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- Rob and Kill
- Secret Traffic
- Haven of the Hunted
- Live Steam
- The Brand of Light
- The Lady in White
- The Trail of the Beam
- The Forces of Evil
- Alias, The Corpse
- Stop, Murderer
- The Frame Complete
- Black Light
Rob and Kill
That night, the sounds that came from the metal stamping plant of Weedham Industries, Incorporated, might have been prophetic of the immediate and ugly future, for they were like the rattle of machine guns. But Joseph, keeper of the south gate, was blissfully ignorant of a Thompson gun and its deadly chatter, so that he drew no such comparison. His only worry at the time lay in the dark sky above and the blue-white stabs of lightning that promised an electrical storm.
He hated storms. Probably he hated the idea of being murdered, or would have if it ever occurred to him. But then he didn’t know that he was going to be murdered, and he did know it was going to storm. The thunder was the tocsin of the storm, but those who came to rob and kill moved unheralded in swift silence.
The night shift had clocked in over an hour ago, and there should be no passing through the gate for at least six hours. Joseph tilted his chair back against the steel fence and kindled his cob pipe. The air was hot and still so that blobs of pipe smoke clung like earth-bound ghosts about him. In spite of the impending storm, Joseph was happy. In his mind was a kindly thought for William “Old Bill” Weedham, principal owner of Weedham Industries. That was because of the bonus Joseph was anticipating.
Within the next twenty-four hours, Joseph knew, seventy-five thousand dollars would be distributed in cash bonuses to the employees of the metal stamping division. Joseph had mentally spent his tiny fraction of the money a dozen times or more. He did a lot of dreaming, Joseph did. But about pleasant things. He had never dreamed of those who rob and kill.
A low slung maroon roadster came down the street and nosed into the mouth of the tarvia drive at Joseph’s gate. Joseph eased his chair forward, stood up, approached the car, his faded eyes squinted against the glare of the floodlights mounted on top of the high fence. The car looked like the one young Jeff Weedham drove. Jeff Weedham was “Old Bill” Weedham’s son. He took no interest in his father’s business or in anything else unless it was that newspaper business which the elder Weedham had purchased for him.
Yes, that was Jeff Weedham at the wheel, and beside him were two other young people — a girl and a redheaded man. Joseph took off his cap and a grin cracked his weathered face.
“Hi,” Jeff Weedham said. He was a narrow-headed man with frail-looking sloped shoulders and a thin triangle of face. He had an engaging, careless grin, and light brown eyes that laughed. He had a marked tendency to stutter.
“Well,” Joseph said, highly pleased, “if it ain’t Mr. Jeff Weedham!”
Joseph sent a shy glance toward the other occupants of the car. The girl instantly reminded him of honey and violets. Hers was one of those clear, golden complexions, and there was a certain unspoiled sweetness about her mouth. It must have been her eyes that recalled violets.
The man on the girl’s right seemed to overlap her possessively which could have been accounted for by the width of his shoulders. His red hair bristled in defiance to any comb. His nose looked as though it had been hit a few times in its owner’s lifetime. The greenish suit he wore was filled to capacity with overly developed muscles. A leather cased camera was suspended from his bull neck by means of a strap. He had a flashlight gun in his right hand, and a photographer’s tripod was propped upright between his knees.
“D-d-do you think you could let us in?” Jeff Weedham asked of Joseph. “The D-Datly Opinion is going to give D-d-dad a plug.”
The Daily Opinion was the newspaper which Bill Weedham had bought for his son, Joseph recalled.
“Why, I guess so,” Joseph replied. “But your friends here will have to sign the register book.”
The big redhead had some difficulty getting into the pocket of his suit coat from which he extracted a card. He swelled importantly as he handed it across to the gate keeper. The card read, “The *Daily Opinion. Joe Strong, News Photographer.*”
He said, “I guess this will fix everything, huh Jeff?”
“This is Miss Barbara Sutton,” Jeff said, indicating the girl beside him. “I’ve hired her as a reporter, and Joe Strong is her cameraman. I just came along to see that they get inside. They’re d-d-doing an article on the various manufacturing plants around New York.”
* * * * *
Joseph bowed to Barbara Sutton.
