Turn Back the Clock
In which the patient vanishes, the doctor dissembles and an impatient observer promises to throw a bomb
Dr. Janet Manly, attractive young woman psychiatrist, is assisting Professor Wainright of the Medical Association in the investigation of Dr. Kedric Murlain, Austrian physician who has established a “rejuvenation clinic” in the village of Milteron. Wealthy, retired Ransom Peters takes the treatment, simply the swallowing of pills at daily intervals, and fifteen years miraculously drop from his shoulders. He elopes with Dr. Murlain’s excitingly beautiful niece, Sonia Loriat, but on his unannounced return from the honeymoon shoots himself in the face with a shotgun, before he could begin the second stage of the treatment to make another fifteen years vanish.
Similar violent suicides had ended the lives of previous patients of Dr. Murlain before his coming to Milteron, so Janet is greatly concerned when Tom Marshal, wealthy friend and neighbor of Peters, determines to try the “youth elixir.” She and Art Benson, local newspaper man, learn that Dr. Murlain and his wife are being hounded by “ Ninety-per-cent” Marsten, criminal backer whom they suspect of financing the clever charlatan, probably because Sonia stopped payment on her late husband’s cheque for $100,000 to Dr. Murlain for services rendered. Janet and Benson witness an argument in the Austrian physician’s doorway which ends in a shooting affray.
Marsten is killed and Dr. Murlain, wounded in the hand, sticks to a story that Marsten was an unknown burglar trying to steal his secret youth-giving formula. He is let off by the court on a self-defense plea. Sensational publicity spotlights the “fountain of youth man,” and Dr. Murlain, not aware that Janet suspects him of being a dangerous quack, tells her he must obtain Marshal as his next patient, that this is his final trial and that only a triumph can save his career.
(Fifth of Seven Parts)
JANET arose early. She went to the telephone and called the Marshal’s home.
“That you, Tom. I wanted to catch you before you took the commuter’s special. What time will you return?”
“Be back at five bells. I thought you were too busy dodging bullets and cameras to worry about poor Tom. You look like something that just came out of a bomb-proof cellar after a month’s stay, in one of those morning take a glance and run tabloids.”
“I’m wise, I’m not going to see myself as the public sees me. Tom, leave orders not to have the car meet you at the station. Walk to the north end of the parking space. I want a private talk and then I’ll return you safely to Lily.”
“O.K. I’ll dare being seen with woman mystery doctor who hears shots in the night. She gets a lawyer and springs the fountain-of-youth man. Leaving house, holding a billion-dollar formula, shakes head, won’t talk. Nothing is known about Janet Manly, an M.D. and Ph.D. Is she seventy years old and rejuvenated? Is she a female Faust and is there a Mephisto in the county? Janet holds a great secret between painted lips. Did she and the newspaper man know that Ninety-Per-Cent Marsten was on the prowl to steal the secret? Read tomorrow about the secret little red book and what it contained. Scoop Sue is on the job and will tell all, but not all at once.”
It was easy to wince, knowing no one could see you.
“My lad, if Sue had the truth she would be sitting pretty on her editor’s lap. Wait until you hear my special edition for an audience of one— yourself.”
She hung up, went in to the breakfast table.
A few minutes after five o’clock Tom Marshal walked toward Janet’s car, slipped in beside her. She drove at once from the parking place, headed for the open country.
“Well, Tom, the bulls and the bears fairly quiet?”
“Oh, steel up and aviation,” he growled, “but what’s that to you?”
“Nothing at all, I don’t want any tips on the market. Feel snappy?”
“Yes, girl, I do. The tragic end of Ransom Peters got me down. And now this underworld character killed in front of Dr. Murlain’s door. Maybe he was trying to steal the billion-dollar formula, as the rags call it, but it all sounds a bit phoney to me.”
“That’s why I wanted a private chat with you, Tom. Now you know I like Lily—she’s swell— but the best way to broadcast anything in local society is to tell her a secret. She just can’t help it. She has what I call a centre-of-attention phobia. I’m not asking you to promise—I trust your good sense to keep our interview to yourself.”
“Don’t I know that? To try her out I once dropped a supposed great tip on the market—a false steer. She went to two parties that week, and next week I unloaded a lot of bum stock on a rising market. The industrial then took a nose dive that was due, but I made plenty. It was a dirty trick. I’ll keep my mouth shut. You learn to do that early on the street.”
Then Janet told him the true version of affairs, what Art Benson and she had heard, and seen, proving an undoubted hookup between Marsten and Dr. Murlain. They must have been in some deal together. Since the doctor had acted in selfdefense she and Benson had kept silent, also because snoops who confess are in an embarrassing position.
