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The Griffon's Gamble

by Arch Whitehouse

Gleaming white yachts bobbed in the Sound in front of that gaily lighted mansion. Glittering, streamlined cars sped up the driveway, and the soft strains of music floated out into the night. Little did those kings of finance know that they were gathering—not for their dictator's annual ball—but for the opening tableau of a tragedy that would shock the world. For in a plane high above that gay scene, flew a man in a black cloak and scarlet mask. The dread Griffon was to be an uninvited guest at the festivities—and his presence could mean only one thing—death!

A SLEEK-WINGED amphibian swept out of the east with a low roar of its Avia W-44 motor and raced toward the gleaming lights that shone from Southampton to the east shore of Long Island. The pilot had left a secret hangar a few miles south of Montauk Light half an hour before. Since then, he had made a survey of the surface vessels below and then, suddenly checking the time by the wristwatch under the sleeve of his black evening cloak, he had turned toward the shore line with a nod to the man in the back seat.

Without a word, they changed seats, and the man in the evening clothes snapped the black enameled swivels of the parachute harness to the Dorsal pack fitted to the back cushion of the comfortable chair.

Then, as the black amphibian eased toward the shore, the new pilot drew back a steel handle. Suddenly the giant 1,000-h.p. Avia ceased its roar, and only the low whine of slipstream emerged from under the eighteen-cylinder power plant. The Skoda mufflers had been cut in.

The strange ship climbed gently, for the motor was still ramming out its revs. Below was visible a vast black area that meant well-trimmed lawn. In the center, at the top of a semi-circular driveway that wound its half-moon path through patches of heavy and expensive foliage, stood their goal—Rockwell Manor, the palatial mansion of the Long Island Prances.

It was the annual midsummer dinner and ball, staged annually by Hubert L. Prance, internationally known millionaire and oil operator. Already the lights of expensive cars were streaking up that driveway. At the long private dock, facing the cool, gray-blue ocean, a few palatial cruisers were warping in, with uniformed men in attendance. At a buoy, a few yards off the bathing float, bobbed a gleaming, silver-hulled flying boat that was worth a king's ransom.

Little did they know—these scions of fortune, these butterflies of society, these kings and dictators of finance—that they were gathering for the opening tableau of a tragedy that was to shock the nation.

More cars rolled up and uniformed chauffeurs opened doors and bowed their charges out. Footmen and butlers in scarlet and braid announced the arrivals. Soft music coated through the reception room, and already members of the younger set were gliding over the polished teakwood floor of Rockwell Manor's famed ballroom.

Overhead purred the silenced motor of a black amphibian. A man in black evening clothes had climbed out of the sheltered coupe top and stood poised on the wing-root. He nodded to the pilot and dropped.

The ship pulled away and climbed. The pilot circled easily and watched the black parachute drop silently toward the flat roof of the residence below. Several minutes passed; then he saw the reassuring beam of a signal lamp that flashed three times. He nodded and drew away from the area, checking the watch on the dashboard carefully.

"Four minutes to go," he breathed.

The man who had taken this daring leap landed on Rockwell Manor with delicacy and accuracy and worked fast, once he had cleared himself of the black parachute harness. He hurriedly rolled the black silk canopy up into a ball and darted to a ventilator that opened on the rooftop. He stuffed the bundle in quickly, and hid behind a massive old chimney.

Something popped lightly, and the man in the black evening coat stuck an opera topper on his head at a jaunty angle. Then he pulled a scarlet mask from his pocket and placed it over his eyes. A third object was drawn from below his opera cloak—a box.

He edged to the buttress of the roof, threw a long leg over and found a hidden iron pipe partially covered with vines. Carefully, with the string of the box in his teeth, he lowered himself to where he could place his toe on a wide windowsill. Moving like a cat, he felt carefully for the window.

INSIDE he could see a tall, sparse man in black and gleaming linen. He stood behind a large mahogany desk, his fingers holding a black package before his eyes. The window eased up in well fitted guides and the man behind the desk whirled. He stared into the small black hole that seemed to blink out of an automatic pistol. The package in his hands dropped to the table with a thud.

The man in the scarlet mask glided to the table, picked up the black package and replaced it with the one he had carried in his teeth.

"What do you want?" Prance gasped, starting to reach for a desk phone.

"Stop!" ordered the man in the scarlet mask. "Hands away from that phone—yes, and the button. This gun might go off, you know."

"Well, you've robbed me. What are you waiting for?"

"I want the rest—the leases."

"The leases? Who are you?" Prance muttered.

The man in the evening cloak and scarlet mask smiled. He drew a small card from his waistcoat pocket and flipped it across the desk. Prance picked it up and stared at it.

"The Griffon!" he said, his voice dropping to an awed whisper.

The man opposite smiled. "The Griffon," he said.

Prance sat down in his large chair, and jerked when the man in the scarlet mask took a step forward.

"Keep your hands on top of your desk, Mr. Prance. That's it. What about the leases?"

"You're too late. Yung Shi Pai has them. I turned them over ten minutes ago. He just, left this room. Why don't you go after him and get them?"

"I'm not that sort of fool," smiled the Griffon. "No, you are the victim this time, Mr. Prance. You have double-crossed your syndicate—and your country. You must pay the penalty. You see, I know about your dealings with the Manchukuo Petroleum Corporation."

"How the devil? How do you know, Mr.Mr.—" blurted out Prance.

"Simple. I have hounded Yung Shi Pai ever since he arrived. Interesting, these Mongols who are working with the Japs in Manchuria. Interesting devils, but bad medicine, if you give them an inch. You, Mr. Prance, have given Yung Shi Pai entirely too much rope. I'm sorry it had to happen this evening, but there you are. It will mess up this splendid party of yours, won't it?"

"Are you going to murder me in cold blood?" Prance asked faintly.

"Murder you? Certainly not! The Griffon is accused of many things, but they'll never get him for murder, Mr. Prance. Besides, there are so many other, more interesting ways—in that package I brought, for instance. Open it."

