The dwarf glared at first one and then the other.
“All right,” he said shortly and limped to a cabinet on the wall. He drew a key from his pocket and opened it and pulled out a leather-bound book. “Look all you please. I was supposed to get the most. It was my idea.”
“You were to get one share and a half, while Willis, Frink and I got one share each and the rest half a share,” said Carson. “I know how much has been given and it won’t take me but a minute to check up.”
He bent over the book, but Willis interrupted.
“Better put it away, Carson,” he said, “here come the rest and we don’t want them to know we suspect anything.”
He pointed toward a disc on the wall which had begun to glow. Slavatsky looked at it and grasped the book from Carson and replaced it in the cabinet. He moved over and started the generator and the tube began to glow with a violet light. A noise came from the outside and the door opened. Four men entered carrying a fifth whom they propped up in the chair under the glowing tube.
“Did everything go all right?” asked the dwarf eagerly.
“Smooth as silk,” replied one of the four. “I hope we get some results this time.”
The dwarf bent over the ray apparatus and made some adjustments and the head of the unconscious man was bathed with a violet glow. For three minutes the flood of light poured on his head and then the dwarf shut off the light and Carson and Willis lifted the figure and laid it on the operating table. The dwarf bent over the man and inserted the needle of a hypodermic syringe into the back of the neck at the base of the brain. The needle was an extremely long one, and Dr. Bird gasped as he saw four inches of shining steel buried in the brain of the unconscious man.
Slowly Slavatsky drew back the plunger of the syringe and Dr. Bird could see it was being filled with an amber fluid. For two minutes the slow work continued, until a speck of red appeared in the glass syringe barrel.
“Seven and a half cubic centimeters!” cried the dwarf in a tone of delight.
“Fine!” cried Carson. “That’s a record, isn’t it?”
“No, we got eight once. Now hold him carefully while I return some of it.”
Slavatsky slowly pressed home the plunger and a portion of the amber fluid was returned to the patient’s skull. Presently he withdrew the needle and straightened up and held it toward the light.
“Six centimeters net,” he announced. “Take him back, Frink. I’ll give Car]son and Willis their share now and we’ll take care of the rest of you when you return. Is the ship well stocked?”
“Enough for two or three more trips.”
“In that case, I’ll inject this whole lot. Better get going, Frink, it’s pretty late.”
The four men who had brought the patient in stepped forward and lifted him from the table and bore him out. Dr. Bird dropped the canvas screen and strained his ears. A faint whir told him that the globe had taken to the air. He slid back along the limb of the tree until he touched the rope and silently climbed hand over hand until he gained the crest. He bent his back to the task of raising Carnes, and the operative soon stood beside him on the ledge surmounting the cliff.
“What on earth were they doing?” asked Carnes in a whisper.
“That was Professor Williams of Yale. They were depriving him of his memory. There will be another amnesia case in the papers to-morrow. I haven’t time to explain their methods now: we’ve got to act. You have a flash-light?”
“Yes, and my gun. Shall we break in? There are only three of them, and I think we could handle the lot.”
“Yes, but the others may return at any time and we want to bag the whole lot. They’ve done their damage for to-night. You heard my orders to Lieutenant Maynard, didn’t you?”
“He should be somewhere in these hills to the south with assistance of some sort. The signal to them is three long flashes followed in turn by three short ones and three more long. Go and find them and bring them here. When you get close give me the same light signal and don’t try to break in unless I am with you. I am going to reconnoitre a little more and make sure that there is no back entrance through which they can escape. Good luck. Carnes: hurry all you can. There is no time to be lost.”
The secret service operative stole away into the night and Dr. Bird climbed back down the rope and took his place at the window. Willis lay on the operating table unconscious, while Slavatsky and Carson studied the now partially emptied syringe.
“You gave him his full share all right,” Carson was saying. “I guess you are playing square with us. I’ll take mine now.”
He lay down on the operating table and the dwarf fitted an anesthesia cone over his face and opened the valve of the gas cylinder. In a moment he closed it and rolled the unconscious man on his face and deftly inserted the long needle. Instead of injecting a portion of the contents of the syringe as Dr. Bird had expected to do, he drew back on the plunger for a minute and then took out the needle and held the syringe to the light.
“Well, Mr. Carson,” he said with a malignant glance at the unconscious figure, “that recovers the dose you got a couple of weeks ago while Willis watched me. I don’t think you really need any menthium; your brain is too active to suit me as it is.”
He gave an evil chuckle and walked to the far side of the cave and opened a secret panel. He drew from a recess a flask and carefully emptied a portion of the contents of the syringe into it. He replaced the flask and closed the panel, and with another chuckle he limped over to a chair and threw himself down in it. For an hour he sat motionless and Dr. Bird carefully worked his way back along the branch and climbed the rope and started for the hollow.
