Adam Blake led his associates out of the airport, his metallic green eyes scanning for more trouble as the three jogged across the tarmac.
Hop Harrigan’s plane, the Jenny, rolled out of the Harrigan Aviation Services hangar as they slowed to a walk. Professor Carter Nichols held the door open for them. Blake seized the little ladder with one hand as he helped Paul Twitchell board with the other. Cully Morrigan grabbed the ladder and swarmed up it easily. Blake did an arm pull and was standing beside the professor. It was only a minute’s work to fasten the door shut.
“The tower doesn’t want us to take off,” announced Hop.
“Tell the operator it is a medical emergency,” said Blake.
“They’ll take my license away!” insisted Hop.
“No, they will not,” said Blake.
“We have clearance,” said Hop, astonished. “You were right.”
The Jenny soared into the air easily.
“We will need to land at San Francisco, Mr. Harrigan,” said Blake, betraying no emotion over the narrow escape from Gotham City.
“Right,” said Hop. “We’ll need to refuel anyway before heading out over the Pacific. Let me guess — Australia isn’t our final destination.”
“No, it is not,” said the mystery-man. “We shall probably be heading to an island south of the continent after refueling in Perth.”
“What’s there?” asked Tank Tinker from the co-pilot’s chair.
“I don’t know,” said Blake.
Hop and Tank looked at each other with an understanding born of years of adventuring. Trouble was ahead, and the two old friends were flying into it.
“That was Franko,” said Twitch as the chief took a seat in the cabin. “Back at the airport, I mean.”
“Franko?” said Blake.
“Franko Morelli. He works for the Joker,” said Cully, pale face and rictus composed eerily as placid as Blake’s. “Does odd jobs for the most part, I think.”
“Odd jobs like ventilating people,” said Twitch, with a credible imitation of a tommy-gun.
“Marvelous,” said Professor Nichols, deep in his chair.
“We’re out of Gotham, Prof,” said Twitch. “The Joker’d be cra — well, he won’t follow us out of Gotham City.”
“How do we explain what happened at the airport?” asked Nichols.
“We don’t,” said Morrigan. He took out a portable cleaning kit and disassembled his automatics. He began to clean the firearms methodically and sure.
“Mr. Harrigan will have to answer questions for the authorities,” said Nichols. Twitch and Cully both stared at the Professor. “He will, won’t he?” said Nichols.
“It will not come to that,” said Blake. “If we are right, official inquiry will be the least of our problems.”
“What do you mean?” asked Nichols.
“We’ll be dead,” said Twitch, shakily.
“Or wish we were,” said Morrigan, scraping dirt from the barrel of one .45 with a brush.
“I would not say that,” said Blake, but he didn’t offer alternatives, either.
“Very comforting,” said Nichols.
The trip to California on the Jenny was quiet and uneventful. The group landed as a bank of fog began to blow in from the bay. Blake led the way off the plane.
“Mr. Morrigan, if you and Mr. Twitchell would wait here while the plane is refueled, Professor Nichols and I will talk to the professor’s colleague and come right back,” said the chief. “Shall we, Professor?” he said, making a gesture for the professor to lead the way.
“We have come a long way on a hunch, Adam,” said Nichols.
“Rayne will confirm or deny our theory,” said Blake. “Even if he denies the theory, why are men working on a still-radioactive island?”
Blake and Nichols took a cab to the Angel Island ferry. They crossed over to the island, the Golden Gate Bridge shining down on them.
“What are you planning, Adam?” the professor asked his silent companion.
“I plan to at least look over the place,” Blake said quietly. “There is something going on out there — something that will have to be dealt with.”
“Why not let Batman or Superman do it?” asked the professor.
“The JSA is gone,” said Blake. “Most, if not all, of the other heroes have retired with them. Neither Batman, Superman, nor Wonder Woman will have the time to divert to this — not on a suspicion from a stranger, even if you do contact one of them.”
“So we’re the world’s best chance?” said Nichols with a snort.
“I admit this could get you and the others killed,” said Blake. “Hopefully, all that is required is a flight over the place and a flight back.”
“Hopefully,” said Nichols.
The house on Angel Island was a huge, sprawling piece of rock surrounded by a small forest and several fences. The cab paused at the front gate long enough for Nichols to identify himself. The guard waved them through.
The cab halted before the front door. “Wait here, please,” said Blake. “We will be going back to the airport when we are done.”
“That’s fine with me, Mac,” said the cabdriver. He pulled a newspaper from the passenger seat and unfolded it.
The door opened before Blake could ring the doorbell. The butler sized both men up as he stepped back from the door. “Master Rayne is waiting for you in the library,” said the butler. “If you will follow me.”
He shut the door and led the visitors into a book-filled room with a twenty-foot ceiling. A table big enough for six sat in the middle of the room, and a small staircase led to a balcony that ran around the middle of the tall room.
“Professor Nichols,” said one of the men waiting with a smile. Winston Rayne came forward to shake Nichols’ hand. “This is Jonathan Boyle,” he said, introducing the other man.
“Adam Blake,” said Blake, shaking the man’s hand.
“This is about those seismic readings, isn’t it?” said Rayne.
“Yes,” said Blake.
Rayne left the library for several minutes, returning with a stack of paper. He placed the pile on the table and began spreading it out.
