Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (Part 1 of 22)

I -- The Sinister One

There was Death afoot in the darkness.
It crept furtively along a steel girder. Hundreds-of-feet below yawned glass-and-brick-walled cracks -- New York streets. Down there, late workers scurried homeward. Most of them carried umbrellas and did not glance upward.
Even had they looked, they probably would have noticed nothing. The night was black as a cave bat. Rain threshed down monotonously. The clammy sky was like an oppressive shroud wrapped around the tops of the tall buildings.
One skyscraper was under construction. It had been completed to the 80th floor. Some offices were in use.
Above the 80th floor, an ornamental observation tower jutted up a full 150 feet more. The metal work of this was in place but no masonry had been laid. Girders lifted a gigantic steel skeleton. The naked beams were a sinister forest.
It was in this forest that Death prowled.
Death was a man!
He seemed to have the adroitness of a cat at finding his way in the dark. Upward he crept. The girders were slick with rain and treacherous. The man's progress was gruesome in its vile purpose.
From time-to-time, he spat strange, clucking words. A gibberish of hate!
A master of languages would have been baffled trying to name the tongue the man spoke. A profound student might have identified the dialect. The knowledge would be hard to believe for the words were of a lost race -- the language of a civilization long vanished!
"He must die!" the man chanted hoarsely in his strange lingo. "It is decreed by the Son of the Feathered Serpent! Tonight! Tonight Death shall strike!"
Each time he raved his paean of hate, the man hugged an object he carried closer to his chest.
This object was a box -- black and leather-covered. It was about 4 inches deep and 4 feet long.
"This shall bring death to him!" the man clucked, caressing the black case.
The rain beat him. Steel-fanged space gaped below. One slip would be his death. He climbed upward yard-after-yard.
Most of the "chimneys" which New Yorkers call office buildings had been emptied of their daily toilers. There were only occasional pale eyes of light gleaming from their sides.
The labyrinth of girders baffled the skulker a moment. He poked a flashlight beam inquisitively. The glow lasted a bare instant, but it disclosed a remarkable thing about the man's hands.
The fingertips were a brilliant red! They might have been dipped an inch of their length in a scarlet dye.
The red-fingered man scuttled onto a workmen's platform. The planks were thick. The platform was near the outside of the wilderness of steel.
The man lowered his black case. His inner pocket disgorged compact, powerful binoculars.
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On the lowermost floor of a skyscraper many blocks distant, the crimson-fingered man focused his glasses. He started counting stories upward.
The building was one of the tallest in New York. A gleaming spike of steel and brick, it rammed upward nearly a hundred stories.
At the 86th floor, the sinister man ceased to count. His glasses moved right-and-left until they found a lighted window. This was at the west corner of the building.
Only slightly blurred by the rain, the powerful binoculars disclosed what was in the room.
The broad, polished top of a massive and exquisitely inlaid table stood directly before the window.
Beyond it was the bronze figure!
This looked like the head and shoulders of a man sculptured in hard bronze. It was a startling sight, that bronze bust! The lines of the features, the unusually high forehead, the mobile and muscular but not too-full mouth, and the lean cheeks denoted a power of character seldom seen.
The bronze of the hair was a little darker than the bronze of the features. The hair was straight and lay down tightly as a metal skullcap. A genius at sculpture might have made it.
Most marvelous of all were the eyes. They glittered like pools of flake-gold when little lights from the table lamp played on them. Even from that distance, they seemed to exert a hypnotic influence through the powerful binocular lenses -- a quality that would cause the most rash individual to hesitate.
The man with the scarlet-tipped fingers shuddered.
"Death!" he croaked, as if seeking to overcome the unnerving quality of those strange golden eyes. "The Son of the Feathered Serpent has commanded. It shall be death!"
He opened the black box. Faint metallic sounded as he fitted together parts of the thing it held. After that, he ran his fingers lovingly over the object.
"The tool of the Son of the Feathered Serpent!" he chortled. "It shall deliver death!"
Once more, he pressed the binoculars to his eyes and focused them on the amazing bronze statue.
The bronze masterpiece suddenly opened its mouth and yawned. For it was no statue but a living man!

