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Cavalry of the Clouds

Another Gripping
"Kerry Keen" Sky Yarn

By Arch Whitehouse

Out of the pall of night, dead upon the Black Bullet, there suddenly charged a grotesque sky monster—a strange, caterpillar-treaded behemoth which spewed a torrent of lead as it came. What was it? And from where did it come? These questions raced through the Griffon's mind as he leveled his guns upon it. But before he could draw a bead, two great arms reached from the back cockpit, pinned him in a vise-like grip. Barney O'Dare—his own man—had turned against him.

THE Black Bullet streaked across the sky like a two-bladed knife hurled by some unseen giant. It dipped, swerved and turned, wheeling through its nocturnal gyrations under the skilled hand of the Griffon. Below, slashing alternately across the waters of Long Island Sound and the velvet black rollers of the broad Atlantic, the sword-blade shaft of light from the Montauk beacon brought out the indistinct outlines of surface craft below—a Boston steamer, a proud puffing tug, a palatial yacht.

Above it all, the Black Bullet raced against a stop watch on the Griffon's wrist. It answered his every whim, sped through the full catalog of maneuvers demanded by the man in the scarlet mask. In the back seat, proud of his handicraft and his mechanical skill, Barney O'Dare, the Griffon's none-too-silent partner, likewise sat watching the black amphibian go through her paces after a thorough overhaul.

The Griffon turned to smile over his shoulder, then stiffened abruptly.

A grim, winged fortress was charging down on them from above. In the fraction of a second, the Griffon took it in completely, focused his camera-eye on its striking details.

It was a huge mid-wing monoplane powered with four massive engines of the in-line type. These motors were set in beautifully-faired nacelles. At the nose of the long, protruding fuselage was a movable gun turret flaunting a short, snub-nosed weapon that gleamed in the starlight and flare of the exhausts. It was larger in bore than the average machine gun and the Griffon winced at the thought of what might be hurled from that black snout.

Barney was doing nothing but stare. That was not like Barney. Usually he had to be restrained. He just sat hunched, peering out through the closed gun tray of the transparent coupe top.

The Griffon watched the flying fortress wheel, then gasped at its amazing undercarriage. This appeared to be a complete unit in itself. Instead of wheels, it had a complete set of caterpillar tractor treads.

"Whew!" whistled the Griffon. "If she needs something as strong as that, she must be heavy. What the devil sort of a bus is it?"


A flash of flame stabbed out of the nose of the monster with the strange silver body. A shell hissed past the Black Bullet and the Griffon screamed: "Get that guy in that turret, Barney!"

But Barney was not "buying" any. He simply sat back and stared with an insane glint in his eye at the thunderous bus that was pounding steel at them. He appeared to be strangely fascinated.

The Griffon threw the Black Bullet clear, curled into a climbing turn. Then he reached over, snatched at Barney's shoulder, and shook him. "Wake up, you dumb Mick!" he yelled. "What are you waiting for?"

Satisfied that the O'Dare would finally go into action the Griffon returned to his front-office business and made ready for a general sally on the wide-winged, giant that was now below them.

Again that snorting big gun barked and another screeching shell slammed past and burst in mid-air above them.


The Griffon flew madly now, hurled the Black Bullet all over the sky, sought an opening to get a punch at the silver-bodied fortress below. Finally he worked the Black Bullet into a position dead behind the tail flippers of the big machine, preparing to give her every thing he had up front.

"Get him on the twist, Barney, after I get through with her," the Griffon bawled over his shoulder.

He nosed down, gave the big Avia all she could take, and pressed every gun trigger in the office.

But before he could really draw a bead, something smothered him from behind. Two great arms were encircling him, constricting his own arms to his sides. The move caused him to draw the stick back and the Black Bullet went up the sky like a released rocket. For several seconds they remained at this angle and finally the Griffon's arms were released.

"Don't.... Don't.... Don't hit her!" Barney screamed into the Griffon's ear. "Don't...."

THE Griffon swore under his breath, turned his enraged attention to getting the Black Bullet back on an even keel. He had to ease her gently to prevent a spin. He had no desire to throw the ship about any too hard, for he did not know how much, if any, damage had been done to his own craft.

Finally he pulled her clear and hammered away to get out of range of the strange ship. He wondered why Barney had done that. He wondered what the Mick had seen to cause him to take such a strange attitude. This was a new one on the Griffon.

By the time he had cleared, the winged fortress was out of sight.

"What the hell?" he started to bawl over his shoulder. "What the deuce made you do that, Barney?"

He got no answer, so he twisted around farther, saw that Barney was still staring out of the side of the cockpit with unseeing eyes. He had not broken out the guns and he had no answer.

"Are you drunk?" the Griffon finally asked.

No answer.

"Oh well, there's no use sitting up here arguing. We'll have it out when we get down."

The Griffon turned the Black Bullet back toward the Long Island shoreline and rammed in the Skoda mufflers which deadened the roar of the big Avia down to a low purr. He throttled back and let her glide gently in.

She dropped on the water a few minutes after Keen had lowered the retractable pontoons and surged up with a minimum of noise to the flat, hard-packed sands in front of a boathouse. Then quietly, with no more noise than would be offered by a luxurious motor car, the Black Bullet, her pontoons tilted now for land movement, rolled past a heavy foliaged grape arbor and up a thicklyturfed lawn.

Barney slipped out, rammed his hand inside the fuselage, and the wings folded back snug against the sides of the fuselage. Then he moved forward, sought a sunken switch box at one end of a great rock-garden and in a few seconds the face of the garden mysteriously split open and folded back, disclosing a cavernous hangar.

The Griffon ran the ship inside and climbed out, prepared to get some explanation of Barney's amazing actions.

But Barney was nowhere to be found. He had disappeared completely!

Kerry Keen drew off his Griffon garments, let out a low whistle. Finally he turned on a light to inspect the damage done to the Black Bullet, and then, satisfied that she had suffered no untoward battering, he snapped the switch off and wandered, pained, puzzled and discouraged, upstairs to his snug den.

THAT was shortly before midnight; but it was well after 8 o'clock before Keen got up from his big desk where he had been working on a paper entitled The Magnus Effect on the Spinning Projectile which he was to read before the coming International Ballistics Commission conference. He had the weird quality of being able to completely throw his mind off past events to concentrate on the work at hand. By the time he was ready for his glass of warm milk, which Barney always had at hand by the time he was ready to slip between the sheets, he had to jostle himself to recall the incident of the flying fortress and the strange disappearance of the Mick.

"That's right," he said.

"Now where the devil did he bust off to?"

He went through the great house, seeking his man, but he was nowhere to be found.

His room had not been entered since he had left it prior to going on the test flight. He was nowhere about in the sunken hangar. He was not in the wine cellar, nor were there any empty O'Doul's Dew bottles around.

Keen frowned, lit a massive, straight-stemmed briar pipe. He sat down again and pondered on the subject, wondered what was behind Barney's mind when he interfered with his diving on the great plane over the Sound.

There seemed to be no answer for it, so Keen sanely went to bed—to sleep on it, as it were.

NEXT morning, there was no cheery breakfast, no warm bath, no laying out of a neatly pressed morning suit. Keen, hair tousled and puffyeyed, wandered about Graylands like a lost dog. He peered into rooms, sought evidence of Barney's return and even looked about for a note. There was nothing. And so, he made himself a light breakfast and continued work on his ballistics paper.

But by noon he could stand it no longer, so he ran out his sport roadster, a new Italian Renghali, and throwing a light top coat into the seat beside him, he started out for New York City. By three o'clock he was sitting in the dingy office of John Scott, Department of Justice agent, in the midtown section of the city.

Drury Lang was there, looking even rattier than ever. Both Scott and Lang were working feverishly over broken sections of metal—something that looked like a battered taxi-meter and some sections of frayed wire.

"Trying to get London?" inquired Keen, with a smirk toward Lang. "Or is this something new in parlor games."

"You can get out of here as quick as you like. We're busy," growled Lang.

"Do anything for you?" inquired Scott a little more sociably, but businesslike nevertheless. "We've got a rather nasty job on our hands."

"Hmm. That's nothing. I've lost my man, Barney," exclaimed Keen, expecting to get some response.

"Drunk.... lying in a gutter somewhere," mumbled Lang.

