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Bob Phantom: Justice in Spite of Evidence (Updated 4/26/4)

Unfinished fan fiction. Works in progress.

Moderator: Rik



Posts: 8
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
JUSTICE: IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE

Written by Erwin K. Roberts

story © 2004 by Robert E. Kennedy
Bob Phantom is owned by Archie Comics

Part 1: Where's Walt?


Gerald Haskel, City Editor of the New York Metro News stalked into the big bay where reporters, copy boys, and various others toiled away getting copy ready to be set for the Evening Edition. Someone detected the scowl on his face and nudged another. The nudges spread like a ripple as the big open room quieted down except for the muffled clatter of the tele-type machines and news tickers.

Haskel surveyed his domain and the people in it. They'd done nothing wrong he reminded himself. Don't take it out on them. Even if this rag was only just this side of a scandal sheet, the people who worked for him were mostly pros, or trying to learn to be one. He let his breath out slowly, took another and as quietly as he could while still reaching the whole room asked, "Has anybody heard from Walt Whitney?"

He watched the heads shake almost in unison. He closed his eyes for a moment and came as close as he ever did to praying on the job.

-------------------------------

Ginger Garrett held on the grip on the handle of the taxi's door with all her strength. Ahead the traffic was stopped. Suddenly the driver swerved and headed
for an alleyway. Ginger swore the cabbie entered the narrow lane on two wheels. How did I ever get myself into a mess like this, she asked herself? Oh, that's right! I applied to do this when I put in for my job. Ginger barely held her emotions in check as the cab slithered along the alley trying to dodge trash barrels. To ease the strain she fixed her gaze on to the driver's identification mounted on the seat in
front of her. She would never forget the name Moe Schrievenitz.

--------------------------------------

Some time earlier, Grace Garrett, generally known as
Ginger, went to the door of her modest apartment.
She'd been quietly reading when the characteristic
four quick taps sounded from the knocker. She looked
out of the peephole in the door. Installed below the
standard peephole rested another device. On the
outside the thing looked like a knocker set with a big
decorative crystal. Ginger pulled back the plate on
the door to reveal a small mirror and a flush set
lever. Looking into the mirror she swung the lever
back and forth. Another mirror, smaller than a dentist
used rotated in the crystal. The reflected image
showed that nobody lurked on either side of the door.

As she opened the door she thought, "Walt Whitney must
be paranoid." She had not rushed to the door. She
wouldn't see him. She never did, even when she'd been
standing right next to the door. She stopped with the
door only open a fraction and removed the object
hanging from the outer knob.

Just what she expected, a padded cylinder, padded like
a photographer would carry a long lens in. She closed
the door and threw back in place the heavy deadbolt
that Walt personally installed.

She'd worked for Walt Whitney for almost five months.
That was getting close to the record the other women
at the paper told her. They were not being snide about
it either. Walt Whitney went through secretaries like
a race car driver did a set of tires. Every time
Whitney seemed happy with his secretary or Girl
Friday, she met Mister Right and got married.

Also like she expected, the padded case contained a
wax cylinder for a DictaPhone. Holding it very
carefully, she looked at the end that faced her from
the case. From the right angle she saw three letters
lightly scratched in the wax followed by another
symbol. 'T', 'P', and 'S' were the first three. Start
with the basics tonight she thought.

She opened the small coat closet and rolled out a
small cart. As she set up the DictaPhone machine and
the tiny typewriter the cart contained, she remembered
what all the letters Walt might use. T meant
transcribe the cylinder's contents. Probably
tomorrow's column Ginger thought. P stood for proof
read. Make sure the grammar passed both the paper's
and the syndicate's style guides unless the recording
told her otherwise. S for submit. Turn the piece in.

Some other letters showed up now and then. A circled
'S' and she could wait until she got to the office to
begin. Circled 'M' for medium and she called the paper
to send a copyboy or a service messenger to collect
the pages. That happened every few weeks. 'C' meant he
wanted the comments and suggestions. Not that she
didn't give them anyway when there was time. Twice
she'd seen 'H': hide the transcript. 'D' went further.
Hide the transcript and destroy the cylinder. At home
she kept a double boiler and a candle mold for that.

She never wanted to see the last one. Do the above and
'V' for vanish. "Don't go to a relative's. Find a hole
and pull in in after you," admonished Walt. "That's
not likely, but I irritate some powerful people from
time to time. I want an emergency plan in place, just
in case."

The last symbol on tonight's cylinder, the first time
she'd seen it, was a circled 'F.' That told her to to
type like crazy. Then grab a cab for a fast trip.

Ginger realized that her salary seemed generous to
some people. She also knew that the paper and the
syndicator only paid a part of it. Walt went into his
own pocket to cover things that happened outside
office hours. Ginger Garrett stayed on call at all
times. Another cart stood in the pantry of her parents
home. A third sat in a special locker at her branch of
the YWCA. She used all of them regularly.

Walt probably wrote the show business part of the
column off the top of his head, she decided. Some old
and new background about current shows filled most of
it. "That's it for the syndicate, Ginger," commented
Walt's voice from the cylinder.

Ginger rolled a new page with one less carbon copy
into the typewriter. The papers outside of New York
that carried "On Broadway" never saw what came next.
Walt launched into a recap of the story of corruption
in the City Parks Department that he had been telling
local readers about. He finished with, "The city got
stuck with a huge bill last year. Getting a pair each
of White-tailed Deer, Possums, and Raccoons, from
Missouri, cost more than talking the Communist
government out of a pair of Siberian Tigers delivery
included. I want to know why. So do a lot of other
people."

Walt's voice declared the column finished. Ginger
picked up her steno pad. He gave a few instructions
about how he wanted the New York version set up. Then
came. "Sorry to do this to you beautiful, but this
piece had just got to be in tonight's paper. Remember
what I told about the cab."

Ginger sat there for just a moment after Walt's voice
faded away. Then she pulled herself back to the here
and now. She put the pages in a manilla envelope. She
grabbed her purse and coat. She stuffed the envelope
in the pocket of the coat. Quickly checking the prism
viewer she hurried past the elevator and walked down
to the ground floor.

Ginger did remember what Walt told her about catching
a cab. She walked toward the neighborhood grocery
store. If she thought she was followed the store owner
would hide her and call for help. She let three cabs
go by her, then hailed the fourth.

As she climbed in the back seat the driver, middle
aged and balding cheerfully asked, "Where to,
beautiful?"

"The Metro News Building," Ginger said with a smile.
The cab pulled away from the curb at a decent pace.

"And that's as fast as you can make it," continued
Ginger. "I have a message for you from my boss Walt
Whitney. These are his exact words: 'Tell the driver
that Walt Whitney's paying for his speeding tickets,
plus twenty per cent for his trouble. Then give the
cabbie double the fare, at least.'"

The cabby glanced over his shoulder and said, "Walt
Whitney's word is good in this town, Miss. But are you
sure -you- want to do this?"

