published in Flying Aces magazine, Vol. XVII, No. 3, June 1934)
THE MIDNIGHT ACE
By Donald E. Keyhoe
Philip Strange Takes Off
Into Black Night Skies to Track Down a New Menace!
HE STRIKES AT MIDNIGHT!
hour was nearing midnight, but darkened Paris still hummed with life.
Smoking idly, for the moment at peace with the world, Philip Strange
lounged back in the creaking taxi he had hired at the Gare de l'Ouest.
The top of the ancient vehicle was folded, so that he could look up
at the sky. Not a star showed in the blackness. This was one night,
at least, when the French capital would be free from Gotha raids.
His mind shifted to the order which had brought him to Paris. It was
odd that G-2 should interrupt that other mission when . . . .
The cab stopped suddenly, and the be-whiskered driver turned around.
“Sorry, m'sieu, but there seems to be trouble ahead.”
Strange peered out. They had halted at the north end of the Pont de
la Concorde, beneath which the Seine slid like a great black serpent.
Gendarmes were routing traffic right and left, while others blocked
the way through the famous square.
“I can go around through the Tuileries Gardens,” said the
driver as the preceding car began to move. “It is longer, but--”
“No, I haven't time. Stop when you reach the Quai,”
Strange paid his fare, stepped out as they came to the edge of the Place
de la Concorde. A gendarme hastened toward him, eyed his
Always that unknown enemy ace struck at midnight, darting through skies
black and charged with menace—and leaving in his path a grisly
and horrible death. And now, as the clock on the Sacre Couer church
ended the sinister stroke of twelve, the killer ship plunged down over
the rooftops of Paris, wings screeching and red eyes glaring on its
cowl as the pilot tripped his murderous guns. The Midnight Ace had struck
* * *
American Air Service uniform.
“No one can go through, monsieur le capitaine.”
Strange surreptitiously held out a card on which were the official seals
of both the Surete and French Intelligence. The gendarme saluted hurriedly.
Strange went on, striding across the square toward the Hotel Crillon,
the usual rendezvous for American pilots on leave.
As he neared the intersection with the Champs Elysees, he looked around
curiously. Not only the Place but the adjacent part of the boulevard
was being cleared. Parisian mobile guard units were aiding the gendarmes,
and along the edge of the bordering park he could see a troop of Moroccan
Spahis. Their Arabian horses pawing at the ground.
There was no apparent reason for clearing the square, but something
obviously was in the wind. He could feel a heightened tension as he
passed one group of guards. Ahead of him, the last few loiterers were
being hustled along by gendarmes.
As he approached the great obelisk in the center of the square, Strange
overtook a girl clinging to the arm of a French sous-officier. He started
around them, then stopped as they had done at sight of a plane standing
back in the gloom.
It was a Fokker triplane, evidently of recent capture. From what he
could see in the shadows, it had not been damaged seriously. Two guards
and a gendarme stood in front of it, while several grumbling poilus with
an improvised dolly twisted the plane so that it faced the boulevard.
“Sacre bleu!” one of them muttered.
“Why must they pick this of all times to drag the avion here?
No one will see it until morning.”
“It would be harder to bring it through
the streets,” said another. He placed a huge placard in front
of the Fokker's wheels, but Strange could not read the letters in the
dark. “Come on, we have finished our part.”
The poilus departed, dragging the dolly with
them. Strange stared at the Fokker. It was, patently, a captured plane
being prepared for public display. Such things were not unusual—but
why this attempted secrecy? Then his nostrils caught a telltale odor
of hot oil. His eyes narrowed. That engine had been run recently.
“Move on,” said one of the guards
gruffly. Strange turned, then saw that he was speaking to the girl with
the French non-com. “You will have enough time to gape at the
The girl still loitered. The gendarme gave her
a little push. She stumbled against her escort, dropped her vanity-bag,
spilling its contents.
“Clumsy fool,” she spat at the
gendarme. She knelt, scratched a match and began to pick up the articles.
