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EMILE C. TEPPERMAN

THE TUNNEL DEATH BUILT

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First published in Ace G-Man Stories, May 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-02-06

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Cover

Ace G-Man Stories, May 1941, with "The Tunnel Death Built"



Who had the power, the resourcefulness, and the organization to steal thousands of priceless weapons from Uncle Sam, and ship them secretly abroad? The mystery was a job for the inimitable Suicide Squad—Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw. But they were already waging a private, unofficial battle against Nicodemus Largo—the most invulnerable crime-king of them all!


TABLE OF CONTENTS


CHAPTER I. — DEATH RINGS THE DOORBELL

KERRIGAN, Murdoch and Klaw very seldom got a chance to spend any time in the comfortable little flat they rented in a quiet section of Washington, not far from the Department of Justice Building. In the last year or so they hadn't slept there more than ten or fifteen times.

Tonight, they were busy making a bookcase for the living-room, when the bell rang. Dan Murdoch was measuring a board for a shelf, while Johnny Kerrigan was sandpapering, and Stephen Klaw was mixing paint.

"I'll take it," said Dan. He closed the roll of metallic measuring tape and went to the door. Significantly, Klaw and Kerrigan both faced the door. Kerrigan put his hand on the heavy revolver in his shoulder holster, and Stephen Klaw's hand went into his trouser pocket. One thing was certain—these three would never be caught napping. The Suicide Squad had too many enemies ever to become careless.

Dan Murdoch opened the door, standing a little to one side. He didn't open it carefully and slowly. Instead, he pulled it wide open with a single sweep.

And then, all three of them gasped. The two people who were standing out there in the hall gave no evidence of menace to anyone. They were a woman and a girl. The woman was a prim, efficient-looking lady, attired in a neat tan suit. Upon the lapel of her jacket there was pinned a large button which read, "Travelers' Aid Society."

The girl had two long braids of deep black hair, which framed rosy cheeks. She was carrying a small overnight bag, and her large, dark, wide eyes were inquisitive and wondering as she looked from one to the other of the three men. She was about eight years old. She was wearing a tan sports coat. Tied by a red string to the top buttonhole of the coat was a large tag, which resembled a railway express tag.

"Er—haven't you made a mistake, madam?" Dan Murdoch stammered. "Were you looking for—"

"Mr. John F. Kerrigan!" the Travelers' Aid lady said primly. "That is one of the three names under the door bell."

"Ah, yes, of course. Mr. Kerrigan!" Dan turned and nodded toward Johnny. "Here is Mr. Kerrigan, madam."

Johnny put down the sandpaper. He came to the door, looking puzzled.

"Yes?" he asked.

The little girl looked up at him and smiled. The Travelers' Aid lady regarded his shirt sleeves with disapproval.

"Mr. Kerrigan, this little girl just arrived on the nine o'clock train from Houston, Texas. She has been consigned to you."

Johnny Kerrigan had been good-naturedly returning the girl's smile. Now the smile froze on his face.

"Did you say—consigned to me?"

"Exactly!"

The prim lady reached over and fingered the tag tied to the little girl's coat.

"See for yourself!"

Johnny bent clown and read the tag:


TRAVELERS' AID:

Please see that this young lady reaches
the home of Mr. John F. Kerrigan, at
1014 Blank Street, Washington, D. C.
Thank you.


Johnny looked bewildered. "Well, I'll be damned!"

"Please!" The Travelers' Aid lady frowned. "Such language! Remember, young man—there are ladies present!"

"I'm sorry!" Johnny exclaimed. "But—I don't understand—"


THE little girl's eyes suddenly filled with tears. "Don't you want me, Uncle Johnny? Aunt Martha said you'd be glad to take care of me."

"Now don't cry!" Johnny said hastily. He stepped forward and put a hand on the little girl's soft, dark hair, "Come right in, and we'll see what this is all about."

"Just a minute, young man!" the Travelers' Aid lady said suspiciously. "It appears there has been a mistake. You don't know this girl?"

"Well, no—"

"And you don't know any Aunt Martha?"

"No—"

"Then she's a stranger to you?"

"I'm afraid so."

"In that case, I shall have to take her to the YWCA. I thought there was something queer about the whole thing!"

"Queer?" Johnny asked.

"Exactly." The Travelers' Aid lady arched her eyebrows. "This little girl has refused to give me her name!"

"Ah!" said Johnny Kerrigan. He looked at Klaw and Murdoch, who were watching interestedly. Then he swung back to the visitors. "Come in, please. Let's talk this over."

"It will not be necessary," said the Travelers' Aid lady. "I see now, that some mistake must have been made. Whoever sent this little girl on the long train ride from Texas shall be prosecuted—"

"Just a minute," Johnny interrupted. He looked down at the little girl, and smiled. "Is it a secret—about your name?"

She nodded, very seriously. "Aunt Martha made me promise I'd not tell my name to anyone but you. She—she gave me a letter for you. Here it is."

From inside her coat she brought out a sealed envelope which she handed to Johnny. "Aunt Martha said that you would surely keep the bad men from hurting me."

"You bet we will!" Johnny said. There was a sudden gleam of interest in his eyes. And that gleam was reflected in the optics of Dan Murdoch and Stephen Klaw as they both crowded around the Travelers' Aid lady and fairly carried her into the room.

Johnny put his arm around the little girl's shoulders, and led her inside, too. Steve Klaw left the elderly lady to Murdoch, and closed the door, and locked it. Then, without a word, he faded into the next room, which was dark, and went to the window. He pulled the shade aside an inch. Carefully, he scanned both sides of the street, noting each passer-by, and inspecting each car. His gaze fastened on one automobile which was just pulling up at the opposite curb. It was a large car, of the type which is generally used to follow hearses in funerals. It was full of men, and Steve could see the glowing tips of several cigarettes. Half a dozen men climbed out of it and stood staring at the house occupied by the Suicide Squad. They whispered among themselves for a moment, then started across.

Stephen Klaw smiled tightly in the darkness, and let the shade fall back into place. He returned to the living room.

Johnny Kerrigan had the letter open, but he had not started to read it yet. The Travelers' Aid lady was saying, "My name is Miss Dean—Abigail Dean. I am in charge of the Travelers' Aid depot at the Union Station. It is our task to take care of such waifs as this little girl. Each year, hundreds of children are sent by train without escort—"

"Of course, Miss Dean," Dan Murdoch interrupted suavely. "We are sure that your work is very praiseworthy indeed. Can you tell us if you think you were followed from the station?"

Miss Abigail Dean looked startled. "Followed? Why in the world—"

Both Johnny and Dan looked inquiringly at Stephen Klaw. Steve nodded solemnly.

"Ah!" said Dan Murdoch. He went over to the desk near the window, opened the drawer and took out a pair of shoulder holsters. He strapped these on, and put on his coat, over them. Johnny Kerrigan went into the next room and came back in a moment wearing his own coat and carrying Stephen Klaw's.

"There are five or six of them," he murmured to Johnny.

The little girl was watching them, wide-eyed. Abigail Dean looked shocked and alarmed. "Look here, young men, I don't understand what is going on here, and I don't like it—"

But none of them was paying her any attention. Dan Murdoch and Stephen Klaw were peering over Johnny's shoulder, reading the letter which the girl had given him:


Dear Mr. Kerrigan:

I am taking the liberty of sending little Nora Dixon to you, and placing her under your protection. God help me, I don't know where else to turn. Do you remember Rod Dixon? He was your friend. He went to college with you, and after he was graduated, became a pursuit pilot in China, where he was killed. Nora is his sister. I am their aunt. Rod once told me that if ever danger threatened Nora, you were the one to help her. Nora had inherited immense properties in New York, under the will of her grandfather. And there is a man in New York who will take any step to prevent Nora's claiming her inheritance. That man's name is Nicodemus Largo. He is wealthy and powerful, and he means to kill her. His men are coming for Nora, and I must send her away from here, before they come. Take her to New York. Protect her. See an attorney there by the name of Pierre Delameter. He will explain all. Be on guard every second of the day and night, for Nicodemus Largo is an evil and dangerous man, cunning and ruthless. God bless you. And thank you for what you may do for Nora.

Martha Dixon.


SLOWLY, Johnny Kerrigan folded the letter and thrust it into his pocket. He frowned. "Nicodemus Largo, eh!"

"A nice name," Stephen Klaw said drily. "I think I'll enjoy meeting the gentleman!"

Johnny turned to the little girl. She was watching him breathlessly, holding the hand of Miss Abigail Dean. Johnny studied her. "So," he said softly. "So you're Rod Dixon's little sister!"

She nodded eagerly. "Aunt Martha said you were Rod's best friend. She said you'd not let anyone hurt me—"

Johnny strode over to her, and lifted her from the chair in his arms. He pressed her close to him.

"No one is going to hurt you, Nora—ever!" he murmured.

Miss Abigail Dean arose stiffly. "If you will be good enough to explain to me, young man—"

Abruptly, the doorbell rang with a sudden, jarring clamor. Johnny looked at Stephen Klaw. "Did you say there were six of then, Shrimp?"

Steve nodded.

Dan Murdoch grinned. "Nice odds—"

"Nix," said Stephen Klaw. "There's Miss Dean and Nora."

"So?" Johnny asked.

"So—we call the cops."

The doorbell rang again, this time more insistently.

Johnny Kerrigan shrugged. "I guess you're right, Shrimp." He jerked his head toward the phone. "Go ahead, Dan."

Dan Murdoch's long legs brought him to the phone in an instant. But it was with very evident distaste that he picked up the instrument. Never before had the Suicide Squad asked for outside help.

The doorbell continued to ring as Dan jiggled the hook, with the receiver at his ear. The others watched him tensely. Slowly, a smile spread across his features. He replaced the receiver on the hook. "The wire is cut," he said. And he sounded as if he liked it. Stephen Klaw and Johnny Kerrigan were grinning, too.

Steve Klaw took Miss Abigail Dean by the elbow. "If you don't mind, would you step into the next room for a few minutes?"

