Ruthe Wheeler.

Janet Hardy in Radio City





The pages she had written were scattered over the top of the desk and as she reached out to pick them up, one of them floated to the floor. Janet half turned to pick it up. As she did so, her eyes fell on a small gap in the curtains she had drawn on the windows along the corridor.

Chapter Twenty-five
JANET OPENS A DOOR

A half stifled scream escaped from her lips. Someone was staring at her intently through the small opening. The light from the desk lamp was just strong enough to reveal two eyes. That was all, but Janet saw the desperate intentness with which they were focused upon her.

Then the eyes vanished and there was no sound from the corridor. Involuntarily Janet leaped to her feet, her trembling hands seeking the curtain and closing the gap. She wanted to cry out, but the words stuck in her throat and she realized that to scream would be useless for there was no one along the corridor at this hour of the night who could help her.

Stepping back from the curtained window, Janet listened intently for the sound of footfalls in the corridor. Then she remembered that it was heavily carpeted and one could move along it without making a noise.

Visibly shaken, she finally rallied her nerves and stooped down to pick up the sheet of copy which had fallen from the desk. Almost mechanically she placed the sheets in order and stacked them neatly. That done she sat down at the desk to decide what to do.

There was no question in her own mind but what someone was after the manuscript she had finished and someone outside the studio. The disappearance of the manuscript from her hotel room tied up with this latest event and Janet knew that some agency was determined that the story of the last eventful days of the filming of Kings of the Air should never be told as a part of the radio play they were to present. Whether the unknown force was the Premier Film Company or a radio rival of the World Broadcasting Company, she couldnt even guess, but in either case she knew that she was in a particularly unpleasant position, and wished that Jim was with her.

Janet unlocked the right hand drawer of Jims desk and pulled it out. For ordinary purposes it was strong enough, but to place a valuable manuscript in it was something that made her hesitate.

She turned around and stared at the curtains at the windows and the door along the corridor. They were drawn tightly now. It would be impossible for anyone to see in the office.

What should she do with the manuscript? Would it be safe in her own hands when she walked down the long corridor she must traverse before she reached the reception lobby and the battery of elevators?

Janet didnt feel she wanted to risk that, yet she knew it would be unsafe in the drawer of Jims desk.

Suddenly her gaze fell upon the telephone and she smiled a little foolishly. She picked up the instrument and waited for the operator in the main office to answer.

There was no response.

Janet jiggled the hook several times, but still there was no answer.

She did not know that the particular branch exchange on that floor which served the publicity department did not have an operator on duty after midnight.

Janets spirits drooped when she failed to get a response through the telephone and once more she looked about the room for some place to hide the manuscript.

Suddenly she hit upon a plan of action. Seizing the manuscript she hastened over near the outside window, reached down and pulled up the heavy carpet which covered the floor. Working swiftly she placed the manuscript under the carpet, spreading the sheets out so there would be no noticeable bulge in the floor covering.

That done Janet returned to the desk, picked up a handful of blank copy paper, folded it quickly, and stuffed it into a large envelope. Taking up a pen she scrawled these words on the envelope: Jim Hill Here is the manuscript you wanted. Hope it is something that will fit into your program. Janet Hardy.

Janet didnt even stop to blot the wet ink, dropping the envelope into the drawer, and closing and locking the receptacle.

She felt better after that. At least she felt she had done her best to save the manuscript. Now the problem was to get up enough courage to attempt the walk down the long, darkened corridor.

Janet slipped the key to the drawer of Jims desk into her left shoe, mechanically patted her hair, and decided that she might just as well be on her way.

It took nerve to open that door, and to step out into the hall from which someone had been staring at her only several minutes before. But somehow Janet managed it.

Chapter Twenty-six
IN THE HALL

From a distance came the soft strains of an orchestra playing in one of the more distant studios on the same floor, but there was no movement in the corridor.

Janet paused at the door. Should she snap out the lights? If no one came along they would burn all night, yet if she turned them off, she would be in utter darkness.

Then she realized that she was silhouetted in the light. Anyone who might trouble her would be even more handicapped than she in the darkness and her fingers pressed the switch.

As the lights went out, Janet stepped quickly away from the door, her feet treading silently on the heavy carpet which covered the floor of the hall.