Prance opened the square, paper-wrapped package, staring at the Griffon with terrified eyes. Under the wrapping was a beautiful carved box of Oriental design. Prance's jaw dropped. He knew, then, that his end was near.

"Go on," the Griffon taunted him. "You required a lot of nerve on the leases. This should be easy."

Prance's fingers slipped the catch back and the lid came up. Three gleaming knives, set in carved ivory handles, with blades that glinted and flaunted their. keenness, lay in three depressions. Scarlet silk formed an ominous background for the blades.

"Ko-Dachi!" gasped Prance.

"Ko-Dachi!" agreed the Griffon, "You know what is inscribed on the handles?"

Prance nodded. His face was drawn, heavily lined, and his skin was like mouldy parchment.

"Well, what is it to be?" snapped the Griffon, staring at his wrist-watch. "The bullet of the Griffon, a firing squad at Leavenworth—or Ko-Dachi?"

"These are the knives from Yung Shi Pai's collection?" Prance asked hollowly.

The Griffon nodded.

Prance turned to the man in the scarlet mask. "Then if—" he started,

"The police might misunderstand," agreed the Griffon.

A low scream left Prance's mouth. He dropped the box, snatched out a knife and ripped the razor-sharp blade across his throat.

The Griffon moved like a flash. With gloved hands he picked up the bloody knife, wiped the handle quickly and removed Prance's fingerprints. Then, taking up the small card inscribed "The Griffon," he pierced it with the knife, stuck it upright into the top of the desk, and left silently by the window.

With the box taken from Prance's desk snugly stowed away inside his coat, he edged along the window-sill and found the metal pipe. He climbed to the flat roof and flashed his torch three times skyward. Then he darted into the shadow of a chimney.

BELOW could be heard the honk of limousine horns and the low purr of marine engines down by the dock, but the Griffon had no ears for the normal sounds of the night. He was waiting for a tell-tale swish of a long steel cable. He knew the amphibian was still circling away silently above.

He huddled close into the shadows, his opera cloak drawn closely about him to cover the gleaming white of his shirt bosom. Gradually he caught the sound he was waiting for, a low whine.

The whine came more clearly to his ears. He darted out, snatched at something in the darkness and clicked his flash twice. There was a jerk, and something lifted the Griffon clear of the roof. His cloak spread wide, giving the eerie impression of some monster bat.

A man who had been staring out of a window of the west wing, which reached above the main roof, saw this strange apparition, and gasped. But the Griffon was being drawn skyward by a long, steel cable that was being wound up by a small drum in the back cockpit of the tightly circling amphibian.1

Author's Note:-This contact trick is no streak of imagination. A few weeks ago, the idea was tried out successfully in England by the R.A.F. A 2,000-foot length of steel cable was lowered, with a lead weight at the lower end. The ship 2,000 feet above circled at a speed of 150 m.p.h., and the weight at the end of the cable circled a spot eight feet in diameter slowly enough for men on the ground to attach a message form to it. There is no reason to believe this device could not be used to lift a man from the ground, as suggested in this story. All that is required is a short practice session.

In three minutes, the Griffon was hauled in through an aperture cut into the bottom of the amphibian's fuselage.

"Grand work, Barney," he said. "Worked perfectly. Back to Graylands—fast."

The amphibian raced out to sea for a short distance, with the mufflers cut out.

"Wait!" the Griffon called. "Change over, Barney!"

They changed seats. The Griffon had flattened his opera hat and slipped on a rakish black-andwhite plaid cap. He took over the controls and shot the ship over in a fast, climbing turn. Below, and heading out to sea, was a broad-winged Dornier "Wal" that carried normal American markings.

The Griffon nosed down and slammed over the two great B.W.M. engines that were housed in long, square-sided nacelles above the wing.

"What's the game?" inquired Barney.

"That's the Chink's ship. I wonder where it's going."

"Too far for us, I'll bet a buck."

"Make it two. We've been subsidized."

"You mean you nailed the dough?" asked Barney.

"Well, the deposit. Five hundred grand, as the boys say. Not a bad night," the Griffon laughed.

"Look out!" yelled Barney, "They've spotted us. They're firing!"

The amphibian nosed down and darted to one side. Her front Darn guns opened up, pounding heavy-caliber slugs into the great flying-boat. The sky was traced with a freakish design as tracers zipped across in the moonlight. From a deck hatch came two spumes of fire which zipped all around the darting amphibian. The Griffon flew like a hawk, his brain in supreme command of his controls. Now and again Barney was able to get in a few short bursts from his Colt-Brownings.

But this was not to last. From below came the sound of a Coast Guard anti-aircraft gun mounted on the forward deck of a cutter which was knifing its way through the water.

"No place for us," the Griffon grunted. "Those lads down there do not get this game. Let him go."

They whipped away while the Coast Guard men continued to bang at the speeding amphibian. Shell splinters whined and gun-cotton crashed out heavy detonations all around them. The Griffon headed north, climbed into the darkness and then shut off the motor by applying the Skoda lever which he had lifted during the fight to get the most out of the Avia.

"There's nothing like knowing when to pull out of a fight," the Griffon commented, as he headed back to his original destination. "We might have gotten into trouble up there, Barney."

"Trouble?" squawked the man in the back seat. "What the hell have we been in for months, since you got so restless?"

"Never worry, Barney. This is the life. Five hundred grand to play around with."

"Ought to be enough."

"What! Quit now, when it's just getting interesting?"

The fast amphibian was nosed down for the water. The Griffon handled her beautifully, and she dropped on the rollers and eased down on the step. The great Avia purred like a Cadillac as he edged her into her secret hangar.

Barney leaped out, fumbled for the levers that made the wings fold back and then pressed the button that opened the hidden hangar door. The rock garden seemed to rise slightly, and then two sections spread outward, leaving a wide doorway. The Griffon handled the throttle again, and the strange craft rolled inside and the doors closed back. This was the hidden hangar at Graylands.

