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´╗┐Title: Saboteurs on the River
Author: Wirt, Mildred A. (Mildred Augustine), 1905-2002
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Saboteurs on the River" ***

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                               Saboteurs
                              on the River


                                  _By_
                            MILDRED A. WIRT

                              _Author of_
                    MILDRED A. WIRT MYSTERY STORIES
                       TRAILER STORIES FOR GIRLS

                             _Illustrated_

                        CUPPLES AND LEON COMPANY
                              _Publishers_
                                NEW YORK



                             _PENNY PARKER_
                            MYSTERY STORIES

              _Large 12 mo.       Cloth       Illustrated_


                         TALE OF THE WITCH DOLL
                        THE VANISHING HOUSEBOAT
                        DANGER AT THE DRAWBRIDGE
                         BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR
                       CLUE OF THE SILKEN LADDER
                            THE SECRET PACT
                       THE CLOCK STRIKES THIRTEEN
                            THE WISHING WELL
                         SABOTEURS ON THE RIVER
                         GHOST BEYOND THE GATE
                       HOOFBEATS ON THE TURNPIKE
                          VOICE FROM THE CAVE
                       GUILT OF THE BRASS THIEVES
                           SIGNAL IN THE DARK
                            WHISPERING WALLS
                              SWAMP ISLAND
                          THE CRY AT MIDNIGHT


                COPYRIGHT, 1943, BY CUPPLES AND LEON CO.

                         Saboteurs on the River

                          PRINTED IN U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                            PAGE
  1 TROUBLE AFLOAT                                                    _1_
  2 FRONT PAGE NEWS                                                  _11_
  3 STRAIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER                                       _21_
  4 AN UNWARRANTED ATTACK                                            _28_
  5 HELD ON SUSPICION                                                _36_
  6 OLD NOAH                                                         _44_
  7 ARK OF THE MUD FLATS                                             _54_
  8 THE GREEN PARROT                                                 _62_
  9 A JOB FOR MR. OAKS                                               _70_
  10 SALVAGE AND SABOTEURS                                           _78_
  11 PURSUIT BY TAXI                                                 _86_
  12 JERRY'S DISAPPEARANCE                                           _94_
  13 A VACANT BUILDING                                              _101_
  14 TEST BLACKOUT                                                  _110_
  15 A DRIFTING BARGE                                               _120_
  16 DANGER ON THE RIVER                                            _127_
  17 A STOLEN BOAT                                                  _134_
  18 PENNY'S PLAN                                                   _145_
  19 STANDING GUARD                                                 _153_
  20 A SHACK IN THE WOODS                                           _163_
  21 THROUGH THE SKYLIGHT                                           _170_
  22 A SEARCHING PARTY                                              _177_
  23 HELP FROM NOAH                                                 _184_
  24 A MESSAGE IN THE BOTTLE                                        _193_
  25 A BOW IN THE CLOUD                                             _201_



                                CHAPTER
                                   1
                            _TROUBLE AFLOAT_


A girl in blue slacks, woolen sweater and tennis shoes strode jauntily
along the creaking boards of the dark river dock. A large white cotton
bag slung carelessly over one shoulder added to the grace of the lithe
young figure.

"Hi, Penny!" called a young man who tinkered with the engine of a
motorboat. "Out to bury the body?"

Penny Parker chuckled and shifted the bag to the opposite shoulder. "Just
thought it would be a good night for a sail, Bill. Have you seen Louise
Sidell sneaking around anywhere?"

Before the young sailor could answer, a voice shouted from the darkness,
"Here I am!"

Turning her head, Penny glimpsed her chum, a chubby silhouette in the
moonlight. Louise, warmly dressed, already was comfortably established in
one of the small sailing boats tied up at the wharf.

"Time you're arriving," she said accusingly as Penny tossed the sail bag
into her hands. "You promised to meet me here at eight o'clock. It's at
least eight-thirty now."

"Sorry, old dear." Penny leaped nimbly aboard and with practiced fingers
began to put up the mainsail. "After I 'phoned you, I got hung up at
home. Dishes and all that sort of thing. Then Dad delayed me ten minutes
while he lectured on the undesirability of daughter taking a moonlight
sail."

"I gather you gained the better of the argument," Louise grinned. "Mother
made me agree to wear a life-preserver. Imagine! And there's barely
enough wind stirring to whiff us across the river."

For many years Penny and Louise had been chums. Students at Riverview
High School, they enjoyed the same sports, particularly swimming and
sailing. The little mahogany dinghy, appropriately named "Pop's Worry,"
was owned by Penny's father, Anthony Parker, editor of Riverview's most
enterprising newspaper, the _Star_.

Together with Mrs. Maud Weems, a housekeeper who had cared for Penny
since her mother's death, he never felt entirely easy when the girls were
on the river at night. Nevertheless, Penny was an excellent sailor and
rather gloried in the record that her boat had overturned only once
during the past season.

"All set?" she asked Louise, casting off the ropes one by one.

As Penny shoved the boat away from the dock, the flapping sail stiffened
to the breeze. Louise ducked her head to avoid the swinging boom.

Bill Evans, watching from shore, called a friendly warning: "If you're
planning to sail down river, better not get too close to Thompson's
bridge! The new regulations say seventy-five feet."

"We'll give it a wide berth," responded Penny. She sailed the boat out
through the slip into the main channel of the Big Bear river. When well
beyond the dock she commented sadly: "Poor old Bill. Always giving
advice. Guess he can't help it."

"His boat's just a leaky tub," replied Louise. "I hear it sunk twice
while tied up to the dock. One has to feel sorry for him and treat him
with kindness."

Penny steered "Pop's Worry" in a diagonal course down stream. On either
side of the shore, from houses, factories, and a nearby amusement park,
lights twinkled and were reflected on the unruffled surface of the water.
The breeze was soft and warm; the stars seemed very close. Overhead a
disc of orange moon rode lazily, now and then dodging behind a fleecy
cloud.

"It's a perfect night to sail," Louise said, snuggling amid the cushions.
"Wish we'd brought the phonograph along."

"Uh-huh," Penny agreed, her gaze on an approaching motorboat.

The oncoming craft showed no lights. Uncertain that the pilot would see
Pop's Worry, she focused the beam of her flashlight high on the mainsail.
The motorboat altered its course instantly and completely. Instead of
turning only enough to avoid the sailing craft, it circled in a sharp arc
and sped toward the opposite shore. There it was lost to view amid a dark
fringe of trees.

"It's against the regulations to cruise without lights," Penny commented.
"Wonder who piloted that boat?"

"Whoever he was, you seemed to frighten him away."

"He did turn tail when he saw my light," Penny agreed, scanning the
distant shore. "I imagine the boat came from Ottman's. At least it looked
like one of theirs."

Ottman's--a nautical supply shop and boat rental dock--was well known,
not only to the girls, but to all sailors who plied nearby waters. Owned
and operated by a brother and sister, Sara and Burt Ottman, the
establishment provided canoes, sea skiffs and rowboats to all who were
able to pay the hourly rate. Because many of the would-be boatmen were
more venturesome than experienced, seasoned sailors were inclined to eye
such pilots with distrust.

"Careful, Penny!" Louise called as she saw the mainsail begin to flap in
the wind. "You're luffing!"

Reminded of her duties as steersman, Penny headed the little boat on its
course once more. As the sail again became taut, she noticed a small
object floating in the water directly ahead. At first she could not be
certain what it was, and then she decided that it must be a corked
bottle.

Deliberately Penny steered close to the object. Remarking that a bottle
would create a hazard for the propellers of a motorboat, she reached to
snatch it from the water. The current, however, swung it just beyond her
reach.

"Bother!" she exclaimed in annoyance. "I want that bottle!"

"Oh, what do you care?" Louise demanded with a shrug. "Someone else will
fish it out."

"It could do a great deal of damage. Besides, as it floated past, I
thought I saw a piece of paper inside."

"If you aren't the same old Penny!" teased Louise. "Always looking for a
mystery. I suppose you think yonder bottle bears a note telling where
pirates buried their treasure?"

"Probably just a paper requesting: 'Please write to your lonely pen pal.'
All the same, I must find out." Keeping her eye on the floating bottle,
Penny skillfully brought the boat about.

"Take the tiller a minute, please," she requested her chum.

Not without misgivings, Louise reached for the long steering stick.
Although she occasionally handled "Pop's Worry," she never felt confident
of her ability as a sailor. An unexpected puff of wind or a sudden tilt
of the boat could send her into a state of panic.

"Grab that old bottle and don't take twenty years," she urged nervously.

Penny leaned far out over the boat in an attempt to reach the bottle. Her
weight tilted the light craft low into the water. Louise hastily shifted
to the opposite side as a counter-balance, and in so doing, released the
mainsheet. The boom promptly swung out.

Penny made a wild lunge for the running sheet, but could not prevent
disaster. The end of the boom dipped into the water. As the sail became
wet and heavy it slowly pulled the boat after it.

"We're going over!" Louise shrieked, scrambling for the high side.

"We are over," corrected Penny sadly.

Both girls had been tossed into the water. Louise, protected by a life
preserver, immediately grasped the overturned boat and even saved her
hair from getting wet. Penny, however, swam after the bobbing bottle. A
moment later she came back, triumphantly hugging it against her chest.

"It's a blue pop bottle, Louise," she announced, grasping her chum's
extended hand. "And there _is_ a piece of paper inside!"

"You and that stupid old bottle!" Louise retorted. "I guess it was my
fault we upset, but you never should have turned the tiller over to me."

"Oh, who minds a little upset?"

"I do," Louise said crossly. "The water's cold, and we're at least a
quarter of a mile from shore. No boats close by, either."

"Oh, we can get out of this by ourselves," Penny returned, undismayed.
"Hold my bottle while I try to haul in the sail."

"I'd like to uncork your precious bottle and drop it to the bottom of the
river!"

Nevertheless, while her chum worked with the halyard, Louise held tightly
to the little object which had caused all the trouble. Neither in shape
nor size was the bottle unusual, but the paper it contained did arouse
her curiosity. Though she never would have admitted it, she too wondered
if it might bear an interesting message.

After pulling in the heavy, water-soaked sail, the girls climbed to the
high side of the boat, trying by their combined weight to right it. Time
and again they failed. At last, breathless, cold, discouraged, they
admitted that the task was beyond their strength.

"Let's shout for help," Louise proposed, anxiously watching the distant
shore lights.

"All right," agreed Penny, "but I doubt anyone will hear us. My, we're
drifting down river fast!"

Decidedly worried, the girls shouted many times. There were no boats
near, not even the motor craft they had observed a few minutes earlier.
The swift current seemed to be swinging them directly toward Thompson's
bridge.

"A watchman always is on guard there night and day," Penny commented,
scanning the arching structure of steel. "If the old fellow isn't asleep
he should see us as we drift by."

Louise was too cold and miserable to answer. However, she rather
unwillingly held the blue bottle while Penny swam and tried to guide the
overturned boat toward shore.

When the girls were fairly close to the bridge, they began to shout once
more. Although they could see automobiles moving to and fro across the
great archway, no one became aware of their plight.

Then as they despaired, there came an answering shout from above. A
powerful beam of light played over the water, cutting a bright path.

"Help! Help!" screamed Louise, waving an arm.

"Halt or I'll fire!" rang out the terse command from the bridge.

"Halt?" cried Penny, too exasperated to consider the significance of the
order. "That's what we'd like to do, but we can't!"

The searchlight came to rest on the overturned sailboat. The girls were
so blinded that for a moment they could see nothing. Then the searchlight
shifted slightly to the left, and they were able to distinguish a short,
stoop-shouldered man who peered over the railing of the bridge.
Apparently satisfied that their plight was genuine, he called
reassuringly:

"Okay, take it easy. I'll heave you a line."

The watchman disappeared into the little bridge house. Soon he
reappeared, and with excellent aim, tossed a weighted rope so that it
fell squarely across the overturned boat. Penny seized an end and made it
fast.

"I'll try to pull you in," the watchman shouted. "Just hang on."

Leaving his post on the bridge, the old fellow climbed down a steep
incline to the muddy shore. By means of the long rope, he slowly and
laboriously pulled the water-logged boat with the clinging girls toward a
quiet cove.

Once within wading depth, the chums aided the watchman by leading the
craft in. Together the three of them beached "Pop's Worry" on a narrow
strip of sand.

"Thanks," Penny gasped, flipping a wet curl from off her freckled nose.
"On second thought, many, many thanks."

"You've no business to get so close to the bridge," the watchman
retorted. "It's agin' the regulations. I could have you arrested."

"But it wasn't our fault this old sailboat upset," Penny returned
reasonably. "We were reaching for a floating bottle--oh, my Aunt! Where
is that bottle, Louise? Don't tell me we've lost it!"

Her chum was given no opportunity to reply, for at that moment a
motorboat roared down the river at high speed. Its throttle was wide
open, and it appeared to be racing straight toward the bridge.

"Halt!" shouted the watchman, jerking a weapon from a leather holster.
"Halt!"

The pilot did not obey the command. Instead, to the amazement of the
watchers, he leaped from the cockpit and swam for the opposite shore.
Twice the watchman fired at him, but the bullets were well above the
swimmer's head.

The unpiloted boat, its helm securely lashed, drove straight on its
course.

"It's going to strike the bridge!" shouted Louise.

As the boat raced head on into one of the massive concrete piers, there
came a deafening explosion. The entire steel structure of the bridge
seemed to recoil from the impact. Girders shivered and shook, cables
rattled. On the eastern approach, brakes screamed as automobiles were
brought to a sudden halt.

"Saboteurs!" the watchman cried hoarsely. "They've done it--dynamited the
bridge!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   2
                           _FRONT PAGE NEWS_


Although one of the main concrete piers had been damaged by the
explosion, the approaches to the bridge remained intact. Several
automobiles drew up at the curbing, but others, their drivers unaware of
what had caused the blast, sped on across.

From their position beneath the bridge, Louise, Penny, and the watchman
could see the entire steel structure quiver. The underpinning had been
weakened, but whether or not it was safe for traffic to proceed, only an
engineer could determine.

"Oughtn't we stop the cars?" Penny demanded, for the watchman seemed
stunned by what had happened. His eyes were fixed on the opposite shore,
at a point amid the trees where the pilot of the motorboat had crawled
from the water.

"Yes, yes," he muttered, bringing his attention once more to the bridge.
"No chance to catch that saboteur now. We must stop the autos."

Shouting as he ran, the watchman scrambled up the steep slope to the
western approach of the bridge. Realizing that he would be unable to cope
with traffic moving from two directions, the girls hesitated, and then
decided to help him. Their wet shoes provided poor traction on the hill.
Slipping, sliding, clothing plastered to their bodies, they reached the
bridge level.

"You hold the cars at this end!" ordered the watchman as he glimpsed
them. "I'll lower the gate at the other side!"

Stationing themselves at the entrance to the bridge, Louise and Penny
forced motorists to halt at the curb. Within a minute or two, a long line
had formed.

"What's wrong?" demanded one irate driver. "An accident?"

"Bridge damaged," Penny replied tersely.

All along the line horns began to toot. A few of the more curious
motorists alighted and came to bombard the girls with questions. In the
midst of the excitement, one of the cars broke out of line and crept to
the very end of the pavement.

"Listen, Mister," Penny began indignantly to the driver. "You'll have to
back up. You can't cross--" she broke off as she recognized the man at
the wheel. "Dad! Well, for Pete's sake!"

"Penny!" the newspaper man exclaimed, no less dumbfounded. "What are you
and Louise doing here? And in those wet clothes?"

"Policing the bridge. Dad, there's a big story for you here! A saboteur
just blew up one of the piers by ramming it with a motorboat!"

"I thought I heard an explosion as I was driving down Clark Street!"
exclaimed Mr. Parker. Opening the car door, he leaped out and wrapped his
overcoat about Penny's shivering shoulders. "Now tell me exactly what
happened."

As calmly as they could, the girls reported how the saboteur had
dynamited the bridge.

"This is a front page story!" the newspaper owner cried jubilantly.
"Penny, you and Louise take my car and scoot for home. When you get there
call the _Star_ office. Have Editor DeWitt send a reporter to help
me--Jerry Livingston, if he's around. We'll need a crack photographer
too--Salt Sommers."

"I can get the call through much quicker by running to the drugstore."
Penny jerked her head toward a cluster of buildings not far from the
bridge entrance. "As for going home at a moment like this, never!"

"So you want a case of pneumonia?" Mr. Parker barked. "How'd you get wet
anyhow?"

"Sailboat," Penny answered briefly. She took the car keys from her
father, and pressed them upon Louise.

"But I don't want to go if you don't," her chum argued.

"You're more susceptible to pneumonia than I am," Penny said, giving her
a little push. "Dash on home, and get into warm, dry clothing. And don't
forget to take off that life preserver before you hop into bed!"

Thus urged, Louise reluctantly backed Mr. Parker's car to the main
street, and drove away.

"Now I'll slosh over to the drugstore and call the _Star_ office," Penny
offered briskly. "Lend me a nickel, Dad."

"I'm crazy as an eel to let you stay," Mr. Parker muttered, fumbling in
his pocket for a coin. "You should have gone with Louise."

"Let's argue about that tomorrow, Dad. Right now we must work fast unless
we want other newspapers to scoop us on this story."

While her father remained behind to direct bridge traffic, Penny ran to
the nearest drugstore. Darting into the one telephone booth ahead of an
astonished woman customer, she called Editor DeWitt of the _Star_.
Tersely she relayed her father's orders.

"Jerry and Salt will be out there in five minutes," DeWitt promised. "Now
what can you give us on the explosion? Did you witness it?"

"Did I?" echoed Penny. "Why, I practically caused it!"

With no further encouragement, she launched into a vivid, eye-witness
account of the bridge dynamiting. As she talked, a re-write man on
another telephone, took down everything she reported.

"Now about the saboteur's motorboat," he said as she finished. "Can you
give us a description of it?"

"Not a very good one," Penny admitted. "It looked like one of Ottman's
rented boats with an outboard attached. In fact, Louise and I saw a
similar craft earlier in the evening which was cruising not far from the
bridge."

"Then you think the saboteur may have rented his boat from Ottman's?"

"Well, it's a possibility."

"You've given us some good stuff!" the rewrite man praised. "DeWitt's
getting out an extra. Shoot us any new facts as soon as you can."

"Dad's on the job full blast," Penny answered. "He'll soon have all the
details for you."

Slamming out of the telephone booth, she ran back to the bridge. Her
father no longer directed traffic, but had turned the task over to a
pompous motorist who thoroughly enjoyed his authority.

"You can't cross, young lady," he said as she sought to pass him.
"Bridge's unsafe."

"I'm a reporter for the _Star_," Penny replied confidently.

The man stared at her bedraggled clothing. "A reporter?" he inquired
dubiously.

Just then a police car, its siren shrilling, sped up to the bridge. Close
behind came another car which bore a printed card "_Star_" on its
windshield. It braked to a standstill nearby and out leaped two young
men, Jerry Livingston and Salt Sommers.

"Hello, Penny!" Jerry greeted her. "Might have known you'd be here.
Where's the Chief?"

"Somewhere, sleuthing around," Penny answered. "I lost him a minute ago
when I telephoned the _Star_ office."

Salt Sommers, a felt hat cocked low over his eyes, began unloading
photographic equipment from the coupe.

"Where'll I get the best shots?" he asked Penny. "Other side or this?"

"Under the bridge," she directed crisply. "None of the damage shows from
above."

Salt slung the heavy camera over his shoulder, and disappeared down the
incline which led to the river bed.

Before Jerry and Penny could move away, Mr. Parker hurried up with the
watchman in tow.

"This is Carl Oaks, bridge guard," he announced without preliminary.
"Take him over to the drugstore, Jerry, and put him on the wire. We want
his complete story for the _Star_."

"Not so fast," drawled a voice from behind. "We want to talk to Carl
Oaks."

One of the policemen, a detective, moved over to the group and began to
question the watchman.

"It wasn't my fault the bridge was dynamited," the old fellow whined. "I
shouted at the boatman and fired twice."

"He got away?"

"Yeah. Jumped overboard before the boat struck the pier. Last I saw of
him, he was climbing out of the river on the other shore."

"At what point?"

"Right over there." The watchman indicated a clump of maples beyond the
far side of the bridge. "I could see him plainly from the beach."

"And what were _you_ doing on the beach?" questioned the detective
sharply.

"Ask her," Carl Oaks muttered, eyeing Penny.

"Mr. Oaks helped my friend and me when our sailboat upset," she supported
his story. "It really wasn't his fault that he was away from his post at
the time of the explosion."

Both Penny and the watchman were questioned at considerable length by the
detective. Meanwhile, other officers were searching for the escaped
saboteur. Several members of the squad went beneath the bridge to inspect
the damage and collect shattered sections of the wrecked boat.

Dismissed at last by the detective, Penny, her father and Jerry crossed
the bridge to join in the search. Carl Oaks, whose answers did not
entirely satisfy police, was detained for further questioning.

"Penny, tell me more about this fellow Oaks," Mr. Parker urged his
daughter. "I suppose he did his best to stop the saboteur?"

"It seemed so to me," Penny replied slowly. "He was a miserable marksman,
though. I guess he must have been excited when he fired."

Following a trail of moving lights, the trio soon came to a group of
policemen who were examining footprints in the mud of the river bank.

"This is where the saboteur got away," Penny whispered to her father. "Do
you suppose the fellow is still hiding in the woods?"

"Not likely," Mr. Parker answered. "A job of this sort would be planned
in every detail."

The newspaper owner's words were borne out a few minutes later when a
policeman came upon a clump of bushes where an automobile had stood.
Grass was crushed, a small patch of oil was visible, and the soft earth
showed tire imprints.

Penny, her father and Jerry, did not remain long in the vicinity.
Satisfied that the saboteur had made his get-away by car, they were eager
to report their findings to the _Star_ office.

Mr. Parker telephoned DeWitt and then joined the others at the press car.
As Salt Sommers climbed aboard with his camera, an automobile bearing a
_News_ windshield sticker, skidded to a stop nearby.

"Too bad, boys," Salt taunted the rival photographers. "Better late than
never!"

Already news vendors were crying the _Star's_ first extra. Once well away
from the bridge, Mr. Parker stopped the car to buy a paper.

"Nice going," he declared in satisfaction as he scanned the big black
headlines. "We beat every other Riverview paper by a good margin. A
colorful story, too."

"Thanks to whom?" demanded Penny, giving him a pinch.

"I suppose I should say, to you," he admitted with a grin. "However, I
see you've already received ample credit. DeWitt gave you a by-line."

"Did he really?" Penny took the paper from her father's hand and gazed
affectionately at her own name in print. "Nice of him. Especially when I
didn't even suggest the idea."

To a newspaper reporter, a story tagged with his own name means high
honor. Many times Penny, ever alert for news, had enjoyed the
satisfaction of seeing her stories appear with a by-line. Early in her
career as a self-made newspaper girl, her contributions had been regarded
as something of an annoyance to her father and the staff of the _Star_.
But of late she had turned in many of the paper's best scoops and
incidentally, had solved a few mysteries.

"This is the way I like a story written," Mr. Parker declared, reading
aloud from the account which bore his daughter's name. "No flowery
phrases. Just a straight version of how your sailboat upset and what you
saw as it floated down toward the bridge."

"It's a pretty drab account if you ask me," sniffed Penny. "I could have
written it up much better myself. Why, the re-write man didn't even tell
how Louise and I happened to upset!"

"A detail of no importance," Mr. Parker returned. "I mean, in connection
with the story," he corrected hastily as Penny flashed him an injured
look. "What did cause you to capsize?"

"A blue bottle, Dad. It had a piece of paper inside. I was reaching for
it and--oh, my aunt!"

"Now what?" demanded her father.

"Turn the car around and drive back to the bridge!"

"Drive back? Why?"

"I've lost that blue bottle," Penny fairly wailed. "Louise had it, but I
know she didn't take it home with her. It must be lying somewhere on the
beach near our stranded sailboat. Oh, please Dad, turn back!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   3
                      _STRAIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER_


Mr. Parker did not slacken the speed of the car. Relaxing somewhat, he
edged farther away from Penny, whose sodden garments were oozing water.

"A bottle!" he exclaimed. "Penny, for a minute you had me worried. I
thought you meant something important."

"But Dad, the bottle is important," she argued earnestly. "You see, it
contains a folded piece of paper, and I'm sure it must be a message."

"Of all the idiotic things! At a time like this when you should be
worried about your health, you plague me about a silly bottle. We're
going straight home."

"Oh, all right," Penny accepted the decision with a shrug. "Nevertheless,
I'm curious about that bottle, and I mean to find it tomorrow!"

Mr. Parker dropped Jerry and Salt off at the newspaper plant and then
drove on to his home. The house, a modern two-story dwelling, was
situated on a terrace overlooking the river. Lights glowed from the
living room windows and Mrs. Weems, the stout housekeeper, could be seen
hovering over the radio.

"I was just listening to the news about the dynamiting," she remarked as
Mr. Parker and his daughter came in from the kitchen. Turning her head,
she stared at the girl's bedraggled hair and wet clothing. "Why, Penny
Parker!"

"I guess I _am_ a little bit moist," Penny admitted with a grin. Sitting
down on the davenport, she began to strip off her shoes and stockings.

"Not here!" Mrs. Weems protested. "Take a hot shower while I fix you a
warm drink. Oh, I knew you shouldn't have gone sailing at night."

"But Mrs. Weems--"

"Scoot right up to the bathroom and get out of those wet clothes!" the
housekeeper interrupted. "You'll be lucky if you don't come down with
your death o' cold."

Carrying a shoe in either hand, Penny wearily climbed the stairs. By the
time she had finished under the shower, Mrs. Weems appeared with a glass
of hot lemonade.

"Drink this," she commanded sternly. "Then get into bed and I'll fix you
up with the hot water bag."

"But I'm not sick," Penny grumbled.

