Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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STEPHEN KLAW arrived in the city of Valparaiso at four o'clock in the afternoon. He went directly to the Hotel Republica. When he signed his name in the register, the clerk said, "Ah! Señor Klaw!" and signalled to a group of newspaper men in the lobby. In a moment Klaw was surrounded by the members of the Latin press.
A tall Chilean reporter with a waxed moustache and a pair of twinkling eyes introduced himself first. "I am Miguel Santos, of the newspaper, El Nación, Señor Klaw. Welcome to Chile. We are all interested in your so famous F.B.I. And you, one of the most famous of its agents—"
"I'm not in the F.B.I.," Klaw said. "I resigned. I'm just down here as a private citizen."
Miguel Santos laughed. "Nevertheless, Señor Klaw, you have brought your gun, no?"
"Yes." Steve's eyes were suddenly twin pools of gray ice. "Yes, I've brought my gun."
Among the group of reporters were two Germans, a Jap, and an Italian. One of the Germans said sneeringly, "And for what purpose do you bring a gun to a neutral country like this, Herr Klaw?"
Steve turned his cold gaze on the man. "Scram!" he snapped. "And you, and you!" He looked from one to the other of the Axis reporters. "I don't give interviews to rats!"
Chile was indeed a neutral country. Its government, contrary to the instincts and feelings of the great majority of the population, had not yet seen fit to join the United Nations in the war against the Axis. So here, right in the western hemisphere, was a city where the enemies of the United States could carry on with impunity their sabotage and espionage. Americans and Englishmen in Valparaiso had to watch out constantly for a knife in the back.
The German reporter was a big, heavy-set man, with close-cropped hair and a square jaw. He took a step forward, towering over Stephen Klaw's slim, wiry figure.
"You American pig!" he growled. "You dare to insult me, Otto Betz! You must learn that here in Chile, a German is respected. I shall teach you some respect!"
He swung a huge, ham-like hand, endeavoring to slap Klaw's face.
Stephen Klaw's appearance was highly deceptive—as many a boastful killer had learned in the past, to his sorrow. Klaw was so slim and wiry that he looked hardly more than a kid just out of college. But in all the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation there were only two men who, were as dangerous as he, his partners, Johnny Kerrigan and Dan Murdoch.
Herr Otto Betz, German newspaperman and holder of the Iron Cross, had his lesson coming. His big paw never reached its mark. Stephen Klaw did not duck the blow, nor did he attempt to fend it off. His theory was that a good offensive is always the best defense. He stepped in close to Herr Betz. The German's arm fanned empty air behind Steve's neck, and at the same time, Steve drove a wicked right into the German's paunch. His fist sank in, almost up to the wrist. Betz's breath expelled in a terrific, anguished gust.
Steve smiled and stepped away, his back to the counter. The other German and the Jap had been stepping in to help their associate, but when Steve faced them, they both stopped short.
Betz was doubled over with agony. His partner glared at Steve, but did not offer to attack. The Jap, however, clutched stealthily under his coat, and when his hand emerged, it held a knife.
Stephen Klaw had his left hand in his coat pocket. He brought it out, gripping a thirty-two calibre automatic. In the sudden silence in the lobby, the snick of the safety catch was loud and sharp.
He pointed the gun at the Jap with the knife. "So sorry to disturb your honorable intentions, Hirohaha," Klaw said with mock apology.
The Jap's eyes were bright and shiny behind his thick-lensed glasses. He stood immovable for a moment, then slowly began to push the knife back into its hidden sheath under his coat.
"Meestar Klaw," he said, "you are vairy reckless man. You not live long here in Valparaiso."
"Get out," said Steve.
THE Jap and the German helped Otto Betz out of the hotel lobby into the street, and the lone Italian newspaper man who had been with them faded away as inconspicuously as possible.
Miguel Santos and two or three other Latin reporters were all who remained. Santos was rubbing his hands. "Next to the war, Señor Klaw, you will be the biggest news in Valparaiso. You are what the North Americans call 'hot copy!'"
Steve grinned. "Fine city you've got here, Santos. But too many rats in it!"
"Tell us please," begged Santos. "Tell us of your mission in Valparaiso. Is it true that you have come here to seek out and kill a—shall we say—a certain person?"
Steve's eyes flickered. "My dear Santos! How can you say such a thing? After all, I'm only a visitor here to your beautiful country. Would it be right for me to come with violent intentions?"
"It is common gossip, Señor," broke in another of the reporters, "that the person you have come to seek and kill is Gaston Zambetta!"
Steve shook his head. "Why should I make war on Gaston Zambetta?"
"It is said, Señor, that Zambetta did much sabotage in the States, and that he escaped upon the declaration of war, after killing an agent of your Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is said that no one has ever—what-you-call—'gotten away,' with the killing of a Federal Agent, and that you have come to track Zambetta down and avenge that deed."
Steve shrugged, smiling. "That would be a violation of your neutrality. After all, Zambetta enjoys the privilege of any other visitor to your country."
"Señor," said a third reporter, "what you tell us may be considered confidential. Believe me, we of the press are on your side. It is with our best wishes that you come with this challenge for Zambetta. But let us give you some advice. Gaston Zambetta is very powerful in Valparaiso. Here, the Axis has many killers at its command, and you are but one. Even if your friends, Murdoch and Kerrigan, should join you, it will be but three against a multitude—"
"Three has been our lucky number," Steve interrupted him with a smile. "Mind you, I'm admitting nothing. But—off the record—I'd advise you to reserve space in your obituary columns!"
"For Zambetta, Señor?"
Steve spread his hands. "Quien sabe? Just keep a blank space for the name of the victim!"
He shook hands with the reporters. "And now, if you'll excuse me, boys, I have an appointment to keep before I go to my room. I'll see you again perhaps."
Miguel Santos touched him on the shoulder. "Señor Klaw, a word in private, if you please." He drew Steve aside. "First, I must tell you that I am a loyal citizen of Chile. I believe that the future of our country here depends upon defeating the Axis, and there are thousands who think as I do. But we can accomplish nothing while the government refuses to declare war against the Axis. However, please count upon me, personally. I will do whatever I can to help you."
He paused, and his voice dropped to more confidential tones. "I have friends in North America, in Washington. I know that your work is more than only to find Zambetta. I know that it is an emergency which has brought you here, and that a great threat to your country exists from this Gaston Zambetta."
Steve raised his eyebrows. "You are pretty well informed, Santos."
The reporter smiled. "Your American shipbuilder, Barrett, has opened shipyards here in Valparaiso, as well as in Santiago. It is understood that he has a new process for building ships five times faster than usual. It is the threat to these shipyards which brings you here."
Stephen Klaw nodded soberly. "Your information is correct, Santos, as far as it goes. I'm admitting this to you, because I was told in Washington that you are one man we can trust. But I don't know exactly where or how the blow is going to fall. I'm working in the dark, till I hear more from Washington."
Santos was touched by Steve's confidence. "Whatever I learn, I shall tell you—depend upon that! I shall print not a word of this in my paper. Trust me, Señor Klaw!"
For a moment, the eyes of the two men met in mutual understanding. Then Steve said, "Thank you, Santos. I'll remember that."
He pressed the reporter's hand, and started for the doors which led to the street.
UP on the balcony which ringed three sides of the lobby, there was a sudden flurry of motion. A face appeared at the railing, and alongside it the muzzle of a rifle.
A woman screamed somewhere, and the scream was immediately drowned out by the two gun shots which sounded almost as a single explosion. One came from the rifle up there on the balcony, and the other from the small automatic which Klaw had drawn from his right hand pocket.
The rifleman on the balcony hadn't had time to get set properly; he had been compelled to shoot without sighting too well. But Stephen Klaw had merely snapped his automatic up in a swift, free-arm shot.
The rifle bullet gouged the tiled floor almost at Klaw's feet, and ricochetted away. Steve's slug smashed squarely into the face of the assassin on the balcony. The rifle fell forward over the railing, and struck the tiled floor with a clatter.
Klaw made a wry face, and turned to the reporters, who thronged once more about him.
"A nice way to welcome a guy to your city!" he said to Miguel Santos.
"This is terrible, Señor Klaw!" Santos exclaimed. "It is a blot upon the name of the City of Valparaiso, upon the hospitality of the Republic of Chile. I shall denounce it to high heaven. It is these cursed Germans and Japanese!"
The local policia came swarming into the hotel in their natty uniforms. Some of them brought the body of the would-be assassin down from the balcony, while others surrounded Stephen Klaw.
