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Why couldn't the girl have told Dan that she was
his friend's wife? Dan was willing to sacrifice his
life for Hank—even for Hank's secret formula....
And now, unknowing, he was about to do his
friend the greatest injury of all



THE possibility of danger was far from Dan Landon's mind when he dismounted. Late afternoon sunlight, filtering through the trees, made highlights and shadows on his rugged, rough-hewn features as he tethered his horse.

He approached the little mountain cabin just ahead. The tang of September was in the high Sierra air; and Dan Landon smiled. It would be good to see Hank Merriman again after all these years.

Approaching the sprawled, rambling log shack, Landon noticed that the front door was partially open. He stepped inside; raised his voice. "Hello, Hank," he called out.

And then he stopped, bewildered. There was a dark-eyed, olive-skinned girl sitting at a desk at the opposite side of the cabin's front room. She had been poring through a sheaf of papers; had evidently been too engrossed in her task to hear Dan Landon's approach. But now, hearing his call, she whirled around. Like lightning, her slender hand darted out; snatched up a heavy Luger automatic from the desk.

She trained the weapon's ominous black muzzle at Dan Landon's heart. "Up!" she commanded harshly. "Get your hands up into the air, señor, or I shall keel you!"

Landon's arms went slowly upward over his head. "What the devil!" he whispered.

SHE was young; and she was beautiful with an exotic Latin loveliness. Her skin was dusk-ivory; her eyes long-lashed and slumbrous. Her lips were red and kiss-inviting; her hair the blue-black of a tropic midnight.

Dan Landon's eyes drank in the lithe contours of her body; lingered on the magnificently-firm breasts that strained at the confinement of her thin silken frock. Her hips were ultra-feminine; her thighs were symmetrical columns of perfect proportions. Her chiffon-sheathed legs and ankles were slim, patrician.

Looking at the girl, Dan Landon thought of her as a splendid female cat-animal, lithe and swift and somehow deadly. Yet despite this air of danger, he sensed about her an aura of invitation that stirred a sudden desire within his veins.

And then she spoke once more. "Who are you?" she demanded. "Speak, before I decide to pull thees trigger!"

With bold calmness, Dan Landon met her stare. "The name," he answered, "is Dan Landon. If I have intruded, I'm sorry. I thought this was the cabin of Hank Merriman."

The girl's dark-glowing eyes narrowed. "What do you want of Señor Merriman?"

"I don't want anything of him. He's an old friend of mine; I haven't seen him in years. I had a letter from him the other day, inviting me up here to visit him at his mountain laboratory." Dan hesitated, smiled faintly. "Quite evidently I came to the wrong place. Can you tell me where I might find Mr. Merriman ?"

"Thees ees hees cabin," the girl said slowly. "But Señor Merriman ees not here. He have gone to the ceety for chemical supplies."

"Gone to the city, eh? Will he be back soon?"

"Why do you ask, señor?"

Dan Landon grinned engagingly. "I was hoping he'd hurry back—so that I wouldn't have to stand here too long with my hands in the air. The posture's rather uncomfortable."

The girl took a step toward him. She moved lightly, gracefully, with a sinuous and liquid quality to her muscles. "You say you have a letter from Señor Merriman inviting you to thees place. Ees thees letter with you, perhaps?"

"Of course." Landon started to lower his hands; to reach into the breast pocket of his leather coat.

The girl came closer. "Keep the arms up!" she whispered warningly. "Me, I weel find thees letter myself." And with her free hand she burrowed into Landon's coat.

The nearness of her, the touch of her fingers upon his chest, did queer things to Dan Landon. He could feel a surging wave of sensation leaping through his veins; and her faint perfume assailed his nostrils like an intoxicating and heady wine. He could see the beginning of the soft valley between her enticing, creamsmooth breasts—a valley daringly exposed by the low-cut neck of her frock.

For an instant, the sight filled him with an almost uncontrollable impulse to sweep her into his hard arms, crush her against him. It was a savage, atavistic call, his desire to conquer her....

But she held the Luger's muzzle jammed unwaveringly against his ribs; and he read grim purpose in her dark, flashing eyes. She was a dangerous creature. And Dan Landon lived for danger; which made this dark-haired girl all the more intriguing....

