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.
Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw—the fabulous fighting Feds—had finally been given the assignment which no G-man could take—and live! Gladly, with grins on their battle-scarred faces, they walked into the Nazi trap, with blazing guns punctuating their war cry: "Move over, Death!"
ON April 4, the Dutch cargo vessel, Mynheer Vanderdonk, left New York and joined a convoy for Melbourne. Its freight consisted of medium tank parts, .37 mm. guns, thirty thousand Garand rifles, two million rounds of Garand ammunition, and six Airacobras ready to assemble.
While being loaded, the Mynheer Vanderdonk had undergone a fine-comb inspection by U.S. Army officers. Yet on her fourth day out, she exploded in mid-ocean, and went down with all hands.
Since the only possible solution to this disaster was that a time bomb of some sort had been placed in her hold by a saboteur working as a stevedore, the F.B.I. assigned one of its agents to the job of working on that particular pier, which was operated by the Pearl Steamship Company. They gave him a card in the Longshoremen's Union, and provided him with a completely new personality.
He reported for work on April 10th. That evening, when he returned to the furnished room he had hired a block from the waterfront, a bomb exploded almost in his face, killing him instantly.
The next day, twenty-four F.B.I. men were taken off regular duty, and assigned to the task of investigating each and every one of the employees on the Pearl Steamship Company Pier. They found two enemy aliens, one ex-convict, and one member of the German-American Bund. Those four were taken into custody on suspicion of sabotage and murder. The loading of the next ship, the Russian freighter, Byalostok, continued. The vigilance of the inspectors was not relaxed. Yet, four days after she sailed, an explosion occurred in the after hold of the Byalostok, and she sank so swiftly that not a single member of the crew had a chance for his life.
The F.B.I. put another undercover man on the pier. They arranged with Hugo Savage, the boss of the Savage Stevedoring Company, to make this man a timekeeper, so that he would be in a position to check everyone entering or leaving the pier.
This second undercover man was given two assistants.
One of them worked in the hold of the vessel then being loaded, at the delicate task of stowing the cargo. The other worked on the deck, supervising the operation of one of the winches. They all had union cards, and their identity as F.B.I. agents was kept secret. When the next boat—the Panamanian steamer, Rosario—was fully loaded, the three G-men were ready to swear that there was nothing in her hold that could possibly explode.
Yet the Rosario met the same fate as the Mynheer Vanderdonk and the Byalostok!
And on the same day that the Rosario exploded at sea, all three of the G-men were killed. One was stabbed to death in the Waterside Tavern, a bar and grille opposite the pier. The other two were shot to death with a high-powered rifle as they left their hotel.
It was just about this time that Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw returned to the States from Valparaiso, where they had destroyed the Zambetta organization. When they reached Washington, they got a summons to report to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"You're entitled to a vacation, boys," the Director told them grimly. "But there's a job in New York that I don't dare assign to anybody else. Judging by what's happened in the past, it looks like certain death for anyone who tackles it."
He didn't have to say any more. "Forget the vacation," Stephen Klaw told him, speaking for Kerrigan and Murdoch as well.
The Director smiled. "I knew that would be your answer," he said. "I've already got you three berths on the midnight plane to New York. As for the rest, I leave it entirely in your hands." He explained the situation in detail, then asked, "How are you going to handle it?"
"One of us will go in as a stevedore," Stephen Klaw said, "the same as those other agents. He'll be the bait. We'll assume that the enemy has some means of putting the finger on our men, so we'll take it for granted that there'll be an attempt to kill him. The other two will cover him. In that way we may catch the killer—and the killer may lead us to the nest."
The Director said reluctantly, "It's dangerous, but there's no choice. I'll arrange by phone with Hugo Savage to have one job ready. Which one of you will take it?"
"I will," Steve Klaw said.
"Nix," exclaimed Johnny Kerrigan, standing up. "Nothing doing, Shrimp!"
Klaw grinned. He took a coin out of his pocket. "All right, we'll toss—"
Dan Murdoch said, "Nuts, Shrimp. You've won every toss that I can remember. I think you have a phony coin there—two tails or two heads. We won't toss for this one. You're automatically out!"
Murdoch's eyes twinkled. "Stand up!" he said.
Steve complied. Murdoch nodded to Kerrigan, and they both stood up too. They went and stood on either side of Stephen Klaw. Although Klaw was five foot seven and a half, Kerrigan and Murdoch towered over him like giants.
"See why, Shrimp?" Murdoch demanded, looking down his nose at him. "This is a stevedore's job. What kind of stevedore do you think you'd look like?"
"This is one time you don't cop the gravy, Shrimp!" said Kerrigan.
Klaw scowled angrily. He glanced at the Director, who chuckled. "It looks as if they've got you this time, Steve."
"Okay, mopes," Klaw said disgustedly. "You win!"
Murdoch grinned, and produced a coin. "All right, Johnny," he said to Kerrigan. "You and I toss."
Kerrigan shook his head. "Sorry, Dan. It's got to be me." He appealed to the Director. "What do you say, sir? Don't I look like a stevedore?"
Powerfully built, with massive shoulders, there was no denying his contention.
Murdoch shrugged resignedly. "I guess you and I'll have to ride herd on him, Shrimp!"
