The Soul Master by Will Smith and R. J. Robbins
A terrific force was emanating from that devilish globe above.
The train was slowing down
for Keegan. A whistle from
the locomotive ahead had
warned the two alert young
men in the smoker to that effect, and
they arose to
leave the train.
Both were neatly
and quietly dressed.
camera with the
necessary tripod and accessory satchel.
The other carried no impediments of
any sort. Both were smoking cigars,
evidently not of expensive variety,
judging by the unaromatic atmosphere
“Can’t see what
Bland shipped us
up to this one-horse
Handlon, the one
who carried the camera. He was the
slighter of the two and perhaps half a
head shorter than the other. “Do you
know anything about it?”
“Not much,” confessed the other as
they alighted from the smoker. “All
I can tell you is that Bland sent for
me early this morning, told me to get
a story out of this Professor Kell and
to drag you along. After we get there
you are to do as judgment dictates.
But I remember that the Chief was
specific as regards one thing. You are
to get the proff’s mug. Don’t forget.
The old fellow may growl and show
fight, but it’s up to you to deliver the
goods––or, in this case, get them.
Don’t depend on me for help. I expect
to have troubles of my own.”
Thus gloomed Horace Perry, star reporter
for the Journal.
“This Keegan place”––Handlon was
using his eyes swiftly and comprehensively––“isn’t
worth much. Can’t see
how it manages to even rate a name.
Some dump, all right!”
“You said a couple mouthfuls.”
“How’s the train service, if any?”
“Rotten. Two trains a day.” The
other was anything but enthusiastic.
“We’ve a nice long wait for the next
one, you can bet. Now, just add to
that a rough reception after we reach
the old lion’s lair and you get a nice
idea of what Bland expects from his
Handlon made a wry face at
this. “The bird who first applied
the words ‘Hard Boiled’ to the
Chief’s monniker knew something.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” retorted
Perry encouragingly. “Just
wait and see what a beaut of a fit he
can throw for your benefit if you fail
to do your stuff––and I don’t mean
Old Man Bland owned the Journal,
hired and fired his crew and did his
own editing, with the help of as capable
an office gang as could be gotten
together. It is quite possible that
“Hard Boiled” Bland demanded more
from his men than any other editor
ever has before or since. Nevertheless
he got results, and none of his experienced
underlings ever kicked, for the
pay was right. If a hapless scribe had
the temerity to enter the editorial
sanctum with a negative report, the almost
invariable reply had been a glare
and a peremptory order, “Get the
And get it they did. If a person refused
an interview these clever fellows
generally succeeded in getting their information
from the next most reliable
source, and it arrived in print just the
Of such a breed was Perry. Handlon,
being a more recent acquisition to
the staff, was not yet especially aggressive
in his work. On this account the
former took keen zest in scaring him
into displaying a bit more sand.
The train had disappeared around
a bend and the two reporters felt
themselves marooned. Keegan, without
question, was a most forlorn looking
spot. A dismal shanty, much the
worse for weather, stood beside the
track. In front, a few rotting planks
proclaimed that once upon a time the
place had boasted a real freight platform.
Probably, back in some long-forgotten
age, a station agent had also
held forth in the rickety shanty. A
sign hung on each end of the crumbling
structure on which could still be
deciphered the legend “KEEGAN.”
On the opposite side of the track was
an old, disused siding. The only other
feature of interest thereabouts was a
well traveled country road which
crossed the tracks near the shanty,
wound sinuously over a rock-strewn
hill and became lost in the mazes of
an upland forest.
There being no signboard of any
kind to indicate their destination, the
two, after a moment’s hesitation,
started off briskly in a chance direction.
The air was hot and sultry, and
in the open spaces the sun beat down
mercilessly upon the two hapless ones.
As they proceeded into the depths of
the forest they were shielded somewhat
from the worst of the heat.
Gradually upon their city-bred nostrils
there stole the odor of conifers,
accompanied by a myriad of other forest
odors. Both sniffed the air appreciatively.
“This is sure the life,” remarked
Perry. “If I weren’t so darn thirsty
now....” He became lost in mournful
A considerable time passed.
The newspaper men trudged
wearily along until finally another
bend brought them to the beginning of
a steep descent. The forest had thinned
out to nothing.
“Seems to me I smell smoke,”
blurted out Handlon suddenly. “Must
be that we are approaching the old
party’s lair. Remember? Bland said
“Uh huh!” the other grunted, almost
inaudibly. Now that they seemed to
be arriving at their destination something
had occurred to him. He had
fished from his pocket a sheaf of clippings
and was perusing them intently.
“Bland said, ‘Get the copy’,” he muttered
irrelevantly and half to himself.
The clippings all related directly to
Professor Kell or to happenings local
to Keegan. Some were of peculiar interest.
The first one was headlined
OF ROBERT MANION
AND DAUGHTER STILL
The piece contained a description of
the missing man, a fairly prosperous
banker who had been seen four days
previously driving through Keegan in
a small roadster, and one of the girl,
who was in the car with him. It told
that the banker and his daughter were
last seen by a farmer named Willetts
who lived in a shack on the East Keegan
road, fleeing before a bad thunder
storm. He believed the pair were trying
to make the Kell mansion ahead
of the rain. Nothing more of the
Manions or their car had been seen,
and their personal effects remained at
their hotel in a nearby village unclaimed.
The heavy rain had of course
effectually obliterated all wheel tracks.
Another clipping was fairly lengthy,
but Perry glanced only at the headlines:
KELL STILL CARRYING ON
HIS STRANGE EXPERIMENTS
Has Long Been Known to Have
Fantastic Theories. Refuses to
Divulge Exact Methods Employed,
or Nature of Results
Still another appeared to be an excerpt
from an article in an agricultural
paper. It read:
A prize bull belonging to Alton
Shepard, a Keegan cattle breeder,
has created considerable sensation
by running amuck in a most peculiar
manner. While seemingly
more intelligent than heretofore,
it has developed characteristics
known to be utterly alien to this
type of animal.
Perhaps the most noteworthy
feature of the case is the refusal
of the animal to eat its accustomed
food. Instead it now consumes
enormous quantities of meat. The
terrific bellow of the animal’s voice
has also undergone a marked
change, now resembling nothing
earthly, although some have remarked
that it could be likened to
the bay of an enormous hound.
Some of its later actions have
seemingly added further canine
attributes, which make the matter
all the more mystifying. Veterinaries
are asking why this animal
should chase automobiles, and why
it should carry bones in its mouth
and try to bury them!
The last one read in part:
Professor Kell has been questioned
by authorities at Keegan
relative to the disappearance there
last Tuesday of Robert Manion and
his daughter. Kell seemed unable
to furnish clues of any value, but
officials are not entirely satisfied
with the man’s attitude toward the
Somewhat bewildered by these apparently
unrelated items, the reporter
remained lost in thought for quite a
space, the while he endeavored to map
out his course of action when he should
meet the redoubtable Professor. That
many of the weird occurrences could be
traced in some way to the latter’s door
had evidently occurred to Bland. Furthermore,
the Old Man relied implicitly
upon Perry to get results.
It must be said that for once the star
reporter was not overly enthusiastic
with the assignment. Certain rumors
aside from the clippings in his hand
had produced in his mind a feeling of
uneasiness. So far as his personal
preference was concerned he would
have been well satisfied if some cub reporter
had been given the job. Try as
he would, however, he could offer no
tangible reason for the sudden wariness.
He was aroused from his absorption
by his companion.
“Thought I smelled smoke a while
back, and I was right. That’s the
house up in the edge of the pines.
Deep grounds in front and all gone to
seed; fits the description exactly.
Thank Heaven we struck off from the
station in the right direction. This
stroll has been long enough. Come out
of it and let’s get this job finished.”
Suiting the action to the words
Handlon started off at a brisk pace
down the hill, followed at a more moderate
rate by Perry. At length they
came within full sight of the grounds.
Extending for a considerable distance
before them and enclosing a large tract
of land now well covered with lush
grass, was a formidable looking wall.
In former days a glorious mantle of
ivy had covered the rough stones; but
now there was little left, and what
there was looked pitifully decrepit.
They continued their progress along
this barrier, finally coming upon a huge
iron gate now much the worse for rust.
It stood wide open.
The road up to the house had long
since become overgrown with
rank grass and weeds. Faintly traceable
through the mass of green could
be seen a rough footpath which the
two followed carefully. They met no
one. As they approached the night of
black pines the mass of the old mansion
began to loom up before them,
grim and forbidding.
Instinctively both shivered. The silence
of the place was complete and of
an uncannily tangible quality. Nervously
they looked about them.
“How do you like it, Skip?” The
words from Perry’s previously silent
lips broke upon the stillness like a
thunderclap. The other started.
“I should hate to die in it,” Handlon
answered solemnly. “I’ll bet the old
joint is haunted. Nobody but a lunatic
would ever live in it.”
“I get a good deal the same impression
myself,” said Perry. “I don’t wonder
that Bland sent two of us to cover
As he spoke he mounted a flight of
steps to a tumbledown veranda. There
was no sign of a door bell on the
weather-beaten portal, but an ancient
knocker of bronze hanging forlornly
before him seemed to suggest a means
of attracting attention. He raised it
and rapped smartly.
Possessing all the attributes of
the conventional reporter and a few
additional ones, Perry did not allow
himself to become disheartened, but
merely repeated his summons, this
time with more vim.
“Well, Horace,” grinned Handlon,
“it does look as if we were not so very
welcome here. However, seems to me
if you were to pick up that piece of
dead limb and do some real knocking
with it.... The dear Professor may
be deaf, you know, or maybe he’s––”
“Skip, my boy, I don’t know as we
ought to go in right now after all. Do
you realize it will soon be dark?”
