Quick adjustments of the controls resulted in the locating of Frank’s car, which was still buried to its axles in snow. The scene included Leland’s house, or rather its site, for it appeared to have been utterly demolished by some explosion within.
Tommy raised questioning eyebrows.
“It was necessary,” explained Rhonus, “to destroy the house in obliterating all traces of our former means of egress. It has been commanded that you two be returned safely, and we are authorized to trust implicitly in your future silence regarding the existence of Theros. This is satisfactory, I presume?”
Both Tommy and Frank nodded agreement.
“Are you ready, gentlemen?” asked Clarux, who was adjusting a mechanism that resembled a huge radio transmitter. Its twelve giant vacuum tubes glowed into life as he spoke.
“We are,” chimed the two visitors.
They were requested to step to a small circular platform that was raised about a foot from the floor by means of insulating legs. Above the table there was an inverted bowl of silver in the shape of a large parabolic reflector.
“There will be no alarming sensations,” averred Clarux. “When I close the switch the disintegrating energy from the reflector above will bathe your bodies for a moment in visible rays of a deep purple hue. You may possibly experience a slight momentary feeling of nausea. Then—presto!—you have arrived.”
“Shoot!” growled Frank from his position on the stand.
Clarux pulled the switch and there was a murmur as of distant thunder. Tommy blinked involuntarily in the brilliant purple glow that surrounded him. Then all was confusion in the transmitting room. Somebody had rushed through the open door shouting, “Frank! Frank!” It was the empress Phaestra.
In a growing daze Tommy saw her dash to the platform, seize Frank in a clutch of desperation. There was a violent wrench as if some monster were twisting at his vitals. He closed his eyes against the blinding light, then realized that utter silence had followed the erstwhile confusion. He sat in Frank’s car—alone.
The journey was over, and Frank was left behind. With awful finality it came to him that there was nothing he could do. It was clear that Phaestra had wanted his pal, needed him—come for him. From the fact that Frank remained behind it was evident that she had succeeded in retaining him. A sickening fear came to Tommy that she had been too late; that Frank’s body was already partly disintegrated and that he might have paid the price of her love with his life. But a little reflection convinced him that if this were the case a portion of his friend’s body would have reached the intended destination. Then, unexplainably, he received a mental message that all was well.
Considerably heartened, he pressed the starter button and the cold motor of Frank’s coupe turned over slowly, protestingly. Finally it coughed a few times, and, after considerable coaxing by use of the choke, ran smoothly. He proceeded to back carefully through the drifts toward the road, casting an occasional regretful glance in the direction of the demolished mansion.
He would have some explaining to do when he returned to New York. Perhaps—yes, almost certainly, he would be questioned by the police regarding Frank’s disappearance. But he would never betray the trust of Phaestra. Who indeed would believe him if he told the story? Instead, he would concoct a weird fabrication regarding an explosion in Leland’s laboratory, of his own miraculous escape. They could not hold him, could not accuse him of murder without producing a body—thecorpus delicti, or whatever they called it.
Anyway, Frank was content. So was Phaestra.
Tommy swung the heavy car into the road and turned toward New York, alone and lonely—but somehow happy; happy for his friend.