BRITISH COMICS

(Adventure Homepage)

MARKO THE MIRACLE MAN

A DIXON HAWKE STORY

This last episode taken from Adventure No. 1200 August 23rd 1947

THE MID-AIR K.O.

Dixon Hawke let out a sigh of relief as he placed one foot securely on the roof. Gradually, he lowered his weight from the telephone wires which had enabled him to cross from the top of the building on the other side of the street. It had been a perilous passage, with wires breaking all the way. The street which he had crossed had been a busy one, and a fall would have meant certain death, but he had considered the risk well worth while, for on that further roof lay Marko the Miracle Man, either dead or unconscious. Since he had rolled down to the edge of the guttering after colliding with the roof, he had not stirred. “Are you all right, Guv’nor?” shouted Tommy Burke, on the roof of the Velodrome. “Quite all right! Get down from there and come across here from below. Someone will help you get up through this building. I may need help to get him down from here,” called Hawke, as he began to crawl on hands and knees towards the silent figure. The Miracle Man was only wearing black tights and a thin singlet, for he had been competing in a weight-lifting contest in the Velodrome. Even now it amazed Hawke that Marko had troubled to go in for this competition. The first prize of a thousand pounds was nothing to a successful crook like Marko. It must have been the thrill of the contest, and the satisfaction of knowing that he was cheating the public, which had made him take the risk. The roof was wet from a recent shower of rain, and it was very hazardous to move along it. Hawke’s progress was slow, but finally he got within a dozen feet of Marko, and saw that it was only the man’s foot against the guttering which held him where he was. If the anti-gravity device in his boots had broken down, he was in as much peril as Dixon Hawke. The detective wished he had a rope. Lowering the criminal to safety was going to be an extremely difficult task. Tommy Burke would not be able to get there immediately, for the building below, which appeared to be a block of offices, was closed for the night. It would take time to find the caretaker and to climb the numerous stairs. Marko was lying with his hands outstretched and showing no signs of life. Hawke paused to consider how he should grip him. It would be useless if they both went sliding to their deaths. He judged it would be better to put no more strain on the guttering but to get above Marko and slide him towards the nearest chimney stack where he could be wedged until further help arrived. Pressing himself flat to the roof, Hawke moved sideways. He managed to get above and behind Marko, and gripped him by either armpit. Just as he did so, he felt sinewy hands close on his elbows, whilst a voice said: — “Fooled you, Hawke! This is where you go over the edge!”

Marko the Miracle Man gave a violent heave, but he did not have sufficient leverage to throw Hawke over the edge. With a superhuman effort the detective managed to jerk himself free from Marko’s grasp. The Miracle Man realising that his attempt to kill Hawke had failed, decided to make his getaway. He tugged at the control of his anti-gravity device and leapt out into space. Though Marko acted quickly, he did not catch Dixon Hawke napping. Determined not to let his quarry escape. Hawke leapt after Marko. His outstretched hands grasped the broad belt round the Miracle Man’s waist, and he hung on grimly. The force being exerted by Marko’s anti-gravity boots was not sufficient at the moment to support the two men, so Hawke and the criminal dropped towards the street far below. Marko let out a shout of alarm. Just what he did, Hawke had no time to see, but their fall was checked when they were halfway to the street. It did not stop suddenly, but gradually, as though a brake had been applied. Dixon Hawke found himself floating about forty feet above the street, and slowly rising. His hands still gripped the broad belt securely. It was obvious to the detective that Marko’s forced landing on the roof had all been part of a scheme to lure him to his death. The Miracle Man had expected Hawke to come to his rescue, thus giving him a chance to send the detective plunging down into the street. Fortunately his plan had failed. Now the Miracle Man was livid with fury. In order to try and break Hawke’s hold, he struck him in the face with his clenched fists. The Dover Street detective closing his eyes, set his teeth and hung on grimly. He felt his nose begin to bleed, and his lips to swell. The man to whom he clung was like a maniac. By this time they had risen two hundred feet into the air, well above the level of the roof. Hawke suddenly let go with one hand and drove his fist to the man’s jaw. Unlike the ineffective blows of Marko, this was a solid punch delivered to the right spot. Marko grunted, his head sagged to one side, and he became limp. It was a knock-out in mid-air! Even Dixon Hawke was surprised at the effectiveness of the blow. He had not expected to do more than check the Miracle Man’s attack. Now he found himself clinging to a temporarily unconscious man, still rising swiftly. The street was dwindling below them. Obviously the first thing to do was to check their rise. Hawke fumbled at Marko’s belt, but found it difficult because of the necessity for holding on. He could not keep all the strain on one arm indefinitely. He was only safe as long as he had a firm grasp of Marko. The instant his fingers slipped, or his arms tired, he would fall to his death. So it was only at short intervals that Dixon Hawke was able to grope for the controls. He found a short chain, and tugged it. That only had the effect of sending them up at a faster rate. He jerked again, but still they climbed. It was a maddening situation. Since the knock-out, Hawke had great difficulty in clinging to Marko’s figure, which sagged and drooped in all directions. The detective slipped his left arm through the Miracle Man’s belt and locked it there. Even if his arm became numb, he would be attached to Marko so long as the belt did not break. He glanced down and saw that they were a thousand feet in the air. From that height it was easy for Hawke to see many familiar landmarks.

