In an Inner Room They Found a Diabolical Machine by@astoundingstories

In an Inner Room They Found a Diabolical Machine

In an inner room they found a diabolical machine. TO the accompaniment of a crashing roar, not unlike rumbling thunder, the proud Colossus Building, which a few minutes before had reared its sixty stories of artistic architecture towards the blue dome of the sky, crashed in a rugged, dusty heap of stone, brick, cement and mortar. The steel framework, like the skeleton of some prehistoric monster, still reared to dizzy heights but in a bent and twisted shape of grotesque outline. The sixty stories of the perfectly constructed Colossus building had mysteriously crashed! What was the connection between this catastrophe and the weird strains of the Mad Musician's violin?
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Astounding Stories

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Astounding Stories of Super-Science, February 1930, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. VOL. I, No. 2 - Mad Music

Astounding Stories of Super-Science, February 1930: VOL. I, No. 2 - Mad Music

By Anthony Pelcher


In an inner room they found a diabolical machine.

TO the accompaniment of a crashing roar, not unlike rumbling thunder, the proud Colossus Building, which a few minutes before had reared its sixty stories of artistic architecture towards the blue dome of the sky, crashed in a rugged, dusty heap of stone, brick, cement and mortar. The steel framework, like the skeleton of some prehistoric monster, still reared to dizzy heights but in a bent and twisted shape of grotesque outline.

The sixty stories of the perfectly constructed Colossus building had mysteriously crashed! What was the connection between this catastrophe and the weird strains of the Mad Musician's violin?

No one knew how many lives were snuffed out in the avalanche.

As the collapse occurred in the early dawn it was not believed the death list would be large. It was admitted, however, that autos, cabs and surface cars may have been caught under the falling rock. One train was known to have been wrecked in the subway due to a cave-in from the surface under the ragged mountain of debris.

The litter fairly filled a part of Times Square, the most congested cross-roads on God's footstool. Straggling brick and rock had rolled across the street to the west and had crashed into windows and doors of innocent small tradesmen's shops.

A few minutes after the crash a mad crowd of people had piled from subway exits as far away as Penn Station and Columbus Circle and from cross streets. These milled about, gesticulating and shouting hysterically. All neighboring police stations were hard put to handle the growing mob.

Hundreds of dead and maimed were being carried to the surface from the wrecked train in the subway. Trucks and cabs joined the ambulance crews in the work of transporting these to morgues and hospitals. As the morning grew older and the news of the disaster spread, more milling thousands tried to crowd into the square. Many were craning necks hopelessly on the outskirts of the throng, blocks away, trying vainly to get a view of what lay beyond.

The fire department and finally several companies of militia joined the police in handling the crowd. Newsies, never asleep, yowled their "Wuxtras" and made much small money.

The newspapers devoted solid pages in attempting to describe what had happened. Nervously, efficient reporters had written and written, using all their best adjectives and inventing new ones in attempts to picture the crash and the hysterics which followed.

WHEN the excitement was at its height a middle-aged man, bleeding at the head, clothes torn and dusty, staggered into the West 47th street police station. He found a lone sergeant at the desk.

The police sergeant jumped to his feet as the bedraggled man entered and stumbled to a bench.

"I'm Pat Brennan, street floor watchman of the Colossus," he said. "I ran for it. I got caught in the edge of the wreck and a brick clipped me. I musta been out for some time. When I came around I looked back just once at the wreck and then I beat it over here. Phone my boss."

"I'll let you phone your boss," said the sergeant, "but first tell me just what happened."

"Earthquake, I guess. I saw the floor heaving in waves. Glass was crashing and falling into the street. All windows in the arcade buckled, either in or out. I ran into the street and looked up. God, what a sight! The building from sidewalk to towers was rocking and waving and twisting and buckling and I saw it was bound to crumple, so I lit out and ran. I heard a roar like all Hell broke loose and then something nicked me and my light went out."

"How many got caught in the building?"

"Nobody got out but me, I guess. There weren't many tenants. The building is all rented, but not everybody had moved in yet and those as had didn't spend their nights there. There was a watchman for every five stories. An engineer and his crew. Three elevator operators had come in. There was no names of tenants in or out on my book after 4 A.M. The crash musta come about 6. That's all."

