In Hidalgo's mountainous interior, an area known as the Valley of
the Vanished, dwells a lost civilization of Mayans who possess a fabulous wealth in gold. Don Rubio Gorro, Hidalgo's secretary of state, is plotting to assassinate Hidalgo's president, Carlos Avispa,1
overthrow the government.2
Don Rubio is attempting to finance his revolution by periodically loosing the Red Death on a tribe of superstitious Mayans who dwell in the Valley of the Vanished deep in Hidalgo's interior, then extorting tributes in gold from them to cure it. However, Doc Savage is due to come into an inheritance which will grant him a concession to the Valley of the Vanished and deprive Don Rubio of his gold supply, so Don Rubio takes two Mayan warriors (identifiable by their red-dyed fingers) to New York, where he uses the Red Death to kill the only two white men who know of the existence of the Valley of the Vanished (Doc's father and a colleague, Hubert Robertson) and then tries to get rid of Doc as well.
As the adventure begins, Doc has just returned from his Fortress of Solitude and is meeting with his five aides to learn the details of the mysterious Red Death which killed his father during his absence; meanwhile, a red-fingered Mayan warrior climbs the observation tower of an uncompleted skyscraper several blocks from Doc's headquarters and takes two shots at Doc with an elephant rifle. The following plot points then occur:
(a) Doc and his aides determine which building the shots came from and head there in a taxi to investigate. Before departing from his headquarters, Doc leaves behind a bogus message written in a substance which glows under ultraviolet light, intended to lure anyone who reads it to a deserted house in another part of town.
(b) While Doc and his aides are investigating the building from which the shots came, Doc spots (through binoculars) a red-fingered intruder in his headquarters office. Doc slides down an elevator cable to the ground and races back to his headquarters in the waiting taxi. (His aides follow, presumably in a different taxi.)
(c) Back in his headquarters, Doc and his aides discover the intruder has left a warning note behind and has also used the ultraviolet lantern to read the bogus message planted by Doc. Monk (who was posted on guard duty downstairs) arrives at the 86th floor office, having been lured away from his post outside the lobby elevators by a fake phone call placed by the intruder.3
(d) Doc and his aides race (in the same taxi) to the deserted house where Doc has lured the intruder with his bogus message. There they find the red-fingered Mayan warrior who shot at Doc from the uncompleted skyscraper (Mayan #1) searching the ground behind the house.4
(e) Doc and his aides take Mayan #1 back to the 86th floor headquarters, but the warrior kills himself by jumping out a window before any useful information can be extracted from him. Doc then discovers someone on the floor below is listening in via a hidden microphone but is unable to capture the interloper before he escapes the building.
(f) Ham flies to Washington, D.C., in Doc's autogyro. When Doc and the rest of the gang later arrive in the city, they discover their adversary has called the airport pretending to be Doc, reported the autogyro stolen, and convinced the airport manager to have a pilot fly it to New Jersey to pick him up. Doc takes off in a pursuit plane borrowed from a nearby army field and finds a masked man holding the pilot at gunpoint at the designated rendezvous point, but the gunman escapes from Doc's plane in a green coupé (and then on foot after Doc forces the car off the road).
- One Mayan shoots at Doc from the top of the uncompleted skyscraper (a). The intruder Doc spots in his office while he and his gang are
investigating the scene of the shooting (b) is also a Mayan, because Doc notes that the ends of his fingers are red.5 This intruder can't be the same Mayan who shot at Doc from the skyscraper, because when Doc returns to his office the elevator operator tells him that no one entered the building while he was gone.6 Therefore, the intruder Doc spotted must have been Mayan #2, and he must have been in the building already when Mayan #1 shot at Doc from the skyscraper. However, Doc concludes that the intruder (c) could not have been a Mayan, because the intruder understood English well enough to write a warning note (and lure Monk away from his guard post in the lobby with a phone call) and was educated enough to understand how to use the ultra-violet apparatus to read Doc's bogus message.7 Therefore the intruder must have been Don Rubio, but Don Rubio doesn't have red-tipped fingers. So who was the intruder?
