Treachery In Arctic Skies can be found in


By Roy M. Johnson

Sometimes demonstrating with a flying coffin is a good way to sell the customer a safe plane!

"SO you're Dick Matthews," the wizened lawyer smirked across his flat-top desk. "The flyer who's ferrying a Sampson air-freighter to the radium mines in northern Canada? I expected you'd be an older man."

"Yes," Matthews nodded impatiently. "And I'd have been on my way three hours ago except for your summons. What's so important that I had to hold up my flight?"

Ignoring the question, the lawyer studied the young aviator's clean-cut features over cupped hands, while he held a match to the end of a cigar.

"Sampson's taking no chances, are they?" he said. "Sending their chief pilot to demonstrate their new airfreighter."

"You're evading the issue," Matthews said irritably. "Break down, Cheethem. What's on your mind?"

"Well," the lawyer said, toying with his cigar, "a sale involving six airfreighters is a nice stroke of business in any man's language. The Hercules people have got their eyes on that radium mine contract, too. Six Hercules air-freighters are anchored off Harbor Island airport right now, ready to hop off for the mines."

"Hercules!" Dick Matthews' lips curled with scorn. The name revived a bitter memory of his friend, Phil Harris, crashing with a buckled wing.

"Listen, Cheethem," Matthews said. "Freighting pitchblende1 in the Arctic Circle is a mighty tough flying job. Those radium flyers are entitled to the best equipment there is. Not junk. Not a jallopy with crippled wings! Hercules hasn't got a chance against Sampson, with her thousand horsepower motor, slots and flaps. They'll appreciate those modern features—"

1: Pitchblende is a black or brown uranium oxide, has a luster like pitch. It is the chief source of radium,-Ed.

"Say, young fellow," the lawyer cut in. "What salary are you drawing from Sampson?"

Matthews bridled, his eyes smoky with resentment.

"Never mind." Cheethem waved a deprecating hand. "I've got a contract here—"

He opened the desk drawer, took out a paper and laid it on the desk. In the brief instant that the paper flashed from drawer to desk, Dick Matthews got a glimpse of a gun lying in the drawer, saw the butt of an automatic pistol.

"There," Cheethem said, pushing the paper across the desk. "There's a twoyear contract to fly for Hercules, with the space for stipulated salary left blank. You take charge of our flight of air-freighters to the mines, and you can fill in those blank spaces with a figure double your present salary."

"And doublecross Sampson Aircraft! The people I work for! What kind of a heel do you think I am, Cheethem?" Matthews demanded.

"It's nothing to be squeamish about," the lawyer said. "It's dog eat dog, you know, when big money's at stake."

"It isn't my services you want," Matthews charged. "You figure you'd be buying off Sampson competition. Isn't that your idea, Cheethem?"

THE lawyer seemed to weigh this aspersion while he relit his cigar. Preferring to disregard it, he said,

"You know as well as I do, Matthews, that the deadline for bids on that contract is June 25, day after tomorrow. And it's a two days' flight to the mines. Look that contract over. There's a clause giving you a thousand-dollar bonus if you sell those Hercules jobs to the mine owners."

Dick Matthews shoved the contract aside. "You're barking up the wrong tree, Cheethem!" he snapped, getting to his feet. "Hercules can't sell those ships in the States. The Civil Air Authority won't license them. Their wings are weak—a structural weakness. You want me to do the dirty work for you, dump them on the unsuspecting radium flyers—"

Cheethem flushed. "You're taking the wrong attitude, Matthews. Hercules has to sell those ships before they can build better ones. It's a matter of finances."

"I'm not interested in Hercules' financial status!" Dick Matthews blurted out, an angry flush kindling under his tan. "And another thing!"

Wrath edged his words. "When I get to the mines the boys'll hear about my friend, Phil Harris. They'll hear how a Hercules low-wing folded on him in a dive. How it folded back and over the cabin, sealing the cabin door so that he didn't have a chance to use his 'chute! Phil was my chum since flying school days. And I had to see him die!"

Cheethem chewed viciously on his cigar, while his fingers tapped a dirge on the desk top.

"It's no soap, Cheethem!" The young aviator snatched his hat from the desk. "You're stooging for the undertaker, selling those ships. They're—they're nothing but flying coffins!"

Then it happened. The inter-office door was thrown open, and a man filled the doorway. The man had a gun in his hand. He was holding the gun belly-high, pointing it directly at Dick Matthews' stomach.

Dominick Sharp! Free-lance flyer. Jack-of-all-trades, all of them shady. Matthews recognized him from pictures in the local papers. Small black mustache on swarthy skin, whipcords, and brown puttees. Always his name was linked with sensational crimes. Always he managed to elude conviction. A dangerous adversary, this Sharp. Notorious for his strange habit of associating with "big money" one day, thugs the next.

"So the monkey wouldn't play ball!" Sharp addressed Cheethem over Dick Matthews' shoulder.

"No," the lawyer said. "He's got some screwy ideas about ethics, and loyalty to his company."

"Well, he ain't flying that Sampson north!" Sharp rasped. "Nobody's flying it to the radium mines. I'll see to that!"

"So that's how it is!" Matthews said grimly. "You eliminate your competition, if you can't buy it off!"

"You learn fast," Sharp snarled, prodding with the gun. "Sit down in that chair!"

CHEETHEM had his gun out now, leveled across the desk. His face was a harsh mask.

The young aviator sat down. He was, as it were, between two fires. His gaze went over Cheethem's shoulder to the half-open window, where beads of rain glistened on the fire-escape grating, and through which came the melancholy voice of a foghorn in Seat...

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