CHAPTER XII

Tarzan pulled suddenly at his chain, snapping the weakened link. With one last glance at Fu Manchu—the madman was even now beginning to drink the potion—he leaped over the helpless Talia and landing on the back of the crocodile.

He had about three feet of chain still extending from his waist band. Grasping this in both hands, he looped it around the crocodile's upper jaw. Seated on the monster's back, he hauled the chain upwards.

The croc roared, but its anatomy prevented it from bucking hard enough to unseat the ape man. Apparently not understanding what was attacking it, it continued its inexorable march towards Talia.

Across the room, two figures dressed in black burst through a door. Several of the technicians produced revolvers and opened fire on these newcomers. One of them, dressed in a bat suit, ducked under the fusillade, rolled, and came back to his feet in front of a technician. He delivered a sharp uppercut, knocking his attacker unconscious.

The second intruder ducked behind a table and returned fire, quickly dropping two of the technicians.

This was all Tarzan saw of the battle before he was forced to focus his attention completely on his own fight. He lifted backwards, straining with all his considerable muscle, forcing the crocodile to slow, forcing its upper jaw backwards.

Suddenly, there was a loud snap as the croc's jaw dislocated. The monster staggered, then its legs gave out and it collapsed onto its belly.

Tarzan leaped off the wounded creature and grabbed hold of Talia's chain. Placing one foot against the wall, he hauled. For several seconds, nothing seemed to happen. Then the chain's end snapped free from the wall.

Talia reacted instantly, diving across the room to snatch up a fallen pistol. She raised the weapon and fired in one smooth motion, killing one of the remaining technicians.

For a moment, the lab grew quiet. Only one technician was still alive and conscious. He stood near his master, the criminal genius Fu Manchu.

The mastermind's face was twisted in agony. He doubled over in pain, groaning loudly. Then his body seemed to grow slightly, becoming taller and more muscular. He also began to glow with an eerie red light.

Then he screamed, the sound reverberating around the room and causing the various caged animals to begin to chatter and screech in fear. Fu Manchu's right arm shot out, clutching his technician by the throat.

Then the technician began to melt. As the still-screaming Fu Manchu held him, his flesh liquefied and dropped off his body. In moments, only his bones remained. Then they too crumbled into dust.

Fu Manchu did not stop screaming. He took a few stumbling steps, then seemed to focus his attention on the ape man, who was closest to him. He reached out for him.

The Shadow's automatics blazed away as he fired his last few remaining rounds into the criminal. Fu Manchu jerked under the impact of the bullet, but otherwise seemed unaffected. He continued to scream, a sound of utter agony that none of those present had ever heard before.

Tarzan, sensing that direct contact with the criminal would mean instant death, jumped away and once again put his incredible strength to work. He picked up the wounded crocodile and charged Fu Manchu while using the half-ton animal as a battering ram.

The impact knocked Fu Manchu from his feet. The crocodile's body immediately began to disintegrate. Tarzan dropped it, picked up a table and slammed that down on the screaming killer as well.

Fu Manchu simply tore the table into kindling with one wrench of his hands and climbed back to his feet. He had finally stopped screaming.

"Pain!" he shouted. "Too much pain!" He seemed to have forgotten that he had been trying to kill Tarzan as he backed away, his eyes darting back and forth as if seeking some sort of escape from his agony.

The glow emitting from his body had intensified. Incredibly, the floor beneath his feet began to smoke.

Batman snapped a batarang from his utility belt and quickly attached a rope to one end. Throwing the weapon with a particular flick of his wrist, he looped the rope around Fu Manchu's ankles. Then he yanked, sending Fu Manchu falling back to the floor.

The glow grew brighter and an intense heat could now be felt coming from the master criminal's body. As he landed full length on the floor, he began to burn through. The wooden slats of the floor burst into flames and Fu Manchu's body began to sink into the rapidly melting ground beneath the warehouse. He began to scream again.

The flames spread quickly and thick fumes began to bellow out as various spilled chemicals were caught in the conflagration. Talia and the three men turned and ran from the room. Tarzan was the last one out, casting a regretful look back at the caged animals. He would have saved them if he could, but the fire was spreading too fast and the fumes were undoubtedly poisonous.

The four of them reached the ground floor in seconds, but the flames were right behind them. Batman paused, motioning the others to move past him. He then tossed a pellet from his belt into the flames. Fire retardant fluid slowed the spread slightly, allowing Talia, The Shadow, Tarzan and the Dark Knight to reach an exit safely with seconds to spare.

They moved away from the warehouse, standing in a darkened alley, watching as the building was completely engulfed in flames.

"How deep will he sink?" wondered Talia aloud.

"Hopefully, he won't stop until he reaches his homeland," replied Tarzan with a slight smile.

He turned to speak to the two other men, but to his surprise, both had vanished into the night. Not even the ape man's sharp ears had heard them leave.

The wail of approaching fire engines were soon heard approaching. The threat of Fu Manchu's latest scheme for world domination had ended.

THE END