The Phantom City by Lester Dent

The Phantom City

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subjects: Action & Adventure

This work is available for countries where copyright is Life+50 or less.

Description

Arabian thieves led by the diabolically clever Molallet set one fiendish trap after another for Doc Savage and his mighty five. Only “Doc”, with his superhuman mental and physical powers, could have withstood this incredible ordeal of endurance which led from the cavern of the crying rock through the pitiless desert of Rub’ Al Khali and its Phantom City to a fight to the death against the last of a savage prehistoric race of white-haired beasts.


203 pages, with a reading time of ~3.25 hours (50,975 words), and first published in 1933. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

New York is a city of many races. All nationalities are seen on her streets.

Hence, four brown-skinned men walking down Fifth Avenue attracted no unusual notice. They wore business suits, neat and new, but not gaudy. This helped them to escape attention.

They kept in a tight cluster. Their eyes prowled alertly. They were nervous. But strangers from far places, overawed by first sight of Manhattan’s cloud-puncturing skyscrapers and canyon streets, often act thus. Their subdued excitement failed to draw more than casually amused glances from pedestrians.

Slight smiles aimed at the quartet would have faded to glassy, loose-jawed stares, had their real character become known. The four were as vicious a bevy of throat-slitters as ever sauntered along one of New York’s cracks of brick and glass. Gotham’s machine-gunning gangsters were babes compared to these four nervous brown men.

They were on a mission–a mission which, had slightest hint of it reached the police, would have drawn a howling swarm of squad cars.

The slightly stiff-backed manner in which each man walked was due to a long, flat sword in a sheath strapped tightly against his spine. Thin, spike-snouted automatics were concealed expertly in their clothing.

Within the past hour, the tip of each blade and the lead nose of each bullet had been pressed ceremoniously into a piece of raw meat. The chunk of red meat was one into which a highly venomous serpent had been goaded to sink its fangs repeatedly, loading it with poison.

On other occasions, these men had proved that a scratch from weapons treated thus was sufficient to cause nearly instant death.

It was night. Clouds scraped spongy gray flanks against the sharp tops of the tall buildings. Flashing signs on Broadway splashed pale, colored luminance against the wadded vapor. A thin gum of moisture covered streets and sidewalks. It had rained at sundown, an hour before.

The four men turned into a side street, reached a darkened doorway, and stopped before it. The entry was shabby; its frame was scratched and grooved where heavy merchandise had been taken in and out. A large packing box, obviously empty, stood in the gloom.

Out of the big box came a voice.

Qawam, bilajal!” it growled. “Make haste! Conceal yourselves in this place! Our quarry may soon appear!”

The quartet started for the box, evidently with the idea of wedging themselves into it.

“Not here, sons of dumb camels!” gritted the man in the box. “The doorway will be shelter enough! It is best that I remain hidden here throughout, not appearing at any time. Do not, by your glances or actions, betray my presence. Anta sami? Do you hear?”

In guttural Arabic, the four muttered that they understood. They arranged themselves in the murk.

Reaching under their coat tails, they produced their long swords. The sheaths were tight enough to hold the weapons in place, and they could be drawn downward in handy fashion.

“Fools!” their chief hissed from the box. “Replace those! There is to be no killing until we have the information we desire!”

Back into the spine scabbards went the blades, each man being careful not to prick himself with the deadly tip of his weapon.

“He is coming soon?” one man asked in Arabic.

“At any minute,” replied the man, remaining unseen in the box. “Watch the street to the left, my sons.”

“How will we know him?”

“He is a big man. Wallah! He is the biggest man you ever saw! And his body is of a color and seeming hardness of a metal–bronze. A giant man of bronze!”

The four peered down the street, then drew back.

“It is a dark street and full of bad smells,” a man muttered. “You are sure he will come this way?”

“Directly across the street is a great steel door. See you it?”

Na’am, aiwah! Yes!”

“Beyond that door is a garage where this bronze man keeps many cars. In this street one is permitted to drive in only a single direction. Therefore, he will come from the left.”

The four men peered at the giant steel doors across the thoroughfare. For the first time, they noted the towering size of the building above it. The structure was of shiny metal and expertly fitted gray masonry. It shot upward nearly a hundred stories.

“The bronze man lives there?”

“On the eighty-sixth floor,” said the voice in the box.

Wallah! This fellow must have great wealth to live in a place like that!”

“He is a strange man, this bronze one! He is a being of mystery, one about whom many fantastic tales are told. His name is familiar to every one in the city. The newspapers carry feature stories about him. Yet he is almost a legend, for he does not show himself to the public, and does not seek publicity.”

“But he has that which we want?”

“He has. We have but to find where it is kept. That is your job.”

Squatting like four brown owls, the quartet kept unwinking eyes fixed to the left, down the somber street.