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DAVID WRIGHT O'BRIEN
(WRITING AS JOHN YORK CABOT)

THE MAN WHO FORGOT

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RGL e-Book Cover 2019


Ex Libris

First published in Amazing Stories, May 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-07-15
Produced by Paul Sandery, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Cover Image

Amazing Stories, May 1941, with "The Man Who Forgot"



Illustration

With cannon blasting, the pirate ship bore down on Deming's ship, and all hell broke loose!



"THREE hours more," Johnny Deming told himself, "and I'll be easing into the Earth landing base!"

The words brought a grin to his face. That meant he'd be seeing Kay Winters. Which was one reason to be glad this damned run was over.

The other was less pleasant. It would be a relief to turn the papers over to Captain Winters, her father... it'd be father-in-law before long!... and unload the ticklish responsibility that went with them.

Kay Winters; what a gal! Enough to fire the blood of a Venusian Fishman...

Abruptly Deming's smile of anticipation faded. He stared into the visaboard on the instrument panel. Six hundred meters off the port beam of his ship a bullet-like black space cruiser was bearing down on him!

"What the he—" Deming began. Then the muscles in the corners of his jaw went taut. The black space cruiser had wheeled off on a sudden tangent, and was now moving parallel with his own ship.

Wordlessly, Deming reached forward to the instrument panel and set the charges on the atomic cannons in the nose of his craft. There was no reason in the world for another space vessel to be within ten void miles of his ship. Unless it meant trouble.

Deming could see that the black cruiser was one of those super-powered jobs.

There wouldn't be any chance of making a run for it. He'd be too easily overtaken. Deming switched on his communications mike, connecting with the rear quarters of his small ship. Three other Space Patrol officers were back there—geared for just such an emergency as this.

"Black cruiser off our port beam!" he announced. "Get the guns ready."

The black cruiser was edging in closer, closer, until he could see the entire length of its starboard side. It carried no Federation markings.

Deming set the automatic-control lever on his instrument panel. The ship would now travel dead into the Earth landing base, piloted or not. Then he turned his attention to the atomic cannons.

There was a sudden, blinding flash of orange flame, and the tiny space ship shook like a leaf in a gale. The black cruiser had sent a burst across the bow of Deming's ship.

Deming had been thrown to the floor by the blast. And he picked himself up now, cursing savagely, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. Frantically, he tried to line the atomic cannons on the belly of the black cruiser, which had now veered sharply across his bow.

But the cruiser flashed by before he could train his lenses.

He wished for a swift moment that Captain Winters hadn't insisted that they carry the papers in an inconspicuous, ordinary commercial-run space ship. You couldn't give much fight in a ship of this type. But, then, secrecy had been the most important part of the plan. And Winters had figured that they'd stand a better chance this way—even though he'd made provisions for a slip in the plan, by placing three Patrol officers in the rear quarters and mounting guns there.

And those rear guns were working well, Deming suddenly realized, for the black space cruiser was playing far wide of their tail, working around for another blast at their nose.

Deming had the lenses lined now, and his mouth was a taut slash as he waited for the black cruiser to flash by the sights of his atomic cannons.

A second blinding burst of orange flame rocked the space ship. The black cruiser had dived swiftly from above, on an in-angle, staying clear of the rear guns and Deming's atomic cannons. The concussion was terrific. The hit was direct. The verelium walls of the pilot's compartment were heated white hot by the burst. Deming was thrown face downward, stunned.


DESPERATELY, he clawed his way to his feet, staggering out of the inferno that was now the pilot's compartment. Dazedly, he made his way back to the rear of the ship—to the quarters where the other three Space Patrolmen were working the other guns.

But the three were standing beside the chamber entrances, atomic pistols drawn, faces tense. And Deming saw why. Their atomic cannons, too, had been rendered useless by the skillful shooting of the black cruiser!

"Out of commission," Deming blurted. "Yours, too, eh?"

One of the three, Des Talcott nodded.

"They'll be boarding us in another few minutes, Johnny."

Deming drew his own pistol, stepping beside his three comrades.

"They'll be trying to," he agreed, and his eyes went to the chamber entrances through which the raiders would force their way.

