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Title: The Suicide Squad and the Murder Bund Author: Emile C. Tepperman * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0603891h.html Language: English Date first posted: Jul 2006 Most recent update: Mar 2013 This eBook was produced by Richard Scott and updated by Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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A KEEN October wind was cutting across the Drive from the Hudson when Stephen Klaw came out of the side street. He stopped in the lee of the corner apartment building, and lit a cigarette. He did not at once put out the match, but held it cupped in front of his face so that his clean-cut though rugged features were illuminated.
Almost at once, a woman came darting from the shadows of the park across the street. She was dressed in a black rain coat, and wore no hat. Her dark hair streamed out behind her as she ran, in zig-zag fashion, as if wounded. And the great spreading stain of crimson upon the black background of the raincoat, just underneath the heart, testified to the wound.
Under her right arm she was clutching a small black leather brief case, which seemed to be more precious to her than the life blood which was pouring from her body.
Before she had taken half a dozen steps across the wide expanse of Riverside Drive toward Stephen Klaw, a man's voice rose in a triumphant shout, hoarse and vindictive: "There she is!"
The man came tearing out from the park, a little farther down the block. At the same time, two other men broke from cover, at other points along the Drive. They had evidently been combing the park for her. All three of them converged upon her. They had peculiar weapons—the stocks resembled those of Thompson sub-machine guns, but the barrels were sawed-off so that they were only about six inches long.
Stephen Klaw's lips pursed tightly when he saw those guns in the hands of the three men. He spat the cigarette from his lips, and thrust his hands down into his jacket pockets. They emerged almost at once, each gripping an automatic.
The first of those three pursuing men dropped to one knee, and aimed his sawed-off machine gun, while the other two raised their weapons to their shoulders to fire as they ran. All three muzzles were concentrated upon the back of the staggering woman. Either they had not seen the slim, almost boyish figure of Stephen Klaw, or else they did not connect him with their quarry.
Klaw's eyes were cold and hard as he fired both automatics from the hip. The men on the extreme right and left of the running woman fell as those two automatics began their spiteful, deadly barking. They never even fired their weapons.
But the third, directly behind the woman, was shielded from Klaw by her staggering body.
The fellow saw his advantage at once, and dropped flat on the ground, raising his sawed-off machine gun and pulling the trip at the same time. A burst of scattering lead belched from the mouth of the vicious weapon, spreading over a radius of twenty feet, something like the buckshot from a small gauge shotgun.
Stephen Klaw had anticipated this tactic. There was only one thing he could do, and he did it without reflection or hesitation. Almost before his two automatics had ceased thundering, he launched himself in a flying tackle, straight at the running woman. He reached her a split instant before the sawed-off machine gun belched forth its lead.
Klaw's shoulder struck the woman's legs and she fell over him, landing so that his body was between her and the machine-gunner. The spray of lead whistled through the air, just above their heads. The man had fired high, evidently hoping to riddle the woman's body from the waist up. Only a few of the pellets arced low enough to strike Klaw, and he barely felt them as he fired his right-hand automatic from his prone position on the ground. His slug took the machine-gunner square in the forehead, and the man just relaxed and lay still.
Stephen sprang to one knee and knelt beside the dark-haired woman. She was trying feebly to stir. A moan escaped from her lips. The wound in her breast was bleeding profusely, and though she had escaped the leaden hail from the machine gun, Klaw could see at a glance that she had not long to live. She raised a haggard face to his.
"Did—did they get you—too?"
He put a hand on her shoulder. "No. Only a few little nicks. I'll be able to pluck them out, easily."
"Thank... God... you're safe. I knew... they were looking... for me ... in the park. But I had to... keep the appointment with you. They got me ... with a lucky shot when I escaped with the brief case. I wouldn't have lasted... much longer..."
"I got the three of them," Stephen Klaw said grimly. "If that's any consolation. Now, I'm going to call an ambulance—"
"No, no. I'm... through—done for. Take the brief case. It contains the list... I promised to get for you. All the names of the Executive Council... of... Skull and Swastika Corps!"
Klaw took the black leather case. He did not open it. He bent low over the dying woman.
"You've done a great service for your country, Mary Watson—"
"No, no. It's only... small part. You... must do the... rest. I got all names except the... leader's. His name was... Franz Trebizond... in Germany. I don't know... what name he uses in this country. That is for you ... to find..."
The blood was pumping out of her body at an appalling rate. She should have been dead, but she was clinging to life by a terrible effort of naked will power.
"Look out for... Franz Trebizond. He is clever, ruthless—a blond beast without mercy or heart. And watch for the woman, Lisa Monterey. She is ... bad as he..."
Mary Watson gasped, and a spasm went through her body. But she held on to life for another moment, with a grim purposeful effort.
"You must promise me... one thing more..."
"Anything you ask," Steve said.
"Promise to look after my daughter, Sue. They—the Skull and Swastika Corps—will try to hurt her because of what I did to them." She shuddered, and pressed a hand against her breast as if to stem the tide of spilling blood for one instant more. "I—I can't bear to think of Sue in the hands of those monsters. They... know dreadful tortures... they know where to find every living nerve in a girl's body. They would keep her in agony for days and days—"
"No, they won't," Stephen Klaw said grimly. He took a deep breath. "I give you my word, Mary Watson," he said solemnly, "and I give you the word of Kerrigan and Murdoch too. The three of us will see to it that nothing happens to Sue Watson—while we're alive!"
A look of ineffable happiness came into the swiftly-dimming eyes of Mary Watson, erasing the mask of pain from her features. Her body relaxed, giving way at last to the sweet, blank nothingness of death.
She lay still....
STEPHEN KLAW put a finger upon the artery in her throat. There was no pulse, no life. Slowly, he picked up the brief case, and rose to his feet. As he looked down upon the still body of Mary Watson, there was a tight gray bleakness in his face, which had not been there before.
Sounds arose about him, in the quiet night air. Fifty heads were poked out of apartment house windows, and voices called out in fright and in execration.
"There's the murderer... He killed the woman... It's the Skull and Swastika again—I recognize those machine guns! Call the police! Catch him! Catch the murderer!"
Men were running out of the corner house, others were coming from up and down the street. From a ground floor window a man's voice came clearly, high- pitched and keen: "Operator! Operator! Get police headquarters! It's a killing! The Skull and Swastika..."
Stephen Klaw paid no attention to the shouts, to the people who stared out of the window, or to those who were in the street. His lips moved faintly as he stood over the body of the dark-haired woman.
"I don't like leaving you here, Mary Watson, dead in the gutter. But you were a brave woman. You would understand."
Instinctively, his right hand, holding the still-hot automatic, rose to his forehead in mute salute. Then, with the brief-case under his left arm, and an automatic in each hand, he turned and strode away down the same side-street from which he had come. He looked neither to the right nor to the left, walking as if all those shouting, gesticulating, threatening people did not even exist.
They kept their distance, too, for the sight of those dead bodies on the ground, and of the automatics in his hands, was enough to deter the boldest of them from attempting to stop him.
But they yelled and they screamed, and they blasphemed against him.
"Dammed Nazi," he heard. And, "He's a Skull and Swastika gunman. Get the yellow rat!"
A grim smile of irony tugged at Stephen Klaw's lips, at the thought that be should be reviled as a member of the vicious Fifth Column organization which he was fighting to the death. But he couldn't stop and explain to these people that he was an agent of the F. B. I., acting sub rosa, and without official commission. That was a secret between himself and his Chief. Yet he liked the sound of those epithets which were flung at him, because it reflected the temper of the American people. Americans were not ones to accept the activities of such an organization, as people of other countries had done, to their own cost.
These were the men and the descendants of men who had made America great and strong. These were men who had fought in the last world war, and who wanted only peace for this generation of their sons. Yet they were ready and willing to hurl themselves unarmed, against an armed enemy who was boring from within to destroy their cherished institutions and their cherished liberty.
Klaw smiled, like a fond elder brother. He fired twice into the air, then turned and took to his heels. It was the first time in recorded history that Stephen Klaw had run from danger!
As police sirens shrilled in the distance, the pursuing crowd raised a great shout. They had their man trapped. Steve knew well enough, that once he were caught now, even those blue coats in the police car would not be able to keep him from being battered to a pulp by the fierce revengeful fists of his pursuers. There had been too many hideous tortures and wanton killings in recent weeks on the part of the Skull and Swastika Corps, and the citizens were out for blood. He must escape quickly. He must reach the place where he had left his car in the next side street.
Steve swung into an open lot, as he had previously planned. But before he was halfway across the lot, a bullet whined past his head, followed by another and another. The stentorian voice of one of the blue coats in the police car bellowed after him. "Stop! Or we'll shoot to kill!"
Stephen Klaw kept on running. He bent low from the waist, holding tight to the brief case which Mary Watson had bequeathed to him. He heard the police officer curse behind him, and shout, "All right, you asked for it!"
Only then did Klaw throw himself forward at full length on the ground. The policeman's gun bellowed, and a bullet screamed through the air, followed by another and another in quick succession.
"He's down!" some one shouted. "You got him—"
"Naw!" yelled the cop. "He dropped before I fired."
Klaw jumped up, and started to run once more. He was almost into the mouth of the alley now, with only a low fence intervening. He hurdled the fence on the run, just as the cop fired again. He almost felt the tug of that bullet against his coat as he went over the fence into the alley beyond.
Now he raced through the alley out into the street beyond, with the hue and cry rising behind him to a shrilling crescendo of fury. His margin of safety was small, but it was enough for him. He was in his car, and had it started before the first of the pursuing throng came out into the street after him.
