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The Mystery Man.

Book 1, Toot-Sweet Mystery Man


Part 1, Toot-SweetEdit

"A peanut sat on a railroad track, it's heart was all in a flutter, along came the midnight railway express..." The sing-song carriage to the madman's voice was taunting and haunting.

Light caught his mask as he dropped his victim onto the railway ties. She made a small grunt of pain, but otherwise remained silent.

He stepped backwards out of the rail-lane. "Toot-sweet, madame." he tipped his hat at her and turns to walk away.

A light from an oncoming train can be seen. She struggles with the straight jacket, rolling around. Her efforts hopeless! But then,

"Stop there, Madman."

Madman stops. Then turns. The lady is gone, a man now stands where she was, wearing the same straight jacket. There's a loud 'CRACK!' as his shoulders take on a disturbing angle. His arms revolve and twist, then, in only a moment, he throws the jacket away.

His arms now clear, he draws a pistol from his belt.

"Most Rickytick." Madman nods approvingly at the appearing man.

The man seems to have frozen in place, unmoving. Like a living statue.

"Oh! I believe your watch has stopped!" The masked Madman pulls out a pocketwatch and waves it before the stranger's eyes as though to hypnotize him.

The train is approaching now, it's nearing him!

"Right on-" Madman starts but the sentence dies.

The train slams into and throws the man. The conductor sets the brakes and makes the whistle scream.

"Right on time." the man replies. He pockets Madman's watch, and retrieves his gun from the ground where it flew when the train hit Madman's frozen body.

"I better find the dame."

The train stops just as the back of the last car passes him. He crosses the tracks and jumps over a fence into a street.

He looks around, the houses are residential, the usual run-down kind. He crosses the street and heads to one of the doors, reaches out to knock -hesitates- then opens the door. Walking past several open doors he secures the pistol in the back of his trousers. He heads up a level on a stairwell, straightens his coat, walks past some guy, and goes into one of the rooms.

"Hey! Lady, you need to go to the police. Tell them what happened. Well, up to the end I mean. Then just say some guy freed yea and you ran. Didn't see his face. Or you can describe mine if you like."

"What!?" she seems unnerved still.

"You've been kidnapped, that's a police thing." his voice as patronizing as his words.

"I'm not going anywhere with you! You-you freak!"

He sighs, his hand reflexively goes into his pocket, then he seems surprised. He pauses, then takes out Madman's pocketwatch. He opens it and waves it in the air before her eyes.

"You will go to the police" he commands in a monotone.

"Yes." she says. Seemingly transfixed.

He steps aside to let her pass. Then looks at the watch. "That's dangerous." he tucks it safely away into his pocket, a truly worried expression passing over his face.

Part 2, a Pocketful of PosiesEdit

Time's Square Building, in Manhattan New York.

"There's little need for the Mystery Man now Oscar. With the death of the Masked Madman he might as well retire a happy old man."

"What's that Arthur?"

"Ohh, noting. I was just mumbling about the story last night, the Madman being killed by that train and all."

"Madman? What are you talking about?"

"In Kingston, the Mystery Man and the Masked Man had a showdown in front of an oncoming train, the Masked Man lost."

"What? How do you know?"

"I was there."

"Pshaw Arthur, playing a trick like that. I'd know if there'd be any fatalities from some train accident in Kingston. Especially if it was the Masked Madman. Why that creep's face'd make the coroner go nuts from all the calls he'd get. Unmasking the Masked Man... No Arthur, you're not fooling me that easily."

Arthur tossed the pocketwatch onto Oscar's desk in front of him.

"What's that?" Oscar waived at it

"Madman's watch."

Oscar gingerly picked it up and curiously opened it and looked at the face. "This is genuine..." he said, in a low voice.

"I don't know what to do with it though. I mean, it's obviously not safe to keep it around."

"No, no. It wouldn't be." I can use this... Oscar thought This is powerful.

Damnit, Oscar. Arthur thought, while saying aloud "I should give it to the police, of course, but they'd just put it in a box. I thought about a museum or perhaps taking it to the Pope, there's not a lot of people that could handle this thing properly. A security box'd cost too much money to keep." and people have robbed banks for less.

"Oh, well yes." Arthur could sense his hope diminishing as his mind was searching for a way to fool Arthur into giving him the watch. "You've put a lot of thought into this. No, the police wouldn't do any good." Oscar put down the watch and turned away. What am I doing? Arthur could sense his shame at the selfish thoughts. Arthur pitied him. Though neither face belied the emotional turmoil.

