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Title: Tycoon of Crime
Author: Robert Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0608201.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2007

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Tycoon of Crime
Robert Wallace



Chapter I Maiden Flight



THE LONELY SHACK stood in the chill night gloom, its windows faint
squares of light. Thin mist, driven by a wind which shook the dark
branches of surrounding heavy trees, swirled coldly about the small,
solitary building. Within it, under the glare of a single naked
ceiling bulb, two men stood with their backs to the bolted oak door.
They were watching a third man who crouched across the room before the
gleaming dials of a small but full equipped short-wave radio
apparatus.

His hands--slender, nervous hands--were turning the dials with
swift, jerky motions. The back of his hatless head was a shiny black
knob, plastered-down hair glistening like patent leather in the light.
His slender, crouched body swayed as he worked, graceful except for
its slight jerkiness. His flashy top-coat trailed on the boarded
floor.

Harsh, raucous static coughed abruptly from a loudspeaker, rising
and diminishing as the man turned the dials.

"What's the matter, Slick? Can'tcha get it?" came the coarse, deep
voice of one of the two, a huge, barrel-chested hulk of a man who
seemed almost to fill the cramped little shack. His fedora hat seemed
pygmy-sized over his wide, swart face with its small, glinting eyes,
flattened nose, and wide gash of mouth.

He took a step forward as he spoke, moving with a loping, almost
simian gait, one arm swinging at his side, the other nestled with snug
ease around a blue steel Thompson submachine gun.

"Me," he snarled, "I'm gettin' tired of waitin' around here like
this."

"Shut up!"

The authoritative command came in a harsh, jerky staccato from the
man at the radio. He turned from the set. The light fell on his face--
olive skinned, its darkly handsome features marred by a livid, zigzag
scar which ran across his left cheek from chin to ear.

"I'll get it any minute now if you keep quiet."

He turned to the third man who was standing immobile as a statue,
a faint wisp of smoke from the cigarette in his lips alone giving him
semblance of movement. Tall, lean, he had an angular face with pale,
expressionless eyes.

"Luke!" he snapped. "You sure you tipped off the others?"

Without moving the man Luke answered: "They'll be around on the
dot, Slick."

The patent-leather hair of the man called Slick showed again as
once more he bent to the dials. The static continued, grating in the
silent shack.

Then, suddenly, Slick's crouching figure tensed as through the
cloud of that static a voice began to materialize.

"Listen, guys!"

Slick turned the dials more. The static diminished, the voice grew
in volume and clarity. A crisp, incisive voice speaking rapidly, with
clear enunciation.

"--Plane Number One from Chicago, calling Newark Airport--Pat
Bentley, pilot, speaking--Plane Number One--"

Out of the night, out of the dark ether, came that call. And as
the three men in the shack listened with tense interest, there was a
swift answering voice.

"Newark Airport. Go ahead, Bentley."

"We're still over the Pennsylvania, nearing Balesville. Visibility
getting bad up here at fifteen thousand. Been keeping altitude to
cross the Alleghenies and to get best speed, but clouds are too thick.
Don't worry, though. We're smack on the radio beam. Ought to make
Newark in another hour."

Slick rose to his feet. His dark eyes glinted, and there was a
crooked, evil smile on his lips as he looked at his two companions.

"Newark in another hour, eh?" he chortled. "That's what he
thinks!"

"Number One going off," said the voice in the loudspeaker. "I'm
taking the controls again. Stand by."

Slick glanced at his wrist-watch. His slender body had gone tense
again.

"We've got to be all set, guys! Luke--you keep your ears on that
radio. Ape, you just keep that mug of yours closed."



THE BURLY MAN with the tommy gun at once broke that command.

"Listen," came his coarse-toned protest, and there was a baffled
look in his small, wide-set eyes. "I don't savvy this business,
honest! What are we gonna do? I thought we was bein' paid to mess
around with that railroad--wreckin' them trains an'--"

"If you was bein' paid to think, you'd sure be out of luck!" Slick
cut in with his harsh staccato. "Stop worryin'. The guy who gives us
our orders knows his stuff, an' I don't mean maybe. You ain't workin'
for no mobster, punk. You're workin' for the Tycoon of Crime!"

Awe threaded his voice as he pronounced that title--and the awe
communicated itself at once to the burly Ape, who winced and was
silent. Luke remained immobile, but the dangling cigarette in his thin
lips bobbed slightly, as if to express his own feeling of respect.

"Yes, an' the Tycoon knows his stuff," repeated Slick. "Maybe it's
the swag on that plane." His eyes narrowed. "But I ain't trying to
figure it. Whatever it is, it's gonna put dough in our pockets."

He broke off as once more the loudspeaker came to life.

"Pat Bentley calling--Visibility worse--I think I'll go down a
ways--"

"He thinks he'll go down," Luke echoed, his words significant
despite his expressionless tone.

"Yeah." Slick's malignant smile flickered again. "He don't know
the half of it!" He moved hurriedly across the floor. "Got to be ready
now! Any minute the time'll come. Any minute!"



THROUGH THE HIGH-SWIRLING cloud banks piled seemingly against the
very stars, the huge-winged Douglas transport sliced downward, twin
motors thundering, propellers churning the mists.

At times those mists swallowed the big plane completely. Then it
would reappear, a great, silvery, birdlike shape, with lights showing
from its cabin, and green and red running lights on its wing tips.

Below, through gaps in the mist, mountains showed dark, jutting
peaks, gaping valleys. Presently, as the heavier clouds were left
drifting above, the big monoplane leveled in its flight, straightened
to roar ahead.

In the cozy, lighted cabin, ultramodern in its appointments, the
dozen passengers gratefully unstrapped the belts they had been
cautioned to fasten during the descent. They settled back comfortably,
secure in the knowledge that this plane was in capable hands, and that
even through mist the invisible but complicated network of radios and
beacons which had made sky-travel as fully developed as any railroad
on signal-marked tracks, helped guide the ship safely through the
night.

"Coffee?"

A trim-uniformed stewardess, her cap set jauntily over her copper-
tinted hair, emerged from her compartment to pass down the corridor
with her tray. She was pretty in an efficient, capable-looking way. As
if she regarded all the passengers as helpless patients as long as
they were in the air, she treated them with firm solicitude.

"Now, Madame--" She was speaking to the rather stout but mink-
coated wife of a big Chicago business man, who had fought for tickets
on this first, new run of the airline. "--do take coffee. It will
steady your nerves."

She passed the cup over, continuing her journey. Most of the
passengers were men--men of wealth and position.

Two had brought wives; another a daughter. The cabin had the air
of an exclusive, privileged society.

But not all of its occupants were so comfortably blase. In Seat
Number 1, directly behind the closed-off pilot's compartment, a thin
man in a black Homburg hat leaned out across the aisle. He had a
scrawny, pallid face, its leanness accentuated by the tension that
etched it. The cords of his neck stood out like whipcord. His eyes, in
which all the personality of the man seemed concentrated, were dark,
burning. He clutched a black briefcase in his arm as he spoke.

"I tell you, Garth, I feel nervous," came his low whisper, lost in
the vibration of the motors. "Why did you insist on our taking this
plane?"

Max Garth, a chunky man, muffled in a great-coat, from which his
hatless head, large, square, and with a shock of greying, reddish hair
spoke without leaning from the opposite seat. He wore thick-lensed
glasses which gave his eyes a hard, concentrated stare.

"Cool down, Truesdale!" His low voice had a hard, brittle
terseness, as if emotions were something he neither understood nor
tolerated. Those who knew Max Garth--and he was famous in his
profession of geology--knew him to be one of those cold men of science
whose brains work only in cold logic, without sentiment. "You know it
was a break--getting on this plane! Now nothing can go wrong. The
whole affair will turn out as we expected. Why, the trip's almost
over." He was reasoning as if with a child. "What is there to worry
about?"

And like a child, David Truesdale relaxed a trifle. He, too, was a
scientist: one of the country's foremost mining engineers, who had
done noteworthy work in ventilating mines. But his work had become a
shell into which he retired from worldly life, and he displayed that
naivete which is so bewildering in men otherwise brilliant.

"Guess you're right, Garth. It's just nerves." He passed a blue-
veined hand nervously over his pallid face.

"And don't hug that briefcase so," Garth said sourly. "Maybe you'd
better give it to me!" His voice had an edge in it as it dropped still
lower. "You don't want to attract attention."

Truesdale's clutch tightened on the briefcase as these words
seemed instantly to bring back his fear. His eyes were burning,
bright. "What's the use?" he began fearfully. "If someone knows--and
he must know--"

"Are you going to bring up those threats again?" Garth's glasses
seemed to glare. "Are you going to take the phone call of some crank
seriously?"

"But if you had heard that voice over the phone!" Truesdale said
shakily.

"I did," Garth returned coolly.

"What?" The eyes of David Truesdale went wide. "You mean, he--he
threatened you too, this person who calls himself--" His voice was a
frightened whisper. "--the Tycoon of Crime?"

Garth stiffened a little at that title; but his voice was
contemptuous.

"Yes," he conceded. "He called. And gave me the same time limit.
Nine o'clock tonight."

"But you never said a word about it."

"Because there's nothing to say, except to the police, when we get
to New York."

Abruptly Garth broke off. He had turned in his seat, and his
glare-glassed eyes caught sudden sight of pretty Nancy Clay, the
stewardess, standing directly behind the two seats with her coffee
tray. She was staring at them both, her lips half parted.

Garth darted a warning look at Truesdale who seemed oblivious of
her presence. He spoke to Truesdale in a tone momentarily harsh:

"Well, forget about it! It's all a joke of no importance."

But the stark, haunted fear in Truesdale's eyes did not lessen. He
started to speak again, then gulped and shut his lips tightly. Only
then did he seem to become aware of the stewardess, as she came
forward.

"Coffee, gentlemen?"

Garth shook his head. Truesdale growled a shaky: "No thank you,
Miss."

"Come, come," she insisted. "It will warm you up. Make you feel
fit for the landing."

"When do we land, stewardess?" Garth demanded.

She flicked around the wrist of the hand gripping the tray to look
at her watch.

"Little more than three-quarters of an hour now," she said. "We're
scheduled to land at nine-forty-five. It's now exactly two minutes to
nine." She smiled, glancing at the closed partition in front of the
two seats. "And if I know our pilot, we'll make that schedule!"

On the other side of the partition, his strong young hands
gripping the Dep-wheel, Pat Bentley turned to his co-pilot.

"You can take over soon, Bill. I want to tell Newark now that
everything's okay."

His eyes glanced through the oblique windows in the nose of the
ship, at the dim mountains growing less precipitous ahead and below.
Visibility was fairly good now. Not far ahead, Bentley saw the
Balesville beacon funneling upwards, blinking like a white tentacle in
the sky.

Yet, in the light from the myriad-instrumented dashboard, the
young ace pilot's rugged, wind-swept face was etched tense. His broad
shoulders were braced as if against some invisible foe. Veteran of
thousands of flying hours, the big Douglas was a placid baby in his
skilled hands--and yet, somehow, he did not feel right tonight.

A grim responsibility weighed him down. This was a maiden flight--
for a big airline. Important people were in this plane; and there was
important cargo too. Bentley had seen the armored truck come up on the
Chicago field, seen the strong boxes being loaded into the great
plane. Exactly what they contained he didn't know. But he did know he
was carrying a fortune of some kind.

His keen eyes narrowed, thinking about the passengers. Two of them
had acted queerly when they went aboard. The pilot had overheard a few
words, tense words. Now that he thought of it, he realized that was
what had created the uneasiness in him.

Garth and Truesdale. Two big scientists. Working, just now,
Bentley knew for the Empire and Southwest Railway line. He grinned
crookedly. That railway was in a slump: the growth of airline travel
hadn't helped it any--Why had Truesdale looked so frightened when he
climbed into the plane?

And why had Garth looked so icily cold?

Bentley cursed himself inwardly. He well knew just what part of
his nature made him so curious about things like this. Once a
newspaper man--

Yes, he had worked for a paper, a big New York paper. For several
years he had been a flying reporter, and a radio news commentator. His
voice had become as famous for its rapid-fire reports as Floyd
Gibbons. He had covered many "exclusives," but now his real love,
flying, had claimed him again and he had welcomed the job of piloting
this new transport.

"It's just nine, Pat. Better call in Newark." The voice of the
young co-pilot held the proper amount of respect for his "skipper."

"Right!" Quickly Pat Bentley snapped out of his reverie. "Take
her, Bill." And added, listening to the neutral sound of the radio
compass. "She's right smack on the beam now."

He released the Dep-wheel and rudder bars in precise
synchronization with the moment that his co-pilot took them in
control. Adjusting earphones under his trim visor-cap, he picked up
the radio microphone.

"--Number One calling Newark--Number One calling Newark."

"This is Newark," came the prompt answer. "Go ahead, Number One."

"We're passing Balesville now. Visibility okay at eight thousand.
How's the weather ahead?"

"Ceiling nine thousand. Visibility good."

"We may still beat the schedule," Bentley stated, hopefully, then
broke off.

A buzzer had sounded in the little glass-windowed compartment in
the nose of the big ship. It rang once, then again--imperatively. The
copilot jerked up his head.

"Someone ringing, Pat."

"Just a minute," Bentley clipped into the microphone.

He reached back with annoyance, to unlock the partition door. And
then his annoyance changed to sudden surprise.

His eyes went wide, stark, with horrified amazement!



Chapter II One Did Not Die



"JUST A MINUTE."

In the modernistic, gleaming radio cupola of Newark Airport, those
words of Pat Bentley's had emanated from the loudspeaker.

Two uniformed operators sat at tables in the brightly lighted
room, handling two microphones. Two more stood at the big sets, with
earphones glued on, their eyes watching the great, humming
transmitters, the many tubes and condensers. From this room planes in
the sky and on the field were guided; and though the atmosphere was
tense, the work was performed with smooth efficiency.

Tonight, attention had been focused chiefly on the new flight from
Chicago. While no other planes had been neglected, the men in the
airport cupola had given their utmost cooperation to the big Douglas
to see that the trip was smooth and successful.

The confident, incisive voice of Bentley had kept them reassured,
even when the Douglas had been flying in the high clouds of fog. They
had followed its every move, knew the exact position with which it
should correspond with the big map on the wall.

As Bentley's voice said "Just a minute," the radio man at the
microphone who had conducted the conversation with the plane relaxed,
smiling.

"Two to one he beats the schedule!" he offered, and had no comers.
"This is going to boost the Harvey Airlines all right. It's the
fastest Chicago run in the air! And with Bentley the safest--"

He broke off, suddenly jerking up his head. From the loudspeaker
came a low exclamation. Then--

"Wait!" Bentley's voice, no longer crisp but suddenly sharp,
agitated. "Something's the matter! Something's wrong!"

The four men in the room stiffened, their confidence changing to
quick alarm. The man at the microphone jerked forward.

"What's the matter, Bentley?" he snapped. "What--"

Then it came!

Of a sudden the loudspeaker seemed to burst into a din of raucous
sound, which filled the cupola and brought a cry of alarm from every
throat.

The first sound was like some rumbling detonation, brief yet
reverberating. It was followed by a terrible, rending crackle!
Horrified, the men in the cupola froze into rigid immobility, aware
that something dreadful had just happened out in the night sky. And
then, curdling their blood, came the hoarse scream:

"She's burning! She's burning!"

Pat Bentley had screamed those ghastly words! Screamed them more,
it seemed, with horrified amazement than fright. Screamed them above
that horrible, crackling roar.

"Fire!" Bentley shrieked, "It's broken out! The whole ship's
burning like so much paper!"

"Bentley!" Helpless, the radio operator was wringing his hands at
the microphone. "Good God, Bentley, what are you saying? What--"

The dreadful sounds from the night grew to a crescendo in the loud
speaker. The crackling roar filled the room, And now, faint but
horrifying, came other sounds--human cries. Cries of terror, of panic,
of agony.

"God, she's going down! She's going to crash!" Bentley's frenzied
voice came again. "The fire's creeping up--I can feel the heat--
getting worse--worse! No hope! Going to crash--"

Abruptly the voice and the sounds ceased.

The radio went dead. In that awful moment, the aviation men's eyes
showed the vivid horror of their air-trained imaginations. As if they
could see a flaming Douglas plane, crashing like a fiery torch
somewhere out in the night miles away. The fire consuming it, its
radio crumpling, its passengers and its pilot caught helpless, without
a chance of escape!

Then came swift reaction. The radio men hurled into a simultaneous
rush of action. All other work was momentarily suspended. Both
microphones carried frantic messages as their operators spoke in rapid
fire.

"Trenton! Calling Trenton! Any more signals from Number One?"

"Balesville, Pennsylvania! Any reports of Number One in that
vicinity?"

One of the operators picked up a phone. "Hangar Five! Send out
planes to locate Number One!" He gave details, then: "Get me the
commanding officer of Miller Field--Hello! Can you send out some
flyers to aid in reported burning of transport?"

The continued calls set into motion every available machinery. As
always, an air disaster brought swift cooperation from the Army Air
Force, as well as from all commercial units.

The chief operator, having set such machinery in motion, spoke
with gripping tension.

"We've got to get hold of Mr. Harvey! He must be informed of this
at once. What a ghastly blow to the new line!"

Even as he spoke, out in the night, scores of searching planes
were already taking the air. The hunt for the huge transport which had
disappeared in the night was in full, feverish swing--



AND MEANWHILE, OUTSIDE A SMALL SHACK rearing near heavy, wind-
swaying trees, a group of shifting, shadowy figures, most of them in
slouch hats with low-pulled brims, were gathering tensely.

There was a stench in the air--a burning, smoking stench. There
was a dying, ruddy glow which flickered over coarse faces, over
malignant, furtive eyes.

But the eyes of the group were all drawn hypnotically to a small
closed coupe which had just emerged out of the night, come to a stop
before them.

At first glance that coupe looked like the usual model of a well-
known high-priced make of car. But closer inspection would have
revealed the unusual heaviness of its metal body, the thickness of its
glass windows. The window opposite the tense, dark figures was not
quite completely closed; a crack showed on top. But glass protected
the head of the car's lone occupant.

A face looked out through that glass--a strange, grotesquerie of a
face whose features seemed to shimmer as if made of jelly. It was a
ghastly sight, even though the men watching knew it was caused by some
imperfection in the thick, bullet-proof glass.

Impossible to tell the true features of that distorted face. It
remained, by virtue of the glass, a vague blur; frightening, yet
malignantly compelling.

"And so everything has come off exactly as I planned!"

The voice came from the crack of the coupe's window. It was a
ghastly voice, a sort of harsh whisper which eddied out into the
silent night. It spoke in blighting malice.

"It has gone off like clockwork! And they will hunt in vain for
the wreck! I commend you--all of you! Especially you three who were in
the shack."

Slick, his head a dark shiny knob in the night, stepped forward
with his nimble, jerky grace. Ape, still gripping the blue-steel tommy
gun, stood grinning, while the man named Luke quietly lit a new
cigarette.

"Hell, it was a cinch, Boss!" Slick spoke towards the car. "You
had it figgered just right!"

An eerie chuckle sounded from the coupe, as the distorted face
shimmered behind the glass.

"I always have things figured! And now we must prepare for my next
enterprise! My work has only begun. The night is still young, and by
midnight I strike again--this time in New York! There another enemy,
perhaps even two, will pay for opposing me!" Harshly the whisper rose,
with fanatical triumph. "Soon everyone will know the power of the
Tycoon of Crime!

"And you, who are only one part of my mob, will see that you are
not working for any small stakes. Before I am through, there will be
millions--millions!" He repeated that word with avaricious greed which
swiftly communicated itself to his listeners, to show in their evil
faces. "Just obey my orders and nothing can stop us! Midnight
tonight--remember, that is the time I have set. And I want you all to
check your watches and synchronize them with my own now."

Watches came out or were turned up on wrists. The Tycoon gave the
minute, and the watches were set.

"At midnight then," came the eerie voice. It lowered, giving
further orders. Then the self-starter of the coupe whined; the engine
purred.

"So I will go. And you will all hurry, too. I trust you checked
up, as I said--on the dead?" he pronounced the phrase with grim mirth.
"Did you take all the effects of Truesdale and Garth?" Hate threaded
his tone as those names were spoken. There were gruff assents. "Good!
And the pilot? You made sure of the pilot?"

As he spoke eyes shifted to the ruddy, dying glow. A few faces
paled a little sickly.

"Yeah, I made sure he's dead," a squatly-built man stepped forward
to answer. The ruddy glow revealed his squarish head, set low on wide
shoulders. His face was crooked-featured, as if one-half of it had
slid beneath the other. "I seen his brass buttons."

"You mean," the Tycoon of Crime said bitingly, "that there were
two such men with brass buttons, don't you, Maxie? There was a co-
pilot too."

Maxie's crooked face showed surprise. "But there was only one,
Boss. I--"

"You bungling fool." The whisper lashed out like a whip, in
sudden, frenzied rage. "Slick, count those bodies! Tell me the count!"

Slick hurried forward. He was quick to return with an answering
number, but when he told it a snarl of enraged conviction came from
the coupe.

"It's true then! One of them escaped! He's loose! That must be
Bentley, the pilot, from what I know of his stubborn character. But he
can't be far! He must be found--he must be killed!" The voice fairly
crackled. "He must die before he can menace my plans!"

His fierce words lashed the whole crowd to action. Automatics
glinted as they were whipped out. Ape gripped his tommy gun. Breaking
up into smaller groups, thugs were scouring the vicinity--with murder
in their eyes.

"He can't escape!" The voice of the Tycoon of Crime spurred them
on. "There is only one way he could have headed. Get him! Get him no
matter how far you have to follow him!"



YES, PAT BENTLEY WAS ALIVE!

He was disheveled, his face smoke-blackened, his eyes wild with
horror and shock--but he was very much alive as he ran furtively
through a sleepy little village--the village of Mulford, New York. A
long, long way from where he had last radioed a message from his
doomed plane.

His brain was a rioting tumult of rage, of horror, of anguished
realization. Now he knew the reason for all his presentiments. And
those two men he had felt queerly about at the outset of the flight.
Garth and Truesdale.

He knew now the meaning of the frightened words he had heard in
their conversation. But what about those strong boxes on the plane?
Had they melted, burned? Their valuable unknown contents been
destroyed? Conjectures raced through his mind as the question rose:
What to do!

Then his wild eyes caught the light window of an all-night drug
store. A telephone!

The lone clerk on duty in the store was dozing in a corner and did
not even see Bentley. The disheveled, smoke-blackened pilot lurched
across the floor to a single booth. His eyes glanced wildly around,
then he entered, closing the door, change jangling as his hand reached
into his pockets.

"Long--distance--New York City--" his voice came in a gasping
croak. "I want New York City Police Headquarters. The number is Spring
Seven Three One Hundred. Hurry--emergency!"

He was crazily putting in coins as he spoke, the toll-bells
clanging. The urgency of his voice evidently brought swift cooperation
from the telephone office.

The connection was made.

"Police Headquarters," boomed a stentorian voice.

"Let me speak to the commissioner: This is a matter of life and
death. I've important information."

There was a pause at the other end. Faint words there; then a
click of switches.

"Hello!" came a gruff voice. "This is Chief Deputy Inspector
Gregg. Who's calling?"

"I want the commissioner."

"You can tell me what you have to say. I'm in charge of the
Detective Division." And the man on the New York end of the line
repeated: "Who's calling?"

"Listen!" Again Bentley ignored the question. His voice came
rapid-fire, with crisp incisiveness, with the clear yet rapid
enunciation that had made him famous as a news commentator.
"Something's going to happen in New York at midnight at Grand Central!
A murder--a devilish murder! There's a fiend behind it! I heard him
talking! You police must stop him! You must--"

Abruptly Pat Bentley whirled. Was that a movement outside the drug
store? Or just a shadow? The voice of the Manhattan Inspector was
barking questions in the receiver--but suddenly reaching a new
decision, Bentley hung up without another word, without telling who he
was.

He sneaked across the floor past the dozing clerk, glancing out.
No one in sight. His imagination? Or perhaps a premonition. For the
trail he had left would be wide open. They'd be after him.

He had done what had to be done immediately. Even as he had been
talking he had realized he could not chance further information to any
phone, nor tell what he knew to any police inspector. He must get to
New York City, in person. He had phoned because he knew that not even
a miracle could get him there before midnight, and at least he had
warned the police, though they had no idea whose murder they were to
prevent or who had given the information. But now--

As he hurried through the dark village streets, Bentley's eyes
gleamed; those far-sighted eyes of the born flyer. There was one man
to whom he could tell the whole ghastly story--the incredible story.
The man who had been his boss when he was a newspaperman. Frank
Havens, owner of the New York _Clarion_!

Havens would know what to do with this dynamite news that would be
too inflammable for the police! For Havens knew how to contact the one
person who could cope with such a thing; the great unknown detective
who had unraveled other baffling and bloody enigmas.

_"The Phantom!"_ Bentley's dry lips whispered, as they twisted in
a crooked grin of hope. "The Phantom--must be--called!"



Chapter III Murder on the Balcony



NIGHT IN MANHATTAN. In Times Square, the city was wide awake and
gay, the bright lights glaring. Crowds from the theaters were hurrying
to nightclubs and restaurants. From the waterfront fog-horns tooted,
factories still ground out their work, smoke belching from their
chimneys. To the east, cars streamed like illuminated, linked chains
across the bridges.

Other cars streamed west, too, to enter the Holland Tunnel, to
whisk over the George Washington Bridge. There were but few lonely
streets in the teeming metropolis.

Wall Street and the surrounding financial district were deserted,
the office buildings rising like dark canyon walls. But its streets
were still pounded by alert patrolmen.

The poverty-stricken tenement sections where evil figures
stalked--drunks and derelicts, shifty underworld characters--also lay
in sleepy gloom. And police were watchful, knowing that no night
passed in these districts without some violence and bloodshed.

Police Inspector Thomas Gregg's bulking form sat in the cushioned
shield-bearing limousine which was whisking him and a hard-eyed
subordinate uptown, toward Grand Central, its short-wave radio
bringing every police call that went out from Headquarters.

"I suppose that anonymous call from Mulford, New York, was from a
crank," the inspector grumbled "But I guess it's just as well not to
take chances. That voice I heard on the phone--There was something
about it--something familiar. Kinda made me sure feel the tip was
hot!" He pulled out his watch. "Pretty close to midnight. Get on up to
Grand Central. If anybody thinks he's going to pull any murder there--
"


IN A HUGE, BRIGHTLY LIGHTED room six tense men sat at a long
conference table, talking in low voices as they watched a wall-clock
which showed that the hour of midnight was approaching.

A more diverse-looking group could not have been found. Yet these
six men were all linked by mutual reputations in the field of science
and engineering. All were famous throughout the country for their work
in these lines.

Nor was that all that linked them.

There was another bond which seemed to hold them together as with
some hidden magnet. A strange, furtive bond--one of conflicting fear
and hope.

Near the unoccupied head of the table Vincent Brooks, one of the
country's leading electrical engineers, ran a gaunt hand over his
long, rugged face, his dark, hard eyes narrowing beneath beetling
brows.

Next to him a wiry man with a shock of grey hair that kept getting
into his eyes, hunched tensely forward. Leland Sprague, a surveyor.

Beside those two sat Joseph Ware and Paul Talbert. Ware was a
quiet, well-built, grey-haired man who was a specialist in waterways
and dams. Paul Talbert, a shoring engineer, was broad-shouldered, with
a wind-burned face, a military mustache, blond hair and clear, far-
seeing eyes.

The fifth man of the group, solid-built but pallid-faced, with
crow’s-feet under his eyes, toyed nervously with a pencil. He was a
geologist named Donald Vaughan.

Finally, running his hand over his high, thin-haired skull, was
John Eldridge, another surveyor.

"Well, gentlemen?" Paul Talbert spoke, sitting erect, his mustache
bristling. "I still say the time is opportune! Everything has worked
out as we planned it! We have only to go ahead." His eyes gleamed.

"What about the threats?" Joseph Ware demurred. The quiet-looking
waterways man's voice was low and tense, and only his eyes showed the
panic he kept from his quiet face, "Remember, I've been getting them.
And now that we've learned what happened to Truesdale and Garth--"

"You're jumping to conclusions, Ware!" Sprague broke in, a little
shrilly, pushing back his shock of grey hair. "They haven't found that
plane yet! We don't know for sure."

"Besides, it was undoubtedly an accident, that disaster!"

"Undoubtedly." Talbert agreed. "And while it means a delay, we can
still go ahead as we planned! This is no time for faint heartedness!
Don't forget what's in this for all of us if it works out!"

There was a slight stir around the table. Greed, that dark driving
urge which at times can overcome the best of men, flashed in several
eyes. Greed--and fear!

"I agree with Talbert!" Vincent Brooks, the rugged-faced electrical
engineer, clipped. He laughed harshly. "And I have been warned myself
by these strange phone messages! But whoever this Tycoon of Crime is,
he can't know our secret. Only we know it at this present moment! And
no one but ourselves will ever know it fully!"

"Lord, if it ever leaked out!" Donald Vaughan strained forward,
the crows-feet twitching under his eyes. "If this Tycoon of Crime
suspected it he could ruin us all!" He shook his head. "And if the
Government ever knew--"

He broke off abruptly, as if not daring to finish. And again the
current of invisible fear coursed about the table.

