The Quota Crashers
PHILIP WINTER LUCE
This is fiction, of course, but it might well he fact. P. W. Luce knows the country he describes like the palm of his hand. If hy invent stories, says he, when the raw material is right at your door?
PETE KELDRON, smuggler of men, smiled as he saw the three Englishmen step outside the Credit Foncier Building. The short one looked disappointed, the stout one looked annoyed, and the tall one clenched his fists angrily as he spoke.
From across the street the smuggler of men could not hear a word, nor did he need to. He knew quite well the si.'i-footer was damning Uncle Sam most heartily because the Immigration Board of Vancouver had just voted "Aye,” in the most perfunctory manner, to the resolution:
"Duly moved and seconded that Frank Bartell be refused a temporary permit to enter the United States of America from British Columbia.”
Bartell s case had been disposed of in little more than two mtnutes. His companions, Jack Timms and stout Fred Deliarm, had had their hopes blasted in just as speedy a manner, and there was no chance of appeal.
"Place of birth?" the consular agent had asked, in a mechanical voice.
"England.” each had replied, and that ended the business. The fact that they had lived in Canada many years made no difference.
Turning down dozens of applications a day was part of the regular routine to the consular agent and his associates: merely a disagreeable duty to be rushed through as fast as possible, then forgotten.
What else was to be done when the local quota for a foreign country was exhausted for ten months ahead, and there were hundreds of applications on file?
Frank Bartell was getting nicely warmed up when Pete Keldron sidled up, touching his chauffeur's vizor in perfunctory salutation.
"I can get you gentlemen across the boundary line this evening.” whispered the smuggler of men. “Slip around the corner and I'll tell you how.”
"Why not talk here?” Bartell inquired shortly. "Cops! That's why. They’ve shooed me away from here three times this week, and I'd hate to have them do it again. Too much work isn’t good for policemen.” "What is your business, may I ask?” inquired Bartell, falling in step with the chauffeur.
“I'm a quota crasher,” grinned Keldron. “I keep Uncle Sam's population growing right along, in spite of any restrictive laws Congress cares to pass . . . I’m right in assuming you fellows want to horn in to the States?”
The three Englishmen nodded, then Bartell asked: "What will you charge to take the three of us across?” There are no set fares on the underground jitney run from Vancouver to points south of the international boundary. It all depends on a man’s apparent wealth and eagerness to get away. The minimum is $20, but it is possible to extort as much as $300 from Chinamen and criminals.
PETE KELDRON. with the shrewdness of the seasoned taxi driver, had sized up his prospects as men who would not stand for undue gouging.
"It will cost you thirty dollars apiece—”
"What?” broke in Deliarm. “Ninety dollars to take us to the boundary! Why. we can get there by train for ninety cents!”
"And come back right away for the same price,” observed Keldron. "You could no more get into the States by train without a pa-ssport than you could fly backwards to the moon. My fare is steeper, but I put you across at some risk, remember.”
"What's your risk?" asked Deliarm.
"If I get caught in the States they'll confiscate my car, fine me $2.000 for even.' passenger, and give me a bonus of five years in the penitentiary.”
The three Englishmen looked at each other for a moment before little Jack Timms, with an uncomfortable squirm, asked:
“What’s in store for us if we get pinched?”
“Oh. you'd come off easy,” smiled Keldron. “The most you could get is two years, but chances are a hundred to one you'd simply be deported back to Canada. However, you don't have to worn'Once across the border you’re safe. There isn’t much sympathy with a quota law that keeps Anglo-Saxons out of the Pacific States: it’s hitting the tourist business too darned hard to be popular . . . Can you be ready to start at ten o’clock this evening?” “I guess so,” said Bartell, after an inquiring glance at his companions.
When Pete Keldron’s big car called for the three Englishmen at the appointed time, there was already a
passenger in the front seat, a fair-haired, blue-eyed, rawboned Swede.
"Friend of mine, Mr. Ole Anderson, who’s on his way to pay an unexpected visit to Uncle Sam,” explained the chauffeur.
