Flash hesitated briefly

Flash lay stunned for several minutes, unable to comprehend that the
train actually had been derailed. Screams of terror and moans of pain
mingled with the shouted orders of the trainmen. The sounds came to him
as if from a long distance away.

Dazedly he sat up, dragging himself from beneath a pile of twisted steel
and splintered wood. Blood streamed from a gash in his head, but
miraculously, he seemed to have suffered no serious injury.

In the gathering twilight he could see that every car had left the
track. The engine, taking the baggage car with it, had rolled down a
steep embankment. It lay on its side, belching steam like a wounded
dragon.

Flash pulled himself to his feet and called hoarsely: “Joe! Joe!”

A moan of pain came from beneath a pile of debris almost at his feet. He
saw an arm protruding from the wreckage. Frantically, he worked at a car
seat which had wedged fast, and finally succeeded in lifting it off. Joe
lay there, his face twisted in agony.

“Go easy,” he muttered. “My leg’s broken. And my insides are scrambled.”

Flash managed to get a supporting arm under Joe’s shoulders, but when he
raised the man to a half-standing position, he crumpled back again.

“No use,” the cameraman moaned. “It’s broken. What a fix! Pictures to
the right and left, and me with a busted leg and no camera! Leave me to
die!”

Joe’s spirited complaint slightly reassured Flash. If his friend could
think of pictures, it was unlikely that he had suffered serious internal
injuries. But there was no question about the leg. It was broken.

Stretching Joe out as comfortably as possible, he looked about for a
board which could be used as a splint.

“Listen,” said Joe, “you can’t do me any good. Run to the nearest
farmhouse and send out a call for ambulances and doctors!”

“I don’t like to leave you, Joe.”

“Go on, I say!”

Aroused to action, Flash started for the nearest house, a quarter of a
mile away. Crawling beneath a barbed wire fence, he ran through a plowed
field. The ground was soft from recent rains. He stumbled and fell flat.
Scrambling up, his clothes covered with mud, he raced on, finally
reaching the house.

The kitchen door was opened by a housewife who screamed when she saw
him. In dramatic words, Flash told what had happened and begged the use
of a telephone.

He called the nearest town of Columbia and was promised that all
available aid would be rushed to the scene. Then, as an afterthought, he
dispatched a telegram to the _Brandale Ledger_, providing the first news
of the train disaster.

Followed by the excited housewife, her husband, and a hired man, Flash
ran back to the wreck.

Confusion had increased. Frantic persons moved in a bewildered way from
one place to another, searching for loved ones. Already a number of
inert bodies had been removed from the wreckage. Only the trainmen
seemed cool and effective in their actions.

A coach had caught fire. Flash hurried there, helping a brakeman pull
two shrieking women from the debris. By working furiously they were able
to make certain that no one had been left under the wreckage. Soon the
car was a blazing inferno, adding to the terror of the frightened
survivors.

“What caused the wreck?” Flash demanded of the brakeman.

“Rail out of place,” the man answered grimly.

“Done deliberately to derail the train?”

“Can’t say,” the other replied. “Not allowed to talk.”

The rapidly darkening sky increased the difficulty of rescue work. Flash
toiled on, unaware of fatigue.

As the first truckload of doctors, nurses, and stretcher bearers arrived
from Columbia, he made his way back to the car which he and Joe had
occupied throughout the journey. The Pullman was overturned but had not
been crushed. Nearly all passengers riding in it had escaped with only
minor injuries.

The car was now deserted. Flash crawled inside. Locating his former seat
he groped about in the dark. Almost at once his hand encountered Joe
Wells’ luggage, and a moment later he found his own camera.

Eagerly, he examined the lens and tested the mechanism.

“This is luck with a capital L,” he exulted. “It doesn’t seem to be
damaged.”

Continuing the search, he located his equipment case which provided him
with a stock of flash bulbs and film holders.

Without losing another moment, he began making a photographic record of
the disaster. First he shot an over-all scene, showing the general
wreckage. The derailed engine where two men had lost their lives, was
worth another picture. He took one of the burned coach, one of the rail
which had caused the wreck, and then turned his attention to human
interest shots of the passengers.

A number of prominent persons had been aboard the train. Whenever he
recognized a passenger he snapped a picture, but he wasted no film.
Every shot told a story.

Gradually, Flash worked his way forward to where he had left Joe Wells.
Failing to see the newsreel man he assumed that stretcher bearers had
carried him to a waiting ambulance.

More for his own record than because it had news possibilities, he shot
a picture of the crushed car in which he had been riding at the time of
the wreck. As the flash went off, he saw a dark figure move back, away
from him.

Reassuringly, he called to the fleeing person. There was no answer.