"Oh well." Arthur stood up and scooped up the watch. "Perhaps I'll just destroy the thing." I have to get it away from Oscar.

"Destroy it?" Oscar was hopeful that the watch would be gone, to remove his shamefulness.

"Yeah! I'll do it." Arthur reached back, and threw the watch out a window with all his strength.

"Now Arthur! Throwing watches out windows? You must get ahold of your temper, young man."

"Yes, yes I really must."

Arthur excused himself and immediately went into the office beside Oscar's. He went over to the window, and looked down with great concentration, as though trying to make out a speck on the distant ground.

"Sorry old man." then he was gone, and a confused old man in a business suit was standing where he had been.

Hurrying through the mob that thronged Time's Square, Arthur reached the empty circle in the crowd that was ogling the watch. He quickly knelt and opened the old man's briefcase. It was full of papers, some of which the wind instantly caught up and flew away with. Arthur ignored them and gathered up the clock pieces into the briefcase.

Snapping the briefcase shut, he stood up and forged through the crowd, heading eastward.

He stopped before leaving Time's Square.

"Hey, Police Officer!" the officer looked at him, hearing the tone in Arthur's voice the officer put his hand on his gun. "Catch!" Arthur threw the briefcase into the air towards the officer.

Then he caught it, and swiftly turned and left. Before the confused policeman could realize what had happened.

Many moments later, he was walking along a bridge, then he stopped. He put the briefcase on the railings, then took out the gun.

"May you never be seen again." He took two steps back then shot the briefcase twice. It flew over the rails and moments later splashed into the ocean.

The moment passed. Something came into Arthur's mind. He was thinking of something else.

He blanched.

"NO!" his expression was one of utmost shock and disbelief.

Part 3, the Return of MadmanEdit

Maniacal laughter, screams, and gun shots. These were the sounds that filled Time's Square this afternoon. Madman was holding a tommygun and firing it in random waves. Bodies covered the roads and sidewalks. Police and a few armed civilians were firing pistols at him from behind trashcans and cars. But while their bullets pierced Madman's body, Madman ignored them and his injuries continuing as if unharmed.

Suddenly everyone stopped firing all at once. Even Madman.

A man wearing a black trenchcoat and fedora came out an alleyway. He walked up to Madman, who aimed his Tommygun and reached for the trigger. But then! The Mystery Man was firing Madman's Tommygun into Madman's torso. Then he threw the tommygun away. Madman raised his pistol and aimed it at the Mystery Man but then the Mystery Man aimed the pistol at Madman's head and fired one shot. Madman stumbled backwards a few steps, and fell. Apparently dead.

The Mystery Man dropped the pistol and turned to leave. "WAIT!" It was a policeman, aiming a gun. The Mystery Man didn't stop, he just disappeared.

* * *

Kingston Coroner's Office.

Dr. Hubert Winsley was at the end of his work day, whistling a merry tune as he put on his jacket.

A voice came out of the shadows; "A dead man was brought here last night, wearing a mask. He was hit by a train. Where is he?"

"Who are you!?" At first all Arthur could sense was that the man was surprised, but then; Masked man? What is he talking about? Train accident? "I'm calling the police!"

An unseen hand moved the exit door. Arthur was gone.

* * *

Arthur noted the lack of crime scene tape as he reached the railway tracks. He looked around.

"No blood." A chill was running through Arthur's veins as he stood there, looking at the tracks.

"No."

He shifted his feet, then paced. He stopped and walking up to a pile of dirt he slid it away with his feet. There was blood on the ground underneath.

Someone covered it up... He glanced around What happened here?

* * *

"What train went by here at midnight?"

"The twelve thirty-five from -"

"Who was it's conductor?"

"Yes, I'll just tell you that and give you his address."

"That would be nice."

"No."

"Right, good."

The clerk arched his eyebrows.

"I'm a reporter for the New York Times," He summoned his wallet from the infinite interior of his trenchcoat and showed the clerk his identification "and I'm covering a story on the Mystery Man, I got a false report of a train accident that happened here last night. It involves that train and I'm just wondering if the conductor saw anything happen, or if this is just a goose chase."

It took awhile to get the information out of the clerk, but finally Arthur reached the conductor's house. Only to find that he hadn't come home from work last night.

He went back to Manhattan and took a taxi to the coroner's, only to find it burning to the ground.

"Back to Kingston," he announced to his driver. "And step on it."