Ole Anderson acknowledged the Englishmen’s greetings with a grin, and reached out his hand.
“Pete tell me you bane going across to-night,” he volunteered, “so Ay tank Ay yost trail along. Ay know vere Ay can cotch a yob in a mill at Tacoma.”
“Do you know the way to Tacoma?” inquired Bartell, immediately interested.
“Ay bane dere before, vonce. Ay valked all de vay from Vancouver.”
“First rate! Then you can come along of us once we get into the U.S.A. We’re going in the general direction of Tacoma ourselves.”
“And we’re quite ready to start, as soon as you gentlemen have paid your fares,” pointed out Pete Keldron. “We always collect in advance on the underground jitney run. Thirty dollars apiece, please.”
A LL automobile traffic from Vancouver to the state of x Washington has to cross the long Fraser River bridgeMany roads lead to it. Many lead from it. But there the arteries of traffic narrow down to this steel span high above the murky waters, and travelers cannot escape the cold and scrutinizing eye of the law.
Pete Keldron brought his car to a stop as the officer on duty approached.
The policeman knew Keldron for a persistent quota crasher.
“Where are you taking these four men?” he asked.
“Out for a mouthful of fresh air, on the doctor’s orders,” grinned Keldron, impudently. “That’s legal, isn’t it?”
“Getting fresh doesn’t get you anywhere, Keldron,” advised the policeman. “Just to teach you not to be so flippant in future, I’m going to wire the Immigration Officers to be on the look-out for you.”
“You’d do that in any case,” laughed the chauffeur, “no matter how politely I talked to you, though it isn’t any of your business.”
The policeman ignored the remark. He turned his attention to the passengers in the rear seat, satisfied himself they looked honest, then volunteered this advice:
“If you’re trying to beat your way south, so far as Canada is concerned, that’s quite legal. It’s not for me to interfere. But I’ll give you a word of warning: make sure you’ve got your money’s worth before you say good-bye to Pete Keldron.”
With this cryptic remark the policeman stepped back to the curb and the car slid forward.
“What do you suppose he meant by that?” Jack Timms wanted to know.
“I’ve heard these quota crashers sometimes leave their fares miles from the boundary line,” said Bartell, “and he was probably giving us a hint to stick to Keldron until we actually saw the Stars and Stripes floating in the breeze. The Lord didn’t make the United States any different from Canada, and we have no way of telling by the scenery where one country ends and the other begins.”
“Unless there’s a customs house at that spot,” pointed out Deliarm.
“If there is, that’s where we don’t cross!” retorted Bartell.
UpHE big car rolled leisurely the length, of the bridge A then picked up speed on the hard-surfaced Pacific Highway that stretches from Vancouver to Tia Juana, Mexico, without a break.
Pete Keldron drove to the legal limit, but no more. Even at night there are speed traps, and the business in hand was too important to court interference by rural policemen.
Mile after mile he drove on, sometimes through dense forests of giant firs and cedars, sometimes through open country where the lights of little farms twinkled along the highway. Up hill and down the big car kept spinning over the hard pavement at the same speed, slackening only when it turned into a rutty country road two or three miles from the international boundary.
“Rather rough going!” gasped Deliarm, bouncing up and down as the car swayed and bumped over the uneven surface.
“It’s going to be worse before it gets better,” advised the chauffeur, with a short laugh.
“For how far?” asked Deliarm.
“About a mile or so. Then we’ll have to hoof it along a cowpath for the rest of the way to the boundary.”
It was with welcome relief that the men stepped out of the car when they reached the trail that wound southward through the woods. They walked briskly, Pete Keldron leading with the Swede close to his heels, and the three Englishmen following in Indian fi’e.
Half an hour later they emerged on to a farm clearing.
“See that light?” said Pete Keldron, pointing to a faint glow a quarter of a mile away. “That’s in the United States.”
“We’re just about there, then,” remarked Bartell, edging closer to the chauffeur.
