Tony Donovan, office boy, perched on the edge of a chair in the president's office and swallowed nervously. Nearby Major Conant, U. S. Army Intelligence, lounged easily on a leather couch, while behind a massive oak desk, C. V. Atkinson, financier and scientist, sorted papers with frowning concentration.

A window cleaner working outside presently unhooked his safety belt and swung in. A gust of wind followed him and the papers on the desk swirled to the floor. The cleaner slammed the window hurriedly and scurried around picking up the loose sheets. He leaned over the desk and put them down. "I'm sorry, sir. That updraft caught me unexpected-like." He retreated hastily from the office.

The scientist swung his hard glance to Tony. "Now maybe we can talk. What I've got to say is confidential." He rose, left his desk, then stopped as his assistant, Sylvester Carter, came in and put some documents on the oak surface, saying, "Here's the stuff on the La Honda development, C. V."

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The man lingered near the desk and Tony grinned inwardly. Carter had the prying nature of a backyard gossip and the La Honda papers were just an excuse to break in and see what was going on. C. V. dismissed him with an irritated wave of one hand and, when the door closed once more, continued across the floor to a hidden wall safe and withdrew a bundle of blueprints. He tapped them significantly. "These are so important to our country," he said grimly, "that certain agents have already taken the lives of two of my men in an attempt to get them. I want you, Tony, to deliver them to Washington!"

Tony choked. "Me? But … but …"

C. V. waved him to silence "Since you were orphaned by the death of your father in my plant, I've watched you closely. I know I can trust you. Now, here's the plan: Major Conant and I are going to Washington immediately. You will finish your day here as usual, have dinner, then get out to the airport and ask for Lieutenant Harris. Don't pack a bag. Above all, be natural."

Major Conant interrupted softly: "and don't worry boy. You won't know it, but one of my men will be behind you all the way. You see, our idea is that nobody will suspect that a secret so valuable would be entrusted to an office boy. They'll be watching the two of us." He handed Tony a card. "Here's where you go in Washington. Put those plans under your shirt and don't take 'em out until you get there!"

A few more instructions, some money from C. V. and they were gone. Tony tried to act natural as he tidied up around the office, but excitement bubbled mercurially inside him … and as suddenly froze as his eyes caught an open key on the inter-office phone system. To his mind there leapt the picture of the window cleaner, bending over C. V.'s desk. How easy it would have been to press a key down, piping C. V.'s plan into a speaker in another office! Whose? Tony couldn't tell; the keys were not marked. One thing was certain: it had been no accident. C. V. was much too careful for that.

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Abruptly, an imminent peril seemed to sweep like a flame through the Atkinson company offices and Tony felt his nerves jump with panic. He had to get away. He left by C. V."s private entrance and went to the old converted dwelling where he had a room on the second floor rear. There he locked himself in. He sat for a long time making desperate plans for getting to the airport unseen, when a soft movement at the door jerked his eyes to it. The knob was turning slowly, then a gentle strain pressed against the night latch. The strain held and a key whispered cautiously in the lock. Tony rose, terror coming with the impact of a bullet. For a second he froze before turning of the lock broke his paralysis. He backed quickly to the window. Thank heaven for the ledge that ran around the old building!

He clung there precariously, frightened eyes seeking to identify the intruder that came into the room but the half-drawn shade showed only a headless figure with a nervously twitching right shoulder. It moved quickly back and forth, then went purposefully towards the window. Tony dropped the one story to the ground, and needles of pain shot up to his knees. He rolled rapidly under the hedge that divided the lot from the one next door and lay there a long while, scarcely breathing. Somewhere near there came a moan, and a hoarse whisper: "Donovan!"

"A trick maybe?" Tony edged towards the voice and abruptly found himself regarding a prone figure, blood matting a nasty wound in the side. "G-2," the man whispered painfully. "Saw … jump. Passed … out … I guess. Was careless … stabbed … get to airport. Hurry! Tell … Major …" The effort told and the blackness closed in again on the intelligence officer.

"What a game guy!" muttered Tony. Resolution firmed his jaw and cleared away his uncertainty. He was pledged to action now.

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Neural Network Novellas: Dangerous Delivery #1