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Exciting Detective, Fall(August), 1940
A Desperate Plea for Aid Brings Federal Man Graham Right Into the Thick of a
Grimly Mysterious and Murderous, Smuggler Plot!
UEER? It was crazy as hell—the
telegram which had been forwarded
to Dick Graham from Headquarters.
It was a despairing and desperate appeal
from out of the past.
COME AT ONCE. THE LIFE OF MY
FIANCE, GERALD TOWERSEND, IS
IN TERRIBLE DANGER. HE HAS
BEEN THREATENED BY THE BLACK
FRIARS.
MARCIA BROUGH.
A message from Marcia, his childhood
sweetheart, begging him to come to
Fernandina, Florida, to protect the life of
Q
EXCITING DETECTIVE 2
Gerald Towersend.
The crazy part was that Graham was
already in Fernandina. He had just
arrived—to check clues which led to
Gerald Towersend as the probable partner
of Louie Corellio in a smuggling racket.
Louie Corellio was the slickest
international smuggler the Department had
run across in years. He smuggled
anything, everything that paid money. He
had a dozen different setups with points of
unlawful entry into the United States along
the Canadian Border, the Mexican Border,
and the Atlantic seaboard. And not a shred
of evidence which would stand in court
had the Secret Service operatives been
able to get on him.
But because of a telephone
conversation between the smuggling king
and a man by the name of Gerald
Towersend, Graham had been sent here to
investigate. Corellio was lazing away the
season in Fernandina. Graham had never
heard of Towersend before—and here
Marcia Brough was engaged to marry the
guy.
Graham shoved the message into his
pocket and set about learning the lay of
things in the old Spanish city. Inside an
hour he had learned that though
Fernandina was not as old a town as St.
Augustine, it was nevertheless hoary with
age. On a slight prominence was an old
monastery which had been built by an
order of monks called the Black Friars.
But today the building lay in ruins. No
monk had been seen around the ruins for a
hundred years. So somebody was nuts
about the Black Friars being dangerous,
but this Towersend business was right
down Graham’s alley.
RAHAM first got a line on Louie
Corellio. As the smuggler did not
know him by sight, Graham went to the
Royal Palms—Corellio’s hotel—to start
his casual inquiries. Mr. Corellio, he
learned, had left the hotel the evening
before about seven o’clock, saying that he
was going to the Marble Casino, a de luxe
gambling house in which Corellio had
spent many expensive hours. However, he
had not arrived there last night.
This trail petering out, Graham took
the bull by the horns and went to see
Marcia. It was still morning and the sweet
scent of honeysuckle was heavy in the air.
Memory of Marcia smote him keenly as he
walked up the winding drive to the Brough
mansion.
To Graham’s surprise he found the
Brough home lousy with cops. A
suspicious sergeant with a hard gray eye
was all set to question him when Marcia
came into the library. She was as lovely as
ever. But her sweet face was wan beneath
its crowning glory of auburn hair.
“Dick!” she cried. “How glad I am to
see you!” And she was suddenly in his
arms, sobbing and laughing.
“Here, here, kitten,” he soothed. “What
goes on around here?”
“It’s Gerald!” she cried. “And you’re
too late! Gerald has been—kidnaped.” She
turned quickly to the hard-eyed sergeant.
“I will vouch for Mr. Graham, Sergeant
Clausen,” she said. “I want to talk to him
privately—at once. You can question him
later, if it’s necessary to question a
secret—”
“Marcia!” said Graham sharply.
The policeman was not dumb. He
caught, wise and stared keenly at the
stalwart Graham. Graham nodded
imperceptibly. The sergeant grinned and
withdrew from the library.
“What’s all this about Towersend?”
Graham asked Marcia a bit grimly.
“He was here for dinner last night,”
Marcia began, her lips trembling. “I knew
he had been threatened by a mysterious
organization called the Black Friars, and I
G
AN OLD SPANISH CUSTOM 3
told him I had sent you a wire. He had
already agreed that it might be a sensible
thing to do. I told him what an old friend
you were and—and—”
She began to cry softly.
“Go on,” he said.
It seemed that the engaged couple had
been seated at the table discussing the
inexplicable warning note Towersend had
received, signed “The Black Friars,”
when, as if appearing by magic, a hulking
figure in a black robe and cowl that
completely masked his identity had
suddenly advanced out of the shadows like
a ghost.
In one swift leap the strange intruder
jumped behind Towersend and brought the
barrel of his gun down on Towersend’s
head with a dull and ghastly clunk.
Towersend had groaned once and sagged
to the floor. Then, before Marcia could cry
out the cowled man had menaced her with
his gun.
“One peep outa you, sister, and the
Black Friars will be saying a black mass
over your soul!” he had warned.
