Greg Sanders leaned a little closer to his microphone at Station WABC as the director of Radio Roundup signaled the lanky crooner.
“Walll, folks, we sure are mighty pleased to welcome y’all back to another singalong on Radio Roundup,” he said. “I’m Greg Sanders, tonight’s guest host, and I’m real glad to welcome my first guest, the Alabama Nightingale — Lindy Montgomery!”
A cheerful blonde came up while the radio station’s small audience clapped appreciatively. Before she could even begin to yodel, though, Lindsey screamed in panic as a masked man burst inside the studio with an odd gun.
Greg frowned. Time to round up more than a couple’a songs! Greg noticed the intruder wore a long coat of dark color, and his features were concealed behind a gas mask. He waved an odd gun that was nothing like the six-shooters Greg typically encountered while filming his serials. But then this was no movie studio, and he had a good idea what to expect from such a weapon.
The masked man grabbed Lindy as the security guards rushed forward to confront him. He said nothing, but fired the gun and watched as a cloud of gas filled the immediate vicinity, and the guards fell forward into slumber.
As panic filled the studio, Greg slipped into his colorful Vigilante gear and held the bandana across his face with one hand as he tossed a lasso with the other. He roped the gun out the masked man’s hand and drew his own gun with lightning speed.
A shot rang out, and a studio sign that read No Admittance While Broadcasting sputtered and sparked. The masked man gasped and turned toward the flashing display as Lindy kicked free and rolled across the floor. The Vigilante then tackled the masked man, and they crashed to the floor. Three swift blows from the cowboy left his foe stunned.
Greg noticed Lindy was being comforted by her agent, and the guards seemed merely to be in a deep sleep. This yahoo thought he could kidnap her, no doubt. Considering that fancy gas-gun o’ his, he might’a got away with it, too! mused the man who was known as the Vigilante in his masked identity. He handled the gun carefully. This is no ordinary weapon. Odd-lookin’ brand on the handle, too! he thought as he eyed a black cross. The Vigilante little realized what this was all about.
In a secret chamber across the nation from the studio, several figures sat around a table that boldly displayed the symbol of the black cross. The eldest man was their chairman; he wore a silk hood and watched his allies with silent dismay. One was a handsome, if cocky, cowboy whose features had once graced the silver screen. Another was a portly British man with a deep frown across his heavy features. Still another was a graying but elegant man in a designer suit. And the final member was Asian and seemed inordinately pleased with himself.
The chairman chuckled and said, “You worry too much. The Radio Robber is nothing for my esteemed colleagues to fear. He will be dealt with easily. He merely appropriated one of our gas-guns.”
The cowboy smiled. “Well, I never did think much of your business sense, and now I see I was right all along. That punk might be traced back to us, and we want the world to think we died a few years back.”
“The Radio Robber stole one of our gas-guns because one of our workers was careless,” interrupted the chairman. “If he leads the law anywhere near us, we shall eliminate them with dispatch. I thought you understood that I want one such mystery-man to come to us and come to his long-deserved death!”
“And we are more than humble arms dealers now,” said the Asian man. “We have hired special agents to enforce our wishes. Is that not so, sir?”
A greasy-haired man with an earring in one ear and a nautical outfit smiled coldly. “Aye, sir, that you did!” scowled Black Jack.
That night the Vigilante sat in as the local police questioned the Radio Robber. He stubbornly refused to talk until, after hours of fruitless questioning, he admitted that the gun was not his invention.
“I hired some local talent to act as backup for me for a future crime,” he said. “Naturally, when one of them showed up with the gun and claimed he could supply me with others from his mysterious employers, I took it. The guys I hired turned yellow and never showed up at the station where I planned to kidnap the Alabama Nightingale. I’ll give you the name of the mook who supplied me with the fancy gas-gun. His name is Albert Mitchell. I owe him. He rooms at this address.” He finished writing down the address on a piece of paper.
The Vigilante nodded. “Ain’t no honor among thieves.” He turned to the chief of police and said, “Listen, Chief, I want to mosey on down to this owlhoot’s rooming house. His name is unknown to me, but if’n he’s tied up with any outfit that can whip up guns like this, I need to shut ’em down!”
“My men can surround the place,” said the chief.
The Vigilante grinned. “Nope. Thanks, but no. I’d rather go solo and see if I can trail this bird from his digs back to the men who made his gas-gun.”
Thus it was that Greg Sanders, as the heroic Vigilante, burst in on a startled Al Mitchell some time later. “Rise and shine! We’ve gotta have us a conf’rence!” he demanded as he gripped the thug’s shirt.
Al Mitchell struggled, and the Vigilante took a couple of blows on purpose. He staggered backward and allowed Mitchell to race out the door. He smiled and thought, Now to trail this skunk back to his hole!
