Allan Chase.

The Five Arrows online

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Transcriber's note:

Extensive research indicates the copyright on this book
was not renewed.




Random House - New York

_Chapter one_

The governor's wife pointed across the bay to a speck in the black sky.
Ground lights in Catanzas were focusing their blue shafts on the speck,
moving as the plane moved, one light trying to lead the ship.

A thin stream of glowing red and orange tracer bullets soared up at the
plane from the Catanzas side of the bay. A moment passed before the
Governor's guests on the terrace of La Fortaleza could hear the muffled
thud-thud of the distant ground batteries. Someone, the wife of a
visiting government official, exclaimed, "My goodness, I've only seen
this in the newsreels before!"

Now the plane veered, slowly, and the lights from the San Juan side
joined the Catanzas batteries in pinning the plane to the dark clouds.
The sleeve target fastened to the tail of the plane could now be seen
from the terrace. Most of the Governor's guests gasped as the first
bright jets of tracers missed the silver sleeve and sailed into the
black void above it. The ack-ack batteries were speaking with more
harshness now; one of them, planted between two brick buildings, added
crashing echoes to their own reports as the guns went off.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was still very much a topic of conversation
on the island; the submarine nets in the bay were joked about at the
dinner table, but the jokes arose from a profound sense of gratitude for
the nets, the planes, the ships which were the island's defenses against
the undersea raiders that stalked the sea lanes between the ports of the
mainland and San Juan.

The plane shifted course again, now headed directly toward La Fortaleza.
Through the increasing din of the ground guns, the Governor's young
military aide, Lieutenant Braga, could barely hear the ring of the
telephone nearest the terrace. He took the call, then returned to the
terrace and tapped one of the guests on the shoulder. "It's for you, Mr.
Hall," he said. "It's Tom Harris at Panair."

Matthew Hall stood up quietly and walked into the cavernous reception
room. He walked carefully, with the steel-spring tread of a man who
seems to expect the floor to blow up under him at any moment. For
thirty-three years Matthew Hall had walked as other men. Since he was
not conscious of his new walk, he could not say when it had become part
of him. His friends had first noticed it in Paris, in '39, but had
expected it to wear off as soon as the prison pallor disappeared. The
pallor had gone; the walk remained.

Hall's head and shoulders and hands were part of this walk. He moved
with his head forward and his shoulders hunched, with his hands slightly
cocked, almost like a fighter slowly advancing to mid-ring. The
shoulders were broad and thick, so broad that although Hall was of more
than average height they made him appear shorter and chunky.

The face of Matthew Hall had changed, too, with his walk. There were the
obvious changes: the deep channel of a scar on his broad forehead, the
smaller one on his right jaw. The nose had changed twice, the first time
in 1938 when it was broken in San Sebastian. It had swelled enormously
and then knit badly and nearly two years later a New York surgeon had
done an expensive job of rebreaking and resetting the nose. Some bones
had been taken out and the once classic lines were now slightly
flattened. The scars and the dented nose blended strangely well with the
jaws that had always been a bit too long and the soft brown poet's eyes
which had so often betrayed Hall. With his eyes, Hall spoke his
contempt, his anger, his amusement, his joy. The eyes unerringly spoke
his inner feelings; they were always beyond his control.

Changes more subtle than the scars and the flattened nose had come over
Hall's face within the past few years. It now had a queer, angry cast.
His lips seemed to be set in a new and almost permanent grimace of
bitterness. Also the right side of his face, the cheek and the mouth,
had a way of twitching painfully when Hall was bothered and upset. And
yet, as Governor Dickenson had already noted, Hall was not a completely
embittered man. More often than not, his eyes would light up with a look
of amused irony, the look of a man much moved by an immense private joke
he would be glad to share with his friends if he but knew how to tell it

When Hall had risen to leave the terrace, the Governor noticed that his
cheek was twitching, but once he was alone in the reception room, away
from the sight of the tracers and the target plane, Hall's face grew
calm again. He sat down in the green armchair near the phone, picked up
the receiver. "Yes, Tom," he said, "any luck?"

"Sure. I busted open a seat for you on the San Hermano plane for
tomorrow at six."

"Was it much trouble, Tom?"

"Not much." Tom Harris laughed. "We had to throw Giselle Prescott off to
make room for you. Know her?"

"God, no! But thanks a lot."

