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Title: Flash Evans and the Darkroom Mystery

Author: Frank Bell

Release date: October 7, 2017 [eBook #55693]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Stephen Hutcheson and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


Flash Evans and the Darkroom Mystery


and the



Publishers : : New York



Copyright, 1940, By



8 “HELLO, HERO” 66
19 A LOST KEY 159

and the


“Sorry, son. There are no jobs open. Afraid we can’t use these pictures, either.”

Tom Riley, city editor of The Brandale Ledger shoved the stack of glossy black and white prints across the desk toward Jimmy Evans who faced him squarely, a miniature camera protruding from the pocket of his shabby tweed overcoat.

“Well, thanks anyway.”

Jimmy spoke in a flat, discouraged tone as he gathered up the photographs and slid them into a cardboard folder. The editor watched him with a thoughtful gaze.

“You’ve been coming around here quite often, Evans.”


“Yes, I have. I figure there’s no law against trying.”

“Sold us a few pictures, haven’t you?”

“A few,” Jimmy said with a rueful grin. “But lately I haven’t done so well. There must be something radically wrong with my stuff.”

Before the editor could reply, a reporter dashed up to the desk to make a report on a story assignment.

Jimmy assumed that his presence no longer was desirable. He turned to leave.

“Wait a minute, Evans,” said Riley. “Sit down. I’ll be through in a moment. I want to talk to you.”

Jimmy sat down. While the reporter talked to the editor, his eyes wandered over the long news room. The clicking of a dozen typewriters, the absorbed interest of the copy readers as they bent over their work, even the purposeful scurrying about of the office boys, filled him with a vague yearning. It would be great to belong to a place like the Ledger—to have a job of his own!

Presently Riley finished with the reporter and turned to Jimmy again.

“About your pictures, son,” he said. “They’re pretty fair art. What they lack is news punch. The woods are full of fellows who can take pretty pictures; but they wouldn’t recognize a good news shot if you labeled it for them.”


“I’m always anxious to pick up ideas,” answered Jimmy. “Any tips you can give me will be a big help—that is, if you can spare the time, Mr. Riley.”

Jimmy was a tall, slender lad with a thick shock of dark, curly hair and frank gray eyes set in a pleasant, firmly molded face.

The editor smiled at the young man’s persistence and swept a pile of copy paper to one side.

“Well, this thing they call ‘punch’ is hard to define,” he began. “Sometimes it’s a picture which ties up with a big front page story. For instance, a bank robbery, an explosion, or maybe a shipwreck.

“Then again, it may be human interest stuff. A policeman holding up city traffic while a cat carries its kitten across a busy intersection. You see, a free lance photographer must have ideas, and be on the spot when important news is breaking.”

“Isn’t there a lot of luck to that—being on hand when it happens?”

“Yes, but not always,” admitted the editor. “Learn to use your head as well as your feet. Be ready when an opportunity comes along.”

“The one I’m looking for is a steady job on a newspaper.”

“We’re not likely to have an opening on the Ledger for months to come. If a job does turn up, it probably will go to an experienced newspaper photographer.”


“But how can a fellow get experience when no one will give a beginner any chance?”

With a trace of impatience, the editor replied gruffly:

“You’ll have to create your own job. No one will hand it to you on a silver platter. Study news photographs and try to discover what makes them click. Learn how to take good pictures under every possible lighting condition. Then maybe someday you’ll stumble into one so big we couldn’t afford to turn it down.”

Riley reached for a sheet of copy paper, a signal that the interview had ended. But as the young man started away, a tired droop to his shoulders, he added:

“I didn’t intend to discourage you, Evans. You’re young, with plenty of time ahead. Not over eighteen, are you?”


“You look older. Well, keep at it, and one of these days you may make the grade.”

Only slightly encouraged by the words, Jimmy pocketed his samples and left the office. Rather than face the knowing glance of the elevator man, he walked down three flights of steps to the street.


For months now, since graduating from Brandale High School, he had tried without success to obtain a staff position on a newspaper. There was scarcely a newspaper or syndicate in town where he had not been flatly rejected at least once a week. Few editors were as decent about it as Riley of the Ledger.

Jimmy shifted his camera to a more comfortable position, and wandered aimlessly down a street leading toward the waterfront. Where would one find picture material which packed a punch? It was all very well to talk about being in a place where news was breaking, but buildings didn’t explode or ships sink just to oblige an ambitious photographer. His prospect of ever landing a job on the Ledger seemed pretty hopeless.

“Hi, Jimmy!” called a familiar voice. “What are you doing in this part of town?”

Hearing his name, Jimmy turned to see Jerry Hayes, a boy who lived on his street, lounging in the doorway of a corner drugstore.

“Hello, Jerry,” he answered briefly. “Just out job hunting.”

Jerry fell into step with him. “No luck, I’ll bet.”

“It’s the same old story. There’s no place for a beginner.”

“Why don’t you quit playing around with that camera of yours and start looking for other kind of work?”


“Well, I don’t know,” Jimmy returned. “I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to take pictures. My father was city editor on the Brandale Post—that was years ago before the paper folded. I sort of figured I would follow a newspaper career, too.”

“You’ve had a tough time of it since your father died, Jimmy.”

“It’s been worse for Mother than it has for me. What I need is a job.”

“The Red Ball Chain Store is looking for a delivery boy. Why don’t you apply there?”

“Maybe I will. Thanks for the tip.”

They had reached the next corner where the Green Hut Hamburger Diner stood. Jerry paused.

“Let’s have one, Jimmy,” he proposed. “I’ll treat.”

Jimmy hesitated, then shook his head. Lately he had accepted entirely too many favors from his friend.

“Oh, come along,” Jerry urged, pulling him through the doorway.

Jimmy was hungry, for he had not eaten since breakfast and it was now late afternoon. Perched high on a stool at the counter, he watched Gus, the cook, pound sandwich meat into two flat cakes which he slapped on the smoking grille.


“Plenty of excitement around here today,” the man volunteered. “The police caught a fellow wanted for stealing automobiles. They just walked in and yanked him off a stool. Coffee?”

Jimmy nodded mechanically. “Wish I had been here,” he said. “That’s the trouble. I’m never around at the right time.”

As he ate his sandwich, Jimmy stared out the window. He dreaded going home. Not that his mother would blame him for failing to find a position. She encouraged him in his ambition to follow a chosen field of work, but camera supplies constantly drained their slender resources. The small amount of monthly insurance dividends was barely enough to feed and clothe them, and keep his younger sister, Joan, in school. He never accepted pocket money without a sense of shame.

A loud screeching of brakes on the pavement, caused Jimmy to whirl around. A black sedan, ignoring a traffic light which had flashed from green to red, plunged across the intersection at high speed, to crash into the side of a blue automobile driven by a woman.

Both boys leaped down from their stools. Jimmy pulled his miniature camera from his pocket, adjusting it as he ran out into the street.


One of the first persons to reach the scene of the accident, he snapped a picture of the wreck, and then took a second photograph just as the driver of the black sedan stepped to the pavement. Without particularly taking mental note of the fact, Jimmy saw that the man was heavy-set with dark hair and bushy brows. His companion who did not alight appeared to be a tall, thin fellow with a slightly hooked nose.

The woman driver also left her car. One glance at the damaged fenders and she began to berate the two men in an angry voice.

“Just see what you have done! You’ll have to pay for this! It was entirely your fault because you went against the light!”

A crowd had gathered. Opinion was divided as to who had caused the accident, but the majority of pedestrians favored the woman driver. One man offered to telephone for the police.

At mention of the word “police,” the slim fellow spoke in a low tone to his companion, who promptly leaped into the sedan. They drove rapidly away, the car turning at the first corner.

“Someone stop them!” cried the woman helplessly. “I haven’t the license number.”

No other automobile had taken up the pursuit, and indeed, considering the speed of the first car, pursuit seemed useless. Jimmy stepped forward.


“Excuse me,” he said to the woman. “I just took two pictures of the smash-up. The license number ought to show on the negative.”

“Then I could trace the men and have them arrested!”

“Yes,” nodded Jimmy, “and if they refuse to settle, my pictures will serve as court evidence.”

“Thank you, young man. Thank you,” the woman said gratefully. “I’ll be glad to pay you well for your work. How soon may I have the pictures?”

“In an hour. I’ll hurry home and develop them for you right away.”

The woman, Mrs. Clyde Montross of East Moreland Drive, gave Jimmy her engraved card. He, in turn, gave the woman his name and address. Without waiting for the arrival of the police, he hastened toward home in company with his friend, Jerry.

“That was a nice break for me,” he declared. “I should pick up five dollars at least for my pictures. And if the case comes to court I ought to get a witness fee, too.”

“How about selling your pictures to the Ledger?” asked Jerry.

“They wouldn’t be interested. Accident cases are too common.”

“It’s queer how those fellows drove off when someone spoke of calling the police.”


“Oh, they were afraid of being arrested, all right,” Jimmy agreed carelessly. “Well, so long, Jerry. See you later.”

They parted company and Jimmy entered a pleasant, white-painted cottage. His mother was baking cookies, while Joan, his twelve-year-old sister, was perched on the kitchen sink.

“Hello, Jim,” she sang out. “Did you get the job?”

He shook his head, helping himself to a handful of warm cookies.

“No, but I have a chance to pick up a little pocket money by selling some auto-crash pictures. I’m going to develop them now. Mother, I wish you’d tie Joan up so she doesn’t come barging into the darkroom when I’m half finished.”

“I’ll try to keep my eye on her,” Mrs. Evans promised, smiling. Mrs. Evans was a slender, gray-haired woman with kindly blue eyes and a pleasant disposition.

“Oh, go on!” said Joan, tossing her head. “Who wants to see your silly old pictures, anyway?”


Jimmy had taken over a large closet adjoining the bathroom for his photographic laboratory. In addition to a ruby and green lamp, developer and hypo trays, he had equipped it with a film drying machine and had built shelves to hold his chemicals, printing papers and general supplies.

He mixed fresh developer. Then, closing himself in the darkroom, he ran his films through the tray. The two pictures came up quickly. As he studied them beneath the red glow he was elated to see that they both would make good, clear prints. The license number of the black sedan showed plainly, as did the face of the heavy-set driver.

Jimmy had taken the films from the fixing solution and was washing them when Joan rattled the door knob.

“Oh, Jim! Are you about finished?”

“Listen, little half-pint, if you come in here now—”

“Who wants to come in?” she called in a longsuffering voice. “But you’d better hurry! A policeman is downstairs waiting to see you, and he says it’s important!”



Jimmy scarcely knew whether or not to take his sister seriously, but he quickly finished his work and stepped out of the darkroom. Gazing from the window at the end of the hall he saw a police cruising car parked by the curb.

He bounded down the stairway. Two blue-coated policemen were in the living room talking with his mother.

The sergeant arose, surveying him with an appraising glance. “You’re Jim Evans?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We want to talk to you about the auto accident at the corner of Summit and Clark. The lady who owned the blue sedan gave us your name as a witness. Said you took some pictures.”

“That’s right. I just finished developing them.”

“How did they turn out?”

“They’ll make good prints.”

“Do the license plates show?” asked the policeman.


“Yes. I snapped the hit-and-run driver, too, and his companion.”

“Let’s have a look at those films.”

Jimmy led the two policemen upstairs where they examined the wet films. For several minutes they studied the negatives in dead silence while the sergeant compared the car license number with several he had noted down in a little leather book.

“That black sedan was a stolen car,” he said. “Probably abandoned by this time.”

“The heavy-set bird looks like Legs Jovitch,” added the other policeman. “Can’t be sure from this film. Son, rush these through, will you? We’ll have prints made at headquarters.”

“I oughtn’t to take them out of the water for a minute or two yet,” Jimmy protested. “And they take quite a while to dry—”

“Push ’em through as fast as you can,” the sergeant interrupted. “I’ll telephone headquarters.”

As Jimmy worked in the darkroom with the second policeman at his elbow, he thought swiftly. While he wished to cooperate with the law, he didn’t like to relinquish the films and a possible opportunity to profit from them. Vaguely he recalled having read a newspaper story about Legs Jovitch being a notorious bank thief who had escaped from New York state police. Quite by luck he had come into possession of pictures which might pack a news punch.


“I’m glad to let you have these films except for one thing,” he said to the policeman. “I thought I might sell them to the Ledger.”

“Tell you what we’ll do. It’s against regulations but you can ride along to headquarters with us. We’ll have extra prints made there.”

“Suits me fine.”

“Now what do you remember about those two men?”

Jimmy provided the best description he could and was surprised that his mind as well as his camera had photographed so many details.

“Sounds like Legs, all right,” the policeman nodded. “The fellow with him may be Al Morgan—he’s wanted for shooting his way out of a bank down state.”

The films were partly dry by the time Sergeant Bedlow tramped back upstairs after making his telephone call.

“We have orders to proceed to Morewell Avenue right away,” he reported. “We’ll pick up those films later on.”

“You can take them now if you’re careful not to let them touch anything,” Jimmy replied quickly. “Want me to go along and handle them for you?”


“The boy figures on selling his pictures to the Ledger,” explained the other policeman. “I told him he could ride along with us and get some extra prints at headquarters.”

“Sure. Let’s go.”

Jimmy followed the two men from the house, not forgetting to tuck his miniature camera into his coat pocket.

“Jump in,” invited Sergeant Bedlow.

Jimmy climbed into the rear seat of the big sedan. He pinned the damp films to a chromium crossbar so that they would swing free.

The car left the neighborhood street and toured down Jackson Street to Florence Boulevard. Suddenly the sergeant slammed on the brakes, scrutinizing a black sedan without license plates which was parked at the curb.

“That looks like the same car!” cried Jimmy. “I remember the front bumper was partly torn away.”

The cruiser pulled up and the two policemen went over to look at the sedan. They made a systematic, unhurried inspection, finally locating the missing license plates hidden under the back seat.

“This is the car we’re looking for,” said Sergeant Bedlow. “Stolen two days ago from a party in the Heights.”


While the policemen went on with their methodical search, Jimmy snapped a picture of them standing beside the abandoned car. Their inspection completed, they made out a report and returned to the cruiser.

The car had not traversed a block when the radio under the dashboard came to life.

“Cruiser 6.... Calling Cruiser 6.... Proceed to corner of Dover and Jefferson. Two men reported in vicinity answering description of Jovitch and Morgan. Cruiser 6.... Cruiser 24.... Cruiser 12.... Calling....”

Sergeant Bedlow swung the wheel and turned the car around. They took the corner on screeching tires, heading for Dover and Jefferson streets, twelve blocks away.

A thrill of excitement ran down Jimmy’s spine. He leaned forward, watching the road. With siren wailing, they zoomed through red lights and passed all slow moving traffic.

Minutes later they swerved to a stop before a dilapidated frame building. A police car, a small coupe, was parked not a dozen yards away and a third, a big cruiser, careened into the narrow space beside them.

From inside the dwelling three shots rang out. There came an answering report.


“Keep down!” ordered Sergeant Bedlow sharply. And then to his companions: “Come on boys! We’ll run those rats out of there!”

As Jimmy crouched low, the policemen both leaped from the cruiser, revolvers drawn. But as they moved swiftly up the walk, the front door of the house swung open. The two men who had been in the black sedan were marched outside, escorted by police officers. The heavy-set one held his right arm which had been wounded.

Jimmy stared. Then, realizing that he was losing a grand opportunity, he sprang from the cruiser and focused his camera. His hand trembled as he opened the shutter. He had ruined the exposure.

Steadying his nerves, he quickly took a second and third picture. He finished with one at close range while the prisoners were being loaded into a police car, handcuffed to their captors.

“Well, son, you got some real pictures this time,” grinned Sergeant Bedlow.

“Are the men really Legs and Morgan?”

“If they aren’t, someone has made a bad mistake. Sure, they’re the ones, all right. Tried to shoot it out when they were cornered.”

Jimmy asked several questions about the brief gun battle, and then added:


“I want to rush my pictures straight to the Ledger office. How about those auto crash films? Will you need them now that you’ve caught the men?”

“No hurry if we do. Take them along. And if you’re heading for the Ledger we’ll drop you off there on our way to headquarters. Hop in!”

Jimmy needed no second invitation. He jumped into the cruiser again, and they sped back to the downtown section of Brandale. At the Ledger office, he leaped off, the precious films and camera held tightly in his hands.

The elevator shot him up to the third floor. Brushing past the receptionist who sought to halt him, Jimmy walked straight to Riley’s desk. The editor looked up, scowling.

“I have them!” said Jimmy. “Pictures with a real news wallop! Take a look at these films.”

The auto crash negatives had dried during the wild ride in the police cruiser. He slapped them down on Riley’s desk.

“What is this?” the editor asked wearily. “Another auto wreck? Now you ought to know we can’t use that stuff unless it has an unusual angle.”

“This has. The car was stolen—”

“Brandale has anywhere from six to a dozen taken each day.”


“But this car was driven by Legs Jovitch.”

“What?” demanded Riley.

“The other man is Al Morgan. They crashed into a car driven by a Mrs. Clyde Montross. After they abandoned their sedan, the police surrounded them in a rooming house on Jefferson street. Both were captured after an exchange of shots. Jovitch was wounded in the right arm.”

The news did not excite the editor as Jimmy had confidently expected. Riley looked interested but skeptical.

“Say, are you trying to pull a fast one on me?” he demanded. “We’ve had no such report here.”

“That’s because I was the only person on the scene except the police. A cruiser dropped me off here. You can check all my facts. And I have pictures of the capture undeveloped in my camera.”

Riley came to life.

“Higgins!” he bellowed to a reporter. “Get busy on the phone. Call the police station and find out if they’ve captured Legs Jovitch! Then get Mrs. Clyde Montross on the wire. Boy! Run these films into the photographic department and tell ’em to rush prints. Let’s have those other films, Evans.”

A reporter, hat pushed back on his head, came running breathlessly into the office.


“Big story, Chief!” he gasped. “Police have captured Legs Jovitch and Al Morgan! Haven’t been able to get all the details yet.”

“Here’s someone who can supply them,” barked Riley, jerking his head in Jimmy’s direction.

The newsroom had been thrown into confusion. Reporters clicked telephone receivers impatiently as they sought to speed calls. Miss Breen was sent to the morgue to locate clippings and photographs dealing with the unsavory history of the two notorious characters. Rapid fire orders went to the composing and photographic departments.

In an incredibly short time the finished prints were laid on Riley’s desk. He ran through them with a critical eye, throwing out those which he considered without merit. The others he marked for page one.

“Evans—” the editor’s voice held a note of respect. “You’ve rung the bell. We’ll give you twenty dollars for the lot.”

Jimmy smiled, and shook his head.

“Thirty, then. They’re good pictures. I won’t quibble.”

Jimmy reached for the prints.

“Say, what do you want?” Riley asked with biting sarcasm. “The Ledger building?”

“Only a little niche in it. A job.”


Riley’s face flushed an angry pink and the veins stood out on his forehead. Then, unexpectedly, he relaxed and laughed.

“You have your nerve, Evans! Holding me up like this.”

“I’m only following your advice,” grinned Jimmy. “Trying to use my head.”

“You’re using it all right,” muttered Riley.

“Do I get the job?”

“You do. Start tomorrow at eight in the photographic department under Fred Orris. Twenty-five dollars per week. You’ve made a spectacular beginning, Evans, but I’m giving you fair warning. Follow it up with good steady work if you expect to remain on the Ledger payroll!”



The late afternoon and night editions of the Ledger carried Jimmy’s pictures on the front page, giving prominent space to his eye-witness account of the Jovitch-Morgan capture. At the Evans cottage there was high jubilation, and until long after midnight neighbors dropped in to congratulate him upon his success.

Yet as Jimmy entered the newspaper office at a quarter to eight the next morning, he had a feeling that already both he and his pictures were forgotten. As he passed through the news room, only a few reporters turned their heads to regard him with curious stares.

In the photographic department adjoining the wire-photo room, a man in a rumpled shirt sat with one leg thrown carelessly over the edge of a desk. Jimmy approached him hesitantly.

“Are you Mr. Orris?”


“No, I’m Joe Wells, just another flunky around this joint. Fred will be along any minute. I take it you’re the flashy kid Riley was raving about yesterday?”

“Raving at, you mean,” grinned Jimmy. “He didn’t like the way I held him up for a job.”

“Nuts! Riley always bellows, but he never holds it against a fellow for standing up to him. Now Orris is different.”

The photographer arose and stretched himself. “Your name is Evans, isn’t it?”

“Yes, they call me Jimmy mostly.”

“Jimmy is all right, but you need a niftier moniker than that. Something with a little snap. I have it! Flash! That fits you like a glove! Flash Evans! How’s that, kid?”

Jimmy hardly knew what to make of the liberties so freely taken with his name but he smiled at the older man as if a favor had been conferred upon him. And strangely enough, the nickname “Flash” stuck, so that within a short time he answered to it as readily as he did to his own.

“You were speaking of Orris,” Wells went on, discreetly lowering his voice. “When that fellow reads you the riot act you say ‘yes, sir,’ and click your heels together like a little gentleman. Not that he isn’t usually right. Orris is a good photographer himself and knows what he wants. You can’t pass off any dud pictures on him.”


“I’ve a lot to learn and I’ll need to learn it quick. I can see that.”

Wells nodded absently. “While you’re waiting for Orris, I’ll show you around,” he offered. “Over there is our portrait parlor where we mug the publicity seekers. We have a pretty fair darkroom.”

He went ahead, snapping on the electric lights, Jimmy’s eyes kindled as he gazed about. The Ledger darkroom was one of the best equipped he had ever seen, with long, chip-proof tanks of seamless, stainless steel and a foot-controlled treadle light to prevent any shock from wet hands.

“You’ll be expected to develop and print most of your own films,” said Wells. “Had much experience?”

“Not with deluxe equipment like this.”

“You’ll soon catch on. This is the electric dryer. Now I’ll show you the different printing papers we use and how we mix our chemicals—”

An outside door had slammed. A thin, hollow-cheeked man came into the photography room.

“There’s Orris now,” volunteered Wells.

He waited until the head photographer had removed his overcoat, and then took Jimmy over to meet him.

“Orris, this is Flash Evans.”


The older man smiled briefly upon hearing the nickname and studied Jimmy with concentrated attention.

“Good morning, Evans,” he said coldly. “You did a fine job yesterday in getting those Jovitch-Morgan pictures.”


“I hope you keep up the good work,” Orris resumed curtly. “I hardly need tell you that past deeds don’t count around here. A photographer must deliver the goods and deliver it every day. Ever handle a Speed Graphic?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Wells will give you your equipment and tell you anything you want to know about the routine. You’ll work the day shift except on special assignment. When a big story breaks everyone is expected to be on call. You take orders from the city editor.”

Flash spent a half hour examining his camera equipment and learning the office routine. He liked Joe Wells and Blake Dowell, another photographer to whom he was introduced, but he could not rid himself of a feeling that Fred Orris had taken a deep dislike to him.

“Oh, Orris hates everyone, even himself,” Wells confided in the privacy of the darkroom. “Don’t worry about him. He’ll treat you right if you turn out good pictures.”


On his first assignment, a convention at the Hotel Brandale, Flash worked with Joe Wells, and everything went smoothly. His pictures, while not in any way spectacular, were clear and properly focused. Fred Orris merely nodded and offered no comment when he examined them.

In the afternoon Flash was called to Riley’s desk.

“Get down to the Y.W.C.A.,” the editor ordered. “They’re giving a water carnival. We want a snappy picture of some girls.”

Flash caught a street car farther downtown. He was nervous over the assignment, but he need not have been. Upon arriving at the Y.W.C.A. building everything was made easy for him. He merely said, “I’m Evans, from the Ledger,” and a kindly, white-haired lady who was the publicity director, took him in charge.

A dozen swimmers were waiting in the tank room. Flash had only to pose the girls on the diving board, set up his tripod and snap three flash-gun pictures.

Hurrying back to the newspaper office, he ran the films through the darkroom, and when the glossy prints were ready, offered them to Orris.

“Not bad,” the photographer said, “only you could have posed the girls better. Where are the names?”



“You can’t run a picture without names,” said Orris with biting emphasis. “If a reporter isn’t sent along with you, you’re expected to get them.”

His confidence somewhat shattered, Flash hastened to a telephone. After endless trouble, he obtained the names and succeeded in properly tagging the girls in the picture.

