“Dark Lord” by Mace Draper
Chapter I “Sky Terror”
Monk was in first class and enjoying it, flying thirty-five thousand feet without a care in the world. With a mixed drink of scotch and seven-up in one hand and a spoon of chocolate pudding in the other, he was watching a movie projected on a screen in the front of the airliner’s first class section he was sitting in.
Forgetting all about the earphones he was wearing at the time, anything that struck him as particularly funny, he would almost roar out loud with laughter causing fellow passengers’ heads to turn in his direction. If he had stopped to look around he would have seen concern and anger written on the faces of the other passengers nearby that were staring at him.
Andrew Bodgett Mayfair known to his friends and colleges as “Monk” looked more akin to a laughing ape than a tickled human. Only a few inches over five feet tall, and yet over 260 pounds; his red-haired brutish exterior concealed the mind of a great chemical scientist. Theodore Marly Brooks, known as “Ham” to most who had the misfortune of having to sit just a row behind Monk was wishing his partner was a real ape and swinging in some jungle or alligator’s mouth at that moment.
Slender and waspy even at his great age; Ham had been known in the state of New York as one of the greatest lawyers to grace their court rooms, had retired long ago. Yet, still he had a keen mind. Those close to him knew he was never without his ominous black sword cane rarely carrying a gun.
This was one of the most humiliating and embarrassing moments he had ever experienced except for the time he last rode a sailing vessel with him, on a train with him and so on and so on. Why did he bother to put himself through this sort of thing was beyond him, but he knew it had to stop. Finally, Ham whose vocabulary was of almost scholarly proportions, found just the appropriate words for that particular situation.
He leaned over close to Monk from behind, punched him none too gently in the shoulder with the end of his black sword cane and yelled directly into his earphones,” Can it ape, or by Jove I’ll hang you outside to dry.”
Monk yelled out loud,” Ouch” on purpose, then he jerked off his headset, stuck out his jaw and glared at his waspish built friend.
“ If you don’t stop punching me I’m gonna show these fine people here how you can do a sword swallowing act, while hanging by one hand outside this window.”
Ham knew better not to push it yet keeping from delivering a retort made him grind his teeth in frustration. At least he had accomplished one thing, and that was his friend had left his earphones off and was only quietly eating his vulgar pudding while starring at the movie screen.
After a few moments of silence, Monk turned to Ham and muttered,” Sorry, it’s just you need to chill out; relax. We’ve got a long flight ahead of us and we should enjoy it the best we can.”
Ham perched his lips,” You’re right Monk, and I’m sorry for punching your shoulder like that.”
To himself Ham wished he had punched the man’s thick skull instead. Yet Ham had to admit his friend was right about making the best of it.
Then Monk asked Ham,” Why do you suppose Doc wanted us to take a flight to Ireland instead of going directly to England? I mean, once we get there we’re suppose to take a private plane to England. Now does that make a lot of sense to you?”
“It would if Doc knew we would be expected to arrive in England on a commercial flight or we were being followed by someone on this airliner.”
Monk commented,” Who can figure,” and then he calmly placed the earphones upon his ears most to aggravate Ham than to listen to the movie. Discussed, Ham stopped a passing stewardess and asked a question. She smiled and looked around the seats until she spotted what she was looking for. She pointed toward the back and gave directions, which Monk didn’t hear nor care to and then Ham rose and followed her to another seat three rows behind. Monk ignored Ham’s departure and entrance of another seat. The movie was beginning to get interesting.
No one noticed the three Middle Eastern men in their late twenties leave their seats from the lower level of the airliner one by one, and gather at the foot of the stairs. Each reached under a stair and pulled a weapon taped to the bottom. They checked their weapons quickly as they ascended the stairway leading to the upper level where Monk and Ham sat.
When the trio of gunmen reached the upper level, one of the men announced out loud in a heavy accent in English that they were hijacking the plane and that no one would be hurt unless they gave any kind of trouble. Ham kept his cool deciding to wait to make his move when an opportunity presented itself. He had completely forgotten about Monk and his movie trance.
It was a tense couple of moments for all as the gunmen pointing their weapons this way and that nervously made their way toward the front with the intentions of entering the cockpit. Soon, they noticed Monk sitting there humming to himself as if they didn’t exist. They looked at each other in disbelief. Either he was a fool or crazy.
One terrorist approached the apish looking fellow and yelled for him to remove his earphones. When there was no response he thumped his ears a couple of times while Ham was trying to explain to them to simply take some good advice and just lift the earphones off his ears; but he was rudely interrupted when one of the other terrorists shoved him rudely back into his seat. Then the terrorist behind Monk hit him once across the ear with his pistol.
To the man’s dismay and disbelief that the passenger acted as if he hadn’t even felt the blow; Monk calmly removed his earphones and explains to the terrorist eye to eye,” Mister, you shouldn’t have done that.”
Before the man knew what was happening, Monk picked him up like a toy and threw him bodily into the other one behind him knocking them head over heels over empty seats. The remaining terrorist aimed his Uzi pistol from further down the aisle and was about to pull the trigger; when he suddenly let the gun drop to a seat and with a silly grin growing across his face. His eyes closed and he slumped to the floor fast asleep.
Ham rose from his seat from behind the unconscious terrorist and waved his sword cane at Monk who laughed,” You fashion plate show off, I ….ahh, I guess I ought to thank ya for saving my neck,”
As Monk brought his heel down on one of the terrorist throats and retrieved an automatic pistol from the choking man’s hand; many of the passengers in their section cheered and gave the two aides a standing ovation.
Ham always the man for the attention of an audience, took a theatrical bow while monk could only grin from ear to ear.
“Ahh, ain’t nothing really.”
A flight attendant informed Ham that they had notified Air Marshals and airport security in Dublin Airport to take the would be hijackers off their hands. Ham thanked her and in turn informed the rest of the passengers in his best Lawyer voice of address that all was under control. Smiling he sat back down in the seat by Monk. The moment he did there was an awful sound like someone letting out gas, which emitted from under him. A second
Passed in silence and then the whole level of passengers began to laugh, some from nervous relief, others from the shock of the sudden sound. With his face beat red in embarrassment, he slumped in his seat completely mortified.
“ Oh, I give up.” Ham mumbled.
In between the laughter, Monk could be heard to say,” My whoopee cushion gets ya every time!”
Ham could only fume, completely speechless. How he wished that jet flight was over already and they were at their destination.
Soon things did settle down enough that Monk and Ham were able to get several hours of sleep before the airliner touched down at Collinstown airport on the outskirts of Dublin Ireland. The first person they saw as they departed their flight down a ramp onto the tarmac below; was their mutual friend John Renwick who they called “Renny”. This very tall and stocky man was a brilliant and gifted engineer who also worked for the same person they had called Doc. His favorite sport besides model airplane building and flying; was pounding his massive fists through heavy, paneled doors. Lately arthritis had bothered him enough that he had refrained from that habit unless absolutely necessary. Still he about crushed their hands in his as he pumped their arms in greeting.
“ Holy cow! Am I glad you guys made it in one piece. I heard about the scrap you two got into on the way here.”
Monk looked around and sniffed the air curiously,” Ah, just a couple of dander heads trying to hijack the wrong plane that’s all.”
Ham added,” I just wish they’d tied, gagged and shoved this ape in the cargo hold before they were subdued.”
Renny laughed knowingly,” Monk getting to ya again? Don’t you worry any. You two will be too busy hitting the country-side to get in each other’s hair..much.”
“ Hey, let’s go get our baggage. I see the cart headin’ for the main building now.” Monk suggested. Then he raced up ahead and was in the building in a flash.
“ I really think it was a bad move on Doc’s part to let Monk take another dose of that regeneration drug.” Ham stated. “ He’s like a big overgrown kid.”
Renny nudged Ham as they entered the double doors to the main building.
“ Yeah, don’t you just love em’?”
Ham never replied, but Renny already knew the answer. Those two might be at each other’s throat a lot of the time, but either one of them would lay down their life for the other without a moment’s hesitation.
They passed their gate, the main ticket room and lobby before they finally reached the baggage room. It was smaller than Ham had imagined. He also noticed that two men dressed in British army fatigues and armed with submachine guns were eyeing Monk suspiciously as he pulled off a large trunk and several large suitcases from a baggage cart parked along a hallway.
Monk yelled out to Renny and Ham,” Here they are.”
Ham intercepted the two British army men flashing an I.D. card with a bronze star at the top,” It’s ok gentlemen. That’s merely my loud mouth associate over there. We’re with the Clark Savage Jr. organization. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?”
One of the officers, a large bone, curly headed man had heard of them. He could have passed for a seventeen year old. His voice was every bit as high as Monk’s.
“ Blimey! I’ve heard of you blokes. Welcome to Ireland. It’s a great place to visit, but if I were you, I wouldn’t want to live here. Is there anything we can do for you Mr. um… Mr. Brooks?”
Ham cut his eyes Monk’s direction,” As a matter of fact… yes there is! Confiscate that trunk.”
Monk’s mouth fell open in shock and he actually dropped one of his suit cases. Renny started to protest, but the other officer beat him to it.
“ Oh no we don’t. We’re not mixing into the middle of one of your fights.”
Ham was crestfallen as Renny patted his back,” Hey, it can’t be that bad. So he brought his flashy clothes.”
Ham turned on Renny in a slow building anger,” I won’t stand for this. We’ll be the laughing stock of all Ireland and England too!”
The large officer was already chuckling to himself,” I’ve heard of his bloody attire too. Is it true green goes with red and yellow checks? Both officers roared with laughter.
Ham shook with rage and stamped over to Monk. Monk tried to hand one of Ham’s briefcases to him innocence written all over his flat nosed face. Ham jerked it out of monk’s hand and said in a chilly tone.” Thanks. When
we find our hotel, kindly find yourself another room, preferably on the other side of the building.”
Monk shrugged his shoulders,” Chill out shyster dude. We’ll have a blast tonight.” He clapped his hands together,” I can hardly wait to dress up in style, chomp down on some lamb and guzzle down some of that black Irish beer. Maybe find some female companionship too!”
“ Lamb? Black beer? The only way you’ll find female companionship is in a jungle somewhere or perhaps their local police station jail.” Ham fumed and then turned around and left Monk to pick up the rest of the luggage.
As Monk was trying to catch up with Ham, Renny asked the two officers to watch to see if anyone followed them and if so to detain them as long as they could. The two hardily agreed since the whole afternoon had been rather boring as far as they were concerned. Boring until those Yanks had shown up. Crazy Yanks!
When they finally caught up with their friend, he was trying to hail a taxi. Renny told Monk loud enough for ham to overhear,” Monk, I really think to blend in you should wear as much green as you can.” Renny smiled with satisfaction as he watched Ham visibly wince. Minutes later, a yellow and brown battered taxi stopped in front of the trio. At the same time a tall, pretty red headed stewardess strolled by heading for the front entrance to the main airport building. Monk stopped her in her tracks when he addressed her out loud.
“ Mamam, I’m a yank from America and I’m already lost in your fair city. I was wondering perhaps you would be so kind as to show me the sights…” Monk’s last couples of words were said in a hurry for Renny and Ham quickly pulled him into the waiting taxi.
As the battered cab and its occupants sped off downtown, the pretty red-head did a very unexpected thing. There was an actual look of shock on her face as she reached down and pulled out a small piece of yellow paper from her right pocket of her black jumpsuit which had a bateau neckline and tapered legs. It had a raspberry waist and the airline emblem in red on the top. She held the piece up so that a street light shown a telephone number. No names, just a number.
The red head mumbled to herself as she made her way to the phone booth inside.
“ It has to be them. Can’t believe my luck. I better let em’ know.”
Ham, Monk and Renny all sat in the back seat of the speeding taxi. Monk glanced at Renny and then he looked out the side window of the taxi asking Renny,” Where’s Doc, Renny? Is he already in England?”
Renny glanced at cab driver and replied,” That’s just it. I don’t know where he is. I haven’t heard from him all day. I set up an answering machine to my phone in my room, but so far there’s been no word.”
“ Well, he’s probably too busy to bother. You know Doc. You can ask him a question till you’re blue in the face; but until he is absolutely sure of the facts he won’t answer. He may be undercover.” Ham explained.
“ He may even be under surveillance and couldn’t risk contacting us.” Monk ventured.
Ham changed the subject,” The address you gave the cabby would that by chance be the Woldorf Hotel?”
Renny’s face brightened,” Why yes it is. And we’ll also be stain’ in a Woldorf in London if I have anything to do with it.”
“ Now we’re staying in style. Excellent room service dining with martinis. I could use one of those right now by Jove.”
Ham was delighted at the news until Monk asked the next question,” They got a pool and some VCR’s?”
Ham remarked,” Oh how droll. Of course not, you dolt. They do have a gym. Perhaps you might feel more at home swinging on their suspended rings and ropes.”
Renny chuckled,” Putting you two together is like mixing water and dirt. The results is always a muddy mess.”
The taxi driver got a kick out of that one.
At that very moment hundreds of miles away, a giant of a man who looked as if he was a life-size statue chiseled from bronze that had somehow come to exist in the life of the living; was up to his waist in muddy water. Countless days exposure to tropical suns had actually tanned his skin to a deep bronze. Only his close-cropped hair was a slightly lighter hue. Though he wore a dark blue crew neck pull over sweater and a bronze safari jacket; they couldn’t hide the fact that his muscles bulged all over from years of weight training. He also did scientifically perfected calisthenics, which he had practiced since early childhood.
To his close friends he was called Clark or “Doc”. To the world he was the famous crime fighter and detective Doctor Clark Savage Jr. or Doc Savage.
As he carefully approached solid ground, which was thick with cattail type plants and tall grass; he checked a pair of unusual looking binoculars hanging from a strap from around his neck. Slowly so not to make any slashing noises; he crawled out to the shore among the weeds, which reached to a man’s waist in height.
He parted the weeds and as he did, he could see across a moon lit prairie, rocks dotting the landscape as far as the eye could see. Beyond he could see the famous ruins of Stonehenge. He took one more glance behind him at the river Avon that he had just crossed, to make sure there was no one following him.
Even with his keen eyesight, he could barely make out a small fire glowing in the middle of those large stone block ruins. As he brought those strange looking glasses to his eye; digital readings magically appeared at the top of the scene he was observing. He adjusted the glasses’ range and the digital readings disappeared.
The cluster of stones of Salisbury plain under the moonlight appeared eerie. Some of the stones were standing alone; some were capped by lintels, which made of them great archways. Some were leaning and some had fallen. Fallen long ago. Doc Savage recalled how at least 82 bluestones weighing five tons each were set up in 2 concentric circles around the center of a large enclosure. Stonehenge had a small entrance on the Northeast side formed by a gap in the ring. He remembered the blue alter stone in the middle of a pit was located in the middle of the inner circle of stones.
What the man of bronze saw in the pit caused him to emit a trilling sound very similar to a wild bird of some far away jungle, but only for a moment. He was able to stifle the sound, but not the feeling of excitement and uneasiness he felt upon witnessing that strange scene.
It was like an ancient scene of a strange past when blood and sacrifice ruled these lands. At least a dozen dark robed figures stood in a perfect circle around the blue altar stone. A small fire issued from the middle. Doc Savage decided to get a closer look. Like a silent ghost he raised and seem to glide across the surface of the prairie. Soon, he took a path that leads him across two banks and a ditch, through a raised mound and past some marks indicating the existence of filed in holes, which had been previous, smaller pits of long ago. He then traveled running low through a great circular ditch with it’s earth piled up its banks on either side which encircled the two
circles of blue stones. Finally he was close enough that he could hear chanting in an ancient tongue drift to where Savage crouched momentarily.
After a few moments he said, “Druids” under his breath, confirming his suspicions. Druids or Dryidoe in Greek means oke-prists were priests whose sect originated in Persia about 1000 B.C.; who later were known as the priests of the Kelts of England believed in souls never die, but after death pass from one to another. They believed that oak trees because they could take lightning strikes that they could through human sacrifice to their dark lord or god Dis the common father; draw fantastic mystical powers and control all those around them. Julius Caesar practically wiped them out overnight, but apparently, they were back.
After an hour of patiently watching their ritual, Doc Savage almost too late noticed a shift in the airflow around him. Few humans would have noticed such a small thing. Savage was no ordinary human. He suddenly left and rolled over the outer bank of the ditch and back among the reeds and thick growth; as a large battle-ax cleft the very ground where he had knelt.
A huge figure grunted as it bent over to pull the weapon from the muddy surface where it was buried to its handle. The man of bronze didn’t hesitate upon seeing how truly large his assailant was. Instead, he quickly took action and threw his body into his assailant’s body blocking him head over heels into the murky waters of a large puddle. Doc Savage landed in the water feet first and pulled his assailant to his wobbly feet. His sputtering prey was a man several inches taller than himself. He had long stringy black hair and thick eyebrows with a low forehead looking more Neanderthal man than his friend Monk Mayfair.
“ You Strong,” the giant assailant managed to say between coughing and breathing hard,” But I take you now.”
The brute suddenly tried to throw a punch, which would have fallen a tree, but his swing met only empty air. The man of bronze ducked and connected an uppercut to the brute’s large jaw. That short rapid punch knocked him flat on his back into the water once more.
When he had come to a moment later, Doc Savage had drug him onto the shore and had his hands and feet tied up with some kind of strong colored wire.
First thing the brute asked was,” What happened?”
Doc Savage with his hypnotically swirling golden flaked eyes, stared into his assailant’s eyes for several seconds before he answered,” Stop fighting me, answer some questions and I’ll let you go, ok?”
The brute thought a moment then he reluctantly agreed,” Ok. What ya want to know? I don’t know much. Just ask anybody around this bloody plain and they’ll say, Andy’s too slow. Give him an easy job. Shovel some crap or here Andy, wash my car. Or Andy, guard the area so that no one finds out.”
“ Finds out what Andy?” Savage asked in a calm voice.
The big man looked over Savage’s shoulder and whispered,” I’m not suppose to tell just any ole bloke that asks, but Andy don’t want to sit here all night; so I tell you what.”
Savage leaned closer,” Yes?”
“Andy let friends explain it to you.”
The man of bronze sensed there was something wrong by what the big brute said and the chanting had stopped. He eased a hand in one of his pockets to his safari jacket as he began to hear sounds of movements all around him in the darkened countryside. Suddenly, while still wearing a big grin on his broad face; Andy slammed his head into Doc Savage’s forehead.
As the man of bronze lay sprawled on the muddy ground, Andy pulled himself up and ran into the night yelling.
“ Hey, Guys. Wait up. Andy got away. Andy got away!”
The man of bronze was never knocked out; he only faked it to follow the brute named Andy. He knew that Andy had little knowledge of the affair, but there was the possibility that he might lead him to the others that hired Andy and they could possibly be the druid cult people.
As Doc Savage picked himself off the slippery ground, all insects and bird sounds suddenly stopped. And in the silence, more than a dozen robed hooded figures descended upon the bronze giant from every direction. Not a word was spoken in that fantastic struggle that followed. Two of their number groaned in pain as they suddenly found their jaws knocked out of place. Another screamed in agony when he found his right forearm bone was snapped in two. Five hooded figures lay sprawled on the ground either in pain or unconscious from the rain of flying fists that a bronze whirlwind was delivering amongst their number.
Finally, sheer numbers of bodies forced the man of bronze back to the ground. After a few moments of struggling and cursing; the hooded figures
had finally subdued their intended victim. Six pair of arms held him spread-eagled upon the muddy shore.
A lone figure in a red hooded robe that hid his features very well on a dark night such as this; descended upon Doc Savage and beat him repeatedly over the head with a blackjack until he was sure that his captive was unconscious.
The red hooded assailant stood up and commented out loud with unmistakable satisfaction in his voice,” That is bloody well over.”
“ The Escape”
Handy Andy as a lot of the folk called him around that area, slowly strolled down the muddy road head hung down in thought; talking to himself clearly a very troubled young man.
“ Now Andy’s sorry to help those ruddy blokes. He seemed like a fair man.”