A portly little man, in a uniform adorned with a good deal of gold braid, introduced himself as Colonel Garcia, Superintendent of the Police.
"You are to be congratulated upon your swiftness with the gun, Señor Klaw. I am mortified that this should have happened. Let me give you a police guard."
"No thanks, Colonel," Steve said dryly. "I'm pretty sure I can take care of myself."
Garcia blinked. He drew Steve to one side. "You do not understand, Señor Klaw!" He had begun to speak in English, but under the stress of his excitement he reverted to swift and fluent Spanish. "The assassin whom you just killed is a Japanese. He is known to the police, but we have refrained from taking action against him, because of his connection with the Japanese Consulate. Believe me, Señor Klaw, I know of your mission here. It is for the honor of your country that you seek him out, this Zambetta. But I warn you, Zambetta is the most dangerous man in South America today. He enjoys the assistance of the German and the Japanese embassies, which have much power here in Chile. They do not hesitate to kill when they fear an enemy—as you have cause to know. You will not be safe without police protection."
"Thank you, Colonel," Steve said politely. "I deeply appreciate your concern over me. But I would still prefer to do without it."
"No, no—please! This attempt will not be the last. Every moment that you remain in Valparaiso will be a moment of danger for you. Wherever you turn, there may be a knife waiting to be plunged into your back, or a hidden gun waiting to spit death at you. Even the food you eat may be poisoned. Every person who speaks to you may be an agent of Gaston Zambetta, eager to lure you to your doom. You must allow us to give you a guard!"
"No," said Stephen Klaw firmly.
Colonel Garcia shrugged with Latin expressiveness. "I have done my duty. I have warned you—I can do no more. I wish you luck!"
"Thank you again," said Stephen Klaw. "May I leave?"
"Go with God, Señor."
Steve nodded, and turned away. Still with his hands in his pockets, he headed toward the exit.
Colonel Garcia's eyes were clouded as he watched him go.
He turned and saw that Miguel Santos, of El Nación, was also watching Klaw's back. He sighed. "The man will he dead before morning."
"I wonder," Miguel Santos said thoughtfully. "I have heard many stories of this Suicide Squad, of which Klaw is one. I wonder if Gaston Zambetta—with all his power—should not be the one to worry at this moment!"
THE sun was still warm and cheerful when Stephen Klaw emerged into the street. The Avenida Bolívar was teeming with a gay and careless throng, nationals of every country on the globe, spies and diplomats, merchants and refugees alike. But beneath that holiday atmosphere there was a curious sort of tension. Everyone was aware that Chile—as well as her neighbor, Argentina—could not forever hold out against the universal opinion of the millions of people in South America who hated the Axis, and who had already declared themselves against everything for which Hitler and Hirohito stood. It was as if this city were sitting upon a volcano which might be expected to erupt at any moment.
Klaw turned to the left on the Avenida Bolívar, still watchful and wary.
The first thing he noticed was an old-fashioned fiacre, hitched to the two superb Andalusian horses at the curb. The coachman was perched high up behind, attired in maroon livery.
But it was the occupant of the carriage who held Steve's attention. She was a young woman, perhaps twenty-six, dressed in black, and with a black lace mantilla about her head. Her face was thin; but the finely carved features were a mask of sheer beauty which left one breathless. Black eyes flashed at Stephen Klaw as she leaned close to the window. One long-fingered hand, encased in a black glove, was raised as she beckoned to him.
Klaw stopped a moment, then shrugged, and approached the fiacre.
Immediately, she opened the door. "Señor Klaw?"
"I must talk with you," she said hurriedly, with a faint Castilian accent. She looked around, as if fearful of being observed, then urged, "Come in quickly, please!"
Klaw grinned. He stepped into the carriage, and closed the door.
The woman moved over to make room for him. There was a deep, almost frightening urgency in her dark eyes.
"Señor Klaw," she said, "It is dangerous that I should be seen talking with you. But I must warn you. You are walking to your death!"
Klaw looked at her levelly. "It's nice of you to let me know."
She put a gloved hand out, gripped his arm. "They tell me you are an obstinate man, Stephen Klaw. And a very brave one. But I beg of you—give up this folly. Give up your search for Gaston Zambetta!"
Steve smiled, but he said nothing.
She studied his face for a moment, then she said, "Yes, indeed, they were right. You are a brave, obstinate man. You will not give up the search."
"No," said Steve. "I will not."
"Then I must help you."
"Why?" Steve asked.
A slight shadow passed across her perfectly chiselled, aristocratic face. "Never mind why. Is it not enough that I will help you?"
"Come tonight. An hour before midnight. Come to Number 27, Calle San Obispo. Then I will tell you where you may find Gaston Zambetta and how you may destroy him!"
"Whom shall I ask for?" Steve inquired casually.
Her eyes flickered. She still held his arm. "The name is of no consequence. You may call me Dolores if you wish. But you must surely come to Number 27 San Obispo tonight."
"Do you think I'll live that long?" Klaw asked.
She stiffened. "What—what do you mean?"
STEVE took her hand, and gently removed it from his sleeve. He held it by the wrist. She had closed her hand into a fist, but he said, "Open it," in a smooth, soft voice.
She stared at him for an instant, and her face went white. Slowly, she opened her hand. The palm of the black glove was thickly covered with a bright red paste of some kind.
"Very clever, my dear Dolores," said Steve.
She was watching him with bright, wide eyes, but she made no attempt to release her wrist.
Steve chuckled, let go of her hand, and twisted his arm around, so that he could see the back of his sleeve. Sure enough, there was a bright red smudge of the paste, about five or six inches above the elbow.
"It stands out like a beacon, doesn't it?" he said.
"I am sorry," she whispered. "It—it was—I must have accidentally crushed my lipstick—"
Klaw shook his head. "Cut it, kid. You did it deliberately. You marked me so that Gaston Zambetta's hired killers will have no trouble in identifying me in the crowded streets of Valparaiso!"
"No—no! You are mad!" she exclaimed.
"I'm not stupid!"
His hand went into his coat pocket. The girl's eyes widened, and she tensed. She snapped open her handbag, and snatched at a small pistol inside. But once more, Stephen Klaw reached out and gripped her wrist. He held her helpless that way, until she sighed, and let go of the pistol. It dropped back into the bag.
Her eyes were fixed on the pocket in which Klaw had his hand, as if she dreaded to see him bring out a gun.
"Are you going to—kill me?"
Steve shook his head. "I don't make war on women. But you can give Gaston Zambetta a message for me. Tell him to come after me himself—instead of sending women to do his dirty work!"
She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them once more, there was a strange softness in them.
"I will give Zambetta your message, Stephen Klaw. It is too bad that we cannot be friends. But I must be your enemy so long as this war lasts. I shall work hard to trap you, just as you will work hard to trap Zambetta. May the best man win!"
"Fair enough," said Stephen Klaw.
She smiled wryly. "Zambetta will be angry when he learns that I have failed to mark you. He has already issued orders that the man with a red mark upon his arm is to be killed on sight. I suppose you will wipe it off—"
"Why no," said Stephen Klaw. "I'll not wipe it off. You can tell Gaston Zambetta to let his order stand. Since Zambetta is too yellow to come to me himself, I must make it easy for his hired men to find me—so they can lead me to him!"
She gazed at him, her lips parted, a strange look in her face. "You must be mad!"
SHE closed the door and leaned back, and snapped a sharp command in Spanish into the speaking tube. The coachman cracked his whip, and the horses started off, leaving Klaw at the curb.
He gazed after the carriage, with eyes narrowed speculatively.
A big red-headed American, with shoulders like a stevedore's, lurched into him and said, "Excuse me," in a loud and resonant voice.
"It's all right," Steve said, without even glancing at the man. Then he added swiftly in an undertone, "Follow that dame, Johnny!"
"Right, Shrimp!" said Johnny Kerrigan. He grinned, looking at the red smudge on Steve's sleeve. "That's a hell of a place for a dame to kiss you, Shrimp!"
"Nuts to you, Mope," said Steve. "That is a method of identification—so Gaston Zambetta's boys can find me easily."
"Very nice," said Kerrigan. "I hope you see them first. You don't have to worry, though. Dan Murdoch is keeping you covered."
Kerrigan moved away, and climbed into a cab in front of the hotel. A moment later his cab was off, on the tail of the carriage.
Steve didn't look around to try to spot Murdoch. It was enough for him that Kerrigan had said that Murdoch was there. He had taken it for granted that both his partners would be on deck and ready for action when he arrived, because that had been the arrangement, made in Buenos Aires three days ago.
