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Title: Dorothy Dixon and the Mystery Plane
Author: Wayne, Dorothy
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 "Dorothy Dixon and the Mystery Plane" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

PLANE***


DOROTHY DIXON AND THE MYSTERY PLANE

by

DOROTHY WAYNE

Author of
Dorothy Dixon Solves the Conway Case
Dorothy Dixon and the Double Cousin
Dorothy Dixon Wins Her Wings



The Goldsmith Publishing Company
Chicago

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright, 1933
The Goldsmith Publishing Company
Made in U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                   TO
                                 WINKIE

                      who has had a finger in each
                          of her Mummy’s books

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                          I At the Beach Club
                         II The Three Red Lamps
                        III Where’s Terry?
                         IV The Thunderhead
                          V Hide and Seek
                         VI The House on the Dunes
                        VII Shanghaied!
                       VIII The Cork Chain
                         IX Deep Water
                          X Wrecked
                         XI From Out the Sea
                        XII The Notebook
                       XIII The Warning
                        XIV Up Against It
                         XV Run to Cover
                        XVI The Tunnel
                       XVII The Tombs
                      XVIII The Flags

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  Dorothy Dixon and the Mystery Plane


                               Chapter I

                           AT THE BEACH CLUB


“Here he comes again, Dot!”

Terry Walters balanced on the edge of the beach club float and pointed
upward toward the approaching airplane.

Dorothy Dixon bobbed up beside the raft, blew the water from her nose
and reached a long tanned arm for the young man’s ankle.

“Here _you_ come into the drink, you mean!” she gurgled.

Terry yelped, lost balance, and recovering desperately, dived over her
head. His departure rocked the float, so that Phil Stanton’s lanky
figure poised on the diving board, lurched and fell awkwardly into the
water.

Betty Mayo, hugging her damp knees on the middle of the float, shrieked
her approval of this double exploit.

“Swell work, Dorothy!” she laughed as that young lady pulled herself
aboard. “You’ll catch it in a minute though!”

Dorothy stood up. Her scarlet bathing cap flamed against the ash blue
sky and her wet suit clung to her slender form like a sheath of black
lacquer.

“Maybe!” Then, in quite a different tone: “Goodness, Betty, he’s
missing!”

Betty sprang to her feet. “You’re crazy—” she retorted as she caught
sight of Phil and Terry knifing their way back to the float. “Why’d you
try to scare me? Those boys are all right.”

But Dorothy was staring skyward.

“Not the boys! I mean the plane, Betty. Over there beyond the club
house. His engine’s missing. Bet you an ice cream cone he’ll have to
land!”

“No, you won’t,” Betty flashed back. “I don’t know a thing about
airplanes, and I’ll take your word for it. Ooh, Dorothy—do you think
he’ll hit the roof?”

“Oh, he’s all right—”

“Yes, he’s over the roof now—but _look_!” Betty’s voice rose to a
shriek. “He’s aiming the plane straight for us—it’ll hit this float—”

The last word was no more than a gurgle. Betty had dived overside.

Dorothy did not trouble to turn her head. With her bare feet firmly
planted on the timbers, her straight body balanced easily to the float’s
gentle rocking, she gazed interestedly at the big amphibian sweeping
down toward her.

On came the plane, losing altitude with every split second, and sailed
over her head a bare thirty feet above the water. Then as she faced
about to watch it land, the tail of her eye caught sight of Terry
hauling himself over the edge of the float.

“Get you for that last one!” he cried, and scrambled to his feet. “‘Who
laughs last,’ you know!”

“I know—” mocked Dorothy, evading his grasp and running up the
springboard. She dived and her body entered the water with scarcely a
sound.

As she rose she turned lazily on her back.

“Come and get me!” she tantalized. Then as she saw him start in pursuit,
she rolled over and headed out toward the seaplane which now floated two
or three hundred yards away toward the mouth of the inlet and Long
Island Sound.

Terry knew the speed developed by her flagrantly perfect crawl, and did
not attempt to follow her. He chuckled as he watched the bob of scarlet
and the flash of a brown arm that was all he could see of Dorothy.

“Hey, where’s Dorothy?” called Betty as she and Phil clambered on to the
raft.

“Halfway to Boston, I guess. Race you to the beach for the cones!”

All three cut the rumpled surface of the water with a single splash.

Dorothy’s interest in the airplane that had just landed was twofold.
Since qualifying for her private pilot’s license earlier in the summer,
she had met most of the owners of planes living in or near New Canaan.
To the best of her knowledge the Loening Amphibian which her father had
given her for rounding up the Martinelli gang was the only one of that
model privately owned in that part of Connecticut. That the plane lying
just ahead on the water was a duplicate of her own meant that the owner
was not a local person.

Dorothy was a keen aviatrix and proud of her airbus. She wanted to
compare notes with the owner of this amphibian. She was also curious to
learn where the plane came from; and why every day for the past few
weeks it had appeared over the Club at about this same time of an
afternoon. At five-thirty sharp the crowd of young people on the beach
would see it, a speck in the north, coming from over the ridge country
back of the Sound. Flying at an altitude of not more than five hundred
feet, it would swing over the beach club and cross the Sound, to
disappear in the ether toward the dim line of the Long Island shore.

Terry jokingly termed it the Mystery Plane. He told Dorothy that its
owner made these daily flights in order to show her how a plane should
be managed in the air. She usually returned his good-natured teasing
with interest, but each time she saw the amphibian, her curiosity
increased.

As she swam nearer it was plain that this airship was actually the same
stock model as her own. With the retractible landing wheels drawn up,
the spoon-shaped hull of the biplane, with its two open cockpits aft of
the inverted engine, floated easily on the water. The aviator, she saw,
was busily engaged in going over his engine.

Dorothy stopped swimming when she was a few yards from the amphibian.

“Hello, there!” she called, treading water. “Need any help?”

The man looked up from his work, evidently perceiving her for the first
time. Dorothy was surprised to see that the face below the soft helmet
and goggles was bearded to the eyes.

“No, thank you,” he answered and went on tinkering with the motor. The
words, although courteous enough, were spoken in a tone that showed
plainly that he wished to end the conversation then and there.

Dorothy was persistent and not easily discouraged.

“Located the trouble?” she asked.

“Not yet,” replied the man without lifting his head.

“Looks like loose manifold, or gas connection, to me.”

There was no reply to this helpful suggestion.

She began swimming toward the plane again.

“Mind if I come aboard?” she called.

The bearded aviator straightened his back and faced her again, his right
hand grasping a monkey-wrench.

“No. I do not wish it,” he flared. “Why for do you bother me? Keep off,
I tell you.”

For the first time, the girl in the water noticed his strong foreign
accent.

“Aren’t you polite!” she mocked. “I don’t suppose you’ll mind if I come
alongside and rest a moment?”

“You stay where you are, young woman.” As the man’s anger grew, his
accent became stronger. “I haf no time to bodder wid you. Go away—and
stop away!”

“But I just want—”

“I don’t care _what_ you want. Come alongside, and I’ll use this wrench
on you!”

“Oh, no you won’t!”

Terry Walters slipped round the engine and tripped up the aviator.
Before that irate person knew what was happening he found himself flat
on his back with a hundred and sixty pounds of young American kneeling
on his chest, menacing him with his own monkey-wrench.

“That’s not a nice way to talk to a lady!” Terry remarked
dispassionately eyeing his victim. “Ask her pardon like a good little
boy. Do it quickly, my friend, or I’ll plant this wrench in the middle
of that bush you call a face!”

“I didn’t mean nossing,” the man grunted.

“Try again!” Terry whacked his captive’s shin with the wrench. “Also try
to cut the double negatives. Our English teacher says they’re bad form
and—”

Terry’s banter stopped with a yelp of pain as the man’s head jerked
upward and his teeth snapped on the hand which held the wrench.

Dorothy, who had swum to within a few feet of the amphibian, saw Terry
thrown to one side. Like cats, the boy and the man seemed to land on
their feet—but now it was the strange aviator who held the
monkey-wrench.

“Look out, Terry!” shrieked the girl as she saw the man’s arm swing
upward.

The small deck forward of the lower wing section was far too narrow to
permit dodging. Terry did the only thing possible under the
circumstances to save himself. Three seasons on the football team of the
New Canaan High had made that young man a quick thinker. He dove below
the swinging blow and tackled the aviator just above his knees. It was a
well aimed tackle and the two went hurtling overside to disappear with a
splash.

Terry’s blond head was the first to appear. Then as the aviator’s came
popping up, facing the other way, young Walters seized him by the
shoulders and sent him under once more.

“Let the man alone, Terry!” commanded Dorothy. “Can’t you see he’s
swallowed half the Sound?”

“But he’d have brained me with that wrench, Dot—”

“I’ll ‘Dot’ you if you take liberties with my first name!” Miss Dixon
shook her fist above her head, “Anyway, it’s my fault. I butted in. That
man and his plane are none of our business.”

They were swimming back toward the float now and a glance over her
shoulder told Dorothy that their late antagonist was pulling himself
aboard the amphibian.

Terry saw him too, and waved a hand. But the foreigner, occupied in
wringing water out of his clothes, disregarded them.

“I’ve had enough of the water for one day,” declared Dorothy between
strokes. “How’s the wrist? You might have been badly hurt, Terry.”

Terry motioned toward the float. “But I wasn’t, old thing,” he chuckled.
“Come over to the raft a moment, before we go ashore. I’ve got something
I want to show you.”

“Make it snappy, then,” she rejoined. “You and I have got to be at
Silvermine by seven-thirty, you know. Curtain up at eight-thirty—and
you remember what Mr. Watkins said about any of the cast being late?”

Terry swung himself up on the decking and gave a hand to Dorothy.

“I’m only a chorus man,” he grinned. “We’ll both get to the Sillies in
time. Look at this—”

He opened his hand and held it out, palm upward.

“I’m not interested in seaweed!” Dorothy’s tone was full of disgust.

“Seaweed, nothing! That’s a piece of your friend’s beard!”

“You don’t mean to tell me you pulled it out?”

“Not out, dearie—off. That wasn’t his own hair that lad was wearing.”

“A _false beard_?”

“What else?”

Dorothy pursed her lips. “Well, that amphibian and its pilot are two of
the most mysterious things I’ve ever run into.”

“I wonder what he is up to, Dot—I mean, Dorothy?”

“I wonder, too. By the way, how did you happen out there—and just at
the right minute? I thought I saw you start a race for the beach with
Betty and Phil?”

Terry nodded his wet head and laughed. “That was only a bluff to make
you think I wasn’t coming after you. As I saw you were having an
argument with him, and I didn’t like the way he was acting, I swam
around the tail of his plane and got aboard on the farther
deck—and—well, you know the rest. Why did you want to go aboard?”

“Curiosity, pure and simple. Have you any idea why he flies over the
Club nearly every afternoon, and always at the same time?”

“No—have you?”

“Not the dimmest. But now that I know friend pilot wears false whiskers,
I’m certainly intrigued.”

“Come again,” frowned Terry. “I didn’t get that last one. Did you say
_intrigued_?”

“Cut the clowning. This is serious, Terry. That fellow is up to some
mischief, or he wouldn’t disguise himself.”

Behind them the amphibian’s engine sputtered, then roared.

“I’ve got an idea,” said Terry as the two watched the plane taxi out
toward the takeoff. “Why don’t you get your bus and follow that bird
some afternoon?”

“I’d already decided to do it tomorrow. Want to come?”

“You bet! How do you expect to work it?”

“Look here, if we’re going to make that show on time, we’d better go
right now. We’ll make our plans later. Come along.”

Their bodies cut the water with hardly a splash as they raced for the
beach. Out in the inlet the amphibian rose gracefully into the air and
headed into the mist which was creeping up Long Island Sound.



                               Chapter II

                          THE THREE RED LAMPS


In the wooded valley of the Silvermine, some three miles from the
village of New Canaan, lies the famous artists’ colony which bears the
name of that rippling little river. In the midst of this interesting
community, the artists have built their Guild House, where exhibitions
of paintings and sculpture are held. And here it is that once a year
they give that delightful entertainment known as the Silvermine Sillies.

The casts of the Sillies invariably comprise the pick of local talent
from the two communities. Dorothy had starred in the musical show given
by the New Canaan High School the previous winter. She had a lovely
voice and a natural talent for acting. She loved amateur theatricals.
But that she should have been assigned a part in the Sillies while yet
in High School was a compliment beyond her expectations. She had worked
hard at rehearsals and under an assumed calm was wildly excited on this,
the opening night of the show.

She left Terry on the beach, after cautioning that young man again not
to be late, and ran up the shingle to the Dixons’ cabana, which,
together with its gaily painted counterparts, flanked the long club
house at the top of the beach.

A surprisingly few minutes later, Dorothy reappeared, her bathing suit
having been discarded for an attractive linen sports frock, and jumped
into her car.

The distance between Tokeneke on Long Island Sound and New Canaan back
in the hills of the Ridge Country is slightly under eight miles.
Luckily, on her drive home, Dorothy encountered no traffic policemen.
Not withstanding summer traffic and the narrow, winding roads, she
pulled into the Dixon garage on the ridge a mile beyond the village, a
bare ten minutes later.

Another change of costume and she ran downstairs to the dining room. Her
father and a friend were about to sit down at the table.

“Sorry to be late, Daddy,” she apologized, slipping into her chair.
“Good evening, Mr. Holloway.”

“Good evening, Miss Dorothy,” returned the gentleman with a smile. “You
seem a bit blown.”

“Some rush!” she sighed, “but I made it!”

“Youth,” remarked her father, “is nothing if not inconsistent. We dine
early, so that Dorothy can get to the Sillies at some unearthly hour,
and—”

His daughter interrupted.

“Please, Daddy. I had an awfully exciting experience this afternoon. I’d
have been home in plenty of time, otherwise.”

“At the Beach Club?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Well, suppose you tell us the story, as penance.” He turned to his
guest. “How about it, Holloway? This should interest you, one of the
club’s most prominent swimming fans!”

Mr. Holloway nodded genially. He was older than Mr. Dixon, between fifty
and sixty, tall and rather thin. He had the brow and jaw of a fighter,
and his iron-grey side-whiskers gave him a rather formidable appearance.
But Dorothy liked him, for his eyes, behind his horn-rimmed spectacles,
beamed with friendliness.

“The Beach Club, eh?” He leaned back in his chair. “Yes, I take a dip
most afternoons. Wonderful bracer after mornings in the city in this hot
weather. You ought to get down there more often.”

“Well, there’s a pool at the Country Club, and I’d rather play golf,”
argued his host. “I haven’t been to the Beach Club this summer, but
Dorothy tells me that the cabana you’ve built is quite a palace—much
larger and more ‘spiffy,’ I think was the word, than those we ordinary
members rent!”

“I like to be comfortable and have some privacy when I entertain my
friends down there,” Mr. Holloway admitted. “But I’m interested in
hearing Dorothy’s story. I was there this afternoon, but I didn’t notice
anything unusual.”

“Did you see the airplane that landed in the cove?”

“Why, no. What time was that?”

“A little after five-fifteen.”

“I had already left for home. I’m rarely at the club after five o’clock.
I like a bright sun when I’m in the water. What about the plane?”

While Dorothy told of her experience with the bearded pilot, the two
gentlemen continued their meal in silence.

“A nasty customer—that!” snapped her father when she had concluded.
“But then, my dear, you shouldn’t allow your keenness for aviation to
over-excite your curiosity. Let it be a lesson to you not to interfere
with other people’s private business.”

“You say that he wore a false beard?” interjected Mr. Holloway. “Now I
wonder why the man wants to disguise himself? And why he was so
standoffish about his plane?”

“He’s probably in training for some test or endurance flight and wants
to keep his identity secret for the time being,” suggested Mr. Dixon.
“There’s often a lot of hush-hush stuff about such things—that is,
until the stunt comes off—and then the secretive ones become the
world’s worst publicity hounds!”

Dorothy remarked the change that came to their guest’s face: the eyes
narrowed, the mouth grew harder; something of his levity disappeared.

“Perhaps,” he said slowly. “But whatever his reason for wishing privacy,
we can’t have club members insulted by strange aviators in our own cove.
I shall take it up at the board of governors’ meeting tomorrow. In
future we will see to it that no more airplanes land on club waters. Do
you think you would recognize the man without his beard, Dorothy?”

“I don’t think so—but Terry, who was nearer to him, swears he could
spot him anywhere.”

“If he should do so, ask him to report the matter to me, and I’ll see
that the man at least offers apology.”

“Thank you, Mr. Holloway.” Dorothy was pleased at this interest. “I’ll
tell him.”

“You three had better leave well enough alone,” her father declared
bluntly. “The plane is probably being flown over a set course which
happens to take it over the club. That aviator seems to be a surly
customer. My advice is to forget it....”

Dorothy pushed her chair back from the table.

“You’ll excuse me, won’t you?” she smiled. “I’ve got to run, now.” She
went to her father and kissed him. “Please don’t be late, Daddy. I come
on the first time right after the curtain rises—it will spoil my
evening if you two aren’t there!”

Mr. Holloway’s kindly eyes twinkled behind his glasses.

“Nice of you to include me. I wouldn’t miss the first number for
anything. I’ll see that we’re both there in time.”

“Don’t worry, sweetheart.” Her father patted her hand. “We’ve got a
small matter of business to go over and then we’ll be right along.
Success to you, dearest.”

“’Bye!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

A fine rain was falling when Dorothy stepped into her car. As yet it was
more a heavy mist than a downpour. But with the wind in the east she
realized that this part of the country was in for several days of wet
weather. She drove carefully, for the winding wooded roads were
slippery. Upon arriving at the Guild House, she changed at once into
costume.

The Silvermine Sillies, like Mr. Ziegfield’s more elaborate Follies, is
invariably a revue, consisting of eighteen or twenty separate acts. As
Dorothy stood in the wings, waiting for her cue, shortly after the first
curtain rose, she was addressed by the stage manager:

“Have you seen Terry?”

“Not since this afternoon. Why?”

“He’s not here.”

Dorothy was fighting back the stage fright that always assailed her
while waiting to “go on,” but which always disappeared as soon as she
made her entrance. She turned her mind to what the manager was saying
with an effort.

“You mean he hasn’t shown up?” she asked a bit vacantly.

“Your perception is remarkable,” returned the harassed stage official
with pardonable sarcasm. “No, Terry isn’t here. Do you know whether he
had any intention of putting in an appearance at this show tonight when
you last saw him?”

Dorothy was wide awake now. “Of course he had!”

“He didn’t mention some more important date, perhaps?”

“Of course not. Terry wouldn’t do such a thing!”

“Well, he goes on in less than two minutes. Who in blazes am I to get to
double for him? Deliver me from amateurs! There’s your cue, Miss
Dixon—better take it!”

“Hey, you, Bill!” she heard him call to a stage hand, as she made her
entrance. “Duck into the men’s dressing room and bring me Terry Walters’
overalls and wig. Here’s where I do his stuff without a makeup!”

Terry failed to show up during the first part of the program, so during
the intermission, Dorothy slipped out front and sought the delinquent’s
father and mother in the audience.

“Why, my dear, I’m quite as surprised as you are,” gurgled Mrs. Walters.
“Isn’t this rain disgusting? You looked perfectly lovely Dorothy—and
you did splendidly, splendidly, my dear. I thought I’d die when your
rope of pearls broke and you went hunting for them—a perfect scream, my
dear—the funniest thing in the show!”

“Those were Betty Mayo’s pearls,” said Dorothy. “I wasn’t in that act.
You say Terry left the house in plenty of time, and he expected to drive
straight down here?”

Mrs. Walters had said nothing of the kind, but Dorothy had known the
lady for years, and had long ago devised a method of securing
information from her.

“He didn’t even wait for dessert, my dear. He probably went to the
movies or remembered some other date. Boys are like that!”

“Terry isn’t.” His father spoke up. “He must have been going to pick
someone up and give them a lift down here—then blew a shoe or
something. Still, I don’t like it. I hope the boy hasn’t met with an
accident.”

“Oh, don’t say that, Reggie! You make me feel positively faint. I know
he has gone to the pictures.” Mrs. Walters was nervously emphatic.
“Don’t be so silly, dear—I know he has.”

“You know nothing of the kind,” declared her husband.

“But, Reggie dear—”

Dorothy hurriedly excused herself and went back stage.

But by the time the final curtain was rung down, no Terry had appeared.
Dorothy was really worried. Betty was giving a party to a number of the
cast at her house in White Oak Shade, but despite protests, Dorothy made
her regrets and went to look for her father.

“I think I’ll beat it for home, Dad,” she announced, buttonholing him
near the door.

“I’ll be along in a few minutes, darling. I certainly am more than extra
proud of you tonight. I never realized what an actress you are. But you
look troubled—anything the matter?”

“I’m worried about Terry. I know he wouldn’t deliberately put us all in
this hole. He’s not that kind.”

“Probably had a break-down,” consoled her father. “Excuse me, dear, I
want to speak to the Joneses over there.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Dorothy drove a six-cylinder coupe whose body had seen better days,
though she claimed for its engine that the world had not seen its equal.
With her windiper working furiously, she came cautiously along Valley
Road, her big headlamps staring whitely ahead. The rain was pelting down
now, and since she must have a window open, and that window was on the
weather side, one arm and part of the shoulder of her thin slicker were
soon black and shining.

“Something he couldn’t help—that’s what made Terry let us down,” said
her subconscious mind, and she wondered how any of the cast could have
expressed contrary opinions. She was glad she had refused Betty’s
invitation. She liked Terry and was deeply concerned about him. He
wasn’t the sort to default unless something unforeseen and unusual
occurred. Mrs. Walters said he had been full of the show at dinner and
had spoken about getting to the Guild House early. Something had come
up, that was certain. And that something, after he had started for
Silvermine in his car. The more she thought about it, the more
mysterious it seemed. She would phone the Walters again as soon as she
reached home. Maybe he would be back by that time.

The car skidded round the turn into the Ridge Road that ran past the
Dixon place. A mile farther on, Dorothy decided it would be well for her
to keep her mind on the road ahead. A few minutes before, a lumbering
truck had almost driven her into the ditch, and now, with a mile to go,
she saw ahead of her three red lights. She slowed her engine until she
came within a dozen yards of them.

They were red lamps, placed in a line across the road, and if they meant
anything, it was that the road was under repair and closed. Yet she had
passed the truck going at full speed just beyond the corner. From its
lights, she was sure it had come along this stretch of road.

She peered through the open window and saw on her left a dilapidated
stone fence, the top of which was hidden under a blanket of wild
honeysuckle. She saw by her headlights a gap where once she knew a
five-barred gate had blocked the way to the open field. All this she
took in at a glance, for Dorothy knew exactly where she was. Then she
turned again to her scrutiny of the road and the three red lamps.

“Well!” said Dorothy to herself. She switched out all the lights of the
car, and taking something from her pocket, she opened the door quietly
and stepped into the rain. She stood there for a while, listening.

There was no sound except the swish and patter of the storm. Keeping to
the centre of the road she advanced slowly toward the red lights, picked
up the middle one and examined it. The lantern was old—the red had been
painted on the glass. The second lantern was newer, but of entirely
different pattern. Here also, the glass pane had been covered by some
red, transparent paint. And this was the case with the third lamp.

Dorothy threw the middle light into the ditch and found satisfaction in
hearing the crash of glass. Then she came back to her car, got inside,
slammed the door and put her foot down on the starter. The motor whined
but the engine did not move. The car was hot and never before had it
failed. Again she tried, but without success.

“This looks suspicious,” she muttered to herself.

She sprang out into the rain again and walked to the back to examine her
gasoline tank. There was no need, for the indicator said, “Empty.”

“I’ll say suspicious!” she muttered again, angrily, as she stared down
at the cause of her plight.

She had filled up just before dinner, but notwithstanding that fact,
here was a trustworthy indicator pointing grimly to “E”; and when she
tapped the tank, it gave forth a hollow sound in confirmation.

Dorothy sniffed: the air reeked with fumes. Flashing her pocket light on
the ground she saw a metal cap and picked it up. Then she understood
what had happened. The roadway, under her light, gleamed with opalescent
streaks. Someone had taken out the cap and emptied her tank while she
was examining the red lamps!