“You’ve arrived, all right,” agreed Keldron. “Walk up to that house and tell the farmer I brought you along. He’ll put you up for what’s left of the night and start you on your way south early in the morning. As for me, I’ll be getting back to Vancouver.”
“Not quite so fast,” observed Bartell, in a hard voice. “We don’t like to appear suspicious, but we want to be sure we’re really in Uncle Sam’s domain before we see the last of you. For all we know, that light might be miles north of the boundary. Such things have happened, I’ve been told.”
“You’ve been thinking too much of that policeman's tip,” growled Keldron. “Supposing I don’t choose to humor you, what then?”
“We’re four to one,” said the tall Englishman, blandly, “or three to two, if Mr. Anderson happens to be in cahoots with you.”
“It bane four to one,” volunteered the Swede. “Ay pay tventy dollars for dis trip, and Ay vont to go all de vay. You yentlemen can go as far as you like mit de shover: Ay yost trail along.”
“Good for you, Ole!” exclaimed little Jack Timms. “I was the one elected to handle you in case of emergencies, and I’m tickled to death to know you’re all right.”
As for Pete Keldron, he shrugged his shoulders and thrust his right hand in his coat pocket.
“You’re out of luck if you think you can shake me down for the fares I collected in advance,” he laughed. “I left the $110 in that store where I went in to buy cigarettes at the last moment. It’s a little habit I have.”
“Hell!” growled Deliarm. “Do you think we're crooks? You held us up for all we were willing to pay, but you’ll stay right with us until we know where we are."
“You fellows are raising a lot of fuss over nothing at all. Sure, I’ll go along as far as the house, and if you find I'm not on the square you can take it out of my hide.”
“With your kind permission, we will,” said Bartell, politely. “What kind of a man is your friend thé farmer, by the way?”
“He’s a wise old duck,” explained Keldron. “As a farmer he’d starve to death in a month, but as a rumrunner and quota crasher he’s as bright as they make ’em. He calls himself Timothy Hay.”
“An ideal name for a farmer, I should say,” chuckled Bartell.
“As ideal as it is incorrect,” continued Keldron. “His real name is probably John Smith, but it amuses him to pose as a rube. Nobody is deceived, least of all the border officers, though they never can get anything on him.”
TN ANSWER to a low whistle the bearded figure of Timothy Hay appeared in the doorway as the party neared the farm house.
“That you, Pete?” he called out.
“Sure is,” answered Keldron. “I’ve got four friends with me. Can you put ’em up for the night?”
“That’s what I’m farming here for. Bring the bunch in, and let’s get acquainted!”
After formal introductions Frank Bartell inquired: “Just whereabouts is this house located, Mr. Hay?”
The farmer shot an inquiring glance at the chauffeur and got his cue from the slightest of nods that meant he could go ahead and tell the truth, this time.
Stepping ba k a few feet, Timothy Hay drew the attention of the visitors to a thin red line that crossed the floor from wall to wall.
“From the rock-bound coasts of Maine to the sunkissed shores of Washington, this is the only spot where the international boundary line is visible to the naked eye,” he declaimed grandiosely, “and Timothy Hay himself is the man who made it possible with a little red paint. This house straddles the boundary. The front door is in Canada; the back door is in the United States.”
“Quite a convenient arrangement, I should think,” remarked Bartell.
“You’d never guess how many folks drop in to see me late at night because of this half-and-half business,” said Timothy Hay, with mock seriousness. “Would you believe it, last year, what with entertaining one party after another, I clean forgot to put in any crops, by heck!” Timothy Hay laughed heartily at this jest, and the others joined in his merriment. Even Pete Keldron considered it a really good joke. He always had, ever since he heard it the first time Timothy Hay sprung it, long ago.
A jovial and hospitable farmer, was Timothy Hay. He stirred up the fire and in a few minutes had steaming cups of coffee and great slabs of pound cake on the table.
“Guess you gentlemen can do justice to a little snack before turning in for a few hours,” he remarked. “Pete here always complains he’s hungry after that long drive from Vancouver.”
