The Marked Field

Carl L. Biemiller's The Marked Field appeared in
Blue Book Magazine
October 1949, Vol. 89, No. 6

Please respect the copyright.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


Sally Whittaker had the virtue of knowing when not to talk, a perspicacity born of good taste and abetted by sound reportorial experience. She and Eddie Dane walked to her small coupe in silence. She slid her long slim legs under the wheel, yanked off her hat and stabbed a pert brown oxford at the starter. The sun lighted a bronze glow in her hair. “I’ve got to stop by the dean’s office for a minute,” she said, “and then pick up a tank of gas.”

“You’re doing us the favor,” said Eddie. “I sure appreciate it.”

She drove with the detached competency of long habit, flashed him a half smile as she slammed the car door and headed for the steps of the dean’s office building. He watched her, noticed the square set of her shoulders, the way her skirt clung flat at her hips, rounding in the right places. Some nice guy had probably latched on to that a long time ago, he thought. A girl like Whittaker could line ‘em p like tenpins and bang ‘em down with one of those full-lipped grins. I would like to put both hands in that flame hair and kiss her dizzy. The thought was a mutter, and he felt sheepish at its escape. Keep your mind on your work, Dane. The gal’s bespoke and halfway to the altar for all you know.

The job came first, and maybe this was all a mistake. Sally Whittaker was a reporter and a smart girl. She was already wondering about his interest in a two-year-old picture, and the fact that Shaw had stepped out of character by letting him sit in on the interview. Let many more people in, and Connor would want to know why they didn’t run ads in the papers. But suppose the picture was the link that put Rogalski in the case, so what? For all they knew, they were chasing a cold trail that ended with their last known connection. The quarry, if still alive, could sit tight. He doubted if the cell, if such a thing existed, would disband and vanish. The background was too good.

Forever, and ninety-nine per cent of always, these things were dull. Dig and wait, dig and wait, then guess and hope. He had once sensed a romance in the work. Maybe it still existed but experience had dulled perception for him. Most assignments were a shuffling of papers, a dull erosion of shoe leather.

It was a gray mood, but it lightened as Sally Whittaker came down the steps, crossed the strip of paving and got into the car. “Wasn’t too long, was I?” she queried brightly. “One more stop for gas, and we go. Okay?”

Rocco Arrisia, a sparrow of a man who had been around town since a hasty departure from the old country after a brush with authority near the turn of the century, was the proprietor of one of Bakerston’s two service stations. He poked his head at the car window as they rolled up his driveway to a battery of gas pumps. “Fill ‘er up, Miss Sally?” he asked, rolling an ancient, if still discriminating Latin eye at the hem of her up-riding skirt. He peered closely at Dane, and chuckled. “Thissa a new cute one you got, Miss Sally. He’sa look nice.”

Eddie laughed with her, noting the faint tinge of crimson at the tip of her ears, and the unashamed lilt in her gayety. “Ten will do it, Rocco,” she said, “This is a friend, Mr. Dane, a football player.”

“Ho-ho,” chortled the wispy man, bustling to the rear of the car.

“How many new cute ones do you trot in here a week, Miss Whittaker?” ribbed Dane lightly. “Make it ‘Sally,’ shall we? There isn’t too much formality in this part of the country. And to answer your question, I’m afraid not enough to please Rocco. He’s been trying to marry me off since I went to school here nine million years ago. He takes a dim view of single women.”

“How’s he making out with his project, Sally?” There was a shadow of gravity in the banter, and she caught it and turned to meet his gaze directly.

“Not too well, Eddie,” she said. “I’m fussy, I guess.”

He felt fine, and the grin that broke white across his face proved it; there was a small nest of laugh lines at the corners of each eye.

“Send the charge to the usual spot, Rocco,” she said as the little attendant popped up beside the car again like a wrinkled brow puppet. “Good-by.”

They loafed through Bakerston, out to the curving spread of the four-lane blacktop State highway, which linked the community with Iron City. There was a curious, utterly comfortable, shared ease between them.

“What are you doing back in school, Eddie?” she asked idly.

He leaned his head back on the top of the seat in a intimate form of indolence. “Studying journalism, playing football, improving the shining hour with Sally Whittaker.”

“According to Central’s publicity bureau, you’re a big war hero.”

“Yep, I got a ribbon and an honorable discharge.”

“What have you been doing since?”

“Working for the Government. Small job, and four-fifty per diem while traveling. There’s no future in it, and my war bonds won’t last forever. Besides, all the Danes are educated.”

“Are you really a hot football player, Eddie?”

He laughed. “What did Shaw say when you asked him? And wouldn’t I look like the ham of all the world if I said yes?”

Her lazy chuckle matched his own. “Coach John Shaw, when queried about his newest squad addition Dipper Dane, the former sophomore sensations at Purdue, said, quote, he might help us if he isn’t too senile. He did not add, if Dane can make the grade with a gang of backs already four deep.

“The guy’s a love, isn’t he?”

“John Shaw is a great gentleman; and from what I’ve observed, he thinks well of you. He must, to excuse you from practice like that. Why do you want Rogalski’s picture with his brother?”