Part 4, We Have Joy, We Have FunEdit

New York Coroner's Office for Manhattan.

"Dr. Steven Langson, performing autopsy on John Doe #576, nicknamed 'masked madman'."

"The masks seems to be made of rubber... It's attached to his face, possibly stitched or glued on. I'm attempting to remove it now."

"It came off immediately... I-... I wonder-..."

He hesitated.

"I'm going to try wearing the mask."

A moment passed.

Then Madman, in his new body, removed the bullet from his old head.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger!" He pocketed the bullet. It had been nearly flattened and was in two pieces.

He hit the fire alarm and grabbed the axe out of the emergency fire box. Moments later the building was burning, and the people inside were dead or incapacitated.

* * *

Madman was whistling a happy tune as he took the bit off his lathe and got to work etching it. Then he waved a blowtorch on it and poured the metal in. The bullet was done.

On one side it was inscribed "Madman" and "Mysteryman" on the other, in smaller letters.

"My Silver Bullet!"

He pushed it into a revolver chamber, snapped the cylinder into place, and cocked the hammer. Then he tossed the gun onto a table across the garage.

"Tick-tock!" he glanced at a clock on the wall "Don't be late!"

* * *

"Don't wait for me."

The taxicab drove away.

Arthur put on his fedora and trenchcoat. Then he disappeared.

The door into the house was ajar. The floorboards creaked under Arthur's weight. He could sense Madman was in the garage, but there were more pressing issues.

As he passed the kitchen he heard the gas from the stove filling the room. He went in and turned the dials to off. Then he went upstairs.

He could sense that the lady was in the bedroom, he stopped his invisibility before entering.

I can't risk talking, he might hear. he reached out with his mind and told her Don't make a sound, he's still here. then he took out a knife and cut the ropes binding her hands and feet.

Glancing at her she looked unharmed, so Arthur -quitely- opened the window and told her climb down and drive away in his car. Then hide.

Arthur went back down the stairs, as he reached the bottom he took off his wristwatch and threw it into a trashcan.

* * *

The door leading from the garage into the house opened. There was no one there (visibly).

In one swift reflexive motion Madman drew out a knife and threw it at where he thought The Mystery Man would be.

Arthur was forced to flatten himself against the doorframe. And still the knife soared within inches of touching him. He got into the room just in time, as Madman kicked the door closed.

"So Mystery Man! You're here." Madman reached behind him and turned the nozzle on his blowtorch, the gas could be heard filling the room.

He's being careful this time, not holding anything that I could take by switching with him.

"I've got a silver bullet with both our names on it! Mwaha-hahaha-HA!"

I want one of those knives. Arthur silently picked up a broom, then pressed a button on the wall that said OPEN Madman heard the noise of the door and threw a knife next to the button.

Madman was still looking at the knife. Arthur tossed the broomstick into the air towards Madman, and grabbed the knife out of the wall. Madman's third knife hit Arthur in the right arm.

Arthur then went across the room and grabbed the gun off the table. Madman didn't notice because he walked up to the button and hit the CLOSE button. Moving quickly, Arthur opened the door and went through while Madman's back was on it. A fourth knife narrowly missed him as he moved through the hallway outside and into the kitchen.

He heard Madman close the door.

He heard the car outside turn over. What's taking her so long? Then he thought of something and, reaching out with his mind, he asked her Where do you keep your first aid kit? she remembered it's location, and he read the location from her mind.

He got it out and wrapped bandages around his arm and taped it on. Probably won't help with the injury, but it'll keep the blood off the floor. Hopefully.

Arthur turned to look at the door into the garage. Thinking.

"I need a grenade."

He couldn't fire the gun in the garage because of the gases, Madman keeps the doors closed so the gas will stay. Arthur could still smell gas in the kitchen (though not nearly as strongly as it was before).

He turned the dials on the stoves back up to full. Then he looked around. There were matches, and a clock. But he couldn't think of how to make a timed match-liter. He pocketed the matches, and found a propane tank. He set the propane tank on the stove, hoping it wasn't empty. He opened the oven and turned the gas on for that too.

The gas smell was getting too strong, he went out through the still open front door (and closed the door quietly). Outside he looked around again, hoping to find a grenade. He noticed that the lady was gone now, Finally he thought. He spotted a gas can by the neighbor's car. Going over over and picking it up, he noted it only had a small amount of fuel in it, but it would help.

Then he realized.

He looked at the car, and headslapped himself.

