Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Boomerang Snatch

Boomerang Snatch
By Calvin M. Craig
Illustrated by H. G. Campagna
Glider Training Issue, 1941
From The Open Road for Boys [v23 # 7, September 1941]. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, April 2013.

HIDDEN guns nuzzled protectively in the windows of the deGarcia home, under the hands of tense policemen, and two state troopers crouched in a car parked innocently over the grease pit at the garage across the street.
"What a break!" glowed "Red" Murphy, star reporter for the Morning Sentinel, as he peered through a crack from behind the closed door of the garage. "The son of the richest man in the Philippine Islands visits Halleck, and we get tipped off he'll be snatched right here in town!"
"Most unhappy break for Honorable Leon Gomez," shuddered his companion,—chubby, slant-eyed Wu Song, "Maroni gang most bloodthirsty brigands."
The Chinese cub reporter, a Halleck University junior, looked at his watch, then left Murphy alone as he slipped out the back way and headed for the Sentinel office. He was just around the corner from the protecting guns, with the light of a street lamp shining on his yellow face, when a car squealed to a halt beside him.
"Where's Pennington Avenue?" asked a squinting, broken-nosed man, stepping out on the pavement.
"Have just come from there. Is most simple of access," bowed the Oriental, courteously.
Before he could give directions he felt a gun thrust suddenly against his stomach. With a bewildered expression in his slant eyes, he allowed himself to be prodded into the car. " 'Toothless lamb disputes not tiger's slightest wish,' " he shrugged.
"Hear what he said? He's just come from there, and if that ain't a Filipino accent I never heard one," declared the beetle-browed gunman with whom Wu Song shared the back seat. "And this ain't no American mush on him, neither. Listen," he continued, "you set tight and play ball. Maroni's puttin' the bite on your old man for fifty grand."
Wu Song's narrow eyes widened as he suddenly understood. What was it Sun Yi, the Laughing Poet, had said? "To know tiger well, be eaten by him." Not even the admirable Murphy would be able to write a story like this on the Gomez kidnaping!
The car rolled down the River Road, turned in at a broad cinder drive less than a mile from town, and rolled up to a magnificent, isolated house. Here the driveway branched, one part skirting the end of the house and leading to the garage, while the other, which the gangsters used, curved up to the porticoed front door. Wu Song carefully removed his derby hat as he was taken into the living room, where a shirt-sleeved member of the gang lounged on a divan. The police would never suspect this place of being a hideout, the reporter felt certain.

THE thug in shirt sleeves looked Wu Song over with interest. "Maroni's upstairs, Trigger," he told the beetle-browed man. "He says have the kid call the house right away and tell 'em not to notify the police. They can't trace no calls on the dial system."
"Okay," said Wu Song's captor. "I'll call 'em myself."
"Trigger, you ain't smart," was the answer. "You tell 'em, and they'll think it's a gag and wait for the kid to get home, while we ought to be lammin' out of here. Let 'em hear the kid himself and they'll know it's business."
"Okay, okay." Trigger's temper was ruffled as he thumbed through the telephone book, sulkily. "I'm only the guy that takes the chances for this mob, I ain't no college professor. How do you spell the mug's name, wise guy?"
"...And remember, no give-away, or I'll let you have it."
Wu Song interposed politely. "This humble individual knows honorable host's number like passage from writings of Confucius. Is Halleck 4065."
"Okay," said Trigger. Then his eyes snapped as Wu Song leaned over the mahogany desk to dial. "Naw you don't." He grabbed the phone base and handed the transmitter to the Chinese. "I ain't takin' no chances on you callin' some other number. I'll dial, you just talk. And remember, no give-away, or I'll let you have it."
The reporter stared at the dully gleaming gun barrel as he listened to the bell signal on the other end of the line. The ringing stopped. "Hello? Would speak with esteemed friend," he said into the phone. "Yes . . . Multitude of thanks." He whistled a southern melody while he waited a moment or two. "Yes. Greetings. Have message of great importance. Am held by honorable kidnapers for ransom. Do not notify police. No more. Good-by."
"That's the talk," praised Trigger. "Play ball an' you won't get hurt." Wu Song looked up to see a man staring down on him from the stairway. He was partially bald, and wore a perpetual leer. The reporter knew from newspaper pictures that it must be the notorious criminal, Maroni.
"You dope!" the gangster roared. He ran down the stairs and sent Trigger staggering backward with blood on his lips from a backhand slap. "This ain't the guy! A dumb Chink, he brings me! Only a Chink!" Putting the heel of his hand to the reporter's stubby yellow nose, he sent him rolling over backward, chair and all.
A new light shone in Wu Song's eyes as he scrambled to his feet. "I am a son of China!" he intoned, with head high and lips tight.
"I don't care whose son you are," bellowed Maroni. "Lock him up, you mugs, and put him high enough so he can't jump out the window."
Two minutes later, the Oriental was locked in a third-floor bedroom, taking his ease in a boudoir chair. There was nothing to do but wait for the ever-resourceful Murphy to appear.