Instead, from the railroad right of way, a familiar voice shouted
hoarsely: “That you, Evans?”

“Joe!” he answered.

He found the newsreel man sitting with his back to a telephone pole
where he had dragged himself, there to await attention from the first
available doctor.

“How are you feeling, Joe?” Flash asked him anxiously.

“Okay.”

“I’ll see if I can’t get you some blankets. And I’ll try to bring a
doctor.”

“Skip it,” said Joe quietly. “Some of these other folks need attention a
lot worse than I do. I see you found your camera.”

“Your luggage, too,” Flash told him encouragingly.

“Stow it in a safe place if you can find one,” Joe advised. “I saw a
suspicious-looking fellow going through one of the cars. Helping himself
to what he could get!”

“I think I must have seen that same man. He slipped away when I took a
picture a moment ago. The wrecking crew ought to be here soon. They’ll
put a stop to such business.”

“Don’t let me keep you from shooting your pictures,” said Wells
abruptly.

“I’m almost through now.”

As Flash spoke, both men were startled to hear a moan of pain. The sound
came from the wrecked Pullman close by.

“Some poor fellow pinned under there!” exclaimed Joe.

Turning his camera and holders over to his friend for safe keeping,
Flash darted to the wreckage. In the indistinct light he saw a man
sitting with head buried in his hands. The lower portion of his body
seemed to be imprisoned.

“Major Hartgrove!” Flash exclaimed, reaching his side.

The army man stared at the young photographer in a dazed manner. He kept
fumbling in his vest pocket, mumbling to himself.

“I was struck on the head…. My papers … my wallet!”

“I don’t believe anyone struck you, Major,” Flash corrected. “You were
in a wreck.”

“Don’t you think I know that much!” the army man snapped. “I was
struck—struck over the head.”

It occurred to Flash that the Major might have been struck and robbed by
the person he had observed slipping away into the darkness. But as the
man began to mumble again, he reverted to his original opinion. The
Major had been dazed by the terrific impact of the wreck and did not
know what he was saying.

Flash tried ineffectively to pull away the heavy timbers which held the
man fast.

“It’s no use,” he gasped at last. “I’ll bring help.”

Leaving the Major, he met two burly trainmen carrying lighted lanterns.
With their aid he finally succeeded in freeing the army man. As he had
feared, the Major was severely injured. One foot was crushed and his
head had been wounded.

A doctor came hurrying up with an emergency kit. He gave the Major first
aid treatment and ordered stretcher bearers to carry him to a waiting
ambulance. Joe Wells also was given a hasty examination and transported
to the hospital conveyance.

“May I ride along to town?” Flash requested the driver. “I have some
pictures I ought to rush through to my paper.”

“Jump in,” the man invited. With a quick glance at the young man, he
added: “You don’t look any too good yourself. Feeling shock?”

Flash sagged into the seat beside the driver.

“I’m feeling something,” he admitted. “I guess I’m all in.”

Until now excitement had buoyed him, and made him unaware of either pain
or fatigue. He shivered. His teeth chattered from a sudden chill.

The driver stripped off his own topcoat and made Flash put it on.

“Better get yourself a bed at the hotel if you can,” he advised. “You’ll
feel plenty in another hour.”

Flash shook his head. With pictures to be sent to the _Brandale Ledger_,
he couldn’t afford to pamper himself. He had to keep going until his
work was finished.

“Where is the nearest airport?” he questioned.

“We pass it on our way to Columbia.”

“Then drop me off there,” Flash requested.

A few minutes later he said good-bye to Joe Wells, promising to come to
the hospital as soon as he could.

“Don’t fail,” the newsreel man urged, “there’s something I want you to
do for me.”

At the airport Flash arranged to have his undeveloped film rushed to the
_Brandale Ledger_. From the shipment he kept back only shots which he
was certain would be of no use to the editor.

This important duty out of the way, he walked into town. There he
dispatched a lengthy message, reporting to Riley such facts as he had
been able to gather. Not until then did he allow himself to relax.

Already the town was crowded to overflowing with survivors of the wreck.
Hotels, restaurants and the railroad station were jammed. Every
available bed had been taken. Flash waited in line twenty minutes for a
hot cup of coffee.

Battered and still chilled, he tramped to the hospital. Inquiring about
Joe Wells and Major Hartgrove, he was relieved to learn that they both
were doing as well as could be expected. After a long delay he was
allowed to talk with the newsreel cameraman.

At sight of Flash, Joe’s face brightened.

“I thought you’d come,” he said. “Do you know what the doctor just told
me? I’ll be laid up for weeks!”

“That’s a tough break, Joe.”

