanted to
be sure you understood, Jerry. Here's another picture. You can
identify that, too, of course."

"Sure, Prof," I said. "I'm no botanist, but we got several specimens
of those when you took us out on field excursions. They're pitcher
plants. Once we almost drowned in a swamp, I remember, getting them."

"Yes, Jerry. Very fine examples of Sarracenia. And you know, too, that
they're carnivorous, like the sundews, butterworts and bladderworts.
The pitchers have a gummy nectar in the bottom and hairs pointing in
one direction. Insects can get in, but not out. The plant devours

AS Doc said this I thought suddenly of all those doors he had locked
behind me. A queer thought, but something in his face or in the
atmosphere, brought it to my mind.

Then I suddenly stared at Doc's wrist. His coat cuff had pulled up a
little as he reached for the picture, and I saw that there was a
strange-looking, bunchy scar on the skin. A little higher up was a
queer, lumpy bandage.

"You've hurt yourself, Prof," I said.

He yanked at his cuff quickly.

"It's nothing," he answered. "Only a scratch."

For a second there was an embarrassed silence. For a reason I couldn't
understand, Doc's eyes refused to meet mine. Then he looked down at
the pictures and spoke.

"Jerry," he said, "both of the photos I've shown you indicate that the
plant and animal orders aren't so far apart as some people think. Some
day--" He paused again.

"Some day what, Prof?"

"Well, suppose, Jerry, that human beings could borrow some of the
secrets that plants possess? Food from the air; untold energy from the
sunshine; mineral salts and nitrogen from the soil."

"We get all that by eating green stuff, Prof. Spinach, for instance--"

"I know, Jerry, but suppose a race of men were developed who could do
their own direct chemical synthesizing as plants do? Think of the vast
possibilities! No food shortages. No worry over droughts. No
international conflicts over land to feed growing populations."

I began to feel a little queer. "I see what you're driving at, Prof,"
I said. "But chlorophyl and haemoglobin are two different things.

He stopped me, smacking his trembling hand down on his desk.

"That's it, boy--chlorophyl and haemoglobin! That's my angle. That's
what I'm working on. That's the basis of an experiment of mine that
will set the world by its ears. I may not live to see it perfected--
you may not. But centuries hence--"

He had a strange look on his face, the look of a fanatic who is
letting his mind chase along one line of thought till he sees
everything else cockeyed. The world's full of guys like that right
now--dictators who pop their eyes and preen their mustaches, and make
whole nations goose-step. I was sorry to see Doc, a scientist, getting
lopsided, too. But he went on.

"You don't know what this means to me, Jerry. It's the climax of my
whole life's work. I've already taken the first step across the

"You mean, Prof?"

"I mean I've got a plant closer to the animal kingdom than either the
diatom or the common Sarracenia. I want you to help me carry on,
Jerry, where I've had to leave off."

His voice faltered. His eyes dropped from mine again. Abruptly I had a
strange, creepy feeling of uneasiness along my back.

"You're young, Jerry," he added huskily. "You have enough scientific
curiosity to understand and appreciate, and enough physical stamina to
contribute... You were a football player. You're robust, full-blooded.
You'll help me, won't you?"

"Sure," I said a little weakly. "Sure. But what is it you want me to

"Come and I'll show you," he said.

He led the way to a flight of stairs which seemed to go down to a
cellar. He locked the door behind us, descended to a small, square
hallway with double glass doors in the middle, which I recognized as a
sort of air lock. On the other side of that the atmosphere suddenly
got strange, unpleasant, and as humid as the tropics.

There was another door with bright lights showing around the edges of
it. As Doc opened this a girl in a white uniform came toward us.

I HELD my breath because she was so pretty. She had a mass of copper-
blond hair cut in a page-boy bob. Her features were like those of some
goddess on an old Greek coin. Her skin was warm, rich, sun-tanned, and
she had big, blue, long-lashed eyes.

It wasn't till I took a second look that I noticed the strange
expression in those eyes. The pupils were expanded, vacant, as though
she were heavily doped.

"This is Patricia Stevens, my assistant," Doc said. "She's a trained
nurse and a very competent young woman. Miss Stevens, meet Jerry Lane,
a former pupil of mine."

The girl said nothing. Her only response was a brief nod and a vacant
glance from her long-lashed eyes. I had the feeling that she was
looking through me rather than at me. I saw suddenly that the lovely,
sun-tanned complexion that made her look like an outdoors girl came
from a battery of blinding flood-lights overhead. They were sunlamps,
super-powerful ones, burning some kind of mercury vapor, I guessed, in
quartz crystal tubes.

Without any word from Doc she went to the wall with the queer
mechanical steps of a sleepwalker or an automaton, and pulled a
switch. It was as though it were part of a routine job that she had
been trained in till her subconscious mind directed her actions.

As soon as the switch clicked the big flood-lamps dimmed to a yellow
glow and I could see beyond them.

Then I forgot about the girl, forgot even about Doc. Little cold
maggots seemed to crawl up my spine.

For there was a plant in the middle of that cellar room such as I've
never seen before and never want to see again. It was a horrible,
nightmare sort of plant. It had broad, thick leaves covered with
thorns and hair and ending in whiplike tendrils. Some of the leaves
were curled into deep cups. The stem of the plant was twisty and
shiny. It was at least twelve feet high; almost as high as the room.
And the color of the stem held me fascinated. That was a sort of blue-
red, waxy and feverish.

I drew in my breath, then felt my heart begin to hammer. For something
else was happening.

As the lights went dim the plant began to move. Not much--for it was
rooted in a tub. But the stem began a slight, snaky undulation and the
great, thick leaves started groping in a way that made my spine crawl.

One leaf that I watched seemed to open and shut like the palm of a
giant, fingerless hand. There was a strange, eerie energy here. That
moving leaf seemed to be a mute gesture out of the chill, prehistoric
past before living forms on Earth had become differentiated as they
are today.

A sweat broke out on my face and I don't know how long I might have
stared like a man in a dream if Doc hadn't spoken.

"Nepenthe Splendens!" he whispered, his voice shaking with pride. "Its
ancestors were the great Nepenthe pitcher plants from Malaya. It's
taken five years of cross-breeding to develop it. That's the living
experiment, Jerry, that I want you to help me with."

I saw then that the plant's stem, low down, almost at the base, was
split a little and that a length of flexible tubing was held in place
there by carefully wound bands of linen tape. The other end of the
tubing was coiled in a little box on the floor. The end of it seemed
to be forked. There were some dials and gadgets on the floor, too,
that I couldn't make anything of.

THE moving leaves of the plant seemed now to be dipping down toward
that tubing in a strange, monotonous pulsation that was like the
restless wings of a great moth. The lowest leaves of all bent down
till they almost touched the tube.

I had a feeling that the plant was struggling to make itself
understood; that some blind instinct was shooting powerful impulses
through all its cells.

"It's hungry," said Doc quietly. "Photosyntheses stops as soon as we
turn the lights off. The plant is growing very fast and has become
accustomed to cooperative nutrition the instant its own chlorophyl
ceases activity."

He looked at me to see if I understood.

I did understand, with a growing sense of horror, as though cold
fingers were pressed around my neck. I understood so well that I
pretended dumbness, and forced myself to say:

"Better turn the lights on again and let the plant do its stuff."

"No, Jerry. That wouldn't solve the problem now. This is a wonderful
case of interdependence between two living orders--vegetable and
animal. The marine alga that finds its home on the backs of horseshoe
crabs is as nothing compared to this partnership. This is a true
mingling of chlorophyl and haemoglobin in the most remarkable
synthetic cooperation the world has ever seen. The plant has reached
the stage where, without periods of mutual cooperation, it will die.
It needs such cooperation now. I've served it faithfully. I must rest
awhile now for the sake of my health. I'm asking you to take my place,
Jerry, in the interest of science."

"You mean--" My voice was trembling so I could hardly recognize it.

"I mean that I'm going to connect your veins with the plant's cells
for a time just as I have done with my own veins for days."