Soon enough, the expert tracker had made his way through the dark streets of the city to a large warehouse. Always is a warehouse, he thought. Funny how many of these places end up as hideouts!
Climbing up a pile of crates, he peered through a dirty window. There he saw Mitchell and three other men in heated conversation. Reckon I better settle their hash, here and now! he mused.
The Vigilante crashed through the window and slammed into the threesome. A left hook dropped one cold, while another fell as the hero clipped him with a swift blow.
“That’s the creep who broke in on me!” blurted Al.
The Vigilante slugged him and said, “Yep. And you were kind enough to lead me here.” He rubbed his gloved hands together and surveyed the room. Abandoned, he thought. Seems like they weren’t making the guns here. Maybe they can tell me about this black cross brand.
“The Amerikaner cowboy was a popular cinema attraction in Berlin during my youth,” said a German-accented voice. “How quaint that I get to kill such a figure now!”
The Vigilante whirled to see a heavy man in a dark suit. “Well! Figures you’d find a Ratzi in a place like this!” he said as he drew his gun.
“Oh, I am not an agent of the Axis powers. I serve myself,” said the hulking man.
“Don’t move!” warned the Vigilante.
The bald man laughed. “I shall not move, but my allies will!”
The Vigilante gasped as three more figures attacked him from behind. He went down fighting as they hammered him relentlessly. The bald German was especially brutal, and he laughed as he stood over the stunned hero. “The Beast of Berlin proves his right to the title once more, eh?” he said.
A sore Vigilante woke up sometime later to find himself bound to a chair and surrounded by the gang of seven. Mitchell and his two allies had recovered and now joined the Beast of Berlin and the three other figures who had knocked the Vigilante out.
“You are awake? Good!” said the Beast. “I am Franz Mueller, the Beast of Berlin. That is the name given to me during my days in the ring. The others are my personal aides. We were hired to protect the interests of the Dark Cross. We do so rather effectively, ja?”
“Dark Cross! So that’s the name o’ your little coffee klatsch,” said the Vigilante. “That gas-gun technology of yours reminds me of the Sandman’s. I’d say you owe him royalties!”
The Beast chuckled. “He uses a device modified from one of our designs, not the reverse. We rather consider him a good advertisement!”
The Vigilante played for time as he slipped free of his ropes with the speed of experience and skill. “So, if you Dark Cross boys ain’t Nazis, then you must be out for yourselves as weapons dealers,” he said. “You’re worse than the Nazi forces in some ways. You don’t care nothin’ for ideals, even twisted ones. You just follow cold, hard profit!”
The Beast frowned. “You wound me! I think of myself as one who has embraced the great American ideal: self, progress, enrichment, commerce!”
The Vigilante jumped to his feet and swung his chair down on the Beast’s head. “That ain’t the America I believe in! My nation stands for ideals beyond the dollar sign, and as for self-improvement, that’s not something that you get by violence and greed. ‘Course, a little tussle might just improve your looks a bit!” he said as he tackled the huge German.
As he felt the brute’s hands close in on him, the Vigilante twisted aside and kicked him backward. He whirled to dodge the charging gang members and crashed through their midst to reach his guns where they rested on a table. He fired rapidly and with precision. Wood splintered into their faces as his shots tore into the tall crates around them.
Catching the edge of the stack, he heaved upward as he tensed and rolled aside. The crates crashed down on the thugs, and three of them escaped while the other four lay stunned.
The Vigilante’s lasso whipped out to snare the nearest pair, and he struggled to pull them off their feet as he eyed the looming figure of the Beast. “I guess it’s just you and me now, pard,” he drawled. “Too bad for you; that makes the odds all in my favor!”
The Beast rose and cursed. Gone was his façade of humor. Now he wanted nothing more than to rend his mocking foe asunder.
The Vigilante rested on his heels and watched his foe circle him warily. “Come on, you bald-headed skunk!” he taunted. “Show me that stripe down your back is white, and not yella!”
The Beast jumped forward, and the Vigilante connected with a quick jab before ducking away. “I ain’t’a gonna rassle ya. I aim to teach ya about using your fists!” he said. Twisting away from the angry Beast, he tripped him as he passed by, then connected again as the Beast rose to his feet. Three more blows left him panting for air and disoriented by blood in his eyes.
The Vigilante stood back and waited. Steady now, Greg, he thought. You got him where you want him. Treat him real careful-like. Snapping out with another punch, he left the Beast to crash stunned to the floor. “Well, now, Ted Grant would be proud o’ me,” he laughed.
Searching the fallen German, the Vigilante found a document that gave him pause. Whistling slowly, he said, “I’m going to need my pardners to close down this here Dark Cross!”