"It happens to be part of my job," replied Ginger

"Hang on, then!"

Before Ginger could grab anything the acceleration
tossed her back against the seat.

--------------------------------------

Part 2

Gerald Haskel, City Editor of the New York Metro News
sat in his office and looked over the three On
Broadway columns he could run in the edition of the
paper about to go to the presses downstairs. Walt
Whitney, the columnist, always kept him supplied with
a few spares. The pieces were decent enough. They
would do in a pinch. The syndicate would send them out
with out so much as a raised eyebrow. What the
substitutes did not have and what a lot of local
readers loved, no, expected, was one of Walt's tirades
against waste and corruption in the local and state
government agencies. He made some outrageous claims.
The Metro's owner made Whitney pay for extra liability
insurance for his column. The paper had been
threatened often, and sued a few times. Somehow the
cocky son of a gun came through with proof every time.
Not that those cliffhangers helped Haskel's nerves
any.

Reluctantly Haskel selected the column with some fun,
but respectful, background tales of Broadway's Royal
Couple, Lunt and Fontan. He walked out into the bay
and barked, "Anything from Whitney?" Again heads shook
all over the room. "Copy boy! Here's On Broadway. Take
it down to be set."

"Don't do that," called an out of breath voice coming
in from the elevator lobby.

Haskel turned and saw Ginger Garrett holding up a
manilla envelope. She hung on the arm of a roughly,
but neat and cleanly dressed man with a Hack button
pinned on his leather jacket.

She came forward with the cabbie hovering over her.
"Here you go, Mr. Haskel. Hot out of the typewriter.
Got set up requests and tonight's diatribe ready to
singe a fanny or two."

Haskel grabbed the envelope. He pulled the sheets half
out and glanced at them. Singed was an understatement.
At his nod the copy boy grabbed the envelope and
dashed for the stairs.

Business done he looked back at Ginger. "Miss Garrett,
are you feeling all right?"

"Just catching my breath, Mr. Haskel. The ride here...
Let me put it this way. Dr. Goddard should take a
break from shooting off those roman candles in New
Mexico and take a ride in Moe's taxi. Would give him a
whole new prospective on rockets." She turned to the
cabbie. "Come on, Flash Gordon. Let's just walk to
Walt's office and I'll get you paid."

---------------------------

Walt Whitney's sleep offered him little rest. His body
twisted itself into strange positions. His dream's eye
looked out on chaos. A jumble of images, some old,
some new, some unknown.

Here he sat behind the glass wall of the WXYZ Detroit
studios. Now to that stunning day at the University of
Missouri. Before hurrying into the offices of Hugo
Gernsback. A day running errands for Philo Farnsworth.
The heat and smell of a soldering iron in his hand.
The strange lights. Running through the blue glow just
before the voices started. Dropping that strangely
shaped tool across two very hot bus bars. The feeling
of nothing but the flowing of his own blood in his
veins as he left the chaos. As he surged toward
consciousness he heard the now familiar voices, "Where
can we take you?"

Whitney sat up and threw himself out of the bed in the
small room. He paced the floor for a few seconds as
his mind sorted out the here and now from who knows
where. No sense in fighting it, he decided. He walked
to the clothes press on the other side of the tiny
room.

As he opened the door he told himself for the
hundredth time, I watch too many Errol Flynn movies.
He pulled a one piece set of thick green trunks and
sleeveless shirt like a lot of acrobats wear. A jerkin
he'd once heard it called. Quickly he pulled that on
and tied off the laces closing the garment. He
snapped the heavy black leather belt shut with the two
rectangular ends. He stamped his feet into the roll
topped boots, then fastened the buckles hidden under
the rolls. The filmy red cape came next. Thin enough
that it constantly fluttered in the slightest wind or
just from the static electricity of his travels.
Strong enough to tie up an elephant, the cape came
loose at the first yank. No trap there.

Next Walt lifted the helmet out of its case. About
time to change the wig that made it seem to be open
topped. He'd worn blonde and black. Maybe brown next
time. He pulled the contraption over his head and
sealed the almost invisible seams. The green of the
helmet matched the green of the vest, or whatever you
called it. That helped hide the wiring that ran from
helmet to tunic to belt. His touch closed the
concealed connectors. He touched a spot on the belt
buckles. Power flowed from compact batteries to his
earphones, the three microphones, and to the specially
built crystal based radio receiver tuned to the most
common police radio bands. The Mercury like wings on
the helmet held the antennas.

Every circuit checked out. Walt pulled on the leather
gauntlets and strapped them down. He looked around the
room. Everything sat in the proper place. Not that it
mattered. No one else ever saw it. The room had no
doors.

Walt let himself hear the voices in his head again.
"Where can we take you? Where would you like to go?"
He told them. An instant later a small sound
dissipated and the puff of smoke vanished as if it had
never been. The room stood empty.

---------------------------------

The being known as Bob Phantom appeared on a rooftop
near the Great White Way. He came with the small sound
and puff of smoke that seemed to be required by his
mode of travel. That's why he appeared in a low
crouch. He'd specified the small area between the
building wall and the rear of the roof stairs.

As always, on the first appearance of a series, his
cape rose until almost parallel to the ground. He
wrapped the cloth around himself and held it against
his belt buckle. Most of the static charge drained
away. He checked the roof on both sides of the stair
covering before he rose and walked to the street side
of the building.

He looked down on Broadway and its cross street. Very
busy, he noted, with no surprise. Lots of people who
had good jobs took off between Christmas and New
Year's. That meant the theater lovers didn't have to
rush to make the curtain. They arrived early in their
Sunday best, or even in rentals. Knowing the thrill
theater going gave to real lovers of the art, he
wished them well.

Just as he turned to go he noticed a young couple
hurrying up the cross street from the subway station.
They were dressed up as much as possible, but clearly
they had little spare money. Tonight's their big date,
or night out if they were parents. He smiled as he
watched them talking and laughing. Out of the corner
of his eye a shadow caught his attention. Something
moved furtively in an alley about one hundred years
ahead to the lovers.

In a fractured part of a second Bob Phantom told the
voices to take him to the rooftop above the end of the
alley. Might have been a dog, or a kid, or even a
flapping piece of trash, but he did not think so.
Before he could blink he stepped through the fading
smoke to the corner of the roof. Behind a stack of
trash barrels two men with truncheons waited. A third
man barely peered around the corner of the opposite
building. Behind his back he held a large knife.

One to stop and herd the couple quickly into the
alley. Then the other two would box them in. Bob
Phantom seethed. Bad enough to rob them and scare them
half to death, even if they were not hurt. But to also
steal the wonderful evening the young people obviously
had saved up for made him just a little crazy. He'd
have to move fast.

The voices seemed reluctant to do what he asked of
them. He let them see the whole plan. Bob Phantom
vanished from the rooftop.