"We've got to keep our heads!" Eldridge said, his thin-haired head
bobbing. "We're in this thing together no matter what happens."

Like an invisible curtain a hush closed down on the group. Lips
clamped suddenly tight. Eyes hid the emotions which a moment before
had shown stark and clear.

The frosted glass door leading from an anteroom had opened
unceremoniously. Three more men came in.

The one in advance, a heavy-set man, florid of face, his head bald
save for a fringe of iron-grey hair, strode toward the table.

"Good evening, gentlemen! Glad to see all of you got here early. I
hope you have made yourselves at home here in our executive office."

In the sudden silence, the six scientists heard the muffled but
continuous bustle of sound outside the offices; the movement of
hundreds of feet; and, further away, an occasional clang of bells, a
hiss of air-brakes.

This big room, the New York office of the Empire and Southwest
Railway, was situated on the gallery floor of Manhattan's biggest
railway terminal, the Grand Central, famous throughout a continent.

Talbert was the first to speak, in a quiet, hard voice, to the
rugged man who had strode forward.

"Hello, Strickland! We've been waiting for you!"

James Strickland, vice-president of the Empire and Southwest
Railway, moved to the head of the table and took the chair there.

The second newcomer, Charles Jenson, secretary of the railway
company, a thin-haired, bespectacled man with a mild, timid manner,
also joined the gathering.

And if these two high railway officials seemed almost like aliens
in the conclave of scientists, the third man who had entered at their
heels was out of place with both groups.

He stood alone near the door--a big, broad man with grizzled,
grey-peppered hair. A man who gave the impression of dominant
strength.

"Oh, sit down, Mr. Harvey!" Strickland said to him, gesturing as
if just remembering the amenities. "You gentlemen must know Mr. Andrew
Harvey, president of the Harvey Airlines!"

Tensing again, the eyes of the six scientists swiveled to the
visitor.

He grinned--a hard, tight grin--meeting their glances levelly.

"I'll stand," he said in a booming voice. "What I have to say
won't take long. I'm here on business--cold, plain business! I'm here
to make a cash offer for this railway! While Strickland and Jenson
have given me little encouragement, I thought I might find the rest of
you more interested!"

No electric shock could have caused a more startled reaction.
Their eyes widening, for a moment the six scientists seemed
speechless.

Then Strickland spoke, as if for the startled men.

"This is most irregular, Mr. Harvey! In the absence of the line's
president, Mr. Garrison, who as you know, is in St. Louis--"

"I'll deal with Garrison when he gets back!" Andrew Harvey
snapped. "Right now I'm dealing with all of you here. That's enough!"

A mirthless smile curved Talbert's lips beneath his mustache. "You
seem to be laboring under a misconception, Mr. Harvey," he said. "We
are merely technicians working for the Empire and Southwest Railway."

Harvey's laugh was harsh, contemptuous. "You're wasting your
breath! I know you're the chief stockholders of this railroad, all of
you! You've all acquired big blocks of shares! And I'm here to buy you
out--to take those shares at better than their present market value!"

The silence was ominous. The six men, rigid now, turned fierce
glances to Strickland and Jenson. Strickland blurted something. The
mild Jenson spoke in a meek voice.

"I'm sure Mr. Harvey didn't learn that from us." The secretary's
tone was conciliating. "These things leak out, you know."

"I make it my business to know such things!" Harvey said shortly.
"And I know you men, with your technical skill, are trying to put this
railway on its feet! But it isn't worth the effort. The only use for
it now is if it can be run in conjunction, as an auxiliary, to my own
airline! That's why I want it. If you think you can run it in
competition, you're sadly mistaken!" His eyes narrowed to slits, his
face grew grim. "Even the sabotaging of my new Chicago transport plane
isn't going to cripple my growing airline!"

There was a gasped intake of breath; and indignant scrape of
chairs.

Joseph Sprague, the wiry surveyor, was on his feet then, his shock
of grey hair dancing.

"Are you daring to insinuate that we had any connection with that
plane disaster?" he demanded shrilly.

"Take it that way if you want," said the blunt Harvey. His lips
curled. "Of course, all of you will begin to produce alibis showing
you were in New York City at the time of the disaster; but you men do
get around, don't you? And there are more ways than one of cooking a
goose, especially if you're a technician!"

Talbert leaped up. "If this is a joke, Harvey," he said with cold
fury, "it's in pretty bad taste."

Sprague leaned forward, fuming.

"It's outrageous! I refuse to listen to it! You can have my answer
to your offer right now, Mr. Harvey! I'll see you in Hell before I'll
make any deal with you!"

For a moment it seemed he would spring bodily upon the weathered-
faced airline president, smaller though he was. Instead, however, he
pushed back his chair and, his face flaming, strode out of the
conference room, slamming the door behind him.

Strickland's eyes showed haggard worry. "You shouldn't have said
that, Harvey! After all, a knife can have two edges. Sprague was a
close friend of both Truesdale and Garth--also of our company, and
passengers on that plane. Truesdale and Garth were valuable men," he
added significantly, "very valuable men."

"And also," Joseph Ware put in grimly, "don't forget that there
has been a lot of sabotage of the railway itself. Especially in the
Southwest."

It was the airline man's turn to stiffen indignantly. Glaring, he
seemed about to voice an angry retort when Vincent Brooks, the gaunt
electric wizard, suddenly rose to his feet, pointing at the clock--
whose hands were converging to midnight!

"It's time for the new electric sign to go on!" Brooks announced.
"Inasmuch as I constructed it, I'd like to be out there to see it!"

Strickland nodded hastily. "Of course. We all want to see it." He
turned to Harvey. "You'll join us, Mr. Harvey? You noticed the
preliminaries as you came in. Perhaps you'll be interested to see how
modern we, too, can be in our methods."

The whole group were hurriedly rising. With a scowling Harvey
accompanying them, they passed through an anteroom, emerged upon a
gallery, then descended marble-bannistered steps which led them
directly upon the immense, dome-ceilinged concourse.

An unusually large throng milled on the floor; a throng much
larger than the usual flow of travelers who always streamed through
the big terminal. Huge banners, all proclaiming A New Era in
Railroading, gave the huge place a festive air.

Over the noise of the crowds sounded the blare of trumpeting
music. A band composed of dusky Pullman porters in gaudy uniforms, led
by a busby-hatted drum-major, was playing "Casey Jones."

"What is this anyhow?" Harvey snorted. "A circus in a railroad
station?"

Strickland glared at him, but the mild-eyed secretary, Jensen,
said, in an explanatory tone:

"In just one minute now, you will see that sign go on." With a
moving forefinger he signified a continuous dark oblong strip of
metal, dotted with electric bulbs, which ran around the four walls of
the great concourse. "In St. Louis, Mr. Garrison, our president, will
press a button. The impulse will be carried over our own wires to the
device on the gallery which operates the sign."

"Very elaborate!" sneered Harvey. "But nothing can put this line
on its feet, I'm warning you."

Nevertheless, he displayed interest as the Pullman band ended its
number with a martial roll of drums. An expectant hush fell over the
crowd. All eyes went to the strip of dark bulbs.

A second went by, then--

Abruptly, a flickering blaze of light leaped into life at the
beginning of the strip, coursed jaggedly along the sign, forming bold
letters--words:

GREETINGS TO THE PUBLIC--WE TAKE PLEASURE IN ANNOUNCING OUR MODERNIZED
RAILROAD POLICY--OUR MANY NEW INNOVATIONS--

The words, with their smooth advertising, continued. The crowd
watched.

--AND NOW IT IS TIME FOR THE MESSAGE OF THE TYCOON OF CRIME--

So smoothly did these words follow on the wake of the others that
at first their utter strangeness was unnoticed by the crowd. But
instantly sharply indrawn breaths of amazement issued from the group
of men who had rushed down from the executive offices. Their eyes
bulged as they followed those bold words, carried unerringly around
the strip of bulbs.

--THE TYCOON OF CRIME HEREBY WARNS ALL THOSE WHO HAVE FLOUTED HIM--

The crowd had begun to murmur, to laugh as if believing this some
deliberately humorous part of the ballyhoo, not yet understood.

"What's the meaning of those crazy words?" Strickland burst out.

"Meaning?" screamed a voice. "Good Lord, don't you realize? The
Tycoon of Crime! The criminal we all laughed at!"

No one had noticed that Leland Sprague, the shock-haired surveyor
who had so angrily left the conference room, had joined them. It was
he who had made this outburst. His agitation seemed to have driven
away all remembrance of his anger; his face was ashen. Madly he waved
towards the coursing, illuminated words.

"The sign!" he choked. "He must have got at the box that makes the
sign go!"

But while Jenson and Harvey both looked as bewildered as
Strickland, the scientists in the group had all jerked rigid, their
faces blanching.

Even the hard-featured Paul Talbert looked shaken.

Then Vincent Brooks, who had made the sign, suddenly dashed toward
the gallery stair. John Eldridge, the thin-haired surveyor, also broke
away at a run.

The bold words which thousands read continued to leap into view,
and run around the sign like letters of fire.

--SOME HAVE LEARNED THIS VERY NIGHT OF MY POWER--OTHERS WILL SOON
LEARN--MORE BLOOD WILL BE SPILLED--MORE WILL DIE--TAKE THIS LAST
WARNING--

The explosion was deafening!

It crashed thunderously in the spacious interior of the dome-
ceilinged concourse, the sheer concussion hurling many of the gaping
crowd off balance.

From the center of the balcony, above the coursing sign, had
leaped a blinding, hissing sheet of flame! The sign went dark even as
the detonation followed. And at the same instant--

A scream of horror burst from scores of throats as, whisked off
the balcony like some mere feather, a human shape came hurtling
straight down--a shape of limp but flailing arms and legs.

That the body didn't fall on the panic-stricken crowd seemed sheer
luck. With a ghastly thud it crashed to the tiled flooring beneath the
balcony.

Strickland, Jenson, and the rest of their group rushed over as the
din rose higher, though railway police were struggling to restore
order.

They reached the inert heap on the floor, looked down. A scream
broke from Charles Sprague, who pointed.

"It's Eldridge! Good God--Eldridge!"

John Eldridge was a gruesome sight. His body was a maimed, bloody
heap which stained crimson the white-tiled floor. A whole portion of
his chest had been blown out. A gaping hole showed the broken bones,
ripped flesh, tatters of clothes. His face was frozen in a grimace of
contorted agony, the eyes glazed and protruding like marbles.

Strickland cried out hoarsely. "And he was blown off the balcony--
just when the sign went off! Where's Brooks? Brooks should know about
the sign!"

His question was quickly answered by Donald Vaughan. The geologist
had rushed up to the balcony, and his voice called down shakily. The
rest hurried up there, oblivious that Andrew Harvey was no longer with
them.

They found what was left of Vincent Brooks piled against the
balcony wall. His head had almost been severed from his torso by the
explosion. The chin was blown away, leaving a broken bulge of bloody
jaw-bone. The features, bloated in death, were barely recognizable.

Opposite the corpse, on the stone balcony construction, was a
shattered box of metal, its parts strewn about.

Strickland stared at it.

"That's where the strip that controlled the sign was running!" he
burst out hoarsely. "It's blown to hell! This is ghastly--ghastly!"

Quick glances were shot up and down the balcony. It was empty. But
the crowds from below, in mingled panic and morbid curiosity, were
already surging up the stairs. Railway police fought them back. Then
came the shrill whistles of regular city police on duty in this
precinct.

And outside in the night, in the next moment, rose the scream of
sirens.

The law was coming swiftly. And a certain shield-bearing limousine
carrying a worried Inspector was now hurtling straight to the
terminal.



Chapter IV The Corpse on the Pavement



RICHARD CURTIS VAN LOAN, debonair young society man and _bon
vivant,_ turned his sixteen-cylindered Cadillac roadster onto upper
Park Avenue and headed downtown through a neighborhood--which, in this
section, was shabby and unkempt.

A slender, dark-haired girl in a pert, Buddhistic hat sat beside
Van Loan, her dark, liquid eyes wistfully stealing now and then to his
well-cut profile, etched in the dashboard lights.

In the spacious rumble seat, another couple sat, in each other's
arms, and it could have been seen at a glance that they were newlyweds. The girl, blond and hatless, clung possessively to the young
groom who had been one of the social register's most eligible
bachelors until he had looked into her blue eyes.

"Say, where are you taking us, Dick?" the man suddenly leaned
forward to ask.

"To my apartment," drawled Van Loan, without turning from the
wheel, "where we will do justice, with champagne, to your marriage,
then let you go off on your honeymoon in peace. Do you agree, Muriel?"

Muriel Havens smiled up at him.

"If you ask me, I have a sneaking suspicion the newlyweds are
just dying to get rid of us!"

"Now Muriel!" the girl in the back protested. "We're not leaving
until tomorrow. We even hoped to get your father's blessing before we
went. Do you suppose we'll get a chance to see him?"

Muriel sighed. "I don't know. The paper's been keeping him pretty
busy. He's in his office night and day."

"Isn't it extraordinary," Van Loan drawled languidly, "how some
men will bury themselves in work? Why doesn't your dad let the
_Clarion_ run merrily along, Muriel, and step out for a good time?"

Muriel Havens's small but firm chin lifted. A momentary anger
swept her eyes.

"Some people wouldn't understand it, I guess," she said pointedly.
"But Dad feels he's doing something useful in this world."

Van Loan made a sad, clucking sound with his tongue.

"Ouch!" he said. "That remark has a vaguely personal tinge. But
really, can you imagine me getting up the energy to indulge in hard
labor?" He stifled a yawn.

On Muriel's lovely, intelligent face was disappointment. She could
not have felt surprised.

Richard Curtis Van Loan was hardly a man of action. Good-natured,
lazy, he fitted only into the social set, whiling away the hours with
his select friends in pleasure and amusement. Because he was handsome
and too wealthy for any one man, he was one whom doting mothers longed
to have their daughters ensnare.

Yet, oddly, Muriel Havens had never accepted Van Loan as a mere
lazy, social parasite, an idler who gayly flung to the winds the
wealth his father had slaved to attain.

Again she glanced at the well-built young man beside her; at his
strong hands, gripping the wheel with steady ease. And she shook her
head, her lips pressed against any words of protest she might have
felt like uttering.

As the roadster continued downtown the avenue changed in aspect.
The shabby district suddenly gave way to Manhattan's most exclusive
and wealthy residential section. They were riding down past the green-
parked "islands" under which trains rumbled.

"Why so silent, Newlyweds?" Van drawled. "This is a celebration,
not a funeral."

"Oh, don't mind us!" the young bridegroom laughed. "We're just
sitting here smugly enjoying the idea of being married. And let me
tell you, Dick, it's great! Why don't you try it sometime?"

"It is a thought," Van Loan grinned--and looked at Muriel Havens.
For a moment, she saw in his eyes something that was seldom there; and
so briefly now that she might have only imagined it. It was so totally
out of gear with the languid, idling Van Loan.

Van saw her dark eyes glow--for that one moment. And turned back
to the wheel, covering his expression with another suppressed
ostentatious yawn.

Dick Van Loan knew Muriel was hurt by that gesture; wounded
deeply. Yet it had been necessary. His hand had covered more than the
yawn. It had covered an implacable bitterness which had tightened his
lips and narrowed his eyes.

Had Muriel or the others had any inkling of the thoughts that were
going through Van's brain at that instant, they would have been more
than amazed.

They were stern, fierce thoughts. Thoughts sealed by a long-kept
pledge within his mind. Thoughts that cruelly drove the human feelings
of Dick Van Loan to some dull recess where he could only keep them for
the distant future.

In his mind, Richard Van Loan was seeing vividly remembered
sights, alien to his social life. He was seeing dark byways, where
shadowy, evil figures stalked; he was seeing gruesome bodies, riddled,
knifed, killed in other heinous fashions. He saw, too, the terrible
implements of justice. The inexorable electric chair--the noose--the
lethal chamber. And cowering, convicted criminals ensnared by them.

A grim parade of diabolical murderers who had thought they could
cheat justice! Sometimes they had foiled the law, made a laughingstock
of the police. But, like a relentless Nemesis, a single unknown had
proved their undoing. The mysterious scourge of crime known as the
Phantom Detective.

The Phantom! Throughout the world, in every law-enforcing agency,
in Scotland Yard, in the _Surete,_ to the Berlin Police that sobriquet
had become a synonym of perfect crime detection. Just as, in the
underworld, it had become a byword of fear and dread.

Richard Curtis Van Loan, sitting next to Muriel Havens, wished he
could have turned to her now and driven the reproach and
disappointment from her eyes by telling her the great secret. He
wished he could have said:

"Muriel, I am the Phantom Detective! Yes, I--Richard Curtis Van
Loan, whom you hold in contempt and yet love. Your own father, Frank
Havens, was responsible. It was he who told me years ago, that I was
wasting my life and energy; he who suggested that I anonymously try to
fight crime. Since then my life is no longer my own. I have to forego
all that every normal man takes for granted as a part of his life. My
lazy social life is just a pose--to enable me to gather energy for the
next case, which can come at any moment. My real time is spent in
study--the study of criminology, disguise, delving into realms you
would never dream interest me. But perhaps some day, some time, when
my case book is full, I can come to you, free and unshackled."

Aloud, however, Van Loan said with a lazy drawl as the car picked
up speed, "Well, here we come. Now to negotiate a turn, get to the
other side of the block--and home sweet home."

He did not look at Muriel Havens as he spoke, as he nodded toward
the "island" beneath which sounded a dull rumble. The sidewalk
opposite, dim in the street lights, was empty. On the corner toward
the palatial apartment atop which was Van's luxurious penthouse
residence. Van guided the purring roadster down to the intersection,
thence around, waiting for the lights to make the complete turn before
heading the car uptown on the other side of the block.

Steering towards the curb, he slowed the roadster. That was when
his ever keen eyes--eyes trained to alertness by night as well as
day--suddenly sharpened. Without giving thought to it, he had observed
that the sidewalk had been empty as the roadster passed down the
block, on the downtown side.

But now, coming up on this side, he saw that the pavement was no
longer empty.

In the very middle of the block, a shadowy heap lay on the
sidewalk.

A huddled, bulgy heap from which came no sign of movement.

"What is it, Dick?" Muriel had noticed his sudden stiffening.

Without replying, Van braked the roadster to an instant stop,
apprehension tightening his lips.

Ignoring the questions of Muriel and the others, he slid quickly
from behind the wheel, alighted in the street on his long legs, and
hurried around the car to the sidewalk.

Only the dim light of the nearest street-lamp illumined the bulgy
heap.

But it was sufficient to bring out a gruesome sight.

The corpse of a well-built man lay at Van's feet. It lay half on
its side, legs drawn up grotesquely to the stomach, hands clutching
out like frozen claws.

The clothes of the man were so disheveled, torn, and begrimed with
dirt and blood and what appeared to be soot, that they were scarcely
distinguishable.

The man was hatless. His light-colored hair looked like a wet,
flat mat--wet with crimson blood.

But it was to the face of the man, full of bruises that Van's eyes
were drawn so grimly. Or rather, to what had once been a face.

On first glimpse it looked like some horrible smear of blood and
dirt and torn flesh so that the outlines of the skull showed through.
Near the lower right jaw was a huge, uneven hole; obviously made by a
heavy-calibered bullet. Once, in Chicago, during a gang war, Van had
seen a man shot in this fashion. Shot in the face at close range, so
that the bullet had completely disfigured him.

Something of this face remained however. Though not enough to
offer any clear picture. Grim-eyed, Van stared at the bloody,
revolting face, at the glazed, blood-stained eyes which peered out
stark and sightless. In the full moment he studied that face Van
decided the man had been fairly young, had probably had well-formed
features.

A gasped cry--he recognized Muriel Havens's voice--jerked him
about. Quickly Van stepped around the corpse as he saw Muriel and the
newly-weds standing, white-faced, on the pavement. With his tall,
broad-shouldered figure he screened the gruesome corpse from them as
best he could.

"Dick--that man! He's dead, isn't he?" In Muriel's choked-cry--a
statement, rather than question, was horror.

"Yes, so it seems."

Van's languid drawl was slightly constricted. His mind was racing.
Something was prodding it, hammering at it like some stray waif of
memory trying to gain admittance.

"Better not come any closer," he said. "It's rather a nasty
sight." He turned to the groom. "Listen. This has rather upset my
night, but there's no sense in letting it spoil your party. Take my
car, take Muriel with you. Continue your celebration without me. Just
take the time to summon the first policeman you see and send him here.
Better not tell him what's here or he might make you come back. I'll
remain with--this."

Despite the fact that he still clung to his drawl, there was
something so decisive and commanding in his manner that all three
stared, unable to comprehend this change in the idle Van Loan. Again
Muriel Havens's dark eyes swept to him with that strange, probing
look: half hope, half unbelief.

She came forward, a brave look on her firm, finely chiseled
features, "I'll stay here with you, Dick. Maybe I can help."

"Help? My dear girl, this is a matter for the police. I myself do
not intend to stay any longer than I have to. Until the law takes
over.

"By the way, don't mention my name when you call the policeman. I
don't wish to be dragged into this. After the law comes, I shall
discreetly retire; and because I feel a bit upset, take out a nice
bottle to enjoy in solitude."

His drawl, forced back, was cold again. Once more Muriel's eyes
went dull with disappointment and hurt.

But his words, as he had calculated, had the desired effect.



Chapter V Clarion Call



MURIEL TURNED, GESTURING to the others. In a moment they were
piling back into Van's car, the bridegroom taking the wheel. Rolling
from the curb, the big roadster moved up the avenue. Van caught a
glimpse of Muriel Havens's white, hurt face, looking back through the
darkness. But he thrust aside any emotion that face disturbed in him.
For already his brain had turned into a cold, methodical machine,
functioning in full power.

All languor had dropped from his athletic body. His movements had
become dynamic, purposeful.

Again his gaze riveted to the mutilated face of the corpse on the
sidewalk. Though the features were gone, there was something there
that struck a reminiscent chord in the Phantom's brain. Something--
what was it? What was that elusive identifying mark?

That vague memory in the back of his brain tugged at Van. He felt
certain of one thing, however. Somewhere he had seen this man. But
where? Under what circumstances?

He studied the clothes as his fingers swiftly searched through
them. All the pockets were empty. Even the buttons of trousers and
coat were missing. The material was blue serge, and though ripped, the
suit still retained a certain trimness. A uniform, perhaps? Not a
police uniform, but--

Then a sudden light flashed through Van's brain as he moved so
that the street light fell more directly on the corpse. Though it was
so deeply bloodied that at first it had not been distinguishable, the
white streak in the dead man's hair was now plain to Van's keen,
observant eyes. A peculiarly formed streak.

He had it! His eyes went narrow as his lips spoke a name.

"Pat Bentley!"

The young flyer who had once worked as a news commentator for
Frank Havens!

In his role of idler, Van Loan had met Pat Bentley in the
_Clarion_ offices. He had noticed that streak in young Bentley's black
hair, even as he had been admiring the nerve of the adventurous
youngster. He had known then he would never forget that peculiarly
distinguishing mark of the young flyer's. And Havens had told Van,
later, that Bentley had become a crack transport pilot.



THAT BLUE SERGE MATERIAL was used for the uniform of such a pilot.
It plainly was a uniform, even though the telltale brass buttons were
gone.

But--and bafflement came to Dick Van Loan's face--how had Bentley
come to be killed in this horrible fashion here on Park Avenue?

Naturally Van did not know of the air disaster. It had occurred
too recently, too far upstate, for any news of it to have reached
farther than the newspaper offices yet, where the presses were even
now whirling off the details of the air tragedy.

But he did know that finding Pat Bentley dead--killed in this
vicious manner--and practically on his own doorstep, was a challenge
to the Phantom, though there had been no such intention.

He had to find Pat Bentley's murderer!

He bent over the awful, mutilated face. The bullet, he saw, had
entered the lower jaw, had come out behind the opposite ear. It had
passed partially through the brain.

Death, then, would not have been instantaneous. A man might even
live for awhile, manage to move for awhile, with such a wound.

Again he went through the clothes for some possible clue. This
time he found something as his fingers turned back one of the trouser
cuffs. Within it lay a few tiny bits of paper; like confetti.

Puzzled, Van straightened. Where had the dead man come from? The
sidewalk had been empty when Van had driven past. No cars had passed
before he had discovered the body, he was sure. His eyes scanned
buildings, including his own apartment house. One of them, perhaps?

Suddenly his eyes sharpened, centering on the street itself.
Little jagged smears of red showed on the concrete sidewalk, extending
to the curb, out onto the asphalt of the street to the rail of one of
the midstreet "islands." Blood! A brief trail of it.

The jigsaw-like clues clicked into place in Van's razor-sharp
brain. The blood trail--the confetti-like bits in the trouser cuffs--
the "island," beneath which he had heard a train rumbling a few
minutes before his discovery of the corpse.

A train! That was the only possible answer. The "confetti"
clinched it. The little paper bits were undoubtedly the punchings from
a railway ticket.

That--and one other thing--clinched it. For as Van glanced toward
the "island" he saw that the big iron ventilating grille in the center
of the grass and shrubbery was undisturbed--but the smaller grille
that usually covered the manhole-like square at one end of the
"island" was off, tilted against the iron fence.

One of the workmen must have forgotten to replace it and bolt it
from the under side. And Bentley had found the open grille. Some
instinct must have guided him even in his blinded, mortally wounded
condition.

Van's mind was racing. Pat Bentley, then, had been on a train,
though in which direction it had passed Van couldn't tell. Doubtless
the pilot had been shot on that train. Then he must have jumped, or
fallen from it. The last ounce of his dying energy had been spent in
climbing to the street level; getting as far as the Park Avenue
sidewalk.

It was almost as if Fate had thrown Pat Bentley upon Van's
doorstep, bringing him this case. For certainly Bentley could not have
known that Van lived here, much less dreamed that Richard Van Loan was
the Phantom! The fact that the man _had_ fallen so near Van's own home
was one of those bizarre coincidences at which the Phantom no longer
scoffed.

Van prodded himself to haste. He must follow up his hunch--and
quickly. There was need for haste otherwise, too, for glancing down
the deserted block, he glimpsed a burly figure coming at a run, with a
swinging night-stick. A beat patrolman. Muriel and the others must
have sent him.

Richard Van Loan was in no mood to tarry and face inquiries now.
His lithe body whisked into the dark shadow of building walls,
streaking to the door of his apartment house.

No doorman was on duty at this late hour, and before the night
elevator operator could see him, Van had slipped into his private
elevator, closed its door, and pressed the starting button.

It took but a brief moment for him to reach his penthouse floor,
high above the city. His key admitted him to his luxurious, French-
windowed apartment. He strode through the foyer, into a living room,
pressing on light-switches as he walked. Modernistic-globed lights
flooded the place.

Flinging his coat to a chair, Van stepped beside a taboret on
which stood two telephones and the phone directories. He flipped the
Manhattan book open, found his number. Scooping up one phone he dialed
swiftly.

"Grand Central Terminal Information," came a smooth, clerical
voice.

Van's own voice was crisp, incisive; totally unlike his customary
drawl.

"Will you tell me when the last train left from your terminal--and
also the last train that arrived there?"

"Just a moment." The clerk, accustomed to answering even stranger
questions, replied politely, yet with a certain tenseness of tone
which made Van wonder. There seemed to be a lot of noise at that end
of the wire, too, as if something were wrong.

Van was using one hand to get off his jacket, ripping open buttons
of his shirt as the clerk's voice came again.

"Last train to depart was the Rochester Special. That was at
eleven fifty. The last to arrive here was the Toledo Limited, at
eleven thirty-eight."

Van glanced at his watch. It was twelve thirty-three now. Neither
of those trains could be the right one. The run between the terminal
and here was only a matter of some ten minutes either way.

"When is the next arriving train due?"

The answer brought a thrill of conviction to him.

"It's due now, sir. It's a few minutes late, but should be in any
minute. The Buffalo Local--on Track Forty-one."

"Thanks!" Van hung up, eyes glittering.

That must be the train. Swiftly, he scooped up the second
telephone.

This was a private line, one which connected him, as soon as he
lifted the receiver, directly with the executive office of the New
York _Clarion,_ automatically causing the phone at that end to ring.

"Van!" The familiar voice of Frank Havens came instantly, a voice
oddly threaded with gladness and surprise. "Why, I was just about to
call _you!"_

"Listen, Frank!" Van spoke tersely, hurriedly. "I have no time to
talk long! But I want you to use your influence to have a train, the
Buffalo Local, due any minute at Grand Central Terminal, immediately
searched by the railway and regular police. All passengers and crew to
be held for the time being. No one is to be allowed to get away! It's
important, Frank--I'll explain later. Can you do it quickly?"

"I can do it this instant!" came the reply, to Van's surprise. "As
a matter of fact I have the railway officials on another wire even
now! I was just about to call you after what they told me. But
evidently you already know, though I don't see how--" the publisher
broke off sharply. "I'll carry out your instructions--at once!"

"Good!" Van clipped, and hurriedly slammed down the hand-set, his
ears echoing with Frank Havens's strange words!