"But—but—what's going to happen? Why are you all wearing guns? Who is ringing the doorbell? I don't like this—"

"Neither do we, Miss Dean," Steve said with a grin. He led her into the bedroom, and Kerrigan followed with Nora in his arms.

"Now just keep the door closed," Steve told them. "And if you should hear sounds like the backfire of automobiles, pay no attention to them."

Little Nora Dixon looked up trustingly at Johnny Kerrigan. "I'm hungry, Uncle Johnny," she said.

He smiled. "We'll get you a big steak—"

"I don't like steak. I like hot dogs—"

"Hot dogs it'll be, then. And chocolate layer cake, and strawberries and ice cream!"

"My lands!" exclaimed Miss Abigail Dean. "Do you want to ruin the little girl's stomach? I certainly won't leave her with you, if that's the way you're going to feed her. Why, you'll kill the child—"

Johnny and Steve were already out of the room. Steve winked at Abigail. "See you soon, Miss Dean. Better go over in that corner with Nora. Stay out of line with the door."

He closed the door, and turned around. Johnny Kerrigan had already taken up a position in front of the hall door. Dan Murdoch had faded back into the darkness of the hallway at the left, which led to the other bedrooms. He was out of sight. The doorbell was ringing harder than ever.

Stephen Klaw hurried around the room, putting out all the lights save for a dim one over the desk. Then he moved over behind the unfinished bookcase and crouched down low, both hands in his coat pockets. "All set, Johnny!" he called.


CHAPTER II. — MEET MR. MONK

JOHNNY KERRIGAN nodded, and stepped close to the door. "Who is it?" he called. The bell stopped ringing at once. There was a pause, and then a smooth voice said:

"Mr. Kerrigan? Mr. John F. Kerrigan?"

"That's right."

"May I come in?"

"Who are you?"

"You wouldn't know me, Mr. Kerrigan. My name is Monk. Homer Monk. I'd like to talk to you on business."

Johnny grinned. "What kind of business. Mr. Monk?"

"Well, something that may be profitable to you. You will be wise to open the door."

"I'm not interested," said Johnny. "If you're a canvasser, you're wasting your time."

"I assure you I'm not a canvasser, Mr. Kerrigan. I want to see you on business. Won't you open the door? It's so hard to talk this way."

"Well, all right," Johnny said, as if he were making a grudging concession. He turned the catch, and pulled the door open.

A compact group of men swept into the room. There were six of them in all. Their leader was nattily dressed. He wore a black homburg, set at a jaunty angle, a dark topcoat, suede gloves and spats. Altogether, he gave the impression of a wealthy man-about-town. But his lips were just a little too thin, and his eyes a little too close together.

He waved his gloved hand casually, and one of his followers closed the hall door and stood in front of it, a hand dug deep into his coat pocket. The others fanned out around the room. Each kept his eyes on Johnny Kerrigan; each had his hands in his pockets.

The leader bowed to Johnny. "I am Homer Monk, Mr. Kerrigan. Forgive me if I do not find it necessary to introduce my friends."

"Tell your friends to get the hell out of here," Johnny said. "I didn't invite a whole covey of rats in here."

Mr. Monk raised a gloved hand "Tut, tut," he said deprecatingly. "You must not insult my friends. They are very touchy. They might resent it. I am afraid they must remain—till we have finished our business."

"What's your business?" Kerrigan asked uncompromisingly.

Mr. Homer Monk moved a little closer.

"The girl, Mr. Kerrigan," he said very softly. "I want the girl."

"What girl?"

Mr. Monk made an impatient gesture. "Let's not beat around the bush. A certain girl came here from Houston, Texas, within the hour. She arrived on the nine o'clock train, with a tag tied to her coat. That tag was addressed to you."

"How do you know all that?" Johnny asked.

Mr. Monk shrugged. "Our agents got to Houston just after the girl's aunt had sent her out of town. They found out all about the tag and phoned me in New York. We flew down tonight. We missed Nora Dixon's train, but the Travelers' Aid Bureau at the station told us the rest."

Monk spread his hands, and smiled, "So you see, Mr. Kerrigan, we know Nora Dixon is here. It's no use your denying it."

"So what?" Johnny asked tightly.

"So you will turn her over to us."

"Why?"

Monk raised his eyebrows. "This is why."

From an inside pocket he took a legal looking document. He unfolded it, and thrust it at Johnny Kerrigan.

"Read!"

Johnny took the paper. He glanced around at the five men who had accompanied Monk into the room. They were spread out in a sort of circle, watching him tensely. Their faces were grim and hard.


JOHNNY dropped his eyes to the document. His lips tightened as he read. It was a court order, appointing Nicodemus Largo the lawful guardian of Nora Dixon. It authorized him to send for her, and to see that she was brought to New York.

Kerrigan read it over swiftly, then looked up at Monk.

"You're not Nicodemus Largo," he said.

"No. But I am Mr. Largo's legal representative. I am the proprietor of the Homer Monk Detective Agency, in New York, and these men are my operatives. Mr. Nicodemus Largo has hired us to find the Dixon girl, and bring her to New York."

"Are you sure," Johnny asked slowly, "that Nicodemus Largo hasn't hired you to find Nora Dixon—and kill her?"

Monk's face became suddenly white and taut. "So! The girl's aunt has been giving you a story, eh?" He tried to talk casually, but Johnny could see that his question had struck home.

"Yes," he said, "Martha Dixon has given me a story. Till I find out what's behind it, I'm not letting Nora Dixon out of my care."

Monk studied him carefully. "Mr. Kerrigan, you're a fool. I don't know what business you're in, but you must have a little common sense. Let me tell you that no one—no one—has ever dared to buck Nicodemus Largo. If you try it, he'll wreck you. If you're in business for yourself, he'll send you into bankruptcy. If you're employed, he'll bring pressure on your employer to fire you. He'll hound you for the rest of your life."

Johnny laughed harshly. He held out the court order in front of Monk's face. Then he deliberately proceeded to tear it into pieces. When he finished, he dropped the pieces at Monk's feet.

"Now get the hell out of here!" he said.

Homer Monk's eyes became as small as gimlet holes.

"So!" he purred. "You want it the hard way!"

He raised one of his gloved hands in signal, and spoke swift, clipped orders to his men.

"Belek! Riker! Handle him. As little noise as possible. Pinto, Schwinn, Ebers! Go through the apartment. Find the girl!"

Guns appeared in the hands of all five. Two of them closed in swiftly on Johnny, while the others moved over toward the bedroom door. Homer Monk produced a small black pistol and pointed it at Johnny.

"If you think I'd hesitate to plug you through the heart, you're crazy. You're resisting a court order."

For the moment, none of them was facing toward the unfinished bookcase. So none of them saw the slim, wiry figure of Stephen Klaw. He stepped out from behind the bookcase, with an automatic in each hand. The snick of the two safety catches as he flicked them off sounded loud in the sudden quietness of the room.

"Tch, tch," he said. "Such bad manners. Are these friends of yours, Mr. Kerrigan?"

Homer Monk and his five gunmen jumped as if they had been pricked with needles.

During the momentary diversion, Johnny Kerrigan deftly produced his own revolvers. He chuckled.

"Friends of mine, Mr. Klaw? I'm surprised at you, Mr. Klaw."

"Excuse it please, Mr. Kerrigan," said Steve.

Homer Monk barked, "Take them, men. There's only two—"

Once more he was interrupted, this time from the direction of the hallway which led to the other rooms.

It was Dan Murdoch's voice which intruded courteously upon him.

"A slight mistake, my dear sir. There are three of us!"

Murdoch was standing in the archway, with two guns in his hands, and smiling pleasantly.

The sudden appearance of these armed reinforcements—plus the two guns which Johnny Kerrigan had produced—appeared to have a shocking effect upon these gunmen. They had apparently expected to have to deal with one, unarmed man. It was quite evident that they were not aware of the real identity of these three.


THERE had been a good deal in the papers about Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw. But always in that order, and always without Christian names. And though much had been written about the exploits of the Suicide Squad, Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw had never permitted much to be written about them individually. In fact, the F.B.I. never encouraged agents to give out publicity about themselves, and these three hellions didn't care about publicity anyway. Rather, they shunned it. All that was known about them was that they were never sent out on a routine case, but were always kept in reserve for those assignments which were so dangerous that the director hesitated even to ask for volunteers. They got those jobs from which there was little chance of returning alive.

Originally, there had been five of them. Then there were only four. Now there were three—Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw. They lived from day to day, and took what life brought them. Tomorrow, they might have an appointment with death, and then there might be only two, or one, or none. But that was the way they wanted it. They needed the constant presence of Death at their elbows to give zest to their life. In fact, the saying went in the Underworld, that Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw pursued the Grim Reaper so relentlessly that he had grown shy of them.

But these gunmen of Homer Monk's—though they had all heard of the Suicide Squad—hadn't connected the names on the door plate with that most dangerous trio.

Johnny Kerrigan's eyes crinkled with laughter as he watched the bewildered expression on Homer Monk's face.

"You see," he explained, "my friends and I have arranged a very nice reception for you. Permit me to introduce them—Murdoch and Klaw. As you see, they are prepared to offer you very effective entertainment."

The gunmen stared around the room at the three, in evident indecision. They were waiting for word from Homer Monk.

But suddenly, as they stood there, one of the gunmen uttered a startled exclamation. "Kerrigan! And Murdoch and Klaw!" He turned a white face to Homer Monk. "Boss! It's the Suicide Squad! We've come up against the whole damned Suicide Squad!"

Before any of them could digest the information, Stephen Klaw moved forward, his guns at his hips. He glanced at Kerrigan, and then at Murdoch. "What say, mopes?"

Dan Murdoch nodded, from his position in the archway. "You take it from here, Shrimp."

Klaw nodded. He smiled benignly at one after the other of the six gunmen.