They climbed out, opened a door at the back of the hangar and edged through into a narrow passageway that led into the cellar. Barney snapped a light on and together they reached for bottles from the musty shelves.

The Griffon selected a pint of Bollinger '09 and snapped the cork. The bubbly liquid flowed into a long, hollow-stemmed glass. Barney tugged at a cork of his favorite O'Doul's Dew and poured himself a real hooker. Under the dangling light of the wine cellar, they clinked their glasses and drank.

"And now, Barney," smiled the Griffon, "upstairs, a quick brush-over and off again."


"Again. The Dusenburg in five minutes, then on to Hubert L. Prance's dinner party at Rockland Manor."

IT was about twenty-five miles from Graylands to Southampton. The Dusenburg made it in exactly nineteen minutes.

A long line of cars was still pulling up the curving drive of Rockland Manor when the long black Dusenberg eased through the massive gateway. The lights still gleamed as they had an hour before.

But inside, there was a new feeling of anxiety and excitement. The music had stopped, and the guests were standing about in small groups, talking quietly, in hushed, anxious voices.

Some one opened the door of the Dusenberg and stared inside.

"Mr. Keen? Mr. Kerry Keen?" the voice inquired huskily.

"Right. You are the park porter?"

"No—No, sir. Your car is to be left handy, just over there, sir. Compliments of Mr. John Scott and Mr. Drury Lang, sir, and will you go at once to the library?"

"Pull over there, Barney, and wait for me. Something's up. Righto, my man, and where is the library?"

"Never mind, Jenkins," a voice crackled behind them. "I'll show you up, Keen. Been waiting for you, myself."

A man in evening clothes stepped out of the car and grinned at Drury Lang.

"Hello, Lang," he said. "What are you doing here—guarding the treasure?"

"That's what we came up for. Some Chink bozo has been waltzing about with half a million dollars' worth of family plate and sunbursts on. Lucky, too—in a way. You knew that Mr. Prance was murdered, of course?"

"Murdered? Mr. Prance? With all you flatfeet around?" Keen answered. "How did that happen?"

"That's why we were waiting for you, Keen," Lang said. "We thought perhaps you could tell us."

"Damn it all, Lang," protested Keen, "can't I go anywhere without having you bob up with a murder mystery? How was he shot?"

"He wasn't shot—but it was the Griffon again."

"The Griffon?" Keen stopped in his tracks. "Oh, I say, Lang, this is too much. A little while ago you were half accusing me of being the Griffon. This ought to clear me."

"I'm not sure, even now, Keen, even though I saw you drive up. But come on up this way. They're all talking about bats up here."

"Bats?" asked Keen, as they went up past several chattering groups on the wide stairs.

"Bats—that's the latest. Byron, Mr. Prance's secretary, claims he saw something like a bat fly off the roof a few minutes before the body was found. Now they're all believing it."

Lang led the way across a wide hall and into the massive Rockland Manor library. Here Keen spotted John Scott, the Department of Justice man from New York, in conference with several men in tail coats. A few members of the servant staff were there, too. Another man was talking anxiously to the D. of C. man.

"But I tell you, Mr. Scott," he was explaining, "I was in my room in the west wing. The window on one side opens out on the roof of the Manor building proper. The light was fair, although the moon was partially clouded over. I saw this thing, just like a monster bat. It was black, and seemed to run across the roof, then spread its wings and dart into the sky."

"Did you hear any sound?" persisted Scott.

"No special sound. There was so much motor noise down below. The guests' cars were beginning to arrive, you know. There was a boat down at the landing, too. But I'll swear I saw this thing fly off the roof. It was as big as a man."

Scott looked up and spotted Keen. He beamed.

"Glad to see you, Keen. Lang has told you?"

"About Mr. Prance? Yes. I was also listening to this gentleman's story. Have you searched the roof?"

"I have two men up there. But come along here. I want you to see this thing."

Keen followed Scott across the library to a massive black oaken door. Scott opened it and led the way in. Drury Lang followed them. And in the room, Mr. Hubert L. Prance lay back, a ghastly figure, with his shirt-front streaked in blood. In front of him, rammed into the top of the desk, was a strange knife. Scott pointed to it.

"The Griffon." He smiled wanly. "He's back again."

But Keen was staring down at the black ebony case which still lay on top of the desk on one side.

"That's funny," he said, almost to himself.

But Lang had caught the murmur. "What's funny, Keen?" he snapped.

"This case of knives. Where's the other?"

"What other?"

"Good Lord, man, can't you see? This case is made for three knives. One is stuck in the table, smeared with blood, and there's only one left in the case."

"Well?" Lang persisted. "What about it?"

"That's why we wanted to see you, Keen," Scott broke in to explain. "These knives are unusual, aren't they? Know anything about them?"

"All I know, Scott," explained Keen, "is that they are 18th Century ceremonial weapons of the Tokugawa era. A very unpleasant ceremonial affair, too. You have heard of hara kiri, of course. These weapons were originally designed for that purpose. They are family weapons, held by liege lords and used by their samurai, or soldiers, for use in case of disgrace or the expiation of a crime. You will notice that on the handle is carved the samurai phrase: 'A bushi has no second word.' In other words, a warrior never questions the dictates of his master."

THERE was a respectful tap on the door. Scott said, "Come in."

A sergeant in uniform came into the room with something black and billowing thrown over his arm. "Here's your black bat, sir," he announced, throwing a parachute down on the floor. "We found it stuffed in a ventilator up there."

"A parachute?" gasped Scott. "But that man Byron said he saw the bat thing go up. You can't go up in a parachute."

Keen broke in again. "Beg your pardon, Scott, but isn't there a guest here—a Chinese gentleman who arrived in a large flying-boat?"

"I'll say there is," Lang said, jumping up. "This Yung Shi Pai chap whom we came to guard. He arrived with his own plane. He's a big-shot international banker of some sort. He's downstairs. Keen, you got the tie-up. Chinese knives, parachutes, airplanes and all that."

