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Title: Flash Evans, Camera News Hawk
Author: Bell, Frank
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: THERE WAS A TERRIFIC CRASH AS CAR AFTER CAR PILED ON EACH
OTHER. (See page 44)]



                             _FLASH EVANS_
                            CAMERA NEWS HAWK


                                  _By_
                               FRANK BELL

                             _Illustrated_

                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
                  _Publishers_    :    :    _New York_


                          _FLASH EVANS BOOKS_

  FLASH EVANS AND THE DARKROOM MYSTERY
  FLASH EVANS CAMERA NEWS HAWK

                          Copyright, 1940, By
                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                               _CONTENTS_


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. CRACKING SILK                                                     1
  II. OVER THE CLIFF                                                  10
  III. A TRAIN WRECK                                                  22
  IV. SUBSTITUTE CAMERAMAN                                            32
  V. TROUBLE AT THE GATE                                              40
  VI. MAJOR HARTGROVE’S VISITOR                                       49
  VII. A HINT TO THE WISE                                             56
  VIII. DISTRUST                                                      64
  IX. FLASH ACCEPTS AN OFFER                                          73
  X. CHECKING FACTS                                                   79
  XI. HIGH WATER                                                      88
  XII. BRIDGE OUT!                                                    99
  XIII. A POLO GAME                                                  107
  XIV. RASCOMB’S INVITATION                                          115
  XV. THROUGH THE PASS                                               125
  XVI. DOYLE’S TREACHERY                                             135
  XVII. A KEY TO MYSTERY                                             142
  XVIII. ESCAPE                                                      149
  XIX. A DOUBLE RESIGNATION                                          156
  XX. ACCUSATIONS                                                    163
  XXI. RASCOMB’S EXPLANATION                                         171
  XXII. THE MAJOR’S DISAPPEARANCE                                    178
  XXIII. CAPTIVES                                                    188
  XXIV. A DESPERATE CHANCE                                           195
  XXV. FADE-OUT                                                      202



                             _FLASH EVANS_
                            CAMERA NEWS HAWK



                               CHAPTER I
                            _CRACKING SILK_


Flash Evans dribbled the basketball down the gymnasium floor, gave it a
final flip through the net, and started for the shower room.

“Not leaving, are you?” his friend, Jerry Hayes, called after him.

“Yes,” Flash answered regretfully, “I’ll be late getting back to work
unless I do. Business before fun, you know.”

“Wait a minute and I’ll walk along to the _Ledger_ office with you.”

“All right, but step on it! My ticker says ten of one.”

For as far back as the two boys could remember they had been close
friends. Both were graduates of Brandale High School, lived on the same
street, and enjoyed the same sports.

During the past nine months Flash had worked as a photographer on the
_Brandale Ledger_ and, of necessity, his pleasures had been somewhat
curtailed. Yet, he still found time to swim at the “Y,” and on this
Saturday had given up his lunch hour to play basketball.

The two friends quickly dressed. As they left the “Y” building together,
Flash strapped a Speed Graphic camera over his shoulder.

“You never go anywhere without that thing, do you?” Jerry remarked.

“Not during working hours. You never know when a big picture may come
your way.”

“Those were dandies you ran in the _Ledger_ a short time ago,” Jerry
recalled. “Cleaned up an arson gang by getting a picture of the head
man, didn’t you?”

“The police did the work,” Flash corrected carelessly, “but my pictures
helped. And on the strength of them, Editor Riley is giving me a month’s
vacation instead of the usual two weeks. I start tomorrow.”

“Where are you going, Flash?”

“Don’t know yet. I may take in the Indianapolis auto races.”

The pair had reached a street corner. As they halted to wait for the
traffic light to change, an automobile rolled leisurely by close to the
curb. Flash stared.

“See that fellow at the wheel!” he exclaimed, grabbing Jerry’s arm.

“Sure. Who is he?”

“Bailey Brooks!”

“And who is he?” Jerry demanded bluntly.

“You haven’t read about Bailey Brooks, the aviator and parachute
jumper?”

“Oh, sure,” Jerry nodded, “the fellow who has been having so much
trouble. I remember now. Government officials refused him permission to
test that new parachute he invented.”

“And for a good reason. Brooks claims his new ’chute will open up at a
very low altitude. But a month ago when it was given the first test, a
jumper was killed.”

The automobile had been held up by a red light. Jerry was staring at the
driver with deep interest when a green-painted sound truck bearing the
sign, _News-Vue Picture Company_, rolled up directly behind the car.

“Say, that sound truck seems to be following Bailey Brooks!” Flash
exclaimed, excitement creeping into his voice. “Something must be in the
wind!”

“Sure looks that way,” agreed Jerry. “The newsreel lads must be after
pictures.”

“Do you know what I think, Jerry? Brooks is slipping off somewhere on
the quiet to make his parachute jump despite government orders! Gosh,
that’s worth a picture! Whether he succeeds or fails, the _Ledger_ will
want it.”

Already the traffic light had changed from red to green. The automobile
and the sound truck started to move slowly ahead. Flash knew that if he
were to learn the destination of Bailey Brooks and the newsreel men, not
a moment must be lost.

“Listen,” he said crisply to his friend. “Telephone the _Ledger_ office
for me, will you? Tell Riley I’m after a hot picture!”

Without waiting for Jerry’s reply, he signaled a taxi, leaping on the
running board as it slowed down.

“Follow that green sound truck!”

The chase led through the business section of Brandale into open
country. There the car and sound truck chose a road which wound along
the ocean. Some twelve miles from the city, they both drew up at the
base of a high cliff overlooking the beach.

“Wait for me,” Flash instructed the driver.

As he stepped from the cab, he saw that his hunch had been right. Bailey
Brooks was unloading parachute equipment from his automobile.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Brooks,” he greeted the aviator. “Are you making a
jump from the cliff?”

“You’ve guessed it,” the man grinned. “What paper do you represent?”

“The _Ledger_. Mind if I take a few pictures?”

“Go ahead,” Bailey Brooks responded cordially. “The publicity ought to
do me some good.”

Flash took a pose of the man beside his car, but decided to save his
remaining films for the actual jump.

He wandered over toward the green sound truck which had maneuvered into
position near the base of the cliff. A sound technician and two helpers
were stringing up their microphone. Two cameramen, on the roof of the
truck, were attaching the tripod of a large turret-front camera to the
metal platform.

The younger man turned slightly and Flash recognized him as a
photographer who, until three months previously, had been employed by
the _Ledger_.

“Joe Wells!”

The cameraman looked around, and climbed quickly down from his perch.

“Well, if it isn’t Flash Evans!” he exclaimed heartily. “What are you
doing out here?”

“Oh, I saw your wagon roll by, and I figured I might get a good picture
if I trailed you.”

“Same old Flash, always playing hunches,” Joe chuckled. “But you figured
right. Brooks may crack up instead of cracking silk.”

“I hope not. Still, that cliff doesn’t look very high.”

“He’s a fool to try it,” Wells declared in a low tone. “But if he’s bent
on committing suicide just to prove his ’chute will work, that’s his
lookout. Ours is to take pictures.”

The sound technician had finished setting up his equipment. Working with
quiet efficiency, he stationed Bailey Brooks in front of the microphone,
and took his own position at the mixing panel.

After the recording had been made, Joe led Flash over to the truck.

“Meet our sound expert,” he said carelessly. “George Doyle.”

The technician, a sullen, serious man of twenty-eight, did not bother to
remove the monitor phones from his ears. He stared at Flash, mumbled a
few words, and turned his back.

To cover up the rudeness, Joe said quickly:

“Why not quit the _Ledger_, Flash, and come in with a real outfit? If
you’ll consider it I’ll ask _News-Vue_ to give you a chance.”

“Thanks, Joe, but I like my work at the _Ledger_. I start my vacation
tomorrow.”

“You’re fitted for newsreel work,” Joe declared persuasively. “You have
steady nerves, good judgment, and you’re cool in an emergency. I know,
because I’ve worked with you. Better think it over.”

Flash smiled and offered no response.

A moment later Bailey Brooks came over to say that he was ready to make
the jump. Leaving George Doyle and the others below, Flash and Joe began
the steep ascent with the aviator. Burdened as they were with heavy
equipment, they took it slowly, proceeding in easy stages.

Presently, pausing to rest, Flash glanced downward. He noticed that a
coupe had drawn up in a clump of bushes not far from the cliff. A man
with field glasses was watching their progress.

“We have an interested watcher,” remarked Flash. “Wonder who he is?”

Both Joe and Bailey Brooks turned to gaze in the direction indicated.

“I can’t tell from this distance,” said the parachute jumper. “It looks
like Albert Povy’s automobile.”

“Povy?” inquired Joe Wells in a startled voice.

“Yes, he’s one of the few persons who has been interested in my new
’chute.”

An odd expression settled over the newsreel man’s face. He said no more.
But, as the climb was resumed, he dropped some distance behind Brooks to
whisper with Flash.

“If that’s really Povy in the car, he must expect something to come of
this test today! I’m telling you, his reputation isn’t very good!”

Flash had no opportunity to learn more about Povy, for Bailey Brooks had
paused. He waited on the trail until the two men caught up with him.

At the summit of the cliff the three flung themselves on a flat rock to
rest. Bailey Brooks seemed nervous. His hand trembled as he lit a
cigarette.

“This jump means a lot to me,” he said. “Since my pal, Benny Fraser, was
killed testing out the ’chute, government authorities have advised me
that my design is unsound. But I know better. I’m willing to risk my
life to prove it.”

“And when you succeed, I imagine the government will suddenly take an
interest,” Flash remarked.

“Sure. They’ve had their experts studying the invention for months. They
claim it has defects which can’t be overcome.”

Brooks arose, tossed aside his cigarette and began to strap on his
harness.

“If I succeed everything will be swell. If I fail, I won’t know it. So
what’s the difference?”

The man spoke with attempted carelessness. Yet, he could not hide his
real feelings from the two observant photographers. He was not so
confident as he would have them believe.

Joe Wells set up his automatic hand camera near the edge of the cliff,
winding the spring motor and loading the film. Flash stationed himself
at a slightly different angle, focusing his Speed Graphic.

“All set?” inquired Brooks.

“Any old time,” said Wells, and signaled the _News-Vue_ men below.

A dizzy, nauseous sensation came over Flash as he gazed downward. If the
’chute failed to open—and the odds were against Brooks—would he have the
courage to keep on taking his pictures? He wondered.

“Good luck, Brooks,” said Wells. “Happy landing.”

“I won’t need luck,” the man answered jerkily. “Not with a ’chute like
this baby.”

He stepped to the edge of the cliff. For a long moment he stood there,
gazing out across the sea, savoring the glint of sunlight upon the
tumbling waves.

“Whatever happens,” he said, “keep grinding.”

Then with lips compressed, face tense, he stepped off into space.



                               CHAPTER II
                            _OVER THE CLIFF_


At terrific speed the body of the jumper hurtled toward the earth. The
parachute did not open.

Grim-faced, his horrified eyes focused upon the falling figure, Flash
shot his first picture. His heart was in his throat, but he was able to
keep his hand steady. Swiftly he extracted the holder and made ready to
take a second exposure.

“It’s curtains,” he thought. “The ’chute never can save Brooks now.”

And then, even as he abandoned hope, the silken umbrella cracked open.

Perspiration oozed from Flash’s forehead. Joe Wells laughed aloud, so
great was his relief.

The danger, however, was not entirely over. As Flash took a picture of
the great umbrella drifting downward, he noted that it was falling at a
rapid rate toward the sea. For a time it appeared that Brooks would
strike the water with great force.

But the aviator began to pull on the risers, and succeeded in working
away from the shore. He landed in a plowed field some distance away. The
wind billowed the ’chute, dragging him for a few feet. Brooks then
skilfully pulled on the underside risers and the big umbrella flattened
out.

“He’s safe,” observed Wells, taking a deep breath. “I hope he makes a
fortune. A jump like that is worth it.”

The two photographers began to pack their cameras into carrying cases.

“By the way, what did you start to tell me about Albert Povy?” Flash
inquired curiously.

“He was supposed to have been mixed up in shady espionage business a few
months ago. I understand government operatives have kept a sharp eye on
him.”

“And now he seems to be interested in Brooks’ parachute?”

“It looks that way. If Brooks has any sense he’ll steer clear of the
fellow. Suppose we get down there, Flash.”

Together they began the dangerous descent. By the time they reached the
base of the cliff, Bailey Brooks had walked back from the field, and was
receiving the congratulations of the _News-Vue_ men.

As Flash and Joe added their praise, a tall, dark stranger crossed the
open space to the sound truck.

“A beautiful jump, Mr. Brooks,” he praised. “You remember me, don’t you?
My name is Povy—Albert Povy.”

“Yes, I remember you very well,” the jumper replied dryly. “Did I
demonstrate what my ’chute could do?”

“You certainly did,” the man returned heartily. “It was amazing! I never
would have believed it possible, if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own
eyes. You know, we may be able to do business together, after all.”

A guarded expression came into Bailey Brooks’ steel gray eyes.

“I’m open to propositions,” he said.

“Come over to my car,” invited Albert Povy. “We’ll talk.”

Flash and Joe Wells were closed out of the conversation. Swiftly the
_News-Vue_ men loaded their equipment aboard the truck and prepared to
leave.

“Listen, Flash,” said Joe as he climbed into the sound truck. “When
you’re through at the _Ledger_ this afternoon, drop around at the
_News-Vue_ offices. I want to talk with you.”

He handed over a card bearing the company address, and the truck rolled
away.

Reminded that he had pictures of his own to rush back to Brandale, Flash
stuffed the card into his pocket, and hurried to the waiting taxi. As he
drove off he saw that Brooks had gone with Albert Povy.

“Wonder if he knows the man’s reputation?” he thought. “I suppose he
must.”

Flash dismissed the matter entirely from his mind. He never expected to
see either of the men again. His only concern was the possibility of
future news stories or pictures.

The taxicab made a quick trip back to Brandale. Flash paid the bill and
kept a receipt to show Riley as proof of his expense.

He was hurrying through the news room on his way to the photographic
department when the editor hailed him.

“Hey, Evans, where have you been all afternoon?” The editor gave him a
quizzical glance.

Flash paused. “Didn’t Jerry Hayes telephone you?”

“Some kid called in. He said you were after a big picture.”

“I nailed it, too,” Flash said confidently. “Bailey Brooks just
disregarded orders and tested his parachute out at Eagle Cliff.”

“Killed?”

“No, the test was a success. So far, the _News-Vue_ people are the only
ones to get pictures. Mine ought to be dandies.”

“Good work!” approved Riley. “We can use them, and the story, too. Crack
’em through.”

In a few minutes’ time Flash had developed his pictures and made the
prints from wet films. His work finished, he was loitering in the news
room when Riley motioned for him to come over to the desk.

“You may as well call it a day, Evans,” he said. “Those were fine
pictures you turned in.”

“Thanks, Mr. Riley.”

“You start your vacation tomorrow, I believe?”

“Yes, sir, I do.”

“You’ve earned it,” Riley said with an attempt at geniality. “Where are
you planning to spend your month off?”

“Home mostly. I may visit some friends in Indianapolis and take in the
auto races.”

Riley pounced upon the information with the avidity of a bass after live
bait.

“We could use some good pictures, Flash. How about covering the races
for the _Ledger_?”

“Well—my plans aren’t definite. I may not be able to make it.”

“Buy yourself a ticket to Indianapolis at the _Ledger’s_ expense,” Riley
urged, guessing the reason behind the young man’s indecision. “Why not
hop the special streamliner which leaves here tomorrow morning?”

“I’ll do it!” Flash decided suddenly.

“Good! Take any equipment you may need, and send your pictures back by
plane.”

Flash returned to the photography department for his camera. After
saying good-bye to several friends, he went downstairs where his pay
check awaited him. He was finished with work an hour earlier than usual.
It would seem strange, he thought, being off duty for an entire month.

As Flash reached for bus fare, he pulled the card Joe Wells had given
him from his pocket. The address of the _News-Vue_ Company was only a
few blocks away.

“May as well drop around there and kill a little time,” he reflected.
“But I don’t aim to let Joe talk me into leaving the _Ledger_.”

Flash presently found himself standing before a tall white stone
building located not far from the waterfront. He consulted the room
directory in the lobby and rode the elevator up to the sixth floor.

A receptionist was asking him whom he wished to see when Joe Wells,
hearing a familiar voice, stepped from one of the offices.

“Hello, there, Flash,” he greeted cordially. “Come on in.”

He led the photographer into a small room crowded with desks, waving him
to a chair.

“I’ll be through in a minute. Then I’ll show you around. I want to write
up this dope sheet first.”

“Take your time, Joe.”

The _News-Vue_ man inserted a sheet of printed paper in a typewriter,
rapidly filling in the blanks.

“I’m getting ready to take off for Indianapolis tomorrow,” he remarked
casually. “George Doyle started on ahead with the sound wagon about an
hour ago. I follow by train and meet him there.”

“Maybe I’ll see you,” Flash replied. “I’m covering the races myself. For
the _Ledger_.”

“I never could go back to working on a paper now,” Joe commented. “Too
tame compared with the newsreels. Flash, why don’t you consider—”

“No!” Flash cut in with a laugh. “I’m not listening to any arguments.”

Joe shrugged and said no more. He spent the next half hour showing his
friend the newsreel cameras and explaining their operation.

“We ordinarily use one with a front turret, carrying three or four
lenses,” he instructed. “This particular camera holds four hundred feet
of film in its magazine and can be hand-cranked or driven with either a
110 volt A.C. motor or a 12 D.C.”

“I suppose power is generated from storage batteries?”

“Yes, our trucks are equipped with chargers. Sometimes we are able to
plug into a service line. But why am I telling you all this? You know as
much about it as I do.”

“Hardly,” Flash corrected. “But I have done a little studying.”

After a trip through the laboratories where positives were being made
from “master blues,” Joe led his friend into the projection room.

“We’re in luck,” he said. “They’re showing those Bailey Brooks
pictures.”

In the darkened room several editors, script writers and a commentator,
sat at dimly lighted desks. On the wall before them a strip of film was
being run through. To Flash the moving figures seemed grotesque, for
blacks and whites were in reverse.

“What’s this?” demanded an editor as he watched the spectacular leap
made by Bailey Brooks. “Just another parachute jump?”

Information provided by Joe Wells’ caption sheet was read aloud.

“That’s interesting stuff,” decided the editor. “Run it full. Cut down
that racing shot from Cuba. Now what do we have on the Japanese
earthquake?”

For several minutes Flash watched the work of cutting and assembling the
eight different subjects which would be used in the completed newsreel.
He ended his tour by visiting a studio where the various shots were
synchronized with music and the explanatory speech of a commentator.

“The releases will be shown in Brandale theatres in another hour,” Wells
declared, escorting his friend to the elevator. “In this business speed
means everything.”

Although he would not have admitted it, Flash was strangely impressed.
Riding home in the bus, he reflected that Joe might be right about
newsreel work offering more thrills than fell to the lot of an ordinary
photographer. He would like to try it. But for the present he couldn’t
consider leaving the _Ledger_.

At home a warm supper was waiting. As he shared the well-cooked meal
with his mother and younger sister, Joan, Flash mentioned his assignment
to cover the Indianapolis races.

“Working on your vacation?” Mrs. Evans inquired mildly. “Really, Jimmy,
you need a rest.”

“Shooting a few pictures won’t be work, Mother. I’ll enjoy it. And I’ll
get a free trip.”

It was true. Flash never had considered professional picture-taking as
drudgery. Save for a month when persons had sought to undermine his job,
he had thoroughly enjoyed the time spent on the _Ledger_.

Flash, who seldom answered to his real name of Jimmy, was seventeen, the
son of a former newspaper editor. Since Mr. Evans’ death several years
earlier, the little family of three had been hard pressed to make ends
meet. But Flash’s recent salary increases had made things much easier.
That was one reason why he could not give up a sure job for the more
uncertain calling of newsreel cameraman.

“I see you have set your heart upon the Indianapolis trip,” Mrs. Evans
remarked, “so you may as well pack your bag.”

Early the next morning when Flash reached the railroad terminal he found
it buzzing with activity. He stood in line to buy his ticket, noting
that Indianapolis seemed to be the popular destination. Special rates
had been offered, and only Indiana passengers were allowed on the
streamliner.

Flash swung aboard. Wandering through several cars, he finally came upon
his friend, Joe Wells.

“Hello, there,” the newsreel man greeted him. “Let’s go back to the club
car and grab a seat before they’re all taken.”

The train began to move. Joe led the way through the corridors. So
quietly did the streamliner run that they scarcely were aware of its
gathering speed.

At the entrance to the club car, Joe halted suddenly and Flash bumped
into him.

“See who is here,” he muttered, indicating a man who sat reading a
magazine.

“Albert Povy!” Flash exclaimed in an undertone.

Offering no additional comment, the two photographers entered the car.
They took the only vacant chairs which chanced to be directly across
from the man who held their attention.

Flash scrutinized the passenger with keen interest. There was something
about Povy which fascinated and yet repulsed him. The man was tall,
well-built, with a hollow, almost gaunt face. A faint but jagged scar on
his left cheek evidently had resulted from an old war wound.

Povy glanced up and met Flash’s steady gaze. He stared hard at the young
man for a moment and then glanced away. If he recognized either of the
photographers he gave no further sign.

Joe nudged Flash. Raising a newspaper to shield his face, he called
attention to a middle-aged man of military bearing who was writing a
letter at the desk.

“Major Creighton Hartgrove,” he whispered. “Retired from the army. It’s
rumored, though, that he’s doing secret work for the government.”

As Wells spoke, Hartgrove arose and left the club car. A moment later,
Albert Povy put aside his magazine and followed. Or at least, Flash
gained the impression that the man seemed to be interested in the
Major’s movements.

He ventured such an opinion to Joe, who made light of his observation.

“You’re as imaginative as ever, Flash,” he scoffed. “I shouldn’t have
told you lurid tales about Povy’s reputation.”

Several times during the day as the streamliner raced westward, Flash
caught glimpses of the two men. It struck him as significant that
usually the pair were in the same car. More than ever he became
convinced that Major Hartgrove was being watched and was himself aware
of it.

Joe Wells had scant interest in either of the men, and as the day wore
on, slept much of the time. When a colored steward gave the first call
for dinner, he shook himself awake.

“Let’s amble into the diner before the big rush starts, Flash.”

They walked forward through two cars, and had just entered the third
where Major Hartgrove sat, when the train’s air brakes suddenly were
applied.

“Now what?” gasped Joe, clutching a seat for support.

The next instant he and Flash both were hurled violently from their
feet. There was a deafening crash, and the car crumpled like an
accordion, burying them beneath the debris.



                              CHAPTER III
                            _A TRAIN WRECK_


Flash lay stunned for several minutes, unable to comprehend that the
train actually had been derailed. Screams of terror and moans of pain
mingled with the shouted orders of the trainmen. The sounds came to him
as if from a long distance away.

Dazedly he sat up, dragging himself from beneath a pile of twisted steel
and splintered wood. Blood streamed from a gash in his head, but
miraculously, he seemed to have suffered no serious injury.

In the gathering twilight he could see that every car had left the
track. The engine, taking the baggage car with it, had rolled down a
steep embankment. It lay on its side, belching steam like a wounded
dragon.

Flash pulled himself to his feet and called hoarsely: “Joe! Joe!”

A moan of pain came from beneath a pile of debris almost at his feet. He
saw an arm protruding from the wreckage. Frantically, he worked at a car
seat which had wedged fast, and finally succeeded in lifting it off. Joe
lay there, his face twisted in agony.

“Go easy,” he muttered. “My leg’s broken. And my insides are scrambled.”

Flash managed to get a supporting arm under Joe’s shoulders, but when he
raised the man to a half-standing position, he crumpled back again.

“No use,” the cameraman moaned. “It’s broken. What a fix! Pictures to
the right and left, and me with a busted leg and no camera! Leave me to
die!”

Joe’s spirited complaint slightly reassured Flash. If his friend could
think of pictures, it was unlikely that he had suffered serious internal
injuries. But there was no question about the leg. It was broken.

Stretching Joe out as comfortably as possible, he looked about for a
board which could be used as a splint.

“Listen,” said Joe, “you can’t do me any good. Run to the nearest
farmhouse and send out a call for ambulances and doctors!”

“I don’t like to leave you, Joe.”

“Go on, I say!”

Aroused to action, Flash started for the nearest house, a quarter of a
mile away. Crawling beneath a barbed wire fence, he ran through a plowed
field. The ground was soft from recent rains. He stumbled and fell flat.
Scrambling up, his clothes covered with mud, he raced on, finally
reaching the house.

The kitchen door was opened by a housewife who screamed when she saw
him. In dramatic words, Flash told what had happened and begged the use
of a telephone.

He called the nearest town of Columbia and was promised that all
available aid would be rushed to the scene. Then, as an afterthought, he
dispatched a telegram to the _Brandale Ledger_, providing the first news
of the train disaster.

Followed by the excited housewife, her husband, and a hired man, Flash
ran back to the wreck.

Confusion had increased. Frantic persons moved in a bewildered way from
one place to another, searching for loved ones. Already a number of
inert bodies had been removed from the wreckage. Only the trainmen
seemed cool and effective in their actions.

