Salt did not criticise Penny when he learned exactly what had happened.

“I’d rather lose a dozen pictures than have my camera smashed,” he declared to cheer her. “Anyway, we may be able to trace the car and get everything back. Remember the license number?”

“D F 3005,” Penny said promptly, and wrote it down lest she forget.

“Let’s call the license bureau and get the owner’s name,” the photographer proposed, steering her toward a corner drugstore. “Gosh, it’s late!” he added, noticing a clock in a store window. “And they’re holding the paper for our story and pictures!”

“I certainly messed everything up,” Penny said dismally. “At the moment, it seemed the thing to do. When those women started for me, I thought it was the only way to save the camera.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Salt comforted. “I’ll get the camera back.”

“But how will we catch the edition with your pictures?”

“That’s a horse of a different color,” Salt admitted ruefully. “Anyway, it’s my funeral. I’ll tell DeWitt something.”

“I’ll tell him myself,” Penny said firmly. “I lost the pictures, and I expect to take responsibility for it.”

“Let’s not worry ahead. Maybe we can trace that car if we have luck.”

Entering the drugstore, Penny immediately telephoned Editor DeWitt at the Star, reporting all the facts she had picked up.

“Okay, that’s fine,” he praised. “One of our men reporters, Art Bailey, is on his way out there now. He’ll take over. Tell Salt Sommers to get in here fast with his pictures!”

“He’ll call you in just a minute or two,” Penny said weakly.

From another phone, Salt had been in touch with the license bureau. As Penny left the booth to join him, she saw by the look of his face that he had had no luck.

“Couldn’t you get the name of the owner?” she asked.

“It’s worse than that, Penny. The license was made out to a man by the name of A. B. Bettenridge. He lives at Silbus City.”

“Silbus City! At the far end of the state!”

“That’s the size of it.”

“But how did the car happen to be in Riverview?”

“The man or his wife probably is visiting relatives here, or possibly just passing through the city.”

“And there’s no way to trace them,” Penny said, aghast. “Oh, Salt, I’ve not only lost your pictures, but your camera as well!”

“Cheer up,” Salt said brusquely. “It’s not that bad. We’re sunk on the pictures, that’s sure. But unless the people are dishonest, I’ll get the camera again. I’ll write a letter to Silbus City, or if necessary, go there myself.”

Penny had little to say as she rode back to the Star office with the photographer. Editor DeWitt was not in the newsroom when they returned, but they found him in the composing room, shouting at the printers who were “making up the paper” to include the explosion story.

Seeing Penny and Salt, he whirled around to face them. “Get any good pictures?” he demanded.

“We lost all of ’em,” Salt confessed, his face long.

“You what?”

“Lost the pictures. The mob tore into us, and we were lucky to get back alive.”

DeWitt’s stony gaze fastened briefly upon Salt’s scratched face and torn clothing, “One of the biggest stories of the year, and you lose the pictures!” he commented.

“It was my fault,” Penny broke in. “I tossed the camera and plates into a passing car. I was trying to save them, but it didn’t work out that way.”

DeWitt’s eyebrows jerked upward and he listened without comment as Penny told the story. Then he said grimly: “That’s fine! That’s just dandy!” and stalked out of the composing room.

Penny gazed despairingly at Salt.

“If you hadn’t told him it was your fault, he’d have taken it okay,” Salt sighed. “Oh, well, it was the only thing to do. Anyway, there’s one consolation. He can’t fire you.”

“I wish he would. Salt, I feel worse than a worm.”

“Oh, buck up, Penny! Things like this happen. One has to learn to take the breaks.”

“Nothing like this ever happened before—I’m sure of that,” Penny said dismally. “What ought I to do, Salt?”

“Not a thing,” he assured her. “Just show up for work tomorrow the same as ever and don’t think any more about it. I’ll get the camera back, and by tomorrow DeWitt will have forgotten everything.”

“You’re very optimistic,” Penny returned. “Very optimistic indeed.”

Not wishing to return through the newsroom, she slipped down the back stairs and took a bus home. The Parker house stood on a knoll high above the winding river and was situated in a lovely district of Riverview. Only a few blocks away lived Louise Sidell, who was Penny’s closest friend.