Breaking the window "quietly" by cushioning it with his trenchcoat, he got in and hot-wired the car. He reversed it and pulled out. Aimed it at the lady's driveway, then he dumped the gas can onto the passenger seat, threw a match on it, and put a brick on the gas peddle.

The car hit the driveway, but it didn't break through the door, it broke the door but then only went a few feet before stopping. The door was still on it, and the building hadn't exploded.

Arthur was feeling frustrated at this point.

The fire in the car dwindled and died. The gas can wasn't enough to fuel it very long, and the car's interior wasn't particularly great fuel.

Arthur could sense Madman leaving the garage. He went into the kitchen and was headed for the front door.

Thinking fast, he walked out into the road and drew the revolver.

The door opened, and Madman was standing there. He threw a knife at Arthur. It hit, just as Arthur threw the revolver to Madman.

Arthur caught the revolver, then turned and went into the kitchen (trying to ignore the stabbing pain, the knife had almost hit his heart). He grabbed the propane tank. Then went back to the front door.

Madman had been moving towards the house and had just reached the door. He threw another knife at Arthur, who tried to dodge aside but failed. Arthur tossed the revolver to Madman and then caught it and aimed it at the propane tank.

Hoping he was far enough away, he fired the revolver.

The propane tank exploded, fire filled every nook and cranny within the house, a wave of force pushed Arthur back, but only after the fire had reached him.

He was barely conscious, and knew he didn't have much time.

"Please be dead."

He didn't have time to be sensitive, so he reached out with his mind, and, knowing that the police station was to the north of his location, he told every mind north of his location, but still within the state, The Mystery Man is hurt and is located in Kingston at Washington and Linderman. Madman may be there. Hurry. Police first, please.

Then he tried to remain conscious. Which felt like a losing battle. He couldn't tell whether he was on fire or not, his eyes were facing the stars and couldn't move.

"God I hope he's dead."

Arthur wasn't in a particularly good mood, he felt like he couldn't move, there were strange tingling sensations that were very painful in his limbs, and he was completely helpless to Madman whom he couldn't count on being dead.

Time dragged by rather slowly for Arthur.

He couldn't hear sirens, but he knew they had received his message, the station was only a few miles away and his message had definitely gone farther then that. It didn't occur to him until later that someone who didn't like him might have heard the message and be headed there to kill him. Though that was certainly possible.

"Ring a Ring of roses," the voice startled Arthur, "a pocket... Full of Posies! ... Ashes, ashes. We all fall down." The voice seemed to be fading, as though it's author were breathing his last breath.

Arthur was rather frightened after hearing that, even though he guessed that Madman was finally dead, his fear persisted. The only things that he could see were the stars.

Arthur started in a sing-songy voice, but that was too draining so he gave it up: "Star light, star bright, First star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight."

Part 5, Yankee DoodleEdit

"Yankee Doodle came to town, a riding on a pony."

Arthur heard steps approaching. They stopped by his arm, then he could sense the person kneeling down beside him.

"Thankfully I got here in time."

Arthur felt something touch his torso, then a new tingling sensation. Then he felt a grating feeling in his stomach. His mind started to clear, his body felt hole again, he could move!

He looked at the stranger, who helped him up. Arthur grunted as he stood up, his body was sore and stiff.

"Still sore?" the stranger asked, "say, you're not very good at this, are you?"

Arthur ignored the comment. "I need to get his Mask" he explained as he hopped into the house.

"I'll get it."

"No. I have to."

Arthur gingerly hopped threw the wreckage, ignoring the blackened walls and still burning doorways.

"I hope the roof doesn't fall in on ya!" the stranger called in at him.

Arthur reached Madman's body, and knelt over it. He paused for a moment, mentally preparing himself, then he touched the mask.

Instantly, he felt it pressing in his mind, trying to control him. The menace of it was like a rampaging boar, but blind, and unable to find him. Goring whatever it could feel. He prevented it, and pulled it off the face (with some difficulty). Then he went out to the stranger.

"I need to destroy this."

"Too bad there's no volcanoes around." Arthur could sense he was thinking of some novel called "The Lord of the Rings" but didn't recognize the name.

"Uhh... No, burning it wouldn't be right..." He looked around. "Bridges... That's it; I'll need cement." he had a vague idea of throwing the cemented mask off a bridge. "Get me out of here before the police show up."

* * *

Several hours later, Arthur had the cement sphere that held the mask.

"Goodbye."

He threw it over the edge.

"I've had enough of this life."

