Monday, March 30, 2009

Doc Savage: Man of Bronze (part 6 of 22)

By Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson
VI -- Working Plans

At no time had Doc Savage ever put his ability to think like chain lightning to better use than he did now. In the fractional split-of-time that it took his golden eyes to register the deadly menace of that knife, he formulated a plan of action.
He simply let go completely the silken cord!
This in spite of the sheer fall of more than 80 stories directly below him and with not a possible chance of saving himself by clutching a projecting piece of masonry. This building was of the modernistic architecture which does not go in for trick balconies and carved ledges.
But Doc knew what he was doing. And it was a thing that called for iron nerve and stupendous strength and quickness of movement!
The silken cord -- going abruptly slack before the chair the man above pushed against it -- nearly caused the would-be murderer to pitch headlong out of the window. The fellow dropped both the chair and his knife and -- by a wild grab -- saved himself from the fall he had meant for Doc.
With a maneuver little short of marvelous, Doc caught the end of the silken cord as it snaked past. A drop of a few feet -- which his remarkable arm muscles easily cushioned -- and he was swinging close to a windowsill, none-the-worse for his narrow escape.
Doc stepped easily to the window ledge.
And not a moment too soon, either! The man above had recovered and -- desperate! -- had employed a small penknife to cut the silken line. It slithered down past Doc, writhing and twisting into fantastic shapes as it dropped those 80 stories to the street.
The window on the ledge of which Doc found himself was locked. He popped the pane inward and sprang into the office. He lunged across the room.
The door literally jumped out of its casing -- lock and all -- when he took hold of it! He halted in the corridor, stumped.
His attuned ear could detect the windy noise of an elevator dropping downward. He knew it was his quarry in flight.
A couple of floors above, Renny was yelling, his voice more than ever like thunder deep in a cave. "Doc! What's become of you?"
Doc paid no attention. He ran across the corridor to the elevator doors. So quickly that he seemed to spring directly to it! He found the cage shaft that was in operation. His fist came back, then jumped forward so swiftly as to defy the eye!
The sound as Doc's knuckles hit the sheet-steel elevator door was like the boom of a hard-swung sledge. An onlooker would have sworn the blow would shatter every bone in his fist. But Doc had learned how to tighten the muscles and tendons in his hands until they were like cushioned steel, capable of withstanding the most violent shock.
As a matter of fact, it was part of Doc's daily 2-hour routine of exercises to subject all parts of his great body to terrific blows in order that he might be able always to steel himself against them.
The sheet-metal elevator door caved in like a kicked tin can. In a moment, Doc had thrown the safety switch which the door -- when closing -- ordinarily operated. Such safety switches are a part of all elevator doors so the cage cannot move up-or-down and leave a door open for some child or careless person to fall through into the shaft. They controlled the motor current.
Many floors below, the elevator car halted with its motor circuit broken.
Doc thrust his head in and looked down the shaft. He was disappointed. The elevator car was nearly at the street level.
5 minutes elapsed before the lackadaisical elevator operator got a cage up and ferried Doc and his friends down to the street.
By that time, their quarry was hopelessly gone.
The indifferent elevator chauffeur could not even give them a description of the would-be killer who had fled the building.