"You will be tomorrow," the housekeeper predicted. "Your father told me
how he allowed you to stay at the bridge while police searched for the
saboteur. I declare, I don't know what he was thinking of!"

"Dad and I are a couple of tough old news hawks," Penny chuckled. "Well,
I suppose I'll have to compromise with you."

"Compromise?" Mrs. Weems asked suspiciously.

"I'll drink the lemonade if you'll let me skip the hot water bottle."

"Indeed not," Mrs. Weems returned firmly. "Now jump into bed, and no more
arguments."

Although Penny considered the housekeeper entirely too thorough in her
methods, she enjoyed the pleasant warmth of the bed. She drank the
lemonade, submitted to the hot water bottle, and then snuggling down,
slept soundly. When she awakened, sunlight streamed in through the
Venetian blinds. Cocking an eye at the dresser clock, she saw to her
dismay that it was ten o'clock.

"My Aunt!" she exclaimed, leaping out of bed. "All this good time
wasted!"

With the speed of a trained fireman, Penny wriggled into her clothes. She
gave her auburn hair a quick brush but took time to slap a little polish
on her saddle shoes before bounding down the stairs to the kitchen.

"Is that you or a gazelle escaped from the zoo?" inquired Mrs. Weems who
was washing dishes at the sink.

"Why didn't you bounce me out of bed two hours ago?" asked Penny. "I have
an important business engagement for this morning."

"You're not going to the river again, I hope!"

"Oh, but I must, Mrs. Weems." Penny opened the refrigerator and helped
herself to a bowl of strawberries and a Martha Washington pie.

"You're not breakfasting on that," said the housekeeper, taking the
dishes away from her. "Oatmeal is what you need. Now why must you go to
the river?"

"Someone has to salvage the sailboat. Besides, I lost a valuable object
last night--"

The telephone jingled, and Penny darted off to answer it. As she had
anticipated, the call was from Louise Sidell, who in a very husky voice
asked her how she was feeling.

"Fit as a fiddle and ready to go bottle hunting!" Penny replied promptly.
"And you?"

"I hurt in all the wrong places," Louise complained. "What a night!"

"Why, I enjoyed every minute of it," Penny said with sincerity. "If
you're such a wreck I suppose you won't care to go with me to the river
this morning. By the way, what did you do with that blue bottle?"

"I haven't the slightest idea. I'm sure I had it in my hand when we
reached shore, but that's the last I remember."

"Well, never mind, if it's anywhere on the beach I'll find it," Penny
said. "Sure you don't want to tag along?"

"Maybe I will."

"Then meet me in twenty minutes at Ottman's dock. Signing off now to
gobble a bowl of oatmeal."

Without giving Louise a chance to change her mind, Penny hung up the
receiver and returned to the kitchen. After fortifying herself with
oatmeal, a glass of orange juice, bacon, two rolls and sundry odds and
ends, she started off to meet Louise. Her chum, looking none too
cheerful, awaited her near Ottman's dock.

"Why did you ask me to meet you at this particular place, Penny?" she
inquired. "It was a block out of my way."

"I thought we might rent one of Ottman's boats and row down to the
bridge. It will be easier than walking along the mud flats."

"You think of everything," Louise said admiringly. "But where's the
proprietor of this place?"

Boats of all description were fastened along the dock, but neither Burt
Ottman nor his sister were visible. Not far from a long shed which served
as ticket office and canoe-storage house, an empty double-deck motor
launch had been tied to a pier. An aged black and white dog drowsed on
its sunny deck.

"Guess the place is deserted," Penny commented. After wandering about,
she sat down on an overturned row boat which had been pulled out near the
water's edge.

The boat moved beneath her, and an irate voice rumbled: "Would you mind
getting off?"

Decidedly startled, Penny sprang to her feet.

As the boat was pushed over on its side, a girl in grimy slacks, rolled
from beneath it. Barely twenty years of age, her skin was rough and brown
from constant exposure to wind and sun. A smear of varnish decorated one
cheek and she held a can of caulking material in her hand.

"I'm sorry," said Penny, smiling. "Do you live under that boat?"

Sara Ottman's dark eyes flashed. Getting to her feet, she regarded the
girl with undisguised hostility.

"Very clever, aren't you!" she said scathingly. "In fact, quite the
little joker!"

"Why, I didn't mean anything," Penny apologized. "I had no idea you were
working under that thing."

"So clever, and such a marvelous detective," Sara went on, paying no
heed. "Why, it was Penny Parker who not so long ago astonished Riverview
by solving the Mystery of the Witch Doll! And who but Penny aided the
police in trailing The Vanishing Houseboat? It was our own Penny who
learned why the tower Clock Struck Thirteen. And now we are favored with
her most valuable opinion in connection with the bridge dynamiting case!"

Penny and Louise were dumbfounded by the sudden, unwarranted attack. By
no stretch of the imagination could they think that Sara Ottman meant her
words as a joke. But what had her so aroused? While it was true that
Penny had solved many local mysteries, she never had been boastful of her
accomplishments. In fact, she was one of the most popular girls in
Riverview.

"Are you sure you haven't a fever, Miss Ottman?" Penny demanded, her own
eyes blazing. "I certainly fail to understand such an outburst."

"Of course you do," the other mocked. "You're not used to talk coming
straight from the shoulder. Why are you here anyhow?"

"To rent a boat."

"Well, you can't have one," Sara Ottman said shortly. "And if you never
come around here again, it will be soon enough."

Glaring once more at Penny, she turned and strode into the boathouse.



                                CHAPTER
                                   4
                        _AN UNWARRANTED ATTACK_


"Now will you tell me what I did to deserve a crack like that?" Penny
muttered as the door of the boathouse slammed behind Sara Ottman.

"Not a single thing," Louise answered loyally. "She just rolled out from
beneath that boat with a dagger between her teeth!"

"I guess I am a little prig, Lou."

"You're no such thing!" Louise grasped her arm and gave her an
affectionate squeeze. "Come along and forget it. I never did like Sara
Ottman anyhow."

Penny allowed herself to be led away from the dock, but the older girl's
unkind remarks kept pricking her mind. Although occasionally in the past
she had stopped for a few minutes at the Ottman place, she never before
had spoken a dozen words to Sara. Nearly all of her business dealings had
been with Burt Ottman, a pleasant young man who had painted her father's
sailboat that spring.

"I simply can't understand it," Penny mumbled, trudging along the shore
with Louise. "The last time I saw Sara she spoke to me politely enough. I
must have offended her, but how?"

"Oh, why waste any thought on her?" Louise scoffed.

"Because it bothers me. She mentioned the bridge dynamiting affair. Maybe
it was my by-line story in the _Star_ that offended her."

"What did it say?" Louise inquired curiously. "I didn't see the morning
paper."

"Neither did I. I gave my story to a rewrite man over the telephone. I
meant to read the entire account, but was in a hurry to get over here, so
I skipped it."

"Well, I shouldn't worry about the matter if I were you."

"I'm sure the boat used in the dynamiting came from Ottman's," Penny
declared, thinking aloud. "Perhaps Sara is just out of sorts because she
and her brother lost their property."

Making their way along the mud flats, the girls came at last to the tiny
stretch of sand where the sailboat had been beached the previous night.
It lay exactly as they had left it, cockpit half filled with water, the
tall mast nosed into the loose sand.

"What a mess," sighed Penny. "Well, the first thing to do is to get the
wet sail off. We should have taken care of it last night."

Before beginning the task, the girls wandered toward the nearby bridge to
inspect the damage caused by dynamiting. An armed soldier refused to
allow them to approach closer than twenty yards. All traffic had been
halted, and a group of engineers could be seen examining the shattered
pier.

"Is Mr. Oaks around here?" Penny asked the soldier.

"Oaks? Oh, you mean the bridge watchman. He's been charged with neglect
of duty, and relieved of his job."

Penny and Louise were sorry to hear the news, feeling that in a way they
were responsible for the old fellow having left his post. Unable to learn
whether or not the watchman was being detained by police, they returned
to the beach to salvage their sailboat.

Without a pump, it was a difficult task to remove the water from the
cockpit of "Pop's Worry." By rocking the boat back and forth and scooping
with an old tin can, the girls finally got most of it out.

"We'll have to dry the sail somehow or it will mildew," Penny decided.
"The best thing, I think, is to put it on again and sail home."

Together they righted the boat. As the tall mast flipped out of the sand,
Penny caught glimpse of a shiny, blue object.

"Our bottle!" she cried triumphantly, making a dive for it.

"Your bottle," corrected Louise. "I'm not a bit interested in that silly
old thing."

Nevertheless, as Penny sat down on the deck of "Pop's Worry" and removed
the cork, she edged nearer. By means of a hairpin, the folded sheet of
paper contained within was pulled from the narrow neck. Highly elated,
Penny spread out the message to read.

"Well, what does it say?" Louise inquired impatiently.

"Oh, so you are interested," teased Penny.

"Now don't try to be funny! Read the message."

Penny stared at the paper in her hand. "It's rather queer," she
acknowledged. "Listen:

"'_The day of the Great Deluge approaches. If you would be saved from
destruction, seek without delay, the shelter of my ark._'"

"If that isn't nonsense!" Louise exclaimed, peering over her chum's
shoulder. "And the note is signed, '_Noah_.'"

"Someone's idea of a joke, I suppose," Penny replied. She tossed the
paper away, then reconsidering, retrieved the message and with the
bottle, placed it in the cockpit of the boat. "Well, it's rained a lot
this Spring, but I don't think we'll have to worry about the Great
Deluge."

"Noah was a Biblical character," Louise commented thoughtfully. "I
remember that when God told him it would rain forty days and forty
nights, he built an ark to resist the flood waters. And he took his
family in with him and all the animals, two by two."

"Noah was a bit before our time," laughed Penny. "Suppose we shove off
for home."

By dint of much physical exertion, the girls pushed "Pop's Worry" out
into the shallow water. Penny, who had removed shoes and stockings, gave
a final thrust and leaped lightly aboard. Raising the wet sail, she
allowed it to flap loosely in the wind.

"We'll have everything snug and dry by the time we reach home," she
declared confidently. "Tired, Lou?"

"A little," admitted her chum, stretching out full length on the deck. "I
like to sail but I don't like to bail! And just think, if you hadn't been
so crazy to get that blue bottle, we'd have spared ourselves a lot of
hard work."

"Well, a fellow never knows. The bottle might have provided the first
clue in an absorbing mystery! Who do you suppose wrote such an odd
message?"

"How should I know?" yawned Louise. "Probably some prankster."

Taking a zigzag course, "Pop's Worry" tacked slowly upstream. Whipped by
a brisk wind, the wet sail gradually dried and regained its former shape.

As the boat presently approached Ottman's dock, both girls turned to gaze
in that direction. Sara could be seen moving about on one of the floating
platforms, retying several boats which banged at their moorings.

"Better tack," Louise advised in a low tone. "We don't want to get too
close."

Penny acted as if she had not heard. She made no move to bring the boat
about.

"We'll end up right at Ottman's unless you're careful," Louise warned.
"Or is that what you want to do?"

"I'm thinking about it." Penny watched Sara with thoughtful eyes.

"Well, if you'll deliberately go there again, I must say you enjoy being
insulted!"

"I'd like to find out why Sara is angry at me. If it's only a
misunderstanding I want to clear it up."

Louise shook her head sadly but offered no further protest as the boat
held to its course. Not until the craft grated gently against one of the
floats at Ottman's did Sara seem to note the girls' approach. Glancing up
from her work, she stared at them, and then deliberately looked away.

"The air's still chilly," Penny remarked in an undertone. "Well, we'll
see."

Making "Pop's Worry" fast to a spar, she walked across the float to
confront Sara.

"Miss Ottman," she began quietly, "if I've done anything to offend you, I
wish to apologize."

Sara turned slowly to face Penny. "You owe me no apology," she said in a
cold voice.

"Then why do you dislike me? I always thought I was welcome around here
until today. My father has given you considerable business."

"I'm sorry I spoke to you the way I did," Sara replied stiffly and with
no warmth. "It was rude of me."

"But why am I such poison?" Penny persisted. "What have I done?"

"You _honestly_ don't know?"

"Why, of course not. I shouldn't be asking if I did."

Sara stared at Penny as if wondering whether or not to accept her remarks
as sincere.

"Do you only write for the papers?" she asked, a slight edge to her
voice. "You never read them?"

"I don't know what you mean." Penny was truly bewildered. "Has this
misunderstanding something to do with the bridge dynamiting?"

Sara nodded her head grimly. "It has," she agreed. "Didn't you see the
morning paper?"

"Why, no."

"Then wait a minute." Sara turned and vanished into the boat shed. A
moment later she reappeared, carrying a copy of the _Star_.

"Read that," she directed, thrusting the black headlines in front of
Penny's eyes. "Now do you understand why I feel that you're no friend of
mine?"



                                CHAPTER
                                   5
                          _HELD ON SUSPICION_


Penny gazed at the _Riverview Star's_ front page headline which
proclaimed:

"BURT OTTMAN ARRESTED AS SUSPECT IN BRIDGE DYNAMITING."

The opening paragraph of the news story, was even more dismaying. It
began:

"Acting upon information provided by Miss Penelope Parker, police today
arrested Burt Ottman, owner of the Ottman Boat Dock, charging him with
participation in the Friday night dynamiting of Thompson's bridge."

Penny hastily scanned the remainder of the story and then protested: "But
I never even mentioned your brother's name to police, Miss Ottman! Why, I
certainly didn't think that he had any connection with the dynamiting."

"You certainly didn't think, period," Sara replied, though in a less
severe tone. "You told police that the motorboat used in the dynamiting
was one of our boats."

"Well, it looked like it to me. Perhaps I was mistaken."

"You weren't mistaken. The boat definitely was one of ours. It was stolen
from here about a month ago."

Penny drew a deep breath. "Then in that case, I don't see why suspicion
should fall upon your brother."

"Didn't you tell police that a young man corresponding to his description
was handling the boat?"

"Indeed I didn't."

"Then it must have been the watchman who provided the description," Sara
corrected. "At any rate, police identified the boat as ours, and arrested
Burt. They have him at the station now."

"It never occurred to me that anyone would suspect your brother," Penny
said soberly. "Why, everyone along the river knows him well. It should be
easy for him to prove his innocence."

"True, it should be," Sara replied bitterly. "The arrest angered Burt,
and he made matters worse by refusing to answer questions the police
asked him."

"Oh, that was a mistake."

"Yes, but Burt has a great deal of pride. The police never should have
arrested him."

"I certainly agree with you," declared Penny, for she could not envision
young Ottman as a saboteur. "Can't your brother prove where he was last
night at the time of the explosion?"

"That's just it." Sara looked troubled as she reached to take the
newspaper. "He refuses to offer any alibi."

"But you must know yourself where your brother spent his time."

"I wish I did. He left here about seven o'clock and didn't return home
until early this morning--just a half hour before the police came to
arrest him."

"Oh!"

"All the same, Burt had no connection with the dynamiting," Sara said
quickly. "He frequently stays out late at night. I've never questioned
him, for it was none of my affair."

Penny scarcely knew what to reply. "I can understand now why you're
provoked at me," she said after a moment. "But I assure you I had no
intention of involving your brother with the police. I certainly never
gave them his description."

Sara smiled and in a charming gesture extended her hand.

"I'm sorry I talked as I did to you," she apologized. "Forget it, will
you?"

"Of course," Penny agreed generously. "And if there's anything I can do
to help--"

The float creaked and both girls turned to see Bill Evans coming toward
them.

"Hi!" he greeted the girls impartially. "Miss Ottman, wonder if I can get
you to help me?"

"I suppose you're having trouble with that motor of yours again," sighed
Sara. "Or should I say yet?"

"I've lost it in the river," Bill confessed sheepishly. "Blamed thing
cost me sixty dollars second-hand too!"

"In the river!" gasped Penny. "What did you do, get peeved and toss it
overboard?"

The saddened young man shook his head. "Guess I didn't have it fastened
on very well. Anyhow, just as I was leaving the dock, off she fell into
about ten feet of water."

"I hope you buoyed the spot," said Sara.

"Yes, I marked it with a floating can. Some of the boys have been trying
to get 'er up for me, but no luck. If you can do it, I'll pay five
dollars."

"Well, I'm pretty busy," Miss Ottman said in a harassed voice. "Burt's
not here and it keeps me jumping to run the launch and rent the canoes.
But I'll see what I can do this afternoon."

"Thanks," Bill replied gratefully, turning away. "Thanks a lot."

When the young man was beyond hearing distance, Penny spoke again of Burt
Ottman's unfortunate arrest.

"I'm sorry about everything, Miss Ottman," she said earnestly. "If you
wish, I'll talk to the police and assure them that so far as I know, the
saboteur did not resemble your brother. It was too dark for me to really
see him."

"I'll feel very grateful if you will speak a good word for Burt," Sara
responded. She sank down on an overturned bucket and pressed a hand to
her temple. "Oh, my head's splitting! Everything's been coming at me so
fast. The police were here questioning me and they twisted my remarks all
around. I'll have to raise bail for Burt, but where the money is coming
from I don't know."

The last of Penny's resentment toward the girl faded away. From the jerky
way Sara spoke, she knew that her thoughts were darting from one
perplexing problem to another.

"I don't know what I'm doing or saying today," Sara said miserably. "If
you can forgive me--"

"Of course! I don't blame you a bit for speaking to me the way you did.
May I borrow a sponge for a minute?"

Sara smiled and nodded. Eager to make amends, she ran into the shed and
returned with the desired article.

"There's still a little water in my boat," Penny explained. "Thought I'd
sop it up."

"Let me do it," Sara offered. Without waiting for permission she went to
the sailboat, and with a friendly nod at the astonished Louise, began to
sponge out the cockpit.

"I see you've collected one of Old Noah's souvenirs," she remarked a
moment later, noticing the blue bottle which Penny had tossed into the
bottom of the boat.

"We found it floating in the water," Louise volunteered. "The message was
such a queer one--an invitation to take refuge in the ark during the
Great Deluge. Someone's idea of a joke, I suppose."

"It's no joke," Sara corrected. "Noah is a very real person. He actually
lives in an ark too--a weird looking boat he built himself."

"You mean the old fellow actually believes there's going to be another
great flood?" Penny asked incredulously.

"Oh, yes! Noah is so sure of it that he's collected a regular menagerie
of animals to live with him on the ark. He keeps dropping bottles into
the water warning folks that the Great Deluge is coming. I fish out
dozens of them here at the dock."

"Where is the ark?" Penny inquired curiously.

Sara squeezed the last drop of water from the sponge and pointed
diagonally upstream toward a gap in the trees.

"That's where Bug Run empties into the river," she explained. "Noah has
his ark grounded not far from its mouth. The currents are such that
whenever he dumps his bottles in the water most of them come this way."

"Rather a nuisance I should think," commented Penny.

"Noah's a pest!" Sara complained, straightening from her task. "I suppose
he's harmless, but those bottles of his create a hazard for our boats.
Burt has asked him several times not to throw them in the water. He just
keeps right on doing it."

The sun now was directly overhead and Penny and Louise knew that they
were expected at their homes for luncheon. Thanking Sara for her
services, they sailed on to their own dock. As they hastened through the
park to a bus line, Penny remarked that it would be fun sometime to visit
Noah and his ark.

"Well, perhaps," Louise rejoined without a great deal of enthusiasm.

The buses were off schedule and for a long while the girls waited
impatiently at the street corner. Penny was gazing absently toward a cafe
nearby when a short, untidy man with shaggy gray hair, came out of the
building.

"Why, isn't that Mr. Oaks, the bridge watchman?" she asked her chum.

"It looks like him."

From far up the street an approaching bus could be seen, but Penny had
lost all interest in boarding it.

"Louise, let's talk to Mr. Oaks," she urged, starting toward him.

"But we'll miss our bus."

"Who cares about that?" Penny took Louise firmly by an elbow, pulling her
along. "We may not have another chance to see Mr. Oaks. I want to ask him
why he identified the saboteur as Sara Ottman's brother."



                                CHAPTER
                                   6
                               _OLD NOAH_


Carl Oaks saw the girls approaching, and recognized them with a curt nod
of his head. He responded to their cheerful greeting, but with no warmth.

"I was hoping to see you, Mr. Oaks," Penny began the conversation. "Last
night Louise and I had no opportunity to express our appreciation for the
way you helped us."

"Well, I didn't help myself any," the old watchman broke in. "It was sure
bad luck for me when your sailboat came floatin' down the river. Now I've
lost my job."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear it."

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Mr. Oaks resumed in a whining tone.
"I've never been strong and I can't do hard work."

"Perhaps you can find another job as a watchman."

"No one will take me on after what happened last night."

"But it wasn't your fault the bridge was dynamited."

"Folks always are ready to push a man down if they get the chance," Mr.
Oaks said bitterly. "No, I'm finished in this seedy town! I'd pull out if
I had the price of a ticket."

Penny was decidedly troubled. "You mustn't take that attitude, Mr. Oaks,"
she replied. "Maybe I can help you."

The watchman looked interested, but amused. "How can you help me?" he
demanded.

"My father owns the _Riverview Star_. Perhaps he can use an extra
watchman at the newspaper building. If not, he may know someone who will
employ you."

"I've always worked around the waterfront," Mr. Oaks returned,
brightening a bit. "You know I ain't able to do much walkin' or any heavy
lifting. Maybe your father can get me another job on a bridge."

"Well, I don't know," Penny responded. "I'll talk to him. Just give me
your address so I can notify you later."

Mr. Oaks scribbled a few lines on the back of an old envelope and handed
it to her. He did not express appreciation for the offer Penny had made,
accepting it as his just due.

"I suppose the police questioned you about the bridge dynamiting," she
remarked, pocketing the address.

"Sure, they gave me the works," he acknowledged, shrugging. "Kept me at
the station half the night. Then this morning they had me identify one of
the suspects."

"_Not_ Burt Ottman?"

"Yeah."

"You didn't identify him as the saboteur?" Penny inquired in dismay.

"I told the police he looked like the fellow. And he did."

"But how could you see his face?" Penny protested. "The motorboat
traveled so fast! Even when the man crawled out of the water and ran, one
could only tell that he was tall and thin."

"He looked like young Ottman to me," the watchman insisted stubbornly.
"Well, guess I'll shove on. You talk to your father and let me know about
that job. I can use 'er."

Without giving the girls a chance to ask another question, Mr. Oaks moved
off down the street.

"Now if things aren't in a nice mess," Penny remarked as she and Louise
retraced their way to the bus stop. "No wonder the police held Burt
Ottman! I don't see how Mr. Oaks could have thought he resembled the
saboteur."

"I'm sure I didn't get a good look at the fellow," Louise returned. "Mr.
Oaks must have wonderful eyes, to say the least."

After a ten minute wait, a bus came along, and the girls rode to their
separate homes. Penny ate luncheon, helped Mrs. Weems with the dishes and
then slipped away to her father's newspaper office.

An early afternoon edition of the _Star_ had just rolled from the press.
Entering the editorial room, Penny noted that it appeared to have been
swept by a whirlwind. Discarded copy lay on the floor, and there were
more wads of paper around the scrap baskets than in them.

Jerry Livingston's battered typewriter served as a comfortable foot rest
for his unpolished shoes. Seeing Penny, he removed them to the floor, and
grinned at her.

"Hello, Miss Pop-Eye!" he said affectionately. "How's our little sailor?"

"Never mind," returned Penny. "What's this I hear about Burt Ottman being
arrested by the police?"

"That's how it is." The grin faded from the reporter's face. "Tough on
DeWitt too."

"DeWitt?" Penny inquired. She could not guess what connection the editor
might have with the dynamiting case.

Jerry glanced about the news room to make certain that DeWitt was not
within hearing. In a low tone he confided:

"Didn't you know? Burt Ottman is DeWitt's first cousin. It rather puts
him in a spot, being kin to a saboteur."

"Nothing has been proved against Ottman yet."

"All the same, it looks bad for the kid. When the story came in it gave
DeWitt a nasty jolt."

"I should think so," nodded Penny. "Why, I never dreamed that he was
related to the Ottmans."

"Neither did anyone else in the office. But you have to hand it to
DeWitt. He took it squarely between the eyes. Didn't even play the story
down nor ask your father to soft pedal it."

"Mr. DeWitt is a real newspaper man."

"Bet your life!" Jerry agreed with emphasis. "He's gone young Ottman's
bail to the tune of ten thousand dollars."

"Why, that must represent a good portion of his life time savings."

"Sure, but DeWitt says the kid has been framed, and he's going to stand
by him."

"I think myself that Burt Ottman was too far away to be properly
identified. I mean to tell the police so, too."

"Well, we all hope for DeWitt's sake that it is a mistake," Jerry said
soberly. "But the evidence is stacking up fast. The motorboat came from
Ottman's. Carl Oaks said he recognized the saboteur as young Ottman. Then
this morning police found a handkerchief with an initial 'O' lying along
the shore not far from where the fellow crawled out of the water."

"Circumstantial evidence."

"Maybe so," Jerry agreed with a shrug, "but unless young Ottman gets a
good lawyer, he's likely to find himself doing a long stretch."

Deeply troubled by the information, Penny went on toward her father's
private office. As she passed the main copy desk where Editor DeWitt
worked, she noticed that his face was white and tense. Although he
usually had a smile for her, he barely glanced up and did not speak.

Penny tapped twice and entered her father's office. Mr. Parker had just
finished dictating a letter to his secretary who quietly gathered up her
notebook and departed. The newspaper owner pretended to glance at the
calendar on his desk.

"Unless I'm all muddled, this is Saturday, not Thursday," he greeted his
daughter teasingly. "Aren't you a bit mixed up?"

"Maybe so," Penny admitted, seating herself on a corner of the desk.

"You seldom honor me with a call except to collect your Thursday
allowance."

"Oh, I'm not concerned with money these days," Penny said, trying to
balance a paper weight on her father's head. "It's this dynamiting case
that has me all tied in a knot."

"Stop it, Penny!" Irritably, Mr. Parker squirmed in his chair. "This is
an office, not a child's play room!"

