Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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America's new air arm, the keystone in her vast defense program, tottered on the brink of destruction!... Only three men—Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw—could prevent disaster, and that grim trio of Death's Volunteers was already living on borrowed, bartered time!
STEPHEN KLAW'S train was on time at Coast City. He made his way off the platform into the station, slightly ahead of the other passengers on the Boston train. The first thing he noticed was the trim, petite figure of Martha Manning, standing by the Information Desk. He recognized her at once by the description they had given him—five-feet-three, about a hundred and two pounds, black hair and eyes, wearing a small green hat and a green sports coat.
She had her eyes anxiously fixed on the main gate, and her gaze followed Steve for a moment as he emerged into the station. But her glance flicked away at once, dismissing him without hesitation. She was not to blame for that. She didn't have a description of him. And furthermore, Stephen Klaw was so slim and wiry that he might have been taken for just another college kid returning to Coast University after the summer vacation. She swung around to watch the gate for the other passengers.
Steve didn't go over to her. Instead, he went first to the bulletin board where the incoming trains were posted, and noted that the five o'clock train from Washington was fourteen minutes late, and would arrive at 7:20. The station clock showed it to be 7:12 now.
He crossed over to the open lunch counter at the other end of the station, and ordered a cup of black coffee. While he drank, he kept his eyes on the mirror behind the counter, in which he could see everything that went on in the station. Martha Manning was getting manifestly more and more nervous as all the passengers from the Boston train departed, and none of them approached her. Steve noted that there were at least two men near the information booth who seemed to be deeply interested in her movements. They were big, heavy-set fellows with a look of complete ruthlessness about them. One, who was studying a travel folder at the counter, not three feet from Martha Manning, had a decided bulge over his right hip pocket. He was wearing a tan reversible raincoat, and he had it open so that there was nothing to impede the movement of his hand toward that pocket. The other man had a gray topcoat. He was strolling around and around the information booth, passing close to Martha Manning each time he came to her side of the booth.
Steve's eyes were expressionless as he noted all this. He sipped his black coffee slowly, while the minute-hand of the clock moved around to 7:20. The Washington train pulled in, and passengers began to trickle out. Steve made no move to get up. In the mirror he spotted the powerful, stevedore shoulders of Johnny Kerrigan and the slender, panther-like figure of Dan Murdoch. His eyes flickered, but he did not turn around. He ordered a second cup of coffee, and waited. A couple of moments later he saw Murdoch and Kerrigan coming up behind him, heard Dan say in a loud voice, "Here, let's grab a cup of Java!"
As if by accident, they ranged themselves alongside of Steve at the counter, and gave their orders. Then, out of the corner of his mouth, Dan Murdoch said, "Hiya, Shrimp?"
Steve covered his lips with the paper napkin. "Okay, Mope. The girl is here—that one in the green coat by the Information Desk. She's being shadowed, so I guess the fun will commence at once."
"Suits me!" Johnny Kerrigan growled. "Let's get started!"
"Right!" said Steve Klaw. "Cover me, but remember—don't interfere unless it's absolutely necessary. If you lose me, look for me in an hour, in front of police headquarters."
He dropped a dime on the counter, and strolled away. He didn't make directly for the Information Desk, but ambled around the station first, looking at the displays in the various shop windows that lined the waiting room. At last he turned in the direction of Martha Manning.
SHE was really quite nervous by this time—so nervous that she almost jumped when Steve came up behind her and said. "Miss Manning, I believe?"
Her eyes were blank for a moment as she turned to face him. "Yes," the said. "I'm Miss Manning."
"Name of Klaw," Steve said, grinning, and took a card from his pocket, which he handed to her. She didn't notice that the ink on the card had a fresh, wet look, as if it had only recently been printed.
The card read:
Attorney & Counselor at Law
"Oh!" she said, fingering the card hesitantly. "You—you're the lawyer my Cousin Jim sent. I thought you weren't coming. I saw you come off the train, but I didn't think you were the one. I—I was looking for a big man."
Steve grinned again. "Give me time, Miss Manning. I may grow yet."
She said swiftly, looking up at him, "Oh, forgive me. I—I didn't mean that you're very short." Her eyes appraised him. "You're about five-foot-seven. But—but Jim led me to believe that he was sending a—a fighting man, a lawyer who couldn't be scared easily. You—you look so young—"
"Suppose we forget about that," Steve said crisply. "Let's talk about you. What was it you wanted?"
"Did—did Jim tell you anything?"
"Only that your brother is in trouble, and that you couldn't get a local lawyer to take care of him."
"That's right. My brother Fred is the manager of the Manning Aircraft Corporation, just outside of town. The factory has been closed for three months, while they tooled-up for a new model interceptor plane, for the Royal Air Force."
"I know," said Steve. "I saw something about it in the papers a few months ago. Manning Aircraft is to turn out three hundred of their new M-10 Interceptors, capable of power-diving at six hundred miles an hour. I thought they'd be in production by this time."
"They would have been," Martha Manning said, "except for one thing—the factory has been condemned by the Coast City Administration!"
"Condemned!" Steve exclaimed. "On what grounds?"
"They're going to use the land for a new park!"
"Have they the right to do that? After all, those planes are for national defense."
"The planes are for England," she told him. "Federal laws don't cover that."
"I see," he said thoughtfully. "So the city has the right to appropriate the factory, tear it down and build a park—as long as they pay the Manning Aircraft Corporation the value of the property."
"Exactly. But it would mean a loss of almost a million dollars to Manning Aircraft. Fred was fighting them tooth and nail in the courts. Last week, he told me he had found evidence which would force Yancey Jervis to give up the idea of condemning the property. He told me he had the evidence safely hidden, and that he was going to have a showdown with Jervis the next day. Jervis controls the political machine here in Coast City, and though he holds no elected office, everybody goes to see him when they want anything done."
"Did your brother see Jervis?"
"No. He was arrested that evening!"
"Yes. They've held him without bail on some trumped-up charge, and I can't even find out where he's being held." She paused, breathing hard, then burst out, "And not a lawyer in town will take the case!"
"They afraid of Jervis?"
She nodded. "Jervis can break anybody in this town that he wants to. Nobody dares oppose him."
"I see," Steve said reflectively. "And you want me to take the case?"
Her eyes were wide. "I—I don't know what to say, now. You look so young—I'm afraid to think of what they'll do to you—"
"Don't worry about that, Miss Manning," Steve said softly. "I am very happy to accept the case!"
"You're not afraid—"
He shrugged. "Afraid? Sure I am. But—"
"If you're afraid, pal," a hard, crisp voice said behind him, "then you better scram out of town on the next train!"
At the same time, a set of thick, powerful fingers wrapped themselves around his right arm, with a punishing, vise-like grip.
Slowly, Steve turned around.
IT was the man in the reversible raincoat. He towered above Steve like a giant, looking down at him out of narrowed, calculating eyes. His thick lips quirked in a twisted, sardonic smile. "I'm Sergeant Keppler, of the Downtown Squad, mister. This—" he jerked his head toward the other man, in the gray topcoat—"is Detective Hassett. We're telling you, mister, that no out-of-town shyster lawyers are wanted here. We're taking you right over to the ticket office, and you can buy yourself a ticket back to Boston—"
Twin points of fire flickered in Stephen Klaw's eyes. He glanced down at the thick, beefy fingers which gripped his arm, then up at Keppler.
"Take your hand off me!" he said softly, almost in a whisper.
Keppler's face flushed. "Don't get tough, punk—"
That was all he said, for Stephen Klaw suddenly went into action. He twisted sharply to the right, dragging Keppler forward. At the same time, his left fist came around in a blindingly swift arc, landing with a thud just behind the big man's right ear.
Keppler grunted, and staggered to one side with the force of the blow, releasing his hold on Klaw's arm. He fell forward, putting out both hands, and rested for an instant pushing down against the floor. Then his elbows buckled, and he went down, flat on his face.
No one, looking at Stephen Klaw's slim and wiry figure, would have deemed him capable of delivering such a powerful blow. But many a man had been deceived in the past by outward appearances. And no one had ever tangled with Stephen Klaw once, without watching his step in the future.
Steve heard a gasp from Martha Manning, and swung around in time to see the other man, Detective Hassett, coming at him. Hassett's face was twisted with rage, and he was clawing a blackjack out of his pocket.
Steve grinned thinly and set himself to meet the attack. But just then the big bulk of Johnny Kerrigan interposed itself between him and Hassett. Johnny's shoulder as if accidentally, jolted into Hassett's jaw, and then Johnny grabbed the big detective by the arm.