“You folks can go right in, just as soon as you sign the book.” He went back to his post and returned with a ledger. He turned pages with a moistened thumb, took a pencil out of his pocket, passed both to the passengers of the roadster. Barbara Sutton and Joe Strong signed.
“Looks like it’s kicking up a storm,” Joseph said.
The thunder rolled ominous reply to his remark. Then Joseph went to the gate, opened it, and the roadster rolled up the drive toward the stamping mill.
Joseph went back to his chair and rekindled his pipe. He smiled at the memory of Barbara Sutton. He didn’t know when he had seen a prettier girl. There must be an awful lot of young fellows who thought the same thing.
“And if I was twenty years younger I guess I’d try to give them a lot of competition!” he said aloud and chuckled.
His chuckle stopped as lightning flare threw the shadow of a man across the ground at Joseph’s feet. He looked up, startled. The man faced Joseph silently. He was slight, wore a workman’s overall suit, and he had a lunch box under his arm. His face, what could be seen of it beneath the low drawn hat, was one of starved cheeks, lipless mouth, pinched nose, and a chin that seemed to dangle.
Joseph at first thought the man was one of the mill hands who had arrived late for work.
“You don’t care what time you show up,” Joseph grumped. “You know you’re over an hour late?”
The slight man laughed unpleasantly.
“I ain’t late,” he said. “I guess I’m just about in time.”
Something with the glint of bright steel flashed from the lunch box under the man’s arm. Instantly Joseph’s mind connected this with the seventy-five thousand dollars in small bills that was to come in on the bank express truck in a few minutes.
Stick-up! Joseph’s brain shrieked the alarm. He tried to get out of his chair, but a knife blade that was like a sliver of light was driven into Joseph’s throat, sliding through flesh and muscle, torturing every pain nerve in his body, driving relentlessly until the point of it wedged into the wood back of the gate keeper’s chair.
The chair creaked and groaned beneath Josephs’ writhings. But the knife and the thin, dirty fingers of the killer did not permit his body to alter its position. And then the pain nerves died. Joseph’s brain emptied, fortunately; a man would not want to know that he was tacked to a chair, bleeding to death.
The killer released Joseph. A little of the spurting blood had got on his dirty fingers, and he wiped his hands on the seat of his trousers. Then he removed the keys from the gate keeper’s pocket. He went to the gate, unlocked it, and opened it wide.
There were great overgrown shrubs on either side of the gate just outside the factory grounds. The killer walked to the bushes at the west side of the gate, parted the branches with his dirty fingers.
“Delaney,” his voice croaked.
The shrubbery shook. The thick torso of a man who squatted like a toad could be seen partly emerging from the shrubs. “Okay, Shiv?”
“Okay, Delaney,” the killer chuckled. “His own mudder would t’ink he was asleep in the chair. Don’t death make a guy look natural, huh?”
“You get back to the car,” the man in the bushes said. “Be ready to pick us up as soon as we crack the money truck. If you get nervous, think of the dough. Seventy-five grand!”
“I ain’t noivous!” the killer said. “T’ink I never croaked a guy before. It’s a pipe. Dis whole job is a pipe, wit’ us havin’ a Monitor gun to open dat armored truck. I’m almost ashamed to be associated wit’ such a pipe of a job.”
“Sure it’s a pipe,” Delaney agreed from amid the bushes. “Only don’t get too cocky on account of there’s one guy who could mess things up for us if he ever hits our trail.”
Shiv laughed. “You’re worrying about the Black Hood, huh?”
“I’m not worrying,” Delaney said crossly. “I’m just being cautious. Each job we do for the boss gets a little bigger. One of these times we’ll run into Mr. Black Hood.”
“And when we do — “ the killer drew a line across his throat with his forefinger. Then he turned and walked away from the bushes.
* * * * *
Delancy’s moon face disappeared in the foliage. Only his hard little eyes glittered in the shadows. Beside him, patiently silent, was Squid Murphy. Murphy was motionless except for his twitching left eyelid. Murphy was manning the Colt Monitor rifle, the kind of gun the G-men used to death-drill the armor plate cars the mobsters sometimes used. Tonight the weapon was in other hands.
