The saturnine Larry chuckled sourly. "Hey, take it easy, chief. You'll kill the guy."
Ross had crumpled to the floor. There were still sounds of blows. Crowley raged, "You're lucky I'm not wearing shoes, I'd break every rib in your body!"
Patricia was staring in hopeless horror. She said sharply, "Don, remember you need Ross! You need all of us! Without all of us there can be no more serum."
The blows stopped.
"There will be no more serum anyway," Braun said shakily. The thin little man still stood before his chair having moved not at all since the action began.
Crowley's heavy breathing could be heard but he managed a snarl. "That's what you think, Doc."
Braun said, "By Caesar, I absolutely refuse to...."
Crowley interrupted ominously. "You know, Doc, that's where this particular common man has it all over you eggheads. You spend so much time reading, you don't take in the action shows on TV. Now what you're thinking is that even if we were going to twist your arm a little, you'd stick to your guns. But suppose, like, it was Pat we was working on, while you had to sit and watch."
The elderly man's brave front collapsed and his thin shoulders slumped.
Crowley barked a laugh.
Patricia by now, was bent over the unconscious Ross crying even as she tried to help him.
Crowley said to the silent, all but disinterested Larry, "Have these three put in separate rooms in that section they used for the violent wing when the place was a nuthouse. Have a good guard and see they don't talk back and forth."
"You're the boss," Larry said languidly.
Crowley was thorough. For that they had to give him credit. They were kept divided, each in a different room-cell and with at least two burly, efficient guards on constant watch. They were fed on army-type trays and their utensils checked carefully. There was no communication allowed--even with the guard.
The second day, Crowley took measures to see their disappearance raised no alarm at either their place of employment or at their residences. This raised few problems since all were single and all had already taken off both from the job and from their homes in order to carry out their experiment. Crowley forced them to write further notes and letters finding excuses for extending their supposed vacations. He also had Larry return to the hotel suite, pay their bill, pack their things and bring them to the Catskill estate which had become their prison.
He had them make up lists of materials and equipment they would need for further manufacture of the serum upon which they had stumbled, and sent off men to acquire the things.
And on three occasions during the following weeks he had them brought from their cells and spent an hour or so with them at lunch or dinner. Crowley evidently needed an audience beyond that of his henchmen. The release of his basic character, formerly repressed, was progressing geometrically and there seemed to be an urgency to crow, to brag, to boast.
On the third of these occasions he was already seated at the table when they were ushered into the dining room. Crowley dismissed the guards with a wave of his hand as though they were liveried servants.
All had eaten but there were liqueurs and coffee, cigars and cigarettes on the broad table.
Ross sank into a chair and growled, "Well, what hath the great man wrought by now?"
Crowley grinned at him, poured coffee and then a dollop of Napoleon brandy into it. He gestured with a hand. "Help yourselves, folks. How you feeling? You been getting all the books you wanted? You look kind of peaked, Pat."
"Miss O'Gara to you, you ape with delusions of grandeur," she snapped. "When are you going to let us out of those prison cells?"
Crowley wasn't provoked. The strong can afford to laugh at the malcontented weak. "That's one of the things you never know," he said easily. "You sure you want out? Something the Doc said the other day had a lotta fact in it. The fewer people know about this secret of mine, the better off I'll be and the better off I am, the better off the whole country is going to be and I gotta think about that. I got responsibilities."
"A combination of Engine Charley and Louis XIV, eh?" Ross muttered, running his beefy hand back over his crew cut. It was a relief to get out of his room and talk with the others, but he didn't want Crowley to see that.
"What's that?" the other was impatient of conversation that went above his head.
Dr. Braun explained gently. "One said, I am the State, and the other, anything that's good for my corporation is good for the United States--or something quite similar."
Crowley sipped at his coffee royal. "Well, anyway, Pat, the day you're ready to leave that cell, you'd better start worrying cause that'll mean I don't need you any more."
Ross growled, "You didn't answer my question. Robbed any banks lately, great man?"
The other eyed him coldly. "Take it easy, Buster. Maybe in the early stages of the Common Man Movement we hafta take some strong-arm measures, but that stage's about finished."
Patricia O'Gara was interested in spite of herself. She said. "You mean you already have all the money you need?"
He was expansive. Obviously there was nothing to lose with these three and he liked a sounding board. In spite of his alleged contempt for eggheads there was an element in Crowley which wished to impress them, to grant him equal status in their own estimations.
"There's a devil of a lot to know about big finance. You need a starter, but once you get it, the stuff just rolls in automatic." He grinned suddenly, almost boyishly. "Especially when you got a certain little advantage, like me."
Braun said, interestedly, "How do you put your advantage to work?"