"Now gentlemen," he said mildly, "let's get down to business. You all have guns in your hands. You can start shooting right now—or you can gently put your guns down on the floor. It's all the same to us."

The gunman who had just recognized their names was the first to weaken.

"Pass me!" he said, and bent down and very carefully laid his gun on the floor. Then he straightened and raised his hands above his head.

"Thank you," Stephen Klaw said sardonically. "And now—anybody else? Or do the rest of you want to shoot it out?"


ONE after the other, the remaining gunmen followed the example of the first, until the only one left holding a gun was Homer Monk. Monk glared from one to the other of his followers, his lips curled with scorn. "You yellow rats!" he spat out. "What do you get paid for? Wait'll the big boss hears about this!"

He glared at the one who had first laid down his weapon. "You, Ebers! Why didn't you keep your mouth shut? There are six of us. We could have shot them down. They're only human. You had to go and turn yellow. You'll hear more about this—"

Ebers shrugged. "I only got one life to lose, boss, and I'm not anxious to lose it right now. These three guys are plenty tough, and they play for keeps. Me, I'd rather not swap lead with them!"

Monk's dark face twitched spasmodically. He hesitated for a fraction of a second. Then he lowered his black pistol and bent down. He laid it on the floor with the other weapons.

"Thank you so much," Stephen Klaw said. He nodded toward the hall door. "That's the way out."

Johnny Kerrigan grinned. He holstered his guns, stepped to the door, and pulled it open. "This way, gentlemen!"

Monk hesitated. "Our guns—"

"We'll save them for you," Johnny grinned.

One by one, the defeated gunmen filed out of the room. Ebers winked weakly at Johnny as he filed past. The others were sullen, and glowering.

Homer Monk was the last to leave. As he stepped out into the corridor, he turned and faced Kerrigan. His small, close-set eyes were burning. His fists were clenched.

"Would you care for a little advice, my friends?" he said softly. "Don't come to New York. Don't bring the Dixon girl to claim her inheritance. You won the first round, because I didn't know what I was coming up against. But in New York it'll be different. Don't think that because you're G-men, and because you're tough, you have a chance against Nicodemus Largo. He has vast resources—and plenty of pull. He'll break you—the three of you. Within five minutes, I'll be talking to him on the long distance. In ten minutes, he'll be burning up the phones. By tomorrow morning you won't be G-men any more. And—if you come to New York—by tomorrow night you won't be alive any more!"

"Thank you," said Stephen Klaw, coming to the door beside Johnny Kerrigan. "Thank you for everything. And when you talk to Nicodemus Largo—tell him that we'll be in New York in the morning!"


CHAPTER III. — PAGING MR. DANGER

MISS ABIGAIL DEAN came stalking out of the bedroom as soon as the door had closed behind Monk and his men. She had Nora by the hand, and her prim face was set in determined lines.

"I declare!" she exclaimed. "This is all utterly incredible. I heard every word of what went on. Those wicked gangsters should be boiled in oil. Why didn't you boys pump them full of lead?"

Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw stared at her.

"Why my dear Miss Dean!" said Dan Murdoch. "Such language! I never thought you were so bloodthirsty!"

Abigail Dean put her arm around little Nora Dixon, and pressed her close.

"It's outrageous!" she barked. "Such things shouldn't be permitted. I could tell from the voice of that man Monk that he's a vicious criminal. If you three boys are really G-men, why didn't you arrest them?"

By common consent, Kerrigan and Klaw left it to Murdoch to explain things to her. Murdoch, with his dark eyes and dark hair, his slender litheness and his soft-spoken manner, was the ideal diplomat for the ladies.

"They had a court order, Miss Dean," he said. "We really have nothing on them. There's no proof that they wanted to harm Nora. If we arrested them, they'd be out in half an hour."

"But what about the letter from Aunt Martha Dixon? She says they plan to—to stop Nora from going to New York—"

"Unfortunately," Dan told her, "Aunt Martha's letter is no proof. It's only a suspicion. It wouldn't stand up in court."

Abigail Dean pressed Nora closer to her breast. "You poor little thing!" she crooned. "Don't be frightened."

Nora crinkled her nose, looked at Dan Murdoch, then at Kerrigan and Klaw, and smiled. "I'm not frightened. Aunt Martha said Uncle Johnny wouldn't let anything happen to me. And now I have three uncles. They'll scare the bad men away."

"You bet we will!" Murdoch smiled.

"I'm hungry," said Nora.

Kerrigan nodded. "I'll go down and get some grub. Hot dogs, pickles, olives, a can of spaghetti and a can of corn, chocolate layer cake and soda pop!" He stroked Nora's hair. "How's that for supper?"

Nora's eyes were sparkling. "Ooh! And can we have some whipped cream for the cake?"

"Sure. We'll do it right—"

"You'll do nothing of the kind, young man!" Miss Abigail Dean said sternly. She sniffed. "Pickles! Spaghetti! Hot dogs! Soda pop!"

With the air of a crusader, she strode across the room to the desk and snatched up paper and pencil. "Here! This is what you'll get. Lamb chops, a can of green peas—"

She wrote out the list and handed it to Johnny. "A lot you know about feeding children!"

Kerrigan had an abashed look as he took the paper. Miss Dean scowled at him. "And no soda pop, either. You get a container of milk!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Johnny said meekly.


HE turned around to get his hat, and saw Klaw and Murdoch grinning at him. Klaw got his hat, too, and Kerrigan said, "Where are you going, Shrimp?"

"To get four reservations on the New York plane. We're not waiting for morning. We're leaving tonight—the four of us—"

"The five of us!" Miss Abigail Dean corrected. "You make that five tickets, young man." She glared at Steve. "You don't think I'd let Nora go to New York with you three lummoxes to care for her, do you? My lands! You don't know the first thing about looking after a child—"

"But look here, Miss Dean," Murdoch protested. "You don't have to go to all that trouble—"

"You can save your breath, young man! I've made up my mind. It's my job to see that this child is placed in competent hands. And I'm going to stay with her till I'm satisfied that she'll be fed and cared for properly!"

Murdoch looked helplessly at Stephen Klaw.

Klaw studied Abigail Dean for a moment. "You heard what happened here just now, Miss Dean. You realize it may be dangerous—"

"I do. All the more reason for me to go along!"

Suddenly, Stephen Klaw smiled, "We'll be glad to have you, Miss Dean!"

"Thank you." She sniffed. "And don't call me Miss Dean. Call me Abby."

Just then the doorbell rang.

Abby clutched Nora more tightly, her face going white. "It's those terrible men again—"

Stephen Klaw went to the door. Kerrigan and Murdoch drew their guns and flanked him, grimly.

"Open it!" Kerrigan ordered.

Steve turned the latch and pulled the door open.

A Western Union messenger was standing outside. He almost jumped out of his skin when he glimpsed the guns pointed at him.

"Sorry," Klaw said with a grin. "Pay no attention to my two friends. They're practicing for the movies. What is it?"

The boy held out a telegram in a trembling hand. "M-mister Klaw?"

Steve took the telegram, signed for it, and gave the boy a half dollar. As soon as the door was closed, he ripped the envelope open, with Kerrigan and Murdoch peering over his shoulder.

The message was from their Chief, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation:


STEPHEN KLAW

MERRIMAC APARTMENTS

WHAT IS TROUBLE WITH YOUR PHONE? HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET YOU FOR TEN MINUTES REPORT AT ONCE WITH KERRIGAN AND MURDOCH. HAVE IMPORTANT ASSIGNMENT FOR YOU.


"Nuts!" said Johnny. "Just when we have a little private business of our own! I figured we'd get a furlough—"

Stephen Klaw thrust the telegram in his pocket. "I'll go over and see the Chief." He turned to Murdoch. "Think you can keep control here, in case those bozos try a come-back?"

Murdoch merely grinned.


AT the Department of Justice Building, a light was burning in the Director's office, though it was almost ten o'clock in the evening. There were many other lights burning in that building, too, as well as in dozens of other government bureaus throughout Washington. The nation's capital was working on twenty-four-hour shifts these days, on the tremendous task of integrating our huge resources into unified National Defense.

Steve didn't have to wait. He was immediately admitted to the director's private office.

"Where are Kerrigan and Murdoch?" the Chief demanded. "I've got to talk to all three of you together. The job I have for you is dangerous—and tricky. And you have to get started at once!"

Steve sat down. "You—Dr—couldn't get anyone else to handle it, sir, could you?"

The director looked at Steve, and frowned. "I'm afraid not, Steve. This is the kind of thing you three are always looking for. I'd never assign any of my regular men to it, because it's like sending them into a death trap. What's the matter with you, Steve? Don't you want the assignment?"

Klaw sighed. "We thought we'd ask for a furlough for a couple of days. There's a little girl—the sister of a fellow who was a friend of Johnny's. She's in trouble, and we'd like to help her."

The Director looked disappointed. "I was counting on you three—"

"Couldn't we split up, sir?" Steve asked hopefully. "Suppose one of us were to take care of your assignment, and the other two handled the little girl's case—"

"This job," the director said grimly, "will take everything all three of you can put into it. The man we're after is a clever and insidious criminal—on a huge scale. I suppose you've read the confidential reports about the theft, three months ago, of twenty thousand of the new-type semi-automatic rifles?"

"Yes, sir. They were stolen from the factory by a small army of thugs. They mowed down the guards and truckmen with machine guns, then drove the whole convoy away. The rifles were never found."

"Right. Well, do you know that five thousand of those rifles were sold to a certain South American republic, where a revolution was attempted? If we hadn't been able to get two of our destroyers to that country at a moment's notice, the revolution would have succeeded!"

"I see!" said Steve.

"Furthermore, there have been mysterious agents in other South American countries, offering the rest of these automatic rifles for sale. Those rifles are so efficient and so deadly that a force of five thousand revolutionists equipped with them could defeat an army ten times their numbers."

"And you want Kerrigan and Murdoch and me to recover those rifles, sir?"