"No," corrected Keen. "Japanese knives, Drury, old boy."

"Oh! Well, no matter. These Chinks are all alike. They carve people up for an afternoon's entertainment. I bet that's the guy."

"Take him upstairs into the library, Lang," ordered Scott. "All right, sergeant," he went on when Lang had gone. "Leave this parachute here and see that everything is tight outside. Take over the guarding of the doors."

When the big bluecoat had left, Scott turned back to Keen. "What do you make out of this?" he asked quietly.

"That missing knife has me puzzled," Keen said. "The rest is easy. Some one slipped in here, probably through the window, and left the knives. Byron, the secretary, might know something about it."

"You mean you think he really saw a black bat?"

"Can't tell. There are other angles, you know."


"Prance has been mixed up in several deals with Oriental syndicates. He may have pulled something, and they came to get him and—well, here you are. But I wonder where that third knife is."

Scott studied Keen for several minutes. "How do you know there was a third knife? And how do you know Prance was mixed up in anything like that?"

"I read the papers, Scott. And this Yung Shi Pai would not be here unless his financial tie-up was in the background somewhere. He's a big man abroad, and Americans don't go in for entertaining expensive Orientals unless there is something more than the social prestige to it—not the Prance brand, anyway. I'm afraid that other knife will turn up in a manner we won't like."

Lang came in and reported that Yung Shi Pai was outside in the library. They went out and faced a line-up composed of the big Oriental and his official party. Keen noticed that Byron stood in the background, his face drawn and white.

Yung Shi Pai was tall and broad, indicating a Mongol strain. He had a large, fierce face that even the delicate silks and embroideries of his official costume could not soften. His head was crowned with a small, flat turban from which plumed a black sable brush. His military tunic was of gold cloth and belted in with a broad leather band, fastened with a massive gold buckle. A ceremonial sword was stuffed into the belt in a fine leather scabbard that was etched and traced with silver filigree.

But the face, rather than the costume, interested Keen. It was cruel, with a hawklike nose, and eyes that seemed to flash fire and die out like a hot coal placed under a bellows. The high cheek bones gave the face strength and the unwrinkled skin that covered it seemed to be made of tanned leather In the background, ranged in a formal semicircle, stood the Chinese's retinue of servants, bodyguards and minor officials.

SCOTT tried to explain what had happened, but all his questions made no change in the Oriental's impassive countenance. Finally Keen came forward and shoved the ebony knife case containing the single weapon before the big Oriental.

"Does this belong to you?" he snapped.

Scott stared, amazed. The tall man cackled something to one of his attendants and received a note-pad and a stylus pen. He thought for a moment, then scrawled out a series of Chinese characters and handed the paper to Keen.

Keen looked up from it and asked for Byron. "You understand Chinese, don't you, Byron?" he asked. "Can you interpret this?"

Byron turned white. He looked at Yung Shi Pai, then stared at the message, and swayed slightly.

Finally he translated the message. "The Honorable Yung Shi Pai says, 'I consider this interrogation an insult. I demand diplomatic immunity from any such official investigation.'"

Scott and Lang looked puzzled. Yung Shi Pai remained impassive, and still. It was a critical moment. Keen slammed shut the lid of the box, and stowed it under his arm. He took the sheet from Byron's trembling fingers.

"That is what he said, word for word?" he demanded.

"Word for word," replied Byron.

"That's strange," answered Keen, smiling. "He has not spoken a word, and yet you translate his writing, word for word."

Byron went even whiter.

"Isn't it true," prodded Keen, "that the Chinese language cannot be literally translated into English? Isn't it true that Chinese grammar has no sense of inflections and concords, and that unless you hear the words actually spoken, you cannot interpret a written message exactly into English?"

"You are right, of course, Mr. Keen," Byron blundered. "I have interpreted it by bold metaphors. But that is what the Honorable Yung Shi Pai has stated here."

"This is the Pekinese form of Chinese, isn't it?" Keen went on.

Byron flamed up. "If you know so much about it, why don't you interpret it yourself?"

"Don't worry—I have," smiled Keen. "That's all, Mr. Byron."

Scott and Lang still stood perplexed, staring at the big Chinaman.

"There's nothing you can do, Scott," Keen told him. "You can't touch him, so you might as well let him go. We'll work on Byron. He's the key to it all."

As though he had understood every word, Yung Shi Pai bowed gracefully, clacked an order to his retinue. The half moon of gilt and trappings opened up in the center. Yung Shi Pai turned on his heel and started to move off. Then he stopped, let out a low hiss and stared at the floor.

Between him and the door lay Byron, flat on his back, his throat cut from ear to ear with a long knife.

"Ko-Dachi!" snapped Keen.

"What?" Lang gasped.

"Ko-Dachi!" hissed Yung Shi Pai.

"The third knife," added Keen.

Scott was beside the prostrate figure in an instant, but it was too late.

"Allow the Honorable Yung Shi Pai to leave at once," Keen ordered. "Within half an hour, anyway."

"Half an hour?" Scott asked, fumbling with something in the man's hand. "Keep him here half an hour? Okay."

"What's that?" snapped Lang. "That thing you just took out of his hand?"

It was a small white card. On it was printed neatly, "The Griffon."

Lang snatched at it, and turned to Keen.

"Where are you going Keen, within the next half-hour?"

"Back to my New York apartment. I want to look up something," Keen replied.

"Oh, yeah? Well, you'd better look up something that will explain this. You were the last man to—well, you handed that message sheet back to this poor devil. I still think you're the Griffon!"

At these words, Yung Shi Pai let out a gasp that distracted both Lang's and Scott's attention. The big Chinaman was glaring at Keen with eyes that shot bolts of hatred.

Scott tried to laugh, but his effort seemed feeble. He looked down at the knife that lay on the floor near the man's open hand. "Go ahead, Keen, but look me up in the morning," he said. "You, Lang, detain Yung Shi Pai for half an hour."