“It’s no complaint when the hunger’s satisfied in your half-and-half house,” grinned the smuggler of men, his mouth full of cake. “It’s a congratulation.”
“Aw, stop your blarney, Pete,” began Timothy Hay, then stopped suddenly. His body tensed as he listened intently for a few seconds.
Then, lifting little Jack Timms bodily from his chair, he dumped him unceremoniously on the Canadian side of his thin red line, where his companions were already seated.
“Stay there,” he admonished him with vehemence. “I can hear immigration officers sneaking across the yard.”
There was nothing wrong with Timothy Hay’s hearing.
A MOMENT later the C*back door was flung open and two officers burst into the room. Their quick eyes took in the situation at a glance, and they looked their disappointment at finding everybody on the far side of the strip of paint.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” greeted Timothy Hay in his most urbane manner. “Won’t you sit down and join us in a cup of coffee?”
“W didn’t intend this to be a friendly call, Tim,” answered Elmer Trydall, with a wink at Sam Klein, his fellow officer, “and we thought you’d possibly guess as much without having to be told.”
“Too bad you’ve been disappointed,” commiserated the irrepressible Tim-
othy. “There’s nothing left but to make it a friendly call now, so far as I can see, so sit down in the United States of America and throw this cake and coffee into you.”
“No, thanks,” said Trydall, drily. “Your coffee and cake might come under the head of attempted bribery and corruption, Tim . . . but we’ll stick around a while if you don’t mind.”
“Would it matter if I did?”
“Not in the least—”
“Look here,” broke in Bartell, angrily, “have these officers any right to break into your house in this manner? Have they a warrant? Don’t they know an Englishman’s home is his castle?”
“No legal right at all, my worthy friend, same as you have no legal right to try and smuggle yourself into the United States by the back door,” pointed out Trydall, amused at Bartell’s vehemence, “but we do it all the same, and Tim isn’t going to make any fuss over it either.”
“It’s a terrible thing to be under unjust suspicion,” moaned Timothy Hay, “but I’m not one to make trouble over trifles. This little house of mine is no castle, and I’m no Englishman. I’m a hundred-per-cent. CanadianAmerican, I am.” He illustrated his national position by straddling the painted boundary line.
Pete Keldron beckoned Bartell to a Canadian corner of the room.
“We might as well be on our way,” he whispered. “There’s no chance of slipping through at this point, and Trydall and Klein look so darned happy I’m afraid it’s going to be hard to find a hole in the fence in this section. This is one of the times when I really earn my pay.”
“It certainly is,” agreed Bartell, meaningly.
“A thing like this never happened to me before,” protested Keldron, “but it’s no use arguing about that now. Let’s get back to the car.”
So long as no attempt was made to enter American territory, the immigration officers could not interfere. They even grinned when little Jack Timms strutted to the edge of the painted line and, after a deep nasal inhalation, cheekily remarked:
“There’s no law against breathing the free air of the Land of Liberty, is there, buddies?”
TTINDING a safe hole in the fence, however, turned out " to be a difficult problem. After the big car had jolted back over the country road to the paved highway, Keldron gave her the gas and sped north. Fred Dellarm, after a mumbled exclamation, leaned forward and shouted in the chauffeur’s ear:
“I used to be a sailor.”
“What about it?” yelled back Keldron in surprise.
“You’re going north and the States is to the south,” answered Dellarm. “I’m watching the stars, and I’ll tell you I’m a bird on dead reckoning.”
The smuggler of men shrugged his shoulders sullenly but made no reply until several minutes later, when he
pulled up outside a little shack. The place was dark and silent.
“You’ll need all your knowledge of dead reckoning to keep tab on my movements to-night,” he told Dellarm. “I’m going in here to use the phone—there’s nobody home, but I’ve got a key—and unless I’m luckier than I’ve any right to expect we’ll box the compass several times before dawn. If I’d known you were so keen to travel south in a straight line I’d have brought my flying machine along. This old bus doesn’t run very well through timber,” he finished with heavy sarcasm.