THROUGHOUT the country the news of the crash was received with great interest and wonderment, but in one small circle it caused absolute consternation. That was in the offices of the Muller Construction Company, the builders of the Colossus. Jason V. Linane, chief engineer of the company, was in conference with its president, James J. Muller.

Muller sat with his head in his hands, and his face wore an expression of a man in absolute anguish. Linane was pacing the floor, a wild expression in his eyes, and at times he muttered and mumbled under his breath.

In the other offices the entire force from manager to office boys was hushed and awed, for they had seen the expressions on the faces of the heads of the concern when they stalked into the inner office that morning.

Muller finally looked up, rather hopelessly, at Linane.

"Unless we can prove that the crash was due to some circumstance over which we had no control, we are ruined," he said, and there actually were tears in his eyes.

"No doubt about that," agreed Linane, "but I can swear that the Colossus went up according to specifications and that every ounce and splinter of material was of the best. The workmanship was faultless. We have built scores of the biggest blocks in the world and of them all this Colossus was the most perfect. I had prided myself on it. Muller, it was perfection. I simply cannot account for it. I cannot. It should have stood up for thousands of years. The foundation was solid rock. It positively was not an earthquake. No other building in the section was even jarred. No other earthquake was ever localized to one half block of the earth's crust, and we can positively eliminate an earthquake or an explosion as the possible cause. I am sure we are not to blame, but we will have to find the exact cause."

"If there was some flaw?" questioned Muller, although he knew the answer.

"If there was some flaw, then we're sunk. The newspapers are already clamoring for probes, of us, of the building, of the owners and everybody and everything. We have got to have something damned plausible when we go to bat on this proposition or every dollar we have in the world will have to be paid out."

"That is not all," said Muller: "not only will we be penniless, but we may have to go to jail and we will never be able to show our faces in reputable business circles again. Who was the last to go over that building?"

"I sent Teddy Jenks. He is a cub and is swell headed and too big for his pants, but I would bank my life on his judgment. He has the judgment of a much older man and I would also bank my life and reputation on his engineering skill and knowledge. He pronounced the building positively O.K.—100 per cent."

"Where is Jenks?"

"He will be here as soon as his car can drive down from Tarrytown. He should be here now."

AS they talked Jenks, the youngest member of the engineering force, entered. He entered like a whirlwind. He threw his hat on the floor and drew out a drawer of a cabinet. He pulled out the plans for the Colossus, big blue prints, some of them yards in extent, and threw them on the floor. Then he dropped to his knees and began poring over them.

"This is a hell of a time for you to begin getting around," exploded Muller. "What were you doing, cabareting all night?"

"It sure is terrible—awful," said Jenks, half to himself.

"Answer me," thundered Muller.

"Oh yes," said Jenks, looking up. He saw the look of anguish on his boss's face and forgot his own excitement in sympathy. He jumped to his feet, placed his arm about the shoulders of the older man and led him to a chair. Linane only scowled at the young man.

"I was delayed because I stopped by to see the wreck. My God, Mr. Muller, it is awful." Jenks drew his hand across his eye as if to erase the scene of the wrecked building. Then patting the older man affectionately on the back he said:

"Buck up. I'm on the job, as usual. I'll find out about it. It could not have been our fault. Why man, that building was as strong as Gibraltar itself!"

"You were the last to inspect it," accused Muller, with a break in his voice.

"Nobody knows that better than I, and I can swear by all that's square and honest that it was no fault of the material or the construction. It must have been—"

"Must have been what?"

"I'll be damned if I know."

"That's like him," said Linane, who, while really kindly intentioned, had always rather enjoyed prodding the young engineer.

"Like me, like the devil," shouted Jenks, glaring at Linane. "I suppose you know all about it, you're so blamed wise."

"No, I don't know," admitted Linane. "But I do know that you don't like me to tell you anything. Nevertheless, I am going to tell you that you had better get busy and find out what caused it, or—"

"That's just what I'm doing," said Jenks, and he dived for his plans on the floor.

Newspaper reporters, many of them, were fighting outside to get in. Muller looked at Linane when a stenographer had announced the reporters for the tenth time.

"We had better let them in," he said, "it looks bad to crawl for cover."

"What are you going to tell them?" asked Linane.

