The _News-Vue_ sound truck pulled into the private grounds of the
Excelsior Polo Club at exactly ten minutes to three. Through the elm
trees George Doyle caught sight of the field, and gave a chuckle of
“The match is still on!”
The seventh chukker was underway as the truck drew up at the sidelines.
Flash and Doyle worked swiftly, knowing they had little time.
“How’s the score?” the technician demanded of a spectator.
“Six to four in favor of the Internationals.”
Flash carefully looked over the field as he focused his camera. Two
riders were outstanding, Rajah Mitra for the Internationals, and Herbert
Rascomb on the American team. Mitra, a handsome, dark man of thirty,
handled his mount expertly. His clashes with Rascomb were frequent.
Deliberately, Flash trained the camera lens upon them. Doyle’s protest
was immediate and explosive.
“Say, what’s the idea? Do you want to make Rascomb sore?”
“Since when are we working for him?” Flash countered. “We’re here to get
good pictures. He happens to be one of the best players on the field.”
The argument might have waxed warmer, but just then the chukker ended
with a spectacular goal made by Rascomb. He wheeled his horse, a
beautiful black mare, and rode over to the sound wagon.
“Good afternoon, boys,” he said heartily. “Taking a few pictures?”
“_News-Vue_,” Doyle replied. “That last shot of yours was pretty, Mr.
“Thank you, thank you.” The sportsman doffed his cork helmet mockingly,
and his lips parted in a smile. “The fact is, Rajah Mitra is too fast
for me today. A marvelous player, that man!”
There was an expansive, friendly quality to Rascomb which attracted
Flash despite himself. For some reason he had felt distrustful of the
man. Now that he had heard him speak, the feeling was slipping away.
“A little request, boys,” the sportsman said casually. “No close-ups of
“You don’t like to be photographed?” Flash inquired, watching the man
Rascomb’s dark eyes appraised the cameraman. His glance took in the
cheap suit, the muddy shoes, wrinkled tie.
“You’ll have to excuse Evans’ appearance.” Doyle spoke apologetically.
“He fell into a river this morning.”
“A river?” Rascomb asked in amusement.
Flash did not bother to explain or correct Doyle’s misstatement.
After a lengthy pause the polo player inquired thoughtfully:
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before? Your face seems familiar.”
“Funny. I was thinking the same thing when I first saw you—that was at
the Indianapolis auto races.”
“Oh, so you saw me there?”
“Yes, I have a picture as a souvenir. Snapped it while you were talking
with one of the drivers in the pit.”
The pleasant smile receded from Rascomb’s face. The corners of his lips
“I dislike being photographed,” he said. “I dislike it intensely. It
makes me especially nervous to know that a camera is focused upon me
during a polo match. I trust you’ll oblige me by not taking any pictures
except from across the field?”
“Oh, sure,” Doyle said instantly before Flash could answer. “We’ll be
glad to do you that little favor.”
“You’ll not lose by it.”
Rascomb wheeled his horse as if to ride away. Plainly he was irritated.
Flash decided to court further displeasure.
“I’d like to ask a personal question, if you don’t mind, Mr. Rascomb,”
he remarked. “Are you related to a man named Povy?”
“Povy?” the sportsman demanded sharply.
“Albert Povy. He was listed as killed in the recent train wreck.”
“Whatever gave you the idea I knew him?”
“I was told that you had claimed the body.”
Rascomb’s expression became inscrutable. His dark eyes bored into Flash
as if probing for what lay behind the question. He moistened his lips to
At that instant a player motioned to him from across the field.
Rascomb’s relief was obvious.
“Excuse me,” he said, “I’ll talk with you later.”
Jerking his mount’s head, he rode to his post. The game was resumed.
“What was the idea of deliberately trying to antagonize Rascomb?” Doyle
accused. “Such tactics won’t get you anywhere!”
“Maybe not a trip to the hunting lodge,” Flash cheerfully admitted.
He had no intention of allowing Rascomb to dictate what pictures he
could or could not take. Oddly, as the game continued, no occasion arose
to photograph the sportsman at close range.
Rascomb played erratically. His mallet slashed wickedly but many of his
shots were badly placed. Losing his temper, he began jerking his horse
about and calling it an “evil brute.”