"You can get another man somewhere, can't you?" Scott added. "This isn't an employment office."

"But I want every hospital and police station in this section checked," said Keen. "Every one, understand?"

Both Lang and Scott looked up suddenly, Lang dropped the parts of metal he was studying and came over to where Keen was sitting. "What's up?" he said quickly. Lang had never seen Keen like this before.

"He disappeared last night from the house— about 11 o'clock. Just went, and he hasn't turned up yet."

"What was the matter? You bawl him out for something?"

"No, but I was going to. He disappeared before I could get around to it."

"Well, there you are, then," Scott said, throwing out his hands. "He must know the wrath of your tongue, and he was not having any."

"No, that wasn't it. I've bawled him out before, but it never leaves any impression. This time, I'm afraid, it's something serious. I want you to make a thorough search."

"Or what?" growled Lang.

"Or.... or I won't tell the Griffon to do you any more favors," smiled the ballistics expert.

"Bosh! You've never even seen the Griffon," raged Lang. "I have!"

"So I've heard," Keen taunted. "But look here, I do want you to make an attempt to locate Barney. I do miss him you know."

"This ain't no lost and found department," Lang spat again. "Besides, I told you we're busy. Maybe," he added, "you heard about that taxicab business yesterday afternoon.... in 84th Street?"

"No. What taxicab business?"

"That one that blew up, killing the driver and injuring about ten people who were nearby."

"Oh yes, another variation of the Wall Street explosion business wasn't it? I read something about it in the papers."

"This is what did it," said Lang with a proud gesture at the twisted metal on the desk.

"The meter?" asked Keen getting up and showing interest. "You mean to say the meter blew up? I've expected that before, the way those things run once you sit down in the back seat."

"Naw!" fumed Lang. "This was the gadget that set the bomb off. When it registered about $1.80 it touched off a fuse and blew the taxi up."

"What for?" inquired Keen. "A new taxicab war or something?"

"That's what we want to know," muttered Lang through his ratty mustache. "That's what we want to know. Why they went after this poor devil, an Alonzo Gabbritch, is more than we can figure. He was just a punk, a taxi driver with no particular connections that we can figure out."

"You working on his background, Scott?" asked Kerry, showing real interest now.

"Haven't got the time, now," sparred Scott. "You see, a much more important case has just been laid in my lap. Believe it or not, some one has actually mislaid this thing." And he tossed a large glossy photograph across the table. On seeing it, Keen only just managed to stifle a gasp.

"Ever catch sight of anything like that?" asked Scott, turning around to fill his pipe.

"No.... What the deuce is it?" Keen finally managed to say, carelessly snapping a silver cigarette lighter and lighting a corktipped cigarette. "Looks like an airliner that has been crossed with a tank."

SCOTT turned around quickly, stared at Keen: "That's exactly what it is. How did you know?"

"Well, it has wings and a body, and yet underneath it has what looks like a tank of some sort. See, the tractor treads are quite plain."

"Have you ever seen this thing.... anywhere?" asked Lang with a leer spacing his words carefully.

"There you go again, Drury," grinned Keen. "I know nothing about it. I have never seen it anywhere except on this picture. What's it all about, anyway?"

"Nothing," Scott said quietly, "only late yesterday afternoon this thing was stolen from a hangar outside Wright Field, at Dayton, Ohio. We don't know where it is—but we'd like to."

"Yes, I'd like to find Barney, too," said Keen quietly. And now what the deuce is this all about, anyway?" he said, indicating the photo.

"It's just what you said it was—a plane crossed with a tank. In other words, it's a bomber-fighter that is built to take a full-size Army tank into the air, and if necessary deposit it behind the enemy lines. They call tanks mechanized cavalry. Well, a corps of these things might be called cavalry of the clouds."

"Volunteers for the Winged Tank Corps, line up at the right—and no pushing," chanted Keen with a grin.

"Yeh, I wouldn't want it either, but someone in the Army has decided that it's a good idea, and strange to relate, the damn thing works. It has been tried out in secret. The plane simply rolls up with its wheels down and straddles the tank. Then an arrangement is dropped that fastens the tank in a depression in the body of the plane. The tank, you see, is a high speed machine and the men in the plane can use it to take off with. Into the air they go and fly behind the enemy lines. They land, release the tank to carry out its routine patrol, and fly off again on their own landing gear. After the tank's work is done, and provided conditions are favorable, the plane can return, pick it up again, and bring it back to its own side of the lines."

"The world gets dizzier and dizzier," Keen moaned. "So what?"

"Well, it has been stolen. Who did it and how, we don't know."

"Stolen yesterday afternoon? It must be half way to Japan—or Spain by now, eh?"

"That part doesn't matter. Everyone has had the tank-plane idea for years, but it took a young metallurgist in the War Department to put it over. No plane in the world, you understand, could pick up the average Army tank—I mean one big enough and armed enough to do any real damage behind enemy lines. It had to be made very light and still bullet—and shell-proof."

"A new metal?" said Keen, bending forward.

"That's it. A new light armor plate. It's called Avalin. And not only does it answer a great problem concerning this flying tank idea, but the stuff can be used in battleships, considerably lightening them and thus increasing their speed."

Keen had sensed all this long before, but he professed great amazement.

"So they not only stole a complete flying model of this tank-plane, but they have samples of the metal as well," he said, furrowing his brow.

"That's not quite the story," replied Scott. "It's true they have the tank, which is made of this metal, but the formula and the annealing process so necessary in its manufacture is another thing."

Drury Lang sat on the corner of the table and watched Keen like a cat watches a mouse. And now he could hold himself in no longer—

"How would you like to pick up that formula—for the return of Barney O'Dare, Keen?" he said with a snaky grin.

THIS new sally nearly caught Keen off guard. He hesitated, flicked the ash from his cigarette. "What the deuce are you talking about?" he finally managed to say.

"Just that. The formula and annealing process of the new metal known as Avalin.

was stolen a short time after they swiped that plane. We don't know where it is or who has it, but we can't have it out of the hands of the Government for more than forty-eight hours at the most."

"What's he talking about?" demanded Keen, appealing to Scott.

"That's it, Keen. They also swiped the formula, but as it is written in a special secret code, we know it would take them at least forty-eight hours to break it and find the real secret. And so, we might help you find Barney O'Dare—if you'll give us a hand on the Avalin formula."

"But what the deuce does Barney have to do with this?"

"Nothing," laughed Lang, "except that a man answering Barney O'Dare's description was the last fare to use the taxi-cab which was blown up yesterday afternoon. Do you happen to know where Barney O'Dare was yesterday afternoon about 8 o'clock?"

"No.... no, I don't. He had the day off, and as far as I know he was in town mooching about, as he usually does, seeing his pet movie actress at the Palace Royal theatre. He goes for her in a big way, you know—autographs and pictures of her on his wall."

"Who's that?" demanded Lang, leaping off the corner of the table.

"Oh, this girl Doreen Yardley.... she's playing in that new spy picture, Whispering Wings. Barney goes for her hard."

"Whispering Wings!" almost screamed Lang, charging for a newspaper. "There's a tie-up! Get it, John. That plot is almost the same as this mess. It's about enemy agents stealing a new bombing plane. What a tie-up!"

"Wait a minute," snapped Scott. "Gimme that paper!"

Keen sat back staring at the two Department of Justice men as they floundered about with the newspaper.

"Look here," Scott said with unvarnished alarm. "It says that Miss Doreen Yardley, star of Whispering Wings now playing at the Palace Royal, Broadway's newest and most luxurious movie palace, failed to turn up last night for her scheduled personal appearance. She had fulfilled one engagement in the afternoon, but after leaving the theater in her appearance costume, she didn't show up again at her hotel, the Ritz Savoy. Later, about midnight, her car, an expensive limousine, was found abandoned on West Street near the Lackawanna Railroad ferry at Barclay Street. No trace of the chauffeur, one Pierre Gallante, has been uncovered either."

"Well, I'll be damned!" gagged Lang, peering over Scott's shoulder.

"What are you trying to make out of all these apparently unrelated items?" barked Keen, selecting another cigarette.

"So your Mister O'Dare is missing, too, eh?" Lang gargled with a grimace at Keen. "When did you see him last?"

"About 11 o'clock, I should say, roughly speaking."

"Very roughly, I'd say. When did he get back from New York?"