“This is the reading we sent to Carter,” said Rayne. “And this is a reading we took an hour ago. This line represents the vibration in the Earth’s crust. As you can see, the vibration has worsened in the intervening time.”
“Are you sure of the epicenter?” asked Nichols, regarding the charts with a bright eye.
“U.S. Command in Japan has given us a triangulation for the place,” said Boyle, indicating a chart with various markings on it.
“May we take these, or copies?” said Blake.
“Surely,” said Rayne. “Are you going to check this out?”
“I have decided to look in on the problem,” said Blake.
“Your thinking parallels ours,” asked Rayne, “that this isn’t natural tectonic activity?”
“I would be surprised if it were natural,” said Blake. “Something is causing this event — something other than the rubbing of natural plates together along a fault line.”
Rayne took the charts and packed them in a briefcase. He handed them over to the mystery-man. “If you would like some assistance, I’m sure the Luna Foundation would help organize an expedition.”
“I already have what I need, Doctor,” said Blake evenly. “I am the only one who is going to be exploring that island, and have taken precautions against unnecessary risks.”
“I see,” said Rayne. He glanced at Boyle. “Still, there is a man in Australia we know who will help you if you need him. His name is Swan — Alec Swan. He’s the best man we have over there.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” said Blake. “We must be going. We have a long flight ahead of us.”
“I’ll show you out,” said Rayne, leading the two visitors to the front door. He watched them get into a cab and drive away.
“Something strange about that man, Jonathan,” Rayne said absently to his associate. “Something strange.”
“I’ll send Alec a telegram to get ready for those two,” said Boyle.
“Yes,” said Rayne. “That is a wise thing to do. I don’t quite trust this Blake. I have a feeling about him.”
Blake and Nichols arrived back at the airport. They had spent the long ride in silence as they pored over the charts and graphs. Blake’s face retained its customary immobility as Nichols grew more agitated.
They walked to where the Jenny waited for them. “Ready to go?” said Hop Harrigan as he smiled at the pair.
“Yes,” said Blake.
The group boarded the large plane quietly. “Get what you came for, chief?” asked Twitch. “I mean, this is a wild goose chase, right?”
“No,” said Blake, “it is not.”
Cully’s rictus grew larger. “Give me the tenspot,” he said to the informant with evident glee. He held out a hand with clutching fingers.
“I can’t believe I lost a bet,” complained Twitch as he fished a crumpled bill from his wallet and handed it over.
“Never bet against a sure thing, you schmuck,” said Morrigan with an evil grin.
The engines on the Jenny started rotating. Hop’s voice drifted back, asking for clearance. Minutes later, the heavy cargo plane soared through the air.
The Jenny soared over the Pacific, as graceful as any bird. One long hop took the group to Hawaii. After a quick refueling, they were on the long haul to Australia. They touched down in Perth smoothly.
“Mr. Harrigan, we will need a smaller plane for the next part of our trip,” Blake said as the group disembarked.
“I’ll get on it,” said the pilot.
“It will have to be amphibious,” Blake added, holding two of the equipment cases in his hands. Twitch and Morrigan had the other two.
“No problem,” said Hop. “When do you want to go out to this island?”
“As soon as we have had some rest,” said Blake. “The rest of the way will be a bit strenuous, I would offer.”
“Double or nothing, we get shot at when we get to this island,” whispered Twitch.
“That’s a sucker bet if I ever heard one,” said Morrigan scornfully.
Adam Blake led his small group across the tarmac. They were passed through customs without problems. Morrigan and Twitch looked at each other without comment. A large car awaited outside the airport. The driver held a sign with Blake written on it.
“I didn’t know you called ahead, chief,” said Twitch.
“I did not.”
“Are you Blake and company?” asked the driver. “I’m Alec Swan. Winston Rayne called and said you might need a bit of a hand.”
“That was… unnecessary,” said Blake.
“Winnie worries, you know,” said Swan, smiling.
“‘Winnie’?” Nichols muttered under his breath.
“I see,” said Blake. “We were going to get some sleep at a hotel before starting out in the morning. If you wish to join us, that will be fine.”
“Here you go,” Swan said, opening the trunk of the sedan. The equipment cases fitted neatly. “I know just the place,” said Swan. “The Foundation uses it as a field quarters.”
“That will be fine,” said Blake, letting the others board the sedan before grabbing the window frame and stepping on the running board. “Proceed, Mr. Swan.”
Swan drove forward, smiling.
The small group arrived at their destination in a few minutes. Blake called the airport to let Hop Harrigan and Tank Tinker know where to go when they needed him, if they needed him. Swan checked them in and led them upstairs to their rooms. Blake’s equipment cases passed for luggage as they were carried up the long staircase.
“This thing is heavy,” said Twitch under his breath.
“What’s your point?” asked Morrigan quietly. “Blake is carrying two of these things like he’s walking through the park.”
“He must have got lighter ones,” Twitch said.
“I think they weigh the same,” said Morrigan. “I got a different one than the one I had, and it weighs the same.”
Blake gave no sign of hearing the conversation as he followed Swan to their group of rooms. He wanted them to talk without hindrance. He had already revealed too much about his abilities as it was. He certainly didn’t want them to know that he could hear everything happening around the hotel as clear as if he was in the room with the participants. That was something he would keep to himself for now. If he was pressed, he would reveal it when he had no choice in the matter.