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The bronze man showed wide and very strong-looking teeth in yawning. Seated there by the immense desk, he did not seem to be a large man. An onlooker would have doubted his 6 feet plus height. And they would have been astounded to learn he weighed every ounce of 200 pounds!
The big bronze man was so well put together that the impression was not of size but of power! The bulk of his great body was forgotten in the smooth symmetry of a build incredibly powerful.
This man was Clark Savage, Jr.
Doc Savage! The man whose name was becoming a byword in the odd corners of the World.
Apparently no sound had entered the room. But the big bronze man left his chair. He went to the door. The hand he opened the door with was long-fingered, supple. Yet its enormous tendons were like cables under a thin film of bronze lacquer.
Doc Savage's keenness of hearing was vindicated. 5 men were getting out of the elevator cage which had come up silently.
These men came toward Doc. There was wild delight in their manner. But for some sober reason, they did not shout boisterous greetings. It was as though Doc bore a great grief. They sympathized deeply with him, but didn't know what to say.
The first of the 5 men was a giant who towered 4 inches over 6 feet. He weighed fully 250 pounds. His face was severe, his mouth thin, grim, and compressed tightly as though he had just finished uttering a disapproving "tsk tsk!" sound. His features had a most puritanical look.
This was "Renny" -- or Colonel John Renwick. His arms were enormous and his fists were bony monstrosities. His favorite act was to slam his great fists through the solid panel of a heavy door. He was also known throughout the World for his engineering accomplishments.
Behind Renny came William Harper Littlejohn. Very tall and very gaunt, "Johnny" wore glasses with a peculiarly thick lens over the left eye. He looked like a half-starved, studious scientist. He was probably one of the greatest living experts on Geology and Archaeology.
Next was Major Thomas J. Roberts, dubbed "Long Tom". Long Tom was the physical weakling of the crowd. Thin, not very tall, and with a none-too-healthy-appearing skin, he was a wizard with Electricity.
"Ham" trailed Long Tom. 'Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks' was what Ham was designated on formal occasions. Slender, waspy, quick-moving, Ham looked what he was. A quick thinker and possibly the most astute lawyer Harvard ever turned out. He carried a plain black cane, never went anywhere without it. This was -- among other things -- a sword cane.
Last came the most remarkable character of all. Only a few inches over 5 feet, he weighed better than 260 pounds. He had the build of a gorilla, arms 7 inches longer than his legs, and a chest thicker than it was wide. His eyes were so surrounded by gristle as to resemble pleasant little stars twinkling in pits. He grinned with a mouth so big that it looked like an accident.
"Monk!" No other name could fit him!
He was Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair. But he heard the full name so seldom that he had about forgotten what it sounded like. He had earned world fame in Chemistry.

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The men entered the sumptuously-furnished room of the office suite. After the first greeting, they were silent and uncomfortable. They didn't know what to say.
Doc Savage's father had died from a weird cause since they last saw Doc.
The elder Savage had been known throughout the World for his dominant bearing and his good work. Early in life, he had amassed a tremendous fortune … for one purpose.
That purpose was to go here-and-there, from one end of the World to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who needed help, and punishing those who deserved it.
To that creed he had devoted his life.
His fortune had dwindled to practically nothing. But as it shrank, his influence had increased. It was unbelievably wide -- a heritage befitting the man!
Greater even, though, was the heritage he had given his son. Not in wealth but in training to take up his career of adventure and righting of wrongs where it left off.
Clark Savage, Jr. had been reared from the cradle to become the supreme adventurer.
Hardly had Doc learned to walk when his father started him taking the routine of exercises to which he still adhered. 2 hours each day, Doc exercised intensively all his muscles, senses, and his brain.
As a result of these exercises, Doc possessed a strength superhuman. There was no magic about it, though. Doc had simply built up muscle intensively all his life.
Doc's mental training had started with Medicine and Surgery. It had branched out to include all arts and sciences. Just as Doc could easily overpower the gorilla-like Monk in spite of his great strength, so did Doc know more about Chemistry. And that applied to the engineer Renny, the electrical wizard Long Tom Johnny, the geologist-archaeologist Johnny, and the lawyer Ham.
Doc had been well trained for his work.
But grief lay heavily upon Doc's 5 friends. The elder Savage had been close to their hearts.
"Your father's death … was 3 weeks ago," Renny said at last.
Doc nodded slowly. "So I learned from the newspapers when I got back today."
Renny groped for words and said finally: "We tried to get you in every way. But you were gone … almost as if you had been off the face of the Earth."
Doc looked at the window. There was grief in his golden eyes.

To Be Continued...Tomorrow!

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