TROUBLE AT THE GATE

There was no mistaking the sarcasm in George Doyle’s voice. It was his
nature to lash out at others whenever he was confronted with
difficulties. This realization alone kept Flash from making an angry
retort.

“I have no ideas, brilliant or otherwise,” he responded quietly. “Still,
there ought to be some way to get the truck inside.”

“How?”

“Isn’t there an official around somewhere who might listen to our
explanation?”

“And while we’re trying to find him the races will be underway. We may
as well admit defeat and go back to the hotel.”

“Let’s wait,” urged Flash. “How about trying another entrance?”

Before Doyle could reply, two sound trucks bearing the name of a rival
film company, rolled slowly past and halted. The technician recognized
one of the men and hailed him jubilantly.

“Hello, Benny! Do a fellow a favor, will you? Tell the gateman we’re
okay.”

“What’s the matter?” the other driver asked. “Can’t you get inside?”

“Lost our passes.”

“Now isn’t that too, too bad!” The rival newsreel man grinned wickedly
as he shifted gears. “Never saw you before in my life, George. Watch for
our pictures on the screen!”

The two drivers flashed their passes and drove on through the gate.
Doyle glared after them, calling names under his breath.

Abruptly, Flash leaped to the ground. Without explaining to Doyle, he
walked back to the entrance.

“No arguments,” the gateman forestalled him. “You can’t get through
without a pass, and that’s final. Maybe you’re telling a straight story,
but orders are orders.”

“Isn’t there someone around here who would have the authority to pass us
into the grounds?” Flash asked.

The gateman shrugged. Then his gaze fastened upon a dignified man who
was walking toward the gate.

“Mr. Hartman could do it,” he said. “You might talk with him.”

Flash approached the man, and quickly explained the difficulty. His
straightforward manner impressed the official. He took a quick glance at
the _News-Vue_ truck and called to the gateman.

“It’s all right. Let them through.”

Doyle had no word of praise as Flash slid into the seat beside him.

“It’s almost time for the race to start,” he grumbled. “All the good
places will be gone.”

While rival newsreel companies had had first choice for positions, Flash
and Doyle still were able to park their truck so as to obtain an
unobstructed view of Dead Man’s turn. Hurriedly they arranged their
camera and sound equipment, having everything in readiness for the drop
of the starter’s flag.

With a few minutes still to spare, Flash shot several pictures with his
Graphic. He photographed a number of well known racers as they warmed up
their cars in preparation for the five hundred mile grind.

Observing the previous year’s winner talking with a dark, foreign
looking man who stood beside car 29, he snapped the pair together.

As the shutter clicked, the racer’s companion, turned angrily toward
Flash. Then pulling his hat down low, he hastily retreated.

“Camera shy,” thought Flash. “I’ve seen that fellow before. But where?”

He was staring after the man when Doyle called to him. Quickly he walked
back to the _News-Vue_ sound wagon. A policeman stood there, talking
with the technician.

“Anything wrong?” Flash asked.

“There will be if you don’t get this truck out of here!” the policeman
replied grimly. “You’re blocking the view of race officials.”

“What officials?” Doyle demanded belligerently.

“None of your smart talk,” the policeman returned. “Either show your
permit or move out of here!”

“I can’t see that we’re blocking the judges’ view,” Flash interposed.
“And we’re all set to shoot the start of the race. If we move now we’ll
likely miss it.”

“Why be so tough?” added Doyle.

The policeman had shown visible signs of weakening. But at Doyle’s
question, he became grim again.

“Get going!”

Arguments and explanations were useless. Once more the green _News-Vue_
truck rolled. This time Flash shared Doyle’s disgust. No other place was
available which would offer them an unobstructed shot at Dead Man’s
turn. It was at this point of the track where accidents most frequently
occurred.

“If we can’t train our lens there we’ll miss all the good pictures,”
Doyle said gloomily. “One site is as bad as another now.”

Looking over the big track, they finally chose a place at random.
Scarcely had they set up their apparatus behind the railing when the
first cars roared down the stretch.

“Start grinding!” ordered Doyle curtly.

Flash pressed a button which controlled a motor. The camera began its
steady whirr.

Motor wide open, a car whizzed past and skidded around the turn. Flash
kept his camera lens trained on the racers behind.

And then it happened!

Watching through the viewfinder, he saw a driver suddenly lose control.
A car skidded toward the railing.

Flash’s instinct was to leap aside out of all possible danger, but he
held himself to his post.

The car careened toward him. Racers directly behind could not swerve
aside. There was a terrific crash as car after car piled on each other
and went rolling. Two overturned on the track, and a third smashed
against the fence. The fourth tore away a section not six yards from
where Flash stood. A body hurtled through the air.

Horrified, but with nerves steady, Flash swung his camera to catch it
all. He kept grinding until the crowd closed in about the wrecked car,
blocking his view. A siren screamed.

“Get the ambulance!” Doyle yelled at him.