"I don't know. I was out for a stroll and stopped in to see some friends for a cocktail until about five. Then I worked in my study on a paper I am to read before the International Ballistics Commission convention. Barney called me for supper some time after seven. He was around until about eleven or eleven-thirty, I'd say. Anyway, he was not about when I went to call him for some hot milk."

"Then you don't know when he came in, nor when he went off again?"

"I don't know when he came in, but he was around until well after eleven. As I say, I missed him about 11:30. I wanted some hot milk."

"If he got back in time to serve your dinner at seven, or a little after, what would be the latest he came in?"

"Well, I'm no cook, but I should say that it would have taken him half an hour at the least."

"Then he might have returned about 6:30. How long would it take him to get from downtown New York to your place?"

"With good connections, about two hours at the most," figured Keen.

"Then he could have been somewhere near where this taxi blew up just after three in the afternoon—and still get out to your place in time to get your dinner, eh?"

"Yes, he could," agreed Keen, trying to piece many things together.

"Now we are going to look for Mr. Barney O'Dare," clucked Drury Lang. "He might know plenty about Miss Doreen Yardley and the missing plane—and possibly the formula of the Avalin armor plate."

"You know, Scott," said Keen reflectively, "there are times when I am certain old Lang here is going off his noggin."

"I have felt the same way several times," agreed Scott much to Lang's dismay, "but somehow, this time, Keen, I feel that he is displaying a rare touch of perception. There may be a lot in what he says."

"Oh, my hat!" gasped Keen, getting up with a display of amazement. "Don't tell me he's inflicting his influence on you!"

"Boy, you'd better dig up Barney O'Dare," Lang crowed. "You'd better get him first, because if we get our hooks on him, we'll make him talk. We'll find out a lot of things, I believe, and many of those things will implicate a certain Mr. Ginsberg and a certain Mr. Pulski. Now will you go to work and see what you can do about a certain formula?"

KEEN had little to say after that. He realized that there were too many cock-eyed angles to all this. Could old Lang know that he had actually seen the tank-plane in the sky over Long Island the night before and that it had actually fired on him and his Black Bullet, he would never have been allowed to leave the office.

As it was, he sensed that he was in a tough spot. Suppose they did pick Barney up. Suppose they found him a trifle under the influence of O'Doul's Dew. Suppose they made him talk. Suppose Barney so forgot himself as to give the whole show away.....

Reflections were terrifying, and Keen stared about for an out. There was only one. He must divert their attention from Barney and keep it focused on the missing formula.

"You say this tank-plane thing was stolen yesterday afternoon?" Keen suddenly nagged back at them. "How?"

"That we don't know. All we can get on it is that the ship was kept in one of the experimental hangars. There was some sort of a fire started in this hangar. The crew rushed the plane out quickly and then turned their attentions on the flames. While all this was going on, somebody slipped into the ship, and before anyone could do anything about it they were away."

"Clever idea, all right. Now about the formula. Where was that taken from?"

"As far as we can make out, it had been in Washington with one of the Technical Divisions where it was being transcribed into the secret code and bound. One courier brought it to New York by air.... that is, into Newark and then to New York where it was to be turned over to another courier who was to take it on to Wright Field."

"How, by air?"

"No, the weather dropped down and it was decided to take it through by train. The case containing this bound formula appears to have been taken, by some deception, on the airline coach that was bringing the passengers through from the Newark Airport to New York City proper. They pulled the old duplicate brief case swap on the courier, and he didn't notice the change until he was in Grand Central Station."

"When was that?" inquired Keen.

"Yesterday afternoon about 3 o'clock. In other words, the courier must have lost it about 2:30 aboard the ferry that, comes into 23rd Street," "Didn't the airline car use the Holland Tunnel into the city?" asked Keen quickly.

"No, it appears that there was some sort of a tie-up at the New Jersey end of the tunnel, so the driver turned into Hoboken and used the Lackawanna Ferry."

"Lackawanna Ferry?... and Miss Yardley's limousine was found abandoned at the Barclay Street entrance of the Lackawanna Ferry?" Keen muttered aloud.

"Hey, there's an angle," said Lang, suddenly. "You're thinking now, Keen. That's an angle!"

"Just a tie-up of names," said Keen, trying to throw it off. "Probably nothing to it. But it does seem funny that that airline coach should take the Lackawanna Ferry instead of going through the tunnel. If someone snatched that case before the courier reached that point, he—the thief—could have left the coach in the Lackawanna station and taken the ferry that went farther downtown, while the coach took the uptown ferry. Why don't you try to check that time bracket?"

"Don't worry, we will!" blatted Scott.

The three men sat silent for some time. Scott puffed on a great briar pipe, Keen allowed long curling plumes of smoke to rise from his cigarette, and Lang picked at his brown tusks with the end of a match.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" demanded Lang after a lengthy reflection. "You only got a short time."

"This looks like a job for your friend, the Griffon," Keen said with a frown. "Why don't you put him on it?"

"I would—if I knew where he was or who the hell he really is," snarled Lang.

"Well, I'll be tootling," Keen added with a cheery air. "I shall be out at Long Island if you want me."

"You won't find much out there. It's all around here, somewhere."

"What about the tank-plane. That might be one of the angles you know. Turn out the Army, the Navy, and the Air Service."

"Bah! It'll take more than that," Lang snorted, snatching at the paper again.

"Thanks, you certainly are reposing a special trust in me," grinned Keen, going toward the door. "We'll trust you—until we get our hooks on that man Barney of yours," Lang hurled after him as he went through the door.

"Don't worry," retorted Keen. "He's probably miles away from here."

KEEN went out, closed the door quietly, then stared at a queer square of paper that lay on the floor at his feet. There was something strangely familiar about it—a label of some sort with a oneinch border gay with a Scottish tartan. The label from a whiskey bottle—O'Doul's Dew!

Keen picked it up quickly and went to the elevator humming a tune from an old time musical comedy.

Poets, guards and heroes true,
Fighters, lovers, Churchmen, too,
Crowd the chapters we go through.
Then they scattered here and there,
Causing trouble everywhere,
What a lovely name, O'Dare

He got into the elevator without attempting to inquire if anyone had seen Barney. He knew that if the Mick had wanted to be seen, he would have arranged it. It was evident that he wished to lay low.

As the elevator started down, Keen turned the label over and read in a horrible scrawl: "Tonight.... midnight .... over No Man's Land."

For a minute or two Keen was unable to make head or tail of the crazy message. "No Man's Land?" he muttered when he got into the street. "What the deuce does he mean? He must be drunk."

But soon after he had started his car and was threading his way through the city traffic, it all came to him. No Man's Land was the name of a small island about 58 miles north-east of Montauk Point. It lay about ten miles out in the ocean, south of Martha's Vineyard. It was a lonely blot on the blue of the Atlantic inhabited by only a few hardy fishermen who were content to live much as had their forebears of two centuries before.

"Um," mused Keen as he headed for Long Island. "I wonder if they've got that bus hidden out up there? They might, hoping to contact someone— someone who might have that formula."

He drove on, his mind clicking as fast as the twelve-cylinder engine beneath the hood. He wondered now why Barney had stopped him from shooting at the tank-plane the night before. He wondered if Barney had seen something near the Lackawanna Ferry on the afternoon before that tied up with all this mystery. He wondered what the disappearance of Miss Doreen Yardley had to do with a secret military plane and the stealing of a secret formula for a light armor plate. He naturally wondered how Barney knew that something was going to take place that evening at midnight over the island of No Man's Land.

"What a lovely name, O'Dare!"

He sang at the top of his voice as he rolled through the beautiful countryside of Long Island.

THERE was no further news of Barney for the rest of the day and Keen contented himself with preparing the Black Bullet for any sort of action that might come up. He filled the tanks, checked the oil, and then went over the guns carefully, seeing that all belts were fully loaded. He might have been preparing the amphibian for a young war, for all the care he took.

At 7 o'clock, his task completed, he went back through the sliding panel that led into the wine cellar, selected a choice bottle of Heidsiek, wandered upstairs, and prepared his own dinner. He drank cheerfully by himself, lit a fine Corona-Corona, and sat back to enjoy a cheerful fire in his open fireplace. Then, satisfied with himself, he curled up on a great down-filled divan and went straight to sleep. At exactly 11 o'clock he woke up, took a quick shower, climbed into his flying kit, and went downstairs.