Klaw nodded. "All right, Johnny," he said. "It's your show. We'll be around, though. Suppose we contact you at that Waterside Tavern? That's where they killed one of our men. Maybe they'll come to the well once too often!"
And so it was that John Kerrigan reported for work as a stevedore at the Pearl Steamship Company pier at eight o'clock the next morning.
HUGO SAVAGE, the boss stevedore, met Johnny Kerrigan at the gate, and passed him through the guard.
"We're pretty well protected here, as you see," he told Johnny. "Nobody gets in who doesn't belong."
Savage was a big man in his early fifties, chunky and pugnacious. "I came to this country forty years ago," he said, as he led Johnny Kerrigan to the timekeeper's shack. Then he added, almost challengingly, "I came from Germany. But don't get any wrong ideas—I'm an American citizen and I hate everything that Hitler stands for. I feel worse about these ships going down than anybody else, because my men loaded them. I want to get to the bottom of it, and I'll do everything I can to help you."
Inside the timekeeper's shack, a bald-headed man wearing an eyeshade was seated at a desk.
"Lou Moynes, my chief timekeeper," Hugo Savage introduced. "Lou, this is a new man. John Kerrigan. Start his time now. I'm putting him to work in A Hold."
Moynes rose and nodded to Johnny. He got a pad, and wrote the name down.
"Kerrigan?" he said. "I don't recall the name. Have you ever worked for us before?"
"No," said Johnny.
"But you've done stevedoring?"
"No," Johnny said again. "I never loaded a ship in my life."
Lou Moynes looked at him sharply. "You mean, you've got no experience?"
"That's right," Johnny said, grinning. He winked at Hugo Savage, who was making frantic motions to him, behind Moynes' back.
The timekeeper turned around to Savage. "How can we put him on?" he demanded. "We can't use him—"
"It's all right," Kerrigan interrupted. "I won't get in your way. I'm from the F.B.I."
If he had said he was from Mars, he could not have startled Moynes any more. The man's mouth dropped open, and he stared at Johnny.
Hugo Savage looked angry and puzzled. "See here, Kerrigan," he protested. "I thought this was to be a secret between you and me. I didn't even tell Moynes who you were. Good Lord, man, do you want to advertise that you're from the F.B.I.? Do you want to invite them to kill you?"
"That," Johnny Kerrigan said happily, "is exactly what I want to do."
Savage threw up his hands. "The man is crazy!"
Lou Moynes blinked, took off his eyeshade. There was a sharp line across his forehead where the eyeshade had pressed against the skin.
"If your name is Kerrigan," he said slowly, "you must be one of the Suicide Squad."
"That's what they call us," Johnny said.
Moynes sighed. "I can see why. You couldn't be taking a more certain way to commit suicide. Why, it's like—like getting right into bed with death!"
Kerrigan grinned. "I'll ask him to move over, then."
Moynes shrugged, and made out a slip for him. "I've read a lot about you and Murdoch and Klaw. But I thought the stories were exaggerated. They said you never got routine assignments, but were always kept in reserve for jobs where the chances of coming out alive were small. They say you three always go around as if you were looking for death."
He sighed, and gave Johnny the slip he had made out. "This will pass you on to the ship. I have to take a picture of you, and have a badge made. But I almost think it'll be a waste of time. You'll probably be dead before the picture is developed!"
He got out a large box camera with a flash-gun attachment, and snapped a picture of Johnny.
"I'll take it across the street and have it developed. The badge will be ready by lunch time, so you can go out and come back past the guard at one o'clock—if you live that long!"
Kerrigan grinned, took the slip, and followed Hugo Savage out of the shack. Savage led him out on the dock, threading the way among high piled crates of machinery. The winches were creaking and men were working, shouting and sweating on the high deck of the ship, as crate after crate was raised then lowered into the hold.
"For God's sake," Savage begged, stopping at the gangplank and taking Johnny's arm, "do me a favor. Don't tell everybody you're from the F.B.I. Give yourself half a chance!"
"Listen," said Johnny. "Murdoch and Klaw and I don't work that way. We don't believe in pussy-footing around. This pier has been investigated constantly, and nothing has been turned up. We could keep investigating for another year, and the ships could keep on sinking. But we have a better way. We'll bring the enemy out in the open."
Savage shook his head helplessly, and led Johnny up on the deck. He introduced him to Tony Pellagi, the foreman of A Hold.
"This is Kerrigan, a new man," he said. "Show him the ropes."
"Any experience?" Pellagi demanded. "You know anything about stowing?"
"Not a thing," said Johnny. "I'm not a stevedore by trade. I'm a G-man."
Hugo Savage groaned. "I'm going," he said. "I don't want to be around when you get killed." He put his hand on Pellagi's shoulder. "Keep an eye on him, Tony. I think he's crazy."
"Me, too," said Pellagi. He shrugged. "But it ain't my funeral. You can hang around and watch for a while. Then I'll send you down in the hold. And you better have eyes in the back of your head down there!"
BACK in the timekeeper's shack, Lou Moynes was staring out of the window, across the busy dock, at the big figure of Johnny Kerrigan on the deck of the boat. There was a peculiar, baffled expression on Moynes' face. He kept tugging at his eyeshade. He waited till Hugo Savage returned to the shack, then he picked up the camera.