Flash shot the entire “clean up” scene, only delaying long enough to
first obtain a few “still” shots of the wreckage for the _Brandale
Ledger_. When track attendants had carried the injured from the field
and had towed away the battered cars, he drew a deep sigh. He felt as
weak as a rag, but at least he hadn’t wilted at the critical moment.

“Boy, we shot a picture that time!” Doyle exclaimed with his first show
of enthusiasm. “If we had stayed with the other newsreel men, we’d have
missed it!”

“The cop booted us into a lucky place, all right,” Flash agreed.

“No chance of our getting another shot like that today,” Doyle sighed.
“We may as well take some crowd pictures and then try for ordinary
fill-in stuff of cars coming down the stretch.”

They shifted locations twice, finally returning to a place at the
railing not far from their original site. Both Flash and Doyle felt that
they had experienced their big moment of the day. They anticipated no
additional favor of luck, but it came when a second crash occurred close
to where they had set up their equipment.

“What a day!” Doyle chuckled. “Now we’ll shoot the finish of the race
and be done!”

They managed after considerable difficulty to squeeze into a hole near
the finish line. Flash caught a picture of the race winner, weary and
covered from head to foot with dust and oil, being congratulated upon
his victory. The man was induced to speak a few words into the
microphone.

“Now we’re through,” Doyle said in satisfaction. “I certainly didn’t
miss any tricks! If the pictures turn out well, I ought to get a raise.”

They stowed their equipment away and edged the sound truck into the flow
of traffic. Flash waited, expecting that Doyle would offer some word of
praise. He waited in vain. The technician took the entire credit for the
day’s work to himself.

As they neared the exit gate, they caught sight of two rival sound
trucks.

“Hi, Benny!” Doyle shouted in a loud voice. “How did you do?”

“Terrible,” was the discouraged response. “We missed all the crashes.”

“I got everything,” Doyle boasted, “and I mean everything!”

During the ride back to the hotel, the technician remained in a high
mood. Flash had little to say. He was tired, and in addition, bored by
his companion’s smug boasting.

They stopped at the airport where Doyle previously had arranged for
shipment of the cans of exposed film to the _News-Vue_ offices. Flash
made up a package of his best “still” shots for the _Brandale Ledger_.
With that duty accomplished, his work was completed. At last he was free
to enjoy his vacation.

“Well, good-bye,” he said, extending his hand to Doyle.

“Good-bye?” the man echoed in surprise. “Where are you going?”

“To find myself a bed,” Flash answered. “Then tomorrow I may go back to
Columbia. I want to see how Joe is doing.”

“Oh, yes,” Doyle murmured, frowning. “I’ll have to drive over there
myself tomorrow. Want to ride along?”

Flash hesitated. The matter of car fare was an item to be considered.
Doyle certainly owed him free transportation if nothing more.

“Thanks,” he accepted. “I’ll be glad to ride along.”

But later, alone in his hotel room, he regretted the decision. He did
not like George Doyle. And the technician had no use for him. The
journey at best would be an unpleasant one.

Flash picked up a newspaper which he had bought on the street. The
headlines were devoted to the auto races and the two deaths which had
occurred. Already the train wreck story was old, buried on page two.
However, a revised and final list of the known casualties had been
reprinted. Again Albert Povy’s name appeared.

“I’m sure that fellow was on the train to shadow Major Hartgrove,” he
mused. “But now—well, it doesn’t matter. The mystery, if any, has been
blacked out by death.”

The long journey to Columbia proved less disagreeable than Flash had
anticipated. For the most part, George Doyle attended strictly to his
driving. True, he bemoaned the hard life of a newspaper cameraman, the
ingratitude of his superiors. But by this time Flash had learned to
expect a steady stream of complaint.

Reaching Columbia, they drove at once to the city hospital. Although the
building still was overcrowded with patients, Joe Wells had been
assigned to a private room.

They found him with his leg in a cast, propped up by pillows. He tossed
aside a newspaper as they entered and grinned a welcome.

“It’s sure good to see a familiar face in this morgue,” he chuckled.
“Sit down—anywhere except on the bed.”

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

“Not so hot,” he admitted, “but I’m getting out of here tomorrow if it
means climbing down a fire escape. Tell me, how did you make out at the
races?”

Doyle related their success, taking most of the credit upon himself. Joe
listened with a tolerant, half-amused attitude.

“Where was Flash while all this was going on?” he inquired dryly.

“Flash?” Doyle was brought up sharply. “Oh, he was right at my elbow. He
helped a lot.”

“I figured he might. You know, big stories and smash pictures always
have a way of breaking around him. He’s better than a rabbit’s foot any
day!”

“We were lucky yesterday,” Flash admitted with a grin. “Those auto
crashes seemed to have been staged for our special benefit. I only hope
the films turn out well.”

“How did you like the experience?” Joe asked curiously.

“It was exciting. Still, I can’t say I enjoyed it. Seeing two men go to
their deaths—”

“I know,” Joe interrupted, “it shatters you, at first. That’s why so few
men are any good as newsreel cameramen. But you have the stuff, Flash.
Why don’t you take my job until I’m able to get around again?”

