Barter could as easily have had them change places, since he assumed control of either at will, or could have controlled a score simultaneously. But that would have required additional thought stimulus, and he wished to conserve his mental energies for the work which yet faced him.
Once he switched his attention from the heliotube which controlled Cleve--and through which, concurrently, he saw everything that transpired near Cleve, because his televisory apparatus and his radio control were co-workers on almost identical vibratory waves--to the area of Manhattan immediately surrounding his own neighborhood.
"Hmm," he said to himself, "the police are getting too close. As soon as I have completed my labors to-night I shall destroy some of them as a warning to others to keep their distance."
Morton and Cleve drew up to the curb while Barter watched carefully on all sides, through the heliotube, to make sure that their arrival was unmarked by the police.
They climbed out quickly and raced across the sidewalk to the green gate which gave on a gloomy old court, inside which they were swallowed by the shadows from all eyes save those of Caleb Barter.
Five minutes after the strange trio had entered the "place," the great chrome-steel door of Barter's laboratory swung open.
"Morton and Cleve, my master," announced Naka Machi, bowing low and sucking in his breath with a hissing sound.
Barter's own puppets entered with the ape between them.
Barter walked fearlessly forward. He had slipped the key from the orifice atop his head. Morton and Cleve now stood listlessly, dumbly, looking with dead eyes at their master. Barter tossed them several walnuts each.
Then he turned his attention to the ape, rubbing his hands together with pleasure.
But the ape was behaving strangely. His eyes were staring past Barter. His hands sought to lift as though he would hold them out to someone; but the ropes prevented him. Barter turned to look. Ellen Estabrook stood beyond him, white of face, motionless as a statue. The ape was straining toward her.
Caleb Barter chuckled with understanding.
"Good evening, Lee," he said gently. "I've been expecting you!"
Where the Bodies Went Bentley had been bound carelessly. Who could expect ape brains to devise clever bonds, even when controlled by Caleb Barter? And now it seemed that Caleb Barter had known all along; he said he had been expecting Bentley. No, that wasn't it. Barter had seen him yearning toward Ellen Estabrook, statuesque and wide-eyed on the other side of the room. If it hadn't been for the presence of Ellen he might have been accepted as an ape. Now it made little difference.
But his bonds were not tightly drawn. He found himself fighting them fiercely, trying to get his hands on Caleb Barter. He could see the scrawny Adam's apple of the mad scientist, and his fingers itched to press themselves into the flesh.
Caleb Barter stood his ground calmly. "Naka Machi," he said softly.
Suddenly Bentley felt a dull, paralyzing blow on his skull. He knew it had been intended to render him utterly unconscious. But Naka Machi hadn't taken into consideration that his skull was protected by the hide of an ape. He remembered, as he stumbled and fell forward, that the Japanese were wizards with their hands. That's why Naka Machi could knock him down, render him helpless, yet leave his brain as clearly active as before. Perhaps clearer, even, for now his brain did not act on his legs and arms, which were helpless.
Bentley felt as he imagined a patient on the operating table might feel when not given sufficient anesthetic, yet given enough to make him incapable of speech or movement. Such a patient would hear the soft discussions of the surgeons, see them prepare their instruments, yet be unable to tell them that he wasn't entirely unconscious.
Barter stooped over Bentley and rolled back the lids of his eyes.
"Good. Naka Machi!" he said. "He won't be in any position to do us an injury. Remain powerless, Lee Bentley, but retain your knowledge."
Barter, then, was familiar with the strange hypnosis which the blow of Naka Machi's hand had put upon Bentley. Barter had taken advantage of it to add to it a sort of mental paralysis, so that the condition would continue.
"You are in my hands, Lee," he said in paternal fashion, "but you can do me no harm. Since you were associated with me in the first of my great experiments you know much about me. I have never ceased to hope that you would one day understand and appreciate what I am doing for humanity and be brought to aid me. Perhaps if I force you to watch my efforts you will understand them and sympathize with my ambitions."
Bentley could say nothing. Barter's eyes seemed to leap at him growing large and glaring, just as the eyes of caricatured animals leap at the camera in trick motion pictures. Physically he was powerless. Only his brain was active.
"Remove this covering from him, Naka Machi," went on Barter. "Remove his bonds. You are about his size. Garb him in some of your own clothing."
Bentley had the odd feeling that he didn't need to turn his head to see things around him. His head felt huge, almost to bursting, and his eyes felt huge, too, so that he could see in all directions, as though his eyeballs had been fish-eye lenses.
He studied Naka Machi. A nasty opponent in a fight, he decided. He hadn't figured on any opponent other than Barter. This man was almost as great. The skill of his fingers as he quickly removed the ape skin from Bentley, using scalpels taken from Barter's table, amazed Bentley with their miraculous dexterity. He cleaned Bentley's body with some solution in a sponge and clothed him in some of his own clothing which fitted fairly well.