“I don’t think I’ll last long on this job,” he confessed gloomily to Joe Wells.

“Sure, you will, Flash. In a few days you’ll learn the routine.”

Flash was grateful for the help and friendly advice which the photographer gave him. During the next few days his work gradually showed improvement. He became more confident, and Orris seldom had occasion to offer criticism.

Then Friday afternoon as he was ready to leave the office, Riley called him to the desk. Flash’s pulse hammered. He was almost certain the city editor meant to tell him he was fired.

“Evans, how about doing some extra work tonight?” Riley asked. “We’re short of photographers and I need a good picture of the Gezzy-Brady fight at the armory.”

“I’ll be glad to go,” said Flash in relief.


He telephoned home, then had supper at a café across from the Ledger office. A full hour before the fight was scheduled to start, he carried his equipment to the armory, setting it up close to the arena.

The building began to fill. Other photographers and reporters from various newspapers began to take their ringside seats. Among the late arrivals were Luke Frowein and Clyde Deems, both veteran photographers for the Globe.

A sports writer from the Ledger slumped into the empty seat beside Flash.

“Wouldn’t waste many films if I were you,” he said with a yawn. “Gezzy is expected to take the kid in three or four rounds.”

By fight time the armory was packed. The buzzing rumble of the crowd arose from behind a blanket of murky tobacco smoke. A gray-shirted referee climbed into the ring to test the ropes.

With tolerant good humour the crowd sat through the first two preliminary bouts, but when the third dragged itself out into a clinching match, the customers began to call impatiently:

“Give us Gezzy! We want Brady!”


At last the main bout was brought on and Flash watched the ring with alert attention. He took only one picture during the first three rounds because the experienced Gezzy made the youngster look very bad. The older fighter feinted him out of position, made him miss by wide margins, and kept up a steady tattoo of stinging left jabs which had Brady bewildered.

And then it happened! The writers said the next day it was only a lucky punch, but Brady connected with a slashing left hook to the point of Gezzy’s chin. The older boxer folded at the hips and toppled to the canvas in a limp heap.

Flash clicked his camera just as the blow landed. He took another shot as Gezzy made a pathetic attempt to struggle to his feet at the count of ten. The fighter fell back and rolled over, his face ashen and still in the blinding glare of the ring lights. Flash got a shot of that, too.

Elated at his success, he pushed his way through the milling crowd to the street. He was jubilant over the streak of luck which had turned an ordinary assignment into a big story.

“Riley can’t do any kicking this time,” he thought. “I ought to have four dandy pictures.”

Back at the newspaper office he closed himself into the darkroom and placed his films in the developing tank. He set the timing clock. When it went off he removed the films. Eagerly he studied the first one under the ruby light.

For a minute Flash could not believe his own eyes. The film was dark! Not a single detail was visible.


With frantic haste he examined a second film, and the remaining two. Every one had been over-exposed.

Weakly, he sagged against the wall, nearly overcome by the disaster which confronted him. Every film ruined! An icy feeling of dread trembled along his nerves.

“But how could I have done it?” he muttered. “Must have figured my lighting wrong.”

After several minutes he opened the door and stepped out into the blinding light. Joe Wells, who also had been on a special night assignment, was putting away his camera. He stared curiously at Flash.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “You look sick.”

Flash showed him the blank films and explained what had happened.

“This is a tough break,” said Wells, “though you’re not the first photographer who has had the same experience. Know what it means?”

Grim-lipped, Flash nodded.

“Riley will fire me. My work hasn’t impressed him much anyhow.”

Wells stood looking at the black films, frowning thoughtfully.

“There’s just one chance,” he said, “a pretty slim one at that. Do you know Deems of the Globe?”

“Only when I see him.”

“Was he assigned to the fight tonight?”


“Yes, I saw him there taking pictures. But I don’t see—”

Wells did not bother to answer. Grabbing his hat, he started toward the door.

“You stay here,” he instructed. “Don’t tell anyone about those films until I get back! Deems is a friend of mine. If I can locate him in time, I may be able to save your job.”



Flash waited without hope for Joe Wells’ return. He did not know exactly what the photographer had in mind, but it was too much to believe that Clyde Deems, a rival photographer, would make the slightest effort to help him even if it were possible.

The door swung open. Wells came hurrying in to slap a photograph mailing envelope on the desk before Flash’s startled eyes.

“Got it!” he announced triumphantly. “Only one picture and it’s not of the knock-out. But it may be enough to save your job.”

Flash snatched up the envelope and examined the film eagerly. It was a good clear negative taken during one of the early rounds of the fight.

“Print it up before Riley starts yelping,” Wells instructed tersely. “He’ll squawk because you missed the knock-out, but he may not fire you.”

“Joe, how did you do it? I’ll never forget this favor.”

“Thank Deems, not me, Flash.”


“But I thought photographers were supposed to work entirely on their own.”

“That’s the general idea,” Wells nodded. “Mostly we do work alone, but now and then we give the other fellow a helping hand. Not a photog in the business who hasn’t been in a jam sometime in his life. And Deems is a good friend of mine.”

“I hope he doesn’t get into trouble on my account.”

“He won’t unless Luke Frowein spills the story.”

“Does Luke know?”

“Yes, he was in the darkroom at the Globe while I was talking with Deems. I didn’t know it until later. He ought to be decent enough to keep quiet.”

With Joe looking on, Flash rushed the picture through and sent it to the news room. He waited for the summons. It came.

“Is this the best you can do, Evans?” the city editor demanded. “We send you to get good fight pictures and you come back with one shot of the second round! What were you doing—sleeping?”

“I took some others,” Flash admitted lamely. “They weren’t clear enough to print.”

“If you expect to stay with the Ledger you’ll have to buckle down and do better.”

The editor glared and, writing a caption for the picture, tossed it into a wire basket.


A wave of relief passed over Flash. He wouldn’t be discharged, after all. At least, not before the end of the week. But he had been warned.

The next morning he received a curt reprimand from Fred Orris, and then the matter was dropped. Flash did not forget the way Joe had come to his aid. He made up his mind that if ever he had an opportunity he would return the favor with good measure.

Whenever he was not occupied with picture assignments, Flash puttered about the darkroom, trying to improve his skill in handling films. He spent hours at the public library, studying books on photography, and asking countless questions of Joe Wells.

One Sunday afternoon when the Ledger plant was closed, he went downtown with the intention of using the newspaper darkroom to develop a roll of his own films. As he stepped from the bus, he noticed Luke Frowein leaning indolently against a drugstore wall.

“Well if it isn’t Flash Evans!” the Globe photographer greeted him mockingly. “Covered any more fights?”

“No, I haven’t,” Flash answered with attempted good nature.

He passed quickly on, but the photographer’s remark both irritated and made him uneasy. He felt that Luke Frowein was not to be trusted. The man would like nothing better than to see him lose his job.


“He’s probably put out because the Globe missed the Jovitch-Morgan pictures,” thought Flash. “I’ll need to be on my guard.”

The Ledger building was deserted, for the night shift would not come on until four. Finding the front entrance locked, Flash went around to the rear. The freight elevator was not running. He climbed three flights of steps only to find the photography department locked. And he had neglected to obtain a key.

Disappointed, Flash decided he must do his work at another time. Then his gaze fell upon a time register attached to the wall. “Old Herm,” the watchman, should be along within the hour to sign in upon making his rounds of the building.

Taking a photography magazine from his pocket, Flash sat down on the steps to wait. He had finished the first article when he heard approaching steps. Turning his head, he saw a bent old man with white hair coming down one of the back corridors. Old Herm did not see him.

After a prolonged fumbling at a bunch of keys, the watchman fitted one of them into the time register and turned it.

“It’s the age! It’s the age!” he muttered. “They can’t trust a man to make his rounds, so they make him leave his callin’ card with one of these devil’s own machines. Tyranny, I calls it. Nothin’ but tyranny.”


Flash brought the old man out of his reverie by asking him if he could open the door into the photography department.

“And who are you?” Old Herm demanded suspiciously. “What business do you have in the building?”

“I’m Flash Evans, the new photographer. I have some work to do.”

The old man gazed sharply at the boy.

“You don’t look like a photographer to me. No, sir!”

He stared at Flash as if trying to bore a hole through him with his gimlet-like eyes.

“But there’s somethin’ familiar about you,” he said. “What’s your name again?”


“Any relation to Curtis Evans who used to work on the Post in the old days?”

“He was my father.”

“So! I remember him,” the old man’s voice dropped to a little more than a mumble. “And I—” He ceased speaking and seemed lost in deep thought.

“Nearly everyone in Brandale knew my father,” remarked Flash proudly. “How about letting me into the office?”

“You’re not playin’ a trick on me? You’re really Evans?”


“Of course.”

“Then I kin let you in, I guess.” The watchman gazed at Flash with an expression which was veiled and unfathomable.

Rather puzzled, the young photographer followed him to the door of the department. Old Herm was slightly crippled in one leg, but his somewhat bent and deformed body still showed the framework of a once-powerful man. Flash felt sorry for the simple old fellow.

The watchman dawdled with his keys and finally opened the door.

“Don’t leave no lights burnin’,” he cautioned. “And turn off the water spigots. I’ve mopped up this place more than once.”

He shuffled off on his rounds, his dragging feet making an irregular rhythm on the tiled floor.

Left alone, Flash developed the roll of film. He put the negatives through the fixing bath and, when they were washed and dry, made his prints. It was a quarter to four by the time he had finished.


The news room had begun to stir into life. Sauntering through, Flash saw a few reporters at their desks, but Forrest and Ralston, two night-shift photographers, had not yet appeared. Dan Dewey, the editor who would be in charge of the desk, nodded casually to Flash. He was in the act of shedding his overcoat when everyone in the room was startled to alertness by the loud whir of the fire alarm instrument.

“Where’s that?” demanded a reporter, scraping his chair as he jumped to his feet.

“District ten,” responded Dewey tersely. “Must be the old apartment houses on Glendale Avenue or maybe the coal yards! Get down there, Charlie, right away! Where’s Ralston?”

“Not here yet,” spoke up Flash. “Nor Forrest either. Shall I go?”

The editor measured him with a glance.

“All right, Evans,” he muttered. “See what you can do. The fire may not amount to much.”

There was no mistaking the doubt in Dan Dewey’s voice. Everyone in the office had heard of Flash’s failure to bring back good pictures from the Gezzy-Brady fight. Since then he had been given only routine, unimportant assignments.

From far down the street came the wail of a fire siren. Spurred to action, Flash rushed back to the photographic department for his camera and equipment bag.

As he went hurriedly through the news room again, the alarm instrument sounded once more. Clang! Clang! Clang! followed by a space and ten quick taps.

“Get going, Evans!” shouted Dewey. “That’s a three-alarm!”


Clutching his camera, Flash bolted out the door. A three-alarm fire meant a front page story and a chance at front page pictures! This was his big opportunity to redeem himself for the Gezzy-Brady mistake. But he wouldn’t have long to work alone. Forrest and Ralston soon would be on the job.

As he reached the street he could see smoke rising in black clouds only a few blocks away. A bright red fire truck, brasswork gleaming, bell clanging, roared past.

Flash ran to the corner and signaled a man in a black coupe.

“Take me to the fire?” he shouted.

“Sure,” the man grinned, opening the door. “Hop in.”

Flash swung into the car, and they raced off in the wake of the thundering engine.



By the time the automobile reached Fulton street, Flash could see shooting flames. The entire southern sky had taken on a bright crimson glow, and a high wind, blowing from the direction of the waterfront, carried acrid fumes and smoke.

“Must be the old apartment house district!” Flash exclaimed. “The Werner coal yard is near there, too! If the fire really gets started, half of Brandale might go!”

The car came to a jerking halt in a traffic jam. Thanking the driver, Flash leaped out and ran the remaining two blocks.

A tangle of fire equipment laced the narrow street in front of the Elston Apartments, a ten-story brick building which was oozing smoke from beneath the flat roof. Already three pumpers, two rescue squads, and two hook-and-ladder trucks were at the scene, maneuvering into position.


Flash could see flames pouring from the basement and first floor windows. Firemen were leading women and children through the blinding smoke to the safety of the street. A few persons, overcome by smoke were stretched out on the pavement, receiving first-aid treatment.

A deputy chief, three bugles on his white helmet, shouted orders to the men aboard a new ladder truck.

“Raise that aerial! Forty!”

The mechanically operated metal ladder shot skyward in two sections to an upper window of the burning apartment building where a man could be seen bent over the sill, half-overcome by smoke. Flash elbowed his way through the excited crowd of onlookers, reaching the front rank.

“Hey, keep back, you!” a policeman ordered sharply.

Flash pulled out his courtesy card.

“Okay,” nodded the officer, allowing him to pass. “Just keep out of the firemen’s way.”

Flash focused his camera in time to get a shot of a fireman who had clambered up the ladder through the black pall of smoke, rescuing the man at the window. Then he rushed over to where the rescue squad was hard at work. As he leaped over a length of flat hose it bulged full of water, writhing and twisting like a great jungle snake.


The heat was searing Flash’s face but he had no awareness of discomfort. Blazing embers dropped at his feet. One burned a hole through his coat. Filled with a wild elation, he snapped picture after picture, reloading his camera as fast as he could.

Lines of hose had been stretched from every available hydrant so that great streams of water could be poured on the fire. Adjoining buildings were blanketed down in the desperate fight to keep them from igniting.

Flash approached the deputy chief who stood by Engine 12, reading a pressure dial.

“Will the coal yards go?” he asked.

“Don’t know yet,” the chief answered shortly. “We expect to save ’em.”

“Is everyone out of the building?”

The chief nodded and strode away.

Flash dropped back to get a long range shot of the blazing building, because he saw that Deems of the Globe was taking a similar picture. It was the first time he had seen the photographer since the night of the Gezzy-Brady fight. Edging close he tried to speak a few words of gratitude for the favor he had received. Deems cut him short.

“Glad to do it,” he said curtly. “But I can’t give you any help on this job. It’s every man for himself.”

“Won’t need any help,” grinned Flash. “I’m doing pretty well.”


He hoped that his words would not prove to be an idle boast. The test must come when he developed his films. If he had misjudged the amount of light, he would be faced with a second failure. But Flash refused to think of such a possibility.

He stood gazing up at the flaming walls, listening to the loud, sucking draft which roared through the building. Then his gaze wandered to the adjoining Marilyn Apartment which had been vacated as a precautionary measure. Firemen had carried hose into the dwelling and were shooting a steady stream of water through the windows, across a narrow areaway.

“I might get some unusual shots from up there,” thought Flash. “Anyway, it’s worth trying.”

Unchallenged, he entered the smoke-filled building, and climbed to the fifth floor. Letting himself into a deserted apartment suite opposite the flaming building, he set up his tripod, and focused his camera upon an engine man who was feeding a stream of water across the areaway.

Flash was so close to the fire that the heat nearly choked him. Black, rolling smoke hit him in waves, cutting off the view below, and blinding his eyes for long minutes at a time.


In a near-by window, the engine man motioned to Flash and shouted something which he did not understand. But as he watched, the man shut off the flow to the nozzle and moved to a new location farther away. A blanket of smoke hid him entirely from view.

Flash soon shifted his own position to another window at the corner of the building. As a billow of smoke cleared away, he stared across to the opposite window ledge, scarcely believing what he saw.

An elderly man, groggy from heat and smoke, stood behind the open window, perceptibly weaving back and forth as if about to fall. With horror, Flash realized that in some way the fellow had been overlooked when firemen searched the building. Unless help reached him, and quickly, he would perish, for the halls and stairs leading to safety already were a blazing inferno.

A cloud of smoke rose up from a lower window, blotting the figure from view. Flash gazed downward. He could not see the street. He shouted several times, but his cries went unanswered.

In another minute the areaway cleared again. While Flash still could not attract attention from the street, he was relieved to observe that his shouts for help had aroused the old man from a state of daze.

Staggering against the window sill, he motioned to the photographer. His lips moved, yet made no audible sound.

“Stay where you are!” shouted Flash. “Don’t go away! I’ll bring help!”


He was not certain the old man understood or would obey. But he dared waste no time by repeating his instructions. At any moment the fellow might be overcome, or the walls might fall.

Flash ran to the window where he had last seen the engine man. The hose lay there but the fireman was gone, evidently called to a more urgent post.

Starting for the street to summon help, Flash jerked open a door which he thought led into a main corridor. He found himself in a large closet filled with half empty buckets of paint. His gaze focused hopefully upon a tall step ladder used recently by painters.

Instantly Flash’s plan of action changed. With a life at stake time was precious. He doubted if he could bring help in time to save the man. But the ladder might turn the trick.

Seizing it, he hurried back to the window. He was relieved to see the old man standing where he last had been, silhouetted against a wall of flickering flame.

Flash pushed the ladder through the open window and across the narrow areaway to the opposite ledge. It barely bridged the gap.

“Get out on the ledge!” he shouted encouragingly. “Crawl over! I’ll steady the ladder!”


The old man, his face ghastly in the weird light, climbed through the window to the stone ledge. There he cowered, his back to the brick wall, afraid to trust himself to the ladder.

“Come on! Hurry!” Flash urged impatiently. “It’s your only chance! The building can’t last much longer.”

The old fellow stared at him in a stupid, bewildered way. Even the searing fire in the room behind, could not drive him to attempt it. Flash realized that he was only wasting precious time.

Hesitating only an instant, the photographer swung his legs through the window. Testing the ladder to make certain it was firmly in place, he crawled nimbly toward the man on the opposite ledge. Halfway across he glanced down. Through the rolling clouds of smoke, he caught a fleeting glimpse of the street five stories below.

For a moment his courage nearly failed him. He clung tightly to the ladder, fighting the wave of dizziness which swept over him. Then, gaining control of himself, he crawled the remaining distance, and reached out a hand to the terrified man.

“I’m afraid,” the old fellow whimpered piteously. “I can’t do it. The ladder might slip. I can’t.”

“Do you want to burn?” Flash demanded. “Come on, before it’s too late!”


He seized the old man by the coat and pulled him out on the ladder. For a fearful second he thought that they both might lose their balance and plunge to the street. But once on the ladder, the old fellow maintained a measure of self-control. Although he whimpered with fear, he did not clutch Flash or struggle against the grasp of his arm.

Inch by inch the young photographer backed toward his own window and safety. He kept hold of the old man’s coat, steadying him and lending him confidence.

“Don’t look down,” Flash commanded. “Keep your eyes on the window.”

The ladder beneath them creaked and groaned, and as the old man made a jerky movement, one end slipped slightly.

“Steady,” warned Flash.

They remained motionless and the ladder settled back into place.

“Another foot and we’ll be there,” Flash said encouragingly as they crept on once more.

He reached the ledge. With a sigh of relief he felt his feet swing over the sill and strike the floor. But just as he relaxed, the ladder gave a convulsive movement. As it tilted, unburdening its human cargo, Flash clung desperately to the old man.


The ladder struck the street with a resounding crash. The old man had started to plunge with it, but his fall was broken by the powerful grasp of the photographer’s muscular arms. Flash, too, was half pulled through the window. He fought with strong leg and back muscles to maintain his balance.

Terrified by his plight, the old man gave a choked cry and struggled frantically. His wild contortions made the task of pulling him to safety all but impossible. Flash’s heart began to pound from the intensity of the effort. Yet it never occurred to him to release his hold on the man’s wrists.

Exerting his utmost strength he pulled the old man up a few inches, only to feel him slip back a greater distance. And Flash was slowly being dragged across the sill by the old man’s weight. Flash could see the street far below, momentarily clear of smoke. A shiver wracked his exhausted body. Unless help came quickly they both would plunge to their deaths!

Smoke swirled in Flash’s face, and the intense heat from the areaway sapped his little remaining strength. His heart felt as if it would hammer itself from his breast. His breath came in panting gasps.

Once more he made a valiant effort to pull the old man to safety. Again he failed. Inch by inch they both were slipping downward. His knees were losing their grip under the sill. In another instant he and the man he sought to save would plunge to the areaway below.


Even as he abandoned all hope, Flash felt himself firmly grasped by the legs. Slowly but steadily he was hauled back through the window.

The strain upon the young photographer’s arms was terrific, yet he clung desperately to the old man. Both were drawn through the opening to safety. Spent by the ordeal, they slumped on the floor.

Flash saw then, that his rescuer was the same fireman who previously had been in the building.

“Thanks,” he gasped gratefully. “I thought it was curtains for sure.”

“Would have been in another minute,” grunted the fireman. “When that ladder crashed to the street I knew something was wrong up here. Couldn’t see on account of the smoke.”

The old man had passed out completely. Stooping, the fireman gathered him up and slung the inert body over his back.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said.

Flash heard the words as if from a long distance. He tried to follow the fireman but his feet refused to move. Every muscle seemed paralyzed. He weaved sideways, dizzy from the heat.

Then quietly, he crumpled.



When Flash opened his eyes, a cool breeze blew over his seared face. He was lying on the ground across the street from the burning apartment building. A member of the rescue squad stood over him.

“You’ll be all right now,” he said.

Flash stirred and sat up. He rubbed the back of his hand across his burning eyes. For a moment he could remember nothing. Then, with recollection, a wave of panic washed over him.

“My camera!”

“It’s safe,” said the rescue squad man. “And your equipment bag. Both right here. What paper you from?”

“The Ledger.”

“Too bad you didn’t get a picture of your own rescue job.”

“Yeah,” grinned Flash. “That would have been a shot!”

“Nice going, son. You had plenty of nerve.”


“How is the old man?” asked Flash.

“Doing all right. We sent him to St. John’s Hospital.”

“And who brought me out of the building?”

“Oh, one of the boys,” the rescue squad man answered carelessly. “The heat got you.”

“Something hit me like a ton of bricks,” grinned Flash. “Well, I’m glad just to be alive. How long have I been out?”

“Only a few minutes.”

Flash scrambled to his feet and stood supported by the other man.

“Feel okay now?”

“I’m still groggy, but my head is clearing. I must rush my pictures back to the Ledger office.”

With a few hasty words of thanks, he gathered up his equipment, and started for the corner where he could catch a taxi. The apartment building had fallen, and the fire companies were playing their hose in full streams upon the adjoining building. It, too, might eventually go, but the coal yards would be saved.

As he strode into the Ledger building, the elevator man stared at him.

“What’s happened to your eyebrows?” he asked. “Looks like you’ve been in a fire.”


Flash squinted at his reflection in the elevator mirror. Not only his eyebrows but some of his hair as well had been singed off. His clothes were mussed and his blistered face was smeared with soot.

“Rush me up to three,” he said crisply.

“Yes, sir.” For the first time since Flash had started work on the Ledger, the elevator man addressed him in a tone of deep respect.

The only other passenger in the cage was Old Herm, the watchman. He, too, regarded the young photographer with more than average curiosity.

“Where was the fire?” he inquired.

“The Elston Apartment district.”

“Get some good pictures?”

“I think so.” Flash could not hide his triumph. “Maybe they’ll be good enough to pull me out of the dog house.”

Old Herm nodded and grinned in a friendly way.

“You’ll make the grade, son. You’ll make it,” he muttered. “Heard you’ve been havin’ bad luck, but it can’t keep breakin’ wrong forever.”

Flash slammed through the wooden gate into the newsroom. A reporter assigned to the fire story already had filled three long sheets of copy paper, and so news of the young photographer’s rescue work had traveled ahead of him.

The night editor actually beamed as Flash went past the slot.


“Guess you were the right man for the job,” he praised. “Rush your pictures through. Ralston and Forrest are on the job now, but they won’t get back for awhile.”

Flash nodded and hastened on to the photography department. The door of the darkroom was closed. He rattled the handle.

“Anyone inside?”

Fred Orris answered in a curt voice. A few minutes later, he opened the door, regarding Flash with a cold gaze.

“What’s the big rush?”

“I want to develop some pictures of the fire,” Flash responded briefly.

“What were you doing at the fire?” Orris demanded in surprise. “Special assignment?”

Flash nodded. “A lucky break for me,” he said. “Tell you about it later.”

As he closed himself into the darkroom he heard the older man mutter: “That’s your middle name—Luck!”

The fresh hypo bath which Orris had just finished mixing was strong and offensive. Flash placed his films in the tank, set the timer, and then kept the negatives agitated during the developing process. The excitement of the past hour had buoyed him up. But now as he waited, he suddenly felt sapped of all energy. A fear that his pictures might turn out worthless, took possession of him.