SHE had extracted the contents of his inner pocket. Now she came upon a letter addressed in the clear, bold handwriting of Hank Merriman. With her one free hand she managed to extract the letter from its envelope.

Dan Landon remembered the note's contents:

"Dear Dan:

You'll probably be quite surprised to hear from me after all these years. I have a mountain cabin in the Sierras back of Big Fork, complete with laboratory. I've fust completed a certain chemical experiment of unusual importance—a poison gas. Wish you could manage to come up to my place this week-end. I'd like to chin with you—and there's a chance I might need your help. Enclosed find a map showing how to reach my diggings.

Hank Merriman."

Dan Landon watched her as she read. Then, slowly, her stiffness seemed to relax. She lowered the Luger from Landon's ribs, and a faintly apologetic smile came to her ripe crimson lips.

"You must forgeeve me, Señor Landon," she whispered. "I see I have make beeg mistake when I suspect you of being an enemy." She tossed the Luger back to the desk. "I must explain my actions, or else you weel no doubt theenk I am a crazy person, no?"

Landon shrugged. "Not crazy, my dear. Just impetuous." He looked boldly into her dark eyes. "I like my women to be that way."

She flushed a little; laughed coquettishly. "Me, I am Lola Lopez. I am Señor Merriman's laboratory asseestant. I have been work' weeth heem een hees experiments here."

"Working on the poison gas?"

"Si. Yes. Your friend have developed thees new formula for war gas very terrible, very deadly. Señor Merriman ees scare' secret agents of other countries have find out about thees gas. He is afraid they come here, steal his formula. When he go to the ceety thees morning, he warn me to be on guard against interlopers. Me, I am nervous person. When I hear you enter thees cabin, I point gun at you. Now Señor Dan, you forgeeve Lola Lopez?"

Landon laughed. "Of course. I don't blame you a damned bit. The next question is, when will Merriman be back?"

"I expect heem tonight. You will remain here and wait for heem?"

"If I may."

"Good! I weel prepare the supper, and we weel eat. Eet ees time for sun to go down soon, no?"

Dan Landon nodded. "Right. And while you're scaring up the meal, I'll have a look around outside." He moved easily from the cabin; walked out into the swiftly-gathering mountain dusk.

Two hundred yards away from the house, he came upon the dead man.

THE corpse was that of a huge, hulking negro; and the man's black, muscular throat had been sliced open from ear to ear.

The body had been roughly concealed beneath a bank of fallen autumn leaves; and by sheer chance, a stray gust of breeze had drifted some of the leaves away from an outstretched, stiffened black hand.

"Good God!" Landon rasped. He went to his knees; swept away the leaves until he had completely uncovered the negro's rigid, mutilated cadaver.

He sprang upright, raced back toward Merriman's cabin. He raised his voice harshly, commandingly "Señorita Lopez—Lola!"

The dark-eyed Mexican girl appeared at the doorway. "What ees eet?" she spoke sharply.

"Come here. I want to show you something." Landon grabbed her arm, led her to the spot where he had made his gruesome discovery. He pointed to the corpse. "Look!"

Lola Lopez paled. "Madre de Dios!" she whispered. "Eet ees Christopher—!"

"Christopher? You knew this black man?"

"Si—yes! He ees—he was Señor Merriman's servant! He was left here to guard the cabin!"

"Then Merriman was correct in his suspicions!" Landon muttered. "Someone is skulking in this neighborhood to steal that formula! They killed this black boy to make the coast clearer!"

"Sangre de Dios!" the girl wailed. Her hand went to her mouth; her eyes widened. "And we have left the cabin unguarded!" She turned; raced back toward the log shack.

Landon hurled himself after her, overtook her, grabbed her by the shoulders. "Keep away!" he barked. "I'll go in and have a look around. If anyone has sneaked in there, I'll handle him!"

He flung the girl aside, smashed himself into Merriman's cabin. There was nobody to be found in the front room. Landon grabbed up the Luger from the desk, entered a smaller side-chamber.

It was a well-equipped miniature laboratory, replete with retorts, Bunsen burners, glass stills, carboys, test-tubes and strange-looking chemical apparatus. But there were no traces of a prowler...

Swiftly, Dan examined the two remaining rooms of the cabin—twin tiny bedrooms. Again he found nothing suspicious. At last he went to the front door. "Lola—Lola Lopez!"

