The Black Lamp by Captain S. P. Meek
"The clue, Carnes," said Dr. Bird slowly, "lies in those windows."
Operative Carnes of the United States Secret Service shook his head
before he glanced at the windows of the famous scientist's private
laboratory on the top floor of the Bureau of Standards.
Dr. Bird and his friend Carnes unravel another criminal web
of scientific mystery.
"I usually defer to your knowledge, Doctor," he said, "but this time I
think you are off on the wrong foot. If the thieves came in through
the windows, what was their object in cutting that hole through the
roof? The marks are very plain and they indicate that the hole was cut
in some manner from the inside."
Dr. Bird smiled enigmatically.
"That is too evident for discussion," he replied. "I grant you that
the thieves entered from the roof through that hole. After they had
secured their booty they left by the same route. I presume that you
have noticed the marks on the roof where an aircraft of some sort,
probably a helicopter, landed and took off. A question of much greater
moment is that of what they did before they landed and cut the hole."
"I don't follow your reasoning, Doctor."
"Carnes, that hole was cut through the roof with a heavy saw. In
cutting it, the workers dislodged quite a little plaster which fell to
the floor and must have made a great deal of noise. Why wasn't that
"It was heard. The watchman heard it, but knew that Lieutenant Breslau
was working here and he thought that he made the noise."
"Surely, but why didn't Breslau hear it?"
"How do we know that he didn't? He was taken to Walter Reed Hospital
this morning with his mind an absolute blank and with his tongue
paralyzed. He must have seen the thieves and they treated him in some
way to ensure his silence. When he is able to talk, if he ever is,
he'll probably give us a good description of them."
r. Bird shook his head.
"Too thin, Carney, old dear," he said. "Breslau is a very intelligent
young man. He was perfectly normal when I left him shortly after
midnight last night. He was working alone in here on a device of the
utmost military importance. On the desk is a push button which sets
ringing a dozen gongs in the building. Surely a man of that type would
have had sense enough when he heard and saw intruders cutting a hole
through the roof to sound an alarm which would have brought every
watchman on the grounds to his assistance. He must have been knocked
out before the hole was started, probably before the helicopter's
"How? Gas of some sort?"
"The windows were all closed and locked and I have already ascertained
that the gas and water lines have not been tampered with. Gas won't
penetrate through a solid roof in sufficient concentration to knock
out a man like that. It was something more subtle than gas."
"What was it?"
"I don't know yet. The clue to what it was lies, as I told you, in
Carnes moved over and surveyed the windows closely.
"I see nothing unusual about them except that they need washing rather
"They were washed last Friday, but they do look rather dirty, don't
they? Suppose you take a rag and some scouring soap and clean up a
The detective took the proffered articles and started his task. He wet
a pane of glass, rubbed up a thick lather of scouring soap and applied
it and rubbed vigorously. With clear water he washed the glass and
then gave an exclamation of astonishment and examined it more closely.
"That isn't dirt, Doctor," he cried. "The glass seems to be fogged."
Dr. Bird chuckled.
"So it seems," he admitted. "Now look at the rest of the glass around
Carnes looked around and then walked to a table littered with
apparatus and examined a dozen pieces carefully.
"It's all fogged in exactly the same way, Doctor," he said. "The only
piece of clear glass in the room is that piece of plate glass on your
r. Bird picked up a hammer and struck the plate on his desk a sharp
blow. Carnes ducked instinctively, but the hammer rebounded harmlessly
from the plate.
"That isn't glass, Carnes," said the doctor. "That plate is made of
vitrilene, a new product which I have developed. It looks like glass,
but it has entirely different properties. It is of enormous strength
and is quite insensitive to shock. It has one most peculiar property.
While ultra-violet and longer rays will penetrate it quite readily, it
is a perfect screen for X-rays and other rays of shorter wave length.
It appears to be the only piece of transparent substance in my
laboratory which has not been fogged, as you call it."
"Do short waves fog glass, Doctor?"
"Not so far as I know at present, but you must remember that very
little work has been done with the short wave-lengths. In the vast
range of waves whose lengths lie between zero and that of the X-ray,
only a few points have been investigated and definitely plotted. There
may be in that range a wave-length which will fog glass."
"Then your theory is that some sort of a ray machine was put in
operation before the helicopter landed?"
"It is too early to attempt any theorizing, Carnes. Let us confine
ourselves to the known facts. Lieutenant Breslau was normal at
midnight and was working in this room. Some time between then and
seven this morning he underwent certain mental and physical changes
which prevent him from telling us what he observed. During the same
period, a hole was cut in the roof and things of great importance
stolen. At the same time, all the glass in the laboratory became
semi-opaque. The problem is to determine what connection there is
between the three events. I will handle the scientific end here, but
there is some outside work to be done, and that will be your share."
ive your orders, Doctor," said the detective briefly.
"To understand what I am driving at, I will have to tell you what has
been stolen. Naturally this is highly confidential. Some rumors have
leaked out as to my experiments with 'radite,' as I have named the
new radium-containing disintegrating explosive on which I have been
working, but no one short of the Secretary of War and the Chief of
Ordnance and certain of their selected subordinates knows that my
experiments have been successful and that the United States is in a
position to manufacture radite in almost unlimited quantities from the
pitchblende ore deposits of Wyoming and Nevada. The effects of radite
will be catastrophic on the unfortunate victim on whom it is first
used. The only thing left to do was to develop a gun from which radite
shells could be fired with safety and precision.