He started the Avia motor and turned on the high-speed ventilator system which took off all the carbon monoxide. After she warmed, he ran her out, closed the secret rock garden doors, then took her out on the water. Finally, he set the pontoons for a water take-off and purred away into the darkness.

In a few minutes he was well out to sea at 4,000 where he was now able to cut out the Skoda mufflers and let her run full out. With a last look around, he drew the pontoons up all the way so that they fitted snugly into their recesses and turned to the north-east for the island of No Man's Land.

Below, the water seemed warm and somehow luxuriant, and the moonlight streaking out from the rifts of cloud ahead seemed to give the land a warm cloak of moleskin. The golden flares of coastal signals lay like expensive brooches on a black satin pad. The towns along the Connecticut shore crouched like monsters with spangled scales as hide, and outside Hartford the tell-tale beams of airline beacons flashed in their ever-circling battle with the darkness.

It was all so enchanting that Keen found himself engrossed in the wonder of the night aloft —the undreamed-of paradise of flight in a night sky. The earth seemed more serene, more beautiful, more marvelous than it ever could under the blatancy of day.

But just as he discerned the outline of No Man's Land island, out of the west came a winged pack of opposition!

"Hello! Navy stuff, eh? They must have some idea, too."

Keen swerved to clear the first charge of the Voughts that were upon him. And now he felt a jangle of discordant battering upon his fuselage somewhere near the tail. He zoomed hard, gave her all the power she could take.

He felt his controls carefully; and sensing that nothing had been hit, he went to work to elude the Navy pilots. They were converging on him now with all forward weapons rattling. The sky, completely changed now, was streaked with tracer, alive with flaming-nosed fighters, and etched with grim smoke lines. Pennons of flame fluttered from the exhausts and riders of the night sky hammered away at the Black Bullet—a wraith they had sought for months.

"They're certainly after me this time. Wonder if the note on that label was a plant?" he muttered, as he turned sharply and sprayed a wild hosing of lead in front of the nose of one particularly offensive Vought. The leader of the Navy formation now turned to clear, and Keen swung high again, fought to get clear of a wild fanfare of lead that came up from four spitting Brownings.

He had to get away somehow. He could not turn on these Navy men, but neither could he be molested in this manner. Time was getting short and he knew Barney would be looking for him on the dot of midnight. He was cutting it fine now.

With one final lurch, however, he turned and hammered a long screeching burst through the center of the Navy formation, causing them to roll away. Then he screeched through with his Avia wide open in an ear-splitting roar, drew back sharply on the stick, and sent the Black Bullet straight up into the darkness, standing on her tail.

One or two gunners tried to get a burst at her before she disappeared into the darkness, but most of them were too amazed at the ship's performance.

That instant of hesitancy gave Keen his break. He eased out of the climb, rammed in the Skoda mutters, doused every light aboard, and skuttled away before the Navy men could figure what had happened.

He raced out to sea making the most of his blinding speed and comparative silence and flew for about five minutes before turning back. It was already midnight and he had to take some rare chances, for the Navy planes were still in the vicinity, believing that he had returned to some base floating about somewhere on the surface of the ocean.

He lowered his pontoons and headed for the island which stood out stark and course. It had no particular shape at all, and there was not a light visible anywhere. On the eastern side there was the dull outline of something that might have been a large dilapidated building, perhaps an old lighthouse. He circled this side with the Avia well muffled and his flaps down slightly to cut his speed. He swung carefully, inspecting the land below; then he consulted a Navy chart he had brought along to check the depths around the island for landings.

There appeared to be plenty of water. He would be able to get down Okay without fear of ripping the bottoms out of his pontoons.

Two pin-points of light then caught his eye— one green and two white lights blinking from a cove a short distance from the indistinct building. He glanced down again and once more they were flashed on.

"A green and two whites," he muttered. "That's Barney's old signal. Well, if he says so, it's Okay with me."

He cut the forward speed of the amphibian and let her glide in and drop gently on the rollers about two hundred yards outside the cove. The green and white signals blinked again encouraging him to come in closer.

Keen took no chances, however. Cautiously he drew up his scarlet mask, tapped his big automatic reflectively, and eased in. Again the signal flashes flecked out.

"Pulski?" called Keen carefully.

"Please hurry, Mr. Ginsberg," a dulcet voice came back.

"Mr. Ginsberg?" repeated Keen. "What the deuce!"

By now the tide was swinging the Black Bullet dangerously close to the hard packed sands of the cove. Keen took no more chances. He threw out a slim anchor, drew the line taut, and fastened it to a latch on the outside of his cockpit. Then he climbed out cautiously and stood on the wing.

"Pulski?" he said again.

"Please hurry, Mr. Ginsberg," the voice repeated. There was no question now. It was a girl.

KEEN was uncertain what to do, but he was interested in that voice. It was pleading in tone. There could be no treachery in a voice like that.

He dropped down into the swirling water and waded up the beach, his gun drawn and alert.

No sooner had he reached the edge of the rollers and started up the sand when out of a break in the rocks came a girl—a girl who was slim and stately. She walked with the unmistakable grace and poise of one who was used to acclaim. In a glance Keen took all this in. She wore a suede jacket and riding jodphurs.

She was young, no more than twenty. She was blond with aristocratic features. She was strong, yet moved like a gazelle. But above all, Keen had to agree she was probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

In a flash it came to him who she was—Miss Doreen Yardley, the heroine of Whispering Wings. The motion picture star whose name and photograph had been emblazoned across every newspaper in the country.

But Keen was not to be put off with the spell of beauty or motion picture prominence. He was on business and he was out for information.

"Where's Bar—Pulski?" he demanded as he approached the girl,

"They've captured him. You were late. I hid in the rocks."

"What's this all about, anyway?" Keen demanded.

"Didn't you come to get him and recover the book?" the girl asked. It was evident that she was plainly puzzled now. She pocketed Barney's flash light, wrung her hands.

"Where's the tank-plane?" Keen snapped.

"It's over there, ready to take off. They have that formula book—and Mr. Pulski."

"What the deuce is this all about?" Keen inquired, eyeing the girl through his goggles and mask. "You're Miss Yardley, aren't you? Don't you know that the police of New York are searching for you everywhere?"

"I can't help that. We've got to get that formula back."

"How did they get it?"

"Through me—only I didn't know what it was when I first received it. You see a man named Anton Brassage, who used to be a scenario writer out in Hollywood stole it from Captain Edward Hillary, who was—"

"—bringing it up from Washington," broke in Keen, "to take it out to Wright Field. I know that much, But where does Pulski fit in with it all?"

"Well, this man Brassage changed the cases in the airline bus, got off in Hoboken, and, took the Lackawanna Ferry down to Barclay Street. There he picked up this man Pulski, who was hanging around the newsstand there, and asked him if he wanted to make an easy five dollars."

"Go on," ordered Keen peering about. "Well, Pulski said he didn't mind, as long as it would not take him too long. So Brassage explained that he had a case that belonged to me—Miss Yardley, the motion picture star."

"Well," smiled Keen, "he picked the right man. Pulski has about twenty of your pictures scattered about his room."

A trace of a smile lit the girl's lips. "Anyway," she continued, "Pulski agreed to deliver the case to me direct at the Palace Royal where I was doing a P.A.—a personal appearance, you know. It was supposed to be my personal jewel ease, and I hoped to wear some of my more expensive items at a special dinner party they were to give in my honor the following night at the Ritz."

"It doesn't make much sense yet," muttered Keen.

"I know that, but you see, Brassage did not dare keep that case in his own possession too long, for fear it would be missed and traced, so he used that idea to get it out of his hands and yet keep track of it."

"Do you know that the taxi exploded?"

"No, not until Pulski told me later. Anyway, I accepted the case and kept it in my dressing room with the idea of later taking it downtown to Benedict's—that's the big jeweler, you know—and have one of the clasps repaired. On the way down, my chauffeur took West Street owing to the heavy traffic on Broadway and near Barclay street we were.... well, we were simply held up, blocked off, changed into another car, driven downtown, and hustled into one of the warehouses facing the North River. There we were held as prisoners and later when it got dark we were put aboard a cruiser motor boat and brought here."

"You still thought it was a hold-up for your jewels?"