The girl came toward him out of the deepening shadows of dusk. "You—you have find something, Señor Dan?"

"No. But there's no telling when the man—or men—who murdered that darky might come back here and attack. You and I are going to lock ourselves in here and wait for Hank to get back. Then one of us will go for the nearest sheriff."

Lola gave him a grateful glance. "I am glad you are here, Señor Dan. I feel safer.

THEY closed and barred the doors, the windows. The Mexican girl lighted a couple of kerosene lamps. She seemed nervous; Dan noticed that her fingers trembled as she set fire to the lamp-wicks.

"You—you would like supper, no?" she looked at him.

Landon shook his head. "Not very "hungry, after finding that corpse. How about you?"

"Me, I am not hongry, either. I—I am frightened," she confessed.

"Then get some rest. Sleep will do you good. I'll stay up and stand watch."

"Thank you, Señor Dan. I—I theenk I will take thees advice of yours. I am ver' tired..." She smiled wanly at him; went into one of the cabin's two small bedrooms. She closed the door behind her.

Dan Landon lighted a cigarette. It struck him that with the lamps lighted, the cabin'9 interior was a perfect target for any marksman who might fire through the unshaded windows. He puffed out the lights; noticed, in the ensuing darkness, that no illumination glowed from Lola's bedroom.

"Smart girl!" he muttered. And he settled into a chair in grim silence, with the Luger clenched in his right fist.

Hours passed. Then, in the blackness, Landon heard a stealthy sound. He stiffened; raised the Luger threateningly.

His straining eyes perceived a white blur coming toward him across the room. "Who's there?" he rasped.

"Eet ees I—Lola," the whispered answer came. "I cannot sleep, Señor Dan. I am scare' of the darkness...."

He could feel her presence; smell the faint fragrance of her body. Her hand touched him; brushed his cheek....

"You poor kid!" he whispered. Almost automatically his arm stole out, encompassed her lithe waist. And then she was pressed close to him, tremblingly, thrillingly, with a breath-taking intimacy that made Landon's heart race.

"Dan—hold me tight!" she panted. "I am not scare' when you hold me!"

In the darkness, his hands made the startling discovery that Lola was clad in nothing but the sheerest of silken night dresses. Through the gossamer material he could sense the sweet warmth of her body, the exciting contours of her hips and her breasts. And with Latin fire, she was melting against him, fusing herself against him.

Somehow, his lips met her open mouth in the darkness of the cabin; and he tasted the sultry fire of her kiss. "Lola!" he whispered.

"Dan!" her answer was a panted caress.

His arms tingled electrically about her soft, warm waist. Sweetly-firm, satiny-resilient was her flesh; and his fingers reveled in its warm, billowing lushness. He drew her ever closer as he kissed the hollow of her throat....

She was quivering, panting under his caresses.

"Dan!" she gasped longingly. "You weel come into Lola's room, no? Lola is afraid and lonely...."

She was pulling at him, gently; drawing him toward her in the blackness. His blood was bursting in his veins; his soul was consumed with a raging flame. Then, he hesitated.

"Lola!" he whispered.

"Si, my lovaire?"

"Are you... anything to Hank Merriman?"

"Why do you ask that?"

"Hank is my friend. If you are his sweetheart, I can't...."

Her lips raised to his own. "I am only Señor Merriman's laboratory asseestant. There is notheeng between us except that. You weel not be betraying your friend by making love with Lola...." And again she pulled him toward her.

HE followed her; and in the pitch-dark blackness his senses were assaulted by the fragrance of her all-pervading perfume and the aliveness of her body pressing close to him. He reached forth; and his hands encountered again her almost naked, quivering form—

And then an electric torch smashed blading white life, blinding Landon. He caught a fleeting glimpse of Lola, intoxicatingly beautiful. Her eyes were wide with fear.... Something heavy bludgeoned down on Dan's skull. The sickening, bruising concussion bashed at his consciousness, sent him staggering. He heard Lola's cry of terror. He tried to steady himself, to whirl and grapple with the attacker who liad struck him from behind.

Even as he tried to turn, a second cudgeling smash thundered down upon his head. And then Dan slumped to the floor in stupefied unconsciousness.

TWO little yellow men were unstrapping Dan from a pack-burro's shaggy back, in the darkness of the night. He opened his pain-bleared eyes; beheld the Asiatic faces of the men who were untying him.

