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 Sixteen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


The score was tied at the half. Perkins passed to Floyd in the end zone midway through the first period and converted the point. Catholic marched seventy yards overland during the second quarter and finally rammed into pay dirt. The kick was good. The big black scoreboards at each end of the stadium read: 7 to 7.

The crowd, limp and subdued from the excitement of the first half, watched Central’s band march down the field and maneuver into a giant C. Cheerleaders along the sidelines raised their arms as the band, brasses blazing, blared into Central’s “Alma Mater.” On the upper edge of the stadium two ushers were assisting a man with a heart attack down the concrete steps, carrying him to the medical room beneath the stands, where two similar cases had preceded him. The flags, flying from their short staffs placed along the topmost edge of the huge edifice took added richness from the bright blue of the cloudless sky.

There were nearly seventy thousand people jammed into Central stadium, and for thirty minutes, not including time-outs, they had watched two equally adept T-running teams dissipate their attacks on seemingly well matched defenses.

Shaw was improving Central’s defense as the squad rested in the locker room, chewing dextrose tablets and sipping small paper cups of orange juice. He was calm, businesslike, almost casual. “Berg,” he said, “I’ve had three checks now from our spotters. Daley, their quarterback, is putting his front foot up very close, in fact, beneath his center’s legs as he takes that ball. Watch for that—all you linemen, and especially you guards. If that foot looks too close to you, submarine and try for a grab at it as he takes the ball. If we can encourage one fumble in there, it might mean the ball game.” His voice was firm but low. “Dane, Rodrigues, all you halfbacks—take any first man down on their passes this half. We’ll try a four-man line and let our ends float against passes into the flat. The inside linebackers can watch for buttonhooks. Perkins, take the wraps off your variation on the pitchout if you find a spot anywhere from midfield on, the one we worked with all this week. Use Dane on the play to the right. Switch Floyd from the fullback spot to half on the same play to the left. You hike right over behind the play and stay there is case of interceptions.”

The big man looked at his wristwatch. “Almost time to go back to work.” He gazed keenly at the drawn, serious faces before him. “The only reason I want this ball game, you know, is the fact that I just can’t stand the thought of Ike Berg’s son being born the day Central lost to Catholic. It might frustrate him for life.” He grinned easily. “On your feet, you guys. I’m proud of you.”

They hit the tunnel yelling.

In the press box Sally Whittaker banged away at her story with the undercarriage of her portable nudging a steaming paper container of coffee at the end of each line she wrote. At her elbow Tim Watts brought the diagrams up to the end of the half and totaled his statistics. He put his pencil down and picked up a pair of binoculars with which he scanned the stadium; then he focused them on the Central squad, caught Dane in the glasses and held him a moment. “Damn and double damn!” he muttered. He could go to Hebert and ask about Dane. That would be simple. Hebert expected his men to dig out information. Then again, if Hebert had wanted the facts known, he would have called Watts in and given them to him. Something was cooking and he had missed it. The thought irritated him. He wondered again at Sally’s reaction. She had seemed pleased, curiously relieved when he told her that Dane appeared to be a cop. He glanced at her, noted her concentration, and looked down at the field again. The teams were lining up.

On the other side of the stadium Stuart Slanp, his ascetic face grave beneath a gray felt hat, also peered through a pair of glasses at the field. There was a communicable tension in such spectacles, he decided, a dangerous excitement for a man who had so long repressed his emotional urges, and it underlined the foreboding feeling he had carried for weeks now. Dane was not starting this second half. He moved the glasses in front of the Central bench, now emptied as the players and coaches stood along the sideline for the kickoff. He picked out Dane’s face, a set, strong face, eagerly fixed on the playing field, with apparently no other thoughts behind it than those concerned with the tumbling ball rising through the air. The rasp-throated, chuffing roar of the crowd interrupted his speculation, and the rough, jostling impact of a spectator knocked the glasses from his eyes. The game was on.

Directly behind the goal-posts, midway to the stadium rim in the end-zone seats, Connor also watched the teams meet, savored the crisp, sharp blocking and the sudden tangling pileup as Catholic, kicking off, stopped Floyd of Central on the Blue and Gold’s eighteen-yard line. There was nothing to do now but enjoy the game, a game which could be enjoyed, until the play made in his own grimmer and seldom resolved game produced an effect.

Perkins ran three plays between the tackles, and Central chopped out exactly seven yards to the twenty-five. Then he pulled the club into punt formation and booted the ball for the sideline, away from Zwick, the Catholic safetyman, and a shifty runner. The ball hopped out on the Shamrock forty. Shaw waved his defensive unit into the game, Dane with it.