He held up his arms, let me see both wrists and I understood the full
meaning of those strange scars. I was silent, stunned. "It's no worse
than a blood transfusion that is done every day in a hospital," Doc
said quietly. "It's a small thing to contribute to an experiment that
probably ranks as the greatest in history."

"But--but--" I stammered. "You say this is a case of cooperation. If
my blood circulates in the plant, then the plant's sap will circulate
in me?"

"Exactly, Jerry. Your blood will be thinned a little, but that is all.
You will exchange some proteins for other nutritive elements that the
plant manufactures," he spoke very expectantly.

I stared at Doc's sickly, transparent skin and felt my gorge rise. It
didn't look as if he had got much out of his partnership with the
plant. He divined my thought and tried to head me off it.

"I'm old, Jerry. My cooperation with the plant has been slightly
one-sided from the first. Because my stamina has lessened through the
years I haven't been able to give back my share of energy to Nepenthe
Splendens. But you can. You and he should achieve a perfect chemical

"Look here, Prof," I said. "I'd do almost anything for you--you know
it. But this--this is crazy, suicidal. That plant is growing
constantly. You said so. It's twelve feet tall now, I won't be able to
feed it long anyway. You're starting something you can't finish."

"Can't I!" he said. He chuckled then and got a strange glint in his
eyes. "I can get other men," he said.

I realized suddenly then, insofar as his experiment was concerned, he
had slipped over the brink. He was so in the grip of his big idea that
he had lost all perspective. He wouldn't let anything stop him--not
even kidnapping, or murder. If I helped him in this wild business now
I'd just be leading him on to his own doom. He was headed for terrible
trouble as sure as Fate. But I made my voice soothing.

"You've proved your point now, Prof," I said. "You've fed this plant
and you say the plant's fed you. That's about as far as you can carry
the experiment till you've gone into all the chemical angles of it."

"You're instructing me in my own life's work, Jerry!"

His voice was cold, ironic for a moment. It was the first time I had
ever heard Doc talk like that. But it's the way all fanatics get,
dictators included. They don't want to be told anything.

"I was afraid you mightn't understand, Jerry, that's why--"

WHAT Doc did then was something I had not expected or anticipated. He
moved faster than I had supposed an old, weak, shaking man could. His
thin hand dived into his coat pocket, came out with what seemed to be
a tiny toy pistol.

Before I could even open my mouth he touched the trigger and there was
a faint hiss of compressed air. I felt a tiny prick like a needle
against my side.

I reached forward, took the gun away from Doc.

"What's the idea!" I said. "You're liable to put a guy's eye out. You

I didn't get any further. All at once I began to feel funny. It was as
though a kind of thick film was crawling over my skin. My tongue felt
thick, too.

"Why, Prof!" I said. "Now I get it! You've pulled a murder-mystery
stunt! That was a poison dart. I didn't think you--"

My tongue was so thick I couldn't go on. I tried to take a step toward
Doc, stopped.

There were tears running down Doc's cheeks. I realized suddenly that
he was putting up a scrap inside himself--the scientist and the man
fighting; an experimentalist who wouldn't stop at anything, and one of
the best-hearted guys that ever lived.

"It won't hurt you, Jerry!" he almost sobbed. "Don't be frightened.
It's just a harmless drug. It will wear off. But I hoped I wouldn't
have to--I thought you'd be willing--"

Either he was getting incoherent or else I couldn't understand him on
account of that drug in my body.

I was helpless now. I'd have fallen like a fool if Doc hadn't come
forward and held me up. Then he signaled, and I dimly saw the white-
clad nurse, Miss Stevens, coming up, too. Her face was a blank mask
and her eyes were still vacant. The old boy, in his hog-wild
experiment, had given her some other kind of drug. She didn't look at
me, didn't seem to feel much of anything. She just helped him get me
into a heavy, wheeled chair.

That was ready and waiting, and it was plain to me, even in my dazed
state, that Doc had planned this thing in advance. That's why he had
written that funny note. It showed how completely obsessed he was--and
how dangerous.

He had stopped crying now. His eyes were like bright lights dancing
before mine. I heard metal click, saw straps being buckled. I felt my
ankles and arms and body being fastened into that heavy steel chair.
Then Doc rolled my sleeves up and bared my wrists. Miss Stevens
brought the tube forward.

Doc worked like some great surgeon. He was dexterous, swift. He made
incisions in both my wrists near large veins. His knife was so sharp
that it hardly hurt at all. He slipped small metal suction cups on the
ends of the tubes over the incisions, and he did it so quickly that
hardly a drop of blood spilled. He clamped the cups to my skin with
rubber wrist bands, then stepped back.

All this time the big plant had been moving more swiftly. Its dipping,
throbbing leaves were almost like the arms of a man or an ape,
gesticulating. It bent toward me as I was strapped in the chair and
the suction cups were clamped on.

NOW the movements of the plant stopped abruptly. Its leaves were
quiet. I could feel a cool sensation in my wrists. There was very
little pain, but the coolness increased, crept up my arms, and was
accompanied by a strange dizziness and faintness.

I guess I was scared, too. And I was like a man who stands outside
himself and watches. I felt my mouth come open, heard sounds that must
have been myself yelling.

Miss Stevens was looking down at me. For a moment my yells seemed to
push aside the blank veil across her eyes. There was compassion there,
sympathy, understanding. Anyway it made me ashamed of myself, made
some of the affects of the drug wear off.

I stopped yelling, relaxed and stared up into the blue eyes of Miss
Stevens while I felt the coldness of the plant creep up my arms into
my body. I seemed to sink into a deep pool of horror and dizziness.
But I kept staring into her eyes, and there my thoughts fell into
another pool--a pool as clear and blue and quiet as the skies in
tenderest April.

Honestly, I could almost smell roses and hear birds sing.

"You've got the grandest eyes I ever saw," I heard myself saying.
"You're the sweetest--looking kid. I'm going to call you Patsy."

I was out of my head, of course, absolutely nuts, or I wouldn't have
talked that way to a girl I'd never seen before in my life. But I was
telling the truth, and people do go on that way when they're doped or
crazy scared. Ask any nurse who has ever worked in a hospital!

I wanted Miss Stevens to hold my hand. As the sap of Nepenthe
Splendens began to filter through my body I tried to reach out. But my
hands were strapped down.

She seemed to get the idea, though, that I liked her. She laid her
white hand on my forehead, and smiled a funny, strange little smile,
like a dopey kitten that wants to do the right thing and can't quite
figure it out.

And because she was there, close by, smiling, I didn't so much mind
being a partner to a devil plant in a botanical hell that old Doc had

"Shoot the works, Prof, and see if I mind!" I heard myself say wildly,

He did. That was the beginning of the strangest, wildest night I've
ever spent. Every two or three hours I was unclamped from the plant
and the flood-lights were put on. When the plant wasn't exchanging
blood for sap it was getting fed by artificial sunlight.

But I noticed that its leaves still waved a little and reached toward
me even when the lights were on. Once it swayed toward my chair and
almost tipped the tub over, and Doc, who stayed in the cellar
laboratory constantly, had to cut the photosynthetic period short and
clamp me back on the job.

Old Heinrich had a cot in the room, and I could see he was so keyed up
over his experiment that he intended to sleep right there. His
sessions with the plant before I arrived had made him weak and groggy.
He was crying for sleep, and if it hadn't been for his wrought-up
condition, he would have keeled over.

Every now and then his excitement left him and his eyelids drooped. He
kept up a running fire of apologies to me for what he had done, mixed
with wild conjectures as to where this experiment was going to lead.

I didn't answer. Dumb as I may be I saw plainly where it would lead.
After only six hours of "cooperation" with the plant I was beginning
to feel like a guy who has been drawn through a wringer. My blood was
thinned with that hellish sap. I looked at my hands and saw that they
had a greenish color already. Lord knew what that chlorophyl in my
system would do.

But I knew I was weakening fast. The plant was huskier than when Doc
had fed it. I saw that I was headed for unconsciousness or a
breakdown, and that Dog-Face would have to get some other sucker to
help him. That would only be the beginning. If he got too desperate he
might even decide to strap Patsy in the chair.