Behind the trash cans, a puff of noise sounded above
the two men. They looked up to see a small cloud of
smoke. Something fell out of the smoke. For a very
brief instant they saw a man scrunched up like a kid
doing a cannonball dive. The tucked up feet lashed out
full into the thug's faces. Before he hit the ground
another puff of smoke carried him away.

He returned even higher above the knife man. He
completed his backward roll as he landed almost
without sound. The knife man had heard the sound above
him. He made a quarter turn while looking up. Bob
Phantom seemed to rise out of the ground at the bottom
of his vision. The hard leather glove smashed into the
turning chin before the knife hand moved an inch.

Bob Phantom made sure the stalker fell into the alley.
He scooped up the knife and quickly checked the hood.
Out cold, jaw dislocated. He disappeared.

He reappeared in front of the other two. One had slid
down the wall as if boneless. The other appeared
groggy, but he tried to get up. Bob Phantom brought
the hilt of the knife down sharply against the side of
the mugger's head.

Turning, he quietly rushed back to the knife man.
Grabbing collar and belt he lugged the lug back behind
the trash barrels. He pulled in a stray arm or two. He
froze as he heard the couple just a few yards from the
alley's mouth. He stood still watching the three until
he no longer heard the happy conversation.

He pulled some very thin silk cord out of one of his
boots. Any thinner and I'd have a spider's web, he
thought. He hacked off a few pieces with the knife.
Quickly he hog tied the three. On a sheet of paper
from inside the tunic he wrote with his right hand,
"Muggers! Check them out. Bob Phantom." He stuck the
paper part way into the knife man's pocket, then
disappeared.

Bob Phantom's coming sent smoke streaming out of the
cracks of a drug store phone booth two blocks over. He
shoved in a nickel before telling the operator which
precinct he wanted. Less than two minutes later more
smoke puffed out of the booth. Exit Bob Phantom, back
to the rooftops.

---------------------------------


SIDEBAR

A Brief History of Mystery (Men)

or

Where Do They All Come From?



California, just before the American Civil War:

Don Gaspar Verdugo sat at his desk and wondered if he
was doing the right thing. Justice had left the valley
where his family had lived since the first mission
days. The court, under an outsider judge, ruled by who
put the most money in his pocket. The Sheriff and some
of his deputies took bribes almost openly. The other
deputies looked the other way in fear for their lives.

But worst of all honest people, mostly of Spanish
blood, lost their homes, their land, everything by
legal trickery. Anyone who stood up to them suffered
greatly or disappeared.

Pleas to Sacramento went unanswered. The ladronies,
thieves the honest Americanos in the valley called
them, knew people in the capitol who could make their
requests seem false or exaggerated.

Don Gaspar's soon to be son -in-law Renaldo wanted to
fight the ladronies openly. The Don only just managed
to hold the outraged vaquero in check. He promised a
plan. Now he must carry out the necessary steps.

He placed a ruler below an ornate crest on a piece of
thick paper. He used the ruler as a guide moving it
for each new line. What he wrote disappeared as it
dried. The letter began, "Diego, my old friend..."
---------------------------------------


New York City, late 1939
Office of the Publisher of the New York Clarion

The following section written by "Robert Wallace."
---------------------------------------


Eddie Collins grabbed the door handle-burst inside the
huge private office whose French windows looked high
over the Manhattan night.

At his rude entry, two men jerked up startled,
surprised heads.

Frank Havens, elderly, rugged-faced owner of the
Clarion and a string of other equally powerful papers
throughout the nation, rose rose to his feet from the
big desk where he had been sitting, proof-sheets
bearing gruesome murder news before him.

Richard Curtis Van Loan, wealthy young idler and
man-about-town, who was here at Mr. Havens friend and
guest, lifted his bored, world-wearied gray eyes in
questioning annoyance. Seated in a comfortable chair,
Van Loan was puffing idly at a cigarette, his legs
crossed.

Then before anyone could speak, the bored Richard
Curtis Van Loan suddenly leaped from his chair. His
gray eyes lost their ennui, became sharp slits. It was
he who saw the oozing, crimson trickle doming from
beneath Collins' coat and dripping soundlessly to the
soft carpet.

Collins' body swayed giddily as Van Loan leaped
forward. The latter's strong arms reached out, caught
the young cartoonist even as the youth went limp,
collapsing.

"This man's been shot!" Van Loan said, his customary
drawl sharp now.

Heavens' momentary annoyance turned to quick alarm.
The publisher grabbed an interoffice phone, called a
downstairs secretary, ordering that a doctor be
summoned. The he went over to where Van Loan had
carried the riddled youth to a lounge and placed him
on it.

"Collins!" he cried, all concern now. "What happened?
Who--?"

the eyes of Eddie Collins, already going dull,
flickered. His lips moved. A soughing rattle made the
words which came from his throat difficult to hear.

"Envelope--" he gasped. "Envelope! Gangsters
--probably still down in the areaway cellar looking
for me. Freight elevator -- they got it from me -- but
they aren't sure --"

"Got what Collins? What do you mean?" Havens spoke
with fierce bafflement. "How could you -- a comic
strip man-- be mixed up with thugs, with shooting!"

"Envelope tells," Collins repeated. "Big case, Mr.
Havens. I was doing it for a feature -- when the
murder story broke. Bringing it for the Phantom --
now."

Even in his agony, he pronounced the name with
reverent awe.

Havens stiffened. The publisher's eyes flashed to his
worldly young friend, Richard Curtis Van Loan. And he
got a fresh shock of surprise.

For Van Loan had suddenly gone into a whirl of swift
action. he had peeled off his dress coat. In his hands
was a flat leather kit, which was snapped open to
reveal a mirror and an array of tubes and jars.

Again Collin's gasping voice interrupted. "Case for
Phantom! God, if only you could -- get his now, Mr.
Havens." He sobbed. "Envelope -- thugs got it--"

Havens administered to the riddled man as best he
could while Van Loan worked away on his queer little
kit.

When the publisher toward Van Loan, his jaw gaped.

Van, standing close, eyes darting from the man on the
lounge to his own mirror, was still dabbing his face
with a special charcoal. In seconds his handsome,
world-wearily features had almost completely vanished!
In their place had grown another visage -- the face of
Eddie Collins.

It was not a semblance that could stand close
inspection under bright light, being more of an
impressionistic sort of job, the likeness cleverly
created by a few lines, by shading. Nor did Van Loan
take precious time adding to it.

"Give me Collins' coat, Frank -- quickly! It ought to
be enough!"

Van Loan pulled on the coat and assumed a stoop.
Though he was tall, he seemed by his posture to look
even more like the riddled cartoonist.

