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 Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


Two decades ago, when the cautious athletic board of Central University first scheduled Catholic University, sportsmen said that Ducky Mather, head coach of the Shamrocks, never lost a ball game in November. It made no difference that the statement was apocryphal. The mere fact that it existed at all was reason enough for the schedule makers to insist that the game come early in the autumnal program for both teams. Catholic, a power in the game, extended the courtesy because it figured Central, not yet in the big time, to be a pushover. Central, grateful in the smug thought that it might some day sneak over an early season upset, accepted the spot and congratulated itself on a set plan achieved.

Both schools had, in time, come to rue the deal.

Central, under Shaw, knocked Catholic over as often as Catholic, still guided by the aging Mather, belted over Central. In the process the game had become a national classic, and such was the intensity of interest it created that subsequent schedule makers, with an appreciative eye on the fat early season gate, continued the original contract. Coaches could howl about time needed to bring squads to peaks. Big money in October was so nice, especially when followed by more of the same attracted by the traditional games of November. With high Federal taxes drying up the traditional alumni endowment circles more each year, plaintive coaching staffs could go yodel in the end zone. Central continued to meet the Shamrocks as its third foe of the season.

Central stadium was a sellout, most years, by the first week of October. The game was always a premium one for scalpers. There was not much surprise in the area when on Monday of game week Faculty Manager R. Hanson Willits of Central issued a statement regretting the fact that there were premium-priced tickets on the market, and soberly enumerating the very proper ticket distribution system followed by the University.

Eyebrows were hiked the next day, however, when Central’s president Charles Hughes Bixford, gravely concerned with current reports of ticket scalping issued a statement asking for additional police vigilance to curb a condition, which might endanger the splendid relationship between the two universities.

His words made the morning papers. They were expanded in the evening editions of the area and spread upon the wire services later in the day as Agent-in-Charge Jason James of the F.B.I. stated that he was bringing in additional men to watch for possible liberties with Federal taxes on tickets, and to cooperate with the university authorities and the Iron City police wherever Federal jurisdiction warranted.

James’ contribution to the hubbub had several results. A handful of visiting sportsmen, taking no chances, left town lest past infractions in interstate commerce catch up to them. Three bookmaking establishments, a bit behind in local protection payments, closed their doors, not from fear of legal difficulties, but just in case. The general public paid little attention beyond conversational gasps at the prices of tickets invented in various quarters and published as gospel. It was part of the excitement of Central-Catholic game week. But as Connor, Agent-in-Charge James of the Iron City region, and the dapper man Connor introduced as Wilfred Yoke of the Department of Justice explained, it was good preliminary.

Shaw had the squad quartered several miles outside Iron City at the Sedgewood Country Club, where it had been since Monday night, holding its workouts on a practice field set up on one of the fairways, and living as a unit in the luxurious quarters designed for the area’s industrial barons. Shaw used the country club for this purpose twice a season, for Catholic, and later for State, both key games in most years.

They sat, Connor, James, Yoke, Shaw and Dane, in the manager’s office at the club while Connor reviewed the events of his past week in Washington for the big man and for Dane. For Shaw, under the tension of bringing his squad to a peak for the game and busy with countless details, there was only the relief of Connor’s promise that the case might reach its end in the Bakerston-Iron City area.

“Where it goes from here,” explained Connor, “is anybody’s guess. But we are applying our pressure, and whether or not it makes us a break, we are picking up our man on his past record.”

“Do I know him,?” asked Shaw.

“You do,” interrupted Yoke, “but from here on in, none of this will be any of your business. Needless to say, you will receive official appreciation of your cooperation from the chief of the department.”

“How about Dane? He’s still on my squad. Can I figure him as part of my business from now in, or does he leave the campus?”

Connor grinned. “I’ll answer that.” He turned to Dipper. “I have a copy of your release from special duty, the one promised you a year ago. You can go your own gait from here on, after this end of the job’s done, or you can remain in the department. I have been asked to solicit your approval of the latter—strongly, I might add.” He paused; but Dane, waiting, made no comment. “Should you decide to stay in school or make a career elsewhere,” continued Connor, “I have been asked to have you consider remaining on our inactive list with the possibility of sporadic duty in the future.”

