But what had happened to Bert in Arizona? Was it true that he was not in the basement or on the ground floor, which, according to the American and often English custom, is used, for example, as a kitchen department.
He had suddenly plunged into the deceptive food elevator hatch and fallen back there trying to dodge the snake. But the gap was not large.
Bert therefore had to begin his journey with almost double squeezing. Instinctively, he caught the rope of the food elevator — the elevator was down in the basement, Arizona as Bert pulled the rope, the elevator began to rise and, of course, stopped when he came to Bert.
This happy coincidence came to Bert in the blink of an eye, and he thought it best to descend and slowly relaxed the rope.
It could hardly have come down more comfortably and he was in the best of his strength when he got down, and by no means crushed to death as assumed above.
Downstairs it was almost sinking dark. Only through the basement window did a faint street lamp light penetrate. Everything was quiet and he could gather his thoughts in peace.
Bert did not know how many men the criminals had at their disposal. But he realized that this time he himself could not take into account Handsome Harry any more than Mr. Morgania, whose stubbornness had put him in this situation, which could have been worse.
Of course one would come and see how he had done. He was glad they wouldn’t have fun finding him crushed – so, usually they wouldn’t find him at all – so far…
He had revolvers with him. But starting an attack alone in an unknown place, perhaps it was not wise. It would be better to try to somehow sneak out without seeing anyone and warn Big Bob, who was probably still standing outside not knowing what had happened. – Possibly more help was needed and in that case I could turn to the police – although he was not happy to use it – for fear of its usual stupidity and clumsiness, which always did more harm than good.
He had already decided to try to leave the same basement window from which the dim light came, but stopped abruptly when he heard a suspicious voice.
Did it come after him?
Bert’s revolvers were immediately on display. This time he would put up a hard against a hard one. He knew he could not expect mercy.
He stood motionless, only his eyes trying to pierce the darkness and his ears to hear as closely as possible.
The sound had been almost like a faint moan. – But whether it was caused by a human or an animal, he could not decide. In any case, he did not intend to wait any longer, but decided to report on the matter immediately.
Slowly, he began to move in a strange voice, holding the revolver ready and feeling the stone wall with his other hand.
He came to a corner and immediately the voice was clearer. Now at least he knew which direction to go.
Then everyone suddenly fell silent. Bert stood not knowing what to do — whether to continue or turn back to try in an appropriate way to strive out of this darkness where he did not dare to use his flashlight. He stopped when the voice was heard again and more clearly. – Barely ten steps away, his other leg happened to some soft object that made strange sounds.
He bent down and felt his hands gently.
Yes, no doubt… On the stone floor lay a bound man.
His arms were tied behind his back and his face was against the floor.
In a flash, Arizona Bert severed the bandage and in the next blink of an eye freed the victim from the sound-absorbing rags that had blocked his mouth. But who it was, he didn’t know, nor did he know whether the liberated friend was the enemy.
A faint voice was heard saying:
– Thank God you came. Have you fallen into the hands of these villains too?
– Who are you? said Bert without answering the question.
– Gerald Morgan!
– Rich Morgan from Vancouver?
– That’s why I’m called. – But, as you can see, my wealth has only caused me an accident. – Have you heard me talk about it? And who are you?
– Someone in as much trouble as you, at least for now. But would you be that rich Morgan who suddenly disappeared some time ago and is now being called upon?
– Certainly… But I don’t know anything about the call. I traveled south for my health. At a hotel in Denver, I met a woman and two Lords who were very kind to me. We traveled together via Albuquerque to Phoenix, Arizona. I don’t know where I am now. But I didn’t have much left when you came, that’s for sure. I heard your footsteps – and I don’t know where it came from, but I thought I heard in them salvation, but salvation that might not reach me. Even less, you may lose your understanding, sir, as it happened to me when I was alone with those terrible snakes.
– It’s theirs. Have you made them familiar too?
– In a way. And just Thereupon I’m here now. Maybe you, too, have fallen out of the elevator hole?
– No, as far as I know… We sat playing poker… I was furious to see how they played wrong. Only then did it become clear to me whose nails I had fallen into.
– And snakes were brought upon you?
– Not right away. Ink and paper were brought up and I was told to write a letter according to the dictation.
– What kind of letter? said Bert, guessing what the issue was.
– Yes, I had to write that a million dollars I needed for business would be sent to a designated place in Phoenix .
– Hohoo! I understand! And you did it?
– I was forced into it. But I did it my own way.
– Which maybe they didn’t understand?
– Agreed character – a curl under the name – and it means about the fact that I have this Enrollment expiry notification and that I have had to the impending danger.
– Yes, to the extent that no money came. But instead, I was threatened with those dangerous snakes and locked in the same room with them. I went unconscious out of fear.
– And then you were brought here? said Arizona Bert, delighted that through a strange coincidence, in which snakes also played a significant part, had come to the rescue.
– Yes, but once before I have had hopes to escape. – I attracted to me a Negro who was guarding me, promising him a million if he would help me out of the clutches of these people.
– And the Negro, of course, agreed?
– Yes, after a few doubts. He broke my bandage. But just as I crawled away, I was spotted, tied up again, and dragged back here.
