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´╗┐Title: Dorothy Dixon Wins Her Wings
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 Wins Her Wings" ***

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                             DOROTHY DIXON
                            Wins Her Wings,

                                   BY
                            _Dorothy Wayne_

                               Author of
                  _Dorothy Dixon and The Mystery Plant
                  Dorothy Dixon Solves the Conway Case
                  Dorothy Dixon and the Double Cousin_



                    THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING COMPANY
                                CHICAGO

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

                            Copyright, 1933
                    The Goldsmith Publishing Company
                            MADE IN U. S. A.

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


                                   TO
                           _My young sister_
                                 HILDA

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

                                CONTENTS

              I Out of The Northeast
             II Taxi!
            III A Wild Ride
             IV The First Hop
              V Trouble
             VI The Hold Up
            VII Ground Trails
           VIII Next Morning
             IX Air Trails
              X The Meeting
             XI Follow the Leader
            XII The House in the Hills
           XIII Trapped
            XIV The Doctor
             XV Staten Island Sadie Has Her Way
            XVI What Happened in the Wine Cellar
           XVII The Loening

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

                      Dorothy Dixon Wins Her Wings


                              _Chapter I_

                          OUT OF THE NORTHEAST


"Hi, there, young lady!"

"Hi, yourself,--what d'you want?"

At the water's edge, a girl of sixteen stopped in the act of launching a
small skiff. She straightened her lithe figure and faced about, her
brown hair blowing in the breeze, turning a pair of snapping grey eyes
inquiringly upon the young man who walked down the beach toward her.

"Miss Dixon, isn't it?" asked the stranger, his deeply tanned features
breaking into an engaging smile. "I'm not sure I recognized you at first
in the bathing suit--"

"No matter how you were dressed I'm sure I wouldn't recognize you,"
returned Dorothy, shortly. "I've never laid eyes on you before--that's
why."

The young man laughed. "Quite right," he said, "you haven't. But I
happen to be a near neighbor of yours, and I've seen you."

"Up at New Canaan?"

"Yes. Dad has taken the Hawthorne place,--bought it in fact."

For a full minute the girl stared at this tall young man with the blonde
hair and the jolly smile. Surprise left her speechless.

Then--"Why--why--" she gasped. "Y-you must be the famous Bill Bolton!"

"Bolton's the name, all right," he grinned. "But that famous stuff is
the bunk."

Dorothy was herself again, and a little ashamed of her burst of feeling.

"But you _are_ the aviator!" She went on, more calmly. "My father told
me the other day that you and your father were coming to live across the
road from us. And I don't mind telling you we're simply thrilled! You
see, I've read about you in the papers--and I know all about the
wonderful things you've done!"

"I'm afraid you've got an exaggerated idea--it was all in the day's
work, you know," protested the blonde-headed young man, his eyebrows
slanting quizzically, "I'm Bill Bolton, but I didn't barge in on you to
talk about myself. You're starting out for a sail in that sloop that's
moored over there, I take it?"

"Why, yes, I am. Want to come along?"

"Thanks a lot. I've got a business matter to attend to down here in a
few minutes." He hesitated a moment, then--"I know it's none of my
affair, but don't you think it's rather risky to go for a sail just
now?"

Dorothy shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. There's a two reef breeze blowing
out beyond the Point, but that's nothing to worry about. I've sailed all
over Long Island Sound since I was a kid, and I've been out in worse
blows than this, lots of times."

"Maybe," countered Bill. "Storm warnings were broadcast about an hour
ago. We're in for a northeaster--"

She broke in scoffingly--"Oh! those weathermen! They're always wrong.
It's a perfectly scrumptious afternoon. The storm, if it comes, will
probably show up sometime tomorrow!"

"Well," he retorted, "you're your own boss, I suppose.--If you were my
sister," he added suddenly, "you wouldn't go sailing today."

"Then it's a good thing I'm _not_ your sister. Thanks for your
interest," she mocked. There was a hint of anger in her voice at the
suspicion that Bill Bolton was trying to patronize her. "Don't worry,"
she added, resuming her usual tone, "I can handle a boat--Good-bye!"

Their eyes met; Bill's gravely accusing, hers, full of defiant
determination.

"Good-bye--sorry I spoke." Bill turned away and walked up the beach
toward the club house.

Dorothy chuckled when she saw him throw a quick glance over his
shoulder. She waved her hand, but he kept on without appearing to notice
the friendly gesture.

"A temper goes with that blond hair," she said to herself, digging a
bare heel into the loose shingle. "I guess I was pretty rude, though.
But what right had he to talk like that? Bill Bolton may be a famous
aviator, but he's only a year older than I am."

She ran the skiff out through the shallows and sprang aboard. Standing
on the stern thwart she sculled the small craft forward with short,
strong strokes, and presently nosed alongside the _Scud_. As she boarded
the sloop and turned with the skiff's painter in her hand she caught
sight of Bill getting into an open roadster on the club driveway.

"I guess he meant well," she observed to the wavelets that lapped the
side of the _Scud_, "but just the same--well, that's that."

Making the painter secure to a cleat in the stern, she set about lacing
a couple of reefs into the mainsail. Having tied the last reef-point,
she loosened the skiff's painter, pulled the boat forward and skillfully
knotted the rope to the sloop's mooring. Then she cast off the mooring
altogether and ran aft to her place at the tiller.

The _Scud's_ head played off. Dorothy, as she had told Bill, was no
novice at the art of small boat sailing. With her back bracing the
tiller she ran up the jib and twisted the halyard to a cleat close at
hand.

Then as the sloop gained steerageway, she pulled on the peak and throat
halyards until the reefed-down mainsail was setting well. The _Scud_, a
fast twenty-footer, was rigged with a fore-staysail and gaff-topsail as
well, but Dorothy knew better than to break them out in a wind like
this.

As it was she carried all the canvas her little boat would stand, and
they ran out past the Point, which acted as a breakwater to the yacht
club inlet, with the starboard gunwale well awash. The wind out here
stiffened perceptibly and Dorothy wished she had tied in three reefs
instead of two before starting. Her better judgment told her to go about
and seek the quieter waters of the inlet. But here, pride took a hand.

If she turned back and gave up her afternoon sail, the next time she saw
Bill Bolton she must admit he had been right. No. That would never do.

Although the wind out here was stiffer than she had imagined, this was
no northeast gale; a good three-reef breeze, that was all. So lowering
the peak slightly she continued to head her little craft offshore.

The _Scud_ fought and bucked like a wild thing, deluging Dorothy with
spray. She gloried in the tug of the tiller, the sting of the salt
breeze, the dance of her craft over choppy seas. Glistening in the clear
summer sunlight, flecked with tiny whitecaps, the landlocked water
stretched out to where the low hills of Long Island banked the horizon
in a blur of purple and green.

Now and then as she luffed into a particularly strong gust, Dorothy had
her misgivings. But pride, confidence in her ability to handle her boat
and the thrill of danger kept her going.

She had been sailing for about an hour, beating her way eastward with
the Connecticut shore four or five miles off her port quarter, when all
at once, somehow, she felt a change. The sunshine seemed less brilliant,
the shadows less solid, less sharply outlined. It seemed as if a very
thin gauze had been drawn across the sun dimming without obscuring it.
Dorothy searched the sky in vain to discover the smallest shred of
cloud.

At the same time the breeze slackened and the air, which had been
stimulant and quick with oxygen seemed to become thick, sluggish,
suffocating. Presently, the _Scud_ was lying becalmed, while the ground
swell, long and perfectly smooth, set sagging jib and mainsail flapping.
Except for the rattling of the blocks and the creaking of the boom, the
silence, after the whistling wind of a few minutes before, was
tremendously oppressive.

Then in the distance there was a low growl of thunder. In a moment came
a louder, angrier growl--as if the first were a menace which had not
been heeded. But the first growl was quite enough for Dorothy. She knew
what was coming and let go her halyards, bringing down her sails with a
run. Now fully alive to the danger, she raced to her work of making the
little craft secure to meet the oncoming storm.

She was gathering in the mainsail, preparatory to furling it when there
was a violent gust of wind, cold, smelling of the forests from which it
came, corrugating the steely surface of the Sound. Two or three big
raindrops fell--and then, the deluge.

Dorothy rushed to a locker, pulled out a slicker and sou'wester and
donned them. Returning to her place by the tiller, she watched the rain.
Rain had never rained so hard, she thought. Already both the Connecticut
and Long Island shores were completely blotted out, hidden behind walls
of water. The big drops pelted the Sound like bullets, sending up
splashes bigger than themselves.

Then suddenly the wind came tearing across the inland sea from out the
northeast. Thunder crashed, roared, reverberated. Lightning slashed
through the black cloud-canopy in long, blinding zigzags. The wind
moaned, howled, shrieked, immense in its wild force, immense in its
reckless fury.

A capsized sloop wallowed in the trough of heavy seas rearing a dripping
keel skyward--and to this perilous perch clung Dorothy.



                              _Chapter II_

                                 TAXI!


The black brush of storm had long ago painted out the last vestige of
daylight.

Crouching on the upturned hull of her sloop, Dorothy clung to the keel
with nerveless fingers, while the _Scud_ wallowed in an angry sea laced
with foam and spray. She knew that in a little while the boat must sink,
and that in water like this even the strongest swimmer must quickly
succumb. Cold, wet and helpless, Dorothy anxiously scanned her narrow
horizon, but in vain.

For another half hour she hung on in the rain and darkness, battered by
heavy combers that all but broke her hold. She was fast losing her nerve
and with it the willingness to struggle. Phantom shapes reached toward
her from the gloom. Strange lights danced before her eyes....

With a rolling lurch the _Scud_ sank, and Dorothy found herself fighting
the waves unsupported. The shock of sudden immersion brought back her
scattering wits, but the delusion of dancing lights still held;
especially one light, larger and brighter than the others. Surely this
one was real and not the fantasy of an overwrought imagination!

Half smothered in flying spume, the drowning girl made one last frantic
effort to keep afloat. Above the pounding of the sea, a throbbing roar
shook her eardrums, a glare of light followed by a huge dark form
swooped down as if to crush her--and she lost consciousness.

Dorothy awoke in a darkness so complete that for a moment she thought
her eyes must be bandaged. Nervous fingers soon found that this was not
the case, and reaching out, they came in contact with a light switch.

The sudden gleam of the electrics half blinded her. Presently she saw
that she lay on a narrow bunk in a cabin. Presumably she was aboard a
vessel, still out in the storm, for the ship pitched and rolled like a
drunken thing, and the roar of a powerful exhaust was deafening.

Someone had removed her sweater, had tucked warm blankets about her
body. Her throat burned from a strong stimulant which apparently had
been administered while she was unconscious.

For some minutes she lay there taking in her surroundings. The charts
tacked to the cabin walls, the tiny electric cookstove, hinged table and
armsrack opposite. Listlessly she counted the weapons, four rifles,
three shotguns, two automatics--and fastened in its own niche was a
machine gun covered with a waterproof jacket. A complete arsenal.... The
shotguns bespoke sportsmen, but this was neither the season for duck nor
for snipe. Men did not go shooting in Long Island Sound with rifles,
revolvers and a machine gun.... _Bootleggers!_

It came to her like a bolt from the blue. She was on board a rumrunner,
no less, and notwithstanding the exhaustion she suffered from her
battles with the waves, she found exhilaration in the exciting
discovery.