Delaney watched the lean figure of the knifeman ambling leisurely up the road toward where the get-away car was parked, lights out. Shiv wasn’t nervous. Neither was Murphy, in spite of his twitching eyelid. There was nothing to be nervous about since they had hooked up with this new boss — this guy Delaney had never seen; this guy who knew all the answers. No, there was nothing to worry about as long as that relentless hunter of criminals known as the Black Hood kept off their tail.
Delaney wasn’t nervous even when the blunt gray snout of the bank express truck turned into the mouth of the drive and slowed up before the open gate. He just took a firmer grip on his automatic and waited.
The driver of the bank trunk yelled at the motionless figure of Joseph. And when Joseph didn’t answer, the driver nudged the guard who rode beside him.
“What the hell’s wrong with their watchman?”
Delaney heard that. His little eyes saw the guard get out of the cab. He saw that the back door of the armored truck was opening and another guard was getting out.
Delaney thought, What a break this is!
And then he shot the driver in the back.
The guard who had ridden up in front snatched at his shoulder holster as he turned in the direction of Delaney’s fire. On the other side of the drive, two more of Delaney’s boys opened up with automatics, so that by the time the guard had decided he was facing death, death spoke from behind him. Two slugs ripped into him. His own gun jumped twice, the first shot coming dangerously close to Delaney’s head, while the second was an unaimed thing caused by the convulsive jerk of the guard’s trigger finger as he spilled forward on his face.
The man who had got out of the rear of the truck saw a glimpse of the hell that had spouted from the shrubbery and tried to duck for cover behind the truck. And beside Delaney, the Monitor gun came to life. It talked fast in a language that was all its own. It got the retreating guard twice, the heavy, bone-shattering slugs knocking the man first one way and then another as he fell crazily to the ground.
There were two guards inside the truck. Their guns roared from the ports in the armored walls. But the Monitor rifle was a can opener. Crouching beside Squid Murphy, Delaney felt the heat of its barrel and saw the black periods that were bullet holes speckling the gray steel sides of the truck. Now only one of the gun ports in the truck was active.
The barrel of the Monitor swung and the hot steel barrel burned Delaney’s arm.
He said, “Hell!” hoarsely and jumped out of the bushes, automatic in hand.
Delaney dropped flat and heard the sound of a bullet whining by. And then the Monitor’s deafening hammer sounded again, and after that, silence.
Delaney picked himself up, ran, his thick, toadlike body silhouetted by the truck lights. Gun smoke lay in placidly moving layers of gray before the light beams. Delaney ducked through the open door of the truck. One of his own men was already inside, and he tossed a money bag to Delaney. Delaney caught it with one arm and a belly and passed it back through the door to Squid Murphy who was standing just outside.
Delaney said, “Cut it, Murphy!” Because Squid Murphy was giggling. Murphy was kill-crazy, and tonight the Monitor rifle in his hands had made him feel like a god. His giggling rasped on Delaney’s nerves.
Delaney picked up another money bag, and then told his boys they’d have to get going. He didn’t know why he felt as though they ought to get away in a hurry. Surely no one inside the Weedham plant could have heard the gun fire above the racket the machines were making. Also, the neighborhood about the factory was thinly populated.
But something he couldn’t put his finger on was spurring Delaney to get clear of the scene of the crime as soon as possible. Maybe it was the lightning that flashed with ever increasing frequency. Or maybe it was the ghastly tableau the body of Joseph, the watchman, made, sitting in that chair, pinned there like a butterfly by Shiv’s knife.
A big gray sedan stood in the middle of the road, the motor idling. Shiv the knifeman slouched indolently behind the wheel. Murphy and the other two gunmen were already getting into the rear seat, and Delaney went cold with the sudden fear that his pals might run out on him. As fast as his short bowed legs would carry him, he ran to the car and piled in beside Shiv. The knifeman looked at Delaney and snickered.
“What’s the rush, Delaney? You think Black Hood is on your tail?”
Delaney snarled, “Hell, no! But let’s get going, huh?”
Now that Shiv had mentioned it, Delaney recognized the fear that plagued him. It was fear of the Black Hood. The Black Hood wasn’t like the cops at all. He didn’t trail a man with screaming sirens and blasting whistles. He hunted like a panther in the night, alone and silent. And you never knew just when the shadow of this master manhunter was to fall across your path.
The story continues … buy it today and find out if Black Hood can uncover the man who is called the Eye!