"Ordinary propellant powders are too variable for this purpose, but I
found that radite B, one form of my new explosive, can be used for
propelling the shells from a gun. The ordinary gun will last only two
or three rounds, due to the erosive action of the radite charge on the
barrel, and ordinary ordnance is heavier and more cumbersome than is
necessary. When this was found to be the case, the Chief of Ordnance
detailed Lieutenant Breslau, the army's greatest expert on gun design,
to work with me in an attempt to develop a suitable weapon. Breslau is
a wizard at that sort of work and he has made a miniature working
model of a gun with a vitrilene-lined barrel which is capable of being
fired with a miniature shell. The gun will stand up under the repeated
firing of radite charges and is very light and compact and gives an
accuracy of fire control heretofore deemed impossible. From this he
planned to construct a larger weapon which would fire a shell
containing an explosive charge of two and one-half ounces of radite at
a rate of fire of two hundred shots per minute. The destructive effect
of each shell will be greater than that of the ordinary high-explosive
shell fired from a sixteen-inch mortar, and all of the shells can be
landed inside a two-hundred foot circle at a range of fifteen miles.
The weight of the completed gun will be less than half a ton,
exclusive of the firing platform. It is Breslau's working model which
has been stolen."
arnes whistled softly between his teeth.
"The matter will have to be handled pretty delicately to avoid
international complications," he said. "It's hard to tell just where
to look. There are a great many nations who would give any amount for
a model of such a weapon."
"The matter must be handled delicately and also in absolute secrecy,
Carnes. We are not yet ready to announce to the world the fact that we
have such a weapon in our armory. It is the plan of the President to
have a half dozen of these weapons manufactured and give a
demonstration of their terrible effectiveness to representatives of
the powers of the world. Think what an argument the existence of such
a weapon will be for the furtherance of his plans for disarmament and
universal peace! Public sentiment will force disarmament on the world,
for even the worst jingoist could no longer defend armaments in the
face of America's offer to scrap these super-engines of destruction
and to destroy the plans from which they were made. If the model has
fallen into the hands of any civilized power the damage is not
irreparable, for public opinion would force its surrender and return.
It is among the uncivilized powers that our search must first be
"That makes the problem of where to start more complicated."
"On the contrary, it simplifies it immensely. At the head of the
uncivilized powers stands one which has the brains, the scientific
knowledge and the manufacturing facilities to make terrible use of
such a weapon. In addition, the aim of that power is to overthrow all
world governments and set up in their stead its own tyrannical
disorder. Need I name it?"
"You refer to Russia."
"Not to Russia, the great slumbering giant who will some day take her
place in the sun in fellowship with the other nations, but to
Bolsheviki, that empire within an empire, that horrible power which it
holding sleeping Russia in chains of steel and blood. It is there that
our search must first be made."
f course, they have no official representative in America."
"No, but the Young Labor Party is as much their accredited
representative as the British Ambassador is of imperial Britain. Your
first task will be to trail down and locate every leader of that group
and to investigate his present activities."
"I can tell you where most of them are without investigation. Denberg,
Semensky and Karuska are in Atlanta; Fedorovitch and Caspar are in
Leavenworth; Saranoff is dead—"
"Why, Doctor, I saw with my own eyes the destruction of the submarine
in which he was riding!"
"Did you see his dead body?"
"Neither did I, and I will never be sure until I do. Once before we
were certain of his death, and he bobbed up with a new fiendish
device. We cannot eliminate Saranoff."
"I will include him in my plans."
"Do so. Besides a hypothetical Saranoff, there are a half dozen or
more of the old leaders of the gang who are alive and at liberty, so
far as we know. They fled the country after the Coast Guard broke up
their alien smuggling scheme, but some of them may have returned.
There are also thirty or forty underlings who should be located and
checked up on, and, in addition, we must not lose sight of the fact
that new heads of the organization may have been smuggled into the
United States. It is no simple task that I am setting you, Carnes, but
I know that you and Bolton will see it through if anyone can."
"Thanks, Doctor, we'll do our best. If I am not speaking out of turn,
what are you planning to do in the mean time?"
am going to start Taylor off on an ultra-short wave generator and
try a few experiments along that line. Breslau is at Walter Reed and
they are doing all they can for him, but until I can get some definite
information as to the underlying cause of his condition, they are more
or less shooting in the dark."
"How are they treating him?"
"By electric stimulations and vibratory treatments and by keeping him
in a darkened room. By the way, Carnes, if I am correct in my line of
thought, it would be well to have an extra guard put over Karuska. He
was the only real expert in ordnance that the Young Labor party had,
and if they have Breslau's model they'll need him to supervise the
construction of a gun."
"I'll attend to that at once, Doctor. Is there anything else?"
"Not that I know of. I am going out to Takoma Park this afternoon and
have another look at Breslau, but it is too soon to hope for any
change in his condition. Aside from the time I will be out there, you
can find me either here or at my home, in case anything develops."
"I'll get on the job at once, Doctor."
"Thanks, old dear. Remember that speed must be the keynote of your
he telephone bell at the head of Dr. Bird's bed woke into noisy
activity. The doctor roused himself and took down the instrument
sleepily. A glance at the clock showed him that it was four in the
morning and he muttered a malediction on the one who had called him.
"Hello," he said into the receiver. "Dr. Bird speaking."
"Doctor," came a crisp voice over the wire, "wake up! This is Carnes
talking. Something has broken loose!"
All trace of sleep vanished from Dr. Bird's face and his eyes glowed
momentarily with a peculiar glitter which Carnes would at once have
recognized as indicative of the keenest interest.
"What has happened, Carnes?" he demanded.
"I telephoned Atlanta this morning and arranged to have an extra guard
put over Karuska as you suggested. The matter was simplified by the
fact that he and nine others were confined in the prison infirmary.
The warden agreed to do as I told him, and, in addition to the regular
guards, a special man was placed in the ward near Karuska's bed. At 2
A. M. the lights in the ward went out."
"Accidentally, or were they put out?"
