Roy Glashan's Library
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DAVID WRIGHT O'BRIEN
(WRITING AS DUNCAN FARNSWORTH)

AFRAID TO LIVE

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RGL e-Book Cover 2018©

First published in Fantastic Adventures, March 1942
This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2018-03-29
Produced by Paul Sandery and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Fantastic Adventures, March 1942, with "Afraid to Live"



Headpiece

Sergi walked over to press the button.



Have you ever been afraid? Certainly you have. Now what if there was some way of magnifying that fear—wouldn't you hate to see your own shadow behind you?




WENDY BLAINE stopped at my desk on her way out of the city room. Wendy is tiny, very well proportioned, and redheaded. She has a smile that could melt the ice right out from under Sonja Henie's flashing skates. She also has an eighteen- cylinder mind and a writing style that makes her the most valued girl reporter on the staff of the Morning Globe.

"Look, Dake," Wendy said, "I wonder if you'd do me a favor?"

"Point out the dragon, Baby," I told her, "and I'll slay him and serve him on toast. Or if it's a mountain you want climbed, just point it out. Ole Dake aims to please."

She grinned, and her nose crinkled in that delightful way it has.

"The assignment isn't that tough, Dake. I just want to ask you if you'd mind taking over the yarn I was supposed to write on the new trend in women's footwear. I have all the dope in the desk, a batch of comments I collected at the Shoe Manufacturer's Convention last night."

"So that's where you were," I sighed. "I was afraid you'd been out stepping with some young scion of wealth. Sure, Baby, I'd write hints to the housewife for you if it'd make you happy."

Wendy's nose crinkled again. Appreciatively this time.

"Gee, Dake, thanks. That darned feature would have wasted an hour, and I'm in a hurry."

"What for?" I asked. "Got a date with some—"

"You do check up, don't you?" Wendy laughed. "Nope. But I'm not telling what's up. I've got a whale of a feature yarn on the fire. Haven't even told the boss yet. But I'll need the entire afternoon to get out on it."

"Ahhh, secrecy."

Wendy grinned.

"Yep, secrecy."

"Good luck, Baby."

"Thanks, Dake."

Then she was gone. Sighing, I got up and ambled down the aisle of desks to Wendy's little niche in the city room. Sitting down behind her typewriter I began to rummage around in the drawers of her desk to find the material for the yarn she'd asked me to do. Tiny, our fattest copy boy, strolled past and gave me a dirty grin. It was no secret in the offices of the Morning Globe that Dake Stoddard was the happiest mug in the world when he was running errands for Wendy Blaine. But, hell, I didn't mind. Wendy and I would be married sometime. Of course she didn't know anything about this, but I'd planned it that way.

I found the stuff from the Shoe Convention that she'd mentioned. Enough to make a feature around it. And when I sorted it out and stuffed the junk I didn't want back into the desk I saw a thick manila envelope lying far back in the center drawer.

Being somewhat of a snoop by nature, I was tempted by the appearance of the large envelope. It probably had material on that secret yarn she'd mentioned.

I took out the envelope. Then I grinned.

"This is personal. Dake. Uh, uh, uh, don't open. Wendy."

She had scrawled the above message across the top, the little imp. I laughed again and shoved the envelope, unopened, back into the drawer of her desk.

I went back to my own desk, then, after about forty-five minutes I'd finished the feature for her. With a great flair for originality in slugs I titled it, "New Fall Trends In Women's Shoes." Then I punched the bell on my desk and sat back to wait for a copy boy. Tiny appeared by the time I'd smoked half a cigarette.

"Sometime you're gonna wear yourself out running up and down this office so fast, Tiny," I remarked sarcastically.

Tiny picked up the copy leisurely, glanced at the by-line, Wendy Blaine's, that I'd typed in the upper corner, and grinned.

"No, Mister Blaine," he retorted nastily, "not, me Mam!"

I heaved a paste tube at his retreating back, getting some satisfaction out of seeing him move quickly for a change. Then I sat back for another cigarette and a breathing spell, enjoying the quiet contemplation of Life, Love and Wendy Blaine.


"DAKE!" a voice roared in my ear.

"Yep, yep, yep," I said hastily, removing my feet from the desk and looking over to the right where my city editor, Cappert, was bearing down less than three yards from me.

"Get the hell to work," he roared. He was a big guy, well over fifty, with graying hair that was always as shaggy as a Newfoundland dog's.