A coach had caught fire. Flash hurried there, helping a brakeman pull
two shrieking women from the debris. By working furiously they were able
to make certain that no one had been left under the wreckage. Soon the
car was a blazing inferno, adding to the terror of the frightened
survivors.

“What caused the wreck?” Flash demanded of the brakeman.

“Rail out of place,” the man answered grimly.

“Done deliberately to derail the train?”

“Can’t say,” the other replied. “Not allowed to talk.”

The rapidly darkening sky increased the difficulty of rescue work. Flash
toiled on, unaware of fatigue.

As the first truckload of doctors, nurses, and stretcher bearers arrived
from Columbia, he made his way back to the car which he and Joe had
occupied throughout the journey. The Pullman was overturned but had not
been crushed. Nearly all passengers riding in it had escaped with only
minor injuries.

The car was now deserted. Flash crawled inside. Locating his former seat
he groped about in the dark. Almost at once his hand encountered Joe
Wells’ luggage, and a moment later he found his own camera.

Eagerly, he examined the lens and tested the mechanism.

“This is luck with a capital L,” he exulted. “It doesn’t seem to be
damaged.”

Continuing the search, he located his equipment case which provided him
with a stock of flash bulbs and film holders.

Without losing another moment, he began making a photographic record of
the disaster. First he shot an over-all scene, showing the general
wreckage. The derailed engine where two men had lost their lives, was
worth another picture. He took one of the burned coach, one of the rail
which had caused the wreck, and then turned his attention to human
interest shots of the passengers.

A number of prominent persons had been aboard the train. Whenever he
recognized a passenger he snapped a picture, but he wasted no film.
Every shot told a story.

Gradually, Flash worked his way forward to where he had left Joe Wells.
Failing to see the newsreel man he assumed that stretcher bearers had
carried him to a waiting ambulance.

More for his own record than because it had news possibilities, he shot
a picture of the crushed car in which he had been riding at the time of
the wreck. As the flash went off, he saw a dark figure move back, away
from him.

Reassuringly, he called to the fleeing person. There was no answer.

Instead, from the railroad right of way, a familiar voice shouted
hoarsely: “That you, Evans?”

“Joe!” he answered.

He found the newsreel man sitting with his back to a telephone pole
where he had dragged himself, there to await attention from the first
available doctor.

“How are you feeling, Joe?” Flash asked him anxiously.

“Okay.”

“I’ll see if I can’t get you some blankets. And I’ll try to bring a
doctor.”

“Skip it,” said Joe quietly. “Some of these other folks need attention a
lot worse than I do. I see you found your camera.”

“Your luggage, too,” Flash told him encouragingly.

“Stow it in a safe place if you can find one,” Joe advised. “I saw a
suspicious-looking fellow going through one of the cars. Helping himself
to what he could get!”

“I think I must have seen that same man. He slipped away when I took a
picture a moment ago. The wrecking crew ought to be here soon. They’ll
put a stop to such business.”

“Don’t let me keep you from shooting your pictures,” said Wells
abruptly.

“I’m almost through now.”

As Flash spoke, both men were startled to hear a moan of pain. The sound
came from the wrecked Pullman close by.

“Some poor fellow pinned under there!” exclaimed Joe.

Turning his camera and holders over to his friend for safe keeping,
Flash darted to the wreckage. In the indistinct light he saw a man
sitting with head buried in his hands. The lower portion of his body
seemed to be imprisoned.

“Major Hartgrove!” Flash exclaimed, reaching his side.

The army man stared at the young photographer in a dazed manner. He kept
fumbling in his vest pocket, mumbling to himself.

“I was struck on the head.... My papers ... my wallet!”

“I don’t believe anyone struck you, Major,” Flash corrected. “You were
in a wreck.”

“Don’t you think I know that much!” the army man snapped. “I was
struck—struck over the head.”

It occurred to Flash that the Major might have been struck and robbed by
the person he had observed slipping away into the darkness. But as the
man began to mumble again, he reverted to his original opinion. The
Major had been dazed by the terrific impact of the wreck and did not
know what he was saying.

Flash tried ineffectively to pull away the heavy timbers which held the
man fast.

“It’s no use,” he gasped at last. “I’ll bring help.”

Leaving the Major, he met two burly trainmen carrying lighted lanterns.
With their aid he finally succeeded in freeing the army man. As he had
feared, the Major was severely injured. One foot was crushed and his
head had been wounded.

A doctor came hurrying up with an emergency kit. He gave the Major first
aid treatment and ordered stretcher bearers to carry him to a waiting
ambulance. Joe Wells also was given a hasty examination and transported
to the hospital conveyance.

“May I ride along to town?” Flash requested the driver. “I have some
pictures I ought to rush through to my paper.”

“Jump in,” the man invited. With a quick glance at the young man, he
added: “You don’t look any too good yourself. Feeling shock?”

Flash sagged into the seat beside the driver.

“I’m feeling something,” he admitted. “I guess I’m all in.”

Until now excitement had buoyed him, and made him unaware of either pain
or fatigue. He shivered. His teeth chattered from a sudden chill.

The driver stripped off his own topcoat and made Flash put it on.

“Better get yourself a bed at the hotel if you can,” he advised. “You’ll
feel plenty in another hour.”

Flash shook his head. With pictures to be sent to the _Brandale Ledger_,
he couldn’t afford to pamper himself. He had to keep going until his
work was finished.

“Where is the nearest airport?” he questioned.

“We pass it on our way to Columbia.”

“Then drop me off there,” Flash requested.

A few minutes later he said good-bye to Joe Wells, promising to come to
the hospital as soon as he could.

“Don’t fail,” the newsreel man urged, “there’s something I want you to
do for me.”

At the airport Flash arranged to have his undeveloped film rushed to the
_Brandale Ledger_. From the shipment he kept back only shots which he
was certain would be of no use to the editor.

This important duty out of the way, he walked into town. There he
dispatched a lengthy message, reporting to Riley such facts as he had
been able to gather. Not until then did he allow himself to relax.

Already the town was crowded to overflowing with survivors of the wreck.
Hotels, restaurants and the railroad station were jammed. Every
available bed had been taken. Flash waited in line twenty minutes for a
hot cup of coffee.

Battered and still chilled, he tramped to the hospital. Inquiring about
Joe Wells and Major Hartgrove, he was relieved to learn that they both
were doing as well as could be expected. After a long delay he was
allowed to talk with the newsreel cameraman.

At sight of Flash, Joe’s face brightened.

“I thought you’d come,” he said. “Do you know what the doctor just told
me? I’ll be laid up for weeks!”

“That’s a tough break, Joe.”

“Yeah. Flash, will you do me a favor?”

“You know I will.”

“Doyle’s expecting me to meet him at Indianapolis tomorrow morning,” Joe
went on jerkily. “He has the sound wagon and all our equipment.”

“I’ll send him a telegram right away.”

The cameraman shook his head impatiently.

“Listen, Flash,” he said persuasively, “I want you to take my place.
Meet Doyle and protect the _News-Vue_ people on the race pictures.”

“But I don’t know anything about newsreel work!” Flash protested.

“Sure you do,” Joe denied. “Doyle can help you a lot.”

“Riley is expecting me to get pictures for him.”

“You can do that, too. You won’t lose a thing by helping me out of this
hole. It’s a big favor, I know, but you’re the only person who can swing
it for me. What do you say?”

Flash hesitated briefly. Joe made it all sound very easy, but he knew it
wouldn’t be. Any newsreel pictures he might take likely would be
worthless. The journey on through the night to Indianapolis meant sheer
torture. But he owed it to his friend to at least make the attempt.

“I’ll do it, Joe,” he promised. “I’ll do it for you.”



                               CHAPTER IV
                         _SUBSTITUTE CAMERAMAN_


Pleased by Flash’s promise, Joe Wells quickly provided him with George
Doyle’s Indianapolis hotel address, and offered such advice as he
thought might prove useful.

“Doyle knows a lot about newsreel work and can help you,” he declared.
“But you readily see the job is too big for him to handle alone. I’m
frank to say he’s touchy and rather unpleasant at times. Don’t let that
bother you.”

“I’ll be having enough troubles without doing any worrying about him,”
Flash returned grimly.

“Well, good luck,” Joe said, extending his hand. “I may see you in
Indianapolis. I’m getting out of here as soon as the doctor lets me.”

Flash left the hospital, somewhat bewildered by the rapid way his plans
had been altered. While he had experimented with amateur newsreel
photography and had studied it many months, he had no faith in his
ability. Nor did he think that George Doyle would like the new
arrangement.

Consulting time tables, Flash discovered that he never could reach
Indianapolis by train. The wrecked streamliner had been the last one
which would have arrived in time for the races. A passenger plane left
the local airport at eleven that evening and by making his decision
quickly he was able to get a ticket.

Morning found him, haggard and worn, standing at the desk of the Seville
Hotel in Indianapolis. Nervously he glanced at the lobby clock. His
plane had been delayed, held back by strong headwinds. He feared that
George Doyle might have already left for the race track.

“Did you wish a room, sir?” the clerk inquired, regarding his unkempt
appearance with disapproval. “We’re filled.”

“Do you have a George Doyle here?”

“Newsreel man?” the clerk asked in an altered tone. “Yes, I think so.”

He checked a card index and reported that the man occupied Room 704.
Without telephoning to learn if Doyle were in, Flash went up to the
seventh floor.

In response to his knock, the door was flung open. George Doyle, hat
pushed back on his head, faced him with a frozen gaze.

“Well?” he demanded unpleasantly. “What do you want?”

“I guess you don’t recognize me. We met at Brandale. Remember the Bailey
Brooks ’chute pictures—?”

“Oh, sure,” the man broke in, but his voice still lacked warmth. “Sorry
I can’t stop to talk now. I’m just starting for the track.”

“Joe Wells sent me,” Flash said significantly.

Immediately the sound technician’s manner changed.

“Why didn’t you say so?” he asked, motioning for Flash to come into the
bedroom. “How is Joe? Haven’t heard a word from him since the wreck. You
weren’t on the same train?”

“Yes, I was. Joe’s leg is broken and he’s badly battered.”

“No chance then of his getting here today?”

“Not a chance.”

“This leaves me in a nice situation,” Doyle complained. “I can’t handle
the job alone. I might know Wells would pull something like that!”

“I don’t think he broke his leg on purpose,” Flash returned dryly.

“Maybe not,” Doyle admitted, “but this was our big opportunity to make a
showing. Now I might as well pack up and start back East!”

“Joe sent me to take his place. I don’t know how much good I’ll be, but
here I am anyhow.”

Doyle had been nervously pacing the floor. He paused and stared at
Flash.

“Joe sent you?” he repeated. “Do you know anything about newsreel work?”

“Not very much,” Flash admitted truthfully. “I’m a photographer for the
_Brandale Ledger_. I can do what you tell me.”

“A lot of help you’ll be,” Doyle growled. “I need a good, experienced
man.”

Flash began to lose patience. It seemed to him that Doyle had no
interest in Joe Wells’ misfortune save as it affected him. His only
thought was for himself and his work.

“If you don’t care to use me, that’s quite all right,” he said. “I have
some pictures of my own to take.”

As he turned abruptly toward the door, Doyle stopped him.

“Wait a minute! Don’t be so touchy! I didn’t say I couldn’t use you, did
I? If I decide to tackle the job I’ll need a helper. You may do.”

“Thanks,” said Flash ironically.

He had taken an intense dislike to Doyle. The man was conceited and
disagreeable. But for Joe’s sake he would see the thing through.

“Had your breakfast yet?” Doyle asked in a more friendly tone.

“No, but I’m not very hungry. Still feeling the effects of last night, I
guess.”

Doyle asked no questions about Flash’s experiences in the train wreck.
It did not occur to him that the young photographer had undergone
extreme physical discomfort in order to reach Indianapolis.

“Well, get shaved,” he said gruffly. “I’ll need to explain to you about
the equipment. We haven’t much time.”

Flash borrowed a razor, and did not keep Doyle waiting long. They left
the hotel, going directly to the garage where the green sound truck had
been left. There the sound technician demonstrated the _News-Vue_
equipment, and seemed slightly reassured to discover that Flash knew a
good deal about newsreel cameras.

“Maybe we can get by somehow,” he said gloomily. “Let’s roll.”

“Just as you say.”

Flash jumped into the sound wagon beside Doyle. On the seat he noticed a
newspaper of the previous night. In screaming headlines it proclaimed:
STREAMLINER WRECKED. 12 DEAD, 27 INJURED.

As the car shot out of the garage into blinding sunlight, he was able to
read the finer print. His eye scanned the list of known dead. Seeing a
familiar name, he gave a low exclamation of surprise.

“What’s wrong?” Doyle demanded, regarding him curiously.

“Nothing,” Flash answered. “It just gave me a shock—this list of the
dead.”

“Someone you know?”

“You remember that fellow, Albert Povy?”

“Povy—I can’t seem to place him.”

“The man we both saw at Brandale. He was trying to buy Bailey Brooks’
parachute after the successful test.”

“Oh, sure,” nodded Doyle. “He wasn’t killed in the wreck?”

“His name is listed.”

Doyle guided the sound truck through traffic at a reckless pace,
deliberately stealing the right-of-way from timid motorists.

“If Povy’s dead, then Bailey Brooks is out of luck,” he remarked in a
matter of fact tone. “Too bad for him.”

“And for Povy, too,” added Flash dryly. “However, from what I’ve heard
of the man, his death may not be such a great loss to humanity.”

“Mixed up in some sort of government scandal, wasn’t he?”

“I never did learn many of the details,” Flash admitted. “It was a funny
thing, though. Joe and I saw him on the train. He didn’t remember us or,
if he did, he gave no sign. He seemed especially interested in an army
man, Major Hartgrove.”

“Interested?”

“Oh, it was only my idea. It struck me he might have boarded the train
with the intention of watching the Major.”

“Well, if he’s dead he won’t do any more watching,” Doyle returned
carelessly. “We’re getting near the main gate now. Let me have the
passes.”

“What passes?”

“Didn’t Joe give them to you?” Doyle demanded, lifting his foot from the
accelerator.

“He didn’t give me anything.”

The sound technician groaned. “Joe had all our credentials. You didn’t
think they’d let us through the gate without proper identification?”

Flash had not given the matter a thought. “Won’t our truck get us by?”
he asked.

“It may, but I doubt it. They’re not letting many sound outfits inside.”

“What will we do?”

“What can we do? If we’re questioned, we’ll have to put up a loud
argument.”

The truck had entered dense traffic. It halted to await its turn to
enter the grounds. Slowly the line moved up.

Shouting “_News-Vue_” in a loud voice, Doyle attempted to drive through
the gate. He was promptly stopped.

“Not so fast, young man,” said the gateman. “Let’s see your passes.”

“Passes?” Doyle inquired innocently.

“You heard me,” retorted the gateman. “And don’t try any bluff.”

“See here, we don’t need any passes,” Doyle argued. “We’re newsreel men
for the _News-Vue_ Company.”

“Can’t let you through without passes. Those are my orders.”

“Have a heart,” Doyle growled. “We did have passes, but we lost ’em. If
we don’t get inside and locate our truck before race time, we’ll lose
our jobs!”

“And I’ll lose mine if I disregard orders,” the gateman countered.

Doyle alternately argued and pleaded, but to no avail. The gateman
remained firm. And at last he lost all patience.

“Pull out of line,” he ordered sharply. “You’re holding up these other
cars.”

Angrily Doyle swerved the truck, parking it a short distance away. His
eyes smoldered as he turned toward Flash.

“Joe certainly used his brain when he sent you here without
credentials!” he muttered. “Now how are we to get those pictures? Any
brilliant ideas, Mr. Evans?”



                               CHAPTER V
                         _TROUBLE AT THE GATE_


There was no mistaking the sarcasm in George Doyle’s voice. It was his
nature to lash out at others whenever he was confronted with
difficulties. This realization alone kept Flash from making an angry
retort.

“I have no ideas, brilliant or otherwise,” he responded quietly. “Still,
there ought to be some way to get the truck inside.”

“How?”

“Isn’t there an official around somewhere who might listen to our
explanation?”

“And while we’re trying to find him the races will be underway. We may
as well admit defeat and go back to the hotel.”

“Let’s wait,” urged Flash. “How about trying another entrance?”

Before Doyle could reply, two sound trucks bearing the name of a rival
film company, rolled slowly past and halted. The technician recognized
one of the men and hailed him jubilantly.

“Hello, Benny! Do a fellow a favor, will you? Tell the gateman we’re
okay.”

“What’s the matter?” the other driver asked. “Can’t you get inside?”

“Lost our passes.”

“Now isn’t that too, too bad!” The rival newsreel man grinned wickedly
as he shifted gears. “Never saw you before in my life, George. Watch for
our pictures on the screen!”

The two drivers flashed their passes and drove on through the gate.
Doyle glared after them, calling names under his breath.

Abruptly, Flash leaped to the ground. Without explaining to Doyle, he
walked back to the entrance.

“No arguments,” the gateman forestalled him. “You can’t get through
without a pass, and that’s final. Maybe you’re telling a straight story,
but orders are orders.”

“Isn’t there someone around here who would have the authority to pass us
into the grounds?” Flash asked.

The gateman shrugged. Then his gaze fastened upon a dignified man who
was walking toward the gate.

“Mr. Hartman could do it,” he said. “You might talk with him.”

Flash approached the man, and quickly explained the difficulty. His
straightforward manner impressed the official. He took a quick glance at
the _News-Vue_ truck and called to the gateman.

“It’s all right. Let them through.”

Doyle had no word of praise as Flash slid into the seat beside him.

“It’s almost time for the race to start,” he grumbled. “All the good
places will be gone.”

While rival newsreel companies had had first choice for positions, Flash
and Doyle still were able to park their truck so as to obtain an
unobstructed view of Dead Man’s turn. Hurriedly they arranged their
camera and sound equipment, having everything in readiness for the drop
of the starter’s flag.

With a few minutes still to spare, Flash shot several pictures with his
Graphic. He photographed a number of well known racers as they warmed up
their cars in preparation for the five hundred mile grind.

Observing the previous year’s winner talking with a dark, foreign
looking man who stood beside car 29, he snapped the pair together.

As the shutter clicked, the racer’s companion, turned angrily toward
Flash. Then pulling his hat down low, he hastily retreated.

“Camera shy,” thought Flash. “I’ve seen that fellow before. But where?”

He was staring after the man when Doyle called to him. Quickly he walked
back to the _News-Vue_ sound wagon. A policeman stood there, talking
with the technician.

“Anything wrong?” Flash asked.

“There will be if you don’t get this truck out of here!” the policeman
replied grimly. “You’re blocking the view of race officials.”

“What officials?” Doyle demanded belligerently.

“None of your smart talk,” the policeman returned. “Either show your
permit or move out of here!”

“I can’t see that we’re blocking the judges’ view,” Flash interposed.
“And we’re all set to shoot the start of the race. If we move now we’ll
likely miss it.”

“Why be so tough?” added Doyle.

The policeman had shown visible signs of weakening. But at Doyle’s
question, he became grim again.

“Get going!”

Arguments and explanations were useless. Once more the green _News-Vue_
truck rolled. This time Flash shared Doyle’s disgust. No other place was
available which would offer them an unobstructed shot at Dead Man’s
turn. It was at this point of the track where accidents most frequently
occurred.

“If we can’t train our lens there we’ll miss all the good pictures,”
Doyle said gloomily. “One site is as bad as another now.”

Looking over the big track, they finally chose a place at random.
Scarcely had they set up their apparatus behind the railing when the
first cars roared down the stretch.

“Start grinding!” ordered Doyle curtly.

Flash pressed a button which controlled a motor. The camera began its
steady whirr.

Motor wide open, a car whizzed past and skidded around the turn. Flash
kept his camera lens trained on the racers behind.

And then it happened!

Watching through the viewfinder, he saw a driver suddenly lose control.
A car skidded toward the railing.

Flash’s instinct was to leap aside out of all possible danger, but he
held himself to his post.

The car careened toward him. Racers directly behind could not swerve
aside. There was a terrific crash as car after car piled on each other
and went rolling. Two overturned on the track, and a third smashed
against the fence. The fourth tore away a section not six yards from
where Flash stood. A body hurtled through the air.

Horrified, but with nerves steady, Flash swung his camera to catch it
all. He kept grinding until the crowd closed in about the wrecked car,
blocking his view. A siren screamed.

“Get the ambulance!” Doyle yelled at him.

Flash shot the entire “clean up” scene, only delaying long enough to
first obtain a few “still” shots of the wreckage for the _Brandale
Ledger_. When track attendants had carried the injured from the field
and had towed away the battered cars, he drew a deep sigh. He felt as
weak as a rag, but at least he hadn’t wilted at the critical moment.

“Boy, we shot a picture that time!” Doyle exclaimed with his first show
of enthusiasm. “If we had stayed with the other newsreel men, we’d have
missed it!”

“The cop booted us into a lucky place, all right,” Flash agreed.

“No chance of our getting another shot like that today,” Doyle sighed.
“We may as well take some crowd pictures and then try for ordinary
fill-in stuff of cars coming down the stretch.”

They shifted locations twice, finally returning to a place at the
railing not far from their original site. Both Flash and Doyle felt that
they had experienced their big moment of the day. They anticipated no
additional favor of luck, but it came when a second crash occurred close
to where they had set up their equipment.

“What a day!” Doyle chuckled. “Now we’ll shoot the finish of the race
and be done!”

They managed after considerable difficulty to squeeze into a hole near
the finish line. Flash caught a picture of the race winner, weary and
covered from head to foot with dust and oil, being congratulated upon
his victory. The man was induced to speak a few words into the
microphone.

“Now we’re through,” Doyle said in satisfaction. “I certainly didn’t
miss any tricks! If the pictures turn out well, I ought to get a raise.”

They stowed their equipment away and edged the sound truck into the flow
of traffic. Flash waited, expecting that Doyle would offer some word of
praise. He waited in vain. The technician took the entire credit for the
day’s work to himself.

As they neared the exit gate, they caught sight of two rival sound
trucks.

“Hi, Benny!” Doyle shouted in a loud voice. “How did you do?”

“Terrible,” was the discouraged response. “We missed all the crashes.”

“I got everything,” Doyle boasted, “and I mean everything!”

During the ride back to the hotel, the technician remained in a high
mood. Flash had little to say. He was tired, and in addition, bored by
his companion’s smug boasting.

They stopped at the airport where Doyle previously had arranged for
shipment of the cans of exposed film to the _News-Vue_ offices. Flash
made up a package of his best “still” shots for the _Brandale Ledger_.
With that duty accomplished, his work was completed. At last he was free
to enjoy his vacation.

“Well, good-bye,” he said, extending his hand to Doyle.

“Good-bye?” the man echoed in surprise. “Where are you going?”

“To find myself a bed,” Flash answered. “Then tomorrow I may go back to
Columbia. I want to see how Joe is doing.”

“Oh, yes,” Doyle murmured, frowning. “I’ll have to drive over there
myself tomorrow. Want to ride along?”

Flash hesitated. The matter of car fare was an item to be considered.
Doyle certainly owed him free transportation if nothing more.

“Thanks,” he accepted. “I’ll be glad to ride along.”

But later, alone in his hotel room, he regretted the decision. He did
not like George Doyle. And the technician had no use for him. The
journey at best would be an unpleasant one.

Flash picked up a newspaper which he had bought on the street. The
headlines were devoted to the auto races and the two deaths which had
occurred. Already the train wreck story was old, buried on page two.
However, a revised and final list of the known casualties had been
reprinted. Again Albert Povy’s name appeared.

“I’m sure that fellow was on the train to shadow Major Hartgrove,” he
mused. “But now—well, it doesn’t matter. The mystery, if any, has been
blacked out by death.”



                               CHAPTER VI
                      _MAJOR HARTGROVE’S VISITOR_


The long journey to Columbia proved less disagreeable than Flash had
anticipated. For the most part, George Doyle attended strictly to his
driving. True, he bemoaned the hard life of a newspaper cameraman, the
ingratitude of his superiors. But by this time Flash had learned to
expect a steady stream of complaint.

Reaching Columbia, they drove at once to the city hospital. Although the
building still was overcrowded with patients, Joe Wells had been
assigned to a private room.

They found him with his leg in a cast, propped up by pillows. He tossed
aside a newspaper as they entered and grinned a welcome.

“It’s sure good to see a familiar face in this morgue,” he chuckled.
“Sit down—anywhere except on the bed.”

“How are you feeling, Joe?” asked Flash.

“Not so hot,” he admitted, “but I’m getting out of here tomorrow if it
means climbing down a fire escape. Tell me, how did you make out at the
races?”

Doyle related their success, taking most of the credit upon himself. Joe
listened with a tolerant, half-amused attitude.

“Where was Flash while all this was going on?” he inquired dryly.

“Flash?” Doyle was brought up sharply. “Oh, he was right at my elbow. He
helped a lot.”

“I figured he might. You know, big stories and smash pictures always
have a way of breaking around him. He’s better than a rabbit’s foot any
day!”

“We were lucky yesterday,” Flash admitted with a grin. “Those auto
crashes seemed to have been staged for our special benefit. I only hope
the films turn out well.”

“How did you like the experience?” Joe asked curiously.

