Turn Back the Clock
Why did rejuvenation bring death? A thrilling serial concludes with a startling revelation
THE OLD custom of going down to the railroad station to see the train come in had once been a popular outdoor pastime in Milteron, back in the horse-and-buggy days, when a little excitement went a long way. But before the arrival of the four o’clock train this afternoon it was like old times. A great crowd had gathered to see an old man step out who, by some scientific hocus-pocus, was now in the draft age or mighty near it.
Art Benson walked over to the car in which Janet and Jack waited.
“Hello, Art,” Janet welcomed him. “We have a tip for you—or rather Jack has one.”
“I’m grateful for small favors.”
“Well, I’d trail along to the Marshal layout,” suggested the deeper voice of the two, “and suggest that Tom Marshal recover the fortune he hid before he went away from here. Old Doc Murlain had a wicked and confident light in his eyes last night. You know those crooks who broke in were seeking the swag, but they didn’t get it. Today is, I feel sure, supposed to be the day. The info is all set, according to the wise money.”
“Well, that would be a story—he finds it !—or the fortune has vanished! But come down to the platform, the southbound express is about due.” The platform was crowded indeed, and the three joined Lily Marshal. A long whistle blew in the distance, and the express could be seen coming, trailing smoke. In thirty seconds she was in.
Mrs. Murlain and a young Tom Marshal stood on the back of the club car. She whispered in his ear, and Janet decided: she is going to stick close to him. Why, he doesn’t appear to be over thirty — and yet, with all the difference in age, since rejuvenation, you could recognize the features, bolder and strengthened, but in the same cast as before. Yet he was nervous as a witch, and his eyes were downcast. Red spots of color burned in his cheeks.
Now they were off the platform, and Mrs. Murlain was saving: “Your wife, Lily, Tom.
She almost pushed him into Lily’s arms. He broke away quickly, muttering about how glad he was to be home.
“And Janet Manly, the doctor, you remember her—and Mr. Benson, the local newspaper editor. This is Jack Cunningham, and how young you look, sir. This has been quite a strain for Tom, and I am going along to his home with him, continuing like a nurse until he gets his bearings. He has been under an obscure mental strain—has flashes of forgetfulness when he doesn’t even recognize me, and I’ve been with him right through this course of treatments.”
“I don’t doubt Mr. Marshal is worried,” said Benson, “if he heard of that robbery, when they searched for his concealed horde of cash, stocks and bonds. I bet he wonders if the money cache
is still there. The public is interested, too, and we’ll all drive out, and then leave you at peace.”
“Take Lily by the arm—we will go in your wife’s car,” directed Mrs. Murlain.
Young Marshal smiled and shook his head.
“I’m all upset,” he explained, in a nice voice, “so I hope you will pardon me. I haven’t seen a soul but dear Mrs. Murlain for several weeks, and now —all this crowd, and rush, new faces and old, I—I —come along Lily, we will go out in your car. I’m longing to get home again.”
“A good drink is what he wants,” whispered Jack. “His fingers twiddle like those of a confirmed toper. Watch him moistening his lips.”
Like a campaign manager Mrs. Murlain made a way through the throng, and like a candidate who wants to show no favors Tom bowed and smiled, right and left, shaking hands when hands were outstretched, in a determined attempt to be agreeable.
As the Marshal,sedan shot out, Art Benson’s ’34 wonder was after it, and Jack swung behind, poking Janet in the ribs.
“Lady, this is better than a show. I don’t know how they got a bird whom everyone must admit fills the bill of Tom Marshal as a blade in his thirties, but if Mrs. Murlain left him he would collapse in his tracks. She will do the talking, for a while at least . . . But that lad has bad eyes. Wait until he gets into his stride.”
“You think he knows where the stuff was hidden?”
“Of course he knows—and that is about all he does know. Except that he wants to get his. But what a striking, what an extremely remarkable resemblance. I know something about casting, as they say in dramatic quarters, but I can’t figure how they ever dug up a fellow who so fills the bill, even in a city like New York. I asked Lily, once, if Tom had a younger brother. She said no, and that he was a self-made man who wasn’t proud of the early stages, and she had never heard of any
relatives whatever. Anyway, a brother wouldn’t leap into this unbrotherly mess.”
“Jack, admit, you are dumbfounded?”