Dorothy threw off the blankets, sat up and swung her legs over the edge
of the bunk. Her bathing suit was still wet and clung uncomfortably to
her skin. With a hand on the side of the bunk to support her, she stood
up on the heaving floor to catch sight of her face in a mirror screwed
to the opposite wall.

"Gracious! I'm a fright," she cried. "I don't suppose there's a vanity
case aboard this lugger--and mine went down with the poor little
_Scud_!"

Then she spied a neat pile of clothing at the foot of the bunk, and
immediately investigated. A dark blue sweater, a pair of trousers, heavy
woolen socks, and a pair of boy's sneakers were seized upon and donned
forthwith.

Dorothy giggled as she surveyed herself once more in the little mirror.
"Just a few sizes too large, that's all. But they're warm, and _dry_,
and that's something!"

She rummaged about on a shelf, found a comb and with dexterous fingers
smoothed her short damp hair into place, then with a sigh of
satisfaction, muttered again to herself, "Much better, my girl."

Her makeshift toilet completed, she decided to leave the cabin and
continue her explorations outside.

There were two doors, one on the side and one at the end which evidently
led forward. After a moment's hesitation, Dorothy chose the latter. With
some difficulty, for the ship still pitched unmercifully, she stumbled
forward. Then, summoning up her courage, for she was not without
trepidation at the thought of facing her desperado rescuers, she laid a
hand on the knob and turning it, swung back the door.

Dorothy found herself in a small, glassed-in compartment, evidently the
pilot house. She had hardly time to glance about, when an oddly familiar
voice spoke from out the darkness. It was barely distinguishable above
the motor's hum.

"Please, Miss Dixon, snap off the light or shut the door. I can't
possibly guide this craft in such a glare."

"Why, it's Bill Bol--Mr. Bolton, I mean," she cried in surprise, and
closed the door.

"Himself in the flesh," replied that young man.

She could see him clearly now, seated directly before her. His back was
toward her and he did not turn round. So far as she could see he seemed
very busily engaged, doing something with his feet.

"Then--then it must have been you who picked me up," she stammered.

"Guilty on the first count, Miss Dixon."

"Please don't be funny," she retorted, now mistress of herself once
more. "I want to thank you--"

"You are very welcome. Seriously, though, it is the boathook you have to
thank. Without that we'd both have gone to Davy Jones' locker long
before this."

Dorothy was nearly thrown off her feet by an unusually high sea which
crashed over the pilot house and rolled the vessel far over on her side.

"Whew--that was a near one!" the girl exploded as the ship righted
itself.

"We'll weather it, don't worry," encouraged Bill, though he did not feel
the confidence his words proclaimed.

"It looks to me," said Dorothy soberly, "as though we'll be mighty lucky
if we reach shore at all--and I guess you know it."

"Never say die, Miss Dixon!"

"Suppose we drop this miss and mister stuff, Bill. Sounds rather silly
at a time like this, don't you think so?"

"Right you are, Dorothy. I'm not much on ceremony, myself, as the
Irishman said when--"

"Look here, Bill!" Dorothy tossed her head impatiently, "I wish you'd
omit the comedy--it really isn't necessary. I'll admit I was in a bad
way when you dragged me out of the briny deep--and I appreciate your
coming to my rescue. But you needn't expect me to faint or to throw
hysterics. That sort of thing went out of fashion long ago. Girls today
have just as much nerve as boys. They don't very often get a chance to
prove it, that's all."

"Please accept my humblest apology, mademoiselle." Bill's eyes twinkled
though his tone was utterly serious. "I can assure you--"

Dorothy's merry laugh rang out--her mood had passed as suddenly as it
had come. "Don't be absurd. Tell me--why are _you_ piloting a
rumrunner?"

"Rumrunner? What do you mean?"

"If this isn't a rumrunner, why do you carry that machine gun and the
rifles and revolvers in the armsrack?"

"Just part of our equipment, that's all."

Dorothy's impatience flared up again. "Why do you talk such nonsense?"

"Nonsense?"

"Certainly. You don't mean to tell me that you took a boat of this size
on long cruises!"

Bill grinned in the darkness. "But you see," he chuckled, "this isn't a
boat."

"Well, what is it then?"

"A Loening amphibian. Not exactly the stock model, for Dad and I had
quite a few changes made in the cabin and this pilot's cockpit."

"_What?_" shrieked Dorothy. "An airplane--one that can land either on
water or on land?"

"That's right. The old crate has the hull of a boat equipped with
retractible wheel landing gear which operates electrically."

"You're too technical for me," she said frowningly, and balanced herself
with a hand on the back of the pilot's seat. "But if this is an
airplane, why keep bouncing along on the water? I'd think you'd fly to
land and have done with it."

"My dear girl--" began Bill.

"Don't use that patronizing tone--I'm not your dear girl--not by a long
shot!"

Bill laughed outright. "My error once more. However, Miss Spitfire, when
you learn to fly, you'll find out that air currents are very like water
currents. When it is blowing as hard as it is now, flying a plane is
fully as dangerous as sailing a boat--more so, in fact. When the wind
reaches a certain velocity, it is impossible to balance your plane. You
have to land--or crash."

Dorothy was beginning to understand. "Then you must have taken some
awful risks coming out after me."

"I was lucky," he admitted. "But you see, even if we were able to fly in
this gale, now, it's quite impossible to take off in such a heavy sea.
If I gave the old bus enough gas to get up a flying speed, these combers
would batter the hull in--I'd never be able to get her onto her step.
Some day, when it's fine, and the water's smooth, I'll show you what I
meant by that. Now all we can do is to taxi."

"Taxi?--This is the first seagoing taxi I've ever been in!"

"In air parlance," he explained, "to taxi is to run a plane along the
ground or on the water--just now, it isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"I should think it would be easier than flying."

"Not on water as rough as this. Your legs go to sleep with the strain
you have to put on the rudder pedals."

"Oh--you're steering with your feet?"

"Yes."

"Well, why don't you let me help you? I'll drive her for a while,"
offered Dorothy.

Bill shook his head. "It's terribly hard work," he demurred.

"What of it? I'm as strong as an ox."

"Thanks a lot. You're a real sport. But the difficulty is in shifting
places with me without swamping the old bus. She isn't equipped with
dual controls. There's only one set of pedals, and as soon as I release
them she will slue broadside to the waves, the wings will crumple, and
she'll simply swamp and go under."

"And you must taxi either before the wind, or into the wind as we are
now, in seas like these?"

"You've guessed it," he nodded.

"But there must be some way we can manage it," argued Dorothy. "You
can't keep on much longer. Your legs will give out and then we'll go
under anyway."

Bill hesitated a moment. "Well, all right, let's try it--but it's no
cinch, as you'll find out."

"That's O.K. with me. Come on--orders, please--and let's go!"



                             _Chapter III_

                              A WILD RIDE


"Hey, not so fast," laughed Bill. "First of all, will you please step
into the cabin, and in the second locker on your right you'll find a
helmet and a phone-set. Bring them out here. This shouting is making us
both hoarse and we'll soon be as deaf as posts from the noise of the
motor."

"Aye, aye, skipper," breezed Dorothy, and disappeared aft.

In a minute or two she returned with the things he had asked for. Bill
showed her how to adjust the receivers of the phone set over the ear
flaps of her helmet. Then reaching for the head set at the other end of
the connecting line, he put it on and spoke into the mouthpiece which
hung on his chest.

"Much better, isn't it?" he asked in a normal tone.

"It certainly is. I can hear you perfectly," she declared into her
transmitter. "--What next?"

"Come over here and sit on my lap.--I'm not trying to get fresh," he
added with a grin, as she hesitated. "I've had to make a shift like this
before with Dad. There is only one way to do it."

Dorothy was a sensible girl. She obeyed his order and placed herself on
his knees.

"Now put your feet over mine on the rudder pedals. And remember--to turn
right, push down on the right pedal, and vice versa. Get the idea?"

"Quite, thanks."

"Fine. Next--grab this stick and keep it as I have it. Now, I'm going to
pull my feet from under yours--ready?"

"Let her go!"

Bill jerked his feet away, to leave Dorothy's resting on the pedals.

"Good work!" he applauded. "The old bus hardly swerved. Keep her as
she's pointed now. We can't change her course, much less take off until
we hit one of those inlets along the Connecticut shore, and smoother
water. Brace yourself now--I'm going to slide out of this seat."

Dorothy was lifted quickly. Then she dropped back into the pilot's seat
to find herself fighting the tenacious pull of heavy seas, straining her
leg muscles to keep the plane from floundering.

"How's it going?" Bill's voice came from the floor of the cockpit where
he was busily engaged in pounding circulation back into his numbed legs
and feet.

"Great, thanks. But I will say that this amphibian of yours steers more
like a loaded truck in a mudhole than an honest-to-goodness plane! How
are your legs?"

"Gradually getting better--pretty painful, but then I'm used to this
sort of thing."

"Poor boy!" she exclaimed sympathetically, then gritted her teeth in the
effort to keep their course as a huge comber crashed slightly abeam the
nose.

Bill grasped the side of her seat for support. "You handled that one
nicely," he approved when the wave had swept aft. "But don't bother
about me--you've got your own troubles, young lady. I'll be all right in
a few minutes."

"What I can't understand," said Dorothy, after a moment, "is why this
plane didn't sink when you landed and picked me up. How _did_ you keep
from slewing broadside and going under?"

"Well, it was like this. When I left you on the beach, I motored back
home to New Canaan. The sky was blackening even then. I was sure we were
in for the storm, so after putting up the car, I went out to the hay
barn in that ten acre field where we house the old bus. She needed gas,
so I filled the tanks, gave her a good looking over and went back to the
house and telephoned."

"You mean you phoned the beach club about me?"

"Yes. The steward said you weren't anywhere around the club, and your
sloop wasn't in the inlet. It was pretty dark by then and the wind was
blowing a good thirty-five knots. I made up my mind you must be in
trouble. Frank ran after me on my way out to the plane--he's our
chauffeur you know--"

"Yes, I know--" broke in Dorothy--"he drove you and your father to the
movies last night. I saw him."

"That's right. Frank's a good scout. He wanted to come along with me,
but I wouldn't let him."

"I s'pose you thought you'd save _his_ skin, at least?"

"Something like that. A fellow doesn't mind taking responsibility for
himself--it's a different thing with some one else. Well, before Frank
and I ran this plane out of the barn, I rigged the sea anchor (nothing
more than a large canvas bucket with a couple of crossed two-by-twos
over the top to keep it open) with an extra long mooring line. The
sea-anchor I brought up here in the cockpit with me. The other end of
the line was fastened to a ring-bolt in the nose, of course. Well--to
get through with this yarn--I took off alone and flew over to the
Sound."

"But wasn't it awful in this wind?"

"It was pretty bad. As soon as I got over water, I switched on the
searchlight, but it was a good half-hour before the light picked you up.
Then I landed--"

"Into the wind or with it?" interrupted Dorothy.

