This etext was produced from "Astounding Stories" January and February, 1932. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
The original "What has gone before" recap section from the second part (February edition) has been removed from this combined version.
Author's archaic and variable spelling is preserved. Author's punctuation style is preserved. Passages in italics indicated by underscores. Passages in bold indicated by equal signs.
Typographical problems have been changed and are listed at the end of the text. ]
* * * * *
The Mind Master
Beginning a Two-Part Novel
By Arthur J. Burks
The Tuft of Hair
"Let's hope the horrible nightmare is over, dearest," whispered Ellen Estabrook to Lee Bentley as their liner came crawling up through the Narrows and the Statue of Liberty greeted the two with uplifted torch beyond Staten Island. New York's skyline was beautiful through the mist and smoke which always seemed to mask it. It was good to be home again.
[Sidenote: Once more Lee Bentley is caught up in the marvelous machinations of the mad genius Barter.]
Certainly it was a far cry from the African jungles where, for the space of a ghastly nightmare, Ellen had been a captive of the apes and Bentley himself had had a horrible adventure. Caleb Barter, a mad scientist, had drugged him and exchanged his brain with that of an ape, and for hours Bentley had roamed the jungles hidden in the great hairy body, the only part of him remaining "Bentley" being the Bentley brain which Barter had placed in the ape's skull-pan. Bentley would never forget the horror of that grim awakening, in which he had found himself walking on bent knuckles, his voice the fighting bellow of a giant anthropoid.
Yes, it was a far cry from the African jungles to populous Manhattan.
As soon as Ellen and Lee considered themselves recovered from the shock of the experience they would be married. They had already spent two months of absolute rest in England after their escape from Africa, but they found it had not been enough. Their story had been told in the press of the world and they had been constantly besieged by the curious, which of course had not helped them to forget.
- - -
"Lee," whispered Ellen, "I'll never feel sure that Caleb Barter is dead. We should have gone out that morning when he forgot to take his whip and we thought the vengeful apes had slain him. We should have proved it to our own satisfaction. It would be an ironic jest, characteristic of Barter, to allow us to think him dead."
"He's dead all right, dear," replied Bentley, his nostrils quivering with pleasure as he looked ahead at New York, while the breeze along the Hudson pushed his hair back from his forehead. "He had abused the great anthropoids for too many years. They seized their opportunity, don't mistake that."
"Still, he was a genius in his way, a mad, frightful genius. It hardly seems possible to me that he would allow himself to be so easily trapped. It's a reflection on his great mentality, twisted though it was."
"Forget it, dear," replied Bentley, putting his arm around her shoulders. "We'll both try to forget. After our nerves have returned to normal we'll be married. Then nothing can trouble us."
The vessel docked and later Lee and Ellen entered a taxicab near the pier.
"I'll take you to your home, Ellen," said Bentley. "Then I'll look after my own affairs for the next couple of days, which includes making peace with my father, then we'll go on from here."
They looked through the windows of the cab as they rolled into lower Fifth Avenue and headed uptown. Newsies were screaming an extra from the sidewalks.
"Excitement!" said Bentley enthusiastically. "It's certainly good to be home and hear a newsboy's unintelligible screaming of an extra, isn't it?"
On an impulse he ordered the cabbie to draw up to the curb and purchased a newspaper.
"Do you mind if I glance through the headlines?" Bentley asked Ellen. "I haven't looked at an American paper for ever so long."
- - -
The cab started again and Bentley folded the paper, falling easily into the habit of New Yorkers who are accustomed to reading on subways where there isn't room for elbows, to say nothing of broad newspapers.
His eyes caught a headline. He started, frowning, but was instantly mindful of Ellen. He mustn't show any signs that would excite her, especially when he didn't yet understand what had caused his own instant perturbation.
Had Ellen looked at him she might have seen merely the calm face of a man mildly interested in the news of the day, but she was looking out at the Fifth Avenue shops.
Bentley was staring again at the newspaper story:
"An evil genius signing his 'manifestoes' with the strange cognomen of 'Mind Master' gives the authorities of New York City twelve hours in which to take precautions. To prove that he is able to make good his mad threats he states that at noon exactly, to-day, he will cause the death of the chief executive of a great insurance company whose offices are in the Flatiron Building. After that, at regular stated periods, warnings to be issued in each case ten hours in advance, he will steal the brains of the twenty men whose names are hereto appended:" (There followed then a list of names, all of which were known to Bentley.)
He understood why the story had startled him, too. "Mind Master!" Anything that had to do with the human brain interested him mightily now, for he knew to what grim uses it could be put at the hands of a master scientist. Around his own head, safely covered by his hair unless someone looked closely, and even then they must needs know what they sought, was a thin white line. It marked the line of Caleb Barter's operation on him that terrible night in the African jungles, when his brain had been transferred to the skull-pan of an ape, and the ape's brain to his own cranium. Any mention of the brain, therefore, recalled to him a very harrowing experience.
It was little wonder that he shuddered.
Ellen noticed his agitation.
"What is it, dearest?" she asked softly, placing her hand in the crook of his arm.
- - -
He was about to answer her, desperately trying to think of something to say that would not alarm her, when their taxicab, with a sudden application of the brakes, came to a sharp stop. Bentley noticed that they were at the intersection of Twenty-second Street and Fifth Avenue. The lights were still green, but nevertheless all traffic was halted.
And for a strange reason.
From the west door of the Flatiron Building emerged a grim apparition of a man. His body was scored by countless bleeding wounds which looked as though they had been made by the fingernails of a giant. The man wore no article of clothing except his shoes. Apparently, his clothing had been ripped from his body by the same instrument which had turned his body into a raw, dripping horror.
The man staggered, half-running, at times all but falling, toward the traffic officer at the intersection.
As he ran he screamed, horrible, babbling screams. His lips worked crazily, his eyes rolled. He was frightened beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals. His screams began and ended on the high shrill notes of utter dementia, and as he ran he pawed the air with his bleeding hands as though he fought out on all sides against invisible demons seeking to drag him down.
"Oh, my God!" said Ellen. "Even here!"
What had caused her to speak the last two words? Did she also have a premonition of grim disaster? Did she also feel, deep down inside her, as Bentley did, that the nightmare through which they had passed was not yet ended?
Bentley now sat unmoving, his eyes unblinking, as he saw the naked man stagger over to the traffic officer. The color drained from his face.
He looked at his watch. It was exactly noon.
Even without further consideration Bentley knew that this gruesome apparition had some direct connection with the newspaper story he had just read.
- - -
Unobtrusively, trying to make it seem a preoccupied action, he folded the newspaper again and thrust it down at the end of the seat cushion. But Ellen was watching him, a haunting fear gradually coming into her eyes.
She quickly reached past him and snatched the paper before he realized her intent. The item he had read came instantly under her eyes because of the way he had automatically folded the paper. She read it with staring eyes.
"So, Lee," she said, "you think there's a connection with—with—well, with us?"
"Absurd!" he said heartily, too heartily. "Caleb Barter is dead."
"But I have never been sure," insisted Ellen. "Oh, Lee, let's get away from here! Let's take the first boat for Bermuda—anywhere to escape this terrible fear."
"No!" he retorted harshly. "If our suspicions are correct, and I think we're unwarrantedly keyed up because of our recent experiences, the officials of New York may need my help."
"Your help? Why?"
"I know more about Caleb Barter than any other living man, perhaps."
"Then you do have doubts that he is dead!"
Bentley shrugged his shoulders.
"Ellen," he said, "drive on home without me. I'm going to drop off and find out all I can. If we're in for it in any way it's just as well to know it at once."
"You'll come right along?"
"Just as soon as I can make it. And I hope I'll be able to report our fears groundless."
Bentley stepped from the cab. He ordered the chauffeur to turn right into Twenty-second Street and to proceed until Ellen gave him further directions.
Then Bentley hurried through the congestion of automobiles toward the traffic officer who was fighting with the naked man, trying to subdue him. Other men were running to the officer's assistance, for it could be seen that he alone was no match for the lunatic. Bentley, however, was first to arrive.
"Give me a hand!" gasped the officer. "I can't handle 'im without usin' my club and I don't wanna do that. The poor fella don't know what he's a-doin'."
- - -
Bentley quickly sprang to the patrolman's assistance. Between them they soon reduced the stranger to a squirming bundle and dragged him to the sidewalk; another officer was phoning for an ambulance. The stricken man was now mumbling, babbling insanely. Blood trickled from the corners of his lips. The sight of one eye had been destroyed.
Bentley watched him, sprawled now on the sidewalk, surrounded by a group of men. The man was dying, no question about that. The talons, which had scored him, had bitten deeply and he was destined to bleed to death soon even if the wounds were not otherwise mortal.
Bentley noticed something clutched tightly in the man's right hand—something that sent a chill through his body despite the heat of a mid-July noon. The officer, apparently, had not noticed it.
