Roy Glashan's Library
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First published in Ace G-Man Stories, February 1943

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Ace G-Man Stories, February 1943, with "Blood, Sweat and Bullets"



AT the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue in the City of New York, Stephen Klaw stood, waiting to be shot to death.

It was now three minutes before noon. At twelve o'clock exactly, a steel-jacketed slug from a silenced .30-.40 Winchester rifle would come whining down from one of the hundreds of windows in the office buildings opposite, and would smash its way into Stephen Klaw's heart.

It was raining, and it was chilly. The rain was coming down slantwise in lashing slabs of fury, and the wind was blowing from the north, both trying to discourage the hurrying Christmas shoppers. Many of them had taken shelter in the Public Library, and others stood in the doorways of office buildings—in one of which lurked an expert marksman with his eye glued to the telescopic sight. The shot would be a difficult one, due to the wind and the rain. But Klaw knew that the marksman—wherever he was or whoever he was—would not miss. Too much was at stake for that.

He glanced at his wrist watch, pulling his hand from his overcoat pocket for an instant. Two minutes of twelve. The second hand was moving around swiftly on the start of its next-to-last lap. Two full revolutions around the dial, and the shot would come. No sooner, no later. That was the essence of German thoroughness with which this execution was to be consummated.

Klaw put his hand back in his pocket.

That bullet, when it did come, would not be intended for Stephen Klaw. It was earmarked for another man. But Klaw was taking the intended victim's place. For the next two minutes, Klaw was—to all intents and purposes—one, Kurt Siglith.

Kurt Siglith was of the same build as Stephen Klaw. And now, with hat-brim turned down and coat collar pulled up around his chin, Klaw knew that the marksman would surely believe he was firing at Kurt Siglith—especially since these were Siglith's brown hat and brown overcoat, and since Klaw was standing directly in front of the northerly stone lion guarding the Public Library entrance, exactly where Siglith was supposed to be standing at this time.

The irony of it was that Kurt Siglith was nobody of great importance. He was a minor cog in the Nazi spy-machine which the F.B.I. had just got wind of. Siglith was earmarked for liquidation. He was not supposed to know that this was an appointment with death. But he had learned it somehow, and he had gone, shivering in terror, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Siglith's visit at that particular moment was like manna from heaven. For twenty days now, every agency of the United States had been working day and night, feverishly against time, to uncover a certain "secret" army which was known to be ready to go into action—within the United States.

THE leader of that secret army was known, but was as elusive as an eel. His name was Baron Oxenburg; but he was known from Berlin to Yokohama as "The Ox." There had been cautious rumors about The Ox. He had established himself in America, recruiting an army of shock troops which would deal a crippling blow to the United States upon a given date. Christmas Day was the date. And now it was the twentieth of December, and nothing had broken—until Siglith appeared.

Siglith's story was confused and almost hysterical. He had worked undercover for Oxenburg for twenty years; living here with false citizenship papers, working as an unassuming mechanic. But there was to be a purge, and Siglith was to be liquidated. This much he knew—that the appointment at the library meant death from a rifle bullet. So he had come to the F.B.I. to sell his secret. He told of certain coded plans for the Oxenburg Campaign—plans of which he had a copy, and which he would turn over at a price. The price was absolute guarantee of safety. Oxenburg must think him dead, and he must be given new papers which would enable him to live in anonymity, free of the terror of the purge.

All these things the government agreed to do—even to making it seem that Siglith died.

And so today, Stephen Klaw was standing at the library, and Siglith was to get a bullet in the heart—by proxy! Somewhere in one of those tall office buildings whose windows looked down through the rain upon the figure of Stephen Klaw in his brown hat and overcoat, there was an expert marksman. And, spread out over the entire area surrounding the Public Library there were two hundred agents of the Department of Justice, and as many plainclothesmen of the New York City Police Department. They were watching like hawks for the tell-tale curl of smoke which would emanate from the rifle breech when the shot was fired. When Stephen Klaw died at twelve o'clock, they would capture the killer. And they would have the first concrete lead to the dangerous underground army of Baron Oxenburg. Klaw was trading his life for a chance to strike at a dangerous enemy of the nation.

There were only two other men in the F.B.I. to whom such an assignment might have been given. They were Stephen Klaw's partners in the Suicide Squad—Dan Murdoch and Johnny Kerrigan. That was the kind of job the Suicide Squad always got. They never rated the ordinary routine assignments involving investigations, or the tracking down of minor embezzlers. They asked for and got only those jobs from which there was hardly any chance of returning alive.

Once again, Klaw looked at his wrist watch. Another minute was gone. Sixty seconds more to go. Calmly, he lit a cigarette, cupping the flame against the rain and wind, and being careful, also, to hide his face. His hand was steady as he flicked the match away. He exhaled a thick cloud of smoke from his nostrils, and glanced across the Avenue toward a parked car at the opposite curb, in which two men were seated.

Big, blond Johnny Kerrigan was at the wheel of that car. His powerful hands had a strangle-hold on the rim, and he was chewing his lower lip, and his haggard eyes never left the slim figure of Stephen Klaw. Next to Johnny Kerrigan sat Dan Murdoch, whose dark and handsome face was now drawn into the tight lines of a carved obelisk.

"We shouldn't have let the Shrimp do it, Johnny!" Murdoch groaned. "There's still time. Let's get him away from there!"

Johnny Kerrigan gripped the wheel more tightly, as if preventing himself from getting out and running over to Klaw. "The Shrimp won the toss, didn't he?" Kerrigan demanded harshly. "Suppose you'd won the toss—would you want Steve or me to drag you away from there right now?"

"No," said Dan Murdoch. "No." His face was white. "But I can't stand it, Johnny. I can't stand sitting here and watching the Shrimp get killed in cold blood. I—I would feel better if I were over there instead of him."

"So would I," growled Johnny. "But it had to come sometime. Today it's Steve. Tomorrow it'll be you and me, Dan. We've lived too long anyway."

It was true. They had lived too long on this job. Two years ago, there had been five on the Suicide Squad. Today there were only three. At noon, there would be but two. Tomorrow there might be none. There were strange tales in the underworld about the Suicide Squad—tales that had become almost legendary. It was said that Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw seemed always to look for death, yet never to find it. Perhaps because they did not fear the Grim Old Man, they were immune. But today—today the Suicide Squad was going to take it on the chin. Today, for the first time, they would meet death without a fight.

Murdoch looked at his wrist watch. "Thirty seconds to go, Johnny!"

STEPHEN KLAW was also looking at his watch. He would rather not have looked. He preferred to have the death bullet come unexpectedly. But he had studied Kurt Siglith's mannerisms, and had found that Siglith was a nervous man. One of his habitual nervous motions was to look constantly at his wrist watch. So Steve did the same. That killer—wherever he might be—would surely never doubt that this was his man.

Rain trickled down from Steve's hat-brim onto his upturned coat collar as he watched the second-hand. Twenty-five seconds—twenty seconds—fifteen—seven...

He looked up from the watch, and started to make a farewell gesture to Kerrigan and Murdoch across the street—and a girl came leaping out of a convertible coupé which had screamed to a stop on hotly-braked tires at the curb directly in front of Stephen Klaw.

There was a flash of shapely, silk-clad legs as she jumped to the sidewalk. Klaw got a blurred, rain-obscured vision of a tautly beautiful face, dark, bobbed hair and a pair of big, frantic eyes. She wore no hat, and the rain had tangled and matted her hair. She was shouting, "Quick, Siglith! They'll kill you—"

And then she was upon him, and had seized the lapels of his coat, and was frantically, furiously trying to drag him around in back of the stone lion.

"A rifle!" she gasped. "They'll shoot! They're going to—"

Steve's watch showed one second before noon.

He seized the girl's hands, yanked them away from his lapels, and thrust her to one side. "You little fool—"

"No, no!" she screamed, and lunged at him. Her weight carried him back a half step. "They'll kill—"

She said no more.

Something whined, high and shrill in the air.

Desperately, Steve tried to swing the girl around. But it was too late. There was the terrible thump of hard metal spatting into human flesh. The girl was catapulted into Steve's arms by the tremendous impact of the steel-jacketed projectile, and they were both hurled backward against the stone lion. The girl became stiff in Steve's arms, and blood spurted out over her fur coat from a wound below the right breast.

Almost simultaneously, men seemed to materialize on all sides, as if from nowhere—grim, lean-jawed F.B.I. agents, and hard-bitten city detectives. They surrounded Steve and the girl, not knowing for the moment, which had been hit.

