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literature / moviesListen to Nixon and Hoover discussing the freedom of the press During the decades that J. Edgar Hoover headed the FBI, the height of the cold war, state agencies in the United States increased their surveillance of many writers that today are household names. The files vary in length, and so does their justification. In the case of John Steinbeck, it is stated that his integrity “is beyond question”, but that his wife attended a meeting of the communist party. Others that were more outspoken, like Bukowski or James Baldwin, attracted attention for their own opinions and strong public presence. Today the FBI has released most of these files, sorted them and presented them freely online for history buffs. They resemble scrapbooks, with clippings and notes about the doings of those under investigation. Oddly, the files contain information that many today release themselves on social media. For those interested in literary history, however, Hoover’s archive can shed new light on the personalities of past writers, and satisfy our modern cravings for voyeurism. Below are a few samples:     You can search the FBI celebrity archive yourself at     Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn the second week of February 1949, 3 men were charged with provoking the death of over ten people in Ecuador. The method of their crime: creating a radio play based on H.G. Wells and then letting it loose on an unsuspecting public. It was an incident far more sinister than the panics that followed the 1938 broadcast in America when Orson Welles had first dramatised H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on radio. Not even the effect of a similar 1944 radio broadcast in Chile could compare when it came to the number of deaths and the level of devestation. On the fateful night of February 12’th, writers for Associated Press and Reuters reported back to the US and Britain: «The mob attacked and burned the building of the newspaper, El Comercio, which housed the radio station and killed fifteen persons and injured 15 others.» Fake news The radio broadcast was the brain child of Leonardo Paez (top photo), director of art at Radio Quito and Eduardo Alcaraz, the station’s dramatic director. The two had become familiar with the 1938 incident in America and the 1944 incident in Chile, which both caused widespread panic, but which also exposed the power of radio. In both those cases, it was announced ahead of schedule that the broadcast would be a fictional dramatisation. Leonardo Paez, a native of Quito, was not only a journalist, but also a singer, composer, poet and producer of radio. In an interview with El Dia, Alcaraz later said that he begged Paez to announce at the beginning of the broadcast that what followed was a dramatisation, but that Paez had dismissed him. Even so, someone had planted bogus UFO reports in the newspaper El Comercio in the weeks before the broadcast. At 21.00 the night of February 12’th, the normal musical broadcast began. Halfway into a song, the news team interupted without warning stating that an attack on Ecuador was underway. Panic erupted in the streets and police were dispatched to the alleged location of a martian invasion, the town of Cotocollao. The imaginary invasion was gradually to proceed from the town of Latacunga, 20 miles south of the capital Quito, where a poisonous gas cloud was reported to kill everything in its path. Actors immitating well known authority figueres then appeared on radio confirming the crisis. Appology not accepted When the station realised that chaos was breaking out, they announced the hoax on radio. The crowd then gathered outside the radio station throwing stones and setting fire to the building. According to the Associated Press there were over a hundred people in the building. Some escaped through the back door. Others sought refuge in the top floors, where some of them jumped from the roof to escape the flames. The army was then called in with teargas and tanks to disperse the crowd and allow the firemen to do their work. At the end of the evening, bodies lay silent in the street, and the injured were shipped off to hospital. The station managers protested their innocence saying they had been unaware of the planned hoax, and the minister of defense himself was called in to investigate the incidence. Punishment Ten people were detained the night of the riot, and several were later charged, among these Leonardo Paez, Eduardo Alcaraz and the actor Eduardo Palace. Eduardo Alcaraz had fled Quito, but was arrested later in the town of Ambato. Paez, however, had escaped that night from the burning building. Seeing that his route of retreat was cut off by an angry mob and the police, he found a way of escaping via an old conservatory. A truck then took him a property near Ibarra, and he laid low until his legal difficulties were solved. 6 years later he left Ecuador and made his way to Venezuela. Paez lost his girlfriend and his nephew to the chaos created by his own radioplay. They died in the riots. He would never return to Ecuador or be convicted of anything, but in 1982 he published his account of the radio play he broadcast on that Saturday evening in 1949. His book is called Los que siembran viento (Those who sow the wind). How could it happen? There has been much speculation about the causes of the panic that erupted after so many broadcasts of War of the Worlds, in the US, in Chile and in Ecuador. Just a year after the Welles broadcast the psychologist Hadley Cantril conducted a study of the effects of the radioshow in which he claimed that the cause of the confusion following the broadcast was the standards of judgment that people applied to the information they heard on radio. They simply trusted the new media of radio, and couldn’t believe that someone would deliberately lie to them. Seing the effectiveness of the broadcast as perhaps being too calculated, the writer Daniel Hopsicker even speculated that the 1938 broadcast was a psychological experiment funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, a conspiracy theory which was dismissed by Orson Welles. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history A crowd of millions cheered as Ghana became independent in 1957 (audio above). “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent”, Kwame Nkrumah boldly declared on the day of liberation. Yet a couple of decades later, Nkrumah has been toppled from power, has ended up in exile on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, and his pan African dream lies in ruins. In some ways, his own personal fate mirrored that of a whole continent. We talked to professor Jeffrey Ahlman, a specialist on the Ghanaian statesman, about what happened to Nkrumah, and what has been the lasting legacy of his ideas.  Let us begin at the end of Nkrumah’s life. He had quite a sad demise. He was ill, paranoid and afraid of western intelligence agencies. And he lived in exile. Did he have reason to be afraid? Professor Ahlman: There was significant reason for Nkrumah to have concerns about US and other western subversion in Ghana. In African history, the year 1960 is often remembered quite jubilantly as the “Year of Africa,” marking not only the independence of Nigeria and the Congo, but also the many states that comprised French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa. However, from the perspective of radical anti colonial figures like Nkrumah, the year opened not with jubilance, but with the troubling independence of Cameroon under a government viewed by many as an appendage of the French state. The rushed independence of the Congo and the political chaos that ensued—much of it the result of US and Belgian Cold War intrusion into Congolese democratic politics—only further added to Nkrumah’s wariness, especially as his government had committed a significant number of Ghanaian troops to the UN peace mission to the Congo. However, it was the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s assassination that dramatically shook Nkrumah as, for him, the assassination marked the extremes to which capitalist powers would go to subvert the autonomy of African independence. Meanwhile, in Ghana, Nkrumah survived a number of attempts on his own life. The most famous one being the bombing in the far northern Ghanaian town of Kulungugu in August 1962 in which at least two people were killed and Nkrumah himself suffered significant injuries—injuries that some Ghanaians argue was a cause of the cancer that killed him a decade later. Eyeing what had happened to Lumumba a year and a half earlier, Nkrumah and his government read the Kulungugu attack, among the others he endured, as at least in part efforts by capitalist countries like the United States, Belgium, and Great Britain to subvert his vision for Ghana and for Africa. Given this context in Ghana and Africa more broadly, yes, he did have reason to be afraid. How did he become involved with the struggle against British Colonial Rule in The Gold Coast? Professor Ahlman: In his autobiography, Nkrumah argues that he first became aware of the “wickedness of colonialism” while in the UK while waiting for a visa to the US as Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. According to him, the expressionless response from men and women on the streets as the newspapers’ headlines announced the invasion awakened in him a desire to “play my part in bringing about the downfall of such a system.” In the United States, Nkrumah attended Lincoln University and later UPenn, while also seeking connections to African student groups as well as a number of black political and cultural institutions during his time in the country. After a decade in the US, he traveled to the UK, where he joined the political network of the Trinidadian pan-Africanist George Padmore and played a key role in helping to organize the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester—a congress that demanded an immediate end to colonial rule in Africa. It was approximately two years after the Manchester Congress that Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast at the invitation of the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party often maligned as being too moderate. During his time as the UGCC’s general secretary, he clashed with the convention’s other leaders before leaving the convention—or getting expelled depending on whose version one accepts—and forming his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), under the mantra of “Self-Government Now.” Why the CPP is so important to African history is that it was one of the first mass political parties on the continent, drawing supporters from a wide range of walks of life (educated, uneducated, farmers, urban dwellers, youth, women, etc) and, for many, providing a new sense of belonging in a period of rapid political and social change following WWII. Like Gandhi he was partly educated in Britain, in what way did this influence his ideas? Or were his years in the United States more significant? Professor Ahlman: I think the fundamental elements of his political education occurred in Great Britain as he came under the tutelage of George Padmore. It was here, I believe, where his ideas began to mature and gained their first coherent form in his 1947 pamphlet Towards Colonial Freedom. However, one cannot underestimate the role of his time in the US, for he arrived in the US in the midst of the Great Depression and stayed through the war years. During this time, he not only actively sought out readings by such people as Marcus Garvey and associated with Paul Robeson’s Council on African Affairs, among others, but was forced to live in the highly racialized social environment of the United States as a black man. It is hard to imagine that such an experience did not help shape his understanding of the world, colonialism, and race. Was he always a leftist? Professor Ahlman: I think in terms of his adult life, yes. When he became PM of the newly liberated Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) he was quite popular. How popular were his ideas of pan-African unity? Professor Ahlman: I think you have to add more nuance to the question. In principle, I think many Ghanaians were supportive of some sort of largely undefined pan-African unity, especially one that—like Nkrumah suggested—placed Ghana at the center of an emerging pan-African politics. Part of this was pride; part may have been—and still may be—an authentic hope for what unity could bring to the future of both Ghana and Africa. On the other hand, many questioned the resources spent in pursuing Nkrumah’s continental ambitions. This included the aid Ghana offered to other countries and liberation movements as well as the time Nkrumah spent away from the country. By as early as 1958, if not earlier, criticism of the resources spent on Nkrumah’s pan-African policies had become a potent critique of the government when marshaled by some opposition officials. Why do you think the idea of pan-Africanism failed? Professor Ahlman: I don’t believe it did, particularly because I don’t think we can talk about pan-Africanism in the singular. There were/are many different pan-Africanisms—diasporic, continental, political, social, cultural, economic, etc. What may have failed was Nkrumah’s particular vision of a United States of Africa. However, even Nkrumah shouldn’t be beholden to that singular definition of pan-Africanism, especially when answering rather normative questions like whether he succeeded or failed. In his life, Nkrumah came to influence, embody, interact with, and shape a number of competing, if not contradictory forms of pan-Africanism. His flirtation with Garveyism may not have meshed organically with his socialism and aspects of the Ghanaian nation-building project at home and the Ghanaian exceptionalism that seemed to follow in its wake does not easily fit within the continental vision he so famously articulated. He launched quite a lot of programs in those early years, how successful was he in modernizing Ghana? Professor Ahlman: Ghana has not seen a leader like him to date. He transformed the country politically, socially, culturally, economically, and infrastructurally. He shepherded in the development of the city of Tema, transforming a previously small fishing village into the industrial engine of the new Ghana. Similarly, he also ushered in the damming of the Volta River that, through the electricity it produced, electrified much of the country and still does so today. However, the greatest impact his government had was in its promotion of fee-free primary education. This program democratized education in the country, allowing untold numbers of boys and girls who may not have had the opportunity to go to school before gaining an education. When did his downfall begin? And why did he eventually lose his grip on power? Professor Ahlman: His downfall began with the 1966 coup. People were talking in unspecific ways about what Ghana might look like without Nkrumah prior to the coup. However, it was always in vague terms. He and his government appeared strong on the eve of the coup and the coup surprised many. This is not to say that many were content with the state of affairs in Ghana at the time. The reality was much more complicated. Instead, even as late as the month of the coup, many people had come to terms with a reality that the one-party political context created by Nkrumah and the CPP represented the reality that they must live with for the foreseeable future. In what way would you say the Cold War affected the idea of pan-Africanism? Professor Ahlman: I think it constrained the possibilities open to African thinkers and leaders as they sought to reimagine the new world created by decolonization. As individual countries and  liberation movements faced pressures from the US, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Soviet Union, many found it difficult to break from the bifurcated global model that so defined the Cold War in their efforts to make a reality the futures they imagined. How is Nkrumah remembered in Ghana today? Do they celebrate him, or lament his failings? Professor Ahlman: Nkrumah and his ideas appear to be gaining in popularity in Ghana again. However, Ghanaians tend to have a complicated relationship with Nkrumah, especially those who lived through his rule. Many truly appreciate how he transformed Ghana into a major player on the international stage during his tenure and, at the same time, built roads, schools, healthcare facilities, etc. Yet, many of the same people recall the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that accompanied a government that in many ways policed many forms of political and social expression, particularly those forms did not fit within the ideological confines of an orthodox decolonization-era Nkrumahism. What is the legacy of Pan Aficanism today? Professor Ahlman: I’m not sure how to answer this given that there are still pan-African thinkers today, both in Africa and the diaspora. They are actively trying to reflect on the legacies of earlier generations of thinkers like Nkrumah, Du Bois, Padmore, Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X, and others. At the same time, they are actively trying to construct their own pan-African visions that not only take into account contemporary realities in Africa, the diaspora, and the world, but are also experimenting with methods and ideas—small and large—to bring their visions for the future into a reality   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyn the year 1841, there resided, at different points in the State of Illinois, three brothers by the name of Trailor. Their Christian names were William, Henry and Archibald. Archibald resided at Springfield, then as now the seat of Government of the State. He was a sober, retiring, and industrious man, of about thirty years of age; a carpenter by trade, and a bachelor, boarding with his partner in business—a Mr. Myers. Henry, a year or two older, was a man of like retiring and industrious habits; had a family, and resided with it on a farm, at Clary’s Grove, about twenty miles distant from Springfield in a northwesterly direction. William, still older, and with similar habits, resided on a farm in Warren county, distant from Springfield something more than a hundred miles in the same northwesterly direction. He was a widower, with several children. In the neighborhood of William’s residence, there was, and had been for several years, a man by the name of Fisher, who was somewhat above the age of fifty; had no family, and no settled home; but who boarded and lodged a while here and a while there, with persons for whom he did little jobs of work. His habits were remarkably economical, so that an impression got about that he had accumulated a considerable amount of money. In the latter part of May, in the year mentioned, William formed the purpose of visiting his brothers at Clary’s Grove and Springfield; and Fisher, at the time having his temporary residence at his house, resolved to accompany him. They set out together in a buggy with a single horse. On Sunday evening they reached Henry’s residence, and stayed overnight. On Monday morning, being the first Monday of June, they started on to Springfield, Henry accompanying them on horseback. They reached town about noon, met Archibald, went with him to his boardinghouse, and there took up their lodgings for the time they should remain. After dinner, the three Trailors and Fisher left the boardinghouse in company, for the avowed purpose of spending the evening together in looking about the town. At supper, the Trailors had all returned, but Fisher was missing, and some inquiry was made about him. After supper, the Trailors went out professedly in search of him. One by one they returned, the last coming in after late teatime, and each stating that he had been unable to discover anything of Fisher. The next day, both before and after breakfast, they went professedly in search again, and returned at noon, still unsuccessful. Dinner again being had, William and Henry expressed a determination to give up the search, and start for their homes. This was remonstrated against by some of the boarders about the house, on the ground that Fisher was somewhere in the vicinity, and would be left without any conveyance, as he and William had come in the same buggy. The remonstrance was disregarded, and they departed for their homes respectively. Up to this time, the knowledge of Fisher’s mysterious disappearance had spread very little beyond the few boarders at Myers’, and excited no considerable interest. After the lapse of three or four days, Henry returned to Springfield, for the ostensible purpose of makings further search for Fisher. Procuring some of the boarders, he, together with them and Archibald, spent another day in ineffectual search, when it was again abandoned, and he returned home. No general interest was yet excited. On the Friday, week after Fisher’s disappearance, the Postmaster at Springfield received a letter from the Postmaster nearest William’s residence, in Warren County, stating that William had returned home without Fisher, and was saying, rather boastfully, that Fisher was dead, and had willed him his money, and that he had got about fifteen hundred dollars by it. The letter further stated that William’s story and conduct seemed strange, and desired the Postmaster at Springfield to ascertain and write what was the truth in the matter. The Postmaster at Springfield made the letter public, and at once, excitement became universal and intense. Springfield, at that time, had a population of about 3,500, with a city organization. The Attorney General of the State resided there. A purpose was forthwith formed to ferret out the mystery, in putting which into execution, the Mayor of the city and the Attorney General took the lead. To make search for, and, if possible, find the body of the man supposed to be murdered, was resolved on as the first step. In pursuance of this, men were formed into large parties, and marched abreast, in all directions, so as to let no inch of ground in the vicinity remain unsearched. Examinations were made of cellars, wells, and pits of all descriptions, where it was thought possible the body might be concealed. All the fresh, or tolerably fresh graves in the graveyard, were pried into, and dead horses and dead dogs were disintered, where, in some instances, they had been buried by their partial masters. This search, as has appeared, commenced on Friday. It continued until Saturday afternoon without success, when it was determined to dispatch officers to arrest William and Henry, at their residences, respectively. The officers started on Sunday morning; meanwhile, the search for the body was continued, and rumors got afloat of the Trailors having passed, at different times and places, several gold pieces, which were readily supposed to have belonged to Fisher. On Monday, the officers sent for Henry, having arrested him, arrived with him. The Mayor and Attorney Gen’l took charge of him, and set their wits to work to elicit a discovery from him. He denied, and denied, and persisted in denying. They still plied him in every conceivable way, till Wednesday, when, protesting his own innocence, he stated that his brothers, William and Archibald, had murdered Fisher; that they had killed him, without his (Henry’s) knowledge at the time, and made a temporary concealment of his body; that, immediately preceding his and William’s departure from Springfield for home, on Tuesday, the day after Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald communicated the fact to him, and engaged his assistance in making a permanent concealment of the body; that, at the time he and William left professedly for home, they did not take the road directly, but, meandering their way through the streets, entered the woods at the northwest of the city, two or three hundred yards to the right of where the road they should have travelled, entered them; that, penetrating the woods some few hundred yards, they halted and Archibald came a somewhat different route, on foot, and joined them; that William and Archibald then stationed him (Henry) on an old and disused road that ran near by, as a sentinel, to give warning of the approach of any intruder; that William and Archibald then removed the buggy to the edge of a dense brush thicket, about forty yards distant from his (Henry’s) position, where, leaving the buggy, they entered the thicket, and in a few minutes returned with the body, and placed it in the buggy; that from his station he could and did distinctly see that the object placed in the buggy was a dead man, of the general appearance and size of Fisher; that William and Archibald then moved off with the buggy in the direction of Hickox’s mill pond, and after an absence of half an hour, returned, saying they had put him in a safe place; that Archibald then left for town, and he and William found their way to the road, and made for their homes. At this disclosure, all lingering credulity was broken down, and excitement rose to an almost inconceivable height. Up to this time the well-known character of Archibald had repelled and put down all suspicions as to him. Till then, those who were ready to swear that a murder had been committed, were almost as confident that Archibald had had no part in it. But now, he was seized and thrown into jail; and indeed, his personal security rendered it by no means objectionable to him. And now came the search for the brush thicket, and the search of the mill pond. The thicket was found, and the buggy tracks at the point indicated. At a point within the thicket, the signs of a struggle were discovered, and a trail from thence to the buggy track was traced. In attempting to follow the track of the buggy from the thicket, it was found to proceed in the direction of the mill pond, but could not be traced all the way. At the pond, however, it was found that a buggy had been backed down to, and partially into the water’s edge. Search was now to be made in the pond; and it was made in every imaginable way. Hundreds and hundreds were engaged in raking, fishing, and draining. After much fruitless effort in this way, on Thursday morning the mill dam was cut down, and the water of the pond partially drawn off, and the same processes of search again gone through with. About noon of this day, the officer sent for William, returned having him in custody; and a man calling himself Dr. Gilmore, came in company with them. It seems that the officer arrested William at his own house, early in the day on Tuesday, and started to Springfield with him; that after dark awhile, they reached Lewiston, in Fulton County, where they stopped for the night; that late in the night this Dr. Gilmore arrived, stating that Fisher was alive at his house, and that he had followed on to give the information, so that William might be released without further trouble; that the officer, distrusting Dr. Gilmore, refused to release William, but brought him on to Springfield, and the doctor accompanied them. On reaching Springfield, the doctor re-asserted that Fisher was alive, and at his house. At this, the multitude for a time, were utterly confounded. Gilmore’s story was communicated to Henry Trailor, who without faltering, reaffirmed his own story about Fisher’s murder. Henry’s adherence to his own story was communicated to the crowd, and at once the idea started, and became nearly, if not quite universal, that Gilmore was a confederate of the Trailors, and had invented the tale he was telling, to secure their release and escape. Excitement was again at its zenith. About three o’clock the same evening, Myers, Archibald’s partner, started with a two-horse carriage, for the purpose of ascertaining whether Fisher was alive, as stated by Gilmore, and if so, of bringing him back to Springfield with him. On Friday a legal examination was gone into before two Justices, on the charge of murder against William and Archibald. Henry was introduced as a witness by the prosecution, and on oath re-affirmed his statements, as heretofore detailed, and at the end of which he bore a thorough and rigid cross-examination without faltering or exposure. The prosecution also proved, by a respectable lady, that on the Monday evening of Fisher’s disappearance, she saw Archibald, whom she well knew, and another man whom she did not then know, but whom she believed at the time of testifying to be William, (then present,) and still another, answering the description of Fisher, all enter the timber at the northwest of town, (the point indicated by Henry,) and after one or two hours, saw William and Archibald return without Fisher. Several other witnesses testified, that on Tuesday, at the time William and Henry professedly gave up the search for Fisher’s body, and started for home, they did not take the road directly, but did go into the woods, as stated by Henry. By others, also, it was proved, that since Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald had passed rather an unusual number of gold pieces. The statements heretofore made about the thicket, the signs of a struggle, the buggy tracks, &c., were fully proven by numerous witnesses. At this the prosecution rested. Dr. Gilmore was then introduced by the defendants. He stated that he resided in Warren county, about seven miles distant from William’s residence; that on the morning of William’s arrest, he was out from home, and heard of the arrest, and of its being on a charge of the murder of Fisher; that on returning to his own house, he found Fisher there; that Fisher was in very feeble health, and could give no rational account as to where he had been during his absence; that he (Gilmore) then started in pursuit of the officer, as before stated; and that he should have taken Fisher with him, only that the state of his health did not permit. Gilmore also stated that he had known Fisher for several years, and that he had understood he was subject to temporary derangement of mind, owing to an injury about his head received in early life. There was about Dr. Gilmore so much of the air and manner of truth, that his statement prevailed in the minds of the audience and of the court, and the Trailors were discharged, although they attempted no explanation of the circumstances proven by the other witnesses. On the next Monday, Myers arrived in Springfield, bringing with him the now famed Fisher, in full life and proper person. Thus ended this strange affair and while it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted whether a stranger affair ever really occurred. Much of the matter remains in mystery to this day. The going into the woods with Fisher, and returning without him, by the Trailors; their going into the woods at the same place the next day, after they professed to have given up the search; the signs of a struggle in the thicket, the buggy tracks at the edge of it; and the location of the thicket, and the signs about it, corresponding precisely with Henry’s story, are circumstances that have never been explained. William and Archibald have both died since—William in less than a year, and Archibald in about two years after the supposed murder. Henry is still living, but never speaks of the subject. It is not the object of the writer of this to enter into the many curious speculations that might be indulged upon the facts of this narrative; yet he can scarcely forbear a remark upon what would, almost certainly, have been the fate of William and Archibald, had Fisher not been found alive. It seems he had wandered away in mental derangement, and, had he died in this condition, and his body been found in the vicinity, it is difficult to conceive what could have saved the Trailors from the consequence of having murdered him. Or, if he had died, and his body never found, the case against them would have been quite as bad, for, although it is a principle of law that a conviction for murder shall not be had, unless the body of the deceased be discovered, it is to be remembered, that Henry testified that he saw Fisher’s dead body. Published by Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1846 Listen to a reading of the story:   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn 1909, Benito Mussolini was a left-wing editor of an Italian newspaper. His readers loved his serialized novel about illicit love at the top of the Catholic church in the 17th century. His book, The Cardinal’s Mistress (1910), became a bestseller. Later, when he shifted his political affiliation, marched on Rome and became dictator, he banned his own quite embarrassing sentimental yarn. This ensured the interest of the press, and it was published in English in 1929. Below you can read excerpts and some reviews, and find a link to the whole novel, which is available for free online.“Emanuel, the last, had the Maecenisni and the prodigality of the lords who governed the Italian cities in the dawn of the Renaissance. He squandered his wealth, since in him the race would be extinguished and the Principate left without an heir. Of what use to save money in anticipation of a future which would never be? It was better to live without worrying. Rejoice and forget. Then for twenty years the passion of love had seized him with such volurpe that he cursed the Principate and despised the purple of the cardinalate.He loved Claudia.This relation was universally known and for the most part condemned and regarded as a serious sin. “ “Emanuel had rejected them all. He rejected the intervention of great princes and sovereigns. He desired instead to give her in marriage toVincent Particella, son of the Councillor Ludovico, a young man of most noble qualities. But Filiberta loved, with a love that was profoundly reciprocated, the Count Antonio di Castelnuovo. From this arose the quarrel with the uncle who perhaps dreamed of finding in the house of Particella the heir of the Principate. Finally he sent her into virtual imprisonment in the Convent of the Holy Trinity. “ “Phthisis had emaciated Filiberta’s countenance and a cadaverous pallor had taken the place of the rose glow of first youth, but the eyes, which had become deeper, preserved all their passionate intensity.The eyes were fixed immovably on one point. The girl’s disordered hair fell over the pillow. Her hands lay underneath the covers, beneath which her body was indicated by a scarcely visible line.Emanuel dared not speak. The sight of Filiberta dying had turned him to stone. He was the person solely and uniquely responsible for her miserable end. He had had her imprisoned, yielding perhaps to the threats or the prayers of Claudia. He had kept her imprisoned, caring not for the protests of the people or for the prayers of her true lover. He had deprived his niece of the sun, and above all he had violated the instinct of her heart by seeking to marry her to a man whom she did not love and could never love.Emanuel Madruzzo must now eat of the fruit of his obstinacy Before him lay the innocent victim. Remorse clutched his heart. He could not succeed in calming himself with illusory hopes..” The novel is available as a free download from the Internet Archive Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“Where?” by Stein Riverton, published in the collection Himmel og Hav, 1927. Translated by Michael Henrik Wynn r. Elling Winter is one of those restless vagrant individuals whom you can encounter anywhere on this earth. I chanced upon him on several occasions, most recently in the north of Italy. There is a certain arrogance about his behavior, which he probably picked up during his year-long tenure in the English colonies. He is not the worst sort of globetrotter, though. Beneath his trivial facade of melancholy, tiger-hunting and womanizing, any countryman would soon notice his hearty and friendly disposition. He is more than willing to tell you of his adventures. And listening to him is not always amusing. There is often something impersonal about his exposition. He has almost made a cosmopolitan art of downplaying his own role in events, yet at the same time making his own importance apparent to each and all. But, during our meeting in the north of Italy this time he told me of an unusual series of happenings, a result of his fraternization with a more ordinary crowd. That I myself had occasion to witness the events that brought the story to his mind, made it immediately more captivating. What happened was this: We had just dined together at the Hotel Colle in the mountains overlooking Bolzano and were sitting in the in the cafe on the terrace, from where there is the most splendid view of the remote, glittering and snow-covered Swiss alps. I suddenly noticed that a woman was climbing the stairs to the terrace, the sort that you can frequently observe at major international spots and spas, where the unfortunate seek solace for their fragile nerves. Not quite young, though not burdened by her years, she seemed weighed down by something else, a certain melancholy and unease. Her hair was as gray as her gaze; gray, too, were her clothes. Another older woman followed her, that this was her nurse was painfully obvious. The lady in gray slowly crossed the terrace, past the many prattling people. Her movements seemed solitary, for she was in a world of her own. She quietly disappeared into the carpeted corridors of the hotel. As she passed us, I was surprised to notice that Elling Winter leaned over and covered his face behind a napkin. “You know her?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “And you have no wish to meet her.” “I didn’t want her to see me. She is the type of person whom you feel obliged to pity” He got up and let his eyes wander far over at the hotel roof, like he was scouting for migrating birds. “It is as I suspected,” he then said, “the hotel does not have a phone. I have heard they say about her that she restlessly moves from place to place, and that she always chooses locations without a phone. The mercilessly shrill sound of a ringing phone is linked to a terrible event in her life, which I once witnessed. That is why I didn’t want her to see me.” I bade him relate the story to me – and here it is, based on his own words. While he spoke, the early southern dusk descended, and the city of Bolzano far below lit its mesh of lights. His story was set at the same time of day, though in another country and in another time; in those twilight hours when daylight gives way and conjures up the most colorful moods, from the most serene peace to the most terrifying distress. It was a spring evening in the great city up north that you know so well. I was at a party at a most refined and reasonably happy family. The hostess was the very woman that just passed us. I remember everything about that evening very clearly, precisely because the events that transpired so completely overturned the life of my friends. I remember that the mistress of the house and I were standing on the balcony looking down unto a road that stretched out into the distance. The door to the apartment was open, and we could hear the hum of voices. The lamps were not yet lit inside, but the gray dusk flowed in through the windows, and in the dwindling light we could make out a few faces. Here and there there was the glow of cigarettes, and in the corner there was a piano whose ivory keys gleamed. The two of us on the balcony talked about the seasons and the first spring evening. What did we say? I remember that I was at the time was most concerned with the events of my personal life, and this must have tainted my conversation, no doubt. Our tête-à-tête unintentionally assumed an ominous tone that in a strange and sinister way forewarned of later events. I told her what I believed to be the truth, that I always meet the season with an irrational sense of foreboding. It is this fear that always motivates my travels. Spring falls upon every man like it falls upon the trees of the forest: all that grows in us, grows in spring, both what is good and what is evil. It is a dangerous time. As we stood thus talking, we noticed how dusk descended upon the city. I leaned over the railing and looked down towards the asphalt below where the streets teemed with people and carriages. There was still enough light to make out the occasional human. I pointed down towards two tiny shapes that walked swiftly and closely side by side. I thought I recognized the children of the house, and told their mother. She leaned forward, placed her arms on the marble railing and rested. I looked at her blond hair and her calm smiling face. I heard her whisper: “Anne-Marie and Luise”. Whispering seemed like the natural thing to do. Because she was their mother, they were bound to hear her. But then she straightened up. “No, it’s not them,” she said. — My God, how happy and peaceful we felt at that moment. And think about her whom you just moments ago saw passing us, transfixed with fear. It gradually grew darker, and the electric arc lights came on with a sudden spark, the streets swarmed with blinking hats and the streetcars seemed to glide upon a luminescent river. The artificial glare hit us on the balcony like a cold gust. We went inside. The sitting room was not yet lit, but the adjoining room was completely illuminated. The shimmer from the room next door blended with the dusk that flowed in through the windows, and transformed and blurred our gray faces. The voices were subdued like they always are in darkness or faint light when thoughts multiply and we are reluctant to disturb the dreamers among us, or seem annoying. Everything was peaceful and pleasant at this quiet and quite ordinary party when suddenly a clock nearby began to strike and killed all conversation. It struck twice. It was eight thirty. Our hostess stood up and fumbled for the electric light switch. The sharp, white rays filled the room revealing a number of faces- all seemed surprised by her haste. Her eyes showed fear. Not much, but a little. “Eight thirty,” she said with a questioning look on her face, “the children should have been here by now.” “Come now,” said her husband comfortingly, “they will be here soon. Where are they?” “At aunt Hanne’s. She promised to send them home by seven thirty.” A few giggles were heard and some remarks were made. Then aunt Hanne has been reluctant to part with the dear children. Dear God, such old children . . .Parents will be parents, what do you expect? … Then the conversation turned to other matters. Until silence again hit them with striking of the clock. It was now nine. The young mother had been pensive and nervous in her chair the last fifteen minutes. While the clock was still striking, she ran to the door to the adjoining room and called for her husband. “Hans!” she shouted, “it is nine o’clock and the children have not yet arrived.” Her voice was tremulous, and made the silent guests slowly turn towards her. For a second there was a dead quiet. Then they could hear a man getting up in the adjoining room. Suddenly he was in the doorway. The moment he saw how frighted his wife was he turned calm. “You are making me nervous,” he said, “the children have of course remained with aunt Hanne”. He sounded for the maid and asked her call aunt Hanne on the phone. I noticed how the mother tried to stifle her worry and I wanted to say a few words to her in order to calm her down. After all, I knew her pretty well. But suddenly she looked at me as if I were a complete stranger. There was a message on the phone that the children had left aunt Hanne’s one and a half hours ago. And they only had to walk for a quarter of hour to get home. When the mother heard this, her first inclination was to turn towards the city. She opened the balcony door and went out. The night had started to settle on the center. The ever-growing silence between the many ominous stone buildings out there must have filled her with terror. My dear friend, I don’t have to tell you that every one of us really had began to worry, but we wanted to hide it from the mother. Little girls who wander alone about the big cities at night  always face that particular threat. Just at this time there had been an especially nasty case that was of such a nature that the bourgeois press declined to report on the matter. The mother might not have known about this, but she realized the danger. I could see from the way her eyes passed questioningly from one person to the next. It was strange and terrible to notice how the guests who forced an attempt at pleasant conversation ended up looking so superficial that their words seem to choke on our common fear. The mother was all the while mute, but attentive. Bound by a conventional and embarrassing concern for her guests, but watchful like an animal, alert, desperately impatient. I can still see her stand by the balcony window, trapped between the subdued voices of her guest behind her and the bustle of the city below. There is no one as unreasonable as a frightened mother. Suddenly she was a hunted prey in the forest, sniffing the air for danger. Her black pupils widened in scope as well as depth and her chest heaved. Her dry lips and the movements of her nostrils, all betrayed an agitation of mind that seemed almost bestial. Even when her husband approached her with his wide arms open, she withdrew, frightened by his overbearing smirk. Perhaps his smile was a brilliant disguise to hide what they both suspected. Yes, why did we all suddenly turn so quiet? Even the great city outside did not seem to raise its voice. The quietness of the evening became apparent. Perhaps the mother regarded the city as a living entity, a huge and monstrous foe that was afraid to speak because of something that was about to happen. Or perhaps it had already happened? I thought about the young girls who I had seen so often. And really it was as if I pictured their faces in the urban night, their transitory smiles and red innocent lips. It was a terrible moment. And then there were all these imbecilic guests! I will always remember their mutterings: “Mothers are all like this, what can you expect? They all think that their child is always at risk, while, truth be told, no one is so protected in the big cities as the very young. They can hardly walk a few steps without being pursued by watchful eyes, and if they get lost, there is a constable at every corner, a genial Bobby, who will look after them and bring them home. And let us consider our own childhood, when we walked down the highstreets admiring the wonderfully illuminated shop windows. Did we pay attention to the time? Hours seemed to fly by, while we just gazed and gazed in amazement. We dashed around corners without anyone noticing. And suddenly we were absorbed by an unfamiliar throng. If Anne-Marie and Luise are lost and encounter some nice Bobby, they will have been taught a lesson, that is all. The night is still young. Life has not even started yet on the great boulevards. There is still plenty of time before people will withdraw for the evening and lock their doors— The mother again seemed painfully impatient. She surveyed her guests nervously and her instinct no doubt told her that they all conspired to hide the truth from her. She shook with suppressed anger over such remarks. They still talked about the beauty of the night. It was clear, blue and cool – and there was no more wind. The curtains hung motionless in front of the open balcony door. Down there lights flickered behind all the shut windows and silence reigned in a thousand backyards. ….. Suddenly she shouted: “I can hear footsteps on the stairs.” None of the others could hear anything, but as we all listened, the cruel ticking of the clock cut through the silence. Then, a little later, we could all hear the footsteps, and the parents rushed to open the door. Then voices were heard, male voices, and two of the guests entered the living room, their faces still exhausted from walking the streets at night. And now the mother was told what we all suspected, that some of the guests had immediately taken to the streets to look for the children. This seemed to nurture her fears. Then it was true after all, the other were frightened too. She was barely able to make out what the new arrivals said. They had not seen the young girls, but the city was bright with joy of spring, and the cafes teeming with people. There were people everywhere. There was no danger. The mother stood for a while thinking. Then she said: “Bring my coat!” And the guest, all of us, instinctively got up at the sound of her voice. It was, in a way, not just her voice anymore. At that very moment the sound of a ringing phone echoes through the room. It struck us all like a summons. The mother rushed to the phone with her arms outstretched. The small white nickel-bell above the dark mahogany table was still ringing when she grabbed the receiver. It was Anne-Marie who was on the line. I can tell you, my friend, that every word of this phone call has been endlessly repeated. Every word that was spoken has been tested and considered, yes, even the tone in which they were uttered, all to find a way out of the darkness, a clue. The mother tells us that she first heard the rush of breathing on the line. Suddenly the tiny, slightly curious and anxious voice of a child was heard, which she recognized as belonging to Anne-Marie. The voice said: “Is that you mummy?” The mother bent over the phone, as if trying to bridge an unknown distance between herself and her child. “Yes, it is me!” she shouted triumphantly, “It is me! Where are you children? Can you hear me Anne-Marie, where are you?” There was no reply. But she could hear the child breathing into the receiver far away. “Answer me!” she called, “Anne-Marie, answer me. It is me. It is your mummy.” Still there was no reply. But then she could suddenly hear quite clearly that the child whispered, she whispered to somebody who was standing next to her by the phone. The mother could not make out the words. The whisper was inquisitive and curious rather than anxious. “Dear God!” the mother shouted bewildered, “to whom are you whispering, Anne-Marie? Answer me. Who are you talking to? It is me. It is mummy.” Then the mother heard that the child, in stead of responding, dropped the receiver. She noticed a little click. Then the line was broken, the phone dead – all was black and quiet. Those of us who were present could no longer remain calm. Our indifference was after all an act, and now it was mercilessly exposed. In stead there were now confusion and bewilderment. Maybe we had been better able to keep to our faces if the mother had not been present, but her despair transfixed us all. She clung to the cruel phone. This scene by the phone has left a distinct impression upon my mind: the mother grabbed hold of the telephone bell, as if to resurrect her child’s voice. I can clearly see white nickle-bell between her shivering hot hands. It was like an eye that would never close, but stare at her without mercy for the rest of her life. Mr Elling Winter made a pause in his story. “But dear God, man,” I exclaimed, “the mystery was solved, was it not?” “No,” he replied quietly. “Are you really telling me that children have not been accounted for?” “It has been six years now since this happened. You have seen the mother yourself this evening. Doesn’t her appearance tell you everything? No one has heard anything from or about the two young girls. The last sign of life was this terrible phone call.” “But the police?” “The police” My friend shrugged. “The police in a big city,” he muttered, “of course they did everything they could, but to no avail. They immediately tried to trace the source of the phone call, but the technical complexities being what they are, it was found to be impossible. Nor was there anything in the child’s voice that could explain the situation. No hint of fear, no sense of urgency. In stead there was this childish sense of confidence, quite puzzling. And then there was the whispering, of course.” “To whom did she whisper? Perhaps to her sister? “Perhaps to her sister” “Perhaps to someone else?” “Yes, perhaps to some one else” For a while we sat there silently pondering. Then my friend said: “I know that one street and one house in the great city must know the secret. Every time I pass it on my journeys – surely it must happen once every few years as the train rushes through the dark chaos of tall and sad urban structures illuminated by bluish gleams from the streecar cables – then I say to myself: Where…. Where?” I was half in a world of my own as I listened to my friend’s voice. The town of Bolzano, with its many points of light deep down at the bottom of the valley, did not seem so beautiful anymore. I glanced over at the hotel where I knew the mother was staying. The lower windows radiated a matt shine, but the arched gloomy ceiling weighed heavy upon the construction. Above, there was a clear and starry sky – there always was in these southern lands. The stars are signs of eternity, and they always call to us posing questions concerning our suffering lives: How, why … where? Translated by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIf you look at the statistics, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her books have sold  billions of copies, and some of the movie-versions have won academy awards. That Christie was a genius, I think is undisputed. The numbers speak for themselves. But I think the nature of her genius has been misrepresented. If you look at her characters, they are not very original. Some say: “Well you cannot show me the exact source in which Christie says that she was inspired by others?” But that is besides the point. Even if she was not, the characters are still not original. In 1920, Christie published The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel and her first Poirot story. Poirot was a Belgian first world war refugee detective with a Watson-like side-kick, Captain Hastings. In 1910, however, a major writer at the time, A.E.W. Mason(1865-1948), a man whom everybody knew, published the novel At the Villa Rose, a novel featuring the French immigrant detective, Inspector Hannaud. There are huge similarties between the two, but also some differences. In addition to this, another famous female writer at the time, Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868 – 1947), created the detective inspector Popeau and Frank Howell Evans(1867–1931), a minor Welsh writer, created Monsieur Jules Poiret (yes, you read correctly). All of these detectives were french speaking refugee detectives, some even with similar names as Poirot. Let us now move on to Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s second iconic character. In the US they have a now forgotten crime fiction queen, Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935). In 1878, a decade before Christie was born, she published the novel The Leavenworth Case in which she introduced her spinster detective Miss Amelia Butterworth. She was then featured in several novels and stories, and Green was a best-selling writer in her own day, writing 40 novels and many short stories (only few with Amelia Butterworth) Like Christie she was a great plotter. In some ways, Miss Marple is Amelia Butterworth solving Chestertonian crime puzzles in a rural idyll.  I could mention similar precursors to Tommy & Tuppence. But why is Agatha Christie then not exposed as a plagiarist? It is because her talent is undisputed, and lay elsewhere. She composed stories brilliantly. And it is actually the composition of the stories that make them so great. Her characters were sometimes a little flat. It is the puzzle and the way it is presented throughout the narrative that captivates the reader, not her analyses of motives. The motives for crimes are in fact bizarre sometimes, even contrived. Psychological complexity was almost sacrificed at the alter of these other elements. When you read an Agatha Christie crime story, you are rarely left with any feelings of disillusionment or misgivings about the world. Even if it is a piece of crime fiction. So, can any writer who just took elements from his or her contemporary age and molded them into best-selling dramas be a genius? Yes. Just look at the other name at the top of the list of the best-selling writers of all time: William Shakespeare. In fact, almost every writer does this to some extent. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureWhy did president Bush quote Graham Greene, an author who was labelled a “communist sympathizer” by the US government and kept under surveillance for decades? The 22 of August 2007, president George W. Bush enters the podium in a convention center in Kansas City. He faced the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a weathered crowd of old soldiers. «I stand before you as a wartime President» he declares before he begins talking about the Vietnam War. «In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called The Quiet American. It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. Another character describes Alden this way: ‘I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.’» Bush’s reference caused much confusion around the United States because the author, Graham Greene, had been kept under surveillance by the CIA because of the publication of the novel. Conservatives in the 1950s disapproved of his analysis of the situation in Vietnam. The protagonist is the British journalist Thomas Fowler who is drawn into a triangular love story battling for the favors of a young Vietnamese girl. His competition is Alden Pyle, a young man with visions for the future of Vietnam, who later turns out to be an intelligence agent directly implicated in a horrible bombing massacre. According to The New York Times, The Quiet American became a bible for journalists covering the Vietnam war because it predicted and exposed American policies in the country several years before they became generally known. But the Republican right loathed the fact that the hero was an aging British upper class reporter and the villain a young manipulative and naive American. The villain becomes good Oddly enough, only a few years passed before the controversial novel was filmed by Hollywood director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz was himself a part of the right wing, dubiously connected to the McCarthy movement, which at this period in history was engaged in their communist witch-hunts. During the work with the manuscripts Mankiewicz contacted none other than Edward Lansdale, a CIA operative who now was in charge of American operations in Vietnam. Soon the perception spread that Lansdale was the real life model for the villain in The Quiet American. In the 1958 movie, the Alden character was thus fittingly played by America’s proudest son, Audie Murhpy, the most decorated soldier in American history at this time. Murphy had made a career in Hollywood. In this heavily altered adaptation, the villain becomes good, a victim of a communist conspiracy. Alden Pyle is in fact no intelligence agent at all in Mankiewicz’s version, but a toy manufacturer who happens to be in Vietnam for humanitarian reasons. Assaulting the author When Graham Greene discovered what was about to happen to his novel, he was dumbfounded, but he was unable to stop the project for contractual reasons. “One could almost believe.” Greene stated, “that the film was made deliberately to attack the book and the author.” Later it has become obvious to everyone that the US was present in Vietnam at this time, and that Graham Greene was correct in his portrayal of the situation. Norman Sherry, who has written an extensive biography on Greene, points out that Greene had left Vietnam before Lansdale arrived in the country. Consequently he cannot be the real life model for the Pyle character. Many years would pass before Hollywood again focused on The Quiet American. The war in Vietnam ended, and slowly but surely the wounds of a bitter period started to heal. A new acceptance of the sufferings of Vietnam veterans was on display in movies such as The Deer Hunter, Rambo and Platoon. A more truthful adaptation The Australian Philip Noyce therefore decided to make a new adaptation of the controversial novel. He felt that the time now was ripe for a more accurate adaptation of Greene’s old classic. He cast the veteran actor Michael Caine as the British protagonist, a role for which Caine would become Oscar nominated. The new movie was produced Miramax and was completed in 2001. Then, in 2001, it happened: the United States experiences a horrible terror attack in New York costing 1000s of lives. Again patriotism was rife, and yet again the desire to defeat your enemies on foreign soil became public policy. Americans now had to form a united front. Miramax panicked. They feared that the film would resurrect the memories of the Vietnam era. “The film can never be released”, Harvey Weinstein, a Miramax executive declared. “My staff says it is unpatriotic.” Michael Caine and Phillip Noyce feverishly lobbied for the release of the movie, but told the press that the film was “as good as dead”. After much persuasion, The Quiet American was released even so, perhaps as a result of the attention that Michael Caine’s excellent performance attracted. Oddly enough the film proved a financial success in the US. This ill-timed success showed that American attitudes towards the Vietnam war have changed, and that it was possible to release a considered reflection of foreign policy issues in the wake of 9/11. In his speech to the veterans of foreign wars in 2007, Bush demonstrated a newly found detachment from the Vietnam era, and he probably attempted to bring an old matter to rest. He may also have tried to undermine that comparison between Vietnam and Iraq that some claim is obvious. But Bush’s reference to Graham Greene still has a false ring to it because most of all the story of The Quiet American, is a story about misuse of art for propaganda purposes and denial of foreign policy objectives. Michael Wynn (blog editor) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyI have suspected my neighbor of using my garden hose without my permission for many years, perhaps even 20. Of course, I have never asked him about it, even if he sometimes comes to dinner in my own home. In stead, I have begun watching him. I sit by my window in the evening observing him as he goes about his business. My thought was that if I could catch him in the act then I would rush out and finally have my theories proven. I am retired, and I don’t have much else to do. After having been at my post every morning some years, I discovered that someone else, the neighbor one house up, was in fact using my neighbor’s garden hose in his absence, most certainly without his permission. Clearly, this was extremely immoral, and I would not stand for it. So, I got the idea that if I informed my long hated Nemesis about the fact that his neighbor was taking liberties, the two of them would bring about each other’s downfall. So, one morning I casually walked up to my dishonest neighbor and mentioned, almost in passing, that I had seen the neighbor one house down entering his house that morning. My neighbor did not say anything, but his eyes revealed a total shock. I was very pleased, and returned to my lookout post. The next day, I could see my Nemesis peering through his curtains, obviously trying to verify my gossip. He also began walking down the road, looking up at his neighbor’s house in disbelief. The two passed even each other in the street, and my Nemesis gave the neighbor a very nasty look. I almost had to smile. But what happened then was not what I expected. My Nemesis told me over dinner that he had discovered that the matter was related to a use of a garden hose, and that he had talked with his neighbor one house down, and that the garden hose would be placed in the shed, where they both could get to it with ease. The matter was settled, he said. This was not what I wanted, so I had to come up with something else in the spur of the moment. “And what about your car?” I asked. “My car?” said my neighbor. “Yes, I have seen your neighbor driving your car while you are away? I thought you had an agreement?” My neighbor was wonderfully shocked, threw down his dinner napkin and ran out the door. The next morning the two of them were shouting it out on the front lawn. I was hidden behind a semitransparent curtain in front of an open window. I could not see their faces, but I saw the distinct silhouettes of their waving arms and heard their mutual accusations and insults. I almost laughed when my long held Nemesis struck his neighbor in the face. Now it would be a matter for the police, and the courts would be involved. And I was quite right. I wandered down the road to the neighbor one house down. I have never known him very well. Still, I feel some connection to him because his sister is the ex-wife of my own brother. She is a very nice person, but I have kept my distance out of respect for my brother. They quarreled, you see. I found him frantically dialing something on his mobile phone. He had a black eye, and was very agitated. “Hello”, I said. “Have you been in an accident?” I pointed to my own eye to indicate what I meant. “No! I most certainly have not,” he said. “My neighbor has gone absolutely insane and has started to accuse me of using his car. It all started with me using his garden hose without his permission. I thought it would be no big deal.”“No big deal!!” I exclaimed. “Taking liberties with others is a huge breach of trust. And now he has struck you in the face! You must take legal action!”“I was planning to, but then I thought my credibility would be ruined by the fact that I had used his garden hose. I have admitted this in front of witnesses. But using a garden hose is not the same as using his car. Which is what he is now claiming.”“Well”, I said. “Your neighbor might not be as morally upright as he is pretending to be. In fact, I may be willing to testify in court to this fact. And as you know, I may be retired. But I have impeccable credentials after spending almost 40 years as a clerk in the legal department of the town property registry. No one will doubt my word”.“Really? You would do such a thing for me? But we hardly know each other?”“We do in a way. Many years ago, your sister was married to my younger brother. I have never mentioned it because they argued so terribly, and I kept my distance out of respect for my brother. But I have always liked your sister much better than my own brother.”