BACK at the Sentinel office, Red Murphy was chewing the corners off copy paper and arguing with Old Man Henderson.
"But, gosh, Boss," he insisted, "even a dopey New York gangster oughtn't to mistake Wu Song for a Filipino."
"Listen," shouted the city editor, "if that wasn't our daffy cub reporter who called me on the phone, I'll eat my hat!"
"Then they thought he was Leon Gomez, all right, and that he was calling deGarcia's," snapped Red. "Now how do we find him?"
"Wish I knew," groaned Henderson. "He called within ten minutes of the time you say he left you, so he can't be more than a mile or two away."
"Didn't he give you any hint? Didn't he get a chance to say anything except what you told me?"
"Nope. He just whistled while he pretended to wait for the right party to come to the phone."
"Whistled?" Murphy shot out of his chair. "Holy Hannah, Boss, no Chinese ever whistles—not just to pass the time. Gosh sakes, what did he whistle?"
Henderson's jaw sagged. "It was . . . 'My Old Kentuc—' No, not that. 'Massa's in the—' No, I got it! 'Way Down Upon the Suwannee River'!"
Murphy rumpled his fiery hair as his brain grappled with the idea. "River . . . river. The only river around here is the Chuckachee. Now, within a mile of town and a place where there'd be a phone . . . gosh, Boss, there's nothing out there but woods, except . . ."
"That's it!" exclaimed Henderson. "The Vandegrifts have closed up there mansion and gone to Florida. The gang broke in and they've got a peach of a hideout! Gimme that phone!"
"Nix!" Red grabbed his hat. "Tell the police and the Globe gets in on it. Lemme have till midnight—half past—and maybe I'll have the story lined up while Chug Johnson's still waiting for the break at deGarcia's."