As the match flared up, its glow fell on the gendarme's face. Strange
started. Pierre Labrun, French ace, posing as a police guard! What was
back of this?
He had no time to speculate further.
With a muttered oath, Lebrun snatched the match from the girl's hand
and stamped out the light.
“Nom d'un nom!” Have you no more
sense than to make a light in the Square? Get along!”
His angry command included Strange. Strange
followed the girl and the sous-officier, every sense suddenly alert.
The dropping of that bag had been no accident. He had caught the swift
glance the girl had flung at the men around the Fokker. Her sharp eyes
had rested for a second on Lebrun's face. She had known.
Strange tailed them at a little distance. In
the shadow of the Marine Ministry they turned
and hurried toward the Tuileries. Strange hesitated. His every instinct
told him to follow the pair, but the order from G-2 had been explicit.
He crossed to the Crillon and went into the
bar. Following the directions he had received, he took up a position
at the left end of the bar, stuffed his overseas cap into his right
blouse pocket, and ordered Napoleon brandy.
As he finished the drink, an infantry
captain on his right left the bar. A group of American pilots stood
beyond the empty space. All but one were nearing the hilarious stage.
The exception, hardly more than a boy, was drinking cognac as though
it were water, but he seemed deadly sober. After a moment Strange saw
that he was not with the others, though he had edged close, as though
hopeful of being included in their festivities.
Suddenly the boy turned, caught Strange's glance
in the mirror. Strange felt a queer shock. There was terror in the boy's
eyes. Pallor showed through his tanned skin, and as he lifted his glass
again, Strange saw his hand was trembling.
Their eyes held for a second more; then the
pilot shifted his gaze to the clock. Strange thought he shivered, but
before he could make sure, there came an interruption. Two hard-faced
M.P. Sergeants entered the bar, accompanied by a Yankee pilot. With
evident reluctance, the pilot pointed out the solitary youth next to
Strange. The M.P.'s closed in. One of the boisterous group wheeled belligerently.
“What's th' idea? Th' kid ain't done anything.”
“A.W.O.L., that's all,” growled
the first M.P. He took the youngster's arm. “Come along, lieutenant.”
The boy went without protest, stumbling between
the M.P.'s. The pilot who had identified him followed, and the brief
hush which had settled was quickly drowned by the clink of glasses and
the clamor of voices.
Suddenly Strange realized there was some one
at his left elbow. He ordered brandy again, slowly let his eyes go toward
the mirror. A French lieutenant stood there,
alert blue eyes twinkling.
“Pardonnez-moi, monsieur le capitaine,”
he said genially. “I did not mean to bump into you.”
“No harm done,” said Strange, smiling.
He gestured toward the brandy. “Will you join me, mon ami?”
“Merci.” The bright-eyed Frenchman
sipped his drink. None of the others in the bar were paying attention.
His glance came back to Strange. No one could have noticed, but a swift
signal passed between them. Strange paid for the liquor, bade the Frenchman
adieu, and sauntered out toward the entrance on the square. A few moments
later the Frenchman appeared from the Rue Royale side. They drew back
into the shadows.
“It's good to see you again,” the
Frenchman said hastily, and in a low tone. “For days now, we at
Intelligence have heard that the great Captain Strange is dead, that
the filthy Boche have captured him, that he died in a crash....”
Strange grinned. “All of which would
please certain of your superiors.”
“If you mean the Colonel de Raimond ....
pouf!” The Frenchman snapped his fingers. “He is no longer
in charge. Behold his successor....Commandant Andre, if you please.”
“Commandant? Then why the lieutenant's
“Camouflage,” explained Andre. “There
is less chance of a Boche spy's knife in my back. But come, we waste
time. And the High Command is all a-twitter over the latest matter....”
“Anything to do with Pierre Lebrun's
masquerading as a gendarme over by that Fokker?”
Andre started. “You miss little, mon ami.”
