Tyler nodded and quickly spoke into the telephone on the table at his elbow.
The telephone reminded Bentley of Ellen Estabrook.
When Tyler had finished issuing pointed instructions Bentley called the residence of the Estabrooks in Astoria, Long Island.
Carl Estabrook answered the telephone.
"Is Ellen all right?" asked Bentley. "May I speak to her?"
Carl Estabrook's answering gasp came plainly over the wire.
"Are you crazy, Lee?" he asked. "Not ten minutes ago you telephoned Ellen and told her to meet you near the arch in Washington Square. I asked her if she was sure the voice was yours, and she was...."
But Bentley, white-faced, had already clicked up the receiver.
"Tyler," he said, "Ellen Estabrook, my fiancee, is walking into a trap. It's Barter again. He'd know how to imitate my voice well enough to fool Ellen. It would be simple enough for a man like him. He probably had that long conversation with me at headquarters to make sure he hadn't forgotten the timbre and pitch of my voice ... and to hear how it sounded over the telephone. Please have plain-clothes men pick up Ellen in Washington Square. And that, Tyler, if you'll notice, is also downtown."
Bentley felt that he would go mad with anxiety as he awaited some news from the plain-clothes men Tyler had ordered to look for Ellen Estabrook.
He had asked Tyler to issue rather unusual instructions to the plain-clothes men around the Hervey residence. They were to make no attempt to halt anyone who might approach the house, but were to permit no one to depart. It was a weak plan, but knowing the supreme egotism of Barter, Bentley felt that the old scientist would deliberately accept such a challenge. He wouldn't mind risking the loss of a minion.
"He controls his puppets from his hideout, Tyler," Bentley explained, "and won't hesitate to send them into danger since it can't touch him. And he watches every move they make, too. He's made some television adaptation of his own. I'll wager, if he so desires, he can see us sitting here right now, even perhaps hear what we say. I can fancy hearing him chuckle, and Tyler...?"
"I can see old man Hervey on an operating table with Barter bending over him, working fiendishly. Behind Barter are cages of apes."
"But how could he transport apes to his hideout?"
"He could manage to smuggle anything anywhere. Money paves the way to any accomplishment, Tyler. We needn't concern ourselves with how he does it, but with the fact that he must surely have apes in his hideout."
There came suddenly an imperious ringing of the doorbell.
Bentley and Tyler leaped to their feet, their hands streaking for their automatics which they had placed within easy reach on the table. Side by side they sprang for the door, and flung it open.
A chill of horror ran through Bentley.
"Mother of God!" cried Tyler.
"Mr. Hervey!" shrieked Timkins. The secretary, noting the figure which toppled so grimly into the room, fainted. The thud of his body followed the thud of the old man's body to the floor.
In that first moment of overwhelming terror, all three men noted that Hervey's skull-pan was missing.
"Look after details here, Tyler!" cried Bentley, quickly recovering himself. "I'm after whoever brought the old man home."
Bentley was racing down the path for the street, where a man in chauffeur's uniform was hurling himself into a limousine, while bullets from half a dozen plain-clothes men, racing to head him off, sang about his ears. But the stranger gained the driver's seat and the limousine was away like a shot. The police car was rolling as Bentley leaped upon the running board, then eased in beside the driver.
"Don't stop for anything!" cried Bentley. "Keep that car in sight!"
The car headed downtown at breakneck speed.
To Broadway's Horror Bentley would never forget that nightmarish ride downtown. It was a dream as terrifying and ghastly as had been his experience in the African jungles when he had been Manape. Added to the utter fear of the ride was his fear for the safety of Ellen Estabrook. Caleb Barter, so far, was utterly invincible. It seemed he could not be beaten or outwitted in any way. But Bentley set his lips tightly.
Caleb Barter must have some weak spot in his insane armor, some way by which he could be reached and destroyed--and Bentley swore to himself that it would be he who would find that weak spot.