“One more mistake and I’ll be finished,” he thought.

When the alarm went off, he quickly removed the negatives from the developer. He drew a deep sigh of relief. Of the seven pictures he had taken, six had come up clear-cut and definite with white and black contrasting sharply. One was indistinct, but would be printable with special treatment.

Flash chuckled. Unless he greatly over-estimated the pictures, they were the best of his career. Why, he might even win a by-line for himself! He could visualize the caption—“Photographs by Jimmy Evans.” Only a simple line which few newspaper readers would notice. But to a photographer it meant everything.

Flash returned the films to the water, and opened the door of the darkroom. Orris was still outside, talking with Joe Wells who had wandered into the department on his way home from a movie.

“Hi, there, Flash,” he called with a friendly smile. “I hear you’ve covered yourself with glory. How did they come out?”

“Pretty fair,” returned Flash. “Want to look at them?”


Wells and Orris both followed him back into the darkroom. They studied the negatives with the critical gaze of experts, searching for defects and finding none.

“Swell pictures,” said Wells heartily. “Wish I’d taken them myself.”

Fred Orris’ only comment was a curt suggestion as to the number of printing paper which should be used.

“Jealous,” thought Flash. “At least he might have loosened up enough to give me a compliment.” Aloud he said, “Oh, by the way, I wonder if I could have a key to the department? I was locked out today and had trouble getting Old Herm to let me inside.”

“I’ll see you have one by tomorrow,” Orris promised.

After the older man had moved to another part of the room, Joe Wells praised Flash again for his fine work, and demanded all the details of his thrilling experience at the fire.

“Too bad you didn’t get a shot of yourself hanging to the old man’s wrists!” he chuckled. “What a picture that would have made!”

“I wasn’t worrying about pictures at that moment. I was trying to save my neck! Orris doesn’t seem to think much of my work.”

Wells shrugged as he turned to leave. “Oh, you can’t tell what that bird thinks by how he acts. Keep on the way you’ve started and you ought to get a raise. See you tomorrow.”


Flash took another look at his negatives and then while they were soaking, went to wash some of the soot and grime from his face. Fairly presentable again, he returned to the photographic department. Orris, who seemed to be writing a letter at his desk did not glance up.

Entering the darkroom, Flash removed the films from the tray. In the act of carrying them to the drying drum he suddenly paused and stared. For an instant he thought he had taken the wrong negatives from the tank, that his pictures had been mixed with those Orris had been making.

Frantically he examined the films. They were his, but so badly streaked that they never could be used. Not a single one had been spared. His entire work was ruined!



The extent of the catastrophe nearly overwhelmed Flash. Jerking open the darkroom door, he called hoarsely to Fred Orris.

“Now what?” the man demanded impatiently.

“I wish you would look at these negatives.”

The urgency of Flash’s voice brought the older photographer to his feet. He studied the streaked films one after another.

“They’re ruined,” he said, with no show of sympathy. “What did you do to them?”

“Nothing. The films were all right when I went to the wash room. I left them soaking. I wasn’t gone ten minutes.”

“What developer and hypo did you use?”

“The same you had mixed.”

“Well, you must have done something unusual,” Orris snapped. “My pictures came out all right. Sure you didn’t add any extra chemicals to the tanks?”


Flash shook his head. “I can’t understand it,” he mumbled. “The pictures were okay when I left them. Someone must have tampered—”

“See here, Evans,” Orris broke in sharply, “don’t try to pass the buck. No one around here would have any interest in ruining your films. In any case, I’ve been sitting at my desk most of the time.”

“I wasn’t trying to offer an alibi. I can’t understand it, that’s all.”

“Let me tell you this, Evans. In professional news photography nothing pays off except knowledge. Guess work won’t get you far. Darkroom procedure must be scientifically exact.”

Flash crumpled the damp films and dropped them into a waste paper basket. With an effort he kept from making an angry retort. Orris deliberately was rubbing salt into sore wounds.

“This means my job, I suppose,” he said bitterly.

“Well, you hardly can expect to learn at the paper’s expense,” Orris shrugged.

The outside door opened and the two photographers, Ralston and Forrest, their clothing scented with smoke, strode into the room. Shedding their cameras and coats, they started to enter the darkroom.

“Better mix new developer and hypo,” Orris said curtly. “The kid just ruined his entire batch of films.”


Ralston gazed at Flash, and whistled softly.

“Tough,” he said. “Heard you were the first photographer on the scene, too.”

“Evans has a good pair of legs,” Orris said with pointed sarcasm.

Flash could endure no more. Jamming on his hat, he left the department, slipping down the back stairway so he need not pass through the news room. In the rear vestibule he met Old Herm who spoke cordially.

“What’s the matter, young feller?” he inquired. “You look down in the mouth.”

“Pictures ruined,” Flash answered briefly. “Just when I had a chance to make a good showing for myself, too.”

“Shoo, you don’t say!” Old Herm exclaimed. “How did it happen?”

But Flash was in no mood to tell his troubles. Making a non-committal reply, he passed on to the street.

Angry thoughts poisoned his mind. There was no denying that Fred Orris had taken a distinct dislike to him. The photographer’s smug attitude of satisfaction over the outcome of the fire pictures, made it clear that he would be glad to see him out of the office.


“I don’t believe it was anything I did which ruined those films,” Flash reflected. “Either the chemicals Orris mixed were no good, or someone doctored the tanks while I was gone! But Orris was in the department all the while. Could he have been guilty of such a low trick?”

Flash was ashamed of the thought and dismissed it as quickly as it entered his mind. No use trying to alibi his failure. The deed was done. He alone must accept responsibility for the result. As Orris had said, he couldn’t expect to learn at the paper’s expense.

Dreading to go home, Flash wandered into Joe’s hamburger shop, loitering there until the night edition of the Ledger reached the street. Then he bought a copy.

The paper carried three excellent photographs of the fire with no identifying by-line to tell whether Ralston or Forrest had taken them. It gave him a measure of satisfaction to note that from the standpoint of subject matter they were not as interesting as those he had snapped and ruined.


Also on the front page appeared Flash’s own name, together with a vivid account of his rescue act. He learned that the elderly man he had saved was John Gelette, an ailing tenant who had occupied the same apartment building for nearly twelve years. The old fellow, becoming confused at the outbreak of the fire, had wandered about in a daze, unable to locate an exit.

Flash stuffed the paper into his pocket and walked home. A warm supper and words of comfort awaited him there.

“I’m proud of you, Jimmy,” his mother said tremulously after she had read the story in the paper and heard his own account. “It doesn’t matter about losing the job. You’ll find another.”

Flash shook his head. “Not in Brandale. If you’re fired from one newspaper, word gets around. No other sheet will take me.”

“You’ve not actually been discharged yet, Jimmy.”

“Orris the same as told me I’m through. No use going back tomorrow.”

“Mr. Riley hired you, didn’t he?”


“Then I would consider myself still on the staff until Mr. Riley discharged me.”

Flash refused to be cheered. “I was in bad even before this happened,” he said gloomily. “No use going after my pay check. I’ll let the cashier mail it.”


Next morning when the alarm clock jingled at six-thirty, Flash aroused only to shut it off and fall back on his pillow. With no job awaiting him he could stay in bed as long as he liked. His muscles were battered and sore from the ordeal of the previous day. He felt as if he could sleep forever.

For a time, thoughts raced rampant in his tortured mind. Then he dropped off into troubled slumber again to be tormented by wild nightmares. He awoke once more to find himself gasping for breath and clawing the bed clothes.

His sister, Joan, was pounding on the door.

“Get up, lazy bones!” she called. “It’s ten after eight.”

Flash groaned and rolled over. “Go away and leave me alone,” he mumbled drowsily, burying his head deeper into the pillow.

“You’re wanted on the telephone!” screamed Joan at the top of her lungs. “It’s the Ledger office!”

Flash leaped from bed. Pulling on his robe, he took the stairs two at a time, and snatched up the telephone receiver.

“Hello, Evans?” barked Riley’s voice. “What in blazes is the matter with you? Why didn’t you show up this morning?”

Flash was too startled to make a coherent reply.

“I thought—that is, Orris said—”

“You deserve to be fired,” snapped Riley, “but when you’re through, I’ll tell you so! Now grab a taxi and get down to Dock 10. Two freighters collided. We want pictures right away.”


“I’ll get there as quickly as I can!” Flash exclaimed.

Bewildered by the unexpected turn of events, he darted back upstairs and quickly dressed.

“Jimmy, you’re not leaving without a cup of coffee,” his mother protested as he raced down again.

“Can’t stop for anything,” he answered, pulling on his overcoat.

Hailing a cab, Flash paused at the Ledger building only long enough to pick up his camera equipment and then drove on to Dock 10. Hiring a launch, he motored out to the two vessels, took his pictures, and was back at the office in record time.

“Want me to help you develop those?” Fred Orris inquired, with a faint suggestion of a sneer.

“No, thanks,” Flash replied shortly.

Joe Wells, who was near, followed him into the darkroom and closed the door.

“Guess you heard what happened to my fire pictures,” Flash said in a low tone. “I can’t figure out what went wrong.”

“Neither can I,” answered Wells. “I fished those films out of the basket and looked at them. Never ran into anything just like it before. Now you go ahead and develop these films while I watch.”


With the photographer standing at his elbow, Flash followed exactly the same procedure which he had used the previous afternoon. The ship pictures came up quickly with good contrast.

“They’re all right,” said Wells with emphasis. “Orris can’t kick on those, or Riley, either.”

“My fire pictures were good, too. Something happened to them while they were in the water.”

“Who was here after you left?”

“Only Orris so far as I know. You don’t think he would play a dirty trick just to get me fired?”

“I hear Orris has a nephew he’s been trying to get into the department for over a year,” Wells remarked thoughtfully. “Still, I’m sure he wouldn’t do it. Orris may be a crab but he’s not a snake.”

Anxiously, Flash washed his films, watching for streaks or defects. From a photographic standpoint they were nearly perfect. With Wells hovering near, he dried the negatives and made his prints.

“Nothing wrong with your technique as far as I can see,” said the older photographer. “Those pictures are good enough to suit anyone.”

The prints were rushed to the news room. Flash waited to hear from Riley. When no word came he knew that his work was satisfactory.

Later in the morning he was sent with Wells to take pictures of a warehouse strike. Again, while not exactly covering himself with glory, his shots were equal to those of the more experienced photographer.


“I can’t get over the shock of still being on the payroll,” he confessed to his friend as they lunched together. “After what happened yesterday I was sure I would be fired.”

Wells gave him an amused glance. “Then Riley didn’t tell you?”

“He hasn’t said a word to me all day.”

“Flash, some folks are just naturally born with a rabbit’s foot,” Wells grinned. “You’re one of ’em. Know who that old man was you rescued yesterday?”

“I saw in the paper his name was John Gelette.”

“Which means nothing to you?”

“Can’t say it does.”

Wells bit into a doughnut. “To tell you the truth, I never heard of the old duffer myself until yesterday,” he admitted. “But it turns out he’s a first cousin to Cordell Burman. I trust you’ve heard of him?”

“The owner of the Ledger!”

“Exactly,” responded Wells dryly. “No one needs to teach you the secret of getting on, my lad. Your job is safe for awhile. In fact, I shouldn’t be surprised if you found a raise tucked into your next pay envelope.”



Joe Wells’ words proved prophetic. When the pay checks were handed out Saturday night, Flash’s salary had been increased from twenty-five to thirty dollars. After the first thrill of surprise, the raise gave him no lasting pleasure. He knew he hadn’t actually earned the money.

Then, too, in some manner word circled the office by means of the “grapevine” system that he had been singled out for Cordell Burman’s favor. Fred Orris treated him with increasing austerity, seldom missing an opportunity to make cutting remarks. The other photographers, save Wells, remained aloof, no doubt feeling that they had been slighted. Flash could not really blame them.

He did his work efficiently, giving Orris and Riley no chance to criticize. The freighter pictures earned him a measure of respect, but in the days following he was given only routine assignments.

One morning he was waiting for the elevator when two reporters came down the hallway together.


“Anything new on the Elston fire, Bill?” asked one.

“Nothing you dare print,” shrugged his companion. “I was talking with the Fire Chief yesterday. I gathered that he thought the fire had been set, but I can’t get anything definite out of him. The arson squad refuses to discuss the matter.”

Flash digested this bit of information as he rode up to the third floor. Entering the news room, he became aware of a tense atmosphere of excitement. Riley saw him, and motioned him to the desk.

“Evans, I want you to get out to the airport. We have a special plane coming in at 10:15 with exclusive pictures of that big airliner crash in the Pennsylvania mountains. Rush them right back so we can get ’em on the wire!”

Flash nodded. The morning papers had carried a front page account of the airliner disaster which had shocked the nation, taking a toll of eleven prominent persons. No pictures had appeared, for the accident had occurred in an isolated region of the mountains. A correspondent for the Ledger, one of the first men to reach the scene, had taken camera snaps, sending them by special chartered plane.

Flash glanced at the downstairs clock as he left the building. It was only 9:40. He would have ample time to reach the airport before the plane was due to arrive.


Boarding a bus, he rode to the outskirts of the city. Alighting at the main entrance to the airport grounds he noticed Luke Frowein coming through the gate.

“Hello, Hero,” the photographer greeted him flippantly. “Looking for a fire?”

“I’m only an errand boy this time,” Flash replied.

He would have passed on, but Luke deliberately halted, blocking the way.

“What’s going on out here?” he asked curiously. “Picking up pictures, eh?”

“You’ve guessed it.”

“There’s no plane due at this hour.”

“Oh, we have a special coming in at 10:15,” Flash revealed carelessly.

A shrewd, calculating look came into the Globe man’s gray eyes.

“Must be something pretty good to merit a special plane. Not by any chance exclusives on the Pennsylvania crash?”

“Maybe.” Flash started to move on.

“Wait a minute,” said Luke. “If you’re going into the station, Mr. Clausson wants to see you.”

“Who is he?”

“President of the Triway Aviation Company. He was asking me a minute ago if I had seen you lately. It may be something fairly important. Better catch him before he leaves.”


“I never met Mr. Clausson in my life,” declared Flash. “Why would he be asking for me?”

“Don’t know,” Luke shrugged. “He may want you to take some publicity pictures. Better see him at any rate.”

Flash walked on toward the station. It still lacked five minutes before the special plane was due to arrive. He entered the building and spoke to one of the clerks.

“Has Mr. Clausson been here this morning?”

“Left only a minute ago,” the man answered. Moving to the window, he pointed out a figure which could be seen walking slowly toward a hangar at the far end of the field. “If you hurry you may be able to catch him.”


Flash walked as fast as he could, overtaking the man at the doorway of the Triway hangars.

“Mr. Clausson?” he inquired.

“That’s my name. What can I do for you.”

“I’m Flash Evans from the Ledger.”


Flash was somewhat taken aback by this strange response.

“Didn’t you wish to see me, sir?” he inquired.

Mr. Clausson shook his head. “What gave you that idea?”


“I was told by Luke Frowein that you were looking for me.”

“Luke Frowein?” the airline official repeated. “Never heard of him.”

Flash’s lips tightened into a grim line. “I guess I’ve been made the butt of a joke,” he said. “Sorry to have bothered you.”

Turning, he started back toward the station, angry thoughts racing through his mind. Luke Frowein had played a shabby trick upon him! He had been stupid to trust the fellow.

The loud drone of an airplane motor caused Flash to glance overhead. A silver-winged monoplane was gliding down over the telephone wires for a fast landing. He knew that it must be the specially chartered Ledger plane.

Flash hurried faster. He lost sight of the plane as it dropped below the level of the station building. But upon reaching the runway a minute or two later, he saw that the ship had taxied up to one of the gasoline pumps. He ran toward the pilot who had climbed out of the cockpit.

“Is this the Ledger plane?” questioned Flash tersely.

“That’s right,” the pilot responded.

“May I have the pictures?”


“Pictures? I just gave them to a fellow named Evans from the Ledger.”

“But I’m Evans!”

The pilot stared. “Then someone has pulled a fast one! Fellow in a gray suit stepped up as I landed and said he was Evans from the Ledger. I gave him the package.”

“Luke Frowein, a Globe man!” Flash explained grimly. “And I was dumb enough to fall for the trick!”

Whirling, he ran down the cement, through the station, to the main gate. There was no sign of Luke Frowein.

A taxi cruised slowly past. Flash quickly hailed it.

“To the Globe building!” he ordered tersely. “I’ll give you an extra buck if you step on it!”

The cab roared along the highway at fifty miles an hour, slowing down only when it reached the city limits. Flash kept close watch of other automobiles as they dodged in and out of traffic, but caught no glimpse of the man he pursued.

Presently the taxi pulled up in front of the Globe building. Flash leaped out, and paying the extra fare he had promised, hurried inside. Although the trip from the airport had been made in record time, he was afraid he had arrived too late.


He pressed his finger on the elevator button and held it there until the cage descended.

“What’s the big idea?” demanded the elevator man indignantly. “I can’t hurry no faster.”

“Has Luke Frowein been here in the past fifteen minutes?”

“No, he ain’t,” the man snapped. “Anyway, he usually comes in the other door.”

Flash ran around to the rear entrance of the building. As he turned the corner, a battered press car wheeled into the loading dock and stopped with a lurch. Luke Frowein climbed down. With a friendly wave of his hand at a trucker who was loading papers, he proceeded toward the rear entrance.

Flash had stepped inside the deserted vestibule beyond view. He waited.

Whistling a cheerful tune, Luke Frowein entered the building. He quickly broke off as he observed the young photographer.

“That was a dirty trick you tried to play on me!” accused Flash. “Give me my pictures!”

“Your pictures?” repeated Frowein mockingly. “Don’t know what you’re prattling about, son.”

Flash could see a flat, bulky package protruding from the photographer’s overcoat pocket. He tried to seize the parcel. Frowein pushed him roughly back against the wall.


“Keep your hands out of my pockets!” he ordered unpleasantly.

The cage of the freight elevator had started to descend slowly from the sixth floor. In another minute Flash knew the elevator man would be there to aid Frowein. He acted instinctively.

His right arm coiled back, then lashed out in a swift, sure arc. At the end of that arc, Flash’s knuckled fist exploded against the photographer’s chin. Thrown off balance, Frowein reeled, and fell backwards, sprawling awkwardly on the stairway.

Before he could get up, Flash leaped on him and jerked the package from his overcoat pocket. One glance convinced him he had made no mistake. The package plainly was marked for the Ledger.

“Hey, get off, will you!” Frowein growled. “Can’t you take a little joke?”

Flash coolly pocketed the package before removing himself from Frowein’s mid-section.

“Your brand of humor doesn’t appeal to me,” he retorted. “And I doubt if it would make such a hit with your editor either!”

“See here,” Frowein protested in quick alarm, “you’re not going to spill this, are you? It was only a joke.”

“A joke which would have cost me my job!”


“I could make it plenty tough for you,” Frowein hinted defensively. “Suppose it should get out that Deems held you up on the Gezzy-Brady fight! But I’m not that sort of fellow. We’ll strike a bargain. You keep your lip buttoned and so will I.”

Flash had no intention of carrying the matter further.

“All right,” he agreed, helping Frowein to his feet. “We’ll call the whole thing a draw.”

The Globe photographer grinned ruefully as he rubbed his chin.

“You pack a wicked wallop,” he said grudgingly.

The cage door opened and the elevator man peered out at the pair.

“What’s going on here?”

“Nothing,” muttered Frowein, rescuing his hat from the stairway. “I slipped and fell, that’s all. They ought to keep these vestibules lighted.”

Flash had turned toward the door. He could not resist one parting shot.

“Well, so long, Frowein,” he tossed cheerfully. “From now on, no more ‘hello, hero,’ stuff. I’m just plain Evans to you.”



Flash delivered the airplane crash pictures into the hands of City Editor Riley, whose only comment was that it had taken him long enough to make the trip. In fifteen minutes the prints were on the wirephoto cylinders, by means of which the photos were transmitted to other sections of the country. A short time later the Ledger made the street with a back page devoted to the exclusive shots.

Not even Joe Wells heard the story of how close the Ledger had come to being scooped by the Globe. Flash kept the affair strictly to himself, but he had learned a bitter lesson. While he knew there were few persons who would stoop to Luke Frowein’s low trickery, he never again would entirely trust a rival photographer.


In the days which followed, Flash performed his duties with quiet efficiency. He photographed fashion shows, golf tournaments, swimming meets, and no matter how routine the assignment, accepted it cheerfully. His unassuming ways gradually won him friends, both in and out of the office. However, Fred Orris remained cold and aloof.

Now and then, if Flash worked late at night, Herm would drop into the photography department for a friendly chat as he made his rounds. Flash enjoyed talking with the old fellow, but never succeeded in drawing him out about himself. One day he questioned Joe Wells regarding the watchman’s past life.

“Oh, he’s just a queer duck,” the photographer replied carelessly. “His real name is Herman Ronne. He’s been watchman at the Ledger for eight or ten years.”


“They say his wife died about fifteen years ago. He had a son, quite a promising young fellow, they tell me. Old Herm saved and scraped to put him through college.”

“Then I suppose the boy repaid him by going his own way?”

“No, the boy was grateful enough, but he up and died. Old Herm never did get over the shock. He’s been a bit screwy ever since—goes around talking to himself.”

“I’ve noticed the habit.”

“His work around here hasn’t been any too good the past year,” Wells added. “But the Ledger probably will keep him on until he dies.”


To Flash, Old Herm never mentioned his son or his troubles. Instead, he showed a deep interest in the young photographer’s aspirations and progress on the paper.

“It does my old bones good to see a cub like you get on,” he said heartily. “So many boys these days want the path smoothed out for ’em or they won’t play. But you grab the bull by the horns and dare him to gore you. I had that kind of stuff in me, too, when I was a lad years ago. The bull was stronger than I was, and here I am, workin’ a watch dog job at sixty-eight.”

It was rather difficult for Flash to imagine that Old Herm ever had been a man to wrestle directly with life, but he felt flattered by the watchman’s remarks.

“You were saying the other day you remembered my father,” he reminded the old fellow.

“Oh, yes, yes, I remember him well.”

“You didn’t by chance ever work in the old Post building?”

Old Herm shook his head as he pulled out his watch, a huge disc of yellow gold. “Well, got to be movin’ along. Time to punch another one of them infernal clocks.”


Saturday evening instead of going directly home after work, Flash took dinner downtown and then went to the Y.M.C.A. for a swim with his friend, Jerry Hayes. It was practically the first recreation he had taken since starting his new job on the Ledger. Every spare moment had been spent in study and experimentation. Now he felt he could take a little time off.

“I’m beginning to get on top of my work at last,” he confided to Jerry. “At first it seemed as if everything was against me, but the breaks are coming my way again.”

The two friends spent an hour in the pool, swimming and diving, and topped it off by taking part in a rough, exhausting game of water polo. After their showers, they dropped into Gus’s place for hamburgers and huge slices of apple pie.

“My treat, this time,” grinned Flash, slapping a dollar on the counter. “I can afford it now. Wish they would hand me another raise, though.”

“Can’t you manage to save another John Gelette or marry the boss’s daughter?” joked Jerry.

“Never will live that rescue down. I want to earn my next pay raise, if I ever get one!”

While they ate, Flash showed Jerry copies of some of his better pictures, many of which had been printed in the Ledger.

“You sure like your work, don’t you?” Jerry asked.


“I’d rather be a newspaper photographer than anything else,” Flash answered. “You work long hours, risk your life, perhaps, but when an editor says ‘get that picture,’ it fires your blood! The tougher the assignment, the better you like it.”

Jerry shrugged as he climbed down from the stool.

“Every man to his taste,” he said. “I think I’ll stick to being a lawyer or maybe a dentist.”

The big clock on the Fisher building chimed eleven as the two friends left the hamburger diner. The evening was warm, and they sauntered slowly down the street, rather reluctant to return home. But at length Flash said:

“Guess I ought to hit the hay. The old alarm goes off regularly at six-thirty these days.”

“It is getting late,” Jerry agreed.

They cut through an alley to a deserted street on the bus route. As they stood waiting, a muffled cry reached their startled ears.