The Internationals, led by the Rajah, piled up two goals in rapid
succession, and won by a wide margin. Secretly Flash wondered if Rascomb
had been upset by the question about Albert Povy.
The game over, Doyle seemed in no haste to leave the club grounds.
“I’ll be back in a little while,” he said vaguely, and wandered down to
the stables where Rascomb last had been seen.
“Take your time.”
Presently Flash saw the pair disappear into the clubhouse together. He
settled himself in the truck for a long wait.
“Doyle is breaking his neck to make a good impression on that fellow,”
he thought. “Oh, well, it’s none of my affair.”
He was half tempted to follow Doyle into the clubhouse. While he had no
desire to seek Rascomb’s favor, he would enjoy driving the sportsman
into a corner with another question about Albert Povy.
A half hour elapsed before Doyle returned to the truck. He was in high
“Rascomb and I had a long talk together,” he declared enthusiastically.
“I think I’ve swung it!”
“An invitation to Rascomb’s lodge?”
Doyle nodded as he guided the sound truck down the winding road to the
“He’s been thinking of getting up a week-end party out at his place. If
he does he’ll telephone us tonight at the Parker Hotel.”
“Rascomb isn’t a fellow to hold a grudge. You were short with him but
he’s overlooking it.”
“Nice of him,” Flash said dryly.
“He was interested in you,” Doyle admitted. “Asked a lot of questions.”
“Did he? What sort of questions?”
“Oh, nothing out of the way. Just who you were, where you came from, and
what sort of fellow you were. If the invitation comes through, we’ll
both be included.”
“It was decent of you to put in a good word for me,” Flash said.
“Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ll be interested.”
“Then you’re a sap! Rascomb would show us a wonderful time. And it
wouldn’t cost us a penny.”
“I’m not so sure. I figure there’s a string attached somewhere.”
“A string? What do you mean?”
“I don’t know myself,” Flash admitted. “I’ll be frank and say Rascomb
has me puzzled.”
Driving back to Excelsior City, the newsreel men located themselves at
the Parker Hotel. Not wishing to be far from a telephone, Doyle insisted
upon dining in the building. Later he returned to his room. Flash
remained in the lobby reading a newspaper until after nine o’clock.
Entering the bedroom, he found Doyle gloomily playing a game of
“Your telephone call didn’t come through?” Flash asked.
“No! Rascomb must have been handing me a line! It’s enough to make a
“I’m sorry you didn’t get the invitation, George,” Flash said sincerely.
“Still, I don’t see how you could have made the trip. We’re supposed to
be working for _News-Vue_.”
“No new assignment has come through. They expect to give us a day off
now and then.”
Flash began to check through his suitcase to see what clothes he would
need to buy. He had written his mother for additional shirts and
underwear, but it would take days for a package to overtake him. The
suit he had worn in his river plunge must be sent to the cleaners.
Whether or not it ever could be worn again was problematical.
As he sorted garments, Flash came upon the envelope which contained
photographic prints. He poured them out on the table, examining them one
Reaching the last print, a peculiar expression crossed his face. “That’s
queer,” he muttered.
He went through the stack a second time, taking care that two did not
stick together. The picture he sought was not there.
His chair made a grating sound on the bare floor as he turned to face
“Doyle,” he said quietly, “tell me the straight truth. Did you remove a
picture of Herbert Rascomb from this envelope?”
George Doyle slammed the deck of cards together, tossing the box into a
suitcase which lay open on the floor. He regarded Flash with an
insolent, offended gaze.
“Now what would I want with any of your pictures?”
“I thought you might have looked at them while I was downstairs.”
“You thought!” Doyle mocked. “Why don’t you come right out and accuse me
of being a sneak thief! Your personal effects are of no interest to me,
little man! Not the slightest.”
“I’m not accusing you,” Flash replied quietly. “I was merely asking.”
“I don’t like your tone.”
“I didn’t mean to imply anything. But it still seems queer that the
picture isn’t here.”
Doyle lighted a cigarette in his most deliberate manner and then asked:
“Which one is missing?”
“A snap I took of Rascomb at the races. The only good picture in the
“You probably lost it yourself.”
“It was in the envelope yesterday when I showed the pictures to Captain
Johns and Bailey Brooks.”
“Then maybe they took it,” Doyle suggested sarcastically. “Why don’t you
get out search warrants?”