So Havens had been about to call the Phantom--had railway
officials on another wire. Certainly it could not be about this corpse
Van had only moments ago discovered and identified. The train whence
it had come was not yet in!

With conjectures whirling in his brain, Van was already hurrying
into his bedroom now, closing the door behind him, turning the key in
the lock for safety's sake. His shirt was off in a jiffy, his lithe
arm muscles revealed in the bright light.

Quickly, he moved to a dressing table. In appearance it was a
usual, though expensive piece of furniture. The maid who came in to
clean had dusted it every day without suspecting that there was
anything out of the ordinary about it, save perhaps the fact that,
unlike most men's dressing tables, it had three extremely good
mirrors.

Van pulled open a bottom drawer. He tossed out a layer of
clothing. The false bottom was so neatly fitted that it defied
detection, even with the drawer empty. By a secret catch, Van opened
it like a hinged door.

The first object he took out was a flat leather kit. The lid
snapped open at his pressure, revealing a small but complete array of
vials and tubes. Enough of a variety of makeup here to supply any
character actor, for any part. This was all he kept in his apartment.
When the supply gave out he replenished it from another, more fully
stocked source.

Van's well-formed features stared out at him as he adjusted the
mirrors. But not for long! For his fingers began to dab stuff from the
makeup kit onto his face. A cream dye to change his complexion to a
lighter shade. An Oriental preparation, rubbed into his scalp, turned
his chestnut hair into sandy color. Tiny bits of hard rubber cartilage
in his nostrils changed their shape. A bit of putty on the end of his
nose completed the change, making the nose long, pointed.

He was not attempting to make up as any particular person; he was
merely creating a face totally different from the face of Richard
Curtis Van Loan. There was no time to do more.

In less than five minutes a sharp-nosed face of indeterminate age,
topped by sandy hair, stared out at Van from the mirror. Satisfied, he
turned away to dress himself in a modest business suit.

He took a battered hat from his closet, then, from the secret
compartment of the dressing table took three more objects. The first
was a glistening blue-steel Colt .45 automatic, which he shoved into
his coat pocket. The second was a black silk domino mask, with elastic
attached. It went carefully up his sleeve, concealed there. The third
he had to take from a small plush-lined box. As the box was opened, a
scintillating flash of matchless diamonds sparkled in the bright
light.

It was a platinum badge, and the diamond studs on it formed a
replica, in design, of that black domino mask.

As Van tucked that badge within a vest pocket he ceased to be
Richard Curtis Van Loan. It was as if the badge were some magic charm
which erased his personality as a society man.

In that moment he flung off all last thoughts of Muriel Havens, of
friends, of human feelings and cravings.

He became truly the Phantom. The Phantom, whose only mark of
identity was the diamond-studded platinum badge which, throughout the
entire world, could bring obedience and respect from any law-
enforcement officer.

Yet it was a badge few had seen. Van used it sparingly. Indeed
only when dire necessity made its showing necessary.

He straightened, eyes grim, purposeful, in his disguised face. He
was ready--prepared to take up the trail to wherever Pat Bentley's
dead body might lead him.



Chapter VI In the Elevator



SHORT MINUTES LATER, Van Loan emerged from a side door of the big
apartment house, having descended in another private elevator that let
him out that way unseen.

He walked out on the side street, and even his walk was totally
unlike that of Richard Curtis Van Loan. It was a shuffling gait which
was at the same time rapid. Hurriedly, yet unobtrusively, he moved to
the corner, glanced down the Park Avenue block.

He saw two police radio coupes and a detective cruiser. On the
sidewalk, surrounded by a crowd which had materialized out of the
night, was a little knot of bluecoats and plainclothes men hovering
over the corpse. A sudden flash for a Homicide photographer's camera
threw them all into relief. The routine investigation was under way.

Avoiding that block, the Phantom walked up the avenue and hailed
the first cab that passed.

A five-dollar bill, waved at the taxi man, resulted in a speedy,
light-defying ride all the way down to Grand Central.

But as Van alighted from his taxi he saw with frowning surprise
that a whole array of police cars were lined before the stone facade
of the huge railway terminal. What was more, when he entered the
terminal and walked down a ramp into the immense dome-ceilinged
concourse, he found himself in the midst of a grim, tumultuous scene.

Crowds, fearful yet curious, were being herded back by perspiring
bluecoats. A whole area of the concourse floor, under one gallery, was
being roped off by the police. There and in the gallery itself, flash-
bulbs were going off at spasmodic, lightning intervals.

Even as Van Loan looked, two pairs of dark-uniformed men hurried
across the tiled floor, each pair carrying between them a large wicker
basket. Morgue attendants! Evidently coming for two bodies!

This, whatever it was, must be the reason Havens had been about to
call him. Something big had happened here. Yet the Phantom did not
stop to investigate it now. He must stick to his trail which had begun
with the body on the sidewalk--the body he believed to be that of Pat
Bentley. After that he could return to whatever was going on here.

He crossed the wide, marble floor, passing train-gates and noting
their numbers. Track 41. He was approaching it now.

A group of railway police, some bluecoats and plainclothes men,
stood grouped around the gate, all looking confused and worried.

Van Loan approached the gate with the manner of a man who knows
where he is going. He hoped he would not have to use his platinum
badge to get through.

In a businesslike way he strode directly to the gate, banking only
on his knowledge of psychology. His whole air was so completely that
of a man who had a definite right to go through that gate, that the
group gathered there scarcely gave him a glance.

Walking down the ramp to the platform of Track 41, his eyes peered
keenly into the dim, wide tunnel where bells clanged and trains moved
in two directions.

The platform was crowded. On the track alongside, with sounds of
compressed air still issuing from its brakes, stood the train he
sought, its big electric engine humming at the bumper.

The passengers, standing by their baggage, were making loud
protests. Railway police and bluecoats who were guarding them were
giving weak answers to the protests.

So Havens had carried out his instructions.

Van's keen eyes searched the crowd. All looked like average
people--a smattering of business men, a few families, sleepy-eyed,
crying children, buxom mothers. And denim-clad men of the train crew
and angry-looking conductors.

"Is everybody off the train?" Van asked one of the railway police,
his tone officious.

"Yes, sir," the man replied without hesitation, evidently assuming
that this sandy-haired stranger had authority. "We have everybody from
the train right here."

The Phantom wasn't satisfied. He was not even remotely suspicious
of anyone in this crowd. Turning on his heel even as a bluecoat
started to move toward him half challengingly, Van slipped aboard the
train, hurried through empty Pullmans toward the rear, which he had
noted was unguarded, his hand close to the pocket where his .45
nestled.

The last car was not a Pullman, but a coach. It was empty, he saw
at a glance through its corridor. He hurried through it hastily,
glancing at each seat. Nothing there.

When he had reached the open rear doorway where chains swung to
form a gate leading to the train's rear platform, suddenly Van's eyes
sharpened. Near the closed-off door of one side of the platform, the
side overlooking the tracks, he saw a streaky splatter of red on the
glass. Blood!

The Phantom's deductions had been grimly corroborated. This, no
doubt, was where Pat Bentley had been shot! Then the pilot had fallen
or jumped off the rear of the train.

Van glanced out of the rear, down the darkening tracks. Were the
rest of his deductions correct? The train had not been here long. It
had been searched, all passengers seen getting off stopped. But there
were no police behind this rear, open door!

Yet the tracks behind the car were obviously deserted and--

Again Van's eyes focused narrowly, keenly.

Behind the train, cut through the terminal platform, was an
immense steel structure. A freight elevator shaft, open on all sides,
running up to the next level.

The elevator in that cage was moving! Slowly it was moving
upward--yet it contained no baggage. But Van could glimpse shadowy
figures in its open but dim interior. Shadowy figures who seemed to be
shrinking there, blending with the gloom.

With swift suspicion firing his muscles, the Phantom dashed from
the train, hurled himself toward the ascending elevator. It was
already halfway up.

The Colt whipped from his pocket as he ran. His thumb snapped back
the safety-catch which guarded its hair-tuned trigger.

"Stop that car!"

His voice cracked out in the crisp command as he raised the gun.

The answer was swift. So swift that, had it not been for his alert
intuition, Van would not have ducked so swiftly, leaping behind one of
the concrete pillars.

Three livid spurts of red leaped from the darkness of the open-
fronted car. Three shattering reports of heavy-calibered automatics
crashed through the tunnel. Two of the bullets ricocheted from the
post where the Phantom stood, chipping concrete.

The elevator kept rising.

Van waited, even as he heard a commotion at the other end of the
platform, where the railway police and bluecoats were whirling toward
the sound of the shots.

But the elevator was disappearing into the gloom of another level.
The Phantom, savage determination in his eyes, darted from his hiding
place as he saw that the occupants of the cage no longer could get a
good shot at him.

He saw no access to the floor above immediately at hand. The
bottom of the elevator was well over his head. The well of the shaft
gaped deep below, with its cable-wheels turning down there.

The Phantom braced his lithe muscles, timed his distance. Then
deliberately he leaped into the open shaft, leaped upward, both arms
flinging overhead.

His right hand caught supports on the bottom of the ascending
elevator. His left hand followed--and he dangled there, momentarily
over space, being hoisted up with the car.

Some common sense portion of his brain told him the folly of the
risk he was taking. But some stronger feeling spurred him on.

Police were running down the platform, but Van knew they could
give him little help now. Clinging desperately to the ascending
elevator, he looked upward.

The square of the next floor was looming. It would soon cut off
the open front of the elevator. Unless he hurried--

With painful effort Van squirmed his way to the very edge of the
shaft's open fronting, fervently hoping that the occupants of the
elevator were unaware of their extra passenger. Again he measured
distance, judged time.

If he failed to make that landing his body would be crushed like
so much pulp!

With his legs doubled up beneath him he reached up with one hand,
up past the open fronting, until he had hold of the floor of the
elevator. With a grunting heave, he got the other hand around and up,
so that he was now clinging to the floor's edge.

The square outline of the next floor was coming down like some
grim guillotine. Gathering all his strength then, with one mighty
heave, Van chinned himself up past his hands, scrambled onto the
elevator floor, was in the cage just as the beams of the oncoming
floor closed off the front.

His gun, momentarily pocketed, was out with lightning speed. Even
as he got his balance he was training it on four shadowy figures who
were shouting in hoarse surprise. Flickering terminal lights from the
floor suddenly lighted their faces, under their low, slouch hats.

The smallest of them seemed to be the quickest. He moved with a
sort of jerky nimbleness. Flashily dressed, hatless, with patent
leather black hair, and an olive-skinned face, he would have been
handsome save for the livid zigzag scar on one cheek.

"Watch it, guys!" he snapped in a quick, jerky staccato of
authority. "Ape--_your_ job!"

A huge, barrel-chested thug, with a flat-nosed face and gash of a
mouth, and something simian in the way he swung his arms suddenly
charged across the car. One of those arms rose.

A blackjack in the huge hand arced back.

On the balls of his feet, the Phantom sidestepped the big man's
unexpected lunge. The blackjack whistled viciously through space--
missing his head by scant inches. But he was still unable to bring his
gun to bear before the thug fell upon him bodily.

"Okay, Slick! Okay!" Ape's coarse voice yelled. "I got him! Leave
him to me!"

The big thug's left arm encircled Van's head in a crushing grip as
the elevator came to a stop. A dim floor, filled mostly with baggage
and piping, lay beyond its open front. The Phantom struggled fiercely,
gasping for breath in the viselike hold of his burly antagonist. With
his right hand, the thug was trying desperately to swing the blackjack
again.

The flashy, scarred man called Slick was making a gesture with his
gun at the other two men whom Van had barely glimpsed in the
flickering light. One was tall, with an angular, immobile face. He
seemed to move without animation, holding his gun behind an unbuttoned
overcoat.

The other man, who was holding a cloth-wrapped bundle, was squat,
his head low on wide shoulders, his features crooked, as if each half
of his face had lifted or lowered a little.

"Come on, guys!" Slick's staccato snapped. "Gotta scram before the
coppers come. Finish that bird, Ape, whoever he is."

As if assuming that Ape could well handle the job, the others
started scrambling off the stalled elevator.

Van's head was swimming from the pressure of the big, flat-nosed
thug's grip. But inwardly he rallied his own strength, remained cool
even though his gun-arm was twisted out of reach.

He spread his feet a little to give him support on the flooring.
Then suddenly his whole body, including his gripped head, moved like a
springing bow, arcing swiftly with strength and skill.

With a surprised yell the huge, burly thug, heavy though he was,
went flying off his feet. The force of the hurtling motion had made
him relinquish his terrible head-lock hold.

He sprawled heavily to the floor, dazed surprise on his flat,
gash-mouthed face. A clever trick of jiu-jitsu, an art which the
Phantom had mastered from the Japanese champion, Soji Kamuri, had come
to Van's aid.

With camera-click speed, the Phantom brought his gun around,
started for the big thug on the flooring.

Just as quickly he leaped back, ducked behind a protruding steel
support of the elevator. Slick and the tall, angular thug had whirled.
Their automatics blazed simultaneously, the tall thug firing from the
hip.

Van snaked out two shots in return, but he was ducking ricocheting
lead and could not properly aim.

Before he could aim, Ape had rolled off the elevator. With the
alacrity of desperation, the big man catapulted to his feet to join
his companions. All four, with the squat, wide-shouldered one carrying
that cloth-wrapped bundle, dashed away in full flight now.



Chapter VII In Terror's Grip



QUICKLY THE REASON for that hasty flight was apparent. Bluecoats
and railway police were surging from the top of a stairway, with guns
drawn. With the instinct of rats the four thugs were scattering for
the dark labyrinths of the pipe-filled rooms beyond.

And only the Phantom, recovering his breath after his brief but
hectic encounter with Ape, saw that murderous quartet disappearing.
The bluecoats and railway men were merely milling about confusedly.

Bitterly sensing that the thugs had made their getaway, Van moved
across the elevator floor. Something caught his eye, stopped him
momentarily. From the floor he picked up a torn bit of cardboard.

In the dim light he saw that it was part of a torn railway ticket.
On it was the name: Mulford, New York.

It had lain close to the spot where he had hurled the big thug.
Had it fallen from Ape's pockets? "Hey, _you!"_

The gruff, challenging shout jerked him up. As he had walked off
the elevator, quickly thrusting away the piece of ticket, several
police and railway officers suddenly confronted him in an ominous,
blocking group, hands on guns.

The four thugs had eluded them and now they glared at this fifth,
sharp-nosed man with suspicious hostility.

"Who are you?" a plainclothes detective demanded. "You came in and
started giving orders--then we find you mixed up in a gun-fight! Keep
your hands still!" he warned, as Van's arms started to move.

The Phantom's eyes hardened, then he relaxed as decision came to
him. He did not offer resistance when the detective strode forward,
frisked him hastily, and took away his gun. He drew a breath of relief
that the search had been too hasty for the officer to discover the
hidden domino mask, the platinum badge and the ticket he had just
tucked away.

"My advice to you," Van said, in a cool, level voice, "is to scour
the Terminal for four thugs."

Quickly, tersely, he described the four from his brief but
retentive glimpses of the quartet. Something in his tone evidently
impressed the big detective in charge. He sent bluecoats on the
search, told them to get help.

But then his hard eyes swiveled again to the sharp-nosed,
mysterious man before him.

"Well, I'm still asking you--who are you? What's your business
here? How do we know those guys you described are gunsters? Maybe it's
you who're in the wrong!"

"I suggest," Van said in the same level tone, "that you let me see
whoever is in full charge down here, at present. I believe I can
identify myself properly then."

The detective, eyes narrowed, reluctantly agreed. At his orders,
Van was ushered by two of the bluecoats and the detective himself
across the floor, through a doorway, down another ramp, up marble
stairways.

Quite suddenly, the party emerged onto the gallery surrounding the
huge, domed terminal concourse. Van's eyes went with interest around
the balcony where he had seen that police activity. But, though police
were still there, the commotion had quieted.

Then on the floor below, Van saw the same pair of morgue
attendants. They were leaving with the two wicker baskets, heavy now.
The bodies were being taken away!

The big, square-faced detective ordered Van taken to the north end
of the gallery. Entering a lavishly furnished suite of offices through
a frosted glass door, the Phantom realized he was in the executive
offices of the Empire and Southwest Railway.

He was brought to a halt in a large anteroom, brightly illumined,
modernistically furnished. Two other doors led to inner offices. One
was closed. On its wood panel was lettered:

 PRIVATE

MR. GARRISON

PRESIDENT

The other door was open and through it came a hum of tense voices.
Van caught a glimpse of several shifting figures, bobbing heads.

Then, at the big detective's call, a familiar figure emerged from
that office--and Inspector Thomas Gregg, head of Manhattan's Bureau of
Detectives, confronted Richard Van Loan.

Well Van knew this hard-faced detective chief, whose fleshy,
placid face belied the grim alertness in his keen eyes. But there was
no recognition in Inspector Gregg's eyes now as, listening to the
detective's hurried explanation, he narrowed his gaze on the disguised
Phantom.

"Well?" he demanded, in the gruff, barking voice that had broken
down the reserve of many a hardened criminal. "What have you got to
say for yourself? Talk fast! If you're mixed up in this affair it's
not going to be so good for you! What were you doing down at that
train?"

Van Loan hesitated. All he would have to do would be to let the
Inspector catch a brief glimpse of his diamond-studded badge, and no
more questions would be asked. But that meant openly coming into the
case as the Phantom. Coming into a case which already he saw was full
of baneful ramifications he had not foreseen. If he were to allow it
to become known that he was the Phantom, might that not prevent his
having a free hand?

Yet there seemed no other way, if he was to pursue an immediate
course of investigation. His platinum badge was his only means of
identification, his only proof. And so, reluctantly, he reached into
his vest pocket, his fingers closing on the valuable emblem.

Then, with a sudden thrill of gladness, he released the badge--let
it drop back unseen.

For at that moment a newcomer came striding hurriedly into the
anteroom. A rugged, elderly man with keen, alert eyes. Frank Havens,
owner of the _Clarion_!

The Inspector, recognizing the influential publisher, gave a
respectful greeting. Nodding, Havens's keen gaze darted about the
room. His eyes swept Van, passed the Phantom--unrecognizing. Then
quickly, Van spoke:

"Say, Mr. Havens, will you tell the Inspector that I'm working for
you? That you sent me here?"

As Havens's eyes swiveled to the sandy-haired, sharp-nosed man,
Van quickly made a strange move. With a gesture that seemed merely
nervous habit, he reached up and tugged at the lobe of his left ear.

A gleam of comprehension lighted Havens's eyes. He stepped
forward.

"What's the matter, Inspector?" he asked crisply. "This man is one
of my crime reporters--Elwood Mason." He was quick to invent a name.
"I sent him to get facts on this case."

Instantly the Inspector's attitude changed. Van's gun was handed
back. The Phantom's eyes veiled his satisfaction. Havens, the one man
who knew his true identity, could always be depended upon. The ear-
lobe tugging, a signal arranged between them, always told Havens what
Van's ingenious disguises so often hid.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Havens," the Inspector said, and he was. The
_Clarion_ had always given the police department the breaks. "As for
the facts here--Well, I've been trying to get 'em myself. Come along
in. You too, Mason."

The Inspector ushered them into that inner office. Havens and Van
were introduced to the tense gathering whose voices Van had heard from
outside.

Some of them, James Strickland for instance, Van recognized on
sight. Others he placed by their names.

Strickland, the railway vice-president, was standing behind the
long conference table, his florid face a picture of dejection and
horror. Next to him stood Charles Jenson, mild-eyed, spectacled
secretary of the line.

Four other men completed the group. Men whose names and
reputations in the field of science were well-known to Van.

Leland Sprague, wiry, shock-headed surveyor. Donald Vaughan,
solidly built but weary-eyed geologist. Paul Talbert, the tall,
military-mustached shoring engineer. And finally, quiet-faced, but
with dark, frightened eyes, Joseph Ware--the waterways expert.

If Strickland and Jenson looked shaken, these other four seemed to
be in an almost paralyzing grip of terror and horror! Van could see it
in their haunted eyes, their pale features. Only Talbert seemed to
maintain a certain calm; but his hands worked nervously at his sides,
giving him away.

James Strickland stepped forward, recognizing Frank Havens.

"Mr. Havens! I've been waiting to hear from you! That order you
gave over the phone to hold the passengers of the Buffalo train! We
can't hold them much longer or we'll have lawsuits on our hands!"

Havens's eyes flashed worried glance toward the Phantom. Van spoke
quickly. "That tip we had about the train, Mr. Havens, was _bona
fide."_ He compounded fact with prevarication smoothly. "There were
some gunmen aboard, but they got away. So I guess it's no sense
holding the passengers any longer."

"Gunmen?" Strickland blurted. "Damn! Has something else happened
on this railway?"

Shaken, the vice-president phoned down to the track, ordering the
release of the passengers. He also learned, and told the listening
group with him, that the thugs Van had described had vanished without
any trace.

"Well," Inspector Gregg clipped. "Let's get back to the case in
hand."

He began speaking and, bit by bit, aided by an occasional word
from Havens who had been acquainted with the matter through his
efficient news organization, Van learned the staggering facts of what
had happened in Grand Central Terminal.



Chapter VIII An Empty Glass



INSPECTOR GREGG TOLD VAN of the anonymous phone call from Mulford,
New York, prophesying a crime in New York at midnight. Mulford! Van
touched his pocket where he had a railway ticket from that place.
Facts were beginning to dovetail.

The story of the tragedy in the balcony of the concourse followed
quickly, Van learned of the huge electric sign, motivated by a device
here in the terminal--but started by Garrison, president of the
railway, from St. Louis, over the railway's own wires.

The sign had suddenly gone haywire, and a macabre message from the
Tycoon of Crime had flashed across its flickering lights. A ghoulish
prophecy, hideously carried out when an explosion had occurred,
killing Brooks, the sign's maker, and Eldridge, a surveyor.

"Brooks and Eldridge must have gone to the box which worked the
sign," the Inspector said. "We found bits of a bomb of the 'pineapple'
type in the shattered box--a planted bomb which went off there and
killed these two men."

An effort had been made, Van learned, to contact the railway
president, Garrison, in St. Louis. But he had already left the office
where the button had been pressed, had rushed in and out of the place
so quickly that few had seen him.

Meanwhile, Death had struck down two scientists who were connected
with the Empire and Southwest Railway. Nor had they been the first
victims! Two others of the same scientific group--Max Garth,
geologist, and David Truesdale, mining engineer--had also been doomed.
In as horrible, if different fashion.

And not until then did Van know of the airplane disaster.

Pat Bentley, pilot of the doomed transport, he learned, had
radioed his frenzied message that the ship was burning, somewhere over
Pennsylvania. Andrew Harvey, president of the airline that owned the
burned airplane, could have known nothing of the tragedy up to a short
time ago, for he had been down at this terminal. Though on what
business, the Inspector had not been able to learn.

Pat Bentley! Even as the flyer's name was mentioned, Van saw
Havens's eyes go hard; saw grief on the publisher's face.

But Havens did not know, nor did the police even dream that Van
himself had found Pat Bentley on Park Avenue; that it was Bentley's
corpse that had led the Phantom into this diabolical web of mystery
and murder!

During the next minutes the Inspector received a call from
Headquarters, reporting that a body had been found on Park Avenue. It
had not been identified. The Inspector dismissed that information as
something to be attended to later, with no slightest suspicion that it
might be connected with this case.

But Van knew now that it was one of the most devilish affairs he
had ever encountered. Out of a maze of violence and intrigue, a
mysterious, unknown criminal personality had emerged, had imperially
taken the center of stage. The Tycoon of Crime!

Van's eyes swiveled to the men in the room, to the quartet of
frightened scientists. Knowing that he was backed by Havens's
influence and authority, he began to ask crisp questions.

"Have any of you others been warned by this so-called Tycoon of
Crime?"

The men shifted, exchanging quick glances. Then Joseph Ware gave a
weary sigh.

"Yes, I've been warned!" he said hoarsely. "This criminal called
me up tonight--said I would die tomorrow! And he means it! After what
has happened to the others--"

"The police will give you adequate protection," Van assured, and
Inspector Gregg nodded grimly. "But these warnings," Van persisted.
"What does this criminal want? It seems he is making some sort of
demands--"

Before he had even finished this question, he saw the lips of all
four men tighten. Their eyes became veiled, secretive. But, a good
psychologist, Van saw that Ware--the man who admitted he had been
threatened--was weaker in his resistance than the rest.

He concentrated his probing gaze on Ware.

"With your life at stake, Mr. Ware, don't you think you ought to
confide what you know to the police? As the best way of enabling them
to safeguard you? For it's clear--" he repeated Ware's own words, "--
that this Tycoon of Crime means business!"

"Yes! You're right, Mr. Mason!" the distraught Ware cried.

Sprague started to interrupt, but Ware waved him off with an
agitated hand.

"What's the difference? Even Andrew Harvey knew that we all are
stockholders in this railway!" He looked at Van, jaw tightening
firmly. "The Tycoon has been trying to extort the stock we own.
Warning us to turn over the shares, which are negotiable, to him or
else die!"

Havens, as well as Van, showed interest at the news that these
technicians were stock owners.

"But that can't be the answer--extortion!" Strickland broke in,
hoarsely. "It's more that someone is trying to ruin this railway!
There's been sabotaging of our lines--looting of trains! And Garth and
Truesdale, technicians, who were valuable to the railway, were killed.
That further cripples the line and its progress!"

"There was some sort of loot on that airplane, too!" the Inspector
agreed. "That might be the real reason some way was found to crash
it."

Strickland spoke again. "Yes, extortion must just be a blind! Why,
the very sabotaging that's been going on has been lowering the value
of the stock. The criminal would be a fool to do that--if stock is
what he wants."

Talbert laughed harshly. "Maybe not such a fool!" he offered,
though he had been tight-lipped until now. "Why, didn't Harvey want to
buy out this railway, just to get rid of any competition? I didn't
swallow his talk about running it in conjunction with his airlines!
Extortion is one way of getting stock. Lowering its value by sabotage
is a way to get it for a song!"

Both Strickland and Talbert were vehement in their arguments. But
the Phantom sensed that there was something else beneath the surface.
What it could be, however, baffled him.

"Just how does this Tycoon demand delivery of the stock?" he
asked.

Again the four scientists shifted uneasily. Then Ware, who seemed
to have recovered his quiet manner, spoke in a calmer tone.

"I was simply told to be ready to give the stock over. I would
receive future instructions, I was told."

"We'll be there if you do!" Inspector Gregg promised firmly.

The Phantom keenly eyed the four scientists. Strange, but he was
certain that they were all hiding something--that some dark, secret
bond lay between them.

However, he knew he could get no more out of them now. He decided
to make the next move in his investigation.

Throughout the quizzing and unsatisfactory answers Van had taken
cognizance that the name of Garrison, the railway's president who was
in St. Louis, had been frequently mentioned. Where did that important
official figure in the maze of mystery?

Eyes thoughtful, Van casually remarked that he'd like to look into
Garrison's private office; the room with the closed door on the other
side of the anteroom.

The door of that office, which Strickland said had remained
unopened since Garrison's departure for St. Louis, proved to be
unlocked.

Leaving the Inspector talking with the harassed men, Van strode
into the railway president's private office. Unobtrusively Frank
Havens followed him, closing the big door partially behind him.

"Van!" For a brief moment the publisher dropped the pretense of
masquerade, spoke in low tones, emotion gripping him. "What do you
make of all this business? And how did you happen to get into it,
before I called you?"

The Phantom had switched on lights, which flooded the modernly
appointed office. "I'll explain that when we have more time, Frank,"
he said hurriedly. "Right now I want to get what clues I can
together."

After a swift glance about the room, he had moved over to give his
attention to a flat-topped desk.

"Pat Bentley was pilot of that plane," Havens reminded. "Maybe you
remember him. He used to be my ace news commentator." Grief was in his
flat tones.

"Yes, I remember him," Van said, with no word about that corpse on
Park Avenue. And then a sudden exclamation of interest broke from his
lips.

On one side of Garrison's desk, partially hidden by papers, he had
found a drinking glass. It was empty, but moisture--and some peculiar
whitish substance--clung to its inner surface.

"If I remember correctly, Frank," the Phantom said, after briefly
examining the glass, "all those men in the other room claim that
nobody entered this office since Mr. Garrison left for St. Louis the
other day. Feel this glass, Frank. Touch it carefully. I don't want to
spoil any prints that might be on it."

Havens touched the glass surface cautiously.

"Why it's cold--almost ice-cold!" he exclaimed.

"Colder than it should be in this warm room--unless it recently
held cold water," said Van, glancing at the electric water-cooler in
the corner.

He smelled the glass, studied the whitish particles clinging to
it, then carefully wrapped it in a handkerchief and put it in his side
pocket.

"WELL," HE SAID, "I GUESS we've got all we can here. Let's go to
your office and tackle this affair from every angle together. Then
I'll see if there's anything in what I've found here; if they are
clues."

Havens nodded and both men moved to the door, out through the
anteroom, and into the other office.

The men there were still talking to Inspector Gregg. Joseph Ware
was arranging to have police protection because of the threats he had
received.

"I don't see why we should be detained any longer!" Talbert was
growling, his mustache bristling. "We've been here most of the night
now!"