"You rats!" he rasped weakly. He tried to struggle, to free himself. He felt his arms being yanked behind him as he slid from the pack-burro's back. Vicious, savage pressure was being applied to his wrists. The jiu-jitsu hold sent lancing stabs of agony through his sinews. He staggered, sank to his knees.

"You will gain nothing by struggling, my friend," a voice spoke silkily, suavely. "We are quite capable of dealing you considerably more pain than you are now experiencing. Will you come quietly?"

Dan Landon was too drunk with pain to answer. But his muscles relaxed, and he ceased to fight against his captors. Foggily, he tried to piece together what had happened.

His captors were yellow men; Asiatics. How had they managed to enter Merriman's cabin? And what had happened to the Mexican girl?

As if in a nightmare-fog of unreality, Dan knew that he was being taken into a rustic house. His feet dragged leadenly under him as he was half-prodded, half-carried down a long corridor. A door was opened before him. He was cast into a lightless room; he sank to hands and knees, like a punch-drunk pugilist. His head, his body, his entire being was an entity of pain.

And then, out of the blackness of his prison-chamber, he heard a faint stirring; a quivering, indrawn breath. Weakly a voice came to him—

"Who is it?"

For a single moment Dan Landon forgot the torturing agony of his hurts, his bruises. He had recognized that weak, quavering voice!

"Hank Merriman!" Landon gasped out.

"Dan!" the voice whispered.

LANDON groped his way forward through the darkness until he came to a trussed, helpless figure.

"What in hell's happened, man?" he panted. "Why are you here? What's it all about?"

Hank Merriman's answer was a broken whisper. "I started for town this morning, to get supplies. A bunch of yellow devils ambushed me on the trail. They brought me to this house across the lake from my place. Since then they've tortured hell out of me... almost constantly...."

"But why? Why, in God's name?"

"They're trying to make me give up the formula of my new gas!" Merriman answered bitterly.

"And you've refused?"

"I've held out thus far. God knows if I can stand much more of it...."

Savagely, Dan shook his head to clear his jumbled thoughts. "Where is the formula?"

"I was too wise to keep it on paper. I committed it to memory. It exists only in my mind. That's why they haven't dared kill me. Instead, they keep torturing me to make me tell...." Then, in the blackness of the room, Hank's voice grew sharper, more agonized. "But what are you doing here?"

"I went to your cabin in answer to your letter," Landon said. "I discovered your negro servant murdered. I—"

"God!" Hank Merriman's panted exclamation was a wheezing pennon of despair. "And what of Lola, my wife?"

"Your wife?" Landon whispered; and hot, surging surprise flooded his numbed mind.

"Yes. I forgot that you didn't know I'd married my laboratory assistant, a Mexican girl named Lola Lopez. She's beautiful, Dan. And if those yellow rats have harmed her, I—"

Dan clenched his fists. Good God! Lola Lopez was Hank's wife! And he had almost....

Not that it had been completely his fault. The girl had lied to him; had said that she was nothing to Merriman.... Nevertheless, Dan Landon could not bring himself to confess to his friend that he had made love to Lola, kissed her, caressed her."

"What's wrong, Dan?" Merriman's whisper was sharp with suspense. "Why don't you say something? Is—is there something you know and won't tell me? Has Lola been hurt?"

Grimly, Landon uttered a half-truth. "I don't know whether or not she's been harmed, Hank," he said slowly. "She and I were locked in your cabin, waiting for you to return. I was attacked, hit over the head. And Lola—"

"Yes! What of Lola? Speak, damn you!" Hank Merriman's voice rose hysterically.

"I don't know about her. I don't know if they captured her also, or if they let her get away."

"God in heaven!" Hank Merriman choked. "If they—"

His whispered words were suddenly broken off. From somewhere in the far reaches of the house, there came a wailing, feminine cry. A cry of terror, of dread, of agonized torture!

EVEN as that terrified cry knifed the darkness, Dan Landon heard another sound. It was the grating of a key in a lock. And then the door of the prison-room was thrown open.

Three slant-eyed yellow men entered. One bore a lantern, which he hung to a peg in the wall. Then, swiftly, they leaped at Landon, trussed his hands behind him.