At the same time, other agents began to converge in grim array, toward the Volt Building, several hundred yards away. Keen eyes had spotted the spurt of smoke. They knew where the rifleman was. In less than half a minute the Volt Building was surrounded. Escape would be impossible. Tear gas guns appeared in the hands of the F.B.I. men as they flooded into the building, pre-empting the elevators, and moving bleakly up to the fifth floor. They were going to capture that rifleman alive. None of them knew that Stephen Klaw was still alive, for they hadn't been able to see the girl take the slug intended for him. They were resolved that they would not fail to make this rifleman talk—Stephen Klaw should not have died in vain...


IN room 512 of the Volt Building, a young man with dark hair and sensitive, clean-cut features, knelt at the window with a rifle at his shoulder.

The gun had recoiled from the shot he had just fired, and a thin wisp of smoke was trickling upward from it. But the young man remained immovable for a full twenty seconds after pulling the trigger. His eyes were fixed upon the hurrying throng which had crowded around Stephen Klaw and the dark girl, far down there in front of the Public Library.

He could no longer see either Klaw or the girl. But he did see the grim men who suddenly came hurrying from every direction toward this building, and in whose hands there had now appeared tear gas guns and bombs.

His sensitive lips twitched into a hopeless little smile. Then the smile faded. With a sudden gesture of revulsion, he threw the costly rifle to the floor, and got to his feet. He turned around and faced the bare room, in which there was only a desk, a chair and a telephone.

"I killed him!" he kept repeating under his breath in a deadly monotone. "I killed him. I'm a murderer!"

He picked up the telephone. His hand shook so that he was barely able to dial his number. He closed his eyes tightly, as if to shut out the sight of the thing he had done. When he got his connection, he said: "This is Gregor. Well, I've done it. I've killed him."

His knuckles whitened with the intensity of his grip on the phone. A smooth, suave voice trickled through from the receiver—a voice which somehow gave the impression of a sinuous, snake-like owner without human feeling or compassion.

"Excellent, my dear Gregor. I knew that you would not fail. You are to be commended on your marksmanship. I wish it were possible for me to give you another medal to add to your many shooting trophies. However, trust me, I shall find a suitable reward—"

"Damn you!" young Gregor choked. "Stop that. I want no reward from you—only that you should keep your promise—about Ninovna. You—you—" he gulped, then demanded eagerly, almost piteously, "She'll be—all right now? Nothing will happen to her?"

"Of course, my dear Gregor. Nothing will happen to her—provided you leave no clue for the Americans. Remember, your work is only half done. The other half consists of making a clean getaway."

Gregor laughed harshly. "Impossible. The Federal agents were watching. They must have been tipped off. They saw the smoke from the rifle. They're on the way up, now."

The voice at the other end became suddenly cold, harsh. "You mean you cannot escape?"

"That's right."

There was a pause. Then, "Gregor, you must not fall into the hands of the Americans. You understand?"

"I understand. I won't. Only I must be sure that Ninovna—that nothing will happen to her. My sister—Lola—tried to save Siglith. She got there just a minute ago. She must have found out, somehow. But—but you mustn't hold that against me—or Ninovna."

"I will hold nothing against you, Gregor—as long as the G-Men find no clue."

"They won't!" Gregor said grimly, and hung up.

Already, grim men were in the corridor. He heard a voice say, "Here—this is the room. Break the glass. Flood him with tear gas. Smoke him out—"

Gregor's face was white and drawn like that of an old man. He walked across the bare room with the stiff motions of a somnambulist. Behind him, the plate glass in the door was shattered by a gun butt. Men were shouting, calling to him to surrender. He paid no attention.

He reached the window, threw one leg over, then the other. He closed his eyes, and thrust himself out from the ledge. His body went plummeting out into space.

IN the street, a thousand pairs of eyes were turned upward to watch in stunned fascination as a human being plummeted down, to be crushed against the concrete sidewalk into an unrecognizable, lifeless mass, locking within his bloody self the secret which the G-Men sought.

Traffic ceased, and all became quiet at this busiest intersection of the world, as if the entire universe had suddenly become converted into stone. The only movement was in the small but compact group in front of the library, surrounding Stephen Klaw, and the girl who had been shot.

Kerrigan and Murdoch, the first to reach them, were pawing unbelievingly at Klaw.

"Shrimp!" he whispered. "Are you really alive? I thought that slug got you—"

Steve was kneeling beside the girl. She was not dead. The bullet had penetrated her right side, and the wound was bleeding copiously. Her eyes were open, and she was looking up at Klaw, with a strange mixture of surprise and pain and terror in them.

"You—you're not Siglith!" she managed to gasp.

"No, my dear," Stephen Klaw said softly. "I was taking Siglith's place. And you took mine. You knew something—something that made you come here to try to stop a murder. Can you talk?"

It was at that moment that the thud of the falling body of the fair-haired young man brought them all to attention. One of the G-Men surrounding them exclaimed, "It's the killer! He jumped! He'll never talk!"

The girl almost jerked from Steve's arms. Her mouth twisted horribly, and she screamed through her pain. "My brother! Gregor! Dead! He—"

She fell back, unconscious. The blood continued to pulse from the wound under her breast, and her breath came in short, rasping intervals. Rain beat down, washing the crimson stain away as soon as it formed.

Steve glanced up hopelessly at Dan and Johnny.

"A hospital! We've got to get her to a hospital!"

Looking around swiftly, he saw that the G-Men were surrounding them in such a way that none of the passersby could see what was going on. He motioned to Murdoch, who bent and took the limp body of the girl from his arms. Then Steve swiftly stripped off his coat and hat—the coat and hat of Kurt Siglith. He wrapped the coat around the girl, pressed the hat on her head.

"Let Oxenburg think his killer succeeded in getting Siglith! Get an ambulance. Take her to a hospital. Keep her under guard every minute of the day and night!"

A little man pushed through the crowd of G-Men, carrying a small medical bag.

"I'm a doctor!" he called out. "I'm a doctor. Can I help?"

He pushed through, and blinked when he saw the girl lying in the rain, with a man's brown coat thrown over her.

Klaw, watching the man keenly, saw his lips compress as he knelt beside her and set to work with capable fingers. And just then, an ambulance clanged to a stop at the curb.

The doctor was ripping away the girl's clothes from the wound when the ambulance interne and the driver appeared with a stretcher.

Stephen Klaw said, "Thanks, doctor," to the little man. "You needn't bother now. The interne will take care of her."

The doctor scowled, and looked up at him. "See here, don't you butt in. This girl requires immediate attention. My office is in the Brooks Building, right across the street. Take her in there."

"Never mind, doctor," Steve said. "We'll take her to the hospital."

The little man persisted, "You're trifling with her life—"

Steve signalled to Johnny Kerrigan, who took the little doctor by the arm and dragged him to one side. The interne and the ambulance driver lifted the unconscious body to the stretcher. Steve wrapped the brown coat around her.

"Get her in there, fast!" he ordered. "And don't let anyone see who she is. She's to be registered as Kurt Siglith. Remember that. There'll be a couple of men stationed outside her room at all times, and no one is to be allowed to talk to her!"

The interne looked puzzled, but when he saw Steve's shield, he nodded briskly. "Right!"

The other agents kept close to the stretcher, preventing anyone in the street from glimpsing the girl.

THE ambulance clanged off, with a uniformed patrolman and two Federal agents riding along. Across the street, a crowd was gathered around the body of the fair-haired young man. For him, there was to be no ambulance. The morgue-wagon would take him away. Dan Murdoch had hurried over there, and he was going through the young man's clothes, seeking some kind of identification. Johnny Kerrigan was still holding on to the arm of the little doctor whom he had dragged away from the wounded girl. Steve came over to them. The little doctor exclaimed fussily, "See here, this man—" indicating Johnny—"tells me that you are agents of the Department of Justice. I—er—didn't know that. I thought you were merely a stranger, interfering. Of course, if you had a special reason for wanting that girl taken to the hospital instead of to my office—"

"Yes, doctor," Steve said mildly. "We had a special reason. Just forget about the whole thing, doctor—"

"Selden," the other supplied. "Doctor Philip Selden. My card."

Steve took the card, glanced at it carelessly, rubbed a thumb over the type, and thrust it in his pocket. He lifted up his thumb, and frowned at a black smudge on it.

"If you please, Doctor Selden," he requested, "I must ask you to keep this whole thing quiet. Don't mention the fact that the girl was wounded. You see, the murderer may think he killed a man, not the girl. We want him to remain under that delusion."