“Yes, for we tried tricks with that double business in China and Spain—and don’t get the wrong idea all Chinamen look alike. They don’t, not to one another. Well, on dark nights, with a quick glance, backed by a uniform, spies have got by sentries that way. This isn’t an impersonation; physically, young Tom is the goods. Doc Murlain prepared us for him to be mentally a washout. He might be bright enough, in his own way, but here there are a thousand small details and a hundred unknown people he is supposed to be familiar with, to upset him.”
OUT AT the Marshal house the two followed Benson indoors, with all the informality of old friends. Young Tom was standing at a long serving table. He had found a bottle of whisky like a homing pigeon its perch, and w'as in the act of pouring himself a second drink.
“First with this hand,” said Tom, and he used
his left, and laughed, getting that confidence a seasoned drinker obtains with a couple of quick ones.
Mrs. Murlain frowned, refused a drink, as did Janet. The wife listened to the voice of her husband like a violinist to an instrument being tuned, her head partly on one side.
“I’m not one to drink much,” he continued, “but that crowd at the station unnerved me. I’m not a two-headed calf, or any kind of a spectacle, you know. I’ll be glad when this rejuvenation affair is forgotten about. It had a swell result—but I don’t want to be stared at and questioned the rest of my life. I hate all cross-examination. My affairs are my own, and the devil with meddlers.”
He poured himself a third drink, and tiny little veins, red and purple, could be seen, now, under his eyes.
“Down the hatch and join the others,” he exclaimed, and Janet realized that she was noting, as Lily must have done, that the timbre of his voice was somewhat higher than the deeper pitch of old Tom Marshal.
Oddly young Tom didn’t have very much more hair than old Tom (they quickly used old and young before Tom to differentiate) but it was the strangeness in the voice that Lily must have heard with a sensatiori no other person might fathom. Not yet did she doubt this was her rejuvenated husband— but the doubts would come, Janet thought, ^nd she was glad that the man paid not the slightest attention to his supposed beloved wife. That was swell. Lily would receive no attentions, welcome or unwelcome, from that quarter. Jack had picked the bad spot unerringly: whatever else the impostor might be he was a confirmed sot, and by night would fall off into drunken slumber—if he lasted until night.
Art and Jack, were playing up to him like good fellows.
Finally Art slapped him on the back.
“Tom, the public wants to know, is eager to see the fortune you put away for your rejuvenation days. Of course your idea you wouldn’t be recognized was all rot. We spotted you in an instant as Tom Marshal—younger, more handsome, with a
brighter gleam in your eyes—but the same old Tom, our pal as ever. Now, Tom, be a good fellow —I have a story to write tonight for the world to read. Lead us to the fortune, and then we will have a few more and go home.”
“Why, this is your home—my home is my friends' home. We will each have a bottle more and then we’ll go to bed on the carpet. This is my home coming and I feel like the old cow puncher who shouted—‘I’m a woolly, wild wolf, and this is my night to howl.’ ”
“But it isn’t night yet,” put in Jack. “Be a good fellow and lead us to the fortune you laid away. Lily will open the safe—if you’ve forgotten the combination—and you can put it safely inside. Be a sport, Tom, Art has to write a story.”
He asked Lily to send for his fishing equipment, and ten minutes afterward, with shaking hands, was tying an assortment of hooks to the end of a heavy silk line.
“We will fish—fish for my fortune. No, I’m not tipsy. You’ll see—come outside.”
The group followed young Tom into the open, and he knew exactly where he was going, for he headed directly to an old-fashioned open well, with bucket and windlass. It was no longer used but the old wall was still standing, and it made a picturesque sight.
“I went went to a sporting-goods store in New York,” said young Tom, “and I bought me a big, rubber, waterproof bag that sports take on canoe trips. If the craft tips over whatever is inside doesn’t get wet. I figured, gentlemen, this estate could be combed over but no one would ever think of fishing in a well for my fortune.”
He let the line slip down over the stone wall.
“How deep is the water, Lily?”
“Only two or three feet.”
■ Quickly he paid out the line until the slack showed that the hooks had hit bottom. Then the fisher pulled the line this way and that, jerked now and again, while the smile on his face became a hard line.
“Very odd, I’ll be damned if it isn’t. Say, one of you fellows help me, I’m going down with the bucket.”
He squeezed over the wall, caught the chain, and Art and Jack managed to let him go down easily, instead of breaking his neck, which would have been a pleasure. From above he could be heard splashing about in the water, perhaps going under to search at the bottom of the well. He was down a long time.
“Pull me up,” he shouted, at last.
Young Tom tumbled over the wall, dripping wet. Blood oozed from a cut in his left hand. No one had thought to pull up the line, and hooks, before he had gone into the well to search.
