Astounding Stories of Super-Science, October, 1930 – various authors

I hope, Carnes,” said Dr. Bird, “that we get good fishing.” “Good fishing? Will you please tell me what you are talking about?” “I am talking about fishing, old dear. Have you seen the evening paper?” “No. What’s that got to do with it?” Dr. Bird tossed across the table a copy of the Washington Post folded so as to bring uppermost an item on page three. Carnes saw his picture staring at him from the center of the page. “What the dickens?” he exclaimed as he bent over the sheet. With growing astonishment he read that Operative Carnes of the United States Secret Service had collapsed at his desk that afternoon and had been rushed to Walter Reed Hospital where the trouble had been diagnosed as a nervous breakdown caused by overwork. There followed a guarded statement from Admiral Clay, the President’s personal physician, who had been called into conference by the army authorities. The Admiral stated that the Chief of the Washington District was in no immediate danger but that a prolonged rest was necessary. The paper gave a glowing tribute to the detective’s life and work and stated that he had been given sick leave for an indefinite period and that he was leaving at once for the fishing lodge of his friend, Dr. Bird of the Bureau of Standards, at Squapan Lake, Maine. Dr. Bird, the article concluded, would accompany and care for his stricken friend.

Carnes laid aside the paper with a gasp. o you know what all this means?” Carnes demanded. “It means, Carnsey, old dear, that the fishing at Squapan Lake should be good right now and that I feel the need of accurate information on the subject. I didn’t want to go alone, so I engineered this outrage on the government and am taking you along for company. For the love of Mike, look sick from now on until we are clear of Washington. We leave to-night. I already have our tickets and reservations and all you have to do is to collect your tackle and pack your bags for a month or two in the woods and meet me at the Pennsy station at six to-night.” “And yet there are some people who say there is no Santa Claus,” mused Carnes. “If I had really broken down from overwork, I would probably have had my pay docked for the time I was absent, but a man with official pull in this man’s government wants to go fishing and presto! the wheels move and the way is clear. Doctor, I’ll meet you as directed.

” “Good enough,” said Dr. Bird. “By the way, Carnes,” he went on as the operative opened the door, “bring your pistol.” Carnes whirled about at the words. “Are we going on a case?” he asked. “That remains to be seen,” replied the Doctor enigmatically. “At all events, bring your pistol. In answer to any questions, we are going fishing. In point of fact, we are—with ourselves as bait. If you have a little time to spare this afternoon you might drop around to the office of the Post and get them to show you all the amnesia cases they have had stories on during the past three months.

They will be interesting reading. No more questions now, old dear, we’ll have lots of time to talk things over while we are in the Maine woods.” ate the next evening they left the Bangor and Aroostook train at Mesardis and found a Ford truck waiting for them. Over a rough trail they were driven for fifteen miles, winding up at a log cabin which the Doctor announced was his. The truck deposited their belongings and jounced away and Dr. Bird led the way to the cabin, which proved to be unlocked. He pushed open the door and entered, followed by Carnes. The operative glanced at the occupants of the cabin and started back in surprise. Seated at a table were two figures. The smaller of the two had his back to the entrance but the larger one was facing them.

He rose as they entered and Carnes rubbed his eyes and reeled weakly against the wall. Before him stood a replica of Dr. Bird. There was the same six feet two of bone and muscle, the same beetling brows and the same craggy chin and high forehead surmounted by a shock of unruly black hair. In face and figure the stranger was a replica of the famous scientist until he glanced at their hands. Dr. Bird’s hands were long and slim with tapering fingers, the hands of a thinker and an artist despite the acid stains which disfigured them but could not hide their beauty. The hands of his double were stained as were Dr. Bird’s, but they were short and thick and bespoke more the man of action than the man of thought. The second figure arose and faced them and again Carnes received a shock.

While the likeness was not so, striking, there was no doubt that the second man would have readily passed for Carnes himself in a dim light or at a little distance. Dr. Bird burst into laughter at the detective’s puzzled face. “Carnes,” he said, “shake yourself together and then shake hands with Major Trowbridge of the Coast Artillery Corps. It has been said by some people that we favor one another.” “I’m glad to meet you, Major,” said Carnes. “The resemblance is positively uncanny. But for your hands, I would have trouble telling you two apart.” he Major glanced down at his stubby fingers. “It is unfortunate but it can’t be helped,” he said.

“Dr. Bird, this is Corporal Askins of my command. He is not as good a second to Mr. Carnes as I am to you but you said it was less important.” “The likeness is plenty good enough,” replied the Doctor. “He will probably not be subjected to as close a scrutiny as you will. Did you have any trouble in getting here unobserved?” “None at all, Doctor. Lieutenant Maynard found a good landing field within a half mile of here, as you said he would, and he has his Douglass camouflaged and is standing by. When do you expect trouble?” “I have no idea. It may come to-night or it may come later.

