Episode 97: The Instrument
Natasha stared at Howard Phillips’s companion in shock. The man seemed
entirely unremarkable -- the sort of figure who’d pass without notice in any
sort of a crowd -- but the woman looked as if she’d seen an apparition.
"Karlov!" she cried. "What are you doing here?"
The man gave a sardonic smile. "I’m sure you can guess."
"But... that must mean..." her voice trailed off in something that was
either astonishment or dismay.
"Of course," he replied lightly.
Phillips glanced at Iverson in exasperation. "Do you have the slightest
idea what they’re talking about?"
"No," said Iverson. "I thought you’d know."
Natasha seized the lieutenant’s arm. "You must listen to me!" she cried.
"Don’t trust this man! He’s been behind it all from the very beginning!"
Karlov shook his head. "Oh, not the beginning, most definitely not the
beginning! But when I spotted your allies on the train back to Darwin, I
knew I’d have to act. And when I returned to the laboratory and found it
destroyed, this provided the opportunity."
"Whatever does he mean?" Iverson asked Natasha.
"I don’t know!" she replied. "I don’t have the slightest idea! But we have
to get out of here now!"
Karlov nodded. "That is why we came to rescue your friend."
"What about the lady?" asked Phillips. "We can’t let her warn the other
guards. Should we lock her in the cell?"
"No!" cried Natasha. "Take me with you! I promise not to try to escape!"
Iverson glanced at Phillips in perplexity. "Do you think we can trust her?"
"No," said the skipper. "I thought you’d know."
"She can accompany us," said Karlov. "She may still have a role to play."
"What?" asked Iverson and Natasha simultaneously, but the man had already
turned to go. They glanced at Phillips, hoping for an explanation, but the
American seemed mystified as well.
"He’s always been like that," said Phillips. "That’s why I make him pay in
Karlov led the way as they fled the complex. The man seemed to have an
uncanny skill at avoiding guards. Again and again, just when it seemed the
party must be discovered, a sentry would change course or glance the other
way, leaving them free to advance. Iverson had worried that Natasha might
give them away, but the woman seemed too cowed to act. He wondered at her
relationship with their guide. Were they lovers? Enemies? Both?
When they reached the trees, Karlov set off toward the west. Phillips
indicated to the others that they should follow. "We left our boat at
the other end of the island," he explained.
"How’d you get past the nationalists?" asked Iverson. "Weren’t they
watching for anyone who tried to land?"
The American grinned. "I’m sure they were. But they were looking for a
motorcraft approaching from the direction of Kwajalein. We bought a native
canoe, loaded it aboard the Innsmouth Shadow, and sailed here from
This was all very well, thought Iverson, but how could they hope to escape
the patrol boat now that their adversaries had been alerted? His unease
increased when their guide led them down a trail to the left.
"Why the detour?" asked Phillips.
Karlov smiled. "There is something I must check before we go."
The tower stood on three legs, reminding Everett of sketches he’d seen of
Martian war machines from H.G. Wells’s popular novel. Below it the
blockhouse was squat, angular, and entirely lacking in grace. On its
western side -- the side facing them -- two bored-looking sentries guarded
a featureless door.
"You say the Device is inside?" he whispered to Notarillo.
"Yes!" replied the Italian. "Though that is a poor name for such a sublime
"We’ll have to find some way to get past those guards," said Jenkins.
At that moment, the Germans glanced at each other, then shouldered their
rifles and marched around the corner of the building.
"What was that all about?" asked Davies.
"I don’t know," said Everett, "but I believe we should take advantage of
this development. Jenkins and Notariello come with me. The rest of you keep
The lock proved little obstacle to a man of Jenkins’s skills. The door
opened into a neatly-organized laboratory dominated by a large lift
platform. An enigmatic piece of equipment, labeled with writing in
Cyrillic, stood atop the platform. Everett had no doubt this was the
thing they were looking for.
"Behold!" cried Notariello. "The Instrument of Joy!"
"What is this?" Phillips asked Karlov.
To the west, in the center of a clearing, a peculiar three-legged tower
rose above an ugly concrete blockhouse. Iverson assumed this was the tower
he’d seen from the base. It reminded him of something from a radio drama.
"It is the culmination of several plans," said Karlov, "which may combine in
a way their makers did not expect."
Iverson frowned. This explanation was not helpful. Then he noticed someone
was missing. "Where’s Natasha?"
"I thought you were watching her," chided Phillips.
"Careful!" whispered Karlov.
Two guards had rounded the corner of the building. The fugitives prepared
for a fight, but the Germans only gave a cursory glance at the undergrowth
before they returned the way they’d come. Karlov watched with a smug
expression, as if this was all part of some plan.
"Let us follow them," he said.
Everett studied the Device with a nameless feeling of apprehension. It
didn’t look much like a musical instrument. It didn't look like much of
anything. A gleaming cylinder of some unfamiliar metal was bolted to one
end of a short track of high-grade steel. A cone-shaped cavity was machined
into the end facing the track. Across from this, a conical slug of similar
material was mounted on a slider fitted to what looked for all the world
like a stubby mortar. If that was indeed what it was, it would slam the
slug into the cavity with considerable force.
"That is uraninite," said the Italian with a sweeping gesture of his hand,
"refined to produce the most celestial of tones! The surrounding shell is
fashioned from beryllium. In powdered form, this is the deadliest of
poisons, but now it serves to purify and magnify the sound."
"Why is it mounted on a lift platform?" asked Jenkins dubiously.
"They must hide it on top of the tower to secure it from prying eyes," said
This seemed unlikely to Everett. He wondered about radium and invisible
toxins. Hadn’t there been some scandal involving watch dial painters at the
United States Radium Company shortly after the War?
While he was pondering these things, Notariello had pulled on a pair of
gloves and produced a small lead-lined case. "The Instrument needs only one
thing to make it complete," announced the tenor, holding up a machined
pellet of some strange element that seemed to glow faintly in the dim
light of the chamber. "This shining trapezohedron of polonium provides the
particles of cosmic energy that serve as a chime!"
"That’s the Trapezohedron everyone was looking for?" exclaimed Jenkins. "He
had it all this time and didn’t tell us?"
The Italian shrugged. "It didn’t seem important."
Before they could stop him, he slipped the pellet into a socket on the tip
of the slug, flipped a switch, and pulled a lever. As he stepped back, a
bell rang and a grill slid shut across the entrance to the lift platform.
Motors whined to life and the lift began to rise.
"Is it supposed to do that?" asked Jenkins.
Notariello shrugged. "I imagine it improves the acoustics."
Everett noticed that a timer had begun to count down on a panel beside them.
"I have some reservations about this hypothesis," he observed. "We might
wish to leave..." he studied the dial "...sometime during the next hour."
"You can go," the Italian announced. "I will stay and listen!"
Everett glanced at Jenkins. The signalman nodded, then laid Notariello low
with a blow to the jaw. Everett slung the tenor over his shoulder and
headed for the door.
They had just reached the west side of the blockhouse when a winch whined to
life and a lift platform emerged from the top of the structure. Karlov
"Very good," he said. "My work here is done."
Before Iverson could ask what he meant, a door swung open and two men emerged
from the blockhouse carrying a third. They subdued the guards and were
making their way toward the treeline before he recovered from his
"Captain Everett!" he exclaimed. "Whatever are you doing here?"
Everett turned. It occurred to Iverson that this was the first time he’d
ever seen the captain look surprised.
Then he heard a voice behind him.
Next week: Could it Be?...
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