And these three men—Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw—had worked so long together that they functioned like a perfectly integrated army corps. Each knew that he could count on the others, unless death intervened. It was never necessary for one of them to "make sure" that the others were on the job.
No other three members of the F.B.I. enjoyed exactly the same position. They were known as the Suicide Squad, and with good reason. They never rated a routine assignment, but were held in reserve for those jobs which the Director of the F.B.I. decided were far too dangerous for ordinary agents. Originally, there had been five men on the Suicide Squad. Then one day, there had been four; then only three. Tomorrow there might be but two, or one, or none.
But that was the way it must be. They wanted a fast life and a hard one, with the odds always big against them, and the stakes even bigger. No routine investigations or tiresome searches after bank defaulters or undesirable aliens for them. They had chosen adventure, which carried with it each moment the chance of instant death.
They had been handed this assignment in Washington, exactly fourteen days ago. All they had to do was to find Gaston Zambetta, the fabulous Axis spy responsible for more sinkings of Allied ships than any other agency. Operating from the safety of a neutral country, the tentacles of his organization spread out over all of Latin America. He had left the United States after murdering a young F.B.I. agent, callously leaving him, wounded, to die in a burning shack. Ostensibly, the Suicide Squad was down here to square up for that killing. In reality, their job was to crack open the entire Zambetta organization.
It was like striking flint against flint, the Suicide Squad against the Zambetta combine. Both were hard; both were unyielding, made of material that might break but would never bend. Among those of the diplomatic corps who knew the inside facts, bets were being made on the outcome. The odds offered were heavy against the Suicide Squad, because they were only three against countless numbers.
But one thing was sure: if Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw went down to death in Valparaiso, they would not go alone. They would take a goodly number of enemies to hell with them...
STEVE KLAW hailed a passing cab and ordered in Spanish, "The United States Consulate, please."
But the taxi driver only looked at him with frightened eyes. "But no, Señor. I cannot take you." His glance whipped to the red smudge on Klaw's sleeve, and he hastily crossed himself.
"What?" Steve demanded.
The man threw in the clutch of his machine. "The Señor bears the mark of Zambetta!" And without another word, the fellow drove off. Steve chuckled. He hailed two more cabs, with the same result. At last he got a third taxi, driven by a fierce-looking fellow with a pock-marked face. This one didn't seem to be worried about the mark of Zambetta.
Steve got in and said, "The United States Consulate."
Steve's cab turned left from the waterfront and began to climb a steep road cut in the hills. Steve didn't say anything, although he knew that the United States Consulate was down along the beach—and this cab was going away from the beach!
Five minutes later, the cab swung into a side road, high above the city. Valparaiso is built almost literally on a mountain side. The business section is down below at the beach, but the residences, and many of the institutional buildings—which include the Chilean Naval Academy—are on the hills which surround the city like ramparts, and are reached by cable elevators which rise steeply from the business section below. Of recent years however, beautiful auto roads have been cut in the hills, so that the residential heights are easily reached by car.
It was one of these highways which Steve's driver took, now. He sped past the wealthy residential mansions, then swung off the highway into a narrow dirt road which brought them out practically to the edge of a cliff, high over the city.
The cab came to a stop in front of a small white house which looked as if it had been long vacant.
Steve kept both hands in his pockets. He said with assumed innocence, "This can't be the United States Consulate."
The driver turned around, grinning wickedly over the long-barrelled revolver he held. At the same time, he leaned on the horn with his elbow.
"No, Señor," he said in Spanish. "This is not your Consulate. For you, it is the last destination in life!"
IN response to his horn, the door of the little white house was flung open, and three wiry little Japs emerged, each carrying a short carbine. They wore dun-colored uniforms, steel helmets, and armbands on which was the insignia of the rising sun.
The driver grinned, indicating them. "It is the firing squad for you, Señor. Zambetta's firing squad."
One of the Japs opened the door of the cab, and motioned jerkily for Klaw to get out.
Steve looked at the cab driver, then at the three riflemen. "My executioners?" he asked.
"Exactly, Señor. You will face the wall of that house, and be shot in the back. Then your body will be hurled down the hill into the streets of Valparaiso for everyone to see that whoever else challenges Zambetta will die!"
"H'm," said Steve. "I don't like it. I was never shot in the back before."
"This will be the last time, Señor!" The cab driver laughed.
The Jap at the door was impatient. He thrust his carbine in, to poke at Steve.
Steve said softly, "You shouldn't do that!" and he shot the Jap with the automatic in his right-hand coat pocket. He fired through the cloth, without taking the gun out, and a neat round hole appeared in the Jap's forehead.
The other two riflemen frantically swung their carbines around to bear on Klaw, but Steve kept on shooting, grimly, and both men went down, without firing a shot. Klaw swung around to the cab driver, but it was unnecessary to worry about him, for that person was being taken care of, quite efficiently. He was sitting very still, with his hands above his head, a revolver muzzle at his ear.
Dan Murdoch was holding the revolver.
"Hi, Shrimp," Murdoch said casually, after the echoing thunder of the gunshots had died away. "That was nice shooting. I enjoyed watching you."
"Hi, Mope," said Steve. "Where did you come from?"
Murdoch grinned. "I rode right up the hill with you—on the back bumper. Down in the city, people looked at me as if I was nuts, but then they think all Americans are whacky, anyway."
He wiggled his revolver against the cab driver's ear.
"Descend, amigo," he ordered. "We're going to have a little conference."
The cab driver, still with his hands in the air, got out of the car. Steve climbed out, picking his way among the bodies of the Japs. The three men made their way to the house.
There was no one else inside. They found a radio receiving set, and a night semaphore outfit, for signalling to ships at sea.
Murdoch said, "This looks like one of Zambetta's communication spots."
"Let's fix it for him."
Steve took out a packet of matches, and went around, applying flame to everything that would burn. Soon the fire was roaring through the shack.
The cab driver watched him sourly, his face setting obstinately when Murdoch asked him questions. He began edging toward the door as the heat of the fire became uncomfortable.
But Dan Murdoch kept him inside, at the point of the revolver, while Stephen Klaw went out and busied himself with the bodies of the Japs. Steve came back in a few moments, with three belts, which he had taken from the dead men.
"Turn around!" Steve ordered.
The cab driver's face paled. "What are you going to do, Señor?"
"Don't worry," Murdoch told him. "We're not going to shoot you."
"Of course not," said Steve. "We're just going to strap you up, and leave you here in the shack."
"But—but it is burning!"
"How observant you are."
"You—you will leave me to be burned alive?"
"That's the general idea," Steve told him. "Now be nice and turn around."
"Listen," Stephen Klaw said coldly. "You work for Gaston Zambetta. He fled from the United States a couple of months ago. He left an agent of the F.B.I. to be burned to death in a boathouse on the Florida coast."
"And what's sauce for the goose," Dan Murdoch explained, "is sauce for the gander!"
The cab driver's face became white, his eyes desperate. He lunged frantically toward the door, but Murdoch caught him in an arm-lock, and held him helpless, while Steve proceeded to fasten one of the belts on his wrists.
"For the love of mercy," the wretch begged, "do not do this to me!" He cringed as the flames licked closer and closer to the spot where they stood. "Spare me! I will do anything!"
STEPHEN KLAW stopped in the act of fastening the belt. His eyes met those of Murdoch, and there was relief in both of them. If the wretch had only known them better, he could have guessed that it was only a bluff on their part.
But Murdoch's voice was cold and hard as he spoke to the fellow. "I'm sorry, but you must burn, to even up the score for Jerry Henderson."
"Wait," said Steve suddenly, as if trying to persuade Murdoch. "Couldn't we give this guy a break?"
"Hell, no! Why should we?"
"Maybe he could help us get a line on Zambetta. He works for him. Perhaps he would betray his master for the sake of his miserable life."
The fire was now so hot it was almost unbearable. In a moment they would have to get out.
"I dare not betray Zambetta!" the wretch screamed. "He will kill me."
"See?" said Murdoch. "He won't play ball with us. Come on—hurry this up. Tie him, and let's get out."
"Wait, wait!" the frightened man screamed. "Do not leave me here. Wait! I—I will do—" his voice caught, and he whispered, "I will do whatever you ask!"
"All right," said Murdoch, as if relenting unwillingly.
They dragged the trembling cab driver out into the open air. The sweat was thick upon his face, and he was shivering as if he had the ague.
"Talk!" Murdoch ordered. "Talk fast, and say something worth while—or you go back in the fire!"
"Ask what you wish to know. I will tell everything."
"What's your name?"
"Diaz. Julio Diaz."
