A sinister band of killers marks a young heiress for death. The assassins, led by a spectral voice known as the Mystery Mind, seek a treasure from the lost city of Atlantis. Kidnapped by the evildoers, Violet Bronson prays that her guardian, Doctor Sutton, and her fiancé, hypnotist Robert Dupont, will rescue her. Sutton and Dupont set out in search of the Temple of the Skull, but the solution to this paranormal mystery proves even more bizarre than these two men of science could have imagined.
A novelization of a popular film serial, The Mystery Mind is spooky, suspenseful, and irresistibly fun.
This ebook features a new introduction by Otto Penzler and has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.
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The Mystery Mind
By Arthur B. Reeve, John W. Grey
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 2015 MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
In her vexation Violet turned in bed, boring with a very blond head into the depths of her pillow. It was unreasonable; wholly unreasonable. Doctor Sutton, her guardian, had insisted that she postpone her wedding until after her eighteenth birthday. That was a difference of only a very few weeks, but it disarranged all her pet plans, it meant that she would have to wait just that much longer, and she loved Robert better than anything else in the world.
A sharp slam of the shutter startled her, scattering rebellious thoughts wide cast. There was no mistaking the metallic sound as the heavy, old-fashioned wooden frame engaged the catch holding it to the side of the house. Yet outside there was not the faintest breath of breeze. No stir of the foliage framing the open square of window reassured her. No movement of the sultry air accounted for the interruption to her very sulky reflections.
She turned again and lay still, fearful, gazing intently at the patch of moonlight patterned by the leaves. A reflected illumination revealed her slim, girlish outline beneath the covering. Her hair, damp as a result of restless tossing about, clung to her forehead in a natural curl. Her eyes were bright, glistening in the semidarkness as she waited. There was a delicate ethereal element in the molding of her features which betrayed a fine-strung sensitiveness, suggested the depth and strength of her imagination.
But the sudden slam had been no creation of fancy. The sharp click of the catch had been too familiar a sound to be mistaken. Alarming her was the fact that she had heard no creaking of the rusty hinges. There had been no natural wide swing of the shutter, accountable, perhaps, without a wind. Rather, it was as though some intruder, some living thing, had lurched against it momentarily in the stillness of the night.
No further sound or movement gave color to her fright. After a while she smiled faintly, remembering the many baseless fears of her childhood, recalling to mind the several occasions on which her terrified screams had alarmed the household, and all to no purpose. From infancy Violet Bronson had been fanciful, eerie, claiming at times to see strange, floating, filmy forms, to hear vague and elusive strains of music. Could this, after all, be some trick of her subconscious mind?
Could her sleeplessness have induced the return of childish illusion?
Resolutely she faced the wall. There the moonlight traced the designs of the wallpaper. In its sheen the tints of the conventional figures were transformed strangely. But there was something restful in the effect, perhaps a hypnotic something in the lunar rays. She felt a drowsiness stealing over her. Her eyes became heavy-lidded. She realized that sleep, at last, was coming. Suddenly, upon the wall before her eyes, there rose the shadow of a man. His face was in profile, and it was the outline of a face such as she had never seen upon any living creature. It was as though his features blended, blurred, faded into nothing. The top and back of the head was distinct, as shadowed by the moon. The nose, the mouth, and the jaw of the intruder were semitransparent. It was a phantom face, a countenance possessing neither substance nor reality.
Terrified, she sought to scream and found the muscles of her throat paralyzed. As quickly as the shadow had risen before her it dropped from view. It seemed to her that some one had clambered through the window, swiftly, silently. Once more she tried to find her voice, then, with mounting courage, she controlled herself. Listening, hearing no sound, she rose in bed. She glanced about the room with distended eyes, seeking to penetrate the darkness. Feverishly her hand groped for the switch of the reading lamp standing by her bed.
At that moment she heard a second sound. As in the case of the shutter, there was no mistaking it. It came from the farther corner of the room, near the door to the hall. It was the noise made by the quick closing of a book. Almost at the same instant her fingers caught the switch, fumbled for a moment, pressed the button which made the connection. The room was flooded with a shaded light more effective than a brighter illumination, since it did not dazzle her eyes. To her quick visual survey nothing was revealed. There was no one in the room, no place where any person could have hidden so quickly. Again she started to scream; again she checked herself.
She threw the covers back, slid to the floor in her bare feet, rushed to the hall door, glanced out not without trepidation. A night-light on the floor below illuminated the stairs. So far as she could see there was no one in the hall. No sound caught her ears; nor did she now sense the presence of an intruder.
She closed the door and locked it, laughing nervously at her fright. She stole to the window, looking out cautiously upon the spacious grounds of the Sutton estate. She studied the moonlit lawn, the trees and foliage here and there — nowhere affording shelter for the skulking figure of a man. Finally she returned to bed, switching off the light, consoling herself with the thought that Lawncrest, the suburb where they lived, was notably free from tramps and prowlers. She smiled ruefully as she remembered once more the many times, as a child, she had been sure of the cause of her fear, only to learn it was some prank of her consciousness.
