Donald E. Keyhoe Archives

(Originally 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!

CHAPTER I

HE STRIKES AT MIDNIGHT!

    The 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 again!

* * *

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 airplane tomorrow.”
    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 uniform?”
    “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 the hour.”
    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 forward guns.
    “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 Strange.
     “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 hurriedly.
     “Yes, m'sieu. Two years now I have served him ....”
    The shriek of sirens and the howl of the unseen ship drowned his words. Suddenly

 

machine guns hammered above the din. Cherry-red streams lanced out of the darkness, stabbed over the Crillon roof. By the swirling lines of tracer, Strange followed the killer's swift passage. With a lightning renversement, the Midnight Ace charged back across the roof. Again came a blasting torrent, then a searchlight suddenly flashed from the roof across the street,
    The Midnight Ace rolled furiously. Though the light had been almost on him, Strange saw but the tips of the racing Spad. Before the searchlight could swing to follow, the glowing streaks from the killer's guns raked over the crew on the roof. The light went out. Andre gave a moan.
     “Pardieu, he has butchered them before they could fire a gun! How could he know we had them hid there?”

    Strange 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.”

    Pell-mell, they 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 side.”
    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' hoofs.
    “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 and died.
    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.


CHAPTER II

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 stick.
    A star-shell burst in the heavens, to the north of the city. The Albatross charged past, 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 ships.
    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 fusillade ended.
    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 plunging.
    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 ahead.
     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.

A 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.
     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 ---”

    “I saw him arrested,” said Andre quickly. “But what has that to do with this midnight killer?”
    “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, quickly!”
    “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 the major.
    “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.”


CHAPTER III

HEAD-HUNTER HORROR


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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The Magazine that is Three Magazines in One!
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July FLYING ACES On Sale May 24th

 

See also the Donald E. Keyhoe Archives Main Page and the

Donald E. Keyhoe Archives Photo Gallery

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