"Yes. You see, I had asked Brassage who was coming east, to bring them for me. I naturally thought he had done so and had used this messenger because he was too busy to deliver them himself. At the time I realized that he had taken something of a chance, but I thought he knew this man Pulski."

"Well, it's getting clearer, but what about the taxi blowing up?"

"We must hurry, you know," Miss Yardley said. "I had a few minutes to talk to Pulski back there. Brassage drove up to the theatre with Pulski but did not come in, using some excuse about not wanting to see me until that evening. He induced Pulski to use the same taxi to return to the Pennsylvania Station where he could get a train to wherever he was going."

"And Pulski, still up in the clouds over having actually seen and spoken to his screen sweetheart," gagged Keen, "agreed."

"Well, I suppose you could put it that way," Miss Yardley modestly admitted, "but don't you see, it was just a plot to get rid of him after he had delivered the case. Brassage got out about a block from the theatre and left a newspaper covering a box of some sort. This, no doubt, was the contrivance he had devised to blow up the taxi."

"I'll be damned!" snorted Keen. "How did Pulski escape it?"

"He tells me he suddenly saw the box and told the driver about it. Then he says he suddenly remembered he had to get something at Macy's store and so he got out at 84th Street and Seventh Avenue. The driver said he'd turn the bag over to his office where it could be called for at any time. Then he drove away."

"And a few minutes later the bomb in the back seat exploded."

"Well, it exploded under the meter. You see, the driver had taken it from the back seat and had put it up front where they carry luggage."

"That explains some of it," muttered Keen glancing about again, "but there's still plenty to clear up. Now we'd better get going."

"We've wasted too much time; but I can see you are wondering what part I was playing, or where I fitted in this picture. It's all crazier than that thing I played in, Whispering Wings, the girl said.

"I'm beginning to realize that," Keen said, hunching his shoulders. "But what about this place.... and Pulski?"

"Oh, won't you please do something? We can explain all these things later. Don't you realize that they have Pulski in there and that they may get away any minute. They're only waiting for the word."

"Word for what?"

"I don't know.... the word to go, I suppose."

WITH a last look back at the Black Bullet which was now riding easily at anchor, Keen nodded and started toward the higher ground of the island. They could just see the outline of the upper portion of the abandoned lighthouse which had been used as the headquarters of the gang. They climbed up the rocks together and tried to figure a way to approach it without being seen.

"How did you get out?" Keen suddenly asked. "Won't they miss you?"

He still felt uncertain about this young lady who seemed to have a reasonable answer to every question.

"Well, I was allowed a certain amount of freedom. After all, you can't run away from an island set out in the ocean miles from anywhere, can you?"

"No, I suppose not. Where was Pulski when you cleared out?"

"They had him tied up in one of the rooms. I don't know how he got here, but they caught him prowling around and Brassage recognized him as the man he had paid to deliver the case to me. At first he was scared stiff, for he believed Pulski had been killed in the taxi explosion."

Keen chuckled under his breath. But then there came a new tune out of the darkness—the bellow of engines and the scream of props.

"I told you!" the girl cried. "I told you! they're getting away! Look—they're taking off!"

Keen felt a wild surge of frustration. He started to run forward as the big four-engined bomber with tank attached rolled across an open stretch behind the abandoned lighthouse. He stood a moment watching it, then turned toward the girl and called: "Come on, show me the layout of that place over there!"

The girl came running up breathless and Keen suddenly snatched the flashlight from her hands. Quickly he twisted the colored lenses in the front and pressed the button switch. He directed it full at the climbing bomber and continued to signal, hoping that if Barney were aboard he would get an idea of what was going on.

The big plane circled the lighthouse twice, then headed off to the north. Keen and the girl raced for the lighthouse, swinging open its door, and ran down the white-washed corridor.

"Straight through," the girl shouted. "Into the big room beyond."

Gun in hand, Keen banged on the closed door, then wrenched at the doorknob. It gave under pressure and he lurched inside.

There was no one there.

The room was large with several murky windows looking out toward the sea. A large fireplace took up one of the narrow sides. The furniture appeared to have been salvaged from wrecks, for there were several ships' chests, boxes bound with iron, a massive table, and generoussized swing-seat chairs. There was a dank mustiness about the place that indicated that it had not been lived in for some time. There was a fire still crackling on the hearth and the smell of tinned food struck the nose.

"This is the main room. There are several more above, in what was the light tower," Miss Yardley explained. "They had Pulski tied up in the room above."

"Quick, let's look up there. He may still be there," Keen said.

They went up the stairs and entered a small chamber with a narrow window at each end. There was a bed there, crumpled and drawn partly away from the wall. Keen took the lamp, went all over the wall near the bed. For several seconds he studied the dirty plaster, then suddenly concentrated on a murky spot near the head.

"Look," he said quietly. "It's just as I thought. They're heading for Newfoundland preparatory to a hop for Europe. That plane is intended for someone over there—probably one of the Spanish outfits."

The girl looked over Keen's shoulder and noted crude figures, drawings, and words indicating the intended course of the men who had stolen the great tank-plane. Barney had managed to scribble it there with a stub of a pencil before they had removed him to the plane.

"Well, there's no use trying to do much else here," Keen said starting across for the door again. "What are you going to do?"

"Do?.... I can go with you, can't I?" she said puzzled.

"Not very well," Keen said quietly. "There's room, of course, but you'd be in the way."

"I wasn't in the way when you were sitting out there looking for a signal, was I?"

"No, but you see I've got to make time to catch them," Keen explained.

"I only weigh 110 and I am lightly dressed. I might be able to help.... or are you going to warn the Navy to head them off before they pass Nantucket?"

"They are probably past Nantucket already, and besides I can't tip the Navy chaps off. They'd probably shoot the plane down—and Bar.... Pulski is aboard. That wouldn't do?"

"What are your plans to get him off?"

"I haven't the slightest idea. But I hope to warm one up before I catch them."

"Then you'd better take me along to help warm it up," the girl smiled.

"Wrap up in anything warm you can get on," Keen said crisply. "And let's be moving. I don't know what in Heaven's name I'm going to do with you later on, though. After all, young lady, I am the Griffon, a pretty ruthless character, you know."

"You don't sound ruthless," the girl said, selecting a short thick seaman's jacket from a peg on the wall. "I've heard of you, of course. Every once in a while your name appears in the newspapers. But I was under the impression that your name was Ginsberg—at least that's what Mr. Pulski said."

"You seem to accept unusual statements pretty calmly," Keen said. "I think you'll fit in all right, but I warn you that you'll be in for a warm evening."

"Did you see me in Whispering Wings?" Miss Yardley asked with a smile.


"Well, let's go," the girl said with vigor. "After all, I have an interest in this expedition, you know. I still have my jewel case to pick up, and Mr. Brussage will have a lot of explaining to do."

"If we get them," said Keen holding the door open gallantly.

THEY hurried down to the cove again, and at the edge of the water they both laughed as they looked out to where the Black Bullet was swinging gently at her anchor.

"Well, there's no time for formalities," Keen said. "Do you mind?"

"Let's go!" the girl chuckled.

With that he lifted her in his arms and strode out to the plane. He placed her on the wing and gave instructions for getting into the rear cockpit while he released the anchor and turned the nose of the plane around.

The engine caught quickly and he kept her in close while the Avia warmed up. Then making sure the girl was secure, he nosed around into the wind. They were away with a rush and without bothering to gain altitude he headed her north after the stolen tank-plane.

He hooked Barney's helmet up with the phone set so that he could talk to the girl. "Just sit tight and hang on," he advised. "If trouble starts, we'll have to go through with it. You'll have to rely on me to get you out.... somehow."

"Trouble?" the girl asked, once she had the bulky helmet arranged. "Do you mean from planes like those over there?"

"Planes? Where?" gasped Keen.

"Those over!"


For the second time that night, the Navy Voughts converged on the Black Bullet. Keen just barely had time to roll out of the line of fire that spat at them, from the lead Vought.

"Holy Moses!" he exclaimed. "Here they are again."

"Who? Are they really firing at us?" the girl chattered.

"What do you think this is, a moving picture?"

"Good heavens!"

The Voughts bashed themselves at the Black Bullet again, and Keen swerved sharply and literally ran the gauntlet of the formation.