"Getting interested, eh?" commented Bill with a smile. "Well, just
remember this then, never make a downwind landing with a seaplane in a
wind blowing over eighteen miles an hour."

"Why?"

"Because the wind behind your plane will increase the landing speed to
the point where you will crash when you strike the water--that's a good
reason, isn't it?"

"Then you landed into the wind when you came down for me?"

"That's right. And as soon as I struck the water, I shut off the motor,
opened one of these windows and threw over the sea anchor. Then I fished
you out with the boathook."

"It sounds sort of easy when you tell it--but I'll bet it wasn't." She
gazed at him admiringly. "You surely took some awful chances--"

"Hey there!" called Bill. "Pull back the stick or you'll nose over."

"That's better," he approved as she obeyed his order. "Keep it well back
of neutral. Sorry I yelled at you," he grinned.

Bill got to his feet. "I'm O.K. now," he went on, "and you must be
pretty well done up. I'm going to take it over."

Seating himself on her lap, as she had sat on his, he placed his feet
upon hers. A minute later, she had drawn her feet back from the rudder
pedals, slipped out from under and was seated on the floor, rubbing life
back into her feet and legs, as Bill had done.

"Why is it," she inquired presently, "that the plane rides so much
smoother when you're guiding her?"

Bill smiled. "When I give her right pedal, that is, apply right rudder,
I move the stick slightly to the left and vice versa. In that way I
depress the aileron on the side I want to sail. It aids the rudder. You
got along splendidly, though, and stick work when taxiing needs
practice."

Dorothy got to her feet, rather unsteadily. "Look!" she cried. "Lights
ahead. We must be nearing shore, Bill."

"We are. There's a cove out yonder I'm making for. And better still, the
wind is lessening. Just about blown itself out, I guess."

In another ten minutes they sailed in through the mouth of an almost
landlocked inlet and with the motor shut off drifted in comparatively
smooth water.

"Any idea where we are?" inquired Dorothy, when Bill, after throwing out
the anchor, came back to her.

"Somewhere between Norwalk and Bridgeport, I guess," he replied. "There
are any number of coves along here. I'll take you ashore, now. We've got
a collapsible boat aboard. Not much of a craft, but it'll take the two
of us in all right. We'll go over to one of those houses, and get your
father on the phone. He can come down and drive you back to New Canaan."

"Drive us both back, you mean!"

"Sorry--but it can't be done. I've got to take this old bus home as soon
as the wind dies down a little more."

"How long do you suppose that will be?" asked Dorothy quietly.

Bill glanced up at the black, overcast sky and then turned his gaze
overside and studied the water toward the inlet's mouth.

"Oh, in about an hour I'll be able to take off."

"Then I'll wait and fly back with you."

"You certainly are a sportsman," he applauded and looked at his wrist
watch. "It's only ten to six--though anyone would think it was midnight.
I'll tell you what--suppose I shove off in the dinghy. I'll row ashore
and telephone your Dad from the nearest house. He will be half crazy if
he knows you were out sailing in that blow and haven't reported back to
the club. In the meantime, you might scare up something to eat. There's
cocoa, condensed milk, crackers and other stuff in the cabin locker
nearest the stove. You must be starved--I know I am!"

They were standing on one of the narrow decks that ran from amidships
forward to the nose of the plane below the pilot house.

"The very thought of food makes me ravenous," declared Dorothy, starting
for the cabin door. "Give Dad my love and say I'm all right--thanks to
you!" she threw back over her shoulder--"Tell him to put back dinner
until seven-thirty--and to have an extra place laid. In the meantime
I'll dish up a high tea to keep us going."

Within the cabin, she set water on the two-burner electric stove to
boil. While it was heating she let down the hinged table and set it with
oilcloth doilies, that she found, together with other table necessities
in a cupboard next the food locker. She discovered some bread and a
number of other eatables stowed away here, as well as the things Bill
had mentioned.

Twenty minutes later, Bill returned to find the table set with cups of
steaming cocoa and hot toasted sandwiches spread with marmalade.

"I'll say you're some cook, Dorothy!" He pulled up a camp stool, and
seated himself at the table. "This is a real party!"

"There isn't any butter--" began Dorothy doubtfully.

"Don't apologize. It's wonderful--do start in or I'll forget my manners
and grab!"

Dorothy helped herself to a sandwich and handed the plate across the
table. "Were you able to get Dad?"

"Yes. Just caught him. He'd only got home from the bank a few minutes
before. One of the maids told him you'd spoken of going sailing, so he
phoned the club about you. He was just leaving the house to drive down
there when I rang him up."

"Did he say anything else?"

"Oh, naturally, he was glad you were all right. He didn't seem so
pleased when I told him I was flying you back. He asked me if I was an
experienced pilot."

"He would." Dorothy chuckled. "What did you tell him?"

Bill laughed as he helped himself to another sandwich. "I wanted to get
out here to your high tea, you know, so I asked him if he smoked
cigarettes."

"_Cigarettes?_"

"Yes. 'If you do, Mr. Dixon,' I said--you know the old slogan, 'Ask
Dad--he knows--' and I'm sorry to say I rang off."

"I'll bet he goes over and asks your father!"

"Very probably. Dad's rather touchy when anybody questions my rating as
a pilot. I'm afraid your father will get an earful."

Cocoa and toast had disappeared by this time so the two in the cabin set
about clearing up.

"You must'nt mind Daddy's crusty manner," she said with her hands in a
dishpan of soapsuds. "He's always like that when he's upset. He doesn't
mean anything by it."

Bill, who was stowing away cups and saucers in the locker, turned about
with a grin. "Oh, that's all right. I had no business to get
facetious--my temper's not so good, either. But there's no hard
feeling." He held out his hands. "If you're finished with the dishpan
I'll throw the water overside. The storm has broken and there's
practically no wind. So if you're ready we'll shove off for New
Canaan--and I'll give you your first hop."



                              _Chapter IV_

                             THE FIRST HOP


"How about giving me my first flying lesson now?" Dorothy suggested as
Bill hauled in their anchor.

"You really want to learn?"

"Of course I do--I'm crazy about it!"

Bill coiled the mooring line, looping it with practiced skill. "And I'd
be glad to give you instruction. But you're a minor--before we can start
anything like that we must get your Dad's permission."

"Oh, that'll be all right, Bill," was the young lady's cool assurance.
"But how about right now--"

"Every student aviator is a watchful waiter the first time up. You stand
behind me this trip and I'll explain what I'm doing as we go along."

"That'll be great! I'm just wild to fly this plane!"

Bill smiled. "But you won't get your flight instruction in this plane,
Dorothy."

"Why not?"

"This amphibian is too big and heavy, for one thing; for another, she
isn't equipped with dual controls."

"But what does that mean?"

"I see we'll have to start your training right now, Miss Student
Pilot--Controls is a general term applied to the means proved to enable
the pilot to control the speed, direction of flight, altitude and power
of an aircraft.--Savez?"

"You sound like a text book--but I get you."

"All right. Now, unless we want the bus washed up on the beach, we'd
better shove off."

Fastening the door to the deck after them, they passed through the cabin
and into the pilot's cockpit where head-phone sets were at once
adjusted. The amphibian bobbed and swayed at the push of little waves.
The sun's face, scrubbed clean and bright by wind and rain was reflected
in the rippling water; whilst wet surfaces of leaves, lawns, tree trunks
and housetops bordering the inlet gleamed in a wash of gold.

Little gusts of fresh air blew in through the open windows filling the
cockpit with a keen sweet odor of wet earth.

Dorothy drew a deep breath. "My! the air smells good after that storm!"

"You bet--" agreed Bill. "But I'll smell brimstone when your father
comes into the picture, if we don't shove off pronto for New Canaan."

"Oh, that's just like a boy--" she pouted.

"Shush! student--Listen to your master's--I mean,--your instructor's
voice, will you?"

"Instructor's better," she smiled.

"Here beginneth your first lesson." Bill slid into the pilot's seat.
"Stand just behind me and hold on to the back of my seat," he ordered.

Dorothy promptly did as she was told. After all, was not this the real
Bill Bolton the famous ace and midshipman she had read about?

"All set?"

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Good enough! Here we go then. I'll explain every move I make, as I make
it. Look and listen! First--I crack the throttle--in other words, before
starting the engine, set your throttle in its quadrant slightly forward
of the fully closed position. Next, I 'contact'--that's air parlance for
'ignition switch on.' After that, I press the inertia starter to swing
our propeller into motion--" the engine sputtered, then roared.

"It is most important," he went on a moment later, "to see that the way
ahead and above is clear at this point. Safety first is the slogan of
good flying."

"Yes. But really, Bill, you don't have to explain every thing you do.
I'm watching closely. When I don't understand, I'll ask--if it's all the
same to you?"

"Good girl. Don't hesitate to ask me, though."

"I won't."

With that she saw him widen the throttle and with his stick held well
back of neutral to prevent the nose dipping under the waves, he sent the
big seaplane hurtling through the water toward the inlet's mouth. The
wind had changed since the storm and now, as they raced into the teeth
of the light breeze, Dorothy tingled with that excitement which comes to
every novice with the take off.

Six or eight seconds after opening the throttle, she saw him push the
stick all the way forward.

"Why do you do that? Won't that raise the tail of the plane and depress
the nose?"

Bill shook his head. "In the air--yes. But we're moving at some speed
now on the surface--and the bow cannot be pushed down into the water.
Our speed is gradually forcing it up until--now--we're skimming along on
the step, you see."

Dorothy nodded to herself and watched him ease the stick back to neutral
and maintain it there while they gathered more and more speed.

"Now I'm going to talk some more," said Bill. "Don't blame me if it
sounds like a text book.--In order to fly, certain things must be
learned--and remembered. Do not take off until you have attained speed
adequate to give complete control when in the air. Any attempt to pull
it off prematurely will result in a take off at the stalling point,
where control is uncertain. Understand?"

"I think so--but how does one know when to do it?"

"That comes with practice--and the feel of the ship. As flying speed is
gained, I give a momentary pressure on the elevators (like this)--and
break the hull out of the water--so--easing the pressure immediately
after the instant of take off. Now that we are in the air our speed is
only slightly above minimum flying speed. Any decrease in this would
result in a stall. That is why I keep the nose level for six or seven
seconds in order to attain a safe margin above stalling point before
beginning to climb."

"There's certainly a lot more to it than I ever dreamed!"

"You bet there is. I haven't told you the half of it yet. One thing I
forgot to say--you must always hold a straight course while taxiing
before the take off. Also, never allow a wing to drop while your plane
is on the step.--We've got enough speed on now, so I'll pull back the
stick and let the plane climb for a bit."

"But you're heading for the Long Island Shore directly away from New
Canaan--" she protested, "why don't you bring her about--not that I'm in
any hurry, but--"

"This is an airplane, not a sailboat, Dorothy. All turns must be made
with a level nose. If I should try to turn while in a climb like this, a
stall would probably result, and with the wing down the plane would most
likely go into a spin and--"

"We'd crash!"

"Surest thing you know!"

"_Oh!_"

"But the altimeter on the dash says one thousand feet now. We're high
enough for our purpose. So I push the stick forward, like this--until
the nose is level--so! Now, as I want to make a right turn, I apply
right aileron and simultaneously increase right rudder considerably."