She related, too, that she had, through certain channels, investigated Dr. Murlain’s past, and that several of his patients in the Berkshires had died mysteriously, about a week after the first stage of rejuvenation had been completed.
“I feel responsible for part of your interest, Tom,” she concluded, “and I want you to layoff the treatment. I don’t know how or why but there is deadly danger in it. Murlain seeks a perfect triumph— a patient made young again. But I have inside information that someone who will be a volunteer of science—you know, a human sacrifice for an experiment, if it doesn’t succeed—may be expected to present himself. I want you to wait, Tom, instead of taking a chance.”
Marshal shook his head. “The doctor only takes one patient at a time. I think he has only so much of the youth serum or elixir, or whatever it is. After all this bad publicity he may bolt and go to California, say, where film stars getting really grey would give him fortunes for youth. No, I figure to call him up this afternoon, and start in a couple of days. Nothing is more than a two-day sensation and there won’t be a reporter or camera man to stumble over.”
“But the risk, Tom,” she urged, desperately.
“I got rich taking risks—and if there is a chance of getting young again that way I’m for it. I’m hard-boiled and I have no nerves to speak of. Understand, I appreciate your warning, but if Dr. Murlain had been in with the devil himself it wouldn’t sway me. I saw Ransom peel off fifteen years in two weeks ...”
His jaw was set in a stubborn line.
“And I have no girl-wife to hand me a shotgun— or mebbe shoot me with it to grab a fortune.”
Janet did not reply to the red-faced man beside her. She had tried and failed. To Dr. Murlain, of course, it would be just the opposite, she had succeeded.
“You wish to start the treatments as soon as possible?”
“To be sure. You acted for Ransom Peters; indeed I figured Dr. Murlain as a local protege of yours.”
“I want him still to think so, Tom, for I have a deep scientific interest, and I would like to make a chart of your progress, keep a case history.”
“Well, you are not trying to have him make money anyway,” said Marshal, grinning. “You talk more like a prosecuting attorney than one for the defense. Have it your own way. I wish to begin as quickly as he will take me. Not a word of our talk will go any further, and if anything goes wrong, dear girl, I shall never blame you. Better drive me home, now. I suppose I can’t persuade you to stay for dinner?”
“No, I have the blues,” she replied, quietly, and then tried to smile; “I only read half the book: I can win friends but I can’t influence people.”
THE FIRST visit of Tom Marshal to Dr.
Murlain differed from that of Ransom Peters, in that the patient, this time, was asked to bring all the photographs he had of himself, dating back thirty years, with a notation on the back of each saying when and where each one was taken; also the beauty and glamour of Sonia was missing. The same type of contract was signed, and witnessed, and then Marshal was given the cooled pill, and led to the couch to lie down and relax. He looked at Janet as if to say: you see, I’m game, and I am going through with it.
She had made arrangements to drive him to the treatment after his return from New York each day, and then take him to his home. On the way back he agreed to stop for a short time in a secluded spot while she made certain examinations, such as pulse, heart, blood pressure, and so on, for her chart.
Dr. Murlain had said little when she announced she would bring the new patient around, but enough to show he was much relieved. He must have feared the worst—being passed over entirely—for cruel notoriety often acts like an anathema upon a physician. His wife patted and fondled Janet in her voluble relief, making the other very uncomfortable. It was best, she thought to talk and act cynically: thus she covered her self-consciousness and dread, either of which might make her manner seem unnatural to the couple.
The following morning Janet received a letter from Dr. Wainright:
I have thought deeply on the subject of the time element in the experiment your rash Mr. Thomas Marshal has insisted on risking. After the finish of the first stage a week or so elapses before the second, supposed to lead to complete youth, is begun. Somewhere in there death has occurred. I have queried two private hospitals not far across the state border, Dr. Worron’s San at Twilight and Dr. Burch’s at Knottree. Cannot you attempt to persuade Mr. Marshal to go voluntarily to either of these safe retreats? I cannot think of any possible objection on his part.
A hundred conjectures have entered my mind, the most likely being that Dr. Murlain can rejuvenate to a degreebut no further—and that deaths have taken place so that his claim of entire youth
restoral be not exposed as impossible. Still, even partial rejuvenation is a great deal, and worth a fortune to him if handled in a sensible way. The notion that a mysterious emotional strain causes patients to kill themselves is too fantastic. But any fantastic conjecture enters the mind when confronted by something beyond what we know as nature. All I hope is that no other innocent person will suffer, and that if a dangerous and threatening element is ever present we can put an end to it. I only wish the powers of my association were not strictly limited. We must have actual proof of unethical practices. It is a very serious act to deprive a man of his license to practice in his chosen profession, and can only be done on conclusive testimony. Cordially,
THAT AFTERNOON, late, returning Tom Marshal to his home, she made the suggestion that it would be best to avoid any possible danger— mental, physical, accidental, or what have you?