– And didn’t the Negro renew the experiment?
– The nigger disappeared forever. Maybe he lost his life. – I hope I do better this time. I can’t thank you enough… What’s your name?
– Bert Brand, sheriff of this district.
– What do you say!… Arizona Bert?
– The same man!… Maybe already known?
– Who would not know you and your many adventures in the service of justice? You are certainly the most famous person in America, even outside the Powers. – I couldn’t have gotten better.
– Unfortunately, I sit in the same paste as you. And I’m evil, this time taken too little sons by. – It’s again because of a man who is very close to you and who… Yes, he thought he could do it alone and therefore took it a little recklessly – even though previous events should have warned him. – He, too, had been dealing with rattlesnakes.
– Are you saying this person is close to me?
– Just so… As far as I understand, he is your brother.
– Not Dennis at all?
– It’s him.
– But how in the name of the Lord… I do not understand…
– As a police officer, psychologist and doctor, he thought he could account for your mysterious disappearance. He was confronted with worse villains than he had ever thought — and has certainly come to other thoughts about the psychology of crime at the moment and healed from the simple point of view that good words can make a tiger a sheep.
– Dennis has always been like that… But I don’t think they… I mean, I guess they haven’t taken his life for me.
“I hope so,” Bert said, telling of his meeting with Dennis Morgan and the circumstances in which they were last separated.
That’s when Gerald Morgan shouted outright:
– It never happens as long as I live. He must be saved.
“That’s my opinion, too,” Bert said calmly. – I just don’t know yet how it works – and how we get out of here ourselves.
The fact that Arizona Bert voiced such a suspicion might seem strange to those with even the slightest idea of all the dangers she had masterfully coped with. But this time, too, his words were not caused by fear, but he said it in order to find this Morgan as recklessly daring as his brother.
– If this time we fail, he said, then we are sold. –
There is no thinking about the third experiment.
– How many of us are facing us?
– A whole slide. Number unknown. There’s two of us. There may be three. Do you have weapons?
– I had a revolver, of course, but it was taken away.
Bert said for a moment. Would he dare to surrender another of his weapons to this man? – Careless use of it would be of little use to their cause.
However, it became nothing, for at the same time there was the sound of approaching footsteps, and Morgan whispered:
– Keep your reserves!… They’re here… But I know… The Negro showed me a hiding place. I was stupid when I didn’t use it. Come on!
The proposal was good. – And besides, there was no time better than an inch. Bert followed the liberated man, who led him by the hand to an iron hatch and opened it while echoing curses came from the direction they had just come from.
– Here, said Gerald Morgan. – It’s a tank, and it’s not deep. – But I think we’ll both fit in there.
When nothing else helped, Bert followed the prompting and the example of the saved. Hardly had they done so before the applicants walked over the iron hatch and they heard the voice of an inciting woman who threatened them with all possible evil if no missing persons were found.
Bert feared that the searchers would notice the raising of the iron hatch that hid them. Just in case, he kept his revolvers ready to fire. But no one was excited to think of the hatch and suddenly it became quiet again as the applicants moved away in the other direction.
“Maybe it’s our turn now,” said Arizona Bert calmly, raising the hatch and climbing up. It has probably been considered clear that we have slipped through a broken window and that nothing helps but to bring ourselves to safety.
And Bert took the lead. – Without an inch, he went to the basement stairs, along which the seekers had left. If he could just get to the gate, he knew there was Big Bob sure, wondering at the long wait and the noise he had heard, though not shot, strangely enough.
We entered the hall. But there had to be extreme caution. Above the floor, a woman was shouting and commanding. The men answered equally noisily.
– Dog!… Doggi!… It’s over there! shouted the woman. – Catch it! This time it will not escape.
At a glance, Bert was at the gate and opened it. He gave the signal. The answer came in the blink of an eye. And almost as quickly appeared Big Bob, who pulled his mouth to a wide grimace:
– Is the final dance coming?
– It looks like it, Bob. Watch out! Stand behind this booth. Don’t let a cat out. We have to get the whole slide, you see!
– All right! Come along Mexiko-Maria!… Here they get to dance so that is valid… Greetings to Harry!
Now he got Mr Morgan Bert’s second revolver. And so they slowly began to sneak down the stairs.
But then an unexpected incident happened. Down the stairs there were steps approaching. Now one had to attack either immediately or hide again. Attacking would cause noise that still had to be avoided. – But there was nothing to do before the newcomer crashed past. He had not noticed either man.
– Wait here, said Bert. Sit behind that door. I snap back; I make clear what we saw.
Gerald Morgan grabbed Bert’s arm and said:
That man is mine . It was Full-Handed Fred who… And the careless man disappeared after Fred and would probably ruin everything by shooting and making such a noise that everyone would rush to the scene.
Arizona Bert was worse off than in trouble. And in the middle of it all, he heard his little dogg bark furiously. All that was missing was Big Bob rushing to the scene and echoing the resounding Whakeewho! Hi Ho! Shout and then everything would be ready.
Carefully sneaked after Bert Gerald Morgan to prevent, if possible, the worst from happening.
That’s when Bully-Dass came! It had a meandering rattlesnake in its mouth !