“What was that?” Flash demanded, whirling around. “Sounded like someone yelling for help.”

The street was empty of pedestrians. For a moment they were unable to localize the strange cry. Actually it had seemed to come almost from beneath their feet.

“Must have been in one of the buildings!” exclaimed Jerry. “Maybe this furniture store!”


He and Flash stood directly in front of the Sam Davis Home Supply Company. Only a few steps away was an iron ventilating grating anchored in the sidewalk. They both thought that the cry might have carried to them from the basement of the building.

Flash and Jerry waited for the call to be repeated. There was no further sound to disturb the tranquillity of the street. But suddenly, a door opening into the alley was flung wide. From the furniture store bolted a man in a dark suit, hugging something close beneath his coat.

He started toward Flash and Jerry. Then, observing them, he wheeled and ran in the opposite direction.

“Let’s get him!” exclaimed Flash.

They took to the alley in pursuit of the man who proved to be astonishingly agile and quick-witted. Vaulting over a wooden fence, he raced through a yard and disappeared between two buildings.

When Jerry and Flash reached the place an instant later there was no sound of footsteps or any clue to tell them which way the fellow had gone. They searched between the buildings and looked up and down the streets.

“May as well give it up,” Jerry said in disgust. “He’s blocks away by this time. Wonder what he was up to anyhow?”

“Robbery, like as not,” answered Flash. “Let’s go back and see what we can learn.”


The side door of the furniture store building remained slightly ajar. Flash kicked it farther open with the toe of his shoe.

“Anyone there?” he called.

There was no answer. Flash stepped inside the dark vestibule, sniffing the air.

“I smell smoke, Jerry!”

“So do I!”

With one accord they rushed down a flight of wooden steps to the basement. Flash groped for a switch and finding it, flooded the room with light. Dense, black smoke was pouring from an adjoining doorway. They could hear the faint crackling of flames.

Rushing into the furnace room, Flash and Jerry stopped short. A wall of fire met their gaze. And on the cement floor, writhing and twisting, lay a man, bound and gagged.



Flash leaped forward. Pulling a knife from his pocket, he slashed at the ropes which held the man a prisoner. Jerry jerked off the handkerchief gag, and pulled him to his feet.

“Thanks!” gasped the man. “Now turn in a fire alarm quick, before my building goes up in smoke!”

Jerry ran out to the street, while Flash and the building owner turned on the disconnected sprinkler system. In addition they used buckets and hooked up a hose, keeping a steady stream of water playing on the blaze. By the time Jerry raced back, they had the fire well under control, while the sprinkler system would complete their work.

“Guess we won’t need the fire department after all,” murmured Flash, gazing at the blackened wall. He turned to the building owner. “What happened anyway? Who tied you up?”


“I’ll tell you!” the man said excitedly. “My name is Sam Davis. I own this building. Two weeks ago I was approached by a man who represented himself as Judd Slater, an agent for the North Brandale Mutual Insurance Company.”

“Never heard of it,” commented Flash.

“Nor has anyone else! It’s a dummy company, set up for the sole purpose of forcing building owners to pay exorbitant sums for protection.”

“A racket?” asked Jerry.

“That’s the way I figured it. And tonight proves I was right! If I had paid over eight dollars a week, I was assured my building would be safe from fire and damage.”

“You refused, I suppose?” inquired Flash.

“I did,” Sam Davis said with emphasis. “But I figured they would try to get me. So I had this sprinkler system installed. Then I made a point of keeping special watch of the building. The last few nights I’ve been sleeping here.”

“You surprised someone firing the building?” questioned Flash. “That fellow we saw running away?”

“He surprised me,” Sam Davis answered ruefully. “I was pretty tired, and nothing had happened for the past two weeks. I must have been sleeping like a log not to hear him enter the basement. He had set the fire before I aroused. Then I let out a yell for help but he overpowered me before I could do a thing.”

“Trussed you up and left you to burn?”


“Sure,” said Sam Davis. “Figured a dead witness couldn’t carry any tales to the police!”

“Did you get a good look at the man?”

“It was dark in here. But I know it wasn’t the same man—Judd Slater—who originally tried to shake me down.”

“The fellow Jerry and I chased down the alley was about my height,” Flash contributed thoughtfully. “He wore a dark suit and a floppy-brimmed hat. Not much to go on.”

“I’d know the man by his voice if ever I ran into him again,” declared Sam Davis. “He had an unusual way of pronouncing his words. Oh, yes, another thing! He began nearly every sentence with, ‘Listen, you!’”

“You’ll report to the police, of course?”

“Oh, sure!” The building owner shrugged. “But what good will it do? They’ve known for months that this sort of business was going on, but they can’t get evidence which will stand up. The gang is a big one and the higher-ups are too clever to be caught.”

“Mind if I take a picture or two?” Flash questioned abruptly.

“A picture? What for?”

“I’m Evans, a photographer for the Ledger,” Flash explained. “My paper may be able to use the story.”


“Go ahead. I’d like nothing better than to see this so-called North Brandale Insurance Company exposed. Take as many pictures as you like.”

“You’ll have to hurry,” added Jerry as he heard the wail of a fire siren from far down the street. “We’re going to have visitors.”

Flash seldom went anywhere without his miniature camera and a few extra flash bulbs tucked in his pocket. He was grateful now for the habit which made it possible to take advantage of a golden opportunity. He snapped two pictures of Sam Davis, one showing him trussed up, and another against a background of smoking ruins. As he finished, firemen clomped down the stairway.

“Don’t need you boys,” the building owner called cheerily. “Fire’s out. Thanks to these young fellows here.”

Flash and Jerry waited while the firemen inspected the basement. The odor of gasoline was strong. In poking about on the floor, one of the men found the remains of a rubber bladder which had been used to start the fire.

“I saw how the fellow did it!” Sam Davis revealed excitedly. “The bladder was filled with gasoline. Then he started a little fire beneath it. The heat made the bladder explode, and the flames spread everywhere. It’s a miracle I wasn’t burned.”


Flash took a picture of one of the firemen examining the device, and then with Jerry, slipped quietly away. On the street, they paused to consider their plans.

“You go on home without me,” urged Flash. “I want to run over to the newspaper office and develop these films.”

“Does the paper print tonight?” Jerry asked in surprise.

“The last edition is out. But the Sunday editor will want the pictures, I’m pretty sure. There’s dynamite in this arson story, Jerry! If it should develop that the Elston Apartment fire was set by the same outfit—”

“No evidence to support that theory, is there?”

“None yet. But it’s been rumored that the Elston Apartment fire was a planned job.”

“Haven’t seen anything about it in the newspapers.”

“It’s a ticklish story to print. The fire chief won’t give out any definite information and neither will the owners of the Elston Apartments. But it looks to me as if these pictures I’ve just taken may have some significance. At least, I’ll wave ’em under the editor’s nose and see what he says!”

“I’ll be watching for them in tomorrow’s paper,” Jerry promised, moving to the curb to board a bus. “So long.”


Flash walked swiftly to the Ledger building. Lights were burning on various floors, but nearly all of the offices were deserted. It lacked twenty minutes of midnight before the men who worked the “lobster” trick would come on duty.

In the hallway Flash met Old Herm, who seemed surprised to see him at such a late hour.

“Want I should let you into the office?” he asked.

Flash shook his head. “No, thanks, Herm. I have a key now.”

The photography department was deserted. Closing himself in the darkroom, Flash worked swiftly and with precision. In five minutes time the films had been put through the tanks. He washed them carefully and placed them on the heated ferrotype machine to dry.

When the prints were finished, he slipped them into an envelope, wrote a note of explanation to accompany them, and dropped the packet on the city editor’s vacant desk.

As Flash went out the front door, he met Fred Orris and an attractive young woman, obviously his wife, entering the building. Apparently they had attended the theatre, for Mrs. Orris still carried a program. He tipped his hat politely and went on, well aware that the photographer gave him a curious, unfriendly stare.


“Suppose Orris wonders what I am doing here at this hour?” he thought. “Oh, well, he’ll find out tomorrow!”

A bus, the last one until two o’clock rumbled down the street. Flash broke into a run and caught it at the corner. He reached home shortly after midnight, raided the refrigerator, and finally went to bed.

At six-thirty he was sleeping soundly when the alarm buzzed in his ear. Flash started up, and then as the realization came to him that he need not go to work on Sunday, he muffled it and fell back on his pillow.

But he had been thoroughly aroused and could not sleep again. He lay for a time staring at the ceiling. From the street he heard the cheerful whistle of a boy on a bicycle. The Sunday paper thudded against the front porch.

Jumping out of bed, Flash put on his robe and stole quietly down the stairway. He shot up the blinds and unlocked the door.

Eagerly he stripped off the brown wrapper and glanced at the front page of the Ledger. His fire pictures were not there.

Flash thumbed rapidly through the paper. There were pictures in profusion but none he had taken.


Finally, on the back page of Section C he found a brief four-line news item, stating that the Sam Davis Home Supply Store had been damaged to the extent of two hundred dollars by fire of an undetermined origin.

“Undetermined, my eye!” Flash exclaimed, slamming the paper on the davenport.

Joan appeared at the top of the stairway.

“What’s the matter, Jimmy?” she asked. “Didn’t they use your pet pictures?”

“No,” he answered briefly, “and they were good pictures, too, with plenty of punch! Now I’d like to know what happened this time!”



All day Sunday Flash remained deeply depressed. He had been almost certain that his pictures would be used in the Ledger. They had been remarkably clear prints, showing Sam Davis in action poses. He didn’t like to think that the pictures had been withheld because of policy, yet he could reach no other conclusion.

“Your old sheet must be afraid to buck the rackets,” commented Jerry Hayes who dropped in during the afternoon.

“I can’t understand it,” Flash confessed. “The Ledger has a reputation for being a fighting paper. And there was nothing libelous in my pictures.”

“Maybe the editor was afraid to make a direct accusation against the North Brandale Insurance Company without proof.”


“That’s possible,” admitted Flash, “but it still doesn’t explain why my pictures weren’t used. They told a story of their own. It wouldn’t have been necessary to implicate the insurance company. By the way, did you ever hear of such an outfit, Jerry?”

“Never did.”

“Probably it’s a fake company, just as Sam Davis believes. Anyway, the name isn’t listed in the telephone directory. Looks to me as if the Ledger is missing a chance for a big story.”

“And some good pictures,” added Jerry, grinning. “Well, cheer up. Maybe they’ll be printed in tomorrow’s paper.”

Upon his way to work Monday morning, Flash bought an early edition of the Ledger. A hasty glance assured him that his pictures had not been used.

Riley was occupied making out an assignment sheet when Flash passed his desk. He did not glance up. Flash hesitated, then paused and spoke.

“I see you didn’t use my fire pictures, Mr. Riley.”

“What’s that?” the editor barked.

Flash repeated his words.

“Fire pictures?” Riley demanded. “Didn’t find anything of the sort on my desk.”

“I left an envelope with a note of explanation. That was late Saturday night.”

“Better ask Clingston about it,” said Riley carelessly. “He came on at midnight.”


Flash nodded and entered the photography department. The room was deserted. He debated a moment, then looked up Clingston’s telephone number and placed a call.

A sleepy voice answered: “Yeah? Clingston speaking.”

Flash nearly lost his courage as he realized he had aroused the man from his bed. But he said tersely:

“This is Evans. I’m checking up on some pictures of the Sam Davis fire. I left them on the city desk late Saturday night.”

“Didn’t find them,” the editor answered.

“That’s funny. They were in an envelope.” Flash described the pictures, repeating what Sam Davis had told him.

“We could have used those shots,” Clingston said regretfully. “Too bad they were lost.”

“I don’t see how it could have happened.”

“The janitor may have brushed the envelope into the waste basket by mistake.”

“Shall I print them up again?”

“No use now,” Clingston returned. “The story is two days old.”

Flash hung up the receiver just as Fred Orris entered the office. He thoughtfully watched the head photographer as he hung his hat on a peg.

“Orris,” he began abruptly.



“When you came into the building Saturday night did you notice an envelope of pictures lying on the city desk?”

“No, I didn’t,” Orris answered shortly. “What of it?”

“I left some there—fire pictures. They disappeared before Clingston came on duty.”

Orris shot Flash a sharp, questioning glance.

“Say, just what are you trying to suggest?”


“Well, I trust not,” the head photographer muttered grimly. “I don’t know anything about your pictures and care less. My wife and I dropped in here after the theatre to telephone for a taxi. The trouble with you Evans, you’re always looking for an easy way out.”

An angry flush stained Flash’s face. With an effort, he kept from making a sharp retort. Orris would like nothing better than to draw him into a fight, and then request his dismissal.

Getting up abruptly from the telephone table, he went into the darkroom and closed the door. He distrusted the head photographer more than ever now. Orris hadn’t liked him from the day he had started work on the Ledger. While he had no proof that the man had destroyed his pictures, a suspicion took root in his mind. After this he would be more careful than ever, remaining constantly on the alert for treachery.


Thinking there was a possibility that the janitor knew something of the matter, Flash sought the man. He likewise questioned a scrub woman who cleaned the news room at night. As he fully expected, neither of them could throw any light upon the mystery. All the waste paper baskets had been emptied, and if ever the pictures had been consigned there, they were burned.

Later that morning, Flash was testing his camera, when Riley stepped into the office, a batch of prints in his hand.

“Anything wrong?” Fred Orris asked in alarm.

“Nothing in particular,” Riley replied. “I was wondering why we can’t have these pictures printed with a duller finish. Give ’em a softer tone.”

“But Mr. Riley, all the other editors want glossy prints.”

“Is there any reason why I can’t have a duller finish?”

“Well, yes, there is,” Orris responded in a conciliatory tone. “You see, the ferrotype machine only dries the prints one way—with a gloss.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to take them this way.” Riley shrugged and started to move off.

Flash, who had been listening to the conversation, stepped forward.


“I know how you can have your dull-finish pictures, Mr. Riley,” he stated.

“Oh, you do?” interposed Orris, an edge to his voice. “Suppose you tell us!”

“I was trying it out the other day,” explained Flash. “All you need to do is to place the print between blotting paper when you put it on the ferrotype machine.”

“And what finish will it make?” Riley inquired with interest.

“I’ll show you,” Flash offered. “I think I have a few samples in my portfolio.”

He brought the prints. Riley glanced at them and beamed.

“This is what I want! Orris, let me have my prints like these.”

“As you wish,” the head photographer returned surlily, “but I doubt if they’ll make as good cuts as the regular glossy prints.”

After Riley had gone, Orris offered no comment. He experimented in the darkroom, and gave orders to the other photographers how the new prints were to be made. While he neither praised nor criticised Flash, his attitude made it evident that he considered the young man something of a pest.

However, the new prints made an attractive change in the Ledger, and Riley was pleased.


Three days later, after an uneventful afternoon, Flash and Joe Wells were lounging in the photography department, waiting for their trick to end. It was not quite four o’clock.

“Never saw things so dull since I’ve been on the Ledger,” Joe Wells yawned. “A few more days like this, and we’ll be laid off.”

Flash took his friend seriously. “I’ll be the first one to go,” he said, “because I’m the youngest man.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Wells replied. “We didn’t need an extra photographer when Riley hired you. He took you on because you showed a lot of promise. Your work has been all right, too.”

“But nothing spectacular.”

“Spectacular pictures don’t drop into a fellow’s lap every day. You’ll get your big chance one of these days, Flash.”

The door opening into the news room stood ajar. From where they were they could hear the teletype machines pounding out their news from all parts of the country. Suddenly everyone in the office was startled to hear a steady jingle of the signal bell, followed by Riley’s excited shout:

“The Alexander has gone down!”


Flash and the other photographers ran into the adjoining room, crowding about the teletype machine. The first bulletin was brief, stating little more than the bare fact that the great passenger liner had sunk less than fifty miles from New York, following a violent explosion. Three hundred American passengers, nearly all of them holiday tourists, had been taken aboard the steamship Belmonia which was making for New York. Ten persons were known to be dead, and thirty were missing.

“There were several Brandale passengers on the Alexander,” Riley recalled excitedly. “We ran a story about two weeks ago. Adams, check on that angle!”

As new bulletins kept coming in, every department was spurred to action. Long distance telephone calls were placed to correspondents in New York. But Riley felt that the story was too important to be handled in a routine way.

“We want pictures! Lots of ’em!” he muttered. “I have it! One of the survivors may have been an amateur photographer—there’s always a few on every ship! If any pictures were taken, and we can get ’em we’ll score a scoop!”

A radiogram promptly was dispatched to the rescue ship, Belmonia, with an offer to buy any and all camera films available from the survivors. In a comparatively short while a reply was returned. It read:

“Eight rolls undeveloped film available. Offered at five hundred dollars.”


Riley winced at the price but wired back an immediate acceptance. He then dispatched a photographer and two reporters by plane to New York to be on hand when the vessel docked.

Even with arrangements made for the films, Riley was uneasy.

“Another paper may overbid us,” he fretted. “Then we’ll be sitting high and dry without our pictures.”

“How about meeting the ship out at sea?” suggested Joe Wells.

Riley thought a moment and nodded. “Good idea, if Captain Sorenson will let you aboard. He has a reputation for being a grouch. Think you can swing it?”

“Sure, with a good pilot. How about Dave French?”

“I’ll charter his plane and have it waiting by the time you reach the airport,” Riley promised. “And I’ll radio Sorenson to be on the lookout for you. You may be able to get some good shots of the survivors yourself.”

“I’ll take plenty of holders,” Wells said, starting toward the photography room.

“May as well send another man with you,” Riley added.


His gaze wandered from one eager face to another. Fred Orris moved a step forward as if anticipating that he would be chosen. Riley’s eye traveled past him and came to rest upon Flash.

“Evans! You’ll go with Wells. On your way out, stop at the cashier’s desk for money. Pay whatever you must to get those films, but don’t come back without them!”



Elated at the assignment, Flash rushed after Joe Wells to get his own camera equipment.

“Glad Riley is sending you instead of Orris,” his friend commented briefly.

On their way to the street, the two photographers stopped at the cashier’s office, and were given an envelope containing nine hundred dollars. Flash carefully placed it in an inside pocket.

Hailing a taxi, they rode directly to the harbor where Dave French awaited them with his seaplane already warmed up for the trip.

“Think you’ll have any trouble contacting the Belmonia?” Wells asked the pilot.

Dave French smiled and shook his head. “No, I have her position. But we ought to get started so we can get back before dark.”

Flash and Joe climbed into the cockpit. Before the plane could take to the water, a man came out of a building, and ran toward them, waving his hand.

“Hold it!” he shouted.


Dave French throttled down and waited.

“Now what?” muttered Joe Wells.

“Riley of the Ledger just telephoned,” the man informed. “He says the captain of the Belmonia refuses to pick up a passenger.”

“Then the trip is off!” Wells exclaimed in disgust. “I was afraid of this. Sorenson is one of the worst crabs on the line.”

“Did Riley say we were to come back to the office?” Flash inquired thoughtfully.

“He didn’t say anything about that. His message was that the captain wouldn’t pick up a passenger.”

Wells had started to climb from the cockpit, but Flash pulled him back.

“Wait, Joe! I have an idea!”

“Spill it.”

“Riley didn’t order us not to make the trip. Why don’t we try anyway?”

“That is a brilliant brain wave,” Wells said scornfully. “We’d have a trip for nothing, run up a nice bill, and get fired for our trouble!”

“Maybe not, Joe. We’d be taking a chance all right, but I have a hunch we can get aboard the Belmonia.”



“Listen, Joe, sea captains are supposed to have humanitarian instincts, aren’t they? If Sorenson saw a fellow swimming in the ocean miles from shore wouldn’t steam away and let him drown, would he?”

“Sorenson might,” replied Wells. “No ordinary trick will work with him. But what’s your scheme?”

“It’s simple. Dave flies us out to meet the Belmonia. When we’re certain we’ve attracted attention, one of us jumps overboard—”

“Breaking a leg, smashing six ribs, not to mention a neck—”

“It could be done, couldn’t it?” Flash demanded of the pilot.

“Yes, I could fly low enough so a person wouldn’t be slapped very hard,” Dave French answered reluctantly. “But why not land the plane on the water?”

“With a seaplane handy, Sorenson never would pick up a fellow. My idea is to jump, then have the plane fly back to shore.”

“And who is to do the jumping, brother?” inquired Wells.

“I will. I’m a pretty fair swimmer.”

“Do you realize that if Sorenson doesn’t pick you up, it would mean curtains?”

“He will,” Flash said confidently. “The only risk is that he might not see me in the water. But if I jump it will attract attention.”

“The idea is just crazy enough that it might work,” Wells said slowly.


“I’m sure it will! Let’s try it!”

“See here! You’re overlooking one point—an important one,” said Wells. “How are you going to protect your money? You’ll have to keep it dry.”

“I can get you a waterproof container,” the pilot offered quickly.

“And I can use it to protect the films after I get them,” added Flash. “Sorenson may be decent enough to put me off in a boat so I can contact the plane for the return trip. If he doesn’t, I’ll jump.”

“We’ll have to arrange an exact schedule,” Dave French declared. “How long will you need aboard the ship?”

“Give me three quarters of an hour from the time I first jump,” Flash decided. “That ought to be long enough.”

“A man can drown in thirty seconds,” murmured Wells gloomily. “But if you’re willing to try it, I shouldn’t kick.”

A waterproof container was quickly found. Then Dave French speeded up the motors, and the big seaplane scooted along the water. The waves were fairly heavy. Several times before flying speed was attained, the ship was thrown a little way into the air, but each time the pilot minimized the stall by pushing the stick forward. In a moment the plane took off smoothly and climbed.


Flash transferred his money to the waterproof container which he pinned securely inside his shirt. He divested himself of shoes and coat, but decided not to use the life-belt which the pilot had procured for him. He was afraid it might check his fall into the sea too suddenly, thus adding to the shock of impact.

The plane flew steadily eastward, sighting small sailing boats and larger vessels. Presently, Dave French throttled down, and pointed to a large steamship which could be seen some distance away.

“The Belmonia!” he shouted.

Flash’s pulse quickened and a queer feeling came into the pit of his stomach. His plan had seemed simple back on land. But now, peering down at the ruffled surface of the water far below, he realized what a small speck a swimmer must appear to a lookout stationed on the Belmonia.

“Better give it up,” admonished Joe Wells, with a worried frown.

Flash shook his head and, feeling of his money to be certain it was securely fastened, signaled Dave French that he was ready.

The plane drove steadily on and circled the Belmonia twice. Flash and Joe waved, but the only response they received was from a few of the passengers. Obviously, the captain of the vessel had no intention of lowering a boat so they might board.


“All right, I’ll jump!” Flash said. “Any time, Dave.”

The pilot brought the plane lower and motioned for the photographer to get out on the right wing. While Joe helped give him support, Flash struggled from the cockpit. The wind struck him full in the face and, catching him off guard, nearly toppled him from his perch before he was ready to make the plunge. He recovered and clung tightly.

“We’ll wait to see that you’re picked up,” Wells shouted.

“No!” Flash hurled back.

He was convinced that as long as the seaplane remained in the vicinity, Captain Sorenson never would rescue him.

The plane dropped lower and lower until it flew level not more than fifty feet above the surface of the sea. Dave waggled the wings slightly, a signal that it was time to jump.

For an instant, Flash’s courage nearly failed him. Never in his life had he dived more than thirty feet. The water looked miles away. But he dared not think about it or he would be lost.

Taking a deep breath, he jumped. As he shot down feet foremost, Joe Wells shouted something after him which sounded suspiciously like: “Get names!”


At the moment, Flash’s one concern was to keep from losing his balance and being toppled head over heels in the air. He must strike the water feet first. If he didn’t, he would suffer a nasty blow, and perhaps crack a rib or injure his back.

Fighting a desire to look downward, he kept his head held high. Straight as a bullet he shot downward, gathering speed. The wind rushed past his face, taking his breath.

Then the water loomed up and he bent slightly to take it with as little shock as possible. Even so, he struck it with a resounding crack and a jar which shook every muscle.

The force of the fall plunged Flash to a tremendous depth. He fought his way to the surface, only to have a wave sweep over his head, burying him again.

Once more he struggled up, gasping for breath. Taking air in great gulps, he rolled over on his back and rested.

The seaplane had banked and was heading in the direction of shore. Three hundred yards away the Belmonia plowed steadily on her course.