Then he lifted Bentley from the floor and stood him against the wall.
Bentley was unbound. He tried to lift his hands but they refused to move. His feet, too, seemed anchored to the floor. His knees were stiff and straight. He might as well have been a wooden image for all his ability to get about.
Now Barter spoke.
"Come here, Lee," he said.
Bentley was amazed at the kindliness in Barter's attitude. He dealt with Bentley as though he had been his son. He felt that Barter genuinely liked him. It was rather amazing. Barter liked him but would remove him without compunction if he thought it necessary.
Bentley found he could move his feet, or rather they seemed to move of their own volition, as he crossed the room to stand before Barter.
"I'm rather proud of what I have been able to do, Lee," went on Barter, "and I am now entirely safe from the police. I've issued another manifesto telling the public that for each attempt made against me, one of the eighteen men captured by me to-day will die. Manhattan is the abode of terror. Here, see for yourself."
He extended to Bentley what seemed to be a pair of binoculars, but with the ear-hooks common to ordinary spectacles. He set them over Bentley's eyes and set them in place.
"Now you can survey New York as you wish."
Bentley looked for a moment or two. Sixth Avenue was a deserted highway, on which red and green lights blinked off and on in the usual routine, signaling to drivers who were non-existent. There were vistas of deserted streets and avenues. There were some few living things--policemen in uniform, standing in pairs and larger groups, all concentrated in an area covering no more than twenty acres, which twenty acres included the hideout of Caleb Barter. Bentley knew that the hideout was under Millegan Place. He had recognized it coming in. A secret panel in a brick wall had opened to show a door where none was apparent. Then a circular stairway leading down into darkness to the room which Barter had gouged out of the earth and turned into a laboratory of hell.
"See the police?" asked Barter. "They know now where I am, but they are helpless because of my hostages. I shall now begin the operations I believe to be necessary. Then I shall issue another manifesto, telling the public that I am safeguarded by great apes whose ability will prove the correctness of my theory about the possibility of creating a race of supermen. My manifesto shall say that my apes must not be slain. It shall say that for every ape slain by the police one of my eighteen hostages will die."
Bentley would have gasped with horror, but he could not. Now he saw Thomas Tyler, his face a white mask of despair, in the midst of his helpless men.
"I'll give you a hand, somehow, Tommy," Bentley whispered deep down inside him.
"Now you shall see what I do, Lee," said Caleb Barter. "Naka Machi, bring the ape skin you took from my friend. Bentley, you will follow us."
Barter removed the strange glasses from Bentley's eyes, blotting out the deserted streets and avenues of Manhattan. Naka Machi followed behind Bentley, carrying the ape skin in which Bentley had penetrated the stronghold of Caleb Barter.
The chrome-steel door swung silently back and the three entered another room filled with blaring light. Without being able to look back Bentley knew that Ellen, white of face and staring, followed at their heels.
There was a long white operating table in this room, and a smaller chrome-steel door set some four feet above the floor in one wall.
"Naka Machi, the incineration tube," said Barter brusquely.
Naka Machi stepped to the operating table and dug into one of the drawers. He brought out a white tube, closed at one end, about an inch in diameter, eight inches in length, and snowy white.
"Concentrated fire, Bentley," said Barter. "Watch!"
Barter had Naka Machi cast the ape skin through the small steel door, beyond which Bentley could see a boxlike space large enough to accommodate two or three grown men, lying side by side at full length. It seemed to be indirectly lighted. The ape skin dropped on the floor of this compartment. Barter took the "incineration tube" and directed it on the skin. Bentley heard the clicking of a button.
The ape skin charred quickly, folded up, drew into itself, disappeared--and a fine gray ash settled on the floor of the compartment, like rain from the roof of the ghastly little space.
"Now you understand that I have solved the problem of disposing of the cumbersome useless bodies of my hostages, Lee," said Baxter, rubbing his hands together as though he washed them.
Bentley's heart leaped as Naka Machi placed the incineration tube on the operating table. It was close enough that Bentley could have reached it, had he not been utterly powerless to move.
"Naka Machi," said Barter. "Bring me ape D-4 and Frank Keller, the diplomat. Ellen, clear the operating table. Quickly, now! Bentley, stand against the wall and do not move--but miss nothing I do."
The Straining Prison Then began a grim series of activities which combined to form a nightmare Bentley was never to forget, even as he prayed within him that no slightest memory of it would remain in the brain of Ellen Estabrook.
Naka Machi went back to the room which Bentley had first entered and returned almost at once with a tall thin man, immaculately garbed in gray, wearing a spade beard. His eyes were flashing fires of anger and of pride.
He stared at Barter.
"What is all this quackery?" he demanded. "Who is responsible for this unspeakable rigmarole?"
"Your words are harsh, Mr. Keller," said Barter suavely, "and you shall learn in good time what I intend. Had you followed my manifestoes in the news columns you would have known what I intend. I shall create a race of super--"
"You will at once release myself and the others with me," interrupted Keller.
But at that moment Naka Machi returned, leading a great ape which seemed as docile as though it had been drugged. Naka Machi raised his right hand quickly, so quickly Bentley could scarce follow the movement, and with the edge of his palm struck the tall gray man in back of the head. Keller's knees buckled. As he started to fall Naka Machi stepped close to him, gathered him in his arms and bore him to the table.
At Barter's swift instructions Ellen Estabrook, all unknowing, placed a cone indicated by Barter over the mouth and nose of Keller. Naka Machi struck the ape as he had struck the man, but he waited until he had persuaded the brute to take his place on the table near Keller's head.
The ape sprawled. Naka Machi quickly twisted both Keller and the ape around so that their heads were toward each other, their feet pointing in opposite directions.
"Is that close enough my master?" came the soft voice of Naka Machi.
"Quite," said Barter, whose face was now a mask of concentration. "Cleve and Stanley and Morton?"
"They have been locked in their cages, my master," said Naka Machi. "Are you sure this man who came in the guise of an ape is safe?"
"I shall make sure. But do you remain close where you can render him harmless in case I have misjudged him."
Naka Machi turned baleful eyes on Bentley. The latter could see the hatred in them and for a moment was at a loss to understand it.
"I shall destroy him before he can put his hands upon you, my master," said Naka Machi.
"I do not wish him destroyed, Naka Machi," replied Barter. "That is enough of the anesthetic, Miss Estabrook. Naka Machi, my instruments, quickly."
Before he proceeded with his labors Barter stood in front of Bentley and stared at him for a moment. Bentley felt the strength flow out of him under the gaze of this man--a gaze he could not avoid. Barter smiled slightly.
"You will eventually join me of your own free will, Lee," he said softly.
"I would rather die a thousand deaths!" screamed Bentley, but the sound of his scream echoed and reechoed through his soul without coming out so that Barter could hear it.
Barter's confidence in his ability to convert Bentley was assuredly a mark of his twisted mind, for he must surely have realized that Bentley would be the most injured by his schemes. But he seemed to associate him with the days of Manape, when Barter had proved to himself, to Bentley and Ellen Estabrook, that the operation he now planned in wholesale proportions was possible. Bentley could understand why Barter regarded him as a friend and colleague, and his animosity temporary--because as a subject of his first great experiment Bentley was a symbol of Barter's success.
Strange how easy it was to find logic in the reasoning of madmen, and to understand that logic!
Barter sprang back to his task.
"Naka Machi," he said, "take heed that you serve me well. Do you like this woman?"
"Yes, my master."
"If you continue in your loyalty to me, I shall give her to you."
Bentley's mind recoiled with horror. The shock of this cold statement was like another blow on the head. He wanted to leap forward and set strangling fingers about the neck of Naka Machi. Ordinarily Naka Machi could handle him with ease, but now that Bentley had heard the plan of Barter, he could have handled the Japanese with superhuman strength. But he could not move. He strained against the bodily lethargy which held him prisoner. If only he could move forward and grasp the incineration tube, he would turn it on Naka Machi and Barter....
But he could not move, could not fight off the lethargy which was like invincible prison walls around him.
He could move the tips of his fingers, he discovered ... but no more than that. The shock of Barter's calm statement had cast off that much of his semi-hypnotic lethargy. A minute before he hadn't been able even to move his fingers.
Give him time, he told himself, while inwardly he bled as he struggled desperately to throw off the grim hypnosis, and he would yet manage to save the lives of at least some of the eighteen, see that Ellen won free, and destroy this hell-hole under Millegan Place.
Now incredibly slender instruments were busy near the heads of the two on the operating table--the ape and Keller, the doomed man. As the knives and scalpels leaped to their work with startling dexterity and amazing speed, Bentley strained again against his horrid invisible prison. If only he could save this man Keller from this horror ... but it was useless.
The fingers of Barter worked swiftly over the skull of the ape, first. Naka Machi stood on one side of the long table, Ellen on the other, near Barter. Bentley studied her face as the skull of the ape fell open under the hands of Barter, and he knew she was unaware of what she was doing. Bentley had expected a crimson horror, but nothing of the kind developed. Could Barter read his thoughts?
"I am an adept at bloodless surgery, Bentley," he said, while his fingers never ceased their swift manipulations.
Now Naka Machi held the skull-pan of the ape, from which he had removed the reddish substance which was the ape's brain. This Naka Machi had tossed into the aperture where the ape skin had been destroyed.