"I better take this over and have it printed," he said. "We might as well get him the badge."
Savage nodded absently and Moynes went out with the camera. Just outside the gate, he almost collided with a slim, youthful looking chap who was peddling razor-blades. It seemed that he had been trying to get permission to enter the pier but the guard had turned him away.
The young fellow buttonholed Lou Moynes, displaying his open valise. "How about some blades, mister?" he demanded. "Best blades in the country. Guaranteed to cut your throat with one swipe. Come on, you know you can use razor-blades. Buy a package!"
Moynes was about to push past, but the young fellow got in front of him. "Now listen, mister, you can't afford to pass this up. Fifty blades for a dime."
The timekeeper stopped. "Fifty for a dime? What do you do, steal them?"
"I'm just trying to work my way through college."
"College? What college?"
"Barber's college!" the young fellow said triumphantly.
Moynes chuckled in spite of himself. He picked up a package from the valise and took a dime out of his pocket.
"Wait a minute," said the young salesman. "That's an open package that I use for samples. Here's a fresh one, never been opened."
Moynes put down the first package and took the other one. He paid the dime over, and continued on across the street toward a photographer's shop, in whose window was displayed a large sign:
PASSPORT AND BADGE PHOTOS WHILE YOU WAIT
He didn't see two things which would have interested him greatly. He didn't see how the young salesman slipped the discarded package of blades into a cellophane envelope, handling it carefully, so as not to disturb the fingerprints which Lou Moynes had left upon it.
Neither did he see the tall handsome man in the station wagon parked fifty feet down the street, who was crouching in the back of the car with a camera equipped with a telefoto lens, and who snapped Moynes' picture just as he moved away from the razor-blade salesman.
Had he seen either of those two things, he might not have continued across the street.
He entered the photographer's store, and glanced around swiftly to make sure there were no other customers. A thin man came from the rear, saw who it was, and grunted.
Moynes handed the camera to the thin man.
"We have another G-man!" he said swiftly. "This one is a fool. He makes it easy for us. We don't even have to check on him. He announces to everyone who he is!"
The thin man smiled crookedly. "These Americans!" he said. "They are mad fools." He took the camera.
"This one is no fool," said Moynes. "He is Kerrigan, one of the Suicide Squad. You will have to tell von Rieber that he must be liquidated quickly. Make two pictures, one for the badge, and one for von Rieber—"
He stopped abruptly. The front door had opened, and the young razor-blade salesman entered. They could not tell whether or not he had heard anything.
"Hi!" said the salesman. "Did you know you gave me a quarter instead of a dime? Here's your change."
He came over, his valise hanging open by a strap from his shoulder, and offered Moynes fifteen cents.
Moynes frowned. "I am sure I gave you a dime."
The salesman grinned. He looked utterly youthful and harmless, like a kid just out of college.
"Honesty is the best policy," he said. "Here's your fifteen cents. Or would you like to take some more blades?"
"All right, all right," Moynes said.
"They're three for a quarter."
Moynes took the other two packages, and then the salesman tried to make a sale to the thin man, but he was waved away.
THEY watched him go out, and then the thin man said tightly, "Do you think he heard you mention von Rieber?"
"I don't know, Braun. I am beginning to wonder. He sells these blades very cheap. It is suspicious. And I am sure that I only gave him a dime. He invented the excuse to follow me in here!"
Braun's eyes became very narrow. "Von Rieber feared that the Suicide Squad might be assigned to this job. It may be that this salesman is another one of them. We must not take chances. He must die. It is the only safe way."
Moynes agreed. "It is best that he should be liquidated."
Braun took the camera and went back to the dark room in the rear, while Moynes paced up and down, glancing out the show window every once in a while to make sure that the salesman had not gone away.
At last, Braun came out with two damp prints, each about two inches square.
"All right," he said. "I phoned von Rieber. He says that he will handle everything. He is sending a liquidation committee to take care of that salesman outside. And the other, Kerrigan, will be put out of the way at the Waterside Tavern. See that he goes there tonight."
"That will be easy," said Moynes. "I'll have him there at nine o'clock."
Braun gave him the two pictures. "One is for the badge. The other must go to the Waterside Tavern. Number Thirteen will do the job there, and he will pick up the picture from Fuerken, so that he will know his man."
"Have we a messenger to take this picture to the Waterside Tavern?"
Braun nodded. "Number Forty-two is outside. Have him take it in. In view of that salesman's presence, it is best that you do not go there yourself."
Moynes nodded. He took his camera and the two pictures, and went out.
In the street, there was a small, white-painted ice-cream cart, with a uniformed attendant. Moynes walked down to the cart and bought an ice-cream sandwich. He slipped one of the photographs to the attendant.
"Take this to Fuerken in the Waterside Tavern, at once!" he said. "Von Rieber's orders!"
The man nodded.
Moynes crossed the street, eating the ice-cream sandwich. He saw with satisfaction that the young salesman was still outside the pier gate. Moynes smiled at him.
"Stay here, my young friend," he advised. "I shall tell the men inside of your bargains. Wait here until their rest period and you will make many sales."