She refastened the cap, which was airproof, waterproof, and foolproof,
and which could only have been turned by the aid of a spanner—she had
heard no chink of metal against metal. She did not carry reserve fuel,
but home was not more than a mile down the road, round the turn. And she
knew there was a path from the gap in the stone wall, across the field
and through a belt of woods that would halve the distance.

She sent her flashlight in the direction of the open gateway. One of the
posts was broken and the rotting structure leaned drunkenly against a
lilac bush. In the shadow behind the bush, she was certain that a dark
form moved.

Dorothy lingered no longer, but switching off her light, she turned on
her heel and raced up the road.



                              Chapter III

                             WHERE’S TERRY?


Behind her, Dorothy heard a shout, and that shout lent wings to her
feet. Scared as she was, she grinned. For she was probably doing the
only thing her would-be assailants had not counted on. She was running
away from the red lights and home, sprinting down the road the way she
had come. Overhead, tall elms met in an archway, and from the darkness
at her back came the quick patter of footsteps. Suddenly they stopped.

Dorothy gave a sigh of joyous relief, for around the bend in the road
she saw the double gleam of headlights, shining through the wet.
Stopping short in the middle of the road, she switched on her flashlight
again and waved it frantically from side to side.

“Daddy!” she cried as the big car drew up. “I was sure you weren’t far
away. Gee! but I was glad to see your lights.”

Mr. Dixon snapped open the door and Dorothy slipped in beside him.

“Why, what are you doing out here? Have a breakdown?”

“H-holdup,” she panted. “My car’s down the road. Step on it, Dad—maybe
we can catch them.”

“An ounce of discretion is sometimes worth forty pounds of valor,” he
began, throwing in the clutch.

Dorothy cut him short. “Look!” she cried excitedly, and for all Mr.
Dixon’s cautious announcement, the car jumped forward with a jerk. “See,
Daddy! There’s my tail light! They’ve turned it on again. And the red
lights have disappeared.”

“What red lights?”

“Tell you in a minute. Better slow down. My car’s out of gas. I’ve got a
piece of hose in the rumble. We can siphon enough from your tank into
mine to get me home.”

Mr. Dixon brought his car to a stop directly behind Dorothy’s coupe.

“Before we do anything, I want to hear exactly what happened, dear. You
scared your fond parent out of a year’s growth when I caught sight of
you waving that light in the middle of the road!”

“Poor old Daddy.” She threw an arm about his neck. “You weren’t half as
frightened as I was. Those men were pelting down the road behind me
and—”

Her father broke in. “Well, they seem to have disappeared now. Let me
hear the beginning.”

In a few short sentences, Dorothy told him.

“So you see,” she ended. “There’s nothing more for us to do about it, I
guess, except to put some gas in my tank, and go home.”

“Wait a minute. Hand over that flash, please.” He opened the door and
with an agility surprising in so large a man, sprang into the wet road
and ran toward the gap in the wall.

As he ran, Dorothy saw a light flash in his hand. Then he went out of
sight behind the wall but she could still see the gleam through the
bushes. Presently he came back to where she was standing beside the car.

“Vamoosed!” He tossed the flash onto the seat. “As there’s no car on the
road ahead they must have beat it over the field. I wonder why they
didn’t hold you up when you’d stopped for those red lanterns? Strange.
Also, why do you suppose they switched on your lights?”

“It’s beyond me. Well, Daddy, if you’ll pull alongside we’ll siphon the
gas. This place and the rain and everything gives me the shivers. Let’s
talk it over when we get home.”

Soon they were under way, and they continued on to the Dixon place
without further incident.

“Your shoes are soaking wet, Dorothy. Go up to your room and change
them, my dear,” decreed her father. “While you’re doing that, I’ll phone
Walters.”

When Dorothy came downstairs her father was in the living room.

“Come over here and sit down,” he said, making room for her on the
lounge beside him. “Terry has not come home yet. The family pretend not
to be worried—and that’s that. I said nothing about what happened to
you on your way back from Silvermine.”

His daughter groaned. “Oh dear—if we could only figure out—but those
three red lights seem to cinch things, Daddy.”

“Hardly that. But they do make it look as though this disappearing
business is pretty serious—”

Dorothy interrupted him eagerly: “Then there isn’t any doubt in your
mind but that our experience at the club this afternoon is accountable
for Terry’s disappearance, and my holdup?”

Mr. Dixon, who was filling his pipe, struck a match and puffed
contemplatively.

“We can’t jump at conclusions, my dear. My first idea about that plane
may be the right one. On the other hand, this business tonight certainly
forces one’s suspicions. If Terry doesn’t show up by morning, we’ll turn
the matter over to the police and start a thorough search. But I do
think it wise to keep the story of the amphibian and its pilot to
ourselves.”

Dorothy nodded. “You mean that if we spread our suspicions to the
police, they’d let the cat out of the bag and the man would be on his
guard?”

“That’s just it. And then you must remember that we really have no facts
to go on as yet.”

“Well, I think I’ll go to bed,” yawned Dorothy. “Do you mind if I try to
trail that plane with my own?”

“Not if you’ll promise to be careful, dear. In fact, I think it’s a good
idea. But one thing I must insist upon and that is—you’re to keep me
posted. No more of this taking things into your own hands, as you did
with the Martinellis. It’s too dangerous. Confide in your old Dad, girl,
and we’ll do a lot better.”

Dorothy was half way across the room, but here she turned and ran back
to her father and kissed him. “Of course I’ll tell you everything. Isn’t
it too bad, though, that Bill Bolton is away? He’d have been a wonderful
help. Have you any idea what he is doing?”

“All I know is what his father told me—that he’s off on some government
job. It may be Secret Service work, again. Anyway, he’s to be away
indefinitely, I understand. Now, just one thing more.”

“Oh, _Daddy_! _More_ instructions to take care of myself?”

Mr. Dixon laughed at her outraged expression, and relit his pipe.

“Not exactly—you seem to have the luck to generally land on your feet.
But, I want you to consider this: if the bearded aviator or his
associates _are_ behind Terry’s disappearance, they kidnapped him
because they thought he would recognize the man. And they tried to do
the same thing to you tonight.”

“Why on earth should they fear being recognized?”

“Haven’t the slightest idea. It depends on what they’re up to. There
must be a strong motive behind it. You don’t strike a match unless you
want a light. But unless we’re chasing moonbeams, something illegal is
going on and if there is a hunt for Terry tomorrow, I don’t want you to
take part in it.”

“You think they’ll try to get me again?”

“It is highly possible.” Her father got to his feet and put his hands on
her shoulders. “So promise me you won’t go running about country byroads
in your car, even during daylight hours. If you must go out at night,
either I or Arthur must be in the car with you.” (Arthur was the Dixons’
chauffeur-gardener.) “There’s no use trying to pretend I’m not worried
about this mysterious business. Be a good girl and don’t make it harder
for me, please.”

“I’ll be good, Daddy. If I find out anything tomorrow, I’ll report at
dinner.”

“That’s my girl,” he beamed, and kissed her good night. “I shall nose
about, myself, a bit. I’m sure that you and Terry know that bearded
aviator or some of his friends. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be so perturbed
about recognition. Unless we’re all wet, Dorothy, this affair is made up
of local people. Mind your step—and we’ll see. Go to bed now and get a
good rest—I’m coming upstairs as soon as I’ve locked up.”



                               Chapter IV

                            THE THUNDERHEAD


Dorothy telephoned the Walters next morning, to learn from a maid that
Terry was still missing, and that Mr. Walters was down in the village,
putting the matter in the hands of the police.

“May I speak to Mrs. Walters?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not, miss. Mrs. Walters has been up all night. Doctor Brown
has given her a sleeping powder and issued orders that she is not to be
disturbed.”

“If there is anything that I can do,” said Dorothy, “telephone me.”

“Thank you, miss. I’ll tell Mr. Walters when he comes home.”

Dorothy rang off and went about her household duties with a heavy heart.

Later on she motored to the village to do her marketing, and upon her
return found that her father had telephoned. She immediately called up
the New Canaan Bank, of which he was president.

“Any news, Daddy?” she inquired anxiously, as soon as she was put
through to him.

“That you, Dorothy?” she heard him say. “Yes—Terry’s car has been
found.”

“_Where_, Daddy?”

“On a wood road in the hills back of the Norwalk reservoir. The car was
empty. A farmer driving through there found it early this morning and
phoned the license number to the police.”

“But what in the world could Terry have been doing way over there? I
know that road. It’s no more than a bridle path—the reservoir is three
or four miles beyond Silvermine.”

“My opinion is that Terry was never anywhere near the place,” explained
her father. “He was undoubtedly held up, removed to another car and his
own run over to the spot where it was found.”

“No sign of him, I suppose?”

“No. I’ve talked with Walters. The poor man is nearly off his head with
worry. We’re getting up searching parties to cooperate with the police.
I’ll see you at dinner tonight. It will be impossible for me to get home
at noon.”

“I’ll hope to have some news for you, then,” said Dorothy.

“Going up in spite of the rain?”

“I’ve got to. We can’t afford to waste time—the weather’s not so bad.”

“There are storm warnings out all along the coast.”

“I’ll be careful, Daddy.”

“All right. Bye-bye till dinner time.”

“Bye.”

She hung up the receiver and for the rest of the morning, busied herself
about the house, determined not to let her mind dwell upon the darker
side of this latest development. After lunch she changed into flying
clothes and went out to the hangar.

Unlocking the doors, she set to work filling the amphibian’s gasoline
tanks. Then she went over the engine carefully and gave it a short
ground test. After that, the instruments came under her inspection.
Altogether, she gave her plane a thorough overhauling, which was not
entirely necessary, but kept her from thinking and helped to kill time.

About twenty minutes to five she ran the amphibian out of the hangar and
took off into the teeth of a fine rain. It was no part of her plan to
fly in the neighborhood of the Beach Club until the plane she was
seeking should put in an appearance. Her self-imposed duty was to spot
the mysterious amphibian and to follow it to its destination without
allowing the pilot or an understudy to spot her.

So instead of banking and heading for Tokeneke, when her bus had
sufficiently topped the trees, she continued to keep the stick back so
as to maintain a proper climbing angle. Back in her first thirty hours
of early flight training, it would have been difficult for her to keep
Will-o’-the-Wisp (more often termed Willie or Wispy) at the correct
angle safely below the stalling point, unless she could first recognize
that angle by the position of the plane’s nose relative to the horizon.
On a wet day like this with an obscured horizon it would have been
well-nigh impossible: at best, a series of bad stalls would have been
the result. But now her snapping gray eyes sparkled with exhilaration;
she no longer needed the horizon as a guide. Between leveling off every
thousand feet or so, to keep the engine from overheating, she shot
Will-o’-the-Wisp up to six thousand, maintaining the proper angle of
climb by the “feel” of the plane alone.

With her altimeter indicating the height she wanted, she leveled off
again; then, executing a sharp reverse control or “flipper” turn to the
left she resumed straight flight again by the application of up aileron
and opposite rudder. The plane was now headed south, several points to
the west of the Beach Club.

The visibility was even poorer than at a lower level, but the young
pilot knew this part of the country as she knew her own front lawn.
Either dropping or swerving her plane’s nose at frequent intervals so as
to get an unimpeded view ahead, she passed over the wooded ridges toward
the shore, over the city of Stamford and out over the slate grey waters
of Long Island Sound.

That body of water is some six or eight miles wide at this point, and
upon reaching the opposite shore, Dorothy commenced a patrol of the Long
Island shore line from Lloyds’ Neck, which lies just west of Oyster Bay,
to the farther side of Smithtown Bay, a distance of fifteen or sixteen
miles. And as she flew, she kept a sharp lookout for planes appearing
out of the murk toward the Connecticut shore.

Since she knew it was the bearded aviator’s practice to fly at a
comparatively low altitude, Dorothy chose to keep Will-o’-the-Wisp at
this greater height for two reasons. An airplane flying far above
another plane is much more unlikely to be noticed by the pilot of the
lower plane than one flying at his own level or below him. Then again,
by keeping to the higher air, Dorothy, under normal weather conditions,
was bound to increase her range of vision proportionately. Her plan was
a good one. But weather is not a respecter of plans. The visibility,
poor enough when she started, gradually grew worse and worse. Although
what wind there was seemed to have died, long curling tongues of mist
crept out of the east, while above her head she saw black thunder
clouds, sinking lower and lower.

Now one of the first things any aviator learns is that fog must be
avoided at all costs. Any attempt to land in it is attended by
considerable danger. Dorothy knew only too well that in case of a fog
bank cutting the plane off from its destination, the flight must be
discontinued by a landing, or by return to the point of departure.

She glanced overside again. Long Island Sound was no longer visible.

“He’s late now, unless I’ve missed him,” she said to herself. “I’ll
finish this leg of the patrol and if he doesn’t show up by the time I’m
over Oyster Bay, Willie and I will head for home.”

Pushing her stick slightly forward to decrease her altitude, she
continued along her course.

Three minutes later, she realized her mistake. The wisps of fog seemed
to gather together, and Will-o’-the-Wisp sank into an opaque bank that
blinded her.

“Gee, but I’m stupid!” she mumbled. “What was it that text-book I read
only yesterday said? ‘In the event of general formation of fog below, an
immediate landing must be made before it becomes thick enough to
interfere seriously with the approach.’ Heavens, what a fool I am! Now
that we’re in it, though, I might as well see if it thins out nearer the
water.”

Her compass told her she was flying almost due west. Throttling down the
engine, she pushed her stick still farther forward, at the same time
applying right aileron and hard right rudder. As the proper gliding
angle was reached, she neutralized her elevators and held the nose up as
necessary. Next, she checked her wing with the ailerons and eased her
rudder pressure. Then having made a quarter-spiral with a change in
course of 90 degrees, she applied left aileron and hard left rudder
until the wings were level laterally, and with her stick still held
forward, continued to descend in a straight glide until she was within
fifteen hundred feet of the water. The plane was heading directly back
across Long Island Sound toward the Connecticut shore.

But each moment the fog seemed to grow more dense. To land blindly meant
a certain nose-in and was out of the question. And even if the mist did
not hold to the water’s level, to fly lower meant the chance of striking
the mast or spar of a ship, a lighthouse, perhaps, or anything else that
came her way.

“We’re up against it, Wispy,” she murmured, opening the throttle and
pulling back her stick. “If we can’t go down, at least we can ‘go
above,’ as they say in the Navy. Beat it for the heavens, my dear. This
beastly fog can’t run all the way to Mars!”

Dorothy was not frightened, although she knew how serious was her
predicament. No pilot likes flying blind in a fog. With the knowledge
that what one sees, one hits, it is a nerve-wracking experience.

But Dorothy’s nerves were good—none better—and she sent her plane into
a long, steady climb, hoping for the best and keeping her vivid
imagination well within control.

Headed into the north, she continued her climb, leveling off every few
thousand feet to ease the strain on her engine. When the altimeter
marked thirteen thousand she began to worry, for the service ceiling of
her plane was but two thousand higher. The cold damp of the thick mist
penetrated like a knife. Hemmed in by the dank grey walls, she could
barely distinguish the nose of her ship. The active needles of the
altimeter and rate of climb indicator were the only visible signs that
Will-o’-the-Wisp was moving at all.

Fourteen thousand feet—intense physical discomfort, added to the
nervous strain, were becoming intolerable. Dorothy clenched her
chattering teeth in an effort to retain her control. Then with a
suddenness astonishing, the fog parted and she sailed into clear air.

Below her the heavy mist swirled and rolled like a sluggish sea,
grey-yellow streaked with dirty streamers, while directly ahead loomed a
towering mass of cotton-like clouds rising tier upon tier as far as she
would see.

A quick glance over her shoulder and to the sides, brought forth the
fact that this small pocket of free air was entirely surrounded by
similar cloud formations. There was no time for thought. Automatically,
her hand clasping the stick shot forward, bringing down the nose to the
position of level flight, and she drove the amphibian straight at the
thunderhead. Immediately afterward the plane passed into the cloud, and
like a leaf caught in an inverted maelstrom, it was whipped out of her
control.

Gripped by tremendous air forces, the amphibian was shot up and
sideways, at a speed that burned Dorothy’s lungs. Tossed about like a
rag doll, with her safety-belt almost cutting her body in two, she was
thrown hither and yon with the plane, blind, and without the slightest
idea as to her position.

Never in her wildest nightmares had she dreamed that a heavy plane,
weighing close to four thousand pounds when empty, could be tossed about
in such fashion by currents of the air.

For a space of time that seemed years, she was entirely away from the
controls. But gradually, with infinite effort and in spite of the
whirling jolts of her air steed, Dorothy managed to hook her heels under
the seat. A second later she had caught the stick and was pushing it
forward into the instrument board.

Will-o’-the-Wisp reared like an outlawed bronco, then dived until the
airspeed indicator showed one hundred and sixty-five miles per hour.
Still her downward speed was less than the rate of the upward draft, for
the rate of climb indicator told the frenzied girl that the plane was
being lifted fourteen hundred feet per minute.

Still diving at 45 degrees, the phenomenal force of the updraft carried
the plane to the mushroom top of the cloud, where with a jar like an
elevator hitting the ceiling, it was flung forth into the outer air.



                               Chapter V

                             HIDE AND SEEK


The strong air current which spread horizontally over the thunderhead
blew Dorothy’s plane sideways and away from the cloud. An instant later
it was roaring downward in the thin air, quite beyond her control, a
self-propelled projectile rushing to its doom.

While shooting upward in the cloud, the violent and intensely rapid
gyrations of the airship caused her safety belt to become unclasped, and
had her parachute not caught in the cowling, she must have been flung
clear of the plane to a horrible death far below.

With her heels still hooked beneath the pilot’s seat, she wrenched the
parachute loose. Then she closed the throttle and half-suffocated by the
force of the wind and lack of breathable oxygen, she commenced to pull
the stick slowly backward.

A glance at the altimeter showed a height of eighteen thousand
feet—three air miles above earth—and three thousand feet above
Will-o’-the-Wisp’s service ceiling.

Notwithstanding the shut-off engine, the speed of the diving plane was
terrific. Dorothy felt the grinding jar of the wind-strained wings as
the nose began to rise in answer to the pull of the elevators; and
wondered helplessly if they would hold.

The air pressure was agony to her eardrums. Her head reeled. She was
well-nigh exhausted. She no longer cared very much what happened.

The plane dropped into a blanket of fog. She felt the wet mist on her
face, refreshing and reanimating her. Suddenly she realized that her
parachute was starting to fill and would shortly pull her out of the
cockpit. With her free hand she reached under the seat and brought forth
a sheath knife. A frenzied second later she had rid herself of the
flapping bag. As it flew overboard, she tightened her safety belt and
placed her cramped feet back on the steering pedals.

Though still fog-blind, she could at least breathe comfortably now as
the plane lessened speed in descent. Will-o’-the-Wisp still shook and
groaned, but no longer fought the pull of the stick. Up came the nose,
slowly but surely and with her ailerons functioning once more, Dorothy
gained control and sent the plane into a normal glide. The altimeter
marked five thousand feet. The dive had been over two miles long.

Another fifteen hundred feet and gradually the mist lightened until it
became mere wisps of smoky cloud. Long Island Sound had been left
behind. Below lay the wooded hills and valleys of the Connecticut ridge
country, cloaked in multi-shaded green. As she still headed north,
Dorothy knew now that she had been blown beyond New Canaan. She gave the
plane hard right rudder and right aileron and sent it swinging into a
long half spiral, which, completed, headed her south again. Almost
directly below, she recognized the Danbury Fair Grounds, with home just
twenty miles away.

Again her hand sought the throttle and as Will-o’-the-Wisp snorted, then
roared, Dorothy breathed a thankful sigh. Fifteen minutes later she had
housed her plane in its hangar, and was limping up the porch steps of
her home.

Lizzie, the Dixons’ servant, met her in the hall.

“Whatever is the matter, Miss Dorothy? You’ve had an accident—you’re
half-killed—I know you are! There’s blood all over your face—”

Her young mistress interrupted, smiling:

“You’re wrong again, Lizzie. No accident, though I know I look pretty
awful. I feel that way, too, if you ask me—”

“But the blood, Miss Dorothy?”

“It’s from a nosebleed, Lizzie. I assure you I’m not badly hurt. If
you’ll help me out of these rags and start a warm bath running, I’ll be
ever so much obliged. A good soaking in hot water will fix me up. Then,”
she added, “I think I’ll be real luxurious and have my dinner in bed.”

When the solicitous Lizzie brought up the dinner tray three-quarters of
an hour later, a tired but decidedly sprucer Dorothy, in pink silk
pyjamas, was leaning back against her pillows.

“My word, I’m hungry!” She seized a hot roll and began to butter it.
“I’m off bucking thunderheads for life, Lizzie. But you can take it from
me, that kind of thing gives you a marvelous appetite!”

“Yes, miss, I’m glad,” returned Lizzie, who had no idea what Dorothy was
talking about. “You certainly look better.”

“By the way, what’s become of Daddy? Hasn’t he got home yet?”

“Oh, Miss Dorothy, I’m so sorry. Sure and I forgot to tell ye—Mr. Dixon
won’t be home for dinner.”

“Did he telephone?”

“No, miss. He came home about quarter to five and packed his suitcase.
He said to tell you he’d been called to Washington on business and he’d
be gone a couple of days. Arthur drove him to Stamford to catch the New
York express—he didn’t have much time.”

Dorothy helped herself to a spoonful of jellied bouillon. “Any other
message?”

“Yes, miss. He said that Mister Terry hadn’t been found yet. I asked him
b’cause I thought you’d like to know. That was all he said. I’m sure
sorry I forgot it when you came in, but I—”

“That’s all right, Lizzie, I understand. You come back for the tray in
half an hour, will you? And if you find me asleep, don’t wake me up. I’m
tired to death. I need a long rest and I’m going to take it.”

When Lizzie came back she found Dorothy deep in the sleep of exhaustion.
She lowered the window blinds against the early morning light and
picking up the tray from the end of the bed, tiptoed from the room.

Morning broke bright and clear with no sign of yesterday’s mist and
rain. Dorothy remained in bed for breakfast and it took but little
persuasion on the part of Lizzie to keep her there till lunch time. She
still felt stiff and bruised and was only too content to rest and doze.

Toward noon she rose and dressed in her flying clothes. Immediately
after lunch she went out to the hangar. She slipped into a serviceable
and grubby pair of overalls, and spent the afternoon in giving
Will-o’-the-Wisp a thorough grooming. At quarter to five she was in the
air and headed for Long Island Sound.

Half an hour later, with an altitude of ten thousand feet, she was
cruising over yesterday’s course above the Long Island shore, when she
spied a biplane coming across the Sound. In an instant she had her field
glasses out and focussed on the newcomer.

“That’s him!” she murmured ungrammatically, though with evident relief.
“Now for a pleasant little game of hide-and-seek!”

The Mystery Plane was flying far below, so continuing on her course at
right angles, she watched it with hurried glances over her shoulder.
When she reached the Long Island Shore line, it was a mile or so behind
and below Dorothy’s tailplane. So waiting only long enough to be sure
that her quarry was headed across the Island, she banked her plane and
sent it on a wide half circle to the right. Long Island, at this point,
she knew was about twenty miles wide.

Dorothy’s plan for trailing the Mystery Plane and doing so without being
seen, was as simple as it was direct. The farther end of her circular
course would bring her over Great South Bay and the South shore of Long
Island at approximately the same point for which the other plane seemed
to be bound. She would arrive, of course, a minute or two behind the
other aviator. And as she planned, so it happened.

From her high point of vantage, Dorothy, swinging on her arc a mile or
so to the east, was able to keep the other amphibian continually in
sight. She watched him pursue his southerly course until he came over
the town of Babylon on Great South Bay. Here her glasses told her that
the bearded aviator turned his plane to the left, heading east and up
the bay in her direction.

Below her now lay the Bay, hemmed in from the Atlantic by long narrow
stretches of white sand dunes. For a second or so Dorothy thought they
would pass in the air, her plane far above the other. But before she
reached that point, she saw the other make a crosswind landing and taxi
toward a dock which jutted into the Bay from the dunes. Just beyond the
dock an isolated cottage stood in a hollow on the bay side of the dunes.
There was no other habitation in sight for over a mile in either
direction.

“Aha! Run to earth at last!” muttered Dorothy contentedly. Maintaining
her altitude, with Babylon across the bay to her right, she continued
her westward course above the dunes.

