....... Darting across the open
street, Doc ducked into the alleyway next to the old
hotel. Grasping the ledge of a window sill, he
effortlessly pulled himself up with one powerful arm.
Like a human fly he clung to the side of the building,
finding finger holds and toeholds in the brick joints
and the minor projections on the outside face of the
building. He quickly traversed this way until he
reached the ninth floor. Hanging outside of a window he
listened, searching for signs of movement or the sound
of voices. Pushing upward, he managed to open the
window, as it emitted only a slight groan of protest.
The corroded window latch shattered and tumbled onto
the filthy floor.
....... He swung inside
and landed on the tiled floor with the grace of a
stealthy feline. Watching each step to avoid weak spots
in the creaking floor, he made his way across the room
to the partially open door. He peered into the next
room, which was dimly lit by a dirty, old light bulb.
Doc strained his senses to their utmost, seeking any
signs of life in the adjoining room. So keen was his
sense of hearing, he should have detected the sounds of
the men breathing, but the room was completely silent.
Cautiously, he entered, glancing about for signs of a
trap. Except for a filthy old sink and a claw-footed,
cast-iron tub, the only other inhabitant of the room
was a wooden chair with a missing leg. Teppleman and
Gross had completely vanished!
....... Only Docís
training and experience saved his life. First, he
noticed the board resting on the sill of a window was
moving slightly, slowly being pulled from the room.
Obviously, the two men had used this makeshift bridge
to cross over into a window of the adjoining building.
He took one step forward, into the dim light, just as
the board slid off of the window sill and plunged into
the alleyway below. Suddenly, spotlights on either side
of the building were switched on, catching him in the
....... The rooftops on
either side of the hotel were one story taller than the
floor Doc was on and allowed the men, armed with
Thompson machine guns, a perfect view of the bronzed
man. He had only one second to react to the threat and
he used the time wisely. Grasping the rim of the iron
tub, he gave a mighty heave and tore the fastenings
that held it to the dilapidated floor. It had taken
four strong men to bring this tub, weighing several
hundred pounds, into the building when it was
installed. As though it weighed nothing, Doc flipped
the heavy bath upside-down on top of his prone form, as
he fell flat on his back.
....... Hundreds of
bullets struck the sides of the ancient iron tub and it
rang like a large bell. Doc covered his ears to drown
out the sound, until he was able to fit them with
earplugs. Despite its size and thickness, Doc knew it
would only take a few seconds for the guns to crack the
forged metal, leaving him exposed to the violent, steel
hornets searching for him. In the confined space under
the tub, he could only pull his fist back six inches,
but when he struck the floor, it cracked. A small hole
appeared. Using his powerful fingers, the opening
widened, until he was able to squeeze his large frame
through and drop down onto the floor below. At the same
instant his feet touched down noiselessly onto the
floor, the rusty iron tub broke in several places.
Bullets bounced off of the inner surface of the bathtub
and rained down around Doc. He moved quickly to the far
side of the room to avoid the deadly ricochets.
....... While he was
formulating a plan of escape, Doc heard a noise over
the steady stream of machine gun fire. Thoom. Thoom.
Thoom. It was the undeniable sound of a large bore
automatic, .45 caliber in size, judging by the sound.
Doc heard the sound of a man running across the roof of
the old hotel building, as maniacal laughter echoed
into the valleys and canyons of the old, abandoned
buildings. Doc could hear the yells and panic of the
gunmen in the neighboring structures. For each bullet
fired by the automatic handguns, there was one less
machine gun firing its lethal projectiles. And one less
gangster, as well.
....... After several
seconds of gunfire, the city block became silent again.
The only sound was the receding laughter of the scourge
of the underworld of crime, the Darkness. Even though
he must certainly have known Doc was in the decrepit
hotel building, Darkness had not even slowed his
progress through the barrage of gunfire. And now he was
gone. Stopping only long enough to battle the killers,
Darkness was obviously on another, more urgent,
....... Doc looked out of
the windows facing north and was witness to a dozen
slain men at the roofs edge. The southern windows
provided the same type of view. To his surprise, from
the rooftop fire escape, a man stepped forward, holding
a tube several inches in diameter and about four feet
long. Doc recognized the man as one of the occupants of
the car he had followed. It was Teppleman. Doc
recognized the face but he still didnít know the manís
name. And the tube was Ö a rocket launcher!
hesitation, Doc ran for the stairwell located in the
center of the building. He grasped the rail with one
hand as he leapt over. The old stairwell was a winding
rectangle, with a large unobstructed area in the
center, open all the way down to the ground floor. The
musty air whistled in Docís ears as he plunged downward
through layers of dusty cobwebs. He struck the floor at
the bottom and continued moving without hesitation.
Even though he had plummeted nearly one hundred feet
straight down, he made it appear as easy as jumping
from a step stool. His powerful leg muscles had
absorbed the impact without any injury.
....... The rocket
exploded in the center of the old building and a plume
of scorching fire and heat extended out and downward.
The blast weakened the few supporting members that had
kept the structure upright and seconds later the entire
tower of brick and wood collapsed. Smoke and dust
billowed out and covered the surrounding area for a
long minute. Nothing could have survived such total
destruction. The lifeless body of Doc Titan was buried
under tons of debris. Teppleman, still holding the
rocket launcher in the crook of his arm, stared down at
the smoldering pile of rubble, searching for any signs
of movement or life. Finally, after several minutes, he
was satisfied that Doc must be dead.