Raoul Whitfield is one of the unjustly forgotten innovators of hard-boiled fiction. A contemporary of Hammett's, he is often credited with one of the earliest writers of pulp aviation fiction. This early example of the genre first appeared in the April 1926 issue of Black Mask, and vividly displays the wide-scope of the magazine's early adventure and detective fiction.
Scotty possessed a sense of humor, which was fortunate at the moment. Glancing over the side of the fuselage, he noted the rough country below, the winding blue ribbon which was a river half a mile in width. The battered J.H.6 glided down, and Scotty spoke to Bing Russell through the 'phones.
"What do you say, Bing? River or that alfalfa field? Take it wet or dry? The engine's as dead as that there breed who tried to draw on you last week in Tia Juana"
Bing chuckled. Scotty's mechanic and partner in crime - if it were a crime to take chances in life - stared over the side of the 'plane's fuselage also.
"Up to you, Scotty," he muttered. "Busted feed line, I'd say. Get us down right side up and I'll fix it up in an hour or so. I'd favor the alfalfa field, big boy."
"Alfalfa she is!" Scotty replied cheerfully, and circled the 'plane down in increasingly steep banks. The wind sang through wires and struts; she vibrated severely, but she held together. And that was about all that Scotty required a ship to do. He crashed them frequently, and usually he and Bing got them into the air again. Patched up a bit, perhaps flying with a wing down - but in the air just the same.
The ribbon of blue rose toward them. It widened. And the particular, level patch of alfalfa upon which Scotty had his eyes, rose with the river. Scotty chuckled as he made a final bank around into the wind.
"We'll be sure and hit the right side of the river Bing," he stated. "Mexico ain't so healthy for you this season."
Bing grunted. Tia Juana had become too civilized to suit him. It had gotten so you couldn't pot a drunken half-breed, who had taken offense at nothing and was trying lo pull a gun, and get away with tt without too much fuss.
Scotty pulled back slowly on the joystick. The J.H.6 settled nicely. The field was level and looked pretty smooth. Drifting along at a speed of about forty miles an hour, the front wheels of the 'plane struck earth.
The ship bounced once, settled down again. And then Scotty saw it. Savagely he jerk'd the joy-stick back against his khaki shirt. But he was too late. The ridge raced toward them; the ship's front wheels struck hard against the soft earth. Over she went, with Scotty still holding the stick against his shirt, and with one arm flung up to protect his face. There was a splintering of the propeller, the ship stood up on her nose, swayed back and forth for a second or two, and then toppled gently over on her back,
Scotty wriggled himself out of his upside down position in the front cockpit. He swore gently but with considerable feeling. Bing Russell emerged from the rear cockpit, a broad grin on his browned face.
"You're one hell of a pilot!" he commented sarcastically. "The river would have been better, Scotty."
Scotty continued to mutter to himself, his right leg hurt; it had been bruised in the turnover. He examined the ship. They were carrying an extra propeller back of the rear cockpit, and the wings could be patched. At least the accident had not been fatal.
A grin appeared on his face. He regarded Bing for several seconds in silence. Bing had engaged in rolling a cigarette. Scotty followed suit, finally he spoke.
"Bing," he said earnestly, "I'm getting old. But the alfalfa hid that ridge of earth. My eyes might have picked it up five years ago. I'm getting old."
Bing nodded. "In another ten or fifteen years you'll have to quit the flying game," he remarked with due seriousness. "And then I'll let you ride in the back seat with me."
Scotty grunted. "When I can't fly 'em myself
- then's the time I stay down below," he said slowly. "The
next question is - how are we going to get the
Bing shook his head, "You an' me - we can't do it," he replied. "But I noticed a ranch house off to the north. About three miles, I'd say. Suppose I go over and shake out a few of the boys. You sit tight and solioquize on your sins, including this turnover."
Scotty grinned. "Think you can hike six miles without getting blisters?" he questioned gently. "Go ahead. Bing - it'll be dark in a few hours. And we're supposed to be at Tracy so's to stunt 'em up in the morning."
Bing nodded. He glanced at the sun, which was sinking in the hills off to the west, and moved off. Scotty continued to regard the ship. Several wires had snapped in the crash. He decided to go over the ground for a short distance. It might be dark by the time they got off. He limped slowly away from the ship, walking toward the west, from which direction the wind was blowing. He would get off into the wind, and that section of the field must be level. Another ridge like the one they hit would mean a worse smash than the one they had just been through.
