Suddenly Bentley noticed that a solitary man was watching him curiously, a dawning amazement in his face. Bentley roused himself and saw that he was standing against the mesh, fingers hooked into it above his head, his weight on his left leg, his right foot crossed over his left, his head thoughtfully bowed.
To the amazed man yonder the "Colombian ape" must have looked remarkably like a condemned man clutching the bars of his cell, awaiting the coming of the executioner.
Bentley recovered himself and sat down on the floor of the cage in the loose easy manner an ape would have used.
He forced himself to sit thus until evening, when the last curious one vanished from the park and darkness began to fall.
Then excitement at the approach of a hoped for denouement began to rise in his heart like a rushing tide.
Would Barter fall for the ruse? Or did he already know that the Colombian ape was Lee Bentley?
In either case, Bentley thought, the Mind Master would take action during the first hours of darkness. Bentley was gambling desperately on what he knew to be characteristic of Caleb Barter.
In the Dead of Night Bentley knew that if Ellen were in the hands of Caleb Barter the mad professor would probably do her no harm, but use her as a club against Bentley, and through Bentley, the Manhattan police. He did not believe that the Mind Master would consider performing the brain operation on Ellen. Caleb Barter's scheme seemed to consider only men, and men of substance.
No, Ellen would not be harmed, he felt, but that made him feel no easier, knowing that she might be in the hands of Barter.
How could he know of Naka Machi, and the refined vengeance of the Mind Master?
The last visitors had left the park and comparative quiet settled over the zoo. Save for the sounds of animals feeding and the occasional cursing voices of attendants there were no sounds. Not since Bentley had taken his place in the cage had anyone spoken to him. He had never felt so lonely and uncertain in his life.
Now there was utter darkness and silence.
And then before his cage appeared a tiny spot of light. If Barter's minions expected to deal with a powerful ape they would come prepared to subdue him by whatever means seemed necessary. Bentley had no wish to be injured, and yet he must make some show of resistance in order to allay any possible suspicion that he wished to be stolen.
There was a faint gnawing sound at the wire outside the cage. Mice might have made that sound, sharpening their teeth on the wire. Bentley decided to feign sleep. Had Barter come personally to supervise his capture? That didn't seem reasonable as Barter must realize that all his effectiveness depended upon his ability to retain control of whatever organization he might have built up--and his central control must be his hideout.
Then he would be sending some of his puppets to get Bentley.
Would they be apes with man's brains? Impossible. Apes could not travel from place to place without attracting attention, especially if they traveled unguarded and went casually to a given destination as men would go. So, if his puppets were not men in the normal meaning, then they were "apemen."
The wire came softly down. Bentley hoped that no attendant might come blundering around now to spoil everything. His heart pounded with excitement.
At last he was going to see Caleb Barter again at close quarters.
"I shall destroy him," he told himself.
The shadowy outlines of two men came through the severed wires. Bentley still pretended to be asleep. He wondered if Barter's televisory equipment included any arrangements permitting him to see in the dark, and knew instantly that it did. How else could these two puppets have come so unerringly to the proper cage in Bronx Park?
No, Bentley did not dare allow himself to be taken easily in the hope that his actions would pass unnoticed.
But he waited until the ropes began to fall about him, testing the strength of his adversaries by mental measurement. By their uncertain, hesitating actions he knew that he dealt only with the forms of men--forms which were ruled by brains which had not in themselves intelligence enough to perform the acts they were now performing. Ape brains in the skull-pans of men. The brains in themselves were only important because they were living matter which was being used as a sensory sounding board by which Caleb Barter, the Mind Master, transmitted his commands to the arms and legs and bodies of his puppets.
Bentley sprang into action. He growled and snarled at the two men who were trying to take him. Only two men? Surely Barter would have sent more than two men to take a great ape! He knows I'm not a true ape, thought Bentley. He's giving me a challenge. He knows I wish to get to his hideout and he is making sure that I get there.