"Try to give me your undivided attention, Dad. I want you to do me a
favor."

"How about granting me one first? Please stop playing with the gadgets on
my desk!"

"Why, of course," grinned Penny, backing away. "Now about this job for
Carl Oaks--"

"Job?"

"Yes, he was relieved of duty at the Thompson bridge, you know. It was
partly my fault. So I want you to square matters by finding other work
for him."

"Penny, I am _not_ an employment agency! Anyway, what do I know about the
man?"

"I owe him a job, Dad. He says he likes to work around the waterfront.
Can't you get him something to do? Oh, yes, it has to be an easy job
because he can't walk and he can't lift anything."

"How about a nice pension?" Mr. Parker demanded. He sighed and added,
"Well, I'll see what I can do for him. Now run along, because I have work
to get out."

Feeling certain that her father would find a suitable position for the
old watchman, Penny went directly from the newspaper office to Louise
Sidell's home. After relating all the latest news, she asked her chum if
she would not enjoy another excursion to the river.

"But we were just there a few hours ago!" Louise protested. "I've had
enough sailing for one day."

"Oh, I don't care to sail either," Penny corrected hastily. "I thought it
might be interesting to call on Old Noah."

"That queer old man who has the ark?"

"What do you say?"

"Oh, all right," Louise agreed, rather intrigued by the prospect. "But if
we get into trouble, just remember it was your idea."

By bus the girls rode to a point near the river. Without approaching
Ottman's Dock, they crossed the Big Bear over Thompson's bridge which had
just been opened to pedestrian traffic only. Making their way along the
eastern shore, they came at last to the mouth of Bug Run.

"It looks like rain to me," Louise declared, scanning the fast-moving
clouds. "Just our luck to be caught in a downpour."

"Maybe we can take refuge in the ark," Penny laughed, leading the way up
the meandering stream. "That is, if we can find it."

Trees and bushes grew thick and green along either bank of the run.
Several times the girls were forced to muddy their shoes in order to
proceed. In one shady glade, a bullfrog blinked at them before making a
hasty dive into the lilypads.

There was no sign of a boat or any structure remotely resembling an ark.
And then, rounding a bend, they suddenly saw it silhouetted against a
darkening sky.

"Why, it looks just as if it had rolled out of The Old Testament!" Louise
cried in astonishment.

The ark, painted red and blue, rose three stories from the muddy water. A
large, circular window had been built in the uppermost part, and there
were tiny, square openings beneath. From within could be heard a strange
medley of animal sounds--the cackling of hens, the squeal of a pig, the
squawking of a saucy parrot who kept calling: "Noah! Oh, Noah!"

Louise gripped Penny's hand. "Let's not go any nearer," she said
uneasily. "It's starting to rain, and we ought to make a double dash for
home."

A few drops of rain splashed into the stream. Dropping on the tin roof of
the ark like tiny pellets of metal, they made a loud drumming sound. The
disturbed hens began to cluck on their roosts. The parrot screeched
loudly, "Oh, Noah! Come Noah!"

"Where is Noah?" Penny asked with a nervous giggle. "I certainly must see
him before we leave."

As if in answer to her question, they heard a strange series of sounds
from deep within the woods. A cow mooed, and a man spoke soothing words.
Soon there emerged from among the trees a bewildering assortment of
animals and fowl--a cow, a goat, a pig, and two fat turkeys. An old man
with a long white beard which fell to his chest, drove the creatures
toward the gangplank of the ark.

"Get along, Bessie," he urged the cow, tapping her with his crooked
stick. "The Lord maketh the rain to fall for forty days and forty nights,
but you shall be saved. Into the ark!"

Penny fairly hugged herself with delight.

"Oh, Louise, we can't go now," she whispered. "That must be Old Noah. And
isn't he a darling?"



                                CHAPTER
                                   7
                         _ARK OF THE MUD FLATS_


Unaware that he was being observed, Old Noah again rapped the cow smartly
on her flanks.

"Get along, Bessie," he urged impatiently. "The Heavens will open any
minute now, and all the creatures of the earth shall perish. But this
calamity shall not befall you, Bessie. You are one of God's chosen."

None too willing to be saved from impending doom, Bessie bellowed a loud
protest as she was driven into the over-crowded ark. Next went the goat
and the squealing pig. The turkeys made more trouble, gobbling excitedly
as the old man shooed them into the confines of the three-storied boat.

His task accomplished, Old Noah wiped his perspiring brow with a big red
handkerchief. He stood for a moment, gazing anxiously up at the boiling
storm clouds.

"This is it--the second great flood," he murmured. "For the Lord sayeth,
'I will cause it to rain forty days and forty nights and every living
substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the
earth.'"

As he stood thus, gazing at the sky, Noah made a striking figure. In his
prime, the old man evidently had been a stalwart physical specimen, and
advancing years had not enfeebled him. His face was that of a Prophet of
old. A certain child-like simplicity shone from a pair of trusting blue
eyes whose direct gaze bespoke implicit belief.

"Let's speak to him," Penny urged. Although Louise tried to hold back,
she pulled her along toward the ark.

Old Noah heard the girls coming and turned quickly around. After the
first moment of startled surprise, he leaned on his crooked stick and
inquired with a kind smile:

"Why have you come, my daughters?"

"Well, we were curious to see this fine ark," Penny replied. "We picked
up one of your floating blue bottles with a message in it."

"Blessed are they that heed the warnings of the Lord," murmured Old Noah.
"I, his servant, have prepared a place of refuge for all who come."

By this time rain was falling steadily, and Louise huddled against a tree
trunk for protection. "Penny, for Pete's Sake--" she protested.

"Follow me, my daughters," bade Old Noah, motioning for them to cross the
gangplank into the ark. "Inside you will find food and shelter."

"We could use a little shelter," said Penny, glancing questioningly at
her chum. "How about it, Lou? Shall we go inside and meet the animals?"

Louise hesitated, for in truth she was a bit afraid of the queer old man.

"Come, my daughters," Noah bade again. "Have no fear. The Lord sayeth,
'Noah, with thee will I establish my covenant, and thou shalt enter into
the ark.'"

"We'll drown if we stay outside," laughed Penny, following boldly after
the old man. "Come on, Louise."

Unmindful of the falling rain, Noah stooped to pick up a bedraggled
kitten from underfoot.

"It's a very nice boat," Penny remarked, dodging under the shelter of the
roof. Louise huddled close beside her.

"A sturdy ark," agreed Old Noah proudly. "Many, many months did I labor
building it. The Lord said, 'make thee an ark of gopher wood.' But of
gopher wood there was none to be had. Then the Lord came to me in a dream
and said, 'Noah, use anything you can find.' So I gathered timbers from
the beaches, and I wrecked an abandoned cottage I found in the woods. I
felled trees. And I pitched the seams within and without as the Lord bade
me."

"What animals do you keep inside?" Penny inquired curiously.

"Well, mostly creatures that aren't too exacting in their needs," said
Noah, perching the wet kitten on his shoulder. "The Lord sayeth two of
every kind, male and female. But it wasn't practical. Some of the animals
were too big to keep aboard the ark."

A disturbance from within the boat interrupted the old man's explanation.
"Excuse me, daughters, I've got to fasten Bessie in her stall," he
apologized. "If I keep her waitin' she's apt to kick the ark to pieces!"

Old Noah disappeared into the lower story of the boat. Peering in the
open door, the girls saw row upon row of stalls and cages. There was a
sty for the pigs, a pen for the goat, a little kennel for the dog, low
roosts for the fowls. The walls of the room had been whitewashed and the
floor was clean.

"What a life Old Noah must lead!" Louise whispered to Penny. "Why, it
must be worse than being a zoo keeper!"

In a moment the old fellow reappeared. Beckoning to the girls, he led
them up a little flight of stairs to the second floor of the ark.

"This is my bird room," he said, opening a door.

"Hello, Noah!" croaked a brilliantly colored parrot, fluttering on her
perch. "You old rascal! Polly wants a slug o' rum!"

Noah glanced quickly at the girls. "I am humble and ashamed," he
apologized. "But the bird means no evil. I bought her of a sailor, who, I
fear had wandered from the ways of righteousness."

Placing a drink of water near the parrot, the old man directed attention
to a cage containing a pair of doves.

"When the flood waters recede, I shall send these birds forth from a
window of the ark," he explained. "If they return with a branch of a bush
or any green thing, then I shall know that the Lord no longer is angry."

"How long do you imagine it will rain?" Louise asked absently, staring
out the little round window.

"Forty days and forty nights," answered Old Noah. Taking a bag of seed,
he began to feed the chirping birds. "While your stay here may be
somewhat confining, you will find my ark sturdy and snug."

"Our stay here," Louise echoed hollowly.

Penny gave her a little pinch and said to Old Noah, "We appreciate your
hospitality and will be happy to remain until the rain slackens. But
where are your living quarters?"

"On the third floor. First, before I conduct you there, I will throw out
a few bottles. Although the fatal hour is near at hand, a number of
persons may yet read my message and seek refuge in time to be saved."

While the girls watched with deep interest, Old Noah moved to the
porthole. Opening it, he tossed into the muddy waters a half dozen corked
bottles which he selected from a basket beneath the window.

"Now," he bade, turning again to Penny and Louise, "follow me and I will
show you my humble quarters."

By this time the girls scarcely knew what to expect, but the third floor
of the ark proved rather a pleasant surprise. Old Noah had fitted it out
with compartments, a tiny kitchen, living quarters, and a bedroom. The
main room had a rug on the floor, there were several homemade chairs and
a radio. Evidently, the master of the ark was musically inclined, for a
shelf contained an accordion, a banjo and a mouth organ.

"Just sit down and make yourselves comfortable, daughters," Old Noah
invited, waving them toward chairs. "I'll stir up a bite to eat."

Entering the tiny kitchen, he poked about among the shelves. Watching
rather anxiously, the girls next saw him open one of the portholes to
test his fishing lines. Finding one taut, he pulled in a large catfish
which he immediately began to dress.

"He intends to cook that for us," Louise whispered. "I'll not even taste
it! Oh, let's get away from here!"

Penny wandered to the window. The sky had grown much lighter, and trees
which had been blotted out by the heavy rain, now were visible.

"The storm is almost over," she said encouragingly. "Let's step outside
and see how things look."

Noah, occupied with his culinary affairs, did not glance up as the girls
quietly slipped away. Descending the steps to the main deck, they huddled
close against a wall to keep dry. Rain still fell, but even as they
watched it slackened.

"Let's say goodbye to Noah and streak for home," Louise suggested, eager
to be off.

Before Penny could reply, both girls were startled to see a stranger
emerge from among the bushes along the shore. He wore a raincoat, a
broad-brimmed hat which dripped water, and a bright badge gleamed on his
chest.

"I'm Sheriff Anderson," he announced, coming close to the ark. "Is Dan
Grebe aboard?"

"Do you mean Old Noah?" Penny asked doubtfully.

"Most folks call him that. An old man who's lost his buttons, but
harmless. He's been maintaining a public nuisance here with his ark."

As the sheriff started to come aboard, Old Noah himself stepped out on
deck.

"So here you be again!" he shouted angrily, grasping the narrow railing
of the gangplank. "Didn't I warn you not to trespass on the property of
the Lord?"

"Noah, we've been patient with you," the sheriff replied wearily. "The
last time I was here, you promised to clean up this dump and move your
ark down stream. Now you're going with me to talk to the judge."

"Stand back! Stand back!" Old Noah shouted as the officer started across
the gangplank. "Beware, or I'll call the wrath of the Lord down on your
head!"

The sheriff laughed and came on. With surprising strength and agility,
Old Noah jerked the gangplank loose from the ark and hurled it into the
water. Sheriff Anderson made a desperate lunge for an overhanging tree
branch. Failing to seize it, he fell with a loud splash into the muddy
river.



                                CHAPTER
                                   8
                           _THE GREEN PARROT_


Old Noah slapped his thigh and cackled with glee as he watched Sheriff
Anderson splash about in the muddy water.

"That'll teach you!" he shouted jubilantly. "You meddlin' son of evil!
Next time maybe you will know enough to mind your own business and leave
my ark alone!"

Penny and Louise stood ready to toss the sheriff a rope, but he did not
need it. Clinging to the floating gangplank, the man awkwardly propelled
himself to shore. As he tried to climb up the steep bank, his boots
slipped and he fell flat on his face in the mud. Old Noah went off into
another fit of laughter which fairly shook the ark at its mooring.

"Laugh, you old coot!" the sheriff muttered, picking himself up. "I've
been mighty patient with you, but there's a limit. Tomorrow I'm coming
back here with a detail of deputies. I'll run you and your ark out o'
here if it's the last thing I do!"

"Be off with you!" ordered Noah arrogantly. "Before _my_ patience is
gone!"

"Okay, Noah, you win this round," the sheriff muttered furiously. "I'm
going, but I'll be back. And if this ark isn't cleaned up or out o' here,
we'll put you away!"

A sorry figure with his clothing wet and muddy, the official stomped
angrily off into the woods.

"I'm afraid you antagonized the wrong man that time, Noah," Penny
remarked as the footsteps died away. "What will you do when he returns?"

"That time will never come," Old Noah replied, undisturbed. "Before the
Lord will allow the ark to be taken from me, he will smite my enemies
with lightning from the Heavens."

Penny and Louise had their own opinion of what would happen to the ark
and its animals, but wisely said nothing to further disturb the old
fellow. By this time the rain had entirely ceased and a ray of sunshine
straggled through the ragged clouds.

"Well, guess this isn't to be the Great Flood after all," Penny remarked,
studying the sky. "We're most grateful for the shelter of your ark, Noah.
Now if we can just reach shore, we'll be on our way."

"Aren't you staying for dinner?" the old man asked in disappointment.
"I'm fryin' up a nice catfish."

"I'm afraid we can't remain today," Penny answered. "Another time
perhaps." Using a long, hooked pole, Old Noah retrieved the drifting
gangplank and refastened it to the ark.

"Farewell, my daughters," he said regretfully as he bade them goodbye.
"You and your friends always will be welcome to take refuge in my ark.
The Great Flood is coming soon, but you are among the chosen."

Feeling decidedly exhilarated by their meeting with such a strange
character, Louise and Penny followed the twisting stream to the main
river channel. Water was rising rapidly along the banks and at many
places, bushes and tree branches dipped low in the swirling eddies.

"You know, if these spring rains keep up, Noah may get his big flood
after all," Penny remarked. "Poor old fellow! He certainly sealed the
fate of his ark when he pushed Sheriff Anderson into Bug Run."

Turning homeward toward the Thompson Bridge, the girls soon approached
the river bank where police had searched for the escaped saboteur.
Curious to see the locality by daylight, they detoured slightly in order
to pass it.

"This is the place," Penny said, indicating ground which had been
trampled by many feet. "At the rate the river rises, the shore here will
be under by tomorrow."

"I suppose police learned everything they could last night."

"Yes, they went over the area rather thoroughly," Penny nodded. "I know
they took photographs and made measurements of the saboteur's footprints.
Lucky they did, because the water has washed them all away."

"You still can see where the automobile was parked," Louise declared,
pointing to tire tracks in the soft earth. "Were any real clues found,
Penny?"

"Jerry told me police picked up a handkerchief bearing the initial 'O.'"

"That could stand for Ottman!"

"Likewise Oscar or Oliver or Oxenstiern," Penny added, frowning. "I'll
admit though, it doesn't look too bright for Sara's brother."

Having satisfied their curiosity regarding the locality, the girls
started on toward the bridge. Before they had gone a dozen feet, Penny's
eye was caught by an object lying half-buried in the mud. She picked it
up gingerly and dangling it in front of Louise was amazed to discover
that it was a man's leather billfold.

"Anything inside?" inquired Louise with interest.

Penny opened the flap and explored the various divisions of the money
container. To her disappointment it held nothing save one small card upon
which had been scribbled a few words.

"'The Green Parrot--'" she read aloud. "'Tuesday at 9:15.' Now what does
that mean?"

Beneath the notation appeared another: "The American Protective Society."

"I guess it doesn't mean much of anything," commented Louise, digging at
the mud which had collected on her shoes. "Probably an appointment card."

"You don't suppose this billfold was dropped by the saboteur?" Penny
asked thoughtfully. "It's very near the place where he crawled out of the
river."

"Wouldn't the police have picked it up if they had considered it of any
importance?"

"I doubt they ever saw it, Lou. The billfold was half buried in mud. I'd
never have seen it myself if I hadn't almost stepped on it."

"Why not turn it over to the police?"

"Guess I will," Penny decided, replacing the card in the billfold and
wrapping them both in her handkerchief. "Did you ever hear of the
American Protective Society, Lou?"

"Never did. Nor 'The Green Parrot' either--whatever that is."

"I think The Green Parrot is a cafe or a night club with none too good a
reputation," Penny said thoughtfully. "I'm sure I've heard Dad say it's a
gambling place."

Without further adventure, the girls resumed their trek and soon reached
a bus line. Upon arriving home, Penny's first act was to consult the
telephone directory. She could find neither The Green Parrot nor the
American Protective Society listed.

"Mrs. Weems, did you ever hear of a place called The Green Parrot?" she
questioned the housekeeper.

"Isn't that a restaurant the police closed down a few months ago?"
replied Mrs. Weems. "Now why should you be bothering your head about The
Green Parrot?"

Penny showed her the billfold and explained where she had found it.

"Dear me," sighed the housekeeper. "How you can get into so many affairs
of this kind is a wonder to me. I'm sure it worries your father too."

"Not Dad," laughed Penny. "Since I dug up that big story for him about
the old _Wishing Well_, he's been reconciled to my career of news
gathering."

"Wishing wells and saboteurs are two entirely different matters," the
housekeeper returned firmly. "I do hope you turn this billfold over to
police and forget about suspicious characters."

"I'm only worried about one," rejoined Penny. "It bothers me because I
involved Burt Ottman in such a mess. I'm not so sure he's guilty."

"And again, the police probably know exactly what they are about,"
replied Mrs. Weems. "Now please take that billfold to the authorities and
let them do the worrying."

Thus urged, Penny carried the money container to the local police
station. Unable to talk to any of the detectives connected with the
dynamiting case, she left the billfold with a desk sergeant. As she
turned to leave, after answering his many questions, she posed one of her
own.

"Oh, by the way, did you ever hear of a place called The Green Parrot?"

"Sure," the sergeant responded. "It's a night club. Used to be located on
Granger Street, but our boys made it too hot for 'em, so they moved to
another place."

"Where is it now?"

"Couldn't tell you," answered the sergeant. "You'll have to talk to one
of the detectives, Jim Adams or Bill Benson."

Having no real excuse for seeking the information, Penny decided to
abandon the quest. For want of an occupation, she sauntered on toward the
_Star_ office. Pausing in front of the big plate glass window, she idly
watched a workman who was oiling one of the great rotary presses.

"Oh, here you are!" exclaimed a voice from behind her.

Whirling around, Penny saw that her father had just come through the
revolving doors at the main entrance to the building.

"Hello, Dad," she greeted him eagerly. "What's new in the dynamiting
case?"

"Nothing so far as I know," he replied, rather indifferently. "Burt
Ottman's been released on bail."

"Mr. DeWitt put up the money?"

"Yes, he did," Mr. Parker said, frowning. "I advised him against it, but
DeWitt feels a duty to the boy. Were you looking for me, Penny?"

"Well, not in particular."

"I'm on my way to a bank meeting," Mr. Parker said, turning away. "Oh,
yes, I arranged a job for that watchman complication of yours, Carl
Oaks."

"You did? Oh, grand! What sort of work is it?"

"Can't take time to tell you now," Mr. Parker said hurriedly, hailing a
passing taxi cab. "If you want all the details, ask Jerry Livingston. He
took care of the matter for me, and can give you the information."



                                CHAPTER
                                   9
                          _A JOB FOR MR. OAKS_


Eager to learn what had been done to help Carl Oaks, Penny took an
elevator to the news room of the _Star_. Jerry Livingston's desk was
deserted, so she paused at the slot of the big circular copy desk to ask
Editor DeWitt if the reporter were anywhere in the building.

"I just sent him to cover a fire," Mr. DeWitt replied, glancing up from
copy he was correcting. "He ought to be back any minute. You know how
Jerry covers a fire."

"I certainly do. He rides the big engine to the scene, just whiffs at the
smoke, and races back with a column report!"

Penny hesitated. She very much wished to say something to the editor
about the dynamiting case, yet was reluctant to bring up the subject.

"Mr. DeWitt, I'm sorry about Burt Ottman," she began awkwardly. "I hope
you don't think that I tried to throw suspicion on him by telling
police----"

"Of course not," he cut in. "It's just a case of circumstantial evidence.
Burt has a good lawyer now. I'm not a bit worried."

The harassed expression of DeWitt's face belied his words. He had always
been known to fellow workers as a hard yet just man, but now it seemed to
Penny that the veteran newspaperman was losing his grip. Though he
fancied he disguised his feelings, it was plain to all that Burt Ottman's
arrest had shaken him.

"Guess I won't wait for Jerry," Penny said, turning away.

Leaving the newspaper office, she dropped in at Foster's Drugstore to
perch herself on a counter stool.

"I'll take a deluxe dose of Hawaiian Delight with whipped cream," she
told the soda fountain clerk.

"No pineapple," he said sadly. "And no whipped cream."

"Then make it a double chocolate malted."

"We're out of chocolate. Sorry."

"Just bring me an empty dish and let me look at it for awhile," Penny
grinned.

"How about a nice vanilla sundae with crushed walnuts?" the clerk coaxed.

"Oh, all right," Penny gave in. "And don't spare the walnuts!"

She ate the ice cream leisurely and had finished the last spoonful when a
young man breezed into the drugstore. Recognizing Jerry Livingston, Penny
signaled frantically. Without seeing her, he dodged into a telephone
booth. He slammed out again in a moment and sat down at the counter.

"Cup o' Java and make it strong," he ordered carelessly.

"Sorry, sir, no coffee served without meals," teased Penny from another
stool. "How about a nice vanilla sundae with crushed walnuts?"

Jerry grinned as he saw her and moved over to an adjoining stool.

"Where was the fire?" she inquired curiously.

"At the Fulton Warehouse along the dock. It was deliberately set."

"By saboteurs?"

"Looks that way. Workmen discovered the blaze in time to prevent the
whole plant going up in smoke. Just got through telephoning the story to
DeWitt."

"Isn't the _Star_ building across the street?"

"Sure, but that's a long walk. Besides, I'm due at the airport for my
flying lesson."

"Your which?" inquired Penny alertly.

"I'm training to be an angel," Jerry laughed. "I figure it like this. I
can't get along without my six cups o' Java a day, so the only place for
me is in Uncle Sam's Air Corps."

"How soon will you be leaving, Jerry?"

"Not until I've completed my local training. Oh, I'll probably be
grinding out news stories for quite some time yet."

Penny drew a quick breath and changed the subject. One by one familiar
faces were disappearing from the _Star_ office, but somehow it gave her a
special twinge to think that Jerry soon must go. In the pursuit of news
they had shared many an adventure.

"Jerry," she said abruptly, "Dad told me you were able to get Carl Oaks a
job."

"One of sorts. It doesn't pay much, but it's soft. Oaks is hired by the
Riverview Coal Company to guard their barge that's tied up at Dock 10."

"Thanks a lot, Jerry, for going to so much trouble. Mr. Oaks ought to be
quite grateful."

"Not that fellow! He held out for more pay."

"Are the duties hard?"

"Hard? All he has to do is stay aboard the barge and see that no one
tries to make off with it."

"I can't imagine anyone trying to steal a coal barge," laughed Penny.

"Oh, it's done now and then," Jerry rejoined carelessly. "These days
they'll even steal the hawsers off a boat."

"What value would the rope have to a thief?"

"Hawsers are expensive," the reporter explained. "Right now it's almost
impossible to get good grade hemp. A hawser of any size commands a big
price second hand."

"How do the thieves get the ropes, Jerry?"

"Oh, they wait for a dark or foggy night and then slip up to an unguarded
boat and cut her loose."

"Why, that's a form of sabotage!" Penny cried indignantly.

"Sure, it is. The boats float free and unless they're spotted, they're
likely to collide with other incoming vessels. Only last week an empty
coal barge was cut loose. She crashed into an oil tanker and rammed a
hole in her."

"Then Carl Oaks really has an important job," Penny said thoughtfully.

"Important in the sense that he's got to keep his eyes open. But he's not
required to do any hard work. All he has to do is sit."

"Then he should like the job," Penny smiled, sliding down from the stool.
"When does he start work?"

"He took over this morning."

"Maybe I'll ankle down to Dock 10 and talk to him."

"Better wrap yourself in cellophane first," Jerry advised. "That is, if
you value your peaches and cream complexion."

Penny was not certain what the reporter meant, but a little later,
approaching the coal docks, she understood. Nearby was a private railroad
yard and cars were being loaded from the many mountains of coal heaped on
the ground. With the wind blowing toward the river, the dust laden air
blackened her hands and clothing.

Penny stood for a moment watching a coal car race down from a steep
switch-back, and then wandered along the docks in search of Mr. Oaks.

She came presently to the barge for which she searched. There was no sign
of anyone aboard. A long ladder ascended from the dock to the vessel's
deck. Penny hesitated and then decided to climb it. When she was midway
up, a man, his face blackened with coal, stepped from a shed.

"Hey, where you think you're going?" he shouted sternly.

"I'm looking for Mr. Oaks," Penny explained, hugging the ladder.

"Oaks? The new watchman?"

"Yes. He's aboard, isn't he?"

"He should be. Well, go on up, I guess, but it's against regulations."

Penny climbed the remaining rungs of the ladder and stepped out on the
deck of the barge. She was chagrined to see that she had wiped up a great
deal of coal dust.

"Oh, Mr. Oaks!" she called. "Are you here?"

From the tiny deck house the old man emerged. No smile brightened his
smudged face as he recognized Penny.

"This is a swell job your father got me!" he greeted her.