The limousine ahead was going at dangerous speed. The police chauffeur beside Bentley crouched low over the wheel as he drove. His eyes never left the speeding limousine. People on the sidewalks stared in astonishment as the two cars flashed downtown.
The leading car sped on, the driver obviously expecting ways to open in the last second before threatened collision. He passed cars on the left and the right. There were times when his wheels were up on the curb as he went through lanes between cars and sidewalks. He was determined to go through.
Only Bentley understood that the driver ahead was an automaton, a man whose brain did not know the meaning of fear. He knew that from his hideout Caleb Barter was directing the flight of the escaping car. He could fancy the old man of the apple-red cheeks, sitting in a chair in his hideout, his hands in the air as though they gripped the wheel of a car, sweat breaking forth on his cheeks as he guided his puppet through the press of cars.
But by now in that uncanny way that sometimes happens the streets were being cleared as if by magic before the flight of one whom all observers must have thought a madman. Only Bentley knew that the driver ahead was not a madman.
His own car careened from side to side. Bentley wondered what the chauffeur would think if he knew he was driving a race against one of Barter's supermen. He would perhaps have realized that no man could possibly follow with any degree of success. The police driver had succeeded so far only because, Bentley guessed, he felt that where any other man could drive, so could he.
Only Bentley knew that the driver up there was not a "man" in the normal meaning of the word. He wondered who "he" really was--not that it mattered greatly, for the entity required to make "him" a normal man had perhaps been destroyed, or had become part of some giant anthropoid to be used later in Barter's ghastly experiments.
"I wonder if Tyler will send out calls for police cars in other parts of the city to try and cut off the runaway," shouted Bentley above the shrieking of the motor and the wailing of the siren. "Are any police cars equipped with radio?"
"Several," answered the police chauffeur. "And they are able to cut in on various public radio stations, too. By this time warnings are being heard on every blaring radio in Manhattan."
The two cars sped on. For a brief space the car ahead took to the sidewalk. Suddenly a human body was tossed violently against the side of a building, and the fleeing car passed on. As the pursuing car passed the spot Bentley knew by the shape of the bundle that the enemy had killed a woman. At that speed he must have crushed every bone in her body. In a matter of seconds the information would be telephoned to radio studios and people would be warned to take to open doorways when they saw cars traveling at undue rates of speed.
"I'm a better driver than he is!" yelled the police chauffeur, out of the side of his mouth at Bentley. "I haven't killed anyone yet."
The words had scarcely left his mouth when a blind man, tapping his way with a cane, came from behind a building at an intersection and stepped into the gutter. The fool, couldn't he hear the shrieking of the siren? But perhaps he was deaf, too.
The police chauffeur turned sharply to the left and for a second Bentley held his breath expecting the careening car to turn over. If it did it would roll over a dozen times, and destroy anything that happened to be in its path. But with a superhuman manipulation of the wheel the police chauffeur righted the car, got it straightened out again, and was on his way. The old man had not been touched, but there was no doubt that he had felt the wind of the great car's passing.
The fleeing car was gaining now.
It rode madly down Broadway. The great pillared intersection where Broadway cuts through Sixth Avenue was dead ahead. The fleeing car continued on, crashing through, while cars evaded it in every direction, and into Broadway beyond. After it went Bentley, all other matters forgotten as he prayed to the god of speed to guide them through.
Two cars came out of Thirty-first Street. Their drivers saw their danger at the same time. But they turned different ways, and as Bentley's car flashed past them the two cars seemed welded solidly together. They were rolling across the sidewalk toward the huge plate glass window of a restaurant. Just as the pursuing car lost them as they swept past, the two cars went through that plate glass window. Bentley, in his mind's eye, saw the two dead, mutilated drivers, and the passengers with them, he saw the wreckage of the restaurant, the mangled diners who sat at the tables nearest the fatal window.