THAT thought made me desperate. Maybe you'll think it was part of my
nutty condition, but I'd fallen in love with the kid. Yes, fallen into
those blue eyes of hers just like a guy falling into a well. And I
suddenly wanted to get her out, just as I wanted to get myself out.
She was too sweet, too fine to be mixed up in a hellish thing like
this. If Doc hadn't doped her she would never have helped him, I knew.

I had to save her, but how? She had been trained in a mechanical
routine as Doc's assistant. Right now she was more like a robot than a
human being. There didn't seem to be anything I could do. Dog-Face was
determined to hold me, and Patsy was too much under his control to
unstrap me herself.

I tried talking to her once when Dog-Face went out to get himself some
cigars. I pleaded with her to unfasten the straps, even told her I'd
fallen for her head over heels, hoping that it would jar her out of
her dopiness.

But it was no go. Her mind was a blank except for the orders Doc had
given her. She was set to carry them out. Nothing I could say would
make any difference.

The hours ticked on and along toward morning Dog-Face lay down on his

"I just want a wink of sleep, Jerry," he muttered. "Just a wink. Don't
begrudge it to me, and don't think too harshly of me. I'm ashamed of
what I've done, but--it had to be that way."

His voice was sincere. He meant what he said. According to the
lopsided way he had grown to look at things it was inevitable that I
be sacrificed in the interests of science. That plant was more
important to him than my life. And somehow, knowing how he felt, I
didn't get sore or anything.

I told him I forgave him, but even as I talked, I began to plot
secretly how I could get loose. There must be some way, I kept telling
myself---some way.

It's funny how bright even a dumb guy will get when it comes to a
matter of self-preservation. I was trapped, cornered, scared stiff for
myself and for Patsy Stevens, and I had an inspiration right then that
burst like a bunch of atoms exploding in my brain. My mind began to
focus on something Doc had once told me himself about pitcher plants
in general--something I thought I'd forgotten, but which must have
stayed down in my subconscious all the time.

I stared up at one big cup-shaped leaf of Nepenthe Splendens that hung
almost over my head.

Spooky-looking and weirdly developed as this nightmare creation of old
Heinrich's was, it was still one of the Sarracenia family. Those leaf
cups bore a resemblance to the common pitcher plants that I used to
pull up in the swamp when I was one of Doc's students.

And I knew there must be liquid inside it. The air of the room was
heavily humid. Besides that, there was a water spray hitched to a pipe
over by the wall.

Yes, there was moisture in that cup so near to me--and not just plain
water either!

My heart began to hammer, and my mind began to grope for words and
phrases buried under a couple of layers of sluggish gray matter.
Enzymes! A proteolytic acid, something like C14H10O9-2H2O. That was
tannic acid, and hadn't Doc once told us gaping students that all
pitcher plants secreted this powerful proteolytic acid from certain
cells inside the cups? This, mixed with water down below, acted as an
enzyme to digest the insects that fell in.

Look in your botany book and see for yourself. A proteolytic acid that
will soften and break up animal matter!

With my heart beating a swingtime rhythm I stared from the cup over my
head to the strap on my right wrist. It was leather, and any kind of
tannic acid would soften leather. Even water by itself was a softener,
and if water alone would do the trick, how much better it would behave
if it had acid in it!

THAT'S what I was thinking as I watched Doc lie down for his nap. I
was so excited suddenly I nearly keeled over. By the time Dog-Face
began really to relax I had it all doped out just how I was going to
get that acid solution in Nepenthe Splendens leaf cup exactly where I
wanted it. And I began to wonder right then if I hadn't been wrong all
my life in calling myself a dumb cluck. I leave it to you if what I
did next didn't take some dome work.

You've heard of a tourniquet, used to cut off blood circulation and
stop bleeding? Well, I shoved my arms forward and twisted both of them
sideward, elbows out, turning those straps on my wrists into
tourniquets. They hurt like hell. The straps pressed into my skin till
I almost yelled. But I held them there, stopping the blood circulation
in my arm veins through minutes that seemed like ages.

After awhile what I wanted to happen did happen. Nepenthe Splenden's
sap couldn't get through into my blood any more. The big plant began
to show signs of restlessness as its food was cut off.

It was eerie, horrible, to see that unholy quivering begin to start.
Slow undulations convulsed the stem and the leaves began to dip and
vibrate. The cup over my head scooped lower and lower and the thick,
flat leaf next to it opened and shut like a ghastly, fingerless human

Patsy Stevens had been trained in a strict mechanical routine, as I've
said. Her doped mind couldn't grapple with the unexpected. The plant
was restless, sore as a boil. She could see that. But it wasn't time
for the vapor lights to go on and the photosynthetic period to begin.

I was supposed to be feeding Nepenthe Splendens and somehow I wasn't
doing it. Patsy didn't know what to do. She just stood by helplessly.
And she didn't even try to stop me when the leaf cup dipped so low
that I was able to grab it with the tips of my curled-up fingers.

I hung on like a bulldog with my fingernails, digging into the pulpy
green flesh. And I held my breath, too, and even prayed I guess. For I
had my own life there in my fingers and knew it.

Slowly I eased my elbows in, drew the big leaf gently down till the
pitcher bowl tipped forward and spilled the acid water over my wrist.
Some of it splashed too wide, but most of it fell just where I had
hoped--on the leather strap around my arm.

I leaned back then, weak and faint, let go of the leaf, let the blood
circulate and let the plant feed again. But only for a few minutes.
Moving my arm a little, I could already feel that the leather strap
was softening, stretching.

It softened more and more as the proteolytic acid penetrated the
leather fibers. I worked my wrist back and forth, pulling till I was
nearly dizzy. And then it happened! My hand came free.

I yanked that ghastly feeding tube off my wrist, and Patsy Stevens
still stood by helplessly while I reached down with my right hand and
unbuckled the other straps. I was out of the chair the next instant
and staggering across the room to get my leg muscles limbered.

PATSY followed me, looking uncertain, and I did something I hated to
do, but which the occasion seemed to call for. I turned and slapped
Patsy right in the face till her cheeks got red and she began to cry.
It was one way I knew of to knock sense into a dopey person. I grabbed
her by the arm then, walked her back and forth till she stopped crying
and till her eyes got almost normal.

"We've got to get out of here quick, Patsy," I whispered.

She blinked a minute, shook her head.

"We can't!" she whispered back. "He'll wake up. He'll be mad at us

For answer I tiptoed over to the cot where Doc slept, slipped my hand
into his pocket, and pulled out his bunch of keys. He was so sound
asleep he never knew it. As a kidnaper Doc wasn't so hot.

I grinned as I stepped away from him. He looked so innocent and calm
sleeping like that! You'd never think that dome of his could have
hatched such a thing as Nepenthe Splendens. I turned then and stared
at the plant, and stopped grinning immediately.

The thing actually seemed to sense that I was leaving for good and was
sore. Its leaves had begun their monotonous waving again. The tendrils
twitched and vibrated, giving out a faint rustling that was almost
like the scraping scales of a snake.

Patsy Stevens shivered. Her eyes were wide now, staring at the plant.

"I'm afraid!" she gasped, as though she just seen it for the first
time. "I want to leave this place, too."

"You bet!" I said. "Let's, before the old boy wakes up."

We went out of the cellar then with the rustle of the plant still in
our ears. I unlocked all the doors, and Patsy Stevens and I stole into
the early dawn. None of Doc's nurserymen was up yet. No one saw us go.

My old flivver was in Doc's garage. In it we drove back to town and in
a little hash-house in the suburbs Patsy and I got really acquainted
over breakfast. We exchanged life histories the way kids do, said
things with our eyes that we were too shy to say with our tongues.

We got along swell, and I knew we were going to get along even better
the more we saw of each other. We did, as things turned out--and now
we're engaged to be married. But it's time to soft pedal all that part
of it.

The important thing is what happened to old Doc. We never thought
there would be any such startling climax. When the story broke it
knocked Patsy and myself right between the eyes.

We didn't hear anything about Doc all that morning or anything from
him. But the afternoon papers carried wild headlines.