“There has been dirty work, somewhere,” he shouted. “The rubber bag I left down there is gone. I cut my hand on one of those blamed hooks. A fine home coming, not a dollar to call my own— robbed, broke.”
ART TOOK his handkerchief, bound the cut, told him to put iodine on it. But he only swore in return, said that he was cold as ice and needed another drink.
“Lily, you won’t let me down.” And he lurched toward her. “My little wife will give me all the money I need, till I get mine back. Won’t you precious?”
The woman shrank as he threw a wet arm over her shoulder and drew her to him. She pulled away, looked appealingly at Janet, and her friend beckoned her a little distance from the others.
“I don’t know what you guess, Lily, but this is no place for you. Dear, you can’t live alone in the house with that man. He is a beast.”
“He—he cannot be my dear old Tom.”
“I don’t think he is. Lily, pack a bag. If you won’t stay with me go down and take a suite at the inn. We will drive you down.”
Lily ran toward the house. Young Tom went after her, unsteadily, a bedraggled sight. Janet pulled Jack by the arm.
“Let us wait out here for Lily. She doubts he is her husband, no matter his appearance; I think she noticed the difference in the voice, manner and
personality. He needs Mrs. Murlain to prompt him as if he were a dummy. Without her he wouldn’t have known us at the station. Just because Lily has a flair for cheap dramatics is no reason to deem her a fool.”
Art Benson waved to them as he drove away. “They must have tortured poor old Tom,” murmured Jack, as if to himself. “Finding him alive is the key to everything.”
“I’m remembering what you told me, in your usual cryptic way. You had Tom shadowed in New York, and you had the item that he went to one of the great sporting-goods shops and bought a large waterproof bag. You knew there was no stream of any size near here, nor a lake. You sneaked over here at night, watched and waited.” “So that I could see anyone approaching the disused well.”
“Right. You saw Tom use that cunning hiding place, and in good time you fished out the bag.”
“I see you are stating, not asking. You see, Janet, how simple it is when you find the answer. Now I am counting upon one thing, and one thing only. Dr. Murlain is motivated at the present time more by fear than by greed. After I take Lily to the inn, and deliver you home, my pet, I shall drive out and see the doctor. I’m going to put a proposition to him. I want old Tom, and I want him alive. If he will work toward that end, with me, I will give him a fifty-fifty share of the fortune which I now have put away in a safe place. You see, he thinks I am a rogue—another rogue—and he will be tempted, but he is too much afraid of the men for whom he is fronting.”
“So, Mr. Bones, what will he do?”
“Slip word to headquarters. That will make me the marked man. One night, soon, I shall be snatched, heaven hope in my own car, and an hour or so afterward—any time before dawn—you must follow. When you find where I am kept a prisoner you will know where they are holding Tom Marshal. They must have one spot, and a good one. Then it is up to you.
“Either in the afternoon mail, or tomorrow morning’s from New York, you will receive the graduate nurse license of Mary Rose Smith. She broke out of the Women’s State Reformatory some months ago. My automatic you’ll find in the upper right-hand drawer of the bureau in my room. Ah, here comes Lily.”
Jack ran toward the house, took the bulky suitcase from Lily’s hand. She was crying, and it wasn’t becoming.
Jack did not get home to dinner until after eight o’clock. At a fashionable hour, therefore, the meal was served, in the old-fashioned style, meat and vegetables and pie all brought in at the same time. Janet talked on indifferent topics. She knew that he was yearning for a questioning, breathless feminine audience, the vain thing.
“I am firmly convinced that Tom Marshal is incarcerated in a private sanitarium,” he said finally, “very probably across the state line, where the private-prison business flourishes.”
“Did Dr. Murlain turn you down?”
“No, he merely asked time to think it over. He would admit nothing, of course, but he was dreadfully shocked that the man he calls Tom Marshal did not find the money and the stocks and bonds. Murlain is in a bad spot and I think he would flee if he wasn’t too scared. After young Tom acts up—as he will—Murlain will never get another patient in this county. The impostor needs money and he will sell the cars in the garage, the oil paintings from the walls, any books worth while in the library. Then he will arrange a public auction. He will try to sell the house and estate if he can.”