Without putting on his lights, he sent the car roaring away, and turned the far corner on two wheels. A couple of desultory shots followed him, but they were ineffective. In a moment he was away from all pursuit.
He switched on his radio, and drove south on Broadway, listening to the short wave alarms which were being broadcast for him. The police were still under the impression that he was an operative of the Skull and Swastika Corps, and they were instituting a thorough man-hunt. But they didn't have the license of his car, nor the make, for it had been too dark back there on that side street. Neither did they have a good description of him.
Grimly he opened the briefcase as he drove. He was surprised to find that it contained only a single sheet of paper, with a series of hieroglyphics written in vertical columns, as the Chinese write.
There were nine of these vertical lines, each containing from fifteen to thirty characters. Glancing at it swiftly as he drove, Klaw was unable to decide whether the characters were Chinese, or some less known alphabet of Indo-China or Malaysia. But there was no time to waste in deciphering this puzzle now. Mary Watson had said that this paper contained the names of the Executive Council of the Skull and Swastika, but not the present identity of Franz Trebizond, which Klaw wanted more than anything else. But first, there was one other thing which he must make sure of—a thing for which he had pledged his word, and the word of his two partners, Kerrigan and Murdoch.
When he reached the Eighties, he turned off and drove half way down the block until he reached a small apartment house set between a garage and a public playground. The playground was dark and deserted now, but the garage was busy.
Klaw did not stop in front of the apartment house. He merely glanced at it as he drove past, and swung his car into the garage. A sign on the outside said: "PARKING—50 cents."
He left his car here, paid the fee and got a parking ticket. Then he walked out, stood at the curb for a moment while he lit a cigarette. He glanced up at the facade of the apartment house next door, fixing his glance for an instant on the first-floor window nearest the garage. There was a light in that window. He waited at the curb, smoking the cigarette slowly. A minute passed. Then the light was suddenly extinguished. It remained out for another full minute, then went on again.
Steve threw away his cigarette, and entered the apartment house. He avoided the elevator and went up the single flight of stairs to the first floor. At the door of Apartment IA he pressed the button three times quickly, then twice, then once. The door was opened immediately, and he stepped inside.
The girl who met him in the foyer was so breathtakingly lovely that anyone who saw her once could never forget her. She was little more than nineteen. The white oval of her face was set off by dark, silky soft hair. And her resemblance to Mary Watson was so marked that there could be no doubt she was the daughter of the woman who had died on Riverside Drive a few minutes ago.
Sue Watson said nothing as she closed the door behind Stephen Klaw. She just stood in the foyer, her slim and graceful body taut, her lower lip trembling. Her eyes bored deep into Steve's, as if she would delve into his very soul.
Suddenly, she closed her eyes, and a little moan escaped from her lips.
"Dead?" she asked. She opened her eyes and waited for the answer.
Stephen Klaw gulped, and bowed his head.
Sue Watson did not burst into tears. Her face became white, and her bands clenched at her sides. She swayed just a little, and Steve put forth a hand, then quickly withdrew it.
Silently, Sue Watson turned and led him into the living room. She went to the window, pulled the blind all the way down. Then she came and seated herself in a straight-backed chair facing Klaw.
"Tell me all about it, Steve," she said in a tight little voice. "I want to know how she died."
"She was a very brave woman, Sue," he told her. "She was mortally wounded, yet she managed to make her way to the place where she was to meet me. She brought the list of names—all but Trebizond's. We still don't know what name Trebizond adopted since coming to the United States."
Sue Watson's eyes widened. "Then—then she threw away her life. She died in vain?"
"No!" Steve told her grimly. "Your mother did not die in vain. We'll use that list to bring Trebizond out in the open. As soon as Kerrigan and Murdoch get here, we'll go into action. Have they called yet?"
"Yes. They called fifteen minutes ago from the airport. They'll be here any minute. But—but how can just the three of you fight the whole Skull and Swastika Corps? Won't the government help you at all?"
"No. We're on our own. We're acting as private citizens. Whatever we do is outside the law. There would be very little chance of getting enough evidence against the S. S. Corps to convict them in court. And even if we did, we couldn't afford to reveal our methods and our information at a public trial."
"I see," she said slowly. "So you three are going to stick your heads in the jackal's mouth—as usual!"
Klaw shrugged. "Your mother did it."
Twenty years ago, Mary Watson had been married to Franz Trebizond, who had even then been a member of the Nazi minority party in Germany. They had been divorced within a year, and Mary Watson had married again, and forgotten that nightmare year, during which she had learned just how much of a beast a man can be. When her second husband was killed in an airplane accident, Mary Watson had devoted her life to her two daughters, Sue and Eve. She had relegated Franz Trebizond to the limbo of forgotten things, had made a full life for herself in the busy duties of a mother.
But Franz Trebizond was not so easily disposed. In the intervening years he had risen to power with the Nazi party, and had become chief of the Bureau of Foreign Activity, directing Nazi spies and saboteurs from his headquarters in Berlin. Unfortunately, Mary Watson had not kept track of him. She had permitted Sue's elder sister, Eve, to make a vacation trip across Europe, just before the war broke out. Eve's itinerary had carried her through Berlin. And there, Eve had disappeared.
A WEEK later, Eve's body was found in the Danube River. Mary Watson, desperate with grief, began to pull wires and to seek information from friends in Europe. Little by little, she learned the story. Franz Trebizond had never forgotten her, never forgiven her for marrying another man and having two beautiful daughters by that other man. He had waited, and bided his time. It was he who had ordered Eve Watson's murder. And he had made sure that Mary Watson would hear of the circumstances.
There was nothing that Mary could do about it, until a few weeks ago. She learned that Franz Trebizond, who had directed Fifth Column activities in Holland, Belgium and South America, had come at last to the United States to take over the active direction of the Skull and Swastika Corps. She remembered that Trebizond had owned an old house in New York, and guessed that he might use it as headquarters. She had phoned Stephen Klaw, who was an old friend, that she would make an attempt to enter that house and obtain evidence. She had insisted, in spite of Steve's protests, that she wanted to do the job alone —as a gesture of vengeance for the murder of her daughter, Eve. And she had made the appointment to meet him at the spot where she had died tonight.
Now, looking at Sue Watson sitting straight and taut, Stephen Klaw remembered his promise to see that no harm came to this beautiful girl. There would be a double reason why the Skull and Swastika should go after her. The S. S. Corps was known for its ruthless acts of vengeance, even unto the second generation. And besides, the vindictiveness of Franz Trebizond would never be satisfied until he had wiped out the entire family of Mary Watson.
"You're sure," he asked her, "that this house is not being watched?"
"Quite sure," she told him, bitterly. "I've learned how to check on things like that. I wouldn't have given you the signal with the light if there had been any doubt. Mother and I have moved many times in the last years —always a little ahead of Trebizond. We cover our tracks."
Steve nodded. "Good. Then we can make our headquarters here—if you don't mind."
"If I don't mind!" Her eyes flashed. "Of course I don't! I want to help in the fight!" her voice broke—"for Eve's and Mother's sake!"
The telephone rang, and she sprang up to answer it. She spoke for a moment, then hung up and turned to Klaw.
"It's Johnny Kerrigan and Dan Murdoch. They're in the drug store around the corner. They're coming right up."
In less than five minutes, the bell rang, with the same signal that Klaw had used. Sue Watson went to the door and admitted Kerrigan and Murdoch.
They stepped swiftly inside, and grinned at Klaw. Klaw grinned back at them.
"Hello, mopes," he said. "Hello, Shrimp," said Johnny Kerrigan. "Hiya, Shrimp?" said Dan Murdoch. These three had worked together for so long that they could almost read each other's minds. Long ago, they had found that they had one thing in common—a deliberate, willful, daredevil recklessness which made them always seek the longest odds and the most dangerous tasks. As Special Agents of the F. B. I., they were never assigned to routine jobs, but got only those assignments from which there was little chance of returning alive.
Stephen Klaw had once told the chairman of a senate investigating committee to go to hell when he had been asked why he shot to kill in a battle with a criminal gang. Johnny Kerrigan had once punched a senator's son in the nose. And Dan Murdoch had shot a crooked croupier to death in a gambling dive.
For such acts, any other agents would have been summarily dismissed from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the records of those three were so outstanding that they were allowed to retain their jobs—with this proviso: that they were never to be assigned to ordinary duty where there might be a risk of offending the powers-that-be. They were kept in reserve for the undertakings for which the Chief of the F. B. I. would hesitate to order a man.
THAT was the way Kerrigan and Murdoch and Klaw wanted it. They were known as the Suicide Squad. Originally, there had been five of them. Then four. Now there were but three, and tomorrow there might be only two, one—or none. Only one thing was certain. If the Suicide Squad died, they would die fighting to the last gasp.
"You get all the breaks, Shrimp!" Johnny Kerrigan growled. "Dan and I were tied up in Washington, working on a secret code book that was found on a dead guy last week, while you had the excitement."
"How do you know I had excitement?" Steve demanded.
"I can see it in your eyes. And there are holes in your coat. They weren't made by moths!"
"Nice work," said Steve. "Keep at it, and you'll make a first-class detective some day."
Dan Murdoch came around and examined the holes in Steve's coat. Some of them were darkly flecked with congealed blood.
"Buckshot!" said Murdoch. "Take off your coat, Shrimp. We'll take out the pieces, and cauterize the holes. Do you want to get tetanus?"
Kerrigan chuckled. "The buckshot is more likely to get tetanus, if you ask me!"
Steve stripped off his coat and shirt and Sue Watson went into the kitchen and boiled up a pot of water for sterilizing, and brought in gauze and scissors and a knife.