“It was exciting. Still, I can’t say I enjoyed it. Seeing two men go to
their deaths—”

“I know,” Joe interrupted, “it shatters you, at first. That’s why so few
men are any good as newsreel cameramen. But you have the stuff, Flash.
Why don’t you take my job until I’m able to get around again?”

The abrupt question startled both Flash and Doyle. The latter could not
hide a frown of displeasure.

“How about it, George?” Joe asked the soundman. “You’d like to have him
work with you?”

“Oh, sure,” he replied without warmth. “Only I imagine district manager,
Clewes, has a man hand-picked for the job.”

“Flash is on the spot. Another man would need to come here. I can send
Clewes a wire.”

“Please don’t bother,” Flash said quietly. “This is my vacation.”

“It would be good experience for you.”

“I don’t doubt that, Joe. Perhaps, some other time I’ll try it.”

“Well, thanks anyway for pinch hitting,” the newsreel man replied
gratefully. “That trip yesterday must have been quite a strain. You’re
tough as a hunk of whang leather, Flash.”

A nurse entered the room to take a temperature reading. After she had
gone, Joe turned to Doyle:

“Do me a favor, will you? Run over to the drug-store and buy me some
tooth paste.”

Doyle left on the errand. As soon as his footsteps had died away, Joe
motioned for Flash to draw his chair closer.

“Now we can talk,” he said comfortably. “What’s the real reason you
don’t want my job? Doyle?”

“His attitude figures. He doesn’t like me. Working with him would be
unpleasant.”

“You’ll get used to his grouching and boasting after awhile. I did. Why
not give it a little whirl—while you’re on your vacation anyhow? It’s
not easy, getting a chance to break into the newsreel game, and here it
drops right into your lap. If you don’t like it, you can go back to the
_Ledger_ and no harm done. And another thing, the pay is much better.”

As Flash remained thoughtfully silent, Joe added: “If your pictures turn
out well, Clewes may offer you the job on his own initiative. Don’t let
Doyle’s personality stand in your way.”

“I’ll think it over. By the way, how is the Major?”

Joe jerked his head toward the wall behind the bed.

“They have him in the next cell,” he revealed in a low voice. “I’m
telling you that old goof nearly drives me crazy.”

“Not out of his head?”

“You couldn’t prove it by me. He keeps that call bell ringing like a
fire engine! Always wanting this and that. And visitors! If you ask me,
the entire Intelligence Department of the Army has been here to see the
Major.”

“Then he’s connected with the secret service?” Flash questioned in
astonishment.

Joe raised himself on an elbow.

“I’m sure of it, although I never guessed it before. He thinks someone
on the train deliberately cracked him over the head after the wreck. He
claims the fellow tried to steal important papers he carried on his
person.”

“That’s odd, Joe. When I helped him from the wreckage he kept mumbling
something about being struck. I thought he was out of his head.”

“Maybe he still is, but he talks straight enough. These walls are like
paper. I’ve heard him conferring with big-wigs of the Army. They’re out
to get some fellow involved in an espionage plot against the
government.”

“Who is he, Joe?”

“No names mentioned. I’ve been wondering if it might not be that man we
saw in the club car.”

“Povy?”

Joe nodded. “He’s had the reputation of being mixed up in that sort of
business. Nothing ever was proven against him though.”

“Povy seemed to be interested in Major Hartgrove on the train. But he
couldn’t have been the one—”

Flash broke off quickly. George Doyle stood in the doorway.

Returning with the tooth paste, the sound technician had approached so
quietly he had not been heard. His attitude was that of a person who
suspected he was the object of discussion.

Conversation became general. Within a few minutes the two visitors took
leave of Joe.

“I’m holing in over at the hotel,” Flash remarked. “Before I leave town
I’ll drop around and see you again.”

“I’ll be here, too, until I hear from Clewes,” added Doyle. “So far I
haven’t had any assignment.”

They shook hands with Joe, and quietly closed the door behind them. As
they went down the hall, Flash could not keep from directing a curious
glance toward Major Hartgrove’s room.

The door stood half open. A man in military uniform sat with his back to
the corridor. Major Hartgrove, reclining in a wheel chair, also was
plainly visible. As Flash stared at him, the Major returned the steady
gaze.

“Someone you know?” asked Doyle.

“A man I helped at the time of the wreck,” Flash explained briefly.

As they passed on, the signal light over the Major’s door winked in
rapid succession. Flash smiled, recalling Joe’s remark about the army
man’s demand for constant service.

The two cameramen reached the elevator and were entering it when an
attractive nurse came quickly after them.

“One moment please,” she requested in a muted voice.

They both waited. Doyle straightened his tie and twisted his face into a
wasted smile. The pretty nurse gazed at Flash as she spoke.

“Major Hartgrove wishes to speak with one of you,” she said. “He doesn’t
know the name. However, he means the young man who aided him in the
wreck.”

“I guess that must be me,” acknowledged Flash. “My name is Jimmy Evans.”

“Then will you please come with me?”

The nurse turned and walked back down the corridor. Flash and George
Doyle both followed.

“You didn’t tell me you were a hero,” the technician said jokingly.
“Maybe the Major is going to pin a medal on your chest!”

At the door of Room 67, the nurse paused. She smiled apologetically at
Doyle.

“Do you mind waiting outside?” she requested. “The Major expressly
requested that he wished to see Mr. Evans alone.”



                              CHAPTER VII
                          _A HINT TO THE WISE_


As Flash entered the bedroom, a stocky, middle-aged man in a captain’s
uniform, turned to face him. He regarded the young man with an alert,
penetrating gaze.

Major Hartgrove, his head and leg swathed in bandages, sat in a wheel
chair by the window. He too appraised the visitor.

“You wished to see me, sir?” Flash inquired.

The Major nodded. “Captain Johns,” he said gruffly, “this is the young
man I was telling you about. The photographer who pulled me out of the
wreck. Your name—”

“Evans. Jimmy Evans.”

“I am pleased to meet you, sir,” Captain Ernest Johns spoke cordially
and extended his hand. “So sorry I must be going. Another appointment.
You will excuse me?”

Without waiting for a reply, he departed, carefully closing the door
behind him. Clearly the speedy leave-taking had been prearranged.

“Sit down!” invited the Major abruptly.

His tone was so explosive that Flash jumped. He dropped into a chair
opposite the army man.

“Evans,” said the Major, “I’ve tried to locate you ever since the night
of the wreck. Where have you been hiding?”

“Indianapolis,” Flash returned, and explained how he had substituted as
a cameraman for Joe Wells.

“So you’re a professional photographer?” inquired the Major. “Took a few
pictures of the train wreck, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have they been published?”

“I couldn’t say. I sent some of my films to the _Brandale Ledger_.
Haven’t had time to hear from my editor yet.”

The Major took a quick turn across the room in his wheel chair. He came
back to the window again.

“If I remember correctly you shot a picture of me.”

“Of you?” Flash asked in surprise.

“A flash bulb went off just as I was trying to pull myself from the
wreckage.”

“Oh, yes, I remember,” Flash nodded. “I doubt if that picture will be
much good. I didn’t send it with the others.”

The Major relaxed in his chair.

“You still have it?” he demanded.

“Yes, but I haven’t had time to develop the film yet.”

“How long will it take?”

“Why, I don’t know,” Flash replied. “I have no developing outfit with
me. I could send it to a local newspaper—”

“Not to a paper,” Major Hartgrove interrupted. “To a studio where
photographic work is done. I’ll want no publicity.”

Flash smiled, rather amused by the army man’s assured way of giving
orders.

“As soon as the film is developed, bring it to me,” the Major resumed.
He hesitated, and then added: “Under no circumstances must that picture
be published until after I have seen it. You understand?”

“I hear,” responded Flash dryly. “I can’t say I understand. After all,
I’m a professional photographer. If a picture has news value it’s my
duty to publish it unless I have a mighty good reason for doing
otherwise.”

The Major made a rumbling noise in his throat.

“Young man, a hint to the wise is sufficient. There are certain things I
am not in a position to explain. However, great harm might result if
that picture were printed. I wish to make it clear that if you disregard
my wishes, you may find yourself in trouble with the government.”

“I doubt if the picture would be worth it, Major. However, I’ll try to
cooperate with you.”

“I am glad that you are taking a sensible attitude,” the army man
returned. “I assure you the picture has no value save to myself and
possible enemies. Upon second thought, you are to bring the film to me
undeveloped.”

Again Flash smiled. The Major mistook his silence for consent.

“Where is the film now?” he questioned.

“In my luggage.”

“Then please bring it to the hospital without delay,” the army man
requested in dismissal.

Flash walked to the door. There he paused.

“Oh, by the way,” he said carelessly, “did you ever learn who it was
that struck you over the head?”

Major Hartgrove made a swift turn in his wheel chair.

“What was that?” he demanded.

Flash repeated the question.

“You’re mistaken, young man,” the Major snapped. “No one struck me. What
gave you that idea?”

“Merely your own words. When I helped you from the wreck you muttered
that someone had struck you and taken your wallet.”

“Then I was dazed. I may have been hit by a falling timber when the car
was derailed. Nothing was stolen from me. An absurd notion!”

“Oh, I see,” said Flash. “My mistake, Major.”

Without waiting for a reply he went out the door, softly closing it
behind him.

George Doyle had remained at the elevator.

“Well, did the Major make you a pretty little speech of gratitude,
Flash?” he inquired curiously.

“He made me a speech. Period.”

Doyle pressed a button and the automatic elevator descended to the lower
floor.

“What was it all about?” he probed.

Flash had no intention of confiding in the technician and so made an
evasive answer. Doyle took the hint, but he lapsed into sullen silence
as they walked back to the parking lot where the sound truck had been
left.

“Where are you going now?” he inquired, watching Flash gather up his
camera and luggage.

“The hotel. I think I’ll stay here a day or so and rest up before I
start back to Brandale.”

“I may hole in myself,” Doyle responded. “I gave _News-Vue_ this town as
my address. I’m stuck here until Clewes sends me orders. I’ll probably
be seeing you at the hotel.”

“Well, if we shouldn’t meet again, good-bye and good luck with your
pictures.”

“Same to you.”

They shook hands with a show of cordiality and parted company. Flash was
glad to be done with the pretense. He never could like George Doyle and
was relieved to escape from him. Doubtlessly, the technician felt the
same way about him.

At the corner, beyond Doyle’s view, Flash paused. Opening his handbag,
he removed the holders which held all the exposed films still in his
possession.

“Wonder why the Major is so anxious to see that picture of himself in
the wreck?” he mused. “At the time I snapped it I didn’t think I had
anything. Maybe I was wrong.”

Deeply puzzled, he could not guess why the picture had any special
significance. Yet he shrewdly reasoned that Major Hartgrove would not
bother to obtain the negative save for a very particular reason.

The army man’s assured way of expecting his orders to be obeyed without
question annoyed Flash. Obviously, the Major had sought to confuse him
by contradicting his first story that he had been struck over the head
by an assailant.

“I’ll have the film developed and see what all the shooting is about,”
he decided. “Then maybe I’ll deliver it to the Major, and maybe I
won’t.”

Walking along Main street, Flash presently came to a small photographic
studio. Entering he spoke to the owner, Mr. Dee.

“I have some films here to be developed and printed. How soon may I have
them?”

“Tomorrow.”

“This is rush work. I’ll be glad to pay extra but I need them right
away.”

“Make it three hours, then,” replied the photographer.

“I’ll be back for them later,” nodded Flash.

He walked on two blocks to the Columbia Hotel. The lobby was crowded. In
response to his inquiry for a single room, the clerk shook his head.

“We’ve been filled to overflowing ever since the train wreck. Folks
coming to see their relatives in the hospital, you know. For a while we
were selling cot space in the halls.”

“No chance then?”

“We did have a double room but it was assigned a few minutes ago. If you
don’t object to sharing it, I could put you in there. The young man who
occupies it isn’t much over your age, and is very respectable, sir.”

“How about him complaining?”

“He took it with the understanding he might be compelled to double up.
The room has twin beds.”

“All right, I’ll take it,” decided Flash.

A boy conducted him up two flights of stairs, through a dingy hallway.
He knocked and opened the door of Room 42. Flash stepped inside.

At the writing desk sat George Doyle. They stared at each other.

“I seem to be your new roommate,” said Flash at last. “Hope you don’t
mind.”

“No, of course not. Come on in.” Doyle spoke with an attempt at
friendliness. “Wait, I’ll take my junk off the bed.”

He arose and carried an armload of garments into a near-by closet.

The bellboy opened a window. An unexpected gust of wind carried a sheet
of paper from the writing desk. Flash stooped to pick it up. A name
caught and held his attention. It was his own.

Without meaning to read what Doyle had written, he saw the entire
paragraph at a glance:

“... rid of that pest, Evans at last. If you put in your application
without delay, you should get Wells’ job, and hold it permanently.”



                              CHAPTER VIII
                               _DISTRUST_


Without reading further, Flash replaced the letter on the desk. Scarcely
had he moved away, when George Doyle stepped from the clothes closet. He
glanced sharply at the young photographer, but Flash’s face gave no
indication that anything was wrong.

Doyle removed the remaining garments from the bed. Then, walking quickly
to the desk, he picked up the letter, and thrust it into his pocket.

“Don’t let me interrupt you if you’re busy,” Flash remarked.

“I was only writing a letter to a pal. I’ll finish it another time.”

The bellboy pocketed Flash’s tip and left the two together. A
constrained silence settled between them. Flash began to unpack his
shirts and socks.

“Staying long in Columbia?” Doyle inquired after an awkward moment.

“A day or two, perhaps.”

Flash spoke shortly. Doyle glanced at him curiously, aware that for some
reason he was offended.

For the next few minutes the technician made a special effort to be
agreeable. Flash could not respond. He felt that the man’s sudden
friendliness was only a pose.

“Doyle has no honor,” he thought. “Instead of being loyal to Joe, he’s
scheming to install a friend in his job. Between them they’ll arrange it
so that Joe never does get his place back again.”

The telephone jingled. Doyle answered, and learning that a telegram had
arrived for him, ordered it sent up.

“It must be from the _News-Vue_ Company,” he remarked. “My boss is the
only one who knows where to reach me.”

The telegram was brought to the door. Doyle ripped open the envelope.
With feet propped on the foot of the bed, he read it and chuckled.

“It’s from Clewes himself.”

“District manager of the _News-Vue?_” Flash recalled.

“That’s right. The auto race pictures turned out great. When Clewes
wastes money on a congratulatory telegram you know you’ve hit the bull’s
eye!”

Flash could not help feeling elated that his first work as a newsreel
cameraman had been successful. He waited for Doyle to read the telegram
aloud or offer it to him. Instead, the technician stuffed it into his
pocket.

“I’m going to jog downstairs and get something to eat,” he said
genially. “Coming along?”

“No, thanks.”

After Doyle had gone, Flash flung himself on the bed, relieved to be
left alone. He wanted to think.

Although annoying, it didn’t really matter that Doyle belittled his
efforts and withheld praise. What worried him was the letter he had read
by accident. Should he warn Wells that the technician was trying to
transfer the _News-Vue_ job to a friend? And what could Joe do about the
matter? Nothing. It would only serve to make him uneasy.

Flash could see only one solution, and that, not to his liking. Still
thinking the matter over, he arose, washed, and scribbled a hasty letter
to his mother.

Deciding not to mail it in the hotel box, he walked to the post office.
As a matter of routine, he asked if any mail had arrived for him,
general delivery.

Thumbing through a thick stack of mail, the post master proffered a thin
envelope bearing the name of the _Brandale Ledger_.

As Flash eagerly opened the letter, a crisp new bill fluttered to the
floor. He picked it up and saw that it represented twenty dollars. The
letter was from City Editor, Riley. Scattered phrases seized his eye:

“... Your train wreck pictures scooped the East.... shots of the
Indianapolis races best we’ve run in years.... Congratulations on the
excellent work! Accept this twenty dollars as a bonus, and have a good
time on your vacation.”

Flash pocketed the money and read the letter twice. At least Riley
appreciated his work even if George Doyle didn’t! He was glad to know
that all his pictures had turned out well. A big load had been lifted
from his mind.

Leaving the post office, Flash glanced at his watch. Two hours had
elapsed since he had left the undeveloped camera films at Mr. Dee’s
photographic studio. He wandered slowly about for a half hour longer and
then dropped into the establishment.

“Your pictures are ready,” the photographer said, offering him the
packet. “However, I’m afraid you’ll not be very well pleased. Only two
of the prints came out well.”

“I didn’t expect much from them,” Flash replied. “I hope you printed
them all.”

“Yes, I did.”

Flash paid the bill, and took the prints over to a window. Running
rapidly through them he came to the picture which Major Hartgrove had
requested.

There was nothing so very startling about it. Major Hartgrove appeared
as an unrecognizable, shadowy figure, with his face half turned away
from the camera. But as Flash studied the scene carefully, he
distinguished the faint outline of another form—a man slipping away into
the darkness.

“I wonder if that might not have been the person who ran when I called
to him!” he reflected. “It might be the same man who struck Major
Hartgrove and tried to rob him.”

By this time Flash no longer doubted that the army man had been the
object of an attack. What the mysterious assailant had been after he
could not guess, unless the Major had carried valuable military plans or
other documents upon his person. Certainly no ordinary thief had been
responsible for the assault.

“I would think Povy might have had a hand in it,” he mused, “only Povy
was killed in the wreck. So he’s out.”

To make certain no mistake had been made in the records, Flash decided
to investigate further the following day. While very unlikely, there was
still a chance that Albert Povy’s name had been listed by mistake.

“The Major won’t learn much from this picture,” he thought. “But it’s no
good to me. I’ll take it around tomorrow just to keep him from breaking
a blood vessel.”

Rapidly he glanced at the remaining prints. The pictures taken at the
auto races were only moderately good, and without news value.

With a shrug, he pocketed the envelope and returned to the hotel where
he dined and went to bed early.

He did not hear Doyle come in, but when he awoke in the morning, his
roommate already was up and dressed. The technician stood by the window,
looking over the prints which Flash carelessly had left lying on the
dresser.

“These aren’t such hot shots,” he commented, observing that Flash was
awake.

“Just some of my bad ones. I study them to learn my mistakes.”

“Ambitious, aren’t you?” Doyle’s lip curled in amusement. “This one of
Rascomb is the best of the lot.”

Flash rolled out of bed.

“Rascomb?” he questioned. “Who’s he?”

Peering over Doyle’s shoulder he saw that the man was gazing at an
auto-racing picture. It was a shot of one of the drivers talking with a
distinguished looking individual in street clothing.

“That’s Rascomb,” identified Doyle, jabbing at the figure with his
thumb. “You see him at most of the big sporting events.”

“Never even heard of him. But I thought there was something familiar
about his face! Still, I can’t remember ever having seen him before the
day of the races.”

“Rascomb has plenty of dough,” Doyle remarked enviously. “Swell car, a
plane of his own, even his own private landing field. He’s a good polo
player and has a hunting and fishing lodge up in the north woods. The
news lads always give him favorable publicity, and he returns the favor
with invitations to his lodge.”

“Have you ever been there?” Flash inquired curiously.

“No, but the fellows who have gone tell me he’s a wonderful host. Gives
you everything.”

Flash dressed leisurely. As he combed his hair, he saw through the
mirror that Doyle was watching him with a peculiar, speculative
expression.

“Any plans for this morning, Flash?” he inquired casually.

“None in particular. I thought I would go over to the hospital. Would
you like to come along?”

Doyle shook his head. He seemed relieved by Flash’s answer.

“No, I’ll be tied up all morning. I want to check over my sound
equipment and get ready to roll when my new assignment comes through.
Tell Joe hello for me.”

Flash ate breakfast and reached the hospital in time for the ten o’clock
visiting hours. The door of Major Hartgrove’s room stood ajar. But the
bed was empty and attendants were stripping off the linen.

A nurse was passing in the hall. Flash stopped her and inquired where he
would find the Major.

“You are too late,” she replied. “Major Hartgrove left the hospital
early this morning.”

Flash went on to Joe Wells’ room. He had made up his mind not to tell
his friend of George Doyle’s treachery. However, when Joe again urged
him to take the newsreel job for at least a month, he gave the matter
rather serious consideration.

“The only reason I might do it would be to protect you, Joe,” he
replied. “If I held the post until you were up and around again, no one
could steal it from you.”

“Oh, that wouldn’t happen,” his friend responded carelessly. “I have a
good stand-in with the _News-Vue_ people.”

“Even so, you can’t tell what will happen these days,” hinted Flash.

“Then will you take the job if I can land it for you?”

“I’ll not promise yet, Joe. Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll wire Riley and
see what he says. I can’t afford to jeopardize my own place on the
_Ledger_, you know.”

The matter was allowed to rest. Leaving the hospital before the visiting
hours were over, Flash dispatched the telegram, and then returned to the
hotel.

As he passed through the lobby he was surprised to see George Doyle
sitting in a near-by chair, his back turned. He was talking earnestly
with an alert-eyed, gray-haired man of forty.

Instantly it struck Flash that Doyle had wished to have him away from
the hotel at the time of an anticipated interview. Impulsively, he
crossed the room, intending to test out his theory by speaking to the
technician.

Doyle did not see him approach. As Flash paused just behind the
upholstered chair, he arose and extended his hand to the man who faced
him.

“I’m glad you liked my work,” he said heartily. “And I’m sorry about
Evans. He’s given me to understand he wouldn’t be interested in any
proposition.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                        _FLASH ACCEPTS AN OFFER_


Flash stepped forward into George Doyle’s view. The soundman saw him and
lapsed into confused silence.

“Sorry. I couldn’t help hearing,” Flash apologized. “I don’t mind saying
I’m curious about this proposition which wouldn’t interest me.”

“You’re not Flash Evans?” inquired the stranger before Doyle could find
his voice.

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“Flash, this is our district manager, Mr. Clewes,” Doyle said
unwillingly. “We were just speaking of your fine work at Indianapolis.”

“Yes,” nodded Mr. Clewes, “as I mentioned in my telegram, those pictures
were the best we’ve had in months! The sound effects were fairly good,
too.”

Flash glanced at Doyle who shifted uncomfortably from one foot to
another.

“Thank you, sir,” he said politely to the district manager. “I didn’t
happen to see your wire.”

Mr. Clewes gazed questioningly at the sound technician.

“I repeated the contents to him,” Doyle said defensively.

Ignoring the technician, Mr. Clewes turned to Flash again.

“Howard Brandiss, who heads our company, was much impressed by your
work. When he saw the crash films run through he said to me: ‘Fly down
to Columbia and sign that photographer on the dotted line before some
other company gets him.’ But Doyle here tells me you wouldn’t be
interested in any proposition we might offer.”

“Flash already is employed by the _Brandale Ledger_,” Doyle broke in
hurriedly. “He’s on his vacation now. I understood him to say he
wouldn’t consider working for a newsreel concern.”

“I’m afraid your hearing was almost too acute,” Flash said pleasantly.
“Either that or I gave the wrong impression.”

“Then you are interested?” Mr. Clewes asked quickly.

“Not in a permanent job. I might consider filling in a month for Joe
Wells. That is, if Mr. Riley has no objection.”

“And who is Mr. Riley?”

“My editor on the _Brandale Ledger_.”

“I am sure we can arrange everything to his satisfaction,” said Mr.
Clewes. “And I respect you for being loyal to your employer. If you are
unwilling to leave the _Ledger_, we should not try to convince you
otherwise. Nevertheless, after a month of newsreel work, you may decide
you prefer it to your newspaper position.”

“That’s quite possible, sir.”

Dismissing Doyle with a curt nod, Mr. Clewes drew Flash aside. For a
half hour they talked together, discussing salary and matters of general
routine. The district manager then insisted upon placing a long distance
telephone call to Riley of the _Brandale Ledger_.

He stepped from the booth, smiling broadly.

“Everything has been arranged. Mr. Riley says you may work for us,
providing we don’t try to steal you away from him at the end of the
month.”

“I aim to go back to Brandale when my vacation is over,” Flash insisted.
“My home is there.”

Mr. Clewes gazed about the lobby in search of Doyle. The technician had
slumped down in a chair in front of the fireplace. He came over as the
district manager motioned to him.

“Doyle, meet your new partner. You two will continue to work together.”

The technician’s face twisted into a strained smile.

“Glad Mr. Clewes was able to persuade you when I couldn’t,” he said to
Flash. “We’ll get along fine.”

The district manager glanced at his watch. “I have fifteen minutes to
catch my plane,” he declared hurriedly.

“How about our next assignment?” asked Doyle.

“I was coming to that. No news of special importance is breaking in this
section of the country right now. Your instructions are to start East
again. Stop off at Melveredge Field and try to get shots of the new
bombing plane which is being tested there.”

“Try is right,” grumbled Doyle. “That place is so surrounded by
barbed-wire red tape a newsreel man couldn’t cut his way through in a
month. How about permits?”

“_News-Vue_ will endeavor to make the necessary arrangements. Even if
you can’t obtain pictures of the bomber, you should be able to get
routine maneuvers. Do the best you can. Further orders will be forwarded
to you at the Clarinda Hotel.”

Mr. Clewes shook hands with both Flash and Doyle, and hastened to his
taxi. In silence, the two newsreel men went to their room. They began to
pack.