"Of course," Selden assented readily. "Glad to help the F.B.I. And now—er—if you'll excuse me, I must be getting along."

He smiled vaguely at Johnny Kerrigan, flashed a quick glance at Steve, and headed briskly across the street toward the Brook Building where he had said his office was located.

Just then, Dan Murdoch came over from across the street, where he had been going through the dead rifleman's pockets. He shook his head. "Not a thing on him. Not even a laundry mark. We might have expected that."

One of the agents who had been examining the roadster in which the girl had driven up, came over with a purse. "Here's her bag. Plenty of identification. Driver's license, address book, Traveler's Cheques. Her name's Lola Pavlov—"

But Steve wasn't listening. He took Kerrigan and Murdoch each by the arm. "Hang on here, Mopes," he whispered, swiftly. "I'll be right back!" And he slipped between them, and started off after Doctor Selden.

"Wait a minute, Shrimp!" Murdoch growled. "How about letting us in on some fun—"

"No time now," Klaw called back. "This is a hot hunch!"

Selden was already half-way across the street. Klaw hurried after him, and saw the doctor enter the Brooks Building, diagonally opposite. The doctor threw a hasty glance behind him before going in, but the milling throng prevented him from noticing Klaw.

Steve swung into the lobby almost on the doctor's heels, and saw the little man vanish up the stairs at the rear. He glanced at the bulletin board, and saw that Selden's office was on the seventh floor—709. He frowned. Why would the doctor prefer to walk up seven flights, instead of taking the elevator?

And then he saw the answer. The two elevator cages which served the building were at rest here on the main floor, with the doors open, and no operators in evidence. The elevator boys must have deserted their posts in favor of the morbid scene outside.

Klaw's eyes flickered. He entered the nearest of the cages, closed the door, and pulled the lever over. The cage shot upward, and he stopped it at the seventh floor. He got out, well ahead of Doctor Selden, who had probably not even reached the second floor yet.

STEVE hurried down the hall until he came to the frosted-glass panel of 709. The modest lettering on the glass proclaimed that this was the office of Philip Selden, M.D., Consultations By Appointment Only.

Steve tried the door, and found it locked. Glancing around to make sure he was not observed, he took out his kit of skeleton keys, and tried them swiftly, one after the other. He worked hastily, for there were only a few moments now before Selden would reach this floor. The third key clicked the lock. Steve pushed the door open and went in. He closed the door carefully behind him, and locked it. Then he looked around.

He was in a small waiting room. Beyond it, there was a consultation room, and he could see another door in there, which opened into the examining room, equipped with an X-ray, a fluoroscope, and a couple of therapeutic machines.

As he stood there, the phone on the desk in the consultation room began to ring. At the same time, he heard hasty steps outside, and then a key being inserted in the lock. Selden had arrived.

Steve sprinted through the consultation office, into the examining room, and hid behind the fluoroscope frame. Peering out, he saw Selden come in, wiping sweat from his forehead. The phone was still emitting an imperious clamor. Selden grimaced, and snatched it up.

"Doctor Selden speaking," he said.

Steve, peering from the semi-dark examining room, saw the little doctor's body become tense as an indistinguishable voice spoke softly through the transmitter. Selden's back was to the examining room, so Steve couldn't see his face, but he sensed the sudden subservient attitude which enveloped the doctor, and which trickled from his very voice.

"Yes, yes, I have a report for you. I—I saw Gregor jump. He jumped after firing the shot. Yes, he is dead. But—but there is something else. Something very startling—"

That was as much as Stephen Klaw waited to hear. He came out of the examining room like a rocket, and hit Selden in a tackle that sent the doctor smashing into the desk, with the phone flying out of his hand.

Selden never finished what he had been about to say into the phone. Instead, he uttered a sharp cry of anger, and shoved his hand into his coat pocket.

Stephen Klaw's eyes were cold and hard. He brought up his balled fist in a merciless, smashing blow squarely into Selden's jaw. There was a sickening thud, and the doctor's head snapped up. His body arched far back over the desk, and then he went limp. He slid down to the floor in an inert heap.

Klaw massaged his knuckles, then stooped and picked up the telephone.

"Good afternoon, Baron Oxenburg," he said.

For a moment there was silence. Then a cool, self-contained voice spoke through the receiver, barely above a whisper.

"Ah! This is not Selden. Who is this?"

"Stephen Klaw, at your service, Baron."

"Klaw? Ah, yes. I place the name. You are one of those three irresponsible madmen of the F.B.I.—the Suicide Squad!"

"Thank you."

"May I ask what you have done to Selden?"

"I think I broke his jaw."

"That is too bad. He had not finished his report. He was about to tell me some important news."

"I'll tell it to you, Baron. Gregor shot Siglith, as you know, and then committed suicide. But Siglith lived long enough to tell me everything he knew. Do you understand, Baron?"

"I understand, my dear Klaw, but I don't believe you."

"As a matter of fact, Baron, I know a good deal more than Siglith told me. For instance, I know about—Lola Pavlov!"

"Ah!" said Baron Oxenburg. "You compel me to take an interest in you, Mr. Klaw. I shall have to take measures to—er—eliminate you!"

"That," said Stephen Klaw, "is just what I wanted to accomplish!" And he hung up.


KURT SIGLITH sat with his head in his hands. The real Kurt Siglith. In the spacious hotel suite which the F.B.I. had rented for him, there was little chance that any harm might come to him. Yet the fear was still in his bones.

He looked up when Stephen Klaw entered the room, and his eyes became wide, and he glanced around at the two F.B.I. guards who sat in the room with him. Then his gaze crept back to Klaw, and he said, "You—you're still alive? They—they didn't try to kill you?"

Klaw nodded grimly. "They tried, all right." The contempt in his voice was difficult to hide; contempt for this frightened traitor who valued his miserable life so highly.

Siglith came up from his chair in a convulsive jerk. "But—but you're still alive! Impossible. Oxenburg never makes a mistake. He meant me to be killed at noon today, and you were posing as me; therefore, you should be dead. The Ox never fails."

"It's all right," Steve Klaw said wearily. "Oxenburg thinks you're dead. Lola Pavlov stepped in the way of the bullet. She's in the hospital now. But we let them think it was you. Lola is being smuggled out of the city, and a body from the morgue has been slipped into the hospital room. It'll be buried as you. Officially, you're dead, Siglith—just as you wanted."

Kurt Siglith clutched at Klaw's sleeve. "You're telling me the truth?" he demanded eagerly. "You—you're not lying to me?"

Steve made a gesture of distaste. From his pocket he took a leather wallet containing a passport and several official papers.

"Here are your new documents. From now on, you're Karl Stegner. We've created a whole new identity for you, just as you asked. You can travel anywhere in South America, now, without fear."

Siglith seized the documents, and thumbed through them eagerly. "Ah!" He seemed to grow perceptibly, as the shadow of terror was lifted off him.

"All right," Steve Klaw said crisply. "We've kept our part of the bargain, Siglith. Now you keep yours. Where are the plans of the Oxenburg campaign?"

Siglith sat weakly in the easy chair. He wiped perspiration from his forehead. "You will find the plans of the Oxenburg campaign in the General Post Office," he said.

"In the Post Office!" Steve exclaimed.

Siglith nodded. "When I realized that Oxenburg intended to have me killed sooner or later, I stole a copy of the plans and mailed them to a Post Office Box which I rented. They are waiting there to be picked up—Box Number LT-13."

Klaw's eyes flickered. "LT-13!" he repeated. He turned to the door. "After we've picked up the papers, you'll be paid off. Then you'll be free to go. You can travel to any part of the world you like, on that passport. Even Germany."

"Germany?" said Siglith. "What do you mean? You are at war with Germany—"

Klaw grinned. "I bet the Gestapo would send a special ship to give you passage back there. I bet they'd gladly stand the expense for a chance at making an example out of you!"

As he opened the door and stepped out of the room, he saw Siglith shuddering. A traitor's life is not a happy one—even a traitor to Nazi Germany. And Siglith was doubly a traitor. For twenty years he had lived in the United States, working for the German Foreign Service. For twenty years he had planned to betray the country which afforded him hospitality. And now he was betraying his native land. Somewhere in the world he might find peace of mind; but he'd have to go far and forget much.

DOWNSTAIRS in the lobby, Johnny Kerrigan was making a purchase at the cigar counter, and Dan Murdoch was thumbing through the telephone directory at the phone booths.

