Next at Bentley's suggestion--and he talked quickly and eagerly to keep his mind off the ordeal he knew he was facing--Tyler got the curator of the Bronx Zoo out of bed and asked him to wait upon Doctor Tyler immediately.
At four o'clock Doctor Jackson and the curator entered the room where Surgeon Tyler had performed a miracle.
Doctor Jackson stepped back in amazement when he noted the manlike ape which leaned with arms folded against one wall of the operating room. His eyes were big with amazement.
He studied Bentley for several minutes, while no one spoke a word.
It was the curator who broke the strained silence.
"So this is your Colombian ape," he said. "I read the news story, but I understood that the ape you had found had been killed in the attempt to capture it."
Surgeon Tyler spoke easily.
"That news story," he said, "was to prevent Doctor Jackson from being annoyed by visitors eager to see his find. As a matter of sober fact Doctor Jackson captured the Colombian ape alive and is now about to turn it over to the zoo. Understand me, Doctor Jackson?"
Still the explorer said nothing. For a moment longer he stared at Bentley; then he walked over to him.
"The hair is different," he said as though talking to himself. "The Colombian ape's hair is of a slightly finer texture. But that could be explained away as I allowed only the merest bit of information to the reporters to-day. I can add a supplementary story in the next newspaper which will explain that the coarse fur of the Colombian ape is the only thing about it which makes it resemble a giant anthropoid."
Jackson had walked to Bentley without fear and ran his fingers through the hair as he spoke.
"I know it's a man, and some surgeon has performed a miracle," he said. "Just what is it you wish me to do?"
"You've read the stories relating to the Mind Master, Doctor?" asked Bentley suddenly. How strangely his voice came from the body of an ape!
"I've read some of them," answered Jackson. "Is this a scheme whereby you hope to trap the Mind Master?"
"Then depend upon me for any assistance I can render. As a scientist I understand fully the power for evil of a mad genius of our class. This Mind Master should be ruthlessly destroyed."
"Thank you," said Bentley, stepping forward. "You know, perhaps, how the Colombian ape behaves, enough that you can coach me how to walk, how to gesture?"
"Certainly. It will take perhaps an hour to prepare you to fill your role creditably."
Jackson's face flushed with enthusiasm. He was launched on a task which fired his interest. He was an authority on apes and anything relating to them inspired him.
"Seat yourself on a chair," said Jackson. "The Colombian ape sits upright like a man."
Bentley seated himself as Jackson had bidden him.
"Now spread your legs apart awkwardly, with the knees straight. The Colombian ape doesn't exactly sit on a chair or a rock or a tree, he leans against it in a half sitting position."
Bentley quickly assumed the awkward strained position suggested by Jackson.
Jackson stepped up to him and placed Bentley's arms, unbent, so that his fists hung down outside his wide-apart knees, and cupped his fingers so that they seemed perpetually in the act of closing on something.
"You can't possibly take the proper position with your toes," went on Jackson, "for it's beyond a man's ability to curve his toes as he does his hands. The Colombian ape's toes are prehensile."
"Can't you say in your next news story, Doctor," suggested Bentley, "that the Colombian ape, the nearest animal relative of man, seems to be in an advanced stage of evolution. Can you not say that the Colombian ape is by way of losing the use of his toes?"
"Many scientists know that to be untrue," said Jackson, "but perhaps we can help you through your scheme before they begin denying details in the newspapers. Too bad we can't send secret suggestions to all anthropologists that they remain discreetly silent until the mantle of horror is lifted from Manhattan. But of course we can't, since we'd betray ourselves. Our only hope, then, is to work at top speed."
"I am as eager as anyone to finish a particularly horrible task," said Bentley.
Under Jackson's instructions Bentley walked up and down the room. His shaggy shadow on the several walls as he turned, marched and countermarched at Jackson's commands, filled Bentley with self-loathing. He found himself repulsive. His body perspired freely impregnating the ape skin with a harsh odor that was biting and terrible in his nostrils. It was sickening. He tried to close his mind to the repulsiveness of what he was doing.
He walked with a swaying, side-to-side gait, something like a sailor's rolling walk, while his arms swung free at his sides as though they merely hung from his body. The Colombian ape walked like that, Jackson said.
"How about the intelligence of the Colombian ape?" asked Bentley.
"We shot the only specimen so far seen by man before we could discover any facts bearing on his intelligence," said Jackson.
"Then you can safely say that he possesses intelligence far beyond that of known apes," said Bentley quickly, "somewhere, let us say, between that of the lowest order of mankind and civilized man."
Jackson nodded his held dubiously.
"It seems," he said unsmilingly, "that I arrived in the United States at exactly the right time! You would have failed signally to convince the Mind Master in the role of an African great ape."