To Janet’s surprise Tom received her proposal as one to be taken seriously.
"A man would be a fool not to safeguard himself,” he rejoined. "You know I think of those poor chaps who died in untimely fashion. I suppose that—” "No, take this slip with the names and addresses. Do not repeat my trying to influence you. A known danger is bad enough, but when it is unknown—**■ Then she asked him: "How does Idly take the rejuvenation treatment?”
"She studies my face as if she feared to see wrinkles disappear. I believe she hates the idea of my possibly becoming young again—younger
than she is. I thought this morning that the lines, like a plowed field, at my eyes, were smoothed out a bit. I feel swell but it is too soon to seek for changes.”
But as time went on, and day succeeded day, Janet saw that a transformation was taking place, slight indeed in progress, so that if you had been in Tom’s company all the time you might not have noted it. You had to remember him as he was, not so long ago, and then look at him quickly, superinduce one picture upon another, and then you saw how the little veins had left his face, now taut as if from a surgical face-lifting operation; you then sensed the difference with a peculiar unbelieving thrill.
Janet never forgot that dark night she returned home to find her housekeeper displaying unwonted excitement.
“Miss Manly, I never sees t he like of it . A strange old man, but chipper as can be, came here a few hours ago. Said he should have written but that was not his way. He is your long-lost uncle, Jack Cunningham, your poor dead mother’s older brother. I tried to stop him, but he is up in the spare room, bag and baggage, quite at home. He chucked me under the chin, me!—as if I were a young baggage. He is a caution.”
Janet nodded. She knew little of her mother’s family, but she was sure she would have heard of a brother if one had ever existed. Of coursethis old fellow was the volunteer of science Dr. Wainright. had spoken of; she couldn’t remember, but she must have told t he doctor, sometime, of her mother. Quite a dodge, then, to bring him on the scene as a close relative—to qne who knew of none.
She ran upstairs to the spare room.
“Come in,” ordered a quavering voice, in a high treble.
A tall thin man, with a face browned the color of mahogany, helped himself with his arms, to arise from a chair by the window. He tossed back white hair that fell over his forehead. Blue eyes, youthful in an old man, twinkled at her.
“Shut the door, darling,” and when she had done so, “you are the picture of your mother, Josephine Cunningham, when she was your age. But you are a bit big for me to hug and kiss—for I’ve been a distant, very distant relative.”
“My mother never had a brother. I think I know about your presence here, so confess.”
“I heard that was your line— listening to confessions, my girl. To tell the truth it is much stranger than fiction. I was brought up around Salem, where your mother was born. There are a number of the clan of Cunningham there, and I was a kind of cousin of her’s very much removed.”
“Doubtless, far removed.”
“But folks in small towns have odd ideas, even if I am old enough to be your father, with one foot in the grave I want to drag out. So I neatly made me an uncle.”
His voice squeaked a bit, and he moved with a jerky, brittle way.
Two suitcases, covered with labels, stood in a corner. He saw her glance at them and laughed, in gasps, as if his wind was poor.
“I carried ’em up. There is life in old Jack yet, but no longer as a fighting man, and I’ve only practiced doctoring in the field, ever since I graduated from John Hopkins in the class of ’98, in time to go to Cuba and the Philippines. I’ve been in every scrap you have ever heard of since, and a few that never got into the history books. Course 1 couldn’t fight the Arabs in North Africa, with the Foreign Legion, and be in South American revolutions at the same time, but I did my best. At last I came home from China—a has been, ready for the shelf. My conscience always hurt me because I never was able to do anything for the profession
that got me by in many a pinch. When I called on my old schoolmate, Dick Wainright, he told me of a game with danger I might mix in. I said I had nothing to lose—life is no fun without risk—and my old carcass might be of some use. Too, I need some good home cooking. But don’t show me rice in any form or I’ll scream.”
He took out a bag of tobacco and papers, shakily rolled a cigarette without regard for the floor.
“A good woman’s refining influence would be nice, too, for an old adventurer in perhaps his last adventure. You are a good woman, I assume, my Kiri?”
“Good enough for an old reprobate who has lived the kind of life you suggest with wives in every port.”
