Книга Quest of the Spider. Содержание - Chapter viii. doc plans


THE hotel to which Doc Savage had directed his four men was the Antelope. It was neither the largest nor most luxurious in New Orleans. Conservative business men and drummers patronized it for the most part.

Doc parked his roadster a block from the hotel, and on the opposite side of the street. He mingled with the pedestrians. These turned, practically without exception, to stare at the amazing bronze man. He was far more striking in appearance than the pictures that accompany the strong-man advertisements in magazines. The fact that Doc wore no hat added to his prominence.

Before the Antelope Hotel stood a vanlike delivery truck. This was marked with the name of a prominent baking concern.

On the truck seat sat the burly, hard-featured crook of a lumber detective, Lefty.

A monkeylike swamp man occupied the seat beside him.

Their actions betrayed nervousness. They glanced repeatedly upward. It seemed they momentarily expected something to happen in one of the upper-floor hotel rooms.

Lefty and his monkeylike companion discovered Doc Savage's great bronze form about simultaneously.

"Get 'im!" Lefty gulped—and turned loose with his revolver. The monkey man followed suit with a sawed-off shotgun. Their shooting started thunder bumping about in the street. But that was about all it did.

Doc Savage had seen the pair before they started their fireworks. By the time the first shot crashed, he was sheltered behind a parked limousine. Glass from the limousine windows sprayed his back. Bullets hit the car body with tinny noises.

A bronze blur, Doc scuttled fifty feet down the walk and calmly seated himself behind a fire hydrant. He had no gun. Indeed, he so rarely found necessity for a weapon, that he seldom carried one. He waited.

Shrieking pedestrians were darting about like chickens in a pen into which a hawk had suddenly dived. From the volume and terror of the yelling, one might judge half of them were suffering mortal wounds. As a matter of fact, a foppish youth who had a foot-long cigarette holder blown out of his mouth by a shotgun burst was the only casualty.

Lefty and the monkey man, both shooting wildly, emptied their respective weapons. They didn't take time to reload.

"We're gettin' outta here!" Lefty gulped.

The delivery truck rear wheels gave a spasmodic spin, caught the pavement, and propelled the vehicle away like an explosive.

"Yo' leavin' de others!" wailed the monkey man.

"Nothin' else to do!" rapped the cowardly Lefty. "The jig is up with you and me!"

The truck sideswiped a car, careened half across the street, took a corner on two screaming wheels—and was gone.

An instant later, there was a terrific explosion inside the hotel.

* * *

DOC SAVAGE’S golden eyes lifted, seeking the source of the blast. It was a window far above the street. This window was just flying outward, Torn wood and a shower of bricks followed.

Metal shieked across the street to knock puffs of masonry off the building there. A piece of this metal fell near Doc. It was a common steel ball bearing.

Shrapnel! A blast of shrapnel had been set off in the room registered for by his men!

Doc's big bronze figure flashed across the street and into the hotel. He seized the register. He saw his men had signed for Room 720.

It must be the room in which the shrapnel had been exploded.

Doc sprang for the elevators.

Ten feet from them, he halted. One of the cages had just come down. But the door didn't open immediately. Instead, there was a terrific uproar in the cage. It sounded like a gigantic cat-and-dog fight. Loud bangings arose, as though a sizable sledge was beating the metal sides of the lift.

Men screeched. They moaned. They sobbed, cursed, blubbered. And through all the bedlam ran a fierce rumbling and roaring as of some big beast in action.

Then silence fell.

The cage doors opened.

Out of the lift walked an individual who should have been the wild man in a circus. He was a bare five feet and a half in height, but almost equally as wide. He would tip the scales at two hundred and sixty pounds. He was covered all over with coarse red hair like hog bristles. His eyes were so surrounded by gristle as to resemble little stars twinkling in pits. The rest of his face was incredibly homely.

He carried five battered and unconscious men in his arms—much as a bell boy carries several suitcases.

"Monk!" Doc's great voice seemed to fill all the hotel lobby with a glad ring.

For this remarkable individual was Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, one of Doc's five aids. He was called by the only nickname that could possibly fit him—"Monk." He was, despite his gorillalike looks, one of the greatest living chemists.

"Hy'ah, Doc!" Monk grinned from ear to ear. He shook his armload of captives. "I been collectin' rats!"

"You escaped the blast?" Doc demanded.

"Sure—thanks to your advice. Like we was directed in that message you left on the Danielsen & Haas front door, we registered for one room, but got the hotel to give us another one, and not put it on the register."

Monk chuckled. He had a surprisingly mild voice for so huge and homely a man. "We kept a sharp lookout. We saw these rats skulkin' around, and closed in on 'em, right after the blast."