"Why, Mr. Oaks, you don't act as if you like it," Penny replied, walking
toward him. "What seems to be wrong?"

"The pay's poor," he said crossly. "I'm expected to stay on this rotten
old tub twenty-four hours a day with only time off for my meals. It's so
dirty around here that if a fellow'd take a deep breath he'd get a hunk
o' coal stuck in his nose!"

"It _is_ rather unpleasant," Penny admitted. "But then, the wind can't
always blow in this direction."

"I want you to ask your father to find me another job," the watchman went
on. "I'd like one on a bridge again."

"Well, I don't know. After what happened--"

"And whose fault was it?" Mr. Oaks interrupted angrily. "I helped you and
that girl friend of yours, didn't I? Well, now it's your turn to do me a
little favor, 'specially since it wasn't my fault I lost the bridge job."

"I'll talk to Dad," Penny said. Annoyed by the watchman's attitude, she
did not prolong the interview, but quickly climbed down from the barge.

From the coal yards she followed the river for a distance, coming
presently to more pleasant surroundings. She was still thinking about
Carl Oaks as she approached the Ottman boathouse. Sara and a young man
were deeply engrossed in examining a large metal object which appeared to
be a homemade diving hood.

For a moment Penny assumed that Sara's companion was Bill Evans. However,
as the young man turned slightly, she saw his face.

"Why, it's Burt Ottman!" she thought. "He's back on his old job after
being released from jail. I'm going to talk to him and see what he'll
say!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   10
                        _SALVAGE AND SABOTEURS_


Sara Ottman and her brother glanced up from their work as Penny
approached the dock. Burt was a tall young man of twenty-six, brown of
face, with muscles hardened by heavy, outdoor work. He nodded to Penny,
but his expression did not disclose whether or not he bore resentment.

"Anything we can do for you?" he asked, his manner impersonal.

"No, I just happened to be over this way and thought I'd stop for a
minute. What's this strange contraption?" Penny indicated the queer
looking metal hood.

"A diving apparatus Burt made," Sara explained briefly. "We're using it
to get Bill Evans' motor out of the river."

"How does it work?"

"Watch and see," invited Sara. "Burt's going to make the first dive."

Though Penny felt that she was none too welcome at the dock, she
nevertheless decided to remain. Burt disappeared into the shed,
reappearing a minute later in bathing trunks. He and Sara loaded the
diving hood into a boat and rowed to the nearby area which had been
marked with a can buoy.

Burt adjusted the metal helmet over his head and lowered himself into the
water. Once her brother was beneath the surface, Sara worked tirelessly
at the pump, feeding him air. Soon Bill Evans drifted by in another boat,
watching the salvage operation like a worried mother.

"Think you'll get 'er?" he asked Sara. "Doggone if I know how an engine
could be so hard to find."

Sara did not bother to answer, but kept pumping steadily.

After many minutes, the metal hood appeared on the surface. Burt Ottman
lifted it from his head and took a deep breath.

"Any luck?" Bill asked anxiously.

"I'll have the engine up in a little bit," Burt replied. Breasting
himself into the boat, he pulled on a rope tied around his waist. With
Sara helping, he gradually hauled the lost motor from its muddy bed.

"Oh, say, that's swell!" Bill cried jubilantly. "How can I thank you?"

"Don't forget the five dollars," Sara reminded him. "Burt and I can use
it."

"Oh, sure," Bill replied, though the light faded from his eyes. "I
haven't got it on me right now. Can you wait a few days?"

"Waiting is the best thing we do," Sara assured him. "Better get this
mess of junk cleaned and oiled up right away or it won't be worth a
dime."

"I will," promised Bill. "Just dump 'er on the dock for me, will you?"

Sara and her brother delivered the motor to the designated place, and
then rowed to their own platform where Penny waited. From the look of
their faces it was evident that they never expected to be paid for their
work.

Alighting from the boat, Sara noticed one of Old Noah's floating bottles
which had snagged against the edge of the platform. Rather irritably she
fished it from the water. Without bothering to read the message inside,
she hurled it high on the shore.

"Sara, you're in an ugly mood today," her brother observed, smiling.

"I get tired of seeing those bottles!" she replied. "I get tired of doing
so much charity work too! How are we to meet our expenses, pay for a
lawyer, and--"

"Never mind," Burt interrupted quietly.

Sara subsided into silence. They moored the boat and Burt, carrying the
diving bell with him, went into the shed.

"Guess you think I'm a regular old crab," Sara remarked, turning toward
Penny.

"Oh, I don't know," Penny answered. "I'm sure you have plenty to worry
you."

"I do! Since the papers published the bridge dynamiting story, our
business has shrunk to almost nothing. Burt's case is coming up for trial
in about ten days. I don't know how we'll pay the lawyer. If Mr. DeWitt
hadn't put up bail, my brother still would be in jail."

"Oh, you shouldn't feel so discouraged," Penny said cheerfully. "Burt
will be cleared."

"I wish I could think so. He's innocent, but to prove it is another
matter."

"Can't your brother provide an alibi? Where was he at the time of the
dynamiting?"

"I don't know," Sara admitted, frowning. "Burt's peculiar. I tried to
talk things over with him, but he says it's a disagreeable subject. He
hasn't told me where he was Friday night."

Burt's appearance in the doorway of the shed brought the conversation to
an abrupt end. Before Penny could speak to him, a group of small boys ran
along the bank some distance away.

"_Saboteur! Saboteur!_" they shouted jeeringly, pointing at Burt. One of
the lads threw a clod of dirt which struck a moored rowboat.

"You see how it is!" Sara cried wrathfully.

"Don't take things so seriously," Burt advised, though his own eyes
burned with an angry light. "They're only youngsters."

"I can't stand much more," Sara cried, running into the shed, and closing
the door.

Burt busied himself cleaning the clod of dirt from the rowboat. "Don't
mind Sara," he said. "She's always inclined to be high strung."

"I'm sorry about everything," said Penny quietly. "Mr. DeWitt believes
you will be cleared."

Burt straightened, staring at the far shore. "Wish I felt the same way.
Unless the real saboteur is caught, the police intend to tag me with the
job."

"They can't convict you without evidence. Oh, by the way, did you ever
lose a leather billfold?"

The question surprised Burt. He hesitated before he answered: "What made
you ask me that?"

"I found an old one along the river. No money or any identification in
it. Just a card which said: 'The Green Parrot. Tuesday at 9:15.'"

"The Green Parrot!"

"You've heard of the place?"

"Oh, I've heard of it," Burt answered carelessly. "That's all. I never
was there. Sorry I can't claim the billfold."

As if uneasy lest he be questioned further, the young man picked up a
coil of rope and walked away. Penny waited a moment and then left the
dock.

"I'm just a nuisance around there," she thought unhappily. "I'd like to
help, but Sara and Burt won't let me."

The following two days passed without event so far as Penny was
concerned. There were no developments regarding the bridge dynamiting
case and the story was relegated to an inside page of the Star. However,
recalling her promise to Carl Oaks, she did speak to her father about
finding him a new job.

"What does that fellow expect?" Mr. Parker rumbled irritably. "Jerry
tells me he's a ne'er-do-well. Why doesn't he like his job as watchman on
the coal barge?"

"Well, it's too dirty."

"Carl Oaks is lucky to get any job in this town," Mr. Parker answered.
"Jerry had a hard time inducing anyone to take him on. Along the
waterfront he has a reputation for shiftlessness."

"In that case, just forget it, Dad. I don't like the man too well
myself."

Penny promptly forgot about Carl Oaks, but many times she caught herself
wondering what had happened to Old Noah and his ark. Since she and Louise
had visited the place, it had rained every day. The water was slowly
rising in the river and there was talk that a serious flood might result.

On Tuesday night, as Penny and Louise paid their weekly visit to the
Rialto Theatre, it was still raining. The gutters were deep with water
and to cross the street it was necessary to walk stiffly on their heels.

"We've had enough H_{2}O for one week," Penny declared, gazing at her
splashed stockings. "Well, for screaming out loud!"

A green taxicab, turning in the street to pick up a fare, shot a fountain
of muddy water from its spinning wheels. Penny, who stood close to the
curb, was sprayed from head to foot.

"Just look at me!" she wailed. "That driver ought to be sent to prison
for life!"

The taxi drew up in front of the Rialto Theatre. A well-dressed man in
brown overcoat and felt hat who waited at the curb, opened the cab door.

"To the Green Parrot," he ordered the driver.

"Where's that, sir?"

The passenger mumbled an address the girls could not understand. He then
slammed shut the cab door and the vehicle drove away.

"Lou, did you hear what I heard?" Penny cried excitedly.

"I certainly did!"

Penny glanced quickly about. Seeing another taxicab across the street,
she hailed it.

"Come on, Louise," she urged, tugging at her chum's hand.

Louise held back. "What do you intend to do?"

"Why, we're going to follow that taxi!" Penny splashed through the
flooded gutter toward the waiting cab. "This is a real break for us! With
luck we'll learn the location of The Green Parrot!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   11
                           _PURSUIT BY TAXI_


"Keep that green taxi in sight!" Penny instructed her own cab driver as
she and Louise leaped into the rear seat.

"Sure," agreed the taxi man, showing no surprise at the request.

Thrilled, and feeling rather theatrical, Penny and Louise sat on the edge
of their seats. Anxiously they watched the green cab ahead. Weaving in
and out of downtown traffic, it cruised at a slow speed and so, was not
hard to follow.

Louise gazed at the running tape of the taxi meter. "Do you see that
ticker?" she whispered. "I hope you're well fortified with spare change."

"I haven't much money with me. Let's trust that The Green Parrot is
somewhere close."

"More than likely it's miles out in the country," Louise returned
pessimistically.

The green cab presently turned down a narrow, little-traveled street not
many blocks from the river front. As it halted at the curb, Penny's
driver glanced at her for instructions.

"Don't stop," she directed. "Drive on past and pull up around the
corner."

The taxi man did as requested, presenting a bill for one dollar and
eighty cents. To pay the sum, Penny used all of her own money and
borrowed a quarter from her chum.

"That leaves me with just thirty-eight cents," Louise said ruefully. "No
picture show tonight. And how are we to get home?"

"We're not far from a bus line. Come on, we're wasting valuable time."

"Those two words, 'Come on' have involved me in more trouble than all the
rest of the English language," Louise giggled nervously. "What are we to
do now we're here?"

Penny did not answer. Rounding the corner, she saw that the green cab and
its passenger had disappeared. For an instant she was bitterly
disappointed. Then she noticed a creaking sign which swung above a
basement entrance. Although inconspicuous, it bore the picture of a green
parrot.

"That's the place, Lou!" she exclaimed.

"Well, we've learned the address, so let's go home."

"Wonder what it's like inside?"

"Don't you dare start that old curiosity of yours to percolating!" Louise
chided severely. "We're _not_ going in there!"

"Who ever thought of such a thing?" grinned Penny. "Now I wonder what
time it is?"

"About eight-thirty or perhaps a little later. Why?"

"Do you remember that card we found in the leather billfold? The notation
read, 'The Green Parrot, Tuesday at 9:15.'"

"So it did, but the appointment may have been for nine fifteen in the
morning."

"You dope!" laughed Penny. "Louise, we're in wonderful luck finding this
place at just this hour! Why, the man we followed here may be the one who
lost the billfold."

"All of which makes him a saboteur, I suppose?"

"Not necessarily, but don't you think we ought to try to learn more?"

"I knew you'd try to get me into that place," Louise complained. "Well, I
have more sense than to do it. It might not be safe."

"I shouldn't think of venturing in unescorted," Penny assured her. "Why
not telephone my father and ask him to come here right away?"

"Well, that might not be such a bad idea," Louise acknowledged
reluctantly. "But where can we find a phone?"

Passing The Green Parrot, the girls walked on a few doors until they came
to a corner drugstore. Going inside, they closed themselves into a
telephone booth. Borrowing a nickel from Louise, Penny called her home,
but there was no response.

"Mrs. Weems went to a meeting tonight, and I suppose Dad must be away,"
she commented anxiously.

"Then let's give it up."

"I'll try the newspaper office," Penny decided. "If Dad isn't there, I'll
talk to one of the reporters."

Mr. Parker was not to be contacted at the _Star_ plant, nor was Editor
DeWitt available. Penny asked to speak to Jerry Livingston and presently
heard his voice at the other end of the wire. Without wasting words she
told him where she was and what she wanted him to do.

"_The Green Parrot!_" Jerry exclaimed, copying down the address she gave
him. "Say, that's worthwhile information. I'll be with you girls as soon
as I can get there."

"We'll be outside the corner drugstore," Penny told him. "You'll know us
by the way we pace back and forth!"

Within twelve minutes a cab pulled up and Jerry leaped out to greet the
two girls.

"Where is this Parrot place?" he demanded, gazing curiously at the dingy
buildings.

Louise and Penny led him down the street to the basement entrance. Music
could be heard from within, but blinds covered all the windows.

"It must be a cafe," commented Jerry. He turned toward Penny and stared.
"Say, what's the matter with your face?"

"My face?"

"You look as if you're coming down with the black measles!"

"Oh, a taxi splashed me with mud," Penny laughed, sponging at her cheeks
with a handkerchief. "How do I look now?"

"Better. Let's go."

Taking the girls each by an elbow, Jerry guided them down the stone
steps. Confronted with a curving door, he boldly thrust it open.

"Now act as if you belonged here," he warned the girls.

The trio found themselves in a carpeted, luxuriously furnished foyer.
From a large dining room nearby came laughter and music.

As the outside door closed behind the young people, a bell tinkled to
announce their arrival. Almost at once a head waiter appeared in the
archway to the left. He was tall and dark, with a noticeable scar across
one cheek. His shrewd eyes scrutinized them, but he bowed politely
enough.

"A party of three, sir?"

"Right," agreed Jerry.

They followed the waiter into a dimly lighted dining room with more
tables than customers. A four-piece orchestra provided rather dreary
music for dancing. Jerry reluctantly allowed a checkroom girl to capture
his hat.

The head waiter turned the party over to another waiter.

"Table thirteen," he instructed, and spoke rapidly in French.

"Table thirteen," complained Jerry. "Can't you give us something besides
that?"

"Monsieur is superstitious?" The head waiter smiled in a superior way.

"Not superstitious, just cautious."

"As you wish, Monsieur. Table two."

Jerry and the girls were guided to the far end of the room, somewhat
apart from the other diners. A large potted palm obstructed their view.

"I think they've hung the Indian sign on us," Jerry muttered after the
waiter had gone. "See anyone you know, Penny?"

"That man over by the door--the one sitting alone," she indicated in a
whisper. "Louise and I followed him here."

"The one that's wrestling with the lobster?"

"Yes, don't stare at him, Jerry. He's watching us."

The waiter arrived with glasses of water and menu cards. Jerry and the
girls scanned the list in secret consternation. Scarcely an item was
priced at less than a dollar, and even a modest meal would cost a large
sum.

"I'm not very hungry," Louise said helpfully. "I'll take a ham sandwich."

"So will I," added Penny.

"Three hams with plenty of mustard," ordered Jerry breezily.

The waiter gave him a long glance. "And your drink, sir?"

"Water," said Jerry. "Cool, refreshing water, preferably with a small
piece of ice."

The waiter favored the trio with another unflattering look and went to
the kitchen.

"This is a gyp place," Penny declared indignantly. "I can't understand
why anyone would come here. The waiters all seem to be French."

"Oh, all head waiters speak French," Jerry replied. "You can't tell by
that. I'd say they were German myself."

Penny studied the cafe employees with new interest. She noted that the
head waiter kept an alert eye upon the entire room, but particularly he
watched their table.

Soon the three orders of ham sandwiches were brought by the waiter. The
young people ate as slowly as they could so they would have an excuse for
remaining as long as they desired.

"What time is it, Jerry?" Penny asked anxiously.

"Ten after nine," he answered, looking at his watch.

A bell jingled, and the young people knew that another customer had
arrived. Craning their necks to see around the palm tree, they watched
the dining room entranceway. In a moment a young man entered and was
greeted by the head waiter. Jerry and the girls stared, scarcely
believing their eyes.

"Why, it's Burt Ottman!" Penny whispered.

"And exactly on the dot of nine-fifteen," added Louise significantly. "He
_must_ be the person who lost that billfold!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   12
                        _JERRY'S DISAPPEARANCE_


Without noticing Jerry and the girls, Burt Ottman walked directly to a
table at the other side of the dining room. He spoke to the stranger whom
Penny and Louise had followed, and sat down opposite him.

"Ha! The plot thickens!" commented Jerry in an undertone. "Obviously our
friend and Burt Ottman had an appointment together."

"This is certainly a shock to me," declared Penny. "I'd made up my mind
that Burt had nothing whatsoever to do with the dynamiting. Now I don't
know what to think."

"He must be the saboteur," Louise said, speaking louder than she
realized. "We picked up the billfold along the river and it undoubtedly
was his."

"He denied it," replied Penny. "However, when I spoke of The Green Parrot
I noticed that he seemed to recognize the name. Oh, dear!"

"Now don't take it so hard," Jerry comforted her. "The best thing to do
is to report what we've seen to police and let them draw their own
conclusions."

"I suppose so," Penny admitted gloomily. "I had hoped to help Sara and
her brother."

"You wouldn't want to protect a saboteur?"

"Of course not, Jerry. Oh, dear, it's all so mixed up."

So intent had the young people been upon their conversation that they
failed to observe a waiter hovering near. Nor did it occur to them that
he might be listening. As Jerry chanced to glance toward him, he bowed,
and moving forward, presented the bill.

"Howling cats!" the reporter muttered after the waiter had discreetly
withdrawn. "Will you look at this!"

"How much is it?" Penny asked anxiously. "We only had three ham
sandwiches."

"Two dollars cover charge. Three sandwiches, one dollar and a half. Tip,
fifty cents. Grand total, four dollars, plus sales tax."

"Why, that's robbery!" Penny exclaimed. "I wouldn't pay it, Jerry."

"I can't," he admitted, slightly abashed. "I only have three dollars in
my pocket. Then I'll have to buy my hat back from the checkroom girl."

"Louise and I haven't any money either," Penny said. "Thirty-eight cents
to be exact."

"Thirty-three," corrected her chum.

"Tell you what," said Jerry after a moment of thought. "You girls stay
here and hold down the chairs. I'll go outside and telephone one of the
boys at the office. I'll have someone bring me some cash."

Left to themselves, the girls tried to act as if nothing were wrong.
However, they were very conscious of the waiter's scrutiny. Every time
the man entered the dining room with a tray of food, he gazed
suggestively at the unpaid bill.

"I'd feel more comfortable under the table," Penny commented. "Why
doesn't Jerry hurry?"

"Perhaps he can't find a telephone."

"Something is keeping him. We're going to become conspicuous if we stay
here much longer."

The girls fumbled with their purses and sipped at their water glasses
until the tumblers were empty. Minutes passed and still Jerry did not
return.

After a while, Burt Ottman's companion left the dining room. The young
owner of the boat dock waited until the older man had vanished, and then
called for his check. If the bill were unusually large he did not appear
to notice, for he paid it without protest and likewise left the dining
room.

"Louise, I don't want to stay here any longer," Penny said nervously. "I
can't understand what's keeping Jerry."

"Why not go out to the foyer and look for him."

"A good idea if we can get away with it," Penny approved. "I judge
though, that if we start off, the waiter will pursue us with the bill."

"Couldn't we just explain?"

"We can try. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what will happen."

Before leaving the table, Penny scribbled a hasty note which she left for
Jerry on his plate. It merely said that the girls would wait for him in
the foyer. Choosing a moment when their own waiter was occupied at
another table, they sauntered across the room and out into the hall.

"That wasn't half as hard as I thought it would be," chuckled Penny. "But
where's Jerry?"

The foyer was deserted. Noticing a stairway which led to a lower level,
the girls decided that the telephones must be located below. They started
down, but soon realized their mistake for no light was burning in the
lower hall.

"We're not supposed to be down here," Louise murmured, holding back.

"Wait!" whispered Penny.

At the far end of the dingy hall she had glimpsed a moving figure. For
just a second she thought that the young man might be Jerry. Then she saw
that it was Burt Ottman.

"What do you suppose he's doing down here?" she speculated. "He seems to
be familiar with all the nooks and crannies of this place."

Burt Ottman had not seen or heard the girls. They saw him pause at the
end of the hall and knock four times on a closed door. A circular
peep-hole shot open and a voice muttered: "Who is it?"

The girls heard no more. Someone touched Penny on the shoulder from
behind. With a startled exclamation, she whirled around to face the head
waiter.

"So sorry, Mademoiselle, to have frightened you," he said blandly. "You
have taken the wrong stairway."

"Why, yes," stammered Penny, trying to collect her wits. "We were looking
for the public telephones."

"This way please. You will find them in the foyer. Just follow me."

Penny and Louise had no choice but to obey. They wondered if the head
waiter knew how much they had seen. His expressionless face gave them no
clue.

"We were waiting for our friend," Louise remarked to cover her
embarrassment.

"The young man who escorted you here?"

"Yes," nodded Louise. "He went to telephone and we haven't seen him
since."

The waiter had reached the top of the stairs. He turned and looked
directly at the girls as he said: "The young man left here some minutes
ago."

"He left!" Penny exclaimed incredulously. "But the bill wasn't paid."

"Oh, yes, the young gentleman took care of it."

"Why, Jerry didn't have enough money," Penny protested, unable to grasp
the situation. "You're sure he left the cafe?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle."

"And didn't he leave any message for us?"

"I regret that he did not," the waiter replied. "As young ladies without
escorts are not permitted at The Green Parrot, I suggest that you leave
at once."

"You may be sure we will," said Penny. "I simply can't understand why
Jerry would go off without saying a word to us."

The head waiter conducted the girls to the exit, bowing as he closed the
door in their faces. Rather bewildered, they huddled together on the
stone steps. Rain had started to fall once more and the air was
unpleasantly cold.

"We certainly got out of that place in a hurry," Louise commented. "If
you ask me, it was a shabby trick for Jerry to go off and leave us.
Especially when he knew we didn't have the price of a taxi."

"Lou," said Penny soberly, "I don't believe that Jerry did desert us."

"But he disappeared! And the head waiter told us that he left."

"Something happened to Jerry when he went to telephone--that's certain,"
replied Penny, thinking aloud.

"Then you believe he was forcibly ejected?"

"No one could have tossed Jerry out of The Green Parrot without a little
opposition."

"Jerry's quite a scrapper when he's aroused," Louise agreed. "We didn't
hear any sound of scuffling. What do you think became of him?"

"I don't know and I'm worried," confessed Penny. Taking Louise's arm, she
guided her up the stone steps to the street. "The thing for us to do is
to get home and tell Dad everything! Jerry may be in serious trouble."



                                CHAPTER
                                   13
                          _A VACANT BUILDING_


Hastening to a main street, Penny and Louise waited many minutes for a
bus. Finally as a taxi cruised past they hailed it, knowing they could
obtain cab fare when they reached home.

"Let's go straight to my house," Penny said, giving the driver her
address. "Dad should be there by this time. I know he'll be as worried
about Jerry as we are."

A few minutes later the taxi drew up in front of the Parker home. Lights
burned in the living room and the girls were greatly relieved to glimpse
the editor reading in a comfortable chair by the fireplace.

"Dad, I need a dollar sixty for cab fare!" Penny announced, bursting in
upon him.

"A dollar sixty," he protested, reaching for his wallet. "I thought you
and Louise went to a picture show. What have you been doing in a
taxicab?"

"I'll explain just as soon as I pay the driver. Please, this is an
emergency."

Mr. Parker gave her two dollars and she ran outside with it. In a moment
she came back with Louise.

"Now, Penny, suppose you explain," suggested Mr. Parker. "Has walking
become an outmoded sport or are you trying to save wear and tear on rayon
stockings?"

"Dad, Louise and I never went to the Rialto Theatre," Penny said
breathlessly. "We've been at The Green Parrot!"

"_The Green Parrot!_"

"Oh, we didn't go alone," Penny explained hastily as she saw disapproval
written on her father's face. "We telephoned Jerry and had him accompany
us."

"How did you learn the location of the place?"

"We heard a man give the address to a taxi driver, and followed in
another cab. Dad, we saw Burt Ottman there!"

"Interesting, but it hardly proves that he is a saboteur."

"He arrived at exactly nine-fifteen," Penny resumed excitedly. "After
talking with that man we followed, they both left the dining room, though
not together. We saw Burt go downstairs and knock on a door which had a
peephole."

"Did he enter?"

"I don't know," Penny admitted. "Louise and I weren't able to see. Just
as things were getting interesting the head waiter came and politely
escorted us out of the building."

"Why didn't Jerry bring you home?"

"That's what I'm getting at, Dad. Jerry just disappeared."

"What do you mean, Penny?"

Together the girls told him exactly what had happened at The Green
Parrot. Mr. Parker promptly agreed that it would not be like Jerry to
leave the cafe without an explanation.

"Something has happened to him!" Penny insisted soberly. "Dad, why don't
you call the police right away? It wouldn't surprise me one bit if The
Green Parrot is a meeting place for saboteurs! There's no telling what
they may have done to Jerry!"

By this time Mr. Parker had begun to share the alarm of the girls.
Getting abruptly to his feet, he started toward the telephone. Before he
could take down the receiver, the bell jingled. Answering the incoming
call, a peculiar expression came over the newspaper owner's face. After
talking for a moment, he hung up the receiver and turned toward Penny.

"That was Jerry," he announced dryly.

"Jerry!" Penny became confused. "But I don't understand, Dad. Is he being
held at The Green Parrot?"

"Jerry is at home. He called to ask if you and Louise arrived safely."

"Well, of all the nerve!" Penny cried indignantly. "Just wait until I see
him again!"

"Not so fast," advised her father. "There seems to have been a little
mix-up. After Jerry left the dining room to telephone, the head waiter
told him that you girls had decided not to wait."

"And he told us that Jerry had gone!" Louise cried. "I wonder why?"