Janet pressed close against the wall, listening for some sound which would indicate that someone was lurking in the corridor. There was only the far away music of the orchestra as it played a dreamy waltz. From outside a clock boomed, but Janet couldnt remember whether it was a half after midnight or a quarter to one. It didnt matter much, she decided.

Convinced at last there was no one moving along the corridor, she started feeling her own way along. The end of the corridor was marked by a very dim light that failed to penetrate more than a dozen feet in any direction. It was toward this glow that Janet started.

It was a ghostly and unnerving business, but she couldnt spend the whole night in Jims office. It just wasnt possible. She had to get out.

Fighting to keep down a mounting fear, Janet quickened her steps. Then she stopped abruptly. Just why she did that, she would never know, but her instinct warned her that someone was near.

She turned toward an office door she had just passed. It was open and a flood of light poured out to blind Janets tired eyes. The beam from the electric torch was so bright it fairly seared its way into her fatigued mind.

Then the stabbing light vanished and Janet heard a swift movement. A hard hand was clapped over her mouth and she felt an arm slide around her neck.

Before she could scream or move, a soft cloth, which reminded her of a hospital, was slapped against her face and the fumes of ether penetrated her nose and throat. Janet attempted to struggle but two capable arms held her fast.

She felt herself losing consciousness. She felt delightfully tired and dreamy. Once she rallied her senses, but the next time she slipped away into unconsciousness and her captor, satisfied that she would cause no trouble for some time, let her fall into a heap on the floor.

While Janet remained unconscious, a lithe figure darted into Jim Hills office and the flash sought the drawer into which she had dropped the manuscript.

A small steel instrument, expertly inserted, forced the drawer open and the beam of light fell upon the inscription Janet had placed on the envelope. The intruders breath was drawn in sharply and it was evident that this was the property sought.

Removing the envelope and placing it in his pocket, the unknown closed the drawer and slipped out into the corridor. Bending down over Janet, the figure vanished. Someone watching closely could have seen it dodge into the main reception room, but there was no one there to watch only Janet unconscious on the floor.

Just how long she remained slumped on the floor she would never know exactly; probably it was not more than half an hour at the most.

Finally lights penetrated her tired mind and the sweetish smell of the ether assailed her returning consciousness. Someone was shaking her gently and someone else was rubbing her arms.

Wake up, Janet, wake up! a voice kept repeating.

It sounded strangely like Helens voice, but Helen, she realized, had gone home hours before.

Take a drink of this, another voice commanded and Janet obeyed almost automatically for she was far from being in full command of her senses.

The cool water, flowing down her aching throat, helped and she tried to sit up.

Take it easy, a voice cautioned and she let her head drop back against someones knees.

Lights were on now in the corridor and as consciousness returned Janet recognized Helen leaning over her. Curt Newsom was massaging her arms and grumbling to himself in anger.

Feeling better? Helen asked as Janets eyes opened wide.

Ill be all right, soon. Id like another drink of water, said Janet.

A second glass of water followed the first and she felt stronger as her head cleared.

What happened? she asked.

Thats what wed like to know, said Curt. We found you unconscious on the floor a few minutes ago and the place smelled like a hospital.

Look at Jim Hills desk and see if the right hand drawer has anything in it, Janet whispered to Curt and the tall cowboy hurried away to do her bidding.

He returned almost instantly, shaking his head.

Someones pried the drawer open with a jimmy, he declared. There isnt a thing in the drawer.

Helen looked stricken.

Dont tell me that manuscript you worked on all evening was in that drawer, she said.

Janet looked beyond Helen and Curt to where half a dozen studio employees, most of them from the engineering department, were clustered looking at her and wondering what it was all about.

I put the manuscript there just before I started down the hall, nodded Janet. It looks like its gone.

There was a flicker of her right eyelid, barely visible to Helen and Curt, and they caught its meaning and played the parts Janet wanted.

Then that means they wont be able to bolster up the program for Ace Pictures, wailed Helen. The World Broadcasting Company will probably lose its contract.

Yep, and well all lose our jobs, groaned Curt. Well, theres nothing we can do about it now. We might as well go back to the hotel. Well report to Director Adolphi in the morning. Think you can walk if I steady you? The question was aimed at Janet.

Ill make it all right, she said, but the steadying influence of Curts arm was welcome,

They walked down the corridor, across the reception lobby, and then sped downward in an elevator.