"More marks against Barter," he muttered to himself. "How long will the list be before I'll be able to drag him down?"
On and on went the two cars. People packed the sidewalks, but they kept close against the buildings. The streets were almost deserted now, for that warning had got ahead. Three other police cars were careening down the street, too. Bentley saw them with pleasure. Other cars would be coming in to head off the fleeing limousine. This one puppet of Barter's, at least, would be pocketed before he could find time to leap from his car and escape.
"Barter's sweating blood as he saws with both hands at an imaginary driver's wheel," thought Bentley. "When will he give up--and what will his driver do when Barter relinquishes control?"
For the first time the grim thought came to him. He knew that the creature there had the brain of an ape. What would an ape do if he suddenly found himself at the wheel of a car going down Broadway at eighty miles an hour? He would chatter, and jump up and down. The plunging car, with accelerator full on, would be out of control.
"God Almighty, I never thought of that!" yelled Bentley. "As soon as he sees he can't save his puppet he'll let him get out the best way he can, himself ... and that car will be traveling, uncontrolled, at eighty miles an hour."
As though his very statement had fathered the thought, two police cars swept into the intersection at Twenty-third Street and Fifth Avenue. The fleeing limousine was turning right to go down Fifth Avenue.
The police cars were brought to a halt to effectively stop the further progress of the speeding limousine. Three other cars plunged in to make the box barrage of cars effective. The fleeing car was trapped. Barter must know that. If he did know, it proved that he could see everything that transpired. The next few seconds would show.
Bentley gasped as he put his hand on the driver's arm to have him slow down to prevent a wholesale pile-up in the busy intersection. He gasped with horror as he did so, for the fleeing car was now going crazy. It zigzagged from side to side. Now it rode the two right wheels, now the two left.
And suddenly the driver swung nimbly out through the left window, his hands reaching up over the top, and in a moment he was on the roof of the careening car.
"I've seen apes swing into trees like that," Bentley thought.
While the car plunged on, the creature stood up on the doomed limousine, and in spite of the fact that the wind of the car's passing must have been terrific, the ghastly hybrid jumped up and down on the top like a delighted child viewing a new toy or riding a shoot-the-chutes.
Suddenly the creature's right leg went through the top's fabric. It struggled to regain its footing as an ape might struggle to regain position on a limb in the jungles.
At that moment the fleeing car crashed mercilessly into the two nearest police cars ahead. The men inside had expected the driver to slow down to avoid a collision. How could they know what sort of brain lurked within the driver's skull? They couldn't ... and three policemen paid with their lives for their lack of knowledge as their bodies were hurled beneath a mass of twisted wreckage, crushed out of human semblance.
The hybrid atop the fatal car was hurled through the air like a thunderbolt. His body passed over the railing of the subway entrance before the Flatiron Building and Bentley knew he had crashed to his death on the steps.
The police car had already come to a stop, and Bentley was running toward the subway entrance.
The shapeless bleeding bundle on the steps no longer even resembled a man. Fortunately nobody had been struck by the hurtling body; and, miraculously enough, Barter's pawn was not yet quite dead.
Moans of animal pain came through his bleeding lips. The eyes scarcely noticed Bentley, though there was a slight flicker of fear in them. Then, in the instant of death, even that slight expression passed from them. Bentley saw the scarline about the skull.
And now Bentley knew that Barter was missing no slightest move, that he saw everything....
For the ghastly hybrid on the steps raised his right hand in meticulous salute ... and died. It was an ironic, grotesque gesture.
Plain-clothes men gathered around.
"Take his fingerprints," said Bentley quickly. "Then telegraph the fingerprint section, U. S. Army, at Washington, for this man's identity."
An ambulance was taking aboard the three mangled policemen as Bentley stepped back into his car for the ride down to Washington Square to see what dread thing had happened to Ellen Estabrook.