There were seven pellets in Klaw's body, and it was painful work removing them and cauterizing the small wounds. Kerrigan, for all his bulk, had marvelously sensitive fingers. It was he who did the work of extracting the lead, while Murdoch cauterized and bandaged.
While they labored over him, Steve told them swiftly what had happened on Riverside Drive, never even stopping to gasp when Dan applied a red-hot knife to the wounds.
He finished his story, and showed them the paper he had taken from Mary Watson's brief-case.
"If we could only work out this code," he said. "We'd have the names of the Executive Council. It wouldn't give us Trebizond by a long shot, because I'm sure that even the Executive Council doesn't know the identity he's working under. But we could make use of those names—"
He stopped, seeing Kerrigan and Murdoch grinning at each other.
"What's the joke, mopes?"
"Oh, nothing," said Murdoch. He took the paper and went to a desk in the corner, turned on the light, and took a small notebook from his pocket. He began working with pencil and paper while Kerrigan finished up dressing Klaw's wounds.
In five minutes, Murdoch got up from the desk and came over with a sheet of paper upon which he had written nine names.
"Johnny told you we were working on a code book, didn't he? Well, we couldn't figure out which espionage organization was using that code. Now we know. The characters on this paper you got, are the same as the code book. It's the Skull and Swastika Code Book, and here's the list of names of their Executive Council!"
Steve took the paper eagerly. Kerrigan looked at the names over his shoulder, and whistled.
"Good Lord! They've got themselves in—solid!"
TWO of the names were those of political bosses who controlled a large foreign vote. Four were city and state officials. The other three were fairly well known business men of foreign extraction.
"We could arrest them all, tonight!" exclaimed Kerrigan.
"Sure!" Stephen Klaw barked. "And they'd be released in the morning for lack of evidence. This list wouldn't convict them in court. We'd only be putting Trebizond on guard!"
"Also," Murdoch added, "it is to be remembered that we are acting as private citizens, and not as Federal Agents." He grimaced. "No, my dear Mr. Kerrigan, your idea is putrid!"
"How'll we handle it then?" Johnny growled.
Stephen Klaw put his shirt and coat on, over his bandages.
"Watch me, mopes," he said. He turned to
Sue Watson. "Is your phone on the dial system?"
She nodded. "Yes. Why—"
"Then they won't be able to trace the call back here."
He ran his finger down the list of names, and stopped at that of Sylvester Gröner.
"I've heard of him," Murdoch said. "He runs a travel bureau. Used to book personally conducted tours through Germany before the war."
"He'll do!" said Klaw. He went over to the telephone stand, looked up Gröner's home phone number, then dialed it.
Sue Watson looked blank and uncomprehending. But Kerrigan and Murdoch, after glancing at each other, nodded approval.
"Maybe you've got something there, Shrimp!" Dan Murdoch said.
Just then, Klaw got his connection. "Let me talk to Mr. Gröner, please," he said. "My name? Just tell him it's Mr. Black—Mr. James Black... No, Mr. Gröner doesn't know me. But he'll certainly be glad to talk to me."
Steve held the phone for a moment, winking at the others. Then he nodded as Sylvester Gröner's voice came over the wire.
"Yes?" they heard faintly. "What can I do for you?"
"Mr. Gröner," Steve said swiftly, "I know where to lay my hands on a certain list of names which was stolen from a certain place tonight. The government would give a handsome reward for that list, but I figure it's worth more to you. Say, a hundred thousand dollars."
There was a moment's silence, and they thought that Gröner had hung up. But then his voice was heard once more.
"Who are you?"
"You may call me Mr. Black. You can see I'm not bluffing, when I tell you that your name is number seven on the list."
"I don't know what you're talking about—"
"Suit yourself, Mr. Gröner. I'd just as soon turn the list over to the Government unless I can make some money out of it. If you won't pay, why I'll just say good-by—"
Steve held the wire, while there was another long pause. Then, "Just who are you, Mr. Black?"
"Let us say," Steve said into the phone, "that I represent an independent syndicate."
"International spies, eh?"
"Perhaps. Does it matter? Do you want to do business with me or not?"
"You say you have this list in your possession?"
"No. But I will get it tomorrow afternoon. I must know now whether you want to buy it. Otherwise, I will make other arrangements."
Gröner's voice was hesitant. "I must consult someone else. Give me an hour. Where can I get in touch with you?"
"You can't. But tomorrow, at exactly three-thirty in the afternoon, I'll register at the Groton Hotel. You can contact me there."
"You'll have the list with you?"
"No. But I'll be able to lay my hands on it, if you're ready to do business. And now—good-by, Mr. Gröner!"
He hung up swiftly, and turned to face the others. "Think he'll nibble, mopes?"
"Boy!" said Kerrigan. "I can just imagine how Gröner is burning up the wires right now, to get in touch with Franz Trebizond! Too bad we can't tap his wire!"
"Naughty, naughty!" said Dan Murdoch; "Mustn't do anything against the law!"
AT exactly three-twenty the next afternoon, Stephen Klaw entered the lobby of the Groton Hotel. He had no baggage.
The lobby was busy, with people moving in and out of the cocktail lounge at the left. Klaw paid no attention to those who watched him as he passed. To all outward appearance, he might have been totally unaware that his every move was observed from the moment he stepped inside the door.
At the desk, he handed the clerk a ten dollar bill.
"Bath or shower, sir?" asked the clerk.
"Shower," said Steve. "And I want a room on an upper floor. Anything from the fifteenth up."
"So you can enjoy the view of Central Park, sir?"
"No," Steve told him. "I may have to throw someone out the window. I want him to have a long fall."
"Ha, ha," the clerk said nervously. "That's a good joke, sir." He took a key from the rack. "I can give you Room one-nine-one-o—"
"Okay." Klaw picked up the pen, and signed the register: "James Black, Washington, D.C."
While he was doing this, a woman in a black cloth coat with a chinchilla collar came over to the desk and idly picked a travel folder from the rack. She was a beautiful woman, with features so sharp and perfect that they might have been chiseled from Carrara marble by a master sculptor. Her gleaming yellow hair was arranged in a halo around her head, beneath a small chinchilla hat which matched the coat collar.
As she took the travel folder, her eyes darted across to the register, and rested for a fleeting instant upon the name which Stephen Klaw had signed. Then they flicked to the room number stamped upon the key, which the clerk was handing to a bellhop.
A faint smile, tinged with irony, tugged at her full red lips. She turned away from the desk and looked across the lobby, toward two men who were standing near the elevator. Her fingers appeared to be toying idly with the pearl necklace at her throat. In reality, they were moving in the swift gestures of the deaf-and-dumb sign language.
Stephen Klaw, alias Mr. James Black, seemed to be busy lighting a cigarette. But he did not miss the woman's actions, nor did he fail to take note of the two men to whom she was signaling. His face remained expressionless. Except for the sudden flicker of his slate-gray eyes, he gave no sign that he had noticed anything. But he saw those two men hurry into the elevator.
Without haste, he got his cigarette lit, accepted his change from the clerk, and then proceeded to compare his wrist watch with the electric clock over the desk. All this took only a couple of minutes. But it was long enough for the elevator cage containing those two men to reach its destination. Glancing at the indicator Steve saw that it had stopped at nineteen. The woman with the chinchilla collar moved across the lobby to the row of telephone booths alongside the entrance to the cocktail lounge. She entered one of them, and dialed a number, turning frequently to look back toward Steve.
Steve grinned. He glanced at the bellhop, who was waiting impatiently to take him upstairs.
"Just a minute, sonny," Steve said, and took the key out of the boy's hand. He put it down on the desk. "I've changed my mind," he told the clerk. "The nineteenth floor is a little too high. Have you got anything on the eighteenth?"
The clerk sighed. "Well, sir, there's nothing wrong with the nineteenth, but if you insist—" he replaced the key, and took another from the rack —"here's the corresponding room on the eighteenth floor.
"That's much better," Steve approved. Now he followed the boy over to the elevators. The cage which had taken the two men up was already descending, but there was another one waiting, and they entered it. As the operator slid the door shut, Steve got a quick, fleeting glimpse of the woman in the chinchilla-collared coat. She was hurrying out of the phone booth, and making a bee line for the desk, evidently in great excitement. She had left the telephone receiver dangling by the cord in the booth, indicating that she had not yet finished her conversation with whomever she had called. She must have sensed that Stephen Klaw had pulled a fast one at the desk, and she was losing no time in checking up.
KLAW chuckled. He saw the bellhop watching him, and he winked. The boy grinned, and winked back. Stephen Klaw was not the type to inspire fear or respect at first glance. He was so slim and wiry that he looked hardly older than the bellboy. It was only when one saw the cold glint in those slate-gray eyes of his that one must instantly realize he was no kid.
The elevator reached the eighteenth floor, and Klaw followed the uniformed lad down the carpeted hallway to 1810. The boy opened the door, and they went in. Klaw took out a five dollar bill and gave it to the lad.
"Gee, thanks, mister!" the kid gulped.
Klaw smiled. "This is just to show you who's your friend, sonny. Now scram. Things will be getting hot here pretty soon."
He fairly thrust the lad out of the room, and shut the door. But he was careful not to lock it.
He glanced at his wrist watch, and saw that it was exactly three o'clock. Almost at once, the telephone rang. He went to the night table and picked it up.
"James Black speaking," He said.
A familiar voice answered. "Hello, Mr. Black. This is Mr. White."