- When Doc and his aides arrive at the deserted house (d), they find Mayan #1 searching the ground behind the house for the "important papers" mentioned in Doc's bogus message.8 How did Mayan #1 know what to look for and where to find it? Whoever read Doc's bogus message is still in the building (e) and therefore has had no chance to communicate its contents to Mayan #1.
though Doc and his gang take off for the deserted house at top speed,9 Mayan #1 gets there well ahead of them.10 How did he get there so quickly? He couldn't have driven himself, nor could he have hailed a cab (unless he found a cabbie who understood the ancient Mayan tongue).
- Why did Don Rubio send a Mayan who can't read (and probably isn't even familar with the concept of paper) to search a house for "important papers"? How did he expect the Mayan to distinguish an "important paper" from a discarded candy bar wrapper or a discarded magazine?
- Why does the intruder go to the trouble of luring Monk away from his guard post in the lobby (c), then make no effort to leave the building? He's still there when Doc and his friends return from the deserted house (e), eavesdropping on Doc's office with a hidden microphone.
- The gunman whom Doc finds with the autogyro pilot (f) must be Mayan #2, because he has red fingers11 (and Mayan #1 is already dead). How is it that an uneducated, ignorant warrior from the lowest caste of an ancient Mayan civilization12 is wielding a gun, driving a car, and preparing to escape in an autogyro?
- Don Rubio claims that when he turns the Red Death loose on the Mayans, they make him an offering of gold because they "think their deity sends the Red Death, and the gold offering appeases his wrath."14 Since King Chaac, ruler of the Valley of the Vanished, is the only person who knows where the gold is hidden,15 he must be the one who fetches it to make the offerings. But King Chaac later tells Doc that Doc's father had taught him not to believe in "evil spirits and heathen deities."16
- King Chaac reveals the entrance to the secret cavity where the gold is stored by moving aside a large idol of Kukulcan atop the pyramid,17 but Monk has to exert all his strength to move the idol back again.18 How was the elderly King Chaac able to move the idol back into place on previous occasions when he entered the pyramid to fetch gold for the offerings? No one could have helped him, since only he knew about the hidden door.19
- When Doc asks King Chaac to guide him through the caverns revealed by the hidden door, King Chaac says his daughter, Princess Monja, can guide Doc, as she "knows as much of these underground passages as I do."20 But King Chaac had just said he was the only one of his people who knew about the hidden door, so how could Princess Monja be familiar with the caverns it concealed?
- Just before Don Rubio (who has concealed his identity throughout the adventure by wearing a mask and the costume of Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent) jumps to his death, he removes his mask, and Doc recognizes him.21 But Doc had never seen Don Rubio before; only Ham and Monk had. 22
- One narrative section reads:
but it was actually Johnny who had noted this:
The warlike tribes, the utter inaccessibility of some of the rocky fastnesses, probably explained the large unexplored area Renny had noted on the best maps of Hidalgo. (p. 64)
"Oh, the district is filled with mountains on most maps," Johnny explained. "But on the really accurate charts the truth comes out. There's a considerable stretch of country no white men have penetrated." (p. 55)
- After Ham and Monk leave Don Rubio's office in Blanco Grande, Hidalgo, in search of the local radio station, they are waylaid by Don Rubio's henchmen and saved from execution at the last second by Doc. While leading Ham and Monk to safety, Doc explains how he was able to rescue them in time:
What happened to the plane? Doc was flying it ("I took off in the plane") and then jumped out of it, but when he walks back to camp with Ham and Monk, it's there ahead of them.13 How did it get there? Did it fly back by itself?
Doc guided Ham and Monk outside. They turned left. Doc seized Ham and gave him a toss that lifted him to a low roof. Monk managed to the jump unassisted, and Doc followed. They leaped to another roof, another.
On that one lay the silken folds of a parachute.