"Why, if it isn't my old friend. Joe Doke!" he shouted, slapping Hassett so hard on the back that the man almost doubled over. "How've you been all these years, Joe?"
Hassett almost spat with rage. "Get out of the way, you thick lug. My name ain't Joe Doke—"
Johnny winked at Steve, and slapped him again, harder.
"Sure you're Joe Doke. You can't fool me! Come on, I'll buy you a drink—"
Steve saw that a small crowd was gathering. Dan Murdoch was bending over the prone figure of Sergeant Keppler, and he was yelling, "Give him air! It's a heart attack!"
Steve winked back at Johnny, turned swiftly and took Martha Manning's arm.
"Let's get out of here!" he said, and led her away. None of the crowd had seen the inception of the brawl, and they didn't connect Steve and Martha with it at all. As they reached the street door, Steve heard Hassett shouting, "Damn you, you're obstructing the law—"
HE turned and saw that Johnny had a bear grip on the detective's arm, and was acting as if he were intoxicated, while Dan Murdoch was helping Keppler to his feet. He grinned, and pushed Martha Manning out into the street, and got her into a taxicab at the curb.
"Downtown!" he ordered.
The cab got going, and the driver asked over his shoulder, "Whereabouts downtown, mister?"
"Just keep driving," Steve told him. "I'll let you know later."
He turned and looked at Martha Manning, who was watching him, puzzled.
"I—I don't understand what happened," she gasped. "I thought those men were going to run you out of town, and then you had hit the one, and the big blond man took care of the other. Who—who is that big blond man?"
Steve grinned. "He's my interference. He and the dark, handsome lad. The three of us always work together. Their names are Kerrigan and Murdoch."
For a moment there was a vague look in her eyes, and then she gasped. "Kerrigan and Murdoch. And you're Klaw! Of course I've heard of you. Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw—the Suicide Squad. You—you're not a lawyer. You're G-men—"
"We're lawyers, too," Steve told her gravely. "Sometimes people forget that. A good many G-men are lawyers."
"But how did Jim come to send you—"
"The F.B.I. has been trying to get Jervis for a long time," Stephen Klaw told her. "Your cousin, Jim Raynor, knew that. So when he got your call, he contacted the Chief of the F.B.I., and made arrangements for me to come here."
"Oh!" There was suddenly a glad light in her eyes. "Then there's a chance for Fred? You'll help me get him free?"
"I'll do the best I can, Martha Manning. Just give me a lead of some kind. Who would know where they're holding your brother?"
Her shoulders sagged. "I've been everywhere—to the District Attorney, the Police Commissioner, even to Boss Jervis, himself!"
"And what did Jervis say?" Steve demanded tightly.
"He's too smooth to commit himself. But he gave me to understand that if I knew where Fred has hidden the evidence he gathered, I should turn it over to him, and then he would use his influence to have Fred released."
"Do you know where the evidence is hidden?"
"No. If I knew where it is, I'd give it up—because I think he'll—kill my brother otherwise!"
Steve laughed shortly. "Killing isn't so easy to get away with."
She waved her hand impatiently. "No, no, you don't understand. Jervis has a strangle-hold on the police department, on the District Attorney's office, and on almost every official department of the city. They obey him like a dictator. It would be easy for them to cook up a story that Fred was shot while attempting to escape. Jervis practically hinted as much to me."
"Ah!" said Stephen Klaw. "This begins to interest me!"
He leaned forward and pushed open the pane of glass which separated them from the driver's seat. "Take us down to police headquarters!" he ordered crisply, and slid the pane shut again.
Martha Manning stared at him, wide-eyed.
"That's suicide!" she gasped. "They'll—arrest you on some pretext, and beat the life out of you. That's why no lawyer in town would accept my case. Several attorneys who tried to buck Jervis hare landed in the hospital—"
"Maybe they won't have such an easy job with this attorney!" Steve said softly.
AS the cab threaded its way downtown, they saw several police cars dashing by, with sirens wide open, screaming signals blasting deafeningly against their eardrums. One of the cars sped north as they rode south, and their driver narrowly avoided a head-on collision. A little farther down, another squad car skittered around a corner on two wheels, and also headed north toward the station.
Martha Manning grew tense as she sat beside Stephen Klaw.
"I wonder what's happened—"
Steve reached up and switched on the radio. In a moment they got an announcer's voice:
"Coast City Police have broadcast an alarm for two thugs who viciously attacked a Detective Sergeant and a First Grade Detective in the Grand Concourse of Central Station a few minutes ago. The thugs surprised the two detectives, slugging them from behind, with no apparent motive. Then, taking the guns of the stricken detectives, they made good their escape through the railroad station. Though the identity of these thugs is as yet unknown, their quick capture is considered certain..."
"Good Lord!" Martha Manning gasped. "Those are your two partners—Kerrigan and Murdoch. They'll be shot down like dogs!"
Stephen Klaw chuckled, and shut off the radio.
"Don't worry about those two lads," he told her. "They know how to take care of themselves. They'll be right on deck when they're needed!"
Martha's lower lip was trembling just a little, with the faint hint of a hesitant smile. "I'm beginning to hope again," she whispered. "To hope that Fred may be saved!"
Steve wasn't listening to her. He was thinking. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. He leaned forward again, and slid the front pane open.
"Stop at the nearest phone!" he ordered.
The driver pulled in to the curb at the next corner, in front of a drug store.
"Wait here," Steve said, and pushed out of the cab. He entered the drug store, and slipped into a telephone booth. He took from his pocket a small typewritten sheet which had been furnished to him in Boston. It contained the private telephone numbers of some fifteen officials of Coast City. None of these numbers were listed in the phone book, but it had been easy for the F.B.I. to compile them.
Klaw dialed one of those numbers, and waited till he got the connection. Then he said, "Please let me talk with Mr. Yancey Jervis. It is on a matter of the utmost importance to him."
A voice at the other end asked cautiously, "Who's this calling, please?"
"Never mind who this is!" Steve snapped. "Put Jervis on—quick!"
There was a moment's pause, and then another voice said, "This is Jervis speaking. What can I do for you?"
"Hello, Mr. Jervis," Steve said, thickening his own voice just a bit. "I'm phoning to give you a tip—better release Fred Manning—pronto. There'll be hell popping if he isn't out in twenty minutes."
"Who are you?" Jervis demanded sharply.
"This is one of the guys that smacked your stooge detectives around, over at the railroad station a while ago. When Keppler and Hassett wake up, they'll tell you it isn't healthy to fool around with us. So take a tip—release Fred Manning!"
"I see," Yancey Jervis said slowly. "Now let me get this straight. You boys have come to town for the purpose of effecting Fred Manning's release—is that it?"
"That's one of our purposes," Steve said.
"And what are the others, if I may ask?"
Steve grinned. "We'll let you know in due time, Jervis. We like to work on one thing at a time. Right now, it's Fred Manning."
"I see. And you are the men whom the police are hunting in the vicinity of the railroad station?"
"That's right, Jervis. Only we aren't at the station any more. Now what do you say—do you release Fred Manning, or do we bear down on you?"
"Hold the wire a moment, please. The District Attorney—Mr. Clarence Bell—happens to be right here with me. I'll ask him what can be done. Hold on now—"
"Sure," said Steve. He grinned faintly and gently put the receiver down on the shelf alongside the phone, without hanging up. Then he stepped out of the booth and hurried swiftly back to the waiting taxicab.
Martha Manning watched him tensely as he climbed in.
"Okay," he said to the driver. "Straight for Police Headquarters now!"
As they turned the next corner, a police radio car streamed to a stop in front of the drug store they had just left. Also, the sound of another radio car siren cut through the air from the north.
Steve nodded in satisfaction, and winked at Martha.
"They're coming back," he said.
She asked breathlessly, "What—what did you do in there?"
"I called off the dogs from the Central Station. In five minutes, every police car up there, will be converging on that drug store. That'll relieve the pressure on Kerrigan and Murdoch, and give them a chance to make good their escape!"
Martha smiled happily, showing a dimple in each cheek.
"The Suicide Squad!" she said dreamily. "I've read about you, in magazine articles. They say you three are madmen, the way you take wild and unbelievable risks. But—I'm beginning to think there's method in your madness!"
"Thank you," Stephen Klaw said modestly. He turned on the radio again, but there was no more news. Five minutes more of steady driving through traffic, and they came in sight of police headquarters.