"Exactly. We have received secret information from G-2 that the bulk of those stolen rifles are to be shipped out of the country tomorrow, and delivered to a country in Central America, within flying distance of the Panama Canal. If those rifles are delivered, and if a revolution takes place, the Canal will be seriously threatened. Those rifles must be prevented from leaving the country. All we know is the name of the man who is suspected of having engineered the theft, and who is selling them to South America. He controls the organization which stole them, and which is distributing them. But there is not one jot of proof against him. This is a job that requires fast, unconventional work. So far, the theft of the rifles has not been made public. But tomorrow, in the House of Representatives, a certain Congressman is going to demand a public investigation. Can you imagine the scandal and the loss of morale to our National Defense plans, if that information becomes known? The only way to counteract it is to be able to announce that the stolen rifles have been recovered. That's your job!"

Steve shifted, uncomfortably in his chair. "But this little girl, Nora—"

The Director hurried on, as if he hadn't heard. "The man we suspect controls a huge amount of wealth. He has used it to make himself impregnable. His ruthlessness makes him the most dangerous man in America. Yes, I can say that Nicodemus Largo is the greatest threat to American security within this country—"

Stephen Klaw sat up straight in the chair. "Sir! Did you say Nicodemus Largo?"

The Director nodded. "That's his name. He was only a struggling attorney a few years ago, but he was appointed executor of an immense estate, and he started to milk it, using the funds to build up his criminal organization. I had really hoped you'd undertake the job. In fact, I was so certain you'd do it, that I've already ordered three tickets on the night plane for New York—"

Steve's eyes were glittering. "Make it five tickets, sir. We'll leave at once!"


CHAPTER IV. — DEATH DRIVES CROSSTOWN

THE electric clock in the all-night restaurant on Fifth Avenue showed ten minutes after three. The restaurant was quiet, almost deserted save for two night-hawk cab drivers whose taxis were parked outside in the bitter cold. Their heads were close together as they pored over a racing form, and they paid no attention to Stephen Klaw, who sat at a window table, drinking his third cup of black coffee.

Fifth Avenue was slumbering. Only an occasional car flashed by.

Steve sipped his coffee slowly. Looking through the plate-glass window, he could see the glowing tip of Johnny Kerrigan's cigarette in a doorway, directly across the street.

He glanced up at the clock. The minute hand moved ponderously down another notch. Three-eleven.

A cab pulled up at the curb, and a man descended from it. He was in his fifties, with a small gray moustache and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. Steve watched him as he spoke to the cab driver, apparently telling him to wait. Then he turned, looked furtively behind him, and hurried into the restaurant. He stopped, just inside, the warm breath blowing from his lips, and looked uncertainly at Stephen Klaw.

Klaw nodded to him, and arose. "Right here, Mr. Delameter," he said.

The gray-moustached man threw another frightened glance behind him, then came over to the table. He slipped into the chair Steve held for him. He seemed almost terrified.

"Mr. Klaw? Mr. Stephen Klaw?" he asked jerkily.

"That's right," said Steve. "You came promptly."

"I dressed as quickly as possible after you phoned, and came right over. But—but I've been followed!"

"Ah!" said Steve.

"But never mind about me," Delameter hurried on hastily. "Tell me about Nora Dixon. Is—is she safe?"

"She is."

"She's here—in New York?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

Steve smiled tightly. "Let's just leave it at that for the time being—till I've talked to you a little more. Just take my word for it that she's well protected. Now, what about your being followed?"

Pierre Delameter nodded. "They watch me day and night. Every move I make is known. There—" he jerked his head toward the street—"that car pulling up behind my cab. The two men in it were outside my house when I left."

"I see," said Stephen Klaw, watching the two men who emerged from the car. It was the same kind of car which Homer Monk had used last night, in Washington—a seven passenger limousine. Steve's eyes narrowed. He recognized the two men. They were two of the gunmen who had been with Monk last night.

They peered in through the plate glass window, saw Klaw and Delameter, and immediately started to come inside.

"You see!" exclaimed Delameter. "They just play with me, the way a cat plays with a mouse. I wonder that they haven't killed me before now. Maybe they will tonight—"

"Buck up," said Steve. "You can only get killed once."

"I'm not afraid for myself," the other said slowly. "It's little Nora Dixon that I'm worried about. If anything should happen to me, there'd be no one to protect her. Nicodemus Largo could do whatever he wanted with her."

"Not exactly," Steve told him grimly. "Nora has three new uncles who are looking after her."

The two gunmen were in the restaurant now. They threw searching glances at Steve and Delameter, and Steve returned the stares, grinning just a little. He had one hand in his coat pocket, but otherwise he seemed to be entirely at ease. The two men did not return his grin. Instead, they looked quickly away, though he was certain that they recognized him. They selected a table near the wall, behind Steve.


KLAW winked at Delameter, and moved his chair around so that he was facing them again. He kept his eyes on them, and talked to Delameter. "Nora's aunt said that you would tell us all about this business."

"Yes, of course. As you know, I'm an attorney. I was close friend of Nora's grandfather, Horace Dixon."

"Then how was it," Steve demanded, "that he named Nicodemus Largo as executor of his estate, and not you?"

"Because I was in South America at the time. Horace wrote to me, telling me that he was naming Largo as executor, but at the same time he said that he would provide in his will that Largo must make an annual accounting, which must be approved by me. And further, the will provides that when Nora is nine years old, I am to be appointed guardian, and Largo is to turn the estate over to me to manage until Nora reaches her eighteenth birthday—"

"But we saw a court order," Steve interrupted, "in which Nicodemus Largo is appointed guardian—"

"Exactly! Largo has used his immense power and influence to have the will modified, so that he can become guardian. In that way, he will not have to turn the property over, and can continue to use it for his own advantage. I have spent months and months compiling figures, and I can prove that Nicodemus Largo has diverted from the estate at least two million dollars during the last five years.

"Then why not prosecute him?"

Delameter smiled wryly. "I wouldn't live over night. And I'd get nowhere, bucking his power and influence. I could show you papers—"

"Where are these papers? At your office?"

The older man shook his head bleakly. "My home and my office have been ransacked on a dozen different occasions. I have those papers in another place, and I don't dare go near them, for fear that Nicodemus Largo will discover where they are."

"Take me there!" said Stephen Klaw.

"No! No! Are you mad? Those two men—they'll follow us—"

"They won't follow us tonight," Klaw said grimly.

"How—how will you stop them?"

"Watch."

Elaborately, Steve lit a cigarette. Then he glanced through the plate glass window toward the spot where Johnny Kerrigan was standing.

"Let's go," he said.

He called the waiter over, paid the check, and got up without looking at the two men at the other table. Then he took Delameter's arm and led him toward the door.

"Where is this secret place of yours?"

"Near the East River. Twenty-fifth Street."

"Okay."

They pushed out through the revolving doors.

The two men had already left their table, and were coming out after them, quickly.

As Steve and the attorney reached the sidewalk, Johnny Kerrigan got there from across the street. Johnny gave no sign of recognition, and neither did Steve. But as they brushed past each other, Steve whispered swiftly, "Discourage the two muggs, Johnny. I'm heading for the East River and Twenty-fifth Street."

"Right!" said Johnny Kerrigan.

Steve led Delameter to the waiting cab, and pushed him in.

Delameter looked bewildered. "I don't understand—"

He glanced backward, and saw the two muggs standing just outside the restaurant. Johnny Kerrigan was right behind them, and Johnny was whispering in their ears. Also, Johnny was holding two gleaming objects poked into their ribs.

Steve chuckled, and said to the cab driver, "East River and Twenty-fifth Street, pal."

The cab pulled away, leaving Johnny and his two unwilling companions in front of the restaurant.


PIERRE DELAMETER shook his head. "I'm not a man of violence. I'm unused to this kind of thing. Yet—I would almost have liked to see your friend beat the hell out of those two gunmen!"

"It's funny," Steve grinned, "but every respectable person who comes in contact with those birds begins to use the damnedest language."

"I would like to do more than use language on them!" Pierre Delameter said fiercely. "You would understand how I feel, if you could see the people whose lives have been ruined by that vicious organization of Nicodemus Largo. Nora Dixon is only one of hundreds. He forces men and women to do the most criminal things——"

"How does he force them?" Steve asked.

"God knows. He terrorizes them, brings pressure to bear on them through business, or through friends and relatives. He has spies everywhere. He ferrets things out about people—"

"What has he on you?" Steve asked.

Delameter stiffened. He turned a haggard face to Steve.

"What—what do you mean?"

Klaw smiled grimly. "There's another car following us, Delameter. That whole business back there in the restaurant was an act. You deliberately called my attention to those two birds, who were supposed to be following you. The idea was, that I wouldn't notice the others. So, the conclusion I draw is: after I phoned you and made the appointment, you called Nicodemus Largo, and told him about it. He sent two cars out. One was a blind for the other."

Pierre Delameter's face was white and drawn.

"It's true," he said hoarsely. "God help me, it's true!"

Steve nodded. "You're doing it against your will. Nicodemus Largo has something on you."

"Yes. Yes, he has something on me. I'll tell you—"

"Never mind," Steve said softly. "I don't give a damn what he has on you, or what you've done in the past. It's the present I'm interested in. Where are you taking me now? Into a trap?"

"God help me, yes!" Delameter groaned. "They're going to kill you!"

"So nice of them," said Steve.

"Believe me," Delameter protested, "I would not have done it if I had had any other alternative. I don't know how you managed to guess so much—"

"It's my business," Steve grinned. "It's my business to smell danger. If it weren't for that, I'd have been dead long ago. What about this trap? How is it going to be sprung?"

"This place I'm taking you to—there will be men stationed on the upper floor. I'm to take you in, and leave you in the hall for a moment. As soon as I step out of the hall, they'll take over. If you try to retreat those men who are following us will be there to cut off your escape."

"I see," said Steve.