"We'll be getting along right away," the Inspector said gruffly.
His beetling eyebrows raised as he saw Havens and 'Mason.' "Well,
gentlemen? Any fresh ideas? Looks like straight extortion to me. What
do _you_ think?"

Havens gestured to Van. A smile flickered across the Phantom's
disguised, sharp-nosed face.

"I'm afraid I have little to offer," he said deprecatingly. But
his hand was unconsciously touching the pocket where reposed the glass
he had confiscated, and that torn railway ticket.

As the Inspector was starting to dismiss the rest of the group,
Van and Havens left the executive offices. With no suggestion of the
tight bond of intimacy between them they walked down the balcony
steps, across the great concourse.

"My car is opposite the main entrance," Havens remarked.

Van nodded, and they took the long ramp which led out to the
crosstown street which usually teemed with traffic at this hour of the
night, or rather morning; however, but few vehicles traversed it.

Across the street, near several parked police cars, stood Havens's
coupe. The two men stepped off the curb, walking toward it.

They had taken perhaps five steps when apparently without reason,
Van gritted a sharp warning. Grabbing Havens with one powerful hand,
he yanked the publisher off his feet.

Havens's first natural thought was that a car he hadn't seen was
bearing down. But even as Van rapped: "Down, Frank!" the publisher saw
that no car was in sight.

The quiet night was suddenly shattered and rent! A blurred but
raucous staccato, as if from some demon invisible typewriter,
chattered shrilly.

The staccato of a tommy gun!



Chapter IX Machine Guns



VAN, WHO HAD SEEMED miraculously to divine that sudden menace, had
Frank Havens down on the pavement now, with his own lithe motions, and
was forcing the publisher to roll toward the curb.

A dancing line of flying bits of lead flew as if magically toward
the two men, missing them by scant inches. The rain of slugs lifted
them--for all tommy guns have the uncontrollable tendency to fly
upwards as they are fired--and the bullets whistled over the heads of
Van and Frank Havens.

Even in his predicament Frank Havens saw Van twisting out his own
Colt. The automatic roared, spitting livid flame. The Phantom was
firing, it seemed, at the empty gloom out in the middle of the street.
Havens had not seen the two heads and shoulders that for a moment had
appeared out there, and then sunk from view, as Van had seen.

Across the street bluecoats sprang from their prowl-cars, started
running with drawn guns. But as suddenly as it had set up its chatter,
the tommy gun had ceased its blasting.

As Havens struggled to his feet, Van was already up, had
catapulted halfway across the street, gun gripped, eyes narrowed to
slits.

Van's strong fingers were scooping at a manhole in the middle of
the street. He yanked it partially up, pointed his gun downward, fired
two shots into the gloomy well below. Almost with the same motion, he
was climbing down into the place himself--to the tunnel close below,
on top of one of the city's water mains.

His eyes scanned the gloom. Nothing. Again that sense of
frustration, though, even as he searched, careful to keep his body
flat against the sides of the tunnel wall. He could see that in one
direction the tunnel led toward Grand Central Terminal.

"They got away again!" he said. As he climbed out to rejoin Havens
his thoughts were savage; and within his pulses surged a fierce anger,
a luxury his cool mind seldom allowed.

It had been a clever, a diabolically clever attack! Only because
his alert eyes had seen a suspicious movement of that manhole cover
had Van been able to anticipate it.

But from whom had it come?

From those four thugs who had first clashed with him in the
freight elevator?

That manhole could easily have been reached through the tunnel
from the terminal. But those men had not had a tommy gun--unless it
had been wrapped in that cloth-wrapped package the one crooked-faced
thug had carried.

Of one thing, however, the Phantom was grimly certain. The brain
behind that previous attack on himself was that of the criminal behind
this whole intrigue of blood and murder!

The reason for this last attack seemed plain enough. Though no one
could have guessed that he was the Phantom, it was known--or
reasonably suspected--that he had picked up some clues. Doubtless the
criminal had ordered the attack to keep him from making use of them.

Those six railway and technical men had known he had something,
must have known from the way he had spoken to the Inspector. Van had
watched them for some reaction, but seen none. But now he wondered.
Right after he and Havens had left, that group had broken up.

Could one of them have been behind the attack?

At least, Van decided, as he climbed to the street, where the
dazed Havens was ringed by questioning police, this proved to him that
he had discovered vital clues. The glass in his pocket had not been
broken; the handkerchief wrapping had protected it.

He made no explanation to the police.

"Mr. Havens," he said hurriedly, "I have an errand--uptown. I'll
meet you at your office later. Can you wait for me there?"

But before Havens could answer, could ask questions, the Phantom's
lithe figure had slid off into the night.



DAY HAD BROKEN over the city, and the morning sun was beginning to
slant through the high windows of the mid-town _Clarion_ Building, in
whose depths the pounding rotary presses made a steady vibration.

Seated at his great mahogany desk in his luxurious office, his
eyes red-rimmed from sleeplessness, Frank Havens had just turned off
the electric lights when the frosted glass door opened discreetly--and
Richard Curtis Van Loan strode in, smiling a tight greeting.

Van no longer wore disguise. Once more he was the impeccable,
handsome socialite.

"Morning, Frank," he drawled. "Now we can get down to cases. Sorry
if I kept you waiting. Had to make a trip to my laboratory to set
things going."

He lighted a cigarette, took a chair near Havens's desk without
really relaxing. Though he had been up all night, he showed no signs
of fatigue. His eyes were alert, keen.

"Any fresh news, Frank?"

Havens told what he knew. The police had furnished protection for
Joseph Ware, the threatened waterways man. And upstate the army was
helping search for the wrecked transport plane on which Garth and
Truesdale had been passengers.

"They've covered hundreds of miles in a scouring circle from where
that plane was when last heard from," Havens said, shaking his head.
"They even tried to carry on the search by night, with flares. But
they can't find a trace of the wreck."

Van nodded, grimly. Then he reached into his pocket, drew out a
large folded aviation map. He arose and laid it down on Havens's desk.

The publisher saw that it was a detailed map which included the
states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. On it, was a large
circle, drawn in ink.

"I suggest, Frank," Van said very quietly, "that you get in touch
with all aviation search units, and tell them to move their search to
this area that I've marked here in New York!"

Havens's eyes went wide. "But Van!" he protested, checking over
the circle. "That's fully a hundred miles from the terrain they've
been searching. It's in the Catskill Mountains! What on earth makes
you think that a plane flying over Pennsylvania--"

"A hunch," Van said simply, as Havens, despite the fact he was
accustomed to these uncanny tips from the Phantom, stared at him
amazed. "Of course it may be wrong, but it's worth a try."

Havens did not hesitate. Reaching for a phone, he called Miller
Field and the Newark Airport. He repeated Van's suggestions.



WHEN HE HAD COMPLETED the calls, he shook his head.

"They can't understand it, Van. Say that would be way off the
beacon--But they're desperate enough to try anything."

Van had already dismissed the subject, turned to another. "Any
word about Garrison, the man they couldn't contact in St. Louis?"

"No, Van. None that I know of."

Van's eyes half closed. "I'm rather interested in both Garrison
and that railway--in which technicians own stock. Suppose you dig up
all the data you can on that subject. Perhaps it will tell us some
more about these crimes."

Havens smiled, and shrugged. "I've already ordered the men in
charge of the _Clarion_ morgue to look into the files." He switched on
an interoffice phone, spoke briefly. "Hurry up with that data. Send it
up to my office as soon as it's ready."

He turned back to the Phantom. "I've also checked up on those
scientists, Van. And I learned something odd. Before they came to work
for this railway--quite recently--all of them were working for the
Government! They were mapping out a Government airport which is to be
built in Nevada next year. When they finished that job, they resigned
from the Government service and took their present positions."

Van's eyes flickered slightly at this news.

"That _is_ peculiar! And now they are stockholders in the
railway." He considered a moment, blew out a thoughtful puff of smoke.
"Frank, I'd like to get full details on their former work. The
Department of Commerce must have the maps they made of the Nevada
field. See if you can get them for me."

"I'll do my best. It will take some time though, I'm afraid."

The publisher broke off as a knock came at the door. Instantly Van
Loan relaxed, assumed the languid manner associated with him in his
character of wealthy socialite. A man wearing a green eye-shade
entered with a great sheaf of papers, clippings, books. He deposited
them on Havens's desk and unobtrusively departed.

Both Van and Havens were expert at swiftly gleaning the gist of
such data, of reading between the lines. For some time they pored over
the mass of printed matter dealing with the Empire and Southwest
Railway.

Stories of the line's various operations. Stock quotations.
Diagram maps. The lines operated most extensively, of course, in the
Southwest.

"It's in the Southwest, too," Havens commented, studying some
data, "that most of the sabotage of the railway--looting of trains,
even wrecks--has been occurring."

Van nodded. "And you could add, Frank, that the Southwest is the
one part of the line that seems best to have withstood the Depression.
But from these stock quotations the whole railway was in a slump
before any sabotage began. The stocks have been absurdly low. Those
technicians certainly cannot consider themselves wealthy in owning
their shares!"

He paused, brow furrowed as, turning the clipping, he came to a
photograph. A strong, hard face peered out of the picture--a face with
bushy brows, black eyes, hard, thin lips, iron-grey hair brushed
tightly back.

Beneath was the caption:

 Winston B. Garrison

"And here's the elusive president," Van said musingly.

"Yes, I've met him," Havens remarked. "A hard-fisted man, Van.
Something of a penny-pincher. He inherited the railway from his father
who built it across a wilderness, fighting Indians, going through all
the vicissitudes of a pioneer. His son took over, and began expanding
the whole line in boom times. Naturally, when the depression came, he
had too many tracks--too many trains."

"Yes, that's easily seen. He has many spurs in the Southwest--in
several states." The Phantom crushed out his cigarette in an ash-tray.
"Frank, everything I've learned so far has told me the criminal behind
this mystery is after something big--bigger than we can guess! I've
got to find out what it is." Carefully he scooped up the clippings.
"I'm going back to my laboratory now. I'm convinced I'm on the right
trail--but there's one other thing I want you to do." He hesitated,
then said brusquely: "Get all the stuff you have on Pat Bentley!"

"Bentley?" Havens echoed, as a fresh pang of grief plainly stabbed
him. "Where does he fit into the picture? It was just his misfortune
that he happened to be piloting that transport."

Van's lips drew tight. But still he did not tell Havens yet about
that corpse. Though he could trust Havens with any secret, he felt
that he should first corroborate all he had deduced. The corpse had
not been yet identified. If it had been the police would have informed
Havens immediately.

"I'm particularly interested in Bentley's work," Van said. "Get me
anything you can on that."

And then, not wanting to draw attention to his keen interest in
the hapless pilot: "Don't forget that Department of Commerce map,
Frank. Also, on another map, I wish you'd have some one on your staff
mark out--and keep marking--the exact locales where the railway is
being sabotaged or looted. Keep it going as a sort of running
reference."

Having given these instructions, Van once more left the anxious
Frank Havens--strode out of the office.



AFTER RIDING DOWN in the elevator, he emerged on the ground floor
lobby as the morning shift were coming to work, some of them glancing
at this wealthy young socialite as if surprised to see him up so
early.

Suddenly Van drew in a sharp breath.

A slender, dark-eyed girl in a sports dress had entered the foyer.
Muriel Havens! Here, doubtless, to see her father.

Another moment and she would have seen Van. But in that moment,
changing his very walk, he blended quickly with the throng, avoiding
her--and stifling again the quick ache in his heart.



Chapter X Laboratory Test



ON A SQUALID EAST SIDE section of the Bronx reared a ramshackle
brick loft which no one gave a second glance.

The real estate agent who had formerly had it on his hands had
felt that manna had dropped from heaven when an old, stooped-
shouldered, grey-haired man, giving his name as Dr. Bendix, had bought
the building for a modest sum.

And only Frank Havens knew that Dr. Bendix was--the Phantom! That
this was another of the varied roles which Richard Curtis Van Loan
lived.

Arriving there quietly and making his way to a back door of the
old loft off the street, Van pulled out a ring of keys. Keys which
opened a multiple lock that made the house virtually impregnable.

Entering, he walked up one flight of dusty stairs into a large
chamber where he had left lights burning. And it was like stepping
from some dead past into a modernistic future of scientific marvels. A
crime laboratory that rivaled the famous one at the French _Surete,_
and that had as many instruments as the Berlin police laboratory, was
nested in that deceptive building. Retorts, rows of bottles holding
varied chemicals, reposed on the many shelves of the room. Gleaming
microscopes and bullet-testing apparatus stood on tables. One entire
wall was lined with an immense bookcase, in which were books on crime-
detection, on chemistry, physics, and every other conceivable subject.
Books written in five languages. From those books the Phantom, poring
over pages through many a night, had acquired a knowledge of
criminology second only to that of the great Lombroso himself.

Bubbling, hissing chemicals greeted Van with sounds like that of
some modern witches' sabbath as, entering, he took off his coat and
put on a stained smock. Eagerly he moved to a table where, before his
visit to the _Clarion_ office, he had left a retort simmering over the
flame of a Bunsen burner. Within that retort were the whitish
particles he had taken from the drinking glass he had found in
Garrison's office. Aside from that powdery white stuff the glass had
been a disappointment to Van. It had yielded only smudgy,
unidentifiable prints.

Putting on insulated gloves, Van lifted the retort, glanced at it.
Tiny, segregated crystals danced in it, having assumed definite shape.

Carefully he poured off the hot liquid chemical and captured the
crystals in a small steel strainer. Thence some of them were
transferred to a glass slide, placed under a 500-power microscope. The
Phantom put his eye to the tube, turned the focusing handles. The
crystals became immense patterns; with a clear structure. From the
bookcase he drew out a volume on chemistry, flipped its pages. He
read:

"In cold water, will effervesce violently and briefly, throwing
off the tartrates and citrates."

He dropped the crystals in a test-tube. Another test-tube he
filled with cold, filtered water. Quickly he poured half of it into
the first, then just as quickly screwed the mixture tube beneath a
large, pyrex-glass retort, turned upside down. Already a bubbling had
begun in the test-tube. The water became a boiling froth, rose
rapidly. In seconds a wet mist accumulated in the retort above as the
effervescence ceased.

Van seized the retort, unscrewed it, turning it right-side up. He
poured a fresh chemical into it, and a muggy, bluish liquid appeared.

He gave a sigh of satisfaction. The experiment was finished. He
had discovered beyond doubt what those white particles were.

They were a peculiar bromide substance, with a strong morphine and
acetylene content. A depressant drug of unusual strength. It was known
under the trade name of "Morphomine."

Because of its strong narcotic content it was rarely prescribed by
physicians. Indeed, as Van knew, it could be procured only at five
specially licensed drug concerns which he found listed in a directory.
And in each case the doctor procuring it had to use his regulation
slip supplied by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, registering the
traffic of the stuff.

Morphomine! This was the stuff that had been in the glass recently
used in Garrison's allegedly unentered office! The tartrates and
citrates had been released in gas when the water was mixed with the
powdery remnant, but by adding those chemicals he had selected to the
few clinging particles Van had recreated the crystals in their
original form.

Van picked up a telephone--another phone with a private wire to
the _Clarion_ office. He told Havens what information he wanted; and
in minutes Havens called him back.

"The Narcotic Bureau got it for me," the publisher stated. "Only
one of the druggists you mentioned sold any morphomine of recent date.
It was requisitioned by a Dr. Carl Ferris, delivered to his private
sanitarium--wait, here's the address." He gave a West End Avenue
number. "What's this all about, Van?"

The Phantom's eyes gleamed. "Just following up a clue, Frank.
You'll hear from me later." Terminating the conversation, he stood
considering a moment.

Then, from a secret, small vault hidden in the wall, he drew out a
large black ledger.

The Case-Book of Richard Curtis Van Loan!

In those pages were written the full facts of every case the
Phantom had ever tackled. Step by step, his progress and deductions
were recorded. It was a book replete with the factual stories of
bizarre crime and mystery. Detailed reports which not even Frank
Havens had read.

Placing it on a desk Van turned to a blank page. With his fountain
pen he wrote swiftly, jotting down what facts he knew; especially the
facts about Pat Bentley.

Placing the ledger back into its hiding place, the Phantom strode
purposefully across the laboratory to a curtained alcove. He swished
the curtain aside, entered.

No actor's dressing room could have approached this alcove in the
completeness of its makeup equipment.

There were full length mirrors in which one could see himself at
every possible angle. There were shelves of jars and tubes containing
makeup. There were floodlights, and a special sun-lamp to create
artificial daylight. On a long rack hung clothes of every description,
of every nationality--from the rags of a derelict to the turban and
robe of a sheik.

The Phantom had discarded the role of Mason, Havens's
investigator, because the criminals who had attacked him could
identify him in that role. So once more, he did a quick and temporary
job with his face. Though, as previously, he was not trying to create
the replica of any particular man's face. He merely wanted to surely
disguise his own features--

It was near noon when a tall, businesslike individual climbed out
of a cab on upper West End Avenue--a man of apparent middle-age, with
greying hair and sharp, intelligent features.

The Phantom had reached his destination.

Before him reared a granite, modernized house which looked like a
private dwelling, but over whose doorway was engraved:

 FERRIS SANITARIUM

Van scanned the building. It had a quiet, subdued air. For a
moment he hesitated, then deliberately walked up the few steps to the
closed front door that resembled any private house entrance and rang
the bell.

He heard its muffled ring, then heard clicking, rapid steps.

The door opened. A blond young woman in a nurse's starched, white
uniform peered out. Though her face was attractive enough, under the
starched cap which topped her mass of wavy blond hair, there was
something hostile in it, too. "What is it?" she demanded crisply.

"I want to see Dr. Ferris about one of his patients," Van said
with equal crispness.

"Dr. Ferris isn't here. This sanitarium is closed. We are not
keeping any patients at this time."

The words came just a little too glibly to suit Van. She started
to push the door closed. But Van moved faster.

Firmly, yet unobtrusively, he put his weight to the door, pushed
the nurse back with it. And as she reluctantly retreated, he strode
into a foyer smelling of disinfectant, and giving onto a corridor. At
its far end of which Van glimpsed, through an open door, part of a
white room--apparently an operating room.

The nurse had stepped behind an information desk. Her eyes were
angry.

"This is a private place," she snapped. "You have no right to
force your way in. Who are you?" She was reaching threateningly for a
telephone.

Obviously she was not afraid of him. Yet she seemed in a desperate
hurry to get rid of him. The peculiar look in her eyes betrayed
furtive haste which the Phantom didn't miss.

And then, Van's whole body went suddenly rigid.

From the other end of the corridor came a sharp, unearthly cry! A
man's cry--raised in mortal, blood-curdling agony! A scream which
resolved itself into one frenzied word.

"You!"

And on that word the scream stopped--gurgled off in a ghastly,
sighing gasp.

The nurse had leaped to her feet, her face going starkly white
under her makeup, her eyes bulging with fright. As she stood rooted to
the spot, and with the echoes of that scream still ringing, Van's
lithe body catapulted past her, his hand yanking out his .45. All
pretense was dropped now.

His ears had told him the direction of that scream. He dashed to
the end of the corridor, where it turned at right angles. The Phantom
did not turn with it, but, gun out, dashed straight into the open door
of the operating room.

And even though he was on his guard, he was almost taken
completely unaware. The room had seemed empty, and Van had not been
prepared for the appearance of the tall figure, with a handkerchief
drawn over the face, that suddenly darted out the opposite door.

Two reverberating reports crashed out in swift succession, from
the gun in the disappearing man's hand. The Phantom ducked, even as he
whirled to glimpse the flash of pistol shots. He heard the slugs
whistle over his head; heard the splintering of glass as an instrument
case flew to bits.

Van's own gun blazed the moment before the man was out the door,
slamming it behind him. Van realized that the glimpse he had had of
the fellow had been too brief for him even to take note of the
attacker's clothes. And the handkerchief had completely hidden his
features.

But Van Loan had seen something else in that brief moment. He saw
it as he leaped across the room toward the slammed door. Something
bulky and limp in the center of the floor.

Seizing the door and shielding his body by its frame, he opened
it. The empty turn of the corridor, with closed doors opposite him,
alone met his view. Not a sign of anyone there.

For just a moment he hesitated, deliberating pursuit which he
sensed would be futile. Then he turned from the door, crossed the
operating room to the thing he had seen on the floor.

Spreadeagled there lay a tall man. His overcoat had been thrown
back, and protruding from his chest was the metal hilt of a long bone-
handled knife, such as might have come from the sanitarium kitchen. It
had been driven into the victim's heart. Blood, a ghastly stain of it,
surrounded the knife, and more blood lay in a crimson pool on the
floor.

That the man was dead was at once apparent. His eyes were glazed;
his face was frozen in a distorted grimace.

Van's own eyes bulged as instant recognition of the man came to
him. Joseph Ware, waterways expert of the Empire and Southwest
Railway! The man who had asked the police department to protect his
life from the Tycoon of Crime!

Ware, stabbed to death in this private sanitarium!

Suddenly Van stooped over the corpse. A bit of paper, crumpled in
the dead man's outstretched right hand, had caught his eye.

He pried it loose, glanced at it. It was a check, dated this day.
It was made out to Joseph Ware for the sum of twenty-five thousand
dollars. But what made Van's eyes widen with slow amaze, even in this
tense moment, was the signature.

The check was signed by _Max Garth._

Max Garth, the geologist! One of the passengers on that ill-fated
airplane transport. And here was a check, dated this day, made out to
a man who could never cash it now.

A sudden hoarse exclamation made the Phantom whirl, gun whipping
up.

In the doorway stood a tall, white-coated man. His eyes were two
dark pools of horror and amaze as they swiveled from the knifed corpse
to Van.

"God!" he gasped. "What--" He stared at Van with suspicious fear.

Van spoke crisply. "Dr. Ferris, I believe?" It was more a
statement than a question.

The tall man nodded dazedly. "Yes! But who are you? Who is that
dead man?"

But before Van could reply, a fresh sound came to his alert ears.

Muffled, yet distinct, rose a woman's voice--the voice of the
nurse. It came from somewhere beyond the second closed door of the
operating room.

"No, I tell you, you must stay in bed! You can't get up!"



Chapter XI Missing Man



PAYING NO ATTENTION to the dazed, horrified doctor, once more Van
yanked open the door. The corridor was still empty. The voice must
have come from beyond the door across the little hall.

He leaped to open it, plunging into a small white bedroom.

In the middle of the floor, the blond nurse was trying to force a
struggling man back onto a cot. Even as Van entered, the man ceased
his struggles and slumped onto the bed. He lay there unmoving, as if
only half conscious, though he was fully clothed.

The nurse whirled, frightened, to face Van whose eyes roved from
the man on the bed to a table nearby, where he saw a bottle of whitish
powder. Morphomine!

"He--he's too sick to get up!" the nurse stammered. "Oh, what am I
going to do with him! He insists he's going out--has business. He even
got into his clothes during the few minutes I left him!"

Van did not answer her jittering.

"Call the police!" he rapped at her. "And don't leave these
premises!"

She stared at him, confused. Then Dr. Ferris, in the doorway,
broke in hoarsely:

"Yes, Miss Keenan. Call the police at once!" As she ran out, he
glowered at Van. "I must ask you to come out of this room, whoever you
are!" he said indignantly. "This patient has a bad heart. Any
excitement--"

"If he has a bad heart." Van said levelly, "you, Dr. Ferris, will
find yourself arrested for malpractice--for giving him morphomine,
which no man with a bad heart could safely take!"

A hoarse, croaking cry suddenly came from the cot. The man in the
bed was sitting bolt upright, staring at Van.

His face was worn, pallid. His eyes held a burning, bright-pupiled
glare. Now and then his whole body--a firmly knit, well-built body,
seemed to tremble as if with ague.

No mistaking the identity of that man. Van had recognized him
immediately, from a photograph he had seen. He had identified the
hard, dominant features, the strong chin which now so incongruously
was quivering with weakness.

"What's happened?" croaked the man. "What's going on here?"

"A great deal is going on here--_Mr. Garrison,"_ Van answered
levelly.

And Winston B. Garrison, president of the Empire and Southwest
Railway, sagged back on the pillow, eyes fearful.

"You know me?" he croaked. "Who are you!"

Van did not quibble. He had already decided on his next move. The
time had come.

"I am known," he said crisply, "as the Phantom Detective."

"The Phantom?" echoed Garrison hoarsely, while Dr. Ferris, too,
stared at the disguised Nemesis of crime. Both seemed amazed to find
the famous detective so prosaic-looking.

"Yes," Van said shortly. He turned to the doctor. "I should like
to speak to Mr. Garrison privately--before the police come."

The doctor's dark eyes showed hostility, but he went out, closing
the door.

"Mr. Garrison," Van clipped to the patient, "I appreciate that
you're ill, but the police will be asking you some questions. I
thought you might rather talk to me--first. I might be of help to
you." As Garrison stared at him wordlessly he said: "Joseph Ware has
just been murdered in the operating room. His murderer either escaped
or is someone here. The police will certainly notice that your door
here is opposite the door of the operating room--and that the nurse
discovered you out of your bed!"

Garrison's jaw dropped; his eyes continued to stare in horrified
alarm.

"I'm sorry to have to speak so bluntly, but you're in a tight
spot," the Phantom pursued grimly. "Especially since you were supposed
to be in St. Louis! That alibi is completely shattered! I happen to
know you were in Grand Central Terminal last night, where two men were
murdered, though none of your associates saw you."

Garrison was straining forward from the bed now, the muscles in
his neck bulging like heavy cord.

"Wait," he cried hoarsely. "If you think I had anything to do with
these murders, I can explain all that! I'm a sick man. Bad business
has wrecked my nerves! But I couldn't let my associates know it. That
would have ruined what morale they have left. I sent my secretary to
St. Louis. He went into the office there wearing my upturned coat, and
pressed the button to motivate the electric sign. I cleared up some
papers at my own New York office, then came here, where I've engaged
the entire sanitarium--my own nurse, and Dr. Ferris. You can see from
my condition--" He paused, gasping, his eyes a plea.

But Van was not forgetting that vigorous struggle with the nurse.

"Tell me, Mr. Garrison, how come that group of scientists acquired
shares of stock in your railroad?"

Garrison leaned back on the pillows. "I'll be frank with you,
Phantom. This railway has been my life--I promised my father on his
death-bed I would always keep it going. But the depression hit the
line hard, and it didn't recover. Still I held onto it--didn't want to
sell out. My last cent of capital went into it, but it was like
pouring water into a sieve.

"Then Garth and the others came to me with a proposition. They
offered me plans to modernize the railway, to put new life into it
with modern inventions, as streamlined trains. They knew I had no
money to hire them--so they demanded shares of stock for their work.

"What did I have to lose?" He gave a harsh laugh, and for a moment
Van saw the hard-fisted, penny-pinching business man Havens had
described. "The stock was worth little. If their modernization saves
the railway it will be their gain. Otherwise nothing is lost. A fair
bargain, as you can see."

"Yes," Van nodded, his glance keen. "That is, if on second thought
you didn't regret giving them the stock."

"I hardly care any more," Garrison sighed. "For now, with this
sabotage and murder, my railway faces ruin! Whatever work they are
doing is being undone by enemies! Someone is trying to ruin me--that
is certain."

"Have you any particular person in mind?"

"No. Perhaps a rival company, though I can't think of any."
Garrison's eyes narrowed, and he seemed less ill. "Of course, Andrew
Harvey's been after me to sell out to him for a long time, but--"

He broke off, as the wail of sirens, the squeal of brakes, sounded
outside.

Van hastened to the door.

The police were in the place the next instant--detectives from
Homicide coming close on the heels of the precinct bluecoats who had
responded to the nurse's call.

And this time Van flashed into view the scintillating diamond-
studded badge which was his identity.

The Phantom had come into the open!

Inspector Gregg, among the first to arrive, studied the Phantom,
whom he had seen in other disguises, or masked.

"So you're working with us, Phantom," he said gruffly, and as
always, it was hard to tell whether he was grateful or whether he
resented the idea because of official pride. "This whole business is
getting under my skin, I don't mind saying. Ware had two precinct
detectives with him. What happened? He gets a phone call--and gives
them both the slip. They couldn't trace the call, either. And now--"

He pointed to the corpse, the silent chief actor in a drama of
flash-bulbs and fingerprinting activity. The quiet sanitarium was a
bedlam now inside and out. For reporters from various papers were
already showing up, waving press cards and demanding entrance.

Gregg questioned Garrison, the blond nurse and the doctor. All
were tight-lipped, but denied any part in the tragedy. The nurse said
she had seen no stranger on the premises outside of the Phantom. She
gave her name as Shirley Keenan, and said Garrison had engaged her to
work in both night and day shifts.

Garrison said nothing about his faking the trip to St. Louis. Nor
did Van mention it. For Gregg was beginning to look at the railway
president suspiciously, and Van wanted to withhold that vital bit of
evidence until he could satisfy his own mind.

The phone in the office rang as Gregg and the Phantom stood in the
corridor. The Inspector was called to the instrument.

