Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 5 GONE AGAIN
DOC SAVAGE instantly noted a slight reek of chloroform about the sightless musician.
Otherwise, Victor Vail seemed undamaged.
"I am glad you are here, Mr. Savage," he said eagerly.
Like many blind men, it was obvious Victor Vail could identify individuals by their footsteps. Doc's firm tread was quite distinctive.
"What on earth happened to you?" Doc demanded.
"I was seized by thugs in the employ of Keelhaul de Rosa."
"I knew that," Doc explained. "What I mean is — how do you happen to be back here, alive and unharmed?"
Victor Vail touched his white hair with long, sensitive hands. His intelligent face registered great bewilderment.
"That is a mystery I do not understand myself," he murmured. "I was chloroformed. I must have been unconscious a considerable time. When I awakened, I was lying upon the sidewalk far uptown. I had a passer-by hail a taxi, and came here."
"You don't know what happened to you beyond that?"
"No. Except that my undershirt was missing."
"My undershirt was gone. Why any one should want to steal it, I cannot imagine."
"Possibly your captors removed your clothing to get a look at your back, and forgot the undershirt when they dressed you again."
"But why would they look at my back?"
"I was thinking of the incident you mentioned as occurring more than fifteen years ago," Doc replied. '"When you awakened after the alleged destruction of the liner Oceanic in the arctic regions, you said there was a strange smarting in your back."
Victor Vail stirred his white hair with big fingers. "I must say I am baffled. But why do you say alleged destruction of the Oceanic?"
"Because there is no proof it was destroyed, beyond Ben O'Gard's unsupported word."
The blind violinist bristled slightly. "I trust Ben O'Gard! He saved my life!"
"I have nothing but admiration for your faith in O'Gard," Doc replied sincerely. "We will say no more about that angle. But I want to inspect your back."
Obediently, Victor Vail peeled off his upper garments.
Doc examined the blind man's well-muscled back intently. He even used a powerful magnifying glass. But he found nothing suspicious.
"This is very puzzling," he conceded, turning to Ham.
"You don't think, Doc, that Keelhaul de Rosa seized Mr. Vail just to get a look at his back?" Ham questioned.
"I think just that," Doc replied. "And another thing that puzzles me is why Keelhaul de Rosa turned Mr. Vail loose, once he had him."
"That mystifies me, also," Victor Vail put in. "The man is a murdering devil. I felt sure he would slay me."
SWINGING OVER to the window, Doc Savage stood looking out. The street was so far below that automobiles on it looked like chubby bugs. Street lamps were pin points of light.
There came soft sound of elevator doors opening out in the corridor.
Monk waddled in. He was smoking a cigarette he had rolled himself. The stub was no more than an inch long, and stuck to the end of his tongue.
Monk drew in his tongue, and the cigarette went with it, disappearing completely in his cavernous mouth. His mouth closed. Smoke dribbled out of his nostrils.
Throughout the performance, Monk's little eyes had remained fixed on the sartorially perfect Ham. This bit of foolishness was just Monk's latest method of annoying Ham.
For Monk was the one person alive who could get Ham's goat thoroughly. It had all started back in the War, when Ham was known only as Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks. He had been the moving spirit in a little scheme to teach Monk certain French words which had a meaning entirely different than Monk thought. As a result, Monk had spent a session in the guardhouse for some things he had innocently called a French general.
A few days after that, though, Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks was suddenly hauled up before a court-martial, accused of stealing hams. And convicted! Somebody had expertly planted plenty of evidence.
Ham got his nickname right there. And to this day he had not been able to prove it was the homely Monk who had framed him. This rankled Ham's lawyer soul.
"They're gonna clap you in the zoo one of these days!" Ham sneered at his tormentor.
The cigarette came out of monk's mouth, together with a cloud of smoke. From his lips burst a hoinck-hoinck sound — a perfect imitation of a pig grunting.
The next instant he dodged with a speed astounding for one of his great bulk. Ham's whistling sword cane just missed delivering a resounding whack on his bullet head. Ham was touchy about any reference to pigs, especially when made by Monk.
Monk would probably have continued his goading of Ham for an hour, but Doc interrupted his fun.
"What did you learn from Keelhaul de Rosa's men being held at the police station?" Doc inquired.
"Nothin'." grinned Monk. "They was just a bunch of hired lice. They don't even know where Keelhaul de Rosa hangs out."
Doc nodded. He had half expected that.
"Ham," he said, "your legal work has given you connections with prominent government men in America and England. I want you to go at once and find out what you can about the liner Oceanic. Learn all possible of the crew, the cargo, and anything else of interest."
Ham nodded, sneered elaborately at Monk, and went out.
HE HAD hardly gone when the phone rang. It was "Johnny."
Johnny's voice was that of a lecturer. He chose his words precisely, after the fashion of a college professor. As a matter of fact, Johnny had been both in his time. William Harper Littlejohn — for that was what his mother had named him — stood high on the roster of an international society of archaeologists. Few men knew more about the world and its inhabitants, past and present, than Johnny.
"I have your men located, Doc," said Johnny. "They halted their sedans before a low-class rooming house. Renny and Long Tom radioed me the location from the plane, where they were watching, and I arrived in time to see the men enter."
Johnny added an address on New York's lower east side. It was not far from Chinatown.
"Be right with you!" Doc replied, and hung up.
Monk was already half through the door.
"'Hey!" Doc called. "You're staying here."
"Aw!" Monk looked like a big, amiable pup who had been booted in the ribs. He was disappointed. He did love action!
"Some one has to guard Victor Vail," Doc pointed out.
Monk nodded meekly, pulled out his makings, and started a cigarette as Doc went out.
DOC SAVAGE'S gray roadster was equipped with a regulation police siren. He had authority to use it. His careening car touched eighty several times.
A dozen blocks from his destination, he slowed. The wailing siren died. Like a gray ghost, Doc's car slipped through the tenement district.
He pulled up around the corner from the address Johnny had given.
A tall man was selling newspapers on the corner. The fellow was very thin. His shoulders looked like a coat-hanger under his plain blue suit. The rest of him was in proportion, incredibly skinny.
He wore glasses. The right lens of these spectacles was much thicker than the left. A close observer might have noted that this left lens was in reality a powerful magnifying glass. For the wearer of the unusual spectacles had virtually lost the use of his left eye in the World War. He needed a powerful magnifier in his business, so he carried it in his glasses for handiness.
The newspaper vender saw Doc. He came over. As bony as he was, it was a wonder he didn't rattle when he walked.
"They're still in the room," he said. "Third floor, first door to your right."