So swiftly had he made the transformation that now,
before the dying Collins saw what had happened, his
own "double" was darting out of the office in a swift
blur of motion which concealed both the incongruity of
his dress, and his makeshift disguise.
-------------------------------------
The preceding 674 words copied from "Fangs of Murder"
in the January 1938 issue of The Phantom Detective.
-------------------------------------

An hour and a half later Frank Havens sat in the small
apartment hidden behind his office. He re-lit his
cigar for the fourth time in the last ten minutes,
then tossed it into the ash tray. He couldn't taste it
anyway. The talented young cartoonist's body left some
time ago for the morgue. As soon as Van Loan left the
floor he's called the police. No surprise that
Inspector Gregg appeared to do the initial interview.
The senior detective often worked with the Phantom.
Gregg used very guarded language on his visit while
others were around. When they were alone and off the
record, he asked if the Phantom was involved.

"Completely off the record, Inspector, the Phantom is
on the case. It seems hard to believe that the
Phantom has worked hand in glove with the police for
over ten years now. Bet you didn't know he's not the
only one. Nick Carter, the first one, worked with the
department just about the same way more than fifty
years ago. Gregg nodded he'd heard the oldest retired
police veterans speak of Nick Carter. Like Carter and
Clark Savage, the Phantom earned the respect of the
police he dealt with.

Havens looked at his watch. No word yet from Van Loan.
None expected really, for some time. He rose and
walked to a locked cabinet on the wall. Inside an
unmarked array of buttons and switches awaited his
touch. He picked up a telephone headset and pushed two
buttons. It had cost him a pile of money, but now he
was secretly connected to the phone company's most
modern automatic switching system in the city. He
dialed. He counted the tiny sounds in the receiver as
each switch and relay worked its magic. One final
click, then briefly silence. A different clicking
started. Havens counted to five. The clicking stopped,
replaced by the scratching of the stylus on the wax
cylinder of of the Dict-A-Phone.

"This is your benefactor. We need to meet," said
Havens. "Time for you to begin keeping your side of
our agreement. I'll be in the midtown Automat at five
thirty in the morning and at one in the afternoon. Be
there."
-------------------------------------

California, in the middle of the nineteenth century

Don Gaspar wrote, "On our voyage to España we were
barely young men, even if we thought differently. Now
we are almost old men. Ignacio, our strong guardian
and shepherd in those days. is known to all now as Old
Ignacio.

"When we returned to California two years after you,
we heard many stories about the changes in the Pueblo
de Los Angeles. Others told us of how scholarly a
Cabbilliero you were. Ingacio and I spoke of this only
one time, and never again.

"Now life in our beautiful valley has changed. I hope
you will find time to advise myself and one other the
ways you have used to deal with such changes. A close
look at young Miguel's drawings will show you how our
village looks today."

-------------------------------------
Clarion Building, the last week of 1939


Frank Havens sat at his desk looking over proofs of
lead section for tonight's Clarion. Jacket off,
sleeves rolled up, and tie tucked into his shirt he
poured over the copy. Havens still liked to get his
hands dirty in his chosen business. Dirty literally
when you handled fresh proofs with damp ink. He'd
marked a few things and made a note or two. Nothing
that couldn't go out as set, he decided.

If he found time tomorrow he'd talk with Peterson, the
Editor, about one reporter whose prose was not quite
tight enough. He looked up at the hands of the
twenty-four hour clock as the phone rang. Peterson,
right on time. He'd paid a bundle to have the special
wiring circuits put in that synchronized all the
clocks in the building. "Put it to bed," he told the
Editor. "Anything new, strange, or different, comes in
on any Mystery Man I want a carbon on my desk as soon
as it leaves the typewriter. They're sprouting like
weeds these days. Call my usual numbers if your gut
says something's breaking."

Havens glanced at the clock again. One minute past
deadline. Anyone who came to see him from the time the
proofs came in until now without a warrant, or a halo,
would be cooling their heels in the waiting room. His
intercom buzzed.

Inez Finnigan served as his secretary and gate keeper.
She could keep anything this side of a battering ram
out of his office. She'd learned Irish stubbornness
from her husband. Her Vega blood never let her back
down. The inflection in her voice told him all was
serene. "Mr. Quinn from the District Attorney's office
is here, Mr. Havens."

"Send him in, please," replied Havens This might get
interesting, he thought. Quickly he wadded up a piece
of personal stationary and put it on the floor where
Quinn would surely step on it. Presently something
lightly tapped the door a couple of times. The handle
turned. The door opened slowly. Tony Quinn, Special
Assistant District Attorney, walked into the room. His
foot came down on the wad of paper. He hesitated for a
split second, then continued. He looked straight ahead
through smoked glasses. The tip of his white cane
probed about eighteen inches in front of his toes.

Havens spoke up, "I haven't changed any of the
furniture since you were last here."

"Thank you, Mr. Havens," said Quinn quietly. He took
one more step then turned forty-five degrees. Another
step and his cane found the arm chair he normally used
while visiting. He sat down and turned his head in
Havens direction.

"is this an official visit," asked Havens?

"Partly," replied Quinn. The hint of a smile flickered
across his face. "I have been instructed to ask you if
you have any news of the Phantom that you work with."

Havens' eyebrows went up about an inch. "That I work
with? What do you mean?"

Tony Quinn did smile this time. "I'll cover that in a
moment. Officially: have you had any additional
contact with the man known as the Phantom who carries
a diamond studded domino mask shaped badge?"

"Officially, I have not. I do not expect to anytime
soon." Havens' tone changed to one of lively
curiosity, "Now why in the world did you need to be
that specific about the Phantom?"

"Because, old friend, more than one Phantom lurks in
our streets. Reminds me of the Abbott and Costello
routine. The Phantom's on first. The Phantom's on
second. The Phantom's on third, and at shortstop. If
there weren't so many dead bodies, it really would be
funny."

"Tony, now that official business is done and the door
has closed itself, talk! You definitely have my
attention."

"Sure, Frank. Let's call your friend the Phantom
Detective to keep things straight. Now I expect you
have heard of the man known as "Bob Phantom?"

"Of course I have. Must be some kind of stage
magician. Appears and disappears in a puff of smoke.
He's broken up a few very nasty things, the way I've
heard it."

Quinn paused. He looked up, as if stretching his neck
before continuing. "That he has Frank. However, if
absolutely nothing else, he can be charged with a
large number of illegal entries. Never breaking and
entry, mind you. In the last few weeks the DA's office
learned of the Phantom Bullet. This is off the record.
We don't have many details yet. Apparently he shoots
crooks with disappearing bullets."

"I've heard those stories, Tony," said Havens, "but I
never heard a name attached to them. Some new Mystery
Man?"

"So It seems. But last night was the corker. Did you
hear about the car that smashed into Modells' Outdoor
Store last night? I thought you would have. What the
police did not put out was that the LaSalle that
cracked up had been involved in a rolling gun battle
that started at the Algonquin. Not the usual gunfight,
either. Not car to car or car to sidewalk. Several
credible witnesses gave statements that a muscular man
in tights, hood and mask, somehow held onto the car
and exchanged fire with the occupants. Some said the
outfit looked purple, others called it a pinkish-red.
No joking. Three people told us he had on striped
trunks, of all things.

