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 Seventeen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


Dane walked back into the locker room. Some of the squad were still in the showers, the rest of the gang were in various stages of dress. He collared a student manager. “Is there a phone around here that connects with the press box?

“Sure,” answered the kid. “Right in the coaches’ office. Ames is in there. You can ask him.”

Dane followed the manager’s finger, pushed open the door to the small room. Ames was combing his hair. He grinned at Dipper. “Thought you’d bone,” he said. “Coming out to the club, or staying on the campus?”

“Staying in,” said Dane. “May I use the phone?”

“Sure. For a few hours tonight you guys are heroes, you know.” The backfield coach grinned. “In fact, you’ll be big shots until Tuesday. Shaw’s giving the squad a day off Monday. But help yourself.” He walked behind Dane into the locker room.

Eddie could hear the phone buzz in the press box. It buzzed for several seconds before a harsh voice replied.

“Miss Whittaker of the Independent there?” he asked.

“Wait until I see,” said the voice. Dane could hear it yell. There was another long minute of silence, and then Sally’s crisp tone filled the receiver.

“Hey,” he said, “Did you send word down and ask me to wait for you?”

“Is this a left handed invitation?” she queried. “Or didn’t you have the courage to ask me directly? No, I didn’t send you any word. I’ve still got twenty minutes work here. But I can be engaged for the evening if you ask prettily. What inspired your calling the press box? Or can I just hope for the best?”

He grinned at her flipness. “I had another idea, but I find change necessary,” he said. “How about picking me up, anyhow? I’m starved for both food and your company. I ought to tell you that I’m beat, however. Can we find a quiet nook in the city?”

“Not in that city tonight, pal. But if forced into things, I could be persuaded to cook in. The family will be out again this evening. All I have to do is break a few dates for you. Incidentally, Timmy Watts will be riding back to town with us. I think I ought to tell you that you are a suspicious character to him right now.” She paused. “He says it was you coming out of Hebert’s office yesterday, and wondered enough to ask Hebert’s secretary what a football player wanted. She told him that there were no football players admitted.”

“Thank you,” said Dane. “Would you pick me up at the Blue and Gold Hotel downtown here? I’ve got one or two phone calls to make first.”

“Dipper--” Her voice was soft. “I think you’re a strange character too, but I’m glad you called, and I’ll hurry. ‘Bye.”

He left the coaches’ office and entered the locker room again, crossed its corner and left, walking down the corridor and out into the night. The thing didn’t make much sense, he thought, unless somebody was getting worried enough to make a bid for more information, the kind you could slug out of a guy. Or else the opposition suddenly wanted to remove all its known sources of possible danger. Perhaps the timing set up by Connor had gone wrong. This was Saturday night. A story for release in the Sunday papers must have hit the wires around mid-afternoon Saturday, and thus Connor’s pressure was already producing results. He walked across the common, moved briskly through the tree-lined streets past Fraternity Row, where the brethren, engaged with cocktails, visiting alumni, game weekend dates and victory were at noisy grips with their celebrations.

The small lobby of the Blue and Gold was crowded, and the three phone booths in its rear corner were filled. Dane waited patiently until one of the young men left the end booth, then stepped in, dialed his number.

He made his report to James at the regional office, described the incident in full. “Wait a minute,” said James. “Connor’s coming in.” Dane could hear the muted cadences of conversation, and then Connor’s precise voice was in his ear.

“Where are you now? And what are your plans?”

Dane told him.

“Sounds like somebody’s going off the reservation. Our man was at the game this afternoon. Of course, it would have been a nice place to pass instructions along with all the mob, if he’s still in a position to pass ‘em. But stay where you are fifteen minutes, and I’ll put a tail on you. Lord knows, we’ve ample personnel in the area.”

Dane told him Sally’s tip about Watts’ off-the-cuff investigation at the paper.

“Can’t be helped,” said Connor. “It doesn’t matter now anyhow, as long as there isn’t anything definite for him to go on. If I thought he’d get too nosey, I’d have Hebert put a flea in his ear. You can even tell Whittaker when this weekend is over. Watch your step, and we’ll stay in touch.”

He left the booth , wandered out into the lobby, leaned on the corner of the registration desk and listened to a tall young man in a polo coat harangue the stony-faced hotel clerk, a man who had heard about everything college men could concoct during years of service. “Look, my girl’s got this room: she’s in it—well, not right this minute, but her things are there. Now, this guy’s date has no place to sleep. Something got jammed at his house, and the girls’ dorm is filled. Why can’t we move his girl in with my girl? You could rig a cot or something, then make out two different bills, one for me and one for him. I’d have my girl okay the arrangement, but she’s a bit ticked, and she doesn’t like this other girl anyhow. But, hell, we have to do something.”