"They haven't found out yet. At any rate they are all right now, but
Karuska and all of the other inmates and all the guards of that
particular ward have gone crazy."
"The dickens you say!"
"Not only that, they are also partially paralyzed. The description I
got over the telephone corresponds exactly with the condition of
Lieutenant Breslau as you described it to me. Here is the most
interesting part of the whole affair. The special guard over Karuska
was only lightly affected and has already recovered and is in a
position to tell you exactly what happened. I got a garbled account of
the affair from the warden, something about a goldfish bowl or
something like that, the warden wouldn't take it seriously enough to
give me details. I didn't press for them much for I knew that you
would rather get them at first hand."
"I certainly would. I'll be ready to leave for Atlanta in less than
"I expected that, Doctor, and a car is already on its way to pick you
up. I'll meet you at Langley Field where a plane is already being
tuned up and will be ready to take off by the time we get there."
"Good work, Carnes. I'll see you at the field."
car was waiting for Carnes and Dr. Bird when the Langley Field plane
slid down to a landing at Atlanta. At the penitentiary, Dr. Bird went
direct to the infirmary where Karuska had been confined. As he
entered, he shot a keen glance around and gave an exclamation of
"Look at the windows, Carnes," he cried.
Carnes went over to the nearest window and moistened his finger tip
and applied it experimentally to the glass. The moisture produced no
effect, for the glass of the windows was permanently clouded as was
that of the doctor's laboratory.
"Whatever happened in my laboratory the night before last was repeated
here last night with a similar object," said the doctor. "The object
there was to steal a gun model; here it was to steal a man who could
construct a full-sized gun from the model. I understand that one of
the guards escaped the fate which overtook the rest of the persons in
"Not altogether, Doctor," replied the warden. "I think that his mind
is somewhat affected, for he tells a wild yarn and insists on trying
to wear a goldfish bowl on his head. I have him under observation in
the psychopathic ward."
Dr. Bird shot a scornful glance at the warden.
"'There are none so blind as those who will not see'," he murmured.
"By all means, I wish to see him," he went on aloud. "Will you have
him brought here at once, please?"
he warden nodded and spoke to one of the attendants. In a few moments
a tall, fair-haired young giant stood before the doctor. Dr. Bird
pushed back his unruly shock of black hair with his fingers, those
long slim mobile fingers which alone betrayed the artist in his
make-up, and shot a piercing glance from his black eyes into the blue
ones, which returned the gaze unabashed.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"You were on guard here last night?"
"Yes, sir. I was detailed as a special guard over No. 9764."
"Tell me in your own words just what happened. Don't be afraid to
speak out; I'm not going to disbelieve you; and above all, tell me
everything, no matter how unimportant it may seem to you. I'll judge
the importance of things for myself. I'm Dr. Bird of the Bureau of
The guard's face lighted up at the doctor's words.
"I've heard of you, Doctor," he said in a relieved tone, "and I'll be
glad to tell you everything. At ten o'clock last night, I relieved
Carragher as special guard over No. 9764. Carragher reported that the
prisoner was somewhat restless and hadn't been asleep as yet. I sat
down about fifteen feet from his bed and prepared to keep an eye on
him until I was relieved at six o'clock this morning.
"Nothing happened until about two o'clock. No. 9764 was restless as
Carragher had said, but toward midnight he quieted down and apparently
went to sleep. I was sleepy myself, and I got up and took a turn
around the room every five minutes to be sure that I kept awake.
That's how I am so sure of the time, sir."
r. Bird nodded.
"At five minutes to two, just as I got up, I heard a noise outside
like a big electric fan. It sounded like it came from directly
overhead and I went to the window and looked out. I couldn't see
anything, although I could hear it pretty plainly, and then I heard a
noise like something had fallen on the roof. Almost at the same time
there came a sort of high-pitched whine, a good deal like the noise an
electric motor makes when it is running at high speed.
"I thought of giving an alarm, but I didn't want to stir things up
unless I was sure that there was some necessity for it, so I started
for the door to ask one of the outside guards if he had heard
anything. As I turned toward No. 9764 I saw that he had been sitting
up in bed while my back was turned. As soon as he saw that I noticed
him, he lay back real quick and pulled the covers over his head. He
moved pretty quick, but not so quick that I couldn't see that he had
something that glittered like glass before his face. I started over
toward his bed to see what he was doing and then it was that the
lights started to get dim!"
"Go on!" said the doctor as Bailley paused. His eyes were glittering
"Well, sir, Doctor, I don't hardly know how to describe what happened
next. The lights were getting dim, but not as they ordinarily do when
the current starts to go off. The filaments were shining as bright as
they ever did, but the light didn't seem to be able to penetrate the
air. The whole room seemed to be filled with a blackness that stopped
the light. No, sir, it wasn't like fog; it was more like something
more powerful than the lights was in the room and was killing them.
t wasn't only the lights which were affected, it was me as well.
This blackness, whatever it was, was getting into me as well as into
the room, and I couldn't seem to make myself think like I wanted to. I
tried to yell to give an alarm, and I found that I could hardly
whisper. I went toward the bed and then I saw No. 9764 sit up again.
He had a goldfish bowl pulled down over his head and it was evident
that it was keeping the blackness away, for I could see him plainly
and his eyes were as bright as ever.
"The nearer I got to him, the funnier I felt, and I began to be afraid
that I would go out. No. 9764 got up out of bed, and I could see him
grinning at me through the bowl. He reached up and adjusted that bowl,
and all of a sudden I realized that whatever was knocking me out was
not affecting him because he had that thing on. I jumped for him with
the idea of taking the bowl off and putting it on my own head. He saw
what I was up to and he fought like a cornered rat, but the blackness
hadn't affected my muscles. I'm a pretty big man, sir, and No. 9764 is
a little runt, and it didn't take me long to get the bowl off his head
and pulled on over mine. As soon as I did that, I seemed to be able to
think clearer. I was sitting on No. 9764 and was ready to tap him with
a persuader if he started anything, but I didn't have to. In a few
minutes he stopped struggling and lay perfectly quiet.