“This is a poor assignment,” Doyle complained, jamming shirts into his
bag. “We’ll waste a lot of time at Melveredge Field, fail to get the
pictures, and then be reprimanded for our pains.”

“Mr. Clewes must think we have a chance or he wouldn’t send us.”

“Us,” said Doyle with biting sarcasm. “A lot of good you’re going to do
me!”

The words were spoken before he thought. Once said, he could not retract
them. But instantly he was ashamed of the unwarranted outburst.

“Sorry,” he apologized curtly. “I shouldn’t have said that. But you made
me sore, trying to show me up in front of Mr. Clewes.”

“In what way?”

“Letting on that I hadn’t shown you his telegram. And then the way you
breezed up and accepted a job after you made me think you wouldn’t take
one.”

“I don’t remember that we ever discussed it,” Flash returned coldly.
“But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve taken the job. Whether we like
it or not, we’ll be working together. Why not try to get along without
friction?”

“Suits me. All I ask is that you do your work and don’t expect to use me
as a crutch.”

“We understand each other perfectly, Doyle. Now when do we start?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“I’ll meet you at the parking lot. I want to telephone Joe and tell him
I’ve taken the job.”

Flash had another errand in mind, one which he did not reveal to Doyle.
Quickly he made his telephone call from the lobby of the hotel.

“I’m glad you’ve changed your mind,” Joe told him gratefully. “Can’t you
come over to the hospital before you leave town?”

“Afraid not. We’re starting in a few minutes.”

Joe Wells hesitated, and then said: “You’ll get along fine, Flash, if
you manage to stay on the good side of Doyle. He can help you a lot. But
I’ll give you a tip. If he takes a dislike to a fellow, he knows all the
ways of making it plenty tough.”

“Everything will be fine, Joe. I’ll manage. And your job will be waiting
whenever you want it back.”

He hung up, smiling ruefully at his friend’s belated warning. Already he
had incurred George Doyle’s dislike. But he was not afraid of what the
technician might attempt to do. He would be ready and waiting.



                               CHAPTER X
                            _CHECKING FACTS_


With fifteen minutes to spare, Flash made a quick trip to the railroad
station. His next errand was anything but to his liking. Yet he was
unwilling to leave Columbia without verifying a certain fact.

He found the station agent in his little office behind the ticket
window.

“What may I do for you, sir?” the man questioned.

Introducing himself as a representative of the _Brandale Ledger_, Flash
added that he was checking upon the death of a man reported killed in
the streamliner crash.

“Sorry I can’t help you on that,” replied the agent. “It’s against
orders to give out information about the accident. You’ll have to see
some other person.”

Flash was persistent. He explained that any information obtained would
not be published in a newspaper.

“I’m trying to learn about a man named Albert Povy.”

“I guess I can tell you about him,” the agent conceded. “He was among
the victims.”

“The body was shipped from here?”

“It was.”

“To relatives?”

“Couldn’t tell you as to that. The body was claimed by a man named
Rascomb. Herbert Rascomb.”

Flash was startled by the name. He wondered if it could be the same man
George Doyle had been telling him about. But that scarcely seemed
possible.

“And where was the casket sent?” he asked after a moment. “That is, what
city?”

“To a place called Clear Lake.”

Flash thanked the agent for the information and left the station. He was
ten minutes late in reaching the parking lot. Doyle was waiting in the
sound truck, appearing none too pleased at the delay.

They drove out of town with Doyle at the wheel. The truck made good
speed. For a time neither of them spoke.

“Oh, by the way,” Doyle said at length, “what sort of salary did Clewes
give you?”

“Somewhat less than Joe was getting,” Flash answered vaguely. “More than
I’ll earn probably.”

“You’ll be getting a double salary while you’re on vacation, won’t you?”
Doyle could not hide his envy.

“Yes, but it won’t last long.”

Flash decided to ask a few questions himself. A little later he
introduced the subject of the sportsman, Rascomb, asking Doyle the man’s
first name.

“Herbert. Herb Rascomb.”

“And where is his lodge located? What town is it near?”

“Couldn’t tell you exactly,” responded Doyle. “I understand it’s not far
from where we’re heading—Melveredge Field. But why this sudden interest
in Rascomb?”

“Merely curious, that’s all. What sort of reputation does he have?”

“Reputation? Oh, he steps around in fast company, if that’s what you
mean. He has a lot of foreign friends.”

“Was he ever mixed up in trouble with the government or anything of the
sort?”

“Rascomb? Say, that fellow is in the blue book. The only thing he’s
interested in is having a good time. If he did get into trouble he could
buy himself out.”

Again Flash fell silent, for he saw that Doyle had grown irritated by
his questions. It struck him as an interesting fact that Rascomb had
been connected with Albert Povy, a man of dubious reputation.

Actually there was no good reason why the pair should not have been
friends. With a large circle of acquaintances, Rascomb could have met
Povy in his travels about the country and, learning that the man was
without relatives, might have claimed the body out of kindness. In any
case, it was none of his affair. He never expected to see Rascomb again.

Throughout the day the sound truck rumbled steadily eastward, making
only brief stops for oil and gas. Twice Flash offered to relieve Doyle
at the wheel, and both times was turned down.

Toward dusk they pulled into a busy little city of some fifty thousand
population. They had reached their destination. Melveredge Field was
located close by.

Doyle glanced at his watch.

“Ten after five,” he announced. “Too late to do anything tonight. We’ll
find the Clarinda Hotel and call it a day.”

Flash nodded. Doyle never bothered to consult his wishes. He quickly had
learned that the easiest way to get along with the technician was to
have no opinions of his own. So far any differences they might have had
were trivial. But clashes were certain to come later.

Flash had been relieved to learn that _News-Vue_ paid all traveling
expenses. The arrangement, however, had one distinct drawback. He and
Doyle were expected to share the same room.

“We see too much of each other as it is,” thought Flash. “Before the end
of a month we won’t be on speaking terms.”

They registered at the Clarinda Hotel and inquired for mail. There was
none. The anticipated orders from the _News-Vue_ Company had not yet
arrived.

The newsreel men both were tired and dirty from their long journey.

“Me for the tub,” Doyle announced.

Slamming the bathroom door behind him, he started the water running, and
remained soaking for nearly an hour. Flash became irritated at the long
delay.

“Say, have you gone to bed in there?” he called at last. “You’re not the
only dirty pebble on the beach!”

Doyle did not answer, nor would he hurry. He took another half hour to
dress. Finally be unlocked the door and sauntered out.

“What’s all the shouting about, Flash?”

“You’ve been in there exactly an hour and a half!”

“Well, it’s all yours now,” Doyle shrugged. “Such impatience! Dear!
Dear!”

Flash glanced at the tub. It was rimmed with dirt. Every bath towel had
been used.

“Say, you lug—” he began.

An outside door slammed. The culprit had gone.

Ringing for more towels, Flash cleaned the tub and hastened through his
own bath.

“I’ll get even with him tomorrow,” he thought. “We’ll see how he likes
it when the joke is on him.”

It was after seven o’clock when Flash finally left the hotel in search
of a restaurant. He sauntered along, pausing to read menus printed on
the plate glass windows. Suddenly he felt a hand touch his shoulder.

Flash whirled around. For a moment he did not recognize the smiling
young man who stood there. Then he gave a pleased cry:

“Bailey Brooks! What are you doing out this way?”

“Oh, prowling around,” the parachute jumper replied. “Had your dinner?”

“Not yet.”

“Then let’s go inside. I’m meeting a man, but he’s not due to show up
for fifteen minutes.”

Flash felt flattered that Bailey Brooks had remembered him. He was even
more pleased when the parachute jumper praised him for the pictures he
had taken at Brandale.

“All the publicity helped,” Brooks declared warmly. “Since the parachute
test proved successful, several concerns have been after me. I’ve not
had a definite offer yet, but it’s only a matter of time.”

The two young men entered the restaurant and selected a table not far
from the door. Flash hesitated, and then said:

“Too bad about Povy.”

“Yeah.” The smile faded from Brooks’ face. “He was interested in my
invention. Offered me a good price for it, too. But probably it’s just
as well the deal didn’t go through.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You know who Povy was, don’t you?”

“I’ve heard rumors.”

“He was mixed up with a spy ring years ago and probably was doing
espionage work at the time of his death. That was the main reason I held
off about selling him the parachute. I liked Povy personally but I never
trusted him.”

“I wonder what government employed him?”

“I never learned. Povy was very cautious in his dealings. He revealed
nothing about himself. All he ever told me was that he represented a
firm which would pay well for my invention, providing the tests were
successful.”

A waitress came to take orders and Flash gave his. Bailey Brooks said
that he would wait for a man with whom he had a dinner appointment.

“You say several other persons are after your invention now?”

“Several is an exaggeration,” Brooks admitted with a grin. “One private
party and the United States Army.”

“So that’s why you’re here!”

Brooks nodded. “The ’chute is to be given exhaustive tests out at
Melveredge Field. If it comes through okay, I’ll be sitting pretty.”

“When will the tests be made?”

“All week. There’s an endless amount of red tape.”

“I’m with the _News-Vue_ people now,” Flash explained abruptly. “Any
chance to get some shots of the tests?”

“Not a glimmer. Melveredge Field is closed tighter than a drum these
days. I doubt if they’ll even allow you near the place with a newsreel
camera.”

Flash mentioned the chain of events which had led him to spend his
vacation working for the _News-Vue_ Company. The parachute jumper
immediately recalled Joe Wells and expressed regret over his accident.

“While I was in Columbia I inquired about Albert Povy,” Flash presently
remarked. “You know, I thought there might have been some mistake about
his death.”

“There wasn’t?”

“No. His body was shipped to a place called Clear Lake.”

“That town isn’t so far from here,” Brooks said thoughtfully. “I’ve
heard of it.”

“Povy’s body was claimed by a man named Herbert Rascomb. A well known
sportsman and—”

Bailey Brooks had been toying with a silver knife. It slid from his
hand, making a clatter as it struck the floor.

“Rascomb?” he asked in a strange voice. “Did you say Rascomb?”

Flash could see that the information had startled the parachute jumper.
But before he could explain further or ask a question, the door of the
café swung open.

A dapper man in army uniform strode across the room directly toward the
pair at the table.

“Ah, here is my host now,” murmured Bailey Brooks.

Flash turned his head. The man who approached was Captain Ernest Johns.



                               CHAPTER XI
                              _HIGH WATER_


Bailey Brooks arose to greet the newcomer. As he turned to introduce
Flash, Captain Johns forestalled him by saying in a curt voice:

“We have met before, I believe!”

“At the Columbia Hospital,” recalled Flash.

The Captain seated himself on the opposite side of the table, regarding
the cameraman with a cold scrutiny which was not easy to interpret.
Assuming that he was an intruder at a private business conference, Flash
offered an apology and started to leave.

“No, don’t go.” Captain Johns waved him back into his chair. “Finish
your dinner. Why did you fail to keep your promise to Major Hartgrove?”

Flash now understood the reason behind the officer’s coolness. Major
Hartgrove had reported his failure to give up the requested pictures.

“I made no promise,” he replied.

“It was understood that you would bring the pictures to the hospital
without delay.”

“The Major may have understood it that way,” replied Flash evenly. “But
I work for the _News-Vue_ Company, not the United States Army.”

Captain Johns’ lips twisted in a faint suggestion of a smile. Yet his
voice had an edge to it as he asked:

“You still have those pictures?”

“I have.”

“What is your reason for withholding them?”

“No reason,” Flash admitted cheerfully. “As a matter of fact, I went
back to the hospital yesterday after I had them printed. The Major was
gone.”

“You went back _after_ you had looked at them yourself?”

“Quite right, sir. I wanted to see what I was giving away. Just
protecting my paper, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” responded Captain Johns dryly. “You may be interested to
learn that Major Hartgrove has been removed to the army hospital at
Melveredge Field.”

“Doing well I hope.”

“He will be dismissed tomorrow or the day following. Now about those
pictures. Where are they now?”

“In my room at the hotel.”

“May I see them?”

“I’ll be glad to show them to you, Captain,” replied Flash, grinning.
“But I don’t think you’ll find them of any aid in running down the man
who struck the Major.”

“Let me be the judge of that. Now as I recall, Major Hartgrove said you
were the first person to reach him after the train wreck.”

“Hardly the first, sir. As I approached the car, I saw someone slipping
away into the dark. It may have been the man who robbed him.”

“You are mistaken. Major Hartgrove was not robbed.”

“I understood otherwise.”

“An attempt was made to take Major Hartgrove’s wallet. The man did not
succeed.”

Flash accepted the explanation without comment. He was rather inclined
to believe that the Major had not been robbed. However, it seemed
unreasonable that the army men would be making such strenuous efforts to
apprehend an ordinary thief. Obviously Major Hartgrove had carried
military papers or something of far greater value than money.

Ignoring Bailey Brooks for the moment, Captain Johns asked Flash a
number of questions about his actions following the train wreck.
Cleverly but without success he tried to make the cameraman contradict
himself. At last, he seemed satisfied the young man was telling the
truth, and turned his attention once more to the parachute jumper.

After the meal had ended, Captain Johns volunteered to go with Flash to
his room. The three walked together to the Clarinda Hotel.

George Doyle looked up in surprise as Flash pushed open the bedroom
door. He rose quickly to his feet.

“You remember Bailey Brooks,” said Flash. “And this is Captain Ernest
Johns.”

Doyle was impressed by the caller. He lost his customary indifference
and put himself out to be agreeable. But the captain paid him scant
attention.

“I have only a few minutes,” he said impatiently. “May I see the
pictures now, please?”

Flash found the envelope in his luggage. Doyle sat watching him
curiously as he sorted through the prints.

“I have only one which will interest you,” he said to the captain. “It
isn’t much good.”

The army man examined the picture carefully and returned it to the
stack.

“You are right,” he admitted regretfully. “For our purposes it is
valueless.” Methodically, he thumbed through the other prints. “Now here
is an excellent one!”

“A snap I took at the races. Too bad the wreck picture didn’t come out
the same way. Conditions were against me.”

Bailey Brooks had crossed the room. As Captain Johns dropped the prints
carelessly on the table, he picked them up and glanced through the
stack.

The army officer turned to leave but Doyle stepped forward, neatly
blocking his way.

“Say, Captain,” he began, “Flash and I are with _News-Vue_, you know.
What are the picture possibilities out at Melveredge?”

“There are none, Mr. Doyle.”

“Oh, come now, I know it’s hard to get in there these days, but it can
be done with pull. How about giving us a permit?”

“I regret I am not in a position to grant such a favor,” the captain
returned stiffly. “Good evening.”

Accompanied by Bailey Brooks, he went away. As soon as the footsteps
receded, Doyle turned angrily to Flash.

“You might have said something instead of standing there like a clam!
Here the Captain is a good friend of yours. He could have passed us into
Melveredge Field.”

“The Captain isn’t a friend of mine.”

“Then why did you bring him here?”

“You must have observed for yourself, Doyle. To look at those pictures.”

The technician picked up the stack and glanced through the prints.

“What’s all this about anyway?” he demanded. “Why would the Captain be
interested?”

Flash made an evasive answer which only irritated Doyle further. Despite
the technician’s displeasure, he had no intention of taking him into his
confidence.

“I’m tired,” he said shortly. “Let’s go to bed.”

It was dark in the hotel room when Flash awakened to hear the telephone
ringing. Struggling out of sleep, he reached to roll up the window
shade. A few carts were creaking by on the street below. The sky was
barely light.

The telephone rang again.

“Answer it, will you?” growled Doyle.

“All right.”

Flash took the receiver from its hook. He was informed by the hotel
operator that long distance was calling. As he relayed the message to
Doyle, the latter leaped from bed and seized the instrument.

“That must be Clewes!”

Doyle talked for several minutes and then hung up the receiver.

“Get dressed!” he said curtly. “We’re clearing out of here. And we
haven’t much time.”

“What’s up?”

“We move again. Clewes says to let the Melveredge pictures slide.
Arrangements can’t be made with the authorities.”

“A new assignment?”

“Yeah. Not a bad one either. We’re to cover an International polo match
at Excelsior City. We ought to be there not later than twelve-thirty.”

Flash looked at his watch and whistled.

“It’s nearly six now. Excelsior City must be at least three hundred
miles from here.”

“Nearer three twenty. It means fast stepping.”

Quickly they dressed and crammed their clothing into suitcases. There
was no time for breakfast. A clock on the street chimed six-thirty as
they pulled out of the drowsing city.

A fog hung low over the valley. Before the sound truck had covered many
miles a fine, steady rain began to fall.

Strangely, Doyle offered no complaint about either the weather or the
early morning call to duty. Flash stole a curious glance at him. The
technician’s face was animated and he whistled a cheerful tune.

“This assignment seems to please you, Doyle.”

“It could be a lot worse.”

“What teams are playing? You haven’t told me anything about the set-up.”

“An American team against one from India headed by Rajah Mitra. Know
anything about polo?”

“I’ve seen a few games.”

“Herbert Rascomb will be playing on the American team.”

“Rascomb!”

“He’s one of the best players in the country.”

“I never even heard of him until a few days ago.”

“Rascomb doesn’t like publicity. He goes into a rage if his picture is
taken. The boys humor him, and he returns the favor by showing them a
good time at his lodge.”

“Buys them off?”

“Nothing of the sort. It’s only to show his appreciation. We could do
with a day in the north woods, eh?”

Flash avoided answering the question. Instead he inquired:

“Why is Rascomb so against publicity? A pose?”

Doyle shrugged as he steered the sound truck into a filling station.

“No, he’s just that way. But they tell me Rascomb is a fine fellow.”

An attendant filled the gasoline tank, checked the oil and replenished
the water in the radiator. As Doyle paid him, he volunteered road
information.

“Aiming to take U.S. 49 out of here?”

“That’s right,” answered Doyle. “How is the road to Excelsior City?”

“The road’s in good condition. But if you want to be on the safe side
you’d better take Highway 23. We’ve had some hard rains around here. The
Coon River is over its banks, and there’s a bad bridge about six miles
beyond town.”

“Then the road is closed?”

“They were keeping it open an hour ago. A radio report said it would be
closed if the water came any higher.”

Doyle and Flash studied a map. Highway 23 was graveled and at least
fourteen miles out of their way.

“We’ll keep on 49 and take a chance,” Doyle decided.

The decision satisfied Flash, for it had occurred to him that possibly
they might have an opportunity to take interesting flood pictures.

Two miles beyond the town limits they began to see evidence of high
water. Ditches on either side of the road ran with it. In several low
places tiny rivers blocked their way. The water was not deep and they
rode through it without mishap.

They picked up speed on a long stretch of clear pavement. Ahead they
could see the bridge, a long, wooden affair of ancient design. A flimsy,
make-shift barrier of boards had been raised across the entrance way.

“Closed!” muttered Doyle in disgust. “We’ll never get to Excelsior City
by game time now!”

He slammed on the brakes and brought the truck to a standstill not far
from the bridge. Thrusting his head out the window, he called to one of
the guards:

“How about letting us through? We’re newsreel cameramen and in a big
hurry.”

“The bridge is unsafe,” the man answered. “It’s apt to go out any time
now.”

Flash leaped from the truck and went to look at the bridge. He saw for
himself that much of the underpinning had washed away. The weight of an
automobile, even higher water, would be almost certain to shift it from
its position.

“Water still rising?” he questioned a guard.

“Coming up fast, brother. Three inches in the last twenty minutes.
Another half hour and this road may be completely covered.”

Flash ran back to the truck. Doyle had turned it around and was
impatiently waiting.

“Jump in!” he commanded. “We’re going to be late getting to Excelsior
City now that we have to back-track.”

“Listen, Doyle!” Flash was excited. “While we’re breaking our necks
trying to reach there, we’ll be passing up better pictures.”

“What do you mean, better pictures?”

“The bridge is going out any time.”

“Maybe,” Doyle retorted. “But we’re not waiting here several hours on a
slim chance like that! Our assignment is to shoot the polo match.”

Flash gazed steadily at the technician.

“Sorry to disagree. We’re staying right here.”

“Say who do you think you are?” Doyle drawled insolently. “I’m not
taking orders from any fresh kid.”

“I’ve taken plenty of orders from you. But not any more. I’m washed up!
Through!”

“Oh, so you’re through, eh? Well, quit any time you like!”

“I’m not quitting,” Flash corrected. “Just letting you know that from
now on I’m not your man Friday. Mr. Clewes gave me to understand I was
to use my own judgment about picture values. Your part is to record the
sound effects.”

Doyle stared at Flash. Spots of bright color tinted his taut cheeks.
With an effort he kept his voice under control.

“All right, Evans, you’ll take full responsibility for this!”

“I expect to,” Flash retorted grimly. “Now help me get my stuff up on
the roof! That bridge won’t last many minutes!”



                              CHAPTER XII
                             _BRIDGE OUT!_


Flash was prepared for a curt refusal. Surprisingly, Doyle considered a
moment, and then began to unload equipment. He said nothing, but his
smoldering eyes made it clear he intended to make a full report to Mr.
Clewes.

With camera set up and focused on the bridge, Flash nervously waited.
The only thing which would justify his high-handed action would be
success. If the bridge failed to go out, Doyle would score heavily in
the final reckoning.

The water rose higher and higher, slapping against the piling with a
powerful surge. Yet the bridge held. Minutes elapsed and Flash became
increasingly uneasy. Surely, he thought, the structure could not
withstand such punishment for long.

Doyle looked at his watch with a disgusted expression.

“We’ve wasted another half hour—” he began.

From far down the road came the roar of a fast traveling automobile.
Flash and Doyle both turned to stare.

A car raced toward the bridge at seventy miles an hour. It struck a dip
in the road where water flowed, and the tires sent up a great muddy
sheet. With undiminished speed, the automobile sped on.

At the bridge, guards leaped into action, shouting and waving their red
flags to draw attention to the barrier.

The driver could not fail to see that the bridge entrance was blocked.
Still the car roared on. Flash suddenly comprehended the reason. The man
was being pursued by a state highway police car. If he halted for the
bridge, it meant capture!

“There’s our picture, Doyle!” he shouted. “Get ready!”

The car struck the barrier with a resounding crash. Boards splintered
like so much match wood, but scarcely slowed down the daring driver.
Bridge girders rattled and planks pounded as the automobile plunged on.

Nothing happened for a moment. And then a cry of horror arose from the
crowd of spectators.

“It’s going out!”

One side of the bridge wrenched free from the piling and swung around in
the swift current. There it held an instant and then slowly toppled
sideways into the boiling flood. As the car slid with it, the driver
pushed open the door and leaped into the river. His dark head remained
above the surface for a minute, then disappeared.

Horrified at the disaster, Flash nevertheless pivoted his camera to
photograph the entire scene—the crumbling of the bridge, the driver’s
wild leap, even the arrival of the state police car which raced to the
end of the road and stopped with a jolting lurch.

Attracted by a startled outcry from the excited spectators, his gaze was
drawn far down river. He caught a fleeting glimpse of the struggling man
before the unfortunate fellow was pulled under again by the racing
current.

The distance was too great for an effective shot, but Flash was not
thinking of pictures. Leaving his camera behind, he plunged into a deep
ditch at the roadside. Wading across, muddy water oozing about his
armpits, he ran on through a soggy field to a bend in the river.

Once more he glimpsed the struggling man who was fighting gamely for
life against overpowering odds.

With no thought for his own safety, Flash kicked off his shoes and dived
into the river. Exerting all of his strength, he fought to keep from
being carried downstream.

He had judged the current accurately, for the man was brought directly
toward him. Reaching out, he barely grasped him by the coat. There was a
brief struggle and they both disappeared beneath the surface.

After an exhausting effort they regained the surface, and drifted with
the current, using what strength remained to keep their heads above
water. Even with lungs bursting, Flash managed to hold tightly to the
man. Whenever he could, he gulped in air, but breath and strength were
ebbing.

Suddenly he felt himself dashed against a solid object. The current had
brought a long, heavy plank downstream. He pulled himself and his
companion onto it, and they clung with head and shoulders well above
water.

For a minute the river carried them swiftly. Then their ride ended
abruptly, as the plank caught against a half-submerged fallen tree which
was festooned with a motley collection of debris and foam.

There the plank lodged fast. They were able to secure fairly firm holds
on the projecting arms of the tree, but the current whipped their legs
beneath them and threatened to sweep them on.

Grimly they clung to their precarious refuge. The man Flash had aided
aroused himself after a dazed moment, and looked about in panic.

“Easy now,” warned Flash.

Instead of thanking the cameraman for saving his life, he began to
revile him.

“If you had kept out of this I would have made a clean get-away! Now the
dicks probably are on my tail!”

The man’s words proved prophetic for the state police had followed down
river and were at a point opposite where the pair clung.

A rope sailed accurately through the air, settling across the tree.
Reaching to his full length, Flash was able to grasp it. As he started
to knot it about his companion’s body, the man struck wildly at him.

“They won’t get me!” he shouted hoarsely. “I’ll drown first!”

His hold loosened, but Flash acted quickly. He seized the man’s coat
collar with his left hand, maintaining his own grasp on the tree limb.
The swift current whipped his legs from beneath him.

But help was at hand. A state patrolman who was a strong swimmer,
reached the sunken tree. He tied the rope about the struggling man and
signaled for a fast haul-in to shore. Flash followed with the officer.

