These excerpts seem to work as far as selling stuff goes. So I'll give
you a small chunk of this one. (Oh, and if you've ever wanted to see
Sigmund Freud himself psychoanalyze a masked pulp hero-- and who the
hell hasn't?-- this book is for you!)
The alley, running between two tall buildings, was quite dark. Perrone stuck his commandeered pistol into a side pocket. Then he removed his Bay Phantom mask from a large extra pocket he had sewn into his jacket and pulled it over his head. The specially-treated lenses of the built-in goggles would enable him to see better in the gloom.
The man in the green cap was half a block ahead of him, moving quietly and carefully in the deep gloom. He had almost made it to St. Michael Street when someone stepped out of a recessed doorway, grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him against the opposite wall. Perrone slowed almost to a halt and held his breath, creeping forward slowly and silently.
"Where are you going, loose end?" came a weird, sibilant voice, just barely audible from where the Bay Phantom stood.
The newcomer cut a very peculiar figure indeed. Of average height, he was decked out in a bizarre ensemble consisting of a long, white lab coat, black gloves, and something that looked like a gas mask. The latter covered his entire head. Strapped to his back were two vertical metal cylinders, each about a foot and a half high and six to eight inches in diameter. They were fastened to a harness on this individual's back. A hose ran from one of them to a long, wand-like apparatus he was holding in the hand that was not occupied choking the gunner. It was a slender rod about three feet in length, made of stainless steel. The last few inches of its length tapered off to a sharp point.
"Never mind," came the voice again. "It doesn't matter at all. You know you cannot be allowed to run free now. You'll talk. Don't shake your head at me! I know your type."
The Bay Phantom knew what was coming. He broke into a run, but there was no way he could reach the two men in time. The man in the lab coat drew back his strange wand and jammed it into the gunman's torso, thrusting upward and at an angle under the ribcage. It must have gone directly into the struggling man's heart. As he raised his gun to fire, the Phantom became aware of a wheezing, mechanical sound.
"You!" the Phantom shouted. "Stop right there! I'm armed, and I'll shoot you if I must!"
The man turned his masked head in the Phantom's direction.
"I know who you are," he said. "Hang on just a moment, and I'll place myself at your disposal."
As the Bay Phantom closed the gap, the lab-coated man twisted the wand deeper into the gunman's body, as though to secure it, then shrugged out of the harness, letting the cylinders drop to the floor of the alley. The Phantom saw the source of the rhythmic mechanical noise: a little electric motor attached to what appeared to be a small pump. The gunman was released and he slumped to the ground. His eyes were wide and his mouth was twitching violently, but no sound came out; his windpipe had probably been crushed.
"Now," said the weird figure, turning to face the oncoming Phantom, "let's see what you've got!"
The Phantom slowed down and leveled his gun at the man's head.
"I've got a few bullets," he said, "and I'll use them before I'll risk taking you on hand-to-hand. Please just remain still and explain to me what's going on here. What did you just do to that man? I assume that he is beyond medical help at this point."
"I like you," said the other. "You're very well-spoken, even in a tense situation like this. That says a lot about a man. You're that Bay Phantom, aren't you? I'm called the Black Embalmer. I’m not actually black; the name is meant to reinforce the air of foreboding I like to project. It's nice to meet someone else with a mask fetish!"
"It isn't a fetish," snapped the Phantom. "It's a necessary tool."
Moving closer, the Phantom saw that what he had thought was a gas mask was something else entirely. There was a close-fitting hood made of what appeared to be pale, grayish leather. Affixed to the front of it was a queer, lifeless depiction of a human face, made of some material that looked like porcelain. No… not porcelain. Some sort of glaze had been applied to it, but he was sure it was ordinary plaster. That, he realized with a start, is somebody’s death mask!
The features were so poorly-defined that he couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. Holes slightly larger than silver dollars had been cut out around the eyes and fitted with tinted lenses, not unlike the ones the Phantom himself wore.
"Okay, okay!” said the Embalmer, holding his hands up in the air. “No need to get tetchy, Miss Mary. I'm just making conversation."
As he continued to advance, never taking his eyes or his gun from the weird apparition, the Phantom became aware of a strong chemical odor: formaldehyde. That's what had been pumped into the gunman's body. It was plain that the man was dead and his suffering was over. It had been brief, but it must have been intense.
"Good God!" he gasped. "What kind of a monster are you?"
"I really don't know how to answer that question," replied the Black Embalmer, sounding very chipper and bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. "I don't think of myself as a monster, but of course I wouldn't. I take it you've never embalmed anyone alive before. You probably frown upon it.”
“Was this man working for you?”
The Embalmer shrugged. “Yes and no. It’s complicated. It would take too long to explain.”
“I’ve got time,” said the Phantom, jiggling the pistol for emphasis.
“No, you don’t. Because my friend behind you is about to hit you over the head with something heavy. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, of course. But sometimes it really is true.”
“You don’t expect me to…” the Phantom said. That was as far as he got before something very solid collided with the base of his skull and everything went black.
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