"The lights kept getting dimmer and dimmer until they went out
altogether and the room became pitch dark. It wasn't exactly as if the
lights had gone out, sir; I seemed to know that they were still there
and were burning as bright as ever, but they couldn't penetrate the
blackness in the room, if you understand what I mean."
think I do," said Dr. Bird slowly. "It was a good deal as if you
had seen a glass filled with a pale red liquid and someone had dumped
black ink into the fluid and hid the red color. You would know that
the red was still there, but you wouldn't be able to see it through
"That's exactly what it was like, Doctor; you have described it better
than I can. At any rate, after it got real dark I heard a low whistle
from the roof. No. 9764 made a struggle to get up for a moment and
then lay quiet again. The whistle sounded again and then I heard some
one call 'Caruso.' Everything was quiet for a while and then the same
voice called again and said some stuff in a foreign language that I
couldn't understand. I kept perfectly quiet to see what would happen.
"For about ten minutes the room remained perfectly dark, as I have
said, and all the while I could hear that whining noise. All of a
sudden it began to sound in a lower note and then I could see the
lights again, very dimly and like the black ink you spoke of was
fading out. The note got lower until it stopped altogether, and the
lights came on brighter until they were normal again. Then I heard a
scraping noise on the roof and the noise I had heard at first like a
big electric fan. I looked at the clock. It was two-twenty.
"For a few minutes I wasn't able to collect my wits. When I got up off
of No. 9764 at last he stared at me as though he didn't know a thing,
and I heaved him back into his bed and ran to the door to summon an
outside guard. I could still talk in a husky whisper, but not loud,
and I wasn't surprised when no one heard me. My orders were not to let
No. 9764 out of my sight, but this was an emergency, so I left the
ward and found a guard. It was Madigan and he was standing on his beat
staring at nothing. When I touched him he looked at me and there was
the same vacant look in his eyes that I had seen in the prisoner's. I
talked to him in a whisper, but he didn't seem to understand, so I
left him and went to a telephone and called for help. Mr. Lawson, the
warden, got here with guards in a couple of minutes and I tried to
tell him what had happened, but I couldn't talk loud, and I was afraid
to take the fish bowl off my head."
hat happened next?"
"Mr. Lawson took me to his office, and on the way we passed under an
arc light. As soon as I got under it I begin to feel better, and my
voice came stronger. I saw that it was doing me some good and I
stopped under it for an hour before my voice got back to normal. It
seemed to clear the fog from my brain, too, and I was able, about four
o'clock, to tell everything that had happened. Mr. Lawson seemed to
think that my brain was affected as well as the others' and he sent me
to the hospital. That's all, Doctor."
"Do you feel perfectly normal now?"
"There is no need for confining this man longer, Mr. Lawson. He is as
well as he ever was. Carnes, get the Walter Reed Hospital on the
telephone and tell them that I said to treat Lieutenant Breslau with
light rays, rich in ultra-violet. Tell them to give him an overdose of
them and not to put goggles on him. Keep him in the sun all day and
under sun-ray arcs at night until further orders. Mr. Lawson, give the
same treatment to the men who were disabled last night. If you haven't
enough sun-ray arcs in your hospital, put them under an ordinary arc
light in the yard. Bailley, have you still got that goldfish bowl?"
"It is in my office, Doctor," said the warden.
"Good enough! Send for it at once. By the way, you have two more
communists here, Denberg and Semensky, haven't you?"
"I think so, although I will have to consult the records before I can
"I am sure that you have. Look the matter up and let me know."
he warden hurried away to carry out the doctor's orders, and an
orderly appeared in a few moments with a hollow globe made of some
crystalline transparent substance. Despite its presence in the
infirmary the evening before, there was no trace of clouding apparent.
Dr. Bird took it and examined it critically. He rapped it with his
knuckles and then stepped to the door and hurled it violently down on
the concrete floor of the yard. The globe rebounded without injury and
he caught it.
"Vitrilene, or a good imitation of it," he remarked to Carnes. "After
you get through talking to the hospital, get Taylor on the wire. There
is plenty of loose vitrilene in the Bureau, and I want him to send
down about fifty square feet of it by a special plane at once."
As Carnes left the room, the warden reappeared.
"The men are all lying in the sun now, Doctor," he said. "I find that
we have the two men you mentioned confined here. They are both in Tier
A, Building 6."
"Is that an isolated building?"
"No, it is one wing of the old main building."
"On which floor?"
"The second floor. It is a six-story building."
"Have they been moved there recently?"
"They have been there for nearly a year."
n that case there will be little chance of another attack of this
sort to-night. At the same time, I would advise you to station extra
guards there to-night and every night until I notify you otherwise.
Caution them to watch the lights carefully and to give an alarm at
once if they appear to get dim. In such a case, send men to the roof
with rifles with orders to shoot to kill anyone they find there. I am
going back to Washington and I am going to take Karuska, your No. 9764
with me. You had better have one of the guards in the corridor, where
Denberg and Semensky are, wear this goldfish bowl, as you call it. A
lot of plate glass—at least it will look like that—will come from
Washington by plane. Cut it into sheets a foot square and use
surgeon's plaster to make some temporary glass helmets for your men. I
want all your guards to wear them until I either settle this matter or
else send you some better helmets. Do you understand?"
"I understand all right, but I'm afraid that I can't do it. The
wearing of such appliances would interfere with the efficiency of my
men as guards."
