"But why the transplantation at all, even if the man is mad? He reasons logically. Only his premises are unthinkable ... and he builds successful ghastly experiments on top of them...."
"He claims he wishes to build a race of supermen," Bentley answered. "His reason for the brain transference is therefore plain. An anthropoid ape has a body which is several times as hardy, durable and mighty as that of even the strongest man, but the ape has not the brain of a civilized man. A specialized man, one with a highly developed brain, generally has a very weak body. He's constantly put to the necessity of taking exercise to keep from growing sick. Therefore the ape's body and the man's brain would seem, to Barter, an ideal combination. That nature didn't plan it so troubles him not at all. He will make a fool of nature!"
"I wonder if we'll get him. Nobody knows how many lives have been lost already."
"We'll get him, Tyler. I'll bet anything you want to name that your men have walked back and forth across his hideout. I'll bet that decent, respectable people live within mere yards of him and do not know it. We'll get to him the second he makes a mistake of any kind. Maybe he'll make his first one when he tries to get Saret Balisle--Good Lord, I forgot something. Tyler, phone again and ask Headquarters if the coroner found anything strange about the head of the men I chased down Fifth Avenue."
"Yes," he said, clicking up the receiver, "he had bits of metal which looked like aluminum in his scalp; but the autopsy shows that it came from outside somewhere."
"It's part of Barter's radio control," muttered Bentley, "it must be! It has to be ... and I didn't think of looking for it at the time."
Long before sunrise Bentley and Tyler repaired to the office of Saret Balisle, letting themselves in with keys which had been furnished them last night. It had been decided that Balisle would not try to run away from the threat of the Mind Master, but would be in his office as usual. If he ran, and got out of touch with the police, Barter would get him anyway and nobody would be the wiser.
Balisle had grinned and shrugged his shoulders, but the wanness in his cheeks showed that he didn't take the threats lightly, considering what it was thought had happened to Harold Hervey.
"I wonder," said Tyler as they walked through the cool of the morning to the Clinton Building on lower Fifth Avenue, where Balisle had his offices, "how Barter keeps his apes with men's brains from trying to break away from him when he has to divert his mental control to other channels?"
Bentley hesitated, seeking a logical answer. It seemed simple enough when the answer came to his mind.
"Suppose, Tyler," he said, "that you wakened from a nightmare and looked into a mirror to discover that you were an anthropoid ape? That you were incapable of speaking, of using your hands save in the clumsiest fashion? When it came home to you what had happened to you, would you rush right out into the street, hoping that the people on the sidewalks would understand that you were a man in ape's clothing?"
"Good Lord! I never thought of that!"
"You would if you'd ever been an ape. I know the feeling."
"Then Barter's manapes are more surely prisoners than if they were sentenced to serve their entire lives in the deepest solitary cells in Sing Sing! How horrible--but still, they yet would have a way of escape."
"Yes, simply break out and start running, knowing that the crowd would soon take and destroy them. Right enough--but even when one knows oneself an ape it isn't easy to destroy oneself."
They entered the offices of Saret Balisle and looked about them. It was just an ordinary office. They looked in clothes closets and in shadowy corners. They took every possible precaution in their survey of the situation. They looked for hidden instruments of destruction. They looked for hidden dictaphones. They were extremely thorough in their preliminary preparations for the defense of Saret Balisle.
At five minutes of ten o'clock Balisle was at his desk, pale of face, but grinning confidently.
There were men in uniform in the hallways, on the roof, in the windows of rooms across the avenue. Bentley and Tyler should have felt sure that not even a mouse could have broken through the cordon to reach Saret Balisle. But Bentley was doubtful.
He went to the window nearest Balisle and looked out. Sixteen stories down was Fifth Avenue, patrolled in this block by a dozen blue-coats and as many more plain-clothes men. Saret Balisle seemed to be impregnable.
But at ten o'clock exactly, a blood-curdling scream came from the room adjoining Balisle's, where some insurance company had offices. The scream was followed by other screams--all the screams of women....
For just a moment Bentley and Tyler whirled to stare at the door giving onto the hall, their hands tightly gripping their automatics.
"God Almighty!" It came in a choked scream from the lips of Saret Balisle, simultaneous with the falling of a shower of glass in the room.
Tyler and Bentley whirled back.
A giant anthropoid ape stood on the window sill, and the brute's left hand held tightly clasped the ankle of Balisle, holding him as a child holds a rag doll.
The ape swung Balisle out over the abyss.
Tyler flung up his automatic.
"Don't!" shouted Bentley. "If you shoot he'll drop Balisle!"
Bentley felt sick and the bottom seemed to drop out of his stomach as the anthropoid, still holding Balisle as lightly as though he didn't know he held extra weight at all, dropped from sight.