Rearranging her pillows, half a dozen little squares as light and dainty as Violet herself, shaking out the mussed folds of her nightgown and of the covers, pushing back the hair from her face, she settled to her rest, determined to sleep. But though her eyes closed dutifully, and though she slipped away into a measure of unconsciousness, no genuine repose was hers.
It seemed to her first that she stood in the depths of a tropical jungle, alone, friendless, unprotected. Overhead the trees towered to the height of seventy and a hundred feet. At her feet was a slimy pool, trembling with life. Not far off two eyes, green, feline, menaced her from the depths of the underbrush. She started back, afraid; then she laughed, knowing there was no danger.
"I'm only dreaming!" she exclaimed, aloud.
"That may be," explained a voice, a voice ever so vaguely familiar, a voice coming from nowhere and yet audible, "that may be, but you are in danger."
"I am not really here," she asserted.
"This is the place where you were born. Your feet rest upon the very spot where stood the tent in which your mother lay. Your first gasping baby outcry echoed feebly beneath these same century-old trees. Because you were born here you are in danger."
"How can that be?" she exclaimed, irritably.
It seemed to her that she stamped her foot, fretfully, as she used to do when a child. Almost as though that action broke the spell the scene changed. She did not see the transformation, nor realize it was taking place, until suddenly she found herself standing on a rocky ledge, shivering, cold, clad still in the filmy folds of her nightdress.
Before her opened a vast cavern. The formation of the rock was grotesque, much like the yawning mouth of some primeval monster. Then she caught an even more striking resemblance in the general contour of the opening, for the jutting shoulder of rock above the cave was a perfect, though gigantic, skull. Behind her, and to both sides, were sheer walls of granite rising up to the dim blue of a sky far above. Sweeping down into the ravine was the cold, dry wind, which chilled her, which wrapped her in a dread embrace, the embrace of death.
For a moment she shuddered; attempted in vain to cry out. Then she remembered. She was dreaming.
Suddenly the cold light of a blue flame sprang up at the back of the cavern, directly ahead of her. She saw that it burned in a crude altar, a cavity carved from solid rock, surrounded by rough representations of the Zodiac, by ancient Sabian symbols. With the inconsistency of dreams she found herself close. A priest, shrouded in black, made obeisance before the shrine. The faces of the other worshipers were concealed by their postures of reverence; there was no motion anywhere in the cave except on the part of the man in attendance upon the altar.
"This is the Devil worship of Atlantis," explained the mysterious voice. "This is the last surviving colony from the City of the Golden Gates, here at the headlands of the Orinoco River. In these mountains is concealed the golden treasure of the High Priests of Atlantis, preserved faithfully by the worshipers of Satan for three hundred thousand years. Because of this treasure you are in danger."
"I am only dreaming," she asserted, desperately.
The voice made no reply. Suddenly there rose up, in the smoke of the burning offering, a wraith of indistinguishable mien and feature. To her horror it spoke, and she could hear. It was the same voice. It was the mysterious voice of interpretation, except that now it spoke in a language she could not understand.
In response to a command of the specter one of the worshipers stepped to the altar. A gesture, and before the eyes of the dreamer the man, a black, was transformed slowly into the figure of a fox. The animal, waking to action, turned, and then with a snarl rushed straight for the dreaming girl.
She tried to scream, to run, to raise an arm in self-protection. She was helpless. But, as before, she remembered, all at once, that the whole experience was a nightmare; that she could not be harmed. She smiled, and as she did so, the fox faded into nothing, disappeared before her.
The ghostly presence hovering in the smoke of the altar spoke again, calling up another worshiper, another black. This man, transformed into a wolf, sprang for Violet, and at her confident smile vanished in similar manner. The wraith gestured again, and at the gesture a woman was changed to a snake. As this unclean thing wriggled toward her, its beady eyes raised and fixed upon hers, the dreamer shuddered. Not until the serpent coiled, raised itself before her, could she summon the smile which caused it to vanish.
The ordeal was not completed. The fourth victim of the caprice of the apparition of smoke in the altar was not transformed to an animal, but at the gesture suddenly covered his face with a cry of agony, then turned to her, slowly taking his hands from before his features.
She cried out, stepping backward in horror. The face of the black had disappeared. A strange iridescent shimmering nothing occupied the area where his countenance should have been. It was — she knew this, subconsciously — the phantom face she had seen shadowed upon the wall of the bedroom.
With upraised hands, with gasping breath and heart beating wildly in fear, she backed away. Steadily, relentlessly, the phantom-faced man advanced toward her. In sheer terror and desperation she nerved herself, forced the ghost of a smile to white, dry, trembling lips. Immediately he disappeared, leaving her shaken, unstrung, for all that she knew it to be a nightmare.