"Thanks," said the salesman. "I'll remember you in my will."
Moynes chuckled. "You expect to die so young then, my friend?"
"Any minute now!" the salesman told him.
Moynes chuckled again, and went inside the gate. He made his way back to the timekeeper's shack, still chuckling.
But out in the street, the young razor-blade man was watching the ice-cream cart. He saw the attendant trundle it down the block, stop in front of the Waterside Tavern, and hurry in. His eyes became narrow, coldly gray. He turned his head and exchanged an almost imperceptible signal with the dark-haired man in the station wagon. Then he began to move down the street toward the Waterside Tavern.
It was just then that the "liquidation committee" arrived.
THE "liquidation committee" consisted of three men in an inconspicuous-looking car. Two men sat in front, and one in back. They were grim-faced men, with a strangely fanatic ruthlessness in their eyes, and the stiff, unbending attitude of storm troopers. As the car swung into the street in front of the pier, they spied the salesman crossing toward the Waterside Tavern.
"There he is, Schlieffer!" the driver exclaimed, nudging the one beside him. "That is the one who was described to us! See the valise hanging from the strap around his neck!"
"Ach!" said Schlieffer, cuddling a revolver in his hand. "It is almost too good to be true! We do not even need to shoot him. Run him down, Heinrich. Quick!"
"Jawohl!" Heinrich's big red hands gripped the wheel; his foot pressed all the way down on the accelerator. The car leaped forward, heading straight for the unsuspecting salesman, like a projectile fired from a heavy gun.
The man in the rear leaned forward eagerly to watch the sport.
"See how he walks to his doom!" he exclaimed. "Now he turns his head. He sees us! He understands. It is useless to try to run. He cannot escape! Ai-eee...."
The last was an expression of intense amazement and sudden terror. For there was a loud explosion, and the right rear tire blew out.
None of those three knew what had caused the blowout, for they had not noticed the station wagon they had passed, nor had they seen the dark-haired man in that station wagon draw a revolver from his shoulder holster and snap a single shot at their tire.
But it wouldn't have done them any good to know the cause of the blowout. The car, racing more than sixty miles an hour, slewed to the right, tipping far over to one side. The driver fought the wheel frantically for an instant, then it was ripped from his hands as if by a tornado. The car hurtled the sidewalk, went over on its side with a terrible crash, and jammed up against the pier gate with a terrific crash. The hood folded like an accordion, driving the heavy motor back into the tonneau, crushing the two men in front. The top buckled down on the head of the man in the rear, and then a vivid sheet of fire sizzled upward from the gas tank, enveloping the car and its occupants.
The street was suddenly filled with horrified spectators as men ran from the dock and from the stores on the opposite side, and stood gaping, at a safe distance. No one dared to approach, for fear that the tank would explode. But by some miracle, it did not. However, by the time the fire apparatus got there, the wrecked car was nothing but a heap of molten metal.
AT the fringe of the crowd, the tall, dark-haired man and the young razor-blade salesman stood alongside each other, exchanging solemn glances.
"That was as beautiful a piece of shooting as I ever saw, mope," said the young salesman.
"It wasn't bad, Shrimp," said Dan Murdoch. "Even if I say so myself." He paused, then added, "It looks like you've drawn blood with those razor-blades of yours. How did you do it so fast?"
"It's a knack," Stephen Klaw said modestly.
"Where do we go from here?" Murdoch demanded.
"The Waterside Tavern," Klaw told him. "That bird with the camera slipped something to the ice-cream man, who hot-footed it into the Tavern. My guess would be that he had Kerrigan's picture developed and printed in that photographer's shop, and then gave one of the prints to the ice-cream man. It would seem that Johnny is to be put on the spot."
"Well," said Murdoch, "what are we waiting for?"
Unobserved, they backed out of the crowd, and went into the Waterside Tavern. The lettering on the window informed the public that this was Fuerken's Waterside Tavern; Adolph Fuerken, Prop.
There were no customers inside. Any who might have been there had hurried out to see the accident. In fact, the bartender had come out also, and he was standing in the thick of the crowd, gaping at the blazing car.
Murdoch and Klaw stepped into the empty barroom, and at once heard an excited voice speaking somewhere in the rear. They tiptoed to the back, and peered through the open doorway of the back room. A thick-set man, the back of whose neck was very red, was blubbering into the mouthpiece of a wall telephone. He was so excited that he was speaking partly in English and partly in German.
"No, no, Major von Rieber," he was saying. "I tell you, doch, they did not get that salesman. Something went wrong. Schlieffer and Heinrich and Hans are dead. Tot. They must have had a blow-out. Ja, ja, it was a blow- out. I came to the door just when the tire went. It was terrible. The car smashed into the pier gate. There ist nothing left but bones and ashes."
He stopped talking, and listened to the voice at the other end. At the doorway, Murdoch and Klaw exchanged significant glances. They had learned one thing—the name of the evil genius behind the organization: von Rieber. Major von Rieber, with whom they had locked horns more than once before America had entered the war. In those days, von Rieber had operated with impunity, taking advantage of our liberal laws to work for the destruction of the United States. But when war was declared, von Rieber had disappeared. Some had thought that he had left the country for South America, as Zambetta had done. But the Director of the F.B.I. had been almost certain that von Rieber was only lying low, waiting till the time was ripe to strike.
