"Yes, I think that's it," he whispered, with his face a little paler than usual.
And a little later the words changed in his brain to: "I know that's it. A fiend's genius.... This is the most dangerous thing Doctor Satan has yet mastered!"
He was talking on the phone to the jeweler to whom Weems' watch had been sent.
"What did you do to that watch?" the jeweler was saying irritably.
"Why?" parried Keane.
"There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it. And yet it simply won't go. And I can't make it go."
"There's nothing wrong with it at all?"
"As far as I can find out — no."
Keane hung up. He had been studying for the dozenth time the demand note Doctor Satan had written the officials:
"Gentlemen of the Blue Bay Development: This is to request that you pay me the sum of one million, eight hundred and two thousand, five hundred and forty dollars and forty-eight cents at a time and place to be specified later. As a sample of what will happen if you disregard this note, I shall strike at one of your guests, Mathew Weems, within a few minutes after you read this. I guarantee that disaster and horror shall be the chief, though uninvited, guests at your opening unless you comply with my request. Mathew Weems shall be only the first if you do not signify by one a. m. whether or not you will meet my demand. Doctor Satan."
Keane gave the note back to Blue Bay's police chief, who fumbled uncertainly with it for a moment and then stuck it in his pocket. Normally a competent man, he was completely out of his depth here.
One man with a heart that seemed to have been exploded internally; ten people who were dead, yet lived, and who stood or sat like frozen statues....
He looked pleadingly at Ascott Keane, whom he had never heard of but who wore authority and competence like a mantle. But Keane said nothing to him.
"An odd extortion amount," he said to Gest. "One million, eight hundred and two thousand, five hundred and forty dollars and forty-eight cents! Why not an even figure?"
He was talking more to himself than to the president of Blue Bay. But Gest answered readily.
"That happens to be the precise sum of the cash reserve of Blue Bay Development."
Keane glanced at him sharply. "Is your financial statement made public?"
Gest shook his head. "It's strictly confidential. Only the bank, and ourselves, know that cash reserve figure. I can't imagine how this crook who signs himself Doctor Satan found it out."
4. The Shell
The house was serene and beautiful on the bay shore. The sun beat back from its white walls, and glanced in at the windows of the rear terrace. It shone on a grotesque figure there; a man with the torso of a giant, but with no legs—a figure that hitched itself along on the backs of calloused hands, using muscular arms as a means of locomotion.
But this figure was not as bizarre as the one to be found within the house, behind shades drawn to keep out any prying eyes.
Here, in a dim room identifiable as a library, a tall man stood beside a flat-topped desk. But all that could be told of the figure was that it was male. For it was cloaked from heels to head in a red mantle. The hands were covered by red rubber gloves. The face was concealed by a red mask, and over the head was drawn a red skull-cap with two small projections in mocking imitation of Lucifer's horns.