The Catholic line was big, fast and rough. It played with a mean concentration and a smartness born of good coaching. There was little difference in the two lines today. Berg accounted for it. The big guard was playing near the edge of recklessness, with only the instinctive savvy gained from long experience preventing him from sucker moves against the canny Catholic traps. His face was bruised. There was a cut over one eye and the left side of his mouth was a crimson smear.

Catholic tried a split buck into the middle; and Berg, submarining, checked the play long enough for Piskoti and Ziborsky to pile blockers and runner into a heap. It was tough down that slot. Catholic tried the outside, found a hole and went for four yards. Daley set his team, barked the play into movement, and faded to pass.

The pattern evolved to the strong side, and Dane picked up the first man through, staying behind him with a choppy, seemingly off-balance stride until the ball rocketed into the air. It came in a ragged, wobbly spiral; apparently it had been tipped by one of Central’s swarming linemen. Intended for the deep man, it was falling short.

Dane broke his drifting, dancing motion and sprinted up for it. He tipped it, juggled it, held it and darted for the sideline, yelling. He watched his teammates check, begin the changing blocking patterns. One of Catholic’s ends tried for a sleeve tackle, and Dane shrugged past him. He slowed, and from the corner of his eye saw Armbruster drive a bright green jersey into the turf with a cross block, and then he was moving in high gear. He passed his own thirty-five, reversed his field and fled past the forty into Catholic territory and streaked for the open field.

Zwick, nearly as fast as Dane, raced him for the lane along the sideline, running the short leg of the angle, and with a desperate dive nicked Dane’s heels, spilled him out of bounds a half-stride away from a dead clear field. It was Central’s ball on the Shamrock thirty-eight.

The offensive unit was back in the ball game before the officials had waved the chain down and moved the ball into the field of play. Central huddled, and Perkins gave them no time to wonder. “Shaw wants the pitch-out variation to the right. Okay. Let’s go on the fourth digit.” He snapped his signals, his voice shrill, arrogant and cocksure.

Dane, the man in motion, broke to the right, and the play spun behind him. He hesitated, took the accurately rifled ball from Perkins. Catholic had scouted those pitch-outs well. Dane, hesitating, watched the end check, saw the Shamrock halfback come up fast. He faded back, noting the momentary lack of movement in the man opposite him, and then they were breaking, charging in on him. Linemen were spilling toward him. He continued to fade. Far down the field he spotted Daniels sprinting along the sideline on the left side of the field, well beyond the Shamrock secondary and still moving. He pulled back his arm and heaved a long, arcing, leading pass for the corner. He watched Daniel’s arms go up sweetly, and surely and take the ball without breaking stride. Then he was flat on his back with a big Catholic tackle driving an elbow into his solar plexus.

The pandemonium in the stands told him that the play was good, told the man on his chest the same thing at the same instant, for Dane watched a despairing frown cross his face. Dane grinned into his eyes before he shook him off and rose to his feet. Daniels was still in the end zone, holding the ball and jumping up and down like an animated pogo stick in sheer exultation.

From rim to rim the stadium was a heaving mass of shifting color, and the noise broke as if someone had crammed a tidal wave down a subway, with a billowing, amplified surf sound.

They huddled to convert the point, and Thomas spit into the palm of his hand. He threw two teeth at Perkins’ feet. “Make it good,” he said. “I just paid for one.” Perkins delivered.

The big drum of numerals on the scoreboards revolved slowly, and a fourteen replaced the seven for Central.

Central kicked off with Wienstock lifting the ball down to the Shamrock goal line. The game got rougher. Dane, coming up to make a tackle, caught a fist in the face and an elbow in the back of his neck as two blockers poured it on. His knees broke beneath him as he tried to stand after the play, and then he was led off the field with old Dan murmuring endearments at his side.

Armbruster, his left eye looking like something at the business end of a potato masher, came off shortly afterward, talking to himself. Catholic moved that ball. The Shamrocks, a sound, fighting team, slammed it out in the short, driving gains past midfield, and with time running out, went into the air. Central fought back. Catholic took it down to the Blue and Gold thirty before Berg, a sodden, sweating smear of a man, charging under the Shamrock center, hooked Daley’s leg enough to kill the pivot and forced a fumble. When the referee pried them apart, Peterson had the ball again.

Shaw took Perkins out, sent in his second-string quarterback, Ferroldi, and called the plays from the bench, a series of sweeps. He sent in Rodrigues, Teebold and Wisneiwitz, all comparatively fresh, and opened up the game, running Catholic from one side of the field to the other, and biting off yardage in three-, five, seven-yard cracks. Catholic dragged out its tired backs and ends and matched the running game.