“I see,” he said and thoughtfully scratched his ear. “Will you give me a week to think about this. I will do as you say. But I must find a good lawyer. Some are very expensive?”“Of course”, I said and smiled confidently. “I understand completely”.I then returned to my home, and had a full bottle of wine to celebrate. Finally, I would be given a chance to confront my best friend about his illegitimate use of my garden hose. The whole world would be able to read the court transcripts a hundred years from now. If there is one thing a legal clerk knows, it is that history does not remember things that are not written in black and white.A week later, I was informed that a date for a trial was set. Of course, the case was not given priority, so we all had to wait half a year. But it was worth the wait because matters of principle cannot go unsettled.The two of them appeared in court on opposite sides with each their own suited lawyers. I was seated at the back, and would appear as a witness later. They both knew this, but I had not been too specific about what I was going to say. I had mentioned the hose, but I thought I would air some other flaws in my Nemesis’ character that had annoyed me over the years.First, there was some legal mambo-jumbo, but then finally the man was on the stand telling the horrific story of the unmotivated violence to which he had been so unfairly subjected. I smiled as he recounted the unsubstantiated car story to the court. “But of course, this is nothing compared to the man who is about to appear as a witness. He always uses this man’s lawnmower when he is gone. And he also sometimes steals his mail.”“WHAT!!” I shouted from the back.“Yes, I can confirm this” my Nemesis said. “I have seen this many times. He is always taking liberties. He is not honest. I am very sorry for having struck you. Will you forgive me?”Then the two of them met in front of the judge, and hugged. The judge sighed. Then, he lifted his gavel and, almost in dismay, struck at the table as he said: “case dismissed”. My two neighbors and their lawyers then left, almost without looking at me.I sat alone at the back utterly confused. But then I got up and shouted at the judge: “I have NEVER EVER used someone else’s lawnmower without their permission. These are all lies, I tell you!”. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyHe claimed to be sexually active as a 5 year-old. «He has visited all the most famous homes in London. Once» Oscar Wilde stated. Frank Harris was one of the most controversial characters of the Victorian era. A self-proclaimed sex-guru, hypochondriac and editor with upper class access, he was a colorful addition to the revolt against late Victorian morality. Ireland, at the middle of the nineteenth century, was on the brink of trouble. Hunger had just arrived and gangs of smugglers ravaged the coastlines. Thomas James Harris was named after his father, Thomas Harris, who worked for the British Coastguard. His father spent a lot of time at sea and the two were never close. His mother was a distant figure, even if he never disliked her. It was the violent and aggressive father he hated, and later he changed his name to Frank Harris. The young Harris left for England to attend a boarding school. There is something confined about his childhood memories, something unpleasant about his description of the masculine boarding schools. He left a dysfunctional home for a school system in which the teachers turned a blind eye to abuse. In this unfriendly environment, he learnt to fight back. He taught himself boxing and achieved the respect of his peers. He grew emotionally and made his sexual debut. Across the Atlantic At the age of 16, he sets out on a journey to America, without any goal and almost without money. He makes acquaintances on the ocean liner and on embarking in New York. He finds a girl and works full-time on the construction of Brooklyn bridge. At this time he came to a painful realization: He was ugly. This was, according to his autobiography, a sinister moment in his life, «but it only motivated me to greater achievements in the bedroom» From New York Harris headed west toward Kansas where his older brother was already settled. In Kansas he became a cowboy on the great trek north. He was also a witness to the great fire that struck Chicago at this time. He believed that vaporized water added air to the flames, and consequently he did his utmost to prevent anyone from throwing water on the flames. Student After a short business career, Harris attended the University of Kansas. After finishing his law degree he works his way via San Francisco back to Europe to continue his studies in Germany. His social skills were modest, and he is expelled from the University of Heidelberg for beating up a student that bumped into him on the street. He finishes his studies at Gottingen and then returns to Ireland. There he finds a deaf and whitebearded father and his mother’s grave. A year later Harris is in London. The center of the empire was alive with activity. Socialists were beginning to organize, unions were formed and the proletariat were challenging the aristocracy and the nouveau rich. Harris is transformed politically and becomes a member of Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation. However, due to disagreements, he leaves the organization. According to Hyndman, Harris was an eloquent speaker who passed through almost every political affiliation. London contained many of them, and was the center of the imperialist economic system. Harris was not only caught up in the political turbulence of the capital city, later, as a publisher, he was forced into an alliance with the new commercial interests. Editor and society The lawyer Frank Harris arrived in London with a recommendation from his old professor Byron Smith. He met Thomas Carlyle, who after half an hour, became so intimate that he confided his own impotence. Through Carlyle, Harris met Richard Sutton, the editor of The Spectator. Harris gained experience from The Spectator and The Fortnightly Review and became editor of the conservative newspaper London Evening News. The circulation plummeted and the paper was desperate. Harris cut the staff and promoted sensational celebrity gossip. He seduced the masses and the circulation exploded. Frank Harris, the tabloid journalist, was born out of gossip and innuendo. A power struggle forced Harris to leave the editorship of the London Evening News, but now he had proven himself. From the 1880s he worked as editor of two of the most famous contemporary publications: The Fortnightly Review and the Saturday Review. He met all the celebrities, such as Karl Marx. «While Herbert Spencer was contemptuously angry when he was opposed, Marx was politely inattentive», Harris commented. Harris built a career on gossip. In Contemporary Portraits, a series of 5 volumes, Harris continues his description of contemporary greats. He describes how famous personalities breaks wind at the dinner table, why Thomas Carlyle never had sex with his wife (according to Harris he was gay) and how a man like Randolph Churchill drifted into madness. On request, he passed his dirty stories on to the prince of Wales and he had a close relationship to princess Alice of Monaco. He ran for office for the Tories, but lost because he defended Charles Parnell who had been unfaithful to his wife. Blackmail Because of his tabloid journalism, Harris was often in trouble with the authorities. He bragged of the fact that he had blackmailed celebrities for money and that he had participated in orgies with 13 year olds. One of his siblings had died of consumption and Harris was convinced that such afflictions were hereditary. He thought that stomach aches were due to too little movement of the relevant muscles, and he developed a routine of daily exercises. When he over ate, he resorted to a stomach pump. At the end of the century; Harris left journalism to become a writer. «Like mothers , we writers tend to judge our offspring by the pain the cause us,» he remarked, « and we worship them to compensate for a cruel world.» Even if he had made money on the private lives of others, Harris developed an ambiguous relationship with public life. When Oscar Wilde was jailed for “sodomy”, Harris advised him to leave the country. After 2 years Wilde was released from prison, and Harris was one of very few to still acknowledge him. War and Exile At the outbreak of WWI Harris fled his sanctuary in France. England had betrayed both him and Wilde, and America was the only option. In New York, he sided with Germany against England, and was labeled a German agent. Depressed and isolated life became a struggle for existence. «The truth is, I assume, that my vanity is as abnormal as my ambition». He failed as a novelist, but he was hungry for recognition. For a short period, he reaches his former glory as editor of Pearson’s Magazine. He begins a crusade against poverty and bourgeoisie hypocrisy. When Theodore Dreiser had one of his novels cut by the censors, Harris, who sees a similarity between Wilde, Jesus and himself, rushes to his defense. Society had forced Harris into a corner. The postal service refused to distribute his publications, and he faced the threat of legal sanction. He was on the verge of financial ruin, and he wanted to return to Europe. Death and the moral France was hardly an improvement. In the absence of publishers, he was forced to publish his own works. He begins his autobiography, a monstrous volume which he finishes over a period of several years. My Life and Loves had the subtitle «the most candid biography ever written». Everybody got what was coming to them. Harris opened the closet to expose skeletons and intimate details. He was declared persona non-grata in America. Bookshops in France, America and England were rushed and copies of his biography confiscated. Once he was even stopped in customs because his autobiography was considered pornography. Tired and abused he died in the arms of a nurse in 1931. A few years after the publication of his autobiography, a reply was published in the form of the book The Lies and Libels of Frank Harris, penned by some injured parties from his dubious past. His ability to emphasise himself at the expense of others made him many enemies. The bourgeoisie choked on his many shameless descriptions of sexuality. At dinner with the social elite he produced witticisms in the style of «new cunt, new hope» George Bernard Shaw’s wife would not have anything to do with him and even faithful friends turned their backs to him. In 5 volumes Harris portrayed himself as a hero who mastered life and conquered women. But the truth was obvious to everyone. Despite his photographic memory, Harris carefully selected his facts. He lied about his own past a cowboy, he exaggerated his own role as war correspondent in the Russian- Turkish war, he lied about how popular he was and how good he was in the sack. There was a vulnerability behind this total lack of irony. The roles he took on where as feigned as his new name, Frank Harris. The pauper, Thomas James from Galway, had turned his own life into a gossip column. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyBetween the time of Buddha and when the Mongol hordes poured onto the Asian steps almost a millennia later, there existed an ancient center of learning in India with tens of thousands of students.  A Turkish invader left their library in ruins, and its books, like all those unknown scholars, became scattered and forgotten by time. The present-day Nalanda university library, like the modern library of Alexandria, cannot replace or restore the ancient centers of learning they once served, only honor them. There are about twenty influential teachers from Nalanda listed at Wikipedia. But over a millennia there must have been countless more. Students would have arrived from far and near, books would have been copied and sold. Even if most names should be forgotten, some of the infra-structure of learning can always be deduced from archaeology. If there are many students, the facilities of learning would tell us about teaching methods. And also about where they came from and how they were recruited, and perhaps went after their studies. If a gigantic stone is uncovered at a mysterious site like, for instance, Nalanda in India or even the much older temple at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, many things can be learnt about the technology and mathematical skills of those who placed it there. And if such skills exist, then they are learnt somewhere. The study of European Antiquity has brought to light the great minds of men like Aristotle, Archimedes and Hero of Alexandria. Then there is that legendary library in Alexandria that we all know about. Some who have studied history might talk about the one in Pergamon where Galen was educated, the second most famous. But often these towering institutions are icebergs of a forgotten academic system, a network of learning centers. If academic works were written, they also had an audience. And they were also traded and sold, which means merchants of knowledge. Sometimes even booksellers and agents. Recently, new lidar technology has stripped away the overgrowth of centuries, in the Amazon and in the jungles of Cambodia. What emerges magnifies the ancient cultures in these areas and their influence exponentially. Their urban arms stretched farther than anyone today could now have guessed. The literature of meso-America was quickly disposed of by the Europeans, and the only source of importance about Angkor Watt is the report of an ancient Chinese emissary. So slowly the rest of the planet is having its history restored, bit by bit. But, do we yet know what might be hidden beneath impenetrable jungles elsewhere, in Papua New Guinea or Congo? In 1916, a Jamaican arrived in New York. He had been educated in the heart of the Empire, London. His name was Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), and he was the first organizer of a black mass protest movement. He was extravagant, flamboyant and also dishonest. But even if he was eventually kicked out of the US, he managed what he set out to do: awaken the African Americans to the great wealth of unknown cultures located beyond the gaze of the European scholar. Europeans never spoke about the great sub-Saharan cultures known at the time. In his novel She, the late Victorian adventure writer H. Rider Haggard (1856–1925) made wild, but extremely entertaining speculations about the origins of the great stone structures of Zimbabwe. This was needed because Africans could never have managed to construct such marvels on their own. Europe had even swept  the mighty Songhai-empire of western Africa conveniently under the carpet, along with the great libraries of Timbuktu. In fact, even Roman expeditions into sub-Saharan Africa or the sub-Saharan battles of the First World War, have been met with total silence. This was infertile soil for learning and culture. This was the land of naked savages. One of the countries Marcus Garvey frequently mentioned was Ethiopia, and the Rasta movement would later often refer to him. Garvey himself, however, belonged to an earlier generation. So, when he referred to Ethiopia he had other things in mind. Today, students are just becoming aware of the great genius of men like Zera Yacob (1599 – 1692) , the Ethiopian enlightenment philosopher, and contemporary and almost equal of Kant himself. But the same comment I  made concerning the intellectual celebrities that are known from Nalanda applies to Zera Yacob. Even if Yacob is by no means an isolated character, he towers over a neglected system of learning. Gone with the wind are the other students, their lives and the network that supported them. Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storymagine traveling through space at lightening speed, exploring the deep recesses of the universe to unveil her deepest secrets. “Are we really alone?” is one of the most fundamental questions that future generations must explore. The questions really makes my heart beat. Somehow the notion of that grand future, of all those limitless possibilities makes me relax, bringing balance to a boring life. I am a social worker, you see, for a private company. I make rounds helping old people, geezers, hags and cripples. Perhaps they need something. Then I will provide it for them. I will even wipe their bottoms if they need it. Naturally, I often hate my job and like most people I sit on my couch and dream of becoming a millionaire or I get completely wasted and pretend to be one. Sometimes I feel as if I would care for anything or anyone provided the pay was satisfactory. Science Fiction writing is therefore a great passion of mine. When I write about the future, a world of possibilities and probabilities opens up to me and I can mould it into a format I can accept. I will become the next Arthur C. Clark. In the meantime, I will, for a modest fee, remove your excrements and make your bed. In January a few years back, I was given a new patient to take care of, a certain Mrs. Jackson whose husband had died suddenly in a horrible accident a few years earlier leaving her all alone with failing memory. She lived a nice house on the west end of town, with a patch of grass outside and a white fence to match. It would have been a paradise for someone healthy. What it was for Mrs. Jackson, I cannot say. She sat in a wheelchair as I entered, but I don’t think she was physically dependent upon it. When she saw me she was immediately disgusted. “Who are you?” she said. “I am Michael, your new social worker? Don’t you remember?” “No.  Will you be taking care of me?” “Yes.” “Well you damn well better. Crazy old cow like me, sitting here all alone!” I soon found out that Mrs. Jackson had many needs that needed to be fulfilled. She had a schedule to keep and if it was not kept to the letter, she would become hysterical and utter words I have never heard from people her age. Other times – I think this was in her best periods- she would get flashes of clarity and her eyes gleamed of doom and tragedy. “I am so lonely”, she would say. One day she was looking for her glasses in the living room. “Michael! Michael Michael” she shouted as she paced across the room. I ran down the stairs from the upstairs bedroom where I was making the bed thinking that she had suffered some form of injury. When I arrived she said “I cannot find my glasses. I know they are here. Perhaps they have taken them from me?” “Who?” I replied. “Don’t get funny with me! You know very well who I am talking about. Anyway it’s 3 o’clock and you haven’t finished the bedroom yet. That means that you will be late for cleaning the kitchen at 4 like we normally do. I always have the kitchen cleaned at 4. Why can’t I find my glasses”, she said as she sunk down in her chair. I could see now that she was crying. I was going to her side, but something held me back. Then she made it easy for me as she said “Go away!”. “I know what I want”, the old woman said. “I want to be human. You all want me dead. That is what you really want. Actually, if you are going to continue with that sort of attitude, I don’t see how we can work together. I honestly don’t. Where are my glasses? I want my glasses, damn it” The old woman had turned mean on me. Her face was stone cold, even her wrinkles seemed inanimate. I studied her expressions, but I could not find a hint of compromise. “Do you want me to leave Mrs. Jackson?” “Yes” I sighed and gathered my things. As I was leaving, I heard her shout after me: «And don’t bother coming back». The next day I returned to have the matter settled. I expected that she simply didn’t like me and that she would prefer to have someone else in her house, perhaps a woman. Surprisingly she seemed cheerful in her chair by the window. She greeted me and smiled. I sat down, began politely by saying that I understood her situation, that it was her choice and that I was willing to have the company find a replacement within the month. She looked at me and laughed “My dear, what are you rambling about?” “Don’t you remember that you shouted at me and called me a liar?” “No” “You said I had a bad attitude.” “My dear young man, I have never seen you before in my life. I bear grudges to no one, especially not a complete stranger such as yourself. Now be a dear sweetheart and give my pills, will you.” At first, I thought she was playing with me, but her act seemed so natural and her expression so innocent that I discarded the idea. “Mrs. Jackson, do you remember my name?” “John?” “No, it’s Michael.” “Such a nice name too,” she said and touched my hand. I now began wondering what she really remembered from our past encounter. What did it matter what I did, if she would never remember it. Normally I bring some cake every Friday to my patients, but in view of recent events it would seem a waste of time. She always asked me if we had cake on Friday, and having assumed that she simply needed to have the obvious confirmed; I thought she remembered. From that day on I brought no more cake on Fridays. Certainly there was no reason to bring the actual cake. When she asked me if we had cake, I told her we had and she was just as happy as if she actually did. Pretty soon other changes occurred. I no longer needed to follow her stringent rules. She would always ask me if I had done the kitchen at 4 like she wanted it done, and I replied yes, and that was that. I had no qualms about what I was doing because it meant nothing to her now. I started wondering whether there was even any need for kindness. I thought I could insult her one day and come back the next as if nothing happened. But, such deliberate cruelty was beyond even me. Things were bad enough. There was no need to rub it in. The situation with Mrs. Jackson soon started to depress me. Somehow I blamed her for her effect on me, and I am afraid I at times was not as polite to her as she deserved. Seeing her sit there, asking me every time who I was and what I was doing there, got to me in a way that I didn’t understand. It was as if I saw in her my own situation magnified. I began searching for something to do, something that could take my mind of the job. I found it in a newspaper ad. A local writer was organizing a course in creative writing. But it was too expensive for me, a 1000 dollars. The opportunity that presented itself to me at the end of May that year now fills me with shame, although there are parts of me that think I deserved something in compensation for the way she made me feel. Mrs. Jackson’s failing memory had brought more of her practical affairs to my attention. When there was something that needed to be fixed, local taxes or gas bills, I stepped in to pay them for her. Naturally she had given me all her papers and permission to withdraw any amount from the bank. Legally she was in need of a guardian, and in the absence of relatives, the system left those tasks temporarily to me. I now realized that Mrs. Jackson was a very rich woman. In fact, I was told that she owned as much as a million, and that there were no close relatives to inherit the money. In fact, the money would probably be donated to charity when she died, or even worse, it would confiscated by the government. 1000 dollars to her was nothing. It was a drop in the ocean. I would get my writing class, and then I would be a better nurse to her. She might actually want that. Surely, in the end this was something that I did for her too, seeing that she was helpless and needed constant assistance from strangers. I was a tip. Yes, that’s what it was. The next day I withdrew the 1000 dollars from her account and enrolled in the writing class. I was very excited at first. I never thought that I would have any kind of talent for writing. I never compared myself to great writers, but I thought that might actually be able to write for the mass marked rather than for the sophisticated critic, who it was impossible to please anyway. The classes took place every Friday at some shabby downtown haunt. Unfortunately the classes took place at the same time as my Friday appointments with Mrs. Jackson, but I discovered that if I arrived 2 hours later and stayed a few minutes longer, she would never even notice that I was gone. There were about 10 of us and our teacher was just as eccentric as I hoped he would be. Everybody knows that anyone who tries to teach writing to others must be certifiably insane. He was a tall skinny character with bushy hair and a wild staring gaze. Apparently he had published some novels himself, although I had never heard of any of them. There were several people who considered themselves artists in the true sense of the word. They quoted Russian novelists and spoke of literary theory with great insight. Naturally, none of them had ever published anything and in my opinion they were all idiots. When I announced my intention to write about aliens for the mass marked, they said I was insincere. “Don’t you know”, I said, “that the future is a very exciting subject? New developments in biotechnology will revolutionize our treatment of disease and new information technology will bring all the knowledge of the world into our living rooms. In the future, I believe, all humans will learn faster because they can take drugs to improve their memory. We will all become geniuses.” “Interesting”, the teacher said, and stared at me with his crazy eyes. “Very interesting. What do the rest of you think, will there be a brave new world of tomorrow? Hm Hm Tell me.” His eyes searched the room for an opinion. “Well, I think he is on to something”, a girl replied. “I can sort of see the sense of it”. She looked at me with deep brown eyes and smiled. I felt my heart skip a beat. I don’t get many smiles from women. Next time the class gathered, the teacher was late and I got her into a conversation. She was very pretty, too pretty for me actually. She had quiet, subdued manner about her, she never looked straight at me. It occurred to me that she was painfully shy, even delicate. “What do you do?”, I said, “I mean when you are not writing” “I’m a psychologist”, she said. “Really”, I replied, “I am a social worker.” We soon discovered that we had much in common. A few minutes later we talked about personal matters, things that we both seemed concerned about. She had some oddities though, but I easily forgave them considering how beautiful she was. For instance, she would always ask me if I thought she was fat, even though she was extremely skinny. When I told her that I thought she could well gain a few pounds, she gave me a very irritated look, as if I was lying to her. However, most of the time we talked about other things, such as the best Sci-Fi movies and who founded modern science fiction, Mary Shelley or H.G. Wells. Very soon I realized that I was in love with her. This blessing was a tragedy in disguise. I could hardly work anymore without having all sorts of plans for our future in my head. Her face seemed to haunt me constantly, even when I worked with Mrs. Jackson. Once Mrs. Jackson eyed me suspiciously and said “Michael, are you in love?” “Of course not”, I said. “Don’t be silly.” After that I decided that I should not talk to her the rest of the week. After all, I could start talking to her in a week when I had calmed down and she wouldn’t remember a thing. That weekend Lisa and I went up to a cottage she had in the country. It was one of those perfect moments that are forever imprinted in your memory. We drove into her valley and we felt happy. The cottage lay on the bank of a slow moving river that glittered where the landscape opened up into a wide-open space. I think I told myself that this was too good to be true, fearing that I could wake up at any moment. The following week we met regularly, and it goes without saying that I partly neglected my duties with Mrs. Jackson. However, she did not suffer any distress in the sense that her physical needs were ignored. She had food, her house was clean and she never complained. Lisa and I had now become intimate and I cherished the memory of her naked body, elegant and dexterous as it was. I could sit by myself and think about it for hours on end. Sometimes I would catch myself in red-handed apathy and at those occasions I would humour myself with the idea that the senile Mrs. Jackson and I after all were not much different, comfortably seated in our chairs, staring into oblivion. My writing classes were now drawing to a close. I think we had about a week left. To be honest I had not produced much. Lisa had found an expression for her obsession with dieting and produced the first draft of a book for overweight women. I had only produced the first draft of a story about time travel. Our teacher, however, now declared the course a complete success. Some day, he predicted, several people in our class would win the Nobel prize and then we would be grateful for the advice he had given. I think he was just making excuses for our obvious lack of talent, but I went along with it because I wanted to close on a good note. Lisa and I had made plans for a travel to Europe. It was kind of a honeymoon for us. We wanted to travel in France and make love like they do in all the clichés. However, the journey was quite expensive. I had not told her any details about my financial situation. I barely got by on my present salary. The truth was that not only did I not make enough money to live in the dream world we wanted, my house was heavily mortgaged. I therefore asked for extra hours at work. I would stay with Mrs. Jackson the whole week and help her in any way I could. It would be much easier if she had one person to relate to instead of all the people that she had coming and going all week. Perhaps then she would remember my name. I assured my employer that that would be very unlikely. One day Mrs. Jackson came to me and asked me to get her some medicines from the pharmacy. They were very expensive, but she would give me the money like she usually did. I was surprised to find that she had large sums of cash stored in a box in her closet. She handed me a roll of notes, and as I held them in my hand, I could not help thinking what would happen if I took some of it. After all, I had done it before and gotten away with it. Was I stealing from her? She was wealthy and had no one to inherit her money. If I didn’t take it, the money would simply go to waste. I decided to steal yet another time. On the way from pharmacy the remaining notes found their way into my pockets. That evening I called Lisa and told her I bought the tickets. She laughed and said we would have the time our lives. I repeated that phrase over again as I went asleep that night “the time of our lives”. As the morning broke the next day I felt alive for the very first time. It was as if everything was clearer now. I noticed the slow movements of the morning mists and watched the dewdrops on the windowpane. I made my sandwich and prepared for my final day at the writing class. It was, ironically, Friday and we were having a cake baked by our mad teacher. I took the bus through the city as usual, but found that traffic was especially annoying this morning. Cars, streetlights and sirens seemed to conspire against us in a futile attempt to nag me. But nothing could touch me now. I got off the bus and made my way through the crowded park to the building and classroom. As I entered the classroom I found everyone in a strange, almost quiet mood. “Hi guys,” I said defiantly, “guess what”. “Michael, you’d better sit down. Something has happened. Have you not heard about the accident? They are dead.” “What do you mean, ‘They are dead?’ Who is dead? When did they die?” “This morning, in a car crash. Lisa and her sister.” “You are lying? They are not dead” “Yes, they are, ask anyone. I looked at their faces and they all nodded “But I have made plans. We are going to Europe. I have bought tickets. The worst thing about it is that I can’t get a refund now. They don’t give refunds on cheap tickets. It’s funny really because I seldom travel. And I know they like traveling. Most people like traveling. It’s not like I am an astronaut or anything. Imagine going on a spaceship to the moon or something. I just like to see new things you see.” They all gave me a strange look, my hands suddenly started shaking. I was unable to control them, so I stuffed them in my pockets. I began laughing at my own clumsiness. Those damn hands, I thought. Well I have something to do, I said, got up nodded reassuringly to them and left. I shall not bother you with the details of my sorrow. It is, after all, not much different from that which most people experience at some point in their lives. It took me about a month to compose myself. I then took up my job for Mrs. Jackson, who still sat in her chair by the window. “Who are you?” she said as I entered. “I am your social worker. Michael is my name”, I said. “Don’t you remember?” “No” Michael Henrik Wynn (written at the end of the 1990s) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureMary Shelley was born the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the influential enlightenment philosopher. Her mother died only 10 days after giving birth to her, and the two seemed separated forever. However, the daughter then took it upon herself to become an expert on her mother’s writing, and to live as much as she could in accordance with the wishes of her dead mother. It was a mother-daughter relationship that defied death. In the following text from 1831, Mary Shelley herself tells the story of how the book was conceived: “I shall give a general answer to the question, so very frequently asked me—”How I, when a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” It is true that I am very averse to bringing myself forward in print; but as my account will only appear as an appendage to a former production, and as it will be confined to such topics as have connection with my authorship alone, I can scarcely accuse myself of a personal intrusion. It is not singular that, as the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity, I should very early in life have thought of writing. As a child I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to “write stories.” Still I had a dearer pleasure than this, which was the formation of castles in the air—the indulging in waking dreams—the following up trains of thought, which had for their subject the formation of a succession of imaginary incidents. My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings. In the latter I was a close imitator—rather doing as others had done, than putting down the suggestions of my own mind. What I wrote was intended at least for one other eye—my childhood’s companion and friend; but my dreams were all my own; I accounted for them to nobody; they were my refuge when annoyed—my dearest pleasure when free. I lived principally in the country as a girl, and passed a considerable time in Scotland. I made occasional visits to the more picturesque parts; but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered. I did not make myself the heroine of my tales. Life appeared to me too common-place an affair as regarded myself. I could not figure to myself that romantic woes or wonderful events would ever be my lot; but I was not confined to my own identity, and I could people the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age, than my own sensations. After this my life became busier, and reality stood in place of fiction. My husband, however, was from the first, very anxious that I should prove myself worthy of my parentage, and enrol myself on the page of fame. He was for ever inciting me to obtain literary reputation, which even on my own part I cared for then, though since I have become infinitely indifferent to it. At this time he desired that I should write, not so much with the idea that I could produce any thing worthy of notice, but that he might himself judge how far I possessed the promise of better things hereafter. Still I did nothing. Travelling, and the cares of a family, occupied my time; and study, in the way of reading, or improving my ideas in communication with his far more cultivated mind, was all of literary employment that engaged my attention. In the summer of 1816, we visited Switzerland, and became the neighbours of Lord Byron. At first we spent our pleasant hours on the lake, or wandering on its shores; and Lord Byron, who was writing the third canto of Childe Harold, was the only one among us who put his thoughts upon paper. These, as he brought them successively to us, clothed in all the light and harmony of poetry, seemed to stamp as divine the glories of heaven and earth, whose influences we partook with him. But it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French, fell into our hands. There was the History of the Inconstant Lover, who, when he thought to clasp the bride to whom he had pledged his vows, found himself in the arms of the pale ghost of her whom he had deserted. There was the tale of the sinful founder of his race, whose miserable doom it was to bestow the kiss of death on all the younger sons of his fated house, just when they reached the age of promise. His gigantic, shadowy form, clothed like the ghost in Hamlet, in complete armour, but with the beaver up, was seen at midnight, by the moon’s fitful beams, to advance slowly along the gloomy avenue. The shape was lost beneath the shadow of the castle walls; but soon a gate swung back, a step was heard, the door of the chamber opened, and he advanced to the couch of the blooming youths, cradled in healthy sleep. Eternal sorrow sat upon his face as he bent down and kissed the forehead of the boys, who from that hour withered like flowers snapt upon the stalk. I have not seen these stories since then; but their incidents are as fresh in my mind as if I had read them yesterday. “We will each write a ghost story,” said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to. There were four of us. The noble author began a tale, a fragment of which he printed at the end of his poem of Mazeppa. Shelley, more apt to embody ideas and sentiments in the radiance of brilliant imagery, and in the music of the most melodious verse that adorns our language, than to invent the machinery of a story, commenced one founded on the experiences of his early life. Poor Polidori had some terrible idea about a skull-headed lady, who was so punished for peeping through a key-hole—what to see I forget—something very shocking and wrong of course; but when she was reduced to a worse condition than the renowned Tom of Coventry, he did not know what to do with her, and was obliged to despatch her to the tomb of the Capulets, the only place for which she was fitted. The illustrious poets also, annoyed by the platitude of prose, speedily relinquished their uncongenial task. I busied myself to think of a story,—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name. I thought and pondered—vainly. I felt that blank incapability of invention which is the greatest misery of authorship, when dull Nothing replies to our anxious invocations. Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative. Every thing must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase; and that beginning must be linked to something that went before. The Hindoos give the world an elephant to support it, but they make the elephant stand upon a tortoise. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself. In all matters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to the imagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus and his egg. Invention consists in the capacity of seizing on the capabilities of a subject, and in the power of moulding and fashioning ideas suggested to it. Many and long were the conversations between Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener. During one of these, various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and among others the nature of the principle of life, and whether there was any probability of its ever being discovered and communicated. They talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin, (I speak not of what the Doctor really did, or said that he did, but, as more to my purpose, of what was then spoken of as having been done by him,) who preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case, till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion. Not thus, after all, would life be given. Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth. Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by, before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision,—I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handywork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing, which had received such imperfect animation, would subside into dead matter; and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench for ever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes. I opened mine in terror. The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around. I see them still; the very room, the dark parquet, the closed shutters, with the moonlight struggling through, and the sense I had that the glassy lake and white high Alps were beyond. I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; still it haunted me. I must try to think of something else. I recurred to my ghost story,—my tiresome unlucky ghost story! O! if I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night! Swift as light and as cheering was the idea that broke in upon me. “I have found it! What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.” On the morrow I announced that I had thought of a story. I began that day with the words, It was on a dreary night of November, making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream. At first I thought but of a few pages—of a short tale; but Shelley urged me to develope the idea at greater length. I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented to the world. From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him. And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart. Its several pages speak of many a walk, many a drive, and many a conversation, when I was not alone; and my companion was one who, in this world, I shall never see more. But this is for myself; my readers have nothing to do with these associations. London, October 15, 1831” Listen  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureOur new podcast  series, “At the Bottom of the Sea”, starts one rainy afternoon in Tromso, a small town in North Norway some time in the near future. We follow a number of characters as they board a helicopter. There is Frank Hansen, a military diver, Fatima Ali, the cook and several others. The aircraft are heading to a converted oil rig in the middle of the North Sea. There, a diving vessel will take them to the sea floor and a research base, a permanent settlement 2000 m below the surface. However, something goes wrong, and soon events unfold which baffle the imagination and test them all. The Cast Frank Hansen (military diver) Krister Brandser Fatima Ali (cook) Julie Hoverson Peter Edwardsen (base leader) Peter Yearsley Henrik Abelsen (genius mathmatician) George Snow Hans Storm (biologist) mentioned character Egon Gundersen (engineeer) mentioned character  Schultz (chief engineer)  mentioned character Inga & Nils (twins, kitchen help)  mentioned characters The play was written and edited by  Michael Henrik Wynn ( editor) Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 1. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 2. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 3. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 4. (conclusion) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyMy name is dr. John Smith, and I am – or rather was – a GP in a mid-sized town. I am about to retire, my own health is failing, and I wish to pass on some memories of a patient that really meant a lot to me. Of course, we had no private friendship, but I did talk to him in consultations and I bumped into him now and again in the street. At the time I had just turned fifty, the desperation and ambition of my midlife crisis had passed. I had packed up my leather jackets and my tight training outfits, and had accepted that I would remain in my small practice for the rest of my life. My wife had long since packed up her things and left, allegedly on the grounds of my ties to the male patriarchy, and my son had a pregnant girlfriend in the capital, far from his patronizing, though always well-meaning father. What remained for me then was my own mother, whom I visited every Sunday in her home, bringing various things that she needed from the shops. I also learnt that my only friend, Peter, my colleague at the practice, had been offered a wonderful job in the pharmaceutical industry with a huge pay, and would be transferring some of his patients who did not want a new GP that required lengthy travels to me. I was very sad that last day I saw him in our clinic, even though I knew he would always be there for me on the phone, and that I could visit him whenever I wanted. Work not be the same. As I went through the list of my new patients, I saw that most of them were old, including old Jacob, the subject of this story. At the time, however, he was one of many, and it is in fact because he was so typical that he has remained in my mind all these years. I first saw him a Wednesday in June, and he was a tall thin man in his mid eighties. His face was wrinkled like sun dried-leather, and his brows were bushy, but he had a modest, almost shy smile, and very intelligent eyes. He seemed surprisingly agile for a man his age. Since this was our first meeting, he told me something about himself. He was not an educated man by any means, he had been a fisherman, and then a truck driver, but he had also been on some ship ages ago. This man is an anachronism, I thought, how many old sailors are left these days? I listened to his chest, made examinations, did blood work, nothing unusual. He then got up and left, and the results were Ok when they arrived, which I told him the next time. It was not until August that year that he started complaining about pain and being short of breath, and I then sent him to the local hospital for further tests, knowing his age. At this time, I was feeling a little lonely privately, and I had decided to scan all my mother’s family photos, and restore them digitally. I had nothing to do when I was alone in my apartment, and this also gave me a subject on which to chat and reminiscence with my mother. She was more than delighted, and often looked at each photo with a nostalgic smile. Everything was tied to a story, and even though she had recounted all of these stories God knows how many times, I enjoyed hearing them again. Somehow, I was reminded about who I was, and where I had come from. And this knowledge was more powerful than my wife’s irrational, but long-anticipated departure or my son’s indifference. When I returned from these meetings, I felt that I had more energy in my work, and I spoke to the likes of old Jacob, and was more dutiful in the performance of my job. Once I asked Jacob whether he had anyone to support him during his old age, knowing that my mother at least had me. “Do you know my age?”, he asked. “Yes, but still…” “Everyone I know has long since left this world, and I have no children. You see as you grow older, you will notice that one by one witnesses leave you, one by one..” “Witnesses……?” “Yes, the people who was the life you once had. Who knew you while you still were a man about town and so on.” “I don’t think I have ever qualified for that description. I have been a nerd all my life. God knows I have tried…” “I was a very smooth operator in my prime”, he said with a very unexpected confidence in his gray eyes. As I looked at his face then, I tried to restore the man in my mind the way he had once been. If you straightened out his wrinkles, if you removed the bushy brows, if you corrected his back, and if you gave him a thick black mane, perhaps oiled, he would be a very handsome man! I shuck my head at the thought. But then I looked at him, and laughed. That was a very nice moment for the two of us. And then he left. That evening I went to the shop to get things for my mother. She was very particular about what she ate. Some people think picky eating is an eccentric and demanding cry for attention, but being a doctor I knew very well that the reason was related to bowel movements and stuff that most people feel uncomfortable discussing with others. So, I got her what she demanded. I arrived at the home around seven. Evening was falling, yet no stars were up. As I entered and walked down the white linoleum corridors towards the counter, I noticed at once something new in the glances from the nurses. As I placed my hands its surface, I knew that something had happened. My mother had a sudden heart attack, and had passed away very suddenly in the evening. It had been very quick, she had not suffered, they told me. But somehow that did not matter. I almost ran home, locked the door to my apartment, drew the curtains and cried. I then sent an email to work, and called in sick. In fact I did not leave my home for three days, when I was forced to get food from the store. I spoke to no-one, and I only called my son four days after my mother’s death. I have always been reluctant to burden my son with my own feelings and problems. I have always felt that parents should remain a rock in their children’s lives, and that part of being a parent is hiding those frustrations that one feels at work or elsewhere, and provide safety and security. After all, that is what remained in my own experience. Being a doctor I have dealt with the practicalities of funerals many times. But this time it was different. Going online and visiting what seems like a brochure of various coffins somehow seems perverse. “Special autumn sale!” “20% discount on our finest model!” And when you enter the store in person, and that slick salesman slides in front you with exaggerated sympathy, accompanied by words like “payment options” and “down payment”, it adds to a certain surrealism. And that surrealism is what remains of the person that you once were. I walked down the shop floor feeling the fabric and texture of coffin interiors, the smoothness of their varnish. Then I was overcome by grief and asked for the bathroom. I sat there for ten minutes, staring at the tiled floors. As I left, I had decided upon a model, and was about to wave to the salesman, when I saw him in what seemed like a very pleasant conversation with an elderly man. I heard laughter, the old man patted the young salesman on the shoulder. When the man turned, I recognized old Jacob. His eyesight was poor, I knew, and he hadn’t seen me at the far end of the shop. I withdrew into the corner, and saw him striding about the room touching the coffins one by one. “I will take this one,” he suddenly said. Then he produced his credit card, paid and brought up what seemed like a shopping list. He had a small pencil, and then then crossed out one item. Then he left. The whole scene had come so suddenly, that I quite forgot about my own purchase. The salesman approached me, but I stood completely stunned for a while. “I will be back tomorrow,” I said and made for the exit. It was late September, and there were leaves on the sidewalk. Old Jacob was three hundred meters down the road moving very slowly. I don’t know what came over me, but I followed him at a distance. 200 meters farther on there was a huge supermarket. He then vanished in a crowd, but I tracked him down in the milk section. There he noticed me and his face lit up with that shy smile of that former smooth operator. “Hello Jacob,” I said nervously, what are you doing here?” “Shopping!” he said, “I needed some things”. Then he lifted a liter of milk and placed it in his shopping cart next to a box of coffee. “That would be it!” he said. And then he brought out his list and his small pencil, and crossed out his items. And then he left. I never saw him again. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyArchaeologists have discovered a treasure deep in the jungles of meso-America more valuable than any city of gold: a Mayan writing system that developed in isolation from Europe or the ancient cultures of Africa and Asia. However, due to the passage of time and our own brutality as colonizers only fragments remain. But what do we know about these sophisticated, urban people and their hieroglyphs?  As always, language offers rare glimpses into the minds of the defeated. contacted Brown University’s Anthropology department, and talked to Mallory Matsumoto, a Ph.d. student who is a specialist on Maya culture and writing. The Maya were one of the very few literate cultures in ancient meso-America, how common was reading and writing among their people? Did everyone know how to read and write? Mallory Matsumoto: As far as we can tell—from the quantity of texts we have, their contents and contexts, archaeological evidence for scribes, and comparison with other cultures—only a small minority in pre-Columbian Maya society would have been able to read or write. Moreover, these people probably would have been elites; some lower-status persons or commoners, who were the majority, may have been able to recognize the hieroglyphs as writing or even interpret a few signs, but probably did not engage with the writing system much more than that. Did the Maya use literature for personal entertainment like we do today? Mallory Matsumoto: For the most part, we don’t have direct evidence indicating in what context or for what purposes the Maya used their hieroglyphic texts—we must deduce this largely from text content and context, including where and when it was created. For example, some monumental texts were positioned to be clearly visible to people, in a space that would have been accessible to many; thus, these may have been intended to serve a broadcasting function. Their texts often record historical or biographical information about the dynasty and appear with images of the king or his allies. The relatively few surviving murals, like those at Bonampak, Rio Azul, or Xultun, would have only been visible to those who were able to enter the building or tomb in which they were painted, and in some cases, the hieroglyphs were small enough that the viewer would need to come up to the wall to read them. In contrast, writing on portable objects, like ceramic vessels or ornaments, is thought to have been intended for more restricted or even individual use. These texts may more directly address the object itself or a mythological narrative, for example, rather than political events. Do we know anything about what sort of literature they had? Is it possible to talk of any Maya literary style, for instance? Mallory Matsumoto: Unfortunately, it’s not clear to what extent the texts we have represent the entire breadth of Maya hieroglyphic writing as it was used in pre-Columbian times. Most hieroglyphic texts have not survived, because of a combination of preservation bias that favors materials more durable than bark paper or (probably) palm leaves, (intentional or otherwise), and random chance. Nonetheless, one key stylistic feature of Maya writing and orality for which we have ample evidence is parallelism, a strategy of articulating two or more comparable elements (words, grammatical forms, etc.) to add nuance or communicate additional meaning. In its most basic form, this strategy juxtaposes two elements (words, grammatical forms, etc.) in a couplet. But more elaborate examples can combine three or more elements to convey very subtle levels of nuance. We have examples of parallelism in hieroglyphic texts from pre-Columbian times, as well as in alphabetic writing and oral traditions recorded since the early colonial period, and it remains an integral component of Maya expression through the present. Many of the books were of course destroyed during the Spanish conquest by people like Diego De Landa? Do we know anything about what was lost? What do the sources tell us about what Landa destroyed? Mallory Matsumoto: Almost all pre-Columbian books have been destroyed or lost. Some simply decayed; painted and plastered bark paper would have needed extraordinary conditions to survive, especially in the hot, humid Maya Lowlands. In this context, it is unsurprising that the four books that we do have all date to within a few centuries of European contact. Archaeologists have found eroded remains of much older, pre-Columbian books, but they are illegible because they are so fragmentary. Most of those books that did manage to survive the stress of time, the elements, and general wear and tear, were abandoned or confiscated by colonial officials as part of cultural persecution under European colonialism. Because these books were written in a writing system completely foreign to the colonizers and many books were integral components of Maya spiritual and ritual practice, they were seen generally as threats to the Europeans’ civilizing and evangelizing mission. We do have records of Europeans seeing these books, but for the most part, their descriptions have proved to be unreliable for reconstructing the original books’ contents. More frequently, they refer to the documents in passing as exotic and impenetrable, if not outright threatening, objects. What about the remaining manuscripts, what sort of text are they? Mallory Matsumoto: Only four books or codices are known to have survived into the present. These books contain hieroglyphs and images painted on bark paper, and their contents are, as far as we can tell, largely calendrical, religious, or astronomical. However, many passages are still opaque, so there is plenty that these codices have left to tell that we don’t yet understand. Are there any significant literary texts inscribed in stone? Mallory Matsumoto: Almost all known hieroglyphic writing is preserved on more durable media, like stone or ceramic, although a handful of surviving texts were recorded on wood, bone, shell, or other, more fragile materials. Hence, texts inscribed in stone have been critical in decipherment efforts and in the ongoing development of our understanding of pre-Columbian Maya political history, among other issues. However, they are not, as far as we can tell, representative of all genres of Maya writing: those on stone monuments typically deal with politically, historically, or dynastically relevant information, whereas those on portable stone objects like jade celts or earspools are, necessarily, briefer, and tend to focus on the immediate context of the object itself and its user. What about the oral traditions of the Maya people, do they in any way reflect what you have discovered in manuscripts and in texts? Mallory Matsumoto: Many narratives known from later oral traditions probably would have been recorded in books and other media that have not survived into the present. We see hints of this in texts from the colonial period, most famously the Popol Wuj, that record community histories and cosmology. However, it’s likely that much content of known oral traditions would not have readily been written down during the colonial period, at least not in documents that were made available to those from outside the local community, because they could have been seen as incompatible with European (especially Christian) values. We have a small number of comparable texts from the pre-Columbian period as well, including the four surviving codices, but most known hieroglyphic texts are different in content and style from oral traditions that have been recorded since European contact. The Maya language system seems very difficult, does it bear any resemblance to any other language found in meso-America or elsewhere? Mallory Matsumoto: Mayan languages form their own linguistic family and are not known to be related to other languages in Mesoamerica, but there has been a substantial amount of contact and borrowing between Mayan languages and those spoken by their neighbors, including Mixtec, Zapotec, and Nahuatl. The language primarily recorded in hieroglyphic texts, now referred to as Classic Mayan, is no longer spoken today. Even at the time, it was probably an elite, literary language that was not spoken by most of the population. Around 30 Mayan languages are spoken now by several million people, although most of them are not directly descended from Classic Mayan. Do you know if the rediscovery of the Mayan script has influenced any modern mexican writers, or literary movements? Mallory Matsumoto: Research on pre-Columbian Maya contexts has certainly influenced contemporary literary and artistic movements. Artists are incorporating elements and motifs from pre-Columbian Maya culture into their paintings, sculptures, prose, poetry, etc. Growing interest, both locally and internationally, in (especially pre-Columbian) Maya society and culture has also generally inspired more pride and association in some contemporary Maya peoples with the heritage of the more distant past. One important, recent development in this context has been the revitalization of the hieroglyphic script itself, led by local and international intellectuals interested in reclaiming the ancient writing system in the present. In addition to hosting workshops to disseminate knowledge of the script, they have also created new murals, paintings, books, and monuments with hieroglyphic writing. What is the most surprising thing you have discovered after the Mayan scripts were deciphered? Mallory Matsumoto: One key realization, catalyzed by the work of Tatiana Proskouriakoff and Heinrich Berlin in the mid-20th century, has been that the content of hieroglyphic texts, especially on monuments, is overwhelmingly historical and biographical, rather than singly focused on esoteric, spiritual themes. This advancement had consequences for our view of pre-Columbian Maya civilization as a whole—as scholars have become able to read more and more and have interpreted them as historical sources, they have developed a more dynamic view of Maya politics and warfare, among other aspects of society. It continues to drive much current epigraphic and archaeological research as we have been able to reveal more of the complexities of pre-Columbian Maya society. For me personally, one of the more surprising aspects of studying the Maya hieroglyphic script has been the sheer diversity of the corpus—of the text forms and contents, of the objects on which they were created, of the manner of presenting the texts, of the materials used to produce them, of the contexts in which they were made and used, among other aspects. It continues to remind me just how many perspectives and corners of Maya epigraphy there are to be explored. Are there any remaining mysteries concerning the Mayan scripts? Mallory Matsumoto: Despite decades of intense and insightful epigraphic work, the Maya hieroglyphic script has not yet been fully deciphered; a number of glyphs cannot yet be interpreted, phonetically, semantically, or both. The early and late hieroglyphic texts remain some of the most enigmatic—to really understand the history and development of the script, we need to be able to read them, which will require the discovery of additional texts and more concentrated effort from scholars. We also know relatively little, for instance, about how much linguistic diversity that the hieroglyphic script records. Most texts seem to have been written in a relatively standard variant, now called Classic Mayan, but this elite literary language would not have been the primary language of everyone, certainly not most non-elites across the region who spoke any of many different Mayan languages. Scholars have found some evidence of local, vernacular influence on hieroglyphic texts, but we still do not fully understand the relationship of the writing system to spoken languages(s), and work on this topic remains ongoing. And these are just a few examples—there certainly plenty of issues waiting to be addressed by future generations of Maya epigraphers. Every discovery or advancement in Maya archaeology or epigraphy raises more questions. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureMorocco is a land of contrasts, with scenery ranging from the most beautiful mountain valleys to deserts and sprawling metropolitan areas. It is also a land of unequal wealth, a gap between the rich and the poor- prostitution and crime. Yet, while the arab world has been in turmoil, Morocco has remained fairly stable. It is perhaps not so strange then that the country is the center of an unlikely arabic revival: the police procedural. We talked with the founder of the arab noir genre, Abdelilah Hamdouchi, and we followed the literary traces of his hero, detective Hannach, through some distinctly Moroccan alleyways. Tell us a little about your background. When and how did you decide to become a crime writer? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: When I decided to write my first crime novel in late 90s, Morocco had just started a new political experience under the banner “A Government of Change”. This change followed a general amnesty for all political prisoners. Also, some democratic practices began to take hold in the running of the state and society, to the extent that a former convict and exiled leftist became head of the government. In those days, I had penned novels about social affairs, but no one took notice of these writings. So I decided to try the crime novel, even if I only was familiar with Agatha Christie in this niche. A while back I heard a theory that no crime novel could exist in a non-democratic country, simply because the citizens in dictatorships didn’t trust the police? Yet, your Moroccan police procedurals show otherwise? Do Moroccans trust the police? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: This is relatively true, the crime novel finds its space in democratic countries; or human rights and the law. Russia, for example, never knew this kind of literature during the Soviet era, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and the Francoist Spain neither, and the first crime novel in Spain was written after the death of dictator Franco in Spain in 1974. This can be said of dictatorships in Africa and in Latin America. But, of course, it does not prevent exceptions from emerging, like the author Leonardo Padura, who wrote the crime novels in Cuba. My country, Morocco, is a special case in the sense that we have always lived under a regime that adapts by drawing red lines not to cross, including the kingship, the territorial unit and the Moslem religion, Malekite. If someone goes beyond these red lines, he is overtaken by the law. Otherwise everything is subject to opinions and criticisms freely. When did Moroccans begin reading crime fiction, and what sort of crime fiction do they prefer? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: My experience is unique and even avant-garde in Arab culture. In part, this has left me with almost a feeling of rush to be translated into English and other languages. The Hoopoe Publishing House has commissioned me for a series of Moroccan thrillers whose hero is a certain Hannach. The crime novel is almost absent in our literature and Moroccan cultures in particular and Arabs in general. Even translations are limited to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. They say many Italian police procedurals have open endings or let the bad guy get away because they reflect public expectations of corruption and incompetence in the police force? Is there a similar tradition in Morocco? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: We must not forget that Italy is the country of the Mafia and organized crime. The majority of the crimes in Morocco are of individual nature or connected to family affairs, and the motives are often money-related or sentimental. Organized crime, like in Italy, is almost absent. It is true that Moroccans are part of mafia organizations, but the majority of crimes are individual. What sort of hero is Detective Hannach? How does he compare with let’s say Mankell’s Wallander? Does he drink? Is he flawed in any way? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: Hannach is fond of life: he loves beautiful women and has experienced both good and bad times, against a backdrop of corruption, he has a good heart. How does he go about solving his crimes, does he have a method or does he just stumble his way towards a solution in the manner of Philip Marlowe? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: First, he has a proper background. He worked in the narcotics brigade in Tangier and built a career.  He then joined the criminal brigade in Casablanca, where his experience with the drug squad helped him in his new mission, especially since he is intelligent and organizes his teams with professionalism. Before solving the crime, he asks all his colleagues their opinion. What about yourself, how do you write your novels? Do you write on instinct or do you outline the plot in advance? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: In general, before I start writing, I have a pretty clear idea of ​​my subject. I am inspired by various facts; to put my writing technique at the service of the crime novel with everything that leaves the reader in the pleasure of reading. Do you have any literary role models, writers who inspired you when you started writing? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: In principle I have no model, I read a lot, literature, crime novels, other than that I admire the clear and transparent style of Paul Auster. Also I much admire Henning Mankell. You were among the first to write modern police procedurals in your country. Have you met with any difficulties? How were your first novels received? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: My first crime novel was about the world of Hashish, and lower-ranking police officers who made a considerable effort to dismantle the traffic, and who see their effort in the water following the interventions of the officers. The purpose of this crime novel was to convey a certain message. This first noir was well received, both commercially and critically, which resulted in the making of a TV movie. According to Al Jazeera, Maurice Leblanc’s golden age rogue, Arsene Lupin, is popular in the arab world. Would you say that the cozy 1920’s crime puzzle still fascinates Moroccans? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: I’m not so sure about Al Jazeera Television’s conclusions, but the Arab reader does not consume a lot of crime novels, due to a lack of available translations. Apart from yourself, are there other major crime writers in Morocco? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: Yes, there is another author who writes in French, and who (coincidentally) has the same surname as me, Miloudi Hamdouchi. He was a very popular detective writer in the 90s and was known as “Colombo” in the popular press. You can buy 3 of Hamdouchi’s latest thrillers at Amazon. Whitefly (2016) The Final Bet (2016)  Bled Dry (2017) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureLaura White is a renowned expert on Jane Austen. However, she has chosen a novel approach to this classic British icon. The Nebraska professor is an innovator in the emerging field of digital humanities, and studies literature by means of a computer. The rigid divide between human creativity and the world of binary computer code is quickly being bridged, according to Google.  I had a few words with professor White about this new branch of study, and what it means for writing and literary studies. You have studied Jane Austen, have you discovered something new about her, something we couldn’t have discovered without the use of a computer? Professor White: Yes, I think so. What we did was identify (code) each and every word in the six major novels as to speaker. That’s easy to do for the narrator and character speech, but trickier with free indirect diction, when the narrator is “speaking for” a character, using his or her vocabulary and point of view. Such shared speech we coded as such, and weighted to reflect the depth of ventriloquism. The results are not yet fully known, because what we created is a public sandbox in which people can design their own searches about diction to use the coding we created—there is a lot waiting to be discovered. But at the very least we found that Austen’s use of free indirect discourse (and she was the first major novelist to exploit FID fully) was far more complex and varied than we (and all the scholars writing on the subject thus far) had suspected. We also have found some cute nuggets—for instance, the fact that no male character in Austen uses the word “wedding” and no female character uses the word “marriage”! When you began your studies of Austen, did you have to create your own methodology? Professor White: We had to create coding that would properly reflect the complexity of Austen’s speakers: was the speech spoken or written? How many levels of speaker are in a given phrase (in one letter, for instance, we have the string of Mrs.Younge-told-Darcy-told-Mr.Gardiner-told-Mrs.Gardiner-told-Elizabeth-told-reader). But the flexible marvel of .xml already existed, and even more importantly, the program TokenX, designed by our team member Brian Pytlik Zillig (Professor at UNL’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities), was at our service. TokenX determines unique frequencies of words and thus provides an easy-to-use interface for text analysis (especially through frequency tables) and visualization. I have heard of similar studies on Agatha Christie, and that they were able to create a profile of her style. Is this your goal with Jane Austen? Professor White: You can’t actually get to a full knowledge of Austen’s style, even by understanding her patterns of diction, because verbal irony (and its reverberations) can’t be caught mathematically—and her verbal irony is pervasive. But you can learn a lot about her use of free indirect diction, which is in turn important to understanding her style. One could make a profile about percentages of indirect diction, dialogue, and so on—but that would only be helpful to compare with other writers—or, using big data searches, comparing that data against the profile of such a thing as “the eighteenth-century British novel” or “Henry James” (the latter being an author who took Austen’s innovations with FID and ran with them about as far as they can be run). Our project may indeed do such things in the future—it’s the next obvious step. If you had something resembling a profile, not only of her choice of words, but of the larger patterns in her plot construction, do you think a computer could emulate Austen? Could it produce a fake Austen, so to speak? Professor White: You could perhaps create an Austen that could fool some people, but it wouldn’t be a good fake. Unless you can feed in her values (not possible) AND her education, including but not restricted to her reading (difficult) AND the operations of her irony (not possible), you’ll just get a partial simulacrum. This new approach could be used to compare authors, and then detect larger patterns in literary and cultural history. Austen is of course a central figure in the development of the English novel. In the past, this has been studied by Ian Watt and others. Do you think we now could have a more empirical history of literature? Professor White: I do think we can have more data that tells us interesting things about patterns of diction and clusters of tropes across large bodies of texts—a lot of people at UNL, such as my colleagues Steve Ramsay and Matt Jockers, do work on just that sort of thing. Matt for instance has very recently uncovered a lot of information about patterns among popular fiction, especially bestsellers. If we can design the right questions, we can find some interesting answers. But as I pointed out before, huge literary elements such as irony can’t be reckoned computationally, so a Theory of All Lit from digital humanities is impossible. Gillian Beer, Arthur O. Lovejoy and others have specialized in detecting patterns from the history of ideas in fiction. Can a computer assist us in this type of study? Professor White: This kind of work is my favorite kind of scholarship to read, that which finds the largest patterns in imaginative literature over the centuries. I’d recommend your readers go to Northrop Frye’s The Anatomy of Criticism (1957) for the best of such of work; Eric Auerbach’s Mimesis (1946) is also marvelous. For finding the largest patterns in the Bible, read Frye’s The Great Code (1982) (admittedly very demanding). And, yes, to some degree, computers can help with this kind of work, especially with discerning patterns of diction and plot (though in the latter case obviously the text won’t tell you its own plot—a human being has to schematize what happens and feed that information in). Where do you see the field of digital humanities in 20 years or so? Professor White: Moving upward and onwards. By the 90s, humanities had been somewhat exhausted following the usual roads of literary criticism—I don’t generally advise students to focus on Jane Austen, for instance, because it’s very hard to find room for an original thought. One way the humanities are being revitalized is with a much more stringent attention to history, and digital humanities plays a role here too by making it easy to read texts long forgotten, literary and otherwise. For instance, in my recent book on Carroll’s Alice books, I made much use of the texts in Carroll’s library of about 3,000 volumes. They were all auctioned off at his death, but catalogs of the library which have been produced by Jeffrey Stern and Charlie Lovett let one read his library cover to cover through Googlebooks, Hathitrust, and other such digitization initiatives. When read in detail, one finds this virtual library corrects many of the critical and biographical misperceptions about Carroll. And these resources are just a small part of how digital humanities is transforming literary studies: visualization, archives, data-mining all play a part. Some people think that creativity is unique to us as humans, and may feel threatened by the fact that our “cultural soul” is gradually dissected by computers. What do you say to them? Professor White: I’d agree that creativity is unique to humans, though some of the higher apes do seem to like to finger-paint. Computers can’t be creative—it isn’t possible. They can be programmed to make wild outputs, and we might think creative thoughts about those generated outputs, but there’s no creativity on the part of the computer involved. We are more threatened by computers in terms of surveillance; we are not at all private when we’re online, and big data (which doesn’t care about us as individuals) can nonetheless potentially be retrofitted to be small data, fingering us one by one. So people are right to worry about this—since human beings are in charge of computers, it is very unlikely that they will always be used for good (no other human invention has been).   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storySCARFACE, a short mafia novel by Maurice R. Coons (1902-1930) CHAPTER I Tony Guarino, destined to be the greatest of all America’s notorious gang leaders, was eighteen when he committed his first serious crime. And the cause, as is so often the case, was a woman. But what a woman! Standing there in the dark alley that gave access to the street from the sheet-iron stage door of the cheap burlesque house, Tony could visualize her easily. A tall, stately blonde with golden hair, and a pink and white complexion and long, graceful white legs. From the audience he had watched those legs many times while she danced her way through the performance and they never failed to give him a tingly thrill that left him rather breathless. The stage door opened suddenly, letting a square of yellow light out on the throng of dark, overdressed men and older boys waiting, like so many wolves, for their night’s prey. Then the door slammed shut with a dull clang, plunging the alley into darkness again, and a girl swished rapidly through the crowd, seemingly oblivious of the hands that reached out to detain her and of the raucous voices that brazenly offered invitations. It was she! None but Vyvyan Lovejoy used that particular heavy, sensuous perfume. Tony plunged after her, toward the lights and noise that indicated the street. She paused at the sidewalk, a lithe, slender figure, overdressed in a vivid green ensemble suit with a skirt that was both too short and too tight, and glittering with much imitation jewellery. People with a proper perspective would have recognised her for the false and dangerous beacon of allure that she was, but to Tony she was marvellous, something to worship and possess. He moved up beside her and took off his cap. That was one of the things he had learned from the movies, the only social tutor he had ever had. “Good evening, Miss Lovejoy.” She turned on him the face he thought so lovely. He couldn’t see that its complexion was as false as her jewellery; couldn’t see the ravages of dissipation that lay beneath the paint and powder; didn’t notice the hard cruel lines about the garish mouth, nor the ruthless greed in the painted, rather large nose. As she surveyed him, contempt came into her hardened bold face and her greenish eyes took on a strange glitter. “You!” she said. “Again.” “No – yet.” Tony laughed at what he thought a brilliant witticism. “And I’m going to keep on being here every night till you give me a date.” The girl laughed, a short, sharp, mirthless sound that was more like a grunt. “Can you imagine the nerve of the punk?” she demanded as though addressing an audience, but her cold green eyes bored straight into Tony’s defiant black ones. “Just a mere child without even a car and trying to date me up. Say, kid, do you know who my boyfriend’s?” “No, and I don’t care,” retorted Tony with the passion-inspired recklessness of the Latin. “But I’m going to be.” “Well, it’s Al Spingola.” Something inside of Tony suddenly went cold. Al Spingola was one of the city’s important gang leaders, a ruthless man with a big income, a lot of hoodlums who were loyal to him because they feared him and he paid them well, and a quick trigger finger himself. A dangerous man! “Aw, I bet he ain’t so hot,” answered Tony stubbornly. “Well, maybe not,” conceded Vyvyan, “but at least he can give a girl sonip’m more substantial than kisses … whenever you get a flock o’ dough, kid, an’ a big car, why come around and then maybe I’ll talk to you.” She laughed again and stepped out to the curb as a big shiny limousine drew up with a rush and stopped. Tony started after her. Then he paused as he recognised the man at the wheel of that car. It was Al Spingola! A heavy-set, swarthy man with hard, reckless dark eyes and a cruel mouth with thick, brutal lips, handsomely dressed in grey and with an enormous diamond glittering in his tie. As everyone knew, the most important part of his dress lay snugly against his hip, a snub-nosed blue steel revolver seldom seen, but when it was, sure to be heard and felt by someone. Tony realised that for him to say another word to Vyvyan then would be certain death. Not at the moment, of course, because that place was too public. But within a few days his body would be found in an alley somewhere. Spingola glanced at Tony as the girl climbed into the car. And the boy felt cold and nervous until the expensive machine purred away at high speed. Spingola, like other of his ilk, always drove at high speed, thereby lessening his availability as a target. Tony watched the car race away, then he put on his cap and lighted a cigarette. Walking around the corner to a poolroom which was his main hang-out, he sat down in one of the high chairs to think out this thing that was his first adult problem. Usually his mind, even though uneducated, was alert and precise, its processes rapid and sound. But now it was dulled by the gnawing, overpowering hunger of his first great passion. Of course he had had any number of affairs with the neighbourhood girls; no boy as good-looking as he could help that. But somehow they hadn’t satisfied him. He wanted something bigger, more mature than the shallow, entirely physical emotion that these girls offered. He was shockingly old for his age, as is almost every boy from such an environment. He looked twenty-five with his wise eyes, cynical mouth and well-developed beard that left a heavy pattern on his swarthy cheeks. And he possessed more actual knowledge of mankind and its vagaries than most men acquire in a lifetime. You could have set him down flat broke in any city in the world and he wouldn’t have missed a meal. Nor would he have needed to steal; stealing was the way of people without brains. He held a contempt for thieves; particularly those of the petty larceny variety. “Say!” whispered a surly voice in his ear. Tony looked up into a rat face topped by a dirty, rumpled checked cap. “Well?” he said coldly. “Some of us are going out and knock over some gas stations,” answered the other boy hoarsely. “Want to come along?” “No.” “It’ll be an even split all round.” “No,” I said. I ain’t risking a pinch for a coupla bucks.” “Aw, there’ll be more than that, Tony. All those places got fifty, sixty bucks laying around. An’ there’ll only be about four of us.” “Screw!” snarled Tony. “Before I paste you one.” The other boy hurried away, muttering to himself. To the other boys who loafed around this poolroom, Tony was a puzzle. They never became intimate with him the way they did with each other. Somehow it just never occurred to them to do so. They realised the difference; so did he. But neither of them knew the reason. A psychologist would have explained it by saying that Tony had a mental percentage on the others, it was the difference between a man destined for leadership and men destined to run in the pack. Most of the boys in the neighbourhood made illegal forays nightly. Never in their own ward, of course, because that would have alienated the alderman. Whereas when they made raids only in outside wards, their own alderman – in case they were arrested – would come down to the station, tell what fine reputations they had in their neighbourhood, and help get them out. Then on Election Day, each hoodlum not only voted fifteen or twenty times, but hordes of them swept through the ward and threatened everyone with dire reprisals if the alderman were not re-elected by a handsome majority. And the people, realising the truth of these threats, re-elected the alderman, even though they knew he was a grand old thug. Tony always refused to join these nightly expeditions for ill-gotten gains. “Petty larceny stuff,” as he contemptuously referred to their depredations, did not interest him. He wanted to be a big shot, a leader, perhaps a politician. He had a hunger for command, for power, for wealth. And he meant to have it all. In the meantime, though he had no job that anyone knew of and although he refused to fall in with the criminal ways of his neighbours, he dressed better than they and seemed to have all the money he needed. Many of the boys wondered about that, but inasmuch as he chose to volunteer nothing, it was likely to remain a mystery for, in that neighbourhood, one did not inquire into the source of income of even an intimate friend. And Tony had no intimate friends. There was a sudden commotion at the front door of the poolroom and several burly men came in. Some of the people already present tried to escape by the back door, only to be confronted and driven back in by other burly men coming in there. Detectives, of course, going to look over the crowd. Knowing that they had nothing on him, Tony watched with faint amusement and a large sense of virtue while the dicks went through the poorly lighted, smoke-filled room, tapping hips, asking questions, occasionally bestowing a hard, backhand slap on the ugly mouth of some hoodlum who tried to talk back. As he had expected, they made no move to molest him. “This kid’s all right,” said a man he recognised as Lieutenant Grady from the neighbourhood station. “He’s Ben Guarino’s brother.” “That means nothing,” retorted a burly, cold-eyed man whose hard-boiled demeanour identified him as from headquarters. “Does to Tony!” snapped Grady. “We’ve never heard of him being outside, the law yet, either in this ward or any other.” “Thanks, Lieutenant!” smiled Tony. “Can’t I buy a cigar for you and the boys?” They all laughed at that. Not a man of them but what was old enough to be his father, yet he called them “boys” and they liked it. With all the poise and self-possession of a judge on his own bench, Tony led the crowd of officers to the front of the poolroom and purchased cigars for them all. Then they exchanged cheery “Good nights” with him and departed. Already Tony had learned the manifold advantage of having a good rep with the cops. Also he knew the great power that came from having people in one’s debt, even for such little things as cigars. Tony seldom accepted a favour from anyone, but if he did, he always tried to return one twice as big, thus removing his moral debt to them and making them indebted to him. He had the mind and soul of a master politician. Tony suddenly realised that the stuffy, smoke-filled atmosphere of the poolroom had given him a headache, and decided to go home. Except for occasional oases like the poolroom, the neighbourhood was a desert of gloom and deserted frowziness. Street lights were infrequent and those that existed were of the old-fashioned, sputtering type that, like some people, made a lot of noise but accomplished little. It hadn’t rained that night, yet there was an unhealthy dampness about. The dingy old buildings, with their ground-floor windows boarded up like blind eyes, seemed to hover malevolently over the narrow, dirty streets. One street that served as a push-cart market by day was littered with boxes and papers and heaps of reeking refuse. An occasional figure, either hunting or hunted, skulked along. Infrequently, a car raced past, awakening echoes that could be heard for blocks through the quiet streets. Over all hung a brooding stir of ever- present menace, an indefinable something that made sensitive strangers to the neighbourhood suddenly look back over their shoulders for no good reason. This was the setting of gangland, its spawning place, lair, and one of its principal hunting grounds. It was also Tony’s neighbourhood, the only environment he had ever known. But he could not see that a great scheme of circumstances, a web much too intricate for him to understand, had gradually been shaping his destiny since the day of his birth, that it was as difficult for him to keep from being a gangster as it was for a Crown Prince to keep from becoming King. Tony reached the little grocery store that his parents owned, and above which the family lived, passed to the door beyond, inserted his key and clattered up the dirty, uncarpeted steps. A light was on in the dining room, which also served as the parlour. Seated in an old rocker which had been patched with wire, sat Ben Guarino reading the paper, his blue uniformed legs and heavy, square-toed black shoes resting on the dirty red and white checked tablecloth. His revolver, resting in its holster, hung suspended by the cartridge belt from the back of another rickety chair upon which rested his uniform coat and cap. As Tony came in, Ben looked up. He was a stocky chap in the middle twenties with a brutal mouth and jaw and defiant dark eyes that usually held a baleful glitter. For a number of reasons, all of which he kept to himself, Tony felt that his brother was going to be a big success as a policeman. To Tony, the only difference between a policeman and a gangster was a badge. They both came from the same sort of neighbourhoods, had about the same education and ideas, usually knew each other before and after their paths diverged, and always got along well together if the gangsters had enough money. “Where you been so late?” demanded Ben truculently. “What the hell’s it to you?” retorted Tony, then remembering the favour he was going to ask, became peaceable. “I didn’t mean to be cross, Ben. But I got a nasty headache.” “Down to that O’Hara joint again, I suppose?” “Well, a fellow’s got to have some place to go in the evening. And the only other place is some dance hall with a lot o’ them cheap, silly broads.”“Getting choosy about your women, now, eh?” “Yes.” “Well, that’s right,” answered Ben with a grin. “There’s nothing will take a man to the top – or to the bottom – faster than a high-toned woman egging him on.” Suddenly his feet struck the floor and he leaned forward, his eyes boring straight into those of his brother. “Say, what’s this I hear about you delivering packages for Smoky Joe?” “Well?” “Didn’t you know there was dope in them packages?” “No, I didn’t. But now that I do, it’s going to cost him more.” “You let that stuff alone.” “Oh, all right. I suppose some cop belly-ached to you about it. Well, he can have that little graft, if he wants it. I got other things I can do.” “Yes, I guess you have,” agreed Ben drily, “from all I hear. So you been a lookout down at Mike Rafferty’s gambling joint, too?” “Yes. And why not? That’s a decent way of making a few bucks. Would you rather have me out pullin’ stick-ups like the rest of the guys in the neighbourhood?” “Of course not.” He leaned forward and spoke seriously. “Don’t ever get in no serious trouble, Tony; it would ruin me at headquarters.” “I won’t. Don’t worry about me. You got enough to do to watch your own step.” “What do you mean?” “Nothin’,” answered Tony casually with a smile, enjoying the sudden fear that had come into his brother’s face. “That’s just a friendly tip from a fellow that knows more than you think he does.” “Who?” demanded Ben hoarsely. “Me.” Tony grinned again and flipped his cigarette ashes on the bare floor. “Say, Ben, can I have your car tomorrow night?” “No. I’m using it myself. That’s my night off.” “How about the next night?” “No. You’d probably get in trouble with it. Kids and cars don’t go together.” “All right. I’ll have one o’ my own pretty soon and I’m going to get it as easy as you got that one.” With which parting shot, Tony went in to bed, slamming the door shut behind him. How a fellow making a hundred and fifty a month could acquire honestly a car that cost nearly six hundred sixteen pounds was too much for Tony. But then all policemen had big cars, and captains had strings of apartment buildings and sent their children to European finishing schools. The strange quiet that momentarily descended over the Guarino household at this time of night was balm to Tony. It was the only period of the twenty-four hours that he could spend at home without feeling that he was about to go crazy. The rest of the time it was … noise … He wondered if other people’s homes were as uninviting and repellent; all those he had ever seen were. He undressed quickly and climbed into the grimy bed which he and Ben shared. He wanted to sleep before Ben came in so that they couldn’t argue any more. But his mind was racing and it kept swinging around to Vyvyan Lovejoy. Even to think about her made him alternately hot and cold all over and left him trembling with anticipation. He would have her; none could stop him – not even Al Spingola. The fact that the woman he wanted belonged to another made not the slightest difference to Tony. All life was a battle and the strongest man got the gravy. Anyway, she had said she would talk to him if he had a car and some money. Well, he’d get them both and be back at that stage-door tomorrow night. CHAPTER II Promptly at ten-thirty the next night Tony Guarino entered the dark alley that led to the sheet-iron stage door of the tawdry Gaiety Theatre. And he swaggered a little as he walked. He felt big and powerful and grand, an unnatural exultation due partly to his having visited three saloons on the way over – an unusual occurrence for him – but due mainly to the fact that he was ready for anything. At the curb stood a fast and expensive sport roadster that ordinarily saw service in more nefarious enterprises. He had rented it for the evening – -just why he didn’t know. According to the people who were in that racket, stealing a car was about the easiest of all crimes, both to commit and to get away with; it was the way ninety per cent of criminals started. But he didn’t intend to be pinched the very first time that Vyvyan honoured him with her company – because she was going to go with him tonight, even if she didn’t know it yet – so he had rented the roadster for the night. In his pants pocket bulged a wad of bills that totalled £41.07 – all the money he had in the world. It was so arranged that a crisp new bill of £20.54 denomination served as wrapper on the outside. The inside, a few fives but mostly ones, expanded the £20 note until the roll looked to be worth ten times its real value. Thus he had everything she had asked for. But he also had something else. In his right hand side coat pocket rested an ugly blue steel revolver he had bought that afternoon. He had never carried a gun before and he found in it a big thrill. It gave one a sense of security and power, of equality with all the world. Why, with this revolver in his pocket he was just as good as Al Spingola. Thus Tony argued himself into a state of exaltation and high courage. But deep in his own soul he wondered just how he would act if he should be forced into an actual life-and-death encounter with Spingola. Vyvyan came prancing out a little early, glittering and fragrant as usual, an enormous picture hat framing her hard face. “Well, for God’s sake!” she exclaimed when she saw him. “Mary’s little lamb is on the job again.” “Bet your life,” grinned Tony. “An’ I got the car an’ a flock o’ dough like you wanted.” “You have?” she said mockingly. “Well, that puts little Johnny at the head of the class.” Tony’s grin faded suddenly and he grabbed her arm. “Listen, sister, don’t try to kid me!” he snarled. “You an’ I are going stepping tonight.” “Yeah?” “Yeah! So you might as well make up your mind to it and come along.” “Well,” she said wearily, “I’m not to see Al till tomorrow night so I suppose I might as well take a chance on you now. But I don’t want anyone to see us, so that he’ll hear about it.” She shivered slightly. “Al’s dangerous, kid. So drive to the corner of Taylor and Sangamon and wait for me there. I’ll take a taxi and be along within five minutes.” “You’re not giving me the run-around?” “Absolutely not. I’ll be there.” “Well, you better,” said Tony darkly. “Or I’ll be back tomorrow night and shoot up the place.” He entered the roadster and roared away, feeling very important. At the appointed corner, he waited nervously, muttering dire threats to himself. But she came, and hurriedly climbed in beside him. The narrow confines of the roadster caused their thighs to touch for their whole length and he felt a sudden thrill from the contact. When she looked up at him suddenly with a queer light in her greenish eyes, he knew she had felt his revolver. “It’s all right, baby,” he grinned reassuringly. “I won’t use it unless I have to.” He drove her to a North Side restaurant that was noted for its discretion. Seated opposite each other in a small private dining room on the second floor, they consumed a fine and expensive meal, and two bottles of champagne. Those were the days when real champagne could be had at almost any restaurant. The meal over, and with only another bottle and glasses on the table, Tony moved his chair around beside Vyvyan’s. She had progressed nicely and by now had reached the stage where she occasionally blew a long breath upward along her face with a loud whoosh as if to blow her hair out of her eyes. “Well, kid, how do you feel?” asked Tony, reaching for her hand. “Kinda warm,” she giggled. “So do I.” When he took her home shortly before five in the morning, she kissed him good night and climbed out of the roadster with a heavy sigh. “Boy, you sure can love!” she said weakly and tottered into her cheap hotel. Tony arose at noon that day. A close shave with plenty of powder at the end made him look a little less haggard. There was a curious sense of elation singing within him. At last he had mastered a real woman, a woman much older and more experienced than he. He had found, too, that it was the mastering of another that he enjoyed in love. The thirst for power was almost a mania with him. And the fact that circumstances and conditions made it so that he had no right to ever expect to have any made him want it all the more. His sister, Rosie, a tall, pretty girl of sixteen, cooked a meal for him. The six other children were at school. He ate hurriedly and in silence. There was so much to do now. Clattering down the stairs, his mother’s raucous, commanding shout reached his ears. He hesitated a moment, then entered the store, looking sullen and defiant. Mrs. Guarino was a squat, wrinkled Italian woman of fifty, with a figure like a loosely packed sack tied tightly in the middle, dressed in a shapeless, indescribable grey wrapper whose waistline was invisible from the front due to her breasts dripping over it. Her un-bobbed grey hair was drawn up all around and screwed into a tight knot atop her head. Heavy, plain gold ear-rings hung from holes punched through the lobes of her ears. Yet despite her ugliness and barbaric appearance, her features were good, indicating native intelligence and honesty. Carlotta Guarino was a good citizen. If only she could have made her children as good citizens as were she and their father – but then that was impossible, though she didn’t see why, nor did they. “Where’re you so late?” she demanded in rapid-fire Italian. “It’s after five when you came in.” “Aw, I was talking business with someone,” answered Tony in English. “What kind of business could you talk at that time of the morning?” she demanded again in Italian. “You come home earlier. You be a good boy like Ben and don’t get us into any trouble.” “All right,” assented Tony and hurried out, relieved at escaping after so short a grilling. That was the way it always went, reproaches, recriminations, cautions. She and his father could think of more things he shouldn’t do. It never occurred to him that they were endeavouring to implant in him their own code of ethics and honesty. Their crudeness of expression kept him from realising that. Even if he had realised it, he wouldn’t have accepted it. Because, while he loved his parents with the fierce, clan-love of the Latin, he did not respect their ideas. There were many logical reasons for that – their inability to learn English well, their inability to keep step with the times and country, their bewilderment – even after twenty years – at the great nation which they had chosen for their new home, the fact that even with his father working hard every day and his mother tending the little store they had been able to make only a bare living for the large family. So why should he accept their ideas on ethics? Where had those ideas gotten them? Tony didn’t intend to live in squalor like this all his life; he meant to be a big shot. Thus another decent home spawned another gangster, as inevitably as an oyster creates a pearl. There were other factors, of course, that contributed strongly in making Tony a gangster. His attitude toward the law, for instance. His first contact with it had come at the age of six when, hungry, he had snatched a pear off a push-cart and a policeman had chased him. Thus, from the first, he had known the law as an enemy instead of a protection, as something which stood between him and the fruition of his desires. His affair with Vyvyan seemed to have crystallised all this within him, to make him think and act with a ruthlessness and lawlessness hitherto foreign to him. From a booth in a corner drug store he telephoned her at her cheap hotel. “Hello, darling!” he said. “How do you feel?” “Not so hot,” she answered wearily. She sounded as if she had just awakened. “I’m kinda tired myself,” he admitted. “But it was a great night, so what’s the difference … Listen, Vyv, don’t forget that we got a date again tonight?” “I’m supposed to see Al tonight.” “To hell with Al!” Tony burst out angrily. “You’re seeing Al no more. Get that, baby. An’ if he gets rough, I’ll take care of him. I can gather up just as many gorillas for a battle as he can. So don’t worry about him. Leave as early as you can tonight – he never gets around till late – and meet me at the same corner where we met last night. An’ be there, baby, or there’ll be hell to pay.” The rest of the day Tony spent in making an inventory of all his rackets or ways of making money, with a few calls putting into smooth running order those that he had neglected somewhat recently and with other calls starting brand-new ones which were not a bit popular with the unwilling customers but which were going to be profitable to him. From now on he could afford to be interested only in the most profitable ones because he had a hunch that Vyvyan was going to be a mighty expensive proposition. Lounging early that evening in his usual poolroom hang-out, Tony looked up in surprise as an ugly man slunk into the next chair and nudged him. “Well?” said Tony coldly. “You’re Tony Guarino, ain’t you?” “Yeah. What of it?” “Just this. If you go out with Al Spingola’s moll again, you won’t last a week. And that’s from de boss himself.” “What do you mean?” demanded Tony, though he knew well enough. “Don’t be dumb. They’ll find you in an alley some night with your throat cut.” “I’ll take my chances with him and his gorillas,” bluffed Tony, and laughed. “A gun’s better than a knife anytime and I can shoot better than any of them. So run along, sonny and tell your whole damn gang to chew that on their back teeth.” Tony laughed outright at the expression of amazement on the henchman’s ugly face, then with a sneering smile watched the fellow move away. In his side coat pocket that revolver still rested comfortably and reassuringly. It was amazing how much courage that weapon put into him. It bridged the difference between a David and a Goliath – it always does to a born gangster. Also that afternoon he had, arranged for a friend of his who was a good shot to trail him everywhere he went at night now, and be ready to shoot down from behind anyone who tried to get Tony in the same way. Vyvyan was nervous and shivery when she arrived at the appointed corner in a taxi and climbed into the roadster beside him. “I’m scared, Tony,” she said and gripped his arm while she looked back over her shoulder. Then she half screamed. “Oh, there’s another car starting up after us,” “Don’t worry; that’s my bodyguard.” “Oh! … Well, just as I started into the theatre tonight the meanest looking man I ever saw stepped right in front of me and jammed a note into my hand. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had started to murder me right there. But he went on. When I got into my dressing room I read what he had given me. It was written in pencil, all scrawled and dirty, but plain enough. This is what it said: ‘If you stand me up again, your life won’t be worth a lead nickel. Remember that!’ It was from Al, of course,” she finished. “Yeah. Another one o’ his mugs tried to bluff me at the poolroom tonight but I told him I was able to take care of myself with Spingola or anyone else.” They drove to the same restaurant as the night before and were shown to the same little private dining room. Half an hour later the door was thrust open violently and Al Spingola stood framed in the opening. His swarthy face was a sort of ghastly grey, his eyes blazed with the fires of hell, and his brutal mouth was set in a nasty snarl. Most important of all, his right hand was plunged deep into his side coat pocket. Tony had turned a strange greenish white and his eyes were glazed. The encounter between himself and Spingola had come at last and that it was a life-and-death fight was obvious. “Al!” gasped Vyvyan. “Don’t do–” Her voice trailed off. Tony and Spingola were staring straight into each other’s eyes. The younger man looked nervous; it isn’t easy to kill your first man. “So you couldn’t take a warning, eh, you two punks; you thought you could get away with giving me the run-around.” “Who are you?” asked Tony, knowing that to be the most disconcerting thing he could say. “Who’m I?” spluttered Spingola. “I’ll show you–” And at that instant Tony fired through his coat pocket. He had been reaching for his napkin when Spingola came in. Immediately but without perceptible movement, his hand had shifted to his gun. He had had the drop on Spingola the whole time and had merely created a little diversion to make absolutely sure of winning his first gun battle. Spingola looked surprised, then sagged to the floor. With a handkerchief Tony quickly rubbed his gun free of fingerprints, then threw the weapon out the window into the alley below. “Come, dear,” he said coldly, reaching for the shaking Vyvyan’s arm. Now, that the deed was over, he felt strangely calm and strong, ready for anything. He dropped a £10 bill on the table and rushed the girl down the back stairs. Through the alley they hurried, to where their roadster was parked. They raced away down an impenetrably dark street just as two uniformed policemen hurried in through the cafe’s front door. Tony wasn’t worried. He knew that the owner and waiters would give a description of the people who had occupied that private dining room but it would be so vague, in case it were not actually false, that it would be absolutely valueless to the police. CHAPTER III The killing of Al Spingola created a sensation. It happened just before America entered the World War, long before gang-dom had achieved anything like its present power or affluence or willingness to murder in unique fashion. Fights were plentiful, of course, and an occasional stabbing did not arouse great excitement but actual gunplay was rare. Spingola had been about the first of the city’s gang leaders to enforce his power with a gun and his being dropped off so suddenly was most disconcerting to the other leaders who had been about ready to use the same methods. But now they couldn’t decide whether a gun was the best source of power or not. The morning after the affray, Tony rose early, feeling a little rocky, and immediately induced his mother to sew the small burned hole in his coat, explaining that he had done it with a cigarette. Then he wisely decided not to wear that suit on the street again. He went first to Klondike O’Hara’s saloon. Klondike himself was behind the bar. A burly, red-faced young Irishman, he cut quite a dash in his own neighbourhood as a gang leader and had been one of Spingola’s most faithful enemies. “I’m Tony Guarino,” announced the boy, “from over on Taylor Street.” “Yeah?” “I suppose you read about Al Spingola gettin’ his last night.” “Yeah,” assented O’Hara cautiously, chewing on a black cigar. “Well, I know you and him were enemies so I thought if they took me up for his death you’d see that I had a good lawyer and so on.” “You? Did you get that rat – a punk like you?” “I didn’t say so,” retorted Tony doggedly. “I just wanted to know if they picked me up if you’d get me a lawyer.” “Bet your life. An’ from now on you’re welcome around here any time. I can always use another kid with guts.” “Thanks.” From O’Hara’s saloon, Tony went to see Vyvyan at her cheap little hotel. She was nervous and tearful but back of the nervousness he could detect a new attitude of overbearing hardness, and behind the tears her green eyes held a glitter that did not reassure him. He wondered if she knew how much her silence meant to him – and decided that she probably did. “You’ve taken Al away from me,” she sobbed. “So now you’ll have to take care of me the way he did.” “Shut up!” snapped Tony. “I’m going to. Let’s rent a nice little flat today.” Thus within the space of twenty-four hours, Tony Guarino killed his first man, joined a regular gang and took unto himself a common law wife. Events move rapidly in underworld neighbourhoods. Tony didn’t intend to move away from home himself just yet; it wouldn’t look right to his folks. Again he crossed the deadline between the domains governed by the Irish and those governed by the Italians, and started for O’Hara’s saloon. A heavy car drew up to the curb and stopped with a screeching of brakes. “Hey, kid!” shouted a raucous voice. “C’mere.” Tony’s first impulse was to run, but having recognised the car as one of those from the Detective Bureau, he realised that to do so would mean being shot. So he walked over to them. “Get in!” commanded a burly brute. He practically dragged Tony into the tonneau and the car raced away. Arrived at the bureau, the whole party with Ton/in the centre, ascended to one of the con-ference rooms on the second floor. “I suppose you heard about Al Spingola being bumped off last night,” said the man who appeared to be the leader of the party. “Yes,” assented Tony, not to be outdone. “I read it in the morning paper.” The half dozen men laughed nastily. “The hell you did!” said the first one. “You knew all about it a long time before that. Because you killed Al Spingola.” “Has the heat gone to your head?” demanded Tony coolly. “Don’t try to stall or it’ll go hard with you. We know all about it. C’mon now and spill it.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” retorted Tony as if greatly bored by the proceedings. “Oh, you’re going to be tough, eh?” “No. Just truthful.” “Where were you last night from twelve to three o’clock?” “Home in bed.” “Can you prove it?” “My whole family would swear to it.” “Where’d you get that?” demanded another detective suddenly. He thrust before Tony’s astonished eyes the revolver with which the Spingola killing had been committed. The boy gulped but with a terrific effort retained his outward calm. “I never saw it before,” he retorted doggedly. He wondered just how much they did know. It looked bad. For those were the days when the police took the same interest in a gang killing as in any other murder and made, just as eager and earnest an effort to solve it. Well, the only thing to do was bluff it out. “I never saw it before,” he repeated, straightening up defiantly. The leader of the party suddenly struck him a hard backhand slap across the mouth. “Quit stallin’,” he snarled. “C’mon an’ tell us the truth.” “Cut the rough stuff!” snapped Tony coldly but his eyes were blazing. “I’ve got a brother that’s a cop and I know all about the way you do people. Furthermore, I got a lot of powerful friends and I’m going to be a big shot in this town myself someday. So treat me decent an’ it’ll be better for all of us.” “Well, would you listen to that?” jeered one, of the dicks. “Of all the big-mouthed punks I ever seen–” “I hear you been going around with one of Spingola’s girls,” said the leader. Tony smiled. “From all I’ve heard, he had so many that half the girls in town were his.” “Naw, I mean his particular steady girl – his moll. You know the one I mean – that tall, spindly-legged blonde down at the Gaiety Theatre.” “Don’t know her.” “There’s been talk about you an’ her going around among the wise-guys in your neighbourhood the last two, three days. Everyone’s been looking for trouble over it. An’ now Al’s dead.” “Well, that don’t prove nothing against me,” argued Tony. “Even if all you say was true, it would be him that had a motive for bumping me off. And anyway, do you think as good a gunman as Spingola would ever let a kid like me get the drop on him?” “It’s unlikely,” admitted the leader of the squad. There was a sudden commotion outside the door and a bright-eyed, be-whiskered little man came bustling into the room. “I’ve here a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Mr. Tony Guarino,” he announced with dignity and flourished a document. The detectives gasped. For a writ to be run so soon indicated that the prisoner had connections. They had never dreamed that this kid was hooked up with the systematized elements of the underworld. But here the writ was. As they hadn’t sufficient evidence to place a charge against Tony, book him, they had to honour the writ, and release him. “No hard feelings, boys,” he said pleasantly as he followed the lawyer out. CHAPTER IV Tony found his connection with the O’Hara gang active and pleasant. At first the Irish boys were somewhat suspicious of an Italian in their midst but when it was whispered around that it was he who had shot the redoubtable Al Spingola, their hostility vanished like fog in sunshine and they welcomed him with open enthusiasm. Tony himself never mentioned the occurrence, neither denying it nor bragging about it. But day and night he was watching for a reprisal from some of Spingola’s henchmen. He still had his armed bodyguard following behind every time he went outside and not even the members of his own gang knew that. Tony’s executive ability soon revealed itself and before long he was acting as O’Hara’s lieutenant. He made it plain to Klondike from the first, however, that he would not take a hand in second-story jobs, robberies, hold-ups or burglaries of any sort. And he explained his stand with his little phrase that later was to become so famous: “I ain’t risking a pinch for a couple of bucks.” It wasn’t a matter of ethics with him; it was a matter of economics, the balancing of probable gain against probable risk and finding-out whether it was worth it. Anyway, there was no fun to rough stuff, no adventure or sportsmanship about it. Tony liked the smoother and wittier forms of larceny, those that bordered on extortion and blackmail. For instance, he could convince a small storekeeper in a few minutes that £1 or 2 a month was very cheap protection against having his store robbed or himself knocked on the head when he went home at night. And there were any amount of ignorant, fearful mothers who could be convinced readily that £0.05 or £0.1 per month per child was cheap insurance against having their children kidnapped and held for ransom. And once convinced, they paid their tribute regularly and un-whimpering-ly whenever he sent his collector around, just as they would insurance. He could think up two or three new schemes like that a day, and they always worked. As he said to O’Hara: “What’s the use of sticking people up or banging them on the head when you can talk them out of it? My way’s not only a lot safer but more fun.” On all sides now he was accorded the greatest respect. And he knew why; it was because the word had gone around that he was a killer. He had killed only once, really in self-defence, and actuated largely by fear, yet he was marked as a killer and through life he would be subject to the advantages and disadvantages that went with the appellation. His income now was running about three hundred a week – which was enormous for a gangster before Prohibition came along and made them millionaires – and with Vyvyan’s help he was managing to have a nice time. He had taken a nicer flat for her by now and she had quit the show. “I just can’t bear to think of other men staring at them pretty legs of yours, kid,” he explained when insisting that she quit. “I’m making plenty o’ dough for both of us, so throw up the job.” Being fond, like most blondes, of an easy life secured with the smallest possible expenditure of energy, she obeyed orders. Tony himself was still living at home but intended to move as soon as he could get up the necessary courage. His brother Ben, the policeman, hearing of his headquarters grilling over the Spingola killing, had given him another one at home while the rest of the family wailed in the background. But the wily Tony had been grimly silent at the right moments and suavely voluble at others, with the result that he convinced his family, just as he had the detectives, that he had nothing to do with Spingola’s demise. Tony went to Vyvyan’s flat shortly before seven one Saturday night, feeling in rather high spirits. “Well, kid, what do you want to do tonight?” he asked. “Let’s go to Colosimo’s.” “No, I don’t like that joint. Let’s go out to one of those nice North Side places.” “No, I want to go to Colosimo’s.” Her lower lip puckered threateningly. “No, I don’t like that joint, I said.” “Why not?” “A lot of the old Spingola mob do their stepping out there on Saturday night.” “Afraid?” she sneered. She seemed to be in a nasty humour tonight. “No!” he snapped. “But I never liked the idea of being shot in the back.” “Oh, all right, if that’s the way you feel about it. How about Ike Bloom’s?” “Well, it ain’t very far from Colosimo’s, but it has a lot nicer people. All right, we’ll go there if you want to.” Tony kept most of his wardrobe at the flat. He bathed and shaved now, and dressed carefully in a well-tailored, nicely pressed tuxedo. But when he stepped out into the living room, there was a revolver in a shoulder holster hanging in his left armpit, and a tiny blue steel automatic fitted snugly into his right vest pocket. Vyvyan was quite stunning in a flashing green evening gown and a soft white cloak. They made a handsome couple as they descended to the street and entered the waiting limousine. It belonged to Tony; he had made good his promise of having a car better than his brother’s and of getting it as easily. At Ike Bloom’s enormous and beautiful cabaret on Twenty-second Street, they took a table at the edge of the balcony, a point of vantage from which they could see everything without being at all conspicuous themselves. And they were around at one end of the horseshoe-shaped cafe, so that Tony might have his back to the wall and therefore enjoy the evening more. They had a splendid dinner, with excellent champagne, saw the sparkling if somewhat naked revue, then relaxed – smoking, drinking, chatting – -until the evening’s gaiety began shortly after eleven. Tony scrutinized carefully the other guests as they entered. But by twelve-thirty, when the place was practically filled, he hadn’t seen an enemy, nor even anyone of whom he was suspicious. So he consented to dance with Vyvyan. They took advantage of almost every dance after that, drinking and nibbling at various inconsequential but expensive items of food between times. And every hour a new revue was presented. During the presentation of one of these shows, while a huge woman with a nice voice and too many diamonds, crooned something about loving in the moonlight, Tony suddenly sat straight up, I his gaze riveted to a woman straight across from him at the other end of the balcony. She was a brunette, a stunning brunette, obviously young, and dressed in a gorgeous white evening gown. The bulky young man with her looked like a prize-fighter. “What a dame!” breathed Tony in admiration. “Where?” snapped Vyvyan. “That brunette over there in white.” Vyvyan looked, anxiously and with narrowed gaze. Then she glanced back at Tony. “I can’t imagine what you see in her,” she snapped scornfully. “Jealous?” “Of that? I should say not. And that bum with her looks like a burglar.” “Maybe he is,” assented Tony imperturbably. “There’s worse professions. But she’s a stunner. I wonder who she is.” “Some common hussy, I’ll bet.” “Well, I’ll bet she ain’t,” snapped Tony, and Beckoned the waiter over. “Say, do you know who that dame is – the good-looking brunette in white over there?” The waiter looked, then smiled. “That’s Miss Jane Conley,” he answered. “Never heard that dame before,” muttered Tony. “Perhaps you’ve heard of her under her other name,” suggested the waiter. “She’s known mostly as ‘The Gun Girl.’” “My God!” gasped Tony. “Is she the gun girl?” “Yes, sir. Though we like to keep it quiet because we don’t want any trouble here.” “No, of course not,” agreed Tony drily. “Who’s the gun girl?” demanded Vyvyan snappishly when the waiter had gone. “Well, kid, I’ll wise you up a little on underworld stuff, though God knows that ain’t the only thing you’re dumb in. A really good gunman is usually pretty well known, not only to other crooks but to the cops. Whenever they see him on the street, they stop him and frisk him, to see if he’s up to something. He can’t go two blocks in any direction without being stopped and frisked by someone – either dicks or harness bulls. So he has to have someone else – usually a good-looking well-dressed girl that none would suspect – carry his gat for him and trail him till he’s ready to use it. Then she hurries up, slips it to him and strolls slowly down the block. He pulls off his job and runs down the street, slipping her the gat as he goes past. Immediately she disappears – street-car, taxi, or afoot, anyway – but without looking like she’s in a hurry. So if he should git pinched, they, can’t find anything on him. See?” “I don’t see anything so grand in that.” “You don’t, eh? Well, let me tell you, there’s nothing scarcer than a good gun girl. It takes brains and a lot of guts. That girl across there – if that waiter didn’t lie to me – is the most famous of all of them. She’s known as The Gun Girl. I’ve heard about her for a couple years but I didn’t even know what her name was. She started out in New York, working with Leech Benson. When he finally got sent up she switched over to Lefty Kelly and when he got killed she come out here to work for Ace Darby. I guess she’s still working for him. I wonder if that’s him with her now.” “No, it isn’t.” “How do you know?” “Because I met him one time – at a party.”They went down to dance again. The Gun Girl and her escort also were dancing. And the fascinated Tony, finding the girl even more beautiful and charming at close range, kept his glance on her so much that it was some time before he realised that a man was trying to flirt with Vyvyan. A large, bulky man dressed in a grey business suit that fitted him none too well, a man who looked old enough to know better. He was dancing with a tiny blonde that he folded up in his arms as a child would a doll. Evidently he had a weakness for blondes. But he was no gentleman. He was obviously drunk and making a show of himself. He waved at Vyvyan and winked portentously as the two couples came near each other for an instant. Tony’s swarthy complexion began turning a sort of deep purple. The next time the two couples converged, the man spoke: “Hello, cutie!” he exclaimed with a grin. “How about the next dance?” Tony released his partner, snatched the little blonde out of the big man’s arms and clouted the man solidly on the jaw, a blow so hard that it not only knocked the man down but slid him ten feet along the dance floor. “Come on, kid, let’s get out of this,” snapped Tony and grabbed Vyvyan’s wrist. There was a small, seldom-used stairway that led up almost directly to their table. They hurried up and Tony beckoned frantically to the waiter. That was a grand sock you gave him, sir,” smiled the waiter as he quickly added up the check. “And he sure had it coming to him. But there’s sure to be an awful row when becomes to. You know who he is, don’t you?” “No.” “Captain Flanagan.” “Oh, my God!” Tony glanced at the check, then threw down a £10 bill and rushed Vyvyan out of the place. “Who’s Captain Flanagan?” asked the girl as they raced away. “Chief of Detectives, and supposed to be the hardest-boiled man on the force.” “Do you suppose you’ll have any trouble over this?” “Well, it’ll do me no good,” retorted Tony grimly. ‘ Four blocks away he slowed down to allow his rear guard to catch up to within half a block. Then when he saw the other car’s headlights reflected in his side mirror he increased his speed again. They drew up in front of Vyvyan’s flat and she climbed out quickly. Then a car rushed past, spouting fire and bullets, and whizzed away into the night. Vyvyan screamed and turned back. “Tony!” she called. “Are you hurt?” He crawled up from the floor where he cautiously had thrown himself the moment he heard the high-pitched song of the other machine’s racing motor. “No, they didn’t touch me!” he growled. “But it wasn’t their fault. Lucky you were out of the car because there wouldn’t have been room for two on the floor … Say, you got out in an awful hurry. Did you know anything about the arrangements for this little party?” “Why, Tony, how can you say such a thing?” “A man can say a lot of things when someone’s just tried to kill him.” CHAPTER V Captain Flanagan showed his teeth immediately. Monday noon a squad of detectives from the bureau burst into Klondike O’Hara’s saloon, singled Tony out from the crowd lounging about and ordered him to come along. “I know what this is all about,” said Tony to the bewildered and apprehensive O’Hara. “And I think it’ll come out all right. Anyway, wait a coupla hours before sending down a mouthpiece with a writ.” They took Tony straight to the detective bureau and ushered him roughly into Captain Flanagan’s office, then slammed the door, leaving the two men alone. Flanagan rose and came around from behind his desk. He was a big man, broad and thick, with a belligerent jaw, a nasty sneering mouth and gimlet-like, bloodshot grey eyes that were set too close together. “So you’re the hoodlum that socked me at Ike Bloom’s the other night, eh?” he snarled. “Yes, sir,” said Tony calmly. “And anyone else would have done the same. You would have yourself if someone kept insulting the girl you were with.” “Is that so? Well, I don’t imagine a hood like you would have a dame with him that could be insulted. So there!” Without warning, he gave Tony a terrific backhand slap across the mouth, a hard stinging blow that staggered the boy for a moment and made him draw in his breath sharply as he became conscious of the pain in his bruised lips. Then his eyes glinted with fury and his hands went up. “Don’t lift your hands to me, you punk!” snarled Flanagan. “Or I’ll call in a dozen men from out there and have them beat you half to death with rubber hoses.” “You would,” assented Tony bitterly. “You’re the type.” “What do you mean – I’m the type?” “Nothing.” “What’s your game, anyhow?” “I’ve none.” “No? Well, you hang around with Klondike O’Hara’s mob, and they’re a bunch of bad eggs. Come on now, quit stallin’ – what’s your racket?” “Nothing – in particular.” “Well, what do you do for O’Hara?” “Obey orders.” “Oh, a smart guy, eh?” sneered Flanagan. He slapped Tony again, then reached for his hip as the boy automatically lifted his hands. “Put down your hands, you thug. I’ll teach you to have some respect for your betters. Come on now, what’s your game – second-story, stick-up or what?” “I never was in on a stick-up or any other kind of a rough job in my life,” retorted Tony proudly. “Well, just how do you get all these good clothes and the big car I understand you own?” “I got ways of my own.” “I don’t doubt it,” agreed Flanagan with dry sarcasm. “That’s what I want to know about – these ways of yours. Come on now and talk, or I’ll have the boys give you a pounding you’ll never forget.” “I wouldn’t if I were you,” answered Tony, his eyes and tone coldly menacing. “I might be a big shot in this town yet – and paying you off.” “What do you mean – paying me off?” snarled Flanagan. “Do you mean to say that I could be bought?” “I don’t see why not – -all the other dicks can. You’d be an awful fool not to get yours while you could.” “Of all the impudent punks!” gasped the chief of detectives. His rage was so great that he seemed to be swelling out of his collar. “Listen here, you,” he said finally. “I ain’t got any more time to waste on you. But I’m giving you just twenty-four hours to get out of town. And you better go. Get me?” “Yeah. But that don’t mean I’m going.” And the boy strode out of the office. Tony went back to O’Hara’s saloon with cut lips and murder in his heart, and explained the whole thing to Klondike himself. The gang leader was obviously upset. “It’s bad business, kid,” he said slowly. “Flanagan’s hard-boiled and he can make life miserable for anyone if he wants to.” “To hell with him!” scoffed Tony. “He ain’t so much.” Tony remained in town beyond his allotted time. And he soon discovered that Klondike O’Hara was right. For he found himself involved in a police persecution more complete than he had thought possible. He was halted half a dozen times a day, in O’Hara’s place, on the street, anywhere and everywhere, stopped and searched and questioned. He dare not carry a gun because if they found him with one he knew they’d give him the works; yet he knew that the remains of the Spingola gang were actively and murderously oh his trail. It was a nerve-racking week. The detectives even burst into Vyvyan’s flat one night when he was there and turned the place upside down on the pretext of looking for stolen property. And they questioned her with more thoroughness than gallantry. “So that’s the dame you swiped from Al Spingola?” said one of them to Tony with a leer in Vyvyan’s direction. “Well, I don’t blame him for getting mad. She sure ain’t hard to look at … How