He had been waiting for it, unconsciously knowing that it would come naturally, conversationally, and there was no surprise in her query. His answer was equally easy, and he did not bother to lift his head. “It sort of helps to look at a guy’s relations; and a few of us thought it might be nice to drop notes to the kid’s family. You know how these things are.” There was a vague tinge of challenge in his voice.

“No,” she said, “I don’t. In fact, I think it’s pretty odd. There wasn’t anything strange about the accident? I mean—no scandal…. I don’t know what I mean.”

“How would I know?”

“Oh, well, if John Shaw wants it,” she said. “You’re just saying it isn’t any of my business. Okay, it isn’t.” She smiled at him, taking her eyes from the road briefly. “Where do you live when you’re home, Eddie?”

They chatted softly, sporadically, through the gathering dusk. The lights of Iron City dappling the lower end of the valley peered through the perennial smogs which overlay the mill areas, the smog which gave the Independent building, when they reached it, a dull and velvety cast. A red neon sign from the roof cast a garish glow at the entrance as Sally cut the car into a vacant space at the curb which was neatly reserved by two no parking signs. “Courtesy of the Police Department,” explained Sally, for the press.”

There was no activity in the sports department which abutted the almost deserted city room as they emerged from the elevator. But a shirt-sleeved figure with its feet propped upon an open desk drawer flipped a casual greeting as Sally approached. She made a face at it, turning to Eddie and said: “How would you like to meet my boss?”

“Sure,” he answered.

The figure rose as they walked across the paper-littered floor, stretched lean and tall. “This is Timmy Watts, sports editor,” said Sally, “and he’s working late in hopes of taking me to dinner, aren’t you, Timmy?”

There was a pleasant quizzical grin on the thin, almost too long face which Dane found engaging. He responded with an understanding smile. “And this is Dipper Dane,” she continued, “one of J. Shaw’s lads. I promised to dig out an old print for him.”

“She giving you trouble, Dipper?”

“Not yet, but I think I’m a bit afraid she might. Nice to meet you, Timmy. Can I join you for dinner?”

“No, Dipper, you cannot,” said Watts gravely. “I always work this late despite the fact that we put our stuff away by four-thirty each day; and besides my wife always insists that I call her at least two hours in advance before bringing home guests. Much as I’d like to ask you out, one of the kids has croup. Do you begin to suspect Miss Whittaker of anything, Dipper?”

“Doesn’t she have to write anything?”

“This is an evening newspaper. She has nothing to produce until the weird hour of seven-thirty tomorrow morning.”

“Except a picture for Mr. Dane,” interrupted Sally. “Stop it, both of you.”

“You have until then, Dipper.” Watts kept his face grave. “I wish you well.” He strolled off toward the city room, waving a negligent hand as he went.

Dane beat her to the remark. “I don’t have any ideas now that I haven’t had all afternoon,” he said. “Could I take you to dinner?”

“Why not?” she said after a brief pause. “I’ll call home before we leave here. Now, here’s my desk, and that beat up old metal file cabinet is crammed with junk, stuff we’ve used in layouts and stuff we’ve filed to forget. I think it’s our best bet.”

They worked through two of the packed drawers, Dane crouched easily on his toes like a baseball catcher, Sally leaning from a chair, her shoulder touching his occasionally; and there was a clean fragrance at his nostrils born of her nearness that stirred him.

“Well,” she said, “if it isn’t in here, maybe photographic has one. They keep bins of the stuff up there.”

They worked patiently through prints of skeet competitors, swimming stars, ball players. There were shots of the Indianapolis speedway, Olympic sprinters, visiting banquet speakers and racehorses. There was a file of Central squad pictures, most of which were air-brushed and cropped, including one of John Shaw with his two sons shown sitting on the bench. There was a batch of this year’s Central squad still in the envelope in which it had been dispatched from the athletic public relations office, and Dane found his own face under a youthful crew haircut with a highlight across the slightly thickened bridge of his nose. “Glug!” he muttered. “Who’s the prize-fighter?” There was a copy print of Hugh Duffy, gray and chubby, holding a commemorative bat, a group illustrating the local Soap Box Derby, another limning a golf tournament. “Ever see such awful junk?” asked Sally. “There are heaps like this in at least five other departments on this paper. Nobody ever throws anything away.”

The print was there.

Rogalski was chubby. He beamed like an oversize kewpie, his arm draped over the shoulder of a much smaller man. There was a crack across the picture as if it had, at one time, been folded carelessly, but the features of both figures were clear and distinct. There was a rubber-stamped Independent on the back of the print, a pasted yellow strip of paper with a caption: Ernest Rogalski, Central tackle candidate, and Louis Rogalski, his brother, a visitor to the Blue and Gold workout today. There was a white smudge across the background of the print as if a careless photographer had grabbed it out of the hypo solution while still wet.

Dane could sense Sally’s intent look as he gazed at the print. Both of the faces caught by the camera were familiar to him. He felt a small cold finger of excitement at the base of his spine. He turned to meet Sally’s stare. It was direct, curious, questioning and she did not avert it. He smiled gently.

“Where do you want to eat, Sally?”

There was a warm highlight in his gray eyes which turned them an impish green, she thought, and somehow she felt a twinge of concern for him, a feeling she pushed away instinctively.

“Just dinner,” she said. “You’ve got to get a bus back to Bakerston, you know.”

“Just dinner,” he agreed; “and do you have an envelope I could carry this in?”

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Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home