"I'll pick you up in the morning then. Good night, Matt."

Hall put the receiver back on the cradle. He sat back in the soft chair,
oblivious of the crashing guns, the hum of the plane's engines, the
others on the terrace. Only one thing was in his mind now - San Hermano.

It was some time before the young Puerto Rican lieutenant slipped
gingerly into the room. "Mr. Hall," he said, softly, "everything O.K.?"

Hall smiled warmly. "My God," he asked, "you don't think the guns drove
me in here?"

The officer blushed. "Fix you a drink?" he asked.

Hall shook his head, drew two Havanas from his jacket. "No, thanks.
Cigar? It's from the one box I remembered to buy in Havana."

The boy was a non-smoker. He lit a match for Hall, waited until the
older man relaxed with the burning cigar. Politely, he said, "I know
you've been through plenty, Mr. Hall. I'm a soldier, but if ..."

"Plenty? Me?"

The lieutenant nodded. "_The Revenger_," he said, hesitantly. "I - I read
your book."

"Oh, that," Hall said. "_The Revenger_." So _The Revenger_ was plenty!

"If there's anything I can get you ..."

The boy's voice seemed to come from far away and Hall realized that he
himself was staring into space and that the lieutenant must have sat
there for a full minute waiting for an answer. "I'm sorry," he said.
"I'm really sorry. I guess I just get this way once in a while."

"It's my fault," Braga protested. "I should have known how hard it must
be for you to talk about - it."

"_De nada_," Hall laughed. "I made a lecture tour last year and spent
five nights a week talking about it for months. It's just that
I'm - well, that I just catch myself staring at nothing at the craziest
times. Maybe I do need that drink. What's in the shaker there - Daiquiri?
Good." He poured two Daiquiris from the jar on the sideboard, handed one
to the lieutenant. "I know you don't drink, either," he said. "But I'm
having this drink to toast victory - and you're a soldier."

When they touched glasses, the boy saw that amused look in Hall's eyes,
the look he had seen earlier at the dinner table when one of the
visiting officials had expressed such innocent amazement at the enormity
of his first taxi bill in San Juan. "I'd better go back out there when I
finish this drink," he said. "I'm glad nothing's wrong with you."

"You're a right guy, Lieutenant. Thanks for looking in." Hall returned
to his chair as the boy walked out to the terrace. So _The Revenger_ was
plenty! And the kid, how old was he? Twenty? Not a day more. Which made
him eighteen when the Nazi torpedo planes peeled off over the African
skies and then roared in to send their tin fish into the guts of His
Majesty's own _Revenger_. Which made him fourteen when the fighting
began, fourteen when the German pilot officers clicked their heels and
mouthed the new phrase "_Arriba España_" and flew the Moors from Spanish
Morocco to the mainland and touched off the shooting stages of World War
II. "_Ay, Teniente_," he muttered, "you've made me feel old as hell.

Hall leaned back in his chair, tried to blow a series of smoke rings. He
thought: But I'm not old. I've just seen things and done things and had
things done to me. I'm not old at all.

* * * * *

After years of anonymity in various city rooms in the States, a brief
turn as a byline correspondent in Washington, a still briefer career as
a Broadway playwright, Matthew Hall had drawn an assignment as
third-string man for the World Press in Paris. That was in 1935, when he
was crowding thirty. The job had introduced him to Europe, and carried
him to Geneva, to Belgrade, to Bucharest, to Stockholm. Paris was the
journalistic capital of the Continent; when things happened outside of
Paris, it was a Paris man who was sent to the scene to cover. There he
would find that the office had adequate coverage in the permanent man,
and if he had any curiosity or craftsman's pride he would try to get the
story behind the story. Hall had both. They led him to the strange
half-world of tipsters, hounded opposition leaders, minor officials of
ministries who would talk and produce documents for a fee, candid and
cynical free-lance agents, wise old frightened politicians who sensed
the coming catastrophe in their bones, correct and stiff Nazi advance
agents and politely lavish native fascists who mixed queer brews for
foreign correspondents. They were the _sources close to a key ministry,
the influential elder statesmen, the prominent industrialists whose
names cannot be used_ who figured so prominently in the inside-Europe
dispatches of the era.