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There was considerable uproar around to the side of the skyscraper when a sleepy pedestrian got the shock of his life by falling over the body of the Mayan who had jumped from the window.
Doc Savage told a straightforward story to the police, explaining exactly how the Mayan had come to his death. And such was the power of Doc -- and the esteem in which his departed father was held -- that the New York Police Commissioner gave instant orders that Doc be not molested and, moreover, that his connection with the suicide not be revealed to the newspapers.
Doc was thus left free to depart for the Central American republic of Hidalgo to investigate the mysterious legacy his father had left him.
Back up in the 86th-floor lair, Doc made plans and gave orders looking to their execution.
To waspish, quick-thinking Ham, he gave certain of the papers which had been under the brick in the Laboratory.
"Your career as a lawyer has given you a wide acquaintance in Washington, Ham," Doc told him. "You're intimate with all the high government officials. So you take care of the legal angle of our trip to Hidalgo."
Ham picked back a cuff to look at an expensive platinum wristwatch. "A passenger plane leaves New York for Washington in 4 hours. I'll be on it." He twirled his black, innocent-looking sword cane.
"Too long to wait," Doc told him. "Take my autogyro. Fly it down yourself. We'll join you at about 9:00 this morning."
Ham nodded. He was an expert airplane pilot. And so were Renny, Long Tom, Johnny, and Monk. Doc Savage had taught them, managing to imbue them with some of his own genius at the controls.
"Where is your autogyro?" Ham inquired.
"At North Beach airport out on Long Island," Doc retorted.
Ham whipped out in a hurry to get his share done.
"Renny," Doc directed, "whatever instruments you need, take them. Dig up maps. You're our navigator. We are going to fly down, of course."
"Right-o, Doc," said Renny, his utterly somber, puritanical look showing just how pleased he was.
For this thing promised action. Excitement and adventure aplenty! And how these remarkable men were enamored of that!
"Long Tom," said Doc Savage, "yours is the electrical end. You know what we might need."
"Sure!" Long Tom's pale face was flaming red with excitement.
Long Tom wasn't as unhealthy as he looked. None of the others could remember his suffering a day of illness. Unless the periodic rages -- the wild tantrums of temper into which he flew -- could be called "illness". Long Tom sometimes went months without a flare-up. But when he did explode, he certainly made up for lost time!
His unhealthy look probably came from the gloomy laboratory in which he conducted his endless electrical experiments. The enormous gold tooth he sported directly in front helped too.
Long Tom -- like Ham -- had earned his nickname in France. In a certain French village, there had been ensconced in the town park an old-fashioned "long tom" cannon of the type used centuries ago by rovers of the Spanish Main. In the heat of an enemy attack, Major Thomas J. Roberts had loaded this ancient relic with a sackful of kitchen cutlery and broken wine bottles. And it wrought genuine havoc. From that day, he was "Long Tom" Roberts.
"Chemicals," Doc told Monk.
"Oke!" grinned Monk. He sidled out. It was remarkable that a man so homely could be one of the World's leading chemists. But it was true. Monk had a great chemical laboratory of his own in a penthouse atop an office building far downtown only a short distance from Wall Street. He was headed there now.
Only Johnny -- the geologist-archaeologist -- remained with Doc.
"Johnny, your work is possibly the most important." Doc's golden eyes were thoughtful as he looked out the window. "Dig into your library for dope on Hidalgo. Also on the ancient Mayan race."
"You think the Mayan angle is important, Doc?"
"I sure do, Johnny."
The telephone bell jangled.
"That's my long-distance call to England," Doc guessed. "They took their time getting it through!"
Lifting the phone, he spoke … got an answer … then rapidly gave the model of the double-barreled elephant rifle and the number of the weapon.
"Who was it sold to?" he asked.
In a few minutes, he got his answer.
Doc rung off. His bronze face was inscrutable; golden gleamings were in his eyes.
"The English factory says they sold that gun to the government of Hidalgo," Doc said thoughtfully. "It was a part of a large lot of weapons sold to Hidalgo some months ago."
Johnny adjusted his glasses which had the magnifying lens.
"We've got to be careful, Doc," he said. "If this enemy of ours persists in making trouble, he may try to tamper with our plane."
"I have a scheme that will prevent danger from that angle," Doc assured him.
Johnny blinked, then started to ask what the scheme was. But he was too slow. Doc had already quitted the office.
With a grin, Johnny went about his own part of the preparations. He felt supreme confidence in Doc Savage.
Whatever villainous moves the enemy made against them, Doc was capable of check-mating. Already Doc was undoubtedly putting into operation some plan which would guarantee them safety in their flight Southward.
The plan to protect their plane would be one worthy of Doc's vast ingenuity.

To Be Continued...Tomorrow!

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