"Well, now, I gotta admit we aren't quite out of the woods. We need more capital to work with, but after tonight we'll have it. Remember that Brinks job up in New England a long time ago? Well, we got something lined up even bigger. I work with Larry and his boys to pull it. Then there's another thing cooking that Whitely's been keeping tabs on. It looks like IBM is going to split its stock, three for one. I gotta attend their next secret executive meeting and find out. If they do, we buy in just before, see? We buy on margin, buy options, all that sort of jazz. Whitely knows all about it. Then we got another big deal in Washington. Looks like the government might devaluate the dollar. Whitely explained it to me, kind of. Anyway, I got to sit in on a conference the President's gonna have. If they really decide to devalue, then Whitely and me, we go ahead and put every cent we got into Swiss gold. Then the day after devaluation, we switch it all back into dollars again. Double our money. Oh, we got all sorts of angles, Doc."
"By Caesar," Braun ejaculated. "You seem to have."
Patricia had poured herself some coffee and was sipping it, black, even as she stared at him. "But, Don, what do you need all this money for? You already have more than plenty. Why not call it all off. Get out from under."
Ross grunted, "Too late, Pat. Can't you see? He's got the power urge already."
Crowley ignored him and turned to her, pouring more coffee and cognac for himself. "I'm not running up all this dough just for me. You think you're the only one's got ideals, like? Let me tell you, I might just be a country boy but I got ambitions to put some things right in this world."
"Such as...." Patricia prodded, bitterness in her voice.
"Aw, we went through all that the other day. The thing is, now it's really under way. If you was seeing the newspapers these days, you'd know about the Common Man Party."
"Oh, oh," Ross muttered unhappily.
"It's just getting under way," Crowley said modestly, "but we're hiring two of the top Madison Avenue outfits to handle publicity and we're recruiting some of the best practical politicians in the field."
"Practical politicians!" Ross snorted. "Types like Huey Long, McCarthy, Pendergast, I suppose."
The other misunderstood him. "Yeah, and even better. We're going in big for TV time, full-page ads in the newspapers and magazines. That sort of thing. The average man's getting tired of the same old talk from the Republicans and Democrats. Paul Teeter thinks we might have a chance in the next election, given enough dough to plow into it."
Ross leaned back disdainfully. "What a combination. Whitely, the broker who has been barred from activity on Wall Street; Teeter, the crooked politician, but with connections from top to bottom; and Larry, whatever his name is...."
"Morazzoni," Crowley supplied. "You know where I first ran into his name? In one of them true crime magazines. He's a big operator."
"I'll bet he is," the redhead growled. "Probably with good Mafia connections. I'm surprised you haven't attempted to take over that outfit."
Crowley laughed abruptly. "We're working on that, pal. Just take it easy and all these things will work their way out. But meanwhile I didn't bring you jokers here to make snide remarks. I got work for you. I'm fresh out of that serum and you three are going to brew me up another batch."
They looked at him, Dr. Braun, Ross Wooley, Patricia O'Gara, their faces registering stubbornness, revolt and dismay.
He shook his head. "Larry and some of his boys have experience. I gotta admit, I wouldn't even want to watch."
"I'm for standing firm," Braun said stiffly. "There are but three of us. The most they can do is kill us. But if this man's insanity is released on the world...."
Crowley was shaking his head in deprecation. "Like when you say the worst we can do is kill you. Man, haven't you heard about the Nazis and commies and all? You oughta read some of the men's adventure magazines. How do you think Joe Stalin got all them early Bolsheviks to confess? You think they weren't tough buzzards? Why make us go to all the trouble, when you'd just cave in eventually anyway? Save yourself the grief."
Patricia said impatiently, "He's right, I'm afraid. I would collapse rather quickly under physical coercion. You might last a bit longer, Ross possibly longer still. But in the end we would concede."
Crowley said, as though in amazement, "You know, eggheads aren't as stupid as some would reckon. O.K., folks, I got a laboratory all fixed up with your things. Let's go. Ah, Ross, old pal, I'm carrying heat, as Larry would say, so let's don't have any trouble, eh?"
He had been as good as his word in regards to the laboratory. It was obviously one of the rooms used by the staff when the place had been a sanitarium. Now, each of the three had all the equipment and supplies they required.
Crowley took a seat at the far end of the room, facing them. There had been a guard outside the door when they entered and a call would bring him in seconds. Even so, Crowley sat in such wise that his right hand was ready to plunge inside his coat to the gun that evidently was holstered there. He said, "O.K., folks, let's get about it."
It took them half an hour or so to sort out those materials each needed in his own contribution to the end product.
Their captor looked at his watch impatiently. "Let's get a move on, here. I thought this was going to take a few minutes."
Patricia said testily, "What's the hurry, Don?"