“Good work,” a trooper praised him. “You took a big chance, young man,
both with the river and your pal here. Know who he is?”

Flash shook his head. He was searching for his discarded shoes.

“Andy Clevenger.”

“Not the bank robber?”

“The same. He was recognized at a quarantine stop, but got away. We’ve
chased him twenty miles.”

Flash began wringing water from his ruined suit. He was plastered with
mud from head to foot.

“There’s a reward out for Clevenger’s capture,” the state policeman went
on. “You may get some of the money. Give me your name and address. I
think I can guarantee you a new suit at least.”

“I can use it. And I’d like permission to take some pictures before you
pack this fellow off to jail.”

“Go right ahead.”

Handcuffed, the prisoner was led back to the patrol car where Flash shot
close-ups and obtained complete information about his past record.

Doyle, somewhat stunned by the events which had transpired, had little
to say.

“Are you sorry we waited?” Flash asked him. “These pictures should stack
up any day with a polo match.”

“You’re a fool for luck, just as Joe said,” Doyle muttered. “I suppose
you knew just what would happen?”

“I only hoped for a good bridge picture. But when Lady Luck showers down
I believe in spreading a wide net.”

Flash was shivering from cold. Wrapping himself in his overcoat, he
allowed Doyle to do most of the loading work.

Back in town once more, he sought a clothing store and quickly purchased
a new suit. While it was cheaply tailored, he thought it would serve
until he reached Excelsior City.

“You look like a country rube in that outfit,” Doyle jeered as his
companion climbed back into the sound truck.

“Can’t help it,” Flash replied, undisturbed. “It’s warm and clean, at
least.”

The cameramen followed Highway 23, avoiding the river. At the first city
of any size which boasted an airport, they paused long enough to ship
their cans of film to the home office. Then they drove on at break-neck
speed for Excelsior City.

Doyle squinted at a clock in a store window as they went through a town.

“By skipping lunch we still might get there in time for the last chukker
of the game,” he announced.

“It won’t do any harm to try,” Flash agreed. “But after the pictures we
just took, polo will seem pretty tame.”

“It’s our assignment,” Doyle said sharply. “Don’t forget that.”

“I’ve not forgotten.”

Flash glanced sideways at his companion. He could not believe that Doyle
honestly thought they had made a mistake in passing up a polo game for
the flood pictures. Obviously, the technician had a special reason for
wishing to reach Excelsior City.

“And that reason,” he reflected, “has nothing to do with our work. If
I’m any good at guessing, he’s bent on wangling an invitation to
Rascomb’s lodge!”



                              CHAPTER XIII
                             _A POLO GAME_


The _News-Vue_ sound truck pulled into the private grounds of the
Excelsior Polo Club at exactly ten minutes to three. Through the elm
trees George Doyle caught sight of the field, and gave a chuckle of
pleasure.

“The match is still on!”

The seventh chukker was underway as the truck drew up at the sidelines.
Flash and Doyle worked swiftly, knowing they had little time.

“How’s the score?” the technician demanded of a spectator.

“Six to four in favor of the Internationals.”

Flash carefully looked over the field as he focused his camera. Two
riders were outstanding, Rajah Mitra for the Internationals, and Herbert
Rascomb on the American team. Mitra, a handsome, dark man of thirty,
handled his mount expertly. His clashes with Rascomb were frequent.

Deliberately, Flash trained the camera lens upon them. Doyle’s protest
was immediate and explosive.

“Say, what’s the idea? Do you want to make Rascomb sore?”

“Since when are we working for him?” Flash countered. “We’re here to get
good pictures. He happens to be one of the best players on the field.”

The argument might have waxed warmer, but just then the chukker ended
with a spectacular goal made by Rascomb. He wheeled his horse, a
beautiful black mare, and rode over to the sound wagon.

“Good afternoon, boys,” he said heartily. “Taking a few pictures?”

“_News-Vue_,” Doyle replied. “That last shot of yours was pretty, Mr.
Rascomb.”

“Thank you, thank you.” The sportsman doffed his cork helmet mockingly,
and his lips parted in a smile. “The fact is, Rajah Mitra is too fast
for me today. A marvelous player, that man!”

There was an expansive, friendly quality to Rascomb which attracted
Flash despite himself. For some reason he had felt distrustful of the
man. Now that he had heard him speak, the feeling was slipping away.

“A little request, boys,” the sportsman said casually. “No close-ups of
me, please.”

“You don’t like to be photographed?” Flash inquired, watching the man
curiously.

Rascomb’s dark eyes appraised the cameraman. His glance took in the
cheap suit, the muddy shoes, wrinkled tie.

“You’ll have to excuse Evans’ appearance.” Doyle spoke apologetically.
“He fell into a river this morning.”

“A river?” Rascomb asked in amusement.

Flash did not bother to explain or correct Doyle’s misstatement.

After a lengthy pause the polo player inquired thoughtfully:

“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before? Your face seems familiar.”

“Funny. I was thinking the same thing when I first saw you—that was at
the Indianapolis auto races.”

“Oh, so you saw me there?”

“Yes, I have a picture as a souvenir. Snapped it while you were talking
with one of the drivers in the pit.”

The pleasant smile receded from Rascomb’s face. The corners of his lips
twitched.

“I dislike being photographed,” he said. “I dislike it intensely. It
makes me especially nervous to know that a camera is focused upon me
during a polo match. I trust you’ll oblige me by not taking any pictures
except from across the field?”

“Oh, sure,” Doyle said instantly before Flash could answer. “We’ll be
glad to do you that little favor.”

“You’ll not lose by it.”

Rascomb wheeled his horse as if to ride away. Plainly he was irritated.
Flash decided to court further displeasure.

“I’d like to ask a personal question, if you don’t mind, Mr. Rascomb,”
he remarked. “Are you related to a man named Povy?”

“Povy?” the sportsman demanded sharply.

“Albert Povy. He was listed as killed in the recent train wreck.”

“Whatever gave you the idea I knew him?”

“I was told that you had claimed the body.”

Rascomb’s expression became inscrutable. His dark eyes bored into Flash
as if probing for what lay behind the question. He moistened his lips to
speak.

At that instant a player motioned to him from across the field.
Rascomb’s relief was obvious.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I’ll talk with you later.”

Jerking his mount’s head, he rode to his post. The game was resumed.

“What was the idea of deliberately trying to antagonize Rascomb?” Doyle
accused. “Such tactics won’t get you anywhere!”

“Maybe not a trip to the hunting lodge,” Flash cheerfully admitted.

He had no intention of allowing Rascomb to dictate what pictures he
could or could not take. Oddly, as the game continued, no occasion arose
to photograph the sportsman at close range.

Rascomb played erratically. His mallet slashed wickedly but many of his
shots were badly placed. Losing his temper, he began jerking his horse
about and calling it an “evil brute.”

The Internationals, led by the Rajah, piled up two goals in rapid
succession, and won by a wide margin. Secretly Flash wondered if Rascomb
had been upset by the question about Albert Povy.

The game over, Doyle seemed in no haste to leave the club grounds.

“I’ll be back in a little while,” he said vaguely, and wandered down to
the stables where Rascomb last had been seen.

“Take your time.”

Presently Flash saw the pair disappear into the clubhouse together. He
settled himself in the truck for a long wait.

“Doyle is breaking his neck to make a good impression on that fellow,”
he thought. “Oh, well, it’s none of my affair.”

He was half tempted to follow Doyle into the clubhouse. While he had no
desire to seek Rascomb’s favor, he would enjoy driving the sportsman
into a corner with another question about Albert Povy.

A half hour elapsed before Doyle returned to the truck. He was in high
spirits.

“Rascomb and I had a long talk together,” he declared enthusiastically.
“I think I’ve swung it!”

“An invitation to Rascomb’s lodge?”

Doyle nodded as he guided the sound truck down the winding road to the
main highway.

“He’s been thinking of getting up a week-end party out at his place. If
he does he’ll telephone us tonight at the Parker Hotel.”

“Us?”

“Rascomb isn’t a fellow to hold a grudge. You were short with him but
he’s overlooking it.”

“Nice of him,” Flash said dryly.

“He was interested in you,” Doyle admitted. “Asked a lot of questions.”

“Did he? What sort of questions?”

“Oh, nothing out of the way. Just who you were, where you came from, and
what sort of fellow you were. If the invitation comes through, we’ll
both be included.”

“It was decent of you to put in a good word for me,” Flash said.
“Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ll be interested.”

“Then you’re a sap! Rascomb would show us a wonderful time. And it
wouldn’t cost us a penny.”

“I’m not so sure. I figure there’s a string attached somewhere.”

“A string? What do you mean?”

“I don’t know myself,” Flash admitted. “I’ll be frank and say Rascomb
has me puzzled.”

Driving back to Excelsior City, the newsreel men located themselves at
the Parker Hotel. Not wishing to be far from a telephone, Doyle insisted
upon dining in the building. Later he returned to his room. Flash
remained in the lobby reading a newspaper until after nine o’clock.

Entering the bedroom, he found Doyle gloomily playing a game of
solitaire.

“Your telephone call didn’t come through?” Flash asked.

“No! Rascomb must have been handing me a line! It’s enough to make a
fellow sick!”

“I’m sorry you didn’t get the invitation, George,” Flash said sincerely.
“Still, I don’t see how you could have made the trip. We’re supposed to
be working for _News-Vue_.”

“No new assignment has come through. They expect to give us a day off
now and then.”

Flash began to check through his suitcase to see what clothes he would
need to buy. He had written his mother for additional shirts and
underwear, but it would take days for a package to overtake him. The
suit he had worn in his river plunge must be sent to the cleaners.
Whether or not it ever could be worn again was problematical.

As he sorted garments, Flash came upon the envelope which contained
photographic prints. He poured them out on the table, examining them one
by one.

Reaching the last print, a peculiar expression crossed his face. “That’s
queer,” he muttered.

He went through the stack a second time, taking care that two did not
stick together. The picture he sought was not there.

His chair made a grating sound on the bare floor as he turned to face
his roommate.

“Doyle,” he said quietly, “tell me the straight truth. Did you remove a
picture of Herbert Rascomb from this envelope?”



                              CHAPTER XIV
                         _RASCOMB’S INVITATION_


George Doyle slammed the deck of cards together, tossing the box into a
suitcase which lay open on the floor. He regarded Flash with an
insolent, offended gaze.

“Now what would I want with any of your pictures?”

“I thought you might have looked at them while I was downstairs.”

“You thought!” Doyle mocked. “Why don’t you come right out and accuse me
of being a sneak thief! Your personal effects are of no interest to me,
little man! Not the slightest.”

“I’m not accusing you,” Flash replied quietly. “I was merely asking.”

“I don’t like your tone.”

“I didn’t mean to imply anything. But it still seems queer that the
picture isn’t here.”

Doyle lighted a cigarette in his most deliberate manner and then asked:

“Which one is missing?”

“A snap I took of Rascomb at the races. The only good picture in the
lot.”

“You probably lost it yourself.”

“It was in the envelope yesterday when I showed the pictures to Captain
Johns and Bailey Brooks.”

“Then maybe they took it,” Doyle suggested sarcastically. “Why don’t you
get out search warrants?”

Flash allowed the matter to rest, yet he was not altogether convinced
that his roommate knew nothing about the missing picture.

“Herb Rascomb may have asked him to get it from me,” he thought. “I made
a mistake in talking too much today at the polo match.”

The telephone rang. Doyle leaped to his feet.

“That must be Rascomb now!” he exclaimed. “We may get our trip yet!”

“Count me out,” Flash murmured, but the technician did not hear.

Doyle talked for several minutes on the telephone, and his eager
responses made it evident he was speaking with Rascomb. Presently, he
placed his hand over the mouthpiece, turning toward Flash.

“Rascomb wants us to come out to his place for the week-end.”

“Well, your fish is playing with the bait. Better play him right so he
doesn’t get away.”

“Rascomb says to bring you along.”

“Thanks. I’m not interested. I’ll stay here at the hotel.”

Doyle frowned.

“For some reason, Rascomb especially wants you. And it will be a
wonderful opportunity for us to get some unusual newsreel shots.”

“Of what?” Flash asked, showing faint interest.

“Rascomb has invited Rajah Mitra as one of his guests. If we can get him
togged up in full dress regalia he ought to be worth fifty feet at
least!”

“Maybe,” Flash conceded.

“We might get some good nature pixs while we’re there,” Doyle went on
eagerly. “It’s wild around Clear Lake. How about it?”

Flash had no time to consider. While he was reluctant to accept
Rascomb’s hospitality, he did have a curiosity to see him again, if only
to ask about Albert Povy.

“All right, I’ll go,” he decided.

Doyle relayed the message to Rascomb and hung up the receiver.

“Rascomb and his guests are motoring out to the lodge tonight,” he
explained. “We leave in the morning. Rascomb says it will be a slow trip
over dirt roads so we ought to get a fairly early start.”

Flash nodded and began to prepare for bed. Long after Doyle had gone to
sleep, he lay in the darkened room, staring at a patch of electric light
which shone through the window. There were a number of things which
puzzled him. Why had Rascomb insisted upon including him in the
invitation? He felt satisfied the sportsman had not liked him
particularly.

Unable to solve the puzzle, Flash finally dropped off to sleep. He awoke
to find Doyle shaking his arm.

“Roll out! Seven o’clock!”

As Flash dressed, Doyle made slighting remarks about his appearance,
suggesting that it might be well to buy a new suit of clothes before
they started for the lodge.

“Sorry but I can’t buy a new suit before I get home,” Flash replied,
unmoved. “This one will have to do.”

They breakfasted at a café across from the hotel and by eight o’clock
were ready to start for Clear Lake, twenty miles away.

As the sound truck rolled out of the city, Flash remarked:

“You sent Clewes a wire didn’t you, telling him we were after special
pictures?”

“Well, no, I didn’t,” Doyle answered carelessly. “This is Friday. He
won’t be around the office until Monday anyway.”

“Do you think we should pull out without leaving word?”

“Sure. After those flood pixs we turned in, Clewes will expect to give
us a few days off. It’s customary.”

While the arrangement was not pleasing to Flash, he could do nothing
about it, and so settled himself for an uncomfortable ride.

They followed the pavement for a distance of four miles, and then turned
down a narrow, rutty road. The truck jounced and bumped, shaking the
loose equipment around.

There was almost no traffic, but whenever they did pass an automobile, a
great cloud of suffocating dust rolled into their faces.

“This section must have missed the rains,” Flash remarked. “Even the
trees look dry.”

The car rattled on, making poor time. Doyle fumed at the delay and kept
glancing at his watch.

Flash was in no hurry for the trip to end. While the ride might be
uncomfortable, the scenery was interesting. Hillocks were studded with
huge boulders, and the twisting roadway was hemmed in with pine trees.
Now and then they glimpsed a patch of blue lake tucked behind the screen
of evergreens.

A half hour’s drive brought them to the railroad town of Clear Lake
which consisted of little more than a post office and a few houses. At
the edge of the village stood a ranger’s station. A man in uniform held
up his hand for the truck to stop.

“You’re newsreel men I see,” the ranger observed pleasantly. “Going in
to take pictures of the fire?”

“What fire?” Doyle asked in astonishment.

“A small one has been reported over near Craig Point. The wind is
blowing it this way. Thought I’d give you a word of warning.”

“We didn’t know anything about it,” Doyle replied. “We’re on our way to
Herbert Rascomb’s lodge.”

“You’ll be in no danger there. At least, not unless the wind should
shift again.”

“I wonder if we couldn’t get some fire pictures for _News-Vue_!” Flash
began speculatively. “How far is Craig Point from Rascomb’s place?”

Before the ranger could answer, Doyle broke in impatiently:

“Listen, we’re not doing any fire pictures this trip! Mugging the Rajah
will be the extent of our labors.”

Now that it had been called to their attention, Flash and Doyle both
imagined they could smell smoke in the air. They could not see it, nor
were they able to detect any actual signs of fire.

“It seems to me we’re passing up an unusual opportunity,” Flash
remarked, as they rode on.

“You’re new at this business,” Doyle replied discouragingly. “When you
first start in everything looks like a wonderful idea. I helped cover a
forest fire in Minnesota two years ago. It was no fun, I’m telling you.”

“I shouldn’t think it would be.”

“You burn yourself to a crisp and ruin your clothes. Then more than
likely your shots are no good, or the editor cuts ’em out in favor of a
bathing beauty parade at Atlantic City! Not for me.”

A short distance beyond the town Flash called Doyle’s attention to a
cleared field. In its center stood a lone hangar. Through the windows
they were able to see a red and black-painted airplane.

“This must be Rascomb’s private landing field,” Flash remarked.

“Probably,” Doyle agreed. “We’re close to his place now.”

A half mile farther on the sound truck reached a road which branched off
to the left. Entrance was blocked by a wooden gate which bore a carved
sign plainly marked: “Rascomb Lodge. No Admittance.”

Flash unfastened the barrier and Doyle drove through. The road led them
deeper into the forest and presently emerged in a cleared area. To their
right lay a crescent-shaped lake with motor and row boats tied up at the
dock.

Some distance back stood a sprawling structure made of logs with a great
cobblestone chimney. There were no automobiles parked in the yard. The
boats, tugging gently at their moorings, provided the only sign of
occupation.

“This place looks deserted,” observed Flash.

“Rascomb will be here.”

“But you said he had invited other guests. Rajah Mitra—”

“They may not have arrived yet.”

Leaving the sound truck at the end of the road, Flash and Doyle walked
to the side door of the lodge.

Their approach had been observed. Before they could knock, the door
opened. Herbert Rascomb, dressed in dark shirt and slacks, a pipe thrust
in the corner of his mouth, greeted them heartily.

“Good morning, boys. Glad you were able to come. How do you like our
roads out this way?”

Rascomb stepped aside for them to pass before him into the living room.
A fire blazed on the hearth. It was an inviting scene and their host had
a comfortable way of making them feel welcome. Yet, the absence of
guests puzzled Flash.

“Rajah Mitra isn’t here yet?” he inquired.

Rascomb hesitated, and then said: “I deeply regret that the Rajah was
compelled to change his plans.”

“He isn’t coming?”

“Unfortunately, no. The Rajah expected to be my guest but he was called
to New York this morning. I should have telephoned you. We have no
telephone here at the lodge. It would have meant an early trip to the
ranger station.”

“Then if there are to be no pictures, we may as well start back to
town,” Flash remarked, glancing at Doyle.

“I couldn’t think of allowing you to hasten away,” Rascomb interposed
smoothly. “You must have luncheon and remain for the night. I can put
you up quite comfortably. My cook is excellent.”

“That’s mighty nice of you,” Doyle said, giving Flash a hard look.
“We’ll be glad to stay. You sure have a nice place here.”

“Merely comfortable, not pretentious,” Rascomb smiled. “Now make
yourselves at home. If you care to fish, my man Fleur will be glad to
take you out on the lake.”

Rascomb’s manner was perfect. He chatted with Flash and Doyle about
their work, and after they had removed the dust of their trip, left them
to entertain themselves.

The cameramen wandered alone down to the lake. A breeze ruffled the blue
water, slapping waves against the boats tied up at the dock. It whistled
softly in the pine trees, rubbing the boughs gently together. About the
place there was an atmosphere of quiet and peace, yet Flash felt uneasy.

Turning his head, he glanced back toward the lodge. Rascomb stood in the
doorway. The man was watching them and smiling—a cold, triumphant smile.

“Doyle,” Flash said in a low tone.

“Yes? What’s on your mind now?”

“This Rajah business is a phony! Rascomb never did invite him to the
lodge. Do me a favor, and let’s get away from here!”



                               CHAPTER XV
                           _THROUGH THE PASS_


George Doyle sat down on the edge of the dock, leaning his back against
a post.

“You bore me with those schoolboy ideas of yours, Flash,” he yawned.
“Who cares about Rajah Mitra? We’re here and we can have a good time if
you’ll act fairly appreciative, instead of being so blamed suspicious.”

“There’s something about our friend Rascomb I don’t like.”

“Oh, you make me tired!” Doyle said in exasperation. “Go soak your head
in the lake!”

Flash turned angrily and walked down a cindered path which led into the
woods. It was useless to argue with Doyle. He had been unwise even to
mention his thoughts. Yet it was possible that his misgivings were
without foundation.

Gravel crunched behind him. Whirling around he faced Herbert Rascomb.

“Hope I didn’t startle you,” his host said pleasantly.

They fell into step. Feeling certain that the man had joined him for a
purpose, Flash waited for Rascomb to introduce the topic of
conversation.

For a time his host talked casually of work he was having done on his
place. He pointed out various kinds of trees, displaying a genuine
knowledge and interest in nature. Finally he remarked:

“Yesterday at the polo game you spoke of an acquaintance of mine, the
late Albert Povy. You knew the man?”

“Only by reputation. I have been told he was a spy who plotted against
our government.”

“A spy?” Rascomb smiled broadly. “Well, possibly, but I doubt it. I’ll
admit his life had mysterious aspects. Yet he was an interesting man,
most interesting.”

“In some ways you remind me of him,” Flash said boldly. “You have the
same dark eyes and facial contours. When first I saw you it struck me
you might be related.”

“Indeed? Povy had no relatives in this country. That was why I claimed
his body—from a feeling of charity. So you think I resemble him, eh?”

“It was only a first impression. Povy’s face had an ugly scar. Your
voice and manner are entirely different from his.”

“Then you are satisfied I have not adopted a disguise?” Rascomb asked
lightly.

“Quite satisfied.”

“No doubt it may strike you as strange that I should befriend a man of
Povy’s type,” Rascomb went on after a moment. “I never did believe all
the stories about him. And, as I say, he was an interesting fellow and
very entertaining.”

“Where was Povy buried, Mr. Rascomb?”

“In the church yard at Clear Lake. The grave has no marker as yet. I
expect to arrange for one soon. Perhaps you would like to visit the
cemetery?”

“No, I believe not,” Flash declined. “Povy meant nothing to me.”

“Yet I must say you seem deeply interested in him.”

“Merely curiosity. To be frank, Mr. Rascomb, I wondered about your
connection with the man. It seemed odd.”

“I’m not surprised at that. I met Povy a year ago at one of my clubs.
Then a few days ago I read about his death in the newspapers. Learning
there was no one to take charge of the funeral, I assumed the
responsibility.”

“It was a fine thing to do.”

It seemed to Flash that Rascomb was trying a little too hard to impress
him. However, the man’s explanation was logical. He had no reason to
doubt it.

“Strange you thought I resembled Povy,” Rascomb chuckled. “Not very
flattering, I fear.”

“I meant no offense,” apologized Flash. “The resemblance, if any, is
slight.”

“And I have no scar,” Rascomb laughed good-naturedly. “That should place
me above suspicion.”

They talked of other subjects. Presently the ringing of a bell summoned
them to luncheon.

Throughout the meal, Rascomb took special pains to be agreeable to his
two guests. Once he arose to close a window, apologizing for smoke which
filtered into the dining room.

“The fire is moving in fast,” Doyle remarked uneasily. “Any danger of
being caught here with our sound truck?”

“None whatsoever,” Rascomb replied, undisturbed. “If there is the
slightest danger the rangers will warn us in ample time.”

“While we’re here I wish we could get some pictures,” said Flash. “You
don’t want to try it, George?”

“Well, we could, I suppose,” he returned reluctantly.

Mr. Rascomb obligingly drew a rough map, showing the location of the
fire in relation to the lodge.

“There are no roads which would take you near enough,” he said. “Now you
could go by boat across Elbow Lake. If the fire reaches the beaver dam
and Gersham’s Pass, you should get interesting pictures.”

“How soon can we start?” Flash asked eagerly.

“Any time, but I suggest waiting at least an hour. It will save us a
long, tedious trip. Your best chance for pictures is at Gersham’s Pass.”

Flash and Doyle went at once to their truck to select the camera and
equipment they would take with them. The technician’s interest in the
adventure had been greatly stimulated by their host’s enthusiasm.

“Rascomb is a real fellow,” he declared.

“I guess I was wrong about him,” Flash acknowledged. “He’s obliging
enough.”

While Doyle returned to the house to talk with Rascomb, he wandered down
to the water’s edge.

A loud, clattering sound, not unlike a battery of machine guns all
firing at once, caused him to turn his head.

A gray-haired old man in a checkered black and white shirt was testing
an outboard motor which had been mounted on a barrel. He shut it off as
Flash walked over to him.

“Good afternoon,” the old fellow said pleasantly.

“Been puttin’ this consarned put-putter through its paces. She runs
pretty good when you get ’er goin’ but she’s derned backwards about
startin’. Guess it’s the ignition.”

“You’re Mr. Fleur, aren’t you?”

“That’s me.”

“You seem to be able to turn your hand to almost anything.”

“Got to, around this place,” Fleur said gruffly. “I look after it for
Mr. Rascomb all year ’round. That means bein’ a cook, a mechanic, a
guide, a fisherman and general handy man.”

“Don’t you get lonesome?”

“I used to, yes, sir. That was when Mr. Rascomb first bought this place.
But the last year he’s spent more time here so it hasn’t been so bad.
I’m not kickin’. Mr. Rascomb is as fine a boss as I ever had.”

Fleur paused and looked intently out across the lake, the pupils of his
steel-gray eyes contracting in the bright sunlight.

“See that deer swimmin’ in the water. First time I’ve ever known ’em to
come near the lodge. They’re being driven by the fire.”