A sharp jarring indicated that the black cruiser was now alongside.

"Any minute!" Des Talcott warned.

But the chamber doors didn't burst inward. There wasn't a sound against their outer surfaces. Deming frowned. The silence was heavy.

"Damn them," he burst forth. "What are they planning....?"

"Drop those guns, gentlemen. Drop 'em quick!"

Deming wheeled, and so did Des Talcott and the two others. Framed in the doorway leading to the pilot's compartment were three figures in black tunics. The raiders—they'd entered through Deming's compartment, through the nose of the ship!

Deming's lips twisted in a snarl. And the picture of the raiders, framed in the doorway, stamped itself instantly, panoramically, on his mind. One was short, fat. The one beside him was thin, and of medium height. And the third was big, and tall. All three had their faces masked in the same black that covered their bodies.

Then the guns of the raiders were squirting orange flame, and Deming heard Des Talcott cry out in terrible anguish as he pitched to the floor, futilely trying to train his atomic pistol on the black figures in the doorway. The stench of burned flesh was horrible in the air. Deming had squeezed hard on his atomic pistol, but one of the two remaining Space Patrolmen pitched into him, breaking his aim. Deming fell sprawling to the floor, the fellow's dead body pinning him there. The third Space Patrolman didn't have a chance either. Deming saw him clutching terribly at his stomach, rising to his toes, then pitching forward on his face, his atomic pistol clattering uselessly to the floor planking.

Desperately, Deming was trying to roll free, trying to train his pistol again on the figures in the doorway. The stench of burning flesh was sickeningly stronger, and the tallest of the three black tuniced raiders was laughing harshly. Then Deming's brain was seared by a blinding explosion, and pin-points of light scattered wildly through the darkness that closed over his mind....


THE excitement at the Earth landing base was great, as the pilotless little space ship drifted slowly down to mooring three hours later. When the chambers to the little ship were thrown open, and Captain Winters stepped into the rear compartment to find the bodies of four Space Patrolmen—three dead and one unconscious—the resultant horror and confusion was bedlam.

Space Patrolman Johnny Deming was the only man left alive. The small lump on the back of his head indicated instantly to Captain Winters that he had been knocked into unconsciousness. And when Deming had been carried from the ship, the gray-haired Captain Winters somberly faced his red-headed daughter.

"Dad," Kay Winters asked breathlessly, "is Johnny... is he...?" Her lovely red lips trembled over the words, and there was anguish in her gray eyes.

"Johnny seems to be all right, Kay," Captain Winters said. "Out cold, but he'll come around. The others are dead. Burned to cinders. Ship is disabled. Been thoroughly rifled."

The tall, big-shouldered, dark-haired young man who stood beside Kay Winters squeezed the girl's arm reassuringly.

"Take it easy, Kay. Johnny'll come around. Don't worry." But there was something else, a hidden pain, in his blue eyes as he looked at Captain Winters. "The others are dead, Sir?"

Captain Winters nodded. Then, to his daughter:

"You'd better go now, Kay. We'll take you to Johnny shortly, after they bring him around."

When Kay had left, her father turned to the tall, big-shouldered young man.

"You're Johnny's best friend, Parke. I guess you know. If you don't, I'll tell you now. Johnny'll probably be held for court martial!"

Parke Markham's eyes went angry.

"But dammit, sir, it isn't fair. Johnny wouldn't funk out on—"

"You're a Space Patrolman, same as Johnny," Winters cut in. "You know what it means to be found beside three dead companions, fellow space officers, still alive, and hit on the back of the head. They died in the line of duty, Parke. Johnny came out of the mess with nothing worse than a knockout—and the raid was successful. What do you think the Trial Board will have to say about that?"

Parke Markham's jaw went grim.

"Johnny will be able to explain. I'm confident of that. There isn't a treacherous bone in that kid's frame. He's my—"

"He's your best friend, Parke," Winters cut in. "I know that. I have a strong attachment to Johnny myself, and I hope he'll have an explanation. But we'll have to wait until the Trial Board hearing. That should come tomorrow." Captain Winters turned, at that, and strode off.

Parke Markham stood there for a moment, fishing a cigarette out of the pocket of his crimson tunic. He started to light it. Then, in disgust, he hurled it away.


