Darkness shrouded the streets as the press car careened toward the outskirts of the city where the Conway Steel Plant was situated. Rattling over the river bridge, Salt and Penny caught their first glimpse of the factory.

Flames were shooting high into the sky from one of the buildings, and employes poured in panic through the main gate. No policemen were yet in evidence, nor had the fire department arrived.

Pulling up at the curb, Salt seized his camera and stuffed a handful of flashbulbs into his pockets. Grabbing Penny’s elbow, he steered her toward the gate. To get through the barrier, they fought their way past the outsurging, panic-stricken tide of fleeing employes.

“Scared?” Salt asked as they paused to stare at the shooting flames.

“A little,” Penny admitted truthfully. “Will there be any more explosions?”

“That’s the chance we’re taking. DeWitt shouldn’t have sent you on this assignment!”

“He couldn’t know there would be other explosions,” Penny replied. “Besides, someone had to cover the story, and no one else was there. I can handle it.”

“I think you can too,” said Salt quietly. “But you’ll have to work alone. My job is to take pictures.”

“I’ll meet you at the car,” Penny threw over her shoulder as she left him.

Scarcely knowing how or where to begin, she ran toward the burning building. One of the smaller storage structures of the factory, it was not connected with the main office. The larger building remained intact. Workmen with an inadequate hose were making a frantic effort to keep the flames from spreading to the other structures.

Penny ran up to one of the men, plucking at his sleeve to command attention.

“What set off the explosion?” she shouted in his ear.

“Don’t know,” he replied above the roar of the flames.

“Anyone killed?”

“Two workmen. They’re over there.” The man waved his hand vaguely toward another building.

Unable to gain more information, Penny ran toward the nearby structure. The wind, she noted, was carrying flames in the opposite direction. Unless there were further explosions, danger of the fire spreading was not great.

Entering the building, she met several men who appeared to be officials of the company.

“I’m looking for Mr. Conway!” she accosted them. “Is he here?”

“Who are you?” one of the men asked bluntly.

“I’m Penny Parker from the Star.”

“My name is Conway. What do you want to know?”

“How many killed and injured?”

“Two killed. Three or four injured. Perhaps more. We don’t know yet.”

Penny asked for names which were given her. But when she inquired how the explosion had occurred, Mr. Conway suddenly became uncommunicative.

“I have no statement to make,” he said curtly. “We don’t know what caused the trouble.”

As if fearing that Penny would ask questions he did not wish to answer, the factory owner eluded her and disappeared into the darkness.

Running back to the burning building, Penny caught a glimpse of Salt taking a picture. From another workman she sought to glean additional details of the disaster.

“I was in the foundry when the first blast went off!” he revealed. “Just a minute before the explosion, I seen a man in a light overcoat and a dark hat, run from the building.”

“Who was he?”

“No one I ever saw workin’ at this plant. But I’ll warrant, he touched off that explosion!”

“Then you think he was a saboteur?”


Penny did not place too much stock in the story, but as she wandered about among the excited employes, she heard others saying that they too had seen the strange man running from the building. No one knew his name nor could they provide an accurate description.

Sirens screamed, proclaiming the arrival of fire engines. As the ladders went up, and streams of water began to play on the blazing structure, Salt snapped several more pictures. His hat was gone, and his face had become streaked with soot.

“I got some good shots!” he told Penny enthusiastically as he sought her at the fringe of the crowd. “What luck you having?”

Penny told him everything she had learned.

“We’ll talk with the Fire Chief and then let’s head for a telephone and call the office,” Salt declared.

As they started toward the fire lines, a strange sound accosted their ears. Hearing it, Salt stopped short to listen. From the gates outside the factory came the rumbling murmur of an angry crowd.

“A mob must be forming!” Salt exclaimed. “Something’s up!”

He started for the gate with Penny hard at his heels.

At first they could not see what had caused the commotion. But as the group of angry employes swept nearer the gate, a man in a light overcoat who apparently was fleeing for his life, leaped into a car which waited at the curb.

“Quick!” Penny cried. “Take a picture!”

Salt already had his camera into position. As the car started up, the flash bulb went off.

“Got it!” Salt exclaimed triumphantly.

Penny tried to note the license number of the automobile, but the plate was so covered with mud she could not read a single figure. The car whirled around a corner and was lost to view.

“Salt, that man may have been the one who set off the explosion!” Penny cried. “The mob is of that opinion at least!”

Angry employes now were bearing directly toward Penny and Salt. Suddenly a woman in the crowd pointed toward the photographer, shouting: “There he is! Get him!”

Dismayed, Penny saw then that Salt wore a light overcoat which bore a striking resemblance to the garment of the fleeing stranger. Their builds too were somewhat similar, for both were thin and angular. In the darkness, the mob had failed to see the car roll away, and had mistaken Salt for the saboteur.

“Let’s get out of here!” Salt muttered. “One thing you can’t do is argue with a mob!”

He and Penny started in the opposite direction, only to be faced by a smaller group of workmen who had swarmed from another factory gate. Escape was cut off.

“Tell them we’re from the Star!” Penny urged, but as she beheld the angry faces, she realized how futile were her words.

“They’ll wreck my equipment before I can explain anything!” Salt said swiftly. He thrust the camera into her hands. “Here, take this and try to keep it safe! And these plates!”

Empty-handed, Salt turned to face the mob. Not knowing what to do, Penny tried to cut across the street. But the crowd evidently had taken her for a companion of the saboteur, and was determined she should not escape.

“Don’t let her get away!” shouted a woman in slacks, her voice shrill with excitement. “Get her!”

A car was coming slowly down the street. Its driver, a woman, was watching the flaming building, and had rolled down the window glass to see better. The window of the rear seat also was halfway down.

As the women of the mob bore down upon Penny, she acted impulsively to save Salt’s camera and the precious plates. Without thinking of the ultimate consequence, she tossed them through the open rear window onto the back seat of the moving car.

The driver, her attention focused upon the blazing factory, apparently did not observe the act, for she continued slowly on down the street.

“D F 3005,” Penny noted the license number. “If only I can remember!”

The factory women were upon the girl, seizing her roughly by the shoulders and shouting accusations. Penny’s jacket was ripped as she jerked free.

“I’m a reporter for the Star!” she cried desperately. “Sent here to cover the story!”

The words made not the slightest impression upon the women. But before they could lay hands upon her again, she fled across the street. The women did not pursue her, for just then two police cars rolled up to the curb.

Penny, greatly relieved, ran to summon help.

“Quick!” she urged the policemen. “That crazy mob has mistaken a reporter for one of the saboteurs who escaped in a car!”

With drawn clubs, the policemen battled their way through the crowd. Already Salt had been roughly handled. But arrival of the police saved him from further mistreatment, and fearful of arrest, the mob began to scatter. In another moment the photographer was free, although a bit battered. His coat had been torn to shreds, one eye had been blackened, and blood trickled from a cut on his lower lip.

“Are you all right?” he asked anxiously as Penny rushed to him.

“Oh, yes! But you’re a sight, Salt. They half killed you!”

“I’m okay,” Salt insisted. “The important thing is we’ve got a whale of a story, and we saved the camera and pictures.”

A stricken look came over Penny’s face.

“Salt—” she stammered. “Your camera—”

“It was smashed?”

“No, I tossed it into a car, but the car went on down the street. How we’ll ever find it again I don’t know!”

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