A few miles past the cottage she flew over Fire Island Inlet. When she
was opposite Amityville, she came about. Shutting off her engine, she
tilted the stick forward and sent Will-o’-the-Wisp into a long glide
which eventually landed her on the waters of Babylon harbor.

Dorothy stripped off her goggles and scanned the waterfront. Slightly to
her left she spied a small shipyard, whose long dock bore a large sign
which carried the legend: “Yancy’s Motor Boat Garage.”

“Good. Couldn’t be better!” exclaimed Miss Dixon in great satisfaction.
“Atta girl, Wispy! We’re going over to have a talk with Mr. Yancy.”

She gave her plane the gun and taxiing slowly over the smooth water,
through the harbor shipping, presently brought up at the Yancy wharf and
made fast.

“Hello, there! Want gas?” sang out a voice above her, and Dorothy looked
up. A smiling young man, dressed in extremely dirty dungarees was
walking down the wharf toward her.

“Hello, yourself!” she returned as he came up. “No, I’m not out of gas,
thank you. I want to hire a boat.”

“Better come ashore, then.” The man wiped his palms on a piece of clean
cotton waste and gave her a hand up. “We’ve got plenty of boats—all
kinds, lady. Got ’em fast and slow, big and little. Just what kind of a
craft do you need?”

“Something with plenty of beam and seaworthy, that I can run without
help. I’m not looking for speed. I may want to take her outside—I don’t
know.”

The young man pointed down the wharf to where a rather bulky motor boat,
broad of beam and about thirty feet waterline was moored head out to a
staging.

“Mary Jane—that’s your boat,” announced Mr. Yancy. “She’s old and she
ain’t got no looks, but she’s seaworthy and she’ll take you anywhere.
You could run over to Paris or London in that old craft if you could
pile enough gas aboard her.”

“She looks pretty big,” Dorothy’s tone was dubious. “Think I can handle
her by myself?”

“She is big,” he admitted readily, “but she runs like a sewing machine
and she’s all set to be taken out this minute if you want her.”

“I’ll look her over anyway,” she declared and led the way to the landing
stage.

Stepping aboard the Mary Jane, she peeped into the small trunk cabin
which was scarcely bigger than a locker, but would give shelter in case
of rain. She observed that there were sailing lights, compass, horn and
a large dinner bell in a rack, and two life preservers as well. In one
of the lockers she came upon a chart. Stowed up in the forepeak were an
anchor with a coil of line and three five-gallon tins of gasoline. A
quick examination showed the fuel tank to have been filled.

The motor was a simple and powerful two-cylinder affair, with
make-and-break ignition, noisy, but dependable; the sort of engine on
which the fishermen and lobstermen along the coast hang their lives in
offshore work. It seemed to Dorothy that it ought to kick the shallow
old tub along at a good ten-knot gait. The boat itself though battered
and dingy, appeared to be sound and staunch so far as one could see.

“I’ll take her,” decided Dorothy. “That is, if she’s not too expensive?”

“I guess we ain’t goin’ to fight about the price, mam,” asserted Yancy.
“How long will you be wantin’ her and when do you expect to take her
out?”

“Not before nine tonight—and I’ll hire her for twenty-four hours.”

“O. K. mam. You can have her for a year if you want her. How about your
air bus?”

“She’ll be left here. I want you to look after her. I don’t think
there’ll be any wind to speak of. She’ll be all right where she is.”

“We’re going to get rain in a couple of hours, so if you’ll make her
secure, I’ll have her towed out to that buoy yonder. I’ll rest easier
with her moored clear of this dock.”

“I’ll pull the waterproof covers over the cockpits and she’ll be all
right,” returned Dorothy. “Then we can go up to your office and fix up
the finances.”



                               Chapter VI

                         THE HOUSE ON THE DUNES


Having come to agreeable terms with Mr. Yancy and having secured the
name and location of Babylon’s best restaurant, Dorothy left the
waterfront and walked uptown. A glance at her wrist-watch told her it
was not yet seven o’clock. She was in no hurry, for she had more than
two hours to wait before it would be dark enough to start. So she
strolled along the bustling streets of the little city, feeling very
much pleased with the way things were progressing.

Arrived at the restaurant, she ordered a substantial meal and while
waiting for it to be served, sought a telephone booth. She asked for the
toll operator and put in a call for New Canaan. A little while later she
was summoned to the phone.

“Is that you, Lizzie? Yes. I—no, no, I’m perfectly all right—” she
spoke soothingly into the transmitter. “Don’t worry about me, please.
I’ve had to go out of town, and I wanted to let you know that I won’t be
back till morning. Never mind, now. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good-by!” She
replaced the receiver and went back to her table, a little smile on her
lips at the memory of Lizzie’s distracted voice over the wire.

“Poor Lizzie! She’s all worked up again at what she calls my ‘wild
doin’s’,” she thought. And with a determined glint in her eyes, she
proceeded to eat heartily.

When she had finished, she asked at the desk for a sheet of paper and an
envelope. She took these over to her table, ordered a second cup of
coffee, and began to compose a letter. This took her some time, for in
it she explained her maneuvers during the afternoon, and gave the exact
location of the cottage on the dunes, where she believed the Mystery
Plane’s pilot had been bound. She ended with a sketch of her plans for
the evening and addressed the envelope to Terry Walters’ father. With
her mind now easy in case of misadventure, she paid her bill and walked
back to the water front.

“Good evening, Miss Dixon,” greeted Yancy as she stepped into his
office. “I’ve done what you asked me to. You’ll find a pair of clean
blankets, some fresh water and eatables for two days stowed in the Mary
Jane’s cabin. I know you don’t intend to be out that long, but it’s
always wise to be on the safe side with the grub.”

“Thanks. You’re a great help. Now, just one thing more before I shove
off. Although I’ve rented your boat for twenty-four hours, I really
expect to be back here tomorrow morning at the latest. If I don’t turn
up by noon, will you please send this letter by special delivery to Mr.
Walters in New Canaan?”

“I sure will, Miss Dixon. But you’re not lookin’ for trouble, are you?”

Dorothy shook her head and smiled. “Nothing like that, Mr. Yancy. I just
want Mr. Walters to know where I am and what I’m doing.”

“Good enough, Mam. Anything else I can do?”

“Not a thing, thank you. Don’t bother to come down to the wharf with me.
I’ve got several things I want to do aboard before I set out.”

“Just as you say. Good luck and a pleasant trip.” Yancy’s honest face
wore a beaming grin as he doffed his tattered cap to Dorothy.

“Thank you again. Good night.”

Dorothy went outside and found that Yancy’s prediction of rain earlier
in the evening had been justified.

“Lucky this is drizzle instead of fog,” she thought as she hurried down
to the landing stage. “I’d be out of luck navigating blind on Great
South Bay!”

She dove into the Mary Jane’s cabin and after lighting the old fashioned
oil lamp in its swinging bracket, put on her slicker and sou’wester.
Then she fished the chart of the bay out of the locker and spent the
next quarter of an hour in an intensive study of local waters.

Having gained an intimate picture of this part of the bay, she plotted
her course, and checked up on the blankets and food. That done, she blew
out the lamp, picked up the anchor and left the cabin, closing the door
behind her.

Outside in the drizzle, she deposited her burden in the bow, making the
anchor rope fast to a ring bolt in the decking. Then she put a match to
the side lights and coming aft, cast off from the staging. Next, she
started the motor, a difficult undertaking. At the third or fourth heave
of the heavy flywheel it got away with a series of barking coughs. She
slid in behind the steering wheel and they headed out across the bay.

Night had fallen, but notwithstanding the light rain, visibility on the
water was good. The tide, as Dorothy knew, was at the flood, so she cut
straight across for the dull, intermittent glow of the Fire Island
Light. The boat ran strongly and well and Dorothy gave the engine full
gas. She knew from experience that one of its primitive type was not apt
to suffer from being driven, but on the contrary was inclined to run
more evenly.

It had been at least two years since she had sailed on Great South Bay,
but she remembered it to be a big, shallow puddle, where in most places
a person capsized might stand on bottom and right the boat.

“No danger of capsizing with the Mary Jane,” she reflected, “she’s built
on the lines of a flounder—I’ll bet she’d float in a heavy dew!”

The two and a half feet of tide made it possible for her to hold a
straight course and presently she could see the dim outline of sand
dunes. The faint easterly draft of air brought the roar of the Atlantic
swell as it boomed upon the beach outside. It was time to change her
course.

A quarter turn of the wheel swung the Mary Jane to port and
straightening out, she headed across the inlet. Five minutes later she
had picked up the dunes on the farther side. With the dunes off her
starboard quarter, Dorothy made the wheel fast with a bight of cord she
had cut for the purpose, and going forward, extinguished her side
lights.

Back at the wheel again, she steered just as close to the shore as
safety permitted. For the next couple of miles she ran along the
shallows.

“Thank goodness!” she muttered at last. Swinging the Mary Jane inshore,
she cut her motor and headed into a small cove, to ground a moment later
on a pebbly beach.

Springing ashore, Dorothy dragged the anchor up the beach and buried it
at its full length of rope in the sand. Then with a sigh of
satisfaction, she straightened her back and took a survey of her
surroundings.

The little beach ran up to a cup-shaped hollow, encompassed by high sand
dunes. She had noticed the inlet on the large-scale chart, and chose it
because she figured that it lay about a mile on the near side of the
cottage she sought. And since she had decided to use the motor boat
instead of the plane because she wanted to cover her approach, this spot
seemed made to order for her purpose.

Her eyes scanned the skyline, and for a moment her heart almost stopped.
Surely she had seen the head of a man move in that clump of long, coarse
grasses at the top of the incline! Standing perfectly still, although
her body tingled with excitement, she continued to stare at the
suspicious clump.

Then with characteristic decision, she drew a revolver from her pocket
and raced up the side of the dune. But although she exerted herself to
the utmost, her progress was much too slow. Her feet sank deep in the
shifting sand until she was literally wading, clawing with her free hand
for holds on the waving sandgrass.

Panting and floundering, she pulled herself to the top, only to find no
one there. Nor so far as she could see was there any living thing in
sight. The deep boom of the surf was louder here, and peering through
the rain, she made out the long stretch of beach pounded by combers, not
more than a couple of hundred yards away. Some distance to the right,
facing the ocean twinkled the lights of a row of summer cottages. To her
left nothing could be seen but tier after tier of grass-topped dunes, a
narrow barrier of sand between Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean,
bleak and desolate, extending farther than the eye could reach.

Despite this evidence to the contrary, Dorothy still retained the
impression that she was not alone. She had an uneasy conviction that she
was being watched. She shivered.

“My nerves must be going fuzzy,” she thought disgustedly. “I can’t risk
using a flash, and if there were any tracks this stiff breeze from the
sea would have filled them in while I was climbing up here. Well, get
going, Dorothy, my girl—this place is giving you the creeps—good and
plenty.”

The Colt was slipped back into her slicker, and she trudged through the
loose sand to the black stretch of ocean beach. Here, walking was
better, and turning her back on the lighted cottages, she set out along
the hard shingle by the surf.

Several times during that walk, Dorothy stopped short and scanned the
long line of dunes above her. Try as she might, it seemed impossible to
rid herself of the idea that someone was following. When she judged the
remaining distance to the cottage to be about a quarter of a mile, she
left the beach and continued her way over the dunes.

Although Dorothy had no tangible fact to connect the Mystery Plane with
her holdup in New Canaan and Terry’s disappearance, she approached the
lonely cottage with the stealth of a red Indian. And even if this night
reconnoiter should prove only that the bearded aviator had a sweetie
living on the shore of Great South Bay, or that he was making daily
trips to visit friends, she had no intention of being caught snooping.
No matter what she should learn of the cottage’s inmates, if anything,
she proposed to return with the Mary Jane to Yancy’s wharf and spend the
rest of the night aboard. She had no desire to tramp about Babylon after
midnight, looking for a hotel that would take her in.

As she slowly neared the cottage, taking particular pains now not to
appear on the skyline, she wished that this adventure was well over. She
still felt the effects of her adventure with the thunderhead. The tiny
cabin of the motor boat seemed more and more inviting to the weary girl.
Trudging through the rain over sand dunes was especially trying when one
was walking away from bed rather than toward it.

Then she caught sight of the house roof over the top of the next dune
and her flagging interest in her undertaking immediately revived.

Dorothy skirted the shoulder of the sandy hill, using the utmost
precaution to make not the slightest sound. Then she squatted on her
heels and held her breath. Directly ahead, not more than thirty or forty
feet at most, gleamed the light from an open window, and from where she
crouched, there was an unobstructed view of the room beyond.

There were three men sitting about an unpainted kitchen table which held
three glasses and as many bottles. All were smoking, and deep in
conversation. One man she knew immediately to be the bearded aviator
with whom she had talked on the Beach Club shore. But although Dorothy
strained her ears to the bursting point, the heavy pounding of the surf
from the ocean side prevented her from catching more than a confused
rumble of voices.

For a moment or two she waited and watched. The other two men wore golf
clothes, were young, and though they were not particularly prepossessing
in appearance, she decided that they were American business men on a
holiday. They certainly did not look like foreigners.

Miss Dixon, crouching beside the sand dune, felt vaguely disappointed.
She did not know exactly what she had expected to find in the cottage,
but she had been counting on something rather more exciting than the
tableau now framed in the open window. But since she had come this far,
it would be senseless not to learn all that was possible. Taking care to
keep beyond the path of the light, she crept forward on her hands and
knees until she was below the window. Here it was impossible to see into
the room, but the voices now came to her with startling distinctness.

“Why?” inquired a voice which Dorothy immediately recognized as
belonging to the aviator, though oddly enough, it was now without
accent. “You surely haven’t got cold feet, Donovan?”

“Cold feet nothing! The man don’t live that can give me chills below the
knee,” that gentleman returned savagely. “But I won’t be made a goat of
either, nor sit in a poker game with my eyes shut. Why should I? I’ve
got as much to lose as you have.”

“Those are my sentiments exactly,” drawled a third voice, not
unpleasantly. “Listen to that surf. There’s a rotten sea running out by
the light. Raining too, and getting thicker out there by the minute. By
three o’clock you’ll be able to cut the fog with a knife. What’s the
sense in trying it—we’re sure to miss her, anyway.”

“Perhaps you chaps would prefer my job,” sneered the aviator. “You make
me sick! But you’ll have to do what the old man expects of you,—so why
argue?”

“How come the old man always picks days like this to run up his red
flag?” Donovan was talking again. “There’s just as much chance of our
picking up that stuff tonight as—as—”

“As finding a golf ball on a Scotchman’s lawn,” the third man finished
for him. “I know there’s no use grousing—but it’s a dirty deal—and
well, we’ve got to talk about something in this God-forsaken dump!”

“I don’t blame you much,” the aviator admitted, “but look at the
profits, man. Well, I must be shoving off, myself. We’ll have another
bottle of beer apiece and—”

But Dorothy did not hear the end of that sentence. Her vigil was
suddenly and rudely interrupted. Someone behind her thrust a rough arm
under her chin, jerking back her head and holding her in an unbreakable
grip. The sickly-sweet odor of chloroform half suffocated her. For a
moment more she struggled, then darkness closed in about her.



                              Chapter VII

                               SHANGHAIED


Dorothy came slowly back to consciousness. She was vaguely aware of the
chug-chug of a small engine somewhere near by. Her head swam and there
was a sickly sensation at the pit of her stomach.

She tried to move, and found it impossible. She heard the splash of
waves but could see nothing except the boarded wall of her prison a foot
or so away from her eyes.

After a while she became accustomed to the gloom and her sight was
clearer. She decided that the rounded wall was the side of a boat.
Turning her head slightly she saw that she lay on the flooring of an
open motor sailor, beneath a thwart. It had stopped raining. Now the
sound of the engine and the gurgle of water against the hull told her
that the craft was moving.

She hadn’t the slightest idea where this cabinless craft was bound, or
how she came to be aboard. Gradually there returned to her a confused
memory of the cottage on the dunes, voices through the window. Someone’s
arm about her neck, forcing her head back—she remembered, now, and
groaned. Her body was one stiffness and ache.

Again she tried to heave herself into a sitting position, only to find
that her ankles were bound with a turn or two of cord, and her wrists
whipped together behind her back. She was trussed like a fowl, and by
the feel of her bonds, the trusser was a seaman. She wriggled and
writhed, consumed by rage at her own helplessness. The only result was
to restore her circulation and clear her faculties, allowing her to
realize just what had happened.

“Shanghied!” Dorothy muttered thickly. “Oh, if I’d only had a chance to
let loose a little jiu jitsu on that beast who scragged me!”

Why had they brought her on board this boat and tied her hand and foot?
Where was the motor sailor bound? What was going to happen to her next?
Mr. Walters would probably get her letter during the afternoon. Yancy
seemed a dependable sort of man. Without doubt a raid on the beach
cottage would follow, but by that time the birds would have flown, and
what good would the raid do her! Her thoughts ran on.

Those men in the cottage were not fools. Their conversation, as they sat
around the table, had meant little to Dorothy, but she no longer doubted
that the gang was interested in an undertaking that was illegal and
fraught with considerable danger to themselves. Could it be bootlegging?
Possibly. But Dorothy did not fancy that idea. The Mystery Plane, (she
had got in the habit of calling it that now) hadn’t enough storage
capacity to carry any great quantity of liquor. Where did that amphibian
come into this complicated scheme?

This night’s work had turned out a failure so far as she was concerned:
she should never have undertaken the job of ferreting out the truth
alone.

If only Bill Bolton were not away. He would never have allowed her to
get into this mess!

Suddenly she heard the creak of a board and the sound of footsteps
approaching. Dorothy realized that she lay huddled in the bow of the
craft, with her head aft and her feet forward. That was why she had not
been able to see anything of the crew. She shut her eyes again as
someone flashed a torch in her face.

“She’s not much better,” said a voice she recognized as belonging to the
man called Donovan. “Doesn’t look to me as if she’d be out of it for a
long time. I think you must have given her an overdose of the stuff,
Peters.” He stirred her none too gently with his foot.

“I hope I did!” answered a new voice. “That little wildcat got my thumb
between her teeth while I was holdin’ the rag to her face. She bit me
somethin’ terrible, I tell yer.”

“Never mind your thumb. We’ve heard enough of that already. How long did
you hold the chloroform to her nose?”

“I dunno. I gave her plenty. If her light’s out, I should worry.”

“You’re right, you should. I’m not handling stiffs on the price of this
job.” Donovan’s tone was biting.

A hand pressed Dorothy’s side.

“No stiffer than you are,” affirmed Peters matter-of-factly. “I can feel
her breathe.”

“She looks pretty bad to me,” Donovan insisted. “The old man will raise
the roof if you don’t get her over to Connecticut O.K. You know what he
said over the phone!”

“Then why not ask Charlie? He used to be a doctor before he did that
stretch up the river.” He raised his voice. “Hey, there, Charlie! Leave
go that wheel and come here for a minute.”

“Can’t be done,” replied Charlie, and Dorothy knew that the third man on
the beach cottage group was speaking. “What do you want me to do—run
this sailor aground in the shallows?”

“Well, Donovan thinks the girl’s goin’ to croak.”

“That’s your worry. You’re the lad who administered the anesthetic. You
probably gave her too much.”

“Say, Charlie, this is serious,” Donovan broke in anxiously. “Quit
high-hatting and give us your opinion.”

The steersman snorted contemptuously. “She’ll come out of it all
right—that is, unless her heart’s wobbly. If it is, I couldn’t do
anything for her out here. You’re supposed to be running this show, Don,
and Peters did your dirty work. I’m only the hired man. If she goes out,
you two will stand the chance of burning, not me. Cut the argument!
There’s shipping ahead. What are you trying to do—wake the harbor?”

Donovan and Peters stopped talking and went aft. Presently their voices
broke out again but this time came to the girl in the bow as a low,
confused murmur.

So she owed this situation to Mr. Peters. Dorothy was feeling better now
and despite her discomfort she spent several minutes contemplating what
she would do to Mr. Peters, if she ever got the chance.

The motor sailor’s engine stopped chugging and soon the boat came to
rest.

“I’ll carry her in myself,” spoke Donovan from somewhere beyond her
range of vision. “Peters bungled the business when he was on watch at
that dump across the bay. I want no more accidents until she’s safely
off my hands.”

Dorothy was caught up in a pair of strong arms as if she had been so
much mutton.

“Think I’d drop her in the drink?” laughed Peters.

“You said it.—Sure this is the right dock, Charlie?”

“No, Donny, it’s the grill room of the Ritz—shake a leg there, both of
you. We’ve got a long boat ride and a sweet little job ahead of us. We
can’t afford to be late—hustle!”

Donovan did not bother to reply to this parting shot. He slung Dorothy
over his shoulder, stepped onto a thwart, from there to the gunwale and
on to the dock. They seemed to be in some kind of backwater from where a
set of steps led up from the dock to a small wharfyard, shut in on three
sides by high walls and warehouses.

Donovan shouldered open a door and ascended a narrow flight of rotting
stairs. It had been dark in the yard, but inside the warehouse the night
was Stygian. At the top he waited until Peters came abreast.

“Where’s your flash, Peters?” he growled.

“Haven’t got one, Cap.”

“Here—take mine, then, and show a glim. It’s in my side pocket. My
hands are full of girl!”

“Got it,” said Peters, a moment later.

The light came on and Dorothy, between half-shut eyelids saw that they
were in a long, dismal corridor.

“I’ll go ahead,” continued the man, “I’ve got the key.”

Down this long corridor they passed, then into another narrow passage
running at right angles from the first.

Peters eventually stopped at a door which he unlocked and flung open.

“Here we are,” he announced and preceded them over the sill.

Dorothy caught a glimpse of a small room that smelt of rats and
wastepaper with a flavor of bilgewater thrown in. Then she closed her
eyes as Donovan dumped her on the bare floor, propping her shoulders
against the wall.

“Well, that’s done,” Donovan said with great satisfaction. “Are you
going to wait here for the car, Peters, or out in the yard?”

“The yard for mine, Cap. This joint is full o’ spooks. It’s jollier
outside.”

“Right. We’ll get going then.”

Peters paused and looked at the girl. “There might be some change—maybe
a bill or two in the lady’s pockets, Cap?” He winked at Donovan
hopefully.

“You leave the girl’s money alone. The boss distinctly said not to
search her. He wants her delivered just as she is.”

“Well, what if she passes out on me hands, Cap?”

“Deliver her just the same. And mind—you obey orders or you’ll bite off
a heap more trouble than you can chew. Come along now!”

The two men left the room. The bolt in the door shot home, then the key
turned in the lock; As the sound of their footsteps over the bare floor
died away, Dorothy opened her eyes. Summoning all her strength, she
wrenched at the bonds that held her, but she accomplished no more than
lacerating her wrists.

She was to be shifted to some safer place, presumably in Connecticut,
where she was to be taken by car. Meanwhile, there was no escape from
where she was, even if her limbs were free. Should she show signs of
consciousness, the best she had to hope for was another dose of
chloroform or a gag when that enterprising thug, Mr. Peters, returned.
He was not the kind to leave anything to chance.

Almost before she had got her wits to work, Dorothy heard steps in the
passage and let herself go limp again, her knees drawn up, her head and
neck against the wall. The bolt was drawn, and Peters entered the room.
He flashed the torch over his prisoner.

“I don’t think there’ll be any harm in me takin’ a dollar or two,” he
muttered. “What’s the use of money to a stiff? And you sure do look good
and dead, young woman!” he chuckled as he bent down to begin the search.

“Guess again!”

Dorothy’s bound feet shot upward with the force of a mainspring
uncoiling. Her neck was braced against the wall and the whole strength
of her thighs was behind the kick that drove her boot heels smashing
under her captor’s chin. The gangster sailed backward. His head hit the
base of the opposite wall with a resounding crack and he lay like a log.

The electric torch trundled over the planks and came to a standstill,
throwing its pencil of light across the floor. For a couple of seconds,
Dorothy peered and listened. Then with intense exhilaration of spirit,
she rolled and wriggled herself across the intervening space until she
was underneath the window. Here, after a little straining and wobbling,
that nearly cracked her sinews, she got on her knees. Then she heaved
herself upright so that she leaned sideways against the sash. With a
thrust she drove her elbow through the pane. There was a crash and a
tinkle of falling glass.