He laughed. “I want to be taken along to this Dr. Murlain and make arrangements to begin just as soon as the rest period starts for Thomas Marshal. I got a hunch that is the only way we will stop the doc from making a quick pile and scooting. This deal of his is tricky and he can’t longer make a bridge of dead men. But he will wait for one more sucker—a confidence man always waits just a mite too long ...”
“But you must believe there is a certain amount—”
“Of namby-pamby. Oh, many a charlatan has something more than a mere promise. The surething gambler lets you win for a while. This guy has a new kind of dope that goes so far—then look out.”
“What about his fee—”
“Jack—call me Jack and I’ll drag in niece now. and again, Janet. Don’t worry about the fee. I have a game to play you wouldn’t suspect. You had better not know about it until I yell for help.”
He might be fragile physically, but he was resourceful and as reckless as any youngster. Perhaps Jack Cunningham—if that was his name— might be aged for a fighting man but be just the one for this emergency.
“Now run downstairs and see to dinner, child. I’ll take a couple of drinks by my lonesome. Medicinal necessity before meals at my age.”
She hesitated, and he glowered at her under heavy black and grey eyebrows.
“Never treat me like an antique. That is the real disrespect to three score years and a few more. I’m still a man, dear niece.”
Jack Cunningham bristled, elbows held high as if on guard. Here would be no asking for slippers warmed by a fire. Janet was amused at his truculence, took heart from it; his spirit, and brave eyes, discounted anything marked in slowed-up physical vigor.
That evening, at a late dinner, Jack proved entertaining company. He had an enormous store of reminiscence, mixed with lies, no doubt, to draw upon, but even so he lacked that tiresome habit of so many romancers of ever being the triumphant hero of each yarn.
He retired early, saying that he hoped to follow her to Dr. Murlain’s in his own rattle box the next afternoon. He would buy a secondhand car in the morning.
THE CAR that he waited in, however, was bright and shiny, a late model. Janet informed Tom Marshal she wouldn’t think of explaining Jack Cunningham since he might well contradict his latest story. However she was sure the gentleman of fortune wished to get back into fighting form again.
At Dr. Murlain’s she made the introduction. Jack quickly said that he was her uncle, and carried on from there. He was an oil man, who had owned great interests in the Persian oil fields; he had sold out before the war jammed up trade and money. He had sold planes to the Chinese, and to the Loyalists in Spain, receiving pay before shipment. Now he was getting too old to enjoy himself. Janet had told him of the rejuvenation method and he would like to turn back a lot of years and the fee no object. Dr. Murlain could take him on next week, when Mr. Marshal would have a layoff.
His voice broke several times in eagerness as he told how wonderful it was to find his niece, after all these years of wandering, and that he was staying with her. That seemed to decide Dr. Murlain, who had hesitated. Mr. Cunningham might start on Monday; and now, since a treatment would begin . . .
“Time is money,” cackled the other. “You get it? That is what we are buying—time to make money. A bit subtle, but funny, I think.”
Jack Cunningham bowed out on an audience not accustomed to have the rejuvenation subject treated with levity.
“Wealthy Americans can afford their jokes,” said Janet. “Jack is old, though you’d never tell it by his eyes, and
WÊÊÊPniM his love of fun.”
She reproved him when .she returned home.
“I didn’t want your doctor to see that I was watching him so closely. Did you see him pause in indecision? My girl, there is a time element in this game, I feel it. A clean up is in view, and then the characters will vanish, the curtain pulled down. This is going to be different. The patient will not shoot himself or be shot.” “What does your oriental cunning tell you will happen?”
“Ah, I have no fortune-telling bowl, and I don’t believe in tea leaves. If I could watch Tom Marshal every hour of the twentyfour next week I’d be taken to the heart of the mystery. I can’t do that, but I want you to take me around the grounds of his estate in the morning. Say I’m interested in landscape gardening—say anything.” Lily Marshal was away, thank goodness, during the “tour” on which she conducted him. To see old Jack peer here and there you’d think he was hunting for buried treasure. Indoors, upstairs, he peered out of various windows calculatingly. Janet’s vexation amused him. He tipped various servants and made an aimiable nuisance of himself.
Saturday was the last day of Tom Marshal’s treatment, for the first stage, and it was as if time had
relented, taken away all the damage done by the last fifteen years. He had appeared a good sixty, and now could pass for forty-five. And talk about a woman’s vanity—maybe he didn’t enjoy the change; no peacock with new plumes could have appeared happier; he fairly strutted.
When alone with him in his car Janet brought up again the suggestion to go to one or the other of the private hospitals. He replied, rather curtly, that he was giving the matter consideration.
Art Benson dropped in about eight o’clock, met Jack Cunningham for the first time. He murmured that he had remembered Janet saying she had no living relatives.