Bentley managed a short laugh. How horribly it came from the lips of an ape!
"I'm not overly superstitious," he said, "but I regard this as a good omen. I feel we're sure to succeed in what we are planning. I think Barter will surely wish to experiment with me if he thinks I am in reality a great ape from Colombia. He'll welcome the chance to examine any ape which so nearly resembles man. I'm an important link in his plan to create a race of supermen. At least that's how we must hope that Barter will estimate the situation when my story is told in to-morrow's papers."
An hour before dawn Doctor Jackson, weary from his arduous instruction of the equally exhausted Bentley, pronounced Lee a satisfactory "ape."
"Now here's where you come in," said Bentley tiredly to the curator. "I'm to be taken now to a cage in the Bronx. During the rest of to-day you will quietly instruct your attendants that their guard to-night at the zoo must not be too strict. I must be in position to be stolen by the minions of the Mind Master."
Now the full significance of the desperate expedition upon which Bentley was embarking came home to them all. Their faces were white. Bentley shuddered under his ape robe. His mind went catapulting back into the past to the time when he had been Manape. This was much like it, save that all of him was now encased in the accouterments of an ape and he did not suffer the mental hazards which had almost driven him insane when he had been Manape, with the perpetual necessity of keeping close watch over his own human body which had held the brain of an ape.
He stiffened. "I'm ready," he said.
Immediately upon arrival the curator had been asked to have a closed car, quickly walled with a mixture of lead and zinc--which Bentley and Tyler hoped would thwart the spying of Caleb Barter--brought to Tyler's door.
Three or four zoo attendants entered with a cage when Bentley pronounced himself ready. They stared agape at Bentley and their faces went white when he strode toward them upright, like a man.
Bentley would have spoken to reassure them, but Tyler signaled him to keep silent. The zoo attendants might talk and entirely spoil their scheme.
Two hours later, long before the first crowds began to arrive at the Bronx Zoo, Lee Bentley was driven from his small cage in the car, into a huge cage at the zoo. From a dark corner, in which he crouched as though overcome with fear, he gazed affrightedly out across what he could see of Bronx Park.
"When I used to feed the animals here," he said to himself, "I never expected that the time would come when I myself would be caged--and one of them."
The curator had ridden out with the cage. But, save for making sure of the fastening on the big cage, he paid no heed to Bentley. He treated him, of necessity, as though he were actually the Colombian ape he pretended to be. From now on until he succeeded or failed, Lee Bentley was an ape from the jungles of Latin-America.
Just before the crowds could reasonably be expected to begin arriving, curious to see this strange thing Doctor Jackson had brought from Colombia, an attendant arrived with a freshly painted sign.
"Colombian Great Ape," it read, "Presented to Bronx Zoo by Doctor Claude Jackson."
It seemed to close entirely behind Lee Bentley the vast door which separated the apes from civilization. Miserably he crouched in his corner and awaited the coming of the curious.
Grim Anticipation A numbing fear began to grow upon Lee Bentley as the ordeal of waiting began.
Naturally he could not eat the food given usually to apes and of course he could not be seen calmly eating bacon and eggs with knife and fork. And because he couldn't eat he was assailed by a dreadful hunger, which, however, he managed to fight down partially. He smiled inwardly as he looked ahead and understood that despite the warnings not to feed the animals, children of all ages, from four years to sixty, would surreptitiously toss peanuts and walnuts into his cage.
He felt a little hopeful about it. They would at least allay his hunger.
But no, he could not do that, either. Nobody had thought to ask Doctor Jackson how a Colombian ape manipulated his food. Even a certain clumsiness in that respect might start questions which would cause the public to doubt the authenticity of Jackson's find.
Bentley decided to sulk. The ape he was supposed to be could reasonably be expected to resent captivity and would probably go on a hunger strike. He would do likewise and be in character if he starved.
He crouched in a far corner as the first comers began to arrive. They were fathers and mothers with their children, and the older people carried, usually, newspapers under their arms. Bentley wished with all his soul that he could see one of the papers close enough to read the headlines.
However, when the crowd was not too thick, Bentley waddled nearer to the wire mesh which separated him from the curious crowd and through lids which were half closed as though he slept, he managed to glimpse a few excerpts from the paper: "Police department redoubling their precautions to prevent Mind Master from capturing eighteen intended victims."
"Hideout of Mind Master still undiscovered. When will the public be delivered from the stupidity of the police?"
"Doctor Jackson returns from Colombia, bringing a living specimen of an ape hitherto unknown to civilized man, but more like him than any ape hitherto known. Visitors may see the creature to-day in the Bronx Zoo."