“That is a nice prospect. Poor Lily-”
“And poor Tom Marshal. But we will beat them, Janet. I have offered
myself as a tempting bait—a rogue, a weak one, afraid to be in on a kidnapping rap but ready to go ahead with Dr. Murlain for future financial results. Well, I’ll be ready—tomorrow night should be the ripe time. Your orders are to keep yourself locked in your room all evening. I’ll be downstairs, my car parked out in front. If they don’t use it, heaven help us.”
“There is always a weak link in every chain. You frighten me, Jack.”
“You think quicker when you are scared,” he drawled, “and now cut me a piece of that swelllooking apple pie.
HPEN O’CLOCK. Ever since nine Janet had been A locked in her bedroom, for Jack had insisted whoever would snatch him might tie her up or even take her along, so that she might be given no chance to spread an alarm.
What a spy he must have been, cool and daring, always thinking ahead, figuring his chances, taking the slim ones. She could not, as he did, glory in risks, but she would be game.
His evasive way of explaining was maddening. How was she to follow the car an hour or two afterward by merely shutting off her own lights at times? In Spain, he said, night scouts of a forward patrol had a means of leaving a trail behind, to guide forces following in the night; it was so tiny it couldn’t be seen far from ahead, nor by planes above. He had fixed up a box under his car. It would work automatically once he pushed a nut in the floor board in front, or in the back seat. His captors would be listening for the sounds of a motor in a pursuing car . . .
Eleven o’clock. She had been walking up and down the room, intently listening for the sound of a starting engine. Now and again she heard the low hum of automobiles speeding by on the highway. She kept time with the tick of the clock on the bureau as if to a tune that repeated itself over and
over with the purpose of driving her crazy. That was what nerves could do.
Twelve o’clock. Her lips were burning, although she had drunk several glasses of water. Suppose Jack was kidnapped because it was thought he had Tom Marshal’s fortune? What could he say, or do, to stop being tortured? What did he expect of her? He didn’t want the authorities called in, that was certain; he must think she was a host in herself. She walked to the dressing table, pulled open a drawer. She had withdrawn four thousand dollars from the bank in big bills. Alongside the money lay Jack’s automatic. She had found it uncomfortable, but she could hide it. Mary Rose Smith’s nurse’s license was in her hand bag.
One o’clock. She could wait just half an hour longer, though Jack had insisted she stay locked in her room until two a.m. while he listened, downstairs, to the radio.
Suddenly she felt tired, sat down in a cushioned chair. Then a thrill like a shooting pain shuddered through her: someone was very slowly trying the knob of the door. She could feel her heart beating loudly, hear her own breathing. The turning and pushing was not repeated. A long minute passed— and she heard the sound of a car being started—the high hum as the cylinders went into action. A thin sound of the motors, dying away . . .
To her own surprise Janet managed to stay in her room twenty minutes longer. Then she hid the automatic, put on a hat and coat, slipped the money into her handbag, unlocked the door, and crept downstairs. Jack had vanished, and his car that had been parked out by the entrance had sped away into the night.
She went to the garage, jumped into her roadster, drove out to the highway. If she had any sense of sound-direction that car had gone north. She went along for several hundred yards, turned out her headlights, and side lights. Ahead, in the highway, gleamed a tiny spot of light. She stopped the car, got out and walked forward, picked up a little pebble that shone with a phosphorescent gleam.
Now she understood—and what a boy he was to have kept his trick from her. One of these pebbles trickled from the box every so often.
By turning off her own lights, now and again, and following, very slowly, in the darkness, she would be able to trail that car to its destination.
It was the curns, and the twists, when the car she followed left the main highway, that confused her. Three times the trail failed, and she was forced to go back to the crossroads she had passed, to pick up the trail.
She was lucky to throw on her lights just in time, when cars came hurling along. What she really feared was a State Trooper on motorcycle patrol. He would either think her crazy or her lights out of order. Where was she going? She did not know her destination, of course, as she started and stopped, lights now on, now off, in this modern game of hare and hounds by night.
Hours passed and she had gone but thirty-two miles. She must be out of the state. The suspense was dreadful. At any time the supply of pebblesmight be exhausted, or she might overrun the trail.
Suddenly as she shot along a dark highway, Janet gasped with relief. A pebble shone at the right, in the middle of what appeared to be—her lights went on—a private roadway. A second pebble—lights out—and farther along a third; then—lights on—she saw stone pillars, and over the roadway hung a metal sign: Restview Private Sani-
She backed the car out, continued along until she reached the first all-night filling station and lunch room. There she learned that a half mile farther she Continued on page 33
Continued from page 24—Starts on page 22
would find the village of Darylane, and a hotel of sorts for travellers.