about a little date some night, kid?” “Listen–” began Tony ominously. “I don’t even speak to dicks if I can help it,” retorted Vyvyan and turned away with her nose in the air. “Well, there’s probably been a good many times in your life when you couldn’t help it,” snapped the detective. “And there’s going to be a lot more if you keep hanging around with the likes of this gorilla. So don’t high-hat us, baby; we might be able to give you a break sometime.” On Friday Klondike O’Hara called Tony into the office, a cluttered frowsy little room with a battered roll-top desk and two once golden oak chairs. The Irishman was coatless and his spotted, unbuttoned vest flapped unconfined save for such restraint as his heavy gold watch chain strung across its front placed upon it. His derby was pushed forward over his eyes until its front almost rested on the bridge of his nose, and a thoroughly chewed, unlighted cigar occupied one corner of his slit-like, tobacco-stained mouth. “Sit down, Tony,” he invited. Tony sat, feeling very uncomfortable and wondering what this portended. Ordinarily O’Hara gave orders, received reports and loot, and conducted all the other business of his gang over one end of the bar. When he held a conference in the office, it was something important. “I been worried all week,” began the leader, “about you. The dicks are after you, kid; there’s no doubt about it. And because of that Flanagan business, they’re going to keep after you till they get you. Flanagan’s hard-boiled and he hangs on like a bulldog – when he wants to. If you was big enough to pass him a heavy piece of change every week he’d probably lay off. But you ain’t. So you got to take it. In the meantime this is going to get me and the whole mob in Dutch at headquarters. Those dicks that come poking around here every day are after you, of course, but just the same they’ve got an eye out for anything else they can see. If they keep that up long enough they’re bound to see or hear somep’n that’ll ruin us. So I’m going to have to ask you not to come around here.” “So you’re giving me the gate, eh?” demanded Tony coldly. “Not that. Jeez, kid, I like you and I’d like to have you with me always. But don’t you see that being under the police spotlight this way is sure to ruin us?” “Yes, I guess maybe you’re right. But what about the ideas I give you, the schemes I started?” “You’ll keep getting your cut on them every week; I’ll send it every Saturday night any place you say. And I’ll play square with you, kid; I want you to have everything that’s coming to you. But I just don’t dare let you stick around here; it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the boys.” They shook hands and Tony walked out, dismissed because of the unwelcome attention that his persecution by the police was bringing down upon the whole gang. In the bar, one of the O’Hara henchmen sidled up to him. “Listen,” he said out of one corner of his mouth, “I heard today that the Spingola mob’s out to get you.” “They’ve tried it before,” retorted Tony coldly. “I know. But this time it’s for blood; they say they’re not going to miss.” “Thanks,” said Tony. “Well, I guess I’ll have to go back to packing a gun, dicks or no dicks, and take a chance on being able to throw it away if they pick me up.” Tony moved slowly out to the sidewalk and beckoned his bodyguard, who was lounging in a doorway across the street, smoking a cigarette. The boy came across the street, a slender, white-faced chap with a weak chin and burning black eyes. “I just got a tip that the Spingola mob’s after me right,” said Tony. “And I ain’t got a gun. I’m going to the flat now to get my artillery. So watch sharp.” He glanced quickly up and down the street then he timed and started down the sidewalk, walking briskly, his keen glance roving suspiciously in all directions, the other boy trailing along some thirty yards behind, his hand plunged deep into his right coat pocket. Vyvyan was beginning to grow restive under the strain of this constant surveillance and heckling by the police. She was wrought up and irritable at dinner and Tony went out to a movie alone. America had entered the World War but a few days before and the screen flashed an appeal for volunteers to join the army for immediate overseas service. Tony wondered what sort of saps would fall for that. Not he. What did he owe the country? What had the country ever done for him? He was chuckling cynically to himself as he walked out at the conclusion of the show. His glance roved over the crowd, seeking possible enemies, either those of the law or those outside it. But he saw none and started home, walking briskly, for his car was not yet out of the garage where he had placed it for repairs following the attempt on his life in front of Vyvyan’s flat the Saturday night before. Turning off the business thoroughfare of the district and plunging deeper into the dark, deserted side streets, Tony suddenly became aware of other footfalls besides his own. Turning his head cautiously, he saw three men across the street but a little to the rear, and walking in the same direction as himself. Something seemed to grow cold within him and his hand quietly sought the ready gun in his side coat pocket. But first he must test his Belief that these men were after him – that they were killers from the Spingola mob. At the next corner he turned to the left and increased his pace. Quickly the other men crossed the street and followed, half-running until they were again in their preferred position across the street from him and slightly to the rear. Tony realised that their task of the night was to assassinate him, that they were only waiting until he reached some prearranged or some favourite spot of theirs. And there was no possible way of escaping their murderous attentions. To run would only hasten their fire; to shout would accomplish the same end and no one would come to his assistance, for minding one’s own business had been developed to a fine art in this neighbourhood. There was nothing to do but wait and shoot it out with them when they opened the attack. The horror of his situation, of being trailed to his death with almost the same inevitability as a legal execution, never struck him, for, like all gangsters, Tony was totally without imagination. The men suddenly swerved and began crossing the street, moving toward a position directly behind him. Knowing the tremendous value of a surprise attack, Tony decided to pull one. With the swiftness of a shadow, he faded into a doorway and began firing. The guns of the three men answered viciously and bullets thudded and whined about the boy. From beyond he could see the flashes and hear the reports of his bodyguard’s gun. The assassins were between two fires. Tony himself, partly sheltered and cold as ice, was firing slowly but with deadly effect. He saw one of the men go down and stay down. He saw another go down for a moment, then scramble to his feet and flee, limping, with the third. The enemy had been routed. In the distance he heard the peculiar “Clang-clang-clang!” of a detective bureau squad car. Undoubtedly they had heard the shots and now were racing there. Tony dodged out of the sheltering doorway and hurried past the inert figure without pausing to glance at it. Catching up with his bodyguard, he led him into a dark, smelly alley at a run. “Good work, kid!” panted Tony as they ran and slipped the boy a £5 bill. “We bumped off one and winged another. But we got to cover our tracks fast and complete. Throw your gun over one of these fences.” His own went over and the other boy’s followed. “Now, if we’re pinched, there’s nothing on us. But we don’t want to get pinched. At the end of the alley we split. Get as far from here as you can as quickly as possible but don’t move so fast that you’ll attract attention. If you should be picked up, you haven’t seen me all evening. You been to a movie. See?” The boy nodded and as they reached the end of the alley on another street, swerved to the right and disappeared in the darkness. Tony turned to the left. Within five minutes he was seven blocks away from the scene of the shooting. In that hurried walk, he had done a lot of thinking. Undoubtedly that dead man was a member of the Spingola mob. The police who found him would know that, of course, and they would have a pretty good idea as to how he came to his death. Tony realised that they would begin looking for him immediately. Between the police and the Spingola mob – for tonight’s occurrence would only increase their thirst for his blood – the town was going to be too hot to hold him for a while. He would have to leave for a few months. But where could he go? What could he do? Then he remembered that appeal on the movie screen tonight. And he chuckled. He would join the army. It had a lot of advantages, now that he began to catalogue them – none would ever think of looking for him there, he’d do some traveling and see a lot of new things at no expense to himself, and so on. The war wouldn’t last long, now that America was in it; he’d have a nice vacation for a few months. In the meantime, his predicament was serious. The police were sure to be looking for him immediately in all his known haunts. He dare not go home, nor to Vyvyan’s, nor to O’Hara’s place. He went into a drug store and telephoned O’Hara. “Hello, Klon,” he said in a guarded tone. “This is Tony. I just had a battle with some of the Spingola mob. Bumped off one and nicked another. I suppose the dicks will be looking for me right away. I’ve decided to get out of town for a while. And I want to see you and Vyvyan before I go, but I don’t dare come either to your place or hers. Where can we meet?” “Better meet at the flat of one of my dames, I guess,” answered O’Hara. He gave the name and address. “We ought to be safe there. I’ll hurry right over there and be waiting for you.” Tony telephoned Vyvyan, then hailed a cab. The address proved to be a large apartment house in a quiet section. Ascertaining that the flat he wanted was on the third floor, Tony hurried up and knocked quietly. O’Hara admitted him and introduced him to a large horsy blonde named Gertie. Gertie had lots of yellow hair, pale, empty-looking blue eyes with dark circles of dissipation under them, and an ample figure wrapped in a lavender negligee with quantities of dyed fur. She wore lavender mules with enormous pompoms but her legs were bare. She laughed loudly and hollowly on the slightest pretext and seemed to have a consuming fear that everyone wouldn’t get enough to drink. The apartment was a rococo affair done in French style, with the walls hung in blue taffeta, and jammed so full of ornate furniture that one could hardly walk. Tony quickly explained the situation and his plan of getting away for a while. O’Hara approved it and promised to send Vyvyan and Mrs. Guarino money every week, Tony’s share of the profits from the rackets he had conceived and instituted. Then Vyvyan arrived and O’Hara, with a penetration rare in one of his type, led Gertie out into another room so that Tony could be alone with Vyvyan for a few moments. Quickly he explained everything to her, then told her of his resolve to join the army. “But you might be killed,” she objected. Tony grinned. “Well, if I stay here, I’m either going to get bumped off or be sent away for a few years.” “But, Tony, I can’t do without you,” sniffed Vyvyan. “I’ve arranged with O’Hara to send you money every week,” answered the boy shrewdly. “So you’ll manage to get along for a few months – till I get back. Oh, I’m coming back – don’t worry about that. And when I get back,” he said with an ominous edge in his voice, “I’ll expect you to be waiting for me.” “I will, Tony, oh, I will.” She was clinging to him now, kissing him with great fervour and sobbing furiously. “Oh, I love you so, kid. Please come back to me.” He kissed her with all the passion that had made him risk his life to get her that had made him kill for her, then hurried out with O’Hara, her sobs and pleas for his return ringing in his ears. O’Hara drove him to South Bend, Tony lying down in the tonneau of the car until they were beyond the city limits. There was a New York train that came through there shortly after one in the morning. Tony caught it. Two days later he was in the army, and lost from all his enemies. They did not ask many questions of men who wanted to be a soldier then. CHAPTER VI Tony Guarino made a good soldier. They put him into a machine gun company and he loved it. Officers considered his nerveless coolness under fire remarkable. They didn’t know that being under fire was an old story to him, and that he was unaccustomed to having countless thousands of men to help him repel the attack. Trenches, too, were a protection unknown in the street battles back home. All in all, he considered war a rather tame proposition and plunged into it with gusto. Within six months he was first sergeant of his company. The men, being mostly country boys and therefore having nothing in common with him, didn’t like him very well personally but he had that indefinable “it” of the born leader that would have made them unquestionably follow him anywhere. They had to, once. It was a nasty night engagement in the woods. Tony came staggering out of the dark, carrying the unconscious captain on his back, and almost blinded by his own blood, to find all their officers down and the leaderless men on the verge of panic. Tony let the captain carefully to the ground, instructed two men to do what they could for him from their first-aid kits, then dashed the blood out of his eyes and quietly took command of the situation. Shortly after dawn the amazed colonel discovered Tony in command of three companies, with his position well consolidated and holding his section of the line comfortably. Tony himself was sitting on a little hillock, in deadly peril from snipers, with his automatic lying on his knee and with his keen glance wandering up and down the line in an effort to find some man who seemed disposed to retreat. He was somewhat of a sight, with his legs bare and muddy, and his head tied up in bloody handkerchiefs and his puttees; only his eyes and mouth remained uncovered. “Of all the dashed impudence!” exclaimed the colonel to the officers with him. “Taking command of the whole works and running it better than many a major could have done. If the Heinies had penetrated through here, they’d have wiped us out. Say,” he called to Tony from the shelter of the messy trench through which he was making his way in an effort to gather up his scattered regiment, “come down from there and go back and have your wounds dressed.” “We ain’t got any officers,” retorted Tony doggedly. “Most of them got bumped off during the night but a few only got nicked and I sent them back to get patched up. They wouldn’t have gone, of course, if they’d been conscious but they was all out like a light so I didn’t have any trouble with them. The men fight grand when there’s someone to see to them,” he continued, “but they’re a little skittish when there ain’t. So I’m seeing to them till some officers’ get here.” “Damn!” exclaimed the colonel to his staff. “Can you beat that; argues with me to stay up there and get his head blown off?” Then he raised his voice and called to Tony again: “I’m Colonel Riley. I’ll have Captain Stone here to see to your men. Now you come down from there – at once, do you hear? – And go back and have your wounds dressed. I can’t afford to have a man like you getting infection and dying on me.” So Tony scrambled down from his dangerous observatory hillock, saluted the colonel, who silently shook hands with him, and reluctantly started for the rear. Before the day was over, Colonel Riley was in possession of a complete story of the night’s activities and he sent a report into G.H.Q. that would have made Tony’s ears ring. They gave Tony the D.S.C. and the Croix de Guerre for that night’s work and he couldn’t see what for; he’d merely done what the situation demanded, the same as he would in a street fight back home. Eventually came the Armistice and Tony was sent home. He was ready to go home. Being a shrewd gambler he had taken the saps for a ride, running his small capital up to something over £1232 that he carried in cash in a belt around his waist under his tunic. And there had been many a time in France when he would have given all of it for an hour with Vyvyan. Having perfected him in every branch of the fine art of murder and having made every effort to readjust his mental processes so that he was willing at any time to translate this knowledge and technique into action, the government, in turning him loose with its blessing in the shape of an honourable discharge, seemed to expect him to forget it all immediately and thereafter be a peaceable, law-abiding citizen. Which was a lot to ask of any man, much less Tony. He had come home with a new face and a lot of new ideas, ideas that were going to be profitable for him but detrimental to the community in which he put them into practice. That awful night battle in the woods which had gained him the medals – he had them buttoned up in an inside pocket, not even showing the ribbons where anyone could see them – had also left him with a long livid scar down the left side of his face, a heavy scar running from the top of his ear to the point of his chin. In some manner the nerves and muscles around his mouth had become involvedin the matter and now the left corner of his mouth was drawn upward permanently, not much but it had changed his appearance surprisingly. When he smiled, that corner didn’t, and it gave his face an amazingly sinister look. He hurried eagerly out of the depot, looking boyish and jaunty in his uniform and overseas cap. He had a grip and in the side pocket of his tunic a German officer’s automatic that he had brought home as a souvenir. Now that he was home, the first thing was to see Vyvyan. God! Wouldn’t it be grand to have her in his arms again, to feel her lithe, supple body pliant and vibrant against his? He hailed a taxi and gave the address, ordering the driver to step on it. His hungry eyes recognised the building, even in the dark, two blocks away, and his glance sought their old apartment. Yes, there was a light. She was home! That is, if she still lived there. He added that as an afterthought, as a dreadful possibility. Then he grunted and grinned. Vyv would be waiting; he remembered how she had sobbed and promised that night he left. He gave the driver a handsome tip for his speed and, hurrying inside, eagerly scanned the names beside the letter boxes. Yes, there it was in the same place – Vyvyan Lovejoy. What a surprise his coming would be to her; he hadn’t written for two months, there’d been so much else to do. He tried the hall door on the chance that it might be open. It was. He hurried softly upstairs and with his breath catching in his throat knocked at the familiar third floor door. He heard a sort of scuffling sound inside but no one came. He knocked again, loud and a little impatiently. Then the door opened slightly. Tony’s ready arms dropped to his sides and his eyes suddenly flashed fire. For holding the door was a man, a ratty-looking young fellow with a crook’s face but sensual lips and a passionate nose. He was in his shirtsleeves. With a lunge, Tony flung the door wide open, almost overturning the other man as he did so, and plunged into the room. “Where’s Vyvyan?” he demanded. She came hurrying out of the bedroom, wrapped in a beautiful negligee that he had bought her. He could see that she had on only pyjamas beneath it and that her legs were bare. “Who are you?” she demanded furiously. “And what do you mean by breaking in here this way?” Tony caught his breath; she didn’t recognise him. “Why, I’m Tony. I know I’ve changed a little,” his fingers unconsciously felt that awful scar on his left cheek, “but surely you–” “Tony!” she exclaimed in amazement and came closer to stare wonderingly up into his face. “Why they reported you killed about six weeks ago; it was in the papers.” “Well, I wasn’t. I’m right here, and as good as ever.” Then he suddenly remembered that strange man, who had closed the door by now and was waiting behind him. He whirled, facing them both accusingly. “Who’s that?” he demanded, and in his voice was a tone that made Vyvyan cringe. “A – Friend of mine,” she answered. “A friend of yours, eh?” he repeated bitterly and stared contemptuously at the other. He whirled and rushed back to the bedroom. There in the closet, all mixed up with Vyvyan’s things, he found a man’s shoes, half a dozen masculine suits, even a man’s pyjamas. His things had been there when he went to war; but they were all gone now – these things were strange, evidently the property of that rat-faced crook in the parlour. Tony rushed back there, trembling with fury. “So you two-timed me, you little bitch!” he snarled through gritted teeth. “I suppose you’ve been feeding him out o’ the money I had Klondike O’Hara send you every week.” “No, Tony,” gasped Vyvyan breathlessly. Her hands fluttered to her throat and she seemed to find it almost impossible to speak. “Tony, you mustn’t think what you’re thinking. I never looked at another man all the time you was gone, not until that report about you being killed; I swear to God I didn’t.” “Well, you didn’t wait long after; a woman don’t go to living with a man the first night she meets him. You didn’t take the trouble to find out if that report was true; you didn’t wait for a little while to see if I might come back, like I did. No, you grabbed somep’m else right away. And I don’t see any mourning among your clothes; they’re all just as wild and gay as ever. A lot you cared about me, outside of a meal ticket.” Suddenly he saw red; his mind seemed frozen with rage. Automatically his hand darted to that pistol in his pocket. “You didn’t give a damn about me, you lousy little– ” The dreadful word he flung at her was drowned in the roar of the gun. She clutched at her throat and fell, a fluffy, blood-stained heap. The man had dodged and was trying to hide behind a chair. But Tony mowed him down with deadly precision. Then he secreted the empty pistol under the cushion of an overstuffed chair and hurried out of the apartment, still carrying his bag. CHAPTER VII It was after midnight. He saw no one on his way out. He had seen no one on his way in. He felt sure he was safe from identifying witnesses. Two blocks away he hailed a taxi and gave the driver the name of one of the best hotels in town. The police, even if they were looking for Tony Guarino, would never think of looking for him at a hotel like that. There were many uniforms on the streets and even in the lobby of the rather expensive hotel to which he went. It was not a conspicuous costume. He registered as I .H. Stevens, Denver, Colorado and was shown to a handsome room with private bath. He removed his tunic and stretched out in an easy chair to smoke and think. He had killed Vyvyan and her new lover. There was no doubt of that; three or four shots from a Luger aimed with his skill would finish anyone. And he did not regret his act. Vyvyan never had loved him; he could see it now. In fact, he felt a sense of relief that her mouth was, shut forever. She could have turned him in for that Spingola killing any time she liked, and she Was just the type to do it if something made her jealous or mad. Yes, he could breathe easier now that she was gone. So he had been reported killed, eh? He wondered if Vyvyan had been lying about that, if she had only used it as a subterfuge to try to justify her conduct. He must know; for the answer to that question would have a large part in shaping his future course of action. He reached for the telephone at his elbow and called Klondike O’Hara’s saloon. “Let me talk to Klondike,” he said in a hoarse, disguised voice. “Klondike was bumped off about six months ago,” answered a strange voice. “That’s too bad. I been away for some time and I hadn’t heard about it. What I wanted was to find out where I could reach a kid that used to work for Klondike – Tony Guarino, his name was.” “Him? Aw, he got patriotic and joined the army right after war was declared. And he was killed in France just a week or so before the Armistice.” “How do you know he was?” “It was in the papers – in a list of killed and wounded. Say, who are you, anyway?” But Tony had hung up. And in his eyes flamed a great elation. So it was true. Everyone here at home thought he was dead. No longer would the police or the Spingola mob be looking for Tony Guarino. That his appearance was changed even more than he realised was proven by the fact that even Vyvyan had not recognised him at first. His old identity was dead; he would let it stay dead and go on his way as a new man. That course would cause his family no suffering; they already had done, of course, the same grieving as if he really had been killed. He laughed aloud. What a break! He arose late, after a good sleep, and went down to a large store adjoining the hotel, where he purchased a complete outfit of civilian clothes. Leaving instructions to have the packages delivered to his hotel room immediately, he returned to the hotel lobby, purchased the morning papers and ascended to his room. He found the killing of Vyvyan and her lover featured prominently in all the papers. And it was played up as a deep mystery. He discovered from the articles that the man in the case was “Frog” Merlin, owner of a North Side gambling house and reputed bootlegger. The death weapon had not been found and there were no known clues to the perpetrator of the crime. Detective Sergeant Ben Guarino was in charge of the case. Tony read that last line three times then laughed uproariously. So Ben was a detective sergeant now. Well! Well! Wouldn’t it be funny if they met some time? Then Tony’s face hardened. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so funny. When the packages arrived, Tony donned his new outfit, then descended to the street. After a hearty breakfast he went out to the old neighbourhood. It was an almost irresistible temptation to rush to the little grocery store and see the family but he steeled himself and turned in the opposite direction. He saw many people that he knew but he gave no sign of recognition, and none of them even gave him a second glance. He spent the day in various illicit barrooms, listening to everything he could hear, asking as many and as detailed questions as he dared. He found the situation about as he had expected. The booze traffic was making the gangsters wealthy, and already the competition over the enormous profits was beginning to become acrimonious. Killings were liable to commence any time. One man had held complete control of the situation for some little time after Prohibition came in. Then he was killed by being thrown from his horse on the Lincoln Park bridle path – what a horribly prosaic death for a gangster, for a man who had lived violently and who had every right to expect to die the same way. All of his lieutenants had tried to succeed him but none had been strong enough to gain the support of a majority of the gang. So they had split, each taking those loyal to him, and now there were half a dozen main gangs spread over the city,, each holding sovereignty over a certain section and daring the others to trespass. Tony could see that the big profits ultimately would go to the man with a well-oiled organisation which was run as any other business enterprise. For he knew that the average gangster – even the leaders – had no more executive ability than the revolver with which he ruled. The only thing he knew was the old law of the survival of the fittest – might made right and the devil took the hindmost. But when you fought him with brains as well as strength, you had him licked. Tony’s, inquiries showed him that the best executive of the lot was Johnny Lovo, who had his headquarters in Cicero, a rather large but somewhat frowsy suburb which joined the city on the west. Though the stranger could not discern where the city left off and the suburb began, Cicero was a separate entity with its own government and the city police had no right to meddle there. It impressed Tony as an ideal place from which to operate and that night he went out to see Johnny Lovo. Those were the days before the present great secrecy as to gang leaders’ movements and whereabouts was necessary and Tony had no difficulty in locating his man at his headquarters on an upper floor of a hotel whose appearance was far better than its reputation. Lovo was a short, squat, dark man of perhaps thirty-five, with fine clothes, a large diamond ring and stickpin, and a ready smile on his not unhandsome face, who constantly chewed a long black cigar. He had been prominent in Cicero for some years as an operator of vice and gambling dens. Prohibition had merely placed in his hands another weapon with which to continue his pursuit of enormous wealth. Tony liked him instantly. Here was a man who not only could act and give orders but who could plan. “I just got out of the army two days ago,” explained Tony without preliminaries. “And I wanna get in this racket. I’d like to join up with you.” “Yes? Who’re you?” asked Lovo with the natural suspicion of his kind. “Tony – Camonte.” His former identity was dead; he intended to let it remain so. “Ever been with any mob before?” Lovo’s keen eyes were examining him thoroughly. “Yes, sir. I was Klondike O’Hara’s main lieutenant before the war. But of course I don’t want that known now; I want to forget it.” “Don’t blame you. That was small-time stuff.” “Not so small,” defended Tony quickly. “My end used to run around three hundred a week.” “Really?” Lovo was viewing him with heightened interest. “You must have been clever.” “I was,” admitted Tony frankly, then added proudly: “And I never pulled any rough stuff either, no second-story jobs or stick-ups or anything like that.” “I understand,” smiled Lovo. Already his quick mind had seen the picture of Tony’s former activities. “And I think you may be very valuable to me in time. But you’ll have to start at the bottom, of course, and I’ll have to test you awhile first. I’ll give you a job driving a truck at a twenty-one pounds a week.” Tony’s heart sank. Driving a truck – he who had never been a roustabout but always a white collar gangster who had never done any but the smoother and more gentlemanly types of gangster activity and who had been somewhat of a figure in that small-time pre-war gangland. But then these were different times and this was a much bigger game that he wanted to sit in. “All right, sir,” he assented. “But I don’t want to do that any longer than I have to; there’s plenty of common hoods that can be hired for jobs like that.” “You can shoot?” queried Lovo softly.“Yes; I have.” “In the army, you mean?” “Yes. And before I went into it.” “Interesting. No, I don’t think you’ll be driving a truck very long … Got a gat now?” “No, sir.” “We’ll furnish you one … broke?” “No, sir. I got about six grand of my own.” “Good. But don’t let anyone else know it. Rent a safety deposit box tomorrow at that bank across the street and put it away. Never carry a lot of money around with you; it isn’t healthy. Be here at noon tomorrow.” And Tony became a real modern gangster, a member of a big, powerful, wealthy organisation that collected more than a third of all the profits that came from liquor, gambling and vice in America’s second largest city and a considerable territory around it. Tony spent most of his time driving alcohol from the innumerable stills that were being operated for Lovo in all the western suburbs to the big plant in Cicero where the whisky was manufactured. He was never molested by officers; they were all being paid by Lovo. His only concern was hijackers, who were beginning to become active. But he always carried two guns – a six-shooter and an automatic – in the truck and his lips tightened when he thought of hijackers. At last an idea came to Tony. Why not have all the trucks equipped with enclosed cabs of steel and bulletproof glass so that an attacked driver could defend himself and his employer’s goods with impunity? He went to Lovo and presented his idea. “Great!” approved the gang leader. “I’ll have it carried out at once. Here’s a little bonus.” From a thick Toll he peeled off a £20 bill and tossed it across the desk. “I think you’ve driven a truck long enough, Tony. Be here at nine tonight; I’ve got a little job I want you to handle for me.” Tony returned to Lovo’s office promptly at the appointed hour, feeling considerably elated. He had been promoted; he was going to get somewhere in this racket yet. “The North Side gang’s been cutting into my territory,” explained Lovo, and his dark eyes glittered with a hard, vindictive light that Tony had never seen in them before. “I don’t want to open up a big battle with them if I can help it. But I do want to throw a good scare into the saloonkeepers and hold them in line so they won’t buy from anyone else. Now, here’s what you’re to do.” Tony listened carefully to his instructions, then hurried out with both his hip pockets very heavy. Fifteen minutes later he walked slowly into a large corner saloon in a rather ratty district. Lounging against the bar, he ordered a drink and paid for it. Then he walked nonchalantly down the room until he finally stood at the end of the bar, a position from which his eyes and guns would command the situation without possibility of upset. In addition to himself and the owner, who was acting as his own bartender, there were perhaps forty men in the place, the loud, rough, mixed crowd that one would expect to find in a frowsy saloon in a cheap neighbourhood. Deliberately Tony lit a cigarette, then with an incredibly quick movement he pulled his two guns. One he pointed down the bar, while the muzzle of the other roved about. “Step right up, boys, and have a drink,” he commanded quietly. “It’s all on me.” They stared at him in amazement. But the guns looked ominous and, though obviously puzzled by the whole proceeding, the men flocked to the bar. The surprised owner nervously began serving, his glance often wandering to that revolver pointing fixedly at him. After that first drink, Tony quietly commanded them to have another, and another and another. Whisky, gin, wine, beer – it was all swilled down until not another drink was left in the house. Then with one of the guns, Tony motioned the owner to him. “Don’t buy any more stuff from that North Side outfit,” he commanded in a low tone. “Stick with Lovo, where you started. If you don’t, the next time I drop in one of these pets of mine is liable to go off. Goodnight!” He backed out of the door, ran half a block, and dodged through an alley to the next street, where he hailed a taxi. CHAPTER IIX You did a good job, Tony,” commended Lovo when the boy reported the next morning. “I think it’s awfully funny, you telling that saloonkeeper that it’s all on you.” He threw back his head and laughed heartily. Tony’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t tell you I said that.” “No,” admitted the gang leader. “But I know you did say it. You see, I had two other men there last night – to help you in case you needed it.” That explanation did not fool Tony for a moment. Those other men had been there to watch him, to see how he worked on a high-pressure job. Johnny Lovo was even cleverer than Tony had given him credit for. “You carried it off in great shape, kid. I’ll have some more particular little jobs for you soon. And from now on your salary’s two hundred a week.” Tony’s new assignment was to visit saloons, keeping in line those who were already customers of Lovo, and trying to persuade the others to change their business to – the Lovo organisation. It was a dangerous assignment but Tony loved it. Undeniably he had a gift of gab far beyond the average boy of his education and environment. And he could put the screws on with a smiling suavity that was little short of masterful. His success was surprising. As he made his rounds one afternoon, a heavy car screeched to a halt at the curb beside him. “Hey, you!” snarled an ugly voice. “C’mere.” Tony turned. There were four toughs in the car and the ugly snouts of sawed-off shotguns pointed directly at him. For an instant he felt the helpless, strangling sensation of a drowning man, past events rushing through his mind in the same kaleidoscopic fashion. Was this to be his end, an ignominious death at the ruthless hands of a band of thugs? To attempt to draw his own gun would mean certain death; so would an attempt to escape. There was nothing to do but obey. He crossed the sidewalk to the side of the car. “Well?” he said coldly. There was about him not the slightest suggestion of fear. “Listen, you!” snarled the apparent leader, an ugly brute with a flattened, misshapen nose and tiny, granite-like grey eyes. “You’re going around trying to steal the North Side outfit’s business, trying to make the saloonkeepers switch over and buy from Lovo. Well, cut it out, see? We’re only going to warn you this once, like we have the other Lovo men. Then you’ll be taken for a ride.” The car raced away, leaving Tony staring after it. Taken for a ride – so that was what they threatened him with, the most feared of all gangland reprisals. A ride always ended in death – the body was usually found out in the country somewhere – but what happened before death was oftentimes an awful thing. Bodies of gangsters had been found without ears, without tongues, hacked in various ghoulish ways, bearing all too plainly evidences of dreadful torture before bullets had mercifully ended it all. But then that was the purpose of a ride – it was as much a warning to others as it was a wreaking of vengeance upon one man. It was characteristic of Tony that he did not halt his activities after this warning. But he added another gun to his equipment and kept them handy at all times; he watched his step with greater care than he ever had before and he resumed his old practice of having an armed bodyguard follow him. At noon one day, Tony received a rush call from Lovo to come to the leader’s office immediately. He found Johnny seated at his desk, his swarthy face pale and set, in his black eyes the bright ominous glitter that can be seen in the eyes of a rattlesnake when it is about to strike. “Sit down,” commanded Lovo. There was no greeting; no smile. Tony knew immediately that something serious either had happened or was about to happen. “Al Swali’s been taken for a ride.” Tony gasped and his own swarthy countenance paled slightly. Al Swali was one of Lovo’s best men, who had been on the same sort of assignment as himself. So those thugs had made good their threat! “They found his body out the other side of Melrose Park,” continued Lovo bitterly. “Tied hand and foot with wire and shot a dozen times. He was identified from some papers in his pockets and they telephoned me a few minutes ago.” “It was the North Side gang, that got him, of course,” said Tony in a low tone and told Lovo of the warning that had been given him a few days before. “I suppose you’re marked to ride next,” said Lovo with matter-of-fact resentment. “Well, they’re not going to get you or anyone else in my mob. I’m going to put the fear of God in them and do it quick. Are you game to help me pull something daring?” “Absolutely.” “Good. If you put it over, there’ll be a grand in it for you. Be here at eight in a tux … have you got one?” “No.” “Well, buy one – -with all the trimmings. You’ll probably need it often. You got to be fixed up fashionable to pull the job I’m planning … Don’t forget – eight o’clock here and be all togged out. I’ll have a gun girl here to go with you.” Tony hurried out, feeling strangely excited. He knew that it was a killing on for that night and there is always a thrill – even to an experienced gunman – in going after such important game. And Lovo had said that a gun girl would go with him. He wondered if it would be the gun girl, that noted one about which he had heard so much, that striking brunette that he had seen in the cabaret the night he knocked down Captain Flanagan for insulting Vyvyan. It wasn’t likely, of course, yet it was a possibility. He looked forward to the night’s activities with keen anticipation. He approached Lovo’s office that evening with his heart pounding. Would it be the gun girl? He certainly hoped so; he’d always wanted to know her. In conformity with orders, he was attired in a dinner jacket with all the trimmings. And quite handsome he looked, with his erect, well-built figure and thoroughly barbered countenance. He knocked, then turned the knob and crossed the threshold. Lovo was seated at his desk just as Tony had left him hours before and by his side sat the gun girl. Tony recognised her instantly and a gasp of admiration caught in his throat. God! She was beautiful! A lithe, slender brunette with a superb figure cunningly revealed by the close-fitting, very low cut evening gown. Its sheer whiteness provided a startling contrast with ‘ her vivid dark beauty, the ivory tint of her skin, the long, fashionably coiffed hair so black that its depths held bluish glints like fine gunmetal, the great dark eyes with their hints of hidden inner fires, the beautifully shaped red mouth. “Jane, Tony,” introduced Lovo briefly. “Sit down, kid. You look great.” Tony sank into a chair, feeling trembling under the appraising stare of the girl’s great dark eyes. “This is a big job I’m trusting you to handle tonight, Tony,” said Lovo. “Perhaps it’s too big for you. But I don’t think so and you’ve proven yourself so damn loyal to me that I’m going to give you a crack at it. Of course, if you fail, you’re through with me and I’ll have someone else do it. But I’m not expecting you to fail. I want you to get Jerry Hoffman.” “Jerry Hoffman!” exclaimed Tony. The girl said nothing, not even indicating the surprise she must have felt. “Exactly,” continued Lovo. “Jerry Hoffman, the biggest guy on the North Side and leader of that whole mob. Right now, there’s none big enough to step into his shoes and his death will ruin the whole outfit. They’ll know, of course, that some of my mob did it but they won’t know exactly who pulled the job – that is, if you two are as clever as I think you are – and his being bumped off will throw them into such a panic that I think they’ll be afraid to try any jobs on us for a long time. It’s high stakes we’re playing for, folks, but the reward will make the risk worthwhile.” “All right,” said Tony shortly. “I’m game. What’s the plan?” “I’ve found out that Hoffman is giving a little party tonight at the Embassy Club.” “Him – at the Embassy Club?” exclaimed the girl incredulously, speaking for the first time. And her voice – rich, full, throaty, gave Tony as big a thrill as did her appearance. “Oh, yes,” answered Lovo with a short laugh. “Surprising the places you can buy your way into – if you’ve got the price. Well, he’s giving a little party there tonight. Very select affair, couple of judges and an assistant district attorney or two and so on. He won’t have the slightest suspicion of being attackedthere and in that company, so he won’t have his bodyguards around, and as he doesn’t know either one of you by sight it ought to be easy for you to get him. I’m not going to give you any orders as to how to handle the job. Work it out on the spot as you think best. But get him! Got a gat on you, Tony?” “Certainly.” “Give it to me. Jane does the gat carrying tonight – she’s got it on her now. When you’re ready and want it, she’ll give it to you. The minute you’ve pulled the job, slip it back to her at once and she’ll hide it again. Then if some wise guy should recognise you and have you frisked, you haven’t got a thing on you. See?” Reluctantly Tony passed over his own gun, accepted the admission card to the Embassy Club which Lovo handed him, and escorted the gun girl out to the waiting limousine which Lovo had provided. The Embassy Club was the most exclusive of the expensive night clubs which had sprung up since the war – and Prohibition. As well as providing food, dancing and entertainment, it sold the best of liquors and one had to have a card to gain admittance. Where Lovo had secured the card which now rested in his well-filled pin seal wallet, Tony had no idea, but as the gang leader had said – money would do amazing things. A large table, handsomely set for ten or twelve, indicated where the Hoffman party was to be and Tony maneuverer the head waiter into seating him and his companion directly across from it and not more than thirty feet away. It was a splendid position, too, for a strategic retreat, being in a direct line with the door and not far from it. Tony felt a little nervous as he ordered. This was the first time he had ever worked with a gun girl and he found it a strange sensation not to have his own gun where he could reach for it whenever he wished. But Jane was as calm as though they were there bent only on pleasure and her calmness finally soothed him. God! She was beautiful! What he would give to have a woman like that for his very own. They chatted about this and that as they ate. But she did most of the talking. Tony was quite content to just sit and watch her, drinking in her beauty. The little pauses that fell between them now and then were tense to the point of being electrical. Tony, believed he was making progress. There was considerable hubbub when the Hoffman party came in. It required the attentions of the owner, the head waiter and half the other waiters to see that the party was properly seated. Truly, money – regardless of its source – commanded respect and service. Tony stiffened and his keen glance surveyed the situation. He recognised Hoffman immediately – a tall, rather heavy man with a red face and sandy hair. Tony scanned the rest of the party carefully but he could find none that looked like a gunman or a bodyguard. Now Hoffman probably felt entirely safe there in that exclusive cabaret in the company of men whose importance was unquestioned. It would be a cinch to bump him off there; the only thing was to pull the job at the proper time. Tony waited, smoking one cigarette after another with an outward calmness that was the result of iron self-control. Jane was chatting gaily about nothing in particular and occasionally laughed lightly for no reason. Tony realised that she was playing her part well, giving their table an air of casualness and gaiety. He tried to join in with her but; he was naturally a silent type and now he could hardly keep his eyes off the man who was soon to be his target. Champagne corks were popping at that other table and there was much loud laughing. Tony called for his check and paid it. Then the main lights were snapped off, a spotlight centring on the small dance floor. A brash, overdressed young man stepped out into its glow and began telling about the show that was to follow, interspersing his remarks with supposedly funny wisecracks. Now was the time to pull the job, when everyone’s attention was centred on the show. Tony looked at Jane and nodded slightly. She gave him a look of understanding, then, with every appearance of affection, caught his right hand and gently manoeuvred it beneath the table. His hand found her knee, rested there. And he thrilled at the contact. But she did not shrink. Then he felt cold steel against his flesh and his eager fingers clutched an automatic. His thumb slipped off the safety catch and he waited. Some woman sang a comic song that made Tony laugh – even in the tenacity of the moment – then the chorus came on. While doing a fancy dance routine, they sang at the top of their voices, the jazz band blared madly, and the customers beat time with little wooden mallets provided for the purpose. The din was tremendous. Tony brought the gun up into his lap, then cautiously reached out, holding the weapon close beside the table and well below the level of its top. None yet had been seated on that side of them; at the moment not even a waiter was there. Tony took careful aim and fired three times, so rapidly that the reports almost merged into each other. He saw Hoffman slump forward as he jerked the pistol under the table and slipped it back to Jane. Her fingers were cool and steady as she took it from him. The noise of the shots had penetrated even that din, of course, and there was a sudden commotion. The main lights were snapped back on and everyone stood up, staring horror-stricken at that table where Hoffman lay slumped low in his chair, an ever widening spot of crimson disfiguring his snowy shirtfront. Then began a mad scramble to get away before the police should arrive. These people had no wish to be questioned about a murder, and have their names and perhaps their pictures in the papers. Tony and Jane were in the van of that frantic, fear-struck mob. Within less than two minutes they were comfortably seated in-‘ their limousine and were being driven rapidly away from the scene. Tony took a long breath. “Well, that’s done,” he said calmly. Now that it was all over, he felt calm, even gay. “We’ve done a good night’s work for ourselves. And for Lovo. He won’t forget it either, I think. But say, girlie, you sure have got guts.” “A person has to have to get along these days,” answered Jane Conley quietly. He reached out and caught her hand, fondled her fingers. It thrilled him to see that she made no effort to pull away. “You and I will probably work together quite a bit from now,” he said huskily. “Why can’t we be good pals and – play together, too?” “Perhaps we can.” Obeying a sudden irresistible impulse, he caught her in his arms and kissed her with all the frantic ardour of a strong, eager passion long repressed. And she made no effort to resist. CHAPTER IX Jerry Hoffman’s death created a sensation and for days the city was rife with conjectures as to who could have carried out such a daring murder plot. But the police and gangland both had a good idea as to who was responsible. The dicks took Johnny Lovo down to headquarters and questioned him for half a day but he told them nothing beyond proving an alibi for himself. Nor did he give the impression of defiantly holding back something. On the contrary, he blandly and smilingly convinced them that he actually knew nothing. But the North Side gang was far from convinced and some day they meant to have vengeance for the death of their chief. Neither Tony nor Jane was ever mentioned in connection with the affair. Lovo gave them £206 each and thanked them profusely, promising to let them handle any other little jobs he might have in the future. In the meantime he sent an enormous and elaborate floral piece bearing his card to Jerry Hoffman’s garish and expensive funeral and gave Tony various assignments in connection with the gang’s activities. But he didn’t send Tony back to the interesting but perilous task of proselytizing saloonkeepers – he considered the boy too valuable an aid now to risk in such reckless fashion. No, Tony had become a staff officer now. His work consisted mainly in relaying Lovo’s orders to the powerful leader’s henchmen and in receiving reports that Lovo himself was too busy to hear. There was no detail of the gang’s operation that Tony did not come to know. He spent all his spare time in pursuing Jane Conley. And the more he saw of her, the more fascinated he became with her. Yet there was something elusive about her. He could never feel that he had a definite grasp upon her. Yet he finally got his courage up to the point of proposing that they take a flat together. “I’m not interested in marriage,” she answered with a shake of her shapely head. “Neither am I,” agreed Tony quickly. “But who said anything about marriage? I said I thought it would be nice for us to have a flat together.” Again she shook her head. “I’ve never lived with a man.” “Well, you might find it a pleasant experience.” “Yes,” she admitted frankly, looking him straight in the eye. “And then again, I might not. I’m afraid it would be too – intimate; that people, even if they were very much in love – when they started, would surely tire each other finally.” “Is there – someone else?” “Not particularly.” “But there is someone?” he persisted jealously. She laughed lightly. “There is always someone else. Any girl knows more than one man and often likes more than one very much.” “Then you do like me a little?” He was at her side with her hand caught in both of his. She nodded. “And you will think about what I proposed?” “Yes, I’ll think about it.” And with that he had to be content. This Jane Conley was a very strange woman, he reflected. He often wondered who she was, where she came from. As much as he had been with her, he really didn’t know her at all. And he knew enough about women to realise that that very mystery and elusiveness was one of the main reasons why she fascinated him so intensely. But he had enough on his mind without troublesome love affairs. Contrary to expectations, the North Side gang had found a new leader and apparently an able one, a wily little Italian rightly named Schemer Bruno. Rumour had it that he was reorganising things in every direction and preparing to set out on a campaign of reprisals and business-getting that would set the city by the ears. That he was utterly ruthless and intended carrying on with gusto the feuds begun by his predecessor was proven by the fact that another of Johnny Lovo’s best men was taken for a ride, his body discovered out in the country with a scrawled note, In Memory of Hoffman, tacked to his chest with the blade of a pocketknife. “I tell you, Tony, I don’t like this,” said Lovo after the man’s body bearing its gruesome message was brought in. “Not getting scared, are you?” demanded Tony. He talked to Lovo now with the freedom of a privileged counsellor. “Hell, no!” snapped the gang leader, but he talked like a man who is assuming a falsely ferocious air to maintain his own courage. “But just the same I don’t like it. It may be you next – or me. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life having someone shot and trying to keep someone else from shooting me or my employees.” “Forget it!” advised Tony. “It’s all in the game. We’ll fight them to a finish and get this Schemer guy too if necessary.” “No, not yet. Maybe he’ll quit now. I don’t want to spend all my time in a war; it takes too much time away from making money.” Tony departed from that interview much disgusted with Johnny Lovo. He did not realise the essential differences between them; that Lovo was merely a shrewd and unscrupulous man willing to do anything for money; that he was much more a business man than a fighter; and that he had had none of Tony’s war experience which had taught the younger man such a supreme contempt for human life. Then for the first time Tony actually saw the close contact which exists between crime and the law. Lovo was summoned to the District Attorney’s office and he took Tony along as a sort of bodyguard and aide-de-camp. The District Attorney was a little man with a flat nose, an undershot belligerent jaw and mean little eyes. “This shooting has got to be stopped,” he barked at Lovo. “It’s–” “But I’m paying–” “Of course you are. And you’ll keep on paying if you want to keep on doing business. It isn’t your business that I’m objecting to; it’s this damned shooting that’s going on among you. It’s getting the city a bad name and what’s more important, the newspapers are beginning to ride me and my administration. I don’t want to interfere with you boys any more than is absolutely necessary, but this killing has got to be stopped.” “I’m willing. It’s that North Side outfit.” “And they say it’s you. I had this Schemer Bruno in here for an hour this morning and he promised his mob would do no more killing if yours didn’t. So that’s settled, then. Now I don’t want to hear of any more gang wars.” For six months there was peace, that is, on the surface. There were no killings but fist-fighting and stabbings occurred with too great frequency to be accidental. Therivalry for business was becoming keener and bitterer daily, and all sides knew that it was merely a question of time until someone blew the lid off and started the old feuds all over again. The two South Side factions also were beginning to meddle in districts which belonged to other gangs and on the near west side a crowd of five brothers had suddenly set up in the bootlegging and allied rackets with a strong gang of their own. Tony was growing restive from inaction. And he was deeply resentful of many things, of the fact that the last murder of a Lovo man was still unavenged, of the fact that other gangs were beginning to encroach upon the Lovo territory and that they were not being challenged by the bullets that should be poured into them. He had just about decided to begin a lone war of reprisal when the lid was blown off. He and Johnny Lovo were dining at a table in the ground floor restaurant of the hotel where Lovo had his headquarters and which he owned. Suddenly there was a rapid staccato rattle of shots from outside somewhere, the tinkling crash of shattered plate glass windows and the spiteful whizzing of bullets. With one sweep of his arm, Tony overturned the table and dragged Lovo down behind it. He had recognised that peculiar stuttering of those guns outside. Machine guns! Why hadn’t someone used them before? Why hadn’t he, an expert machine gunner, thought of them and brought them into play in this other war that was for money only? Well, if that was the way they were going to play now, he’d give them a nasty dose of their own medicine. That shooting had been a direct attempt to get Johnny Lovo himself. It was the most daring move of the enemy so far. And it had been partly successful. Lovo had been hit in the shoulder. It wasn’t a serious wound but the fact remained that he had been hit for the first time and it brought a hunted look into his eyes that remained there forever after. Johnny wasn’t a warrior when his own person was involved; his nerves weren’t constructed to stand the strain. That attempt to kill Lovo made Tony furious. He felt that it was a gesture of contempt which must not be allowed to remain unanswered if the Lovo organisation was to continue and to endure. Without saying a word to anyone, he managed to purchase a machine gun himself. Then one night he set out on a little war of his own. The headquarters of the North Side gang was upstairs over a florist’s shop which had been the property and hobby of the gang’s first and greatest leader, the famous Tommy Martin, who had been shot down among, his own flowers – the first post-war gang leader to die from the bullets of an enemy. The shop, which was directly across the street from a large cathedral, was located on a thoroughfare which was dark and quiet at night. Sitting in the tonneau of the car with his machine gun on his lap, Tony ordered his chauffeur to drive slowly past the shop. As the car moved deliberately along, Tony lifted the machine gun to his shoulder – it was one of the new type that are operated much as a rifle – and riddled the front of the shop, both upstairs and down. There had been a light on the second floor which went off the moment he started firing and he had no means of knowing if he hit anyone. But he had certainly done plenty of damage, he reflected happily as the car raced away from the scene. He’d given them as good as they sent, and with their own weapon. Since machine guns had been introduced into the war, the score was even. CHAPTER X At first Tony had considered that long scar on the left side of his face a blessing because of the change it had made in his appearance. But now, he was beginning to regard it as a curse. It was making him a marked man. Already he was known through the underworld, not only to the members of the Lovo gang but to those of other mobs, as “Scarface Tony.” And to be so well known that he could be easily identified was distinctly not a part of his plans. He felt, too, that that scar might be hurting his suit with Jane Conley, the gun girl. Women could not make themselves love men who had disfiguring marks of any kind and that scar, even though it was becoming less noticeable as time went on, was not a thing of beauty. He and Jane were the best of friends, often going places together and seeing a great deal of each other. Yet he felt that he was actually no closer to her than he had been the first time they met the night they had disposed of Jerry Hoffman. But the lure of her was growing upon him more and more, if such a thing were possible. “Listen, girlie,” he said one night, “I love you – more than I could ever tell you; I’m not much good at talking. But all I want is a chance to prove it. Please say ‘yes’ to that proposition I made you a long time ago.” Jane looked him straight in the eye for a moment and the directness of her gaze was rather disconcerting. “All right,” she answered. “We’ll look around tomorrow for a place.” “You’ll do it?” he cried, almost beside himself with elation. “For one month – on trial. If at the end of that time I am not pleased with – everything, I am to leave and you are to say nothing, not even seeing me again if I ask you not to. Those are my conditions. Do you accept them?” “Yes.” “Very well; it’s a bargain.” “And if you are pleased with – everything?” he queried. “The arrangement will probably last some time,” she answered quietly. Tony went away from the house that night, almost choking with triumph. At last he had won; that glorious creature was about to become his – even, if only for a month. But he meant to make things so pleasant that the arrangement would last much longer. But he said nothing about it to Lovo when they met next morning. In the first place, it was a private matter and none else’s business; and in the second, the gang leader was obviously preoccupied. Tony watched him pace nervously around the office, his unseeing gaze now on the ceiling, now on the floor, with a funny little sense of fright catching at his heart. What’s troubling Lovo? “I want to talk to you, Tony,” said the other finally. “Sit down.” Tony took his place on the other side of the desk, feeling an odd sense of drama as though important events were about to transpire. Finally Lovo sat down himself in his big chair and lit another cigar. “I’ve heard about your shooting up the florist shop the other night,” he began. “Yes?” said Tony uneasily. He wondered if he was to be sharply reprimanded. “It’s daring and all that but terribly dangerous. You must learn not to risk yourself like that.” “I – I’ll try. But there’s a lot of fun in pulling a job like that.” “I suppose so,” assented Lovo. “For those that like it. Well, I’m not one of them. I’d rather be peaceable and make money. When they drag in machine guns, it’s a bit too much. I’ve got plenty of money, Tony; more than I can ever spend if I use common sense. I think I’ll take a trip, to Monte Carlo or Havana or some other gay sporting place where life is pleasant.” “For how long?” “Years. In fact, I doubt very much if I’ll ever return.” “But the mob! You can’t let it break up and go to pieces–” “It would be a shame to let such a complete organisation wreck itself, wouldn’t it? Well, can’t someone else run it?” “Certainly.” Then remembering to whom he was talking, he added: “Perhaps not as well as you’ve run it, but they’d hold the crowd together and keep things moving. And there’s so much jack laying around just waiting to be picked up.” His voice almost became a groan as he remembered and mentioned the large illicit profits waiting to be garnered. “I know,” assented Lovo. “I’m not through with those profits yet myself … listen, Tony, do you think you could run this mob?” “I know I could,” answered the young man eagerly. “I wish you’d give me the chance.” “I’m going to, It’s a heavy responsibility for a young fellow or even for an old one. But I’m going to take a chance on you and I believe you’ll make good. You’re to send half the net profits to me every month wherever I direct. If my payments don’t come through regularly, of course I’ll have to come back and – make other arrangements!” Their eyes met as he said that and it was evident that they understood each other completely. “Of the other half, you’re to keep two-thirds of it and give the other third to your first lieutenant, Steve Libati.” “You want him to work that close to me?” asked Tony. He disliked Libati intensely. “Yes. He’s much older at the game than you are and can give you good advice. Besides, he’s always been completely loyal to me and I know he would never do anything that would hurt the organisation. If – anything should happen to you, he is to take command.” “Does he know about all this?” “No. But I’m going to tell him in an hour or two, after you and I have gone over some details.” For two hours the gang leader and his successor, discussed various aspects of the mob and its activities. Tony merely assented to whatever Lovo said but his own mind was formulating rapidly a plan of campaign, an aggressive, ruthless campaign that would leave the Lovo organisation in command of the field. His eyes glinted as he thought of the many daring moves he wanted to make. At last Steve Libati was called in and apprised of the situation. He was an ugly brute in the late thirties, a gangster of the old school, the type that wore sweaters and shapeless checked caps and lounged in front of frowsy corner saloons with a cigarette dangling from one corner of their ugly mouths while they talked hoarsely from the other. He had hard grey eyes and a nose bent slightly to one side and a mean mouth that sneered easily and nastily. Tony disliked him intently and he had never evidenced any particular affection for Tony. They represented two entirely different epochs in gangland, and had practically nothing in common. Steve was of the pre-war strong-arm type, who knew nothing except the law of might. Tony was of the dapper, business-like, post-war type that went in for efficiency and regular business administration in crime, and that handled its necessary rough stuff with a breath-taking speed and thoroughness that accomplished the end without leaving, any traces of the perpetrators. Furthermore, Tony had none of Lovo’s faith in either Steve’s ability or his loyalty. He had never seen the fellow do anything that proved either one. And he resented having the man handed to him on a plate and being told to make the best of it. But already he had resolved one thing – if he and Steve didn’t get along well together, he intended to rid himself of the fellow. There were ways … “Well, kid, we’ll hit it off together in great shape, won’t we?” exclaimed Steve