Steve Klaw signaled unobtrusively to Kerrigan, and then moved over to the phone booths. As he passed Murdoch he said swiftly, "General Post Office, Mope. Box LT-13."

"Right, Shrimp!" said Murdoch. "Box LT-13. Meet you in a half hour, Johnny will stick with you."

Steve moved on past Murdoch, and entered one of the phone booths. Murdoch turned and headed toward the street exit, and Johnny Kerrigan remained in the lobby.

Inside the phone booth, Klaw dropped a nickel in the slot, and dialed the private number of the F.B.I. Field Office. In a moment he was talking to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who had flown in from Washington that morning.

"Everything running according to schedule so far, sir," Steve reported. "Siglith came through with the dope. If he's telling the truth, the stuff is at Box LT-13, General Post Office. Dan Murdoch is on his way there now, to pick it up. Better have him covered."

"I'll have a squad of men at the Post Office in a few minutes," the Director said, "And you and Johnny better come right in. If that stuff is really the coded plans of the Oxenburg Campaign, I'll have a job for you three."

"Right, sir," said Steve. He hung up and left the booth. He exchanged no word with Johnny Kerrigan, but hurried out of the lobby and flagged a cab. He gave the driver the address of the F.B.I. Field Office, and as the cab pulled away, he saw Johnny Kerrigan climb into another taxi behind him, to follow.

From the moment that Stephen Klaw had spoken to Oxenburg over the phone, they had expected that an attack of some kind would be made on Klaw. Oxenburg's organization in the United States was known and talked about in espionage quarters throughout the world. For almost a year now there had been cautious rumors about the army of shock troops which Baron Oxenburg had ready for the purpose of striking one mighty, crippling blow at the United States.

"The Ox" himself was as elusive as Satan, and more ruthless. Sometimes he was reported on the east coast, while at the same time there were stories that he had been seen in California or in Canada. It was certain that he had "nests" spotted all over the country, from which he could operate at will. Cunningly trunked-in telephone lines made it possible for him to speak with impunity over the telephone—as he had done to Gregor and Steve Klaw—without the danger of being traced. His agents were everywhere, many in the guise of United States citizens.

These agents were able to move about all over the country, unsuspected, just as Kurt Siglith had done for many years; and as a result Oxenburg had engineered many a minor coup by means of which he had provided arms and ammunition for his secret army. Only recently, Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw had come into possession of information which had led them to Kurt Siglith, and this was now the first concrete link to the Oxenburg Army.

But time was growing short. With the situation growing more tense by the hour on the European front, there was every indication that Germany would order the Oxenburg Army to strike. It was imperative to discover their plans, their dispositions, the points at which they would attack. Siglith had told them that the plans were written in code so that even now, with the plans almost in the grasp of the Federal agents, there was still the element of time necessary to break down whatever code it might be.

AT the Department of Justice Building, where the Field Office was located, Klaw descended from the cab and paid off. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Johnny Kerrigan's cab pulling up about fifty feet behind, and Johnny getting out.

Lexington Avenue was busy at this time of day, with men and women, in and out of uniform, hurrying in both directions. Steve turned away from the cab, and began to make his way across the sidewalk toward the building entrance, when a woman stopped him.

"Excuse me," she said. "Are you Stephen Klaw?"

Steve gazed at her admiringly. Her slender body was encased in a beautiful glossy black fur coat which was no blacker than her hair and her eyes. She was not smiling, and her face was almost entirely devoid of expression. But there was a subtle something in those black and secret eyes of hers which seemed to be trying to hide some grim and hideous truth.

"Yes," Steve said shortly. "I'm Klaw."

"I have something to tell you," she said. "About—the Oxenburg Plan!"

"Ah!" said Steve. "Who are you?"

"My name will mean little to you. My information much. You must promise to ask no questions, but to come with me and to listen, then to allow me to leave freely."

"Where do you want me to go with you?"

"I can't tell you that. You'll know when you get there."

"I have no time," Steve told her.

She smiled for the first time now, and it was not a pleasant smile. "Don't be a fool, Klaw. You're in a hurry, because you think you're going to lay your hands on the coded plan."

"Maybe I am," Klaw told her.

Her eyes nickered. "Then Siglith really did talk before he died!"

"Look here," Klaw said suddenly. "You've talked enough right now to lay yourself open to arrest. You've said enough so far, to put a noose around that pretty neck of yours. Now what's the game?"

Once more she smiled that secret smile of hers. "I'm sure you won't arrest me, Mr. Klaw. Yes, I'll admit that I know all about the Oxenburg Plan. But you won't arrest me."

"Why not?"

"Because as a prisoner of the United States, I'll be of no use to you whatsoever. But free—I may help you to avert the blow that Oxenburg is going to strike on Christmas Day."

"Wait!" She raised a hand as Steve was about to speak. "Listen well to me, Stephen Klaw. Maybe you're going to get hold of a copy of the Oxenburg Plan. But it won't do you any good. Those plans were drawn in code—a code that all your experts couldn't break in a month. And in five days, Christmas will be here. The secret you want is locked in the code, and Oxenburg will strike while your experts are still working on it!"

"Then you can help us break the code?" Steve asked. "You have the key?"

She shook her head. "I haven't the key. Only one man in the United States besides Baron Oxenburg has the key to that code. I can tell you where to find that man. Come with me and listen to my terms, and if you agree to them, I shall tell you what you need to know. But you must act now, or it will be forever too late!"

Looking at her keenly, Steve noted for the first time that there was something oriental about her. Perhaps it was the pallor of her cheeks; perhaps it was the long, narrow eyes of the deepest, glittering black. She could be Japanese. It was a fact not generally known to the public, that the natives of many of the northern islands of Japan—notably Nishino and Naka, and Sado Island in the Sea of Japan—were tall enough and clear enough of skin to pass for Filipinos and Javanese—and even as whites.

The woman mistook his sudden thoughtfulness for hesitation. Her lips parted sardonically. "Are you coming with me, Stephen Klaw?" she asked softly. "Or perhaps you are afraid? You think it's a trap?"

Klaw smiled tightly. "Afraid? Yes, let's call it that. I'm sorry. I don't believe a word of your story. I think it's a trap, and I'm not having any, thank you. Come on, baby. You're under arrest!"

A quick spasm passed across her face. It was hard to tell whether it was anger, fear, or merely surprise. But she made no resistance when he took her by the arm.

"You're making a mistake, Stephen Klaw. A terrible mistake—both for yourself and your country!"

KLAW grinned, and led her into the Department of Justice Building. Glancing behind, he saw that Kerrigan was covering their rear, just in case she should have had any companions. But when they reached the elevator, Kerrigan came in and joined them, nodding to Steve, in indication that no one was following.

Upstairs, in the temporary detention room, Steve turned the woman over to a matron.

"Charge her with suspicion of espionage," he instructed. "I'll be back in a little while to sign the complaint, and we'll arraign her at once!"

He and Johnny hurried up to the next floor, where the Director of the F.B.I. was waiting for them in the private office.

Swiftly, Steve told the Chief about the woman. "I haven't the faintest idea who she is, sir," he finished. "And I'm sure she won't talk. But I had to place her under arrest."

"Quite right, Steve," said the Director. "There's no doubt she's tied up with Oxenburg, of course." He stopped his impatient pacing, and stood facing Kerrigan and Klaw. His mouth was a thin, set line. "Sometimes I wish we could use the methods of the Gestapo! Imagine what the Gestapo would do to make prisoners talk—if they were convinced that there was a secret American army within Germany, ready to strike in five days! By the Lord Harry, they'd make their prisoners talk!"

Steve looked uncomfortable. "Well, sir, this woman must certainly know plenty. But I hardly think we could use a rubber hose on her, or stick burning toothpicks under her finger-nails."

There was a knock at the door, and in answer to the Chief's summons to enter, Dan Murdoch came in. He was carrying a manila envelope, and his darkly handsome face was wreathed in a smile of contentment.

"Got it!" he said.

The Director took the envelope from him swiftly. It had been sent through the mails, and was addressed: Mr. Kurt Siglith, P.O. Box LT-13, General Post Office, New York, N.Y.

"Come with me, you three!" said the Director. He led them through a side door, down a private corridor, to another room. This was a large conference room, with a huge map of the United States on one wall, and a detailed map of New York on the other. In the center of the room there was a long conference table, at which were seated seven or eight men.

Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw stared as they saw the uniforms of some of those men. There were two generals, and a colonel of Army Intelligence, another colonel of the Army Air Force, and several men in civilian clothing. Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw recognized the two generals. They were staff officers, and it didn't seem possible that they had found time to come to New York on this matter.

The Director saw their looks of astonishment, and nodded. "Gentlemen," he said to the men at the table, "I want you to meet the three hellions who are called the Suicide Squad."

He did not introduce the men at the table, but just let it go at that, explaining swiftly to his three agents, "You can see the importance of the papers in this envelope. These gentlemen flew from Washington at my insistence, in the hope that we would be able to lay our hands on the Oxenburg Plan. Expecting that it would be in code, I insisted that the code experts from Army Intelligence come along!"

He laid the envelope on the table. "Gentlemen," he said, "here it is! The Oxenburg Plan!"

With a penknife he ripped the envelope open. While all the men watched breathlessly, he extracted a folded batch of onion-skin papers. He unfolded them, and spread them on the table. Every eye was focused on them. And a gasp of deep disappointment went up from one of the men in civilian clothes.

"That's the Formosa Code!" he explained. "It's just been adopted by the Japanese! How is it that Oxenburg—a German—is using it?"

"I don't know," said the Director. "But whatever it is, you ought to be able to break it down, Mr. Fuller. You're the head of the Code Bureau."

He paused, seeing Fuller shake his head. "We've been working on the Formosa code for a month," he said. "As you see, it consists of Japanese ideographs—picture-words—arranged in a curious coded device. We've tried every possible combination of idea-words, but without success."

He began going through the sheaf of papers, examining each in turn, and shaking his head.

General Nichols, who was seated at the head of the table, picked up one of the sheets. "Look here, Fuller," the General said. "With these additional sheets to work from, you should be able to get further. I understand that there isn't a code in existence that can't be broken down, in time."

"Quite right," said Fuller. "And this code is no exception. Given time, we'll crack it. But I understand we have only five days."

He paused, then added reflectively, "There's a man somewhere in this country by the name of Nikander. He's half Asiatic, half European—the man who invented the Formosa Code. If we could find him—"

STEPHEN KLAW had been listening to this discussion, with the blood pulsing ever more swiftly through his veins. Suddenly he snapped his fingers, stood up.

"Excuse me, gentlemen!" he exclaimed. "Don't go away. I'll be back!" He motioned to Kerrigan and Klaw. "Let's go, Mopes!"

And before any of those at the conference table could hurl a question at them, the three G-Men were out of the room.

Neither Kerrigan nor Murdoch asked any questions of their partner. They merely followed him as he raced down the stairs to the floor below, where the detention room was located. They knew that if he didn't tell them what was in the wind, it was because there wasn't time; and they were content to follow his lead until he explained.

That was the way the Suicide Squad worked, and it was in part responsible for their success. If ever an outfit believed in teamwork, it was the Suicide Squad. Each of them had unlimited confidence and faith in the other two, and they were all ready to give unquestioning obedience to whichever of them was carrying the ball at the moment. In that way they had often been able to execute jobs requiring split-second timing, with brilliant success. People said their success was due to the fact that they were hair-brained fools who did not know the meaning of fear. But that was only partly true. Their success was mainly due to the fact that they operated like a well-integrated, well-greased piece of precision machinery—and trusted their lives to each other's judgment at all times.

Kerrigan and Murdoch waited in the outer room of the detention quarters, while Klaw went inside to the room with the barred windows where that strange and mysterious woman was being held. On the way in, Steve held a whispered consultation with the matron, who told him that the woman had been searched, and her handbag taken from her. She showed him the handbag, which contained the usual personal articles that a woman carries, plus a small twenty-two calibre automatic. There were no identification papers of any kind in the bag. Apparently the woman had anticipated the possibility of being arrested.

"We just let her keep her cigarettes," the matron said. "She didn't make any fuss at all. Just said she thought you'd be back for her pretty soon."

"And here I am!" Klaw grunted. "Let me in there."

He entered the small room where the woman was confined, and found her smoking a cigarette, and standing near the barred window, looking out into the bleak afternoon drizzle. The rain was just beginning to change to hail, and Steve thought that it would be a hell of a Christmas in five days if they didn't succeed in breaking that Formosa Code.

The woman turned from the window and looked at him from under her long black lashes, and smiled slowly.

"Well?" she asked.

"All right," said Steve. "You win."

She dropped the cigarette on the floor, and stepped on it. "I suppose that means you've got hold of the Oxenburg Plans—but can't read them?"

"That's right. Our Code expert says it'll take a month to crack the code. We have to do it in five days."

"And you want me to tell you where to find the man who can read it?"


"You'll pay my price?"

"If it's within my power."

"All right. Release me. And come with me."

For a moment, Steve stood looking at her in exasperation. Then he shrugged. "Okay. You hold the cards."

He held the door open, and she swept out regally. In the anteroom, he got her purse from the matron and returned it to her, after extracting the automatic pistol and putting it in his own pocket. He grinned at her. "If this is a trap you're taking me into, I'd rather have the gun."

The woman didn't argue. "Let's hurry," she said. "The time is very short."

They went out into the corridor, and Steve made a surreptitious motion to Kerrigan and Murdoch.

In the street the woman said, "We don't need to take a cab. It's just around the corner."

Steve walked with her down the street to the corner. He glanced sideways at her, and saw that she was holding herself stiffly, as if under great strain. Somehow, he sensed that beneath that cold exterior, she was a bundle of nerves.

"Look here," he said. "Why don't you tell me your name? Have you any reason for keeping it a secret?"

"No," she said tonelessly. "I haven't any reason to keep it secret now that you've agreed to come with me." She paused. "My name," she said slowly, "is Anastasia Nikander!"


"NIKANDER!" exclaimed Steve. "That's the name of the man who invented the Formosa Code!"

She nodded. "My husband!"

"Where is he? Here in New York?"

"No. He's three thousand miles away. That's why I told you time was so precious. It'll take time to reach him—and Baron Oxenburg will do everything in his power to prevent it!"

They had rounded the corner, and she stopped before the entrance of a small, shabby hotel. She threw swift, frightened glances around the street. "If Oxenburg's spies should see us," she whispered, "our lives wouldn't be worth a copper!"

She led the way into the lobby, among whose seedy occupants she looked oddly out of place.

Steve's forehead creased in a puzzled frown. "Why are you taking me in here? Why this mysterious—"

He broke off abruptly, for they had hardly taken half a dozen steps toward the elevator when two men moved over on either side of them. One thrust a gun into Steve's ribs, the other into Anastasia Nikander's.

They were men of small stature, dark and sour-looking. The one at the woman's side said, "Ah, Madame Nikander! So you have decided to go to the G-Men after all! And what is better, you have brought us one whom the Baron wants very badly. It was nice of you to bring Klaw to us!"

The woman uttered a faint gasp of dismay.

The man at Steve's left growled, "Do not move—"

But Klaw was already in motion. He had begun to swing around even before the other man had finished speaking, and his elbow swept the gun from his ribs. And at the same time, something very hard and very business-like descended upon the head of that man, in the shape of Johnny Kerrigan's clubbed revolver, while Dan Murdoch tackled the other one, reaching from behind for his gun arm, and, smashing a wicked blow down upon the fellow's head with his own revolver.

The whole thing took hardly more than five seconds, and the two men were going down under the assault from behind.

Grinning, Steve turned and faced Kerrigan and Murdoch. "Nice work, Mopes," he said.

Anastasia Nikander stood gaping, still unable to comprehend the swift tide of deadly action which had gotten rid of their two captors so efficiently. The clerk came running over from the desk, and the elevator operator from his cage.

Johnny Kerrigan stood looking down ruefully at the two unconscious men. "Too bad we had to hit so hard," he said. "I bet they have fractured skulls, and won't be able to talk for days!"

"They couldn't tell you anything anyway," Anastasia Nikander said swiftly. "They are only the dregs of Oxenburg's army. They don't know where he hides."

Murdoch showed the clerk his F.B.I. identification. "We'll get these two bozoes out of here through the side door, so there won't be any fuss. We don't even have to report this. Oxenburg won't know what happened to his men, and he won't get a report of your bringing Klaw here, Madame Nikander."

Steve took her arm. "Let's be going," he said. "My partners will take care of everything."

There was a strange gleam of admiration in her eyes as she entered the elevator with Stephen Klaw.

"Do you know?" she said. "I'm beginning to have more and more respect for you Americans!"