Finished with him, they turned to Merriman. In the lantern-light, Dan caught his first glimpse of his captive chemist-friend. The sight brought sudden nausea to Landon's churning guts. Merriman's face was a mass of bloodstained bruises. His cheeks were lacerated, his lips puffed and split like gory sponges. And his hands—

Each fingernail had been ripped out by the roots, savagely, horribly. Merriman's left foot was bare, shoeless. But it did not resemble a human foot. It was crushed, pulped beyond human shape. Dan stared. Once, beyond Songkhala in the Malay peninsula, he had seen another foot like that; and he knew what had caused it. The so-called Malay boot, a vicious, sadistic contrivance of wood and turn-screws that inflicted unendurable agony....

Now Dan Landon realized the torture which Hank Merriman must have undergone in protecting his secret....

The leading Asiatic was leaning over Merriman; was speaking softly, silkily:

"Friend Merriman, we have come to you once more to ask that you reveal the formula to us. As you see, we hold the winning cards in this game. You are a prisoner. We have likewise captured Mr. Landon, your friend, here. Moreover, your lovely wife is likewise our... shall we say 'guest'?"

Merriman writhed on the floor. His wrists were fettered, helpless. "Damn you!" he panted.

"If you will not reveal the formula, then we shall take certain very regrettable steps, Mr. Merriman. You will be wise to carry your stubbornness no further."

"No! No!" Merriman grated. "Very good. Gag him, men!" the Asiatic commanded his slant-eyed followers. In a trice, a gag had been slipped into Hank's mouth. And then Dan Landon felt himself being similarly treated. A rag was forced between his teeth, choking him. A strap was passed around his head, holding the rag in place.

"Come! Bring them!" the leader barked.

Dan was lifted; forced to walk from the room. Behind him he heard Merriman's limping, halting shuffle; and he knew the agony which every step must have cost the chemist.

They went down a corridor; and at last they came to two adjoining doors. air, Señor, or I shall keel you!" One gave access to a lighted room. Dan caught a brief glimpse of it, and saw that it was a white-walled, well-equipped chemical laboratory. The second door led into a darkened chamber.

"Put Mr. Landon in the dark room," the Asiatic leader said evenly. "We shall not need him for the present."

Landon was thrust into the black-dark room which adjoined the lighted laboratory. The door closed on him. Then he beheld a thin pencil of light, and realized that there must be a door between this chamber and the laboratory. He fumbled toward it; found it. Kneeling, he glued his eye to a keyhole which permitted him a restricted view of the white-walled chamber adjoining.

HE saw Hank Merriman being hauled into that lighted white laboratory and trussed to a chair.

There came a feminine wail of fear. Then two more little yellow men entered the laboratory, bearing between them the struggling figure of the Mexican girl, Lola, Merriman's wife.

Save for torn step-ins, and shreds of a brassiere she was naked. She cast one wide-eyed, terrified glance at her husband; and there was appeal in her dark eyes.

The leader of the gang now approached Merriman. "My friend," he smiled mirthlessly, "we are about to let you witness a little scene between some of my men and your very desirable wife. Perhaps, when we have finished, you will be willing to reveal the secret of your formula!"

In the next room, peering through the keyhole and impotent to interfere, Landon watched what followed. It was revolting, brutal, horrible.

The dark-eyed Lola was thrown upon a couch. There were now five of the yellow men grouped about her, including the leader. He spoke suavely. "I shall have the honor first," he announced.

The others fell back. Then the slant-eyed leader's hands clawed forth; pawed at Lola's writhing shoulders, ran down her arms, caressing daintily her silken skin....

She cried out as the yellow man became more savage, but she was powerless to resist his growing frenzy....

AT last, the Asiatic released her; smiled at his four henchmen. "Well?" he said politely.

Lola tried to scream; but hard yellow hands muffled her mouth. And then a saturnalia or bestiality followed; a saturnalia unspeakable, revolting....

... And all the while, Hank Merriman was twisting and writhing at the bonds which held him to his chair; while in the next room, Landon struggled desperately at the fetters which pinioned his wrists behind him.

But Landon's gyves held true. At last, sweating and impotent, Dan Landon applied his eye once more to the keyhole and stared into the white-walled laboratory.