Steve grinned. Nobody who had ever heard that deep, stentorian voice of big Johnny Kerrigan could ever mistake it again for another. Kerrigan was the second of that triumvirate of daredevils who had come to be known in the F. B. I. as the Suicide Squad. The third was Dan Murdoch. Where one of them appeared, the other two were sure to be somewhere in the offing. They worked together like the well-oiled mechanism of a precision machine. The combination of Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw was one which the mightiest of felons had grown to fear.
Stephen Klaw chuckled into the phone. "How are you doing, Mr. White?"
"Not so bad, Mr. Black. I was behind that newspaper in the corner of the lobby when you came in. I watched the dame go in to phone. When she came dashing out, I stepped into the next booth, and traced the call. So now I know to whom she is reporting."
"Excellent work, Mr. White. Anything else?"
"Yeah. She scrammed back into her booth and finished up her conversation in a hurry, and then she phoned up to Room One-nine-one-o. She was so excited that I could hear what she said. She told the two bozos in there that you had switched rooms, and that they should go to Room Eighteen-ten and tackle you at once. They must be on the way down right now."
"Thanks, Mr. White. I've left my door unlocked for them."
"Watch yourself, Shrimp—"
"Nuts to you, Mr. White. Hang up, please. I expect a call from Mr. Green."
"Okay, Shrimp. Good-by."
Klaw put the phone down, glanced at his wrist watch, and waited at the telephone stand, with his back to the door. He kept his right hand dug deep down in his coat pocket, and his left was on the phone. His wrist watch showed four minutes after three.
He heard his doorknob creak slightly as it was tried from outside, but he did not turn around. He kept his eyes on the second-hand of his watch. When it had made a complete revolution, bringing the time to three-five, the phone rang once more. He picked it up and said, "Mr. Black speaking."
"Hello, Mr. Black," came Dan Murdoch's voice. "This is Mr. Green. I have those papers for you. Will you meet me at the usual place?"
"Louder," said Stephen Klaw.
He knew that the door was opening behind him, because he was standing in such a way that he could see the dresser mirror out of the corner of his eye. He glimpsed a long thin face, with a small moustache. It was the face of one of the two men who had been in the lobby and who had hurried up to Room 1910. The man was pushing the door carefully, squeezing his body through the opening. He had a small Smith & Wesson automatic pistol in his hand.
Steve took no notice. He held the French phone at his ear, and repeated, "Louder, Mr. Green."
Over the wire, Dan Murdoch's voice whispered, "Did they rise to the bait, Shrimp?"
"Are they in the room?"
"Okay, Shrimp, here goes." Murdoch raised his voice.
"THIS IS MR. GREEN," he shouted. "I HAVE THOSE PAPERS FOR YOU. IF YOU WILL MEET ME AT THE USUAL PLACE, I'LL DELIVER THEM TO YOU!"
"All right, Mr. Green. I'll meet you there in fifteen minutes. Good- by."
Stephen Klaw put the phone down, still with his right hand in his coat pocket. As if casually, he put his left hand in his other pocket. He turned around and faced the two men who had come into the room. Neither of them looked dangerous, except for the weapons in their hands. The first, with his small, well-kept moustache and thin, almost aristocratic face, might have been a banker or a director of a large corporation. The second was soft, and a bit paunchy, with a round, good-natured face, and could have passed for a genial neighborhood doctor.
The stout man pushed the door shut behind him with a poke of his elbow, while the one with the moustache bowed from the hips.
"Mr. Black," he said, in faultless, painstaking English which betrayed the fact that he was a foreigner of excellent education. "I must beg your pardon for this unceremonious entrance. But the urgency of our business with you must serve as an excuse. In our profession—" he jerked his head toward his stout companion, who beamed—"and in yours, there is a motto to the effect that the end justifies the means."
"I see," Stephen Klaw said dryly. "And what is it you want?"
"I am so glad to see that you are a reasonable man, Mr. Black. Permit me to introduce myself. I am—Mr. Smith. And this—" nodding in the direction of the stout man—"is Mr. Jones."
"Very interesting," said Steve.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones both kept their automatics carefully pointed at Klaw's stomach.
"We just heard you making an appointment over the phone with a certain Mr. Green. You are going to meet him, and he is going to turn over to you a certain list of names. Not so?"
"You're doing the talking," Steve said noncommittally.
Mr. Smith shrugged. "Please do not make it hard for us. We know that your name is not Black, and that your friend's name is not Green, just as you know that our names are not Smith and Jones. Let us not beat around the bush. Mr. Jones and I are members of the S. S. Corps. You know, naturally, what the S. S. Corps represents?"
"Never heard of it," Steve lied, with a straight face.
Mr. Smith sighed. He looked sideways at Mr. Jones, taking care not to let his gun muzzle waver from Stephen Klaw's stomach.
"Show him just who we are, Mr. Jones."
The stout Mr. Jones showed all his teeth in a hearty, genial smile. "It will be a pleasure, indeed!"
Keeping his gun trained on Steve, he used his left hand to turn back the lapel of his coat. A glittering button was fastened to it.
"You will recognize this emblem, Mr. Black," he said, and moved up closer, thrusting the lapel out to bring the button nearer to Steve's eyes.
It was about the size of a quarter, and made of some sort of black, polished onyx. Upon its surface was carved a gleaming silver skull, and super imposed upon the skull there was a golden swastika.
"Ah," said Steve, acting as if a great light had just dawned upon him. "S. S.—Skull and Swastika. I recognize it now!"
"Exactly!" beamed Mr. Jones.
MR. SMITH stepped forward so that he was alongside of Mr. Jones. He pushed the muzzle of his gun up against Steve's diaphragm.
"It will do you no good to pretend ignorance, Mr. Black. We of the Skull and Swastika Corps are not fools. We know that you belong to the government, and that your real name is Stephen Klaw. We know that you have come here to contact a certain Mr. Green, whose real name is Murdoch. He is to turn over to you a list of the Executive Council of the S. S. Corps. We just heard you making an appointment to meet him."
Stephen Klaw kept his hands in his pockets, and gazed bleakly at those two.
"You're pretty well-informed, aren't you?"
"Extremely so. And we might as well tell you that we are prepared to go to any lengths to keep that list of names from falling into the hands of the United States Government."
Mr. Smith wiggled his gun, and shrugged. "Murder and further!"
Steve raised his eyebrows. "What's further than murder?"
Mr. Smith gestured impatiently with his automatic. "Please don't waste time. Surely you remember the newspaper stories of the girl who was found last week with her tongue cut out, and—"
"I remember," Steve said hastily. There was a queer, flickering light in his eyes "That was Estelle Frazer. She had just come back from Germany, and she was scheduled to appear before a Senate Investigating Committee, to tell certain secrets she had learned there."
"Quite so," said Mr. Smith. "But she never talked. She begged to be killed quickly, Mr. Black. There have been others, too."
Stephen Klaw's eyes were no longer flickering. They were cold and hard. His hands, still dug deep in his pockets, were motionless. He asked quietly —almost too quietly: "So it was you two gentlemen who tortured her, and then left her mutilated body to be found?"
Mr. Jones beamed. "Exactly, exactly. It served as an example of the power of the Skull and Swastika Corps. Now you, Mr. Klaw, can save yourself a great deal of bodily pain by disclosing to us the place where you were to meet Mr. Green. We will go instead, and relieve him of the list."
"And what happens to me?" Klaw asked.
"As soon as we have the list safe," Mr. Jones promised unctuously, "we will let you go."
"You lie," said Stephen Klaw. "You've just confessed to me that you tortured and murdered Estelle Frazer. You can't afford to let me live."
Mr. Jones was about to protest, but Mr. Smith stopped him. He nodded sympathetically at Steve.
"That is true. The best we can promise you is a quick death. Speak now, and tell us where you are to meet Murdoch, and we will kill you mercifully with a bullet. If you refuse, we will have to—ah—make your last hours on earth a nightmare of agony. Do not doubt that we can do it. We have already told you about Estelle Frazer. There have been others. We have men downstairs in the lobby, whom we can bring up. They have all the necessary paraphernalia. We will hang out a 'Do Not Disturb' sign, and proceed to work on you at our leisure."
"That," said Stephen Klaw, "is all I wanted to know!"
"What do you mean?" demanded Mr. Smith. "Do you mean that you will talk—"
"No," said Steve. "I mean that I will shoot!"
He fired both automatics in his coat pockets, without removing them. He merely thrust the muzzles up as far as they would go, and pulled the triggers. The bullets scorched the cloth of his coat. The explosions were low, muffled. The slugs—one from each gun—struck Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones as accurately as if he had aimed carefully and painstakingly. He got each of them in the right arm, just above the elbow.
And then, a very curious thing happened. Steve had aimed deliberately at the gun arm of both men, because he knew that they would pull the triggers of their own weapons, even if only by reflex action. He had hoped that the driving force of his own shots would swing them around, so that he would not be hit.
In this he was correct. But Mr. Smith who was standing at the right of Mr. Jones, was whirled around in such fashion that his back was turned to the stout and genial Mr. Jones.
Both guns went off at almost the same instant, echoing Steve's two shots. Mr. Smith's shot went harmlessly into the wall, but Mr. Jones's slug smashed squarely into Mr. Smith's back.
Mr. Smith toppled forward, blood gushing from his mouth. He fell against the wall, then slid to the floor, and remained there, motionless.
Mr. Jones gazed at his dead confrere, as if spellbound. His right arm hung limp at his side, and the automatic which had driven and killed Smith fell from his numbed hand. He uttered a choked cry of rage, and stopped to pick up the gun with his left hand.
Stephen Klaw sighed, and hit him once behind the ear with the butt of his reversed automatic.
The stout Mr. Jones fell across the body of Mr. Smith.