The story below the headlines read:

Dr. Heinrich Sigmund Bloch, Nobel Prize winner and one of the world's
greatest experimental botanists, was found dead at noon today in a
cellar that he used as a laboratory. The presence of a cot in the room
indicated that he slept there while he watched over some sort of plant
experiment, apparently having to do with the circulation of sap, about
which he was an authority.

The workmen on Dr. Bloch's hundred-acre farm could give no information
concerning this experiment. They said Bloch had not taken them into
his confidence on this particular branch of his work.

The county coroner gives as his opinion that some tramp may have
broken into his laboratory and killed him, with possible robbery as
the motive. A large plant of unknown species stood in a tub in the
center of the room. This was tipped over and Doctor Bloch's face and
hands were scratched by its thorns.

There were other indications of a struggle, as if the doctor had
fought with some marauder and been slain by him. But there is also a
possibility that the plant may have fallen over on him accidentally
while he slept, and that he was scratched trying to extricate himself
from its thorns, and bled to death.

His body was partially covered by the plant when his housekeeper found
him. It appeared that the mysterious marauder might have attempted to
hide his victim's corpse and then been frightened away by some sound
in the house. The police are making a thorough investigation.

THERE was a picture of Doc's body with the plant, now dead and wilted,
half concealing him, and under it the caption:


Patsy Stevens and I looked at each other. Her face was white. We knew
that the police would probably find clues connecting us both with Dr.
Bloch and proving that we had been out there that night. That would be
easy. Patsy had left some things behind, and so had I. The tracks of
my car could be traced--as the police afterward did do---giving the D.
A. his chance to get nasty.

But the police didn't know the name of the real murderer, and wouldn't
have believed us if we'd told them. They didn't know that Nepenthe
Splendens, cheated out of a cooperative session with its new victim,
had tipped its own tub over, attacked Doc with its thorny leaves, and
wilted to death when Doc's blood had stopped circulating.

You can't blame the police. I guess it's the first time in history a
plant ever killed a guy.


"Wade Hammond" Bucks the Egotist of Crime

THE face of Daugherty, night watchman on the fiftieth floor of the
Empire Towers Building, was putty-hued. His voice was a rasping croak.

"There it is now--you can see it out there, Mr. Hammond!"

Leaning far out of the window he pointed with one trembling finger.

Wade Hammond, newspaper man and special investigator of crime, bent
forward eagerly. The dim light from a hallway bulb shone on his lean,
tanned face with its thin mustache line. His eyes were steel hard.

He still had newspaper connections. He had come up here to investigate
a wild rumor, a story which might make some good copy. His attitude
toward the whole thing had been jocular. But he wasn't smiling now.
He, too, saw something moving along the wall of this most giant of
skyscrapers. His scalp tingled and his heart beat faster. It was
unthinkable that any living thing could creep along the building's
glass-smooth exterior.

The watchman's voice sounded hoarsely in his ear.

"It's the ghost of one of the workmen who was killed when they was
putting 'er up. The place is haunted. No guy could crawl around out

Wade clutched the man's arm tensely.

"It's parallel with this floor," he said, "about twenty windows away.
You have the keys. We'll see if we can't get closer."

The watchman shook his head.

"It won't do any good, Mr. Hammond. It'll be gone when you get there.
I tried it before. It's always gone when you get close."

The eeriness of the night seemed to envelop them. The prickly
sensation along Wade's scalp increased. It was quiet up here. The
traffic noises came in a sound that was no more than the faint wash of
a distant sea. A maze of streets showed far below. The motor cars were
tiny beetles with phosphorescent eyes. The people were infinitesimal
dots, fusing and separating like microbes in a laboratory culture.

"Give me the keys anyway," said Wade.

With the watchman following him shakily he ran back along the hallway
to a point opposite the spot where the mysterious shadow had shown

He found the right key, plunged it into the lock, and entered a large
suite of offices. He strode across a rug, reached a window and threw
it up, then cautiously thrust his head out and stared along the sides
of the building. There was a tightness in his throat now, a feeling of
tenseness and dread that he could not even explain to himself. What
was that thing he had seen on the building's face so high above the

There was nothing visible now. The smooth expanse of the wall showed
no ghostly blur. But he had seen it, and the watchman had seen it on
other nights. It had been spoken of in whispers by the night employees
of the building. It had grown into a spine-chilling legend.

He swiveled his eyes in all directions. Here and there on the
skyscraper's gigantic face, lights still showed in office windows
where some busy executive or clerk was working late. Far overhead, on
the eightieth floor, the windows of the Skyrocket Club, where hundreds
of pleasure seekers came nightly, emitted a corona-like illumination.

He drew in his head and closed the window, deeply puzzled.

"I'll stick around and maybe we'll see it again," he said, turning to
the watchman who had trailed into the office after him. The man shook
his head.

"It generally don't show up more than once in a night. It gets scared
off I guess."

Wade laughed jerkily. "Then I'll go home and turn in. I'll drop in to
see you again tomorrow night--and I'll bring the biggest electric
flash I can lay my hands on."

He said good-night to the watchman, then descended to the ground floor
in one of the plummeting elevators. It was a mystery all right, a big
one, but, so far, the crime element hadn't entered into it; and there
was hardly enough material for a story as yet.

ON the pavement, in the act of lighting a cigarette, he stopped dead
short. His head jerked up. A familiar sound reached his ears, seeming
to fill the whole air. It was a banshee-like wail echoing and re-
echoing along the street's dark canyon. A siren!

The sound came closer. The traffic stopped to let a long blue-bodied
car with glaring headlights slip through. The next moment Wade drew in
his breath. For the speeding car was from police headquarters and it
was drawing up before the entrance of the chromium-sheathed Empire
Towers Building.

Two plainclothes men sprang out, then a familiar figure--an owlish-
faced man of middle age. Wade stepped forward smiling.

"Hello, there--what's all the excitement, inspector?"

Inspector Thompson, Homicide Bureau head, turned. His gimlet eyes
focused on Wade.

"What are you doing here?" he countered.

"Looking for ghosts, chief--I just saw one uptop."

A strange expression crossed the inspector's face. He came closer to
Wade. His voice was grim.

"Ghosts, is it? That's not all that's been going on up there tonight.
There's been a murder, Wade. You're at the right spot at the right
time. Come along."

The smile on Wade's face faded. Cold fingers seemed to pass over his
flesh. Somehow his hunch had been warning him of a sinister something
in the air; a sense of impending tragedy. He turned and followed the
old man-hunter. Thompson and he had worked on some tough cases
together. Someone had dubbed them "Twins of Trouble," though there was
thirty years' difference in their ages. He asked no questions, but he
got the details as they shot skyward in an express elevator.

Thompson spoke from the corner of his mouth, in abrupt sentences.

"Jacob Schmelzer's been murdered--shot. You know who he is--the big-
time meatpacker. He and his brother are the kingpins of the industry.
Rich is no name for it. This is going to raise hell, Wade. I'm glad
you're here. When a big guy's bumped off there's always a lot of
publicity. That's why I came--to see that my boys don't pull a boner.
It's the sort of thing that's got to be cleaned up quick."

Wade nodded, still silent. What connection, if any, did the ghostly
shadow he had seen bear to this murder? And ought he to mention it to
the practical-minded Thompson?

For a full minute they stayed in the rocketing elevator, then changed
to a second car. At the seventy-first floor they got out and walked
down a corridor to the door of a palatial suite of offices. Across the
glass paneling the words "Schmelzer Bros." were written in
conservative lettering. From inside came a buzz of voices.

The talking ceased as Thompson and Wade entered. The place was alive
with men from the Homicide Squad. A beefy-faced cop loomed near the
door of the inner office. A pale, slim girl was standing at one side
of the room, biting her lips and staring aimlessly about out of
worried eyes. A plainclothes man jerked his thumb toward her.

"That's Miss Crocker, chief--the stenog who heard the shot. Her story
sounds a little phony."

Thompson stepped forward and faced the girl. "Tell us about it," he

Wade listened, eyeing the secretary closely. Her voice trembled. She
was obviously wrought up.