"Well after the smashup he got away. He left some
hired muscle in need of varying amounts of medical
treatment. We found a distinguished looking man shot
dead. Papers said he'd arrived on the morning boat
from England. Somehow Commissioner Ralph Weston
managed to talk Simon Templar into taking a look. He
identified the dead man as Sebastian Moran, crook to
the upper crust. One of the "Ungodly", he said. Of
course that's not official, yet.

"Right before that car crashed it almost sideswiped a
bus going from the Public Health facility to the
docks. Seems a ship out of Bengalia, (I think that's
how you say it.) came in with a couple of the crew
sick. Public Health ran everybody but an anchor watch
downtown for for tests. With the holidays and all they
cooled their heels for hours. They finally got started
back long after dark. After the near miss the driver
pulled over to get himself back together. One of the
officers on the scene came over to check on them. He
got an earful. Most of the crew are Negroes from that
same region of Africa. Every one of them identified
the man in tights as 'The Phantom.' They also called
him, and I'm quoting, "The Ghost Who Walks."

Havens rolled his eyes. "Yet another Phantom?"

"Oh, it gets better. The uniform talking to them,
fellow name of Burland, showed more curiosity than
most. A lot of young cops would have written that talk
off as superstition. He questioned the Captain and the
First Mate. They've lived and sailed most of their
lives from those waters. They told Burland that
everybody who sails the Indian Ocean knows about the
Phantom. He has been a Holy Terror to pirates,
highjackers, and smugglers in that region for nearly
four hundred years."

Havens felt the words leave his lips unbidden, "The
Walkers!"

"What did you say, Frank," asked Quinn.

"Come on back to the apartment, Tony. I'll fix us a
drink."

"Sure, why not? I won't be driving."

-----------------------------------

Almost Old California

Miguel followed Old Ignacio into Don Gaspar's study.
He had only been in the room once before. His
benefactor's hair held much more gray than just a few
years ago, but his energy seemed little changed. He
smiled less since the Americano newcomers began making
all the legal trouble in the valley.

"Welcome, my friends. Miguel, how many drawings did
you have time to finish?"

"Only four, Don Gaspar," said Miguel, taking the
sheets of paper out of the box he carried. "Those in
the Pueblo do not even see me as I sit and draw
anymore. I have put at least one of the trouble makers
in each picture."

"Four will be enough. Sit down and take this pen and
carefully draw a line around each one of them. The ink
pot holds lemon juice. The line will vanish. When they
are dry we will mix them with your other drawings. My
old friend will especially like the one of Renaldo and
my daughter on their horses. Here is my letter to put
on top of the pictures."

Miguel looked at the letter. It began: "My Dear Old
Friend, Ignacio, the traveling companion of our youth,
has carved a few more of nature's creatures to gather
around the feet of your statue of San Francisco. Young
Miguel, of my household, hones his talent by drawing
the people he can make stand still and by sketching
the people of our Pueblo. This will give you some idea
of what you might see if you visit..."

Don Gaspar continued, "My real letter is on this blank
page. He will recognize the Crest of our School and
know to make the writing appear. We will wrap the
letter around this carving of a fox."
--------------------------------------

Just Before New Years 1940
Frank Havens Apartment in the Clarion Building


Frank Havens opened the hidden door to the apartment.
"What'll it be, Tony? A highball?"

"Sounds good, Frank," replied the Special Assistant
District Attorney as he rose from his chair. "I
officially declare myself off duty."

Havens spoke about the ingredients he used as he fixed
two medium sized highballs. He did this more to guide
the man with the white cane, than to praise the stock
he used. After Quinn came through the door Havens
pushed one of several buttons that closed and locked
the soundproof door to the apartment. His actions
hidden by his body, he slipped the cork out of a
bottle. Turning he flicked it straight at Tony Quinn.

When the cork bounced of his left shoulder Quinn
stopped. He waived his cane further out than usual and
felt the air with his other hand. "What was that,
Frank? What hit me?"

Havens smiled, "Tony, you have my word that we are
alone in this apartment."

Tony Quinn's body suddenly lost all of its stiffness.
He twisted his neck and took two drum major's steps.
As he took off the dark glasses he asked, "What's with
all the testing Frank? Is there going to be a pail of
water above the door when I leave your office?"

"I just wanted to see how well you're carrying off the
deception. You were blind long enough to learn the
behaviors. I decided to find out how well you did with
your sight back for, what is it? over eighteen months
now."

"A bit over eighteen," smiled Quinn. "Greatest day of
my life. The day I realized I'd see normally again."

"And the Black Bat's handled several major cases in
the last fifteen months. Do you feel that you are in
the business for the long haul?"

"If my luck continues to hold, Frank, I think I've got
a few more years in me. I've had some narrow scrapes.
But as the Black Bat I feel I can do more good than if
I became the U.S. Attorney General. Say, before I
forget, I wanted to get your opinion on why we have so
many big time gangsters and so-called super crooks in
America today."

"Don't get me started, Tony! I'll lecture you half the
night. The short form is this. A bunch of well meaning
reformers inflicted Prohibition on us. That began just
as we finished putting hundreds of thousands of young
men through the horrors of the Great War. The
experience made countless veterans strong and
determined men. Some good. Some bad. And others just
determined to look out for themselves after 'saving'
civilization.

"The general public hated Prohibition. They felt that
their rights were taken away. If they wanted a glass
of beer, or some wine with dinner, by God they would
get it. That meant that anyone with gumption and some
organization skills could get rich by making the man
in the street happy. During the so called Roaring
Twenties we came closer than I hope we ever do again
to giving the whole country over to criminals.

"Came repeal a few years back and a lot of crooks lost
their jobs, like so many honest people did in the
Depression. That put huge numbers of bad guys on the
street. That meant that the lunatic fringe, who are
always with us, could hire the cheap labor needed to
carry out their wild plans. In addition, some very
powerful people decided to get more powerful. Make the
country run their way. That happens some in any
society. Then we've also got the political fruitcakes.
The Fascists and the Communists. Some parts of
socialism even sound good to me, of all people. Won't
work, because even the Dictators can't change human
nature. Hell, even the Pilgrims experimented with
socialism. They almost starved because of it. End of
lecture, Tony. Can I top you off?"

"No, I'd better stay at one. Could be action tonight
after all. Wait a minute, Frank. I've side tracked us.
When I told you about the latest Phantom you blurted
out "the Walkers." wasn't it? What gives?"

Havens sighed. He never liked giving this information
to someone new. But Tony Quinn was already in the
game. "Tony, I'll bet you thought I was crazy when I
showed up on your doorstep with proof you were the
Black Bat. Crazy because I wanted to help you instead
of putting you on the Clarion's front page. I'll bet
you you believed my work with the Phantom.. err..
Detective caused that. Just keep nodding until I get
something wrong.