July, 1936, had found Hall in Nice spending a long week-end as the guest
of a prominent refugee banker from Germany. The banker was the "inside"
prophet of the month in Parisian newspaper circles. His gospel was the
slightly shopworn one about German industry being fed up with Hitler and
willing to settle on Goering, Danzig and a few worthless colonies in
Africa as the price for eliminating the "extreme Nazis" and returning to
the family of Europe. "He's a damned Nazi himself," Hall had declared
when the invitation reached his office, but the bureau manager was
missing no bets. "I don't care what he is, Matt. He's a story. He's
news. He's what they want to read about in Washington and in London and
in Paris."

Hall never wrote his story on the refugee banker (who later turned up as
a Nazi economist overlord in Denmark). On a blistering Sunday Paris had
called him by phone. Hell was popping in Madrid. The regular Madrid man
was vacationing in the States. "Get to Madrid, Matt. Looks like you'll
be busy there for a couple of weeks until it blows over."

Like many of his American colleagues, Hall traveled to Madrid during
that first week of the war with the idea that in less than a month one
side or another would have been installed in power and he himself would
be back in Paris listening to the latest faker peddling the newest line
of disguised Nazism from Berlin. But Hall was an honest man. What he saw
interested and then intrigued and then enraged him. "This is no Spanish
Civil War," he wrote to the Paris office in a confidential memo sent by
courier. "This is the start of the second World War. It's the Germans
and the Italians against the Spaniards. Maybe I'm crazy, but it looks to
me like the British and the French are backing the fascists, while the
Russians are trying to help the Republicans. How about sending someone
in to cover the shooting for a week while I write a big story along
these lines?"

He was answered in due time. "Stick to the military conflict between the
Nationalists and the Loyalists. And don't send us any Red propaganda."

That was in October, when Caballero was preparing to quit Madrid in
panic, and the Fifth Army was calmly preparing to hold the city,
Caballero or no Caballero. Hall had long since lost his magnificent WP
objectivity. Through the open mails he sent a letter of resignation to
Paris. Antin in the Censura held the letter up, sent for Hall. The
Spaniard hemmed and hawed and cleared his throat a dozen times and then
he got up from his desk and embraced Hall and told him to sit down.
Hall's Spanish was pretty good by then, good enough for Antin to speak
to him in fluent Spanish rather than halting English. "The English I can
read with my eyes. The Spanish I speak with my heart."

Was it that Hall was resigning because he loved the Republic? Yes, I
guess you could call it that. (You could also call it a good craftsman's
stubborn ideas about how to cover a war, but you didn't.) Did Hall
realize that, if he quit, an enemy of the Republic might be sent to take
his place? No, Hall didn't think. Come to think of it, though, the
office had Cavanaugh and Raney available and those two Jew-haters and
Mussolini-lovers would be no friends of the Republic. You are a friend,
a _compañero_, it is right that you know. We have so many problems with
the foreign press. McBain from New York, we know he is a spy, he has
links with the Falange. If we arrest him, the world hollers Red Terror.
So we watch him, keep all his letters, hold up his cables. Thank God he
is a drunkard; two SIM men keep him drunk most of the time. Maybe his
office will fire him. You are a friend. You write the truth. Even a
little truth by a friend whose editor chops up his cables helps the

Hall tore up his letter of resignation. When the Republic captured
thousands of Italians after Guadalajara and Bruejega, Hall filed long
stories based on interviews with the Blackshirts. When the Republic
captured Nazi Condor officers and men at Belchite, Hall sent photographs
of their documents to Paris with his stories.

New York kicked, and Paris warned Hall repeatedly. Finally Paris
transferred him to the Franco side. That was at the end of '38, when the
Republicans had seen their hopes dashed at Munich and the only thing
that kept them going was the feeling that they could hold out until the
Nazi Frankenstein finally turned on London and Paris. "Then France will
have to rush arms and maybe a few divisions to us and the British fleet
will have to patrol the Mediterranean and the Russian planes, unable to
get through now, will be able to come in through France and through the
Mediterranean." Antin figured it out that way, told it to Hall the week
before some nice clean crusaders for Christianity let him have it with a
tommy gun in the back in a Barcelona café.