"I'll stay," Lang growled, "but I'll be at your place first thing in the morning, Keen. You'd better have something good."

"Buzz in about, let's say, eight o'clock. I'll have something for you. I'll say good-bye to the Honorable Yung Shi Pai, too. You had all better do that. He won't be back."

Kerry Keen beamed on all present. Scott stood still, not knowing just what to make of it. Yung Shi Pai seemed rooted to one spot since Lang had said, "I still think you're the Griffon." His half-circle of moon-faced Orientals fingered nervously with their belts, sashes and trappings.

"If you speak their language, Keen," Scott ordered, "Tell this man that he will be detained for half an hour. You may go."

"Don't worry," Kerry said. "He knows every word you've said. He's been talking English for years."

As he slipped out, he whispered into Scott's ear, "Remember, keep him here at least half an hour. I'll get something for you."

Kerry hurried across the massive hall through the colorful knots of people and headed for the main entrance. A few tried to stop him with eager questions, but Kerry had no time for them. Going past the officer on the door, he sent out a low whistle to Barney.

Keen climbed into the rear seat of the Dusenberg and in a loud voice ordered, "To New York, Barney."

The Irishman let the clutch in, and the car moved down the crunching driveway. At the gate, Keen suddenly countermanded his former order. "Back to Graylands, Barney," he said crisply. "And step on it!"

THE big black car swung to the right and they raced back to Keen's Long Island home. In twenty minutes, they were back in the house. Barney shot for the cellar at once. Keen went upstairs and tore into neat Byrd cloth flying kit. After selecting special weapons from a wide choice set in a secret drawer of his highboy, he darted down the wide stairs to his hallway, through to the hidden door into his underground hangar.

Barney was there, screwing back the caps of the tanks. Keen swung the ship around on the turntable and climbed in. His clock showed that it had been exactly half an hour since they left Rockland Manor.

Keen touched the starter that opened the Avia motor. He let her run for a minute or so, and then cut in the Skodas. Barney snapped the switch that started the door-raising mechanism and Keen ran the ship out into the open. The rest was fast work.

The Avia, silenced by the Skodas, took the black ship off like a winged ghost. Keen headed her back toward Southampton, climbing like mad.

"Well, what happened?" asked Barney, speaking for the first time since they had left Rockland Manor.

"Everything," snapped Keen. "They put one over on me. They got the leases."

"Damn my eyes!" snorted Barney. "You're slipping."

"We'll get them," Keen assured. "Byron, Prance's secretary, is dead. Throat cut—just before I left."

"Lovely!" Barney commented. "That will take some explaining."

"Oh, it was the Griffon again. Nice chap, that Griffon."

"What next?"

"Next? Oh, those four charities we were considering, Barney."

"Charity, eh? You'll be winding up with a tin cup yerself, one o' these days," growled the Irishman in the back seat.

"Have you forgotten the little black box already, Barney?" chided Keen. "Hello, here's our gang!"

"Yeah, and they'll get away. Look out there," O'Dare retorted.

The great, swordlike beams off Montauk Light were cutting into a bank of mist sweeping in from the Atlantic. Below them, a great Dornier was heading out to sea from the landing below Rockland Manor. Aboard were Yung Shi Pai and the all-important leases that were to betray America in the Pacific.

"Break out that infra-red light beam," Keen snapped.

Barney drew out a strange instrument that looked something like an old-fashioned magic lantern. The long lens tube was inserted in an aperture set in one side of the front cockpit, and the whole thing was fastened to a small shelf and held secure by butterfly bolts. He jammed the connecting cable down into a jack socket of a conduit that ran from their storage battery. Keen watched, keeping after the Dornier, and then snapped the switch. Out of the open aperture slashed a pinkish light that seemed to pierce everything. He nodded, satisfied, and shut it off again.

But the Dornier was already heading into the mist, and the black amphibian went down after it. A few desultory shots came up from the rear turret, but Keen danced the amphibian through them and nosed down.

"What are you waiting for?" O'Dare roared.

"I don't know. I'm in a quandary," Keen admitted.

"Ye'll be in a shroud if ye don't do something quick."

Keen was in a quandary, now. The fog had upset his plans. If he shot the Dornier down, there would be no assurance that he could get the leases and be certain they had not been passed through another group of Yung Shi Pai's mob.

However, he tore down and raked them with the heavy Darn guns. The gunners aboard the Dornier returned the fire, and Keen had to dart about fast to keep clear. He had to keep his pontoons water-tight.

Then they slammed into the fog. Keen snapped on the infra-red lamp and poked the long, polelike beam through the yellow mist. Odd twists gave strange, solid-looking walls weird openings through which at maddening intervals they could plainly see the Dornier. Keen tore in through those openings and fired long bursts at the silver-gray ship. Then the Dornier would disappear again until the lingering pink light fanged through the cloud and reflected strangely off the ship's dural sides.

Keen dived again and poured another burst from the Darns and Hotchkiss 13.2's. He went so close once that Barney let out a yell. The black plane zoomed up and streaks of tracer buried themselves in the muffling pall of gray mist.

It was insane to keep up such a dangerous game, but Keen had decided to gamble. He nosed down again and skipped in and out, trying to find the Dornier with his beam. The Avia was silenced again and he purred through the fog on silent wings. Once they almost slammed into a monster wing tip that seemed to be knifing its way through the fog.

They could hear intermittent roars from the Dornier's two big B.W.M.'s as they seeped back and forth through the fog. Then there would be a strange silence, broken only by the purring of the Skoda ports.

Back and forth, back and forth, the pinkish light stabbed. Now and then they would catch a gleam of the dural boat, and Keen would charge down to hold it, but the gunners aboard the Dornier were blasting away at the strange light and Keen would have to dart away again and lose his trail.

For what seemed hours this went on, and all the time they were heading farther out to sea. But finally a break came. While slipping through the fog bank with his altimeter needle dangerously near the zero mark, Keen caught a new sound.

