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ON OCTOBER 1, John Stafford, mayor of Hill City, was shot and instantly killed by a dope—crazed assassin named Dill. The next in line for the mayoral job was Lawrence Hall, president of the City Council. But, for some unaccountable reason, Hall refused the honor. In order to avoid becoming mayor, he resigned from the City Council and left at once for Florida, taking his wife and son with him. It now became the duty of Judge Samuel Rotherwell, chief justice of the Superior Court, to appoint someone to fill the unexpired term of the mayoralty until the next election. There were a number of substantial business men and civic leaders in Hill City whom Justice Rotherwell might have chosen. But to the amazement and consternation of everyone, he named—Hugo Bledd. That was how the Era of Terror came to Hill City...
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Copyright © 2016 by Emile Tepperman
Published by Endymion Press
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
1. THE CITY OF TERROR
2. OPEN UP—FOR THE SUICIDE SQUAD!
3. DEAD OR ALIVE
4. BLUE COATS FOR G-MEN
5. “REMAIN AT EASE!”
6. CITIZENS, ARISE!
7. THE BATTLE OF SUICIDE SQUARE
ON OCTOBER 1, JOHN STAFFORD, mayor of Hill City, was shot and instantly killed by a dope—crazed assassin named Dill.
The next in line for the mayoral job was Lawrence Hall, president of the City Council. But, for some unaccountable reason, Hall refused the honor. In order to avoid becoming mayor, he resigned from the City Council and left at once for Florida, taking his wife and son with him.
It now became the duty of Judge Samuel Rotherwell, chief justice of the Superior Court, to appoint someone to fill the unexpired term of the mayoralty until the next election. There were a number of substantial business men and civic leaders in Hill City whom Justice Rotherwell might have chosen. But to the amazement and consternation of everyone, he named—Hugo Bledd.
That was how the Era of Terror came to Hill City.
Hugo Bledd owned the Hill City Race Track. He was a disbarred lawyer who had dipped his fingers in almost every form of shady activity. He had been disbarred for conspiracy to help a notorious racketeer client defraud the government of two million dollars in income taxes. And when his racketeer client went to jail, Bledd had continued to manage the vast sub rosa enterprises of the Big Shot. Disbarment meant nothing to him, as long as he was able to keep out of jail... And this was the man whom Justice Rotherwell appointed to be mayor of Hill City!
Naturally, there was a good deal of criticism. The editor of the morning Journal announced that he would ask the Governor to look into it. But that night, the editor of the Journal was accosted by a group of thugs, who beat him with a lead pipe and left him unconscious in the street. The same night, there where a dozen other assaults upon citizens who might have been expected to oppose the appointment.
Hugo Bledd was sworn in the next day. He demanded the immediate resignation of the police commissioner, as well as of all the other commissioners who had been appointed by the preceding mayor.
He also discharged a great number of the older policemen and detectives, claiming that the police department needed revamping.
Then there began an influx of strange and ugly looking men into Hill City. From all parts of the country they came—men with tight lips and killers’ eyes, men with guns bulging under their armpits, men who had done time in all the major prisons. Before the city awoke to its peril, it was in the grip of as vicious a mob of storm troopers as had ever taken possession of a European land.
One of these new arrivals, a man named Rory Fenn, was appointed police commissioner. Fenn immediately swore in a hundred of the newly-arrived thugs as policemen and detectives, raising some of them to captains’ and inspectors rank over the heads of the old-timers on the force.
The next day, at the meeting of the City Council, a contingent of these uniformed thugs was present in the meeting room. Significantly also, seven of the thirty-nine councilmen were absent. Two of the seven were dead. The other five were in the hospital, so badly injured that they would not be able to leave their beds for weeks.
Little wonder, then, that those councilmen present quickly voted to pass all the measures submitted by Mayor Hugo Bledd. A tax was imposed on all business transactions in the city, as well as on all pay checks. The money derived from this tax was to be placed in a relief fund, to be administered by the Mayor. In addition, Mayor Bledd was given the power to create five hundred new appointive positions on the police force and in other city departments, the salaries to be fixed by himself.
By the time the Council meeting was over, absolute dictatorial powers had been voted to Hugo Bledd. His thugs, wearing their brand new police uniforms, began making the rounds of all the retail stores in the city, selling tickets for a mythical police ball, at ten dollars each. No one refused to buy.
As if by magic, gambling houses opened over night. Slot machines appeared in every store and hotel lobby. Bookmakers began to transact business openly. Night clubs advertised obscene burlesque entertainment. Beady-eyed, slick- haired men began to peddle marijuana cigarettes near the public schools.
A fortune began to pour into the private coffers of Hugo Bledd and Associates.
SOME few citizens still dared to voice an objection. Among these was Norton Gregg, district attorney of Hill County, who was not an appointee of the mayor, but was an elected State official. He drew up an indictment to present to the grand jury, but Judge Rotherwell refused to allow him to present it. He was blocked.
Angrily, he Ieft Judge Rotherwell’s chambers and hurried to his office. He put through a long—distance call to Governor Daniel Elsing at the State capitol.
“Dan,” he exclaimed hotly, “you’ve got to do something. It—it’s fantastic, unbelievable. Bledd and his crew are looting the city. They’re making it the crime headquarters of the whole country. You’ve got to stop it!”
“What do you want me to do, Norton?” Governor Elsing asked.
“Declare martial law in Hill City!” District Attorney Gregg exploded. “Send in the troops—”
“You know I can’t do that,” the governor interrupted, “unless the request comes from the mayor.”
“Well—well—” Gregg fumbled for ideas—"call a special session of the Legislature to appoint an investigating committee.”
“Sorry, Norton, I can’t do that either. You forget that this State has home rule. The demand for a special session has to come from the local authorities.”
District Attorney Gregg gripped the phone blindly. He ran his free hand through his fast—graying hair. “Good Lord, Dan, there must be something we can do. The law is being violated every minute. And Rotherwell—I don’t know what’s come over him. He’s as honest a judge as I’ve known, yet he blocks my every move!”
“Why don’t you call the F. B. I.?” Governor Elsing suggested. “Perhaps they can find a way.”
District Attorney Gregg’s hands were trembling as he hung up. For a long time he sat staring blankly into space. Then he picked up the phone once more and said harshly, “National—5303!”
In a moment, he was talking with the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of the United States Department of Justice.
He talked for twenty-five minutes. At the end of that time he sighed and said, “Then there’s no legal way in which you can send Federal agents here to break this up?”
“I’m sorry,” he heard the director say. “There is no evidence of violation of a federal law. But wait. There’s one thing I may be able to do. I have three men in the department who work independently, on a roving assignment. I’ll ask them if they’d be willing to accept a furlough and go into Hill City as private individuals. I’m almost sure they’d accept—they’re that kind...”
District Attorney Gregg interrupted: “Good Lord, are you mad? Three men! What can three men do—”
He stopped as he heard the director’s voice in bleak amusement. “You don’t know these, three men, Gregg. If they accept, they’ll arrive in Hill City tomorrow, and contact you. Their names? Kerrigan, Murdoch and Klaw!”
SLIGHTLY bewildered, Attorney Gregg put down the phone. He didn’t know what to think. The names the F. B. I. director had mentioned meant nothing to him. He felt tired, beaten, let down. There was no place he could turn for help. Still, he’d keep on fighting....
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