"God only knows," said Muller.

"Let me handle them," said Jenks, looking up confidently.

THE newspapermen had rushed the office. They came in like a wild wave. Questions flew like feathers at a cock-fight.

Muller held up his hand and there was something in his grief-stricken eyes that held the gentlemen of the press in silence. They had time to look around. They saw the handsome, dark-haired, brown-eyed Jenks poring over the plans. Dust from the carpet smudged his knees, and he had rubbed some of it over a sweating forehead, but he still looked the picture of self-confident efficiency.

"Gentlemen," said Muller slowly, "I can answer all your questions at once. Our firm is one of the oldest and staunchest in the trade. Our buildings stand as monuments to our integrity—"

"All but one," said a young Irishman.

"You are right. All but one," confessed Muller. "But that one, believe me, has been visited by an act of God. Some form of earthquake or some unlooked for, uncontrolled, almost unbelievable catastrophe has happened. The Muller company stands back of its work to its last dollar. Gentlemen, you know as much as we do. Mr. Jenks there, whose reputation as an engineer is quite sturdy, I assure you, was the last to inspect the building. He passed upon it when it was finished. He is at your service."

Jenks arose, brushed some dust from his knees.

"You look like you'd been praying," bandied the Irishman.

"Maybe I have. Now let me talk. Don't broadside me with questions. I know what you want to know. Let me talk."

The newspapermen were silent.

"There has been talk of probing this disaster, naturally," began Jenks. "You all know, gentlemen, that we will aid any inquiry to our utmost. You want to know what we have to say about it—who is responsible. In a reasonable time I will have a statement to make that will be startling in the extreme. I am not sure of my ground now."

"How about the ground under the Colossus?" said the Irishman.

"Don't let's kid each other," pleaded Jenks. "Look at Mr. Muller: it is as if he had lost his whole family. We are good people. I am doing all I can. Mr. Linane, who had charge of the construction, is doing all he can. We believe we are blameless. If it is proven otherwise we will acknowledge our fault, assume financial responsibility, and take our medicine. Believe me, that building was perfection plus, like all our buildings. That covers the entire situation."

Hundreds of questions were parried and answered by the three engineers, and the reporters left convinced that if the Muller Construction Company was responsible, it was not through any fault of its own.

THE fact that Jenks and Linane were not strong for each other, except to recognize each other's ability as engineers, was due to an incident of the past. This incident had caused a ripple of mirth in engineering circles when it happened, and the laugh was on the older man, Linane.

It was when radio was new. Linane, a structural engineer, had paid little attention to radio. Jenks was the kind of an engineer who dabbled in all sciences. He knew his radio.

When Jenks first came to work with a technical sheepskin and a few tons of brass, Linane accorded him only passing notice. Jenks craved the plaudits of the older man and his palship. Linane treated him as a son, but did not warm to his social advances.

"I'm as good an engineer as he is," mused Jenks, "and if he is going to high-hat me, I'll just put a swift one over on him and compel his notice."

The next day Jenks approached Linane in conference and said:

"I've got a curious bet on, Mr. Linane. I am betting sound can travel a mile quicker than it travels a quarter of a mile."

"What?" said Linane.

"I'm betting fifty that sound can travel a mile quicker than it can travel a quarter of a mile."

"Oh no—it can't," insisted Linane.

"Oh yes—it can!" decided Jenks.

"I'll take some of that fool money myself," said Linane.

"How much?" asked Jenks.

"As much as you want."

"All right—five hundred dollars."

"How you going to prove your contention?"

"By stop watches, and your men can hold the watches. We'll bet that a pistol shot can be heard two miles away quicker than it can be heard a quarter of a mile away."

"Sound travels about a fifth of a mile a second. The rate varies slightly according to temperature," explained Linane. "At the freezing point the rate is 1,090 feet per second and increases a little over one foot for every degree Fahrenheit."

"Hot or cold," breezed Jenks, "I am betting you five hundred dollars that sound can travel two miles quicker than a quarter-mile."

"You're on, you damned idiot!" shouted the completely exasperated Linane.

JENKS let Linane's friends hold the watches and his friend held the money. Jenks was to fire the shot.