Flash made out a dark form in the water but soon lost it.

“Is the fire coming this way?” he asked.

“Looks like it to me,” Fleur answered. “Rascomb says you’re aimin’ to
take some pictures over Gersham Pass way. Better watch yourself—that’s
my advice.”

Doyle and Rascomb came briskly down the path to the dock.

“Are you ready?” asked Flash.

“Mr. Rascomb is going along with us,” the technician said. “He thinks we
need a guide.”

“We don’t like to put you to so much trouble,” Flash responded.

“You never could find the pass without someone to show you the way,”
Rascomb replied. “I’ll enjoy the trip. Anything with an element of
danger always interests me!”

Selecting a boat, he attached the outboard motor which Fleur had been
testing.

“She ain’t acting none too well, Mr. Rascomb,” the caretaker warned as
he watched the three leave the dock.

At a steady but slow pace, the boat plied its course across the lake and
then along the shore for three miles. The air was filled with smoke, and
fine cinders drifted down. In the treetops myriads of birds made an
excited racket as they fled the marching flames.

Coming to the mouth of a small river which emptied into the lake,
Rascomb switched off the motor.

“This will be the best way to go,” he said, indicating the stream. “It
will take us beyond the beaver dam and the pass.”

When Rascomb switched on the motor again it would not start. In turn,
Flash and Doyle tinkered with it. The trouble, as Fleur had suggested,
was in the ignition, but they could not locate it.

“We’re wasting time,” Rascomb said, getting out the oars. “If we want to
get there we’ll have to row.”

Flash rather admired the manner in which his host accepted a difficult
situation. Clearly, Rascomb was not one to turn back when confronted
with trouble. He was an out-of-doors man, a person who used his wits and
adapted himself to whatever came.

As the boat made slow progress upstream, Rascomb seemed to be the only
member of the party who enjoyed the adventure. His eyes flashed and he
kept up a steady stream of animated conversation.

At length he steered the boat to shore, explaining that it was necessary
to portage around a beaver dam which blocked the river.

While Doyle and Rascomb moved the craft, Flash took pictures. Rejoining
his companions, they rowed on through a narrow pass lined to the water’s
edge with dry brush and scrub trees.

By this time the low rumble of the fire plainly was audible. Flaming
brands carried on the high wind, dropped with a hissing sound about the
boat.

Rascomb indicated a cliff to the right, a quarter of a mile beyond the
pass.

“You might get a fairly good view of the fire from that high point.”

After a hard climb, the three at last reached the summit. Gazing to the
eastward they saw a great wall of flame and smoke. A wave of heat rose
from the valley, smashing at their faces.

Setting up his camera, Flash ran through fifty feet of film and
reloaded. So engrossed did he become in his task that he lost all count
of time.

Rascomb touched his arm.

“We should be starting back,” he said. “The wind is bringing the fire
this way. If the brush should catch behind us from a flying brand, we
might easily be trapped.”

Flash shouldered his camera. At a fast pace they started down the
hillside.

Reaching the boat, Rascomb tried once more to start the motor and
failed. For the first time he displayed anxiety.

“I’ll feel safer when we are beyond the pass,” he said, seizing the
oars. “But the current should take us down fairly fast.”

Rascomb rowed tirelessly, refusing to allow Flash or Doyle to relieve
him. He sent the boat forward in powerful spurts. They swept around a
curve of the river.

A gasp of horror escaped from Doyle who sat in the bow. Rascomb stopped
rowing.

Directly ahead lay Gersham’s Pass. And on either shore, lining the
narrow space, rose walls of flame.

There was a moment of stunned silence. Then Rascomb spoke.

“Well, boys, we’re trapped if we stay here. Only one thing to do! We
must wet our clothing and try to run through it!”



                              CHAPTER XVI
                          _DOYLE’S TREACHERY_


Flash and Doyle stared in sheer fascination at the sight before their
eyes. Even as they recognized the danger, their pulses quickened at the
possibility of a spectacular picture of the flaming pass.

“What a shot that will make!” gasped Doyle. “Give me the camera, Flash!”

Rascomb had no interest in pictures at such a moment. Steering the boat
to shallow water, he sprang out, ordering tersely: “Wet your clothing
and be quick about it!”

The newsreel men both obeyed, but Doyle dragged the camera after him.
Moving up shore a few yards he focused it upon Gersham Pass.

“Come back here! Don’t be a fool!” Rascomb shouted harshly. “We’ve no
time for pictures now.”

Dousing his entire body in the river, he motioned for Flash to do
likewise.

“Now into the boat!” he commanded. “If Doyle wants to stay here that’s
his funeral, not ours!”

Flash hesitated. He had no intention of leaving Doyle behind. But
unquestionably, it was no time for picture taking.

“Get in, I say!”

Rascomb’s hard tone brought Flash up sharply. In this moment of stress,
the man’s voice had changed completely. Gone was every trace of the
cultivated drawl which had made his speech distinctive.

Flash stared at Rascomb. With wet clothing clinging to his body, hair
plastered against his forehead, the man looked much thinner. Even more
startling, a tiny pink smear was visible on his left cheek. The edges of
a jagged scar were faintly perceptible.

Flash saw the disfiguring mark and suddenly understood.

Taken completely by surprise he could not hide an expression of
horrified amazement. Nor was he able to choke off a low cry: “_Povy!_”

Rascomb’s face became contorted with rage. Seizing an oar, he swung it
with deadly aim.

Flash ducked and jerked up a hand to ward off the blow. Swiftly as he
acted, he was not quick enough to entirely deflect it. The oar struck
him glancingly on the head.

Momentarily stunned, he staggered sideways, clutching at the boat for
support. His weight pulled it over, throwing Rascomb into the water.

Before Flash could struggle to his feet, brutal hands were at his
throat. He fought weakly to free himself.

Then he was given a powerful shove out into deep water. The current
caught him, pulling him downstream.

Dazed, Flash could not battle against it. He rolled over on his back.

“Doyle!” he tried to shout.

His words came only as a choked gurgle. He slipped beneath the surface,
fought up again, and losing interest in the struggle, knew no more.

Flash recovered consciousness to find himself lying on his side in the
soft mud. His feet trailed in the water. Whether or not he had reached
shore by his own efforts or the current had brought him there, he did
not know.

Pulling himself to his knees, he gazed about. Downstream, the wall of
fire had risen to greater height. Burning brands dropped like
snowflakes, making a hissing sound as they were extinguished by the
water.

There was no sign of Rascomb, Doyle, or the boat.

Bitter thoughts surged over Flash. So he had been deserted and left to
die! He might expect such treatment from Albert Povy who had masqueraded
as Rascomb, but Doyle’s actions were unexplainable.

Struggling to his feet, he gazed hopelessly upstream.

Fires were starting everywhere and slowly spreading together. Rascomb
had said the only way out was through Gersham Pass. Should he attempt to
reach the lodge by the woods route, he was almost certain to find
himself soon hemmed in by flames. Either he must attempt the pass or
remain submerged in water until the fire had burned itself out.

Flash was in no mood to wait. A frenzy possessed him to get back to the
lodge and confront both Rascomb and Doyle.

As yet, the full meaning of his important discovery was not entirely
clear. But about one point he was certain. Albert Povy never had lost
his life in the wreck of the streamliner. Instead, the man merely had
found it expedient to disappear.

Rascomb actually was Povy!

Yet, it seemed fantastic. Had the man lived a dual life for years,
planning toward the day when he might wish to blot out one personality
and assume another?

“Povy must be wanted by officials for questioning as a spy,” Flash
reasoned. “Probably that was why he decided to disappear. I must get
back to town and let the authorities know!”

Raising a hand to his throbbing head, he forced himself to think only of
the problem immediately confronting him. Unless he acted quickly, he
might never escape to tell his story.

Determining to attempt the pass, Flash waded out into midstream.
Allowing the swift current to carry him off his feet he floated with it,
stroking only enough to keep from being swung toward shore again.

The suffocating, cinder-filled air was a little easier to breathe close
above the water, but the terrific heat became almost unbearable.

As the shores of the river narrowed, he took a deep breath and swam
below the surface. After a few moments he was forced to emerge again.
Flames seemed to be everywhere about him.

Gulping in air, Flash dived again. This time he kept under until his
lungs ached. When he came up, the worst lay behind him.

Aided by the current, he alternately swam and floated until he reached
the river’s outlet. Staggering from the water, he leaned against a tree
and gazed across the lake.

He knew where the lodge should be, but he could not see it because of
the smoke. The sun had been entirely blotted out.

Following the shore line, Flash walked as rapidly as he could. His wet
clothing impeded him and chills began to rack his body. Several times he
slipped into bog up to his knees.

The day seemed to grow steadily darker. With a sense of shock Flash
realized that night actually was coming on. He tried to walk faster but
could not. Each step had become a torment, for he had discarded his
shoes while swimming in the river.

With darkness closing in swiftly, Flash lost all sense of bearing and
clung doggedly to the shore. To the rear, the sky was red with leaping
flames. Ahead, there was nothing to guide him.

Blindly he staggered on. And then, through the trees, he caught the
gleam of a light shining from a cabin window. He had reached the lodge!

The clearing opened up ahead of him. Finding himself on Rascomb’s
property, Flash tempered his approach with caution. Save for the light,
there was no sign of anyone about the place.

Reaching the dock, he counted the boats and bent to examine them. The
one which Doyle and Rascomb had used was tied to a post with a charred
rope.

“They returned safely, all right,” he muttered, “and they’re figuring
they’re well rid of me!”

Flash had taken no time to consider his next move. But sober reflection
now convinced him it would be folly to confront Doyle and Rascomb in his
present weakened condition. At best, it would be two against one. His
wisest course was to go into town and tell his story to the authorities.

Walking unsteadily, he made his way to the road where the _News-Vue_
truck had been parked hours before. It was gone.

As Flash stood leaning against a tree, debating, the door of the lodge
slammed shut. A dark figure moved down the gravel path toward him.

“That may be Rascomb coming now,” he thought.

Quickly he stepped behind the protecting trunk of the giant birch, and
waited.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                          _A KEY TO A MYSTERY_


Halfway down the path, the man paused and lighted a gasoline lantern. In
the bright glow Flash distinguished the caretaker, Fleur.

“Anyone here?” the old man called. He turned his lantern at different
angles, throwing the beam over the ground.

Flash stepped from behind the tree.

“Good evening, Fleur.”

The caretaker gave a gasp of surprise and nearly dropped the lantern.

“Well, if it ain’t the young feller!” he exclaimed. “And us givin’ you
up fer dead! I’m mighty glad to see you back safe and sound, I sure am!”

“Where is Rascomb?” Flash demanded curtly. “And my very good friend,
Doyle?”

“They both came back together hours ago. Mr. Doyle and Mr. Rascomb was
bad upset over the accident.”

“Accident?”

“You fallin’ out of the boat the way you did and upsetting it.”

“Oh, so I upset the boat?”

“Don’t you remember nothin’ about it?” Fleur asked, raising the lantern
so he could see Flash to better advantage.

“I don’t remember it that way.”

“You’re sure a sight,” Fleur said quickly. “Must have had a bad time of
it. How did you get out alive?”

“Swam through Gersham Pass and walked around the lake.”

“And all the time Mr. Rascomb and Mr. Doyle was worried sick thinkin’
you was drowned! Mr. Rascomb said you went down just like a rock and
never came to the top even. They kept draggin’, long as they dast. Then
they gave you up and made a dash through the gap. Barely made it by the
skin o’ their teeth.”

“Where is Rascomb now?”

“Him and your friend started for town ’bout an hour ago to notify the
coroner. They’ll be happy to see you back safe and sound.”

“_Surprised_ is the right word.”

“You will have your little joke,” chuckled the old man. “I’m tellin’ you
it wasn’t no joking matter with them. They both was bad hit. Mr. Rascomb
spoke out sharp to me for the first time since I come to work for him.”

Flash scarcely listened. “I must get to Excelsior City at once!” he said
abruptly, cutting Fleur short. “Is there a car here?”

“Mr. Rascomb’s sedan. I’ll fetch it from the garage while you wash up.
Want me to lay out some clean clothes and a pair of shoes for you?”

“Never mind. I’ll help myself to what I need. You bring the car. I’m in
a big hurry.”

Carrying the lantern with him, Fleur disappeared in the direction of the
garage.

The door of the lodge had been left half open. Flash limped to it, but
at the threshold he hesitated. He seemed to sense a presence—sinister
and very close at hand. Yet he heard nothing.

Shaking off the uncomfortable sensation, he entered the lodge. A light
burned in the living room but the other rooms and the entrance hall were
dark.

Flash crossed to the bathroom where he switched on a light and washed
what grime he could from his hands and face. His hair and eyebrows were
singed; a large knob had appeared on his head.

He had changed his clothes, when he heard a slight sound in an adjoining
room.

“That you, Fleur?” he called.

No one answered.

Turning off the light, Flash stepped outside. A board creaked. He
whirled swiftly.

Before he could defend himself, he was struck directly behind the knees.
Thrown off balance, he crumpled and fell to the floor.

A flashlight beam played upon his face, blinding him. The muzzle of a
revolver pressed into his ribs.

“Stay where you are!”

The voice, low-spoken and cool, belonged to Herbert Rascomb.

“So it’s you, Povy?”

“There is no such person as Albert Povy,” Flash’s captor corrected. “It
will pay you dividends to keep that fact in mind. No! Don’t move! I
really shouldn’t enjoy pumping you full of lead.”

“You prefer to assault your victims with oars?”

Rascomb laughed as he snapped on a lamp above the desk. Keeping Flash
covered, he motioned for him to rise and sit on a straight-back chair
against the wall.

“You forced my hand this afternoon,” he said. “I acted without due
thought or I should have handled the situation differently.”

“You mean you would have cracked me harder,” Flash retorted.

“Your unexpected return has inconvenienced me,” Rascomb admitted
pleasantly. “Yet, I hope you believe that I did not desire your death.
You are a fellow with nerve. I admire courage. Unfortunately, your
curiosity in a matter which never need have concerned you jeopardizes my
interests.”

“So you have decided to blot me out?”

“Nothing that drastic, providing you decide to forget a few of your
remarkable observations.”

“Meaning I am never to reveal that you are Povy?”

“We understand each other, Evans. Now I had planned to retire to a quiet
life here at my lodge, but you have made that impossible. I shall attend
to a few necessary tasks, one deal in particular, and then disappear. My
only demand from you is that you forget you ever knew either Rascomb or
Povy.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I shall find an effective means of dealing with you if you become
annoying. However, your wagging tongue can do me very little harm. By
the time you are free I shall be a long distance from Excelsior City.”

Still keeping his revolver trained on Flash, Rascomb picked up an
overcoat and hat from the table. He had changed into a well tailored
business suit, and had re-touched the telltale scar so that it no longer
was visible.

“You will be quite safe and comfortable here,” he said, backing toward
the door. “The fire will miss the lodge by many miles. As soon as I am
well away I will mail the key to one of the rangers. Good evening.”

He slipped swiftly out the door. A key turned in the lock.

Making a quick appraisal of his prison, Flash saw that it was one of the
few inside rooms of the lodge, a small den with no windows. The only
exit was through the door. Its panels were heavy oak and could not be
rammed even with a piece of furniture.

Quiet settled over the lodge. After a short time Flash heard a car drive
out of the yard. There was a shuffling of shoes through the gravel, then
a heavy step outside the door.

“Fleur!” he shouted, pounding on the panel.

“Take it easy, young feller, take it easy,” the caretaker called
soothingly. “It won’t do you no good to try to pound your way out o’
there. Mr. Rascomb’s gone for the doctor.”

“Let me out of here, Fleur!” Flash pleaded. “Rascomb will get away! You
don’t know who he is! He’s Albert Povy, a spy—”

“You’re plumb out o’ your head just as Mr. Rascomb said,” Fleur returned
sadly. “It must of come from what you went through during the fire. Just
take it easy.”

“Listen, Fleur, I’ll pay you well to let me out of here!”

“Mr. Rascomb’s orders are to keep you in there until he gets back with
the doctor. I wouldn’t dast to do different even if I was a mind to.”

Flash argued until he realized he was talking for his own benefit. Fleur
had gone.

Despondently, he sank down into a chair. Never had he been more
discouraged. The key to a mystery in his hand and he was powerless to
use it! Unless he escaped quickly, Rascomb would vanish and leave no
trace.

Flash sat staring at the oaken panel. Suddenly he made a significant
observation. The door swung on large ornamental brass hinges which had
been fastened on the inside with tiny screws.

He sprang to his feet.

“Maybe I’ll get out of here yet!” he thought exultantly. “Maybe I will!”



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                                _ESCAPE_


Flash searched his pockets for a knife he usually carried. It was
missing, as were many other articles which had been lost in his flight
from the forest fire.

A desk occupied one corner of the room. Crossing to it, he began
searching for an object which might be used to pry off the hinges of the
outside door.

Save for a few scattered pins, blank paper and metal clips, the drawers
were empty. They all gave evidence of having been hastily cleaned out.

“Just my luck,” grumbled Flash.

In disgust, Flash slammed one of the drawers shut. It jammed and did not
entirely close. For a moment he thought the wood had warped. Then he saw
that a piece of cardboard prevented it from returning to its normal
position.

Jerking out the drawer completely, he ran his hand into the opening, and
brought to light an old faded photograph. One glance assured him that it
was a picture of Albert Povy in his younger years. The man wore the
military uniform of a foreign country which Flash did not recognize.

Across the bottom of the picture had been scrawled a name and date:

“Albert Povy ... December 22, 1917.”

Flash studied the photograph with deep interest. Povy’s face was marked
with the same jagged scar which had identified him in later years.

Deciding to keep the picture as evidence, he carefully folded it and
placed it in an inside coat pocket.

“This may prove useful,” he murmured.

To make certain no other article had dropped behind the drawer, he again
ran his hand into the opening. His fingers encountered a paper booklet
of smooth finish. Pulling it out, he saw that it was a railroad time
table.

Flash would have tossed it aside had not a penciled circle drawn his
attention to the second page. A train number had been marked, and it was
the same streamliner which Povy had taken from Brandale.

He stuffed the time table into his pocket along with the photograph. The
two discoveries added nothing to his general knowledge, but if ever he
should meet Rascomb again, the evidence might be of use.

Next his search took him to the bathroom, which connected with the den
and which also lacked windows. Almost at once he was rewarded. In the
medicine cabinet he found two tools, a nail file and a rusty razor
blade.

Diligently, Flash set to work, trying to remove the screws which held
the ornamental door hinges. The task was a tedious one. Twice he was
compelled to wait as he heard Fleur’s step in a near-by hall.

Success crowned his efforts at last. With the hinges off, he swung back
the door and stepped from his prison.

Flash stood for a moment, listening. The only sound came from a dripping
faucet in the kitchen.

He moved stealthily to the door. It had been locked from the outside.
The door opening from the dining room likewise was barred.

Testing a window, he found it both locked and nailed. In no mood to
delay, Flash seized a plate from the sideboard and hurled it through the
pane. Enlarging the hole, he climbed through, lowering himself to the
ground.

The sound of splintering glass had brought Fleur running from the dock.
He swung his lantern so that the beam fell upon the cameraman.

“Hey, get back in there! Get back or I’ll fire!”

Flash did not believe that Fleur was armed. To be on the safe side he
dodged behind a tree. Hidden by the darkness, he kept watch of the
moving lantern, and when he saw his chance, ran for the road.

Fleur made no attempt to follow. Actually he was afraid for his own
safety, believing his employer’s story that the young man had lost his
mind.

Flash ran until he was exhausted. After that he walked at a fast pace.
The shoes he had borrowed from Rascomb’s wardrobe were too large for his
feet, and rubbed up and down at every step. Soon he was tormented by
painful blisters on each heel.

Driven by the knowledge that minutes were precious, he kept steadily on.
The road was deserted of traffic. Cars neither approached nor passed
him.

Turning a bend he came within view of Rascomb’s private air field. A
sudden fear assailed him. Already he might be too late! In all
probability the man had made a quick get-away by plane.

Crawling under a fence, he hastened to the hangar. The huge doors were
padlocked.

Striking a match, he gazed through a window. To his great relief, the
monoplane was still there.

“Then Rascomb must be at Excelsior City or somewhere fairly close,” he
reasoned. “That final ‘deal’ he mentioned! It is holding him here and
may yet prove his undoing!”

As far as Flash was concerned, Rascomb’s espionage work still was
shrouded in deep mystery. His knowledge of the man’s past was merely
vague rumor.

But there were certain definite points from which he might work. He
definitely knew that Rascomb and Albert Povy were the same man. From his
own observation, Povy had displayed interest in Bailey Brooks’ new
parachute, which might or might not have significance.

And Povy’s interest in Major Hartgrove was a factor not to be ignored.
Obviously he had boarded the streamliner with the intention of keeping
the army man under observation. The wreck itself might have been an
accident, but one which possibly had given Povy the opportunity he
sought.

“He tried to steal something from the Major and seemingly failed,” Flash
reasoned. “Then, knowing that his identity had been learned, he deemed
it wise to disappear. But now he may make a final attempt to achieve his
purpose. The first thing I must do is get in touch with the Major and
warn him!”

The road curved and a cluster of lights could be seen ahead. Flash
quickened his step. He was within view of Clear Lake at last.

A few minutes later he walked into the general store at the edge of the
village. The only occupant was a woman who stood behind the counter. She
stared as he moved toward her.

“Where can I hire a car to take me to Excelsior City?” Flash asked.

“Well, now, I don’t know,” she answered with deliberate speech. “All the
men folks is fightin’ the fire. I’m lookin’ after the store for my
husband.”

“Isn’t there someone here who has a car I could borrow or rent?”

“You look like you been in the fire yourself, Mister.”

“I have,” Flash replied briefly. “It’s very important for me to get to
town—”

“Claude Geiser might take you,” the woman interrupted. “He’s too
no-account to do an honest lick of work or help the rangers, but he has
a car.”

“Where will I find him?”

“Second house past the post office. He may not be at home.”

A light shone in the dwelling, and Flash was relieved to find Claude
Geiser there. The young man displayed no interest in making the long
trip to Excelsior City, but his attitude changed when a ten dollar bill
was waved before his eyes.

“All right, I’ll take you,” he agreed reluctantly. “How soon you want to
start?”

“Now,” said Flash. “And I’ll do the driving.”

The trip to Excelsior City was made in fast time despite young Geiser’s
frequent protests that his new car was being shaken to pieces. At the
hotel Flash paid what he owed and they parted company.

Left alone, the cameraman hesitated. After an instant of debate he
decided to talk with Major Hartgrove by long distance telephone before
taking any action against Rascomb.

“Accusing a man of being a spy even when I know it to be true, is
ticklish business,” he thought. “I’ll need someone to back me up.”

Flash entered the hotel. He crossed to the desk and asked for the key to
his room.

“Mr. Evans!” exclaimed the clerk. “We understood—that is, your friend
told us you were lost in the forest fire!”

“I’m very much alive,” Flash snapped. “When did you last see Doyle?”

“I haven’t noticed him in the lobby since midnight.”

“Midnight! How late is it?”

“Twenty after one, sir.”

Flash nodded and walked to the elevator. So intent was he upon his
thoughts that he failed to see a familiar figure slip quietly from a
telephone booth on the opposite side of the lobby.

The man was Herbert Rascomb.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                         _A DOUBLE RESIGNATION_


George Doyle was in the bedroom, sitting at the writing desk. As Flash
pushed open the door, he twisted in his chair to face him.

“Flash!”

“Rather surprised to see me, aren’t you, Doyle?”

“Surprised?” Doyle arose unsteadily to his feet. “It’s a miracle! I—I
gave you up for dead. Thought you had drowned.”

“So sorry to inconvenience you.”

“What are you looking at me like that for, Flash?” Doyle asked in a
shaky voice. “Surely you don’t think that I—”

“Oh, no!” Flash broke in. “You wouldn’t wish to harm me! Not you,
Doyle!”

“Listen,” the technician pleaded nervously, “I don’t know what happened.
But I can see you have the wrong slant on things. You think Rascomb and
I deserted you?”

“That’s a mild way to put it.”

“We were sure you had drowned,” Doyle repeated. “When the boat upset you
must have gone down like a ton of bricks. There was no sign of you
anywhere. I wanted to wait but Rascomb was nasty about it. He said if we
didn’t leave right away we never would get through the pass.”

“And you expect me to believe a tall story like that?”

“It’s the truth. You don’t think I’d have gone if I’d had even a faint
hope you were still alive?”

“Doyle, you’re a very good actor, but not quite good enough to convince
me. Next you’ll try to tell me you never saw Rascomb strike me over the
head.”

“What?” demanded the technician incredulously. “Say that again!”

“You heard me. Rascomb stunned me with the oar after I accused him of
being Albert Povy. I fell into the water and was carried to the opposite
shore. That part you may not know.”

“Flash, you must be out of your mind,” Doyle said anxiously. “Rascomb
wouldn’t strike you. As for his being Albert Povy, that’s ridiculous!
Povy was killed in the train wreck.”

“Oh, no, he wasn’t,” Flash denied. “He merely found it convenient to
give out that impression. Povy and Rascomb are the same person, and you
must have known it!”