“I’m only ten per cent a person at my age, and the dear girl didn’t know she had me till I breezed in. I’ve been a rolling stone most of my life.”
“I started in to be a doctor, but I had too much sense of humor. I couldn’t be serious with the patients who imagined they were sick, and struck at growing a Van Dyck and a bedside manner. The saw-bones trade has helped me in tight scrapes, however.”
He told of several instances in the east, in Borneo and British Guinea.
“Now I’m going to become young again, marry and settle down. I won’t call for candidates till after Doc Murlain gives me the works.”
“Maybe you won’t be able to call,” said Benson, grimly. “Janet—”
“You can’t give him advice,” returned the other, scornfully. “He begins Monday.”
There was talk about the great improvement in Tom Marshal’s appearance, and his layoff, but Benson and Janet were both thinking of Ransom Peters and the conversation dropped and languished. The newspaper man soon took his leave and Jack went to bed.
The next week he began taking his treatments; that is, he was given a cooled pill and made to relax for a period, and from Monday on he left the house each evening shortly after dinner and did not return until after Janet had gone to bed and to sleep. His room was on the same floor but she did not hear him come in. He must have acquired habits of noiselessness in the far East he talked so much about. He wasn’t evasive—he just failed to comment on the strangeness of his absences.
EVERY morning, punctually at ten o’clock, Cunningham received a long-distance-phone call from New York. All he said was “yes,” now and again, and “I see.” Sometimes his blue eyes twinkled at Janet, as if to say, girl, you are holding in your curiosity wonderfully, and I enjoy teasing you.
Thursday, at breakfast, Jack was bright and filled with high spirits. Janet imagined that, even thus early in the rejuvenation, he moved with a new spryness and sureness, and his face had a more youthful hue. She told him so, and he replied that still being young at heart he responded perfectly to the treatment.
“I’ll be younger more quickly, just you see,” he said, and then: ‘ Janet, have you ever thought much about detective work?”
“I’ve read a number of detective stories,” she returned.
“So have I, and in nearly every yarn the detective is called in after the crime has taken place. Very cleverly he finds clues, reconstructs what has happened, and places a finger upon the culprit. Now my idea is that the detective, amateur to be sure, like myself, should arrive before the crime is committed, and work toward a triumphant end by anticipating what will take place.” “And by so doing stop events?”
“No, I’m not clever enough to do that, unless the other characters in the plot worked with me, and that is impossible. Another thing, suppose my ground work of theory is correct, who would believe me, and how would I prove it in advance?
“Only step by step, as happenings proved to be according to your calculations.
• “Right. Now I will show you how it works out. Because I figure what is happening, and check, doesn’t mean I can block another’s movements. We will take our friend Tom Marshal. I have been having him closely watched and followed, using the help of one of the better New York private-detective agencies. I have a list of every purchase he has made at stores this week, so far, and also a pretty good idea of what he has been doing. He has gone to several safe-deposit vaults empty handed and left the banks with bundles—stocks and bonds and government securities, no doubt. Also he has been cashing extremely large cheques. At one bank there was a great deal of running around because one cheque, which returned him a big batch of greenbacks, must have proved something of a strain. What does all this prove—an emergency of one kind or another.”
“I bite—and what will take place next?”
“I think that Tom Marshal is going to be persuaded into leaving his usual haunts and will, as the cliché goes, vanish into thin air. I think when he does the fading act, however, certain people are going to be vastly disappointed.”
“Does this all have anything to do with your mysterious night pursuits?”
“I refuse to answer, on my own advice. You see I cannot be an accessory to a crime that has not taken place. If I can keep up, step by step, I shall be in at the finish. Isn’t that something?”
“Yes, but it would make me feel very helpless.”
“Who is omnipotent enough to actually control events? Now let me look into the crystal bowl. I’ll say Tom Marshal will drive away into nothingness tonight or tomorrow night. Suppose you had a car handy, could you follow him? I say, no. Anyone who doesn’t wish to be trailed can take a roundabout route. He may not see a car without lights, in the distance, but there is no such a car as a noiseless one. I’ll show you —before we pull down the crime j curtain—how a car, under particular conditions, may follow the one I am in.”
“I’m interested, won’t you tell me?”
“No, not till the time comes then ! you will be the person following me.” j Jack worried without enlightening. “Wait until Dr. Murlain can produce Tom Marshal as at thirty or
Continued on page 26
Continued from page 21—Starts on page 18
thirty-two and me, too. He can start a fifty-million-dollar corporation, with fifty shares of stock, a million a share—and let the buyers of the close corporation be fifty multi-millionaires so old they have become philanthropists. Could they resist him— the possible purchase of a new youth?