THE room was big and wide, and Johnny Deming blinked bewilderedly in the strong light that came from the ceiling. Before him, sitting at a simple army table were six men in crimson uniform tunics bearing the gold bars of Adjutant Trial Generals.

"I... I don't know. I swear I don't know!" Deming blurted again. The pain in the back of his head was worse now than it had been an hour before when they brought him in here. Deming didn't want to say anything about the pain. These men, whoever they were, wouldn't understand. They didn't understand that he knew nothing. They didn't understand that he didn't know who they were, or why he was here. So how could they understand about the pain?

"Your lack of memory, Space Patrolman Deming, seems unusually convenient," one of the men at the table remarked.

Space Patrolman Deming. Space Patrolman Deming. He'd heard those words used in connection with him again and again. It must be his name. Deming. Deming. His name.

"Speak up, Johnny," the gray haired man beside him whispered fiercely. Johnny blinked at the gray haired man beside him. The gray haired man wore a crimson tunic, and people called him Captain Winters.

"I don't know," Johnny repeated, clenching his fists into tight balls so that they wouldn't see the pain was tearing the back of his head apart. "I don't know. I don't know!"

"This man's memory is gone!" Captain Winters burst forth. "Can't you see? His memory is gone!"

Johnny blinked again, fighting back the pain as one of the men at the table answered impatiently.

"The man on trial has been examined thoroughly. The report states that the blow on the back of his head couldn't possibly have caused a loss of memory. We've stated that before." The examiner was growing angry. "If Space Patrolman Deming sees fit to carry on this hoax, we will be forced to conclude this trial here and now—handing in the obvious verdict!"

In order to fight off the pain, Deming blurted:

"I don't know!"

"Johnny!" Captain Winters' voice was despairing.

The heads of the uniformed men bent together. Then one of them spoke.

"We have our verdict. Space Patrolman Deming is hereby found guilty of willful neglect of duty, cowardice in the face of fire, and is dismissed from the Space Patrol Forces!"

Above the clamor that rose suddenly in the room, Johnny Deming said again, desperately:

"I don't know, I tell you. I don't know!" But his voice was unheard as, slowly, he was led out of the humming, excited turmoil in that big room...


THEY had taken his crimson tunic from him, and now he was dressed in drab brown, and he moved wearily out of the big building, the pain still throbbing heavily in the back of his skull. Deming wished that somehow they would have understood him, those men in crimson. He didn't know why. He didn't know anything, except that the gray haired man they called Winters had left him, and that now he was alone, and that people in the building he was leaving stared strangely at him.

On the steps of the building, Deming saw the girl.

He had seen her before, as he was being questioned in the quarters they called the Medical Room; and he had seen her again as he entered the big room where the men at the table hurled questions at him, and then let him go. Her hair was red, and he could see that she was very lovely. He had heard her called Kay by the gray haired man.

"Johnny," said Kay Winters, rushing toward him. "Oh, Johnny, what did they do to you? Johnny, Johnny!"

And then her arms were around him, and he caught the sweet scent of her perfume in his nostrils. He blinked, and moved her arms away.

"I don't care, Johnny," she was saying. "I don't care if you are pretending. I don't care if they have broken you from the service. I'll go with you, Johnny, wherever you plan on going!"

The pain suddenly grew greater, almost impossible, and to keep her from seeing it, Deming cried out.

"I don't know. Go away. Let me alone. I don't know. Let me alone, I tell you!"

Kay Winters' face went ashen, and she looked as though she had been struck.

"Johnny!" she gasped, backing slightly. "Johnny, I told you I don't care. You don't have to pretend in front of me, Johnny. You'll always be the same to me, no matter what you've done!"

"Go away," he repeated despairingly. "Go away." The pain was terrible, now. "Let me alone, do you hear? Let me alone!"

And suddenly the redheaded girl was sobbing. Sobbing and tearing a ring from her finger. She threw the ring into his startled face, and her breath came chokingly as she said:

"John Deming, I despise you, do you understand? I despise you!"