The stranger looked at him.

"Do you know, -" he seemed surprised at something "Hey- hey what's your name anyway?"

The stranger seemed surprised that he asked. "Oh... Well I haven't gotten one of those fancy newspaper names yet... I guess you can just call me Mack."

Arthur smiled. "Okay, Mack." he leaned back against Mack's car, looking out over the water.

"You know, Mack, I haven't had a rest since- well I don't know when." he watched the fog swirling around. "First I had to find Madman, then I had to save some lady, then I had to stay alive, then I had to get rid of some watch, then I had to deal with Madman again, then I had to figure out what was going on, then I had to save the lady, then I had to stay alive." he let the echoes of his words die out. "Now, I don't know. I'm finally at peace again. I can just watch the sunrise."

"It'll be rising pretty soon here." Mack walked over and leaned up next to him. Their silence lasted for some time. "You know Mack, -You don't mind if I call you Mack, do you?"

Arthur shook his head.

"Good." Mack continued "I was about to say, we only get to live life once, and this world holds too much for anyone to discover. Perhaps you should work on finding something other than crime fighting for your life."

"You know, last night I thought I was dead. I looked up at the stars, and wished for a chance to live another life. And now, here I am, alive."

Arthur took a deep breath.

* * *

Time's Square Building, a few days later.

"Say Arthur, that piece you did on the Mystery Man is really doing well isn't it? There's even talk about a Pulitzer Prize in it for you, you know."

"Really, Oscar? Why... Well, that's grand."

"Come now! You must be excited! This could make your career!"

"Yes! Only... You know, Oscar, lately I've been feeling down, I don't know why exactly, perhaps it's covering all this Madman business. All the violence, you know."

Oscar's phone rang. He answered. After a short conversation he hung up.

"I have to go see something about the morning edition, you can wait here, can'tch you?"

Arthur nodded, and Oscar left, smiling and seemingly happy.

As soon as he was out Arthur stood up and took out a letter from his jacket. He dropped it onto Oscar's seat and left. He hooked up a sad look on his face as he walked through the halls and left the building as quick as he could and drove home.

When he got there he grabbed two full gas cans out of the back of his car and went in. He poured oil over everything, and picked up the newspaper from his coffee table. The headline read, "The Mysterious Man!" and had a story (the first story) covering the death of the Masked Madman, and presenting a new name for the Mystery Man.

He walked outside and took out the matches that he got from the Lady's house, and lit the newspaper on fire, tossing it carelessly into the building. He shut the front door quickly and walked away.

There. Now Arthur will be presumed dead, died while committing suicide. Now the real Arthur should be safe, and maybe his death will give Arthur's last article a better chance at the Pulitzers.

Arthur didn't know why The Mystery Man needed to be called the Mysterious Man, but he knew it needed to be. He had gotten Arthur that job at the New York Times just for that, and now, hopefully, the task was accomplished. Which left The Mysterious Man needing a new identity.


Part 6, Words AfterwardsEdit

The Mysterious Man was out wandering one evening, taking a walk for no particular reason. He was walking around Kingston, having been at Mack's house (where he spent most of his time these days).

He spotted a certain apartment building, and knew that he needed to go inside. He walked in, opening the door without knocking, and navigated his way by intuition. He reached a closed door, and knocked.

"Who is it?" he didn't recognize the voice, but the mind behind it he knew.

He simultaneously vocalized and mentally project his answer "Men call me the Mysterious Man" he had learned a flair for drama from Mack (who was constantly reading).

There was a moment where she was surprised and didn't know what to do, then she stepped up to the door, and he heard a padlock be slid out of place.

Good thing I knocked. he thought to himself.

She opened the door a slit and look at him.

"Hello, lady." he took off his hat.

"What do you want?"

"To ensure that you were safe."

"I'm fine, if that's all then you can leave."

"May I come in?"

"No."

"It's good to be wary, but too wary is wearisome. Please, let me in."

She opened the door and stood aside. He came in and she closed it.

"Thank you." He took off his trenchcoat and held it and his hat on his arm. "May I sit?" he motioned at a couch.

She shrugged and went into the kitchen, which was only separated from the living room by a counter-top which acted as a room divider.

"Say, what's your name, anyway? I just can't keep calling you lady I suppose."

"Christene."

"Christene..." Oh... Mmm... I suppose I could shorten it to Chris. "I was wondering if you were going to go back to your house or not."

"I'm not going back there."

"So you're going to sell it?"

"No."

