Kenneth Robeson
The Polar Treasure

Chapter 1

   This was evident from the furtive manner of the small, flat-chested man who cowered in the shadows. He quaked like a terrified rabbit at each strange sound.
   Once a cop came along the alleylike side street, slapping big feet heartily on the walk, twiddling his nightstick, and whistling "Yankee Doodle." The prowler crawled under a parked car, and lay there until the happy cop passed.
   Near by loomed the enormous bulk of the New York Concert Hall. From the stage door on the side street crept strains of a music so beautiful that each note seemed to grasp the heart with exquisite fingers.
   A violin!
   It was a Stradivarius violin, one of the most perfect in the world, and had cost the player sixty thousand dollars.
   The player was a blind man!
   He was Victor Vail. Many music lovers maintained him to be the greatest living master of the violin. He ordinarily got hundreds of dollars for rendering an hour of violin music before an audience. To-night he played for charity, and got nothing.
   The flat-chested man, cowering and fearful, knew little of Victor Vail. He only knew the music affected him strangely. Once it made him think of how his poor mother had sobbed that first time he went to jail, long years ago. He nearly burst into tears.
   Then he got hold of his emotions.
   "Yer gettin' goofy!" he sneered at himself. "Snap out of it! Ya got a job to do!"
* * *
   SOON AFTERWARD, a taxi wheeled into the side street. It looked like any other New York taxi. But the driver had his coat collar turned up, and his cap yanked low. Little of his face could be seen.
   The cab halted. The small man scuttled out to it.
   "Ya ready for de job?" he whined.
   "All set," replied the cab driver. He had a very coarse voice. It was as though a hoarse bullfrog sat in the taxi. "Go ahead with your part, matey."
   The flat-chested man squirmed uneasily. "Is dis guy gonna be croaked?" he muttered anxiously.
   "Don't worry about that end of it!" snarled the driver. "We're handlin' that. Keelhaul me, if we ain't!"
   "I know — but I ain't so hot about gettin' mixed up in a croakin'
   A thumping growl came out of the cab.
   "Pipe down! You've already shipped with this crew, matey! Lay to an' do your bit of the dirty work!"
   Now that the man in the taxi spoke excitedly, one thing about his speech was even more noticeable. He had been a seafaring man in the past! His speech was sprinkled with sailor lingo.
   The small man shuffled away from the cab. He entered the stage door of the concert auditorium.
   Victor Vail had finished his violin playing. The audience was applauding. The hand-clapping was tremendous. It sounded like the roar of Niagara, transferred to the vast hall.
   The flat-chested man loitered backstage. Applause from the delighted audience continued many minutes. It irked the man.
   "De saps!" he sneered. "You'd t'ink Sharkey had just kayoed Schmeling, or somethin'!"
   After a time, Victor Vail came to his dressing room. The blind maestro was surrounded by a worshipful group of great singers and musicians.
   But the loitering man shouldered through them. His shoving hands, none too clean, soiled the costly gowns of operatic prima donnas, but he didn't care.
   "Victor Vail!" he called loudly. "I got a message for yer from Ben O'Gard!"
   The name of Ben O'Gard had a marked effect on Victor Vail. He brought up sharply. A smile lighted his artistic features.
   Victor Vail was tall, distinguished. He had hair as white as cotton, and almost as fine. His formal dress was immaculate.
   His eyes did not seem like a blind man's — until an observer noticed it made no difference to Victor Vail whether they were open or shut.
   "Yes!" he cried delightedly. "What is the message from Ben O'Gard?"
   The intruder eyed the persons near by.
   "It's kinda private," he suggested.
   "Then you shall speak to me alone." Victor Vail waved his admirers back. He led the way to his dressing room, only a hand thrust out before him showing he was blind.
* * *
   THE FLAT-CHESTED man entered first. Victor Vail followed, closing the door. He stood with his back to the panel a moment. His thoughts seemed delving into his past.
   "Ben O'Gard!" he murmured reverently. "I have not heard that name for fifteen years! I have often sought to find him. I owe my life to Ben O'Gard. And now that worldly success has come to me, I should like to show my gratitude to my benefactor. Tell me, where is Ben O'Gard?"
   "In de street outside." said the flat-chested man, trembling a little. "He wants ter chin with yer."
   "Ben O'Gard is outside! And he wishes to talk to me!" Victor Vail whipped the dressing-room door open. "Take me to my friend! Quickly!"
   The dirty man guided the blind master of the violin to the stage door.
   Just before he reached the door, something happened which made the guide feel as if a bucket of ice water had been poured on him.
   He saw the bronze man!
   The bronze man presented a startling figure. He did not look like a giant — until it was noticed that some fairly husky men near him seemed puny, pale specimens in comparison. The big bronze man was so well put together that the impression was not of size, but of power. The bulk of his mighty form was forgotten in the smooth symmetry of a build incredibly powerful. His dress was quiet, immaculate, but expensive.