"Hello--Yes, Mr. Havens," he said with quick respect, and Van's
ears pricked up. "Yes, it's true--another murder. And we've found
Garrison here! Glad you decided to send the Phantom on the case. He's
here now." He nodded to Van. "Mr. Havens wants to speak to you."

Van took the phone, spoke crisply, impersonally, "Hello, Mr.
Havens."

"Phantom!" Realizing that Van wasn't alone, Havens used the
sobriquet. "I have urgent news for you! They've found the wreck of the
transport plane!"

A gleam leaped to Van's eyes. "Yes? Where?"

"In the very area you suggested they search--up in the Catskills,
two miles north of Mulford! Two army flyers spotted it, and though it
crashed on a sort of plateau, they didn't chance a landing. They
report no sign of life. Andrew Harvey, at Newark, is trying to arrange
search parties to go up there from Mulford."

Van spoke with quick, sharp decision.

"No--we don't want any bungling there! Have those search parties
called off, Mr. Havens. Let the authorities wait until they hear from
me. I want to see that scene firsthand!"

Vital clues at that wreck might be obliterated if there was a
public search of any sort--obliterated accidentally, or by design.

With Havens's brief, though anxious assent, Van hung up the phone.
He did not delay a moment. Even as the stocky medical examiner came
striding into the sanitarium with his bag the Phantom dashed out, eyes
grim with the knowledge that the biggest break of this baffling case
had come!



Chapter XII Gun Girl



A DULL AFTERNOON SUN was slanting in the western sky. In its
greyish light, the lonely Catskill mountain top looked very desolate
and funereal, with all its timber.

Death lay on this mountain.

On a grassy plateau of ground was one charred, ugly swath. Metal,
twisted and bent and fire-blackened, lay strewn about it. Two immense
Douglas engines, with propellers grotesquely twisted, lay at absurd
angles; reduced to so much twisted junk.

And amid this wreckage, which was their only grave, lay the
gruesome bodies.

All were burned, charred, and blackened, and in some cases
featureless. Skeleton bones showed in some, and even these bones were
fire-blackened. Eyes, like baked marbles, stared sightless but as if
to call the heavens to their hideous plight.

But among the dead, one living being moved on that mountain top;
one man who had used every facility to rush to this scene.

A cab had sped the Phantom to Mitchell Field. Thence he had been
flown to the town of Mulford, where there was a small airport. There
he had hired a small, serviceable Ford coupe, driven it up the steep
mountain road, and cached it just below the plateau.

Now, face stern, he moved among the dead. He was counting those
dead. There were twelve of those charred bodies. And aboard that plane
had been fifteen persons, including its stewardess and two pilots.

One of the missing, of course, was Pat Bentley, whose corpse still
lay officially unidentified in New York. But what of the other two?

Had their bodies perhaps been completely consumed in the
holocaust?

Suddenly the Phantom paused in his grim search among the scattered
corpses.

A glimmer had caught his eye. It came from the burned, almost
skeleton hand of one charred corpse. A ring, platinum.

Gingerly he removed it from the burned hand, lifted it in the
greyish afternoon light.

On the inside of the band fine, engraved script met his eye. A
name.

 David Truesdale!

The famous mining and ventilating engineer, working on the railway
staff, who had been on this plane.

Then Van saw something else a little distance from the corpse. A
smoke-blackened briefcase, open. He scooped it up, saw that it was
made of fireproof material. At first examination it seemed quite
empty. But then the Phantom, delving into it, drew out a small, jagged
bit of hard, ore-like substance.

He looked at it curiously, then shoved it into an inner pocket;
dropping the briefcase for the time being.

He continued his examination of the dead. Brass buttons identified
the co-pilot's corpse. Doubtless others would be identifiable. But he
could not identify any of them definitely as the stewardess, or as Max
Garth. Garth, whose check for twenty-five thousand dollars, dated
today, he had found on the murdered Joseph Ware.

Next Van came across some half-melted, broken boxes of metal.
Strong boxes. Empty! But on one of them he found an aluminum tag that
read:

 1500 shares, Empire and Southwest.

Stock! Stock, which Ware had claimed was the Tycoon's extortion
demand, had been on this plane!

Van straightened. He gave his mind to the most baffling part of
this enigma now. How had this plane, which Bentley, ace flyer, had
reported as being over Pennsylvania, crashed here in New York, a
hundred miles off the radio beam?



HAVENS HAD BEEN ASTONISHED that Van deduced it _had_ crashed
somewhere in this vicinity. But the Phantom had reached that
conclusion from two dovetailing clues. The railway ticket he had found
on one of the thugs, and the Inspector's mention of the anonymous
phone call he had received from Mulford.

He had deduced that Bentley, escaping from the plane, had somehow
reached Mulford. From there, after calling the police, he had taken
that train to Manhattan. Thugs had followed him, killed him. With that
as a premise it had been plain enough to Van that the big airplane
must have fallen somewhere near Mulford.

But how--

He gave his attention to the plateau then. One edge was fringed
with trees. Through them Van could see that the mountain dropped
rockily, in a sheer, precipitous cliff.

On the other side the slope was more gradual. The plateau was
small, yet--

Van walked over the stubbled ground, pursuing a will-o'-the-wisp
thought. And suddenly that thought materialized. He had found twin
swathes through the stubble. Two long, even tracks.

His eyes went to slits. The discovery, strangely, brought a surge
of fierce anger leaping through his veins.

"The devils!" he gritted.

It was only then that he saw the shack.

Perhaps he would have seen it before except that he had not been
looking for any such thing. Besides, the trees screened it well. He
strode hurriedly through those trees, gun in hand.

The shack was small but stoutly built, of heavy timber. It had
small, dust-grimed windows. The rear of it was backed against the very
edge of the steep, precipitous cliff, the top of which was grassy.

The house looked deserted. Van's eyes scanned the grass to either
side. He saw two huge metal drums among nearby trees. Gasoline drums!

He did not stop to examine them now, but moved to the shack, tried
the door. Locked. He studied the lock as from his pocket he drew a
pliable bit of specially tempered steel wire--equipment he seldom
failed to carry.

Deftly the Phantom twisted the steel bit into the lock, letting it
assume the shape of the notches. It took him less than three minutes
to pick that lock.

He swung the heavy oak door of the shack outwards with one hand,
covering the dim interior with the gun in his other hand.

But no one was inside. There was not even any furniture. Stepping
in, the Phantom's keen eyes roved about the interior. A glint in one
corner of the room attracted his glance. Moving toward it he looked
down at a tangled mass of wires, broken coils, and large, jutting bits
of broken glass tubes, still screwed into sockets. His glance went
upward. He saw a hole in the roof, wire coming through it, dangling
loose and twisted.

As he moved about, absorbing this evidence, Van's foot kicked
something, sent it skittering across the floor. Quickly his eye
followed it, and in another moment he picked up a flat small bit of
hard rubber. One edge was arced smooth; the others formed jagged sides
of a triangle, giving the effect of a flat cut of pie. Parallel
grooves ran through the piece.

He looked about but saw nothing else. He pocketed the rubber
piece. His eyes were gleaming with grim comprehension. He was ready to
turn this place over to the authorities now.

He strode out of the shack; out once more upon the lonely,
desolate plateau with its strewn, charred dead and--

A sudden snarled shout froze his blood!

Even as he stiffened in the greying afternoon light he saw diving
figures materializing on that plateau.

Over the slope, and from trees they appeared--slouch-hatted,
charging men, guns glinting in their hands. One and all, they were
charging toward Van!

And even as they plunged forward Van recognized familiar faces.
The olive, white-scarred face of the man he had not long ago heard
called "Slick," a flashy, sport-coated, nimble figure who was giving
jerky commands. The square, crooked face of the squat, wide-shouldered
man--and that of the tall, angular thug. The three who had mixed it
with the Phantom in that railway terminal conflict.

Van ducked back in a defensive crouch. The sight of a mob of thugs
charging upon him roused him to reckless rage. His Colt, at his hip,
jerked in his hand. Two quick, blind shots crashed on the mountain
top, as his automatic blazed.

A ratty-looking gunman in the charging group screamed, clawing at
a shoulder while blood spurted out between his fingers. Others
momentarily fell back. The Phantom darted for the nearest tree-trunk,
as Slick's voice ripped:

"Let him have it, boys!"

Guns blazed. A whole fusillade of bullets smashed through the
trees, chipping bark. Van's lithe body slid all the way behind a tree
trunk. He must find some means of retreat or they'd have him! His Colt
snaked out, firing again--and again the gunmen felt the grim wrath of
the Phantom, as another fell, wounded.

A crunch of underbrush behind him made Van whirl. Just in time to
glimpse a huge, burly figure leaping upon him with a snarled cry. The
flat-nosed, gash-mouthed thug called Ape!

In his loping, simian-like attack, the big mobster was upon the
Phantom before the latter could bring his gun to bear. Van went down
under the sheer weight of the man. Down, struggling, to the grassy
turf, with Ape's murderous face above him.

With a gritted oath, Van tried to roll the big man off. But
instantly the others were rushing to the scene. More of them fell upon
the prone Phantom. Blows from revolver butts banged against his head
and body. Kicks jarred his ribs, brought agonizing gasps from his
lungs.

Half stunned, he felt Ape's weight lifting as the big man rose. He
himself was yanked to his feet, to find himself ringed by some dozen
thugs, with the two he had wounded groaning on the ground beyond.

Rough hands frisked him. His Colt was already gone. But helpless
though he was, the Phantom, by a secret legerdemain which he had never
revealed to anyone, managed to keep other articles undiscovered. A
diamond-studded badge, a black domino mask, as well as the bit of hard
rubber he had found, were concealed on his person.

The quiet, crooked-faced gangster was leveling a gun at him.

"Let me give him a bellyful right now, Slick," he begged with evil
eagerness, finger tightening on the trigger.

"Hold it, Maxie, hold it!"

The jerky command came from Slick who stepped forward
authoritatively, a nervous hand toying with his gun. He was hatless,
as usual, his plastered-down hair making a familiar black, shiny knob
of his head. He came forward to the Phantom, dark eyes flashing. And
Van was thankful that his disguise could stand the late afternoon
dimness.

"Yes." A quick nod from the appraising Slick. "This is him all
right. Same feller we mixed it with in Grand Central. I got a good
gander at him if the rest of you didn't. Probably a private 'tec
somebody's hired to horn in, but anyway the boss'll be wantin' to know
about it, wantin' to have a little talk with this guy. I'm just
figuring what we can do with--"

"You can stop figuring right now, Slick!"

The sudden new voice made Van start as violently as it did the
others. It was a woman's voice!

Through the crowd came a slender, shapely girl. She was hatless,
and in the dimming light her hair was a wavy mass of red. She was
heavily rouged, too. She carried a small revolver, and her grip on it
was one of confidence and experience.

Van stared at her as she came to Slick's side. Who was she? What
did her words mean? A reprieve?

"Kitty!" Slick's voice was an annoyed rasp. "What the hell did you
come up here for? This ain't no place for a moll right now!"

"No?"

Van saw how hard her face was; saw the peculiar icy glint in her
eyes. He had seen the type before; the type of gun moll who could be
more vicious, more cold blooded, than men who followed the same
calling.

"No?" she repeated, her eyes flashing. "Well, I didn't come up
here just to look at your dirty mug!" She spoke with heat, and the
look she gave Slick told Van more than her words did. "Not that I ever
get a chance to see you lately. I don't, if you can steer clear of
me!"

"Aw, lay off, Kitty!" Slick complained. "We got business here.
This bird's somebody the boss'll be wantin' to see. He's been
follerin' us, tryin' to mess things up. We got to do something with
him--"

Her eyes flashed to Van, hate flaming in them. Then she gave a
shrill laugh.

"You're telling _me_ he's been messing things up! That's rich.
Listen, Slick--"

She pulled the gang lieutenant to one side, and for moments spoke
swiftly, eagerly. Van saw the deep frown that settled on Slick's face,
saw the hate that filled the gangster's eyes as they flashed to the
Phantom. But there was exultation in those eyes as Slick turned from
Kitty and faced the gang.

"Fellers," he announced, with staccato triumph, "this ain't no
cheap mug we've grabbed! He ain't no snoopin' private 'tec. Boys,
_we've got the Phantom!"_

A growl of animal-like fury and vengeance rose from every man
there, as Van's heart went cold. So they knew! This girl had told
Slick who he was, but how in heaven's name had she known? Only those
in the sanitarium had seen him identify himself as the Phantom, in
this particular guise. Had the tip-off come from someone _there?_ Who
could have given this girl the information?

"The Phantom! So that's what he looks like!" It was the tall,
angular thug who held his gun under his overcoat as he had in the
terminal elevator who thus expressed his disappointment. "Not so hot,
if you ask me."

"Luke's right," put in the crooked-faced Maxie. "He's just a mug!"

Van hid his one surge of relief. At least they didn't suspect he
was disguised. They wouldn't remove that disguise and reveal his true
identity.

"The Phantom!" Slick danced up close before him. "Thought you'd
pull a fast one, didn't you? Lucky we got here when we did--and that
you were sap enough to come alone."

Van was silent. It was true that he had not expected the arrival
of the thugs; not so soon anyway. Certainly not the sudden appearance
of the red-headed girl with her startling information. Yet he still
felt that had he not come alone to view the evidence he wouldn't have
learned all that he had. Not that it would do much good now, it was
beginning to look like.

He could see his death warrant in every face around him. Yet he
remained cool, his mind working, and he was fighting to recover the
strength that had been beaten from his body.

"Well, you're finished now, Phantom, see?" Slick announced, more
triumphantly. "You won't be sendin' any more boys up the river!" His
dark eyes flashed. "The question is now, just how we're gonna give it
to you--give it right!"

The girl came forward quickly, grabbing Slick by the arm.

"Wait, Slick!" she commanded. "Listen to what I've got to tell you
before you gun him!" Her voice was shrill. "I've got new orders--from
the Tycoon! I just had time to bring them. Have to get back right
away."

"Thought you had another job scheduled." Slick had drawn her
swiftly aside and was speaking to her in a low voice, one that did not
reach to the men who were guarding the Phantom. But Van's keen ears
caught the gang lieutenant's words.

"That date's for tomorrow, at dawn," the girl answered. Her voice
warned. "Gee, Slick, it's good to see you. Even like this. If it
wasn't for the way I feel about you, I wouldn't be doing all this."

"Cut it, cut it! What's the Tycoon want?"

To reply, she lowered her voice so greatly that Van could catch
but few snatches of what she said.

"--like the others--And then stick these there--" From a handbag
she drew out some shiny brass buttons, handed them over with some
other articles.

Van saw Slick's olive face pale a little. "Say, I don't like that.
Why can't we just plug--"

"I'm telling you what the Tycoon ordered." Her voice was hard.
"You think I like it any more than you do? But we've done worse for
the Tycoon. What's one thing more?"

Slick looked at her hard features, her cold eyes. "Cripes, Kitty,
for a dame you sure got nerves like ice."

His own face hardened, the scar showing livid, evil, as he turned
from her. "Okay, boys!"

He jerked out orders.



Chapter XIII Flaming Death



COLD APPREHENSION TIGHTENING about his heart, the Phantom still
could offer no resistance as once more rough hands seized him. Rope
was now produced. While the hard-eyed girl looked on, Van was bound
hand and foot, the cords digging into his flesh.

Helpless, he was lifted bodily, carried to the shack. They tossed
him in as if he were a heavy sack of meal. He crashed to the floor
bruised. The door closed on him, was locked from the outside.

Even as that door closed, though, Van was already trying to
struggle against the bonds that held him, using all his skill and
strength.

Outside he heard the gang moving about busily. He heard Slick's
voice.

"Two of you'll stay here to attend to them brass buttons and stick
him with the other stiffs. The rest will scram. Okay, Ape. Let her
fly."

There was a grunting sound of effort, apparently from Ape. Then a
swish of liquid. A pungent, sweetish odor assailed Van's nostrils.

His blood went cold. Gasoline! From one of those drums he had
seen! They were saturating the wooden shack with it. Full
comprehension came.

He was going to be burned alive, converted into a charred corpse
like those many others! And only too clearly now did he see the
criminal's clever, devilish purport.

Those brass buttons would be planted on his corpse. So would the
other stuff the girl had brought. Van had no doubt they were effects
taken from Bentley! And his corpse would be found and identified as
Bentley's.

The criminal was covering his tracks. If the police should learn
that Bentley had actually been murdered in New York, the investigation
of this whole disaster would be carried to a feverish pitch. If
"Bentley" were found here, the crash might still seem an unfortunate
accident. The investigation would doubtless die out, especially
without the Phantom to carry it on.

Van cursed himself for not having told Havens about Bentley's
body. True, if anything happened to him Havens would eventually find
his case-book and learn the truth, but by then it would be too late.
The criminal would have had further time to cover his tracks.

This thought spurred Van to a desperate frenzy. With all his skill
and strength he struggled against the ropes that bound him, battling
with every last ounce of power in his body for a way out of his
predicament.

The gas fumes choked him. Some of the stuff was already dripping
through the small window.

In spite of all his efforts his bonds were as tight as ever.
Groaning he managed to roll partially across the floor. By force of
will as much as strength, somehow he managed to reach the corner where
that broken tangle of wires still lay. Promptly he rolled on his back,
working his bound wrists to the broken, jagged glass tube screwed
rigidly in a socket near the floor.

"Go on, Slick." That was the gun moll's voice. "Get it over. We
don't want to hang around here."

Fiercely, the Phantom's wrist sawed at the broken glass. Shards
cut his flesh--

Then--a snap. The cords suddenly parted; his hands jerked loose.
In the space of a breath he extricated his feet. Free!

But even as he leaped to his feet there came a hissing roar. The
window on the front of the shack became a square of blinding, livid
flame.

"Now burn, Phantom!" Slick's high-pitched voice taunted.

Van was lurching toward the door. But, as instantly as he recoiled
from it, the wood walls seemed to turn into transparent flaming paper.

The heat seared his flesh, sent makeup rolling down his face,
drove him back. The front of the shack was a solid sheet of flame.
Black, billowing smoke eddied in, filling his eyes and his lungs at
the moment he heard the mobsters breaking up, heard the woman's
receding voice.

No possible escape on the front side of the shack. And the windows
were all too small for him to get through. Blindly Van stumbled to the
opposite wall; the wall that overlooked the steep cliff. His body
lurched against it, trying to split the wood. Flame-tongues, yellow
gasoline flame, reached for him like fingers of incandescent death.

The rear wall shivered at the impact of Van's hurled body, a large
loose board rattling a trifle. Van kicked at it, flung his body at it
again and again, ignoring the bruising pain.

And the board split, falling outward. A gaping space, shadowy in
the dusk, was revealed--the drop of the cliff. And at the instant that
board splintered the flames literally came cascading across the shack
interior with a surging roar.

Desperately the Phantom squirmed through the aperture which had
helped the flames with its draft. To hesitate for even a split instant
now would mean to be instantly engulfed in the roasting fire.

He dropped, his hands clutching the very edge of the cliff.
Pendulant, he swung there between flames that seared his knuckles and
a drop to sheer, jagged rocks below.

Clinging with one hand, with the other Van started to work his way
along the cliff's edge. The shack was a roaring bonfire now, with
smoke swirling like a black pall. Suddenly the shack began to topple
toward the cliff, threatening to crash down on the Phantom's hanging
body.

He doubled his efforts, working his way hand over hand along the
cliff, with the heat of the flames scorching him.

Then, even as half the shack tumbled crazily off into space,
dropping in a flaming mass, Van was out of the way of it. With his
almost exhausted strength he was chinning up a free portion of the
cliff edge.

His body rolled onto the plateau, livid in the night from the
flames of the half of shack still burning. And the first thing Van did
was to reach into his hidden pocket for his black silk domino mask and
snap it on over his face, on which the makeup had melted and run.

Two slouch-hatted figures whirled towards him even as he got that
mask on.

The two of the mob who had been left to finish this job!

Both cried out in incredulous alarm, as they saw this domino-
masked man whom they still could recognize in the flickering glow of
the fire as the victim they had thought doomed.

One, a man with a pallid, expressionless face, leaped forward with
a snarled curse, whipping up his gun. His companion, tall, with a
flat-cheeked face that looked hatchet-like, was slower, because his
hands were full. But he dropped the objects he held; reached for his
own gun.

A wrench--and Van had the weapon, pushing its owner aside. The
second thug leaped, his own gun only half-drawn, grabbing for the
Phantom's revolver.

The unexpected bodily attack sent Van hurling backward to the very
edge of the cliff. And then the Phantom acted out of sheer
desperation.

With a lurch, he swung his attacker full about. His fist doubled
into a ball that had iron power, crashed out in a short, but powerful
jab.

It crunched against flesh and bone. With a stunned gasp, the
hatchet-faced man staggered backward. And before he could stop
himself, his swaying body pulled him over the edge of the cliff.

Screaming, the thug hurtled down through space. A ghastly thud
below proclaimed his doom on the jagged rocks there.

Breathless, Van was already swinging about to bring his gun to
bear on the remaining gunman.

But the latter, unarmed, had had enough! He was already streaking
through the trees, down the slope side of the plateau. He had lost
himself before Van could even start pursuit.

Savagely panting, his body aching with bruises and burns, the
Phantom nevertheless prodded himself to action. That one live gangster
now escaping might bring the others back when he reported that the
criminals' Nemesis had broken free, had killed the hatchet-faced thug.

Suddenly the Phantom stooped to the ground, illumined by the
burning shack. Those objects the hatchet-man had dropped! Quickly he
retrieved them. The brass buttons--a watch.

Pat Bentley's watch.

Just as he was about to make his way off the gruesome plateau, a
throbbing roar overhead jerked his eyes up. A large Boeing plane
swooped low in the sky, wings shimmering. The eagle and star of the
United States Army showed on its wings and fuselage.

Army flyers had been attracted by the fire; a fire where the wreck
had previously been discovered.

Relieved, Van ran out in the ebbing light of the flames, even as
the plane circled low. He waved with both arms, caught an answering
wave from the open cockpit. With his thorough knowledge of flying, (he
himself had done plenty of it) Van signified that there was room on
the plateau for a landing.

The army plane negotiated that landing with ease, by firelight and
moonlight. Moaning, it glided in and the Phantom rushed up in his
domino-mask, pulling out his platinum, diamond-studded badge--



LITTLE OVER AN HOUR LATER, a tense group of men were gathered in
the brightly lighted administrative office at Newark Airport. Andrew
Harvey, grizzled airline chief, stood in grim, questioning silence
next to the four radio men who had been on duty the night of the big
disaster.

At a table Frank Havens, his rugged face tense, was opening a
large suitcase, exploring through it.

And before them all, dominating the scene, stood the Phantom in
his domino-mask, his eyes gleaming keenly through the holes of the
black silk.

The army plane had flown him here, after first circling in an
effort to locate the escaped gang. Van had regretted losing track of
the mob, yet he was clinging to a conviction he had formed during that
macabre experience; a hunch he felt would later put him back on the
trail not only of the gang but, what was more important, would lead
him to the devilish unknown who was their leader.

The man who called himself the Tycoon of Crime!



ON HIS ARRIVAL HERE Van had phoned Havens, asked tense questions
to which he had received an assent.

And now--

"This must be it!"

Havens broke the silence, and from the suitcase he pulled out a
phonograph record. Van took it silently. The Phantom pulled from his
own pocket the bit of hard rubber surface he had found on the shack
floor.

Fortunately the heat of the fire had not melted it.

The Phantom compared it with the record Havens gave him. He nodded
with quick satisfaction.

There was no doubt in his mind now.

His eyes swiveled to the radio men.

"All of you heard Pat Bentley's message that night," he said.
"Undoubtedly you remember it in detail. Now I want your attention--"

He took the record, moved to a portable phonograph which Havens
had also set up. Placing the disc on it, he wound the machine.

"Bentley," Van said, his voice grim, "was a news commentator for
Mr. Havens before he became a transport pilot. He covered important
air news, mostly. Because he was in great demand, many of his news
broadcasts were recorded by the studio, as a matter of course. This is
one such record which was sold to a limited public. Bentley had drawn
the assignment to cover the arrival of the dirigible _Hindenburg._ As
usual, his broadcast from Lakehurst was recorded, without any inkling
of how sensational it was to become."

He placed the needle on the whirling record. Immediately a
youthful, crisp voice--the voice of Pat Bentley--filled the silent
office.

"Well, folks, Germany's pride of the air is just coming into sight
now. In the twilight she's been maneuvering around to avoid storms--
But they're nosing her down now--"

The voice went on, calm and crisp, giving a routine news
broadcast. Describing the crowds. The big ship coming down. Guy-ropes
dropping as she maneuvered towards the mooring mast and--

It came then! The phonograph itself seemed to shake with a sudden
reverberating sound, followed by a roaring crackle. And then, suddenly
frenzied with amaze and horror, came Bentley's voice:

_"She's burning! She's burning!_" Hysterically came the blurted
words. "Fire--it's broken out--the whole ship's burning like so much
paper!" The crackle of flames, the scream now of trapped passengers so
close overhead.

"God, she's going down! She's going to crash! The fire's creeping
up--I can feel the heat now--getting worse--worse! No hope! Going to
crash!" A rending, terrific impact. "She's hit--Folks, forgive me if I
can hardly speak--This is the most ghastly thing I've ever witnessed--
Wait, I must go and see if I can help in the rescue--"

Van stopped the record there.

The four radio men were standing frozen, stupefied. At the words,
"She's burning!" all had gone rigid, as if again they were back in the
radio room where they had heard those words before. But at the
concluding phrases they were apparently feeling the shock of
realization.

"Why," one of them blurted, "those are the same words--that one
part there! The same, exactly!"

"What can this mean?" Harvey demanded hoarsely.

"It means," the Phantom clipped, "that the plane that cracked on
the plateau did not catch fire in the sky at all. In some way--how I
do not yet know--Bentley and his copilot were persuaded to leave the
radio beam, and to land on that Catskill plateau, where I found wheel-
tracks that proved the ship had landed intact.

"The message you heard from Bentley was this phonograph record,
played by the criminal or his henchmen in the shack, when somehow
Bentley himself was cut off from the air. The record was literally
made to order for the criminal's scheme. Or rather it probably
inspired the basic idea for the whole thing!"

"But," Harvey cried, "the plane did burn!"

"Yes." Van's eyes were slits. "After it had landed, the criminals
_burned it on the ground_--deliberately cremating its occupants, who
must have been first rendered helpless or perhaps they might have been
drugged into total unconsciousness."

"Good God!" Havens gave that horrified exclamation. "Of all the
fiendish--"

"Yes, it's fiendish," Van agreed. "And we're dealing with a
criminal who hasn't stopped there, one who is violating every code of
law and humaneness. I intend to find that criminal--"

He turned to Harvey. "Mr. Harvey, there's one point about that
airplane crash that I haven't yet brought to light. I happen to know
that the plane was carrying a great deal of Empire and Southwest stock
as well as Garth and Truesdale, two of the railway's most valuable
technicians.

"That, as you can readily see, virtually makes that plane more
valuable to the railway than to your own lines. So that its doom and
the looting of the stock further helped cripple the Empire and
Southwest."

Harvey had gone rigid, his eyes flaming.

"What do you mean? What are you getting at?"

"According to Garrison and the rest, you have long been trying to
buy out that railway at the cheapest possible price. I am not accusing
you. I am just stating your rather delicate position in this matter."

Harvey had abruptly paled. "I don't deny I've tried to buy them
out--but I wanted to run the railroad in conjunction with my planes,
not wipe it out! Good Lord, how can you think that I--Why, no man is
more anxious than I am to see the guilty party behind this horrible
crime brought to justice."



Chapter XIV Rendezvous



FRANK HAVENS DROVE the Phantom back to New York. "Van," Havens
demanded, as they went through the Holland Tunnel, "there's one thing
I still can't understand about that air wreck. How did you know where
to have them locate it?"

"Through Pat Bentley," Van said simply, and at last gave the
information he had withheld. As Havens's knuckles went white on the
steering wheel, he told the story of that unidentified corpse he had
found in the street.

"And, so that this wouldn't be learned," he concluded, "they were
going to put Bentley's buttons and watch on me when they burned me!"

"But why did Bentley come to New York, Van, after calling the
Inspector at Mulford?" Havens demanded. "Why didn't he tell what he
knew when he did call?"

"Because," said Van, his face set and hard, "he probably knew this
was something of staggering momentousness. Frank, I'm convinced he
wanted to come to you, his old boss who he knew could get the Phantom.
And because I happen to live on Park Avenue, the irony of Fate brought
him to my door."

His eyes went grim with a fierce purpose which drove the fatigue,
the pain of the burns he still felt from his lithe body.

"I'm going to see that he didn't come to my door in vain, Frank!"
he promised.

The two men finished the journey in silence--



IT WAS CLOSE to another dawn.

Once more disguised, the Phantom paced in the shadow of buildings
on West End Avenue, directly opposite the private sanitarium where he
had learned Garrison was still staying, despite the murder of Ware
that had occurred there.

Before coming here, Van had been busy at his laboratory. That bit
of ore-like substance he had found in the fireproof briefcase at the
plane had gone through an intensive analysis. The results had not been
definite, because the piece was too small to prove what Van suspected.
Later he meant to make further tests.