“Sit down and try to calm yourself,” Doyle said solicitously. “You’ve
gone through a terrible ordeal tonight. You’re pretty confused.”

“So that’s your defense? You accuse me of being out of my head?”

“Don’t you know what really happened?” Doyle asked patiently.

“Suppose you tell me. I’m sure you’ve thought up an interesting little
fairy tale!”

“You and Rascomb were in the boat when it suddenly upset. Rascomb was so
busy trying to rescue the oars and the cans of film he didn’t worry
about you for a minute. When he looked around, you had disappeared
beneath the surface. Then he yelled to me for help.”

“And you saw the boat upset?”

“Well, no, I didn’t,” Doyle admitted. “I was taking pictures. The truth
is, I had no idea anything was wrong until Rascomb called to me. Then it
was too late to do anything.”

“And what happened next?” Flash demanded. “Go on with the yarn.”

“I see you don’t believe me, but it’s the truth. Rascomb and I righted
the boat and shot through the pass. We reached the lodge and started for
here in the sound truck.”

“Rascomb came with you?”

“We started together. At Clear Lake he said he had forgotten an
important matter and must return to the lodge.”

Since this part of Doyle’s story tallied with what Fleur had reported
about Rascomb’s actions, Flash was inclined to believe that the pair
actually had started for Excelsior City together, and that later Rascomb
had turned back.

Doyle spoke again in a strangely subdued voice. “Flash, we’ve never
liked each other any too well. That was my fault, probably. I haven’t
made things pleasant for you. But I don’t want you to think I’d be a
party to any plot against you.”

Flash was impressed with Doyle’s apparent sincerity. After all, he
thought, there was at least a possibility that Doyle had not seen
Rascomb’s attack upon him. The words had a genuine ring.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said slowly.

Doyle made no further attempt to convince Flash. Instead, he reached for
a sheet of paper on the desk and dropped it into the waste basket.

“I was sending a wire to the _News-Vue_ people,” he explained. “I’m glad
it won’t be necessary now.”

Flash’s gaze wandered slowly about the room. It came to rest upon
Doyle’s suitcase, neatly strapped, standing by the door.

“You’re packed to leave?”

Doyle offered him a crumpled telegram.

“This came while we were at Rascomb’s lodge.”

“From _News-Vue_?”

Doyle nodded gloomily.

“We’re ordered to cover a warehouse strike at Clinton. That’s a hundred
miles from here if it’s a foot. They’re expecting fireworks tomorrow at
seven o’clock when a crew of strike-breakers comes on duty.”

Flash read the telegram which confirmed Doyle’s words.

“This comes from not wiring Clewes we were spending the week-end at
Rascomb’s place,” he commented.

“I made a mistake,” Doyle admitted reluctantly. “And now, well, I’m in a
jam.”

“You still can reach Clinton by traveling tonight.”

“Not with the sound wagon. I burned out a bearing getting back from the
lodge. Repairs won’t be made before tomorrow afternoon.”

“You’re getting one break at least,” said Flash. “A new cameraman. I’m
quitting.”

“Flash, you can’t run out on me at a time like this!”

“I don’t like to quit because of Joe. But I have an account to square
and some work to do. That’s the low-down on why I’m staying.”

“If there was anything I could say to make you change your mind—”

“There isn’t.”

Doyle hesitated, then sat down at the desk and scribbled a message to be
telegraphed to the _News-Vue_ home office. Flash had picked up the
telephone to call long distance.

“Send this when you’re through, will you?” Doyle requested.

He tossed the message to Flash. Entering the bathroom he started the
shower running full blast.

Flash looked at the telegram. It read:

“Please accept resignation of Jimmy Evans and George Doyle, effective
immediately.”

Flash re-read the message. Then, moving to the bathroom door he called
to his roommate. Doyle could not hear because of the running water.

Giving it up, Flash went back to the telephone. He placed a call for
Major Hartgrove at Melveredge Field, and waited.

Ten minutes elapsed. The telephone bell jingled. Eagerly he took down
the receiver. The operator spoke.

“It is impossible to contact your party,” she reported. “Will you speak
with any other person?”

“Get me Captain Ernest Johns.”

Again Flash waited, although a shorter time. Once more the operator had
only failure to report.

“Captain Johns and Major Hartgrove no longer are located at Melveredge
Field,” she informed. “I am sorry.”

Flash hung up the receiver, disappointed by his inability to contact
either of the men. A slight sound caused him to turn in his chair.

He stared. The outside door stood slightly ajar. He could not remember
having left it that way.

As he watched, fascinated, it slowly was pulled shut. Someone in the
hall had been listening to the telephone conversation!



                               CHAPTER XX
                             _ACCUSATIONS_


Flash moved swiftly to the door and jerked it open. The hall was
deserted, but as he listened he could hear the soft pad of footsteps
fading away.

“That door didn’t open by itself,” he muttered. “Someone was listening.
But whoever he was, he’s gone now.”

Flash re-entered the bedroom. The shower was still running, but in a few
minutes Doyle came out, wrapped in his flannel robe.

“Did you send that telegram?” he asked.

“No, not yet. Doyle, there’s no reason for you to resign.”

“I’m fed up,” the technician responded shortly.

“I’ve been thinking. I may keep on for awhile, after all. My plans
aren’t turning out the way I expected.”

“You mean you want to go on to Clinton? You believe my story, then?”

“Yes. I don’t honestly think you were a party to what happened today.”

Doyle drew a deep sigh.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, Flash. You’ve been pretty badly mixed
up—”

“Let’s not argue that point,” Flash interrupted. “My opinion about
Rascomb won’t change. I intend to report him to the police.”

Doyle frowned.

“You’re making a big mistake if you do that, Flash. Rascomb is an
important man with connections around this city. Even if he had done
what you think he did, it would be hard to prove.”

“Not if you’ll testify with me.”

Doyle shifted his weight uncomfortably.

“I couldn’t be a party to railroading an innocent man.”

“Innocent!”

“That bump on the head confused you, Flash,” Doyle said anxiously.
“Maybe you ought to see a doctor.”

“You think I’m out of my head?”

“Only on that one subject. You’ve been suspicious of Rascomb ever since
you met him.”

“And for a mighty good reason. I suppose you’ll think I’m crazy if I
tell you that Rascomb and Fleur locked me up in the lodge.”

“What?” Doyle demanded incredulously.

“After he left you, Rascomb came back. He boasted that he intended to
pull off a final deal and skip the country. Take a look at this!”

Flash drew the picture of Albert Povy from his pocket and slapped it on
the table before Doyle’s startled eyes.

“Where did you get this, Flash?”

“In Rascomb’s desk!”

“It doesn’t seem possible,” Doyle muttered. “There is a marked
resemblance I’ll admit, but Rascomb has no scar.”

“You’re mistaken there. He’s been using clever make-up to keep it
covered. Now will you go with me to the police station?”

“I still think you’re mixed up somehow,” Doyle protested. “I hate to get
involved in this mess. Rascomb isn’t the man to take an accusation
sitting down.”

“Then I’ll go to the police alone,” Flash said shortly. “It won’t take
me long to make my report. As soon as I’m through we’ll start for
Clinton.”

“We can’t get out of here until the truck is repaired.”

“Why not hire a car? We could take the hand camera, get our strike
pictures, and come back here later for the truck.”

“We could do that,” Doyle agreed. “Do you feel equal to the trip?”

Flash shook his head impatiently. “No, but I’ll keep going somehow.”

He changed his clothes and hastily packed his belongings in a suitcase.
Doyle watched him with a troubled gaze.

“Flash, you look bad,” he said after a moment. “Let me call a doctor.”

“We haven’t time. I’m on my way to the police station now. You might see
if you can locate a car while I’m gone.”

Leaving Doyle in the room, Flash went downstairs to the nearly deserted
lobby. As he reached the revolving door at the front entrance another
man entered the hotel and they met face to face.

Flash stopped short.

“Captain Johns!” he exclaimed.

The army man peered at the young man an instant without recognition, and
then he remembered him.

“Evans, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I was trying to reach you by long distance telephone only a few
minutes ago,” Flash began eagerly.

The Captain cut him short. “Major Hartgrove and I arrived here early
this morning. Glad to have met you again, Mr. Evans.”

“One minute,” Flash protested as the man started to edge away.

“I can’t stop now,” Captain Johns apologized. “Some other time I’ll be
glad to grant an interview.”

“I’m not after an interview or pictures. I would like to give you some
information about Albert Povy.”

Captain Johns stopped short. He gazed at Flash intently.

“Albert Povy no longer interests me,” he said. “The man is dead.”

“You are wrong, sir. Povy never was killed in the train wreck. I have
proof of it.”

“Impossible! It happens that Major Hartgrove and I came here this
morning to investigate that very thing. Povy is buried in a cemetery at
Clear Lake. I visited the grave myself.”

“It couldn’t have been Povy’s grave. The man still lives.”

Captain Johns grasped Flash by the arm.

“Come back into the lobby with me, young man,” he urged. “If your
information should be correct it will prove of vital importance to us!”

Flash sank into a chair beside the captain. He offered the picture of
Povy and told where he had obtained it.

“But do you realize what you are saying?” the Captain demanded in
amazement. “You are accusing Herbert Rascomb of living a dual life!”

“Rascomb and Povy are the same person,” Flash insisted. “For years the
man has been living a double existence. As Rascomb he’s acted the part
of a wealthy, upstanding citizen. As Povy—well, I don’t know much about
_his_ past.”

“Albert Povy was one of the most daring spies the government ever
encountered,” explained Captain Johns. “He caused us great
embarrassment. Recently, evidence piled up against him. Had his death
not occurred, he would have been arrested within forty-eight hours.”

“I saw him on the train,” Flash said. “At the time it appeared to me
that he might have been shadowing Major Hartgrove.”

“Your observation was correct. Povy knew that the government had taken
an interest in a parachute which is being perfected by a man named
Bailey Brooks. He was under the impression that Major Hartgrove had
possession of certain papers and specifications referring to it.”

“And when the train was wrecked he tried to rob the Major?”

“He made such an attempt and failed.”

“Where is the Major now?” Flash asked. “I believe you said he was here
at the hotel.”

“He is waiting for me upstairs.”

“And does he still have the specifications for Brooks’ invention?”

Captain Johns frowned in annoyance. He felt that he had told the
cameraman entirely too much.

“The reason I ask is this,” Flash said. “Rascomb boasted while he held
me prisoner that he intended to pull off one more deal before he
disappeared. He may have learned that Major Hartgrove is here—”

“Major Hartgrove is well able to look after himself,” the captain
interposed dryly.

Flash arose.

“You don’t believe my story,” he said.

“I am convinced that you believe it,” returned Captain Johns. “Your
accusation against Rascomb is amazing. However, I promise you a complete
investigation will be made.”

“Unless you work fast, Rascomb may disappear,” Flash warned impatiently.
“I was on my way to the police when I met you.”

“No, you must not go there! Allow me to handle this.”

“Yes, sir.”

A page boy crossed the lobby, gazing questioningly toward the pair.

“Call for Captain Johns! Captain Johns!”

The army man signaled to the boy, and upon learning that he was wanted
on the telephone, excused himself. When he returned a few minutes later
his face was sober.

“I don’t know what to think now,” he said. “That call was from Charles
W. Gordon.”

“Gordon?”

“A prominent and respectable lawyer here in Excelsior City. He requested
me to come without delay to Room 47 and to bring you with me.”

“Why should Gordon wish to see us?”

“He said he was representing Herbert Rascomb and had important
information to offer.”

“It sounds like a trap!” exclaimed Flash.

“I hardly agree. Gordon is a reputable lawyer.”

“How did he know we were here in the hotel and together?”

“I was wondering about that,” mused Captain Johns. “We’ll see him, but
if Room 47 is the spider’s den, let us keep an eye open for
entanglements.”



                              CHAPTER XXI
                        _RASCOMB’S EXPLANATION_


Motioning for Flash to follow, Captain Johns strode across the empty
lobby to the desk. Curtly he questioned the sleepy-eyed clerk as to the
occupant of Room 47.

“Number 47? It was assigned about a half hour ago to Herbert Rascomb.”

“I’m going up there to see a man,” informed the captain. “Now get this
straight. If I fail to return to the lobby within twenty minutes, notify
Major Hartgrove in Room 267. Tell him to join me. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir. Twenty minutes.”

Flash and the captain walked up a flight of stairs to the first floor.
The door of Room 47 was opened by a dignified looking man of forty-five
who wore glasses and was slightly bald.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he said in a polished voice. “I should not
have invited you here at such a late hour, but certain misunderstandings
must be cleared up before further harm is done.”

Mr. Gordon glanced significantly at Flash as if to imply that he
deliberately and needlessly had created trouble.

A man sat at the window, his face swathed in bandages. Flash stopped
short as he recognized him.

“Rascomb!”

“Evans, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you alive!”

Rascomb arose painfully, and taking a step forward, extended his hand.

“I met Doyle downstairs a few minutes ago,” he explained. “He told me of
your miraculous escape from the fire! I can’t make you understand the
feeling which went over me.”

“You are an excellent actor,” Flash retorted, ignoring the proffered
hand. “But I don’t doubt you were surprised to learn I was in Excelsior
City. You thought you had taken care of me for several days at least!”

“My dear young man,” Rascomb said soothingly, “you seem to be laboring
under some delusion. Doyle warned me, but I found it most difficult to
believe.”

“Let’s sit down and talk this over in a sensible way,” interposed Mr.
Gordon. “Through Mr. Doyle we have learned that Evans here has been
making false and libelous accusations against Mr. Rascomb.”

“False!” exclaimed Flash angrily. “I can prove every statement I’ve
made!”

“You most certainly will be given the opportunity,” the lawyer said.
“Possibly in court.”

“Now I don’t want to be too hard on you, Evans,” spoke Rascomb quietly.
“You have gone through an ordeal tonight, enough to break an iron man.
Slight wonder you became confused and thought your friends were
enemies.”

“So I imagined that you struck me over the head with an oar? And later
that you locked me in the cabin?”

Rascomb gazed despairingly at Captain Johns. Turning to Flash once more,
he said:

“How can I convince you of the truth? Doyle will support my story. You
were thrown into the water when our boat accidentally upset. You may
have struck your head on a rock or submerged log. I know you failed to
come to the surface. Doyle and I searched as long as we dared.”

“And did I lock myself in the lodge?”

“No,” admitted Rascomb, smiling faintly. “Fleur shut you up there.”

“Fleur?” questioned the captain.

“My caretaker. Evans raved so much and told such an outlandish story
that Fleur considered him out of his head. He locked him up and
telephoned me. I immediately ordered his release.”

“Your story is very smooth,” said Flash, “but there’s one little detail
you can’t gloss over. How about that scar on your cheek?”

“I have no scar.”

“Prove it,” Flash challenged. “Take off those bandages!”

Mr. Gordon spoke with exasperation.

“We are trying to be patient. You make it most difficult. In returning
to Excelsior City this evening from his hunting lodge, Mr. Rascomb was
in a motor accident. Hence the bandages.”

“A very convenient accident!”

“I shall be glad to remove the bandages whenever my doctor grants
permission,” said Rascomb with dignity. “Possibly by tomorrow. However,
I assure you I have no scar, unless I may bear some slight mark as a
result of today’s accident.”

Flash glanced toward Captain Johns who had listened attentively to the
argument. Rascomb’s story was so flimsy that he did not think the army
man could place the slightest confidence in it.

To his amazement, Johns gave every indication of being impressed.

There was a moment of silence. Then Rascomb inquired:

“Are there any other questions you wish to ask me? I have nothing to
hide.”

“One question,” said Captain Johns. “Why did you have a picture of
Albert Povy in your possession?”

Rascomb’s eyes became wary, but he did not lose poise.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, Captain.”

“This picture.”

The army man displayed the photograph which Flash had given him a few
minutes before, but did not place it in Rascomb’s outstretched hand.

“Oh, that picture,” the sportsman said carelessly. “I found it among
Povy’s personal effects. His luggage was sent to me after I claimed the
body.”

“And why were you so interested in Povy?” pursued Captain Johns. “I must
say that you bear a remarkable resemblance to him.”

Rascomb drew a deep sigh.

“I had hoped to be spared this confession,” he said. “Povy was distantly
related to me—a second cousin. You may be sure I never was proud of the
kinship. I knew my cousin had an unsavory reputation, and his activities
never ceased to alarm and embarrass me. Heartless as it may seem, his
death came as a relief to me.”

“You changed your story,” observed Flash. “Yesterday Povy was a stranger
you befriended.”

“I told you that, I admit. However, I considered your questions somewhat
impertinent. And I never have willingly admitted my relationship to
Albert Povy. He was the one black sheep in an otherwise honorable and
distinguished family.”

The telephone rang. Mr. Gordon arose to answer it.

“For you, Captain,” he announced.

Captain Johns glanced at his watch and picked up the receiver.

“What’s that?” he demanded incredulously into the transmitter.
“Impossible!”

Hanging up the receiver, he turned to face the surprised group.

“Not bad news I hope?” inquired Rascomb.

Captain Johns did not answer. His eyes roved about the room, glinting
with anger as they fastened upon Flash.

“Evans,” he said sharply, “you have misled me. We shall consider this
investigation closed.”

A triumphant smile crossed Herbert Rascomb’s face. He offered his hand
to Captain Johns who shook it firmly.

“You are a just and reasonable man, Captain. I was certain I could
convince you of the truth. Evans meant well, but he allowed his
imagination to run away with him.”

“He did that. My apologies, Mr. Rascomb.”

“Don’t be too hard on Evans,” Rascomb replied with a show of solicitude.
“A day in the hospital and he’ll feel like himself again.”

Flash started to speak and changed his mind. With the Captain against
him he had no chance. Angrily, he started for the door.

“Wait!” commanded Captain Johns. “I have a few words to say to you.”

Reluctantly, Flash paused. The captain politely bade Gordon and Rascomb
good evening, and departed.

Once in the hallway his manner immediately altered. Grasping Flash’s
arm, he guided him toward the elevator.

“Don’t take what I said too seriously, Evans,” he advised. “There’s
something wrong here. While we were with Rascomb an attack was made on
the Major!”



                              CHAPTER XXII
                      _THE MAJOR’S DISAPPEARANCE_


Captain Johns pressed his finger steadily on the elevator signal bell.
When the cage did not immediately ascend, he started up the stairway.
Flash followed him.

“It was the hotel clerk who telephoned me,” he explained. “Major
Hartgrove can’t be located. His room is empty and there is evidence of a
brutal attack!”

“Rascomb—” Flash began only to be cut short.

“How could Rascomb have had anything to do with it?” Captain Johns
demanded with a snort of impatience. “We were with him for the past
twenty minutes. Young man, you should devote your talents to picture
taking.”

“I’m right about Rascomb,” Flash maintained stubbornly. “But if you want
to drop the matter that’s your concern. I intend to swear out a warrant
for his arrest on a charge of assault.”

“You couldn’t do a more foolish thing,” the captain snapped. “No, don’t
go. I want to have a talk with you. But first I must learn what has
happened upstairs.”

Flash followed his companion down the corridor to Room 267. The door
stood half open, and several hotel officials, an excited bellboy and a
chambermaid, already were gathered there.

“What has happened?” demanded Captain Johns gruffly.

“We don’t know,” answered the hotel manager nervously.

“I followed your instructions, sir,” the clerk explained. “In exactly
twenty minutes after you left the lobby I telephoned this room. Failing
to arouse Major Hartgrove I sent a boy up here. This is the way the room
was found. Nothing has been touched.”

Flash gazed curiously about. One of the beds had been used, the other
remained neatly made up. A chair was overturned. Suitcases lay open,
their contents spread about the floor.

“The room has been ransacked,” the captain muttered. “And I know what
they were after.”

“Can you tell if anything is missing?” asked the manager.

“Major Hartgrove carried important documents upon his person.”

Captain Johns made a silent appraisal of the bedroom. He examined the
contents of the suitcases, the windows opening upon the fire escape, and
then questioned the bellboy and the chambermaid in turn. Neither had
seen strangers on the floor during the past two hours, nor had they
observed Major Hartgrove since early in the evening.

As the inquiry continued, Flash became aware of how fast time was
slipping away. He was annoyed at Captain Johns’ slow but thorough way of
conducting the investigation, and he was disgusted because the army man
refused to believe that Rascomb was an impostor.

“Rascomb had a finger in the Major’s disappearance,” he thought grimly.
“But no one ever will believe it. I may as well save my breath.”

Knowing that Doyle would be expecting him, he decided to await the
Captain’s pleasure no longer. Without bothering to explain that he was
leaving, he went to join the _News-Vue_ technician.

“Where’ve you been, Flash?” Doyle greeted him impatiently. “I’ve kept
the car waiting fifteen minutes.”

“I was having a talk with Rascomb.”

“I saw him myself in the lobby. Flash you’re dead wrong about—”

“Let’s not say anything more about Rascomb tonight or later,” Flash
broke in wearily. “I’m willing to forget him.”

“Then let’s move,” said Doyle, picking up his suitcase. “This is a swell
hotel! Not even a boy to carry your luggage!”

“Everyone is in Major Hartgrove’s room.”

“What’s going on there?”

“Oh, nothing of consequence,” Flash remarked, enjoying the effect of his
news. “Major Hartgrove has been kidnapped—that’s all.”

Doyle stopped short. “Kidnapped!”

“It looks that way. He disappeared from his room, and the place has been
ransacked.”

“This isn’t another of your yarns?”

“Call it that,” Flash shrugged. “I’m tired of trying to convince anyone
of anything.”

“Don’t get sore,” Doyle said placatingly. “Tell me what happened.”

Relenting, Flash related all which had transpired at the interview with
Gordon and Rascomb, and likewise told of the summons to Major
Hartgrove’s room.

“You’ll scoff,” he ended, “but I think Rascomb called Johns and me into
conference so he would have an alibi when it was discovered Hartgrove
was missing.”

Doyle did not laugh.

“You cling like a leech to your theory that Povy and Rascomb are the
same person.”

“I do. If Captain Johns would have Rascomb arrested, I could prove in
two minutes that my story is straight. Rascomb can’t get rid of his
scar. It was a transparent trick, covering it up with bandages.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Doyle replied doubtfully. “You’re honest in your
opinion, but I still think you jumped to conclusions. If I were you, I’d
forget about Rascomb.”

“I intend to do exactly that,” Flash agreed. “But just wait! When it is
too late, Captain Johns will discover that Rascomb has disappeared.”

“No chance of getting pictures tonight, I suppose,” Doyle commented
thoughtfully. “But maybe the story will have developed by the time we
come back here tomorrow. What documents was the Major carrying?”

“I don’t know. Captain Johns hasn’t told me very much. I would guess
they might be specifications or official reports pertaining to Bailey
Brooks’ new invention.”

“And who would be interested in anything of that sort? Kidnapping is a
more dangerous sport than it once was.”

“Another government could use that parachute, especially in war time.
Povy was dickering with Brooks for its purchase, and not getting very
far.”

“Yes, I remember he was interested in the parachute test,” Doyle
admitted slowly.

“Povy followed Hartgrove on the train. After the wreck, someone—and I’m
satisfied it was Povy—attacked the Major and tried to rob him.”

“You didn’t tell me that.”

“No.”

“And you figure Povy was the man?”

“I do. Without question it was Povy. To avoid arrest, he made it appear
he had been killed.”

“But see here, Flash, Brooks’ parachute barely had been successfully
tested at the time of the wreck. Your reasoning is as full of holes as a
sieve.”

“I’m not saying what Povy was after. That’s my guess.”

“Well, it may have been Povy who attacked the Major the first time,”
Doyle conceded. “But to connect him with Rascomb! I’ve seen both men.
They don’t look alike, they don’t act alike—”

“Okay,” Flash cut in, “let’s skip it. Now where is the car?”

“In front of the hotel.”

They passed through the revolving doors and moved to the curb. Doyle
looked up and down the street, finally signaling a driver in a new black
touring car.

“We’re riding to Clinton in style,” he grinned.

“So I see. A chauffeur?”

“I picked this man up cheap. With a driver we’ll both be able to sleep.”

“I can use some,” said Flash.

The car drew up at the curb. Doyle introduced the chauffeur as Clarence
Purcell. He was a sharp-faced individual of forty with dark eyes and an
unpleasant habit of sniffing his nose at frequent intervals.

“How long will it take to reach Clinton?” Flash asked him.

“Hard to tell,” the man answered. “There’s a bridge out East of here.
We’ll have to take a detour which will slow us down.”

“We’ll arrive there by seven o’clock?”

“Oh, sure. Easy! You fellows roll up on the back seat and leave the
driving to me. I’ll get you there.”

The car rode smoothly and Clarence Purcell was a skilful driver. As soon
as they were well out of the city, Doyle rearranged the cameras to make
more foot room. He stretched out comfortably, pillowing his head on his
overcoat.

“I’m catching forty winks,” he said. “Better do the same. We’ll have a
tough day tomorrow.”

Flash was weary to the point of exhaustion, but for some reason he could
not sleep. His head ached. Disconnected thoughts kept racing through his
mind.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have left Excelsior City without at least trying to
have Rascomb arrested,” he reflected. “Oh, well, it’s too late now.”

Rolling up on the opposite side of the seat, he closed his eyes. Sleep
refused to come.