A faint whirring noise attracted his attention, and he could see the faintly luminous globe in the distance, rapidly approaching. It came to a stop at the spot where it had previously landed and four men got out. Instead of going toward the cave, they towed the globe, which floated a few inches from the earth, toward the side of the hill farthest from where the doctor stood. Three of them held it, while the fourth went forward and bent over some controls on the ground. A creaking sound came through the night and the men moved forward with the globe. Presently its movement stopped and men reappeared. Again came the creaking sound and the glow faded out as though a screen had been drawn in front of it. The four men walked toward the door of the cave.
Dr. Bird dropped flat on the ground and saw them pause a few yards below him on the hill and again work some hidden controls. A glare of light showed for an instant and they disappeared and everything was again quiet. Dr. Bird debated the advisability of returning to the window but decided against it and moved down the face of the hill.
Inch by inch he went over the ground, but found nothing. In the darkness he could not locate the door and he made his way around to the back of the hill. The precipice loomed above him and he swept it with his gaze, but he could locate no opening in the darkness and he dared not use a flash-light. As he turned he faced the east and noted with a start of surprise that the sky was getting red. He glanced at his watch and found that Carnes had been gone for nearly three hours.
“Great Scott!” he exclaimed in surprise. “Time has gone faster than I realized. He ought to be back at any time now.”
He mounted the highest point of the hill and sent three long flashes, followed in turn by three short and three more long to the south and watched eagerly for an answer. He waited five minutes and repeated the signal, but no answering flashes came from the empty hills. With a grunt which might have meant anything, he turned and made his way toward the opposite side of the hollow where the globe had disappeared. Here he met with more luck. He had marked the location with extreme care and he had not spent over twenty minutes feeling over the ground before his hand encountered a bit of metal. As he pulled on it his eyes sought the side of the hill.
The dawn had grown sufficiently bright for him to see the result of his action. A portion of the hill folded back and the faintly glowing ship became visible. With a muttered exclamation of triumph he approached it.
The globe was about nine feet in diameter and was without visible doors or windows. Around and around it the doctor went, searching for an entrance. The ship now rested solidly on the ground. He failed to find what he sought and his sensitive hands began to go over it searching for an irregularity. He had covered nearly half of it before his finger found a hidden button and pressed it. Silently a door in the side of the craft opened and he advanced to enter.
“Keep them up!” said a sharp voice behind him.
Dr. Bird froze into instant immobility and the voice spoke again.
Dr. Bird turned and looked full into the eye of a revolver held by the man the dwarf had addressed as Frink. Behind Frink stood the dwarf and three other men.
As his eye fell on Dr. Bird, Frink turned momentarily pale and staggered back, the revolver wavering as he did so. Dr. Bird made a lightning-like grab for his own weapon, but before he could draw it Frink had recovered and the revolver was again steady.
“Dr. Bird!” gasped Slavatsky. “Impossible!”
“Get his gun, Harris,” said Frink.
One of the men stepped forward and dextrously removed the doctor’s automatic and frisked him expertly to insure himself that he had no other weapon concealed.
“Bring him to the cave,” directed Slavatsky, who, though obviously still shaken, had just as obviously recovered enough to be a very dangerous man. Two of the men grasped the doctor and led him along toward the entrance to the laboratory cave which stood wide open in the gathering daylight. Frink paused long enough to shut the side of the hill and conceal the ship, and then followed the doctor. In the cave the door was shut and the doctor placed against the wall under the window through which he had peered earlier in the night. Slavatsky took his seat at the table, his malignant black eyes boring into the Doctor. Carson and Willis sat on the edge of the operating table, evidently still partially under the effects of the anesthetic that had been administered to them.
“How did you get back here?” demanded Slavatsky.
“Find out!” snapped Dr. Bird.
The dwarf rose threateningly.
“Speak respectfully to me; I am the Master of the World!” he roared in an angry voice. “Answer my questions when I speak, or means will be found to make you answer. How did you get back here?”
Dr. Bird maintained a stubborn silence, his fierce eyes answering the dwarf’s, look for look, and his prominent chin jutting out a little more squarely. Carson suddenly broke the silence.
“That’s not the Bird we had here earlier,” he cried as he staggered to his feet.
“What do you mean?” demanded Slavatsky whirling on him.
“Look at his hands!” replied Carson pointing.
Slavatsky looked at Dr. Bird’s long mobile fingers and an evil leer came over his countenance.