"Why they're ships belonging to our Navy, aren't they?" the girl cried as she peered out of the transparent coupe top.

"If they're not," Keen replied, "someone has done a swell job of painting."

Whatever it was the girl was going to say in reply was not heard, for two more Voughts came hammering at them again from opposite sides. Keen spotted them, stuck his nose down, and ripped the Skoda mufflers out. The Avia, gasping with back-pressure, took up the load with everything wide open now. She bit in deeply and filled her steel lungs with gulpings of power. The terrific speed left the Voughts virtually standing still.

In a short time they were well in the clear again and heading on with the northern shore of Martha's Vineyard under their wings.

"Now keep your eyes open for the other bus," advised Keen as he settled back for the long run north.

* * * *

THE man at the big control wheel of the tankplane was surly, hard to talk to. He was staring ahead at the man who sat behind the 40 m.m. Madsen cannon, fitted into the movable turret set in the nose. The man in the right-hand control-pit seat was trying to soothe him down.

"We were saps to leave that jane," the pilot said. "We should have taken a little time to look for her."

"Forget her! What the hell can she do, wherever she is? We'll be over Cape Sable in no time. An hour at Nelson, and we're in the clear."

"Yeh, but I still don't like it. That broad can still sick the Navy guys on us, or even some of those Canadian Air Force guys. They got a station somewhere in New Brunswick; and if they're tipped off, they can still head us off from the fuel dump outside Nelson."

"So what? If it get's too tough, we can plant her on the water near the Gontingen and clamber aboard with the formula."

"Yeh, but we don't get paid for planting her on the water."

"We'll get the dough for the book, won't we?"

"Sure, but after all the trouble we took so far, I don't like throwing all this away. This is a swell boiler, Muggy."

"I know.... I know. But there's still a nice slice of jack in the book."

"Maybe you like the book. I like the boiler, and I think we was chumps to let that broad wander about like we did."

"Don't worry, she'll be mooching about that island for a week before anyone finds her. She'll get a chunk of publicity out of it and everything will look just like that—a gag. I tell you, Plunk, that was a swell idea. The cops won't give her a tumble. They run into a million gags by publicityseekers like that every year."

"I still don't like it."

"Okay. What are we gonner do about it now? It's too late, and we had to get away quick, 'cause if that Griffon guy gets his hooks into us, we're gonners."

"Well, don't let that Mick mug back there pull anything on you. He's a hostage, you understand? We may have to use him yet. I don't like that Griffon guy."

"I'd like to know how the hell the Mick got up there to No Man's Land," the man named Muggy growled. "Damnedest thing I ever heard of. He's the guy who took the case up to Yardley and was supposed to 'go up' in the taxi. I'll never forget Brussage's face when we dragged him in."

The pilot sniffed: "That's what gets me. He must have come in a boat, somehow, and hid the damn thing somewhere. You see, that's what gets my nanny. If that jane found that boat and got away, she could raise hell."

"Um," mumbled Muggy. "I'd like to go back and punch that Mick who says his name's Pulski, smack in the eye."

"Well," grinned Plunk Maheffey, "you got a good chance now. He's tied up tight as a drum back there."

JUST at that minute, however, Anton Brassage charged into the control pit. He was a sharp-featured man with long thin hands. He looked weary and haunted, and a full day's growth of beard did not help any. He was trying to talk, but somehow his mouth would not make any sound. Only his arms seemed to be able to indicate his terror.

"What the...?" Plunk Maheffey blarted out. "What's up?"

"It's that guy—the guy in the black bus. I just saw the plane a short distance below us. He's on us, I tell you."

"Well, what are you waiting for. Give him a packet from those lower turret guns."

Muggy Minturn, the co-pilot, slipped out of his seat, darted under the instrument board, and wriggled his way up into the forward gun turret. He-warned the man behind the 40 m.m. Madsen to be on the lookout ready to give the black plane everything he could throw. Then he slipped back again and followed Brassage down the companionway past the small but compact radio compartment and came out in the main cabin.

"Where is he?" Minturn demanded, peering out a side window.

"You'll find out," laughed Barney from his uncomfortable position on top of a bomb locker. "If you guys got any brains, you'll turn right back and put this boiler down where you just took off from. You'll never get away from him."

"Shut up, mug!" Minturn snarled trying to peer back through the darkness.

"Look, there he is, climbing higher now," Brassage pointed. "See, there's the glare from his exhausts."

Minturn stood and studied the oncoming ship, then slipped back toward the upper-rear gun mounting. He climbed up on the dural platform, loaded the Browning guns, and waited. The gun was fitted to a cross-bar with a swivel attachment and the barrel fitted through a long narrow slot running through the center of the domed glass turret.

He drew a bead and let a wild screaming burst sing out toward the oncoming Black Bullet—only to see the flame pennons from the Avia's exhaust veer over and swing away.

"The swine!" he growled as he stepped back. Then he glared at Barney again. He stood thinking a minute, then whispered something to Brassage. For several minutes they consulted quietly and then Minturn went back to the gun turret and began dismantling the gun mounting. He then swung the revolving glass turret so that the opening was clear. The two halves of the dome folded down into slots in the side of the turret and left a normal open cockpit.

"Come on, mug," he said to Barney when he came back. "Up on your hocks. You're going outside for some air."

He yanked Barney up on his feet and steadied him while Brassage searched the side lockers for more rope.

Barney stood there, his mind thumping out ideas while Minturn released the bindings about his knees. The instant his legs were free he brought his knee up quickly and caught Muggy full under the chin.

"Gah-r-r-rg!" Minturn gulped and rolled over like a pole-axed steer.

Brassage stood terrified for a minute while Barney lunged at him, one shoulder down like a blocking back. Brassage yelled and went down in a heap with Barney on top of him. Brassage, terrorstricken, fought and clawed at Barney's face like a wild man and managed to gain time for Minturn, who had rolled over blinking, and bleeding from the mouth.

Barney's arms were still lashed behind him and he was fighting mainly with his knees and head. In no time he was a sorry mess of blood, but he still fought grimly.

"Muggy! Muggy!" Brassage screamed, as Minturn staggered to his feet. "Get him, Muggy!"

Barney got to his knees and poised for a crash at Muggy, but Muggy staggered at the last second and Barney, missing him, went crashing across the cabin to bash his head against a sharp dural girder. Barney went out like a light, with a cruel gash opening across his forehead like a slowly grinning mouth.

Both Brassage and Minturn took a breather for a minute, then struggled to get the unconscious Barney to his feet. They managed to get him into the rear turret and then went back for another coil of rope.

Together they threaded the heavy rope through Barney's arms and brought the ends back into the cabin. Then hoisting him feet first, they rammed him up through the gun mounting and placed him outside, lengthwise upon the back of the fuselage. They laced him there securely and peered up at the black plane that hovered over them.

"There you are, guy," Brassage raged. "There's something to shoot at."

"You know," said Minturn, gasping, "I have an idea that bird up there might know who this mug is."

"I hope he does. He won't try any funny stuff then."

"But how the hell they worked all this I can't figure. You run into a mug cold on West Street and kid him to deliver a bag to a doll in a theatre. You set him down on a ticker hoping to blow him to bits, but in about thirty hours he pops up again on an island about a hundred and fifty miles away. Not only that but somehow he manages to sick this bird on us again. There's something screwy, somewhere."

"Yeh? Well, how would you like to be tied up out there?" gagged Brassage.

"I still wish we wuz down Okay at Nelson. Things have gone too smooth so far. It don't taste right to me yet, even though we got that egg trussed up out there."

"Well, let's go forward and put Jimbo to work with that howitzer of his. What the hell we got that cannon up there for, anyway?"

* * * *

"I DON'T like this," the Griffon was saying through his phones to Miss Yardley. "There they are, but what can we do about it if Pulski's aboard?"

"It's certainly exciting so far. They'll have to come down for fuel some time, won't they?" the girl asked, peering ahead at the tank-plane over the pilot's shoulder.

"What do you think we're going to run on?" the Griffon asked with a smirk.

"I hadn't thought of that," the girl replied. "Look, they're firing at us again."

A shell from the 40 m.m. Madsen crashed near them, and Keen had to clear again. Then as he swerved away he caught the ominous outline of a figure lying flat on the top of the tank-plane cabin. Keen snarled, reached for his glasses.