Two more thrusts shivered the pane until there remained only a fringe of
broken glass at either side. Turning her back to it, she felt for the
broken edge with her fingers and brought her rope-lashed wrists across
it. Splintered window glass has an edge like a razor. Dorothy fumbled
the cord blindly to the cutting edge, sawed steadily and felt one of the
turns slacken and part.

It was enough. In a few seconds her wrists were free and she stooped and
cast loose the lashings from her ankles. She staggered a little and
collapsed on the floor. After chafing her arms and legs, she turned to
attend to her companion.

There was no need. Mr. Peters showed no further sign of animation than a
ham. To insure against interference or pursuit, Dorothy turned him over,
untied a length of cord from her ankle-bonds, and cast a double
sheet-bend about his wrists.

Picking up the flashlight, she hurried out through the door which that
canny seeker of “pickings” had left open. She hurried along the two
passages and down the rickety stairs. The door at the bottom was closed,
so snapping off her light, she pulled it open and stepped into the yard.

But here she was certain there was no egress except by swimming unless
she could find a way through the other side of the house. Somewhere out
in the darkness she heard the lap and plash of water and the faint creak
of rowlocks. Instantly she ducked behind a pile of empty barrels.

A boat skulled stealthily through the gloom and fetched up alongside the
dock. A tall figure made the little craft fast, climbed the steps and
peered around the yard.

At that very moment, a water rat dropped from the top of the wall to the
ground by way of Dorothy’s shoulder. It was impossible for her to
suppress the exclamation of fright that escaped her.

The figure in the middle of the yard swung round and an electric torch
flashed over the barrels.

“Come out of that or I’ll shoot!” ordered the stranger. “And come out
with your hands up!”



                              Chapter VIII

                             THE CORK CHAIN


With the white sabre of light blinding her vision, Dorothy walked out
from behind the stack of barrels, hands above her head.

“_Dorothy!_” exclaimed the tall figure in astonishment. “What on earth
are you doing here?”

There was an instant’s pause; then Dorothy giggled.

“Gee, what a relief—but you scared me out of six years’ growth, Bill
Bolton!”

As her arms dropped to her sides, she staggered and would have fallen if
Bill had not stepped quickly forward and placed his arm about her. He
led her to an empty packing case and forced her to sit down. The
surprise of this meeting coming as a climax to the strenuous events of
the evening had just about downed her splendid nerves.

“Oh, Bill—” she sobbed hysterically on his shoulder—“you can’t guess
how glad I am to see you. I’ve really had an awful time of it tonight.”

“Take it easy and have a good cry. Everything’s all right now. You’ll
feel better in a minute,” he soothed.

“What a crybaby you must think me,” she said presently, in a limp voice.
“Do you happen to have a handkerchief, Bill?”

“You bet. Here’s one—and it’s clean, too.”

Dorothy dried her eyes and blew her nose rather violently.

“Thanks—I do feel much better now. Do you mind turning on the light
again? I must be a sight. There—hold it so I can see in my compact.”

Bill began to laugh as her deft fingers worked with powder, rouge and
lipstick.

“What’s the joke?” she asked, then answered her own question. “Oh, I
know! You think girls do nothing but prink. Well, I don’t care—it’s
horrid to look messy. Is there such a thing as a comb in your pocket,
Bill? I have lost mine.”

“Sorry,” he grinned, “but I got my permanent last week. I don’t bother
to carry one any more.”

“Don’t be silly!” she began, then stopped short. “We’ve got to get out
of here,” she said and snapped her compact shut. “They are coming after
me in a car. Donovan or Peters, I forget which, said so.”

“Who are Donovan and Peters—and where are they going to take you?”

“Not that pair—other members of the same gang. D. and P. are two of the
crew over at the beach cottage who chloroformed me, then tied me up and
carted me over here in an open motor sailor.”

“Well, I’ll be tarred and feathered!” Bill switched off his torch. “Here
I’ve been following you for over two hours and never knew it _was_ you!
Never got a glimpse of your face, of course—took you for a man in that
rig! Well, I’ll be jiggered if that isn’t a break!”

“So _you_ were the man I thought I saw in the grass clump?”

“Sure. You led me to the house. I knew the gang had a cottage somewhere
along that beach, but I didn’t know which one it was. By the way, I’ve
got your Mary Jane tied to a mooring out yonder—Couldn’t take a chance
on running in closer. That old tub’s engine has a bark that would wake
George Washington.”

Dorothy sprang to her feet. “That’s great! We’ll make for the Mary Jane,
Bill, right now. If those men in the car catch us here there’ll be
another fight. Dorothy has had all the rough stuff she wants for one
night, thank you!”

Bill took her arm.

“O.K. with me,” he returned. “Think you’re well enough to travel?”

“I’m all right. Hanging around this place gives me the jim-jams—let’s
go.”

Together they crossed the yard and hurried along the narrow planking of
the dock to the dinghy. Bill took the oars and a few minutes later they
were safely aboard the motor boat. It began to rain again and the dark,
oily water took on a vibrant, pebbly look.

“Come into the cabin,” suggested Dorothy, watching Bill make the painter
fast. “We’ll be drier there—and I’ve got about a million questions for
you to answer.”

“Go below, then. I’ll join you in a minute.”

Dorothy slid the cabin door open and dropped down on a locker. Presently
Bill followed and took a seat opposite her.

“Better not light the lamp,” he advised, “it’s too risky now. By the
way, Dorothy, I’m darn glad to see you again.”

Dorothy smiled. “So ’m I. I’ve missed you while you were away, and I
sure do need your help now. Tell me—where in the wide world am I?”

“This tub is tied up to somebody else’s mooring off the Babylon
waterfront,—if that’s any help to you.”

“It certainly is. I hate to lose my bearings. Here’s another: I don’t
suppose you happen to know what this is all about?”

Bill crossed his knees and leaned back comfortably.

“There’s not much doubt in my mind, after tonight’s doings. Those men in
the beach cottage are diamond smugglers and no pikers at the game, take
it from me!”

“Ooh!” Dorothy’s eyes widened. “Diamonds, eh! That’s beyond my wildest
dreams. How do they smuggle them, Bill?”

“Well, these fellows have a new wrinkle to an old smuggling trick.
Somebody aboard an ocean liner drops a string of little boxes, fastened
together at long intervals—the accomplices follow the steamer in a boat
and pick them up. And now, from what I’ve found out, there’s every
reason to believe that this gang are chucking their boxes overboard in
the neighborhood of Fire Island Light.”

Dorothy sat bold upright, her eyes snapping with excitement.

“Listen, Bill! Those men in the cottage—I heard them talking, you
know—couldn’t make anything out of their conversation then, but now I’m
beginning to understand part of it.”

“Didn’t you tell me they were arguing against going somewhere—or
meeting someone—in the fog?”

“That’s right. It was the man they called Charlie—the one who’d been a
physician. Let me see ... he said that there was a rotten sea running
out by the light. That must mean the Fire Island Light! Then, listen to
this. He was sure that by three o’clock the fog off the light would be
thick enough to cut with a knife—and that they would probably miss her
anyway!—Don’t you see? ‘Her’ means the liner they are to meet off the
Fire Island Light about three o’clock this morning!”

“Good work, Miss Dixon—” Bill nodded approvingly. “And that is where
Donovan and Charlie headed for when they parked you with Peters,” he
supplemented. “On a bet, they’re running their motor sailor out to the
light right now.”

Dorothy glanced at the luminous dial of her wrist watch.

“It is just midnight. Think we have time to make it?”

“Gosh, that’s an idea! But, look here, Dorothy—” Bill hesitated, then
went on in a serious tone, “if we run out to the lightship and those two
in the motor sailor spot us, there’s likely to be a fight.”

Dorothy moved impatiently. “What of it?”

“Oh, I know—but you’ll stand a mighty good chance of getting shot. This
thing is a deadly business. They’re sure to be armed. Now, listen to me.
I’ll row you ashore and meet you in Babylon after I’ve checked up on
those guys.”

Dorothy stood up and squeezing past Bill, opened the cabin door.

“And my reply to you is—_rats_!” she flung back at him. “Of course I’m
going with you. There’ll be no argument, please. Get busy and turn over
that flywheel while I go forward and slip our mooring.”

Bill made no answer, but with a resigned shrug, followed her out to the
cockpit. They had known each other only a few months, but their
acquaintance had been quite long enough to demonstrate that when Miss
Dixon spoke in that tone of voice, she meant exactly what she said. Bill
knew that nothing short of physical force would turn the girl from her
project, so making the best of things as he found them, he started the
engine.

Bill was heading the boat across the bay when Dorothy came aft again.
She went inside the cabin and presently emerged with a thermos of hot
coffee, some sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs.

“We may both get shot or drowned,” she remarked philosophically, “but we
needn’t starve in the meantime.”

“Happy thought!” Bill bit into a sandwich with relish, “One drowns much
more comfortably after having dined.”

“Hm! It would be a cold wet business, though. Doubly wet tonight.” She
looked at the black water pock-marked with raindrops and shook her head.
“Hand me another sandwich, please. Then tell me how _you_ came to be
mixed up with this diamond smuggling gang, Bill.”

By this time they were well on their way across Great South Bay toward
the inlet. From the bows came the steady gurgle and chug of short choppy
seas as the stiff old tub bucked them. Holding a straight course, the
two by the wheel were able to make out the grey-white gleam of sand on
Sexton Island.

“Well, it was like this,” began Bill. “You remember the Winged
Cartwheels.[1] Well that was a Secret Service job for the government.”

“I know,” nodded Dorothy.

“Well, as I was saying—because of that and some other business, Uncle
Sam knew that I could pilot a plane. Six weeks ago I was called to
Washington and told that an international gang of criminals were
flooding this country with diamonds, stolen in Europe. What the
officials didn’t know was the method being used to smuggle them into
this country. However, they said they had every reason to believe that
the diamonds were dropped overboard from trans-Atlantic liners somewhere
off the coast and picked up by the smugglers’ planes at sea. My job was
to go abroad and on the return trip, to keep my eyes peeled night and
day for airplanes when we neared America.”

“Did you go alone?”

“Yes, but I gathered that practically every liner coming over from
Europe was being covered by a Secret Service operative. I made a trip
over and back without spotting a thing. On the second trip back,
something happened.”

“When was that?”

“Night before last. The liner I was aboard had just passed Fire Island
lightship. I stood leaning over the rail on the port side and I saw half
a dozen or more small boxes dropped out of a porthole. They seemed to be
fastened together. Once in the water, they must have stretched out over
a considerable distance. Of course, there are notices posted forbidding
anyone to throw anything overboard: and there are watchmen on deck. But
they can’t very well prevent a person from unscrewing a porthole and
shoving something out!”

“Did you report it?”

“You bet. The skipper knew why I was making the trip. We located the
stateroom and found that it belonged to three perfectly harmless
Y.M.C.A. workers who were peaceably eating their dinner at the time.
Somebody slipped into their room and did the trick.”

“Did you hear or see any plane?”

“I thought I heard a motor, but it didn’t sound like the engine of a
plane. I couldn’t be sure.”

“The motor sailor, probably?”

“It looks like it, now. Well, to continue: I landed in New York and took
the next train to Babylon. Then I got me a room in one of those summer
cottages on the beach. I was out on the dunes for a prowl when the Mary
Jane put in at that little cove. That in itself seemed suspicious, so I
followed you to the house and saw Peters scrag you. Although, at the
time I had no idea who you were. Then when they tied you up and went off
with you in the motor sailor, I knew for certain that some dirty work
was on. So I beat it back to the cove and came along in this old tub.”

Dorothy finished the last of the coffee.

“Did you see the amphibian tied up to the cottage dock?” she asked.

“Yes. It took off just before the motor sailor left.”

“Just how do you figure that it comes into the picture?”

“I think these people have a lookout stationed farther up the coast—on
Nantucket Island, perhaps. When a ship carrying diamonds is sighted off
the Island, the lookout wires to the aviator or his boss and the plane
flies over to let the men in the cottage know when to expect her off the
lightship. Then when they pick up the loot, he flies back with it to
their headquarters next day. Of course, I don’t know how far wrong I
am—”

“But he’s been doing it every day for weeks, Bill—maybe longer. Surely
they can’t be smuggling diamonds every day in the week?”

“He probably carries over their provisions and keeps an eye on them
generally. I don’t know. What he is doing is only a guess, on my part,
anyway.”

Dorothy smothered a yawn. “Do you suppose the red flag those men spoke
of is a signal of some kind?”

“Guess so. But look here, you’re dead tired. I can run this tub by
myself. Hop in the cabin and take a nap. I’ll call you when we near the
lightship.”

“You must be sleepy, too.”

“I’m not. I had an idea I might be up most of the night, so slept until
late this afternoon. And after those sandwiches and the coffee, I feel
like a million dollars. Beat it now and get a rest.”

Dorothy yawned again and stretched the glistening wet arms of her
slicker above her head.

“Promise to wake me in plenty of time?”

“Cross my heart——”

“Good night, then.”

“Good night. Better turn in on the floor. We’re going to run into a sea
pretty soon. Those lockers are narrow. Once we strike the Atlantic swell
you’ll never be able to stay on one and sleep!”

“Thanks, partner, I’ll take your advice.” She turned and disappeared
below.

-----

Footnote 1:

  See Bill Bolton and The Winged Cartwheels.



                               Chapter IX

                               DEEP WATER


The ebb tide soon caught the Mary Jane in the suck of its swift current
and the boat rushed seaward. Presently she struck the breakers and
floundering through them like a wounded duck, commenced to rise and fall
on the rhythmic ground swell.

Dorothy came out of the cabin rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“You didn’t take much of a rest,” said Bill from his place at the wheel.

She yawned and caught at the cabin roof to steady herself.

“Mary Jane’s gallop through the breakers woke me up. Sleeping on a hard
floor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—and the cabin was awfully
stuffy.”

“Are you as good a sailor as you are a sport?”

“I don’t know much about this deep water stuff, but I’ve never been
seasick. Thought I might be if I stayed in there any longer, though.”

“Feel badly now?”

“No, this fresh air is what I needed. Is that the lightship dead ahead?
I just caught the glow.”

“Yep. That’s Fire Island Light. I wish this confounded drizzle would
stop. The swell is getting bigger and shorter. Must be a breeze of wind
not far to the east of us.”

“D’you think we’re in time, Bill?”

“Yes, I think so. The weather is probably thick farther out and up the
coast, and the ship will be running at reduced speed. It’s likely she’ll
be an hour or so late. There is a ship out yonder, but it’s a tanker or
a freighter.”

“How do you know that?”

“Why, a liner would be showing deck and cabin lights. Here comes the
breeze—out of the northeast.”

“It’s raining harder, too. Ugh! What a filthy night.”

Bill nodded grimly in the darkness. “You said a mouthful. It’ll be good
and sloppy out here in another hour or two. Jolly boating weather, I
don’t think! And we can’t get back into the bay until daylight, I’m
afraid.”

The big boat continued to pound steadily seaward and before long the
lightship was close abeam. Bill ran some distance outside it, then
stopped the engine.

“No use wasting gas,” he said, and emptied one of the five-gallon tins
into the fuel tank.

He went into the cabin again and reappeared with two life preservers.

“It’s lucky the law requires all sail and motor craft to carry these
things. Better slip into one—I’ll put on the other.”

Dorothy lifted her eyebrows questioningly. “Think we’re liable to get
wrecked?”

“Nothing like that—but a life preserver is great stuff when it comes to
stopping bullets.”

“Gee, Bill, do you really expect a scrap? There isn’t a sign of the
motor sailor yet.”

“I know—but they’re out here somewhere, just the same. Neither of us is
showing lights, so in this weather we’re not likely to spot each other
unless our boats get pretty close. And if they do, those hyenas won’t
hesitate to shoot! Here, let me give you a hand.”

Having put on the life preservers over their dripping slickers, they sat
down and waited. The wind was freshening. A strong, steady draft blew
out of the northeast and it was gradually growing colder. The rain had
turned into sleet, fine and driving, but not thick enough to entirely
obscure the atmosphere.

“Good gracious, Bill—_sleet!_ That’s the limit, really—do you suppose
we’ll ever sight the ship through this?” Dorothy’s tone was thoroughly
disgusted.

“Oh, yes,” he replied cheerfully, “this isn’t so bad. Her masthead
lights should have a visibility of two or three miles, at least.”

Dorothy said nothing, but, hands thrust deep into her pockets and with
shoulders hunched, she stared moodily out to sea.

For about an hour they drifted, the broad-beamed motor boat wallowing in
the chop which crossed the ground swell. Twice Bill started the motor
and worked back to their original position. He did not like the look of
things, but said nothing to Dorothy about it. The wind grew stronger and
seemed to promise a gale. The low tide with the line of breakers across
the mouth of the inlet would effectually bar their entrance to Great
South Bay for the next ten hours. And he doubted if they would have
enough fuel for the run of nearly fifty miles to the shelter of
Gravesend Bay.

Then as they floundered about, he heard the distant, muffled bellow of a
big ship’s foghorn. Again it sounded; and twice more, each time coming
closer. Bill started the engine and headed cautiously out in the
direction from whence it came.

Suddenly there sounded a blast startlingly close to the Mary Jane. This
was answered from the lightship, and through the flying scud and sleet
they saw a vivid glare. Bill put his helm hard over and when the steamer
had passed about four hundred yards away, he turned the motor boat again
to cut across the liner’s wake. Faint streams of music reached their
ears emphasizing the dreariness of their position.

Directly they were astern of the great ship, he swung the Mary Jane into
the steamer’s course. Running straight before the wind, it was easy to
follow the sudsy brine that eddied in her wake. He was by no means
certain, however, that he could keep the dull glow of her taffrail light
in sight. That depended upon the liner’s speed, which might be more than
the Mary Jane could develop. But he soon discovered he had either
underestimated the power of the motor boat or, what was more probable,
the steamer had reduced her own. Before long he was obliged to slow down
to keep from overhauling.

And so for nearly an hour they tagged along, astern, keeping a sharp
lookout on the band of swirling water. Little by little their spirits
sank, as no floating object appeared to reward their perseverance. The
weather was becoming worse and worse, but the sea was not troublesome;
partly because the Mary Jane was running before it and partly because
the great bulk of the liner ahead flattened it out in her displacement.

“If this keeps on much longer, we’re going to run short of gas,” said
Dorothy, still peering ahead. “Any idea how long it _will_ keep up?”

Bill shrugged and swung the boat’s head over a point.

“Not the dimmest. I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll have to follow her
all the way to the pilot station and then cut across for Gravesend Bay.”

“We’ll sure be out of luck if we run out of fuel with this wind backing
into the northwest. It will blow us clean out to sea!”

“Take the wheel!” said Bill abruptly. “I’m going to see where we stand.”

Dorothy, with her hands on the spokes, saw him measure the gasoline in
the tank and then shake his head.

“How about it?” she called.

“Not so good,” he growled, and poured in the contents of another tin.
“This engine is powerful, but when you say it’s primitive, you only tell
the half of it. The darn thing laps up gas like a—”

“_Bill!_” Dorothy raised her arm—“there’s another motor boat ahead!”

Both of them stared forward into the gloom. For a moment Bill could see
nothing but the seething waters and the faint glimmer of the liner’s
taffrail light. Then in an eddy of the driving sleet he caught a glimpse
of a dark bulk rising on a swell a couple of hundred yards ahead. At the
same time they both heard the whir of a rapidly revolving motor
distinctly audible between the staccato barks of their own exhaust.

“The motor sailor, Bill!”

“Sure to be. It must have cut in close under the steamer’s stern. Let me
take the wheel again, Dorothy.”

“O. K. Do you think they’ve seen us?”

“Not likely. They’ll be watching the ship and her wake. To see us,
they’d have to stare straight into the teeth of the wind and this
blinding sleet.”

“But they’ll hear us, anyway?”

“Not a chance. That motor sailor’s got one of those fast-turning
jump-spark engines. They run with a steady rattle. There’s no interval
between coughs. Ours are more widely punctuated. Anyhow, that’s the way
I dope it. They’ve probably signaled the ship by this time, and the
contraband ought to be dropped from a cabin port at any time now.”

“Got a plan?”

“I think I have.”

He gave the boat full gas, then a couple of spokes of the wheel sheered
her off to starboard.

“What’s that for?” Dorothy thought he had decided to give up the
attempt. “Not quitting, are we?”

“What do you take me for? Get out that gun of yours and use your wits.
I’m goin’ to loop that craft and bear down on them from abeam. If they
beat it, O. K. If they don’t, we’ll take a chance on crashing them!”

“You tell ’em, boy!” Dorothy had caught his excitement. “If they shoot,
I’ll fire at the flashes!”

Bill was working out his plan in detail and did not reply. He felt sure
his scheme was sound. The Mary Jane was heavily built, broad of beam,
with bluff bows and low freeboard. The motor sailor was a staunch craft,
too, but she was not decked and with a load of but two men aboard she
would have no great stability. He was certain that if he could work out
and make his turn so as to bear down upon her from a little forward of
the beam, striking her amidships with the swell of his starboard bow,
she would crack like an egg.

Bill did not dare risk a head-on ram. That might capsize them both. To
cut into her broadside at the speed she was making would possibly tear
off or open up his own bows. The Mary Jane must strike her a heavy but a
glancing blow at an angle of about forty-five degrees. Such a collision
meant taking a big chance with their own boat. But the Mary Jane was
half-decked forward and the flare of her run would take the shock on the
level of her sheer strake.

Quickly he explained his project.

“I’m taking a chance, of course, if I don’t hit her right,” he finished.

“Go ahead—” she flung back. “I’m all for it!”

Bill grinned at her enthusiasm, and with the engine running full, he
started to edge off and work ahead. But he could not help being
impatient at the thought that the contraband might be dropped at any
minute and hooked up by the others. He took too close a turn. As the
Mary Jane hauled abreast about two hundred yards ahead, the smugglers
sighted them. Their motor sailor swerved sharply to port, and with a
sudden acceleration, it dived into the gloom and was lost to sight.

“Bluffed off!” he shouted triumphantly.

He turned the wheel and was swinging back into the liner’s wake when
Dorothy gave a cry and pointed to the water off their port quarter.

“Look! There! _There!_” she screamed.

Staring in the same direction, Bill saw what at first he took to be a
number of small puffs of spume. Then he saw that they were rectangular.
The Mary Jane had already passed them and a second later they
disappeared from view.

Bill nearly twisted off the wheel in an effort to put about immediately.
The result was to slow down and nearly stop their heavy boat. Gradually
the Mary Jane answered her helm and presently they were headed back in
the ship’s path.

And then as the Mary Jane was again gathering speed, the motor sailor
came slipping out of the smother headed straight for the contraband, her
broadside presented toward her pursuers.

“Stand by for a ram!” yelled Bill and pulled out his automatic.

Not fifty yards separated the two boats. Bows to the gale, the Mary Jane
bore down on the motor sailor. If those aboard her realized their
danger, they had no time to dodge, to shoot ahead, or avoid the ram by
going hard astern. They swerved and the Mary Jane struck full amidships
with a fearful grinding crash.

Bill caught a glimpse of two figures and saw the flame streak out from
their barking guns. He felt a violent tug at his life preserver. Then a
yell rang out and the two boats ground together in the heave of the
angry sea.

Steadying himself with a hand on the wheel, he reversed and his boat
hauled away. As she backed off he heard the choking cough of the other
craft which had now been blotted out by the darkness and driving sleet.

Bill turned about with a triumphant cry on his lips, then checked it
suddenly as he saw that Dorothy had fallen across the coaming and was
lying halfway out of the boat.



                               Chapter X

                                WRECKED


The engine gave a grunt and stopped. But Bill scarcely noticed it.
Hauling desperately to get Dorothy inboard, he thought his heart would
burst. Suddenly he heard her cry:

“Don’t pull! Just hold me by my legs.”

She squirmed farther across the coaming and he gripped her by the knees.

“That’s it,” she panted. “There—I’ve got it! Now haul me in.”

Bill gave a heave and just then the boat, caught by a huge wave, rolled
far over and landed Bill on his back with Dorothy sprawled across him.
As they struggled to their feet he saw that she was laughing.

“Aren’t you hurt at all?” he asked, rubbing a bruised elbow.