Dorothy saw one wing go up and the other go down. She was hardly able to
keep her feet as the plane's nose swung round toward the Connecticut
shore.

"Isn't that called banking?"

"Right on the first count," replied Bill.

"Why do you do it?"

"Because in making a turn, the momentum of the plane sets up a
centrifugal force, acting horizontally outward. To counteract this, the
force of lift must be inclined until it has a horizontal component equal
to the centrifugal force. The machine is therefore tilted to one side,
or banked, thus maintaining a state of equilibrium in which it will turn
steadily. No turn can be made by the use of the rudder alone. The plane
must be banked with ailerons before the rudder will have any turning
effect.--Get me?"

"I get the last part. Guess I'll have to do some studying."

"Everybody has to do that. But I'll lend you some books, so you can bone
up on the theory of flight. What I said just now amounts to this: if you
don't bank enough you send your plane into a skid."

"Just like an automobile skids?"

"Yes. But of course the danger doesn't lie in hitting anything as in a
car. A skidding plane loses her flying speed forward and drops into a
spin. On the other hand, if you bank her too sharply, you go into a
sideslip!"

"And the result in both cases is a crash?"

"Generally. But I think you've had enough instruction for today."

"Oh--but I want to know how you ended that turn. We're flying straight
again now--and I was so interested in what you were saying, I forgot to
watch what you did!"

"Well, after I had banked her sufficiently, I checked the wings with the
ailerons and at the same time eased the pressure on the rudder. Then I
maintained a constant bank and a constant pressure on the rudder pedal
throughout the turn. To resume straight flight, I simply applied left
aileron and left rudder: and when the wings were level again, I
neutralized the ailerons and applied a normal amount of right rudder."

"My goodness!" exclaimed Dorothy--"and that is only one of the things I
have to learn. I thought that flying a plane wouldn't be much more
complicated than driving a car."

"Oh, it's simple enough--only you have to balance a plane, as well as
drive it."

"Do you think I'll ever learn?"

"Of course you will. It takes time and practice--that's all."

"I wonder how birds learn to fly?" Dorothy glanced down at the wide
vista of rolling country over which they were traveling. The dark green
of the wooded hills, the lighter green of fields, criss-crossed by
winding roads and dotted with houses, all in miniature, seemed like
viewing a toy world. And here and there, just below them, there was the
occasional flash of feathered wings, as the birds darted in and out
among the treetops.

"Birds have to learn to fly, too. They get into trouble sometimes."

"They do?"

"Certainly--watch gulls on a windy day--you'll see them sideslip--go
into spins--and have a generally hard time of it!"

"Oh, really? I'd never thought of that. But of course they can fly much
better than a plane."

Bill shook his head. "That's where you are wrong. No bird can loop, or
fly upside down. Reverse control flying and acrobatics--stunting
generally is impossible for them.--But look below! Recognize the
scenery?"

"Why, we're almost over New Canaan. There are the white spires of the
Episcopal and Congregational churches--and there's Main Street--and the
railroad station!"

"And over on that ridge is your house--and mine across the way," he
added. "Well, here's where I nose her over. Hold tight--we're going
down."



                              _Chapter V_

                                TROUBLE


After releasing the rectractible wheel landing gear, which turned the
big amphibian from a seaplane into one which could land on terra firma,
Bill brought his big bus gently down to the ten acre lot behind the
Bolton residence.

As the plane rolled forward on its rubber tired wheels and came to a
stop, two men came walking in its direction from the trees at the edge
of the field.

"Here come our respective fathers--" announced Bill, stripping off his
headgear. "Remember--I take all responsibility for bringing you back in
the plane."

"You--do nothing of the kind!" Dorothy's tone was final. She handed him
her head-phone and running back through the cabin, vaulted the low
bulwark to the ground.

Bill hurriedly made things secure in the cockpit and followed her.

"And so you see, Dad," he heard her say, as he approached where they
stood, "Bill not only saved my life--he took all kinds of chances with
his own, flying in a gale like that. And--oh! I forgot to tell you that
he warned me _not_ to go out in the _Scud_ this afternoon!" she ended
with a mischievous look toward Bill.

Mr. Dixon was a tall man, whose tanned, rugged features and searching
gaze suggested the sportsman. He turned from his excited daughter, with
a smile and an outstretched hand.

"I'm beginning to realize, young man, that I owe you an apology for my
shortness over the phone. Judging from Dorothy's story, I can never hope
to express my gratitude for what you've done today."

Bill mumbled an embarrassed platitude as he shook hands, and was glad
when Mr. Bolton broke into the conversation.

"The Boltons, father and son, were probably born to be hung," he
chuckled. "It's a family trait, to fall into scrapes--and so far, to get
out of them just as quickly. Now, as nobody has been polite enough to
introduce me to the heroine of this meeting--I'm the hero's fond parent,
Miss Dorothy. We are about to celebrate this festive occasion by a
housewarming, in the form of a scrap dinner at the hero's home--what say
you?"

"But I thought you were coming to our house--" cried Dorothy. "I--"

"But me no buts, young lady. Your father has already accepted for you
both and we simply can't take no for an answer."

Dorothy glanced at Bill, who stood rather sheepishly in the background.
Then she laughed. "Why, of course, if you put it that way--I'd love to
come; that is, if the _hero_ is willing!"

"Say, do you think that's fair!" Bill's face was red. He didn't think
much of that kind of kidding. "I think it would be great, that is, if
you mean me," he ended in confusion.

Amid the general laughter that followed, Dorothy uttered a cry of
disgust. "But I can't come like this--" she pointed to her clothes,
which were the things that Bill had laid out for her in the big plane's
cabin.

"You look charming--" Mr. Bolton bowed, and Dorothy blushed. "However--"

"Make it snappy, then, dear." Mr. Dixon drew out his watch. "You have
just fifteen minutes. And Mr. Bolton won't keep dinner waiting for you,
if he's as famished as I am!"

"Oh, give me twenty!" she pleaded.

"All right--hurry, now!"

With a wave of her hand, Dorothy darted away.

"I'll look after the plane, Bill," said his father, as she disappeared
among the orchard trees. "I want to show Mr. Dixon over it, and that
will give you time for a slicking-up before dinner."

It was a jolly, though belated meal that was eventually served to them
in the cool, green dining room of the Bolton's summer home that evening.
Mr. Dixon, with the finesse of an astute business man, drew out Mr.
Bolton and his son, and the two told tales of adventure by land and sea
and air that fascinated the New England high school girl. It all seemed
unreal to her, sitting in the soft light of the candles. Yet the Boltons
made light of hairbreadth escapes in the world's unmapped areas--just as
if these strange adventures were daily occurrences in their lives, she
thought.

"It certainly is a shame!" she burst out suddenly. Coffee had been
served and they had moved to the comfort of low wicker chairs on the
terrace. The air was filled with the perfume of June roses.

"What's a shame?" Bill, now spick and span in white flannels, settled
back in his chair.

"Why, all the wonderful times you and Mr. Bolton have had--while Dad and
I were sticking around in New Canaan. I'd love to be an adventurer," she
finished.

"I dare say you'd find it mighty uncomfortable at times," observed her
father. "How about it, Bolton?"

"Like everything else, it has its drawbacks and becomes more or less of
a grind when one 'adventures' day in and day out--" that gentleman
admitted. "I'm only too glad to be able to settle down in this beautiful
ridge country for a few months--to rest and be quiet."

"There you are, Dorothy." Her father smiled in the darkness. "And who
would there be out in the wilds to admire that smart frock you're
wearing, for instance?"

"Gee, Dad! You know I don't care half as much about clothes as lots of
the girls--and that hasn't anything to do with it, anyway."

"I think we ought to break the news to her," suggested Bill, a white
blur in the depths of his chair.

Dorothy sat up eagerly. "What news?"

"But perhaps we'd better wait until tomorrow. Tonight, she wants to
become an explorer--and give away all her best dresses. She might not
take kindly to it." This from Mr. Dixon, between puffs of aromatic cigar
smoke.

"You're horrid--both of you. Don't you think it's mean of them to make
such a mystery of whatever they're talking about, Mr. Bolton? Won't you
tell me?"

"Of course, I will, my dear. What do you want to know?"

Dorothy choked with vexation. "_Oh!_"

"Let's tell her now--right now--" said Bill, his voice brimming with
laughter.

"I don't want to hear."

"Yes, you do--all together: one--two--three!
You--are--going--to--learn--to--fly!"

Dorothy sprang to her father's chair and caught his arm. "Will you
really let me, Dad?" she cried in delight.

"Mr. Bolton says that Bill is an A-1 instructor--and he claims that
flying is no more dangerous than sailing twenty-footers in a nor'easter,
so I suppose--"

"Oh--you _darling_!" Dorothy flung her arms about his neck.

"Here--here--" cried Mr. Dixon. "You're ruining my collar, and my
cigar--"

"Have another," suggested Mr. Bolton. "I'd willingly ruin boxes of
cigars if I had a daughter who'd hug me that way!"

"Aren't you nice!" She turned about and bestowed a second affectionate
embrace on that gentleman. "That is because you aren't quite as mean as
your son--he's the limit!"

"Never slang your instructor," sang out Bill. "That's one of the first
rules of the air."

"Seriously, Dorothy," her father interposed. "This is a big
responsibility Bill is taking--and I want your word that you'll do just
as he says. No more running off and smashing up a plane as you did the
_Scud_ this afternoon!"

"All right, Dad. I promise. But what am I to learn in? Bill says that
the Amphibian is too heavy--and she's not equipped with dual controls."

Mr. Dixon lit a fresh cigar. "I see that you've already started your
flight training."

"Bill explained the procedure to me on our way up here this afternoon.
But what are we going to do for a plane?"

"Bill has some scheme, I believe."

"Oh, I know," she decided. "Bill shall pick me out a nice little plane
and--"

"I shall pay for it," said her father grimly. "Nothing doing. When you
have won your wings--well--we shall see. Until then, you and Bill will
have to figure without financial help from your fond parent."

"That's fair enough," agreed Mr. Bolton.

"O.K. with me, too," echoed Bill. "I happen to have an old _N-9_, a Navy
training plane, down at the shipyard near the beach club, that will do
nicely. I was down there this afternoon having her pontoon removed. I
want to equip her with landing gear so I can house her up here. The
Amphibian uses up too much gas to go joy-hopping in."

A maid appeared on the doorstep.

"Mr. Dixon wanted on the phone, please," she announced, and waited while
that gentleman preceded her into the house.

A moment later Mr. Dixon was back on the terrace.

"The bank's been robbed!" he cried. "Sorry, gentlemen, but I've got to
hustle down there just as soon as possible."

"This way!" called Bill, springing down the steps to the garden. "My
car's out here--come on!"

"That young chap can keep his head," thought Mr. Dixon as he ran beside
his daughter and Mr. Bolton. "It would take a lot to fluster him."

Then they came upon him, backing slowly up the drive, both doors
swinging wide so they could jump in the car without his stopping.

"Which bank, Mr. Dixon?"

Bill had the car in the road now and was racing toward the village.

"First National--Main Street, next the Town Hall. I'm president, you
know."

