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Книга The Polar Treasure. Страница 11

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Monk asked: "What is — "

He never finished the query. Sounds of distant shots came to their ears.

The noise was coming from the street below. Doc whipped to the window. He looked out and down.

An extremely flashy car, streamlined almost as beautifully as the world's record-holding racer, was canted up askew of the curb. Two machine guns stabbed red flame from the racer — flame that looked like licking snake tongues.

Across the street, other guns spat fire back at them.

"It's Long Tom and Renny!" Doc rapped.

* * *

THE GIANT bronze man was whipping into the corridor with the last word. Johnny, Monk, and Ham followed. Monk had forgotten his cracked head with surprising suddenness.

The superspeed elevator sank them. Both Johnny and Ham, unable to withstand the force of the car halting, landed on the floor on their stomachs.

"Whee!" grinned Monk. "I always get a wallop out of ridin' this thing!"

Indeed, Monk had almost worn out the superspeed elevator the first week after Doc had it installed, riding it up and down for the kick it gave him.

Doc and his men surged for the street. A stream of lead clouted glass out of the doors.

Monk, Johnny, and Ham drew the compact little machine guns which were Doc's own invention. The weapons released streams of reports so closely spaced they sounded like tough cloth ripping.

Doc himself doubled back through the skyscraper. He left by the freight entrance, furtively, almost before his friends realized he was not with them. He glided down the side street, haunting the deepest shadows.

Reaching the main thoroughfare, he saw the fight still waged about as he had seen it from above. A lot of lead was flying. But nobody had been hurt. Renny and Long Tom were sheltered by the flashy racer — it was Long Tom's car. Their opponents were barricaded behind the corner of a building across the street.

Somebody had shot out the street lights at either end of

the block. The resulting gloom probably explained the lack of casualties.

Doc's bronze form flashed across the street. A bullet whizzed past, missing by ten feet. He was a nearly impossible target in the murk.

"It's de bronze swab!" howled one of the enemy. "Keelhaul me!"

The words were all that was needed to break up the fight. The gunmen fled. The had a car parked around the corner, engine running. Into this they leaped. It whisked them away.

A diminutive figure popped out from behind the racer. The small man sprinted wrathfully after the fleeing gunmen. His pistollike machine gun released spiteful gobbles of sound.

"Hey!" Doc called. "You're wasting your time, Long Tom!"

The small man came stamping back. Besides being short, he was slender. He had pale hair and pale eyes, and a complexion that looked none too healthy.

Only his extremely large head hinted that he was no ordinary man. "Long Tom," formally known as Major Thomas J. Roberts, was an electrical wizard who had worked with foremost men in the electrical world. Nor was he the physical weakling he appeared.

"The rats shot my car full of holes!" he howled irately.

The flashy racing car was the pride of Long Tom's heart. He had equipped it with about every conceivable electrical contrivance, from a television set to a newly perfected gadget projecting rays of an extremely short wave length which were capable of killing mosquitoes and other insects that might annoy the driver.

This latter device, worked out with some aid from Doc Savage, was probably destined to bring Long Tom worldwide fame. Farmers could use it to destroy insect pests. It was worth billions to the cotton growers alone!

As they approached Long Tom's racer, a mountain heaved up from behind it.

* * *

THE MOUNTAIN was Renny.

Six feet four would have been a close guess at his height. The fact that he looked nearly as wide was partially an optical illusion. He weighed only about two hundred and fifty pounds. On the ends of arms thick as telegraph poles, he carried a couple of kegs of bone and gristle which he called hands.

Renny was noted for two things. First, many countries knew him as an engineer little short of a genius. Second, there was no wooden door built with a panel so stout, Renny could not knock it out with one of his huge fists.

"How'd you birds start that fight?" Doc demanded.

Renny and Long Tom exchanged guilty looks.

"We drove up here as innocent as could be," Renny protested in a voice which resembled a very big bullfrog in a barrel. "Them guys ran out in the street and pointed a machine gun at us. Evidently we weren' t the birds they were expecting, because they lowered their guns and turned back. But we figured if they was huntin' trouble, we'd accommodate 'em. So we started a little good-natured lead slingin'!"

Doc smiled slightly.

"If the fight did nothing else, it cleared up something that has been puzzling me." he said.

"Huh?" Renny and Long Tom chorused, while Doc's other pals came up to listen. No one of the group had been injured.

"Until a moment ago, it was a puzzle to me why Keelhaul de Rosa turned Victor Vail loose," Doc explained. "But now I see the reason. Keelhaul de Rosa and Ben O'Gard are fighting each other. Just why, is still a mystery. Both were after Victor Vail.

"The reason for that is another mystery. But Keelhaul de Rosa got Victor Vail, and I be!ieve he got whatever he wanted from the blind man — something which required removal of the clothes from Vail's upper body. Then the violinist was turned loose as a bait to draw Ben O'Gard into the hands of Keelhaul de Rosa's gunmen. It was that crowd we just mixed with, because Keelhaul was along. They thought you birds were Ben O'Gard's men."

The moment he finished speaking, Doc beckoned Renny. The two of them entered the skyscraper.

The others, Monk, Ham, Long Tom, and Johnny, remained outside. They would have to explain the shooting to the police. Radio-squad cars laden with officers were booting up from all directions.

There would be no trouble explaining. Each of Doc's five men bore the honorary rank of captain on the New York police force.

* * *

ENTERING HIS eighty-sixth-floor office, Doc secured the sprayerlike contraption which he had abandoned at the start of the fight down in the street.

'What's that doofunny?" Renny inquired. He, too, had never seen the sprayer of a contrivance before.

"I'll show you." Doc indicated a sticky material on the corridor floor outside his office door. This resembled extremely pale molasses. The color blended with the floor tiles so as to be hardly noticeable. "See that?"

"Sure," Renny replied. "But I wouldn't have, if you hadn't pointed it out."

"I chanced to have the foresight to spread that stuff outside the door when I left Monk here with Victor Vail," Doc explained.

"What is it?"

"I'm showing you. Take off your shoes."

Bewildered, Renny kicked off his footgear. Doc did likewise.

Doc now pointed the nozzle of his sprayer down the corridor — away from the pale molasses material. A shrill fizzing sounded. A cloud of pale vapor came out of the nozzle.

"Smell anything?"

"Not a thing," Renny declared.

Doc aimed a puff of the strange vapor at the molasses stuff.

"Smell anything now?"

"Ph-e-w!" choked Renny. "Holy cow! A whole regiment of skunks couldn't make a worse

Doc hauled Renny into the elevator.

"The stuff in this sprayer and the sticky material on the floor form a terrible odor when they come together, even in the tiniest quantities," Doc explained as the cage raced them down. "So powerful are these chemicals that any one walking through the stuff in front of the door will leave a trail which can be detected for some hours. That's why we took off our shoes. We had walked through it."

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