Dane glanced at Shaw. “You’ve still got a ball-player,” he said softly.

“I’ve still got a hired man,” snapped Connor. “We are breaking the story from the Washington end for the Sunday papers, citing evidence of the existence of conspiracy and espionage, together with the full confession made by our recent convert, and such actual names as necessary. All of them will be familiar to the man here. We are indicating the likelihood of further disclosures, stating that future arrests for questioning are about to be made.

“Monday morning Dane will make the actual pickup here—for two reasons. We think he’s known; he’s leaving the case, so it wouldn’t make much difference if his identity is revealed. Mr. James, as agent-in-charge of this region will work with him. Dane and James will also arrange to have local speculation made public to the effect that the presence of additional Federal men in the area may not be tied directly to game tickets. I’d suggest you both see the Independent publisher on Friday.” Connor stopped, looked at the dapper Yoke, who, tilted back in a chair, swung his legs gently as he listened. The man straightened his chair, and spoke softly.

“There is probably no valid reason to expect trouble,” he said, “but some odd things have happened to people under investigation lately. It could be that the abrupt curtailment of your man’s usefulness means sudden curtailment of the man himself, once this news breaks.”

“Then again, there is always the chance that a suspect of the type involved, aware of incipient ruin, whether or not he can be legally punished, will decide to turn nasty at the moment of pickup, and either remove himself or the agent, or perhaps both. Of course, a man of proved mental caliber such as the one involved might calmly accept his status with dignity, and toss the burden of proof upon us, knowing that his chances for complete release are pretty good. I merely mention the possibilities from past experience with similar cases.” He smiled faintly and without humor. “Mr. Dane will meet his own problems, however. Strangely enough, our surveillance also offers your man a certain amount of protection from those he doubtless considers his friends. That’s about it.”

“Let me get it straight,” said Dane. “I’ll stay here with the team until Friday, and then Shaw excuses me for part of the day. James picks me up, and we see the publisher, then we arrange details for Monday. That right?”

“Right,” answered Connor. “And that ought to do it on this end for the time being.”

Dane and Shaw sat for a while after Connor, James and Yoke left. “How much good do you think you’ll be against Catholic with all this on your mind? asked the big man gravely. “This is a real tough one, and make no mistake about it. That club is as good as ours.”

“All I can tell you,” said Dane, “is that I generally play one game at a time. But it’s your decision and your ball team.”

Shaw nodded. “There’s a lot to work out yet.”

The rest of the week Shaw ran Rodrigues with the first offensive unit and alternated Dane. Squad spirit built slowly through the middle of the week as the coaching staff drove their men through a set of new sequences and alternate defenses. By Thursday the indefinable edginess, which marks a keyed team was apparent. It showed in a more subdued locker room, in the abatement of usual noise in the dormitories and in the dining room. It was manifest in the concentrated attention Shaw got when running movies of Catholics’ previous games, in the rapt attention paid to his chalk talks.

Shaw cut his Thursday practice short for a press conference arranged by the University’s public-relations department, put the squad under wraps while some twenty reporters were given a brief glimpse of a signal drill. Dane, tossing passes in a sweat suit, saw Sally gaily chatting with the group. She waved to him, and he waved back. She walked down the sideline of the practice field with Ainsley Ames, and Ames beckoned him off.

“Hi,” she said. “Just wanted to say hello, and ask if you felt up to last week’s effort.”

He glanced at Ames. “We all think it will be very tough out there,” he said, and Ames nodded sagely like a man getting the proper responses to an old litany.

“I just wanted to wish you my best,” she said. There was an appeal in her eyes, and he met it with a slow serious nod.

“Thanks, Sally,” he said. “I’ll call you.” He loped back on the field, leaving Ames with a puzzled wrinkle on his forehead at the sudden radiance on Sally’s face.