"Pull over and park across the street from headquarters," Steve ordered the cabby. "We're waiting for some one."
With the cab parked, Klaw turned on the radio once more.
"...on a tip from an influential citizen, the police sped, a few minutes ago, to a drug store on the East Side, in search of the two narcotic-maddened thugs who are terrorizing the city. One of these thugs had the audacity to telephone to the Honorable Yancey Jervis, demanding a huge sum as the price of safety. They threatened to kill Mr. Jervis if he did not pay over the money by midnight. Mr. Jervis, exercising great presence of mind, signalled his secretary to call police headquarters on another phone, while he endeavored to hold the gunman in conversation. The call was traced, but unfortunately, Mr. Jervis's ruse did not succeed. The gunmen had already fled. Police Commissioner Gilz states that their capture is only a matter of hours..."
Stephen Klaw laughed harshly.
"Jervis has a good imagination," he said. "He invented that ransom story out of whole cloth."
"You didn't demand ransom?" Martha asked.
"No. All I asked was that he release your brother. He couldn't very well make that public, so he made up the ransom story."
MARTHA MANNING shuddered. "I hate to think at what the police will do to your two friends if they catch them—and to you, too, for that matter. Commissioner Gilz used to be a labor spy racketeer. He was made Commissioner by Yancey Jervis, and then he brought in a small army of his hoodlums, and made then police officers and detectives. Now they're running the whole city as if it were their own private racket!"
Steve nodded, his lips tightly compressed. "We know all that. The Department of Justice has been watching Coast City for a long time. We know just how rotten it is—"
"And you haven't done anything about it?" she exclaimed. "You haven't tried to stop it—"
"Stop it? How could we? The F.B.I. has jurisdiction in federal offenses, but not in local matters. Kerrigan and Murdoch and I have no legal right to be here. We're acting as private citizens, not as Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
"Then why—why did you come at all? Surely not for my sake—"
"No, not for your sake alone, Martha Manning." Stephen Klaw hesitated, studying her with keen eyes, appraising her firm, youthful beauty, and the honest, candid way in which she met his glance.
"I'm going to trust you with a secret, Martha," he went on slowly. "Kerrigan and Murdoch and I would have come here anyway. There's something bigger in the fire than even your brother's life."
"Something bigger? I don't understand."
Steve Klaw lowered his voice. "The F.B.I. was going to start an investigation of Yancey Jervis's income-tax reports. We had enough information already, to indicate that it would be easy to indict him. And suddenly, yesterday, our Chief got a call from one of the key Senators in the United States Senate, the chairman of an important committee. That Senator literally begged the Chief to drop the investigation for the time being. He even offered to resign from the Senate if the Chief would lay off. He wouldn't give any reason for the request, but swore that it was a matter of life and death."
Martha's eyes were wide, open. "A senator! Which one?"
Steve smiled, and shook his head. "Let's call him Senator Blank. The Chief promised Senator Blank that he would drop the official investigation for the time being. But he sent Kerrigan and Murdoch and myself here to Coast City, to find out what was behind it. It just happened that your cousin contacted us about your call, and we decided we'd use your brother's trouble as a cloak for our own operations."
For a moment. Martha Manning was silent. Then she said bitterly, "Thanks for being so frank. Mr. Klaw. So all the hope I was beginning to feel was just a day-dream! You're not going to help me at all—"
"On the contrary, Martha Manning," Steve said softly, "I'm going to help you get your brother free. I promise that I'll do everything in my power to help you—on one condition."
"That you help me."
"Of course I will!" she said eagerly. "I'll help. I'll do anything you ask of me."
"It may be dangerous—"
"I don't care!"
"It's a bargain, then!"
SHE thrust out her hand like a man, and they shook. There was a hint of moisture in her eyes. "I—thought for a moment, when you told me about the other thing—that you were only using me as a tool, for your own ends. But now—I'm glad you've told me. I—begin to understand how you three men work!"
Steve grinned and pointed across the street. "There's an example of how we work!"
She followed his glance and frowned, looking at the small paneled truck which had pulled up in front of the Headquarters Building.
"I don't understand. That's just a Water Inspector's car. What has that to do with how you work? All I can see is a Water Inspector and an assistant, getting out. They must be going in to Headquarters to make an inspection—"
Suddenly she gasped, as she got a clear view of the two men who had descended from the Water Inspector's car. They were both attired in Sanitation Department uniforms, but as they turned deliberately and grinned across the street at Steve's cab, their faces were revealed under the visors of the uniform caps. They were the faces of Johnny Kerrigan and Dan Murdoch.
"I can't believe it!" she breathed. "With the whole city hunting them—they turn up here! And how could they have gotten the car and the uniforms—"
Steve chuckled. "They must have run into the car and its occupants, on one of the side-streets off the station."
"And they took the men's uniforms?"
"Sure. Why not? All's fair in war. The real inspectors are probably trussed up, inside the truck."
He leaned past her, poked his head out the window, and waved to them.
Kerrigan and Murdoch waved back. Dan jerked his thumb toward the entrance of the Headquarters Building, and Steve nodded. Johnny grinned, and took out a leather-bound notebook and pencil. He scribbled something on one of the pages, tore out the page and wadded it into a ball. Then he dropped it at the curb.
Kerrigan and Murdoch then turned and went up the steps of Police Headquarters.
Watching them, Martha Manning uttered a tremorous exclamation of fright.
"They're going inside! They're sticking their heads in the lion's mouth!"
"Sure," said Steve.
"But—but they're hunted men. They'll be shot on sight—"
"Not in Police Headquarters." Steve told her. "Nobody will think of looking for them there?" He took out a slip of paper, and a pencil. "Quick now. Give me your address!"
"Eight-fourteen Silver Street—"
"Right. Now tell me this—when you tailed your cousin, Jim Raynor, and asked for help, did you phone him from your home?"
"Then don't use your phone for any important calls. Be careful to say nothing about what I've told you!"
"Don't you see? Your cousin told you over the phone that he was sending you a lawyer, didn't he?"
"Did you mention it to anyone else?"
"Then why do you think Keppler and Hassett were waiting at the station? How do you think they knew I was the lawyer you were expecting?"
She stared at him with sudden dawning comprehension. "You mean—my wire has been tapped?"
"Of course! Jervis is no fool. Now listen to me carefully. I want you to go home, and wait for me—"
"No, no! I want to stay here. I want to help—"
"There's only one way you can help. By obeying orders. Don't forget that your brother Fred is being held incommunicado somewhere. They're probably torturing him, to make him reveal the hiding place of his evidence. Every minute that you delay me by arguing, may bring your brother a minute closer to death!"
She gulped, and her shoulders straightened. "I'm sorry, Stephen Klaw. I—I was a fool. I'll do whatever you say."
He smiled. "Good. Go home now, and wait till you hear from me. I'll either come, or I'll phone you—"
"But, you just said my wire is tapped—"
"I know. When the phone rings, you'll pick it up and say hello. I'll ask you if this is a certain number. The number I'll mention won't be your number. It'll be the number of the phone from which I'll be calling!"
"I see," she whispered, her eyes shining with excitement. "I'd never have thought of a trick like that in a thousand years—"
Steve brushed her remark aside, and hurried on. "You'll say, wrong number, and hang up. Then you'll go straight downstairs to a public phone booth, and call the number I mentioned. Do you get it?"
"I get it, Steve. I understand!"
"Okay, Martha. Good luck."
He pressed her hand, then he opened the door of the cab, and stepped out. He gave the driver a ten dollar bill.
"Take the young lady back uptown," he ordered, and started across the street toward the entrance of Police Headquarters.
As the cab started, Martha Manning looked back after his slim and wiry figure. Now her eyes were frankly wet.
"Good luck to you!" she whispered.
AT the curb in front of Headquarters, Stephen Klaw stooped to tie his shoelace, and picked up the wadded ball of paper which Johnny Kerrigan had dropped there for him. He smoothed it out and read:
Was it you who got all the cops off our tail, Shrimp? If so—nice work, lad. Watch your step coming inside. You may trip right over us. If the going gets tough, give the old bugle call. See you in hell.
Steve grinned, and tore the paper to bits. He dropped it under the Water Department truck, and went into Police Headquarters without looking behind him. The first thing he saw when he got inside was Johnny Kerrigan and Dan Murdoch, talking with the desk sergeant.