with a great show of heartiness when the conditions of Lovo’s virtual abdication had been explained to him. But there was a sly look in his hard eyes and a patronising note in his rough voice that angered Tony. “I hope so,” he said coldly. He turned to say something to Lovo. Tony walked out of the hotel in the grip of a strange mixture of emotions. He was elated, of course, at being elevated to command of the big Lovo organisation – it furnished him with the break he had always wished for and which would give him a chance to make good in a big way and clean up. But he resented Steve Libati. The more he thought about him, the more he disliked and distrusted the fellow. He could see him only as a spy for Lovo and as a general meddler. Oh, well, that problem would work itself out in time. He met Jane and they went flat-hunting together. He told her of his big promotion and she was as excited as a child over a new toy. “What a marvellous opportunity!” she exclaimed repeatedly. “You ought to be able to clean up and retire in a couple of years.” “Who wants to retire?” he demanded. “I want to live. Just because I’m the boss don’t mean that I’m going to hide myself in an office some place and let someone else have all the fun. I’m going to be out on the firing, line myself every now and then. You and I are going to pull some more little jobs, girlie; don’t forget it. And there’s going to be plenty of jobs to be done. If I’m to run this mob, I’m going to run it, and no halfway business. Moreover, I’m either going to run the competition out of town or kill them off.” They found a handsome furnished apartment in a large building in a fashionable section. The rent was enormous but they both liked the place and Tony was a big shot now. They rented the place for one month and he paid the rent in cash. And the following day found them installed, Jane as tremulously happy as a bride on her honeymoon. Lovo departed on Friday. Tony drove him to asmall station on the far South Side where he took a train for New York. Thus, there were no reporters or photographers around and the public at large had, no inkling that he was gone. Tony wanted to have everything running smoothly and have his own position and leadership thoroughly established before Lovo’s absence was known. Returning to Lovo’s former office in the hotel to take command, Tony found Steve Libati comfortably established there, tilted back in Lovo’s big chair, his feet on the desk, smoking a cigar. “’Lo, kid!” he greeted Tony. And again his voice held that patronising tone that made the younger man furious. “Would you mind moving to another chair?” asked Tony coldly. “I want to sit there.” “Oh, all right.” Steve shifted to another chair and Tony sat down at the desk. “As we’re going to run the mob, I thought you and I ought to have a little talk.” “I don’t know what about,” retorted Tony coolly, picking up some papers and riffling through them in a this-is-my-busy-day manner. “I’ve decided on no definite plans yet. When I do, I’ll let you know and give you your orders for your part in them.” For a long moment the two men stared at each other. Tony’s right hand had moved quietly to his side coat pocket. He was waiting for definite insubordination. It did not come. Steve’s mean eyes narrowed and his ugly mouth twisted into a snarl. Then he relaxed and forced a smile. “All right,” he said, “if that’s the way you feel about it.” He picked up his hat and walked out. Tony had won the first tilt. But he realised that the inevitable serious trouble between them had only been postponed. Tony worked hard the rest of that day and evening and all the next day and evening, getting things organised both in his head and on paper. The gang had been gradually falling lately, both in efficiency and income, because of Lovo’s reluctance to carry out reprisals. There was much to do. The first thing was to carry out successfully two or three daring coups – preferably killings – against the enemy so as to give the boys some confidence and pride in their own outfit. Then would come the serious organisation work that meant big profits. Within sixty days, Tony meant to have those profits bigger than they had ever been under Lovo’s leadership. It was almost ten o’clock on Saturday night when Al, the little rat-faced gangster who acted as guard and doorman for the office, came in to Tony. “Captain Flanagan’s here,” he announced. Tony looked up quickly. “Who?” he demanded. “Captain Flanagan, chief of the dicks at headquarters,” A grim smile played about Tony’s lips. So Flanagan was here! Well he remembered that bullying officer whom he had knocked down in the cabaret for insulting Vyvyan and who thereafter had practically run him out of town. The shoe was on the other foot now. Tony took an ugly automatic out of a drawer and laid it on the desk within easy reach. “Show him in!” he ordered grimly. CHAPTER XI Captain Flanagan, chief of detectives, came striding into the new gang leader’s office with the confident, arrogant air of one who is on familiar ground and who, though not expecting a warm welcome, realises that his position demands a certain courtesy and respect. Scarface Tony, seated behind the desk to which he had just succeeded, with his right hand resting lightly on the automatic lying on its top, watched the official enter. And a blast of rage as fierce as the heat from a suddenly opened furnace door swept through him. But the main thing he wondered was whether or not Flanagan would recognise him. Flanagan evidently did not see in this smartly dressed man with a livid scar traversing the left side of his hard face from ear to jaw the handsome boy who had knocked him down less than three years before and whom he later had practically run out of the city. For there was no hint of recognition in the officer’s granite grey eyes as he pushed his derby to the back of his head and with his big feet planted widely apart and his hands thrust deep into his pockets, stood staring at the new leader of the powerful Lovo gang. “Where’s Johnny?” demanded Flanagan. “Mr. Lovo isn’t in.” Tony’s eyes were as coldly impersonal as his tone. “I can see that,” snapped Flanagan, his cruel mouth twisting angrily. “I ain’t blind. Where is he?” “Out of town. And he won’t be back for some time.” Flanagan snorted. “Quit kidding,” he snarled. “Johnny’s always in on the first of the month – for me.” “Oh! I see. Just a moment.” From one of the desk drawers Tony produced a small notebook which contained the gang’s pay-off list, the names of those officials, high and slow, who had to be padded, and the amount of the monthly bit of each. The list was carefully arranged in alphabetical order and Tony soon ascertained that the Lovo mob’s monthly contribution to the happiness and prosperity of Captain Flanagan was £103. Tony dropped the little book back in the desk drawer. Then he pulled out a fat roll of money and peeling off five £20 bills, threw them across the desk in a manner most contemptuous. “There you are. But remember that we want some service for all this jack we pay out.” “As if you didn’t get it,” snarled Flanagan, snatching up the money and stuffing it into his pocket. “What I could do to this outfit if I wanted would be a sight.” “Yes, I suppose so,” admitted Tony reflectively. “Yet we boys have our own methods for discouraging our enemies.” “What do you mean?” “Nothing,” answered Tony calmly, but he could see that his veiled warning had registered. “And now, Flanagan, I think it might be a good idea for you and I to have a little talk. I’m Tony Camonte. And from now on I’m in command of this mob.” “You!” “Me,” asserted Tony solemnly. “Johnny Lovo left yesterday for a long vacation. He may be back sometime but I don’t think so. He’s got plenty of dough and he’s tired of this racket. Of course he’s still interested but he turned the active control of things over to me.” “Won’t some of his other lieutenants question your authority?” “Maybe. But they won’t question it more than once.” Tony patted the automatic and the glance he gave Flanagan was significant. “Well!” exclaimed the captain. “This is news. Though I been wondering lately if Johnny hadn’t lost his nerve or some p’m. This mob’s been pretty quiet for a while.” “Too damn quiet!” agreed Tony, his eyes snapping with energetic resolve. “But all that’s going to be changed now and changed damn quickly.” “That’ll be interesting to the other mob leaders.” “Let them find it out. They don’t have to be told anything. I don’t want this change spread around or leaking into the papers. But I wanted you to know about it so that if I give you a ring someday and want a favour done in a hurry you’ll know who I am.” Tony sneered at the captain’s broad back as Flanagan departed. There, he thought, was a good example of the men who are supposed to stand between the lawless and the law-abiding citizenry. Trafficking for his own profit with those he had sworn to hunt down. That was the nub of the whole matter, Money. The underworld now was too wealthy to allow itself to be hunted down. But even a cop was human, thought Tony; how could people be so foolish as to expect him to do his duty for five thousand a year – and sometimes less – when not doing it would make him twenty-five thousand and oftentimes more. A knock at the door roused him from his reflections on cops in general and Flanagan in particular. “Come in,” he called brusquely. He had the automatic trained on the portal before one could turn the knob. But it was only Al, the little rat-faced outer doorkeeper. “Someone just phoned on that back room wire at the cigar store downstairs,” he announced, “and said that Charlie Martino, one of our truck drivers was hijacked and shot a little bit ago. He’s at a garage in Maywood now – here’s the address – and whoever phoned said he needs a doctor bad.” “Wonder why he didn’t give them one of our numbers up here to call,” Tony said. “Probably didn’t want to give them to strangers. Charlie’s a good, reliable boy, boss,” said Al pleadingly, “I know him well.” “If it’s true, I want to help him all I can,” said Tony. “But most likely it’s that North Side mob trying to put me on the spot. We got to go careful on this.” Within five minutes – so thoroughly systematized was the Lovo organisation and its operations – Tony was in possession of Charlie Martino’s scheduled movements for the evening and also of his past record with the gang. The latter was unblemished, both as to loyalty and ability, over a period of two years. This evening Charlie was supposed to be bringing a load of raw grain alcohol from Melrose Park, a suburb where almost every house had a big still and the Italian inhabitants were making comfortable little fortunes by “cooking alky” for the big syndicates, into a warehouse near the gang’s headquarters in Cicero. A call to Melrose Park revealed that he had picked up his load and departed according to schedule. But another call revealed that he had not arrived at the warehouse. It looked as though the plea for assistance was genuine. “Tell six or seven of the boys downstairs to bring around a couple of cars and plenty of gats,” snapped Tony, his black eyes glittering with excitement, though his voice was as cool and calm as if he were giving a telephone number. “I’m going out and have a look at this.” Al hurried away, to relay orders to the cigar store downstairs which was a sort of squad room for the gang. Tony called a safe doctor – one of those rare physicians who, for enormous fees, will attend the underworld’s gunshot wounds without going through the prescribed formality of reporting them to the police – and giving him the address in Maywood, ordered him to proceed there immediately. Then he grabbed his automatic and hurried downstairs. In the dark alley back of the hotel – that was the gang’s headquarters because Lovo owned it – he found a group of shadowy figures moving about two large dark touring cars with drawn side curtains. The clank of metal came to his ears as he advanced. They were loading in the machine guns, of course. “Ready, boys?” he enquired. “Good! Let’s go!” He leaped into the tonneau of one car. Men piled in around him and in front and he saw the other men climbing into the car ahead. Motors roared into pulsing life and with a whine of racing engines the two carloads of expert gunmen sped away on their errand of either mercy or murder. Tony hoped it would prove to be both. To his left he could discern in the gloom the ugly snouts of two machine guns. He reached over and pulled one of them into his lap. “I’m with these babies like some people with a car,” he said with a laugh. “I feel safer when I’m at the wheel.” A block away from the garage which was their objective, they cut put the engines and coasted the rest of the way. But their practiced eyes found nothing suspicious on any side. Abruptly the engines roared again and the two big cars, bristling with the most modern death-dealing machinery, ready for anything, swept into the garage and ground to a halt. A man in greasy mechanic’s coveralls, came forward, wiping his hands on a bit of waste. Tony opened the door next to him and looked out. “We’d a call that there was a man here – hurt,” he said brusquely. “Yes. He’s back there in my little office. A doctor just came to see him.” The man jerked a dirty thumb toward a small coupe which Tony recognised as belonging to the doctor he had summoned. The gang leader lifted his machine gun to the floor of the car and stepped out. But as he followed the other man across the grease-spotted concrete floor, his right hand was plunged deep into his side coat pocket and his keen glance was searching the shadows on all sides. Behind him, he knew that other keen glances were doing the same thing and that he was covered by an amazing amount of artillery. As the two men entered the cluttered little space partitioned off from the rest of the building, the doctor looked up. He was a thin, nervous little man with a pallid complexion and shifty black eyes. But he knew his business, as many a live gangstercould testify. “Pretty serious,” he said with a gesture toward his patient who lay stretched out on a canvas cot, his eyes closed, his breathing slow and hoarse. “Shot twice through the chest. He’s lost a lot of blood. We ought to get him somewhere where I can work on him.” “Can he be moved?” asked Tony. “Yes. I’ll give him a stimulant.” The doctor quickly filled a hypodermic needle from some of the bottles in his grip and injected the contents into the patient’s wrist. In a few moments the boy – he was little more than that – opened his eyes. Tony walked over to him. “He’s too weak to talk,” cautioned the doctor. Tony grasped his henchman’s hand. Their glances met, held, and the boy’s vacant stare changed to happy recognition. “Was it the North Side outfit?” demanded Tony harshly. “Schemer Bruno’s mob?” The boy tried to speak but so much effort was beyond him. He nodded. “All right, we’ll see them, kid,” promised Tony gruffly and gripped that limp hand hard. The garage man’s eyes widened when he heard that ominous threat of gangland vengeance. When Tony turned on him, he told his story quickly. Returning from towing a car out of a ditch, he had come upon the wounded boy lying at the side of a lonely road, and had brought him on to the garage. The boy had pleaded with him to call only a certain number, a request to which he had acceded. “You see, I thought it’s probably a case that it’s best not to make too much fuss about,” he concluded. “You’ve done well,” Tony commended, and slipped him a twenty pound bill. ”.How’s your memory?” “Terrible, boss,” grinned the man with a knowing wink. “Why, I’ve to look up the number every time I wanna phone my own house.” Tony grinned himself and slapped the man on the back. Money and power on one hand and lack of them on the other has a way of making people understand each other quickly and thoroughly. They took the wounded boy back to a room in the hotel which was the gang’s headquarters and the doctor went to work on him in an effort to save his life. Tony retired to his private office and sent for Steve Libati, the man whom Lovo had appointed as second in command of the gang during his absence and who, Tony realised, was very jealous of his position as chief. He felt that now was as good a time as any to give the man an important assignment, to test his ability and his loyalty. CHAPTER XII Steve Libati came in looking somewhat sullen and defiant. A gangster of a somewhat older school than Tony, of the sweater-and-checked-cap era, he had never quite accustomed himself to the smooth, suave, business-like methods of the modern, post-Prohibition gangsters. Though he now wore the best clothes and drove an expensive car, he still talked from one corner of his cruel mouth and, at times, revealed other distressing symptoms of having been a common street-corner thug. “That North Side mob’s at it again,” said Tony, plunging immediately to the heart of the matter. “They hijacked one of our trucks of alky tonight and knocked off the driver. Kid named Charlie Martino. I took some of the boys and went out and got him a little bit ago. He’s down the hall here now and Doc’s working on him to try to keep him from croaking. Happened between Maywood and Melrose Park. That’s the first time that outfit has come that far into our territory and it’s going to be the last.” “Think you can stop them?” asked Libati calmly, his head cocked on one side and his left eye closed against the smoke curling upward from his cigarette. “I’m going to stop them.” Tony punctuated the statement with a sharp blow on the desk with his clenched fist. “If I have to have every man in the mob bumped off. Things have been too quiet lately; from now on, they’re going to see action that’ll curl their hair. Johnny thought that Jerry Hoffman being bumped off would ruin that mob but they found this Schemer Bruno guy and he’s turned out to be the best leader since Tommy Martin, better than Jerry ever thought of being. From now on, the war’s between that mob and this one; the others don’t cut much ice. Now, Steve, bumping’ off small fry like Charlie is a nuisance but it don’t really hurt a mob. You can always find plenty of kids who’ll take a chance for the price. To ruin a mob, you gotta get the leaders, the brains of the outfit. And you can bet this Schemer guy knows that as well as we do. So it’s just a matter of time till he takes a crack at me – or you. Well, I’m going to beat him to the draw and get him before he gets me. And I’ve picked you to do the job.” Steve tensed. His ugly features settled into an angry scowl. “Why me?” he demanded. “I gotta have someone reliable that I can trust to handle it right.” “Why don’t you do it yourself?” For a long moment Tony stared at his subordinate while fury gathered in his eyes. He strangled it with an obvious effort. “Because I don’t choose to. As head of the mob, I think my duty is to stay in the background and run things.” Libati laughed sarcastically. Tony’s eyes blazed. “I’d get Bruno,” he snapped furiously, “and do it within forty-eight hours. Don’t think I wouldn’t like to. And I will if necessary. But with my position now, I feel I shouldn’t take chances like that if I don’t have to. Just the same, I’ll never ask a man in this mob to do anything that I can’t or won’t do myself. I got Jerry Hoffman and I got others. A good many times I proved I got guts enough for anything. But I never heard yet of you proving that you’d any. Now’s your chance.” Libati paled at the insinuation and his cruel mouth set in a nasty snarl. For a moment it looked as though he was going to pull a gun. Tony hoped he would, for he himself was ready and that would settle his problem of what to do with Steve Libati. But the fellow had sense enough to regain his self-control. “You talk like you was the only big shot in this mob,” he snarled. “What about me? Ain’t I one of the leaders?” “Yes,” answered Tony quietly. “And I didn’t ask you to do the job yourself. But I want you to handle it, to get the dope about where and when he can be put on a spot and then get him. You can work it your own way, have any of the boys you want to help you, but I want it done.” “And if I don’t care to do it?” queried Steve impudently. “You’re through with this mob,” retorted Tony coldly. “After the orders Johnny left?” “That don’t cut any ice. There’s none stays in this mob a minute that don’t obey my orders. That goes for you as well as the truck drivers. And there’s my authority!” He whipped out his heavy, ugly automatic and slammed it down on the desk. Libati’s glance riveted to the gun for a moment, then he looked up at Tony and his eyes shifted again. He rose. “All right, I’ll do it,” he said and walked out. Tony smiled a little when the man had gone. Again he had won over the sullenly defiant Libati. He felt that he might yet master the fellow and make him a highly useful subordinate. Well, one thing certain; he’d either master him or make use of the authority he had exhibited to clinch his argument. For half an hour Tony sat quietly smoking while he thought over the situation. It began to look as if this Schemer Bruno had come by his name rightfully, as if he were a worthy foe. And as an instrument with which to carry out his schemes he had as powerful a gang as was to be found in the United States. Its personnel was at least as strong as that of the Lovo mob and had proved itself to be equally resourceful and ruthless. And under the able leadership of this Schemer Bruno it seemed to have set out on the same sort of ambitious program of expansion that Tony himself now intended embarking upon with the aid of the Lovo gang. Tony had heard, too, that the three most important gangs on the South Side were about to consolidate and, under a unified direction, attempt to extend their operations to the rest of the city. That meant three major organisations, each holding sovereignty over a certain section but struggling to gain the territory controlled by the others. It was going to be a grand fight, and a bloody one, with the big profits going to the gang that could shoot the straightest and whose leader could think the fastest. And Tony welcomed the coming battle, every wily, murderous phase of it. He reached under the desk suddenly and, pressing a button there, summoned Al, the little, rat-faced gangster who acted as office boy and outer doorkeeper. “I want someone to do something for me,” he said. “See who’s downstairs and let me know right away.” In five minutes Al was back and recited a list of the gangsters who were loafing in the cigar store below. Tony considered a moment. “Tell Mike Rinaldo to come up here,” he ordered finally. Mike proved to be a slender, dark young man, foppishly dressed in the latest fashion, and with a somewhat elegant manner. In evening clothes, he could have passed as a foreign nobleman at a Ritz reception. Yet he was chief of the Lovo gang’s gunmen and personally was the most daring and resourceful gunman Tony had ever encountered. “Sit down, Mike,” said Tony. “I’ve a little job for you.” Mike obeyed, carefully easing his pants over his knees so as not to spoil their razor-like creases. Then he lighted an imported, cork-tipped cigarette with an ornate silver and mother-of-pearl lighter, and looked up expectantly. “Do you know any of the men in the North Side mob?” demanded Tony. “A few – by sight,” answered Rinaldo cautiously. His eyes narrowed with suspicion at the unusual question. “I want one of them. And you’re to get him for me.” “I don’t think I quite get you, chief.” “I want one of Schemer Bruno’s men – the higher up in the gang he is, the better I’ll like it – brought here to me. I don’t care how you do it just so he’s alive when you get him here. I want to find out some details about how that mob operates.” “But, good God, chief, none of them would talk.” “The hell they wouldn’t!” snapped Tony. “Did you ever see that little room we’ve got down in the cellar here?” “No,” answered Rinaldo, suddenly pale. “But I’ve heard about it.” “Oh, he’ll talk all right,” said Tony with a grim smile. “All you have to do is get him here. And if you get me someone that knows something, there’ll be five G’s in it for you.” The gunman departed, his close-set eyes sparkling at the thought of making £103 in one chunk. It was now after one in the morning. Tony could think of no other important tasks which could be done that night and decided to go home. Jane Conley, famous in the underworld of half a dozen cities as The Gun Girl was still waiting up for him in the luxurious living room of the expensive apartment he had rented for the thirty-day period of unconventional trial marriage to which they had agreed. And he felt a quick surge of passion rush through him as his keen glance caught a suggestion of the alluring curves of her fine figure through the filmy folds of the flaming orange-and-black negligee which set off so brilliantly her vivid dark beauty. A magazine lay open in her lap but her eyes looked red and strained, as if she might have been weeping. “What’s the matter, dear?” he asked after he had kissed her. “Unhappy already?” She shook her head. “I’ve been thinking. And I guess it kinda got me upset. You know, Tony, you ought to watch yourself more. Now that you’re in Johnny Lovo’s shoes, all these other mobs are going to try to bump you off. You ought to have bodyguards with you all the time.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right, kid. I’ll see about that tomorrow.” “And I think we ought to be better armed here.” “All right. I’ll bring up a machine gun tomorrow night if you say so. None knows we’re here and if they did, they’ve got sense enough not to try to pull off anything in a place like this.” “You can’t tell, Tony. All the mobs are getting too ambitious and from now it’s going to be for blood.” “What’s the matter; losing your nerve?”“Not by a damned sight!” flared Jane, her eyes snapping. “You know damn well I’m not yellow; I’ve proved it more than once. But I think it’s foolish to take any more chances than you have to.” She came to him impulsively and laid a hand on his arm. “I – I’ve got some things on my mind/ Tony, and if anything ever happened to you, I could never forgive myself.” With the taciturnity and inarticulateness of his kind, Tony did not question her about that cryptic remark. But to himself he puzzled over it. And before long he was destined to puzzle over it a lot more. CHAPTER XIII GANGLEADER FLEES Tony read the newspapers next morning with unusual interest and a mounting fury. It was the big, black headline on all of them. Beneath that was a chronicle of Johnny Lovo’s abdication and departure and of the succession of Tony Camonte, a young, little known gangster to his place as commander of the mob. And all the papers carried an interview with Captain Flanagan, chief of detectives, in which he calmly assumed credit for having run Lovo out of the city. The captain also intimated in the interview that the Lovo mob had been so thoroughly harassed by the men in his department that it was completely disorganised and would soon be a thing of the past. The captain closed with a trite, high-sounding but really meaningless statement as to the inevitable triumph of law and order when properly administered and promised the people that he would continue to exert his utmost efforts to rid the city of gangs. It was easy to see where the papers had received their information; the temptation to grab unearned glory had been too much for the captain. “That bastard.” Tony’s voice crackled with venom as he spat out the epithet between clenched teeth. “I’ll get him yet.” Tony drove to his headquarters with a ferocity that brought down upon him the profane maledictions of innumerable pedestrians and other motorists. But by the time he reached his desk his fury had cooled to an icy, wordless anger infinitely more dangerous. Never yet had he failed to get even with a betrayer. “The DA’s been calling up every five minutes for the last hour,” said Al, the little, rat-faced doorman. “Said you was to give him a ring the minute you come in. Sounds like he’s awful upset about some p’m.” “To hell with him!” snarled Tony. “If he wants to talk to me, he knows where to find me. We ought to get some service out of that bit we pay him every month.” “Better be careful with him, chief,” warned Al. “He’s more dangerous than any mob leader in town: He’s got a strong-arm squad that’s took many a poor guy for a ride.” Tony considered a moment then, with an angry grunt, reached for the telephone and called the District Attorney’s office. At last there came to him over the wire a gruff voice that he recognised from that conference long ago to which he had accompanied Johnny Lovo. “Camonte?” barked this voice brusquely. “This is District Attorney Crowder. I see in the morning papers that Lovo’s left town.” “Yeah.” “And that you’re in command of his mob now.” “Yeah, that’s right.” “Well, I presume you are familiar with his – er – arrangement with me?” “Yeah, I got a complete pay-off list of the bits and I’ll keep takin’ care of them just as he did.” “Don’t say things like, that over the phone,” commanded the D.A. sharply, in his voice such concern that Tony grinned. “Then things are going to go right ahead?” “Yeah, only more so. This mob’s been too quiet lately.” “Well, keep things out of the papers.” “That’d be easy, if the dicks wasn’t so damn mouthy.” “I know. All right, then, I’ll send Moran out to see you tomorrow afternoon.” Tony hung up, his lips curved in a sneering smile. The DA had been worried about his monthly bit, now that Lovo had gone. And he was sending Moran out for it the next afternoon. Moran was one of his younger assistants, a brilliant prosecutor when he and his chief wanted him to be, but in the meantime the collector for his superior. Reporters besieged the headquarters all morning but Tony refused to see them or even to send out a statement. The less publicity he got, the better he liked it. Shortly before noon Al brought in a note to him. It was written on cheap white paper in a graceful feminine hand and read: Dear Mr. Camonte, May I see you for five minutes? Thanks! Katherine Merton Tony looked up, frowning in annoyance. “Who’s this dame?” he demanded. “Don’t know, chief. Never saw her before. But she sure is a swell looker.” “Yeah?” Tony seemed to brighten up a bit. “She don’t look like a gun girl or anything?” “No. A dame with eyes like this one’s got couldn’t hurt a kitten.” “All right, I’ll take a chance. Send her in.” A moment later Miss Merton came in and Tony’s first glimpse of her made him glad that he had granted the interview. Al’s description of a swell looker was all right as far as it went but it did not take into account her dignity and charm. She was the sort of girl that immediately and unconsciously made a young man ambitious for more intimate acquaintance and an old man regretful for his age. Tall, with an athletic figure and an easy, graceful stride, she walked into the office with a calm, un-brazen assurance. She was dressed in a grey tweed suit and a small grey and black hat that fitted closely the fine contour of her head. “How do you do, Mr. Camonte,” she said and extended her hand. “I’m Miss Merton.” Tony accepted the hand and felt sorry that he had no right or excuse for holding it longer than he did. Her voice was rich and soothing, well-placed and completely poised, and her frank blue eyes held an engaging twinkle of understanding good humour. “I want to ask a favour of you, Mr. Camonte,” she began. “I’ve found that men of your type are almost always chivalrous if they’ve the opportunity to be.” “Yeah, sure,” mumbled Tony, embarrassed. “Be glad to do anything I can.” “I thought so. Now, the problem is this: I’ve a job that I very much want to keep. And right now you’re the only person in the city who can help me keep that job.” “Yeah? How’s that?” “I’m with the Examiner,” continued the girl gently, almost regretfully. “And the city editor told me this morning that if I didn’t succeed in getting an interview with you he’d fire me.” “A reporter!” exclaimed Tony in amazement and his expressive black eyes flashed angrily. “I’m seeing no reporters.” “I knew you’d not, of course. And I understand just how you feel. But you see how it’s with me – I had to come out here and try to see you or lose my job. I guess though, that I’ll lose it anyway.” She sighed and, succeeding in looking small and miserable for a moment, sniffed audibly. Tony growled under his breath and lit a cigarette. “Well, miss, I can’t tell anything about my business,” he objected doggedly. “Of course you can’t,” she seemed amazed at the mere idea, “and I’d think of asking you nothing like that even to save my job. All I wanted to know was if Mr. Lovo really had left and if you’re really going to be the commander from now on – my, I’d think it would require unlimited brains and nerve to manage an – or – operation like this. And you look so young to have such an important position.” During the ensuing twenty minutes Miss Merton secured her interview. Her questions were adroitly harmless on the surface, dealing only with things which were already known or soon would be known about the gang and its operations, and Tony had no realisation of how much he had said. “I’ll bet you’d make a wonderful husband,” she said finally, her eyes sparkling in a way that gave him an unaccountable thrill. “Men who lead adventurous lives always do; they like the relief of a quiet, comfortable home.” Thus she steered the conversation into romantic channels and for some little time they dealt with love, marriage and so on. Mostly they talked in generalities but occasionally she elicited from him a personal opinion that would be meat for a sensational newspaper story on A Gang Leader’s Ideas of Love or some such shop-girl-appeal topic. “By the way,” she said at last, “did you ever know a girl named Vyvyan Lovejoy?” The question gave Tony such a shock that he almost cried out. Only his iron reserve enabled him to keep from betraying himself by an obvious reaction. Did he know Vyvyan Lovejoy? Did Romeo know Juliet? Vyvyan was the burlesque leading woman who had been his first love. He had killed Al Spingola, the city’s most important gang leader at that time, in order that he might have her for himself. It was his reckless love for her that had started him on his career beyond the law. And when he had come back from the war and found her living with another man he had killed them both. At the mention of her name, all these events had rushed through his mind like a private mental movie. As it came to an end, his eyes narrowed and his mouth set grimly. “No,” he said. “Why do you ask?” “I interviewed her once,” answered the girl smoothly. “And you look a great deal like a picture she’d. There’s something about the eyes–” Tony felt considerably upset. To his knowledge, Vyvyan had never had a picture of him. Nor had anyone else. In fact, he didn’t know of his picture ever having been taken. He didn’t believe in pictures; they were too liable to fall into the wrong hands and sometime be a means of identification. “And by the way,” continued Miss Merton smoothly, “do you ever see that stunning brunette who was with you at the Embassy Club the night Jerry Hoffman was shot?” At this question, Tony did start. Even his iron-like nerves could not withstand a shock like that. He and Jane Conley, “The Gun Girl,” the girl with whom he was now living, had killed Jerry Hoffman, then leader of the North Side gang, that night at the Embassy Club, the city’s most exclusive night resort. Johnny Lovo had given the orders and paid for the job being done. And so far as Tony knew, Lovo was the only other person besides himself and Jane who even knew that they had been in the club that fatal night. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You see I was there that night and my escort pointed out all the notables to me. You’re among them. He said he thought you’d make a great success in your chosen profession.” She laughed lightly. “Who was your escort that night?” demanded Tony. “Oh, I don’t think it would be fair to tell.” She rose, smilingly, and extended her hand. “I’ll take up no more of your valuable time now, Mr. Camonte. But perhaps some other time we can chat a bit. Anyway, thanks so much for a very interesting interview; it will enable me to keep my job.” And she departed, leaving behind her a much perturbed gang leader. Now that he was no longer under the influence of her personality – and her expert flattery – he realised that she was a smooth worker, that she had attained her objective in spite of him. And how had she known so much? And what could possibly have been her object in mentioning those past occurrences to him? The more he thought about it the more worried he became. At last, in response to a sudden awful suspicion, he picked up the telephone and, calling the Examiner, asked to speak to Miss Katherine Merton. A moment later he hung up slowly, feeling dazed and very uneasy. The Examiner had no one by that name. Then who was the girl? And what had been her object? CHAPTER XIV Charlie Martino, the alky truck driver, who had been hijacked and shot the, night before, died during the afternoon, without regaining sufficient strength to relate the details of what had occurred to him or to give a description of his assailants. Tony looked down at the boy a moment, then, using again that uncanny yet unconscious knowledge of psychology which he possessed, ordered every member of the gang who could be reached to come in a few at a time and view the body. He felt that the sight of one of their own dead would put the spirit of battle in them. At last he ordered a fine funeral for the boy and went back to his private office in grim silence, vowing vengeance on the North Side gang. Tony, in a savage humour from the day’s events, was just ready to go home shortly after ten that night when Mike Rinaldo, the dapper gunman, arrived. And the three men who followed him into Tony’s office proved that he had succeeded in his quest. For the man in the centre was obviously a prisoner. “Got him, chief,” announced Mike with an elegant gesture toward the glowering captive. “Who is he?” demanded Tony. His manner indicated that nothing short of Caesar would be acceptable. “Benny Peluso, one of the big shots in the North Side crowd.” “Frisk him?” “Certainly,” answered Rinaldo, evidently aggrieved at the query. “Found a nice load of gats too.” “Well, frisk him again here. Strip him to the hide.” From his vantage point behind the big desk Tony surveyed the captive while his three henchmen stripped the man and searched every inch of his clothing for possible weapons. The fellow was short and slightly stocky, with a heavy brutal face that instantly bred distrust. His black eyes, now blazing with anger, were shifty and set far too close together. Tony removed a heavy automatic from the desk drawer and laid it on the desk conveniently close to his practiced right hand. “All right,” he said when the three men had completed their fruitless search and the prisoner was indignantly donning his coat. “You,” pointing the pistol at the captive, “sit down there. The rest of you wait outside until I call you.” He toyed silently with the weapon until the door had closed behind his men. Then he looked at Peluso and stared at him until the man’s glance dropped. “Do you know where you are?” demanded Tony suddenly. “Yeah,” snarled the prisoner. “Speak nicer if you expect to get out of here alive,” snapped Tony. “Do you know who I am?” “No.” “Well, I’m Scarface Tony Camonte, the new chief of the Lovo mob. And I’m just about ten times as hard-boiled as Johnny Lovo ever thought of being. I’ve bumped off six or eight myself and another one – especially a rat like you – wouldn’t mean a thing in my young life. Get me?” “Yeah.” But the man’s tone now had changed from defiant anger to sullenness and his glance remained riveted hypnotically to that pistol. “There’re some things I want to know. And you’re going to tell me.” “You got the wrong man, bro. I won’t spill nothing.” “The hell you won’t!” Tony leaned across the desk, the pistol pointed unwaveringly at the hapless captive. “Do you want a load of that in you?” “No, course not. But if I talked, my own crowd would bump me off.” “Maybe not.” Tony leaned back. “How much jack do you make with your mob?” “’Bout three C’s a week. Sometimes more.” “Three C’s, eh? That’s not very much, is it, for all the work you do and the chances you take?” “I’m wort’ more,” agreed the man darkly. “Yeah. But you’ll never get it, not with this Bruno guy, from what I hear of him. Where do you think he got that name Schemer anyhow? When a guy’s a moniker like that hung on him there’s a reason for it. Now, Benny, I’m not a bad guy when you don’t cross me. And I’m always willing to see the boys get a piece of change for themselves.” He leaned across the desk. “How would you like to have three grand – in one chunk?” The prisoner’s eyes sparkled and he licked his lips. “Jeez!” he exclaimed. “That’s a lot to jack even if you ain’t got it.” “I’ve got it. And it’s yours if you want to talk.” “What do you want to know?” “That’s more like it,” smiled Tony. “I want to know a lot of things about the Bruno mob, where their warehouses are, and their breweries and their main alky cooking plants. I want to know what garages they keep their trucks in and what roads they use mainly in hauling their stuff in and out of town. I’ll think of a few more things as we go along.” “God! I couldn’t tell you all that stuff.” “Why not?” “They’d bump me off sure.” “Well, if you don’t tell me what I want to know, I’ll bump you off.” “An’ if I do tell you, they will. What chance has a poor guy got?” “Listen, mug!” snapped Tony. “Don’t you know that fifteen grand’s a lot of dough? That’s as much as you make in a year with the mob, and if you stay here with them you’ll never have that much in one chunk. If you had that much jack, you could go to Frisco or New York or even Mexico or some other crazy place and open a gambling house or get in some kind of a racket and be set for life.” “Yeah, I know. I – I’d like to have it all right. But those guys would follow me any place.” “They wouldn’t know where you was. They’d think you’d been took for a ride. Don’t plenty of mugs from these mobs around here disappear every year?” “Yeah, I guess they do. But I couldn’t do it. They’d get me sure. And what good’s dough to a dead man?” “Come on, now, don’t be a fool!” snarled Tony menacingly and aimed the pistol again. “Either you talk or you get it.” The man’s eyes glittered against the background of his ghastly pale face and he licked his lips constantly. “Well, I know I’m going to get it if I do talk,” he answered doggedly. “So I guess I’ll have to take my chances of getting it if I don’t.” “So you won’t spill it, eh?” gritted Tony. The hole in the muzzle of that automatic must have looked as big as a barrel to the prisoner. But he caught his breath suddenly, closed his eyes and shook his head. “I think you will!” said Tony. “Get up!” He called in his henchmen from the other room. “He’s a hard nut,” he explained. “Got to take him to the cellar.” Rinaldo paled. He could shoot a man down without even giving serious thought to the matter but the mere thought of what was in that cellar made him weak. “Come on!” snapped Tony and included them all with a comprehensive gesture of the automatic. “You taking me for a ride?” asked the prisoner as they descended in the elevator. “No,” retorted Tony grimly. “Not yet.” The place to which they took him was a sub-cellar beneath the regular cellar under the hotel. It was reached by a rather rickety wooden stairway and proved to be a large square room with concrete walls from which were suspended by chains various strange-looking iron appendages. Before Peluso could hardly realise what was happening he had been stripped to the waist and rigged up against the wall, his arms stretched high overhead, his body suspended from the wrists which were encircled by tight iron bands. Tony motioned to one of his men who stepped over to a small, furnace-like arrangement. Tony himself caught up a large, razor-edged knife and, fingering it significantly, looked at his prisoner. “You know, Benny,” he said grimly, “a lot of these mugs they find out on the road somewhere after they’ve been took for a ride don’t look so pretty; ears off, tongue out, and other little details like that. And all those things always happen before the guy is actually bumped off. Nice to think about, ain’t it?” Tony turned back toward the furnace. Rinaldo followed him. “I don’t like to say nothing, chief,” said the gunman hoarsely in a low tone, “but, honest to God, I don’t believe I can stand this.” “Then look the other way or get out. I don’t like it any better than you do but it’s got to be done. Makin’ this bird talk means that our mob will control the city before long. And don’t forget this, Mike; Bruno or any of that North Side mob of his would do this same thing to you or me or any of us in a minute if they had the chance.” He turned abruptly to the other man. “Ready?” he demanded brusquely. “Here you are, chief.” From within the furnace, the gangster drew out a long, thin iron bar. One end of it was red hot. Tony caught it up by the cold end and approached the trussed prisoner. “Now, damn you,” he snarled, “you’ll either talk or I’ll ram a hole clear through you with this.” And he started the sizzling iron bar slowly but surely toward the gangster’s bare flesh. The man cringed and his eyes widened with terror. Finally he yelled, though the iron had not yet touched him. “Go ahead and yell,” said Tony grimly. “No one will hear you.” Facing a pistol is one thing; facing red hot iron against one’s bare flesh and other unknown tortures is another. Peluso cracked. “I’ll talk!” he gibbered when the iron was yet half an inch from him. “God! Take that away.” For an hour they cross-examined him, Rinaldo and the others jotting down details while Tony asked the questions. The leader’s eyes were sparkling; he was gaining a complete knowledge of the operations of his most important enemy. “Well, do I get the dough?” asked Peluso when he finally had convinced them that he knew no more. “Yes,” retorted Tony. “After we’ve checked up on this story of yours and carried out a plan or two I’m hatching up right now. In the meantime, you stay here; I’m not takin’ any chances with you rushing to Bruno and blabbing everything to him so that he could change his whole line-up before I can ruin it for him.” Tony immediately selected his half dozen cleverest men – including Mike Rinaldo – and sent them out to investigate what Peluso had told. For over a week they worked day and night, circulating around the city, spying, asking apparently aimless questions, doing a great deal of motoring, snooping carefully but efficiently in many quarters. And they reported back that every detail of the prisoner’s story seemed correct. Elated, Tony at once set in motion the machinery over which he now had control. A dozen new machine guns were imported from New York by devious methods. And certain members of the gang who were acknowledged experts in that line were set to work constructing powerful bombs or pineapples as they are known in gang circles. Tony was a veritable dynamo of energy during these preparations and his vigorous – and murderous – enthusiasm gradually communicated itself to the others until the entire gang was a real fighting machine anxious to get a chance at the enemy. Libati came swaggering into Tony’s private office, late one afternoon. “Well, I guess we’re about all ready for the war to start. What’s the first move?” “I’ll let you know when I’ve decided,” retorted Tony coolly.“How about this mug, Peluso? What are we going to do with him?” “Do with him! Why, as soon as the campaign on the North Side gang is well opened up, I’m going to give him the jack I promised him and have him taken to a train for the West. I imagine he’ll be glad enough to blow town.” “I’d think so. But surely you’re not going to be such a sap as to pay him off now. He’s told us all he knows. Why not take him for a ride and save the dough?” Tony, unaccountably shocked by the cold-blooded proposal, looked up with flashing eyes. “I keep my word, Steve, whether to friend or enemy, and no matter what I’ve promised, either good or bad,” he retorted grimly. “The other day I gave you an assignment to get a certain man. You haven’t done it yet. Do you remember what I promised you if you didn’t carry it out?” Steve’s glance shifted uneasily. “Yes.” “Well, that stands. And I don’t intend to wait all summer either. Better get a move on.” CHAPTER XV Tony took Jane Conley the Gun Girl to one of the swankier night resorts that evening. They both enjoyed such high-powered diversion and it always brought back memories. It was at Ike Bloom’s that Tony first had seen her and been struck by her beauty. It was at the Embassy Club, while they sat waiting for Jerry Hoffman to come in so that they could carry out his death sentence pronounced on him by their employer, Johnny Lovo, that they really had become acquainted. Tony, his evening clothes immaculate and perfectly fitted save for a slight bulge under his left arm where an automatic hung suspended in a shoulder holster, looked about the luxurious but crowded and noisy place, then glanced at Jane with satisfaction glowing in his expressive eyes. She was the most beautiful woman in the place, or the joint as he mentally worded it. He wondered, with a sudden twinge of jealousy, if she would stick with him after the thirty-day probationary period had expired. He observed that she seemed somewhat distraught tonight, her hands fluttered nervously, little lines of concern wrinkle her forehead, and her glance kept wandering around as though she were looking for someone, yet hoping that she wouldn’t see him. “What’s the matter, baby?” asked Tony expansively. “Nothing. I just don’t feel very well.” “Aw, cheer up! Let’s dance!” They rose and moved out on the small, crowded floor, quite the handsomest couple in the place. Jane was a superb dancer and Tony, with his native Latin grace and sense of rhythm, equally good. None watching them would have dreamed that they both had killed, not in the heat of passion, but coolly and deliberately – for money; and that they would kill again whenever the occasion seemed to demand. And yet they were not murderers, except legally. In their own minds, they felt completely justified for everything they had done. And their operation never had been and never would be the slightest menace to the general public. When they stalked with murderous intent, they invariably were after some certain person who had it coming to him and who would have done the same to them without any more compunction than they showed. And they always took care not to harm innocent bystanders. When the cabaret’s gaiety was at its height in the wee hours, Tony saw Katherine Merton, the mysterious girl who, in the guise of a newspaper reporter, had visited him at headquarters and questioned him at length about many things. She was seated now on the other side of the club, attired in a somewhat daring evening gown of flashing sequins, and escorted by a dark, handsome man in a dinner jacket, whose general appearance, somehow, was anything but reassuring to Tony. He wondered suddenly why she was here, if there was anything behind her presence beyond participation in the general gaiety. The possibility worried him. He wondered if she had seen him, and hoped she had not. “Say, baby,” he said, “do you know that dame over there, the one with the diamond dress?” Jane turned and her glance searched the room. When she finally saw the mysterious girl, her eyes widened and she bit her lip. “No,” she answered sharply. Then, “Let’s go!” Puzzled, Tony escorted her from the club. He knew she had lied. But why? Newsboys were crying the early editions of the morning papers. Tony bought one, then his face set and an involuntary “Hell!” burst from his lips. “What’s the matter?” asked Jane anxiously. “Steve missed, the damn dumbbell!” snarled Tony. The girl took the paper from him and looked at it. An attempt had been made that night on the life of Schemer Bruno, now leader of the North Side gang. But miraculously he had come through it unscathed. Questioned by police, he had admitted that he had an idea who was behind the attack but had refused to give them any information. It was thought by the police that the attack meant the beginning of a new gang war. “The clumsy fool!” snarled Tony. “I’d have known better than to trust that job to him. Now Bruno will be after us right. And he’ll be so careful himself that we may not be able to get another crack at him for a hell of a while.” “Oh, Tony, that worries me!” said Jane. “You must be very careful.” He drove home in wordless wrath, his active mind racing with murderous plans for annihilating his enemies. In front of the luxurious apartment house where they lived he stopped and let Jane out. “I’ll put the car away and be right back,” he said absently. At the corner he swung to the left and headed for the garage a block away. Suddenly the angry whine of a heavy car approaching from the rear at high speed obtruded itself into his consciousness. Instantly suspicious, he increased his own speed. But the other car came alongside. He could see that it was long and low and black, with side-curtains in place – the typical death car. Then a thin red stream burst from its side, he heard the rattle of machine-gun fire, and bullets tattooed against the side of his own car. But the body of his sedan was heavy steel and the glass was bullet- proof. It shed bullets as a duck does water. Yet these enemies, whoever they were, would not be satisfied until they had accomplished their murderous mission. He realised that he dare not go into the garage for the death car would follow and finish him there. And: the employees would be of no help. He must get to his own district, where these men would hardly dare follow and where, if they did, his gangsters always loafing around that all-night cigar store on the ground floor of the hotel which was his headquarters would come to his assistance and make short work of them. Abruptly he pressed the accelerator to the floor and the big car leaped forward. At a crazy pace he raced through the dark, deserted city streets. And that other car hung doggedly to his trail. Several times they gained slightly, coming almost close enough to use their guns again. But always he managed to keep ahead of them. On and on and on went that strange race, for him a race for life, for them a race for death – his death; careening around corners, streaking along on the straightaway. If only he could reach his headquarters before something happened. Surely they would not dare to follow him there. From behind came the stuttering rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire again. Two of his tires, evidently pierced by the bullets, blew out with loud reports. The car slewed to the right, struck the curb with terrific force, and turned over. Tony felt himself falling then everything went black. When he regained consciousness he was lying prone but in an uncomfortably cramped position. There was a carpet under him and feet all around him and he was aware of a jolting, swaying motion. Abruptly he realised that he was on the floor of a car tonneau and that the car was moving. It couldn’t be his car. Then it must be that of the enemy. He sat up, wildly staring about him. There were two men in the rear seat but it was too ark to distinguish their faces. “He ain’t dead, after all,” said a strange voice. “Jeez! Ain’t that top bad?” “What the hell’s the idea?” demanded Tony. “You’ll know soon enough.” “Well, let me up on the seat there. This is too damned uncomfortable.” He tried to get up and found that he was weak and very dizzy. One of the men reached out and jerked him into the seat between them. He could see now that the front seat also contained two men. “You want to enjoy this ride, kid!” snarled a voice in his ear. “Because it’s the last one you’ll ever take.” Tony’s heart almost stopped. He’d faced danger and been in tight places before; but never a situation like this. He was being taken for a ride, about to be made the victim of the most feared and the most conclusive of all the means gangland used for ridding itself of its enemies. He turned to the man who had spoken. “This is some of that damn crooked North Side outfit, I suppose,” he said bitterly. “Yes.” “Who the hell are you?” “Me?” The man laughed mirthlessly, a menacing laugh strangely like the rattling of a snake about to strike. “I’m Jerry Hoffman’s brother.” CHAPTER XVI Mentally Tony rehearsed the steps ahead of him. The swift, ominously silent ride out into the country. Then when a sufficiently deserted spot had been reached, he would be kicked out of the car, riddled with bullets and left dead in a ditch, to be found by some passer-by or perhaps picked to pieces by buzzards if the place were remote enough. A fellow had some chance in a street gun- fight, no matter what the odds against him, but a ride was more inexorable than the death sentence imposed by a jury and court. For there was no appeal from it. There was no possibility of escape from it. It was carried out with the cool, precise deadliness of a state execution. And it was even more inevitable – at least it always had been. A nervous or sensitive man faced with cruel, and certain death within an hour would have shouted, screamed, pleaded, and perhaps battled his captors with that reckless strength born of despair. But Tony was neither nervous nor sensitive. A man who requires a steady trigger finger can’t be. Tony was thinking. Not with frantic, chaotic haste; but coldly, deliberately, resourcefully. The hopelessness of his situation did not appal him. It merely stimulated that abnormally keen animal cunning which had made him, while still in the twenties, the most daring and powerful gang leader in that city noted for daring and powerful gang leaders. And at last his agile mind found a possibility – focused upon it. It was a mad scheme; the chances were a hundred to one against his coming out of it alive even if it worked. He realised that, yet experience had taught him that a plan seemingly impossible of success sometimes succeeded because people thought none would be silly enough to try it. As things stood, he was sure to be dead within an hour; if he attempted his mad plan, he had a bare chance. He decided without a second thought to assume the risk. Calmly, coolly, he bided his time, sitting there in the tonneau of the big car between two of his captors while the other two occupied the front seat. At last he saw a car approaching from the other direction. His gaze narrowed as he tried to gauge their relative speeds and the distance between them. Then, with a sudden, panther-like spring, he leaped forward, launching a terrific blow at the chauffeur’s head and grabbing for the wheel. The speeding car staggered crazily. But the surprised driver was still hanging on. Tony was battering the man’s head, trying to strangle him, with one hand while he tugged at the wheel with the other. He felt blows raining on his own head and back, then a gun flashed and roared in the tonneau and he felt a sharp burning in his side. But he gritted his teeth and stuck to his task. The big car swerved to the right, dropped into the ditch with a blinding crash, then turned repeatedly, its engine racing madly with a shrill, agonized whine, and finally came to rest on its side, still quivering, like a stricken animal. Tony piled on top of the other two men who had been with him in the tonneau, shook his whirling head in an effort to clear it. His whole body seemed to be only a mass of excruciating pains, but he was still conscious. He realised dully that none of the others had moved or spoken. His left arm was twisted under him in an unnatural way. He tried to move it and found he couldn’t. It was hurting terribly, too. Cautiously he reached out with his right hand, feeling the pockets of his inert companions. Finding a familiar bulge, he reached in and pulled out a .45 automatic. The feel of the cold steel against his flesh, the realisation that he was armed again, revived him like cold water. He struggled upward, seeking a way out of the twisted wreckage. Thenhe heard approaching footsteps clicking on the frozen ground and a shadowy figure appeared beside the overturned car. That was someone from the other automobile, of course; he had counted on that. “Say!” he said hoarsely, and was provoked to find his voice shaky. “Help me out of here, will you?” A flashlight was snapped on, then its conic yellow beam penetrated the tonneau and finally came to rest on his face. “Sure!” said the stranger. “But I’m surprised any of you are alive. God! That was an awful sight!” He helped Tony out through a smashed and twisted door, then turned his light on the others. The driver and his companion were obviously dead, their faces horribly cut by the broken glass. The two men in the tonneau were unconscious but looked to be alive. “Come on, let’s go,” said Tony. “But the others–” objected the stranger in amazement. “To hell with the others!” snarled Tony harshly. “They’re gangsters and they was takin’ me for a ride. I hope they’re all dead. I guess I ought to make sure–” He produced the pistol and aimed at the two inert figures in the tonneau. “For God’s sake!” gasped the stranger, laying a trembling hand on his arm. “Don’t! You can’t–” Tony turned and stared at him for a moment, then shrugged contemptuously and allowed his gun hand to drop to his side. He had decided that it would probably be best not to do any murdering before a witness, especially when he needed that witness badly for the next half hour. “All right!” he growled. “But you’re going to take me where I want to go and fast. Come on!” He prodded the stranger with the automatic then almost grinned as the man shivered and hastily began leading the way back to his own car parked on the road. Tony ordered the man to make all speed for the gang’s headquarters then silently settled back in the seat with a sigh of relief and began making plans for vengeance. But his own misery would not allow his mind to dwell on that enticing problem. His left arm was broken; his right side throbbed and burned from the bullet wound; he found it impossible to assume a position which was even remotely comfortable. And pain and warm little trickles warned him that his own face had not escaped the flying glass. Altogether he felt, and imagined that he looked, a total wreck. The man beside him obviously was burning up with curiosity. Several times he tried to question his passenger but Tony either answered in grunts or not at all and he finally gave it up. But he drove like fury; they pulled up before the hotel gang headquarters much sooner than Tony expected. “You’re all right,” said the gang leader briefly, reaching for his wallet. He found it contained £70 and generously thrust the whole wad of bills into the surprised stranger’s still trembling hand. “There’s a little gas money,” he said with an attempt at a smile. Then his face sobered into a frown and his voice came hoarsely from between gritted teeth. “But keep your mouth shut about this!” he commanded savagely. “Or you’ll get what they tried to give me tonight.” Even at that hour of the morning, there were a few gangsters lounging in the all-night cigar store and in the small, dark lobby of the hotel. Tony’s entrance in such a condition created a sensation and they all looked eagerly curious. “Been in an automobile wreck,” volunteered Tony curtly, then immediately ascended to his own private quarters on the top floor and called a doctor. An hour later, his wounds dressed and his broken arm set, Tony went to bed. He felt certain he would be unable to sleep, yet it was after noon when he awakened. Laboriously he hauled his weary, battered frame out of bed and tried to dress. But with only one arm, and it so stiff and sore that he could hardly move it, he had to call Al, the little, rat-faced doorkeeper to help him. Fortunately Tony kept part of his extensive wardrobe at the hotel; he would have looked funny transacting the day’s business in evening dress. He had a big breakfast sent up then went to his desk and sent for Steve Libati. And his eyes flashed as he gave the order. This was to be a day of settling scores. CHAPTER XVII The assistant chief of the powerful Lovo gang came in with an air of genial assurance that somehow seemed forced. His ugly face bore a smile but his eyes were narrowed and searching, as if he were anxious to know what sort of reception he was to receive. “Sorry to hear about your accident, boss,” he said. “The cops phoned that your car had been found out on the North Side somewhere. There’s been a lot of reporters out here this morning, too; they say there’s bullet-holes in the tires. But I told them you wasn’t around–” “Yeah,” growled Tony sourly, “you’re a big help to me.” He stiffened and leaned across the desk, his mouth twisted in an ugly snarl. “What the hell did you miss Bruno for?” he demanded. Libati shrugged. “Just a rotten break.” “What do you mean – a rotten break?” demanded Tony savagely. “Bullets go where they’re aimed … How’d you try to pull the job, anyway?” Libati explained. One of the two gunmen that he had selected to help him murder Schemer Bruno, wily leader of the strong North Side gang, had discovered that Bruno was to visit a certain place at ten o’clock the night before. In a parked car across the street, they had lain in wait for him. He came out in a few minutes and just as they were ready to fire, another car had run through the street, obscuring their human target for a moment. When their opportunity finally came, he was walking rapidly toward his car. They had all fired a volley at him and then fled in their car, before his friends inside the saloon could pile out and make the gun fight two-sided. “All three of you put a rod on him?” demanded Tony. “Yeah.” “And all three of you missed?” “I – guess so. The papers this morning says he wasn’t hit by this mysterious attack!” “Well, what a fine lot of gat-packers you are,” snarled Tony in disgust. “Why, I could throw a gat at a guy and hit him with it … Why in hell didn’t you finish the job?” “But the guys’ inside–” “If there’s anything I hate, it’s a quitter … I suppose you didn’t know that if you missed, Bruno was sure to know who was behind the attack and set all his gorillas on my trail … Listen, Steve, there’s two kinds of guys that this mob ain’t big enough to hold – -those that can’t obey orders and those that won’t obey orders. And I think both counts fit you.” Libati flushed slowly until his swarthy complexion had turned a sort of dull purple. And his shifty black eyes had taken on a glittering menace. “I – don’t think I get you,” he said slowly and his lips compressed into a thin, hard line. “No? Well, I’ll put it plainer, so plain that even you can get it. Either you and the men you picked to help you get Bruno are no good or you sold out to the enemy and missed on purpose.” “Damn you!” gritted Libati, leaping to his feet, his right hand darting for his side coat pocket. But Tony had lifted his automatic from the desk with the smooth ease and incredible rapidity of the expert and had it trained on his lieutenant’s middle coat button before the man was completely out of the chair. “Don’t pull, you fool!” hissed the leader. “I don’t weaken and I don’t miss. And you better not let that right mitt of yours get nervous again while you’re in my presence. It’s only my left arm that’s broke, you know,” he added with grim humour. Steve let his gun hand fall to his side, then ostentatiously lifted it to light, a cigarette that he had taken from his left hand pocket. “You’ve been after my job ever since Johnny left,” said Tony. “And you ain’t the type to be particular how you got it – or anything else, for that matter. If I was dead, you’d have it, see? That’s why it would be so nice for you to have Schemer Bruno still alive so he could get me. Well, I ain’t dead yet, Steve, and I don’t intend to be for a long time. So I think you’re wasting your valuable time around here waiting for me to drop off.” His voice dropped to the cold, monotonous level of a judge pronouncing sentence. “You and those two mugs who was with you last night are through with this mob.” “Don’t talk foolish!” snapped Steve. “You can’t fire me out of this mob. Johnny–” “Johnny’s gone. And he left me the boss. There’s my authority, lifting the heavy automatic and gazing at it – fondly. “From today on you don’t get a dime out of here and if I hear of you hanging around here, it’s liable to be curtains. You’re all through, see? You can either go out like you are or in a hearse, I don’t care which.” For a long moment the two men looked into each other’s eyes. Tony’s were cold, hard, steady; Steve’s shifty, and blazing with fury. Rut at last the erstwhile lieutenant turned without a word and strode out of the room. Again Tony had won; permanently this time, it seemed. Tony’s next act was to arrange a bodyguard for himself, an ample one. Then, with a retinue befitting a person of his importance – and danger – he returned to his apartment. From now on he would travel as he was doing now, between two watchful henchmen in the rear seat of a sedan with a steel body and bullet-proof glass while the well-armed chauffeur and the man beside him, as well as the four men following closely in a similar car maintained a constant vigil in every direction for suspicious automobiles or people. Tony entered his luxurious apartment briskly, his hard eyes glinting with anger. There were a lot of things he wanted to ask Jane. He found her curled up in a big chair in the living room, reading a novel and munching a box of chocolates with what he considered unpardonable placidness. She looked up in surprise at his entrance, then her eyes widened in shocked amazement as she noted his appearance. “Why, Tony!” she exclaimed. “What’s happened?” “A lot you care!” he growled. “I go around the corner to put the car away, don’t come back till the next day, and you look as if you hadn’t even wondered what kept me.” “But I have wondered, Tony. I’ve been terribly anxious. But I supposed that you knew your own business and I thought you might resent my butting into your affairs.” “Yeah? Well, the Bruno mob tried to take me for a ride last night. And I think you knew they were going to.” “Tony!” The girl’s face had gone deathly white and her eyes were glittering. “How can you say–” “Who was that dame at the cabaret last night, the good-looking moll in white with that dark mug in a dress suit?” “I – don’t know.” “Yes, you do. I pointed her out to you and I could see in your eyes that you knew her.” He went close to her, caught her arm in a vice-like grip and twisted cruelly. “Who was she?” he rasped. “She’s – a gun girl,” panted Jane finally. “Schemer Bruno’s moll.” “So that’s it, eh?” He released Jane’s arm and stepped back, gazing down at her with sneering contempt. “Was that Bruno with her?” “Yes.” “God! If I’d only known that,” gritted the gang leader, murder in his eyes. “And you knew it all the time and wouldn’t tell me?’ “No. If I had, you’d have tried to bump him off right there. And you would have either been killed by some of his mob – he always has a bodyguard with him – or been pinched by the cops and tried for the job.” “Humph! Don’t make me laugh! They’d hang nothing on me in this town.” “Don’t be too sure! Bootlegging’s one thing; murder’s another.” “What made you want to leave right away when you saw her and Bruno?” “I – was afraid they might be going to try to pull something. I wanted to get home – to get out of their reach.” “Humph! Looks to me like you were more afraid of your own hide than mine.” “What if I didn’t want to get bumped off?” demanded the girl, a trace of her usual defiant assurance returning. “None wants to croak at my age. But I was worried about you, too, Tony,” she continued hurriedly as she saw the storm clouds gathering in his face. “Haven’t I tried for days to make you fix a bodyguard for yourself?” Tony considered, realising the truth of that. She had pleaded with him for the past two weeks to arrange a competent bodyguard for himself. But he had hesitated, feeling that to move around constantly surrounded by a squad of gunmen was areflection upon his own courage and marksmanship. Yet he could not rid himself entirely of the idea that she had been treacherous to him. And his ruthless direct mind could find only penalty for treachery – Death. “I love you, Tony,” she went on while his piercing glance surveyed her. “And I’ve been doing everything I could to protect you.” “Yeah? Well, I have my doubts. But I’ll give you a chance to prove it. If you love me, get Schemer Bruno for me.” Her eyes widened slowly as she realised the enormity of the assignment and the thoughts within his mind that must have prompted it. Tony laughed. “Lost your nerve?” he demanded. Jane gazed at him with sudden contempt. “Of course not!” she snapped. “I’ve as much guts as you – any day in the week, bigshot.” “Yeah? Then prove it and your love for me by getting the Schemer.” “What a nice chivalrous mug you turned out to be!” she rasped contemptuously. “Handing me the job of bumping off the biggest rod in town – next to you. And alone. You know damn well, Tony, that I never pulled a job by myself. But I’m quite a help, if you’ll just remember back to the time that we got Jerry Hoffman together that night in the Embassy Club. But if you’ll help, I’ll do my part. I’ll snoop around until I find when he’ll be on a spot. Then we’ll pull the job together.” “Well, all right,” he growled. He had cooled off considerably from his first anger and as he surveyed the girl’s ample charms, but ill-concealed by an expensive negligee, he decided that it probably would be best not to lose her just yet. But of course he must not let her realise that. He stepped forward and caught her arm again. “But you little devil;” he rasped through gritted teeth, “If I ever catch you turning me up or doing me any kind of dirt, it’ll be curtains. See?” So these two who never had failed to complete a killing assigned them, assigned one to themselves and verbally signed Schemer Bruno’s death warrant. Yet Tony’s doubts and the ensuing quarrel had opened in their relations a rift which was to have far-reaching consequences. CHAPTER IIXX Tony immediately set out on a reckless yet precisely deadly campaign of reprisal against the North Side mob led by the redoubtable Schemer Bruno. He was beginning to have a sneaking respect for the notorious Schemer. He had seen plenty of examples of that wily leader’s sagacity and ruthless courage and that business at the cabaret had been the final touch. A man who could, an hour after an attempt had been made on his life, sit in a cabaret but a few tables away from the man he knew to be responsible for that attempt, was a man worthy of admiration. But the realisation of his opponent’s courage and ability only strengthened Tony’s will to win and forced him to plan out amazing coups. They bombed warehouses, hijacked trucks both singly and in fleets, intimidated still-owners who helped supply the North Side outfit into moving and shot a few as an example to the others; browbeat saloonkeepers into shifting their allegiance and promised them ample protection for doing so; killed off half a dozen of Bruno’s best gunmen and threatened others with the same fate if they didn’t leave town; repeatedly held up and robbed gambling houses known to be owned by Bruno and bombed those that put in the speakeasy system of locked steel doors and peep-holes: and in general harassed the other gang in every way possible to a daringly resourceful leader and a powerful organisation. When his campaign was rolling merrily along, Tony had Benny Peluso, the former Bruno lieutenant, who had been captured and forced to talk, brought before him. After all, the success of his present campaign was due largely to the information which Benny had unwillingly given. The squat, ugly gangster looked sullen and more than a little frightened as he came in between the two gunmen who originally had captured him and brought him in. “Well, Benny,” said Tony, “the dope you gave me has proved ok. And here’s the dough I promised you,” tossing an envelope across the desk. “These men will take you to a train bound for the West; they’re to guard you from any of the Bruno mob who may try to get you.” The little gangster who had been compelled to squeal on his associates for a price seized the envelope and greedily thumbed through £3080 it contained. Then he looked up at Tony and smiled gratefully. In gangland, it was indeed a pleasure to find an enemy – or even a friend – who kept his word when he didn’t have to. “Thanks,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d come through!” “I always keep my word – good or bad,” retorted Tony, his former enemy’s sincere gratitude touching him as much as anything could. “On your way – and good luck!” Tony’s own gunmen, the dapper, polished Mike Rinaldo in command of the little party, escorted Peluso away. An hour later, Rinaldo returned, looking rather downcast. “Got a little bad news to report, chief,” he said. “On the way down to the depot, another car forced us into the curb and a couple o’ hoods bumped Benny off before we could pull our gats. We jumped out of the car and beat it before the cops came. Some of the Bruno mob must have found out we had him here and been on the lookout for him to come out.” “All right,” said Tony wearily. “I suppose the cops and newspapers will blame me for having him bumped off because so far as they know he was still an enemy of ours … See that we get the car back.” Tony thought over that report for some time after the dapper but dangerous Rinaldo had gone. He was wise in the ways of gunmen and he had a strong hunch that Rinaldo and his assistant had murdered Peluso themselves for the £3080. But there would be no way of pinning it on them; the savage enmity that the Bruno mob was sure to feel against Peluso if they suspected what he had done prevented direct suspicion being levelled against the two gunmen. Well, what was the difference; he had kept his end of the deal in good faith, and Peluso was a yellow rat anyway. In his heart, Tony knew that they were all yellow rats when faced with a situation that demanded character and moral courage. His suspicions were verified, to a certain extent, when Rinaldo appeared the following week driving an expensive new car. Tony again directed his attention to the campaign against the North Side outfit with undiminished zest. For Schemer Bruno was not lying supine under the onslaught of his enemies. He was fighting back with every resource of his wily, daring brain and his strong organisation. Altogether it was as desperate a reign of terror as has ever been produced on this continent in time of peace. And the newspapers began to howl about the rights of citizens, the danger to the lives and property of innocent bystanders. “Damn them!” growled Tony to Jane one night. “Don’t they know that we don’t hurt none but hoods? Neither I nor any of my men ever hit anyone except the mug we was after. And I never heard of any other mob that did. And we never throw a pineapple unless we know what’s going on inside the place. If decent citizens own some of the property, let them keep the racketeers out; you can’t tell me that a man don’t know what’s going on in a building he owns. If he wants to take the chance to get a bigger rent, he’s no better than the hoodlums he rents to and he’s got to take the chance of the place being blown up.” But the next morning Tony received a telephone call from the District Attorney. “Camonte?” demanded the familiar overbearing voice. “I wanna see you this afternoon. Suite F, in the Sherman Hotel. Two o’clock sharp.” “Why not at the office?” objected Tony. “What’s up anyhow?” “Never mind. Be there, that’s all.” And the DA hung up. Until one-thirty Tony puzzled over that official command. He couldn’t figure it out. For a while he suspected a trap and almost decided not to go, then he realised that the District Attorney would not dare to be in on a murder plot against a leader as prominent as he. But one thing certain, it boded no good. He was still sunk in gloomy and somewhat uneasy thought when he rode downtown accompanied by his bodyguard. Piling out of their two cars in front of the huge hotel, the men formed a close circle around him and escorted him inside. They crowded quickly into an empty elevator, practically filling it, then commanded the operator to take them to Suite F, and “make it snappy.” The operator hesitated, waiting for two or three more passengers, then took another look at those he already had and obeyed their command. Released into the hallway of an upper floor, the entire party was immediately surrounded and taken in hand by a dozen detectives, who began disarming them with systematic and none too gentle thoroughness. “Hey! What’s the idea anyhow?” demanded Tony belligerently. “You’ll find out soon enough,” retorted a burly dick. “Pass over your gats, too. There’s going to be none bumped off here today.” Tony ground his teeth but he offered no resistance. Killing a detective in the heat and obscurity of an alley gun battle was one thing while shooting one deliberately in a prominent hotel in the presence of a dozen of his fellows was quite another. But Tony was outwardly very indignant and inwardly very uneasy. His followers were silent and docile,, as modern gangsters always are when disarmed and outnumbered. When the disarmament program had been completed, the crowd was led down the hall to an open doorway and Tony’s henchmen were herded inside. “You’re to stay in here until we come after you,” said the detective who seemed to be in command. “And don’t make any fuss or we’ll take you down to the bureau and give you all a treatment with the rubber hoses we keep on hand for hoodlums like you.” Then he locked the door, pocketed the key, and leaving two of his men on guard before the portal, led Tony on down the hall to a closed door marked key grate in the lock. Then his glance riveted upon the scene of which he had become a part and he stiffened. F. He knocked, then opened the door and practically shoved Tony inside. Tony heard the door shut behind him. Around a large table in the middle of the luxurious parlour sat half a dozen men. There was one empty chair, evidently for him. Tony recognised all those men. At the head of the table, alone, sat the District Attorney, a squat, slightly corpulent man with mean little eyes and a heavy, bulldog jaw. The other men included every prominent gang leader in the city and county including Schemer Bruno. “Come on and sit down, Camonte,” snapped the DA brusquely. “The meeting’s ready to begin.” Tony walked forward slowly, assuming a bold air of cool calm that he did not feel, and sat down, glaring at Bruno, who allowed a slight smile to curve the lips of his lean, handsome face as he noted Tony’s left arm in its sling. It was their first meeting. “What’s the matter with your arm?” he asked. His tone and manner were polite, yet there was an underlying note of contempt and amusement that made Tony’s blood boil. “I was in an auto wreck the other night,” retorted Tony. “But there were other people hurt, too,” he added with grim relish as he remembered that overturned car with its cargo of dead and injured. Bruno’s smile faded like a dab of dirt that is wiped away with a quick dash of a cloth and his face froze into a hard, expressionless mask in which the eyes were the only sign of life. But they burned with an intense, malevolent hatred. From his own feelings, Tony knew that Bruno’s right hand was itching for a gun. “That’ll do,” snapped the DA. “I’m doing the talking today.” The six men, most important of the city’s underworld leaders and representing its every element except petty thievery, turned and looked at the man who was the most powerful of the law-enforcing agencies, the man who had been elected by trusting citizens to protect them from the machinations and henchmen of the men with whom he now sat in conference. All were paying him heavily and all despised him, feeling for him the contempt that must always be the lot of the one who betrays his trust. Yet secretly they all feared the great power which was his, the extermination which he could mete out to them if he wished. “This war’s to stop!” exclaimed the DA, pounding the desk to emphasize his command. “The newspapers are raising hell and even some of the big politicians are worried about it. Some of the influential men here have gone to the governor and told him that the city’s getting such a bad name people are afraid to come here and that it’s hurting business. There’s even talk of appointing a special prosecutor – some wealthy, fearless lawyer who couldn’t be reached – and a special grand jury to investigate the gang situation. And you know what that would mean.” The gang leaders shifted uneasily. They did know what such an investigation would mean – a lot of unpleasantness and, perhaps, extinction. “Camonte,” continued the DA, glaring at Tony, “I know that you and Bruno are the guilty ones in this latest outbreak, the most savage we’ve ever experienced. But I also know that the only reason you other fellows aren’t in it is because you’re not big enough to compete with these two and you’ve got sense enough to know it … there’s enough business here for all of you and you’ve got to declare a truce and operate peaceably, all taking your share.” “Do you think he’d keep a truce?” demanded Bruno with a contemptuous nod at Tony. “You wouldn’t, that’s one damn sure thing,” blazed Tony, his mouth curled into a nasty snarl. “I wouldn’t dare to – with you. Who wants to be shot in the back?” “Why, you dirty–” “Shut up!” snapped the DA savagely. “And listen to me. Or I’ll run you out of town.”“You’d lose a good part of your income if you did,” sneered Tony, roused to fury by his altercation with Bruno. Stung to anger by the impudent remark, the DA frowned and turned upon him a baleful glare. “I’d better have a part of my income than none at all,” he retorted through gritted teeth. “Another crack like that out of you and you’ll be the first to go.” Tony subsided but he was seething with fury. Given sufficient time he would get all his enemies, perhaps even the DA himself. Stranger things had happened, and he certainly had it coming to him. The District Attorney had spread out on the table a large map of the county, which included the large city which took up most of it. Already the map was divided by red lines and inside of each square thus produced was written the name of one of the men present. “Here are the territories I’ve assigned to each of you,” continued the DA. “And I think all of you will agree that I have been very fair. You big fellows have been allotted most of it, of course, but the little mobs have their proportionate share because they have to get along, too.” The gang leaders stared at the map. And in their own hearts they all realised that the DA had made a fair division of the territory. Each of them also realised that within the district assigned to him for sovereignty lay sufficient business to keep him and his mob busy and to make them exceedingly prosperous. Yet their code had always been to hold their own territory and fight the other fellow for his, just as they expected him to fight them for theirs. And to the victor belonged the spoils of both. “Here are other maps just like this one, a copy for each of you, with your territories outlined on it,” continued the D.A., passing the folded papers around. “And the first man who oversteps his bounds gets run out of town, I don’t care who he is. Furthermore, you are to report this arrangement to your respective gangs, acquainting them thoroughly with the limits in which they may operate, and see that they obey. Each man is responsible for the acts of his mob; if he can’t control his men and make them obey his orders, he’s not fit to be leading the mob. And no more shooting or I’m going to prosecute the guilty people for murder, I don’t care who they are … You can go now – Camonte, you first with your men. You others can go later one by one after he and his bodyguard have left. And be sure you leave at once, Camonte. I have detectives watching outside and any loitering in the expectation of exacting vengeance upon anyone here will be met with arrests and prosecution.” Tony rose and surveyed the gathering, giving Bruno a particularly thorough stare, then turned and strode out of the room. For him, the conference had served one good purpose – he had met Schemer Bruno face to face. He knew exactly what his arch enemy looked like and, from now on, would be able to identify him with certainty even at some little distance. Which was a great help for accurate night shooting. CHAPTER XIX For a while, almost four months in fact, things were quiet. Everyone was making money and there were no killings. Then the men began to grow restive, as men of action will after a certain period of inactivity. The resumption of hostilities began with minor affrays between insignificant members of the various gangs which usually resulted in nothing more serious than bloody noses and black eyes. Then an occasional stabbing began to creep in among the hitherto comparatively harmless sport, and finally a shooting or two. The anxiety for action, for war and vengeance, became more marked. A tense air of watchful waiting, of incipient menace, hung over the headquarters of the various gangs. The men mentally were like bloodhounds straining at the leash. Tony sensed the situation. He was weary of inactivity himself. And he was becoming suspicious of the prolonged quietude of his enemies. He knew that they and their men were no more capable of interminable peace than were he and his mob. It was rapidly narrowing to a question of who would strike first. Among Tony’s various valuable possessions were a number of gambling places. One of these was a second-floor establishment in the heart of the city. Despite its central position, it was located on a street which contained no department stores and in a block which consisted of wholesale barber supply stores and other such enterprises which dealt with few customers. Which made foot traffic on its sidewalks quite light. Tony visited the place almost every day, a fact which he had never tried to conceal. As he stepped out of his sedan in front of the place one afternoon and paused an instant for his bodyguard to gather around him, he heard the sudden stuttering rat-tat-tat of a machine gun. He saw two of his bodyguard go down before the deadly hail of lead and the others, darting low to take advantage of all the shelter the two sedans offered, look frantically about in an effort to find the source of the attack. Tony himself leaped inside the doorway that led to his second-floor establishment, but not before he felt a dozen heavy blows against his body. The marksmanship of his assailants had been deadly accurate, all right, but he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. In the comparative shelter of the narrow hall that led to the stairway, he turned. Already his automatic was out, ready for execution. He could see two of his men firing upward at the windows of the small hotel across the street. But with his own disappearance the vicious stuttering of the machine gun had ceased. He imagined that the attackers already were in flight, trying desperately to make their escape before the arrival of the police. And his own men must do the same, to avoid arrest and serious charges. A daylight gun battle in a downtown street was no simple matter to adjust with the authorities. He stepped to the doorway and searched the windows of the hotel with a quick but careful glance. He saw nothing suspicious. “Cut it!” he snapped. “Into the cars, quick! Let’s go!” He made a flying leap for one of the sedans and clambered in. The men piled in around him and into the other machine. The two big cars roared away down the street. With only inches to spare, they swerved around a traffic cop who was frantically blowing his whistle at them, and raced onward, bound for home and safety. Tony’s eyes were glittering with cold, deadly fury but within him he felt a great exultation. The war was on again! “They’re on the third floor of the hotel, boss,” panted one of the men. “We see them plain – two of them. One of them was using a Thompson and the other one had a automatic.” A Thompson is that particular type of machine gun which is the favourite weapon of the modern gangster, an easily transported but wicked death machine which can be handled with the ease of a rifle and which, while weighing only ten pounds, will hurl one hundred bullets per minutes. When they reached headquarters, Tony went immediately to his private office and telephoned the District Attorney. “They just tried to get me from the third floor of the Victor Hotel,” he said almost gleefully. “I know. I just got a flash on it from the detective bureau.” “Must’ve been some of the Bruno mob. What are you going to do about it?” “Just what I promised at that last conference. As many of the North Side mob as we can get our hands on will he rounded up tonight, questioned and brought into court in the morning.” That sounded fine, thought Tony, but didn’t mean a thing. The chances were very strong that the actual assailants had made a clean getaway, none of the others would talk – in fact, they would probably know nothing of the attack until they saw it in the papers or were arrested – and the D.A.’s office would be able to prove against them nothing more serious than a charge of carrying concealed weapons. Tony realised that the whole round-up and subsequent activity would really amount to nothing more than a grand gesture for the benefit of the newspapers to pass on to the public. But, Tony felt that a round-up like that was too great an opportunity to be lost. He called in a dozen of his most reliable gunmen and for an hour drilled them in the details of a plan which would be the most daring gangland gesture the city had yet seen. The evening papers – always more sensational than those published in the morning – made a great fuss over the afternoon attack, giving it huge headlines and a great deal of space. And some of the information was of the afternoon attack, giving it huge headlines and a great deal of space. And some of the information was of great interest to Tony. The police, in the search of the hotel following the attack, had found in a third-floor room fronting the street a Thompson machine gun, an empty automatic and a dead man with half a dozen bullets in him. And the dead man later had been identified as Stave Libati. “The dirty–!” breathed Tony venomously. “Turned traitor, did he? And some of the boys got him. Either that or his own partner shot him in the back, afraid that he might turn him up later. Well, anyway, he sure had it coming to him.” Tony studied over the various angles of the occurrence for some time. The identification of one of the assailants as his former lieutenant brought in a new element. There was a chance, of course, that Steve had carried out the attack as a matter of personal vengeance. But it wasn’t likely. He didn’t have that much brains. No, the affair had been planned out by the crafty Schemer Bruno, who had used the ready Libati as a cat’s paw. The chances were that Steve, upon being fired by Tony, had joined the North Side outfit, being admitted because of the valuable information he could furnish Bruno and because of his avowed hatred of Tony. The morning papers, while showing a trifle more reserve about the whole matter, carried the news that the most thorough dragnet of years had been sent through the North Side during the night, with the result that a large portion of the notorious North Side gang – including the wily Schemer himself – had been rounded up and were now reposing in cells, from which they would be removed for court appearances that morning on various charges. At nine-thirty, Tony loaded his dozen carefully selected gunmen into two big sedans and set forth on the little expedition he had planned the day before. When slightly less than a block away from the police court where Tony knew the North Side mob would be arraigned, he ordered the cars parked – but with their engines kept running for an instant getaway – and instructed his men to spread out along the street. He watched them take their stations then smiled coldly with pleased anticipation. When Schemer Bruno and his men came out – as they were sure to do – they would get a terrific surprise. And of course, just coming from court, they would be unarmed. It looked as though this morning would put a terrible dent in the North Side mob. Suddenly the double doors of the police station – the court was above a station – swung open and a stream of detectives and uniformed officers streamed out and bore down on Tony’s men. “Hell!” gritted Tony who had remained sitting beside the chauffeur in one of the cars. “The cops have seen them. Step on it!” The big car roared into life and swerved around the corner, but not before two shots had rung out in the street and two bullets had thudded against the rear of the machine. “Stop!” commanded Tony, and the car ground to a halt. Close as they were to the station, they were out of sight of it. “Give me your gat!” The chauffeur quickly handed over his revolver and Tony calmly dropped it down a convenient open sewer. He tossed his own heavy automatic after it then removed his small vest-pocket automatic from its customary position and shoved it down inside of one sock. When two detectives came puffing around the corner with ready revolvers – as he knew they would – he was standing calmly beside the car. “Did you want to talk to me?” he demanded with a frown. “I’ll say so,” panted one. “It’s lucky Lieutenant Grady looked out the window and recognised some of them gorillas of yours hanging around outside, or we’d had a whole street full o’ murders on our hands.” “Lieutenant Grady, was it?” queried Tony pleasantly. “I’ll have to remember that.” “I don’t care what you remember. Just come along quietly, both o’ you mugs.” “Got a warrant?” “No, ‘course not.” “What’s the charge?” “Carrying concealed weapons.” “But I’m not carrying concealed weapons.” “No?” exclaimed the burly detective incredulously. “Humph! Trying to stall, eh? Keep the rod on them, Jim, while I frisk them.” Quickly and thoroughly he searched Tony but of course he did not extend it below the knees. Obviously puzzled, he hauled the chauffeur out of the car and searched him – without result. With evident bewilderment he surveyed these two men on whom he knew he should find guns. Then an idea occurred to him as it sometimes does to an unusually bright police detective. “I got it!” he exclaimed with sudden enthusiasm. “You dropped them on the floor or hid them in the car some place. That’s an old trick of birds like you.” He went at the car as if he were going to take it apart. And he did as well as he could without the aid of dynamite or tools. But he found nothing incriminating. “You see?” said Tony. “I told you the truth. I’m just out for a little drive this morning. And I don’t like being shot at without reason when motoring.” He produced two £10 and passed one to each of the puzzled detectives. “Now, boys, buy yourselves some cigars and forget that you ever saw me in this neighbourhood this morning. And I won’t tell anyone what a silly trick you pulled.” He climbed into his car and drove away, within three blocks removing the small automatic from his sock and placing it in his coat pocket ready for an emergency. “Jeez! Boss, that’s smooth work!” exclaimed the chauffeur admiringly.“If the cops was as sharp as we are, we wouldn’t have a chance!” answered Tony wisely. From his private office at his headquarters, he telephoned Captain Flanagan. “This is Tony Camonte!” he said brusquely. “I hear they picked up some of my men out at Lawrence Avenue.” “Yeah. Just heard about it.” “Well, how about springing them? I ought to get some service for that monthly bit.” “Sorry, Tony, but there isn’t a hell of a lot I can do. If they was here at the bureau, it would be different, but it would look funny if I interfered too much out there. Some snoopy reporter might find out about it and shoot the works. I’ll see, though, that none of them are booked for anything more than concealed weapons. But you better send down a mouthpiece to front for them.” So Tony telephoned one of the able attorneys on his staff to go out and represent his men at their hearing, then fell into a mood of vengeful brooding. One plan had failed. The next one mustn’t. CHAPTER XX In his mail one morning Tony Camonte received a unique communication, an ornate, engraved invitation to the opening of the Woodland Casino, a new road-house and gambling place some little distance out in the country, far beyond the jurisdiction of city authorities but not so far away as to be beyond the reach of city patrons. The invitation also conveyed the information that the opening night was to be a Bal Masque and that admittance would be by card only. Tony didn’t know what a Bal Masque was and he felt no urge to find out. But the other bit of information interested him somewhat. In common with other wealthy but socially ineligible people, he had an almost irresistible curiosity to see the inside of exclusive places. The realisation that hundreds of these invitations must have been sent out did not prevent his own vanity being tickled by receiving one; the fact remained that everyone who might want to couldn’t get in. For a moment he toyed with the pleasant thought that he was getting to be a man of some importance in the city. Then his suspicion of everything and everyone, born of native cunning and bitter experience, asserted itself. The thing was probably a plant of some kind; perhaps an attempt to put him on a spot. He looked closely at the enclosed engraved card. There seemed to be no identifying marks upon it but his momentary illusion of possible social grandeur had been dispelled by his innate caution. Half the gangsters in town were sure to be at a place like that; it sounded like just the sort of layout that appealed to them for sport. But did they think he’d be simple enough to fall for a game like that? He crumpled the invitation and card with strong, tense fingers and tossed them in the wastebasket. A few minutes later the telephone at his elbow rang. It was Jane. “Could you run home a few minutes, dear?” she asked. “I have something very important to tell you.” “Tell me now.” “Can’t. You never can tell when some nosy mug – a cop or someone’s – listening in on a phone.” “Won’t it wait till tonight?” “Yes, I suppose so,” doubtfully. “But I wish you’d come now.” “Oh, all right,” growled Tony. So he summoned his bodyguard and went home, ordering them to remain outside while he hurried up to his luxurious apartment, a vague uneasiness clutching at him. But Jane was happy and smiling. “Darling!” she exclaimed happily. “I’ve found the spot where we can get Bruno … he’s going to the opening of the new Woodland Casino tomorrow night. That’s our chance.” Tony’s sharp gaze narrowed. “Yeah?” he said. “How’d you find that out?” “Don’t ask me, please. I’m not very proud of the way I got the dope but I did get it – that’s all that matters. And that’s our big chance to bump him off, Tony. He won’t be looking for trouble at an affair like that and he won’t have a big bodyguard with him – maybe none at all. Anyway it’s a masked affair – everyone will be in costume and wearing masks – so none’ll know who we’re.” “No? Then how’ll we know who they are?” “It’s up to us to find out.” “Well, I’ll think about it.” He returned to his headquarters and rescuing the all-important admission card from the wastebasket, thought about it for the rest of the afternoon. Something warned him not to go, yet the chance of killing Bruno himself proved a temptation too strong to resist. He decided to assume the risk. The next morning, accompanied by four of his bodyguard, he went down and looked at costumes. But he selected nothing, because he did not want the costumer to know his disguise. He was afraid that such information might be passed on to his enemies and he realised fully that his safety lay in the strict preservation of his anonymity. But in the afternoon he sent down another man for a Henry the Eighth outfit. In his mind, he had chosen that during the morning inspection because a comfortable amount of artillery could be concealed under the voluminous velvet upper part and the false beard that went with it would effectually hide the scar on the left side of his face. He and Jane – she was lovely in a Juliet costume – drove out shortly after ten, taking with them a bodyguard of four fearless and expert gunmen. Two of the latter, who were sufficiently small and slender to get away with it were in feminine costumes, so that it seemed like a nice party of three couples. Tony had had one of his men rent a sedan for the night, a much smaller and less expensive car than he ever used, so that neither car nor license could give them away to possible watchful enemies. Yet it was a very fast car – he had made sure of that. A hundred yards from the place, Tony halted the car and they all affixed their masks. Then he drove up and parked facing the road. Tony was a little uneasy about the admittance of so large a party on the one card but the doorman, masked and attired in the ornate costume of a Turkish harem guard, bowed them all inside with eager welcome. With how eager a welcome, Tony had no idea. For there were certain things about this affair that Jane had not discovered and that he had not suspected. For instance, Jane had not found out that Schemer Bruno was the owner of this new place and Tony had never dreamed that the card sent to him was the only one which bore the word “Gambling” engraved in the lower left-hand corner. Thus they were identified the moment they entered the place. In fact, they were the guests of honour but they didn’t know it. The Woodland Casino was unusually spacious and elaborate for a place of its type. A large dining room, arranged in cabaret style with a dance floor in the centre, occupied most of the first floor. A good orchestra blared toe-tickling jazz from a dais at one end and waiters scurried about with trays of food and drinks. Tony and his party, unknowingly under the murderous gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes, casually surveyed the throng present, then moved upstairs. The second floor was divided into numerous gaming rooms, in which could be found every imaginable device for pitting one’s luck against the game-keeper’s skill. All the play was for high stakes. Tony abstractedly took a whirl at roulette and because he wasn’t interested in the game, caring for neither profits nor losses, won more than £411 in half an hour. The croupier, hoping to win it back for the house, urged him to continue but Tony shook his head and led his party away from the table. They went back downstairs. The crowd was bigger now and very gay. The noise was fearful yet somehow diverting. Tony and his accomplices would have enjoyed it a lot except for their deadly errand. Tony himself was tense and silent, as he always was just before pulling a job of murder. In whispers, he instructed his henchmen not to stick so closely to him as to excite suspicion, but to maintain a keen watch. He danced three or four times with Jane, his gunmen dancing close by. Then he led her aside. “Mix around a little,” he ordered. “See if you can find out whether Bruno’s here and if he is, what kind of a rig he’s got on.” Jane nodded and moved slowly away. Tony allowed his penetrating glance to make a deliberate search of the merry throng. If only he knew how Bruno was dressed. Here and there, he noted subconsciously an exceptionally striking woman. Then abruptly his gaze riveted to the most commanding feminine figure in the crowd. Tall and slender she was, regally attired in an obviously expensive white gown with a long court train. Resting atop her head to complete the effect was an ornate crown studded with flashing brilliants. She was walking when he saw her first and it was her walk that struck him particularly. It was graceful, regal, the proper walk for the Queen she represented. And he had seen it before somewhere. He tried to recall and found he couldn’t. But he was certain he had seen that identical walk before and, subconsciously, he knew that the remembrance was not pleasant. He watched her closely, still trying to remember, and found her receiving a great deal of attention from a cloaked figure of Satan, a tall, well-built, graceful man who moved with the lithe quickness of a trained body actuated by an agile mind. At last she moved away from her red-clad companion and began drifting toward him. She hesitated as she came opposite and looked at him deliberately. The mask made the glance curiously enigmatic yet the sparkling eyes behind the mask seemed to hold an invitation. Then she moved away again. Reaching the doorway, she paused and looked back, then stepped through the portal. It was all as plain as if she had spoken. She was going out on the big wide porch and inviting him to follow. Momentarily warming to the chase, he started forward impulsively. But at that instant he suddenly remembered where he had seen that walk before. She was Katherine Merton, the girl who had come to his office pretending to be a reporter and who, in reality, was Schemer Bruno’s moll. Then Satan must be Bruno. What a singularly appropriate costume for the Schemer, he thought. And that cloak would conceal an almost unlimited amount of artillery. He saw the whole plot in a flash now. How they had discovered his identity, he couldn’t imagine – but they had. And this moll was trying to lure him out on the porch so that they could bump him off without endangering the other customers. Clever, all right, but it wasn’t going to work. He darted upstairs and cautiously peered out a window. Four or five costumed and masked figures were moving slowly around in front of the place. And the cloaked devil was among them. It was a death plot all right. He hurried back downstairs and without any appearance of haste gathered his group around him. “Take Jane out and put her in the car,” he ordered one of the gunmen, one also dressed as a woman. “Don’t hurry … but have the car ready for a quick getaway … The rest of you come with me.” He knew that Jane and her companion would not be targets for assassins’ bullets. It was he they were after. He led his three gunmen toward the kitchen, to the right of which was a mahogany bar, now three deep with thirsty patrons. There would surely be another entrance from the kitchen. Then he saw it, an open doorway. Before the surprised chef and his assistants could object, Tony had led his gunmen across the kitchen and out into the night. Quickly but silently they stole forward and Tony cautiously peered around the corner of the building. The waiting men were still there, tensely expectant. On the porch, a white-clad figure was glancing back into the reception foyer. Evidently the moll couldn’t understand why he didn’t appear. “See those mugs out there?” demanded Tony in a hoarse whisper. “That’s Schemer Bruno and some of his mob waiting to get us. But we’re going to beat them to it. You guys take care of the rest of them. I’ll get the devil.” Slowly Tony lifted his heavy automatic and took careful aim. Then his steady trigger finger squeezed down and the weapon spoke with a thunderous flash. Elation surged through him as the red-clad figure staggered and crumpled to the ground, but he fired four more times with deliberate precision at the prone figure. His men were firing, too. Revolvers were flashing and cracking ill around him. But the others were fighting back. At the first shot they had all dropped to the ground, making themselves much smaller targets, and now they were firing savagely. Tony and his men could hear bullets whistling and thudding around them. At first there were four exploding revolvers in that line, then three … two … one. And finally it ceased. “Let’s go!” exclaimed Tony happily and ran for their car, fifteen yards away. They all piled in and it raced away at high speed. “Step on it!” commanded Tony. He knew there were more enemy gunmen inside that roadhouse and he didn’t care to battle them if it could be avoided. He looked back just in time to see a white-clad figure crumple to the floor of the porch and other people come streaming out through the double door. “God! That was a narrow squeak!” exclaimed Tony as the car raced back toward their headquarters. “If I hadn’t remembered that dame’s walk, they’d a got me sure as hell. They damn near put over a fast one! Say,” he said suddenly, turning on Jane with angry suspicion, “what do you know about this, anyhow?” “Why, what do you mean?” “You know damn well what I mean,” he growled. “Didn’t you know they had it all fixed to put me on a spot?” “Of course not! Tony, surely–” “Well, where’d you get the dope about him being out here tonight?”“From Katherine – his moll.” “From who? For God’s sake, how’d you get her to talk?’ “She’s – my sister.” “Oh, my God! Here I’ve been a sort of brother-in-law to the Schemer, my worst enemy all this time. Jeez! What a fine family mess I got into.” “I thought I was pumping her when we met yesterday, making her tell something that she didn’t wanna,” continued Jane in a strained voice. She was overwrought and on the verge of tears. “But I guess I only fell into the trap she was helping the Schemer bait for you.” “Well, it’s all right,” answered Tony generously. “We got the Schemer anyhow.” Schemer Bruno’s sudden and mysterious death was a citywide sensation for days. His funeral was a grand affair, attended by the District Attorney, the Chief of Police, eleven judges, and some two hundred carloads of politicians and other hoodlums. Tony sent a £41 floral piece and considered it the best investment he had ever made. His only regret about the affair was that he hadn’t had cause to send it sooner. CHAPTER XXI A year passed rather uneventfully. Tony’s power, undisputed save for sporadic, disorganised, short-lived outbreaks here and there, grew until it almost became burdensome. And his income had gone far beyond his wildest dreams. Always being written up and talked about but almost never seen, he had become a legendary figure, symbolical of underworld success. Two items in the papers concerning his own family had interested him. His father had died and his brother had been promoted to a detective lieutenancy. Tony’s answer to the first had been to arrange for one of his trusted attorneys to inform his mother of the death of some mysterious relative in the West and thereafter pay her £206 a month, supposedly from the deceased’s estate. His answer to the second had been a long, loud, ironical laugh. He had heard through various reliable sources that his brother was not averse to graft and was quite a devil with the women, despite his wife and child. Tony grinned when he thought what a stir there would be if it were discovered that the brother of Detective Lieutenant Ben Guarino was the famous gang leader, Scarface Tony Camonte. He and Jane were still together, constantly quarrelling a bit more, but still together. They moved often, as often as the owners of the luxurious apartment houses to which they confined their residence discovered their real identities. But they enjoyed the best of everything and waved wads of money in the envious faces of the stiff-backed genteel who snubbed them. Tony had no fault to find with the world so far. Success wasn’t difficult, if you weren’t squeamish about how you achieved it. He surmised wisely that many another millionaire had discovered that fact early in his career. But inactivity palled on Tony! He stretched and began looking around for new worlds to conquer. People said the East – New York – was the most lucrative liquor and racket section in the country. There were a lot of hoodlums in it, of course, but they weren’t used to the ruthless Middle West methods. Machine guns and bombs would give the more effete Easterners the surprise of their lives. At about that same time rumours that the Easterners were looking westward with avaricious eyes gained circulation and credence. It was said that the notorious Frankie Wales, most ruthless of the Eastern gang leaders, was planning an active campaign for the Middle West with the Middle West’s own methods and weapons. But Tony only laughed contemptuously when his lieutenants came to him with such stories. He was too powerful, too well known even in New York for any other leader to even dream of wresting his power and wealth away from him. But the suggestion of another hot battle brought back the old sparkle to his eyes. If anyone tried to cut in on him, he’d show them a thing or two. He’d not only hold his territory but he’d capture theirs, wherever it might be and whoever it might be. Tony didn’t believe the reports of the Eastern invasion until one night when he was eating dinner in the main floor dining room of his hotel headquarters. The sudden crash of shattering glass and the vicious stuttering of a machine gun in the street outside startled him from his complacent reverie. He ducked under the table and drew his automatic. That nasty rat-tat-tat was still going in the street, the big plate glass window up in front was still splintering. And he could hear whizzing bullets whining spitefully above his head. Then the machine guns hushed and he heard a powerful car roar away. There was no doubt as to whom they were after. Had he been a second later in dodging beneath the table, his well-tailored form would have been drilled by a score of bullets; the holes in the wall back of where he had been sitting proved that. He remembered suddenly that the North Side mob had scared Johnny Lovo into leaving town by that same trick. Well, whoever had pulled it this time, would find he wasn’t afraid of anything. If they wanted a war, they could have one. And he’d be glad to see that they got a good one. That his unknown enemies meant business was proved by their activities the rest of the night. They bombed his biggest warehouse and killed two of his henchmen who were driving the sedan which he ordinarily used. Things were picking up. Tony smiled with keen anticipation. Walking quickly into the lobby of the hotel the next night, following a tour of inspection and preparation at various outposts of his activities, Tony saw two people getting into the elevator. Mike Rinaldo, his prize gunman, and a girl. But the glimpse he got of the girl’s face before the door clanged shut and the car shot upward made his eyes widen and his breath catch. Surely it must be – he turned to a small group of his henchmen lounging nearby. “That girl who just went up with Mike,” he said slowly, coldly. “Do any of you know who she is?” “Why that’s one of the sweetest little propositions that’s turned up around here in a long time. But particular – Jeez! Mike’s the only guy in the mob that’s been able to make her so far. Her name is – let me see – I think it’s Rosie Guarino.” “God!” breathed Tony hoarsely. “What’s the matter, chief?” “N-Nothing,” answered Tony breathlessly. But his face had gone deathly white. His thoughts seemed to be trying to race frantically up a terribly steep hill. Rosie, his little sister Rosie, the one that had always been such a model little housekeeper while their mother tended to the store. He realised suddenly that she must be twenty-two or three now. And he had been thinking of her as a beautiful kid of sixteen. But here in this disreputable hotel, gone upstairs with Mike Rinaldo, the accomplished and unscrupulous heart-breaker who was the best gunman in the city … His sister … No, it mustn’t be … If she hadn’t sense enough herself, someone else – he walked over to the desk, his step a trifle unsteady, his eyes glazed in contemplation of a horror more terrible than any he had seen on French battlefields. “What number did you give Mike Rinaldo?” he asked. “Six-twelve,” answered the clerk. “But a lady went up with him, Mr. Camonte. Wouldn’t it be better to calf?” “Thanks. I – I’ll call him later.” He walked over and entered the elevator that had come back down. “Six,” he said dully and swayed a little from the sudden jerk as the car started upward. He had killed for money, for vengeance, for lust, for almost every reason except a worthy one. His sister … upstairs … in his own hotel … with one of his own gunmen … Of course, Mike was the straightest and most ruthless shot in the city. Tony realised he might be facing death, probably was. Mike was touchy about his heart affairs. But Tony had faced death before. He’d always won before. One of these days he was bound to lose – luck couldn’t run the same way all the time. But whichever way things went, he would always be facing it. The door clanged open and Tony stepped out into the hall, his right hand plunged deep into his side coat pocket, his lean fingers tensed about the cold butt of the heavy automatic there. CHAPTER XXII Slowly, yet with a tense, frantic haste, Scarface Tony Camonte went down the hall; peering intently at the brass numbers on the doors, his hand rigid about the butt of the heavy automatic in his side coat pocket. Then he found it. 612. He halted and turned toward the door, gathering himself like a furious animal making ready to spring. With the silent, effortless ease of a fatal snake, his practiced right hand drew the automatic, then gently dropped to his side. Then his left hand reached out to the door-knob, and he quietly tried it. But the door was locked. Tony’s lips curled into a vicious snarl and his clenched fist banged savagely against the polished wood of the fastened door. There was a pause. Then: “What do you want?” came the angry growl from within. “Come out here!” snapped Tony and instinctively moved aside so that when the door opened he would not be visible. “Go ‘way and let me alone,” came the retort. “I’m busy.” The gang leader’s face flamed with rage and his breath came in short, hoarse gasps. “This is Tony Camonte, the boss,” he gritted, his mouth close to the crack where the door met the jamb. “I want to see you now. If you don’t come out, I’ll send for a pass-key and come in.” He drew back again and his grip on the automatic tightened. He heard muffled sounds of stirring within the room and a feminine giggle. And he muttered an awful curse under his breath as the key turned in the lock. The door swung open. “Say, chief, what the hell’s the matter with you anyway?” demanded Mike Rinaldo’s voice. Then Mike himself appeared. His coat and vest were off, his collar open at the throat. His handsome dark face was flushed and his oily black hair tousled. His appearance alone was enough, under the circumstances, to give Tony the final impulse to murder, to furnish the igniting spark for the ready powder. Surprised and angry, Mike turned to face his employer. Tony’s right hand snapped up and the ugly black barrel of the automatic centred steadily on the gunman’s body a few inches above his shining gold belt buckle. “You rat!” snarled Tony. “You picked the wrong dame this time.” The two pairs of cold, hard, expressionless eyes, murderers’ eyes both, met, clashed. Then Mike’s widened at something he saw in those of his employer. He was staring death in the face and he realised it. His right hand darted for his hip. But he hadn’t a chance; Tony didn’t dare give him a chance. Under any other conditions, Tony would have been glad to meet him on even terms, but now the great gang leader felt that he dare not take any risks. He must make sure, because of that girl in there. In the language of their kind, Tony let him have it. The shots roared out. Half a dozen of them. Yet so close together that they seemed to merge into a single explosion as they reverberated down the hall. Mike’s jaw dropped and he gazed stupidly at his murderer through the haze of a bluish smoke. Then he passed a trembling hand bewilderedly over his suddenly ashen face and with a gasp abruptly sagged to the floor. Half a dozen spots of red had appeared on his hitherto spotless white shirt-front. Tony watched with interest as they enlarged, then finally merged into one big stain that grew bigger. Suddenly Tony laughed, a little hysterically. Then he became aware that the girl inside the room was screaming madly. That screaming cleared his head like a dash of cold water. With his foot, he moved the body beyond the doorway, then walked into the room. A beautiful dark girl, clad in pink silk lingerie and with a dress clutched in her hands, stood there shrieking. Her eyes dilated with terror as she saw him come in and she backed away, lifting one hand as if to ward off an attack. Tony stared at her a moment, feeling the bitter agony of coals of fire being heaped upon his head. His sister! To be found like that! But he was thankful that she didn’t recognise him. “Shut up!” he snapped. “Get your dress on and get out of here before the cops come.” “You murdered him!” she moaned. “Oh, you beast! You murdered him!” The bitter irony of the situation cut Tony to the quick. Reviled by his own sister for having saved her from the rapacity of one of his gunmen! He wanted to take her in his arms, comfort, explain everything, and warn her. But he didn’t dare. He realised that the knowledge that he was the notorious Tony Camonte would kill his mother. No, his family believed him dead; he must remain dead so far as they knew. “Shut up!” he commanded with vicious emphasis. “And get out of here!” Sobbing hysterically, she wriggled into the dress and donned her hat and coat. He took her arm but she flinched away from him and hurried to the doorway. There she paused and swayed unsteadily. Her horrified gaze had seen the bloody heap that was Mike. With a piercing scream shecollapsed across the body, frantically kissing the ghastly face. His own emotions stretched to the breaking point, Tony picked her up roughly and shoved her toward the elevator. “Get out!” he gritted. “And stay out! And keep your mouth shut!” She gazed back at him, deathly pale, wide-eyed with terror. “I hope they hang you!” she cried and began to run, sobbing in great choking gasps. She passed the closed elevator door and continued on to the stairway. Tony heard her rapid clicking footsteps and breathless, catching sobs die away. Then he went back and stared down at the body. “Too bad, Mike,” he said in a low tone, as if the inert figure of the dead gangster could hear. “But it had to be done.” He walked into the bedroom and picked up the telephone. “Mike just died,” he said dully, when the clerk answered. “I’ll see about arrangements later. Tell all the boys that if some nosy dicks come around, they ain’t got the slightest idea what was the name of the dame who came up here tonight with Mike, See? It’s curtains for the guy that squeals her name to anyone, hear?” he added viciously. “Tell them that, too.” The sharp thud of the telephone as he set it down on the little table penetrated the fog that seemed to have come up around his perceptions since that hoodlum in the lobby had identified Mike’s new girl. Well, she was gone now, anyway. If anything happened; she would be clear of it. He realised that the night’s events would kill his mother. But she wouldn’t know. What a blessing it was that most people actually knew so little. He walked to the doorway and stared down at Mike’s body again. Suddenly his eyes snapped and he hurled the automatic down. It struck the body then bounced away across the hall and lay still, an unerring instrument of death. The other killings that Tony had perpetrated had given him a thrill, a sharp, exhilarating sense of triumph, of having outwitted and conquered enemies who would willingly have done the same to him. But he felt none of that now. He was dazed, shaky, and very tired. He felt suddenly old. It seemed as if he had lived a century and yet. And yet, it must be less than fifteen minutes. He turned and went slowly upstairs to his private office. Sinking into the comfortable chair behind his big desk, he rested his elbows on its polished walnut surface and let his head fall forward into his hands. How long he had been sitting there that way he didn’t know. But he realised suddenly that the spacious room was filling with men. He looked up, to find Captain Flanagan, his revolver drawn, staring down at him with a grim little smile lurking around the corners of his hard mouth. “Well, Tony, I guess we got you this time, with the goods,” said Flanagan with relish. “So you killed Mike Rinaldo over a dame.” Tony stiffened and sat up straight, his eyes blazing as he stared at the crowd of officers. Who’d squealed? “Take it easy, Tony,” growled Flanagan warningly, sensing the gang leader’s sudden arousal. “You’re coming to the DA’s office with us. Stick out your mitts!” There was a metallic rattle as another detective stepped forward with a pair of handcuffs. Tony stared at them. Then an expression of disgust crossed his face and he looked up at Flanagan again with his usual defiant pride flooding back into his face and manner. “You need no bracelets for me!” he snapped. “I’m no cheap second-story man. I’ll go with you anywhere you want to take me but I’m going to call a mouthpiece to come down and see that I get my rights.” He reached for the telephone but one of the officers snatched it away from him. Half a dozen others closed in on him, their attitude obviously menacing. And Flanagan had lifted the muzzle of his revolver until it pointed at Tony’s chest. “Oh, you’re going, all right!” said the burly chief of detectives, seeming oddly elated. “And you’re going to wear the bracelets. We ain’t takin’ no chances. Ain’t often we get a chance to pinch a big shot like you,” he added sarcastically with a nasty grin. “And you ain’t calling none till after you been to the DA’s office.” “Listen, Flanagan, I’m due for all the breaks you guys can give me. The dough I’ve paid–” “Don’t know a thing about it, Tony,” lied the chief of detectives glibly. “Anyway, I’ve heard that you haven’t been so liberal since you got to be so strong.” Which was true. Now that he and his gang held undisputed sway over the booze racket and certain other underworld activities of the big city, he had trimmed the amounts that he paid out for protection. No use throwing away any more dough than you had to. If there were no other gangs that the authorities could throw their allegiance to, they’d ride along for smaller bits. They handcuffed him none too gently and led him downstairs. Tony had a glimpse of his gangsters congregating in the lobby staring at the party with amazed hate. And the realisation that his men had seen their master led out by the police, trussed like a common small-time burglar, galled him much more than the trouble ahead. He was hurried outside and pushed into one of the three big squad cars that had brought the party out from the detective bureau and which were now parked at the curb, guarded by half a dozen other officers, armed with small machine guns. The whole crowd acted as if they were executing a coup as daring as kidnapping Napoleon from the midst of his army. The three big cars raced downtown, their shrieking sirens clearing a path and making people turn to stare. Tony’s impenetrable silence masked a seething inward fury. Who had squealed? How had the dicks known about Mike’s death so soon and how had they known who to pinch for it? It looked as if someone, seeing a chance to get him, had taken advantage of the opportunity with all speed. But who? Well, one thing certain, they’d pay. It would be curtains for the guilty person. Moran, the first assistant district attorney, was awaiting them in the prosecutor’s offices on the second floor of the gloomy Criminal Courts building. And Tony grunted scornfully as he saw him. Moran was a good prosecutor, all right, the best they had; but he was also the collector for his chief. Tony had paid him thousands. He was a tall, lean young man with icy blue eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses and a nasty, cynical smile that held no mirth in it. “Well, Camonte, what have you to say for yourself?” he demanded. “Nothing – here,” snapped Tony. “You must think I’m dumb.” “Yes, I do.” Tony’s face flamed and the chain of the handcuffs rattled as his hands clenched and writhed. “I want to talk to you alone, Moran,” he gritted in a low tone. Moran surveyed him a moment then produced a revolver and laid it on the desk close at hand. “You fellows can wait in the outer office,” he said to the crowd of detectives. “I’ll call you when I want you.” As they trooped out, he looked up at the gang leader with a deadly glance. “One false move, Camonte,” he said coldly, “and I’ll shoot you down like a dog.” “Yes, I believe you’d like to get the chance,” agreed Tony bitterly. “It would save the state the expense of trying and hanging you.” Tony laughed harshly. “Don’t talk foolish! You couldn’t convict me!” “No? Well, watch us. Or rather, watch me. The Chief says I’m to prosecute.” “Where is he?” “At