Andy slowed his pace until he finally came to a halt all the while talking to himself. Trying to make since of it.
“ They never let me wear robes, and they pay me a little change for all their dirty work that Andy does.”
The big man thought a moment and seemed to reach a conclusion, for he snapped his fingers and then he turned off the road back into the tall grass soon to disappear in the ever thickening fog.
It took four husky men in robes to carry the man of bronze’s frame. He hung suspended from the ground between them with his face facing the soggy earth. He regained consciousness within ten minutes after he was brutally beaten, but he never stirred or gave any indication he was awake.
They traveled through the brush quickly in a northwesterly direction toward the famous Stonehenge ruins. A sickening feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as Doc Savage realized that he might be the next human sacrifice. But at the last several yards from the ruins; they veered off directly north toward two new army carrier trucks. Several hooded figures awaited their arrival.
The four carrying Doc savage by passed the first truck and stopped behind the second, whereupon several un-hooded shady characters peeled back the back flap from inside. They helped the others pull and shove his body none too gently through the entrance. As they closed the flap the last thing Doc
Savage saw, was two red hooded figures apparently having some kind of heated argument.
The man of bronze was roughed up; pushed down onto a bench running along the side of the truck. Two hooded figures sat on either side of Doc Savage and a third sat across from him. This individual wore regular work hand clothes. The man was in his mid-twenties, but was already missing some teeth in front. He was several days unshaven and his breath smelled of chewing tobacco. Surprisingly, his accent was more eastern United States.
“ Damn, you know who this guy is boys? He’s the famous Doc Savage back from the dead.”
One of the hooded robed figures who’s features were hidden retorted,” Yes, we know that ole boy, so why don’t you shut up for now. Or do you want to try raising from the dead?”
The other hooded figure chuckled as the crude easterner muttered a “no” in answer. Two more hooded figures entered from the flaps. As soon as they had, the truck lurched forward to follow the lead one. One of the hooded men pulled back his hood enough to reveal some of his facial features; as he approached the easterner. He was a middle-aged man use to leading men and he walked with an air of authority and deadly grace. Every hair on him was silver, even his skin was a light gray hue from exhaustion, fatigue and something more that Doc Savage couldn’t quiet read. Yet, something was driving him on, keeping him going. Only his coal black eyes shown life in them, and a promise of death.
One look from those coal black orbs and the easterner hastily made room for him and another hooded man to take a seat.
Doc Savage spoke first,” What you are trying to accomplish will not succeed.”
One of the hooded figures backhanded the man of bronze across the mouth and even though the man of bronze seemed unaffected, the cold-eyed one signaled him to stop and he replied rather tiredly almost as if he was bored to death.
“ Ah, Mr. Savage, you couldn’t be more wrong. Besides, I really don’t think you know what is happening around here now do you? I thought not. Ah, but forget my manners. Let me introduce myself. I am Sir John Rickards the Fourth, professor of physics and astronomy formerly at the University of Cambridge. If all goes well, my experiment when completed will set this
world on its preposterous ear. It will be my finest hour and greatest trumpet.
Just think. Imagine if you will, to be the first to open a doorway to another universe!” Professor Rickards’ eyes were ablaze with excitement.
“ Holding me,” Doc Savage coldly explained,” Will accomplish nothing. Someone will simply take my place to stop you. What you plan could wreak horrible destruction to this world, to this universe. Your taking the wrong path in your quest and it will be your downfall.”
The easterner blurted,” Sheeze, how corny can you get?”
The professor ignored his remark, but not Savage’s,” Again you are wrong ole chap. Holding you will keep your friends and the authorities at bay. And there is another more important reason I have uh…acquired you.”
The others chuckled before he continued, “ You see, in the black art rites there is always a price for summoning something or performing any…task. Sometimes it is a small sacrifice like gold or perhaps a small creature. Other times it requires a significantly larger gift.”
“ Let me guess. A human sacrifice.”
“It was the first step and required a less significant subject for sacrifice…”
Suddenly, there was the screech of brakes and both trucks came to a quick halt. The professor seemed to have been listening, waiting for something.
After a moment, he commented in a satisfied tone,” Ah, that should be him now.”
Out in front of the first truck only a yard from the grill and wheels; stood the big kid Andy his arms waving and he was yelling.
“ Stop. You stop for Andy and give him his friend now, or I will get mad and tell. I’ll get mad and tell.”
Before another word could escape his lips, the driver muttered,” You’re dead meat, kid. Some people never learn.”
He threw the large two and a half ton truck in gear and it jumped forward. Andy only had time to scream once and then the front of the truck slammed him to the ground. With a sickening crunch the wheels on the left ran over the entire length of the poor kid’s body, squishing guts and brains across the old dirt road and across the bottom of the heavy truck.
Everyone in the back of the second truck heard the scream and felt the slight bump, as it too ran over Andy’s remains.
“ Right on time I must say. Andy was handy to the very end.”
Professor Rickards commented seemly satisfied with the results.
The others were laughing one, because of the professor’s statement and two, because they loved the sadistic way Andy had been killed.
That is probably why when Doc Savage though bound head to foot, suddenly thrust his body violently forward and up that he caught everyone by surprise. His bindings snapped as if they were string while the two hooded men were bowled head over heels onto the carrier truck’s flooring.
The young toothless gangster drew a forty-four revolver, but squawked in pain as the man of bronze swiftly brought down his hand with the edge of his. Doc Savage grabbed the professor around the waist and bodily picked him up. Tucked under one arm, in two steps, he had reached the back flaps. A third step and Savage with his quarry leapt out and away from the truck. In those passing seconds, the professor was only mildly surprised. He laughed as they cleared the second truck.
It seemed forever to the man of bronze before his feet touched the road. As he did, both the professor’s body and laughter faded into a blue glowing mist and scattered into nothingness.
Doc Savage had known the best magicians and illusionists, but that still did not prepare him completely for the shock he received by the professor’s sudden disappearance from his grip. Doc Savage was stunned and a faint trilling sound not unlike a bird of a South American jungle would make; briefly pierced the chilly air. It died away as the two trucks screeched to a halt.
Doc Savage wasted no time in leaving the scene even though he had an overwhelming urge to investigate that strange and puzzling occurrence. He quickly faded into a forest nearby of Oak and Scots Pine. The dew was falling heavily off the branches and flowers all around him, as he made his way like a silent shadow; further and further into the woods.
There was shouting not far behind him and he recognized the voice of the thug from the east coast. Yet, as he quickly as he was traveling; their voices were soon lost by the distance he had put between him and his pursuers.
He paused for a moment to catch his breath under a thick clump of bushes. The life expansion drug he and his associates had taken years ago was beginning to wear off. Soon, he would age at a rate as any normal man, as would his friends.
Soon he heard his pursuer’s voices once again closing the distance between them with each passing second. Just as he was about to leap up into
the trees above him and head in a different direction to lose them; he heard the unmistakable sound of someone or something crashing through the trees and forest growth at an incredible rate. As the sound quickly grew closer, the man of bronze concluded two disturbing facts. One, no human could have been that large or fast and two, it was headed straight for him from a different direction than his pursuers were.
Doc Savage knew he only had seconds now to decide a course of action or he would be in a lot of trouble, double time. It only took him seconds fortunately, to decide that it was better to risk being seen by the unknown, then being caught by those who by now were heavily armed. All of his weapons and secret devices of defense and escape had been removed even before he had been placed into the truck.
In one leap he caught a large tree branch fully six feet above him, and swing his large frame onto the top of it. Just as he reached the top of the branch, he heard a faint sound of something crunching under someone’s feet below him. He glanced down into the wide black pupils of the eyes of one of the strangest creatures Savage had ever encountered.
Standing almost seven and a half feet tall on its two legs stood a creature very similar to an orangutan in stature and in all its body hair. There the similarity ended. Its hair was a bluish gray and its claws were ever bit as long as an adult grisly bear.
The face of the apish creature looked almost human and rage was written all over its face. Roaring not unlike a lion, it leapt up and grabbed the man of bronze by the legs before he could make a move. Fortune was with Doc Savage, for he had not been relieved of his tear gas pellets in his belt buckle. As Savage was being pulled down out of the tree, he dropped the two red pellets on the creature’s head. Their impact was never felt, but the resulting gas cloud that issued forth was. Coughing and sputtering the blue furred fellow released the man of bronze from his awful grip. He then stumbled to the ground rubbing his eyes and groaning all the while.
Doc Savage leapt clear of the cloud and the strange creature landing perfectly flat-footed several yards away. Because of the pursuing party, he didn’t stay to examine the temporarily helpless creature; but instead he started on a dead run through the forest on an animal trail that he had noticed a short time before. At least it lead in the opposite direction from trouble he thought.
A few minutes after Doc Savage disappeared into the surrounding forest; the strange blue-gray creature had recovered from the tear gas enough that he leapt to his feet and howled an unearthly howl very much like a large wolf
toward the ever lightening heavens. Soon it would be dawn.
The eastern thug was the first to spot the blue-gray creature and guessed his identity right away.
“ Boo! Ha Ha! Did I scare ya professor?”
He had no more than spoke those words when the creature whirled around and grabbed him by the throat. Just as the others arrived many hoodless but heavily armed, the easterner was lifted bodily into the air by one arm of the creature who incredibly spoke.
“ You fool! You are the one who was responsible in searching the doctor. So you will be the one who shall pay for this disaster.”
The creature tightened his grip on his wide-eyed squawking victim. In an instant, the thug’s neck was crushed before he could say a word. His body was flung away into an old stump nearby as if he were a little rag doll. Fully a dozen heavily armed men and women had gathered there speechless, stunned by what they had just witnessed.
Eyes ablaze with fury, the professor/creature noticed the others and asked,” Are there any others here that want the same? Then I better not hear of such failure again. Do I make myself clear?”
Most nodded their heads in agreement right away.
“ Well?” the strange being asked,” Why are you staring so? Oh…yes, I had forgotten.” He closed his eyes tightly and chanted words too quietly for anyone to possibly overhear and in moments before their startled eyes the crowd watched as the creature’s size and shape began to melt and shrink changing form constantly until at last, professor Rickards stood once more before them calmly watching their reactions to the amazing transformation.
One of the larger taller hooded men finally got up the courage to ask,” What do we do now?”
The professor seemed paler and more drawn than before as he replied to the whole assemblage,” I will contact our people in New York, I have a contingency plan for just such a situation as this.”
“ And what is that sir?”
Professor Rickards laughed hardily and explained cold as ice,” Why we shall have to make do with the next best thing or in this case person. Yes,
Nancy Mayfair shall do nicely.”
Everyone followed the professor in the direction of the carrier trucks except for one lone individual; the tall hooded one that had asked the professor the questions. Somehow, no one had noticed or missed his presence. He was soon out of hearing and sight. He crawled behind a large tree and listened intently. When he was satisfied that they were gone, only then did he pull the hood back away from his face. The hooded robe had been only a disguise, for Doc Savage to infiltrate their ranks and try to piece together this case. Yet, what he learned alarmed him greatly. Monk’s daughter Nancy was in great danger and was either to take his place in whatever ritual sacrifice they had planned, or she was the bait for much bigger fish, namely himself. He knew he had to find a house, village somewhere where there was a phone very soon and warn Nancy and the others or it would be too late to do much else; but surrender.
As he ran through the forest toward the general direction he had come before he ran into the druid people, he noticed the eastern sky was becoming lighter all the time. A new dawn was breaking. Professor Rickards and his Druid cult was getting too much of lead start. If only he had done more to their trucks besides giving them several flat tires…
Professor Rickards was personally driving the first truck toward a local airport. He was angry to say the least. His new right hand man Pierre, was sitting beside him had one hand on the door handle and one in his pocket around a gun inside; for he thought the professor could do anything he looked and acted so mad.
Suddenly, the professor turned to Pierre and glared with eyes that felt as though they were actually looking through him. Then he commented with as much control as he could muster.
“ You know Pierre, the sooner we are rid of this meddlesome Savage yank the better off we’ll be.”
“ Wee professor”, Pierre replied immediately trying desperately to humor him,” When we got him where we want him, we can give him a big Au
The professor laughed menacingly,” Yes, that we shall do.”
Then he gripped the steering wheel with both hands until his knuckles turned
Several hours before Doc Savage made his remarkable escape, just outside of Dublin Ireland in a cozy little drinking place called Kitty Mac Dermott’s Pub; sat Monk Mayfair and the ever sharply dressed Ham Brooks. The flashy dressed Monk’s suggestion of taking a table in the very center of this busy place was becoming less and less appealing to Ham by the minute. It was wall-to-wall people in that pub. Monk’s attire of green and brown shirt and slacks was becoming very annoying to Ham.
“ I must say, you look fine for a Scottish gentleman,” Ham remarked sarcastically.
In a high voice of aggravation Monk replied,” For the last time, I ain’t Scottish!”
A youthful buxom-built lady who happen to be passing by at the time, overheard monk’s reply. She promptly leaned over very near to Monk’s face, so that he would sure to be able to get a good look at her cleavage that bulged out of her low cut white dress; and asked him in a loud, but sweet voice,” That I can see straight away. Tell me handsome, do you have Irish blood in your veins?’
Monk who had not only a large dinner of Lamb and Colcannon, which is potatoes fried and covered with a thick cream; but also a few strong Irish black beers in him already; blurted out loud,” Hell no. I’m not pantywaist
Unknown to monk, the loud Irish music had stopped temporarily and every soul in the pub had heard his comment as plain as day. The Irish woman stood back, hands on hips glaring down at the apish Monk; and tapping her foot all the while in a growing anger.
Several stools scrapped along the floor as many men began to rise from their seats.
Ham in a small nervous voice asked monk,” Now why did you say that for?”
Monk smiled silly, shrugged his shoulders and fell out of his chair right into
the arms of the waiting Irish women. He looked up at her and asked,” Do you people have doggy bags?”
Several men headed Ham’s direction and he just had time to yell,” I don’t know the man, really!”
An older man yelled,” Hey, we’ve got an English bastard in here too.”
Next thing Ham and Monk knew they felt themselves thrown through the front door into the cobbled street. The wet cobbled street. Ham was trying to get to his feet with the help of a broken half of his sword cane; when he heard lightning and looked up just in time to feel a stinging downpour on his face and torn clothing.
“ Christ! I’m going to murder that ape yet.” He rubbed his jaw and glanced over at Monk’s form as he managed to get to one knee. Monk could only lay there in the rain and mumble about more ale. As suddenly as the rain appeared, it left. Then Ham noticed shadows looming over Monk and himself. He ventured a peek to see what caused the shadows and found that they were almost surrounded by a half-a-dozen men and a single tall redhead woman in her twenties; who asked him a question in a cautious tone.
“ Ham Brooks and Monk Mayfair?”
Ham noticed most of those that surrounded Monk and himself; glanced around nervously, despite his rather bothersome headache.
“ Yes mamam, we are. You haven’t caught us at one of our best moments.”
“ Can you two walk?”
“ I can but Monk…” Ham gazed upon Monk’s snoring form. The pretty redhead followed his gaze. She smiled at Ham,” That’s all right. I happen to have brought along a wee bit of help. We’ll drag him if we have to.”
Ham delighted, smiled.
“ Oh please, feel free to do just that.”
The redhead’s eyes danced with humor and still smiling,” After what he put you through, I don’t blame you.” She extended a hand to help him to his feet.
“ Name’s Belinda O’Casey, friends call me Lin.”
She seemed to be at ease around the retired lawyer and this did not escape Ham’s notice. He continued to smile. He couldn’t help it. She was very pleasing to the eye.
“ Lin..Lin, that is a pretty name by Jove. What do you want with us, Lin?”
Miss O’Casey only replied,” Come along quickly. There is someone I know
that would like to talk to you two.”
For reasons unknown even to himself, he accompanied the woman and her associates willingly. Four men tried to carry the unconscious Monk for a while; but eventually huffing and puffing; they gave up and decided to drag him instead. And Ham loved every minute of it not comprehending somehow, the amount of danger they were in.
At a fast walk they passed several cottages before reaching one that an old touring car parked and running waiting around the side of it. One man the driver anxiously waited inside. He had a pistol drawn, but quietly placed it back in his shoulder holster when he recognized the party that approached his car.
Monk was propped up between Ham and one of Belinda’s men in the back seat. Still another man squeezed into the seat with them. Belinda and a large mean looking gentleman with straight dark hair and a small beard sat in front with the driver. Before the car could start anywhere, Belinda leaned halfway out the window on her left since the driver and steering wheel to this type of vehicle was located on the right. She gave instructions to the three remaining men who stood just outside the vehicle. Ham couldn’t quite make out what she was saying to them. Then with a squawk of grinding gears, the old car lurched forward.
They traveled a very old pot whole filled road for several miles before anything was said between the passengers.
“ Miss O’Casey?” Ham addressed the redhead in the seat ahead,” Could you tell me what this is about?”
Belinda O’Casey leaned over the seat,” Call me Lin please and no I can’t and shan’t. At least for now.”
“ I don’t suppose you could tell me where either.”
“ Nope. Sorrrrry.”
“ Nope she says.” Ham muttered and Belinda could only smile big enough to show she had perfect teeth. He couldn’t read a thing in those blue eyes, but the teeth reminded him of something. He just couldn’t remember what.
The way they carried on with secrecy, they could only be one thing. The I.R.A. The thought wasn’t comforting especially since Ham was mostly of English blood. Yet, they had not once mentioned that fact; at least not in front of him.
Ireland was mostly shrouded in fog that night, but soon would burn off
from the sun that was beginning to peak over the horizon as they entered a small village. After the village, which was still quiet because of the early hour they traveled, there was a deserted farmhouse and large barn up a hill away from the road. They entered without hesitation the drive leading up the hill, and drove until they had passed the farmhouse stopping in the front part of the dilapidated barn; who’s doors lay on the uncut grass. The farm looked recently abandoned.
Whoever had been waiting in the old rundown barn must had been very watchful too; for as soon as the old touring car rumbled to a stop in front, two husky masked guards appeared from inside. They stepped aside to let the vehicle to continue into the barn. As soon as the engine was killed, everyone piled out of the automobile except the driver, who leaned back in his seat as if he was going to take a nap.
Belinda led the way toward the middle of the barn and even though the morning sun was out; Ham could barely make out the outline of three shi-masked individuals standing behind a long old cutting table in the middle of the musky smelling place. Monk had to be drug all the way by two of Belinda’s men.
As Belinda stepped aside to let Ham and Monk through, she cleared her voice. Belinda and four men, two guards that were already occupying the building, Monk and Ham and the three masked individuals were all that was inside the barn.
After a moment of silence, the one masked man in the middle of the three was almost a head taller than the other two or anyone in that room spoke first.
“ Top of the morning to you Mr. Brooks and to your sleeping friend. I had you brought here to answer some questions and if all goes well, you’ll be released in a few hours. You might as well know now that you are temporarily in the custody of the Irish Republican Army.”
“ Sirs?” Ham addressed the apparent leader,” If you know who we are, then you must realize for whom we work for. And going with that information; you should know of our friend’s deeds spanning the entire globe for many years.”
The three ski-masked figures looked at each other and once more the taller one spoke this time with a hint of awe to his voice.
“ Then the rumors are true? He is as old as they say?”
Ham sighed,” Yes, yes.”
“ Then that means you and all the aides of Clark Savage are at least Seventy years old?”
Ham ignored the question,” Is this all you plan to ask about? For if it is then I suggest you let us go now and quit interfering with our business.”
The large masked man slammed his fist down on the table in aggravation.
“ Silence you knavish swine! I could have you two killed on the spot. That is what I want to know, just exactly what are you three doing here? Have someone perhaps the English government, hired Doc Savage to wipe us out?”
Ham couldn’t help but laugh,” That is a ridiculous accusation. First of all, Doc Savage does not wipe anybody. He stops them from carrying out whatever evil plans that they may have had against humanity.”
The red head, arms folded across her chest, smirked,” Oh Brother! Nobody works that way.”