Then he walked across to the shack, let himself in, and phoned various border residents who didn’t mind overmuch being disturbed at such an unearthly hour. It was what had to be expected, when their well-paid assistance was needed in putting a few immigrants or a cargo of hard liquor into forbidden territory.
As Pete Keldron had foretold, luck was against him. Every one of his helpers reported immigration officers active in the neighborhood and refused to act as pilot for a few days at least.
“I’ve got to do something with this bunch of wise heads,” said Keldron to himself, as he stood staring at the telephone after the last fruitless call. “I can’t dump them any old place on a bluff, and if I take them back to Vancouver they’ll want their money returned. Gosh, it’s enough to make a fellow cater to the dago trade exclusively; these birds are too darned suspicious.”
Outside, the Englishmen were getting impatient as well as suspicious. Bartell finally strode up to the house and pounded on the door.
“Going to be in there all night?” he called out.
“One more call and I’m through,” answered Keldron.
“Well, make it a short one,” advised Bartell. “You’ve been there so long we thought maybe you’d ‘gone west.’ ”
“ ‘Gone west,’ eh?” mused Keldron. “Well, seeing there’s no use going east or south, and that sailor laddie dislikes the north, it may have to be west.”
Then he straightened up suddenly as a bright idea struck him. He chuckled and rubbed his hands as the satisfactory solution to all his troubles was made plain.
“West it is,” he whispered to himself.
t) ACK at the steering wheel Keldron turned around and -l-' addressed Dellarm:
“There’s only one safe hole to crawl through to-night, and we have to go west by south to reach it. I’m telling you now so you can check me up by your dead reckoning. We’re in for a long cool ride, and some of the roads are not so good. The others are worse.”
Dellarm, who was getting tired and sleepy, merely grunted in reply.
West it was. The big car ate up mile after mile, sometimes spinning along at a fair rate over moderately good highways, but more often creeping slowly over broken, rutty roads, or slithering along on treacherous sandy stretches that threatened disaster every minute.
Fete Keldron, straining his eyes for bad spots ahead, kept a tense grip on the wheel and relapsed into taciturnity. A curt “Not yet” was the only answer he would -v ouchsafe to inquiries a to whether they were nearing their destination.
Frequently he ignored the question altogether, pretending to be engrossed in steering. But he heard it all the same, and his eyes twinkled and his lips smiled as he thought of what was ahead.
As the smuggler of men predicted, it was a long cool ride. The road swerved and bent and twisted: there were sharp turns to the north and equally sharp turns to the south, and more than once they seemed to be swinging round in a circle, but soon the car would poke her nose to the southwest once more.
“How's the dead reckoning. Fred?” inquired Bartell.
“Hopelessly tangled up." answered Dellarm. “I haven't the faintest idea where Timothy Hay's farm is located. but if we keep going west much longer we'll hit the Pacific Ocean. It seems to me there's a salty tang to the air already.”
Soon the proximity of the ocean was no longer in Continued on page 46
Continued from page 13
doubt but the car kept rolling on and on. Conversation languished in the back seat. In front, Ole Anderson was fast asleep and making no secret of it.
Pete Keldron alone was wide awake. He was looking for a certain farm driveway and when he readied it he turned in, stopped his engine switched off his lights, then gave the Swede a vigorous shake.
“Wakeup, 01e!”hesaid. “Here’swhere you change cars for Tacoma and all points south.”
“Yass?” said Ole, rubbing his eyes. “Are ve in Vashington already yet?”
"Not yet,” grinned Keldron, "but this is as near the boundary as I dare take my car. Beyond these fields we’ll strike a trail going through the timber into American territory.”
“How will we know we’re on American soil?” asked Bartell.
“There won’t be any question about it,” answered Keldron. “There’s quite a settlement at this place and you’ll find all the proofs you want.’
IT WAS a slow, halting walk through the woods, but when at last Pete Keldron signalled a halt there was no questioning his unspoken assurance that they were under the Stars and Stripes. The flag itself was not in evidence, but there was the flagstaff in front of a building which bore the inscription: “United States Post Office.” On a bulletin board were a number of official notices, and a florid appeal to young men to join the navy and see the world.