“Only—out of—breath,” she gasped. “They—are all—fastened together.
Haul them in.”

Glancing down, he saw that she was holding one of the white boxes toward
him. He made no motion to take it, but stared to windward, listening.

Dorothy could hear nothing but the wind and the waves and the swirling
sleet.

“What is it?” she jerked out, striving to regain her breath.

“Wait a minute.” Suddenly Bill snatched up his electric torch and dove
into the cabin.

Dorothy dropped down on a thwart with the box in her hand. After a short
rest, she renewed her endeavors to get the remainder of her haul
overside. When Bill clambered out of the cabin she was tugging at the
strong line to which the boxes were tied.

“It’s jammed, or caught, or something,” she announced.

Bill looked overside.

“Yes, dash it all!” he growled. “We fouled the line and wound it round
the tail shaft when I backed off just now. That’s what stopped the
motor, of course. Let me see what I can do. You’re blown.”

He picked up another box bobbing alongside and started to haul in the
line. One end of this he found was jammed under the stern, while on the
other length a box appeared every thirty or forty feet.

“Ten, in all,” he told her and drew the last aboard.

“Hooray! We’ve done it!” cried Dorothy exultantly.

“We sure have. You just said it all—” His tone was sarcastic. “The boat
is leaking like a sieve. That lateral wrench started it. The propeller’s
jammed. It’s beginning to blow a gale and there isn’t enough gas to run
us out of it. Three cheers and a tiger! Also, hooray!”

Dorothy’s enthusiasm evaporated. “Gee, I’m sorry. I’m always such a
blooming optimist—I didn’t think about our real difficulties.”

“O. K. kid. I apologize for being cross. That water in the cabin kind of
got me for the moment. Let’s see what it looks like here.”

He wrenched up the flooring and flashed his torch.

Dorothy gave a gasp of dismay. The boat was filling rapidly.

“I’ll get that bucket from the cabin,” she said at once.

“Good girl! I’ve just got to get this coffee mill grinding again, or
we’ll be out of luck good and plenty.”

Dorothy fetched the bucket and began to bail. She saw that Bill was
trying to start the engine.

“The shaft wound up that line while we were going astern,” he explained.
“It ought to unreel if I can send the old tub ahead.”

Switching on the current, he managed to get a revolution or two. Then
the motor stopped firing.

“No go?” inquired Dorothy.

“Not a chance!”

He ripped off his life preserver and slipping out of his rubber coat,
pulled forth a jack-knife and opened it.

“What are you going to do?” Dorothy paused in her bailing.

“Get overboard and try to cut us loose. Don’t stop! Keep at it for all
you’re worth. It’s our only chance of safety!”

Wielding her bucket in feverish haste, she watched Bill lower himself
over the stern. The water pounded by this unseasonable sleet must be
freezingly cold. She wished it were possible to help him. Fortunately,
the Mary Jane was light of draft. He would not have to get his head
under, but that tough line must be twisted and plaited and hard as wire.
What if his knife broke, or slipped from his numbed fingers? Dorothy
shuddered. Meanwhile, the storm was getting worse and the heavy boat
drifted before it.

“Hey, there, Dorothy! Give me a hand up!”

She dropped the bucket and sprang to his assistance. Then, as his head
came in sight, she leaned over and gripping him under the arms, swung
him over the stern.

“My word—your strength’s inhuman—” he panted.

“Don’t talk nonsense. Get busy and start the engine. The water’s gaining
fast.”

“Confound!” he exclaimed. “I’d no idea the cockpit flooring was awash.
Another six inches and it will reach the carburetor.”

While Bill talked he was priming the cylinder. A heave of the crank and
the motor started with a roar. Then he flashed his light on the compass
and after noting the bearing of the wind, laid the Mary Jane abeam it.

“Take the wheel,” he said to Dorothy. “And steer just as we’re heading
now.”

“What about the bailing, Bill?”

“My job. You’ve had enough of it.”

“But I’m not tired—”

“Don’t argue with the skipper!”

“But you’re soaked to the skin!”

“Of course I am—what I need is exercise—I’m freezing!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry—here—turn over the wheel, skipper.”

Dorothy grabbed the spokes and Bill hastily slipped into his rubber coat
and adjusted the life belt over it.

“How are we headed?” she inquired. “I can’t see the compass without a
light.”

“Straight for shore, and we’ll be lucky if the old tub stays afloat that
long. The whole Atlantic Ocean’s pouring in through her seams.”

“Maybe the pump would be better?”

“No-sir: not that pump. I’ve seen it!”

“Mmm. That’s why I chose the bucket. Say, I hope you won’t get a chill.”

“I’ll hope with you,” returned Bill and kept his remaining breath for
his labors.

A heavy wave broke against the Mary Jane’s bow and swept them both with
a deluge of water. Dorothy paid off the boat’s head half a point.

“Lucky that didn’t stall the motor for good and all,” she observed
grimly. “One more like it, and we’ll be swimming.”

“Tide’s on the ebb,” grunted Bill. “Wind’s barking around—it’ll be
blowing off the land in half an hour, I guess.”

“Do you think the old tub will last that long? She’s getting terribly
sluggish. Steers like a truck in a swamp!”

“Listen!” he cried. “There’s your answer.”

From somewhere ahead came the unmistakable booming roar of breakers. As
they topped the next wave Dorothy saw a white band on the sea. She
steadied the wheel with her knee and tightened her life preserver. She
knew they could not hope to reach the beach in the Mary Jane. Low and
open as she was, the first line of breakers would fill her. The motor
was still pounding away when she leaned forward and raised her voice to
a shout.

“Stop bailing, Bill! Stand by to swim for it!”

“O. K., kid.”

Bill dropped the bucket and dove for the cabin. A second later he was
back in the cockpit with a three fathom length which he had cut from the
anchor line. He fastened one end about Dorothy’s waist and took a turn
about his own body with the other. Then, catching up a bight of the line
which secured the boxes he made it fast to his belt with a slip hitch.

The Mary Jane was forging strongly ahead, her actual weight of water
being about that of her customary load of passengers. The swells began
to mount, to topple. Searching the shore, Dorothy could see no sign of
any light or habitation.

“If I’d known we were so nearly in, we might have raised the coast guard
with the flash light.” Bill groaned his self-contempt. “I ought to have
kept an eye out—and the Navy said I was a seaman!”

“Don’t be silly! It was my fault, if anyone’s. You were busy bailing.
Chances are the light couldn’t have been seen from shore, anyway. Gosh,
what weather! Who ever heard of sleet in August!”

“Look out—behind you!” yelled Bill.

A moment later she felt herself snatched from the wheel and was
crouching below the bulwark with Bill’s arm around her waist. Then as a
brimming swell lifted them sluggishly, its combing crest washed into the
boat. The next wave flung them forward and crumpled over the gunwale.

The Mary Jane’s motor gave a strangled cough and stopped. The boat yawed
off and came broadside on her stern upon a line with the beach.

“This is what I hoped for,” he shouted in her ear. “Gives us a chance to
get clear.”

She saw him gather up the boxes and fling them overboard.

“Keep close to me. We’ll need each other in the undertow!” she yelled
back at him, as he pulled her to her feet.

Then as the next big comber mounted and curled, they dove into the
driving water and the wave crashed down upon the sinking boat. Dorothy
felt her body being whirled over and over, sucked back a little and
driven ahead again. The water was paralyzingly cold, but she struck out
strongly and with bursting lungs reached the surface. A second later,
Bill’s head bobbed up a couple of yards away. Blowing the water from her
nose, she saw they were being washed shoreward. Her life preserver, new
and buoyant, floated her well—almost too well. She found it difficult
to dive beneath the curling wavecrests to prevent another rolling.

Bill was swimming beside her now and as a great wave caught them up and
carried them forward he grasped her under the arm.

There came a last crumbling surge and the mighty swirl of water swept
them up the beach and their feet struck bottom. Fortunately, the beach
was not steep. The tide was nearly at the last of the ebb and there was
but little undertow. Together they waded out and staggered up the
shingle to sink down on the sand breathing heavily.

The boxes were washing back and forth at the water’s edge and Bill’s
first act was to haul them in.

“Well, the government’s precious loot is safe,” he said grimly. “Are you
able to walk?”

“I—I guess so.”

“Then, let’s get going. We’ll freeze if we don’t.”

He gathered up the boxes and looped them from his shoulders, rose to his
feet and held out a hand. Dorothy took it, scrambled up and stood for a
moment swaying unsteadily.

“The end of a perfect d-day—” she tried to grin, her teeth chattering
with cold.

“I _don’t_ think!” replied Bill unenthusiastically, and helped her to
get rid of the heavy life belt.

“Know where we are?” she inquired when he had dropped the belts on the
sand.

“Not precisely. But if we keep going we ought to strike a lifesaving
station or something—come on.”

Dorothy groaned. “I suppose I must, but—gee whiz—I sure want to rest.”

Bill, who knew that physical exertion was absolutely necessary now, got
his arm about her and they started unsteadily down the beach assisted by
the gale at their backs.

They had walked about half a mile when he felt her weight begin to
increase and her steps to lag. He stopped and peered into her face. As
he did so, she sank to the sand at his feet. Bending over her, he was
surprised to see that she was asleep—utterly exhausted.

The outlook was anything but pleasant. They had apparently struck upon a
wild and desolate strip of sand—an island, he thought, cut off by
inlets at either end and flanked by the maze of marshes in the lower
reaches of Great South Bay. Without doubt they were marooned and to make
matters worse, Bill knew he had just about reached the limit of his own
strength.



                               Chapter XI

                            FROM OUT THE SEA


Bill stared down at Dorothy sleeping the sleep of exhaustion on the
cold, wet sand. Her clothes, like his, were soaked with sea water and
with rain. He realized that something must be done at once, or they
would both be in for pneumonia. So stripping off his rubber coat and
covering the unconscious girl, he started for the dunes.

Day was breaking as he left the shingle and commenced to plow through
the loose sand. The storm was abating somewhat. Although the wind still
blew half a gale, the sleet had turned to a fine, cold rain which bade
fair to stop altogether once the sun was fully up. By the time Bill
Bolton worked his painfully slow way to the top of the dunes it was
light enough to see for a considerable distance.

At first glance the prospect was anything but alluring. His point of
vantage was in the approximate center of an island of sand and shingle,
a mile long, perhaps, by half a mile wide. Inlets from the white-capped
Atlantic effectually cut off escape at either end of the outer beach on
which a fearsome surf was pounding. Along the inner shore of this
desolate, wind-swept islet a complicated network of channels intertwined
about still other islands as far as the eye would reach. Nor could Bill
make out any sign of human habitation.

“Water, water, everywhere, and not a gol-darned drop to drink,” he
misquoted thoughtfully and wondered if by chewing the eel grass he would
be able to get rid of the parched feeling of his mouth and throat.

He pulled a broad blade and chewed it meditatively. Then spat it out in
disgust. The grass was as salty as the sea. It made him thirstier than
ever. Turning seaward he swept the pale horizon with a despondent gaze.

Not a sign of a craft of any description could be seen. Wait a minute,
though. Bill caught his breath. What was that—bobbing in the chop of
the waves, just outside the bar of the eastern inlet? Could it be a
boat? In this gray light a proper focus was difficult. It was a boat,
open; a lifeboat, by the look of it. Waiting no longer for speculation,
he hurried down the low hill toward the sea.

Once he struck hard sand, Bill raced into the teeth of the wind, with
the boom of the surf on his right, and dire necessity lending wings to
his tired feet. Forgotten were his thirst, the clammy cold of his wet
clothes and his weariness. Every ounce of strength, the entire power of
his will centered in the effort to come close enough to the boat to
signal her assistance.

With his heart pumping like a steam engine, he passed Dorothy, who was
lying exactly as he had left her. Then he got his second wind and
running became less of a painful struggle. He could see the boat more
plainly now. Surely it was an open motor sailor. Could it be the one
belonging to Donovan and Charlie, he wondered. What irony!—to be
rescued by the smugglers—and to lose liberty and the diamonds after all
this storm and stress!

But the motor sailor was drifting—into the surf off the bar—without a
soul aboard.

Coming to a halt at the inlet, he watched the tide pull the boat through
the breakers on the bar to the smooth water. Off came his jacket and
flinging it behind him on to the sand he waded into the water and swam
for the boat. He reached her at last and with difficulty pulled himself
aboard.

For a moment or two he rested on a thwart in a state of semi-collapse.
As he had thought, it was the smugglers’ boat. But there was no sign of
Donovan or Charlie. However, except for six inches or so of water that
sloshed about his feet, the motor sailor seemed to be in good condition.

When he felt better, he started the engine and ran her ashore on the
island. Then after inspecting the boat’s lockers, he buried her anchor
in the sand and trudged back along the beach to Dorothy.

She was still sleeping, tousled head pillowed on her right arm, and it
was some time before he could bring her back to consciousness.

“Let me alone,” she moaned drowsily, “I’m too tired to get up this
morning, Lizzie. I don’t want any breakfast—go away and let me sleep!”

Bill raised her to a sitting position. “Wake up—wake up! You aren’t at
home. And this isn’t Lizzie—it’s Bill—Bill Bolton! We’re still on the
island.”

Dorothy opened her eyes, and looked at him wonderingly.

“The island—” he reiterated. “We were wrecked—had to swim for it.
Don’t you remember?”

Suddenly she gained full control of her waking senses.

“I know. I know now, Bill. Guess I’ve been asleep. Ugh! I’m soaking.
What did you wake me for? At least, I was comfortable!”

“Come to breakfast and dry clothes. You’ll get pneumonia if you stay
here. Do you think you can walk? You’re a pretty husky armful, but I
guess I can carry you to the boat if I must.” He grinned at her.

Dorothy was stiff and weary but she fairly jumped to her feet.

“What boat? Where is it?”

Bill told her.

“But you said ‘dry clothes and breakfast’—”

They were hurrying along the beach.

“That’s right. She’s got plenty of food aboard—and one of the lockers
is packed with clothes. There are even dry towels, think of that! Those
guys had her provisioned and equipped for a long trip.”

“What’s happened to them, do you think?”

“I can’t make it out. The boat has shipped some water, but nothing to be
worried about. The motor’s O.K. and there’s plenty of gas. They may have
got into the surf, thought she was going to founder, perhaps, and swam
ashore like we did.”

“But they’re not on the island?”

“No. If they made the beach, it was somewhere else along the coast.”

“We should worry,” said Dorothy. “If they don’t want her, we do—and she
certainly looks good to me.”

They walked down the shingle and Bill got aboard the boat.

“You wait on the beach,” he directed. “It’s pretty wet underfoot. I’ll
pass the things overside. I think the best plan is for you to go up in
the dunes and change there. Meanwhile, I’ll start in with the handpump
and get rid of the water. I’ll have her good and dry by the time you get
back. Then you can rustle a meal while I put on dry things. Catch!”

Dorothy found herself possessed of a bundle knotted in a large bath
towel. Upon inspection it proved to contain dungaree trousers, a jumper,
a dark blue sweater, woolen socks and a pair of rubber-soled shoes.

“They may be a trifle large,” said Bill. “But at least they’re dry and
the clothes seem to be clean.”

“Nothing could be sweeter,” was Dorothy’s comment. “See you in ten
minutes—so long!”

“O.K.,” replied Bill and turned to the handpump.

Quarter of an hour later he was completing his labors with the aid of a
large sponge when he heard footsteps on the shingle and looked up to see
a young fellow in blue dungarees and sweater coming toward the boat,
carrying a bundle of clothes.

“Dorothy! Gee—what a change! For a minute I thought you were a
stranger.”

“Somebody’s younger brother, I suppose,” she laughed. “These things are
miles too big for me—but they’re darned comfortable and warm. You go
ahead and change your own clothes. I’ll finish bailing.”

Bill stepped overside and on to the sand, carrying his dry rig and a
towel. Dorothy was spreading her sodden clothing on the sand.

“Bailing’s over for today,” he told her, “don’t forget about breakfast,
though. I could eat a raw whale.”

“Don’t worry, young feller,” she retorted. “Your breakfast will be ready
before you are. Just let me get these things drying in the nice warm sun
that’s coming up now, and you’ll see!”

With a wave of his hand he disappeared over the brow of the sand hills,
and Dorothy clambered aboard the beached motor sailor. Much to her
delight she found a small two-burner oil stove, already lighted,
standing on a thwart. Nearby had been placed a coffee-pot and a large
frying pan. The lid of the food locker lay open, as did the one
containing the water keg.

“Bright boy,” she murmured approvingly. “You’re a real help to mother!
Now let’s see what smugglers live on.”

She had set a collapsible table that hinged to the side of the boat and
was busy at the stove when she heard Bill’s halloo.

“Breakfast ready?” he called from the beach.

“Will be in a jiffy,” she answered without looking up. “How do you like
your eggs?”

“Sunny side up, if it’s all the same to you.”

“O.K. Spread your wet clothes on the sand and come aboard.”

She was serving his eggs on a hot plate when Bill’s head appeared over
the side.

“My, but that coffee smells good,” he cried, and swung himself aboard.
“How did you manage to cook all that food!”

“Come to the table, and see what we’ve got.”

He sat down and inspected the various edibles, ticking them off on his
fingers.

“Coffee, condensed milk, bread and butter, the ham-what-am, fried eggs,
marmalade and maple syrup! Say, Dorothy, those guys certainly lived
high. Some meal, this!”

Dorothy turned about from the stove, smiling. “And here’s what goes with
the maple syrup!”

“A stack of wheats!” He shouted as she uncovered the dish. “You’re a
wonder, a magician, Dorothy. How in the world did you manage it?”

Dorothy laughed, pleased by his enthusiasm.

“Found a package of pancake flour in the locker. They’re simple enough
to make. Now dig in before things get cold. Help yourself to
butter—it’s rather soft, but this lugger doesn’t seem to run to ice.”

Bill set to work as she poured the coffee.

“Like it that way,” he replied, his mouth full of ham and eggs, while he
plastered his pancakes with butter. “Well, we’ve sure put it over on
Messrs. Donovan and Charlie this trip, not to mention your friend
Peters. Got their diamonds and their boat and their clothes. Now we’re
eating their breakfast,—the sun is shining once more—and all is right
in the world.”

“Where are those diamonds, by the way?” exclaimed Dorothy suddenly,
having taken the edge off her ravenous appetite.

Bill laid down his knife and fork. For a moment he looked startled, then
burst into a great roar of laughter.

“We’re a fine pair of Secret Service workers!” he cried derisively. “But
it’s my fault. You were all in.”

Dorothy’s jaw dropped. “Don’t tell me you left them on the beach!”

“Surest thing you know. I left them beside you on the sand and forgot
all about the darn things when I spotted the motor sailor. Never thought
of them again until this minute!”

Dorothy nodded sagely. “Which only goes to show that diamonds don’t
count for much when one is tired and wet and hungry, not to mention
being marooned on a desert island!”

“Ain’t it the truth! Another cup of coffee, please. I’ll fetch them when
we’ve finished eating.”

“After we’ve washed up?”

“O.K. with me.”

Bill drank his third cup of coffee and leaned back with a sigh of
content.

“Well, the old appetite’s satisfied at last,” he admitted comfortably.
“And I don’t mind telling you that was the best meal I ever ate.”

“Thank you, kind sir. Though I think it is your appetite rather than the
cook you should thank.”

Bill shook his head. “When it comes to cooking, you’re a real, bona
fide, died-in-the-wool, A-1 Ace! How about it—shall we wash the dishes
now?”

“I can’t eat any more, and if I don’t get busy soon, I’ll go to sleep
again.”

“Pass the dishes and things overside to me. I’ll sluice ’em off in the
water. We should worry. This will be our last meal on this boat. I’ll
bet a rubber nickel those smuggler-guys wouldn’t have done this much if
they’d got the Mary Jane.”

“Poor Mary Jane,” sighed Dorothy as they tidied up. “She was a staunch
old thing. I wonder what Yancy will soak Dad for her?”

“Nothing. Uncle Sam pays for that boat. She went down on government
service, didn’t she?”

“That’s good news,” smiled Dorothy. “Now, that’s the last plate. Let’s
go along the beach. I’m getting worried about those boxes of diamonds.
Do you think they’ll be there, all right?”

“Sure to be. Unless somebody has landed on this island while we were
busy with the eats. Come along and we’ll see.”



                              Chapter XII

                              THE NOTEBOOK


“Do you really think they’ll be where we left them, Bill?”

“Why sure! You’re not worrying, are you?”

The two were hurrying along the beach toward the spot where Dorothy had
dropped to the sand and fallen asleep.

“Yes, I am.”

“Well, it’s Uncle Sam’s loot, not ours. And I reckon he cares more about
knowing how the smuggling was done than the contraband itself, anyway.”

“I know. But that’s only half of it. The gang has got to be rounded up.
We don’t know where they have their headquarters or who is in back of
this business. So I’d hate to have to admit I’d lost the diamonds, after
all.” Then, as Bill began to reply, she went on: “And don’t forget that
Terry Walters is still missing—or was, when I flew over from New Canaan
yesterday!”

“You’re right, pal. I just didn’t want you to take it too soberly. But
that bearded aviator has got to be checked up. No easy matter, either,
after what happened last night.” He broke off sharply. “There are the
old boxes—just where I dropped them—so you see you’ve had your worry
for nothing.”

“Just the same, we’ve been terribly careless!”

“Don’t rub it in,” said Bill, looping the line and its dangling load
over his shoulder. “These things go to a bank for safe keeping just as
soon as I can get rid of them.”

Dorothy caught his arm. “Let’s pry open one of the boxes, and make sure
there really are diamonds inside.”

“Nothing doing,” Bill answered decisively. “They’re going to be turned
over to the authorities—as is!”

“Well, you needn’t be so snooty about it. But I am crazy to see the
sparklers—especially after all we’ve been through to rescue them!”

“Of course,—I’m sorry,” apologized Bill with a grin, “I’m kind of jumpy
this morning, I guess. Me for bed as soon as I can find one. But you
know, we really can’t open those things up, because we’d then be held
responsible for contents—or no contents—as the case may be. See?”

“I didn’t think about that, Bill. But let’s forget the old boxes. I’m
all in myself. Any idea what time it is? My watch has stopped.”

Bill glanced at his wrist. “Just seven o’clock. Seems like noon to me.
This nice warm sun is a wonderful help—I was chilled to the bone.”

“Me too,” said Dorothy. “Well, here we are at the motor sailor. Nothing
to keep us longer on this island. I vote we shove off.”

“Second the motion. Hop aboard and go aft. Your weight in the stern will
help to raise her bow so I can push her out without breaking my back.”

“How’s that?” called Dorothy a minute later.

“Fine! Stand by for a shove!”

A heave of his shoulder against the bow loosened the boat’s keel from
the sand and Bill sprang aboard as she glided into deep water.

“Don’t suppose there’s a chart of the lower bay stowed in one of those
lockers?” he remarked as he started the engine. “The shallows are going
to be the limit to navigate without running aground. Do you mind seeing
what you can find, Dorothy?”

“Not at all—seeing I’ve already found one,” she laughed. “Came across
it when I was looking for food.”

“Good.” Bill took over the wheel. “Let me see it, will you?”

Dorothy passed over the map. Bill studied it with a hand on the wheel.

“Thank goodness the deeper channels are marked,” he ruminated, “that’s a
help, anyway.”

Dorothy peered over his shoulder.

“That island must be one of those in Jones Inlet. I had no idea we’d
gone so far west.”

“All of fifteen miles as a plane flies to Babylon. No chance of making
any time until we get into South Oyster Bay which is really the western
end of Great South Bay. If we make Babylon by noon, we’ll be lucky.”

“No reason why we should both try to keep awake,” observed Dorothy.
“I’ll skipper this craft for a spell. Make yourself comfortable
somewhere and go to sleep. You’ll be called at ten o’clock.”

“But you need rest more than I do,” began Bill.

“Oh, I had a snooze on the Mary Jane,” she interrupted, “and got another
on the sand this morning. Pipe down, sailor! This is your master’s voice
what’s speaking. Excuse the ungarnished truth, but you look like
something the cat brought in and didn’t want!”

Bill’s laugh ended in a yawn.

“Aye, aye, skipper. Call me at four bells. Night!”

He went forward and lay flat on the flooring, his head pillowed on his
arms. He was asleep almost immediately.