Once he turned and looked over toward the spot he had last seen Bing. His partner was out of sight; it wouldn't be long before he'd be back with some aid.They were lucky to have gotten out of the thing as easily as they had, And he didn't want to miss the carnival at Tracy. It would mean a nice little sum of money, and there would be more to be picked up by joy-riding the ranch-hands.
Suddenly Scotty stiffened. The sharp crack of a rifle had drifted down on the wind. At first he thought it might have been Bing shooting, but he realized instantly that the rifles were back in the 'plane. Bing had his Colt, but this crackle of a weapon had not been revolver fire. Scotty knew - he was an old-timer.
He waited, listening. There was no other sound. The wind sighed gently through the tall grass. Scotty started to walk forward again. And then another sound came to him. This time it was the sound of a horse. The horse was running free and fast. Scotty halted.
A quarter mile ahead was a slight rise. The horse came over the rise, and Scotty uttered an exclamation of surprise. The rider was slumping forward in the saddle, swaying dangerously. Even as Scotty watched he suddenly tumbled off his mount, disappeared in the grass. The horse sheered off, circled around and vanished.
Scotty started toward the spot where the rider had fallen, moving at a trot. He knew now that the rifle shot had been fired at this man. He was wounded, that was sure, and his mount was badly frightened. Scotty drew his own revolver as he went along.
A groan brought him to the man, who was lying on his side. Scotty turned him over, lifted him to a sitting position.
"All right, old fellow," he muttered. "What happened? Who shot you?"
The wounded man turned glazed eyes toward the pilot, A thin stream of red trickled down from his forehead.
"Menzies!" he muttered thickly. "Get Menzies! Runnin' chinks across the river. Busted into him alone. Thought I was Hinkey. He got me, damn him! Tell the bunch at-"
His body shook in a convulsion. He tried to speak again, and then collapsed in Scotty's arms. Gently the pilot laid him down on the hillside. Death had come swiftly.
Scotty rose. The thing had shaken him, but he acted quickly. He limped on up the slope of the hill. From the crest he had a fair view. But he saw no rider. The killer had gotten out of sight, and pretty quickly, too.
Scotty drew a deep breath. The last time he had been down at San Diego the Chief had talked with him about chink-running. And he had mentioned this man Menzies. A renegade half-breed who had tried a little of everything that was without the law.
"Menzies!" Scotty pronounced the name slowly. "I wonder who the poor devil is that he got? Said something about Hinkey-sheriff or government agent, I figure. Damn!"
Scotty gazed toward the Rio. He was sure that Menzies had ridden in that direction. South. And not more than six or seven miles south, at that. The pilot shook his head slowly.
He rolled a cigarette. It looked very much as though he had blundered into something. Scotty took a hand in almost anything that savored of adventure. And when the Chief, down at San Diego, hadn't anything particular on his mind, Scotty flew the carnivals and fairs, joy-rode passengers. But this killing, the pilot figured, would shortly be on the Chiefs mind. Scotty knew the Chief; they had been in the same squadron in France. The Chief had been the Major in command. Scotty had been a lieutenant, and a good one.
"Yeah," Scotty remarked lo himself. "Banning would sure want us in on this deal. Guess it's up to me and Bing to kinda' sit in without orders."
Scotty turned back toward the dead man lying down on the slope of the hill. The man's horse was out of sight. The pilot nodded his head as he walked slowly along.
"Yeah," he muttered for the second time. "I figure this is where Scotty sorta' scouts around."
Hinkey, who was a deputy-sheriff with headquarters at Tracy, looked astonishingly like the dead man. Scotty saw readily why Menzies had made the mistake. And Hinkey enlightened him, while Bing was working on the righted ship, as to the chink-ninners' motive for the killing.
"You see," the deputy stated, "this Menzies is a bad hombre. We've had the goods on him for some time, but we ain't been able to ride him down. He works mostly at night. Some of the boys have been hearin' a flyin' machine motor, and I figure he's been bringin' the chinks across the border by air. Sent in a couple of reports last week to the government. But I got two of Menzie's gang a few weeks ago. And we persuaded them to talk. They told all they knew, which showed us that Menzies was at the head of this Chink-runnin' outfit, and that he was workin' a pretty nice system. But the breed got word that I'd hauled in these two birds-so he's out to get me. Just made a mess of it, that's all. Young Callow and me look kinda' similar. Tough, too-the boy was a good kid. And now we got a murder charge against Menzies."
