Mystery Stories for Boys
THE CRIMSON FLASH
ROY J. SNELL
The Reilly & Lee Co.
Printed in the United States of America
The Reilly & Lee Co.
All Rights Reserved
I Johnny Loses a Fight 9
II Boxing the Bunco-Steerer 24
III The Feasters See a Haunt 45
IV "Pale Face Bonds" 55
V Strange Doings in the Night 74
VI Johnny Boxes the Bear 85
VII No Box-a Da Bear 100
VIII The Girl and the Tiger 112
IX The Tiger Springs 124
X Gwen Meets a "Hay Maker" 134
XI The Black Beast 144
XII Johnny Wins Double Pay 160
XIII Pant's Story of the Black Cat 173
XIV In Tom Stick's House 184
XV Bursting Balloons 198
XVI The Wreck of the Circus 206
XVII "Get That Black Cat" 217
XVIII How Johnny Got the Ring 232
THE CRIMSON FLASH
JOHNNY LOSES A FIGHT
In the center of the "big top," which sheltered the mammoth
circus, brass horns blared to the rhythmic beat of a huge bass drum.
Eight trained elephants, giant actors of the sawdust ring, patiently
stood in line, awaiting the command to make way for the tumblers, trapeze
performers, bareback riders and the queen of the circus.
The twins, Marjory and Margaret MacDonald, just past ten years of age,
and attending their first circus, stood pressed against the rope not an
arm's length from the foremost
elephant. Suddenly the gigantic
reached out a beseeching trunk for a possible peanut.
Sensing danger, Johnny Thompson, the one-time lightweight boxing
champion, who, besides their maid, stood guard over the millionaire
forward. Quick as he was, his movement
was far too slow.
Marjory jumped back; there was an almost inaudible snap. The elephant
stretched his trunk to full length--then in apparent
anger uttered a
A broad bar of sunlight
shooting over the top of the canvas
wall was cut
by a sudden flash. The flash described a circle, then blinked out at the
feet of three waiting
young women performers.
With a cry of consternation
on his lips, Johnny Thompson sprang
ropes. Bowling over an elephanttrainer
in his haste, he bolted toward
the three girl acrobats at whose feet the miniaturemeteor
Again his agile movement
was far too slow. Six pairs of rough hands tried
to seize him. Johnny's right shot out. With a little gurgle, an attendant
in uniform staggered backward
in the sawdust. A ring-master,
leaping like a panther, landed on Johnny's back. Dropping abruptly,
Johnny executed a somersault, shook himself free and rose only to butt
his head into the stomach
of a fat clown.
And then what promised to be a beautiful scrap ended miserably. A
razor-back, or tent roustabout, struck Johnny on the head with a tent
stake. Johnny dropped like an empty meal sack. At once four attendants
dragged him beneath the tent wall into a shady corner. There, after tying
his hands and feet, they waited for his return to consciousness.
Little by little Johnny came to himself, and began to fumble
"Wow! What hit me?" he grumbled, as he attempted to rub his bruised head.
"You fell and struck your head on a tent pole," grinned a razor-back.
"Some scrapper, eh?" a second man commented.
"Dope or moonshine?" asked a third.
"Neither," exclaimed Johnny. "It was--darn it! No. That's none of your
business. But I'll get it back if I have to follow this one-horse show
from Boston to Texas."
"You won't follow nothin' just at present," scowled the razor-back, eying
his shackles with satisfaction. "That guy you hit had to go to the show's
"Wow!" ejaculated his companion. "And I bet this little feller doesn't
weigh a hundred and ten stripped! How'd he do it?"
"Let me loose and I'll give you a free exhibition," grinned Johnny, as he
settled back, resolved
to take what was coming to him with a smile.
He was not a quarrelsome fellow, this Johnny Thompson. He had studied
science of boxing
and wrestling because it interested him, and because he
wished to be able to take care of himself in every emergency. He never
struck a man unless forced to do so. The emergency
of the past hour had
spurred him to unusual
activity. In a way he regretted it now, but on
that were the same set of conditions to confront
again, his actions would probably be the same. His one regret was that he
had been unable
his end. His only problem now was to recover
lost ground and to reach the desired goal.