The Eiffel Tower loomed on his left, and he could see the Seine glimmering through the darkness. There were avenues of lights where the main boulevards ran. Only a very few of the inhabitants of Paris would know that a life-and-death struggle was going on above their heads. Marko was grunting and his lips were beginning to move. It would not be long before he recovered consciousness. Dixon Hawke measured the distance, and gave him another scientific punch on the jaw. Again the man sagged. Breathing hard, conscious of the increasing strain on his left arm and shoulder, Hawke made frantic efforts to locate the controls. He had discovered that the wide belt was made of metal covered with leather. There were wires running down Marko’s legs to his boots. Hawke’s theory was that there were plates of gravity-resisting metal in the extra-thick soles of these boots. By manipulation of the plates a powerful lifting force was created. When Hawke and Marko reached two thousand feet, even the detective felt the cold through his thick garments. Marko would be half-frozen. His flesh was like marble. They were drifting with a westerly wind, but not swiftly. If anyone from below could have picked them out, it would have been possible to have kept pace with them in a car. Dixon Hawke wondered what Tommy was doing. There appeared to be no limit to the height to which they could rise. Hawke knew that Marko had often gone up to ten thousand feet, but that had been when he had been properly clad and prepared for low temperatures. It was a terrible position to be in, because the detective dare not let go for fear of certain death, yet knew that unless something was done he would go on rising until he either lost his hold or froze to death.

HAWKE’S ORDEAL

Ten minutes later Dixon Hawke had no feeling in his left arm, and was becoming numb with cold. Marko had not recovered again. Either that second knock-out, or the cold, had prevented this. The Dover Street detective judged their height to be five thousand feet, and they were climbing at the same regular speed. He had visions of beating all altitude records and passing out of range of human knowledge altogether. Yet there was little he could do about it. Once he had touched a switch which moved under pressure. Sparks flew from the side of the metal belt, and he got a violent shock through his left arm. He hurriedly put the switch back as he had found it. It was dangerous to experiment in mid-air. He spent some little time smacking Marko’s face, and trying to bring him to his senses. Grunts came from the Miracle Man, and finally he opened his eyes. On seeing Hawke’s face slightly below him, he tried to hit it, but was too feeble to do any injury. He then tried to detach Hawke’s arm from his belt, but had not sufficient strength. The cold had sapped his vital forces. Gradually his wits returned to him, and Hawke saw his eyes becoming cold and cunning. “You’ve followed me a little too far, Hawke,” he growled. “This is my domain and you are out of place in it. Very soon you will land on top of your head, but I won’t send you down until we’ve reached ten thousand feet.” Dixon Hawke grabbed with his free hand to take some of the weight from the other. “You’ll never reach ten thousand feet and remain conscious,” he said. “The cold will get you.” Although he could only see it mistily, Dixon Hawke knew that Marko’s face was blue. His teeth were chattering, and his whole body trembled. The cold had eaten into his bones, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to stand it much longer. “Have some sense and go down where it’s warmer, Marko!” snapped the detective. “That’s what you’d like me to do, isn’t it?” growled Marko. “But I’m not going down. I’m going up and up, and when I’m high enough—!” Another fit of shivering shook him. Hawke saw that the Eiffel Tower now resembled a toy, and he could see a vast area of open country beyond the edges of the city. Banks of damp cloud enveloped them, and added to the misery of their feelings. Hawke was soaked to the skin in a very short time. Marko’s garments became slippery, and, but for the fact that he had looped his arm securely through the belt, Hawke would have lost his hold. The only way Marko could get rid of him was by slipping the belt, but, as Hawke knew it was connected with the anti-gravity apparatus, he did not expect this to be done. Marko might want to send the detective to his death, but he would not be so eager to die himself! They emerged from the clouds into clear moonlight, where the air cut like a knife. Marko began to gasp and once again he made feeble attempts to strike Hawke in the face. The threat of the detective’s upraised fist checked this.

