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 Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 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


The squad was beginning to show the lean, hungry look typical of Shaw teams every season. Before the State game, the Saturday following Thanksgiving, the forty-four-man varsity would own a stringy, pantherish appearance, and old Dan, in conspiracy with the coaching staff and the team doctor, would be watching the daily weight charts with a suspicious concern, and pumping vitamin tablets and doses of plain gelatin in water into every football player in sight.

The club was working harder this week, getting set for Warwick University, a rough aggregation from the Mid-South which ran from a deceptive single-wing attack. The team was also getting out on the field later each day as Shaw went patiently over the scouting reports on Warwick and the movies of the opposition's first game.

Dane, having made his peace with Perkins, Wienstock and Thomas for missing the bus, was working out with the first offensive backfield unit and taking turns also with the second defense unit. He was working hard, enjoying it, and concentrating upon his assignments until each motion became automatic. So engrossed was he on the Wednesday following the Clinton game that Connor, watching the workout with Shaw, idled around the field until nearly dusk before asking Shaw to call him in. They went into Shaw's office, Dane still in uniform, Shaw preoccupied.

"I'm going to make this fast," said Connor. "Incidentally, Dipper, I got your report on that introduction to our friend Saturday night. It's going to Washington with me tonight. I'll be down there for the rest of the week setting that end up." Connor swung to Shaw. "How good is this Warwick?"

"We'll take them, I think," said the big man slowly. "By two or three touchdowns, if the reports mean anything. Why?"

Connor waved an impatient hand. "Then the first really big game you'll have is two weeks, or maybe three away-one that will attract national attention, have people knocking themselves out for tickets?"

Shaw thought briefly. "Two weeks from now is the turn, the game with Catholic University. That outfit is loaded, and if we get by, we might go all the way through, barring injuries, of course. And as far as national attention goes, there'll be plenty of speculation on that one and as usual, a helluva ticket demand too." He paused. "You'll have to query the faculty manager and his staff on the ticket end for details."

Dane sat silently. Connor's plan was familiar to him. It was as good as any, as weak as most, and apt to be as futile as many tried in the past. Yet pressure must be applied whether they failed or not.

"How about ticket scalping? Will there be much of it?"

"For the Catholic game," said Shaw, "the boys will be busy. But don't get the wrong impression. Colleges are run by experienced men with an appreciative eye on their own till now, and there will be much less than you think."

"Could you and the faculty manager, with the president's full approval, of course, issue a statement that you are all worried about scalping for this game, enough worried, for instance, to ask F.B.I. and Treasury department help in Iron City to make a routine check?"

"On what grounds?" asked Shaw. "And where do you fit? There's nothing illegal in most cases, unless counterfeiting is involved."

Connor grinned. "We know that; but because football is such a big business these days, it is the duty of the Federal Government to make a selected check at a few specific locations a few times each season to make sure that all Federal taxes on tickets are being handled properly. If Central University is worried for the Catholic game, for instance, then certainly the Government could be slightly worried. Enough, at least, to let me fill the area with some obviously aggressive operatives, all of whom will be under the direction of the F.B.I. office in Iron City."

Shaw's glance was direct and hard. "You're ready to make a definite move. This ticket business is nonsense?"

"This ticket business in not nonsense. It will get more of our men into the area openly, and for a reason. But there will be another reason read into the move."

"At the same time your statement breaks, a story will make every national wire service in the country, a story released from Washington and sponsored jointly by the Justice Department and the Congressional committee on un-Americanism. It will concern evidence of actual espionage, and a confession by one of the spies previously engaged in it. The man making that confession and offering specific evidence will be known to a man here at Central University. His personal knowledge, plus additional Federal help ostensibly looking for ticket tax infractions, may add up to the break we need."

Connor's voice was stern. "In addition, Dane, as a journalism student on a class assignment, will call upon that man and ask some point blank questions. At least, we think we'll do it that way." He paused. "They may be dangerous questions, Dipper. Never forget that."

Shaw rose from his desk, and the swivel complained as he did so. He paced. "Damn it," he said softly and bitterly. "You realize that the University gets a bad name in any event. The ticket business, while normal enough, is bad for the school, bad for the game because it approaches another one of those teapot-tempest scandals that look worse than they are. Whatever you do with the guy involved here, also adds a lousy smudge on the place, weakens the faith of a helluva lot of people in another sound institution-and--" He stopped as the thought struck him. "And maybe it gets Dane shot if this guy goes bad all of a sudden!"

He banged a fist on the desk-top with a controlled gentleness that was more revealing of stress than a crashing impact. "Why can't you pick your man up quietly and without all the fanfare if you know him, grab him. Why involve people that are not concerned, innocent people? Why blast the thing loose with all the publicity?"

Connor's smile was not pleasant. "'The school, apart from life, apart from politics, is a lie and a hypocrisy,'" he quoted. "I assume that Lenin, the man who said that, is still under glass in Red Square. But we have a certain set of specialized problems in this work. In the first place, party membership as such is no crime in the United States. Better brains than mine will have to decide some day whether or not it should be. In the second place, convictions for espionage are very tough to get unless intent can be shown and data cited to aid an enemy and do an injury to the United States. In the period covered by the evidence we have on the man here at Central, the Soviet Union was an ally in a decidedly tough shooting war-a period of time, incidentally, when some highly secret information was being freely swapped between our own Office of Strategic Services and the Commie NKVD.

"Furthermore, in all espionage prosecutions in peacetime a statue of limitations is enforced. There are also other constitutional protections that any accused individual may enjoy in these cases-namely, the acceptance of his refusal to testify in any matter which might tend to incriminate him or degrade him.