Late that night, with stiffened joints and aching muscles, he made his
way to the desolate
spot where but a few hours before a hilarious throng
had laughed at the antics of clowns and thrilled at the daring
the tight-rope walker.
In his hand Johnny held a small flashlight. This he flicked about here
and there for some time.
"That's it," he exclaimed at last. "This is the very spot."
Dropping on hands and knees he began clawing over the sawdust. Running it
through his fingers, he gathered it in little piles here and there until
presently the place resembled a miniature
mountain range. He had been at
this for a half hour when he straightened up with a sigh.
"Not a chance," he murmured, "not a solitary
chance! One of those circus
dames got it; the trapeze performer, or maybe the tight-rope walker.
Which one? That's what I've got to find out."
Suddenly he leaped to his feet. A long-drawn-out whistle
train! I've just time to jump it. I'll stow away on her.
How's that? A circus
Johnny dashed across the open space and, just as the train began to move,
caught at the iron bars of a gondola car loaded with tent equipment.
Climbing aboard, he groped about until he found a soft spot among some
piles of canvas, and, sinking down there, was soon fast asleep. He had
had no supper, but that mattered little. He would eat a double portion
ham and eggs in the morning. It was enough that he was on his way. Where
to? He did not exactly know.
When Johnny leaped over the rope in the circus
tent the previous
afternoon, in his rush toward the lady performers, he had dodged behind
the trained elephants. This took him out of the view of the twins,
Marjory and Margaret. So interested were they in the elephants that they
did not miss him, and not having noted the sparkle
in the sunlight
sent Johnny on his mad chase, they remained fully occupied in watching
the regular events of the circus.
The elephants had lumbered into the side tent, the tight-rope walker had
danced her airy way across the arena, the brown bear had taken his daily
bicycle ride, and the human statuary was on display, when Marjory
suddenly turned to Margaret and said:
"Why, Johnny's gone!"
"So he is," said the other twin. "Perhaps he didn't like it. He'll be
back, I'm sure."
The maid was quite accustomed to looking after the millionaire
when Johnny failed to put in an appearance at the end of the performance,
they passed out with the throng, the maid hailed a taxi and they were
soon on their way home.
It was then that Marjory, looking down, noticed that the fine gold chain
about her neck hung with two loose ends. Catching her breath, she uttered
a startled whisper:
"Oo! Look! Margaret! It's gone!"
Margaret looked once, then clasped her hands in horror.
"And father said you mustn't take it!"
"But it was our first, our very first circus!"
"I know," sighed Margaret. "And wasn't it just grand! But now," she
sighed, "now, you'll have to tell father."
"Yes, I will--right away."
Marjory did tell. They had not been in the house a minute before she told
of their loss.
"Where's Johnny Thompson?" their father asked.
"We--we don't know."
"We haven't seen him for two hours."
"Well, that settles it. I might have known when I hired an adventurer
look after my thoroughbreds and guard my children that I'd be sorry. But
he was a splendid man with the horses; seemed to think of 'em as his own;
and as for boxing, I never saw a fellow like him."
"Yes, and Daddy, we liked him," chimed in Marjory. "We liked him a lot."
"Well," the father said thoughtfully, "guess I ought to put a man on his
trail and bring him back. Probably went off with the circus. But I won't.
He's been a soldier, and a good one, I'm told. That excuses a lot. And
then if you go dangling a few thousand dollars on a bit of gold chain,
what can you expect? Better go get your supper and then run on to bed."
That night, before they crept into their twin beds, Marjory and Margaret
talked long and earnestly
over something very important.
"Yes," said Marjory at last, "we'll find some real circus
somewhere. Then we'll have Prince and Blackie saddled and bridled. Then
we'll ride off to find that old circus
and bring Johnny Thompson back. We
can't get along without him; besides, he didn't take it. I just know he
"And if he did, he didn't mean to," supplemented Margaret.
A moment later they were both sound asleep.