"I didn't know. But I'm glad to hear it."

"How's that?"

"You should have a drag with the traffic cops. We are doing an even
sixty now--and it would be a bad time to get a ticket."

Mr. Dixon grasped the door-handle as Bill skidded them into a cross road
with the expertness of a racing driver. "Just get us there, that's all,"
he gasped. "The chief himself phoned me. I didn't wait to hear
details--but from what I gathered, the hold up men got clean away before
the police discovered the robbery. But time is always a factor in a case
of this kind, so don't worry about traffic rules."

"I won't," said Bill and fed his powerful engine still more gas.

Along the straight stretch of Oenoke Avenue they sped, with Bill's foot
still pressing the accelerator. They flashed past the white blur of the
Episcopal Church and on down the hill into Main Street and the little
town.

The car's brakes screamed and Bill brought them to a stop on the edge of
the crowd of pedestrians and vehicles that blocked further progress.

"D'you want us to wait here?" asked Mr. Bolton.

"No--come along," returned his friend, jumping to the sidewalk. "We'll
learn the worst together."



                              _Chapter VI_

                              THE HOLD UP


With Bill at her right and Mr. Bolton at her left elbow, Dorothy pushed
her way through the crowd behind her father to the entrance of the Bank.
The policeman at the head of the short flight of steps to the doorway
stood aside at a word from Mr. Dixon. The four passed inside and the
heavy door swung shut behind them.

"Rather like locking up the barn after the sheep vamoosed, isn't it?"
Bill nodded over his shoulder toward the police guard.

"Never mind, son--this isn't our party," rebuked his father.

A fat man in a dark blue uniform, rather tight as to fit and much
be-braided, came bustling up. "Who are these men, Mr. Dixon?" he
inquired pompously. "Can't have strangers around the bank at this
time--"

"From what I hear, Chief, you and your men let some strangers get away
with about everything but the bank itself a little while ago." Mr.
Dixon's tone showed his annoyance. "These gentlemen are friends of mine.
What's actually happened? Give me some facts. Anybody hurt? Anybody
caught? Just what has been taken?" Questions popped like revolver shots.

"Well--it's like this, sir--" The Chief seemed pretty well taken down.

"Thunderation! You and your sleuths are enough to tempt any man to law
breaking. There's Perkins! Perhaps I'll learn something from him."

Mr. Dixon strode toward the rear of the bank.

"You mustn't mind Dad," Dorothy said consolingly. "Just now he's half
crazy with worry, Chief.--These gentlemen are Mr. Bolton and his son.
They've bought the Hawthorne place, you know."

Chief Jones mopped his perspiring face with a red bandanna and then
shook hands all around. "Terrible warm tonight--terrible warm. Well,
let's go over and find out what's what. I was over to a party at my
daughter Annie's--only just got in here myself. Annie--"

"Yes, let's find out what has happened." Dorothy cut in on this
long-winded effusion, and led the way behind the tellers' cages to where
her father and several other men were standing before the open vault.

"Ah, here's the watchman now!" cried Mr. Dixon as a man, his head
completely covered with bandages, came toward them and sank weakly into
a chair. "Now, Thompson, do you think you can tell us exactly what
happened, before Doctor Brown drives you home?"

"Yes, sir. Glad to." The man's voice, though feeble, betrayed
excitement. "He sure knocked me out, that bird did--but I'd know him
again if I saw him. I c'd pick him out of a million--"

"That's fine," Mr. Dixon interrupted gently. "But start at the
beginning, Thompson, and we'll all get a better idea of him."

"That I will, sir, and 'right _now_!' as that French guy says over the
radio.... Well, it was about eight o'clock and still light, when the
night bell buzzed. I was expecting Mr. Perkins. He'd told me he'd be
back after supper as he had some work to do. I'd been readin' the paper
over there by the window, so I got up and opened the front door. But it
wasn't Mr. Perkins. A young fellow in a chauffeur's uniform stood
outside."

"'I'm Mr. Dixon's new chauffeur,' he said. 'Here's a note from him. He
tried to ring you up, but the phone down here seems to be out of order.
He said you'd give me a check book to take back to him. Better read
this.' He passed over a letter--"

"Have you still got it?" asked Mr. Dixon.

"I think so. Yes, here it is, in my pocket." Thompson handed the missive
to the bank president, who read it aloud:

    "'Dear Thompson:

    'Please give the bearer, my chauffeur, a blank check book and
    oblige

                                                       'Yours truly,
                                                      'John Dixon.'"

"Looks like my handwriting," sighed Mr. Dixon when he had finished, "but
of course I didn't write it!--What happened after that?"

"Well, sir, he asked me if he could step inside and take a few puffs of
a cigarette, seein' as how you didn't like him to smoke on the job. So I
let him in. Then I goes over to one of the desks for a check book and--I
don't remember nothin' about what happened next, until I found myself in
the far corner yonder, with Mr. Perkins near chokin' me to death with
some water he was pourin' down my throat--and a couple of cops undoin'
the rope I'd been bound up with. I reckon that feller must have beaned
me with the butt of his revolver just as soon as I'd turned my back. Doc
here, says as how the skull ain't fractured--but that bird sure laid me
out cold. If I hadn't had my cap on, he'd of croaked me sure. Of course,
I shouldn't of let that guy inside, but--"

Mr. Dixon's tone was abrupt as he silenced Thompson with a word. "Thank
you, Thompson," he said. "You are not to blame. If you hadn't let him
in, he might have shot you at the door. Doctor Brown is going to take
you home now. Lay up until you feel strong. And don't worry."

He patted the man on the shoulder and Thompson departed, leaning on the
doctor's arm.

"I guess you're next on the list, Harry." Mr. Dixon nodded to Perkins.
"How did you happen in here tonight?"

The cashier, a slender young man, prematurely bald, and dapper to the
point of foppishness, removed his cigarette from his mouth and stepped
forward.

"Had that Bridgeport transit matter and some other work I wanted to
finish," he said crisply. "Told Thompson I would be back about
eight-thirty. Matter of fact, it was twenty to nine when I rang the
night bell. I rang it several times, no answer; then tried the door and
found it unlocked. I thought something must be wrong--and was sure of it
when I stepped in and saw Thompson lying on the floor, his arms and legs
bound. Saw that he was breathing, and went to the phone. It was
dead--couldn't raise Central. I didn't waste much time then, but ran out
and hailed Sampson, the traffic cop on the corner. Told him there'd been
a holdup here, so he blew his whistle, which brought another policeman
and we three raced back here."

"You brought Thompson to and cut his bonds--then what?"

"I went to the vault. The door was ajar, with books and papers scattered
all over the place. Haven't had a chance to check up, but it looks as
though everything in the way of cash and negotiable securities has been
taken."

"But the door hasn't been damaged--they couldn't have blown it open!"

The cashier shook his head. "No," he admitted, "they opened it with the
combination. Must have used a stethoscope or the Jimmy Valentine touch
system--"

"Not with that safe, Perkins. But how about the time lock?"

"It is never put on, sir, until we have no more occasion to use the
vault for the day. I notified the Protective System people that I would
be working here tonight and would set it when I was through."

"Humph!" growled the president in a tone that boded ill for someone. "So
the time lock wasn't set!"

"It is the usual practice, sir," explained Perkins nervously. "I--"

"Never mind that now. Anyone else know anything about this robbery?"

"Yes, sir. Sampson, the traffic policeman saw the car."

"Well, let's hear from Sampson, then, if he's here."

The officer came forward rather sheepishly.

"I was directin' traffic at the corner of Main Street and East Avenue,
sir, when I seen your car run down Main and stop in front of the bank
here."

"_My_ car!" exploded Dorothy's father.

"Yes, sir--least it was a this year's Packard like you drive--and it had
your license number on it--AB521--I ought to know, I see it every day."

"Yes, that's the number--but--well ... did you notice it further?"

"Yes, sir, I did. That was about eight o'clock. The chauffeur got out
and rang the bell at the entrance to the bank. Then I seen him speak to
Thompson and pass inside."

"Did you investigate?"

"Why, no, sir. The man came out almost directly and the door swung shut
behind him. Then he jumped into the car and drove up the alley at the
side of the bank. You always park your car there, sir, so I thought
nothin' of it. About twenty minutes later, out he drove again and up
Main Street the way he'd come. And that's the last I've seen of him."

"There was only one man in the car--the chauffeur?"

"I only saw one. If there was anybody else, they must've been lying
down, in the bottom of the car."

"Very likely." Mr. Dixon turned to the chief of police. "And what has
been done toward catching the thieves--or thief?"

"Nothing, as yet," the Chief confessed. "But I'll get busy on the wire
with descriptions of the man and the car right away. You see, I only
just--"

"Never mind that--get along now and burn up the wires. That car has had
over an hour's start on you. I'll look after things here for the
present."

The head of the local police force waddled off with much the air of a
fat puppy who had just received a whipping, and Mr. Dixon walked over to
Mr. Bolton.

"You can do me a great favor, if you will," he said.

"Name it, Dixon."

"Thanks. Go to the drug store down the block and call up the Bankers
Protective Association in the city. You'll find their number in the
directory. Tell them what's happened--that will be enough. I want you to
call their New York headquarters. That will start them on the job
through their branches in short order."

"Right-oh!" his friend agreed. "And when I get through with New York,
I'll see what New Canaan can do to fix your phone here."

"Thanks. I'll appreciate it."

"Anything I can do, Mr. Dixon?" inquired Bill.

"Nothing here, thanks. But if you will take my daughter home and see
that she doesn't get into any more trouble today, I'll be much obliged
to you."

"Oh, _Dad_!" Dorothy, threw him a reproachful look, then stood on tiptoe
and kissed her parent's cheek. "There, there. I know you're worried.
Phone me when you want the car. I'll have sandwiches and coffee waiting
when you get home."

Mr. Dixon gave her an affectionate hug. "You're a good little
housewife," he praised, "but run along now--both of you. There are a
million-odd things to be done before I can leave."

He beckoned to the cashier and disappeared with him into the vault.

"Not that way, Bill--" Dorothy's voice arrested Bill as he started for
the door. "Come out the back way."

"What's up?"

"I don't know yet. But I've found something that the rest seem to have
missed. It may be important--come and see."

"You're on, Miss Sherlock," he said. Catching her arm, he hurried with
her toward the rear of the bank.



                             _Chapter VII_

                             GROUND TRAILS


Bill unlatched the back door of the bank, pushed it open and stood aside
for Dorothy to pass through.

"Wait a minute." She put out a restraining hand. The full glare of the
arc light in the alley fell on the damp ground at their feet. "Right
over there are the tire marks of the holdup car. It's lucky it rained
this afternoon. The prints are perfect in this mud."

"Well, that's interesting, but--"

"Oh, no. Of course they won't solve the mystery. That's what you were
going to say, isn't it?" Dorothy's voice was mocking as she looked up at
Bill. "But here--see these footprints? From this door to the car?" Her
tone was triumphant now. "They ought to help just a little, don't you
think?"

But Bill seemed unmoved at her discovery. "Probably hoofmarks of the
cops," he said rather disparagingly.