WU SONG leaned out the window of the room where he was a prisoner. He felt almost certain he had heard a scuffing of feet on the drive that led to the garage, but he could see nothing. Minutes later he heard footsteps in the hall.
A closet door across the passageway opened, something heavy hit the floor, and the door closed again. The footsteps faded and Wu Song heard a familiar voice: "Well, I'll be a son of a gun!"
Lying flat on the floor and applying his lips to the crack under his door, Wu Song queried softly, "Honorable Murphy?"
The answer was an incredulous gasp.
"Most happy to see riddle of song is solved. It is well-written, 'Give resourceful man grain of sand, he will build wall' "
"Wall, my eye!" snorted Red in a hoarse whisper from across the hall. "They caught me snooping under your window, and I'm tied hand and foot. Must have gotten belted over the back of the neck with a box car."
The Chinese grinned and stood up. The door opened inward and the brass hinges projected on the inside. Quickly he removed the hinge pins and pried the door out of place.
Red lay in a linen closet. Wu Song knelt and unbound him. "Tu Li has said, 'Enemy with large club flatters my strength.' " He smiled. "This unvigorous person merely locked in room. Honorable friend carefully bound. Is compliment."
"Nuts!" said Murphy. "Say, if you're not locked up any tighter than you look, how come you didn't duck out of here? And where'd you get the bloody nose?"
"What Maroni did to nose is no consequence," answered the Chinese, stiffening.
Red looked puzzled.
"Wu Song stays here. 'Stronger than links of iron are bonds of obligation.' But esteemed friend must meet dead line, and midnight is past."
Bug-eyed, Murphy permitted himself to be shoved toward the stairs. He crept down and slipped silently into a second-floor bedroom. Wu Song leaned out his own window and watched Red drop from the lower window sill to the high terrace beside the drive, and disappear into the darkness.
Then he sat down on the top step near his doorway. Now that Murphy had gone back with the story, there was no need for concealment. He could hear Maroni talking in the hall below.
"Trigger, you stay with me," the gang leader ordered, "and 'Muggsy', you take a run into town and see if it's gettin' hot. Maybe that guy just happened to be outside, and maybe he didn't."
Wu Song heard a car motor start while Maroni stood with the front door open. Then the door closed. He was almost drowsing when Maroni's voice brought him up with a jerk.
"What's that? Sounds like somebody around the side, Trigger. G'wan, take a look."
The Chinese heard the noise distinctly— a soft crunch of rubber tires on the side drive. He rose and walked deliberately down the stairs.
Maroni, in his shirt sleeves, was peering out through the curtain at the side of the front door. He turned and saw Wu Song standing on the bottom step of the stairway, hands clasped across his plump stomach, face inscrutable. The gangster looked sharply around for his coat and saw it hanging over a chairback, not four feet from Wu Song. He recovered his leer quickly.
"All right, so you got out," he grunted. "Well, set down. I ain't decided whether to rub you out or dump you in a box car headed west."
Wu Song gave a half-bend from the waist. "In Chinese, as in Hebrew, it is written, 'Lamb before shearers is silent.' "
Maroni looked at the coat. Wu Song looked unwaveringly at Maroni. The importance of the coat seemed mutually understood. The gangster moved cautiously toward it, but Wu Song stood motionless —and close.
"Set down, kid."
"This humble person begs excuse from sitting down."
Maroni made a quick lunge toward the coat. The Chinese stepped directly in front of him. The gangster's fingers twitched nervously. He was not used to handling such situations without a gun.
"Listen, Chink . . ."
Wu Song's shoulders moved, and his short right arm swung in a flailing arc.
Maroni staggered back, blinded by tears, his nose feeling as if it had exploded and taken fire. "You . . ."
The Son of China was planted solidly in front of him. Maroni did not try to strike. He was interested only in getting the gun. He made a second lunge toward it.
There came another swift movement and the gangster sank to the floor with his jaw twisted strangely to one side.

AT THAT moment the door was flung open, and Wu Song looked up with the old bland smile in his eyes as Murphy burst in with an armed policeman at his elbow. Following them, another officer prodded Trigger along, quailing and disarmed.
"Always ever-resourceful is honorable friend Murphy," beamed Wu Song.
"Yup, the dear old Globe took it on the chin again," yawned Red, immodestly. "I had a taxi waiting for me in the woods off the road when I came the first time. It took me to the police station, and the driver rushed my notes on the story back to the office while I beat it out here with the police. The Boss has to write the story himself . . . wow, will that burn him up!"
Both officers looked at Wu Song keenly, and then at the slowly awakening gangster at his feet.
"Is Red right," one of them asked, "about you refusing to escape until you got even with this killer for pushing you in the nose?"
The Chinese's face darkened, and he drew himself up with plump dignity.
"Nose of this unworthy individual is of infinitesimal unimportance," he pronounced. "But when low-born brigand describes native of China as . . . as . . ."
Murphy suddenly understood. He nodded, but did not speak aloud the offensive word "Chink."
"When he does," the son of Confucius went on, "then he insults ancestors of great people, and hand of Wu Song must speak!"
Murphy was still staring. "B-but if it had been those two rats coming back instead of us, you'd have been shot in your tracks!"
The Oriental features melted into a smile.
"It is written, 'Angry heart is wild steed, let cool brain hold reins'," Wu Song answered. "Bandit car always used front drive. Other stopped under window where esteemed friend escaped. Even this stupid person knew honorable Murphy had returned with also-honored police."
Weakly, Red held out a congratulating hand. "Wu Song," he murmured softly, "you allee samee okay!"

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.