The Falangistas were very glad to have Hall behind their lines. Their
friends pulled some wires in New York and Washington and, after two
months, Hall was fired, but by then his notebook was growing thicker and
he elected to stay as a free lance. He was seeing the face of fascism
for the first time, he wrote, and seeing it at close range. He would
stay, job or no job. He stayed, and the Gestapo in San Sebastian wrote
out an order and a rat-faced little aristocrat with an embroidered gold
yoke and arrows on his cape was studying Hall's notes and smirking like
a villain in a bad movie.

There were no charges and no explanations. They just slapped Hall into a
cell in solitary, and once a day they handed him a bucket for slops and
once a day he got a chunk of bread or a thin chick-pea stew. In the
beginning he had hollered for the American consul, but the German guard
would grin and say, "_No entiendo Español, Ich sprech kein Englisch_,"
and finally Hall just settled down to waiting for the end of the war.

Every now and then a smooth German major would have him brought out for
questioning; that scar on his head and the scar on his chin were grim
mementos of those sessions. The Spaniards were bad but the Germans were
worse. The Italians were just hysterical. There was the day the Italian
officer made the mistake of getting too close and Hall clipped him with
a weak right hook. The Blackshirt screamed like a woman and clung to his
eye; that was when they tied him to the wall and let him have it with
the steel rods on his back.

And then, in April, the Republic keeled over in its own blood and the
fascists decided to be generous to celebrate their victory. The Axis was
now openly boasting that it had run the Spanish show; the worst that
Hall could do would be to play into their hands by writing about how
tough fascism was on any man fool enough to oppose the New Order. They
were generous, they were fair. They gave him a practically new suit of
clothes, they returned his three hundred odd dollars, they even returned
his notebook with nearly all of its original notes.

Hall went to Paris. He spent a week soaking in warm baths and eating and
avoiding the WP crowd. During the week he cabled a New York book
publisher he had met in Madrid in '36, when he had joined a group of
American intellectuals attending an anti-fascist congress. He offered to
turn out a book on his experiences as a correspondent and a prisoner in
Franco Spain. It was a week before he got an answer, but the answer came
with a draft of five hundred dollars.

The swelling had gone down in his nose by then, but he still had to
breathe through his mouth. A doctor who'd looked at it wanted a hundred
bucks for operating, but it meant two weeks of doing nothing but getting
fixed up, and Hall hated to wait. "Later," he said, "later, when I
finish my book."

He poured his notes and his guts into the book, and finished it in a
month. When he was done he borrowed some money from a friend in the
Paramount office and got a Clipper seat to New York.

His publisher, Bird, liked the book and rushed it to press. He also gave
Hall another five hundred and sent him to his own doctor to have his
nose fixed up.

It was a good book, perhaps good enough to justify Bird's gamble, only
it reached the critics three weeks after the Nazi panzer divisions were
ravaging Poland and the smart boys in Paris were wearing smarter
correspondents' uniforms and filing fulsome stories on the genius of
Gamelin and Weygand. "We'll have to face it, Matt," Bird said, "no one
but you and I give a damn about Spain right now. I'm taking back copies
left and right from the booksellers. No, the hell with the advances. The
war's far from over. You'll do another book for me, and we'll make it
all up."

Through Bird, Hall got a job as a war correspondent for a Chicago paper.
They shipped him to London, where he stewed in his own juices for
months, and then to Cairo to join the fleet. Hall was assigned to the
_Revenger_ and, when the Nazis sank her, he spent some three days on a
raft with a handful of survivors. One of them died of his wounds on the
raft, and another went raving mad and slit his own throat with the top
of a ration tin.

Hall filed a story on the experience when he was brought back to Cairo,
and Bird cabled "That's your new book." It was an easy book to write. He
took a room at Shepheard's and pounded it out in three weeks. The
British censors liked it as "a tribute to British grit" and arranged for
a captain attached to a military mission bound for Washington by plane
to deliver the manuscript personally to Bird. The story was still hot
when the script reached New York. Bird sold the serial rights to a big
national weekly that same day for thirty thousand dollars. A lecture
agency cabled offering a guarantee of a fantastic sum for a three-month
lecture tour. A book club chose _The Revenger_, the critics sang its
praises, and Bird bought himself a house in the country.

Hall quit his job and made the lecture tour and wound up with a fat bank
account and a permanent appreciation of the value of a chance plop in
the ocean. For the first time in his life, he found himself with enough
money to do exactly what he wanted to do. The Army doctors had shown him
to the nearest door, but he had offers from magazines and syndicates to
return to the war zones, and the radio wanted him as a commentator.