Soon a clanging bell announced the arrival of an ambulance, and as the crowd stepped aside to clear the way, Bentley bent over the dying man. The man's lips were parted and he was trying with a mighty effort of will to speak.
Bentley put his ear close to the bleeding lips through which words strove to bubble. He heard parts of two words:
Bentley suddenly knew what the man was trying to say. The half-uttered words could mean only—"Mind Master."
Bentley suppressed a shudder and extended his hands to the closed right hand of the dying man. Carefully he removed from between the fingers three tufts of thick brown hair, coarse and crude of texture. There was a rattle in the naked man's throat.
Five minutes later the ambulance intern hastily scribbled in his record the entry, "Dead on Arrival."
Bentley, more frightened than he had ever been before, entered a taxicab as soon as the body had been removed and the streets cleared. He stared closely at the tufts of hair in his hand. Maybe he had been wrong in taking them before detectives arrived on the scene, but he had to know, and he felt that these hairs proved his mad suspicions.
Caleb Barter was alive!
The hairs came from the shaggy coat of a giant anthropoid ape or a gorilla.
How terribly far-fetched it seemed! It was unbelievable enough that Bentley had once reposed in the body of an ape. That had been in the African wilds. But the idiocy of the thing now rested in Bentley's belief that here, immediately upon landing, he was again facing something just as horrible.
But the coincidences were too clear. The palaver about "brains," and "Mind Master"—and those ape hairs in Bentley's hands. He wished he knew all that had led up to that story he had read in the paper just prior to the appearance of the naked man from the west door of the Flatiron Building. However, the killing would get front page position now, due to the importance of the dead man—Bentley never doubted it was the man whom, in the paper, the "Mind Master" had promised to slay.
Great apes in the heart of New York City! It sounded silly, preposterous. Yet, before he had gone through that dread experience with the mad Barter, Bentley would have sworn that brain transplantation was impossible. Even now he was not sure that it hadn't all been a terrible dream.
Should Bentley go at once to the police to give them the benefit of whatever knowledge he might have of Caleb Barter? He wasn't sure. Then he decided that sooner or later he must come out into the open. So he caught a cab and went to police headquarters.
"I wish," he said, "to talk to someone about the Mind Master!"
If he had said, "I have just come from Mars," he could scarcely have caused a greater sensation.
- - -
But his calm statement got him an instant audience with a slender man of thirty-five or so, whose hair was prematurely gray at the temples, and whose eyes were shrewd and far-seeing.
"My name's Thomas Tyler," said the detective. He certainly didn't look the conventional detective, but Bentley knew instantly that he wasn't the conventional detective. "I work on the unusual cases. If you hadn't sent in your name I wouldn't have seen you, which means that as soon as you leave here you are to forget my name and how I look."
He motioned Bentley to a seat. Bentley sat back. Suddenly Thomas Tyler was around his desk and had pushed back the hair from Bentley's temples. He drew in his breath with a sharp hiss when he saw the white line which circled Bentley's skull.
"It's not exactly proof," he said, as though he and Bentley had been in the midst of a discussion of that awful operation Barter had performed on Bentley, "but I'd take your word for it."
"The story, in the main, was true," said Bentley.
"I thought so. What made you come here?"
"I saw that naked man run across Fifth Avenue from the door of the Flatiron Building. I saw the officer subdue him, helped him do it in fact, and saw the man die. Since there was no detective there, I took the liberty of removing these from the fingers of the dead man."
Bentley gave Tyler the coarse hair, stained with blood. Tyler looked at it grimly for a moment or two.
"Not human hair," he said, as though talking to himself. "Not like any I know of. But ... ah, you know what sort of hair, eh? That's what sent you here!"
"It's the hair of an ape or a gorilla."
"How do you know, for sure?"
"Once," said Bentley grimly, "for several horrible hours ... I was a giant anthropoid ape."
- - -
Tyler's chair legs crashed solidly to the floor.
"I see," he said. "You think this thing has some connection with your own experiences. How long ago was that?"
"Slightly over two months."
"You think the same man...?"
"I don't know. But who could want, as a newspaper story I just read says, to steal the brains of men? What for? It sounds like Barter. I've never heard of anybody else with such an obsession. I'm putting two and two together—and fervently hoping they'll add up to seven instead of four. For if ever in my life I wanted to be wrong it's now."
Tyler pursed his lips. Bentley saw that his eyes were glinting with excitement.
"But there's a possibility you're right. Do you know what the Mind Master's first manifesto said? It was published by a tabloid newspaper as a sort of gag—a strange crank letter. Here it is."
Tyler tossed Bentley a newspaper clipping a week old. Bentley read quickly:
"The white race is deteriorating physically at a dangerous rate. In fifty years, if nothing is done to prevent it, the world will be filled with men whose bodies are so soft as to be almost worthless. But I shall take steps to prevent that, as soon as I am ready. I need a week. Then I shall begin my crusade to make the white race a race of supermen, whom I alone shall rule. They shall keep the brains they have, which shall be transferred to bodies which I shall furnish.
(Signed) The Mind Master."
- - -
Tyler squinted at Bentley again.
"You see? Brains are all right, he says, but the white race needs new bodies. If he isn't suggesting brain substitution, what is he suggesting? Though I confess I never thought of your story until your name was sent in to me a while ago. For the world thinks of Barter as having been killed by the great apes."
"Yes, I told newspaper reporters that. I thought it was true. But this Mind Master must be Barter. There couldn't be two persons in the world with mental quirks so much alike."
"Tell me what Barter looks like. Oh, there are plenty of pictures extant of the famous Professor Caleb Barter who disappeared from the world some years ago, but he'll know that, of course, and he won't look like the pictures.
"Alteration of his own features should be easy for a man who juggles brains."
"He may have changed his features since I saw him, too," said Bentley. "But I'm sure I'd know him."
Tyler's telephone rang stridently.
He took down the receiver. His mouth fell slackly open as his eyes lifted to Bentley's face. But he recovered himself and slapped his hand over the transmitter.
"Anybody know you came here?" asked Tyler.
Bentley shook his head.
"Well," went on Tyler, "I don't know how it happens, but this telephone message is for you!"
Bentley's heart seemed to jump into his throat. One of those hunches which sometimes were so valuable to him had struck him, as though it were a blow between the eyes. His lips tightened. His face was pale, but there was a grim light in his eyes.
He hesitated for a second, the receiver in his hand, his mouth against the transmitter.
"Well, Professor Barter?" he said conversationally.
- - -
There came a gasp from Thomas Tyler. He jumped to the door and motioned to someone. A man in uniform came to his side. Bentley distinctly heard Tyler tell the man to have this telephone call traced.
From the receiver came a well-remembered chuckle.
"So you were expecting me, eh, Bentley? You never really believed that one of my genius would fall such easy prey to the great apes did you?"
"Of course not, Professor," said Bentley soothingly. "It would be an insult to your vivid mentality."
"Vivid mentality! Vivid mentality! Why, Bentley, there isn't another brain in the world to compare with mine. And you of all people should know it. The whole world will know it before I'm finished, for I have made tremendous strides since you helped me to perform that crowning achievement in Africa. By the way, tell your friend Tyler, who just called the officer to the door, that it's useless to try to trace this call!"
Bentley jumped as though he had been stung. How had Barter known what Tyler was doing? How had he guessed what Tyler had told the man in uniform? How had Barter known Bentley was visiting Tyler? How had he discovered even that Bentley was back in the United States? Why, besides, was he so friendly with Bentley now?
"You speak, Professor," said Bentley softly, "as though you could see right into police headquarters."
"I can, Bentley! I can!" said Barter impatiently, as though he were rebuking a schoolboy for saying the obvious.
"You're close by, then?"
"No. I'm a long way—several miles—from you. But I can see everything you do. And you needn't look at Tyler in such surprise!"
- - -
Bentley started. He had looked at Tyler in a surprised way and, clever though he was, he didn't think that Barter could have guessed so accurately to the second the gesture he had made. Barter chuckled.
"It's a good jest, isn't it? But listen to me, Bentley, I've a great scheme in hand for the amelioration of mankind. I need your help, mostly because you were such an excellent subject in my greatest successful experiment."
"Will it be the same sort of experiment as the other?" Bentley's heart was in his mouth as he asked the question.
"Yes, the same ... but there are improvements I have succeeded in perfecting since the creation of Manape. My one mistake when Manape was created was in that I allowed myself to lose control of him—of you! That will not happen again. Oh, if you'll help me, Bentley, that operation will not be performed on you until you yourself request it because I shall have proved to you that it is better for you. You shall be my assistant and obey my orders, nothing more."
Lee Bentley drew a deep breath.
"If I prefer not to work with you again, Professor?"
