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- The Boy Scounts on a Submarine - 4/24 -
his cheek. It was a mark that was scarcely noticeable unless he was angry; then it suddenly went white and stood out clearly across his brown skin.
A thick-set man at the table gathered up a greasy pack of cards. "Yes, it's the Weasel, all right," he said. "I'm glad he obeys orders. I told him not to show his face here before dark."
The third man did not speak. He sat in the best of the poor chairs, and was snowed under with newspapers. He had the look of an educated man, the jaw of a brute, the cold eye of a panther, almost golden in color, and the slender hands that held the printed sheet had the delicate, thin fingers of a thief.
"Door, Adolph!" he said abruptly. The thickset man rose, spilling his cards. The third man pierced him with a look. "Butter fingers!" he gritted, cursing softly in a foreign tongue. Adolph left the room and noiselessly went down a rickety flight of stairs. He returned in a moment, the Weasel following at his heels. The third man did not give him a glance. He sat looking at his beautiful, slender hands. No one spoke.
"Well, proceed!" cried the third man irritably. "Proceed! Proceed! Proceed! Himmel, you must be led step by step! Speak, idiot! How goes it?"
A look of hate flashed into the Weasel's lowered eyes and was gone. He raised them timidly.
"So far, so good, Excellency. I hung on behind the tonneau. No one noticed in that lazy village. I could hear the Colonel talking to the two small boys with him. He can't understand the attack, but he thinks the force he is building is being attacked through him on account of a gang of thieves who do not want to risk detection by his men. He thinks it has something to do with the fair. The Colonel has gone to police headquarters. The boys went home." The Weasel commenced to laugh silently.
The Wolf watched him. Then "Well?" he said again in his low, cutting voice.
The Weasel stopped. "Your pardon, Excellency. It is so amusing! That Colonel, he must be a man forty-five years old. He treated those small boys, those Boy Scouts, like equals. He talked it over with them as though they were men. He told them--"
"That will do," said the Wolf. "I don't want to hear any more."
And with those words, the Wolf, murderer and German spy, sealed his doom.
"Now come here," he said. "You, Adolph, you have done good work. That formula will mean victory for the Fatherland. Did I but dare, I would at once take it myself out of the country. But I have my orders. We must know all things about that concentration camp at the fairgrounds. Yes, you have done well, Adolph." The thick-set man smiled a queer, twisted smile with a crooked lip that always seemed to grin.
The Wolf continued. "From now on our task grows more difficult. You, Weasel, will go to the aviation school at Ithaca. You already understand planes. Get their models; find out the methods of their management. Cripple all the machines you can. Report to me here when I call you. Send me a name and address that will reach you. And, remember, no drinking or flirtations, Weasel. Don't forget my long arm and heavy hand."
The Weasel shuddered. "No, Excellency," he said shortly.
The Wolf turned to the dark man with the scarred cheek, and pointed to his heavy, bristling mustache.
"That must come off," he said. "There is a job for you in the Administration Building where Colonel Bright has his office. You will clean," as the man scowled, "I know you hate it. Never mind! Care not! We are in trust. You must do all as I say. I am your superior officer."
"What do you do, Excellency?" asked the dark man with something of a sneer.
"I come to buy horses, Ledermaim, and my father and Colonel Bright's father, they were friends. I bring a letter from my father in Switzerland. Unfortunately the Colonel's father, he is dead; so I make acquaintance with his son. Do you see, Ledermann and Adolph, and you too, Weasel, that I take for myself the hardest job? Now attend. Under no circumstances are you to speak to me. If it is necessary to communicate with me before the close of the fair you will wipe your faces with one of these drab handkerchiefs. Then you will come here, right here; no place nearer, and wait for me. I will keep all the papers instead of dividing them as before. You, Ledermann, have plans of all the plants of any size about here. Thanks." He filed the papers away. "Adolph, give me the fair ticket, and the envelope with the blank paper. It looks innocent enough, doesn't it? All white paper; no writing. Yet there is news indeed on that good, innocent, little sheet if one knows how to make it tell. I'll take them, Adolph."