"We were working late," she said. "Mr. Schmelzer told me to stay--to
take a few more notes. I waited in the main office. An hour must have
passed. Then I heard what sounded like a shot. I ran to Mr.
Schmelzer's door and tried to open it, but it was locked. So I phoned
the building superintendent and he got a policeman. They broke open
the door and--found--him."

Thompson nodded and pursed up his lips.

"Thanks, Miss Crocker, I'll want to talk to you again later."

He beckoned to Wade and together they entered Schmelzer's private

Wade looked curiously at the figure sitting propped up before the big
mahogany desk, arms sprawled out and head hanging loosely.

Jacob Schmelzer's eyes were open, glazed in death, and a trickle of
crimson ran down from his white head to form a pool on the desk top.

A detective joined them.

"Someone propped him in his chair after the killing, chief," he said.
"There's some spots of blood over there near the window."

Wade turned and looked. The smooth, velvety green of the expensive
carpet was broken by dark, sinister stains.

HE went closer and examined the dead man. It was incomprehensible to
him why a bullet wound had been inflicted in such a spot. For the
gaping hole that had caused the millionaire's death was directly in
the top of his head.

"It's like I phoned you, chief," the detective said. "The door was
locked on the inside. There ain't no other exits to this office but
the windows."

"And this is seventy stories up! How could a guy come in by a window?"

As though to convince himself of the impossibility of it, Thompson
went over and threw the sash up. Wade saw that the window was
unlocked. He joined the inspector and stared down the side of the
building toward the streets far below.

"The killer might have come down a rope from one of the floors above,"
he said softly.

Thompson nodded. "I thought of that. It's the only explanation if the
girl ain't lying."

"You don't think she could have lifted Schmelzer off the floor and to
his chair?" asked Wade skeptically.

"Maybe she had a boyfriend."

"But the door was locked on the inside."

"That could have been fixed. I've seen it done. We'll keep an eye on

Wade shrugged. "I'm going to take a look at the windows of the floors
above this one."

"Go high enough and you'll strike the Skyrocket Club," said Thompson.
"They've got the top on a ten-year lease."

Wade nodded. He remained silent about the thing he had seen--the
"Skyscraper Horror" that crept along the building's face. But he had a
growing hunch that there was something weird and grotesquely sinister
about this affair; something unknown and unguessed.

With the help of the building superintendent he followed the floors up
one by one. The office directly over Schmelzer's was empty and the
dust on the windowsills had not been disturbed. He could find no trace
of an intruder in any of the other offices he visited.

Before the police downstairs had finished their routine examination,
Wade reached the level on which the nightclub was located. He
displayed his special investigator's card to the uniformed attendant
at the door. "I'd like to see the manager," he said.

A HEAD WAITER led him between rows of tables and around a dance floor
where couples were swaying to the sensuous strains of a jazz band.
They reached the large private office where Russ Vogel, owner and
manager of the Skyrocket Club, conducted his business.

Vogel, suave and bald-headed, rose from his chair. "What's this I
hear--a murder downstairs---old Schmelzer killed?"

Wade nodded. "You know about it, then?"

"It's all over the building. Manny's gone down to get the dope."


"Yes--Manny Arden, my partner."

Wade recalled the name of the ex-gangster with a start. Manny Arden,
so rumor had it, had been connected with a booze racket on a grand
scale, until he had quit to join Vogel in an even more lucrative

For ten minutes Wade chatted with the manager, sizing him up. Then he
took a look around the night club, paying particular attention to the
windows on the side of the building above Schmelzer Bros.' offices.

When he descended to the seventy-first floor again there were three
newcomers in the Schmelzer suite--Manny Arden, Jacob Schmelzer's
brother, Manfred, and his nephew Arnold Bassett.

Manfred Schmelzer was like the dead man in appearance, save that he
was a bit stockier. Bassett, a thin blue-eyed young man, had a
pleasant but aloof manner. It was Manny Arden who attracted Wade's

The ex-gangster, who was evidently well acquainted with the
Schmelzers, had the look of his type. Under a surface polish there
were indications of cunning and brutality. He had hard eyes, mean lips
and wore a veiled hostile expression.

Wade exchanged a few words, then drifted on to the group of detectives
around Inspector Thompson.

"Any luck, chief?"

Thompson turned. "Not much. The motive was robbery. But that's all
we've established."


"Yes, Schmelzer's safe was opened and a thousand in cash was taken.
His brother and nephew agree to that. They remember that the money was
sent in from the bank this morning."

"The murderer went to a lot of trouble for one grand," said Wade, a
shade of doubt in his voice.

Thompson ignored the implication.

"Doctor Morgan is going to perform an autopsy tonight," he said. "When
we get the bullet that killed Schmelzer we may have more to work on. I
think that secretary of his may figure in this. She isn't as dumb as
she looks. Maybe it's a love triangle as well as robbery. An old guy
with a young sweetie, and all that sort of stuff."

Wade's face was serious. He hung around while the police searched for
clues and cross-questioned Miss Crocker without shaking her story. He
left at midnight, after Jacob Schmelzer's body had been removed to a
spot where the medical examiner could probe for the bullet.

THE clatter of the telephone jerked Wade out of peaceful slumber. Milk
wagons were rattling in the street outside. The clock showed six. He
picked up the receiver, and the voice of Inspector Thompson buzzed
excitedly in his ear.

"Here's some news for you, Hammond, on that Schmelzer killing. It's
hot stuff."

"Shoot! Don't keep me in suspense."

"Listen--and laugh this off if you can." There was a dramatic pause at
the end of the wire, then Thompson spoke harshly. "Doc Morgan did his
work on Schmelzer--and there wasn't any bullet! Get that, Wade, a guy
shot, and no lead in his head!"

"No bullet!" Wade spoke explosively. Then he whistled. The full
significance of the thing grew on him. It was a weird turn of events.
It made him think again of that fleeting ghostly shadow that crept
along the Empire Towers Building.

"The doc couldn't have made a mistake, I suppose," he muttered.

"No--he's not the type." Thompson's voice grew complaining, then
sardonic. "We'll have to look for a gun that kills without bullets.
Let me know if you get any bright ideas."

After he had hung up, Wade paced the floor of his apartment, smoking
cigarettes. His gaunt, young-old face looked troubled. Thompson's grim
joke had set him to thinking. A gun that didn't fire bullets! Where
had he heard of such a thing?

A half-hour later he had dressed, breakfasted, and was on his way to
the Empire Towers Building. He ascended to the fiftieth floor where he
had seen the "ghost" on the previous evening. He got in touch with the
day superintendent and received permission to examine the outside of
the structure.

With the help of one of the janitors and a piece of rope he climbed
out of a window and lowered himself a few feet. He was intent,
oblivious of danger. He did not look down. Then he nodded to himself
as though in silent agreement of some theory he had worked out.

Frowning intently, Wade climbed back through the window. He ascended
to the seventy-first floor this time, to the Schmelzer offices. It was
too early for the office help to be there. The body of Jacob Schmelzer
no longer reposed gruesomely in the chair. But a couple of
plainclothes men were on duty, and the telltale bloodstains near the
window were still in evidence.

Wade remembered his promise to the watchman, Daugherty. The ghost
might walk again tonight, and if it did he intended to be there.

A CURTAIN of darkness lay upon the city. It seemed to hang over the
Empire Towers Building like a sinister pall. A clock in Madison Square
boomed eight times. A chill wind blew off the river, making Wade turn
up the collar of his coat.

For half an hour he had been patrolling the ledge that ran around the
building at the forty-fifth floor. The street was far below, too far
to give aid if he should be attacked; too far, in spite of its teeming
myriads, to give him a feeling of human companionship.

But he was not alone tonight. At the other edge of the ledge, half the
length of a city block away, one of Thompson's picked men was
stationed; a veteran detective of the Homicide Squad.

