In the seventh Frankie noticed a little desperation in Monroe's tactics. To win now Monroe and Gordon needed a knockout. Frankie had only to stay on his feet to be home safe. But when was Milt going to let him go? Milt had turned in a masterpiece of defensive fighting. The left had deadly accuracy and now the openings were truck-sized as Monroe had come to ignore the light tattoo of the Champ's punches.
Milt withdrew the control in the middle of the seventh round. It hit Frankie like a dash of cold water, the exultation of being on his own! He looked over at Milt, perched rope-high in his control chair at ringside. Milt was looking at him, his face tight and grim; almost hostile.
Frankie circled warily, a touch of panic coming unbidden. What to do? He hadn't known it would be quite like this. He tried to remember how it was--how it felt to move in the various ways Milt always sent him. Funny how you could forget such things. The left hook--that jab--how did they go?
A pile driver came from somewhere and almost tore his head off his shoulders ...
He was looking up at the ceiling. He rolled his eyes and saw Pop Monroe's face--smiling a little, but also puzzled. Even with his brain groggy, Frankie knew why. He'd stepped wide open in Nappy's looping right and Pop couldn't figure Milt doing a thing like that.
Pop looked over at Milt. Frankie followed Pop's eyes and saw the look Milt returned. Then the spark of understanding that passed between them. Odd, Frankie thought. What understanding could there be?
He was aware of the word seven filling the studio as the loud speaker blared the count. He was up at nine.
Nappy swarmed in now. Frankie felt the pain of hard, solid blows on his body as he tried to tie up this dynamo Poppy Monroe was releasing on him. He couldn't stop it, dodge it, or hide from it.
But he finally got away from it--staggering. Nappy came at him fast and the left jab Frankie sent out to put him off balance didn't even slow the fury a bit. Frankie took to the ropes to make Nappy shorten his punches. It helped some, but not enough. No man could take the jolting effect of those ripping punches and keep his feet under him. Frankie didn't--he was down when the bell ended round nine.
In his corner the seconds worked quickly. He looked at Milt and saw a dead-pan expression. Milt wasn't sending him anything. Punishing him of course. Frankie took it meekly; ashamed of himself. Milt would take over again when the bell sounded. Frankie knew that he couldn't stay away from Nappy for another round. Nobody could. Monroe smelled a knockout and Frankie was never fast enough to run away from the burst of viciousness that would come at him in the form of Nappy Gordon. No, Milt would take over.
At the bell, Frankie moved out fast, waiting for the familiar feel of Milt expertly manipulating his arms and legs and body; sending out the jabs and punches; weaving him in and out.
But Milt didn't take over and Pop sent Nappy in with a pile-driver right that smashed Frankie to the floor. Frankie rolled over on his knees and shook his head groggily, trying to understand. Why hadn't Milt taken over? What was Milt trying to do to him?
Milt's cold face waved into focus before Frankie's blinking eyes. What was Milt trying to do? Frankie heard the tolling count--six, seven, eight. Milt wasn't even going to help him up. Sick and bewildered, Frankie struggled to his feet. Nappy came driving in. Frankie back-pedalled and took the vicious right cross while rolling away. Thus he avoided being knocked out and was only floored for another eight-count.
Milt--Milt--for God's sake-- The round was over. Frankie staggered, sick, to his corner and slumped down. The handlers worked over him. He looked at Milt. But Milt neither sent nor returned his gaze. Milt sat looking grimly off into space and seemed older and wearier than time itself.
Then Frankie knew. Milt had sold him out!
The shocking truth stunned him even more than Nappy's punches. Milt had sold him out! There had been rare cases of such things. When money meant more than honor to a veteran. But Milt!
Numbed, Frankie pondered the ghastly thought. After all, Milt was old. Old men needed money for their later years. But how could he? How could he do it?
Suddenly Frankie hated. He hated Nappy and Pop and every one of the millions of people looking silently on around the world. But most of all, he hated Milt. It was a weird, sickening thing, that hatred. But only a mentally sickening thing. Physically, it seemed to make Frankie stronger, because when the bell rang and he got up and walked into a straight right, it didn't hurt at all.
He realized he was on the floor; the gong was sounding; he was getting up, moving in again. There was blood, a ringing in his head.
But above all, a rage to kill. To kill.
He remembered going down several times and getting up. Not caring how he had swung under Milt's control--only wanting to use his fists--to kill the thing weaving in front of him.
Nappy. A grinning, weaving, lethal ghost.
He felt a pain in his right fist and saw Nappy go down. He saw Pop's face go gray as though the old man himself had felt the force of the blow. Saw Nappy climb erect slowly. He grinned through blood. Frankie--ghost-catcher. He had to get him.
He was happy; happy with a new fierceness he had never before known. The lust of battle was strong within him and when Pop weaved Nappy desperately, Frankie laughed, waited, measured Nappy.
And smashed him down with a single jarring right.
The bell tolled ten. Pop got wearily off his stool and walked away. Frankie strode grimly to his corner, ignored Milt, moved on into the dressing room.
He knew Milt would come and he waited for him, sitting there coldly on the edge of the table. Milt walked in the door and stood quietly.
"You sold me out," Frankie said.
There was open pride in Milt's eyes. "Sure--you had to think that."
"What do you mean, think? You didn't pick me up when Pop flattened me. I saw the look between you and Pop."
"Sure." Milt's eyes were still proud. "You had to know. That's how I wanted it."
"Milt--why did you do it?"
"I didn't do it. I just had to make you think I did."
"In God's name--why?"
"Because I'm sentimental, maybe, but I've always had my own ideas about the kind of fighter who should be a Ten-Time winner. All my life I've kept remembering the old greats--Dempsey, Sullivan, Corbett--the men who did it on their own, and I wanted you to get it right--on your own--like a real champion."