I doubt it very much. The vista is wonderful—if I didn’t think it a mirage.”
He laughed, and the high pitching croaking sound with it had been oiled out of his voice somehow. Other little indications, skin tightening of the facial muscles, a more healthy hue, a firmness about the lips, were changes since Janet had first seen him. It might be her imagination, but his white hair, now, was threaded with a hint of iron-grey.
“Don’t be too sure, Jack,” she affirmed. “The devil himself couldn’t make you commit suicide. You, sir, may be Exhibit A.”
JANET had no idea how long she had been asleep when she was awakened by the insistent ringing of the telephone downstairs. Flashlight in hand she started toward the stairs, almost bumped into Jack Cunningham. He was fully dressed aside from a tie and coat.
“Let me lead with the flash,” she said. “Spooky in this old house at night, never adequately wired in the first place.”
He followed her to the reception room.
“Hello—yes, this is Janet. Is that you, Lily? Stop crying . . . Something dreadful . . . ? Wait—tell me when 1 get there. Don’t go off the handle, darling. Sit tight, and I’ll be there in ten minutes. I’ll bring my — my uncle, Jack Cunningham along, he may be able to help.”
She turned to the other. “Get my car out. I’ll run upstairs and dress. It must be serious. Even Lily wouldn’t have a fit at this time of night.”
He whistled, nodded, and she was off. In two minutes Janet jumped in beside Jack in his own car and they slipped away into the night like witches; in five minutes the Marshal house, brightly lighted, was in sight, and then they were out of the car. Lily was standing before an open door on the porch. She was all silk and lace, and so red at lips and cheeks she might have been wounded.
“Come in, come in, my dears. I couldn’t stand being alone in this house all the rest of the night.”
“Has something happened to Tom?” Janet demanded.
Lily grabbed her like a life preserver, clung desperately.
“Come upstairs with me, and I’ll show you.”
“This is his room,” stated Lily, “and I left him at midnight ready for bed, after a terrible scene. He insisted he would leave in the morningand now look—the window is open and there’s a ladder standing against it. Someone—”
“No, he went out on his own power, Mrs. Marshal. Sit down and tell us all about it. Be calm and take it easily.”
“After I have lost my husband—
and am left penniless? Oh, I wishlet me get my breath. Yes, I’ll tell you in order. I—I wondered what was keeping him up so late and I turned the knob and walked in. Tom turned, surprised. The lid of his suitcase was open—he had been packing -—and I saw several bundles of what I recognized as bills. I asked him to explain and he plunked down in a chair and faced me like an animal at bay. Oh, I don’t exaggerate.
“He then explained that he had reached the end of the first stage, lost approximately fifteen years in age. I must admit that. At the end of the second stage he would be as at thirty or thirty-two. That would be a miracle—but the one drawback had been called to his attention by Dr. Murlain. For a poor man, of course, it wouldn’t be so, but as it was he must take precautions. Even now, in New York, business associates and friends were brought up short by the amazing change in him. To be sure, he was a different person—fifteen years younger. But here was the rub—chop off another fifteen years, by rejuvenation, and he would be about thirty-two—and no one would recognize him!
“How, he said, would he prove his identity? At the start, anyway. Why, only yesterday a paying teller at a bank where he had had dealings for years had given him dubious glances. As Dr. Murlain had showed him, he could find himself in a pretty fix—a rich man unable to establish his own identity. He was purchasing youth, the golden season again, but he would be a fool to get caught in such a situation. The doctor said that as the use of the elixir became prevalent, an identification system would be established, but at present new bonds were being broken. Soto be on the safe side—he had drawn cash resources from banks, and stocks and bonds of a negotiable nature, from safe-deposit vaults, so he wouldn’t care whether people recognized him as Tom Marshal or not.
“He said that in the morning he would go away—for a few-days rest —and then start the second stage of rejuvenation. Would he leave me penniless, I asked, and then he reminded me I had a little money of my own—and that he just wanted not to be a young man deprived of a fortune belonging to him. He was tired, and would talk more about it at breakfast.”
“I left him and went back to sleep —but I couldn’t sleep. A while ago I went to his door, knocked, and there was no answer. It wasn’t locked so I walked in, pressed the button. Tom and the suitcase had gone. I went to the open window and peering out saw the ladder. I imagine he has gone in his car, though I heard no sound of a motor. I was going to telephone the police.”
“Dear Lady, Mr. Marshal has committed no crime, nor has he been kidnapped,” suggested Jack. “He had a perfect right to use a ladder and leave in a balloon if he wished to do so.”
