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Copyright © 2016 by Edmond Hamilton
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1. The Brotherhood of the Door
2. Death Trap
3. Up the Water-Tunnel
4. The Cavern of the Door
5. The Door Opens
“Where leads the Door?”
“It leads outside our world.“
“Who taught our forefathers to open the Door?”
“They Beyond the Door taught them.“
“To whom do we bring these sacrifices?”
“We bring them to Those Beyond the Door.“
“Shall the Door be opened that They may take them?”
“Let the Door be opened!“
Paul Ennis had listened thus far, his haggard face uncomprehending in expression, but now he interrupted the speaker.
“But what does it all mean, inspector? Why are you repeating this to me?”
“Did you ever hear anyone speak words like that?” asked Inspector Pierce Campbell, leaning tautly forward for the answer.
“Of course not—it just sounds like gibberish to me,” Ennis exclaimed. “What connection can it have with my wife?”
He had risen to his feet, a tall, blond young American whose good-looking face was drawn and worn by inward agony, whose crisp yellow hair was brushed back from his forehead in disorder, and whose blue eyes were haunted with an anguished dread.
He kicked back his chair and strode across the gloomy little office, whose single window looked out on the thickening, foggy twilight of London. He bent across the dingy desk, gripping its edges with his hands as he spoke tensely to the man sitting behind it.
“Why are we wasting time talking here?” Ennis cried. “Sitting here talking, when anything may be happening to Ruth!
“It’s been hours since she was kidnapped. They may have taken her anywhere, even outside of London by now. And instead of searching for her, you sit here and talk gibberish about Doors!”
Inspector Campbell seemed unmoved by Ennis’ passion. A bulky, almost bald man, he looked up with his colorless, sagging face, in which his eyes gleamed like two crumbs of bright brown glass.
“You’re not helping me much by giving way to your emotions, Mr. Ennis,” he said in his flat voice.
“Give way? Who wouldn’t give way?” cried Ennis. “Don’t you understand, man, it’s Ruth that’s gone—my wife! Why, we were married only last week in New York. And on our second day here in London, I see her whisked into a limousine and carried away before my eyes! I thought you men at Scotland Yard here would surely act, do something. Instead you talk crazy gibberish to me!”
“Those words are not gibberish,” said Pierce Campbell quietly. “And I think they’re related to the abduction of your wife.”
“What do you mean? How could they be related?”
The inspector’s bright little brown eyes held Ennis’. “Did you ever hear of an organization called the Brotherhood of the Door?”
Ennis shook his head, and Campbell continued, “Well, I am certain your wife was kidnapped by members of the Brotherhood.”
“What kind of an organization is it?” the young American demanded. “A band of criminals?”
“No, it is no ordinary criminal organization,” the detective said. His sagging face set strangely. “Unless I am mistaken, the Brotherhood of the Door is the most unholy and blackly evil organization that has ever existed on this earth. Almost nothing is known of it outside its circle. I myself in twenty years have learned little except its existence and name. That ritual I just repeated to you, I heard from the lips of a dying member of the Brotherhood, who repeated the words in his delirium.”
Campbell leaned forward. “But I know that every year about this time the Brotherhood come from all over the world and gather at some secret center here in England. And every year, before that gathering, scores of people are kidnapped and never heard of again. I believe that all those people are kidnapped by this mysterious Brotherhood.”
“But what becomes of the people they kidnap?” cried the pale young American. “What do they do with them?”
Inspector Campbell’s bright brown eyes showed a hint of hooded horror, yet he shook his head. “I know no more than you. But whatever they do to the victims, they are never heard of again.”
“But you must know something more!” Ennis protested. “What is this Door?”
Campbell again shook his head. “That too I don’t know, but whatever it is, the Door is utterly sacred to the members of the Brotherhood, and whomever they mean by They Beyond the Door, they dread and venerate to the utmost.”
“Where leads the Door? It leads outside our world,” repeated Ennis. “What can that mean?”
“It might have a symbolic meaning, referring to some secluded fastness of the order which is away from the rest of the world,” the inspector said. “Or it might——”
He stopped. “Or it might what?” pressed Ennis, his pale face thrust forward.
“It might mean, literally, that the Door leads outside our world and universe,” finished the inspector.
Ennis’ haunted eyes stared. “You mean that this Door might somehow lead into another universe? But that’s impossible!”
“Perhaps unlikely,” Campbell said quietly, “but not impossible. Modern science has taught us that there are other universes than the one we live in, universes congruent and coincident with our own in space and time, yet separated from our own by the impassable barrier of totally different dimensions. It is not entirely impossible that a greater science than ours might find a way to pierce that barrier between our universe and one of those outside ones, that a Door should be opened from ours into one of those others in the infinite outside.”
“A door into the infinite outside,” repeated Ennis broodingly, looking past the inspector. Then he made a sudden movement of wild impatience, the dread leaping back strong in his eyes again.
“Oh, what good is all this talk about Doors and infinite universes doing in finding Ruth? I want to do something! If you think this mysterious Brotherhood has taken her, you must surely have some idea of how we can get her back from them? You must know something more about them than you’ve told.”
“I don’t know anything more certainly, but I’ve certain suspicions that amount to convictions,” Inspector Campbell said. “I’ve been working on this Brotherhood for many years, and block after block I’ve narrowed down to the place I think the order’s local center, the London headquarters of the Brotherhood of the Door.”
“Where is the place?” asked Ennis tensely.
“It is the waterfront café of one Chandra Dass, a Hindoo, down by East India Docks,” said the detective officer. “I’ve been there in disguise more than once, watching the place. This Chandra Dass I’ve found to be immensely feared by everyone in the quarter, which strengthens my belief that he’s one of the high officers of the Brotherhood. He’s too exceptional a man to be really running such a place.”
“Then if the Brotherhood took Ruth, she may be at that place now!” cried the young American, electrified.
Campbell nodded his bald head. “She may very likely be. Tonight I’m going there again in disguise, and have men ready to raid the place. If Chandra Dass has your wife there, we’ll get her before he can get her away. Whatever way it turns out, we’ll let you know at once.”