But there was no relief. With a sudden cry of rage the priest himself turned toward her. He stepped down from the altar, and with his draperies held over his face hurried to confront her. Not until he was within the reach of her arm did he sweep aside the folds of heavy cloth from his features.
One glance, and every instinct of self-control fled from her. She screamed again and again. She put up tiny fists, beating upon his shoulders, striving to drive him back, seeking in vain to close her eyes and so shut out the sight of him.
The custodian of the rites of Satan was a monster, a Cyclops. Where the eyes should have been there were only empty, distorted sockets. In the very center of a head horribly deformed there glared a single eye, without protecting lid or lash. To the girl it seemed a glowing orb of fire, burning into her sight with a malignant hatred which robbed her of every faculty. Her feet, on which she stood, went numb. Her hands, helpless, were cold. Bending her back, gloating in the very incarnation of evil, the priest leaned closer, closer.
Gasping, straining for breath, grasping at his robes, shrieking with lungs which burned in her terror, she awoke to find herself clutching the bedclothes so firmly that the points of her nails had penetrated the cloth, bruising the skin of her palms. Her first thought was to wonder whether she had screamed. Bursting from the bed, she rushed to the door to listen.
All was quiet. There was no disturbance. Weak, blood throbbing still from the experience, she remembered, all at once, the second sound she had heard before the nightmare, the sound of a closing book. She went to the table, switching on a small light there. Before her was the novel she had purchased that day. Inserted in it was a slip of paper, its end protruding. With a sense of premonition she picked it up, reading:
If you attempt to marry Robert Dupont you will bring upon yourself the vengeance of Evil Eye.
For an instant she stood, gazing at the message in her hand. Then she tottered. Finally she slipped to the floor, limply, in a faint. Had the events of the evening been calculated deliberately to prey upon her super-sensitiveness, they could have succeeded no more admirably.CHAPTER 2
THE MASTER MIND
Robert Dupont had been interested in hypnotism since the very beginning of his college days. He had taken his degree in medicine and to some extent had practiced his profession in conventional manner, but it was as an expert in the new science of mind that he had attracted attention in medical and scientific circles.
To Doctor Sutton, the guardian of his fiancée, he owed most of his opportunity. The old scientist, himself aware of the potency of these new forces coming into public attention, had recognized early the special fitness of Dupont for work in that field; had encouraged the young man upon every occasion; in fact, had given Dupont lessons in many phases of occultism which had come to his notice, which he had mastered, phases not generally recognized as legitimate fields for research by contemporary savants. It was Doctor Sutton's crowning wish that Dupont should marry his ward, Violet; and the gradual and sure growth of a love between them had been his greatest source of happiness. Young Dupont was essentially the mental machine. In boyish school days his ambitions had been athletic and adventurous. A certain physical prowess remained with him, and in those sports in which he found recreation he excelled easily. It was his head which marked him, however; a strong, massively built, square-set temple to his splendid mind. He stood more than six feet in his stockings. Broad powerful shoulders indicated the athlete. But his eyes, deep-set, penetrating, gifted with the ability to search deep, betrayed his greatest strength.
Now Dr. Robert Dupont, before a scoffing circle of prominent medical and scientific men, faced the crucial test of his career, stood ready to make or lose a countrywide reputation. His articles in leading professional journals had awakened a storm of protest. Inevitably he had been called upon to demonstrate, to prove his assertions. With no question of failure in his thoughts he had accepted the challenges, and so, ringed about by those who doubted him, he prepared to prove the power of mind.
"You have seen me put this subject into a hypnotic trance," he exclaimed, his voice carrying to every corner of the crowded auditorium. "Now, simply in response to my wish you will note that the blood will recede from this arm, on which my colleague Doctor Langham will operate. The nerves will be dead, the veins and arteries and blood vessels drained. The subject will suffer no pain, no nerve shock; will carry no recollection of an exceedingly painful bit of surgical work. The staff of this hospital —" He paused, smiling. In the uniform white garments of the operating pit he stood out by sheer force of personality; he literally towered over the nurses and surgeons grouped about him. "The staff of this hospital will make all the tests necessary to prove the truth of my assertions, to prove to you that under hypnotism a subject suffers less nerve shock, less strain by fifty per cent, than under any anesthetic known to science, local or general."
There was a confused buzz over the room; then a hushed silence as the surgeons began to operate. Dupont stepped back and as he did so a man, apparently one of the internes, approached hurriedly. Studying him, Dupont somehow sensed something wrong in spite of the hospital white. To the hypnotist there was something suggestive of the fox in the man's face, an elusive flitting of cunning, of greed, of avarice, over his features.
Excerpted from The Mystery Mind by Arthur B. Reeve, John W. Grey. Copyright © 2015 MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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