Steve bent and pulled the unconscious Jones off the body of Smith, and maneuvered around till he got the man's coat off. Jones's arm was bleeding profusely. Steve didn't bother to stop and examine it. He went to the bed and yanked a sheet off, tore it into strips, and tied it as tightly as he could around Jones's arm, above the wound, in the form of a rough tourniquet. Then, to make sure that Mr. Jones would not wake up and go away from there, Steve handcuffed him to the bed.
He went methodically through the pockets of both men, removing everything he found, including the black-lacquered Skull-and-Swastika buttons. He had just about finished, when the telephone rang again. He picked it up, and was greeted by Johnny Kerrigan's voice.
"Hello, Mr. Black, how you doing?"
"I'm doing all right, Mr. White. I had two visitors."
"How do they feel now?"
"One of them is past all feeling. The other isn't interested. I have two of the buttons."
"Very nice work, Mr. Black. Come on down. The lady with the yellow hair and the chinchilla collar is getting restless. I can see her from the phone booth here, and she's biting her fingernails."
"Is she alone?"
"Not much. There's at least half a dozen bozos in here that are taking orders from her. Those two you interviewed upstairs were only a scouting force."
Steve grinned. "I'll be right down!"
He hung up and hurried out of the room. On the way he picked up the "Do Not Disturb" sign, and hung it on the knob. He made sure the door was locked and went down the hall to the elevator. Once more he slipped both hands into his coat pockets...
THE lobby was just as busy as it had been ten minutes ago, but with this difference—there was an air of tense expectancy which somehow seemed to charge the atmosphere with latent dynamite.
Stepping out of the elevator, Stephen Klaw threw a swift, comprehensive glance around, seeking to orientate himself to all the focal points of danger. He spotted Johnny Kerrigan, still in the telephone booth, engrossed in a mythical conversation over the wire. Johnny had his lips close to the mouthpiece, with the receiver at his ear, and was going through all the motions of talking, but he was in reality keeping a sharp weather eye out on the occupants of the lobby.
Johnny nodded almost imperceptibly in the direction of the cocktail lounge, and Steve looked in that direction and saw the tall, slender figure of Dan Murdoch, seated at the bar in there and sipping his inevitable Scotch-and-soda. From where Murdoch sat he had a clear view of the lobby, and there was nothing between him and the hotel foyer to obstruct the possible line of fire in the event of trouble.
Murdoch winked over his highball glass, but Steve Klaw did not return the wink.
Steve got that much of the picture as he stepped out of the elevator cage. Next, he switched to the lobby itself.
The yellow-haired woman with the chinchilla collar was seated in an easy chair, with her long silk-stockinged legs crossed, smoking a cigarette through a thin ivory holder. When she saw Steve, she almost dropped the holder. She started to get up. Then she let herself sink back into the chair as she saw Stephen Klaw coming straight across the lobby toward her.
Steve had his hands in his pockets. He was walking slowly, deliberately. He had spotted at least a half dozen men in the lobby, who looked as if they might be the ones to whom Kerrigan had referred when he said that the woman had more help at hand. There were two near the cigar counter, two at the desk, and one apiece at the elevator doors and at the street entrance. Whether or not there were more, he could not tell. But after the first quick glance of reconnaissance, he did not look again in the direction of those men. His whole attention was centered upon the woman, for he was sure that nothing would happen here until she gave the signal.
He stopped squarely in front of her and looked down, smiling. For a brief, fleeting moment, he glimpsed a flicker of emotion in her eyes. Whether it was fear, hate or consternation, he could not tell. Then she dropped long-lashed lids to veil her eyes. She returned his smile. She took a long puff of the cigarette through the ivory holder, and allowed the smoke to trickle out through pursed lips.
"How do you do, Mr.—er—Black?" she said in a low, throaty voice.
"Good afternoon, Lisa Monterey," Stephen Klaw said Ievelly.
A quick spasm of surprise passed across her cameo features. The long fingers on the ivory cigarette holder tautened.
"You know my name?"
"Of course. We've known for a long time that you were an agent of the Skull and Swastika Corps. In fact, the F. B. I. knows almost as much about you as you do, yourself. For instance, we know that you worked for two years in the Balkans as an agent of the Nazis, under the notorious Franz Trebizond. Then, when Trebizond went to South America, you accompanied him. Now that Trebizond has been ordered to the United States to direct Fifth Column activities, you are his chief lieutenant. We even have a list of all the aliases you've used. In Rumania, you were Dora Caminescu. In Holland, you were Maria Nordlung. In Paraguay, you were Lisa Monterey. You kept that last name when you came here, because it was too difficult to get another passport."
She was leaning forward in her chair now, staring at him. "Do you know the name my chief is using in America?"
"Franz Trebizond? No. We don't know yet. But give us a little more time. We've just started to work on the Skull and Swastika Corps."
Her lips curled scornfully. "You are a fool for telling me all this, Mr. —er—Black. If I am really in the employ of Franz Trebizond, as you imply, what is to prevent me from warning him at once?"
"Nothing," Steve told her grimly. "In fact, I want you to warn him. I want you to give him a message from me—Stephen Klaw."
SLOWLY, she arose from the chair. Standing, she was almost regal in carriage and manner. But there was a certain nervous tension about her which Steve detected from the rapid heaving of her breast.
"I admit nothing. You are only talking for the purpose of trapping me into an admission. Then you would arrest me."
"On the contrary," Steve said, grinning. "I could arrest you now, upon the evidence I have. It was you who sent those two pleasant gentlemen up to interview me in Room Eighteen-ten. That's enough to hold you on. But it isn't you I want. It's Franz Trebizond. Go and tell him that Stephen Klaw gives him twenty four hours to get out of the country!"
Lisa Monterey laughed. "You talk very big, Mr. Stephen Klaw. But what can you do? You don't even know where Franz Trebizond is to be found. You don't know what name he uses in this country."
"I'll know all that before midnight," he told her. "One of the two kind gentlemen who visited me upstairs, is still alive. He told me how he intended to make me talk. I'll use the same method with him. And it will work!"
The woman's eyes flashed. "You are wrong, Mr. Stephen Klaw," she murmured. "Oh, you are very wrong. You will make no one talk. You are practically a dead man now!"
As she finished talking, she sprang away from Klaw, and began to run toward the street entrance. At the same time she did something with her finger to the ivory cigarette holder, and then applied it to her lips. She blew a great gust of breath into it, and the shrill note of a whistle emanated from the holder.
That whistle was the signal for which her men had been waiting. As if magically, guns appeared in their hands, the muzzles swinging with murderous certainty to center upon the slim figure of Stephen Klaw.
He did not turn to run, neither did he seek cover.
There was a faint smile upon his lips as both his hands came out of the jacket pockets, the two automatics barking in a rhythmic melody of doom. He held them close to his hips, firing from that position. He did not shoot with frantic speed or with jerky desperation, as a man might be expected to do when he is attacked by superior numbers. Instead, he fired each shot deliberately, carefully, never missing. He swiveled slowly, as lead whined past his head. His first two shots caught the two men at the desk, and then he turned his fire on those at the cigar counter. He paid no attention to the one at the street entrance or to the one at the elevator doors.
He had no need to, for they were being well taken care of by Dan Murdoch, who had come out of the cocktail lounge with both his heavy revolvers spitting and roaring.
The hotel lobby reverberated to the thunder of deadly gunfire, and the rolling clouds of sound echoed back from the walls and ceiling with the shattering force of a volcanic eruption.
Screams of frightened women, and the hoarse shouts of frantic men formed a ghastly chorus to the deep-throated roar of the guns. Patrons ran about blindly, seeking safety from the whistling, shrieking leaden bolts of death. A man, nicked in the ear by a stray bullet, clapped both hands to his head and shouted that he was dying.
In a matter of moments, the bustling, peaceful lobby was transformed into an inferno of terror and panic. Those six gunmen of the Skull and Swastika Corps lay dead on the floor. The shooting was over, but the panic grew. A milling, seething throng of men and women fought to gain the exits.
Stephen Klaw remained standing for a moment in the middle of the lobby, watchful for the appearance of other gunmen. Dan Murdoch, tall and lithe, stood poised in the doorway of the cocktail lounge, a smoking revolver in each hand. The two of them glanced across at each other, and they both nodded. The battle was over. Murdoch sheathed his revolvers; Klaw slipped his hot automatics back into his coat pockets. They both turned to look for Kerrigan.
In that shouting, stampeding throng, they could not find him. He was no longer in the telephone booth. There was no sign of him anywhere.
Neither was there any sign of Lisa Monterey!
POLICE whistles were keening shrilly, outside. A siren was shrieking somewhere, and rapidly approaching.
Klaw slid through the throng, and reached Murdoch's side.
"Let's go, mope," he said. "We don't want to answer any police questions now!" "What about Johnny?" Murdoch asked.
"He must have tailed the Monterey woman out of here. That was his end of the job. Let's move fast. We have a little job of our own to attend to upstairs!" Dan Murdoch followed him through the lobby to the rear, then down a flight of stairs to the service basement. They found an elevator here, deserted by its operator who had no doubt left his post to see the excitement upstairs.
Klaw and Murdoch got into it, and Steve sent the cage scooting up to the eighteenth floor. He unlocked the door of 1810, and pointed silently to the prostrate form of the stout Mr. Jones, who was just recovering consciousness from the blow on the head. Jones was still groggy, and hardly knew what was happening to him as Klaw unlocked the handcuffs fastening him to the bed.
It was mute testimony to the efficiency with which the Suicide Squad worked together, that no word of explanation or instruction was necessary between Klaw and Murdoch now. Murdoch knelt and slung the stout man over his shoulder, and then followed Steve out of the room. Steve closed the door once more, leaving the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the knob, so that the body of Mr. Smith would not be found for a while. Then they made their way down the corridor back to the service elevator.
