11 January 2017

The Motor Chums at Large: To the Secret Police


[A further passage from The Motor Chums at Large, originally written in January 1973.]
T
om and his companions paused briefly outside Ingram’s office in the great Secret Police Complex, for it was apparent that the agent was in conference. “Look here, Senator,” he was saying, “I don’t think it would be wise for you to continue in your attempt to have our budget cut. I have here a duplicate of the SP file on your activities —” Ingram caught sight of the Motor Chums. “Excuse me, Senator,” he said, “I see I have an important appointment.
The Senator brushed angrily past our heroes. “You’ll pay for this,” he hissed. Tom looked at him coldly and led the way into the office.
“Good to see you, lads, good to see you,” boomed Ingram heartily.
“I hope we interrupted nothing important,” said Harry politely.
“No, that’s just Morton of the damn F.S. Steel faction worried about the great expense of our operations—but what he really wants is the SP out and Guardians Unlimited’s WPA in. Well, we can handle him. If we let the public know of his Cuban interests there’d be a howl you could hear from Balto-Slavia. No, this is just a feeler—it’s Roosevelt that’s the real danger—But I’m talking shop. Lads it’s good to see you. That was a fine bit of work you did, breaking up that Canadian Resistance Unit.”
“What Canador Resistor Eunuch?” asked Dick.
“Surely that was the Rowdy Boys,” observed Harry, “in The Rowdy Boys with the Border Bandits if memory serves. It was suppressed by order of—”
“Yeah, that was the Rowdy Boys,” agreed the secret policeman, “Was it the Arizona Indian uprising? Or the Pittsburg coal-mine strike?”
“We assisted you in finding that Gallic aviator who crashed in the swamps of Nueva Hispania,” Harry reminded him. “You got the Croix de Gaulle for it.”
“Had to give it back,” Ingram recalled. “Can’t accept a decoration from a foreign power. Say, where’s that colored lad of yours?”
“He’s around somewhere,” evaded Tom.
“Too bad he isn’t here,” regretted Ingram. “After all, it was really due to him that we found Monsieur LeFrog at all. Well, what brings you lads here this time?”
“Sir,” replied Tom, “We’ve discovered a plot of some kind against the President!”
“Well, we’re always interested in plots,” proclaimed Ingram warmly, “That’s what we’re here for. I don’t suppose you know which plot this one is?”
“Sir?” inquired Harry.
“Is it the Mexican assassination plot? Or the WPA undermining plot? Or the DOI vilification plot?”
“We believe several prominent Industrialists are involved,” stated Harry, “but the only one we’re certain of is Senator Baxter.”
“And Orville Risley,” put in Ned.
“The famed aviator?” frowned Ingram.
“Exactly,” agreed Harry, “and loath as we are to believe it, it seems several of our schoolfellows are involved. Their names are Clarence Ashton, Ben Hangdog, and Alphonse Notochord.”
“You’d better tell me the whole story,” observed Ingram grimly.
This Tom did, telling of their observations and discoveries in a manner that would have made even a professional detective wince. When he came to the point where the machinations of the conspirators had him arrested, Ingram started.
“You say the evidence fell into the hands of the Freemarket Police Company?” he demanded sharply, “Is that an F.S. Steel affiliate?”
“It’s a local company,” replied Harry, “But I believe it has Protection, Inc. connections.”
“That’s good,” Ingram said, “We’ll get Standard Oilco’s co-operation in this. If we can’t wrest those papers loose—” He turned to the telephone. Through the device he communicated the information given him by the chums to another office in the complex, then turned back to the Motor Chums. “We’ll have what’s in our files on Baxter, Risley and the rest in about half an hour. In the meantime, how’d you like a tour of the place?”
To this the chums assented, and soon they were thoroughly enjoying themselves in seeing the inner workings off the police force which is responsible for protecting the internal security of the Federated States.
“This is an interrogation room,” explained Ingram, “Here enemy agents, saboteurs, and other scum are questioned as to their illegal activities.”
Tom examined the chrome-plated interrogation0booths with professional interest. “Seems to me there could be some improvements made. Look,” he pointed, “the electroshock controls—they’re too far away from those for the vice-grip.”
“And there are no footpedals for the centrifuge,” spoke Ned, not to be outdone.
“For that matter,” murmured Harry, “those Durham cuffs are really obsolete. They’re too easy to break out of.”
“Well,” laughed Ingram, “You lads are one too many for me. You really ought to try your hand at the invention of an interrogation device of your own. (And it may be said here that Tom did just that in a future book of this series, to be entitled The Motor Chums and their Electric Branding Iron, or Alger High’s Football Victory.)