* * *

DOC entered the elevator. Monk turned and followed him inside like a big dog, still carrying his five victims under his arms.

The elevator operator was prone on the floor of the cage. There was not a mark on him. He had simply fainted from fright during Monk's terrific fight.

"Where are the others?" Doc questioned.

"Reckon they've got the rest of them upstairs," Monk laughed. "Anyhow, they was goin' strong when I chased these five into the elevator."

"What floor they on?"


Doc halted the cage at the fifth floor. He got out. Monk trailed him, pausing only to butt the head of one of his captives against the wall when the fellow seemed about to revive. Monk did this without even shifting the prisoner under his arm.

Stifled screeches and moans were coming from a room down the corridor. Doc and Monk approached the sounds.

But they had only taken a few steps when the panel flew out of the door, a torn mess of splinters. Approximately a gallon of reddish, iron-hard knuckles appeared.

"Renny is celebratin'!" Monk chuckled. "The big lout is gonna haul off and hit a block of iron by mistake some day."

The fist belonged to Colonel John Renwick. He was honored throughout the world for his feats in civil engineering—and for his ability to pop the panel out of the stoutest door with his fist. He had a habit of doing this when he felt good. Evidently his spirits were high now.

It was the print of Renny's gigantic thumb which had signed the blank sheet of paper they had left at the Danielsen & Haas office to show Doc they were in town.

They caught sight of Renny's features through the hole his big fist had made. The face would have surprised a stranger, who would naturally have expected to see a wide grin.

It was forbidding, solemn. Indeed, it looked as if the owner had just gone to a funeral.

But that was another peculiarity about Renny, who was six feet four, and weighed two fifty. The more joyful the occasion, the more sour he looked.

Another burst of screeches and moans came out of the room.

Doc and Monk entered.

* * *

"GLORY be!" grinned Monk. "What're you doin' to that poor feller, Long Tom?"

Long Tom—Major Thomas J. Roberts on the military records—was the weakling of the crowd, judging by appearances. He was undersized, slender, only fairly set up. He had pale hair and pale eyes, and a somewhat sallow complexion—as though he might have spent a lot of his life in a cellar.

His ears were big and thin and pale, and since they were between Doc and Monk and the light, it was almost possible to see through them.

Long Tom sat on a beaten-up swamp man. He was busily engaged with the ends of an electric cord he had torn from a floor lamp. He was tying them to the wrists of the man on whom he sat.

"This monkey don't know what electricity is," he snorted. "I'm gonna give a couple of shocks. It might persuade him to tell who the Gray Spider is, and where we can get him."

It was natural that Long Tom's thoughts should turn to electricity. That was his profession. His reputation in the electrical field had few equals. He was called in for consultations by the great electrical experts often.

A loud moan of agony drew their eyes to the window.

"Another experimenter!" Monk snorted.

The last member of Doc's group of friends and aids was near the window. He, too, sat on a prisoner. He was tall and gaunt, with a half-starved look. His hair was thin, and gray at the temples. He had the appearance of a studious scientist rather than an adventurer.

This was Johnny, or William Harper Littlejohn to the great men of archaeology and geology. Johnny possibly knew more about the structure of the earth and the habits of mankind, ancient and modern, than ninety-nine out of a hundred so-called experts on the subjects.

With one hand, Johnny was holding his glasses in the sunlight. The left lens of these spectacles was in reality a very powerful magnifying glass.

Johnny didn't need a left lens, since he had practically lost the use of that eye in the Great War. So he carried in its place a magnifier, which he could use in his business.

A curl of smoke came from the coat of the man Johnny sat on. The sun, concentrated by the magnifying lens, was burning the coat.

"Talk!" Johnny directed his prisoner. "Or I'll put this glass to work on your eyes! It'll burn 'em out in about a minute!"

The captive only glared hate.

A moment later, Long Tom's victim gave a squawk as the electric current tingled through him. Although harmless, the voltage was highly uncomfortable. The man kept a tight lip.

"I hate to discourage you," Doc chuckled, "but I'm afraid you won't get anything out of these men. You would have just about as much success trying to scare an Apache Indian into talking."

"They're peculiar beings, these swamp dwellers," Johnny agreed. "Being the offspring of criminals who have fled to the swamps for safety, they have had one rule of existence drummed into them all their lives. That rule is to tell nothing to an outsider, no matter what the cost."

"That's the idea," Doc agreed. "Did any of them get away?"

Johnny counted Monk's armload of captives. "Five! And these two make seven. Seven are all we saw."

"That's right," Renny agreed.

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