For the next couple of hours Dorothy steered a winding course among low
sandy islands and mudbanks. It was impossible to make any speed in these
shallow, tortuous waters and she was taking no chances on running
aground. It was monotonous work at best. She was deadly tired. There was
little or no breeze and the sun, unshaded by the faintest wisp of cloud,
fairly blistered the boat’s paint with its fierce heat.

At ten she roused Bill, and as soon as he was sufficiently alert to take
over she went to sleep on the flooring in the shadow of a thwart.

It seemed as though she had but closed her eyes when Bill’s voice called
her back to wakefulness.

“We’re almost in,” he reminded her. “Better run forward or I’m likely to
ram the dock.”

Dorothy jumped to her feet and ran her fingers through her rumpled hair.
She was astonished to see that the motor sailor was closing in on the
dock of Yancy’s Motor Boat garage.

“We must have made wonderful time—” she yawned, stumbling toward the
bow.

“Only fair,” Bill said. “It’s almost noon. Snap into it, kid, and fend
her off with the boathook.”

Presently they were tied up to the dock and Dorothy was making a sketchy
toilet with the aid of her compact.

“How about it, old sport?” she looked up from her mirror, busy with damp
powder and lipstick. “What’s on the program now? Thank goodness Wispy is
still at her mooring over there. I s’pose after we settle with Yancy for
the Mary Jane, we’d better take the plane and fly home.”

“Eventually, yes,” decided Bill. “I’ll go up to the office and fix
things with Yancy. I’ve got to do some long distance telephoning,
anyway, and park these boxes in a bank. It will save a lot of time if
you’ll go over this boat with a fine tooth comb while I’m gone. I don’t
expect you’ll find anything much, but there’s no telling.”

“All right,” she nodded. “And while you’re about it, get hold of that
letter I wrote Mr. Walters and phone Lizzy we will be home for a late
lunch. The sooner we can get back to New Canaan and Little Dorothy can
crawl between clean sheets, the better she’ll be pleased!”

“Yep. I’ll work as fast as I can.”

Bill clambered on to the dock and made off in the direction of the boat
yard.

For the next hour Dorothy worked manfully, overhauling the motor sailor.
Fierce rays of the noonday sun beat down on the open boat. She was worn
out and dizzy, but stuck pluckily to her job, turning out the contents
of lockers and investigating every nook and cranny of the smugglers’
craft. Except for an old coat and those odds and ends which accumulate
aboard any boat as large as the motor sailor, she found absolutely
nothing. Tired and hot and crazy for sleep, she decided to call off this
unprofitable search, when Bill’s voice hailed her.

“Hello, there, pardner,” he sang out, stepping aboard. “How are things
going?”

Dorothy straightened her back and wiped the perspiration from her
forehead with a sodden handkerchief. She noted the deep circles below
Bill’s eyes and the tired droop of his shoulders. He looked on the verge
of collapse, but his voice still held its hearty ring.

“Not so good, old timer. There isn’t a blessed thing worth while aboard
this scow. Finish your business?”

“Reckon so. Got Washington on the phone and the big chief is tickled
silly with all we’ve done. Tell you more about it later. Yancy will be
recompensed for the Mary Jane and will look after this motor sailor
until the government men take her over. I got Lizzie on the wire. She
expects your father home tonight.”

“Thanks. Did you get my letter, too?”

“It’s in my pocket. I put the diamonds in a safe deposit box at a bank
uptown. And I guess that’s pretty much everything.”

“You look done up, Bill.”

“I’ve felt sprucer. But you look pretty rocky yourself.”

“Feel like a wet smack, thank you. The heat is terrible.”

“Wait till I collect my duds and yours,” he suggested, “and we’ll beat
it for New Canaan and Home Sweet Home!”

“They’re rolled up in a sea bag,” she told him. “Here it is.”

She started toward him with the bag in her arms, stumbled and would have
fallen had not Bill’s steadying hand prevented.

“Kind o’ wobbly, eh?”

“Not as bad as all that, Bill. Caught my toe in that floorboard. It’s
loose.”

“Have you had them up?”

“Why, no, I never thought of that.”

Bill took the sea bag from her and tossed it on to the dock.

“Hop on a thwart,” he prompted. “I don’t suppose there’s anything but
bilgewater under the boards but we might as well have a look.”

“Need a hand?” asked Dorothy, looking down at him.

“No, I guess not. These sections aren’t heavy—” He broke off with a
sudden exclamation and fished up something from the wet.

“What is it?”

“Seems to be a notebook. Probably dropped out of either Donovan’s or
Charlie’s pockets and got kicked under that loose flooring in the gale
last night. But it’s soaking wet and its pages are stuck together.
Wonder if we’ll be able to get anything out of it?”

Dorothy held out her hand.

“Give it to me. I’ll dry it out on the dock while you look some more.”

For the next few minutes Bill continued his search while Dorothy after
placing the notebook on the decking of the dock watched it carefully,
lest the light breeze blow it into the water.

At last he joined her and lifted the sea bag over his shoulder.

“How’s it coming?”

“Not so good. It’s going to take a long time to dry the book all the way
through even in this sun.”

“Then let’s take it along to New Canaan. I’ll get Dad to put it in our
oven as soon as we get home. That’ll do the trick. Get aboard that
dinghy and I’ll row you over to the plane.”

Dorothy picked up the notebook and slipped it into her pocket.

“That’s the best thing you’ve said today,” she beamed, “I’ll be home and
asleep in twenty minutes! Come along.”



                              Chapter XIII

                              THE WARNING


Dorothy and Mr. Dixon were finishing breakfast next morning when the
Boltons, father and son, dropped in.

“Good morning, stranger,” was Mr. Dixon’s greeting to Bill. “I
understand you’ve been to Europe and back a couple of times since we saw
you last. We’ve missed you, boy.”

“Thanks,” returned Bill. “I’m glad to be home again.”

“Which home?” asked his father with an amused smile. “When in New Canaan
you seem to spend most of your time across the way here.”

“And why not?” protested Mr. Dixon. “Dorothy and I return the compliment
often enough. Since you people moved here two lonely widowers have
acquired another child apiece. It’s fine—both Dorothy and I are the
happier for it.”

“And that goes two ways,” asserted Bill. “How about it, Dad?”

“Yes, of course,” Mr. Bolton assented heartily. “The intimacy is one I
enjoy immensely. But I’m afraid that Bill has begun the habit of leading
Dorothy into all kinds of dangerous adventures. This diamond smuggling
business, for instance.”

Mr. Dixon chuckled. “If you ask me, I don’t think Dorothy needs any
leading.”

“Well, I should say not!” exclaimed his daughter. “If it weren’t for
Bill, I’d never be able to get out of half the messes we drift into
together!”

Mr. Dixon pushed his chair back from the breakfast table. “This meeting
of the mutual admiration society is all very nice,” he announced with a
twinkle in his eye, “But it is high time the ways and means committee
got together on this last Bolton-Dixon hair-raiser. I vote we adjourn to
the porch and learn what the subcommittee on the smugglers’ notebook has
to report.”

“Second the motion,” chirped Dorothy. “I’m just crazy to hear what
you’ve found out, Daddy Bolton. I suppose Bill has been hitting the hay,
like me?”

“He put in nearly sixteen hours of uninterrupted slumber,” Mr. Bolton
answered as they found chairs for themselves on the shaded porch, where
the air was sweet with the scent of honeysuckle.

“Well, I guess it was a dead heat,” she laughed. “I woke up less than an
hour ago, myself.”

Mr. Dixon passed his case to Mr. Bolton and when their after-breakfast
cigars were well alight, Bill produced the notebook.

“While you’re busy with that stogie, Dad, I’ll start the ball rolling.”

“Humph! That—er—stogie happens to be a fifty-cent Corona!” snorted Mr.
Dixon who was touchy about his smokes.

“Means nothing to me,” replied Bill blandly. “Don’t use ’em myself
and—”

“Say, will you please pipe down on cigars—” broke in Dorothy, “and get
to the notebook?”

“Oh, what a pun—” groaned Bill, “you certainly—”

“Be still!” ordered his father. “She’s right. Let’s get down to
business. Now, here’s the book,” he went on, opening the little volume.
“I dried it in our oven and although the writing is blurred, it is still
quite legible. As you see, only a few pages have been used, and they
show a simple set of flag signals. The red flag means: ‘Meet Steamship.’
The yellow flag stands for ‘A.M.’; the white, ‘P.M.’ Then there are
twenty-four flags to designate the hours and half-hours from one to
twelve.”

“Is that all?” asked Dorothy, disappointedly.

“Absolutely. The rest of the pages are blank.”

“I remember hearing the men speak of the bosses’ red flag when I was
listening outside the cottage,” she said slowly, “and that meant, of
course, that Donovan and Charlie were to meet the steamer.”

“Quite. But until we are able to locate the spot where these signals are
displayed we won’t accomplish much.”

Bill nodded. “And now that they know we have discovered their method of
smuggling, they’ll probably shift their operations from Fire Island
Lightship to some other point along the coast.”

“Very likely,” his father acquiesced. “Although it is my opinion they
will discontinue, temporarily, and lay low for a while.”

“Still there must be other shipments in transit right now,” suggested
Mr. Dixon. “But I suppose they could manage that by sending radios in
code?”

Mr. Bolton carefully knocked the ash from his cigar.

“I think that’s beyond the point,” he argued. “We can only surmise what
they may or may not do. The government men will watch the ships and the
coast. Both Bill and I talked to Washington over the phone just before
we came over here. And the officials there believe that the bearded
aviator’s plane is a most important factor in the operations of the
smugglers. And the Chief wants Bill to find that plane—”

Dorothy snorted derisively. “Well, he doesn’t want much! That airplane
won’t fly over the Beach Club again, after this—”

Mr. Bolton smiled at Dorothy’s vehemence. “But you see, my dear, the
Washington gentleman thinks that if Bill is able to follow the
mysterious amphibian, it will eventually lead him to the headquarters of
the gang.”

Bill burst out laughing. “It’s just like telling me to take a handful of
salt—and if I can put it on the birdie’s tail, I will eventually catch
the birdie! But it isn’t really the Chief’s order, he knows what we’re
up against. It’s that assistant of his who wants to cover himself with
glory. I asked him if I hadn’t better disguise my plane like a string of
white boxes so they’d take me for a diamond necklace!”

“What’d he say?” giggled Dorothy.

“Oh, he spread on the soft soap until I got even more disgusted and
turned him over to Dad!”

Mr. Dixon chuckled. “It’s a pretty large order. I don’t suppose your
Secret Service friend gave you any valuable suggestions?”

“He did not,” sneered Bill. “That, as he explained, was entirely up to
me!”

For several minutes no one spoke.

“We sure are up against it,” sighed Dorothy at last.

“You mean I am,” was Bill’s reply. “The only thing I can do is to start
a series of patrols.”

“_We_ will start a series of patrols,” she corrected. “Two planes will
be better than one.”

“Just as you say.” Bill showed no enthusiasm. “My idea of something
uninteresting to do is to fly around all day, hunting another plane,
that’s probably safely housed in its hangar all the time.”

“Oh, don’t be such a wet blanket! If none of us have brains enough to
think of a plan to trap that fellow, there’s no use grouching over it!”

“That’s all very well. But where are we going to patrol? You told me, I
think, that those lads planned to take you from the warehouse to their
headquarters in Connecticut. This state’s not so big when you compare it
with Texas or California—but when it comes to locating a single
plane—”

“Listen!” cried Dorothy and ran to the porch steps. “Come here—all of
you—quick!”

The deep drone of an airplane increased to a giant roar as a smart
two-seater swept down toward the house.

“It’s the Mystery Plane!” she shrieked. “The nerve of him!”

On came the amphibian with throttle wide open, just topping the trees at
the edge of the lawn. Then the four on the steps saw the pilot drop
something overside and zoom upward missing the roof of the house by
inches.

“I should say he has nerve—” Mr. Dixon pointed out on to the lawn. “Run
out and get that parcel he dropped on the grass, Bill. This business is
getting more interesting by the minute!”

Bill brought the package back to the porch.

“Oh, what do you think it is?” Dorothy grabbed Bill’s arm in her
excitement.

“Calm down!” said her father, as Bill held out a small box covered with
brown paper and sealed with dabs of red wax. “Handle it carefully—there
may be explosive in it.”

“I don’t think so—” said Bill, “those things generally run by
clockwork. There’s no tick in this box.”

“Come on—let’s open it,” exclaimed Dorothy impatiently. “I’ll bet it’s
nothing dangerous. Couldn’t have been dropped from a plane without going
off!”

“Wait one minute,” commanded her father. “We’ll be on the safe side,
anyway. Don’t touch the thing till I come back.”

He ran into the house.

“Any address on it?” inquired Dorothy.

“Not the slightest bit of writing. If there is any, it’s underneath this
outside wrapping.”

Mr. Dixon came out of the house carrying a pail of water, which he
brought down to the lawn, where they were waiting.

“Drop that package into the water,” he ordered Bill. “A good soaking
will take the sting out of any explosive.”

Dorothy burst out laughing.

“Maybe—but not in this case, Dad. Look, the thing floats!”

She snatched up the package and ripped off the outside paper, disclosing
a white cork box, similar to those used for carrying the contraband.

Bill took a knife from his pocket and opened a blade that proved to be a
small screwdriver. He took the box from Dorothy and removed the screws
from the lid.

“Gee, do you think they’ve sent us a diamond?” she asked jokingly.

“Not a chance. This is a message of some kind, I’ll bet!”

The box was filled with jeweler’s cotton, from the center of which he
drew a revolver cartridge. Around it, fastened by a rubber band, there
was a small sheet of note paper. The others gathered close as he
smoothed out the paper.

Blocked in capitals with a red crayon was the smugglers’ message.

“LAY OFF! THIS MEANS BOTH OF YOU.”

“Aha! And if we don’t lay off, we’ll be plunked with a bullet from a
cartridge like this!” Dorothy summed up. “This affair is likely to get
exciting before we finish it.”

Mr. Bolton studied the paper then returned it to the box with the
cartridge.

“Has it struck you oddly,” he said quietly, “that these people should
know that Bill was mixed up in this? That message, of course, is for
Dorothy and Bill.”

“Yes, I was thinking of that,” admitted Bill.

“Strange—” cogitated Mr. Dixon. “You two flew from Babylon back here
without a stop—and you both went straight to bed. Neither you, nor I,
Bolton, have spoken to anyone about their exploits, I’m sure.”

“Somebody must have found out from the servants that our offspring flew
back together,” his friend decided. “It could not have happened any
other way. Then that fact, added to the glimpse they must have caught of
a young man in the Mary Jane with Dorothy, when they rammed the
smugglers’ motor sailor off the lightship, gave them a simple line of
reasoning. And the joke of the matter is that their warning has done
just the reverse from what they figured it would do!”

Mr. Dixon looked puzzled.

“I don’t quite see what you mean?”

“Why, it has given us the only real clue we have to the gang’s
whereabouts,” smiled Bolton senior.

“Dad’s one up on me, too,” grinned Bill. “How about you, Dot?”

Miss Dixon stamped her foot. “You’ll _dot_, and carry one you’ll
remember for the rest of your life if you murder my perfectly decent
name that way, Bill! You ought to know by now that I won’t stand for
it.”

“So sorry, Dorothy!” he apologized with mock politeness. “Will Miss
Sherlock Holmes, the famous lady sleuthhound who solved the New Canaan
Bank mystery, deign to say whether or not she also spots a clue in the
villain’s message?”

“Aren’t you the bunk! Yes, I think I know what Daddy Bolton is talking
about.”

“Well, Miss Cleverness, what is it then?”

“Oh, you make me tired! But just to prove that I’m not as dumb as you
act, the clue is this—”

“Give me a chance,” begged Mr. Dixon, entering into the spirit of the
game. “Your idea, Bolton, is to find out from the servants who they’ve
been talking to and trace the smugglers from—”

“Cold as an iceberg,” broke in Mr. Bolton. “I’m sorry to admit it, but
you and Bill don’t seem very quick on the uptake this morning. What do I
mean, Dorothy?”

Dorothy made a face at Bill.

“We know that these men have headquarters somewhere in this state,” she
began airily. “Why? Because Donovan said they must get me over to
Connecticut. And later, in the warehouse, he told Peters not to rob me
because the boss wanted me delivered just as I was. Daddy Bolton
believes that because these men have been spotted so quickly that _you_
are mixed up in it, Bill, their headquarters are much nearer to this
house than we figured: that the chances are, it is only a very few miles
from here that they’re to be found—or their system of spying on us
couldn’t be so perfect!”

“That’s right,” concurred Mr. Bolton. “This smuggler boss or his
accomplices over here must live in the neighborhood. Some of his
servants know ours—have known them for some time or they would not have
been able to ask questions without causing suspicion.”

Mr. Dixon looked suddenly serious. “You can’t mean that our neighbors
along this ridge are mixed up in it? The Clarks, old Holloway, the
Denbys, Miss Cross—and ten or a dozen others—are all old friends and
eminently respectable people! Why, it’s preposterous to think—”

“I’m not trying to pin it on anybody yet,” countered Bill’s father. “But
mark my words—when this business is cleared up, you’ll find that some
eminently respectable New Canaan household _is_ mixed up in it!”



                              Chapter XIV

                             UP AGAINST IT


It was finally decided that Dorothy and Bill should make a series of
circular patrols, centering above New Canaan.

“We’ll each take a plane,” said Bill, “and keep each other in sight.”

“What’s the use of doing that?” Dorothy asked. “Why not make the patrols
separately? When I come down, you go up. In that way we can stay in the
air twice as long on the same amount of gas, and take a rest once in a
while.”

“Too risky. These smugglers are desperate. We’ve already thrown a
good-sized monkey-wrench into the works of their organization. That
Mystery Plane is quite likely to pack along a machine gun—and use it if
the pilot finds out we’re trying to follow him.”

“Are we going up unarmed?”

“You are—but I’m not.”

Dorothy raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“Well, that’s nice of you!”

“Look here, young lady,” cut in her father. “I don’t know what Bill’s
plans are, but if you’re going on these patrols, just remember that he
is the captain of the outfit and must have obedience. Otherwise, I’ll
not consent to your going at all.”

“Oh, I’ll be good, Daddy. But I do think—”

“But you mustn’t! Your job is to do what you’re told and let your
captain do the thinking.”

“You see, Dorothy,” explained Bill, “in order to use a gun in the air, a
pilot must have training and practice. Otherwise, all you do is to draw
the enemy’s fire. If we meet up with this bird you’ll have plenty to
keep you busy—a very important part to play. But if there’s any gunning
to be done, I’ll do it. Before we go up, I’ll outline exactly what we’re
to do in the event we sight the gang’s airplane.”

Dorothy got out of her chair.

“How about getting busy, then?” she suggested. “The longer we’re up, the
more we are likely to accomplish.”

“Hold your horses,” laughed Bill. “Don’t think for a minute we’re going
to patrol all day long.”

“Why not?”

“Waste of time.”

Dorothy plumped herself down in her chair again.

“Oh, all right. Have it your way. Personally, I can’t see doing a thing
at all, unless one does it properly. You and your plans make me tired.”

“Don’t get peeved,” he bantered. “These won’t be endurance flights.”

“They won’t be anything at all unless we find that plane and you can’t
expect it to take the air just when you want it to!”

“Stop quarreling, children,” admonished her father. “Bill knows what he
is talking about.”

“Well, maybe he does. He can catch the old plane by himself. I’m
through.”

“What you need is another nap, young lady. You’re tired and cross.”

“I’m not. Men always club together.”

“And what can a poor girl do?” supplemented Bill with a grin.

“Stop teasing, Bill!” commanded Mr. Bolton. “Apologize to Dorothy and
tell her why you mean to take short hops. I can’t see the sense in such
procedure myself—any more than she can. And just remember that an
overdose of excitement puts anybody’s nerves on edge. She’s been through
a lot more than you have during the last few days.”

At his father’s words, Bill’s face wore such a look of honest
contrition, that Dorothy’s conscience smote her. They both began to
speak at once.

“Gee, I’m sorry, Dorothy—”

“I’m an idiot, Bill—”

They burst into laughter simultaneously.

“Now we can get on with our discussion,” smiled Dorothy. “Go ahead,
Bill.”

“Well, the smuggler’s pilot has been taking most of his flights—or I
ought to say, the flights we know about—during the late afternoon. I
haven’t the slightest glimmer why he chooses to fly at that time. But,
as I see it, if he has done it day after day in the past, the chances
are he’ll continue to leave his hangar at about the same time. My plan
is for us to take off at about four each afternoon. We can remain in the
air until six. If he comes from around here, we’d catch him shortly
after he takes the air. That’s how I figure it.”

“Maybe you’re right.” Dorothy was still unconvinced. “But how about the
warning we got a little while ago?”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“Well, we hadn’t had lunch yet—he dropped the message from his plane in
the morning—not during the late afternoon!”

Bill yawned unblushingly and got to his feet.

“Cuts no ice,” he asserted. “That wasn’t a regular hop.”

“What then?” This from Mr. Dixon.

“A grandstand play, pure and simple. Those lads haven’t the brains I
gave them credit for, if they really think they can steer us off with
tripe like that!”

Mr. Bolton ground the butt of his cigar on an ashtray, and rose.

“Perhaps that wasn’t the idea,” he suggested.

Three heads were turned sharply toward him.

“What do you mean, Bolton?” asked Mr. Dixon.

“A come-on,” returned his neighbor.

“A come-on?” echoed Dorothy in a puzzled voice.

“Just that—nothing more nor less.”

“I get you,” Bill nodded. “Get us in the air, by that teaser—rely on us
to go after the Mystery Plane as a matter of pride—and then fill us
full of machine gun bullets. If they start anything like that—well—two
can play the game and if that lad with the beard can’t shoot any better
than he handled his plane when he zoomed the house just now—it is, as
the French say, ‘to laugh’!”

“That’s all very well,” argued Mr. Dixon. “I don’t mind Dorothy flying,
but I do draw the line at machine guns. That’s no game for girls. You
keep your two feet on solid earth until this business is over, my dear.”

“Oh, Daddy!” Dorothy’s voice was full of disgust.

“Sorry, daughter, but I simply can’t let you take the risk.”

Mr. Bolton placed his hand on his friend’s arm.

“You know, I don’t think that Bill would have countenanced Dorothy’s
going on patrols with him unless he felt assured she would run no
danger. How about it, son?”

“If she does get into trouble, it won’t be with my consent,” he smiled.
“But seriously, sir,” he turned to Mr. Dixon. “There will be a minimum
of danger if Dorothy does as I tell her. In the first place, machine gun
fire in the air is not nearly so potent as it is on terra firma. Try and
hit a small object flashing by when you’re traveling like a bat out
of—ahem!—Harlem. Try it and see how many planes you don’t hit! And in
the second place, that bearded guy won’t get a chance to turn his gun in
her direction.”

“Well, I’m no flyer and I haven’t the slightest idea of the
technicalities that must arise in aerial combat work,” Mr. Dixon made
this statement slowly and thoughtfully, “but still—”

“Daddy, _don’t_ be ridic.” Dorothy’s tone was tolerantly amused.

“Do you really think I’m foolish, my dear child?”

“Oh, pigheaded is a better word, at times, if you insist on the truth!”

All four burst into roars of mirth.

“That’s one from the shoulder, Mr. Dixon,” choked Bill. “You’d better go
the whole hog, now she’s a licensed pilot!”

Dorothy’s father shook his head in pretended sorrow. “You’re all against
me, that’s obvious. And there’s much too much pig in this conversation
to suit a conservative parent.” He threw an affectionate glance at
Dorothy. “Ever since this tomboy daughter of mine was able to grip my
finger when I leaned over her crib, she has pulled her old Dad hither
and yon to suit her fancy. So I suppose I’ll have to give in
again—acknowledge I’m wrong, and so forth. Run along, children, and see
to it your airships are in apple-pie order.”

“You’re a darling!” His daughter bestowed a hearty kiss upon his left
ear.

“Beat it—you scamp!” Mr. Dixon’s voice was gruff, though his eyes
sparkled with merriment. “If you bother me much longer, it will be lunch
time before I get down to the bank—and I’m likely to change my mind.
Shoo!”

“Ogre—I defy you!” With a laugh, she beckoned to Bill and ran down the
steps.