As he paced, his eyes gleamed with hope. He flicked up his wrist-
watch. A few minutes more, now, according to the discreet inquiries he
had made previously.

He passed those minutes patiently with that unflagging patience
that he could muster in his grim investigations.

Then, suddenly, his muscles rippled with quick preparation for
movement.

An oblong of light slanted down the small stoop as the front door
of the sanitarium opened. Nurse Shirley Keenan, a dark cape thrown
over her white uniform, came out on her serviceable-heeled white
shoes. It was the hour when she was off her night shift, permitted to
go home or stay at the sanitarium for sleep.

No sooner had she appeared than Van moved like a shadow. Down the
block to a small parked Chevrolet coupe on his own side of the street.

He had already made sure, by checking the license, that the coupe
was owned by Shirley Keenan. And he had also picked open the lock of
its rumble seat.

He had waited only to make sure the nurse was heading for the car.
Before she or any passers-by could possibly have seen the movement,
Van lifted the rumble seat, and climbed in, doubling his lithe body on
the floor, pulling the cover over him.

As he settled in the cramped space, he heard her climb in. The
door slammed. There came the whine of the self-starter, the cold bark
of the motor.

The car was moving. Once or twice Van dared to raise the lid a
little. Not so far that she might see it in the rear-view mirror, but
far enough to watch the progress of the car.

It was heading down West End Avenue.

Nurse Keenan drove fast, though she heeded the few traffic lights
still on at this hour. Quickly West End Avenue changed from an
exclusive residential section to a gloomy street where freight trains
ran, Eleventh Avenue or, as it was called because of all the accidents
that had occurred here, "Death Avenue."

Presently, near the freight yards where many parallel tracks
crossed the avenue, the Chevrolet came to a stop, was parked at the
curb.

His body cramped from the ride, Van waited until he heard the
nurse getting out, heard her heels clicking across cobblestones.

Then quickly he lifted the rumble seat, his body gratefully
uncoiling, and leaped soundlessly to the pavement.

The caped figure of the nurse was moving straight into the freight
yard, unnoticed by a watchman some distance away. A strange place for
a private nurse on her off hour to be going, Van thought tightly.

Strange, yet not irrelevant. This was also part of the Empire and
Southwest's spur. Its freight division.

To a desolately dark portion of the tracks the girl moved, to
freight cars obviously long since abandoned, and left here on rusty
tracks to decay.

Then, incredibly, she climbed into the open, slide door of one of
those abandoned cars!

Van did not follow her to that door.

Instead he slipped around to the one which was also open.
Cautiously he peered into the car.

A dim light flickered inside the musty, empty car interior. The
nurse stood by that light, as if waiting. And a change seemed to have
come over her. Her face was hard, her eyes cold, calculating.

She reached beneath her cape, pulled out a small flat automatic;
held it, as if prepared.

Van ducked low as he heard a heavy step, a low whistle, thrice
repeated.

He lifted his head again when he realized the step came from the
other side of the car. From his door he peered through, to see a
shadowy, capped figure climbing into the train.

The girl, gripping her gun, stood tense, challenging, as the man
came into the light. Van could not see his face. All he could see was
that the man was large of build, and moved agilely. Also he could see
that the man's clothes were dusty.

The Phantom knew, however, that he hadn't seen this man before.

"Hello, Frenchy," the nurse greeted.

The man, whose hands were in his pockets as he swaggered toward
her, barked challengingly, with a Gallic accent:

"What is zis? You I do not know!"

"Sure you do."

The nurse stepped forward. She swept off her cap. And then, as she
removed hairpins, her blond hair also came off!

Wavy red locks were revealed. That alone changed her whole aspect.

Crouched at the door, a comprehensive light was in the Phantom's
slitted eyes. His keen deductions had again been correct.

"Ah, it is indeed Mademoiselle Keety," came in relieved tones from
Frenchy.

Kitty! The gun moll who had brought orders from the criminal for
the Phantom's death! Kitty, leading a dual life, playing a female
Jekyll-Hyde role, showing a mastery of disguise which almost rivaled
the Phantom's own.

But clever women could do that sort of thing. Makeup was part of
their everyday routine. Rouge, lipstick of varying shades, artfully
applied to suit varying chosen roles could change almost any woman
into another personality, totally different from her natural self.

She had almost completely fooled the Phantom. He had not
recognized her as Nurse Keenan at the plateau. Not until he had seen
her hands had he even guessed her identity.

He glanced at the shoes she wore--nurse's shoes she had to keep
whitened. Some of that stuff must have clung to her fingers despite a
thorough hand washing. She had brought it on her fingers to the
plateau.

A nurse? This cold, criminal-minded woman? Garrison's private
nurse. Now it was clear who had tipped off the criminal Tycoon about
the Phantom's identity!

But that still did not answer the question--was the murderer one
of the people in the hospital, or an outsider?

But though these thoughts flitted instantaneously through Van's
brain, primarily his attention was on the gun moll and "Frenchy." He
could only see the man's dust-covered back now.

"Well, I am arrive," Frenchy was saying. "An' I think I should
receive, yes, more cut of ze money. Ze boss he does not know eet is
difficul'. More and more police they send against us down there."

Kitty flung back her head and laughed contemptuously.

"And I thought you were a tough egg--you, claiming to be an
apache! Listen, Frenchy! You better not beef to the Tycoon! He might
get sore, and then he could sort of tip off the French coppers that he
knows where they can nab Jacques Barac, who ran away from the--What
d'you call that meat-chopper?"

"The guillotine!" Deadly fear was in the words. Van could see the
broad back tremble. "Dieu, he would not squeal on me, ze Tycoon?"

"Not if you play ball! But I ain't talkin' for him! I got a
message for you, that's all! Tonight, at six o'clock, you go to the
corner of West Broadway and Bleecker Street, uptown side, and--"
Rapidly she described the spot. "You'll be picked up there."

The girl made a gesture to show that she had finished the
interview. She was replacing her wig and cap, powdering her face as
she held a small compact.

"Go the way you came," she instructed Frenchy.

She extinguished the lamp. Then Van crouched suddenly back from
the doorway, for she came to his side of the freight car, jumped
agilely to the ground.

She passed within feet of the Phantom, unconscious of his
nearness. She headed for her car, as Frenchy who had climbed out the
other side of the freight car started away in a different direction.

The Phantom reached quick decision. He had the girl spotted now;
knew her role of nurse in the sanitarium. He was more interested, just
now, in Frenchy!

Stealthily he slid around the freight car. The back of the French
apache was disappearing across the yards.

Van followed. His plan was formulating swiftly. Capture Frenchy--
secretly. Make up as the French thug and take his place at that West
Broadway rendezvous.

Glancing back to Eleventh Avenue as he gained on his quarry now,
the Phantom saw a car moving off. The girl was probably returning to
the hospital.

Van drew out his Colt--a new one replacing that he had lost to the
gangsters. No one was in sight, though a train of freight cars was
backing slowly out of the yard, on a track close ahead.

In the darkness, the Phantom swiftly closed behind Frenchy.

And then some sixth sense--for certainly Van made no sound on his
soft-soled shoes--must have warned the foreign thug. Of a sudden he
whirled. In the darkness Van only saw his eyes--glowing dark eyes.

"All right!" Van said crisply, his voice low but menacing. "Put
your hands up, Frenchy!"

With a shrill cry, the Frenchman leaped wildly at Van.

The Phantom could have shot him dead then, but he wanted the man
alive. He brought his gun down on the capped head, hoping to stun
Frenchy. But the cap was heavily padded, and evidently the apache's
skull was thick!

The next instant a human cyclone struck Van. He knew how the
apaches fought--with hands, feet, teeth--anything that could punish
and do damage! And here was a taste of it.

The Phantom managed to shove his gun into his coat freeing both
hands to grapple with the desperate thug. Then his powerful arms were
getting a grip on Frenchy, tying up that windmill of fists and feet.

Frenchy suddenly lurched away. Something glittered in his hand. A
knife! With desperate skill, he was maneuvering its deadly point
toward Van's chest.

Both were wrestling across the tracks now. With fresh alarm, Van
saw a glowing red light moving towards them--the freight train that
was backing out! He grabbed at the knife, twisting it aside. Even as
he was doubling his fist to hurl a blow at Frenchy's jaw the apache,
in his effort to retrieve the knife, gave a mighty backward lurch.

It pulled both man and knife from Van's grip, sent him staggering
to the middle of the track.

"Look out!" Van cried, his heart stopping.

But it happened before he could prevent it; before the brakeman on
the rear car could stop it either.

Though moving with fairly slow speed the train loomed over Frenchy
like a Juggernaut. Half off balance, he was struck down by the push of
the freight car bumper.

He screamed once as he fell--a short, horrible scream, cut off
like a phonograph record. Then the train was rolling over him, the
heavy steel wheels rumbling.

Minutes later, the Phantom saw police gathering around a mangled,
bloody mass of flesh and bone and torn clothing. All that was left of
Frenchy. The steel wheels had ground his body to a pulp before they
could be stopped.

And Van's eyes were grim.

Frenchy had died despite his efforts to keep him alive--and Van
had not even seen his face; would never see it now!

It was already daybreak. In less than twelve hours, Frenchy's
rendezvous was scheduled.



Chapter XV A Perilous Chance



HALF OF THOSE HOURS had passed when the Phantom, once more in the
great laboratory of "Doctor Bendix," was making ready for the most
perilous experiment of his entire career in crime-detection.

On a table, he had laid sheaves of paper. One was a cablegram. The
others were still-damp pictures which had been sent by the Bartlane
wireless photo process.

Both had come from France, from the headquarters of the famous
_Surete,_ in Paris. Havens had handled the telephoto with the
facilities of his papers.

During his visit to Havens, however, the Phantom had received
another set-back in his plans.

He had ordered the police to go quietly to the Ferris Sanitarium,
and secretly arrest Nurse Keenan. But evidently some woman's intuition
had told her that the law was on her trail, for she had vanished
completely, leaving Garrison without a nurse. Van had given a
description of her as Kitty, the gun moll, and a general alarm was out
for her.

Grim-eyed, the Phantom gave his attention now to the wireless
photos. A vague, smudgy face peered from them. It had not taken him
long to decide the pictures were useless to him. Evidently they had
not been good pictures, to begin with. The transmission had made them
more vague.

He picked up the long cablegram. It read:

TO THE PHANTOM

JACQUES BARAC ALIAS L'APACHE MORT ALIAS FRENCHY WANTED AS FUGITIVE
FROM JUSTICE CONDEMNED TO GUILLOTINE STOP THE BERTILLON MEASUREMENTS
OF THIS CRIMINAL FOLLOW

Then followed detailed numbers and signifying letters. The
anthropometric system of French criminal identifications.

Van drew out an immense drawing board, on which paper was fastened
with thumb tacks. He divided it, by rule and T-square, into several
squares, all numbered.

Then he set to work. His long study of the methods of the French
Secret Police gave him a full understanding of the system by which,
from bone measurements which could not change, they reproduced
likenesses of wanted criminals.

Every bone structure of the face, from forehead to chin, was
identified as a "type," marked by a number, which Van found in his
book on the subject. The face itself was divided into numbered
squares, representing these parts.

From the guiding numbers of the cable, and his own book on the
subjects, Van began to fill in those squares.

Slowly, parts of a face took life-size shape. A cruel face with
high cheek bones, small, wide-apart eyes, a sharp, hooked nose, a
thick-lipped but evil mouth, and a receding chin.

Van looked at the cable:

 COMPLEXION SWARTHY STOP HAIR CHESTNUT COARSELY THICK

Finished with his work at the drawing board, Van carried the
drawing with its measurements into the alcove dressing room. Here he
arranged not the daylight lamp, but a powerful floodlight, for he was
making up for night, not for day. Then, with only the drawing he had
made, with bone structure measurements as his model, he set to work.

The high cheek bones first. Bits of rubber, shoved under his gums,
upward, held by small wire clamps. The sharp nose then. A wire pincer
over his own nose; flesh-colored clay added. Then a cream dye to give
the swarthy complexion; a special preparation to coarsen his own hair
before he used another dye to bring it to the right color.

In his mirror a replica of the face in the drawing was slowly but
definitely taking shape.

Was it the face of Frenchy? Despite his faith in the Bertillon
method, Van could not be certain.

"But I've got to chance it!" he gritted.

With a swift movement he swept aside the curtain of his replete
clothes wardrobe. He had at least seen Frenchy's suit. It was not
difficult to find a suit of somewhat similar material. He put it on.



FRENCHY HAD CARRIED A KNIFE--no gun had been found on him. Van
moved to a closet, unlocked it. A small arsenal containing every
conceivable weapon from a Malay _kris_ to a Western derringer gleamed
before him. He selected a knife of the type Frenchy had drawn, shoved
it into his belt. But he also pocketed a .38 automatic.

Nor was he finished yet.

Moving to his full length mirrors he walked up and down, imitating
the way he had seen Frenchy walk. He made gestures that Frenchy had
made while the apache had been talking.

He moved to a Dictaphone, he began to speak into it, phrases that
Frenchy had spoken; mimicking the man's accents. "Ah, Mademoiselle
Keety--Well I am arrive--_Dieu,_ he would not squeal on me, ze
Tycoon!"

He played the record back, listened to it with critical appraisal.
For a full hour he practiced before he was satisfied.

Then, over the private wire which ran straight from here to the
_Clarion_ Building, he called Frank Havens.

"Any new developments?" he demanded.

"Yes, Van!" the publisher announced tensely. "You remember Leland
Sprague? The surveyor who found the body of Brooks the other night?
Well, Strickland has reported him missing from his home. Fears
something happened to him!"

Van's eyes went grim. Had the Tycoon of Crime struck again?

"And another thing, Van. The first autopsies on some of those
airplane victims were made. There was a heavy morphine content in the
stomach of each as well as food and caffeine. It begins to look as if
they were drugged before being killed!"

"Have any of the bodies been identified as Max Garth's?" Van
asked.

"No, though most of them have been identified. No sign of Garth's
body, nor that of Nancy Clay, the stewardess--By the way, Van, I have
those maps you asked for from the Department of Commerce. The maps of
the air-field in Nevada that group of scientists drew up for the
Government."

"Good! Send them over here to my laboratory any time, though I
don't know just when I'll get at them."

"What are you doing now?" Havens asked anxiously.

Van spoke grimly. "I'm about to experiment with the late Monsieur
Bertillon's famous system. An experiment by which I hope to get still
closer to this Tycoon of Crime!"



WEST BROADWAY AND BLEECKER STREET at its least crowded hour.

Elevated trains rumbling overhead. And, on the northwest corner,
moving about furtively as if he had an eye out for the police, a
swarthy-faced, sharp-nosed man, plainly Gallic.

The Phantom had come on the dot at the scheduled time. Now he
waited, his heart pounding with cold suspense.

So smoothly did the dark sedan slide up to the curb that at first,
even alert, he scarcely noticed it. Then he saw the rear door open,
heard a low whistle.

The crucial moment had come.

With a swaggering walk, Van approached the car. He climbed in
confidently.

He found himself sitting down next to the burly Ape. At the other
window, Slick, now wearing his pearl-grey slouch hat over his patent-
leather hair, leaned forward. The movement showed that distinguishing
scar.

"Okay, Luke!" Slick ordered.

The thin, angular-faced thug was at the wheel. He promptly started
the car, sent it back into traffic.

"How's your eye-sight, Frenchy?" Slick asked the question sharply.

For a brief moment he pondered that. Then he laughed shrilly,
speaking for the first time. "Eet is ver' good. Why?'

"Because," said Slick, "you ain't gonna be using it for a little
while--Now hold still, I got my gat on you, and Ape here is handy with
his mitts!"

For a moment Van felt his arduously built-up plans crumbling about
him. Then, as a heavy cloth was brought roughly over his eyes by Ape
and securely fastened, the moment passed.

For Slick said: "You savvy, we ain't taken any chances. You're
still a new guy to us, even if you have been workin' in the other
territory, and we've all seen you."

Van sat still. The blindfold, which Slick himself reached over to
adjust, fully obliterated his vision. He did not try to maneuver it.
He was playing a precarious enough part and must do nothing
suspicious.

Thus far he seemed to be getting by. They had seen the real
Frenchy whom he had never seen, yet his disguise seemed to have passed
their inspection.

The car rolled on. Now and then Van could tell that it was
stopping in traffic, or turning, but he could not gauge its course.
Once he heard a sound in the rushing wind as of the sides of a bridge
passing; he could sense water. But he wasn't sure what bridge it was.

Then the car suddenly gathered speed, rolled smoothly, rapidly. An
open road now, doubtless.

For a long period the journey continued. Another turn, then the
car began to jounce roughly, violently, making slower progress.

Then at last it came to a stop.

Instantly the blindfold was taken from Van's face, and he was glad
his makeup had been put on solidly enough not to be affected by it.

With the others he climbed out of the car, in night which was
pitch dark. But with his blindfold accustomed eyes he could see
clearly.

The trees of a heavy woods rose darkly on every side. The Phantom
and his underworld companions were standing on a clearing amid those
trees, on a lawn where reared a dark, stone mansion.

What was the location of this house Van could not guess. Nor did
he have much opportunity to study its exterior.

"Come on, Frenchy," Slick said. "We ain't got much time."

With Ape walking behind in his loping gait, all moved to the front
door of the house. Slick pressed a bell-button, but apparently the
bell gave no sound. Waiting only a moment he took out a key and opened
the front door.

They came directly into a large foyer. A heavy oak door was
opposite them, closed. The foyer was dimly lighted, the furniture
covered with shrouding cloth.

And at once Van became aware of an evil atmosphere in this place--
a sense of chill menace.

"Wait!" commanded Slick.

He walked across the foyer to that heavy door; rapped on it three
times.

There was a click, as of a lock being turned. Slick opened the
door, slid quickly through it, closing it before Van could glimpse the
room beyond.

Minutes passed. No sound came from the closed-off room. Ape stood
patiently, rolling a cigarette with his pawlike hands. Luke paced the
floor. Another gangster came in then and Van recognized the twisty-
faced man as Maxie.

"Say! Look who's here!" Maxie exclaimed. "If it ain't Frenchy!
Hope you brought good news."

"Stow it!" Luke said gruffly. "No questions or talking here. You
know the rules, Maxie."

Silence again in the foyer.

Then once more the oak door opened. Slick came out. He looked
awed, yet a trifle disappointed, and he wheezed as if he were cold.
His eyes flashed to Maxie.

"Come on, you! We ain't gonna go on this job. The boss wants us to
wait around for orders." He nodded to "Frenchy."

"Go in--Ape, you stay with Luke. Both o' you wait for Frenchy."



Chapter XVI The Ice Chamber



AS SLICK AND MAXIE moved for the front door, Van walked
unhesitatingly to the door of oak and the inner room. He tried the
knob. The door was unlocked. His nerves steeled, he pulled it open,
entered.

On its own spring the door closed behind him.

He found himself in a large, brightly lighted oblong chamber, with
bare walls. Though there were no visible signs of ventilation, the air
seemed fresh. Also it was strangely cold, bringing an instant chill to
his body.

Though his senses registered these things, his real attention was
immediately drawn, as if magnetically, to the far end of this strange
room.

In the metal wall was a small square window of heavy glass. And as
Van walked forward in the bright light which was challenging every
line of his makeup, he discerned a face in that window.

A crazy grotesquerie of a face. Distorted as some face in an
amusement park's sideshow mirror. Shimmery features which had a
ghastly aspect.

But the Phantom realized, as he looked at that grotesque visage,
that the glass of the window had probably been made with some
deliberate imperfection to cause that distortion.

"All right, Frenchy! Stand where you are!"

From a camouflaged microphone in the glass the voice, a strange
ghostly whisper which nevertheless filled the bare-walled room, rapped
out the command. At the same time, the air seemed to grow colder--
uncomfortably colder.

The Phantom came to a stop some twelve feet from that window.

"Well, Frenchy, now you meet me personally." The distorted
features shimmered eerily. "I am your boss--the Tycoon of Crime!"

Van had all he could do to conceal the surge of hate and rage that
flamed through his every fiber. His hand itched to whip out his gun.
Behind that distorting window stood the master criminal he had sought
on a trail of blood and slaughter.

Twelve feet apart that criminal and the greatest living detective
faced one another. But the Phantom knew that as far as coming to vital
grips with the criminal went, that distance might as well have been
miles instead of feet.

He had seen the invulnerable position of the Tycoon of Crime. Not
only was the wall metal, the glass undoubtedly bullet-proof, but the
criminal had another, even better protection.

This big, bare chamber outside the window was obviously air-
conditioned. And from behind that window, the criminal himself
operated the air-conditioning power. His making the room colder when
he had wanted "Frenchy" to halt had been a warning.

Cleverly hidden vents near the ceiling were letting that cold air
in. Unquestionably, if the criminal willed, he could turn that air to
freezing point, could make it fatal for any human, while in his
segregated chamber the Tycoon could remain comfortable and safe.

But who was he? In his Gallic pose, Van peered hard at that
shimmery, grotesque face in the window.

An eerie chuckle sounded from the microphone then.

"I am sorry you cannot see me as clearly as I can see you," came
the voice of the Tycoon of Crime.

Van was glad then that he had not relaxed playing his role to
perfection, in every posture. That glass must have clear places in it,
through which the criminal peered, saw him out here in the bright
light, watched his every move.

"And now, Frenchy, to business. My time is valuable. It is not
often I give it to anyone. Soon all will realize my position!" The
whisper rose in gloating triumph. "They will pay tribute to me in
millions--millions. You know that, do you not, Frenchy?"

_"But oui,_ I know eet!"

It was the first time Van had spoken in this eerie place. And even
as he spoke, he was grimly wondering what mad scheme of power and
wealth this diabolical criminal had. There was a ghastly confidence in
the man's egotistical boasting.

"And that brings me to your work, Frenchy." The eerie, whispery
voice changed in tone. "I am not completely satisfied with the results
you and your mob have been getting in--your territory. Up here, my men
have worked smoothly and tirelessly. You used to give me more action!
What is the matter?"

Even as he puzzled over this speech, the Phantom's retentive
memory leaped suddenly into the gap of his unconnected thoughts. He
took a long shot, and quoted almost verbatim words he had heard the
real Frenchy speak. Even though he knew they were perilous words, he
had to make his role convincing.

"Eet is ver' difficult, _Monsieur_ Tycoon. Ze police zey make
theengs hot. I do not weesh to complain, but ze cut of ze money--"

"Ah, so that's it?"

The whisper had become a tigerish purr. And significantly, the air
in the room grew still colder. With alarming rapidity. Van felt goose-
flesh pimple his body as almost Arctic air came rushing through the
vents.

"Oh, eet ees cold! Please, _Monsieur_ Boss--I do not mean to
offend."

"No, you could not be that foolish. That is why I shall pass over
your words, and forget them. And perhaps you will yet redeem yourself.
I am going to send you back now, along with two of the boys who will
show you how we operate up here! If you can help them, so much the
better. This is an important job, and I am taking no chances!"

As he spoke, Van noticed the temperature of the room was no longer
dropping. But the air remained uncomfortably cold, refrigerated. And
it was at that very moment that Van became aware of a sensation that
filled him with sudden alarm. The skin of his face, under his makeup,
was becoming rigid, painfully taut!

He knew, with a sharp clutch at his heart, what was happening. His
makeup could have stood heat; even blistering heat. But he had not
expected to find himself in icy coldness!

His makeup was stiffening in that cold. The cream dyes were
shrinking as they congealed! The fixed temperature was doing its work!
As he stood there he could feel that artificial face changing,
contracting, beginning to pull out of shape!

He knew the criminal's eyes were watching that face. In another
moment the Tycoon of Crime would see. Van would be betrayed! And
something told him that if he were, he would never get as far as that
oak-paneled, air-tight door with its lock apparently operated from
behind the criminal's window.

In that perilous instant, with the contraction starting to distort
his face, Van's mind raced. Some loophole, some escape--

Then swift inspiration came.

With a feigned gasp the Phantom let his knees go limp. He dropped
to the floor of the icy room as if passing out from the effects of the
icy air. It had, indeed, brought lassitude to his body.

He fell forward, so that he could put one hand to his face to
shield it and warm it at the same time.

"Ah--too much for my warmblooded apache friend?" The criminal
behind the glass chuckled. And the air suddenly grew warmer. Van
stirred. If only he could get a chance to come to grips with that
fiend!

A bell clanged, somewhere outside the oaken door. The lock clicked
and Ape, with the tall, angular-faced Luke came in, with drawn guns.

"Take Frenchy out of here--and go on with the job!" came the eerie
whisper. It seemed to recede as if sinking.

And the moment after Ape had "helped" Van to his feet, the
grotesque face disappeared from the window.

"Come on!" Luke said, shivering. "It's damn cold in here. An' we
just about got time to make it."

They were pulling Van along to the open oak door. The Phantom did
not resist, nor try any false moves. The criminal leader was still
safely out of reach, and this mission to which the Tycoon had assigned
him was going to be vital. It seemed his best lead now.

His companions led him through the empty foyer, thence out into
the tree-shrouded grounds, into the dark night. Van heard the muffled
purr of a high-powered auto motor, somewhere in the rear of the house.
The Tycoon--driving away?

In vain the Phantom tried to guess his surroundings as they moved
across the soggy, muddy grass. At least it didn't seem they were going
to blindfold him now. He should find out before long where this eerie
house was located.

Then, suddenly, he suppressed a sharp intake of breath.

They had reached a turn. And, nestled in a bay of trees, a silvery
cabin monoplane loomed into view, squatting like a huge bird with
outspread wings.

A modern Fairchild it was, Van saw at once. Luke stepped forward
with an authoritative air. The tall gunman opened the cabin door,
stepped in, reaching for the dashboard. Then he hurried around to the
self-starter.

The starter moaned. Its moan was drowned in the sudden staccato
burst of the Wright engine coming to life, as the propeller whirled.

Luke, obviously a trained pilot, was already in the front seat, at
the stick. He had turned on the cabin lights.

Ape's huge figure climbed in next, then Van followed. There were
two seats behind the pilot, opposite one another. Ape took one. Van
took the other, pulling the door closed at a command.

The motor scaled up and down, warming. Then the plane lurched
forward. Expertly, Luke taxied the ship across the wide clearing,
headed it into the wind. A rush of gathering speed, then the sudden
smooth lift as the monoplane took the air.

The Phantom looked covertly from his window as the dark ground
dropped away.

He saw the dark mansion, the woods, but they looked vague because
the lights in the cabin lessened visibility outside.

The plane was climbing in a slow circular course. And before Van's
keen eyes could get a clearer view of the mysterious locale they had
left the place behind and low-hanging cloud-wisps engulfed the ship.
Luke was watching his dashboard instruments, flying by them. Nor could
Van see them clearly from his seat, though he could hear the buzz of
the radio compass.

Vaporish mists wisped past the windows. Then clear starlight. Luke
was above the clouds.



Chapter XVII Sky Ride



UNQUESTIONABLY, A FULL HOUR went by with no conversation in the
throbbing, coursing plane. Luke silently guided the controls. Ape
settled back in his seat, in an attitude of relaxation. The Phantom
was still wondering from where they had taken off, and where they were
headed.

Once his glance had gone down covertly to his shoes. He noted that
they were caked with mud from the grounds over which he had walked.
Peculiar, greyish mud.

Unobtrusively Van managed to scrape some of that mud off with a
bit of match-box from his pocket, and to shove the folded cardboard
away. Once before a pair of shoes had aided him--the white shoes of
"Nurse Keenan."

A sudden gap appeared in the cloud-vapors through which the ship
was coursing and, glancing through the window, Van caught a glimpse of
the dark relief-map earth below. Rough terrain, with dark hillocks
that were growing to mountain ranges! Somewhere off to the right the
faint tentacle of a beacon-light darted into the sky.

"Where are we, Luke?" Ape asked gruffly. "Jersey?"

Luke spoke without turning. "Cripes, we passed outa Jersey ten
minutes ago. We're crossin' Pennsy now. And I hope the Tycoon gave us
plenty of fuel for this trip so's we can make it on the exact time he
planned!"

As time went on, Van Loan learned that he was being taken on no
small "hop." The plane was racing across the continent! Flying on a
steady, southwesterly course while Luke, who Van realized was not only
an expert pilot but a tireless one, guided it by the regular air-
beacons and radio beams.

The darkness of the night deepened as the ship winged in and out
of clouds. Once it "detoured" to avoid a storm area which showed black
in the sky, an area that was being announced by the radio operator of
the Pittsburgh airport.

Ape's big head was lolled back now. The huge thug dozed off, and
his snores rose beneath the engine's throb. But Luke continued to
guide the controls in silence.

The Phantom's mind was working at top speed. With each hour he was
being flown further from New York; from the scene of his
investigations. Should he try to wrest control of this ship--capture
these two thugs and fly back? He could do it, with Ape snoring, and
with Luke concentrating on the controls.

But he didn't make such a move. The Tycoon had said, "an important
job," and the Phantom must learn what that job was. He must know why
this plane was making such a long trip.

And so he, too, pretended to relax while the night dragged on.
Actually, though, he was wide awake, alert to every change in their
course, to every buzz of the radio compass.