Wade knew he could depend on this man, Grady by name; but he knew also
that they were fighting something, some human fiend, whose methods
were outside the realm of everyday police experience. And each time he
walked to the center of the ledge and saw Grady's rugged bulk, he had
a feeling of relief. When they were on opposite ends, the night shut
them in, set them apart, and each man was thrown on his own

An hour passed, and Wade kept up his slow, sentry-like pacing. In the
pocket of his overcoat was a long-barreled flashlight and a snub-nosed
Colt automatic. The rubber butt of it gave him a feeling of
reassurance. It had been with him on many a strange adventure.

Every few seconds he leaned over the low stone railing and gazed down
along the side of the building, or looked up to where the dim light of
the stars made the facing visible. But clouds blew across the sky now,
darkening it with black wraithlike fingers. Still he could see the
structure's smooth exterior, for here and there an office window was
lighted. Manfred Schmelzer, with his brother's secretary, Miss
Crocker, was at work tonight straightening out the confusion in the
affairs of the company that Jacob's death had caused. The power of the
Almighty Dollar must not be dimmed even by the Grim Reaper.

But a plainclothes man patrolled the corridor outside Schmelzer's
door. Another was stationed inside the office.

Wade felt the need of a cigarette. His fingers toyed with the package
inside his coat pocket. His brain toyed with the idea of smoking. Then
suddenly he crouched and stiffened.

Out of the night, in the gloom that hid Detective Grady from his eyes,
came a ghastly cry. It was the cry of a man in mortal terror; the cry
of a man who is face to face with death. Like a mad thing Wade leaped
forward. Whipping his gun and flashlight out he dashed along the
narrow ledge. He sent the long beam probing ahead.

The cry came again, muffled and gasping. The ray of the flashlight
picked out a struggling figure--two--then magically one again. Wade
fired into the air. His breath came in gasps. His teeth were clenched.

A form was half over the narrow railing. A white face struggling to
retain its hold on life was turned toward Wade. Hands clutched at
stone in an effort to stay off the plunge that would spell

Wade reached the side of the detective before he slipped over. He
pulled the man back, heaved him onto the ledge, where he lay gasping
and almost sobbing.

"What happened? Where did he come from?"

Wade hurled the questions harshly; then saw that they were momentarily
useless. Grady was too winded to answer, and on his forehead was a
large lump, a bruise.

While the detective was recovering his breath and gathering his dazed
faculties, Wade turned his flashlight up and down the face of the
building. But the thing, the horror, had gone.

"It--slipped--down--from--above," croaked Grady. "It grabbed me,
struck me, and tried to throw me over. I fought back. If you hadn't

"We'd better go inside," said Wade. "We'll call up headquarters and
have a squad of men search every office in the building."

"Wait," said Grady. "I can't move yet."

It was five minutes before the big detective could stand on his feet.
With Wade's help he reached the nearest doorway to the ledge. The warm
inside air touched their faces. They walked into the glowing light of
the corridor.

But a figure was running toward them--a detective, another
headquarters man. His face was drawn with excitement. He was waving
his arms.

"Did you see him?" he cried. "Did he come here?"

"Yes," said Wade grimly. "Why? What's happened?"

"Happened!" The dick almost choked. "Plenty, Hammond--plenty! The
other Schmelzer got it, too--murdered. The nightclub's been robbed.
There's hell to pay."

"What!" Wade ripped out the one word, then became electrified into
action. "I thought you boys were guarding Schmelzer?"

"We were--until they telephoned down that the nightclub had been
robbed. Then we went up--and Schmelzer was dead when we got back. The
place is surrounded now. Every dick on the force is coming here."

"Where's Vogel and Manny Arden?" said Wade.

"Vogel's upstairs. We don't know where Arden is."

"Ah!" Wade's breath hissed between tight lips.

HE was off down the corridor, jabbing the elevator button. He was
cursing himself for a blunder, for not anticipating this. Out of the
confused series of happenings he was beginning to see a pattern. The
secret lay there with a man whose brain rose to hysterical heights of
cunning. A supreme egotist of crime who thought he could lick the

The elevator shot Wade up to the nightclub.

"Where's Arden?" he gasped, collaring the manager, Vogel.

"Haven't seen him for an hour. I've forgot about him in the
excitement. Our guests have been robbed--all their jewelry and money

Wade wheeled on a couple of detectives who seemed to be wandering
futilely about. His voice cracked with authority.

"Go down through every office and every vacant room. Find Manny

They turned to obey him and he followed after. They covered floor
after floor, probing with flashlights, searching closets and

Sergeant Terrant was there, red-faced and perspiring, a veteran hunter
of murderers, and an old friend of Wade's. They reached the end of the
corridor. Terrant threw up a window and leaned out.

Then his face turned a sickly white. They all heard it. Up out of the
darkness came a sound, a scream high-pitched and terrible, a cry that
was almost unearthly. Again and again it came beating intolerably on
the eardrums. Then it stopped as abruptly as it had sounded, seeming
to leave a hole in the darkness.

Somewhere a telephone jangled. A detective answered it.

"They're calling from below," he said hoarsely. "They've found him--
the murderer. That was him we heard slipping. He fell."

They all got into the elevator car and stood silently while it
descended. Wade's face was inscrutable.

On the pavement, inside the police cordon, a group of men were bent
over something. Inspector Thompson was there. The dark object on the
pavement did not move. It was sprawled horribly. Crimson ran from it.
Wade came close.

"That's him," said Thompson, "the robber and murderer. He's got the
jewels and the money in his pockets. He fell--trying to get away--and
it served him right."

Wade saw the distorted, mutilated face of Manny Arden. He saw the
detectives holding the stolen loot in their hands. And suddenly he
bent down and touched one of the dead man's hands.

He recoiled as though in horror, but it was something else, some other
emotion that snapped his figure erect.

"Feel them--feel his hands, inspector. They're cold--he's been dead a
half hour or more."

"What!" Thompson was bending down, reaching with trembling fingers for
the ex-gangster's lifeless hands.

"My God--he's right. What does this mean, Wade?"

"It means that this is a trick--the murderer's still at large. We're
dealing with a man who might have been a genius if he wasn't a
maniac--a man who has overreached himself. Keep your men posted,
chief. Don't let anybody in or out of the building."

Wade turned and dashed back in himself, ignoring the order that he had
prescribed for others. He took the elevator to the first set-back
ledge. He dashed out of it, along the corridor and out the first door.
His flashlight was stabbing in all directions. He ran along the ledge
probing the darkness. Then his whole body stiffened. Ahead of him
something black showed, a snakelike coil of wire. It was moving

He ran toward it; but it jerked up, disappeared. He turned his
flashlight aloft, gasped and whipped out his gun. But in that instant
something huge and black descended upon him. A sound like the snarl of
an animal was in his ears. Arms locked around his body.

If the attack had not been so swift, so unexpected, he would not have
gone down. As it was he fought tigerishly; fought, and felt his gun
kicked out of his hand; felt something striking against his shoulder
and reaching for his head.

He breathed through clenched teeth. His muscles were straining. Spots
of light danced before his eyes. Then with a mighty effort he hurled
his assailant off and stumbled backwards himself, striking his skull
against metal. He arose groggily to his feet, prepared for a new
attack. But none came.

The dark bulk on the ledge was running toward the corner of the
building with rat-like quickness. A voice suddenly sounded, muffled
and unearthly.

"One more to go--a woman, this time."

The words were followed by a brutal, mocking laugh. There was a faint
clicking sound. Then the human ghost disappeared from sight, seemed to
leap up the side of the building and whisk around a corner.

WADE'S gun and flashlight were gone. He did not attempt to retrieve
them. He had a sense of all-pervading horror; but his quick mind
jumped and sought to answer the riddle of those mocking words--"a
woman this time." There was only one he could think of--Miss Crocker.
She had been closely associated with the murdered brothers. She might
have information that would make her dangerous to the killer. Was her
life to be snuffed out, too, by this assassin who slew with a
bulletless gun?

There were harsh, bitter lines in Wade Hammond's face now. He sprang
forward toward the door of the building. There might still be time to
save the girl--if he could prevent the murderer from reaching her

He dashed along a corridor, reached with groping fingers for a wall
telephone. His voice was snapping.