At four o’clock in the morning Janet signed the register at the Darylane Inn, was shown to a room and went to bed to sleep, utterly exhausted.
AT TWO o’clock in. the afternoon L a woman in the uniform of a trained nurse walked out between the stone pillars and started toward Darylane. As she passed Janet the features of the nurse showed hard and sullen. She strode as if her thoughts were unpleasant company.
Janet followed and, some distance away from the sanitarium entrance, caught up with her.
“There may be a lot of money in it for you,” she said, in a low voice. “Act as if you recognized me.” “Well, hello, whoever you are— but I can’t try getting anyone out of Restview if that is what you want. The boss has too much on me.” “The law has too much on me,” said the other, dryly. “Is there somewhere we can go and get a drink and talk? I’m a nurse and I need a hideaway.”
“A lot of money, you say? Well, money talks and—what shall I call you?”
“My name is Mary Rose Smith, and my license as a trained nurse is in my handbag. And you—”
“I call myself Madge Rogers— Madge ’ll do. There is a back room of the all-night spot further along. It will be empty this time of day.”
It was. Janet nursed a highball, watched Madge Rogers drink hers swiftly. The former explained that she was in bad—she wasn’t going into past history so Madge could have anything on her—but she needed a job, out of sight and mind. What was Madge’s job worth to her, and would her recommendation be enough to enable someone on the outside to get in?
The woman made rings with her glass upon the table. It was a fact that she was fed up with the joint. She had even threatened to throw up her job—and she would have done so before now—but she wanted to go to the Coast and she couldn’t save money out of her small monthly salary. Folks she was helping, a sick sister, and a father who was no good. A steady position, without a recommendation, was hard to find these days. But Mary would have to tell her more.
It was not difficult to act reluctant. The story finally came out. Mary Rose Smith had escaped several months ago from the Women’s Reformatory. She had a sweetheart with plenty of money who wanted to pick her up—but not for a time—and no one would look for her in a sanitarium. Without references it was tough.
“Well, it so happens you came to the right place and person—for Doc Martin likes nurses who are hard boiled. What is it worth to you?” “Does it go one way—or two?”
The woman laughed. “I couldn’t get anywhere without making a deal with the doc. And he has ways of
finding out things. Your yarn must be on the up and up.”
“It is. How does two thousand for you, and the same to Dr. Martin sound?”
“Say that again. Two grand apiece. Why he—”
“But can I trust you and him not to turn me in?”
Janet’s manner was almost tearful.
“That old bozo doesn’t like the police any better than you do. He stays within the law, to an extent, because that is his business. This racket is the berries and strictly legal. Two grand is little to him, but he is a grasping bird—and two grand means lots to me. You have it in cash?”
Janet nodded. Madge looked down at her empty glass regretfully.
“This is my afternoon off, as you may have guessed. Stay here and hold the chair down. I shall be back in an hour or so. I’ll tip this chair against the table, so no mugg ’ll come in and think you are out for a pickup, Mary Rose Smith.”
She left, and Janet wondered if she had bid too high, or too low. Her reasoning was that Dr. Martin would telephone someone to get in touch with the reformatory and see if Mary Rose Smith was actually an escaped prisoner. If so he might be delighted to obtain a nurse, paying to work, over whom he could hold a prison threat. This was following Jack’s line of reasoning: pose as a crook to get in with crooks. It was an hour and a half before Madge Rogers stalked in, pulled back the chair.
“I left my suitcase out front, ; dearie. This is the lay. Doc Martin doesn’t like the idea of anyone getting in on a split with him. If I went back, for the divvy, he would get the two grand from me, in some way. I don’t trust the old faker. But I agreed to make a deal with you. He says it is okay. Get him on the telephone if you want, but use double talk.”
“You want me to take your word, ; pay you now?”
“That’s it, honey. Doc Martin ¡ agreed to a split. He can’t kick I because he gets it.”
Janet decided quickly. She dug into her hand bag, counted out two thousand in hundred-dollar bills. The other grabbed the money.
“You are a pal. I’m going to breeze on the next train. This is the kind of a break that only comes once in a lifetime.”
She hurried away but Janet followed more slowly, walked to the inn and checked out, brought around her car and drove by the entrance to the sanitarium. Beyond it, on level ground, at the left of the highway two great wooden billboards had been erected, one atop the other. The lower billboard was very near the ground. Waiting until not a car could be seen, going or coming, Janet ran her car across a slight cement ditch and came to a stop behind the signboards.