Dorothy laughed. "If those footprints were made by policemen I'll eat
them. Where are your eyes, Bill? The cops in this town wear regulation
broad-toed shoes. When I heard the traffic cop tell Dad that he'd seen
the robbers' car go up the alley, I dashed out here to have a look
around. And as soon as I saw these prints I knew they were not made by
broad-toed boots. Let's examine them closer."

Taking care to avoid stepping on the well defined trail that led from
the door to the tire marks of the car, the two studied the line of
footprints.

"One fellow wore rubber soled shoes--I guess you're right, Dorothy,"
acknowledged Bill, squatting on his heels. "The pattern on this set of
prints could have been made by nothing else. But what do you make of
these tracks here? Just holes in the mud with a flat dab right ahead?"

"High heeled shoes, Bill. One of this gang is a woman, that is clear
enough. What bothers me is the third set--look!"

Bill stared at the footprints to which she pointed. "The right-hand one
was made by a long, narrow shoe, but I'll swear that boot last was never
made in America. It's too pointed," he said finally. "The shoe that made
that imprint was bought in southern Europe, I'll bet--Italy, probably.
But those queer looking marks to the left are beyond me," he frowned.
Then he cried--"No, they're not! I have it--the man who made those
prints was club-footed!"

Dorothy disagreed with him. "A club-foot couldn't make that mark. It is
too symmetrical--straight on both sides and kind of rounded at the back
and front. It wasn't made by a wooden leg, either, Bill!"

"No. That would simply dig a hole in the mud."

"Oh, I know! Why didn't I see it at once!" she exclaimed excitedly--"The
man was lame!"

Bill snorted. "And he had long pink whiskers which he tied round his
waist with a green ribbon!"

"Don't be silly--I know what I'm talking about."

"How so?"

"I _know_ that a lame man made that set of marks."

"Very well. May Doctor Watson inquire on what Miss Sherlock Holmes bases
her astounding deduction?"

"On those queer marks, of course, stupid!"

"Thanks. The clouds have vanished. You make everything so lucid." Bill
stood erect once more.

"But, Bill--did you ever see a lame man--whose left leg was shorter than
his right?"

"Maybe I did. But I can't swear at this distant date which leg was the
shorter."

"Well, I can tell you that in this case, the left was!"

"Maybe--"

"Maybe nothing! Why am I sure of it? Because the man wore a lame man's
boot--the kind with a very thick sole. My grandfather wore one. He
twisted his hip when he was a boy and that leg didn't grow as long as
the other. What is more, he always walked on the _sole_ of his big
boot--the heel never touched the ground!"

"I believe you _are_ right," mused the young man, studying one of the
queer footprints again.

"I know I am, Bill. That kind of a shoe would make exactly that print.
Not such a bad hunch to take a look out here, was it?"

"You're a swell sleuth, Dorothy. Let's see. Now we know there were three
in the gang this evening. The chap who played chauffeur and wore
sneakers, a woman, and a lame man--probably an Italian."

"Yes. But that doesn't solve the mystery, does it?"

"No, but it helps a lot. How about the tire tracks?"

"Not our car. Daddy uses Silvertowns and those were made by some other
kind."

"Goodyears, I should say. How about going in now and telling your father
what we've learned?"

"I'd rather not, if you don't mind?"

"Why!"

"Well, you see, Bill, Dad hasn't much confidence in girls' views on what
he calls 'the practical side of life'--mine especially. There'll soon be
a bunch of detectives on this case. If they find out for themselves,
it's O.K. with me--but I shan't tell them."

"You want to work up the case yourself?"

"That's exactly it. If you'll help me?"

"Certainly I will. But we may get into trouble--I mean it is likely to
be dangerous work."

"Does that bother you?"

"I'd hate to have you get hurt--"

"I won't do anything on my own without telling you first. We'll work
together. Does that suit your highness?"

"You bet! Where do we go from here?"

"Back to my house. We'll go down the alley and hop in your car. I want
to ride up to our garage. I've got another hunch."

"The kid's clever," remarked Bill admiringly. "Want to tell me? I
haven't a glimmer."

They turned out of the alley into Main Street before Dorothy answered.

"Suppose you guess," she suggested teasingly as she stepped into the
car. "Or, better still, now that you've become my aviation instructor,
I'll even things up and give you a short course in sleuthing."

"That's a go, teacher," grinned Bill. The car rolled up the hill past
the white Memorial Cross on the village green. "But to a mere amateur in
crime it looks as though you had barged into a pretty good mystery, no
kidding."

"Sh--" commanded Dorothy. "Sherlock Holmes is thinking."

"Don't strain anything," Bill advised as he stepped on the accelerator.

Dorothy did not retort to this thrust, but remainder wrapped in her
thoughts for the remainder of the ride. Bill turned the car into the
Dixon's drive before she spoke again.

"Keep on to the garage, please."

"Right-oh! Still sleuthing, I take it?"

"Yes."

"What _is_ the big idea?"

"Wait and see."

He drew up under the arching elms with the glare of their headlights
focussed upon the closed garage doors. Dorothy sprang out and ran
forward.

"Locked," she affirmed, giving the handle a tug. "Wait a minute, Bill.
I'll be right back." She disappeared in the direction of the house.

Bill shut off the engine and clambered down to the ground. Presently he
saw her coming back, accompanied by a woman in maid's cap and apron.

"All right, Lizzie," her young mistress said, "I want to look at
something first. Then you can tell us exactly what happened. That's
right, give me the key."

She swung open one of the wide doors.

"The Packard's there, just as I told you, Miss Dorothy," volunteered
Lizzie as the three stepped inside the garage. "It's your car that's
missing."

"I left it at the beach club--" Dorothy cut herself short. "The license
plates are gone from the Packard!"

"Wasn't that to be expected after what the cop told us in the bank?"
There was a hint of mockery in Bill's voice.

"Of course. But the point is--were they taken this afternoon while Daddy
had the car parked behind the bank--or later this evening after he drove
home? He would never remember whether he drove from the bank with the
plates still attached or not. He never notices details like that."

Bill seemed amused. "Perhaps not--but what's the difference?"

"Wait a minute. You'll soon get another slant. Now, Lizzie--start from
the very beginning."

Lizzie spoke up eagerly. "Yes, miss. Cook and me was havin' our supper
in the kitchen, miss--"

"Where was Arthur?--He's our chauffeur-gardener," explained Dorothy to
Bill.

"It's Arthur's night off, miss. He went to the movies--said he'd get a
bite at the lunch wagon in the village, though why a man should want to
eat hot dogs and such trash with honest-to-goodness vittles waiting for
him at home is more than--"

"Never mind that now, Lizzie.--You and cook were eating supper--?"

"Yes, miss. We was just finishin' when we heard a car pass the house on
its way out to the garage. I thought it might be Arthur, back in the
Ford for some supper. Cook said--"

"Oh, Lizzie, please! What happened then?"

"Why, a man came to the back door and asked for the key to the garage.
Said as how he had orders to fix the Packard."

"What time was that?"

"About five minutes after we heard the car drive out here, miss."

"No--I mean the time of day."

"I couldn't rightly say, Miss Dorothy. The kitchen clock is down to
Whipple's being mended. But it was just after you'd gone over to Mr.
Bolton's for dinner."

"What did the man look like, Lizzie?"

"Like any young man, miss."

"But was he tall or short?"

"Kind of medium-like--"

"Dark hair or light?"

"I can't seem to remember--he had a chauffeur's cap on and was in his
shirt sleeves, that I do know."

"Did you notice if he limped?"

"No, he didn't, miss--but the other fellow did--him with the big boot."

"Bull's eye!" cried Bill. "You're sure some detective, Dorothy!"

"Keep still?" ordered that young lady. And then to the housemaid: "We'll
take up the man with the big boot in a minute, Lizzie. Now then, you
gave the other one the garage key, I s'pose?"

Lizzie snorted. "That I didn't, miss. I took the key off the hook and
walked out to the garage with him. Mr. Dixon wouldn't be thankin' me to
let strange men fool round in the garage by theirselves!"

"Then how in thunder did they cop the license plates without your seeing
them?" exploded Bill.

"Do shut up and let me talk!" Dorothy stamped her foot impatiently.
"Now, Lizzie, what happened next?"

"Well, miss, I unlocked the doors and he started tinkerin' with the
engine of the Packard there. Then all of a sudden he went out to the
other car and spoke to somebody inside."

"What car was that?"

"The one he'd drove up in. It was parked out on the drive where the
young gentleman has his'n now."

"Another Packard, was it?"

"I couldn't say, miss. I didn't pay much attention to it, except that it
was a closed car--and there was a man and a woman in back."

Dorothy exchanged glances with Bill. "And then?"

"Then the young feller comes back and says as how the lady in the car
was feeling sick, and could I fetch her a glass of water with a
teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in it. I knew we had some in the
medicine chest upstairs, so--"

"So you went back to the house and got it?"

"Yes, miss."

"And _that's_ when they copped the plates!" declared Bill, the
irrepressible.

"Bull's eye!" derided Dorothy. "How'd you guess it?"

"Form of genius some of us have."

Dorothy ignored this last and turned again to the maid. "What happened
when you brought back the bicarb, Lizzie?"

"I give it to the young lady in the car, miss."

"Young, was she?"

"I couldn't get a good look at her face, for she was dabbin' her eyes
with a handkerchief like she'd been cryin'. But she was dressed in some
of those new-fangled pajamas like you wear to the beach, they was--sort
of yellow-green color--and a wisp of her hair that had got loose from
the bandanna she wore was red--the brightest red hair I ever see. She
turned her head away when she drunk the medicine, but she thanked me
prettily enough when she handed back the glass."

"Have you washed it yet?"

"No, miss. You see, I--"

"Then don't. I want that glass, just as it is. Was the lame man sitting
beside her?"

"No. When I brought her the soda he was comin' out of the garage with
the other fellow. He was carryin' a package wrapped in newspaper and he
says as how he was takin' some part of the engine back to the shop. He
spoke kind of funny, like a foreigner, I thought. And all dolled up in a
light suit and a cane. Why, he'd even got lemon colored gloves on for
all his lameness and the big boot he wore!"

"Did the girl and the other man wear gloves?"

"The man put them on when he started to tinker with the car, I remember.
But the girl had no gloves on."

"You're sure?"

"Oh, yes, miss, because I noticed her shiny pink finger nails,
particular. I thought at the time that washin' dishes couldn't be no
part of her life."

"That's fine, Lizzie. You make a splendid witness."

"Thanks, miss. I got a good look at the lame man, too. He had a funny
little black mustache like they wear in the movies and little gold knobs
in his ears--what do think of _that_!" Lizzie paused dramatically as she
gave this choice bit of information.

"Earrings?"

"Earrings, miss--and--"

"Thank you, Lizzie. You may go now."

"Remember those earrings, miss. And I'll keep the glass for you, and
won't let cook touch it either, never fear!" Lizzie's slight figure
faded into the darkness.

"So you've got pretty good descriptions of the gang _and_ the lady's
fingerprints!" Bill summed up. "I've got to hand it to you, kid. Reckon
you'll have to let your father know about it though. Those fingerprints
will have to be examined by the police."

Dorothy nodded. "Guess you're right. I'll tell him what we found out."