“I’d suggest you all stay up all night. Play games.”

“Yeh, but where would we change for breakfast? Try it this way. Let me look at the register and see if I can find some guy I know. I’ll get him to come over to the house and bunk with me, and have him give his room to this guy’s girl…. What do you say?”

Dane never heard the answer. He walked down to the lobby entrance and stood just inside the door; and then Sally’s horn, a distinctive hiccoughing beep, was honking in the street. There was no one in the lobby that he knew. He looked at his wristwatch uncertainly. A bright looking young man wearing horn-rimmed glasses came through the revolving door, glanced amiably around the lobby and brushed by. “Nice game, Dipper,” he said softly. “Beat it.” Dane walked out, waved Sally out of the mid-street traffic toward the curb past the hotel. As her car moved to him, he walked around and jammed into it beside Timmy Watts.

“H’ya, Dipper, how do you feel?” Watts asked.

“Beat, Timmy. How’s your hired help doing?” “Why don’t you ask her?” “How are you doing?” “Some better now.”

They rode in a companionable silence for a time, and they chatted easily about the game. Sally pushed the little car along, and less than a half-hour later they were in Iron City. They moved through the traffic, and dropped a suddenly sulky Watts at the paper for a final check on his Sunday editions.

Sally’s parents were in the hallway as they entered the house. Mr. Whittaker, a chubby gray-haired man with a rounded and glowing face, was assisting Mrs. Whittaker into her coat. He was having trouble, because he was attempting to hold on to a cocktail glass with one hand. Mrs. Whittaker, a matronly version of Sally herself, smiled at them. “My goodness, it’s good to see you. Help me with this coat, Sally. There’s a good child. Your father is useless tonight, and we’re late now.”

“Nonsense,” boomed the elder Whittaker. “It’s one of those after-game cocktail and buffet things. Nobody there yet except people getting swatted. They won’t take the wraps off the food for an hour yet. May I make you people a drink?”

Sally made the introductions; Dane acknowledged them, smiling a bit as Mr. Whittaker winked at him.

“You cannot make them a drink,” said Mrs. Whittaker. “You’ve had two now, and I want to leave.” She patted Sally on the cheek. “There may be one for you in the shaker, dear. It will be weak and watery. Are you going out to dinner?”

“Not tonight, Mother. I promised Dipper a handout here. Is there anything around?”

“Tired ham and cold beans,” interrupted her father. “I looked while your mother was dressing. Also one dead pork chop, a chunk of rat cheese, tomorrow’s rib roast, some dried beef in wax paper and a lot of damn’ carrots. Try the deep freeze, Sally. Take the skinniest and worst looking steaks from the right hand corner. I want the good ones for myself.” He grinned at Dane like a small boy bragging over a good report card. “Make yourself a drink, son, if you use it.” He turned to Sally. “We’ll be at Crawford’s. Call me about ten-thirty and tell me the house is burning. I want to get away as soon as possible.”

He grabbed a coat from the rack and hastened Mrs. Whittaker to the door. “Good night, daughter. Behave yourself.”

They were alone. Sally, her coat still on, reached up and grabbed Dane’s ears, pulled his head down and kissed him. He slid his hands inside her open coat, letting them drop to the curve of her hips and drew her to him, held her a long moment. “Why did we fight?” she murmured. “I missed you, missed you.” He was silent, and he silenced her with his lips. The tension fled from him, and he released her. She put her hands on his shoulders, looked up at him.

“When they took you off that field this afternoon, I thought I’d die,” she said gravely. “I can’t stand that feeling about you ever, Eddie. You might as well know I can’t stand worrying about you, either.” She paused. “In anything you’re doing--”

He tapped her upraised chin with a closed hand. “Feed us first, talk about us later.” He helped her out of her coat and threw his own on a chair. They walked through the house to the big square old-fashioned kitchen. Sally handed him a pan and a handful of potatoes. “Peel ‘em,” she commanded. “I’m going to do the same for myself. I’ve been in these clothes all day, and I want a slight change. Be back in a minute, full of glamour for you.”

“You don’t even have to go away for that,” he said.

“I think I’ll keep you.” She left him with the potatoes.

Professor Stuart Slanp dined at the Faculty Club with an instructor of German, the faculty advisor of the student language club Germania. They discussed the advisability of merging the Romance Language clubs, separated into units of Spanish, French and Italian, with Germania for bi-monthly meetings in overlapping cultural subjects such as folklore, thus giving all the individual student language groups a homogeneity hitherto denied. Slanp, as always, was precise, thoughtfully courteous and genuinely helpful. He excused himself at eight-thirty, left the club and wandered down the winding campus walk from the graceful stone structure into the town. The brimming vitality of the village annoyed him. It was more crowded than usual, and noisier. He was well aware that the weekend of the Catholic game was a traditional party weekend, and that victory added a heightened emotional fillip to the festivities. He wished that he had not attended the game. While it was not a serious deviation in his habits, the mob excitement created by a stadium full of fanatics was a tiring experience.