Ham ignored her interruption,” Also, my employer has always respected people who fought for a cause even though we do disagree with your methods sharply. So, we are here for reasons that have nothing to do with you at all.”
“ Then what in the name of all the saints are you here for?” The larger masked man asked as he pounded the table once hard with his fist again.
“ I don’t really know. Even my friends, Monk and Renny are stumped.”
“ Then how do you know you aren’t here to do us in?”
Ham couldn’t hide all the worry he was feeling,” It’s not like Doc to leave us somewhere without instruction or information. He may have felt he was being carefully watched so much so that he couldn’t risk contact at this time or…”
The redheaded Belinda moved to stand before the retired lawyer with the faint English accent, staring intently into his face as she asked, “Or what Mr. Brooks?”
“ Or he is in grave danger and couldn’t contact us if he wanted to.”
Ham replied voicing a fear that had been eating at him silence day one upon arriving in this crazy country.
Monk stirred and mumbled something in an ancient unknown dialect and then went limp between the two men that held his hulking form. They sat him heavily down on an old rocking chair with one armrest missing. After
all, he was a heavy load to keep upright for very long even for two grown men.
Only Ham was able to understand what Monk had mumbled and his words made him smile briefly in amusement.
Belinda was the only other person in the room that caught the significance of that brief incident, but she never gave a hint of it when she said out loud.
“ I believe this man is telling the truth council.”
One of the other masked men turned his head toward the spokesman and commented, “ Oh, let us be done with this nonsense. We shouldn’t have taken a chance such as this in the first place. Besides, they can identify Belinda now, and this place.”
The larger man placed his hand on the others’ shoulder,” My friend, there is sense to your words. We can always move but Belinda and some of the others will never be safe now as long as Mr. brooks and his friends remain alive in our beloved Ireland. Give the word Mike.”
Mike, the other masked man of the council of the IRA gave a nod to the guard that were still masked. Ham could distinctly hear the bolts draw back on their commando type machine guns, and he actually began to pray when several things happened so fast that Ham almost didn’t react in time. Belinda stepped in between Ham and the guards. She half turned to the council mainly to address the big man in the middle.
“I implore you to reconsider your decision. I think it maybe a hasty and senseless killing.”
No expression shown through masks so it was impossible for Ham to tell what those three were thinking. It certainly didn’t feel good for they didn’t respond at first. After a moment of silence in which the guards edged closer to their captives, the red-haired woman spoke sounding desperate,” Please father, let them live; I feel it would be a grave mistake to kill them, now.”
“ Now she says” Ham wondered pessimistically to himself.
Suddenly, a very familiar voice from above somewhere yelled,” Duck you suckers.”
That caught Monk’s captors’ attention. The second they peered upward to find the source of this new voice, Monk came to life and with blinding speed, he sprang to his feet. Grabbing both guards by the necks, he violently slammed their heads together. They fell senseless to the floor. At the same instant, a small gray object the size and shape of a walnut dropped just in
front of the council’s table. It discharged into a blinding flash of light and loud blast very similar to a concussion grenade. As it did, Ham threw himself against Belinda knocking her flat onto the floor.
The blast had knocked everyone off their feet except Monk who roared like an ape and punched the other guards senseless as they tried to recover and regain their footing. Ham quickly pulled Belinda who was dazed to hre feet and grabbed a large revolver out of her holster she had attached to her waist. He had the revolver pressed against Belinda’s temple as the three masked councilmen untangled themselves from beneath the shattered remains of the table and regained their footing. The big one pointed a finger at Ham, You have our attention Mr. Brooks. The ball as you American’s say, is in your corner.”
Ham grabbed Belinda by the waist and began to back his way in the direction of the main doorway,” Yes, I think we even made the go ahead touchdown. Ok Dad, your daughter shall escort us for a while, so I suggest you stay clear of our business and not to interfere with our flight out of here.”
The big man strained to control himself, as he threw out his hands in an innocent gesture,” That sounds reasonable. We shall not give chase, but Mr. Brooks; it you harm her, there will be no place on this Earth that will be safe for you from my wrath, do you understand?”
Monk recovering a submachine gun from one of the senseless guards, answered for him,” Yeah, yeah. Don’t you worry ole chum. We’re not that type of guys. She’ll be alright as long as we’re not pressed.” Monk grinned at the struggling Belinda.
The big man ignored monk’s answer,” Mr. Brooks, somewhere, somehow we will meet again, that I swear by all that is holy.”
Ham smiled,” Top of the morning to you fellas.”
As they turned and headed for the main doorway, Ham out the side of his mouth remarked,” That was a good show of ventriloquism monk, but tell me how did you ever pull the flash bomb trick?”
“ I didn’t do it.”
That is when they noticed at the doorway in their path, stood Renny Renwick big as life, with the sourest expression on his long sunlit face. That usually meant he was enjoying the moment. In a voice just as big as life
Renny asked,” Well, are you guys gonna drag your butts along all day? Holy Cow Monk! Who’s the hostage?”
“ Head of the local IRA’s daughter that’s all.” Monk replied,” Now you best lead the way cause I don’t know where you are parked, but I bet these guys behind us know where theirs are.”
It took Renny and Ham to drag Belinda to an old van still idling not forty feet to the right of the barn. Monk brought up the rear with a submachine gun trained on the barn’s doorway until they reached the old vehicle. After they had piled into the van and cranked the standard drive into gear, he remarked,” You won’t have to worry about those guys following us.”
Ham who was sitting in the front next to Renny asked,” Because we have that man’s daughter right?”
“ Nah, because of that.” Renny indicating at a glance the touring car that was left parked near he front of the dilapidated barn. As everyone followed Renny’s gaze toward the car, they heard four distinct bangs like a firecracker would make. First Monk, then the others started laughing as they witnessed all four tires on the touring car sink down into the muddy earth until they were as flat as Frisbees. Even Belinda quit struggling and chuckled at the sight.
“ And I thought we were the only people that pulled such chicanery.” She smiled at Renny,” I must say you men are a delightful breath of fresh air.”
Her eyes very nearly twinkled as she turned to Ham,” But I must warn you the first chance I get I’ll try to escape.”
Ham blushed clearing his voice. Monk elbowed Ham in the ribs as he addressed him and the red head,” Then I guess someone will have to keep you tied up. Right Ham?”
Ham didn’t know what to say. In all his years he had known monk; he had never known him to give up on a beautiful girl such as this without so much as a fight. Maybe he was seeing something that Ham could not. Anyway he was getting too old for this.
“ You’ll have to excuse this buffoon, Miss O’Casy. He must think I’m a dirty old man.” Ham was almost apologetic.
Belinda amused at the whole deal pressed her face close to ham’s.” Well, aren’t you?”
Monk laughed so hard he almost set off his machinegun. Ham turned as red as a beet.
“ An Insurance Policy”
Doc Savage had discarded the hooded robe discize because it was too cumbersome to be able to move as fast through the forest as he needed.
It was a sure bet that the professor’s men would be watching his rental car that he had parked just off the road leading by the old Stonehenge ruins. His best chance he reasoned was to reach a phone somewhere soon and contact first his people in New York; then his three aides that were waiting patiently in Ireland. Monk had only limited patience and could even be making a move to find the man of bronze at that very moment. He hoped not, for monk and the others had no idea yet what they would be getting into.
It would have been simple to contact Scotland Yard police and inform of what he knew and where the Druids were. He could even tell them exactly who lead them. Charges of murder could be made on several of the Druids for the brutal killing of Andy, but that wouldn’t stop the professor and whatever plans he had in mind to carry out. It would be only a small set back, nothing more.
The sun was well above the trees as Savage left the forest and was trotting up a narrow country road toward a small town he could see in the distance. In twenty minutes he reached the outskirts of an ancient town which consisted mainly of old single story structures of stone and wood shingles for roofs. In twenty seconds he was inside a phone booth or Telly booth as the locals would often call them.
Fortunately for the man of bronze, he still had enough change to call operator and make the necessary calls. He first tried the overseas calls since it was the most urgent and also the charge would be a collect call, and not one that he would have to fork up the money right away. The New York city operator forward his call to a specious new skyscraper building owned under the name of Ham’s son Nick Brooks, a now famous lawyer of the big apple and one of the newest additions to Savage’s organization of crime fighting.
A gruff voice answered,” Fifth Avenue Skyline Tower, may I help you?’
Doc Savage explained whom he was and whom he wanted to talk to. He mentioned it was an emergency. That wasn’t necessary for no sooner did he reveal his identity, the male receptionist recognized his voice then his
whole attitude changed in a flash.
“Right away Mr. Savage. I knew that there is at least Nick Brooks at the apartment now entertaining a lady friend I believe, but I guess this is important enough to interrupt them ain’t it?
“ Yes Phil, it certainly is.” Doc Savage said as little as possible for he wasn’t sure that their phone may already be tapped by the professor’s hired crones.
Phil the receptionist rang the phone four rings before someone answered. Whoever answered wasn’t in a good mood,” Hello, Nick Brooks is not in now, but if you leave a message at the sound of the beep; I shall try to answer it within two days.”
“ Nick, you can drop the act. This is Phil downstairs.”
“ Phil, I thought I give strict instructions to you that I was not to be…”
“ Nick! This is urgent! Mr. Bronze himself is on the other line. He really needs to talk to you.”
“ Well, by all means, put him on. I have to talk to him too.”
“ Are you gonna accept the call collect?”
“ Yes, yes, now put him on.”
The line was already open so Savage heard the whole conversation before he addressed Nick.
“ Hello Nick. You sound upset. Did I interrupt something?”
“ Yes, you did. But that situation is repairable. What is not is what Monk’s daughter did to me.”
Doc Savage sighed,” What is it now Nick?”
“ Ah not much…She just stole my last bottle of 1962
“ That’s ok, my day’s been shot from the first. Now, why do they want you? Wait a minute. I’ll take an extra precaution …” After a couple of seconds of silence, Nick said,” There, I turned on our scrambler. Should take care of all bugs.”
“ Good thinking Nick. I believe they want me for some important sacrifice.”
“ I suppose because you signify purity and a true fighter of evil. But couldn’t a priest do as well?”
Doc Savage didn’t answer either because he didn’t really know why, or that he was ignoring Nick’s question. It was then out of the corner of his eye; he saw movement down the street leading further into town.
“ Clark? Clark? Are you still there?”
Savage’s attention was drawn back temporarily to the phone.
“ Nick, find Nancy at all costs and head for your basement garage. Lock it off and arm yourselves. You should be safest down there.”
“ Ok, but…”
“ I must contact Renny and the others immediately. I’ll see you two later.”
Doc Savage hung up the receiver before Nick could get in a word. He ventured a glance down the street. There were several people exiting from the doorways of shops and houses headed clearly his direction. Some were heavily armed, while others carried clubs or whatever they could find.
He crouched down low in the booth after he dialed another number. Calling Ireland turned out to be harder than over seas from there, but finally Renny’s hotel room was patched through. By the eighth ring, the man of bronze was about to give up; when finally a familiar voice answered it almost out of breath,” Hello.”
“ Hi Renny. It is good to hear your voice. How are the boys?”
Renny instantly recognized Doc Savage’s voice and that he was using code,” Hi there Doc. We’re alright considering the rough ride we’ve experienced. I mean not knowing what is going on nearly made the boys targets for a little
rock throwing by some nasty Irish lads. We’ve made a truce with their sister.”
Doc savage could hear some scuffling going on in the background,” Well, almost a truce.” Renny added. Then he could hear the unmistakable high voice of monk yelling,” Ouch! She bit me!”
“ If I didn’t know better, I would mistakably conclude that Nancy was with you people.”
Renny laughed,” I think by the time this is over, the boys will wish she had been instead of this hellcat.”
“ She really must be something…Do you remember back during the Black Cobra affair?”
“ Yeah, what about it?”
“ Meet me there tomorrow morning, that’s four a.m.”
“ But Doc, that’s been almost 45 years since any of us have been there. Holy Cow! You may not be able to recognize the place by now.”
“Don’t worry about me. Just be sure to be there at the appointed time, Renny. Oh, and it’s your business about the girl, but if I were you I’d ditch her before you leave.”
Renny seemed doubtful and confused,” Oh, alright. We’ll make it somehow. It is going to spoil the law boy’s birthday, but I think he’ll pull through, especially the way this ole girl acts. See ya later.”
“ Right, good luck.”
Savage quickly replaced the receiver to its cradle and peered outside. The small gathering ahead had grown into a large mob. Surely all of them weren’t looking for him. As soon as he stepped out of the telly booth, one of the men in the crowd shouted pointing Savage’s way,” Hey! There he is. The murderer has made it easy on us/ Let’s get him lads!”
Doc savage knew that a mob like that he wouldn’t have time to explain the brute’s death or anything before he was lunched or worse. The den that the angry mob was making was deafening, as they converged toward the man of bronze. He only stayed a second to analyze their numbers and behavior, and then like a silent ghost, he faded into the shrubbery surrounding a closed pub and several abandoned two story structures, with the crowd right on his heels. Fearing he would get away in such an obstacle course of trees, bushed and other structures such as this, several people fired shotguns and rifles wildly into the area ahead of them.
Doc savage once felt a bullet graze his heel as he ran around a corner of one of the abandoned houses. He knew he had to put as much distance as he could between them and himself especially in the daylight if he were to have a chance of escaping at all.
All he really needed to do was make his way through one last building and then he could slip back into the forest nearby. Upon entering the two story dilapidated structure; he noticed strong odor of smoke throughout the first floor. As his eyes became more accustom to the dark he relaxed the source of this smoky fragrance. The entire interior had been burned to a crisp, yet there had been no warning signs posted around the outside or in.
What he failed to notice perhaps because of all that was on his mind at the moment; was the opening in the floor in front of him. He couldn’t see the opening because there was a trap door covering that opening. Next thing he knew, he was stepping off into nothingness with nothing nearby to grab to stop his fall.
As he plummeted into further darkness he sensed the edge of the flooring as his body fell by. At the last instant, he reached over and grabbed the flooring ledge with both hands checking his fall. Unfortunately, the edges of the flooring were wood weakened by the fire also. So after a few seconds in which he was trying to pull himself out of that trap; the edges of the wood he held by his fingertips gave way and he continued his fall. There was no ladder to descend or grab to help stop him. The man of bronze could only helplessly on to whatever fate awaited him below.
“A Night to Remember”
As Renny was off the phone he said without thinking, “ Well, guess we’re to meet Doc in London right away. He said it wasn’t any of his business; but he thought we ought to get rid of the girl.”
Ham started to protest where he sat at their hotel room lone table reading the latest edition of the Wall Street Journal, but he never got out a word. Suddenly, like a shot; Belinda threw a vase at Renny’s head, which missed him by inches and then bolted for the front door.
If Monk hadn’t jumped a couch and left at the Irish lady’s legs, she might have escaped. She looked healthy enough to outrun all of them. Even then
she had managed to open the door before monk tackled her. The results of
the tackle caused them both to spill face first into the hallway; just as a black cleaning woman strolled by with a toilet brush in one hand and a roll of toilet tissue in the other. She stopped and stared as Monk helped Belinda up none too gently.
“ Try that again sister and I’ll have to hog tie ya.” Belinda could only glare at his homely face. The cleaning woman cleared her throat which of course got their attention,” I tell ya child, if I had a man that looked that ugly; I’d be runnin’ too.”
Ham further inside the room got a kick out of that statement. The laughter burned Monk’s ears.
The cleaning woman clucked at them and shook her head back and forth as she continued down the brightly lit hallway. Monk helped the pretty redhead to her feet and then forcefully escorted her back into their room. As he did so he explained,” Renny didn’t mean what you thought he meant Miss O’Casey; when he mentioned getting rid of you.”
“ Oh. Am I to believe that just because you say it?”
Ham stepped in front of the two and pulled Belinda away from monk,” You have no choice Belinda. Renny only meant that we would let you out somewhere before we departed for… wherever we are going to.”
Renny had to have his say to the still skeptical young woman,” What you didn’t realize is that it is our policy, code if you will not to harm anyone intentionally.”
“ No matter how villainous or honoree they may be.” Monk added as a hint. This was a big surprise to the redhead for she could only respond.
Then Ham guided Belinda by her arm toward a couple of chairs on the other side of the room as he continued to converse with her. Renny with little else to say or do, told Monk as he rubbed his large oversized hands together,” Well, I suppose we better get packing.”
Monk glanced over at the couple across the room,” Yeah, let’s do that and maybe we can take an evening flight outta here. I’m so fed up with Ireland. Besides, the love birds need to be alone so’s they can say their goodbyes.”
Ham sat facing the fiery Irish woman. They were close so it was easy to talk to one another in whispers.
“ I’m going to lay it on the line girl. You shouldn’t go with us no matter
what I feel for you.”
Belinda’s eyes were watery and almost bloodshot, but her voice didn’t falter,” I know we’ve only just met, but I feel I have known you all my life and that is why I want to go with you. I’ve lived all my days in Ireland waiting, waiting for something and I think that something is you.”
“ You can’t feel that. You know nothing of me or why we do these crazy things.”
Belinda looked out the window nearby for a moment,” Oh, I think I know you alright. You have been surrounded by your friends practically all your life, yet alone at the same time. I can understand your commitment to this man Doc Savage. It is like a cause, a cause against evil very much the same that my father’s father and his father before that. We may lose some battles, but like you we know in the end we shall win the war and our freedom. Erin go braugh, meaning long live Ireland.”
“ My age, I have English blood…”
The red head waved them off and she gently touched his cheek with her lips.” It only means you are more mature and I accept challenges bigger than that everyday.”
Ham finally sighed,” Then you really want to go with us to England?”
“ With you, yes I do.”
While they had this conversation, Monk slipped up on them,
“ You forget about the excitement, we do it for that too.”
Belinda turned to Monk,” That goes without saying. I’m sorry I thought the worse of you people. I should have known better than that.”
Monk grinned,” Well, I’m sorry I tackled ya… friends?”
Monk held out a thick hairy hand to the Irish lady.
“ Friends.” She returned Monk with a look of respect and shook his hand.
“ You know you’ll be considered our ticket out of here,” Monk commented.
Ham protested,” You buffoon, she’ll be our guest and nothing..”
Belinda interrupted,” No, he’s right Ham. You embarrassed my father in front of his friend and I believe that won’t be the last time we will hear from them. They don’t forget a slight, and it is best that they believe I’m your hostage. They’ll never believe anything you tell them now. At least they’ll keep their distance until they feel they have the advantage.”
As they pondered this problem, Renny asked,” So is she going or what?”
Ham laughed,” I guess she is.”
Renny glanced out the front doorway to their room out into the hallway and informed everyone,” That’s good. I think we better leave now and get some rest on the plane; cause I just noticed there’s three suspicious looking characters hanging around the hall. I don’t know how long they have been there.”
“ Not long, it was only 15 minutes ago that we took that spill.” Monk ventured.
“ Renny’s right, if it’s my people they’ll make their move soon. Belinda explained.
Renny already had most of the luggage packed, so in a matter of minutes to avoid the possible confrontation in the hallway; they climbed out the back window and down the fire escape to a side street below.
Renny instructed Monk, as they reached the last steps,” Monk, while we carry the luggage to the rental car, you go inside and throw the keys to em’ at the desk.”
“ Sure, but do we owe anything?” Monk asked.
“ Nah, shouldn’t be any problem. We’ll meet ya in front.”
Monk waved the three on and strolled around to the front glass doors and into the lobby of the hotel whistling rather badly an Irish melody. The lobby and front desk was very busy, what with it being late morning and many people were checking in and out at about that time.
Two men who were not guests or residents of the hotel, stood with their backs to a wall watching anyone that traveled to and fro whether they took the elevators or the spiral staircase nearby. Neither had thought to watch the front doors, until Monk had already checked out and left the keys to their room.
Just as he turned to leave the front desk and head for the front glass doors, he heard some woman behind him shout,” Lookout! He’s got a gun!”