"On what?" I asked.

"On the Allison yarn," he said. "Walker K. Allison. He's dead. Shot himself!"

I blinked. Walker K. Allison was the richest man in the city. He was Money Bags personified. He was Big Business. Capital. Wall Street. Back Bay. He was also one of the most eccentric gents this world has ever seen.

"Shot himself?" I gasped. "Where?"

"I don't know," Cappert snapped. "I didn't look." He threw a fistful of papers on my desk. "Tell the switchboard to put on our morgue reporter. He's waiting to give you the details." Then Cappert stormed on, heading for the managing editor's office to pass the news on to the Very Big Shot.

I picked up the telephone at my elbow.

"Hello, girlie, put our morgue man through." I waited a few seconds, then an excited voice, that of the cub assigned to the morgue, came through to me. I began putting down the facts...


FOR the next six hours I was busier than a louse exterminator in Nazi Germany. For three more stories—all of them hot—broke right in the midst of the Allison yarn. And all of them were suicides like the first!

A famous musician, the internationally renowned Vergo Moritz, a pianist, had shot himself while in his luxurious suite at the Ambassador North Hotel. That came in on the telephone after I'd been pounding out copy on the Allison suicide for less than ten minutes.

Then, right on the heels of this second suicide, came the third. Miss Annabelle Bordeau, the leading lady in the successful play, "Madcap," which had been running to full houses for three months here in the city, had taken poison in her dressing room immediately after a matinée performance. Efforts to save her life had been futile.

To cap the climax, Mrs. Harrison Green, the wife of Our Mayor Himself, leaped to her death from the eighteenth floor of a mid-town department store!

The offices of the Morning Globe were torn up like they'd been taken over by a cyclone. The city editor, Cappert, ran up and down like a madman, dashing around the place as if he'd lost his mind. Even the managing editor, the Very Big Shot Himself, popped his head out of his office every ten minutes to squeal something frantic at somebody. When I tell you that even Tiny was running you'll know what I mean.

My fingers were falling off, I was typing that fast. My lungs were shot from chain-smoking and screaming into telephones. And through it all, Cappert, my dear city editor, barged up to my desk every ten minutes to demand to know where in the hell Wendy Blaine was. Didn't she know there was hell breaking loose at her office? Didn't she know she'd be needed badly? Hadn't she seen the extras that had already hit the street? Did she want to lose her damned job? Who in the hell did she think she was anyway? All this, Cappert demanded of me.

"How in the hell do I know?" was all I could say in answer. I got tired shouting it back at him. And worried about Wendy. For she should have had sense enough to come a-running back at a time like this. No feature could be that important. Where was she?

Little Wendy Blaine was the fair-haired girl around the Morning Globe, but she wouldn't be for long if she didn't appear pretty quickly. But another two hours flew by, and no Wendy.

Our bulldog and three star editions had hit the streets and tranquility was just around the corner in the offices of the Morning Globe. The tension was easing off. What with three extras we'd shot out in addition to our regular editions, we'd pulled in all the extra circulation that was lying around. By now the radios were carrying full accounts of the suicides, anyway, so Cappert came over to my desk.

"Okay, Dake. The heat is off. Call it a day."


I FISHED for a cigarette and pushed the mess of paper on my desk back.

A glance at the clock on the wall showed that it was 10 p.m. It had really been a day.

"And tell Wendy Blaine to report to me before she goes to work in the morning," Cappert said.

"Listen, Boss, you aren't going to—" I began.

Cappert is a slave driver when the going is tough, but he isn't a louse. He shook his head.

"I'm not going to do anything, Dake. Hell, the kid probably got tied up somehow. But the Very Big Shot, our dear publisher, is set to give her the heave-ho. He was squealing for features from her all day."

I suddenly felt indignant. They couldn't fire Wendy. But the Very Big Shot did nasty things occasionally. However, to repeat, Cappert wasn't really to blame.

"I'll quit, too," I said, getting up, "if that guy cans Wendy."

"Why don'cha find her," Cappert suggested, "and cook up an alibi. She'll need a good one."

I gave Cappert a grateful glance.

"Good idea," I said.

He grunted and left. I got on the telephone. The switchboard in the lobby of Wendy's apartment hotel couldn't get any answer from her room. I called a couple of her girl friends. They hadn't seen her.