But Bentley was only guessing. Calmness descended upon him as he realized that he was soon to face a crucial test.
Just now, however, he struck out at the two men who were striving to bind him. They were husky chaps, and one of them packed the wallop of a real fighter. Neither man said a word to him, and when his own hands clawed at them--how would he dare strike out with his fists?--the men made queer animal sounds in their throats. Bentley could well remember how helpless, hopeless and lost he had felt when his brain had been in the skull-pan of Manape.
The brain of an ape could not be a terribly intelligent instrument in the first place. What thoughts, if apes had thoughts at all, coursed through an ape brain which found itself inside a human skull?
The answer to that was simple: only such thoughts as Barter originated and transmitted through the mental sounding board. After all, the material of the human brain and the ape brain were perhaps very much alike, and Barter was working on a sound scientific principle in making a sounding board of an ape's brain.
Bentley shuddered through the fur that covered him. Knowing the sort of creatures with which he had to deal--men in all things save their intelligence--made him tremble with nausea. Such grim, ghastly hybrids. But he stopped shuddering when he recalled that he still dealt with men after all--at least with one man, Caleb Barter. When he thought of these two "apemen" as separate entities of a human being of many personalities--Caleb Barter--he was able to plan some method by which to deal with them.
So now he fought, seemingly with the utmost savagery, to keep them from binding him with ropes. Even as he fought, however, he fancied he could hear the grim chuckling of Caleb Barter. What did Barter know?
Bentley knew that eventually he would discover the truth.
In struggling against the two "men" his hands encountered the knobs on their heads--the tiny metal balls protruding from the top of the skull at the point where, in babies, the head remains soft during babyhood. He could have broken connection with Barter for these two by jerking the controls free. And then what? He would never get through to Barter and would release in Bronx Park two men whose strange type of madness, when they were discovered, would startle the countryside. Two men with the savagery of anthropoid apes! He shuddered as he carefully refrained from disturbing those balls.
At last Bentley was quite securely bound, only his lower limbs remaining free so that he could walk, though the length of his steps was strictly limited. His hands were entirely and securely bound, and the significance of this fact did not escape him. Barter knew that he did not need his hands to aid him in walking! Of course the newspaper story released by Doctor Jackson had reported the Colombian ape as being able to walk exactly like a man.
But that didn't prevent Bentley from nursing the suspicion that Barter already knew. Even if he did, it could in no wise alter the determination of Bentley. His task was to penetrate the hideout of Barter--and he was on the way there now.
With little attempt at concealment the two men led Bentley to a long black closed car outside the park. They met no one. The two men avoided discovery with uncanny ease. Bentley thrilled with excitement. He felt he knew approximately where Barter's hideout was.
It was useless, to speculate, however; time would show it to him.
Bentley was tossed into the tonneau of the car. His two captors, moving with the precision of men in a trance, took their places in the front seat. Bentley struggled for a time against his bonds. He wanted to sit up and peer out, to see what way they took so that he would know where he was when he reached Barter's hideout. But of course, even if he shook his bonds free he did not dare rise to a sitting position, for to control the intricate handling of his two puppets, Barter's attention must have been pretty carefully fixed upon this car.
So Bentley contented himself with waiting.
Lying on his back on the floor of the car he tried to see what he could through the car windows. He knew when he was carried under an elevated system by the crashing roar of trains over his head. He knew he was being carried downtown, but he wasn't sure that this was the Sixth Avenue elevated.
How could he find out the road they were traveling without sitting up and looking at street signs?
He felt he didn't dare do that. He'd be as careful as possible on the off-chance that Barter really believed him a Colombian ape, when the benefit of surprise would be with Bentley.
The car progressed downtown at a normal speed. It stopped for red lights and obeyed all other traffic regulations. Barter was taking no chance on losing more of his puppets.
Bentley suddenly gasped with horror as he remembered something. Eighteen important men of Manhattan had been kidnaped that day by Caleb Barter. Would Bentley be forced to watch the mad professor perform the eighteen inevitable operations?