"Give me the head electrician. Yes, this is Wade Hammond speaking.
It's a police order. Turn off the lights--throw the main switch--cut
off all power in the building. Quick--now!"

He stood tensely, silently as the corridor lights winked out, as the
whole vast edifice was plunged in darkness. The seconds seemed like an
eternity, until he heard what he was listening for.

It was a sound, a scream again. And this time it was a scream that he
would never forget to his dying day; a scream that whipped past the
windows with the onrush of a falling body; a scream that continued on
downward fainter and fainter till it was lost in silence.

And Wade knew that he had cheated the law, put a murderer to death as
surely as though he had thrown the switch of an electric chair.

He picked up the telephone again.

"Lights on," he said. "Thanks, old man."

He was fumbling for a cigarette as he pressed the elevator button. He
was puffing on it as he descended to the street floor. And he came out
of the vestibule with the calmness of a man who knows what he will

Detectives were swearing outside. Inspector Thompson's voice was the
loudest of the lot.

"What the hell--is it raining bodies tonight? That's the second man
who's fallen. We'd better get the fire nets to catch 'em!"

"There won't be any more," said Wade quietly. "There's the real
murderer. There's a scientific genius for you--look at that
contraption on his body. I had to take a chance that he would fall
inside your police line down here and not hit anyone."

"Who is it? What's he got on?"

"Arnold Bassett," said Wade softly. "Old Schmelzer's nephew--a man who
had ambitions to inherit all the millions in the packing industry; a
man who committed a couple of robberies and an extra murder just to
throw us off the trail."

"And what are those things on his wrists?"

"Magnets," said Wade. "He's got them strapped to his knees, too. That
thing on his back is a small-size transformer, stepping up the current
Lord knows how many volts. He's the greatest human fly you'll ever
see, chief. He's a man who saw the possibilities in a building faced
with chromium steel, and who equipped himself to move up and down it
and around it as easily as you and I walk on the pavement. He's a man
who planned the deaths of his uncles weeks or months in advance."

"And what made him fall like that?"

"I am responsible for it," said Wade, his voice hard. "It was a
question of Miss Crocker's life or his. He was going up to finish her
off, because she knew too much--or he was afraid she did. I ordered
the power switch thrown. Bassett here depended on a wire attached to
the light circuit to operate his electro-magnets.

"The four metal plates at his wrists and knees must have had a make-
and-break contact system so that when the top ones were gripping the
lower ones were free. He could draw himself up like an inch worm. But
with the current off his grip was gone and he fell."

"What made you get onto him, Wade?" Inspector Thompson's tone held

"I noticed some scratches his metal plates had made on the building--
and see here--"

Wade reached down and pulled something out of the dead man's pocket.
It looked like an ordinary automatic pistol, except that there was no
opening at its end; nothing but a round piece of metal that fitted
inside the barrel. Wade held the weapon up.

"We knew that a bullet-less gun had been used. It sounded phony--but I
had heard of such a gun. Here it is--the kind used in slaughterhouses
to kill cattle. The bolt always remains in the barrel. There is a rim
on the inside end of it to hold it in. It is like a piston that the
powder explosion drives forward four or five inches, but does not let
it leave the barrel. This vent at the side of the barrel allows the
gases of the explosion to escape when the bolt has reached the limit
of its movement. Bassett probably tapped on the glass, and when his
Uncle Jacob came forward to open the window and look out, Bassett shot
him through the head with the gun held close. He propped him in his
chair afterward to make the killing look even more fantastic.

"The use of such a weapon made me suspect someone familiar with the
packing industry. When I saw Manny Arden's dead body with the jewelry
and money planted on him, I knew who the killer must be. He had, of
course, killed Arden in advance, before he staged the robbery. That
first scream of Bassett's was a good imitation of a man falling. But
the second one was genuine enough---too genuine for comfort."

Wade took out a pocket handkerchief and mopped his glistening

"I had to do it, chief, to save the life of an innocent girl. He would
have gone to the chair anyway. I finished him by having the current
turned off instead of on. Just a mere technicality."


A puzzle fan finds himself juggling with a tough problem.

SAM BICKLE, who is best known to patrons of the Hotel Paris as bellhop
No. 36, swiveled his eyes in both directions along the tenth-floor
hallway. When he had assured himself that no one was in sight, he
propped his back luxuriously against a marble column beside the
elevator door. With studied carelessness, he neglected to ring the
signal bell. The car would stop at his floor in its own good time.
Meanwhile, he looked forward to a period of peaceful recreation.

Sighing contentedly, he took a newspaper from an inside pocket and
poised the stub of a pencil above one smudgy page. His forehead
wrinkled as he tried to think of a five-letter word beginning with "A"
and signifying "skillful." The rest of the lines were all filled in.
It was that one vertical that stumped him--and he prided himself that,
when it came to crossword puzzles, he was the cat's pajamas and the
canary's toenails all rolled into one.

He became so absorbed in his problem, that he didn't even hear the
elevator go by or notice that the bulb over the annunciator board down
the hall was glowing.

It wasn't until a portentous shadow fell across his page and a porcine
bulk projected itself into his horizon, that he came back to the grim
realities of life.

He found himself staring into the ruddy features of "Big Jim" Shallop,
hotel detective.

"Ah," said Sam, and made an inaccurate stab toward the elevator button
with one quivering finger.

"Yeah," growled Shallop ominously. "That's right--ring it. I been
watching you for the last five minutes. I seen you wastin' the hotel's
time on another one of them dumb crossword puzzles."

Sam tried to make his voice express an arrogance he didn't feel.

"Is that all this cheap boarding house pays you for--just to snoop
around and spy on the bellhops?"

"My job," said Shallop pompously, "is to protect the interests of the
hotel--to see that crooks don't steal from the guests, and that
employees don't steal from the management. A guy who swipes time is
just as bad as any other kind of thief. I've told you before to leave
them crossword puzzles alone. Now, I'm gonna speak to the boss. You'll
find a pretty pink slip in your next pay envelope. You're always
lookin' for funny words. The next one you'll read in this hotel will
be a five--letter word beginning with 'F'--fired. Get that? And you
won't need a pencil to figure it out either."

As an added insult, Shallop seized Sam's newspaper and tore the
crossword puzzle in half.

"Ow!" cried Sam. "You big double-crossing ape! Just when I had it all
done but one word!"

But his complaint fell upon deaf ears. Shallop was pointing
dramatically toward the annunciator box.

"Go and see what that guy wants!" he ordered. "Make yourself useful
the rest of the time you're here. It won't be long now."

Sam shuffled off, muttering to himself. The big pussyfooting gorilla
had nothing to do but stand around looking pretty and smoking vile
cigars. Yet, he was always telling Sam where to get off. Sam had to
admit, though, that as a gumshoe artist, Shallop was all there. He had
a way of turning up when a man least expected it. He was worse than a
bad penny.

Sam slammed ice viciously into a pitcher. These darned booze hounds
with their hangovers! It was guys like that and big lard pails like
Shallop that made a bellhop's life hard.

When he got down to the street floor again, he hunched himself
disconsolately on the bench and waited for another call. His cap was
tipped forward more rakishly than the strict standards of the hotel

The gay night life of Broadway still streamed by the canopied entrance
outside, but it held no thrill for Sam. At the end of the week, he'd
be out of a job again, watching the bread lines grow longer, and using
up shoe leather in a futile attempt to find work.

He hadn't even a good snappy crossword puzzle to cheer him in his hour
of need. He looked at the checkered tiles on the floor, and imagined
what puzzles a man could make there with a piece of chalk and a

It was then that he saw the two newcomers who entered the revolving
door with their big leather grips. Sam leaped forward. No use letting
a few last tips get away from him!

The strangers stared down the ends of their noses and released their
grips with seeming reluctance. Tough-looking eggs, thought Sam. They'd
be wanting ginger ale and ice water before the night was over.

But their grips were light. No booze there! Sam had got so that he
could classify most of the guests who stopped at the Paris. But these
two had him guessing. One was short, and dressed in gray. The other
was a head taller, and had on a brown suit with a hairline white
stripe. They both had eyes that squinted.

