Escape from Alcatraz can be found in






G-Men Detective, April 1946

ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ

By EDWARD CHURCHILL

With a dangerous killer from the Rock on the loose, Dan
Fowler and his aides battle against odds to stem a grim
tide of violent crime that sweeps over the West Coast
!

CHAPTER I
Rock Crushers

KILLER Joe Boyd, knowing that a steel-jacketed bullet might drill a hole through the back of his big, black-matted head at any moment, drew great draughts of fresh, salty air into his barrel chest at the surface of marrow-chilling San Francisco Bay. Not enough yards behind his hard, lean body lay Alcatraz, the Rock, dismal in the damp night air, coldly menacing—a cement-hearted mistress who had embraced him for five years and even now was loath to let him go.

Somewhere, not far away in the wisp-draped, icy waters was Boyd's pal, Harry "The Snatch" Drake, alternately straining his weaker muscles and smaller lungs in the same mad effort to flee a life which was no better than death. That is, Drake had been a pal for three years of preparing for the crush-out. Now he was, potentially, a hindrance. "Killer" Joe Boyd had no more use for the kidnapper who had worked with him to make the escape possible.

Yes, the granite-faced warden and the Federal rats who worked for him claimed that escape from the Rock was impossible. A prisoner couldn't get free of surveillance. He couldn't whip bars, locks and alarm systems. If he finally got into the bay they would put lights on him and blow off the top of his bobbing head, or round him up with boats. Finally, the strong currents of the bay would conquer the strength of any man, turn him into a water-logged corpse.

The inspiration for the break, plus promise of help once it had been made, had come from outside long ago. After that pledge to aid him, Killer Joe Boyd had made a comprehensive, methodical plan. Then he had timed it. That was the secret—timing and planning.

First, he had needed help inside, as well as from beyond the walls of that grim prison in the center of the channel. He had taken Harry Drake into his confidence. They had first set their sights on jobs involving the maintenance of the powerful engines of the prison's launches and speedboats. As both had had experience as mechanics before stepping outside the law, they got the jobs.

The knife which had reached the hearts of two guards this night had been made from the handle of a wrench supposedly dropped carelessly overboard. For months it had been taking shape as a knife, always concealed in the bilges of the launches when not being hammered into a sharp, pointed weapon.

KILLER Joe Boyd had watched the tides and had developed his own tables as he worked on the boats. He had watched the courses taken by uncounted pieces of floating debris to learn the treacherous, deadly currents. He had observed the weather until he could tell by the feel of the air just when a fog would roll in. He knew the nights on which there would be either a fingernail moon or no moon at all, just in case the fog lifted at the wrong time.

For many months the two prisoners had tried to contrive a plan by which they could steal a speedboat, but had given it up as impossible. The next best thing was to take to the water, leaving behind them vessels with crippled engines—one with spark plug points touching, another with a gasoline line plugged, a third with a distributor head missing.

This night they had left their jobs with their work well done—for themselves. Then, by careful timing, they had made their rendezvous. Harry Drake had used the knife neatly and quickly while Killer Joe Boyd had choked their two unwary victims.

Boyd lunged from the depths for air, dived quickly, swam for about fifteen yards with the current—not against it—wondering when their escape would be discovered. The next time his head emerged, he got the answer. Bells were clanging, sirens were wailing inside the prison. Huge searchlights darted over the water, filtering through the thin gray veil. The fugitive turned for an instant, saw the stuttering ochre of machine gun fire.

He filled his lungs, glad in this fateful moment that he had cut out cigarettes six months before, had practiced deep-breathing exercises, and had timed himself while he held his breath to accustom himself to the torture of lungs trying to burst under water. He had been smart to strip every bit of unneeded weight from his six-foot-two-inch body.

Every inch he went meant the difference between life and death. He fought against panic. The next time he came up, his small, narrow-set black eyes told him his carefully laid plans were menaced by a filmy white glow. Harry Drake was no more than fifteen feet away. He was limned in the fog-dulled edge of a searchlight.

"Save me, Killer!" he heard Drake shout. "I got a cramp!"

Killer Joe Boyd faced death—and Drake was the cause of it.

"Work your way over here!" Boyd shouted.

Drake floundered in his direction. Boyd rolled over on his broad back, treading water. He was thinking that with the searchlights on them, one head was better than two.

"Get on your back, Harry," he directed. "I'll hold you up until you shake the cramp."

The unsuspecting Drake back-watered toward Boyd. Boyd's hairy, gorilla-like left arm closed over Drake's windpipe, not over his chest. His right hand went to Drake's waist and removed the knife. The thin, luckless Drake fought for a moment—until sharp steel sliced between his ribs.

Machine gun and rifle bullets kicked up little geysers around the pair. Boyd pushed Drake from him, looked at the fading walls of the Federal prison while he made bellows of his lungs.

"Shoot at Drake!" he thought. "He won't mind." Then he went under again. This time, when he emerged, the walls of the dread prison were behind a curtain of fog.

Now Boyd played his final card. Wrapped around his body was a heavy muslin cloth, the type of cloth used in water wings. It had been formed into a tube. The soaking it had received made it waterproof. Boyd pulled a narrow neck of the fabric to his mouth, blew into it, sending air into the muslin roll which encircled him.