Scotty nodded. His face had hardened.
"We've got the charge," he said slowly, "and it's up to us to get the murderer. Bing and me'll help you fellows all we can. If Menzies is workin' with a 'plane we may be able to help a lot. Bing'll have the old girl ready in an hour now-and we'll scout around over the river."
Hinkey smiled grimly. "Don't take any chances if you run into Menzies or his gang," he warned. "He's a killer, and you'll be justified in shooting on sight. That's about what he did-back over the hill"
Scotty's eyes narrowed. He shook hands with the deputy, and waved to the ranch hands who were riding slowly off, one of them holding the body of Callow astride of his mount.
When they were out of sight he walked over beside the engine of the J.H.6. Bing, his face streaked with grime, was about finished with the repairing of the broken feed-line.
"Pretty rough on that boy," he commented. "Lucky you got to him in time to hear who did the shooting, and also lucky this Hinkey was at the ranch."
Scotty nodded, "Lucky I set the old girl down here," he returned slowly. "How soon on the take-off, Bing?"
Bing inspected the engine. "Half, three-quarters of an hour," he replied. "Which way, Scotty?"
"We'll look the Rio over-fly across and see if we can get a line on this Menzies. And then well head over for Tracy. Make anyone watching think that we've gone along. We can drift back above the clouds, and be around tonight." Scotty glanced above him. The clouds were thickening, but they were white-and he saw no signs of rain.
Bing grunted. "Seems like we never do get to the carnivals any more," he grumbled. "I'm gettin' kinda homesick for a loop or two. 'Ain't much excitement jaunting around out here in the open spaces and tinkerin' with engines."
Scotty chuckled. "A nice guy, you are!" he commented. "Just after sending a breed over the long trail-and then you kick about things bein' tame."
Bing grinned. 'That was last week," he replied briefly. "I'm talkin' about this week, Scotty. Now, if I should happen to run across this here killer-"
"Just stick your paws up and inform me as to what you'd do!"
Scotty whirled around. Bing straightened and raised his hands slowly above his head. Facing them, a gun in each hand, stood a brown skinned individual. He wore a sombrero carelessly tilted forward, a tight chin-strap holding it firmly upon his head. His eyes were narrowed, and there was a short scar on his left cheek.
Scotty's hands moved upward. The expression in the eyes of the gentleman with the guns brooked no foolishness. A spotted pony grazed a short distance away, and the animal and rider had certainly come up noiselessly.
"Well?" The man spoke in a deep voice. "My name's Menzies-and I happened to hear it spoken carelessly. Just toss your shooters down at my feet-and don't make a break, gents. That's nice."
Neither Scotty nor Bing had hesitated. Both their Colts dropped to the ground at Menzies' feet. The chink-runner was smiling evilly.
Scotty forced himself to be calm. It was certain that Menzies had the upper hand, and he had the appearance of being a murderer. Bing wet his lips nervously. There was a sort of frozen smile on the mechanic's face.
"Talkin' out of turn, you was, eh?" Menzies stared at Bing. "Didn't figure I'd drop in on you, I guess. Which one of you flies the 'plane?"
Scotty spoke as calmly as he could. His eyes were upon Menzies'.
"I pilot her," he said. "She's not in commission right now. Had a crash."
There was a grim smile playing about Menzies' lips. His eyes moved from Bing to Scotty.
"Take my advice, Mister," the chink-runner stated in a hard tone, "and see that she's in flyin' shape pronto. I'm aimin' to go somewhere pretty quick- and you're takin' me there, savvy?"
Scotty nodded his head slowly. He sensed the fact that argument was foolish. The man was a killer, and they were weaponless.
"Finish up your job, Bing." Scotty turned toward the mechanic. "He's got us-we'll have to follow Instructions."
"Good dope, brother." The chink runner chuckled. "No tricks on the 'plane, boys. I know ships. Use two of them in my business."
Scotty felt his heart beat faster. The man was flying chinks across, then! At least, he had flown them across, He did not doubt for a moment that the man was acquainted with a 'plane.
"I don't aim to be fooled with any," Menzies continued. "Me and the sheriff of this county ain't on speakin' terms. Had a runnin' fight with one of his deputies a little while back. He's layin' on the grass around here somewhere-was ridin' mighty loose in the saddle when I seen him last. Get that? No funny work, gents!"
Scotty shook his head. Before he had time to think of what the consequences might be, he had spoken.