Another woman screamed as he whirled around with a gun drawn in his hand. That gun was no ordinary gun, but a machine pistol of a special make that Doc Savage had developed some fifty years ago. Some improvement had been made to prevent jamming and overheating, but basically it was of the same breed and performance; as everyone in the lobby was to find out.
As he whirled around he noticed two things right away. First, everyone was use to sudden and deadly attacks before; for they were all dropping to
the floor or running for cover. The next instant he saw two men that could
have filled National Football League uniforms nicely rushing toward him, determination in their eyes with guns drawn.
“ Where’s the fire fellas?” Monk roared.
They brought up their guns to fire without a word, but Monk had already a bead on them and he promptly opened fire in several short bursts from his pistol. There were more screams of terror for only the man of bronze’s aides knew that his pistol only contained sleeping bullets at the time. The first assailant dropped while running, while the other man dived to the side to avoid the oncoming fire. He returned fire as he started to slide behind a large couch.
Monk helped the frightened porter to his feet. They looked at each other and monk commented to him,” Exciting ain’t it?”
Monk grinned from ear to ear, which made him resemble even more Orangutan than before. One bullet nicked the shoulder of Monk and that only seemed to infuriate the apish looking fellow, for he let out a bellow of rage and charged toward the last assailant bringing his machine pistol on full automatic all the way. In a moment, the other gunman lay sleeping sprawled across the pale frightened porter that Monk had just helped to his feet before.
He helped him up again and the shaken porter promptly fainted falling onto another couch, out like a light. Monk shrugged his shoulders and made for the front doors in a hurry. When he burst through the glass doors to the hotel; Renny’s car was nowhere to be found. At first.
Monk muttered to himself,” You guys, so help me. If you chicken out… I’ll tear this town apart to find you.”
He was about to hail a taxi, when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Renny’s old rental car making its way almost on two wheels around the corner from the left. It advanced down the street and with a long screech of old brakes; it came to a stop right in front of him.
Ham stuck his head out the rear side window of the old four door laughing,” What a sight. What’s the matter? You look like a fellow who’s just swallowed an entire pig, by Jove!”
Monk growled at ham,” If you don’t let me in that car, I’m gonna feed you to the pigs piece by piece.”
Ham only laughed louder.
Renny said as he unlocked the front passenger door for Monk, “ Holy cow! What happened in there? We took off to get some gas around the corner as
Ham suggested making sure we had enough to reach the airport. As soon as we heard the shots, we hurried back…”
Monk slid into the seat and Renny got the old car in gear.
“ Ham suggested it huh?”
“ Yeap.” Renny replied.
Monk growled again,” I was almost ambushed you danged fools!”
Ham was immediately apologetic,” I’m sorry ole boy. Was it Irish republican men?”
“ It most likely was,” Belinda interceded,” Renny, we must leave the country now. They must be trying to close in on us already.”
Renny made the old wreck of a rental car practically fly all the way to the airport. A half a block to the destination, Belinda suddenly spoke,” Stop by that store’s parking lot over there.”
Renny had a questioning look on his face, but must have realized that Belinda knew what she was talking about, so he followed her order without so much as a single word. As their car screeched to a halt once more, Belinda said,” Ham, you and I have got to check the airport out first.”
Ham looked her up and down,” She’s right you guys. They may have all modes of public transportation watched around the clock.”
Ham opened his door which faced the sidewalk leading to the airport,” We’ll check it out.”
Belinda left out the same door as Ham. Monk watched Ham and Belinda make their way from one parked car to the next through the entire parking lot until they were out of sight entering the airport.
“ Luck”. Monk whispered.
Both Professional football fans themselves, Renny and Monk were soon in a heavy discussion of what teams would be in the Super Bowl that year. At least they tried to.
“ I think Buffalo has a better chance this year than any team they’ve had in a long time.” Renny commented.
Monk continued to watch carefully out his window as he asked,” You really think so? I’m counting on the Forty-Niners myself. They really have it together this year.”
“ They always do.”
“ Have it together.”
“ I’m sorry, my heart and mind is not in it.”
“ I know Monk. I’m worried about him too!”
Monk looked at Renny who was halfway turned in the driver’s seat,
“ There must be more to this than what doc is letting on.”
Renny turned back in his seat to face the wheel,: You’re right Monk. I wish I knew more about this whole deal so I could tell you more, but I don’t. Wish we could be of more help than we are.”
After a few moments of silence, Monk broke it,” Hey, here they come. The pair watched Belinda and Ham quickly zig zag among the rows of parked cars and soon they were piling into Renny’s rental car.
“ What did you find?” Monk asked.
“ What do you think?” Ham sourly replied.
“ The place is crawling with father’s lads and I believe the police have your people pegged as terrorists or some kind of criminal ring. Begorrah, but are they stupid.” Belinda shook her head in dismay of their mutually desperate situation, as Renny threw the car in gear.
“ Holy scapegoats!” Renny concluded grimly,” I guess we better find another way there.”
“ And I believe there is.” Belinda slapped Ham on the back, which almost cause him to lose his breath.
Monk tried to keep a straight face as he asked her,” Well, where to little lady?” He asked it in the best impersonation of John Wayne the western T.V. and movie star that he could muster.
“ There is a little used airport made only for several small aircraft that we use occasionally. It would be the last place my father would look for us because remember, he doesn’t really know yet that I am helping you guys. He still thinks of me in terms of a hostage.”
Renny asked,” Where is it?”
Belinda pointed straight ahead,” Keep on this road and soon we shall reach a fork where one way leads to a highway and the other is an old stone road left over from a by gone era of ancient Ireland.”
“ Which do we take?” Renny asked.
“ The old stone one. We stay on it two, two and a half miles and then it simply ends into a field with several small buildings scattered about that area.”
“ That’s the airport, I mean field?”
“ That’s it. There’s always an aircraft of some kind out there.”
“ Oh Yeah, no problem.” Monk commented sarcastically,” We’ll pile into that old single-engine bi-plane and away we go.”
Belinda grinned at Monk,” That’s a chance we’ll have to take.”
“ Alright alright, we’ll take it. We haven’t much time. Renny informed.
“ Or choice.” Ham added.
“ It rained on the parade”
A thin dapper middle-aged man dressed in the latest of fashionable three piece suits all white with a Bengal stripe broadcloth shirt striped gray and white. The tie was paisley design gray and Burgundy. His shoes were a polished white. He stood waiting patiently in a lobby to the club and café, The Rainbow Room club is located atop the 65-story RCA Building in Rockefeller Center. The club recently restored; was a place where Manhattan reality inspired Hollywood fantasy; where the high life flourished in the midst of the nation’s deepest depression. It attracted a clientele that included Noel Coward, Joan Crawford and assorted Vanderbilts, Paynes and Whitneys.
The rainbow Room was a great space two stories high, with mirrored columns, a circular dance floor that slowly turn when needed, and three tiers of tables that step back to wall-length windows that look out on the Manhattan skyline. The lighted organ that gave the room its name was gone, but the 300 color lights in the dome on the ceiling have been synchronized with the sound system to create the “rainbow” effect.
This dapper fellow who watched slightly aggravated as several formally dressed couples exited elevators nearby and entered the establishment with not so much as a slight bit of trouble; was a famous lawyer in his own right, Nick Brooks. He was the son to another even more famous or infamous as the case may be, retired lawyer known also the world over as one of the original aides to Clark Savage Jr..
Sometimes it did seem to bother Nick that he was known more as another aide to the famous Doc Savage; than he was a famous defense attorney. He
often wondered if it ever had bothered his father Ham Brooks.
While in his abstract thought somewhere, a matrade stuck his long nosed
face out the main entrance announcing to Nick,” The party is here, will you be joining them sir?”
Nick dropped his cigarette he had been smoking and missed an ashtray purposely. The matrdee winced as it hit the floor in a small geyser of sparks.
“ Yes, but…don’t mention anything to them about me. I wish it to be a surprise.”
He winked and tipped the snobbish little fellow a large bill, which made the tipped blink obviously impressed.
“ Right this way Mr. Brooks. They requested a table near the dance floor and stage. I hope you don’t mind, I could have everyone moved to a place…”
“ No, no, Vincent.” Nick chuckled,” That will be perfect.”
He followed the thin little host who zig zagged through the many elegantly clothed tables of gold and red. Nick glanced around the club realizing that this was the first time he had been in the Rainbow room ever.
Nick, for the first time noticed the two crystal chandeliers up above and the bronze railings running along some stairs leading to the balcony located to the side on each side overlooking the wall-length windows. The buzz of conversation and echo of band music filled the air around him.
Soon as described, Vincent stopped and pointed out a table to Nick where the party sat that he was sent to track down. Sure enough, the table was right by the live stage area where a show had just begun with a big fanfare of music from the club’s band and even bigger welcoming applause, which filled the house to capacity.
The party Nick wanted consisted of a large man of Spanish decent maybe sixty years of age’ who sat across from and was accompanying a beautiful woman (in a rough sort of way) in her late thirties. She wore a beautiful full-length evening dress made of white sparkle material, which reflected the lighting twinkling like a thousand stars.
Though she had a beautiful face, her most striking feature was her long blonde hair cascading down her back almost to the middle of it. The front of her hair was pulled back and held in place by a very expensive headband decorated white with tiny white diamonds, which added to the twinkling effect. Around her shapely neck was a pearl necklace worth a fortune on its on.
She was facing more Nick’s direction than her partner and was the first to
spot him approaching her table. Her face shown concern and she shook her
head slightly as if to say no or stay away. But Nick kept right on course smiling mischievously all the way.
Just as he was about to reach them, the blonde calmly pushed her chair back and announced to her male companion,” Excuse me Fredrick. That was a delicious meal, but I find I must freshen up at the lady’s room before we continue this, what promises to be a wonderful evening.”
She said those words loud enough that Nick could hear and then she stood up. The Spanish gentleman stood also like the gentleman he was; to excuse his lady companion from the table.
And like a shot, the disturbed blonde made her way quickly for the lady’s room located near the furtherest wall from her. A comedian on stage said half seriously,” Hey lady, I’m not that bad.”
She ignored his comment not flinching one bit. Instead, she doubled her speed toward the lady’s room.
Still, Nick had the angle on her and was soon walking fast beside this now desperate blonde hellcat. She turned her head slightly and out of the corner of her mouth she asked,” Can’t a woman have some privacy in this town?”
Nick through up his hands,” With ten million inhabitants around. Hey, get serious, Nancy.”
“ I am serious. Scat. Find a hole in and cover yourself up.”
“ Ooooh, hostility now.”
“ Brother, you haven’t seen nothing yet. You ruin this date and it’ll be lights out for you.” Nancy’s face was slowly turning red with anger.
Nick kept pace with the mad blonde he called Nancy even though she was almost trotting her way across the club’s plush carpeted floor.
“ Slow down will you. I haven’t been to the gym yet.” Nick exclaimed.
“ If I had my way, I’d run you into the ground. This is embarrassing.”
“ Hey, I don’t mean to butt into your private life. I mean, what you do on your own is your business; but when your father calls and says he worried about your safety because Doc let him know he’s worried about your safety; then….”
Suddenly, Nancy stopped and almost tripped Nick in the process. She faced him asking,” What did you say? Why my safety?”
“ Now you’re all ears eh?”
Nancy just stared at him and so Nick explained as calmly as he could,” Uh well, you see; Doc has good reason to believe that a hit team is on its way to
kidnap you to trap him into doing something, but he didn’t explain what that was. Some mad man’s scheme maybe…”
“ What? Somethin’s going down?” Nancy asked with a sudden twinkle in her green eyes.
“ Uh oh.” Nick almost turned to leave realizing too late, he had told too much to the wrong party; because if there is anything Nancy likes in life most, it’s the excitement of danger. And that could prove fatal for them both.
Nancy grabbed his arm,” Oh no you don’t you jerk. You are not going to leave me dangling like this or I swear I’ll scream for Fredrick’s help to stop a certain cad from bothering me.”
Nick looked up at the ceiling silently quoting some obscenities to himself, before he gave in and turned back to face this blonde wildcat from hell,” We don’t have time for me to explain anything else here. We must find a place of safety like the basement garage before they find us whoever they may be.”
Nancy pushed Nick a step back saying,” Well don’t stand there, lead on big man. I just hope for your sake this is all worth it.”
As they made for the main exit from the club, Nick asked over his shoulder,” Don’t you want to say something to your Fredrick about it.”
“ Why? Oh him. Yeah, just a second.”
Nick felt sorry for Nancy’s date as he watched her approach him and explained her way out of what might have been an interesting evening. He watched Fredrick who had stood up like a gentleman as Nancy approached the table; drop back down to his chair in bewilderment when Nancy finished explaining her situation. He could only wave slightly with one hand as he watched her leave.
When Nancy was within earshot, Nick asked,” Took it pretty hard didn’t he?”
Nancy sadly answered,” Yeah, what do you expect? This probably would’ve made his year. Oh, come on before I change my mind danger or no.”
Nick escorted her into the lobby and toward the elevators after Nancy had left a number of large bills with Vincent who grinned from ear to ear and bid them both a very good night.
“ At least Fredrick will be taken care of for the evening.”
Nancy sighed as they both reached the elevator who’s doors just happen to open at that very instant. As they entered their elevator, the next one several
yards further down the lobby arrived. The doors opened and three men in casual sports suits popped out in a hurry. Two drew 44 magnums from under their suits and quickly advanced toward the front entrance to the rainbow room. The third a man small in stature than the others, sporting an old pencil thin mustache remained in the lobby.
Somehow the little man sensed something and turned to survey Nick and Nancy’s elevator whose doors were slowly beginning to close. Nancy’s eyes met the little man’s at the same time and she could see recognition in his face. Everything seemed to move too slowly, like in a slow motion sequence of an action movie.
She watched in horror as the little mustached man shouted a warning to his colleges as he drew his own pistol from beneath his suit and rushed toward her elevator. Nick yelled and pounding on the elevator’s control panel, but the doors would only close so fast.
The little man reached the elevator just in time to force his pistol between the closing doors. One shot then two rang out, but both missed their targets by inches only because Nick pulled Nancy’s frozen form toward him. Seconds later the little man had to pull his gun away for the doors, which were also smashing against his hand.
He yelled after them,” you’re not getting away Bitch. You have nowhere to go. Hear me? Nowhere to go!”
He let out a stream of obscenities, but was cut short by one of the men tugging at his sleeve.
“ Come on Mitch. Let’s take the other elevator.”
The little man named Mitch commented,” Yeah, lets. And there’s no hurry boys. They’re not going anywhere now are they?”
The other men chuckled knowingly as all three piled into the other awaiting elevator.
Nick held Nancy close until she pulled away suddenly,” Thanks nick, that was close…”
Nick winced in pain,” Yeah, closer than you think. Looks like one ricocheted and found me.”
Terrified, Nancy’s face drained of color as she gazed upon the back of Nick’s suit. It was drenched with blood on one side, which was dripping to
the floor tiles below.
“ Oh my God! Nancy exclaimed as she grabbed and helped hold Nick
upright for he was beginning to feel numb on one side getting more difficult to breath with each passing moment. And slowly those moments passed as they descended sixty-five stories in their elevator toward the ground floor. Nick leaned against the elevator wall for further support.
“ I’ll make it.” He told Nancy between his shallow breaths.
Just as their elevator reached 3rd floor, Nick suddenly reached over and pressed the button for the 2nd floor.
“ What are you doing Nick?” Nancy worried, asked.
“ They’ve probably (cough) have a reception committee waiting for us down there, so I (cough) thought it wise that we get off 2nd floor, take the back stairwell to the alley.” Nick winced once more with greater pain and his face was beginning to lose its color.
“ Then what?” Nancy close to panic noticed Nick looked so bad.
The elevator doors opened onto 2nd floor, an office floor for several brokerage and law firms. Nick explained briefly as they stepped out of the elevator and into the 2nd floor hallway.
“ A diversion. To the left in the alley is a shorter way (cough) to the front. I’ll take that way and divert their attention if there is anyone onto me. You will take the right and…”
“ And get away to leave you to die? No way! We’ll go together and I’ll get your butt to a hospital is what I’ll do. How much further?”
“ Just around the corner and to the end. You dope! If we go together, we’ll both get caught. Pretty soon I’m going to be dead weight…”
Suddenly Nick stumbled and Nancy had to help him to his feet.
“ See what I mean? I’m getting as weak as a kitten.” Nick described.
“ Alright, alright. Just make it down this stairwell, then we’ll see.”
The stairs seemed to take forever to descend to the ground floor for Nancy as she helped her wounded friend down them. She couldn’t bear to look at her supporting arm for it was covered with Nick’s blood.
Finally, they reached the exit door and shoved it open. By then, she didn’t care who was on the other side. Time might be running out for Nick for all she knew. The bullet might be lodged into a lung or a vertebra. As they ran down the alley to the right, they saw a large black limo screech to a stop at the entrance, sufficiently blocking their escape that direction.
As several heavily armed men climbed out of the limo, Nick and Nancy did an about-face and started up up the alley in the other direction.
Unfortunately for the lawyer/lady duo, the little man with the mustache and his buddies had reached ground floor. Finding no one in front, they had just rounded the corner leading into the alley on a head on course with the would-be escapees.
Upon sighting the three thugs, Nick drew a blue steel automatic pistol and shot the biggest assailant in the face. He screamed and the remaining two ducked behind stacked pallets and garbage cans for cover.
“ Nancy, head for the exit door. Get back inside. At least you will have a chance!” Nick ordered, as the assailants began returning his gunfire.
Nancy ignored Nick’s plea and tried desperately to help him accompany her in the direction of the said exit door, but he pulled away.
“ Nick, we’ve got to get out of here.” Nancy tried to pull on his arm,” Come on babe, we’ve got places to go; people to meet. But not here!”
A bullet hit Nick in the left leg and he lost his balance falling once more. Nancy watched as Nick’s form hit the pavement landing on his side, his pistol skidding across the alley to a pile of rubbish.
“ Nick!” she yelled and jumped down on her hands and knees beside him.
She sobbed great sobs of grief as all of the thugs reached them. The little mustached thug stooped down and checked Nick’s pulse. He looked up at his men from the limo and shook his head. They lowered their guns and one started back to the limo as the little man remarked.
“ Sorry doll, but your friend’s had it. He’s lost a lot of blood. Looks like I’m getting better with the gun.”
Nancy still continued to gaze at Nick’s form through tear filled eyes and she coldly stated,” You killed Nick. If I’d had a gun that probably wouldn’t have happened.” She looked up to stare into the haughty eyes of the little thug.
“ You really cared for this fellow huh? Get real lady, I’m the better man.” The little thug’s words were insult to injury and the chuckles escaping from the lips of several of the on looking thugs, were the final straw for Nancy Mayfair.
“ Doc Savage has always stressed never to take another person’s life under any circumstances especially for personal reasons.” Nancy stated flatly.
The little thug gave her a puzzled look and started to rise to his feet, when Nancy suddenly reached out and grabbed the front section of his hair,” But friend, in my eyes that rule is now null and void.”
The little thug was about to say ouch; when suddenly with almost blinding speed, the mourning lady before him hit his neck in the Adam’s apple a powerful blow with her other hand. The chop sufficiently crushed his larynx and he choked to death almost instantly. Shock and surprise was written across his blue face as he lay where he had fallen backwards from Nancy’s deadly attack.
One of the larger thugs who had little feelings for the little guy felt little shock at her action compared to the others. So he was able to react immediately. With a blackjack he tapped Nancy across the back of the head just enough to knock her senseless. As she fell over Nick’s still form, he commented with unmistakable relief in his voice.
“ That will be quite enough.”