"Thank you," said Steve. He gave her a puzzled look as she told the elevator operator to let them out at the ninth. "I can't figure what your game is," he told her frankly. "I don't know whether to count you as friend or enemy. That business in the lobby just now was certainly not a trap. You didn't know those eggs were waiting for you. But if you're a friend, why all this mysterious stuff?"

"You'll see!" she said cryptically.

They got off at the ninth floor, and Anastasia waited until the elevator door closed, and the cage had begun to descend. Then she said, "Come!"

She led him down the corridor, and when they passed Room 907, she nodded toward the door. "That's my room. But we're not going there."

Steve grimaced, but said nothing. The play was in her hands. At the end of the corridor, she opened the fire-door.

"We're going down to the eighth."

THEY descended the stairs to the eighth floor, and Steve followed her down the hall to the door of Room 807. This was directly beneath Anastasia Nikander's room, on the floor above. She glanced around furtively, as if fearful that there might be someone spying in the corridor, then when she was satisfied that there was no one, she dropped to one knee and fumbled under the carpet. In a moment she came up with a key, which she inserted in the lock. Before opening the door, she tapped a swift signal on the panel. Then she turned the key, and pushed the door open.

"It's all right, Ninovna darling," she said as she stepped into the room. "It's only I—Anastasia. I've brought the G-Man."

Steve followed her inside, and she immediately closed the door and locked it.

Steve hadn't known what to expect in this room. And now that he saw the nature of this secret which Anastasia Nikander had been so mysterious about, he was more puzzled than ever. For the thing which she had been at such pains to conceal was nothing more than a girl of about fifteen.

The girl had golden hair and blue eyes. She was lying on her back on the bed, with the blankets drawn up to her chin. Her head was turned sideways so that she could look at them, but otherwise she did not move. And Steve was shocked at the ghastly emaciation of that childish face. So thin was she that her eyes were like huge saucers by contrast; and there did not seem to be any blood in her at all.

She had been a beautiful girl, and she was still beautiful; but there was little life in her. She tried to raise her head, but it fell back weakly on the pillow. Her blue and bloodless lips moved with feeble effort, and she whispered, "You were away—so long, 'Stasia. I thought—you'd never come back..."

"Don't talk, darling," Anastasia said, with a sudden tenderness in her voice. "You must rest. I'll give you something."

She went to the night-table where there were some medicines and a carafe of water. She mixed a powder on a spoon with a few drops of water, and lifted the girl's head, and fed it to her.

"Sleep now, Ninovna dear," she whispered. "Everything will be all right."

Ninovna's lips moved feebly. Steve, who had stepped close to the bed, heard the words: "Don't let—that terrible Oxenburg... get me... again..."

And then the golden-haired girl's eyes closed, and she was asleep.

Anastasia lowered her head gently to the pillow and stood up and looked at Klaw.

"She's my sister," she murmured.

Steve raised his eyebrows. These two were so different—Ninovna golden-haired, fair-complexioned; Anastasia dark and lithe. But he didn't doubt Anastasia's word. He saw truth and sincerity now in her eyes, which were no longer veiled or secretive. He waited for her to explain. It mattered not at this moment that the fate of the country hung upon the deciphering of a coded paper; it mattered not that a dozen high officials sat at a table, wondering where he had gone. He saw the stark pain in Anastasia Nikander's eyes, and he waited upon her grief.

But she didn't keep him waiting long. She took a cigarette from her purse, and Steve held a light for her. She took a couple of quick, nervous puffs, and then began to speak in a low, tense voice.

"We are White Russians, Mr. Klaw; my husband, Nikolai Nikander, my sister Ninovna, and I. For twenty-five years our families have been outcasts, citizens of no country, entitled to the protection of no national or international law. My husband secured a position with the Intelligence service of one of the Balkan countries. He is a mathematician, and he worked out the Formosa Code. Then, when Germany overran the south of Europe, we came into their power. They—the Nazis—turned us over to Oxenburg, who arranged for us to come to this country. He forged passports for us, and brought us in through South America. We were entirely in his power, for at a word from him we could have been arrested by your immigration authorities."

"I see!" murmured Steve Klaw.

"There were many like us. There are many even now, who are forced to serve in the secret, vicious army which Oxenburg has formed here in America. Among others, there was Gregor Pavlov—and his sister, Lola."

Steve's eyes narrowed. "Pavlov! That's the name of the girl—"

HE stopped short, remembering that no one was supposed to be aware that it was Lola Pavlov who had taken the bullet intended for Kurt Siglith. "It was this Gregor Pavlov who fired the shot at Kurt Siglith today, wasn't it?" he demanded.

She nodded. "Gregor Pavlov came to America with us, also as a tool of Oxenburg's. He's engaged to my sister Ninovna, here—he's madly in love with her. And through her, Oxenburg forced him to do things he hated. You must understand, Stephen Klaw, that none of us now want to see Germany win. Perhaps our fathers hated the Bolsheviks; but today, we know only that Russia is our mother country, and that she is in danger. We would help her if we could. But alas, we are in the toils of the Nazis."

"You mean that Oxenburg forced Gregor Pavlov to shoot Kurt Siglith?"

"Yes, yes. And then he forced him to commit suicide—to jump from that window rather than be captured alive!"

"But how could Oxenburg make him do a thing like that? Surely, this Gregor Pavlov could have refused? The worst that could have happened to him was that Oxenburg would denounce him to the immigration authorities, and he'd be arrested—"

Klaw stopped, seeing the strange and terrible smile upon her lips. "I will tell you how Oxenburg forced him to obey!" She stepped to the bed, and with a jerk drew away the covers from her sister's body.


Klaw uttered a gasp. The body of that poor golden-haired child, seen through the flimsy nightgown, was almost like that of a skeleton. Her arms were so thin and emaciated that they seemed to be mere arrangements of bones covered by a baggy film of skin. And upon her upper arms there were numerous punctures, such as might be made by a hypodermic needle.

"That is the work of The Ox!" Anastasia said fiercely. "His men seized Ninovna one night, and took her away to one of their many headquarters. They held her there. What could I do? I—her sister? What could Gregor do? Gregor—the man who loved her? We were both helpless. We could not complain to the police. Ninovna was here illegally, under a false passport. We dared do nothing."

She ground her cigarette out viciously in an ash tray, and hurried on. "Each day those fiends of The Ox took a half pint of blood from Ninovna's veins. Each day for a week. Then they let her rest for a week, and did it over again. Each day they sent the blood in a flask to Gregor. He had refused to do the bidding of Baron Oxenburg. But he could not hold out. He knew that those devils would drain every last drop of blood from the veins of the girl he loved. So he capitulated. He begged them only to spare Ninovna's life, and he would do whatever they asked."

"I see," Steve Klaw said quietly. "And they asked him to shoot Siglith?"

"Yes. Gregor was something of a marksman. He had won many medals and cups. So they used him for that. Oxenburg promised that he would release Ninovna if Gregor did only that one thing. He has kept his word, the fiend! He has released Ninovna—only to die. She has lost too much blood—"

"We'll fix that!" said Klaw. He went to the phone and jiggled the hook, then gave the operator the number of the F.B.I. Field Office.

"Send Doctor Glenn over here at once!" he ordered when he got his connection. "Tell him to bring two or three blood donors. And arrange for day and night nurses. I want this patient given the best of care. The F.B.I. will foot the bill!"

He hung up and faced Anastasia Nikander. "All right. That's the best I can do. Your sister will live, if medical care can save her. And you needn't worry about deportation. Help us to break the Formosa Code before Christmas Day, and you'll all be made Honorary Citizens of the United States!"

THERE were tears in Anastasia Nikander's eyes—tears, unrestrained and unashamed. All her reserve, all her fearful repression, was broken down. She gently pulled the covers back over her sleeping sister, and then she turned and took Steve's hand and raised it to her lips.

He snatched his hand away. "Please—"

She smiled through her tears. "But now I must repay you—by helping you save your country—perhaps some day, my country!"

She lit another cigarette with shaking hands. "Listen carefully, Stephen Klaw. My husband, Nikolai Nikander, knows the Formosa Code by heart. If you will show him those papers, he will be able to read them off to you as if they were in his native language. You must get them to him at once—but—he is in California!"

"The address!" Steve demanded swiftly. "I'll phone the West Coast, and have him put on a fast Army Pursuit plane. We'll have relays at every Army Field across the country, waiting to carry him along. At three hundred miles an hour, he'll be here by tomorrow morning!"

She shook her head. "I'm sorry. It won't do. I can't give you my husband's address, for the simple reason that I don't know it."

