Flash moved swiftly to the door

George Doyle was in the bedroom, sitting at the writing desk. As Flash
pushed open the door, he twisted in his chair to face him.

“Flash!”

“Rather surprised to see me, aren’t you, Doyle?”

“Surprised?” Doyle arose unsteadily to his feet. “It’s a miracle! I—I
gave you up for dead. Thought you had drowned.”

“So sorry to inconvenience you.”

“What are you looking at me like that for, Flash?” Doyle asked in a
shaky voice. “Surely you don’t think that I—”

“Oh, no!” Flash broke in. “You wouldn’t wish to harm me! Not you,
Doyle!”

“Listen,” the technician pleaded nervously, “I don’t know what happened.
But I can see you have the wrong slant on things. You think Rascomb and
I deserted you?”

“That’s a mild way to put it.”

“We were sure you had drowned,” Doyle repeated. “When the boat upset you
must have gone down like a ton of bricks. There was no sign of you
anywhere. I wanted to wait but Rascomb was nasty about it. He said if we
didn’t leave right away we never would get through the pass.”

“And you expect me to believe a tall story like that?”

“It’s the truth. You don’t think I’d have gone if I’d had even a faint
hope you were still alive?”

“Doyle, you’re a very good actor, but not quite good enough to convince
me. Next you’ll try to tell me you never saw Rascomb strike me over the
head.”

“What?” demanded the technician incredulously. “Say that again!”

“You heard me. Rascomb stunned me with the oar after I accused him of
being Albert Povy. I fell into the water and was carried to the opposite
shore. That part you may not know.”

“Flash, you must be out of your mind,” Doyle said anxiously. “Rascomb
wouldn’t strike you. As for his being Albert Povy, that’s ridiculous!
Povy was killed in the train wreck.”

“Oh, no, he wasn’t,” Flash denied. “He merely found it convenient to
give out that impression. Povy and Rascomb are the same person, and you
must have known it!”

“Sit down and try to calm yourself,” Doyle said solicitously. “You’ve
gone through a terrible ordeal tonight. You’re pretty confused.”

“So that’s your defense? You accuse me of being out of my head?”

“Don’t you know what really happened?” Doyle asked patiently.

“Suppose you tell me. I’m sure you’ve thought up an interesting little
fairy tale!”

“You and Rascomb were in the boat when it suddenly upset. Rascomb was so
busy trying to rescue the oars and the cans of film he didn’t worry
about you for a minute. When he looked around, you had disappeared
beneath the surface. Then he yelled to me for help.”

“And you saw the boat upset?”

“Well, no, I didn’t,” Doyle admitted. “I was taking pictures. The truth
is, I had no idea anything was wrong until Rascomb called to me. Then it
was too late to do anything.”

“And what happened next?” Flash demanded. “Go on with the yarn.”

“I see you don’t believe me, but it’s the truth. Rascomb and I righted
the boat and shot through the pass. We reached the lodge and started for
here in the sound truck.”

“Rascomb came with you?”

“We started together. At Clear Lake he said he had forgotten an
important matter and must return to the lodge.”

Since this part of Doyle’s story tallied with what Fleur had reported
about Rascomb’s actions, Flash was inclined to believe that the pair
actually had started for Excelsior City together, and that later Rascomb
had turned back.

Doyle spoke again in a strangely subdued voice. “Flash, we’ve never
liked each other any too well. That was my fault, probably. I haven’t
made things pleasant for you. But I don’t want you to think I’d be a
party to any plot against you.”

Flash was impressed with Doyle’s apparent sincerity. After all, he
thought, there was at least a possibility that Doyle had not seen
Rascomb’s attack upon him. The words had a genuine ring.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said slowly.

Doyle made no further attempt to convince Flash. Instead, he reached for
a sheet of paper on the desk and dropped it into the waste basket.

“I was sending a wire to the _News-Vue_ people,” he explained. “I’m glad
it won’t be necessary now.”

Flash’s gaze wandered slowly about the room. It came to rest upon
Doyle’s suitcase, neatly strapped, standing by the door.

“You’re packed to leave?”

Doyle offered him a crumpled telegram.

“This came while we were at Rascomb’s lodge.”

“From _News-Vue_?”

Doyle nodded gloomily.

“We’re ordered to cover a warehouse strike at Clinton. That’s a hundred
miles from here if it’s a foot. They’re expecting fireworks tomorrow at
seven o’clock when a crew of strike-breakers comes on duty.”

Flash read the telegram which confirmed Doyle’s words.

“This comes from not wiring Clewes we were spending the week-end at
Rascomb’s place,” he commented.

“I made a mistake,” Doyle admitted reluctantly. “And now, well, I’m in a
jam.”