THE Restview Sanitarium was a great white building set in the middle of a big lawn, five minutes walk from the entrance. Janet noticed that all the windows except 1
those on the top floor were heavily crossbarred. She rang a bell and a man in white drill opened the door.
“Miss Madge Rogers sent me,” she said, “to see Doctor Martin. He understands.”
“Came here under your own power, kid? Well, come in. You are a novelty. We always get battle-axe women around here.”
He ushered her into a sitting room at the right of the hallway. It was cheerfully furnished. A long maple ! table held stacks of current maga! y.ines. At the farther end of the room was a big desk, with a shining ¡ glass top, with nothing on it except a i white carnation in a tiny vase.
Having expected a jail-like atmosj phere .Janet was somewhat surprised.
Another man in white beamed at j her from the doorway. He was white ! haired and red faced, very fat, and encased in a joviality that seemed quite unforced.
“Good afternoon, my dear. Miss Smith, I presume. And where is my nice nurse, Miss Rogers? She was to introduce you to your duties.”
Janet smiled. “She doesn’t trust you, Dr. Martin, and yet you don’t appear the kind of a man who would take a girl’s eye. teeth. But Madge pleaded an engagement with a railroad train.”
“You paid her, Miss Smith?” he asked, in a velvet voice.
“She said that was her agreement j with you, fifty-fifty, no one favored.” “Ah, I see. And what is to stop me j taking that two grand from you, and j then turning you over to the police? 1 imagine there is a reward for a flyaway bird.”
The other inspected the ceiling. “Doc, you could do it—yes, you could do it, but you would regret it. My sweetheart isn’t free to travel as he likes, not quite yet. He still I owes a few months to the Governi ment. But I dropped him a line telling him just where I was going, and incidentally I mentioned your name. My lad is quick tempered and he thinks the world of me. He’d find out . . . and I leave the rest to your imagination.”
“Pardon, I was only making conversation. About that license?” Janet opened her handbag, passed it to him. His moist fingers touched her own as he took the paper.
“Humph. Mary Rose Smith. I’ll have a line on you in a few hours. But I imagine you are what you say. No one ever stayed here for pleasure, much less ever paid to work here.” She took out the stack of bills, passed the money to him.
“Three months,” she said, “and I do not desire any afternoons at liberty, or evenings either.”
“I seewhile the heat is on. Well, you couldn’t find a more secluded nook than this. The work is light, too. All our patients suffer from mental maladies; friends or relatives, or wives or husbands, pay so they won’t be sent to state insane asylums. To hear them talk they are being bitterly abused, but don’t believe any tall tales you hear. Nuts can be quite plausible.”
She nodded. “I shall need uniforms.”
“You can send away for them, Miss Smith. The trays will be ready at six o’clock, in half an hour. Our Mr. Phelps will show you the ropes —and better tell him about your
boy friend—he is apt to be playful with no encouragement.”
He called in a strong voice that sounded as if it came from another person entirely. The man who had opened the door for him came in and was introduced.
“She has a friend, Phelps, who is finishing a little stretch. Nix on any fresh stuff. He is handy with a gun, from what Miss Smith tells me.” The orderly glanced at Janet with new respect. Then he took her in hand. She was to take individual trays from the kitchen, serve the patients on the next floor in their rooms. These were always unlocked. There were no violent cases. The men’s clothes had been taken away and they wore white-woollen sleepers, day and night, tied at the back, such as you see on little children in nurseries. Each room was barred. There was no way out downstairs. At night, the door at the end of the stairway leading to the top floor, where the help slept, was locked. It was all very simple. A few patients had slipped out to the grounds, but never got far. It was known in the township that Dr. Martin paid a reward for the return of any patient, and the kiddy getup was a giveaway.
The kitchen was in the cellar. Janet started with trays for numbered rooms. In Number One was a sad-faced old man who paid no attention to her at all; he seemed lost in melancholy. Entering Number Two she started. By the barred window sat Jack Cunningham, a perfectly absurd picture with his body and legs encased in white wool. “Here is your dinner, sir.”
Pie came over quickly, murmured under his breath. “So you got in. Have you the automatic?”
“We must get him out tonight. Up to you. Hold up Phelps. I think him yellow.”
“He will die soon. Want his evidence.”