"How do we get to Zambetta?"
"That I do not know, Señor."
"Nuts!" Murdoch said disgustedly. "Put him back in!" He increased pressure on the arm-lock, and thrust the man toward the roaring inferno.
"Wait!" shrieked Diaz. "Wait! I—I can tell you!"
Murdoch stopped. "Well?"
The fellow was gasping with fright. His voice caught in his throat, but he managed to say, "I—can tell you how I report—to Zambetta. I swear, Señores, that I do not know where to find Zambetta. There are hundreds like me in Valparaiso, who obey orders, but who know nothing. We receive our orders through a third party."
"Go on," said Murdoch.
"At 27 Calle San Obispo," the fellow gasped. "There is a book store. I go there every day, and look in a certain book—Don Quixote—where I find my orders on a slip of paper. If I have a report, I write it and place it within the book. There are others like me, who also come to the book store for orders. Each has one certain book."
"27 San Obispo!" repeated Steve Klaw. "That's where the dame told me to go tonight!"
Murdoch shook the trembling Julio Diaz. "What else do you know, amigo?"
"That is all. I swear it!"
"Who pays you?"
"I find my pay in the book."
Murdoch looked over at Klaw. "What do you say, Shrimp? Think he's telling the truth?"
"It is the truth, Señores! I swear it is the truth!"
Steve shrugged. "We'll find out soon enough. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. If he's been making up fairy stories for our benefit, we can always start another fire..."
Murdoch said, "Let's get going before the fire department arrives."
They bundled the trembling Diaz into the cab, and Murdoch took his cap and badge; got behind the wheel. Klaw sat next to their captive, while Murdoch headed the cab back down into town.
On the way, they passed two fire engines. The flames from the burning shack were lancing upward, high over the hills, plainly visible to those in the city below. Zambetta, wherever he was, would know that something had gone wrong with his projected execution of Stephen Klaw.
Murdoch chuckled. "Maybe the Jap submarines out at sea will think that's a signal for them!" Then he asked over his shoulder, "Where to, Señor?"
"The United States Consulate, James," Steve said with a grin. "And don't you take me for any rides!"
THEY herded their prisoner up the back stairs of the Consulate building, into the consul's office. By this time it had become dark, and the chill wind from the sea was sweeping in over the city.
The Consul stared with ill-concealed dismay at Klaw and Murdoch and their prisoner.
"What do you chaps think you're doing? Don't you realize that you've violated about a dozen laws of the Republic of Chile? You're guilty of arson, kidnapping—"
"What did you want me to do?" Klaw demanded. "Let those Japs stand me against a wall and fill me full of lead?"
"I can't have anything to do with this," the Consul insisted. "Our relations with Chile are friendly. I can't lend myself to violating her laws!"
"But it's all right for Zambetta to violate her laws, eh?" Murdoch asked bitterly.
"All we want you to do," Stephen Klaw explained patiently, "is to keep this guy Diaz safely and secretly in some dark room, so he can't communicate with Zambetta. We want Zambetta to be in doubt about what happened up at that shack."
"Sorry," said the Consul. "I can't do it. I must turn this man loose. But as for you two, you may remain here. As you know, this Consulate building enjoys diplomatic immunity. You may hide here, and you will be safe from prosecution. Also, you will be safe from Zambetta's vengeance."
Dan Murdoch uttered a snort of disgust. "You can take your diplomatic immunity and shove it up your chimney!" he said hotly. "All the immunity we need is this!" He tapped the bulge where his revolver rested snugly in its holster.
He sprang up, and jerked his thumb at the cowering Julio Diaz. "Scram!" he said. "Get out of here, and hide that ugly mug of yours in some Valparaiso sewer. Don't get under our feet again, or you'll get the works!"
Diaz hurried toward the door. "I am finished with Zambetta, Señores. No more will I work for him. I think Zambetta will lose his battle with the Suicide Squad. Adios, Señores!"
He ducked out of the door, and disappeared.
Stephen Klaw got up.
"We might as well be going, too," he murmured. He looked at the Consul, who was carefully adjusting his pince-nez. "It's guys like you, mister, who give the other nations the idea that America is soft! You coddle these foreign diplomats, and let them get away with murder, and then after a while they walk all over you. That's why Zambetta is so powerful down here in Chile. He's ruthless, and he's not afraid to go after what he wants. So they respect him, and they respect the Axis. But they know they can step on your toes, and nothing will happen."
He paused, leaning over the desk, waggling a finger in the Consul's face. "Kerrigan and Murdoch and I are going to show them that they can't step on the toes of Americans!"
The diplomat was plainly flustered. He took off his pince-nez, and polished it nervously. "I wish you men would listen to reason. You'll only make trouble for yourselves, and end up in the morgue. You don't understand the procedure of diplomacy—"
"If pussyfooting is diplomacy," Klaw said, "give me gas-house gang tactics!"
HE swung around to Murdoch. "Come on, Dan. Let's get out of here!"
"I warn you, Klaw," the Consul said, "that whatever trouble you get into will be on your own head. I will not lift a finger to help you."
He was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone on his desk. He picked it up and listened for a moment, then raised his voice to recall Steve and Dan, who were on their way out.
"It's Washington calling. They want to know if you have contacted me. They want to talk to one of you."
Klaw went over and took the instrument from him.
It was the Chief of the F.B.I. "Thank God I've been able to get you!" the Chief said. "I tried the Hotel Republica, and they told me you hadn't even gone up to your room. How are you doing?"
"So far so good, sir," said Klaw. "We have only committed arson, murder and kidnapping. But give us a chance. We're just beginners."
The Chief chuckled. "I expect you've been getting a lecture from the diplomatic corps?"
"Can't be helped, Steve. They still have to go by the book."
"But not us, sir!"
"Just don't get yourselves killed unnecessarily. I'd hate to have the expense of shipping your bodies back here, all the way from Valparaiso. Now listen carefully. I have something to tell you—something important. But I'm sure the Consulate wire there is tapped. It wouldn't do any good for you to call me back on long distance from another phone, either. They listen in on all the international calls. But I've got to tell you this—"
"Did you ever hear of pig-latin, sir?" Steve interrupted.
"Good Lord, Steve, it's forty years since I used pig-latin. But here goes!"
He took a breath, and then his voice came over the phone slowly, while Steve Klaw wrote: "Ogay otay ewelryjay toresay rounda-ay ornercay romfay ouryay otelhay." The Chief broke off for a moment and said, "Have you got it so far, Steve?"
Klaw was grinning as he wrote. He winked at Murdoch, who was silently laughing at the dazed expression on the Consul's face as he saw the apparently meaningless words which Klaw had written.
"Go ahead, sir," said Klaw. "You're doing fine."
"Ontactcay irlgay amednay ianaday arretbay. Hesay ashay opeday bouta-ay ambettazay."
Steve finished writing and said, "Nice work, Chief! I've got it all down. We'll get right to work."
"Be careful, Steve," said the Chief. "This development may be bigger than your original job."
"You know us, Chief," Klaw said cheerfully. "We're always careful!"
The Director grunted. "Good luck!" and Stephen Klaw hung up, grinning.
The Consul was staring at the words Klaw had written on the paper.
"Code, isn't it?" he asked.
"Why no," Steve told him. "It's a language."
"A language? Impossible. What language?"
"Igpay atinlay!" Steve said. Then he took Murdoch's arm and they went out, leaving the Consul as perplexed as ever.
IN the street, they hastily glanced at the note once more. Steve read it straight:
"Go to jewelry store around corner from your hotel. Contact girl named Diana Barrett. She has dope about Zambetta."
"Diana Barrett!" said Murdoch. "Her father runs the Barrett Dry Dock in Baltimore and Newport News. He built shipyards in Chile and Argentina about five years ago, and he's been turning out ships down here, by a new process, for the United States. They say that by his new method, he can build a destroyer a month!"
"H'm," said Steve. "And Diana Barrett has opeday about ambettazay. Etslay ogay and see her."
"Don't look now," Murdoch said in a conversational voice, "but there a couple of apjays behind us!"
They had left the Consulate by the back way, and they were now in a dark side street. Only a few feet away there was the noise and the light of the busy avenue, but here the shadows were heavy.
"It's that damned Julio Diaz!" Steve said. "He must have gone straight to Zambetta when we let him go!"
His glance followed the slight motion which Murdoch made with his head, and he spotted the figures of two men, skulking in a doorway a few feet behind them.
"I think they're harmless for the moment," Murdoch said. "They're probably interested in where we're going. And what happened up in the Consulate."