"We're new men on the Water Department," Johnny was saying in a loud, foghorn voice, "an' we says to the chief inspector, 'Why don't you send a couple of the other boys, who know their way around headquarters?' But the chief inspector says, 'Go on down there, you heels, an' check on the water pressure, an' don't argue!' So here we are!"
Johnny spread his hands helplessly. "What can you do with a guy like that?"
"That's what I say!" Dan Murdoch snorted. "We gotta find our way all over the damned building without a blueprint of the water lines—"
"So what do you want me to do about it?" the desk sergeant growled. "It's your headache. Go ahead. The building's yours."
He waved his hand in the direction of the rear. "You'll find all the lines and the meters in the cellar. Now scram, and don't bother me. Don't you see I'm busy?" He flipped his thumb at Stephen Klaw, who had come up to the desk and was standing there quietly, with his hat in his hand.
Johnny Kerrigan turned around and gave Steve a cold stare.
"Huh!" he said, nudging Dan Murdoch. "The guy's a lawyer. I can tell by the way he holds his hat. I bet you he's a lawyer."
"Nuts," said Murdoch, his eyes twinkling. "He looks to me like an insurance salesman. All insurance salesmen are shrimps."
"You're crazy," Johnny protested. "The guy I bought my last policy from was six-foot-two. This guy is a lawyer, I'm a good judge of human stature. Mister—" he appealed to Steve—"are you a lawyer, or ain't you? I'll just be a buck that..."
"My profession," Steve said with frigid dignity, "is that of attorney and counselor-at-law. And now, perhaps you will step out of the way and go about your—Dr—business, while I speak with the sergeant!"
"Sure, sure," Johnny said, and took Dan by the arm. The two of them disappeared toward the rear of the building.
Half a dozen plain-clothes detectives were lounging around the place, waiting for calls, while a small group of men were listening to a portable radio in a corner. Behind the desk sergeant there was a switch-board with a police officer on duty. None of these men had the appearance of bona-fide law-enforcing officers. Steve was reminded of what Martha had told him—how Commissioner Gilz had imported hoodlums and given them uniforms.
Nothing of what he thought showed in his face as he met the inquiring gaze of the desk sergeant. He took out one of his legal cards, and handed it across the desk.
"I should like to speak with Commissioner Gilz," he said primly. "At once."
The sergeant inspected the card, and frowned.
"S. Klaw. Counselor-at-law," he read. "From Boston, eh? What'd you want to see the Commissioner about?"
"I have been retained," Steve said, "to represent a young man who has been arrested—Frederick Manning!"
THE desk sergeant almost jumped out of his chair. A startled murmur rose from the men who were lounging around. Suddenly, Steve found that three or four of them had moved in close, so that they formed a semicircle behind him.
Steve put his hat back on his head, and slipped his hands into his coat pockets.
The desk sergeant frowned, and shook his head faintly at the men who had closed in. Then he said to Steve, "You came all the way from Boston to handle Fred Manning's case?"
"That is correct."
"Who hired you?"
"That, my good man, is none of your damned business!"
"I said that it was none of your damned business!" Steve said firmly. "No one has the right to demand that information of an attorney. You are exceeding your rights, and I shall make it a point to mention the matter to Commissioner Gilz."
"All right, Counselor, you don't have to get mad." The sergeant grinned slyly, and winked at his men. "I was just wondering what time you arrived in Coast City, and whether there was anyone to meet you at the station. I suppose its Manning's sister who hired you."
Steve appeared to consider the matter, and then he shrugged. "It isn't really important. I may as well tell you that I came at the request of Miss Martha Manning. There was some sort of fracas at the station, and I was separated from her, so I came down here alone. And now, if you please, I must insist on seeing Commissioner Gilz."
"Okay, Counselor, okay. I'll take you to him myself!"
The desk sergeant got up and came around in front of the desk, and took Steve by the arm. "This way—"
He led the way almost at a trot, to the stairs, and up to the mezzanine. There were a number of offices here, and he stopped before one of them, on the door of which was lettered only the single word: Private.
He knocked twice, and the door was immediately opened by a scrawny man in an alpaca jacket, who was viciously chewing on a toothpick. Steve got a glimpse of the interior of the room. He saw five or six men seated around a desk. Most of them were in police uniform, with gold bars on their shoulders. They would be Captains and Inspectors. Seated at the desk facing those officers was a man with a coarse, thick-featured face, and a pendulous lower lip. Steve recognized that man from pictures in the F.B.I. files, as Grover Gilz, the former labor spy racketeer, and present Police Commissioner of Coast City. This must be a conference which they had interrupted. This was borne out by the man in the alpaca jacket at the door.
"What the hell do you want, Sergeant Wister?" he demanded of Steve's escort.
"Weren't you told the Commissioner was in conference with the department heads?"
"I know, Inspector Simpkin," Wister said. "But this is important. This guy—" nodding at Steve—"is a lawyer named S. Klaw, from Boston."
"So what?" Simpkin demanded, wiggling the toothpick with his lips, and sort of talking around it. "So what?"
Wister looked triumphant. "He's the lawyer that Martha Manning hired to defend her brother."
Simpkin took the toothpick out of his mouth, and looked at Steve.
"Well, well!" he said, and stepped to one side. "Come right in, Mr. S. Klaw, of Boston!"
"A pleasure," said Steve, and stepped into the room, with his hands dug deep in his pockets.
Wister came in after him, quickly, and pushed the door shut, locking it behind them.
STEPHEN KLAW moved over to one side, with his back to the wall, and faced the group of police officials, who were all staring at him.
"I must apologize for interrupting your conference, Commissioner, but I owe it to my client to demand that he be arraigned before a judge at once, or else released!"
Commissioner Gilz came slowly to his feet. His face was heavy with anger.
"Counselor," he said, "it's too bad you didn't meet the reception committee I sent down the station to wait for you. But I can tell you what message they had for you. Would you like to hear it?"
Klaw smiled with his lips, but not with his eyes. "No, my dear Commissioner, it will be unnecessary for you to tell me. I know what they were there for. It was their job to see that I bought a return ticket to Boston, and left at once."
"Ah!" said Gilz. "So you know!"
"Yes," Steve told him. "I know. But please note that I'm still in Coast City."
There was suddenly a dead silence in the room as the assembled men watched the slim, youthful looking visitor who had not yet removed his hands from his pockets.
"Meaning what?" Gilz repeated.
"Meaning that it'll take more than you and your whole damned department to run me out of town, Gilz. I'm staying till Manning is released. I want to know where you're holding him, and on what charge."
Gilz studied him for a long, tense minute. Then he said abruptly, "You're no shyster lawyer. I can judge men. You look young, but you're tough. Tough, and Big Time."
He paused a moment, then rested his hands on the desk and leaned forward. "Just who are you?"
Steve's eyes were veiled. "Only a lawyer from Boston, Commissioner. Only a lawyer from Boston, who's going to get Fred Manning out of jail—even if I have to pull your town apart to do it!"
Gilz had a puzzled glint in his eyes. He looked around the room at the others, as if asking their opinion.
Inspector Simpkin, who had stood chewing his toothpick and saying nothing, spoke now for the first time.
"I think this guy is from a Boston mob. They may be trying to muscle in. We could fingerprint him, and get the lowdown." He spat out the toothpick, and grinned. "That's where we got the advantage over mobs in other towns. We can use police facilities!"
There was a murmur of assent from the others.
Commissioner Gilz nodded. "A good idea, Simpkin. Grab him, boys, and we'll take his prints. Then we'll throw him in a cell till we get his record. A couple of you boys can work on him in the meanwhile, to sort of tame him, and make him talkative."
The uniformed men sprang up from their chairs and at the same time Simpkin and Wister moved in toward Steve.
Steve didn't attempt to escape. He merely leaned back against the wall, and took his hands our of his pockets. In each of them there was a black, ugly little automatic. He snicked off the safety catches, and held the two guns level, at his hips. He smiled tolerantly at the men who were crowding slowly, menacingly toward him.
"Sure," he said. "Come and get me, boys!"
His hands had slid out of his pockets so smoothly and easily, that they hadn't known what he was doing until they saw the black holes of the guns gaping at their stomachs. Somehow, they hadn't expected anything like that from the slim and youthful looking attorney—in spite of the fact that he had talked so tough. And his seemingly unhurried, almost casual attitude had fooled them.
The rush to seize him stopped short, as if they had come up against an invisible wall. Wister and Simpkin backed away into the others, with their hands well away from their bodies. But those behind began clawing for guns.
Steve's eyes were everywhere at once. He saw those in back reaching for weapons, and he saw Grover Gilz swooping down toward a drawer in his desk.