Then he knotted the neck.

Even Harry Drake hadn't known Boyd had made that simple lifesaver.

Currents indicated that he was moving fast toward the Golden Gate. If he had figured right, he would soon be close to the Marin County shore.

Using the dull glow of the fog-blurred searchlight rays to give him his direction, he swam powerfully.

Two hours before dawn, colder than he had ever been in his life, panting and spent, he felt his feet strike muddy bottom. His chest ached worst of all, the result of a bullet wound he had received in a gunfight long before.

But who cared about aches and pains now? He was safe for the moment. He had memorized the address where, in a small private garage, an automobile, clothes and a gun were waiting him.

They had taken five years of his life away from him. Now he would make up for it. Inside of a week, he would be a millionaire!

TALL, angular, rough-hewn Inspector Dan Fowler, for years one of the F.B.I.'s most resolute man- hunters, ran a ruffling, tired hand through his already mussed dark hair as his long legs drove him across an inner room in the San Francisco field offices of that organization. He stopped at the window, looked down onto the night-darkened city from far above teeming Sutter street. His square-cut chin showed what shaving advertisements called a "five o'clock shadow," but it was nearer midnight than that hour. His usually clear, piercing gray eyes, set wide apart, were red-rimmed and bloodshot from lack of sleep. His face was heavy with perplexity.

He swung around alertly at the click of a latch.

A tall, slender and impeccably dressed young man of his own age grinned at him. Not so tall as Fowler, not so broad of shoulder, but alert-muscled beneath the perfectly fitting sharkskin suit. Debonair as he was, he had the chilled look of the skilled sleuth in his twinkling eyes, which were shaded by a rakishly worn soft fedora.

Inspector Dan Fowler shook the fatigue from his body as he detected news in Larry Kendal's expression. After working together for years in the service of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, these two men literally read each other's thoughts.

"You've found something?" Fowler suggested, hopefully.

"Could be," replied Special Agent Kendal. "The Coast Guard patrol stumbled over a body on the beach just south of the Cliff House. I hopped to it. It's Harry 'The Snatch' Drake, in a highly malodorous condition after three days in the drink."

"But no trace of Killer Joe Boyd," Fowler said, his face muscles sagging, giving him a gaunt expression.

"Not a lead, Dan. We found out that Drake was killed by a stab wound, not by drowning. Same kind of wound as those in the bodies of the Alcatraz guards. Plain he hadn't drowned, because there wasn't much water in his lungs. We identified him from fingerprints at the Rock."

"Which means that somewhere along the line of escape, Boyd used a knife on Drake," said Fowler. "One thing that it does show definitely is that our murderous Boyd was still alive when The Snatch went to his just reward. But that doesn't mean anything now, because we already know from several different sources that Boyd was still healthy a long time after that. Honestly, this gets me, Larry."

"Me, too." Kendal shook his head. "A sadistic killer like that, with a record a yard long. A rat who got life in Alcatraz for kidnapping. He's known all over the world. He's in every crime file."

"It's a challenge to me, Larry," Dan Fowler declared furiously. "For three days we've had hundreds of F.B.I. men working on the case. We've had the full cooperation of more than ten thousand local enforcement officers and of the Armed Services. We've broadcast pictures, descriptions and fingerprints. Yet the trail disappears as if Boyd had taken off on a magic carpet. It's the first time I've failed."

"What about Sally Vane, the beautiful blond G- lady?" Kendal asked. "She usually comes through for you. What's she uncovered in Seattle? Wasn't she supposed to watch Boyd's moll?"

"Just talked to her on the phone. The moll's moved six times in the last year. Sally can't even find her."

"She will," Kendal said, philosophically. "She never fails to get her woman. And some day she'll get you. She'll tag you with a summons to matrimony, and that'll be that."

Fowler smiled.

"I wish she would. For me, that'll be just the beginning."

"I can take my love or leave it alone," Kendal said. "But let's skip my bachelor tendencies. What's new? The last I heard on Boyd was that he'd been near Sausalito."

"That's only the start," Fowler told him. "He got a gun, clothes, and a car somewhere and lammed. A California Highway Patrol car picked him up east of Sacramento and shot it out with him. The patrolmen ditched his car and wrecked it, but he killed one officer, wounded the other, and got away on foot. He apparently hid out for a day near the California-Nevada state line. Then he stole a car at Reno, gunning the owner.

"Next he shot the proprietor of a filling station just outside Winnemucca, Nevada, when the fellow refused him gas without ration stamps. Filled his tank, loaded three five-gallon cans of gasoline, cleaned out the till and jerked a fresh set of license plates off a wrecked car. Then he vanished."

"Hear anything from around Winnemucca?" Kendal asked.

Fowler pointed to a paper-littered desk.

"Had plenty of telegrams and telephone calls," he said. "But there wasn't a follow-up in a carload. I've checked back on every tip. I've even run down a few myself. And there's not a thing. If—"

HE WAS interrupted by a knock on the door of the outside office. "I'll get it!" Kendal exclaimed.