   The bronze of this remarkable man's hair was a little darker than the bronze of his features. The hair was straight, and lay down smoothly now.
   Most striking of all were the eyes. They glittered like pools of flake gold as backstage lights played on them. They seemed to exert a hypnotic influence, a quality that would make the most rash individual hesitate.
   So pronounced was the strange power of those golden eyes that the flat-chested man shivered and looked away. Chill perspiration oozed out of his sallow skin. He glanced back uneasily, saw the weird golden eyes still upon him, and felt an overpowering impulse to run and hide in the darkest dive of the vast city.
   He was very glad to get into the outer darkness.
* * *
   "WHERE IS Ben O'Gard?" Victor Vail asked eagerly.
   "Aw, hold yer ponies!" snarled the flat-chested fellow. "I'm leadin' yer to 'im, ain't I?"
   He was suddenly very worried — about the bronze man. The strange golden eyes seemed still boring into his back. He turned his head to make sure this wasn't so.
   He wondered who the bronze giant was. He couldn't be a detective — no dick could ever wear dress clothes as immaculately as this astounding man had worn them.
   "Gosh!" whimpered the rat. "Just lookin' at dem gold glims made me feel like I'd been kicked in de belt. What's de matter wit' me, anyhow?"
   He didn't know it, but he wasn't the first man who had quailed before those weird golden eyes.
   "Is it far to where Ben O'Gard waits?" Victor Vail inquired anxiously.
   "Yer about dere."
   They came abreast of a darkened doorway. Out in the street, a taxicab had been keeping even with them. This cab held the sinister seafaring man who had sent the small man into the concert hall after Victor Vail.
   The musician's guide looked into the murky door. He made sure several men lurked there. He grasped Victor Vail's arm.
   "Yer dere now!" he snarled.
   Then he smashed a fist against Victor Vail's jaw.
   Simultaneously, the gloomy doorway spouted the men it concealed. They pounced upon the famed blind violinist.
   Victor Vail fell heavily from the traitorous guide's fist blow. But the sightless musician was more of a man than his assailants had expected. Though he could not get to his feet, he fought from his clumsy position on the sidewalk.
   He broke the nose of one attacker with a lucky kick. His hands found the wrist of another. They were artistic hands, graceful and long and very powerful. He twisted the wrist in his grasp.
   The man whose arm he held let out a shriek. It blared like a siren over the rumble of New York night traffic. The fellow spun madly to keep his arm from breaking.
   The murk of the street aided the blind man, just as it hampered his assailants. The world he lived in was always black.
   Blows whistled, thudded. Men hissed, cursed, yelped, groaned. Bodies fell noisily. Laboring feet scuffed the walk.
   "Lay aboard 'im, mateys!" howled the seafaring man from his cab. "Make 'im fast with a line! And load 'im aboard this land-goin' scow! Sink 'im with a bullet if you gotta! Keelhaul 'im!"
   A bullet wasn't necessary, though. A clubbed pistol reduced the fighting Victor Vail to quivering helplessness. A thin rope looped clumsily about his wrists and ankles. After the fashion of city dwellers, the men were slow with the knots.
   "Throw 'im aboard!" shouted the seafarer in the cab. "Let a swab who knows knots make 'im shipshape!"
   The gang lifted Victor Vail, bore him toward the taxi.
   And then the lightning struck them!
* * *
   THE LIGHTENING was the mighty bronze man! His coming was so swift and soundless that it seemed magic. Not one of blind Victor Vail's attackers saw the giant metallic figure arrive. They knew nothing of its presence until they felt its terrible strength.
   Then it was as though a tornado of hard steel had struck them. Chins collapsed like eggshells. Arms were plucked from sockets and left dangling like strings.
   The men screamed and cursed. Two flew out of the melee, unconscious, not knowing what had vanquished them. A third dropped with his whole lower face awfully out of shape, and he, too, didn't know what had hit him.
   Others struck feverishly at the Herculean bronze form, only to have their fists chop empty air. One man found his ankles trapped as in a monster vise of metal. He was lifted. His body swung in a terrific circle, mowing down his fellows like a scythe.
   "Sink 'im, mateys!" shrilled the seafaring man in the cab. "Scuttle 'im! Use your guns — "
   A piercing shriek from one of his hirelings drowned out the sailor's urgings. The unfortunate one had been inclosed in banding bronze arms. The fearsome arms tightened. The man's ribs breaking made a sound as of an apple crate run over by a truck. The fellow fell to the walk as though dead when released.
   Incredible as it seemed, but two of Victor Vail's assailants remained in anything but incapacitated conditions. The sailorman in the taxi was unhurt, and one villain was upright on the walk. Even an onlooker who had seen that flashing battle with his own eyes would have doubted his senses, such superhuman strength and agility had the bronze giant displayed.
