Doc Savage and his fearless friends find a black arrowhead that leads a trail to the treacherous Spad Ames in the Arizona Badlands. There they encounter the mysterious men who live through the mists — men who can turn flesh into stone.
144 pages, with a reading time of ~2.25 hours (36,235 words), and first published in 1939. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Spad Ames was a man who was an authority on certain subjects, and concerning the matters on which he was posted, he knew just about everything that was to be known, which was undoubtedly fortunate, because otherwise they would have hanged Mr. Spad Ames a long time ago.
His specialty was avoiding the law.
His specialty certainly was not stone men. Not only was he not posted on stone men; he would not have believed such stuff. Spad was a realist.
He would have looked at you with those cold lobster eyes of his and said, doubtless:
“Stone men–ah, get t’hell away from me! That’s crazy talk.”
The phenomena–the word phenomena was a mild description of it too—came to Spad Ames’ attention in a round-about way, and when he was not expecting anything like men of stone. As for the additional developments, which were hair-raising enough to make the stone-man business seem believable by comparison, Spad wasn’t expecting those, either.
In keeping with his habit of knowing much about certain subjects, Spad Ames had calculated that the United States Border Patrol plane for that part of the Arizona-Mexico border would be safely grounded in El Paso on Friday. This was not entirely guesswork on Spad Ames’ part; he had taken a precaution of pouring acid into the gasoline tank of the Border Patrol plane, so that engine valves and pistons would be eaten into a useless state.
But the Border Patrol dealt unkindly with Spad Ames, and double-crossed him by transferring another plane, a new and fast craft equipped with two machine guns, to that portion of the Mexican Border Patrol.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon when this new type Patrol craft sighted Spad Ames’ plane.
“The dirty blankety-blank sons of black-eyed toads,” was the mildest thing that Spad Ames said during the next few minutes.
Waldo Berlitz was less voluble, not being a fellow who talked a great deal. Waldo was a thick man and a wide one, and extraordinarily handsome, except that one of his ears was missing. A Mexican gentleman had removed the ear with a sharp knife a year or two ago, during the natural trend of a discussion about the Mexican’s missus. A man less of a gentleman than the Mexican would have inserted the blade between Waldo’s third and fourth ribs.
Waldo Berlitz was the other half of the smuggling combination of Spad Ames and Waldo Berlitz.
“How fast will this thing fly?” was all Waldo had to say.
Not fast enough, it developed. The Border Patrol craft was a late job, and it began overhauling them.
“There is a cloud over west,” Waldo said, pointing. “We better get in it and unload.”
Spad Ames nodded grimly. He was scared.
Part of their cargo–two cases of narcotics–would not have been such a problem. The narcotics were in powder form, and they would have spilled the incriminating stuff overboard, thus ridding themselves of the evidence.
The refugee–the other part of their cargo–was a different proposition. They needed a cloud to get rid of him. The refugee was a poor fellow from Austria who hadn’t been able to obtain a visa to enter the United States, so he had paid Spad Ames a thousand dollars to be smuggled in. The refugee crouched in the cabin, pale and somewhat airsick.
The cloud was not large. White and fleecy, it hung all alone in the hot vastness of the Arizona sky. It was somewhat like a lost sheep.
Spad Ames dived his ship into the cloud.
“Work fast,” he yelled at Waldo.
Waldo said to the refugee: “Get down on the cabin floor.” As the refugee obeyed, Waldo struck him with a monkey wrench, hitting several times so that some of the contents of the upper part of the refugee’s head stuck to the wrench.
With great speed, Waldo then rolled the refugee’s body through a trapdoor in the floor of the plane. The trapdoor had been put there for the specific purpose of jettisoning cargo according to the old Number One rule of smuggling–first get rid of the evidence. Waldo also hurled the wrench overboard.
There was good reason for Waldo’s speed. They needed to get the job done while their plane and the pursuing ship were hidden in the cloud.
The cloud was even smaller than it had seemed, and with sickening unexpectedness, the two planes popped out of the other side.
The pursuing Border Patrol got an excellent view of the body falling from Spad Ames’ craft.
An officer even leaned from a window of the Border Patrol ship and took pictures of the scene with a miniature camera. The photograph would show the falling body, and the identification numbers of Spad Ames’ ship.
Spad Ames opened and shut his mouth. For suddenly he was sick with terror. Trapped, not for smuggling, but for murder!
Waldo came back and sat down and asked: “Do they use a gas chamber, the electric chair or the rope in Arizona? I’ve forgotten.”
If Waldo was trying to be funny, it was a raw time for a gag, Spad thought.