“ The Hunter and the Hunted”
How long the man of bronze lay at the bottom of that hole, he couldn’t fathom at first. Several broken two by fours from the burnt edges of the floor above and bits of mortar and earth lay on top of his body. It took some time to free himself from the debris. By then his eyes had become somewhat use to the darkness around him. Enough that he realized for the first time, he had fallen by chance into an old tunnel system; probably dating back at least several hundred years. His body was sore all over from the abrasions and bruises he had received from the fall. It was painful to pull himself to his feet. He glanced up and around the hole he had fallen, searching for a ladder or anything to climb up out of there, but found nothing. The ladder, which had led from the trap door, might have decayed to dust long ago or someone might have pulled it out. In any case, he realized that since the trapdoor was at least a dozen feet straight up; there would be no chance of escape that way.
The only other possibility was to try the tunnel. Behind him the tunnel ran in the direction of the village while the way ahead he reasoned must lead toward the forest nearby. He knew that he had a better chance that way.
Though the tunnel was made of some kind of smooth ancient chiseled stone, and was plenty tall enough that he could walk erect; it was still hard going. Mainly because as he traveled further from the trap door area, the darker it
became. Also, in the pitch-black conditions he found that the tunnel turned
directions several times. It was possible that he might happen upon some ancient catacomb tunnels; which would branch off in a maze that he would never find his way out of.
It suddenly occurred to him that among his person he had perhaps the solution to his immediate problem. He stopped and sat down with his back to the wall. He pulled off his explorer boots and temporarily removed the heel off of each one. Inside each heel was a small thin tube made of a special type of rubber-plastic, which by feel alone he brought the correct end of each together, to become a longer tube. After a moment, a bluish glow grew from within the unusual tube until it was bright enough to at least give him some idea of his surroundings.
It was no surprise to him to see that the walls of his tunnel were of Roman construction predating the great kings of England, but had been known to have been used as recently as the turn of the century during that country’s many wars with its neighbors. Tunnels of this sort could either lead to a castle or the forest nearby. There was no telling where for sure.
Before he could put on his boots, he had to shake a rat out from within one of them that had thought it was warm enough to stay in. it squealed and hurriedly scurried out of the glowing range of Doc Savage’s light tube. Several times as he made his way through the ancient tunnel, he had to climb over large tree roots that had busted through the carefully fitted wall stones. The further he progressed, the wetter the tunnel became. After a while, he could hear water dripping from several places in the ceiling and walls.
Savage knew that there wasn’t a lake within twenty miles of where he stood; nor could he remember any coastline nearby. The tunnels at that point must run by a pond and river. And the only pond and river he knew of in that area was the ones he had past by on his way to Stonehenge. Fifty yards down, the tunnel split into two. Now he had to choose a course and it had to be the right one, for his glowing tube had a limited amount of light power left; perhaps twenty minutes at best.
Something told him to take the one to the right. Ninety percent of the time his intuition had paid off in the past. So there was no hesitation on Savage’s part as he took the tunnel to the right. Only a few steps into the tunnel and Doc Savage heard a sound that would have turned lesser men to jelly.
In the distance apparently from the tunnel at the left, something emitted a
high pitched shriek of a sound; not unlike a chimpanzee only louder. Then he could hear the thud of soft padded footsteps like a very heavy animal would make. It got louder with each passing second. Whatever it was, it wasn’t human and soon after he caught its awful scent that confirmed his thoughts.
In the shape he was in and with almost pitch-black conditions against a night vision animal; he knew he would not be properly prepared to defend himself successfully. An animal that was probably as heavy as himself, perhaps heavier. He had no concealed weapons left to even the odds.
The vision of the attack of the weird blue haired ape monster the night before, gave him incentive to increase his speed along the tunnel. Several times he caught himself glancing back even though there was of yet nothing to see.
Already the creature that was following him had exited the left tunnel and was entering his. He could even hear the heavy breathing and low growling it uttered with every step it took. Twenty more yards and he almost fell head over heels over a large root that was almost chest level, that had broken through the wall and had crashed through the other on the opposite side blocking the way.
He then noticed by feeling along the wall that to his left there was a pipe hole entrance exiting the old wall just before the large root. It was smaller than the tunnel he was in, but still large enough for him to crawl into. Though his first thoughts had told him he didn’t have concealed weapons to fight with; he did have one trick left and that was what he carried on his skullcap he wore that looked so much like his hair, that even his own aides couldn’t tell the difference. The only thing left that wasn’t taken from him when he was searched.
Even in the dark, it was a simple matter to remove his cap, pull out the paper-thin cellophane wrapped package and unwrap it. Inside was a flat paper thin slice 3x3 inch of special plastic explosive he had developed along with a single roll of thin wire and a thin blasting cap. It also had a coin shaped metal wafer. Quickly, he laid the plastics on the roots side where it easily stuck to it and then inserting the wire on the cap, he pushed the other end of the cap into the plastics.
Unraveling the wire as he back stepped toward the pipe entrance, he
crawled just inside it. While squatting inside he broke the metal wafer in two
and positions both pieces above and below the end of the wire in his left hand. Just as he did that, the beast arrived at his hide out. Savage could hear its heavy breathing for a few seconds, and then it stopped! It could mean only one thing. He was discovered by whatever it might be. He could still smell its body order and a bell went off in his head.
The familiarity of its scent meant it could only be the blue beast. He tensed his body for the action he must make, but held back until he was sure it was close enough. After what seemed forever, a large head slowly eased its way across the opening of his hideaway. It was a large blue haired part apish, part human head whose face was expressionless until it spotted the man of bronze. Then its expression changed to rage. It let out a terrible roar and that was when Doc Savage brought the two wafers together sandwiched on the wire. As he did he leapt backward with all his might. The deafening explosion that took place where the root had been still threw him in mid-flight; even further back then he had planned. Immediately after the explosion, Doc savage could have sworn he heard a scream of rage and pain, then nothing because things became fuzzy and dark.
After a while, Doc savage woke with a start and groaned. He felt of the back of his head and knew he had been bleeding from a wound. It wasn’t serious for it had already clotted some. The main thing he worried about was the ringing in his right ear, but after he slowly removed himself from the pipe; the ringing subsided.
Everywhere he looked in all directions there was pieces of root. The blast had completely destroyed the root, but nowhere could he see any evidence of the blue creature’s body. He must have blacked out for only a few minutes for his phlorescence tube still gave off a glow where it lay a few feet away, to see enough to satisfy him of his handiwork. The ape-man must have survived the blast well enough to travel on his own. After a moments search among the debris, he found footprints of his blue friend.
He followed them until he suddenly stopped and unconiously emitted his eerie tropical bird-like noise. For what he discovered next was so startling that it defied reason. There before him, were two bloody footprints of the ape-man, which looked like he had been limping along as if from a wound. Then the next two footprints were human. What he had witnessed earlier must have been true. The professor could change his form at will. He was forced to come to the conclusion that it was not a trick, but rather a freak of
nature or something even worse that he didn’t want to think about at that moment.
The man of bronze then decided not to follow the ape/professor any longer and reversed his course. His intuition told him that an exit from this place was not far away and the faster he removed himself from that location, the better. The professor might come back and this time with plenty of help.
After several dozen yards, just as his tube was fading out, Savage found a rusted ladder leading upward to another trap door. As slowly and soundlessly as he could; he raised the wood door at the top of the ladder. To his amazement he found himself only a hundred feet from the Stonehenge ruins. It was late afternoon and still a sprinkle of rain fell here and there upon his form. He searched around the area briefly, and found all was quiet and abandoned. The professor and his men must have vacated the area soon after he had contacted with his men again, for they hadn’t even bothered with his rental car. It was still intact with no booby traps attached.
Doc savage stayed clear of the main roads all the way to London; just in case there were other undesirables searching for him. He knew that he had to keep his appointment with his men or they wouldn’t have a chance to stop what was sure to be a disaster.
“ London at last”
Billy the youngest operator at the Old Stone airport had his feet prompt upon his desk humming away some popular tune he had heard that morning on the radio. One of those that you couldn’t understand the words or remember the title. It was a catchy tune nevertheless. Everybody was off work, but him and it seemed totally unfair even if he was the new help. He began to wonder about a strange transmission coming in over the radio; when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye.
Turning his head toward the large picture window facing the runways; he immediately noticed a group of people running together through the main gate outside and onto the runway #3 where an old cargo plane and two single engine planes sat.
It wasn’t unusual to see people come through unannounced to take one of
their craft up, but to see a group of people running to one seemed a might
strange. He ran his hands across his burr haircut and slid the headphones off his head.
Billy remarked to himself with a sigh,” I suppose I better check this out.”
Jumping up from his chair and headed for the door.
After a rather bumpy ride on the old stone road, monk was ever so glad to pile out of the old rental and get his legs moving again. He would have preferred some kind of scrap, but he’d settle for a run across an airport as Miss O’Casey suggested. Belinda reached the side door of the cargo plane first and with a quick yank, she had it opened.
She yelled out to her party,” Hop in. We’ve got to get going before their security lads try to stop us.”
Renny laughed,” You mean that lad running our way?”
Everyone froze and Belinda grabbed Ham’s machine pistol and tried to aim it toward the approaching clerk. Just before she pulled the trigger, Ham knock her arm down and the short burst that erupted from the pistol hit harmlessly in front of the clerk on the runway.
Terrified, Billy threw up his hands and yelled at the strangers,” O-Ok, I’ve got the message straight, I’m no trouble.”
Ham glared at Belinda,” Mine was loaded with regular ammo. Did you know that or did you care?”
Belinda clearly shone shock in her face as she replied,” I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
Ham paused then coldly advised,” From now on don’t fire a weapon you don’t know about.”
Belinda could barely be heard as she whispered,” Ok.”
Monk asked,” Are you guys gonna hold a conference out here now?”
Belinda and then Ham entered the plane without a reply. Renny tied up the clerk and left him to lie in the runway. He turned to Monk,” Hey, tell them to wait a minute, we’ve forgot somethin’.”
Monk smiled while standing at the doorway of the cargo plane.
“ Sure. Doesn’t look like there’s anyone here, but that guy. So we’ve got a minute or two I imagine.”
Renny took off at a dead run for the gate and their car beyond.
While ham followed Belinda to the front of the plane, he made a mental note to keep a closer eye on her, for Miss O’Casey had a dark side to her that
made him feel uneasy. He had seen it in men, but this was the first he’d seen such in a woman. It made him have doubts about their relationship, and he decided when there was a chance; he would sit this fiery lady down and have a nice long chat with her.
They reached the cockpit, which actually had four seats in it, two for the pilot and co-pilot. And two to seat directly behind them as passengers. The rest of the plane was for cargo and at the moment it was empty space. Belinda took a seat and the steering wheel on the left and Ham sat on the right.
Belinda smiled apparently more at ease since entering the plane and said to Ham,” You know, I’ve got where I can fly these blindfolded.”
Before ham could say a word, Monk sat down behind him and replied,
“Then little lady, you’re the pilot on this trip.” With those words, Miss O’Casey started to prepare the old plane for take-off; starting the engines and checking off all gauges. Monk flicked Ham’s ear and remarked,” Hey Shyster, Renny had to go back and get something, but he said it’d take only a minute.”
While ham tried his best to ignore monk’s ear flicking, Belinda stared out her side window and remarked,” I see him now. Saints, but he sure seems to be in a hurry.”
Soon, Renny was entering the cockpit and his seat. Almost out of breath, he remarked,” We don’t have a minute anymore. I spotted one car and one van headed our way at a high rate of speed.”
“ Then by all that’s holy, lets make this a quick take off.” Saying that, Belinda gave more throttle to the engines.
At first, they hesitated then the old cargo plane leapt forward, taxied down to the end of the runway and turned around. The car and van entered the gate entrance just in time to watch the plane travel down the runway and after an amazingly short distance; lift into the air at a steep climb upward. It climbed high into the night sky faster then some would have thought possible. Men poured out of the car and van, but could only witness helplessly as the plane quickly disappeared into the southwestern sky.
Inside the old cargo plane, ham asked Belinda,” Did you recognize those vehicles?”
“ No, they are none of mine.”
Renny remarked,” That my friends, were probably some of the people
connected to whatever doc is involved in.”
Monk whistled,” Talkin’ about good timing.”
Ham glanced Belinda’s way and commented,” Yes, isn’t it though…”
“ Rendezvous On 75 Jermyn Street”
At the outskirts of London, the man of bronze decided to leave his old rental car at a rental dealership and take a less conspicuous mode of travel. One of the many buses that travel from the area he was in, into the heart of the city. As he arrived at the dealer and started to vacate the vehicle; it struck him that he never checked the car pocket. Slowly he inched the car pocket’s door open, but found it was safe. He also found a plain white envelope inside with writing on the front, which read:
“ To the one who got away.” He caught himself in time from emitting the strange noise he made when surprised or startled. So the professor had been in his vehicle after all, Savage thought to himself as he quickly opened the envelope and pulled out a single folded piece of paper.
Inside, was a short but effective note, which read: You haven’t got away; you have only earned a small reprieve. If you do not surrender to me on the Iceland continent by midnight two days from today; Nancy Mayfair shall take your place.
It was signed Dark Lord and the back was a small map of a particular area of Iceland. Though he did not know it well, he wasn’t entirely without knowledge of that area of the world.
Did he really have Nancy Mayfair? There was only one way to find out. Upon entering the rental establishment, he asked the clerk as he handed him several large bills in English currency,” Is it possible for me to use one of your public phones in back to make a quick overseas call?”
The heavy set middle-aged man with a small mustache stared at his hand with the bills in it and looked into Savage’s face, Blimey guv'nor, you can rent this whole bloody office for this.”
The man of bronze smiled and laying his key upon the front desk, followed the clerk to the back office. As the door shut behind him in the
small room, he sat down at an old wooden desk with a very scratched
surface and picked up the phone receiver to the lone black dial phone that sat before him. After he dialed the required numbers and listened the call finally patched through. After several rings the answer machine in his penthouse in New York City turned on to receive messages. There was no break in the call as Savage left a message to call a certain number in London as soon as possible.
Apparently, Nick and Nancy were still held up in the basement or the worst had actually happened. He would have to assume the worse. They must have been successful in snatching Nancy. He let the receiver drop slowly to the phone and quickly vacated the office. Before he left the rental place, he thanked the clerk and then headed for the nearest bus stop.
Belinda who was quickly proving to be somewhat of a flying ace to Savage’s aides; had to land the old twin engine cargo plane in the middle of a rainstorm. In the driving rain and with very little lighting on the small airport’s runway; she successfully set down for an almost perfect landing.
Renny commented,” Boy was that fun.”
Ham remarked,” Belinda my girl, Doc savage would have been proud.”
Belinda smiled, leaned over his seat and gave him a blistering kiss right on the lips. Ham was dumbfounded while monk was confounded,” Well, what do ya know!”
With Ham driving the car they rented not far from the airport; they made their way through the crowed streets of London toward what was called the West end. Some of the best little shops in the country are in that area of London. They had been famous for over a century. There were shops for your hats, your boots, your shirts, your jewelry and so on. Because the shopkeepers had no need of window shoppers’ display, the windows of the shops in that area do not have the opulent splendor of those of New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Yet, Ham’s blood pressure increased significantly as they finally entered the West end. As they turned a corner to enter Jermyn street, Ham almost swerved his car into a taxi who’s driver promptly yelled after them,” I think it would be easier for us all if you use your plates of meat to git around, mate!”
Monk sarcastically asked,” Want us to let you out here to shop while we try to find Doc?”
Ham ignored Monk and explained to Belinda,” Oh, I wish we had time.”
“ Begorah, I could care less of this place that smells of stuffy hats and raw fish. You forget, here I’m an outlaw. The sooner we leave this…place, the better.” She let it sink into everyone’s head then asked,” Is this the street we are suppose to meet your friend?”
Ham replied,” Yes, just a half block further. Renny, are you sure the shop is still there?”
Renny shrugged his shoulders,” We’ll just have to trust doc folks. The Drury shop was what it was called. I know he meant the same address, 75 Jermyn St…, but whether it’s the same name or not…”
He stopped in the middle of his sentence and exclaimed as he pointed,” look, that’s the address and the shop with the same name! I don’t believe it.”
Ham smiled as he pulled over to the left to park being it was a one way street; in front of their destination,” Some things never change.”
Belinda remarked,” Yeah, it looks like it never has. It looks like a hundred years old. What’s the story with it anyway?”
While everyone poured out of the rental car, Ham explained,” Well, as a matter of fact, its a hundred and fifty years young. Sixty years ago, Doc Savage with my legal help acquired this shop and several other properties throughout England.”
Everyone was on the sidewalk in front of the Drury shop as it was called when Belinda asked ham,” The he still owns it?”
“ Yes, he does. A different person runs it now for the former manager was killed long ago. He had taken a bullet meant for Doc.”
“ James Fox wasn’t it? Renny asked Ham.
“ Correct. Now good ole John Leighton must still be running it by Jove.”
The doorway with the half rose type window at the top was wide open to the little shop. Its wares everything from bowler hats to dress suits could be seen mostly through the large single grimy window facing the street. The sign above in red with gold trimmed lettering was large and clear enough that it seemed in sharp contrast to the rest of the unassuming clothing shop.
Monk shouldered his way through Ham and Belinda on purpose and was the first to enter. Just as the others followed him in, Monk remarked,” Oh how quaint Ham. I can just see you in these duds now, strollin’ down Piccadilly Circus.”
Before ham could reply a short silver haired old man complete with spectacles and silver beard asked in a very polite manner from behind a
worn wooden counter,” What may I do for you gents?”
Ham cleared his throat and said,” I am Ham Brooks and these are my associates Monk, Renny and a close friend Belinda…”
The old silver haired man tilted his head to the side and asked,” What did you say?”
Ham patiently repeated his introduction a little louder adding,” Are you John Leighton?”
The old man picked up an old smoking pipe and tapped it against the edge of the counter knocking burnt tobacco off into a trash can below,” Why yes I am, uh …Mr. Brooks.”
Mr. Leighton hesitated and peered at first Ham’s face then monk’s for a moment then his face brightened,” Great Scott! I know you people now. You work for that Clark Savage Junior chap don’t you?”
“ You get the prize ole boy.” Monk smiled.
Suddenly, there was a roll of thunder and rain started pouring down in torrents upon the street and parked car outside.
Renny exclaimed,” Wow, I’ll get the door.”
“ Thank you Mr. Renwick. Now, any of you need raincoats? Or perhaps a pair of new shoes?” As he suggested that he casually pointed to a corner of the store to their right where rows of shelves held shoes of all kinds. Then out of the corner of his eye, Monk saw movement and glanced toward the old clerk in time to see the beginning of a strange transformation. Monk froze to the spot speechless as the old clerk’s form began to grow in height and width right before his startled eyes. In seconds he grew to be six foot eight inches tall and then the old clerk spoke in a voice very familiar to him that made everyone’s head turn toward the front desk.
“ Of course there are more important things in life.”
Belinda gasped and muttered about the saints save her. Ham swore and Renny said his usual “ Holy Cow.” under his breath.
Monk grinned his usual ear to ear grin,” Doc, is that you? Of course it is. I’ll be damned.”
The large transformed man pulled off an old man’s mask and a clever hairpiece to reveal the familiar features of the man of bronze, Doc Savage.
He smiled at the astonished group of faces,” Apparently my descises are improving. I fooled even you Renny.”
Renny blushed,” Ah shoot, you caught me off guard.”
Doc’s expression changed when he noticed Belinda the red headed woman with her arms folded staring at him, tapping her foot upon the floor.
“ Miss O’Casy, we finally meet.”
She drew closer to Ham,” So we have. I must admit your act was most impressive.”
“ So was yours.”
Belinda was taken aback, but quickly recovered,” What do you mean?”
“ Yes, what do you mean?” Ham added in shock.
Doc Savage made his way around the desk and approached Ham,” Your friend is none other than a double agent working for the English government to keep an eye on the Irish Republican Army, Ham.”
“What?” Ham exclaimed,” That’s preposterous!”
“ I had her checked out.” The bronze giant folded his arms,” She is not Belinda O’Casey Ham. I found out that a month before, the real O’Casey was killed in an arranged accident by the British Intelligence and a look alike was inserted into the I.R.A.’s organization.”