Arousing a few minutes later, he surprised Clarence Purcell in the act
of peering over his shoulder into the back of the car. Observing that
Flash was awake, he quickly turned his head again.

The night was dark. Not a star illuminated the sky. Glancing out the
window, Flash could not see beyond the hedges which lined the road. Nor
was he certain of his directions.

“Where are we anyway?” he asked the driver.

“Fifty-eight miles out of Excelsior City.”

“I must be turned around. It seems to me we’re traveling the wrong
direction.”

“The road twists.”

Flash settled down again and at length dropped off to sleep. He awakened
to find the car no longer moving.

Straightening up, he looked about him. The automobile was parked beside
the highway not far from an all-night restaurant and filling station.

The driver had disappeared.

Flash rolled down the window, gazing toward the lighted café. The main
grille room was deserted save for the proprietress, and a man who
appeared to be using a telephone.

Flash nudged Doyle to awaken him.

“What’s the matter now?” the technician mumbled drowsily. “Why have we
stopped?”

“That’s what I would like to know,” replied Flash. “Our driver is inside
the café telephoning. He’s acting peculiar.”

Before Doyle could offer an opinion, the chauffeur came hurriedly toward
the car.

“Why have we stopped?” Flash asked him sharply.

“Oh, you’re awake!” the man exclaimed. “I had to stop to find out about
the roads. We took a wrong turn.”

“How much time have we wasted?” Doyle demanded.

“Not any if we keep going. I found out about another road we can take.
It’s rough for a few miles but connects with our highway.”

“Okay, let’s be traveling,” Doyle said, curling up on the seat again.

“Why were you telephoning?” Flash questioned the driver.

“I called back to the nearest town for road instructions. No one in the
café could give me accurate information.”

“I notice you didn’t inquire at the filling station.”

“The attendant was busy. I knew you were in a hurry so I telephoned.”

“Never mind,” growled Doyle irritably. “Let’s get started.”

The car moved on down the road, turning at the first corner. For the
next ten minutes they followed a narrow, twisting dirt highway which led
deep into a pine woods.

Flash had lost all desire to sleep. The chauffeur’s explanation did not
satisfy him.

As the car bumped on mile after mile over the deserted road, Doyle too
began to show signs of nervousness.

“How much farther?” he asked the driver.

“We’ll soon be where we’re going.”

The words had a ring which Flash did not like. Turning to Doyle he asked
him in an undertone where he had obtained the driver.

The technician remained silent for a moment. Then he gave his answer
reluctantly.

“You’re not going to like this, Flash, but I may as well tell you.
Rascomb recommended him.”

“Rascomb!”

“Yes, I met him in the hotel lobby and—”

Doyle did not finish for the chauffeur had applied brakes. Before either
he or Flash could act, the man whirled around, covering them with a
revolver.

“Reach!” he ordered harshly. “This is the end of the line!”



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                               _CAPTIVES_


“Say, what is this?” Doyle demanded in an angry voice.

“Put up your hands,” the chauffeur ordered again. “Don’t try any clever
business or I’ll let you have it! Now get out of the car!”

Silently Flash and Doyle obeyed.

“Walk straight ahead down the road,” their captor commanded.

“Is this a stick-up?” Doyle asked, standing his ground.

The revolver prodded his back.

“No, it isn’t a stick-up, brother. Move along before I get impatient.”

“Where are you taking us?”

“You’ll find out soon enough. Keep lookin’ straight ahead.”

Doyle glanced sideways at Flash as they marched down the road, hands
held high.

“Don’t think I had any part in this!” he muttered. “I was double-crossed
by that swine, Rascomb!”

“You delivered us both into his hands,” Flash agreed bitterly. “Maybe
now you’re willing to believe what I told you about him.”

“I’ve been a dumb ox, all right.”

“If you had only listened—”

“Hey, no talk!” ordered the man behind them. “Keep quiet!”

A few yards farther up the road he commanded the pair to turn into a
path on their right. It led through dense woods to a small log cabin.
Blinds covered all the windows, but a crack of light shining from
beneath one of them, gave evidence of occupancy.

Keeping his revolver trained upon Flash and Doyle, the chauffeur rapped
twice on the door.

Almost at once it was opened by a burly man whose fleshy face looked
hard and cruel in the dim light.

“You took long enough getting here!” he said gruffly.

“Made it as quick as I could,” the chauffeur answered. “You can go now.
I’ll take over.”

He held a whispered conference with the burly man who then walked
swiftly away through the forest. Flash and Doyle were forced to enter
the cabin.

The room in which they found themselves was dirty, and provided with the
plainest of furniture. Opening from it was a second room.

“Get in there!” the chauffeur ordered.

“Say, listen!” Doyle protested angrily, “Tell us what this is all about.
Why are we being held?”

“Because you’ve learned too much, buddy. You and your pal.”

“How long are you keeping us here?”

“All depends. If you take it easy and don’t make no trouble, we may let
you out tomorrow.”

“After Herbert Rascomb has skipped the country,” drawled Flash.

The chauffeur pushed them roughly into the dark room. Slamming the door,
he turned a key in the lock.

Flash and Doyle stood motionless, listening. They both could hear the
wheezing breath of someone who slept.

“We have company,” Flash muttered.

Tracing the sound, he crossed the room to a cot which had been set up
against a wall. He could not see the man who lay there. Reaching out, he
touched his hand.

The sleeper instantly awoke. With a startled rasp in his throat, he
swung his feet to the floor and sat up.

“Who is it?” he demanded hoarsely.

Flash thought he recognized the voice.

“Major Hartgrove!”

“And who are you?” the army man countered.

Flash and Doyle gave their names and sat down on the edge of the cot. In
whispers they told how they had been tricked by Rascomb’s chauffeur.

“So Rascomb is behind this?” the Major commented. “I should have known!”

“How did they get you here, Major?” questioned Flash.

“Earlier this evening I was attacked by a man who entered my hotel room
by using the fire escape.”

“The man who was guarding the cabin?”

“Yes, he took me by surprise, overpowered me, and at the point of a
pistol made me go down the fire escape to a waiting car. I was brought
here.”

“And were you robbed?”

The Major did not reply immediately. He thought a moment and then said:

“I may as well tell you now. I doubt if I’ll ever get out of this alive
anyway. Yes, I was robbed.”

“Not money?” Doyle prompted.

“No, I had possession of important government papers. Correspondence
which never should fall into the hands of an enemy. I had plans and
specifications for a new tank the army is considering.”

“Nothing pertaining to Bailey Brooks’ parachute?” Flash asked quickly.

“Those plans were among my papers,” admitted the Major. “Captain Johns
and I have been working on them intensively the past few days. The truth
is, Brooks’ parachute hasn’t quite come up to our strict requirements.
Our experts have suggested several changes which are being tried out.”

“Then the government has decided to purchase the parachute?”

“It depends upon a final test which is to be held tomorrow.”

“And if it should fail?”

“The test will be successful,” declared the Major confidently. “Bailey
Brooks himself is making the jump. But it is a grave matter for the
plans to fall into the hands of the enemy.”

Flash fell silent as he thought over what he had learned. He knew that
Rascomb had been intensely interested in the Bailey Brooks’ invention.
Unquestionably, he had engineered the theft. But it was difficult to
understand why the man delayed his get-away now that the plans were in
his possession.

Arising abruptly, Flash began to explore the prison room.

“Any chance of getting out of here?”

“None whatsoever,” the Major responded. “There is no window. If we try
to break down the door, we’ll only stop a bullet.”

“They’ll probably let us out tomorrow,” Doyle said. “After Rascomb has
safely fled the country.”

“And then it will be too late!” Flash exclaimed. “If only we could get
out of here tonight! Rascomb might still be captured.”

The three prisoners were startled to hear a sharp rap on the door.

“Quiet in there!”

For a long while Flash and his two companions conversed in whispers.
After they had discussed every angle of the situation, and were agreed
that it was hopeless, they lapsed into moody silence.

Presently Flash aroused himself.

“I have an idea,” he told the others. “It probably won’t work, but I’ll
try it!”

In whispers he revealed what he intended to do. Then walking over to the
door, he pounded to attract the guard’s attention.

“Lay off of that!” the man ordered.

“Listen, we’re suffocating in here,” Flash protested.

“Now ain’t that too bad?” the chauffeur asked sarcastically. “And us
with the air conditioner busted down!”

“Open the door.”

“I ain’t that big a fool!”

“At least give us some water to drink.”

“So you want water?”

Flash was prepared to have the request turned down. To his surprise the
guard made no answer. But a minute later he unlocked the door. A beam of
light shot across the floor.

“Stand back, all of you,” he ordered, covering the three.

Keeping his back to the door, the chauffeur deposited a bottle of water
on the table.

“Help yourselves,” he said.

Flash moved to the table. With pretended eagerness he reached for the
bottle. His hand brushed carelessly against it.

Over it went, rolling across the table. He made an elaborate effort to
save the contents.

For a fleeting instant the guard’s attention focused suspiciously upon
Flash, and his gaze was diverted from Doyle and Major Hartgrove.

That instant was sufficient. Acting together, they leaped upon him,
knocking the revolver from his hand.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                          _A DESPERATE CHANCE_


The fight was brief but intense. Caught completely off guard, the
chauffeur proved no match for three desperate opponents. A hard blow on
the jaw sent him reeling backwards. He fell and was pinned to the floor.

Flash groped about in the dark until he found the revolver. He jammed
its muzzle into the chauffeur’s ribs.

“Let me have that,” ordered Major Hartgrove, taking the weapon from him.
“See if you can find some rope!”

Flash ran into the adjoining room, and after a brief search, located a
coil which evidently had been brought to the cabin by Rascomb’s men.

Doyle and the Major dragged the chauffeur into the lighted room.
Skilfully they trussed him up and set him in a chair.

“Now you’ll talk,” said Major Hartgrove. “If you refuse, I know how to
change your mind! You’re working for Rascomb?”

“Never heard of him.”

“Albert Povy then,” supplied Flash.

“I don’t know either of them guys,” the chauffeur insisted.

“Who hired you to waylay Flash and me if it wasn’t Rascomb?” demanded
Doyle. “He recommended you as a driver.”

The chauffeur glared at his three questioners, refusing to speak.

“You know what a charge of kidnapping means in this state,” reminded the
Major. “A life sentence.”

An expression of fear came over the chauffeur’s face. He began to
tremble.

“Now if you come clean—tell us everything you know—you may get off with
a lighter sentence,” the Major went on. “But if Rascomb makes good his
escape, you’ll be the one to take the rap.”

“This is the first job I’ve ever done for him,” the chauffeur whined.
“My orders were to let you all escape in the morning.”

“What became of the papers stolen from me?” Major Hartgrove asked.

“Rascomb has them.”

“And where is he now?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re lying,” accused the Major. “Has he gone to Melveredge Field?”

“Not Rascomb! He’s flying to Mexico tonight.”

“Flying!” exclaimed Flash. “In his own plane?”

“Yeah. At the hotel I heard him telephone a man by the name of Fleur. He
told him to be at the airport by five o’clock.”

“Rascomb must have meant his own private field,” Flash said, looking at
his watch. “It’s fifteen after three now. But we still have a chance to
stop him.”

“How far are we from Excelsior City?” asked the Major.

“Forty-seven miles,” the chauffeur informed.

“Let’s get started,” Flash urged tersely. “We haven’t a minute to lose.”

Major Hartgrove untied the chauffeur’s feet and they forced the man to
walk back to the road where the car had been left. Flash slid behind the
wheel.

As they rode through the night at a furious pace, Doyle and Major
Hartgrove continued to question their prisoner. They soon satisfied
themselves that he knew almost nothing about Rascomb’s past.

“I only met the guy yesterday,” he insisted. “Rascomb offered me a
chance to pick up some easy money. He let on he wanted to play a joke on
some friends of his. I was to drive the car. Until tonight I didn’t have
no idea I was getting mixed up in a kidnapping, and maybe worse.”

“What do you mean—worse?” the Major inquired.

“Well, I don’t want to have any hand in letting an innocent man be
killed. That’s why I’m spilling everything I know. Rascomb planted one
of his men at Melveredge Field. He has it fixed so some poor guy will
get killed tomorrow when they test out a parachute.”

“Bailey Brooks!”

“Yeah, he’s the one. I heard Rascomb talking about it.”

“I see!” said the Major explosively. “Rascomb figured that if Brooks
were killed in the test, the parachute would be discredited, and the
army would lose all interest. Then, with the plans in his possession, he
would quietly transfer them to his own government. But we’ll stop that
test!”

Flash pressed his foot harder on the accelerator. He was afraid to look
at his watch again. The speedometer warned him that they were not making
good time.

Soon they came to a small town which Flash recognized. A narrow country
road bisected the one they were following.

He eased on the brake.

“Major, this would be a short-cut to Clear Lake! How about taking it?”

Major Hartgrove glanced at his prisoner. Flash read the thought.

“This town must have a constable and a jail,” he said. “We could drop
him here and go on.”

“Yes, that will be wiser than trying to take the longer route,” agreed
Major Hartgrove.

They aroused a sleepy official from his bed, and turned the chauffeur
over to him. Explanations were necessary. The constable was slow to
understand.

“We’re losing entirely too much time!” the Major fumed.

“You stay here and enter a charge against this man,” Flash proposed.
“Doyle and I will go on to Clear Lake. Unless we move fast, Rascomb is
certain to get away.”

The Major considered briefly and consented.

“I’ll telephone to Excelsior City for a police squad,” he promised. “By
the time you reach Clear Lake help should be there. I’ll follow as
quickly as I can.”

Armed with the Major’s revolver, Flash and Doyle raced on toward Clear
Lake. The road they had chosen was bedded with loose gravel. Small
stones were thrown against the windshield and fenders as the car skidded
around corners.

Doyle snapped on a light and looked at his watch.

“Twenty after four,” he announced. “We’ll never make it.”

“We will unless Rascomb takes off ahead of time!” Flash answered grimly.

Dawn was beginning to color the eastern sky. Trees and houses along the
road gradually assumed definite shape. The air was heavy with smoke from
the forest fire which still raged miles away.

Flash and Doyle drove through Clear Lake at ten minutes of five. Houses
were dark, the streets deserted. There was no police delegation to meet
them.

Doyle nervously fingered the loaded revolver.

“It looks as if we’re on our own,” he said. “Unless that chauffeur gave
us a bum steer.”

They were drawing near the private air field. Flash snapped off the
headlight beams. As the car swung around a bend of the road, they saw
the cleared field ahead of them, shrouded in the morning mists.

Flash leaned forward. A plane stood near the hangar, propeller turning,
blue flames licking from its exhaust.

“It’s Rascomb!” he shouted.

“We’re too late,” Doyle groaned. “No chance to stop him now.”

A gate which gave entrance to the private field had been left open.
Flash whirled the wheel and they went through, bumping over the uneven
ground.

Rascomb sat at the controls of the monoplane, with Fleur in the cockpit
behind him. They both saw the approaching car.

Derisively, Rascomb waved his hand. Speeding up the engine, he taxied to
the end of the cleared space, then nosed the plane into the wind.

“We’ve lost him,” Doyle exclaimed. “He’s taking off!”

Flash had noted the direction of the wind and the path which the plane
must travel.

“There’s one way to stop him!” he cried.

As the plane roared down the field, he deliberately headed the car
straight toward it.

“Jump!” he shouted to Doyle. “Save yourself! We’re going to crash
head-on!”



                              CHAPTER XXV
                               _FADE-OUT_


“Jump!” Flash shouted again as his companion did not obey.

Doyle braced himself against the floor boards.

“I’m sticking,” he said. “Stop ’em if you can, Flash!”

The monoplane roared down the field straight toward the car, rapidly
gathering speed for the take-off. In another instant its wheels would
leave the ground.

Flash pressed the accelerator pedal to the floor. The car fairly leaped
ahead.

Too late Rascomb saw what the cameramen meant to do. He shouted and
swerved the plane. But he could not act quickly enough to avert a crash.
The car smashed into the plane’s left wing with terrific impact.

Flash was thrown violently against the windshield. For several minutes
he lay in a semi-daze. Then his mind cleared and he shook himself free
from the mass of twisted steel.

Doyle was lying limp on the seat, his chin slumped on his chest. As
Flash touched him, his eyes opened.

“Stop ’em,” he mumbled. “Stop ’em if you can.”

Relieved that Doyle seemed only stunned, Flash seized the revolver which
had fallen to the car seat. Forcing open the battered door, he climbed
from the wreckage.

One glance disclosed Fleur lying face downward on the ground. But where
was Rascomb?

In bewilderment Flash gazed across the field. He saw a dark figure
running toward the woods which bordered the road. Rascomb had escaped
injury and was trying to escape.

“Halt!” Flash shouted. “Halt or I’ll fire!”

The man did not pause. He darted into the shelter of the woods and was
lost to view.

Flash started to follow, but his legs wobbled beneath him. The crash had
shaken him more than he had realized. He never would be able to overtake
Rascomb.

As he considered whether or not to remain and guard Fleur, who might
recover consciousness, he heard the roar of a speeding automobile. He
turned to gaze toward the road and his heart leaped. A car loaded with
armed men had turned into the field. Help had arrived!

Major Hartgrove was the first to jump from the car.

“Get Rascomb!” Flash gasped. “He escaped into the woods!”

Leaving one man behind to guard Fleur, Major Hartgrove and his recruits
took up the chase. As Flash assisted Doyle from the battered car, he
could see their flashlights moving in and out among the tall pines.

“Did you capture Rascomb?” Doyle muttered, holding his head in his
hands.

“Not yet. But we will. He hasn’t a chance against six men.”

“Where’s Fleur?”

“Over by the hangar. He’s out cold. How are you feeling now?”

“Shaken up,” Doyle answered, “but I’ll be all right as soon as I collect
my wits. Too bad we didn’t get a picture of that crash. It was a
beauty!”

The technician’s words reminded Flash of his automatic newsreel camera
which had been carried in the rear of the automobile. He groaned at the
thought.

“What’s the matter, Flash?” Doyle asked in surprise.

“My camera! It’s probably ground to powder!”

“Maybe not. I packed it carefully in the case.”

Darting back to the car, Flash began to burrow in the wreckage. He
pulled out the cases of equipment and eagerly examined them. So far as
he could tell the camera was not damaged, but only thrown out of
adjustment.

“I may as well waste some film just for the fun of it,” he said to Doyle
with a grin.

From somewhere deep in the woods two shots rang out in rapid succession.
The cameramen listened tensely. There were no other shots, but in a few
minutes Major Hartgrove and his posse came into the clearing with
Rascomb manacled to one of the men.

“They got him!” Doyle exclaimed jubilantly.

Flash trained his camera on the group, and despite his excitement,
managed to hold it steady as the film ran through.

Rascomb was grim but smiling as he was led to the waiting automobile.
His gaze fastened upon Flash.

“You win,” he said grudgingly. “I didn’t figure you would have the
courage to crash my plane. But then, you live a charmed life!”

Major Hartgrove turned to Flash and grasped his hand.

“We saw the crash as we came down the road,” he explained. “It was a
foolhardy thing to do, but magnificent! If you hadn’t stopped Povy, he
would have escaped to Mexico.”

“I threw you off the track for a time, Major,” the prisoner said
pleasantly. “It was this fresh kid who tossed a monkey wrench into plans
I’ve been building up for years.”

“You made your final mistake when you had Doyle and me waylaid tonight,”
said Flash. “I was tired of trying to convince anyone you were Povy. If
you had allowed us to go on to Clinton, I probably never would have
bothered you again.”

“That was one of my mistakes,” the man agreed. “Another was inviting you
to my lodge.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I knew you were wondering if I might not be Povy. I intended to
convince you otherwise.”

“You might have succeeded save for one thing.”

“Yes, my scar betrayed me. My make-up was not as clever as I thought.
Even so, I should have escaped, had you not lived such a charmed life.
And you are very handy at opening locked doors.”

“There’s one thing I would like to know,” said Flash. “How did you
manage to give out the impression that Albert Povy had been killed in
the train wreck?”

“I don’t mind telling you—not in the least. It was very simple. While on
the train I fell into conversation with a man who chanced to mention
that he had entered this country recently and had no relatives or
friends living here.”

“The man was killed in the wreck?” prompted Major Hartgrove.

“He was. I merely transferred my own identification papers to his
pockets. Then, later, I claimed the body and had it buried in the Clear
Lake cemetery.”

“You thought that with Albert Povy dead, the government would drop its
case against him,” commented the Major. “Then as Herbert Rascomb you
would be free to continue your espionage work.”

“Oh, no, Major,” the prisoner corrected. “This was to have been my last
deal. I am not as young as I once was and excitement palls upon one. I
had planned to retire to Mexico and live a quiet, respectable
existence.”

“You’ll find prison a quiet place,” Major Hartgrove said dryly.

“Undoubtedly. I trust you’ll visit me sometime so that we may chat about
old times? You really proved yourself very stupid, Major.”

“Kindly hand over the plans to Bailey Brooks’ invention,” Major
Hartgrove ordered testily. “It will save a disagreeable search.”

“Anything to oblige.”

Rascomb drew a fat packet of papers from his pocket and dropped it into
the Major’s hand.

“One request,” he said. “My man, Fleur, knew nothing of my real past.
Attorney Gordon also is blameless. I trust you will not try to involve
them. Now gentlemen, is there anything else you wish to know?”

“You had nothing to do with the train wreck?” Flash inquired after a
moment.

“No, I merely profited by it. For years I have been building up the
respectable character of Rascomb. I knew that I was being closely
watched by the Department of Justice. So when the chance came for Povy’s
fade-out, I took it.”

Both Rascomb and Fleur were loaded into the car and driven back to
Excelsior City, where the latter was taken to the prison hospital for
emergency treatment. Flash was greatly relieved to learn that the
caretaker had not been seriously injured in the crash and would recover.

“Now to round up the remaining members of Rascomb’s ring,” Major
Hartgrove said briskly. “It may take us weeks, but eventually we’ll get
every man who ever worked with him.”

“What about Bailey Brooks?” Flash questioned anxiously. “The parachute
test has been ordered stopped?”

“Yes, I telephoned Melveredge Field over an hour ago and talked with
Brooks himself. The test will be postponed.”

His mind relieved, Flash went with George Doyle to dispatch a telegram
to Mr. Clewes of the _News-Vue_ Company. Afterwards, since it was too
late to cover the strike at Clinton, they engaged a hotel room and went
to bed.

It was late afternoon when Flash awoke to hear someone pounding on the
door. The visitor proved to be Captain Johns.

“I didn’t mean to wake you up,” he apologized.

“That’s all right,” returned Flash. “We’ve slept the clock around
anyway.”

Captain Johns had come to report that another member of Rascomb’s ring
had been taken into custody.

“Major Hartgrove has identified the man as the one who entered his hotel
room and robbed him,” the captain revealed. “He was caught when he
applied at the airport for a ticket to New York.”

“Then your case is closed?” Doyle inquired.

“Very nearly so.”

Captain Johns chatted for several minutes, revealing interesting details
about Rascomb’s past life. Taking a snapshot from his pocket, he gave it
to Flash. It was the missing picture of Rascomb which had been obtained
at the Indianapolis races.

“So it was you who took it from my room!” exclaimed Flash. “And I blamed
Doyle.”

“I am the guilty party,” admitted Captain Johns. “For weeks I had been
investigating Rascomb’s record. However, I did not agree with you that
he was Albert Povy. You proved me wrong, and I am glad you did. It gives
me pleasure to congratulate you.”

After the captain had gone, Flash was not slack in apologizing to Doyle
for having misjudged him.

“It was a natural mistake to make,” the technician replied. “Forget it.”

Later in the afternoon a telegram arrived from Mr. Clewes, praising the
two cameramen for their recent pictures. The message ended: “Take a
week’s rest. You have both earned it.”

“We have _News-Vue_ by the tail now,” Doyle grinned. “And boy, can we
use that week off!”

“Working on the _Brandale Ledger_ again will seem like a picnic after
this,” added Flash.

The smile faded from Doyle’s face.

“You’re not thinking of going back?” he asked. “Why, you’ve made a name
for yourself with _News-Vue_. They’ll give you anything you want on a
silver platter.”

“I’m only filling in for Joe,” Flash reminded him.

“Sure, I know. But there are other jobs with _News-Vue_. Maybe we could
keep on working together.”

Flash remained thoughtfully silent.

“You don’t like me,” Doyle said after a long moment. “I can’t blame you,
because I deliberately made it hard. The truth is, I thought you were
nothing but a fresh kid. I wanted the job for a friend of mine.”

“I know,” smiled Flash.

“I’ve changed my mind about you. But naturally you wouldn’t feel the
same way—”

“I do,” interrupted Flash, extending his hand. “Shake, pal.”

“Then you’re willing to forget?” Doyle demanded eagerly. “And keep on
with _News-Vue?_”

“Well, for a few weeks. But I’ve promised to return to the _Ledger_.”

“You’ll have a job waiting with _News-Vue_ whenever you want it,” Doyle
predicted. “And you’ll come back. Once a newsreel cameraman, always one.
The excitement seeps into your blood.”

“Yes, Doyle, you’re right,” Flash said heartily. “Taking ordinary
pictures will seem pretty tame after this. One of these days I’ll
probably be coming back.”


                                THE END

                       [Illustration: Endpapers]



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)





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