It was Bird who first learned of Hall's new plans. And Bird understood.
"The Spanish War was round one," Hall told him. "South America was one
of the stakes. The Falange had an organization in the Latin countries.
The Heinies used to brag about it to me in San Sebastian. I'm going to
South America to see it for myself. Maybe there's a book in it, maybe
there isn't. I can afford to find out."

Cuba had been the first stop on this odyssey. There Hall had had some
tough sledding, met some Spanish Republicans who knew him from Madrid,
won the aid of a group of young Cuban officials and written two angry
and documented magazine pieces.

From Havana, Hall had flown to Puerto Rico.

Hall had stopped thinking. The reverie into which the lieutenant had
plunged him passed into a rapt consideration of the imperfect smoke
rings he was blowing toward the ceiling.

Dickenson joined him. "Well?" he asked. "Is it San Hermano tomorrow?"

"I'm afraid so, Dick."

"I'm sorry to see you leave. We figured you'd stay for at least a month.
What's so urgent in San Hermano?"

"That's what I mean to find out. All I know is what I read in the
papers." He handed the Governor two copies of the San Hermano
_Imparcial_ he had found on a library table in the reception room while
having a cocktail before dinner. They were the papers which had made him
call Harris at Panair.

The first issue was three weeks old. It described the visit of an
American Good-Will Commission to San Hermano, and told how the mission
was received by Enrique Gamburdo, the Vice-President, rather than by
Anibal Tabio, the President. In an oblique manner, the story went on to
deny the "widespread rumor" that Tabio had deliberately insulted the
Americans by not receiving them personally.

"I don't like the way they denied the rumor," Hall said. "I know that
the paper is _imparcial_ on the fascist side only."

The other edition of _Imparcial_ was three days old. It was the latest
copy available. It carried as its lead story the news that since Tabio's
illness had taken a drastic turn for the worse, Gamburdo had prevailed
upon a great Spanish doctor, Varela Ansaldo, to fly from Philadelphia to
San Hermano in an attempt to save the President's life.

"And?" the Governor asked.

"I'm not sure. But it looks to me like a deliberate attempt to lay a
smelly egg in Tabio's nest. Anyway, I did a little checking with Harris.
I figured I'd be able to meet Ansaldo's plane, and I was right. The San
Hermano Clipper overnights in San Juan, you know. Ansaldo is sleeping at
the Escambrun tonight. Tomorrow we'll board the ship for San Hermano

"I still don't get it, Matt. Do you know this Ansaldo?"

"No. But he's evidently been invited to San Hermano by Gamburdo. And I
found out a few things about Gamburdo in Havana," Hall said. "Some
top-ranking Falange chiefs in the Americas always spoke highly of him in
their letters. Especially the letters marked confidential."

"There you go again!"

"Don't. You know I'm not crazy."

"But Matt, neither is Gamburdo crazy. He wouldn't dare do what you're

"Maybe. But I'm not thinking of Gamburdo as much as I am of Tabio. I
like Anibal Tabio, like him a lot. I met him for the first time in
Geneva in '35, when he was Foreign Minister. Then I met him again in
'36, when he and Vayo and Litvinov were hammering away at the fat cats
backing Franco. He was a real guy, Dick. One of the few statesmen alive
who not only knew that the earth is round but also that the people on
this round earth like to eat and wear decent clothes and send their kids
to college.

"I remember how in '37, after Halifax yawned all through his speech and
then led the rest of the delegates in voting against Vayo's proposals,
Tabio sat down with me in a little bar and ordered a light beer and told
me very quietly that this was his cue. 'I must go home,' he told me,
'and see that it doesn't happen to my country.' That's how he pulled up
his stakes and went back to San Hermano and ran for President."

"He's good, Matt. I know that."

"He's damn good. He's the best of the anti-fascist leaders on the
Continent right now, Dick. He deserves all the help he isn't getting
from us."

The Governor put the paper down with a sigh. "I'll tell you a secret,
Matt," he said. "But it's really secret. You know that there's going to
be a Pan-American conference on foreign policy in Havana in five weeks.
Well, some of the smarter heads in Washington are getting worried. We're
sending a delegation to the conference to ask all the nations down here

Online LibraryAllan ChaseThe Five Arrows → online text (page 1 of 24)