"Because he wanted to get rid of our entire party!" Penny declared. "All
the time we were in the cafe that head waiter seemed to keep his eye on
us. Dad, what did Jerry do about paying the bill?"

"He was told that he need not settle it--that he could pay later."

"Well, it's all very peculiar," Penny said with a sigh. "I'm glad Jerry
is safe, but I still maintain we were hustled out of that place."

"No doubt you were," agreed her father. "I'm curious to see the
cafe--especially that door with the peep hole."

"I'll take you there," Penny offered eagerly.

"Not tonight," Mr. Parker declined, yawning. "Tomorrow morning perhaps."

Penny had to be satisfied with the decision, though she yearned for
immediate action. After Louise had gone to her own home, she mulled over
the situation, discussing every angle of it with her father.

"Why do you think Burt Ottman was at the Parrot?" she tried to pin him
down. "Would you say he's one of the plotters?"

"I have no opinion whatsoever," Mr. Parker responded somewhat wearily.

Penny did not allow her father to forget his promise to visit The Green
Parrot. The following morning she awoke early and at the breakfast table
reminded him that they had an important appointment together.

"I should be at the office," Mr. Parker said, glancing at his watch.
"Besides, the cafe won't be open at this hour."

"The manager should be there, Dad. You'll be able to talk to him and
really look over the place."

"We can ask a few questions--that's all," Mr. Parker corrected. "One
can't walk into an establishment and start searching."

"Let's go anyway," pleaded Penny.

More to please her than because he hoped to uncover vital evidence, Mr.
Parker agreed to make the trip. With Penny at the wheel of the family
car, they drove to the street where The Green Parrot was situated.
Parking not far from the entrance to an alley, they walked the remaining
distance.

"This is the place," said Penny, pausing before the familiar building.
"Why, what's become of the cafe?"

Bewildered, she stared at the doorway where the painted parrot sign had
swung. It was no longer there and the Venetian blinds had been removed
from the window.

"This place doesn't have the appearance of a cafe," said Mr. Parker. "Are
you sure you have the correct address, Penny?"

"Why, yes, I know we came here last night. But the sign has been
removed."

Descending the stone steps, Penny pressed her face against the uncovered
windows. Only a large, empty room confronted her astonished gaze. All of
the tables and chairs had been removed, even the palm trees and
decorations.

"It's deserted, Dad!" she exclaimed.

Mr. Parker came down the steps to peer through a window. Bits of colored
paper and menu cards still littered the floor. Testing the door, he found
it locked.

"This certainly is strange," he remarked thoughtfully. "Let's inquire
next door."

Penny and her father chose to enter a bakery which adjoined the building.
A stout woman in a white apron, who was arranging frosted cakes in a
showcase, favored them with a professional smile.

"Good morning," Mr. Parker greeted her, removing his hat. "Can you tell
me what has become of the cafe next door?"

"Are you from the police?" the woman asked quickly.

"No, I'm connected with the _Star_."

"Oh, a reporter!" assumed the woman, and Mr. Parker did not correct her.
"I thought maybe you were from the police. Yesterday I saw a man watching
The Green Parrot and I said to my husband, Gus, 'The cops are going to
raid that place.'"

"And did they?" interposed Mr. Parker.

"Not that I know of. The outfit just moved out. And a queer time to be
doing it too, if you ask me!"

"When did they leave?"

"The van pulled up there about two o'clock last night. They were loading
stuff in until almost dawn."

"Can you tell me where they went or why they moved out?"

"No, I can't," the woman replied with a shrug. "Like as not they were
afraid the police were going to raid 'em. I'm telling you that place
deserved to be closed up."

"Just what went on there?"

"I never was inside the place, but some mighty queer acting people seemed
to be running it. Why, I've seen men go in and out of there at four
o'clock of a morning, hours after the cafe closed up."

"Foreigners?"

"I couldn't rightly say as to that. My husband, Gus, thinks a lot of
gambling went on. Anyway, I'm glad the outfit's gone."

Unable to learn more, Penny and her father left the bakery and walked
toward their parked car. The information they had gained was not likely
to prove very helpful. Obviously, The Green Parrot had closed its doors,
fearing an investigation. Whether it had moved elsewhere or gone out of
existence, they could not know.

"The call that Jerry, Louise and I paid there last night may have had
something to do with it," Penny remarked. "I know the head waiter was
eager to be rid of us."

As Mr. Parker and his daughter walked slowly along, several persons ran
past them toward an alley. Approaching its entranceway, they saw that a
throng of people had gathered not far from the rear exit of The Green
Parrot.

"Wonder what's wrong back there?" speculated Mr. Parker, pausing.
"Probably an accident of some sort."

"Let's find out," proposed Penny.

She and her father joined the group of excited men and women in the
alley. They were startled to see a young man sprawled face downward on
the brick pavement. A garbage collector jabbered excitedly that he had
found the victim lying thus only a moment before.

Mr. Parker pushed through the circle of people. "Has anyone called an
ambulance?" he asked.

"I'll send for one, Mister," offered a boy, hastening away.

Mr. Parker bent over the prone figure.

"He ain't dead is he?" the garbage man asked anxiously.

"Unconscious," replied the newspaper man, his fingers on the victim's
wrist. "A nasty head wound. I'd say he either fell or was struck from
behind."

Carefully Mr. Parker rolled over the limp figure. As he beheld the face,
he stared and glanced quickly at Penny.

"Who is he, Dad?" she asked, and then she saw for herself.

The young man was Burt Ottman.



                                CHAPTER
                                   14
                            _TEST BLACKOUT_


As Mr. Parker covered Burt Ottman with his overcoat, the young man
stirred and opened his eyes. He gazed at the newspaper owner with a dazed
expression and for a moment did not attempt to speak.

"Take it easy," Mr. Parker advised.

"What happened to me?" the young man whispered.

"That's what we'd like to know. Were you struck?"

"Don't remember," Ottman mumbled. He closed his eyes again, but aroused
as he heard the shrill siren of an approaching ambulance. "Don't let 'em
take me to a hospital," he pleaded. "Take me home."

The ambulance drew up in the alley. Stretcher bearers carefully lifted
the young man.

"I'm all right," he insisted, trying to sit up. "Just take me home."

"Where's that?" asked one of the attendants.

Burt Ottman mumbled an address which was on a street not far from the
boat dock he operated.

"We'll take you to the hospital for a check up," the young man was told.
"Then if you're okay, you'll be released."

Deeply interested in the case, Mr. Parker and Penny followed the
ambulance to City Hospital. There, after an hour's wait in the lobby they
were told that Burt Ottman had suffered no severe injury. A minor head
wound had been dressed, and he was to be released within a short while.

"What caused the accident?" Mr. Parker asked one of the nurses. "Did the
young man say?"

"He couldn't seem to remember what happened," she replied. "At least he
wouldn't talk to the doctor about it."

Overdue at the _Star_ office, Mr. Parker could remain no longer. However,
Penny, whose time was her own, loitered about the lobby for an hour and a
half until Burt Ottman came down in the elevator. The young man's head
was bandaged and he walked with an unsteady step as he leaned on the arm
of a nurse.

"I'll call a taxi for you," the young woman said. "You're really in no
condition to walk far, Mr. Ottman."

Penny stepped forward to offer her services. Her father, knowing that she
might have use for the car, had left it parked outside the hospital.

"I'll be glad to take Mr. Ottman home," she volunteered.

The young man protested that he did not wish to cause anyone
inconvenience, but allowed himself to be guided to the waiting
automobile.

As the car sped along toward the riverfront, Penny stole quick glances at
Burt. He sat very still, his gaze on the pavement ahead. She half
expected that he would offer an explanation of the accident, or at least
ask a few questions, but he remained silent.

"You took rather a hard blow on the head," she remarked, seeking to lead
him into conversation.

Burt merely nodded.

"Dad and I were astonished to find you lying in the alley at the rear of
The Green Parrot," Penny went on. "Don't you remember how you came to be
there?"

"Mind's a blank."

"You must have been struck by someone," Penny said, refusing to be
discouraged. "Can't you recall whom you were with just before the
accident?"

"What is this, a third degree?" Burt asked, and only a faint, amused
smile took the edge from his question.

"I'm sorry," Penny apologized.

"It doesn't matter what happened to me," Burt said quietly. "I just don't
feel like talking about it--see?"

"Yes."

"I don't mean to seem unappreciative," the young man resumed. "Thanks for
taking me home."

"You're very welcome, I'm sure," Penny responded dryly.

The car drew up in front of the home where Burt and his sister lived. A
pleasant, one-story cottage rather in need of paint, it was situated high
on a bluff overlooking the river.

As Burt stiffly alighted from the car, the cottage door opened, and Sara
came running to meet him.

"You're hurt!" she cried anxiously. "Oh, Burt, what happened to you?"

"Nothing," he answered, moving away from her encircling arms.

"But your head!"

"Your brother was hurt sometime last night," Penny explained to Sara.
"Just how, we don't know. My father and I found him lying in an alley at
the rear of The Green Parrot."

"The Green Parrot--that night club!" Sara gazed at her brother in dismay.
"Oh, Burt, I was afraid something like this would happen. Those dreadful
men--"

"Now Sara," he interrupted brusquely. "No theatricals, please.
Everything's all right." Giving her cheek a playful pinch, he wobbled
past her into the cottage.

Sara turned frightened eyes upon Penny. "Tell me exactly what happened,"
she pleaded.

"I honestly don't know, Sara. My father thought someone must have struck
your brother from behind, but he's not told us a thing."

"I just knew something of the sort would happen," Sara repeated
nervously.

"What do you mean?" inquired Penny. "Does your brother have enemies who
would harm him?"

"Burt's been trying to find out who framed him in the bridge dynamiting.
He won't tell me much about it, but I know he's been trailing down a few
leads."

"Isn't that work for the police?"

"The police!" Sara retorted bitterly. "Their only interest is in piling
up more evidence against Burt!"

"Your brother knows the identity of the saboteur?"

"He won't tell me, but I think he does have an idea who blew up the
bridge."

Penny scarcely knew whether or not to accept Sara's explanation of her
brother's activities. Unquestionably, the girl believed that he was
innocent of all charges against him. For one not prejudiced in his favor,
there were many factors to be considered. Why had Burt denied losing the
leather billfold? And with whom had he kept the Tuesday night appointment
at The Green Parrot?

"If your brother has any clue regarding the real saboteur, he should
present his evidence to the police," Penny advised Sara.

"He'll never do that until he's ready to appear in court. Not after the
way the police treated him."

Penny realized that nothing was to be gained by discussing the matter
further with Sara. Offering a few polite remarks to the effect that she
hoped Burt would soon recover completely from his injury, she drove away.

Later, in repeating the conversation to her father, she declared that she
could not make up her mind regarding Burt Ottman's guilt.

"The case does have interesting angles," Mr. Parker acknowledged. "I
talked to the Police Commissioner this morning about The Green Parrot.
The place long has had a reputation for cheating customers, and lately
it's been under suspicion as a rendezvous for anti-American groups."

"That would fit in with what the bakery woman told us. What became of The
Green Parrot, Dad? Have the police been able to trace it to a new
location?"

"Not yet. The cafe may not open up again, or if it does, under a new
name."

For two days Penny divided her time between school and the river. As the
water remained too rough for safe sailing, she and Louise spent their
spare hours painting and cleaning their boat. Upon several occasions they
called at the Ottman Boat Dock. Burt never was there, but Sara assured
them that her brother had completely recovered from his recent mishap.

"Did he never tell you how he was struck?" Penny inquired once.

"Never," Sara returned. "I've given up talking to him about it."

With the river high, the girls had no opportunity to visit Old Noah at
his ark. However, Sara told them that she was quite certain Sheriff
Anderson had not succeeded in getting rid of the old fellow and his
animals.

"The ark is still anchored up Bug Run," she laughed ruefully. "I know
because a steady flow of blue bottles has been floating down here!"

"Do you always read the message?" Louise inquired.

"Not always," Sara replied. "Frequently I do because they're so crazy."

Since his arrest and subsequent release from jail, Burt Ottman had seldom
been seen at the boat dock. Harassed and overburdened, Sara endeavored to
do the work of two people. She ran the motor launch, taking passengers up
and down the river. She rented canoes and row boats, and looked after
repair work which came to the shop. If she felt that her brother was
shirking his duties, she gave no inkling of it to the girls.

"When does Burt's trial come up?" Louise remarked to Penny late Thursday
night as they walked home from the Public Library. "Next week, isn't it?"

"Yes, the twenty-first," her chum nodded. "From all I can gather, he'll
be convicted, too."

"I feel sorry for Sara."

"So do I," agreed Penny. "At first I didn't like her very well. Now I
know her brusque manner doesn't mean anything."

The girls were passing a drugstore. In the window appeared a colored
advertisement, a picture of a giant chocolate soda, topped with frothy
whipped cream. Penny paused to gaze longingly at it.

"That's a personal invitation addressed to me," she remarked. "How about
it, Lou?"

"Oh, that same picture has been in the window for months," her chum said
discouragingly. "You can't get whipped cream unless you steal it from a
cow."

"Well, how about a dish of ice cream then? I'm horribly hungry."

"That's your natural state," teased Louise, pulling her on. "If we stop
now, we'll be caught in the test blackout."

"Is there one tonight?"

"Don't you read the papers? It's to be held between nine and ten o'clock.
And it's ten after nine now."

"I think it might be fun to be caught out in one--just so long as it's
not the real thing."

"I want to get home before the street lights are turned out," Louise
insisted. "In fact, I promised Mother I'd come straight home when the
library closed."

"Oh, all right," Penny gave in reluctantly.

The girls began to walk faster for they were many blocks from their own
street. Now and then they met an air raid warden and so knew that the
time for the test blackout was close at hand.

"Louise!" Penny suddenly exclaimed, stopping short.

"Now what?" the other demanded. "Don't you dare tell me you've left
something at the library!"

Penny was staring at a man who only a moment before had come through the
revolving doors of the Hotel Claymore.

"See that fellow!" she said impressively.

"Yes, what about him?"

"He's the head waiter at The Green Parrot."

"Why, you're right!" Louise agreed. "For a minute I didn't recognize him
in street clothes."

"Let's follow him," Penny proposed as the man started down a side street.
"Maybe we can learn the new location of The Green Parrot."

"Oh, Penny, I told Mother I'd come straight home."

"Then I'll follow him alone. I can't let this opportunity slip."

Louise hesitated, and then, unwilling to have Penny undertake an
adventure alone, quickly caught up with her.

"There's no telling where this chase will end," she complained. "That man
may not be going to The Green Parrot."

"Then perhaps we'll learn where he lives and police can question him."

As Penny spoke, a siren began to sound. A car which was cruising past,
pulled up at the curb and its headlights went off. All along the street,
lights blinked out one by one.

"The blackout!" Louise, gasped. "I was afraid we'd be caught in it. Now
we'll lose that man, and what's worse, I'll be late in getting home!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   15
                           _A DRIFTING BARGE_


Upon hearing the shrill notes of the air raid siren, the man whom Penny
and Louise followed, quickened his step. Hastening after him, the girls
turned a corner and came face to face with an air raid warden.

"Take shelter!" he ordered sternly. "The closest one is across the
street--the basement of the Congregational Church."

Penny started to explain, but the warden had no time to listen. Waving
the girls across the street, he watched to see that they actually entered
the shelter.

"I guess he thought we weren't very cooperative," Louise remarked as they
followed a throng of persons downstairs to the basement. "These blackout
tests really are very important."

"Of course," agreed Penny. "It's a pity though that our friend, the
waiter, couldn't have been sent into this same shelter. Now we'll lose
him."

For nearly twenty minutes the girls remained in the basement until the
All Clear sounded. As they returned to the street level, lights were
going on again, one by one. Pedestrians began to pour out of the
shelters, but the girls saw no one who resembled the waiter.

"We've lost him," sighed Penny. "I guess we may as well go home."

"Let's hurry," urged Louise who was glad to abandon the pursuit. "Mother
will be worried about me."

At the Sidell home, Penny turned down an invitation to come in for a few
minutes. As she started on alone, she paused and called to her chum who
was on the porch: "Oh, Lou, how about a sail early tomorrow morning?"

"Isn't the river too high?"

"It was dropping fast this morning. The current's not so strong now
either. Let's get up bright and early."

"How early?" Louise asked dubiously.

"Oh, about seven o'clock."

"That's practically the middle of the night," Louise complained.

"I'll come by for you at a quarter to seven," Penny said, as if the
matter were settled. "Wear warm clothes and don't you dare keep me
waiting."

The next morning heavy mists shrouded Riverview's valleys and waterfront.
Undaunted by the dismal prospect, Penny proceeded in darkness to the
Sidell home. There, huddling against the gate post, she whistled several
times, and finally tossed a pebble against the window of Louise's room. A
moment later the sash went up.

"Oh, is it you, Penny?" her chum mumbled in a sleepy voice. "You surely
don't expect to go sailing on a morning like this!"

"The fog will clear away just as soon as the sun gets up. Hurry and climb
into your clothes, lazy bones!"

With a groan, Louise slammed down the window. Ten minutes later she
appeared, walking awkwardly because she wore two pair of slack suits and
three sweaters.

"Think we'll freeze?" she inquired anxiously.

"You won't," laughed Penny, giving her a thermos bottle to carry.

By the time the girls reached the dock, the rising sun had begun to
scatter the mist. Patches of fog still hung over portions of the river
however, and it was impossible to see the far shore.

"Shouldn't we wait another hour?" Louise suggested as Penny leaped aboard
the dinghy.

"Oh, by the time we get the sail up the river will be clear," she
responded carelessly. "Toss me the life preserver cushions."

While Penny put up the mainsail, Louise wiped the seats dry of dew. Her
fingers stiff with cold, she cast off the mooring ropes, and the boat
drifted away from the dock.

"Well, the river is all ours this morning," Penny remarked, watching the
limp sail. "That's the way I like it."

"Where's the breeze?" demanded Louise suspiciously.

"We'll get one in a minute. The headland is cutting it off."

"You're a chronic optimist!" accused Louise. Wetting a finger, she held
it up. "I don't believe there is any breeze! We'll just drift down stream
and then have to row back!"

"We're getting a little now," said Penny as the sail became taut. "Hold
your fire, dear chum."

The boat gradually picked up speed, but the breeze was so unsteady that
the girls did not attempt to cross the river. Instead, they sailed in
midstream, proceeding toward the commercial docks. The mists did not
entirely clear away and Penny began to shiver.

"Don't you wish you had one of my sweaters?" asked Louise, grinning.

Penny shook her head as she reached to pour herself a cup of steaming
coffee from the thermos bottle. Before she could drink it, a large, flat
vessel loomed up through the mist ahead.

"Now don't try to argue the right of way with that boat," Louise advised
uneasily.

"Why, it's a barge!" Penny exclaimed, bringing the dinghy about. "I do
believe it's adrift!"

"What makes you think so?" Louise asked, staring at the dark hulk.

Penny maneuvered the dinghy closer before she replied. "You can see it's
out of control. There's no tow boat anywhere near."

"It does seem to be drifting," Louise acknowledged. "No one appears to be
aboard either."

Realizing that the large vessel would block off all the wind if she
approached too close to it, Penny kept the dinghy away. The barge, almost
crosswise to the current, was floating slowly downstream.

"How do you suppose it got loose?" Louise speculated.

"Saboteurs may have cut the hawser."

"The big mooring rope _has_ been severed!" Louise exclaimed a moment
later. "I can see the frayed end!"

Penny came about again, tacking in closer to the drifting vessel.

"That certainly looks like the barge Carl Oaks was hired to guard," she
declared with a worried frown. "Can you read the numbers, Lou?"

"519-9870."

"Then it is his barge!"

"He must have deserted his post again."

"In any case that barge is a great hazard to other vessels," Penny
declared, deeply troubled. "Not even a signal light on the bow or stern!"

"Oughtn't we to notify the Coast Guards?"

"We should, but while we're reaching a telephone, the barge may ram
another boat. Why not board her and put up signal lights first? In this
fog one can't see a vessel many yards ahead."

"It doesn't look possible to climb aboard."

"I think I can do it," Penny said, offering the tiller to her chum.
"Here, take the stick."

"You know what happens when I try to steer," Louise replied, shrinking
back. "I'll be sure to upset. The wind always is tricky around a big
boat."

"Then I'll take down the sail," Penny decided, moving forward to release
the halyard.

The billowing canvas came sliding down. Penny broke out the oars, and
maneuvered the dinghy until it grated against the hull of the barge.

"Even a trained monkey couldn't get up there," Louise declared, staring
at the high deck.

Penny rowed around to the other side of the barge. Discovering a rope
which did not give to her weight, she announced that she intended to
climb it.

"You'll fall," Louise predicted.

"Why, I'm the champion rope climber of Riverview High!" Penny chuckled,
thrusting the oars into her chum's unwilling hands. "Just hold the dinghy
here until I get back."

"Which shouldn't be long," Louise said gloomily. "I expect to hear your
splash any minute now."

Penny grasped the dangling rope. With far more ease than she had
anticipated, she climbed hand over hand to the deck of the barge. Once
there she lost not a moment in lighting signal lamps at bow and stern.
The task accomplished, she was moving amidships when she thought she
heard a slight sound from within the deck house. Pausing to listen, she
called:

"Is anyone here?"

There was no answer, but distinctly she heard a scraping noise, as if
someone were pushing a chair against a wall.

"Someone _is_ in there!" Penny thought.

Darting across the deck, she tried the door of the cabin. It had been
fastened from the outside. Fumbling with the bolt, she finally was able
to push it back. The door swung outward.

For a moment Penny could discern no one in the dark, little room. Then
she saw a man lying on the floor. A gag covered his mouth and his hands
and feet were tied with cord.

The prisoner was Carl Oaks.



                                CHAPTER
                                   16
                         _DANGER ON THE RIVER_


Throwing the door open wide to admit more light, Penny darted into the
cabin. Bending over the prisoner, she began to untie the cords which
bound his wrists.

"I'll have you free in a minute, Mr. Oaks," she encouraged him.

The cords had been loosely tied. Undoing the knots, she next pulled away
the gag which covered his mouth.

"What happened, Mr. Oaks?" she demanded. "Who did this to you?"

The old watchman sat up, stretching his cramped arms. He did not reply,
but watched Penny intently as she loosened the thongs which bound his
legs. Getting up, he walked a step or two across the cabin.

"Tell me what happened," Penny urged impatiently. "Don't you feel able to
explain?"

"I'm disgusted," Mr. Oaks returned. "Plumb disgusted."

"I don't doubt you feel that way," agreed Penny. "This barge is floating
in mid-channel, a hazard to incoming and outgoing vessels. We'll have to
do something about it."

"I'm through with this job! I didn't want it in the first place!"

"That's neither here nor there," Penny replied, losing patience. "Suppose
you stop grieving over your bad luck for a minute, and explain what
occurred."

"Well, it was about midnight when they sneaked aboard."

"The men who attacked you?"

"Yes, there were three of 'em. I was in the cabin at the time, reading my
newspaper. Before I knew what was happening, they were on top of me."

"Did you recognize any of the men, Mr. Oaks?"

"No."

"What did they look like?"

"It was dark and I didn't see their faces."

"How were they dressed?"

"Didn't notice that either," Mr. Oaks returned grumpily. "I was too busy
tryin' to fight 'em off. They trussed me up and then cut the barge
loose."

"Saboteurs!"

"Reckon so," the old watchman nodded.

"Well, what will we do?" Penny asked, scarcely able to hide her growing
irritation. "It's still foggy on the river. I've put up signal lights,
but an approaching freighter might not see them in time to change her
course."

"There's nothing more to be done," Carl Oaks responded with a shrug. "The
Coast Guard boat will come along after awhile. I'm not going to worry
about it--not me! I'm done with this lousy job, and you can tell your
father so."

"My father can bear the shock, I think," Penny answered coldly.

Thoroughly disgusted at the indifferent attitude of the watchman, she ran
out on deck. Looking down over the side, she saw Louise waiting anxiously
in the dinghy.

"Oh, there you are!" her chum cried. "I thought you never were coming!"

Penny explained that she had found Carl Oaks lying bound and gagged
inside the deck house. As the old watchman himself came up behind her,
she could say nothing about his indifferent attitude.

"I wondered how you got out to this barge," Oaks commented, gazing down
at the dinghy. "You can take me to shore with you."

"Isn't it your duty to remain here until relieved?" Penny asked.

"I resigned, takin' effect last night at midnight," Oaks grinned. "I've
had enough of Riverview. I'm getting out of this town."

Penny faced the watchman with flashing eyes.

"My father obtained this job for you, Mr. Oaks. You'll show very little
gratitude if you run off just because you're in trouble again."

"A man's got a right to do as he pleases!"

"Not always," Penny corrected. "Saboteurs are at work along this
waterfront, and it's your duty to tell police what you know."

"I didn't see the men, I tell you! They came at me from behind."

"Even so, you may be able to contribute information to the police. In any
case, you'll have to stay here until relieved--"

"Penny!" interrupted Louise from below. "There's a boat coming!"

The steady chug of a motor could be heard, but for a moment the swirling
mists hid the approaching vessel. Then a pleasure yacht, with pennants
flying, came into view.

"It's the _Eloise III!_" Penny cried, recognizing the craft as one
belonging to Commodore Phillips of the Riverview Marine Club.

Waving their arms and shouting, the girls tried to attract the pilot's
attention. To their relief, the yacht veered slightly from her course,
and the engines slackened speed.

"Yacht ahoy!" called Penny, cupping hands to her lips.

"Ahoy!" came the answering shout from Commodore Phillips. "What's wrong
there? Barge adrift?"

Penny confirmed the observation and requested to be taken aboard.
Although she was not certain of it, she believed that the _Eloise III_
was equipped with a radio telephone which could be used to notify Coast
Guards of the floating barge.

Leaving Carl Oaks behind, the girls rowed to the yacht and were helped
aboard. Commodore Phillips immediately confirmed that his vessel did have
radio-telephone apparatus.

