Roy Glashan's Library
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First published in Argosy Weekly, 7 October 1933

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Argosy Weekly, 7 October 1933, with "Green for Danger"


"Who paid you to come and kill me?" the Cajan demanded.

THROUGH the driving sheets of rain big Emile Dupres saw the little man trying to hide behind the anise bush. Quick as thought the tall Cajan dropped full length to the palmetto, dodging the expected load of buckshot. Then he whisked away into the scrub, vanishing, circling to stalk the bushwacker, his black eyes narrow and the set lines of his harsh countenance revealing his far-off trace of Indian blood.

But no blasting explosion sounded amid the dripping aisles of the piney woods. The little man, shivering behind the anise bush, chilled to the marrow in spile of the humid warmth of the Alabama May, blinked rain out of his red-rimmed eyes and whimpered despairingly. The ridiculously large automatic pistol in his hand wavered and drooped hopelessly.

Noiselessly, Dupres appeared at his back. The Cajan halted a second, frowning in wonderment at the strange garb of the skulker. His derby hat was now a sagging, pulpy thing. His blue serge suit, his collar and tie, and his shoes that once had been brown-and-white but now appeared to be mere blobs of red clay. A city man—or boy. What could be his mission here in the heart of the woods, fifty miles from Mobile?

Something warned the little fellow. With a gasp he whirled, attempting to fling up the automatic.

"Blatte!" gritted Emile, and closed with him.

One stride, two motions of the giant's arms, and the lurker was disarmed and helpless. True, the pistol thudded once. Its heavy forty-five-caliber slug tore three or four pink bells of laurel from a bush but did no further damage.

Joe Carney tried to fight, but he might as well have tried to stop the drenching sub-tropical rain. Emile Dupres thrust the automatic into the deep hip pocket of his overalls, seized both of the little man's wrists in his left hand, then thrust him a yard away and stared at him.

That last wrench, which nearly tore Joe Carney's arms from I heir sockets, was the last straw in his weakened condition. He sagged, breathed deeply, and fell in a black faint.

The Cajan let go of him then, turning him face upward with the toe of his laced boot. For a moment it seemed as if he meant to crush Carney under his heel the way he would have crushed a cottonmouth moccasin that disputed his way across a cypress log.

But the undiluted wretchedness of the haggard, upturned face, the face from which both freckles and innate pugnacity had faded and in which homely red bristles had grown, halted the Cajan. His harsh visage did not exactly soften—it could not do that—but a scowl of puzzlement, replaced the flinty, righteous anger.

Emile knew city men—even some of the liquor racketeers of Mobile. Hut never before had he seen a northern gunman. Here was one, come straight down the Dixie Highway—J IT—and then that sand-and-clay track through the wilderness which is pompously termed the Mississippi Valley Highway.

The police of Jackson, on a bluff above the flooded Tombigbee River, had found the hot car where Carney had abandoned it. All the ferries had been drowned out. Carney had managed to get a Negro to row him across the turbulent three-mile-wide stream. He had come the rest of these miles toward the Gulf of Mexico on foot. But all the gunman's gloss was now gone from him and his clothes. He was starved, terrified and sick. Unafraid of pursuit, he feared this awesome country—and the unending rain.

JOE CARNEY awoke snug and warm. Hot, in fact, for dengue fever had got deep into the marrow of his bones. Everything about him looked unreal. A rough-raftered cabin of two rooms. A giant blue-gray dog, always silent except for resounding thumps when he lay down on the floor before the hearth. A big, harsh-faced man with long black hair like an Indian—a man who dosed him with quinine, and with a stinking greenish brew which pepper-burned his throat and gullet, but which felt powerful and comfortable once it reached his stomach. That dose and the quinine made him sweat.

Strips of tasty meat, broiled and cut up fine, were fed to him by the giant. This was yearling venison, though Joe Carney did not guess. He also tasted fresh milk still warm from the cow— and it made the little gunman snarl and spit. There were satsuma oranges, skinned and seeded, which he liked, and lemonade squeezed from a giant lemon the size of an osage melon and mildly spiked with corn liquor from a charred keg.

Emile Dupres fed his patient regularly, but left him alone through long hours, morning and afternoon. The big, silent mastiff stayed in the cabin when his master was away, but he could not be petted or cajoled. He lay about, occasionally stretching wide his terrifying jaws in a yawn, completely indifferent to the sick man on the cot.

A day came, nearly two weeks after he had been carried to the cabin, when Joe Carney got up on shaky legs and lifted down his clothes from pegs on the wall. Only then did the dog awake to any signs of interest. He did not interfere with Joe's dressing. Even after Joe was fully clothed, the dog merely followed him out into the bare red-clay dooryard. But when Joe went shakily to the gate that gave upon the wood road, he found his left forearm seized firmly in the mastiff's jaws. The dog refused to let him lam!