He knew when they were passing over Ohio. The winding silver
ribbon that was the Ohio River gave him his bearings. Ohio--then
Indiana, stretching its flat plains below.

Ape woke up as they winged over Illinois. The big thug reached
into a compartment and produced sandwiches and a thermos bottle of
coffee. He took a greedy share of both, passed them next to Luke who
used one hand to drink and eat. "Frenchy" was then offered his share--
and the Phantom partook of this felon's meal, knowing his body must
have nourishment to maintain its energy.



WHEN THE GREY DAWN seeped across the sky, and the sun rose red
behind the speeding plane, Missouri was spread out below.

Full morning found them flying over Kansas, over dusty flatlands.

Then, just as Van was wondering whether this flight was going to
cross the whole continent, Luke twisted his expressionless face over
his shoulder and spoke. In his tone was the triumph lacking in his
features.

"We've hit the schedule to the dot, guys! Now if the boss was
right--"

As he spoke he was easing the joy-stick forward. The plane dipped,
began a long descent over the Kansas landscape--over the Southwest
state to which Van had flown so far in company with two underworld
thugs.

The earth loomed beneath the descending ship. Dusty fields,
meadows, trees. And then Van saw twin, glistening lines growing into
distinctness--lines which cut across that landscape.

Railroad tracks!

Luke was following them with the speeding plane, having leveled it
at low altitude. For a long period the Fairchild sped on a parallel
over those glistening lines.

Again Luke twisted his head around to speak.

"Be ready, Ape. Ought to be comin' in sight now!"

Instantly Ape was fully awake, his eyes gleaming with evil
anticipation. He reached beneath his seat and Van, heart tightening,
watched him pull out a wooden box he had already noticed there.

Pear-shaped, steel-encased missiles gleamed in that box. Grenades!

"You can help with the pineapples, Frenchy!" Ape said, grinning
ghoulishly. "You oughta know the lay down these parts!"

A shout suddenly broke from Luke. The Fairchild abruptly slanted
steeply, rushing down a hill of space with roaring speed.

"There she is!" Luke cried.

Van looked. His eyes widened.

On the track below and ahead, a long, glistening train had loomed.
A streamlined train, racing along those rails like a graceful, silvery
bullet! Obviously one of the latest Diesel-engined trains. It moved
effortlessly, smokelessly. Ape had opened the window beside him,
ignoring the rush of wind. The big thug lifted one of the
"pineapples."

Closer loomed the train which, despite its speed, was far slower
than the down-rushing airplane.

So this was the grim objective which had brought these thugs way
to Kansas! They were diving on a streamlined train--a train full of
people! Diving with murderous intent!

Ape was taking aim with the bomb now as the plane, swooping low
over the rounded roof of the train, banked to give him a perfect
throwing range.

And in that instant, Van knew that he must act. Role or no role,
he could not sit idly by and watch an act of such devilish
destruction! Though for almost twelve hours he had withheld himself
from any action, he could do so no longer.

Ape's arm came back to take aim with the bomb--and the Phantom
pushed out of his seat, sideward. He lunged with his shoulders against
Ape's arm, cleverly blocking it in its poised position.

Ape cursed. "Hey, what the hell's the matter with you, Frenchy?"

"Ze lurch, it threw me," Van explained quickly.

The plane had slithered on past the gleaming, streamlined train,
was banking vertically to swoop anew.

"Get over it, Luke!" Ape growled. "I'll finish it right!"

Again the train was beneath them. Ape once more aimed the
pineapple. And again the Phantom deliberately lurched. This time he
could not block the throw but he delayed it. The plane had slithered
past the train and over a field before Ape could let go with the
grenade.

A geyser of brief flame, followed by the slower-traveling
concussion, shot out of the empty field--safely to one side and behind
the train.

Ape growled a curse at this second apparent clumsiness which had
spoiled his aim. But another cold voice suddenly snapped out like a
whip. Luke's voice.

"I saw that, Frenchy! You did it on purpose! Trying to ball up the
works, eh?" The pilot, holding the plane in a climb, was looking back,
his hard, expressionless eyes giving his face a deadly aspect. "Say,
no wonder the boss didn't trust you too much! If you think you're
gonna pull a doublecross--"

With a snarl, with that quickness by which an underworld felon
could change at once from comrade to deadly foe, Luke whipped out an
automatic, snaked it around.

The Phantom threw all pretense aside then. Gritting an oath, he
catapulted forward. His hand caught the pilot's gun arm. His other
hand, balled into a fist, swung in a short but terrific jab to Luke's
angular jaw.

The pilot gasped, slumped; out for the instant. The plane leveled
into neutral by its own stabilizer.

A growl of enraged comprehension came from Ape then. The big man
had turned from the window, was lurching forward, his head low to
avoid the ceiling. And his big hands scooped up a tommy gun. Its
muzzle swung like a dark cannon-maw at the Phantom.

"You doublecrossin' rat!"

Van had no time to draw his own secreted automatic. The tommy was
right in front of his face, ready to blow his head off!

He made one rapid movement--swooped one long arm for the joystick,
gave it a crazy yank.

The Fairchild see-sawed drunkenly, standing on one wing tip in
midair. Cursing, Ape was thrown off balance, even as the tommy blasted
three shots into the cabin ceiling. The plane sideslipped; began to
wabble and to lose flying speed.

Its nose dropped sickeningly as the earth came up in a spinning
rush. The tracks to one side; the train far ahead.

Ape yelled in alarm as his huge frame slid down the flooring of
the steeply tilted ship. Van ignored him now, for the earth was
spinning up closer. A fatal crash was imminent.

The Phantom yanked at the stunned pilot to move him from the
controls.

And at that very instant Luke came to, began to struggle fiercely,
flaying out with both arms, kicking, squirming.

Cramped between chairs, Ape again had the tommy. Somehow, despite
the sickening drop of the plane, the huge thug was again aiming that
gun at Van.

The Phantom let go of the weak but struggling pilot. This time he
managed to get his automatic out. It blazed once in the giddy plane.

Ape's big body slumped over the chairs--a bullet in his brain.

Jagged green trees seemed to leap up at the plane like mammoth
teeth. With a mighty heave, Van yanked at the pilot in a final,
desperate effort. Even as the ground loomed right below, the Phantom
at last cleared the control space, pushing the cursing Luke aside. He
slid into the seat, grabbed the stick, found the rubber bars with his
feet.

With the skill of an expert flyer, Van struggled with those
controls, knowing how slim his chances were of righting the ship. He
used the throttle and stick, trying to bring up nose and drooping
wing, at the very moment the tree-tops slanted right beneath.

At the last instant he did succeed in getting the plane over a
wide road which ran parallel to the railroad tracks. But that was all
he could do. He could not get the ship on even keel, nor could he get
it to the flatlands on the other side of the tracks. The road came up
at a menacing, swinging angle.

Van sat tight, flinging his arms in front of his face, after
flicking off the ignition switch. He saw Luke trying to rise, yelled a
warning at the thug. Then the crash came!

A rending impact--a shivering moan of twisting metal. Its nose
telescoping, the monoplane settled in a wing-buckling heap.

Fortunately, there was no fire, due to Van's quick thought of
turning off the ignition. Nor did the "pineapples" aboard explode. By
crashing on the road and getting the nose of the plane up as far as
possible, Van had avoided an impact that would have blown the whole
wrecked plane to bits.



Chapter XVIII Looted Train



DAZED, SHAKEN, BUT OTHERWISE UNHURT, the Phantom crept through the
wrecked cabin. Ape lay on the floor, dead from Van's own bullet. But
he was not the only corpse!

With the top of his head horribly crushed, Luke, the angular-faced
thug, lay in a gruesome heap. He had made the mistake (an ironic
mistake for such a skilled pilot) of trying to stand up when the crash
came. A metal roof support had done the rest.

Van got out of the cabin as quickly as he could; out on the road,
where he pulled the two corpses. He searched both with lightning
speed, took all their possessions.

One article, found on Luke, interested him as he glanced at it
quickly. It was a tagged key, marked Piedmont Hotel. Van knew that
hotel in New York. It was one of the flashy type of places which
gangsters often used as hide-outs, posing as respectable business men.

As Van hastily pocketed the key, a scream of sirens, a raucous
roar, came to his ears. Coming down the road were motorcycles, tan-
uniformed figures astride them. Kansas State troops--a whole squadron
of them! Someone who had seen the plane crash must already have
reported it.

Van stood up quickly. Over makeup which, though somewhat marred
now, nevertheless still clung to his face, he placed his black silk
domino mask.

And then he realized the troopers couldn't have known about the
plane. For though none could have failed to see it in the middle of
the sunny road, the majority of them did not even stop, but sped past
in frantic haste.

The few who braked their machines to a standstill and dismounted
were soon staring with surprise at Van's platinum, diamond-studded
badge.

"The Phantom!" came husky, ejaculations.

For like the police in every part of this nation, and in every
other nation as well, their regulations had reminded them to be on the
lookout for that scintillating emblem and its anonymous owner,
wherever found.

But the Phantom wasted no time in formalities. Those other
motorcycles had sped ahead--something must have--

"What's happened, Sergeant?" he asked one of the troopers. "What
were you called out on?"

"Big train wreck--about two miles up, near Emporia," the sergeant
answered quickly. "News just phoned in."

The Phantom's heart turned to ice.

A moment later, with one trooper remaining at the crashed plane
with its two New York gangster corpses, the remaining motorcycles
roared again down the road. And the Phantom sat astride the fender of
the careful but speedy-driving sergeant.

Ambulances and local police from Emporia had already reached the
wreck when they arrived. In the full morning sun it lay like a ghastly
blight upon the landscape.

The streamlined train which Van had saved from an airplane bombing
lay toppled over an embankment, its engine telescoped, its silvery
cars twisted and bent.

The crew had died, all of them. Most of the passengers still
lived, but many of them were horribly maimed, bleeding and groaning as
interns rushed with stretchers to pick them up.

From horrified survivors the Phantom learned the facts, and the
first thing he learned came with the impact of a blow, though he had
already surmised it.

The train belonged to the Empire and Southwest Railway. It had
just inaugurated this run, from Topeka to Salt Lake City, Utah.

When the airplane had appeared, no one had known its intent. Its
one exploded bomb, well behind and to the side of the train, had not
been seen. But as the train proceeded, two closed automobiles had
appeared on the parallel road beside it, having turned in from some
branch road ahead.

There had been a terrific explosion coming with cataclysmic
suddenness. Tracks upturned, and the train derailed. And thugs from
those automobiles had looted the baggage car, taking everything of
value.

Grim comprehension narrowed the Phantom's eyes. Even in his fierce
anger and grief over this ruthless vandalism, he paid unwitting
tribute to the devilish cunning of the Tycoon of Crime.



IN THE EAST, somewhere in or near New York, the criminal leader
had planned this crime with utmost thoroughness. It was natural that
he could not entirely rely on the plane making the trip on schedule,
and doing its work. Out here he must have another mob in contact with
him, the mob from which Frenchy had originally come!

They had been on hand, in cars. Even if the plane had succeeded in
bombing the train, the local gangsters would still have been needed to
loot the wrecked train. They had simply carried out both jobs.

And Van could only console his bitter feelings with the thought
that, had he not thwarted the men in the plane the wreck might have
taken a greater toll.

In Emporia, where a police chief turned over a private telephone
to him, the Phantom put through a long distance call to Frank Havens.
The publisher was astounded to hear the Phantom's voice talking from
Kansas, when little over twelve hours ago Van had been in New York.
But the train wreck was no news to him.

"Yes," he said briefly, "I got it from my correspondent over the
wires. I phoned it to Garrison at the sanitarium. It threw him almost
into a raving state. He's in debt now, it seems, for backing that
streamlined train and its fast run. He relied on it strongly to pull
the railroad out of its slump." Havens hesitated for a breath. "But
there's something else I have to tell you, Phantom. About Leland
Sprague."

Van's heart tightened. "You told me he was missing from his home,"
he said quickly. "Has anything--"

Havens spoke rapidly. "No--and that's just the point! Sprague
showed up at my office about midnight last night. He seemed in a state
of utter terror--actually ill, acting wild and queer. Said he felt he
needed protection and had come to me in the hope of finding the
Phantom. At the same time he denied--pretty vehemently, I thought--
that he had been missing at all. Said he'd been home, buried in work,
all the hours the police were looking for him. Because he seemed so
ill, I insisted on calling my own physician. He took Sprague to the
Polyclinic Hospital, saying the man obviously needed rest, if nothing
else. Sprague's still there."

The Phantom had listened to this report with narrowing eyes. His
apprehension had changed to a sudden sober conjecture. Sprague's
absence and return--the timing of them included the hour when Van had
seen the mysterious Tycoon of Crime at that unknown hide-out.

"Listen, Frank," Van ordered crisply. "Have your doctor make sure
that none of Sprague's clothes or other belongings are touched or
lost. I want to look into this matter personally when I get back to
New York. I'm taking the first plane I can."



IT WAS NOT YET MIDNIGHT when the Phantom opened the multiple-
locked door to his secret laboratory in New York's Bronx.

He had already made two visits since his return.

The first he had made with the police--to the Piedmont Hotel. The
key he had found on the dead Luke gave him entrance to a room on the
twentieth floor. It was deserted, but evidently had been quite
recently occupied, not only by Luke, but by others. Clothing was
strewn about. So were empty whiskey bottles, glasses, cigarettes.

Van had made a thorough search, taking every item that seemed
possible evidence. He had brought them now to his laboratory. Police
had been left to guard the hotel room, which had been rented under
fictitious names. The Phantom doubted, however, whether any thugs
would show up there again.

Before returning to his laboratory Van had hurried to the
Polyclinic Hospital. He had seen Leland Sprague there--seen the shock-
headed surveyor in a wild, agitated state, his face flushed and
feverish, his eyes small-pupiled in their glaring. Talbert, the tall,
mustached shoring man, another of the scientists, had also been
present, trying to persuade Sprague to remain in the hospital, for
Sprague was demanding to go.

Both men had been tight-lipped in the Phantom's presence. Van had
learned nothing from them. But he had learned something of
significance when he had examined Sprague's clothing, in the privacy
of an office. On Sprague's shoes had been two layers of caked, clayish
mud. The same mud, Van had seen at once, that he had scraped from his
own shoes in the plane, just after leaving the Tycoon's hide-out.
Sprague, who had sworn he was not "missing," had been on those
grounds!

Havens's doctor, who had attended Sprague, had then said he was
unable to tell just what was wrong with the man, but suspected he had
recently taken narcotics--cocaine, in all likelihood. Since arriving
at the hospital, Sprague had steadfastly refused to submit to thorough
examination; above all, he had refused to have a blood test taken.

But the Phantom had come away with some of Sprague's blood
nevertheless. The scientist had been scratched on his wrist, which the
doctor had bandaged. The bandage was changed, and Van took prompt
possession of the old, blood-soaked gauze.

Now, in his laboratory, Van once more put on his smock and set to
work.

He gave first attention to the mud he had scraped from his own
shoes, and from Sprague's. From his great crime library, came every
book on soil he possessed. The dab of mud went under a special
geologist's glass, thence through strainers to segregate clay, humus
and sand. The Phantom soon analyzed it. He took out a map then, giving
in various colors the different types of soil in every locale. He
limited himself to a small area of the map, for he knew from the
length of that auto journey he had taken blindfolded that the
mysterious house couldn't be far out of Manhattan.

At first he saw no green in this area at all.

Then his eyes sharpened. Yes, there was one emerald dab.

Long Island. The only place where soil of this peculiar clayish
substance was to be found close to New York City. The clay was present
because of the marshy banks of the nearby Sound.

Recalling the immense woods that had surrounded the house, Van
took out a map of Long Island, pored over it. When he was finished he
had limited the locale to three possible points. Filing this
temporarily away in his retentive mind, the Phantom proceeded to his
next work.

One of the outstanding features of his laboratory was his
collection of equipment for the testing of blood--blood, which figured
in almost every crime case. He had apparatus for testing hemoglobin
content, after the method of the late Dr. Zangemeister of Munich, as
well as data and material to make the group tests of Beam and Freak.

Sprague's blood, transferred from bandage to a glass slide, went
through several tests, each viewed under a microscope.

That blood told a story--a grim story.

And strangely, it brought a fresh memory to the Phantom. He
hurried downstairs to the entrance of the loft where there was a big
box affixed under a slot in the metal door, like the night-vault box
of a bank.

In it Van found a wrapped package. Havens, he knew, had left it
here some time previously. He took it upstairs to his desk.

And when he unwrapped the package he was gazing at more maps. All
marked "Department of Commerce, U. S." Except for the map which had
been made by Havens's staff men--one showing the locales of the Empire
and Southwestern Railway sabotage outrages.

Searching through the lot Van found what must have been the
original map of the planned airport in Nevada, work on which the
scientists had engaged for the Government before resigning their
posts.

It was a large map, and property on it was marked off according to
ownership. The first words Van saw were: "Empire and Southwest
Railway."

So the railroad's right of way ran right through this section of
Nevada! It extended out pretty far, too; to the boundary of
government-owned property. The airport, however, was planned to be
situated some distance away from the railroad.

The Phantom submitted that map to an intensive analysis, using
even a violet ray to bring out every detail.

And then he found it!

It had been cleverly done, leaving little trace. But it was there!

Originally, this Government map had been different! The square
plot of the airport had, instead of being so removed, actually
bordered on the railway's property. The marks designating the original
plot had been erased, doubtless by chemicals.

Nodding in sudden understanding, the Phantom rapidly sketched in
that original plot. And then, partly across the square but mostly in
the railroad property that immediately adjoined it, he wrote a single
word--with a question mark after it. The word was:

 Pitchblende?

In increasing excitement at his discoveries, he hurriedly viewed
the other map showing the locales of the train sabotaging. Yes, most
of it had taken place in the Southwest--in Kansas as a matter of fact,
where the railway had its biggest Southwestern spurs, and where that
streamlined train had been wrecked.

It had also taken place along other points of the many tracks, in
other states. But Nevada had been neglected by the saboteurs! Not one
spot was marked there.

Thrusting all his deductions temporarily into a recess in his
brain to await further analysis, Van turned back to the immediate
problem in hand. The exact location of the criminal's Long Island
hide-out. He must follow that up. And there was something else, too.

On another table he now dumped out the stuff he had taken from the
Piedmont Hotel room. Carefully he went through the collection.

Cigarettes. Currency--wads of crisp new bills. A little loose
change; a watch. Keys, and an oblong card on which was printed:

 GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL CHECKROOM

NUMBER 138

It was the last item which most interested the Phantom. What had
those thugs left in the depot checkroom? Here was something that
warranted immediate investigation.

The Phantom called Police Headquarters, and in a moment was
connected with Inspector Gregg.

"Inspector, I suggest you and some of your men meet me in the
waiting room of Grand Central Terminal as soon as possible," Van said
authoritatively. "I have to look into something there--and I also have
some information to convey to you concerning the base from which the
Tycoon of Crime has been operating in New York."

"What's that?" came the Inspector's gruff ejaculation. "I'll be
there all right, Phantom!"



Chapter XIX Another Victim



GOOD AS HIS WORD the detective chief was promptly on time. When
the Phantom, his features once more disguised, entered the big
concourse, stripped now of the waving banners that had given it a
festive air, he saw the big, placid-faced Inspector and a group of
plainclothes men shifting impatiently.

The Phantom identified himself without having to show his badge,
since he was expected here.

"Well, now, what's this about the criminal's base of operations?"
the Inspector demanded at once.

"I hope I haven't stirred up any false hopes, Inspector." Van
smiled tightly. "My information isn't too definite. And it can wait a
little longer. I want you and your men to be on hand now, just in case
there's any trouble. Let them spread out a bit, but watch me."

The command was carried out swiftly. Plainclothes men scattered
about the concourse, amongst the coming and going travelers.

The Phantom walked straight to the checkroom counter. A uniformed
attendant, youthful and sleepy-eyed, waited upon him. Van presented
check number 138.

The clerk looked at it, then turned to the row of wire-wickered
shelves. He took down a small black valise, shoved it over the
counter. Van carried it away carelessly, feeling a sense as of
anticlimax.

Inspector Gregg joined the Phantom to walk with him into the
adjoining smoking room, which was almost vacant. Other detectives, at
Van's command, made a screen around him.

Picking the lock of the valise as it stood on a bench, was a
matter of seconds for the Phantom. The lid came open--and a low cry of
amaze burst from the Inspector, while the Phantom's eyes went to
slits.

Stacks of engraved paper lay in the valise. Negotiable stock
certificates of the Empire and Southwest Railway!

Hastily pulling on a glove, the Inspector was already going
through them, his heavy lips pursed as they always were in moments of
climax. The Phantom pulled out another paper that laid beneath the
stock. On it were cryptic figures--algebraic formulae, a few chemical
quantities. And the name inscribed across its top was: "Donald
Vaughan."

"Lord, what does this mean, Phantom?" said the puzzled Inspector.
"Stock placed in a check room? Who--"

"My guess," Van said slowly, "is that Donald Vaughan, the
geologist, put it here and gave the check to one of the gang. That's
how I got the check--from a dead gangster's room. I think we've
uncovered the method of collecting extortion, though, Inspector. The
checkroom was used as the place of exchange."

"But that would be crazy; imagine using a public checkroom--Say,
wait!"

Stirred to action now as the Phantom closed the suitcase, the
Inspector barked orders to his men.

They went to the checkroom. The sleepy-eyed youth was promptly put
through a grilling. He disclaimed any knowledge of what had been going
on. He couldn't remember faces, he said, and there were so many
people. Van, looking at him, thought he was telling the truth.

Taking matters into his own hands, and dispensing with the
formality of procuring a search warrant, the Inspector barked orders
for the whole checkroom to be searched for more such stuff.

"It beats me!" he told the Phantom. "I still can't understand how
anybody would have the nerve to use such a place for his extortion
collections."

"Why not?" Van asked, even as a new, vague, but disturbing
apprehension began stirring within him. "Isn't it the last place we
would have thought of looking? And accessible to anyone? Anybody could
safely collect the loot, just as the men who had secretly to pay it
could put it there unnoticed. If you ask me it was a most ingenious
method. I suggest that you look up Donald Vaughan at once."

"They'll know up at the offices, probably, where to find him,"
said Gregg confidently, and dispatched a man there. "Well, one thing
is sure. They won't be using that checkroom again!" He scowled
heavily. "And now, Phantom, what about that information about the base
of operations?"

"You can send word to the police in Long Island to search in two
areas for a house of this description," Van said, and gave the
description.

The inspector concealed his eagerness to be off--this news had
evidently interested him more than the discovery of stock--as, on the
heels of a plainclothes man, two of the men whom Van had seen in the
upstairs office on the night of the tragedy in the concourse, came
hurrying to the scene.

James Strickland, the florid-faced vice-president of the Empire
and Southwest Railway; and Jenson, the mild, bespectacled secretary of
the line.

"What is it now?" Strickland's voice was hoarse, agitated. "We've
been here trying to check reports on that streamline train wreck--have
our hands full. What's this about Vaughan?"

"Where can we get a hold of him?" It was the Inspector who
answered, for the Phantom hadn't identified himself to these
newcomers.

Strickland was looking from the group of men outside the checkroom
to the frightened checkroom clerk. He shook his head, jerkily.

"I don't know just where Vaughan would be at this hour--" he
began.

"Why, he must be at his laboratory," Jenson promptly broke in. "He
sleeps there when he's working, and he's been working all this week.
It's on East Sixteenth Street." He gave the number.

"Okay." A moment later Inspector Gregg, having drawn Van aside,
said in a low voice: "I'll send a couple of men there to see Vaughan.
Let's take the trail of this Tycoon's base ourselves, and--"

"Let other men attend to that job," Van put in, his tone crisp,
incisive. "And you--and plenty of police--come along to Vaughan's at
once!"

Something in his tone stopped any protest the Inspector might have
intended making. He told one of his men to attend to communicating
Van's message about the criminals' base to the Long Island
authorities.



MINUTES LATER, THE INSPECTOR'S car, in which he rode with the
Phantom and several other men, was screaming through the scant night
traffic, down and across town. Behind it came two prowl-cars with
their bluecoat duos.

On a dark desolate street, in the shadow of tall factory chimneys
and where the East River bridges could be seen etched against the sky,
the cars with sirens screaming slid to a stop opposite a modern, trim
building which looked almost incongruous in this neighborhood.

The Phantom and the police leaped swiftly to the curb, strode to
the front door of the building. Van pushed a bell. They could hear it
ring inside, but there was no answer.

It was the Inspector who seized the handle, turned it. He gave an
ejaculation of surprise as he found it unlocked, then yanked the door
open and--

The concussion of the sudden, terrific explosion sent the
Inspector and several of his men flying backward, the Phantom with
them! The house shook on its very foundations. Windows shattered!
Smoke billowed out the open door.

Before the smoke had cleared, the Phantom, gun out, had leaped
ahead of the other men into the house.

Flashlights went on in the hands of police who followed him,
illuminating a large, devastated chamber.

It had been a laboratory. Now it was a mess of broken lights.

And then, one and all, the flashlights focused on the debris-
strewn floor.

There, horribly mangled, and in a pool of blood, lay the body of
Donald Vaughan, geologist.

He had been literally blown in two. The middle of his body was one
sagging mass of broken bones and flesh. His squarish face, with its
heavily pouched eyes, was distorted and twisted out of shape, blood
frothed the purple lips.

The Phantom took in the gruesome sight in a flash and then his
eyes roved fiercely about the flashlit room, taking cognizance of
wrecked apparatus and particularly of one broken glass tube filled
with a peculiar gilt foil.

His glance swept suddenly then to an open door, a corridor in the
rear which the darkness there had at first obscured. The only exit.

His lithe body hurtled forward. Out into the corridor, to a rear
door, his gun out. He yanked the door open, revealing a rear alley
leading to the next block. He stopped abruptly. The dark alley was
full of slouch-hatted figures, apparently just making a get-away. This
he saw only fleetingly as he opened the door, for in the next instant
he had ducked back.

Shots flamed from two directions. Gunmen had seen the door opening
and were cutting loose, their guns giving the alarm to the rest.

From behind the door frame the Phantom grimly aimed, and his own
gun blazed.

One of the thugs dropped in his tracks, pitched to the paving.

Then, just as the rest started to cut loose with blazing guns,
police came pounding to the doorway.

"Get those thugs!" Van yelled. "They're the Tycoon's gang!"

He would never forget the faces of the men he had seen in that
plateau experience in the Catskills.

The police leaped out. Shots from steady, flaming Police Positives
shattered the night. The alley became a bedlam.

Gangsters fell, their life-blood spurting redly as they paid for
trying to shoot it out and resist capture. Others tried to flee up the
alley onto the next street, where they evidently had their cars. But
police prowl coupes had already sped around to head them off, to
blockade the alley.

The Tycoon's gang was caught between two fires. As if they
realized that capture meant death, they fought like cornered rats. Two
of the police were badly wounded--a bluecoat, writhing on the pavement
with a side wound, and a detective hobbling bravely on one wounded leg
while he still tried to fire his gun.

The Phantom himself was in the midst of the fray, and again the
Nemesis of Crime was taking a grim toll. A face loomed before him in
the gun-blazing alley--the twisted face of Maxie. Van took aim, only
to see the thug go down before the gun of one of the bluecoats. But at
the same instant Van saw another figure only too familiar--a flashy-
dressed, dancer-like figure, the scar on his otherwise handsome face
showing livid in the night. Slick!

The Phantom leaped forward, gun whipping up as he ducked a
desperate shot from the gang lieutenant.

Again, he aimed.

And again he held his fire. For out of the swirling mass of
figures, the acrid mist of powder-smoke, leaped a slender shape.
Kitty, the gun moll! With a scream, she had leaped in front of the man
who, though an underworld felon, was the man she loved.

And though Van knew she was a cold-blooded killer, he could not
shoot at that slender shape.

Seeing that, Slick took cruel advantage of it. He grabbed the
woman who had furnished him her own body as a shield. He started to
retreat, dragging her backward with him; his callous answer to her
love.

But evidently one of the zealous bluecoats hadn't seen that she
was a woman.

She slumped so suddenly, with a stricken cry, that Slick could not
hold her up to longer shield him. Like the cornered rat he was, he
flung up his gun, aimed straight for the Phantom. But the Phantom beat
him to it. Even as he was sidestepping Slick's bullet that whistled by
his ear, the Phantom's own bullet found the cowardly Slick's heart.

As Slick's lifeless body sank to the paving, Van swiftly leaped
forward. He caught up the limp, moaning girl, carried her out of the
melee to the nearest place of safety. There he lowered her.

One look, even in the darkness, told him that she was beyond help.
The bullet had entered too close to her heart.

In a moment she stirred, her eyes flickering; no longer cold, but
frightened, like a child's.

"Slick!" she murmured. "Don't let them get you, Slick."

The Phantom leaned close, spoke softly. "Slick's all right," he
lied. "They have taken him alive." But then he hardened himself, to
take grim advantage of the lie. "Maybe it'll go easier with him if you
speak up," he suggested.

"I'll talk," she gasped, even as the death rattle began in her
throat. "It ain't his fault--I'm to blame." She too, was lying, and
Van knew it. "He's just a baby, honest--"

"You posed as Nurse Keenan." Van forced his words to rap hard
against that ebbing consciousness, even as the roar of guns was
subsiding in the alley. "But you were also Nancy Clay. Right?"

