BIZARRE THRILLERS! MAGAZINE
"Circle of Spies"
Major Danger arrived at the Los Angeles train station at approximately 20:00 hours. He was greeted by an Army officer. The officer flinched upon first seeing the Major. The Major grinned, accentuating the lines of the scars on his face. The Major sometimes enjoyed the reactions his scars had on people. Both men wore civilian attire. The Army Lieutenant was assigned to escort the Major to the local military adjutant's office. After a short stop for breakfast at the station diner, the two were off through the downtown area of Los Angeles in a black coupe. The Lieutenant, a one Hammerstein, John George, after five minutes of silence began talking.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
The Major nodded.
"First time to Los Angeles sir?"
The Major turned to survey the young Lieutenant. He was young, about 22, 24. College educated. Thin, but not overly so. Hands used to paperwork and not firing a weapon. All this the Major determined just by looking at the Lieutenant. The Major looked into the man's eyes and saw into his mind. The Lieutenant had graduated 65th in his class. He had not been an overly studious student. Not applying himself as best he could. Taking only a passing interest in advancement. J. Hammerstein was not in the military for "the fight". He was in it for the steady paycheck and it beat clerking for his father's insurance business in Gallantry, Texas.
The Major shook his head. 1939 is not 1917, he reminded himself, and with a wry smile on his battle ravaged face he grunted his reply.
"I passed through back in '22. Then moved up the coast. Lots changed since then."
"I wouldn't know sir. I've only been stationed here two weeks, can't say I've seen much of it yet though. Sir."
"You're not missing much, Lieutenant."
The Major had been surveying the sights and while looking past the Lieutenant, perceived a stray thought from him.
Damn this old man is a tough son of a b---h! Look at that scar!
The Major faced the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant looked away, nervous. The Major turned to face the road.
"Sorry, sir. I didn't mean to stare..."
"No need to apologize, Lieutenant. I'm used to it."
After an uncomfortably long silence, "Do you mind if I ask how you got them...sir?"
The lights from passing cars created eery shadows on the Major's face. The Lieutenant was immediately sorry he had asked.
"Belleau Wood." came the stern, stony reply. The remainder of the car ride passed in silence. The Lieutenant drove the coupe into a wooded sub-urb north of downtown Los Angeles. He parked in front of a one story home with a sparsely decorated lawn.
"This is the General's home sir. He's waiting inside for you."
The Lieutenant opened the door to the house. The major followed. They were both greeted by a woman in her early forties. The Lieutenant introduced the Major to her and identified her as the Gerneral's wife. She looked the Major over with a summary glance and smiled. She held out her hand. The Major shook it.
"Gladys Wells. Pleasure to meet you Major."
Mrs. Wells smiled and turned to the Lieutenant.
"John, come with me to the parlor. I need some help with that sofa. You'll excuse us Major? We're in the midst of preparing for a party so I apologize for the disorder. Sam is in the study straight back at the end of the hall."
"No apology necessary, ma'am."
The Major made his way to the General's study. The home was decorated in typical west coast decor. Aside from a few military photographs, the house appeared purely civilian. The door to the General's was ajar. The Major knocked three times sharply.
"Come in." came a gravelly reply.
"Sir, Major Daniel Johnson." Followed by a crisp salute gained the Major entry to the room. General Samuel Wells, in his late fifties, wearing a dark suit and bow tie, paced behind his desk, reviewing the contents of a manilla folder. His face was a chiseled mask of perplexion.
"First off, let me say I've read up on your "abilities" Major, and don't try any of that hooky-pooky on me. I don't go in for any of this shadowy operative bull. I'm doing this strictly as a favor to the Commandant. I've had my staff compiling reports for 22 hours and this is what they've come up with."
The General folded shut the manilla envelope in his hands and passed it to the Major.
"You can get Lt. Hammerstein to take you to the barracks where you can bunk for the night. If that's all Major?"
The Major saluted silently.
An hour later, the Major was sitting alone in a small barrack room reading the files from the manilla folder. Albert Billingsly; 46, Native Californian, college educated. Hobbyist aviator, purchased the Hillman Bros. Flight School in 1931. Through unidentified investments produced enough capitol to expand School into International Air Cargo Company. Suspected smuggler, though no valid evidence to support charges. Information on smuggling reported to the F.B.I., source; disgruntled employee, Horace Cannlin; 144 Brookshire Drive. No other information available. The Major decided to get some sleep and pursue the lead he had on Horace Cannlin in the morning.
09:20 hours found the Major standing outside a dingy looking flop-house, 144 Brookshire Dr. Inside the landlord wiped his sweaty underarms. He was standing in his door frame on the bottom floor of the 3 story apartment hotel. The few questions the Major put to the man were all answered with lies. The Major simply smiled and said he would return later. It didn't take long for the sweaty man to don a coat and hat and rush off to relay information. The Major followed in a requestioned coupe from the Army Motor Pool. He plucked the location of the meeting from the sweaty man's thoughts and arrived before his quarry. The sweaty man took a seat at the bar, ordered a double scotch n' pine and nervously tapped his feet. This man was an amateur. The Major dismissed him as any one to be concerned about. The big man who came into the bar a half an hour later however, was.
The man was big. He outsized the Major 2:1. And his thoughts were cold. A killer's thoughts. A practiced killer's thoughts. This man had done bad things. The Major respected the big man right away. Not out of fear or sentiment. The Major respected the big man out of recognition. The Major also was a practiced killer. And was wondering how he would fare against the big man in combat when the sweaty man let out a yelp and made a run for the back door. The big man did not rush after the sweaty man. He simply sat next to the vacant seat left by the sweaty man. Thirty seconds later the sweaty man returned being escorted by a well dressed man wearing gloves. The well dressed man urged the sweaty man forward, prodding him from his coat pocket. The sweaty man sat reluctantly, obviously nervous. The well dressed man stood close to the sweaty man, scanning the faces of the bar patrons. The big man drank from the glass of water he ordered. The noisy din of the bar recommenced drowning out conversation. The Major easily slipped into the mind of the sweaty man and 'listened in'.
What are you so nervous about, Dooley. We've got you covered. No reason to get jumpy.
I...I...I'm sorry. I was just expecting Malone. N...no..not you.
Am I so frightening Dooley? Be honest.
Y...ye..yes. I'm afraid of you.
That's right. And you should be. You know what happens if we meet again?
Then answer my questions honestly and we wont ever have to. Understood?
Was he a cop?
I don't think so. He didn't flash no badge or anything.
What did he say?
He...he said he was an Interested party. He said he just wanted to talk to Mr. Cannlin.
Sounds like a fed.
He didn't say he was one.
They don't always have to. Dooley it's you're lucky day. Were going to see the boss.
The..the boss? But why? I told ya the truth...honest.
I know you did Dooley. That is why we are going to see the boss. So follow, Greeley.
The Major watched the three men leave. He waited till they were a block away and followed them into the hills in his coupe.