"Here, snap those night-lens filters down and see what you make of that?" he said to the girl. But he had sensed already what it was, laying out there.

"It looks like a man—a body," the girl whispered. "Just a minute.... Yes.... It's Pulski. They've killed him and are trying to throw him overboard. Oh—!"

"Wait a minute," snapped the Griffon. "Wait a minute. He's not dead, is he? Look! His legs keep jerking up. They've tied him out there to hold us off, the dirty swine!"

"But look—that stain alongside the body. That might be blood. They've probably hurt him badly."

"They'd have to, to get him out there. I'll bet they knew they were in a fight," grinned the Griffon.

"But what can we do?" Miss Yardley pleaded. "We can't leave him out there."

"Sure! We'll just go down and clip him off. Nothing to it," moaned the Griffon, feeling helpless. "Just go down and clip him off. Any ideas?"

"Did you see Whispering Wings?" the girl said suddenly. "I wore this costume throughout most of the picture."

"No, I didn't see Whispering Wings. What do you think I am, a movie moron?"

"Well you really missed something. I'll bet I could pull it again."

"Pull what again?" said Keen still peering down toward the tank-plane.

"That mid-air change to get the plans of the Pacific fortifications the syndicate had stolen," the girl said with excitement.

The Griffon turned around sharply. "You mean to say you actually pulled something like that —no doubles?"

"Look here, young man," Miss Yardley said. "We can't get away with that these days. Most of that went out with the Keystone Cops. We have to do plenty of stunts. I had a parachute, of course, but it didn't show in the film because the action was 'shot' from the front."

"You think you could get down there and release Pulski?" the Griffon said hollowly.

"Why not? There's enough room on the back of that bus to stage a dance contest. Can you get me down there?"

"I can slip you into Pulski's vest pocket—if you've got the nerve," the Griffon said. "Here, you climb into my chute harness as soon as I can slip out of it. Then I'll drop my pontoons and give you something to work from. Take my gun and the one in the cockpit holster there behind you—and that big knife."

As he gave the girl these instructions, he was unfastening the straps of his harness and slipping his arms out of it. The girl took it and with a professional air adjusted the straps to fit her and buckled it over her suede leather coat and gabardine jodhpurs. Then she took the Griffon's kapok jacket and gun belt, slipped into them, and tucked the extra gun inside her jacket. The heavy hunting knife was slipped in a loop of the gun belt.

"Cut the ropes of his legs first," the Griffon advised. "Let him roll over a bit before you cut the rope that is holding him down. Understand?"

The girl nodded grimly and tightened the belt another notch.

"If you miss and go down, don't worry, I'll come down and pick you up. But don't cut him loose unless he is able to take care of himself."

"You watch me," the girl said gamely. "You didn't see Whispering Wings, eh? You think all pretty movie stars have doubles to take all their risks? Well, I'll show you, Mister Ginsberg-Griffon!"

"I'll swipe all of Pulski's photographs of you, if you get away with this one, baby!" beamed the Griffon, yanking the lever that lowered the pontoons. "I'll even go to see you in Whispering Wings."

"Let's go!"

"Now look here. Once you make contact, I'll slam up front and blind them and give you plenty of time. If you get away with it, make them plant her down somewhere along the beach on Cape Cod, just this side of the Chatham Light, if possible. Then leave the rest to me."

"You leave it to me, Mister Griffon," the girl replied.

"All the best, sister!" the Griffon grinned, opening the rear portion of the cockpit top. "Thanks. Here we go for Whispering Wings again," she smiled.

The Griffon steadied the plane while the girl clambered out onto the wing. He eased away from a long wild shot from the tank-plane's Madsen and watched her slip down to the pontoon. In a minute, her head appeared again just forward of the leading edge, and he knew she was crouching on the port pontoon where she could lower herself from the forward strut and drop to the back of the plane below.

Keen swerved around, dropped below the tail of the tank-plane, and slowly lowered his flaps. Then gradually he eased her forward well out of line from the tank-plane's front gun and crept up to the knife-like tail-fin, The seconds seemed to crawl by like hours, but suddenly he flipped his nose up to clear the fin and then eased back on the throttle. The Black Bullet seemed to hover a second, and a shot rang out from somewhere up front, sending a streak of fire hissing past the top of the black amphibian.

There was a slight jerk—and the Griffon knew Miss Yardley had slipped off. He rammed the throttle forward, the Black Bullet leaped away, and the Griffon pulled two levers.

One drew the flaps up and the other released a blinding cloud of black smoke that completely enveloped the tank-plane. He could hear the tankplane's cannon barking at him somewhere behind. Streaks of saffron flame spat past him, but he had to stay there to give the girl a chance to release Barney and get him inside again.

He hung on as long as he dared, then swerved clear and climbed like a madman. He circled wide, came around again, and looked below. There was no phosphorus signal flare down on the water, neither was there a bound figure kicking on the back of the tank plane.

"Holy Moses!" he gasped. "She got away with it!"

MISS YARDLEY made a perfect contact, landed lightly on the tips of her toes, sprawled forward, and clutched at the recumbent Barney, who simply gagged: "What the hell?"

"You all right?" Miss Yardley husked into his ear.

"Swell! The air's lovely. What the hell?" Barney gagged.

Miss Yardley asked no more questions. With a quick flip she severed the cords that bound Barney's ankles. Then she hung on with one hand and helped him turn slightly with the other. Yanking the knife out of her teeth she slashed again and shoved Barney forward. He dropped down inside of the ship with a thud, and she plunged in after him.

She sniffed, still choking from the smoke screen that the Griffon had laid over the plane to hide their coup. Then she got to her knees, ripping out a gun. A figure charged at them and she pulled the trigger.

A report rang out, and the man stumbled forward, collapsed in a heap at her feet.

"You're still playing Whispering Wings, eh, Miss Yardley?" Barney gagged, as he clambered over the body of Anton Brassage. "Gimme one 'o them guns and I'll join you."

He snatched at the extra gun she lugged out of her jacket and struggled forward. Muggy Mintern came out of the radio room and started to hurl a large bar of iron. Barney stopped him cold with a shot that spun him around twice and hurled him into a corner.

"Tie him up. Never mind the blood!" Barney yelled.

"Mister Ginsberg said to make them put it down along the beach this side of Chatham Light— on the Cape," the girl screeched.

"Okay! Where's that other guy?" yelled Barney, reaching inside the radio cabin. The girl heard a scream and a heavy thud, and Barney came out with the big automatic clutched by the barrel. He had clubbed someone into submission.

"And rope that bird up too," he barked, jerking his thumb toward the open door. "I'll send another through for you in a minute, A Mister Plunk Maheffey—an old friend of yours."

"He's no friend of mine," Miss Yardley grinned, "but I'll be glad to slip him a little attention."

Barney ripped the control-pit door wide, shoved his homely mug through.

Maheffey jerked around, glared into the muzzle of a big blue-black automatic.

"Okay, Maheffey. Lock them controls a minute and come out fer yer bindings. An' what's more, I'll relieve yer of the little black book—you know, that nice leather-bound. book yer have tucked away in yer shirt there."

"How the hell—?" Maheffey started to say. But Barney suddenly spun quickly, fired toward the floor of the cockpit where Jimbo was emerging from the forward turret. There was a flash of flame in return from that opening below the instrument board. Maheffey let out a scream, plunged forward over the wheel.

Barney snatched quickly and pulled him off. He drew the wheel back gently and eased the ship out of her sudden dive.

"Too bad, Jimbo," he muttered, "but you were just a bit too late and you hit the wrong guy."

He held the wheel steady with one hand. Jimbo, the cannon operator, was now dead in the companionway that ran between the control pit and his front turret.

"Okay, Miss Yardley," yelled Barney. "They're all accounted for. We'll go down. There's Chatham Light." He fumbled with the controls for some time and finally found the touch. He reached over and jerked at the wave-length lever on the set near his left elbow and picked up the hand-mike.

"Okay, Ginsberg," he reported. "Where'll I set her down?"

"Along that stretch of beach just above Harwich there. How did it go?" came the reply from the Black Bullet.

"Swell. Didn't I tell you Miss Yardley had the stuff?"

"How do you feel?"

"Ouch! What a head! I hope you left that— that container in the locker, there."