“Well, what shall it be?” she inquired when he joined her. “Your ship or
mine, first?”

“Mine, I think. None of the three has been off the apron of the hangar
since I left for Europe. Frank has been looking after them. He’s a great
old feller, you know. When we brought him back from New York he didn’t
know a fork from a gadget. Now he’s chauffeur, general factotem around
the house, and practical mechanic for me. He knows his job all right,
but my boats will need more overhauling than yours.”

“Which plane shall you use for this work?”

“The Ryan M-l, that the bank gave me after that Martinelli business. She
certainly is a smart little bus—can fly rings around anything in this
neck of the woods. Hello—” he broke off as they came down the drive,
“somebody’s had a breakdown.”

Drawn up at the side of the ridge road stood a green coupe of the type
motor car manufacturers advertise as “de luxe model.” As they came in
sight, a young man crawled out from beneath the body.

“Why, that’s Mr. Tracey,” said Dorothy. “Do you know him?”

“Yes, I met him at Mr. Holloway’s house one night. Isn’t he the old
boy’s secretary?”

“Yes, he is. He’s quite nice. Dad sees a lot of Mr. Holloway, you know.”

The secretary, tall and sleekly blond, was looking ruefully down at his
grey flannel trousers, now streaked with the dirt of the roadway.

“Good morning, Miss Dorothy,” he greeted, clipping his words in a
precise manner. “Afraid I’m not exactly presentable.” Then for the first
time, he appeared to notice Bill. “Hello, Bolton,” he said affably.
“You’re quite a stranger around here.”

“Got back a couple of days ago,” returned Bill casually. “Need any
help?”

“Thanks, no. Loose nut, that’s all.” He patted his monkey wrench with a
grimy hand. “This fixed her. Doing much flying, Miss Dorothy?”

“Yes, I go up quite often. Bill taught me, you know.”

“Yes, I remember. I’d like to take lessons, myself. How about giving me
instruction—that is, if you’re not too expensive?”

“I’m really not in the business,” parried Bill. “You’d do much better at
one of the schools. Glad to give you a hop, though, if you’d like to go
up?”

“Thanks so much. I’ll be glad to take advantage of your offer. What
about this afternoon? It’s a perfectly lovely day.”

“Sorry, but today I’m overhauling my planes. Been away some time, you
see. I’ll probably take them up on tests about four. But of course I
don’t want the responsibility of a passenger until I know they are
running O.K.”

Mr. Tracey nodded and got into his car.

“I understand perfectly. Thanks for the invitation, though. I’ll give
you a ring later in the week and allow myself the pleasure of going up
with you. Goodbye. Goodbye, Miss Dorothy.”

With a wave of his hand the car moved off and Dorothy turned to Bill.

“Why did you tell him you were going to take the air about four?” she
asked.

“Because if the smuggling gang know what I’m going to do it will save
time if we pull off our little scrap this afternoon.”

Before this admission Dorothy had looked puzzled. Now her eyebrows went
up in startled astonishment.

“Good Heavens, Bill! You surely don’t think that Mr. Tracey has anything
to do with that! He’s as prim and prissy as a pussy-cat!”

“Just my opinion. Of course he knows nothing about the diamonds. But
your prissy boy friend has the reputation of being the worst gossip in
New Canaan. When he takes those gray bags of his to be cleaned, it will
be all over the village that Bill Bolton is back and intends to test out
his planes late this afternoon.—And that is just what I want.”

“Oh, I see,” Dorothy nodded thoughtfully. “But I’ll tell you one thing.
If we are going up today, it’s high time we quit talking and got busy on
the planes.”

With four airplanes to groom, the next few hours proved busy ones for
both Dorothy and Bill. But by four o’clock everything was ready for
their flight.

“Got your instructions down pat?” he inquired as Dorothy got aboard the
Will-o’-the-Wisp. The airplane was resting on the concrete apron of the
Dixons’ hangar, preparatory to the take off.

“Know them backwards,” she flashed with a smile.

“Good luck, then.”

“Good luck to you, Bill.”

He stepped swiftly to one side as she switched on the ignition. For a
moment or two he stood there watching her amphibian taxi away from the
hangar, gathering speed as it went. Then when the wheels left the ground
and the big bird of wood and metal soared upward, he turned away and
made off in the direction of his father’s property.

As Will-o’-the-Wisp climbed in great widening circles, Dorothy at the
controls knew she had plenty of time to gain the position agreed upon
before Bill could get under way. The air was smooth and still, without
the slightest breath of disturbing wind. Perfect flying weather and
wonderful visibility with a clear blue horizon unmarred by the smallest
shred of cloud.

The Boltons had turned the ten-acre pasture behind their house into a
level flying field. The old hay barn had been enlarged, partitions
removed and a concrete floor laid. It now made a large roomy hangar, for
their three planes.

Looking down as she kept on circling higher and higher, Dorothy saw Bill
cross the ridge road and appear a moment or two later on his own flying
field. She watched him hurry down to the hangar and could see Frank busy
about the Ryan before its open doors. Then she saw Bill get aboard. When
she looked again, his small monoplane was already in the air.

By this time the indicator on Will-o’-the-Wisp’s altimeter marked a
height of between eight and nine thousand feet. According to
instructions, Dorothy leveled off and bringing right rudder and right
aileron simultaneously into play, she sent the plane into a wide
circular turn. Far below, the Ryan was pursuing the same tactics, so
that both planes were cruising over the township of New Canaan.

Dorothy and Bill continued to maintain the same relative positions for
the next fifteen or twenty minutes. Then as Will-o’-the-Wisp swung round
toward the west, Dorothy spied a third plane, streaking toward New
Canaan at an altitude of some three thousand feet.

The fact that Bill had also spotted the intruder was evident, for he
began to climb.

“Bill’s advertising plan worked,” muttered Dorothy with satisfaction.
“If that amphibian over there isn’t the Mystery Plane, I’ll eat my
ailerons!”



                               Chapter XV

                              RUN TO COVER


Dorothy reached beneath her seat, brought forth a pair of field-glasses
and clapped them to her goggles. Focussed through the powerful lenses,
there was no mistaking the Mystery Plane. And although at this distance
it was impossible to see the pilot’s face, she could plainly distinguish
the barrel of a machine gun that poked its wicked muzzle over the
cockpit’s cowling.

“So the bearded aviator means mischief!” She returned the glasses to
their case. “That guy must be a cold-blooded dog to try anything like
that over a populated township. He’s likely to bite off more than he can
chew if Bill and I have any luck. If he cracks up, I shan’t weep.”

At first sight of the smuggler’s plane, she brought Will-o’-the-Wisp
back on an even keel, but now in order to get an unimpeded view directly
below, she sent the plane into a steep bank.

Bill, in the Ryan, with an altitude of some twenty-five hundred feet and
its nose slightly raised was streaking toward the smuggler.

Most air battles are fought in the higher ether, because combat flying
often necessitates acrobatics and the ordinary pilot wants plenty of air
below for such work. The smuggler being the aggressor in this case,
naturally started to climb when he spotted the Ryan. He hoped, no doubt,
not only to increase his altitude but to gain greater ascendency over
Bill before diving at the monoplane with his machine gun going full
blast.

It was time for Dorothy to act. As the smuggler’s plane began to ascend,
she sent her amphibian diving toward him at a tremendous spurt of speed.
The Mystery Plane nosed over and dove in turn at the Ryan, some five
hundred feet below.

“Ha-ha!” Dorothy shut off her motor and brought Will-o’-the-Wisp’s nose
gradually back to the horizontal. “Our scheme worked! That bird either
doesn’t know his business or he’s lost his nerve!”

A fighting plane attacking has as its objective a position directly
behind the hostile plane at close range. A position either above or
below the tail is equally good. From these positions the enemy is
directly in the line of fire, and in sighting no deflection is
necessary.

The smuggler’s maneuver showed Dorothy that he was a novice; for instead
of going into a climbing spiral which would have eluded her dive and
made it possible for him to attain a superior position over both planes,
he dove at the Ryan. This might have been a proper fighting maneuver if
Bill’s plane had not been nosing upward toward him; and had the Ryan not
been the faster of the two.

By this blunder he put himself in the direct line of fire from Bill’s
machine gun. And had that young man been minded to use it the battle
would have been over—almost before it started.

Seeing his mistake almost immediately, the bearded aviator broke his
dive by zooming upward. Again Dorothy’s plane dove for his tail and
right there he made his second error.

Instead of gaining altitude and position by making an Immelman turn,
which consists of a half-roll on the top of a loop, he pulled back his
stick sharply, simultaneously giving the Mystery Plane full right
rudder. The result was an abrupt stall and a fall off, and his amphibian
emerged from the resultant dive headed in the direction from which he
had first appeared.

Dorothy sent her bus spiralling downward, while Bill simply nosed his
Ryan into a steeper climb. By the time the Mystery Plane levelled off
from its split-S turn it had lost over a thousand feet. Granted he was
headed for home, if that had been his intention; now he was placed in
the worst possible situation with regard to his opponents. For instead
of one, both planes had attained positions above him.

For the next few minutes the man in the smuggler’s plane did his best to
out-maneuver the elusive pair whose motors roared above his head like
giant bees attacking an enemy. Never was he given a chance to better his
position or to gain altitude. Every time he maneuvered to place one of
the planes within line of fire from his machine gun, the other would
effectually block the move; the menacing plane would sheer off at a
tangent and its partner, crowding down upon his tail, would hurl forth a
smoke bomb. By the time he floundered through the cloud, his antagonists
would be back in their relative positions, again, the one directly above
his tail plane, the other slightly behind him to the right.

The bearded aviator knew that he was being outclassed at every move,
that gradually they were forcing him down to a point where he must land
or crash.

Both Dorothy and Bill knew exactly when the man in the plane below
guessed their purpose. For with a sudden burst of speed he shot ahead,
streaking in the direction of North Stamford like a ghost in torment.

“We’ve got every advantage but one,” mused Dorothy, widening her
throttle in pursuit. “He knows where he’s going—and we don’t. He’s up
to some trick, I’ll bet.”

That her thoughts were prophetic was made apparent almost immediately.
By shutting off his engine and by kicking his rudder alternately right
and left with comparatively slow and heavy movements, the smuggler pilot
sent his plane’s nose swinging from side to side. This evolution, known
as fish-tailing, he executed without banking or dropping the nose to a
steeper angle. Its purpose is to cut down speed and to do so as rapidly
as possible.

The Mystery Plane slowed down as though a brake had been applied,
sideslipped to the left over a line of trees and leveled off above a
field enclosed by a dilapidated stone fence.

“Confound!” exclaimed Dorothy, with a glance behind. “He’s going to land
and both Bill and I have overshot the field!”

Nose depressed below level, a lively flipper turn to left brought
Will-o’-the-Wisp sharply round facing the field again with its wings
almost vertical. Immediate application of up aileron and opposite rudder
quickly brought the amphibian to an even keel once more. Then Dorothy
nosed over, went into a forward slip, recovered and leveled off for a
landing.

As the wheels of her plane touched the ground, she saw the Ryan come to
a stop on the grass some yards to the right. Just ahead and between them
was the Mystery Plane. It lay drunkenly over on one side, resting on its
twisted landing gear and a crumpled lower wing section.

Dorothy stood up in her cockpit when Will-o’-the-Wisp stopped rolling
and saw the smuggler-pilot vault the wall at the far corner of the field
and disappear into a small wood. Bill was walking toward the disabled
amphibian. She got out of her plane and hurried toward him.

“Pancaked!” she cried, pointing toward the wreck as she came within
speaking distance.

“You said it—” concurred Bill. “That guy was in such a hurry he leveled
off too soon. Usually I don’t wish anybody hard luck but that bird is
the great exception. Too bad he didn’t break a leg along with his plane.
Now he’s beat it and—”

“We are just about where we were before,” she broke in.

“Not quite, Dorothy. The Mystery Plane is out of commission.—I wonder
where we are?”

“Somewhere in the North Stamford hills.”

“I know—but whose property are we on?”

“Haven’t the least idea.”

“I can’t see any houses around here. Did you notice any as you came
down?”

Dorothy shook her head and laughed.

“My eyes were glued on this field,” she admitted. “I was too busy trying
to make a landing myself to take in much of the landscape. Wait a
minute, though—seems to me I caught a glimpse of the Castle just before
I put Wispy into that reverse control turn. Yes, I’m sure of it.”

“The Castle?” Bill frowned. “What in the cock-eyed world is that?”

“A castle, silly!”

“Make sense out of that, please.”

“Sorry. You’re usually trying to mystify me—I just thought I’d turn the
tables for a change.”

“Oh, I know—I’ll say I’m sorry or anything else you want. Only please
tell me what you’re talking about.”

“Well, it seems that about fifteen or sixteen years ago, somebody built
a castle about two or three miles from North Stamford village. It’s less
than five miles from where we live. Not being up on medieval
architecture I can’t describe it properly, but Dad says it is the kind
that German robber barons put up in the fourteenth century. Anyway, the
Castle is built of stone with a steep, slate roof, which spouts pointed
turrets all over the place. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been built
by a German—it certainly looks as Heinie as sauerkraut!”

“Who lives there?” asked Bill.

“Nobody, now. During the war, Dad told me, the place was suspected to be
a spy-hang-out or something like that. Anyway, there was a lot of talk
about it. What became of the owner, whoever he is, I don’t know. The
place has been rented several times during the past few years. It is
quite near the road. I drove past it just the other day on my way to and
from Nance Wilkins’ tea and the old dump looked quite empty and
forlorn.”

“Well, that’s that,” said Bill. “This bearded guy may have been heading
for your Castle, but I doubt it. Fact is, he probably decided to land at
the first convenient place when he found we were too much for him, and
decided to trust to his legs for a getaway.”

Dorothy had been swinging her helmet by its chin strap in an
absent-minded manner. Now she raised her eyes to his.

“What are we going to do about it?” she inquired. “We can’t try to break
into the Castle in broad daylight.”

“Hardly. And after our experience with the bank gang, we’ll do no more
snooping around strange houses on our own. I am going over to that
little wood where our friend ran to cover. Maybe I can find some trace
of him. You stay here with the planes.”

“Why can’t I go with you, Bill?”

“Because that smuggler may simply be hiding in the woods in hopes that
we’ll come after him and that we’ll leave these airbuses unguarded. Then
when we’re gone, he’ll come back here, grab one of them and fly quietly
home.”

“All right. I see.”

“Have you got a gun?”

“That small Colt you gave me is in Wispy’s cockpit.”

“Get it and keep it on you—and if that guy shows up, don’t be afraid to
use it.”

Dorothy shook her head. “I never shot at anybody in my life—”

“Don’t shoot _at_ him—_shoot_ him. You might have to, you know.”

“But surely, Bill—”

“Oh, I don’t mean for you to kill the guy. Plunk him in the leg—disable
him. If you have any qualms about it, just remember that machine gun in
his bus here. The man is as deadly as a copperhead and twice as
treacherous. Look out for him.”

“I will. But su-suppose you get into trouble, Bill. How long do you want
me to wait here before I come after you?”

“My dear girl,” Bill was becoming impatient. “I’m just going to try to
find out where that lad is headed. I won’t be gone more than ten or
fifteen minutes.”

“Yes. But suppose you _don’t_ come back here!”

“Wait for half an hour. Then fly back home and tell Dad what has
happened. He’ll know what to do. Don’t get nervous—I’ll be all right.
So long. See you in a few minutes.”

With a wave of his hand, he ran across the field and Dorothy saw him
hurdle the low wall and disappear between the trees of the wood where
the bearded aviator had run to cover.



                              Chapter XVI

                               THE TUNNEL


Dorothy walked slowly back to Will-o’-the-Wisp and climbed into the
cockpit. From the pilot’s seat she had an unobstructed view of the field
and the two other airplanes. Overhead, fluffy wind clouds began to
appear from out of the northwest. Near the stone wall, three small
rabbits sported in the sunshine; and presently a groundhog waddled
across the field.

She glanced at her watch. The hands marked five past five. Bill had been
gone twenty minutes.

“And he told me not to get nervous,” she thought indignantly. “This
waiting around is enough to set anybody off—I’ll give him just ten
minutes more!”

Dorothy counted those ten minutes quite the longest she had ever
experienced. Fifteen minutes past five and still no Bill. He had told
her to wait half an hour and then to fly home for help! But she was not
the sort of girl who permits herself to be quietly wiped off the picture
by an order from a boy friend! She just wasn’t made that way. Bill might
be worried about the safety of the planes; it was his safety that
worried her.

Determinedly she transferred the small revolver from its holster to a
pocket of the jodhpurs she was wearing. Should she pack a flash light,
too? No need of that, she decided. Figuring on daylight saving time, it
wouldn’t be dark until after eight o’clock. Without more ado, she got
out of the plane and crossed the field toward the wood.

After she had climbed the wall at the spot where she had seen Bill
disappear on the trail of the bearded aviator, she came upon a path.
Narrow it was, and overgrown, yet certainly a path, leading through the
trees at a diagonal from the stone fence. Without hesitation, Dorothy
followed it.

She was soon certain that her idea of the wood from the air was correct,
and that it covered no great acreage. Hurrying along the winding
footpath, she began to catch glimpses of blue sky between the tree
trunks, and less than three hundred yards from the wall she came into
the open.

The trees ended at the edge of a broad gully, apparently the bed of a
shallow stream in the spring or after a shower; but now, except for a
puddle or two, it was dry. On the farther side, cows were grazing in a
meadow.

“Nice pastoral landscape,” she said aloud. “Doesn’t look like much of a
spot for mischief—”

In spite of her bravado, Dorothy felt a lump in her throat. If Bill were
missing, too, and she could not find him....

The pasture sloped gently upward over a hill, perhaps a quarter of a
mile away. And on the horizon above the hilltop, the Castle reared its
pointed turrets skyward. For a little while she watched the huge, grey
pile of stone, whose narrow leaded windows reflecting the late afternoon
sun, winked at her with many mocking eyes. What a dreary-looking place
it was, she thought. Ugly and forbidding, it was entirely out of place
in this New England countryside. The Castle seemed utterly deserted. It
probably was. At least the path ended at the gully; there was no sign of
it across the meadow.

Where was the bearded aviator—and above all, where was Bill?

“Bill distinctly said he would not snoop around the Castle,” she
thought. “I wonder if he really came this far?”

So eager had she been to reach the edge of the wood that she had paid
very little attention to the ground she was covering. As this new
thought struck her, she turned and gazed back over the way she had come.
There were her own footprints clearly defined in the damp earth—but
there was no sign that either Bill or the smuggler had passed that way.

Back along the path she trudged, walking slowly this time.

“I’m a pretty poor woodsman,” she told herself. “They must have turned
off somewhere.”

Her eyes searched the soft earth of the narrow trail and the thick
bushes through which it wandered. But it was not until she had gone half
way back to the stone wall that she discovered traces of footprints. And
where the prints left the path, a ragged remnant of a handkerchief swung
from a twig near the ground.

“There!” she pounced upon it joyfully. “How could I have been so stupid
as to miss it—I might have known!”

The initials, “W. B.” embroidered in one corner of the dirty fragment of
linen banished any doubt she may have had as to its ownership. Leaving
it tied to the bush, she struck into the wood.

Now that she was intent upon her stalking, there was no mistaking the
trail left by the other two. A broken twig, heel marks on the soft mold,
a trampled patch of moss; all these signs bespoke a hasty passage
through the brush.

She had not gone far, when suddenly in a clearing she came upon the end
of the trail. The earth here was bare of undergrowth and sloped sharply
down into a marshy ravine. In the center of the little clearing a pile
of brush was heaped with dead grass and rubbish,—tin cans, old shoes,
automobile fenders, rusty bed-springs, boxes and weathered newspapers.

For a moment Dorothy stared at the rubbish dump. Then she noticed
footprints circling the heap and followed them down to the ravine. Here,
as if to bulwark the miscellaneous junk and to keep it from sliding, was
a buttress of boxes and barrels.

Dorothy got down on her knees and examined these carefully. At the very
bottom, almost on a level with the tussocky surface of the marsh, a
barrel lay on its side, its depth leading inward. A sudden inspiration
made her pull a long stick from the pile and run it into the barrel. She
gave a little gurgle of astonishment. The barrel had no bottom.

Still on her knees she peered inside. Just beyond the rim lay a scrap of
paper. She picked it up and scrawled upon it were the words “This
way”....

“Another message!” she whispered jubilantly.

She tried to move the barrel but found that it was securely nailed to
the bulwark of packing-cases. The soft earth about its mouth was heavily
marked with footprints.

“Well, there’s no doubt about it now—‘this way’—” she murmured and
without further waste of time wormed her way into the barrel.

As she crawled through the other end, she found herself in a narrow
tunnel. The daylight appearing through its ingenious entrance was strong
enough to show her that the rubbish had been built over a frame of
two-by-fours and chickenwire, which formed the roof and sides of the
tunnel under the dump.

Dorothy got to her feet. A short distance ahead the tunnel led straight
into the high ground over which she had come from the wood path. Here
the sides were timbered with stout posts, and ceiled with cross beams to
prevent the earthen roof from falling.

“Gee, if this isn’t like Alice in Wonderland! Why, I might meet the
White Rabbit any minute now.” She giggled, then shivered as she
remembered why she was there.

For a moment she considered returning to the plane for her flash light,
but decided it would take too much precious time, and passed on
cautiously, stopping now and then to listen. She could hear nothing but
the squashy sound of her footsteps on the marshy floor of the tunnel.

After proceeding about fifteen feet, the dark passage turned slightly in
its course. Just beyond the turn, as Dorothy was groping to find which
way it led, her hands touched a wooden surface. This proved to be a
heavy door, standing partly open. As she shoved it back with her
shoulder, she tripped over a heavy object which lay across the sill.
Dorothy reached down in the darkness and picked up a crowbar.

She advanced, dragging the crowbar after her. The floor of the passage
at this point began to slope up hill. But after a few paces ahead, she
found it went abruptly downward at a considerable angle, took a sharp
turn to the right, then began to slope gently upward again.

By this time she had lost all sense of direction. She progressed slowly,
feeling along the wall with her left hand, resting it on one timber
until she had advanced half way to where she supposed the next would be.
In this manner she crept on for nearly a quarter of a mile without
meeting any obstruction. The air, though cold and lifeless, was
breathable; but the darkness and the horrid feeling of being shut in
began to get on her nerves. Once more she stopped to listen. Absolute
stillness. Dorothy could hear nothing but the beating of her heart as
she strained her eyes to pierce the black passage. She seemed completely
shut off from everything on earth.

Feeling that inaction was even more unbearable than running head-on into
danger, she recommenced her slow advance. Presently, she came to a place
where the tunnel widened out. Here, even with outstretched arms, she
could not reach both walls at once.

As she swung to follow the left hand wall, her right arm struck a free
timber which seemed to have no connection with either side of the
passage. From this she deduced that she was now in a sort of
subterranean chamber, and that this free post was one of the supports of
its roof. Continuing along the left wall, with her right arm
outstretched, she soon reached another post. The heavy crowbar which she
was endeavoring to carry at arm’s length, struck against the base of the
upright and made a loud, cavernous sound.

“Bloomp!”

Dorothy was prepared for the next timber, some three feet farther on.
She took the crowbar in her left hand and extended her right to grasp
the post, with the intention to discover the size of the chamber.

Suddenly she recoiled in horror. She could feel a chill rush up and down
her spine. For she had touched, not the splintered wood of the post,
but, unmistakably, human flesh.

Dodging quickly to one side, she dropped the crowbar and drew her
revolver. Holding it straight before her, ready to fire at the first
sign of a hostile advance, she listened breathlessly.

To her amazement, there was no sound; not the slightest indication of
movement in the awful darkness. She supposed the enemy must be
maneuvering to take her from some unexpected quarter. But she could not
understand how it could be managed in that inky blackness without giving
her some audible sign.

Feeling that she must have something firmer than mere space behind her,
Dorothy retreated, keeping her pistol leveled. With her left hand she
groped behind her and when she felt the solid timber, she leaned back
against it, waiting.

Seconds dragged like hours and still there was no sound. Gradually,
Dorothy’s nerves were beginning to quiet down.

“Well, this is darned queer,” she thought, “maybe that person is making
tracks out of here. I can’t just stand still and do nothing, anyway.”