"You didn't shoot a deputy," he stated. 'That was a boy named Callow, He was ridin'--"
Scotty checked himself. Menzies' eyes widened, his thick lips hung apart. He stared at Seotty. When he spoke his voice was incredulous.
"Callow?" he muttered. "Jeff Callow's son? The old man's kid! Hell!"
Scotty nodded. It was evident that his information had been news to Menzies, and not welcome news, at that.
"Jeff Callow's kid!" Menzie jerked his guns rigid, leveled them threateningly at the pilot. "You givin' it to me straight, mister?"
Scotty nodded his head again. Menzie took a quick look about him. He whistled in a low manner, and the pony, pricking up his ears, trotted nearer.
Menzies showed his teeth in a grim smile. He relaxed his pip on the gun again, glanced about him. Scotty, as the roan half-turned, leaped at him.
The two men went to the ground together. Scotty battering one of the weapons, the one Menzies had been holding in his left hand, from the chink-runner's clutching fingers. There was a terrific detonation in his ears-but Menzies had missed him with the first bullet in his right-hand gun.
They rolled over and over. Scotty gripped Menzies' right wrist, clung to it desperately. And then he felt the chink-runner relax his grip upon his neck, and staggered to his feet. Menzies groaned and became motionless.
Bing chuckled. "That's the second time a wrench has come in handy," he muttered. "Feel all right, Scotty?"
Scotty nodded. He moved toward the unconscious Menzies, and as he did so there came the sound of hoof-beats from beyond the hill to the west.
"Well give 'em a surprise," Bing chuckled. "Got a murderer cold, Mebbe' there's a reward for this chink-"
The rifles, Bing-the rifles!" Scotty's voice was hoarse, raised. 'This isn't the ranch bunch. It looks like--"
He stopped, and as Bing ran toward the ship, he lifted his own Colt from the grass. Six riders were coming down the grade, all of them rough-looking characters. They came on fast, and as the leader reined up before Scotty, the pilot raised his weapon.
The leader's eyes traveled down to the silent form of Menzies. The chink-runner had rolled over on his back, and recognition was easy.
"Who you got here?" The leader was a short, heavy-set man, with a thick growth of beard upon his face. His eyes were bloodshot and small.
Scotty returned the man's stare. He nodded to Bing who stepped out from the shelter of the 'plane with two rifles in his hands.
"A murderer," Scotty replied grimly. "Man by the name of Menzies. We're flyin' him in to San Diego, any other questions?"
The leader of the five men threw back his head and laughed, loud and heartily. He seemed much amused,
"That's a good one!" he roared. "Hear that, boys? This gent's takin' him into San Diego! Now what do you know about that, eh?"
Several of the mounted men joined their leader in laughter. Scotty stood beside Bing, his face hard.
"Keep your hands away from your guns!" Scotty warned. "Well shoot the first-"
The leader spurred his horse savagely. The animal plunged straight at Scotty, who dodged to one side, firing at the rider. He heard the crack of Bing's rifle, and then something struck him a terrific blow on the side of the head. There seemed to be shooting on all sides, and as he swayed and fell, he heard Bing cry out: "The others, Scotty-the others!"
He tried to fight off the blackness which engulfed him, but it was useless. Slowly he sank to the grass. All sounds merged into a steady hum. And then there was complete oblivion.
When Scotty recovered consicousness he was aware of two things. There was a splitting pain in his head, and his hands and feet were bound tightly. He rolled over with a groan.
Bing's voice came to him in a low whisper. It was quite dark, but as his eyes became accustomed to the darkness he could distinguish the dim outline of the J.H.6 not far away.
"What - what happened?" he managed in a weak voice.
Bing rolled nearer. Scotty saw that he had a cut over his left eye, and that his mouth was badly swollen.
"Talk low," Bing warned. "Some of the boys from the ranch rode back this way and ran into a warm reception. This is part of Menzies' outfit. And there's some thing up. They've got guards posted and Menzies and that other tough-looking gent are sleepin' a bit."
Scotty tried to sit upright, He was very dizzy and his head hurt, He relaxed again.
"You mean you think they're going to run some chinks over?" Scotty whispered. "They wouldn't have the nerve, not after all this shootin'."
Bing nodded his head. "I don't know just what they're up to," he whispered, "but something is coming off. They're short of horses. Menzies' mount was killed in the scrap. They got one of the ranch boys, and there are two of the chink-runnin' outfit pretty badly wounded, I got an idea that Menzies is going to have one of us fly him back across the Rio before the boys come back with reinforcements."