“To tell you the truth, Horace, I’m
not stuck on this assignment either.
And I feel that after dark I should
like it even less, somehow. But, gee,
the Old Man....”
“Oh, I’m not thinking of quitting on
the job. We don’t do that on the Journal.”
Perry smiled paternally at the
photographer. Could it be he had purposely
raised the other’s hopes in order
to chaff him some more? “But I
was thinking that it might be a good
idea to look about the outbuildings a
bit while we have a little daylight.
Handlon looked disappointed, but
nodded gamely. He delayed only long
enough to deposit his camera and traps
behind a grossly overgrown hydrangea
by the steps, then, with a resigned air,
declared himself ready to follow wherever
the other might lead.
Perry elected to explore the barn
first. This was a depressing old pile,
unpainted in years, with what had once
been stout doors now swinging and
bumping in the light breeze. As the
two men drew nearer, this breeze––which
seemed to sigh through the
place at will––brought foul odors that
told them the place was at least not
tenantless. In some trepidation they
stepped inside and stood blinking in
the half darkness.
“Good God! What was that?” Handlon
whispered. He knew it was no
parrot’s voice. This was a far deeper
sound than that, a sound louder than
anything a parrot’s throat could produce.
It came from the direction of a
ruinous stall over near a cobwebbed
window. As Perry started fearfully
toward this, there issued from it a curious
scraping sound, followed by a fall
that shook the floor, and a threshing as
of hoofs. Now the great voice could
be heard again, this time uttering what
sounded strangely like oaths roared
out in a foreign tongue. Yet when
the newspaper men reached the stall
they found it occupied only by a large
The animal was lying on its side,
its feet scraping feebly against
the side of the stall. The heaving,
foam-flecked body was a mass of hideous
bruises, some of which were bleeding
profusely. The creature seemed
to be in the last stage of exhaustion,
lying with lips drawn back and eyes
closed. Beneath it and scattered all
over the stall floor was a thick layer
of some whitish seeds.
“That’s––why that’s sunflower seed,
Horace!” Handlon almost whimpered.
“And look! Look in that crib! It’s
full of the same stuff! Where’s the
hay, Horace? Does this thing––”
He was interrupted by a mighty
movement of the beast––a threshing
that nearly blinded the men in the
cloud of bloodstained seeds it raised.
With something between a curse and a
sob, the mule lunged at its crib as if
attempting to get bodily into it. But
no: it was only trying to perch on its
edge! Now it had succeeded. The
ungainly beast hung there a second,
two, three. From its uplifted throat
issued that usually innocuous phrase,
a phrase now a thing of delirious horror:
With a crash the tortured creature
fell to the floor, to lie there gasping
Skip Handlon left that barn. Perry
retained just enough wit to do what he
should have done the instant he first
saw the animal. He whipped out his
automatic and fired one merciful shot.
Then he too started for the outside.
He arrived in the yard perhaps ten
seconds behind Handlon.
“Good Heavens, Perry,” gibbered
Handlon. “I’m not going to stay
around this place another minute. Just
let me find where I left that suffering
camera, that’s all I ask.”
“Easy now.” Perry laid a hand on
his companion’s shoulder. “I guess
we’re up against something pretty
fierce here, but we’re going to see it
through, and you know it. So let’s cut
out the flight talk and go raise the
Handlon tried earnestly to don a
look of determination. If Perry was
set on staying here the least he could
do was stay with him. However, could
Perry have foreseen the events which
were to entangle them, he probably
would have led the race to the gate.
As it was, he grasped a stick and
marched bravely up toward the front
A sudden commotion behind him
caused him to wheel sharply
around. Simultaneously a yell burst
“Look out, Horace!”
What he saw almost froze the blood
in his veins. From a tumbledown
coach house had issued an enormous
wolf-hound which was now almost
upon then, eyes flaming, fangs gleaming
So unexpected was the attack that
both men stood rooted in their tracks.
The next moment the charging brute
was upon them, and had bowled Handlon
off his equilibrium as if he were a
child. The unfortunate photographer
made a desperate attempt to prevent
injury to his precious camera, which
he had but a moment earlier succeeded
in retrieving, and in doing so fell
rather violently to the ground. Every
moment he expected to feel the powerful
jaws crunch his throat, and he
made no effort to rise. For several
seconds he remained thus, until he
could endure the suspense no longer.
He glanced around only to see Perry,
staring open-mouthed at the animal
which had so frightened them. Apparently
it had forgotten the presence
of the two men.
Handlon regained his feet rather
awkwardly, the while keeping a watchful
eye on the beast, of whose uncertain
temper he was by now fully aware.
In an undertone he addressed his companion.
“What do you make of it?” he
wanted to know. “Did the critter bite
“No. That’s the queer part of it.
Neither did he bite you, if you were
to think it over a minute. Just put his
nose down and rammed you, head on.”
The photographer was flabbergasted.
Involuntarily his gaze stole again in
the direction of the offending brute.
“What on earth––” he began. “Is he
sharpening his teeth on a rock preparatory
to another attack upon us? Or––What
the deuce is he doing?”
“If you ask me,” came astonishingly
from the watchful Perry, “he’s eating
grass, which is my idea of something
damn foolish for a perfectly normal
hound, genus lupo, to be––Look out!”
The animal, as if suddenly remembering
the presence of the men,
suddenly charged at them again, head
down, eyes blazing. As before, it made
no effort to bite. Though both men
were somewhat disconcerted by the
great brute they held their ground, and
when it presented the opportunity the
older reporter planted a terrific kick
to the flank which sent the animal
whimpering back to its shed behind.
“Score one,” breathed Handlon. “If
we––” At a sudden grating sound overhead,
Both turned to face the threatening
muzzle of an ancient blunderbuss. Behind
it was an irate countenance, nearly
covered by an unclipped beard of a
dirty gray color. In the eyes now
glaring at them malevolently through
heavily concaved spectacles they read
hate unutterable. The barrel of the
blunderbuss swung slightly as it covered
alternately one and the other.
Both sensed that the finger even now
tightening on the trigger would not
hesitate unduly. Being more or less
hardened to rebuffs of all kinds in the
pursuance of their calling, the reporters
did not hesitate in stating
“What?” yelled the old man. “You
dare to invade my grounds and disturb
me at my labors for such a reason?
Reporters! My scientific research work
is not for publicity, sirs; and futhermore
I want it understood that I am
not to be dragged from my laboratory
again for the purpose of entertaining
you or any others of your ilk. Get
Without further ado the window
was slammed down, a shutter closed
on the inside, and once more the silence
of the dead descended upon the
spot. The two men grinned ruefully
at each other, Handlon finally breaking
“My idea of the world’s original one-sided
conversation. We simply didn’t
talk––and yet we’re supposed to be reporters.
You’ve got to hand it to the
Proff, Horace, for the beautiful rock-crusher
he just handed us.”
“You didn’t think we had anything
easy, did you?” said Perry irritably.
“He’ll change his tune presently,
Handlon’s jaw dropped. “You
don’t mean you’re going to take
any more chances! Would you rouse
him again after the way he treated us
with that gun? Besides, the train....”
Perry bent a scathing glance at his
companion. “What on earth has the
train to do with our getting the Professor’s
confession of crime or whatever
he has to offer? You evidently
don’t know Bland––much. I deduce
that a lot of my sweetness has been
wasted on the desert air. Once more,
let me assure you that if you propose
to go back without the Proff’s mug on
one of those plates you might as well
mail your resignation from here. Get
The other wilted.
“I wonder,” Perry ruminated as he
stared in the direction of the shed
wherein the canine monstrosity had
disappeared. “Do you suppose that
you can get a snap of the old boy’s
mug if I can get him to the window
again? If you can do that, just leave
the rest to me. I’ve handled these
crusty birds before. What say?”
“Go as far as you like.” The photographer
was once more grinning as he
unslung his camera and carefully adjusted
a plate in place. Everything
at last to his satisfaction he gripped
flash pan and bulb.
“I’m going to make some racket
now,” announced Perry grimly. “If
Kell shows up, work fast. He may
shoot at you, but don’t get excited.
It’s almost dark, so his aim might be
At this suggestion his companion
showed signs of panic, but the other
affected not to notice this. There came
a deafening hullaballoo as Perry beat
a tattoo on the ancient door.
Followed a deep silence, while Perry
leaped back to stand in front of Skip
and his camera. After perhaps a full
minute’s wait he once more opened up
his bombardment, to jump quickly
back to the camera as before. This
time he had better success. The window
was again opened and the muzzle
of the blunderbuss put in its appearance.
Handlon stood close behind
Perry as he silently swung the camera
into a more favorable position for action.
The face at the window was purple
“You damned pests! Leave my
grounds at once or I shall call my
hound and set him upon you. And
Crack! Flash! Click! Perry
had made a sudden sidewise
movement as Handlon went into action.
“Much obliged, Professor,” said
Perry politely. “Your pose with that
old cannon is going to be very effective
from the front page. The write-up
will doubtless be interesting too.
Probably the story won’t be quite so
accurate as it would be had you told
it to us yourself; but we shall get as
many of the details from the natives
hereabouts as we can. Good-day to you,
Motioning to the other he turned on
his heel and started down the driveway.
It was an old trick, and for a
long moment of suspense he almost
feared that it would fail. Another
“Wait!” The quavering voice of the
irascible old villain had lost some of
its malice. “Come back here a minute.”
With simulated reluctance the two
slowly retraced their steps. “Is there
something else, sir?”
“Perhaps....” The old man hesitated,
as if pondering upon his words.