He would not admit to the feeling of bolstered security he obtained from watching the man Dane, a person exposed while he himself remained hidden. It would be weakness to admit that what he could see he could not fear. To do so, would be to admit that he was worried about what he sensed but could not see. Such doubts were a part of the inevitable isolation in the work.

It had been more than a full month since he had last functioned as a unit within the regional structure, and then merely to brief an accredited person on a personality background necessary to work in another area. It was a minor chore, not to be compared to the former transmission of data supplied by the elder Rogalski until his termination of usefulness. But then, Slanp’s services were necessarily limited, his talents specialized, more in a vital stand-by category than an active, organizational duty bracket.

The group in Iron City existed for a different purpose than his. That operated at worker and community level, and as far as he was personally concerned, was merely a single telephone number, a single innocuous residential address useful to him only in an emergency or by direct order. He wondered at the reaction of the Iron City group with the influx of Federal agents concerned with game tickets. If the guilty flee when no man pursueth, how does the guilty run when the pursuers swarm the premises? But then, those who admit to no guilt seldom run, and those with such outmoded personal equipment as a guilt complex seldom become important cogs in party affairs.

It was the perennial uncertainty…. Dane, for instance—no one had ever identified Dane as an opponent, a hazard, a man committed against him. It was simply a cold analysis of coincidence that limned the man as a hazard; his background and service record, his appearance at a time of stress within the work and the disappearance of the elder Rogalski, his interest in the removal of the younger Rogalski as evidenced by the news story of his picture search. That photograph had never been sent to the Rogalski family, that poor mine country couple. Simple checking revealed as much. Where, then, did Dane fit in, and why was he so sure of his position? A football player! But then, he himself was a professor.

Very seldom did black show black or white white. A man in his position had to force the disclosures necessary to his career upon occasion, and always risk went with the attempt. Twice now he had acted, once with young Rogalski, again today with a try for Dane and a gamble for information. Twice, now, he had stepped out of his hitherto silent niche to use emergency mechanism, and in the latter move the area was flooded with Federal agents. In some quarters that might not be considered good judgment.

Actually all he had done was make a telephone call from the crowded men’s room under the stadium just before halftime, using the dial phone as one in a line of impatient people, each eager to drop a nickel after him. The method was practically untraceable. He would get word concerning the attempt for information later if it succeeded.

Slanp, walking slowly, swung into the Blue and Gold hotel, picked up the local Sunday newspaper, which generally reached Bakerston from Iron City about eight in the evening. He would have the New York Times delivered to his apartment in the morning. He had the winter issue of the Cornhill, a British literary quarterly, at home. It contained a Pope-Hennessy article on the saint legends of Provence that he wanted to read.

There was a thin, cold wind in the treetops as he walked down the dark side street to his apartment, and it rattled the dead ends of the branches.

There was magic in the night, a freshness in the wind—a hint of subtle scents and signs. But he felt no exhilaration. Never in his life had he run for the running, wrestled, thrown a ball or felt any impelling urge for simple animal antics. The physical restlessness in such a night merely emphasized his fatigue, and at the same time stimulated his mind, sending it probing in circles.

His apartment was warm. He hung his coat carefully on a hanger in the closet at the entrance, pulled the chain switch on a lamp on a long library table. He walked back to his bedroom, where he swapped shoes for slippers, removed his necktie, exchanged his suit coat for a faded maroon smoking jacket. He returned to his living room, picked up the Sunday Independent, and slacked into a deep brown leather easy chair.

An eight-column banner line across the top of the first news seduction highlighted the big story of the area: “CENTRAL DUMPS CATHOLIC BY 14-7 COUNT.” He looked twice at the head and the bank of the lead story, a premonition urging him to ignore the relentless type: EX-RED COURIER REVEALS WASHINTON ESPIONAGE RING; MICROFILM EVIDENCE IN HANDS OF COMMITTEE; FBI-JUSTICE DEPT> PROBE UNDER WAY.

He read the story carefully, turned to the jump page where the marching column of type was continued. There was another blur of headline adjoining the continuation: FEDERAL AGENTS TRACE SPY LEAD TO IRON CITY-BAKERSTON AREA.

It was foolish, ridiculous, and he felt deeply ashamed. he went into his bathroom and was sick, his stomach shocked with an alien nervous rebellion. Shaken, and still more tired, he returned to his chair, gave his intelligence a chance to recoup his emotional balance.

DreamHost Web Hosting -

This site is powered by Dreamhost. Touch the moon to join the "dream."

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 Seventeen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home