The ring had cut Johnny Deming's face, and as the girl rushed away, he bent over, picking it up. For a minute he stared at it bewilderedly, then at the retreating figure of the girl. Shrugging in perplexity, he put the ring in his tunic pocket. The pain in his head was worse as he moved stumblingly down the steps...


PARKE MARKHAM sat dejectedly on the edge of Captain Winters' desk. His big shoulders were slumped unhappily, and his lank frame was the picture of despondency. He buried his face in his big hands.

"Damn," he muttered miserably. "I had to make that report, Captain. Don't you understand, Captain Winters? I had to!"

Captain Winters reached forward and put a hand reassuringly on Parke Markham's shoulder.

"I know, boy. I wish to God that they'd have assigned another medical Space Patrol officer to give Johnny his exam. You'd think they'd have brains enough to realize he was your best friend. But you had to give your report straight, boy. You couldn't have done otherwise. Johnny wouldn't have wanted you to do otherwise. If your medical findings were positive that Johnny wasn't suffering from amnesia, you had to hand them in as such. Don't take it so hard!"

"But I've been the cause of his getting tossed out of the service. I'll never forget that. Oh damn, why didn't Johnny play it straight, and not try to fake that amnesia!" Parke Markham's words were despairing.

"Someday, perhaps, we'll find out," Captain Winters said. "I hope so, Parke, for your sake as well as Johnny's and Kay's."

"She's taken it hard, hasn't she?"

Captain Winters nodded.

"She was willing to stick with him through hell and space storms, Parke. Even if he'd been the lowest blot in space. But he drove her from him. Poor kid, she'll be a long time getting over it."

"Damn," Parke Markham exploded. "I wish he'd never been assigned to that job. This never would have happened. Those papers he was supposed to bring secretly to you are gone, and the whole thing has been useless."

Captain Winters paused thoughtfully in paging through the papers on his desk. He looked up at Markham, clearing his throat.

"It's more ironic than that, Parke. Those papers I gave Johnny to carry were phonies. They were a lure, a decoy, necessary in getting the real papers through to us. The real papers will go through within the next two days, and you're going to be assigned to carry them."

Parke Markham's face was astonished.

"Phonies? Why, wha—"

Winters broke in.

"The Martian powers, as we all know, are anxious to get hold of those papers. Well they got Johnny's decoy ship, and a phony set of papers. Now the way is clear to bring the real ones through. I was hoping Johnny could make the run unmolested. He had a better than even chance of getting through. I didn't want to assign the task to him, but he insisted. Now you can carry on, Parke, and get through with the real papers."

Parke Markham whistled softly.

"My God," he broke out. "Poor Johnny got broken for all that. The poor kid, the poor damned kid!" He buried his head in his hands once more, shuddering.

"You'll leave for Planet Seven tonight, Parke. You'll pick up the real papers from our agent in the Consular office there. You'll bring them away casually, inconspicuously, as a passenger on the Space Liner Majestic. To further avert suspicion, Kay and I will also be aboard the liner."

"Poor Johnny," Parke Markham said softly, bitterly. And once more Winters' strong old hand found Markham's shoulder. "It's all part of this dizzy game of interplanetary intrigue, Parke. Remember that. We can't do much about it. We do as we're told," the old man said. Parke Markham nodded wearily...


JOHNNY DEMING had been sitting over an untasted glass of Venusian wine for better than an hour. The noise in the space-front dive seemed somehow to deaden the pain in the back of his head. Everything was still quite confused, vague. He had given up straining to bring the things around him into focus. It just made the pain worse. There didn't seem to be any use to it.

He was a bit surprised when the two men drew chairs up to his table; and slightly bewildered when they spoke to him.

"You're Deming, Johnny Deming, aren't you?" one of the men asked. He was thin, with a ratish face, and of medium stature. His features indicated there might be a strain of Martian blood in him somewhere.

Deming nodded, dully. He knew that much.

"Got a raw deal from the Trial Board today, I understand," the second fellow said. There was a guttural accentuation to his words, and he was short and fat, with a blue stubble of beard covering his jowls.

Deming stared wordlessly at them. He couldn't think of anything to say.

"We'd like you to throw in with us, Deming. We could use an experienced space pilot," the thin man said abruptly. "There'll be money in it for you, until you can find something else."