“Perhaps if you care to step in I can
be of assistance to you after all. It
occurs to me that possibly I have been
too abrupt with you.”
“I am very glad that you have decided
to cooperate with us, Professor
Kell,” answered the reporter heartily,
as they ascended the steps. The old
man’s head disappeared from the window
and shortly the sound of footsteps
inside told of his approach. Finally
the oaken door swung open, and they
were silently ushered into the musty
smelling hallway. Though outwardly
accepting the Professor’s suddenly
pacific attitude, Perry made up his
mind to be on his guard.
As they entered what had evidently
been the parlor in bygone days,
an oppressive, heavy odor smote
their nostrils, telling of age-old carpets
and of draperies allowed to decay
unnoticed. On the walls hung
several antique prints, a poorly executed
crayon portrait of a person
doubtless an ancestor of the present
Kell, and one or two paintings done
in oil, now badly cracked and stained.
Everything gave the impression of an
era long since departed, and the two
men felt vaguely out of place. Their
host led them to a pair of dilapidated
chairs, which they accepted gratefully.
The ride to Keegan after a hard day’s
work had not tended to improve their
“Now to business.” Perry went
straight to the point, desiring to get
the interview over as soon as possible.
“We have heard indirectly of various
happenings in this vicinity which
many think have some connection with
your scientific experiments. Any
statement you may care to make to us
in regard to these happenings will be
greatly appreciated by my paper. Inasmuch
as what little has already been
printed is probably of an erroneous
nature, we believe it will be in your
own best interest to give us as complete
data as possible.” Here he became
slightly histrionic. “Of course
we do not allow ourselves to take the
stories told by the local inhabitants too
literally, as such persons are too liable
to exaggerate, but we must assume that
some of these stories have partial
basis in fact. Any information relative
to your scientific work, incidentally,
will make good copy for us also.”
Perry gazed steadily at the patriarch
as he spoke. For a moment, a crafty
expression passed over the old man’s
face, but as suddenly it disappeared.
Evidently he had arrived at a decision.
“Come with me,” he wheezed.
The two newspaper men exchanged
swift glances, the same
thought in the mind of each. Were they
about to be led into a trap? If the old
man’s shady reputation was at all deserved
they would do well to be wary.
Perry thought swiftly of the clippings
he had read and of what gossip he had
heard, then glanced once more in the
direction of Handlon. That worthy
was smiling meaningly and had already
arisen to follow the Professor.
Reluctantly Perry got to his feet and
the three proceeded to climb a rickety
stairway to the third floor. The guide
turned at the head of the stairs and entered
a long dark corridor. Here the
floor was covered with a thick carpet
which, as they trod upon it, gave forth
not the slightest sound.
The hall gave upon several rooms,
all dark and gloomy and giving the
same dismal impression of long disuse.
How could the savant endure
such a depressing abode! The accumulation
of dust and cobwebs in these
long forgotten chambers, the general
evidence of decay––all told of possible
horrors ahead. They became wary.
But they were not wary enough!
The uncouth figure ahead of them
had stopped and was fumbling with
the lock of an ancient door. Instinctively
Perry noted that it was of great
thickness and of heavy oak. Now the
Professor had it open and was motioning
for them to enter. Handlon started
forward eagerly, but hurriedly drew
back as he felt the grip of the other
reporter’s hand on his arm.
“Get back, you fool!” The words
were hissed into the ear of the incautious
one. Then, to the Professor,
Perry observed: “If you have no objection
we would prefer that you precede
A look of insane fury leaped to the
face of the old man, lingered but an
instant and was gone. Though the expression
was but momentary, both men
had seen, and seeing had realized their
They followed him into the chamber,
which was soon illumined fitfully
by a smoky kerosene lamp. Both
took a rapid survey of the place. Conceivably
it might have been the scene
of scientific experiments, but its aspect
surely belied such a supposition.
The average imagination would instantly
pronounce it the abode of a
maniac, or the lair of an alchemist.
Again, that it might be the laboratory
of an extremely slovenly veterinary
was suggested by the several filthy
cages to be seen resting against the
wall. All of these were unoccupied
except one in a dark corner, from
which issued a sound of contented
purring, evidently telling of some well-satisfied
The air was close and foul, being
heavy with the odor of musty, decaying
drugs. In every possible niche and
cranny the omnipresent dust had settled
in a uniform sheen of gray which
showed but few signs of recent disturbance.
“Here, gentlemen,” their host was
saying, “is where I carry on my work.
It is rather gloomy here after dark, but
then I do not spend much time here
during the night. I have decided to
acquaint you with some of the details
of one or two of my experiments.
Doubtless you will find them interesting.”
While speaking he had, mechanically
it seemed, reached for a glass humidor
in which were perhaps a dozen cigars.
Silently he selected one and extended
the rest to the two visitors.
After all three had puffed for a moment
at the weeds, the old man began
to talk, rapidly it seemed to them.
Perry from time to time took notes, as
the old man proceeded, an expression
of utter amazement gradually overspreading
his face. Handlon pulled
away contentedly at his cigar, and on
his features there grew an almost ludicrous
expression of well-being. Was
the simple photographer so completely
at ease that he had at length forsaken
all thought of possible danger?
As Professor Kell talked on he
seemed to warm to his subject. At the
end of five minutes he began uncovering
a peculiar apparatus which had
rested beneath the massive old table
before which they were sitting. The
two men caught the flash of light on
glass, and a jumble of coiled wires became
Was the air in the laboratory
getting unbearably close? Or
was the queer leaden feeling that had
taken possession of Perry’s lungs but
an indication of his overpowering
weariness? He felt a steadily increasing
irritation, as if for some strange
reason he suddenly resented the words
of their host, which seemed to be pouring
out in an endless stream. The
cigar had, paradoxically, an oddly
soothing quality, and he puffed away
Why had the room suddenly taken
on so hazy an aspect? Why did Handlon
grin in that idiotic manner? And
the Professor ... he was getting farther
and farther away ... that perfecto
... or was it an El Cabbajo?
What was the old archfiend doing to
him anyhow?... Why was he laughing
and leering at them so horribly?...
Confound it all ... that cigar
... where was it?... Just one more
Blindly he groped for the missing
weed, becoming aware of a cackle of
amusement nearby. Professor Kell was
standing near the spot where he had
fallen and now began prodding him
contemptuously with his toe.
“Fools!” he was saying. “You
thought to interfere with my program.
But you are in my power and you have
no hope of escape. I am unexpectedly
provided with more subjects for my
experiments. You will....” His
words became hazy and unintelligible,
for the hapless reporter was drifting
off into a numb oblivion. He had long
since lost the power to move a muscle.
Out of the corner of an eye, just before
he lost consciousness altogether, he
perceived Handlon lying upon the
floor still puffing at the fateful drugged
To the reporter came a vision
of a throbbing, glaring inferno, wherein
he was shaken and tossed by terrific
forces. His very vital essence seemed
to respond to a mighty vibration. Now
he was but a part of some terrific chaos.
Dimly he became aware of another being
with whom he must contend. Now
he was in a death struggle, and to his
horror he found himself being slowly
but surely overpowered. A demoniac
grin played upon the features of the
other as he forced the reporter to his
knees. It was Handlon.... Once
more he was sinking into soft oblivion,
the while a horrid miasma assailed his
nostrils. He was nothing....
Slowly, and with infinite effort,
Perry felt himself returning to
consciousness, though he had no clear
conception of his surroundings. His
brain was as yet but a whirling vortex
of confused sounds, colors and––yes,
odors. A temporary rift came in the
mental cloud which fettered his faculties,
and things began to take definite
shape. He became aware that he was
lying upon his back at some elevation
from the floor. Again the cloudy incubus
closed in and he knew no more.
When he finally recovered the use of
his faculties it was to discover himself
the possessor of a violent headache.
The pain came in such fearsome throbs
that it was well nigh unendurable. The
lamp still sputtered dimly where the
professor had left it. At the moment
it was on the point of going out altogether.
The reporter noticed this, and
over him stole a sense of panic. What
if the light should fail altogether, leaving
him lying in the dark in this frightful
place! Still dizzy and sick, he managed
to rise upon his elbows enough to
complete a survey of the room. He
was still in the laboratory of Professor
Kell, but that worthy had disappeared.
Of Handlon there was no sign. The
mysterious apparatus, of which he now
had but a vague remembrance, also had
His thoughts became confused again,
and wearily he passed a hand over his
brow in the effort to collect all of his
faculties. The lamp began to sputter,
arousing him to action. Desperately
he fought against the benumbing sensation
that was even again stealing over
him. Gradually he gained the ascendancy.
He struggled dizzily to his feet
and took a few tentative steps.
Where was Handlon? He decided
his friend had probably recovered from
the drug first and was gone, possibly
to get a doctor for him, Perry. However,
he must make some search to determine
if Skip had really left the
As he walked through the open door
the lamp in his hand gave a last despairing
flicker and went out. From
there he was forced to grope his way
down the dark hall to the stairs. Just
how he reached the lower floor he was
never able to remember, for as yet all
the effect of the powerful drug had
not worn off. He had a dim recollection
of being thankful to the ancestor
of Kell who had provided such thick
carpets in these halls. Thanks to them
his footsteps had been noiseless, at any
What was Kell’s real object in giving
them those drugged cigars? he
wondered. How long had they been
under the influence of the lethal stuff?
Surely several hours. Upon glancing
through a hall window he found that
outside was the blackness of midnight.
Cautiously he explored the
desolate chambers on the ground
floor: the kitchen––where it could be
plainly seen that cooking of a sort had
been done––the barn, and woodshed.