"Brain and tongue paralysis would interfere rather more seriously, it
seems to me. In any event, I have sufficient authority to enforce my
request. If you are at all doubtful, call up the Attorney General and
The warden hesitated.
"If you don't mind, I think I will call Washington, Doctor," he said.
"I will have to get authority to turn No. 9764 over to you in any
"Call all you wish, Mr. Lawson. Mr. Carnes is talking to Washington
now and we'll have a clear line through for you in a few minutes.
Meanwhile, get a set of shackles on Karuska and get him ready to
travel by plane. He appears to be suffering from mental paralysis, but
I don't know how his case will develope. He may go violently insane at
any moment and I don't care to be aloft in a plane with an unbound
ajor Martin looked up from the prone figure of Karuska.
"His condition duplicates that of Lieutenant Breslau, Dr. Bird," he
said. "We received your telephoned message this afternoon and we kept
Breslau in a flood of sunlight until dusk, and then put him under
sun-ray lamps. I don't know how you got on to that treatment, but it
is having a very beneficial effect. He can already make inarticulate
sounds, and his eyes are not quite as vacant at they were. If he keeps
on improving as he has, he should be able to talk intelligently in a
few days. If you wish to question this man, why not give him the same
"I haven't time, Major. I must make him talk to-night if it is humanly
possible. I called you in because you are the most eminent authority
on the brain in the government service. Is there any way of
artificially stimulating this man's brain so that we can force the
secrets of his subconscious mind from him?"
The major sat for a moment in profound thought.
"There is a way, Doctor," he said at length, "but it is a method
which I would not dare to use. By applying high frequency electrical
stimulations to the medulla oblongata, at the same time bathing the
cerebellum with ultra-violet, it might be done, but the chances are
that either death or insanity would result. I would not do it."
"Major Martin, this man is a reckless and dangerous international
criminal. If his gang carries out the plan which I fear they have
formed, the lives of thousands, yes, of millions, may pay for your
hesitation. I will assume full responsibility for the test if you will
make it, and I have the authority of the President of the United
States behind me."
"In that case, Doctor, I have no choice. The President is the
Commander-in-chief of the army, and if those are his orders the
experiment will be carried out. As a matter of form, I will ask that
your orders be reduced to writing."
"I will write them gladly, Major. Please proceed with the experiment
ajor Martin bowed and spoke to a waiting orderly. The prostrate
figure of Karuska was wheeled down a corridor into the electrical
laboratory, and with the aid of the laboratory technician the surgeon
made his preparations. The Moss lamp was arranged to throw a flood of
ultra-violet over the Russian's cranium while the leads from a deep
therapy X-ray tube was connected, one to the front of Karuska's throat
and the other to the base of his brain. At a signal from the major, a
nurse began to administer ether.
"I guarantee nothing, Dr. Bird," said the major. "The paralysis of the
vocal cords may be physical, in which case the victim will still be
unable to speak, regardless of the brain stimulation. If, however, the
evident paralysis is due to some obscure influence on the brain, it
"In any, event I will hold you blameless and thank you for your help,"
replied the doctor. "Please start the stimulation."
Major Martin closed a switch, and the hum of a high tension alternator
filled the laboratory. The Russian quivered for a moment and then lay
still. Major Martin nodded and Dr. Bird stepped to the side of the
"Ivan Karuska," he said slowly and distinctly, "do you hear me?"
The Russian's lips quivered and an unintelligible murmur came from
"Ivan Karuska," repeated Dr. Bird, "do you hear me?"
here was a momentary struggle on the part of the Russian and then a
surprisingly clear voice came from his lips.
"Who is the present head of the Young Labor party?"
Again there was a pause before the name "Saranoff" came from the lips
of the insensible figure. Carnes gave a sharp exclamation but a
gesture from the doctor silenced him.
"Is Saranoff alive?"
"Is he in the United States?"
"No, he is in London."
"Is he coming to the United States?"
"I don't know. Soon. As soon as we are ready for him."
"Where is he living in London?"
"I don't know."
"How did you get word that you were to be rescued from Atlanta?"
"A message was smuggled in to me by O'Grady, a guard in our pay."
"What was that vitrilene helmet for?"
"To protect me from the effects of the black lamp."
"What is the black lamp?"
"I don't know exactly. Saranoff invented it. It gives a black light
and it kills all other light except sunlight, and it paralyses the
"Did you know that the model of the Breslau gun had been stolen?"
"What were you going to do after you were rescued from jail?"
"I was going to make a full-sized gun. We have a disappearing gun
platform built in the swamps at the juncture of the Potomac and
Piscataway Creek. The gun was to be mounted there and we would shell
Washington and institute a reign of terror. It would be a signal for
uprisings all over the country."
"Is there a black lamp at that gun platform?"
"Yes. The black lamp will kill both the flash and the report."
"Where did you get the formula for radite?"
"We got it from one of Dr. Bird's assistants. His name—"
s he spoke the last few sentences, Karuska's voice had steadily risen
almost to a shriek. As he endeavored to give the name of the doctor's
treacherous helper his voice changed to an unintelligible screech and
then died away into silence. Major Martin stepped forward and bent
over the prone figure. Hurriedly he tore away the electrical
connections and placed a stethoscope over the Russian's heart. He
listened for a moment and then straightened up, his face pale.
"I hope that the information you obtained is worth a life, Dr. Bird,"
he said, his voice trembling slightly, "because it has cost one."
"It may easily save thousands of lives. I thank you, Major, and I will
see that no blame attaches to you for your actions. I only wish that
he had lived long enough to tell me the name of my assistant who has
sold me to Saranoff. However, we'll get that information in other
ways. Carnes, telephone Lawson at Atlanta to slam O'Grady into a cell
pending investigation while I get Camp Meade on the wire and order up
a couple of tanks. We are going to attack that gun emplacement at
The telephone bell in the laboratory jangled sharply. Major Martin
answered it and turned to Carnes.