“But he must be restrained—for his own good. Imagine, with a fortune ...”
“The suggestion he safeguard himself was a clever one—so clever I never thought of it. Janet—”
“Yes, I told him that the suicide danger was at the end of the week’s rest, in between the first and second stage. I suggested he go to one or another of two private hospitals near by across the state line. As a voluntary patient he could be protected against himself. Lily, you must wait until morning, and then investigate.”
“They will find him—they will find him dead,” she moaned, “beside a broken-open suitcase—his fortune gone. It was a cunning, diabolical plot—”
“It might be all of that, Mrs. Marshal,” said Jack, “but your husband wasn’t quite the fool they suspect ed - and it will not be as simple as all that. In fact, if I’m not mistaken you are due for a terrific surprise.”
Lily turned to him in entreaty.
“Tell me—don’t keep me in suspense.”
“I’m afraid there will be considerable suspense strain.”
“And the surprise.”
“The final return of young Tom Marshal quite a few years younger than yourself, Madam, and possessed of very young ideas. You may think you will like that, but really you won’t care for the accompanying shocks at all. As for the fortune, I wouldn’t worry about it for the time being.”
“You are cold—heartless.”
Jack turned to Janet and asked her if she knew where there was a cot somewhere he might use for a few hours sleep. Janet said that he could sleep here, and she would go in and stay with Lily.
\LL NIGHT Lily tossed and - floundered like a ship at anchor in a storm, exhausting herself and her companion. At times, too, she groaned and wailed, as if in the grip of a nightmare. A little sleep was possible, through sheer exhaustion, but not much.
At seven o’clock, by the clock on the bureau, Janet arose and dressed. Of course, just then, Lily began to slumber like a two year old.
“I’m afraid to look in a mirror,” mumbled the ousted one. “Bet I’m a hag’s double.”
Downstairs, she went to the kitchen, begged the cook for coffee. Better make a big pot, for her uncle would be along. Fruit and bacon and eggs, too, if not too much trouble.
“Even if it is trouble,” added Jack, behind her, and she jumped with nerves.
They received a smiling promise and adjoined to the dining room. Janet mentioned the two private hospitals she had suggested to Tom Marshal, and that he might have gone to one or the other.
“We will drive over and see, first, and then drop in on Dr. Murlain. The makings of a good third-rate actress was lost in your friend Lily. She will have a lot of scenery chewed up before this is over.”
“Have you any see-all know-all stuff to do for me?”
“Not before breakfast. Ah, orange juice and cereal. Coffee must be on the way.”
The cook nodded, and then Lily
appeared, in a silk dressing gown, ! her hair in braids.
“I feel dreadful,” she moaned, ¡ “and the lines under my eyes are down to my chin.”
She sat down and Janet repeated the advice she had given her husband on the private sans.
Lily shook her head.
“If we don’t find him today I shall advertise a reward of $5,000 for | poor Tom, dead or alive. He was i either crazy when he left here or ¡ under hypnotic control. I think he was lured to his ruin for the sake of the fortune.”
“It all isn’t as simple as that, Mrs. Marshal,” Jack Cunningham told her. “You will be wise if you sit tight and wait.”
“I’d never sleep at nights.”
“You never will—with me again,” muttered Janet. “Now, for a job like this I suggest taking Art Benson with us. He can be trusted not to print anything unless given permission, and he will get results if anyone can. Jack here already has different ideas, figuring negative results in advance.”
Lily nodded, and murmured it was too bad that bloodhounds couldn’t follow a car. Tom’s roadster was gone from the garage.
Janet finished her breakfast and thumbed the telephone book, found the number of Benson’s residence, and awakened him, spoke briefly.
“I think there is a story, Art, for Lily is rampant.”
“Thanks, honey, I’ll be right over.”
Janet flushed, and hung up. Honey sounded incongruous, somehow, but rather nice.
When Art Benson arrived Lily went upstairs to dress. Then it was decided Jack Cunningham’s car would be used, and the four set off.
Lily went inside, at Dr. Worron’s, near the village of Twilight, and Dr. Burch’s, a mile from a hamlet called Knottree. Art Benson trailed behind her, going in, and before her coming out. He reported she stormed and threatened, but was informed, positively, that neither Tom Marshal nor anyone resembling him, had entered as a patient. No, she couldn’t sweep through lacking a legal search warrant.
Jack drove them back, through a lovely rolling land of meadows and wooded land sweeping to the distant hills. By noon the car pulled up in front of Dr. Murlain’s, and Art Benson wished to stay in the background, but Lily insisted he accompany the others.