Jenks fired the shot in front of a microphone on a football field. One of Linane's friends picked the sound up instantaneously on a three-tube radio set two miles away. The other watch holder was standing in the open a quarter of a mile away and his watch showed a second and a fraction.

All hands agreed that Jenks had won the bet fairly. Linane never exactly liked Jenks after that.

Then Jenks rather aggravated matters by a habit. Whenever Linane would make a very positive statement Jenks would look owl-eyed and say: "Mr. Linane, I'll have to sound you out about that." The heavy accent on the word "sound" nettled Linane somewhat.

Linane never completely forgave Jenks for putting over this "fast one." Socially they were always more or less at loggerheads, but neither let this feeling interfere with their work. They worked together faithfully enough and each recognized the ability of the other.

And so it was that Linane and Jenks, their heads together, worked all night in an attempt to find some cause that would tie responsibility for the disaster on mother nature.

They failed to find it and, sleepy-eyed, they were forced to admit failure, so far.

The newspapers, to whom Muller had said that he would not shirk any responsibility, began a hue and cry for the arrest of all parties in any way concerned with the direction of the building of the Colossus.

When the death list from the crash and subway wreck reached 97, the press waxed nasty and demanded the arrest of Muller, Linane and Jenks in no uncertain tones.

Half dead from lack of sleep, the three men were taken by the police to the district attorney's offices and, after a strenuous grilling, were formally placed under arrest on charges of criminal negligence. They put up a $50,000 bond in each case and were permitted to go and seek further to find the cause of what the newspapers now began calling the "Colossal Failure."

Several days were spent by Linane and Jenks in examining the wreckage which was being removed from Times Square, truckload after truckload, to a point outside the city. Here it was again sorted and examined and piled for future disposal.

So far as could be found every brick, stone and ounce of material used in the building was perfect. Attorneys, however, assured Linane, Jenks and Muller that they would have to find the real cause of the disaster if they were to escape possible long prison sentences.

Night after night Jenks courted sleep, but it would not come. He began to grow wan and haggard.

JENKS took to walking the streets at night, mile after mile, thinking, always thinking, and searching his mind for a solution of the mystery.

It was evening. He had walked past the scene of the Colossus crash several times. He found himself on a side street. He looked up and saw in electric lights:


Munsterbergen, the Mad Musician
Concert Here To-night.

He took five dollars from his pocket and bought a ticket. He entered with the crowd and was ushered to a seat. He looked neither to the right or left. His eyes were sunken, his face lined with worry.

Something within Jenks caused him to turn slightly. He was curiously aware of a beautiful girl who sat beside him. She had a mass of golden hair which seemed to defy control. It was wild, positively tempestuous. Her eyes were deep blue and her skin as white as fleecy clouds in spring. He was dimly conscious that those glorious eyes were troubled.

She glanced at him. She was aware that he was suffering. A great surge of sympathy welled in her heart. She could not explain the feeling.

A great red plush curtain parted in the center and drew in graceful folds to the edges of the proscenium. A small stage was revealed.

A tousle-headed man with glaring, beady black eyes, dressed in black evening clothes stepped forward and bowed. Under his arm was a violin. He brought the violin forward. His nose, like the beak of some great bird, bobbed up and down in acknowledgment of the plaudits which greeted him. His long nervous fingers began to caress the instrument and his lips began to move.

Jenks was aware that he was saying something, but was not at all interested. What he said was this:

"Maybe, yes, I couldn't talk so good English, but you could understood it, yes? Und now I tell you dot I never play the compositions of any man. I axtemporize exgloosively. I chust blay und blay, und maybe you should listen, yes? If I bleeze you I am chust happy."

Jenks' attention was drawn to him. He noted his wild appearance.

"He sure looks mad enough," mused Jenks.

THE violinist flipped the fiddle up under his chin. He drew the bow over the strings and began a gentle melody that reminded one of rain drops falling on calm waters.

Jenks forgot his troubles. He forgot everything. He slumped in his seat and his eyes closed. The rain continued falling from the strings of the violin.

Suddenly the melody changed to a glad little lilting measure, as sweet as love itself. The sun was coming out again and the birds began to sing. There was the trill of a canary with the sun on its cage. There was the song of the thrush, the mocking-bird and the meadow lark. These blended finally into a melodious burst of chirping melody which seemed a chorus of the wild birds of the forest and glen. Then the lilting love measure again. It tore at the heart strings, and brought tears to one's eyes.