“You still can reach Clinton by traveling tonight.”

“Not with the sound wagon. I burned out a bearing getting back from the
lodge. Repairs won’t be made before tomorrow afternoon.”

“You’re getting one break at least,” said Flash. “A new cameraman. I’m
quitting.”

“Flash, you can’t run out on me at a time like this!”

“I don’t like to quit because of Joe. But I have an account to square
and some work to do. That’s the low-down on why I’m staying.”

“If there was anything I could say to make you change your mind—”

“There isn’t.”

Doyle hesitated, then sat down at the desk and scribbled a message to be
telegraphed to the _News-Vue_ home office. Flash had picked up the
telephone to call long distance.

“Send this when you’re through, will you?” Doyle requested.

He tossed the message to Flash. Entering the bathroom he started the
shower running full blast.

Flash looked at the telegram. It read:

“Please accept resignation of Jimmy Evans and George Doyle, effective
immediately.”

Flash re-read the message. Then, moving to the bathroom door he called
to his roommate. Doyle could not hear because of the running water.

Giving it up, Flash went back to the telephone. He placed a call for
Major Hartgrove at Melveredge Field, and waited.

Ten minutes elapsed. The telephone bell jingled. Eagerly he took down
the receiver. The operator spoke.

“It is impossible to contact your party,” she reported. “Will you speak
with any other person?”

“Get me Captain Ernest Johns.”

Again Flash waited, although a shorter time. Once more the operator had
only failure to report.

“Captain Johns and Major Hartgrove no longer are located at Melveredge
Field,” she informed. “I am sorry.”

Flash hung up the receiver, disappointed by his inability to contact
either of the men. A slight sound caused him to turn in his chair.

He stared. The outside door stood slightly ajar. He could not remember
having left it that way.

As he watched, fascinated, it slowly was pulled shut. Someone in the
hall had been listening to the telephone conversation!

Flash moved swiftly to the door and jerked it open. The hall was
deserted, but as he listened he could hear the soft pad of footsteps
fading away.

“That door didn’t open by itself,” he muttered. “Someone was listening.
But whoever he was, he’s gone now.”

Flash re-entered the bedroom. The shower was still running, but in a few
minutes Doyle came out, wrapped in his flannel robe.

“Did you send that telegram?” he asked.

“No, not yet. Doyle, there’s no reason for you to resign.”

“I’m fed up,” the technician responded shortly.

“I’ve been thinking. I may keep on for awhile, after all. My plans
aren’t turning out the way I expected.”

“You mean you want to go on to Clinton? You believe my story, then?”

“Yes. I don’t honestly think you were a party to what happened today.”

Doyle drew a deep sigh.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, Flash. You’ve been pretty badly mixed
up—”

“Let’s not argue that point,” Flash interrupted. “My opinion about
Rascomb won’t change. I intend to report him to the police.”

Doyle frowned.

“You’re making a big mistake if you do that, Flash. Rascomb is an
important man with connections around this city. Even if he had done
what you think he did, it would be hard to prove.”

“Not if you’ll testify with me.”

Doyle shifted his weight uncomfortably.

“I couldn’t be a party to railroading an innocent man.”

“Innocent!”

“That bump on the head confused you, Flash,” Doyle said anxiously.
“Maybe you ought to see a doctor.”

“You think I’m out of my head?”

“Only on that one subject. You’ve been suspicious of Rascomb ever since
you met him.”

“And for a mighty good reason. I suppose you’ll think I’m crazy if I
tell you that Rascomb and Fleur locked me up in the lodge.”

“What?” Doyle demanded incredulously.

“After he left you, Rascomb came back. He boasted that he intended to
pull off a final deal and skip the country. Take a look at this!”

Flash drew the picture of Albert Povy from his pocket and slapped it on
the table before Doyle’s startled eyes.

“Where did you get this, Flash?”

“In Rascomb’s desk!”

“It doesn’t seem possible,” Doyle muttered. “There is a marked
resemblance I’ll admit, but Rascomb has no scar.”

“You’re mistaken there. He’s been using clever make-up to keep it
covered. Now will you go with me to the police station?”

“I still think you’re mixed up somehow,” Doyle protested. “I hate to get
involved in this mess. Rascomb isn’t the man to take an accusation
sitting down.”

“Then I’ll go to the police alone,” Flash said shortly. “It won’t take
me long to make my report. As soon as I’m through we’ll start for
Clinton.”

“We can’t get out of here until the truck is repaired.”

“Why not hire a car? We could take the hand camera, get our strike
pictures, and come back here later for the truck.”

“We could do that,” Doyle agreed. “Do you feel equal to the trip?”