* * *
   THE MAN upright on the walk abruptly spun end over end for the taxi. He had been propelled by what for the bronze man was apparently but a gentle shove. Yet he caved in the rear door of the cab like a projectile would.
   The seafaring hack driver got scared.
   "Well, keelhaul me!" he choked.
   He slammed the car in gear. He let out the clutch. The cab wrenched into motion.
   The sailor saw the bronze man flash toward him. The metallic Nemesis of a figure suddenly looked as big as a battleship to the seafaring man. And twice as dangerous! He clawed out a spike-snouted pistol of foreign make. He fired.
   The bullet did nothing but break the plate-glass window in a shoe shop. But the bronze giant was forced to whip into the shelter of a parked car.
   The seafaring man kept on shooting, largely to prevent his vehicle being boarded. His lead gouged lone rips in the car behind which the bronze man had taken shelter, broke windows in a book store and a sea-food restaurant. and scared a fat man far up the street so badly that he fainted.
   The taxi skidded around a corner and was gone.
* * *
   BLIND VICTOR Vail abruptly found himself being lifted to his feet by hands which were unbelievably powerful, yet which possessed a touch gentle as that of a mother fondling her babe. He felt a tug at his wrists.
   Something was happening which he would not have thought possible. Bronze fingers were snapping the ropes off Victor Vail's wrists as effortlessly as though they were frail threads!
   The sightless man had been dazed during the furious fight. But his ears, keener than an ordinary man's because of his affliction, had given him an idea of the momentous thing which had happened. Some manner of mighty fighter had come to his rescue. A fighter whose physical strength was almost beyond understanding!
   "Thank you, sir," Victor Vail murmured simply.
   "I hope you were not damaged seriously," said the bronze man.
   It struck Victor Vail, as he heard his benefactor speak for the first time, that he was listening to the voice of a great singer. It had a volume of power and tone quality rarely attained by even the great operatic stars. A voice such as this should be known throughout the music world. Yet Victor Vail had never heard it before.
   "I am only bruised a little," said the musician. "But who — "
   The loud clatter of running feet interrupted him. Police were coming, drawn by the shots. A burly sergeant pounded from one direction. Two patrolmen galloped from the other.
   A radio squad car careened into the street with siren moaning in a way that stood one's hair on end.
   Cops raced for the giant bronze man. Their guns were drawn. They couldn't see him any too well in the murk.
   "Stick 'em up!" boomed the sergeant. Then a surprising thing happened.
   The policeman lowered his gun so hastily he nearly dropped it. His face became actually pale. He couldn't have looked more mortified had he accosted the mayor of the city by mistake.
   "Begorra, I couldn't see it was you, sor," he apologized. The bronze giant's strong lips quirked the faintest of smiles. But the sergeant saw the smile — and beamed as if he had just been promoted to a captaincy.
   A roadster was parked near by. It was a very powerful and efficient machine. The top was down. The color was a reserved gray.
   Not another word was spoken. The bronze man escorted Victor Vail to the machine. The roadster pulled away from the curb. The police stood back respectfully. They watched the car out of sight.
   "T'row these rats in a cell on a charge av disturbin' the peace," directed the sergeant. Then he looked more closely at the prisoners and grinned widely. "Begorra, 'tis in the hospital yez'd better t'row 'em. Sure, an' never in me born days did I see a bunch av lads so busted up!"
   "But won't they be charged with somethin' besides disturbin' the peace?" questioned a rooky who had but lately joined the force.
   The sergeant frowned severely. "Glory be, an' didn't yez see that big bronze feller?"
   "Then button the lip av yez. If the bronze man had wanted these scuts charged wit' anyt'ing, he would av said so."
   The rooky's eyes popped. "Gosh! Who was that guy?"
   The sergeant chuckled mysteriously. "Me lad, yez know what they say about our new mayor — that nobody has any pull wit' him?"
   "Sure," agreed the rooky. "Every one knows our new mayor is the finest New York has ever had, and that he can't be influenced. But what's that got to do with the big bronze fellow?"
   "Nothin'," grinned the sergeant. "Except that, begorra, our new mayor would gladly turn a handspring at a word from that bronze man!"

Chapter 2

   AS HE was whipped along New York streets in the speedy gray roadster, it suddenly dawned on Victor Vail that he knew nothing about his rescuer. He didn't even understand why he had accompanied the strange man so readily.
   The blind violinist was not in the habit of meekly permitting unknowns to lead him about. Yet he had gone with this mighty stranger as docilely as a lamb.
   "Are you a messenger sent to take me to Ben O'Gard?" he asked.
   "No," came the bronze giant's amazing voice. "I do not even know any one by that name."
   Victor Vail was so intrigued by the beauty of his unusual companion's vocal tones that he could not speak for a moment.
   "May I ask who you are?" he inquired.
   "Doc Savage," said the bronze man.
