After Webb had gone into Mr. Cordell’s office, Penny debated her next action. Could Webb and Cordell be friends? Or was this merely a business call? In any case, the two men were obviously of such different type and personality that she failed to understand what basis there might be for a friendship.

Deciding she could accomplish nothing by waiting and questioning Mr. Cordell, she left the office. As she passed down the corridor, an open window at its far end, drew her attention.

Pausing for an instant, she glanced out upon the rooftop of the Riverview Star building. The tin flooring, only a few feet below the level of the sill, easily could be reached by anyone climbing through the window.

Tempted to take a short cut to the office, Penny impulsively stepped through the opening. From the rooftop she could see the city spread out below in rigid pattern, and to the eastward, the winding river.

Crossing the dusty floor to the skylight above the Star photography room, Penny peered curiously down. No one was visible below.

“I wonder if a person really could get through that skylight,” she speculated. “It would be quite a feat, but I believe it could be done.”

A star athlete in high school, Penny felt a challenge. Giving no thought to her clothes, she squeezed through the narrow opening and snagged her sweater. As she freed herself, she noticed a tiny bit of blue cloth that had impaled itself on the nail.

The cloth was not from Penny’s garments, and looked as if it might have been torn from a man’s wool suit. Freeing it from the nail, she slipped it into her pocket for later examination.

Now, with her feet dangling into space, she considered how she was to get down into the room below. No longer was it possible to swing from the opening to the top of a filing cabinet, for Salt had carefully moved the heavy case to the far side of the room.

Seizing the skylight chain, Penny swung downward. The tiny brass rings cut into her hands and half-way down, she was forced to let go, dropping to the floor with a loud thump.

From the inner photography room came a terrified scream. Elda Hunt, her face white with fear, appeared in the doorway.

“You!” she exclaimed, recovering from the shock of Penny’s unexpected entry.

“Now take it easy, Elda,” Penny advised, brushing dirt from her sweater. “I was only experimenting.”


“I wanted to see if it would be possible for a person to get into this room through the skylight. It is possible!”

“You don’t say!” Elda commented sarcastically. “I’ll bet you were the one who pulled that stunt in the first place!”

“How ridiculous!” Penny was irritated. Not wishing to discuss the matter, she turned and walked out of the photography room.

In the corridor she met Salt Sommers who stopped her to ask when they were to visit Professor Bettenridge in the country.

“Eight o’clock tonight, if you’re willing to go,” Penny said eagerly. “I very much want to see the professor demonstrate his ray machine for Mr. Johnson.”

“And I want to find out what became of my camera,” Salt added grimly. “Is it a date?”

Penny nodded.

“Then suppose we start right after dinner. Can you meet me here at seven o’clock?”

“Let’s make it a little earlier,” Penny suggested. “I have a hunch that by getting there before the start of the demonstration we may learn more.”

“Okay,” agreed Salt. “Make it six-thirty.”

Having over-stayed her lunch hour, Penny quickly washed her grimy hands and returned to her desk. As she sat down at the typewriter, she noticed a sealed letter thrust behind the roller. Addressed to her, the writing was in a bold scrawl she did not recognize.

Curiously, she scanned the message. It was written on cheap tablet paper and had been signed with Ben Bartell’s name.

“See me if you can,” was all it said. “I have a little information about the Snark.”

Tucking the note into her pocketbook, Penny began to plan how she could visit Ben that day. She would not be off until five o’clock, and she had promised to meet Salt at six-thirty. If she were to get any dinner and see Ben at the waterfront, it would mean fast stepping.

Only by an effort of will could Penny keep her mind on the work before her. There were rewrites to do, and an interesting feature. At four-thirty with two stories yet to be done, she became panicky that she could not finish on time. But by really digging in, she completed the stories exactly on the dot of five, and with a tired sigh of relief, dropped them into Editor DeWitt’s wire copy basket.

“You’re just like a trained race horse, Penny,” he said jokingly. “But your work is okay. You’re improving.”

Penny brightened at the praise, for Editor DeWitt was not given to complimentary words as a rule. Hurriedly washing carbon paper stains from her hands, she caught a bus which took her within a block of Ben’s shack.

Smoke curled from the chimney, and as she thumped on the sagging door, she detected the odor of cooking bacon.

“Come in, come in!” Ben greeted her heartily. “You’re just in time to share my supper. You got my note?”

“Yes, I did, Ben. What’s up?”

Without answering, the former reporter stepped aside for her to enter. The room was much cleaner than when Penny last had visited it. Ben looked better too. Although his clothes remained unpressed, his hair had been cut, and there was a brightness to his eyes which she instantly noted.

“You’ve found work?” she surmised.

“Odd jobs,” Ben answered briefly. “After talking to you I made up my mind I’d better snap out of it. If I can’t find newspaper work, I’ll try something else.”

“I was thinking—” Penny sat down in a rickety chair, “—couldn’t you do free lance work? Write stories for newspapers out of town?”

“Without a typewriter? I put mine in hock months ago, and it finally was sold for charges.”

“I have a typewriter at home, Ben. I’ll lend it to you.”

Ben’s face brightened, but he hesitated. “I’ve sure been lost without a machine,” he declared. “But I hate to take yours. You know what happened to my watch. This shack isn’t safe. Anyone might come in here and steal it.”

“It’s only an old typewriter, Ben. I’m willing to take a chance. I’ll see that you get the machine within a day or so.”

The former reporter stepped to the stove to turn the bacon. He kept his face averted as he said: “Penny, you’ve been a real friend—the only one. That day when you met me—well, I didn’t give a darn. I was only one step from walking off a dock.”

“Don’t say such things, Ben!” Penny warned. “You’ve had a run of hard luck, but it’s changing now. Suppose you tell me what you learned about the Snark.”

“Nothing too startling, so don’t get your hopes up,” Ben grinned.

He set out two cracked plates on the battered table, two cups for coffee, and then dished up the bacon and a few fried potatoes. It was a meagre supper, but not for the world would Penny have offended Ben by refusing to share it.

“Now tell me about the Snark,” she urged again, as Ben poured the coffee.

“I’ve been watching the boat at night, Penny. Queer things go on there.”

“We suspected that after seeing Webb pitched overboard.”

“I’ve seen a lot of men come and go from that vessel,” Ben resumed. “It’s a cinch they couldn’t all be employed on her, because the Snark has been out of service for months.”

“What do you make of it?”

“Oh, the Snark is being used as a meeting place—that’s obvious. Just for the fun of it, I sneaked aboard last night.”

“What did you learn, Ben?”

“The men were having a confab in one of the cabins. I couldn’t hear much, but enough to gather that they are afraid Webb will talk to the police.”

“About what, Ben?”

“Didn’t learn that part. I aim to keep tab on the place for a while.”

Penny told of seeing Webb that afternoon and also of his association with Professor Bettenridge.

“A secret ray machine, my eye!” Ben exploded. “You may be sure it’s a fake if Webb has anything to do with it! Penny, this is no business for you to be mixed up in. Webb is a dock rat and as surly an egg as I ever met. You ought to give him a wide berth.”

“I’ll certainly be careful,” Penny promised, arising. “Sorry to leave you with the dishes, Ben, but I must run or I’ll be late for another appointment.”

She really hated to go, for she saw that her companionship had made the young man more cheerful. Ben walked with her through the waterfront district, and then reluctantly said goodbye.

Hastening along the shadowy street, Penny noticed the large electric sign on top of the Gables Hotel.

Impulsively, she stopped at the hotel.

“That Navy official Professor Bettenridge spoke of may have arrived,” she thought. “Just to make certain, I’ll inquire again.”

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