Classic Australian SF 4: A Bid for Fortune
by Guy Boothby (with an Introduction by Ian Irvine)
With money in his pocket after making his fortune in the South Seas, Richard Hatteras has London at his feet. Running afoul of the deadly Dr Nikola, however, was the worst thing he could do. Soon, young Dick is swept up into a maelstrom of blackmail, hypnotism, deceit and murder, where his betrothed is in danger, his potential father-in-law’s reputation is on the brink of ruination, and his very sanity is at stake. What can a two-fisted adventurer do against the vast and cold intellect that is Dr Nikola?
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But, horrible as these things were, the greatest surprise of all was yet to come. For, standing at the heavy oaken table in the centre of the room, was a man I should have known anywhere if I had been permitted half a glance at him. It was Dr Nikola.
When we entered he was busily occupied with a scalpel, dissecting an animal strangely resembling a monkey. On the table, and watching the work upon which his master was engaged, sat his constant companion, the same fiendish black cat I have mentioned elsewhere. While at the end nearest us, standing on tiptoe, the better to see what was going on, was an albino dwarf, scarcely more than two feet eight inches high.
Now, though it has necessarily taken me some time to describe the scene which greeted our eyes, it must not be supposed that anything like the same length of time had really elapsed since our entry. Three seconds at the very most would have sufficed to cover the whole period.
So stealthily, however, had our approach been made, and so carefully had I opened the door, that we were well into the room before our appearance was discovered, and also before I had realized into whose presence we had stumbled. Then my foot touched a board that creaked, and Dr Nikola looked up from the work upon which he was engaged.
His pale, thin face did not show the slightest sign of surprise as he said, in his usual placid tone, ‘So you have managed to escape from your room, gentlemen. Well, and pray what do you want with me?’