Flash allowed the matter to rest, yet he was not altogether convinced
that his roommate knew nothing about the missing picture.
“Herb Rascomb may have asked him to get it from me,” he thought. “I made
a mistake in talking too much today at the polo match.”
The telephone rang. Doyle leaped to his feet.
“That must be Rascomb now!” he exclaimed. “We may get our trip yet!”
“Count me out,” Flash murmured, but the technician did not hear.
Doyle talked for several minutes on the telephone, and his eager
responses made it evident he was speaking with Rascomb. Presently, he
placed his hand over the mouthpiece, turning toward Flash.
“Rascomb wants us to come out to his place for the week-end.”
“Well, your fish is playing with the bait. Better play him right so he
doesn’t get away.”
“Rascomb says to bring you along.”
“Thanks. I’m not interested. I’ll stay here at the hotel.”
“For some reason, Rascomb especially wants you. And it will be a
wonderful opportunity for us to get some unusual newsreel shots.”
“Of what?” Flash asked, showing faint interest.
“Rascomb has invited Rajah Mitra as one of his guests. If we can get him
togged up in full dress regalia he ought to be worth fifty feet at
“Maybe,” Flash conceded.
“We might get some good nature pixs while we’re there,” Doyle went on
eagerly. “It’s wild around Clear Lake. How about it?”
Flash had no time to consider. While he was reluctant to accept
Rascomb’s hospitality, he did have a curiosity to see him again, if only
to ask about Albert Povy.
“All right, I’ll go,” he decided.
Doyle relayed the message to Rascomb and hung up the receiver.
“Rascomb and his guests are motoring out to the lodge tonight,” he
explained. “We leave in the morning. Rascomb says it will be a slow trip
over dirt roads so we ought to get a fairly early start.”
Flash nodded and began to prepare for bed. Long after Doyle had gone to
sleep, he lay in the darkened room, staring at a patch of electric light
which shone through the window. There were a number of things which
puzzled him. Why had Rascomb insisted upon including him in the
invitation? He felt satisfied the sportsman had not liked him
Unable to solve the puzzle, Flash finally dropped off to sleep. He awoke
to find Doyle shaking his arm.
“Roll out! Seven o’clock!”
As Flash dressed, Doyle made slighting remarks about his appearance,
suggesting that it might be well to buy a new suit of clothes before
they started for the lodge.
“Sorry but I can’t buy a new suit before I get home,” Flash replied,
unmoved. “This one will have to do.”
They breakfasted at a café across from the hotel and by eight o’clock
were ready to start for Clear Lake, twenty miles away.
As the sound truck rolled out of the city, Flash remarked:
“You sent Clewes a wire didn’t you, telling him we were after special
“Well, no, I didn’t,” Doyle answered carelessly. “This is Friday. He
won’t be around the office until Monday anyway.”
“Do you think we should pull out without leaving word?”
“Sure. After those flood pixs we turned in, Clewes will expect to give
us a few days off. It’s customary.”
While the arrangement was not pleasing to Flash, he could do nothing
about it, and so settled himself for an uncomfortable ride.
They followed the pavement for a distance of four miles, and then turned
down a narrow, rutty road. The truck jounced and bumped, shaking the
loose equipment around.
There was almost no traffic, but whenever they did pass an automobile, a
great cloud of suffocating dust rolled into their faces.
“This section must have missed the rains,” Flash remarked. “Even the
trees look dry.”
The car rattled on, making poor time. Doyle fumed at the delay and kept
glancing at his watch.
Flash was in no hurry for the trip to end. While the ride might be
uncomfortable, the scenery was interesting. Hillocks were studded with
huge boulders, and the twisting roadway was hemmed in with pine trees.
Now and then they glimpsed a patch of blue lake tucked behind the screen
A half hour’s drive brought them to the railroad town of Clear Lake
which consisted of little more than a post office and a few houses. At
the edge of the village stood a ranger’s station. A man in uniform held
up his hand for the truck to stop.
“You’re newsreel men I see,” the ranger observed pleasantly. “Going in
to take pictures of the fire?”
“What fire?” Doyle asked in astonishment.
“A small one has been reported over near Craig Point. The wind is
blowing it this way. Thought I’d give you a word of warning.”
“We didn’t know anything about it,” Doyle replied. “We’re on our way to
Herbert Rascomb’s lodge.”