"Hear that?" he asked anxiously.

"Sure. A ship's horn of some sort," Barney answered.

"That's their game. They're boarding a vessel somewhere out here. Listen hard again. I'll throttle back some more."

The Skoda purr lowered, and the black amphibian dropped into a gentle glide. Barney listened out of his open window.

"Got it!" he came back. "A vessel below. The Dornier's down on the water near by. Must have ridden in on a radio direction beam. There it is—a big cruiser."

"We're going down, too. Get set, Barney."

Barney acted fast. He snatched at two kapok jackets and slipped one on. The other he held ready for Keen. They cut off the infra-red beam and dropped gently to the water. Leaving the Avia ticking over, Keen slipped out of his Dorsal harness and pulled on the jacket. Then with a few words to Barney, he crept out on the wing, listened carefully for a minute and let himself into the water.

"One hour, remember," he said quietly. "After that, beat it back to Graylands, You'll hear from me eventually—if it's from Hong Kong. Don't worry."

And with that, Kerry Keen struck out for the muffled sounds that came from an indistinct shadow about two hundred yards away. The Skodas purred; the black amphibian eased away, and Barney dropped a sea-anchor and settled himself for a long, uneasy wait.

KEEN could hear the activity on the other side of the two-funneled Cruiser, where the Dornier was being eased up. He settled down to an easy, silent stroke and worked his way toward the sharp racing prow of the ship. When he reached the heavy anchor chains, he hung there while he peered around the side and watched the Dornier edge in closer.

Voices were raised in anxious orders and commands. A low light beamed out and showed men standing on the deck of the hull, steadying themselves with props, which had been stopped. Yung Shi Pai was standing on the co-pilot's seat in the control cabin, barking orders. Several men came out of the rear hatchway and climbed to the upper deck. Getting them off before they take the Dornier aboard somewhere aft, Keen thought to himself. Up the chain he clambered, and worked his way to the deck and huddled behind a winch. A folding gangway was being raised amidships and set for lowering to the Dornier's deck. Keen crept into the clear and darted for the shadow of the bridge deck. The planking was sleek and newly varnished. A misstep threw him down, and he rolled over toward the scuppers. He had been seen, however, and voices were raised as men raced toward him. Keen fought to get out his gun, but they were on him. Before he could make a move to get to the rail and leap overboard, they had pinioned his arms back and were rushing him along the deck toward the landing stage.

Yung Shi Pai stood under the low gleam of the portable light as Keen was brought forward. One of the men made a move to rip the scarlet mask from Keen's eyes, but Yung Shi Pai stopped him.

"It is well that this gentleman should remain just as he is—the notorious Griffon," the Chinese remarked. "It is an apt title. In my studies at Heidelberg, the Griffon was a figure in Teutonic fables, combining the outstanding features and physical attributes of the lion and the eagle. Truly a rare combination. And you, my unfortunate friend, combine the courage of the lion and the flying ability of the king of birds."

"Thank you for your courtesy," nodded Keen. "I appreciate your allowing me to retain my disguise. I'm sorry I gave your men such a fright. They are still trembling, even though I am carefully bound."

"Reasonable to understand, is it not?" Yung Shi Pai replied, stepping down to the deck. "They have heard much of you in the last few weeks and have every reason to respect you. You will come this way to the main salon. We must talk for a few minutes—before you depart."

The Oriental snapped a few orders in Chinese to the men who held Keen. They were tall Mongolians with beetled brows and fanglike teeth. They shoved him through the companionway and led him up to a large mahogany table. Then they withdrew to the background.

"My men have taken your weapons, I see. There is no reason why you should not be allowed some freedom. Release his arms!" Yung Shi Pai barked.

"Thanks." Keen smiled under his mask as they removed the cords. "That's much better. Now to business."

"Business?" The Chinese raised his eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

"You didn't suppose for one minute that I went swimming like this for pleasure!"

Yung Shi Pai frowned.

"I mean that I want the leases turned over to you by Hubert Prance!" snapped Keen. "The leases to the oil wells in Manchukuo which rightfully belong to the Columbia Pacific Syndicate!"

For a moment, Yung Shi Pai stiffened in his chair. "So that's what all your efforts have been toward?" he finally managed to say.

"Oh, come," Keen, retorted, "let's be frank. You are in a bad spot. Your knives killed Hubert Prance and his secretary, Arthur Byron. It is only a matter of hours before you will be stopped by a United States destroyer and taken back. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by turning those leases over to the man known as the Griffon, who will see that they are returned to the vaults of the United States government."

"So you are the man who stole that case of knives from my apartment! Remarkably clever, that. But your offer is, of course, impossible. The leases now belong to the Manchukuo Petroleum Corporation."

"Rot! There is no such organization," Keen snapped. "We know that your moves are directed by an Oriental power, but you are not going to get those leases out of this country. It would be so much easier to turn them quietly over to me, and go on your little cruise. The deaths of Prance and Byron can be hushed up—as suicides—but those leases must go back to Washington. I really haven't time to wait any longer."

"Have you forgotten the indisputable law of Ko-Dachi?" demanded Yung Shi Pai. "It was you who unsheathed those blades!"

"Ah, yes," replied the man in the scarlet mask, quietly. "I had forgotten that. Prance knew it, and Byron knew it. You had tutored them well in your strange Oriental philosophy, son of the Great Khan."

Yung Shi Pai peered intently at Keen. "Then you know who I really am?" he asked.

"Of course. Once I learned that the mysterious descendant of the renowned Mongol was now working for Nippon, and was negotiating with Prance, I realized what was in the wind. Unfortunately, I was too late, this evening at Rockland Manor. Prance had already turned the leases over to you."

"Then there is no way out, Mr. Griffon," Yung Shi Pai growled. "Here is the third knife. You know the law."

Keen took the weapon which the tall Chinaman had placed on the table. Fingering the steel blade, he watched his captor draw a heavy Luger from a drawer.