"You're wanted on the telephone, Mr. Carnes."
The detective stepped forward and took the transmitter.
"Carnes speaking," he said. "Yes. Oh, hello, Bolton. Yes, we have
Karuska here, or rather his body. Yes, Dr. Bird is here right now.
You've what? Great Scott, wait a minute."
"Dr. Bird," he cried eagerly turning from the telephone, "Bolton has
located the Washington headquarters of the Young Labor party."
Dr. Bird sprang to the instrument.
"Bird speaking, Bolton," he cried. "You've located their headquarters?
Who's running it? Stanesky, eh? You're on the right track; he used to
be Saranoff's right hand man. Where is the place located? I don't seem
to recollect the spot. You have it well surrounded? Where are you
speaking from? All right, we'll join you as quickly as we can. Keep
your patrols out and don't let anyone get away."
He hung up the receiver and turned to Carnes.
"Did you have the car wait?" he asked. "Good enough; we'll jump for
the Bureau and pick up all the vitrilene laying around loose and then
join Bolton. He thinks that he has the whole outfit bottled up."
olton was waiting as the car rolled up and Dr. Bird leaped out.
"Where are they?" demanded the doctor eagerly.
"In an abandoned factory building about three hundred yards from
here," replied the Chief of the Secret Service. "I traced them through
New York. We have been watching the place ever since yesterday noon,
and I know that Stanesky is in there with half a dozen others. No one
has tried to leave since we set our watch. One funny thing has
happened. About an hour ago a peculiar red glow suffused the whole
building. It has died down a good deal since, but we can still see it
through the windows. Could you tell us what it means?"
"No. I couldn't, Bolton, but we'll find out. How many men have you?"
"I have sixteen stationed around."
"That's more than we'll need. I have only vitrilene shields and
helmets enough to equip six men. Pick out your three best men to go
with us and we'll make a try at entering."
Bolton strode off into the darkness and returned in a few moments with
three men at his heels. Dr. Bird spoke briefly to the operatives, all
of them men who had been his companions on other adventures. He
explained the need for the vitrilene helmets and shields, and without
comment the six donned their armor and followed Bolton as he strode
toward the building. As they approached, a dull red glow could be
plainly seen through the windows, and Dr. Bird paused and studied the
phenomenon for a moment.
"I don't know what that means, Bolton," he said softly, "but I don't
like the looks of it. Stanesky is up to some devilment or other. I
wouldn't be a bit surprised to find out that he knows all about your
pickets and is ready for a raid."
"We'd better rush the place, then," muttered Bolton.
r. Bird nodded agreement and with a sharp command to his men Bolton
broke into a run. Not a shot was fired as they approached, and the
front door gave readily to Bolton's touch. At it opened there came a
grating sound from the roof followed by the whir of a propeller. Dr.
Bird ran out of the building and glanced up.
"A helicopter!" he cried. "They were expecting us and have escaped!"
He drew his pistol and fired ineffectually at the great bird-like ship
which was rising almost noiselessly into the air. He cursed and turned
again to the building.
Bolton still stood in the room which they had first entered. His
flashlight showed it to be empty, but from under a door on the
opposite side a line of dull red light glowed evilly. With his pistol
ready in his hand, Bolton approached the door on hands and knees.
When he reached it he threw his shoulder against it and dropped flat
to the floor as the door swung open. No shot greeted him, and he
stared for a moment and then rose to his feet.
"Nothing in here but some glass statues," he announced.
Dr. Bird followed him into the room. As he looked at what Bolton had
called glass statues he gasped and shielded his eyes.
"God in Heaven!" he ejaculated. "Those were living men!"
efore them were three men or what had been three men. All stood in
strained attitudes with a look of horror frozen on their faces. The
thing that made the spectators shudder was that their bodies had, by
some diabolical method, been rendered semi-transparent. The dull red
light which suffused the room emanated from the three bodies. Dr. Bird
examined them closely, being careful not to touch them.
"The identity of my treacherous assistant is known," he said grimly as
he pointed at the middle figure. "It was Gerond. What is this?"
He took an envelope from the hand of the middle figure and opened it.
A sheet of paper fell out and he picked it up and read it.
"My dear Mr. Bolton," ran the note. "Your methods of tracing and
picketing my headquarters are so crude as to be almost laughable. This
base has served its purpose and we were ready to abandon it in any
event, but I couldn't resist the temptation to let you almost nab us.
The three men whom you will find here are agents who failed in their
duty. If you are interested in learning the method of their execution,
you might take to heart the words of your colleague, Dr. Bird: 'The
clue lies in those windows.'"
Carnes glanced at the windows and gave a cry of surprise. The glass
was opaque, as had been the glass in the doctor's laboratory and the
glass in the infirmary at Atlanta. The fogging however, was much more
pronounced, and the opaque glass gave faintly the same red effulgence
which came from the three bodies.
"What does it mean, Doctor?" he asked.
"I don't know, Carnes," said Dr. Bird slowly. "I foresee that I am
going to have to do a great deal of work on short wave-lengths soon.
It is doubtless the effect of some modification of the black lamp
which has done it. Look out!"
e leaped to one side as he spoke, drawing Bolton and Carnes with him.
A panel in the side of the wall opposite the doorway had slid silently
open and through the opening poured out a beam of fiery red. Full on
the three bodies it fell, and then spread out to fill the room. Dr.