   "Doc Savage," Victor Vail murmured. He seemed disappointed. "I am sorry, but I do not believe I have heard the name before."
   The bronze giant's lips made a faint smile.
   "That is possible," he said. "Perhaps I should have been more formal in giving you my name. It is Clark Savage, Jr."
   At this, Victor Vail gave a marked start.
   "Clark Savage, Jr!" he gasped in a tone of awe. "Why, among the violin selections I rendered in my concert tonight was a composition by Clark Savage, Jr. In my humble opinion, and to the notion of other artists, that composition is one of the most masterly of all time. Surely, you are not the composer?"
   "Guilty!" Doc admitted "And it is not flattery when I say the selection was never rendered more beautifully than by your hand to-night. Indeed, your marvelous playing was one of two things which led me backstage. I wished to compliment you. I noted the furtive manner of the man leading you outside, and followed. That is how I happened to be on hand."
   "What was the second thing which led you to seek me out?" Victor Vail asked curiously.
   "That is something I shall explain later," Doc replied. "I hope you do not mind accompanying me."
   "Mind!" Blind Victor Vail laughed. "It is a privilege!"
   The sightless master of the violin,indeed, considered it such. He had many times wondered about the mysterious Clark Savage, Jr., who had composed that great violin selection. Strangely enough, the composer was listed as an unknown. He had claimed no credit for the marvelous piece of work.
   This was astounding in itself, considering what moneymad beings the human race had become. The composer could have ridden to a fortune on the strength of that one selection.
   Victor Vail could not help but wonder and marvel at the powers of this strange man who had rescued him.
* * *
   AS THE roadster wended its way through the heavy traffic of the theatrical district, no one noticed one particular cab which followed Doc Savage and the blind violinist; not even Doc.
   The seafaring man who had directed the ill-fated attempt to capture Victor Vail occupied the machine. However, he had stuffed his cheeks with gum, donned dark glasses, stuck a false mustache to his lip, thrust a cigar in his teeth, and changed his cap. He looked like a different man.
   "Keelhaul me!" he snarled repeatedly to himself. "I gotta get that Victor Vail! I gotta!"
   Doc's roadster halted finally before one of the largest buildings in New York. This was a gigantic white thorn of brick and steel which speared upward nearly a hundred stories.
   Doc Savage led the blind violinist inside. They entered an elevator. The cage climbed with a low moan to the eighty-sixth floor. Noiselessly, the doors slid back.
   They now entered a sumptuously furnished office. This held an inlaid table of great value, a steel safe so large it reached to the bronze giant's shoulder, and many comfortable chairs. A vast window gave an impressive view of a forest of other skyscrapers.
   Doc ensconced Victor Vail in a luxurious chair. He gave the musician a cigar of such price and quality that it came in an individual vacuum container. Doc did not smoke, himself.
   "If you do not mind telling, I should like to know what was behind that attack upon you to-night," Doc said.
   The unusual voice of the bronze man held a strangely compelling quality. Victor Vail found himself answering without the slightest hesitancy.
   "I am completely in the dark as to the reason," he said "I have no enemies. I do not know why they tried to seize me."
   "Those who seized you had the earmarks of hired thugs. But there was a man in the cab, a sailor. He shouted at the others several times. Did you recognize his voice?"
   Victor Vail shook his head slowly. "I did not hear it. I was too dazed."
   Silence fell for a moment.
   Then the office abruptly rang with the coarse tones of the seafaring man!
   "Sink 'im, mateys!" it shrilled. "Scuttle 'im! Use your guns!"
   Victor Vail sprang up with a startled cry.
   "It's Keelhaul de Rosa!" he shouted. "Watch him closely, Mr. Savage! The devil once tried to kill me!"
   "Keelhaul de Rosa is not here," Doc said gently.
   "But his voice spoke just then!"
   "What you heard was my imitation of the voice of the sailor in the taxi," Doc explained. "I repeated his words. Obviously, that man was Keelhaul de Rosa, as you call him."
   Victor Vail sank back in his chair. He fumbled with the fine cigar. He mopped his forehead.
   "I would have sworn it was Keelhaul de Rosa speaking," he muttered. "Why — why — holy smoke! What manner of man are you, anyhow?"
   Doc passed the question up as though he hadn't heard it. He disliked to speak of his accomplishments, even though it might be but a few words that were well deserved.
   A truly remarkable man, this golden-eyed giant of bronze!
   "Suppose you tell me what you know of Keelhaul de Rosa," Doc said.
   The blind man ran long fingers through his white hair. It was apparent he was becoming excited.
   "Why, bless me!" he muttered. "Could this mystery go back to the destruction of the Oceanic? It must!"
* * *
   WITH A pronounced effort, Victor Vail composed himself. He began speaking rapidly.
   "The story goes back more than fifteen years," he said. "It was during the World War. My wife, my infant daughter, and myself sailed from Africa on the liner Oceanic. We were bound for England.