A chuckle was Barter's answer. The chuckle broke off shortly.
"You should not refuse, Bentley," said the scientist at last. "For then I should find it necessary to remove you. You might stand in my way, and though you would be but a puny obstacle, you still would be an obstacle. For example, consider Ellen Estabrook, your fiancee. I can find no use for her ... and she knows as much about me as you do. Therefore, at my convenience, I shall remove her."
- - -
"Caleb Barter," Bentley's voice was hoarse with anger as he dropped his soothing mode of address toward the man he knew was insane, "if anything happens to Miss Estabrook through you I shall find you no matter how well you are guarded ... and I shall destroy you bit by bit, as a small boy destroys a fly. For every least evil thing that happens to Miss Estabrook, a hundred times that will happen to you at my hands."
"Good!" snapped Barter, no longer chuckling. "I am happy to know how much she means to you. It shows me how easily I may control you through her. It means war then, between us? I'm sorry, Bentley, for I like you. In a way, you know, you are my creation. But in a war between us, Bentley, you haven't a chance to win."
Bentley clicked up the receiver.
"Could you trace the call, Tyler?" he snapped.
Tyler shook his head ruefully.
"We couldn't locate the right telephone, but we could tell which exchange it came through, and the lines of that exchange cover a huge section of the city."
"Can you find out exactly the section and the address of each phone on every line?"
"Yes. The exchange is Stuyvesant."
"That gives me some help. I used to live in Greenwich Village and I had a Stuyvesant number. I'm going after Barter. Say, Tyler, how do you suppose Barter knew exactly what was going on in this room?"
Tyler's face slowly whitened as his eyes looked fearfully into the eyes of Lee Bentley. He shook his head slowly.
Bentley squared his shoulders and spoke quietly and determinedly.
"Mr. Tyler," he said, "I am in a great hurry. May I be conducted in a police car? Might as well. I'll be working with you hand and glove until Barter is captured."
Bentley rode behind a shrieking siren to the home of the Estabrooks ... while from a distance of two miles Caleb Barter watched every move and chuckled grimly to himself.
The huge room was absolutely free of all sounds from anywhere save within itself. The walls, the floors, the doors were of chrome steel. The cages were iron-ribbed and ponderous.
The long table which ran down the strange room's center was covered with retorts, test tubes, Bunsen burners—all of the stock-in-trade of the scientist who spends most of his time at research work. The man who bent over the table was well past middle age. His hair was snow-white, but his cheeks were like rosy red apples. He literally seemed to glow with health. He was like a strange flame. His hands were slender, the fingers long and extraordinarily supple. His lips were redder even than his cheeks, and made one, strangely enough, think of vampires. His eyes were coal-black, fathomless, piercing.
On the bronze wall directly across the table from the swiftly laboring man was a porcelain tablet set into the bronze, and in the midst of the table were a score of little push-buttons. Above each was a red light; and below, a green one.
Several inches below each green light was a little slot which resembled a tiny keyhole, something like the keyhole in the average handbag. There was a key in each hole, and from each key hung a length of gleaming chain which shone like gold and might have been gold, or at least, some gold-plated metal. On the dangling end of each chain was another key which might have been the twin of the key in the hole above.
In the space between the keyholes and the green lights there were the letters and figures: A-1, B-2, C-3, D-4 ... and so on up to T-20.
Plainly it was the beginning of a complicated classification system with any number of combinations possible.
- - -
Behind the working man the row of cages partially hid the brooding horror of the place. There were twenty cages—and in each one was a sulking, red-eyed anthropoid ape. Plainly the fact that the number of apes coincided with the number of push-buttons, and with the number of keys, to say nothing of the red lights and the green lights, was no accident. The apes were sullenly silent, proof that they feared the man at the table so much that they were afraid to move.
At last the white-haired man stopped and breathed a sigh of satisfaction. Carefully he placed in the middle of the table the instrument which he had been examining. It looked like a slightly concave aluminum plate or tympanum, save that on the apex appeared a tiny ball of the same metal. Except for the color and the fact that the thing was almost flat, it looked like a small Manchu hat.
"Naka Machi!" said the man suddenly in a conversational tone of voice.
The chrome steel door swung open swiftly and silently and another man entered. He was about the same height as the first man, but he was younger and his eyes were blacker. His hair was as black as the wings of a crow. He was a Japanese dressed in Occidental garb.
"Naka Machi," said the white-haired one again, "I have examined every bit of the infinitesimal mechanism in the ball on this tympanum. It is perfect. You are a genius, Naka Machi. There is only one genius greater—Professor Caleb Barter!"
Naka Machi bowed low, and as he spoke his breath hissed inwardly through his teeth after the Japanese manner of admitting humility—"that my humble breath may not blow upon you"—which never needed really to be sincere.
"I am merely a genius with my fingers, Professor Barter," said Naka Machi in a musical voice. "The smaller the medium in which I work the happier I am, Professor; and in that I am a genius. But the plan for this so marvelous little radio-control, as you call it, came entirely from your head, my master. I did exactly as the plans bade me. Will it work?"
- - -
Caleb Barter's red face went redder still. His eyes shot flames of anger. His lips pouched. Almost he seemed on the point of striking down his Japanese assistant.
"Will it work?" he repeated. "Have you not just told me that you followed my plans exactly? Have I not just now checked your every bit of work and pronounced it perfect? Then how can it fail to work? Have you another one ready?"
"Yes, my master. Now that I have perfected two, the work will become monotonous. If the master wishes, I can create still another radio-control, inside the head of a pin, which I should first render hollow with that skill which only Naka Machi possesses?"
Caleb Barter almost smiled.
"It will not be necessary. But it will be necessary for you to make eighteen additional radio-controls of the same size as this one, or say make twenty-four so that we shall have some extra ones in case of accident. These two will be put into action at once. Naka Machi, bring me Lecky, completely uniformed as a smart chauffeur! Have you laid in a store of clothing, as I bade you, to fit every conceivable need of Lecky, Stanley, Morton and Cleve?"
"Yes, my master."
"Then bring in Lecky accoutered as a chauffeur."
Ten minutes later a young man entered behind Naka Machi. He was slender and his chauffeur's uniform fitted him like a glove. He looked like a soldier in it. Indeed his bearing, his whole stance, spoke of many years as a soldier—and a proud one. The fellow was brimful of health. His cheeks were rosy with vitality. He looked like a man with health so abundant he never found means to tire himself to the point where he could sleep dreamlessly.
But, nevertheless his arms hung listlessly at his sides. His eyes seemed empty of hope, dull and lifeless, and one looked into those eyes and shuddered. One tried to gaze deeply into them and found oneself baffled. There was no soul behind them.
"Come here, Lecky," said Barter coldly.
- - -
Lecky glided effortlessly forward to stand before Barter.
"You've no brains, Lecky," said Barter emotionlessly; "no brains of your own. You have a splendid body which moves only at the will of Caleb Barter. I need that body for my purposes. But a man with brains is dangerous. That's why you haven't any."
Barter now took the silvery tympanum with the ball atop it and set it on the head of Lecky. On top of it he placed the chauffeur's cap, bringing it down tightly to keep the tympanum in place.
"If I had it to do again I'd insert the tympanum under the skull as part of the operation, Naka Machi," said Barter as he worked. "We'll do that hereafter. And we begin work immediately. I'm going to send Lecky out now to get the first subject."
"The first subject, sir?"
"Yes. Manhattan's richest man. A man must have brains to become Manhattan's richest man, and I need men with brains. His name is Harold Hervey. He will be leaving his office in the Empire State Building in about half an hour. I want Lecky to be on hand to meet him."
On his own head Barter placed a second tympanum which Naka Machi had brought him. Over it he pulled a rubber cap, like a bathing cap with a hole cut in the top.
"Now, we'll try it out, Naka Machi," said Barter. "Which one of these lights is Lecky's?"
"B-2, my master."
Barter sat down under the light marked "B-2" and lifted the key which dangled from the end of the golden chain. This key he inserted in a tiny orifice in the ball atop his head. Then he turned in his chair to look at Lecky. Barter's face was a mask of concentration as he gazed intently at the young man.
- - -
Lecky stiffened to attention. His right hand shot to his cap visor in salute. His lips twisted into a travesty of a smile. For a few seconds he went through a strange series of posturings. He stood in the attitude of a boxer preparing to attack. He danced smartly on his toes. He bent double and touched the floor with the palms of his hands. He jumped up and down with his legs stiff. He stopped suddenly with his right hand at rigid salute. But his eyes were still vacant through every posture.
Barter's face showed a glow of satisfaction.
"He did exactly what I willed him to do! I am his master. He is my slave—even more abjectly than you are my slave, Naka Machi!"
"But that would be impossible, my master," said Naka Machi, hissing again through his teeth as he sucked in his breath. "None could be more abjectly your slave than I."