Unconsciously the girl next to Jenks leaned towards him. Involuntarily he leaned to meet her. Their shoulders touched. The cloud of her golden hair came to rest against his dark locks. Their hands found each other with gentle pressure. Both were lost to the world.

Abruptly the music changed. There was a succession of broken treble notes that sounded like the crackling of flames. Moans deep and melancholy followed. These grew more strident and prolonged, giving place to abject howls, suggesting the lamentations of the damned.

The hands of the boy and girl gripped tensely. They could not help shuddering.

The violin began to produce notes of a leering, jeering character, growing more horrible with each measure until they burst in a loud guffaw of maniacal laughter.

The whole performance was as if someone had taken a heaven and plunged it into a hell.

The musician bowed jerkily, and was gone.

THERE was no applause, only wild exclamations. Half the house was on its feet. The other half sat as if glued to chairs.

The boy and the girl were standing, their hands still gripping tensely.

"Come, let's get out of here," said Jenks. The girl took her wrap and Jenks helped her into it. Hand in hand they fled the place.

In the lobby their eyes met, and for the first time they realized they were strangers. Yet deep in their hearts was a feeling that their fates had been sealed.

"My goodness!" burst from the girl.

"It can't be helped now," said Jenks decisively.

"What can't be helped?" asked the girl, although she knew in her heart.

"Nothing can be helped," said Jenks. Then he added: "We should know each other by this time. We have been holding hands for an hour."

The girl's eyes flared. "You have no right to presume on that situation," she said.

Jenks could have kicked himself. "Forgive me," he said. "It was only that I just wanted so to know you. Won't you let me see you home?"

"You may," said the girl simply, and she led the way to her own car.

They drove north.

Their bodies seemed like magnets. They were again shoulder to shoulder, holding hands.

"Will you tell me your name?" pleaded Jenks.

"Surely," replied the girl. "I am Elaine Linane."

"What?" exploded Jenks. "Why, I work with a Linane, an engineer with the Muller Construction Company."

"He is my father," she said.

"Why, we are great friends," said the boy. "I am Jenks, his assistant—at least we work together."

"Yes, I have heard of you," said the girl. "It is strange, the way we met. My father admires your work, but I am afraid you are not great friends." The girl had forgotten her troubles. She chuckled. She had heard the way Jenks had "sounded" her father out.

Jenks was speechless. The girl continued:

"I don't know whether to like you or to hate you. My father is an old dear. You were cruel to him."

Jenks was abject. "I did not mean to be," he said. "He rather belittled me without realizing it. I had to make my stand. The difference in our years made him take me rather too lightly. I had to compel his notice, if I was to advance."

"Oh!" said the girl.

"I am sorry—so sorry."

"You might not have been altogether at fault," said the girl. "Father forgets at times that I have grown up. I resent being treated like a child, but he is the soul of goodness and fatherly care."

"I know that," said Jenks.

EVERY engineer knows his mathematics. It was this fact, coupled with what the world calls a "lucky break," that solved the Colossus mystery. Nobody can get around the fact that two and two make four.

Jenks had happened on accomplishment to advance in the engineering profession, and it was well for him that he had reached a crisis. He had never believed in luck or in hunches, so it was good for him to be brought face to face with the fact that sometimes the footsteps of man are guided. It made him begin to look into the engineering of the universe, to think more deeply, and to acknowledge a Higher Power.

With Linane he had butted into a stone wall. They were coming to know what real trouble meant. The fact that they were innocent did not make the steel bars of a cage any more attractive. Their troubles began to wrap about them with the clammy intimacy of a shroud. Then came the lucky break.

Next to his troubles, Jenks' favorite topic was the Mad Musician. He tried to learn all he could about this uncanny character at whose concert he had met the girl of his life. He learned two facts that made him perk up and think.

One was that the Mad Musician had had offices and a studio in the Colossus and was one of the first to move in. The other was that the Mad Musician took great delight in shattering glassware with notes of or vibrations from a violin. Nearly everyone knows that a glass tumbler can be shattered by the proper note sounded on a violin. The Mad Musician took delight in this trick. Jenks courted his acquaintance, and saw him shatter a row of glasses of different sizes by sounding different notes on his fiddle. The glasses crashed one after another like gelatine balls hit by the bullets of an expert rifleman.