Then I remembered the feature, the secret things, she was working on. I went over to her desk. The envelope, the thick manila one, was still in the center drawer. I took it out. This wasn't snooping. I had to find Wendy. Her job was on the block. She was in hot water.

I opened the envelope. There were nine or ten sheets of copy paper and numerous pamphlets inside. I sat down at her desk and began to go through them. The pamphlets were from various "Medical Healing Institutes." They all read like quack stuff, mumbo-jumbo healing hoaxes. I began to get the drift. Wendy was working on an exposé feature about the quack medical joints, the unethical healers, around town.

Each of the pamphlets had a sheet of copy paper attached to it. And on the copy paper would be data about that particular quack den, the patients that went there, and that sort of thing. Wendy had evidently been visiting some of them to dig up her story?

One pamphlet caught my eye in particular. It sounded so damned quacky. "PSYCHO-THERAPY TREATMENTS. MENTAL ADJUSTMENTS THROUGH THE SCIENCE OF RAY CONTROL," was the title on the thing. I looked it over carefully. There was no address on it, and it didn't make much sense. I turned my attention to the copy sheet Wendy had pinned to it. The address of the place in question she'd put at the top. And there were four names beneath it, under the heading of "Patients."

I read the first two names before it hit me. Then I read the next two and re-read the first two. My eyes bugged out like marbles. I was that shocked.

For the names Wendy had listed under "Patients" of this quack den were none other than the names of the four celebrities who had all committed suicide this very afternoon!

There they were. There was no disputing them. Walker K. Allison, Vergo Moritz, Annabelle Bordeau, and Mrs. Harrison Green!


I CHOKED off a sudden impulse to shout wildly and dash for Cappert's desk with my findings. I don't know why I kept my mouth shut, but I did.

My hands were shaking as I held the sheet of copy paper and looked down at the name and address of the quack doctor that Wendy had listed as the proprietor of the joint, "Doctor Anton Sergi."

Carefully I put the papers back into the envelope, and the envelope into the center drawer. There would be a record there in case something happened when I went to look for Wendy. I had the address of the joint memorized. I got my hat.

I did a lot of thinking while I was on my way to the quack joint in a taxicab some four minutes later. A lot of thinking about a lot of angles to this thing. This quack Wendy had unearthed. This Doctor Sergi, had called himself a psycho- therapist. His patients, the ones Wendy had listed, had all committed suicide.

Roughly, I was aware that psychotherapy of the sort described in Doctor Sergi's pamphlet was supposed to be a kind of mental healing deal, in which worried people were brought around to a placid and happy state of mind through the use of the rays he claimed to have invented.

Walker K. Allison, Vergo Moritz, Annabelle Bordeau, and Mrs. Harrison Green must have been in bad mental states before they'd ever have put themselves into the hands of such a quack. But the important point was that—according to Wendy's findings—they had done so.

And the quack Doctor Sergi hadn't been of any help, apparently, for they'd all taken their own lives in their despair over their troubles.

"Wendy, old gal," I told myself, "you've got a yarn here, Baby. What a yarn!"

I began to go over the suicide cases, one by one, in an effort to dig up something further to go on. Walker K. Allison, the big moneybagged tycoon, had shot himself. Shot himself and left a note saying that he couldn't stand the financial ruin he faced. Yet, peculiarly enough, the man was a human mint. His financial holdings were as sound as Gibraltar. That had been proven after his death. How could he have imagined he faced financial disaster when the opposite was so glaringly true?

I shook my head bewilderedly. Of course he had been extremely eccentric. Perhaps even a little nuts. Maybe that was why.

But then there was Vergo Moritz, the celebrated pianist. Moritz had plugged himself also. There must be a quirk in the mind of those about to commit suicide that prompts them to give vent to a dramatic farewell, for Moritz had penned a parting note also. A parting note stating that he was going deaf, that he couldn't stand the thought of it, and that this was the only out. And yet, Moritz had been to a reputable physician some three weeks previously, investigators found, and had been assured that he was not going deaf even the slightest. Again I had to shake my head. Was Vergo crazy also?

As for the young actress, Annabelle Bordeau, she was beautiful and in the upswing of her career. There was apparently no reason for her suicide. Yet she'd taken poison. She, however, hadn't left a note of explanation. Nevertheless, she was one of Doctor's Sergi's patients. Wendy had her listed as such.

And Mrs. Harrison Green, the glamorous, happily married, middle-aged wife of our mayor—what could have prompted her to commit suicide? She'd leaped from the department store window. There were no notes. But there must have been a reason.