No, there is no connection, though that affair is grave enough.”
“What affair?” demanded Strange.
“Surely you can guess, knowing
Strange shook his head. “I don't get it.
But I've been down on the Spanish border
on a mission, and perhaps there has been something....”
“Oui, that explains it,” said Andre
quickly. “Had you been at Chaumont, you would have known ....
most emphatically. Chaumont was one of the first to feel the hate of
this monster they call the `Midnight Ace.' He is a devil, that one.
In one week he has run the General Staff's temperature up to fever heat.
Amiens, Chalons, Chaumont, and a dozen other points he has struck.”
“But surely, one man couldn't do enough
harm to justify all this preparation.”
“He has killed perhaps a thousand men,
and even women and children,” said Andre grimly. “Mainly
by dropping poison in the reservoirs, which no one guessed until many
had died and hundreds more were ill. He uses explosive bullets in two
strafing guns tilted down to cover the streets, besides others in his
“At Chaumont, he few a Nieuport
with American cocardes so that the defense planes and gunners were helpless
to tell friend from foe. The same at Amiens, save that it was an S.E.S.
At Chalons, he dropped to within a hundred meters and bombed a building
where a Staff meeting was being held. All this at night, my friend.
Everywhere he leaves death behind ... men dying with horrible wounds
from explosive bullets, the people afraid to drink the water for fear
it will be like that at Amiens and Chalons, planes shot down in flames....”
“One man does all this?” exclaimed
“Maybe he is le Diable,” said Andre
grimly. “They are beginning to say so, in Intelligence. He strikes
at midnight, and no one can guess where he will be next, for he leaps
all over France. But some night he will dare Paris ... and then hell
will burst open for him! Lebrun is not the only one ready. On both sides
of the Seine, in the larger boulevards, are captured German planes.
Special searchlights are ready, and gunners on the buildings .... though
that fiend has shown an uncanny way of
keeping out of all lights.”
“So that's why you're using Boche ships,”
muttered Strange. “He'll have the only plane with Allied markings.
But it's odd that we haven't attempted reprisals after all he's done.
Not using poison, of course, but a few special raids.”
“On German cities?” Andre
shook his head. “The High Command is afraid. If he is really a
Boche, there may be more frightfulness they have ready if we follow
suit. The Field Marshal has no liking for such a contest of reprisals.
And there is no proof that he is German ....”
“But, Good Lord, anyone with half an eye
can see that!”
“There is a rumor,” said Andre slowly,
“that he is a mad American pilot. Do not be angry, mon ami. I
tell you only what has come to my ears. Your G-2 is working on the problem.”
Strange was silent. Andre gestured toward the
corner of the Rue Boissy d'Anglas, where a closed car was waiting.
“I have orders to bring you to Headquarters. We had better hurry....”
He paused. From somewhere in the distance had
come the deep boom of a clock striking the hour. As it sounded again,
Strange recognized the growling boom of La Savoyarde, the famous bell
of the Sacre Coeur at the summit of Montmarte.
They both stood motionless while the bell struck.
As the final not died away, Andre gave a long sigh.
“Mon Dieu, but this war is getting to
be too much for me. I am nervous as a kitten.”
Andre led the way to the car.
They were within a few yards of it when out of the sky came a faint
moan. From across the Place rose a clamor of voices. Strange could hear
Lebrun bellowing at his men.
The moan increased, became the shriek of a diving plane. An unseen engine
roared as it was suddenly switched on above
the darkened city. The sound lessened, and from the direction of the
Fokker rose Lebrun's shout of “Contact!”
Flame spurted out of the darkness which hid the plane. There
was a single bark, then a shout in French.
“Pierre is having trouble with his engine,” exclaimed Andre.
There was a second spurt of flame and a report. Strange started to run
acroiss the square. Andre dashed after him.
“Are you mad?” he panted. “This midnight killer will
cut you down....”
“Those were shots, not the exhaust!” rasped Strange.
