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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1929

Chapter I

Chapter I.

Kruschen Kant, Private Investigator, ran his eyes over the final page of the Directory, then cupped a haggard face in his hands.

"Names and names and names." he murmured bitterly, "and any one of them might be his."

A knock sounded at the door. The great detective's features immediately assumed their wonted expression of inscrutability.

"Come in," he called out, in dynamic tones that gave no indication of his intense mental strain.

The door opened. The detective leaped to his feet in horror. Through the open doorway, twenty-six corpses tumbled forward into the room and lay in distorted postures upon the carpet.

In the twinkling of an eye. Kant had leaped to the doorway and was sweeping the corridor with his hawk-like gaze. Several people were lounging about, but they took not the slightest notice of him. With a baffled look upon his fine-chiselled features, the great detective closed the door of his consulting-room and stared down at the corpses. He uttered a cry of amazement.

All of them were dead!

He seized a mirror that lay on his desk and held it before his lips. A slight film clouded the glass.

"I appear to be still alive." he muttered.

"Well?" inquired a gentle voice behind him.

He whirled about—and stared into the menacing muzzle of an automatic. There was a man in the room! A thin man with green eyes!

"The Mucker!" came hoarsely from the lips of the detective.

"Well?" inquired the intruder, with sardonic amusement.

Kruschen Kant steadied himself.

"What do you want?" he asked, striving to keep a tremor from his voice.

The eyes of the intruder glittered.

"Your life!" he said, simply.

This was like The Mucker, flashed through the mind of Kruschen Kant. Yet, why not? Who had hunted The Mucker more than he? Whom had The Mucker—that mysterious creature who had messed up the cities of nine continents with his brutal murders—more reason to hate and to fear than he? The Mucker!—whose good name was slowly but surely disappearing before the discoveries of Kruschen Kant—surely The Mucker must desire his life. Kant laughed.

As the automatic spat forth its bullets, Kant moved aside and let them go past. He felt the last bullet graze his collar stud. The Mucker cursed and crunched the weapon into fragments as the detective leaped for him.

There was a startling interruption. Kant, pausing in mid-air, saw from the corner of his eye the door swing open and twenty-six more corpses page 22 fall into the room. Amazement turned him to stone Fifty-two murders—if they were murders—all in one day! What a bag! Professional admiration shone in his eyes. Lowering himself to the floor, Kant turned to The Mucker.

The Mucker had disappeared!

The detective dashed to the window and drove his fist through the glass. A man in the uniform of a Deputy Divisional Detective Superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard stood in the street looking up at him. No one else was in sight.

"Bah! the Police!" snarled Kant. He carefully replaced the broken glass and turned from the window. His eyes sought the corpses. His jaw dropped.

The corpses had disappeared!

His brain working with appalling clarity, Kant rapidly recalled, combined, and permuted all the thoughts that he possessed. In vain. His skull bulged under the strain of his efforts, but no solution of the soul-tormenting problem presented itself. He feverishly snatched at his telephone.

"Scotland Yard." he barked. He listened until the sound of a tired feeling came through the earpiece.

"Well?" drawled a voice.

"Is that the Deputy Divisional Detective Superintendent of the C.I D.?" he snapped.

The reply froze him.

"This," said the voice at the other end, "is The Mucker."

Kant dropped the receiver as if shot. His eyes, fixed on the mouthpiece of the instrument, dilated with terror.

From the mouthpiece of the telephone, blood was dripping—drip, drip, dripping. As if in a trance, he counted the drips. There were twenty-six of them!

"God!" he breathed. "The corpses!"

A band seemed to tighten round his heart. Half automatically he turned. Slowly, very slowly, the door was opening.

The air was suddenly rent by a fearful explosion.