“So, Dr. Bird,” he said slowly, “you thought to match wits with Ivan Slavatsky, the greatest mind of all the ages. For a time you fooled me when your double was operated on here, but not for long. I presume you thought that we had no way of detecting the substitution? You have discovered differently. Where is your friend, Mr. Carnes?”
“Didn’t your men leave him in the cabin when you kidnapped me?”
Slavatsky looked at Frink inquiringly.
“He stayed in the cabin if he was in it when we got there,” the leader of the kidnapping gang replied. “He got a full shot of lethane and he’s due to be asleep yet. I don’t know how this man recovered. I left him there myself.”
“Fool!” shrieked Slavatsky. “You brought me a double, a dummy whom I wasted my time in operating on. Was the other a dummy, too?”
“I didn’t enter the cabin.”
Slavatsky shrugged his shoulders.
“If that is all the good the menthium I have injected has done you, I might as well have saved it. It doesn’t matter, however: we have the one we wanted. Dr. Bird, it was very thoughtful of you to come here and offer your marvelous brain to strengthen mine. I have no doubt that you will yield even more menthium than Professor Williams did this evening especially as I will extract your entire supply and reduce you to permanent idiocy. I will have no mercy on you as I have on the others I have operated on.”
Dr. Bird blanched in spite of himself at the ominous words.
“You have the whip-hand for the moment, Slavatsky, but my time may come—and if it does, I will remember your kindness. I saw your operation on Professor Williams this evening and know your power. I also know that you stole the idea and the method from Sweigert of Vienna. I saw you inject the fluid you drew into Willis’ brain. Shall I tell what else I saw?”
It was the dwarf’s turn to blanch, but he recovered himself quickly.
“Into the chair with him!” he roared.
Three of the men grasped the doctor and forced him into the chair and Slavatsky started the generator. The violet light bathed Dr. Bird’s head and he felt a stiffness and contraction of his neck muscles, and as he tried to shout out his knowledge of Slavatsky’s treachery, he found that his vocal chords were paralyzed. Through a gathering haze he could see Carson approaching with an anesthesia cone and the sweet smell of lethane assailed his nostrils. He fought with all his force, but strong hands held him, and he felt himself slipping—slipping—slipping—and then falling into an immense void. His head slumped forward on his chest and Slavatsky shut off the generator.
“On the table,” he said briefly.
Four men picked up the herculean frame of the unconscious doctor and hoisted him up on the table. Carson seized his head and bent it forward and the dwarf took from a case a syringe with a five-inch needle. He touched the point of it to the base of the doctor’s brain.
“Slavatsky! Look!” cried Frink.
With an exclamation of impatience the dwarf turned and stared at a disc set on the wall of the cave. It was glowing brightly. With an oath he dropped the syringe and snapped a switch, plunging the cave into darkness. A tiny panel in the door opened to his touch and he stared out into the light.
“Soldiers!” he gasped. “Quick, the back way!”
As he spoke there came a sound as of a heavy body falling at the back of the cave. Slavatsky turned the switch and flooded the cave with light. At the back of the cave stood Operative Carnes, an automatic pistol in his hand.
“Open the main door!” Carnes snapped.
slavatsky made a move toward the light, and Carnes’ gun roared deafeningly in the confined space. The heavy bullet smashed into the wall an inch from the dwarf’s hand and he started back.
“Open the main door!” ordered Carnes again.
The men stared at one another for a moment and the dwarf’s eyes fell.
“Open the door, Frink,” he said.
Frink moved over to a lever. He glanced at Slavatsky and a momentary gleam of intelligence passed between them. Frink raised his hand toward the lever and Carnes gun roared again and Frink’s arm fell limp from a smashed shoulder.
“Slavatsky,” said Carnes sternly, “come here!”
Slowly the dwarf approached.
“Turn around!” said Carnes.
He turned and felt the cold muzzle of Carnes’ gun against the back of his neck.
“Now tell one of your men to open the door,” said the detective. “If he promptly obeys your order, you are safe. If he doesn’t, you die.”
Slavatsky hesitated for a moment, but the cold muzzle of the automatic bored into the back of his neck and when he spoke it was in a quavering whine.
“Open the door, Carson,” he whimpered.
There was moment of pause.
“If that door isn’t open by the time I count three,” said Carnes, “—as far as Slavatsky is concerned, it’s just too bad. I’ll have four shots left—and I’m a dead shot at this range. One! Two!”
His lips framed the word “three” and his fingers were tightening on the trigger when Carson jumped forward with an oath. He pulled a lever on the wall and the door swung open. Carnes shouted and through the opened door came a half dozen marines followed by an officer.
“Tie these men up!” snapped Carnes.