I could imagine none. Yet, she'd been a patient of the quack Doctor Sergi.


IT was beginning to look as if that fact in itself was enough to lead to an unpleasant death. And suddenly I choked on the thought. Wendy might be there. Wendy would naturally pose as a patient in order to get her story.

And as a patient of this quack—

I didn't end that thought. My spine was chilled. I leaned forward and barked into the cabbie's ear.

"An extra five if you put some speed in this crate."

Our cab began to roll, but swiftly. We made it cross-town in less than another ten minutes. Then we were careening down a narrow series of side streets in the vicinity of the address of Doctor Sergi.

It was a dingy neighborhood. Run down and ramshackle. Plenty of the buildings were held up by nothing more than the grace of God. We were a block away from the street where Doctor Sergi's offices were when I told the cabbie to heave to. We stopped with a lurch and I piled out. I slipped him some bills, plus a note I'd hastily scratched in the last five minutes.

"Take this to the office of the Morning Globe at eight o'clock tomorrow morning," I said. "Deliver it in person to Dake Stoddard, and if he isn't there, give it to the city editor and tell him to open it."

The Cabbie blinked.

"Yeah, I got it. Okay."

I watched the taxi roar off from the curb, then I started down the dingy, poorly lighted little side street.

I tried to imagine all those famous people coming to this dirty, forsaken side of town to take treatments of some sort from a quack who called himself Doctor Sergi. And I also tried not to imagine Wendy posing as a patient of his.

Doctor Sergi's address was a three-story, ancient brick building in the middle of the next block. The buildings on both sides of it were vacant and boarded up. There was a small, black sign, with faded gold lettering on it, right next to the thick, paint-scarred door. I walked up a narrow flight of stone steps and looked at the sign.

"Doctor Anton Sergi," it said. "Treatments by appointment only."

I didn't have an appointment. But that wasn't what was worrying me. All I could think of was Wendy. All I could think of was what I'd give to know that she wasn't in here. For some reason, even though the evening was warm and I was perspiring from anxiety, I felt chill and a little shaky.

I punched the old bell beside the door.

Standing there on the steps I craned my head a little and tried to listen for footsteps from the inside of the place. There were none. There was nothing but silence. Then I heard a baby crying down at the end of the street, and a foreign voice raised angrily at the child.

I punched the bell again. Minutes passed. Still no sound from inside. Still no answer. Yet, somehow, I felt as if I were being watched.

Maybe it was that feeling that made me light a cigarette nonchalantly and stroll down the steps away from the house. I walked all the way back to the alley near the end of the street. Then, certain that I was out of sight, I ducked down that alley. It would bring me around to the back of the place.

It did, and three minutes later I was moving furtively through the pitch blackness of the back yard of Doctor Sergi's quack den. This time I wasn't going to ring doorbells. This time I was going to get inside. I found a small basement window.


A LONG time ago I'd learned how to break a window noiselessly. I broke this one, then picked out the pieces of glass. I got down on my stomach and wriggled through the narrow opening. The dark, fetid air peculiar to a basement in an old house hit my nostrils. Everything in there was cloaked in inky blackness. I let myself drop, and my feet hit coal. But I was on the inside.

I waited there, holding my breath.

Snick!

A light switch was flicked on, and as the room was flooded by the sudden unexpected brilliance, I stood there blinking, trying to adjust my eyes to the lights. A voice was talking.

"Please put your hands up," the voice said.

My stomach did three or four flipflops, then I was able to see. At the far end of the basement coal bin, standing on the first flight of a rickety staircase and looking down at me was a tall, thin, bald, beak-nosed old man. His face was parchment colored and the flesh around his jewels and eyes was wrinkled. He had a gun.

"Doctor Sergi, I presume," I said. But I didn't feel funny.

"I watched you at the front. Then I waited here, certain you'd try to break in through the basement," Doctor Sergi said. His voice was thin, flat.

"Amazing deduction," I murmured. Then I dropped quickly to my knees and my hand found a large chunk of coal. In the same motion I let it fly at the old duck's skull. At that instant his gun went off, and in the roar of the explosion I could feel something tearing along the top of my cranium and darkness blanketing in all around me...


WHEN I opened my eyes again I was looking right at—Wendy Blaine!