That was the story which had brought out the visitors who were forming, moment by moment, a bigger crowd before Bentley's cage. Bentley managed a glimpse of a woman's wrist-watch after what seemed an age of trying to do so without his intention becoming plain to the too bright children who crowded as close to the cage as attendants would permit. It was ten o'clock. It would be at least twelve more hours before Bentley could reasonably expect any action on the part of Barter. Barter would now be concentrating on his plans to kidnap the eighteen men he had first named.
Bentley tried to make the time pass faster by imagining what Barter would be doing. By now his labors must be titanic. He must have separate controls for each of his minions, and there were many times when he must control several at one time, thus making his task akin to that of a man trying to look two ways at once, while he rolled a cigarette with one hand and shined his shoes with the other. Certainly the concentration required was enormous.
Yet, no matter how complicated became his puzzle, Barter was its master because he was its creator, and Bentley hadn't the slightest doubt that, until someone actually penetrated Barter's stronghold, he would not be stopped.
Bentley knew that at the very first opportunity he would destroy Caleb Barter as he would have destroyed a mad dog or stamped to death a deadly snake. The life of one man would rest lightly upon his conscience, if that man were Caleb Barter.
Perhaps, though, he could learn many of Barter's secrets before he destroyed him. Properly used they might prove boons to mankind. It was only the use Barter was putting them to that threatened to fill the world with horror and bloodshed.
"Mama, why don't he eat?"
"Hush," said a woman, as though afraid the Colombian ape would hear and become angry; "don't annoy the creature. He looks fully capable of coming right out at us."
But the child who had been admonished began to juggle a bag of peanuts which he managed to throw into the cage. Bentley stooped forward, sniffing suspiciously at the sack, while a wave of hunger made him feel weak and giddy for a moment. He just realized that he hadn't eaten for almost twenty-four hours. His time had been so filled with action and excitement that there hadn't been opportunity.
"I hope," he said to himself, in an effort to drive away thoughts of food, "that Tyler will take every precaution to prevent Ellen from doing something foolish."
Knowing that he could no longer communicate with her, could no longer be absolutely sure that she was still out of Barter's clutches, he suffered agonies of fear for her safety.
"If Barter places a hand on her I'll tear his skin from his carcass, bit by bit!" he said, unconsciously clenching his fists.
"Oh, look, mama, he's shuttin' his fists as though he wanted to fight somebody! I'll bet he could whip Dempsey, couldn't he, mama?"
"Perhaps he could, son. Hush now, and watch him. There's a good boy!"
It brought Bentley sharply back to his surroundings and proved to him that he must not allow his mind to go wool-gathering if he did not wish to give himself away. What if, in an access of anger, he happened to speak his thoughts aloud? He could imagine the amazement of the crowd.
The day wore on.
At noon a strange horror seemed to travel over the Bronx Zoo, and within a short time every last visitor had precipitately departed. Bentley could now safely approach the wire mesh and look out and around over a wider radius.
Right under the wire mesh was a newspaper someone had thrown away.
By pressing tightly against the mesh Bentley could see the headlines.
"Mind Master successful on all counts!"
So that's what had turned the crowd to stony silence with very fear? They had all fled, wondering who would be next. Bentley had heard the shouting of the extra on the distant streets, but it had been so far away he hadn't heard the words. One solitary newspaper had appeared among the Bronx crowd and the story it carried under startling scareheads had passed from brain to brain as though by magic ... and the crowd had fled.
Bentley stared down at the newspaper in horror, a horror that was in no way mitigated by his having fully expected Barter to succeed. Mutually, with no words having been spoken to express the thought, Tyler and Bentley had conceded to Barter the eighteen victims he had named.
Nothing could be done to stop him. His brains were greater than the combined wisdom of the city of New York.
What else was in that paper?
Bentley stared at it for an hour, and finally a vagrant breeze, for which he had hoped and prayed during that hour, whipped across the park and stirred the paper. He read more headlines.
"Lee Bentley disappears! Believed kidnaped or slain by Mind Master!"
How had that story got out? Surely Tyler would have kept that from the press. Following on the heels of the Colombian ape story, Barter would almost surely put two and two together to arrive at the proper total.
Bentley read on: "Ellen Estabrook, fiancee of Lee Bentley, disappears mysteriously from her hotel room. Guarded by a score of police, not one has yet been found who knows anything of her disappearance or saw her leave. Nobody seems to have seen anyone go to her room or leave it. Our police department must have fallen on evil days indeed when twenty crack plain-clothes men cannot keep one woman under surveillance."
Something was radically wrong, but Bentley could not piece the whole story together, simply because he had been out of touch for so many hours that the thread of it had slipped from his fingers.