Ben held back.

“Thanks,” he said uncomfortably, “but I think I ought to be moving on.”

“Have you had your dinner?” Penny asked.

“Not yet.”

“Then do come with me, Ben. Or don’t you want to tell me what happened at the Mirror?”

“It’s not that, Penny. The truth is—well—”

“You haven’t the price of a dinner?” Penny supplied. “Is that it, Ben?”

“I’m practically broke,” he acknowledged ruefully. “Sounds screwy in a day and age like this, but I’m not strong enough for factory work. Was rejected from the Army on account of my health. Tomorrow I guess I’ll take a desk job somewhere, but I’ve held off, not wanting to get stuck on it.”

“You’re a newspaper man, Ben. Reporting is all you’ve ever done, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but I’m finished now. Can’t get a job anywhere.” The young man started to move away, but Penny caught his arm again.

“Ben, you are having dinner with me,” she insisted. “I have plenty of money, and this is my treat. I really want to talk to you.”

“I can’t let you pay for my dinner,” Ben protested, though with less vigor.

“Silly! You can take me somewhere as soon as you get your job.”

“Well, if you put it that way,” Ben agreed, falling willingly into step. “There’s a place here on the waterfront that serves good meals, but it’s not stylish.”

“All the better. Lead on, Ben.”

He took her to a small, crowded little restaurant only a block away. In the front window, a revolving spit upon which were impaled several roasting chickens, captured all eyes. Ben’s glands began to work as he watched the birds browning over the charcoal.

“Ben, how long has it been since you’ve had a real meal?” Penny asked, picking up the menu.

“Oh, a week. I’ve mostly kept going on pancakes. But it’s my own funeral. I could have had jobs of a sort if I had been willing to take them.”

Penny gave her order to the waitress, taking double what she really wanted so that her companion would not feel backward about placing a similar order. Then she said:

“Ben, you remarked awhile ago that you can’t get a newspaper job anywhere.”

“That’s true. I’m blacklisted.”

“Did you try my father’s paper, the Star?”

“I did. I couldn’t even get past his secretary.”

“That’s not like Dad,” Penny said with troubled eyes. “Did you really do something dreadful?”

“It was Jason Cordell who put the bee on me.”

“Jason Cordell?” Penny repeated thoughtfully. “He’s the editor of the Mirror, and has an office in the building adjoining the Star.”

“Right. Well, he fired me.”

“Lots of reporters are discharged, Ben, but they aren’t necessarily blacklisted.”

Ben squirmed uncomfortably in his chair.

“You needn’t tell me if you don’t wish,” Penny said kindly. “I don’t mean to pry into your personal affairs. I only thought that I might be able to help you.”

“I want to tell you, Penny. I really do. But I don’t dare reveal some of the facts, because I haven’t sufficient proof. I’ll tell you this much. I stumbled into a story—a big one—and it discredited Jason Cordell.”

“You didn’t publish it?”

“Naturally not.” Ben laughed shortly. “I doubt if any newspaper would touch it with a ten-foot pole. Cordell is supposed to be one of our substantial, respectable citizens.”


“He’s as dishonorable as they come.”

Knowing that Ben was bitter because of his discharge, Penny discredited some of the remarks, but she waited expectantly for him to continue. A waitress brought the dinner, and for awhile, as the reporter ate ravenously, he had little to say.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” he finally apologized. “I haven’t tasted such fine food in a year! Now what is it you want to know, Penny? I’m in a mood to tell almost anything.”

“What was this scandal you uncovered about Mr. Cordell?”

“That’s the one thing I can’t reveal, but it concerned the owner of the Conway Steel Plant. They’re bitter enemies you know.”

Penny had not known, and the information interested her greatly.

“Did you talk it over with Mr. Cordell?” she asked.

“That was the mistake I made.” Ben slowly stirred his coffee. “Cordell didn’t have much to say, but the next thing I knew, I was out of a job and on the street.”

“Are you sure that was why he discharged you?”

“What else?”

Penny hesitated, not wishing to hurt Ben’s feelings. There were several things she had heard about him—that he was undependable and that he drank heavily.

“Most of the things you’ve been told about me aren’t true,” Ben said quietly, reading her thoughts. “Jason Cordell started a lot of stories intended to discredit me. He told editors that I had walked off a job and left an important story uncovered. He pictured me as a drunkard and a trouble maker.”

“I’ll talk to my father,” Penny promised. “As short as the Star is of employes, I’m sure there must be a place for you.”

“You’re swell,” Ben said feelingly. “But I’m not asking for charity. I’ll get along.”

Refusing to talk longer about himself, he told Penny of amusing happenings along the waterfront. After dessert had been finished, she slipped a bill into his hand, and they left the restaurant.

Outside, the streets were dark, for in this section of the city, lights were few and far between. Ben offered to escort Penny back to the Star office or wherever she wished to go.

“This isn’t too safe a part of the city for a girl,” he declared. “Especially after night.”

“All the same, to me the waterfront is the most fascinating part of Riverview,” Penny declared. “You seem to know this part of town well, Ben.”

“I should. I’ve lived here for the past six months.”

“You have a room?”

“I’ll show you where I live,” Ben offered. “Wait until we reach the next corner.”

They walked on along the river docks, passing warehouses and vessels tied up at the wharves. Twice they passed guards who gazed at them with intent scrutiny. However, Ben was recognized, and with a friendly salute, the men allowed him to pass unchallenged.

“The waterfront is strictly guarded now,” the reporter told Penny. “Even so, plenty goes on here that shouldn’t.”


Ben did not answer for they had reached the corner. Beyond, on a vacant lot which Penny suspected might also be a dumping ground, stood three or four dilapidated shacks.

“See the third one,” Ben indicated. “Well, that’s my little mansion.”

“Oh, Ben!”

“It’s not bad inside. A little cold when the wind blows through the chinks, but otherwise, fairly comfortable.”

“Ben, haven’t you any friends or relatives?”

“Not here. I thought I had a few friends, but they dropped me like a hot potato when I ran into trouble.”

“This is no life for you, Ben. I’ll certainly talk to my father tomorrow.”

Ben smiled and said nothing. From his silence, Penny gathered that he had no faith she would be able to do anything for him.

They walked on, and as they approached a small freighter tied up at the wharf, Ben pointed it out.

“That’s the Snark,” he informed her.

The name meant nothing to Penny. “Who owns her?” she inquired carelessly.

“I wish I knew, Penny. There’s plenty goes on aboard that vessel, but it’s strictly hush-hush. I have my suspicions that—”

Ben suddenly broke off, for several men had appeared on the deck of the Snark. The vessel was some distance away, and in the darkness only shadowy forms were visible.

Seizing Penny’s arm, Ben pulled her flat against a warehouse.

Amazed by his action, she started to protest. Then she understood. Aboard the Snark there was some sort of disturbance or disagreement. The men, although speaking in low, almost inaudible tones, were arguing. Penny caught only one phrase: “Heave him overboard!”

“Ben, what’s happening there?” she whispered anxiously.

“Don’t know!” he answered. “But nothing good.”

“Where are the guards?”

“Probably at the far end of their beats.”

Aboard the Snark, there was a brief scuffle, as someone was dragged across the deck to the rail.

“That’ll teach you!” they heard one of the men mutter.

Then the helpless victim was raised and dropped over the rail. Shrieking in terror, he fell with a great splash into the inky waters. Frantically, he began to struggle.

“Those fiends!” Penny cried. “They deliberately threw the man overboard, and he can’t swim!”

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