"You don't know it?"

"All I know is, that Nikolai is in San Francisco. He was working for Oxenburg, naturally, under threat of what might happen to me and to Ninovna. He phones me by long distance, once each week, to make sure that I am still safe. Today, when he phoned me, I told him about Gregor and Ninovna, and he said that he would quit Oxenburg. He is through with him. He has gone into hiding somewhere in San Francisco, and even I do not know the address."

Steve Klaw felt a sudden empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. "But you said that you could put me in touch with him."

"Yes, yes. I can do that. But only in a certain way. Nikolai arranged it with me. I am to get to San Francisco somehow, after evading Oxenburg's spies. I am to go to a certain street corner, attired as an old woman, with a shawl about my head, a red shawl. I am to wait there for one hour, between seven and eight in the evening, each day, until he contacts me. He takes these precautions because he knows that Oxenburg will move heaven and earth to find him. By doing it this way, he will be able to watch that corner in San Francisco from some point of vantage, and he will know if I have been followed."

"I see," said Steve. "So in order to get in touch with Nikolai Nikander, I must take you to San Francisco."


She was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Almost automatically she picked it up, and listened for a moment. Watching her, Klaw saw her already white face become even whiter. As if in a daze, she handed the phone to Steve Klaw. "It—it's he—The Ox! He wishes to talk with you!"

Steve's eyes became narrow. He took the instrument from her and spoke into it.

"Yes, Baron?" he said.

Oxenburg's smooth voice came through the receiver. "My dear Klaw," he said suavely. "Do you imagine for a moment that you will ever be able to get Anastasia to San Francisco? Do you imagine that I will permit it?"

Klaw's hand tightened on the phone. "What makes you think I'm taking her to San Francisco?"

As he asked the question, he saw Anastasia Nikander put a hand to her mouth in sudden panic. She couldn't understand how Oxenburg knew she was going to San Francisco. She and Klaw had just made the arrangement a moment ago. Neither could Steve understand it.

At the other end of the wire, Oxenburg chuckled. "Nikolai Nikander will wait in vain for a woman with a red shawl. I assure you that Anastasia will never get there!"

"Ah!" said Stephen Klaw. "You know that, too?" His eyes darted around the room, searching for the dictograph which he was now sure must be somewhere in here. Only in that way could The Ox have acquired this information.

"You see, my friend," The Ox went on, "my plans for striking at America are complete, down to the last detail. Nothing shall be permitted to interfere with them; neither you nor your precious Suicide Squad, nor the whole United States Intelligence. On Christmas Day I strike!"

"Where?" asked Steve.

Oxenburg chuckled once more. "That, my friend, is something you will not know till after I have struck. The details are in those coded plans your experts are studying."

"Why are you making this phone call?" Steve demanded. "You didn't call up just to make conversation with me. What do you want to find out?"

"Nothing, my friend. Nothing at all."

"Oh yes you do. You want to find out if we've cracked the code yet."

"I only want to warn you. It's useless for you to go to San Francisco in search of Nikolai Nikander. You'll never get there."

"Thank you for the warning," said Steve. "But—I'll be seeing you in 'Frisco!"


TWENTY minutes later, Stephen Klaw was once more back in that conference room, with Anastasia Nikander. It took him only five minutes to explain to those men assembled there just what the situation was.

Almost before he had finished, General Nichols was on his feet. Now that there was something concrete to do, he demonstrated the speed and efficiency with which the Army could act.

"Be ready in fifteen minutes!" he said. "There'll be a fast Army bomber waiting for you at the field. Klaw, you and your two partners are going to take Mrs. Nikander to San Francisco, in that bomber. I'll give you an escort of fighter planes all across the country. You'll take these plans with you. It's up to you to get there and to find Nikolai Nikander. You must not fail!"

The bomber was already warmed up and ready to go when Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw arrived at the field with Anastasia Nikander. Overhead, a squadron of three P-40s were circling, ready to fall in as escort.

Kerrigan had the coded papers in his pocket, and Anastasia Nikander walked between Klaw and Murdoch. They shook hands with the Director, and with General Nichols, who had accompanied them in another car, and then they climbed into the plane. Its interior had been stripped down of all excess equipment, in the interests of speed. Two benches had been installed behind the pilot and navigator, where the four passengers could sit. The door clanged shut, the O.K. came in over the radio, and the big plane got in motion. They took off easily, unburdened by the usual heavy load, and when they reached a thousand feet, the fighter planes fell in above them, at two thousand, ready to swoop the moment danger threatened.

"Well," said Johnny Kerrigan, "we're off. This looks like about the safest job we've ever been handed. With precautions like these, all we have to do is take a nap and wake up in 'Frisco!"

Dan Murdoch grunted. "If Oxenburg can stop us now, he's smarter than I give him credit for!"

But Anastasia Nikander was ill at ease. "I'm afraid," she whispered. "You don't know The Ox as I do. You don't know his resources. He'll stop us somehow!"

Up front, the pilot laughed. Over his shoulder he said, "I'd like to see anyone stop us! Those boys in the P-40s will mow down anything that comes near us—"

He broke off, with a sudden ejaculation of dismay, as something went zooming downward, past their plane. It was one of the P-40s, spinning wildly out of control. A split-second later, another of the pursuits came careening down, and barely a moment later, the third followed them. They caught a glimpse of the pilot of that third P-40 as it spun past them. He was slumped over the controls, held in the seat only by the safety belt.

"Good Lord!" exclaimed the navigator. "He's unconscious! He must have been doped or poisoned!"

Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw exchanged swift glances. Oxenburg was striking, all right, and striking fast. Some saboteur at the field must have doped the coffee which those pilots drank before taking off.

Peering downward, they saw the three pursuits crash, far below and behind them. One plane burst into flames down there on the ground, and the other two merely raised a cloud of dust. From up here it looked like a little bonfire where that first plane burned, but they knew it was the pilot's funeral pyre.

Their own pilot's face was white and set. "We've got to keep going!" he said. "Orders are to get through at any cost!"

Suddenly he uttered a cry of pain, and doubled over. "It's got—me—too—"

The big bomber went into a crazy spin as the pilot's hand froze on the stick, and the navigator made to reach for the controls, but he never got his hand on them, for he, too, clutched at his stomach with a groan.

The plane was spinning around in the air, completely out of control, and its nose headed downward, just like the P-40s. Anastasia and the three G-Men were hurled around inside, unable to keep their seats or their footing. With dreadful speed, the bomber hurtled crazily down toward the earth.

IT was Dan Murdoch who managed to reach the pilot first. Both the pilot and the navigator were slumped down, either dead or unconscious. Murdoch kept his balance precariously as he struggled with the pilot's body, while the plane zoomed down to its doom. He wrestled the inert body out of the way, braced himself as best he could, and seized the controls.

For a terrible twenty seconds he fought the plane with all he had. Those twenty seconds were an eternity, until he brought it back out of the dead spin, just skimming the treetops. Then he slowly gained altitude.

Murdoch had been a Marine flyer before he had joined the F.B.I., and he had handled some pretty tricky crates on the China Station. He had been in some nasty spots in the air, but never anything like this. His face was white and set as he tried to keep the ship climbing.

Klaw took care of Anastasia, while Johnny Kerrigan came up forward and removed the bodies of the pilot and the navigator from their seats. Both men were dead.

"By God," Johnny said between clenched teeth, "I'd like to meet this Oxenburg in person!"

Murdoch was peering down at the terrain, trying to get his bearings. Far over to one side, they could still see the flames of the burning plane. The altimeter showed five thousand feet before Murdoch levelled off.

"I'll keep her high," he said, "in case we have to bail out. I've ridden as a passenger on this course, but I've never piloted it. I hate to admit it, guys, but I don't know if we're heading north, east, south or west!"

Stephen Klaw was caring for Anastasia, who had got a slight cut on the left cheek when she had been thrown violently around by the crazy acrobatics of the plane. He left her, and made his way forward to the navigator's seat, and donned the earphones.

"I'll contact Bolling Field, and ask them to give us a beam. We can ride right in on it then."

He spent ten minutes on the radio, and then gave up. Something was wrong with it.

"Not a spark of life in the damned thing!" he exclaimed. "Boy, our friend Oxenburg certainly is thorough!"

"Well," said Kerrigan, "there's still a half-hour of daylight. We can keep traveling till we recognize some landmark, or see an emergency field."

He had hardly said it, when something came crackling in like a stream of fire through the floor. It was like a fiery lance thrusting up from below.