She began to move forward very cautiously. When she had covered ten
short paces, she stopped and listened again. Absolute stillness
everywhere, stillness pervaded by the strange, dank smell of unsunned
earth and the musty rot of roots and wood.

But this time Dorothy fancied she could hear a faint, very faint sound
of breathing. At first she thought it was her own, reechoing from the
walls of the dark cavern. Then she held her breath and listened once
more. _There_ was some one else in this subterranean chamber.

“Well, here goes,” she said with closed lips. “It’s now or never. I
can’t stand this much longer!”

But she had only taken a single step when the same chill of horror and
fright raced over her again. Her revolver muzzle had touched something
apparently alive and yielding, the clothed body of someone who stood
motionless as before.

“Hold it! hold it!” she cried, her teeth chattering. “Don’t move or I’ll
plug you!”

With her gun firmly pressed against the body, she raised her other arm
to ward off any blow that might be directed against her. As she did so,
it became evident that the body still had not moved, that the breath was
coming regularly and faintly, but there was no stir of limbs, no shift
of muscle or of weight.

Such mysterious behavior filled Dorothy with terror. She bit her lips
and dug the mouth of her Colt forward into the body.

“Stick ’em up—do you hear? Over your head!” she said viciously between
her teeth.

The figure remained motionless and as silent as before. Dorothy felt her
heart beats mount to a violent thunder. She felt she could stand the
strain no longer.

Still holding her pistol against the flesh of this mysterious being, she
lowered her arm from her forehead and reached slowly forward. She
touched something. Her whole body was convulsed with horror, anguish and
surprise.

Her trembling fingers had descended upon the smooth, cool softness of a
leather helmet. They slipped, cold and damp, from the helmet to the face
and over the warm cheek.

In that moment everything was changed. Now Dorothy understood why the
figure was motionless and quiet. She touched a fold of cloth that bound
the mouth and slipping her hand to the shoulder, she felt a twist of
thin rope.

She slipped the pistol into her belt without hesitation. Bill always
carried several packets of matches in his pockets. She found one and
struck a light.

When the little puff of smoke and the obscuring haze of the first flash
settled down to a fitful flame, Dorothy got a glimpse of her friend. He
was gagged and bound to one of the upright supports. His eyes were
closed and his head drooped to one side.

In less than a second Dorothy had flung away the match and was cutting
the young fellow’s bonds with her knife, groping for them in the dark
and supporting his released body against her own as she worked. At last
she was able to lift him out of the loosened loop that had held his feet
and stepping back, laid him on the earthen floor.

Then she knelt beside him, rubbing his wrists and cheeks with her grimy
palms. For some minutes her ministrations seemed of no avail. But
presently, under her fingers she felt his head move. At first she could
only catch groans and sighs. Then, as consciousness began to assert
itself, Bill raised his head a little and said faintly:

“Who’s that?”

“It’s me—Dorothy.”

She lifted his head into her lap. As she did so Bill gave a start and
struggled feebly.

“Let me go!” he muttered. “Let me alone!”

“Just keep quiet, Bill,” she soothed. “You’ll be better soon.”

Bill lay back in her arms and was still.

“Who are you?” he asked again and this time in a firmer voice.

“It’s Dorothy, your pardner!”

“Dorothy? Thank Heaven for that.” He caught at her hand and squeezed it.
“We’re in the tunnel, aren’t we?”

“Yes—where it widens out into a kind of room.”

“I remember now—that guy slugged me when I was making for the candle on
the table over there.”

“Who slugged you? The bearded aviator?”

“That’s right. I was coming along, lighting matches to see by when he
stepped from behind one of the uprights—and that’s all I remember.
Knocked me out, I guess.”

“He certainly did! You’ve a bump on your head like an egg. The helmet
probably saved your life. Feel pretty rotten, don’t you?”

“You said it! Dizzy as blazes—and my head’s as sore as a boil. But I
guess I’ll be all right in a minute if I can just lie still. Do you
mind?”

“Of course not, silly. Take your time. I suppose you followed the
footprints to the barrel, like I did.”

“Yep. But how come you went after me?” he chuckled. “I thought the idea
was to beat it home in the plane.”

“Oh, Bill, I just couldn’t!”

Bill sat up. “Well, I suppose I was crazy to ever think you would—but I
honestly didn’t think I’d get into such close quarters with that fellow.
As it is, I’m mighty glad you didn’t take my fool suggestion,” he
admitted. “Where would I be now, if you hadn’t shown up? By the taste in
my mouth and the feel of my wrists, that galoot must have tied me up and
gagged me!”

“He did that. You were bound to an upright. Have you any idea where this
tunnel comes out?”

“Ten dollars to counterfeit two-cent piece, your Castle is the answer to
that question,” he said, and lit a match. “Oh, there’s the table,
Dorothy. Do you mind lighting that candle? I’m too dizzy to stand up yet
or—”

He stopped short and Dorothy saw his eyes widen in startled surprise.

“_Look out!_” he yelled and the match went out.

Dorothy felt a hand grip the back of her neck and immediately afterward
its fellow clutched her throat. In a fierce frenzy of terror, she shot
to her feet, gasping and choking and flinging her arms wildly backwards
as she rose.



                              Chapter XVII

                              “THE TOMBS”


Dorothy’s vigorous motion forced her assailant to relax his grip upon
her throat, and as she felt his weight upon her shoulders, she lunged
down and backward. There was a dull, cracking thud, and the sound of a
body falling. The back of her head struck one of the timbers that
supported the ceiling of the tunnel. The place seemed to whirl round and
round and glittering sparks danced before her eyes. When this sensation
ceased, Dorothy leaned back against the post into which she had flung
herself in her apparently successful effort to shake off her opponent.

With the realization that the attack had halted and that her assailant
had either made his escape or was incapacitated, she fumbled in her
pocket for a match.

“Where are you, Dorothy?” Bill’s voice called from the dark void.

“Right here, old thing—by the wall.”

She struck a light.

“All right?”

He looked pale and shaken in the flicker of the tiny flame. She saw that
he grasped the crowbar.

“A bit woozy,” she replied, and lit the candle on the table. “Cracked my
head on a beam or something.”

“That bearded guy didn’t hurt you?”

“He didn’t get a chance. Which way do you think he went?”

Bill laughed softly. “You put him out of business. Look!”

He pointed toward an upright and Dorothy saw a crumpled figure lying
huddled at the base of the post.

“Goodness! You don’t think I’ve finished him?” she breathed in horrified
alarm.

“No such luck,” he affirmed callously and bent over the man’s body. “Sit
down until you feel better. This chap is only stunned. I’ll take care of
him.”

Dorothy stumbled over to the table. Near-by was a chair. She dropped
into it.

“He bumped his skull on this post,” Bill went on. “No great damage, I
guess. Funny—whenever there’s a rough-house in the dark, somebody
invariably gets a broken head. The three of us are even now.”

“What are you going to do with him?” Her dizziness was passing.

“Oh, I’ll give him as good as he gave me, and lash him to this upright.”

He busied himself tying up the unconscious smuggler. When he had
finished, he looked up and beckoned to Dorothy.

“Come over here. He’s plenty secure now. This rope held me, I guess
it’ll hold him.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“Find out who this chap really is.”

His fingers peeled off the false beard and Dorothy cried out in
astonishment.

“Mr. Tracey!” she gasped.

“It’s Tracey, all right!”

“But who’d have thought that sleek pussy cat was mixed up in this?
Aren’t you surprised, Bill?”

“Not very. When his car had the breakdown this morning I began to
suspect. The whole thing was too darn opportune. He was part of their
system of watchers, of course. Probably wanted to find out how we’d
taken their warning.”

“But surely Mr. Holloway can have nothing to do with it! He’s such a
sweet old man.”

Billy transferred two revolvers from Tracey’s belt to his own.

“If you want my candid opinion,” he said, “Old Holloway is the leader
and brains of the gang. Only it’s going to be the dickens and all to
prove it in a court of law.”

Dorothy stared at him incredulously. “Why, Bill—are you _sure_?”

“Why not? He’s just a double-dealer, that’s all. That wise old bird is
certain to have a flock of cast iron alibis up his sleeve. He must have
made more than enough money out of this diamond smuggling to keep
Tracey’s mouth shut—and the mouths of any others who may be corralled.”

“I’ve got a hunch,” said Dorothy.

“Let’s have it.”

“Not yet. I want to chew it over a bit. Let’s go back now and get help.”

“That’s for you to do. I’m going on to the Castle and surprise whoever’s
there. I don’t think they have a suspicion of what has happened down
here. Tracey never got that far, I’m sure of it.”

“Well, you can take it from me that you’re not going alone. I’m coming
with you.”

Bill hesitated.

“Well, perhaps that’s the best way, after all,” he admitted at last. “It
will take some time to get the proper people over here—and by then
somebody in the Castle might spot the crumpled plane and start to
investigate. Time’s more than money now—let’s go.”

“But do you think you can make it?”

“Can do,” he said grimly. “I’ve got a sweet headache, but it might be
worse. How about you?”

“Ditto,” she smiled. “Are you going to drag that heavy crowbar?”

“Think it might be wise. Lucky I found it by that camouflaged dump. I
had to bash the lock of the door to the main tunnel with it. And there
may be another door farther along.”

“Then I’ll take the candle,” she said. With the light held well over her
head, she followed him out of the chamber.

The tunnel from here on was concreted, walls, roof and floor. Passing
quickly along for possibly a hundred yards, they approached a steep
flight of steps. At the top they found a closed door. Bill turned the
handle and it swung inward.

“Guess I won’t need this any more,” he said and braced the door open
with the crowbar. “If they’re too many for us, we may have to leave in a
hurry. Just as well to keep the way clear.”

By the feeble light of the candle they saw that they stood in a small
whitewashed cellar. Leading off this to the left, was an open corridor,
and from some distance down this passage came the glow of electric
light. A large safe, painted white, was built into a corner of the
cellar wall.

At a nod from Bill, Dorothy blew out the light and placed the
candlestick on the stone floor. Then as she straightened up he brought
his lips close to her ear.

“I’ll bet that’s where they keep the loot! Follow me, and hold your gun
handy.”

One after the other, on tiptoe, the pair crept across the cellar, their
rubber-soled shoes making not the slightest sound. When they came to the
corridor, Bill slackened his pace but continued to stalk steadily
forward. On their left the whitewashed wall led straight on in an
unbroken line. In the right wall, they saw the iron grills of cells.
They passed the first, which was dark, and evidently empty. From the
second came the glow of light.

Bill turned and placed a finger on his lips. Then he got down on his
hands and knees and crawled forward to the door.

“Good heavens!” Dorothy heard him gasp. “So that’s where they had you!”

He stood up and she hurried toward him.

“_Terry!_”

Her cry was one of absolute amazement. Through the grating she saw her
long lost friend, starting up from his cot where he had been reading
when Bill’s exclamation caused him to look around. Terry advanced to the
door and greeted them.

“Well, by all that’s wonderful! Dorothy! Bill Bolton! What—”

“Are you all right? You’re not hurt or anything?” Dorothy’s excited
whisper broke in upon his incoherent surprise.

“No, I’m safe and sound, except that I’m pretty tired of reading—cooped
up in this hole. But say, how did you two manage to get down here?”

“Through the tunnel,” replied Bill with a grin.

“Gee, is there a tunnel, too? Never heard of it. How about that lad
Peters and the others—you didn’t see them?”

“No, we came through the cellar. Have you any idea where they are?”

“Upstairs, probably—in the house—playing cards. Since Peters came here
a few days ago he’s been bringing me my grub. He’s quite chatty; likes
to boast about how he trims those others at poker.”

“How many men are there altogether, do you know?” asked Dorothy.

“I’ve never seen more than three at a time, unless you count their
be-whiskered pilot I mixed it up with at the beach club. Remember him,
Dorothy? But he doesn’t come around much, so Peters says. He doesn’t
like him—thinks he’s high-hat.”

“Well, he’s out of the picture, now,” declared Bill. “We got him in the
tunnel.”

“Yes—and Terry, do you know that he is Mr. Tracey?” Dorothy could not
contain the exciting news any longer.

“Great grief! You don’t say so! I never could stand that fellow—didn’t
think he had sense enough to come in out of the rain. But then, you
never can tell which way a cat will jump.” He stepped closer to the
grill and looked anxiously from Bill to Dorothy. “Say, do you think you
two could find a way of getting me out of here?”

“We left a grand crowbar in the cellar! Don’t you think we could bash
the lock with it, Bill?”

“Might pry it open. But I’m afraid the noise would give us away—”

“Not a chance of that—if you mean it might disturb the poker players,”
Terry interrupted. “There’s a perfect whale of a sound proof door at the
head of the stairs. I was brought down that way. They always keep it
shut.”

“Good!” Bill hurried off to get the crowbar.

“What’s all this about, Dorothy?” asked Terry. “All I know is that these
lads held up my car the night of the Sillies. Some bird in a mask drew a
gun on me—my eyes were bandaged and I was popped into another bus and
brought over here. Where am I, anyway?”

“Why, you’re in that old stone Castle—near North Stamford. This is a
diamond smuggling gang we’re up against. The local and the state police,
not to mention Secret Service agents, have been scouring the country for
you. Wait till you see the newspapers! You’re nationally famous! But
your mother and father and the rest of us have been terribly worried.”

Terry nodded. “I’ve been thinking of that,” he replied. “But diamond
smugglers, eh! No wonder—” he whistled softly. “You’ve no idea what it
was like to be caged up here—thinking of the family and how terrible it
was for them—not knowing why I was here, or if I’d ever be set free.
Yet they’ve not tried any rough stuff. Gave me plenty of books and
magazines, and enough decent food, thank goodness!”

Bill reappeared, carrying the bar.

“Now get back from the door, Terry,” he cautioned. “I’m going to have a
go at it with this.”

He placed the end of the crowbar through the grating and behind the
steel disk which held the lock. Then he shoved it forward and sideways
until that end was jammed between the inner edge of the door and the
frame.

“Lend me a hand, please, Dorothy, and we’ll see what a bit of leverage
will do.”

Together they seized the crowbar and pulled. There was a sharp snap and
the door flew open.

“Good enough!” cried Terry. He sprang into the corridor and grasped
their hands.

“You said it,” laughed Bill. “That’s the second time this bar has come
in handy since we started this job. If we ever get out of here I’m going
to keep it as a souvenir.”

“I’ll take the diamonds,” Dorothy added enthusiastically.

“What’s on deck now?” inquired Terry.

Bill grew suddenly serious.

“Have you any idea where they keep themselves above?”

“It’s ten to one they’ll be playing poker in the kitchen. They’ve
nothing else to do now, except to feed me—or so Peters says.”

“Where’s the kitchen? I mean, how do we get to it from here?”

“It’s along this passage and up the staircase at the end. The door at
the top—the sound proof one—opens into the kitchen.”

Bill handed Terry a gun. “Don’t be afraid to use it,” he commanded.
“They won’t hesitate to shoot if they get a chance.”

Terry looked at him in great disdain. “Say, just because I appear to be
my cheerful self and so on, don’t get the idea that I’ve enjoyed this
rest cure. All I’ve been thinking about for days—and nights too—is the
chance to get even with them. Now I have it.” He patted the revolver.

“O.K. then, come along, both of you.”

It was but a step to the turn in the passage. Directly ahead lay a steep
flight of stairs. And at the top was the silent menace of the closed
door.



                             Chapter XVIII

                               THE FLAGS


“Do you think it will be unlocked?” Bill dropped his voice to a whisper.
The three were standing on the landing at the head of the stairs, facing
the door.

“Sure to be,” returned Terry. “That is, if we can take friend Peters’
word for it. He spilled all this dope when he’d had an argument with the
rest of the gang.”

“Then let’s go—” said Bill. “You stand to one side, Dorothy.”

“Shucks!” With a twist of the handle, that young lady threw the door
wide and jumped into the room.

“Hands up! Stick ’em up!” she cried.

Two of the three men seated at the table complied at once with her
command. Their hands shot above their heads with the rapidity of
lightning. The third reached for a revolver that lay amongst the
scattered cards.

“_Bang!_”

The man gave a cry of pain and caught at his shattered wrist with his
other hand.

Startled by the sudden detonation just behind her, Dorothy almost
dropped her gun.

“Dog-gone it!” Terry seemed annoyed.

“What’s the matter?” Bill still covered the men.

“Matter enough! Too much rest cure, I guess. Forgot to remove the safety
catch on this gat you gave me. Lucky you fired when you did.”

“Well, never mind that now,” Bill’s words were crisp and to the point.
“Grab that clothesline and tie their hands behind their backs. That’s
right! Dorothy, will you give first aid to that fellow’s wrist? I’ll see
that they don’t play any tricks.”

After securing the men, Terry searched their clothes and produced two
revolvers and a wicked looking knife. He also took a ring of keys from
Peters.

“Gee!” exclaimed that gentleman. “If it ain’t the girl what blame near
kicked me teeth out I’ll eat me bloomin’ hat!”

“You’ll eat skilly in Wethersfield Prison, or Atlanta, before you get
through,” Terry promised. “Shake a leg—both of you. Down to the cells
for yours. Did you ever realize what a swell difference there is between
the titles of jailer and prisoner? March!”

“Wait a minute!” Dorothy cut in. “I’ll help you take this man along,
too. I’ve done all I can for him. It’s a clean hole through his wrist.
Bone’s broken but the bullet missed the artery. He might be worse off.”

Bill spoke from the doorway that led into the rest of the house. “While
you’re gone I’ll search this place for any other members that might
otherwise be overlooked!”

After housing the smugglers in cells, Dorothy and Terry returned to the
kitchen and were surprised to find Bill speaking over the telephone.

“And that’s that, Dad,” they heard him say. “Spread the good tidings in
proper places and make it snappy, please. Bye-bye!”

He placed the receiver on its hook.

“I guess you got that,” he smiled. “Dad will phone the police and
Washington. Then he’s driving over here with Frank. And he will also let
Mr. Walters and your father know, Dorothy.”

“Fine—I’m glad he thought of that!” Dorothy laughed in excited
approval.

“Didn’t take you long to search the place,” said Terry.

“No—only a few rooms on this floor are being used. The staircase is
thick with dust. Nobody up there—no footprints.”

“Well, what’s to do now?”

“We’ll wait for Dad, of course,” said Bill, “and then Dorothy and I can
fly our respective planes home. How about it, pal? Feel able to do
that?”

Dorothy lifted her eyebrows in derision. “Well, I should hope so! I
suppose I do look pretty frazzled—but you don’t seem in the best
condition yourself. However—I’ve another plan.”

“What’s that?”

Terry had taken over the phone and was talking in low tones to his
mother.

“Do you remember I told you I had a hunch, Bill?”

“Yes, I do. What about it?”

“We’re going to follow my hunch.”

“Where to?”

“Well, we’ll start out of this house—by the front door this time, if
you please—then across the meadow and through the wood to the field
where our planes are parked.”

“And—?”

“And then you’re going to get into the rear cockpit of Will-o’-the-Wisp
and take a little hop with me.”

Bill looked surprised. “What about my Ryan?”

“Oh, Frank can pilot her home.”

“Yes? And then where are we going?”

“That’s my secret. Tell Terry, and come along now. We’re in a hurry,
even if you don’t know it.”

“Well, I’m evidently not supposed to know anything of this new mystery!”

“Don’t be stuffy! Come on, now. This is serious, Bill, really, I’m not
leading you on a wild goose chase, I promise you.”

“Humph! It must be hot stuff—not!”

Dorothy made a face at him. “I want to tell you it’s the hottest stuff
of the whole business. And I just want you to be in at the finish, don’t
you see, stupid?”

“All right. As you insist—”

“That’s right. Of course I do. And when we’ve done this thing up brown,
I’ll cart you back home to dinner—and if you are very good you can sit
next to me!”

Bill grinned. “You may be New England Yankee, but that line of blarney
you hand out spells Ireland in capital letters! Come on then, we’ll
leave Terry to guard the fort.”

After they had put that young man wise to their plans, the two left the
Castle. They were both pretty nearly exhausted after their experiences
in the tunnel, but the success of their adventure was elating, and more
than made up for its bad effects.

“Well, here’s the field just where we left it,” announced Bill as he
helped Dorothy over the stone fence. “And there’s that Willy plane of
yours, too. Whither away?”

“Hop in and you’ll see.”

Five minutes later, Bill looked down from his seat in the rear cockpit
and saw that she was going to land near the tennis courts in the broad
parking space behind the cabanas at the beach club. The members had
become used to seeing her land Will-o’-the-Wisp on the club grounds.
Their descent therefore caused little or no notice. The plane stopped
rolling and a man in the club uniform of a beach attendant ran up.

“Hello, Jeffries,” waved Bill. “I thought you might be here. How are
things?”

“We caught Donovan and Charlie Myers over at Babylon. But they’re small
fry. Anything new, Bolton?”

Bill got out of the plane and helped Dorothy to descend.

“I should say there is! Tell you about it in a minute. Dorothy, let me
present Mr. Arthur Jeffries, one of the very big men of the United
States Secret Service. Arthur, this is the famous Dorothy Dixon!”

Arthur Jeffries said some polite things which caused Dorothy to blush
modestly, and in a few pithy sentences Bill told the story of their
afternoon.

“So you see, old man,” he ended. “You won’t have to wait around this
club any longer disguised as a goldfish or what have you—because the
bearded aviator won’t fly the Mystery Plane over here any more—that is
to say—not for twenty years or so at the soonest.”

“He’ll get all that or more,” Jeffries commented crisply. “But the man
he worked for—sunning himself over there on the sand—old Holloway, I
mean—he’s the nigger in the woodpile! The boss of this gang of diamond
smugglers—but I can’t arrest him on that evidence!”

Dorothy made an eager gesture. “Will you come with me—I want to show
you two something. We’ll go around the far side of that big cabana on
the end of the boardwalk. We’re going inside.”

“Holloway’s bath house?” This from Bill.

“Exactly. I don’t want him to see us, though, so be careful.”

The three rounded the gaily painted cottage and ducking under the red
and black striped awning, entered the front room which was fitted out
with the usual wicker furniture and bright rugs.

“I wonder where he keeps them,” Dorothy murmured to herself. “Ah—this
looks like it!”

She lifted the hinged lid of a handsome sea chest and pulled forth a
dozen or more colored flags.

“By jove! The goods!” cried Bill. “How did you ever guess it, Dot?”

Dorothy was so pleased by her find that she passed over his use of the
despised diminutive.

“I just happened to remember that he generally decked out his cabana
with a flock of these things. And though the club runs up flags on
special occasions, Mr. Holloway did it nearly every afternoon. It came
to me when you pulled off Tracey’s beard back there in the tunnel.”

“Precisely,” said Arthur Jeffries. “Holloway would get word in New York
at his office, probably, when a liner carrying contraband was expected
off Fire Island light. Then he’d come out here and signal the time to
Tracey in his airplane, by means of these flags. I’ll bet the old boy
never went near that Castle. Some alibi! He and Tracey probably never
saw each other from the time he went to the city in the morning until he
came home for dinner at night.”

“Are you going to arrest him now?” she asked breathlessly.

“As soon as I can get out on the beach. I’ll do it as quietly as
possible, of course. No use in causing a disturbance with his friends
around. So long, Bill. Glad to have met you, Miss Dixon—and many
thanks. See you both later on.”

They left the cabana with him, but turned back toward the plane as he
went down the beach.

“That ties it, I guess,” she smiled.

“It certainly does!” agreed Bill.

“Now—didn’t I tell you it would be hot stuff?”

He looked at her and they both burst out laughing.

“And the best of it is that the government will probably pin a medal on
you for it!” he declared.

“Oh, Bill! Do you really think that?”

Bill grinned at her excitement. “You get into that plane and take me
home to dinner. That was the bargain, and I’m famished!”

“Dinner!” exclaimed Dorothy in disgust. “My word! We’ve caught those
diamond smugglers when the whole of the Secret Service couldn’t do
it—and all you think of is food! Gee, I’m glad I’m not a mere man. Hop
aboard. I’ll give her the gun and fly you home to your dinner.”

                                THE END

Those who enjoyed this story and the preceding one entitled Dorothy
Dixon Wins Her Wings will find much to interest them in the next book of
this series entitled Dorothy Dixon Solves the Conway Case.





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