They were driving south along the waterfront now, and Delameter motioned with his hand. "You see these blocks of warehouses along the docks? They belong to the estate of Horace Dixon. The estate owns a thousand feet of wharfage, besides warehouses. And all of it is in the hands of Nicodemus Largo. I fought him for five years. But—" the old man's voice broke— "he's too powerful for me. Believe me, Stephen Klaw, I am an honest man. If I tried to lead you into a trap, please believe that I had no choice."

"I believe you," Steve said.

They arrived at Twenty-fifth Street, and the cab driver slowed up and came to a stop. They were opposite a huge, bleak warehouse on the river's edge. Alongside the warehouse, there was a low brick building, which backed on the river. In the open lot in front of the low building there was a great quantity of building material, a crane, and several steel girders, as well as a modern pile-driver.

"Nicodemus Largo is doing some special construction work there," Delameter explained. "It's part of the Dixon estate. But no one knows just what is being done. I've tried to find out——"

"Never mind that now," Klaw said. He glanced through the rear window, and saw that the car which had been following them was pulled up about a hundred feet behind. He turned back to Delameter. "Where is this trap you were leading me into?"

"Over there," Delameter said, pointing to a small tenement house down the side street. "I'm supposed to tell you that my papers are hidden in that house. They will do the rest. But— now that you know it's a trap, we'll not go near it—"

"On the contrary," Stephen Klaw said softly. "We will!"


CHAPTER V. — SNAP THE TRAP

THEY got out of the cab, and Steve paid the driver. He waited till the cab was gone, then took Delameter by the arm and led him over to the corner.

"We'll wait here," he said.

"What for?"

"A little company."

As they stood at the corner, the car which had followed them doused its lights.

Steve chuckled. "They probably think you're trying to sell me the idea of going into that house."

Delameter groaned. "If they only knew that I'm trying to dissuade you! For God's sake, Klaw, remember that you're only human. You can't walk through a barrage of bullets—"

"I don't think they're going to use bullets."

"That's what they told me."

"Maybe that's what they told you. But it's not the way they work."

"What do you mean?"

"Has Nicodemus Largo ever been convicted of a crime?" Steve asked, somewhat irrelevantly.

"Of course not. He's too clever."

"Exactly. He's too clever to commit an unmistakable murder. So is Homer Monk. I have reason to know. I saw Monk operate in Washington last night. We caught him cold—stopped him from taking Nora Dixon away. Yet we had no proof that he intended to harm her. If he'd gotten hold of her, do you think he'd just have shot her, or drowned her?"

"No—"

"Of course not. He'd have managed some sort of 'accident'. That's why I think they'll try something subtle—something that will look like an accident."

Delameter stared at Klaw. "I begin to think you are a worthy match for Nicodemus Largo."

He stopped as a black limousine coasted down the waterfront past the watching car, and halted almost alongside them, at the corner.

"God!" exclaimed Delameter. "That's one of Monk's cars! Lookout!"

"It's all right." Stephen Klaw said, grinning. He gripped the lawyer's arm to quiet him, and glanced into the interior of the limousine.

Johnny Kerrigan was driving it. In the tonneau, handcuffed to each other, were the two men from the Fifth Avenue restaurant.

Delameter's eyes opened wide. But he said nothing.

Steve winked at Johnny. "Nice going, Mope."

Johnny grinned. "I thought I might as well bring these two boys along. They didn't put up much of an argument."

"There are a couple more of the same breed," Steve said, "in that car back there. We ought to get them, too."

"Sold," said Kerrigan.

"Wait here," Steve directed Delameter, and jumped on the running-board. "All set, Johnny."

Kerrigan didn't turn the car around. Instead, he put it in reverse, and gave her the gas. The big limousine sped backward as Johnny's foot pushed all the way down to the floorboard. Too late, the occupants of that other limousine realized Johnny's intention. They had no time to get their own car in motion. They opened both doors, and scrambled out. There were just two of them, and they leaped to the ground and began to run.

At he last minute, just before crashing, Johnny twisted the wheel hard and missed the limousine by a hair. Then he yelled, "Hang on, Shrimp!" and stepped down hard on the brake.

The car jarred to a dead stop.

Stephen Klaw hung on with one hand. In the other he had an automatic. He raised it, and shouted to the two running men: "Stand still, or I'll shoot your legs from under you!"

The two gunmen had been yanking at their shoulder holsters as they ran, but the thing had happened so fast that they had not been able to get their guns out. They were caught flat-footed. They stopped and raised their hands in the air.

Johnny backed the car up a little more, and Steve got off and herded the two men over toward the corner, with Johnny following slowly in the limousine.

Delameter was standing just where Steve had left him. He was staring, speechless.


THE two men whom Steve had captured were strangers to him. They were not of the party which had accompanied Monk last night.

"Names, please?" Steve inquired.

They were sullen, but cowed.

"My name is Kovey," said one.

"I'm Link," the other added.

"All right, Messrs Kovey and Link," Steve said. "You followed me from the restaurant, and you were watching to see what I'd do. What were you expecting?"

They both glanced at Delameter, but said nothing.

"They were waiting to see you go into that house!" Delameter exclaimed. "They were here to keep you from coming out again!"

Klaw looked at Kovey and Link. "Is that true?"

Kovey glared at Delameter. "Squealing, huh?"

The old lawyer threw his shoulders back. "Yes, squealing. And you can tell Nicodemus Largo that I warned Klaw about the trap. Largo can do whatever he wants to me."

"Don't worry," Steve said dryly. "They won't be telling anybody much."

"Be careful," Delameter warned. "There must be more of Largo's men inside that house. If they see that their plans have gone wrong, they may come out and attack you in the street."

Steve shook his head. "Can't you understand, Delameter, that there isn't going to be any shooting here? That whole block of tenements is condemned for the East River Drive improvements. That house is empty."

The old lawyer looked puzzled. "Then—then what kind of trap could it be—"

"Suppose." Johnny Kerrigan broke in, "that we go inside and see for ourselves?"

As he said it, he winked at Stephen Klaw.

Steve appeared to think it over, and then nodded as if he had reached a decision.

"Good idea, Johnny. We'll go in."

As he said it, he watched the faces of the two prisoners. They stared straight ahead, stoically, but Steve detected a gleam in the eyes of the one who called himself Kovey.

"What do you say, Kovey?" he asked gently. "Shall Kerrigan and I go in there and find out what goes on?"

Kovey sneered. "Do whatever you like. You have nothing on us. You can't arrest us for just being around here. We haven't done a thing."

Stephen Klaw nodded. "You're absolutely right, Mr. Kovey. There are no grounds for arresting you. So we're going to let you go—" he stopped for a second, noting the triumphant gleam in the eyes of both prisoners—"after you've gone into that house with us!"

Both Kovey and Link jerked erect. They stared at Klaw with wide, distended eyes. "No! For God's sake, no!" Link exclaimed. "You can't make us go in there!"

"Why should you be so scared?" Johnny Kerrigan asked. "Even if you have men waiting there to attack Klaw and me, they surely won't hurt you two."

"We won't go!" Kovey said flatly. He glared at Delameter. "All right. I'll tell you what's in there. There's a couple of boys on the first floor, with sub-machine guns. They've got the front way and the back way covered. The minute you step in there, they'll cut you down. But you can get in through the cellar—"

"That's what Nicodemus told me!" Pierre Delameter broke in. "He said to take you in through the cellar, and up into the hall!"

"Hm!" said Steve. He stepped close to Kovey. "Do you work for Homer Monk?"

"No."

"For whom do you work?"

"If you must know," Kovey sneered, "we work for Nicodemus Largo himself."

"What do you do for him?"

Kovey shrugged. "We're foremen—in charge of construction. We're doing work along the river front."

"How about those two men we have in the car? They work for Monk, don't they?"

"I wouldn't know."

Steve regarded Kovey thoughtfully. "I wonder if they know what's in that house?"

"The chances are they don't," Delameter said. "Largo doesn't trust Monk any too much. He gives him specific jobs to do. But for anything important, he uses his own men. These two—Kovey and Link—are two of his most trusted agents."

"I see," said Steve.

He stepped close to Kovey, and went through his pockets. He took his guns away from him and handed them to Delameter.

"You—you trust me?" the lawyer asked with a quaver in his voice. "You trust me after I tried to lead you into a death trap?"

Steve looked him square in the eyes. "You told me you were an honest man, didn't you?"

"Yes—"

"All right."


THERE were tears in the old lawyer's eyes as he gathered the guns. Kerrigan was doing the same for Link, and he also handed Delameter the weapons. They went through the papers in both men's pockets. In Kovey's wallet there was a card showing that he was blasting foreman for the Largo Construction Corporation. Link's papers showed him to be a sandhog superintendent, employed by the same Company.

"Well, it checks," Steve said. He looked at Kerrigan, significantly tapping Kovey's card. "Get the idea, Johnny?"

Kerrigan nodded grimly. "I get it, Steve!"

Delameter looked puzzled. "I don't understand—"

He was interrupted by the sound of the car door opening behind them. They had not paid any attention to the two gunmen whom Johnny had handcuffed to each other in the rear of the car. And those two had taken advantage of it. As Johnny and Steve swung around, they saw the door on the far side of the car swinging open, and the two men darting out, unshackled.

"Hell!" exclaimed Johnny. "I cuffed them with their own bracelets, and took the key. They must have had a duplicate!"

He drew his revolver and yelled, "Hey! Hold it!"

But the two men doubled around in front of the car, and raced down the side street, dodging and weaving.

Stephen Klaw swung his automatic around to keep Kovey and Link covered, while Johnny Kerrigan dropped to one knee, sighting his revolver at arm's length.

"Last chance!" Johnny shouted in his stentorian voice. "Stop or I'll shoot!"

The two men were directly opposite the tenement house which they had been studying. As Johnny shouted, they turned and saw him sighting at them. There seemed to be only one chance for them, and they took it. They dived into the basement areaway of that tenement house, disappearing below the embrasure. Johnny Kerrigan had hesitated to fire, feeling sure that they would stop.