In a trice the six men were securely bound and Frink’s bleeding shoulder was being skilfully treated by two of the marines. Carnes turned his attention to the unconscious doctor.
He rolled him over on his back and began to chafe his hands. An officer in a naval uniform came through the door and with a swift glance around, bent over Dr. Bird. He raised one of the doctor’s eyelids and peered closely at his eye and then sniffed at his breath.
“It’s some anesthetic I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll try a stimulant.”
He reached in his pocket for a hypodermic, but Carnes interrupted him.
“Earlier in the evening Dr. Bird said they were using lethane,” he said.
“Oh, that new gas the Chemical Warfare Service has discovered,” said the surgeon. “In that case I guess it’ll just have to wear off. I know of nothing that will neutralize it.”
Without replying, Carnes began to feverishly search the pockets of the unconscious scientist. With an exclamation of triumph he drew out a bottle and uncorked it. A strong smell as of garlic penetrated the room and he held the opened bottle under Dr. Bird’s nose. The doctor lay for a moment without movement, and then he coughed and sat up half strangled with tears running down his face.
“Take that confounded bottle away, Carnes!” he said. “Do you want to strangle me?”
He sat up and looked around.
“What happened?” he demanded. “Oh, yes, I remember now. That brute was about to operate on me. How did you get here?”
“Never mind that, Doctor. Are you all right?”
“Right as a trivet, old dear. How did you get here so opportunely?”
“I was a little slow in locating Lieutenant Maynard and the marines. When we got here I was afraid that we couldn’t find the door, so I took Maynard and a detail around to the back and I went up to the top and slid down our cord and looked in the window. You were unconscious and Slavatsky was bending over you with a needle in his hand. I was about to try a shot at him when something called their attention to the men in front and I squeezed through the window and dropped in on them. They didn’t seem any too glad to see me, but I overlooked that and insisted on inviting the rest of my friends in to share in the party. That’s all.”
“Carnes,” said the Doctor, “you’re probably lying like a trooper when you make out that you did nothing, but I’ll pry the truth out of you sooner or later. Now I’ve got to get to work. Send for Lieutenant Maynard.”
One of the marines went out to get the flyer, and Dr. Bird stepped to the cabinet from which Slavatsky had taken his record book earlier in the evening and took out the leather-bound volume. He opened it and had started to read when Lieutenant Maynard entered the cave.
“Hello, Maynard,” said the Doctor, looking up. “Are the rest of the party on their way?”
“They will be here in less than two hours, Doctor.”
“Good enough! Have some one sent to guide them here. In the meanwhile, I’m going to study these records. Keep the prisoners quiet. If they make a noise, gag them. I want to concentrate.”
For an hour and a half silence reigned in the cave. A stir was heard outside and Admiral Clay, the President’s personal physician, entered leading a stout gray-haired man. Dr. Bird whistled when he saw them and leaped to his feet as another figure followed the admiral.
“The President!” gasped Carnes as the officers came to a salute and the marines presented arms.
The President nodded to his ex-guard, acknowledged the salute of the rest and turned to Dr. Bird.
“Have you met with success, Doctor?” he asked.
“I have, Mr. President; or, rather, I hope that I have. At the same time, I would rather experiment on some other victim of their deviltry than the one you have brought me.”
“My decision that the one I have brought shall be the first to be experimented on, as you term it, is unalterable.”
Dr. Bird bowed and turned to the dwarf who had been a sullen witness of what had gone on.
“Slavatsky,” he said slowly, “your game is up. I have witnessed one of your brain transfusions and I know the method. I gather from your notes that the menthium you have hidden in that cabinet is still as potent as when it was first extracted from a living brain, but in this case I am going to draw it fresh from one of your gang. Some of the details of the operation are a little hazy to me, but those you will teach me. I am going to restore this man to the condition he was in before you did your devil’s work on him and you will direct my movements. Just what is the first step in removing the menthium from a brain?”
The dwarf maintained a stubborn silence.
“You refuse to answer?” asked the Doctor in feigned surprise. “I thought that you would rather instruct me and have me try the operation first on other men. Since you prefer that I operate on you first, I will be glad to do so.”
He stepped to the opposite wall and in a few moments had opened the dwarf’s hiding place and taken out the flask of menthium.
“Carson,” he said, “after you had watched Slavatsky inject menthium into Willis, you took lethane and expected him to inject menthium into your brain. Instead of doing so he withdrew a portion from your brain and put it in this flask. I have reason to believe from his secret records which I found in the cabinet with this flask that he has done so regularly. Are you willing to instruct me while I remove the menthium from him?”