Flash waited a moment and then began to wave to attract attention. He felt certain the skipper of the Belmonia must be aware of his plight, yet there was no indication from the steamship that he had been seen.


Wave upon wave pounded down upon the photographer, burying him and cutting off his view of the steamship. Minutes passed, and Flash’s panic grew. The seaplane no longer was visible as a speck in the sky so he could not expect rescue from his friends. What a fool he had been! He had not realized that he must battle such high waves. Unless the Belmonia picked him up he could not hope to keep afloat until Wells and French returned.

“Sorenson must have seen me jump,” he thought bitterly. “But he has no intention of taking me aboard. He means to let me drown!”



As Flash watched with increasing alarm, the Belmonia kept steadily to her course. Minutes seemed an eternity. The cold water was biting into his skin, chilling him through. An icy fear clutched at his heart.

And then, when he had abandoned all hope, he saw that a small boat was being lowered from the steamer. He had been seen and would be picked up!

Minutes later two sailors hauled him over the side into the bottom of the boat.

“They say there’s one born every minute,” remarked a ship’s officer grimly. “After watching you jump from that plane, I believe it!”

“Had to get aboard some way,” grinned Flash, wriggling into a dry jacket which a sailor offered him.


“Photographer for the Brandale Ledger. I aim to get some films our paper bought from a survivor of the Alexander.”

“You’re lucky you weren’t drowned!”


“Guess I am at that,” Flash admitted cheerfully.

The sailors fell to rowing steadily, and in a short while the boat came alongside the Belmonia.

Stepping on deck, Flash found himself confronted by Captain Sorenson, a stern, red-faced, well-built man of sixty, whose clipped words dropped like chips of steel. In no uncertain language he gave the bedraggled young man to understand that he had committed an inexcusable offense in causing the Belmonia to be detained. Flash accepted the berating as his just due, responding, “Yes, sir,” and “You are quite right, sir,” until with a shrug of impatience, the captain took himself to the bridge.

The first mate, a man with twinkling blue eyes, stepped forward and said to Flash in a low tone:

“That fellow over by the railing is the one who has the films for sale. He has bought up everything on board. I understand two other papers besides yours have radioed him offers.”

Flash thanked the officer for the friendly tip and hastened over to speak with the man who had been pointed out to him. He quickly introduced himself, explaining why he had boarded the ship. As he had feared, the passenger immediately adopted a shrewd attitude.

“Well, I don’t know about letting you have the films,” he said.


“You made a definite deal with us,” Flash reminded him.

“Sure, I know, but a man has a right to change his mind. I’ve already been offered six hundred for the films. I’d be foolish to let them go for less. These eight rolls are the only available pictures of the explosion.”

“I’ll match the offer,” said Flash. “Six hundred dollars.”

“I’m holding out for seven fifty.”

“We can’t pay it,” Flash replied shortly. “We’re offering to buy your films undeveloped. They may not be worth a dime to us when they’re printed. We’ll be lucky if we get two or three good pictures in the lot.”

“Seven fifty.”

“See here,” said Flash, “I risked my life to get these films, and I don’t like to go back without them. But six hundred is our limit. Take it or leave it.”

He was bluffing. Riley told him to pay what he must for the pictures. But he didn’t like to be held up. And he thought, too, that he detected signs of weakening.

“All right, the films are yours for six hundred,” the passenger agreed suddenly. “That is, if you’re prepared to pay in cash.”

“I am.”


Flash took out the waterproof container, and to his relief found it perfectly dry. He stripped off several crisp bills without allowing the man to see the extent of his bank roll. In turn, he received eight rolls of camera film which he replaced in the holder.

His most important mission accomplished, he next turned his attention to the survivors of the Alexander. Every available cabin, the salons and decks were crowded with men, women, and children, many dressed in clothing borrowed from sailors of the Belmonia.

Circulating among the passengers, Flash found them more than willing to tell of their experiences. He obtained many dramatic accounts of the explosion, the sinking of the vessel, and the timely rescue. While the captain of the Alexander had gone down with his ship, he talked with other surviving officers who were able to give him a list of the known dead and missing.

Flash worked swiftly and was ready to leave the ship by the time he sighted Dave French’s seaplane. Already long shadows had fallen over the water. Within a short while it would be so dark that a swimmer could not be seen on the surface of the sea. If he were to be picked up, it must be quickly.


Approaching the mate who had seemed more friendly than the other officers, Flash asked if he might be put off in a small boat to make contact with the seaplane.

“Not a chance of it,” the mate told him regretfully. “You would only waste your breath to ask Captain Sorenson. I’m afraid you’ll have to stay aboard until we dock.”

Flash had no intention of losing the advantage he had gained. He knew that if he could get back to Brandale ahead of the Belmonia, the Ledger would scoop every paper in the country with its pictures and news story. There was only one way. He must jump overboard and trust that Dave French would be able to pick him up.

His decision made, Flash sauntered toward the stern of the vessel. He saw the watchful gaze of the mate upon him, but if that worthy suspected his purpose, he gave no sign.

The drone of the seaplane grew louder, drawing many passengers to the railing. Flash could make out the pilot and Joe Wells in the cockpit. They waved and he returned the signal although he was far from certain they could distinguish him from the other passengers.

Scrambling to the rail, he poised an instant. Then he leaped far out, away from the turbulent waters which boiled about the ship. Making a shallow dive, he came to the surface a safe distance astern.


Rolling over on his back, he saw that the seaplane had turned and was gliding gracefully down. It settled easily upon the water, taxiing toward him. Flash had only to wait to be hauled into the cockpit.

“Did you get the pictures?” Joe Wells demanded eagerly.

Flash nodded and offered the container. There was an anxious moment as they examined the films, but all eight were dry.

The roar of the wind as the seaplane once more took to the air made conversation impossible. Wrapped in Joe Wells’ coat, Flash shivered and chattered, and drew a sigh of relief when at last the harbor was reached. Not until then did he tell any of the details of his adventure.

“This day’s deed should win another salary increase for you, Flash,” Joe said heartily. “But it won’t do you any good if you come down with pneumonia!”

Flash borrowed a dry outfit, and the two photographers caught a taxi back to the Ledger building. As they burst into the newsroom, Riley, who had remained overtime at his desk, leaped to his feet.

“We got the pictures, Chief,” Wells announced dramatically. “Or rather, Flash did.”


“You both had your nerve disregarding my orders,” Riley chuckled. “I want to hear all about it. But first, develop those films, and let’s see what we have.”

Flash and Joe were the target of envious glances, from the other photographers, as they entered the department. Shutting themselves up in the darkroom, they decided to develop the rolls of film one at a time to avoid any risk of scratching the negatives.

The rolls were of all sizes and length. Anxiously, Flash and Joe put the first batch through and examined the negatives under the light. They could make out a few blurred figures but that was all. Every picture was so badly out of focus that it could not be used.

“Better luck on the others—maybe,” said Joe gloomily.

Another roll turned out to be over-exposed. Not until they came to the seventh strip did they obtain a single printable picture. Even so the films would need to be specially treated, and the subject matter was scarcely worth the bother.

“Looks as if we’ve bought six hundred dollars worth of nothing,” Joe muttered.

Without much hope, they developed the last roll. Almost as soon as it was dipped into the developer fluid, the set of six pictures began to appear.

“Boy!” Wells breathed. “Maybe we’ll get something after all!”


Carefully, they removed the shining strip from the tank. For a moment neither of the photographers spoke. Then Wells laughed aloud, so great was his relief.

“Beauties!” he exclaimed. “Six of them!”

While his friend finished the pictures, Flash hurried to the newsroom to report the good fortune to Riley. The editor bade him tell the entire story of how the films had been obtained. And a little later, when he saw the pictures for himself, he declared that six hundred dollars had not been too much to pay.

“Buy yourself a new suit of clothes at the Ledger’s expense, Evans,” he said heartily. “And you may find a little extra tucked in your pay check at the end of the week.”

“Thank you,” said Flash, flushing with pleasure.

“You’ve earned it this time,” replied Riley, and his inference was plain. “Just keep up the good work.”

Back in the photographic department, Flash received the congratulations of the other photographers. Only Orris seemed to resent the fact that he had been given a raise.

Later, after the extra was out, and the Ledger had scored its sensational scoop, Flash was examining a set of old films, when Joe Wells touched his shoulder.

“Let’s jog down the street and grab something to eat,” he proposed. “What are you doing anyway? Admiring your own work?”


Flash shook his head.

“Just looking over some of my old films. I keep speculating as to how I streaked those fire pictures—can’t figure it out.”

“Why try?” Wells asked with a yawn.

“I don’t want the same accident to happen a second time. Mr. Riley seems to like my work now, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

“You’re a true photographer,” Joe grinned. “Instead of basking in your success, you worry about your failures! Probably that same mishap will never occur again.”

“I hope not,” said Flash.

But secretly he wondered.



On his way home from work the following afternoon, Flash stopped at the Sam Davis Home Supply Store. The proprietor was busy with a salesman, but as soon as he could, he invited the photographer into his private office.

“I’m glad you dropped around,” he declared heartily. “You and your friend ran away the other night before I had an opportunity to thank you for saving both my life and my store.”

“You did have a rather narrow escape,” Flash acknowledged. “Has anything new happened around here since then?”

“I haven’t had any more trouble if that’s what you mean. I figure whoever set the fire assumes the store is being watched by the police.”

“And is that the case?”

The furniture store owner crumpled an advertising circular and tossed it into the waste paper basket.


“No, I asked for a special guard, but they said they couldn’t give it to me. The police force is undermanned and the commissioner lacks the courage to fight the rackets. Either that, or he’s tied up with them!”

“I suppose it’s not easy for the police to get evidence,” remarked Flash. “Most store owners who are approached probably pay the tribute and keep quiet.”

“Sure,” agreed Sam Davis. “They reason that the police can’t really give them any protection. It’s cheaper to pay a few dollars a week than to have your store wrecked, as I very well know! Nearly always, the only fellows caught are the agents for higher-ups.”

“And the store owners are afraid to testify against them for fear of getting rough treatment later on.”

“That’s it,” Davis nodded grimly. “Why, I know a half dozen men who have taken out insurance with this North Brandale Company rather than risk having their buildings fired.”

“Can you give me a list of the persons?”

“I could,” the store man said reluctantly, “but I don’t see what good it would do. It might only cause trouble.”

“I’ll not publish the list,” Flash promised. “You see, I thought I might try to do a little investigation work on my own.”


“I don’t think you’ll get to first base, young man,” Sam Davis said discouragingly. “But I’ll give you the names. Only don’t ever let on that you got them from me.”

“I won’t,” Flash promised.

The store owner wrote several names and addresses on a sheet of paper.

“By the way,” he said, “what happened to those pictures you took of me the night of the fire? I thought you said they were going to be printed in the Ledger.”

Flash had anticipated the question.

“Oh, the paper decided not to use them,” he replied carelessly.

“You see what I mean,” Sam Davis said, nodding his head. “Anything touching the rackets is dynamite in this town. The police are afraid to buck them and so are the newspapers.”

“In the Ledger’s case it was a matter of news value rather than policy,” explained Flash. “I didn’t get the pictures into the editor’s hands quickly enough.”

“Oh, I see. Well, I’m just as glad the pictures didn’t appear. I don’t especially care about being made the target of another attack.”

Flash took the list of names. When he was outside the building, he studied the addresses. Many of the places were close at hand. He decided to make a few calls during the hour which remained before most business houses would lock their doors.


His first stop was at the Globe Chain Store, but the manager, a blunt speaking man, flatly denied he ever had heard or had dealings with any representative of the North Brandale Insurance Company. Two additional calls were equally unsuccessful. Although the store owners disclosed by their manner that the company was unpleasantly familiar to them, they had nothing to say.

With time remaining for only one more visit, Flash dropped in at the offices of the Fenmore Warehouse. A stenographer was in the act of covering her typewriter as he entered the reception room.

“Am I too late to see Mr. Fenmore for a moment?” Flash inquired.

“Mr. Fenmore is still in his office,” the girl replied. “But it is closing time. I’m not certain he will see you.”

At that moment, a stout bald-headed man came out of the inner office, hat in hand. He glanced inquiringly at Flash.

“You wished to see me?”

“Yes, I did. I’m Jimmy Evans from the Ledger.”

“I’m afraid I can’t see you tonight. I was just starting home.”

“I’ll come back another time,” Flash said, turning away.

“What’s it about?” Mr. Fenmore asked curiously.


“The North Brandale Insurance Company,” Flash answered. “I’m trying to check up on the outfit—get a little evidence against them.”

Mr. Fenmore’s manner instantly changed.

“Come into the office,” he invited abruptly.

The door closed behind Flash. He dropped into a leather chair in front of Mr. Fenmore’s desk.

“Now what do you wish to know?” the man asked him. “You say you’re a reporter from the Ledger?”

“A photographer,” Flash corrected. “And this is strictly an unofficial visit.”

He then went on to explain his interest in the recent fires which had broken out in the business section of Brandale, mentioning that he believed many of them to be the work of an arson ring.

“Your guess is a shrewd one, young man,” Mr. Fenmore replied grimly. “For the past three months, an outfit which operates under the name of the North Brandale Insurance Company has been shaking down a group of honest business men. Those who refuse to take out fire insurance at ridiculous rates, wake up to find their property damaged—fires, explosions, goods ruined by stench bombs.”

“I take it you’ve been threatened, Mr. Fenmore.”

“I have. But we’ll fight!”

“What can you tell me about the company?”


“Almost nothing. They have no offices or address. The collector who came to see me called himself J. W. Hawkins, but that means nothing. The ring is a large one.”

“Can you describe the agent?”

“A little better than average height I would say. Blue suit. Dark hair. A rather pleasant talking fellow.”

Flash realized that the description was worthless for it would fit a hundred men he knew. He talked with Mr. Fenmore a few minutes longer, and then, aware he was keeping him from his dinner, left the warehouse.

“I learned nothing new,” he reflected, “but at least I’ve found a man who won’t be afraid to testify if ever the police round up the arson gang.”

Flash made no progress with the investigation during the next few days. Two small downtown fires occurred, admittedly of questionable origin, but there was no evidence to attribute them to the work of an arson ring. Flash tried in his spare moments to gather facts about the North Brandale Insurance Company. He could learn nothing. Save for the fact that a policeman had been assigned to watch the Fenmore warehouse, there were no new developments.


As his work at the office became heavier, Flash tended to lose interest in the fire case. Twice he was sent out to take strike pictures which won words of approval from Riley. His week-end pay check had been increased by another five dollars and it was evident he stood in favor.

Entering the office unexpectedly one morning, Flash overheard Fred Orris talking with another photographer in the darkroom.

“Evans is riding high these days,” said Orris contemptuously. “He sure has the big head and has it bad! One of these times we may see him take a tumble.”

“And would you enjoy it!” thought Flash.

While the remark angered him, he gathered up his camera equipment and left the office without Orris knowing he had been there. However, he made up his mind that in the future he must be more careful than ever. The head photographer was only waiting for an opportunity to humiliate him and cause him to lose his job.

“Orris must have been the one who took my fire pictures, too,” he told himself.

Not only did Flash fulfill his regular assignments, but he spent hours of his own time thinking up ideas for special human interest pictures. He felt encouraged when one of his shots, a character study of a sailor, appeared in the rotogravure section of the Ledger.


One afternoon Flash was sent to an office building to take a picture of an executive who had figured prominently in the news. As he stood at a window waiting to see the man, he chanced to glance across the park. The Tower building, a slender stone structure and the highest in Brandale, rose twenty-two stories above the sidewalk.

Many times Flash had photographed the edifice for his own album, but never before had he viewed the tower from this particular angle. He was struck with the thought that he might be able to get a remarkable night picture from the windows of one of the buildings on the south side of the square.

“I’ll come back here tonight and try it!” he decided. “Even if the Ledger can’t use it, I’d like one for my collection.”

Flash took the required pictures of the executive, and returned to the newspaper office. At four o’clock when he went off duty he asked Riley for permission to use one of the Ledger cameras that evening.

“Go ahead,” the editor replied. “If your picture turns out well, we may be able to run it.”

Flash took dinner downtown. Afterwards he returned to the office, helping himself generously to films, plates, and flash bulbs. As he was going down the back stairs he met Old Herm.

“Special assignment?” the watchman inquired.


“No, just a little job on my own,” Flash responded.

Walking to the park, he studied the lighted tower from every angle. Finally he decided he could get the best picture from the Brandale Hotel building.

Entering, he requested permission to use an upstairs window. It was immediately granted and a bellboy was sent to unlock a room for him.

Flash selected one on the twelfth floor, but upon focusing his camera, discovered that the angle was not just what he wanted. Gazing about for a better post, he noticed a wide decorative ledge which extended around the outside of the building.

“I could get a dandy shot from out there,” he said.

“Better be careful if you try it,” advised the bellboy. “You’re twelve stories up and a strong wind is blowing.”

“I’ll keep close to the building.”

Flash lowered himself to the ledge, and had the boy hand down his camera and bag. Below him, pedestrians no larger than ants moved briskly along. Autos with dimmed headlights made a moving pattern between the street lamps.

After one quick glance, Flash did not look down again. He felt dizzy for a moment but the sensation soon passed. With a steady hand, he took two pictures.


Thinking he might get an even more interesting shot from the corner of the building, he then moved cautiously along the wall. To reach the place which he had in mind, it would be necessary to pass directly in front of the hotel restaurant. Windows were open, and Flash knew that his unexpected appearance on the ledge might startle any diner who chanced to see him. But his only concern was for his picture.

As he edged past a window, Flash glanced curiously inside. While darkness partially shielded him, he could see every person in the room distinctly. His gaze focused upon a table where three men sat engrossed in conversation.

Involuntarily, Flash stopped and stared. He was certain he did not know the diners, yet the profile of one of the men seemed strangely familiar. Where had he seen him before?

As he started to move on again, the man spoke to his companions. Flash could not have heard the conversation had he tried, but the tone of voice carried clearly. The man spoke with a slight hesitation.

“In general build that fellow looks a lot like the man I chased from Sam Davis’ place!” Flash thought excitedly. “His manner of talking fits in with the description, too. Just for the fun of it, I’ll find out who he is!”



Flash hastily took his final picture without attracting the attention of diners inside the restaurant. He then crept back to the open window and was helped through.

“Did you get what you were after?” asked the bellboy.

“I think so,” answered Flash, taking a coin from his pocket. “Thanks for your trouble.”

The boy locked the bedroom door behind them, and they went out into the hall.

“I notice the café is on this floor,” remarked Flash carelessly. “I believe I’ll drop around there for a bite to eat.”

Without question the bellboy accepted his explanation and went away. Left alone, camera strap over his shoulder, Flash drifted down the hall to the doorway of the restaurant. Unobserved for a moment, he stood there watching. The three men who had drawn his attention were still seated at their table near the window.


The head waiter came over to where Flash stood, “How many in your party, sir?”

“No party,” said Flash, tapping his camera case. “I’m just looking over the situation.”

“Oh, a photographer,” the waiter murmured. “I suppose Mr. Hodges sent you to take publicity pictures?”

The question gave Flash a sudden idea.

“May I set up my tripod wherever I like?” he asked.

“Yes, anywhere. Only try to keep the main aisle clear. Mr. Hodges will expect you to focus so that our new decorations will show up to advantage.”

Flash nodded, but actually he had no intention of wasting film upon the new murals of the Green Room.

He followed the head waiter into the café, taking care not to glance toward the three strangers. The room quieted down as heads turned and all eyes focused curiously upon him. In his most professional manner, Flash set up his tripod and trained the lens of his camera toward the orchestra.

All the while, out of the corner of his eye, he was estimating the distance to the window table. He saw that the three men were hurrying through their dinners, watching him alertly. He would need to act quickly if he obtained the picture he was after.


Suddenly pretending to change his mind, he turned the camera so that it focused directly upon the three men.

As the shutter clicked one of the diners ducked his head. The other two raised napkins in front of their faces. Before Flash could change holders they arose, and with angry glances directed at him, dropped a bill on the table and left.

His interest deepening, Flash packed his camera and followed. He reached the corridor in time to see the three men enter the elevator. Taking to the stairs, he raced down several flights, and there caught another elevator which was descending.

The three men had crossed the lobby to the main entrance. Flash stood by the cigar stand until he saw them enter a taxi. He then ran out and, signaling the next one in line, leaped aboard.

“Follow that checkered cab ahead,” he instructed.

Sinking back against the seat, Flash recaptured his breath. While he still was far from certain that one of the men was the same fellow he had chased from the Davis Furniture store, he felt convinced that the three in the cab ahead had a special fear of being photographed. And they were well versed in the method of avoiding having their pictures taken. His snaps would be worthless for purposes of identification.


The checkered cab weaved leisurely through downtown traffic with the occupants apparently unaware they were being trailed. Presently the car turned into the park, winding in and out among the curving streets, and then duplicating its route.

“What do you think?” Flash asked his driver. “Are they wise to the fact that we’re following?”

“Looks to me as if they’re only killing time,” the cabman answered. “Plenty of folks do that if they have an appointment.”

“We’ll trail them for awhile longer,” Flash decided. “Drop farther back.”

He began to watch the meter anxiously. Figures ticked up on the dial with an alarming speed. Flash examined the money in his wallet. He had a little over seven dollars, but it must last him to the end of the week.

“Guess you may as well let me out here,” he said at last. “This sport is getting too expensive for me.”

The cab drew up at the curb, and the one ahead disappeared among the trees. Flash paid his bill and started afoot through the park, intending to return to the Ledger office. Ruefully, he reflected that a sizeable amount of his money was gone, and he had learned nothing.


“Probably my hunch was a crazy one anyway,” he thought. “A man isn’t necessarily a crook because he doesn’t like to have his picture taken.”

As Flash drew near the park entrance, he was startled to have the same checkered cab roll past him.

For a fleeting instant he thought that he might become the target of a brutal attack. Then he realized the three passengers had not seen him. Darkness and the deep shadow of an arching maple tree protected him completely.

The checkered cab swung out of the park, turning left into the busy business street. Immediately it picked up speed.

“It looks as if they’re really going somewhere now,” thought Flash. “Probably they were only waiting for me to give up the chase.”

The temptation to follow once more was too great to resist. Hurrying to the main thoroughfare, he glanced up and down for another taxi. He sighted one drifting by on the opposite side of the street, and hailed it.

The driver made a quick turn, pulling up beside him.

“Follow that checkered cab,” Flash ordered, slamming the door. “Keep well back if it slows down.”


The taxi ahead did not slacken speed. On the contrary, Flash and his driver lost sight of it several times and were hard pressed to remain in the race. The trail led through downtown Brandale toward the waterfront.

Before many minutes the two cabs were twisting down a narrow street which Flash recognized as the site of the Fenmore Warehouse. In passing the darkened building, the taxi ahead slackened speed somewhat. Whether or not this action was deliberate, he could not determine.

The car cruised past the building. Three blocks farther on, it drew up at a street corner. Two of the men alighted, while the third passenger rode away in the cab.

Telling his own driver to pull up farther down the street, Flash climbed out. His funds had been whittled again, and seemingly to no purpose. He was disgusted.

The two men had turned and were walking swiftly down the deserted street, their backs to the photographer. As he watched, his interest kindled. One of the men carried a small black case.

“Wonder where that came from?” he mused. “I know they didn’t have it when they left the café. They may have picked it up from the hotel check room.”


The two men were heading in the direction of the Fenmore Warehouse, a significant fact which immediately registered upon Flash. Could it be that the third member of the party had driven past the building for the deliberate purpose of pointing it out to his companions? He had not forgotten the threats made against Mr. Fenmore, or the man’s belief that an attempt would be made to damage his warehouse.

Flash waited until the two men had turned the corner beyond the warehouse, before following them. He now believed they were returning to the building. He was certain of it when the men, after glancing carefully about, slipped down an alley leading to the rear of the warehouse.

“They’re up to something!” thought Flash, his pulse stepping up a pace.

He glanced about for a policeman. None was in sight. Evidently the man assigned to guard the warehouse had been withdrawn or else had taken himself elsewhere.

Stealthily, Flash entered the dark alley, keeping well out of the glare of a street lamp. Crouching in the angle of a building, he watched and waited.

The two men walked directly to a rear door of the warehouse. With no hesitation or delay they unlocked it with a key and entered.