"What _you've_ found out, you mean. As I think I told you before, when
it comes to detective work, I'm a ground hog!"

"Nonsense! But that reminds me, Bill. Do I get a lesson tomorrow?"

"Do you think you can take time enough from your life work?"

"Don't be ridiculous. You may think I've finished fooling with this
robbery when I turn over the dope to Daddy--but I haven't. I want a
flying lesson, just the same, in the morning. Shall we go up in the
_Loening_ again?"

"No. I'll drive you down to the shore and we'll take the _N-9_ out.
Don't wait for your father to-night. Tell him what you want to at
breakfast."

"But I've got to--"

"This is your flight instructor speaking, Dorothy. No lesson in the
morning for you, young lady, unless you go straight to bed now and get a
good night's rest. A clear head and steady nerves are the first
requisites for flying."

"All right then. I'll turn in directly. Good night."

Bill was already seated behind the wheel of his car. "Good night,
Dorothy. By the way, _I've_ got a hunch about this bank business. After
you've had some flight training we'll investigate together--and the
plane will be a great asset," he added mysteriously. His foot pressed
the self-starter.

"Don't be so vague--spill the news like a good fellow."

"Sh--" mocked Bill. "'Sherlock Holmes is thinking!'" His laugh rang out
and the car disappeared in the deep shadows of the drive.

"He's not so dumb as he pretends," mused Miss Dixon. "What can he have
up his sleeve?"

Slowly she moved off toward the back door of the house.



                             _Chapter VIII_

                              NEXT MORNING


"You've done splendidly, my dear. I'm proud of you. This information
you've dug up will be a lot of help in tracing that gang, I'm sure."

Dorothy and her father were seated at the table, taking their morning
meal in the breakfast porch, just off the dining room. Although the bond
of affection uniting father and daughter was a strong one, especially
since the mother's death some years earlier, neither was particularly
demonstrative. And Dorothy was not used to receiving unstinted praise of
this sort from her father. The colour in her cheeks deepened, and she
said off-handedly:

"I'm awfully glad, Daddy. You haven't had your second cup of coffee,
have you?"

Mr. Dixon smiled, and passed his cup to her. His shrewd glance took in
her evident embarrassment.

"No need to dissemble, daughter. Fact is, I keep forgetting you're no
longer a child; and I don't mind telling you how valuable you are to
me."

Dorothy smiled back at him. "Thanks a lot, Dad." She returned his filled
cup. "Did the gang get away with much?"

"Plenty. A number of easily negotiable bonds, what currency we had on
hand, etc. Of course, we're well covered by insurance--but the worst of
it is, they took Mrs. Hamberfield's diamond necklace!"

"What! The Hamberfields, of Canoe Hill?"

"The same. They bought the old Adams place two years ago and keep it for
a summer residence. More money there than--er--taste, I believe. Mrs. H.
goes in for jewels on a big scale."

"Wears diamonds at breakfast, I'll bet, Daddy. She came to the Country
Club last Saturday night, dressed up to the hilt and beyond it. I've
never seen so much jewelry! Doug Parsons suggested that she'd been
robbing Tiffany's. A regular ice-wagon with her diamonds!"

"Well, she's lost a lot of them, now. That gang evidently knew she had a
habit of keeping some of them in her deposit box at the bank, for it was
the only one they raided."

"That's interesting."

"In what way?"

"Never mind now. Tell me some more."

"Well, naturally, I phoned the lady last night--and well--she was most
unpleasant--"

"The nasty cat! Serves her right to have them stolen!"

"Hardly that, dear. But the bank is responsible for her necklace and
other gewgaws. And her husband is a power in the financial world."

Having breakfasted sufficiently for one day, Dorothy was busy with an
orange lipstick.

"More unpleasantness for you, Daddy?" she asked through pursed lips, her
eyes on the small mirror of her compact, open on the table before her.

"He is in a position to do the bank considerable harm--By the way,
Dorothy, are you as efficient at manicuring as you are at making up your
mouth?"

"P-perhaps. Why?"

"Good. Then, after this I'll get you to do my nails while I have my
second cup of coffee each morning!"

"Aren't you horrid!"

"Aren't you the cheeky kid, using that thing in front of me?"

"You really don't mind, Daddy?"

"Do you think it an improvement over nature?"

"I know it isn't."

"Why use a lipstick then?"

"But--why do you wear that curly mustache?"

"More cheek?"

"Not at all. But it adds dignity to your face--what's more, your
mustache is becoming and you know it."

"Nonsense!" Mr. Dixon's tone was derisive but there was a twinkle in his
keen gray eyes.

Dorothy nodded decisively. "While my lipstick, properly used, is also
becoming," she went on. "And it gives your daughter a sophisticated
appearance otherwise lacking--" she broke off with a giggle as she saw
her father's expression.

Dorothy snapped her compact shut and rose from the table. Going round to
his side, she gave her father a hug and kissed him lightly on his
mustache. "There!" she laughed. "Now I've added sophistication to your
dignity, Daddy. You'll be able to run both the bank and that ritzy Mrs.
Hamberfield like a charm today. So long! Bill is coming for me and we're
going down to the beach. I'm to have my first real flight instruction
this morning, you know."

"From all accounts you did pretty well yesterday, young lady. Don't you
think you'd better come down to the bank and tell the story of your
sleuthing to the Bankers' Association detectives? They'll be up here
from New York this morning."

From the doorway, Dorothy shook her head. "Nothing doing!" she cried. "I
love you a lot--but you have the story down pat yourself--and I've got a
date I can't break. That glass with the fingerprints on it, you'll find
nicely wrapped up on the hall table. 'By--" She was through the door and
across the lawn before Mr. Dixon could reply.

He folded his napkin and laid it on the table with a sigh. "Heigho!" he
murmured. "I wonder what her mother would say to that? Still, Dorothy
grows more like her every day. The youngster has brains if she only uses
them in the right way. She certainly has been a help on this
robbery--and she is a comfort to me--but a great responsibility at
that."

Then, carefully lighting his after-breakfast cigar, Mr. Dixon walked
into the house.

Shortly after Mr. Dixon had left for the bank, Bill's horn honked in the
drive.

Dorothy appeared presently, wearing a boy's outing shirt open at the
neck and a pair of fawn-colored jodhpurs. She noticed as she approached
the car that Frank, the Bolton's chauffeur, was seated in the rumble.

"I've got to run into New York and buy some flying clothes," she
announced as she seated herself at Bill's side.

"Don't bother about clothes, for heaven's sake. They won't help you to
fly. I've got several extra helmets and some goggles and those things
you're wearing now will be just the thing. All you need are
overalls--and I bought you those in the village this morning."

"Aren't you nice," she beamed. "But I do need a leather coat, don't I?"

"What for?"

"Didn't you tell me the cockpits of your N-9 were open--that they didn't
have windshields?"

"Yes--but what of it?"

"Won't it be cold?"

"Not at this time of year. We're not out for an altitude record. Of
course, when you get a couple of miles or so above the earth you have to
bundle up--but the old OXX motor in my N-9 would never get you there.
She's not built for that kind of work. Later on, you can order a monkey
suit or a leather coat from the city."

"Yes, I'll get one of those sporty knee-length coats--" decided Dorothy
gleefully.

"Not if I know it!"

"But why not? They're so goodlooking!"

"And more dangerous than a broken strut!"

"They are?" Dorothy's tone was horrified.

"Certainly. If you buy a coat, get a waist-length model. Anything longer
not only hampers a pilot, it catches the wind and is likely to get
caught around your stick or other controls and crash the plane."

"Oh!" said Dorothy disappointedly.

Bill slanted his eyes from the road and smiled at her. "Not everyone who
wears a yachting cap is a yachtsman! You'll have plenty to think of
during your flight training without bothering about such things."

"I guess you're right," she agreed. "How long will it take to teach me
to fly, Bill?"

"It all depends upon your aptitude, Dorothy. Ask me again after ten
hours of dual instruction. But no matter how apt you prove to be, flying
is not learned in a day. I've mapped out a forty-hour course for you.
Want to look it over?" He handed her a typewritten sheet.

She studied the paper interestedly. It was titled.

                      "Course of Flight Training.

      I. _Dual Instruction._

     First hour     Taxiing
                    Straight flying
                    Turns
                    Glides

     Second         Take-offs
                    Climbing
                    S-turns
                    Breaking Glide and leveling off
                    Slow motion landings by instructor

     Third          Flying at leveling-off height
                        (seaplanes only)
                    Slow motion landings
                    Normal landings, use of elevators only

     Fourth         Cut-gun landings, under three feet,
                        elevators only

     Sixth          Normal landings
                    Cut-gun landings
                    Spirals
                    Use of ailerons, rudder, throttle
                    Approaches
                    Elementary forced landings

     Ninth          Stalls and spins

      II. _Elementary Solo Flying._

  First solo: Five minute flight, necessary turns, one landing

  First 5 hours: Take-offs, turns, landings

  Instruction flight: Instruction as necessary, including spins;
    power stall landings (seaplanes only)

  5 to 10 hours: Take-offs, turns, spirals, landings

  Instruction flight: Instruction as necessary, including spins

  10-15 hours: Same as 5 to 10 hours

      III. _Advanced Flying._

  Instruction flight: Reverse control turns and spirals, side-slips,
    power spins

  15-20 hours: Take-offs, turns, spirals, landings; reverse control
    turns and spirals

  Instruction flight--Acrobatics

  20-25 hours: Acrobatics, with 20 minutes of each hour on elementary
    work

  Instruction flight: Precision landings, forced landings,
    figure-eight turns, wing-overs

  25-30 hours: Precision landings, forced landings, figure-eight
    turns, wing-overs

  Final instructions flight: Review; instruction as necessary."

"Looks pretty complicated to me," sighed Dorothy, handing back the
paper. "Gee, but there's a lot to learn!"

"More than the average novice has any idea of. But don't imagine that
this course will make you or anyone else an experienced pilot.
Additional time must be spent in the air before you can get an
interstate commercial pilot's license. But after the instruction I've
outlined here, your knowledge of flying should be sufficient to enable
you to go on with your training yourself."

"I hope so," said Dorothy, but there was little confidence in her tone.

Bill brought the car to a stop beside an open field.

"Cheer up!" he encouraged. "Flying is like anything else worth
while--troublesome to learn, but easy enough when you know how. Hop out,
kid. There's the N-9, with her new landing gear, over there. Frank will
take the car back. We'll fly up to my place now and I'll give you your
first real instruction over our own flying field!"



                              _Chapter IX_

                               AIR TRAILS


Dorothy donned her overalls while Bill spoke to the mechanic who was
waiting by the plane. Then the man got into a car and drove away, and
Bill beckoned her to him.

"All set?"

"All set."

"Then we'll begin. First of all, you must know the names of the
different parts of the plane. Some you know already, but we'll go over
them just the same. That hinged movable auxiliary surface on the
trailing edge of the wing is an aileron. Its primary function is to
impress a rolling movement on the airplane. Got that?"

"Yes."

"Then repeat what I just said."

Dorothy did so.

"Good. Now this is a drag wire."

After twenty minutes of this kind of thing he asked her to point out an
aileron and explain its use.

