The Phantom Detective: Notes of Doom
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by Robert Wallace
Description: Follow the Phantom on the breath-taking trail of a ghastly series of sinister crimes perpetrated by a supercriminal who holds promissory notes for the lives of his victims! Ripped from the pages of the June, 1935 issue of "The Phantom Detective" magazine, here is the complete lead novel (including illustrations)--NOTES OF DOOM! Thrilling pulp action!
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 1935 USA
eBookwise Release Date: July 2008
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [169 KB]
Reading time: 107-150 min.
CHAPTER I DEATH WATCHES
The hush that lay over the mansion of Victor Carmody was the lull before the storm. Through it stalked the grim figure of Death. The Reaper can appear in many forms, some fearful, others sublime. He slashes with his scythe to the tune of machine-guns, the bass roar of cannon, and the tattoo of the war drum.
He may come in silent, mysterious shrouds, heeding the beckoning finger of the murderer. And then he lingers--for always there must be another to respond to his call.
The murderer must die! There is no escape! Death has marked him for his own.
The Dark Shadow hovered at Victor Carmody's shoulder, waiting--waiting. And Victor Carmody sat quietly before his fireplace. Upon the hearth logs burned furiously, emitting yellow and blue flames that lit up the room. Carmody was alone; his head was sunk deep in his hands. Beside him, on the davenport, was an automatic. The safety was off, and a bullet was in the chamber.
Through Carmody's brain ran dire thoughts. A quick raising of the gun, a pressure of the finger, and it would be over. He would be away from it all--where ruination of a fabulously wealthy man meant nothing, where there was peace and no worry.
But sounder thoughts overcame the cowardly desire. After all, he was a fighter. He had gained his fortune by sheer hard work, and that it had been lost wasn't due to any fault of his. He raised his head, his lips moving sluggishly as he talked to himself.
"I've lost and won before. I'll do it again. I'm not too old. I'll show 'em. I'll--"
His lips moved more sluggishly than ever. He swallowed hard, tried to open his mouth again, but it seemed frozen close. His brain sent impulses to his right hand to seek the gun inches away from it. For there was a presence in this room. Carmody sensed it--and he also was slowly becoming aware of the fact that his whole body was paralyzed.
His hand twitched; that was all. There was no functioning movement toward the gun. He tried to twist his head. It refused to budge.
The fireplace was growing dim. A pain shot about his heart, and his senses began to reel. A shadow passed before his eyes. He stared down at a black, silken-gloved hand. Between its fingers was a long slip of paper, yellowed slightly with age.
Carmody stared at the paper. Realization came slowly to his numbed brain and then his eyes gleamed with horror. He tried to scream. No sound came from his throat. He exerted every last particle of strength to rise, to face the intruder with the black-gloved hand. Muscles and nerves alike remained inert.
Then the slip of paper grew dim. It became grey, distorted, and danced madly before his eyes. A moment--and it vanished. Everything was black.
The slip of paper was released from between the fingers of the gloved hand. It fell into Carmody's lap, but he made no motion to pick it up. His eyes stared directly into the fireplace where the logs were rapidly becoming embers that glowed and sent off myriad bursts of tiny sparks.
But Victor Carmody saw nothing of this. His eyes had long since ceased to function. Victor Carmody was dead!
A hissing laugh sounded through the stillness of the room. Then, from behind the davenport upon which the dead man sat, a figure crept forward on silent feet. Long, tapering fingers, clothed in black silk, were clenched into a hard knot.
Without a wasted motion, the black-gloved one walked to a buffet. From it he took an empty glass. A decanter filled with water stood nearby. He emptied part of it into the glass. Then from a tiny white packet he poured a pale yellow powder into the water. He rotated the glass a moment and then walked directly to the dead man.
Gently he forced the unresisting head backward, inserted the glass between the lifeless lips, and poured some of the liquor down the dead man's throat. Then the glass was placed upon a small end table beside the davenport, and within reach of the corpse.
The intruder stood erect, surveyed the scene. Satisfied, he went to the telephone in one corner of the room. He lifted the receiver, gave the number of Police Headquarters. At the sound of a questioning voice at the other end of the wire, the black-gloved man uttered one word.
"Come," he said, and hung up.
