"Tyler," snapped Bentley, "have everybody fall back beyond earshot."
Tyler issued the orders. Bentley shouted, "Quickly, quickly!" knowing he had little time.
Then, with Tyler beside him, he knelt beside the ape.
"I know you can't talk, but you can answer me by nodding or shaking your head. You are Harold Hervey, aren't you?"
The eyes of the ape were hopeless. Tyler gasped, staring at Bentley as though for a moment he thought him crazy. But in the next instant he doubted his own sanity, for the ape, slowly and ponderously, nodded his head.
"I'm going to name a number of places where I think you might have been taken," went on Bentley. "In each case nod or shake your head. Is it near Sixth Avenue?"
Slowly the great head moved, more slowly even than before; but it nodded.
"Where? Below Twenty-third Street?"
Again the ponderous, agonizing nod.
Bentley went on.
"Below Fourteenth Street?"
Again the nod, barely perceptible this time.
"Below Christopher Street?" asked Bentley.
This time the head shook from side to side, ever so slightly.
"Two blocks above Christopher?"
But this question was never destined to be answered. The giant anthropoid in whose skull-pan was the brain of Harold Hervey, entirely controlled by Caleb Barter, until Bentley had shot the little metal ball from his head, had died.
Bentley rose and looked down at the anthropoid for several seconds.
"Barter will hate to lose this creature," he said. "He probably has just the number of apes he needs--and Tyler, here's a hunch: he'll need an ape to take the place of this one! Get me the best surgeon to be found in Manhattan, and get him as fast as you can!"
"Good God!" ejaculated Tyler. "What do you want a surgeon for? What are you going to do?"
"Barter needs an ape to take the place of this one. I shall be that ape!"
The Mind Master By Arthur J. Burks Conclusion [Illustration: "Now, Bentley," said Barter, "I'll explain what I intend doing."]
The Mute Plungers It would be difficult to comprehend the nervous strain under which Manhattan had been laboring during the past thirty-six hours. The story of the kidnaping of Harold Hervey had not been given to the newspapers, for an excellent reason. If Hervey's financial enemies knew of his kidnaping and death they would hammer away at his stocks until they fell to nothing and his family, accustomed to fabulous wealth, would have been reduced to beggary.
The Mind Master himself, up to a late hour, had given no word to the newspapers in his "manifestoes." The Hervey family held its breath fearing that he would--for the newspapers would have played the story for all the sensationalism it would carry. Bentley, when this matter was called to his attention, wondered. Barter had kept his own counsel for a purpose, but what was it? There was no way of asking him.
The story of the mad race down Broadway in pursuit of the limousine which had returned the lifeless body of Hervey to his residence had been a sensational one, and the tabloids had given it their best treatment. The chauffeur who had crawled out like a monkey atop his careening car, to lose his life when catapulted into the entrance to the Twenty-third Street subway station: the three policemen whose lives had been lost because the chauffeur hadn't stopped as they had expected him to, the kidnaping of Saret Balisle by a great ape hadn't yet broken as a story, nor the murder of Balisle's chauffeur.
But everybody knew something of the story of the naked man of the day before. Many were the speculations as to what had ripped and torn his flesh from his body, along with his clothes. What manner of claws had it been which had sliced him in scores of places as though with many razors?
Men and women walked the streets apprehensively, and many of them turned at intervals to look behind them. No telling what they would do when the story of Balisle's kidnaping by an anthropoid ape and a queer mute chauffeur got abroad. To top it all the police pursuers lost the Balisle limousine and Saret Balisle had taken his place among the lost.
Bentley knew as soon as the disgruntled and rather frightened police officers returned to the Clinton Building with the news that Balisle had got away from them in the stolen Balisle car, that already the ill-fated young man was probably under the anesthetic which Caleb Barter used on his victims.
"Tyler, do you know a surgeon who can do any surgical job short of brain transplantation?"
"Yeah. There's a chap has offices in the Fifth Avenue Building. He's probably the very best in the racket. Maybe it's because of his name. It's Tyler."
"Some relative of yours?"
"Not much. He's just my dad--and one of the world's finest and cleverest."
"Will he listen to reason? Can he perform delicate operations?"
"He's my dad, Bentley, and he'd do almost anything I asked him so long as it was honest ... and he could switch the noses of a mosquito and a humming bird so skillfully that the humming bird would go looking for a sleeping cop and the mosquito would start building a nest in a tree."
"Get him here. No--has he an operating room where all sound can be shut out? I've got a hunch I'd like somehow to try and drop a screen around us as we work. Maybe your dad would know what to do. You see, I'm positive that Barter sees everything we do and if he sees me turning into an ape he would just chuckle and pass up the trap."
"He's got a lead armored room where he keeps a bit of radium."
"That's it. Talk to him. No, not on the phone. You'll have to figure out some way to do it so that you can be sure Barter isn't listening."