“Satisfied?” asked Pete Keldron. “Absolutely,” answered Bartell, “and I apologize for any suspicions we may have seemed to entertain as to your intentions. No hard feelings, I hope.”
“That’s quite all right,” said Keldron, cheerfully. “I contracted to get you into the States and I’ve done it. Tacoma is about a hundred miles due south. Just follow this road.”
They shook hands and parted.
Fred Dellarm, gazing after the retreating figure of the man smuggler, fancied he could see the broad shoulders shaking in the dim light. “Demmitall,” mused the stout Englishman, “it seems to me the beggar’s laughing!”
Dellarm was right.
‘“yOU know the road to Tacoma, Ole,” 1 said Jack Timms. “Take the lead.” “Veil, dis is not de road I know,” explained Ole, “but ve can’t go far wrong if ve yost go south.”
Ole’s optimism, however, received a rude shock within half an hour. The road that led straight south came to an abrupt end.
More than that, it ended on the shore of the Pacific Ocean!
“What the devil!” exclaimed Dellarm, as he gazed at the expanse of water to the west and south, then to the east where the coast line showed faintly through the morning haze.
Ole Anderson, his head on one side, stroked his bristly chin in perplexity and remarked:
“Dis isn’t de vay I vent to Tacoma before. I didn’t have to svim!”
“Well, it’s no use standing here staring at the ocean,” pointed out Bartell. “We’d better hike back and find a road that stays on dry land.”
“Listen!” exclaimed Jack Timms. “I hear whistling.”
“A boy hunting cows for the morning milking, I suppose,” said Bartell, “I’ll have a chat with him. You fellows keep out of sight.”
The boy, a bright youngster almost in his teens, stared at Bartell with frank curiosity as he approached.
“Good morning, son. Up early, aren’t you?”
“Got to,” grinned the boy. “Say, I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Where’s your camp?”
“I’m not camping anywhere just now,” said Bartell. “Uve been looking around the country a bit and, to tell the truth, I’ve lost my bearings. What is this place?” “Point Roberts.”
The name meant nothing to the Englishman.
“Pretty good place to live in?”
“Dandy in summer, but awfully dead in winter when all the holiday camps are closed and most everybody has gone back to Vancouver.”
“Vancouver!” Bartell showed his sur-
prise. “I thought Point Roberts was in Washington.”
“Well, it is and it isn’t,” explained the boy. “That’s Washington over there,” indicating the shore line miles away to the east, “and that’s British Columbia to the north. Point Roberts is just a few hundred acres of land on the west of Boundary Bay. It’s American territory, but you can get to it only through Canada.”
Frank Bartell swore most heartily under his breath, but managed to look unconcerned as he asked:
“Is there a boat service from here to the mainland?”
The boy shook his head.
“There’s only the road,” he explained, “and you can’t get in or out without passing American and Canadian customs men. But you know that, I guess.”
“Well, so long, mister. I have to find my cows.”
FRANK BARTELL rejoined his companions.
“Well?” they chorused.
“Far from it!” came the snapping reply.
“From what this kid tells me this is a neck of land hanging just below the fortyninth parallel. It’s in Washington, hut for all practical purposes it’s really a part of British Columbia. It’s like this—” he made a rapid sketch on the back of an envelope. “And now we have to beat our way out of the United States before we can beat our way into the United States at some other point. Our worthy chauffeur certainly put one over on us very neatly.”
“What about the money he collected?” asked Jack Timms.
Frank Bartell shrugged his shoulders.
“Seeing it was paid over for an illegal enterprise the law wouldn’t help us get it back,” he said, “and though I’d like to take it out of his hide it would cost more than it’s worth. We’ll have to grin and bear it.”
From a distance they could hear the boy whistling as he headed his cows northward through the woods.
The three Englishmen and the Swede also headed north through the woods, but they went their way in silence.
They had nothing to whistle about!