A gendarme cut across their path, stick upraised. Andre loosed a flood
of French, and the officer stood aside. Air-raid sirens were shrieking
through the city as Strange reached the Fokker. He saw two men bending
over a prostrate form. One of the two turned hastily.
“Is it Lebrun?” asked Strange.
“Yes, monsieur,” said the other brokenly. “He will
fly no more.”
Andre pushed him aside, knelt and produced a flashlight. Shielding the
glow, he leaned over the inert body, Lebrun's pale face stared up at
them, unmoving in death. There was blood upon the ground at his shoulder,
and Strange saw that he had been shot in the back. The second man who
had bent over the ace pointed with his pistol to a dark bundle farther
back in the shadows. Andre swung his light, and the bundle materialized
into the body of the sous-officier Strange had seen. He had been shot
in the head.
“He sneaked up in the dark,” groaned the man with the pistol.
“He fired, and my officer went down. I killed the slinking rat
before he could fire again.”
“Then you were Lebrun's mechanic?” asked Strange
“Yes, m'sieu. Two years now I have served him ....”
The shriek of sirens and the howl of the unseen ship drowned his words.
sprang toward the pit of the Fokker. “Swing that prop!”
he shouted at the mechanic.
Before the man could obey, Andre gave a wild
cry. “Mon Dieu, he is diving on us!?
Wings screeching. The
Spad plunged down into the Place. Red eyes glared on the cowl as the
killer tripped his guns.
“Run quickly!” Strange shouted.
“Get back of the obelisk.”
charged for safety. Like a winged fiend, shrieking, the Spad swept down
at them. Smoking, crimson, the tracers cut into the
ground at their heels. Strange could hear the spat-spat of
bullets against the stone blocks.
A Frenchman stumbled. Strange jerked him to his feet, sprang toward
the great stone pillar which was their only hope. Off to one side, a
gendarme screamed and fell. A score of the mobile guards were running
across the Square. The red-hot hail of the killer's guns swerved sidewise
and mowed them down. Cries of agony pierced the tumult as explosive
bullets crashed into the helpless men.
The tall bulk of the obelisk loomed up in the gloom. Andre and four
or five Frenchmen were huddled there as Strange reached the spot. The
little major was almost sobbing in rage.
“One minute alone with that fiend, and I would gladly die!”
“Look out!” cried Strange. “He's coming down at this
The Spad had zoomed, was whipping around for a new attack. A blurred
shape, it pitched down toward the spot where they stood. The little
group broke and ran for the other side. There was a savage hammer of
bullets, a shriek from a dying man, and the Midnight Ace was gone. For
a second Strange could make out his course toward the Champs Elysees,
then the howl of wings swiftly diminished.
“Morbleu!” shouted Andre. “He is landing in the boulevard!”
A sudden clatter of guns broke out, followed by the thud of horses'
“The Spahis are after him,
exulted Andre. “ He is forced down ....”
T-t-t-t-t-t-t! Sharp, staccato, the rasp of the killer's guns rose over
the sporadic shots of the horsemen. The Spad's engine bellowed, drowning
the death cries of stricken horses and riders.
Strange swore, turned and ran for the Fokker. As he reached it, he almost
fell over a wounded man. It was Lebrun's mechanic. The man staggered
to his feet, groaning. He caught the glitter of Strange's wings.
“You are going to fight that butcher, m'sieu?” he gasped.
“If this engine will run,”
said Strange grimly. He reached in, set switch and throttle, then turned
toward the nose. But the Frenchman was already there,
“I will do it, capitaine.” He gripped the propeller, swayed
and fell. Strange lifted him aside as Ande arrived, out of breath.
“Take care of this poor fellow, Andre. I only hope I've as much
guts.” He jerked the propeller, swung it again as the engine barked
The Mercedes roared. He jumped aside as the unblocked ship began to
move. In a second he was in the pit, securing the safety-belt. Then
the engine thundered and the triplane went
racing down the wide boulevard.
