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


“How do I look?” Dane grinned at Jason James. The quality of his smile brought an answering grimace from the older man. He had on a neat blue cheviot suit, a white shirt and a subdued necktie. He looked like a successful young business man, and if his suit coat seemed cut a bit loosely at the arm pits, it at least concealed the slight bulge of the holster at his left shoulder.

“You’re not going to a wedding,” said James. “But I’m glad you’re not rigged like a college boy for the job. Come on, get in the car, and we’ll go on over and get through with this.”

Dane picked up a topcoat and they left his room. James’ unobtrusive sedan was parked at the curb.

He felt tense, and concealed it as best he could from the sharp scrutiny of the older man. The slight stiffness at his shoulders might be the results of Saturday’s game, but he suspected that it might also be from the awareness of the gun beneath his coat. The thing was about ended for him. No matter what happened from here on out, the pattern of life, his life, had changed again. He forced his mind to more pleasant things.

They had had a fine dinner at John Shaw’s; deep-freeze venison from one of the coach’s hunting trips, which, according to the smiling Molly, appeared only for births, weddings, significant victories or whatever the big man considered major occasions. Shaw, Molly, Connor and Sally and himself; the normal coaching-staff party had been given a rain check. The big man and his staff would work game pictures today, although he sensed that John Shaw would not be keeping his mind on the game until he heard from Dane when the day ended.

It had been a good evening, and in a way, a surprising one. Shaw had shown them the recent game films after dinner, amid much banter. He had argued with Sally on several individual plays, slowed the film down to explain their strategy to her, and ribbed her on one of them which caught Dane in a missed blocking assignment. Connor had sat relaxed, sipping Shaw’s after-dinner brandy, enjoying the game all over again. When Shaw had put the game away, Connor had gazed at them speculatively, and had exchanged a questioning glance with the big man.

“Go ahead,” said Shaw in answer to the querying look.

The Government man had then carefully and in a soft, yet incisive voice explained as much as he thought necessary of the case that had brought both him and Dane to Central. Dane, thinking about it as James skirted the campus for the other side of Bakerston, realized that Connor had been at some pains to be informative. He had outlined Shaw’s role, commending it with emphasis in a manner, which brought a tender smile of pride to Molly’s face. He had described Dane’s past service with a wry monotone, made his present assignment appear the dullest of routine, which, Dane completely agreed, it was. He made clear that the future was in Dane’s own hands.

It was, at this point, that Sally had risen from her chair, walked to Dane and kissed him warmly before them all, a radiance in her face that had sent Shaw and Connor into an embarrassed squirm.

“This,” said Dane sheepishly, “is a helluva way to announce an engagement.” They had laughed at him; but Connor’s dry, firm handclasp and Shaw’s heavy arm flung across his shoulders had belied the laughter, as had the tears that shone in Molly’s eyes when Sally embraced her.

It had been a good evening. Shaw, drifting into football shop-talk, outlined the forthcoming game with Eastern in New York’s Polo Grounds. It would be another tough one, he had said, grinning wryly as Connor reminded him that he had never heard comment on an easy one.

Sally had gone home alone. Connor had returned to Dane’s room with him, where they had gone over the setup again, with Connor gravely outlining final instructions.

“We want it quiet,” he had emphasized. “No fuss, no feathers. Quiet as you can keep it. And remember—well, don’t take any chances on anything.”

James voice stabbed into his thoughts. “Almost there,” he said. “Make it a routine call. You’ve got a warrant and a subpoena, but I suppose the old badge will do. You’ll go up alone. It’s a first-floor apartment. You know the layout. I’ll give you about five minutes, and then join you, if necessary.

“Everything you’ll see on the street will be ours. There’s a bread truck about fifty yards away, and a tailor-shop delivery pickup on the other side about the same distance. Maybe it’s all too elaborate, but better safe than sorry.

“The guy’s there. He has no Monday morning classes, anyhow. He got back last evening right after dinner and hasn’t stirred out since.” He eased the car to a stop. “We’ll get out here and walk a block.”

Dane’s legs felt wooden, and he stamped his feet once or twice as he got out of the car. “Suppose the guy doesn’t choose to open up when I knock?”

“Christmas!” snapped James. “Almost forgot.” He reached into his pocket. “It’s a Yale model. We took the serial number and had a key duplicated. Here it is. But I doubt if you need it.”

Keep it routine, thought Dane, the old business touch, the plain, ordinary departmental pattern. Was any pickup ever routine? He knew of no one on an actual job that ever considered it so, even the veterans like Connor, like James, like any of the other men he had been associated with on previous assignments.

So often the actual arrest meant finis for the case of the agent concerned. It marked a finality. Whatever continuity existed in a case following an arrest was a thing for departmental lawyers, courts, other legalistic channels and, upon occasion, funeral directors.

The house, like most of Bakerston’s converted old structures, was set back from the sidewalk and fronted by a sweep of lawn which at one time had been studded with iron dogs, wrought-metal benches and coy garden plots. Dane turned into the walk with James a half-stride behind him. He entered the vestibule, walked past Slanp’s mail rake to a door at the left of the corridor. James remained on the porch behind him.

The button to the right of Slanp’s heavy walnut door was mother of pearl, and Dane pressed it, holding his thumb upon it a full second. He could hear the buzz within the apartment, faint yet insistent. There was no other sound. He pressed the button again. This time the buzz was followed by footfalls, and Professor Slanp opened the door.