Jason James picked Dane up at the club at ten o’clock the next day, and Dane, sticking his head in the manager’s office where Shaw made his headquarters, found the big man brusque and harassed. “Sure, go with James. Be at the stadium at noon if you can’t make it back here again today. But try to make it back. Understand?” He waved his arms. “There’s a fine touch of confusion around here, which I don’t appreciate at the moment,” he snapped. “I just got word that Mrs. Berg has picked this weekend to have her baby. She’s on her way to the hospital in Iron City, and I have to tell Ike about it. He’ll want to go in too. Why don’t I just call old Ducky Mather and call the damn’ game off, or maybe ask in a gang of girls and let the whole crew get drunk? Go on, go on, before I lose my mind.”

They left the big man pacing in his office, and drove into Iron City. The town was wearing big-game dress, with shop windows decorated in college colors, and banners swung from theater marquees. The Steel Hotel wore a bright display sign which ran half the length of the building. “BEAT CATHOLIC,” it read. Even the crowds in streets had a festive air, and from time to time, waving knots of people turned into handshaking contests among returned alumni.

The Shamrock squad had arrived that morning from Chicago and was quartered at the Central gym and field house in Bakerston, so that it might work out in the stadium.

Dane and James went directly to the Independent building. They found Osgood Hebert, the publisher, in his walnut-paneled office on the third floor. He was a short, intense man with a fringe of iron-gray hair and a vest full of cigar ashes. He gazed at them shrewdly, making no attempt to interrupt as James concisely went over as much of the situation as seemed necessary, and made his request for Hebert’s cooperation. He was not a man who needed blueprints of any given circumstances. He ran his paper, and much of the area’s political structure, with a driving energy and a volatile temperament that had long since won him both respect and a reputation for judgment.

When James had finished, he pushed a button on his desk and spoke: “I’m calling in my managing editor and issuing instructions. You check them as I give them. This paper will do all it can to help.” While they waited, he turned to Dane. “You going to play tomorrow?” he asked. “I never miss a game,” he said at Dane’s unspoken question. “Furthermore, young man, after some forty-odd years in this business, I am seldom surprised, but you amaze me. I want you to stop by for a chat after you find time for visiting again.”

James and Dane met Timmy Watts at the elevator as they left Hebert’s office. “You’re pretty far off the reservation, aren’t you?” he asked Dane.

“I’m temporarily excused for an hour or two,” said the Dipper.

“Well, luck,” flipped Watts as he watched them enter the car.

Then he turned and walked down the corridor. He stuck his head in the receptionist’s nook outside Hebert’s office, grinned impishly as the severe woman who acted as a buffer Hebert’s visitors frowned at him over her typewriter. “Miss Zink,” he said, “you get prettier every day. Remind me to tell you more often.”

“Okay, tell me. What’s on your mind?”

“What did the football player want with the boss?”

“There was no football player in here,” she said.

“The two guys that just left,” insisted Timmy.

“A pair of Federal cops. Want to talk to the boss about his business?”

“No-o-o,” said Watts reflectively. “Just tell him we’re in love, and get raises for both of us.”

“Out, Watts.”

He made his way back to the sports department, sat silently at his desk, and when Sally Whittaker finally showed up, he called her over to him.

“Redhead, how well do you know Dipper Dane by now?”

She looked at him steadily. “Real well, I think,” she said. “And I’m not kicking this around, but there’s a chance I’ll know about as well as a girl can know anybody.” She felt a tightness at her throat, searched the gravity of Watt’s angular face. “He goes to school,” she said. “He plays a good brand of football, and he’s majoring in journalism. Give with it, Timmy.”

“His heart belongs to J. Edgar Hoover, I think,” said Tim. “He’s a Federal agent. What’s the story?”

She pulled a chair over and sat down slowly, her mind racing, adding, and subtracting unexplained details. She beamed on the waiting Watts. “Timmy, you are a darling,” she said.

“Well, I’ll be go to hell,” grunted Watts.

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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 Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home