Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 8 STEEL WALLS OF DEATH
Ham toyed with his sword cane, and wondered what kind of a tub the Helldiver would be.
Suddenly he snapped rigid as an icicle.
In to the cab had permeated the low, mellow sound which was part of Doc. Weird, exotic, the note trilled up and down the musical scale. Looking directly at Doc's strong lips, Ham could not tell the sound was coming from them, such a quality of ventriloquism did the trilling note have. Indeed, Doc himself probably did not quite realize he was making it..
The sound could have but one meaning now.
"What is it?" Ham demanded.
"Listen!" Doc told him abruptly.
Silence lasted about a minute. Then Ham's high, intelligent forehead acquired a dubious pucker.
"I hear a clicking noise at intervals, I think," he said. "Sounds like somebody shaking a couple of dice!"
"Remember the clicking noise Victor Vail mentioned having heard often during the past years?"
Ham never got to say whether he recollected or not.
Their driver suddenly flicked several small objects back into the tonneau. He was careful to keep his face from being seen.
The objects he flung were the grape-like balls of anesthetic Doc had used to overpower Ben O'Gard's hired gangsters. No doubt these had come from the scene of that affair, since Doc had neglected to retrieve such of them as had not been broken.
The globules shattered.
Doc and Ham were caught. With hardly a quiver, they tumbled over unconscious on the cushions.
They had not glimpsed the countenance of their driver.
STEEL WALLS OF DEATH
HAM sat up. He groaned loudly.
"If you're complaining about the darkness," came Doc's steady, capable voice, "that's why you can't see anything. And as for where we are — we seem to be inside a steel vault."
"What a dream I had waking up!" Ham muttered.
"The anesthetic sometimes has that effect. I judge we've been unconscious nearly two hours. One shot of the anesthetic lays a man out for about that long."
Ham suddenly clutched at various parts of his person. His hands made loud slaps on his bare hide.
"Hey!" he yelled. "I've only my underclothes!"
"So have I," Doc told him. "They took our clothing. They even combed our hair, from the way mine feels. And they swept the interior of the vault clean. There are no shelves, or anything else — except a candle and three matches which they kindly left us."
"Light the candle," Ham suggested. "This place is blacker than the inside of an African savage!"
"No, Ham," Doc replied. "They left the candle, hoping we'd light it."
"Huh?" Ham was puzzled.
"A flame will exhaust the oxygen in this place very quickly, and hasten our death by suffocation."
''You mean the vault is airtight? "
"Yes. And soundproof, too."
Ham now listened. He realized he could not hear a sound but the booming of his own heart. It was so quiet he could almost hear the blood gurgle through his arteries. He shivered. A heavy lead weight seemed to climb on his chest.
"The air in here must be pretty foul already," be muttered.
"Very," Doc agreed. "I have been thinking, Ham. You recall that some months ago a large chain of New York banks went out of business. Probably we are in the vault of one of those banks."
"Ugh!" Ham shuddered. "Can't you think of something cheerful?"
Doc Savage's low laugh vibrated through the awful steel cubicle. He rarely laughed.
"How's this for something cheerful?" he inquired. "As a matter of fact, I've only been waiting for you to regain consciousness before walking out of this place."
HAM EMITTED a howl of delight that was almost a sob. He sprang erect. They were two semi-naked men inclosed in thick walls of hard steel. Their voices could not penetrate outside, just as no sounds could get in. The situation seemed hopeless.
But Doc Savage had a way! He never joked about matters as serious as this.
"How do we do it?" Ham demanded.
"Our captors probably looked in our mouths," Doc explained. "But they forgot to count my teeth. They didn't notice that in my upper jaw there is an extra wisdom tooth on each side. They're false, and they hold two chemical compounds of my own concoction. When combined, these form one of the most powerful explosives."
Doc now went to work on the vault door. He operated in darkness, guided only by his sensitive finger tips.
"Kind of them to leave us the candle," Doc said.
He used the candle wax to chink his explosive in the joint of the vault door, near the lock.
"Get in a corner!" he directed Ham.
"How you gonna explode it'?" Ham questioned.
"It explodes itself, due to chemical reactions, about four minutes after the two compounds are mingled."
They huddled in the corner farthest from the vault door. Doc employed his mighty bronze form to shield Ham — although Ham did not realize it at the time, so great was his nervous tension.
"It's about time for the blast!" Doc breathed swiftly. "Open your mouth wide to equalize the pressure on either side of your eardrums, so there'll be less likelihood of them being ruptured."
Ham barely had time to comply.
Wh-a-a-m! Compressing air smashed them against the solid steel with stunning force. It crowded their eyeballs inward. It seemed to tear the flesh from their bones.
So terrific was the explosion that Ham was reduced to senselessness.
Doc Savage, huge and bronze and apparently affected not at all by the concussion, flashed to the heavy steel door. It was still shut. But the hard metal was ruptured about the lock. He shoved.
The door opened about a foot and stuck. But that was enough. Doc carried the unconscious Ham outside, thence through two vacant chambers.
Ham revived after several minutes in a large, bare room — the lobby of a former bank.
Pedestrians moved on the street outside the unwashed plate-glass windows. One of these chanced to look in. He was a portly man with spats and a cane, smoking a cigar. No doubt he had heard the blast.
Doc Savage rushed Ham to a side door. It was locked. The lock came out of the hard wood like an ear of corn out of its shuck, when Doc exerted a little of his tremendous strength.
A taxi driver at a stand in the street heard the lock tear out. He glanced around. He was just in time to see the two men climbing into his hack.
The driver bellowed for a cop.
The cop came. He did not know Doc Savage by sight. He pinched both Doc and Ham. Doc did not put up an argument. This was the quickest way of getting clothes. The cop was tough, and swore a lot.
At the police station, the captain in charge insisted on stripping to his underwear so that Doc would be properly clad.
And the cursing cop got a lecture from his superior that would make him remember the giant bronze man the rest of his life. He would also have gotten suspended a month without pay if Doc hadn't interceded.
"Anyway, begorra, yez had better learn to know some of the big men in this town by sight!" the captain warned his cop.
TWENTY MINUTES later, Doc Savage stood on the wharf, appraising Captain Chauncey McClusky's under-the-polar-ice submarine.
The thing looked like a razor-backed cigar of steel. The hull was fitted with lengthwise runners resembling railway rails. As a matter of fact, these actually were such rails, converted to the purpose of ice runners. They were supposed to enable the underseas craft to slide along beneath the arctic ice pack.
A wireless aerial, collapsible, was set up for action. There was a steel rod of a bowsprit ramming out in front, the size of a telegraph pole. The rudder and propellers were protected by a steel cage intended to keep out ice cakes.