Monk muttered,” Jeez, what a world.”
Doc Savage continued,” She even fooled Belinda’s father. Why did you decided to leave with ham, Miss whoever you are? Did it get too hot for you there?”
The Belinda look alike turned to look at Ham who looked away, “ My name’s Belinda alright but, Belinda Sutton. Ham…I.. Mr. Savage, you’ve got to understand.” Belinda’s accent changed from Irish to English in an instant,” I couldn’t keep it up much longer. I mean the act. I knew from other sources that they would find out about her death any day. I…I seized the opportunity when ham and the others fell into our laps.” The a tear trickled down her cheek as she continued,” I didn’t plan to fall for Ham, it just happened along the way.”
Renny’s mouth hung open in astonishment through the whole conversation. The man of bronze was carefully observing Belinda the whole time. Belinda touched Ham’s shoulder gently and he pulled away and started walking toward the shoe shelves.
“ Oh Ham, I’m so sorry. But I do love you. That is the truth.”
Monk growled,” Leave the guy along lady. You have lied to him all this time, so how is he suppose to believe you now?”
“ That’s enough monk,” Doc Savage interrupted,” Belinda, for whatever its
worth, I do believe you care for him, but for now, let’s give it a rest.”
Belinda reluctantly stopped herself from running after Ham and replied,” Ok. She let out a sigh.
That’s when the man of bronze heard the phone ring upstairs toward the back,” If you will excuse me, I’m expecting a phone call; so Renny, put the closed sign up and lock the door. Then meet me upstairs….you too Ham.”
Monk watched savage head for the stairs in back of the building and was about to approach ham, when he felt a tug at his arm. It was Belinda with tear filled eyes.
“ Monk, will he ever forgive me?” Belinda asked.
Monk replied,” Well, as far as I’m concerned you did what you had to, to survive. I’ll give you that. But I doubt that I’ll ever forgive you for hurting my friend.” With those words, monk left to follow Doc Savage. As he passed him, he pat him on the shoulder and whispered something to him that Belinda couldn’t hear.”
Belinda rose from her seat and made her way slowly toward ham. She turned him around and brushed a lock of his hair back from his tear stained face. Their eyes locked and Belinda whispered,” I won’t blame you if you never want to see me again; but I feel that the most important thing to me in my life right now is that you know how I feel about you. I want to be part of your life.”
Then Belinda and Ham held onto each other for a long time. As he climbed the old wooden stairs, monk never looked back, but he knew what was happening with those two,” Well, there goes the neighborhood.”
On the fifth ring, Doc Savage answered the worn and battered phone in the living area upstairs. It was another aide to Doc Savage, Johnny Littlejohn whose voice that he recognized instantly when he heard him say,” Hello Doc?” He was excited or a whole string of long words would have made up every sentence. “ Johnny” to his friends was known to the world as William Harper Littlejohn. He was known as the world’s greatest living expert on geology and archaeology. Also he was one of the greatest authority on linguistics; at least as well as the man of bronze.
Though he was getting old, he still remembered and lived for long words. He was always thin and fully six feet tall, which made him look even thinner. Johnny had a high forehead and brown eyes, one of which was
injured in World War I. Doc Savage eventually replaced his eye; but he still wore his monocle over that eye. He thought it made him look distinguished, a royalty type. Monk thought it made him look just plain Looney.
Doc savage replied over the phone,” Yes Johnny it’s me.”
“ Thank God you are still at the Drury shop. One more ring and I’d have given up.”
“ What’s wrong Johnny? You sound upset.”
As Doc Savage spoke he motioned for monk and Renny to take a seat on an antique looking couch nearby. He could hear Johnny take a deep breath.
“Everything is wrong. Nancy’s been kidnapped right out of a busy club. And that’s not all…” Johnny hesitated and his voice trembled as he continued,” Nick’s been shot.”
The man of bronze face shown no emotion, but he sat down on the end of a chair behind him, “ What is his condition Johnny?” Savage could hear Monk in the background asking,” What? What?”
Johnny answered,” He’s in critical condition at the Veteran’s hospital. They think he has a good chance. Doc, he was shot while trying to keep Nancy from being kidnapped. Witnesses said she distracted the kidnappers or they would have shot him dead where he lay. If only I’d been there…”
“ No, you would’ve been shot too. These people are fanatics Johnny. Was there any trail?”
“ Nothing…Not a clue, not even where the cars came from or where they are now that had been used in the kidnapping. I heard the police are looking and I still have people in our organization searching, but there’s been zip for evidence.”
“ I’m not surprised.”
“ Doc, what should I do?”
“ Sit tight and run things there. Call Patricia and Marlyn and…”
“ Oh, I’ve already did that and Patricia is probably at the Hospital now. As for Marlyn…that’s our other problem.”
Savage sighed,” What is with her?” Now Monk was asking,” Who? Who?”
Johnny answered,” I really don’t know. She made it to the Penthouse ok, but as soon as she opened the door she fainted. I got her on the couch now and…she seems to have gone into a trance or something of that temperament. It’s weird, but I can’t get her to wake up. I mean her eyes are
open, but she’s in the same said circumstance.”
“Ok, settle down Johnny,” Doc savage said in a very soothing almost hypnotic voice,” it is her psychic ability. She has somehow sensed the great danger everyone faces and whatever power is behind it has overwhelmed her.”
Johnny exclaimed,” I’ll be superamalgamated!”
“Listen carefully Johnny. In a drawer in our lad are four gold pyramid shaped metal boxes with a small antenna on top of each. With it is another smaller control box very similar in appearance to a remote for a television.”
“ Oh yes, that’s the force field set you were working on last month. A limited force field projector kit I believe you called it.”
“ Yes. It does work and in this case may save her sanity. Place those boxes around her, head, feet and her sides and of course switch it on. Don’t switch it off until it looks like she is coming out of it, ok?”
“ Right, but why can’t I be with you guys?”
Doc savage didn’t answer his question, but replied,” We’ll be back in three days if all goes well. If not…then nothing will matter to anyone anymore. By the way, did marlin say anything in her trance so far?”
“ You bet. It’s very strange too. She keeps repeating in a whisper every once and a while,” Heart of the fire. Heart of the fire.”
This time Doc savage couldn’t help but give a trilling sound that he sometimes emitted during surprise or great stress. Monk jumped up off the couch and exclaimed,” What the hell?!”
Savage ignored his reaction and told Johnny,” Johnny, remember the force field and don’t leave her side whatever happens.”
“ Yes sir.”
“ I would like to perform the operation on Nick, but I’m sure he’ll be in capable hands. If I come back now, all will be lost for Nancy and perhaps the entire world.”
“ Well…since you put it that way…”
“ Tell Patricia she missed a good one.”
Johnny laughed,” Ho boy, will she ever be steamed. See you later Doc, I hope. ‘
After Doc savage hung up the phone he noticed monk was still standing,” Nancy was kidnapped and nick was shot. Now does that answer your questions?”
Monk said grimly,” I tell ya now when I get my hands on these people I’m gonna tear them limb from limb.” He used his thick hands to demonstrate in more a throttling action.”
Before Savage could react, they were startled by a sighing sound at the door. All turned to look and found Belinda leaning over ham’s crumpled form in the doorway; shaking and trying to revive him.
Belinda looked up,” It was too much for Ham.”
Monk exclaimed,”Doc, he heard.”
“ So he has.” Doc Savage was quickly at Belinda and Ham’s side. He checked his pulse, his forehead and his breathing.
“ He’ll be alright.”
Belinda was upset,” Alright? You’re lucky he didn’t have a heart attack. That was his son that was shot right?”
The man of bronze stared at her face a moment and replied,” Yes.”
“ You people have as much sensitivity as machines. With all he’s gone through, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had nothing to do with you bastards.”
Monk growled,” Now wait a minute sister. You should talk…”
Doc savage interrupted him,” Everyone settle down, we have much to discuss and plans to make. We can’t fight amongst ourselves or all is lost.”
Monk, Renny and even Belinda reluctantly agreed and soon Ham was placed in an easy chair to revive on his own. Belinda found some tea ready to warm up in the kitchen area toward the back part of the old living quarters.
Soon after Ham revived enough to be able to listen to what Doc Savage was about to explain. The man of bronze sat in a chair to face everyone. The silence was a real thing amongst this group of adventurers, each temporarily lost in their own thoughts. Then he explained the whole dialogue between Johnny and himself and all that had befallen him in the English countryside.
When he was through he asked Renny,” How many men were in those two vehicles that missed you at the Old Road airport?”
Renny cast his eyes up in thought,” Hmmm, maybe seven or eight.”
“ Ok then, there was probably at least that many in New York,” Doc Savage stated,” And at least a dozen and a half in England. So what we are up against is a small army.”
Monk in deep thought asked,” Do you think this professor turning into a weird blue beast and the sacrifice that’s suppose to take place in Iceland are all for real?”
Doc savage hesitated then said,” Until I met Marlyn and got involved directly with her powers of the mind and her close connection telepathically with Nancy; I didn’t take much stock in the supernatural or forces beyond. But now I’m inclined to believe that all this professor believes he can do is true. As to whether he can summon up the power to destroy the earth remains to be seen.”
Monk shivered,” I hope we don’t have to see if its true. You know me Doc, I’m afraid of no man, but this supernatural power stuff irks me.”
Doc Savage glanced at all the faces before him. The fear was there. Then he told them,” Look, if you have doubts or fears about this mission I’m about to lay out for you, then stay here. I won’t blame you at all for doing so.”
Ham was the first to speak. Though weakly it was with conviction,” I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Belinda smacked her fist into her other hand,” Where he goes I go. Besides, its pay back time.”
Renny slammed his over-sized fist down so hard onto the top of the coffee table in front of him, that it nearly broke the whole thing in half,” Let’s kick butt.”
Monk grinned,” I think I’m beginning to feel sorry for that professor.”
Doc savage rose and said,” Good.”
Renny announced,” By the way, I brought those two suit cases in one with clothing and the other with some heavier weapons and ammo.”
“ And I had earlier sent for a number of suit cases I wanted from New York and they have recently arrived at this address.” Doc savage didn’t have to say anymore. His aides understood what were in these special suitcases.
Belinda did not,” So? What’s in them?”
Doc savage ignored her question and Belinda looked questionably at ham who whispered in her ear,” He meant well really. It’s a habit of his because he has a lot on his mind right now.”
“ Of which I would like to get off my chest if you don’t mind, Ham.” Doc dryly commented.
Ham said,” Whoops, I keep forgetting about that incredible hearing of yours.”
Doc savage laid out the plans and preparations for the next day and then he closed with,” Ok, now let’s find something to eat, and get some well
One hour after they had finished eating, Belinda wondered off down the stairs and into the man of bronze, stripped down to a swim trunk like shorts covered with sweat. He was in the middle of a vigorous two-hour workout he ritually did at least five days out of the week. It consisted of the usual push-ups, calastinics, and also involved aerobics with some special exercises that he had designed and perfected having to do with breathing. He did the slow motion physical exercise and concentration having to do with the martial arts.
He was like a machine. Belinda watched him for a while in the shadows and then left with much on her mind. As she climbed the stairs she realized that it took faith upon Doc savage’s part to get where he was. Perhaps with that faith and a little luck; they may get through this yet. Belinda began to feel a little better about the future and herself. If she had known what was to happen the next morning, she had realized they needed a whole lot more than luck.
“ Out With A Bang”
Five hours of sleep and it was still very early in the morning for monk when Savage shook him awake,” Rise and shine Monk. Go below and behind the counter is where you’ll find all the suitcases. Start taking them out to the car. I’ll be down to help you in a moment.’
Monk said in a tiny voice,” Oh me aching back. Ok, ok, I’m rising like from the dead that is. A floor is not a bed.”
Doc savage helped Monk to his feet,” Well then, moving those cases will limber you up.”
Monk only said,” Ugh.”
Renny arose laughing,” I’ll help him.”
Ham must have heard the whole thing because he immediately added,” Yes, he does need a lot of help.”
As Monk walked by Ham, he tried to step on his foot and tripped instead falling upon several stacks of books. Everyone broke up except monk who rose, growling at Ham, and stomped down upon the stairs on purpose.
While Monk started carrying the first two cases toward the front door, Doc Savage hurried down the stairs and was at his apish friend’s side in a flash.
Monk was about to set the suitcases down to open the front door, when Doc Savage said to him,” Wait Monk. Something’s wrong.”
Monk said as he let the cases drop to the floor,” For the love of…now what?”
Renny who had started around the front counter with two more cases dropped his asking,” Hey. What gives?”
The man of bronze didn’t answer right away. Instead, he peered out the grimy display window to the left and then to the right before he answered,” I wondered why I didn’t hear any traffic on this street. I first thought it was my imagination.”
Then he glanced across the side of their rental car that was facing toward the front door before he continued,” But it isn’t. There are detour signs now several shops down across the street on the left and on the right.”
Renny was in the middle of a “ Holy cow” when Doc savage spied Monk in apparent impatience reaching for the doorknob and turning it. He managed to say,” So?”
Then suddenly, a bronze freight train bowled him head over heels to the floor. A split second was all it took for the concussion of the blast to reach them. It had been so close that the explosive sound and the sound of falling debris had been as one. There was a scream somewhere Doc Savage groggily acknowledged then more debris falling, falling, and falling…
A minute later, Belinda and Ham were picking their way through splintered boards and ceiling debris that had fallen upon the stairs and across most of the bottom floor. At the bottom of the stairs Belinda gasped in dismay. The front door, frame and all were gone. The display window was destroyed as well as the wall around it.
In fact, the rest of the wall had several hundred holes through it. The light fixtures and part of the ceiling had collapsed upon the front counter and upon many racks of expensive suits. In that vicinity is where they heard Renny’s groans.
Ham yelled,” I’m coming Renny!”
But Belinda reached Renny’s side first. By some miracle Renny’s two cases had landed on top of his head and shoulders protecting him from major harm. Belinda helped him up and he spat out dust and ceiling pieces where he sat. He was dazed and experienced some temporary hearing loss, but that seemed to be the extent of his injuries.
Ham asked,” Are you alright ole boy?”
Renny replied,” Well I can’t exactly say, I’m bubbling with joy…”
Ham said,” No, ah forget it. You’ll make it.”
Ham and Belinda then worked their way toward the front and to their mutual despair; a bronze tattered form lay under several large boards and burnt pieces of the door. Ham was so shocked that at first, he didn’t hear the cries for help until Belinda said,” Shh, I hear something.”
Sure enough in the silence they heard a cry for help.
“ That’s gotta be Monk.” Ham exclaimed excitedly as he joined in helping Belinda remove debris as quickly as they could. Soon, an extra pair of hands weaker than they’re own, but bigger; joined in the effort.
They uncovered Doc Savage who was laying face down his shirt ripped to shreds. It took all three people to turn his form over. Underneath lay Monk whose eyes were already open and upon seeing who was uncovering him coughed and said,” Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes! I could have croaked what with all the junk and Doc laying on top of me.”
Ham laughed,” You idiot, he just saved your life risking his own.”
“ Help me up.” Monk requested,” How’s Doc anyway?”
Renny was checking the man of bronze’s pulse as they helped monk to his feet,” He’s unconscious, but pulse’s steady. Bet he’ll be comin’ around soon.”
Belinda remarked,” That wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
Ham stood up and peered out into the street,” What a mess, but at least its quiet.”
“ Bet it won’t be long. That was probably heard from one end of this damn town to the other. Guess that must have been a car bomb that almost got us eh? Renny commented as he rubbed his head.
“ Quite a simple device really. They strung a line from the explosive device on the side of the car to the door knob.” It was the voice of doc savage who spoke. He had awakened and was already trying to sit up.
“ Take it easy Mr. Savage, you took several nasty blows from that explosion,” Belinda tried to warn the man of bronze.
Doc savage waved her off as he regained his feet,” I’ll be alright. That blast wasn’t made to kill me. It was meant to eliminate my aides. Otherwise, they would have used a much more powerful explosive. Best we clear out of here now. I’ve arranged transportation to Iceland. Time is short.”
Monk observed the remains of their car and asked,” How are we gonna get there Doc. Our car’s kaput, toast you know; like real gone.
Doc savage paused to find a suitcase, reached in and pulled out a smaller case. When opened Monk saw Doc savage pull out a small black box with several buttons on top. Doc Savage then explained,” Since we can’t go to the mountain we might as well have the mountain come to us.”
He pressed several buttons and adjusted two dials and turned to the other people in the room.
“ I ‘ve set the approximate coordinates for here and by remote I’ve called a special ship of mine to hover above this building. It will be here in ten minutes.”
Belinda asked bewildered,” You mean you had a remote controlled ship on standby, near London just in case? You certainly covered all bases Mr. Savage.”
“ Not all. I didn’t foresee these fanatics finding us so soon.”
Belinda shook her head in agreement,” Yes, but I doubt anyone would have guessed that bold of move on their part.”
Renny exclaimed,” Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get crackin’.”
By the time they were dressed, armed and had carried the cases upstairs, sirens could be heard in the distance. They were converging upon their location from all directions.
Ham remarked,’ Hang on kids, this is going to be close.”
When everyone was upstairs, Doc Savage stopped in the middle of the room, and reached up to grab a short cord hanging down, We’ll make it.” He yanked it and a door opened downward that the others had never noticed before. A ladder unfolded down automatically from above to the floor.
Ham said, In the words of Johnny, I’ll be superamalgamated!”
In single file, they followed Doc Savage up the ladder and as he flipped on a light he also opened a trap door leading to the flat roof outside and above.
Belinda, with her flaming red hair flying in a steady wind, was the last to climb her way through the trap door and close it. As she regained her feet to look around her surroundings; a hissing sound above made her glance upward. Looming before her larger and larger with each passing second, a strange triangle shaped craft was descending toward their roof. Its dark hull
reflected no light. There was only one blue glowing light that switched on as
it reached within one hundred feet above them. The man of bronze pushed
another button and it stopped descending within twenty feet of them and hovered as though it was a gigantic bird waiting for its prey to make the first move.
“ Wow”, Belinda was astonished,” Is this stealth fighter yours?”
Doc savage smiled briefly,” Yes, but it is really a craft of my own design. I took a good idea and made some improvements.”
Ham queried,” I didn’t know you had this. When do you have time?”
The man of bronze didn’t answer, instead he pointed upward and instructed,” Grab the ladder Ham. Best we hurry.”
Ham looked above him and there was indeed a ladder descending from a open door in the bottom of the hovering craft. As it was swinging by he caught it and climbed with one hand and carried a suitcase with the other. Doc savage was the last to ascend the ladder and when inside the craft, he pushed a button on his remote box to close the door.
Everyone made way for Savage to reach the cockpit part of the hover craft and as he took a seat up front; he asked,” Renny, I need you up front to watch radar and to help me check out all readings before we leave, will you?”
“ You don’t have to ask twice Doc.” Renny replied happily.
He had been an aircraft buff about all of his life and knew more than a lot of pilots and mechanics. There were two sets of seats located directly behind the two up front. There was so much equipment directly around the seating area that it was very difficult to move around without bumping into something. The suitcases were for the most part, stored in drawers that slid out all around the area in the back half.
The only windows to look out at all Belinda noticed, were two narrow 10 foot by 3-foot slit in front just above the main flight control panels. The interior was unlit except for several small red lights above and those on the instruments. As Savage checked the various readings, Monk asked,” Doc, what I would like to know is why did you send us to Ireland first?”
“ One reason was I had a suspicion that you would be followed and that it would throw them off guard.”
“ And the other reason?”
“Well, I thought there was a chance that Patricia might follow you guys and that would lead her astray of the real trail.”
Monk asked,” I guess it didn’t work completely did it?”
“ No, it didn’t, but there is still a chance we may stop this.” Doc Savage replied.
Renny exclaimed,” Holy Cow! Are we going or not?”
Doc Savage answer was pushing several buttons with one hand and he gently pulled back on a control stick in front of him with the other hand. Everyone immediately felt the effect of the silent craft ascending straight up at a tremendous rate.