Not a living thing could he find, not
even the huge wolf-hound which had
attacked them in so strange a manner
By now he was quite frankly worried
on Handlon’s account. At that
moment, could he have known the actual
fate that had overtaken his companion,
it is quite probable he would
have gone mad. He stumbled back and
into the dark front hall, shouting his
friend’s name. The response was a
hollow echo, and once or twice he
thought he heard the ghost of a mocking
At length he gave up the search and
started for the door, intent now only
upon flight from the accursed place.
He would report the whole thing to the
office and let Bland do what he pleased
about it. Doubtless Handlon had already
left. Then he stumbled over
Handlon’s camera. Evidently the Professor
had neglected to take possession
of it. That must be rescued, at all
costs. He picked it up and felt the
exposed plate still inside. He started
again for the door.
What little light there was faded out
and he felt stealing over him a horrid
sensation of weakness. Again came a
period of agony during which he felt
the grip of unseen forces. Once more
it seemed that he was engaged in mortal
strife with Skip Handlon. Malevolently
Handlon glared at him as he endeavored
with all his strength to overcome
Perry. This time, however, the
latter seemed to have more strength
and resisted the attack for what must
have been hours. Finally the other
drew away baffled.
At this the mental incubus surrounding
Perry’s faculties broke. Dimly he
became aware of a grinding noise nearby
and a constant lurching of his body.
At length his vision cleared sufficiently
to enable him to discover the cause
of the peculiar sensations.
He was in a railroad coach!
He took a rapid glance around and
noted a drummer sitting in the
seat across the aisle, staring curiously
at him. With an effort Perry assumed
an inscrutable expression and determined
to stare the other out of countenance.
Reluctantly the man glanced
away, and after a moment, under Perry’s
stony gaze, he suddenly arose and
chose a new seat in front of the car.
Perry took to the solace of a cigarette
and stared out at the flying telegraph
poles. From time to time he noted
familiar landmarks. The train had evidently
left Keegan far behind and was
already nearly into the home town.
For the balance of the ride the reporter
experienced pure nightmare.
The peculiar sensations of dizziness,
accompanied by frightful periods of
insensibility, kept recurring, now,
however, not lasting more than ten or
fifteen minutes at a time. At such
times as he was conscious he found opportunity
to wonder in an abstracted
sort of way how he had ever managed
to get on the train and pay his fare,
which must have been a cash one, without
arousing the conductor’s suspicions.
Discovery of a rebate in his
pocket proved that he must have done
so, however. The business of leaving
the train and getting to the office has
always been an unknown chapter in
He came out of one of his mental
fogs to find himself seated in the private
editorial sanctum of the Journal.
Evidently he had just arrived. Bland,
a thick-set man with the jaw of a bulldog,
was eyeing him intently.
“Well! Any report to make?” The
question was crisp.
The reporter passed a hand across
his perspiring forehead. “Yes, I guess
so. I––er––that is––you see––”
“Where’s Handlon? What happened
to you? You act as if you were drunk.”
Bland was not in an amiable mood.
“Search me,” Perry managed to respond.
“If Skip isn’t here old man
Kell must have done for him. I came
“You wha-a-t?” the irate editor fairly
roared, half rising from his chair.
“Tell me exactly what happened and
get ready to go back there on the next
train. Or––no, on second thoughts
you’d better go to bed. You look all
used up. Handlon may be dead or dying
at this minute. That Kell could
do anything.” He pressed the button
on his desk.
“Johnny,” he said to the office boy,
“get O’Hara in here on the double
quick and tell him to bring along his
hat and coat.”
He turned again to Perry, who
was gazing nervously at the
door. “Now tell me everything that
happened and make it fast,” he ordered.
The reporter complied, omitting
nothing except the little matter of his
mental lapses at the house of Professor
Kell and later on the train. The incident
of the drugged cigars seemed to
interest the Old Man hugely, and Perry
did not forget to play up Handlon’s exploits
in getting the picture of the
Professor. All through the recital he
was in a sweat for fear that he might
have a recurrence of one of his brain
spells and that Bland would become
cognizant of it. When would the Chief
finish and let him escape from the office?
Desperately he fought to prevent
the numbing sensation from overcoming
him. All that kept him from
finally fleeing the place in panic was
the entrance of Jimmie O’Hara.
Slight, wiry and efficient looking,
this individual was a specimen of the
perfect Journal reporter. This is saying
a good deal, for the news crew and
editorial force of the were a
carefully selected body of men indeed.
Bland never hired a man unless experience
had endowed him with some
unusual qualification. Most of them
could write up a story with realistic
exactitude, being able in most cases
to supply details gleaned from actual
experience in one walk of life or another.
Of this redoubtable crew probably
the queerest was Jimmie O’Hara.
Jimmie had just finished a sentence in
the “pen” for safe-cracking at the time
he landed the job with the Journal.
Theoretically all men should have
shunned him on account of his jailbird
taint. Not so Bland. The Chief was
independent in his ideas on the eternal
fitness of things and allowed none of
the ordinary conventions of humanity
to influence his decisions. So Jimmie
became one of the staff and worked
hard to justify Bland in hiring him.
His former profession gave him valuable
sidelights upon crime stories of
all kinds, and he was almost invariably
picked as the man to write these
up for the columns.
“Jimmie,” said the Chief, “we have
need of an experienced strong-arm man
and all around second story worker.
You are the only man on the force who
fills the bill for this job. Perry here
has just returned from Keegan, where
I sent him to interview Professor Kell.
Skip Handlon went with him, but
failed to return. We want to know
what happened to Skip. That is your
job. Get Handlon! If he is dead let
me know by long distance phone and
I’ll have a couple of headquarters men
down there in a hurry. Get a good
fast car and don’t waste any time.
O’Hara stopped long enough to get
the location of Professor Kell’s place
fixed in his mind, then abruptly departed.
Bland gazed after him musingly.
“The Professor will have some job
to put anything over on that bird,” he
said grimly. “Personally, I’m sorry
for the old soul.”
After leaving the Journal office
Jimmie proceeded directly to a
certain stable where he kept his private
car. It was a long, low speedster
with a powerful engine, and capable
of eating up distance. It was the work
of a minute to touch the starter and
back out of the yard.
For the next hour he held the
wheel grimly while the car roared over
the seventy-odd miles to Keegan.
Would he be in time? At last a sign
post told him that he was within five
miles of the railroad crossing at Keegan.
Now the headlights were picking
out the black outlines of the freight
shed, and the next moment he had
swept over the tracks. The luminous
dial on his wrist watch notified him
that he had been on the road but little
over an hour, but his spirits somehow
refused to revive with the knowledge.
About a mile beyond the station he
drove the car into a dark wood road
and parked it, turning off all lights.
The rest of the way to the Professor’s
mansion he did on foot. Rather than
approach from the front of the grounds
he nimbly climbed a stone wall and,
crossing a field or two, entered the
stretch of woods which extended just
behind the mansion. His pocket flashlight
here came into use, and once or
twice he gave a reassuring pat to a
rear pocket where bulged a heavy Colt
What was that? He had approached
very close to the rear
of the house now. No lights were visible
as yet, but unless he was greatly
mistaken he had heard a muffled
scream. He stopped in his tracks and
listened intently. Again it came, this
time with a blood-curdling cadence
ending in what he would have sworn
was a choking sob.
The little job of getting the old-fashioned
rear window open was a
mere nothing to the experienced
O’Hara, and in a moment he was inside
the house. His feet struck soft carpet.
Catlike, he stepped to one side in order
to prevent any hidden eyes from perceiving
his form silhouetted in the dim
light of the open window. He dared
not use his flashlight for fear that the
circle of light would betray his position,
thus making him an excellent target
for possible bullets. Following the
wall closely he managed to circle the
room without mishap. His searching
fingers finally came in contact with a
door frame, and he breathed a sigh of
relief. Here there was nothing to bar
his progress except some moth-eaten
portieres. These he brushed aside.
The room which he now entered was
probably the same into which the Professor
had ushered Handlon and Perry
the day before. There being still no
sign of life about, the reporter decided
to throw caution to the winds. He
brought his flash into play. Quickly
casting the powerful beam around the
chamber he examined the place with
an all-searching glance.
With a stifled oath he turned
his attention to the other rooms in the
immediate vicinity. The brilliant light
revealed not the slightest trace of a
person, living or dead. The sound
must have come from the second story
or from the cellar. He decided on the
Feverish with impatience because of
the valuable time he had already lost,
he bounded up the heavily carpeted
stairs two at a time. Now to his keen
ears came certain faint sounds which
told him that he was on the right track.
Before him extended a long, dusty hall,
terminating in a single heavy door.
Several other doors opened at intervals
along the corridor. One or two
of these were open, and he threw the
beam from his flash hastily into one
after another of them. He saw only
dusty and mildewed chamber furnishings
of an ancient massive style.
Suddenly he pricked up his ears.
The door ahead of him was creaking
slowly open. Instantly he extinguished
his torch and leaped into the nearest
room. Whoever was opening that end
door was carrying a lamp. What if
the Professor had accomplices who
might discover him and overpower him
by force of numbers! O’Hara drew
the automatic from his pocket, deriving
a comforting assurance from the
feel of the cold steel. Here was something
no man could resist could he but
get it into action. The light was now
nearly abreast of his door, and for a
sickening instant he thought the
prowler was coming into the room. He
held his breath. Now the lamp was at
the open door, and now it was quickly
withdrawn. After a breathless second
he tip-toed forward and peered cautiously
down the hallway.