And then I realized I was tied in a chair, and that so was she. We were in a brightly illuminated room with white walls, steel cabinets, and a huge table in the corner. But we were both alive, and Wendy was talking.

"Dake, oh, Dake. Thank God. I was afraid—" she began.

"Take it easy, Baby," I said through puffed lips. I could taste blood, and vaguely realized that it was trickling down from the bullet crease Doctor Sergi had put in my skull. My head was throbbing painfully.

"How long you been here, Baby?" I demanded.

"Ever since this afternoon, Dake. Oh, Dake, this man is crazy. He's stark, raving mad." And then Wendy was telling me what I'd already figured out. Telling me about the feature she was doing on quack healers. She told me, too, how she'd found out that this Sergi was working his mumbo-jumbo of Allison, Moritz, Bordeau and Mrs. Harrison. She told me, too, how she'd faked her way into the joint by posing as a patient in need of his help. She'd been here the day before. And when she'd returned today he'd been in a rage, found out somehow that she was a newspaper girl. He'd forced her, at the point of a gun into his room where he'd left her bound.

And then I gave her the dope about the four suicides, gave her every last detail about my end of the mess. She was white faced and shaken when I finished. So white faced and shaken that she couldn't speak, even though she tried.

And then Doctor Sergi came into the room. He still carried his gun, but it was lying carelessly in the right lower pocket of a dirty white smock he'd donned.

"Well," he said unsmilingly. "I see my patients have met before. How fine. How very excellent."

I tried to bluff.

"Listen, Sergi, I know all about this racket. I know all about Allison, and Moritz, and the Bordeau girl, and Mrs. Harrison." I cut it short at that, letting the implication of what else I might know take hold.

Sergi turned his gaze directly at me. And for the first time I saw the round, bright, staring quality of his eyes. They seemed to dominate his entire face. Just two bright, round, big, staring eyes.

"Yes," he said, matter-of-factly. "Yes, I killed them all. At least, I drove them to kill themselves. You see, as patients of mine, I had every opportunity to ascertain their, ah, psychological phobias, their strongest fears. Take Allison, for example, he was a man of great wealth; naturally his greatest subconscious fear was loss of his wealth. My ray treatments accentuated that fear far beyond its ordinary bounds. It became an obsession, then—in his mind— a reality. He thought he'd lost his wealth—and killed himself."*

*Fear is one of the most dominant and powerful of all human emotions. It has been proven in recent scientific tests that the power of fear is sufficient, under certain conditions, to destroy completely the reasoning ability of the intellect. Fear is capable of plunging a person into a land of unreality, in which the mind is liable to disintegrate completely. Thus Sergi, with the aid of his devilish ray, had literally killed his victims with their own fear. —Ed.


I looked at Wendy. But I didn't interrupt. This was dynamite!

"And Moritz," Sergi went on calmly, "had a small, natural subconscious fear that would be part of any musician—deafness. My ray treatments brought this out to an overpowering terror. He became certain he was going deaf. He couldn't stand the thought. He died. Young Annabelle Bordeau was beautiful, talented. Her natural fear, living only in the subconscious, was loss of her beauty, loss of her talent, and the fear of aging. I accentuated this until it became an obsession. It was all she could think of, her world of dreadful fear. She took poison rather than go on living that way."

I felt horribly sick at my stomach.

"Mrs. Harrison Green," Sergi went on, musingly now, "was a little bit different. Her subconscious fear was that her husband's political life, nation-wide greatness, would disrupt her especially happy family life. Of course, it wasn't doing so, and never would have. But the fear was there, deep in her subconscious mind. My ray treatments lifted it from the subconscious and made it her dominant waking dread. Finally she was certain it was happening. She leaped to her death."


WENDY'S eyes had closed and her head rolled limply. She'd fainted.

And then Sergi stepped over to the wall and pressed a button. There was a humming in the corner of the room, a humming right above the huge table over there. And from apertures in the ceiling, five round, copper globes appeared. They looked like intrinsically wired klieg lamps. The humming stopped, and they all pointed down on the table.

"My ray machines," Sergi explained, "completely bathe my treatment table in their beams. They bring forth fear. They will bring forth your dominant fear very shortly. Then I shall lock you in a room and give you a gun."

I wet my lips.

"You'll die, Sergi. You'll end up in the chair. You haven't a chance to get away with this."

Doctor Sergi smiled.