They were at about eight thousand feet, Hawke was becoming sleepy. He knew that was the effect of extreme cold and exposure. If he had been moving about, it would have been all right, but there he hung like a drowning man from a life-belt, unable to help himself in any way. It was Marko who suddenly uttered a choking sob and did something at his belt. They began to drop so swiftly that Hawke believed the anti-gravity device had failed. Then he saw that Marko was watching him closely, and knew that it had been done only to frighten him. So Dixon Hawke preserved a stolid expression, and hung on extra tightly. They were dropping with the speed of a falling stone, but he knew that Marko had no intention of committing suicide. It was merely a desperate attempt to shake the detective off. When Hawke saw the man’s hand again stealing towards that hidden control, he prepared for the worst and braced himself. Then it happened. Turning the control the other way, the Miracle Man changed their downward plunge to an upward climb. It was done so suddenly that it nearly tore Hawke’s locked arm from his shoulder, and it put such a strain on the belt that Marko cried out with pain as the belt bit into his middle. Fortunately the jerk did not break Hawke’s hold. “You don’t get rid of me quite so easily!” muttered the man from Dover Street. Marko cursed under his breath, and again sent them downwards. He appeared to have abandoned his intention of seeking the stratosphere. The cold had defeated him. Hawke noticed that they were over the Seine. On the right he could see a bridge and hear the traffic passing over it. He remembered that it was still comparatively early, probably not eleven o’clock. Somewhere nearby a ship sounded its siren. They were all homely noises, and it was hard to believe that he was dangling by one arm from the one man in the world who had the secret of defying gravity. “Why didn’t you make better use of your invention?” Hawke asked Marko. “With that invention you could have made a fortune honestly. You could have made yourself the richest man in the world.” “I couldn’t!” growled the Miracle Man. “The invention wasn’t mine. I killed the inventor and stole it from him, but I’ve no idea how it works. How could I sell the rights of something I do not understand?” His tone was bitter. “And the Y-ray glasses? You stole those from the same man?” persisted Hawke, noting that they were no more than fifty feet above the surface of the river. “Yes!” snapped Marko, and with a sudden movement did something which caused them to drop like a falling bullet. Hawke barely had time to draw breath before they struck the surface of the Seine with a solid impact that jolted the teeth in his head. Straight down under the water they went, and he felt Marko struggling to disengage the arm within his belt.

The worst part of the whole struggle, from Dixon Hawke’s point of view, was the fact that he had no feeling in his left arm. It was completely numb. He could neither twist it, turn it, or make use of it in any way. Only with his right hand could he strike, claw or cling on. Having known the moment they were going to strike the water, Marko had been prudent enough to fill his lungs with air. The detective had been taken unawares, and after thirty seconds under water, he felt himself straining for breath, It was then that the Miracle Man made his most desperate effort. He drove a knee into Hawke’s stomach, dragged at the clinging arm, and succeeded in breaking free. His effort had so weakened him that he could hardly reach the surface of the river ahead of Dixon Hawke, who had retained sufficient sense to know what he must do. With one useless arm, he had to rely on the other. Kicking downwards violently, he also sped upwards. They collided on the surface, just as a power-driven craft of some kind crashed into them and knocked them under again.

THE LAST OF MARKO!

The blunt blow had caught Dixon Hawke on his numb shoulder. He felt no pain, though he was driven far below the passing keel. It was as he floundered and struggled that he came in contact with the limp figure of Marko, and clutched him with the fingers of his right hand. Together they came to the surface. The tug, for that was what it had been, had gone on its way, the helmsman not knowing he had struck anything. Marko the Miracle Man was senseless, and a dead weight on Hawke. It would have been a good opportunity to let him drown, but the detective always made every effort to bring a criminal to justice, so he somehow supported Marko on the surface as he shouted for help. If he had possessed two good arms, this would have been no hardship, but the numb arm was still useless. Voices answered him from the right, and a line of barges hove in sight. Hawke shouted again, there was a chorus of replies, and a barge headed towards him. A boat-hook ripped through his clothing and narrowly escaped his body. Then he and Marko were hauled against tarred timber and heaved over the side by willing hands. Dixon Hawke lay gasping and spitting, but still holding on to Marko with one hand. Someone was asking them what they had been doing in the river, and someone else was saying that they must be put ashore at the next bridge. The bargees were a rough type, but they did not want to get into trouble with the police, and seemed to think that Hawke and Marko were escaped criminals. As Dixon Hawke tried to explain, he massaged his dead arm, and life slowly returned to it. By that time they were nearing the steps alongside the bridge ahead, and one of the bargees was shouting for a gendarme. Having no objection to the arrival of a gendarme, Hawke waited patiently, but he was unprepared for the sudden movement of the supposedly unconscious Marko, who had been perfectly still ever since they had been hauled aboard. It was as the gendarme came running along the towpath that the Miracle man leapt to his feet and bounded ashore. “After him—!” cried Hawke, and the gendarme blew his whistle shrilly.