Down in the basement, Klaw went out first, reconnoitering the lay of the land. There was no one down here, but they could hear the shouts of the police up above, trying to quiet the panic-stricken crowd in the lobby, and find out just what had happened.
Steve whistled for Murdoch to follow him, and made his way to the back of the basement where there was a loading platform for trunks and baggage. Outside the platform stood a hotel station wagon, empty.
Murdoch dumped the stout Mr. Jones into the rear, and cuffed him to the doorframe. Then he and Klaw climbed into the cab, with Klaw behind the wheel. The key was in the switch, ready for the next trip, and Klaw grinned as he turned it on.
"It's nice of the Hotel Groton to provide an easy getaway like this for us!"
"Lay off the jabber and get going, Shrimp," Dan Murdoch growled. "The police will be around here in a minute." Klaw nodded and stepped on the starter. He gave her the gas, and they rolled out of the alley into the street.
A great crowd was collected fifty feet up the block, in front of the hotel entrance. No one even noticed the station wagon as it turned left to the corner and swung north on Broadway.
Klaw drove slowly, without making any effort to throw off possible pursuit.
"The bird in back," he told Murdoch, "gave the name of Jones. He's an agent of the Skull and Swastika Corps, and he's one of the devils who tortured poor Estelle Frazer before they killed her."
"Ah!" said Dan Murdoch.
"Our job," Klaw went on, "is to get the Skull and Swastika Corps to come out in the open. So far, we've done pretty good. They fell hook, line and sinker, for the story that I was to pick up a list of the names of their executive council. But this is only the beginning. If we can't bring Franz Trebizond out into the open, we fail. I figure that by holding on to Mr. Jones, we can do it."
Murdoch nodded. "Trebizond will be afraid that Jones may talk. And he'll try to get him out of our hands."
"Or knock him off. Either way, it's Trebizond's move next."
"Unless my eyesight fails me," Dan Murdoch said, looking to the left, past Steve, "Trebizond is making his next move already!"
Steve glanced out of his window, and saw what Murdoch meant.
A long, two-toned town car had drawn abreast of them. The lower part of the body was black, the upper, maroon. A uniformed chauffeur was at the wheel, and a second man in uniform sat beside him. In the rear of the car were two more men, and a woman.
A SINGLE glance was enough to tell Steve Klaw that the woman was Lisa Monterey. Though he was not able to distinguish her features in the interior of the car, he spotted the light chinchilla collar and the silver chinchilla hat. She was sitting on the far side of the seat. One of the men was seated beside her, and the other occupied a folding seat just in front of her. This latter one was holding a small, sawed-off sub-machine gun, with the foreshortened muzzle poking out of the window straight at Klaw. His face was down low, sighting along the barrel, and his finger was on the trip.
Those particular weapons had never been used in the United States until introduced by the Skull and Swastika Corps. The infernal Franz Trebizond had brought them over with him, and they proved a most effective means of terrorization. Anyone who was inclined to inform against the Skull and Swastika was sure to change his mind when he read how the victims of those sawed-off shotguns lived for two or three days, enduring the most agonizing of torture from the multitudinous wounds, and then dying.
The second man, seated beside Lisa Monterey, had another of the vicious weapons, which he was aiming from inside the car. The careful planning which had gone into this attack was evident—for the two machine-gunners were so placed that it was almost impossible to shoot them both at the same time. If, by some miracle, Klaw or Murdoch should succeed in hitting one of them, the other could pull the trigger of his machine gun, riddling them both with the same burst.
Klaw took in the situation at a glance as Murdoch whispered fiercely, "They've got us cold, Shrimp. But Johnny's supposed to be tailing that dame."
Klaw nodded, gripping the wheel. The limousine was swiftly pulling ahead of them, bringing the two machine-gunners directly abreast of Klaw and Murdoch. In another moment, they would be in position to fire.
Stephen Klaw stepped all the way down on the gas, and the station wagon spurted forward. Luckily, there wasn't much traffic on Broadway at this time of the afternoon, and there was a clear lane ahead. But the chauffeur of the limousine had been watching for just such a move, and he matched Steve's effort. The limousine thrust forward, and started to gain on the station wagon. The two cars sped up Broadway with roaring exhausts, in a death-race. There was hardly twelve inches of space between them as the long snout of the limousine began to edge out in front of the station wagon, bringing the machine-gunners slowly and surely into firing position. Ahead glowed a red traffic light, and a police officer at the corner was madly waving a hand to them to stop, while he tugged his revolver out with the other.
Dan Murdoch had a gun in each hand now, but he couldn't get in position to fire past Steve at the machine-gunners. Everything depended now on whether Klaw could keep the station wagon from falling another foot behind the limousine. He was keeping his eyes fixed on the street ahead, driving with every faculty alert and feeding her every ounce of gas that she would take. They flashed past the corner, and the cop jumped out of the way just in the nick of time. Then the two cars were racing up toward Columbus Circle, neck-and-neck, but with the limousine gaining by inches—and inches were all it needed.
Murdoch's dark and handsome face was set and grim. He swung around in the seat, and leaned far back, stretching his left arm out behind Steve's head to aim at one of the machine-gunners. But the wooden paneling of the station wagon was so high that it shut off his view of those two. There was no way for him to get at them until they came up abreast of the cab, and by then it would be too late.
Quietly he said, "I'm stymied, Shrimp. You'll have to crash them."
IT WAS typical of the utter confidence they had in each other, that Klaw asked no further questions, taking it for granted that what Murdoch said was so. Crashing that other car was the last thing in the world they wanted. It would mean surrendering their prisoner to the police, for they could never hope to spirit him away from an accident on Broadway, as they had from the Groton Hotel.
Their orders from Washington had been strict. They must operate as an independent army of three, a sort of private Blitzkrieg against the Skull and Swastika Corps. They must not seek the help of the local police, or of the local FBI office. Nothing they did could be official, for the diplomatic repercussions would be beyond calculation.
Besides, the Skull and Swastika Corps was known to have tentacles reaching into many key posts in the police and judiciary. Not so long ago, an important public servant had felt impelled to go on the radio to deny rumors that he was sympathetic to the S. S. Corps. As a matter of fact, that official was a loyal American of French extraction, who hated the Skull and Swastika, and everything it stood for. But he had a father, mother, two sisters and a brother in occupied France, and he knew that if he did not obey orders from Franz Trebizond, his relatives would be tortured mercilessly. So, once the stout Mr. Jones fell into the hands of the police, there was a good chance that Trebizond might get him out of custody.
That was why the Suicide Squad had been assigned to this job. If they came to grief on this assignment, there would be no support for them from the Department of Justice. They would be disowned, and they would swear up and down that they had been acting in a private capacity, and not as agents of the United States Government.
All this was in the mind of Stephen Klaw as he twisted the wheel to crash the station wagon into the limousine. And he knew that it was also in the mind of Dan Murdoch. But he knew too, that Murdoch would never have ordered it unless it were supremely necessary. Therefore, he complied without question.
The two cars met with a crashing, rending sound of tearing metal as the left front fender of the station wagon tore into the right fender of the limousine. Both cars swerved out over to the southbound lane, but neither stopped. The chauffeur of the limousine was pouring gas into his motor, just as Stephen Klaw was doing, each making a supreme effort to pull ahead of the other The purpose of the limousine was to bring those sawed-off machine guns abreast of Klaw and Murdoch, while Steve's purpose was to get as far ahead as possible, to be out of range of the vicious weapons, and to give Murdoch a chance to use his revolvers.
The Broadway crowd, rendered blasé by years of stunt attractions calculated to pry it loose from its money, was treated to the free spectacle of a tug-of-war between two automobiles, with death as the prize for the loser.
The cars were locked together inextricably by their fenders, and it became evident in a moment that neither could pull ahead of the other. Klaw and Murdoch realized this at the same moment as the killers in the limousine. The yellow-haired Lisa Monterey screamed to her two gunners to shoot, and the men thrust their murderous machine guns far out of the window, with their fingers on the trips. They were going to blast through the partition of the station wagon.
Dan Murdoch smashed the glass behind the driver's seat, and literally leaped through into the tonneau, landing on hands and knees. Then he was up in a split-second, both his revolvers thundering.
He fired six times swiftly with each gun at point-blank range into the faces of the two machine-gunners, at the same time that Steve Klaw, abandoning the wheel leaned far out of his window and began to pump both his automatics.
It is doubtful whose slugs killed those machine-gunners first. Klaw had inserted new clips in his automatics, and he emptied nine shots from each into the killers, while Murdoch fired twelve times with his two revolvers. And neither of them missed with a single shot.
The faces of the two machine-gunners disintegrated under that blasting barrage. And at the same time, Lisa Monterey opened the far door of the limousine and stepped out into the street. She lifted up her dress and dashed away. Her chauffeur and footman also took to their heels.
Klaw and Murdoch saw her go, but they were unable to stop her. Their guns were empty, and by the time they could get out of the station wagon and take after her, she would have plenty of time to disappear in the crowd. Lisa Monterey was making good her escape!
But now, another factor entered the picture. The big, hulking figure of Johnny Kerrigan came leaping out of a taxicab fifty feet behind, and made after the yellow-haired woman. He overtook her in a half dozen strides.
That was all Klaw and Murdoch had a chance to see. Their own position was precarious. The traffic cop was running up from the corner, and a crowd was beginning to form, which would cut off all escape for them. The prisoner could no longer be kept. They must leave him to the police.