Tyler and Bentley leaped to the window, looked down. The ape had dropped safely to the ledge of the window just below. He held on easily with his right hand while Bentley and Tyler swayed dizzily. The anthropoid still held Balisle by the ankle.
A head looked out of the window to the right. A frightened woman.
"God!" she choked. "That beast came out of the clothes closet. We've been wondering why we couldn't open it. He must have been inside, holding it."
A hundred men, all crack shots, stood helpless on roofs, in windows across the street, in the street below, while the anthropoid ape dropped slowly down the face of the Clinton Building toward the street.
How would Barter lead his minion free of this tangle when, as was inevitable, the brute reached ground level?
Strange Interview Bentley and Tyler were to learn in the next few minutes how great was the executive ability of Caleb Barter. He had created a mighty puzzle, each and every bit of which must fit together exactly. Time was important in making the puzzle complete--and the puzzle changed with each passing second. As the anthropoid went slowly down the face of the Clinton Building, Bentley was sure that Barter controlled every move and saw every slightest thing that transpired. He knew very well that of all the great organization which had been set to prevent the taking of Saret Balisle, not a man would now shoot at the ape for fear of jeopardizing the life of Balisle.
And yet Balisle was being spirited away to pass through an experience which would be far worse than a merciful bullet through the brain or the heart. Bentley knew he would be justified in the eyes of humanity if he ordered his men to fire upon the anthropoid, even if he were sure that Balisle would die. But as long as there was life there was hope, too, and he couldn't bring himself to give the order.
The ape dropped down the face of the building as easily as he would have dropped from limb to limb of a jungle tree. The sixteen stories under him did not disconcert him at all. Bentley had a suspicion about this particular ape, but he wouldn't know for a time yet whether his suspicion had a basis in fact. He couldn't think of a man--especially an old man like Harold Hervey--making that hair-raising descent. Yet ... if he were controlled, mind and soul, by Caleb Barter the Mind Master...?
"Tyler," said Bentley tersely. "The instant the ape reaches the street I'm going to order your men to fire. You will shout out to them now, designating which ones shall fire. Be sure they are crack marksmen who will drill the ape without hitting Balisle--and, by all means, have them wait so that the ape's fall won't send Balisle crashing to death."
"Maybe I'd better tell them to rush him?"
"Maybe that's better, but remember they're dealing with a giant anthropoid, in strength at least, and that somebody is likely to be fatally injured. In addition the ape may tear Balisle apart as soon as men start to close in on him. Barter will have thought of that, and all he'll have to do to make his puppet perform is to will him to do it. No, they'll have to shoot--and tell them to aim at his head and heart."
Tyler leaned out of the window and shouted to the men across the street.
"Shoot as soon as the ape reaches the sidewalk!" he cried. "Be careful you don't hit Balisle."
And from Balisle himself, muffled and frightened, came a sudden cry.
"Shoot now! I'd rather fall and have it over with!"
There was a moment of silence. Bentley almost gave the order to fire when the ape was at the twelfth story, but he held his tongue by a supreme effort of will.
Balisle looked down. It must have been a terrifying experience to swing above such a horrible abyss by one leg, and for a moment Balisle lost his head. He screamed and started to grapple with his grim captor.
"Don't, Balisle!" shouted Tyler. "You'll make him lose his balance. Hang on as you are and we'll get him when he reaches the street."
"What good will it do?" screamed Balisle, his voice taking on a high keening note as the ape dropped again, this time from the twelfth to the eleventh floor. "He slipped it over a hundred men to get me this far. He'll find a way to beat you when he reaches the street, too."
Bentley had a sinking feeling that Balisle spoke the truth; but even so, he could not see how anybody, even Barter, could walk through the trap which was being tightened around the descending anthropoid.
It made Bentley dizzy to watch the slow methodical descent of the anthropoid. He could fancy himself in Balisle's position and it made him sick and faint. He understood the desperation which caused Balisle to make yet another attempt to battle with the ape.
Then the ape did a grim thing.
He paused on the eleventh floor, and crouching on a window sill, deliberately snapped Balisle's head against the wall of the Clinton Building! In his time Bentley had slain rabbits exactly like that. Balisle hung now as limp as a rag and blood dripped from his mouth and nose. But Bentley knew, as his face went white at the sound of that sharp, thudding blow that Balisle had not been killed by it.
Savage oaths burst from the lips of policemen who saw the action of the ape.
"He acts like a human being! An ape wouldn't have thought of that!"
The words came hysterically from the lips of a woman who, frightened though she was, could not tear herself from the window to the right of where Bentley and Tyler leaned out to stare down.