Shaw and old Ducky Mather of Catholic were still playing human chess when the final gun went off, and Berg’s new kid had his present.

In spite of strong-armed stadium guards on the doors, the dressing room was jammed with players, coaches and those curious well-wishers and enthusiastic visitors spawned by the public relations staff and university officialdom. Old Dan and the squad doctor cursed with a soft intent flow as they moved around the rooms and the offset leading to the showers. Dan’s assistants fought for arm room at the rubbing tables. Then Shaw’s booming voice echoing over the hubbub slowly cleaned the visitors out. They took most of the excitement with them, and most of the noise.

Dane, tired, dressed slowly, completely relaxed, and let the sounds of the locker room pour over him. Perkins, at the bench beside him, sat in his underwear and pondered a sock languidly. “It was quite a think in there today,” he said. “I feel as though I’d been chewed and spit.”

Buckets Dugan approached them. “Shaw’s taking the guys back to the country club for the night,” he said, “all except the guys who want to be excused. You’ll get a swell dinner, a movie and lots of early sack time if you want it.”

Perkins made no comment. Dugan continued. “There isn’t any must about this deal,” he amplified. “He doesn’t give a damn if anybody goes back, really. But the country club’s there and ready if we want it.”

“To hell with the joint,” interrupted Piskoti over Dugan’s shoulder. “My girl came up for the weekend. There’s a party at my house, and I promised her some fun. I ain’t goin’.”

“Well, there’s still time to make up your minds,” grunted Dugan, and moved on.

Berg jostled by, dripping water, the left side of his face swollen. He was humming. “I’m going in to see Mamma and the boy,” he said to Dane. “You guys headed for Iron City?”

“No,” muttered Dane. “I think I’ll eat, buy a two bit cowboy novel and hit the hay in my own digs. I’m sick of looking at you guys. You remind me of a hard day.” His grin took the edge off the words. He pulled a sports coat over his shoulder and stuck his necktie in his pocket. He walked across the room as John Shaw, his arm linked with the arm of an elderly gray-haired man, intercepted him. The older man, faint humor lines etched at the corners of his eyes, grinned at him wryly.

“Dipper, I want you to meet Ducky Mather,” said the big man. “I want to warn you, though, that he hates you today.” Catholic’s coach grinned, gave Dane a keen direct glance. “That was a fine game, lad,” he said, “but John’s right. I’d have been just as happy if you and Perkins, and that fellow Berg had all stayed home.” He jammed an elbow into Shaw’s ribs. “The bad part of the character building business is that it’s good manners to come in to congratulate a winning coach. But there have been occasions when John has come over to call on me.” He nodded. “Good luck to you, son.” They moved down the room together.

Dane got his topcoat, shrugged into it and walked down the concrete corridor leading to the outside of the stadium. The guard on the door spoke to him. “Got a message for, Mr. Dane.”

Dipper Dane nodded. “What is it?”

“Miss Whittaker of the Independent asks you to wait for her. She said she’d be down shortly. If you don’t want to hang around here, her car is in the press section of the parking lot right near the exit lane. You can sit in it. She said you’d know which one.”

The man’s face was impassive, courteous.

“Thanks,” said Dane, and walked away from the stadium toward the parking area. He turned after moving some fifty yards and gazed up at the rim of the stadium. There were lights in the press box; apparently there was still copy being filed, although, the huge bowl was now deserted by the crowd, and only various attendants busy at odd jobs remained. Ahead of him, across the common and through the trees vaguely outlined in the dusk he could see the lights of Bakerston and on the edge of town the massed and snakelike lights of cars pouring into the valley en route to Iron City along the highway. There were still cars scattered in the parking lot, three or four in the press section as he approached it.

There was a coupe’ like Sally’s near the exit posts. He stopped suddenly, thoughtfully aware of something he could not define for a moment. Tired, still keyed from the game, and edgy, he paused. He was being watched. The tensions of the day rasping his perceptions heightened the feeling. Playing his hunch, he walked back to the door of the stadium leading to the lockers. The guard was gone, but down the corridor he could hear voices and muted noise. The squad, or much of it, was still around. He waited, standing back in the corridor, away from the door. He stood for five long minutes. The guard did not return, and finally he swung around to go back into the lockers. He took one final look out the door, pushing it ajar as he did so. A small coupe’ swung out of the press section of the parking lot, moved into the driveway and roared off toward Bakerston. It still looked like Sally’s coupe’.

He was convinced that it was not.

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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 Sixteen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home