And this was indeed the time to strike. With the United Nations clamoring for more and more munitions, ships had become more valuable than guns. To strike at the United Nations' shipping facilities was a more telling blow than the destruction of an army corps. For the guns and tanks and fighter planes which we were turning out in ever-increasing quantities would do no good on the docks of America. Without ships to take them to the far-flung battle fronts of the world, they might as well never have been made.
Fuerken was talking again, evidently in reply to something that von Rieber had said over the phone.
"Jawohl, Herr Major. The other—that Kerrigan—he comes here tonight at nine? Number Thirteen will do it, you say? Very good, Herr Major. I will see to it that Number Thirteen makes his escape afterward. Do not worry, Herr Major. It shall be done as you say. And I will watch for the salesman of razor-blades. As you say, he must be another of the accursed Suicide Squad...."
He talked for a moment longer, and then hung up.
When he turned around, he looked into the big black muzzle of Dan Murdoch's revolver.
"Tut, tut, Herr Fuerken," said Murdoch. "Don't let your jaw hang like that. Close your mouth. You don't want to catch flies, do you?"
Fuerken's mouth closed with a snap. He took one look at Klaw's open valise, and groaned.
"Ach! The Suicide Squad!"
Klaw grinned. He stepped behind him, took the receiver off the hook, and called the telephone company's chief operator. He talked for a moment, then hung up glumly.
"It was a call from a dial phone," he said to Murdoch. "They can't trace it."
Murdoch moved the muzzle of his revolver a little closer to Fuerken's mouth. "Do you care to talk, Herr Fuerken?" he asked gently.
The red-necked man was shaking like a jelly-fish. "T-talk? About—about what?"
"About von Rieber," Murdoch said. "This is war, Fuerken. And you're a spy. You know the penalty, don't you?"
"No, no!" Fuerken exclaimed. "America does not shoot spies. It puts them in prison."
Murdoch poked the gun muzzle against his head. "Here's one spy that's going to be shot right now—unless he talks fast. We want to know where to find von Rieber."
"I swear to you that I do not know!"
"You lie. You just told von Rieber that you'd help Number Thirteen escape after he kills Kerrigan. How can you help him escape if you don't know where to send him?"
"It is the truth. I do not know! None of us knows where to find von Rieber. When it is a matter of communicating with him, we call Braun, in the photographer's shop. He knows. The way I help our man to escape is to take him around the back, to Braun's shop. In the alley, a car will be waiting. But that is all I know. I swear—"
Murdoch waved him to silence. He looked inquiringly at Klaw.
Steve nodded. "Hold him here. I'll go and get Braun."
A couple of minutes later, Steve returned. "The photographer's shop is closed. Braun is gone."
Murdoch said, "We can't give up. We've got to get von Rieber."
"The only way we'll do it, is to let that Number Thirteen make his attempt on Johnny, and then to check on where he's taken."
They looked at each other, while Fuerken stood and trembled.
"All right," Murdoch said at last. "We'll do it. Johnny would want us to."
"In that case," said Steve, "we'll have to sort of take over in here."
"I never ran a saloon before," Murdoch said doubtfully.
"I once tended bar when I went to college," Klaw told him. "I guess I can do it again."
Murdoch waved the gun at Fuerken. "Lie down in that corner. You're going to be there for quite a while, until nine o'clock. You might as well make yourself comfortable."
Fuerken hastened to obey.
Steve got an apron from a peg, put it on. "I'll send the bartender in here when he comes back," he said. "You can ride herd on them while I serve the customers."
"Don't drink too much beer," Murdoch told him.
AT nine o'clock, Johnny Kerrigan walked into Fuerken's Waterside Tavern, blinked when he saw the bartender, and suppressed a grin. He ordered beer.
When he finished it, it seemed that he had nothing better to do than to stare down into the bottom of his empty glass. Actually he was reading the message written in indelible pencil on the bit of paper which was stuck, face up, to the underside of the glass. It said:
Watch your back, mope!
Johnny grinned into the glass. Then he glanced down the bar to where Stephen Klaw, with an apron tied around his middle, was giving a good imitation of a kid bartender on his first job.
Johnny caught Steve's attention, and let one eyelid droop almost imperceptibly. Klaw was busy serving whiskey to a couple of stevedores, and he gave Johnny a cold stare in response to the wink.
Kerrigan took the hint. He didn't know just how the situation shaped up. And he didn't know how Stephen Klaw came to be tending bar here. But he knew that Klaw hadn't placed the warning note in the bottom of the glass without good reason. So he concentrated his attention on the mirror behind the bar, which afforded a good view of what went on behind him.
And that was how he saw the little man with his hat in his hand.
It was just an old black felt hat, which he held in front of him. He'd got up from one of the booths, and he was coming up to the bar directly behind Johnny. He had a thin and scrawny neck, and he moved with an oozing motion which gave the impression that he might be double-jointed. His hair was black and matted over his forehead, and his eyes were very small and very black too. They were fixed on Kerrigan's broad-shouldered back, and the little man was moving forward as if with a fixed purpose.