"Do not say anything is impossible," said Barter peevishly, "when I say otherwise. Anything is possible to me! Now, we'll send Lecky forth. I'll watch him through the heliotubes and control his every move. While I am directing Lecky you will prepare the table behind me for the first of our world-revolutionizing operations."
"Yes, my master," said the Japanese humbly.
"But first, it's just as well that Lecky is in a good humor, even though he is my slave. Where are the walnuts, Naka Machi?"
The Japanese tendered a large walnut to Barter. Barter rose and approached Lecky who still stood at salute. He stopped a couple of paces in front of the soldierly man and held up the walnut as a man sometimes holds up food to a dog, bidding him "speak" before he may be fed.
- - -
Then Lecky did a strange thing.
He began to jump up and down like a pleased child. His jumping caused him to lose his balance, but he recaptured it by pressing the backs of his hands against the floor. His hitherto expressionless eyes lost their dullness. Saliva dribbled at the corners of his mouth. Barter tossed him the walnut. Lecky held it under his right forefinger, against the heel of his thumb, instead of between thumb and forefinger, as he lifted it to his mouth.
"Even the human casement cannot wholly hide the ape, eh, Naka Machi?" said Barter.
Naka Machi hissed.
Barter returned to the porcelain slab banked with the lights and the keys. He readjusted the keys and his face became thoughtful again.
Lecky turned smartly, still nibbling at his walnut, strode to the bronze door and let himself out.
Through the heliotube directly above the key marked "B-2," Caleb Barter watched him go, and kept watching him as he made his way to the street. Barter looked ahead of his puppet, noting the cars which were parked at the curb. He saw a stately limousine. He grinned. The chauffeur was not in sight. Barter looked for him and found him at a table in a nearby restaurant, his back to the window.
Barter looked back at his puppet and his face became serious with concentration.
Lecky walked blithely along the street and turned right when he was opposite the limousine. Without a moment's hesitation, he stepped into the limousine, pressed the starter, shifted gears, turned in the middle of the block and started swiftly uptown.
After Lecky had shifted gears he drove with his left hand alone. His right was still busy with the walnut.
Barter now looked like a man in a trance, so deeply did he concentrate on his task of guiding his soulless, ape-brained puppet, Lecky, through the heavy traffic of Manhattan.
The Opening Gun
"That list, Tyler," said Bentley, after he had somewhat calmed the fears of Ellen Estabrook and had returned to the task of tracing Barter, "is headed by Harold Hervey, the multi-millionaire. I know Barter well enough to know that he'll go down the list methodically, taking each person in turn. We'd best take immediate precautions to guard the old man's home. For Barter, if not entirely ready to take drastic steps, must be almost ready, else he couldn't issue his manifestoes and take a chance of some slip-up before he could get really started."
"Why do you suppose he named Hervey on the list?" asked Tyler.
"Because Hervey is a financial genius. Barter wishes not only to carry out his plan of creating a race of supermen, but wishes at the same time to maintain personal control of them. And to control Manhattan, from which he logically hopes to extend his control to the whole United States, then to the whole world, Barter must also control the money marts. Hervey is the shrewdest financier in the world."
"But won't we frighten Hervey's family if we take steps now?"
"Better to frighten them now than to be too late entirely. However, we can place his house under surveillance without the knowledge of the family for the time being. And you'd better send a couple of men to his office in the Empire State Building to see that nothing happens to him on the way home this evening. I talked to him by telephone and he pooh-poohed the whole thing. Hard-headed business executives have no imagination."
Bentley and Tyler rode uptown in the back seat of a speeding police car driven by one of the best chauffeurs Bentley had ever ridden behind. He edged through holes in the traffic where Bentley could scarcely see any holes at all. He estimated the speed of cars which might have collided with the police vehicle and slipped through with inches to spare. In his way the man was a genius. But Bentley was yet to see the driving of a master genius....
- - -
Far out in the residential district the police car came to a stop. Other police cars arrived at intervals to disgorge men in plain clothes who immediately entered upon their guard duties as unobtrusively as possible. If Hervey's family noticed at all they would scarcely attach any importance to the arrival of cars and the discharging of passengers who seemed to have nothing to do except dawdle on the sidewalks.
But all the way uptown a hunch had ridden Bentley. He had the feeling that no matter how fast the police car traveled, no matter how skilfully the chauffeur inched his way through the press, they would be too late to save Hervey. The feeling became an obsession. Many times he called through the speaking tube.
"Faster, driver, for God's sake, faster!"
Now near the home of Harold Hervey, Bentley found himself unable to walk slowly, with the air of nonchalance, which the other police officers wore like a cloak.
"Something's happened," said Bentley, "I'm sure of it. I feel that Barter is so close to me that I could touch him if I knew in which direction to extend my fingers."
Suddenly a speeding car, with horn bellowing, came crashing up the street toward the Hervey residence. It was traveling at great speed, careening from side to side like a ship in a storm at sea.
"There comes Hervey's car," said Tyler. "And something has happened to make him travel like that. Old man Hervey doesn't allow his chauffeur to go faster than twenty miles an hour."
- - -
Tyler and Bentley were near by when the car squealed to a stop before the Hervey residence and a hatless, disheveled man leaped out almost before the car stopped rolling.
"That's not Hervey," said Tyler. "That's his private secretary. Something's up. It's time we took a hand in things."
Tyler and Bentley grasped the young man by the elbow.
"What's up?" demanded Tyler.
"It's Mr. Hervey, sir," panted the secretary. "It just happened. He's been kidnaped!"
The secretary was a slight man, but fear had given him strength. He almost dragged Tyler and Bentley off their feet as he strode on up the walk leading to the home of Hervey.
"You'll scare his family half to death!" said Tyler.
"It'll have to come sometime, Tyler," said Bentley. "It might as well be now. They'll have to know. We'll have to sit inactively from this moment on. Tyler, there's nothing that can be done for Hervey. Barter has scored. We couldn't catch him now to save ourselves from perdition. But his next step will involve the Hervey menage. We'll have to wait there for his next move."
Tyler and Bentley entered the vast gloomy structure of the old-fashioned Hervey domicile on the heels of the frightened secretary. Mrs. Hervey, a faded woman of sixty or so, met them at the door. Her head was held high, her lips grimly drawn into a straight line.
"So," she said evenly, "they've got Mr. Hervey. I begged him to take those threats seriously. He's been either killed or kidnaped."
"Kidnaped," said Bentley, continuing brutally because of the courage he saw in the old woman's face. "And that means he'll be dead within the hour, if he isn't dead already. We've got to stay here for a few hours, to await the next move of the madman calling himself the Mind Master, in the hope that we can trace him when he makes his next move."
Mrs. Hervey lifted her head still higher.
"We'll place no obstacles in your path, gentlemen," she said, "if you are from the police. The family will confine itself to the upper floors of the house."
- - -
Tyler and Bentley took possession of the living room. Outside a dozen plain-clothes men were to patrol the grounds during the hours of darkness.
Other men were at every adjacent street corner. A rat could not have got through unobserved.
Tyler and Bentley took seats at a table facing the door. The police car in which they had arrived stood at the curb, with the chauffeur at the wheel, the motor humming softly.
"Timkins," said Bentley, addressing the private secretary who stood in the most distant corner of the room, his eyes fearfully fixed on the street door, "how was Mr. Hervey captured?"
"I was accompanying him to his car, sir," replied the young man, "when a dapper fellow in a chauffeur's uniform confronted us on the sidewalk. He stood as stiff and straight as a soldier. He didn't say a word. He just looked at Mr. Hervey. Mr. Hervey stopped because the man was blocking the sidewalk. I looked into the chauffeur's eyes. They seemed utterly dead. I shivered. I'd have sworn the man had no soul, now that I look back at it. Suddenly he lashed out with his fist, striking Mr. Hervey on the jaw. Mr. Hervey started to fall. The man caught him under the arms and tossed him into the tonneau of a limousine at the curb. The car was away before I could summon the police."
"Which way did the car go?" he demanded.
"Downtown, at top speed," replied Timkins.
Bentley turned to Tyler.
"The Stuyvesant exchange is downtown," he said. "Now Timkins says that the kidnaper's car went downtown. And the naked man was killed in the Flatiron Building, which is well downtown in its turn. Tyler, fill all the area covered by the Stuyvesant exchange with plain-clothes men. Telephone Headquarters to see whether a stolen limousine has been reported from somewhere in the area. Barter wouldn't have cars of his own for fear they could be traced. He'll use stolen cars when he uses cars at all. And he had his puppet pick up the limousine close to his hideout."
- - -
Tyler nodded and quickly spoke into the telephone on the table at his elbow.
The telephone reminded Bentley of Ellen Estabrook.
When Tyler had finished issuing pointed instructions Bentley called the residence of the Estabrooks in Astoria, Long Island.