Everyone on the barge scrambled ashore, and there was a general chase, Dixon Hawke again shouting explanations to the gendarme, who was now flourishing a revolver. Marko ran with a limp, and was tugging at his waist. The water-logged boots were refusing to function as they should have done. He was unable to make his usual escape by rising into the air. There were lines of warehouses and offices bordering the river, and one or two dingy cafés. Marko staggered on to the roadway when Hawke, was no more than twenty paces behind, put on a spurt and darted down an alleyway. Another gendarme came running from the right in answer to the whistle, and collided with the detective, delaying him, some thirty seconds. That gave Marko sufficient time to find a hiding place. From somewhere down the alley came the sound of a door slamming. “That is Marko, the criminal who is wanted by the Surete!” gasped Hawke, to the newcomer. “I am working with Inspector Savant on the case. Marko has taken cover down there. I heard a door slam.” The first gendarme joined them, and the two conferred. One produced a torch and shone it along the alley. There were at least eight doors, all closed. There was no indication as to which one sheltered Marko. “Most of these places are empty,” muttered one of the gendarmes. “The back part of the block was damaged by a bomb, and it has never been repaired. If we have to waste time breaking down eight doors, we shall never get him.” A third and fourth gendarme appeared on the scene. The bargees swelled the crowd. The doors were examined by the light of several torches, and it was discovered that all were locked or bolted. “There’s no need to break them all down. I can tell you where he is!” declared Dixon Hawke, and he fumbled in his pocket for the Y-ray glasses which he had taken from the Miracle man at the Surete. The gendarmes stared at him in surprise as he put these on his nose. The prisms were wet from their ducking in the river, and the effect was blurred, but nevertheless the detective found that he could see right through those closed doors. He walked up to each in turn, put his face close to the unpainted woodwork, and stared. The woodwork seemed to dissolve, and in a misty haze he could see inside the buildings. It was at the fifth door that he raised his hand. Crouching on the inside, with heaving chest was a dark figure. “He’s here!” announced Hawke, to the amazed gendarmes. “Smash down this door, and we’ll get him. Do it suddenly, or he’ll get back into the building and escape another way.” A sergeant stared from the peculiarly-shaped glasses on Hawke’s nose to the door. “Can you really see through that wood, monsieur?” he gasped. “Yes, yes hurry!” Hawke took the glasses off and put them back into his pocket. “Two men stand either side of me, and we’ll rush together…One—two—three—!” There was a crash as three shoulders, each with twelve stones of weight behind them, caught the door squarely. It was not a new door, and its hinges were rusty. They promptly snapped, and the door fell in so suddenly that Hawke and the others stumbled over the step and fell in the passage inside.

Before they could scramble to their feet the fugitive had uttered a shout of anger and run towards some stairs at the back. The building was empty and smelled of decay. It was obvious that it had not been used since pre-war days. The stairs creaked as Marko went up them at full speed. One of the gendarmes shone his torch upon the Miracle Man and called for him to halt. The criminal paid no attention. Hawke forged ahead of the others, and was close behind when Marko reached the top of the steps. At the end of a short corridor there was another rickety staircase. Marko made for this, with Hawke still gaining. The top flight of stairs led on to a flat roof from which loading had been done into the barges below. The Miracle man made for the end of the roof, turned for a moment to shake his fist at Hawke, then tugged at the chain at his belt and leapt far outwards. Dixon Hawke came to a sudden stop, gritting his teeth and clenching his hands as he waited for the Miracle Man to soar aloft. Nothing of the kind happened. There was a terrible scream from Marko when he discovered that his anti-gravity device did not function, and he turned head-over-heels twice before he hit the edge of the towpath and bounced into the water. Evidently he had believed that the anti-gravity device would be working again, and had expected to soar out of trouble, but the defect had occurred at the wrong time. . . . . It was a week later before they found Marko’s body under a moored barge. By that time the water had so affected the metal plates in his special boots that they were beginning to fall to pieces. Some of the cleverest scientists in France examined those boots and tried to find out the secret of the Miracle Man’s previous ability to rise high into the air. Up to the time when Dixon Hawke and Tommy Burke left Paris, nothing of importance had been discovered. The general principle was obvious, but the composition of these metal plates baffled everyone. It seemed likely that it would never be discovered. Dixon Hawke took back with him to London the Y-ray glasses which had belonged to the Miracle Man. Later he had the satisfaction of hearing that the War Office had adapted them for use with an important secret weapon which would have a vital effect on our defences in the future. So on this point alone the famous detective’s trouble had been well worth while. He was glad that he had followed up the long trail which had begun when first Levi Woolf had crashed from the sky into the middle of Piccadilly Circus!

 

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2007