Space pilot. Space pilot. Deming realized dully that he was a space pilot. Dully, too, he realized that he'd need money. People needed money. He nodded.

"All right. All right. Who are you? I don't know you."

The two men looked at one another, exchanging winks.

"My name is Barnes," the short, fat fellow said. "My friend, here, is Terell." The thin chap nodded acknowledgment.

"I'll need money," Deming said half to himself. And the two men laughed as though at something very funny.

"We start tonight. Got a job right off the start, Deming. Let's get out of here," Barnes, the short fat one said rising. Terell had risen, too, and Deming found himself on his feet, moving to the door with these men...


TWO black tuniced men sat in the tiny observation shack which was the only building on the uncharted little asteroid lying somewhere in space between Planet Seven and Earth. Outside could be heard the muffled roar of rockets cutting down to landing speed.

"They're here on time," said the first fellow.

"With Deming," the second nodded. "I still can't see why in the hell they want that guy around for the job."

"It's orders from the Chief," the first replied. "That Deming is gonna be the goat on this job. A perfect frame-up." He laughed unpleasantly. "When we stop the Majestic and board 'er, this guy Deming will be with us. He'll be left there when we leave. We'll have the papers and Deming will take the rap. He won't know what in the hell it's all about."

"Can't remember a thing, eh?" the second said wonderingly.

"Not a thing, memory shot to hell. Doesn't even know the time of day. A perfect frame."

The door of the little shack burst inward, and Johnny Deming, framed on either side by Barnes and Terell, entered. His eyes were puzzled, and he looked bewilderedly around, finally noticing the two men in black tunics.

"Two more of the boys, Johnny," said Barnes, his fat face creasing in a mocking smirk. "They're part of our outfit."

The two black tuniced chaps stood up.

"We'll go out and get the ship ready, Barnes," the first one said. "It won't be long before the Majestic will be due by."

The men in the black tunics stepped out, and Terell turned to Deming.

"We're going out to meet a space liner tonight, Deming. You'll come along with us. We'd better get your gear ready, for you're gonna have to dress the part."

Deming nodded, and the action made his head ache terribly for an instant.

"I'll need money," he said parrot-like. Barnes and Terell laughed again. Terell stepped over to a chest, opened the lid, and began to dig around inside it. He brought forth a black metallic tunic, and a silver chromealloy holster, to which two atomic pistols were strapped.

"Some supplies," he remarked tersely. "Here!" He tossed the tunic and guns in Deming's direction. They fell at his feet, and he stared at them, face going pale.

"What the hell's wrong?" Barnes barked.

Deming's eyes widened, and sweat stood out on his brow. He was trembling now, shaking like a man with ague. With a horrible nostalgia, the smell of burning flesh came sweeping to his senses. The atomic pistols, shining in the light, seemed blazing into his brain. And Johnny Deming broke completely.

"No! No!" His voice was a maddened, terrified shriek. "Take them away! Take them away! Those guns, those damned guns!" He threw his hands wildly in front of his face, backing desperately away.

Barnes bent and picked up the tunic and the weapons. His face was agape with surprise. He threw the guns to Terell.

"Put 'em in the chest," he ordered. And as Terell did so, Deming's terror subsided, though he still trembled fearfully.

"Gun crazy," Barnes breathed in wonder.

"This guy goes goofy at the sight of them guns!"

"Maybe it makes him kinda remember things," Terell said. "In a fuzzy way."

"I don't know," Deming was repeating brokenly again and again. "I don't know. For God's sake keep those guns away. Keep them away!"

The mocking laughter of Barnes and Terell was suddenly loud in the little room, but Deming's eyes were still riveted fearfully on the chest where the guns had been thrown....


TWO hours later, Terell came back into the little observation shack where Deming and Barnes were waiting. His face was puzzled, and he spoke to Barnes.

"Plans have been changed," he announced.

"Changed?" Barnes was equally surprised.

"Yeah, I got the Chief on the voidaphone in our space ship. There are three sets of papers aboard the Majestic. Not only does Markham have a set, but Captain Winters and his daughter are both carrying sets. We can't tell which are the real articles. We'll have to heist them all."