As soon as Joe, trembling with weakness, went back to the cot, the dog left him and lay down in a corner, indifferent again. Joe Carney cursed wonderingly. He had never seen an animal like this—no, not even in Lincoln Park, where they had the zoo.

THAT night, Emile Dupres did not come in until well after dark. When he did appear he staggered a little. Saying nothing to the convalescent, he stripped off his chambray shirt, letting his overalls hang to his waist. As soon as he lighted the lamp, the left side of his big torso, above his hips, showed drenched and sticky with blood. One buckshot had torn through his arm; another had plowed along his ribs, tearing up a sliver of flesh and skin as long as a man's forefinger.

Death had whispered as it passed him by.

Hot water. Then a swabbing with iodine, which bit until the Cajan's teeth ground together. Then gauze compresses, sprinkled with boric acid and held down by strips of plaster.

The Cajan asked no help, paid no attention to Joe's awed curses and questions. Only when a clean shirt had been donned did the big man come over to the cot. Never before had he spoken more than curt monosyllables to Joe Carney.

"Who paid you to come and kill me?" he demanded abruptly.

"Wha-at?" gasped Carney. "You think I done—that? After you took care of me? Sa-ay, big fella, what the hell kinda guy d'ya think I am?"

"Une blatte!" growled Emile. The patient would miss the exquisite contempt in that word, since he neither knew the French for cockroach, nor suspected that in that language the vermin was feminine, and implied the effeminate. "You would have shot me from ambush, that first day!"

"Oh, yeh, mebbe I would," agreed Joe Carney with a shrug. "I was sick and kinda nuts then. I dunno what in hell I thought I c'd get off a you. I was broke, and hungry—"

He fell silent as he saw his host go over and lift the long shotgun from its nails on the wall, break the breech, and squint through the barrels. Anyhow, there couldn't be any burnt powder in that gun! It had hung there all day long.

"Your dog wouldn't let me outa the yard anyhow," Joe continued after a pause. "I was gonna beat it, an' I tried."


Joe stared. "Hell, I dunno," he admitted. "Somewheres—and try and get a job, I s'pose. The booze racket's done for, now we got beer."

Alabama had not availed itself of the new dispensation, so the Cajan did not understand.

"You want to work?" he asked doubtfully. "All right. You can work with me. My frère, Antoine, he was killed in March. It is too hard for one man."

"Oh, yeah?" breathed Joe, staring up. "You mean your buddy was shot, and now they're layin' for you? Good clean fun in your job, eh? You begin to interest me to beat hell!—Say, just what is it you do? I thought you was a farmer!"

"No, citrus gas," said Emile. "And I guard the dipping vats. Four of us, we take turns. That's where they shot Antoine—and me. I got one through the head. With a rifle."

The little man's eyes were wide at the unadorned savagery of this nonchalant tale. And they boggled out still further when it came to light that the gas used in the big citrus orchards of the neighborhood was precisely the same poison gas introduced by the Germans into modern war. Chlorine—the heavy green cloud which sent men coughing and retching into oblivion!

"Good grief! Poison gas and buckshot! Well, you can lead me to it, big fella. It'll be sorta in my line, after Cicero and Burn ham—sorta." He grinned. "Do we wear masks and everything?"

DAYS went by, however, before Joe Carney could make the grade. Now big Emile talked. He did not boast, but he made plain his odd position, here in the new citrus belt of the piney woods.

There were six good-sized orchards, all fenced with hog-tight wire. Outside the wire ranged cattle and swine: the fierce, wild, stringy beeves and the gaunt, savage razorback hogs belonging to whites, blacks and Cajans. There were a few herds of sheep, too. Any man who wanted to raise oranges, pecans or market truck had to fence in his place and keep out the free-range animals. That was the Alabama "herd law."

Resentment over the fences ran high. Now and then a whole length of fence would be found cut down, with animals inside, ruining the fruit. There was no recourse against the vandals.

"Gotta catch 'em cutting the wire, and shoot 'em, eh?" nodded Joe with thrilled understanding.

"That is so—only very hard. The worst trouble, though, comes with the dipping vats," said Emile.

He explained that according to State law, all cattle had to be dipped regularly. The State had established a station here, and all farmers were required to round up their cattle and bring them here for dipping. That cost money, and if given half a chance, the sullen, angry ones who never could understand the reason behind such a law dynamited the dipping vats.