High Jeopardy Ellen Estabrook was almost in hysterics when Bentley reached her. She had been immediately picked up by plain-clothes men and had thought herself captured by minions of Barter. She had been panic-stricken for a moment, she told Bentley, and it had taken her some little time to be persuaded that she was in the hands of police.
But Bentley's heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude that he had been able to safeguard Ellen against Barter. He never doubted it had been Barter who had telephoned her. And even now he fancied he could hear Barter's chuckle of amusement. Barter was watching, perhaps even listening. Bentley felt that the madman was just biding his time. Barter could have taken Ellen in this attempt, but hadn't tried greatly, knowing himself invincible, knowing that he could take her at any moment if it was necessary. And he might take her even if it were not necessary, since he had warned Bentley she must be removed.
The police car raced back uptown so that Bentley could inform himself of any new developments in the Hervey case. Ellen snuggled against him gratefully. "You'll have to stick close to me," said Bentley, "until something happens, or until the exigencies of service draw me away from you. Then it will be up to Tom Tyler to look after you."
"I can look after myself," she retorted spiritedly. "I'm over age and not without brains...."
"Yet you went to Washington Square," said Bentley gently. "Didn't it even seem strange to you that I would have selected such a place as a rendezvous?"
Ellen turned away from him and her lips trembled. His gentle thrust had hurt her.
"But I would have sworn it was your voice, Lee," she said. "And--I still think it was!"
"I tell you I didn't phone you to meet me in Washington Square!"
"But you told me you had talked with Barter for a long time on the headquarters phone, didn't you? Remember that you are dealing with the cleverest and maddest brain we know of to-day. What if he had merely talked with you to get a record of your voice? Suppose a voice were composed of certain ingredients, certain sounds. Suppose those ingredients could somehow be captured on a sensitized plate of some kind! Edison would have been burned as a sorcerer a few centuries before he invented the wax record. Twenty years ago who would have thought of talking pictures ... voices permanently recorded on celluloid?"
"But the talkie films merely parrot, over and over again, the words of actual people. When I talked with Barter this morning I certainly said nothing about meeting you at Washington Square."
"But the tone, the timber, the frequency of your voice! Lee, suppose he had gone a step further than the talkies and had found a way to break the voice apart and put it back together to suit himself...?"
"Good Lord, Ellen! It sounds crazy ... but if you would have sworn that voice was mine, then mine it may have been, speaking words with my voice that I never spoke personally. But wait until we find out for sure. We're just guessing."
But the idea stuck in his mind and he believed in it enough to tell Tyler, upon arriving at the Hervey residence, to warn every man named on the list of the Mind Master to make no appointments over the telephone, no matter how sure they were of the voices at the other end of the wire.
It sounded wild, but was it?
That night Ellen and Bentley occupied rooms which faced each other across the hall in a midtown hotel, and plain-clothes men were on duty to right and left in the hall. There were men on the roof and in the lobby, in the garage, everywhere skulkers might be expected to look for coigns of vantage from which to proceed against Ellen Estabrook. Bentley knew quite well that Barter would not drop his intention against Ellen, especially since he had failed once already.
Tyler and Bentley sat in Bentley's room drinking black coffee and discussing their plans for the next day. The latest paper had contained another manifesto of the Mind Master! the second man on his list was to be taken at ten o'clock the next day. The man was president of a great construction company. His name was Saret Balisle; he was under thirty, slim as a professional dancer, and dark as a gypsy.
"But what does Barter want with all these big shots?" asked Thomas Tyler. "Just what is the point of his stealing their brains and putting them into the skull-pans of apes, if that's what you think he has in mind?"
"The Barter touch," said Bentley grimly. "At first he probably intended to kill just any men and make the transfer, and then use his manapes to send against the men he wished to capture, and through whom he intended to gain control of Manhattan. Then he decided, since he had learned to control his manapes, by radio I suppose, that it would be an ironic touch to make virtual slaves of the "key" men he had chosen for his crusade."