Reluctant to face her father, Penny lingered for a while in the dark garden, snipping a few roses. But presently a kitchen window flew up, and Mrs. Maude Weems, the family housekeeper called impatiently:

“Penny Parker, is that you prowling around out there? We had our dinner three hours ago. Will you please come in and explain what kept you so long?”

Penny drew a deep sigh and went in out of the night. Mrs. Weems stared at her in dismay as she entered the kitchen.

“Why, what have you done to yourself!” she exclaimed.


“You look dreadful! Your hair isn’t combed—your face is dirty—and your clothes! Why, they smell of smoke!”

“Didn’t Dad tell you I started to work for the Star today?” Penny inquired innocently.

“The very idea of you coming home three hours late, and looking as if you had gone through the rollers of my washing machine! I’ll tell your father a thing or two!”

Mrs. Weems had cared for Penny since the death of Mrs. Parker many years before. Although employed as a housekeeper, salary was no consideration, and she loved the girl as her own child. Penny and Mr. Parker regarded Mrs. Weems almost as a member of the family.

“Where is Dad?” Penny asked uneasily.

“In the study.”

“Let’s not disturb him now, Mrs. Weems. I’ll just have a bite to eat and slip off to bed.”

“So you don’t want to see your father?” the housekeeper demanded alertly. “Why, may I ask? Is there more to this little escapade than meets the eye?”

“Maybe,” Penny admitted. Then she added earnestly: “Believe me, Mrs. Weems, I’ve had a wretched day. Tomorrow I’ll tell you everything. Tonight I just want to get a hot bath and go to bed.”

Mrs. Weems instantly became solicitous. “You poor thing,” she murmured sympathetically. “I’ll get you some hot food right away.”

Without asking another question, the housekeeper scurried about the kitchen, preparing supper. When it was set before her, Penny discovered she was not as hungry as she had thought. But because Mrs. Weems was watching her anxiously, she ate as much as she could.

After she had finished, she started upstairs. In passing her father’s study, she saw his eyes upon her. Before she could move on up the steps, he came to the doorway, noting her disheveled appearance.

“A hard day at the office?” he inquired evenly.

Penny could not know how much her father already had learned, but from the twinkle of his eyes she suspected that DeWitt had telephoned him the details of her disgrace.

“Oh, just a little overtime work,” she flung carelessly over her shoulder. “See you in the morning.”

Penny took a hot bath and climbed into bed. Then she climbed out again and carefully set the clock alarm for eight o’clock. Snuggling down once more, she went almost instantly to sleep.

It seemed that she scarcely had closed her eyes when the alarm jangled in her ear. Drowsily, Penny reached and turned it off. She rolled over to go to sleep again, then suddenly realized she was a working woman and leaped from bed.

She dressed hurriedly and joined her father at the breakfast table. He had two papers spread before him, the Star, and its rival, the Daily Times. Penny knew from her father’s expression that he had been comparing the explosion stories of the two papers, and was not pleased.

“Any news this morning?” she inquired a bit too innocently.

Her father shot back a quick, quizzical look, but gave no further indication that he suspected she might have had any connection with the Conway Steel Plant story.

“Oh, they did a little dynamiting last night,” he replied, shoving the papers toward her. “The Times had very good pictures.”

Penny scanned the front pages. The story in the Star was well written, with her own facts used, and a great many more supplied by other reporters. But in comparison to the Times, the story seemed colorless. Pictures, she realized, made the difference. The Times had published two of them which half covered the page.

“Can’t see how DeWitt slipped up,” Mr. Parker said, shaking his head sadly. “He should have sent one of our photographers out there.”


Mr. Parker, who had finished his breakfast, hastily shoved back his chair. “Well, I must be getting to the office,” he said. “Don’t be late, Penny.”

“Dad, about that story last night—”

“No time now,” he interposed. “On a newspaper, yesterday’s stories are best forgotten.”

Penny understood then that her father already knew all the details of her downfall. Relieved that there was no need to explain, she grinned and hurriedly ate her breakfast.

Because her father had taken the car and gone on, she was compelled to battle the crowd on the bus. The trip took longer than she had expected. Determined not to be late for work, she ran most of the way from the bus stop to the office. By the time she had climbed the stairs to the newsroom, she was almost breathless.

As she came hurriedly through the swinging door, Elda Hunt, cool and serene, looked up from her typewriter.

“Why the rush?” she drawled, but in a voice which carried clearly to everyone in the room. “Are you going to another fire?”

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