He grinned at her. "Tonight's the big night. This evening, just before closing, I walk into.... Well, you don't have to know the name. Like I said, it'll make the Brinks job look like peanuts. They lock up the place and leave, see? O.K., about two o'clock in the morning, when the city's dead, Larry and the boys drive up into an alley, behind. I go around, one by one, and sock the four guards on the back of the head. Then I open up for Larry and they take their time and clear the place out. From then on, we got all the dough we need to start pyramiding it up on the Stock Exchange and like that."
Patricia had drawn on rubber gloves, pulled a lab apron around her. She began reaching for test tubes, measuring devices. She murmured softly, "What keeps you from telling yourself you're nothing but a crook, Don? When we first met you--it seems a terribly long time ago, back there in Far Cry--you didn't seem to be such a bad egg."
"We didn't know, then, he was a cracked egg," Ross muttered. He looked to where Crowley slouched, his eyes narrow as though considering his chances of rushing the other. Crowley grinned and shook his head. "Don't try it, Buster."
Crowley looked at Patricia. "You don't get it, sister. It's like somebody or other said. The ends, uh, justify the means. That means...."
"I know what it means," Patricia said impatiently.
Dr. Braun, who rather hopelessly was also beginning to work at the equipment their captor had provided, said reasonably, "Don, the greater number of the thinkers of the world have rejected that maxim. If you will, umah, analyze it, you will find that the end and the means are one."
"Yeah, yeah, a lot of complicated egghead gas. What I'm saying, Pat, is that what I'm eventually heading for is good for everybody. At least it's good for all real hundred per cent Americans. Everybody's going to go to college and guaranteed to come out with what you three got, a doctor's degree. Everybody's going to get a guaranteed annual wage, like, whether or not they can do any work. It's not a guy's fault if he gets sick or unemployed or something. Everybody...."
"Shades of all the social-reformers who ever lived," Ross muttered.
"By Caesar," Braun said in despair, "I have an idea you'll get the vote of every halfwit in the country."
Crowley came to his feet. "I don't like that kind of talk, Doc. Maybe I'm just a country boy, but I know what the common man wants and what I'm going to do is give it to him."
Patricia looked up from her work long enough to frown at him. "What special are you going to get out of this, Don?"
That took him back for a moment and he scowled at her.
"Come, come," she said. "You've already admitted to we three just what you think and are going to do. Now, how do you picture yourself, after all this has been accomplished?"
His face suddenly broke into its grin, a somewhat sly element in it now. "You know, when I get this all worked out, the folks are going to be pretty thankful."
"I'll bet," Ross muttered. He, too, was working at his element of compounding the serum.
"Yeah, they will, Buster," Crowley said truculently. "And they're going to want to show it. You ever seen one of those movies like 'Ben Hur' back in Roman days? Can you imagine everybody in the whole country thinking you were the best guy ever lived? You know, like an Emperor."
"Like Caligula," Dr. Braun said softly.
"I don't know any of their names, but they really had it made. Snap your fingers and there's a big banquet with the best floor show in the world. Snap your fingers and here comes the sexiest dames in Hollywood. Snap your fingers and some big entertainment like a chariot race, or something. Once I put this over, the Common Man Party, that's the way people are going to feel about me and want to treat me."
"And if they don't, you'll make them?" Ross said sarcastically.
"You're too smart for your own britches, egghead," Crowley snarled. He looked at his watch. "Let's get this rolling. I got to get on down to the city and start this caper going."
Ross handed a test tube to Dr. Braun and began stripping the gloves from his hands. "That's my contribution," he said.
Patricia had already delivered hers. Dr. Braun combined them, then heated the compound, adding a distillate of his own. He said, "When this cools...."
Crowley crossed the room to the door and said something to the guard there. He returned in a moment with an anthropoid ape in a cage. He sat it on the table and looked at them.
"O.K.," he said to Braun, his voice dangerous. "Let's see you inject the monk with this new batch of serum."
Braun raised his eyebrows.
The other watched him narrowly, saying nothing further.
Dr. Braun shrugged, located a hypodermic needle and prepared it. In a matter of moments, the animal was injected.
Ross Wooley said sourly, "Don't you trust your fellow man, Don?"
"No, I don't, and stop calling me Don. It's Dan. Daniel Crowley."
The three of them looked at him in bewilderment.
The ape was beginning to shimmer as though he was being seen through a window wet with driving rain.
"Don's my goody-goody brother. Used to live in the same house with me, but ever since we were kids and I got picked up on a juvenile delinquent rap for swiping a car, he's been snotty. Anyway, now he's moved out to Frisco."
Patricia blurted, "But ... but you let us believe you were Donald...."
He brushed it off with a flick of his hand. "You said you had some deal where I could make me some money. O.K., I was between jobs."
The ape was invisible now. Crowley peered in at him. "Seems to work, all right."
Dr. Braun sighed. "I am not a Borgia, Daniel Crowley."
"You're not a what?"