When they were outside and comfortably ensconced in a taxi, Helen faced her companion.

Is the manuscript safe? she asked.

Unless Radio City burns down, replied Janet.

Well, for goodness sake, where is it?

I slipped it under the rug in Jims office and spread the sheets out so there wont be a hump which would attract attention. Ill have to get up early and phone him at the studio for hes coming down to start the revision of my material.

Youll do no such thing, cut in the cowboy. Youve earned a morning of sleep. Ill phone Jim Hill myself and explain where the manuscript is hidden.

Now I want to know just what happened. It was Helen speaking.

Janet shook her head.

I dont know. I knew someone was prowling in the corridor, but I couldnt stay there in the office all night and I couldnt get a phone connection out. After Id hidden the manuscript I turned out the light in the office and started down the hall. Someone turned a flashlight into my face, then I was grabbed around the neck and finally a cloth filled with ether was smashed against my face. About that time I forgot to remember and the next thing I knew you two were with me.

How many jumped on you? asked the cowboy.

I cant be sure, but Id say that it was one man who was capable of moving very rapidly.

One man could do it all right, nodded Curt. I wish I could get my hands on him and Id teach him a thing or two.

How did you two happen to get into the corridor? Thats a question Id like to have answered, said Janet.

I became worried when you didnt get back to the hotel at midnight and I phoned Curt. He agreed to meet me at Radio City and we came up together. It was as simple as that, explained Helen.

Well, for once Im glad someone worried about me, confessed Janet. And, oh what a headache that ether gave me. The water tasted good, but I feel queer inside now. Bed is going to seem like heaven.

Chapter Twenty-seven
SUSPICIONS

When she was alone in her room, Janet fairly tumbled into bed but not until she had picked up a letter Helen had brought up from the desk and placed on the bedside table. When she was stretched out comfortably in bed, Janet opened the letter. It was from home, her mother telling of news of the neighborhood and of interesting little things about the house.

Janet finished the letter, tucked it under her pillow, and snapped out the light. She was glad that her mother did not know of the stirring events of that night.

Janet slept late the next morning, for her fatigue had been heavier than she had imagined. After an invigorating shower, she returned to her own room and there found a note propped on the writing table.

Have gone on to Radio City, wrote Helen. Will meet you there for lunch if youre awake.

Janet partially dressed and pulled on her dressing gown. Then she called the World Broadcasting Company and got a connection with Jim Hills office. The young continuity writer answered at once.

This is Janet Hardy. I just wanted to know if you were able to dig the copy out from under your carpet.

Ill say I was, replied Jim. Its good stuff, Janet. Say, what under the sun went on here last night?

Id like to really know, she replied.

Well, the studio officials are all upset about it. They were worried enough trying to land the big contract with the Ace Motion Picture Corporation and now they fairly have the jitters. The studio is being gone over with a fine-toothed comb to see if some clue can be unearthed. Have you thought of anything that would help?

To tell the truth, Ive just gotten up and I dont think well without any breakfast, confessed Janet. Maybe Ill have an idea or two by the time I reach the studio.

Its almost time for lunch, Jim reminded her.

Im to meet Helen for lunch at the studio, replied Janet.

Then count me in on that and maybe we can get a line on who this was chasing around the studio last night.

Janet completed dressing and started for the studio. The morning was clear and cool and it seemed impossible now that such events could have happened the night before in the studio. She swung into Sixth Avenue, walking briskly, and headed for Radio City.

When Janet arrived at the studio, the rehearsal in studio K was at an end for the morning and members of the company were hurrying out for lunch. Rachel Nesbit, her dark eyes flashing, pushed past Janet with little ceremony and Janet thought that the director looked away and flushed. But then, she might have been imagining that for Director Adolphi and Rachel were known to be close friends.

Helen came hurrying up, followed by Curt Newsom.

How are you feeling now? she asked.

Hungry, confessed Janet. Whats the news around the studio?

Oh, everybody is looking at everybody else and wondering who did it. They all seem to think it was an inside job for outsiders couldnt have known that you were working on that script, much less where you were working. I guess suspicion centers pretty strongly right on this company.

That would mean someone in our own unit has sold out to a rival company and is doing everything in their power to keep this broadcast from being a success, mused Janet.

Thats putting it politely, put in Curt. Id say that someone is a skunk, and I hate skunks.