Bird had drawn the two nearest men out of the direct beam, but one of
the secret service men stood full in its path. In the excitement of
entering he had dropped his vitrilene shield and the livid ray fell
full on his defenceless body. As they watched an expression of horror
spread over his face and he strove to move to one side, but he was
held helpless. Slowly he stiffened; and, as the ray bored through him,
his body became semi-transparent and the same dull red glow which
emanated from the three bodies they had found began to shine forth
from him. Bolton strove to break from the doctor's grasp and rush to
the rescue but Dr. Bird held him with a grip of iron.
"Too late," he said grimly. "Chalk up another murder to the arch fiend
who has committed the others. I don't know the nature of that ray and
vitrilene may not be an adequate defence against its full force. We
had better get out of here and attack the place from the rear."
Carefully edging their way around the sides of the room, the five men
made their way out through the door. Dr. Bird slammed the door shut
behind him and led the way out of the building and around to the
rear. A door loomed before them and he cautiously tried it. It gave to
his touch and he entered. As he set his foot on the threshold a
terrific explosion came from the interior of the building.
"Run!" he shouted as he led the way in retreat. "If that is a radite
explosion it will act for several seconds!"
From a safe distance they watched. One corner of the building had been
torn off by the force of the explosion, and as they watched the rest
of the building gradually collapsed and sank into a pile of ruins.
"They had planned on a visit from us all right," said Dr. Bolton
grimly. "They had a surprise for us any way we jumped. If we went in
the front door, that devil's ray was to finish us, and if we went in
the back door the whole place was arranged to blow up as we entered. I
only hope that Stanesky thinks that he has got us all and doesn't
expect an attack on his next base in the morning. If he doesn't, I
think we may give him a rather unpleasant surprise. Of course, that
lamp is smashed into atoms and buried under the debris, but I don't
know what other devil's contraptions that ruin holds. Bolton, have
your men picket it and allow no one near until I get back. I've got to
get to a telephone and get a couple of tanks from Meade and a plane or
two from Langley Field."
wo tanks made their way slowly across country. The front of each tank
was protected by a heavy sheet of vitrilene, while from the turrets of
the tanks projected the wicked looking muzzles of thirty-seven
millimeter guns. Overhead two airplanes from Langley Field soared,
scouting the country. Dr. Bird and Carnes rode in the leading tank.
"It ought to be somewhere near here, unless Karuska lied," said Carnes
as he swept the country with a pair of binoculars.
"He didn't lie," returned Dr. Bird. "It was his subconscious mind
that spoke and it never lies. He spoke of the gun emplacement as being
in a swamp and I have a strong idea that it is submersible. Of course,
it is bound to be well camouflaged, both from land and from air
The planes circled around again and again, quartering the air like a
pair of well-trained bird dogs will quarter a hunting field. First
high and then low they swooped back and forth, the tanks lumbering
slowly along in the same direction. Presently the occupants of the
leading tank saw one of the planes bank sharply and swing around. It
dropped to an altitude of only a few hundred feet and turned and went
back over the ground it had just crossed.
"I believe that fellow sees something!" exclaimed Carnes.
As he spoke, three green Very lights came from the cockpit of the
plane. The tank driver gave a grunt of satisfaction and turned the
nose of his vehicle in that direction. The second tank followed.
Hardly had they turned in the new direction before the ground began to
get soft under their tracks and the heavy vehicles began to sink. The
driver of the Doctor's tank forced it ahead, but the tank sank deeper
in the mire until water flowed in around the feet of the occupants.
"I reckon we'll have to get out and walk pretty soon, Doctor," said
r. Bird grunted in acquiescence. The tank made its way forward a few
yards before the engine sputtered and died. The second tank stopped
when the first one did, fifty yards behind it. Donning vitrilene
helmets and taking vitrilene shields in their hands, the crews of both
tanks climbed out into the waist-deep water and gathered around the
Doctor for orders.
"Form a skirmish line at ten-pace intervals and cross the swamp," he
directed. "We may meet with no opposition, but if there is, the more
scattered we are, the safer we will be. You all have hand grenades as
well as your rifles?"
A murmur of assent answered him and the line formed and started across
the swamp. They had gone perhaps a hundred yards when three red lights
came from one of the planes circling overhead.
"Down!" cried the doctor, dropping to his knees in the muck.
Four hundred yards ahead of them a concrete platform emerged from the
marsh and rose slowly into the air. It was roofed with a dome of what
looked like plate glass, but which the doctor shrewdly suspected was
vitrilene. When the base of the platform was two-feet above the level
of the water the dome slid silently aside disclosing two men bending
over a tiny gun. Dr. Bird leveled his binoculars.
"That's the Breslau gun model that was stolen as sure as I'm a foot
high!" he cried. "They must have made some miniature shells and be
planning to fire it."
Slowly a pall of intense blackness rose from the marsh and enveloped
the platform and hid it from view. A whining noise came from overhead,
and then a crash like a thunderbolt. The blast of the explosion threw
the attackers face down in the swamp, and when they arose and looked
back there was merely a gaping hole where the leading tank had been.
The second tank suddenly seemed to rise in the air and fly into
millions of tiny fragments, and a second thunderous blast sent them
again to their knees.
"Radite!" bellowed Dr. Bird to Carnes. "Imagine the effect if that had
been a full charge fired from a completed Breslau gun! Watch the
planes, now. I think they are going to drop a few eggs on them."
he black mist cleared as if by magic and the platform was in plain
view. The big glass dome rolled back into place as the two planes
swept over at an elevation of two thousand feet. From each one a
small black cigar-shaped object was released and fell in a long
parabola toward the earth. The glass dome which had been closing over
the gun platform rolled quickly back and a long beam of intense
blackness pierced the heavens. First one and then the other of the
falling bombs disappeared from view into it, and then the black column
faded from view. The two bombs fell with increasing speed but the dome
closed over the platform before they struck. The two hit the dome at
almost the same instant and instead of the blinding crash they
expected, the watchers saw the bombs rebound from the dome and fall
harmlessly into the water.
