Книга Quest of the Spider. Содержание - Chapter xi. the well-known egg


THE man who had worn the mask, swore at the cloud of blackbirds Johnny had seen him flush up. His profanity had a happy note. He seemed highly satisfied with the world.

"That voodoo man is a dumb one!" he chuckled. "Thinks I will bring him his money! Nearly twenty thousand bucks! Imagine that!"

He shied a clod at the little lizards racing up a palmetto.

"That money goes in my own pocket and stays there!" he declared aloud. "It's so much gravy!"

In the course of a couple of hours, he reached a bayou where lay a small motor boat. This sped him a number of miles, finally depositing him near a highway. A powerful coupй raced him into New Orleans.

"Now to get the money!" he grinned.

The fellow had certainly swallowed Johnny's bait, hook, line, and sinker.

It was late afternoon. Canal Street seethed with office workers going home. Newspaper delivery boys dashed along the residential streets, flinging folded papers onto porches. A pop-corn man was doing a big business with school children.

The man who had worn the mask, parked his car near the address Johnny had given him. He got out. Carefully, he surveyed the scene.

A man was digging a ditch in front of the house. There was no one else in sight.

The man who had worn the mask, swung up the walk to the house.

As he passed the ditch, the man in it knocked the dirt off his shovel by banging it loudly on the cement walk.

The visitor noticed this, but thought nothing peculiar about it. He strode across the porch and rang the bell.

A thin, piping voice—it sounded like the tone of an old man on his last legs—invited, "Come in!"

"Fine!" thought the man. "If there's nobody here but an old duffer, it will be simpler in case it comes to rough stuff."

He opened the door. He didn't even trouble to have his hand in his pocket with his revolver. He stepped in boldly.

His jaw fell. His hands whipped spasmodically for the weapon in his pocket. They never reached it. Bronze lacquered talons of tempered steel seized them.

A moment later, the lightning seemed to strike his jaw. He went suddenly to sleep.

The fellow's slack form lifted and came to rest under Doc Savage's mighty bronze arm.

Doc strode outside. It was he who had imitated the piping tones of an old man and invited his victim indoors.

The man was climbing out of his ditch. He scratched about in the soft dirt he had dug up and produced a black, innocent-looking cane that was in reality a sword cane.

It was Ham.

Ham stared at Doc's limp burden.

"For the love of mud!" he exclaimed. "Is that what our elaborate trap netted us?"

"The scheme did sort of lay the well-known egg," Doc admitted wryly.

Ham twirled his sword cane and scowled at the face of the captive.

The man was Lefty—the survivor of the crooked lumber-detective pair.

* * *

"IT wasn't Johnny's fault we didn't get the Gray Spider," Doc explained as they rode downtown. "He had never seen Lefty. And, anyway, the man was wearing a mask when he talked to Johnny."

"Any chance of this endangering Johnny?" Ham pondered.

"Probably not," Doc replied. "This man undoubtedly came to get that money and keep it for himself, hence he would not report its existence to the Gray Spider. So the master mind has no way of knowing Johnny sent him into a trap."

They added Lefty to the ever-growing collection of sleepers waiting transportation to the up-state New York criminal-curing institution.

"We'll pay Long Tom a visit," Doc decided.

They found the pale blond electrical wizard in a long, narrow room in an office building off Canal Street. Hugging each wall of this room was a row of small tables.

Competent-looking young women sat at the tables. They wore telephone headsets. Their fingers grasped pointed pencils. Stenographic notebooks lay before them, open and ready.

At one end of the room stood a radio telephone transmitter and receiver.

Each young lady was a highly skilled stenographer. They were making records of every word of conversation to go over the phone lines of the leading lumber companies of the South.

Long Tom had done a miraculous piece of work, considering the short time he had been at it.

"Got anything?" Doc inquired.

"Only one thing of real importance," Long Tom replied. "That is the tip that an important conversation should take place soon between one of the Gray Spider's chief lieutenants and the Gray Spider subordinate who has taken control of Worldwide Sawmills."

"Any idea what the talk will be about?"

"Nope. All I know is that the man at Worldwide Sawmills has been tipped that one of the big boys will give him a ring soon." Long Tom waved at a loud-speaker at the end of the room. "I've arranged to cut the conversation into that loudspeaker when it comes in, so we can all listen."

"Fine," smiled Doc.

He said nothing more, but waited. Apparently he was entirely unaware of the panic of feminine hearts he was causing among the battery of stenographers.

Long Tom, it was to be suspected, had exercised an eye for pulchritude as well as efficiency when he hired his working force. He had picked a number of peaches. And the glances they threw in Doc's direction would have put life into a stone man. They had, however, exactly no effect on the mighty man of bronze. The stenographers didn't know it, but Doc was absolutely woman proof.

"I'm gonna have to kick Doc out of here before these girls will go back to work," Long Tom grumbled.

At this point, one young lady held up a hand.

"The call you have been waiting for!" she said.