home, of course. You’re not important enough to get him out of bed in the middle of the night to come down here and question you.” “No? Well, I’m important enough to give him a nice big bit every month. And you, too. If anything happened to me, the gang would go to pieces and you wouldn’t get those bits any longer.” “If your gang was broken up, there’d be room for two or three other gangs, and each one of them would be glad to kick in with as much as you do. Competition is the life of trade, you know,” he added grimly. “I could increase my bits,” suggested Tony shrewdly. “Yes, but that wouldn’t interest us now. Three or four gangs spread around the city are a lot more help to a political machine than just one. And you’ve never shown any interest in helping us build up the machine, anyway. No, Camonte, this is our chance to knock you off your throne and we’re not going to miss it.” Tony’s face had frozen and his eyes glittered. “Listen, Moran,” he said, and his voice held a cold, deadly venom that made the assistant district attorney flinch, “if you bring me to trial, you and the D.A. will both be mighty sorry, before it’s all over.” “Are you threatening me?” blustered Moran. “No. Just trying to keep you from making a fool of yourself.” Moran laughed harshly, sarcastically. “Leave that to us! I’ll convict you all right. The girl’s testimony alone will–” “What girl?” demanded Tony tensely. “This Rosie Guarino, the one you killed Mike over. She’s the one that turned you up for the job and she’s volunteered to testify. Women! They’re the ruination of all you hoods. I guess you didn’t know that this dame and Mike had been secretly married down at Crown Point a week ago.” So that was what they thought, that he had killed Mike because of jealousy. No wonder Flanagan had looked at him with contempt. And she and Mike had been married. Good God! I’d had no right to – but how’d he know with Mike’s past what it’s? Weary and bewildered, his mind a confused maze, Tony was led away to a cell. CHAPTER XXIII The murder trial of Tony Camonte, the famous gang leader, who had come to be considered beyond the reach of the law, was the sensation of the year. The newspapers found it a godsend during a period when other news happened to be scarce, and devoted their front pages to little else. Public opinion as to Tony’s guilt and deserving of punishment was sharply divided. A certain cross-section of the populace poured down maledictions upon his head and consigned him to the gallows, with sighs of relief. But another group, equally numerous, who through the papers, had followed his daring exploits for years, had come to feel an admiration for this extraordinary man who had risen from vassal to czar. These people openly expressed sympathy for him and the hope that he would be acquitted. For Tony himself, the period of the trial was a time of soul-wrecking terror. Not because of fear of punishment, for he did not fear it; but because of his overwhelming fear that his real identity would be discovered. Moran prosecuted, assisted by one of the lesser-assistant DA’s, and it was obvious that they were fighting like tigers for a hanging verdict. Tony’s defence consisted of two of the most brilliant criminal lawyers in the city, one a former assistant district attorney. And the fee they had already received would enable them to live in comfort for two or three years. Rosie Guarino was the star witness for the state, of course, but only because Tony chose to allow her to be. His attorneys had relayed to him from his men various proposals for eliminating her from the case, scaring her out of the city, by bombing the Guarino store and home. They even planned kidnapping. And finally they decided upon a cold-blooded plan for shooting her on the witness stand from the window of an adjoining building. Tony had angrily vetoed them all, to the bewildered disgust of his lawyers and henchmen. He realised that he could stop her instantly by revealing his identity as her brother, but he was more afraid of that fact coming out than he was of the gallows. He had consented, however, to an offer of £10267 being made her to slip out of the city and remain away until he had been acquitted and the case forgotten. This offer she had spurned indignantly and promptly given the facts to the newspapers, thereby furnishing them with another sensational headline. Tony secretly was rather proud of her; she was his own sister, all right. The whole Guarino family was in court the day Rosie testified. Tony looked at them furtively from his position in the front of the courtroom before the judge. They were all well-dressed and they seemed well and happy. He felt a little thrill of satisfaction. His ill-gotten gains had done them some good anyway; the generous monthly sum that he gave them secretly through an attorney had assured those luxuries and advantages that they never could have enjoyed otherwise. He saw his mother, dowager-like in a glossy fur coat and a Parisian hat, look at him sharply. For a moment he thought she had recognised him and his heart sank, but he had taken his place so that the throng of spectators could see only the left, the scarred, side of his face. He saw his mother’s keen glance turn to contempt and he felt relieved. At that moment he saw himself as others must see him, as a bad boy who hadn’t grown up. He was pale and shaken when he turned his attention back to the witness stand. Rosie gave her testimony with proud defiance and more than one venomous look at him. The prosecution, of course, did not bring out Mike Rinaldo’s desperate character, and Tony had forbidden his own attorneys to do so; he refused tostain further the memory of his sister’s dead husband. When the state had completed its direct examination of her, one of Tony’s attorneys rose for cross-examination. “Was Mr. Rinaldo completely within your sight from the time he opened the door until you heard the shots and saw him fall?” asked the attorney. “Yes.” “Didn’t you see him suddenly reach for his right hip?” “Yes.” “Wasn’t that before you heard the shots?” “Yes.” “Then you didn’t actually see the defendant shoot Rinaldo?” “No, but–” “That’s all,” said the attorney brusquely. He turned away then smiled slightly at the sudden stir that appeared at the prosecution’s counsel table; the lawyers there were obviously disconcerted by the extreme shortness of his cross- examination of their star witness. It was plain that Rosie realised she had made admissions damaging to the state’s case. She remained in the witness chair, trying to qualify the statements she had made. But a court attendant ushered her out. There were other spectators in the courtroom that interested Tony. His moll, for instance, Jane Conley, widely known by reputation to police and the underworld as the Gun Girl but known by sight to practically none. He was a little puzzled about Jane. She hadn’t come near him during his period of incarceration. As she sat in the courtroom, stylishly dressed and easily the most striking woman in the throng of spectators, she gave him no sign of recognition. He resented her air of detachment. Yet, wanting to find an excuse for her seeming unfriendliness, he was able to find one. The fact that she was his moll had been kept a close secret and it was better that it remain so. The less that was known about the private affairs of a man in his position, the fewer loopholes his enemies had to try to strike him through. His brother, Detective Lieutenant Ben Guarino, was a constant and interested spectator at the trial. He was a little surprised at his brother’s appearance. Ben had taken on weight and his face looked bloated. He’d been hitting the high spots and it was beginning to tell on him. The last afternoon of the trial, Tony saw his brother seated beside Jane in the first row of spectators. Occasionally they chatted in whispers and several times he saw them exchange a smile. Jealous rage flowed through the gang leader like molten metal and his eyes blazed. With an effort he turned his attention back to the course of the trial. The climax was approaching rapidly. In their summation to the jury, Moran and his assistant obviously did their utmost to induce the twelve men to bring in a verdict of murder in the first degree. As they verbally flayed him with all the biting vituperation and sarcastic innuendo of which clever criminal lawyers are capable, Tony found it almost beyond his powers of self-control to remain in his chair. His strong hands gripped the chair arms until his knuckles gleamed white with the effort. His swarthy face flushed to a deep purple and his fingers itched to get at the throats of these hypocrites who characterized him an incorrigible menace to mankind. The automobiles in which they rode, had been paid for with his money. But he relaxed when his own attorneys had their inning. He even smiled slightly once or twice at some of their cleverly sarcastic quips at the expense of the prosecution. They made the thing out so simply; showed the whole charge to be utterly ridiculous and unproved. They characterized a possible conviction as the most monstrous miscarriage of justice that could ever blot the records of a state. But the jury seemed less interested in the vividly pictured horrors of guilty consciences for convicting an innocent man than they did in the appearance of ten of Tony’s best gunmen seated in the first two rows of spectators. They were swarthy, well-dressed young men who surveyed the jurors unsmilingly with cold, hard eyes. The judge had been paid £2054 to make his instructions to the jury as favourable as possible to Tony and he went as far as he dared, to earn his fee. The jury required just fourteen minutes to bring in a verdict of “Not guilty.” And everyone realised that those ten grimly silent young men had been the deciding factor. There had been instances where jurors convicting gangsters had been shot, their homes bombed or their children kidnapped. Law and order and duty were all very well, but there was no appeal from a bomb or a bullet. And the law is notoriously lax in protecting its upholders, once their usefulness has ceased. Tony shook hands with every juror. And some of them were as flustered as though meeting the President. The next day he sent each one a case of uncut whisky. Tony waited, chatting with his lawyers, until the spectators had dispersed, then he walked out of the courtroom a free man but a man full of deep grievances that must be avenged. In the doorway lounged Detective Lieutenant Ben Guarino, “You’ll get yours yet, Big Shot,” he rasped. Tony hurried on without indicating that he had heard. In the hallway, his bodyguard awaited him. Quickly they surrounded him as they had been trained to do and escorted him downstairs and outside to the big sedan with the bullet-proof glass. At a respectful distance watched a crowd that filled the street. The flutter and craning of necks that followed his appearance would have satisfied the greatest celebrity. Near by a half-dozen newspapermen clamoured for an interview and innumerable photographers were frantically trying to snap pictures. Being slightly shorter than the average, Tony purposely had chosen for his bodyguard the tallest men in his mob. Ordinarily they served to protect him from the bullets of ambitious assassins. Now the ring of men served equally well to protect him from the almost as annoying camera lenses. But he spoke to the reporters for a moment. “I’m through with all the rackets, boys,” he announced. “I’ve enough money and I’m done. Johnny Lovo had the right idea. I’m going into the real estate business.” He stepped into the sedan and the escort of three cars swept away. Tony Camonte was a czar again. CHAPTER XXIV Tony felt a trifle uncertain as he entered his luxurious Lake Shore Drive apartment half an hour later. And the cool, questioning way in which Jane surveyed him was not reassuring. “Jeez! I’m tired!” he exclaimed wearily. And he was. The strain of the trial had taken more out of him than he realised. “Listen, Tony,” said Jane and there was an edge in her voice, “just what’s this dame to you?” “What dame?” “This Rosie person, the one you killed Mike over.” “She’s nothing to me.” Jane laughed scornfully. “Do you expect me to believe that? Then why’d you bump off Mike for getting her?” “I didn’t. It was about some p’m else.” “Don’t try to kid me. You and Mike were the best of friends up to the night that happened. The boys say you turned absolutely green when you saw Mike come in with her. Right away you went upstairs and five minutes later Mike was dead.” “You’re crazy! I – I never saw her before. If she’d – meant anything to me, do you suppose she’d have turned me up the way she did?” “A woman’s feelings can change.” “So can a man’s.” He looked at her narrowly; his tone was significant. “Yeah? Well, don’t worry, Big Shot, there’s plenty of men that’d be glad to have me.” “Maybe. But you’d find it pretty hard to find one that could or would pay the price I do. For the amount I spend on you, I’d just about have my pick and don’t forget it!” “Why don’t you?” she demanded furiously. “Been too busy to think about it,” he retorted loftily. “But I may not be so busy later on … while we’re on the subject, I noticed you’re mighty chummy with that dick lieutenant in court?” “Which one?” “Were you chummy with more than one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But I only noticed one. Ben Guarino, the brother of this dame.” “Oh? So you know all about the whole family, eh?” “Shut up!” he snarled suddenly, advancing on her menacingly. “I’ve had all your lip I intend to take.” For a moment they gazed at each other with blazing eyes, their teeth gritted and their fists clenched. “What’s the use of us fighting this way, baby as long as we been together?” said Tony finally and his voice was weary. “Honest to God, I never had nothing to do with that dame. And there’s important things to be done now.” “For instance?” “Getting Flanagan and Moran, the damned dirty double-crossers. After all the dough I’ve paid them! Flanagan could give me a buzz and let me get out of sight that night. But did he do it? No, he comes out himself and nabs me. And even puts the bracelets on me, like I was a common, cheap, petty larceny crook. And Moran, that dirty Irish–” the oaths crackled off Tony’s competent tongue. “Him and that crooked DA boss of his. They knew they had a poor case and they knew that Mike’s being bumped off was a civic improvement. What they’d have done was forget it. But do they? No, they do their damnedest to give me the rope because they know they could collect more if there was a lot of big shots in the racket instead of just me controlling the whole works. Well, I’ve paid and what did I get? Tramped on, the minute they thought they had a chance to railroad me. Now, they’re going to pay and plenty.” And so they forgot their personal jealousies and differences while Tony outlined his plans for vengeance against those who had betrayed him. But the rift between them had widened. Doubt, once planted, is almost impossible to kill, and upon the slightest provocation can grow with appalling speed into conviction. Tony went out to his headquarters the next day. And his men greeted his return with the curious silence and the grim, tight-lipped smiles of their kind. But he sensed an uneasiness in their bearing. Something was wrong; he wondered just what it was. He had not long to wait. Within a few minutes half a dozen of his more prominent henchmen came up to his private office on the top floor of the hotel. One of them, a square-jawed, hard-eyed hoodlum named Finaro, cleared his throat noisily. “We’re wondering about that piece in the papers, chief,” he began. “About you going to quit the racket and go in the real estate business. That was just talk, wasn’t it?” “I haven’t decided yet,” answered Tony coolly. “I have got enough dough to quit and enjoy life if I want to.” “Yeah. But who helped you make it, chief? We’ve all had a hand in building’ up that pile you got. And you owe it to us to keep things moving and give us a chance to keep getting our bit. We’ve stuck by you through some damn tight times and now when the sailing’s easy, you gotta stick by us. If you quit now, the mob’d go to pieces overnight. And then where’d we be? You just can’t quit now and leave us in the lurch.” The others nodded in hearty assent as he finished. The man’s tone and manner had been respectful enough but his eyes were hard. Tony, his own eyes glowing with inward anger at this first sign of insubordination within the ranks, was about to dismiss them brusquely. But his better judgment told him not to. He sensed an air of menace in the attitude of the group. He realised suddenly that in organising and perfecting this powerful gang that ruled the underworld activities of a great city, he had built a Frankenstein, a monster that, acting upon the principles he had instilled into it, would feel justified in destroying him should he attempt to desert now. In one great vision, he saw that these men felt a loyalty to him only as long as his agile mind planned activities thatafforded them a handsome livelihood. The moment his value to them had ceased they would unhesitatingly turn upon him the assassin’s bullets that he now could command them to direct at his enemies. He could never quit; they wouldn’t let him. “Forget it, boys,” he said, trying to make his tone pleasant. “I was just talking for the benefit of the cops. Carry on everything as usual.” Tony lost no time in carrying out his vengeance upon those who had betrayed him. For five days he had Captain Flanagan shadowed day and night. Then, with the reports of his spies in hand, he spent two days in working out the actual plan. At last all was ready. At eleven o’clock one night he had himself driven home to the fancy apartment building where he and Jane lived. He gave the uniformed doorman a cigar and paused a moment to comment on the state of the weather. To the middle-aged, dignified elevator man he gave another cigar and, apparently doubtful of the accuracy of his watch, checked it up with that of the older man. Thus he had impressed his arrival and the time of it upon the two attendants. His apartment was on the third floor and at the end of the corridor was an iron fire escape that led both upward and downward: Carefully he opened the French doors that gave access to it, stepped out and closed the doors behind him. Then he climbed rapidly but silently down to the ground. His rubber-soled shoes making no sound, he flitted through the dark alley and stepped into the sedan waiting in the deserted street beyond. The big car sped smoothly away, preceded and followed by another just like it. At a quiet corner far out on the North Side the three cars paused. Then one proceeded easily through the tree-lined residential street to the next corner. Then another moved slowly forward. In the middle of the block and across the street from a brick two-story house which was still brightly lighted, it stopped against the curb. The four men in it crouched down so that the car appeared empty. Already one of the rear door windows was fully lowered, the cool night air fanning the flushed tense faces of the four men. Tony waited a moment, then nudged one of his companions. The man lifted a police whistle to his lips and blew three shrill blasts. Almost immediately two shots rang out at the next corner. Abruptly the front door of the house across the street flew open and a burly man emerged, a revolver glinting in his right hand. It was Flanagan! Another shot rang out at the corner. Flanagan ran down the steps, his revolver ready for action. Slowly Tony lifted the ugly black snout of a sub-machine gun, resting it on the car door, and took careful aim. Then with a grim smile he squeezed the trigger. The death rattle of the weapon deafened him and his companions but Flanagan crumpled to the ground, at least two-score bullets having found their mark in his body. The cars roared away down the street. Tony went to bed with exultation welling strong within him. He had returned the same way he had departed and, he was positive, without being seen. When the police questioned the attendants of the building as they were sure to do, the two men would earnestly and unknowingly furnish him with a perfect alibi, for there was no other available entrance to the building save the one at which they were on duty. Flanagan was gone. A score that had been accumulating for years had finally been settled. Now for Moran! CHAPTER XXV The newspapers the following afternoon gave Tony a shock. The Police Commissioner, in a lengthy statement about Flanagan’s daring assassination, said that he felt that younger men were necessary to cope with these modern gangsters, and announced the promotion of Lieutenant Ben Guarino to Captain and Chief of Detectives. The new Chief, in a statement of his own, announced it as his opinion that the affair of the night before was the work of Tony Camonte and his gang, and promised to run Tony out of town or kill him in the attempt. Tony laughed at that; then he frowned. It wasn’t a nice thought to know that your own brother had sworn publicly to hunt you to the death. God! This family mix-up in his affairs was beginning to get on his nerves. Then Tony’s jaw set and his eyes flashed. If they ever met in a situation where only one could escape, Ben would be just another dick in his eyes. Tony went down to dinner in the dining room of his hotel that evening feeling rather well pleased with himself. One of the waitresses came forward to serve him, her crisply-starched white uniform rustling stiffly. He gave his order without looking up. But when she served his soup, her finely manicured hands caught his attention. From the hands, his glance strayed to her figure, the perfection of which drew his gaze upward to the face. Then he almost jumped out of his chair. For the girl was his sister, Rosie. “You!” he exclaimed. “Yes,” she answered breathlessly in a low tone. “I hoped you wouldn’t notice. But I had to do something, now that Mike’s dead, and this was all I could find.” She hurried away before he could comment or question her further. Tony dipped his spoon into the soup, then paused. That explanation of her presence here did not ring true. He knew that she did not have to work; the monthly sum he had his attorney send to his family was more than sufficient to take care of them all in luxury. Then why was she here? Why, indeed, except to attempt vengeance upon him? He gazed at the soup, his black eyes glittering with suspicion. But the clear liquid told him nothing. Surreptitiously he emptied the contents of his water glass upon the floor, and poured some of the soup into the glass. Then he rose and, concealing the glass by his side, walked toward the door that led into the lobby of the small hotel. “I’ve been called to the telephone,” he explained with a forced smile as he passed her. “Be back in a minute.” Out in the lobby, he called one of his henchmen and handed the glass to him. “Take that over to the drug store across the street right away and have it analysed,” he ordered. “I’ll wait here till you get back.” His thoughts in a turmoil, he waited. But he was positive of the verdict even before his henchman returned and breathlessly announced it! The soup contained enough poison to kill a mule, much less a man! Tony walked back into the dining room with his face an expressionless mask in which only the eyes glittered with life. The nerve of the girl, to get a job in his own hotel so that she could have the opportunity of poisoning him, of exacting the toll for Mike’s death that the law had been unable to collect. God! She was his own sister, all right. He stood beside his table and she came forward, only her flaming cheeks belying her outward coolness. “You get off at seven, don’t you?” he said calmly. “Yes. Why?” “I’ve to go upstairs on business. When you get off, please bring the rest of my dinner up to my private office on the top floor of the hotel. There’ll be a big tip in it,” he added with an attempt at a smile, “and I want to have a little talk with you anyway.” He went up to his office, wondering if she would come of her own free will or at the behest of the gunmen he had ordered to keep a close watch upon her and bring her up in case she should try to get away without complying with his request. He hoped she would come by herself. She did, already attired in an attractive street costume, and carrying a large tray with a number of covered dishes. She set the tray down on his desk. He looked up at her grimly. “Are these things poisoned, too?” he asked. She jerked so violently that she almost dropped the tray and her eyes widened in terror. “I don’t know what–” she stammered. “There’s enough poison in that soup you served me to kill a dozen men,” he continued smoothly. “And they don’t usually poison it in the kitchen. So you must have done it.” “Yes, I did,” she snapped with sudden defiance. “I loved Mike and you murdered him. You cheated the law but I resolved that you shouldn’t cheat me. And I got this job so I could get you. But you’ve found it out. Now, what are you going to do about it?” The abrupt directness of her methods, so very like his own, disconcerted him for a moment. “I haven’t decided,” he admitted finally. “I ought to have you taken for a ride but I think you’re too brave to be finished up by a stab in the back like that. Do you realise the danger you’re in?” “Yes. I’ve known all the time what a long chance I was taking. But Mike’s dead; what difference did it make?” “Mike was a hoodlum,” snapped Tony harshly. “A gunman and a thug. He’d killed a lot of people and was always ready to kill more whenever I said the word and was ready to pay the price.” “I suppose you think you’re better,” sneered the girl. “That’s not the question. We’re talking about Mike. He wasn’t worthy of any girl’s love. But I want you to know that I had no idea you two were married. I thought he was just going to take advantage of you, as he had so many other girls. That’s why I – I bumped him off.” A tenderness had come into Tony’s voice. He caught himself as he saw her staring at him, wide-eyed. “What’s the matter?” he demanded. “N-n-nothing. For a minute, you seemed so much like – someone I – once knew.” Tony breathed hoarsely for an instant and turned away so that she could see only the scarred side of his face. She had almost recognised him. “I’m sorry about Mike. But it just had to be,” he said doggedly. “And you’ll be a lot better off. Someday you’ll thank me for what I did. So run along and forget Mike. And from now on, be careful of the guys you pick. You’re too nice a girl to be chasing around with gunmen.” “How would you like to mind your own business?” she blazed, her eyes glistening with incipient tears. “Fine. You might do the same. And don’t try to poison any more gang leaders; some of them might not like it … If you need any money–” “I don’t,” she snapped proudly. “And I won’t. We have plenty.” Tony felt a thrill of satisfaction. They would never know, of course, that their prosperity was due to him. But he was glad that he had been able to make them comfortable. “All right then – girlie,” he said slowly. “And just remember that you’re the only person that ever tried to kill Tony Camonte and lived to tell about it.” Still staring at him curiously, a perplexed frown wrinkling her brows, she finally departed. Tony heaved a long sigh. Well, that was over. Abruptly he switched his agile, daring mind back to the matter which had become an obsession with him – the wreaking of vengeance upon the officials to whom he had paid so much but who, in time of crisis, had betrayed him. And then he realised that there was something bigger to all this than venting his personal spite upon these officials who had betrayed not only him but their trust. For the first time in his hectic life he felt the social impulse which is, at once, the cause and the result of civilisation – the realisation that the welfare of mankind was more important than his own preservation, the realisation that he owed something to the world. In the grip of new emotions, of strange ideas and convictions hitherto foreign to him, he wrote steadily for two hours. When he had finished he read through the pile of sheets with grim satisfaction, then folded and sealed them, together with a small black leather-covered notebook, in a large envelope, across whose face he wrote: To be delivered unopened to the Evening American the day after my death. Then he locked it up in his desk. He realised, of course, the sensation that would follow its ultimate publication but he had no idea that he had just written, with amazing brevity and directness, the most significantly damning indictment of American political machines ever composed. Yet that proved to be the case. Its publication, unknown to him, was to cause the suicide of half a dozen prominent men, the ruination of innumerable others, a complete reorganisation of the government and police administration of not only that city but many others; and, by its revelation to the common voter behind the scenes of activities of so-called public servants, and their close connection with the underworld, was to prove the most powerful weapon of modern times for the restoration of decent, dependable government in the larger cities. But he would have laughed unbelievingly had anyone told him that now. And he wouldn’t have been particularly interested. This social consciousness that had come over him for a time was too new a thing to him to be permanent. Already he was hungry again for action, for personal vengeance against those whom he felt had it coming to them. His cunning mind leaped to the problem which was, momentarily, his main purpose in life – the killing of Moran, that ratty assistant district attorney. The telephone at his elbow jangled loudly in the complete silence of the room. He lifted the receiver, growled a curt “Hello,” and listened to the voice that came rapidly to him with its report. When he hung up, his eyes were sparkling. Five minutes later, he and four of his most trusted men – that is, best paid – drove away in a high-powered sedan. To the far South Side they drove rapidly, yet at a pace not sufficiently rapid to attract attention. For they were in enemy territory there. If their presence was discovered, a dozen carloads of gangsters, representing the various small and always turbulent south Side mobs – would be gunning for them. There was danger, too, from detective bureau squad cars. With the contents of his car what it was, Tony realised that it would be impossible for him to give a satisfactory explanation of his presence in enemy territory. And if they should happen to be picked up by a squad that wouldn’t listen to reason, they should probably find themselves in a nasty jam. Across the street from a saloon in a dark neighbourhood, they stopped. The engine of their car had been cut off a block away and they had coasted up to their objective, the carefulapplication of their well-greased brakes preventing any sound as they came to a halt. The chauffeur remained under the wheel, ready for the instant getaway that would be imperative, Tony and the other three men slipped on masks that completely concealed their faces. Then, carrying machine guns, they hurried silently across the street. Noiselessly as ghosts they appeared in the doorway, their weapons poised ready for instant destruction. A score of men were lined up at the bar. And at the end stood Moran, chatting chummily with four men who looked to be very improper companions for an assistant district attorney. In fact, two of them were prominent Irish bootleggers of the far South Side jungles, whom he had prosecuted unsuccessfully for murder not many months before. The bartender, facing the door, was the first to see the masked intruders as they stood silently side by side with ready weapons. The way he stiffened and stared attracted the notice of the others because they began turning around to see what held his fascinated gaze. “Hands up, everyone!” barked Tony brusquely. “My God! It’s–” cried Moran. But the rest of the sentence was drowned in the vicious stuttering of Tony’s machine gun. Without so much as a gasp, Moran fell forward, almost cut in two by the hurtling stream of lead. Behind his mask, Tony smiled grimly and swung the spouting black muzzle to include the two Irish bootleggers. Anyone that could stand being chummy with Moran was sure to be a rat and much better out of the way, and these two were notorious bad eggs anyway. As he watched them drop, Tony felt that he had accomplished a civic improvement. And undoubtedly he had saved the state the expense of trying to hang them again at some future time. Tony loosened the pressure of his forefinger on the machine gun’s trigger and the abrupt silence that followed the gun’s death rattle was startling. “Any o’ you other guys want a dose of this?” he demanded. The men cowered back against the bar, their lifted hands trembling. “Well, don’t come outside for five minutes or you’ll get it.” His henchman on the left turned and walked outside, on the lookout for danger from that direction. Tony followed, then the other two men backed out. During the hectic two minutes inside the saloon, the chauffeur had turned the car around and it stood humming angrily at the curb. They all leaped in and it roared away. Tony was exultant. He had settled all his local scores now, except that with the DA himself and the contents of that envelope he had sealed not long before would take care of him – and how! But there was that New York crowd that were trying to invade his domain and who had tried to bump him off just before his trial. Tony frowned and gritted his teeth when he thought of them. CHAPTER XXVI Money will accomplish miracles anywhere, especially in the underworld and within twenty minutes from the time of Rosie Guarino’s departure from Tony’s private office, Jane Conley’s hired spy had telephoned the information to her. He hadn’t been able to give her full details of what had transpired but he could testify that Tony had offered this girl money – which she had refused. Knowing Tony, Jane felt able to fill in the gaps herself. And it all left her gasping with fury. The fact that she was entirely mistaken in her conclusions made her rage none the less violent. She’d show him that he couldn’t two-time her and get away with it. She was fed up with Tony, anyway. Of late, she had felt an almost irresistible longing for the reckless doings and excitement of her former activities as a gun girl. But Tony wouldn’t permit it. As long as she was his moll, she had to stay at home and behave herself. And home life, even in the luxurious abode he provided, had become wearisome. She had been friendly with only one man. She had always had the retinue of admiring males that surround every beautiful woman, and she missed them now. She felt that she had become entirely submerged to Tony, just another of his many expensive possessions. His supposed philandering was merely the match that set off the powder. For more than two hours she brooded over it all, then she made up her mind. First she telephoned Captain Ben Guarino, and had a pleasant chat with him. It seemed reasonable to suppose that having the chief of detectives for a boyfriend would be a valuable asset to a girl like her. And then she telephoned Tony at his office. “I’ve been very busy tonight,” he said defensively the moment he heard her voice. “I’m sure you have,” she assented. He missed the edge in her tone. “And say, baby, Moran had an accident.” “Really? Were you there?” “Yeah. Just got back.” “That’s splendid. Listen, Tony, I got a real piece of dope for you. That New York outfit has called a big meeting at Jake’s Place for midnight tonight. Those big shots from the East are figuring on organising all the local guys that don’t like you – it’ll save them the trouble of bringing out a lot of their own mugs from New York.” “Jeez! Baby, where’d you hear that?” “Never mind! You don’t doubt it, do you? Didn’t they try to bump you off–?” “Yeah, sure,” asserted Tony eagerly. “And they’re all going to be at Jake’s Place tonight?” “Yes. The New York crowd will be in dark blue Cadillacs – three or four carloads of them – and they’ll probably have the side curtains up. It’s only about eleven-thirty now,” she continued smoothly. “If you hurry, you might be able to meet them on the way out.” “Much obliged, baby. I’ll sure do it.” Jane hung up slowly, a grim smile playing about her rather hard lips. If things went right, there’d be a nice story in the morning papers. If it didn’t, she’d probably wake up with a lily in her hand. Well, what the hell – a girl only lived once and she might as well get all the kick she could out of life. Tony’s headquarters was humming with activity. Quickly he assembled four carloads of gunmen, gave them strict orders, and then climbed in with the group in his personal sedan and the cavalcade raced away. Jake’s Place was a large saloon and gambling establishment catering largely to underworld customers. It was frowsy, sordid and dangerous. Located in a remote, still undeveloped neighbourhood almost at the city limits, it was an ideal setting for gangland deviltry. And it had been the scene of plenty. Tony halted his crew a block away while he took stock of the situation. There were a number of cars parked around the large, frame building but nothing unusual. And he could see no dark blue Cadillacs, either with or without drawn side curtains. Perhaps the boys hadn’t arrived yet; midnight was still ten minutes away. Ah! There they were, a line of cars approaching along the other road that led from the city. In the darkness they looked black but they might be dark blue and they were Cadillacs, all right. There could be no doubt of that. On they came, close together, four of them. Tony felt his heart leap and his, grasp on the machine gun resting in his lap tightened. This would be the biggest coup of his whole career, proving to the world at large that his domain was his, and his alone, not to be invaded by others, no matter how strong they might be in their own regions. He snapped out orders in a low, tense tone and sent a man to relay them to the other cars. Four on each side. One each! His plan was simple and direct. His column would move forward, swing into the road beside the other, then rake the enemy with a terrific fire, annihilating them before they could recover from their surprise at the sudden attack. Each of his cars was to confine its murderous attention to one of the others, the one nearest. Rapidly his column moved forward and swung into the other road. Tony lifted his machine gun and squeezed the trigger. The vicious rat-tat-tat deafened him but he could hear the same stuttering sound coming from his other cars. Then from the cars of the supposed enemy, clear and sharp above the firing, came the clang! Clang! Clang of gongs. “Jeez!” groaned Tony. “It’s cops!” Instead of gangsters, those four cars contained squads of detectives from the bureau. What a horrible mistake! Not that he hated shooting cops, but because of the consequences that were bound to fall upon himself and his men. Unless – Pandemonium reigned. Every one of the eight cars was flaming with gunfire. The banging roar was terrific. Tony tried to keep his head in the bedlam. His forces were in a panic; killing officers was far different than killing enemy gangsters. But there was no backing out now. It was a fight to the death. His chauffeur, too busy to fight and mindful of his own safety as well as his employer’s, tried to run for it. The big car leaped ahead, slewed around the first gang car and shot ahead. But one of the squad cars leaped after, like a spurred horse. For more than a mile the chase lasted. The cars swayed, swerved, bounced. Spurts of fire leaped from gun muzzles in both cars. Two of Tony’s men were unconscious from wounds and another, blood-covered, was raving incoherently, trying to climb out of the racing machine. Tony finally lifted a clenched fist and knocked him cold. He himself miraculously had not been hit. Nor had the chauffeur, apparently. But that squad car was hanging doggedly to their trail. Gaining a little, too. Beside himself with fury, Tony smashed out the back window and cut loose with his machine gun, the acrid smoke filling his nose and mouth and making his eyes smart until he could hardly see. The jolting and high speed made an accurate aim impossible but he knew that some of his shots landed. And nothing happened. They must have a bullet-proof windshield. Well, their tires weren’t bullet-proof. He depressed the hot, blazing muzzle of the machine gun, aiming for the tires. One of them blew out with a bang that sounded above the firing. The heavy car slewed around and toppled over into the ditch. Tony gave a hoarse, savage grunt of triumph. But it was short-lived. For at that moment his own car turned over. The chauffeur had misjudged a turn. Tony was still conscious when the big car ploughed to a stop, resting on its side. But there was no sound from the chauffeur. Tony vindictively hoped the fool was dead. His head whirling, his breath coming in short, harsh gasps that did not suffice, Tony untangled himself from among the heap of dead and wounded. Abruptly he stepped back behind the shelter of the car and rested the machine-gun muzzle on a fender. Two men had climbed out of the squad car and were walking cautiously toward him, revolvers glinting in their right hands. His teeth gritted, Tony squeezed the trigger. But nothing happened; it was empty. He drew his automatic, for so long his main bodyguard. Taking careful aim, he fired. One of the men dropped. The other, warned by the shot, threw up his head and lifted his revolver. But Tony only stared, fascinated, while his nervous fingers refused to obey the command that his numbed mind was trying to send. For the man was his brother, Captain Ben Guarino, the new chief of detectives. Tony saw the revolver flash, then his head snapped back from the impact of the bullet. Anyway, he had always faced it. Two hours later, Captain Guarino sat in his office at the detective bureau receiving the admiring congratulations of his colleagues and telling them the details of the furious battle which had accomplished the finish of the notorious Tony Camonte. “Tony’s old mole give me the tip,” he said complacently. “Suppose they’d had a fuss and she wanted to get back at him. She ain’t a bad-looking dame, either; I met her at Tony’s trial. Bet she got a wad of dough and jewellery outa him, too. Anyhow, she give me a buzz ’bout eleven-thirty tonight and said Tony and his mob was going to pull off a big killing out at Jake’s Place at midnight. And that was my chance to get him with the goods. I could see that myself so I got some of the boys and went out. But you know, I can’t see what made Tony and his mob start after us the minute they seen us – But God! Wasn’t it lucky his gun jammed? He was a dead shot, that guy; for a minute I thought sure I was going to wake up with a wreath on my chest. But you never can tell about an automatic.” But even an automatic cannot jam when the trigger has not been pulled. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature / moviesIt is 1956, the height of the Cold War, only a few years after the alleged UFO incident at Roswell. Don Siegel’s movie adaptation of an obscure serialized novel about an alien invasion shows a raving doctor running down a dark highway shouting “They’re already here! YOU’RE NEXT” . The warning stabs into the paranoia of the age. But what does it really mean? What did the writer, Jack Finney, want it to mean? I contacted Jack Seabrook, one of the few specialists on Finney in order to find out more.  Was Jack Finney making some sort of personal statement in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, either politically or psychologically? Jack Seabrook: I can answer this two ways: by telling you what Finney said and by telling you what I think. Finney’s novel was called The Body Snatchers—they added “Invasion of” for the movie, surely because there was a boom in science fiction movies at that time. In Danse Macabre, Stephen King quoted Finney as saying: “I have read explanations of the ‘meaning’ of this story, which amuse me, because there is no meaning at all; it was just a story meant to entertain, and with no more meaning than that . . .” Having studied all of Finney’s writing, from his earliest short stories in the 1940s to his last novel in the 1990s, I think that The Body Snatchers fits neatly into a theme that he explored over and over, and that is the belief that something has gone wrong in small-town America and the present is not as good as the past. The fact that readers on both sides of the political spectrum have seen aspects of the novel that support their points of view suggests to me that it is simply a well-written book, one that allows readers to see in it what they want to see.  When and how did he come up with the idea for the novel? Jack Seabrook: I don’t know how he came up with the idea for the novel, but it was most likely written in 1954, since it was serialized in three issues of Collier’s magazine in November and December 1954. The novel, which has some important differences from the serial, was published in 1955.  I know he was born in Wisconsin, and then moved to California. What sort of life did he live on the west coast? Did he become part of any literary movement? Jack Seabrook: Finney was a very private man who rarely gave interviews and who shunned publicity. He moved to Mill Valley, California, in the late 1940s and lived there for the rest of his life with his second wife, Marguerite. They had a daughter around 1951 and a son, who was born around the time The Body Snatchers was serialized.  He had some sort of background in advertisement. Did that influence his writing or his career in any way? Jack Seabrook: Finney worked as a copywriter for advertising agencies in the 1930s and 1940s, first in Chicago and then in New York City. As of 1946, he was 35 years old, working in New York City, and had been an ad copywriter for 12 years, so it was probably his first job out of college. His time in the advertising business was a major influence on his writing. Many of his stories and novels satirize the world of advertising; for example, Good Neighbor Sam (1963) is the story of a man who works for an ad agency and is caught up in a hilarious mix-up involving his wife and the beautiful woman who lives next door. One of his most famous and suspenseful short stories, “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” (1956), tells of a young man whose obsession with his work nearly costs him his life.  Did he experience any financial success in the aftermath of the first film version? Jack Seabrook: Finney had been financially successful as a writer by the time the film came out, but the film certainly made him more famous and wealthy. The rights to the serial, on which the film was based, were sold for $7500, so I don’t think that was much of a windfall for Finney, but the film made him more well-known than he was before it opened in theaters. In a 2000 article on Finney, J. Sydney Jones wrote that Invasion of the Body Snatchers “changed everything for the forty-three-year-old writer and . . . allowed him to support his family solely on his writing.”  Do we know anything about the relationship between Finney and Don Siegel? When did they meet? Jack Seabrook: In early January 1955, producer Walter Wanger, screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, and director Don Siegel went to visit Jack Finney at his home in Mill Valley, California, to talk about the story and to scout filming locations. However, Finney was not involved in writing the screenplay.  There are differences between Finney’s novel and Siegel’s movie. Finney actually communicates hope at the end of his work, while the movie ends in a nightmare. Are there other differences? Jack Seabrook: There are differences between the two, yet the film is faithful to the novel. The famous framing sequence is not in the book. A major character, Jack Belicec, is taken over by aliens in the film but this does not happen in the novel. Most important is the transformation of Becky into a pod-person near the end of the film; this is also absent from the book. As you note, the book ends happily while the film concludes with a much more ominous message, though it does leave open the possibility of salvation.  There isn’t much information about Finney online. What sort of man was he? He seems to have lived an uneventful life. Tell us something interesting about him? Jack Seabrook: Finney was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1911 and named John Finney. He was nicknamed Jack as a baby and the nickname stuck. His father died when Jack was just two years old and the boy was renamed Walter Braden Finney, in memory of his father, but always went by Jack. In the 1920s, as a child, he visited Galesburg, Illinois, in the summers, and many years later he wrote a famous story called “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime” (1960). He also attended Knox College in Galesburg. In the late 1940s, he and his first wife were divorced in Reno, Nevada, and he met his second wife while he was there. He later wrote stories set in that town, such as “Stopover in Reno” (1952). He died in 1995, less than a year after the publication of his last novel, From Time to Time, a sequel to his classic novel, Time and Again (1970).  The Invasion of The Body Snatchers was by some condescendingly regarded as a mere «serialized novel». However, numerous masterpieces have emerged from the pens of «pulp writers». Why do you think that is? Jack Seabrook: Finney never wrote for the pulp magazines, which paid much less than the so-called “slick” magazines, where most of his short stories were published. Both the pulps and the slicks were home for writers of popular fiction, such as Finney, and I think that the middle part of the twentieth century in America saw an explosion of talent among American writers. There were so many markets, so many places to sell one’s fiction, that it was not surprising to see some excellent work come out of non-literary publications. The more literary writers of the time, at least in America, were increasingly writing fiction that did not appeal to the common reader, so a gulf between popular and serious fiction began to grow. Still, many writers whom we today consider literary, such as William Faulkner or John Steinbeck, were looked down upon for years as writers of popular fiction. I think that sometimes a period of time is necessary to be able to see what is really quality fiction.  A lot of famous stories have been serialized. Oliver Twist and Conan the Barbarian come to mind. The Body Snatchers was originally a serial in Collier’s Magazine. What was Finney relationship with that magazine? Did he write for other magazines? Jack Seabrook: Collier’s was one of the slick magazines that published many of Jack Finney’s short stories. Collier’s was founded in 1888 and, by World War Two, it had a weekly circulation of 2,500,000! Imagine that! One of Finney’s first short stories was published in Collier’s in 1947 and he had twenty-nine stories published in that magazine between 1947 and 1956, when it ceased publication. He also had stories published in other magazines, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, and Playboy. From 1947 to 1965, he was a prolific short story writer; after 1965, his fiction was confined to novels.  When the pod people take over, they copy everything about the original person, except for their feelings. The world slowly becomes populated by emotionless clones? Why is this so frightening, do you think? Jack Seabrook: Your adjective “emotionless” sums up the problem. Without love for each other, what is the point of living? When people have no emotion, when they don’t care about themselves or others, they began to lose interest in everything around them. I think this was Finney’s point in the novel—the decline in small town living in America in the post-World War Two period seemed, to him, to be a symptom of a greater problem in society. People did not take care of themselves or their homes and towns began to get run down. This led to more crime, juvenile delinquency, etc. I think that a life without emotion, without feelings, is no life at all.   Jack Seabrook is the author of Stealing Through Time: On the Writings of Jack Finney (2006), published by McFarland & Co. He is an independent scholar residing in New Jersey. Read a tribute to The Invasion of the Body Snatchers below, courtesy of author Mike San Giacomo, artist Mike Williams,  inker Tom Scholendorn and Tyrone McCarthy. The full graphic novel is called Tales of the Starlight Drive-In (Image Comics), and includes many other stories. You can buy it here   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyThere lived an old retired major in the hills of central Europe. No one knew in which armies he had fought, or which battles that had disfigured his wrinkled face. Some took for granted that he had supported the Nazis during the war. They barely knew his name, and only referred to him with contempt as “the grumpy old major”. His home was a log cabin, overlooking a valley that was often covered in mist. And when the rains and the wind darkened the evenings, the light from his window was a solitary gleam – like the eye of the mountains themselves – peering down on the village below. The major was thoroughly disliked because of his ferocious temper. He arrived in the afternoons, unshaven, stinking of sweat and alcohol, and then he would be very rude and cold – if he indeed he said something at all. The only creature on this earth that seemed to be good enough for the old major was his dog. No one knew the age of the creature, or even of the of the major himself. The dog walked with a proud skip in its steps, and he showered it with luxury and food. In the evenings the major would silently ponder the landscape from his vantage point. What his thoughts were, not even the dog could tell. There was never a visitor to the old cabin, but the major sometimes sobered up and cleared the path. He worked into the afternoons with a pick ax and shuffle. When he was done he would take a seat in a chair outside, and drink whiskey and smoke until he fell asleep where he sat. The evening chill would wake him and then he would withdraw to his bed. Sometimes when the major slept he would kick and scream, as he was struggling for his life. Then the dog would jump down from the bed, and lie down in a corner until he quieted down. When the major woke, he would be sweaty and confused, and then he would drink coffee, and then read a book til dawn penetrated the morning mist. The landscape around the village was vast and wild, and the major would limp up and down those isolated paths followed by his mute companion. In winter, blizzards would descend upon his outpost with terrifying violence. A lighted fireplace and piles of wood kept him warm. He stored canned food of various kinds, beans, spam, fish, and he salted meats to comfort himself. When the water froze he opened the door and collected snow in a bucket which he melted by the fire for his coffee. Sometimes, when he was in the mood, he dug deep into a wooden chest and found an old battery powered radio, and he would sit quietly, intensely concentrated, trying to move the antenna back and forth in order to make out those almost imperceptible voices that penetrated into his dominion from the world outside. But sometimes this proved impossible, and therefore he did not receive advance warning of the horrific storm of 1973. On 21 of October that year the heavens gave birth to the worst winds and heaviest snow fall seen in those parts. The other villagers never talked to the old major because they did not like him, and by the time storm had arrived, and he entered their thoughts, it was too late. They thought that the cabin on the hill has stood there for hundreds of years. Like the major himself it seemed carved out of the hillside. If he just sat quiet where he was, no harm could befall him. And they were right, and the old major knew it. He did what he normally did during winter storms, lighted his fire. The flames flickered, and when the shutters were secured, they filled the room with comfort, light and heat, while the Day of Judgment brewed outside. The old major was used to this, it had been his life, in every sense. He got up a bottle of whiskey, and sipped from a glass. His dog, however, was utterly terrified. It crawled under the table, and whined. The old major tried to reassure the creature, calm it with offers of treats, but the howl of the winds, the creaking walls and what seemed like an inexplicable drone from the heavens above frightened it, and it would take no food. The old major then got down on his knees under the table and sat next to the dog with his glass of whiskey. He looked at the dog, and for a while dog was calm. But then suddenly a tremendous gust blew the door open, filling the room with swirls of snow. The old major rushed to his feet, and struggled against the wind to shut it. When that was done, he noticed that the dog had fled into the night to seek refuge among the trees. First, he was overwhelmed with grief when the room was quiet. He looked at the empty space where the dog used to lie. Then his eyes were suddenly filled with defiance, an old soldier was returning to battle. He put on his thickest coat, and hat and scarf, grabbed an oil lamp and unlocked the door. So it was that the old major decided to take on the very spirits of the mountain to fight for his dog. He waded to his ankles in snow for a few hundred meters up the hill. He shouted, but his voice was inaudible. As he became removed from his cabin, he saw its light extinguish in the storm. And not soon after, the old major was overcome with fatigue and sat down under a tree. That is where the men from the village found his frozen body two days later. They did not have much sympathy for him because he had always been mean and yelled at them. The dog, however, was found alive in the shed outside. Everyone thought that this was the most faithful creature on earth which stayed so loyal to such a terrible person. It was brought down from the mountain, and given to a breeder, who made sure that it produced many litters, whose offspring still run around on the meadows in those parts. They say old majors die, but their dogs live on forever. by Michael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... 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history / literatureRecent visitors to the satellite capitals of Eastern Europe have ‘been surprised to find excited crowds Lining up to buy tickets for performances of non-Communist films, plays and musicals. Communist officials, however, have their own reasons for permitting this seemingly paradoxical state of affairs. For one thing, satellite leaders apparently feel that the granting of minor entertainment concessions is a relatively harmless way of allowing the people an escape valve for their pent-up irritation and boredom. Menioérs of the Communist ruling apparatus, despite their insistence that “all is calm and under control,” seem to realize that the boredom which appears to be an unavoidable accompaniment of the party’s dictatorship must be prevented from developing into more serious social unrest. There is boredom with party jargon, boredom with the disparity between word and deed, boredom with the whole heritage of a Communist decade. The satellite regimes appear to be trying to counter this sense of irritation and isolation from the rest of the world partly by economic concessions and partly by a more liberal attitude toward popular entertainment. Communist officials, however, are finding that a solution for their self-created problem is far from simple. An impressive list of facts illustrate the dilemma of entertainment circles in the Communist states. Plays and films which receive official praise and recognition have proved to be flops, while films and theatrical products condemned for their “petty-bourgeois and decadent tendencies” have had popular runs. In Poland, out of a total of 3,400 motion picture theaters, only 96 have been profitable. In Hungary, 300 film theaters were on the verge of closing, until a 30 percent increase in the price of tickets and a system of government subsidies saved them, In Bulgaria, the biggest box-office successes have ‘been the locally produced “Legend of Love,” “Year of Love” and “On A Little Island.” However, these very films were censured by the Party’s Central Committee for “undermining Communist ideology, distorting and wrongly representing the character of the people’s revolutionists.” What, on the other hand, has been the fate of works rich in Communist ideology? Some Hungarian provincial theaters which tried to conform with party guidance and filled their repertoires with Soviet productions and other straight propaganda plays finished their seasons in virtual bankruptcy. The National Theatre of Miskolc, largest provincial town in Hungary, played consistently before houses a quarter or half-filled during the last season. On one occasion only seven theater-goers turned up for a performance of “One Night” by Cerbatov. The Kecskemet Theater finished its season with a 50,000 dollar (one million forints) deficit. The National Theater of Gyor was given high official praise for its “excellent performances of Soviet and Czech plays.” But the box-office results were so appalling that the manager resigned in the middle of ‘the season. This theater went ‘bankrupt despite heavy subsidies. Conversely, those theaters and playhouses in Hungary and Poland whose managers bowed to popular demand have played to full houses. In Poland, 19 modern “western” plays had successful 1958 runs. In Hungary the plays of Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder and John Osborne, as well as pre-war operettas and light musical comedies, are unrivaled as ‘box-office hits.  Party spokesmen have repeatedly scolded directors of cultural centers end theaters for saying “we go bankrupt with modern Socialist plays, for works with topical themes can be neither artistic, nor successful, so let’s turn back to bourgeois entertainment.” The University Playhouse in Budapest has tried both ways. A series of shows about revolutionary songs and poets were produced for swell audiences. The next program concentrated on popular folk songs and a recital of Burns’ poems. As the Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag remarked, the directors “avoided with painful cautiousness the modern Soviet and Hungarian Socialist works, assuming that in doing so they could avoid the empty houses.” While the party paper scoffed at the unpolitical schedule, the series drew capacity audiences. Recently a special commission investigated the program of 42 cultural centers and 10 factory clubs in Hungary. It concluded that operettas, folk songs and bourgeois plays are preponderant. When asked why this is so, the managers replied unanimously: “This is what our people want. Coming from work, they want light entertainment. And we need the income in order to finance our other programs,” The same argument is valid in other satellite countries, such as Romania. Currently, a musical comedy has had a popular run in the Tanase Theater in Bucharest, although the director was accused by the party newspaper of having succumbed to bourgeois taste and ideology. Night clubs, such as the Lido, Ambassador and Continental in Bucharest have been reprimanded for playing decadent music – although to full houses. In Romania and Hungary, regime authorities have started a massive campaign of persuasion and coercion to strengthen party guidance over a series of flourishing amateur theater ensembles. More then 4,000 Hungarian artists who tour in small groups, and are not affiliated with large theaters, are being screened by a special commission. Every single performance must be submitted to a Control Board 15 days before the scheduled showing. The cultural departments of the Municipal Councils also exercise control over songs and plays, In Romania, roving inspectors supervise the local ensembles. The manager and director of the Victoria Club in Cluj, for example, were discharged because they permitted presentation of a program “pervaded with petty bourgeois taste.” In general, professional or semi-professional theatrical groups in Hungary, Poland and to some extent in Romania prefer one-act plays or musicals which ere devoid of any propaganda and political angles. While heavily-subsidized regular theaters wrestle with chronic financial troubles, these ensembles, by meeting popular demand are immediately successful. At the same time, however, satellite financial authorities demand box-office results from the theaters and movie houses, while regime cultural spokesmen seem determined to repress any tendencies toward artistic freedom. So the unhappy managers are forced to pay lip-service to the cause of “socialist realism” by advertising Soviet and other Communist plays and then filling their houses with school-children or workers bribed with free tickets. Simultaneously they try to balance their budgets by showing more “western” or non-political Hungarian plays. “We must eliminate the gap between the wishes of the unsophisticated masses and the superior claims of Socialist culture,” the recently issued cultural directives of the Hungarian Communist Party warned. But “the clash between the needs of the box office and those of party doctrine remain as sharp as ever. Meanwhile, satellite theater managers and directors are constantly tormented by the problem of either reaping official praise and going bankrupt or making money and running the risk of being labeled ‘politically unreliable’…” From the 1959 CIA report, “The Creative Artist in A Communist Society” (now in the public domain and free online). Paul Landy (born 1929-) is a former Budapest writer and editor who left Hungary after the country’s unsuccessful 1956 freedom uprising. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureHappy new year to all the listeners of! We have collected some of the darker stories in our blog and radio stream, and published them in a free ebook. It will be much easier to read, on any device you may choose. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureFreedom means freedom of choice. A man exercises his freedom when, confronted by two or more possible alternatives, he realizes one and excludes the rest. Free choices are definite choices. Liberal theologians were foolish to get excited over Heisenberg’s Principle. Vagueness of behaviour may be good enough for electrons, it is not good enough for free men. Choices are of three kinds: • choices of action. A thirsty man in a desert is unfree, not because he cannot satisfy his craving for water, but because he cannot choose between drinking and not drinking. • choices of value judgement; good or evil, true or false, beautiful or ugly, absolute or relative, required or forbidden. A man who has seen only one picture is unfree to decide whether it is beautiful or ugly. A man in a passion of anger or fear is unfree because he is no longer conscious of any alternative state and so cannot judge his anger or his fear. • choices of authority: this God or man or organization is to be believed or obeyed, that is not. Here again, if there is no consciousness or possible alternatives, there is no freedom. The cravings of man’s spirit are totally unlike the appetites of his nature, such as hunger and sex. There are two of them: to be free from conditions and to be important. These can and often do conflict, for the former senses anything that is “given” whether by his own nature or by the world about him as a limitation on his freedom and longs to act gratuitously, yet it is precisely and only from the “given” that he can derive a sense of importance. Absolute arbitrariness would at the same time be absolute triviality Art as playOne of man’s attempts to satisfy both is the criminal acte gratuit, the breaking of a given law for the sake of breaking it, where the law supplies the importance, and the act of breaking it asserts the freedom. Another is play where the laws governing the game are kept by the player because they are chosen by him. At bottom, all art, all pure science, all creativity is play in this sense. The question What is Art? and the question Why does the artist create? are different questions. It seems to me that the basic impulse behind creativity of any kind is the desire to do something that is quite necessary: the desire that the result should turn out to be important comes second. The rules of a game give it importance to the player by making it difficult to play, a test and proof of an inborn gift or an acquired skill. Given that a game is morally permissible, then whether or not one should play it depends simply on whether or not it gives one pleasure, i.e., whether or not one is good at playing it. If one asks a great surgeon why he operates, if he is honest, he will not answer: “Because it is my duty to save lives” but “Because I love operating”. He may perfectly well hate his neighbour and nevertheless save his life because of the pleasure it gives him to exercise his skill. One must say therefore that, in the profoundest sense, art and science are frivolous activities for they depend on the chance possession of special talents. The only serious matter is concerned with what every human being has alike, a will, namely that one shall love one’s neighbour as oneself. Here one cannot speak of a talent for love, nor in terms of pleasure and pain. If one asks the good Samaritan why he rescues the man fallen among thieves, he cannot answer, except as an ironical joke, “Because I like doing good” since pleasure or pain are irrelevant and the point is obeying the command: “Thou shalt love”. A common loveThere are three kinds of human groups. • Crowds, i.e., two or more individuals whose sole common characteristic is togetherness, e.g., four strangers in a railway carriage. • Societies, i.e., two or more individuals united for the purpose of carrying out an action which requires them all, e.g., a string quartet. • Communities, i.e., two or more individuals united by a common love for something other than themselves, e.g., a room full of music lovers. Societies have a definite size and a definite structure and the character of the whole is different from the simple sum of the characters of the parts. Consequently the will of the individual member is subordinate to the general will of the society, however that is established. Someone in the string quartet must have the authority to decide whether it is to play Mozart or Beethoven and the rest must obey whether they agree with the choice or not. A society may at the same time be a community but not necessarily. It is quite possible that the cellist of our quartet hates music and only plays to earn his living. A society is a free society as long as the member who exercises authority does so with the free consent of the other members. Societies function best when they are free, but in certain cases coercion can, and indeed must, be applied to compel a recalcitrant member to contribute his partial function, the moral justification depending on two factors: • the importance of the function the society discharges • the degree to which the recalcitrant member can or cannot be replaced by another more willing individual. Communities, like crowds, have no definite size. It is impossible therefore to speak of the “general will” of a community since the individuals who belong to it cannot disagree; they are a community precisely because as individuals they all love the same thing (unlike members of crowds who have no love in common). In Time Magazine, of June 23, Mr Vladimir Koretsky was reported as having said at the United Nations Conference on Human Rights: “Man should have no rights that place him in opposition to the community. Man opposed to the community is nothing”. If the translation is correct, Mr Koretsky was talking nonsense. An individual can be in opposition to a society, e.g., if the cellist plays out of tune, but if the rest of the quartet love the music of Mozart and he detests it, this simply means that there are two communities, a community of Mozart lovers and a potential community of Mozart haters, for a community can begin with a single individual, while a society cannot exist until all its members are present and correctly related. There are two kinds of communities: closed or unfree, and open or free. The members of a closed community have a common love but they have not chosen it for they are unaware of any other love which they could prefer to, or reject for, the love they have. The members of an open community have consciously chosen their love out of two or more possible loves. Art as looking glassIf I understand either the myth of Orpheus or Aristotle’s doctrine of catharsis correctly, the Greeks held what is, to me, a false theory of art which has plagued the world ever since, namely, that art is a magic device for arousing desirable emotions and expelling undesirable emotions, and so leading to right action. If this were so, then I think Plato’s censures of art in The Republic and Tolstoy’s in What is Art? are unanswerable. For me the correct definition is Shakespeare’s holding the mirror up to nature, i.e., art does not change my feelings but makes me conscious of what I have in fact felt or what I might feel, and of actual or possible relations between my feelings. The world of art is a looking-glass world, i.e., a possible image of the actual world where emotions are observed, divorced from their origin in immediate passion. It is the business of the artist to make a mirror which distorts the world as little as possible and reflects as much of the world as possible. Bad art distorts; minor art reflects only a small or trivial corner of the world. Art does not judgeArt has two values: firstly it gives pleasure, the pleasure of idle curiosity; secondly, it enlarges the field of freedom. If man had no imagination, he could not make a choice between two possible courses of action without taking both, or make a value judgement about a feeling of his until he had felt the opposite. Art does not and cannot influence the choice or judgement man actually makes, it only makes it more of a conscious choice. Reading Macbeth, for instance, cannot prevent a man from becoming a murderer, but the man who has read Macbeth knows more about what becoming a murderer would be like than the man who hasn’t, so that, if he chooses to become one, he is more responsible. Art, in other words, is never a means for converting a bad community into a good one, it is one of the great means by which closed communities are turned into open communities. Art can do harm in two ways. Firstly by failing to be good art and giving the wrong kind of pleasure thereby. If the reflection of the world which it offers is distorted, if it flatters the spectator by omitting the possibilities of evil or draws him to despair by denying the possibilities of good (which, surprisingly enough, can also give pleasure), then it injures him. Secondly and more seriously, because the better the art the greater the danger, it may ensnare the spectator in the luxurious paralysis of self-contemplation so that, like Hamlet, he fails to choose at all. The danger of great art is narcissism. Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it was beautiful but because it is his own in all its endless possibilities. One can tell the myth in another way: Narcissus was a hydrocephalous idiot; catching sight of himself in the pool, he cried: “On me it looks good”. Or again: Narcissus was neither beautiful nor ugly but as commonplace as a Thurber husband*; catching sight of himself in the pool, he said: “Excuse me, but haven’t we met before some place?” Art can encourage the formation of two kinds of bad communities, the community of those with false pictures of themselves, and the parody of a free community in which the knowledge of good and evil is turned against the will, till it becomes too weak to choose either. Every work of art is the focus of the potential community of those individuals who love it or could love it. Such a community is free if the artist could have created something else but chose to create this work, and vice versa, the spectators or readers could have chosen to look at or read another work but chose to look at or read this. If the artist creates a work which no one but he appreciates or a spectator cannot find any work which he likes, there is no lack of freedom, but simply no community. Freedom can be curtailed in two ways; the artist may be forced to alter his work so that the character of the community is other than it would have been if he were left alone; or people may be prevented from becoming acquainted with his work so that the community is smaller than it might have been. CensorshipCensorship can be of two kinds, an unplanned economic censorship where the artist cannot afford to create as he wishes or the public cannot afford to become acquainted with his work, and the planned censorship of authority. Economically the freedom of art is best attained if there is as great a variety of publishers, booksellers, libraries, galleries, etc. as possible and if some, but not all, of these are large-scale organizations. If there are too new agencies, above all, if there is a state monopoly, the variety of works distributed invariably declines even if there is no deliberate censorship. If all are on a small scale, costs are too high for some of the potential public. The obstacle on which liberalism has so often come to grief is the fact that we find it easier to respect the freedom of those to whom we are indifferent than the freedom of those we love. A parent or a government who believes something to be good or true knows well enough that it is possible for their children or their people to choose what, to them, is evil or false, and that, if the wrong choice is made, those they love will suffer and they themselves will suffer with them; further, they and those they love will no longer belong to the same community. However, to love one’s neighbour as oneself means precisely to be willing to let him make his own mistakes and suffer with him when he suffers for them, for no man can himself consciously wish not to be responsible for his thoughts and actions, at whatever cost. Every man knows for himself that right and duty are not identical, that he has a duty to choose the good, but a right to choose the evil, that, as Kafka says: “A man lies as little as he can when he lies as little as he can, not when he is given the smallest possible opportunity to lie”. Authorities who are more concerned that their charges should do the right thing than that they should choose it are always tempted to look for a short cut. In the short run, a man in a passion acts quicker and more effectively than a man who has reached the reflective stage of desire. Usually therefore, authorities would like the artist to arouse in others a passion for the good instead of making them conscious of good and evil; they would turn him, if they could, into Plato’s Noble Liar. Art has hardly ever been censored for aesthetic reasons because artists have rarely been in authority, which is perhaps just as well. In my own daydream state, for example, people caught reading Shelley or listening to Brahms are sentenced to the salt mines, and the possession of a juke-box is a capital offence. The usual reasons for censorship are two: either that the work is immoral, i.e., will incite the public to act immorally or illegally so that society ceases to function properly; or that it is heretical, i.e., will induce the public to adopt other values than those held by the authorities, causing them to desert the latter’s community for a new one. Censorship always implies two things: that there is a potential public for the work and that its members are incapable of making a responsible choice. It is therefore only permissible under two conditions: for minors who are legally presumed to be as yet incapable of responsible choice; and for adults who have chosen their censor and are free to disregard him if they cease to believe in his authority. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, does not violate the freedom of its members by putting books on the index, because no one is obliged to be a Roman Catholic and to choose to be one necessarily implies believing in the authority of the Church to decide what the faithful may read. No State has such a right because one becomes a member of a political society by being born, an act of chance, not a choice. Revolutions and human freedomEach major revolution in history is concerned with some particular aspect of human freedom, and has its representative human type. Each establishes its kind of freedom once and for all. The success of each is threatened by its own false claim to be the revolution, i.e., that the aspect of freedom with which it is concerned is the only freedom that matters. Since the particular aspect with which any revolution is concerned is one conspicuously ignored by the revolution before it, it is apt in its just criticism of the latter’s failing to be hostile to the freedom for which it fought. Nevertheless the fates of all revolutions are bound up with each other; they stand or fall together: if the preceding revolution had not won its battle, its successor could not be fighting its own. In any revolution, therefore, the gains of the revolutions before it have to be defended if the present revolution is to succeed. The Papal Revolution of the eleventh and the twelfth centuries established the freedom of an individual to choose between loyalties, his right to leave one community and join another, his right to belong to two communities at the same time. Its typical figures are the contemplative international priest and the activist local soldier. The revolution of the Reformation in the sixteenth century established the freedom of the individual to choose his career, his right to leave the society to which his father belonged and join another. Its typical figure is the professional man. The French and Industrial Revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries established the freedom of the individual man of talent to develop himself freely and compete for public attention, the right of the individual mind to change the community or lead a society if he can. The typical figure is Figaro. L’esprit seul peut tout changer.  De vingt rois que l’on encense  Le trépas brise l’autel  Et Voltaire est immortel.   (Only wit can make a difference.  Out of twenty kings who wear a crown  Death breaks the altar,  But Voltaire is immortal.)   One of the world crowdOur revolution of the twentieth century is trying to establish the freedom of the individual body to determine its satisfactions, to grow and be healthy. Its typical figure is the anonymous naked man with a dog-tag number, not yet a member of any society or any community, but simply one of the world crowd. Hence the preoccupation of our time with medicine and economics, its activism, its hostility to the achievement of the French Revolution, freedom of speech and thought, which it sees as a threat to unanimous action. At the physical level all are really equal in their needs and individual differences of temperament or talent are irrelevant. In our revolution, therefore, focused on winning freedom from physical want**, all the freedoms gained by preceding revolutions are threatened as never before. The French Revolution is denied wherever there is a controlled press and a censorship of art and science; the Reformation is denied wherever a state dictates what career an individual citizen shall follow; the Papal Revolution is denied wherever a monolithic state claims unconditional authority. The talented individual today is being punished for the airs he gave himself in the past two centuries. Poets are not the unacknowledged legislators of the world and never were and it is a good thing that they should be made to realize this. Those who preached a doctrine of Art for Art’s sake or Art as a luxury were much nearer the truth, but they should not then have regarded the comparative frivolity of their vocation as a proof of their spiritual superiority to the useful untalented worker. In actual fact, the modern censor and the romantic artist are alike in thinking art more important than it is. What role for the poet?“Once he looked rosy, now he looks blue. / Nurse is wondering What shall I do?” sings the poet in the sick room. If patient or nurse were to say to him “For God’s sake, stop humming and fetch some hot water and bandages” it would be one thing. But neither says this. The nurse says: “Tell the patient I am the only one who can cure him and I will give you a passport, extra ration cards, and free tickets to the opera. If you tell him anything else, I shall call the police”. And the poor delirious patient cries: “Persuade me that I am looking and feeling fine and I will give you a duplex apartment and a beautiful mistress. If you can’t do that, I shan’t listen to you”. Perhaps the poet, if he really loved the patient and the nurse as himself, would be silent and fetch the hot water, but as long as he continues singing, there is one commandment which his song must obey, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”.   Published in The Unesco Courier under a Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO licence. This text was Auden’s response to UNESCO’s 1947 survey on the philosophical foundations of human rights. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureEver since the invention of writing, authors have struggled with their craft. Modern writers apply word processing software, then email their text to editors, who comment and correct. Then, if they are lucky, the book is printed by machines and destributed via a modern transport network. Commercials market their work, and we pay for the product in stores. But what was the reality of writing and reading before all this, before the machines, the computers. How much has really changed? We asked a scholar of Latin and Greek classics. There are many ways of looking at ancient literature. In what ways would you say that writers during the classical period innovated, broke rules and experimented? Professor Richlin:  Ancient literature was like jazz:  a strong traditional basis, with performers or writers making a name for themselves by the way they riffed on what was given.  Vergil turned Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into an epic on the founding of the city of Rome; the anonymous players who made early Roman comedy took Greek New Comedy and stuffed it full of local shtick.  Likewise within each culture:  Attic Old Comedy sends up tragedy, and, within tragedy, Euripides plays around with his predecessors’ work and changes mythology. Today when we think of classical literature many think of rigid rules and pentameters that must be adhered to. Why do you think that is? Professor Richlin:  Maybe because of the way Latin is taught in school?  Because of the rules of grammar?  As with most languages, though, you have to trudge through the early stages of learning how the language works before you can understand what’s going on in literature.  And you have to know the rules in order to see how individual writers innovate. How did one become a writer in ancient times, were you hired by a theater company? How did you make a living? Professor Richlin:  It worked very differently in different times and places. Sappho lived in a culture where there was a place for poets in the world of ritual and dance; Pindar, also living in the Greek islands, made a living by praising kings and tyrants for the victories of their chariots in races, and all kinds of other poets made a living in the courts of kings, all over the Mediterranean, especially in the 300s BCE. Major cities like Athens commissioned plays and poems for their big festivals; in Rome from 240 BCE through the 160s and probably beyond, the city magistrates also paid acting troupes to perform at festivals. But these troupes, made up of slaves and lower-class men, had to live all year, and probably made money performing at markets and fairs all over central Italy. They wrote their own material. From the 300s onward, troupes of Greek professional actors performed everywhere from Babylonia to Sicily, being paid and honored by cities. Among Latin-speaking people in Italy from the 200s onward, and eventually throughout the West from Carthage to Gaul, slaves and lower-class people (mostly men) became upwardly mobile by teaching and, sometimes, writing; already by the time of the elder Cato around 200 BCE, writing prose and some kinds of poetry had become a pastime for upper-class men and a few women, and this continues into the 500s CE when those men were now bishops. Only a fraction of ancient literature has survived into the modern age? Have any new literary works been discovered recently? Professor Richlin:  Yes, a handful of previously unknown poems by Sappho have been found over the past ten years or so What do we know about the reading habits during ancient times? What was the degree of literacy, and to what extent did the average Joe have access to the great stories and drama? Professor Richlin:  It’s been argued that the rate of literacy was very low, but then again there are graffiti everywhere, some of which quote poetry or are written in verse, which I think argues for quite widespread literacy. In addition, although books were expensive, the rich people who had private libraries also had people to read to them, i.e. slaves, so that reading and books were not exclusive to the rich; moreover, since reading aloud was widely used as dinner entertainment, everyone present could hear. The average Jo(sephine) had regular access to drama through public performance, which was usually free or very cheap, subsidized by cities or by wealthy individuals. In cities, children were sent to school, where Homer was among the first texts they learned. Most of the ancient world was rural, though, and literature must have been relatively unknown in the hinterlands. On the other hand, folk tales, jokes, myths were everywhere, probably including large amounts of Homeric poetry that people had memorized. We have all heard about the great library of Alexandria, but were there smaller public libraries where text might be read, poetry, stories etc? Were there lending arrangements like in a modern library? Professor Richlin:  Yes, there were public libraries in Rome; the young Marcus Aureliuis jokes about having to seduce the librarian into letting him borrow a book he wants. There were also booksellers, and the poet Martial, at least, brags that his poetry books are popular throughout the empire. Reading, of course, depended on proper lighting in the houses. In Victorian Britain they had gas, as you know, but evenings remained dark. What sort of lamps would the Greeks and Romans have had access to? Professor Richlin:  Oil lamps. Once when I was living in New Hampshire, I had to get by with oil lamps for a week, doing the reading for my classes and grading papers, and it was pretty hard on the eyes. But they got up very early in the morning; Marcus Aurelius, as a student, was often up before sunrise, reading in the predawn light. What were the most popular literary genres and forms during the ancient period? I know they had comedy, tragedy and poetry? But did they have anything resembling a modern novel? Professor Richlin:  The Greeks seem to have invented novels, although Petronius’s Satyricon (60s CE) seems to be earlier than the earliest extant Greek novel. Since the Satyricon often parodies the norms of the Greek novels we do have, however, it seems clear that Greek novels started well before Petronius. Novels were tremendously popular; they morphed into saints’ lives, they were translated and adapted into many ancient languages (there’s one in Syriac about the biblical Joseph and his beloved Aseneth), they moved eastward through Byzantium and on into Russia, as far east as China, so I’ve heard. The Satyricon is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, it still makes me laugh. And only a bit of it is left! See below. Another great novel in Latin is Apuelius’s Metamorphoses, sometimes called The Golden Ass, about the adventures of a young man who gets transformed into a donkey, and that novel has survived in its entirety. The Greek novels are mostly “romances” — they have a marriage plot — but there are all kinds of others. The classical period spans hundreds of years. Did they have literary schools that reflected any modern sensibilities, such as the stress and anxiety of urban living in a modernist sense. Or perhaps romantic idealization of nature, the way it is seen by a city dweller? Professor Richlin:  Lots of romantic idealization of nature, the Greeks invented that, too (and the Roman poet Horace wrote a comic poem satirizing that). The Romans invented satire, and Juvenal’s Satire 3 is about the stress and anxiety of urban living, though not in a modernist way. Modernism is a rejection of the classic, really, so I don’t see a big overlap. In Umbert Eco’s The Name of the Rose, there is a crime plot centering on the rediscovery of an ancient text on comedy. Which lost text would you like to see rediscovered? Professor Richlin: The rest of the Satyricon! Medieval Arabic satire shows some remarkable resemblances to the Satyricon; I have a fantasy that, somewhere, the novel was translated into Arabic before most of the Latin text was lost, and that someday we’ll find that manuscript. And I’d give a lot to have the comedies of Naevius, Plautus’s predecessor, whose tantalizing fragments make me long for even one complete play of his. The memoirs of the elder Agrippina: oh, boy. Tacitus mentions them — they must have been pretty hot stuff, in terms of telling the inside story of the house of the Caesars. The lost books of Tacitus, ditto. In Greek: the rest of Sappho! And the other women poets, esp. Nossis, whose few remaining poems are so beautiful. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / moviesWhen we read speculative fiction, our minds conjure up the most fantastic creations. Through writers like H.G. Wells we are able to transcend time and space, even envision the most terrifying aliens. How these creatures look, however, is entirely dependent on our own imagination. Ed French is an Oscar nominated and Emmy Award winning special effects make-up artist whose job it is to bring such dreams into the realm of reality. He has worked on some of the most successful science fiction franchises, Star Trek and the Terminator series, and now, more recently, on Westworld. We asked him some questions about his job in the entertainment industry. How does one become a special effects man in Hollywood? Ed French: Talent and perseverance. Luck plays a part. I think you have to love the whole process of film making . Most of the people I know that do this for a living dreamed about working in movies from an early age. How much of what we see on TV and cinema is produced by make-artists and special effects men (and women), like yourself, and how much is the vision of the director Ed French: On T2, James Cameron had a very clear, specific vision about every aspect of his him. He made his own drawings. When I worked on Star Trek VI, Nicholas Meyer wouldn’t micro-manage. He gave me complete freedom to create the alien characters the way I saw them. I’ve often worked on projects where I was contracted to create a character based on a drawing by an art director or rendered by a production artist. In the end though, when that character arrives on set, the finished work of the makeup artist will determine if the “vision” has succeeded. Do you have a particularly well-developed imagination? Ed French: I think that as A Special Effects Makeup Artist I’m a conduit for other people’s imagination. I’m a creative person. I feel as though I’ve come up with some imaginative ways to make characters or certain effects believable to the camera’s eye. Interesting question. Quite often I’m required to create an effect such as say, an autopsy makeup with an actor lying in a morgue with a closed, sewn up “Y incision” scar and 3 bullet holes in the chest. That should appear exactly the way the audience EXPECTS it to look. How do you know if an alien is realistic on not? Are you inspired by creatures in nature? Ed French: I don’t consider most of the aliens I ’ve done to be “realistic.” Star Trek is to realistic aliens as “The Wizard of Oz” is to realistic lions…perhaps the most “realistic aliens” were the ones in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” They were mysterious entities beyond our comprehension and Kubrick depicted them as such. Sometimes the alien makeup concepts I do will integrate elements from a creature in nature. I try to make them appear somewhat plausible. Organic. Some of the make-up work is extremely elaborate. What is the longest make-up session you have had? Ed French: “White Chicks.” It took almost 5 hours to turn Sean Wayans (an African-American comedian) into a white woman. And after that, constant touch-ups were required. I was trying to maintain a “beauty” makeup over prosthetics that transformed a black man into a hot young white woman. I would start at 3:30 AM and work till 7P.M. And then I had to clean the prosthetics and body paint off, which usually took about an hour. There were a few shooting days when the turnaround was about 6 hours. You have worked with some pretty famous actors. Do you ever get star struck? Ed French: I’ve worked off and on for 15 years creating the autopsy and “scene of the crime” trauma and casualty make-ups for N.C.I.S. spending a lot of time in “Ducky’s” forensics lab in scenes involving David McCallum. When I was kid, his early TV appearances on The Outer Limits and The Man from U.N.C.LE. made a huge impression on me. I’m always a bit in awe when I’m working around him. He was Illa Kuryakin! What is your favorite type of job? Do you prefer regular make-up, aliens, monsters or period drama? Ed French:  I like my job because I get to do all those makeup categories. I particularly enjoy creating historical look-alikes. I like to feel like I’m an entertainer. It’s magical when you make someone up to look like Albert Einstein or even the Frankenstein Monster. Everything stops on the set and everyone wants their picture with the character. How much has CGI and computers affected the special effects make-up business? Ed French: It has eliminated a lot of “creature effects” that use “practical” makeup, prosthetics or creature suits, animatronic puppets and so forth. A lot of my colleagues have reservations about CGI being used to “touch up” their makeups or replacing makeup altogether. I think its fabulous if it can correct a prosthetic makeup that NEEDS a touch up. In the series Westworld, the characters are human robots. Did this pose any special challenges? Ed French: This is where C.G.I. hasn’t quite taken over completely. We had robot actors that required full body makeup. In cases where the robots went back for repairs we would apply prosthetics simulating the effects of massive trauma injuries. Chests ripped open, skulls partially blown off, arms missing, etc. There were some fun challenges. We did authentic period makeup for the “old West.” Facial hair and Beards for the men and cowboys. Native American makeup too. There were a few days when I got to do a Samurai makeup with a bald pate. You are also blessed with a wonderful reading voice, and publish audio narratives on youtube. How did you get into audio production? Ed French: Thanks. Through a circuitous route. I was a radio announcer for a couple of years back in the 70’s. I would have been more at home with radio during its golden age. Radio drama and comedy, all that stuff was long gone by the time I sat behind a microphone. I abandoned radio for theatre and as that career sort of fizzled out I found a niche in Special Makeup Effects just as it was gaining momentum in the 80’s. It was fortuitous. However, I never lost the urge to want to perform. I think it was 9 years ago (?) I discovered that the equipment to make professional audio productions at home was available commercially. When I was in radio everything was analog. We recoded on big magnetic Ampex tape reels. There was a learning curve with the digital software. I’m still astounded by what you can create with just a lap top, and audio box, Audacity WAV editor and a microphone . It has enabled me do my “Day Job” and play the storyteller on the side. What is your favorite piece of speculative fiction? Ed French: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine comes to mind when you ask that. Or The Invisible Man. There’s a man with imagination. He wrote before the cinema invented, or at least before the techniques of film story telling had moved beyond the “staginess’ of the early silent movies. His work, particularly The Invisible Man is cinematic. When I was recording it I could see vividly how every scene would be filmed. Close-ups, wide shots, shock cuts. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby J.-H. Rosny published in The Chickasha Daily Express, December 21, 1900 e were strolling along the shore of the bellowing sea. The waves were magnificent. They advanced in caravans, crested with foam, singing crystal songs, they came with great cries and falling upon the rocks left long trails of snow. Rapid, irritable, angry, numberless, they assailed the cliffs, sometimes like a gorgeous garden of white and green flowers, sometimes roaring like ferocious troops of bears, elephants and lions. “Look,” exclaimed Landa. “There goes Lavalle.” All turned. In a little carriage, they saw a man still young by whose side was a woman of the Iberian type; one of those ravishing beauties who arouse desire, hate and jealousy in every man’s breast. “He’s in luck that fellow,” murmured the banker Langrume when the carriage had passed. “By a single stroke be became owner of 90,000,000 francs, and the prettiest woman to be found from pole to pole. And I have worked thirty years to get my beggarly half dozen millions.” “You are envious,” answered Landa. “Don’t you know that Lavalle owes his fortune and his wife to a good speculation. It all came from an investment of exactly 1,000 francs.” Fifteen years ago our friend Pierre Lavalle was a lucky young fellow of 20 years. He was rich, robust in health, and of a nature to avail himself of his advantages. His father sent him around the world. In Chile he had as a guide a most intelligent man of excellent family and between them a friendship arose. The guide pretended to have discovered rich veins of silver in the mountains, but he feared to be forestalled and dared trust no one. At the moment of their separation Pierre offered him a thousand francs. Jose Alvarado thanked him with a dignified air and said: “In ten years I shall be rich and you are my partner.” Then he wrote in the young man’s journal this memorandum: “In ten years I promise to share my property with my partner, Pierre Lavalle. Jose Alvarado Santiago, Nov. 20, 1885.” Ten years later Pierre Lavalle was completely ruined. His father died of despair after unlucky speculations and left the son only a heritage of debt. The poor boy was forced to accept clerkship in a government office. None the less he still went about in society. As he did not try to borrow money from anybody, as he talked well and looked well the best hostesses asked him to their houses. One evening he attended a ball given by a rich Argentinian, Don Estevan Zuloaga. The affair was dazzling. All the South Americans in Paris were there, including many ravishing beauties. Pierre admired Spanish beauties with the enthusiasm of the old romancers. Those eyes where voluptuousness distilled their magic, those delicious curves of the figure, those little feet light and trembling, those magnificent mouths created for kissing aroused in Pierre an ecstatic drunkenness. Don Estevan had sought to bring together the richest human flowers of the Plata, Peru, Chile, and Mexico. The scene nearly turned the head of Pierre when he entered. But the grace and beauty of all the other women was dimmed in his eyes when he perceived a young Chilean on the arm of a young and handsome Spaniard. With a skin as clear as blonde’s out of a wonderful smoothness, with eyes that absorbed the light and emitted it again in dazzling electric rays; with a divine mouth as innocent as voluptuous; with graceful rhythmic walk, and the sweep of her undulating curves she seemed to possess the quintessence of, the charms and seductions of twenty exquisite women. Pierre was overcome with the despair that follows too violent admiration. The love of such a creature seemed to him something unattainable, a thing to which a man could aspire only by genius heroism or some other great quality. During the entire evening each time she passed near the place where he sat watching her dancing or walking, a wave of passionate adoration and sadness surged through his being. He saw her again. He was introduced to her and in time to her mother. During the winter he loved her silently and without the least hope. What right had he to covet such a love, hundred men, the elite of Paris, would have killed themselves for her. And she was fabulously rich. So he loved her as one loves inaccessible things, the clouds, the stars or the sun. She welcomed him as she did others and her mother seemed to like him. What did that signify? Pierre was an impossibility. In debt up to his neck he passed through the most humiliating period of his life. The chief of his bureau warned him that he must either settle, with his creditors or the bureau would be compelled to dispense with his services. One evening the poor boy sat with his head is his hands reflecting upon his situation. The thought of suicide entered his brain. A tiny fire burned in his stove; the lamp with little oil flickered. He was cold and hungry, and he felt himself alone and without a sympathetic friend like an animal dying in a cave. In the midst of of the distress there came a vision of the Chilean belle and knowing that his clothes were no longer presentable, that his patent leather boots were cracked and that no tailor would give him credit, his desire for death became greater as he realized that he could not again meet his goddess. Mechanically he raised himself and went to the box where he kept his souvenirs in the hope that he might find some jewel that be could sell. Some portraits, yellowing letters, locks of hair, notes, and leaves and dry flowers were crushed under his hand. He encountered the journal of travels and turned over the pages. The notes on Chile awakened his interest. ‘I was twenty years old then,” he sighed, “How could I have known or the misery in store for me?” He read the lines written by Alvarado: “In ten years I promise to share my property with partner Pierre Lavalle.” He smiled sadly. “This very evening the ten years. If the good Alvarado wishes to keep his promise he has not much time left.” Two knocks were heard on the door. Pierre said to himself ironically: “There he is now.” He opened the door. He saw before him a man of large stature, white hair and beard with the mien of a cowboy and the color of cinnamon. The visitor addressed him in Spanish: Excuse me,” he said. “I am late. You are Mr. Lavalle?” “Yes,” replied Pierre astonished. “I am Alvarado.” The young man nearly dropped the the lamp. Alvarado continued: “I have come to pay my debt.” “Good,” thought Pierre, “It will enable me to buy some clothes so I can see her again.” Alvarado continued: “I have made my fortune, I bring you our accounts as we are partners. Aside from my personal property which I deduct, we possess between 90,000,000 and 100,000,000 francs. The half of these have been realized and 25,000,000 francs are at your disposal.” The the lamp fell. “Good,” continued Alvarado, “you are content. It is natural. That encourages me to demand something of you. I prefer that the money remain in my family and my family is composed of my sister and my niece.” Disappointment. Pierre had a vision of his magnificent Chilean and remained silent. “I wish that you marry my niece. You know her already. She is named Anita Fena.” Pierre threw himself upon the cowboy and covered his white head with kisses, while he sobbed for happiness. “And this,” concluded Landa, “is what it is to give 1,000 francs to a Chilean who seeks his fortune.” “I wish I could find one like him to stake,” groaned Langrume. A beggar passed and asked alms in a piteous voice. Langrume turned away. “Why do not the police arrest these vagabonds?” he growled. “It will bring you good luck to give him money.” said Landa. The banker took a franc from his pocket. “Make him write a memorandum in your Journal,” said Songeres.   translated by Mrs. Moses P. Handy (she died in 1933) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyLamin Bajinka is a very fortunate man, a history teacher in a country where the unemployment rate is sky high. Yet, his days are far from care free, and often he too dreams about a comfortable life in Europe or America. Originally from the rural part of the Gambia, he lives in an urban area during the academic year, and moves back with his extended family on a farm during holidays. There he ploughs the fields by hand and tries to assist his relatives. «We grow delicious watermelons», he boasts. A devout muslim, he often prays and finds comfort in simple things. In his spare time, he trains the local soccer team, and it is not without pride that he talks about their many achievements on the pitch. Tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide to study history? Lamin Bajinka: I began my education in a small village called Kiti. Then I went to the Gambia college campus in Brikama, which is five kilometres from my native land. Brikama has about 90 000 inhabitants. I sometimes live in a town called Brufut, on the Gambian coast, with my mum. My grandfather inspired my interest in studying history. During my youth he narrated vivid stories to me, which inspired to know the history of this land and her people. How many students do you have, how old are they and what do you teach them? Lamin Bajinka: I teach classes of 35 to 40 students and we have 4 history classes in the school. The age of my students differ. They are between 15 and 20, but there is nobody older than 20. In the Gambia, the history syllabus is divided into two: National History and West Africa and the Wider World. We try to read more about our own country and West Africa. What about your pay as a teacher, is it sufficient for a decent life? Lamin Bajinka: No, my wages are not enough for decent life because I can’t even buy a bicycle or construct my own house. And tuition, is it free for all Gambians? Lamin Bajinka: Yes, today basic education is free for all Gambians. Girls were the first to get free tuition, in order to empower and encourage female education in the country. What sort of methods do you apply in your classroom? Lectures? Group work? Lamin Bajinka: I normally I put the child at the center of the class and allow them to express their own understanding of the subject or topics. Then we have group work while I guide them. What are the greatest difficulties that a Gambian student faces in school?  Lamin Bajinka: Many have difficulties with the distance they travel to attend  school. Not every village or community is blessed with a school. So, as a result, some students travel far  in order to get a better education. Once a student graduates, what are their chances of attending university? Lamin Bajinka: The chances are very slim due to the student’s financial circumstances. I am a good example of this, I haven’t finished my university degree. Yes, there are scholarships, but it is not sufficient for the number of people who want to have a university education. Do you think there is adequate focus on Gambian and west African history in the media? Lamin Bajinka: There is not enough focus on west African history, particularly Gambian history. European countries don’t focus much on our history in their media, do they? If you were to teach Gambian history to a European class for a day, what events and topics would you focus on? Lamin Bajinka: I will focus on the ethnic groups of Gambia, that is the people of the country, their social and political structure, and our economy. Then you can see how we live. If you were to recommend a book on Gambian history, what would it be? Lamin Bajinka: If I am to recommend a history book for my region, it will be any history of the ethnic groups of the Gambia that you can find. Our diversity is so important. What are your dreams for the future? Lamin Bajinka: I pray to become a successful business man.   The Gambia:  There are 8 main ethnic groups in the Gambia: Mandinka, Wolofs, Akus, Jola, Fulanis, Serahule, Serer and Tukulor all living in relative peace. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby John Llewelyn Rhys (1911-1940) WHEN the Old Man came into the ante-room the young officers began to rise in their chairs, but he waved them back with an impatient gesture. It was warm and comfortable in there and the tenor of idle chatter continued. One could hear the crackle of a newspaper page and the sound of bidding from the four who were playing a Chinese game in the corner, their minds apparently intent on the little walls of white blocks on the table before them. ‘ Beneath the Wing-Commander’s arm were a number of files. On the outside of the files was a map. Robert recognised its shape and his heart kicked inside him. And now every pilot in the squadron was watching the senior officer, . watching him without movement of head, watching him while seeming to read, watching’ him while crying ‘Three Characters.’ The Old Man nodded, first at one, then another, and finally at Robert. Silently they rose to their feet, leaving their circles of friends, their reading, their Chinese game, and filed into ‘the neighboring room. The Wing-Commander stood by the grand piano waiting for them to gather about him. 1 IE looked suddenly older, Robert thoughts Now his hair, shone with grey, new lines emphasised the hardness of his features. But his voice was unchanged, harsh, imperious. ‘Gentlemen, the show’s tomorrow.’ He paused and looked ‘slowly at the circle of pilots. . . ‘The target, you know. Here’s the latest from Intelligence and a few other little details I want you to know.’ ? Robert heard his instructions and memorised them, with an ease born of practice, but the words seemed meaningless rattling like hail on the roof of his mind. ‘Any questions?’ But they were all old hands, and no naive youngsters among them wanted to make themselves heard. ‘Well … good luck! I know you’ll put up a good show.’ His voice was suddenly shy. ‘I wish they’d let me come with you.’ They went back to the ante-room, went on talking, reading, playing the Chinese game. Robert sat down by a friend. ‘If anything,’ Robert’s voice was quiet as be flipped the pages of a magazine, ‘if anything were . .] . to slip up . .; . tomorrow, would you attend to the odd detail?’ ‘Of course, old boy.’ ‘Tomorrow?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Tough show?’ ‘Tough enough.’ It was almost day as Robert walked over to Flights with the Squadron Leader, and cold, with the half light lying dead on the roofs of the camouflaged hangars and the wind sock napping drearily on its pole. Mechanics were beginning to start up the motors which clattered protestingly to life, back-firing and shuddering on their bearers. ‘Looks like a good day, sir?’ The leader of the raid looked up, then kicked his heel into the turf. ‘Yes; hope this frost holds off. I hope to hunt next week.’ When Robert got to his machine only the starboard engine had been started. Impatiently he watched -the efforts of the crews. If only they’d get that engine running, he thought, if only they’d get it running. He, went up to the fitter, ‘You haven’t over-doped?’ ‘ No, Sir. She’ll go now.’ Still she refused to start. He climbed up the ladder into the cock. ‘Got your throttle setting right?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said the corporal, ‘she’ll start in a minute.’ The second pilot was inside, busy at the navigator’s table. ‘All set?’ Robert asked. ‘Bombs, petrol, and everything hunkey-dorey, sir,’ the sergeant answered. If only they’d start that engine, he thought. If only they’d get it going and we could take off. At last the motor roared to life, and be climbed into his seat, ran up the engines, pulled up the ladder and waved away the chocks. As he waited on the aerodrome, his airscrews throwing long flickering shadows, he kicked the heavy rudder violently from side to side. Where were the others? Where were the others? They would be late off the ground and there would be a row. Then he glanced at his watch, and found to his surprise that it was five minutes to his zero hour. And now the other machines were taxiing towards him, huge, heavily laden monoplanes, grim against the dawn, moving fast over the close cut turf, beating down dean thick lines through the white frost. He glanced down at the controls, felt the various cocks, checked the cylinder head temperatures, the hydraulic and brake pressures. Then, when all was ready, he pushed open the throttles, the noise increasing till it filled the long, narrow compartment, beating mercilessly upon his ears, drowning the screams of the hydraulic gear. She was heavy with full petrol and a belly full of bombs, but as he felt her becoming airborne he brought the wheel gently back and she bumped up into the air. From time to tune Robert switched on his microphone and spoke to each gunner in his turret. They were alert and cheerful, and behind him the second pilot worked at his check navigation. Sometimes they saw fishing boats whose crews waved frantically, and minesweepers busy in their deadly task, and once a convoy with destroyers like sheep dogs on its flanks. The weather was fine, with high lumps of cumulus, and they began to climb. In a little while the second pilot came forward and held up eight fingers, Robert nodded. Eight minutes. He felt cold inside, his teeth were shattering, he wished they were in the thick or It, and grinned at his companion. The target came into view, a smudge on the horizon. The leader began to give his orders over the radio, and they started a big circle so as to attack from out of the sun. As they came up the sky filled with anti-aircraft fire. The second pilot had switched on his microphone and Robert could hear him jeering at the enemy gunners, for the shooting was poor, though some of the bursts were un comfortably close. They came over the target and released their bombs. Robert watched the sky unceasingly for enemy fighters, wondering if any aircraft were lurking in its glare waiting for the anti-aircraft to cease before diving to the attack. The second pilot was busy with the camera recording the hits far below, whistling as he worked. A burst of Archies off the port wing tip made the machine rock violently. Soon they were out of range of the ground guns, and Robert saw one of the other machines break formation ‘and rock its wings. He spoke to the gunners. ‘Keep your eyes skinned. There’s a fighter about somewhere.’ Then he saw it, a lone enemy machine, a single seater fighter with square wing tips. It came up quite slowly, lazily, lying on to the tail of one of the bombers. It was so simple a manoeuvre that it might have been a pupil on his circuit at a flying training school. As it turned off, short jabs of black smoke jerked themselves from the back cockpit to the bomber. The fighter turned slowly on to its side. First smoke, then flames poured from its engine, splashing down the fuselage. In the bright sunshine, against the blue sea, the machine fell slowly, twisting, turning, diving. ‘Here they come!’ said the second pilot; and Robert saw that the sky seemed to be filled with fighters. They broke up and began to attack. Robert watched two circling him from the front. As they turned the flank his rear-gunner switched on his microphone and Robert could hear him swearing. Tracer from the enemy streamed overhead, curved in a graceful trajectory, and dropped out of sight. Then the gunner was silent Robert heard the rattle of his guns and his voice, jubilant ‘Got him, sir.’ ‘Good. Keep you eyes skinned. Be patient,’ Robert said. Now a twin-engined aircraft came up on the beam, accompanied by one of the smaller fighters, which attacked from the rear. A burst of fire shattered the roof over the second pilot’s head. The front gunner coolly brought his guns to bear. The twin was an ugly brute, the first Robert had seen with extended stabilisers on the tail. He was frightened now. His mouth dry, his hands wet inside the silk lining of his gloves. Attack after attack came up, filled the air with tracer, turned lazily away. The middle gunner brought down another fighter before he was hit in the leg. Robert sent the second – pilot back- in his place. One burst of machine-gun fire shattered half the instrument panel, sent a shower of broken glass over his knees. Darkness filled his eyes, but in his mind he could still see the face of the enemy gunner, red and foolishly grim, as he fired from the rear cockpit of the fighter. The wheel went limp in his hands, the strain of months of war, the nag of responsibility, lifted from his consciousness… Then his vision cleared, and he – pulled the aircraft level. To his surprise the fighters had vanished, and at his side was the Squadron Leader’s machine, which he thought he had seen go down. He began to sing, thumping his hands on the wheel. They were separated from the others and flew in tight formation, the Squadron Leader turning his head from time to time and grinning and doing a thumbs up. They lost height till they were just above the sea, their patterned shadows sliding effortlessly over mile after mile of water desolation. On crossing the coast their senior officer altered course for base. They flew at a few hundred feet over the sleepy countryside, their shadows now vaulting hedge and haystack. As he looked, first to the north at the black rich earth of the fens, marshalled by dykes, then south to the loveliness of Suffolk, each feature of the country fitted into its place in his mind, each town he knew, each stretch of river. How familiar, he thought. How well I know it all. Truly, England is my village. Soon the little lake, shaped like an elephant’s trunk, appeared and they dived low over the hangars, then broke away, dropped their wheels, and came to land. There were no other machines about and the camp seemed strangely deserted. A little later they walked into the mess. It was warm and comfort able in there and the words and phrases of the many conversations jumbled themselves into a haze of sound. At the table by the fire there was an empty chair at the Chinese game. When Robert saw the other players he stopped in his stride. There was Nails, who got his on the first show, and Dick, who went down in flames, and Thistle, his second pilot and Badger, who was lost in the North Sea in December. ‘Come on’ Badger said. ‘We’re waiting for you.’ ‘But I thought …’ Robert said. ‘I thought …’ A VOICE from a distance interrupted him. A woman’s voice. There were no women in the room. Then the room and the men in it were gone. Robert was lying in a bed,, in a long, dim chamber With other beds up and down its length. The face of the woman whose voice he had heard was looking at him. . It was an *frg»foh face, plain and pleasant, framed severely in a familiar headdress. ‘What was it you thought?’ the nurse was saying to him. ‘You’re all right, you know. Home in England. The second pilot brought you in.’ Robert stirred fretfully in the bed, but the pain made him lie still again. The nurse put a hand to his bandaged head to quiet him. He closed his eyes and thought of the room he had left just a moment ago. He tried to will himself back into it, to be with Badger and the others. It bad seemed so hospitable’ there, so farm, so safe, so full of friends, so free of pain. He couldn’t reach it. Almost . . . Almost . . . Not quite. He couldn’t What h~d happened to him — that he had been there with them, the brave, admired dead, and come away and couldn’t get back to them again? In pain and bewilderment be thought: ‘I wish I knew— I— wish— I knew From The Mail (Adelaide) 22 February 1941 Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyThe ruins of Angkor were long hidden by the Cambodian jungle. Early explorers  such as the French artist Louis Delaporte (1842-1925) sketched the glory of what they found. Little did they know that the past was even more magnificent than they imagined. Just over a hundred years later, new laser technology, or lidar, is able to strip away the overgrowth of centuries, and bring to light a clearer outline of  that lost civilization. Now we can finally begin to understand what Angkor was and why the empire faded. Much still remains a mystery, but we were able to get some preliminary answers from dr. Damian Evans of the French Institute of Asian Studies (EFEO).  In what way does your new Lidar findings expand or confirm the view of Angkor presented by Zhou Daguan in his 12’ century travel narrative? Damian Evans: There has always been a degree of uncertainty about the urban context of the temples, because it was made of perishable materials which have rotted away. However Zhou Daguan mentioned a system of residence in which multiple households were arrayed around communal ponds. Using the lidar we have identified patterns in the ground surface that we can identify as remnant traces of ponds, and earthen occupation mounds on top of which people built their houses. We’ve mapped a vast network of these features, several thousand of them, which essentially confirms the account of Zhou Daguan as it relates to residential patterning. Marco Polo speaks of a great empire in Asia (not China), is there any chance he might have mentioned Angkor? Damian Evans: There’s no evidence for that unfortunately. The Khmer Empire was one of many large political entities which flourished in the region at that time, so it’s not necessarily the case.  What was the population of an average city in the Angkor Empire and what was the total population? Damian Evans: For population estimates we need to know two things: the spatial layout of the settlements, and the density of the neighborhoods. We have only just recently come to terms with the layout of the cities using lidar and other mapping techniques, and figuring out the density of inhabitants per hectare is the domain of household archaeology, which has really only just begun at Angkor. So we haven’t yet had the opportunity to sit down and make precise calculations, and we are still missing some crucial information. We can say though that figures in the one million rage for a population of Angkor are probably way too high, and I would say that there are several hundred thousand people at the capital, and some tens of thousands of people at each of the major regional centres.  What was the most surprising thing that you discovered? Damian Evans: There are still quite a few features that we discovered that we don’t understand. There are large grids of mounds covering several hectares, and strange geometric shapes carved into the surface of the landscape. They don’t seem to have had any agricultural or residential function, and when we excavate them there is nothing inside, so they are not burial sites. They may have some larger symbolic meaning as geoglyphs or something, we don’t know. Work on that is ongoing, as they have turned up everywhere and were obviously an important component of the built environment, and perhaps also of a kind of sacred geography whose meaning is obscure to us.  Has this form of archaeology uncovered anything new about the lives of ordinary people in Angkor? Damian Evans: Not directly, no, aside from confirming the residential patterning. One of the great values of lidar though is that it provides a very detailed and comprehensive picture of the built environment that allows field archaeologists to target excavations very precisely on areas that we know will deliver the most useful information. That work will now begin to deliver a wealth if information about the everyday life of the people. The insights from lidar are more orientated towards large-scale factors such as water management, landscape change, the structure of the urban environment, that kind of thing. One thing we can say is that people were living in a very densely inhabited space in the downtown area of Angkor, and with a lack of sanitation disease must have been an extremely serious issue. Why are there so few traces of this empire in the historical sources? Damian Evans: There is a local tradition of carving inscriptions in stone, and there is a corpus of around 1300 of those inscriptions. It is a rich historical record that informs most of what we know about the Khmer. In terms of accounts from outsiders, early sources are very few and far between so there are huge gaps in our knowledge. Later historical sources in the medieval period are very trade-centric, and are dominated by European accounts. Societies heavily engaged in commerce and/or located in coastal areas to take advantage of maritime trade are heavily privileged in these accounts. Angkor was engaged in trade to a certain extent, but it was most of all an inland agrarian empire and not of great interest to traders and trade emissaries, with the exception of Zhou Daguan.  Why and when did Angkor disappear? Damian Evans: It’s a complex question, there are many theories to do with war, overextension of the empire and so on, but none of the theories really stand alone as sufficient explanations. Increasingly we are seeing that their water management system evolved over centuries in a way that was problematic and ultimately unsustainable; because it was crucial for the success and maintenance of Angkor as the capital region, when the water management system ultimately failed – perhaps in the face of extreme climatic events – the royal court decided to relocate towards the coast and re-orient the economy towards commerce.  If Angkor had such extensive building complexes, canals and waterways, isn’t it natural to assume that they were advanced in the fields of science, mathematics and engineering? Do we know the names of any prominent scientists from the Angkor period? Damian Evans: Not really, no, although there are mentions of some specific professions like architects who seemed to be quite prominent within the royal court. The inscriptions in stone that are our main historical sources are not really informative on such kinds of issues, as they are mostly poetic dedications to the gods which glorify the rulers and list donations to the temples. So we know very little of the mechanics of how things were built and why, and by who. Looking at the extremely precise way that the temples were built however there would have been a cohort of professionals who were very skilled in these fields, and who had the benefit of thousands of years of technical knowledge inherited from China and India and beyond.  What sort of language did the ancient Khmer have, and are there any remains of their literature, either in their own language or in translations in other languages? If not, why not? After all ancient Greek sources often survived in Arabic translations? Damian Evans: They had their own language which is the ancestral language of modern Khmer, although they had no indigenous script and expressed it in writing in a script that was borrowed from India. The language is intelligible to scholars. The high language of religion and the royal court was also borrowed from the Indian tradition – it was Sanskrit, which of course can also be translated easily enough. The corpus of 1300 or so inscriptions has been mostly translated into French.  The lidar technology that you used has been applied most recently on the ancient Maya. Is there any room for improvements in the technology? What will be possible in the near future? Damian Evans: At the moment the technology is still very expensive. In the future, as lidar instruments become miniaturised and as UAV technology develops, we should start to be able to cover wide areas with that combination. For now though it is not practical to cover wide areas on the scale of Angkor for example with UAV technology. But that will come soon I think in the next few years. Unfortunately there are technical limitations which prevent high-resolution space-based lidars. But in a decade or two we might achieve that as well, which will provide cheap global coverage. The amount of archaeological material that will be uncovered then will be extraordinary. Like this:Like Loading... [...]