"They call Simon Templar 'The Robin Hood of modern
crime.' But Robin Hood was not the first Mystery Man
by at least fifteen hundred years! Don't spill your
drink man, there's a lot more. Near as I can tell,
from the time of the first civilizations tyrants and
bullies arose. Soon thereafter mysterious avengers and
justice seekers emerged to counter them. We'll go into
details another time.

"Among people of European decent there are several
families who fill the Mystery Man role time and again.
I can't give you real names in most cases but you know
a member of one family and possibly another. The Hoods
pop up every generation or two. So does the family
I'll call the Rangers. And of course that hack
McCulley somehow found out and exposed the de la Vega
family. Bet you didn't know that my secretary is a
Vega.

"Also bet you didn't know that there was more than one
'Masked Rider of the Plains.' There were at least
five. And that's not counting three Vega descendants
who used the Zorro name. They even wrote Dime Novels
about Deadwood Dick in the eighties and nineties. My
grandfather fed them the basic information. The
writers and the publisher never suspected that the
real Deadwood Dick happened to be a former slave
turned cowboy."

That revelation caught Quinn as he swallowed. When he
finished coughing he said, "That's a good one, Frank.
But the Walkers?"

"Okay. Out in the southwest is an unclimbable mesa
named Walker's Table. The Indians and the old timer
whites keep away from it. There's supposed to be a
ghost or demon with a mask that lives there. Some of
Ben Franklin's disputed writings talk of a Mr. Walker
who destroyed bad guys in Paris and that they met
again in Philadelphia. If I dug through my private
files I could find a bunch of stories about a Mr.
Walker who stood up for justice at various places in
our country and the western hemisphere in general. The
stories span well over two hundred years. I figure the
Walkers to have the longest history in the business. I
need to meet this Phantom, or Ghost Who Walks, Tony.
Promise me, if the Black Bat runs into him you'll give
him a message. Give him my private number. Tell him
Mr. Walker will be welcomed, very privately at the
Clarion."

Quinn finished his highball and rose. "I'll do what I
can, Frank." he said as he retrieved his cane and
assumed his pose as a blind man. "I'd like to meet Mr.
Walker, myself."

Havens escorted him to a cab.
---------------------------------

California -some time after our last visit

Miguel felt trapped and very alone on his own land.
Don Gaspar had arranged for him to buy this orchard
and start out on his own. Now some Americanos told him
the sale was no good. He should leave now before he
got put in jail for being on his own land.

Everyone knew that the new Magistrate in the Pueblo
ruled for those who paid the most. If he did not
leave, these men, the leader, and a man with a scared,
evil, face in front of him, and the four others
behind, would beat him senseless and bring him to the
Magistrate with many lies. He would not be the first.

The group's leader stepped forward. His every word
dripped with insult.

"Come on muchacho, don't make us hurt you. You
comprende, boy? We'll..."

Miguel heard a slight whistling sound in the twilight.
The Americano's words stopped in his throat as a rope
with weights on the ends wrapped itself around his
neck. The impact knocked him flat.

From out of the trees came a voice like a thunderbolt.
"Señores, leave now, or face the wrath of Argus, the
Avenger!"

All turned toward the voice. From the opposite
direction rushed a horse and rider. As he passed the
lone figure with scared face, his booted foot sent the
man sprawling. He leaped from the horse and landed
before the other four intruders. One of them gasped,
"The Blue Eagle!"

Now Argus, for surely it was him flipped his cape
behind him. He held a sword in one hand, and a whip in
the other. Swiftly Argus cracked the large whip into
the middle of the four. They leapt apart. His blade
swept at the two on the right. They ducked to avoid
being scalped. Argus swiftly stepped forward. His
right foot caught one man's lowered jaw with a crack.
A split second later the hilt of his sword slammed
into the top of the other's head. He whirled to meet
the charge of the other two. A loop of the Blue
Eagle's whip settled around the neck of one. The
figure with the billowing sleeves and pant legs lunged
back and to the side. The man in the loop stopped
short. The sword hissed thru the air. The fourth man's
belt parted and he sprawled into a summersault.
Suddenly the man in the winged hat dropped the whip
and pulled a pistol from the brace of three in his
belt and quickly fired.

Miguel turned and saw the upraised knife fall from the
hand of the scared man. Blood welled from his
shoulder.
-------------------------------------


Midtown Automat 5:30AM Thursday December 28


Dressed warmly, and somewhat roughly, Havens pushed
thorough the door of the Automat. He surveyed the
tables and their occupants. He effected a slouching
walk as he headed for the multitude of little windowed
doors hiding various food items.

Havens regularly bought mixed change and old bills
from several of his employees. Some of them thought it
strange behavior for a very wealthy man. The more
savvy staffers understood that a shush fund of
unmarked and unremarkable money served to pay sources
when necessary. It might also save someone like the
Phantom vital time on a case.

Havens pulled out a fat battered leather change purse
and squeezed it open. He fed coins into the slots.
Soon his tray held scrambled eggs, sausage, a cup with
a tea bag and a slice of elderberry pie that he
happened to like. He put the change purse away as he
filled the tea cup from the hot water spigot.

He settled at a table in a quiet corner. He carefully
placed his hat so that anyone could see the small
green and yellow feather sticking out of the hat band.
He opened a copy of the Daily Sentinel and folded it
back to Brett Reid's editorial. He tried to read and
watch the crowd at the same time.

Even so he only had a second's warning before a figure
in a long dark coat and wide brimmed hat sat down
across from him. In the band of the slouch hat sat a
purple feather. The shaded mouth of the newcomer
smiled a bit. "Don't we look a sight?" he chuckled
softly. "Everybody'll think we're bird watchers."

"Whitney," began Havens, a little irritated, "we're
here on serious business."

"Easy. Easy, my friend," Walt Whitney replied. "I take
my work, all of it, very seriously. I don't take
myself seriously. The strange and sometimes silly
things around me can't all be harbingers of doom and
gloom, either. Keeps the ulcers away."

"Very well, point taken," said Havens. "You've done
very well for yourself with the On Broadway column and
the other thing. You've used the information you've
been given to seriously rock the official boat when
necessary. Now I need your help in an investigation. I
had other plans, but they blew up in my face..."

"A dead body in one's office changes a lot. Doesn't
it, Mr. Havens?"

Frank Havens sat speechless for a moment. Then he
smiled. "Well, I guess I might have expected that. But
how?"