"So... What? You're just going to ignore it? You still own it. It's still worth money."

"I don't want to ever go back there. It's not safe. I'm going to hide, like you said."

Good girl. "Now Christene, that doesn't make any sense." he stood up and started gesticulating with his hands to emphasize his words. "You own a house, and it's worth money, money that you need. And you're just staying here, a few blocks away." he stopped to think a minute. "This isn't even hiding anyway, you know your name is on the lease for this place, unless you gave a false identity, in which case you have to worry about the police. Unless you trust the owner implicitly." he looked at her.

She seemed to be ignoring him now, but he could sense what she was thinking and feeling.

"Now, Christene." Calling on what Mack had told him of drama he tried to become serious and calm. "I killed Madman, he's dead. You're safe now, no one's going to come after you." I hope.

"No, I'm not going back. I'm going to disappear, if this place isn't safe I'll go somewhere else, somewhere no one can find me!"

"You really feel strongly about this." I just had to make sure. "I can help. I have a safe house where I can put you up for a little while, you'll be safe there, no one has ever found it except me." then he continued mentally Once you're there, I can make a new identity for you, new name and all, I can send you to my contacts in London who can set you up and then you can go wherever you want.

"What's the catch?"

The catch is, I need your identity. You won't be using it anymore, and I just happen to have lost mine. It'll take some work of course, I'll have to modify your birth certificate to say that you're a man and not a woman, but I can handle that. then he thought privately I hope.

"So what do you say?"

* * *

"So I took her to my house."

"You have a house?" Mack looked genuinely surprised.

"What? you thought I lived in the streets?"

"No, but... Why haven't I ever been there? We've known each other for what, three weeks?"

"Two. And I'd take you to my house, 'cept I'd have to blindfold you every time, and since you're psychic I guess I'd also have to knock you out. See, no one knows where my house is, no one. Not anyone, anywhere. And noone is ever going to find it, either."

"Good thinking." Mack went back to reading his book.

The Mysterious Man looked out the window. The sky was cloudy, it looked like rain.

"Say, Mack?"

"Hmm?" Mack didn't look up.

"That conversation with Christene got me thinking, thinking about Madman's Mask. Isn't there some way to destroy it? I mean, as it is, anyone could just take it out of the sea and put it on."

"That's true enough." Mack still hadn't looked up, though he sounded more interested now.

"I could try melting it, a volcano like you said, or a metalworking factory, they use heat there... It's too bad there aren't any nuclear bombs going off anymore." He put his hand on his chin and looked up at the sky, his eyes glossing over as his reverie grew deeper. "I suppose there's other explosives. I could put it deeper out at sea, on a ship perhaps." His reverie grew deeper and deeper, and he rambled on for awhile. Then he remembered something. "Hey! Mack," he turned and looked at Mack. "back when I had Madman's watch, I mentioned to Oscar about taking it to the Pope to buy time. I could take The Mask to the Pope. The clergy would know what to do, I mean, for all I know it could be their domain anyway. The Mask does control people's minds... Perhaps it's some sort of evil... religious... thing..." The thought had started to lose it's enthusiasm.

"Interesting." Mack was still reading his book. But at least he had started listening again, or he pretended to anyway.

"Right. So I'll take it and give it to the Pope, or someone in the Vatican anyway." he started walking for the door.

Then he stopped.

"Say, Mack, how could I get the Mask out of the ocean?" his face was contorted in be-puzzlement. "I suppose I could just swim down... But how would I find it? You can't see anything in that water."

"Yeah. You'd need a scow and some equipment to drag the bottom of the bed, and pick up everything down there, and hopefully you'd find it eventually."

"Well, I suppose I could do that. The equipment's not hard to come by, right?"

"Not too hard, I imagine."

"Right, then. I suppose not having an identity will be a problem, but I can manage..."

He walked toward the door, then turned around and came back again.

"Mack, do you think I'd be able to get the thing out of the river?"

"Not really."

"Then..."

"I imagine it could have washed out to sea by now. Even if it's there I doubt it'll be that easy to haul up, being small, perfectly round, and heavy."

"Then it's safe?"

"Not really... At some point Someone's going to drag the sea bottom."

"So it's definitely going to happen at some point..."

"Fairly certainly. Though, by that time the mask might've washed out to sea farther. It's also possible that they just won't find it, even if it's there."

"Okay..." The Mysterious Man sighed. "I'm going to get a dog. I need someone who's nice to me."


The End of Book 1.

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