   "But an enemy sea raider chased the liner northward. The enemy boat could not overhaul us, but it pursued our craft for days. Indeed, the Oceanic sailed far within the arctic ice pack before escaping. "
   "The liner was trapped in the ice. It drifted for months, and was carried by the ice far within the polar regions."
   Victor Vail paused to puff his cigar.
   "Trouble with the crew arose as food ran short," he continued. "A shell from the enemy raider had destroyed our wireless. We could not advise the outside world of our difficulty. The crew wanted to desert the liner. although the master of the vessel assured them the ice pack was impassable."
   Victor Vail touched his eyes. "You understand. I am telling this only as I heard it. I, of course, saw nothing. I only heard.
   "The leaders of the crew were two men Ben O'Gard was one. Keelhaul de Rosa was the other. They were persuaded not to desert the liner."
   Victor Vail suddenly covered his face with his hands.
   "Then came the disaster. The liner was crushed in the ice. Only Ben O'Gard. Keelhaul de Rosa, and about thirty of the Oceanic's crew escaped. I was also among the survivors, although that is a mystery I do not yet understand."
   "What do you mean?"
   "I was seized by members of the crew two days before the disaster, and made unconscious with an anaesthetic. I did not revive until the day following the destruction of the Oceanic. Then I awakened with a strange pain in my back."
   "Describe the pain, suggested Doc.
   "It was a sort of smarting, as though I had been burned."
   "Any scars on your back now?"
   "None. That is the mysterious part."
   "Who saved you when the liner was lost?"
   "Ben O'Gard," said the blind violinist. "He was hauling me across the ice on a crude sledge when I revived. I owe Ben O'Gard my life. Not only for that, but, some days later, Keelhaul de Rosa seized me and tried to carry me off by force. He and Ben O'Gard had a terrific fight, O'Gard rescuing me. After that, Keelhaul de Rosa fled with several of his followers. We never got trace of them again."
   "Until to-night," Doc put in mildly.
   "That is right — until to-night," Victor Vail agreed. "It was Keelhaul de Rosa who tried to seize me!"
   The sightless musician now put his face in his hands again. His shoulders convulsed a little. He was sobbing!
   "My poor wife," he choked. "And my darling little daughter, Roxey! Ben O'Gard told me he tried to save them, but they perished."
   Doc Savage was silent. He knew Victor Vail's story must have brought back memories of his wife and infant daughter.
   "Little Roxey, that was my daughter's name," murmured the musician.
* * *
   DOC SAVAGE finally spoke.
   "It strikes me as rather strange that the story about the fate of the liner Oceanic did not appear in the newspapers. Such a yarn would have made all the front pages."
   Victor Vail gave a start of surprise. "But — didn't it?"
   "That is strange! Ben O'Gard told me it had. Personally, I never mentioned the incident. The memory is too painful." The sightless violinist paused. He made a finger-snapping gesture of surprise.
   "That is another mystery! Why should Ben O'Gard tell me falsely that every one knew the story of the awful fate of the Oceanic?"
   "Perhaps he desired to keep the fate of the liner a secret," Doc offered. "Did he suggest that you keep quiet?"
   "Why — why — I recall that he did bring up the subject! And I told him I never wanted to hear of the ghastly affair again!"
   Doc's great voice suddenly acquired a purr of interest.
   "I should like very much to know what actually happened during that period you were unconscious!" he said.
   Victor Vail stiffened slightly.
   "I refuse to listen to anything against Ben O'Gard!" he snapped. "The man saved my life! He tried to save my wife and baby daughter!"
   "You will hear nothing against him," Doc smiled. "I judge no one without proof."
   Doc did not point out that Victor Vail only had Ben O'Gard's word about that life-saving business.
   The blind man rubbed his jaw in a puzzled way.
   "Perhaps I should mention another strange thing which may be connected with this," he said. "The mystery which I call the 'Clicking Danger'!"
   "By all means! Leave out nothing."
   "It has been nearly fifteen years since I last met Ben O'Gard," muttered Victor Vail. "With Ben O'Gard's faction of the survivors was a sailor with a nervous ailment of his jaws. This malady caused his teeth to chatter together at intervals, making a weird clicking noise. The sound used to get on my nerves.
   "Here is the mystery: At frequent intervals during the
   last fifteen years, I have heard, or thought I heard, that clicking noise. I have gotten into the habit of playfully calling it the 'Clicking Danger.'
   "Actually, nothing has ever come of it. In fact, I rather thought it was my imagination entirely, instead of the sailor. Why should the fellow follow me all over the world for fifteen years."
   "It is possible Ben O'Gard has been keeping track of you," Doc replied.
   The sightless master of the violin considered this in a somewhat offended silence.
   Doc Savage studied Victor Vail's eyes intently. After a bit, he came over to the musician. He led the man across an adjacent room. This was a vast library. It held hundreds of thousands of ponderous volumes concerning every conceivable branch of science. This was probably the second most complete scientific library in existence.