"Shall we give them the old razzle-dazzle?" Klaw asked.
"Right," said Murdoch.
They kept on walking, not even turning to look back, until they emerged upon the avenue. Then, without signal or warning of any kind, Klaw and Murdoch parted. Klaw went to the left, Murdoch to the right. Each started walking rapidly.
Behind them, the two Japs came hurrying into the Avenue and, seeing that their quarry had separated, they did likewise. One Jap took off after Murdoch, the other after Klaw.
The next few minutes would have been interesting, if seen from an airplane, with a clear view of two square blocks below. Klaw turned left at, the next corner, and Murdoch turned right at his corner, each with his shadow sticking like glue.
Then, coming around on the third side of their respective square blocks, Klaw made another left turn, and Murdoch another right turn, so that they were heading toward each other, and would meet at the side street from the other end of which they had started their respective circumnavigations of their respective blocks.
As they approached the corner, Steve could see Murdoch in front of him, as Murdoch could see Klaw.
They met at the corner, but did not stop. They passed each other, walking swiftly, and before the two Japs could gather their wits, Klaw had come face to face with Murdoch's shadower, and Murdoch had come face to face with Klaw's man.
They both acted with the same degree of surprise and speed.
Steve Klaw winked at his Jap, said, "So sorry!" and feinted with his left. The Jap ducked, coming in low for a jiu-jitsu hold, and Steve's smashing right caught him a terrific blow in the temple. The fellow went down like a poled ox.
Murdoch's technique was slightly different, but no less efficient. He stepped up close to his Jap, and the fellow, seeing he was in for trouble, yanked a knife out from under his coat.
Murdoch said, "Naughty!" and jabbed an outstretched index finger straight at the Jap's eye. The knife-man twisted around to avoid that jab, and Murdoch caught his knife-arm by the back of the elbow. With his other hand he gripped the back of the Jap's neck, and propelled him forward with a mighty shove, at the same time sticking his own left foot out in front of the Jap's ankle. Under the impetus of the shove, the Japanese killer stumbled, tripped over Murdoch's foot, and fell heavily, face down, on the concrete. The knife slid out of his hand as his head struck with a nasty thud. He lay quite still.
Murdoch and Klaw turned away from their victims, faced each other, and grinned. They came back to the corner, linked arms, and walked complacently up the side street, without being tailed this time.
"I wonder," said Stephen Klaw, "if Johnny is having fun, too?"
"I wonder!" Dan Murdoch echoed smugly.
THE jewelry store around the corner from the Republica Hotel was no more than a hole in the wall, in a block of stores. The lettering on the window said:
SALAZAR Y COHEN
Klaw and Murdoch passed it by once, without going in. But they peered through the window, and could see no sign of a girl waiting there. All they could discern was a bald-headed man seated over a watch-repair bench.
Two or three men turned to look at Steve as they walked down the street, past the shop of Salazar y Cohen. It was the red smudge on Steve's sleeve that attracted the attention.
Murdoch grinned. "How's it feel, being a marked man, Shrimp? Why don't you wipe that thing off?"
"Nix," said Klaw. "I told the dame, Dolores, that I'd keep it on. You wouldn't have me break my word to a lady, would you?"
Murdoch suddenly snapped his fingers. "You wouldn't believe it, Shrimp, but I've got an idea!"
They were passing a cosmetic shop, a few doors down from the jewelry store, and Murdoch came to an abrupt halt, staring at the window display. Then he turned and looked at Klaw, and they both smiled.
"You've got something there, Mope!" said Steve.
The two of them went into the cosmetic store, and a few minutes later they emerged, while the dazed proprietor of the shop stared after them, shaking his head.
They did not at once return to the jewelry store of Salazar y Cohen, but they moved down into the busy Avenida Bolívar, and mingled with the crowds. The throngs were becoming thicker now, and Klaw and Murdoch seemed to be in a good deal of a hurry, walking as swiftly as possible, taking each man they overtook by the arm, and apologizing for jostling him out of the way.
It was significant that they seemed only to jostle Germans and Japs. Thus, they hurried along the Avenida Bolívar for several blocks, and then turned into the Trans-Andean Railway Station, where it was even more crowded.
They worked their way out the north exit of the station, followed another street back to the Avenida Bolívar, and at last reached the jewelry store of Salazar y Cohen once more. They glanced down at the palms of their hands, which were bright red with the lipstick they had purchased in the cosmetic shop.
In their short excursion they had placed the red smudge on the sleeves of at least a hundred assorted Germans and Japs. As they stood there, they could see several men passing, with the mark.
"That ought to help a lot!" Murdoch said with a satisfied smirk. "Zambetta's killers will have a nice batch of marked men to kill. I bet there'll be quite a few dead Germans and Japs by morning!"
Steve chuckled. "You're a genius, Mope."
"I got the idea out of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," Dan admitted modestly.
They wiped the red stuff off their hands and went into the jewelry store of Salazar y Cohen.
THE little bald-headed man got up from his bench, and came over. "Buenas noches, Señor," he said to Steve, who was in the lead. "Com' esta Usted?"
"I'm all right," Steve said in English. "How are you?"
The bald-headed man looked blank. "No comprende."
"You don't understand?" Steve repeated, in Spanish. "But your sign says English is spoken here."
"Of a surety, Señor. Aqui se habla Inglès."
"But you don't speak English."
"The sign does not say that I speak English, Señor. It is my partner, Cohen, who speaks the English."
"Where is he?"
"I give up," said Steve, in English.
Murdoch grinned. "You are the other partner—Salazar?"
"Indeed, yes, Señor. Gabrielle Salazar, at your service. You wish, perhaps, to purchase a watch? Or to have one repaired?"
"No," said Steve. "I wish to speak to a young lady named Diana Barrett."
Señor Gabrielle Salazar's face went blank once more. "As you can see, Señor, there is no young lady here."
"Is there any other jewelry store on this street?" Murdoch demanded, still in Spanish.
Steve and Dan looked at one another, perplexed. "The Chief couldn't have given us a wrong steer, could he?" Klaw said thoughtfully.
"Not he," said Murdoch. "And you got that pig-latin down right. I could hear his voice over the receiver. If the Chief said that girl was here, then she must be here."
Señor Salazar stood looking at them blandly, apparently unable to comprehend their language.
"I smell something rotten," Steve said suggestively.
"Me too," said Dan.
"Let's investigate the smell," Steve suggested.
"Okay," agreed Murdoch.
Steve put both hands in his pockets. "I think this guy is taking us for a ride," he said in English. "We ought to see what he has in the back of the store. It might be interesting."
"I'll take a look," said Dan.
But before he could move, the bald-headed Señor Salazar sprang behind the counter, and snatched up a wicked-looking Lüger.
"No you don't!" he growled in excellent English, except for a faint accent. "Stand right where you are!"
Steve said, "Tut, tut!" And once more today, he fired through his pocket. The muffled report sounded hardly louder than the cracking of a carriage whip. The slug caught the bald-headed man in the shoulder, and spun him around.
Working as if on a split-second timetable, Dan Murdoch stepped in even as Steve fired, and snatched the Lüger out of the bald-headed man's hand.
At the same time, Steve Klaw swivelled toward the curtained doorway at the rear. He fired three times, fast, still from his right-hand pocket, at the two yellow men who came pushing through, with guns in their fists.
HIS shots smashed them backward through the curtained doorway, and he charged in after them, with his gun ready, in case there should be more.
Dan Murdoch swung around, stepped over to the door, and locked it. Then he pulled down the Venetian blind over the glass panel, and did the same for the plate-glass window.
From the rear, he heard Stephen Klaw calling to him. "Hey, Mope! Come here and see what we won!"
Murdoch paused only a moment to kneel beside the bald-headed man and make sure he was unconscious, then he hurried into the back room, stepping over the bodies of the two Japs in the doorway.
The inside room was small, and illuminated only by a weak bulb in a low floor lamp. But the lamp furnished enough light to show everything in the room.
One white man lay dead, sprawled on his face on the floor. In the opposite corner, a man and a girl were sitting on the floor, with their backs to the wall, both securely gagged and cruelly tied, hand and foot. The girl was young and fresh-complexioned, with a wealth of rich blond hair that fell freely over her shoulders.
Klaw and Murdoch cut the bonds that tied the two prisoners, and helped them remove the gags.
The girl was staring in horrified fascination at the body of the white man, which lay sprawled on the floor.
"That's Mr. Cohen," she told them. "The Japs came in here while I was waiting for you. They killed poor Mr. Cohen, and overpowered Mr. Salazar, here. Then they tied us both up, and planted that terrible bald-headed man out there to wait for you."
