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Science clashes with science in this swiftly moving tale, crowded with breathless action. Try to identify the man in the black mask!


WHEN will the world realize that guns and bombs as weapons of murder are being superseded by instruments twice as deadly, and ten times as difficult to defend oneself against?

We read in the daily press, that scientists have proved the theory of atomic destruction of matter. Yet only a few years ago, science teachers taught us that matter was indestructible. Do we realize that each new accomplishment of science, besides helping mankind, also gives the educated criminal a new armory to war against unprotected civilization? And that, in order to combat these new perils, science must come to the aid of the detective, guiding and assisting him in the detection of crime, and the conviction o the criminal?

Radium, for instance! A boon to the sick, yet at the same time, a terrible menace in the hands of an evildoer. In this story Mr. Curry, who is a writer too well known to need introduction to our readers, develops an extraordinary plot, full of sound, practical and every-day science.


RAYS OF DEATH

By Tom Curry

CHAPTER I
Lawson Is Called Back

DETECTIVE MORAN'S steel-grey eyes looked straight ahead as he climbed the flight of stairs which led to the lighted door. Various odors, strange to him and lumped by the detective under the descriptive name of "stinks", reached his nostrils. He squared his broad shoulders and took the derby from his bullet head, displaying short-clipped brown hair.

"Lawson!" he called.

"Here! Is that you, Moran?"

Young Lawson, a research chemist who had formerly been a member of the police organization, but was now working for a private company, held out a hand stained yellow and brown by chemicals and sat his visitor down in a nearby chair.

"Gosh, Lawson!" exclaimed the detective. "We surely miss you. Too bad the red tape put you out."

It was red tape alone which had caused the department to oust Lawson. The great chemist had been working at a small salary, but with unlimited facilities, in his own laboratory in police headquarters. But, since he had no regular duties but simply came and Went as he pleased, the ire of some hard-boiled official was aroused, and he had been discharged. The work of the department was done by city chemists and doctors; liquor analyses, forensic medicine and bacteriology being outside of the realm of the common detective. The inspector who had brought the valuable Lawson into the organization, and allowed him free run of the city's facilities, had been reprimanded.

Moran admired the quality of Lawson's mind too much to allow the chemist to drop out of his busy life. He visited Lawson whenever possible and, though the chemist was often irritable and refused to be disturbed while he was working, Moran did not take it amiss. He knew Lawson liked him.

The scientist was pale, with an acid scar under his right eye; a slender man, with delicate, long fingers and light blue eyes. His head was large, and his brown hair in a state of perpetual disorder.

"I've come on business," said Moran delicately: "I know we have no call on you any more, Lawson—it was a dirty trick to let you out that way—but I thought, if you weren't too busy—"

Moran stopped, evidently embarrassed. Lawson laughed: "Go on, Moran! You know I don't care about that. I had a good time while I was with you and enjoyed the work we did together. While I wouldn't care to be bothered here by most of your colleagues—I'm too busy for that-you're welcome to come and take a chance any time if I can be of assistance and can spare the time."

"Yes, I thought you'd feel that way. I'm out of my depth now, and I hate to admit it to the chief. You know, when you were helping me, I solved two or three chemical cases. That's why they put me on this one."

"What's happened, then? A poisoning?"

The detective's brow corrugated in thick lines:

"No. It might almost be an accident. I've been out there all day. Was put on special detail. The local police are working on it, but headquarters sent me to see what I could do. Have you ever heard of radium?"

Lawson laughed: "I should say so!"

"I mean, do you know much about it? Is it inflammable?"

"Scarcely that. It burns itself up. The chemistry of the radium elements is magnificent, Moran. You see, the metal is decomposing itself, but the action cannot be hurried or retarded. Radium salts—the metal itself is scarcely known—give off three rays: the alpha ray, which consists of positively charged helium1—that's used in dirigibles now instead of hydrogen; the beta rays, negatively-charged electrons or units of electricity; and the gamma rays, which are very similar to X-rays. The alpha rays will illuminate a zinc-sulphide screen—which is how we make our luminous watch and clock dials. In 1898—"

1: Helium is one of the elements first discovered in other planets or stars. As early as 1868, the presence and existence of helium was discovered in the sun by spectroscopic examination of the suns light. It is to this fact it owes its name; helios being the Greek word meaning sun. Its atomic weight is 4.0, as compared to hydrogens 1.008: but its lower efficiency as a for dirigibles is offset by non-inflammableness. It was finally isolated by Ramsey in 1895.

"Cut it out!" begged Moran, mopping his brow: "I'll talk and you can figure it out in your own head. Do you read the papers?"

A Curious Explosion

LAWSON shook his head: "Not every day. I've been up here now for three days and haven't been out. My food is brought in to me and I take a nap on the couch once in a while. Why?"

"Because you must have seen the account of the terrific explosion. The Malloradium Company's plant blew up like a leaky still at two A. M. Monday night, and the whole building was demolished. Luckily, the plant stands off by itself in a large field, or there would have been a lot more damage done. The fire has been extinguished after a hard fight. Two watchmen inside were killed, and two who were patrolling the grounds were knocked for a goal. They're able to talk now, and I had a word with them. Do you know what they say?"

"No. Moran, you seem excited?"

"Sure I am. The watchmen say they couldn't see well Monday night because of the fog!" Lawson, smoking a cigaret, watched his friend's face. Moran half smiled, half frowned: "Listen, Lawson. There was no fog on Monday night! It was clear, moonlight, stars shining as pretty as could be. Everybody in the neighborhood says the same thing."

"Maybe the watchmen were raving."