“You’ll be in no danger there. At least, not unless the wind should
“I wonder if we couldn’t get some fire pictures for _News-Vue_!” Flash
began speculatively. “How far is Craig Point from Rascomb’s place?”
Before the ranger could answer, Doyle broke in impatiently:
“Listen, we’re not doing any fire pictures this trip! Mugging the Rajah
will be the extent of our labors.”
Now that it had been called to their attention, Flash and Doyle both
imagined they could smell smoke in the air. They could not see it, nor
were they able to detect any actual signs of fire.
“It seems to me we’re passing up an unusual opportunity,” Flash
remarked, as they rode on.
“You’re new at this business,” Doyle replied discouragingly. “When you
first start in everything looks like a wonderful idea. I helped cover a
forest fire in Minnesota two years ago. It was no fun, I’m telling you.”
“I shouldn’t think it would be.”
“You burn yourself to a crisp and ruin your clothes. Then more than
likely your shots are no good, or the editor cuts ’em out in favor of a
bathing beauty parade at Atlantic City! Not for me.”
A short distance beyond the town Flash called Doyle’s attention to a
cleared field. In its center stood a lone hangar. Through the windows
they were able to see a red and black-painted airplane.
“This must be Rascomb’s private landing field,” Flash remarked.
“Probably,” Doyle agreed. “We’re close to his place now.”
A half mile farther on the sound truck reached a road which branched off
to the left. Entrance was blocked by a wooden gate which bore a carved
sign plainly marked: “Rascomb Lodge. No Admittance.”
Flash unfastened the barrier and Doyle drove through. The road led them
deeper into the forest and presently emerged in a cleared area. To their
right lay a crescent-shaped lake with motor and row boats tied up at the
Some distance back stood a sprawling structure made of logs with a great
cobblestone chimney. There were no automobiles parked in the yard. The
boats, tugging gently at their moorings, provided the only sign of
“This place looks deserted,” observed Flash.
“Rascomb will be here.”
“But you said he had invited other guests. Rajah Mitra—”
“They may not have arrived yet.”
Leaving the sound truck at the end of the road, Flash and Doyle walked
to the side door of the lodge.
Their approach had been observed. Before they could knock, the door
opened. Herbert Rascomb, dressed in dark shirt and slacks, a pipe thrust
in the corner of his mouth, greeted them heartily.
“Good morning, boys. Glad you were able to come. How do you like our
roads out this way?”
Rascomb stepped aside for them to pass before him into the living room.
A fire blazed on the hearth. It was an inviting scene and their host had
a comfortable way of making them feel welcome. Yet, the absence of
guests puzzled Flash.
“Rajah Mitra isn’t here yet?” he inquired.
Rascomb hesitated, and then said: “I deeply regret that the Rajah was
compelled to change his plans.”
“He isn’t coming?”
“Unfortunately, no. The Rajah expected to be my guest but he was called
to New York this morning. I should have telephoned you. We have no
telephone here at the lodge. It would have meant an early trip to the
“Then if there are to be no pictures, we may as well start back to
town,” Flash remarked, glancing at Doyle.
“I couldn’t think of allowing you to hasten away,” Rascomb interposed
smoothly. “You must have luncheon and remain for the night. I can put
you up quite comfortably. My cook is excellent.”
“That’s mighty nice of you,” Doyle said, giving Flash a hard look.
“We’ll be glad to stay. You sure have a nice place here.”
“Merely comfortable, not pretentious,” Rascomb smiled. “Now make
yourselves at home. If you care to fish, my man Fleur will be glad to
take you out on the lake.”
Rascomb’s manner was perfect. He chatted with Flash and Doyle about
their work, and after they had removed the dust of their trip, left them
to entertain themselves.
The cameramen wandered alone down to the lake. A breeze ruffled the blue
water, slapping waves against the boats tied up at the dock. It whistled
softly in the pine trees, rubbing the boughs gently together. About the
place there was an atmosphere of quiet and peace, yet Flash felt uneasy.
Turning his head, he glanced back toward the lodge. Rascomb stood in the
doorway. The man was watching them and smiling—a cold, triumphant smile.
“Doyle,” Flash said in a low tone.
“Yes? What’s on your mind now?”
“This Rajah business is a phony! Rascomb never did invite him to the
lodge. Do me a favor, and let’s get away from here!”