"If that is your decision, I am sorry. Of course, I have no intention of ignoring your hospitality and the fact that I am a guest aboard a vessel flying a foreign flag. But please, a cigarette before I go. Ah, you have a splendid brand here. Your own, I believe. Will you join me?"

Yung Shi Pai reached for the carved cigarette box. He barked an order in Chinese to one of the guards in the background. Keen interpreted it to mean that the Dornier was to be placed back in the water, refueled and made ready for another flight.

The man saluted and went out. Keen took a cigarette, and watched the tall Chinaman take one. Then he fumbled in his breast pocket and came out with a small silver lighter.

"Here," he offered, "a light from a man who respects your Mongol traditions. This little flame may assist me in my future gropings toward the land of our fathers."

"You are a brave man, my friend," Yung Shi Pai remarked with a patronizing smile. "I shall be sorry to see you go."

He placed the gold-tipped cigarette between his lips and leaned forward for a light. Keen raised the small silver lighter, clicked the igniter-lever. He shoved it closer to Yung Shi Pai's nose, but no light flamed.

"Ah!" began the Chinaman. "The novelties of the modern age do not work amid the—" Then he let out a low gasp, quivered from throat to knees and fell over backward. His head hit the floor behind with a leaden thud.

"QUICK!" Keen turned and snapped in crisp Chinese to the guards behind him.

"Your master has had a stroke. Get water, brandy—anything!"

He darted around the table and kneeled beside the prostrate Yung Shi Pai, stuffing the treacherous gas-discharge lighter back in his pocket. Then, while the four amazed guards looked for water, Keen fumbled through the tunic pockets, opened the throat of his neckpiece and released other tight clothing. He carried on a rapid jargon of explanation to the puzzled guards while he removed a large leather folder from beneath the man's embroidered vest. Slipping it inside his own shirt, he suddenly rose with the Luger, which had fallen to the floor.

The guards came out of their stupor. One leaped at Keen, but a short left hook put him flat on his back. Keen snatched at the man's long knife and backed toward the door. Something sounded behind him, and the guard who had gone out to issue the order about the flying-boat leaped at the back of Keen.

The man in the scarlet mask let him snatch at his shoulders, and then brought the knife up in a backward movement. The big Mongol guard let out a low moan. Keen jerked his shoulders and threw him clear over his head. Then, with a quick snap, he tossed the knife back into the salon. It clattered across the polished table, gory and dripping.

"There you are, my Mongol friend. Your Ko-Dachi law has been fulfilled. The unsheathed blade has tasted blood, as your dictates demand. Goodnight. I'll see you where the lotus never perishes." And Kerry Keen disappeared into the darkness.

As he ran around the deck and plunged overboard, shots rang out, lights blazed and hoarse voices arose. But the waters and the fog covered his high-speed stroke perfectly. The deck searchlights tried to penetrate the mist, but the yellow pall stopped the glare.

For fifteen minutes, Keen plunged on through the muffled waters toward the spot where he had left Barney. He cupped his hands as he floated, and let out a cry. It was a signal that resembled something between the lilting strain of a whistling buoy and the harsh, discordant cry of a gull.

In response came the glare of the pinkish light, sent out by the infrared beam. Keen caught it, heard the thunderous clangor of the B.W.M.'s back near the cruiser and slashed away again until he found the sleek pontoons of his own amphibian.

"Got them?" gasped Barney.

"Of course. What did you think I went for?"

"Well, we'd better be nudgin' off. Here they come."

While Keen crawled up into the cockpit, Barney started the Avia and slipped back to the rear seat. Keen cut out the Skodas and ripped the black ship up off the water. Ahead, the big Dornier slammed toward them. Keen knew that by now Yung Shi Pai had recovered from his sniff of gas and was in command again.

The guns of the Dornier ripped out and threw slugs all around them and, as if in response to the uproar, the wind shifted and the mist began to thin. Keen went to work. He slammed for height first, and torrented through a powerful barrage of antiaircraft that came up from the decks of the luxurious cruiser.

Swerving around, he fought to get in position for a charging dive on the Dornier. Barney was already at it with the Colt-Brownings. The rear guns chattered and flamed, but the pilot of the Dornier was risking everything now and trying to stunt with the speedy amphibian. Keen took up the challenge and threw all caution to the winds. They exchanged broadsides at close range, but the speed of the amphibian and the indistinct lighting made it almost impossible to draw a clear bead.

Keen dived his black aerial charger full tilt at the Dornier and opened every gun. In return, the gunners aboard the flying-boat battered back and filled the sky with flame, tracer and lead. The concussion of the heavy-caliber guns was deafening. The black-winged ship staggered through the fire and fought for position again. Barney slammed away with his dual tubes, and watched the ship below stagger under the flailing.

"Get it into 'em!" roared Keen. "What are you trying to tickle 'em for? Pour it to 'em! They'll have us like a soup-strainer soon."

"Have a smack yerself," roared Barney. "I can't seem to touch 'em. They must be armored."

"The right idea," Keen agreed. "Try something else."

He nosed around, looked down at the big flying boat and made a quick decision. Going down with every gun flaming, he gave up trying for the cabin, but directed his full fire on the broad tail of the Dornier. He continued the roaring charge until it seemed as if the snub pontoon noses must fork into the control surfaces. Then he pulled out.

Below, the Dornier staggered, twisted like a speared cobra and threw away its tail. It fluttered off, swinging struts and a rudder that seemed to be hanging by one hinge-pin. Then, for a second, it seemed to fly on straight, but a cruel gust caught it and it swerved, nosed down and went headlong into the water with a crash that sounded high above the roar of the Avia and the thunder of the cruiser's illegal guns.

"Home, James," Keen said, grinning. "I hope we have enough float left to drop on."

THE bell in Kerry Keen's 65th Street penthouse jangled on the dot of eight o'clock the next morning. Keen, in silk pajamas, bathrobe and slippers, answered.