Then Jenks, the engineer who knew his mathematics, put two and two together. It made four, of course.

"Listen, Linane," he said to his co-worker: "this fiddler is crazier than a flock of cuckoos. If he can crack crockery with violin sound vibrations, is it not possible, by carrying the vibrations to a much higher power, that he could crack a pile of stone, steel, brick and cement, like the Colossus?"

"Possible, but hardly probable. Still," Linane mused, "when you think about it, and put two and two together.... Let's go after him and see what he is doing now."

Both jumped for their coats and hats. As they fared forth, Jenks cinched his argument:

"If a madman takes delight in breaking glassware with a vibratory wave or vibration, how much more of a thrill would he get by crashing a mountain?"

"Wild, but unanswerable," said Linane.

JENKS had been calling on the Mad Musician at his country place. "He had a studio in the Colossus," he reminded Linane. "He must have re-opened somewhere else in town. I wonder where."

"Musicians are great union men," said Linane. "Phone the union."

Teddy Jenks did, but the union gave the last known town address as the Colossus.

"He would remain in the same district around Times Square," reasoned Jenks. "Let's page out the big buildings and see if he is not preparing to crash another one."

"Fair enough," said Linane, who was too busy with the problem at hand to choose his words.

Together the engineers started a canvass of the big buildings in the theatrical district. After four or five had been searched without result they entered the 30-story Acme Theater building.

Here they learned that the Mad Musician had leased a four-room suite just a few days before. This suite was on the fifteenth floor, just half way up in the big structure.

They went to the manager of the building and frankly stated their suspicions. "We want to enter that suite when the tenant is not there," they explained, "and we want him forestalled from entering while we are examining the premises."

"Hadn't we better notify the police?" asked the building manager, who had broken out in a sweat when he heard the dire disaster which might be in store for the stately Acme building.

"Not yet," said Linane. "You see, we are not sure: we have just been putting two and two together."

"We'll get the building detective, anyway," insisted the manager.

"Let him come along, but do not let him know until we are sure. If we are right we will find a most unusual infernal machine," said Linane.

THE three men entered the suite with a pass-key. The detective was left outside in the hall to halt anyone who might disturb the searchers. It was as Jenks had thought. In an inner room they found a diabolical machine—a single string stretched across two bridges, one of brass and one of wood. A big horsehair bow attached to a shaft operated by a motor was automatically sawing across the string. The note resulting was evidently higher than the range of the human ear, because no audible sound resulted. It was later estimated that the destructive note was several octaves higher than the highest note on a piano.

The entire machine was enclosed in a heavy wire-net cage, securely bolted to the floor. Neither the string or bow could be reached. It was evidently the Mad Musician's idea that the devilish contrivance should not be reached by hands other than his own.

How long the infernal machine had been operating no one knew, but the visitors were startled when the building suddenly began to sway perceptibly. Jenks jumped forward to stop the machine but could not find a switch.

"See if the machine plugs in anywhere in a wall socket!" he shouted to Linane, who promptly began examining the walls. Jenks shouted to the building manager to phone the police to clear the streets around the big building.

"Tell the police that the Acme Theater building may crash at any moment," he instructed.

The engineers were perfectly cool in face of the great peril, but the building manager lost his head completely and began to run around in circles muttering: "Oh, my God, save me!" and other words of supplication that blended into an incoherent babel.

Jenks rushed to the man, trying to still his wild hysteria.

The building continued to sway dangerously.

JENKS looked from a window. An enormous crowd was collecting, watching the big building swinging a foot out of plumb like a giant pendulum. The crowd was growing. Should the building fall the loss of life would be appalling. It was mid-morning. The interior of the building teemed with thousands of workers, for all floors above the third were offices.

Teddy Jenks turned suddenly. He heard the watchman in the hall scream in terror. Then he heard a body fall. He rushed to the door to see the Mad Musician standing over the prostrate form of the detective, a devilish grin on his distorted countenance.