"You're Diana Barrett?" Steve asked.
She nodded, and covered her face with her hands. Sobs wracked her slender body.
"There, there," said Dan Murdoch, patting her shoulder. "This is no time to get soft."
Diana Barrett took her hands from her face, wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said.
Salazar had seated himself, and was staring blankly at the body of his dead partner. "Ten years we have been together in business," he muttered in Spanish. "And now he is dead!"
"Mr. Cohen was an American," Diana Barrett explained. "He came down here ten years ago, and went into partnership with Mr. Salazar. My father financed them. And now, when I was in trouble, I came here to hide in their back room. It was while I was here that I put in the long distance call to a friend of dad's in New York, and asked him to call Washington. He phoned me back and said that Washington would contact three F.B.I. men who were in Valparaiso, and would have them come here."
"I see," said Murdoch. "Zambetta must have had you followed. He knew you were here, and sent his Jap killers in to lay a trap for us!"
"What kind of trouble are you in?" Steve asked her.
She looked queerly at Murdoch and Klaw. "I don't see how you can help. There are only two of you, and this is something that would take the whole Marine Corps to accomplish."
"LISTEN, Diana," Steve said, "don't waste time worrying about the Marine Corps. They are busy right now. We're taking over for them. Just give us the story—you'd best talk fast. Don't forget, if Zambetta knows we're here, there's nothing to stop him from sending a whole brigade of his Jap killers to try and wipe us out. So the sooner we get you out of here, the better."
"All right," she said, "this is the situation. You know who my dad is, of course?"
"He's the shipbuilder," said Murdoch.
"Yes. He has been operating four shipyards, two in Argentina, and two in Chile. One of them is here in Valparaiso. His new process permits him to build destroyers faster than mosquito boats could be built under the old system."
"We know all that," said Murdoch impatiently. "Get to the rest. Why did you call for help?"
"I have a younger sister," Diana hurried on. "Joan is thirteen years old. Yesterday—" Diana paused, and her voice choked up a bit—"yesterday, Joan was seized as she was coming home from the American School. A truckload of Japs pulled up alongside our car, overpowered the chauffeur, and took her away."
"Last night," Diana continued, "dad received a message from Zambetta. It was an ultimatum. Dad must sell out his four shipyards to a Japanese shipbuilding firm before midnight tonight—or we'll never see Joan alive again!"
"The yellow devils!" Murdoch whispered softly.
"It's that terrible Zambetta!" Diana Barrett exclaimed. "He's part Japanese himself, and part Italian, and he has the soul of a fiend. Dad is waiting in the shipyard office until midnight. He doesn't dare go to the Valparaiso police, because he's afraid Zambetta will kill Joan immediately. Dad'll have to sign at midnight!"
"Sign away four big shipyards to the enemy?" Murdoch said. "Like hell he will!"
He took Diana by the arm, and helped her into the front of the store. Klaw followed, with Salazar.
The bald-headed man was still unconscious. Steve knelt beside him, and went through his pockets. But there were no papers on his person, or anything by which to identify him.
Steve got up, grimacing with disgust. "We'll leave him here. He's no good to us. Let's be going."
"Where?" asked Diana. "What can you do between now and midnight? The Japs are already in the shipyard, waiting to take over. They're so sure of themselves that they've already drawn up complete blueprints for operating the plant themselves. How can you two men stop them?"
"By getting your sister back," Dan Murdoch told her.
Her eyes shone eagerly. "You—you really think you can do it?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. But we can try!"
"Two men against so many..."
"That's where you're wrong, Diana," Steve told her. "There's more than two of us. There's three!"
CALLE SAN OBISPO was a rather busy thoroughfare down at the south end of the city, on the spur of land which stretched out along the south side of the harbor, far out to where the Punta Angeles lighthouse pointed upward like a warning finger at the sky.
Stephen Klaw moved warily down this, street, seeking Number 27, which was the address the woman, Dolores, had given him.
It was only eight o'clock, three hours earlier than the appointment she had made. But Klaw knew that the appointment was nothing but a trap, to be sprung in case every other effort to destroy the Suicide Squad failed. He was not here now to keep his date. He was seeking Johnny Kerrigan.
With the prospect of action in sight Kerrigan would never have forgiven Murdoch and Klaw if they had left him out of it. And Steve figured that if Kerrigan had stuck to Dolores' trail, he might have ended up at 27 San Obispo too.
There were a number of stores and cheap cinemas along this street. The shipyards and the docks were located down this way, and the streets were filled with shipyard workers and sailors of many nations. Over all the noises of the crowd there came the constant thrumming of machinery from the shipyards, and the clang of metal upon metal as the work of construction continued, twenty-four hours a day.
To the right, on the harbor side of the Punta Angeles peninsula, there was the vast, sprawling layout of the Barrett Shipbuilding corporation, with its great dry-docks, where destroyers were being rushed to completion on American orders. But after midnight tonight—provided Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw failed in their utmost hopeless effort—those great facilities might be working for the Japanese.
As Steve approached Number 27, he saw a crowd gathered in the gutter, and quite a number of the policia bustling officiously about. He paused at the edge of the crowd, peered over a woman's shoulder.
The object of the crowd's curiosity was a man who lay dead on his face, the upper part of his head shot off.
Everybody was talking excitedly in rapid Spanish, and Steve caught the name of Zambetta, several times.
The woman in front of him was saying to a companion, "I saw the poor man killed! In the very act of crossing the street, he was shot down from the doorway there!"
Steve's glance went to the dead man's sleeve. There was a red smudge upon it. He was one of those whom Murdoch and Klaw had marked.
The woman in front of Steve was saying, "See, the poor man has the mark upon him. All in the city know that this is the work of Zambetta. It has been said that there are three brave ones who have come from America del Norte, and that Zambetta has ordered his men to kill without mercy the ones who are thus marked!"
Steve's lips twisted in a faint smile.
The woman went on. "This must be one of those three brave men. They should have known that it was hopeless to fight Zambetta. I weep for them. It is a disgrace that those German and Japanese pigs should be so free to kill, here in Valparaiso. For my part, I would wish that we should enter the war by the side of the others!"
Steve touched her on the shoulder. She turned to stare at him.
"Thank you, madam," he said in excellent Spanish. "I am glad to hear such words from the lips of a Chilean woman!"
The woman's eyes were suspicious. There were many government spies in the streets these days, in the pay of the reactionary element, whom one dared not trust.
"Who are you?" she demanded, almost breathlessly.
Steve showed her the mark on his own sleeve. "I am one of those who fight Zambetta." Almost automatically, he lapsed into the flowery diction which the Latins love so much. "That dead man is not one of us. We have turned a little trick upon Zambetta. Tell your friends that the American Suicide Squad is still alive and fighting. And that Gaston Zambetta had better make arrangements for lodging in hell!"
THE woman's eyes glowed warmly. "God go with you, Señor. And may the Holy Virgin watch over you!"
Steve was touched by the woman's evident sincerity and emotion. He pressed her arm, and turned away without saying more.
On the fringe of the crowd, he found Johnny Kerrigan, who had spotted him talking to the woman.
"Hi, Shrimp," said Johnny. "I was waiting for you to come out of the huddle with the lady. What goes on here? I was watching that bookstore, from the rear, when I heard the shot. I came around and saw the guy with the red smudge on his sleeve, lying there. I thought at first it was you."
"No," said Klaw. "It's a German. Dan and I went around putting the smudge on a lot of Germans and Japs, and I guess Zambetta's killers have been having a field day all over town. Maybe by this time, Zambetta has given orders to lay off guys with red smudges on their sleeves, for fear of killing off the German and Jap population of Valparaiso!"
"Very nice going, Shrimp!" said Johnny. He took him by the arm and led him around the block, through an alley, and into a back yard behind the book store at Number 27 Calle San Obispo.
"This is where that dame in the carriage led me. I've been keeping a watch ever since. From here, you can look right in through the store to the front. The dame went in there all right. She never came out, but I can't see her in there now."
Swiftly, Steve told him about Diana Barrett, and the Barrett Shipyard, and Diana's little sister, Joan.
"That dame holds the answers!" Kerrigan said. "We've got to find her!"
"We won't find her out here."
Johnny nodded. They moved over toward the rear entrance of the store.
"Where's Dan?" Johnny asked.
"He went to the Barrett Shipyard with Diana Barrett. If you and I fail to find Joan Barrett by midnight, Dan is supposed to stop the sale of the shipyard by hook or crook—even if he has to kidnap old man Barrett."