"You make a mistake in trying to frighten me. I am immune to fear of any sort. Through the mastery of my great mind, I, Sergi, have eliminated every trace of fear from my subconscious mind. I fear nothing. How else would I have been able to work under those rays?"

"What do you want, Sergi," I demanded. "If it's money you're after—"

"Money!" the man scoffed. "I seek power. And I will have it. This is but the beginning; all this is but experiment. Eventually, through these fear rays I shall dominate nations, armies, the world! I, Sergi, will be the master of the universe!"

"You're mad!" I snarled. "You're utterly insane!"

A flicker knifed those round bright eyes—a peculiar flicker.

"You will see," he grated. "Your fear is the thought that something will happen to this girl. You will be under my ray treatments within another few moments. That fear will rule you when I send those rays probing through your brain. You will kill yourself!"

"You monstrous madman!" I cried. "Damn your insane mind!"

Sergi wheeled.

"I will be back in a moment," he snarled. "We will see then who is mad." The door slammed behind him.

Wendy's eyes were fluttering open, she looked uncomprehendingly around. Then recollection returned to her.

"Dake, oh, Dake!" she cried.

But I had an idea, an idea as wild, as crazy, as impossible as everything else that had happened in these past hours. It was a chance.

"Wendy." I snapped, "Listen, Baby. For the love of God, listen!"

And then I talked, rapidly, desperately, explaining my idea, outlining our only plan of action. I finished just as Sergi's hand turned the knob on the door and he stepped into the room once more. Wendy had only time to nod to me that she was game, that she'd try.

Sergi was in the room, looking suspiciously at both of us.

"Wendy, Baby," I said, "this is the finest dinner I've ever had. And the music, Honey, is tops. Would you like to dance?"

Wendy shook her head gravely.

"Not just now, Dake. Let's just sit here and look at the others. It's been so long since we've had a chance to talk."


I COULD see Sergi, from the corner of my eye, staring uncomprehendingly at us. But neither of us looked in his direction. Neither of us gave any indication that he was in the room.

"Waiter!" I called, raising my head and looking to my right. "More champagne, please!"

"Oh, Dake," Wendy protested, "don't you think you've had enough?"

"Never enough champagne, Baby," I answered. "At least not on the night of our anniversary. Say, I'd really like to dance, Hon. That music is too tempting to ignore."

"In a minute, then, Dake," Wendy promised.

"What is this?" Sergi thundered bewilderedly.

I looked right through him.

"Like rhumbas, Wendy?" I asked.

"Love 'em," Wendy answered. "And as much as I love this dessert. I think I'll have to push it aside. I'm stuffed."

"Stop!" Sergi shouted, voice quavering into near hysteria.

"Desserts will never hurt your figure, Baby," I said. "You should have more desserts and less salads."

Sergi rushed to me. His face was flushed. His round eyes were glazed.

"This is an act!" he screamed. "This is a fool's act!" He raised his hand above his head.

"Let's dance," Wendy said, "now!"

And Doctor Sergi, face suddenly ashen, clutched at his wrinkled throat, pitching face forward to the floor. From the way he lay there I knew he wasn't breathing. I knew he was dead!

I looked swiftly at Wendy. Her eyes were closed. The poor kid had fainted again. But she'd played her role—God how she'd played her role!

And Sergi's fear had stopped his heart, had killed him. It was the fear I'd recognized in his eyes for a flickering instant each time I'd called him a madman, each time I'd said he was insane. It was the same fear I'd suspected he might have had when he babbled about his great mind and the mastery it would have over the world. It was the fear of losing his most priceless possession. It was the fear of madness, of losing his mind!

It was the one fear his mind had never eliminated.

And our acting, insane though it had been, had made Sergi suspect his own sanity for just long enough to let the constant exposure he'd had beneath his own ray machines take that flickering subconscious doubt and raise it to an overwhelming dread. A dread a hundred times stronger than the dread he'd instilled in others. A hundred times stronger because of his constant exposure to the rays. A dread that was horrible enough to choke the life from him.

* * * * *

CAPPERT and four circulation sluggers from the Morning Globe found us in Sergi's laboratory at eight- thirty in the morning. The cabbie had delivered my note. But I couldn't help thinking how close my dear city editor came to finding a couple of corpses there instead of two very live and very shaky reporters.

And I couldn't help thinking, either, how close Wendy came to losing a marvelous husband—not to mention her life. For I'm still going to marry her someday. And between you and me, she's a little closer to realizing this fact...


THE END