"Tracer bullets!" exclaimed Klaw. Peering out, he saw a black plane without markings, zooming up past them. It had sneaked up on them from below, delivered its burst, and veered off.

"I'll be damned!" said Kerrigan.

The black plane swung around, went into a short, steep climb, and then came down at them in a dive, with twin machine-guns crackling from its wings, lancing streams of tracers straight at the bomber's nose.

Dan Murdoch said, "Boy! This is something we can put out teeth into!"

The bomber had been stripped down to the bone for speed, and it didn't even have machine guns. But Murdoch pulled the wheel back, and sent the big ship climbing straight up to meet the black plane in a head-on collision.

The two monsters of the air came at each other with devastating speed, the black plane's guns spouting slugs. Murdoch grimly held the course, his strong hands not moving on the controls once he had her lined up.

But the pilot of that black plane didn't have the guts. He pulled out sharply, trying to clear the bomber. Murdoch's teeth were set.

"Here goes!" he said. He pulled the wheel even farther back, gauging his distance with uncanny accuracy, and they heard the rumbling, clash of metal.

They were jarred around as by an earthquake, and for a moment it looked as if Murdoch had lost control. But he brought them back to an even keel, with most of the roof caved in, just as a great mass of flames swept down past them. The black fighter had caught fire!

They watched it spiral downward...

"Nice work, Dan," said Johnny Kerrigan. "That was the sweetest piece of flying I've ever seen!"

Anastasia Nikander sat with her hands clenched in her lap, her dark eyes a-glow with a queer light.

"I—I'm beginning to think we'll get there after all!" she whispered. "I—I think Baron Oxenburg should begin to be worried!"

Klaw grinned. "Someone has to do the worrying. It might as well be he!"

Johnny Kerrigan, who had been peering out at the terrain, exclaimed, "There's Cleveland. I recognize it! Take her down, Dan. We'll patch up and re-fuel, and take off again!"


NOT far from the Oakland Ferry in San Francisco, there is a little restaurant and bar, which is frequented by men and women of a dozen nations. It is known as the Macedonian Grille, and it is run by a Greek refugee with an Armenian wife. To this place of an evening come Romanians, Czechs, Russians and Syrians; Egyptians and Iraqis, Chinese and Netherlanders, fugitives from chaos.

There are many among them who have lost everything in their homelands, and who look forward to making this country their new home; there are others who are marking time here, doing what they can to help win the war, so they may some day return to their native hearths. Without guns, uniforms or glory, they're carrying on the war of humanity.

The Macedonian Grille is indeed a cosmopolitan spot, in atmosphere, language, and dress. The native costumes of a dozen countries are in evidence, and the idioms of a dozen languages fill the smoke-laden air.

It was, therefore, not strange to see a woman standing in the street before the place, garbed in gypsy costume, with a red shawl about her head. It aroused little comment, and few of those who passed vouchsafed her a second glance. People were busy with their errands, completing their Christmas shopping, carrying bundles the contents of which would go on their trees tomorrow; for this was Christmas Eve.

For three nights now, they had seen this elderly appearing woman in her shawl, at the corner in front of the Macedonian Grille; and few of the passers-by were aware of the tumult of suspense and uncertainty which stormed within her breast.

The big, red-headed, broad-shouldered stevedore who lounged at the next corner knew what she was thinking; and the tall, dark-haired man sitting in the car across the street knew what she was thinking; and the slim young fellow sitting at the window table in the Macedonian Grille knew what she was thinking. For three days now, Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw had kept these vantage points each evening as Anastasia Nikander stood on the corner with her red shawl, awaiting the signal from her husband. And for three days now, the signal had not come. They had made their way across the continent from Cleveland in record time, had arrived with four days to spare before Christmas. But now there was nothing they could do except wait. Nikolai Nikander was the key to the preservation of America from that secret, planned attack by Baron Oxenburg's hidden army; without his interpretation of the Formosa Code, no preparation could be made to meet that attack.

Army Air Force bombers and fighters were ready at a hundred fields across the continent, waiting for word of the place where they must concentrate. Mobile units everywhere were on the alert for jumping-off orders. And all must wait upon that woman in the red shawl....

IT was Stephen Klaw, seated at the window table of the Macedonian Grille, who first saw the limping man with the cane. He had passed, on the opposite side, twice in the last ten minutes, and he now made his limping way across the street. As he passed the woman in the red shawl he muttered something to her swiftly out of the corner of his mouth, and the woman started abruptly. Then she recovered herself, and in a moment she turned and followed the limping man with the cane.

At the same time, Stephen Klaw got up from his table and paid his bill, and went out; Johnny Kerrigan threw away his cigarette and began to amble idly down the street; and Dan Murdoch got the car started, turned it around, and slowly paced the limping man.

All three of them were taut and ready for anything, because the limping man might not be from Nikolai Nikander at all; he might be an emissary of Baron Oxenburg, sent to trap Anastasia. They knew very well that Oxenburg, after failing to knock them down out of the sky, was moving heaven and earth here in San Francisco, to locate the spot at which Anastasia was to meet her husband. That was the one thing which Oxenburg did not know. There was no doubt that he had agents out everywhere in the streets of the city, with orders to look for a woman in a red shawl. He might have discovered her here—might have sent an agent to lead her and the Suicide Squad into a death trap.

The limping man turned into a dark alley, and Anastasia hesitated a moment, while Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw closed up on her. Then, with her chin up, she stepped into the alley.

The limping man was waiting there for her. He flung away his cane, and threw his arms about her. "'Stasia! I was in Oakland until tonight. I could not come sooner. Oxenburg's men have been combing the city for me! My darling, how glad I am to see you safe!"

"Nikolai!" she exclaimed. "I did not recognize you! You are disguised!"

"And with reason!" he said bitterly. "My life hangs by a hair—"

He paused suddenly, his body tautening, and his arms coming away from around his wife, as he saw the three shadowy figures of Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw slipping into the alley. "We are betrayed—"

"No, no, darling!" she exclaimed. "These three are friends!"

It took several moments of swift explanation to convince Nikolai Nikander that he had nothing to fear from these three. Then they rushed him and Anastasia into the car, and Murdoch drove at breakneck speed across the bridge to Oakland. They hustled him up the back way into the Oakland Field Office of the F.B.I., and into a private room with armed guards in the corridor. There, Kerrigan spread the coded plans before him.

Nikander's eyes widened.

"Can you read them?" Murdoch demanded.

Nikander smiled. "As easily as English or Russian. This is the Formosa Code—"

There were two expert F.B.I. shorthand stenographers present with pencils poised over notebooks, and a dictaphone machine to take it down on records in addition. Nikander began to read, his voice tightening.

The preparations for that blow to be struck on Christmas day were complete and terrible. At San Diego and three other Naval Bases; at two Navy Yards; at an ammunition dump in Jersey and at the dry-docks in Newport News, there were striking forces of shock troops assembled in secret hiding places with gas bombs ready for the first assault, to be followed by demolition squads which would use high explosive to wipe out the plants and installations completely. At midnight on Christmas Eve they were to strike; and the result would be to leave America's war potential crippled for many months to come—enough time to give the Axis a breathing-spell and consolidate its positions in Europe and the Far East.

As Nikander read these papers, Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw were on phones to Washington, New York and San Diego, holding the lines open; and each stenographer in turn would get up, go to a microphone hooked into all those open lines, and read back his notes.

All that night, from Washington, orders crackled over the ether, setting in motion the Armed Forces of the United States to frustrate this attack from within.

And as the evening wore on, the raids came off—one here, one there, in widely separated spots across the continent. The dragnet brought in sulky, sullen Nazis, Japs, shock troops of villainy rendered impotent by the surprise raids. And when, by midnight, the last of those raids was completed and the hastily prepared concentration camps full of prisoners, Nikolai Nikander was conducted to a hotel with his wife, where they were given a suite of rooms, protected by F.B.I. guards.

And Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw grinned at each other and shook hands. But at once, Steve Klaw's face became grave.

"There's one thing we've failed in, Mopes," he said.

And neither Kerrigan nor Murdoch needed an explanation of what he meant. The one man who had not showed up in that dragnet was Baron Oxenburg.

"The Ox is still on the loose," said Murdoch. "We'll be hearing from him."

"Let's go out and have a drink," said Johnny Kerrigan. "We'll drink to the next time we meet Baron Oxenburg."

"Let's hope," Steve Klaw said piously, "that he stays healthy—till we meet him!"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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