DEATH OVER PARIS
Lebrun's goggles had hung on
the throttle. Strange fastened them with one hand, flung a hasty glance
ahead. Searchlights were waving frantically from a dozen points on both
sides of the avenue. He could see the pavement, littered with bodies
of Spahis and mobile guards. A wounded horse lay almost in front of
him, trying vainly to rise. He kicked to one side, steadied the ship
and sent it into the air. Two riderless horses were galloping madly
down the Champs Elysees as he zoomed. He passed above them, chandelled
to avoid a sweeping searchlight.
A flitting shape from his left made him jerk around in the pit. It was
an Albatross, hurtling across the Seine from the direction of the Montparnasse.
He felt for his trips instinctively, then remembered Andre's words.
This must be one of the captured Boche ships with a Frenchman at the
A star-shell burst in the heavens, to the north of the city. The Albatross
swinging toward Montmarte. Strange climbed steeply, saw a score of searchlights
pawing at the sky at the north. He gritted his teeth. That fiend had picked out Montmarte, knowing this hour would
find its streets most crowded of all in Paris. Mercedes roaring, he
charged in that direction.
Ruddy flame suddenly bloomed above the Sacre Coeur – the funeral
pyre of a pilot. Strange held his breath. Had some one winged that devil?
Then he caught the outlines of a German black cross before the red tongues
of fire ate into the spinning wing. No, it had been one of the captured
Two more scudding shapes swept through the searchlights, darted after
the Midnight Ace. The Albatross swerved. Strange peered after it. There
was no sign of a target. He
plunged on down toward Montmarte.
Ground-guns suddenly blazed on his right. One of the frantic searchlights
dipped low, revealed a reservoir. For the second time, Strange saw the
Midnight Ace make a wild turn and evade the light. In a twinkling he
had vanished in the blackness beyond the beam.
Strange banked swiftly. The killer seemed to have headed back toward
the Place de la Concorde. He touched the Spandau trips. A short burst
ripped from the muzzles before he could lift his fingers. He swore.
He had had no intention of warning that devil.
Br-r-r-t-t-t-t-t-t-t! Scarlet lines shot out of the gloom, whipped past
in front of him. There was a gush of orange fire, and an Albatross sprang
ablaze not two hundred feet away.
Strange pulled up fiercely. The mystery killer had wiped out that ship
with one burst -– and he himself had not even seen it! A chill
perspiration beaded his unhelmeted brow. Andre was right. This Midnight
Ace was a devil!
Crash! Half of a center-section strut tore loose and hurtled back into
his face. Stunned, he felt the Fokker tilt over and start to spin. Three
savage bursts ripped through his wings, gouged into the cowl. Then the
The Fokker was spinning, engine wide open. Still dazed, Strange managed
to close the throttle, shove the rudder to neutral. Below the nose he
could see the dim mass of Montmarte's high
slopes rush up at him. A searchlight flicked above him, probed on toward
the city center.
With an effort, he pulled himself up in the pit and bent back on the
stick. The triplane moaned, gave grudgingly. Up came the nose, a scant
hundred feet from the jumble of buildings below. From somewhere, tiny
pin points of red dotted the gloom as he zoomed. A gendarme, or perhaps
some citizen, taking him for a Boche.
He wiped the blood from his temple, where it trickled down onto his
goggles. His head still ached, but his brain was clear again. He made
a hurried survey. The searchlights still anxiously combed the sky, but
they seemed to have lost their prey.
At cruising speed, Strange headed
down toward the Square. Suddenly, below the Grand Hotel, he saw thin
lines cut the gloom. Lines faintly pink, as he glimpsed them against
the shifting glare of the lights. He hit the throttle and sent the Fokker
The triplane howled down almost to the building level. Strange gritted
his teeth. That damned killer was flying down the Avenue de l'Opera,
below the tops of the buildings!
He moved the stick, tried to follow, but the shadows beneath defied
him. The street was a vague blur. He would crash before he had gone
a hundred yards.