About here it was that James O’Hara
began to realize that this was going to
be a horrible night indeed. He had
wondered why the progress of the light
had been so deathly slow. Now he
knew why, by reason of what he saw––and
what he saw made him feel rather
sick. The man with the lantern was
quite plainly Professor Kell, bent nearly
double with the weight of a grotesquely
big thing on his back, a thing
that flung a dim, contorted shadow on
the ceiling. And that thing was a dead
A corpse it was––the attitude
proved that. With a numb relief
O’Hara realized it was not the
body of Skip Handlon. This had been
a much larger man than Skip, and the
clothing was different from anything
Handlon had worn.
The light was now disappearing
down the stairway. For a moment
O’Hara felt undecided as to his next
move. Should he follow Kell and his
burden, or should he not take advantage
of this fine opportunity to continue
his search of the upper story?
That scream still rang in his ears;
there had been a very evident feminine
quality in it, and the remembrance of
that fact reproached him. Had he been
guilty of mincing daintily about in
this old house while a woman was being
done to death under his nose, when
a little bolder action on his part might
have saved her?
Stepping once more into the hall he
advanced to the door just closed behind
the Professor and tried it, only
to find it locked. Out of a pocket came
several articles best known to the “profession”––a
piece of stiff wire, a skeleton
key and other paraphernalia calculated
to reduce the obstinate mechanism
to submission. For a minute, two,
three, he worked at the ancient lock;
then, without a creak, the door swung
open. A touch of oil to the hinges had
insured their silence. Jimmie O’Hara
believed in being artistic in his work,
especially when it came to fine points,
and he was.
He found himself in the same
room where the drugged cigars
had been proved the undoing of Handlon
and Perry. In order not to alarm
the Professor unduly by chance noises
and perhaps invite a surprise attack
upon himself, O’Hara closed the laboratory
door behind him and let the
lock spring again. Hastily he made
search of the place. No trace of the
missing reporter could he find, except
two half-consumed cigars in a corner
whence the Professor had impatiently
On the big table in the center of the
room, however, was an object which
excited his interest. It was apparently
nothing more or less than a giant
Crookes tube, connected in some way
with a complicated mechanism contained
in a wooden cabinet under the
table. Probably this apparatus was
concerned in the Professor’s weird experiments
which had so aroused the
countryside. He studied it curiously,
his eyes for the moment closed in
thought, until a slight sound somewhere
near at hand caused him to open
them wide. Was the Kell returning?
Quickly he extinguished the lamp
and glided to a nearby door, thinking
to secrete himself here, and take Kell
by surprise. To his consternation the
door swung inward at a touch. He
prepared instinctively for battle
against any foe who might present
himself. For a moment he held himself
taut; then, nothing of an alarming
nature having happened, he drew a
swift breath of relief and flashed on
his light. He gave vent to a low exclamation.
The swiftly darting shaft
from the torch had revealed the figure
of a girl, bound and gagged.
The girl lay trembling on a
wretched bed in a corner of the
dilapidated old chamber. O’Hara
crossed the room and bent over her.
Still wary of a trap he glanced back in
the direction of the laboratory door:
all safe there. Jimmie made haste to
remove the cruel gag from her mouth.
“Courage,” he whispered. “Half a
minute and you will be free.”
He produced a knife with a suspiciously
long blade and cut her bonds.
He then assisted her to her feet, where
she reeled dizzily. Realizing the need
for fast action he made her sit down
while he massaged the bruised arms
and ankles, which were badly swollen
from the tight ropes. The girl had apparently
been in the grip of such terrible
fright that she had temporarily
lost her power of speech. Mentally he
chalked up another score against the
Professor as the girl made several ineffectual
attempts to speak.
“Easy, kid,” Jimmie whispered.
“Just sit tight, and when you feel able
you can tell me all about it. I’m going
to get him good for this, you can bank
She thanked him with a faint smile,
and of a sudden she found her voice.
“Who are you? Where is father?
Oh, tell me, please! I am afraid that
horrible man has murdered him. Are
you a servant here? Oh, I don’t know
whom to trust.”
“My name is Jimmie O’Hara,” replied
the reporter briefly; “and I hope
you won’t worry about me. I am gunning
for the Proff myself. Tell me as
quickly as you can what you know
about him.” He still kept an eye on
the door of the adjoining laboratory.
Any moment he expected to hear the
sound of the old man’s approach. The
room would make an ideal place to ambush
the maniac, he had swiftly decided.
“I am Norma Manion. Please don’t
delay, but see if you can locate
father.” The girl’s voice was agonized.
“I heard him groan a half-hour ago,
and a little later came a terrific crash.
Oh, I’m afraid he’s dead!”
Reluctantly Jimmie gave up
the idea of ambushing the Professor.
“Wait here,” he commanded curtly.
“If you hear a shot join me as soon as
you can. I want to take him alive if
I can, but....” With this parting
hint he disappeared through the door
into the laboratory. Down the carpeted
hall he crept to the stairway.
Here he stopped and listened, but to
his sensitive ears came no sound from
“Must have gone down the cellar
with the body,” he muttered. “Here
goes for a general exploration.”
With more boldness than the occasion
perhaps really justified he descended
the stairs and proceeded to
examine the ground floor rooms minutely.
The first was the room through
which he had made entrance to the
house. It proved to be but a storeroom
containing nothing of interest,
and he soon decided to waste no more
time on it.
The adjoining chamber, however,
yielded some surprising finds. He had
pushed back a dusty portiere to find
himself in what could be nothing less
than the Professor’s sleeping chamber.
At present the bed was unoccupied,
though it showed signs of recent use.
The electric torch played swiftly over
every possible corner which could constitute
a hiding place for an assassin,
revealing nothing. Now the ever-searching
ray fell upon an old-fashioned
dresser, on which was piled a
miscellaneous array of articles. Here
were combs, brushes, a wig, a huge
magnifying glass, and a gold watch.
With a barely suppressed exclamation,
Jimmie pounced upon the gold timepiece.
Handlon’s! So well did he know the
particular design of his watch that he
could have recognized it in the dark
by sense of touch alone. So the old
man was not averse to robbery among
his other activities! The former two-story
man thought fast. Handlon had
probably been done in, and the body
had been disposed of in some weird
manner. The only thing that remained
to be done, since the unlucky photographer
was evidently past human help,
was to cut short the Professor’s list of
With the intention of missing
no essential detail O’Hara
swept the ray of the searchlight around
the chamber once more, but discovered
no more of importance. Deciding that
the sleeping chamber could yield no
further clue he shut off the tell-tale
ray and stepped noiselessly back into
the next room. Here he groped his
way around until he encountered a
door, which stood open. A moment’s
cautious exploration with an outstretched
foot revealed the top step of
a descending staircase. No faintest
glimmer of light was visible, but muffled
sounds proceeding from the depths
told him that someone was below.
With infinite care, feeling his way
gingerly over the rickety old steps and
fearful that an unexpected creak from
one of the ancient boards would at any
moment prove his undoing, he commenced
the descent. Once a board did
groan softly, causing him to stop in his
tracks and stand with bated breath. He
listened for sign of a movement below,
while his heart loudly told off a dozen
strokes. Stealthily he continued his
progress, until finally soft earth under
his feet told him he had reached the
Now his straining eyes perceived a
tiny bit of light, and simultaneously
he became conscious of a deathly
stench. The damp earth padding his
footsteps, he advanced swiftly toward
the source of light, which now seemed
to lie in stripes across his line of vision.
He soon saw that the stairs gave
upon a small boarded-off section of
the cellar proper, and light was seeping
between the boards. Ah, and here was
a rickety door, fortuitously equipped
with a large knot-hole. O’Hara applied
an eye to this––and what he saw
nearly ruined even his cast iron nerve.
The Professor was working beside
a heavy wooden cask, from which
issued the horrible stench. From time
to time a sodden thud told that he was
hacking something to pieces with an
ax. Now and then he would strain
mightily at a dark and bulky thing
which lay on the floor, a thing that required
considerable strength to lift. It
seemed to be getting lighter after each
spasm of frenzied chopping. For a
second Kell’s shadow wavered away
from the thing, and the enervated
newspaper man saw it plainly. His
senses almost left him as he realized
that he was witnessing the dismemberment
of a human body.
As he hacked the fragments of tissue
from the torso the fiend carefully
deposited each in the huge cask. At
such times a faint boiling sound was
heard, and there arose an effluvium
that bade fair to overcome even the
monster engaged in the foul work. At
last the limbs and head had been entirely
removed. The Professor evidently
decided that the trunk should
be left whole, and he put his entire
strength into the job of getting it into
the cask. It was almost more than he
could negotiate, but finally a dull
splash told that he had succeeded.
At this moment Jimmie O’Hara came
out of his trance. The horrible proceeding
had left him faint and shaken,
and he wished heartily that he could
leave the disgusting place as fast as
his legs could carry him. But there
was still work to be done and he resolved
to get it over.
The lantern! First he must put that
out of commission. The maniac would
then be at his mercy. Slowly, steadily
he stole through the doorway, his eyes
glued to the Professor’s back. Now
he was within a yard of the lantern,
and he drew back his foot for the kick.
Next moment Jimmie found himself
gazing into the glaring eyes of his intended
victim. Instinctively he struck
out with the clubbed automatic, but
the blow must have fallen short, or else
the Professor had developed an uncanny
agility. Now to his horror he saw
the flashing blade of the bloodstained
ax raised on high. He had no time to
dodge the blow. He pressed the trigger
of the Colt from the position in
which he held it.
The bullet grazed the upraised
arm. The ax fell toward O’Hara
from fingers lacking strength to retain
it, and he grasped it by the handle in
midair. The next moment the assassin
collected his wits and sprang at him.