Bentley smiled grimly. What would she think if he told her gravely that the creature crawling down the face of the building was not quite an ape?
So far the public didn't know what the Mind Master schemed. He'd spoken of stealing brains, but that had meant nothing to the general public. Just the maunderings of a madman, perhaps.
At the third floor the anthropoid hesitated. He seemed to be gazing all around, noting the preparations which were being made to trap him at the street level.
"An ape wouldn't do that," muttered Bentley. "A man would. The man in that manape is showing through--but he won't be able to force himself free of Barter's domination. If he could he'd probably throw Balisle down now to keep him from being ... well, treated as Barter intends to treat him."
The ape dropped to the second floor. Silence seemed to hang over Fifth Avenue. Ugly gun muzzles protruded from every window across the street. Scores of rifles were aimed down from windows in the Clinton Building, to drill the ape through from above.
At that instant a limousine whirled into Fifth Avenue, traveling fast, and ground to a stop under the ape.
"What's this?" cried Bentley.
"That's Saret Balisle's car," said Tyler. "There's nobody in it but his chauffeur. The fool! Does he think he can take his master away from the ape singlehanded?"
"That looks like foolhardy loyalty, but I'm not so sure that it's Balisle's chauffeur at the wheel. Tyler, send somebody down to wherever it is that Balisle parks his car."
But before Tyler could move to obey, the anthropoid ape made his surprise move, and did a thing which no ape would have thought of doing. He hurled Balisle toward the limousine. The somersaulting body struck the roof of the car, crashed through the fabric, and dropped into the tonneau.
At the same instant the limousine leaped to full speed ahead.
A shower of bullets smashed windows and scored deeply and menacingly the brick walls all around the giant anthropoid which for a second still crouched on the second-story ledge. The ape whirled and crashed through the window at his back.
"Tyler, send half a dozen cars after that limousine. They simply have to catch it. But they mustn't fire for fear of killing Balisle. Have the car followed right to Barter's hideout. The men in this building will scatter at once through the building. We must trap that ape!"
The whole police organization was in a turmoil.
Sirens screamed as police cars flashed after the fleeing limousine which carried Saret Balisle away. Doors slammed and windows crashed as two score policemen scattered through the building, armed with riot guns and pistols, seeking the ape.
Tyler, after barking the staccato orders which set his men in motion, turned to Balisle's secretary.
"Quickly, the number Balisle calls when he wants his automobile sent around."
The girl gave it, and Tyler called the number.
"Are Mr. Balisle's car and chauffeur there?" he asked.
He swore explosively and hung up the receiver.
"Another killing," he said. "Balisle's car is gone and the garage people have just found his chauffeur, almost ripped to pieces, in another car left at the garage for storage.
"That means this ape is armed with metal fingernails, just like the one that killed the insurance man in the Flatiron Building. That means he'll be doubly dangerous when caught. The murdered chauffeur will have to wait for a few moments while we capture the ape."
Shouts and shots rang through the Clinton Building. The ape was going wild, crashing through doors and windows as if they weren't there. His mad bellowing sounded terrifying in the extreme, so deep and rumbling that the air seemed to tremble with its menace.
But in the end there came a chorus of triumphant shouts which told that the giant ape had been surrounded.
Bentley and Tyler raced in the direction of the sounds. From all directions came the sounds of footfalls as other plain-clothes men raced to be in at the death. Bentley held his automatic tightly gripped in his right hand. He knew exactly where he was going to aim if the ape were not dead when he reached him.
The creature had been cornered in the areaway between two banks of elevators and had climbed up the cage as high as he could go. He was just out of reach of human hands, even had there been any men there with the courage to try to take him alive. A white foam dripped from the chattering lips of the anthropoid. His red-rimmed eyes flashed fire. Bentley noted the little metal ball on top of the creature's head.
Deliberately he stopped, raised his automatic, and held it steady while he pressed the trigger with the extreme care which a sharp-shooter knows to be necessary ... and a bullet ploughed through the top of the ape's head.
The little ball vanished, and the ape released his grip suddenly. His chattering died away to an uncertain murmur, the fire went out of his eyes, and he fell to the floor. No bullet had yet actually struck him, for he had whirled into the window from the second-story ledge simultaneously with the barking of the policemen's rifles and pistols. He had escaped there--but here he was not to escape.
Bentley and Tyler both lifted their voices to shout warnings to the policemen, but their voices were drowned in the savage explosions of a dozen weapons, in the hands of men who probably thought the creature was in the act of charging ... and the ape sprawled on the floor, his legs and arms quivering.
Half a dozen men rushed forward, weapons extended.
"Keep back!" yelled Bentley, rushing in.
He stood over the ape, staring intently at his glazing eyes.