Steve smiled bleakly and raised his left hand gun. He pointed it over the heads of the men, and fired two shots into the pane of the high window behind Gilz's back.
Almost at once, as if it had been an awaited signal, every light in the room went out.
THE sudden blackness which enveloped that room was all the more terrifying because of its unexpectedness. There were gasps of dismay, almost drowned out by the bouncing echoes of Steve's two shots, which were still rolling from wall to wall. Some one shouted. "Cover the door! He's got friends somewhere in the building. They pulled the main switch!"
Steve chuckled soundlessly, and reached over, pawing in the dark for the door. He found the catch, which Wister had locked, and twisted it open. Then he turned the knob swiftly, and yanked the door wide. The mezzanine outside was in pitch darkness, as was the rest of the building. From somewhere out in the main foyer, a man's voice sounded, cursing methodically.
Within the room, as Steve hugged the wall, there was a rush of feet toward the door. No one of those uniformed officials dared to switch on a flashlight, for they had seen the guns in Klaw's hands, and they had no wish to draw his fire. But from the direction of the desk came Grover Gilz's thick, angry voice: "The door, you fools! He's making his getaway!"
Most of the uniformed officials were already through the door, feeling their way out into the hall. The others followed.
Steve was already most of the way around the room, following the wall. Gilz foolishly revealed his exact position by bawling further orders in the dark. Steve followed his voice as if it were a radio beam, with his guns thrust out before him. He felt the muzzle of his left-hand gun suddenly poke into a yielding body, and Gilz's angry voice was transformed into a frightened gasp. The man recoiled in the dark, and Steve came in after him swiftly, slapping at where he guessed his head to be with the muzzle of his right-hand gun. He felt the end of the barrel graze against bone, and there was a grunt, then a crash as Gilz tumbled over his own chair.
Steve dropped one of the guns in his pocket, and brought out a small flashlight. He flicked it on, turned the beam down upon the unconscious form of the Police Commissioner, huddled on the floor, tangled up with the chair.
Out in the hall, men were shouting, cursing, swearing. Many of them had now produced flashlights, and the mezzanine out there was criss-crossed with stabbing beams of light. Steve sprang over to the door, pushed it shut, and turned the catch. Some one in the hall shouted, "Hey! He's in the Commissioner's office! He's locked the door!"
There was a tumultuous rush of feet outside, and men's bodies crashed against the door. But it did not give.
Stephen Klaw paid no attention to the pounding against the door. He hurried to the window, and leaned out. He saw a pair of headlights swing around the corner from the street in front of the building, saw the Water Inspector's truck moving slowly toward him, with the headlights blinking. Steve grinned, and took out his flashlight. He flicked it on and off three times, and the headlights stopped blinking. The truck veered in sharply, jumped the curb, and pulled up to a halt on the sidewalk, directly beneath his window. Johnny Kerrigan leaned out from behind the wheel and yelled, "Hiya, Shrimp?"
"Okay, Mope," Steve called. "Stand by to receive cargo!"
"Aye, aye, Shrimp!" came Dan Murdoch's voice. Murdoch jumped out from the other side, where he had been sitting beside Johnny, and climbing lithely up onto the roof of the truck. Steve had already stooped down and picked up the inert form of Police Commissioner Gilz. Although Gilz was a heavy man, Steve swung him easily over the window sill. Murdoch's shoulders came level with the sill, and it was simple for him to receive the unconscious Commissioner, and to lower him down to Johnny Kerrigan, who had climbed out from under the wheel.
Stephen Klaw said, "Wait a minute, Dan," and went back to the Commissioner's desk. Men were still smashing at the door, but he didn't even glance in that direction. He went swiftly through each of the drawers in turn, with the aid of his flashlight. In one of the drawers he found a folder marked "Manning." In another drawer he found a long white envelope, on which there was no mark whatever. By the feel of it he could tell what it contained, not papers, but just two keys. He was intrigued by that envelope, and he stuck it in his pocket. There was no time now for further search, for he heard one of the men in the hall shout, "The window! Get around to the outside!"
STEVE took the folder, and climbed out of the window. He stepped out on to the roof of the truck, then vaulted down to the sidewalk.
Johnny Kerrigan had already loaded the unconscious body of Commissioner Gilz into the interior of the truck. He was seated behind the wheel, ready to go. Dan Murdoch slapped Steve on the back, and they both climbed up alongside Johnny.
"Nice work," said Steve. "I think we are through here."
"In that case," Johnny Kerrigan said gravely, "we might as well go away—"
"Fast," said Dan Murdoch.
"Right," said Johnny, and gave her the gas. The truck leaped off the sidewalk and sped down the street under Johnny's expert guidance. In a moment they had rounded the next corner, and were speeding uptown.
"Did you boys check the water pressure down there?" Steve asked.
"We never got to it," Murdoch said ruefully. "Imagine our embarrassment when we ran into the electric light fuses. When you started giving the bugle call with your guns, we had just found the fuse box. There were twenty-eight fuses altogether and it would have taken too long to pull them all out, one at a time, so I just yanked the lead wire out, terminals and all. I'm afraid they won't have any light in headquarters for quite a while!"
Steve was examining the Manning folder, holding it under the dashlight. It contained all the papers in the Manning case, which Gilz had evidently taken from the official flies, and kept secret. Steve looked through them quickly.
"It seems they're holding Fred Manning on a charge of 'Conspiracy', which doesn't mean a thing. He was committed on a short affidavit, signed by the arresting officer. By using the short affidavit, they don't have to give the details of the crime with which he is charged, until he is arraigned."
"And if nobody makes them arraign him," Dan said, "they can hold him for the rest of his life!"
"It's a nice racket they've got!" Johnny growled. "Does that folder show where they're holding him?"
"No," said Steve. "There's nothing—"
He paused, and bent down to examine a penciled telephone number on the cover of the folder. And just as he bent his head, something went ping, and then crunch, and a hole appeared in the windshield at a spot equidistant between himself and Dan Murdoch. A thousand crinkly little wrinkles appeared in the glass. And almost at once, more pings sounded, and more holes blossomed in the windshield. They formed a straight line, coming down toward Steve's head. At the same time, the rat-tat-tat of a machine-gun began to crackle from somewhere behind them.
Without taking the time to think about it, Johnny Kerrigan slewed the truck over to the right, stepping down hard on the gas as he did so. The truck leaped ahead like a wounded jackrabbit, and Johnny straightened her out again with the motor roaring.
Stephen Klaw had his gun out, and was leaning far over on his side, peering at the police car which was coming up fast, behind them. A man on the running-board in police uniform had a sub-machine gun at his shoulder, and it was from this weapon that the streamer of bullets was coming. Only the fact that Johnny Kerrigan had veered the truck to suddenly had saved their lives. The police car had been creeping up on them from the left, and Johnny's sudden maneuver had put them behind. The driver of the police car swung his wheel around sharply to regain his same relative position, and that caused the machine-gunner on the running-board to lose his target for the moment. The rest of the burst went wild.
But the gunner, with one arm wrapped around the window-frame of the car, grimly swung his weapon around, sighting it for another burst.
STEPHEN KLAW, hanging far out of the cab of their truck, flipped up his automatic and snapped two quick shots at the front tires of the speeding police car. He hit with both bullets, but nothing happened. The police car continued on its rocket-like course in their wake. Steve frowned. Those tires were solid.
There was only one more thing to do, and he did it. He raised the automatic, sighted carefully at the machine-gunner, and pulled his trigger just a split-instant before the man squeezed the trip of the machine-gun.
Steve's gun barked, flame lanced from the muzzle, and the bullet smashed into the fellow's left shoulder. The man uttered a screech, and let go his hold on the window frame. He toppled backward off the running-board, to land on his back in the roadway, and the machine-gun skittered across the street.
But the police car did not stop. Another man poked his head out of the window, with a riot gun his hands. Steve saw the man rest the riot gun on the windowsill and turn the muzzle directly toward them. The truck was losing to the police car. The distance between them was diminishing; those squad cars were built for speed, and the Water Department truck was not. Steve saw the black muzzle come closer. There was not enough of the gunner's face visible to shoot at, so Steve fired three times, fast, at the windshield. But his slugs flattened themselves against the car's bullet-proof glass.
Now the police car was within range of the riot gun. At this point-blank distance, the steel shot in the charge would smash through the cab of the truck, and riddle all three of them.