SHE HURRIED out, and down to the kitchen. Room Eight was at the end of the hallway. Janet entered, bearing the tray, thinking of Tom Marshal, imagining he was locked away in a special cell. But there he sat by the window, all hunched over in his chair. The skin on his face was loose, in bags, and covered with a patchwork of wrinkles and pits. His lower lip sagged as of senility. His hands were brown and corded. When she saw his neck she was shocked; one would have thought the head swayed on a pipe stem. From a healthy sixty-two or three he had been rejuvenated fifteen years, and then—she supposed a week or so after the first stage—a rapid physical retrogression had been the horrible price for the brief renewing.
In a flash Janet understood what had been a mystery to her. Those suicides Dr. Wainright had questioned. There had been no need, in all probability, to kill those men —rather bring them to a point where they yielded to the urge for selfslaughter. Tell them—as Sonia, had likely told Ransom Peters—that Dr. Murlain had indeed made a discovery, but that it was a terrible farce. That the patient would soon be twenty years older than when he had
' first started to take the treatments; that he would very shortly be a disgusting old creature, weak, tottering, a being pitifully decrepit . . .
Tom Marshal was muttering to himself: “They brought my illegi-
timate son to me—and he cursed me. Me—who saved him from disgrace and jail a dozen times. He cursed . me. He cursed me, he cursed me.”
His voice was high pitched, and it ¡ broke. As he started to cry horribly Janet put down the tray upon the table and fled the room. If he
j recognized her now, could he be I trusted not to blurt out the truth? She doubted it. Yes, Jack was right, he was failing fast, and would die soon of debility, wrecked by infirmities brought on before their natural time.
This was what came from trying to turn back the clock.
She hated Kedric Murlain and his wife—and Sonia, who must have known. How vile they were—and they must not go unpunished, for brutal crime as well as kidnapping. This was no case for the Medical Association, but for the law.
If she could have had Jack outside she would have ranted: why all this risk when the place might have better been raided by the police!
But what proof could she have given—before this revelation seen with her own eyes?
She burned with a wrath she did not think possible could consume her. The touch of that automatic had been chilly when she had picked it up, and she had felt a peculiar fear hiding it at her waist. But now let any scoundrel stop her from bringing Tom Marshal to give his evidence before he died, and she would fire if need be. This was the worst medical crime, in many respects, in history. A promise of rejuvenation that seemed true, for a short time; that brought, instead, extreme old age, cheating heart and brain and spirit. A scientific experiment that failed had been used to do this wrong, and defraud the poor victims of their money to boot.
There were two more patients, and then she went to the kitchen, to eat with a nurse who served an upper floor, and Phelps, the orderly. She hardly spoke to them.
Another mystery, cleared now, seemed simple enough. Tom Marshal, the self-made man, in his early days, had been the father of an illegitimate son—and that son had played about in the underworld. No doubt, in his cups, he had boasted of his rich father who could always be trusted to get him out of scrapes. The crime j backers of Dr. Murlain had used ■ this black sheep for their own purposes. It was perfectly natural that he should be the image of his own father nearly thirty years ago.
I What a callous wretch. Perhaps he i had helped to wring the secret of the I hidden fortune, that Jack had found and concealed in a safe place.
Later they all retired to the sleeping quarters on the fourth floor. Phelps, the last to ascend, locked the door to the stairway. Dr. Martin, he said, had a suite at the rear. The. room she was shown to was very much the same as those downstairs, j There were no locks to the doors.
Phelps went into the bedroom next j to her own.
SHE DID not undress, but sat on the bed waiting for things to quiet down. Then she unloosened her clothes, drew forth the automatic. The handle fitted swell in her right hand. With her thumb she pushed loose the safety catch. Phelps had better obey her, or she would shoot him and Martin, too, like a couple of rats. Worse than rats, these scavengers who fed on the proceeds of utter cruelty to unfortunate human beings. She had never known that such bitter anger could surge in her. It was a steady stream, this anger, that acted as she had always supposed too much brandy must act, making her somewhat wild and careless of consequences. But her feeling was in a good cause, and needed no apology.
An hour or more passed. Janet grimly rose to her feet and softly stepped out of the room into the hallway, dimly lighted, then into Phelps’ room. He was lying asleep on his right side. She pulled him by the arm, said softly: “Do not speak a word—if you value your life.”
“Why—why—it’s you beautiful.” He reached out his arms for her, and she pressed the muzzle of the automatic against his temple.
“One shout out of you and I’ll shoot.”
“What—what do you want?” “You get up, very carefully, tiptoe out, and unlock the door to the stairway. After we leave, lock it behind us, and give me the key. Then we go downstairs. I shall release a couple of prisoners, and you are going to let us go out the front way.”