Johnny tensed, both hands on the bar. The stevedores on either side of him were engrossed in their liquor and the conversation, and no one but Kerrigan was paying any attention to the little man with the matted hair and his hat in his hands.
The little fellow was close behind Johnny now, and he looked over into the mirror, to see if Johnny had noticed him. Kerrigan quickly swung his eyes away, and glanced down the bar toward Klaw. Steve was drawing a beer, but he wasn't looking at the tap. He was looking at the little man behind Kerrigan.
Kerrigan smiled thinly. As long as Steve had his eyes on the fellow, Johnny didn't have to worry. But he stood tense nevertheless, on the balls of his feet, ready to swing into action in a split-second.
And then he got the warning flicker from Steve, just the flutter of an eyelid, but it was enough. Johnny's eyes swung back to the mirror, and he glimpsed the little man driving in toward him, thrusting his hat forward so that it would strike Johnny's back somewhere between the shoulder blades.
Kerrigan moved like an adagio dancer on greased bearings. He sidestepped to the left, bumping into the man next to him at the bar. At the same time, he swivelled on his left foot.
The little man had thrust the hat all the way forward now, and the knife which was concealed behind it gouged into the mahogany front of the bar, piercing the crown of the hat. It missed Johnny Kerrigan by a fraction of an inch.
The little killer blinked his eyes, staring at the knife, no doubt wondering how he had missed. He didn't get a chance to wonder long, because Johnny Kerrigan's big hand got a grip around the back of his neck, and Johnny just pushed him forward sharply, so that his forehead struck against the edge of the bar. The little killer sagged under the impact. The stevedores on either side of Johnny turned to stare.
"Hey, what's goin' on?" one of them growled.
Kerrigan grinned, and pointed to the knife, which was still quivering in the wood, its bone handle flickering in the light.
"Just a guy trying to stab me," said Johnny. "Forget it."
"Hah!" said the stevedore. "The dirty little scum! He tried to knife you in the back! Break his neck—"
"Nix," Johnny interrupted. "Why get sore about it? It wasn't you he was trying to stab. It was me."
"Sure, sure," said the big fellow, while several of the others crowded around. "But we can't have rats like him running loose. What'd he try to kill you for, anyway?"
"He was jealous," Johnny said. "He wanted my girl."
"You ought to teach him a lesson—"
"All right," Johnny agreed. "I'll take him in the back room, and give him a working over."
"Good idea!" the stevedores chorused. And one of them added, "Fix the rat up so he won't never want to use a knife on anybody else. That's not the way Americans fight."
Kerrigan grinned. "I'll teach him the Star-Spangled Banner!"
He picked the semi-conscious knife-man up by the scruff of the neck, and carried him, without apparent effort, down toward the rear. Dressed in rough clothing, with knee-high boots and a turtle-neck sweater, Johnny looked just like any of the stevedores in the place, and they naturally accepted him as one of their own.
As he passed the spot where Steve Klaw was standing behind the bar, Steve gave him a solemn, owlish look. "The back room is empty," Steve said. "Go right in. And don't worry about making noise. We won't hear a thing." He looked around at the gathered stevedores, and winked. "Will we, boys?"
"Hell, no!" they shouted. "The more that rat yells, the less we'll hear!"
"What about Fuerken?" one of them asked. "Where is he? He won't like it. What's happened to him? This is the first time I seen the place at night, without Fuerken being around. And Julius, his bartender—where's he?"
"Fuerken isn't feeling good tonight," Steve Klaw said. "And neither is Julius. I'm sort of taking over."
He moved down toward the rear, took out a key, and unlocked the door of the back room. He opened it only wide enough to admit Johnny Kerrigan with his burden.
"Nice work so far, mope," he whispered as Kerrigan passed him. "Don't take too long inside. There's big stuff on for tonight."
Johnny nodded grimly, and stepped into the back room. Steve locked the door after him.
Inside, Kerrigan dropped his burden on the floor and looked around. He saw just why Herr Fuerken and his bartender, Julius, weren't "feeling good tonight."
Julius the bartender was lying on his face on the floor in one corner of the room, and Herr Fuerken was in the same position in another corner. Seated at the table, coolly sipping a Pepsi Cola, was Dan Murdoch.
MURDOCH looked as darkly handsome and immaculate as ever, and he was smiling and talking pleasantly to Fuerken.
"Hi, Johnny," said Murdoch. "Put down your parcel and squat." He glanced at the slumped figure of the little knife-man. "You did all right."
"Not bad," said Johnny. He dropped the knife-man carelessly on the floor, and sat down opposite Dan. He picked up Dan's bottle, and took a deep gulp of the Pepsi Cola.
"What goes on?" he demanded. "How come you and the shrimp have gone in the saloon business?"
Murdoch grinned. "We just took over for tonight. We sort of used you as bait, to catch that little knife-man of yours. We hope he'll lead us to von Rieber."
"Von Rieber!" exclaimed Johnny. "So he's in this!"
"And how!" said Murdoch. He proceeded swiftly to detail the situation to Kerrigan. By the time he had finished, Stephen Klaw opened the door and stepped into the back room.