"It wasn't easy. Because of the information you fed me
I figured you were probably press. The rag I work for
has some good journalists. But there is no editorial
soul. No civic prestige on the line either. If its
legal and it sells papers they pretty much do it. My
rants about the city's problems fit right in. With me
fronting you can light the fires of the just under the
problems and not lose your good relations with the
powers that be. Course the impeccable New York Times
would not do such a thing. Charles Foster Kane's
sheets wouldn't want to lose any sales that way. Same
of some others, and radio, too. That basically left
you and Brett Reid with the money, the sources, and
the drive to clean out the problems

"Tracing you wasn't easy, but with the help of a
couple of friends I back tracked your secret phone
line to the Clarion building. I watched you come in.
You were the right size and shape. You didn't change
your posture until you were inside. Your voice
confirmed your identity, but that face is really good.
I couldn't have picked you out of a police lineup as
Frank Havens."

Havens snorted, "You don't work with a magician for
ten years and not learn a trick or two. As you've
probably guessed the Phantom is currently after the
thugs who killed Collins, and their boss. After that
mess in Miami and the Everglades I wanted him to rest
until New Year's Eve." (See "Money Mad Murders" in the
November 1939 issue of The Phantom Detective.)

"So what's cooking on the thirty-first?"

"I don't know," replied Havens. "That's the problem.
My people, not just the Clarion staff, have picked up
a couple of tidbits that pointed to something big
happening at the Mayor's bash. Most of the people you
rail against will probably be there. Including the
fellow who did the procurement for those zoo animals.
I don't know what may happen, but no underworld
interlopers allowed. Every pickpocket, second story
man, and car thief in town seems to have been warned
to stay far away from the party. I want you there,
ready for anything."

Walt leaned back in his chair. "I'd planed to put in
an appearance, invited or not. When the crooked and
incompetent bureaucrats party it will be my pleasure
to be there."
--------------------------------------

Miguel, now an artist of some note, stood before his
easel. With the end of his brush he scratched above
his ear where the gray in his hair was most notable.
He felt cramped in this stone room beneath the
Hacienda de Verdugo. He had vowed to preserve the
secrets of the family that raised him on canvas. He
spent much time here while the rich people of the
region waited for portraits to be finished. He again
asked for many blessings on those that invented the
photograph.

The figure on the canvas neared completion. To begin
on the background Miguel tried to remember the exact
colors of the sunset that day so many years ago. As he
mixed colors on his palette he remembered Don Gaspar's
revelation to him.
===================================

Some years earlier:


One day Don Gaspar sent for him from his orchard. They
met behind the closed door of the Don's study.
"Miguel, Old Ignacio tells me that a newspaper
reporter from the east wants to meet you. He will ask
you to tell him about, and draw Argus, The Avenger,
for the newspapers and perhaps for those 'Dime Novel'
storybooks. Draw anything else for him, but please, as
a favor to me, pretend you know nothing of Argus
except that he once saved you."

Miguel opened his mouth to speak, but Don Gaspar
raised a hand. Miguel saw a familiar look. His mentor
came to a new decision. "No, that is not fair, my
young friend. I must show you the reason I ask."

With that Don Gaspar rose. He walked to the corner of
the room and put both feet on one small floor stone.
On the wall next to the stone he pulled on the holder
of the oil lamp. Miguel heard something click behind
him.
=================================

Miguel put down his brush and palette. He stretched
until his hands touched the rock ceiling. As he worked
the stiffness out of his hand he remembered what he
experienced the first time he went below the hacienda.
=================================

Some years earlier:

Miguel sat in a boat in eerie darkness. Only a couple
of whale oil lamps held the blackness at bay. Behind
him machinery hissed and churned. Beside him the
horses shifted their feet restlessly. At the bow of
the boat Old Ignacio put down the bulls-eye lantern
and began to take off his white clothes. Miguel could
not tell what he now put on, but he disappeared
completely. Only as he opened the shutter of the
lantern to check the shore of rock could Miguel tell
where he stood.

A hand fell on Miguel's shoulder. In the dim light of
the fire grating Miguel recognized Andy Crane, the the
black skinned Mountain Man. The huge man could move
more quietly than a shadow when he wished. "Almost
there, amigo," he whispered as the boat approached a
rocky ledge.

Old Ignacio stepped ashore and tied a rope to a
boulder. Andy threw a loop over another big rock and
pulled the boat in. Miguel heard nothing, but the
Indian swung the lantern around as a figure stepped
out of the blackness. Though the beam never rose above
waist high, enough light reflected off the stone walls
to show the wings on the tall man's hat.

"Señor, we are ready," said Old Ignacio.
==================================

Almost finished placing the trees of his orchard on
the canvas, Miguel stepped back. A work to be proud of
even if few now living ever saw it. I lived this, he
thought. Some time in the future, maybe a century from
now, many people will see how I was rescued.

He set down his medium sized brush. He picked up his
tiny detail one. Loading up a tiny bit of a bright
orange paint he added some texture to the pistol's
muzzle flash.

Satisfied, he retuned to work on the trees. Almost
done, he told himself. One day all will know the
courage of Argus, the Blue Eagle.


Exactly 5:30am - The Room Without Doors


As the radio set warmed up the crackling of the main
police band slowly disturbed Walt Whitney's deep,
sound, sleep. Two minutes later power flowed into a
standard Philco tabletop set. Music flowed out.

Finally Walt's hand reached up to the beam feeding an
electric eye. The lights came on. He sat up and
stretched. The voices were quiet.

Walt rose and stretched some more. If he hurried there
would be time for a shower. He needed one. He pulled
on his street clothes. He asked the voices to take him
to his apartment.

There was no answer. Must have really worked them out,
he mused. He took a deep breath. He reminded himself
that he could get out of the room without their help.
He asked the voices again. For the first time he could
remember he felt reluctance from the voices. Finally
he disappeared.

-----------------------


Walt pushed his way out of the revolving door of his
apartment building. A decent morning for the last week
of December, he decided, I'll walk. He thanked the
doorman, but declined a cab.

He felt totally alive after the best night's rest he'd
had since... since... Well, a long time, anyway. Not
as much sleep as he wanted, or needed, but he felt
like a new man. As long as he kept moving he'd be
fine. He started walking in the direction of the
paper. He kept up a running dialog with himself. He
did this partly because this helped him organize his
day. Helped keep the voices at bay, too.

Whitney, my man, you've got to get to the gym more
often. Not to mention stretch out before you go
jumping. I can still feel that back flip. Do you know
that? Ol' Pop 'n' Puff put in four public appearances,
plus that alley mugging. Busy night. Let's see, got to
send Ginger shopping for a new gown about first thing.
Good gravy would she be beautiful in that lame' number
at Sacks. Got to get a look at some more of these the
ledgers at the Park Department. Heard the Governor
might send an auditor. More than enough of those in
town without importing them. I've got three or four
columns worth of material that just needs a quick
polish. Better dictate them this morning in case
things go extra crazy on New Year's.

Walt stopped at a Spudnuts shop for a dozen of the
potato based donuts he and Ginger both liked. He
reached the building housing the offices of the New
York Metro News ten minutes later.

As usual he entered through the loading dock where
tons of paper came and went on a daily basis. He waved
at the pressmen pulling maintenance on the huge
presses. Several of them were theater goers who relied
on him for advice on shows, not to mention an
occasional comp.