"I say we scram out of here, Shrimp!" Murdoch yelled, above the clamor of the throng and the eddying echo of the gunfire.
Steve nodded. They both leaped out of the station wagon, and ran headlong into the gathering crowd, away from the approaching cop.
The crowd melted away from them at sight of their guns. Klaw and Murdoch were the only ones who knew that those guns were empty.
They reached the opposite sidewalk with the cop shouting behind them, and afraid to shoot lest he hit an innocent bystander.
"Down there!" shouted Steve, pointing to the subway kiosk at the corner.
They both dived down the stairs as the thunderous rumble of a local subway train sounded, rolling into the station below. Klaw, in the lead, hurdled the turnstiles without paying his nickel, and Dan Murdoch followed at his heels. They made the train by a half second, and heard the door slam shut behind them. The train started to move, and they turned and looked out at the sweating, cursing cop who came tearing into the station after them.
At the next local station they got out and raced up the stairs to the street, hailing a taxicab and pulling away only a moment before the siren of an approaching police car sounded, a block away. The alarm had gone out fast, but they had beaten it by the margin of a matter of seconds.
They left their cab after riding it three or four blocks, and took another. They changed cabs three times before they ventured to approach the neighborhood of Sue Watson's apartment house. In the last cab they reloaded their guns, then dismissed the taxi two blocks away and walked the rest of the distance.
The light was on in the first floor window, and the blind was down.
Steve nudged Dan Murdoch, and they kept on walking past the house, without displaying any interest.
"I don't like it, Dan," Steve Klaw said.
"She's supposed to keep her shade up—except when one of us is up there."
"We better snap it up then!" Murdoch barked.
They turned into the garage next door, and Steve waved the attendant away.
"I just want to get something out of my car," he said. They went all the way to the rear of the garage, found the back exit, and stepped out into the concrete yard. From there they made their way into the yard of the apartment house, and went down to the basement.
They took the back stairs up to the first floor, and Murdoch tried the door while Stephen Klaw waited, pressing his body against the corridor wall.
The door opened under Murdoch's touch, revealing the foyer. A man with a sawed-off machine gun was standing in the foyer, with the muzzle of the deadly weapon trained upon the doorway.
"Good afternoon!" the man said to Murdoch, leering over the muzzle of the machine gun. "We thought that some of the girl's friends would be coming to visit her. Put your hands up, and come right in!"
Dan Murdoch stood stiffly in the doorway, without moving. Steve Klaw was almost at his elbow, but was standing in such a way that he was not visible to the man with the gun. Murdoch smiled genially, but did not raise his hands. For the benefit of Klaw, he described the situation as best he could.
"So you're a Skull and Swastika man, eh? Waiting to shoot me down, eh? What did you do with Sue Watson?"
"She's been taken away, my friend," the gunman said. "She'll be well taken care of. As for you, come right in. We want to talk to you."
A second gunman appeared from the interior of the apartment, at the first one's elbow.
"See what I have caught, Hans!" the first one said over his shoulder to the second. "A nice big fish for our net!"
That was all he said. Stephen Klaw, at the first hint of trouble, had dropped to his knees and drawn both his automatics. He swung around on his knees, in front of the doorway, and peered up at the two gunmen in the foyer from between Murdoch's legs.
"You guys talk too much!" he said disgustedly.
The gunmen, startled, glanced down, swinging the muzzles of their machine guns down to bear upon Klaw.
And Klaw fired from the ground, once with each automatic. He shot at an upward angle of about thirty degrees, but his aim was just as good as in level shooting. His slugs got both killers square in the throat, and sent them crashing back into the apartment with their machine guns unfired.
The two explosions of his automatics sounded more like the backfire of an automobile than like pistol shots.
"Nice work, Shrimp!" Murdoch said, and sprang forward into the apartment, drawing both his revolvers. He leaped over the still-thrashing bodies of the gun-men, into the living room. A third man was in there methodically searching the place with all the thoroughness of the Gestapo. The sofa had been ripped apart, the disemboweled cushions lay on the floor. The drawers of the desk had been pulled out and ransacked.
The man uttered a guttural curse and yanked out a pistol. Murdoch coolly shot him through the heart. Then he turned and looked at Stephen Klaw.
"Well, Shrimp," he said. "It looks like we didn't keep your promise to Mary Watson!"
Stephen Klaw's face was white. He gripped those two automatics tightly, as if he wished to beat someone's brains out with them.
"We've got to find her, Dan," he whispered. "We've got to find her —before they go to work on her!"
"Let's get out then," said Murdoch. "We'll never find her here!"
STIFFLY, they walked out of the apartment, never looking at the dead men they left behind. They walked down the stairs and out into the street, like two automatons. They were both thinking of Sue Watson in the hands of Franz Trebizond. And they were remembering the things that had been done to Estelle Frazer, and to others who had fallen into those hands.
"Maybe," Dan Murdoch said hopefully, "maybe they left other men outside, to watch for us. Maybe they'll try to get us—
"We've got to take the next one alive," Steve murmured. "We've got to make him tell us where to find Sue!"
He stopped as an automobile horn sounded across the street.
Both of them swiveled to face that sound, going for their guns. But they didn't draw them.
Murdoch said, "Ah!" and Klaw exhaled a great gust of breath.
It was a taxicab horn which was being blown across the street. The driver was using it to signal them, at the order of one of the occupants.
The occupants were Johnny Kerrigan and Lisa Monterey.
Swiftly they crossed the street and climbed into the cab.
Lisa Monterey's wrists were handcuffed behind her. She was sitting silent and sullen, next to Kerrigan, who was grinning. The taxicab driver turned around and winked as Murdoch and Klaw got in.
"Boys," said Kerrigan, nodding in the direction of the driver, "I want you to meet Sam Meyers, who hates the Skull and Swastika Corps as much as we do. I caught up with Miss Monterey here, and gave her the choice of coming along with me, or of being turned in to the police on a murder rap. P.S! she preferred to come with me. Then I explained to Sam what it was all about, and he offered the use of his cab. So here we are."
"That's right, gents," Sam Meyers said eagerly. "Anything I can do to keep the Nazis outta this country—I'll do it. And I ain't afraid o' no fast action, neither. I was a corp'ral in the last war, an' seen plenty o' action—an' mud!"
"Glad to know you, Sam," said Dan Murdoch.
Steve Klaw turned to Kerrigan and said flatly, "Johnny, the skunks have got Sue!"
Kerrigan scowled, and nodded. "I thought so, when we drove up and saw the shade down."
Lisa Monterey smiled thinly. "You three men are fools. You can never beat the Skull and Swastika. Franz Trebizond will get you, as he has gotten all of the enemies of our Fuehrer."
Steve Klaw, sitting backward on one of the folding chairs next to Murdoch, looked at her speculatively.
"You could tell us where they've got Sue Watson, couldn't you?"
She threw him a glance of vicious spite. "I will tell you nothing!"
Steve looked at Kerrigan. "When this dame phoned in to her headquarters from the lobby of the Hotel Groton, Johnny, you checked on the call?"
"I did," said Johnny. "I got the number, and traced the address through the telephone company. But it was a blind lead, Steve. That address is the home of Judge Hinchley. There must be some mistake. Judge Hinchley was a Congressman before he was appointed Judge, and he introduced a bill in Congress to force the deportation of every alien member of the Skull and Swastika Corps."
"I see," Steve said thoughtfully. He had been watching Lisa Monterey keenly as Johnny spoke, and he saw the sudden involuntary jerk of her shoulders at the mention of Judge Hinchley. Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly, and then were immediately veiled.
"Suppose we go see Judge Hinchley," he said. "Perhaps some servant in the Judge's home is acting as intermediary for Trebizond. The servant may be a clearing house for messages between agents of the Skull and Swastika."
"Let's go!" said Johnny Kerrigan.
The Judge's home was a low, rambling Colonial, built on a large, landscaped plot of ground in Riverdale, just within the city limits. It was a good forty minute drive from where they started, but Sam Meyer made it in twenty minutes flat.
They parked a hundred feet away, and left Lisa Monterey handcuffed to the door-frame of the cab, in charge of Sam Meyer.
Stephen Klaw went up the flower-bordered walk to the front door, while Kerrigan and Murdoch faded into the shrubbery surrounding the house.
A burly manservant answered the bell, and scowled at Steve.
"May I see Judge Hinchley?" Steve asked mildly.
The manservant filled the doorway, towering above Klaw.
"I'm sorry," he said gruffly. "Judge Hinchley has been ill with a heart attack, for the past month. He can see no one."
"I'm sure he'll want to see me," Steve said, "if you'll take my name in to him. The name is—Black."
He watched the man's face, but caught no reaction. He went on swiftly, stabbing in the dark. "It's all right, you can take me in to the Chief. I was sent here by Lisa Monterey."
Now he saw the man's eyes flicker. But he recovered his stolid pose at once. "I don't know that name. But step in. I'll tell Mr. Belding, the Judge's secretary."
The man moved aside, and Steve stepped inside, sliding his hands into his coat pockets.
The servant led him into a waiting room at the side of the foyer, and left him there. Steve did not sit down. He stood with his back to the window, and tapped gently upon the pane with his fingernail. An answering tap sounded from outside. It was either Johnny Kerrigan or Dan Murdoch.
Steve ran his fingertips along the window sash and found the wire of a burglar alarm system. Swiftly he felt along the wire, until he came to a spot where the wire had been spliced into the main burglar alarm line. He twisted at the tape, ripped it off, and separated the two wires. He tapped once again on the pane, and stepped away from the window just as the door opened and a stocky, bald-headed man entered the room.