"You'll have to crash 'em, Johnny!" Klaw yelled to Kerrigan, and swung back inside the tab.
Johnny Kerrigan nodded grimly, and yanked the wheel hard over to the left, stepping down on the brake at the same time. The truck slewed over to the left and the tires screamed and sizzled. The truck stopped with a shock as if it had hit a brick wall, squarely in the middle of the street, in the path of the oncoming police car.
Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw had braced themselves for the impact, but they were nevertheless thrown forward against the windshield by the sudden jolt.
They heard a yell of fright from the police car, and Steve saw the vehicle veer crazily over to the left as the driver made a frantic attempt to avoid hitting them. Steve saw the driver's face for a moment, contorted with fear. Then the police car sped past them. The man had managed to miss them by a breath. But he did not avoid disaster. For he had lost control of the wheel, and the police car mounted the sidewalk, bounced high, twisted in the air, and came down with a crash against the brick wall of a bank building at the corner.
The door jarred open, and men tumbled out. There were four of them, and they all had guns in their hands, but they were dazed and shocked, and they had no desire to use their weapons. They merely stumbled about in a daze, as if they were drunk.
Stephen Klaw turned to Kerrigan. "That was a nice piece of work, Johnny. Don't you think it was a nice piece of work, Mr. Murdoch?"
Dan grinned. "The power of brawn over brains. Now you and I, Mr. Klaw, could never have turned that wheel like that, with just our brains."
"That's right," he said. "With our brains, and Johnny's muscle, we ought to be elected president some day."
"Aw, go to hell!" Johnny grunted, as he stepped on the starter and backed the truck up, then swung it around and headed it down the street.
A crowd was coming on the run, but no one attempted to stop them as they raced out of the block.
JOHNNY drove three blocks south, then turned east and parked in a dark factory street over near the river. He turned off the ignition, and wiped sweat from his forehead.
"Well," he grinned, "I guess we can't use our pretty Water Department truck any more."
Steve shook his head. "I guess not. Too bad there's no radio in here. They must have broadcast an alarm for us at once. Every prowl car in the city will be on the lookout for this truck."
They got out and went to the rear, where Johnny opened the back doors. Within, were the trussed up water inspectors, as well as the still unconscious Commissioner Gilz.
"You must have hit him pretty hard," Dan said.
"I only tapped," Steve protested. "He ought to be coming out of it any minute now."
"Well, we can't wait," said Dan.
Steve got some lengths of wire from the interior of the truck, and proceeded to tie the Commissioner securely. In the meantime, Johnny and Dan got their civilian clothes out of the truck, and changed over from the uniforms, which would no longer be of use to them.
Johnny laid the discarded uniforms down alongside the two water inspectors, who were watching everything with detached interest, not even making an effort to remove their gags, nor struggle at all.
Steve noted this strange attitude on their part, and asked Murdoch about it.
Dan grinned. "These boys are all right. We gave them each a hundred bucks out of our expense money, to sort of keep them happy. They say they'd like to do this seven days a week at that price."
"We could release them now," Steve said.
Dan Murdoch shook his head. "They want to be found tied up. They're afraid of what Gilz and those other police thugs would do to them if there was a suspicion they had allowed us to tie them up."
Steve finished gagging the unconscious Gilz with his own socks and garters, and then said to the water inspectors. "You boys can entertain him when he comes to!"
They waved to the two willing prisoners, and climbed down off the truck. Johnny closed the back doors once more, and turned off the headlights. The truck was left in darkness.
"It'll be found pretty soon," he said. "They'll comb every street in town in the next couple of hours."
"Let's go, Mopes," said Stephen Klaw.
AS they walked west, he showed them the penciled telephone number on the cover of the Manning folder. "It's just possible that this is the number of the station house where they're holding Manning. Wait here and I'll go across to that candy store and look it up in the phone book."
He went into the store, and consulted the Directory. Under "Coast City—Police Department" he found a list of the Police Precincts. The number he was looking for was Winchester 4-3618. But it wasn't listed for any of the station houses. They were all under the single heading of police headquarters, and their calls cleared through the headquarters switchboard at Center I-1000.
Steve gave up in disgust, and went out again. "It's not in the book," he told Dan and Johnny. "We've got to try some other way of locating Manning."
"What about the other thing we're working on?" Johnny asked. "What about this Senator?"
Steve shrugged. "That's a blank wall, as far as we're concerned. There's no way we can find out why he wanted us to call off the investigation, outside of asking Jervis. So we might as well work on the Manning angle. Besides—" he grinned sheepishly—"I promised Martha I'd help her."
"Oh! So it's Martha and Steve now, is it? Ain't you the handsome Romeo! I thought that department was reserved for Dan!"
"Don't mind him, Steve," Dan Murdoch said soothingly. "He's just a jealous lug. Because no dame will even spare a second glance for that hulking hunk of horseflesh. Don't let him bother you at all. You just go ahead and marry the girl if you want to."
"Go to hell!" said Stephen Klaw, and started to walk away. "I'm going to find Fred Manning."
Johnny and Dan rushed after him, and each of them took an arm.
"Perish the thought!" Dan exclaimed. "We couldn't let Martha's little Stevie go off by himself and get hurt. We better stick close and see that nothing happens to you."
Steve grinned. "All right. When you two Mopes get through horsing around, maybe we can get some action."
They grew serious at once, and stopped their bantering.
Another block, and they came to a Diner.
"Let's go in here," said Steve. "We can get a cup of coffee while you phone."
There were a couple of cars parked in front of the diner, and the place was fairly well filled. As they stepped inside, they heard the radio blaring:
"The hue-and-cry is still in full swing for the gunmen who are still terrorizing the city. Their abduction of Commissioner Gilz, and a running fight with a squad car, climaxed an evening of ruthless depredations on the part of these thugs. It is now known that there are three of them, one posing as an attorney, and the other two as water inspectors. It is thought, however, that they must have discarded the water inspector masquerade by this time.
"All avenues of exit from the city are watched. Escape is impossible. Orders have been issued to the police to shoot on sight. One of our most Public-spirited citizens—Yancey Jervis—has offered ten thousand dollars out of his own pocket, for the capture of these killers—dead or alive!"
The dining car was buzzing with conversation as Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw entered. Dan and Johnny sat down at the counter and ordered coffee, while Steve went over to the wall phone.
Steve dialed Tiffany 2-3647. He waited while the buzzer sound was repeated again and again. His eyes became bleak, and his lips tightened to a thin line. There was no answer.
At last he hung up, and made his way straight out of the Diner. Kerrigan and Murdoch followed in a minute, and met him outside. One look at his face told them there was trouble.
"What's up, Shrimp?" Dan demanded.
"Martha Manning doesn't answer her phone," Steve said.
"Let's go, then!" Kerrigan boomed.
THEY got a cab, and five minutes later they were at Silver Street. They paid off the driver a block away from number 814, and walked the rest of the way. But they did not walk together. This was war, now. It was the kind of thing they knew all about, the kind of thing they did instinctively. They approached Martha Manning's building in the manner of an advancing army moving into hostile and possibly ambuscaded country.
Dan Murdoch faded down an alley to approach it from the rear. Stephen Klaw walked swiftly, carelessly, toward the front entrance. Across the street, in the shadows, Johnny Kerrigan covered him, with a gun in his hand.
Number 814 was a self-service elevator apartment house of the medium class.
There was a car parked in front of the door, with a man at the wheel and another one in the back. A third man was lounging against the doorway, smoking a cigarette.
Stephen Klaw seemed to pay no attention to them. With his hands dug deep in his coat pockets, he turned in to the entrance.
Immediately, the man with the cigarette moved over and barred his way, bringing a gun out. At the same time, both doors of the car came open, and the two men from within, leaped out. They rushed in to take Steve from the rear.
Klaw didn't turn around. He faced the man in front of him, who was thrusting a revolver into the pit of his stomach, with his finger tightening on the trigger. Klaw fired the right-hand automatic through the cloth, without taking it from his pocket. The slug took the man in chest, hurling him backward through the apartment house doorway. At the same time, a heavy gun began to blast from across the street. The two men who had come up behind Stephen Klaw threw up their hands, spun around, and crashed to the ground.
Johnny Kerrigan came running over, grim-faced, with his revolver smoking.
"Let's go, Johnny!" Steve shouted, and they ran inside.
From somewhere in the rear, another gun blasted twice. A moment later, Dan Murdoch appeared through the rear Service Entrance at the back of the foyer. His gun, too, was smoking.