Carl Estabrook answered the telephone.
"Is Ellen all right?" asked Bentley. "May I speak to her?"
Carl Estabrook's answering gasp came plainly over the wire.
"Are you crazy, Lee?" he asked. "Not ten minutes ago you telephoned Ellen and told her to meet you near the arch in Washington Square. I asked her if she was sure the voice was yours, and she was...."
But Bentley, white-faced, had already clicked up the receiver.
"Tyler," he said, "Ellen Estabrook, my fiancee, is walking into a trap. It's Barter again. He'd know how to imitate my voice well enough to fool Ellen. It would be simple enough for a man like him. He probably had that long conversation with me at headquarters to make sure he hadn't forgotten the timbre and pitch of my voice ... and to hear how it sounded over the telephone. Please have plain-clothes men pick up Ellen in Washington Square. And that, Tyler, if you'll notice, is also downtown."
Bentley felt that he would go mad with anxiety as he awaited some news from the plain-clothes men Tyler had ordered to look for Ellen Estabrook.
He had asked Tyler to issue rather unusual instructions to the plain-clothes men around the Hervey residence. They were to make no attempt to halt anyone who might approach the house, but were to permit no one to depart. It was a weak plan, but knowing the supreme egotism of Barter, Bentley felt that the old scientist would deliberately accept such a challenge. He wouldn't mind risking the loss of a minion.
- - -
"He controls his puppets from his hideout, Tyler," Bentley explained, "and won't hesitate to send them into danger since it can't touch him. And he watches every move they make, too. He's made some television adaptation of his own. I'll wager, if he so desires, he can see us sitting here right now, even perhaps hear what we say. I can fancy hearing him chuckle, and Tyler...?"
"I can see old man Hervey on an operating table with Barter bending over him, working fiendishly. Behind Barter are cages of apes."
"But how could he transport apes to his hideout?"
"He could manage to smuggle anything anywhere. Money paves the way to any accomplishment, Tyler. We needn't concern ourselves with how he does it, but with the fact that he must surely have apes in his hideout."
There came suddenly an imperious ringing of the doorbell.
Bentley and Tyler leaped to their feet, their hands streaking for their automatics which they had placed within easy reach on the table. Side by side they sprang for the door, and flung it open.
A chill of horror ran through Bentley.
"Mother of God!" cried Tyler.
"Mr. Hervey!" shrieked Timkins. The secretary, noting the figure which toppled so grimly into the room, fainted. The thud of his body followed the thud of the old man's body to the floor.
In that first moment of overwhelming terror, all three men noted that Hervey's skull-pan was missing.
"Look after details here, Tyler!" cried Bentley, quickly recovering himself. "I'm after whoever brought the old man home."
Bentley was racing down the path for the street, where a man in chauffeur's uniform was hurling himself into a limousine, while bullets from half a dozen plain-clothes men, racing to head him off, sang about his ears. But the stranger gained the driver's seat and the limousine was away like a shot. The police car was rolling as Bentley leaped upon the running board, then eased in beside the driver.
"Don't stop for anything!" cried Bentley. "Keep that car in sight!"
The car headed downtown at breakneck speed.
To Broadway's Horror
Bentley would never forget that nightmarish ride downtown. It was a dream as terrifying and ghastly as had been his experience in the African jungles when he had been Manape. Added to the utter fear of the ride was his fear for the safety of Ellen Estabrook. Caleb Barter, so far, was utterly invincible. It seemed he could not be beaten or outwitted in any way. But Bentley set his lips tightly.
Caleb Barter must have some weak spot in his insane armor, some way by which he could be reached and destroyed—and Bentley swore to himself that it would be he who would find that weak spot.
The limousine ahead was going at dangerous speed. The police chauffeur beside Bentley crouched low over the wheel as he drove. His eyes never left the speeding limousine. People on the sidewalks stared in astonishment as the two cars flashed downtown.
The leading car sped on, the driver obviously expecting ways to open in the last second before threatened collision. He passed cars on the left and the right. There were times when his wheels were up on the curb as he went through lanes between cars and sidewalks. He was determined to go through.
Only Bentley understood that the driver ahead was an automaton, a man whose brain did not know the meaning of fear. He knew that from his hideout Caleb Barter was directing the flight of the escaping car. He could fancy the old man of the apple-red cheeks, sitting in a chair in his hideout, his hands in the air as though they gripped the wheel of a car, sweat breaking forth on his cheeks as he guided his puppet through the press of cars.
But by now in that uncanny way that sometimes happens the streets were being cleared as if by magic before the flight of one whom all observers must have thought a madman. Only Bentley knew that the driver ahead was not a madman.
- - -
His own car careened from side to side. Bentley wondered what the chauffeur would think if he knew he was driving a race against one of Barter's supermen. He would perhaps have realized that no man could possibly follow with any degree of success. The police driver had succeeded so far only because, Bentley guessed, he felt that where any other man could drive, so could he.
Only Bentley knew that the driver up there was not a "man" in the normal meaning of the word. He wondered who "he" really was—not that it mattered greatly, for the entity required to make "him" a normal man had perhaps been destroyed, or had become part of some giant anthropoid to be used later in Barter's ghastly experiments.
"I wonder if Tyler will send out calls for police cars in other parts of the city to try and cut off the runaway," shouted Bentley above the shrieking of the motor and the wailing of the siren. "Are any police cars equipped with radio?"
"Several," answered the police chauffeur. "And they are able to cut in on various public radio stations, too. By this time warnings are being heard on every blaring radio in Manhattan."
The two cars sped on. For a brief space the car ahead took to the sidewalk. Suddenly a human body was tossed violently against the side of a building, and the fleeing car passed on. As the pursuing car passed the spot Bentley knew by the shape of the bundle that the enemy had killed a woman. At that speed he must have crushed every bone in her body. In a matter of seconds the information would be telephoned to radio studios and people would be warned to take to open doorways when they saw cars traveling at undue rates of speed.
"I'm a better driver than he is!" yelled the police chauffeur, out of the side of his mouth at Bentley. "I haven't killed anyone yet."
The words had scarcely left his mouth when a blind man, tapping his way with a cane, came from behind a building at an intersection and stepped into the gutter. The fool, couldn't he hear the shrieking of the siren? But perhaps he was deaf, too.
- - -
The police chauffeur turned sharply to the left and for a second Bentley held his breath expecting the careening car to turn over. If it did it would roll over a dozen times, and destroy anything that happened to be in its path. But with a superhuman manipulation of the wheel the police chauffeur righted the car, got it straightened out again, and was on his way. The old man had not been touched, but there was no doubt that he had felt the wind of the great car's passing.
The fleeing car was gaining now.
It rode madly down Broadway. The great pillared intersection where Broadway cuts through Sixth Avenue was dead ahead. The fleeing car continued on, crashing through, while cars evaded it in every direction, and into Broadway beyond. After it went Bentley, all other matters forgotten as he prayed to the god of speed to guide them through.
Two cars came out of Thirty-first Street. Their drivers saw their danger at the same time. But they turned different ways, and as Bentley's car flashed past them the two cars seemed welded solidly together. They were rolling across the sidewalk toward the huge plate glass window of a restaurant. Just as the pursuing car lost them as they swept past, the two cars went through that plate glass window. Bentley, in his mind's eye, saw the two dead, mutilated drivers, and the passengers with them, he saw the wreckage of the restaurant, the mangled diners who sat at the tables nearest the fatal window.
"More marks against Barter," he muttered to himself. "How long will the list be before I'll be able to drag him down?"
- - -
On and on went the two cars. People packed the sidewalks, but they kept close against the buildings. The streets were almost deserted now, for that warning had got ahead. Three other police cars were careening down the street, too. Bentley saw them with pleasure. Other cars would be coming in to head off the fleeing limousine. This one puppet of Barter's, at least, would be pocketed before he could find time to leap from his car and escape.
"Barter's sweating blood as he saws with both hands at an imaginary driver's wheel," thought Bentley. "When will he give up—and what will his driver do when Barter relinquishes control?"
For the first time the grim thought came to him. He knew that the creature there had the brain of an ape. What would an ape do if he suddenly found himself at the wheel of a car going down Broadway at eighty miles an hour? He would chatter, and jump up and down. The plunging car, with accelerator full on, would be out of control.
"God Almighty, I never thought of that!" yelled Bentley. "As soon as he sees he can't save his puppet he'll let him get out the best way he can, himself ... and that car will be traveling, uncontrolled, at eighty miles an hour."
As though his very statement had fathered the thought, two police cars swept into the intersection at Twenty-third Street and Fifth Avenue. The fleeing limousine was turning right to go down Fifth Avenue.