Then how could that fiend tell where he was?
Strange shook his head. The man seemed superhuman. His green eyes narrowed.
Superhuman? Bunk! One well-placed burst and it would be the end of the
Midnight Ace. He set his jaw and raced toward the Seine. The killer
would have to zoom when he came to the tangle of buildings at the end
of the avenue.
He banked above the Tuileries and waited, tense fingers on his trips.
After a moment he frowned. The Spad should be zooming now .... must
have reached the end of the street. T-t-t-t-t-t! From his left there
came a murderous blast. The Midnight Ace had outguessed him!
He renversed fiercely, Spandaus pumping, but the Spad was out of his
fire. He glimpsed it, a fast-moving blur, cutting back to his tail.
A second fusillade crossed his tail as he whirled in an Immelmann. He
went taut. Explosive bullets .... a hell of a way to die.
Panic, a thing he seldom knew, gave way to ice-cold fury. Always before
he had sensed the direction from which death threatened . . . .
He yanked the stick, kicked the rudder hard over. The Spad swam before
his eyes. His Spandaus snarled out two vicious bursts, raked the Spad's
turtleback. The Midnight Ace flung off frenziedly, but Strange clung
like a leech as he banked. Savage triumph surged through him. One more
second, and he would win.
As though at a signal, two searchlights slashed up from across the Seine.
Blinded, Strange plunged through the beams, cursing the crews below.
Above the roar of his engine he heard a terrific screech. The Midnight
Ace had hurled his ship into some flashing twist. But where?
In an instant he knew. Sparkling, deadly, twin lines of tracer cut down
at him. He kicked away, but the double red streaks followed him, closing
toward his pit. Then abruptly he guessed the truth .... tilted guns
under the killer's wings, firing backward at an angle while he flew
With an oath, Strange hauled back his stick to his belt. The Fokker
might shed its wings, as the Tripes had been known to do. But another
second under that ran of slugs . . . .
A cold hand seemed to squeeze his heart. The Fokker was up on its tail
in the vertical zoom he had started, but the Spad had spun through a
loop. The Midnight Ace was squarely on his tail. He hurled the Boche
ship to one side as the killer charged in for the finish. Then inspiration
flashed through his brain. The Fokker slued around toward the nearest
weaving searchlight. At full speed he dived down the beam, his head
twisted around out of the glare. For one fleeting second he saw a face
glare over the cowl of the Spad.
It was a face oddly dark and hideous, a
face he could never forget. For a fraction of a second it showed in
the beam; then the Spad seemed to catapault sidewise and vanish.
Strange throttled the thundering Mercedes and fought the ship from its
dive. The heavy nose lifted slowly. He tensed, for the glowing center
of light seemed hardly five seconds away. With both hands, hr brought
the stick back. There was an ominous crack, then a ripping of loosened
fabric. The Fokker came up to straight flight, and drunkenly slipped
on one wing. Strange could see the edge of the Seine, then the dark
span of the Concorde Bridge.
He crossed the stick, lifted the wing by main force. Gliding crazily,
lifting the wing in jerks, he pointed the nose toward the square. A
fountain slipped beneath him, and he saw massed officers scatter. The
crowd had poured from the Crillon, was running wild in the place. He
closed thr throttle skimmed to the left and dropped the crippled ship
heavily near the right side of the boulevard junction. It skidded around,
groundlooped to a halt.
little knot of American officers swept toward the plane. Gendarmes and
newly arrived mounted guards drove them back. Suddenly Andre appeared,
as Strange climbed out of the pit.
“I saw him arrested,”
said Andre quickly. “But what has that to do with this midnight
Nom d'un chien! Twice I gave you up for dead.”
Strange looked grimly into the sky, where the searchlights were feverishly
waving. “But for that beam I dived down,” he said quietly,
“I would be dead.”
Andre followed his glance, swore fluently. “He has escaped again,
unless the outer defenses get him.”