Emile and his brother had made big money—for the woods, that is—by taking over a number of dangerous part-time jobs. They had maintained the vats, twice repairing them when they had been destroyed, meanwhile guarding them as well as possible. They patrolled the woods, discouraging wire-cutters and repairing breaks in the orchard fences. Once each season they gassed all the citrus shrubs, thereby killing parasites.

A careless man might easily lose his life or his health while handling chlorine gas. But Emile and his brother, who had fought three years for France, were experts. They wore masks, and they did not neglect a single precaution for their own safety. Hut now Antoine was dead, and Emile had had great difficulty finding a helper who was not afraid to use the gas.

For the work of fence and dipping-vat patrol, there were three other Cajans who would slouch around with shotguns. Their actual bravery was questionable, but for the sake of the good pay they went through the motions. Emile checked up on them sharply.

"I wait for those who came with dynamite and killed my brother," he said simply. "They will come back."

"Do you know 'em? I should think mebbe you'd go after 'em your own-self," said Joe Carney.

"They are not from this part of the woods," said Emile. "I think they go all around in several counties, and I think they are paid to dynamite the vats. I will know two of them when I see them."

THE little Irishman, had he thought about it, would have grinned and called himself as completely unprincipled as he was lacking in any vestige of nervousness or fear. On the causeway over Lake Calumet, just south of Chicago, he had left two hijackers the victims of his smoking pistol. The big boss had handed him a wad of notes and told him curtly to lam. Otherwise he never would have thought of coming south. Flight in a stolen car, though, with a final lap on foot through this rain-wet wilderness had given him his first taste of fear.

Now, watching and listening to big Emile, and later watching the careful competence of this man who lived with death all of his waking hours, Joe Carney learned a thrill of admiration for something besides lawless toughness. This big fella was good, and he had been a real pal in time of need. Certain resolutions were still misty in the little gunman's mind. Perhaps he would never phrase them. But once he learned that Emile had a dangerous job on hand, and could use "a guy with nerve," Joe never for an instant considered going on south to Mobile to catch a fruit boat.

The job of gassing was simple enough, if a man took the proper care. The gas came in long cylinders, and was under pressure. The cylinders were stacked at the dipping vats, like greenish-brown cigars against the outside wall of the supply shed. When one of them was needed it was taken in a wheelbarrow or a wagon.

The orchards here had Florida oranges, satsumas, grapefruit, lemons, cumquats and loquats. All were grafted shrubs, the bases being the hardy, tough and thorny trifoliata, which never grows much higher than a man's head.. When each was to lie gassed, a canvas hood was dropped over it, and a metal flex hose with a nozzle carried the chlorine up under the hood.

There was a short hiss of gas, then a ten-second wait. Then the hood was lifted away and the men went on to the next shrub, upwind. If you left the hood on too long, the gas destroyed the shrubs as well as the parasites.

Masks were essential, of course, and these made the job hard in hot weather. The very first day he was out in the orchard with Emile, however, Joe Carney saw something he never forgot. The day was humid, windless. The greenish gas dissipated slowly, clinging to the ground. As they neared the end of the first row, Joe was taking surreptitious breaths by lifting his mask.

ALL of a sudden he stopped doing that. A big, mousy jackrabbit hopped across between the rows. One three-legged leap took him through the center of that hanging greenish curtain, A second and more spasmodic leap took him out of danger. But the damage was done. He fell, twitching. In fifteen seconds he lay still.

His mask firmly in place and his cheeks paper-white, Joe Carney went on, wheeling the barrow, then releasing gas from the clip nozzle as soon as Emile had the canvas hood in place. Conversation, of course, was impossible.

Traces of the dengue fever would linger with Carney for weeks more, bringing occasional hours of listlessness, bone ache and ague. But the odorous, peppery brew which Emile gave him twice daily seemed to be a specific for the illness. Little by little, as they finished the gassing of this orchard and moved on to the next, Joe found himself able to work larger fractions of each day, and to sleep nine hours of dreamless exhaustion each night.

Emile had furnished him with two overall suits, with chambray shirts and a pair of laced boots—too large, but usable. He had kept Joe Carney with him at the cabin, as a matter of course. The little man, to do him justice, had not thought of the money he might be earning. Here was a safe haven, in case the hounds of the law really were interested in him, though he rather doubted they would trouble about him, once they were sure he had left Chicago.

But Emile was generous. When he was paid off for the finished orchard, he handed over a ten-, a five- and a one-dollar bill to the little man.

"Two dollars a day for half time," he explained. "Now you work more, you get more. And the time for dipping comes soon. There will be trouble then. You get paid five a day for act as guard."