The sun streaming in the windows of the apartment did not reach the doorway, and in the dim half-light, made dimmer by the brightness behind it, Slanp’s face, above his impeccable white collar, was pale with a translucent quality. It held a thin glowing appearance like a face in a church window.

The man smiled faintly.

“Mr. Dane,” he said courteously; “won’t you come in?”

Dane nodded gravely. “Thank you.” He followed the man into the book-lined living –room, watched Slanp walk around the long table and sit down. “I regret, Mr. Slanp,” he said, “that this is not a social call. I have a warrant for your arrest.” He stretched his hand halfway across the table, and the small gold badge in his palm burned brightly as the sun struck it. “You will be given an opportunity to make a statement in Iron City. Meanwhile, I extend the customary warning concerning anything you might say.”

“You are not exactly unexpected, Mr. Dane.” The fait, well-mannered smile was still at the corners of the pale face, and there was a relaxed sense of ease in the way he rose. “This isn’t my customary way of beginning a week,” he added with unexpected humor. “May I get my coat?”

There was a charm in the man, thought Dane, and despite his alertness, he felt a touch of sympathy for the neat, slim figure before him. The man was playing the string out gracefully, of course, which knowing the background of the case as Dane did, might ultimately win him free.

“You don’t mind if I help you on with your coat?” queried Dane, moving into the middle of the room. “Or perhaps help you locate it?”

“Standard procedure while confronting suspected criminals, Mr. Dane?”

“Standard procedure.”

It was the polite casualness of the situation, the almost tea-party atmosphere that impressed Dane in spite of himself. He knew, that James, by this time, was outside the apartment door, waiting, perhaps hearing only the shreds of modulated voices.

“I assume the press will be present in Iron City, Mr. Dane?” asked Slanp at the entrance to his bedroom.

“I’d be inclined to doubt it,” said Dane shortly. “That sort of thing will be handled through official channels. I don’t like to be rude, but hurry it up.” He watched Slanp’s eyebrows raise at the curtness in the words.

There was a gentle sarcasm in Slanp’s reply. “Hurry? Of course, it’s just that I am not used to being arrested. It would be silly to ask the charge?”

Dane was blunt. It was the patronizing attitude that marked this meeting, and not what he had had every right to mistake for good manners. The man was playing a part, seeing himself as he thought he should be seen, and managing, at the same time, to maintain his aloof, accustomed relationship between student and instructor, that of the guided to the mentor.

“Espionage,” he said. “Conspiracy against the United States, treason, and”—Dane hesitated briefly—“possibly murder.”

Slanp’s face took a deeper pallor, the cheekbones suddenly pronounced. There was a momentary glitter in his eyes. Dane had seen faces like that before, but the men wearing them had been in uniform and there had been a grinding, banging rumble overhead as if a giant had been shredding locomotives. The impression was fleeting. Slanp’s ascetic, controlled features again wore the slight smile.

“The charge is impressive,” he said, and slid his hand gently into the pocket of his casually fitted coat.

Dane spun with the almost unobtrusive action, thinking with the liquid, flashing motion that the movement was dramatic, unnecessary. He was late. Slanp’s pocket was smoking, and through a suddenly charred hole there was a winking flame. Oddly enough, he never heard the report of the gun. He felt only the smashing blow across his chest, turning him farther into the spin than his own muscular impetus. This despite warnings and experience. Then in the numbing shock before the pain and before the darkness, he walked forward, into the gun, forgetful of the weight in his shoulder holster, with his hands reaching for the man, with an unyielding purpose graving his face into a stone mask.

He never saw the second shot fly wide into the bookshelves, tearing a ragged hole in a copy of “Federal Prose: How to Write in and/for Washington.” His hands were still reaching, reaching, his will driving a superb body now beyond coordinated control.

He never saw Slanp, shivering, his figure one inhumanly queer, involuntary shudder, withdraw the gun from his pocket, place its muzzle in his mouth, and blow the back of his head into a red-gray smear against the frame of the bedroom door.

James did. Blasting the lock from the outer door with a slug from a .38, he was in time to see Slanp topple. He bent over Dane quickly, and then he was at the telephone….

John Shaw did not make the trip into New York for the game with Eastern. He was too busy, closeted during the day with University officialdom and Federal authorities, and waiting, during the early evening hours at Iron City’s Municipal Hospital, for reports on Dane’s condition. He was not too busy to address the squad on its morning of departure under Morgan’s guidance. The story was smashing from one end of the country to another, anyhow. It made little difference in his patient, simple, yet curiously stirring explanation of its background to the team.

Not in all his years of coaching, however, had he experienced such a squad reaction. There was a complete and stony silence when he finished. The men waited momentarily to see if there was more, then quietly rose to their feet and got in the buses for the ride to the station.

From the platform, Shaw watched the train leave. When it was out of sight, he smiled grimly.

He repeated the same sort of an expression Saturday in the small hospital anteroom where he sat with a drawn-lipped Sally and the patient, thin-mouthed Connor. Dane had passed the crisis stage, and with care and several weeks of hospitalization, would recover. A small portable radio was describing the cold, efficient rout of a good Eastern team by what the announcer termed the “machine men” of Central. The score was forty to nothing at the end of the third quarter, and Morgan had emptied the bench several times. The reaction to the story of Dipper Dane had worn a delayed fuse.

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