Deming looked up at the mention of "papers." He tried to pierce the fog of pain, but unsuccessfully. Then he shrugged, looking down at the floor once more.

"We won't be able to take goofy along either, under this setup," Terell went on, pointing to Johnny. "I explained his quirk to the Chief. There'll be some gun play when we stop the Majestic, and we can't afford to run the risk of Deming going hog wild and botching the job. The Chief says to leave him here. We'll board the ship and take off the people carrying the papers. That'll leave Deming here to meet 'em when we bring them here. We can work the same tie-up we planned for him, then."

Barnes nodded.

"That ought to take care of it. When we set to go?"

"Pronto," Terell replied. "Sykes and Grant are outside warming up both ships."

Deming realized vaguely that Sykes and Grant were the two black tuniced fellows he had first seen in the shack.

"Sykes and Grant will get out of the picture, once we stop the Majestic and bring the people with the papers here," Terell went on. "You and me and the Chief will take over after that. When we get what we want we'll see that the job is pinned on—" he broke off, pointing to Deming.

"So we leave Deming here until we come back, eh?" Barnes asked.

Johnny had been trying to follow their words. But none of it made sense, so he sat there motionless, head in his hands.

"Yeah," said Terell, grinning maliciously. "We leave Deming here." He walked over to the chest, rummaging deep in it, and again brought out a black tunic.

"Put this on," he ordered. Obediently Deming donned the tunic.

Then Terell pulled forth two atomic pistols. While Deming's face suddenly went ashen in fear, Terell threw the guns on the floor, in front of Deming.

"Watch those for us, Deming," Terell said mockingly.

Barnes laughed, then, and the two of them moved out of the shack, leaving Deming staring horrified at the guns on the floor before him. His face twitched spasmodically, and his hands worked jerkily, tensely, as he fought back the stark, raving fear that was closing in on him. Again the odor of seared flesh was strong in his nostrils. And in the back of his brain he could hear over and over again the muffled scream of a falling comrade.


JOHNNY DEMING had no idea of the length of time he had been standing there in the shack, back pressed against the wall. His eyes were dull, lifeless, and held in horrible fascination on the two gleaming guns that lay at his feet. The frenzy in his mind at the first sight of the guns, when Terell had thrown them at his feet and left, had long since passed into a gray, ghastly blanket of utter terror. He stood there frozen, hypnotized, by fear.

He didn't hear the roar of rocket motors outside the shack. He didn't even look up when, minutes later, the door to the shack was kicked open.

Captain Winters and his daughter Kay, were shoved into the room. Both the Captain and Kay were securely bound.

Still Johnny Deming didn't look up. It was as though there had been no impression, no interruption, made on the pattern of hypnosis that held him helpless. He didn't hear the roar of one rocket ship departing, seconds after that.

Kay Winters was the first to speak, her voice incredulous, agonized. She said one word.

"Johnny!"

"My God!" The words tumbled from Captain Winters' lips. There was a disbelief, then a swift loathing, in his eyes. "You're at the bottom of this, Deming!"

Red-headed Kay Winters, too, was staring at him with shocked, unbelieving agony.

"Johnny!" she said again. Her voice was a shrill sob.

Something in the tone of Kay Winters' voice caused Johnny Deming to raise his head slowly, dazedly, like a sleepwalker. His eyes, as they looked bewilderedly at the girl and her father, had the same flat dullness to them.

"Damn you, Deming!" Captain Winters exploded. "I can see it now. You were in on this from the very beginning. You engineered the hijacking of your own ship, faked your amnesia. Then when you found the papers weren't what the Martian government had paid you to get, you arranged for the second crack at stealing them!" His words were tumbling hotly, one over the other.

"Obviously, you found out about the second plan to bring the papers through, and found out, too, that three sets were being carried. You didn't stop at anything in planning to halt the Majestic, and shanghaiing the girl you were to marry, your former Captain, and your best friend, in order to insure getting all three sets of those plans!"

But Johnny Deming's expression hadn't changed during this outburst. His face, ghastly, white, strained, seemed drained of all emotion save the strange hypnosis he was under.

"Damn you, Deming!" Winters' voice rose. "What are you going to do with us, now that your thugs have us here? And what have you done with Parke Markham?"