He hurried from the inner office and returned, holding a telegram toward his running mate.

"You open it," Fowler directed "I've had enough bad news for one day."

Kendal did, and reported:

"It's from a gent named Bill Agee, Chief of Police in a place called Fort Centralia. The telegram says: HAVE FOUND HEADLESS HANDLESS MALE TORSO FIVE MILES WEST OF CITY. MAY BE WORK OF KILLER JOE BOYD."

He tossed the telegram on the top of the already littered desk.

"You're right, Dan," he agreed. "Every time a killer gets on the loose every smalltime peace officer with crime on his hands thinks the fugitive did it."

Dan Fowler leaped forward and snatched up the telegram.

"Wait a minute!" he exclaimed. "I've got a hunch. Look at this!"

He turned, went to the wall map, where he traced a line from Winnemucca to Fort Centralia, a town the map indicated had a population of thirty-five thousand. It was located near the Canadian border.

"We know Boyd was driving a nineteen-forty Prescott sedan when he hit Winnemucca. That car has a capacity of fifteen gallons and cruises about fifteen miles to the gallon. In other words, with a full tank Boyd could only go two hundred and twenty-five miles. But he wanted to get a lot farther than that—about four hundred miles without stopping again on his trip and either getting picked up or leaving a trace.

"To cover that four hundred miles and still have a safe margin of fuel he needed fifteen more gallons. Put yourself in his shoes there at the filling station. Cars were passing on the highway, and anyone might stop for servicing. The filling station man was lying on the floor, dead. Boyd was the hottest fugitive in the country, and he knew it.

"If he had wanted to go farther than four hundred miles, he would have taken the time to find one or more additional five-gallon cans and filled them. If he didn't want to go that far he would have loaded less gas. He stole just the amount he needed because every minute he spent at the scene of his crime threatened him with apprehension, the rope, the chair or the lethal chamber."

"Very neat," conceded Kendal. "But you overlook the fact that he could go four hundred miles in just about any direction from Winnemucca except due west."

Fowler smiled indulgently.

"Six years ago, when you were out in Utah investigating those interstate silk shipment thefts, Adolph Mannerheim, the brewer, was kidnapped from his New York penthouse and held on Long Island for two hundred thousand ransom. At that time, Butch Hogan, the Brooklyn gang leader, who had turned from brewing beer and running whisky in prohibition days, to the policy racket, gambling houses and kidnapping, was suspected of the snatch. Mannerheim paid off, and there was evidence to show that Butch Hogan got the dough, and he and his right-hand man and liquidator, Killer Joe Boyd, had a falling out."

"I get it now!" Kendal exclaimed. "If I remember correctly, Butch Hogan's butchered torso was found in a ditch near Amityville, Long Island!"

"Right," said Fowler. "His head and hands were gone—the killer had cut up the body to destroy identification. Killer Joe Boyd was tried by a New York criminal courts jury and acquitted for lack of evidence. But we later proved the kidnapping of Mannerheim was his work, and he went to Alcatraz."

"For life, and that wasn't long enough," Kendal added.

Fowler nodded.

"Grab a telephone," he said, "and charter a plane. This murder at Fort Centralia looks as if Killer Joe Boyd is up to his old tricks. Looks as if he might have squared an old account, and could have gone on to Canada. I'm going to call Chief of Police Agee in Fort Centralia and see if there's anything new on the crime."

CHAPTER II
Headless Corpse

INSPECTOR Dan Fowler and Special Agent Larry Kendal looked down on the battered, mutilated, nude torso of the unknown victim. Four men who had accompanied the F.B.I. investigators to the grisly grave not far from a majestic pine tree on the slope fifty yards from a little-used dirt road, also stared morbidly. The seventh man had been introduced as Sheriff Hal Twoomey.

The slanting, golden rays of the morning sun made the brutally butchered flesh even more repulsive than it would have been in a morgue or a crime laboratory. Fowler found it difficult to reconcile the hate and cruelty of such a murder with the beauty of the pine-covered hills, the rolling, misty, tranquil countryside.

"When I saw the timber wolf, he was chawin' on somethin' right here," a tall, thin man in blue jeans, high-heeled boots and flannel shirt open at the collar, was telling Fowler. "I rode over the rise yonder just at dusk.

"My cattle range here, and I been havin' trouble with wolves. I been watchin' for 'em. When I seen this big feller I fired from the saddle—and missed. The wolf ran into the timber. I come down here and found—this."

He pointed at the torso. Then he grinned sheepishly at Fowler.

"I was ridin' a new sorrel mare and she was gun-shy. The light was bad, too. First time I ever missed a wolf."

"No alibis, Lem," admonished Chief of Police Agee, grinning at the cowman. "You're talking to the F.B.I."

Agee was blond, blue-eyed and young of face in spite of three years in the United States Marine Corps. Prior to that, Agee had informed Fowler, he had held his present job and had been graduated from the F.B.I. National Police Academy. Fowler noted his calm, hard- muscled body, his quality of alertness. He wore a green uniform of military cut.

Fowler drew a deep breath of clear, pine-scented air. "Suppose everything's the way you found it?" he ...

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