Flash was puzzled.


“Maybe those fellows have a right to be here,” he thought. “They act that way. And they have a key.”

He moved closer, watching for lights to be turned on inside the warehouse. The building remained dark. Through a dirt-caked basement window, Flash caught the gleam of a flashlight. Instantly his suspicions took definite form. The two men had no business in the warehouse! They were bent upon mischief!

Turning, Flash darted back to the entrance of the alley. The street was deserted both of cars and people. There was no sign of either a police officer or a watchman.

“If I take time to go for help those fellows may get away!” he reasoned. “This job is up to me!”

He returned to the rear of the warehouse. Quietly opening the door, he listened a moment and then stepped into the dark interior.



From the direction of the basement, Flash could hear a scraping noise as if a large box were being dragged across the cement floor. A low murmur of voices likewise reached him, but he was too far away to distinguish what was being said.

Daringly, he tiptoed along the dark corridor until he came to a stairway. He groped his way cautiously down. A board creaked beneath his weight.

Flash paused, listening anxiously. In the stillness of the empty warehouse the sound had seemed to his over-sensitive ears as loud as an explosion. But when the low murmur of voices continued without interruption, he breathed freely again.

He reached the bottom of the steps. A dim light which cast weird shadows on the cement walls, led him toward the furnace room. Flash could hear the voices plainly now, and understand most of what was being said.

“How about the watchman, Al? Any danger he’ll walk in on us?”


The other man laughed carelessly.

“Listen, don’t raise a sweat worrying about that. H. J. himself is taking care of him.”

“Didn’t know the big boss ever dirtied his gloves on these jobs.”

“He doesn’t as a rule. For some reason he’s taken a special interest in seeing that Fenmore gets his without any slip. If the old warehouse goes up in smoke, the other boys will take warning and fall into line.”

“Speaking of slips, Al, you certainly muffed that Davis job.”

“Shut up, will you!” the other growled. “I’m sick of hearing about that! How was I to know the old man slept by the furnace?”

Flash had reached the doorway. Peering inside he saw two men standing with their backs toward him. From the conversation he knew that the one who had been called Al was none other than Judd Slater, a self-termed representative of the North Brandale Insurance Company—the same man he had chased some nights previously.


One glance disclosed that the warehouse was being fired. The men had connected up two electric irons which they placed in a box of excelsior. It was a simple and effective device. The irons would slowly heat, giving the pair ample time to make their getaway without directing suspicion to themselves. Later, in the early hours of the morning, the fire would break out.

Unexpectedly, Flash heard footsteps on the stairway. He held himself rigid, listening. The two men in the furnace room likewise were aware of the sound. Neither spoke but their attitude was one of tenseness.

From the stairway came a low whistle. Immediately the pair relaxed and one of the men responded with a similar signal.

Flash barely had time to crouch back against a wall before a third man passed directly in front of him to stand silhouetted in the doorway. As the flashlight beam played full upon him for a moment, the young photographer saw a bulky, expensively dressed man of middle age who might have been taken for a substantial business person. The features of his face could not be discerned, and in a minute he moved beyond view.

“If it isn’t H. J. himself!” exclaimed one of the men from the furnace room. “You sure gave us a scare!”

“Yeah, we thought you might be the watchman!” added the other.

“Andy is well taken care of,” the newcomer said briefly. “He had a weakness for a bottle. I left him with two. How are you doing here?”


“We’re through.”

“Let’s have a look. We can’t afford any mistakes this time.”

Flash’s mind worked with lightning-like rapidity. In another minute or two the men would leave the warehouse and all trace of them might be lost.

It would be foolhardy, he knew, to try to battle with three armed assailants. True, he might steal back upstairs and lock the basement door, but such tactics would not hold the men long. They easily could break a basement or upstairs window and make a get-away before he could bring help. In that event, there would be no real evidence against them.

Flash was quite sure he never could give the police a useful description of the men. In the semi-dark basement room he was unable to obtain a clear view of their faces. If only he dared set off a flash and take a picture! Provided with a good photograph of the acknowledged “higher up,” the police should be able to trace the man and perhaps break up the entire arson ring.

“This is my big chance,” he thought tensely. “I only hope I don’t mess it up!”

Flash knew exactly what he must do. He would take his flash gun picture and then make a dive for the stairway.


Everything depended upon the speed with which he worked. Providing he moved fast enough, he still could lock the men into the building. But should they escape he would have incriminating evidence. His picture would be useful both to the police and the Ledger!

Stealing back to the open doorway, Flash hastily adjusted his camera and stood ready to set off the gun.

“Glad I tested the synchronizing mechanism this afternoon,” he thought.

His heart was pounding. He waited a moment to be certain that his hand was perfectly steady. The slightest tremble would ruin the picture. In another moment he had gained complete control of his nerves. Steeling himself, he said in a loud, curt voice:

“Hands up!”

As he had anticipated, the command electrified the three men. They whirled to face the camera.

Flash pressed the trigger. The shutter clicked and the flash went off. He had his picture!

A gun roared heavily and a bullet whined past his head and crunched into the wall.

Hugging his camera close against his body, Flash ducked and ran. The beam of a flashlight followed his course and singled him out.

“Get him!” a voice snarled. “And that picture!”


Flash dodged out of the circle of light just as another bullet sang past him.

He glanced back over his shoulder and plunged squarely against a thick coil of rope lying in his path. Thrown off balance, he tried frantically to keep from falling, but could not save himself.

Down he crashed on the cement. Even as he fell, Flash’s mind kept working. He couldn’t hope to save himself now, but he might save his picture!

Directly in front and a few feet above him was a cellar window unprotected by grating. A reflection from an alley light made it an easy target.

Scrambling to his feet, Flash took aim. With all his strength he hurled the camera straight at the window.

There was a resounding crash. The camera smashed the glass and sailed into the alley.

Flash had no chance to get away. A heavy hand grasped his coat. Whirling, he tackled his assailant just below the knees, and they went rolling over the floor in a threshing, writhing tangle of arms and legs.



The butt end of a revolver slammed against Flash’s skull. Blood trickled down across his eyelids. His hold on his assailant’s knees loosened.

As if from a great distance he heard a harsh voice order:

“Come on! Come on! We’ve got to get out of here!”

And then Flash became aware of another sound—the opening of an upstairs door, then footsteps treading on the landing. A powerful flashlight beam played over the wall.

Flash felt the muzzle of a gun pressing hard into his ribs.

“Keep quiet!” he was advised in a whisper.

From above came a gruff shout: “Hallo, down there!”


Grasping the revolver muzzle in one hand and the man’s wrist in the other, Flash gave a violent twist and shouted for help. The gun boomed again, then clattered to the cement. The bullet, sharply deflected, hummed through the shattered window, while Flash and his attacker groped for the weapon.

Suddenly the basement room was flooded with light.

“Reach!” commanded a gruff voice from the door.

Flash saw the revolver lying almost at his finger tips. He grabbed it and, swinging about, jammed it into the chest of the man who had attacked him, pinning him to the floor.

From across the room another gun belched flame, and there was answering fire from the doorway. Then the two men who were free made a concerted dash for the stairs. The lights went out.

Flash heard two more shots, a grunt of pain, running feet on the stairway, and finally the slamming of an outside door.

In a moment the light came on again. A policeman staggered into the room. His right wrist was hanging limp, but with his other hand he flipped a pair of steel bracelets from his pocket and snapped them on the wrists of the man Flash guarded.

“The others got away?” the photographer gasped.

“Yeah, but I winged one of them. Who are you, kid?”

“Evans, a photographer for the Ledger.”


“I came near letting you have it when you reached for that gun,” said the policeman. “Now who is this hombre?”

Tersely Flash told all that had happened, identifying the prisoner as Judd Slater, the same man who was thought to have set the Sam Davis fire.

“We may be able to pick up those other two a little later,” the policeman commented. “We don’t want tough shot here to get lonesome. He might miss his little playmates.”

He jerked the prisoner’s arm roughly and half spun him around.

“You won’t be so hard after we’ve worked on you awhile at headquarters. We’ve softened up tougher cookies than you.”

Flash went into the adjoining room and detached the electric irons. He then started away, being anxious to learn if the two escaping men had gained possession of his camera and exposed film.

“Where are you going, son?” the officer demanded.

Flash explained briefly about the picture he had taken.

“All right,” nodded the policeman. “We can use that picture. Go ahead and get it.”

Flash had reached the door when the officer called after him:


“Say, can you call up headquarters for me while I watch this fellow? My wounded arm is quite stiff.”

“What shall I say?”

“Tell them to send the wagon. Give them a description of those two men who got away if you can. And move fast!”

Hurrying to the street, Flash cast a quick glance about the alley. No one was in sight. He groped for a minute beneath the shattered window. Failing to find the camera, he was fearful that the two men had taken it.

Wasting no more time, he ran across the street to a cigar store and there telephoned the nearest police station. Tersely he made his report. The desk sergeant assured him the wagon would reach the warehouse within five minutes, while the district would be bottles up in an attempt to capture the wounded man and his companion.

Returning to the warehouse, Flash resumed his search for the missing camera although he had scant hope of finding it. He struck a match. By its flare he saw the battered case lying against a wall on the opposite side of the alley. It surprised him that he had been able to hurl it so far.

He snatched up the camera. The film holder was still there, and seemingly in good condition.

“Boy! I hope I’ve got something!” he purred to himself.


Tucking the camera under his arm, he hastened back to the basement.

“I phoned headquarters,” he told the policeman. “The wagon will be here in a minute or two.”

“Good! I see you found your camera.”

“It doesn’t look to be very much damaged. And the plate holder is okay!”

“That’s fine,” said the policeman. “If you snapped those two missing fellows we ought to run them in without much trouble. You ride along to headquarters with me.”

“But I took the picture for my newspaper,” Flash protested. “After all, I’m working for the Ledger, not the city.”

“So what?”

“This is a big story. I want to get my film to the paper right away. It will mean a lot to me, officer.”

“But not half as much as it will to the law, son. You’ll have to come along.”

Flash was taken back by this development. His film might be tied up for hours or even days by the police. Yes, there would be a big story in the Ledger about the arson plot, but it looked very much as if it would not be illustrated by any art from Flash Evans’ camera.

Then he thought of a plan.


“Listen,” he pleaded, “why not let me take the film to the Ledger office? I’ll have the picture developed and printed before they even know I’ve taken one at headquarters. I’ll run off some extra prints and you can send a man to pick them up. That way, we both win.”

The officer grinned good-naturedly.

“Maybe I shouldn’t do it,” he said, “but I will. You run along and I’ll have a man over there in thirty minutes.”

No taxi cab was in sight as Flash reached the street. He ran three blocks and finally hailed one.

“Drop me off at the rear entrance of the Ledger,” he ordered the driver.

He leaped out as the cab presently stopped. Tossing a handful of change into the driver’s hand, he ran into the building. In the doorway he collided full tilt with Old Herm.

“Hi, young man, where’s the fire?”

“Big story!” Flash returned as he pressed the elevator button. “I have a corking picture! If only it turns out—and I think it will! Say, has that fellow gone to sleep?”

Unwilling to wait for the cage to descend, he took the stairs two at a time.

Pausing in the news room only long enough to tell the night editor what he had, Flash went on down the corridor to the photography department. He knew 147 he had stirred up plenty of excitement behind him. The arson story was important and ought to be given a prominent play on page one. If the police should capture the two missing men, especially the mysterious ‘H. J.’ who seemed to be the brains of the ring, it would mean the biggest picture break since he had started work on the Ledger!

“I hope the film is okay,” he thought uneasily. “A lot depends on it.”

Into Flash’s mind came a dread which he could not have expressed in words. It was exactly as if he had received an intuitive warning. He had lost several big pictures, seemingly through no fault of his own. Something might happen this time.

“I’ll not take any chances,” he told himself. “Until my picture is out of the darkroom and actually in the hands of the editor, I’ll stay with it! There will be no slip-up.”

The photographic department was dark and deserted. Flash did not bother to turn on the lights. Entering the darkroom, he closed the door.

Unwilling to take any chance by using old developer or hypo, he mixed fresh chemicals before switching on the green light and removing his precious film from the holder.


Carefully, to avoid the slightest scratch, he lowered it into the tank and kept the water moving. In an agony of hope and suspense he watched as a faint image began to appear on the negative. He had something, but would it turn out to be only a blur?

“Coming up clear and fast!” he exulted, a moment later. “It’s going to be a beaut!”

The faces of the three men all had been turned squarely toward the camera. And the focus was perfect.

Flash watched the film closely, removing it from the developer at exactly the right instant. He saw it through the hypo tank, and gave it a longer washing than usual.

“A perfect negative!” he congratulated himself in a glow of pride. “Not a streak or a scratch! Won’t even need to touch it up.”

While the film was drying Flash developed the picture he had taken in the restaurant. For purposes of identification it was worthless, but he did not need it now. His picture taken in the basement of the Fenmore warehouse should be sufficient to tag the three men.

As an afterthought, Flash decided to develop the negatives of the Tower building. They turned out surprisingly well.

“This seems to be my big night,” he chuckled.


Nevertheless, the fine shots, which an hour before would have thrilled him, now brought only a mild feeling of pleasure. From an artistic standpoint the pictures could not be improved, but they lacked news value. The arson shot was the one which would ring the bell with Riley and Dan Dewey. And it might bring about the capture of the wanted men.

Behind Flash a latch clicked ever so softly. Deeply engrossed in his work, the young photographer failed to hear the sound. Nor did he notice that the door had opened a tiny crack, for the photographic department was as dark as the room in which he stood.

Oblivious of danger, he bent over the tanks, shifting his film to the water. His head throbbed from the cut he had received. But until this moment he scarcely had been aware of any discomfort. Now that his work was finished, he thought he would bathe the wound and clean himself up a bit.

Behind him, a board creaked. Every muscle taut, Flash whirled to see a dark figure looming in the doorway.

“Who is it?” he demanded sharply. “That you, Wells?”

There was no answer, but the man lunged at him. Flash threw up his hands to ward off the blow. He acted an instant too late. A heavy, blunt object crashed down on his head.

With a low moan of pain he sagged to the floor and knew no more.



Flash opened his eyes to the glare of an unshaded electric light. Someone was sponging his head with a damp cloth. Struggling to a sitting posture, he brushed the back of his hand against his throbbing head.

“My pictures!”

“Take it easy,” cautioned a quiet voice.

The whirling room righted itself before his eyes, and Flash saw Joe Wells kneeling on the floor beside him. He was still in the darkroom but the overhead light had been turned on.

“What hit me?” he mumbled. “It wasn’t you, Joe?”

“Hardly. I came in here a minute ago and found you out cold. Looks to me as if you’ve been slugged with a blackjack!”

Aided by the photographer, Flash struggled unsteadily to his feet.

“That’s a nasty wound on your forehead,” Wells said anxiously. “What happened?”


“Someone attacked me in the dark,” Flash returned briefly. “But the cut came from another fight.”

Staggering to the film drier, he took one glance and groaned.

“I knew it! They’re gone!”

“Pictures you were developing?”

Flash felt actually sick. He sagged into a chair, staring at the wall.

“Snap out of it, kid,” Joe advised kindly. “Tell me what it’s all about and maybe I can help you.”

Flash shook his head.

“Thanks, Joe, but no one ever will be able to get that picture back. The fellow who slugged me must have come here with the deliberate purpose of stealing it!”

“What picture are you talking about?”

Flash related in a halting voice everything which had occurred that evening. The older photographer listened with growing astonishment.

“You’re both the luckiest and unluckiest chap I ever met!” he exclaimed. “To think of losing a picture like that!”

“It wasn’t bad luck,” Flash said shortly.

“What do you call it?”

“Someone has been laying for me ever since I started work at the Ledger!”


“A number of queer things have happened to your pictures,” Wells replied mildly. “It may have been accidental—”

“And do you call this an accident tonight?” Flash demanded.

“No, I’m satisfied you didn’t slug yourself,” Wells responded, unruffled. “But I fail to see that the theft of your picture has anything to do with those other mishaps.”

“I figured something like this might happen, Joe. I was especially cautious. Mixed fresh chemicals. Stayed with my pictures every minute. What I didn’t expect was a personal attack!”

“You think someone who works in the building did the trick?”

“Yes, I do!”

“Maybe you’re right,” Wells said, “but I doubt it. How many persons knew you had the picture?”

“Not many. Old Herm. And I spread the news in the other room.”

“How about those two members of the arson gang who made their get-away? They knew you had the picture?”

“Naturally. They nearly did me in for taking it! If the sound of gunfire hadn’t brought a policeman, they probably would have finished me.”


“All right, those birds knew you had the picture. And they reasoned that if the police ever saw it, their capture would be certain. So they waylaid you here—”

“Hold on,” interrupted Flash, “they didn’t know I was a newspaper photographer or that I worked at the Ledger.”

“Couldn’t you have been followed here?”

“Yes,” Flash admitted reluctantly, “but I doubt if I was. Those fellows knew the police would be on their trail in a very short while. They were hard pressed to get away.”

“You didn’t see the man who struck you, I suppose?”

“Only an indistinct outline. Funny thing, for a minute I thought it was you.”

Wells glanced hard at Flash.

“That doesn’t sound very funny to me,” he said. “So you think I did it?”

“No, of course not,” Flash denied, smiling. “But the man did seem about your height. Wonder how long I was knocked out?”

Joe Wells looked at his watch.

“It’s eleven forty-five now.”

“Then I couldn’t have been unconscious very many minutes before you reached me. Joe, you didn’t see anyone around here, did you?”

Wells hesitated and then answered: “Only members of the regular staff.”


Flash rose to his feet and went over to examine the water tank. He swirled his hand deep into it without finding a film rack.

“My Tower pictures are gone, too,” he announced. “Not that I care about them. Whoever the fellow was, he made a clean sweep of everything. And look at that!”

Flash pointed to a tiny puddle of water beneath the tank which obviously had been made when the films were removed. A line of drops led through the doorway of the darkroom to the outside hall.

The two photographers followed the trail a few steps toward the back stairway, and then lost it.

“Let’s ask Old Herm and the elevator man if they’ve seen anyone leaving the building,” Wells proposed.

“All right,” Flash agreed. “But it won’t do any good.”

The passenger elevator did not operate after eleven o’clock. They located the man who handled the freight cage. He told them he had seen no strangers in the building during the past hour.

“Who has come down in the last ten minutes?” Flash inquired.

“No one—that is, not in the elevator. I saw a photographer take the stairway. He rung for me and then didn’t wait.”


“A photographer!” Flash exclaimed. “Who do you mean?”

“I don’t know his last name. I’ve heard him called Fred.”

“Fred Orris!” Flash completed, and his voice was hard.

“Now don’t jump to conclusions,” Wells broke in quickly. “I was talking to Orris myself as I came into the building.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“No. I know how you feel about him, but you’re wrong this time.”

Flash turned and entered the elevator. “Third floor,” he said briefly.

Wells followed him into the cage. “Where’s Herm?” he asked the elevator man.

“Haven’t seen him,” was the reply. “He’s probably around somewhere punchin’ bells. I wish I had a soft job like that.”

“Let’s see if we can find Old Herm,” Wells suggested, turning to Flash.

“No use. I think I’ll get my hat and go home.”

Wells did not speak until the two had been let off at the third floor.


“I know what you’re thinking, Flash,” he said. “But you have Orris all wrong. He’s surly, and there’s no denying he’s been unpleasant to you, but he’s not the type to hit a man with a blackjack or steal films!”

“Did I accuse him?” countered Flash.

“No, not in words.”

“Let’s skip it, then. The pictures are gone, and that’s all that counts. I’ll have some fancy explaining to do, especially to the police.”

Flash was irritated because his friend deliberately had withheld information from him. But he felt duly grateful when Wells went with him to the night editor, supporting his story as to what had happened in the darkroom.

The ordeal, while embarrassing, was not as hard a one as he had anticipated. Although disappointment over the loss of the picture was keen, Wells’ theory that Flash had been attacked by a member of the arson ring, received credence. And he could not be blamed for having fallen down upon an assignment since the work had been extra.

It was not so easy to explain to the police officer who came later for the promised picture. Flash was given to understand that he had thwarted justice, and that the policeman who had permitted him to keep the film very likely would be reprimanded. He was asked a number of sharp questions. At first, the officer seemed rather suspicious, and after that, plainly disgusted.


“Your picture would have been of great value to us,” he told Flash curtly. “Both of the men escaped.”

“How about the man you did capture? Won’t he talk?”

“He hasn’t yet.”

“There was a building watchman who saw one of the men—”

“Andy Simpson,” the officer supplied. “We haven’t been able to locate him yet. What can you tell me about those two fellows?”

“Not very much,” Flash confessed. “I only gained a general impression. The film was a dandy, though. If I had that—”

“Would you be able to identify either of the men from another picture?” the officer cut in.

“I doubt it,” Flash admitted lamely. “I never was very good at noticing details.”

He described the men as best he could and then the policeman said abruptly:

“Let’s have a look at the darkroom where you were attacked.”

Flash opened the door and switched on the lights.

The policeman glanced about with the unhurried gaze of one who neglected no details, and photographed it indelibly in his mind.

“Anyone been in here since you were struck?” he questioned.


“Joe Wells and the night editor. Possibly a few of the reporters.”

The officer stooped and picked up an object lying on the floor. It was a door key.

“Yours?” he asked, showing it to Flash.

“Why, no!”

“But you recognize it?”

“Well, it looks like one of the keys from Old Herm’s ring.”

“Old Herm?”

“The night watchman.”

“Comes in here often, does he?”

“Once in awhile, I suppose.”

“Let’s have a talk with the fellow,” the officer said. “What can you tell me about him?”

“He’s rather queer, but harmless,” answered Flash. “It couldn’t have been Old Herm who struck me.”

Even as he spoke, the thought assailed him that actually he knew almost nothing about the watchman.

“Maybe not,” commented the policeman dryly, “but in this business you learn not to have any set ideas about the guilty fellow. Give the evidence a chance to speak for itself!”



Flash silently followed the officer down the hallway to the elevator. The pointed remark about not having set ideas struck home, making him suddenly conscious that his attitude had been anything but unbiased. Hadn’t he been so certain Fred Orris was responsible for the theft that he refused to consider any other possibility?

Now that he reflected, he realized that the watchman had seemed unusually interested in his work. As he thought back, it came to him that when they had been together, he usually was the one to do most of the talking. Old Herm asked many questions and supplied few answers.

“But it couldn’t have been Herm,” he repeated to himself. “He’s only a foolish old cod, and he’s always seemed to like me.”

They presently located the watchman on the fifth floor. As Old Herm saw the police officer striding toward him, he started perceptibly.

“Lookin’ for me?” he inquired uneasily.


“You are the night watchman here?” asked the policeman, gazing steadily at him.

“That’s right. Anything the matter?”

“Nothing to be skittish about,” the officer said. “All we want is to see how good you are at answering questions.”

“Answerin’ questions!” the old fellow echoed timidly. “I ain’t done nothin’, sir.”

“You were in the building at eleven-thirty tonight?”

“Oh, yes, sir,” Old Herm replied. “I’m always here then. It’s my job.”

“What part of the building?”

“On the sixth floor, sir. I punch a clock there every night at eleven-thirty.”

“And you punched it tonight?”

“Oh, yes, sir. I’ve never missed in five years.”

“Any one see you do it?”

“Maybe so and maybe not so,” Old Herm answered vaguely. “If anyone saw me, I didn’t see them.”

While the old fellow’s voice and face was innocence itself, it seemed rather strange to Flash that he did not ask the officer why he was being questioned. It was barely possible, he thought, that Old Herm knew the reason, yet the chances were against his having talked with anyone about the theft and attack.


The officer studied the watchman for a moment. Then he took the key which had been found in the darkroom and held it before Old Herm’s eyes.

“Ever see that before?”

“Why, ah, yes, I have,” the watchman stammered.

“Yours isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Old Herm admitted readily, “it’s the key to the janitor’s supply room in the basement.”

“We didn’t find it in the basement. We picked it up in the photography department. Have you been in there tonight?”

“Yes, sir, I was. I drop in there on my rounds when the door’s open. You see, the photographers are careless about letting faucets run. It’s no fun mopping up after ’em.”

“At what hour were you there tonight?”