But now he jumped up and yelled, "Don't go in there, you fools—"

There was the sound of breaking glass as the two men smashed a basement window pane. They evidently intended to go through the empty house and escape the back way.

Desperately, Johnny shouted, "Stay out! Stay out—"

His voice was drowned by a terrific explosion which buckled the very sidewalk where they stood. A long streamer of yellow flame lanced out of the basement areaway where those two men had disappeared. Mortar and brick and pieces of timber hailed through the air, catapulted as if from a mighty springboard. Debris showered down upon the whole length of the street. And then, the whole tenement house seemed to buckle outward, and crash down upon itself with a roar like a giant waterfall.

Johnny Kerrigan and Stephen Klaw watched that cataclysm with somber eyes. Kovey and Link stood, licking their lips, fists clenched tightly at their sides. And Pierre Delameter stared with unbelieving horror.

"Those two men," he muttered, "they—they must have been blown to bits!"


STEPHEN KLAW nodded. "There, but for the grace of God, Delameter, go you and I! Nicodemus Largo was sending you, too, to your death, when he forced you to lure me into the trap. Remember! He told you to take me in through the basement!"

"Yes! But—but who—"

"Who planted the explosive?" Johnny Kerrigan asked. He laughed harshly, and took hold of Kovey and Link, each by an arm. They winced under the powerful grip of his fingers. "Here are the two boys who planted the dynamite in that house. That's why they didn't want to go in with us!"

Delameter's eyes widened. "Now I understand. Kovey—he's a blasting foreman! You guessed that there was dynamite in the house!"

Stephen Klaw nodded. "Monk's men hadn't been let in on the secret. Only Kovey and Link. And Nicodemus Largo knew the kind of trap it was."

"Nuts!" spat Link. "You can't prove anything on us."

"I think we can," Steve said quietly.

Kovey laughed. "No one who works for Nicodemus Largo has ever been convicted, wise guy. We're in the clear. There aren't any fingerprints left in that house, either."

"Maybe not," Steve told him. "But you have to have a license to use dynamite. I suppose you stole it from the construction job over there by the river. If so, we can check—"

He stopped, seeing the triumphant grins on the faces of the two men. He glanced at Kerrigan. "We better get out of here, Johnny. I hear fire-bells."

Kerrigan nodded and climbed into the limousine. Steve herded Kovey and Link into the rear, and got in beside them.

"Can you drive?" he asked Delameter.

The lawyer nodded.

"Okay. Get in that other limousine and follow us."

Within two minutes, they were out of the block, and away from the scene of the tragedy.

Johnny drove north for about a mile, not going too fast, so that Delameter might keep up with them in the other car. Then he turned left and headed west toward Central Park. Klaw was sitting astride one of the folding seats in the rear, facing backward and keeping Kovey and Link covered.

Kovey was impassive, but Link was fidgeting nervously. At last, Link burst out, "You have no evidence against us!"

Steve nodded. "You're right, there!"

Link gained courage. "You can't hold us!"

Steve shook his head. "You're wrong, there!"

"We're entitled to a lawyer!"

"Sure you are."

"We want a lawyer. We want to use the phone."

Steve said over his shoulder to Kerrigan, "They want to use the phone, Johnny.

"Sure," said Johnny Kerrigan. "I'll stop at the next drug store."

"You have no right to hold us!" Link snarled.

"Not the slightest," Steve agreed with him calmly. "I think it's a damned shame. You ought to write to your congressman about it. By the way—have you got a congressman? Are you a citizen? Have you got a registration card?"

Link lapsed into sullen silence.


WITH Delameter in the other car hugging their tail, Johnny drove through the Sixty-sixth Street transverse across Central Park to the west side, then up a few blocks, and stopped before a modest brownstone house on a side street. Delameter pulled up close behind.

Johnny left Steve with the prisoners, and got out of the car.

It was quiet and dark on the street. Down at the far end there was a lone milk wagon. Johnny climbed the high stoop, and before he could ring the bell, the door opened. A gray-haired woman was revealed.

"Hello, Johnny," she said. "I waited up for you. We heard over the radio about the explosion downtown. We thought you might have had something to do with it. Dan Murdoch has been on tenterhooks." She smiled. "He's sore because he had to stay here and guard little Nora, and missed the excitement of battle."

This was Mother Kelly, known wherever F.B.I. agents gathered. Her husband and her son had belonged to the Service, said both had died in the performance of their duty. It was Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw who had avenged her son's death. And Mother Kelly supported herself now, by running this exclusive rooming house, catering only to F.B.I. men. She was always ready to help G-men especially Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw. Right now, little Nora Dixon and Miss Abigail Dean were sleeping in a room upstairs, with Dan Murdoch guarding the door. And there was no safer place for them in the City of New York!

Johnny Kerrigan patted her shoulder. "We have a couple of guests we'd like to leave with you, Mother Kelly," he said. "They—Dr—won't he paying guests."

Mother Kelly raised her eyebrows. "Up in the attic," she said. "We'll give them the Green Room—the one with the padlock on the door!"

Johnny nodded, and returned to the car. He took out his revolver, and nodded to Klaw. Steve smiled very pleasantly at Kovey and Link.

"All right, gentlemen," he said. "This is where we get out."

"Nuts!" exclaimed Link. "This isn't a jail. You have to take us to jail and book us."

Johnny Kerrigan leaned in at the door, hefting his heavy revolver in that great paw of his. "Do you go upstairs on your own steam," he asked softly, "or do I tap you on the skull and carry you up?"

Kovey and Link looked at him a moment, then at the gun.

"We'll go," said Kovey.

These were not the first guests of Mother Kelly's Green Room. On other occasions in the past, the Suicide Squad had entertained unwilling guests whom it was inconvenient to book. The very nature of the unconventional way in which they worked made it necessary to hold a prisoner incommunicado at times. Mother Kelly gladly aided and abetted them, though she knew that there was always a good chance of getting into trouble. But of one thing she was certain—that Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw never held anyone in that room who did not hugely deserve it.

Johnny and Steve came down after locking their prisoners in, and joined Delameter and Dan Murdoch in the room next door to the one in which Abigail Dean and Nora Dixon were sleeping.

Dan was in a nasty mood. "I hear by the radio that you two lugs have been having yourselves a hot time."

He had the receiving set turned down low, and was picking up one of the all-night stations. Three Little Fishes was dribbling in on a record. Delameter was pacing up and down, nervously.

"There's going to be hell to pay in this town in the morning!" the old lawyer said. "Nicodemus Largo will have men out combing the city for us—"

"Not for you," Steve said, "or for me."

Delameter looked at him inquiringly.

Steve grinned. "He'll think we're both dead. He has no reason to believe that it wasn't the two of us who walked into that trap. And there's nobody to tell him otherwise. Kovey and Link certainly won't tell him."

"But he'll be looking for Kerrigan and Murdoch—and for little Nora."


THE Three Little Fishes came to an end, and the announcer said, "More news on that explosion at Twenty-fifth Street. Here's a bulletin issued by the Police Commissioner on the spot. It is now believed that the explosion was caused by the detonation of some dynamite that was stored there by the Largo Construction Company. The Company used the cellar of the abandoned building as a storage dump for explosives used in their building operations on the river front. The building itself is part of the old Horace Dixon estate, which is administered by Nicodemus Largo, president of the Largo Construction Company. Mr. Largo, who was notified of the accident, has come to the scene. He believes that some tramps must have taken refuge from the cold in the basement, and inadvertently dropped a cigarette which started a fire. At least two men are known to have died in the explosion, but it is impossible to identify the remains. And now, my friends, I give you that popular ballad, The Last of the Ice Men!"

Dan turned off the radio. He looked reflectively at Steve and Johnny.

"Did you hear that?" he asked. "Nicodemus Largo is at Twenty-fifth Street."

"A lot of good that does us."

"A bullet in the head would do him a lot of good," Murdoch said softly. "But we can't even afford the luxury of shooting him—yet."

Mother Kelly stuck her head in the door. "Telephone," she said. "Washington calling. It's your Chief."

Steve Klaw sighed, and followed her downstairs to the phone.

"Good morning, sir," he said.

"Steve!" the Director said tensely. "Have you any news?"

"Nothing good yet, sir. I'm sorry to say we haven't got to first base."

"Is there any chance you'll be able to accomplish anything before noon?" the Chief asked anxiously.

"We'll try our damnedest, sir."

"I'm counting on you three, Steve. I've been up all night, talking to Congressmen. They've been calling me on the phone every fifteen minutes. They're frantic with worry. If you don't crack this before Congress convenes, there'll be a scandal that will split the nation wide open."

"I understand, sir. We'll do everything in our power."

"I don't like to say this," the Chief went on slowly, "but if everything else fails, you must use Nora Dixon as bait!"

He paused a moment, then added, "Understand, Steve, the suggestion does not come from me. I have two members of Congress here at my elbow. They insist on my giving you these instructions."

"All right, sir," Steve said dully.

"Call me as soon as you have something, even if it's the last minute. Use the private phone number of the Congressional cloak room. I'll be waiting there."

"Yes, sir."

Steve hung up, and returned upstairs. "All right, boys," he said to Dan and Johnny. "It's double or quits. We shoot the works."


CHAPTER VI. — CUSTOMERS FOR CASKETS

THE Largo Construction Company had a two-story black marble-and-silver building on one of the side streets just west of the River. Alongside it was a large private parking lot. The lot also held a number of metal sheds for construction materials. The street in front of the building was busy, at nine in the morning, with cars coming and going. Trucks were pulling out of the lot, loaded with workmen for the various jobs along the river front. A huge derrick truck lumbered out, the crane thrusting its gaunt frame for a hundred feet out behind. The crane operator sat in his caboose, facing the rear.

Stephen Klaw, at the wheel of one of the two limousines they had captured last light, had to wait till the immense derrick got out of the way. Then he tooled the car over in front of the entrance of the building. He turned and looked somberly at Abigail Dean and at little Nora Dixon, who were crowded into the front seat with him.