"Nice trap," he said, looking at Steve. "Those guys figured you'd show up here when you called Martha Manning and she didn't answer. Only they didn't expect to have the tables turned on them. Better hurry. There won't be much time now. The cops will be on top of us in no time."
Steve nodded, and stepped into the elevator. Johnny Kerrigan and Dan Murdoch took their stand in the foyer, where they could cover the front door as well as the rear. They weren't taking any chances on Steve's escape being cut off when he came down.
Klaw slid the door of the cage shut, and sent it up to the third floor. Martha had told him she lived in apartment 3-A, and he went right to that door, with his right hand in his coat pocket.
The door was not locked. He kicked it open, and leaped inside, whirling as he came through the doorway. A black, shadowy figure loomed in the dark foyer, and a gun blasted almost in his face. The bullet sang its futile message of hate, nicking his ear. If he hadn't been coming in so fast, it would have caught him square in the face.
Steve fired from his pocket, and the dark figure toppled backward, into the corner behind the door. It remained there a moment, teetering, and then slid down to the floor.
STEVE didn't stoop to inspect the body. He knew just where he had hit that man. He had aimed for his heart, and he knew the fellow was dead.
He felt along the wall, found the electric light switch, and turned it on. Light flooded the foyer and the living room, and Steve sucked in his breath. Martha Manning had put up a fight, no doubt about it. A desk near the window was overturned, and the chair lay alongside it. The drapes had been pulled down from the window, and they lay in a little, pitiful heap on the floor. In the middle of the room there was a broken decanter, and the green rugs stained with a splotch of deep purple. Steve bent and smelled it. It wasn't blood. It was sherry from the decanter.
Of Martha Manning there was no trace. After he went through the bedroom and the bathroom, Steve breathed a sigh of relief. He had feared to find her body. He was glad to find that she had been taken away.
He knew that there wasn't any time to examine the room, but he threw a hasty glance around, and spotted a queer scrawl in vermilion, along the white baseboard next to the window. He stepped over there quickly. Strips of curtain lay here, discarded, and Klaw surmised that the hoodlums had used some of them to tie Martha Manning. She must have lain here while they tore the strips, and they had thought she was unconscious. But she hadn't been, for she had scrawled a message with her finger, wet from the Vermilion wine.
The message consisted only of a blurred telephone number, and if Steve hadn't seen that number before, he would never have recognized it.
It was Winchester 4-3618—the same number which was written on the cover of the Manning file!
He took one look at the number to check it and make sure it was the same. Then he sprang up and raced out of the apartment. Tenants were poking their heads out of other doors on the floor, but they quickly ducked in again when they saw him tearing out. He stepped in to the elevator cage and sent it scooting down to the main floor.
As he stepped out into the foyer he heard a heavy revolver explode, and then another and another. Kerrigan and Murdoch were at the front entrance, exchanging shots with uniformed men in the street. Just as Steve came into the foyer, he saw the rear Service Entrance open, and two men push in, with guns in their hands. They turned those guns upon the unsuspecting back of Kerrigan and Murdoch, but they never fired them, for Stephen Klaw's automatics both began to bark their dangerous dirge of death. The two attackers went down under his blasts, and Johnny and Dan turned around to see the finish.
Their own fight was over. They had wounded one of the uniformed men in the leg and the other in the arm, and there was no more fight left in them.
KERRIGAN, Murdoch and Klaw raced out of the building to the police car out of which those two men had come. Johnny took the wheel once more, and sent the car speeding out of the block, just as another radio car siren came screaming from the other direction.
Steve told them swiftly what he had found upstairs.
"Jervis' crowd has Martha Manning at the same place where they're holding her brother, Fred. We've got to locate it—Winchester 4-3615!"
"There's only one way to do it," Dan Murdoch said. "That's to ask the Telephone Company."
"We'd have to say we're G-men," Johnny objected, with his hands gripping the wheel, and his foot pressing down on the gas. "What about Senator Blank? What about his request—that we keep..."
"To hell with Senator Blank!" Steve snapped. "We've got to get to Martha and her brother!"
"Okay!" said Johnny. "I know just where the Telephone Company is. We passed it before."
No one thought to stop their police car as Johnny sent it speeding through the city streets. In less than five minutes he pulled up at the side entrance of the Telephone Company Building on Broadway. Johnny and Steve waited in the car while Dan Murdoch hurried inside. They were alert, watchful now. This was almost in the center of town, and there was plenty of excitement all about them. Police cars were scurrying past, and any one of them might stop to ask questions. Radios were blasting from every passing car, as people listened for more news of the three "desperados" who were terrorizing the town. Their own radio began to splutter, and then the headquarters announcer's voice came in staccato rhythm: "Calling all cars! Go to East End. Shooting in Silver Street. Cooperate to bottle up district. Three desperados still at large. Remember orders—shoot at sight!"
Just as the announcer finished and began to repeat the orders, Dan Murdoch came out of the Telephone Building. He nodded, and crowded into the seat alongside Steve.
"I've got it!" he said. "Drive uptown, Johnny, and out on Route Two!"
As Kerrigan tooled the car up through traffic, passing red lights indiscriminately, Murdoch said crisply, "It's the airplane factory! The Manning Aircraft Corporation! The plant has been closed down by condemnation proceedings, and only a watchman appointed by the city has been on duty for the past week. They had the regular phone discontinued, and put in this private, unlisted wire!"
"Ah!" said Stephen Klaw. He took out his automatics and inserted fresh clips in them, while Dan Murdoch loaded his own two revolvers. Then Steve took Johnny's revolvers and inserted fresh cartridges for him.
"All set!" he said grimly.
THE Manning Aircraft Corporation was eight miles out of town, on Route Two. Johnny slowed up when they came over the last rise in the road, about a mile away. He switched off the headlights, and watched the white line in the center of the road as a guide. Johnny had done a lot of night driving without lights. He seemed to have a special, instinctive feel for the road.
Though there was not even a sliver of moon to increase visibility, he nosed that squad car down into the very shadow of the tall wire fence which encircled the Manning Aircraft grounds. The main factory building, and an auxiliary hangar for storing assembled planes prior to shipment, were down at the far end of the grounds. Between themselves and the building there was a wide landing field, equipped with beacons and landing lights, none of which were now in operation. A couple of lights shone in the windows of the auxiliary storage hangar.
Stephen Klaw pointed across the field toward the hangar.
"That's where we want to get, Johnny."
"Get the gate open," Johnny said, "and I'll take you there."
Steve nodded, and climbed out of the car. He walked over to the gate and inspected it. It was locked on the inside, securely fastened by a great bulldog padlock. Steve looked the padlock over for a moment. Then, extracting a certain instrument from his pocket, he deftly opened the lock. He grinned, and swung the gate wide open. Then he ran over and jumped on the running-board. Dan got on the opposite running board, and Johnny swung the car in through the gate. He kept the headlights off, and aimed straight for the auxiliary hangar.
Though he had been very careful not to warn those within the plant of their approach, Johnny made no effort at concealment when he reached the great rolling door of the hangar. Those doors were closed, but there was a small door at either side.
Dan and Steve jumped off the still moving car, and each of them made for one of those doors. Kerrigan brought the squad car to a stop and followed.
Dan Murdoch's door was locked, but one which Stephen Klaw tried, gave under his hand. He pushed it open, while Dan and Johnny quietly joined him.
They stopped short in the shadows just inside, staring in amazement at that which was revealed within. At one side, the fuselages of six trim fighting planes were stacked in a row, occupying almost all of one wall. Opposite, there was the almost completed shape of a fully assembled Manning M-110. Near the door there was new machinery which had been delivered at the plant, but which there had apparently not been time to install before they were closed down by Jervis' order.
But it was not all this which claimed the attention of the three G-men. What held their eyes riveted in angry amazement was the scene in the center of the great floor. There lay the trussed-up form of a little girl, no more than ten years old. She was apparently drugged, for though she was breathing regularly, she did not attempt to move. Tied in a chair underneath a hoisting-hook, sat Martha Manning.
In another chair sat a thin, dark-haired young man who was unmistakably her brother. The resemblance was easy to notice in spite of the fact that Fred Manning had been pretty badly treated. There were cuts and lacerations about his face and upon the upper part of his body, which was stripped. He, too, was bound in the chair, and his head was sagging over weakly.
There were five men standing about them, apparently deeply absorbed in their work. Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw recognized all of them. Inspector Simpkin and Sergeant Wister were there, as well as two of the uniformed officials who had been present at the conference at Police Headquarters. The fifth man, none of them had seen tonight, but they had viewed pictures of him in Washington. He was Yancey Jervis!