"It's all there—except the label," laughed Keen. "Put her down along that stretch and wellup to clear the tide."

WITHIN ten minutes two planes slipped down out of the darkness and rumbled along the hard packed sands toward the shadows thrown by the high cliffs. Keen was out first, leaving his engine ticking over. He hurried to the cabin door of the tank-plane.

"Come on! Move fast! Here comes a Coast Guard guy down the beach. We had better leave the tank-plane and get Miss Yardley back to—well, somewhere near a railroad station.

"They're all tied up in there tight as drums, those that are still alive. Here's the book they were all so keen about," barked Barney.

"Give it to Miss Yardley—and for heaven's sake, hurry!"

Reluctantly they turned away after giving the massive tank-plane a last look-over. Then they ran toward the Black Bullet and clambered aboard. Miss Yardley and Barney had to huddle together in the back compartment while the Griffon took off before the amazed eyes of the Coast Guardsman who had hurried up.

A short time later the Black Bullet dropped down on the darkened runway of the Providence, R. I., airport, ran along for a few yards, then hurriedly discharged a young girl dressed in jodhpurs and a suede coat. Then the black plane raced away again and disappeared into the darkness.

* * * *

"BUT I tell you I have no idea who they were," Miss Doreen Yardley was saying to John Scott the next morning after she had freshened herself up on the ride down from Providence. "All I know is that they said their names were—"

"—Ginsberg and Pulski," broke in Drury Lang. "We know that part of it by heart. What we want to know is who they really are and where they come from."

"Ginsberg and—" Miss Yardley started again.

Drury Lang blew up.

"Yes.... Yes. But where did they come from? And where did they go to? That's what we want to know."

"Well, I first saw this man Pulski behind the stage at the Palace Royal that afternoon. He delivered what I believed to be my jewel case—it had been brought out from Hollywood."

"Hollywood? What the deuce was this guy Pulski doing out in Hollywood?"

"I don't know whether he was out there at all."

"But you just said your case came out from Hollywood and that this Pulski guy delivered it."

"Well he did. But he got it from a friend of mine named Brussage, who somehow has disappeared."

"Brassage? Why, that's the name of the guy who stole the case containing the formula—the guy they found dead in the tank-plane last night out at Cape Cod. What the devil does all this mean?"

"Don't ask me. They told me to hand this book to you. I don't know what it's all about. But here it is."

"Look here, Miss Yardley," Scott broke in quietly. "Did you ever meet, or know, a man by the name of Barney O'Dare?"

"Who's that? Sounds like a character in a musical comedy."

"You never met a man by the name of O'Dare?"


"All you know is that you were kidnapped, taken on board a cabin cruiser to an island off Cape Cod, and abandoned. Then you were picked up by a man named Ginsberg who flew a black plane of some sort. From there you were taken to the Providence airport and left in the middle of the runway. Then they gave you this book and told you to deliver it to me here in New York. Is that it?" asked John Scott, searching Miss Yardley with his eyes.

"That's it exactly."

"What's the matter?" said Scott slowly. "Your last picture, Whispering Wings, not going so well?"

"I think it's going swell. They're standing in line at the Palace Royal right now."

"Well, you don't suppose we're falling for any such story as that do you?"

"I don't care what you do."

"Well, considering that the plane was abandoned somewhere on Cape Cod, reasonably intact, and that we have recovered this important formula, we'll forget that publicity yarn."

"What about my jewelry?" Miss Yardley said. "Do you think I threw it away?"

"Some of you movie people would do anything for a headline. Besides, I suppose it's insured, isn't it. Let the insurance dicks worry about that. But if you ever meet a guy by the name of O'Dare, and you recognize him, you tip us off, and we'll get you some real publicity."

"Even if I could, I wouldn't pull a dirty trick like that," laughed Miss Yardley. "Besides, I'm going back to Hollywood to-morrow. Things are too hot here in the east."

"Yeh, ya can't get doubles to take the bumps for you out here, can you, Miss Yardley?" smirked Lang.

The girl went out with a joyous laugh in her voice, and Lang wondered what she meant when she said: "You're right, Hawkshaw!"

* * * *

"YOU heard what I said," barked Keen, as Barney suffered the first-aid ministrations to his forehead. "You're packing a bag at once and getting out of here as soon as you can get. Go anywhere—fast. And lay low for two or three weeks. But send me a telegram, just so I can show it to old Lang. He still thinks you were mooching about New York when that taxi blew up."

"Well, he's right," gurgled Barney, gripping the neck of an O'Doul's Dew bottle.

"Sure, but we don't want him to know it. By the way, why did you stop me from firing on that plane the first time we saw it the other night?"

"I don't quite know now. Irish intuition, I suppose. You see, the day before when that mug was riding uptown with me to take that brown case in to Miss Yardley, he pulled out a wad of papers from his inside pocket to write her a note. With those papers was a photograph of the tank-plane, an' naturally I wondered what it was. I got a good look at it because it fell on the floor of the taxi and I picked it up."

"I still don't get it."

"Well, when I first saw that bus that night, I suddenly got it into my nut that Miss Yardley was a prisoner on board. When I left you after we got back, I went back to New York and tried to find out where she was—just a silly hunch. Then I saw the papers—all about her being missing, and the fact that her car was found abandoned down near Barclay street."

"But what gave you the idea she was on board?"

"Well, soon after I got out of that taxi, I heard the explosion and hurried along with the mob and saw that it was the same taxi I had been riding in. I realized at once that something was queer. I didn't know what to do about it, and I figured that if I told the cops, they'd question me and finally they would ring Miss Yardley in on it."

"So you kept quiet to shield her. Cripes! You must be in love with her."

"Shut up! You know I don't like cops. Anyway, I cleared off, but I somehow couldn't forget the picture of that crazy plane and the more I thought about it, the more I figured that this guy Brussage was going to use it to kidnap Miss Yardley.... for some cock-eyed reason."

"Well, you were only partly right. How did you find out that she had been held a prisoner and finally rushed away in a motor boat?"

"Gee, that was funny. When I found out about her being missing and her car being left down there on West Street, I took a wander down that way and saw the cops going over the car for fingerprints, and all that bunk. Then I cleared off again and further down West Street I ran into a drunk who had a dump down under one of the piers—a dock rat, if ever there was one."

"So what?"

"Well, he's sittin' there staring at a twenty dollar bill he said some guys had given him for letting them use his shed. I kinder gabbed with him for a while and then got the story. These guys had blown in late that afternoon and they had a girl with them who was dressed in men's pants. I got the idea at once that this was Miss Yardley, because she still had on the costume she wore on the stage—the same one she used in the film Whispering Wings. And then I really got hot.

"I found out that they had inquired about this island, No Man's Land, and how far it was. They had a boat come around and left about ten o'clock."

"Why didn't you call me?"

"I spent so much time getting it all straight with this guy and getting him drunker so that he wouldn't talk to anyone else. Then it was too late to call you. I did try once, but you didn't answer. Cripes, how you can sleep!"

"But the next morning?"

"I tried twice again, but you were out, I guess. So I tore about getting a boat and then I realized that you might go down to see old Scott. I saw you go in, but was too late to stop you. And I didn't dare call Scott's number."

"You were quite right."

"Anyway, I knew you'd be coming out, and the best thing I knew was to leave that note for you, and beat it, for fear you might be shadowed later. I got a boat and got up there, but they nailed me when I was foundering around in the darkness. Miss Yardley recognized me and I told her you would be there. I used your 'Ginsberg' name, of course, and slipped her my flashlight to signal you."

"Well, it all worked out okay but we were certainly taking chances."

"That's the fun of it, ain't it?" laughed Barney. "Now what do I have to do?"

"Get out of here. Take a train for anywhere about 500 miles away and then send me a telegram. Stay away for about two weeks until this gash heals a trifle and then you can ease back. But for heaven's sake act drunk when you arrive."

"That's easy," grinned Barney. "Wasn't I 'tanked' up for quite a while last night?"

"One more gag like that and I'll—Well, get the devil out of here. I've got a paper to prepare. But stay away from Miss Yardley—for you'll run afoul of Scott and Lang if you don't."

"What a gal! What a gal!" clucked Barney. Then he suddenly turned and pointed an accusing finger at Keen. "And by the way, a couple of my best photos of Miss Yardley are missing. Would you know where they are?"