"As if these factors were not enough, there are also the ever-present complications of simple politics, inter-departmental wranglings, and the understandable reluctance of the American people to believe the fairy-tale qualities these cases often hold."

Dane and Shaw sat silent, listening intently. "The guy we're after might not be held for an old crime, especially when it occurred to benefit a wartime ally. He can't be held for simple party membership. He can't be held on any definite, provable charge that we could make at this time. We know, from the scattered facts we hold, and from the tie-in we traced to this campus, that our man never stopped his espionage service. So what? Our hands are tied unless he makes a break on his own initiative of some kind. He won't make that break without pressure. He might not make it anyhow, no matter what we could do legally.

Connor's voice was an introspective monotone. "Character assassination is not a pretty thing in a democratic country. We didn't come by it naturally, but we are learning that its ugly uses may be reversed in driving other wise unpunishable people underground, in making their work useless to the alien interests they serve. If we have to, we'll break everything possible around this guy's head. Sure, there''ll be a nasty smell--"

"And sometimes," said Shaw cuttingly, "you'll hit an innocent person, ruin his life unjustly."

Connor's face was pale, drawn. It looked more hawk-like than ever. "You think we don't worry about that? It haunts the best of us always." He turned to face Dane. "What kind of war did you fight, Dipper, when the chips were down in Italy, for instance?"

Dane's reply was measured. His words were carefully spaced. They showed his understanding of Shaw's dilemma, his sympathy for Shaw's principles. They also indicated an inflexibility in his own character. "There was a guy who died on the first break in this case, the break that gave us Rogalski's brother and the original letter. There was a kid, young Rogalski, on this end, and we can't prove that, either. Not in any court of law, with any sort of evidence that might hold up. It's tough working with pillowcases on your hands, when the other carry guns and clubs." He smiled thinly at the big man. "It's better than finding it was a guy on the team, isn't it?"

"I don't think I could have taken that," said Shaw simply. "You men set it up. I'll do what I can." He leaned from his perch on the desk and tapped Dane lightly. "Get dressed, kid, and be careful." He turned to Connor. "You'll work this out with the university officials too?"

Connor nodded.

The door opened, and Ames stuck his head in. "They're dressing," he said. "You want to run through a chalk talk tonight?" His glance at Dane and Connor was quizzical.

"Let Buckets diagram those Warwick split-bucks again, the one where their tackles change spacing. That'll do it for today. Oh, yes-Armbruster said he wanted to talk over a personal problem with me. Tell him I'll see him in a minute."

Ames left the room, and Dane followed him into the lockers. Connor nodded once to Shaw and left. "I'll stay in touch," he said. "You'll hear from President Bixford on the tickets, and from the faculty manager too."

Toddy Armbruster was a big blond kid with a close-cropped Dutch haircut and a kewpie face. He was clad in long white stockings, a jock-strap and nothing else as he entered Shaw's office, but he carried a dirty towel with which he daubed at his round, sweating face.

"You look cute," said Shaw. "Ever occur to you that you might pick up a cold and ride the bench for a few games?"

"Well, I wanted to get to you before I changed my mind about talking to you," said the guard.

"What's the big decision you're confronted with?" queried Shaw. "Getting married, leaving school, sell out to the pro's?"

"Worse than those," said the kid, his face flushing.

"Well, come on. Mixed up with a gambler? Scholarship funds loused up? Mad at a coach? Busting out of some class?"

"Nah! But tell me, how would you feel to have a radio crooner on the squad?" Armbruster shifted his feet, snapped the elastic at his waist with a thumb in embarrassment.

"Proceed," said the big man, a small smile at the corners of his mouth.

"I been monkeying with some audio-visual class techniques," explained the young man. "You know, we get teaching background in our physical education work. I don't know exactly how it happened, but I wrote a song and made a record of it. The guy we work with in the Iron City station, that KSTQ, snuck the thing on a disk-jockey show, and the station's mail started to surprise the guy."

"What was the name of the song you wrote?"

Armbruster stuttered: "A thing called 'The Flame in My Heart Went Out with Another.'"

"I can see why you wouldn't know exactly how you happened to write it."

"Aw, cut the rib, Coach. Anyhow it seems the local bobby-soxers went for my voice and the song. I'm getting the works published and stand to pick up a few bucks on it. The radio guys want me to take over a sustaining spot for them, just a fifteen-minute vocal show."

"When's it going on," asked Shaw, "from midnight to twelve-fifteen, or some other fine training hour for an athlete?"

"I fixed that. They have a spot at noon, and I can make it to Iron City because I don't have a class at eleven. Besides, we've got a hook-up with that station from the University studio, same one thy use to pipe out our games. But what I was think about was those jokers out there." He swung his head toward the locker room. "And maybe the publicity I'd get to put the show over." He laughed nervously.

"What's the job pay?"

"That's another gimmick. Does singing on the air for a salary make me a pro in football too? What I want to know is just how the thing affects football and the squad? It only pays sixty a week for three shows." His face was anxious.

"I never had a crooner," said Shaw, "but I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll have our public-relations fellows find where we keep the University legal department and get an all-around ruling for you. Offhand, I'd say sing, kid, and let the chips fall where they may. I can see your point as far as the gang goes, and maybe some of that game chatter in the line won't do you much good, either. But you're a senior, Roddy, and maybe you'll find a future in something like that radio stuff; maybe television is just waiting for you. Anyhow, give me a few days to check it for you."

"Thanks, Coach." Armbruster turned and padded toward the door. Shaw's voice, serene and oddly cheerful, followed him.

"Toddy," he said, "you'd be surprised how much it cheers me to find a guy interested in song-writing and crooning on this club."

The guard grinned into Shaw's serious face.

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Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 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