The police cars were brought to a halt to effectively stop the further progress of the speeding limousine. Three other cars plunged in to make the box barrage of cars effective. The fleeing car was trapped. Barter must know that. If he did know, it proved that he could see everything that transpired. The next few seconds would show.
- - -
Bentley gasped as he put his hand on the driver's arm to have him slow down to prevent a wholesale pile-up in the busy intersection. He gasped with horror as he did so, for the fleeing car was now going crazy. It zigzagged from side to side. Now it rode the two right wheels, now the two left.
And suddenly the driver swung nimbly out through the left window, his hands reaching up over the top, and in a moment he was on the roof of the careening car.
"I've seen apes swing into trees like that," Bentley thought.
While the car plunged on, the creature stood up on the doomed limousine, and in spite of the fact that the wind of the car's passing must have been terrific, the ghastly hybrid jumped up and down on the top like a delighted child viewing a new toy or riding a shoot-the-chutes.
Suddenly the creature's right leg went through the top's fabric. It struggled to regain its footing as an ape might struggle to regain position on a limb in the jungles.
At that moment the fleeing car crashed mercilessly into the two nearest police cars ahead. The men inside had expected the driver to slow down to avoid a collision. How could they know what sort of brain lurked within the driver's skull? They couldn't ... and three policemen paid with their lives for their lack of knowledge as their bodies were hurled beneath a mass of twisted wreckage, crushed out of human semblance.
- - -
The hybrid atop the fatal car was hurled through the air like a thunderbolt. His body passed over the railing of the subway entrance before the Flatiron Building and Bentley knew he had crashed to his death on the steps.
The police car had already come to a stop, and Bentley was running toward the subway entrance.
The shapeless bleeding bundle on the steps no longer even resembled a man. Fortunately nobody had been struck by the hurtling body; and, miraculously enough, Barter's pawn was not yet quite dead.
Moans of animal pain came through his bleeding lips. The eyes scarcely noticed Bentley, though there was a slight flicker of fear in them. Then, in the instant of death, even that slight expression passed from them. Bentley saw the scarline about the skull.
And now Bentley knew that Barter was missing no slightest move, that he saw everything....
For the ghastly hybrid on the steps raised his right hand in meticulous salute ... and died. It was an ironic, grotesque gesture.
Plain-clothes men gathered around.
"Take his fingerprints," said Bentley quickly. "Then telegraph the fingerprint section, U. S. Army, at Washington, for this man's identity."
An ambulance was taking aboard the three mangled policemen as Bentley stepped back into his car for the ride down to Washington Square to see what dread thing had happened to Ellen Estabrook.
Ellen Estabrook was almost in hysterics when Bentley reached her. She had been immediately picked up by plain-clothes men and had thought herself captured by minions of Barter. She had been panic-stricken for a moment, she told Bentley, and it had taken her some little time to be persuaded that she was in the hands of police.
But Bentley's heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude that he had been able to safeguard Ellen against Barter. He never doubted it had been Barter who had telephoned her. And even now he fancied he could hear Barter's chuckle of amusement. Barter was watching, perhaps even listening. Bentley felt that the madman was just biding his time. Barter could have taken Ellen in this attempt, but hadn't tried greatly, knowing himself invincible, knowing that he could take her at any moment if it was necessary. And he might take her even if it were not necessary, since he had warned Bentley she must be removed.
The police car raced back uptown so that Bentley could inform himself of any new developments in the Hervey case. Ellen snuggled against him gratefully. "You'll have to stick close to me," said Bentley, "until something happens, or until the exigencies of service draw me away from you. Then it will be up to Tom Tyler to look after you."
"I can look after myself," she retorted spiritedly. "I'm over age and not without brains...."
"Yet you went to Washington Square," said Bentley gently. "Didn't it even seem strange to you that I would have selected such a place as a rendezvous?"
- - -
Ellen turned away from him and her lips trembled. His gentle thrust had hurt her.
"But I would have sworn it was your voice, Lee," she said. "And—I still think it was!"
"I tell you I didn't phone you to meet me in Washington Square!"
"But you told me you had talked with Barter for a long time on the headquarters phone, didn't you? Remember that you are dealing with the cleverest and maddest brain we know of to-day. What if he had merely talked with you to get a record of your voice? Suppose a voice were composed of certain ingredients, certain sounds. Suppose those ingredients could somehow be captured on a sensitized plate of some kind! Edison would have been burned as a sorcerer a few centuries before he invented the wax record. Twenty years ago who would have thought of talking pictures ... voices permanently recorded on celluloid?"
"But the talkie films merely parrot, over and over again, the words of actual people. When I talked with Barter this morning I certainly said nothing about meeting you at Washington Square."
"But the tone, the timber, the frequency of your voice! Lee, suppose he had gone a step further than the talkies and had found a way to break the voice apart and put it back together to suit himself...?"
"Good Lord, Ellen! It sounds crazy ... but if you would have sworn that voice was mine, then mine it may have been, speaking words with my voice that I never spoke personally. But wait until we find out for sure. We're just guessing."
But the idea stuck in his mind and he believed in it enough to tell Tyler, upon arriving at the Hervey residence, to warn every man named on the list of the Mind Master to make no appointments over the telephone, no matter how sure they were of the voices at the other end of the wire.
It sounded wild, but was it?
- - -
That night Ellen and Bentley occupied rooms which faced each other across the hall in a midtown hotel, and plain-clothes men were on duty to right and left in the hall. There were men on the roof and in the lobby, in the garage, everywhere skulkers might be expected to look for coigns of vantage from which to proceed against Ellen Estabrook. Bentley knew quite well that Barter would not drop his intention against Ellen, especially since he had failed once already.
Tyler and Bentley sat in Bentley's room drinking black coffee and discussing their plans for the next day. The latest paper had contained another manifesto of the Mind Master! the second man on his list was to be taken at ten o'clock the next day. The man was president of a great construction company. His name was Saret Balisle; he was under thirty, slim as a professional dancer, and dark as a gypsy.
"But what does Barter want with all these big shots?" asked Thomas Tyler. "Just what is the point of his stealing their brains and putting them into the skull-pans of apes, if that's what you think he has in mind?"
"The Barter touch," said Bentley grimly. "At first he probably intended to kill just any men and make the transfer, and then use his manapes to send against the men he wished to capture, and through whom he intended to gain control of Manhattan. Then he decided, since he had learned to control his manapes, by radio I suppose, that it would be an ironic touch to make virtual slaves of the "key" men he had chosen for his crusade."
"But why the transplantation at all, even if the man is mad? He reasons logically. Only his premises are unthinkable ... and he builds successful ghastly experiments on top of them...."
- - -
"He claims he wishes to build a race of supermen," Bentley answered. "His reason for the brain transference is therefore plain. An anthropoid ape has a body which is several times as hardy, durable and mighty as that of even the strongest man, but the ape has not the brain of a civilized man. A specialized man, one with a highly developed brain, generally has a very weak body. He's constantly put to the necessity of taking exercise to keep from growing sick. Therefore the ape's body and the man's brain would seem, to Barter, an ideal combination. That nature didn't plan it so troubles him not at all. He will make a fool of nature!"
"I wonder if we'll get him. Nobody knows how many lives have been lost already."
"We'll get him, Tyler. I'll bet anything you want to name that your men have walked back and forth across his hideout. I'll bet that decent, respectable people live within mere yards of him and do not know it. We'll get to him the second he makes a mistake of any kind. Maybe he'll make his first one when he tries to get Saret Balisle—Good Lord, I forgot something. Tyler, phone again and ask Headquarters if the coroner found anything strange about the head of the men I chased down Fifth Avenue."
"Yes," he said, clicking up the receiver, "he had bits of metal which looked like aluminum in his scalp; but the autopsy shows that it came from outside somewhere."
"It's part of Barter's radio control," muttered Bentley, "it must be! It has to be ... and I didn't think of looking for it at the time."
- - -
Long before sunrise Bentley and Tyler repaired to the office of Saret Balisle, letting themselves in with keys which had been furnished them last night. It had been decided that Balisle would not try to run away from the threat of the Mind Master, but would be in his office as usual. If he ran, and got out of touch with the police, Barter would get him anyway and nobody would be the wiser.
Balisle had grinned and shrugged his shoulders, but the wanness in his cheeks showed that he didn't take the threats lightly, considering what it was thought had happened to Harold Hervey.
"I wonder," said Tyler as they walked through the cool of the morning to the Clinton Building on lower Fifth Avenue, where Balisle had his offices, "how Barter keeps his apes with men's brains from trying to break away from him when he has to divert his mental control to other channels?"
Bentley hesitated, seeking a logical answer. It seemed simple enough when the answer came to his mind.
"Suppose, Tyler," he said, "that you wakened from a nightmare and looked into a mirror to discover that you were an anthropoid ape? That you were incapable of speaking, of using your hands save in the clumsiest fashion? When it came home to you what had happened to you, would you rush right out into the street, hoping that the people on the sidewalks would understand that you were a man in ape's clothing?"