The madman turned, saw Jenks, and started to run. Jenks took after him. Up the staircase the madman rushed toward the roof. Teddy followed him two floors and then rushed out to take the elevators. The building in its mad swaying had made it impossible for the lifts to be operated. Teddy realized this with a distraught gulp in his throat. He returned to the stairway and took up the pursuit of the madman.

The corridors were beginning to fill with screaming men and wailing girls. It was a sight never to be forgotten.

Laboriously Jenks climbed story after story without getting sight of the madman. Finally he reached the roof. It was waving like swells on a lake before a breeze. He caught sight of the Mad Musician standing on the street wall, thirty stories from the street, a leer on his devilish visage. He jumped for him.

The madman grasped him and lifted him up to the top of the wall as a cat might have lifted a mouse. Both men were breathing heavily as a result of their 15-story climb.

The madman tried to throw Teddy Jenks to the street below. Teddy clung to him. The two battled desperately as the building swayed.

The dense crowd in the street had caught sight of the two men fighting on the narrow coping, and the shout which rent the air reached the ears of Jenks.

THE mind of the engineer was still working clearly, but a wild fear gripped his heart. His strength seemed to be leaving him. The madman pushed him back, bending his spine with brute strength. Teddy was forced to the narrow ledge that had given the two men footing. The fingers of the madman gripped his throat.

He was dimly conscious that the swaying of the building was slowing down. His reason told him that Linane had found the wall socket and had stopped the sawing of the devil's bow on the engine of hell.

He saw the madman draw a big knife. With his last remaining strength he reached out and grasped the wrist above the hand which held the weapon. In spite of all he could do he saw the madman inching the knife nearer and nearer his throat.

Grim death was peering into the bulging eyes of Teddy Jenks, when his engineering knowledge came to his rescue. He remembered the top stories of the Acme building were constructed with a step of ten feet in from the street line, for every story of construction above the 24th floor.

"If we fall," he reasoned, "we can only fall one story." Then he deliberately rolled his own body and the weight of the madman, who held him, over the edge of the coping. At the same time he twisted the madman's wrist so the point of the knife pointed to the madman's body.

There was a dim consciousness of a painful impact. Teddy had fallen underneath, but the force of the two bodies coming together had thrust the knife deep into the entrails of the Mad Musician.

Clouds which had been collecting in the sky began a splattering downpour. The storm grew in fury and lightning tore the heavens, while thunder boomed and crackled. The rain began falling in sheets.

THIS served to revive the unconscious Teddy. He painfully withdrew his body from under that of the madman. The falling rain, stained with the blood of the Mad Musician, trickled over the edge of the building.

Teddy dragged himself through a window and passed his hand over his forehead, which was aching miserably. He tried to get to his feet and fell back, only to try again. Several times he tried and then, his strength returning, he was able to walk.

He made his way to the studio where he had left Linane and found him there surrounded by police, reporters and others. The infernal machine had been rendered harmless, but was kept intact as evidence.

Catching sight of Teddy, Linane shouted with joy. "I stopped the damned thing," he chuckled, like a pleased schoolboy. Then, observing Teddy's exhausted condition he added:

"Why, you look like you have been to a funeral!"

"I have," said Teddy. "You'll find that crazy fiddler dead on the twenty-ninth story. Look out the window of the thirtieth story," he instructed the police, who had started to recover the body. "He stabbed himself. He is either dead or dying."

It proved that he was dead.

No engineering firm is responsible for the actions of a madman. So the Muller Construction Company was given a clean bill of health.

JENKS and Elaine Linane were with the girl's father in his study. They were asking for the paternal blessing.

Linane was pretending to be hard to convince.

"Now, my daughter," he said, "this young man takes $500 of my good money by sounding me out, as he calls it. Then he comes along and tries to take my daughter away from me. It is positively high-handed. It dates back to the football game—"

"Daddy, dear, don't be like that!" said Elaine, who was on the arm of his chair with her own arms around him.

"I tell you, Elaine, this dates back to the fall of 1927."

"It dates back to the fall of Eve," said Elaine. "When a girl finds her man, no power can keep him from her. If you won't give me to Teddy Jenks, I'll elope with him."

"Well, all right then. Kiss me," said Linane as he turned towards his radio set.

"One and one makes one," said Teddy Jenks.

Every engineer knows his mathematics.


About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain.

Various. 2009. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, February 1930. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from

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