As Johnny Thompson bumped along in his rail gondola, with the click-click
of the wheels keeping time to the distant pant of the engine, he dreamed
a madly fantastic
dream. In it he felt the nerve-benumbing shudder
comes with the shock of a train wreck. He felt himself lifted high in air
to fall among rolls of canvas
and piles of tent poles, heard the crash of
breaking timbers, the scream
of grinding ironwork, and above it all the
roar of frightened animals--tigers, lions, panthers, tossed, still in
their cages, to be buried beneath the wreckage, or hurled free to tumble
down the embankment. In this dream Johnny crawled from beneath the canvas
to find himself staring into the red and gleaming eye of some great cat
that was stalking him as its prey. He struggled to draw his clasp knife
from his pocket, and in that mad struggle awoke.
With every nerve alert he caught the click-click of wheels, the distant
pant of the engine. It had been nothing more than a dream. He was still
forward with the circus.
Yet, as he settled back, he gave an involuntaryshudder
himself on one elbow, stared through the darkness toward the spot where,
in his dream, the great cat had crouched. To his horror, he caught the
red gleam of a single burning eye.
Instantly there flashed through his mind the row of great caged cats he
had seen that day. Pacing the floor of their dens, pausing now and again
for a leap, a growl, a snarl, they had fascinated him then. Now his blood
ran cold at the thought of the creature which, having escaped from its
cage, had crept along the swinging cars, leaping lightly
from one to the
other until the scent of a man had arrested its course. Was it the
Senegal lion? Johnny doubted that. Perhaps the tawny yellow Bengal tiger,
or the more magnificent
one from Siberia.
All this time, while his mind had worked with the speed of a wireless,
Johnny's hand was struggling to free his clasp knife.
Once more his eye sought the ball of fire. Suddenly as it had come, so
suddenly it had vanished. He started in astonishment. Yet he was not to
be deceived. The creature had turned its head. It was moving. Perhaps at
this very moment it was crouching for a spring. A huge pile of canvas
loomed above Johnny. A leap from this vantage, the tearing of claws, the
sinking of fangs, and this circus
train would have witnessed a tragedy.
He strained his ears for a sound, but heard none. He strove
to make out a
bulk in the dark, but saw nothing. Could it be a tiger or mountain lion,
jaguar or spotted leopard? Or was it the black leopard
from Asia? A fresh
chill ran down Johnny's spine at thought of this creature. Other great
cats had paced their cages, growled, snarled; the black leopard, smaller
than any, but muscular, sharp clawed, keen fanged, with glowering eyes,
had lurked in the corner of his cage and gloomed at those who passed. It
was this animal that Johnny feared the most.
If he but had a light! At once he thought of his small electric torch.
Grasping it in his left hand, he leveled it at the spot where the burning
eye had been, and gripping the clasp knife in his right, threw on the
As the shaft of light flashed across the canvas, he stared for a second,
then his hand trembled with surprise and excitement.
"Panther Eye, as I live!" he exclaimed. "You old rascal! What are you
The former companion, for it was not a great cat, but a man, and none
other than Panther Eye, fellow free-lance in many a previous
stared at him through large smoked glasses, a smile playing over his
"Johnny Thompson, I'll be bound! Some luck to you. What are you doing
"Looking for something."
"Same here, Johnny."
"And I'll stay with this circus
until I find it," said Johnny.
"Same here, Johnny. Shake on it."
Pant crawled over the swaying car and extended
a hand. Johnny shook it
"Slept any?" asked Pant.
"Better sleep some more, hadn't we?"
"It's a go."
Pant crept back to his hole in the canvas; Johnny sank back into his. He
was not to sleep at once, however. His mind was working
on many problems.
Not the least of these was the question of Panther Eye's presence on the
circus train. This strange fellow, who appeared to be endowed with a
capacity for seeing
in the dark, was always delving in dark corners,
searching out hidden
mysteries. What mystery
could there be about a
circus? What, indeed? Was not Johnny on the trail of a puzzling mystery
Having reasoned thus far he was about to fall asleep, when a single red
flash lighted up the peak of the canvas
pile, then faded. He thought of
the red ball of fire he had taken for a cat's eye. He remembered the
yellow glow he had seen when with Pant on other occasions. His mind