The door was opened again, and Deming's expressionless eyes flicked dully to it.

Three men in black tunics, faces masked completely, stood framed in the archway. One was short, fat. The second was of medium stature, and thin. The third was big, and tall. All three carried atomic pistols in their hands.


THERE was a strange tingling at the nape of Deming's neck, and for an instant the pain in his head was almost unbearable. Then something snapped, and in a blazing, surging instant, Deming knew, Deming remembered!

The scene was exactly the same as it had been when the raiders had entered his ship!

Johnny Deming knew only one thing now. These were the men who had killed Des Talcott and brutally slain his other two comrades. These men in the door. Johnny didn't know how he had gotten here, or what Kay Winters and Captain Winters were doing in this strange shack. He only knew that it seemed like but a second since he had last seen the black tuniced raiders as their pistols spit death around him.

Deming's eyes had caught the gleaming atomic pistols at his feet. Now he dove for them, came up on his knees, a gun in each hand blazing hell and death at the figures in the doorway!

The men in the black tunics had been taken by surprise. Too late the black figures squeezed the triggers of their atomic pistols. For Deming's shots were deadly, final. And the orange bursts of flame from his guns sent all three pitching to the floor, clawing at the awful pain of their burning bodies.

Deming stood there, swaying slightly, the guns hanging limply from his hands. His eyes were bewildered, but there was life in them now. Life and intelligence.

"They were the ones, in the black cruiser. They killed Des, a little while ago. They killed the others, too. They..." his words faltered, and he moved over to the bodies, bending over the tallest of the three. He jerked the mask from the rigid features.

"Parke Markham!" came in astonishment from Captain Winters.

But Deming was already tearing the masks from the other two. He looked at the faces of Barnes and Terell frozen in death. He frowned, for he couldn't recall ever having seen them before.

"I killed Parke. Parke... my best friend. Why did he try to stop my ship... black cruiser was his... I had the cannons trained, I—" and he fell face forward in exhaustion, consciousness mercifully leaving him...


CAPTAIN WINTERS was beside Johnny's bed in the Earth Hospital Base. His gray head was bent slightly, and his voice was lowered as he spoke.

"That's what happened, Johnny. Parke was in the pay of the Martian government. He tried to get the papers from you the first time, and thought he'd succeeded. But then I unwittingly tipped him off that those were the wrong papers. When we were aboard the Majestic, leaving Planet Seven for Earth, I made the additional mistake of telling him that Kay and I were also carrying papers, and that only one of the three sets was the right one. He must have gotten in touch with his henchmen on the asteroid they brought us to."

"But," Deming's voice was perplexed as he broke in, "you say that no one believed I had amnesia?"

"No," Winters answered. "Parke was your medical examiner. He knew you had amnesia, and turned in a false report saying you didn't have. Then, knowing you were in that condition, he hit on the additional scheme to frame you to take the rap for his crime."

"Why?" Deming's voice was low.

"He could shift any possible suspicion from himself, that way. And, too," Winters voice was soft, "Parke loved Kay, Johnny. He knew that Kay would always stick by you, unless you were permanently eliminated."

The two were silent for a moment. Then Winters said:

"Parke figured that he could always say he was held a separate captive from us, when all three of us were taken forcibly from the liner Majestic. We never would have doubted him, had things worked out as planned."

"The doctors tell me that I might never have regained my memory, if the sight of the three black figures in the doorway hadn't hit me in precisely the same manner that I saw them before," Deming said slowly. "That was the last thing I remembered when I lost my memory at the start—those figures. I never thought that one of them was Parke!"

A nurse put her head into the room.

"Another visitor to see you, Space Patrol Lieutenant Deming!" And Deming turned his blond head on the pillow to see Kay Winters entering the room.

Captain Winters rose hurriedly. "I'll be back again, Johnny. I've some things to attend to," He hurried out.

Deming watched Captain Winters leave. Then he grinned, holding out his arms to Kay. Her red head was on his shoulder, and the scent of her perfume was something concocted by the gods.

"Your father," Deming told Kay, "is a smart man. And very discreet. Very discreet." Then he bent his head and stopped her answer to that remark....


THE END


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