"You mean—I earned this?" asked

Joe, his voice oddly shaky, a queer look in his blue eyes. He had forgotten all about the perils and discomforts of working in a gas mask. Somehow, this slender sheaf of small bills— about one-third of what he had been paid for guarding a load of alky from Indiana Harbor to the Loop—looked like important money to him.

The Cajan nodded. "I think pretty soon now those men will come," he said. "I will sleep at the supply shed, near the vats. Most times, the job of guard is easy. Now for a month we earn the money."

DURING the days that intervened before Saturday, when even Emile went into Citronelle—the only town of the region—to meet his fellows and perhaps indulge in a movie, Joe crinkled his brow in unaccustomed thought. In the lining of the jacket of his old blue serge suit there was a crudely sewed place. He ripped this out and removed a single twenty-dollar bill. He put this thoughtfully with the sixteen dollars he had earned.

On Saturday evening, he too went in town, catching the down train at Laurel Siding. The three Cajans who helped Emile guard the fences and vats were left in charge.

In Citronelle, Joe Carney made two purchases. The first was a glittering wrist watch with a chromium flex band. It was a good watch for an outdoor man who worked with his hands, for it had no face or crystal. The figures of the hours and minutes showed in recessed slots.

"I saw you didn't have any ticker, so—so—I wish you'd wear this!" said Joe diffidently, next morning. He started to blush, to shake as though the dengue had hold of him again.

As he fixed the shiny bauble around his brown wrist, Emile looked down at it a lull minute. Then he raised his harsh face.

"Thanks," he said. "I am glad to have it."

Joe, vastly pleased with himself, went away to open and use his other purchase. This was a package containing a safety razor, a shaving brush and soap. As he scraped and grinned at his image in the cracked mirror, he noted that the multitude of brown freckles had come back.

THE day which had been assigned by the authorities as the deadline for cattle-dipping in this region drew near. If there were vats in readiness, and if the herd owners did not avail themselves of the facilities, then the State would step in, round up and dip the animals—and charge five dollars a head, a ruinous price.

So far, not a single cow had been brought from the piney woods range. That was ominous.

Emile stopped the younger man midway in the last orchard and put him on as an additional guard for the vats. Two of the other three Cajans had quit; possibly they had been intimidated.

"I will finish this gassing," said Emile. "At evening I will come and relieve you. Take the shotgun."

"I'd rather have my old rod," grinned Joe boyishly.

With alacrity he returned to fetch the automatic, and thenceforth he prowled the woods about the supply shack and the vats.

But no skulkers appeared in daylight. All Joe discovered was one minor fence repair, and a trio of belligerent razorbacks chewing the young cumquats.

The two businesslike dynamiters came by night, and in the rain. They drove mules and a spring wagon loaded with cases of giant powder. Wires, caps and a plunger dynamo were wrapped in a waterproof poncho.

They knew the lay of the land, and exactly what they would find. This was a matter of revenge as well as destruction. On their previous attempt they had failed and one of their number had been left on the ground with a rifle bullet through his head. The Cajans had said that the killer, Emile Dupres, now slept in the supply shack, within five yards of the two long vats. Very well. He might never awaken from that sleep!

Tethering the team of mules on an old wood road, they carried the cases of giant up to within thirty yards of the shack and the vats. Vivid lightning gave them occasional glimpses of their objective.

When all was set for the operation, they carried the cases down and set them in the bottom of the two vats, in such wise that the explosion would blow them into one big, shapeless crater. Then, speedily, they set two more cases against the side of the supply shack, where the cigar-like chlorine cylinders were piled. Wires came from here also. A single downward stroke of the dynamo plunger would send sparks to detonate six cases of giant.

THREE hundred yards away in the cabin, Joe Carney paced uneasily back and forth. He flinched each time the unearthly glare of lightning came to yellow the light of his kerosene lamp. He dreaded lightning, and never in his life had felt so vastly alone. Usually, in a thunderstorm, he had been able to mingle with men he knew, and to hide his perturbation. He suddenly resolved to go to Emile for company. Sitting down, he pulled on his boots, and laced them. Then he reached for Emile's yellow slicker, left hanging on the door. Putting this on, he bent his head and went forth into the rain.

He turned back momentarily, took his automatic, and thrust it in a pocket. Then he squished out through the puddles and into the scrub.

Half way to his destination he stopped short. Dull-clanking, but unmistakable, there came the sound of shaken cowbells! This was Emile's alarm. Someone had run into the waist-high catfish-line which the Cajan had strung about the vats to make a skulker give notice of his coming. Joe did not know it, of course, but one of the dynamiters, returning to crouch over the dynamo plunger had forgotten the alarm, though he and his confederate had been careful about it when they came.