"No. They both claim the same thing. Whoever blew up the plant—and no doubt it was blown up—got in under cover of the fog and entered the building. The two watchmen inside were taken care of, bound and left to be blown to hell. We found some parts of the poor fellows."

"But where does the radium come in?"

"I'll tell you something about the company. There's a man named William Keating out there, almost crazy, picking over the ruins. He thinks the explosion might have been accidental, spontaneous combustion or something like that, and that his precious radium may be lying in there somewhere. There was an ounce of the stuff in the company's safe, in the basement. Well, this Keating has been trying to dig out the safe and has got burned and made himself a nuisance to the firemen. The owner of the works, Byfield Mallory, has been out there, too, raging around. D' you know how much he says that little bit of white powder is worth?"

"About two million dollars," said Lawson, after' a rapid calculation: "Radium's selling at $70,000 a gram—or was, the last time I heard. But I thought the Belge concern had a monopoly on the stuff? Didn't know the Americans were making any just now."

"I couldn't tell you about that. But two million dollars for a few pinches of stuff seems like a Chinaman's dream to me. Could it be true?"

"Surely. It takes some nine hundred processes to get a few milligrams of radium out of several tons of uranium ore, either pitchblende or carnotite. Pitchblende is found in Europe, the carnotite found in the American West."

Moran held up his hands: "You can see how I feel. Keating and Mallory are just about crazy, and I can't get much out of them. Keating won't believe the radium actually is stolen. He keeps saying no one could sell it without being caught."

"That's true. Anybody who turned up with an ounce of radium would be investigated at once. Only hospitals, research laboratories and, perhaps, a few factories which manufacture such things as airplane struts or luminous dials could have any use for radium. Doctors usually borrow it from radium banks."

"Well—I hate to quit on this case. It would be a feather in my cap if I could find that radium. I've got men searching the ruins now; but the fog the watchmen mention made me wonder if there wasn't something more to it than there seems to be. By the way—the experts claim that the explosion looks like T.N.T. had been used."

"Trinitrotoluol?2 Possibly. Now, I'm working on something, but am at a phase where I can leave it for a few days. I'll meet you here tomorrow morning, and we'll go out and take a look. Where's the factory—-or what's left of it?"

2: Trinitotoluol (or toluene). A high explosive made by treating toluene with nitric acid—thus forming the chemical compound CH3C6H2 (NO2)3. This substance, generally referred to as T.N.T., is used for filling high explosive shells: for it melts readily (at 81.5° Centigrade) and can be poured from one vessel to another rapidly and in safety.

"Out in Queens. As I told you, Mallory owns a tract of flat land out there, and it was there the radium plant was built."

"All right, then. I'll see you tomorrow. S'long."

Moran took his leave, to go home and snatch a few hours sleep. Hope was in his heart, hope that he might be the one to solve the case. He had been assigned to it on special detail, and wished to keep his reputation clear as a solver of chemical mysteries. In this, Lawson was his chief aid. Moran would place the facilities of the great organization at the chemist's call, and Lawson would direct the inquiry through the detective.

CHAPTER II
$2,000,000.00 GONE

THE spring sun shone brightly, as Detective Moran, escorting his friend Lawson, stepped up to the wire gate of what had been the Malloradium Company's plant. A railroad switch ran in from the nearby main line; and two or three cars, which had come from the West with the carnotite ore from which the radium was extracted, were lying as they had fallen from the force of the explosion.

Piles of brick, plaster, and burned material, vats, furnaces and broken glassware were strewn about in profusion. The amount of labor necessary to obtain the radium was so immense, and the chemicals so numerous, that it was actually cheaper to transport the heavy ore from the West than to take the chemicals to the uranium deposits. To produce a single gram of radium bromide, five hundred tons of ore had to be treated with some five hundred tons of chemicals and a Niagara of distilled water.

Moran was admitted at once, Lawson trailing after him. Firemen and police stood about; and inside the inclosure were several cars, among them a black limousine.

"That car belongs to Mallory, the owner," said Moran, indicating the limousine: "There he is, himself, over by those tubs. That's Keating with him, the smaller fellow."

Lawson looked at them. Mallory, the owner of the demolished factory, was a huge, bluff man, with iron-gray hair and a red face. The chemist, watching him, could see the temper which Mallory was venting on his manager. Keating, black of hair, was of slighter build; just now he wore a worried look.

The detective and his friend made their way past the cars towards the group by the ruins. As Lawson, picking his way among the bits of brick and wood which had been placed there by the terrible hand of the explosion, passed the limousine, he glanced up.

The chauffeur was on the seat, but Lawson did not look at the driver. He caught sight of the white face of a girl who was staring at the ruins.

She was beautiful. Her face, though pale, was exquisite in appearance, and her great dark eyes lighted her countenance. She was slight of figure, but clothed with a simplicity which was elegant. Lawson, whose heart had began to leap, stopped beside the car. He saw dark curls under her small hat.

For a moment, the chemist, usually so businesslike, stared at the girl with what might have been rudeness, had it not been for the honest admiration in his gaze.

Moran had gone on. He was talking, thinking Lawson was still at his side. The girl, seeing the detective speaking to empty air, looked round and caught sight of the chemist, struck dumb by her beauty. For a moment, a surprised little smile appeared on her red lips; then she flushed and turned away.

The detective discovered Lawson's absence, and turned to see where the chemist was. But Lawson was already running after him.

They stopped for a few: moments at the edge of the ruins.

"Some job, eh?" said Moran, almost proudly. Keating, the manager, perceiving Moran, hurried over to him.

"Mr. Mallory's here," he said: "I've been hoping against hope to find the radium in the vault. But the vault has been smashed, too. The men have just reached it. Thirty grams of it-imagine! Worth over two million dol...

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