"You both know what you have to do?" he asked.

Abigail Dean was sitting, tight-lipped, her hands wrapped around her big black purse. "Yes," she said. "I know what I have to do. And I don't like it. But—I'll do it!"

Steve nodded approvingly, and looked down at Nora Dixon.

"What about you, child? Are you ready?"

Nora had a big doll on her lap. It was a beautiful doll, with dark hair just like Nora's, and big eyes that opened and closed and rolled around. The doll was dressed in a plaid coat just like Nora's, and a little plaid hat to match.

Nora looked up trustingly at Klaw, and smiled. "I know what I have to do, too, Uncle Steve. And I like it." Her eyes were shining excitedly. "It's just like story hooks—you know, where little girls and little boys get a chance to help the police. Don't worry about me, Uncle Steve. I'll do my stuff!"

Steve sighed. "This is not going to be fun. Nora. It's dangerous."

"I like it."

He patted her shoulder. "You're a brave girl, Nora. And you too, Abby! Come on, let's go."

They got out of the car and went into the Largo Construction Company Building. There was a switchboard just inside the entrance. Significantly, it was operated by a man. There were several men around the place, apparently doing nothing in particular. But they looked hard-bitten, and ready for anything.

At the switchboard, Steve said, "I want to see Mr. Nicodemus Largo."

The fellow at the board glanced at Abby and Nora, then looked up, scowling, at Steve. "What name?"

"Tell him it's Stephen Klaw."

The fellow jerked in his seat, and his eyes narrowed. He started to make a signal to one of the men lounging near by, but Steve said swiftly, "You can also tell him that I've brought Nora Dixon."

"Oh!" The operator subsided in his seat, but his eyes were narrow and watchful. He plugged in and rang, and then spoke softly into the mouthpiece. He looked up at once, and nodded to Klaw.

"Mr. Largo will see you right away. I'll have you shown to his office."

He signaled to the man standing near the switchboard.

"Kinney, take these people to Mr. Largo."

The man, Kinney, was chewing a big wad of tobacco. He switched the cud into his cheek and said, "Follow me."


THEY went after him, toward the rear of the building. Steve threw a quick glance behind, and saw that two more of the men who had been lounging around the entrance were following them. At the rear of the building, Kinney started down a flight of stairs.

"Is Largo's office in the basement?" Steve asked.

Kinney scowled. "You wanted to see him, didn't you? Okay, don't ask any questions." The other two men continued to follow down the stairs after them.

At the foot of the stairs Kinney led the way along a narrow corridor, and stopped at the far end, in front of the door. There was a bell button alongside it. Kinney pressed the button, and a buzzer sounded. The door swung open.

Kinney stepped aside. "Go on in," he said.

Steve motioned Abby in, then took Nora by the hand and went in with her. Almost at once, the two men who had followed them crowded in after them. They had guns in their hands now. One of them pressed his weapon against Steve's spine.

"All right, sucker," he growled. "Stand still." Then, to his companion, "Frisk him, Pete."

Pete came around in front, went through Steve's pockets, and took his two automatics. Then he expertly made sure that Klaw had no other weapons on him.

"Okay, Jock."

"Get going," Jock ordered, poking Steve in the back.

Steve obeyed, not saying a word. They passed through an anteroom, and entered a large office.

"Ooh!" exclaimed Nora. "What a big place!"

Klaw's eyes swept around the room swiftly. It did not have a single window. But there were several air-conditioning ducts which brought fresh air in. At a desk opposite them sat Nicodemus Largo.

He was a bull-necked man with a square, hard jaw and a thin, long nose. His eyes were black and stabbing as he studied Steve.

"Keep him covered every minute that he's in here, Pete," he ordered. "This is the most dangerous of those three G-men. If he does anything suspicious, shoot quickly. And shoot to kill. He has some trick up his sleeve, or he wouldn't have come."

Steve smiled. "Afraid of one man, Largo? And right in your own back yard?"

Largo smiled wolfishly. "Not afraid, Klaw. Just careful." His glance swung to little Nora. "So! This is my little ward. Come here, Nora. I want to talk to you. I'm your guardian, you know."

Nora didn't budge from alongside Abigail Dean. "You're a bad man," she said. "I don't like you."

Nicodemus Largo chuckled. "I don't blame you, Nora. Not when you know what plans I have for you."

"I know them," Nora told him defiantly. "Uncle Steve told me that you intend to kill me—and make it look like an accident."

"Indeed?" Largo raised his eyebrows. "And yet you came here with him?"

"Yes. Because Uncle Steve said if we were quick and sharp, we might turn the tables on you."

"Ah, so!" Largo breathed. His gaze swiveled back to Klaw. "I was sure you had a trick up your sleeve. But we are going to make certain that you don't turn the tables."

He looked searchingly at Steve. "Will you tell me just why you took the risk of coming here this way? Surely you don't take me for a fool."

"We came," Steve said, "because I want to find that shipment of rifles and prevent it from leaving the country. I'm sure those rifles are being loaded somewhere around here, otherwise you wouldn't be so anxious to get rid of Nora Dixon."

"What makes you think Nora Dixon has anything to do with rifles?" Largo asked noncommittally.

Steve smiled tightly. "You're using the Dixon property to store the stolen weapons. That's why you don't want the estate to pass out of your own control."

"Who suspects this beside yourself?"

"No one."


LARGO was silent a moment. Then, "I suppose you know you've signed your own death warrant by giving me that answer? And Nora Dixon's, and this woman's?"

"Somebody is going to die this morning," Steve said steadily. "I can't say who, yet."

Nicodemus Largo showed his teeth. "I can. You three."

"By accident?" Steve asked sardonically.

"By accident," Largo said, nodding. He reached behind him and pressed a button. A panel in the wall slid open, revealing a tunnel. He addressed himself to Pete and Jock. "Take them through the tunnel to the dock. Bash their skulls in, and put them in the car they came in. Then leave the car on the incline, and fix it so that twenty-ton derrick truck seems to go out of control. Let it roll down the incline and smash into the car. It'll flatten them like pancakes."

His lips twisted in a smile. "A beautiful accident, don't you think, Mr. Klaw?"

"Fairly ingenious," Steve approved.

Jock poked him in the back with his gun. "Get moving—"

"Before we go," Steve said, "would you mind telling me, Mr. Largo, just where those rifles are being loaded? And how they're leaving the country?"

A light flickered in Nicodemus Largo's eyes. "You'll never know!" he whispered.

"In that case," said Steve, "I fear I must call your attention to Miss Abigail Dean, here."

Largo frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Observe," said Steve, "that she is holding a black handbag. You will note that she has raised it in the air above her head."

Abby had raised her handbag high in the air, and she was holding it by two fingers, delicately. She was managing to smile, but rather weakly.

"You see," Steve explained to Largo, "your men neglected to search Miss Dean's handbag. But even if they had, they would not have suspected the innocent-looking compact she has in it. That compact, Mr. Largo, is a very ingenious little trinket. It's loaded with fourteen ounces of picric acid, and is equipped with a miniature detonator cap charged with fulminate of mercury. Being in the construction business, handling explosives as you do, you will easily understand what will happen if Miss Dean lets her handbag drop to the floor." He smiled genially at Nicodemus Largo.

Abigail Dean held the pose, with the bag in the air.

Jock and Pete were staring at her with wide, terror-filled eyes. Largo was watching her suspiciously.

"This wouldn't be a bluff, would it?" he asked softly. "I can scarcely believe that you'd be ready to blow all of us, including the girl and yourself to kingdom come!"

"If you think it's a bluff," Steve said, "order your men to take the bag away from her."

Largo turned his glance back to Abby. Jock and Pete continued to stare at her, spellbound.

Unnoticed, Nora lifted up the plaid coat of her big, beautiful doll, and took an automatic pistol out of a cunning little pocket which had been sewn inside. She swiftly handed the pistol to Stephen Klaw.

He snicked off the safety catch, thrust Nora behind him, and said, "So sorry, gentlemen!"

Pete and Jock swung around, pulling the triggers of their guns as they did so. The shots blasted against the eardrums of everyone in the room, reverberating in the tunnel beyond. But they had fired hastily. The shots ploughed into the floor.

Cold-eyed, tight-lipped, Stephen Klaw coolly fired his automatic twice. He shot deliberately, and with intent to kill. Jock and Pete went down, a bullet in the heart of each.

Steve swung from the hips, brought his automatic to bear on Nicodemus Largo who was clawing a gun out of the top drawer of his desk. The gun was almost out when Largo saw the muzzle of Steve's automatic staring at him. He grunted and let the revolver drop back into the drawer. Then he raised his hands.

"I'm not armed, Klaw," he said.

Stephen Klaw smiled tightly. "I'm not ready to kill you yet, Largo. I want to know where those rifles are being loaded."

Largo's face was impassive. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Steve stepped over to the door. There was a bolt on it, and he shot it home—in case any of the gunmen had heard the shots. Then he crossed swiftly to Largo's desk, and pointed the automatic at him.

"Get up!"


LARGO was sweating a little. But his sharp, piercing eyes showed no fear. This was no cheap crook, who was ready to own himself beaten at the first turn of fortune. Steve could see the wheels revolving in Largo's mind, could guess that the man was ready to take advantage of the first favorable opportunity that offered.

Largo got slowly to his feet. "Well?" he asked sardonically. "How do you think you're going to get out of here? The building is full of my men."

"I'm thinking of the tunnel," Steve said.

Largo laughed. "That's full of my men, too. Do you think they'll let you pass?"

"I think they will!"

Steve motioned to Abigail Dean and Nora. "Come on, girls. Out through this sliding door!"

The girl and the older woman passed through the opening, into the tunnel. Steve forced Largo to follow them.

"Just tell me one thing," Largo asked. "Did that woman really have an explosive charge in her bag? I'm interested. I want to know if I lost out on a bluff."

Steve grinned. "When you tell me about the rifles, I'll tell you about that!"