"Come with me," he directed, leading the girls to the radio room.

The Commodore sat down beside the transmitting apparatus, quickly
adjusting a pair of earphones. Snapping on the power switch, he tuned to
the wave length of the Coast Guard station. While the girls hovered at
his elbow, he talked into the radio telephone, informing the Coast Guard
of the floating barge and its position. The message, he explained to
Penny and Louise, would be received in "scrambled speech" and
automatically transformed into understandable English by means of an
electrical device.

"How do you mean?" inquired Louise, deeply puzzled.

"Nearly all ship-to-shore radio telephone conversations are carried on in
scrambled speech," the Commodore replied. "Otherwise, eavesdroppers could
tune in on them and learn important facts not intended to be made
public."

"But you spoke ordinary English into the 'phone," Louise said, still
perplexed.

"The speech scrambler is an electric circuit which automatically
transposes voice frequencies," the Commodore resumed. "The words are made
unintelligible until unscrambled by a similar device at the receiving
station. For instance, if I were to say 'Mary had a little lamb,' into
this phone, anyone listening in would hear: 'Noyil hob e ylippey ylond.'
Yet at the receiving post, the message would be unscrambled to its
original form."

"I wish our telephone at home was fixed that way!" Penny declared with a
laugh. "Wouldn't some of the neighbors develop a headache!"

Having been informed that a Coast Guard cutter would proceed at once to
the locality, the girls felt relieved of further responsibility. As
Commodore Phillips said that he would stand by with his yacht until the
cutter reached the scene, they finally decided to return to shore. Once
well away from the yacht they raised sail and tacked toward their own
dock.

"I hope the Coast Guard gives Carl Oaks a good lecture," Penny remarked,
turning to gaze back at the slowly drifting barge. "Why, he wasn't one
bit concerned what might happen to other vessels!"

"I never did like him," said Louise with feeling. "He complains too much.
Was it his fault that the barge was cut adrift?"

"Not according to his story. Three men attacked him while he was in the
deck house. Of course, he couldn't have been too alert."

"Carl Oaks wouldn't be!"

"There was one rather peculiar thing," Penny said slowly. "It never
occurred to me until now."

"What's that?"

"Why, Mr. Oaks' bonds were very loose. If he had tried, I believe he
could have freed himself."

"That does seem strange," agreed Louise. "You don't think he allowed
those saboteurs to board the barge?"

Penny brought the dinghy around, steering to avoid a floating log.

"I wouldn't know," she replied soberly. "But I'm glad we forced Mr. Oaks
to wait for the Coast Guard. I hope they question him until they get to
the bottom of this affair."



                                CHAPTER
                                   17
                            _A STOLEN BOAT_


The mists were lifting as Penny and Louise sailed slowly past the Ottman
Dock toward their own snug berth. Sara, in blue slacks, a red bandana
handkerchief over her head, was trying to start a stubborn outboard
motor. Glancing up, she called a greeting, and then asked abruptly:

"Say, what's that barge doing out on the river? It looks to me as if it's
adrift, but I can't see well enough to tell."

Penny and Louise, eager to impart information, brought the dinghy to a
mooring at the floating platform. Sara listened with interest as they
revealed how they had boarded the barge, released Carl Oaks, and then
notified the Coast Guard.

"Neat work!" she praised. "That Carl Oaks! He's one of the most shiftless
men I ever knew. He doesn't deserve to hold a job."

Penny glanced about the dock, searching for Burt Ottman.

"Your brother isn't here?" she remarked absently.

"No, he isn't," Sara replied, rather defiantly. "If you think he had
anything to do with that barge--"

"Why, it never entered my mind!" Penny exclaimed.

"I'm sorry," the older girl apologized. "I shouldn't have said that. I
don't know why I'm so jumpy lately."

"You have a great deal to worry you," said Louise sympathetically. "And
you work too hard."

"I'll be all right as soon as Burt's trial is over. He's not here this
morning--" Sara's voice broke. "In fact, I don't know where he is."

Louise and Penny said nothing, though the remark astonished them.

"Burt was out all last night," Sara spoke and then seemed to realize that
her words easily could be misinterpreted. She added hastily: "He's been
trying to gain evidence which will prove his innocence."

"You mean your brother went away yesterday and failed to return?" Penny
asked after a moment.

Sara nodded. "He's on the trail of the real saboteurs, and it's dangerous
business. That's why I'm so worried. I'm afraid he's in trouble."

"Have you talked to the police?" Penny inquired.

"Indeed, I haven't."

"Didn't your brother tell you where he was going when he left home?"

"No, he didn't. He keeps things from me because he says I worry too much
now."

"I suppose he never explained what happened at The Green Parrot?"

"He said he couldn't remember. Oh, everything's so mixed up. I try not to
think about it, because when I do my head simply buzzes."

Once more Sara tried to start the balky engine, and this time her efforts
brought success.

"Thank goodness for small favors!" she muttered. "Now I've got to go out
on the river and look for our stolen boat. Hope no one runs off with this
place while I'm gone."

"You've not had another boat stolen?" Louise asked in surprise.

"I figure that's what happened to it. Late yesterday afternoon a man came
here and rented our fastest motorboat. That's the last I've seen of him
or it."

"Didn't you report your loss to the Coast Guards?" inquired Penny.

Sara answered with a trace of impatience. "Of course, I did. They
searched the river last night. No accident reported, and no trace of the
boat."

"The man might have drowned," Louise offered anxiously.

"It's not likely. If he had gone overboard, the boat would have been
found by this time. No, it's been pulled up somewhere in the bushes and
hidden. Last year one of our canoes was taken. Burt found it a month
later, painted a different color!"

"Didn't you know the man who rented the boat?" questioned Penny.

"Never saw him before. He was tall and thin and dark. Wore a brown felt
hat and overcoat. I noticed his hands in particular. They were soft and
well manicured. I said to myself, 'This fellow doesn't know a thing about
boats,' but I was wrong. He handled that motor like a veteran."

"The man didn't look like a waiter, did he?" Penny asked quickly.

"You couldn't prove it by me."

Penny groped in her mind to recall a characteristic which definitely
would describe the head waiter of The Green Parrot. To her chagrin, she
could think of only one unusual facial characteristic, a tiny scar on his
cheek. She did remember that the man had worn a large, old fashioned gold
watch which might have been of foreign make.

"Why, the fellow who rented the boat did have such a watch!" Sara cried
when Penny mentioned the timepiece. "I didn't notice the scar. What is
his name?"

"Louise and I never were able to learn," Penny replied with regret. "The
Green Parrot has closed its doors, so I don't know how you can get in
touch with him."

Sara sighed. Placing an oar, a bailer, and a can of gasoline in the boat,
she prepared to leave the dock.

"I'll be lucky if I ever see the fellow again," she commented. Hesitating
a moment, she asked diffidently: "Don't suppose you girls would like to
go along?"

Penny and Louise wondered if their ears had betrayed them. It seemed
beyond belief that Sara actually would invite them to accompany her.

"Why, of course, we'd like to go," Penny accepted, before her chum could
find her voice.

Scrambling out of the dinghy, the girls made it fast to the dock and
transferred to the other boat. Sara opened the throttle, and they shot
away, leaving behind a trail of churning foam. Out through the slip they
raced, rounding a channel buoy at breakneck speed.

"You can certainly handle a boat," Penny said admiringly.

"Been at it since I was a kid," Sara grinned. "I could cruise this river
blindfolded."

They passed the floating barge, observing that a Coast Guard cutter was
proceeding up river to take it in tow. Turning upstream, Sara swung the
boat toward shore.

"Keep close watch of the bushes," she directed the girls. "If you see
anything that looks like a hidden boat, sing out."

At low speed they crept along the river, watching for marks in the sand
which might reveal where a craft had been pulled out of water. Once,
venturing too close in, Sara went aground and had to push off with the
oars.

"It doesn't look as if we'll have any luck," she remarked gloomily. "The
boat's probably so well hidden, it would take a ferret to find it."

They kept on upstream toward the Seventh Street Bridge, a structure much
in use since the more modern Thompson's Bridge had been closed to auto
traffic. Penny, watching the stream of vehicles passing above, remarked
that Riverview commerce would be paralyzed should anything occur to
damage it.

"The Seventh Street Bridge now is the only artery open to the Riverview
Munitions Plant," Sara added. "I understand it's being guarded day and
night. By a better watchman than Carl Oaks, I hope."

Without passing the bridge, the girls turned downstream, searching the
opposite shore. Before they had gone far, Sara beached the boat on a
stretch of sand.

"It was along here that Burt found our canoe last year," she explained.
"If you don't mind waiting, I'll get out and prowl around a bit."

"Aren't we near Bug Run?" Penny inquired.

Sara pointed out the mouth of the stream which was hidden from view by a
clump of willows.

"If you expect to be here a few minutes, Louise and I might pay Old Noah
a flying visit," Penny said eagerly. "We're curious to learn what has
happened to him."

"I'll be around for at least half an hour," Sara replied. "Take your
time."

Penny and Louise set off along the twisting bank of Bug Run. Approaching
the vicinity of the ark, they noticed many corked blue bottles caught
amid the debris of the sluggish stream.

"I'll bet a cent and a half that Old Noah still is on the old stamping
grounds!" Penny remarked. "Sheriff Anderson probably hasn't found a way
to get rid of him. Why, unless a regular deluge floods this stream, the
ark never could be floated out to the main river."

"The sheriff could put Old Noah in jail."

"True, but a great many people would criticize him if he did."

A moment later the girls rounded a bend and saw the ark in its usual
setting. A long clothes line had been stretched from bow to stern, and
wet garments fresh from the wash tub, flapped in the breeze.

"Well, Noah is still here," chuckled Penny. "He's run up the white flag
though! Or should we say the white flags!"

On the deck of the ark, Old Noah was so busy that he failed to note the
approach of the two girls. He stood in the center of a ring of soiled
clothes, laboring diligently over a tub of steaming suds.

As the girls reached the gangplank, a dog from inside the ark began an
excited barking. Startled, Old Noah glanced up. Unnoticed by him, his
long white beard slipped into the soapy water and he rubbed it vigorously
on the washboard.

Scarcely able to control a giggle, Penny followed her chum aboard the
ark. As Old Noah kept on scrubbing his beard she could not resist asking:
"Excuse me, but aren't you washing your whiskers by mistake?"

Surprised, the old man straightened to his full height. Squeezing the
dripping beard, he carefully wrung it out. Next he produced a comb from
his loose fitting brown pantaloons, and painstakingly unsnarled the
tangles. Then turning to the girls, he greeted them with his usual
dignity.

"Good morning, my daughters. I am glad you kept your promise to visit me
again."

"Good morning, Noah," responded Penny, trying not to laugh. "We thought
we would drop by and see if you were still here. I remember Sheriff
Anderson said he was going to call on you again."

The old man's weather beaten face crinkled into deep wrinkles. "Ho, ho!
So he did, but he reckoned without the Might of the Righteous. I was
watching for him when he came."

"I hope you didn't mistreat him," Penny said uneasily.

"When I observed his approach I untied my two hounds, Nip and Tuck, and
hid myself in the forest. He was gone when I returned to the ark."

"Likewise, part of his anatomy, I suppose," commented Penny.

"Nip and Tuck did cause a commotion," Old Noah acknowledged, "but they
did him no harm. When he went away the sheriff left a cowardly note
tacked to a tree. It said he would return to dispossess me. Before that
happens, I will blow this ark to Kingdom Come!"

"How will you do that?" inquired Penny, rather amused.

"With dynamite."

"Do you have any aboard the ark?"

Old Noah smiled mysteriously. "I know where I can lay my hands on all
I'll need. When I was hiding in the woods yesterday, I saw where they
keep it."

Penny and Louise glanced quickly at each other. While it was possible
that Old Noah was talking wildly, the mention of dynamite made them
uneasy. If it were true that he had come into possession of such a cache,
then obviously it was their duty to report to the authorities.

"Who hid the dynamite?" Penny asked.

"I do not rightly know," replied Old Noah. "It may have been those
strangers who were pestering me last night. They came to my ark and were
very nosey, asking me about this and that."

"Not officers?"

"They had no connection with the Law, speaking of it with great
contempt."

"How many men were there, Noah?"

"Two."

"And they came by car?"

"Bless you, no," replied Noah wearily. "They arrived in a motorboat. Of
all the pop-poppin' you ever heard! It almost drove my animals crazy."

"After they talked to you, the men went away again in their boat?"

"They started off, but as soon as they had turned the bend they switched
out the motor. I wondered what they were up to, so I sneaked through the
bushes and watched."

"Yes, go on!" Penny urged eagerly as Old Noah interrupted the narrative
to wash another shirt. "What did the men do?"

"Why, nothing," answered the old man. "They just pulled the boat up into
the bushes and went off and left it."

"The boat is still there?" Penny demanded.

"So far as I know, my daughter."

"Will you show us where the boat is hidden?" pleaded Penny. "And the
dynamite cache too!"

"I am very busy now," Old Noah said, shaking his flowing locks. "I have
this pesky washing to do, and then, there's all the animals to feed."

"Can't we help you?" offered Louise.

"I thank you kindly, but it would not be fit work for young ladies. If
you will return tomorrow, I gladly will guide you to the place."

Penny and Louise tried their powers of persuasion, but the old man was
not to be moved. In the end they had to be satisfied with a description
of the site where the motorboat had been hidden. Old Noah stubbornly
refused to tell them more about the cache of dynamite.

Finally, the girls said goodbye to the master of the ark, and hastened
toward the river to join Sara. They were greatly excited by the
information they had obtained.

"Old Noah may have talked for the fun of it," Penny declared as they
struggled through the underbrush. "If not, I think we've stumbled into an
important clue--one which may have a bearing on the bridge dynamiting
case!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   18
                             _PENNY'S PLAN_


Sara was waiting beside her boat when Penny and Louise came running along
the muddy shore. Without apologizing for being so late, they excitedly
related their conversation with Old Noah.

"Say, maybe that hidden motorboat is mine!" the girl exclaimed. "What did
it look like?"

"We didn't take time to search for it," Penny replied. "We knew you would
be waiting so we came straight here."

"Let's see if we can find it," Sara said, starting up the engine.

"Noah's animals don't like motorboats," Louise chuckled. "I suggest we do
our searching afoot."

"All right," Sara agreed readily, switching the motor off again. "Lead
and I'll follow."

Penny and Louise guided their companion to the mouth of Bug Run and
thence along its slippery banks to a clump of overhanging willows.

"According to Old Noah's description, this should be the place," Penny
declared, looking about. "No sign of a boat though."

Sara took off shoes and stockings and waded through the shallow, muddy
water. Whenever she came to a clump of bushes, she would pull the
branches aside to peer behind them.

"Old Noah may have been spoofing us," Penny began, but just then Sara
gave a little cry.

"Here it is! I've found it!"

Penny and Louise slid down the bank to the water's edge. Behind a dense
thicket, a motorboat had been pulled out on the sand. The engine remained
attached, covered by a piece of canvas.

"Is it your boat, Sara?" Penny asked eagerly.

"It certainly is!" She spoke with emphasis. "The hull has been repainted,
but it takes more than that to fool me."

"Any positive way to identify it?"

"By the engine number. Ours was 985-877 unless I'm mistaken. I have it
written down at home."

"What's the number of this engine?"

"The same!" Sara cried triumphantly after she had removed the canvas
covering and examined it. "This is my property all right, and I shall
take it back with me."

"Old Noah spoke of two strangers who came here last night by boat," Penny
said thoughtfully.

"The fellow who stopped at the dock probably picked up a pal later on,"
Sara commented, trying to shove the boat into the water. "My, this old
tub is heavy! Want to help?"

"Wait, Sara!" Penny exclaimed. "Let's leave the boat here."

"Leave it here! Now that would be an idea! This little piece of floating
wood represents nine hundred and fifty dollars."

"I don't mean that you're to lose the boat," Penny hastened to explain.
"But if we take it now, we never will catch the fellow who stole it."

"That's true."

"If we leave the boat here we can keep watch of the place and catch those
scamps when they come back."

"They may not come back," Sara said, without warming to the plan.
"Besides, I've no time to do a Sherlock Holmes in the bushes. I have my
dock to look after."

"Louise and I could do most of the watching."

"Well, I don't know," Sara said dubiously. "Something might go wrong. I
never would get over it if I lost the boat."

"You won't lose the boat," promised Penny. "It's really important that we
catch those two men, Sara. From what Old Noah said, they may be connected
with the bridge dynamiting."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because Old Noah found a cache of dynamite somewhere near here."

"He won't tell us its location," added Louise.

"If it should develop that the men are saboteurs, we might learn
something which would help your brother's case," Penny said persuasively.
"How about it, Sara?"

"I'd be glad to risk the boat if I thought it would help Burt."

"Then let's leave it here. We can watch the spot night and day."

"And what will your parents have to say?"

Penny's face fell. "Well, I suppose when it comes right to it, Dad will
set his foot down. But at least we can watch during the day time. Then if
necessary, we might report to the police."

"Let's leave them out of it," Sara said feelingly. "If you girls will
remain throughout the day, I'll stand the night watch."

"Not alone!" Louise protested.

"Why not?" Sara asked, amused. "I've frequently camped out along the
river at night. Once I made a canoe trip the full length of the river
just for the fun of it."

"Louise and I will stay here now while you return to the dock," Penny
declared. "Better call our parents when you get there and break the news
as gently as possible."

"What will you do for lunch?"

"Maybe we can beg a sandwich or a fried egg from Old Noah," Penny
chuckled. "We'll manage somehow."

"Well, whatever you do, don't leave the boat unguarded," Sara advised,
starting away. "As soon as it gets dark I'll come back."

Left to themselves, Penny and Louise explored the locality thoroughly.
Not far away they found a log which offered a comfortable seat, and they
screened it with brush.

"Now we're all ready for Mr. Saboteur," Penny said. "He can't come too
soon to suit me."

"And just what are we going to do when he does arrive?"

"I forgot to figure that angle," Penny confessed. "We may have to call on
Old Noah for help."

"Noah will be busy doing a washing or giving the goat a beauty
treatment," Louise laughed.

The sun lifted higher, and steam rising from the damp earth made the
girls increasingly uncomfortable. As the hours dragged by they rapidly
lost zest for their adventure. Long before noon they were assailed by the
pangs of hunger.

"If I could catch a bullfrog I'd be tempted to eat him raw," Penny
remarked sadly. "How about chasing up to the ark? Noah might give us a
nibble of something."

"Dare we go away and leave the boat?"

"Oh, it's safe enough for a few minutes," Penny returned. "The idea of
staying here wasn't such a good one anyhow. What if those men should
never come back?"

"This is a fine time to be thinking of that possibility!"

Moving quietly through the woods, the girls came to the ark. They could
hear the hens cackling, and as they called Old Noah's name, the parrot
answered, squawking: "Polly wants a cracker."

"You've got nothing on me, Polly," said Penny. "Where's your master?"

The old ark keeper was nowhere in evidence. Nor were the girls able to
board the boat, for the gangplank had been removed.

"Now if this isn't a situation!" Penny exclaimed, exasperated. "It looks
as if we're going to starve to death."

After lingering about the ark for a few minutes, they returned to their
former hiding place. By this time they were so sorry for themselves that
they could think of nothing but their discomfort. Belatedly, they
recalled that Sara had smiled as she went away.

"She knew what we were up against staying here!" Penny declared. "Figured
us for a couple of softies, I bet!"

"While everyone knows we're regular Commandos," Louise retorted
sarcastically. "Why, if necessary we could go an entire day without
eating."

"That's exactly what we will do," announced Penny with renewed
determination. "I'll stay here until Sara comes if it kills me. But I
hope you slug me if ever I get another idea like this."

"Don't worry, I will," promised Louise. "In fact, I may not wait that
long!"

The hours dragged slowly on. All amusements failing them, the girls took
turns sleeping. Twice they went to the ark, but Old Noah had not
returned.

At last, as shadows lengthened, Louise and Penny were confronted with a
new worry. It occurred to them that Sara might not expect to take over
her duties until long after dark. The air had grown chilly, and hungry
mosquitoes were swarming from their breeding places.

"Even my Mother doesn't seem concerned about me any more," Louise moaned,
slapping at a foraging insect.

Penny glared at the motorboat snugly hidden in the underbrush. "If that
thing weren't worth so much money, I'd certainly chuck this job. Even so,
I'm just about desperate."

Louise, huddled against a tree trunk, suddenly straightened alertly.
Placing a warning finger on her lips, she listened.

"Someone's coming, Penny!"

"Maybe it's Sara with a basket of food. I'd rather see her than a dozen
saboteurs!"

"Keep quiet, you egg," Louise warned nervously.

Crouching low behind their shelter, the girls waited. They could hear a
steady tramp, tramp of feet coming up the stream on their side of the
bank.

"That's not Sara," murmured Penny. "She doesn't walk like an elephant.
What'll we do if it should be a saboteur?"

"I'm scared," Louise chattered, hugging her chum's arm.

The footsteps came closer. Peering out through the screen of underbrush,
the girls saw a young man coming straight toward their hiding place. In
his hand he carried a safety-cap gasoline can.

"Who is he?" whispered Louise.

"Can't tell yet," Penny responded, straining her eyes to see. "He looks a
little like--oh, my aunt! That's who it is--Bill Evans! Now what's he
doing here?"



                                CHAPTER
                                   19
                            _STANDING GUARD_


Keeping low amid the underbrush, Penny and Louise waited and watched.
Bill Evans did not see them although he approached within a few feet of
their hiding place. With no hesitation, he went to the motorboat and
began filling the tank with gasoline.

"Bill Evans, a thief and a saboteur!" Louise whispered. "I'll never get
over it!"

"Bill hasn't the pep to be a saboteur," Penny muttered. "There's
something wrong with this melodrama, and I'm going to find out about it
right now!"

Before Louise could stop her, she arose from the underbrush to confront
the dumbfounded young man.

"Bill Evans, what do you think you're doing?" she demanded sternly.

Bill nearly dropped the gasoline can. "Why, I'm filling this tank," he
replied. "Why are you girls hiding behind that log?"

"Because we've been waiting to catch a motorboat thief! And you're it!"

"Now listen here!" said Bill, setting down the gasoline can. "You can't
insult me, Miss Penny Parker! Just what do you mean by that crack?"

"This motorboat was stolen from Sara Ottman. You're filling the tank with
gasoline, so you must expect to make a get-away to parts unknown."

"This boat belongs to Sara Ottman?" Bill demanded in amazement.

"It certainly does."

"You're kidding. It belongs to a Mr. Wessler."

"Who's he?" asked Penny. "I never heard of him."

"Well, neither did I until this afternoon," Bill admitted. "He gave me a
dollar to come over here and fill the tank of this boat with gas. I'm
only carrying out orders."

"Now we're getting somewhere," Penny declared with satisfaction. "How did
you meet Mr. Wessler?"

"I was working on the dock, tinkering with my engine, when a man came up
and started talking to me. He said he was a friend of Mr. Wessler who was
planning a fishing trip. Then he told me where the boat was, and said
he'd give me a dollar if I'd run over and fill the tank with gasoline."

"Didn't you think it a rather peculiar request?"

"Not the way the fellow explained it. Mr. Wessler is a busy man and
doesn't have time to look after such details."

"Mr. Wessler is afraid this locality is being watched, and he isn't
taking any chances," Penny said soberly. "Bill, you've been assisting a
thief!"

"Gee Whiskers!" Bill exclaimed, aghast. "I never thought about him not
owning the boat. What should I do?"

"First of all, don't fill that tank with gasoline," Penny advised.

"It's about half full now."

"Can't you siphon it out?"

"Not without a tube, and I didn't bring one."

"You'll never in the world make a G-man," sighed Penny. "Well, at least
you can describe the fellow who hired you."

Bill's brow puckered. "I didn't pay much attention," he admitted. "I'd
say the fellow was about thirty-eight, with a little trick moustache."

"That can't be the man who originally rented the boat from Sara," Penny
remarked, frowning.

"Say, are you really sure this boat belongs to the Ottmans?" Bill asked.
"You know they're pretty badly tangled with the police. It said in the
papers--"

"I know," interrupted Penny wearily. "Or do I know? I'm so mixed I feel
like a perpetual motion machine running backwards."

"We've been watching here all day," Louise added, her voice quavering.
"We've had nothing to eat. No wonder our minds are failing."

"Why don't you go home?"

"And let a saboteur run off with this boat?" Penny demanded. "We promised
to stay here until Sara comes."

"Maybe she and her brother are pulling a fast one on you."

"I might think so, only this was my own idea," Penny answered. "Bill, did
that man mention when his friend Wessler intended to go fishing?"

"No, he didn't."

"He might intend to use the boat tonight, and then again, perhaps not for
several days. Say, Bill, how would you like to do your country a great
service?"

"I'm aiming to enlist when I get through High School."

"This would be immediate service. Why not stay here and watch until Sara
comes? It shouldn't be long."

"And what if those men should show up?"

"Just keep watch and see what they do. Of course, if they try to get away
in the motorboat, you'll have to capture them."

"Oh, sure," Bill said sarcastically. "With my bare hands?"

"We won't leave you here long," Penny promised. "Louise and I haven't had
a bite of food all day--"

"Okay, I'll do it," Bill gave in. "But see to it you're back here in an
hour. Better bring the police too."

Learning that the young man had crossed the river in his own motorboat,
the girls obtained permission to borrow it for the return trip. They
found the craft at the mouth of Bug Run, and made a quick trip to the
Ottman Dock.

"No one here," Penny observed as they alighted at the platform.

The boat shed was closed and locked. A small boy, loitering nearby, told
the girls that he had not seen Sara Ottman for several hours.

"Now this is a nice dish of stew!" Penny exclaimed. "Where could she have
gone? And why?"

"I know where I am going," announced Louise grimly. "Home! Be it ever so
humble, there's no place like it when you're tired and hungry."

"But what about poor Bill? We can't expect him to stay in the woods all
night."