Scotty groaned. "You tied?"
"Tighter'n my last year's shirt," Bing replied. "I tangled with one of the gang, and then two more piled on. Ain't feelin' any too lively, at that."
There was a stirring of forms near the 'plane, and Scolly heard the deep voice of Menzies' muttering oaths as he rose to his feet. He walked toward them, glaring down at Scotty, who raised himself with an effort.
"Pretty tricky gent!" he observed, grinning nastily. "When I get through with you mebbe you won't feel so much like actin' up, mister. I aim to get across the river pretty quick-got some business on the other side. Guess both you gents had better get busy on the 'plane. Give you a half hour to have her ready to get off. An' the next piece of funny work-"
He broke off, and Scotty could see him tapping the holster of his gun in the semi-darkness.
"Hey-Tony!" Menzies called loudly, and a member of his gang loomed up beside him.
"Cut these birds loose," Menzies instructed. "And keep your eye on them. They've got tricky dispositions, Tony -- an' I'm holdin' you responsible for them. This one' -- the chink-runner pointed to Scotty --''is goln' to fly me across the stream. The other one you can bring long with you-for safety. Watch 'em close."
Menzies chuckled deep down in his throat. He turned away abruptly, and Scotty felt himself jerked to his feet. The strength of the man called Tony was remarkable. The rope which bound him was unfastened.
Bing was freed also. He stared at Scotty questioningly, their faces close in the gloom, Scotty saw that Bing was waiting for him to give the word. Bing was game to fight to the last, but it was useless.
The pilot nodded. "Fix it up," he told Bing. 'There's nothing else to do. Well get this Menzies sooner or later-and when we do-"
The man the leader had called "Tony" chuckled. He stood beside Scotty and Bing, with his feet spread apart, his right hand on his gun holster. Scotty, glancing about him, shaking off his dizziness, could distinguish the forms of at least ten men. The horses were gathered together a short distance away.
"There's a searchlight in the front cockpit," Scotty told Bing as he moved toward the 'plane. "Use that."
"An' keep it down on the engine" Tony warned. "No signalin' stuff, gents. You heard what the boss said."
Bing grunted. Scotty moved along with him, and dropped down near a wing-tip of the ship. Menzies was a killer, and he wouldn't hesitate to force them to do as he said. He was something of a puzzle. Conversationally he seemed more educated than one would expect from a man of his caliber. And there would be little chance for trickery, once he had forced Scotty to get him up in the air.
The only hope, and even that was a small one, was that some of the ranchers would return with aid before Bing got the broken feed-line repaired. Even then it would be a terrific fight. Menzies possessed courage. He showed that by remaining on the spot so long, by confining his activities to one place. He wasn't to be bluffed.
Suddenly Scotty drew a deep breath. He stared straight before him. A new thought had entered his head. He wondered why he had not thought of the thing before. It was startingly convincing. Menzies' actions had puzzled him all along. The man was courting danger, taking too big a risk. Why?
"Holy smokes!" he muttered to himself. "What a fool I've been! Ten to one that's the game."
Bing switched on the flashlight. As he climbed up beside the engine Menzies walked over and stood near Scotty, puffing on a cigaret, a grin on his face.
The pilot regarded him cautiously in the dim light. Menzies paid no attention to Scotty; his eyes were upon Bing Russell, who was working on the broken feed line.
Scotty nodded his head thoughtfully. That was the thing, all right. That was the reason the chink-runner had appeared so startled when he had been told that he had accidentally shot Jeff Callow's son. It was more than a hunch to Scotty. Callow was the receiver-the receiving end for the chink-running! Jeff Callow was waiting, even now, to get the chinks from across the border!
Menzies was scowling. He turned away from the 'plane with a low mutter. Scotty could not get the chink-runner's words. He smiled grimly as Menzies vanished into the darkness. At least the pilot felt that he had got to the solution of the thing.
The game was a fairly simple one-if Scotty's hunch was correct. Menzies was sticking around in the alfalfa field in order to throw the ranchers off the track. Jeff Callow, not knowing that his son had been killed by the chink-runner, was waiting somewhere nearby, waiting to receive the chinks.
A subordinate of Menzies would run the chinks across-already they might be en route. And Callow would meet them, conceal them until they could be run into the city in machines.