Silently, the breath of both coming in
gasps, the two men strove, each clawing
desperately at the other’s throat.
The reporter fought with the knowledge
that should he lose he would
never again see the light of day, the
other with the fear of the justice that
would deal with him.
The maniac hugged his arms tightly
about Jimmie, pinioning him so tightly
that the reporter could not use his gun.
At length their convulsive movements
brought the men close to the lantern,
and the next instant the cellar was
plunged in darkness. A second later
the Professor tripped over some hidden
obstruction and fell, dragging his
opponent with him to the earthen floor.
To Jimmie’s surprise there was no
further movement from the body beneath
him. Could the old be
playing possum? He cautiously shifted
his hold and grasped the hidden throat.
He pressed the Professor’s windpipe
for a moment, but there was no answering
struggle. Slowly the truth
dawned upon him. The heavy fall to
the floor had rendered the older man
He must work fast. Reaching into
his pocket he brought out the ever
handy electric torch and flashed it over
the features of his prisoner. Kell was
breathing heavily. With dexterous
swiftly went through
the old man’s pockets, removing all
which might tend to make that worthy
dangerous––an ugly looking pistol of
large caliber, a blackjack to
his own and a small bottle.
The latter item Jimmie examined
curiously, finally uncorking it and inhaling
the contents. He inhaled, not
wisely but too well. The fumes from
the vial were nigh overpowering, and
he reeled back nauseated. The cork he
hastily replaced. Just what the nature
of the powerful stuff was he never attempted
to discover. One acquaintance was enough.
He staggered to his feet and got
the lantern lighted, then sat, gun
in hand, waiting for his prisoner’s return
to his senses. This was becoming
increasingly imminent, judging by certain
changes in the Professor’s respiration.
Finally there came a series of
shuddering movements as the man attempted
to raise his battered body.
“Get up, you damned butcher,” ordered
Jimmie, “and march upstairs.
And just remember that I’ve got you
covered; don’t make any false moves.”
He prodded the prostrate form of the
by now glaring fiend before him. The
stench of the place was nearly overcoming
him, and again he felt an overwhelming
desire to dash madly from
that den of evil, and once more breathe
God’s fresh air. Under the stimulus
of several shoves the Professor finally
won to his feet and stumbled up the
stairs. Jimmie was taking no chances
and kept the automatic sharply digging
into the ribs of his prisoner. The
fight, however, seemed temporarily to
have been all taken out of the old man,
and he made no resistance as the reporter
drove him on up to the laboratory.
The room he found exactly as he
left it. At a word from him Norma
Manion came from her hiding place in
the horrible room where she had been
With an hysterical scream she fell
limply to the floor. The sight of her
father’s murderer had proved too much
for her. Forgetting his prisoner for
the moment Jimmie sprang to the girl’s
Kell chose this moment to make a
dash for freedom. His footsteps, however,
were not as noiseless as he had
intended, and O’Hara whirled just in
time to see his quarry about to throw
open the hall door. Jimmie dove for
his gun, only to encounter the Professor’s
mysterious vial, which, though
forgotten, still lay in his pocket. With
no time to think, he acted purely upon
instinct. His arm drew back and the
bottle flew straight for the Professor’s
By a miracle the missile missed
its mark. Came a shivering
crash, as the bottle struck a stud in
the massive door. Of a sudden recalling
the terrific potency of the contents
of that particular bottle, Jimmie
gasped in dismay. Norma Manion’s
safety drove every other thought from
his mind. At any cost he must remove
her from the proximity of those lethal
Hastily and without a backward
glance, he gathered the girl into his
arms and dashed into the room where
he had first found her. Ascertaining
that she had but swooned he placed
her gently on the bed. In some perplexity
as to his next move he stared
at the beautiful face now so wan and
white. Queer that he hadn’t noticed
the fact before––she was beautiful. He
even took a second look, then noting a
continued absence of all sound from
the laboratory decided to investigate.
Gingerly he pushed open the door,
sniffing the air cautiously as he advanced.
To his nostrils gradually came
a slight scent, which though almost
imperceptible made his senses reel. As
he approached the hall door he found
the atmosphere heavy with the soporific
vapors from the broken vial, and
he staggered drunkenly.
He gave a start of surprise. On the
floor, lying in a grotesque huddle
which suggested a most unpleasant possibility,
was the inert body of Professor
Jimmie bent over the body and put
an experienced ear to the heart.
Yes, there as a faint beat––very faint.
Even as he listened he perceived a
slight increase in the respiration. Now
the breath began coming in great, choking
gasps, only to die suddenly to next
to nothing. At last with a rueful sigh
Jimmie reached to his hip and produced
the private O’Hara flagon. He
stooped over the Professor’s form once
more and by dint of much prying at
clenched jaws managed to force a sizeable
charge of fiery liquid down the
old man’s throat. Jimmie had just begun
to entertain a strong hope that
this latter effort would bring the Professor
to life, when his keen ear detected
signs of a commotion below.
He sprang from his position over the
slowly reviving Kell and leaped to a
vantage point beside the door. A
blackjack miraculously appeared from
some hidden part of his anatomy and
the ever-dependable Colt also became
in evidence. Now came the banging
of a door, muffled voices, a crash as of
a chair overturned in the dark. Up
rolled a horrible oath, and the same
was rendered in a voice to Jimmie
sweetly familiar. Came the sound of
footsteps on the stairway and several
persons coming along the hall.
“Where in hell is Jimmie?” roared a
wicked voice. “If he’s met with any
monkey business in this hell-hole I’ll
see that the damned place burns to
the ground before I leave it!”
Delightedly Jimmie jerked
open the door.
“Still alive, Chief,” he chirped as
the Old Man strode into the laboratory.
Bland was followed by Perry, who
seemed to be in a sort of daze. Bringing
up the rear were a pair of plainclothesmen
whom Jimmie knew very
well––almost too well. One of these
gentlemen bore a lantern which reminded
Jimmie strongly of some he
had seen that night guarding an open
ditch in the public highway.
The Professor had fully regained
consciousness and was struggling to
his feet. As for Norma Manion, she
had suddenly appeared, leaning weakly
against the door casing, and was surveying
the group in great alarm.
After being assured by O’Hara that
they were her friends she smiled wanly.
To Bland and the others she was,
of course, an unexpected factor in the
weird night’s doings, and for several
moments they regarded her curiously.
At length Jimmie, sensing the question
in the Old Man’s eyes, elected to
offer a few words of explanation.
“Miss Manion has just been through
a terrible experience,” he said. “She
and her father have been for some time
at the mercy of this monster”––indicating
Kell––“and her nerves are completely
shattered. We’d better get her
out of this as quickly as we can.”
“Mike!” Hard Boiled Bland glared
at one of the officers. “Don’t stand
there with your teeth in your gums
like that. Take this girl out to my
car and let her lie down. She needs
a stimulant, too. If you search my car
and find red liquor in the left back
door pocket, I don’t know a thing about
it. And stay with her so she won’t be
afraid to go to sleep.”
She smiled in silent gratitude and
allowed the plainclothesman to lead
her away from that chamber of horror.
The reporter lost no time in telling
Bland of his failure to find
Skip Handlon. He went on to acquaint
his Chief with the facts of all
that had occured while he had been at
the Professor’s house.
The fiery old fellow listened grimly.
When Jimmie came to the story of the
corpse and the cask the editor breathed
one word, “Manion!”
Jimmie nodded sadly. All eyes
turned to the dejected huddle on the
floor that was Professor Kell. Finally
Bland could wait no longer, but fixed
a terrible eye on the murderer and demanded
harshly, “Where’s Handlon?”
Now the Professor burst into a fit
of insane laughter, laughter that curdled
the blood of the listeners.
“You ask me that! It’s almost too
good. Hee-hee! You sent your two
precious reporters out to my house to
pry into my secrets, and thought to display
my name all over your yellow
sheet; but you forgot that you were
dealing with Professor Anton Kell,
didn’t you?” The last he fairly
shrieked. “A lot of people have tried
to intrude upon me before, but none
ever escaped me!”
“We know that,” cut in Jimmie, for
he was getting impatient and the old
man’s boastings seemed out of place.
“You are slated for the rope anyway,
after what I discovered down cellar.”
He jerked his eyes in the direction of
the door significantly. “Now we propose
to find Handlon, and the better it
will be for you if you tell us what you
have done with him. Otherwise....”
“You can go to hell!” screamed the
maniac. “If you are so clever, find out
for yourselves. He isn’t so far away
that you couldn’t touch him by reaching
out your hand. In fact, he’s been
with you quite a while. Hee-hee-hee!
Well, if you must know––there he is!”
With an insane chuckle he pointed at
Horace Perry. And Perry did a strange
“Yes, you fiend, here I am!” Whose
voice was that? Was it Perry speaking,
or was it Skip Handlon? Most
assuredly Perry stood before them, but
the voice, in a subtle manner, reminded
the group strongly of poor old Skip.
As he spoke Perry had launched
himself at the Professor’s throat
and had to be restrained by the others.
Savagely he fought them but slowly
and surely they overcame his struggles
and placed him, writhing, in a chair.
Of a sudden Bland leaned forward
and scrutinized Perry’s face sharply.