He saw the Asiatic approaching Hank Merriman; saw the chemist's gag being removed. "Now, friend Merriman," the slant-eyed yellow man smiled, "will you give us the formula? Or do you prefer to see your wife treated to even harsher indignities?"

Hank Merriman's answer was a croaking, defeated sob. "I—I'll tell!" he mumbled. "I would have told before you laid hands on Lola, if you'd removed this foul gag!"

The Asiatic grinned. "I wanted you to see that I meant business, my friend. We Orientals do not bluff, as you Yankees do! And now—the formula!"

Merriman began gasping out certain chemical combinations. And as he spoke, the Asiatic leader went to a work-bench; began compounding the elements as Merriman dictated them.

The process was long, involved, tedious. But at last, after an hour that seemed ages long, the task was finished; and the yellow man stood before a thin glass carboy filled with thick, greenish fog that eddied and drifted within its transparent container.

The slant-eyed leader chuckled evilly. "Now we shall test the gas!" he spoke softly. He uttered a command to two of his yellow henchmen.

They turned, left the laboratory. Then they came back, trundling before them what appeared to be a small cage of thick plate glass.

In the next room, Dan Landon stiffened in horror. Good God—they were forcing Hank Merriman into that glass cage! They were sealing him into it! And now, through a valve, they were introducing a small quantity of that eddying, green gas into the glass chamber...!

They were using Hank Merriman as a human guinea-pig! They were testing the death-dealing qualities of the gas upon the man who had invented it!

Dan Landon saw the curling green tentacles of gas flowing into the deathcage. He saw Hank Merriman stiffen, struggle—and then go limp. Sickening, drooling trickles of dark blood abruptly gushed from the chemist's nostrils and mouth. Then Merriman slumped to the floor of the glass chamber of death....

And as Merriman died, the Mexican girl, Lola Lopez, suddenly burst out in peals of amused laughter!

HER yellow captors had released her. She now stood up from the couch, grinning. "A splendid show!" she applauded. "We now have the formula, and that peeg of a Hank Merriman ees dead! Our plan worked to perfection, si? Just as I knew eet would! Poor fool—he thought that hees lovely wife was being mistreated by you yellow men! He deed not guess that I was; how you say? in league with you from the begeening to steal his formula!"

In the next room, Landon gasped. The whole drama had been deliberately staged to trick Merriman into revealing his formula...!

Red rage descended before his eyes. He knew that he would be next to die. The yellow men would not permit him to live, knowing as much as he did. And there was no chance of his escaping....

A sudden plan leaped into his brain. A plan that would avenge Hank Merriman....

Landon backed off from the door which led into the laboratory; gathered his hard muscles. Bruised, battered, gagged, with his wrists fettered behind him, his feet were still free. And in that fact lay the core of Dan's plan....

He crouched; drew a deep, sobbing breath. And then he hurled himself at the door.

His shoulder bashed into the portal, splintered it. The door sagged open. Landon catapulted into the white-walled, brightly-lighted room.

He heard sudden harsh shouts; heard Lola screaming in fear. He saw the Asiatic leader go for his automatic, drag it out. The weapon roared, belched a stream of red flame. Dan felt the shattering impact of scalding lead burning through his chest, his guts....

Yet he kept on, indomitably, relentlessly. The other four Asiatics were shooting at him now. Bullets were thudding into him, smashing at him. But he kept on. He had to keep on! Ten more steps—eight—six—three—

HE staggered to his goal. The yellow men were leaping at him, clubbing him with emptied guns. He felt blood flooding into his mouth, seeping through his gag, filling his lungs. And then—

He reached that carboy of green, lethal gas. He smashed it over with his shoulder.

It crashed to the floor; broke into countless shards. And the tentacles of thick green gas seeped swiftly across the room, like spreading, ectoplasmic snakes....

Lola screamed again. She ran for the laboratory door. The five yellow men hurled themselves at the exit at the same time. Their bodies jammed in the doorway. Frantically they struggled; tried to escape. But it was already too late.

The green gas had reached them.

Dan Landon, writhing on the floor, forced his eyes open. Dimly he saw Lola and her five yellow lovers clutch at their throats; as if from a far distance he heard them screaming in tortured agony. Their shrieks were like a mounting, triumphant music to Landon's failing ears. They were dying... dying....

He closed his eyes wearily. He had avenged his friend. And content in that knowledge, Dan Landon died.