But the chink-runner did not intend to wait too long. That was why Scotty was to fly him over the river. He would be present when the chinks reached their destination; he would be in on the final workings of the deal. Perhaps there was money to change hands before Menzies could start for the border. Perhaps he wanted to be certain that the chinks got across.
Scotty's eyes narrowed. If there were only some way that he could see the thing through-and have a chance to get his man! He was determined to fight it out to the end of the narrowing trail now, no matter how great the odds. If Menzies ever got clear he'd make the delivery, evidently a big one, and then skip into Mexico. And Scotty wanted that man badly.
Suddenly Menzies strode back. He stared at the pilot for several seconds, and then spoke in a harsh voice.
"Get up! We're going to hit the air pretty sudden-you and me. Get me goggles, and anything else I need."
Scotty got to his feet. He was still shaky from the blow he had received in the head, but he felt better than he had a short while ago. He would be able to fly, it any rate. He nodded. Menzies snarled at him as he moved toward the rear cockpit. The situation was desperate, the pilot knew, But he'd been in desperate situations before-and he was still alive.
There was one chance-and that was the one Bill Scott was playing for, praying for-one gambler's chance!
Bing Russell dropped down to the grass. He smiled cheerfully at Scotty, who was standing beside Menzies, who was wearing Bing's helmet and goggles.
'The ship's all right," Bing muttered. "I hate to see-"
"Cut the gab!" The chink-runner's voice was harsh. "The boys will take care of you. And you"-he smiled at Scotty, showing his teeth-''climb in the front cockpit. Take her up five thousand, and then follow the river in the direction I tell you. Savvy?"
"Bring over those parachutes, Bing." Scotty was thinking fast, Menzies stared at him suspiciously but said nothing. Instead he drew his gun from its holster. Scotty caught the glint of the barrel. Bing turned away.
Scotty climbed into the front cockpit. And then, just as he settled down in the cushioned seat, he heard the sharp crack of a rifle. And then another-and another! His heart leaped. The ranchers had returned. They would be reinforced sufficiently to defeat the men of Menzies' band-the chink-runner had delayed his start too long!
Scotty leaned forward to cut the throttle and silence the throb of the engine, which Bing had been testing for the past five minutes. A bullet whined above the ship. And then the pilot felt it-cold and hard against his back-Menzies' gun!
"Get her off!" the chink-runner shouted, "Get her up-or I'll fill you full of lead, mister!"
Scotty advanced the throttle. The J.H.6 rolled forward over the 'alfalfa. There was very little wind, fortunately. Above the steady roar of the engine Scotty could hear the more staccato crackling of gun-fire. It was very dark, but he had flown much at night, and lifted the ship off the slight slope, nosing her up into the sky. The muzzle of Menzies' gun was still touching his back; the two cockpits were separated by only two feet of fuselage and the leader of the chink-runners was taking no chances.
Up and up went the J.H.6. There had been no time for the parachute packs and Scotty's heart sank as he realized that his last hope had been defeated. He had planned to chance a drop-leaving Menzies alone in the ship. The 'plane would be a complete wreck, he had figured-but either the leader would crash with it or risk a parachute jump, The 'chutes, with Scotty manipulating his, would land apart, and the pilot might have been able to establish contact with some of the sheriffs posse. The light wind was blowing in from the south, so that Menzies would have dropped on American soil.
But the scheme was worthless-with out the parachutes. Scotty relaxed in his cushioned seat as he felt Menzies remove the gun from his back. At five thousand feet he cut the engine.
"What's the course?" he yelled, partially turning his head.
"Follow the Rio west!" Menzies replied. "About ten miles!"
Scotty nodded his head. Slowly he commenced to climb the ship again, heading her to the west. At ten thousand feet he leveled her off. The engine was droning a perfect song. There was some moonlight now; below him he could detect the winding ribbon of the Rio Grande, silver in the first, faint light of the moon,
On and on the ship flew. Then Menzies pounded on the fuselage. Scotty cut the engine and glanced behind. Menzies was pointing over the side.
Scotty followed his gaze, his eyes widened. Down below, coming out from the Mexican shore, was a large flat-boat. It was propelled by sweeps, and above it appeared to be a cable, extending from shore to shore. The cable glinted plainly in the moonlight. Scotty nodded his head slowly. The chinks were being brought across!
"Take her down-and damn fast!" Menzies shouted loudly. 'There's a beach on the American side. You can make a landing-and don't fool!"