“Yeah. Flash, will you do me a favor?”

“You know I will.”

“Doyle’s expecting me to meet him at Indianapolis tomorrow morning,” Joe
went on jerkily. “He has the sound wagon and all our equipment.”

“I’ll send him a telegram right away.”

The cameraman shook his head impatiently.

“Listen, Flash,” he said persuasively, “I want you to take my place.
Meet Doyle and protect the _News-Vue_ people on the race pictures.”

“But I don’t know anything about newsreel work!” Flash protested.

“Sure you do,” Joe denied. “Doyle can help you a lot.”

“Riley is expecting me to get pictures for him.”

“You can do that, too. You won’t lose a thing by helping me out of this
hole. It’s a big favor, I know, but you’re the only person who can swing
it for me. What do you say?”

Flash hesitated briefly. Joe made it all sound very easy, but he knew it
wouldn’t be. Any newsreel pictures he might take likely would be
worthless. The journey on through the night to Indianapolis meant sheer
torture. But he owed it to his friend to at least make the attempt.

“I’ll do it, Joe,” he promised. “I’ll do it for you.”

Pleased by Flash’s promise, Joe Wells quickly provided him with George
Doyle’s Indianapolis hotel address, and offered such advice as he
thought might prove useful.

“Doyle knows a lot about newsreel work and can help you,” he declared.
“But you readily see the job is too big for him to handle alone. I’m
frank to say he’s touchy and rather unpleasant at times. Don’t let that
bother you.”

“I’ll be having enough troubles without doing any worrying about him,”
Flash returned grimly.

“Well, good luck,” Joe said, extending his hand. “I may see you in
Indianapolis. I’m getting out of here as soon as the doctor lets me.”

Flash left the hospital, somewhat bewildered by the rapid way his plans
had been altered. While he had experimented with amateur newsreel
photography and had studied it many months, he had no faith in his
ability. Nor did he think that George Doyle would like the new
arrangement.

Consulting time tables, Flash discovered that he never could reach
Indianapolis by train. The wrecked streamliner had been the last one
which would have arrived in time for the races. A passenger plane left
the local airport at eleven that evening and by making his decision
quickly he was able to get a ticket.

Morning found him, haggard and worn, standing at the desk of the Seville
Hotel in Indianapolis. Nervously he glanced at the lobby clock. His
plane had been delayed, held back by strong headwinds. He feared that
George Doyle might have already left for the race track.

“Did you wish a room, sir?” the clerk inquired, regarding his unkempt
appearance with disapproval. “We’re filled.”

“Do you have a George Doyle here?”

“Newsreel man?” the clerk asked in an altered tone. “Yes, I think so.”

He checked a card index and reported that the man occupied Room 704.
Without telephoning to learn if Doyle were in, Flash went up to the
seventh floor.

In response to his knock, the door was flung open. George Doyle, hat
pushed back on his head, faced him with a frozen gaze.

“Well?” he demanded unpleasantly. “What do you want?”

“I guess you don’t recognize me. We met at Brandale. Remember the Bailey
Brooks ’chute pictures—?”

“Oh, sure,” the man broke in, but his voice still lacked warmth. “Sorry
I can’t stop to talk now. I’m just starting for the track.”

“Joe Wells sent me,” Flash said significantly.

Immediately the sound technician’s manner changed.

“Why didn’t you say so?” he asked, motioning for Flash to come into the
bedroom. “How is Joe? Haven’t heard a word from him since the wreck. You
weren’t on the same train?”

“Yes, I was. Joe’s leg is broken and he’s badly battered.”

“No chance then of his getting here today?”

“Not a chance.”

“This leaves me in a nice situation,” Doyle complained. “I can’t handle
the job alone. I might know Wells would pull something like that!”

“I don’t think he broke his leg on purpose,” Flash returned dryly.

“Maybe not,” Doyle admitted, “but this was our big opportunity to make a
showing. Now I might as well pack up and start back East!”

“Joe sent me to take his place. I don’t know how much good I’ll be, but
here I am anyhow.”

Doyle had been nervously pacing the floor. He paused and stared at
Flash.

“Joe sent you?” he repeated. “Do you know anything about newsreel work?”

“Not very much,” Flash admitted truthfully. “I’m a photographer for the
_Brandale Ledger_. I can do what you tell me.”

“A lot of help you’ll be,” Doyle growled. “I need a good, experienced
man.”

Flash began to lose patience. It seemed to him that Doyle had no
interest in Joe Wells’ misfortune save as it affected him. His only
thought was for himself and his work.

“If you don’t care to use me, that’s quite all right,” he said. “I have
some pictures of my own to take.”

As he turned abruptly toward the door, Doyle stopped him.