"Well, there's a hamburger stand at the amusement park," Louise suggested
after a moment. "We could go there for a sandwich. Then we might
telephone home and request advice."

"Not a bad idea," Penny praised.

At the hamburger stand they ate three sandwiches each and topped off the
meal with ice cream and pie. Seeking a public telephone, Penny then used
a precious nickel to call her home. No one answered. Deciding that her
father might be at the _Star_ office, she phoned there. Informed that Mr.
Parker was not in the building, she asked for Mr. DeWitt.

"DeWitt left the office a half hour ago," came the discouraging response.

"I wonder where I can reach him?"

"Can't tell you," was the answer. "Burt Ottman has skipped his bail, and
DeWitt's upset about it. He may have gone to talk to his lawyer."

"What was that about Burt Ottman?" Penny asked quickly.

"He's disappeared--skipped town. Due for trial day after tomorrow, too.
Looks like DeWitt is holding the bag."

Penny hung up the receiver, more bewildered than ever. Without taking
time to repeat the conversation to her chum, she called Sara's home.

For a long while she waited, but there was no reply. At last, hanging up,
she eyed the coin box, expecting her nickel to be returned. Though she
jiggled the receiver many times and dialed to attract the operator's
attention, the coin was not forthcoming.

"You've had no luck," said Louise, taking Penny's place at the telephone.
"Now it's my turn. I'll call home. Mother's always there."

She held out her hand, expecting a coin. Penny had nothing for her, and
was forced to admit that she had used the last nickel on the preceding
call.

"Then we have no bus money either!" gasped Louise.

"Stony broke--that's us."

"How can you be so cheerful about it?" Louise asked crossly. "We can't
walk home--it would take us all night!"

"There's only one thing to do, Louise. We'll have to go back and talk to
Bill. At least he should be able to loan us bus fare."

By this time the girls had lost all enthusiasm for saboteurs and
sleuthing. As they recrossed the river in Bill's boat, they vowed that
never again would they involve themselves in such a ridiculous situation.

"And just wait until I see Sara!" Penny added feelingly. "If I don't tear
into her for playing a shabby trick on us!"

"She probably skipped town along with her brother," Louise replied. "I'm
beginning to wonder if that motorboat we guarded so faithfully ever
belonged to the Ottmans."

Landing not far from the mouth of Bug Run, the girls proceeded afoot to
the site where Bill Evans last had been seen. To their relief, he had not
deserted his post. Cold, his face swollen by mosquito bites, he hailed
them joyously.

"Thought you were never coming back! I'm getting out of here, and how!"

"What happened while we were gone?" Penny asked sympathetically. "Didn't
Sara come?"

"No one has been here."

As Bill started away, the girls tried to dissuade him.

"I wouldn't stay here another hour if you'd give me the boat!" he
retorted. "I'm going home!"

Jerking free from Louise who sought to hold him by main force, he moved
off.

"At least telephone our folks when you get to Riverview!" Penny shouted
indignantly. "Tell our parents that if they're still interested in their
daughters to come and lift us out of this sink hole!"

"Okay, I'll do that," Bill promised. "So long."

After the sound of footsteps had died away, Louise and Penny sat down on
the log and took stock of the situation.

"Any way you look at it, we're just a couple of goats," Penny said
dismally. "It wouldn't be so bad if Old Noah would take us into his ark
with the rest of the animals, but he's not at home."

"Sara played a trick on us, our parents went off and hid, and I don't
think we can trust Bill too far," Louise sighed. "Why do we stay here
anyway?"

"Well, something could have happened to detain Sara."

"I wish I could think so, but I can't. It would serve her right to lose
this boat--if it actually is hers."

"Sara always seemed sincere and honest to me," Penny said, slapping
furiously at a buzzing mosquito. "Until we have definite proof otherwise,
I want to trust her."

"Even if it means staying here all night?"

"Well, my trusting nature has a limit," Penny admitted. "But surely our
parents will come to rescue us before long."

"I wouldn't count on it," Louise returned gloomily. "Bill was in a bad
mood when he left here."

The girls fell into a deep silence. They huddled together to keep warm,
and slapped constantly at the insects. For a time it grew steadily
darker, then a few stars brightened the patches of sky which could be
seen through the treetops.

"Imagine explaining all this to Mother," Louise murmured once. "Why, it
doesn't even make sense to me."

The noises of the forest began to annoy the girls. Overhead an owl
hooted. Crickets chirped, and at frequent intervals a frog or a small
animal would plop into the water.

"Listen, Lou!" Penny presently whispered. "I hear something coming!"

"Maybe it's a bear," Louise shivered.

"Silly! There aren't any bears in this part of the country."

"How do you know what sort of animals are around here?" Louise countered.
"Maybe one escaped from Old Noah's zoo."

As the sound grew louder, the girls crouched low amid the brush. Through
the trees they saw the gleam of a flashlight and distinguished the figure
of an approaching man.

"It's probably my father!" Louise whispered, and started forward.

Penny jerked her back. "Bill hasn't had time to get to Riverview yet!
This may be the big pay off!"

"A saboteur?"

Penny nodded, her gaze on the approaching figure. The man was tall and
muscular and walked with a cat-like tread. He came directly to the
motorboat, muttering under his breath as he examined the half empty fuel
tank.

Straightening, he turned so that he faced the girls. For a fleeting
instant Penny thought that he was Burt Ottman, and then she recognized
her mistake. The man was the one who had rented Sara Ottman's boat--the
head waiter of The Green Parrot.



                                CHAPTER
                                   20
                         _A SHACK IN THE WOODS_


Fearing detection, Louise and Penny remained motionless as the man stared
in their direction. He did not see them, and after puttering about the
boat for a few minutes, started off through the woods.

"Now what shall we do?" Louise whispered anxiously.

"Let's follow and find out where he goes," proposed Penny, stealing from
her hiding place.

None too eager for the adventure, Louise nevertheless kept close beside
her chum as they followed the stranger. Instead of returning to the main
river, he chose a trail which led deeper into the woods. Coming soon to
the ark which loomed dark and mysterious against a background of trees,
he paused for a moment to gaze at it. Then he veered away from the
well-trampled path, keeping on through the dense thickets.

"Don't you think we should turn back?" Louise whispered anxiously.
"There's no guessing where we'll end up. We easily could get lost."

Penny was plagued by the same worry, but she bantered: "Why, Lou, your
Scout leader would blush with shame to hear you say that! The woods
stretch for only a few miles. We always can find our way out."

"What if our folks come searching for us while we're wandering around?"

"I try not to think of such unpleasant situations," Penny responded
cheerfully. "You may be sure we'll have to do some tall explaining. But
if this fellow we're tailing should prove to be a saboteur, everything
will be lovely."

"That's not the word I'd use," Louise muttered.

The girls had fallen many yards behind the head waiter. Failing to see
the flash of his light, they quickened their pace and for a minute or two
feared they had lost him. But as they paused in perplexity, they again
saw a gleam of light off to the right.

"Let's do less talking and more watching," Penny said, hastening on. "If
we're not careful we'll lose that fellow."

Taking care to make no noise in the underbrush, the girls soon approached
fairly close to the waiter. Apparently he knew his way through the woods,
for not once did he hesitate. Occasionally he glanced overhead at dark
clouds which were scudding across the sky. Reaching a small clearing, he
paused to look at a watch which he held close to his flashlight beam.

"What time do you suppose it is?" Louise whispered to her chum.

"Not very late. Probably about nine o'clock."

Because the waiter had paused, the girls remained motionless behind a
giant oak. They saw the stranger switch off his light and gaze carefully
about the clearing. In particular his attention centered upon a little
shack, though no light showed there.

"Whose cabin is it?" whispered Louise. "Do you know?"

"I'm not sure," returned Penny. "I think it was built several years ago
by an artist who lived there while he painted the ravine and river. But
he moved out last winter."

The cabin was a curious structure, picturesquely situated beneath the
low-spreading branches of an ancient tree. No windows were visible at the
front, but a raised structure on the flat roof gave evidence of a large
skylight.

After gazing at the shack for several minutes, the waiter raised fingers
to his lips and whistled twice. To the surprise of the girls, an
answering signal came from within the dark cabin.

A moment later, the front door opened, and an old man stepped outside.

"That you, Jard?" he called softly.

Without replying, the waiter left the shelter of trees to cross the
clearing.

"Had any trouble?" he asked the old man.

"Everything's been going okay. I'll be glad to pull out o' here though."

The waiter made a reply which the girls could not hear. Entering the
cabin, the men closed the door behind them.

"Who was that old man the waiter met?" Louise asked curiously. "Did you
know him, Penny?"

"I couldn't see his face. He stood in the shadow of the door. His voice
sounded familiar though."

"I thought so, too. What do you suppose those men are up to anyway?"

"Nothing good," Penny responded grimly.

The girls huddled together at the edge of the clearing, uncertain what to
do. If a light had been put on inside the shack it did not show from
where they stood.

"Why not go for the police?" Louise proposed hopefully.

"I have a hunch those men may not stay here long. By the time we could
bring help, the place might be deserted. Besides, we haven't a scrap of
real evidence against them."

"How about the stolen motorboat?"

"We're not even sure about that, Lou. Sara and her brother both have
disappeared. Accusing a man falsely is a very serious offense."

"Then what are we to do?" Louise asked despairingly. "Just stand here and
wait until they come outside?"

"That's all we can do--unless--"

"Unless what?" Louise demanded uneasily as Penny interrupted herself.

"Lou, I have a corking idea! See how those tree limbs arch over the roof
of the shack? Why, that old maple is built to our order!"

"I don't follow you."

"You will in a minute if you're a good climber!" chuckled Penny. "We can
get up that tree and onto the roof. Even if it shouldn't have a skylight
we can see through, at least we can hear what's being said."

"Let's just wait here."

"And learn nothing," Penny said impatiently. "How do you expect ever to
be a G woman if you don't start practicing now?"

"I'm going to be a nurse when I grow up. Climbing trees won't help me at
that."

"Then wait here until I get back," Penny said, starting across the
clearing.

As she had known, her chum could not bear to be left alone in the dark
woods. Louise hastened after her and together they crept to the base of
the scraggly old maple.

The branches were so low that Penny pulled herself into them without
difficulty. She then helped Louise scramble up beside her. They clung
together a moment, listening to make certain that no sound had betrayed
them.

"So far, so good," Penny whispered jubilantly. "Now to get onto the roof.
And it does have a skylight!"

"We'll probably tumble through it," Louise muttered.

A dim light, which came from a candle, burned inside the shack.
Nevertheless, from their perch on the overhanging limb, the girls were
unable to see what was happening below. Penny decided to lower herself to
the roof.

"Put on your velvet shoes," she warned as she swung lightly down from the
lower branch. "The slightest noise and we're finished."

Dropping on the flat roof, she waited a moment, listening. Satisfied that
the men inside the shack had not heard her, she motioned for Louise to
follow. Her chum however, held back, shaking her head vigorously.

Abandoning the attempt to get Louise onto the roof, Penny crept toward
the skylight. Lying full length, she pressed her face against the thick
glass.

In the barren room below a candle burned on a table. The head waiter whom
Penny first had seen at The Green Parrot sat with his legs resting on the
fender of a pot-bellied stove. Opposite him was the older man whose face
she could not immediately see.

"I tell you, I'm getting worried," she heard the old fellow say. "When
the Coast Guards took me off that coal barge they gave me the third
degree. I can't risk having anything hung on me."

Penny pressed her face closer to the glass. Her pulse pounded. She was
certain she knew the identity of the old man.

"I wish he'd turn his head," she thought. "Then I'd be sure."

As if in response to the unspoken desire, the old man shifted in his
chair. The light of the candle flickered on his face, and Penny saw it
clearly for the first time.

"Carl Oaks!" she whispered. "And to think that I ever helped him!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   21
                         _THROUGH THE SKYLIGHT_


Greatly excited to learn that the old watchman and the waiter of The
Green Parrot were fellow conspirators, Penny strained to catch their
words. She heard the waiter reply:

"You've done good work, Oaks. All you have to do now is sit tight for a
few more hours. We'll give you a five hundred dollar bonus if the job
comes off right."

"That won't do me any good if I end up in jail."

"Nothing will go wrong. Everything has been planned to the last detail."

"I'm already in bad with the police," the old watchman whined. "I
wouldn't have gone in with you if I'd known just what I was doing."

"You got your money for the Thompson bridge job, didn't you?"

"A hundred dollars."

"It was more than you earned," the other replied irritably. "All you had
to do was let me get away after I dynamited the bridge. You blamed near
shot off my head!"

"I had to make it look as if I was doin' my duty. Those girls were
watching me."

"That Parker pest came snooping around at The Parrot," the waiter said,
letting the tilted chair legs thud on the floor. "Brought a reporter with
her too. I got rid of 'em in short order."

"She didn't act very friendly when she found me bound and gagged aboard
the coal barge," Carl Oaks resumed. "I think she may have suspected that
it was a put up job. That's why I want to get out o' town while the
getting is good."

"You can leave after tonight. We blast the Seventh Street bridge at one
o'clock."

"And what about this prisoner I've been nursemaiding?"

"We'll plant enough evidence around the bridge to cinch his guilt with
the police. Then we'll dump him in Chicago where he'll be picked up."

"He's apt to remember what happened and spill the whole story."

"Even if he does, the police won't believe him," the waiter said.
"They'll figure he's only trying to get out from under. Anyway, we'll be
in another part of the country by then."

"What time will you pick me up here?" the watchman asked.

"Ten minutes till one. The automobile will arrive right on the tick, so
synchronize your watch."

The two men compared timepieces, and then the waiter arose.

"Let's look at the prisoner," he said. "Is he still out cold?"

"He was the last time I looked at him. Hasn't moved since he was brought
here, except once to ask for water."

The watchman went across the room to a closet and opened the door. A man
lay on the floor, his hands and feet loosely bound. No cloth covered his
face. Peering down from above, Penny was able to discern his features,
and it gave her a distinct shock as she recognized him.

The waiter prodded the prisoner with his foot. The man who was bound,
groaned and muttered, but made no other sign of consciousness.

"He'll not bother you tonight, Oaks," he said. "One of the boys can help
you lift him into the car."

"I don't like this business," the watchman complained again. "What if his
skull should be fractured?"

"He'll be okay by tomorrow," the waiter answered indifferently. "Heflanz
gave him a little too much with the blackjack."

Penny waited to hear no more. Creeping cautiously away from the skylight,
she returned to her chum who remained perched precariously on the
overhanging tree branch.

"Learn anything?" Louise demanded in a whisper.

"Did I? Lou, that old man is Carl Oaks! He and our waiter friend have a
prisoner inside the cabin."

"A prisoner! My gracious! Then they must be saboteurs!"

"They're planning to blow up the Seventh Street Bridge at one o'clock,"
Penny went on tersely. "And they aim to blame it all on Burt Ottman!"

"He's not one of the outfit then?"

"Seemingly not. They have him trussed up inside a closet. Lou, you've got
to hot-foot it to town and bring the police!"

"Come with me," Louise pleaded, frightened at the mere thought of going
through the dark woods alone.

"One of us ought to stay and keep watch. I'll go if you're willing to
remain."

"No, I'll go," Louise decided.

With nervous haste she started to descend the tree. Midway down, her hand
loosened its hold, and she slipped several feet. Although she uttered no
cry, she did make considerable noise. Penny, still on the roof of the
shack, heard Carl Oaks exclaim:

"What was that? I hear someone outside!"

Realizing that her chum was certain to be seen, Penny called to her:
"Run, Lou! As fast as you can!"

Her own position now had become untenable. It was too late to regain the
tree branch. Darting to the roof edge, she swung herself down with her
hands and dropped six feet to the ground.

The door of the cabin swung open. Penny had leaped from the rear side of
the building, and so was not immediately seen. The two men started after
Louise who in panic had run toward the woods.

To divert attention from her hard pressed chum, Penny gave a wild Indian
whoop. Startled, the men stopped, and turned around. Carl Oaks at once
took after her, while the waiter resumed pursuit of Louise.

Penny did not find it hard to keep well ahead of the watchman. Darting
into the woods, she circled, hoping to rejoin her chum. She knew that
Louise was not very fleet of foot, and once confused, might never find
her way out of the forest.

By frequently pausing to listen to the crackle of underbrush, Penny was
able to follow the flight of her chum. Instead of running toward the
river, Louise seemed to be circling back in the direction of the shack.

"She'll get us both into trouble now," thought Penny anxiously.

A moment later, Louise, puffing and gasping, came running past. Penny
joined her, grasping her hand to help her over the rough places.

"That man's right behind!" Louise panted. "Are we almost to the river?"

Penny did not discourage her by revealing that she had been running in
the wrong direction. The chance of escape now was a slim one. Louise was
nearly out of breath, while the man who pursued them, steadily gained.

"The ark!" Penny cried, guiding her chum. "We'll be safe there!"

Unmindful of thorns which tore at their clothing, the girls raced on.
Although Carl Oaks had been left far behind, the other man was not to be
outdistanced. He kept so close that Louise and Penny had no opportunity
to hide or attempt to throw him off the trail.

"Go on, Penny," Louise gasped, slackening speed. "I can't make it."

"Yes, you can!" Penny fairly pulled her along. "We're almost there. See!"

The ark loomed up ahead. Encouraged by the sight, Louise gathered her
strength and kept doggedly on. They reached the bank of the stream and
gave way to despair. The ark was dark and the gangplank which usually
connected it with shore, was nowhere in evidence.

"Noah! Noah!" called Louise wildly.

Only the parrot answered, crackling saucily from a porthole: "Hello,
Noah, you old soak! Where are you, Noah?"

Breathless and bewildered, the girls did not know what to do. Before they
could turn and run on, the man who so ruthlessly pursued them, dashed out
from among the trees.

"Oh, here you are," he said, and moonlight gleamed on the revolver he
held in his hand. "A very pretty race, my dears, but shall we call this
the finish line?"



                                CHAPTER
                                   22
                          _A SEARCHING PARTY_


"Now we'll have no more nonsense," said the man who held the revolver.
"Stand over there against the tree."

Penny and Louise were so frightened that they trembled violently.

"You'll not be harmed if you do exactly as you're told," the waiter
assured them.

"Why not let us go home?" Penny ventured, recovering her courage.

"Not tonight, my dear." The man smiled grimly. "Unfortunately, you have
learned too much regarding my affairs."

"Then what are you going to do with us?" Penny demanded.

Apparently, the waiter did not himself know. While he guarded the girls,
he cast a quick glance toward the ark. Just then running footsteps were
heard in the woods, and someone whistled twice. The waiter answered the
signal. A moment later, Carl Oaks, quite winded, came into view.

"So you got 'em, eh?" he demanded with pleasure.

"The question is what to do with them."

"I don't want 'em at the shack," the old watchman complained. "When young
Ottman comes around I may have my hands full with him."

"This ark should serve my purpose," the waiter muttered. "The old coot
that lives here has gone off somewhere. Oaks, get aboard and look
around."

"There's no way to cross to it," the watchman said helplessly.

"Find the gangplank!" his companion ordered irritably. "It must be hidden
somewhere in the bushes."

Thus urged, Oaks searched along the river bank and soon came upon the
missing plank. Fitting it into place, he quickly crossed to the ark. A
dog started to bark, but the sound was choked off.

"Well?" called the waiter impatiently.

"No one here except the animals," Oaks reported, reappearing on deck.
"The only room that can be locked off is the cabin where the dope keeps
his birds."

"That ought to do," decided the waiter. "We won't have to keep 'em here
long."

Penny and Louise were compelled to march across the gangplank, up the
steps to the bird room of the ark. The parrot, arousing from a doze,
squawked a raucous welcome.

"Get in there and don't make any noise!" the waiter ordered. "If you
shout for help or make any disturbance, you'll be bound and gagged. And
that's not pleasant. Get me?"

"You seem to have got us," Penny retorted.

The door slammed and a bolt slid into place. Penny tiptoed at once to the
porthole. It was much too small to permit an escape, but at least it
provided fresh air and a view of the shore.

"Well, well, well," cackled the parrot, tramping up and down on his wide
perch. "Polly wants a slug o' rum."

"You'll get a slug, period, if you don't keep quiet," Penny said crossly.
"Give me a chance to think, will you?"

"Thinking won't get us out of this mess," murmured Louise, sitting down
with her back to a wall. "It must be after nine o'clock now. If Bill had
notified our folks, they would be looking for us long before this."

In whispers the girls discussed their unfortunate situation. They were
hopeful that eventually they would be released, but they could not expect
freedom until long after midnight.

"The Seventh Street Bridge will be blasted at one o'clock," Penny said
anxiously. "If it goes up, Riverview traffic will be paralyzed. Work at
the munition plant will stop cold."

"The saboteurs intend to blame Burt Ottman for the job too! Well, at
least we can tell police who the real plotters are."

"We can if we ever get out of here," Penny said, pacing the floor. "Oh,
I'm as mad as a hornet!"

"Quiet down, and maybe we can hear something," Louise suggested calmly.
"I think those men are talking."

A murmur of voices could be heard from the third floor of the ark. The
partitions were thin. By standing on one of the pigeon boxes, the girls
discovered they could understand nearly everything that was being said.

"Carl, you go back to the shack and keep an eye on Ottman," the waiter
ordered the watchman. "As soon as Breneham comes, send him here. We'll
pull the job at one o'clock just as we planned."

"Okay, Jard," the other answered.

Getting down from the pigeon box, Penny watched Carl Oaks leave the ark.

"How about taking a chance and shouting for help?" Louise suggested in a
whisper.

Penny shook her head. "Not now at least. I doubt anyone is within a mile
of this place--that is, anyone friendly to us."

The girls were not to enjoy their porthole for long. Within a few minutes
the waiter tacked a strip of canvas over the opening. He then sat down on
deck directly beneath it, and the odor of his cigar drifted into the
room.

"That man must be Jard Wessler," Penny whispered to her chum. "You
remember Bill said he was hired to work for a fellow by the name of
Wessler."

"I don't care who he is," muttered Louise. "All _I_ think about is
getting out of here."

The girls sat side by side, their backs to the wall. About them in boxes
and cages, Noah's birds stirred restlessly. Polly, the parrot, kept up
such a chatter that at length Penny covered the cage with a sack.

Time passed slowly. It seemed hours later that Penny and Louise heard the
sound of a man's voice. The cry, though low, came from shore.

"Ark ahoy! Are you there, Wessler?"

"Come aboard," invited the one in command of the boat. "Oaks told you
what happened?"

"Yeah, and I have more bad news." The newcomer had reached the ark and
his voice could be heard plainly by Louise and Penny. "A searching party
is out looking for those two girls. Heading this way too."

"In that case--"

The door of the bird room suddenly was thrust open and a flashbeam
focused upon the girls. They found themselves confronted by Jard Wessler
and a stranger. At least Penny's first thought was that she had never
seen him before. Then it came to her that he closely resembled the man
with whom Burt Ottman had dined at The Green Parrot.

Before either of the girls realized what was in store, they were seized
by the arms. Tape was plastered over their lips, and their limbs were
bound.

"A precautionary measure," Wessler assured them. "You'll be released
soon."

Penny and Louise understood perfectly why they had been bound and gagged.
Scarcely fifteen minutes elapsed before they heard the sound of men's
voices along shore. Soon thereafter someone hailed the ark. Penny's heart
leaped for she recognized her father's voice.

"Hello, the ark!" he shouted.

Wessler responded, his voice casual and friendly.

"We're looking for two girls lost in the woods. Have you seen them?"

"Why, yes," Wessler answered. "A couple of girls went past here about an
hour ago. They were on their way to the river."

"Then they must have started home," Mr. Parker replied, greatly relieved.
"By the way, you're not the one they call Noah, are you?"

"Just a friend of his."

"I see," responded Mr. Parker, apparently satisfied with the answer.
"Well, thanks. We've been worried about my daughter and her friend. It's
a relief to know they're on their way home."

In the dark bird room of the ark, Penny and Louise squirmed and twisted.
Though they thumped their feet on the floor, the sound conveyed no hint
of their plight to those on shore.

Mr. Parker called a cheery good night to Wessler. For a few minutes the
girls heard the sound of retreating footsteps in the underbrush. Then all
was still save for the restless stirring of the birds.



                                CHAPTER
                                   23
                            _HELP FROM NOAH_


A long while later, Jard Wessler and his companion reentered the cabin
where Penny and Louise were imprisoned. After removing the tape from the
girls' lips, and freeing them of their uncomfortable bonds, they went
outside again.

"At least they're not trying to torture us," Louise said, close to tears.
"Oh, Penny, your father believes we've gone home! Now we'll never be
found."

"Not in time to save the bridge, that's certain," her chum agreed
gloomily.

Getting up from the floor, Penny groped her way to the covered porthole.
She stumbled against a box and there was a loud tinkle of glass.

"Noah's bottles!" she exclaimed, exasperated. "Where do you suppose the
old fellow has taken himself?"

"Maybe the sheriff got him."

"I doubt it," returned Penny. "He probably just went off somewhere."

After testing the cabin door, she sat down again beside Louise. The girls
did not sleep but they fell into a drowsy, half-stupefied state. Then
suddenly they were aroused by the sound of low voices just outside the
porthole.

"It's an old man coming," they heard Wessler mutter. "Must be Noah."

"What'll we do with him?" the other demanded.

"Wait and see how he acts," Wessler advised. "He's such a simple old coot
he may not suspect anything. If he makes trouble we'll have to lock him
up."

A silence ensued and then the girls heard heavy footsteps on the
gangplank.

"Ho, and who has visited my ark while I've been away?" muttered Old Noah.

Wessler and his companion, Breneham, stepped from the shadows.

"Good evening, Noah," the waiter greeted him politely. "Looks like rain,
doesn't it?"

The remark concerning the weather was all that was needed to dull the old
man's perceptions. Forgetting that the ark had been invaded by strangers
during his absence, he lowered an armload of groceries to the railing,
and peered intently up at the sky.