For the first time Janet saw Dr. Murlain alone, without his wife. He greeted the group coolly, courteously.
Lily’s arms went up in a dramatic gesture. Jack Cunningham glared at her.
“Dr. Murlain, we are here on an errand that perhaps can be settled quietly and amiably,” and Jack told of Tom Marshal’s flight. “Mr. Marshal informed her he had taken what he did from banks and safedeposit vaults because you had warned him he might be too youthful looking to be recognized when quite rejuvenated. Naturally we assume you know his place of retirement, since you will be treating him. All she desires is to find out, for herself, that he is alive and well.”
The doctor pursed his lips. “Will
the testimony of his physician be sufficient?”
“No,” shouted Lily, “I want to see Tom with my own eyes.”
“That is not possible for the present. Mr. Marshal is a free agent. He has left home of his own accord, and needs perfect quiet during my biological treatments. I promise that he will return in about two weeks.”
“I don’t believe you,” exclaimed Lily. “Poor Tom has been robbed and slain—rI will never see him again, unless it be his dead body. You can’t do this ...”
“I hope not,” said the other, with a slight smile, as if sure of his position, “and if you raise a public row, madam, you will end finding a very fine libel suit upon your hands.” “Then you refuse to disclose where Tom Marshal is?”
“I did not say that I knew his whereabouts, permit me to state. My wife, a trained nurse, is with him, proceeding at my direction. I shall not stir from here, unless it be to the village.”
Lily started crying, violently, shaking with sobs that hurt her.
The doctor appealed to the others, saying that the impropriety of the scene was evident.
“Mrs. Marshal,” he said, dryly, “if you imagine anything of a criminal nature has taken place yru have the police at your disposal.” “You do not need to tell me that,” Lily exclaimed, angrily.
“But I believe that you had better first consult a lawyer. It may cost you dearly to harm a cherished reputation.”
Janet managed to get her friend out of the house, and glanced over her shoulder as if to say, do not blame me.
Dr. Murlain beckoned, and she joined him for an instant, allowing the other:', to go toward the car.
“By ali means try to stop that woman making a fool of herself,” he whispered.
“That won’t be easy.” lie patted her on the shoulder, and she squirmed under the pat, feeling soiled by ,t, as if they had been confederates.
ART BENSON handed Lily into ii the back seat, got in beside her. She turned to him, appealingly.
“I want to give my husband’s disappearance the widest publicity.” “That’s easy.”
“My dear man, you can handle that, I know.”
Jack drove to the Gazette office, in the village. In a comfortable back office, hemmed in by printing equipment, the editor considered: “Mrs.
Marshal, there is no need of an
advertisement—the way I’ll write the story this will be carried as news. It will hit every paper in both states, often the first page. Just sign this to show your good faith and I’ll leave it with the sheriff. He will put it on the teletype, too.”
“That is good of you, Mr. Benson,” she told him, and scrawled her signature.
“You don’t mind a sensational lead, such as—” and Benson glanced at the ceiling: “Fearing that after
being rejuvenated thirty years no one would recognize him, Tom Marshal, a figure in Wall Street, and long a resident of Milteron, drew a fortune from his banks and safedeposit vaults, jumped into a car and vanished into the unknown. His wife, Mrs. Lily Marshal, found his room vacant and a ladder against the window at two o’clock this morning. She is frightened that his mind might be unbalanced, and that he may fall prey to sinister powers, so she is offering a $5,000 reward for Tom Marshal dead or alive.
“The sheriff of the County—and so on and so on—and a resume of past details. How does that strike you?”
Lily thought it grand, and whereupon he cross-examined her, to discover just how little she knew about her husband’s career, family, friends, or life, before their marriage ten years ago. Little was an overstatement. Whatever he may have told her her memory had been far from retentive.
Janet offered that it was difficult to describe Tom Marshal, he was such an average sort, with no distinguishing physical characteristics.
“He looked like a typical successful businessman —and that means nothing. You have photos of him, Lily?”
“I thought of that this morning. He carried to Dr. Murlain every photo he ever had taken, including two in small frames, one of which was on my dressing table. He even cut them out of an album.”
Jack Cunningham and Janet exchanged glances. Benson slapped a fist into a palm.
“I had a photo of him made, for the paper, when he was chairman of the horse-show committee, and I always keep the print. I’ll send it along to tlie A.P. with my story.”
“Oh, Doc Murlain would have obliged,” said Jack, dryly.
Lily proved that a lady can curse when she puts her mind to it.
“He will get his, don’t worry. Old Jack Cunningham has a bomb prepared specially for him that will dash him to the cleaners. Trust you all hut can’t tell yet.”
To be Continued