The abrupt question startled both Flash and Doyle. The latter could not
hide a frown of displeasure.

“How about it, George?” Joe asked the soundman. “You’d like to have him
work with you?”

“Oh, sure,” he replied without warmth. “Only I imagine district manager,
Clewes, has a man hand-picked for the job.”

“Flash is on the spot. Another man would need to come here. I can send
Clewes a wire.”

“Please don’t bother,” Flash said quietly. “This is my vacation.”

“It would be good experience for you.”

“I don’t doubt that, Joe. Perhaps, some other time I’ll try it.”

“Well, thanks anyway for pinch hitting,” the newsreel man replied
gratefully. “That trip yesterday must have been quite a strain. You’re
tough as a hunk of whang leather, Flash.”

A nurse entered the room to take a temperature reading. After she had
gone, Joe turned to Doyle:

“Do me a favor, will you? Run over to the drug-store and buy me some
tooth paste.”

Doyle left on the errand. As soon as his footsteps had died away, Joe
motioned for Flash to draw his chair closer.

“Now we can talk,” he said comfortably. “What’s the real reason you
don’t want my job? Doyle?”

“His attitude figures. He doesn’t like me. Working with him would be
unpleasant.”

“You’ll get used to his grouching and boasting after awhile. I did. Why
not give it a little whirl—while you’re on your vacation anyhow? It’s
not easy, getting a chance to break into the newsreel game, and here it
drops right into your lap. If you don’t like it, you can go back to the
_Ledger_ and no harm done. And another thing, the pay is much better.”

As Flash remained thoughtfully silent, Joe added: “If your pictures turn
out well, Clewes may offer you the job on his own initiative. Don’t let
Doyle’s personality stand in your way.”

“I’ll think it over. By the way, how is the Major?”

Joe jerked his head toward the wall behind the bed.

“They have him in the next cell,” he revealed in a low voice. “I’m
telling you that old goof nearly drives me crazy.”

“Not out of his head?”

“You couldn’t prove it by me. He keeps that call bell ringing like a
fire engine! Always wanting this and that. And visitors! If you ask me,
the entire Intelligence Department of the Army has been here to see the
Major.”

“Then he’s connected with the secret service?” Flash questioned in
astonishment.

Joe raised himself on an elbow.

“I’m sure of it, although I never guessed it before. He thinks someone
on the train deliberately cracked him over the head after the wreck. He
claims the fellow tried to steal important papers he carried on his
person.”

“That’s odd, Joe. When I helped him from the wreckage he kept mumbling
something about being struck. I thought he was out of his head.”

“Maybe he still is, but he talks straight enough. These walls are like
paper. I’ve heard him conferring with big-wigs of the Army. They’re out
to get some fellow involved in an espionage plot against the
government.”

“Who is he, Joe?”

“No names mentioned. I’ve been wondering if it might not be that man we
saw in the club car.”

“Povy?”

Joe nodded. “He’s had the reputation of being mixed up in that sort of
business. Nothing ever was proven against him though.”

“Povy seemed to be interested in Major Hartgrove on the train. But he
couldn’t have been the one—”

Flash broke off quickly. George Doyle stood in the doorway.

Returning with the tooth paste, the sound technician had approached so
quietly he had not been heard. His attitude was that of a person who
suspected he was the object of discussion.

Conversation became general. Within a few minutes the two visitors took
leave of Joe.

“I’m holing in over at the hotel,” Flash remarked. “Before I leave town
I’ll drop around and see you again.”

“I’ll be here, too, until I hear from Clewes,” added Doyle. “So far I
haven’t had any assignment.”

They shook hands with Joe, and quietly closed the door behind them. As
they went down the hall, Flash could not keep from directing a curious
glance toward Major Hartgrove’s room.

The door stood half open. A man in military uniform sat with his back to
the corridor. Major Hartgrove, reclining in a wheel chair, also was
plainly visible. As Flash stared at him, the Major returned the steady
gaze.

“Someone you know?” asked Doyle.

“A man I helped at the time of the wreck,” Flash explained briefly.

As they passed on, the signal light over the Major’s door winked in
rapid succession. Flash smiled, recalling Joe’s remark about the army
man’s demand for constant service.

The two cameramen reached the elevator and were entering it when an
attractive nurse came quickly after them.

“One moment please,” she requested in a muted voice.

They both waited. Doyle straightened his tie and twisted his face into a
wasted smile. The pretty nurse gazed at Flash as she spoke.

“Major Hartgrove wishes to speak with one of you,” she said. “He doesn’t
know the name. However, he means the young man who aided him in the
wreck.”

“I guess that must be me,” acknowledged Flash. “My name is Jimmy Evans.”

“Then will you please come with me?”

The nurse turned and walked back down the corridor. Flash and George
Doyle both followed.

“You didn’t tell me you were a hero,” the technician said jokingly.
“Maybe the Major is going to pin a medal on your chest!”

At the door of Room 67, the nurse paused. She smiled apologetically at
Doyle.

“Do you mind waiting outside?” she requested. “The Major expressly
requested that he wished to see Mr. Evans alone.”