Frankie was confused. "I wanted to go on my own. Why didn't you tell me then?"
"Then you'd have lost. You'd have gone down whimpering and moaning. You see, Frankie, all those old fighters had a vital ingredient--the thing it takes to make a champion--courage."
"And you didn't think I had it?"
"Sure I did. But the killer instinct is dead in fighters today and it has to be ignited. It needs a trigger, so that was what I gave you--a trigger."
Frankie understood. "You wanted me to get mad!"
"To do it, you had to get mad--at me. You're not conditioned to get mad at Nappy or Pop. It's not the way we fight now. It had to be me. I had to make you hate me."
Frankie marveled. "So when Pop looked at you--"
Frankie was off the table, his arms around Milt. "I'm--I'm so ashamed."
Milt grinned. "No, you're not. You're happier than you ever were in your life. You're a real champion. Great feeling, isn't it? Now you know how they felt--in the old days."
Frankie was crying. "You are damn right! Thanks."
Milt looked years younger. "Don't mention it--champ."
By G. L. Vandenburg
You can't be too suspicious when security is at stake. When everybody who is after a key military job wears a toupee, it is obviously a bald case of espionage.
A job as laboratory technician with the Army Weapons Development Center carried about as much prestige as a bat boy in a World Series.
George Fisher was a laboratory technician.
He was a shy but likeable fellow, a diligent worker and trustworthy. He didn't talk. He was rarely talked to. He had no burning ambition to push himself ahead in the world. Being an assistant to the brains was good enough for him. He had a commendable talent for minding his own business.
In a security job these qualities counted ahead of scientific knowledge.
One day George Fisher turned up dead. The initial shock and concern experienced by his superiors was soon overcome by the coroner's finding. Suicide.
Harry Payne was the Civilian Personnel Director of Fort Dickson. It was his job to find a replacement for George Fisher.
"Miss Conway!" Harry's voice lashed into the intercom.
There was an interminable pause. He cursed under his breath.
Then, "Yes, Mr. Payne?"
"Where the hell were you? Never mind. Bring me the file on George Fisher."
"George Fisher?" Miss Conway was in her favorite state of mind ... confusion. "But he's dead, isn't he?"
Harry let out a deep anguished groan. "Yes, Miss Conway, he's dead. That's why I want his file. That answer your question?"
"Yes, sir. Be there in a jiffy!"
Harry could tell she was bubbling over with smiles as she spoke. A few more centuries would pass, he thought, before they manufactured another broad as dumb as Miss Conway.
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked out the window. Across the parade ground he could see the Army Weapons Development Center. He had no idea what new bomb they might be working on behind those heavily guarded fences. He didn't care.
He was only concerned with the people who worked there. The rest of Fort Dickson used mostly Civil Service Personnel. But the barricaded security jungle across the parade grounds was more particular about its hired help. A person's record had to be spotless almost from the day of his conception ... or a person could not even gain entrance.
Harry had never been inside Weapons Development. He had once been to traffic court as a roaring juvenile eighteen years before. That was enough to bar him from even visiting. He realized, though, that the army couldn't afford to take chances.
Hiring new technicians required an arduous screening process. Harry loathed it. He was thankful that the personnel at Weapons Development were highly paid and usually permanent. He never had to hire more than one person a year.
Miss Conway swept into the office and handed Harry the folder.
"Thanks," he muttered.
"Don't mention it, boss."
Harry called after her as she went back toward the reception room.
"Stay by your desk, will you? The government may need you."
A muffled giggle was her only response.
Miss Conway was a civil service employee. She had been Harry's secretary for six months. Like most other civil service personnel, according to Harry's way of thinking she was a tower of inefficiency. His chief annoyance stemmed from the fact that the army had arbitrarily placed her in his office. He had been given no choice in the matter. It was one hell of a way to treat a personnel director, he thought.
He sat at his desk gloomily aware of the headaches he'd have to face in his quest for George Fisher's replacement. He opened the folder and glanced at the vital statistics.
Fisher, George--Age: 40--Weight: 160--Height: 5'9"--Eyes: Green--Hair: None--Complexion: Light--Date of Employment: 10/7/58--Date of Departure: 4/12/59--Reason: Suicide--etc., etc. Harry yawned. Statistics bored him.
He turned to a page marked "Qualifications" and started reading. The phrase "Education and experience in nuclear physics required," caught his eye. The requirement was no surprise to him. But whenever he saw it he took a few minutes off to indulge his curiosity. What was the big project at Weapons Development? He'd love to know. He wouldn't find out, of course. And the inability to find out naturally gave his imagination the widest latitude. His most persistent theory involved an atomic powered rocket capable of knocking the Russians' manned satellites out of space. The Russians were still ahead of everyone and their latest satellites were heavily armed. As usual they were lording it over the rest of the world. And the rest of the world had not come up with an effective answer to this challenge.
Harry closed the folder. He glanced at a list of technical schools. He would call each of them and ask them to submit a list of lab technicians. He would also look over the field of technicians still left in private enterprise.
The intercom buzzed.
"What is it, Miss Conway?"
"Miss Ralston is here."
"Who is Miss Ralston?"
"She has an appointment with you."
"An appointment!" Harry was baffled. "Who made it?"
"I did. I guess I forgot to tell you."
Harry closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Thank you, Miss Conway. Will you step into my office for a moment?" He tried to control his mounting anger.
She breezed into the office.
"Now, Miss Conway, will you please tell me who is this Miss Ralston?"
"She operates 'Ralston Personnel Consultants'. I think she wants to talk to you about the replacement for George Fisher. You know, the one who died."
"Yes, yes, I know. And you know, Miss Conway, we don't do business through agencies."