Authors: Kenneth Robeson
Also In This Series
By Kenneth Robeson
WARNER PAPERBACK LIBRARY
WARNER PAPERBACK LIBRARY EDITION
, N.Y. 10019.
A Warner Communications Company
Printed in the United States of America
It was half past three in the afternoon. That is a little early for the cocktail hour, so there weren’t many people in Mike’s Tavern. There were enough to provide plenty of witnesses, however. And all were witnesses, because all saw the crazy thing that happened, that day in Chicago.
Mike’s Tavern is on Belmont Avenue, not far from Lincoln Park. Probably the location was the reason why the thing happened there, because the source of the weird trouble was later disclosed to have been Lincoln Park. At least, that was as close as they could narrow it down.
Four men and a couple of women were sitting on the leather-covered chromium stools along the bar at Mike’s. Five of the six had drinks in front of them. The sixth had finished his and ordered another. A martini. He had already had too many martinis; so when the thing happened the first time, the rest just laughed at him and said he was drunk.
He had the empty cocktail glass in his hand and was twiddling it around by the stem while Mike, the bartender, poured amber fluid into a fresh glass.
And the glass the man held on the bar suddenly went to pieces!
There was a sound from it first. A thin, wailing sound, as if a violin note had been played nearby and the glass was resonating to it. The thin, wailing sound ended in a sharp
and the glass seemed to explode in his hand.
For a few seconds the rest were surprised into silence. Then the man sitting next to him laughed.
“You’ve had enough,” he said. “Breaking a glass like that. What’d you do—hit it against the bar?”
The man whose glass had broken was staring stupidly at the pieces.
“I didn’t break it,” he said. His eyes were wide and staring, with something like horror in them. “I didn’t hit it against anything. I was just holding it.”
“Then you squeezed it too hard,” his friend taunted. “Boy, you don’t know your own strength.”
“I didn’t squeeze it! I didn’t do anything to it. It just gave a kind of funny sound and broke.”
“Go on—something had to make it break—”
On the shelf behind the bartender was a row of similar glasses. There were eighteen or twenty of them. The man who was speaking had suddenly stopped his words, because the row of glasses had started to sing.
From each of them was coming the thin wail of sound that had preceded the breaking of the glass the man held. It was uncanny; as if the glasses had abruptly come alive. They shrieked like little lost souls, and then broke!
Every last one of them broke, as if each had been hit squarely by a small bullet that shattered it to a thousand pieces.
“Well!” said Mike, the bartender, eyes goggling. “
ain’t the fault of anybody who’s had a few too many!”
They all stared at the fragments. And all felt a chill, creepy sensation as they looked. Glasses don’t just sing, and then break—all by themselves. But these had.
It was at about this time that the seven in the place began to hear the sound from outside. In the sky, it seemed. It was a loud, steady drone, like the snarl of a motor. Like an airplane motor, save that it seemed to be snarling a shade more shrilly than the usual plane motor.
They paid little attention to it. Planes over Chicago are too frequent. Anyway, they were too busy looking at the glasses. A score of empty cocktail glasses, with no human hand near them, that had sung a weird, small dirge and then died in a thousand fragments.
Outside the tavern, people were paying plenty of attention to the sound from the sky. At any rate, they all swore later it had come from the sky. At first, people paid little heed because they, too, had figured it was just the noise of a plane motor, and such noises are common to a big city. But then a few began craning their necks to look up into the sky; then a few more did the same, and pretty soon everyone around was doing it.
Crowds looking into the sky, and then staring at each other, and finally staring back up again. The faces of most of them were a bit pale, and all of them showed perplexity.
There wasn’t anything up there to see!
The droning sound was about like that of a fast-moving plane, much lower down than the transports fly. But there was no plane to be seen in the heavens. It was a cloudless, sunny afternoon, too.
The sound from the sky stayed over Lincoln Park. It seemed to move in a wide circle, since it was loudest first at the north end of the park and then at the south end. It faded a little and gained a little, as if whatever made it came now nearer the ground and now higher.
But all the time there was not one thing in the empty heavens to make the sound.
Down in the news offices of Chicago’s biggest newspaper, the
the city editor began to think the whole town was going crazy. That was because of the telephone calls that suddenly began pouring in.
It seemed that Mike wasn’t the only person who had had glasses sing and break. A score of people phoned in similar accounts. A woman had been looking at a picture, and the glass over it had suddenly shivered into bits. A man had been lifting a water tumbler to his lips when it abruptly acted like a bomb and went off in his hand. Several big plate-glass windows shattered. And all these things happened with no human hand near enough to account for the violence.
Each person telephoning the paper and demanding an explanation reported, as an afterthought, hearing the droning noise in the sky.
So many people phoned that, crazy as it all sounded, the editor put a veteran reporter on it. Of such things are interesting items made.
The droning sound, heard loudest over Lincoln Park, had been heard in the Loop, Chicago’s downtown section, too. The reporter assigned to the story had heard it.
“Hell, it’s just a passenger transport,” he said. “Something funny about the pitch of the motor is breaking glass.”
However, no airplane motor had ever had results like that before. And there was always the undeniable fact that there was, after all, no plane in the sky to see.
The reporter phoned Fort Sheridan, north of Chicago. Their radio operator promised to send two army ships to the area and have them investigate. After all, planes must have licenses, and if some mysterious flier was stunting around Chicago, they wanted to know it.
The army ships got down to Lincoln Park within a quarter of an hour. They got down there while the droning noise was still coming from the sky. They flew around the place like excited hens hunting for chicks near a duckpond.
And they saw just what people on the ground saw.
Which was nothing at all. Noise was coming from the sky, but there was nothing in the sky to make the noise.