Strange shook his head. “A man who can dodge searchlights like
that will not be caught by ordinary means.” He hesitated, drew
Andre away from the circle of guards and gendarmes who had gathered.
“I have just thought of something. Before you met me, there was
a young American pilot at the Crillon bar ---”
“Maybe nothing, but he kept watching the clock, and if I ever
saw a man gripped with fear, he was that man.”
“He will be easy to find. I will have him brought to Headquarters
as soon as we get there.” The little Frenchman beckoned to one
of the senior gendarmes. “Take charge here until the military
sends men for the plane.”
As they started away, a young officer in charge
of mobile guards pushed his way through the circle.
“Wait,” he exclaimed hoarsely, catching at Strange's sleeve.
Then he saw Andre's French uniform. “Come with me, messieurs,
“What is it, mon enfant?” said Andre when they had withdrawn
from the group at the plane.
The young lieutenant peered over his shoulder at the trees which bordered
the Champs Elysees. .
”One of my men saw something drop from
that murderer's plane,” he said tensely. “It fell at the
edge of the park -– a horrible thing.”
“Take us there,” said Andre hastily.
“It is not a pretty sight,” muttered the other, as he led
them under the trees. He spoke a command, and a man answered from the
darkness at one side. The young officer turned and lit a briquet, held
it close to the ground.
“Bon Dieu!” whispered Andre.
There on the ground lay what looked like the head of a pygmy. But its
skin was white unlike that of the African pygmy, and the close-cropped
hair on that tiny head was brown. The eyelids were closed to a narrow
slit, through which a terrible emptiness was discernible. The skin had
a hard, leathery look, an appearance of age, as though the head had
been mummified. The lips, which had been sewed together with tiny stitches,
curled up in a snarling laugh. Leather thongs ran from inside the ears
and through two holes which had been pierced in the shrunken neck.
“A white pygmy,” whispered Andre. His face had a bewildered
look. “But why should that fiend carry such a thing?”
“Perhaps a charm,” muttered the young officer. He shuddered.
“To look at it gives one the horrors.”
Andre gazed up, caught the look on Strange's face. “What is it,
mon ami? You look as though ---”
“It is nothing,” said Strange, with an effort. He fought
down the nausea which had gripped him. Andre would have
to know the truth, but this young lieutenant . . .
“We had better take it with us,” he said levelly. “It
will be proof to any dubious Staff officers that we are dealing with
a devil in human form.”
Andre looked distastefully at the mummified head. “One dislikes
to touch such a thing.”
Strange took out his overseas cap, lifted the head by one of the thongs,
and deposited it in the cap, face down.
“You had better come with us,” he said to the guard lieutenant.
“And bring the man who found this, also.”
They crossed the Place, found the car which Andre had kept waiting near
the Crillon. The non-com driver burst into excited French at sight of
“They said you had been killed, Commandant! Every minute reports
came of the ones killed and wounded. In Montmartre almost a hundred
dead or dying ...”
“I know,” said Andre heavily. “But one day he will
pay, that monster. And now, drive us to the Rue St. Dominique office.”
On the way to the aviation intelligence
office, near the Ministere de la Guerre, Strange kept silent. Once his
eyes went to the thing in his overseas cap. He looked away quickly.
When they reached Andre's private room, they found several officers
babbling excitedly. Detailed reports were just coming in. Scores had
been mowed down in the streets of Montmartre. The Midnight Ace had attempted
to drop a container of poison in one of the reservoirs, but had been
driven off. The poison, at least a hundred pounds of it, had landed
on the banks. It was believed to be cyanide.
Gunners and searchlight crews on two other roofs besides those of
the Crillon and the Ministere of Marine had been strafed, many of them
killed. The Midnight Ace had seemed to know exactly where they were.
And as a final blow, the defense archie batteries to the east of the
city had shot down one of the Spads which had taken off in a last effort
to down the raider.
[To be continued]
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