Perspiration poured from every pore as he visualized the horror he might be compelled to witness when he was finally taken into Barter's hideout. The ape skin clung to him as though it were actually his own. There were even moments when Bentley feared that it might grow to him.
But he put the feeling of horror from him with the thought that if Ellen were in Barter's power, Barter might even be forcing her to anesthetize for him while he performed his grisly slaughter.
Bentley's courage returned and now it seemed to him that the journey would never end, so eager was he to discover whether or not Ellen had eluded the hands of the Mind Master.
A Woman of Courage Caleb Barter smiled warmly at the woman who had come to him almost as though in answer to a prayer. He admired her flashing eyes and the lifted chin which spoke of pride and courage.
"I had thought of improving the feminine strain of the race also," he told her, but almost as though he spoke to himself, "but I realized that it mattered little the stature of the mothers of the race as long as the fathers were made virile. But if all women were like yourself, Miss Estabrook, the race would not require the improvement it is now my duty to bestow upon it."
Ellen stared directly into the eyes of the white-haired old man. As she looked at him she found it hard to believe that one so gentle from outward appearances had such a vast, grim power for evil. In repose his face was kindly, though there was something out of character in the fact that it was so apple rosy. And his lips were far too red.
"Where," she said quietly, fearlessly, "is Lee Bentley?"
Barter raised his eyebrows as he stared back at her. So far she had not looked around at this great room into which he had had her conducted; she had seemed interested only in her mission, whatever that might be.
"You mean that delightfully rude young man?" he asked sardonically.
"You know well enough whom I mean! Where is he?"
"Then he is not to be found in his usual haunts?"
"He has disappeared."
"And you come out seeking Professor Barter because Bentley his disappeared! It is almost as though you had previously arranged with him to come seeking me if, at a certain time he failed to return from some mysterious rendezvous...."
Barter's face was now a mask of uncanny shrewdness. In a few words he had pierced through Ellen's secret of why she had deliberately placed herself in the way of Barter's minions in order to be taken, and now he had used the words of her own questions to form a weapon against her. Ellen gasped in terror.
Had she made a hideous mistake? Had she, by failing to wait for word from Bentley, ruined all his well laid plans?
Barter now stood before her, his eyes almost shooting fire.
"Tell me quickly," he began, and for a second she thought he would put his hands on her, "what sort of plan is he making to betray me into the hands of my enemies, who are the enemies of super-civilization because they are my enemies?"
"I know of nothing," said Ellen stoutly, hoping that she had not, after all, betrayed the fact that she knew Bentley had started to work out an unusual scheme. The details she didn't know, for Lee hadn't told her. "But I do know, what all the world knows, that he was helping the police against you. Naturally, then, when he vanished I thought of you. Besides you had already warned him that you would remove him in your own good time. He caused you the loss of two of your puppets and I thought, naturally enough, that you would try to remove him to some place where he could not operate so successfully against you."
"That's all?" queried Barter eagerly. "You don't know of some special scheme that has been worked out to trap me?"
"I know of no scheme. Now that I am in your hands, Professor, what do you intend doing with me?"
Barter stared at Ellen for several minutes.
"I haven't captured Bentley ... yet," he said at last, slowly, "but I shall--no doubt about that. It is inevitable--as inevitable as Caleb Barter. I can use him in my labors for humanity. How I treat him after he is taken depends somewhat on you. You may therefore consider yourself a sort of hostage. I have much medical work to perform. Have you ever been a nurse?"
Ellen recoiled in horror. "You don't mean you would ask me to help you perform those horrible--" She stopped abruptly before her sudden tendency to hysterics should make her say things to anger Barter too far.
"So," he said quickly, "you think my brain operations are horrible, eh? Well, you shall see that they are not horrible; that Professor Barter, the greatest scientist the world has ever produced, is really preparing to prevent civilization from utterly decaying."
"And afterward?" asked Ellen. "I know that eventually you will be taken and that the people will destroy you, tear you limb from limb. But you will never believe that. Tell me, then, what you plan to do with me."