"Good Lord! I never thought of that!"
"You would if you'd ever been an ape. I know the feeling."
"Then Barter's manapes are more surely prisoners than if they were sentenced to serve their entire lives in the deepest solitary cells in Sing Sing! How horrible—but still, they yet would have a way of escape."
"Yes, simply break out and start running, knowing that the crowd would soon take and destroy them. Right enough—but even when one knows oneself an ape it isn't easy to destroy oneself."
- - -
They entered the offices of Saret Balisle and looked about them. It was just an ordinary office. They looked in clothes closets and in shadowy corners. They took every possible precaution in their survey of the situation. They looked for hidden instruments of destruction. They looked for hidden dictaphones. They were extremely thorough in their preliminary preparations for the defense of Saret Balisle.
At five minutes of ten o'clock Balisle was at his desk, pale of face, but grinning confidently.
There were men in uniform in the hallways, on the roof, in the windows of rooms across the avenue. Bentley and Tyler should have felt sure that not even a mouse could have broken through the cordon to reach Saret Balisle. But Bentley was doubtful.
He went to the window nearest Balisle and looked out. Sixteen stories down was Fifth Avenue, patrolled in this block by a dozen blue-coats and as many more plain-clothes men. Saret Balisle seemed to be impregnable.
But at ten o'clock exactly, a blood-curdling scream came from the room adjoining Balisle's, where some insurance company had offices. The scream was followed by other screams—all the screams of women....
For just a moment Bentley and Tyler whirled to stare at the door giving onto the hall, their hands tightly gripping their automatics.
"God Almighty!" It came in a choked scream from the lips of Saret Balisle, simultaneous with the falling of a shower of glass in the room.
- - -
Tyler and Bentley whirled back.
A giant anthropoid ape stood on the window sill, and the brute's left hand held tightly clasped the ankle of Balisle, holding him as a child holds a rag doll.
The ape swung Balisle out over the abyss.
Tyler flung up his automatic.
"Don't!" shouted Bentley. "If you shoot he'll drop Balisle!"
Bentley felt sick and the bottom seemed to drop out of his stomach as the anthropoid, still holding Balisle as lightly as though he didn't know he held extra weight at all, dropped from sight.
Tyler and Bentley leaped to the window, looked down. The ape had dropped safely to the ledge of the window just below. He held on easily with his right hand while Bentley and Tyler swayed dizzily. The anthropoid still held Balisle by the ankle.
A head looked out of the window to the right. A frightened woman.
"God!" she choked. "That beast came out of the clothes closet. We've been wondering why we couldn't open it. He must have been inside, holding it."
A hundred men, all crack shots, stood helpless on roofs, in windows across the street, in the street below, while the anthropoid ape dropped slowly down the face of the Clinton Building toward the street.
How would Barter lead his minion free of this tangle when, as was inevitable, the brute reached ground level?
Bentley and Tyler were to learn in the next few minutes how great was the executive ability of Caleb Barter. He had created a mighty puzzle, each and every bit of which must fit together exactly. Time was important in making the puzzle complete—and the puzzle changed with each passing second. As the anthropoid went slowly down the face of the Clinton Building, Bentley was sure that Barter controlled every move and saw every slightest thing that transpired. He knew very well that of all the great organization which had been set to prevent the taking of Saret Balisle, not a man would now shoot at the ape for fear of jeopardizing the life of Balisle.
And yet Balisle was being spirited away to pass through an experience which would be far worse than a merciful bullet through the brain or the heart. Bentley knew he would be justified in the eyes of humanity if he ordered his men to fire upon the anthropoid, even if he were sure that Balisle would die. But as long as there was life there was hope, too, and he couldn't bring himself to give the order.
The ape dropped down the face of the building as easily as he would have dropped from limb to limb of a jungle tree. The sixteen stories under him did not disconcert him at all. Bentley had a suspicion about this particular ape, but he wouldn't know for a time yet whether his suspicion had a basis in fact. He couldn't think of a man—especially an old man like Harold Hervey—making that hair-raising descent. Yet ... if he were controlled, mind and soul, by Caleb Barter the Mind Master...?
"Tyler," said Bentley tersely. "The instant the ape reaches the street I'm going to order your men to fire. You will shout out to them now, designating which ones shall fire. Be sure they are crack marksmen who will drill the ape without hitting Balisle—and, by all means, have them wait so that the ape's fall won't send Balisle crashing to death."
"Maybe I'd better tell them to rush him?"
"Maybe that's better, but remember they're dealing with a giant anthropoid, in strength at least, and that somebody is likely to be fatally injured. In addition the ape may tear Balisle apart as soon as men start to close in on him. Barter will have thought of that, and all he'll have to do to make his puppet perform is to will him to do it. No, they'll have to shoot—and tell them to aim at his head and heart."
- - -
Tyler leaned out of the window and shouted to the men across the street.
"Shoot as soon as the ape reaches the sidewalk!" he cried. "Be careful you don't hit Balisle."
And from Balisle himself, muffled and frightened, came a sudden cry.
"Shoot now! I'd rather fall and have it over with!"
There was a moment of silence. Bentley almost gave the order to fire when the ape was at the twelfth story, but he held his tongue by a supreme effort of will.
Balisle looked down. It must have been a terrifying experience to swing above such a horrible abyss by one leg, and for a moment Balisle lost his head. He screamed and started to grapple with his grim captor.
"Don't, Balisle!" shouted Tyler. "You'll make him lose his balance. Hang on as you are and we'll get him when he reaches the street."
"What good will it do?" screamed Balisle, his voice taking on a high keening note as the ape dropped again, this time from the twelfth to the eleventh floor. "He slipped it over a hundred men to get me this far. He'll find a way to beat you when he reaches the street, too."
Bentley had a sinking feeling that Balisle spoke the truth; but even so, he could not see how anybody, even Barter, could walk through the trap which was being tightened around the descending anthropoid.
It made Bentley dizzy to watch the slow methodical descent of the anthropoid. He could fancy himself in Balisle's position and it made him sick and faint. He understood the desperation which caused Balisle to make yet another attempt to battle with the ape.
Then the ape did a grim thing.
He paused on the eleventh floor, and crouching on a window sill, deliberately snapped Balisle's head against the wall of the Clinton Building! In his time Bentley had slain rabbits exactly like that. Balisle hung now as limp as a rag and blood dripped from his mouth and nose. But Bentley knew, as his face went white at the sound of that sharp, thudding blow that Balisle had not been killed by it.
- - -
Savage oaths burst from the lips of policemen who saw the action of the ape.
"He acts like a human being! An ape wouldn't have thought of that!"
The words came hysterically from the lips of a woman who, frightened though she was, could not tear herself from the window to the right of where Bentley and Tyler leaned out to stare down.
Bentley smiled grimly. What would she think if he told her gravely that the creature crawling down the face of the building was not quite an ape?
So far the public didn't know what the Mind Master schemed. He'd spoken of stealing brains, but that had meant nothing to the general public. Just the maunderings of a madman, perhaps.
At the third floor the anthropoid hesitated. He seemed to be gazing all around, noting the preparations which were being made to trap him at the street level.
"An ape wouldn't do that," muttered Bentley. "A man would. The man in that manape is showing through—but he won't be able to force himself free of Barter's domination. If he could he'd probably throw Balisle down now to keep him from being ... well, treated as Barter intends to treat him."
The ape dropped to the second floor. Silence seemed to hang over Fifth Avenue. Ugly gun muzzles protruded from every window across the street. Scores of rifles were aimed down from windows in the Clinton Building, to drill the ape through from above.
At that instant a limousine whirled into Fifth Avenue, traveling fast, and ground to a stop under the ape.
"What's this?" cried Bentley.
"That's Saret Balisle's car," said Tyler. "There's nobody in it but his chauffeur. The fool! Does he think he can take his master away from the ape singlehanded?"
"That looks like foolhardy loyalty, but I'm not so sure that it's Balisle's chauffeur at the wheel. Tyler, send somebody down to wherever it is that Balisle parks his car."
- - -
But before Tyler could move to obey, the anthropoid ape made his surprise move, and did a thing which no ape would have thought of doing. He hurled Balisle toward the limousine. The somersaulting body struck the roof of the car, crashed through the fabric, and dropped into the tonneau.
At the same instant the limousine leaped to full speed ahead.
A shower of bullets smashed windows and scored deeply and menacingly the brick walls all around the giant anthropoid which for a second still crouched on the second-story ledge. The ape whirled and crashed through the window at his back.
"Tyler, send half a dozen cars after that limousine. They simply have to catch it. But they mustn't fire for fear of killing Balisle. Have the car followed right to Barter's hideout. The men in this building will scatter at once through the building. We must trap that ape!"