   The one collection of such tomes greater than this was unknown to the world. No one but Doc Savage was aware of its existence. For that superb library was at the spot he called his Fortress of Solitude. a retreat in a corner of the globe so remote and inaccessible that only Doc knew its whereabouts.
   To this Fortress of Solitude the giant man of bronze retired periodically. On such occasions, he seemed to vanish completely from the earth, for no living soul could find him. He worked and studied absolutely alone.
   It was in these periods of terrific concentration and study that Doc Savage accomplished many of the marvelous things for which he was noted.
* * *
   BEYOND skyscraper library lay another room — a vast scientific laboratory. This, too, was of a completeness equaled by but one other — the laboratory at Doc's Fortress of Solitude.
   "What are you going to do?" asked Victor Vail curiously.
   "I came backstage to-night to see you for two reasons," Doc replied. "The first was to tell you how I enjoyed your rendition of my violin composition. The second was to examine your eyes."
   "You mean — "
   "I mean an artist as great as you, Victor Vail, should have the use of his eyes. I wish to examine them to see if vision cannot be returned."
   Victor Vail choked. His sightless orbs filled with tears. For an instant, he seemed about to break down.
   "It is impossible!" he gulped. "I have been to the greatest eye specialists in the world. They say nothing less than a magician can help me."
   "Then we'll try some magic," Doc smiled.
   "Please — don't joke about it!" moaned the blind man.
   "I'm not joking," Doc said steadily. "I positively can give you sight of sorts. If conditions are as I think, I can give you perfect vision. That is why I wish to examine."
   Victor Vail could only gulp and sag into a chair. It did not occur to him to doubt the ability of this mighty being beside him. There was something in the bronze man's voice which compelled belief.
   An overpowering wonder seized Victor Vail. What, oh, what manner of person was this bronze master?
   A lot of folks had wondered that.
   Rapidly, Doc took numerous X-ray pictures of Victor Vail. He also got exposures using rays less familiar to the surgical profession. He continued his examination with ordinary instruments, as well as some the like of which could have been found nowhere else. They were of Doc's own invention.
   "Now wait in the outer office while I consider what the examination shows," Doc directed.
   Victor Vail went into the outside office. He did not comprehend why, but he had such confidence in the bronze giant's ability that he already felt as though he could see the wonders of a world he had never glimpsed.
   For Victor Vail had been born blind.
   The sightless violinist would have been even more happy had be known the true extent of Doc Savage's ability. For Doc was a greater master of the field of surgery than of any other.
   Doc's composition of the violin selection marked him as one of the greatest in that field. He had done things equally marvelous in electricity, chemistry, botany, psychology, and other lines.
   Yet these things were child's play to what he had done with medicine and surgery. For it was in medicine and surgery that Doc had specialized. His first training, and his hardest, had been in these.
   Few persons understood the real scope of Doc's incredible knowledge. Even fewer knew how he had gained this knowledge.
   Doc had undergone intensive training from the cradle. Never for a day during his lifetime had that training slackened.
   There was really no magic about Doc's uncanny abilities. He had simply worked and studied harder than ever had a man before him.
   Doc was developing the ray photos he had taken. The task quickly neared completion.
   Suddenly Victor Vail, in the outer office, emitted a piercing howl.
   A shot exploded deafeningly. Men cursed. Blows smashed.
   Doc's bronze form flashed through the laboratory door. Across the library, he sped.
   From the library door, a Tommy gun spewed lead almost into his face.

Chapter 3

   DOC HAD charged forward. expecting to meet danger. So he was alert. Twisting aside, he evaded the first torrent of bullets.
   But nothing in the library offered shelter. He doubled back. His speed was blinding. His bronze figure snapped into the laboratory before the wielder of the machine gun could correct his aim.
   The gunman swore loudly. He dashed across the bookfilled room. Deadly weapon ready, he sprang into the laboratory. Murderous purpose was on his pinched face.
   His eyes roved the lab. His jaw sagged.
   There was no bronze man in the lab!
   To a window, the gunner leaped. He flung it up, looked out.
   No one was in sight. The white wall of the skyscraper lacked very little of being smooth as glass. Nobody could pull a human-fly stunt on that expanse. No rope was visible, above or below.
   The gunman drew back. He panted. His pinched face threatened to rival in color the white shirt he wore.
   The bronze giant had vanished!
   Fearfully, the gunman sidled about on the polished bricks of the laboratory floor.
   Two half circles of these bricks suddenly whipped upward. They were not unlike a monster bear trap. The gunman was caught.
   His rapid-firer cackled a brief instant. Then pain made him drop the weapon. Madly, he tore at the awful thing which held him. It defied him. The bricks which had arisen were actually of hard steel, merely painted to resemble masonry.