For a brief time he considered the matter.
"I am an old man," he said at last, musingly, "but I am young in spirit and in body. It would be amusing to have a mate--but no, no, that would not do! The destiny of Caleb Barter is not linked with a woman. You would simply hold me back. However, I have often been interested in miscegenation and its effect on the race if properly guided. My assistant Naka Machi, is one of the finest specimens of his race. Perhaps I shall arrange for you to mate with him, under conditions which I shall dictate, in order to experiment with your offspring...."
Ellen swayed, her face going dead white. She hadn't yet met Naka Machi, but his name told her enough. The thought of a Japanese, however, was far less repellent than the cold, calm way in which Barter spoke of using the offspring of such a union.
"I'll kill myself at the first opportunity," said Ellen suddenly.
Barter put his forefinger under Ellen's chin in a paternal fashion. His eyes looked deeply into hers. She thought of what his fingers had done in the past ... those long slender fingers. His touch made her shudder.
But his eyes held her. They seemed like deep wells. Then they were like black coals advancing upon her out of the darkness, growing bigger and bigger as they came, with little flames in their centers also growing as they approached.
"You will submit your will to mine," said the soft voice of Caleb Barter.
His right hand was making swift snakelike movements back of Ellen's head. His voice droned on, but already it seemed to Ellen to come from a vast distance.
"Your mind will be concerned only with the welfare of Caleb Barter," droned on the voice. "You will think only of Caleb Barter; your greatest desire will be to serve him. There is nothing you would not do for him. Let your objective mind sleep until Caleb Barter wakens it; give your subjective mind into my keeping."
Beads of perspiration broke out on the cheeks of Caleb Barter as he worked quickly to place the girl entirely under his skilled hypnosis. At last she stood like a statue, her wide-open eyes staring into space, straight ahead. She did not move. She scarcely seemed to breathe.
"You will know that my home is your home, Ellen," said Barter softly. "You will feel that you are welcome here and that you love this place. It needs the attention of a loving woman; you will give it that attention. But you will be subservient always to my will. You will enter upon your duties."
Ellen Estabrook sighed softly as though with relief. Her hands went up to remove her hat, which she placed on a chair in a corner of the hellish laboratory. She removed her light coat and arranged her hair with skilled fingers. But even as she moved around the room of the long table her eyes stared vacantly into space. She was as much a puppet of Caleb Barter as were Stanley, Morton and Cleve. But, mercifully, she did not know it.
Barter studied her for several moments; his eyes squinted. He was making sure that she was not duping him with pretense. Satisfied at last be turned his eyes away from her. He stepped to the porcelain slab set in the bronze wall of his laboratory and looked at the push-buttons marked "C-3" and "E-5". The red lights were on, indicating that the two puppets controlled by these two keys were returning toward their master. The lights had been green when Barter had begun his conversation with Ellen Estabrook, indicating that the two puppets were still going away. With a tremendous effort of will he had given them sufficient mental stimulus to keep them traveling without his direct will for the few minutes he would require for Ellen.
Now, however, he quickly donned the metal cap and the little ball, and inserted into the orifice in his cap the swinging key which connected by chain with the key which fitted into the slot under the button marked "C-3".
He had returned to his puppets just in time. "C-3" was Cleve, who was driving the car sent out to bring in the Colombian ape. As Barter got in touch with the car it narrowly averted a crash with a police car ... and the perspiration broke forth afresh on the body of Barter as he resumed control of his puppets.
The second creature, in the front seat of the car, was Morton, and it didn't matter particularly about him as he was not driving. But Morton was now becoming all ape. Barter did not wish to use any more of his mental energy than was necessary. He contented himself by sending his will into Cleve, who began at once to drive like a master. Whenever Morton, beside him, showed an inclination to jump out of the car or otherwise interfere with Cleve in his work, Barter had but to express the thought, and Cleve either pulled him back to his place beside him, or gave him a walnut from his pocket.