S Marcia had sat there, paralyzed
with terror, the stranger picked up the
unconscious Towersend and swiftly
stepped out onto the veranda. Then Marcia
had sent scream after scream out of her
throat. The servants had come rushing to
her, but both the cowled man and his
victim had completely disappeared. The
police had been on the job since midnight,
but so far had learned nothing.
“Just what was this warning of the
Black Friars about?” demanded Graham,
his mind already busily at work fitting
stray bits of information together—
Corellio, smuggling, Towersend’s possible
complicity, Corellio’s disappearance after
leaving his hotel the night before.
“He didn’t explain clearly,” whispered
the girl. “He just laughed about the sinister
warning, saying it was an old Spanish
custom.”
“What do the police think of it?”
“I haven’t told them about the Black
Friars,” she confessed. “Gerald said not to
tell anybody but you. But if you hadn’t
come so promptly I think I would have
told Sergeant Clausen.”
“It seems melodramatic,” admitted
Graham, though he knew that Louie
Corellio would have put Towersend out of
the way if he knew that there was a chance
an investigation of Towersend might pin
certain nefarious matters on Corellio. “Tell
me something about this Towersend bird.
Do you love him?”
“Gerald is a splendid gentleman,” said
Marcia. “Dad liked him, and when he
wanted to marry me I—I—well, somehow,
I accepted him.”
Graham’s lips tightened grimly. He
only hoped, for Marcia’s sake, that
Towersend was not mixed up in any shady
business. He couldn’t even tell her that it
had not been her telegram which had
brought him to Fernandina.
“Don’t worry, honey,” he comforted
her. “We’ll find Gerald for you.”
Excusing himself, he went in search of
Clausen, and revealed his identity.
“Keep this to yourself, Sergeant,” he
said. “And here’s what I want you local
police to do—find Louie Corellio, quick!
He’s been missing since last night.”
The hunt was on. But neither Corellio
nor Towersend could be found. It was late
in the afternoon that Graham returned to
talk to Marcia.
“No news,” he admitted gravely. “But
I’m going out on a special trip tonight, and
if you don’t hear from me by nine o’clock
in the morning, kitten, tell Clausen about
everything. Understand?”
“Yes,” she said. “But where are you
going?”
“I’m going to poke around about that
A
EXCITING DETECTIVE 4
Black Friar stuff. I’m going to explore the
old monastery ruins after dark.”
“I’m going with you,” she declared.
He tried to protest, but she was
adamant. He shrugged. After all, what
difference did it make? There wouldn’t be
anything at the ruins, and if he did find
Towersend and Corellio in cahoots there,
this would be as painless a disillusioning
as Marcia could expect.
Armed with a flashlight and a couple
of .45s, they set out. It was scarcely nine
when they approached the desolate stone
ruins. Not a soul was in sight as they
picked their path into the black interior of
the gloomy old structure. Only a night bird
or two, flapping away from a roost,
disturbed them.
HEY explored the ground floor
without encountering any evidence
that a living person had been here for
years. Then Graham discovered the stone
steps leading down an interminable
distance to the dungeons which had been
put to unpleasant use. They descended,
Graham using his flashlight.
They entered what proved to be a
veritable labyrinth of passageways and
prison cells, all of stone and with arched
doorways. And still no evidence of recent
human occupancy. The walls were moldy
and damp, lichen-covered. The stones
were wet with green slime. A nice place
for a ghoul and ghost ball.
Graham and Marcia were midway in a
vaulted passage tunnel when they heard
the slithering, whispering sound far behind
them. She clutched his arm fearfully.
“Listen, Dick!” she whispered. “Do
you hear that? Like the whispering of
monks’ robes!”
Graham listened, without moving or
breathing. But the sound had stopped. He
flashed his light back the way they had
come. It revealed nothing—except one
uncomfortable thing. The floor of this
tunnel was bare and clean, free of debris,
as if it were in use.
“Nuts to the Black Friars!” growled
Graham. “There’s a bend in the corridor
just ahead of us. Come on, we’ll see where
that leads. Then I’m ready to call it a day.”
Fifty feet beyond the angle of the
passageway the tunnel opened into a queer
sort of a room. There was a light, the
source of which was not visible from
where they stood to one side of the arched
opening. The far end of the room looked
like a steel and riveted wall with a
rectangular window of plate glass. Seated
motionless on a crude sort of straight chair
was a man in his shirt sleeves. His arms
were strapped behind him, and a black
hood completely covered his face.
Marcia gave a little cry. “Gerald! He’s
being held prisoner!”
“Seems so,” admitted Graham. And
then before he could grab the girl or
caution her, she darted forward, crying out
her fiancé’s name.
Graham drew one of his guns and
followed.