Belinda exclaimed,” Hold on to your hat love.”
The sun was just appearing over the horizon in London. Many Londoners were just rising for breakfast before heading for work. Very few noticed the strange silent unidentifiable object that glided over Piccadilly Circus, Berkeley Square and the U.S. embassy. By the time it was flying over the western edge of Hyde Park, it had reached such an altitude that no one could have seen them unless with a good pair of binoculars or a radar. They were going at such a high rate of speed that, whoever picked them up on radar, wouldn’t have time to react.
Ham sighed deeply as Renny announced that they were clear of London,” Ah, I shall miss England, but London most of all.”
Belinda pat his hand as Renny turned a moment and announced,” I almost forgot Ham. Look in the compartment attached to the back of Doc’s seat in front of you. That might cheer you up.”
Monk had already guessed what was coming and a thin smile played across his face. Ham gasped with joy as he reached in and pulled out solid silver handled sword cane from within the compartment.
Ham laughed,” Thanks you guys. I missed this too.”
Monk sneered as convincedly as possible,” Sheez, and you thought he was spoiled.”
Doc Savage’s craft built along the same design as the F-114A or Stealth fighter bomber flew over Northern England with no trouble from the royal air force. The same thing happened over Scotland as they flew over Glasgow and the Hebriges Islands. They were not even noticed at all. Finally, curiosity got the best of Ham,” Doc, why weren’t we challenged flying over
those air spaces with such a plane as this?”
Doc Savage placed the controls in Renny’s hands and rose from his seat. He turned as if to head for the back of the ship; but hesitated even with Ham’s seat to finally answer his inquiry.
“I simply left a message with the authorities earlier that we were on a top secret mission for America and were also represented by British intelligence.”
Belinda was astonished,” And they believed you?”
Savage didn’t answer, but continued upon his way toward the compartments in back. Monk answered for the man of bronze with a question for Belinda.
“ What do you think of him now? I mean just when you think you’ve got him figured out…”
“ I am impressed. Now that’s a name that carries weight.” Belinda reflected,
“ I can think of only one in the past in our intelligence that was maybe his equal. That was a man by the name of James Bond, code name: 007. Of course he worked alone…”
Monk laughed,” That’s a bunch of bull.”
Belinda glared at him,” No it is not! There really was an agent by that name!”
“ Whoa lady. Don’t get all ruffled, ok? Just messin’ with ya.”
Soon they were over the Atlantic Ocean. Water as far as the eye could see. Halfway into the trip to Iceland, Renny reminded Doc Savage,” Doc, they’re not going to take too kindly to an unidentified aircraft flying over their airspace. They are not really an informed party to all this you know.”
Doc Savage placed several more objects into recesses in his vest he had recently donned. Then making his way toward the front he answered,” That is why I have set flight plan into the ship’s computer to fly into the Norwegian Sea and come in at a low altitude from the north part of Iceland where we shall land at the outskirts of the town of Akureyri.”
“ Ok ok, good its August or we’d have some rough sea storms to fly through.” Renny stated.
“ There’re still be some rain storms around so keep an eye out on the radar monitor just in case,” Doc instructed Renny.
“ This sure is a nice and smooth baby to fly Doc.” Renny commented.
“ Thanks.” It’s holding up well for its first test.”
Renny smiled nervously,” Uh, are you kiddin me?”
Monk said to no one in particular,” Akureyri, such a catchy name. Won’t know a word their speakin’, but I ought to do alright.”
“ That’s why we will land out of the town limits and Only Belinda, Ham and I shall go there to get supplies and scout for information. You and Renny will stay with the ship and camouflage it the best you can. Be sure you stay out of sight. The less we expose ourselves around here the better off we’ll be.” Doc Savage informed Monk.
Monk mumbled a reluctant,” Yes sir.”
Renny said,” Holy Cow! We get all the breaks.”
Later, as they passed Akureyri Iceland and started their decent for landing, Renny reminded his bronze friend,” Nine more hours left.”
Doc Savage did not flinch when he replied,” We are running it close.”
The dark ship landed without incident and they exited through the same lower hatch. Before anyone left the ship for Akureyri, Doc Savage had each member of the party don a fully supplied backpack. Doc Savage’s backpack was of a special design that could hold a tremendous amount of weight. Indeed, it looked as though he was carrying an extra load. Belinda, Ham and the man of bronze bid their farewells to Renny and Monk. Then they began their hike into town.
Iceland is anything but icy. Though glacier cover about 10% of the country, summers in Iceland are relatively warm, and much of the landscape is extremely green. There are meadows lush with dandelions stretching from farm to crag; upland passes coated smooth in grass, sedges and dwarf willows sprawling everywhere.
It was such a meadow of dandelions that Doc savage and his two companions were trekking through; when he began to think about something that had been bothering him in the back of his mind. June and July was the time of perpetual daylight around Iceland, but by August they begin to experience four hours of night. That period of darkness usually began at the stroke of midnight. The electromagnetic forces and the gravitational pull of the sun would sharply drop at the moment as the sun disappeared.
Facts were building that were proving more and more given the right conditions; a natural disaster of worldwide proportions could be instigated unnaturally. What he had seen in the last few days had made him a believer. A believer that unnatural things as far as known physics in our
world, could cross over from another universe and exist in other universes.
He was so deep in his thoughts, he hardly noticed his surroundings until ham announced,” Well, there’s the town.”
Belinda exclaimed,” What a wonderful sense of history with those late nineteen century wood houses. Almost reminds me of Switzerland in the summer.”
Ham was in better spirits because of the beautiful natural surroundings. He laughed,” What are you trying to be? A tour guide?”
Belinda thumped him on the ear.
“ You’re such a smart ass!”
The man of bronze interrupted,” Let’s check out the hotels here to see if anyone suspicious has stayed in the last couple of days. Then perhaps with luck, we may find out where Nancy’s kidnappers headed.”
Ham asked as they approached a hotel named Hotel Kea,” Maybe we could rent a four wheel drive vehicle, eh?”
First thing they realized about Iceland that was a bit of a surprise. Many people that lived there spoke English, some very little; but others spoke it very fluently. It wasn’t until they asked the front desk clerk, a bespeckled woman in her fifties with graying hair of the third hotel they visited, Hotel Nes that they found out what they were looking for. The desk clerk described several men matching the descriptions of the kidnappers.
She added,” Then I observed on the afternoon before they were to check out, one of the men shoved a beautiful blond girl through the open doorway to their room and slammed the door hard. It was later I discovered, they had somehow sneaked out the back.”
Doc savage concerned, but curious,” Was she gagged or her hands bound?”
The woman thought a moment,” No, but she looked mad, scuffed up a bit and bruised.”
Doc savage asked her about rental for four-wheel vehicles and she offered to rent her business Bronco truck for a cut rate. He agreed, paid her for two days rental and she handed him the keys asking,” Should I have called the police? I don’t like to get involved in uh, what you say…domestic matter.”
Savage assured her much to her relief, that she did the right thing, and that it was a government matter that would be handled by the government. It wasn’t exactly a lie, he had just left out most of the facts.
Then he asked the clerk about which direction they might have headed and she told him that she had rented them a large jeep which they said they needed for four days in the area called Hofsjokull.
“ I let them have the jeep, but warned them of the dangers of that area.”
“ What do you mean dangers? The steep incline of the mountain pass?” Doc Savage asked.
“No, haven’t you heard about the recent increase of volcanic activity out there? Worst I have ever heard of. Then there are ghosts that have scared the locals as well as the tourists away for years. I tell you that place is cursed by Odin himself. I do wish you luck. Personally, I think that woman is in a world of trouble.”
He thanked her and left for the carport where the vehicle was parked. On their way Doc Savage gave advice to his companions.
“Let’s not tell Monk the details of Nancy’s condition.”
Ham agreed,” Yes, you can’t tell what Monk may do. He may run off half-cocked.”
Belinda observed as they spotted the Bronco,” My, it is in jolly good shape.”
At least mechanically it was. Now cosmetically it was an eyesore.
Ham exclaimed,” I hope it holds together long enough to get us there.”
Belinda insisted upon driving and the man of bronze was impressed with her driving skills and the way she was willing to help out with whatever she could.
Before leaving Akureyri, they picked up some food. Soon they had collected herring and lamb and even whale meat stakes. Also they bought some locally grown vegetables and loaves of a dark very soft, but very heavy bread.
On the way, Belinda asked,” Ghosts and volcanic activity? What the bloody hell have we stumbled into Doc?”
Doc savage had a far off look as he recounted what he knew.
“I’m not surprised of the activity. I’ve read Johnny Littlejohn’s geological papers on Iceland and in particular of this one volcanic activity which are very numerous in this country. There are spots there where the thin crust of earth has been known to collapse and drop hikers into the molten magma underneath.”
Belinda shivered,” How dreadful.”
Savage continued,” Nearby there are sandy cinder cones and labyrinths of
black lava towers. In fact, one third of all the lava that has reached the
Earth’s surface in the last 500 years has done so here. As for the ghosts that could be people disguised to look the part or…”
“ Or what?” asked Belinda.
Doc savage never answered so the rest of the trip back to the ship was done so in silence. It was six pm before everything was packed and Monk and Renny were seated within the rental Bronco. Since the food especially the meats were already cooked they ate as they began their journey across the heart of this strange landscape.
Once monk scratched his red hair and asked,” Now far do we have to go?”
“ About thirty-eight miles of rough roads, then we’ll hike from there the rest of the way.” Doc Savage explained.
“ What a cry baby!” Ham remarked,” Monk’s like a little kid on vacation impatiently asking how far, how far!”
Monk, who sat a seat ahead of Ham threw a piece of bread out the open window and it flew back inside Ham’s window hitting his face.
Monk chuckled as Ham wiped his face saying,” Very funny you missing link.”
The ride was a rough one, but they made good time. Along the way they saw hundreds of Icelandic horses which were thin-legged, full-maned blond and kicking creatures at loose in the meadows. A few swam the Skagaffordur River nearby, running weirdly in their “tolt” gait.
There are many farms in Iceland, nearly 4,600. it almost seemed as though they saw at least half of them along the way dotting the landscape. Nearly every farmhouse has cream-white walls and a roof of a dull salmon color. Their uniformity of design anchors the countryside. But as they traveled closer to the Hofsjokull area, the farmhouses dropped off in their numbers drastically until there were no more to see. For a long time they had been observing smoke in the distance and as they reached Hofsjokull, it was all around them like a thin fog. It had a presence of its own. Soon after the going became rough for the four wheeler and they were forced to go by foot from then on.
Before abandoning their Bronco, they donned their backpacks and taking the lead, Doc Savage instructed,” Ok, keep your eyes and ears alert for anything suspicious.” Then he began searching the ground.
He had traveled but twenty yards when Doc Savage came to an abrupt halt.
Everyone crowded around him to see what he had found obviously upon the ground in front of him.
“ See those tread marks? They’re the very same I had found earlier leading from where the kidnappers jeep had been parked by the Hotel.” Doc Savage announced.
Monk asked,” Then we’re on the right trail?”
“ Yes, I believe so.” Doc Savage thoughtfully answered.
Monk peered around him in all directions,” Sure seems too easy for my liking.”
From then on, everyone traveled with their weapons drawn.
Belinda noticed that the man of bronze wasn’t holding a gun and finally the curiosity got the best of her,” Ham, why isn’t Doc savage packing a weapon?”
Ham replied matter-of-factly,” It’s his personal policy, code if you will; not to carry one on his person. He believes that if he did, he would become dependent on them.”
“ Oh, that makes sense, at least for him.”
The landscape changed with almost every hundred yards of travel. Former explosions of lava to the surface bubbled and hissed toward quiescence: Gray mud pots plop contently to themselves all around them. Once and a while steam vents shrill from orange hillsides. Geysers shoot sky-high at irregular intervals, and scalding rivulets trickle through chard moss growing on some of the shattered lava stones lying here and there.
Except for the volcanic activity, everything was silent; no animal or bird sounds around. Once the ground trembled ever so slightly and then they heard a low rumble, coming from the direction they were headed, to the northwest. The incline became steeper with every step.
Renny commented,” It’s pretty obvious we’re headed up an old volcanic mountain. With all the activity it doesn’t look good.”
Again Doc savage halted, this time because someone from behind a large lava rock a dozen yards ahead yelled,” That’s far enough. Throw down your arms and you can continue.”
Ham observed lava rocks at least as large as he all around to take cover behind. He motioned to Belinda who casually stepped closer to him,” What now?”
“ When Doc makes his move, jump for cover.” Ham whispered out of the
side of his mouth.
Belinda grinned,” You got it.”
Doc Savage said a sentence in the ancient language of the long dead civilization of the Mayans and in one leap to the left; he was safely behind a hillside. Everyone followed suit at the same time diving for cover.
Three different guns opened up on them from ahead, of which at least one was an assault weapon. Bullets zipped by Doc Savage’s group all around them like angry bees. One bullet nicked Renny in the leg; but he hardly felt it he was so wrapped up in the excitement.
As soon as Monk had a chance, he raised his machine pistol in the general direction of the gunfire and opened up with a long burst of gunfire of at least 30 rounds. In answer, bullets ricocheted all around them. Renny, Ham and Belinda took turns sending short bursts of gunfire from their machine pistols hitting one of the gunmen who fell heavily upon the ground away from the rock he had been hiding. Otherwise, it was fast becoming evident to them that they were pinned down.
Suddenly, monk heard Doc Savage’s voice instruct him in Mayan to load and fire some smoke their way. He smiled knowing full well that was about to unfold. When he next fired his weapon, he took the time to aim before pulling the trigger. As soon as he had, a bullet hit his pistol wrecking it.
Puffs of smoke burst in a series of small explosions among the rocks ahead. As the smoke grew and grew, Monk yelled out at his bronze friend,” Doc, that cost me my gun!”
But he discovered that he was talking to air, for the man of bronze in the smoking confusion, had disappeared.
The two gunmen had maneuvered beside one another to take turns peering through a pair of binoculars to see if they could see through the dense smoke. They were very concerned, but that was nothing compared to what they felt when a voice spoke behind.
“ Drop your weapons boys.”
Both gunmen whirled around, but were too slow and too late.
Sinewy bronze fingers applied pressure to nerve points on the side of their necks and they both dropped instantly unconscious to the crumbly ground.
Then Doc savage heard the unmistakable roar Monk did when in a big
fight. He heard Belinda swear and several shots were fired; but before he could head for their sounds, he heard a slight crumbing sound behind him.
He spun around just in time to catch a body diving upon him from a large stone. In one motion, he caught the body and threw it over his head. It’s momentum sent it crashing into the rock behind Doc Savage.
The impact had broken the neck of his assailant who turned out to be one of the robed and hooded Druids of Professor Sir John Rickards. The fight was still going on beyond the smoke as another robed assailant dived head long for the man of bronze from above. He was stopped in mid-air and his jaw rearranged by a bronze fist.
Doc Savage tried to go to his friends help beyond the two lava boulders and smoke. But he met a wall of robed thugs running out of the smoke right for him. He turned and headed the opposite way toward what he thought was where Nancy was being held. He had gone ten yards, when he saw at least six heavily armed robed figures coming out of the volcanic haze right for him. Before the closest one could spot him, the man of bronze did a perfect spin flying kick sending his body end over end into a boiling mud pot instantly boiling him to death. The body folded and sunk like a lead weight.
The others watched in open-mouthed shock as a bronze blur leapt into them, bowling four of their number over. The sixth thug hit a glancing blow with a rifle butt upon his side. Doc Savage didn’t even grimace as he punched the man between the eyes. The blow sent him flying backwards; his rifle flew high into the air and landed hard upon the head of a thug who was struggling to get on his feet. He grunted and slumped over in a heap. The scene would have caused Monk to go into a fit of laughter, but for the circumstances involved.
Doc savage disappeared into the long shadows that were forming across the almost surreal landscape of hot and cold magma by the lowering sun. Several dozen hooded men arrived soon after and spread out to look for the bronze ghost. They had little luck though and finally had to give up when a single gunshot rang out as the signal to return.
Soon after, another larger force joined them from behind escorting four prisoners amongst their number. The three men were stripped of their shirts and weapons. The woman prisoner had her pockets ripped out and then her shirt was also torn off. A number of the thugs laughed as Belinda stood there with only a bra and sweat pants covering her body. A large brute threw off his robe and with a smirk and then he approached her.
Belinda, with red hair flying, eyes ablaze with hatred and breathing hard
from her ordeal; faced this latest threat. She kicked out at him, but he knock her leg away as if it was balsa wood. She fought hard against him, but soon he had her arms pinned and was trying to put his mouth on her body. That was when Ham broke free amongst the laughter of his capturers, and rushed headlong into Belinda’s antagonist. Ham’s head hit him on his left knocking him over. Then Ham tried to kick the brute, but he caught his foot and twisted it causing Doc Savage’s aide to twist around and fall flat on his face, breaking his nose. The big fellow growled, stood up and kicked Ham senseless. He was so angry that he had lost interest in the red head woman who was still on her knees trying to recover.
He grabbed her and slapped her several times. When he let her go she fall senseless to the ashy surface beside Ham. The brute spat on them and then Monk bellowed angrily.
But the laughter really quit when it took several minutes and most of their numbers to hold monk and Renny fast. They beat them with rifles and a special type of portable extending blackjacks until it almost wore them out. Finally, the two troublemakers were subdued. All prisoners had their hands and feet tied behind them and they were carried bodily.
When Ham came to, he looked around as best he could being carried as he was. The smoke was even thicker in the air and he noticed more steam vents and more geysers shooting a fine orange red spray of magma into the sky. The sun was almost down for it was getting dark very quickly and he could see stars beginning to show in the heavens. That meant it would be midnight soon. Time was running out. He spotted Belinda who despite some bruises didn’t look worse for wear. Someone had covered her body with a black robe.
The ashy ground shook and almost at the same moment there was a rumbling sound much closer this time. He peered through the smoke and labyrinths of small black lave towers and large shredded magma pieces spotted a yellowish-orange glow in the distance. As they got closer the glow loomed bigger until it shown details of where the glow was coming from. It was emitting from a very wide volcanic crater. It looked very old at the foot of it, yet newly formed at the top. At the foot was a clearing with a large platform of stone, which by the look of it, had been dragged there hundreds of years ago. Incredibly a large leafless tree had grown right through the middle of the platform of grayish stone. As they approached closer, he
noticed that the tree was all twisted and curiously the fine ash and occasional red hot missiles that shot out of the crater never collected or even hit the strange tree.
Soon, his captors set him upon his feet and untied them and his hands. Monk, Renny, and Belinda were treated likewise. Then they were shoved roughly forward without a word or sound until they stood about thirty feet in front of the platform. Monk noticed the platform and at least thirty more robed people standing around it and swore,” Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. What kind of…”
Someone in a red robe and hood who now stood on the platform near the strange gray-blue stone interrupted him,” Silence dog. Mr. Bridge, why are these people here. I thought you understood my instructions to eliminate them.”
The large brute named Bridge stepped forward still minus the robe answered.” I’m sorry. I thought they might be useful to flush out the Savage fella.”
The red robed one stepped closer to the end of the stone platform and pointed at bridge who shrunk back as if he had been hit,” You thought!? You are not to think. You’re to take orders. And where is Doc Savage? I don’t see him among you!”
“ I don’t know mate,” Bridge was wringing his hands in dismay. He was genuinely terrified of this threatening robed figure.” This Savage bloke is like a bloody ghost. He slipped through dozens of us so damn slick.”
The red robed one’s hood fell back to reveal the face and head of professor John Rickards. But the face was that of a madman with little resemblance to pictures of him. He was possessed by evil and fanaticism as he retorted with fury,” A ghost eh? Then for your failure you can be one.”
From his robe he magically produced an old double-bladed battleaxe; which he threw at Bridge before the poor brute could react. I sunk between his eyes. The blow sent him backwards into several other thugs who promptly tossed him away from themselves in disgust.