"How's the saloon business, Shrimp?" Kerrigan asked.
"Rotten," Steve told him. "I told the customers the beer was all gone, so they picked up their tents and departed. I locked up for the night, so we won't be bothered."
He turned to the semi-conscious knife-man. "Well, Number Thirteen? Do you want to escape?"
The knife-man lifted his head. His little eyes were bright and keen with hatred, but he didn't speak.
Steve sighed. "He won't talk." He glanced from Murdoch to Kerrigan. "Well, you mopes, what have you got to say? Is it my show from now on, or isn't it?"
Murdoch sighed. "I guess it's all yours from here on, Shrimp. Number Thirteen is just your size. Neither Kerrigan nor I could pass for him."
Klaw bent over and tapped the knife-man on the shoulder.
"Take off your coat, pal. I have your hat right here."
The fellow obeyed sullenly, and Steve changed clothes with him, transferring his two automatics to his new coat pockets. He put the felt hat on, and pulled the brim low over his eyes.
"How'm I doing?" he asked.
"I guess you'll pass in the dark," said Murdoch. "But wait till von Rieber sees you in the light!"
"I hope I see him first!" Steve said.
Kerrigan stood up. "All right, let's get started."
They tied up the three prisoners, and carried them down into the cellar, where they left them in the dark. On the way out, Murdoch used the phone to call the F.B.I. Field Office and ask them to come and get the three spies. Then they went out the back way.
"Give us two minutes, Shrimp," Murdoch said.
They started away, and Kerrigan stopped and turned around. "Take care of yourself, Shrimp," he said. "You wouldn't look nice with a bullet in you."
"Or a knife," Murdoch added.
"So long, Shrimp," they said. "See you in hell!"
They hurried away.
Klaw waited two minutes, then he made his way along the rear, to the back of the photographer's shop. In the alley alongside the store, there was a small florist's truck. The lettering on the panel said, Forrest Florists. There was no address.
A man sat hunched behind the wheel. When he heard Steve he turned around.
"Who's that?" he demanded.
"Number Thirteen," said Steve.
"Get in. Hurry up. What kept you?"
Steve mumbled something, and climbed in the back of the truck.
"Close the doors, you fool!" said the driver.
Steve obeyed. He pulled the doors shut, leaving himself in pitch darkness. The truck started, and he felt it swerve as it pulled out of the alley into the street.
A grating in front opened, and the driver spoke through it. "Are they after you?"
"Did you kill him?"
"Right through the hat," said Steve.
The driver chuckled. "The same hat trick you used on the other one. Von Rieber will like it."
After that, the driver didn't try to make conversation, and Steve was just as glad.
THEY rode for about twenty minutes, then Steve felt the speed decrease. They slowed down and the front of the truck slanted downward. They must be descending a ramp.
At last they came to a halt. Steve went to open the back doors. His eyes became narrow, and his lips tightened to a thin line of resignation.
The doors were locked on the outside!
From beyond the doors, a voice spoke in gleeful triumph. "Heil Hitler! You American jackass! Did you think to fool me? You did not know, did you, that Number Thirteen is a deaf mute!"
"So that's why he wouldn't talk!" said Steve.
"Wait till I bring von Rieber!" the voice chuckled. "He will enjoy this!"
FIVE minutes later, Steve heard the voice of Major Carl Friedrich von Rieber. It was an authoritative voice, cold and measured.
"Which one of you is it in there? Which one of the Suicide Squad have we captured?"
"Number Thirteen," said Steve.
Von Rieber chuckled. "You may surrender if you wish. I would like to talk with you."
"When you open these doors," Steve told him, "I'm coming out shooting."
"In that case, my dear sir, we shall not open the doors at all, till you are dead. We will flood the interior of the truck with cyanide. It will be a much easier way to dispose of you."
"Don't look now," said Steve, "but there's a rat prowling around outside this truck."
"Ha, ha," said von Rieber. "You can joke even with death, eh? I admire you. But you will die in vain. Your ships will continue to go down."
"That's where you're wrong," said Steve. "I know what makes them explode."
"Indeed! Perhaps you will tell me?"
"Why yes. Your man Moynes does it. He goes across the street with that camera of his, supposedly to get the pictures of the new men developed. Each time he goes, he has it filled with explosive. Everyone is searched before entering the plant, but the guard never thinks of searching that camera. That's how Moynes brings the explosive into the pier."
"Damn you!" exclaimed von Rieber. "You have guessed it! Who else knows this?"
"I just figured it out. I think best in the dark."
"Tell me your name, my friend. I would wish to know which of the Suicide Squad you are—before I finish you off."
"Tell me your name," Steve said, "and I'll tell you mine."
"What do you mean? My name is von Rieber!"
"Like hell it is! I met von Rieber once. I'd remember his voice anywhere. You're not von Rieber."
There was silence for a moment. Steve heard them shuffling about outside the truck, then he heard someone climb up into the cab in front.
Grimly he took the two automatics out of his pockets, and stepped close to the little peep-door in front of the truck. They were going to shoot the cyanide in now.
He waited tensely, until the door was yanked open. Then he thrust one of the automatics out through the opening, and blasted three shots quickly.