   Before the would-be killer's pain-blurred eyes, a section of the laboratory wall opened soundlessly. The mighty bronze man stepped out of the recess it had concealed.
   The giant, metallic form approached, taking up a position before the captive.
   "Lemme out of dis t'ing!" whined the gunman. "It's bustin' me ribs!"
* * *
   THE BRONZE man might not have heard, for all the sign he gave. One of his hands lifted. The hand was slender, perfectly shaped. It seemed made entirely of piano wires and steel rods.
   The hand touched lightly to the gunman's face.
   The gunman instantly slumped over.
   He was unconscious!
   He fell to the floor as the bronze giant released the mechanical trap which held him. The trap settled back into the floor — become a part of the other bricks.
   Like an arrow off a bow, the bronze man whipped into the library, then to the outer office.
   The gunman had never moved after striking the floor. Yet he breathed noisily, as though asleep.
   In the outer office, the bronze man saw Victor Vail was gone!
* * *
   A DRIBBLE of moist crimson across the floor showed the single shot which had sounded had damaged some one. The red leakage led to an elevator door. The panel was closed. The cage was gone.
   Doc Savage glided down the battery of elevator doors. The last panel was shut. His finger found a secret button, and pressed it. The doors slid open. A ready cage was revealed.
   This car always awaited Doc's needs at the eighty-sixth floor. Its hoisting mechanism was of a special nature. The cage went up and down at a speed far surpassing the other elevators.
   Doc sent it dropping downward. For a moment or two he actually floated in the air some inches above the floor, so swift was the descent
   The cage seemed hardly to get going before it slowed. And with such an abruptness did it halt that only great leg muscles kept Doc from being flattened to the floor.
   The doors opened automatically. Doc popped out into the first-floor lobby of the skyscraper.
   An astounding sight met his gaze.
   Directly before the elevator door stood an individual who could easily be mistaken for a giant gorilla. He weighed in excess of two hundred and sixty pounds. His arms were some inches longer than his legs and actually as thick as his legs! He was literally furred with curly, rust-hued hair.
   A more homely face than that possessed by this anthropoid fellow would be hard to find. His eyes were like little stars twinkling in their pits of gristle. His ears were cauliflowered; something had chewed the tip of one, and the other was perforated as though for an ear-ring except that the puncture was about the size of a rifle bullet. His mouth was very big.
   This gigantic individual held three mean-eyed men in the hooplike clasp of his huge arms. The trio were helpless. Three guns, which they had no doubt held recently, lay on the floor.
   The gorilla of a man saw Doc. His knot of a head seemed to open in halves as he laughed.
   "Listen, Doc!" he said in a voice surprisingly mild for such a monster. "Listen to this!"
   His enormous arms tightened on his three prisoners. As one man the three howled in agony.
   "Don't they sing pretty huh?" the anthropoid man chuckled. He squeezed the trio again, and listened to their pained howls like a singing teacher.
   Across the lobby, two more mean-eyed men cowered in a corner. They had their arms wrapped tightly about their faces. Each was trying to crawl into the corner behind the other.
   The cause of their terror was a slender, waspish man who danced lightly before them. This man was probably as immaculately clad a gentleman as ever twirled a cane on a New York street.
   Indeed, it was with a sword cane that he now menaced the pair in the corner. A sword cane which ordinarily looked like an innocent black walking stick!
   This man was "Ham." On the military records, he was Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks. He was one of the leading civil lawyers of the country. He had never been known to lose a case. But there was no sign of poor blind Victor Vail.
* * *
   DOC SAVAGE addressed the grinning gorilla of a man.
   "What happened, Monk?"
   No other nickname would have quite fit the homely, long-armed, and furry fellow. The highly technical articles he occasionally wrote on chemistry were signed by the full name of Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair.
   There apparently wasn't room back of his low brow for more brains than could be crammed into a cigarette. Actually, he was such a great chemist that other famous chemists often came from foreign countries to consult with him.
   "We were coming in the door when we met our friends." Monk gave his three captives a squeeze to hear them howl. "They had guns. We didn't like their looks. So we glommed onto 'em."
   Reaching forward, Doc Savage placed his bronze right hand lightly against the faces of each of Monk's three prisoners. Only Doc's finger tips touched the skin of the men.
   Yet all three instantly became unconscious!
   Hurrying over, Doc also touched lightly the pair Ham menaced with his sword cane.
   Both fell senseless!
   Ham sheathed his sword cane. He twirled the innocent black stick which resulted. He was quite a striking figure, sartorially.
   Indeed, tailors often followed Ham down the street, just to watch clothes being worn as they should be worn!
   "You didn't see more of these rats dragging a white-haired, blind man, did you?" Doc asked.
   "We saw only these five." Ham had the penetrant voice of an orator.
   Neither Ham nor Monk seemed the least surprised by the way in which their prisoners dropped unconscious at Doc's touch.