Jim Hill joined them just then. He looked tired and worried.

Lets eat, he said, and the others agreed, the group adjourning to a nearby restaurant. They obtained a secluded table where they could talk with little risk of being overheard by prying ears.

After giving their orders, Jim turned to Janet.

Been able to think up any clues? he asked.

She shook her head.

Ive tried to think of every event that took place, but I cant remember any special smell, or noise, and I didnt even feel the garments of my assailant. Im afraid Im of no help.

Not much, conceded Jim, running his fingers through his hair.

What have you found out, Curt?

The cowboy star likewise had nothing to contribute.

Ive got plenty of suspicions, but not a grain of proof, he grumbled.

Thats just it. We all have suspicions but no proof and this program must be in dress rehearsal tomorrow night and there cant be any boners pulled then. Weve simply got to solve this mystery before then. Until this is cleared up the script wont be safe for a minute unless someone is with it all of the time.

Where is it now? demanded Janet.

In my office with the door locked and an office boy standing guard in front of the door.

That doesnt sound very safe to me. Suppose someone well known should come along and send the boy on an errand. Hed leave the door and there your manuscript would be unprotected.

Oh, its safe enough, smiled Jim. Then he paused suddenly.

Say, maybe youre right. That could happen, especially if one of the program directors or other officials happened along. I told the boy to be sure and stay on the job, but hed run an errand for any one of them.

Jim stood up.

Go ahead with your lunches. Ill skip up and get the script and rejoin you. It wont take five minutes.

Chapter Twenty-eight
REHEARSALS AGAIN

Jim Hill hastened away, but it was fifteen minutes before he returned with a large envelope with the manuscript. When he arrived his face was flushed and he was breathing rapidly.

Whats the matter? asked Helen, who sensed that Jim was greatly upset.

Plenty. It was a good thing I got there when I did.

You mean someone was after the manuscript? demanded Janet.

I mean someone had it, retorted Jim. But I got it back and without much trouble.

Who was in your office? It was Curt who fired that question.

Jim looked at them steadily.

It was Adolphi.

He waited for the significance of his words to sink in and smiled a little grimly at the bewilderment which was reflected on their faces.

Surprised? Say, maybe you think I wasnt. And now I dont know what to think.

Tell us everything that happened after you reached the studio floor, urged Janet.

Jim took out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead, where glistening beads of perspiration had gathered.

When I swung down the corridor I saw the boy had left my door so I ran the rest of the way, he said. The carpets thick and I made little if any noise. The door of my office was open and Adolphi was thumbing through the pile of script I had been working on. When I came up behind him he jumped almost across the desk.

What did he say? asked Helen.

Said hed found the door of my office open and since he knew I was working on the script thought he would look it over while I was out at lunch.

What did you do? It was Curt speaking.

I picked up the script, stuffed it into an envelope, and told Adolphi he could see it when McGregor, my continuity chief, put his okay on it. I asked Adolphi if he was sure my office was open and he got sore. Wanted to know what I was trying to insinuate and all that sort of thing. But I think he felt guilty as thunder. Gosh, but Id like to know how he got in there after all my precautions.

I can tell you, said Curt. He simply walked down the hall, told the boy to go on an errand, and then used a skeleton key on your door.

It couldnt have been as easy as that, protested Helen.

Things like that are done easily, smiled Curt. Mark my words, you watch our director closely. He isnt putting his best foot forward in getting us in shape. I wouldnt be surprised if he has sold out to some other company.

Thats a terrible thing to say about anyone, said Janet.

Its worse to do it, Curt insisted.

They finished their lunch and returned to Radio City where they were whisked up to the twenty-seventh floor in one of the express elevators.

Stop in after the rehearsal this afternoon, Jim told them. Ill have the final script in shape by then.

The afternoon was a fatiguing one, for Adolphi, as though possessed of a demon, found fault with everything and almost everyone. The only one who noticeably escaped his ire was Rachel Nesbit, and Janet had to admit that Rachel handled her work in a way that defied criticism. Curt Newsom came in for some especially bitter comments.

Too bad we cant get a horse in here so youd feel at home, snapped the director after Curt had bungled one bit of action.

I dont like skunks, shot back Curt and turned away.

The director, his face flaming, grabbed Curts arm.

Youve got to explain that, he cried.





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