He started back toward the corpse and then hesitated. From somewhere in the house came the sound of a key turning in a lock, and then a slamming door. Voices sounded in the hall.
As quickly and noiselessly as a ghost, the intruder stepped toward one of the tall French windows. He opened it, tied a fine piece of cord to the latch, and stepped out. Closing the window softly, he yanked down on the cord, pulling the latch into place. The slip knot gave way under the continued pressure. The cord was quickly pulled between the loose fitting windows.
Within the room sat a dead man. Beside him was a glass of violent poison, and his mouth and throat were filled with the stuff. Every door and every window was securely locked. The intruder was safely away.
Only a Presence in that room took note. The grey shadow hovering over Victor Carmody's shoulder seemed to quiver as it vanished.
For murder has an avenger. Death is his name! * * * *
Several hours later, the quiet mansion of Victor Carmody had been transformed into a bedlam. A dozen cars were drawn helter-skelter along the drive. A white ambulance was backed to the door; and behind it, parallel with the curb, was the sinister black wagon from the morgue. Patrolmen paced the walk.
The house sparkled with light. Inside, photographers' bulbs flashed; fingerprint men worked with eager swift hands. In the center of the big living room, a small knot of men talked earnestly.
Before the fireplace sat the one silent man in the room. Carmody's body remained where they had found it. The medical examiner was delayed, and the detectives fretted as they waited for him.
A siren eddied into the wailing silence. A car door slammed, and heavy feet walked up the entrance to the house. Patrolmen opened the front door, saluted respectfully. A middle-aged, military erect figure strode into the room, looked around.
"MY gosh!" One of the patrolmen at the door stepped close to his companion. "This must be an important case, with the commissioner himself on the job. And will you look at Captain Blane jump? Boy, that commish don't fool with things."
"Well, Captain," Commissioner Crowley greeted Blane. "What have you found?"
"Not much, Commissioner," Blane shrugged. "I'd say he bumped himself off. Everything points to that. There's a glass beside him, and I sniffed the stuff inside. It's cyanide. And there's the same smell from his lips. His mouth is burned a little inside, too. I didn't have to touch the body to see that."
"The door was locked from the inside, and the French windows I've left alone. You can see for yourself that they're all locked from the inside. If anybody murdered him, they sure must have slipped through the keyhole when they finished the job."
"Any suicide note, Blane?"
"Yes, sir," Captain Blane frowned. "If you can call it one. It's lying in his lap. I haven't touched it, sir. But you can read it plainly enough. Over here, Commissioner."
Crowley walked briskly to the body. For a moment he gazed down at the dead man, and his stern face softened. Carmody had always been a friend of the police. His checks at Christmas time had always been generous, and the pension fund swelled greatly from his contributions. Then, too, he had been a personal friend of Commissioner Crowley.
The commissioner bent down, studied the oblong bit of paper that lay in the lap of the corpse. He peered at it, was obviously startled. He straightened up, dug into a pocket, and produced glasses. He slipped these over his nose, looked again.
"I'll be--" he said. "I wonder if Carmody intended that for a joke?"
He drew a glove on his right hand, picked up the paper, and brought it into the light. He studied it, and the look of perplexity on his face deepened.
The paper was a demand note. There was a bank's name printed on it, but this had been crossed out with many scratches of a pen. It was dated eighteen years previous. * * * * November 16, 1917. ON DEMAND, I promise to pay to the order of DEATH -- MY LIFE. Victor Carmody. * * * *
"I know that signature," Crowley growled. "It's Carmody's, without a doubt, although we'd better confirm it."
"Yes, sir," Captain Blane agreed. "That won't be hard. I'd say this looks like Carmody's last joke. He always did appreciate jokes, sir. You knew he was broke, of course?"
Crowley nodded. He walked to the body, replaced the note, and stood erect again. He began to draw off his glove, but as he glanced down, he stared in amazement.
There was a crimson smudge on the forefinger of the glove. Startled, he picked up the note again, turned it over, and gasped aloud. Captain Blane began to swear very softly.
With a slight smudge where Crowley's finger had touched it, a gleaming message, written in blood, stood out like a firebrand on a dark night. * * * * PAID IN FULL * * * *
Below those three words was still another. It was this one that Crowley had smudged. The being to whom the note was made payable had endorsed and signed it!
"Death" was the word below the endorsement!