“Wait a minute! Don’t be so touchy! I didn’t say I couldn’t use you, did
I? If I decide to tackle the job I’ll need a helper. You may do.”

“Thanks,” said Flash ironically.

He had taken an intense dislike to Doyle. The man was conceited and
disagreeable. But for Joe’s sake he would see the thing through.

“Had your breakfast yet?” Doyle asked in a more friendly tone.

“No, but I’m not very hungry. Still feeling the effects of last night, I
guess.”

Doyle asked no questions about Flash’s experiences in the train wreck.
It did not occur to him that the young photographer had undergone
extreme physical discomfort in order to reach Indianapolis.

“Well, get shaved,” he said gruffly. “I’ll need to explain to you about
the equipment. We haven’t much time.”

Flash borrowed a razor, and did not keep Doyle waiting long. They left
the hotel, going directly to the garage where the green sound truck had
been left. There the sound technician demonstrated the _News-Vue_
equipment, and seemed slightly reassured to discover that Flash knew a
good deal about newsreel cameras.

“Maybe we can get by somehow,” he said gloomily. “Let’s roll.”

“Just as you say.”

Flash jumped into the sound wagon beside Doyle. On the seat he noticed a
newspaper of the previous night. In screaming headlines it proclaimed:
STREAMLINER WRECKED. 12 DEAD, 27 INJURED.

As the car shot out of the garage into blinding sunlight, he was able to
read the finer print. His eye scanned the list of known dead. Seeing a
familiar name, he gave a low exclamation of surprise.

“What’s wrong?” Doyle demanded, regarding him curiously.

“Nothing,” Flash answered. “It just gave me a shock—this list of the
dead.”

“Someone you know?”

“You remember that fellow, Albert Povy?”

“Povy—I can’t seem to place him.”

“The man we both saw at Brandale. He was trying to buy Bailey Brooks’
parachute after the successful test.”

“Oh, sure,” nodded Doyle. “He wasn’t killed in the wreck?”

“His name is listed.”

Doyle guided the sound truck through traffic at a reckless pace,
deliberately stealing the right-of-way from timid motorists.

“If Povy’s dead, then Bailey Brooks is out of luck,” he remarked in a
matter of fact tone. “Too bad for him.”

“And for Povy, too,” added Flash dryly. “However, from what I’ve heard
of the man, his death may not be such a great loss to humanity.”

“Mixed up in some sort of government scandal, wasn’t he?”

“I never did learn many of the details,” Flash admitted. “It was a funny
thing, though. Joe and I saw him on the train. He didn’t remember us or,
if he did, he gave no sign. He seemed especially interested in an army
man, Major Hartgrove.”

“Interested?”

“Oh, it was only my idea. It struck me he might have boarded the train
with the intention of watching the Major.”

“Well, if he’s dead he won’t do any more watching,” Doyle returned
carelessly. “We’re getting near the main gate now. Let me have the
passes.”

“What passes?”

“Didn’t Joe give them to you?” Doyle demanded, lifting his foot from the
accelerator.

“He didn’t give me anything.”

The sound technician groaned. “Joe had all our credentials. You didn’t
think they’d let us through the gate without proper identification?”

Flash had not given the matter a thought. “Won’t our truck get us by?”
he asked.

“It may, but I doubt it. They’re not letting many sound outfits inside.”

“What will we do?”

“What can we do? If we’re questioned, we’ll have to put up a loud
argument.”

The truck had entered dense traffic. It halted to await its turn to
enter the grounds. Slowly the line moved up.

Shouting “_News-Vue_” in a loud voice, Doyle attempted to drive through
the gate. He was promptly stopped.

“Not so fast, young man,” said the gateman. “Let’s see your passes.”

“Passes?” Doyle inquired innocently.

“You heard me,” retorted the gateman. “And don’t try any bluff.”

“See here, we don’t need any passes,” Doyle argued. “We’re newsreel men
for the _News-Vue_ Company.”

“Can’t let you through without passes. Those are my orders.”

“Have a heart,” Doyle growled. “We did have passes, but we lost ’em. If
we don’t get inside and locate our truck before race time, we’ll lose
our jobs!”

“And I’ll lose mine if I disregard orders,” the gateman countered.

Doyle alternately argued and pleaded, but to no avail. The gateman
remained firm. And at last he lost all patience.

“Pull out of line,” he ordered sharply. “You’re holding up these other
cars.”

Angrily Doyle swerved the truck, parking it a short distance away. His
eyes smoldered as he turned toward Flash.

“Joe certainly used his brain when he sent you here without
credentials!” he muttered. “Now how are we to get those pictures? Any
brilliant ideas, Mr. Evans?”