The Avenger 23 - The Wilder Curse

BOOK: The Avenger 23 - The Wilder Curse
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WARNER PAPERBACK LIBRARY

WARNER PAPERBACK LIBRARY EDITION
F
IRST
P
RINTING
: A
PRIL
, 1974

C
OPYRIGHT
© 1942
BY
S
TREET
& S
MITH
P
UBLICATIONS
, I
NC
.
C
OPYRIGHT
R
ENEWED
1969
BY
T
HE
C
ONDÉ
N
EST
P
UBLICATIONS
, I
NC
.
A
LL
R
IGHTS
R
ESERVED

T
HIS
W
ARNER
P
APERBACK
L
IBRARY
E
DITION
IS
P
UBLISHED
BY
A
RRANGEMENT
W
ITH
T
HE
C
ONDÉ
N
EST
P
UBLICATIONS
. I
NC
.

C
OVER
I
LLUSTRATION
BY
G
EORGE
G
ROSS

W
ARNER
P
APERBACK
L
IBRARY
IS A
D
IVISION
OF
W
ARNER
B
OOKS,
75 R
OCKERFELLER
P
LAZA
, N.Y. 10019.

A Warner Communications Company
ISBN: 0-446-75-482-X

Printed in the United States of America

CONTENTS

THE WILDER CURSE

CHAPTER I: The Call of Death!

CHAPTER II: Calling Justice, Inc.

CHAPTER III: Through a Corn Cutter

CHAPTER IV: Noise at Night

CHAPTER V: Widow and Nephew

CHAPTER VI: “Next Time I’ll Shoot.”

CHAPTER VII: Trail of Slumber

CHAPTER VIII: Time Bomb!

CHAPTER IX: The Impossible Murders

CHAPTER X: Ghost Phone

CHAPTER XI: Man in a Dress

CHAPTER XII: Battle in a Library

CHAPTER XIII: Death Walks

CHAPTER XIV: The Curse

CHAPTER XV: Murder Weapon

CHAPTER XVI: Flight to Doom

THE
WILDER CURSE

CHAPTER I
The Call of Death!

The man heard the peculiar noise distinctly, but he didn’t pay much attention to it. He should have paid a lot of attention to it, because it was quite important. It was, as a matter of fact, the call of death!

But the man did not know that. He heard it and thought vaguely: “We’ve got rats again. Have to do something about that.” Then he went on about his business.

His business was important, too, which was why he didn’t connect the slight noise with the rather terrible thing he had seen two days before. This was the body of a murdered man. The body was what was left of a portly, wealthy gentleman named Carl Foley, who had been one of the man’s employers.

The thing that had been terrible about it was its mangled look. Whoever had killed Carl Foley had done so in a way that made him look as if a streetcar had run over him, dragging and rolling his body under the wheels for a hundred feet or so in the process.

The man who had heard the noise—his name was Tim Phelan, and he was assistant engineer of the Thornton Heights Developing Corp.—had lived in the Orient for a time when he was younger. And something he remembered having seen there had clicked with the appearance of that dead and mangled body. Now he wanted to tell somebody about it.

He had decided that the one he wanted to tell was not a policeman. His tale sounded too fantastic for the police.

The one he wanted to talk to was a man named Richard Henry Benson. This man was also known as The Avenger, and fantastic stories were routine with him.

Tim Phelan had first gone up to the lobby of the building to phone anonymously from there. But that phone was out of order. So he had come back downstairs to use his own phone, chancing the risk that somebody would connect this call with him and think him crazy. He was just outside his little office when he heard that noise.

The call, though he didn’t know it, of death!

Thornton Heights, as most New Yorkers know, is a comparatively small but very exclusive section of the city. It is about seven blocks square and is built up solidly with fine apartment buildings. In the center is the tallest building, ten stories high, and in the basement of this is the central-heating plant for the whole development. It was in this vast cavern of basement, with its rows of furnaces and its complicated machinery, that the engineer’s office was located.

The head engineer, a man named Carter, held down the fort during the day. Tim Phelan, his assistant, was there on the night shift. It was now just after midnight.

“Even this guy, The Avenger, is going to think I’m nuts,” Tim Phelan murmured sourly to himself. “But I’m going to tell him, anyway. The look of Carl Foley’s body—I’ll swear I’ve seen dead men look just like that in Malaya.”

He went into the small, rather battered, office in the corner of the huge basement. The place was like a cavern, hollowly echoing the smallest noises. It echoed, once more, the queer noise Phelan had heard at first.

The one he had mistakenly associated with rats.

“Phone Acme Exterminator Co. in the morning,” he noted on his desk pad. Then he shut the office door, so that anyone who came into the basement would not overhear him. He went toward the phone.

When he’d started to phone from the public pay station upstairs, he had opened the telephone book to look up Richard Benson’s number, with a good deal of pessimism about finding it listed.

Phelan knew a little about The Avenger, as most folks do. He knew that Benson was an enormously wealthy man, though still very young. He knew he was internationally known in science, finance, literature, music—and in the brilliant solution of otherwise unsolvable crimes.

In other words, The Avenger was a big shot. The very biggest of big shots. And such men usually have private phone numbers and otherwise discourage the public from bothering them.

But Phelan had discovered that this was not the case. Dick Benson lived to help people who needed more drastic and subtle help than the regular police force could give them. In order to help, he had to be easily located. And to insure that, The Avenger’s phone numbers were scattered all through the book.

There were four phones listed at the Bleek Street address where Benson had his headquarters. There was a number under the title, “Justice, Inc.,” which was what he and his little band of crime fighters called themselves. There was a number for each of his associates—Nellie Gray, Fergus MacMurdie, Cole Wilson, Algernon Smith, Josh and Rosabel Newton.

It was easy enough to get The Avenger on the phone, so Tim Phelan dialed one of the numbers.

Then he paid with his life for not heeding that small noise he’d heard!

There was a slight scuffing sound, accompanied by a noise like that of heavy, snuffling breathing.

Tim Phelan got his number and heard a ring at the other end of the wire. He waited—a tense, rather scrawny little man of fifty or so, with thin gray hair and a leathery face, on which was an anxious, frightened look.

Behind his back, a hand slowly reached out. Fingers fastened on the knob of the office door. The upper part of the door was glass, so that Phelan could have seen if he had turned swiftly. But he did not turn.

“Justice, Inc.?” said Phelan into the phone as the ringing stopped.

A metallic voice answered, “Yes.” The voice sounded metallic, because it was not a human voice. It was part of an elaborate mechanism in The Avenger’s office that could answer a phone ring, activated by the motion of the bell’s vibrator, then could take messages by recording them on a roll of tape.

“I want to talk to Mr. Benson,” Phelan said.

And it was then that, behind his back, the hand got the little office door wide open.

BOOK: The Avenger 23 - The Wilder Curse
10.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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