At the back door of the bookstore, Johnny tried the knob. The door opened under his touch, and they both stepped inside.
It was a long, narrow store, with shelves—loaded to the ceiling with books—on both long walls. There was a staircase in the rear, leading down to a basement, but they could see nothing down there, for it was pitch dark below.
The only person in the store was the proprietor, a stoop-shouldered old man in an alpaca jacket, with white hair parted in the middle, and a pair of thick-lensed glasses through which he peered nearsightedly at Klaw and Kerrigan.
WHEN he saw the smudge on Steve's sleeve he smiled politely, and bowed low from the waist. He straightened, and the welcoming smile was gone from his face. There was a gun in his hand! It exploded without warning as he pulled the trigger, but his aim at Klaw's heart was deflected by the heavy book which Johnny Kerrigan had yanked off the shelf and hurled at him. The book struck his gun wrist, and the shot buried itself in Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, instead of in Stephen Klaw's body.
Before the man could shoot again, Kerrigan stepped in and struck down his arm, then clipped him one on the chin.
The man went down without a sound.
"Very well done, Johnny." said Steve. "I always said that the Dodgers lost good material when you joined the F.B.I. What did you throw at him?"
"I think it was Grimm's Fairy Tales," Johnny told him. "I didn't stop to look at the title."
He stooped and lifted the unconscious man, flung him over his shoulder like an inert sack.
"Lead the way, Señor Klaw!" he said, grinning.
Steve descended the stairs to the basement, with Johnny and his burden following. Steve moved down carefully and soundlessly, with a gun in one hand, and a flashlight in the other. His beam showed him that the basement was also lined with bookcases, containing old and musty tomes, thick with dust. But there was no living being down here.
"H'm," said Steve. "You said that dame, Dolores, came in here, and didn't leave. She's not upstairs, and she's not down here. And there's no door in here through which she could have gone."
"Therefore," Johnny Kerrigan said, standing and holding his burden with ease, "she must have gone through the wall."
"A very sensible deduction," Steve told him. He went around the walls, trying the various bookcases, feeling for hidden springs or secret buttons. Suddenly, he uttered an exclamation as he touched something and one of the bookcases began to move, soundlessly.
It opened out toward him, like a door, revealing a dark passageway beyond.
"So!" said Kerrigan. He put down the unconscious man, took off the fellow's belt and strapped his wrists with it. Then the two men moved to the darkness of that uninviting passageway.
The ceiling was low, the floor of crude and rotted planking. The air was dank with the tang of salt spray.
They followed Steve's questing flash-light beam.
"Boy," said Johnny, "this passage must be a hundred years old. I'll bet it's a relic of the old city, before the last earthquake!"
Steve said, "It leads down to the harbor!"
THE passage turned sharply to the right, and widened a bit. They continued on for another fifty feet, then Steve stopped short. He glanced down at the floor, saw the trapdoor there.
"Do we go ahead, or do we go down?" Steve asked.
"Wait a second," said Johnny. He took a coin out of his pocket. "Heads it's down, tails it's forward."
The coin came up heads.
Steve, moved aside, and Johnny bent over the trapdoor. There was an iron ring in it, nice and clean, and it moved easily, as if it were used frequently. Johnny got a grip on the ring and pulled, and the trapdoor came up.
There was nothing but darkness down below. Kerrigan took out his flashlight and swung its beam through the opening. It disclosed an iron ladder which led down to a bare floor. It was a secret room of some kind, underneath the passageway.
"Me, first," said Johnny.
"Nix," said Steve. "Me first."
"Listen, Shrimp," Johnny growled. "You've been getting all the gravy since we hit Valparaiso. It's my turn now."
"I'll toss you for it," Steve suggested.
"Not on your life!" Johnny said. "You've won every time we tossed. That coin of yours must have two tails."
He pushed Steve aside, and climbed down the iron ladder. Steve followed, his automatic held ready. They sent their lights beaming all around the bare room.
There was no furniture in the room except for one chair, and an old army cot. On the cot lay a little girl, about twelve or thirteen, tied and gagged; staring at them fearfully out of big blue eyes.
"What do you know about that!" Johnny said softly.
Steve hurried over and untied the girl. He took the gag off.
"Don't be afraid, kid," he said. "We're friends. You're Joan Barrett, aren't you?"
She nodded. "The Japs brought me here. They've kept me tied up for I don't know how long!"
"It's all right now," Steve told her. "We'll get you back to your dad and your sister."
"Be careful," little Joan said. "The Japs are in the next room. There's a lot of them—and they—they have a machine-gun!"
Just then, the door to which she was pointing was flung open. A Jap, in full uniform of a field soldier, with a rifle under his arm, appeared, followed by another.
Johnny Kerrigan, who was nearest the door, snapped two swift shots at the Japs, and the impact of the bullets smashed them backward. The shots reverberated through the small room like concentrated thunder, and immediately there appeared half a dozen more Japs, clambering through the doorway.
Johnny Kerrigan and Steve Klaw sent shot after shot into the doorway, and cleared it momentarily, and Johnny sprang over and slammed it shut. He sought vainly for a lock, but there was none on this side. He leaned heavily against the door, reloading the gun as he did so, and turned to look at Klaw.
"This is it, Steve," he said. "If I let go the door, the Japs will sweep over us. It would be a nice fight, but we've got to get the girl out of here."
"One of us will have to stay," Steve said slowly.
Kerrigan nodded silently.
"I'll toss you—" he began.
Johnny smiled grimly, and shook his head. "No toss, Shrimp. This is my show. Get going, Shrimp."
Stephen Klaw didn't argue with his partner. They might kid around when there was nothing better to do. But when the right time came, they took what the fates offered, and didn't complain.
"So long, Johnny," Steve said, his face a mask of tight restraint.
"So long, Steve," said Johnny. "See you in hell."
"See you in hell, Johnny!"
Steve took little Joan's hand. "Come on," he said gruffly. He helped her up the ladder. Already, the Japs were pressing against the door.
STEVE knew that Kerrigan couldn't hold them for more than a moment or two, and that when the door was forced open, Johnny would be overwhelmed by the flood of Japanese. But he didn't stop or look back. He had said his good-by, and he didn't trust himself to say another word.
This was the way the Suicide Squad had always expected it to happen. They would have preferred to go down, all three of them together, fighting shoulder to shoulder in a good fight, and taking as many of their enemies along with them as possible. But they had always known that there might come a time when one of them would have to give up his life for the others, and they had all made the solemn agreement, that when the moment arrived there would be no waste of talk, or of sympathy.
In life, they had wanted nothing more than the chance to fight a good fight, and in death they wanted no pity.
Steve reached the passageway behind little Joan, and urged her back through the dank corridor, toward the bookstore. All the time, he listened for the sounds that would tell him the end had come for his partner.
But they were around the bend in the passageway, and had almost reached the door of the bookstore cellar before the sound of the first shot reached them. Then there was a quick volley, followed by utter silence.
Steve closed his eyes, and stood still for a moment. When he opened his eyes, he saw that Joan was looking up at him.
She put her small hand in his big one. "Did—did they—kill your friend?"
Steve didn't answer. He led her into the bookstore cellar, then up into the street.
The crowd was still out there, around the body of the dead man. Steve guided Joan Barrett down to the far corner, without being observed. They found a cab, and he ordered its driver to take them to the United States Consulate. There was a light in the Consul's window, and Steve brought Joan straight up there.
For two minutes, he gave the Consul a verbal lashing which made that gentleman's ears burn.
"So I'm leaving Joan Barrett here," he finished. "She's the daughter of an American citizen. She's entitled to your protection. Do you understand? See that no harm comes to her. It means more than just the life of one sweet little girl. It means the safety of your country!"
He walked out then, not trusting himself to say more. He looked neither to the right nor the left when he emerged. If any of Zambetta's killers had been watching for him then, he might have been an easy target.
And then again, he might not. For no matter how intense his own personal emotion might be, he was still a fighting man of the first quality.
He flagged a passing cab and said, "The Barrett Shipyard!" Ten minutes later, he descended at the great gate behind which the dry-docks were located. An armed guard patrolled at the gate, just inside, and Steve nodded in satisfaction when he saw that it was a white man. The Japs hadn't got possession of the place—Old Barrett hadn't signed yet. But when he did, the Japs would move in legally, and no power on earth could stop them from making Japanese battleships in an American shipyard.
Steve's eyes were cold and gray. Johnny Kerrigan had given up his life to save this shipyard for America, and he didn't intend that Johnny should have given up his life in vain.
"I've got to see Barrett," he told the guard. "Fast!"
