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- Army Boys on German Soil - 2/29 -
that a Hun understands is force, and they've gone on that theory right along. And as a consequence the Heinies don't dare to peep in the districts where the French and English run things. We ought to take a leaf from their books and do the same."
"That's our good-natured American way of doing things," said Bart. "But we're due to stiffen up a bit now. We're not going to stand for attempts to murder in cold blood--"
He was interrupted by an exclamation from Frank.
"Quiet, fellows," he adjured in a low voice.
"See anything?" whispered Bart, who was nearest him.
"I thought I caught a glimpse of a fellow stealing into that alley half-way down the block," returned Frank. "And there goes another one," he added, with a trace of excitement in his voice.
"I was looking that way and I didn't see anything," murmured Billy Waldon rather incredulously.
"I'd bank on Frank," returned Bart. "He has the best eyes of any of us. They're regular telescopes."
"There goes another!" exclaimed Frank tensely. "There's something doing there, sure as guns!"
"I know that alley," said Tom Bradford. "I've often looked into it when I passed it on my beat. But it's a blind alley and doesn't lead to any thing. It ends at a brick wall."
"All the better chance to bag them," replied Frank. "We'll wait just a minute longer to see If any one else goes in, and then we'll go down and nip the whole bunch. It's against regulations for them to be on the streets at this hour, and you can bet they're up to no good."
"I only hope the fellow's among them that fired that shot," murmured Tom vengefully.
They waited a moment or two longer, but Frank Sheldon's eyes detected no other skulking figure and he gave the word to move.
"Have your clubs and pistols ready, but don't use the guns unless you have to," he ordered, for when the Army Boys were together the leadership by common consent devolved on Frank. "I guess the clubs will do the business if it comes to any resistance on their part."
"Fists would be enough," muttered Tom, as with the others he prepared to follow their leader.
Like so many ghosts they drifted out of the hallway, and, moving in the shadow of the houses, though in the rain and darkness that seemed almost unnecessary, they stealthily approached the entrance to the alley.
It was in one of the poorer sections of the town, and the dwelling houses were interspersed with factories and coal yards. On each side of the alley stood the wall of a factory, three stories in height. No light came from any window, and the alley itself was as dark as pitch.
"Bart and I will stand on this side, and you two fellows take the other side," whispered Frank, when they reached the mouth of the alley. "Keep right on your toes and be ready to nab those fellows when they come out."
The others did as directed and all waited, tense with expectation, their clubs ready for instant service if resistance should be offered.
The rain kept pouring down in torrents, and as it fell, a glaze formed on the sidewalks, so that it was with difficulty that the Army Boys kept their feet.
They were eager to bring the matter to a head, and the waiting in drenching rain wore on their patience.
"Could they have possibly gone out some other way, leaving us here to hold the bag?" queried Bart Raymond, after five minutes had passed without result.
"I don't think so," returned Frank. "I'm dead sure there isn't any way to get out except the way they went in. They're in there holding a pow-wow of some kind."
Ten minutes more passed, and by that time even Frank had begun to have doubts. Tom slipped over to him from the other side of the alley.
"For the love of Mike! let's get a move on and go into the alley and smoke them out," he whispered. "We can get them there just as well as here."
"Just five minutes more," Frank replied. "They may hear us going in and be on their guard, while if we nab them here we'll catch them unawares. But if they're not out in that time, we'll go in and round them up."
At the end of the stipulated time Frank gave the signal.
"Creep in as softly as you can," he admonished his comrades. "Spread across so that they can't slip between us. They've got to be somewhere between us and that brick wall at the back."
Moving with all the caution that their experience as scouts had taught them in their frequent incursions into No Man's Land during the war, the four Army Boys crept noiselessly into the darkness of the alley.
Ten, twenty, thirty feet, and still no sign of their quarry. They must be close to them now.
On they went, wonder gradually giving way to doubt, until with a muttered exclamation Frank came plump up against the wall that marked the alley's end.
"Stung!" he murmured in profound disgust.
His comrades gathered close about him.
"That's one on us," muttered Tom.
"We're done good and proper," agreed Billy.
"Are you dead sure that you saw them come in?" queried Bart of Frank.
"I know I did," replied Frank, who although puzzled was not shaken in his conviction.
"They must have been ghosts then," gibed Tom. "Nothing else could have vanished through a brick wall."
Frank drew his flashlight from his pocket and flashed it about. There was no one to be seen.
"That wall is perfectly blank," he murmured in perplexity. "Thirty feet high if it's an inch. There isn't an opening in it anywhere."
"Could they have got into the windows of the building on either side?" suggested Bart.
Frank swept the flashlight on the walls of the factories.
"Not a chance," he affirmed. "All these windows are protected with iron bars and nothing could get between them. Those fellows seem to have just melted away."
At that instant a report rang out, and the flashlight was knocked from his hand by a bullet.
"Down, fellows!" he shouted, setting the example, and the next moment all four were lying flat on the ground.
They were just in time, for there was a crackling of guns, and other bullets sped over their heads.
"After them, boys!" yelled Frank, leaping to his feet. "They're at the mouth of the alley. I saw the flash from their guns."
He sped for the street with his comrades close upon his heels, their pistols drawn and ready for instant use.
WRAPPED IN MYSTERY
The Army Boys looked eagerly about them when they reached the street, but could see no one. It was as though the earth had opened and swallowed the men who had sought their lives.
They scattered and ran in every direction, searching all hallways and side streets for blocks around, but nothing rewarded their endeavors, and it was a bedraggled and exasperated quartette that finally came together again to compare notes and report failure.
"Never saw anything like it in my life!" snorted Tom. "It's as though we were all bewitched. Somebody's wished a jinx on us. Some ghosts are putting up a job on us."
"There was nothing ghostly about that bullet that knocked the flashlight out of my hand or those other bullets that came singing over our heads while we were hugging the ground," said Frank grimly. "If I don't get to the bottom of this, you can call me a Chinaman."
"It gets my goat to think of those Heinies chuckling to themselves because they put one over on us," gritted Billy between his teeth.
"They laugh best who laugh last," growled Bart. "They'll laugh on the other side of their mouth when we lay hands on them."
"If we ever do," muttered pessimistic Tom. "But here comes our relief," he continued, as the light of a lantern hanging on the
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