“Just a bit after 10:30. That’s when I ring the time clock in the department.”

So far, Old Herm’s account of his whereabouts left no ground for suspicion. Flash recalled that at ten-thirty he had not yet reached the Ledger Building. According to the clock in the window of the advertising department, it had been eleven-twenty when he arrived and met the watchman in the lower vestibule. Evidently the old fellow had gone directly to the sixth floor to ring the eleven-thirty time bell.


“The record will show whether or not he did,” Flash thought. “If he’s telling the truth, he couldn’t have been the person who attacked me. With his bad leg it would have taken him at least five minutes to get from the sixth floor to the photographic department. And it was only eleven-forty when Joe Wells found me lying unconscious.”

“You’ve been around here quite awhile, haven’t you?” the policeman was asking Old Herm.

“Nigh onto ten years now. And it’s been a mighty tedious life, a dreary existence—walkin’ to the third floor, walkin’ to the fifth floor, walkin’ to the basement, ringin’ the rounds registers, lookin’ for burglars that ain’t there. No, sir, in all my years I never scared up an intruder—not one! And me a brave man able to take care of myself.”

A light of childish bravado shone in Old Herm’s eyes, and the officer directed a covert wink at Flash.

“Suppose we check on that time register,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” Old Herm mumbled. “Just come with me.”

He led Flash and the policeman to the sixth floor. The register, which was located in the front part of the building, gave conclusive proof that it had been punched at the hour Old Herm claimed.


“You see, it’s just like I told you,” the watchman declared. “I don’t know what this is all about, but I been tendin’ strictly to my work all evening. And I ain’t seen no one in the building except those that have a right to be here.”

“It probably was an inside job,” the officer commented, dropping the lost key into the watchman’s hand.

“Was something stole?” Old Herm asked anxiously.

“A film from the photography department,” responded the policeman briefly.

“An important one,” added Flash. “I had just finished developing it when someone slugged me on the head.”

“Shoo, you don’t say!” Old Herm muttered. “That’s bad. Nasty lookin’ cut, too. Will it get you into trouble, losin’ your picture?”

“It won’t do me any good,” Flash returned.

Turning, he followed the police officer down the hall, leaving the old watchman to stare after them.

When they were beyond earshot, Flash said: “You were satisfied with his story?”

“Oh sure,” replied the policeman carelessly. “You were right. He’s only a foolish old fellow. No motive for the crime.”

“For that matter, what reason would anyone in the building have for doing such a trick? A personal grudge against me?”


“Might have been. I’m satisfied it was an inside job and not the work of any of the arson gang.”

After the officer had gone, Flash returned to the darkroom for his hat. As he passed through the news room a moment later, the editor stopped him at the desk.

“Here’s something that may interest you,” he said, thrusting a sheet of copy paper into Flash’s hand. “One of our reporters just brought it in. About ten minutes ago an old man named Andy Simpson was run over by an automobile and killed.”

“Andy Simpson!” Flash exclaimed. “Not the watchman at the Fenmore warehouse!”

“Same fellow.”

“Run over deliberately?”

“No. It appears he was dazed or had been drinking too much. Anyway, according to the story of the motorist, he ignored the traffic lights and walked straight into the path of the car.”

“Andy Simpson was the one person who could have thrown new light on the arson case,” Flash muttered. “He met ‘H. J.,’ the man who is supposed to be the brains of the arson gang. Now the police never will be able to get a description.”


He read the brief item through and handed it back to the editor. Never had he felt more discouraged. With Andy Simpson dead, his missing picture was of greater importance than ever. But it was definitely gone. He never would see it again.

While no word of blame was spoken, Flash saw several reporters glancing at him with a peculiar expression. By morning everyone on the Ledger would have heard the story.

“I’m getting a record for failures,” he thought as he made his way to the street. “Unless I can figure out who is at the bottom of tonight’s attack, things may keep on happening.”

The previous mishaps, while personally humiliating, had not been so serious. But now, with Andy Simpson dead, the loss of the picture undoubtedly meant that the higher-ups in the arson ring never would be brought to trial.

As the bus rolled along the deserted neighborhood street, Flash turned over in his mind every possible person who might have been responsible for the vicious attack. Aside from members of the arson ring, Fred Orris and Old Herm seemed the most likely suspects. The watchman had a perfect alibi, so that left only the head photographer.

“There’s Luke Frowein of the Globe,” Flash mused. “He would enjoy seeing me lose my job. But he couldn’t have known about the warehouse affair.”


A light was burning in the Evans cottage as the bus drew up a short distance away. Flash walked rapidly, realizing that his mother must be waiting up for him.

Hearing his step on the front porch, she opened the door.

“You shouldn’t have waited up, Mother,” he protested.

“Jimmy!” she exclaimed in horror. “Your forehead! You’ve been in an accident!”

“It’s nothing.”

Despite his protests, she hastened to the medicine cabinet for iodine and adhesive tape. As she bathed and bandaged the wound, she drew from Flash an account of what had occurred.

He ended by saying: “This was extra work I was doing tonight, so I’ll not be fired. But I figure it’s bound to come before many weeks. Someone is out to get my job!”

“I almost wish you would lose it,” Mrs. Evans shuddered. “Since you started work at the Ledger, I’ve not had an easy moment. I’m so afraid something dreadful will happen to you. If only you hadn’t become mixed up in this arson affair!”

“I had a close call tonight,” Flash admitted. “But the same thing isn’t likely to happen twice. What makes me sore is that by losing the picture, I’ve fixed it so the real head of the arson gang never will be captured.”


“It wasn’t your fault.”

“Maybe not, but the result is the same. I muffed a wonderful opportunity to round up those men, get a scoop for the Ledger, and at the same time make a name for myself.”

“Things have been running against you,” his mother murmured sympathetically, “but it can’t continue that way indefinitely.”

“It can, unless I do some tall thinking,” he replied grimly. “Someone in the office has been after my job from the day I started work there!”

“You’re alluding to that man, Fred Orris?” his mother asked in a quiet voice.

“I’ve heard he has someone in mind for my job. But I don’t know whom I suspect. The thing has me completely baffled.”

“From what you’ve told me of Mr. Orris, it scarcely seems to me he would be the type of man to resort to a brutal attack. If I were you, I should be very careful about accusing anyone.”

“Oh, I know better than to do that,” Flash promised gravely. “But from now on, I’m trusting no one! And I may think of some scheme to trap that fellow, whoever he is!”



Flash awoke the next morning to find himself clawing the bed clothing and fighting for breath. He had been dreaming that he was locked in a death struggle with a masked man who had attacked him in a dark alley.

“Wow! What a nightmare!” he gasped. “Worse than the real thing!”

He became aware that someone was rapping on the bedroom door.

“Wake up, Jimmy!” his mother called. “It’s almost seven!”

His feet struck the floor. “Be right up,” he answered. “I didn’t hear the alarm go off.”

Dressing hurriedly, he snatched a cup of coffee, and raced out the front door just as his bus came into view. He barely reached it, swinging aboard a moment before the door slammed shut. Flash dropped a dime into the coin box and sagged into an empty seat beside an elderly white-haired gentleman with a cane.


“You catch a bus the same way your father always did,” chuckled his companion. “He never was a man to waste any time waiting, either.”

Startled, Flash glanced quickly at the elderly man. He was certain he had never seen him anywhere before.

“You knew my father?” he inquired in astonishment.

“Jimmy Evans, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Thought so,” the man nodded. “Yes, I knew your father years ago when we worked together on the Post. You’re the spittin’ image of him, and you have the same mannerisms. When you swung on that bus, I said to myself, ‘that spry young fellow is Evans’ son.’ My name is Thomas Brown.”

“I’m glad to meet you, sir,” Flash responded heartily. “I guess you know my father died several years ago.”

“Yes, I saw a notice in the paper.” The man nodded sadly. “It hit me hard when I heard about it. I thought a lot of your father. Working on a paper yourself?”

“The Ledger. But I don’t know how long I’ll last,” Flash admitted with a grin. “I’m new there and I’ve run into a little trouble.”


“There’s always plenty of it waiting to pounce on a man these days,” Mr. Brown said philosophically. “Well, don’t let it get you down.”

“I don’t aim to run up the white flag yet. I’m in for the duration of the war.”

“That’s the spirit,” the old man approved. “I remember once when I thought I was licked. Your father pulled me out of that jam, and I’ve always been grateful.”

“Tell me about it, sir,” urged Flash.

“It’s not much of a story. I worked in the cashier’s office at the Post. From time to time we kept missing small amounts of money. The blame fell on me and I was about to be discharged.

“But your father didn’t agree with the other higher-ups that I was the guilty person. He took it upon himself to do a little investigating of his own.”

“With the result that you were cleared?” Flash questioned.

“Yes, it turned out that a new employee, a young fellow named Ronne, had been taking the money. He was real clever at it, but not smart enough to fool your father.”

“Did you say Ronne?” Flash asked in a startled voice.

“Yes, his name was Dick Ronne. He would be a middle-aged man by this time. Never did hear what became of him after he was discharged.”


The old man pressed a signal bell, and Flash arose to let him out of the seat.

“Well, glad to have met you,” Mr. Brown murmured. “Don’t let that trouble, whatever it is, get the best of you. Your father would have licked it!”

“Thank you, sir,” smiled Flash. “You’ve given me something to think about.”

And it was true, although not exactly in the way that Mr. Brown understood. The conversation had suggested to the young photographer a most startling possibility.

Old Herm’s last name was Ronne, and Ronne by no means was a common name. Flash recalled that Joe Wells had mentioned something about the watchman having had a son who was no longer living. Could it be that Dick Ronne, the person his father had caused to be discharged years before, was Old Herm’s son?

“First chance I get I’m going to ask Joe more about it,” he told himself.

So deeply was Flash absorbed in his thoughts that the bus went past his stop before he was aware of it. Jumping off at the next corner he walked hurriedly back to the Ledger building. He was five minutes late for work.


Fred Orris, hat pushed back on his head, was repairing the bellows of a camera as Flash entered the photography department. He made no direct comment upon the arson story or what had occurred in the darkroom the previous night. Instead he said sharply:

“You’re fifteen minutes late, Evans.”

“Five,” corrected Flash. “This clock is fast.”

“Get over to the courthouse and shoot some pictures of the Fulton murder trial. And bring them back, too. Remember, we want pictures, not adventure stories!”

A glint of anger flamed in Flash’s eyes. He went over to the locked case for his camera and equipment, deliberately taking his time.

“Orris,” he said coolly, “the elevator man tells me you were in the building last night between eleven and eleven-thirty.”

“So what?”

“Maybe you didn’t hear what happened to me in the darkroom last night.”

“Listen,” Orris flared, “are you trying to intimate that I had anything to do with it?”

“I’m just checking up. Thought you might have noticed someone hanging around the halls.”

“Well, I didn’t,” the photographer answered shortly. “What’s more, I was here on legitimate business. I came back to leave a memorandum on Dan Dewey’s desk.”


Flash made no answer. He slipped the camera strap over his shoulder and went out the door. All morning he was kept busy at the courthouse, shooting pictures of witnesses, prosecutor, judge, jury and defense attorneys. He had no time to think of his own problem, for he was compelled to be constantly alert lest he miss an opportunity to photograph an unusual facial expression. The break he awaited came when the defendant lost control of himself for a moment and became consumed with rage.

Some of his pictures Flash had sent back to the Ledger by messenger. He carried the remaining holders with him, and upon developing them, took the precaution of locking himself into the darkroom.

His work completed without mishap, he dropped across the street for a belated lunch. On the stool next to him sat a Ledger reporter who covered the police and fire departments.

“Anything new on the arson case?” Flash inquired.

The reporter shook his head.

“That fellow Slater refuses to talk. And if the police have found any evidence against the so-called North Brandale Insurance Company they’re not giving it out. Too bad that picture you took last night was stolen. They say it might have cleared up the case.”

Flash nodded gloomily.


“It was a dandy picture. And one of the men was supposed to be the brains of the outfit. ‘H. J.’ they called him.”

“Police haven’t any idea who broke into the darkroom and cracked you?”

“No. They thought it must have been an inside job. They didn’t even take fingerprints because so many persons had smeared around the place.”

“Too bad,” the reporter remarked again, and devoted himself to his bowl of chile.

Flash had not forgotten his talk with old Mr. Brown. At the first opportunity upon his return to the office he sought Joe Wells and quietly questioned him about Old Herm.

“I’ve told you all I know,” the photographer insisted. “Why this sudden interest? You surely don’t think poor Old Herm sneaked in here last night and blackjacked you?”

“I haven’t any definite theory,” Flash replied evasively.

“Well, don’t get ideas about Old Herm. He’s simple minded, but hardly a criminal. Why, the fellow has a crippled leg—”

“Just the same, he could have done it. He’s strong as an ox.”


“You’re almost as goofy as Old Herm,” Wells scoffed. “First you think Orris did it, and next you blame the watchman. Maybe it was Riley!”

“I’m not accusing anyone,” Flash defended himself. “All I’m doing is trying to check every angle and keep an open mind.”

“Doesn’t sound very open to me. I’ll grant you some mighty queer things have been going on here, though. I’m getting the creeps myself when I close myself into the darkroom.”

“The next time our mysterious visitor pays a call he may not be so gentle in his methods,” replied Flash. “We ought to get him before he gets us!”

“Why not make Colt 45’s standard equipment for all Ledger photographers,” Wells said jokingly. “We could have target practice out in the auto lot.”

“You wouldn’t be laughing so hard if you had been the one to get cracked,” Flash retorted. “Tell me something. What was the name of Old Herm’s son?”

“Never heard it. Why don’t you ask him?”

“That’s an idea,” said Flash. “Maybe I will.”

Since the watchman did not come on duty until after the day workers had left the building, it meant that to talk with the old fellow he must make a special trip back to the Ledger. Flash decided it might be well worth his trouble.


Accordingly, he remained downtown that evening. After attending a movie he returned to the nearly deserted building. Locating Old Herm on the third floor, Flash pretended to run into him by accident.

“Workin’ late again?” the watchman inquired, pausing in surprise.

“No, just dropped in for a minute. I see they keep you busy.”

“I’m at it without a let-up,” the old man sighed. “Since the darkroom was busted into, the building superintendent clamped down on me hard—said I wasn’t payin’ attention to my duties. ‘You jest follow me around for a night,’ I says to him.”

Herm rambled on for several minutes, but presently Flash deftly switched the subject. After talking about the past he casually asked the old fellow the name of his son.

“It was Richard,” Herm answered and a different expression came over his wrinkled face. “My boy died when he was only twenty. Four years older than you be. They crucified him! They killed him!”

“Whom do you mean?” Flash questioned in a puzzled voice.

But old Herm did not answer. Tears rolled down his withered cheeks. Turning his back upon Flash, he hobbled painfully away.



With mingled feelings of sympathy and misgiving, Flash watched the old man depart. He felt sorry for the watchman who obviously still brooded over the death of his son.

From the conversation he had gleaned one fact of importance. Old Herm’s son had been named Richard, which tended to make him believe that the boy could have been the same one Mr. Brown mentioned. Then, too, weeks before, the watchman had said that he had known Flash’s father. It was something to think about.

Returning home, Flash found his mother locking up the house for the night.

“Sorry to be so late,” he apologized. “I waited at the office to talk with Old Herm who doesn’t come on duty until evening.”

“You seem to have taken a deep liking to that old watchman,” his mother commented with a smile.


“Not exactly a liking,” Flash corrected. “Herm is an interesting character. By the way, Mother, did you ever hear Father speak of an employee at the Post named Ronne?”

“Ronne?” she repeated thoughtfully. “The name sounds familiar. Oh, yes, I remember, because of the trouble it caused your father. There was a young man employed at the Post, who was discharged for stealing funds.”

“Not Richard or Dick Ronne?”

“I’m not certain, but I believe that was his first name.”

“Was it Father’s fault he was discharged?”

“He was the one who discovered the theft, I believe. Another employee had been blamed.”

“Thomas Brown.”

“Why, yes,” Mrs. Evans acknowledged in surprise. “But how did you know, Jimmy? I don’t recall ever having mentioned it before.”

Flash explained that he had fallen into conversation with the old man on the bus. However, he did not worry his mother by revealing why he was so eager for additional information.

“Did you ever hear what became of Dick Ronne after he was discharged from the Post?” he questioned. “Was he sent to jail?”


“No, your father persuaded the owner of the paper to take a lenient attitude. Later he was glad that he did for the boy died. It was an unfortunate case.”

“What caused the boy’s death, Mother?”

“I can’t tell you that because I never was particularly interested. I remember your father went to see him at the hospital, and for his kindness received a bitter tongue lashing from the boy’s father.”

“You never saw the man yourself, I suppose?”

“Dick Ronne’s father? No, nor the boy either. But why are you so interested, Jimmy?”

“Well, I thought Old Herm Ronne might have been the boy’s father. He had a son by that name who died, and he knew Dad.”

“Dear me,” murmured Mrs. Evans, frowning. “And the old fellow works in your building?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Flash said quickly. “He’s always been very friendly. I rarely ever see him.”

Dismissing the subject, he locked the remaining doors for his mother, and followed her up the stairway.

“I want to get up early in the morning,” he said carelessly. “If my alarm doesn’t go off at five be sure to wake me.”

“Five!” his mother gasped. “My, but you are ambitious!”


Flash did not tell her what he had in mind. He had decided to try to learn more about Old Herm, his habits, and where he lived. If his plan came to nothing, no one need ever know that he had regarded the watchman with suspicion.

Even before the alarm went off at five o’clock, Flash was awake. He dressed quietly, and brewing himself a strong cup of coffee, caught a bus going downtown.

Timing himself, he drew near the rear entrance of the Ledger building at exactly six o’clock, the hour Old Herm went off duty. He stepped into the loading dock where Jeff, a colored boy, was polishing a car.

“Lookin’ for someone, suh?” the lad asked.

“Has Old Herm come out yet?”

“Ain’t seen him.”

Flash loitered where he could watch the rear door. Within a few minutes men from the night shift began to trickle out in twos and threes. Old Herm was one of the last. The watchman did not glance toward the loading dock. With a tin lunch pail swinging from his arm, he started off down the street.

Waiting until the old man was some distance away, Flash followed. It was the first time in his life that he had deliberately set himself the task of trailing an acquaintance, and he felt somewhat ridiculous.


Old Herm, unaware that he was being observed, walked several blocks, and entered a restaurant which specialized in twenty-five cent plate lunches. Flash crossed the street and spent nearly half an hour waiting for the watchman to come out again.

“This was a crazy idea anyhow,” he thought. “Herm may not go to his home for hours. And I’m due to show up for work at eight.”

Just at that moment the watchman came out of the café. Flash turned his back quickly, pretending to gaze into a store window. The old man did not see him.

Again Old Herm started off at a leisurely pace, walking toward the waterfront. Flash correctly guessed that he was heading for a cheap rooming house district located in that particular section of Brandale.

Presently the watchman climbed the steps of a dingy, brownstone front building, and entered. Flash carefully noted down the address. Then he walked back to the main section of the city, had breakfast, and reached the Ledger in time for work.

Throughout the day, the young photographer was rather preoccupied. Fortunately, his assignments were of a routine nature, requiring no special thought or effort. He was glad when four o’clock came.

Flash went home for dinner, but immediately afterwards he gathered up a stack of books to return to the public library. Leaving them there, he then was free to carry out his plan.


Eight o’clock found him at Old Herm’s rooming place. Without ringing the bell, he entered the front hall. Scanning the mail boxes he saw that the watchman occupied suite 15.

Moving noiselessly up the dark stairway, Flash located the number on the second floor. He listened a moment and tested the door. It was locked as he had anticipated. However, he was fully prepared, having provided himself with a skeleton key.

The lock was of the common type. Flash gained entrance without difficulty and took the precaution of re-fastening the door. He switched on a light.

A hasty glance about revealed a dirty, untidy two-room apartment. Old Herm had not bothered to make his bed after rolling out of it. Nor had he washed the pile of dishes in the sink.

Flash moved quickly to the window, lowering a shade which was half way up. While he knew the watchman would be at work, he did not care to attract the attention of any other person in the building.

Turning around once more, his gaze focused upon a picture of a young man. It stood on the center table, mounted in an expensive gold frame. Beneath it, lay a white carnation.

“That must be a picture of Dick Ronne,” thought Flash. “Poor old Herm!”


His conscience gave him a twinge. Perhaps he was unjust and overly suspicious to entertain distrustful thoughts. The watchman couldn’t help being queer. Probably his son’s death had made him that way.

Now that Flash actually had gained entrance to the bedroom, the possibility that Old Herm had wielded the blackjack seemed more remote than ever.

“But since I’m here, I may as well look around,” he decided. “I feel like a crook doing it though!”

Taking care to disturb nothing, he began a systematic inspection of the room. He pulled out bureau drawers, looking beneath piles of shirts and underclothing. There was no sign of a blackjack or any weapon which possibly could arouse suspicion.

Flash had convinced himself that further search was useless when his gaze roamed back to the center table. Several books were lying there. The title of one of the volumes captured his attention. It was called “Newspaper Photography.” And beside the book was a more technical treatment on the subject of darkroom procedure.

“Now why would Old Herm be interested in photography?” mused Flash. “I don’t believe he even owns a camera.”

Opening one of the volumes at random, he found several marked passages which had to do with the mixing of chemicals.


As Flash read one of the paragraphs, he heard a heavy step outside the door. The next moment a key rattled in the lock. Someone was coming to investigate!

Dropping the book, Flash barely had time to reach up and snap off the light. In panic he glanced about for a place to hide. There was no time even to cross the room to a closet. He chose the only available place—under the bed.

Barely had he rolled beneath it when the outside door opened. The light was switched on.

Flash could see only the feet and legs of the man who had entered, but from the uneven step he knew instantly that it was Herm. Why wasn’t the watchman on duty at the Ledger as usual? For all he knew, the old fellow might have been taken ill and had returned home for the night.

Clearly he, Flash Evans, was in a predicament.



The old man did not appear to notice that a blind had been pulled down in the bedroom. Lowering himself into a comfortable chair, he sighed audibly. His shoes thudded on the bare floor as he jerked them off. For a long while there was no other sound.

Daring to peer forth, Flash saw that the watchman was reading one of the books on photography.

“Wonder why Herm has the evening off?” he thought. “He certainly doesn’t look or act sick.”

While Flash suffered both mental and physical discomfort in his cramped quarters under the bed, the old man continued to read. An hour elapsed. The photographer was afraid to shift his position lest he make a noise which would betray his presence.

When it seemed to him that every muscle of his body had twisted into a knot, Old Herm put aside the book. He pulled on his shoes again, brewed himself a cup of coffee, and then donned warmer outer clothing.


“Back to the old grind,” Flash heard him mutter. “Bells, bells, bells! Always a-ringin’ the darn things.”

A moment later, the watchman switched off the lights, and leaving the apartment, locked the door behind him.

Flash waited until the footsteps had died away. Then he rolled out from under the bed, brushing dust from his suit.

Without bothering to glance again at the photography books, he unlocked the door with his skeleton key, stepped out into the deserted hall, and locked the door after himself. He reached the street in time to catch a glimpse of the watchman disappearing around a corner.

Flash believed that Old Herm meant to return to the Ledger office. To make certain he followed.

Drawing near the newspaper building, the watchman turned down an alley and emerged at the loading dock where Jeff, the colored boy was working.

“I’m back now, Jeff,” he said.

“Okay, boss,” the boy responded. “I done just like you told me.”

Old Herm took a coin from his hand and gave it to Jeff. With a friendly nod, he went on into the building.


Flash waited an interval before approaching the colored boy. Perching himself on the platform near the paper chute, he watched Jeff polish a windshield to a high gloss.

“Lookin’ fer someone?” the boy asked.

“Just killing time,” Flash returned. “How are you making out these days, Jeff? Get quite a few cars to polish?”

“Ten steady customers now,” the colored boy said proudly. “I ain’t doin’ bad.”

“I suppose you pick up a little extra money now and then, doing odd jobs around the building?”

“Yes, suh!”

“Old Herm?”

“Ah earned fifty cents from Herm dis last week. De easiest money ah made, too!”

“And what job do you look after for him?” Flash inquired.

Jeff shook his head and grinned. “Ah ain’t ’llowed to tell, suh. Old Herm get in trouble if de boss find out.”