"I'll manage. I'll send him a note."
"Your messenger will be killed on the way to him."
"Then I'll go myself."
"And Barter will watch everybody that goes into his office or comes out, and mark down each person as possibly being connected with the police. However, you figure it out."
When Tyler had gone and the dead "ape" had been stretched out in one corner of Balisle's office, and covered with something to cloak its hideousness, Bentley telephoned Ellen Estabrook.
"Have I been making any appointments with you this morning?" he asked her cheerily.
"Please don't jest when things are so terrible. Have you seen the latest papers?"
"No. What do they say?"
"There's a lot of the story I'm thinking about. You'd better read it right away. It's an extra, anyhow. The newsies ought to be calling it around you somewhere--and where are you, anyway?"
Bentley informed her, and told her, too, that he would be with her as soon as he possibly could. Taking the usual masculine advantage he decided to tell her now what he wouldn't have had the heart to tell her to her face, that he was planning a rather desperate stunt to reach Barter, and would consequently be away from her for an indefinite period.
"But I'll see you first?" she said after a long hesitation. Bentley could hear her voice tremble, though he knew she was fighting desperately to keep him from noting the catch in her voice.
"Yes, nothing will happen until--well, not until I've seen you again."
Just as Bentley hung up the receiver the extra was being cried. Some two hours had now elapsed since Balisle had been taken away, and now the newsboys were shouting the headlines.
"Extra! Extra! All about the big Wall Street crash! Hervey fortune entirely swept away!"
Bentley sent an office boy out for the paper and spread it out on the desk to digest it as quickly as possible.
"One million shares of Hervey Incorporated," read the black words in a box on the first page--a story in mourning, "were dumped on the market at eleven o'clock this morning. Four men seem to have been behind the queer coup. One of them had a power of attorney from Harold Hervey himself, and he had the shares to sell. So many shares were dumped that the bottom fell out of the stock. Others holding the Hervey shares, fearful that they would get nothing at all, also began to dump, and every share thus dumped was bought up quickly by three other men about whom nobody knew anything, except that they paid with cash. The strangest thing about it all was that the three men who bought Hervey Incorporated, seemed to be dumb-mutes, for they didn't say anything. They acted through a broker, and indicated their purchases with their fingers in the conventional manner and tendered cards as identification! They were Harry Stanley, Clarence Morton, and Willard Cleve--addresses unknown, history unknown.
"Nothing, in fact, is known about any of the three or the little white-haired, apple-cheeked man who sold so heavily in Hervey Incorporated. That the three mutes did not buy the shares sold by the little white-haired man would seem to indicate that all four of them worked together ... but it is only a supposition as they were not seen together and apparently did not know one another. But the three mutes constantly ate walnuts. All four men, who among them knocked the bottom out of Wall Street, and wiped away the Hervey fortune, slipped out in the excitement inspired by their rapid buying and selling, and seemed to vanish into thin air."
Bentley didn't know much about the stock market, but it seemed to him that Barter had managed a theft of mighty proportions. With a power of attorney, which he had wrung from Hervey after his capture, he had managed to possess himself of Hervey's shares. In themselves they were worth millions. Even at a fraction of their price Barter would realize heavily on them. Selling quickly he would force the price far down. Then his puppets--and Bentley had no doubt that Stanley, Morton and Cleve were his puppets--bought all other shares offered by panicky investors in Hervey Incorporated at a tiny fraction of their value. Far less, naturally, than Barter had made by selling his loot.
The purchased shares Barter could hold for an increase. Hervey Incorporated was good and its price would go up again, and Barter would sell and gain millions.
That is how Bentley saw it, and his lips drew into a firmer, straighter line as, half an hour later, he explained it all to Ellen.
"It's desperate, dear," he whispered in her ear. "Manhattan's financial structure has been shaken to its foundations. But that isn't all by any means. Barter has performed his horrible operation on two of New York's most brilliant men. It was a Barter gesture to send 'Harold Hervey' to capture Balisle, and the horror of it staggered me."
"Lee," said Ellen, "understand this: that if I have no word from you within seventy-two, no, forty-eight hours after you get started on this scheme you have in mind, I'm going to get through to Barter somehow. If I put an ad in the paper and tell him where I'm to be found he'll surely make another attempt to take me in. If he's captured you, or uncovered the trap you're laying, then I'll at least be with you. If he kills you he kills me. If we can't live together we can die together."
Bentley kissed her fervently, trying not to think what it would mean to him now if she were in the hands of Caleb Barter. Secretly he intended having Tyler keep her so closely guarded that she couldn't possibly do anything as foolish as she had suggested.
The late evening papers carried another manifesto of the Mind Master to the effect that the remaining eighteen men named on the original list were to be taken before noon of the next day.