“Of course, interrogations are not the only way we have of obtaining information,” Ingram explained. “Local agencies supply us with much of value, as do informers, our own agents, and our latest addition to the arsenal of crime fighting—this.”
The agent held in his hand a device little larger than an ordinary Motor Chums volume.
“Say,” exclaimed Harry, “that’s a Wilshire 240-B, capable of picking up ordinary conversation and transmitting it up to two hundred yards!”
“And a great help it’s been,” said the secret policeman, “All over America such devices protect the ordinary citizen against socialists, pederasts, anarchists, and others who would destroy all America stands for. Chances are, where ever you happen to be in this great land of ours, you are within shouting distance of a State or Federal agent. If people only knew what we were doing for them they would be less critical of our methods. Of course Wilshires are actually outdated now, though many are still in use. Generally we prefer the more up-to-date Simpson.”
“Say,” objected Tom, “What’s all this about getting information? I thought the Secret Police was for catching spies and busting up dope rings.”
“Of course,” replied Ingram, “but we can’t do all that without first collecting and sorting the necessary information. The files—and there are thousands of them—are kept in a sub-basement for safety. To give you an idea of the amount, let me say that they would fill up ten monuments the size of the Burr memorial, and that another monument would be needed in five years.”
“Wow,” exclaimed Ned, “That’d make Ben Hangdog green with envy.”
“Who’s Ben Hangdog?” asked Ingram.
“He’s just the school sneak,” explained Tom, “He keeps files on everyone at Alger High.”
“Say,” suggested Ned, “Suppose some foreign agent got into the files? Isn’t that a danger to the F.S.?”
“We have means of preventing that,” replied Ingram. “For your protection the files are tended by agents who are sealed in, and so can never leave. To make their escape impossible, their legs are surgically removed before entry is allowed.”
“If that doesn’t beat all,” exclaimed Ned, “The government’s thought of everything.”
“Just about,” admitted Ingram.
They had only time to witness part of an interrogation of a WPA agent before Ingram was called back to his office. Back they went, eager to see what light might be shed on the mystery by the files of the Secret Police.
They spread out the files on the office floor, and be
[At this point there is a page missing in the MS. Mr. Ingram and the Motor Chums find out that Alphonse Notochord is in Washington to attend an airmeet flying Orville Risley’s plane, and they conclude that the plot is connected with certain strange workmen that have been seen at the White House attempting to bypass certain equipment]
… installed for the President’s protection. Bryan is in danger. With the aid of an airship we could smash this subversive ring and expose it to the light. Lads, your country calls you. Will you answer?”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Tom.
“It’s a mean-spirited fellow that would turn down his country,” pointed out Ingram.
“It’s not that,” said Tom indignantly, “But the Star Rambler is in the shop, and it will cost a lot to get it in the air again.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Ingram assured him. “Just send the bill to the government.”
“Will the government pay the bill?” asked Ned.
“I don’t know,” admitted the other, “It depends on the Mexican situation. Tell you what, though. I’ll make you Special Agents Extraordinary, which entitles you to government expense accounts. Here,” and he handed the cardboard squares across to the chums. “Just fill in your names, and you’ll be all right. There’s an extra one for the colored lad, if he shows up.”
“All right,” said Tom, “We’ll do it.”
“Good,” rapped Ingram, “If we can break this, it’ll put us one up on Beveridge and his Department of Imperialism. Now, your first assignment will be to scout out the airmeet tomorrow and report on the Notochord lad.”
“Right,” said Tom, saluting snappily.
“One thing I am curious about,” put in Harry, “Why can’t the President tell us of these mysterious White House activities?”
“Yeah,” Ned supported him, “Bryan lives there.”
Ingram looked annoyed. “President Bryan is a busy man,” he observed, “It wouldn’t be proper to bother him.”
“But what if it’s an assassination plot?” asked Harry.
“Well lads,” chuckled Ingram, “There are reasons of state—” He stopped and banged his fist on the desk. “No,” he exclaimed, “I’ll tell you lads the truth. But I’ll have to swear you to secrecy.”
The lads swore.
“All right,” said Ingram, “This hasn’t left the offices of this building, and no-one outside it but the Cabinet, the Vice President, and the immediate family knows.”
His voice sank to a whisper. “President Bryan has gone insane.”

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