Had the reporter gone insane too? The
pupils of the eyes had taken on a sort
of queer contraction, a fixed quality
that was almost ludicrous. He looked
like a man under hypnosis. He had
gone limp in their grasp, but now suddenly
he stiffened. The eyes underwent
another startling change, this
time glowing undoubtedly with the
look of reason. Bland was mystified
and waited for Perry to explain his
queer conduct. The latter seemed
finally to come to. Simultaneously he
realized that his peculiar lapse from
consciousness had been observed by the
“Guess I may as well admit it,” he
said with a wry smile. “Ever since I
came back from my assignment with
Kell I have had a hell of a time. Half
the time I have been in a daze and
have not had the least idea what I was
doing. Funny part of it is that I have
seemed to keep right on doing things
even while I was out of my head.” He
told briefly of the visions he had had
in which he had seemed to contend
with his brother reporter, the horrid
sensations as he felt himself overcome,
the black oblivion in which he then
found himself, and the mysterious
manner in which he had left Keegan
on that ill-fated assignment.
“What have you done to Handlon?”
Jimmie’s voice cut in. He was standing
over the form of the maniac, rigid
and menacing. “You have exactly two
minutes to go.”
“Find out for yourself!” snarled the
bruised and battered fiend.
“I will,” was the answer, and on the
instant a horrible shriek rent the air.
Jimmie had quickly grasped both of
the Professor’s arms at the wrists and
was slowly twisting them in a grip of
iron. Kell’s face went white, the lips
writhed back over toothless gums, the
eyes closed in the supreme effort to
withstand the excruciating pain.
“Enough, enough!” he screamed.
O’Hara eased the pressure slightly
but retained his hold upon the
clawlike hands. “Talk fast,” he ordered.
The old man struggled futilely in
the grasp of the powerful reporter,
finally glancing in the direction of the
others. Would they show signs of
pity? Surely not Hard Boiled Bland.
The Chief was watching the struggles
of the victim through a cloud of
tobacco smoke which he was slowly
exhaling through his nose. The plainclothesman
displayed no sign of interest
at all. The game was up!
“Very well,” he said sullenly.
“Handlon and Perry are both occupying
the same body.”
“Wh-a-a-t?” roared Bland. “Jimmie,
I guess you’ll have to put the screws to
him some more. He’s trying to make
fools of us at the last minute!”
“No, no!” screamed the Professor.
“What I say is true. I have been working
for years on my system of de-astralization.
This last year I at length
perfected my electric de-astralizer,
which amplifies and exerts the fifth influence
The whole party began to look uneasy
and gazed apprehensively at the
huge Crookes tube which still stood in
its supporting frame on the table.
“I have been forced to experiment on
animals for the most part,” the Professor
continued. “I succeeded in de-astralizing
a dog and a bull and caused
them to exchange bodies. The bodies
continued to function. I was enthusiastic.
Other experiments took place
of which I will not tell you. Finally
I began to long for a human subject on
which to try my fifth influence.”
“Just get down to cases, if you don’t
mind, Kell.” The Chief wanted action.
“Suppose you tell us just what you did
to Handlon and where we can find him.
I may as well mention that your life
depends upon it. If we find that you
have done for him, something worse
than death may happen to you.” The
tone was menacing. Although Handlon
was a comparatively late acquisition
to the old Chief’s staff, still he had
been loyal to the paper.
“When your two damned reporters
entered my driveway,” Kell resumed.
“I saw them coming through a powerful
glass which I always have on hand.
I had no desire to see them, but they
forced themselves upon me. At last I
determined that they should furnish
material for my experiments.
“If your men had looked into the
grove behind the barn they would
have found the automobile which furnished
two more subjects I was keeping
on hand in a room upstairs. Old
Manion and his daughter gave me quite
a bit of trouble, but I kept them
drugged most of the time. He broke
out of the room to-night though, and I
had to kill him. It was self defense,”
he added slyly.
“Anyway, I found it was possible to
make two astrals exchange bodies. But
I also wanted to see if it were possible
to cause two astrals to occupy the same
body at the same time, and if so what
the result would be. I found out. It
was rare sport to watch your star reporter
leave my house. He was damned
glad to leave, I believe....” Again
came the insane cackle.
“Guess we have to believe him
whether we want to or not.” The detective
came to life. “How about making
him release Handlon’s––what d’ye
call it?––astral––from Perry’s body?”
“Just a moment.” The voice now
was unmistakably Handlon’s, though it
was issuing from the throat of Perry.
“In the minute I have in consciousness
let me suggest that before you do any
more de-astralizing you locate my
body. Until then, if I am released
from this one I am a dead man.”
The words struck the group dumb.
Where was Handlon’s body? Could
the Professor produce it?
That worthy looked rather haunted
at that moment, and they began to see
the fear of death coming upon him.
“Mercy, mercy!” he begged as the
four men started to advance upon him.
“As soon as I had de-astralized Handlon
I destroyed his body in my pickling
barrel down cellar. But there is
another way....” He paused, uncertain
as to how his next words would be
received. “Go out and get the Manion
girl. She can be de-astralized and
friend Handlon can have her body.”
At this suggestion, advanced so
naïvely, the four men recoiled in
horror. It was entirely too much even
for Hard Boiled Bland, and he could
hardly restrain himself from applying
the editorial fist to the leering face before
him. Undoubtedly Professor Kell
was hopelessly insane, and for that reason
he held himself in leash.
“Kell, you are slated to pull off one
more stunt,” Jimmie addressed the
cringing heap. “You know what it is.
Get busy. And just remember that I
am standing over here”––he indicated
a corner well separated from the rest––“with
this cannon aimed in your direction.
If things aren’t just according to
Hoyle, you get plugged. Get me?”
“What about it, men?” Bland spoke
up. “Is it going to be treating Handlon
right to de-astralize him now? It
will be his last chance to have a body
on this earth.”
“Unfortunately that body never belonged
to Handlon,” said O’Hara.
“Hence I fail to see why Perry should
be discommoded for the balance of his
life with a companion astral. Perry is
clearly entitled to his own body, free
and unhampered. Friend Skip is out
of luck, unless––Well, I don’t mind
telling you, Kell, that you just gave
me an idea. Snap into it now!”
The Professor dragged himself to his
feet and under the menace of the automatic
fumbled under the table until he
had located the intricate apparatus before
“Now if Mr. Perry––or Handlon––will
kindly recline at full length on
this table,” he said with an obscene
leer, “the experiment will begin.”
“Just remember, Kell, this is no experiment,”
advised Bland, fixing the
Professor with an ugly eye. “You do
as you’re told.”
The other made no reply, but threw
a hidden switch. Perry, lying flat on
his back on the ancient table, suddenly
found himself being bathed by what
seemed to be a ray of light, and yet was
not a ray of light. What was it? It
was surely not visible, yet it was tangible.
A terrific force was emanating
from that devilish globe above him,
drawing him out of himself––or––no––was
he expanding? Again his ears became
filled with confused, horrible
sounds, the outlines of the room faded
from sight, he felt a strange sense of
inflation ... of lightness.... Oblivion!
From where the others sat a gasp
of wonder went up. At the first
contact of the switch there had been a
momentary flash of greenish light
within the bulb, and then a swift
transition to a beautiful orange. It had
then faded altogether, leaving the
glass apparently inert and inactive.
But it was not so! The form lying
beneath the bulb was evidently being
racked with untold tortures. The face
became a thing of horror. Now it had
twisted into a grotesque semblance of
Handlon’s––now it again resembled
Perry’s. The Professor quietly increased
the pressure of the current.
From the bulb emanated a steel gray
exhalation of what must be termed
light, and yet so real it was seemingly
material. Assuredly it was not a ray of
light as we understand light. It came
in great beating throbs, in which the
actual vibrations were entirely visible.
Under each impact the body of Perry
seemed to change, slowly at first, then
with increasing speed. The body was
now swelled to enormous size. Bland
reached forward to touch it.
“This de-cohering influence,” the
Professor was murmuring, almost
raptly, “causes the atoms that go to
make a living body repel one another.
When the body is sufficiently nebulized,
the soul––Back! Back, you
fool!” he suddenly shrieked, grasping
Bland by the arm. “Do you want to
Bland hurriedly retreated, convinced
perforce that Kell’s alarm was genuine.
The editorial fingers had penetrated
the subject’s garments without
resistance and sank into the body as
easily as if it were so much soft soap!
The body continued to expand until
at length even the hard-headed
plainclothesman realized that it had
been reduced to a mere vapor. Within
this horrid vaporized body, which
nearly filled the room and which had
now lost all semblance to a man, could
be discerned two faint shapes. Swiftly
the Professor extinguished the lantern.
The shapes, vague though they were,
could be recognized as those of Horace
Perry and Skip . And they
were at strife!
All eyes were now on Professor
Kell, who was evidently waiting
for something to happen. The two apparitions
within the body-cloud were
at death grips. One had been overcome
and was temporarily helpless. It was
that of Handlon. And then again the
astral of Perry forcibly ousted that of
Handlon from the cloud-cyst. And at
that instant Professor Kell shut off the
At once a terrific metamorphosis
took place. There came a sharp sound
almost like a clap of thunder, with the
slight exception that this was occasioned
by exactly the reverse effect.
Instead of being an explosion it might
more properly be termed an inplosion,
for the mist-cloud suddenly vanished.
The de-cohering influence having been
removed, the cloud had condensed into
the form of Perry. Apparently none
the worse, he was even now beginning
to recover consciousness. The astral
of Handlon was no longer visible,
though hovering in the vicinity.
Perry’s body was again his own.
At this time Jimmie O’Hara elected
to start something new by hitting
the Professor a workmanlike blow on
the back of the head with the butt of
his automatic. The next thing Bland
or anyone else present knew the unconscious
body of the Professor was on
the table and Jimmie was groping for
the concealed switch. At length he
found it, and the green flash of light
appeared in the bulb, followed by the
brilliant orange manifestation.
“What in hell are you doing?”