"Stymied!" muttered the doctor. "I wonder what other properties that
confounded lamp has."
He resumed his advance, Carnes and the soldiers keeping abreast of
him. When they were within two hundred yards of the platform it rose
again and the transparent dome rolled back. A beam of black shot forth
over the swamp, searching them out and hiding them from view. First
one and then another felt the effects of the black beam; but the
vitrilene which the Doctor had provided stood them in good stead, and,
aside from a slight shortening of their breath, none of the attackers
felt any the worse.
"Come on, men!" cried the Doctor as his athletic figure plowed forward
through the breast-deep water. "That is their worst weapon and it is
harmless against us!"
Cheering, they fought their way toward the platform. It sunk for a
moment and then rose again. As the dome swung back a sharp crackle of
machine-gun fire sounded and the water before them was whipped into
foam by the plunging bullets. One of the soldiers gave a sharp cry and
slumped forward into the water.
"Fire at will!" shouted the lieutenant in command.
crackle of rifle fire answered the tattoo of the machine-gun, and
the sharp ping of bullets striking on the dome could be plainly heard.
An occasional shot kicked up a spurt of white dust from the concrete,
but the machine-gun kept up a steady rattle of fire and the soldiers
kept their heads almost at the level of the water. There came the roar
of an airplane motor, and one of the planes swept over the platform, a
hundred yards in the air, with two machine-guns spraying streams of
bullets onto the platform. Two men abandoned their machine-gun and
crouched under the partially folded-back dome as the second plane
swept over, and Dr. Bird took advantage of the lull to advance his
party a few yards nearer. Again the defenders of the platform rushed
to their gun, but the first plane had turned and swooped down with
both guns going, and again they were forced to take shelter while the
Doctor and his force made another advance.
The second plane had turned and followed the first, but the defenders
had had enough. The transparent dome closed over them and the platform
sank into the marsh. With a shout, Dr. Bird led the way forward again.
The attackers were within a hundred yards of the platform when it
again rose above the surface of the water. The guns had disappeared,
but in their place stood an airship. It was a small affair with stubby
wings above which were two helicopter blades revolving at high speed.
No sound of a motor could be heard.
The transparent dome rolled back and like a bullet the little craft
shot into the air, followed by a futile volley from the soldiers.
Hardly had it appeared than the two airplanes bore down on it with
machine-guns going. The helicopter paid no attention to them for a
moment, and then came a puff of smoke from its side. The leading plane
swerved sharply and the helicopter fired again. The leading plane
maneuvered about, trying to get a machine-gun to bear, while the
second plane climbed swiftly to get above the helicopter and pour a
deadly stream of fire down into it. It gained position and swooped
down to the attack, but another puff of smoke came from the side of
the helicopter and there was a thunderous report and a blinding flash
in the sky. As the smoke cleared away, no trace of the ill-fated plane
could be seen. The helicopter hung motionless in the air as though
daring the remaining plane to attack.
he plane accepted the challenge and bore down at full speed on the
stranger. Again came a puff of smoke, but the plane swerved and an
answering shot came from its side. It was above the helicopter, and
the shell which missed its mark plunged to the ground. When it struck
there came a roar and a flash and the whole earth seemed to shake. The
helicopter shot upward into the air and forward, both its elevating
fans and its propellers whirling blurs of light. The airplane followed
at its sharpest climbing angle, but was helpless to compete with its
swifter climbing rival.
"He's got away!" groaned Carnes.
"Not yet, old dear!" cried the Doctor hopping with excitement. "He
isn't safe yet. I never told you, but one Breslau gun had been made
and it is on that plane. It has deadly accuracy and is good for
fifteen miles. That's Lieutenant Dreen at the controls and Mason at
As he spoke the plane swung around and made a half loop. For a few
yards it flew upside down and then whirled swiftly. As it turned there
came a sharp report and a puff of smoke from its rear cockpit. High
above, the helicopter had ceased climbing and hovered motionless. As
the plane fired, the helicopter shot forward like an arrow from a bow,
and thereby spelled its doom. Not for nothing did Captain Mason bear
the title of the best aerial gunner in the Air Corps. He had foreseen
what the action of his opponent would be and had allowed for just such
a move. Far up in the sky came a blinding flash and a cloud of smoke.
When the smoke cleared the sky was empty, except for a little
scattered debris falling slowly to the ground.
nd that's that!" exclaimed Dr. Bird as he finished his examination
of the underground laboratory with which the gun platform connected.
"The lamp has gone to glory with Breslau's gun model and two of the
best brains of the Young Labor party. I am sure that Stanesky was one
of those two men. I wish the whole gang had been on board."
"Don't you think that this is the end of it, Doctor?" asked Carnes.
"No, Carnes, I don't. We know that the real brains of this outfit is
Saranoff, and Saranoff is still alive. He probably won't try to use
his black lamp again, because I will have a defence against it in a
short time, now that I have seen it in action, but he'll try something
else. The whole object of life to a loyal citizen of Bolshevikia is to
reduce the whole world to the barbarous level in which they hold
Russia, and they will spare no pains or effort to accomplish it. The
greatest obstacle to their success at present is the President of the
United States. He is loved and respected by the whole world, and if he
is spared he will forge the world into a great machine for the
preservation of peace and universal good will. That would be fatal to
Bolshevikia's plans, and they will spare no effort to remove him. By
the grace of God, we have saved him from harm so far, but until we
remove Saranoff permanently from the scene, I will never feel safe for
"What do you suppose they'll try next, Doctor?"
"That, Carnes, time alone will tell."