"That's how I got here," Doc explained. "News of that fight you had spread fast. I heard it and took off in the plane. Two thousand feet up I touched off a parachute flare. That lighted the whole town. I was lucky enough to see the gang haul you into that joint. So I simply jumped down to help you." (p. 72)
- When Don Rubio is asked about the fate of the two Mayan warriors he took with him to New York,23 he declines to answer because "It would not do to let these red-fingered men know their two fellows had succumbed to the power of that supreme adventurer, Doc Savage." 24 But Mayan #2 didn't "succumb" to Doc Savage — the last we see of him, he has successfully evaded Doc by fleeing on foot after Doc forced his car off the road.
1 "Just recently I have heard strong rumors that an attempt is to be made to assassinate me and seize power. I understand they await only money to buy arms before making the attempt." (p. 75)
2 They wanted to overthrow President Avispa's honest, low-cost government, so they could loot the public treasury, tax the citizens to bankruptcy for a year or two, then skip to Paris and the fleshpots of Europe for a life of luxury on the proceeds. (p. 76)
3 Monk's big mouth crooked a gigantic scowl. "Didn't one of you phone downstairs for me to come right up?" (p. 27)
4 The stocky man half turned, searching the darkness. He took a step toward a big, double-barreled elephant rifle that leaned against a piece of scrap wood near him. (p. 31)
5 "His fingers — the ends are red!" Doc noted what he had seen. (p. 23)
6 "There ain't a soul come in this building since you left!" said the elevator operator positively. (p. 25)
7 "The Mayan showed no signs of understanding the English language," Doc elaborated. "Whoever left the warning in this room wrote it in English, and was educated enough to understand the ultra-violet apparatus. That man was in the building when the shot was fired, because the elevator operator said no one came in between the time we left and got back." (p. 38)
8 The communication now read: Important papers back of the red brick house at corner of Mountainair and Farmwell Streets. (p. 28)
9 A motorcycle cop fell in behind them, opened his siren, and came up rapidly. But when he caught sight of Doc, like a striking figure of bronze on the side of the taxi, the officer waved his hand respectfully. (p. 29)
10 The man was at the rear of the house, going over the back yard a foot at a time, lighting matches in succession. (p. 30)
11 One thing Doc noted about the masked man — the fellow's fingers were a deep scarlet hue for an inch of their length! (p. 53)
12 They were the most ignorant and superstitious in the Valley of the Vanished, these crimson-fingered fighting men. (p. 92)
13 Monk and Ham, completely recovered from their narrow brush with death, decided to sleep in the plane cabin. (p. 73)
14 "I simply turn the Red Death loose on the tribe. Then they make a big offering of gold which reaches my hands. Then I give them the cure for the Red Death." He snorted mirthfully. "The ignorant dupes think their deity sends the Red Death, and the gold offering appeases his wrath." (p. 78)
15 "Only old King Chaac, ruler of the Valley of the Vanished, knows [where the gold comes from]. And you couldn't torture it out of him." (p. 78)
16 Your father spent some months in this Valley of the Vanished," he told Doc. "He taught me many things -- the fallacy of belief in evil spirits and heathen deities." (p. 110)
17 King Chaac had exerted pressure on the large Kukulcan idol beside the water tank that was always flowing. The idol had levered back. Revealed was a large cavity! (p. 142)
18 Straightaway, exerting his enormous strength, Monk shifted the massive stone image of Kukulcan back. (p. 151)
19 "Of all my people, only I knew of this hidden door." (p. 143)
20 "My daugher, Princess Monja, knows as much of these underground passages as I do. She can guide you." (p. 154)
21 The man had removed his serpent-head mask. His features were disclosed. There was a terrible silence for a moment.
Then, coming from everywhere, and yet nowhere, arose a low trilling sound. (p. 166)
22 It was later afternoon when [Ham and Monk] were ushered into the presence of Don Rubio Gorro, Secretary of State of Hidalgo. (p. 65)
23 "I went to New York, but I failed to stop him. And I had with me two members of that fanatical sect of warriors among the inhabitants of the Valley of the Vanished." (p. 77)
24 It would not do to let these red-fingered men know their two fellows had succumbed to the power of that supreme adventurer, Doc Savage. (p. 123)