As usual he slipped into the press room office and
called the receptionist. His eyebrows went up when the
she told him the Assistant Parks Commissioner was
waiting. "He's reading all your recent columns while he waits," she added.

Two minutes later Walt walked up to where Crandell Lubbers sat reading. "Good morning Mr. Lubbers. Grab those clippings and let's head for my office. Care for a Spudnut?"

A moment later Walt offered the A.P.C. the only comfortable chair in his small office. He pulled an armless wooden one near it. "Be with you in a sec'," Walt said as he leaned over his desk. "Got to check for urgent messages." He moved a big paper weight away from a couple of papers. He glanced at the papers, then put them down in a different spot with the paper weight on top. He opened his appointment book briefly and set it back down facing the other way.

Then Walt turned back to the official, "Sorry, but I'm sure you understand."

"Of course I do," replied Lubbers, "I have an office, as well. One must keep up or trouble follows."

"Ain't that the truth," said Whitney as he seated himself backwards in the wooden chair. He put his forearms on the chair back and leaned forward until he reached eye level with Lubbers. "I take it this is not a social call."

Lubbers returned his gaze. "Yes, and no, Mr. Whitney. I am not officially here. Not at all. You have a formidable reputation. You don't give up, but when you are proved wrong you say so, and in print for all to see. I'm hoping to defuse the situation between yourself and various parts of our department."

"Sounds fair," said Walt. "Want to toss a coin to see who goes first?"

"Let me ask you one very broad question first, Mr. Whitney. How much do you really know about the workings of the Parks Department?"

"More than you might think, Mr. Lubbers," began Walt. "I've studied your organizational structure. I had a couple of academics compare that with those of a few other large cities. Parks departments vary a lot. One city gives them a hundred swimming pools to manage. The next has them city owned, but commercially managed. No two are alike. I know quite a bit about you collectively and have a lot more information available, if I need it."

"I'm impressed, Mr. Whitney. Please don't be insulted, but any number of people think you go charging in with no background at all. At least when you see something you don't like. You do understand that our procurement can not be like many other agencies."

"Sure, up to a point. You get a plague of aphids in the rose garden you send somebody out for Seven Dust, or whatever, before they're destroyed. No bids involved. You can't always take the low bidder for zoo food, because it might not be healthy for the animals. That said, some of your expenses are not even in the same time zone with reality. The Missouri one flat takes the cake."

"Off the record, Mr. Whitney, we are looking into that transaction, plus several others. In a couple of cases the suppliers seem to be dummy companies. We are looking closely at someone in our accounting staff. A very obsequious little man with some strange friends. By the way, Mr. Whitney, I hope you will tell me why the Missouri acquisition seems to be such a red flag for you."

"That one's easy," chuckled Walt, "personal experience. I graduated from the journalism school at the University of Missouri, in Columbia. They had us cover everything about the place. That included the agriculture school and its breeding programs. I knon about what it costs to ship a horse or cow by rail. I even wrote up what one of our rival schools paid to ship in their billy goat mascot. When I read your charges I thought I was seeing things. Hell, I could give you the names and Rural Routes of a dozen farmers who'd take as many deer as you wanted to the freight yards just to get them off their lands. The only money they'd ask for would be to cover the venison they didn't get to eat."

Lubbers laugh sounded like a telegrapher tapping his key. "That explains a lot, Mr. Whitney. Be assured that we will get to the bottom of this soon. The Mayor and our Commissioner will be making an announcement at City Hall early this afternoon. I hope that brings the temperature of your column below the boiling point."

"So do I, Mr. Lubbers."

After Lubbers left Walt closed the office door. Great things, magnets, he told himself. He picked up the paper weight and placed it where it teetered on one corner of the desk. Several things happened at once. The door's deadbolt drove home. Panels popped open in three pieces of furniture. Another slowly opened on the lower rear corner of the comfortable chair.

Quickly Walt removed the film in the three tiny mechanically operated cameras. Weight in the chair plus the paper weight in one position triggered them. He changed cylinders in the slim Dict-A-Phone in the chair. The appointment book turned that on. Art Deco metal curves formed the shade of the built in reading lamp. Plus they carried the sound to the recorder's diaphragm just like Edison's first models.

Walt installed the hardwood floor himself. Every square foot contained wires and gadgets. He hurried putting things back together. He expected Ginger any minute.

-------------------------

Later, Walt declared the last of the columns finished. Ginger picked up her steno pad. He gave a few instructions about how he wanted the New York version set up.

"And now, beautiful, I hope you haven't planned anything for New Year's Eve. I want to take you to the Mayor's bash, It'll be a working outing for me. That means, on company time mind you, dash into Sacks today and put something stunning on my account. Make a hair appointment and anything else you need to do. I want you to take everybody's breath away, except mine. While the Officialdom Assembled basks in your radiance, I may need to do some snooping."

Ginger sat there for a bit when Walt finished speaking. Somehow she knew he would plan something for New Year's. And dressing her up was nothing new. She'd invested in a good, slightly conservative, business wardrobe when she went job hunting. Walt hired her on a two week trial basis. After only one week he made the job permanent. Then he took her shopping. Dressed like a real First Nighter she attended theater productions all over town. He paid for everything including make-up lessons, and the YWCA membership. Ginger knew she possessed a decent figure and good looks, but this was different. She found she could look just as good as almost any woman who moved in Walt's circles.

Now a number of people believed Walt orchestrated all this to get her in bed. Her cousin Patrolman Dan Garrett, for one. He continued giving her self defense lessons at that old boxer's gym he'd gone to as a boy. She could handle herself if necessary.

She didn't have to. Walt Whitney, for all his
posturing and bravado, behaved like a perfect Gentleman. That's with a capital 'G', she often told herself. She remembered the fourth time he walked her up to her third floor apartment door. He'd given her a thank you kiss on the cheek. After he did that on three more occasions she told him, "You missed."

His eyes widened in surprise, "Missed what?"

Grace Ginger Garrett heard herself speak, but couldn't believe the words that came out of her mouth. "My lips," she said softly, praying she would not blush. "Nobody has a claim on them. They're mine to give, or not give."

Ginger believed she knew Walt's moods by that time. She'd seen him angry, sad, boisterously happy, and many others. She never expected to see him flabbergasted. He stood frozen for a moment. Finally, he spoke quietly.

"Ginger... Grace... I have an ironclad rule. I never make a move on my assistant. No matter if she's one of the greates

Post Mon Feb 07, 2005 1:49 am

Posts: 45
I haven't read any Bob Phantom stories, so I am not sure how the story should read.

I felt kind of like an old time radio show, I don't know if that was the intent, but it was a fun read.

On a technical note, why does the spacing change in the middle of the story. If it was for some kind of effect it was lost on me.

All in all a lot of fun, thanks.


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