Drury Lang wearing a dusty derby, thick-soled shoes and a scowl, wandered in. He glared at Keen, who appeared to have been aroused from a good night's sleep.

"Top o' the morning, Lang," greeted Kerry. "You look seedy. What—no sleep? You must have breakfast. O'Dare, the world's contribution to care and comfort, is just about to serve."

"Where the hell have you been all night?" demanded Lang.

"Oh, I went to bed fairly early. I cut off the phone and the bell, just to make sure I wasn't disturbed. Rather wearing, that mess out at Rockwell Manor, wasn't it?"

Lang continued to study Keen. "Go on," he said finally. "Let's have it."

"Have what?" demanded Kerry.

"That mess out there. What's it all about— that killing and cutting-up gag?"

"You mean old Prance and his man—what'shis-name?"

"What the hell do you think I'm here for?"

"Ah, yes, that knifing business. Nasty stuff, Lang. Those Chinese have funny customs. Been looking them up in that book over there, 'Chinese Tortures and Traditions.' Nice job, that book."

"I'm not going to bed until you do some explaining," Lang snapped.

"Explaining?" taunted Keen. "Oh, you must mean that black bat business."

"Yeah. You don't happen to do any flying yourself, do you, Keen?" Lang asked, casually. "I was wondering about that parachute, and the fact that Yung Shi Pai's flying-boat was shot down somewhere off Southampton soon after he left Prance's place last night. We got a line from the Coast Guard. They're all dead."

"Me fly?" Keen retorted, with a look of horror. "I can't walk over the Brooklyn Bridge without getting dizzy."

"No? Well, that's what happened to them, and it leaves us out on a limb. You'd better do some explaining yourself about the knife that finished off Prance and Byron."

Barney came in with a breakfast tray, nodded genially to Lang and set out two places.

"Go on," Lang ordered between gulps of food.

"Here's what I think happened," said Keen.

"What you know happened, you mean," Lang said.

"Let it go. Yung Shi Pai was really a descendant of the great Ghengis Khan. Up to last night, he was a secret member of a Japanese organization that is behind the Jap thrust in Manchukuo. Good he's out of the way, too."

"Go on. This is gettin' good."

"Yung Shi Pai was delegated by some one in Japan to recover certain oil leases from an American syndicate headed by Prance. Those leases covered fields in Manchukuo and distilleries at Fushun, Dairen and lesser plants in Manchuria."

"But," Lang protested, "those leases ought to belong to the U.S. government, in case we have trouble in the Pacific."

"Right! But Yung Shi Pai trapped Prance somehow—probably on some Oriental gag—and got him to turn them over to the so-called Manchukuo Petroleum Company for a sum of five million dollars. This was to be all hushed up, and once the transaction was completed, Prance was to pull out and skip to Europe."

"Who has the five million now?" snapped Lang.

"Only five hundred thousand was paid over so far. The rest was to be paid to Prance through some European bank. He got the five hundred thousand last night when he turned the leases over to Yung Shi Pai."

"What happened to it?"

"I'm afraid your friend, the Griffon, got it."

"Um! Then he did kill Prance?"

"Of course not. Prance committed suicide, probably because he realized the Griffon knew what he had done. He followed the tradition of Ko-Dachi. Yung Shi Pai must have sent him the knives, and the law is that if you uncover one of these knives, they must be fed with human blood. That was the tip-off for Prance. He knew he was licked—so he cut his own throat."

"Yeah? Very interesting. Is it all in that book?"

"Oh, yes, all of it," explained Kerry.

"You spill a good line, Keen. Now tell me how Byron got his. What did he have to do with it?"

"I'm not quite sure," Keen explained. "But he certainly acted queer about interpreting that message. I feel now that he was in on the lease steal in some way, and he realized that if Prance had been killed, there was a chance that he was going, too. Some one in that mob with Yung Shi Pai must have slipped him the knife, and he knew the answer."

"Then he committed suicide, too, eh?" growled Lang. "Ain't there a decent murder in the mob anywhere? But one thing more—how did the Griffon guy, whoever he is, get that card into Byron's hand?"

"You accused me of that last night," Keen retorted. "I've been wondering about it, too. Hasn't it occurred to you that John Scott might have put it there, for some reason?"

Lang's eyebrows went up, and he blinked. "Look here," he finally sputtered, "you got me all bawled up now. Lay off those parables or whatever they call 'em. Where does this leave me?"

"That's easy." Keen crossed to a cabinet. "Here are the leases Prance had signed over to Yung Shi Pai. They ought to be enough evidence for you. I'll give you those for a present, but don't ask too many questions."

"Where did you get them?" Lang snapped. His temper was rising.

"There you go getting curious again! To be perfectly frank, I took them from Yung Shi Pai last night when he wasn't looking—and that's all you'll learn from me. Now get out of here. The case is closed, and I have a paper to read before the Department of Justice Ballistics Division. Pop off!"

"Oh-ho! So that's why old Yung Shi Pai took that other knife last night! He was after you." Lang beamed, satisfied that at last he had found out what it was all about.

"Did he take that other knife?" asked Kerry blandly. "I'll bet he wished he had handed it to me."

"Now what the devil did he mean by that?" Drury Lang muttered to himself as he went through the door.

"ALL right, Barney," Keen said, about an hour later. "Here are five packages. Four are directed to our four pet charity accounts. See that they are properly deposited. The fifth you may deposit to the account of—well, let's see, who shall we be this week?" "You mentioned something about a case of O'Doul's Dew," Barney reminded him. His eyes were hopeful.

"Ah, a splendid ideal Deposit it to the account of Reginald O'Doul, Chase National.... Thanks, a snorter before we go. See you at Graylands tonight. You'll have a bit of patching to do, eh? But stay out of the cellar."

"Chase National?" Barney mused. "Well, we did have a bit of a runaround while it lasted, eh?"

"But think of poor old Lang," Kerry said, adjusting his hat at a rakish angle and surveying himself in the long pier mirror. "He doesn't know yet just what happened. Well, three-pointers!"