“De-astralizing the Professor,” replied
O’Hara cheerfully. “Don’t you
get the idea yet? Watch!”
Fascinated, the four men saw the terrific
emanation take its baleful effect.
As before, the body commenced to expand
and gradually took on a misty
outline. Larger and larger it grew, until
finally it had become a vast cloud
of intangible nothingness which filled
the room like some evil nebula.
A cry of consternation from the detective
aroused Jimmie. Skip Handlon’s
astral had appeared within the
field of the nebula to fight for possession.
There ensued what was perhaps
the weirdest encounter ever witnessed.
Though he was in poor physical shape,
the Professor seemed to have an extremely
powerful astral; and for some
time the spectators despaired of Handlon’s
victory. Once the latter, evidently
realizing that the powerful influence
tube had rendered him visible,
glanced sharply in Jimmie’s direction.
O’Hara was considerably puzzled at
this, but watched the progress of the
struggle tensely. At length the moment
seemed to arrive which the reporter’s
astral had been awaiting. It
turned tail and fled away from the
astral of the Professor, disappearing
beyond the outer confines of the
Jimmie suddenly divined the other’s
purpose and dived for the hidden
switch. As he had anticipated, Handlon
had finally given up the attempt to
overcome the astral of Kell by force
and had made up his mind to accomplish
his end by strategy. Almost on
the instant that Jimmie’s hand closed
on the switch the reporter’s astral
again leaped into the field of the nebula.
Fiercely it signalled to the former
second story man to shut off the current,
but the admonition was unnecessary,
for Jimmie had already done so.
Swiftly the cloud-cyst faded.
Even as the group caught a fleeting
sight of Skip Handlon, the last that
mortal eyes would ever see of him as
he actually was, there came a violent
disturbance at the edge of the shrinking
nebula. Would the speed of condensation
of the atoms which comprised
the body of Professor Kell serve
to shut out the pursuing astral of Kell?
Even Bland held his breath!
The cloud lost its luminous quality,
the action of condensation increasing
in speed. It was barely visible in the
enshrouding gloom. An astral had
long since been enveloped within the
rapidly accumulating substance. Came
a sudden clap of sound as before, and
the final act of resolution had been accomplished.
Whether the Professor
had succeeded in regaining a position
within the cloud-cyst before the crucial
second none could say.
Jimmie relighted the lantern. Apparently
the effect of the love tap administered
by his automatic was more
or less of a lasting character, and the
men were put to some ado to restore
the body of Kell to consciousness. At
length their efforts began to bear fruit,
however, and it became expedient to
remove the patient to the softer couch
in the sitting room below. As they
moved forward to lay hold of the limp
body a figure appeared in the doorway
to the hall. It was the plainclothesman,
“How about getting under way for
town,” he wanted to know. “Is the old
party croaked yet? Miss Manion has
had a fierce time and says she won’t
stay near this house another minute.
I don’t like this place myself either.
Do you know I just got kicked by a
poll parrot? Let’s get away from
“Hold on, Riley, what are you talking
about?” growled Bland. “Kicked
by a poll parrot! You’re––”
“That’s all right, Chief,” broke in the
now thoroughly cheerful Perry. “That
jackass I shot could probably have told
us all about it. I positively know the
beast could talk.”
“Humph!” snorted Bland, “Well, if
a donkey can talk, and a bull can bite,
and a hound can hook, why shouldn’t
a parrot––Judas Priest, I’m getting as
crazy as the rest of you! Hurry up
and get downstairs so we can see
who he is. There I go again! Oh, go
lie down, Riley.”
“But look, Bland, look!” Riley was
pointing a demoralized finger at a cage
in the corner. He tugged frantically at
Bland’s coat sleeve. “See what’s in
there, won’t you? I––well, I did find
some liquor in your car, and Miss
Manion made me take some. I––I
didn’t know it would do this to me.
Look in there; please, Mr. Bland!”
Bland gave Riley a dark look,
but nevertheless he reached for
O’Hara’s flashlight. In the cage two
yellow eyes blinked sleepily out at him.
Perry began to laugh.
“Why, there’s nothing in there but a
cat. Skip and I heard it purring when
we first came in here this afternoon.
“Great God, Jimmie, give me your
gun!” Hard Boiled Bland for the moment
failed to merit his sobriquet. The
torch in his hand threw a trembling
beam full into the cage. “It’s a snake!
And––there! It’s doing it again!”
A snake it was, indubitably, a huge
black specimen with bright yellow
stripes. Bland’s frenzied yell seemed
not to have excited it at all, for now the
sleek fellow had arched its body neatly
and was calmly licking its sides with a
long forked tongue. After a moment it
halted the operation long enough to
rub its jaw against a bar of its cage,
and gave vent to a sociable mew!
Even this could not dash the spirits
of Horace Perry. He laughed delightedly
again as he laid Bland by the arm.
“That creature is perfectly harmless,
Chief,” he told the editor. “Somewhere
I suppose there’s a mighty dangerous
kitty cat at large, but there’s no
sense in taking it out on this poor reptile.
Let’s live and let live.”
With a show of reluctance Bland returned
Jimmie’s automatic, then strode
over to where lay the form of Kell.
Perry and O’Hara lingered by the cage
long enough to arrange a plan to let the
snake out doors as soon as opportunity
offered, after which they joined their
Chief. Riley went out to resume his
vigil in Bland’s car, while his fellow
sleuth prepared to light the way downstairs.
Under his guidance the sick
man was carried below without mishap.
Downstairs the now conscious form
of the venerable Professor was laid out
on the ancient sofa until his senses
could clear a bit. Presently the eyelids
fluttered open and a feeble voice
asked, “Where the deuce am I, and how
did all you guys get here?”
A joyous gasp went up. That
voice! Although uttered in somewhat
the same vocal quality as Kell’s
the intonation and accents had strangely
altered. O’Hara leaned eagerly over
the figure on the couch. The question
he asked was startling in its incongruity:
“How are you feeling, Skip!”
“,” was the reply from the lips
of Kell. “What hit me such a crack on
the dome? I feel as if I had been
dragged through a knot-hole. Lemme
“Stay still,” commanded O’Hara,
kindly but firmly. “You aren’t fit to
move yet. You are going on a long ride
and will need your strength. Don’t
A half-hour later they left the house.
In the front yard the editor called a
hasty conclave which included the entire
party. Hard Boiled Bland has
never been known to talk so much at a
stretch, before or since.
“Before we start back,” he began,
“we had better come to an understanding.
In the first place––Skip, come
over here a minute.”
Norma Manion uttered an involuntary
cry of fear as the aged form of
Kell passed by her. Skip’s instant response
to his name had, of course, been
perfectly natural to him. But it had an
odd effect on the others.
“Miss Manion, and gentlemen,”
Bland went on, with a bow of mock
ceremony, “I want you to meet Mister––er,
Mister––oh hell, call him Saunders.
This is Mr. Kenneth Saunders,
ladies and gentlemen. When he gets a
shave and has his new face patched up
I believe you will like his appearance
much more than you do now.
“Seriously though, folks, I hope that
with a little fixing up the gentleman
will hardly resemble Professor Anton
Kell. Kell is dead. Obviously, however,
this gentleman can hardly continue
his existence as Skip Handlon.
Hence––well, hence Mr. Saunders. And
don’t forget the name.
“Now another little matter. This
house has proven a curse to humanity.
What has transpired here need never
be known. Would it not be the wiser
to eliminate all traces of to-night’s happenings?
There is a way.” He looked
significantly at the others.
“You mean––” began Perry.
“That we destroy all traces of
Professor Kell’s villainy. Although he
is no more, still someone might notice
that his body actively remains. And no
one wants to do any explaining.”
“It’s the only way we can protect
Handlon,” one of the sleuths ruminated,
half to himself. “No judge
would ever believe a word about this
de-astralization business. The chances
are we would all go to the booby hatch
and Handlon would go to prison for
“There were four of us that witnessed
the fact of the––the soul
transfusion, though,” Perry objected.
“Wouldn’t that be enough to clear
Skip? Besides, wouldn’t it be possible
for us to lead a jury out here and duplicate
“Too much undesirable publicity,”
growled Bland, who for once in his life
had found reason to keep something
good out of the headlines. “What do
you say, people?”
“I move we move,” from the detective
who had had the uncomfortable
job of attending to Norma Manion.
“Gentleman, I believe we understand
each other,” said Jimmie quietly.
“Now I am going into the barn”––significantly––“to
see if everything’s all
right. While I am there something
might happen. You understand?”
The others nodded silent assent.
In the snug seat of Jimmie’s speedster
Norma Manion shivered as she
followed the direction indicated by her
companion’s finger. It was that darkest
hour which comes just before the
To the westward could be perceived
a dull, red glow, which, even as they
watched with fascinated eyes, developed
into an intense glare. Gradually
the fading stars became eclipsed in the
Three cars, motors throbbing as if
eager to be gone, stood a space apart
on the main road. The car behind
O’Hara’s was the Manion machine, now
occupied by Bland and Riley. The remaining
one was a touring car and contained
the balance of the party. Perry
was at the wheel, and beside him sat
the Handlon-Kell-Saunders combination.
“Thus passes a den of horror,” whispered
Jimmie to his companion.
“It is the funeral pyre of my father,”
the girl answered simply. She had
long since recovered from her initial
outburst of grief at her loss, and now
watched the progress of the conflagration
dry-eyed. At length Jimmie
slipped an arm protectingly about the
“You have seen enough,” he said. As
the three cars raced from the scene of
the holocaust, faint streamers in the
east told of the rising orb of day.
“Good-by, Keegan, forever,” murmured
“Amen,” O’Hara devoutedly agreed.