"No man knoweth the hour, but when the thunder of the Lord strikes, the
rain will descend. All creatures of the earth shall perish--yes, all
except those who seek refuge here. Therefore, my sons, you do well to
seek the shelter of my ark."

"The old fellow's sure raving," Wessler remarked to his companion.

"A raven?" inquired Noah, misunderstanding. "Ah, yes! For one hundred and
fifty days the waters will prevail upon the earth. Then will I send forth
a raven or a dove to search for a sprig of green. And if the bird returns
with such a token, then shall I know that the waters are receding, no
more to destroy all flesh."

"Toddle on, old man," Wessler said, growing irritated. "Where've you been
anyway?"

"My burdens are heavy," Noah replied with a deep sigh. "All day I have
labored, seeking food for my animals. Greens I cut for Bessie, my cow,
and at the grocery store I bought seed for the birds, crackers--"

"Never mind," Wessler interrupted. "Go into your quarters and stay
there."

"Bessie, the cow, must be fed."

"Then go feed her," Wessler snapped. "Just get out of my sight."

The girls could not hear what Old Noah said in reply. However, a medley
of animal sounds beneath the deck, led them to believe that the master of
the ark had gone into the lower part of the ship to care for his animals.

"I wish he'd come here," said Penny. "Maybe we could get the idea over to
him that we're being held prisoners."

"Not a chance of it."

"Those men evidently intend to allow him the run of the ark so long as he
suspects nothing," Penny mused. "Say, I know how we might bring him
here!"

"How?"

"By stirring up the birds. Then Old Noah would get excited and try to
break in."

"And what would that accomplish?"

"Probably nothing," Penny admitted, sighing. "Wessler is armed. Noah
couldn't overpower two men, even if he were inclined to do it."

"All Noah thinks about is the coming flood. With another rain in the
offing, he'll confine his worries to how he can attract more people to
his ark."

"Lou! Maybe that's an idea!"

"What is?" Louise inquired blankly.

"Why, perhaps we can bring help by means of Old Noah and his message
bottles!"

"Perhaps you know what you mean, but I am sure I don't!"

"Do you have a pen or a pencil with you, Lou?"

"I might have a pencil." Louise searched in the pockets of her jacket,
and finally brought forth a stub with a broken lead.

"We can fix that so it will write," Penny declared, chewing away the
wood.

"I still don't understand what you have in mind."

"This is my idea," Penny explained. "You know that whenever it rains Old
Noah starts tossing message bottles into the river."

"True."

Penny groped her way across the room to the box which stood by the
porthole. "Well, here are the bottles," she said triumphantly. "What's to
prevent us from writing our own messages? We'll explain that we are held
prisoners here and appeal for help."

"How do you propose to get the bottles overboard?"

"I'll think of a scheme."

"Even if the bottles did reach the water, one never would be picked up in
time to do any good," Louise argued. "It's a bum idea, Penny."

"I guess it isn't so hot," Penny acknowledged ruefully. "Anyway, why not
try it just to keep occupied? It's deadly sitting here and brooding."

"All right," Louise agreed.

The girls removed corks from several bottles and by means of a bent
hairpin, removed the papers already inside them. Although they had no
light, Penny and Louise scribbled at least a dozen messages. Carefully
they recorked every bottle, replacing it in the box.

"I'm going to put my cameo pin inside this one," Penny said, unfastening
a cherished ornament from her dress. "Someone might see it and open the
bottle."

"We'll likely hear from it about next Christmas," her chum responded.

Becoming weary of writing messages, Penny decided to stir up a bit of
action. Moving from box to box, she aroused the sleeping birds. Her final
act was to jerk the covering from Polly's cage and playfully pluck the
tail feathers of the startled creature.

"Noah! Noah!" the parrot croaked. "Heave out the anchor! Help! Help!"

"Keep it up, Polly," Penny encouraged, rocking the cage.

The parrot squawked in righteous rage and the other birds chirped
excitedly. In the midst of the commotion, a heavy step was heard on deck.
Noah, finding the door to the bird room locked, shook it violently.

"Unbolt this door!" he shouted. "Unlock it, I say, or I will break it
down!" And he banged with his fists against the flimsy panel.

"What's coming off here?" demanded another voice, that of Wessler. "Have
you gone completely crazy?"

"I want to know why this door is locked!" Noah said wrathfully. "Unlock
it or I will break it down!"

Completely aroused, the old man backed away as if to make a running
attack. Wessler drew his revolver, but Noah paid not the slightest heed.

"Let me get at my birds!" he cried. "Stand back!"

"Better humor him," Breneham said uneasily. "Unless you do, he'll arouse
the countryside."

Wessler returned the revolver to its holster beneath his coat. "Calm
down, Grandpa, calm down," he tried to soothe the old man. "No one is
going to hurt your precious birds."

"Then open that door!"

"Go ahead," Wessler directed his companion. "If he makes any more trouble
we'll lock him in with the girls."

"There are no doors on this ark strong enough to hold me," said Noah.
"Open it I say!"

The command was obeyed. The old man stumbled across the threshold and
began to murmur soothing words to the birds. At first he did not see
Penny and Louise. Finally observing them, he spoke rather absently:

"Good evening, my daughters. I am happy that you have come again to my
ark, but I am afraid you have disturbed my birds."

Penny chose her words carefully for Wessler and his pal stood in the
cabin doorway.

"The birds do seem excited for some reason. No doubt they're alarmed by
the approaching storm."

"Yes, yes, that may be it," Old Noah murmured. "And the porthole is
covered. That should not be. I will fix it."

Pushing past the two men, Old Noah went outside the cabin to jerk away
the canvas covering. He came back in a moment, bearing a sack of bird
seed.

"Upstairs!" Wessler tersely ordered the girls.

In crossing the room, Penny deliberately stumbled against the box of blue
corked bottles.

"With another storm coming up, I suppose you'll be throwing out more of
your messages," she said jokingly to Noah.

Penny had hoped that the suggestion might presently cause the old man to
dump the contents of the box into the water. She neither expected nor
desired that he would attempt the task in the presence of the two
saboteurs. However, Old Noah immediately dropped the sack of bird seed
and strode over to the box of bottles.

"Yes, yes, I have been neglectful of my duty," he murmured. "With the
Great Flood coming, I must warn the good people of Riverview. I shall bid
them seek refuge here before their doom is sealed."

Old Noah selected a half dozen bottles and started to heave them through
the porthole. Before he could do so, Wessler blocked the opening.

"Just a minute, Grandpa," he said. "What's in those bottles?"

"Messages which I wrote with my own hand," Old Noah replied earnestly.
"Would you like to read them, my son?"

"That's exactly what I intend to do," said Wessler.

With a suspicious glance directed at Penny and Louise, he reached into
the box and selected one of the corked bottles.



                                CHAPTER
                                   24
                       _A MESSAGE IN THE BOTTLE_


Failing easily to retrieve the message in the bottle, Jard Wessler
smashed it against a wall of the ark. Picking up the folded paper, he
flashed his light across the writing.

"'The hour of the Great Deluge approaches,'" he read aloud. "'Come to my
ark and I will provide shelter and comfort.'"

Penny and Louise relaxed. The message was one that Old Noah had written.
Unless Wessler opened another bottle he would not suspect that they were
the authors of other messages pleading for help.

"Stand back and allow me to throw my bottles into the stream!" Old Noah
cried angrily. "Even though you are a guest aboard my ark, your actions
are not pleasing."

"Go ahead, Grandpa," Wessler said with a shrug. "Heave out your bottles
if it will keep you happy."

As Old Noah began to toss the bottles out of the porthole, Wessler again
ordered Penny and Louise from the cabin.

"Upstairs!" he said, giving them a shove toward the stairway.

Penny glanced quickly toward shore. The gangplank had been raised, but
the distance was not great.

As if reading her mind, Wessler said: "I wouldn't try to make a leap for
it if I were you, little lady. Behave yourself, and you'll be set free
before morning."

Penny and Louise were forced to go upstairs to the third floor of the
ark. Although Old Noah's living quarters were more comfortable than the
bird room, they provided less privacy. Wessler and his companion remained
on the floor, and not a word could the girls speak without being
overheard.

Old Noah soon appeared. In a much better mood, he chatted with the two
men. Finding them uncommunicative, he picked up his banjo and began to
sing spirituals to its accompaniment. His voice, as cracked as the
fingers which strummed the strings, drove Breneham into a near frenzy.

"There's a limit to what a guy can stand," he said meaningly to Wessler.

"It won't be much longer now," the other encouraged, glancing at his
watch.

"Why can't we pull the job now and get out?"

"Because the car won't be waiting for us. Everything's got to move on
schedule."

As the night wore on, a light rain began to fall. Wessler and his
companion went frequently to the windows, seemingly well pleased by the
change of weather.

The ordeal of waiting was a cruel one for Louise and Penny. Although they
knew that Old Noah had tossed their messages into the water, they held
scant hope that any of the bottles would be found that night. While
searching parties might continue to seek them, it was unlikely that they
would be released in time to prevent the destruction of the Seventh
Street Bridge.

Another hour elapsed. Wessler looked at his watch and spoke to his
companion.

"Well, I'm shoving off! When you hear the explosion, lock 'em up in the
bird room, and make for the shack. The car will pick you up."

"Good luck, Jard," Breneham responded.

Wessler went out the door, closing it behind him. The girls heard him
lower the gangplank into place, and then his footsteps died away.

Penny gazed at Louise in despair. They both knew that Jard Wessler had
gone to dynamite the Seventh Street Bridge. Although they were not
certain of the plan, they believed that he intended to use Sara Ottman's
boat which doubtlessly would be loaded with explosives.

Breneham began to pace the floor nervously. Suddenly he halted by a
porthole, listening. The girls too strained to hear.

"Someone's out there in the trees!" Breneham muttered. "This ark is being
watched! Noah, stick your head out the window and ask who it is! And no
tricks!"

Old Noah did as ordered.

"Hello, the ark!" shouted a voice which Penny thought belonged to Jerry
Livingston. "Are you alone there, Noah?"

"Tell him yes," prodded the saboteur. "Say that you are just going to
bed."

"But my son, that would be a base falsehood," Noah argued. "I have no
intention of retiring--"

Penny, quick to divine that Breneham's attention was diverted, rushed to
another window. In a shrill voice she screamed for help.

Breneham sprang toward Penny, intending to fell her with a blow. Louise
began to shout. Realizing that he had been betrayed, Breneham jerked open
the door and leaped from the high deck into the stream.

"Get him! Get him!" shouted Penny to the group of men on shore.

Breneham swam a few feet and then waded toward the far side of the
stream.

"Oh, he's going to get away!" Louise murmured, watching anxiously from a
porthole.

As the saboteur scrambled up the bank, two men rose from their hiding
places in the tall bushes and grasped him by the arms.

"It's Dad!" cried Penny gleefully. "And your father too, Louise!"

Thrilled by the manner in which their release had been accomplished, the
girls ran out of the cabin. Crossing the gangplank, they saw that the
rescue party was comprised of Mr. Parker, Mr. Sidell, Jerry Livingston,
several men who were strangers, and Sara Ottman.

"I found your message in the bottle!" she greeted the girls excitedly.

"Not really?" demanded Penny.

"I was in the little cove just below here, guarding my boat," explained
Sara. "I intended to get back earlier to relieve you girls, but I was
detained at the police station. Anyway, while I waited at the bend,
wondering what to do, a swarm of corked bottles came floating
downstream."

"Old Noah threw out a box full of them," chuckled Louise. "So you read
our message, asking for help, Sara?"

The older girl nodded. "Yes, one of the bottles drifted ashore. Usually I
don't bother to read the message, but this time I did."

"How were you able to bring help here so quickly?" asked Penny.

"Actually I didn't. Although I didn't realize it until a few minutes ago,
your parents have been dreadfully worried about you girls. When Bill
Evans telephoned them, they came here to search."

"I know," nodded Penny. "Dad was here earlier in the evening. The
saboteurs tricked him into leaving."

"I didn't see him at the time," Sara resumed her explanation. "Penny,
your father returned home, but when he learned you were not there, he
organized a searching party. Just as the men reached Bug Run once more, I
found your message. I gave it to Mr. Parker and--well, you know the
rest."

"Did you capture Jard Wessler?" Penny demanded tensely. "That's the
important thing!"

"Wessler? You mean the man who stole my motorboat?"

"Yes, he went away from the ark about five minutes ago. I'm sure he
intended to use the hidden boat, Sara! You left it well guarded, I hope."

"There's no one watching it now."

"Then we've got to move fast!" Penny cried, looking anxiously about for
her father. "Jard Wessler plans to destroy the Seventh Street Bridge!
He's probably close by now, waiting for a chance to make his get-away!"

The three girls ran to meet Mr. Parker who at that moment had crossed the
stream with the prisoner. Just then the engine of a motorboat was heard
to sputter. Sara stopped short, listening. Unmistakably, the sound came
from around the bend.

"That's my boat!" Sara cried.

"Jard Wessler is getting away!" Penny added. "We must stop him!"

Leaving others to guard the prisoner, Mr. Parker and Jerry ran toward the
mouth of Bug Run. Not to be left behind, Penny, Sara, and Louise,
followed as fast as they could. By the time they reached the river,
Wessler's boat had disappeared. However, the popping of its engine could
be heard far out on the water.

"We'll never overtake him now," Sara said despairingly. "That boat is a
fast one."

A slower craft, one the girl had used earlier in the evening to cross the
river, was beached nearby. Even though pursuit seemed useless, the men
launched it. Overloaded with five passengers, the boat made slow progress
against the current.

"We haven't a chance to overtake that fellow," Sara repeated again.

"If only we could notify Coast Guards!" Penny murmured hopelessly. "Their
station is up river. They still might be able to intercept Wessler before
he reaches the bridge."

"No way to contact them," Mr. Parker responded, his voice grim. "If there
were any houses along shore, we could telephone. As it is, the situation
is pretty hopeless."

"Shall we give up the chase?" asked Sara who handled the tiller.

As Mr. Parker hesitated, Penny suddenly grasped his arm. To the starboard
she had glimpsed an approaching yacht. Its contour was so well known
along the waterfront that she had no doubt as to its identity--the
_Eloise III_.

"Dad, we still have a chance!" she cried. "By radio telephone!"

"How d'you mean?" he demanded.

"The _Eloise_ has a radio telephone!" Penny explained. Excitedly, she
began to signal with Sara's flashlight. "Dad, if only they see us in
time, we still may save the bridge!"



                                CHAPTER
                                   25
                          _A BOW IN THE CLOUD_


In the radio room of the _Eloise III_, Mr. Parker, Jerry, and the three
girls hovered at the elbow of Commodore Phillips who sat at the
radio-telephone.

"I've done all I can," the Commodore said, putting aside the instrument.
"The Coast Guard station has acknowledged our message. Now we must wait."

The _Eloise_ which had picked up Mr. Parker's party, was heading at full
steam toward the Seventh Street Bridge. Unmindful of the rain, the young
people went out on deck. Huddling in the lee of the cabin, they anxiously
watched and listened.

"It's one fifteen," said Mr. Parker, glancing at his watch. "Any minute
now--"

A loud report sounded over the water.

"The bridge!" gasped Louise. "It's been dynamited!"

"No, no!" exclaimed the Commodore impatiently. "That was gunfire! The
Coast Guard boat has gone into action!"

A moment later those aboard the _Eloise_ saw a flash of fire and heard
another loud report.

"You may rest easy now," said the Commodore, relaxing. "With the Coast
Guard on the job, that saboteur hasn't a chance. If he escapes with his
life he'll be lucky."

Penny sagged weakly against the railing of the _Eloise_. Now that she
knew the bridge would be saved, she felt completely exhausted from the
long period of suspense.

"Wessler can't be the only one involved in this plot," she heard her
father say. "There must be others."

"Oh, there are!" Penny cried, recovering her strength. "Carl Oaks is a
member of the outfit! He's waiting at a shack not far from the ark. And
Burt Ottman is held a prisoner there!"

"Burt!" Sara exclaimed in horror. "Oh, why didn't you tell me!"

"In the excitement it just passed out of my mind," Penny confessed. "I
forgot about everything except saving the bridge!"

Once more Commodore Phillips busied himself on the radio telephone, this
time contacting Riverview police. Before he left his desk he learned that
a squad had been dispatched to the shack in the woods. Likewise, a
message soon came from the Coast Guard station, informing him that Jard
Wessler had been captured.

"Oh, I can't wait to see Burt," Sara declared, anxiously pacing the deck.
"He may be seriously hurt."

To ease the girl's mind, Commodore Phillips put the entire party ashore
not far from the entrance to Bug Run. Hastening through the woods, Mr.
Parker and the young people reached the shack only a few minutes after
the arrival of police.

"What became of Carl Oaks?" the newspaper owner asked a sergeant. "Did
you get him?"

The policeman indicated a downcast figure who sat handcuffed inside the
patrol car. Oaks, he explained, had been captured without a struggle.

"And Burt Ottman?" Mr. Parker inquired.

"They're taking him to the ambulance now."

Four men came out of the shack bearing the injured young man on a
stretcher. Pale but conscious, he grinned as Sara tearfully bent over
him.

"I'm okay, Sis," he mumbled. "Feelin' swell."

Sara was allowed to ride with her brother to the hospital. Remaining
behind, Mr. Parker, Jerry and the girls, tried to learn from police
officers if Burt had made any statement.

"Sure, he was able to spill the whole story," one of the men told them.
"Seems he set out to prove that he was innocent of any association with
the saboteurs. Instead of cooperating with police, he went to work on his
own. He investigated an organization known as the American Protective
Society. That put him on the trail of a head waiter at The Green Parrot,
a foreigner by the name of Jard Wessler."

"I understand now why Burt acted so queer about that billfold he lost
along the river," Penny commented. "He didn't want me to know that he was
meeting one of the saboteurs at the Parrot."

"How many were involved in the dynamiting plot?" Mr. Parker asked.

"Twelve or thirteen. According to Ottman, Jard Wessler is the brains of
the group. By pretending to go along with them, the kid gathered a lot of
evidence."

"But at first the saboteurs tried to throw the guilt on Burt," Penny
protested.

"True," nodded the policeman. "They used a boat stolen from the Ottman
dock, and they planted evidence to make it appear that Burt was the
guilty one."

"Then why would they take up with him later?" Penny asked in perplexity.

"They never did. One of the saboteurs met him at The Green Parrot to try
to learn how much the kid knew. Young Ottman was slugged over the head
when he tried to get into a basement room where the gang held their
meetings."

"I guess that explains why we found Burt lying outside in the alley," Mr.
Parker remarked. "It's a pity he couldn't have told us what he was
attempting to do."

"The kid did get a lot of evidence," resumed the officer. "With the
information he's given us, we expect to mop up the entire gang."

"Louise and I found him a prisoner here at the shack," Penny remarked
slowly. "I suppose in seeking evidence, he tangled with the saboteurs
again."

"Yes, young Ottman was foolhardy. He was caught spying a second time and
they slugged him. Lucky for him his injuries aren't likely to prove
serious."

Mr. Parker and Jerry asked many more questions, knowing the story would
rate important play in the _Riverview Star_. Turning Penny and Louise
over to Mr. Sidell who belatedly joined the party, the two newspaper men
rushed off to scoop rival papers.

"Dad didn't even take time to say he was glad we escaped from those
saboteurs!" Penny complained to Louise. "Isn't that a newspaper man for
you!"

Before another hour had elapsed, reporters and photographers from other
papers swarmed the woods. Louise and Penny were quizzed regarding the
capture of the three saboteurs. Determined that the _Star_ should print
an exclusive story, they had very little to say.

Hours later, at home, Penny learned that police had lost no time in
acting upon information provided by Burt Ottman. The entire group of men
known to be associated with Jard Wessler had been arrested at a
Fourteenth Street club. A complete confession had been signed by Carl
Oaks who claimed that he was not a member of the gang, but had been hired
to do as instructed.

"Well, the _Star_ scooped every paper in town," Mr. Parker remarked, as
he put aside the front page. "That's not important, however, compared to
saving the Seventh Street Bridge."

"How about your daughter?" Penny asked, rumpling his hair. "Aren't you
one speck glad about saving me?"

"I've been reserving a special lecture for you," he said, pretending to
be stern. "Young ladies who go running about at night--"

"Never mind," laughed Penny, "If Lou and I hadn't done our prowling, I
guess you wouldn't have any old Seventh Street Bridge!"

Actually Mr. Parker was very proud of his daughter and showed it in many
ways. He would not allow Mrs. Weems to scold her for the night's
escapade. Learning that she was worried about Old Noah, he promised to
talk to Sheriff Anderson and do what he could for the old fellow. The
next morning, he and Penny started off to see Noah, stopping enroute at
the hospital.

"Oh, I'm so glad you came!" Sara Ottman greeted them at her brother's
bedside. "Burt and I owe you so much. I've been very unpleasant--"

"Not at all," corrected Penny. "Anyway, I like folks who aren't afraid to
speak their minds."

From Burt Ottman, Mr. Parker and his daughter heard a story much like the
one previously told them by the police. The young man rapidly had gained
in strength and was much cheered because he had been cleared in
connection with the bridge dynamitings.

"How did you learn that Jard Wessler was a saboteur?" Mr. Parker asked
him.

"Accident," admitted Burt. "Even before the bridge was blasted, I had
seen the fellow around the docks. One day I overheard him talking to
Breneham, and what they said made me suspicious. After getting involved
in the mess myself, I made it my business to investigate. I managed to
meet one of the saboteurs at the Parrot, but he proved too shrewd for
me."

"You woke up in the alley," Penny recalled.

"Yes, after that I watched a place I'd learned about on Fourteenth
Street. Figured I had all the dope. But as I started for the police,
someone hit me with a blackjack. That's the last I remember until I came
to at the woods shack."

Penny and her father were pleased to know that the young man was
recovering from his injuries.

After chatting with him for a time, they left the hospital and proceeded
toward the ark in the mud flats.

"I confess I don't know what to say to Noah," Mr. Parker declared as they
approached the gangplank. "Sheriff Anderson insists the ark is a nuisance
and must go."

Penny paused at the edge of the stream. It had started to rain once more,
and drops splattered down through the trees, rippling the quiet water.

"Poor Noah!" she sighed. "He'll be unwilling to leave his home or his
animals. This ark never can be floated either."

"I'll be glad to pay for his lodging elsewhere," Mr. Parker offered.
"Naturally, he'll have to forsake his pets."

Crossing the gangplank, Penny called Old Noah's name. There was no
answer. Not until she had shouted many times did the old fellow come up
from the ark's hold. His arms were grimy, his clothing wet from the waist
down.

"Why, Noah!" Penny exclaimed, astonished by his appearance.

"All morning I have labored," the old fellow said wearily. "The commotion
last night excited Bess, my cow. The critter kicked a hole in the ark.
Water has poured in faster than I can pump it out."

"Well, why not abandon this old boat?" Mr. Parker proposed, quick to
seize an opportunity. "Wouldn't you like to live in a steam-heated
apartment?"

"With my animals?"

"No, you would have to leave them behind."

Old Noah shook his head. "I could not desert my animals. At least not my
dogs and cats, or my birds or fowls. As for cows and goats, they are a
burden almost beyond my strength."

"A little place in the country might suit you," suggested Penny brightly.
As Noah showed no interest, she added: "Or how would you like a big bus?
You could take your smaller pets and tour the United States!"

Old Noah's dull blue eyes began to gleam. "I had a truck once," he said.
"They took it away from me after I had made a payment. I've always
hankered to see the country. But it's not to be."

"Oh, a truck might be arranged," declared Penny, grinning at her father.

"It's not that." Old Noah leaned heavily on the railing of the ark. "You
might say I made a covenant to keep this place of refuge. The Great Flood
soon will be upon us--"

"There will be no flood," interrupted Mr. Parker impatiently.

"I'd be happy to leave this ark if only I could believe that," sighed
Noah. "I'm getting older, and it's a great burden to care for so many
animals. But I must not shirk my duty because I am tired."

Penny knew that the old man could not be influenced by mere words.
Glancing at the sky, she saw that although rain still fell, the sun had
straggled through the clouds. Above the trees arched a beautiful rainbow.

"Noah!" she cried, directing his attention to it. "Don't you remember the
Bible quotation: 'And I do set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a
token of a covenant between me and the earth.'"

"'And the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh,'"
Noah whispered, his fascinated gaze upon the rainbow.

"There, you have your sign, your token," Mr. Parker said briskly.

"Yes, yes," whispered the old man. "This is the hour for which I long
have waited! Behold the rainbow which rolleth back the scroll of destiny!
Never again will the flood come. Never again will destruction envelop the
earth and all its creatures."

"How about it Noah?" Mr. Parker asked impatiently. "If I make all
arrangements will you leave the ark?"

The old man did not hesitate. "Yes, I will go," he said. "My mission here
is finished. I am content."

Penny and her father did not annoy the old man with material details, but
slipped quietly away from the ark. Glancing back, they saw that Noah
still stood at the railing, his face turned raptly toward the fading
rainbow. As the last trace of color disappeared from the sky, he bowed
his head in worshipful reverence. A moment he stood thus, and then,
turning, walked with dignity into the ark.

"Poor old fellow," said Penny.

"I suppose you mean Noah," chuckled Mr. Parker. "But I deserve sympathy
too. Haven't I just been knicked to the tune of an expensive truck?"

"You don't really mind, do you, Dad?"

"No, it's worth it to have the old fellow satisfied," Mr. Parker
responded. "And then, the ark brought me a big story for the _Star_."

Penny walked silently beside her father. With the saboteurs in jail, Burt
Ottman free, and Old Noah's future settled, she had not a worry in the
world. Rounding a bend of the stream, she glimpsed a shining blue bottle
caught in the backwash of a fallen log. Eagerly she started to rescue it.

"Don't tell me you expect to collect every one of those messages!"
protested Mr. Parker.

"Every single one," laughed Penny, raking in the bottle. "You see, last
night I lost a very pretty cameo pin. Until I find it, I'll never admit
that the case of the saboteurs is closed!"





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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