He waited with a slim hand stretched across the table, while Adolph plunged a hand into an inside pocket with a grin, felt in another concealed pocket, and returned to the first with his face growing grave and pale,
The Wolf watched him with steely eyes, suspicion dawning in them.
"Too slow; too slow, Adolph!" he smiled.
Adolph looked up. "It is not here! It is gone! Some one has stolen it!" he stammered.
The Wolf snarled. "Oh, no, good Adolph!" he said silkily. "Look again."
Adolph, with fingers that shook, turned his pockets out one by one, then looked into the Wolf's yellow eyes with a gaze pleading yet sullen. "They are gone," he said huskily.
With a flashing motion the Wolf reached across the table and clutched Adolph by the throat. In a steel grip that he struggled hopelessly to loosen he was helpless as a child. Brutally the Wolf bore him back to the wall, where he beat his head savagely against the door frame. A look of savage glee shone on the Wolf's smooth countenance.
Ledermann leaped across the floor and seized the Wolf's arm.
"Off!" cried the murderer, and with his hand dealt Ledermann a stinging blow in the face. He fell back. Behind the overturned table, the Weasel sat looking at the floor. It was nothing to him what they did. He shrugged his thin shoulders.
Suddenly the Wolf stopped and let Adolph slip to the floor, where he lay unconscious.
The Wolf kicked him. "I won't kill you, you swine!" he said. "You have got to find that paper. Then I'll see about it. Pick him up, somebody. I can't trust myself to touch him. Lost that paper--of course it is written in invisible ink; but suppose some blundering fool should get it near a fire?"
"They won't," said Ledermann as he worked over Adolph. "These stupid country people, what would they know about invisible ink? It may never be found at all. It may even now be trodden in the dust."
"Let us hope," said the Wolf. "Adolph shall retrace his steps inch by inch until the paper is found, even so much as a tiny scrap of it, so that I may know where it is."
"He will find it in the dust," repeated Ledermann and threw water over Adolph, while the Weasel stood up and tightened his belt. Then the Wolf counted out to him the money needed for his short journey to Ithaca. The counting was interrupted with directions and threats. The Weasel drew a long breath of relief when he was finally dismissed, and was allowed to slip out into the night, where he turned toward Syracuse. Ledermann still worked over the unconscious man.
The Wolf called at headquarters and was pleasantly received, with the formula that was to overthrow the world lying in his pocket. Days went by, and Monday came, and flags flew, and bands played, and crowds gathered, and the New York State Fair opened at last.
The Wolf went unmolested; indeed he was an honored guest. Quite safe he was for just one whole day. Tuesday morning, as he drove in his fine car, splendidly dressed, his yellow eyes half hidden behind smoked glasses, a couple of Boy Scouts came out of Colonel Bright's office as he stopped his car at the steps. Porky and Beany stopped and stared.
"Out of the way!" said the Wolf, as he approached the door.
Porky and Beany stepped obediently aside. For a long time they stared at the door through which he had disappeared.
'It's him!" said Beany at last. "He drove the car when the other man shot at the Colonel."
"Yes, it's him," repeated Porky. "His ears ain't mates."
"I know," said Beany. "What we goin' to do?"
"Keep still and say nuthin'. If you ain't eleven foot tall, nobody believes you. I found that out. And I got a hunch that guy has the formula."
"What makes you think that?" asked Beany. "I got it too; but I don't believe it."
"Dunno," said Beany. "Don't you know how you feel it back of your neck when anybody looks in the window? I know it just like that. An' we got to do this job all alone. I don't like his looks neither. Awful smooth' but' murderin'. Are you game, Porky, to land him ourselves?"
"Sure!" said Porky. "Ain't I alwus? What comes first?"
"Le's think," said Beany.
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