Oddly enough eighteen kidnapings were reported from various places in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
"So," thought Bentley, "he's afraid to send out normal apes to capture his eighteen key men. Maybe his control over them is not perfect. That's it. I suppose--he needs human brains before he can exercise perfect control. I suppose Stanley, Morton and Cleve did the kidnapings."
Late that night Bentley kissed Ellen good-by, told her to keep up her courage, and repaired to the rendezvous arranged for by Thomas Tyler and his surgeon father. In the operating room was the cold body of the anthropoid that had successfully abducted Saret Balisle.
"Young man," said Dr. Tyler, "just what is it you want me to do? I'm not asking for your reasons. Tommy tells me you know what you're doing. I must say though, I don't believe that story of brain transplantation. No doctor would believe it for a minute."
Bentley looked at the dead ape.
"You'll take Tommy's word for it that that ape kidnaped Saret Balisle to-day and took him down the face of a building, sixteen stories to the ground?"
"Of course. Tommy wouldn't string his father."
"Well, part of your surgical work to-night will make it necessary for you to look at that creature's brain. You'll recognize a human brain in that ape's skull. After you've made that discovery, here's what I want you to do: I'll strip to the skin; then I want you to place the skin of that ape on me, so that from top to toes I am an ape. You'll have to do the job so perfectly that I'll be an ape--as soon as, under your watchful eye and Tom's, I have mastered all the ape mannerisms the three of us can remember. Can you do it?"
Tyler senior shrugged.
He motioned his son and Bentley to help him lift the huge ape body to the operating table, and under the glaring light above he set to work with instruments which gleamed like molten silver, then became a sullen red....
The Furry Mime "Listen, boys," said Dr. Tyler, after he had removed the skin of the ape, and for a few brief seconds had examined the brain, to shake his head in astonishment. "I've an idea that may help you. It would be impossible for you, Bentley, to play the ape well enough to fool this mad Mind Master. But a hitherto unknown type of ape has just been discovered in Colombia. I read the story of it in a scientific journal to-day. The ape is more manlike than any other known to science. You shall be that ape, brought in during the night by a famous returned explorer. There will be great interest in you now that the story of Saret Balisle's kidnaping has broken. With the attention of New York upon you, certainly your presence will interest Caleb Barter."
Tyler senior rummaged in a pile of papers on his desk and brought forth the story he referred to, which also carried a picture of the Colombian ape.
"It would be impossible for me to change your shape and add to your size sufficiently to make you a real giant anthropoid. You'd have to be twice as deep through the chest; you'd have to have bowed legs as big as small tree trunks; you'd have to have a sloping forehead. No, it's impossible, for I'd have to equip you by padding to an impossible degree, and a scientist would only need to touch you to know you as an imitation ape. But if you are made up as the Colombian ape--"
Bentley quickly interrupted.
"The idea is excellent. I was dubious before about my chances of success, but as an ape of a new species I have a far better chance, and my inevitable human behavior won't be so noticeable."
Dr. Tyler measured Bentley as carefully as a tailor, proud of his skill, measures a particular, wealthy customer.
"You will almost suffocate," he said, keeping up a running monologue as his inspired hands worked with forceps and scalpels, "but I can make plenty of air vents in the ape skin which will allow the pores of your skin to breathe. If they are hidden under the hair they will scarcely be noticed, unless of course Barter sees what we are doing here and suspects from the beginning."
"I can stand the discomfort for as long as may prove necessary," said Bentley grimly, conquering a feeling of terror as he already saw himself in the role of an ape, a role previously played in which he had suffered the torments of the damned, "and anything is preferable to the wholesale carnage which Barter is doing. In seventy-two hours he has wrecked the morale of Manhattan. I shall try to get it back. Tyler, will you make every effort to guard the other eighteen men named on the Mind Master's original list?"
"Of course," but Tyler said it dubiously. Barter had proved it almost impossible to outwit him. In their hearts both Bentley and Tyler knew that Barter would make good his boast to take the eighteen men he had named. It seemed a grim price Manhattan must pay to be finally rid of Barter's satanic machinations.
When Bentley, stripped naked, quietly announced his readiness to take his place on the operating table, Tyler senior took a deep breath, like a diver preparing to plunge into icy water, and looked questioningly at Bentley.
"I'm ready, sir," said Bentley quietly. "Let's get on with the task."
Dr. Tyler set to work with amazing, uncanny speed. He had never been more skilful in closing sutures of the flesh in any of his myriad of operations. He was a man inspired as he labored on the task of changing Lee Bentley from a normal human being to a Colombian ape.
While the surgeon worked his son telephoned to the Colombian explorer whose return from Latin-America had been mentioned in the day's news. He couldn't explain anything over the telephone, he said, but would Doctor Jackson come at once to the private offices of James Tyler, surgeon?
Doctor Jackson grumbled, but the urgency in the voice of Tyler convinced him that the thing was important. He promised to be on hand within an hour. It then lacked a few minutes of three o'clock in the morning.