Scotty glided the ship downward, watching the flat-boat below. The cable, he supposed was used because of the current, or as a guide. One thing was certain, the craft did not deviate the slightest from its course.
The pilot groaned. This looked like the end of things. Menzies would warn the others back, and take him along with them. The chances were that he would destroy the 'plane.
A faint breeze had come up with the moon, and the air was getting bumpy. The ship dropped a wing suddenly, and as Scotty moved the joy-stick to correct for the bump, the idea came to him. Instantly he put it into effect.
Kicking right rudder hard, he jammed the joy-stick far to the right-and nosed the ship down sharply. She went jerkily into a tight spin. Down she plunged, spinning and whistling like a top. And Scotty let her spin!
He was commencing to feel dizzy-but he knew that Menzies could not stand it as long as he. The speed was terrific. Once he heard the chink-runner shout but paid no attention. At two thousand feet he was beginning to lose his sense of balance. Things were getting black.
The ship came out of the spin as he put the controls in neutral. And then, holding the stick with his left hand, Scotty fought off his own nausea and rose in the seat, He turned.
Menzies was lifting his gun hand. His revolver wabbled from side to side. With a slashing blow of his fist Scotty knocked it out into the air. Menzies muttered something, half rose in the cockpit, leaning forward. Once more Scotty swung savagely. And this time, even as the 'plane got out of control and plunged into another spin, his fist crashed against the jaw of the chink-runner leader. Menzies collapsed out of sight in the rear cockpit!
Scotty worked the controls frantically. This time the J.H.6 came out of the spin more slowly. But she came out-a thousand feet above the flat-boat, which seemed to have halted in the middle of the river. Scotty flew around in wide circles, watching those below. As his eyes cleared he detected the huddled chinks. Four men, as far as he could see, constituted their guard.
Scotty headed the 'plane east, five minutes later he was landing on the same field upon which the J.H.6 had been wrecked, and this time he was careful of the ridge which had been the cause of the disaster before.
His eyes searched the fields as he landed. The moonlight gave him vision, and he saw Bing waving his arms wildly. As the 'plane's wheels struck the ground he saw that the sheriff's posse had arrived and succeeded in doing considerable damage. Bing and Hinkey rushed up to him as he climbed down from the front cockpit,
"Your chinks are being brought across about six miles west of here," Scotty told Hinkey. "Four men guarding them. They're on a flat-boat, and there's a beach on the American side, wide and pretty long."
"Bailey Flats!" Hinkey called to his men. "Chase-you take the boys down. The Rio's shallow there. You can ride in after them if they go back-but you can't lose them now. Get going!"
Bing grabbed Scotty by the shoulders. "What happened to Menzies?" he demanded. "Did that killer --"
"He's in your seat, Bing" Scotty chuckled. "Drag him out-I spun that chink-runner almost unconscious and then walloped him good on the jaw." Hinkey and Bing dragged Menzies out.
He was just regaining consciousness, and Hinkey snapped the cuffs on him before he realized where he was.
"Say!" Scotty grinned. "Jeff Callow's your man, too. Better ride in on him, Hinkey, He's receiving the chinks, unless I'm dead wrong. Menzies sorta gave him away '
The sheriff stared. "Callow?" he muttered. "The kid's father?"
Scotty nodded. 'Take my advice and go get him," the pilot replied. "He must have a rendezvous near the beach I spoke of-where the chinks were being brought across."
Hinkey grunled. "Man!" he muttered as he prepared to ride. I'll leave Menzies with you-can't think of a safer place!"
Jeff Callow glared at the handcuffed Menzies. His evil face was twisted into a mask of hatred. He screamed at the chink-runner:
"You squealer! You dirty, little lyin hound! Settin' them after me-killin' my boy! I'll get you for this! I'll get-"
Hinkey interrupted. The posse had made a good job of it. They had the four guards, and about thirty chattering, shivering Chinese. Hinkey had brought in Jeff Callow, who had already confessed. And Menzies was 'cuffed to his four men.
"No need for you to get him, Callow." The deputy's voice was grim. "The state'll handle this gent proper!"
Hinkey turned to Scotty. He extended a hand.
"I'll make a full report," he said simply. "You sure should get all the credit. Why, I'll say that you --"
Scotty grunted. "Just say that I scouted around
a little," he muttered. "Bing and me-we're goin' to
knock off a little sleep and then fly on to Tracy. Tomorrow we've
got to do some real work!"
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