No matter, thought the man at the plunger; all was ready!

"Let 'er go, George!"


That terrible flash of red, outblazing the lightning, followed by a thunder blast more deafening than the wrath of the heavens, wrung a frenzied curse from Joe Carney. The dynamiters had succeeded!

Probably they had bumped the big fella!

Pistol in hand, Joe burst through the scrub. But just before he reached the scene of demolition, something big and shadowy blocked his way. A team of mules and a wagon!

A flash of lightning. Two men in dark raincoats—one of them with a gun! That man yelled a sudden warning, and flung up the shotgun. A blaze of two barrels belching fire and lead.

Joe had dropped to a crouch. His upper lip came back in a snarl from his teeth.

The automatic in his hand jumped once—twice—thrice.

He had no hat now. Something had whisked it from his head, though his scalp was untouched. Out in front, two shapeless huddles lay on the ground. As he broke into a run for the supply shack, Joe flung two more bullets in their general direction. If they just hadn't got the big fella!

A deep pit yawning where the vats had been! He stopped suddenly, and his boots slipped on the lathery clay. As he scrambled up, a lightning flash showed him something which brought a groan of horror.

The shack was leveled! Hanging there in the air, slowly settling, to mushroom and creep over the debris and the ground, was a thirty-foot-high curtain of the deadly green gas—chlorine! If big Emile was somewhere in the debris of that shack the gas would soon cover him!

"They blowed up all the cylinders too!" yelled Joe in anguish.

He circled around the crater, to get to the back of the wrecked shack. This was mostly small pine logs, now flung about like spilled matches; but in the lime-shimmer of forked lightning the little man saw a half of the pitched roof lying in one piece. And under that piece of roof something was caught, for projecting was a human arm and hand!

WITH a choked cry, Joe leaped, bent, and lugged with all his convalescent strength. The roof refused to budge.

Grunting, cursing, he reached down to the ground for another hold; and in the darkness something stung his skinned knuckles. The chlorine had come! A green cloud of it—green for danger!

Joe shrieked in terror for his friend. Yanking off his slicker, he beat at that remorseless green wall which was slowly coming, an inch at a time, but growing in height from the ground as the gas above descended and mushroomed.

For a moment, his tactics were fairly effective, though Joe himself got a small whiff of the choking poison, and nearly collapsed. Head reeling, throat seared, he groped for something he could use as a lever—a small log, or—.

From beneath the fallen roof came a gasping cry. "Get—gas mask! Gas!"

It was Emile Dupres, and he was still alive!

Lightning flared. Joe had to let go of the log he had found and like a demon fight with the slicker against the encroaching gas. Some of it clung to the slicker and came back to bite into his face and blind his eyes with tears. This would be the last chance. Whimpering, almost praying, he grabbed the log, slid it under and heaved. Once—again!

The broken roof, defeated, raised up and fell back. Joe groped down through the gas, grabbed a weakly moving figure, and dragged as frantically as his slight strength would permit.

Five minutes later, Henry McLean, the planter for whom they were working, hurriedly dressed after the explosion, found them eighty feet from the scene of the explosion. The little man was gassed, unconscious. Emile Dupres, with four crushed ribs and a broken arm, was trying to bring him to consciousness.

McLean and two of his men took charge and in a short time both men were laid on cots fixed in the tonneau of McLean's seven-passenger phaeton, and were being driven slowly and carefully toward St. Catherine's Infirmary in Mobile. Toe Carney moaned once or twice, but he did not awaken; and during all that long ride south, a big, gray-haired Cajan held the little gunman's slender wrist in a firm, anxious clasp.

JOE CARNEY had lost his voice. But when they let big Emile in to see him, the little man grinned and whispered happily:

"Hyah, old-timer! I ain't going to cash in, after ail. And I'm glad to see you, pardner!—Will your arm be all right pretty soon?"

"Yes, pretty soon," said Emile, sitting down, a peculiar scowl on his forbidding face.

Even the doctors were not quite sure yet that Joe would recover, though they now thought his chances better than at first.

"Well, make it snappy!" bade the little man. "You and me can lick the world! We're going to save up some jack, pardner. Then we're going to have some oranges of our own to gas!"

Unknowingly—for the social ban against Cajans thereabouts never had been explained to Joe Carney—this came right to the heart of a secret ambition long cherished by Emile Dupres. To put the money he had saved into a fruit orchard of his own! That, of course, had long been impossible for him, a Cajan.

But with a white partner? Yes, that would do the trick!

"You and I will have the finest orchard in Alabama!" Emile said shakily, leaning forward to take Joe Carney's hand. "I have enough money, and you have enough spirit—partner!"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.