“The dirty swine!” shouted Carson. “I’ll do anything to get even with him, but I have never performed the operation. Only Slavatsky and Willis have operated.”
“Will you help me, Willis? asked Dr. Bird.
“I’ll be glad to, Doctor. I am sick of this business anyway. At first, Slavatsky just planned to give us abnormally keen brains, but lately he has been talking of setting himself up as Emperor of the World, and I am sick of it. I think I would have broken with him and told all I know, soon, anyway.”
“Throw him in that chair,” said Dr. Bird.
Despite the howlings and strugglings of the dwarf, three of the marines strapped him in the chair beneath the tube. The dwarf howled and frothed at the mouth and directed a final appeal for mercy to the President.
“Spare me, Your Excellency,” he howled. “I will put my brains at your service and make you the greatest mentality of all time. Together we can conquer and rule the world. I will show you how to build hundreds of ships like mine—”
The President turned his back on the dwarf and spoke curtly.
“Proceed with your experiments, Dr. Bird,” he said.
Slavatsky directed his appeals to the doctor, who peremptorily silenced him.
“I told you a few hours ago, Slavatsky, that the time might come when I would remember your threats against me. I will show you the same mercy now as you promised me then. Carnes, put a cone over his face.”
Despite the howls of the dwarf, the operative forced an anesthesia cone over his face and Dr. Bird turned to the valve of the lethane cylinder. With Willis directing his movements, he turned on the ray for three minutes and removed the unconscious dwarf to the operating table. He took the long-needled syringe from a case and sterilized it and then turned to the President.
“I am about to operate,” he said, “but before I do so, I wish to explain to all just what I have learned and what I am about to do. With that data, the decision of whether I shall proceed will rest with you and Admiral Clay. Have I your permission to do so?”
The President nodded.
“When I first read of these amnesia cases, I took them for coincidences—until you consulted me and gave me an opportunity to examine one of the victims. I found a small puncture at the base of the brain which I could not explain, and I began to dig into old records. I knew, of course, of Sweigert of Vienna, and the extravagant claims he had put forward in 1911. He was far ahead of his time, but he mixed up some profound scientific discoveries with mysticism and occultism until he was discredited. Nevertheless, he continued his experiments with the aid of his principal assistant, a man named Slavatsky.
“Sweigert’s theory was that intellectuality, brain power, intelligence, call it what you will, was the result of the presence of a fluid which he called ‘menthium’ in the brain. He thought that it could be transferred from one person to another, and with the aid of Slavatsky, he experimented on himself. He removed the menthium from an unfortunate victim, who was reduced to a state of imbecility, and Slavatsky injected the substance into Sweigert’s brain. The experiment resulted fatally and Slavatsky was tried for murder. He was acquitted of intentional murder but was imprisoned for a time for manslaughter. He was released when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up, and for a time I lost track of him.
“I found translations of both the records of the trials and of Sweigert’s original reports, and the thing that attracted my attention was that the puncture I found in the victim corresponded exactly with the puncture described by Sweigert as the one he made in extracting the menthium. I asked the immigration authorities to check over their records and they found that a man named Slavatsky whose description corresponded with the ill-fated Sweigert’s assistant had entered the United States under Austria’s quota about a year ago. The chain of evidence seemed complete to me, and it only remained to find the man who was systematically robbing brains.
“If such a thing was really going on, I felt that my reputation would make me an attractive bait and I secured a double, as you know, and placed him in a position where his kidnapping would be an easy matter. I was sure that the victims were being taken away by air and that lethane was being used to reduce the neighborhood to a state of profound somnolence, so I hid myself near my double with a gas detector which would find even minute traces of lethane in the air.
“My fish rose to the lure and came after the bait last night. When his ship arrived, I found a strange gas in the air, and followed the ship by the trail of the substance which it left behind it. Carnes was with me, and we got here in time to witness the extraction of the menthium from my friend, Professor Williams of Yale, and to see it injected into one of Slavatsky’s gang. I sent Carnes for help and messed around until I was captured myself—and help arrived just in time. That’s about all there is to tell. I am now about to reverse the process and try to remove the stolen brains from the criminals and restore them to their rightful owners. I have never operated and the result may be fatal. Shall I proceed?”
The President and Admiral Clay consulted for a moment in undertones.
“Go on with your experiments, Dr. Bird,” said the President, “and we will hold you blameless for a failure. You have worked so many miracles in the past that we have every confidence in you.”
Dr. Bird bowed acknowledgment to the compliment and bent over the unconscious dwarf. With Willis directing every move, he inserted the needle and drew back slowly on the plunger. Twenty-three and one-half cubic centimeters of amber fluid flowed into the syringe before a speck of blood appeared.