"Yes."

"The Tycoon got you that job of airplane hostess, too? And you did
the trick, didn't you?"

"Yes. I gave--" She broke off, a paroxysm shaking her slender
body.

But the Phantom was unrelentingly persistent. He bent closer. "Do
you know who the Tycoon of Crime is?"

Fear fanned the dying spark in the girl's eyes. "I--I thought I
did--heard voice--saw--Guess I was wrong--"

Van leaned still closer. "Who did you think it was? Was it--" Into
her ear he spoke a name.

She raised her head a little as if to answer--but before she did,
a final paroxysm shook her body. Her eyes went dull, and she lay
still.

It was just as well, Van reflected in that gruesome moment. For
what he had on her would have doomed her to the chair--



Chapter XX The Conference



WHEN VAN LOAN TURNED from the girl's body, the sweating police
were sheathing their smoking guns. They were standing about, looking
foolishly idle as men always look immediately after a fray, when there
is nothing more to do. Saluting the warriors, the Phantom walked back
into the blasted house. "Well, we wiped 'em out!" Back in the
shattered laboratory, where emergency lights had been rigged up by a
hastily summoned riot squad, Inspector Gregg spoke tersely to the
Phantom. "We got them all, thanks to your quickness."

Van's disguised face showed no triumph. Instead, his eyes were
thoughtful, sober, and his lithe body, if anything, was more tense
than ever.

Homicide men had come, were working about the mangled corpse of
Donald Vaughan. The verdict of "death from bombing" pronounced by the
stocky medical examiner, however, was superfluous.

"Now if we can only get the Tycoon himself!" the Inspector
gritted. And the thought sent him to a telephone which by some miracle
had been found to be in working order. He called Headquarters.

"Any news from Long Island about that house?" he demanded. His
grunt of disappointment was enough. "Okay. Well, keep in touch with
them. I'll be at this number for a while."

He hung up. But hardly a minute had passed before the telephone
rang insistently.

"Hello!" The Inspector was back at the instrument. "What's that?
You just got a news flash? Yes, I'll wait." He waited, his face
hopeful. "Yes?" He listened, and the hopeful look turned to blank
amaze.

With a short exclamation he hung up, turned to the Phantom.

"Listen to this." His gruff voice shook with excitement. "Just
when the Long Island police were starting the search of the areas you
suggested someone phones them an anonymous tip to go to a certain
house in Elmore. They thought it was a crank, but went anyway. And it
was the house you described. They raided it--but no one was there.
They found that air-conditioned room, you described, though, with a
lot of crazy-fangled machinery in it--"

For a moment Van's eyes were puzzled. "But they did learn
something, didn't they, Inspector?" he demanded.

"I'll say they did." The Inspector sprang his climax. "Guess who
owns that house. Winston B. Garrison--the railway president who's in
the sanitarium. What do you say we interview him--and find out just
how cooped up he is? Maybe he's been getting around more than we have
thought!"

"Maybe," Van said noncommittally, remembering that murder in the
sanitarium, and the faked trip to St. Louis.

And then his eyes gleamed with decision. He turned to the
Inspector hurriedly.

"Inspector, I'm leaving this case here in your hands for the time
being. Do whatever you deem wisest."

"You talk as if you're leaving town." The Inspector laughed.

The Phantom moved through the death-room for the door.

"I am," was his parting remark, spoken with grim purpose.

Half an hour later a surprised, haggard-eyed Frank Havens, who had
hardly had time to express his relief at seeing Van safe and sound,
stared up from his desk in the _Clarion_ office.

"I've chartered the plane as you asked, Van," the publisher said.
"But I can't understand your bolting off like this again! Leaving this
case virtually dangling--just when it seems headed for a finish, with
the gang caught--"

"I'm following the trail to that very finish, Frank," the Phantom
told him determinedly.

He had been re-packing a bag with clothes he had thrown in hastily
at his own apartment. He took out his Colt, snapped back the slide,
cleaned and oiled the gun.

"I may be wrong, but something tells me I'm not. The Tycoon no
longer has the jump on me. But I know he's not through yet, even with
his New York mob wiped out, and unless I work fast--"

The ringing of the phone interrupted him. Havens answered it. He
spoke briefly, listened. And his rugged face went suddenly taut with
shock.

"That was Inspector Gregg, Van. He said to tell you, if you were
still in town, that Garrison has disappeared. He's vanished from that
sanitarium. Dr. Ferris is gone, too, And that's not all. The Inspector
has been unable to contact any of the other men involved. Sprague has
left the Polyclinic and has vanished with the rest. It's as if
everyone concerned has suddenly disappeared."

Even before Havens finished, Van's whole body felt rippling with
impatience. He slammed his suitcase shut, speaking with gripping
firmness:

"I expected this, Frank. It confirms everything. I was right when
I said I had to work fast."



THE RAILWAY DEPOT of the Empire and Southwest's biggest line, a
line hard hit by sabotage, was a concrete structure, by no means as
imposing as the Grand Central Terminal in New York, but even more
modern in its design and equipment.

The large, spacious office on the ground floor was an excellent
place for a secret conference. Its windows could be closed as tightly
as its door, for the room was air-conditioned, and the air that came
through a wall vent was fresh and invigorating.

But the six men who sat around a table in the room seemed
uncomfortable, despite this air. Not one who did not look tense,
haunted and nerve-ridden.

Winston B. Garrison, his face gaunt, the skin like crumpled
parchment, sat at the head of the table. The glass, which had held the
morphomine he had just finished, was at his side. Next to him sat his
physician, tall, dark-eyed Dr. Ferris.

James Strickland and Jenson came next, the latter busily polishing
his glasses.

Then Paul Talbert, the wind-burned, mustached shoring engineer,
and the shock-headed Leland Sprague, surveyor. Two scientists where
there had originally been eight! And yet the secret bond which had
held those eight so close now held these remaining two.

Talbert sat erect, but his eyes were bloodshot. Sprague was
squirming uneasily, his lips twitching strangely from time to time.

"Well--" Strickland spoke, a little hoarsely. "Well, here we are,
after two days in that train we had to run out so secretly!" He
glanced at Garrison. "If you ask me this trip was foolish. What can we
accomplish here?"

Garrison strained forward. "I've got to salvage my railway." His
voice was a hoarse croak, but there was determination in it. "Though
our lines have been virtually ruined, I was informed, from here, that
the sabotaging has stopped since the wreck of the streamlined train.
We've got to work out a plan! A plan!"

"Don't excite yourself, Mr. Garrison," Dr. Ferris said soothingly.
"Just take it easy, and keep taking that medicine--"

"Maybe that medicine isn't doing him so much good," Talbert
clipped, pointedly.

The doctor's dark eyes flashed. "Meaning--"

And of a sudden the room seemed to crackle with tension. Eyes
clashed--eyes of suspicion and hostility.

Jenson laughed nervously, replacing his glasses.

"Now gentlemen, let's not start accusing each other. We've got to
cooperate. The railway--"

"Damn the railway!" Sprague burst out shrilly, "I'm sorry I ever
had anything to do with the railway." He laughed wildly. "If it
weren't for the others--"

Talbert whirled on him. "Careful, Sprague. You don't know what
you're saying. You know all of us, even when a murderer and
extortioner was killing off our numbers, kept doing our jobs. We all
tried to help Mr. Garrison put the railroad on its feet."

_"Did you?"_ a new, crisp voice asked.

The group at the table whirled as if every head was jerked by
strings, cries of alarm coming from several throats in unison. They
had not heard the door open.

They gaped as a tall man in a black silk domino mask strode
purposefully into the air-conditioned room--followed by four of the
city's police.

The Phantom quietly closed the door.

"Keep your seats, gentlemen," he told the group. "I'm the Phantom,
and I've come to get to the bottom of this whole ghastly intrigue."

Garrison looked as if he were going to have another of his spells.
"But how--where--"

"You wonder at my opportune arrival?" The Phantom smiled grimly
beneath his domino mask. "As a matter of fact, I preceded you down
here by a full day. I've been waiting for you, and it was easy, with
the help of the excellent police here, to check your arrival, and your
meeting here."

"What do you want?" Garrison was still spokesman for the startled
group. "Why have you brought in those policemen?"

"Largely to prevent any further crimes," the Phantom replied, with
a grim smile. "To help me, if I need help, in stopping the Tycoon of
Crime, once and for all."

Strickland gave a horrified gasp. "What? Then he is down here?
He's followed us! God, he'll kill us all!"

"I'm here to stop him," said the Phantom. "And that's why I want
to get at the truth. I asked a question when I came in this room--"
His eyes swiveled to Talbert. "You were saying how you and the others
wanted to help the railroad get on its feet. I challenged that
statement."

Talbert's mustache bristled. "What do you mean by that, Phantom?
We've all worked like slaves for the railroad. It was to our own
monetary interest to make the stock we owned rise in value."

The Phantom made an impatient gesture. "I said it was time for the
truth. Wherever there is a big crime like this, I've invariably found
that a smaller crime is behind it. Or perhaps you scientists didn't
consider it a crime to tamper with a Government map? Or to move the
location of a Government field?"

Sprague gave a stricken cry. Talbert sat frozen, now, eyes cold
with fear.

"You were men of science, but you were human--too human," the
Phantom pursued, relentlessly. "Greed was behind that tampering. Greed
made you move the field from the place you had first selected; made
you do it so secretly that no one but yourselves knew that it was not
the original site. Then it made you resign your Government posts and
cleverly induce the Empire and Southwest Railway to take you on as
technicians, in return for stock.

"You scientists had been selected by the Government to plan that
airport and select its site because of your specialized knowledge.
You, Talbert, because you know waterways; Sprague as an expert
surveyor, Vaughan for his knowledge of geology, of rock formation; and
so on. But when you got actually to work on the original plan of that
airport, had selected the site, you unexpectedly came upon some rich
deposits of pitchblende. Some of it was on Government property, but
most of it was on the property of the Empire and Southwest Railway.
Pitchblende! The ore from which the most valuable element in the world
is extracted. _Radium!"_

Garrison half rose from his chair, eyes bulging. Strickland and
Jenson gaped, and Dr. Ferris sat looking on like a confused observer.
Which he was, in truth.

"Radium!" the Phantom repeated. "A word which signifies millions
of dollars! A fortune for scientists who had hitherto made only a
modest living. But their first fear was that it would be found before
they could swing some deal which would give them a grasp on the
pitchblende property. If the airport were built on that particular
site, because some of the pitchblende was on Government ground, you
would have to 'discover' it openly. So, to divert this possibility,
you group of scientists, and there were eight of you then--" His gaze
was bent on the two at the table. "--changed the Government map. As
trusted Government men you had access to the Department of Commerce
files, and could accomplish that.

"Then you went to Garrison, to swing the deal that would give you
stock in the railway. And through that stock, partial ownership of the
property--"

Garrison broke in then, his voice a hoarse croak.

"But they told me nothing of the radium! What I have said about
their promise to modernize the line is true--that's why I gave them
stock! No wonder they wanted it!" His nervous agitation was gripping
him as he singled out one man. "Strickland! What did you know of all
this?"

Strickland denied any knowledge. So did Jenson.

The Phantom's eyes were inexorable, seen through the holes of his
mask. "The criminal who calls himself the Tycoon of Crime _did_ know
about that radium!" he said flatly. "It was the motivation for his
crimes! It was the goal toward which his greed drove him, which led
him to murder, to extortion, to sabotage! Radium! That was what the
Tycoon was after."

Garrison rose totteringly from his place. "This--this is all--too
much of a shock!" he croaked. He seemed like a drunken man. "I--I must
beg to be excused. I--I have an errand--"

The police glanced at the Phantom, but he gave no sign, though his
eyes had narrowed. And Garrison was permitted to leave the room.

Over his own doctor's protests he went out, closing the door.

The Phantom's glance swiveled to Talbert and Sprague, who had
listened speechlessly to his accusations.

"Well, gentlemen. Have you anything to say?"



SPRAGUE'S WILD EYES looked about. Talbert's tall, strong frame
slumped a little. His voice came hoarsely, brokenly.

"What you have said is true, Phantom. I admit my complicity. All
of us swung the deal with the railroad to get our fingers on that
land. I helped change the map. But--but I swear I had nothing to do
with the crimes that have now happened! I swear--"

A strange, groggy sound had come into his voice suddenly, as if he
were talking in a daze. Looking about the table, Van saw that the
faces of the others were going strangely weary.

Then his own superior physique felt it, and his heart went
suddenly icy.

Something invisible was closing upon this room. And then his
nostrils detected a faint odor in the air, like that of fresh peaches!

His eyes flashed to the vent through which the conditioned air was
coming, the only inlet.

He whirled to the paling police.

"Get everybody out of here! Hurry! And close the door behind
them!"

As he spoke he was jerking the door open. Without waiting for the
rest, he dashed out into the corridor of the station. The vent! He saw
the piping--saw where it curved downward.

His lithe body hurled to a stairway leading to the basement, as he
whipped out his Colt. In seconds he was down the stairs on soft-soled
shoes, and the darkness of the cellar engulfed him. The lights were
not on, but he could hear the whir of an air-conditioning plant.

Then, as his eyes accustomed themselves to the gloom, a shadowy
figure leaped toward him with a wild animal-like cry.

Hands like talons clutched at the Phantom before he could aim his
gun.

His antagonist was possessed of the strength of desperation.

But the Phantom, his own muscles flexing with the strength of
rage, had his left arm free. His jabbing fist found the face in the
dark--struck twice. Short, crunching blows.



Chapter XXI The Dream of Power



LEAPING TO ANSWER the Phantom's summons the police, followed by
the whole group from the executive room who came rushing down to the
cellar, found a strange, grim tableau.

The cellar lights were now on but the big air-conditioning plant
had been turned off. Close by that plant stood a metal container--
small, green-painted, a faint wisp of cloudy stuff emanating from it.

And several feet away, holding a half limp figure in a viselike
grip stood the Phantom.

He spoke more with wearied relief than with triumph.

"Here," he said, "is the Tycoon of Crime."

The police guns promptly whipped up. Men gave one concerted hoarse
cry of astonishment.

"Then it's Garrison!" Strickland yelled. "He left the room just
before that gas came in! He came down here!"

"Right!" the Phantom clipped. "He did come down here! And there he
is!"

He stepped aside, pulling his prisoner with him. On the floor,
just coming to, was the railway president, cruel finger welts on his
neck standing out bluely. Dazedly Strickland got to his feet.

"Then who is--" Jenson cried, staring at the man whom the Phantom
held in that grip of iron.

Van stepped aside from his prisoner.

Police guns were covering the fellow now.

Every eye was staring at the man, bewildered, as they took in the
gaunt body, the thin-haired head, the pallid face covered with thick,
dark stubble, and the eyes that glared like live coals.

"Yes, gentlemen," Van's voice rang out, "this is the dreaded
Tycoon. Otherwise known to you as--David Truesdale!"

Cries of amazed incredulity rose in protesting chorus.

"But it can't be Truesdale!" Talbert's hysterical cry rose above
the tumult. "Truesdale's body was found in the airplane wreck!"

But Jenson, stepping closer to the prisoner, broke out with even
greater vehemence: "It _is!_ The Phantom is right! It's Truesdale!
That beard can't conceal his face!"

"Truesdale!" Sprague screamed shrilly. "So it was you--you who
were making me come at your beck--to your hideout--to--"

The glaring prisoner spoke then, his voice thick.

"This is all some mistake! I never heard of any Truesdale. I can
identify myself. A mistake--"

_"You_ made the mistake when you first gave yourself away to me,
even though I had never seen you," the Phantom said flatly. "The game
is up, Truesdale. Your ego-maniacal dream of power is ended. While you
were stunned I found enough incriminating papers in your pockets to
prove plenty." He handed one paper over to the police. "This list of
names and hideout locations," he said, "will finish the mob you had
working in this town and state. Just as your mob in New York was
finished."

The prisoner's face drained of its last drop of blood. His dark
eyes glared wildly.

"All right!" he shrilled. "You found me, Phantom! I knew you were
on my trail throughout--knew that only you might ferret me out! I
killed them--all of them! _And I'm not through yet!"_

Only a man fired by utter, animal desperation could have moved so
swiftly, so unexpectedly.

Before anyone could stop him, David Truesdale, with a maniacal
scream, made one mighty leap toward that green-painted metal cylinder.

He lifted it, his hand on the cap, his face like that of some
satanic gargoyle.

Whether he intended to hurl it out at the whole group, with its
content billowing out, or whether he intended to erase himself as well
as the rest, could never have been told--for Van's gun barked then,
aiming at the hand unscrewing that cap.

The hand let go as blood spurted from it. The other arm of the
criminal still hugged the cylinder, as he cursed and screamed in pain.
Then suddenly a horrible change came over him. His body seemed
literally to wither. His distorted face turned greenish. The life went
out of his eyes as he slumped slowly to the floor.

Grimly the Phantom swung to the petrified group of men.

"Clear out of here--out into the air! That tube is still leaking!
It can't harm you as long as you're not near it--but you can see what
one whiff of it, full strength, has done to the devil who brought it
here! The Tycoon of Crime is dead!"

"And so it was Truesdale, Van! But I still can't quite grasp the
whole fiendish business!"

Frank Havens uttered those words of bewilderment as, two days
later, he sat beside Richard Curtis Van Loan in one of the latter's
purring touring cars which Van was driving uptown through Manhattan.

"Truesdale was after that radium, Frank," Van said. "Where the
others had been content merely to get a share of the property,
Truesdale was greedy enough to want all of it! A peculiar man,
Truesdale. To his friends he seemed shy, meek. Actually he had a
gigantic ego, a terrific greed for power and wealth. And so he planned
his devilish crimes--planned them with all the thoroughness of a true
scientist.

"His purpose was twofold. He meant to get possession of the stock
from the other scientists who knew of the stuff, then to seal their
lips. His second aim was to buy what stock he couldn't get by
extortion, and this he could do if he lowered its value sufficiently,
made it worthless to its holders. His sabotage was inaugurated in an
effort to ruin the railway, in the belief that Garrison would finally
be glad to sell out, provided he didn't know about that radium. And,
since the other scientists had not yet told the president of the
Empire and Southwest Railway, killing them would safeguard that
secret. Once the murders began, the other scientists dared not talk
anyway, for fear their whole intrigue with the Government map would
come out.

"Truesdale planned to die--in the eyes of the world. He would be
mourned as a victim of the criminal who already had been exploiting
himself as the Tycoon of Crime. Later on Truesdale could assume a new
identity. I believe now that he meant to use Leland Sprague as a sort
of intermediary--to buy up the depreciating stock for him and do other
such work.

"When I learned, from Sprague's shoes, that he had been to the
Tycoon's hideout, at first I was suspicious of _him._ But later, I
learned the truth. Sprague's blood showed that he had radium
poisoning, had evidently contracted it during the experiments
conducted at the site of the pitchblende deposits. And he was a
cocaine addict. This, which your physician told me, was also confirmed
by his blood. Truesdale gave Sprague that cocaine, playing on his
illness, converting him to a drug addict so that he would have a man
he could use as a slave.

"But to get back to the beginning of Truesdale's crimes. As I said
he started them with sabotage of the railway, as soon as he and the
others had acquired stock. His first mob--a mob led by Frenchy--
operated in Kansas. The money they took from the wrecked trains paid
them, and helped pay the second mob Truesdale organized in New York,
with Slick as its lieutenant.

"Truesdale knew he must start his murders of the scientists--with
himself apparently among the murdered--when he learned they were
planning to tell Strickland and Jenson about the radium, after which
it would be told to Garrison, who was then supposedly in St. Louis.
They had all shrewdly figured that Garrison might react unpleasantly
when they told him the real reason they had come into the railway. For
Garrison was more interested in the railroad than in anything else.
The idea was to tell Strickland and Jenson first, let them in on the
fact that all would become rich by exploiting the radium land. With a
solid majority they could win Garrison over.

"Truesdale, however, didn't want even Strickland and Jenson to be
told the secret. The less who knew about it, the more chance he had of
acquiring the stock.

"And Truesdale knew well enough that Garrison wasn't in St. Louis.
For in organizing his New York mob, he had been fortunate to get the
services of Slick's gun moll, Kitty, a female Jekyll-and-Hyde who had
already built up a respectable role for herself as 'Shirley Keenan,'
registered nurse. She was well-educated, clever--and I still wonder
whether she would have gone wrong if she hadn't fallen for a rat like
Slick.

"Garrison, ill from his worries over his failing railroad, was
looking for a private nurse, and Truesdale knew it. The gun moll went
for the job, got it. This enabled Truesdale to keep tabs on Garrison's
movements.

"He learned that Garrison had ordered a big portion of his own
stock from vaults in Chicago to be sent to New York. Garrison had
already turned over most of the stock he had on hand to the group of
scientists. The stock was to come by plane on the maiden flight of the
new Harvey airliner.

"I don't know just how Kitty managed to get the job as stewardess,
under the name of 'Nancy Clay,' on that airplane. But since Truesdale
knew in advance about the flight and the stock order--from her spy
work--she had plenty of time to apply for the job, and I believe she
got it on her own abilities.

"Meanwhile, Truesdale saw his opportunity to accomplish even more
during this airplane flight. He and Garth had gone out West to bring
back some of the pitchblende to show the railway officials and
convince them. They had the ore in a fireproof briefcase. Later I
found a piece of it that Truesdale had failed to remove. That was what
first gave me the hint that radium was mixed up in the whole ghastly
business.

"With Garth and Truesdale taking the plane from Chicago for the
final lap to New York, Truesdale was at last ready to launch his
terrible crimes! He began to phone warnings to the other men,
demanding both their stock and whatever papers on the pitchblende were
in their possession. I found one such paper in Vaughan's satchel full
of the stock.

"Truesdale pretended to receive the warnings himself. He acted
terrified, his real purport being to spread a contagion of hysteria to
the others, so they would meet his demands.

"And now he was ready. In their operations, the gang Truesdale had
painstakingly built up used a plane of their own. They had a secret
field in the Catskills, where that shack and radio were located.

"Having learned that Pat Bentley was to pilot the Chicago
transport, Truesdale got hold of that _Hindenburg_ record. Though how
he knew of its existence only he could have told. We will never know
more, but that's inconsequential.

"On the plane, the gun moll stewardess served drugged coffee to
the passengers. Truesdale had not told her he was her boss, though as
the Tycoon who knew what was coming, he knew he could insure his own
safety. He could only pretend to drink the coffee. However, the girl
overheard him talking to Garth. She thought she recognized his voice
as that of the Tycoon, but even when she was dying and told me this,
she said she wasn't sure.

"Some other member of the gang must have been a stowaway on that
plane, for the girl needed help, and all the others aboard are
accounted for. When the passengers were drugged, Truesdale also
feigning to be drugged with them, the girl and the gangster who aided
her cripple the radio, held up the pilot and copilot, and made them
land on the plateau.

"The rest of that story you know. Three persons who should have
been among the dead were missing, you remember. One was Bentley, one
the stewardess, and the other, I assumed, was Garth. It was Garth I
first suspected up on that plateau, especially since I had found a
check of his for twenty-five thousand on the dead Joseph Ware. Now I
realize that Ware was frightened and had sold out his stock to Garth,
who made the check payable in advance. But to get back, I first
accepted the corpse bearing the ring of Truesdale as Truesdale's.

"But by his own move, executed through his gang, Truesdale
virtually gave himself away to me. I was to be burned and placed among
the dead, to be identified as Bentley, the pilot, by the simple device
of putting Bentley's identifications on my charred body. One thing I
have learned about even the best criminal minds. That is that they
tend to repeat themselves. It occurred to me then that if _my_ body
could be substituted for Bentley's, then another corpse--and the name
of Garth came to me instantly--could be identified as Truesdale's by
the same trick.

"But to follow Truesdale. With the plane down, he rushed to New
York. Undercover he entered Grand Central Terminal and planted that
bomb in the box which motivated the sign, also changing the strip so
that it would flash his warning boasts. When the lights flashed,
Vincent Brooks and John Eldridge went to investigate the box. The
criminal probably counted on Brooks going there, since he was the
inventor of the sign. The fact that two went was all the better for
Truesdale's plans. When Brooks opened the box, the bomb went off,
doing its work on two of the scientists the criminal planned to
eliminate.

"Whether Truesdale was anywhere about when I had my set-to with
his thugs in the terminal, I don't know. But it is certain he ordered
them to follow Bentley and kill him. They were not expecting trouble
in making their get-away without going through the gates. I appeared
on the scene almost in time to stop that, but they did get away--then.

"Next came the murder of Joseph Ware, at the sanitarium. Ware, I
believe, had found out that Garrison was there and not in St. Louis.
No doubt he had gone to the sanitarium to tell Garrison the true story
about the radium. But Truesdale followed him, killed him and escaped,
while the gun moll, Kitty, now posing as Nurse Keenan, cleverly drew
my suspicion to Garrison himself, by making it obvious he could have
committed the crime. Garrison said later that he had dressed at her
suggestion, that it would be good for him. But he had been too
confused at the time to tell me that. Naturally she must have seen
Truesdale then, too, but quite as naturally, not in his real
character. Truesdale also was something of an adept at disguise.

"Fastening suspicion on Garrison was a part of Truesdale's scheme.
The disgrace would help to further cripple the railway, lower the
buying price of what stock he could not extort.

"Next, Truesdale learned that the airplane wreck had been found.
He was not ready for it to be found. As I told you previously, he
thought he had plenty of time to clear up that scene, to remove all
possible clues, so his 'body' could be neatly found when he tipped off
searching parties.

"He sent his gang there in a hurry, but I got there first. You
know what happened there.

"When learning that the moll and the nurse were one and the same,
I got into the shoes of Frenchy. I learned that the criminal had an
active mob in the Southwest. It was they who wrecked the streamlined
train in Kansas. Though Truesdale had planned to have it wrecked by
being bombed from the plane I was on as 'Frenchy,' he was taking no
chances of a slip-up, and his other men were on the job.

"Back at my laboratory I found how the scientists had altered the
Government map you got for me. I had already analyzed the little piece
of pitchblende, and the evidence of radium poisoning in Sprague's
blood gave me final corroboration. From the other map, showing
locations of the sabotage activity, I saw that one area in Nevada was
untouched; also that the center of sabotage activity was Kansas. Where
I had myself seen the vandalism at its worst.

"Now came the checkroom business, and the discovery of the
extortion method, followed by Vaughan's murder. In the dead
geologist's laboratory I saw shattered parts of an electroscope. I
realized then that Vaughan had probably been making radium tests, and
the bomb had been used as much to shatter his work as to kill him.

"But the gang who had committed this murder and who had destroyed
the laboratory was trapped. They were cleaned up. The Tycoon must
quickly have learned this, and realized that without his gang,
operations in New York were temporarily at a standstill. So he tipped
off the police about the house in Elmore, Long Island, for which I had
already started them looking.

"The house proved to be Garrison's, making him the leading police
suspect, which was what Truesdale wanted. Actually Garrison had not
occupied it for years. Truesdale had rented it and had converted it
into a hide-out, with the air-conditioned room. As you know, he was an
expert at ventilating.

"From all this I deduced that Truesdale would now have to go out
to the Southwest, where he had his other mob, if he wanted to continue
operations. Nor was I surprised when it was reported that Garrison and
the rest had 'vanished.' Truesdale had managed somehow to get word to
Garrison that the sabotaging in Kansas had stopped, and that there now
was a chance to repair the damage. So Garrison and the rest left for
Topeka.

"When the meeting took place in Garrison's Topeka office,
Truesdale was down at the air-conditioner, having knocked out the
engineer. Through a vent he could overhear what was taking place in
the room. When he heard me revealing the whole background of the crime
he started mixing chlorine gas with the air.

"Garrison must have detected it, and thinking something wrong with
the vent, gone down to investigate. Truesdale knocked him out, too.
But by that time I had become aware of the gas and had hurried down to
the cellar myself."



THE PHANTOM WAS SLOWING the car near Havens's apartment hotel.
"And there's the whole thing, Frank," he said. "I still feel that it
was Pat Bentley, bringing it to my doorstep, who helped most in its
solution."

Havens sat back, a smile of heartfelt relief on his face.

"You've done a wonderful job, Van," he commented. "Bentley did not
die in vain."

The car drew nearer to the curb when a girl's voice called a
cheery greeting. Muriel Havens came across the pavement.

"Dad! And you, Van! Where have you been, stranger?"

"Hop in," Van invited, "and I'll tell you all about it."

Havens took the wheel then. Van and Muriel sat in the back. And
somehow with Muriel beside him, Van forgot his fatigue, and how
wearied was his brain that was still teeming with details of the
ghastly affair his skill had brought to a solution.

"I've been sleeping most of the time," he drawled to Muriel. "You
know, one gets bored."

But though his tone was the languid, idle tone which Muriel so
despised, she felt his strong hand close over hers, taking it with
brief but warm possession.

Yes, brief. For sooner or later, another baffling crime must
break--and again Richard Van Loan would have to forget all human, all
personal feelings, and hurl his energy and skill against a diabolical
criminal.



THE END



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