Long Tom sprang to a panel. He threw switches. Out of the loud-speaker at the end of the room came a humming note that showed it was cut in on a telephone line, through an amplifier.

* * *

THE hum persisted for some seconds.

"Hello, you at Worldwide!" said a harsh voice.

"Hello yourself!" growled the other man.

"How much you got on hand?"

"Quarter of a million dollars. We sold that No. 3 plant for cash today."

Doc saw clearly what was going on. The Gray Spider's man in charge of Worldwide Sawmills had disposed of another part of the company. They were continuing their looting. The last unit they had sold chanced to be the No. 3 sawmill where Big Eric, Edna, and Ham had been rescued.

"The Gr—Well, you know who—will take personal delivery on this gob of cash," the man at Worldwide was told. "You're to meet him and hand over the jack tonight."

"Meet him—where?"

"You know where Buck Boontown's village is in the big swamp?"


"Meet him there. Be on hand at ten o'clock, sharp!"

"Aw—what does he think I am? It's a terrible trip into that swamp at night."

"I can't help that, buddy. You got your orders."

"Ahr-r-r!" growled the man at Worldwide. "I'll be there."

"You better!"

This ominous warning terminated the conversation. Sharp clicks denoted receivers being hung up.

Doc, Long Tom and Ham exchanged knowing looks.

"He's going to meet the Gray Spider at Buck Boontown's swamp settlement with a quarter of a million dollars in cash," Ham clipped. He made a fighting stroke with his sword cane. "I presume we will be on hand?"

"With bells on," Doc assured him.

"How about me?" Long Tom barked. "I'm in on this! Try to keep me out!"

"Can your wire-tapping establishment here get along without you?" Doc inquired.

"Sure it can."

"Come on, then."

* * *

THEY hurried outside. Doc hailed a cab and directed: "The Danielsen & Haas building."

"What's there?" Long Tom wanted to know.

"Big Eric and Edna," Doc replied. "We will tell them what we're headed for and make sure they are safe."

Their taxi rooted its way through traffic. Here and there stores were turning on the lights in their show windows, proof that dusk was near.

"Have you heard from Renny and Monk?" Long Tom asked Doc.

"Not a word," Doc admitted. "Monk, as you know, is pretending to be a chemist fleeing from the vengeance of a country he turned traitor to. Renny is taking the part of a dishonest special forest ranger. Both hope to get into the Gray Spider's gang. But they have no radio to keep in touch with me. That's why we haven't heard from them."

At the Danielsen & Haas building, Doc and his men left their taxi waiting.

In the lobby, they encountered pretty Edna Danielsen. She was alone. She looked worried.

Doc said seriously. "It is dangerous for you to be chasing around alone without—"

"Wait!" she interrupted. "I am afraid something terrible has happened!"

"What do you mean?" Doc questioned sharply.

"Horace Haas has disappeared!" Edna Danielsen explained. "And poor old Silas Bunnywell is also gone! Worse still, I made a horrible discovery in Silas Bunnywell's little office!"

"What sort of discovery?"

"Come! I'll show you."

An elevator rushed them up to the top floor. Edna Danielsen led the way to old Silas Bunnywell’s cubby-hole.

"Look!" she gasped, and pointed.

* * *

SILAS BUNNEYWELL’S accounting table was overturned. So was a wastebasket. Red and black had spilled together in a lurid puddle. There had been a fierce struggle in the little cubicle.

To one side lay an inkwell. It was a heavy fistful of glass. Red ink from it was splashed high on the walls.

"Obviously somebody was clubbed over the head with this," Doc murmured. He picked up the inkwell. His golden eyes appraised it.

Several dark hairs clung to the bottom.

"Poor old Silas Bunnywell!" choked Edna Danielson.

"Not Silas Bunnywell," Doc corrected thoughtfully. "He had almost snow-white hair. These hairs are dark. Unless I'm mistaken, they came from the head of Horace Haas. You're sure Silas Bunnywell and Horace Haas are both missing?"

"Absolutely!" declared the attractive young woman. "Dad and I have looked everywhere for them."

"Where is your father?"

"In his office."

They retired to Big Eric Danielsen's office. Big Eric was treading circles on the worn carpet. The office was fogged with smoke from the cigar he was puffing.

"Where in the devil do you reckon Horace Haas and Silas Bunnywell have disappeared to?" he demanded.

"Frankly, I'm puzzled," Doc admitted.

Big Eric shivered. It did not add to his cheerfulness to hear this mighty bronze man admit he was puzzled, even though the bafflement might be only temporary.

"What are you going to do now?" he questioned.

"Unfortunately, we only have time for one bold stroke," Doc replied. "One of the men the Gray Spider has installed as a looter at the head of Worldwide Sawmills is to meet his master tonight at Buck Boontown's swamp settlement. He is to deliver a quarter of a million dollars of their loot to the Gray Spider in person. Ham, Long Tom, and myself have barely time to get there. We'll rush out there and try to grab the Gray Spider."

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