The man nodded, and called a superior. It was the captain in charge of the guards. "You'll have to state your business, before you can be admitted," the captain of the guards informed him.
"Tell Barrett that Stephen Klaw is here to see him—about his daughter, Joan."
THE captain of the guards went into a little shack adjoining the gate. He came out in a couple of minutes, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Klaw, but Barrett isn't interested. He doesn't want to see you."
"You're crazy!" Klaw exclaimed. Suddenly, his eyes narrowed. "Did you speak to Barrett personally?"
"No. I talked to his secretary, Dolores Martinelli."
"Dolores!" Steve repeated. "Is she a dark-haired dame, with black eyes and a shape that could get her in the Follies?"
"You said it!" the captain agreed.
Steve groaned. "Listen, pal, what's your name?"
"All right, O'Brien. You're an American. At midnight tonight, old man Barrett is going to sign this shipyard over to the Japanese—if I don't see him. He thinks his daughter, Joan, is in their hands. That dame, Dolores Martinelli, is deliberately keeping him from receiving any messages until he signs. She works for Zambetta!"
O'Brien's eyes narrowed. "How do I know you're telling me the truth?"
Steve took out his wallet, and flashed his F.B.I. identification card. Though he had technically resigned, he still had his card.
O'Brien looked at the picture, then at the name. "Damn! When you said your name was Klaw, I didn't get it at first. You're one of the Suicide Squad!"
O'Brien opened the gate.
"Thanks," said Steve.
"I wondered why there are so many Japs around today," O'Brien said. "They're all over the place. Miss Barrett came in with a tall guy a little while ago, and went to the administration building. Then we heard some noise in there, but when I went to investigate, Dolores Martinelli told me not to bother."
Steve said, "The tall guy with Miss Barrett was Dan Murdoch. And I can imagine what the excitement was about!
"Where's your other partner—Kerrigan?"
"The last I saw of him, he was on the road to hell. Here's where I send a few of those yellow devils after him!" He caught O'Brien's arm. "How many men have you got here—guards, I mean."
"Twelve," said O'Brien. "But in a fight, we wouldn't have a chance. There must be fifty Japs in uniform around the place." He waved a hand toward the dimly-lighted dry-dock. "There's a ship ready to be launched, and we're waiting for word from Barrett, but no orders have come out of the administration building tonight. It's damned funny."
"Get your men together," Steve told him. "This, may be a finish fight. Are you game?"
"We're game, all right!" O'Brien said. "The boys are about fed up with taking lip from the damned Germans and Japs around here!"
"All right. Got any grenades?"
"A sackful in the shack."
"Get 'em out. Distribute them to the boys. And wait for the fireworks to start."
He left O'Brien, and hurried through the night toward the administration building. At the door there was another guard, but O'Brien had already telephoned ahead, and the guard passed Steve through.
"Be careful, Klaw," said the guard. "There's a bunch of the Japs out in back, behind the administration building, and a whole mess of them inside. It looks damned funny that Barrett should suddenly have taken up with the little yellow monkeys!"
Steve nodded, and went inside.
There was a long, cool corridor within, with office doors on either side, and a receptionist's desk. But no one sat at the receptionist's desk tonight. Instead, half a dozen Japs, in full army uniform, were standing in the corridor. It was perfectly legal for these Japs to wear their army uniforms here in a neutral country, for they were classified as "military attaches." Ostensibly, they served their embassy and consulates, but in reality, they were the nucleus of the army of occupation which Japan hoped soon to throw into the country of Chile.
When they saw Steve, they immediately moved forward, drawing their guns.
STEVE stood spraddle-legged, a thin smile on his face. He began to shoot through his pockets. His shots reverberated through the corridor as he cut the Japs down, one after the other, coldly, mercilessly, calculatingly. He didn't give them a chance to finish drawing their guns. He shot them down like dogs, thinking all the time of Johnny Kerrigan, and of Dan Murdoch.
The Japs fell like nine-pins, and Steve moved forward, still shooting, until not one of the uniformed figures remained standing. His lips were tight and hard. He stepped among the bodies, slipping fresh clips into his automatics, and just then a door opened, and the startled, cameo-like face of Dolores Martinelli appeared in the doorway.
Steve hurled himself against the door, thrusting it inward, and sent her spinning into the room. He kicked the door shut, and faced the occupants of the room, an automatic in each hand, a grim smile on his lips.
Diana Barrett was there, standing next to the desk at which sat her father, the president of the great Barrett Shipbuilding Corporation. In front of the desk stood a tall, saturnine man, with close-cropped black hair, and a pair of snake-like eyes. He had turned, half-startled, and there was a revolver in his hand. Dolores Martinelli, under the impetus of the thrust which Steve had given her, spun into the room on her knees, and had bumped into that sallow-faced man.
That was the reason why the sallow-faced man's shot missed Steve. It missed him by an inch, and the sallow-faced man didn't get a chance to shoot again, because Steve fired a single shot, and it took the man in the stomach.
Steve had fired at the stomach deliberately, with intention to cause the most painful wound possible. For this sallow-faced man was Gaston Zambetta—abductor of little Joan Barrett, who had put the mark of death on the Suicide Squad, and who had left a young federal agent in Florida to burn to death.
Klaw stepped to the writhing body of Gaston Zambetta. "When you get to hell, Zambetta," he said, "give my regards to Kerrigan and Murdoch. Tell them I squared up for them."
Then he looked up at Diana and her father. "Joan is safe," he said wearily. "She's at the Consul's office. You don't have to sign the shipyard over."
But Diana was at the window, motioning urgently for Klaw to join her. Steve stepped over the body of the writhing, groaning Zambetta, and went to the window.
"Look! Down there!" Diana exclaimed.
Steve followed her pointing finger, and his heart leaped. Kerrigan and Murdoch were down there, tied back to back. And a small Jap in uniform was standing, half a dozen feet away, with a rifle in his hand, as if awaiting a signal.
"They didn't kill Kerrigan in that underground room," Diana breathed. "They rushed him, and took him captive. When Murdoch and I came here, the Japs seized me, and threatened to shoot me if Murdoch didn't surrender. That's how they got the two of them prisoner. They were going to shoot them when Zambetta gave the signal. He was only waiting for dad to sign over the shipyard, so he could taunt them with it before they died!"
Steve Klaw swung a leg over the window sill. It was only a short drop to the ground, and he landed on his feet like a cat. The Jap soldier with the rifle turned and saw him, swung the rifle around—
Steve's slug caught the fellow in the head, then Steve was racing over to where his two partners were standing. With his pocket knife he slashed the cords that tied them.
"Hi, Mopes," he said, matter-of-factly. Nothing of what he had felt during the last hour showed in his face, or sounded in his voice. But he didn't need to say anything.
"Hi, Shrimp," said Johnny Kerrigan.
"Hi, Shrimp," said Dan Murdoch.
That was all. Then they went to work. Steve handed Murdoch one of his automatics. Kerrigan bent down and picked up the dead Jap's rifle. Together, the three of them moved around toward the front of the administration building, where O'Brien and his dozen men were waiting, with the grenades.
Down by the dry-dock, where the ship was ready to be launched, the Japs were swarming. If they had heard the few odd shots from the administration building, they must have assumed that their own men had everything well in hand.
Certainly, they didn't know if it was lightning that struck them, or a swift Pacific monsoon. Most of them were dead before they realized they were in a fight. The remainder were overwhelmed by the spectre of those three grim-faced killers who descended upon them in the vanguard of a dozen angry Americans. They threw down their weapons...
A HALF hour later, the great shipyard was back to normal, and Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw were in the office, kneeling over the dying Zambetta. His snake-like eyes burned with unholy hatred as he gazed up at the three men.
"You devils!" he whispered. Then a spasm of agony crossed his face, and he died.
Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw stood up solemnly, and looked at Dolores Martinelli, whom Diana had kept covered.
"Get out!" Klaw said. "I told you once that we don't make war on women. Get out and go back to whatever country spawned you. Just keep out of the western hemisphere!"
Dolores Martinelli turned and walked out of that office. But she didn't get very far. The Chilean police were waiting, just outside the door, to arrest her.
Colonel Garcia came in a moment later. "Señores," he said, "you are great caballeros. Some day our country will officially recognize that it owes much to you for what you have done today. In the meantime, as a private citizen, I offer you all that I own. Whatever you wish, it shall be yours!"
"I'll take you up on that, Garcia," Kerrigan said. "I want an ice-cold glass of good Milwaukee beer!"
"Us, too!" said Murdoch and Klaw together.
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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