Flash shook his head impatiently. “No, but I’ll keep going somehow.”

He changed his clothes and hastily packed his belongings in a suitcase.
Doyle watched him with a troubled gaze.

“Flash, you look bad,” he said after a moment. “Let me call a doctor.”

“We haven’t time. I’m on my way to the police station now. You might see
if you can locate a car while I’m gone.”

Leaving Doyle in the room, Flash went downstairs to the nearly deserted
lobby. As he reached the revolving door at the front entrance another
man entered the hotel and they met face to face.

Flash stopped short.

“Captain Johns!” he exclaimed.

The army man peered at the young man an instant without recognition, and
then he remembered him.

“Evans, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I was trying to reach you by long distance telephone only a few
minutes ago,” Flash began eagerly.

The Captain cut him short. “Major Hartgrove and I arrived here early
this morning. Glad to have met you again, Mr. Evans.”

“One minute,” Flash protested as the man started to edge away.

“I can’t stop now,” Captain Johns apologized. “Some other time I’ll be
glad to grant an interview.”

“I’m not after an interview or pictures. I would like to give you some
information about Albert Povy.”

Captain Johns stopped short. He gazed at Flash intently.

“Albert Povy no longer interests me,” he said. “The man is dead.”

“You are wrong, sir. Povy never was killed in the train wreck. I have
proof of it.”

“Impossible! It happens that Major Hartgrove and I came here this
morning to investigate that very thing. Povy is buried in a cemetery at
Clear Lake. I visited the grave myself.”

“It couldn’t have been Povy’s grave. The man still lives.”

Captain Johns grasped Flash by the arm.

“Come back into the lobby with me, young man,” he urged. “If your
information should be correct it will prove of vital importance to us!”

Flash sank into a chair beside the captain. He offered the picture of
Povy and told where he had obtained it.

“But do you realize what you are saying?” the Captain demanded in
amazement. “You are accusing Herbert Rascomb of living a dual life!”

“Rascomb and Povy are the same person,” Flash insisted. “For years the
man has been living a double existence. As Rascomb he’s acted the part
of a wealthy, upstanding citizen. As Povy—well, I don’t know much about
_his_ past.”

“Albert Povy was one of the most daring spies the government ever
encountered,” explained Captain Johns. “He caused us great
embarrassment. Recently, evidence piled up against him. Had his death
not occurred, he would have been arrested within forty-eight hours.”

“I saw him on the train,” Flash said. “At the time it appeared to me
that he might have been shadowing Major Hartgrove.”

“Your observation was correct. Povy knew that the government had taken
an interest in a parachute which is being perfected by a man named
Bailey Brooks. He was under the impression that Major Hartgrove had
possession of certain papers and specifications referring to it.”

“And when the train was wrecked he tried to rob the Major?”

“He made such an attempt and failed.”

“Where is the Major now?” Flash asked. “I believe you said he was here
at the hotel.”

“He is waiting for me upstairs.”

“And does he still have the specifications for Brooks’ invention?”

Captain Johns frowned in annoyance. He felt that he had told the
cameraman entirely too much.

“The reason I ask is this,” Flash said. “Rascomb boasted while he held
me prisoner that he intended to pull off one more deal before he
disappeared. He may have learned that Major Hartgrove is here—”

“Major Hartgrove is well able to look after himself,” the captain
interposed dryly.

Flash arose.

“You don’t believe my story,” he said.

“I am convinced that you believe it,” returned Captain Johns. “Your
accusation against Rascomb is amazing. However, I promise you a complete
investigation will be made.”

“Unless you work fast, Rascomb may disappear,” Flash warned impatiently.
“I was on my way to the police when I met you.”

“No, you must not go there! Allow me to handle this.”

“Yes, sir.”

A page boy crossed the lobby, gazing questioningly toward the pair.

“Call for Captain Johns! Captain Johns!”

The army man signaled to the boy, and upon learning that he was wanted
on the telephone, excused himself. When he returned a few minutes later
his face was sober.

“I don’t know what to think now,” he said. “That call was from Charles
W. Gordon.”

“Gordon?”

“A prominent and respectable lawyer here in Excelsior City. He requested
me to come without delay to Room 47 and to bring you with me.”

“Why should Gordon wish to see us?”

“He said he was representing Herbert Rascomb and had important
information to offer.”

“It sounds like a trap!” exclaimed Flash.

“I hardly agree. Gordon is a reputable lawyer.”

“How did he know we were here in the hotel and together?”

“I was wondering about that,” mused Captain Johns. “We’ll see him, but
if Room 47 is the spider’s den, let us keep an eye open for
entanglements.”