Some one screamed, and he heard a heavy body fall. He put his face close to the opening, and saw the body lying across the wheel, a small copper tank with a nozzle still clasped close in one arm. He recognized the face of the dead man—Braun, the photographer. This was the one who had driven him here.
He tried to peer further out, but he could not get a glimpse of von Rieber. He heard von Rieber's voice, raised in a shout:
"Himmel! He has killed Braun. Curt! Get up there! Get that tank. Feed him the cyanide!"
KLAW smiled grimly. He waited a moment, till he saw a hand reaching up to pull down the body of Braun.
He fired once, and shattered the wrist. A man screamed again.
And suddenly he heard the sounds of shooting from somewhere else in the building. The shots were heavy, thunderous and reverberating with a smooth rhythm which he recognized. Nobody shot like that except the team of Kerrigan and Murdoch. They had followed the truck in the station wagon, and now they were fighting their way in.
Through the din of the gunfire, Steve could hear von Rieber's voice raised in a shout, but the words themselves were drowned in the roar of the two pair of thirty-eights.
Klaw stepped away from the opening. He didn't have to worry about that cyanide now. With Kerrigan and Murdoch in the building, these Nazis would be too busy to try to use the tank.
He moved over to the back doors, felt in the darkness for the location of the lock, and then stepped back two paces. He pointed his right-hand automatic at the spot where he thought the lock should be and emptied the last three shots into it. A crack of light appeared between the doors, and then they sagged open.
Stephen Klaw came out of that truck like a hurricane.
For a moment he was almost blinded by the light. But then he saw that he was in a sort of basement garage. Half a dozen of the Nazis were near the truck, and they were firing up at a balcony where Kerrigan and Murdoch stood. They must have come in from up above rather than by the ramp, and had shot their way down here. On that balcony, overlooking the wide expanse of floor on which there were almost a dozen trucks and cars, there was a large portrait of the megalomaniac who called himself the Führer of the Germans. And Johnny Kerrigan, who must have picked up the knife with which Number Thirteen had tried to kill him, was shooting with one hand, while slashing the picture with the other.
Down below, the Nazis were returning the fire of Kerrigan and Murdoch, but at the same time they were uttering cries of anguish at each slash of Johnny's knife.
For just a moment Steve Klaw enjoyed the spectacle, then he joined the fight. His single automatic joined its sharp bark to the deep-throated roar of his two partners' guns, and the Nazis, taken by surprise in the flank, went down like sheep to the slaughter.
Three of them threw down their guns and raised their hands in token of surrender. The others were dead or disabled.
Kerrigan and Murdoch came down the steps to meet Klaw.
"Hi, mopes," said Steve. "Your guns certainly made sweet music for my ears. They were going to feed me cyanide."
"Just what you need for your disposition," Kerrigan said.
They kept the prisoners covered, and Kerrigan's eyes widened as he spotted a familiar figure among them.
"Savage!" he exclaimed. "Hugo Savage! So you're one of them!"
HUGO SAVAGE was indeed among the prisoners. But he exclaimed, "For God's sake, let me take my arms down. I'm not one of this crowd. They kidnaped me—"
"Ha, ha!" said Steve.
Savage looked at him. "What—what—why are you laughing?"
"How are you, Herr Major Carl Friedrich von Rieber?"
"Listen, Shrimp," said Johnny Kerrigan. "Is this the guy that's supposed to be von Rieber?"
"It's the guy who claimed to be von Rieber," Steve said. "He talked to me while I was in the truck. I told him he wasn't von Rieber."
Hugo Savage, alias Major Carl Friedrich von Rieber, closed his eyes. "It is true," he muttered. "Von Rieber is dead. He committed suicide last year, when you three hellions checkmated him. But the Gestapo in Berlin was unwilling to give you the satisfaction of learning that he had committed suicide. So they ordered me to assume his name and continue his organization. I came to this country thirty years ago; I worked in the Secret Service of the Kaiser during the last war, and then I worked for the Third Reich. You see, men like Moynes and me were above suspicion, for we had been here so long. You could not understand that a nation might have planned for so far ahead, and planted its agents here. But never for a moment—in defeat or in victory—did we give up the shining plan for world conquest!"
"Do you think Germany will put it over this time?" said Dan.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But if not this time, then next time." His voice became intense and passionate with fanatical fervor. "Mark my words, Germany will try and try, and try again—until one day she rules the entire world."
"Nice people," said Steve Klaw.
Hugo Savage's shoulders slumped. "But I—I have failed. You three have bested me, as you bested von Rieber before me. There is nothing left but death."
He faced them, his eyes pleading. Then he glanced toward the truck.
"Perhaps you will grant me this last favor? I fought you tooth and nail, yes. But you have won. Will you extend this favor to the vanquished? I do not like the thought of the hangman's noose."
Johnny and Dan and Steve exchanged swift glances.
Steve Klaw sighed. "All right," he said.
Hugo Savage nodded. He turned and walked slowly toward the truck, his feet dragging as if heavy with leaden weights.
And slowly he reached for the cyanide tank, put his hand on the valve, and the nozzle to his mouth.
Johnny Kerrigan shuddered. "Move over, Death," he said.
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.