Flash understood the colored boy well enough to know that he would divulge the information if offered a small bribe. But he surmised that Jeff then would reveal to Old Herm who had questioned him. He decided to allow the matter to rest.


“I can guess what Herm has been doing,” he told himself as he slid down from the platform. “And if I’m right, his alibi on the night I lost my arson picture isn’t worth a nickel!”

Debating a moment, Flash entered the Ledger building. After exploring several floors he finally located the watchman in the deserted composing room. Old Herm, who was peering into a supply cupboard, did not see the photographer until he was close by.

Startled, he slammed the cupboard door shut and stood with his back to it, facing Flash.

“Oh, it’s you!” he exclaimed. “You scared the daylights out o’ me, coming in so quiet-like.”

“I believe a burglar could carry off half the building and you never would know it, Herm,” Flash said in a joking tone.

“It ain’t so!” the watchman denied vigorously. “I make my rounds every hour just as I’m supposed to do.”

“How come I couldn’t find you around during the last hour?”

“Were you lookin’ for me?” Old Herm asked innocently. “Did you go down into the basement?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“That’s probably where I was. What is it you want?”

“Nothing now,” replied Flash. “It’s too late. Well, so long, see you tomorrow.”


Without a backward glance, he sauntered from the composing room and made his way to the street. Riding home in the bus, he thought over what he had learned. Old Herm was not the honest, genial person he once had believed him to be. The watchman neglected his duties, lied about it, and displayed a decided tendency to pry.

“Wonder what he was doing in that supply cupboard when I surprised him?” he reflected. “Old Herm acted as guilty as the dickens!”

Flash still was thinking about the matter when he went to work the next morning. He rode up the elevator with Joe Wells and they entered the photography department together.

“You haven’t solved the darkroom mystery yet?” the older photographer asked jokingly. “Who slugged you and why?”

Flash shook his head.

“Not yet, but I have a few clues. You know, I’m becoming convinced Old Herm might have had something to do with it.”

Wells laughed. “Any evidence?”

“I’ve learned Herm has been neglecting his duties here. Now and then he slips off home while he’s supposed to be at work.”

Wells showed surprise at the information, but he did not interpret the matter as Flash had expected.


“Old Herm will lose his job if you spread the story around,” he replied.

“And doesn’t he deserve it?”

“Maybe,” Wells shrugged, “but if Herm lost this job he’d never get another. As far as watching the building is concerned, he never was any good. But he’s a fixture at the Ledger. All the boys like him.”

“And for that reason I’m to let him crack me on the head—”

“You’re cracked now!” Wells interrupted with a trace of impatience. “Herm is an inefficient, simple old fellow, but he’s harmless. If you ask me, it’s not very sporting of you to try to throw the blame upon him. Better get a new theory.”

A wave of anger swept over Flash, but it was gone in an instant. In a way, Joe was giving him a warning it would be well to heed. He had forgotten how affectionately Old Herm was regarded by many of the employees of the Ledger. Any hints or direct accusations against the watchman would only serve to rally many loyal defenders.

“Some day I’ll learn to keep thoughts to myself,” he reflected grimly. “What I need is absolute proof!”

Flash knew of no way to gain evidence against the old man, and he had moments when he even doubted that the fellow was responsible for the loss of the arson picture.


“But if Herm didn’t do it, then it must be Fred Orris,” he reasoned. “Both of them had the opportunity.”

And then an idea came to Flash. In thinking over past events, it dawned upon him that always when he had encountered difficulties in the darkroom, he had been working on an important story. Evidently the person who plotted his undoing bided his time, waiting until he was in possession of an unusual picture.

“I’ll set up a camera trap in the darkroom!” he decided. “Then I’ll pass around the word that I have some remarkable shots! That should prove enticing bait for my victim!”

His mind made up, Flash only awaited a suitable opportunity for putting his plan into effect. Knowing that Fred Orris nearly always dropped into the office late Tuesday night after the theatre, he chose that evening to carry out his scheme.

Slipping into the office when it was deserted, Flash set up his camera in a corner of the darkroom, focusing it upon the drying machine. Two feet away he stretched a cord and fastened it to the camera trigger. The slightest pressure upon the cord would open the lens and set off the flash bulb.

“Now if only one of the regular photographers doesn’t barge in here before I’m ready!” Flash told himself.


Taking another camera from the equipment case, he left the newspaper building. Crossing the street to the café, he took a table by the window where he could watch the main entrance of the Ledger. Presently he saw Fred Orris arrive.

“Now my act begins!” Flash thought. “And if it doesn’t come off as I plan, I’m going to look plenty silly.”

He quickly left the café and returned to the Ledger office. As he swung through the revolving doors of the front entrance he saw that luck was favoring him. Fred Orris had paused in the circulation office to chat for a moment with Old Herm. He would be able to clip two birds with one stone!

“Where’s the fire, Evans?” Fred Orris demanded as he rushed past the two men.

“Big story!” Flash tossed over his shoulder, barely pausing. “Didn’t you hear about the riot?”

“Riot! No! Where?”

“Silverman’s Chain Store warehouse. Employees have been on a strike there for a week. Tonight the fireworks started!”

The “fireworks” consisted of a rock having been thrown through a warehouse window, but Flash allowed the two men to draw their own conclusions.

Fred Orris gazed after the young photographer with an expression of mingled envy and irritation.


“And I suppose you just happened to be out there,” he said. “You’re a fool for luck if ever I saw one!”

Flash tapped his holders. “Wait until you see what I have here,” he boasted. “The best pictures of my career—I hope! I’m putting ’em through the soup now.”

He ran on up the stairway.

Had his little act gone over? Flash could not be sure. If Fred Orris doubted the story he could prove it false in three minutes. But both he and Old Herm had seemed impressed.

Unlocking the photography department, Flash closed the door behind him but did not snap on the overhead lights. He entered the darkroom and turned on the green lantern by the developing tank. A glance satisfied him that the camera trap had not been disturbed. Everything was in readiness.

Slipping outside again, he carefully closed the door. Then he tiptoed across the darkened main room.

Hiding himself behind the power cabinets of the wirephoto machine, he waited.



The minutes passed slowly. Flash had begun to think that his scheme had failed when he heard a step outside the door. Instantly he became alert.

Fred Orris entered the room. He crossed to his desk and, snapping on a small lamp, rummaged in a drawer for some object which he had left there. He sat for several minutes smoking a cigarette. Finally he switched off the light, and crossed toward the darkroom.

Flash’s pulse quickened as he saw the man pause. Orris seemed to debate a moment, then with a shrug, he turned and walked out of the department.

“Now why did he hesitate?” thought Flash. “Perhaps he intended to try something and lost his nerve! It looks as if my scheme wasn’t so clever after all.”

Deciding to carry out the test for a few minutes longer, he remained in hiding. Scarcely had Orris’ footsteps died away when another sound reached his ears. Some other person was approaching from the opposite direction!


Softly, an inch at a time, the hall door swung open. Peering from behind the wirephoto cabinet, Flash could distinguish only the shadowy outline of a man.

The intruder stood motionless for a moment before gliding noiselessly toward the door of the darkroom. There he paused, and with his ear pressed to the panel, listened.

“Anyone inside?” he asked in a low tone.

Flash started, for he recognized the voice. His first impulse was to dart from his hiding place and accost the man, but he forced himself to wait. Proof he must have.

The man repeated his question. When there was no reply, he quietly pushed open the door. Flash became tense with anxiety. Suppose the fellow failed to walk against the cord? What if the flash bulb did not go off? Why was it taking so long?

Then suddenly he saw the flare of light and heard a muttered exclamation of fear. The door of the darkroom swung open and a man bolted out. But Flash was ready for him.

“Oh, no, you don’t!” he shouted. “I’ve got you this time!”


He leaped and they crashed to the floor together. Flash was strong and muscular for his age, but his opponent had arms of steel. However, he was gaining the upperhand when the room lights suddenly went on. Someone grasped him roughly by the collar and jerked him to his feet. Whirling around, he saw that the newcomer was Fred Orris, who evidently had returned upon hearing the commotion.

“Say, what’s the big idea?” the head photographer demanded. “Beating up an old man!”

Flash glanced down at the whimpering figure on the floor. Poor old Herm! But he steeled himself against a feeling of pity. The watchman was deserving of no sympathy or consideration.

“Herm is the one who stole my arson picture!” Flash accused. “He’s been trying to make trouble for me from the day I started work here, adding chemicals to the hypo tank and doing dirty little tricks to ruin my work!”

“It’s a lie!” muttered Herm, offering his gnarled hand for Fred Orris to help him to his feet. “I been workin’ here over ten years and have a long record of faithful service. He can’t hang nothin’ on me!”

“What were you doing in the darkroom?” Flash demanded.

“I went in there to see if you had left the water runnin’.”

“That excuse is getting rather threadbare, Herm.”

“You’re one of the worst offenders of the lot,” the watchman accused, glaring at Flash.

“I don’t believe I ever left a tap running in my life. But we’ll not argue that point. You say you went in the darkroom to turn off the water?”

“I not only say it! I did!”


“And you didn’t tamper with anything? The film drying machine, for instance?”

“I wasn’t even in that part of the room.”

“That’s exactly what I wanted to know,” said Flash with grim satisfaction. “We’ll see!”

Old Herm had brushed off his clothes. He now edged toward the door, but Flash grasped his arm and pulled him back.

“Oh, no, you don’t, Herm! You’ll stay right here. I may decide to turn you over to the police!”

“Evans, I consider you’ve gone entirely too far,” Fred Orris interposed coldly. “You’ve made some very serious accusations. If you fail to prove them—”

“Don’t worry, I’ll prove them. I just want to make certain Old Herm doesn’t do a disappearing act. And it might be a good idea to frisk him.”

The watchman protested angrily as his pockets were searched. Triumphantly, Flash brought to light a blackjack.

“There ain’t no crime in carryin’ that, I hope,” Old Herm defended himself. “I need a harmless weapon in case I’m attacked while makin’ my rounds.”

“A blackjack isn’t exactly a harmless weapon,” Flash returned, raising his hand to rub the lump on his head.


“What proof do you have that Herm was tampering with anything in the darkroom?” demanded Fred Orris.

“Because I deliberately set a camera trap. That story about the riot was made up.”

“Then you had no pictures?”

“Not a one. I hung some old films on the drying machine as bait and focused my camera there. The flash went off, so I ought to have something on my plate.”

“You can’t blame me,” Old Herm whimpered. “It was dark in there. I brushed against something and a flash went off. It was an accident.”

“A camera doesn’t lie,” said Fred Orris quietly. “Develop your plate, Evans. I’ll keep Herm here until you’ve finished your work.”

Flash shut himself up in the darkroom. With trembling hands he removed the plate from its holder and lowered it into the developer. Everything depended upon the picture. The sympathy of the entire office naturally would go toward Old Herm because of his age and service record. If the shot revealed nothing, the watchman’s story would be accepted in preference to his own. He must expect it.


Carefully, Flash timed the plate. As he removed it from the developer one quick glance assured him that he had his picture! It was slightly blurred but Old Herm was clearly recognizable. And he had been snapped in the act of reaching for the film on the drying machine.

“I have my proof!” Flash thought exultantly. “Old Herm can’t talk himself out of this!”

He washed the plate and as soon as he dared, opened the door and carried it out into the adjoining room.

Old Herm was still there, guarded by Fred Orris. Other newspapermen had gathered from the near-by offices, and had evidently been told the entire story. Flash fancied they gazed at him accusingly, as if to imply that he was unjust to falsely accuse an old man.

“Get anything?” asked Orris.

Flash offered the wet plate. “Here it is!”

The head photographer studied the evidence a moment in silence.

“This is proof enough for me,” he said. “Old Herm! I never would have believed it! But now that I think back, he came into the office the night your Elston fire pictures were streaked—”

“Let me see that plate,” the watchman demanded.

Orris turned toward him. With a quick swipe of his hand, Old Herm brushed the plate to the floor. It broke into a multitude of tiny pieces.

“Now where is your proof?” the watchman chuckled in triumph. “You ain’t a goin’ to hang this mess on me! No, sir! I got an alibi.”



Fred Orris stooped to pick up the broken pieces of glass from the floor. Those who stood in a circle about the watchman were staring at him with a new expression.

“Herm, I’m afraid breaking the plate won’t get you out of this,” the head photographer said coolly. “Your guilt is fairly well established in the minds of every person in this room.”

“Why did you do it, Herm?” asked Flash.

“I didn’t! It ain’t fair to try to make me lose my job.”

“You’ll be lucky if you don’t spend your declining days in jail,” Orris said sharply. “It’s a serious business, tampering with pictures, not to mention striking a man with a blackjack.”

“Herm,” spoke Flash persuasively, “I’m not particularly interested in seeing you turned over to the police. Maybe if you tell us what you did with my fire picture we’ll let you go? Did you destroy it?”


“I don’t know anything about your picture,” the watchman insisted sullenly. “I already proved to the police I wasn’t in this here part of the building at the time it was stole!”

“You were punching the time clock on the sixth floor?” recalled Flash.

“That’s right. I wouldn’t have had time to get down here even if I had been a-mind to do such a thing!”

“Suppose we see what Jeff has to say about it?”

Old Herm cringed back against the wall, and every trace of bravado left him.

“Has Jeff been talkin’ to you?” he faltered.

“You’ve been paying him money to ring the different bells for you,” Flash accused. “It came in very convenient when you wanted to run down to your room for an hour off. And it provided you with a perfect alibi the night my fire picture was stolen.”

“Wait until I lay hands on that boy,” Old Herm muttered. “The no-good sneak! Carryin’ tales behind my back!”

“Herm, what did you do with the film?”

“I ain’t a-sayin’ nothing from now on.”

“I’ll call the wagon,” said Fred Orris impatiently.

As the head photographer started for a desk telephone, the old man collapsed into a chair.

“Don’t call the police,” he pleaded. “I’ll tell you everything. Sure, I did it, and I ain’t sorry, either!”


“Why did you do it, Herm?”

“I’ll tell you,” the old man answered, his eyes glazed with hatred. “Your father was the cause of killin’ my boy.”

“Your son Dick was discharged from the Post for taking funds which did not belong to him,” Flash corrected. “My father brought the matter to the attention of the newspaper owners in order to save an innocent man. But from what I can learn he did not even send your son to jail.”

“He done worse. Dick couldn’t get a job. He fell in with bad company. One night he was ridin’ with some boys who aimed to rob a filling station. There was some shootin’ and Dick was hit in the right lung. They took him to the hospital. I hired the best doctors, but they couldn’t do anything for him. I vowed then I’d get even with the man who was the cause of Dick’s death. I never did have my chance until you came here to work.”

Old Herm buried his head in his arms, rocking back and forth.

Flash glanced at the silent group of men in the room. Not a person there but felt sorry for the old fellow whose grief had so distorted his mind.

“Herm, we’re not going to send you to jail,” he said after a moment. “But we do want you to tell us what you did with the fire picture.”


“You mean the one I took off the editor’s desk?”

“No, it doesn’t matter about that. I mean the films you took the night I was struck over the head.”

“Several of them, wasn’t there?” the old man asked slowly.

“Yes, but the picture we want was taken at the Fenmore warehouse. If the police had it they might be able to capture the men who have been setting fires here in Brandale. Did you destroy the films, Herm?”

“No, I hid ’em.”

“Where?” Flash and Fred Orris asked the question together.

“I’ll show you.”

The old man arose and with a curious group following him, limped to the elevator, and thence to the composing room. He went directly to the supply cupboard.

“I might have guessed where the films were hidden,” Flash murmured.

Instead of opening the case, Old Herm stooped and ran his hand into the narrow crack behind it.

“Here, let me do that,” offered Flash quickly. “You might scratch the films.”

With Orris’ help he moved the heavy supply case. On the floor against the wall lay several negatives. Flash snatched them up.


Two of the Tower pictures had been ruined by exposure to light too soon after developing. The warehouse shot was in good condition, with only one small scratch which could be retouched.

“Say, this may crack the arson case wide open!” Orris exclaimed, excitement creeping into his voice. “You call the police while I make up some 8 × 10 glossies! If we move fast we may be able to catch the last edition!”

Old Herm was forgotten. Amazed at the change which had come over the head photographer, Flash rushed for a telephone. Tersely he informed the desk sergeant at police headquarters that the long missing picture had been located.

“We’ll have a man right over there,” he was promised.

Flash hastened back to the photography department. The door of the darkroom was closed, but in a moment it opened, and Fred Orris stepped out. He offered a print for the younger photographer to see.

“It’s a perfect picture,” he praised. “Look how those faces stand out. Ever see those fellows before, Flash?”

“Only at the time I snapped the picture.”

“This one on the left looks mighty familiar to me, but I can’t seem to place him.”


“That’s the man spoken of by the others as ‘H. J.’ He’s supposed to be the brains of the arson ring.”

“I know I’ve seen his picture before,” Orris repeated. “But where?”

As he was staring at the print, two men strode into the department. Flash recognized them as plainclothesmen from headquarters, Burnett and Kimball.

“Let’s have a look at that picture,” said Burnett.

Orris turned it over to him. The detective studied the print a moment, obviously startled. He indicated the man who had stood nearest the camera.

“That’s Harry J. McCormand!” he exclaimed.

“McCormand!” echoed Orris. “I was trying to think of him. But McCormand is one of Brandale’s most prominent lawyers!”

“Prominent, yes,” agreed the detective dryly. “He’s been in some shady business in his time. No one ever could pin anything on him.”

“You aiming to run this picture in the next edition?” inquired the other detective.

“That’s up to the night editor, Dewey. He’ll probably slap it on page one, because it’s hot stuff!”

“If the picture runs, McCormand may have a tip-off before we can bring him in. We’ll want it held up until we make our arrest.”

“How long will that take?” Flash interposed.

“Can’t tell. We may be able to round him up tonight. Again it may take days.”


“Better talk with Dewey,” advised Orris.

He and Flash led the two detectives to the desk of the night editor. When the situation was fully explained to him, Dan Dewey made his decision instantly.

“We’ll hold out the picture providing you give our paper an exclusive on the story when it finally breaks.”

“Fair enough,” agreed Burnett. “We’ll take a few men and go out to McCormand’s house right away. Send your photographers along if you like.”

“Evans, you and Orris!” said Dewey. Then he hesitated, being fully aware of the antagonism which existed between the two men. He amended: “Or maybe I can locate Ralston—”

“I’ll take Orris if it’s all the same to you,” spoke Flash.

Dan Dewey nodded in relief. “Good!” he approved. “McCormand’s arrest will shock the town. Bring back some real pictures or I’ll fire you both!”

Orris’ lips curled into a faint suggestion of a smile.

“Come on, Flash,” he said. “Let’s go!”



The night was one long to be remembered. In the police car, Flash and Fred Orris rode to the McCormand home on Aldingham Drive. There they learned from a maid that the man they sought was attending a late business conference at his downtown office.

Back-tracking, the police car presently drew up before a white stone building not far from the Brandale Ledger. Nearly all of the windows were dark, but lights glowed in one of the offices on the fourth floor.

The building directory provided information that McCormand occupied Room 407. From the elevator man, police learned that the lawyer had entered the building shortly after nine o’clock and had not been seen leaving.

Detective Burnett was assigned to post himself on the fire escape directly opposite Room 407, and the two photographers chose to accompany him. Gaining access to it from the third floor, they moved noiselessly to the window.


Inside they could see McCormand at his desk, talking with two other men. One of them Flash instantly recognized as the same person who had been involved in the Fenmore warehouse affair.

A loud knock came on the office door. McCormand sprang to his feet.

“Who’s there?” he called sharply.

“Open up or we’ll break down the door!” came the order.

McCormand jerked his head toward the window. His two companions made a dive for the fire escape, stepping directly into the arms of the waiting detective. Flash and Orris took pictures simultaneously.

The detective backed his prisoners into the office again, keeping them covered with his revolver.

“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” demanded McCormand wrathfully. “I demand an explanation.”

“You’ll get it,” said Burnett coolly.

Flash unlocked the door and let the other detective into the room. Then he deftly inserted another holder in his camera, and cocked the lever of the shutter. As Detective Kimball told McCormand he was under arrest, he pulled the slide and shot his next picture.


Protesting angrily, the lawyer and his companions were hustled downstairs to the waiting police car. Flash and Orris both obtained action shots of McCormand trying to free himself from the grasp of two detectives.

“Not bad,” chuckled Orris as they stood watching the car drive away.

“We haven’t any time to waste,” said Flash abruptly. “If we move fast we still have a chance to make that last edition.”

The words spurred Orris to action. Running nearly all of the distance to the Ledger building, they related their story of the capture in a few terse sentences.

“We’ll hold the edition ten minutes,” Dan Dewey decided. “Get busy!”

Flash and Orris rushed their pictures through in record time, making prints from wet negatives. Not until each picture had been captioned and sent to the photo-engraving department did they allow themselves a moment to relax.

“What a night!” said Flash, sinking into a chair. “Wonder what became of Old Herm?”

Orris shrugged in his characteristic way.

“Who cares? He won’t make you any more trouble. I imagine he’ll never show up at the Ledger again after what happened. But if he should be dumb enough to try to keep his job, I’ll drop a hint in the editor’s ear.”


“We’ve probably seen the last of Old Herm,” Flash agreed. “From now on things should roll a lot smoother for me.”

There was an awkward pause. Orris avoided looking directly at Flash as he said:

“I owe you an apology. The truth is, I didn’t like you very well when you first started work here. I thought you were a cocky kid who needed to be put in his place.”

“Guess you weren’t far wrong at that.”

“Yes, I was,” Orris denied. “You had the stuff even if it took me a long while to recognize it. When you had so much trouble with your pictures, streaking and losing them, I figured you were inexperienced.”

“I did slip up on the fight pictures, Fred. The other mistakes were the result of Old Herm’s work.”

“You have what it takes,” Orris resumed. “After being out with you tonight I know your pictures aren’t a matter of accident. You’re a good photographer.”

“Thanks,” returned Flash. Coming from Orris, the praise was indeed high. He added: “But I still have plenty to learn.”

He bore the head photographer no grudge. From now on he would understand him much better. Orris never would be as friendly or sociable as Joe Wells and the other photographers, but he knew his work. One could learn a great deal from him.


Flash felt worn out from the night’s work. However, before starting home, he printed up the one good Tower picture and dropped it on the editor’s desk, without caring whether or not it ever was used. As he picked up his hat to leave the office, Orris asked in surprise:

“Aren’t you waiting for the paper to come out? It shouldn’t be more than a minute or two now.”

“No, I’m too tired,” Flash yawned. “I’m going home and hit the hay.”

“You might get a by-line,” Orris hinted. “And you know what that means around here?”

“No, what?”

“Usually a raise.”

“I could do with one,” grinned Flash. “Well, I think I’ll bear the suspense until morning.”

“I’m sticking around for a few minutes longer,” Orris replied. “See you tomorrow.”

Flash left the building and, after a wait of ten minutes at the corner, caught his bus home. Wearily he sagged into the first empty seat. It had been a big night, but a satisfying one. Due to his work and the recovery of the warehouse picture, the arson ring would be entirely cleaned up. He might be called to testify against McCormand, but the man’s conviction was practically assured.


“And the darkroom mystery is solved, too,” he chuckled. “From now on I’ll have clear sailing.”

The bus presently stopped at a corner. A well-dressed man of middle age came into the car, settling himself in the vacant seat beside the young photographer. He opened his paper to read.

Turning his head slightly, Flash saw that the man had a copy of the Ledger, the last edition which news-boys were just starting to cry. Bold headlines told of McCormand’s arrest, and a picture had been spread over four columns.

Flash bent nearer. The picture was the one he had taken of McCormand and the two other men at Fenmore’s warehouse. Beneath it was a tiny caption, “by staff photographer, Jimmy Evans.”

“Well, I see they’ve captured the big-shot behind the arson ring,” remarked the passenger conversationally. “Turns out to be H. J. McCormand!”

Flash smiled and nodded.

“Interesting picture, too,” the man went on. “These newspaper photographers always seem to be on the wrong spot at the right time. But this picture takes the prize. I wonder how he ever got it?”

“If you ask me,” said Flash with a sheepish grin, “the fellow was a fool for luck. He must have been born with a silver horseshoe around his neck!”



Transcriber’s Notes