As they stepped out into the tunnel, Stephen Klaw barely repressed a gasp of amazement. This was no two-by-four affair. It was an immense tunnel with a vaulted roof almost thirty feet high. The flooring was of poured concrete, and wide enough for two cars to drive comfortably abreast. Overhead there were neon lighting units and air-conditioning vents. Far back, at the right it was possible to see where a ramp led upward, possibly to the inside of some garage or warehouse. And to the left, in the direction of the river, there was a wall across the entire width of the tunnel. Plate glass windows in that wall afforded a view beyond, but Steve could not see what was on the other side, because they were almost two hundred feet away. What he did see, though, was a half dozen huge trucks, with men swarming around them, busily unloading wooden cases, which were immediately carried through a double doorway in the wall by porters.

"The stolen rifles!" Steve exclaimed. Then his forehead wrinkled. "But where are they taking them? There's no ship in the river at that point. We investigated—"

Largo laughed. "If you're lucky, Klaw, you may find out. If you're unlucky, you'll never know."

"I'll make the luck!" Steve grunted.

Down from the ramp at the right, a small sedan came rolling, with a single man at the wheel. The sedan slowed up as it approached them. Steve put the automatic back in his pocket, and waited. As the sedan came closer, the face of the driver grew clearer. It was Homer Monk.

Monk pulled up alongside Nicodemus Largo. For the moment, he was too excited to notice Stephen Klaw, or the fact that Steve's pocket was poking out into the small of Largo's back.

Monk stuck his head out of the window and shouted, "Boss! Two of those G-men are outside, at the back of the building. They're just over this part of the tunnel. They seem to be waiting for someone. What—"

"They're waiting for me!" Stephen Klaw said, stepping around from behind Largo.

Monk recognized him then and uttered a shout. He reached under his coat for a gun. Steve waited till he got the gun up, and out over the window. Then he shot him through the forehead.

Behind him, Abigail Dean uttered a little frightened screech, and Nora Dixon gasped. She covered her face with her little hands, and swayed on her feet. The shock had been too much for the child. She fainted.

Steve caught her in his arms, at the same time yanking his automatic out and keeping Largo covered with it. The busily working men down at the river end of the tunnel had not even heard the shot, for Steve had fired through the cloth of his pocket, and that had muffled the report. In addition, there was some sort of mysterious metallic clanking going on beyond the wall, which served to drown out any other sounds.


FOR a moment, Steve held the unconscious little girl in his arms. Largo looked at him sardonically.

"Well, Mr. Klaw? What are you going to do now?"

Steve slung Nora over his left shoulder, leaving his right arm free.

"You'll have to excuse me, Mr. Largo, but this is absolutely necessary."

"What do you mean?"

"This!"

Steve stepped in and tapped him along the side of the temple with the barrel of his automatic.

He hit him just hard enough to drop him. Then he thrust the automatic out into Abigail Dean's hand.

"Hold this gun, Abby," he ordered. "If Largo comes to, or if anyone goes for you, you shoot it by pulling the trigger. This is the trigger—"

"I can shoot a gun!" she said. "But where are you going?"

"To take care of Nora first," he told her. He climbed up on the narrow ledge, straddling the railing, with Nora still over his shoulder. A couple of feet away there was an iron ladder leading up to an emergency manhole. He climbed to the top, balancing Nora on his shoulder, and thrust upward at the manhole. It gave, and he pushed it over to one side, then stuck his head out.

Almost at once, he spotted Kerrigan and Murdoch. As arranged previously, they had stationed themselves at the rear of the building, to be ready in case he needed them. They seemed to be getting more restless by the minute. They were looking over toward the building, and they didn't see Steve's head poking out of the manhole. About fifty feet behind them, at the edge of the parking lot, was their car, with Pierre Delameter in it. The old lawyer had insisted on coming along.

Steve raised his voice cautiously and called, "Hey, mopes!"

Kerrigan and Murdoch jumped. They turned around, seeking the source of his voice, looking mainly toward the building, and not down at their feet.

Steve grinned. "You're cold, mopes!"

Both Kerrigan and Murdoch spotted him at the same time now, and they came running over. Delameter also came over from the parked car. Steve handed up the unconscious body of Nora Dixon.

"Take her to the car, Delameter," he ordered. "And drive like hell out of here. There's going to be fireworks popping in a minute."

Delameter didn't stop to ask questions, or to argue. He gathered up the frail, limp figure, and ran back to the car with amazing speed for his years.

Kerrigan and Murdoch climbed down the ladder back into the tunnel after Stephen Klaw. They asked no questions either. And Klaw vouchsafed them no explanations, except for one bit: "This is the blow-off, boys! It's the rifles!"

At the bottom, Abigail Dean was standing tensely, with Steve's automatic pointed at the recumbent Nicodemus Largo. He was conscious, but still groggy.

The three G-men reached the bottom, and Steve strode over to take his gun from Abigail. At the same time he called over his shoulder, "They're loading the rifles over at the river end, mopes."

Just then, Largo pushed up to his knees. He had produced a small whistle from a vest pocket, and he stuck it to his lips. Steve jumped for him, but was too late. A shrill, piercing blast emanated from that whistle, which traveled up and down the length of that tunnel with the startling stridency of an air-raid siren.

The men loading the truck stopped working and stood as if they had been turned to stone. That whistle blast evidently meant danger, for almost at once a small force of armed men in strange uniforms appeared through the doorway in the wall. They wore sailor's uniforms, but not American. Each of those sailors had a small automatic rifle at his shoulder. An officer in the lead motioned toward where Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw were standing, and shouted a command in a foreign tongue. At once, the armed sailors raised their rifles and sighted. The volley from those weapons would sweep down the length of the tunnel, would mow down the Suicide Squad, as well as Abigail Dean. That it would also kill Nicodemus Largo did not seem to matter. Perhaps the commanding officer of those foreign sailors had not noticed his prone figure.

Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw faced those automatic rifles shoulder to shoulder, screening Abigail Dean with their bodies.

"Okay, boys," said Dan Murdoch. "This is it. See you in hell."

"See you in hell!" echoed Johnny Kerrigan and Stephen Klaw.

This was the way they had always expected to go out. This was the way they wanted it to be when it came—on their feet, with guns in their hands and fighting against great odds for a just cause. They faced their fate like soldiers and gentlemen, smiling and without regrets.


THE officer was just about to give the command to fire, and the Suicide Squad was just about to begin shooting, when Nicodemus Largo uttered a hoarse cry and sprang to his feet. He began to run, weaving wildly, toward the foreign sailors.

Their officer recognized Largo then, and held his order to fire. Johnny Kerrigan deliberately raised his gun and sighted for Largo's swiftly-pistoning legs.

He fired once, twice. The shots reverberated in the tunnel, and Nicodemus Largo went sprawling head first, both his legs buckling at the knees.

Now, the enraged officer of the sailors uttered a high-pitched command to fire. At the same moment, Stephen Klaw felt some one twitching his sleeve from behind. Abigail Dean thrust her purse into his hand.

"My purse," she said.

That was all Stephen Klaw needed. His eyes glittered. He snatched the purse from her and ran forward a few feet, drawing his arm back.

"Scram, mopes!" he yelled over his shoulder.

The sailors held their fire for a split-second, staring in amazement at this seeming madman who was charging them with nothing but a woman's purse in his hand.

And in that split-second. Steve hurled the purse. He threw it as far as he could, putting every ounce of his power behind it. The purse sailed through the air, describing a wide parabola, and landed with a thud at the feet of the officer.

The thud was immediately drowned out by the ear-shattering explosion that followed. The bodies of the officer and of his sailors dissolved into a welter of flying limbs and bits of tattered uniform. The whole tunnel rocked as if a giant were delivering million-pound sledge-hammer blows at it. A great, jagged hole was torn in the outer wall, and water from the East River came cascading into the tunnel like a mighty torrent, sweeping everything before it.

At the same time, the wall at the end of the tunnel was demolished. For a single brief instant there was a glimpse of a long, dark cigar-shaped metallic hulk, with a conning tower above it, and other sailors running about on the platform in panic. Then the sweeping water blotted it from view along with everything else.

The flood came tearing toward Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw, at a pace which would certainly make it impossible for them to escape on foot.

Abby had fainted, and Murdoch had her in his arms. Even if it were possible for an unencumbered man to outrace that sweeping torrent, Murdoch could never have made it, burdened with Abigail. And Kerrigan and Klaw wouldn't have left him there alone.

It was Johnny Kerrigan who got in motion, almost without thinking. He wrenched open the door of the sedan, and yanked the body of Homer Monk out, letting him drop to the swiftly flooding floor. Then he was at the wheel.

Murdoch had already slung Abby into the rear. Now he and Klaw jumped on the running board, and Kerrigan gave as superb an exhibition of driving in reverse as had ever been seen. He backed that car up the tunnel at thirty miles an hour and hit the ramp on the bounce, only inches ahead of the cascading wall of water which pursued them.

That car tore up the ramp like a live juggernaut, and broke into the open air at the rear of the parking lot. Kerrigan let her roll for a hundred feet more, and then stopped.

For a moment, all three of them watched the water forcing its way up the ramp.

Johnny wiped his forehead. "Well, guys, I guess that wasn't the time." He grinned. "Maybe next time."

"Did I see right, down in that tunnel," Dan Murdoch asked, "or did my eyes deceive me? Was that a submarine?"

"It was," Stephen Klaw said somberly. "It was a submarine belonging to a Central American country. That's the way they smuggled the rifles out of New York—literally under our noses. Largo built that tunnel solely for the purpose of loading the rifles into the sub. That's why he didn't want any interference with his handling of the estate. This property all belongs to Nora Dixon."

Dan Murdoch climbed in back and took Abigail Dean's head on his shoulder.

"You know," he said reflectively, "Abby is a good sport. And she thinks fast, too. Handing you her purse was a stroke of genius. Let's adopt her."

"Well," Johnny Kerrigan said, grinning. "We'll buy her a drink, anyway!"


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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