The whole police organization was in a turmoil.
Sirens screamed as police cars flashed after the fleeing limousine which carried Saret Balisle away. Doors slammed and windows crashed as two score policemen scattered through the building, armed with riot guns and pistols, seeking the ape.
Tyler, after barking the staccato orders which set his men in motion, turned to Balisle's secretary.
"Quickly, the number Balisle calls when he wants his automobile sent around."
The girl gave it, and Tyler called the number.
"Are Mr. Balisle's car and chauffeur there?" he asked.
He swore explosively and hung up the receiver.
"Another killing," he said. "Balisle's car is gone and the garage people have just found his chauffeur, almost ripped to pieces, in another car left at the garage for storage.
"That means this ape is armed with metal fingernails, just like the one that killed the insurance man in the Flatiron Building. That means he'll be doubly dangerous when caught. The murdered chauffeur will have to wait for a few moments while we capture the ape."
- - -
Shouts and shots rang through the Clinton Building. The ape was going wild, crashing through doors and windows as if they weren't there. His mad bellowing sounded terrifying in the extreme, so deep and rumbling that the air seemed to tremble with its menace.
But in the end there came a chorus of triumphant shouts which told that the giant ape had been surrounded.
Bentley and Tyler raced in the direction of the sounds. From all directions came the sounds of footfalls as other plain-clothes men raced to be in at the death. Bentley held his automatic tightly gripped in his right hand. He knew exactly where he was going to aim if the ape were not dead when he reached him.
The creature had been cornered in the areaway between two banks of elevators and had climbed up the cage as high as he could go. He was just out of reach of human hands, even had there been any men there with the courage to try to take him alive. A white foam dripped from the chattering lips of the anthropoid. His red-rimmed eyes flashed fire. Bentley noted the little metal ball on top of the creature's head.
Deliberately he stopped, raised his automatic, and held it steady while he pressed the trigger with the extreme care which a sharp-shooter knows to be necessary ... and a bullet ploughed through the top of the ape's head.
The little ball vanished, and the ape released his grip suddenly. His chattering died away to an uncertain murmur, the fire went out of his eyes, and he fell to the floor. No bullet had yet actually struck him, for he had whirled into the window from the second-story ledge simultaneously with the barking of the policemen's rifles and pistols. He had escaped there—but here he was not to escape.
Bentley and Tyler both lifted their voices to shout warnings to the policemen, but their voices were drowned in the savage explosions of a dozen weapons, in the hands of men who probably thought the creature was in the act of charging ... and the ape sprawled on the floor, his legs and arms quivering.
- - -
Half a dozen men rushed forward, weapons extended.
"Keep back!" yelled Bentley, rushing in.
He stood over the ape, staring intently at his glazing eyes.
"Tyler," snapped Bentley, "have everybody fall back beyond earshot."
Tyler issued the orders. Bentley shouted, "Quickly, quickly!" knowing he had little time.
Then, with Tyler beside him, he knelt beside the ape.
"I know you can't talk, but you can answer me by nodding or shaking your head. You are Harold Hervey, aren't you?"
The eyes of the ape were hopeless. Tyler gasped, staring at Bentley as though for a moment he thought him crazy. But in the next instant he doubted his own sanity, for the ape, slowly and ponderously, nodded his head.
"I'm going to name a number of places where I think you might have been taken," went on Bentley. "In each case nod or shake your head. Is it near Sixth Avenue?"
Slowly the great head moved, more slowly even than before; but it nodded.
"Where? Below Twenty-third Street?"
Again the ponderous, agonizing nod.
Bentley went on.
"Below Fourteenth Street?"
Again the nod, barely perceptible this time.
"Below Christopher Street?" asked Bentley.
This time the head shook from side to side, ever so slightly.
"Two blocks above Christopher?"
But this question was never destined to be answered. The giant anthropoid in whose skull-pan was the brain of Harold Hervey, entirely controlled by Caleb Barter, until Bentley had shot the little metal ball from his head, had died.
Bentley rose and looked down at the anthropoid for several seconds.
"Barter will hate to lose this creature," he said. "He probably has just the number of apes he needs—and Tyler, here's a hunch: he'll need an ape to take the place of this one! Get me the best surgeon to be found in Manhattan, and get him as fast as you can!"
"Good God!" ejaculated Tyler. "What do you want a surgeon for? What are you going to do?"
"Barter needs an ape to take the place of this one. I shall be that ape!"
* * * * *
The Mind Master
By Arthur J. Burks
The Mute Plungers
It would be difficult to comprehend the nervous strain under which Manhattan had been laboring during the past thirty-six hours. The story of the kidnaping of Harold Hervey had not been given to the newspapers, for an excellent reason. If Hervey's financial enemies knew of his kidnaping and death they would hammer away at his stocks until they fell to nothing and his family, accustomed to fabulous wealth, would have been reduced to beggary.
The Mind Master himself, up to a late hour, had given no word to the newspapers in his "manifestoes." The Hervey family held its breath fearing that he would—for the newspapers would have played the story for all the sensationalism it would carry. Bentley, when this matter was called to his attention, wondered. Barter had kept his own counsel for a purpose, but what was it? There was no way of asking him.
The story of the mad race down Broadway in pursuit of the limousine which had returned the lifeless body of Hervey to his residence had been a sensational one, and the tabloids had given it their best treatment. The chauffeur who had crawled out like a monkey atop his careening car, to lose his life when catapulted into the entrance to the Twenty-third Street subway station: the three policemen whose lives had been lost because the chauffeur hadn't stopped as they had expected him to, the kidnaping of Saret Balisle by a great ape hadn't yet broken as a story, nor the murder of Balisle's chauffeur.
But everybody knew something of the story of the naked man of the day before. Many were the speculations as to what had ripped and torn his flesh from his body, along with his clothes. What manner of claws had it been which had sliced him in scores of places as though with many razors?
Men and women walked the streets apprehensively, and many of them turned at intervals to look behind them. No telling what they would do when the story of Balisle's kidnaping by an anthropoid ape and a queer mute chauffeur got abroad. To top it all the police pursuers lost the Balisle limousine and Saret Balisle had taken his place among the lost.
- - -
Bentley knew as soon as the disgruntled and rather frightened police officers returned to the Clinton Building with the news that Balisle had got away from them in the stolen Balisle car, that already the ill-fated young man was probably under the anesthetic which Caleb Barter used on his victims.
"Tyler, do you know a surgeon who can do any surgical job short of brain transplantation?"
"Yeah. There's a chap has offices in the Fifth Avenue Building. He's probably the very best in the racket. Maybe it's because of his name. It's Tyler."
"Some relative of yours?"
"Not much. He's just my dad—and one of the world's finest and cleverest."
"Will he listen to reason? Can he perform delicate operations?"
"He's my dad, Bentley, and he'd do almost anything I asked him so long as it was honest ... and he could switch the noses of a mosquito and a humming bird so skillfully that the humming bird would go looking for a sleeping cop and the mosquito would start building a nest in a tree."
"Get him here. No—has he an operating room where all sound can be shut out? I've got a hunch I'd like somehow to try and drop a screen around us as we work. Maybe your dad would know what to do. You see, I'm positive that Barter sees everything we do and if he sees me turning into an ape he would just chuckle and pass up the trap."
"He's got a lead armored room where he keeps a bit of radium."
"That's it. Talk to him. No, not on the phone. You'll have to figure out some way to do it so that you can be sure Barter isn't listening."
"I'll manage. I'll send him a note."
"Your messenger will be killed on the way to him."
"Then I'll go myself."
"And Barter will watch everybody that goes into his office or comes out, and mark down each person as possibly being connected with the police. However, you figure it out."
- - -
When Tyler had gone and the dead "ape" had been stretched out in one corner of Balisle's office, and covered with something to cloak its hideousness, Bentley telephoned Ellen Estabrook.
"Have I been making any appointments with you this morning?" he asked her cheerily.
"Please don't jest when things are so terrible. Have you seen the latest papers?"
"No. What do they say?"
"There's a lot of the story I'm thinking about. You'd better read it right away. It's an extra, anyhow. The newsies ought to be calling it around you somewhere—and where are you, anyway?"
Bentley informed her, and told her, too, that he would be with her as soon as he possibly could. Taking the usual masculine advantage he decided to tell her now what he wouldn't have had the heart to tell her to her face, that he was planning a rather desperate stunt to reach Barter, and would consequently be away from her for an indefinite period.
"But I'll see you first?" she said after a long hesitation. Bentley could hear her voice tremble, though he knew she was fighting desperately to keep him from noting the catch in her voice.
"Yes, nothing will happen until—well, not until I've seen you again."
Just as Bentley hung up the receiver the extra was being cried. Some two hours had now elapsed since Balisle had been taken away, and now the newsboys were shouting the headlines.