SIMPKIN was standing behind Martha Manning's chair. He had the great hoisting hook in one hand. With his other he was forcing Martha's chin up.
"You talk now, Manning," he said to Martha's brother, "or you'll just sit here and watch your sister hoisted up in the air on this hook!"
The three G-men remained perfectly silent in the shadows, virtually invisible because of the bright light shining directly on the hideous scene.
Simpkin held the hook under Martha's throat, watching young Manning with the eyes of a hawk. Yancey Jervis was smoking a cigar, with furious intentness. He stepped over to Manning and grabbed him by the hair, yanking his head up.
"Look, damn you!" he growled. "Look at your sister! Look at that hook! Would you like to watch her hanging by it? It'll take her a while to die. You'll have to sit here all through it. Talk, you fool! Where did you hide that evidence?"
Manning appeared to be in possession of only half his senses. The torture to which they had subjected him during the last week must have weakened him terrifically.
"All right," he mumbled. "I'll—talk. I hid—"
"No, no, Fred!" Martha screamed. "Don't tell them. They'll kill us anyway. They'll never let us live. Because we know about little Nora French!"
Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw stiffened at the mention of the name of Nora French. So that little girl who was lying there trussed up was Nora French. And the name of the senator who had begged them to cut short the investigation of Yancey Jervis was Abner French. No wonder that Senator French had almost begged on his bended knees!
Johnny Kerrigan growled deep in his throat, and took a quick, impulsive step forward. But Stephen Klaw seized his arm.
"Wait, Johnny," he whispered.
Martha Manning was still begging her brother not to talk, but Inspector Simpkin put a great hand over her mouth, stifling her. He kept the hoisting hook poised under her throat.
Yancey Jervis paid no attention to her. He was watching young Manning for the first sign of weakening. "You've got to understand, Manning, that this means a great deal to me. I won't stop at a thing like murder—"
"No, damn you. I know you won't!" Fred Manning screamed. "You've killed others already. And you stand to make a million dollars if you close down my factory. The Germans promised it to you if you stopped production of my planes for Britain! I have the proof of it! I have the letter from Doktor Schmitz. I have it hidden—"
"Exactly!" Jervis cut in smoothly. "And Doktor Schmitz is coming here tonight to be sure I've got the letter back. You understand, Manning, you must give it to me. It is important evidence. With that letter, I could be convicted as a saboteur, and Doktor Schmitz would be exposed as an agent of the German government. So you see, my friend, your sister's life won't stand in the way."
He turned and peered toward the door. "I believe Doktor Schmitz and his men have already arrived. Is that you—"
"No," Said Stephen Klaw, stepping forward into the light. "This isn't Doktor Schmitz!"
AT the same time, Murdoch and Kerrigan fanned out on either side of him, and their guns began to speak in swift unison. Steve's two automatics cut down Yancey Jervis, while Kerrigan took care of Simpkin and his hoisting hook. Simpkin threw his hands up and fell backward, with two slugs through his throat, almost at the very spot where he had intended to insert the hoisting hook into Martha Manning's throat. Dan Murdoch, from the other side, sent a steady volley of slugs into the other men. Under that deadly hail of lead, fired from the guns of fighting men who had no mercy left in their hearts, the murderous and vicious crew of Yancey Jervis went down into utter extermination. The few straggling shots they managed to fire went wild, doing little damage—except for one bullet from the gun of Sergeant Wister. It was Kerrigan who got him, once in the shoulder, and once to the heart. He was spun around by that shoulder wound, and his gun went off by reflex action, though he was already dead on his feet. It was that bullet which smashed into the great drum of reserve gasoline at the far end of the hangar. There was a dull boom, and then great hungry tongues of flame shot upward, licking at the walls. In a moment, the rear of the great hangar was transformed into an inferno of roaring, fiery hell!
Swiftly, Stephen Klaw stooped and cut the bonds that held Martha Manning, while Kerrigan picked up the small, pitiful figure of little Nora French and carried her out to safety, two hundred feet from the hangar. Dan Murdoch slit at the bonds which held young Fred Manning, and had him free in a moment. Manning was now fully awake to the peril.
"The hangar!" he shouted. "I've got to get the chemical fire extinguisher. It can be stopped!"
He went careening crazily across the floor toward the small motor truck upon which was mounted the newly developed fire extinguisher capable of quelling all but the most advanced airplane fires. He mounted it and set the pump in motion, while Kerrigan and Murdoch ran to help him. Steve took Martha Manning by the hand and shouted above the throbbing roar of the fire, "Come on—I'll take you to the door!"
She started to follow him, but suddenly the terror and the strain which she had undergone took their toll. She wilted, and fell over in a dead faint.
Stephen Klaw cursed under his breath, picked her up in his arms. He started for the door and suddenly stopped short.
A small, compact group of men stood in that doorway, surveying the scene. These men all had the military bearing of men trained in the strictest and most ruthless army the civilized world has ever seen. In their lead stood a tall man with a monocle in his eyes, and a long-barreled Luger pistol in his gloved hand. The others, behind him, all had guns ready for action.
At a word from their leader, they moved into the hangar with military precision. Their faces were cold, merciless.
The monocled man swung his gaze toward the spot where young Manning was driving the chemical fire truck toward the blaze, and already shooting the liquid chemical into the heat of the fire. He raised his gun to aim at Manning. That chemical extinguisher would certainly put the fire out, and these men didn't want it out. Killing young Manning would do the trick.
Steve cursed, and dug one hand into his pocket, grasped the automatic which lay there. There was still a slug or two in the magazine, but, burdened with the inert body of Martha Manning, he could not pull the automatic out. He fired through the cloth, and his shot took the monocled man in the side. The man went down and his followers, uttering a great cry of rage, turned their fire upon Klaw.
These men must have guessed their superiority in ammunition, for they advanced in open formation, firing leisurely. Steve fired the remaining cartridges in his gun, damning himself for not remembering that Jervis had been expecting Doktor Schmitz and his men. He could have been prepared for this. The price of unpreparedness might be death for all of them, including Martha Manning. He swung her down to the ground and pulled out his other automatic. He fired twice more before the hammer clicked emptily. There had been shooting from behind him, but that also stopped now. He knew that Kerrigan and Murdoch were also out of ammunition. Half a dozen of the attacking Germans were down, but the remaining four, with Doktor Schmitz, wounded but still directing them, would wipe out the Suicide Squad.
STEPHEN KLAW smiled. Well, they had been asking for this for a long time. Now that it was here, he could meet it with a smile. He folded his arms and waited.
Suddenly, there was a cry from the advancing Germans, and they swung their guns to the left. Startled, Steve turned in that direction. He let an involuntary cheer escape from his lips. Though the fire was still not entirely under control, the extinguisher had accomplished a good deal, by limiting the flame to the far end of the hangar. But Dan Murdoch had found another use for the extinguisher truck. He had pushed Fred Manning to one side, and was driving straight for the Germans. And the nozzles were spurting their chemicals in long, power-driven streams!
The Germans fired again and again, but they could hardly see their target, because the spray from the nozzle mouths formed a sort of smoke screen around Dan.
Stephen Klaw sprang forward, and suddenly found Johnny Kerrigan at his side.
"Wow!" yelled Johnny.
They stooped and picked up guns dropped by the wounded Germans, and sprang forward to the attack. There was little left to do but mop up what Dan Murdoch had begun. He kept the chemical truck in action only until he was sure his partners had the situation well in hand, then he turned it around and headed it back into the fire.
Kerrigan and Klaw took three prisoners, including the monocled Doktor Schmitz. The rest died under their guns.
Twenty-five minutes later, with the fire department on the scene, and the fire under control, Klaw turned the drugged, pitiful little figure of Senator French's daughter over to a nurse.
He let Martha Manning kiss him on the lips, then he turned and looked sheepishly at Kerrigan and Murdoch. They winked at him solemnly, and turned and went out of the hangar. Steve's face grew red, and he squeezed Martha's hand and went out after them.
"Well, Stevie," Dan Murdoch said, "how do you like the taste of lipstick?"
"If you marry her," Johnny Kerrigan boomed, "you can settle down and make airplanes for the rest of your life. The girl must he worth a lot of dough. We'll come and see you once in a while—"
"If you two mopes would quit horsing around," Stephen Klaw growled, "we could get started back to Washington, and draw an assignment with some action!"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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