At the threshold of the room Marcia
cried out in horror, her voice echoing
weirdly through the tunnel. And there was
reason for her cry. The hood over the
prisoner’s head had copper disks in it
which were connected to heavy wires.
There was an electrode about his left
ankle. Some fiend had strapped this silent,
helpless figure in a crude sort of electric
chair.
The girl darted forward to tug at the
straps which bound the motionless figure.
“Gerald! We’ll free you!”
At that instant a shot roared out from
the tunnel behind them; and the slug
spanged against the steel bulwark that was
the far wall of the room. Graham leaped
behind the angle of the archway and
returned the fire. But no more shots came.
T
AN OLD SPANISH CUSTOM 5
He flashed his light down the length of the
corridor, and saw nothing, but he heard the
trampling of feet as several persons
ducked back around the bend.
“Release him, Marcia,” he flung over
his shoulder, “while I hold these devils
back. If they reach the tunnel they’ll shoot
us down! Get him out of line behind the
wall shoulder.”
Another shot ricocheted screamingly
down the tunnel, and Graham hastily
returned the fire. Unseen by the detective,
a black-cowled and robed figure wearing
rubber-soled shoes dropped down the
ladder of iron bars which led up the face of
the steel wall. Behind the rectangular
window another cowled figure with the
same sort of pasty-gray face was reaching
to throw a heavy switch.
HE cowled man in the black domino
leaned out from the ladder behind
Graham’s back and suddenly grasped
Marcia by the upper arm, snatching her
from the side of the bound figure just as
his confederate closed the switch.
The girl screamed. There was a
crackling discharge of electricity and the
faint smell of burning flesh. But the figure
in the chair did not move. Graham
whirled, placing his back to the stone wall,
just in time to exchange shots with the
“Black Friar” above the struggling girl’s
head. A slug knocked the detective’s
flashlight to pieces, but his own bullet
neatly drilled a hole at the base of the
cowled man’s nose.
There were renewed shots and shouts
down the corridor, and then more noise
from overhead. And as the man in black
released Marcia and crumpled to the stone
flagging, bluecoats came charging along
the tunnel. Sergeant Clausen was in the
lead.
“We cleaned ‘em out, Graham!” he
bellowed. “Not a one got away. Are you
and Miss Brough all right?”
“Yes,” panted Graham. “Get a man
inside this steel bulkhead and capture
anybody there—and turn off this juice.
They’ve electrocuted this man!”
Marcia was moaning as she stared at
the smoking figure in the chair. Then the
crackling of electricity and the hum of the
dynamo suddenly ceased. A door opened
in the steel wall, and an officer came
through.
“Got all the rats, sir,” he announced.
“And you ought to see what a storeroom’s
behind there. Boy, have they been
smuggling in goods!”
“Gerald!” moaned Marcia. “He’s been
killed!”
Sergeant Clausen leaped forward and
ripped off the hood from the man in the
chair. The burned features of Louie
Corellio were exposed. But the jolt of
electricity had not killed the king
smuggler. He had been shot. His body was
already stiff.
“That’s not Gerald,” Marcia cried, and
looked wildly around.
“Brace yourself for a shock, kitten,”
Graham said tersely. “This is going to be a
little rough on you.”
He bent down and ripped the cowl and
domino from the face of the man who had
snatched the girl away from the chair and
then had tried to shoot down the Federal
man. The pasty-gray features, smeared
with make-up, were scarcely recognizable,
thanks to the bullet Graham had planted
there. But Sergeant Clausen had no
difficulty.
“This is Gerald Towersend!” he
grunted. “You were right, Graham.”
“I was afraid so,” the Federal man said
grimly. “He arranged his own abduction
when Marcia told him I was coming. He
had already made plans to leave Corellio
holding the sack. When he learned the
United States Government was on to him,
T
EXCITING DETECTIVE 6
he planned to kill his partner to silence
him, and somehow get himself out of the
jam with his mumbo-jumbo Black Friar
stuff. He would claim that some
mysterious organization had kidnaped him
and killed Louie Corellio who was their
leader. Then he’d say he had learned of
Corellio’s smuggling and was about to
expose him. But I’ve an idea we’ll have no
trouble making the rats you caught in this
trap squeal.”
“But how did you know it would work
gut like this?” asked Clausen.
“I didn’t know Towersend was
planning to kill Corellio,” said Graham,
“but I was sure they were linked up
together. I was on the way here when
Towersend learned from Marcia that she
was going to wire me. So I had a twentyfour-hour jump on him.”
Marcia looked down at the body of the
man to whom she had been engaged.
She gave one shuddering sigh, then
wilted in Graham’s arms. The Federal man
held her gently.
“You finish things here, Sergeant,” he
said. “I’ve got some unfinished business of
my own to take care of.”

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