"Get the paper we saw him put in his coat pocket, too!"
The pair of crooked detectives had welcomed the chance to shift their shadowing activities from Doc Savage to the defenseless messenger boy. All too well, they remembered what the bronze giant had done to the four swampmen who had tried to slay him. They did not like the shadowing job, so they had taken a chance that whatever the messenger was carrying would be important enough to point to a reason for losing Doc Savage—for they would have to show the Gray Spider a good excuse.
Bugs got the package, and the paper from the messenger's pocket. He sprang into the car. The machine raced away.
"Hey, lookit!" exclaimed Bugs, opening the package. "Dictaphone records!"
"They got anything on 'em?"
Lefty quickly turned their car to the curb as he caught sight of another office-supply concern.
"The bronze guy must've rented a machine to make 'em!" he declared. "What's to keep us from rentin' one to hear 'em?"
"That's usin' the old think box!" complimented Bugs.
They entered the office-supply establishment, drew a clerk aside, and made their needs known. A moment later, they were bending over a transcribing machine. A record was fitted on the cylinder.
The headset consisted of two receivers. They divided it between them. Lefty started the machine. They held their breath. The rotating record, not yet to the message, made a low hiss-hiss in their ears.
Then it began to talk to them!
A dazed expression seized their faces. It was as though somebody had suddenly hit them in the head with a hammer.
They couldn't understand a word they were hearing!
Doc Savage had dictated in a language not one person in a hundred million knew—the tongue of the ancient Mayan civilization! Doc and his men had learned this language from pure-blooded descendants of the ancient race of Maya—from the folk who resided in the lost valley in Central America, and who kept Doc supplied with gold.
"What're we gonna do now?" Bugs growled.
"Get these to the Gray Spider," Lefty decided.
The unsavory pair hurried toward the old French quarter, the bundle of records tucked under Lefty's arm.
THE French quarter is the most ancient section of New Orleans. Although only a short distance from the new business district of skyscrapers, the French quarter is probably one of the most unique features of any American city. It is more remarkable even than the Chinatown of San Francisco.
Stepping into the French quarter is like stepping into an ancient part of Paris. Old buildings and quaint streets characterize the place. Overhanging balconies were plentiful.
Lefty and Bugs sidled furtively into one of the shabbiest of the buildings. They clumped down a shadowy passage. A door opened after they had mumbled their identity.
The shoddy, ill-smelling room in which they found themselves, was fitted with tables, rickety metal chairs, and a bar. Perhaps a dozen slovenly individuals were present, all men.
One of the yellowish-brown monkeylike men sat at a table. Lefty and Bugs gave him their package and the paper bearing the name of the hotel.
"Get this to the Gray Spider," Lefty directed. "Tell him we think it's important. Tell him we quit trailin' the bronze guy to grab it. And ask him what he wants us to do now."
Without a word, the monkey man departed with package and paper.
"I'd kinda like to follow that swamp snipe and see where the Gray Spider's got his hang-out here in New Orleans," leered Lefty.
"If you ask me, it wouldn't be healthy!" mumbled Bugs. "You saw what old Topper Beed got for knowin' too much!"
"You mean what we gave him!" Lefty chuckled coldly. "But he got hisn because he was spillin' what he knew."
"How'd Topper Beed happen to get wise to the Gray Spider?" questioned Bugs. "How'd he learn who the Gray Spider is?"
"Topper Beed was buyin' the stolen sawmills the Gray Spider's men were sellin'. But he got suspicious about the deals. He began to snoop around. He went to Danielsen & Haas with what he knew. And he finally found out too much."
"I'll say he did!" Bugs leered.
Several cigarettes were smoked by the pair in the wait that followed.
The yellowish-brown monkey man reappeared in the vile den.
"Gray Spider plentee much mad!" he growled. "Vat yo' send in de package vas no good to heem. Hees say yo' one pair plentee fools!"
Lefty and Bugs took this silently. They were getting off easy, for they had openly disobeyed the Gray Spider's orders in not at least trying to kill the mighty bronze man.
They gathered the Gray Spider had not been able to understand the mysterious lingo inscribed on the dictaphone records.
Another of the monkeylike swamp men shuffled in. He carried a cheap, new-looking black handbag. This he placed on the table.
"What's that?" Lefty demanded.
"Don't ask so many questions!" growled the swamp denizen. "Yo' ees to do mo' work. Oui!And yo' bettair not fall down on dis next job!"
He continued to speak. At times his gibberish was so rapid that Lefty and Bugs had to swear at him to slow him down understandably.
The two crooked lumber detectives began to get pale at the gills as the significance of the Gray Spider's orders dawned. They perspired freely.
"Jimminy!" Bugs whined. "I don't like this!"
"Me either!" grunted Lefty.
"Gray Spider order yo' do dese t'ings!" snapped the monkey man. "Yo' want me tell heem yo' say hees can go jump een river?"
"Nix, nix!" Lefty said hastily. "We'll go through with it."
"Git at it, den!" ordered the monkey man.
LEFTY and Bugs slunk out into the picturesque, ancient street. They carried the handbag. It looked very new against the age of their surroundings.
"There's one thing I don't like about workin' for this Gray Spider!" Lefty growled when they were out of earshot. "All of our orders come from them ignorant swamp snipes! Imagine us takin' orders from the likes of them!"
With the supreme egoism of a cheap criminal, Lefty was ignoring the fact that he was a more vile specimen than the illiterate swamp men. Lefty and Bugs had a certain amount of education, whereas the little monkey men were so ignorant as to hardly know right from wrong. In contrast to the two crooked detectives, they were men who might easily come under the superstitious sway of the Gray Spider.
"The snipes are only the Gray Spider's messengers!" Bugs said resignedly. "Anyway, it's payin' us to take the Gray Spider's orders! Ain't we makin' more money than we ever got in the lousy lumber detective business? Even with all the graft we could knock off lettin' timber poachers bribe us?"
Chapter VII. KILLERS AT WORK
IN the course of a little time, Lefty and Bugs turned up before the modernistic Danielsen & Haas building. They entered, carrying the cheap, new handbag.
An elevator lifted them to the top floor. Both men now had a spray of cold sweat on their evil faces.
"This is what I call walkin' into a lion's den!" shivered Bugs.
It was on this floor that Big Eric Danielsen had his office. If the fire-eating lumberman should see them, it would be too bad. And well they knew it!
Danielsen & Haas employees hurried about in the corridor. No one paid the two villainous lumber detectives particular attention. Although Big Eric knew the pair were the Gray Spider's men, he had not spread the word.