He nodded, left the bed slowly, went out ahead of her. Janet held the automatic level with her waist. Once she poked him with it and he cringed. The stairway door was easy. They went through and he handed her a key. Down they went, slowly, to the second floor. Straight to Jack’s room. He was waiting. Feeling suddenly a bit weak, now, she passed him the weapon, and he grasped it eagerly.
They had a hard time moving Tom Marshal. Finally, in fear that he might cry out, Jack bound a handkerchief about his mouth. He walked feebly, with Janet holding him under the arm. The front door was reached. Phelps took a key and opened it. At that instant Jack’s arm whirled; he used the automatic like a blackjack, struck the other on the temple. He fell like a log. They were through and out, and the door banged closed.
That started a shrill siren. Someone began shooting from an upper window. They could make little speed, Tom Marshal almost a dead weight between them. Before they reached the car, and threw Tom into the back seat, they heard the sound of a motor’s roar. Janet started the machine rounded the billboards, shot down the highway. From behind came the hum of a high-powered engine, and Janet’s speedometer went up to seventy.
The pursuing car was faster. It came even with them, trying to force her over toward the ditch, or to stop. Instead Janet kept on all speed straight ahead. There was an
explosion.......a shot or a blow out.
The two cars twisted and danced in a wild whirl, round and round, and
then with a crash darkness settled over Janet, drew her into oblivion.
WHEN JANET awakened her hands went to her face, and did not feel anything save swathing bandages. She could see a little through the folds of linen, and sac felt no pain.
“Don’t let those bandages fool you,” said a familiar voice. “You are bruised and battered a bit, but you will be right as rain in a couple of weeks. Yes, you are back home in your own bed. I wouldn’t let them take you to a hospital. I’ve been your doctor and nurse.”
“How long ago did it happen Jack?”
“Five days. You had a slight concussion, but you came out of it all right. We blew a front tire, and mixed wdth Martin’s car. He was in it with another man—both of them were killed. No, it wasn’t Phelps. By fool’s luck I only received a few scratches. Poor Tom Marshal died the next morning. But not before he gave testimony that will send his son to jail, where Dr. Murlain and his wife would have gone—if they had lived.
“The story I told the mob of crime-backers was that Dr. Murlain had possession of Marshal’s fortune, and refused to go fifty-fifty with me. Several of the gang came down on the pair. He refused to admit anything. They believed he had held out on the Peters cheque—and on the one I said I gave him—and they killed the supposed Murlains.
“But we had young Tom Marshal —yes—that was what he insisted upon naming himself—and he proved a weak sister. His testimony has broken up a vicious system in the Metropolitan district. To get a lighter sentence he’s going to turn state’s witness.
“But my dear, you said the supposed Murlains.”
“I’m coming to that,” he grinned, to tease her. “A liner landed passengers three days ago. Among them were the real Dr. Kedric Murlain and his charming wife. They had been in this country some years ago, and he tried out his rejuvenation treatment, without the terrible effects we have seen, but the experiments were unsuccessful. Before Hitler took Austria, Dr. Murlain was practicing in Vienna. His aid was a certain Dr. Helwig Bronz. This thief forged papers which he turned over to the German authorities proving that his employer was in a political plot, and his wife along with him. Before this he had stolen the passports of the couple, Dr. Murlain’s rejuvenation secret and personal papers. With Mrs. Bronz, and the niece, he managed to get cut of the country and reach the United States.
“The original Dr. Murlain has long since given up trying his formula on human beings. He believes he has something that may develop into a great scientific step forward, but he has been experimenting upon generations of mice to see if he can correct the swing to retrogression after the original rejuvenation push—really turn back the clock and have it stick. He was deeply shocked and grieved at what had been done by crooks using the names of himself and his wife. It is too long a story to tell you NOW-K
is all in the newspapers I am saving I for you. How the real Dr. Murlain and his wife escaped, singly, from German concentration camps, met in Portugal, made their way to England, ! and then to this country.”
“I am glad Kedric Murlain’s name is cleared. There are always j exceptions, criminals of every nationj ality,’’Janet declared.
“You will meet them when you are up and doing, and that will be soon, my dear. You know I’ve been looking around. A man and a woman need a house and grounds of j their own. I’m thinking of hanging j out my shingle—this would be a nice j country for a settled married man. Don’t you think so, Janet?”
“Why, what have I to do with it?” she asked, pretending surprise, but she was smiling under the bandages.