Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 6 HANGING MEN
"Good work, Johnny," Doc replied. "You armed?"
Johnny opened his bundle of papers like a book. This disclosed a small, pistollike weapon which had a large cartridge magazine affixed to the grip. A more compact and deadly killing machine than this instrument would be difficult to find. It was a special machine gun of Doc Savage's own invention.
"Fine," Doc breathed. "Wait on the street. I'm going up to that room."
THE STEPS whined under the giant bronze man's considerable weight. To avoid the noise, he leaped lightly to the banister. Like a tight-rope walker, he ran up the slanted railing.
He took the second flight in the same manner, not troubling to see if those steps squeaked also. By using the banister, he avoided any electrical alarms which might have been under the steps.
A white rod of light lying close to the floor marked the bottom of the door he was interested in. He listened. His keen ears detected men breathing. One grunted a demand for a cigarette.
Doc Savage lurked outside the door perhaps two minutes. His mighty bronze hands were busy. They dipped into his pockets often. Then he turned and started up another flight of steps in the fashion of the first two.
The structure had five floors. A creaking hatch let Doc out on a tarred roof. He moved over to a spot directly above the window of the room in which his quarry waited.
A silken line came out of his clothing. It was thin, strong. One end he looped securely about a chimney.
Like a spider on a string, Doc went down the cord. His sinewy hands gripped the line securely. He reached the window.
Hanging by one thewed fist, he dropped the other hand into a coat pocket. He boldly kicked the window inward. Through the aperture his foot made, he threw the objects he had taken from the pocket. A roar of excitement seized the room interior.
Back up the silken cord, Doc climbed. He 'had no more trouble with the small line than he would have with a set of stairs. At the top, he replaced it inside his clothing. He seemed in no hurry.
Below him in the room, the excitement had died a mysterious death.
Doc ambled to the front of the building and seated himself on the parapet. Below, he could see the gaunt Johnny with his papers.
"Poi-p-e-r-s!" Johnny was bawling lustily. "W-u-xtra! Latest poi-p-e-r-s!"
No one would have dreamed Johnny was actually doing all the bellowing to cover any sounds from within the building.
Nearly ten minutes elapsed before Doc Savage went down to the third-floor room.
On the hallway carpet lay many colorless glass bulbs about the size of grapes. Doc had spread these there. Men charging out of the room had trampled many of them, crushing them. This had released the powerful anaesthetic they held. Any one near, and not equipped with a gas mask, was certain to become unconscious.
The hallway floor, and the room itself, were littered with senseless men.
Doc stepped in, avoiding the unbroken bulbs of thin glass.
His bronze hand made a disgusted gesture.
Ben O'Gard was not among the vanquished!
DOC SAVAGE let his eyes range the room again, making sure. He noted that all the glass balls of anaesthetic which he had tossed through the broken window had been shattered. None of the gaslike stuff remained in the room or corridor — Doc had waited on the roof long enough for it to be dispelled.
Ben O'Gard was certainly not present. These were merely the gang Doc's men had trailed here.
"Bag anybody of any importance?" Johnny asked from the doorway. He had thrown his bundle of papers away.
"Not to us," Doc admitted. "We'll send these gentlemen upstate for our usual treatment, though. I imagine every one of them has a police record."
Johnny inspected the unconscious villains judiciously. "I'll at least bet our treatment can't hurt them any. But what about the chief devil, Ben 0'Gard?"
"He simply wasn't among those present."
Doc and Johnny now loaded the prisoners aboard their cars. Doc's roadster held several.
Johnny's machine was a large touring car of a model at least ten years old. The thing looked like a wreck. A used-car dealer, if asked what he would give for it, would probably have taken one glance and said: "Twenty dollars! And I'm robbing myself at that!" Yet within less than a year, Johnny had paid three thousand dollars for the special engine in it. On a straightaway, the old wreck might do a hundred and fifty an hour without unduly straining itself.
They got their prizes in both cars and drove uptown. They parked before the white spike of a skyscraper housing Doc's office. Loading the captives into the elevators, they took them up to Doc's headquarters.
Gales of derisive laughter met them as they unloaded in the corridor. It was Ham laughing.
Doc stepped into the office.
Homely, hairy, gorillalilte Monk sprawled in a chair. He held his bullet of a head in both furry hands. He rocked from side to side. His doleful groans made a somber orchestration for Ham's uproarious mirth.
A trickle of crimson wriggled through Monk's fingers.
Doc thought for an instant that Monk had been goading Ham again, and for once had been too slow in dodging the whack with the sword cane which Ham inevitably aimed at him.
Then Doc saw the implement which had struck Monk. This was a heavy metal paper weight. It lay on the rug. A twist or two of Monk's coarse, rust-colored hair still stuck to it.
Doc noted something else.
Victor Vail was gone!
"WHAT HAPPENED?" Doc Savage demanded.
Ham tried twice before he choked down his mirth.
"I thought for a minute I'd die laughing!" he gulped hilariously. "The blind man said he wanted to feel the bumps on that wart Monk calls a head. Our fuzzy missing link of a pal let him.
"He got a telephone call first," Monk put in sourly.
"Who did?" Doc inquired.
"Victor Vail," Monk grumbled. "The phone rang. Some guy asked to talk to Victor Vail. I put the blind man on the wire. He didn't say much to the guy who had called. But he listened a lot. Then he hung up. After a bit, we got to arguin' about tellin' fortunes by the knots on people's heads. He claimed there was somethin' to it, an' offered to feel my conk an' tell me plenty about myself."
"And you fell for it!" Ham screamed mirthfully. "And he kissed the top of your noggin with that paper weight! Then he beat it!"
"You weren't here?" Doc asked Ham.
"No," Ham laughed. "I came in just as Monk woke up talking to himself."
"Aw — how was I to know the blind guy was gonna hang one on my nob?" Monk demanded.
"You have no idea why he did it?" Doc questioned seriously.
"None a-tall," declared Monk. "Unless he got the notion from that telephone talk."
"You don't know who called?"
"He said his name was Smath. But it might've been a fake name that he gimmy."
Monk took his hands away from his head. A nesting goose would have been proud of such an egg as now decorated the top of his cranium.
"That's one bump it'd be easy to tell your fortune from!" Ham jeered, his hilarity unabated. "It shows you are an easy mark for blind guys with paper weights!"
Doc Savage swung into the laboratory. The prisoners were lined up there. Each man snored slightly. They would sleep thus until the administration of a chemical which was capable of reviving them from the thing which had made them unconscious.
Doc ignored them. He lifted from the heavily laden shelves of equipment an apparatus which resembled nothing so much as the portable sprayers used to treat apple trees.
He carried this into the outer office.
Monk and Ham eyed the contrivance with surprise. The thing was a new one on them.