Belinda battered, but alert; turned away in horror. She blurted out straining to break free from the grasp of a thug holding her on each arm,” You psychotic maniac. You’ll pay for your crimes, you bloody pig.”
Professor John Rickards ignored her threats and insults until he finished looking over an identification card a robed person had handed him earlier.
Then, he finally had an answer to Belinda,” Much of what I expected from a British government agent Miss O’Casey or whoever you really are.”
“ It is Belinda Sutton you swine!”
Rickards acted as if their conversation was over. He paused and stared at the faces of each captive and then briefly behind him at the fading light where the sun already sunk behind the broken horizon,” Yes, perhaps I shall use you people after all. You will be my bait, and if that doesn’t convince your friend to give himself up, then perhaps this will…”
He nodded to two robed thugs who left at a run to the right and behind the platform. Seconds later they returned with a larger group of thugs that were wearing ordinary street clothes. They were escorting Nancy Mayfair with her hands tied behind her back. As they reached even with the platform, a large seven foot tall muscle bound man with a shaved head shoved Nancy forward so hard she stumbled and fell to the ash covered surface; rolling over and over until she came to a stop in front of Savage’s aide monk.
Nancy looked bruised and beaten all over. Her eyes were swollen almost shut, and her clothes were torn all over yet, she rose on her elbows and cried out,” Dad! Why are you here?”
The sight gave new strength to Monk and he broke free from his captors. Till then he had acted as if he hadn’t been worried so much about his daughter, but it had only been an act. Inside he had been churning within with worry and anger. He ran to her and knelt down to wrap his arms around her shoulders. Professor Rickards put up a hand signaling his men not to pursue him as Monk held his daughter. Her shoulders shook as she cried. He had never seen Nancy so beaten physically or mentally, and she looked as though she had been tortured too.
As Monk looked up at the red robed leader, he heard Ham yell,” You monster! There’ll be no place on earth that will be safe for you. We’ll track you down…”
Professor Rickards calmly ignored his threat and loudly commented,” It’s so nice to see an emotional reunion between daughter and father don’t you agree?”
Many robed figures laughed and the sound burned Monk’s ears as he heard his daughter weakly say,” Dad, you shouldn’t have come. I gave em’ hell, but there were so many…(cough). I-I feel like dying.”
Monk eyes welled with tears as he patted Nancy,” There, there babe.
Everything’s gonna be fine. I’ll set things straight. I’ll make em’ pay.”
Nancy weakly grinned despite her horribly split and swollen lips and several broken teeth,” I believe you Daddy.”
Monk looked up toward the professor, but then his gaze fell upon the thugs that weren’t in robes. Many had bruises, lacerations and black eyes from what could only have been the results of subduing his daughter.
He on one knee laughed heartedly quite suddenly and remarked to the red robed leader,” Looks like your men’s had a rough time of it too.”
The thug with the shaven head took a step forward growling,” I would’ve had my way with and killed the bloody bitch but…”
Professor Rickards interrupted yelling,” Enough! This is an important time in history. This shall be a turning point for the Druids, the living trees of life and for our world.”
He began walking back and forth across the platform, a knife appeared in his right hand as if from thin air as he yelled,” Mr. Savage. I know you’re out there. I know your kind and I know you shant abandon Nancy or your aides. You know I have them and most importantly, that in a half an hour, Nancy shall die under the sacrificial knife unless you surrender to me. To take her place of course.”
Suddenly, just beyond the boulders behind the many robed figures that face the platform, Doc Savage’s controlled voice rang out,” I am well aware of what is going on professor Rickards. I shall give myself up with the promise you will let your prisoners go. All of them.”
Many of the professor’s men looked around uneasy for no one could tell where the voice was coming from.
Professor Rickards chuckled, Ah, a little magic of your own I see…”
The voice seemed to be coming from everywhere. Suddenly the air shimmered around the professor and before everyone he metamorphosed into the large blue ape beast. As soon as it had, the beast jumped off the platform, pushed Monk away as if he weighed nothing and grabbed Nancy. She kicked and hit at his shaggy form weakly, but the beast carried her under one arm back quickly to the platform. Monk noticed as he picked himself up, that the beast wasn’t using one arm, which had a terrible wound from hand to shoulder. It began to bleed profusely.
As soon as the blue beast jumped upon the platform, it spun around with a long stone knife at the throat of Nancy who was held in front of him. It
yelled in a low guttural voice,” No tricks. The time is here now. You come out now or she dies with throat cut. I can throw her dead body in volcano with same results as alive.”
Indeed Doc Savage was roaming as silent as a jungle cat among the labyrinth of volcanic missile boulders only a mere thirty feet away from the majority of the professor’s men. He was making his way at a trot in a half circle among the boulders, dropping small hollow glass balls no bigger then marbles every fifteen feet. Bt the time the beast/professor had yelled his ultimatum, Doc Savage was ready and calmly stepped out from the cover of the boulders almost dead center of the larger group of robed thugs. He was still behind them, but was noticed almost immediately. The crowd made way for him all the way to his aides. Instead of grabbing him, they were in too much of awe of the man of bronze. What no one noticed was the small globes he dropped along the way toward the platform. Some rolled around away from the robed crowd.
Ham was the first Doc Savage spoke to,” Are all of you alright?”
Ham had a black eye and a swollen lip, but it didn’t prevent him answering,” Doc! Glad you are alright and don’t worry we’ve seen worse…Well, almost.”
“ What of Nancy?”
“ It is bad Doc. She’s been through too much.”
Doc Savage checked his watch,” I know, just hold on, one way or another it’ll all be over soon.”
Then like a tol of doom, professor’s voice mutated by his transformation, commented,” It’s the midnight hour Mr. Savage, glad you saw reason and accepted my invitation. In moments it will be time for the ultimate sacrifice to insure immortality for the tree of life, the forests of the earth and the doom of civilization as we know it.”
Suddenly Monk rushed toward the professor saying,” What are you trying to be the ultimate conservationist?”
Before he could ascend the platform, the shaved head giant intercepted Monk and backhanded him to the ground.
The man of bronze began walking toward the platform as he yelled,” Stop it. There’s been enough violence. I shall give up my life if you shall let
Nancy and the others go.”
The blue beast looked as though it had smiled through its ugly razor sharp
teeth filled mouth.” Savage, I think we have a deal. Once you step up here, I’ll let her go and my men will make a path to freedom for your aides.”
It was so quiet that you could have heard a pebble drop.
As Savage strolled toward the awaiting giant and blue beast, he thought to himself,” Just a few more feet.” His heart was racing. The shaven head giant sneered evilly as the man of bronze walked past him. Renny and Ham gathered their strength because they had a gut feeling something was about to come down. Then a sound was heard by the blue beast not unlike a small pop by a small balloon bursting. He was about to ask what that sound was when all hell broke loose.
Dozens of small explosions set off not only among the labyrinth of boulders, but also among the main crowd. Every other one was different. One was a brilliant blinding flash, another would be a smoke bomb. In the confusion, many robed people ran off in all directions into the night thinking it was some kind of bombardment.
At the same time of the explosions, Doc Savage in one leap was upon the platform and diving into the big form of the beast. Doc savage’s body block knocked the mutant form of professor Rickards against the old twisted tree of life. The protective force around the old tree had apparently vanished. The force of the blow of the body block also sent Nancy falling over the blue stone. She stumbled across the platform and jumped for the ground below.
As she jumped the shaven headed giant thug caught her body and threw her hard to the surface. Somehow he had gotten his hands on the professor’s battle axe and with a laugh, rose it up high above Nancy’s moaning form with the intent to end her life right there, when Monk dived in head first into his midriff.
The blow stunned Monk, but sent the thug flying to the ground. The battleaxe flew up at an arch and landed blade first deep into the giant’s chest. He tried to get up, but fell back choking on his own blood, dying. Monk giggled at the sight that was all he could do. All his strength had left him what with all he had gone through lately.
At the same moment of the explosions, ham and Renny had broken free. Ham discovered that Doc Savage had also halfway untied his bounds while he had briefly conversed with him. So, it was a simple matter to untie the rest and Renny’s bonds also. They hit every robed person that confronted them which wasn’t many in the confusion, and soon they had confiscated
one machine pistol and an assault rifle. They picked off several who aimed their guns at them, but they were mainly concerned with finding some cover to fight off a worse threat. The kidnappers of Nancy, the thugs from New York were not panicking and many were trying as a group to pick their way through the confusion to try to get to them and perhaps help the professor against Doc Savage. Renny turned his attention to the platform and said,” Holy Druids! Will ya look at that!”
After the beast had fallen against the tree it picked itself up and chanted some words from an ancient language dating back even before the druids time. His form blurred and transformed several inches taller and bigger. Incredibly his fur changed to a dark red.
Doc Savage apparently unaffected by the sight, picked up a large lava stone weighing well over 200 pounds, raised it over his head and threw it at the red beast. He dodged it and the beast watched in horror as the stone struck the tree behind him. A gapping wound appeared on the tree. Ugly blackish sap poured from the wounded trunk and a similar wound appeared across the chest of the growling beast.
With a terrible roar of pain and hatred it charged the man of bronze. Doc Savage was a whirling tornado of fists and kicks upon the monstrous beast.
The beast knocked him down despite all the lethal blows that Doc Savage delivered upon his body. Fortunately, Doc Savage rolled as he hit the stone floor and avoided a crushing blow by the beast stamping foot. In one motion, Doc Savage was up in the air delivering a powerful kick to the chin of professor Rickards. He fell end over end.
Two seconds later, it stood up again, stone knife in its hand once more. But something out of the corner of its eye caught its attention. The red beast breathing heavily ran across the platform instead of fighting with the determined man of bronze. Too late, Doc Savage realized what the beast’s intentions were. It had spotted Nancy’s crumpled form at the foot of his platform and chose to take the easy prey. Doc savage started to give chase, but five of the thugs from New York climbed the stairs on the side of the platform and began firing at him. Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t realized he was wearing a bulletproof vest under his shirt. The several bullets that hit bounced harmlessly off his vest and before they could aim
for his head, he was among their number.
Instead of trading punches with them, he dived upon two of them knocking
them to the floor. The others started to laugh and aimed their guns down upon Doc Savage’s body, when suddenly their laughter stopped. They closed their eyes and fell to the floor around him fast asleep. Unknown to them, Doc Savage fell among them on purpose with the intent of smashing a sleeping gas filled sphere on him. All he had to do was hold his breath. They had hardly hit the surface, before he was up and running after the beast who had already scooped up Nancy’s unconscious body and took off running around and behind the platform to the left of a rather wide pathway. That pathway clearly lead to the large volcanic cone. Two things hampered the reddish ape-like creature. The burden of carrying Nancy’s body over his shoulder, and the wounds he had received. Still, he had a head start and Doc savage knew he had to catch up with him soon or it would be too late, and Nancy would be thrown into the volcano.
The larger mass of robed followers and some of the thugs from New York had finally organized themselves enough that they began to counterattack advancing slowly firing with everything they had. Ham, Renny and monk had little cover to take and knew that they were probably done for, but they noticed Doc Savage chasing after professor Rickards and were determined to hold them off as long as they could. They needed a miracle.
At that moment, a single bright yellowish flare burst in the soot filled sky above the platform clearing. It was as though a still picture had been snapped of that scene. Every one of the robed people froze and glared up at the darkened sky. Then there was a shrill cry almost inhuman in its content and people yelling and screaming came pouring out from the maze of boulders and lava fragments.
They were farmers and villagers armed with anything from old guns, automatic pistols, axes and homemade bows. To professor Rickard’s men it seemed as though there were hundreds of them, but really the figure was close to sixty. They closed in on the robed thugs immediately with hand-to-hand combat. Some threw bombs that were so brutal in how they shot jagged shrapnel all around that it mowed down three or four people at a time. They hacked and cleaved people almost in half. Some of the attackers were women who emptied their guns into anyone that got in their way. The cursing, screaming of the dying, gun fire and the den of hand to hand combat was horrific. One half of the robed people were cut down before they grasped the situation and tried to make a run for it through Doc Savage’s
aides. Renny and Ham aimed low and fired at the legs of those that tried to charge them while Monk punched the lights out of several thugs before he collapsed again in exhaustion.
Ham’s gun ran out of ammo. Throwing it away, he drew his sword cane and revealed the blade. As he fought close quarters with one man armed with a large knife, he called out for Belinda, but she was nowhere to be seen. Of course, with the ash falling and battle ensuing everywhere, it would have be a stroke of luck to see anyone in particular. He put his opponent to sleep with his sword tip and happened to glance upward. There, before his eyes, Doc Savage’s flying stealth fighter ship appeared out of the soot filled sky and silently hovered a dozen feet above his head. At that moment professor Rickard’s men stopped fighting, threw down their weapons and threw up their hands.
Fortunately, the hatch door on the bottom of the hovering ship slid open and Johnny’s head appeared upside down out of the entrance. He yelled several times in Icelandic language not to kill the rest; that they should be held for the authorities on the way to the area. Then he turned to Ham and the others smiling asked.
“ How are my distinguished and exhausted cohorts doing?”
Ham yelled back to him,” Beat but nothing that a hot bath and Rand R won’t correct.”
Renny in an excited booming voice asked,” How in the Sam hill did you know where to find us and who the hell are these folks?”
Johnny laughed,” Whoa Renny, I’ll answer those questions in time, but right now the question is; how much time do we have?”
Ham looked around and answered,” Not much Johnny. I have a bad feeling that this whole area one way or another is about to blow.”
“ Then I’ll explain to the locals to herd everyone down as fast as possible. Meanwhile, you guys better climb aboard and maybe we can catch Doc in time too.” Johnny lowered the metal wire ladder down to his friends,” By the way, where is Doc?”
Ham answered as he pointed the way,” Up that path somewhere. Listen, you go on ahead. I’ve got to find Belinda. Just get there fast. Professor Rickards has got Nancy.”
Johnny exclaimed,” Oh Lord! I hope its not too late to extradite the lady from harm’s way.”
Renny helped Monk up the ladder as Johnny yelled one more thing to Ham,” Oh yes, Nick is ok. He was seriously wounded; but surgery was successful. With therapy he’ll be good as new.”
Ham yelled a relieved,” Thanks”, as he ran. The ship hissing flew over and beyond as Ham noticed a bracelet on a lava rock at the foot of the pathway. Belinda must have followed the beast before Doc Savage.
Fifty yards up the pathway and the man of bronze heard the sounds of battle behind him take on a different tone. The first thing he thought of was Johnny. He must have figured out where they were, and brought help.
Wounds he had were having their effect on him and he stumbled several times on a pathway whose very air was heating up every yard he made. The ground trembled hard this time and the rumbling from the volcano was constant.
Just as he was about to drop, he got strength from the sight he saw before him, through the haze. Thirty yards away, stood Professor Rickards holding Nancy’s form exhausted, but awake by her bruised arm. Professor Rickards had changed back to his human form. He had his back to the man of bronze. Beyond professor Rickards, Belinda stood in the pathway blocking his way. In her hand she held the sacrificial stone knife. When Doc Savage halved the distance he was able to hear their conversation.
Professor Rickards was saying,” It is true I cannot turn back to my alter demon form, but your little knife play shant stop me from bringing your civilization to a close.”
Belinda’s eyes widened and doc savage knew that she had spotted him and was going to strike soon.
“ Professor, it is all over. Drop whatever weapon you may have, and drop Nancy.” Doc Savage warned.
Professor Rickards whirled halfway around and aimed a cunningly concealed four barrel derringer at Doc Savage,” At this range I shant miss your head or this government bitch.” He cackled insanely,” I have won! I have won! The Druids will live in a world without the corruption of man. The nature demons will be set loose and…”
At that moment, Belinda made her move. She raised the knife high in the air and rushed in for the kill.
Doc Savage yelled,” No Belinda!”
But it was too late for professor Rickards. The government agent drove the knife so hard into his chest that he flew sideways off the pathway and upon the crumbling lava rock surface. Nancy rolled toward Savage dazed and stunned.
Surprisingly, Belinda fell upon the professor with the idea to strike him again, but he struggled with her and withdrew his knife from the ghastly wound. Doc Savage jumped over Nancy’s body in an attempt to break up the struggle. Professor Rickards screamed in anger like an animal and pushed Belinda off him. On his knees he swung the knife up at a high arch to stab Belinda brutally. Everything was as if in slow motion for the man of bronze as he rushed to help. Before the smiling insane professor could strike, the crust of lava rock underneath them four feet in diameter collapsed and both dropped out of sight.
Doc savage dived and reached the edge in one jump, but it was too late; both had dropped to an instant death into the molten magma a dozen feet below. He dropped his face to the ground in grief and shock.
When he finally dared to look again, for a crazy second he could have sworn he saw a shape form out of the magma in the shape of a giant demon creature with long horns and dripping fangs. And in its mouth was the professor’s screaming body still alive, but quickly wilting into a burnt cider vaguely shaped like a human. Then the form was gone in a flash.
When he rose, Doc savage heard Ham cry,” No” and when he turned he found his old lawyer friend on his knees with his face buried in his hands, crying. He had witnessed most of the horrible accident. As the man of bronze tried to comfort Ham, a roaring sound began deep in the earth, growing in intensity with each passing moment. Then he spotted his flying ship hovering above. The hatch slid open and Renny stuck his long face out asking in a shout,” What gives?”
“ It’s over Renny, but it’ll be all over if you don’t get us out of here pronto.”
As Doc savage helped Ham up the swinging ladder that had been lowered in a hurry from the hatch of the ship; they felt the concussion of an explosion and caught a brief glimpse of the so called tree of life burst into flames and
the whole thing, platform and al dropped into oblivion. Rivers of bright orange and red-hot magma streamed down the sides of the cone.
Just as they closed the hatch, Johnny who sat at the pilot seat yelled,” Hang on, this is going to be a fast take off.”
With those words the craft lurched upward at a tremendous speed. A massive explosion from the volcano blew debris and magma out and upward. Doc savage and crew felt the concussion at the same time and it rattled the whole ship. For a minute, shrapnel and flame followed it until Johnny sent the craft forward at break neck speed across Iceland’s darkened landscape.
Ham leaned on his side in the seat beside Johnny and glanced down at the erupting volcano a thousand feet below. After that his gaze drifted to the moon rising over the horizon, its glow a peaceful reminder of life that goes on elsewhere. After a time, his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep. Johnny looked over with concern. Doc savage had slipped in the seat behind ham after making sure Nancy and Monk were strapped in special stretcher beds upon the floor in the back. He saw the look of concern and assured Johnny,” In time he will heal. Physically, it will take a little time, mentally it will take longer.”
Renny sitting in the seat behind Johnny, added,” Yeah, he’s suffered a lot and so has monk and his family.”
Johnny asked, “ Doc, should we pick up the Bronco and return it? I’ve already retrieved the equipment…”
Doc savage glanced at his watch,” No, the authorities will handle things from now on. Our job around here is done. We can refuel in England and head straight for New York from there. By the way, thanks for taking the rains; flying here by way of a regular overseas airlines and coming to our aid.”
Then Monk’s tiny voice behind them asked,” Can’t we stop over in London a bit? I’d like to pick up some smoked eel from one of those wonderful vendors.”
Renny laughed,” The ape’s awake and he’s hungry. I’d say he’s feeling better already.”
Everyone on board awake broke up in laughter because of monk’s usual antics and also with relief. Monk was back. The rest of the trip to London was accomplished in silence. Each person wrapped up in his or hers
thoughts. Doc Savage checked Nancy’s condition and as he did he realized there were tough days ahead for his friends, his family.
Both Nancy and Nick would go through week’s maybe months of intense therapy. Ham could never be the same that he knew. Losing a loved one like that was hard, but Ham would go on.
In the coming months he had a decision to make affecting his life as well as all those he knew. Was the price worth it? Did he have the right to drag them into his battle, to rid evil from the earth? Or should he give it up and live out his life as anyone else would? Perhaps soon, he would know the answer. Perhaps he never would. London was beginning to sound better all the time.