"Give us a room up top," he heard one of them tell the desk clerk. "We
want to be up where it's quiet--and where we can get a look-see. This
old town has grown some since we were here before."

"Yeah," said the other.

Sam couldn't see what names they signed in the register. The clerk
handed them the key to Room No. 3019. That was one of the tower rooms.
They couldn't get much higher unless they went up on the roof. It was
the part of the hotel where all the swells liked to stay. It gave them
a feeling of being high and mighty. These two had plenty of dough.
They didn't even ask the price of the room.

But when Sam showed them into it, the man who tipped him, the taller
of the two, handed him a dime. He wrinkled his nose at that. These two
birds took a twelve-dollar-a-day room without blinking, then handed a
thin dime to the guy who had carried up their luggage.

"I ain't got any change, mister," said Sam, staring at the dime in his
palm and shaking his head sadly.

"A wise guy, eh?" said the tall man.

Sam beat a hasty retreat. He had enough trouble on his hands already.
These two men didn't talk or act like the guests who usually took
rooms in the tower.

He thought no more about them until Mr. Dennison, in Room No. 3012,
ordered some more grape juice for his bridge guests. A great old guy
was Mr. Dennison, one of the hotel's regular paychecks. He'd been a
society beau in his time. Tonight, he was giving a card party to a
bunch of swells. Sam had seen them coming in, tricked out in furs and
jewels. Reporters had even interviewed Dennison just to stick advance
notices in the papers.

As he came out of the Dennison suite, he noticed Shallop talking to
one of the two strangers whose grips he had carried. It was the short
man in the gray suit. He was gesturing toward a door which Sam knew
opened on a stairway leading up to the roof. Shallop was rolling a
cigar around in his mouth and looking interested. Sam couldn't help
catching what was being said as he passed by.

"We heard a noise and saw him trying to get into our room," the short
man was saying. "He ran through that door."

Sam hurried on. But when he reached a turn in the hallway, he paused,
then retraced his steps slowly and stuck his head around a corner.
Something was going on. He wasn't the sort who liked to miss a free

He saw Shallop open the door leading to the stairway to the roof and
enter it, followed by the other man. Sam felt himself getting excited.
Real detective work was going on. He gathered that the two strangers
had discovered someone trying to get into their room, and had told
Shallop about it.

As long as he was going to be fired, anyway, Sam reasoned that he
might as well enjoy himself now. If there was a manhunt in progress,
he wanted to be there to watch it. He walked resolutely back to the
door of the stairway and started up.

Shallop and the gray-suited man had reached the roof now. The door was
open. Sam got a glimpse of stars, and sniffed at the fresh night air.
He heard Shallop's voice.

"If he's up here, we'll find him. There ain't no other way down."

Sam stuck his head through the door at the top of the stairway. He was
all agog. He saw the lumbering form of Shallop and the figure of the
smaller man behind him. Then the smaller man took something out of his
pocket and thrust it against Shallop's back.

The detective gave an audible grunt of surprise.

"Stick 'em up," said the gray-suited man in a hard, tense voice.

"Hey!" yelled Sam.

The gray-suited man turned his head then. It almost gave Shallop a
chance to grab the gun away from him--almost, but not quite. The man
with the gat still had one eye cocked.

"Take care of that nosey bellhop," he said from the corner of his

Something hard was jammed into Sam's ribs then. It was the other man,
the tall one, who had slipped out of the shadows beside the door.

"Raise your mitts, too," he said, "and come on up. The air's fine.
You'll like it."

Sam kept his arms stiffly aloft, as did Shallop. He saw the man in the
gray suit go through the detective's pockets and remove a gun, a
wallet, and a bunch of keys. Then he saw him give Shallop a clip
behind the ear with the blunt muzzle of his automatic. The big
detective sank to his knees and fell sidewise.

The man behind Sam duplicated the blow, but not so expertly. Sam
ducked his head a little. He saw red-and-blue lights dance before his
eyes, and he pitched forward, but he wasn't completely out. Dimly, he
saw the two men slip through the doorway to the stairs and close the
door after them. He heard the sound of a key being turned in the lock.

Then he understood the whole neat trick. They had lured Shallop up on
the roof to get his keys away from him and to get him out of the way.
They were crooks, and were planning to pull some sort of job. He
thought of Dennison's bridge party and the bejeweled guests who were
in attendance.

He sat up, rubbing the back of his head. Then he went over to see
Shallop. The detective was breathing heavily. Sam tried to rouse him,
but couldn't. He went back to the door and pounded on it, but it was
made of metal and was locked.

He stared over the coping at the street thirty stories below. There
was no fire escape, no way of getting down. The roof was empty, except
for a few pipes and the huge electric sign that rose on a steel
framework and blinked in and out as a lure to the teeming denizens of

Sam gathered some rainwater in the palms of his hands and threw it
into the face of Shallop. The detective groaned, and fluttered his
eyelids. Another shower of cold water made him sit up groggily. The
sky overhead shed a faint, reflected illumination.

"What the hell?" said Shallop.

"It's me," said Sam. "A couple of crooks socked you on the dome and
took your keys away from you. What are you going to do about it?"

"What are you doing here?" countered Shallop, glaring fiercely at Sam.

"Just looking round," said Sam. "I heard you talking to one of the
crooks. You fell for his slick trick, didn't you?"

Shallop broke into a torrent of profanity. He arose, groaned, felt of
his head, then limped toward the door.

"It's locked," said Sam. "We couldn't break it down if we tried all

"We gotta," said Shallop. "They took my keys so they could crib the
sparklers off Dennison's guests. I'm cooked if they get away with it."

But, try as they would, they couldn't force the door.

Overhead, the big electric sign continued to wink in and out as though
in sly humor at their plight.


Then after a period of darkness:


Sam stared up at it. He began muttering to himself. Then he grabbed
Shallop's arm.

"Quick," he said, "boost me up on that sign, Shallop. I got an idea."

Then he saw he wouldn't need Shallop's help, after all. There was a
small ladder running up to the huge letters.

"What are you gonna do?" growled Shallop.

"Another crossword puzzle," Sam shouted back enigmatically.

The cold night wind lashed at him as he hung on dizzily. When he
reached the sign, he began working with feverish energy, unscrewing
bulbs and darkening letters here and there with the confident air of a
man who knows what he is about.

When he climbed down from the big framework and joined Shallop on the
roof again, the sound coming up through the canyon of Broadway had
changed. It had a louder, more strident note. Sam looked at Shallop

It was twenty minutes later that there came a shouting and a stamping
at the door leading to the stairs. Then it opened, and a cop came up
on the roof. Shallop greeted him excitedly.

"Quick," he said, "a couple of crooks are pulling off a heist job here

"I know it," said the cop. "We got 'em just as they were leaving. That
signal of yours was seen all up and down Broadway. They got the
reserves outside. We thought there was a riot here--but I've got to
hand it to you, Shallop--it was a clever trick all right. Better get
it fixed, though, as soon as you can. It's stoppin' traffic all along
the street."

Shallop seemed to fight within himself then. He squared his shoulders
and looked the cop in the eye. His lips were firm.

"I didn't do it," he said. "It was the bellhop here. He's a crossword
puzzle fan, and I've been riding him for it. When I saw him up there
unscrewing the bulbs in the 'O' and T' of 'HOTEL,' and leaving the
'H--EL,' I didn't catch on to what he was doin', and thought he'd gone
crazy. Then, when he began puttin' out the 'A' in 'PARIS' and all the
rest of the letters except the 'P,' I saw he'd spelled 'H-EL-P'!"

As Shallop finished speaking, he reached into his pocket and took out
a newspaper. He solemnly folded it to the crossword puzzle page, and
handed it to Sam.

"That's to make up for the one I tore in two," he said gruffly. "Do it
when you get the chance--and don't worry about your job. I'm going to
tell the boss about this, and let him know that you ain't only a
crossword puzzlin' fool, but the greatest crook-catchin' bellhop on
little ol' Broadway."


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia