"Give me a hand!" gasped the officer. "I can't handle 'im without usin' my club and I don't wanna do that. The poor fella don't know what he's a-doin'."
Bentley quickly sprang to the patrolman's assistance. Between them they soon reduced the stranger to a squirming bundle and dragged him to the sidewalk; another officer was phoning for an ambulance. The stricken man was now mumbling, babbling insanely. Blood trickled from the corners of his lips. The sight of one eye had been destroyed.
Bentley watched him, sprawled now on the sidewalk, surrounded by a group of men. The man was dying, no question about that. The talons, which had scored him, had bitten deeply and he was destined to bleed to death soon even if the wounds were not otherwise mortal.
Bentley noticed something clutched tightly in the man's right hand--something that sent a chill through his body despite the heat of a mid-July noon. The officer, apparently, had not noticed it.
Soon a clanging bell announced the arrival of an ambulance, and as the crowd stepped aside to clear the way, Bentley bent over the dying man. The man's lips were parted and he was trying with a mighty effort of will to speak.
Bentley put his ear close to the bleeding lips through which words strove to bubble. He heard parts of two words: "...ind ...aster...."
Bentley suddenly knew what the man was trying to say. The half-uttered words could mean only--"Mind Master."
Bentley suppressed a shudder and extended his hands to the closed right hand of the dying man. Carefully he removed from between the fingers three tufts of thick brown hair, coarse and crude of texture. There was a rattle in the naked man's throat.
Five minutes later the ambulance intern hastily scribbled in his record the entry, "Dead on Arrival."
Bentley, more frightened than he had ever been before, entered a taxicab as soon as the body had been removed and the streets cleared. He stared closely at the tufts of hair in his hand. Maybe he had been wrong in taking them before detectives arrived on the scene, but he had to know, and he felt that these hairs proved his mad suspicions.
Caleb Barter was alive!
The hairs came from the shaggy coat of a giant anthropoid ape or a gorilla.
Ultimatum How terribly far-fetched it seemed! It was unbelievable enough that Bentley had once reposed in the body of an ape. That had been in the African wilds. But the idiocy of the thing now rested in Bentley's belief that here, immediately upon landing, he was again facing something just as horrible.
But the coincidences were too clear. The palaver about "brains," and "Mind Master"--and those ape hairs in Bentley's hands. He wished he knew all that had led up to that story he had read in the paper just prior to the appearance of the naked man from the west door of the Flatiron Building. However, the killing would get front page position now, due to the importance of the dead man--Bentley never doubted it was the man whom, in the paper, the "Mind Master" had promised to slay.
Great apes in the heart of New York City! It sounded silly, preposterous. Yet, before he had gone through that dread experience with the mad Barter, Bentley would have sworn that brain transplantation was impossible. Even now he was not sure that it hadn't all been a terrible dream.
Should Bentley go at once to the police to give them the benefit of whatever knowledge he might have of Caleb Barter? He wasn't sure. Then he decided that sooner or later he must come out into the open. So he caught a cab and went to police headquarters.
"I wish," he said, "to talk to someone about the Mind Master!"
If he had said, "I have just come from Mars," he could scarcely have caused a greater sensation.
But his calm statement got him an instant audience with a slender man of thirty-five or so, whose hair was prematurely gray at the temples, and whose eyes were shrewd and far-seeing.
"My name's Thomas Tyler," said the detective. He certainly didn't look the conventional detective, but Bentley knew instantly that he wasn't the conventional detective. "I work on the unusual cases. If you hadn't sent in your name I wouldn't have seen you, which means that as soon as you leave here you are to forget my name and how I look."
He motioned Bentley to a seat. Bentley sat back. Suddenly Thomas Tyler was around his desk and had pushed back the hair from Bentley's temples. He drew in his breath with a sharp hiss when he saw the white line which circled Bentley's skull.
"It's not exactly proof," he said, as though he and Bentley had been in the midst of a discussion of that awful operation Barter had performed on Bentley, "but I'd take your word for it."
"The story, in the main, was true," said Bentley.
"I thought so. What made you come here?"
"I saw that naked man run across Fifth Avenue from the door of the Flatiron Building. I saw the officer subdue him, helped him do it in fact, and saw the man die. Since there was no detective there, I took the liberty of removing these from the fingers of the dead man."
Bentley gave Tyler the coarse hair, stained with blood. Tyler looked at it grimly for a moment or two.
"Not human hair," he said, as though talking to himself. "Not like any I know of. But ... ah, you know what sort of hair, eh? That's what sent you here!"
"It's the hair of an ape or a gorilla."
"How do you know, for sure?"
"Once," said Bentley grimly, "for several horrible hours ... I was a giant anthropoid ape."
Tyler's chair legs crashed solidly to the floor.
"I see," he said. "You think this thing has some connection with your own experiences. How long ago was that?"
"Slightly over two months."
"You think the same man...?"
"I don't know. But who could want, as a newspaper story I just read says, to steal the brains of men? What for? It sounds like Barter. I've never heard of anybody else with such an obsession. I'm putting two and two together--and fervently hoping they'll add up to seven instead of four. For if ever in my life I wanted to be wrong it's now."
Tyler pursed his lips. Bentley saw that his eyes were glinting with excitement.
"But there's a possibility you're right. Do you know what the Mind Master's first manifesto said? It was published by a tabloid newspaper as a sort of gag--a strange crank letter. Here it is."
Tyler tossed Bentley a newspaper clipping a week old. Bentley read quickly: "The white race is deteriorating physically at a dangerous rate. In fifty years, if nothing is done to prevent it, the world will be filled with men whose bodies are so soft as to be almost worthless. But I shall take steps to prevent that, as soon as I am ready. I need a week. Then I shall begin my crusade to make the white race a race of supermen, whom I alone shall rule. They shall keep the brains they have, which shall be transferred to bodies which I shall furnish.
(Signed) The Mind Master."
Tyler squinted at Bentley again.
"You see? Brains are all right, he says, but the white race needs new bodies. If he isn't suggesting brain substitution, what is he suggesting? Though I confess I never thought of your story until your name was sent in to me a while ago. For the world thinks of Barter as having been killed by the great apes."
"Yes, I told newspaper reporters that. I thought it was true. But this Mind Master must be Barter. There couldn't be two persons in the world with mental quirks so much alike."
"Tell me what Barter looks like. Oh, there are plenty of pictures extant of the famous Professor Caleb Barter who disappeared from the world some years ago, but he'll know that, of course, and he won't look like the pictures.
"Alteration of his own features should be easy for a man who juggles brains."
"He may have changed his features since I saw him, too," said Bentley. "But I'm sure I'd know him."
Tyler's telephone rang stridently.
He took down the receiver. His mouth fell slackly open as his eyes lifted to Bentley's face. But he recovered himself and slapped his hand over the transmitter.
"Anybody know you came here?" asked Tyler.
Bentley shook his head.
"Well," went on Tyler, "I don't know how it happens, but this telephone message is for you!"
Bentley's heart seemed to jump into his throat. One of those hunches which sometimes were so valuable to him had struck him, as though it were a blow between the eyes. His lips tightened. His face was pale, but there was a grim light in his eyes.
He hesitated for a second, the receiver in his hand, his mouth against the transmitter.
"Well, Professor Barter?" he said conversationally.
There came a gasp from Thomas Tyler. He jumped to the door and motioned to someone. A man in uniform came to his side. Bentley distinctly heard Tyler tell the man to have this telephone call traced.
From the receiver came a well-remembered chuckle.
"So you were expecting me, eh, Bentley? You never really believed that one of my genius would fall such easy prey to the great apes did you?"
"Of course not, Professor," said Bentley soothingly. "It would be an insult to your vivid mentality."
"Vivid mentality! Vivid mentality! Why, Bentley, there isn't another brain in the world to compare with mine. And you of all people should know it. The whole world will know it before I'm finished, for I have made tremendous strides since you helped me to perform that crowning achievement in Africa. By the way, tell your friend Tyler, who just called the officer to the door, that it's useless to try to trace this call!"
Bentley jumped as though he had been stung. How had Barter known what Tyler was doing? How had he guessed what Tyler had told the man in uniform? How had Barter known Bentley was visiting Tyler? How had he discovered even that Bentley was back in the United States? Why, besides, was he so friendly with Bentley now?
"You speak, Professor," said Bentley softly, "as though you could see right into police headquarters."
"I can, Bentley! I can!" said Barter impatiently, as though he were rebuking a schoolboy for saying the obvious.
"You're close by, then?"
"No. I'm a long way--several miles--from you. But I can see everything you do. And you needn't look at Tyler in such surprise!"
Bentley started. He had looked at Tyler in a surprised way and, clever though he was, he didn't think that Barter could have guessed so accurately to the second the gesture he had made. Barter chuckled.
"It's a good jest, isn't it? But listen to me, Bentley, I've a great scheme in hand for the amelioration of mankind. I need your help, mostly because you were such an excellent subject in my greatest successful experiment."
"Will it be the same sort of experiment as the other?" Bentley's heart was in his mouth as he asked the question.
"Yes, the same ... but there are improvements I have succeeded in perfecting since the creation of Manape. My one mistake when Manape was created was in that I allowed myself to lose control of him--of you! That will not happen again. Oh, if you'll help me, Bentley, that operation will not be performed on you until you yourself request it because I shall have proved to you that it is better for you. You shall be my assistant and obey my orders, nothing more."
Lee Bentley drew a deep breath.
"If I prefer not to work with you again, Professor?"
A chuckle was Barter's answer. The chuckle broke off shortly.
"You should not refuse, Bentley," said the scientist at last. "For then I should find it necessary to remove you. You might stand in my way, and though you would be but a puny obstacle, you still would be an obstacle. For example, consider Ellen Estabrook, your fiancee. I can find no use for her ... and she knows as much about me as you do. Therefore, at my convenience, I shall remove her."
"Caleb Barter," Bentley's voice was hoarse with anger as he dropped his soothing mode of address toward the man he knew was insane, "if anything happens to Miss Estabrook through you I shall find you no matter how well you are guarded ... and I shall destroy you bit by bit, as a small boy destroys a fly. For every least evil thing that happens to Miss Estabrook, a hundred times that will happen to you at my hands."
"Good!" snapped Barter, no longer chuckling. "I am happy to know how much she means to you. It shows me how easily I may control you through her. It means war then, between us? I'm sorry, Bentley, for I like you. In a way, you know, you are my creation. But in a war between us, Bentley, you haven't a chance to win."
Bentley clicked up the receiver.
"Could you trace the call, Tyler?" he snapped.
Tyler shook his head ruefully.
"We couldn't locate the right telephone, but we could tell which exchange it came through, and the lines of that exchange cover a huge section of the city."
"Can you find out exactly the section and the address of each phone on every line?"
"Yes. The exchange is Stuyvesant."
"That gives me some help. I used to live in Greenwich Village and I had a Stuyvesant number. I'm going after Barter. Say, Tyler, how do you suppose Barter knew exactly what was going on in this room?"
Tyler's face slowly whitened as his eyes looked fearfully into the eyes of Lee Bentley. He shook his head slowly.
Bentley squared his shoulders and spoke quietly and determinedly.
"Mr. Tyler," he said, "I am in a great hurry. May I be conducted in a police car? Might as well. I'll be working with you hand and glove until Barter is captured."
Bentley rode behind a shrieking siren to the home of the Estabrooks ... while from a distance of two miles Caleb Barter watched every move and chuckled grimly to himself.
Hell's Laboratory The huge room was absolutely free of all sounds from anywhere save within itself. The walls, the floors, the doors were of chrome steel. The cages were iron-ribbed and ponderous.