"I am Mr. Belding," said the bald-headed man. "Judge Hinchley's secretary. What can I do for you?"
Steve's hands were back in his pockets. "I've got to see the Judge," Steve said. "I have reason to believe that someone in this house is connected with the Skull and Swastika Corps."
Belding almost jumped under the sudden impact of that bleak statement.
"Impossible!" he exclaimed. "We are all loyal Americans in this house!"
"Nevertheless," Steve persisted, "there is at least one Skull and Swastika member here. Maybe more. I insist on seeing the Judge."
Belding looked at him queerly. "You said something to the butler about having been sent here by a woman named Lisa Monterey?"
"Who is this woman?"
"I'll tell the Judge when I see him." Belding smiled thinly. "I'm sure you will. Follow me."
He turned and opened the door by which he had entered, and led the way through into the next room. Stephen Klaw entered, and stopped short on the threshold. His eyes widened momentarily.
This room was a library. But it was immense. The ceiling had been removed, making the room the height of the house, with a balcony running around all four sides. There were bookshelves both below and above the balcony. And hanging from the opposite was a great purple banner with the ghastly insignia of the Skull and Swastika. Standing up there on the balcony, in front of the banner, were four men in the natty uniform of the S. S. Corps. Each of them had a sawed-off machine gun, which was trained upon Klaw. Steve gave them only one glance, then centered his attention upon the long table at the other end of the room.
Sue Watson was seated at that table. Her wrists were handcuffed to the chair. A few feet away, there was another chair, in which was seated Judge Hinchley. Steve recognized him at once, but was startled by the change in the man. The Judge's face was haggard and pinched, and his eyes were deep-sunken wells of misery and shame. He sat half slumped in the chair in an attitude which bespoke utter hopelessness.
Behind the chair in which Sue Watson was handcuffed, stood Franz Trebizond.
Stephen Klaw had never seen the man, but he had gotten a good description from Mary Watson. Even without the description, however, he would have known that this was Trebizond.
The man was lean and gaunt, like the carcass of Death itself. His lips were so thin and bloodless that his mouth seemed to be nothing but a straight line drawn in crayon across his face. His eyes were coal-black, and protruded so far that they seemed about to leap out and strike at one. He was standing in such a way that most of his cadaverous body was protected by the chair. He had one of Sue's ears gripped between two of his bony, bloodless fingers. In his other hand a handle to which was affixed a razor blade. He was holding the blade idly in the air above Sue's head.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Klaw," he said. "Let us do away with all pretense. I know that you are Stephen Klaw, one of those three devils who are called the Suicide Squad. And you know that I am Franz Trebizond. I am the one for whom you have been searching. You have found me only because I wanted you to find me. I expected that you would come here to investigate, when I learned that Lisa Monterey had phoned this number from the Groton Hotel. You see, I did not underestimate you."
"Thank you," said Stephen Klaw, bowing graciously. He still had his hands in his pockets.
"You see," Trebizond went on smoothly, "I have been using the home of my good friend, Judge Hinchley, who was once such a violent enemy of the Skull and Swastika. I enjoy converting my enemies into friends—and servants. The Fuehrer gave us an example when he converted France into a servant of his purposes. Just so, I have done with Judge Hinchley... and others."
Judge Hinchley stirred in his seat. "Damn you!" he grated in a hoarse voice. "Damn you for the devil himself!"
Trebizond laughed. "You see, Mr. Klaw, how my friends love me? Judge Hinchley will do whatever I ask of him, because his nineteen year old son volunteered to fight in Loyalist Spain, and escaped in France after the collapse of the Spanish Republican Army. The boy was interned. But when the armies of our glorious Fuehrer conquered France, young Hinchley became our prisoner. Now, the good judge must serve us well, for we have his son as our hostage."
"I see," said Stephen Klaw. His eyes were on the razor blade Trebizond held in one hand, and on the pink ear of Sue Watson which he held with the other. "And now you expect to convert me into the same kind of 'friend'."
"Exactly. First, let me warn you that at the least suspicious move you make, my bodyguard on the balcony will let fire with four guns, and turn your body into a sieve. For instance, if you should attempt to draw those two automatics you are holding in your pockets, my guards would shoot before you could draw."
A twisted smile tugged at Steve's lips. "I thank you for the warning. Let's hear what you have to say."
"What I have to say is easily understood. This girl—Sue Watson —is a very beautiful and delicate creature, whom it would be a pity to disfigure. I understand you are interested in her. I, too, am interested in her. Because I hated her mother, I should like to dismember her, bit by bit. You see how easily I could slice off her ear. There is so much I could do to her—and enjoy it. Yet I am willing to forego this pleasure—in exchange for a very small favor which you can do for me."
Steve nodded. "I know what you want—the list of the Executive Council of the Skull and Swastika."
"Exactly. You will give up the list. And you will give up your persecution of the S. S. Corps. You will turn your talents to other endeavors. So long as you do not molest us, Mr. Klaw, Sue Watson will remain unharmed."
Sue's face was white and tense. "No, no, Steve!" she cried out. "Don't give him the list. I don't care what he does to me!"
Trebizond yanked hard at her ear, so that she gasped and bit her lip with pain.
"I want your answer now, Klaw. Or else you will see this girl die slowly!"
"I haven't got the list with me," Steve said huskily.
"Perhaps one of your partners has it then? Kerrigan or Murdoch? They came along with you, I'm sure. No doubt they are trying to get into the house by a window or a back door. I must tell you that it would be very regrettable if they broke in. My burglar alarm system is not the ordinary kind. It doesn't ring a bell. Instead, it releases a flood of deadly gas which kills the intruder as soon as he puts his head inside the window—"
He was interrupted by a voice from the balcony, directly across from where the four guards stood with the machine guns.
"My, my!" said the voice. "You certainly are very thorough, Mr. Trebizond! It was a good thing that Steve Klaw unhooked the burglar alarm for us!"
Steve threw a quick glance up at the balcony, and grinned. Kerrigan and Murdoch had come out of a doorway up there. They must have climbed in through the window in the waiting room, and made their way up through the house. The guards had certainly seen them come out on the balcony, but must have thought at first that they were members of the household, not dreaming that anyone could enter from the outside.
Kerrigan and Murdoch were standing shoulder to shoulder up there, guns in hand, and facing those four machine guns at the opposite side of the room.
"Shoot! Shoot!" screamed Trebizond.
But it was Kerrigan and Murdoch who started shooting first. Their four heavy revolvers began to blast in a synchronized, thrumming fandango of death. The slugs from their heavy revolvers smashed at the machine-gunners before those killers could recover sufficiently from their surprise to raise their sights from Stephen Klaw on the floor below. The bodies of those gunmen were smashed back against the wall.
And at the same time, Stephen Klaw began to fire his two automatics from his pockets, through the cloth. His left hand gun lanced three shots quickly at the bald-headed Belding, who had been standing over to one side. With his right hand gun he fired up at the balcony, to help Kerrigan and Murdoch. He dared not shoot at Trebizond, who, ducking down behind Sue Watson's chair, had drawn a gun.
Klaw leaped forward, across the vast floor toward the chair where Sue sat handcuffed, and behind which Trebizond had taken refuge. He had his automatics out now, but held his fire. He raced forward, hoping to reach Trebizond before the spy-master could harm Sue.
But Trebizond had forgotten about the girl. Snarling with rage, he thrust out his revolver.
Steve saw the muzzle, but kept on coming in at a run. The gun rose, the black hole of the muzzle staring him in the face. In another fraction of a second Trebizond would fire, at almost point blank range, into Klaw's face... And then, a hurtling body threw itself headlong into the line of fire just as Trebizond's gun exploded!
It was Judge Hinchley!
The Judge had leaped out of his chair with a hoarse cry, and virtually flung himself upon the bullet earmarked for Steve!
Hinchley fell, the blood gushing from a wound in his chest. And in that instant Stephen Klaw leaped over the desk and sprang around behind the chair. Trebizond uttered a squeal of fright, and raised his revolver.
Stephen Klaw's gray eyes flickered for a moment, and his lips were tight and grim. He thrust his automatic out at arm's length into Trebizond's face, and pulled the trigger.
The blasting of gunfire was echoing and re-echoing from every nook and cranny of the great old house. Kerrigan and Murdoch leaped down from the balcony to join Steve Klaw on the main floor. Klaw went swiftly through the pockets of the dead Trebizond and found the keys to the handcuffs which bound Sue's wrists to the chair. He freed her, and raised her to her feet.
The Judge was dying fast. But that look of utter hopelessness which Klaw had seen in his eyes before was no longer there. And his lips were smiling. Klaw bent low over him, thinking as he did so of that moment last night when he had bent low over a dying woman. She had given up her life, too.
"I've... paid my... debt. Not ashamed... any more! My son— they'll kill him now..."
Stephen Klaw clasped the old man's hand tightly. "I'm sure your son would rather have it this way, Judge."
"Yes... yes. Thank God I had... the courage... " A gush of blood filled the old man's throat, and he died.
Stephen Klaw got to his feet, and put an arm around the shoulders of Sue Watson, who was sobbing quietly. He looked over at the grim, bleak faces of Kerrigan and Murdoch. The three of them were thinking of the same thing— of the hard days ahead, when they would have to round up all the hundreds of members of the Skull and Swastika—many of them honest Americans like Judge Hinchley, who had come against their will, under the thumb of the merciless organization. They were thinking of the heartbreak and the sorrow that would come to many American homes where a son or a daughter or a father had been led into disloyalty by the vile tenets of the S.S. Corps. But they were also thinking that the heartbreak and the sorrow would be a small price to pay to keep America free!
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