   Ham and Monk were accustomed to the remarkable feats of this mighty bronze man, for they were two of a group of five men who worked with Doc Savage. Each of the other three was a master of some profession, just as Monk was a fine chemist and Ham a great lawyer.
   The five men and Doc Savage formed an adventuresome group with a definite, although somewhat strange, purpose in life. This 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 in need of help, and punishing those who deserved it.
   Doc suddenly went outside. He moved so effortlessly he seemed to glide. He had been seized by a suspicion. Either Victor Vail was still in the skyscraper, or he had been removed by way of the freight elevators.
   Hardly was Doc on the walk when a bullet splashed chill air on his bronze face.
   Two sedans were parked down the street, near the freight entrance of the giant building.
   One machine lurched into motion. It ran rapidly away. Doc did not get a chance to see whether Victor Vail was in it!
   Doc flashed over into the shelter of a many-spouted fire hydrant. The hydrant had couplings for several hose lines. It was nearly as large as a barrel.
   Down the street, the driver hopped out of the sedan which remained. He was a big man, very fat. He wore a white handkerchief mask.
   "Git a hump on yer!" he howled.
   The cry was obviously directed at some of his fellows who were still in the skyscraper.
   Monk and Ham popped out on the walk. The shot had attracted them. Monk held a pistol which, in his hairy paw, looked small as a watch chain ornament.
   The sedan driver leveled a revolver to fire again. Monk's fist spat flame.
   The driver jumped about wildly. like a beheaded chicken. His spasmodic actions carried him into the street. He caved down finally and rolled under the sedan.
   Three or four evil heads poked out of the freight entrance. Another red spark jumped out of Monk's paw. The heads jerked back.
   Suddenly, Doc's low voice reached Monk's ears. Doc spoke half a dozen staccato sentences. Silence followed.
   When Monk glanced at the fire hydrant a moment later, Doc Savage was gone!
   Several times in the next minute guns roared in the gloomy street. The reports echoed from the man-made walls on either side like satanic laughter.
   The driver of the sedan abruptly appeared! The fellow still wore his mask. He hauled himself laboriously to the sedan door. Getting it open, he fell limply into the machine.
   This seemed to embolden the fellows in the freight entrance. They launched a volley of bullets at Monk and Ham. The pair were driven out of sight.
   A tight group, the gunmen sprinted from the freight entrance to their sedan. They made it safely. They piled in, trampling the prone, white-masked form of the driver.
   "T'row de stiff out!" snarled one man, seizing the driver. The driver kicked the man who had grasped him.
   "I ain't no stiff, damn yer!" he cursed. "Dey jest winged me!"
   "It's a lousy deal, us goin' off an' leavin' our pals in dat buildin'!" growled a gunster.
   "What else could we do?" retorted another. "Dey was saps to go bargin' out wavin' our rods. If we hadn't heard 'em squawk, we'd have been caught, too."
   "Dry up, you mugs!" snapped the man who had taken the wheel.
   The sedan rolled down Broadway. It veered into a side street many blocks downtown.
   The street became shabby. Smell of fish permeated the air. Ragged derelicts of men tottered along the thoroughfare. Men in seamen's clothing were plentiful. Raucous music blared out of cheap honkatonks.
   It was the water front district — a region of sailor lodging houses, needled beer, and frequent fights.
   "De others got here first!" growled a gunman. "Dere's de car dey was drivin'."
   The machine the man indicated was the first sedan to pull away from the uptown skyscraper.
* * *
   THE EVIL fellows left the two sedans parked close together. "Honkey," the former driver, staggered out, but nearly fell.
   "Help 'im, you guys!" directed the man who seemed to be the straw boss.
   Honkey was half carried across the walk. This side street was very dark. They did not bother to remove the white mask Honkey still wore.
   "Gosh, but he's heavy!" complained a man helping the driver.
   They mounted a stairway. The rickety steps whined like dogs when they were stepped on. There was no light, except that from a match a man going ahead had struck.
   Into a lighted room, the group went. Several other men waited here.
   Still there was no sign of Victor Vail.
   "Put Honkey on de bed in de nex' room!" commanded the straw boss.
   The two thugs hauled Honkey into an adjacent chamber. It was a slatternly looking place. Wall paper draped from the walls in great scabs. The one bed was filthy.
   The pair prepared to lower Honkey.
   At this point, Honkey's hands came up with apparent aimlessness. The finger tips touched each man's face.
   Instead of Honkey dropping upon the bed, both thugs collapsed upon it! They made no sound.
   Honkey now stumbled back into the other room. The gang assembled there eyed him in surprise.
   "Yer'd better go ter bed, Honkey!" snarled the one who had been giving orders.
   "Aw — I ain't feelin' so tough." Honkey muttered.
   "Well, take dat crazy mask off, anyway!"
   "In a minute," mumbled Honkey. "Soon's I find me a chair."