Personally I hope that it comes later so that we can get in a few days of fishing before anything happens.” “What do you expect to happen, Doctor?” demanded Carnes. “Every time I have asked you anything you told me to wait until we were in the Maine woods and we are there now. I read up everything that I could find on amnesia victims during the past three months but it didn’t throw much light on the matter to me.” “How many cases did you find, Carnes?” “Sixteen. There may have been lots more but I couldn’t find any others in the Post records. Of course, unless the victim were a local man, or of some prominence, it wouldn’t appear.” “You got most of them at that. Did any points of similarity strike you as you read them?” “None except that all were prominent men and all of them mental workers of high caliber. That didn’t appear peculiar because it is the man of high mentality who is most apt to crack.

” “Undoubtedly. There were some points of similarity which you missed. Where did the attacks take place?” “Why, one was at—Thunder, Doctor! I did miss something. Every case, as nearly as I can recall, happened at some summer camp or other resort where they were on vacation.” “Correct. One other point. At what time of day did they occur?” “In the morning, as well as I can remember. That point didn’t register.” “They were all discovered in the morning, Carnes, which means that the actual loss of memory occurred during the night. Further, every case has happened within a circle with a diameter of three hundred miles.

We are near the northern edge of that circle.” arnes checked up on his memory rapidly. “You’re right, Doctor,” he cried. “Do you think—?” “Once in a while,” replied Dr. Bird dryly, “I think enough to know the futility of guesses hazarded without complete data. We are now located within the limits of the amnesia belt and we are here to find out what did happen, if anything, and not to make wild guesses about it. You have the tent set up for us, Major?” “Yes, Doctor, about thirty yards from the cabin and hidden so well that you could pass it a dozen times a day without suspecting its existence. The gas masks and other equipment which you sent to Fort Banks are in it.” “In that case we had better dispense with your company as soon as we have eaten a bite, and retire to it. On second thought, we will eat in it.

Carnes, we will go to our downy couches at once and leave our substitutes in possession of the cabin. I trust, gentlemen, that things come out all right and that you are in no danger.” Major Trowbridge shrugged his heavy shoulders. “It is as the gods will,” he said sententiously. “It is merely a matter of duty to me, you know, and thank God, I have no family to mourn if anything does go wrong. Neither has Corporal Askins.” “Well, good luck at any rate. Will you guide Carnes to the tent and then return here and I’ll join him?” uddled in the tiny concealed tent, Dr. Bird handed Carnes a haversack on a web strap. “This is a gas mask,” he said.

“Put it on your neck and keep it ready for instant use. I have one on and one of us must wear a mask continually while we are here. We’ll change off every hour. If the gas used is lethane, as I suspect, we should be able to detect it before its gets too concentrated, but some other gas might be used and we must take no chances. Now look here.” With the aid of a flash-light he showed Carnes a piece of apparatus which had been set up in the tent. It consisted of two telescopic barrels, one fitted with an eye-piece and the other, which was at a wide angle to the first, with an objective glass. Between the two was a covered round disc from which projected a short tube fitted with a protecting lens. This tube was parallel to the telescopic barrel containing the objective lens. “This is a new thing which I have developed and it is getting its first practical test to-night,” he said.

“It is a gas detector. It works on the principle of the spectroscope with modifications. From this projector goes out a beam of invisible light and the reflections are gathered and thrown through a prism of the eye-piece. While a spectroscope requires that the substance which it examines be incandescent and throw out visible light rays in order to show the typical spectral lines, this device catches the invisible ultra-violet on a fluorescent screen and analyzes it spectroscopically. Whoever has the mask on must continually search the sky with it and look for the three bright lines which characterize lethane, one at 230, one at 240 and the third at 670 on the illuminated scale. If you see any bright lines in those regions or any other lines that are not continually present, call my attention to it at once. I’ll watch for the first hour.” t the end of an hour Dr. Bird removed his mask with a sigh of relief and Carnes took his place at the spectroscope. For half an hour he moved the glass about and then spoke in a guarded tone.

“I don’t see any of the lines you told me to look for,” he said, “but in the southwest I get wide band at 310 and two lines at about 520.” Dr. Bird advanced toward the instrument but before he reached it, Carnes gave an exclamation. “There they are, Doctor!” he cried. Dr. Bird sniffed the air. A faint sweetish odor became apparent and he reached for his gas mask. Slowly his hands drooped and Carnes grasped him and drew the mask over his face. Dr. Bird rallied slightly and feebly drew a bottle from his pocket and sniffed it.

In another instant he was shouldering Carnes aside and staring through the spectroscope. Carnes watched him for an instant and then a low whirring noise attracted his attention and he looked up. Silently he caught the Doctor’s arm in a viselike grip and pointed. Hovering above the cabin was a silvery globe, faintly luminous in the moonlight. From its top rose a faint cloud of vapor which circled around the globe and descended toward the earth. The globe hovered like a giant humming bird above the cabin and Carnes barely stifled an exclamation. The door of the cabin opened and Major Trowbridge, walking stiffly and like a man in a dream, appeared. Slowly he advanced for ten yards and stood motionless. The globe moved over him and the bottom unfolded like a lily. Two long arms shot silently down and grasped the motionless figure and drew him up into the heart of the globe.

The petals refolded, and silently as a dream the globe shot upward and disappeared.

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