"K.O." he said at last. "We'll go over parts each day for a while and
the book work you must do at home will help to refresh your memory. Now
nip into the forward cockpit and I'll explain the working of the
controls."

He gave Dorothy a hand up and when she was seated, swung himself on to
the cowl of the cockpit.

"First of all--and let this become habit--" he ordered, "adjust your
safety belt. Yes, that's the way. Now we'll go ahead. That's the stick
there. Take hold of it. You'll notice it is pivoted at its base. Forward
movement of the stick increases the angle of attack of the elevators and
depresses the nose. Backward movement decreases angle and raises the
nose. Lateral movement of the stick operates the ailerons, movement to
the right depressing the right wing, and to the left, the left wing."

When she was sure she understood the functions of one thing he explained
the next.

"Now tell me just what I have told you--" he commanded.

Fully an hour had gone by before he was satisfied that she understood
thoroughly.

"Tired?" he asked at last.

"Not a bit," she smiled. "I'm afraid I'm kind of dumb--but all these
gadgets, as you call them, are a little confusing at first."

"Oh, you're catching on in first rate order," he told her. "Nothing but
practice will make you letter perfect. And that comes soon enough when
you handle the plane yourself. Now I'll fly us home. All I want you to
do is to fold your arms and listen. Keep your eyes in the cockpit and
watch the movements of the stick and rudder bar. My cockpit aft is
equipped with similar controls. When I move my stick--yours moves--and
vice versa. All right?"

"You bet."

He reached in his pocket and drew forth a small leather-bound book which
he handed her.

"Here's your Flight Log Book, Dorothy. Write it up after every flight.
There are columns for the date, type of plane, duration and character of
flight, passengers or crew carried (if any) and remarks. A commercial
pilot should have his log book certified monthly by an official of the
company. For a student it is a good thing to commence during training.
Stick it in your pocket," he advised as she thanked him. "And put on
this helmet. It's a Gosport, with phones in both ear flaps, connected by
a voice tube to this mouthpiece. I'll use that end of it to coach you
through during flight."

"But this helmet is hard and stiff," objected Dorothy. "I'll bet it
isn't nearly as comfortable as that nice soft leather one you're
wearing."

"Possibly not. But until you're through with your instruction I want you
to wear a 'crash' helmet. They're a lot of protection for the head in
case of minor accident. No instructor worth his salt permits a student
to use a soft leather helmet until you've had a lot of experience."

"Oh, very well then," she said, adjusting her heavy headgear, "you're
the boss!"

"You bet I am when it comes to this kind of thing. If I weren't sure you
were willing to give me strict obedience, I'd never propose teaching
you. And please remember that this isn't a joy hop. The more attentive
you are to instruction--the quicker you'll learn."

"I'm your willing slave, sir," she mocked good-humoredly, and drew the
helmet strap tight beneath her chin.

Then as the engine roared and the plane rolled forward she felt the same
thrill she had experienced the afternoon before when she and Bill had
taken off in the amphibian. The same tightening of her muscles and
beating throb of the pulse in her neck. They were soaring upward now and
the sensation of smoothness became apparent after the jars and bumps of
taxiing over the rough field. The sting of the wind on her face was
exhilarating, but her eyes were streaming. Realizing that she had forgot
to adjust her goggles, she pulled them down from the front of her
helmet.

"I've been wondering how long it would be before you did that," came
Bill's voice through the headphones. "Never mind--it's a grand thrill
while it lasts--you'll lose it soon enough."

Dorothy, for the first time in her life, found a retort impossible to
make.

"Now that we've got enough air under us," Bill's voice continued, "I'm
going to fly straight for home. Remember what I said about watching your
stick and rudder bar. Also keep an eye on the bank-and-turn indicator as
well as the fore and aft level indicator and inclinometer."

Dorothy shifted her gaze to the instrument board before her.
Unconsciously she ticked off the other instruments. There were the two
Bill had just mentioned; a magneto switch, oil pressure gauge, earth
inductor, compass indicator, altimeter, 8-day clock, primary pump and
tachometer. It pleased her that she could so readily recall their names
and uses. Then she heard Bill's voice in her ear again:

"The reason that I keep pulling the stick back slightly so often,
Dorothy, in level flight, is because the old bus is a bit nose heavy.
You'll notice it when you handle her later on. It's nothing to worry
about. Very few planes are perfectly balanced."

Dorothy turned her eyes guiltily on the stick again. She had been caught
napping that time! One really needed half a dozen pairs of eyes for a
job like this. And--how different Bill's manner aboard an airplane, she
thought. He was certainly all business. But she respected and admired
his knowledge and his ability as an airpilot which left no opening for
argument.

"You can look overside now," came his voice again interrupting her
thoughts. "We're going to land."

Below them she saw the Bolton's house. The nose of the plane dropped
suddenly as the stick went forward and they shot down to land on the
field near the Bolton's hangar.

Bill spoke again from the rear cockpit. "If you're ready for more flight
instruction, hold up your right hand."

Dorothy held up her right hand.

"Good. Then we'll practice taxiing," came back the even voice. "Remember
that a land plane with engine idling will remain at rest on the ground
in winds of normal force. That means that all movement of the plane must
be made by use of the engine. When your bus begins to move you control
it primarily by using the rudder. In a wind as strong as the one blowing
now, you'll notice the plane's tendency to turn into it. That's due to
the effect on the tail. It tends to swing like a weathervane until the
nose is headed directly toward the point of the compass from which the
wind is blowing. Your experience in sailing is going to be a great help.

"Now, just one thing more and we'll shove off. While taxiing, you must
hold the stick well back of neutral. That will prevent any tendency of
the tail to rise and cause the plane to nose over. Grasp the stick
lightly with your fingers. Never freeze onto anything. If you feel me
wiggle the stick sharply--let go at once. I may or may not have my hands
and feet on the controls, but you cannot know that. Act just as if you
were alone in the plane. Got all that?"

Dorothy raised her hand again.

"Then snap on the ignition and get going."

For the next hour she taxied the _N-9_ around the field while Bill
issued commands from the rear cockpit. So interested was she in her
lesson that it seemed no time at all before he told her to shut off the
engine.

"Take off your helmet and get down," he said as the plane came to a
stop. And he helped her overside.

"Gee, Bill, it's wonderful!" she cried, jumping lightly to the ground
beside him.

"You did splendidly," he encouraged. "This field is pretty rough in
spots--makes it bumpy going. How are you--stiff?"

"Not a bit!"

"You need a rest, just the same."

"But I'm not in the least tired. Can't I go up now?"

Bill looked at her and shook his head. "Nothing doing," he said with
pretended sternness. "That is--not for the next fifteen minutes. Here
comes Frank with something cold to drink on his tray--horse's neck,
probably. There's nothing like iced ginger ale with a string of lemon
peel in it when you're real thirsty!"

"My, you're thoughtful!"

"Don't thank me--it's all Frank's idea."

They sipped their drinks in the shade of the old barn that had been
turned into a hangar for the Bolton's planes.

"While you're resting, I want you to study this paper, Dorothy. It's a
routine I want you to follow in preparing for every flight you
take--with me, or soloing," he explained, handing it over. "When you've
got it by heart, repeat it to me and then we'll carry on. Your first job
for the next hop will be to do exactly what I've written there."

For perhaps ten minutes both were silent and Bill closed his eyes and
turned over on his back.

"Asleep?" asked Dorothy presently.

"No--just relaxing. Got that dope down pat?"

"Sure. I mean, yes, instructor."

"Give me back the paper then, and shoot!" he said, sitting up.

"Preparations for flight:" recited Dorothy. "First, inspect the plane
and engine as necessary. Second, observe the wind direction. Third,
observe the course direction (if a course is being flown). Fourth, set
the altimeter. Fifth, see that helmet, goggles and cushions are properly
adjusted. Sixth, see that cloth to wipe goggles is handy. Seventh, give
the engine a ground test. Eighth, see that the gas valve is properly
set. Ninth and last--Buckle the safety belt!"

"One hundred per cent! Good work, Dot. Now come over to the plane and
show me how you do it."

He grinned, awaiting a quick retort--but Dorothy, intent on the business
of learning to fly, walked at his side in a fit of concentration.

"She sure is keen," he said to himself. "I never got a rise--and 'Dot,'
to Dorothy, is like waving the American flag at a Mexican bull!"

Dorothy continued to prove her aptitude for she went through the flight
preparations with but one mistake. She entirely forgot the matter of the
cloth to wipe her goggles!

Presently he took her up again and started in with his coaching.

"You now have thirty-five hundred feet registered on your altimeter," he
announced through her phone. "Enough air below to get us out of trouble
if we should happen to get into it. The higher one flies, the safer one
is. Now you are going to get straight flight instruction. I am moving
the stick backward--now forward--now backward--now forward. See how the
nose of the plane rises and falls in response? Watch closely--I'm going
to do it again. There, now--take the stick and do it yourself."

Dorothy did as he bade her. It was thrilling to feel the huge plane
respond to her will.

Then followed instruction in moving the stick successively right and
left by which means the right wing and then the left are correspondingly
depressed. After that came rudder instruction. First Bill pushed the
right and left sides of the rudder bar successively, forward, thereby
swerving the nose first to the right and then to the left.

Dorothy, of course repeated these movements after him.

Then he explained that to hold a steady course, to fly straight,
constant right rudder must be maintained to overcome the torque, or drag
of the propeller blades tending to swing the nose to the left. While to
fly level longitudinally, some point on the engine is kept in line with
the horizon. That to fly level laterally, up aileron and opposite rudder
are applied whenever a wing drops. He told her numerous other things,
such as that when flying straight, the nose should frequently be dropped
momentarily, or the course changed a few degrees in order to look ahead.
Otherwise, an approaching plane may be hidden by the engine.

"Good night!" thought Dorothy as she strained her ears to catch every
word, while she watched the controls and saw how the plane reacted to
their manipulation by her instructor. "If it takes all this detail to
fly straight and level, I'll get the heebie-jeebies when it comes to
acrobatics!"

"Take over controls," came Bill's voice. "Fly straight for that white
church tower on the horizon."

Dorothy's body stiffened, but she took hold of the stick again bravely
enough, and placed her feet on the rudder bar at the same time. She
could feel her temples throbbing, and her heart was beating faster than
the clock on her instrument board. At last she was actually flying an
airplane--all by herself. But was she? Suddenly there came a check in
the forward speed of the plane and Dorothy felt it start to slew off
sideways as the nose dropped.

Then before she knew exactly what was happening, the stick in her hand
seemed to spring back, then to the right, while right rudder increased
considerably without help from her foot. Up came the nose, followed by
the left wing, and down went the right. The slewing stopped as suddenly
as it had begun. Then she felt left aileron and left rudder being
applied--and once more the N-9 was flying straight and level.

"Forgot what I said about checking a skid just now, didn't you?" said
Bill's voice in her ear. "Here's the news again. Any swinging of the
nose to the left can be promptly recognized and checked--but,--and
here's where you went wrong--the nose cannot be swung back to the right
without applying a small bank. Any attempt to do so will cause your
plane to skid. That naturally results in a loss of flying speed forward
and the heavier end drops. If not checked at once, it means going into a
spin. Carry on again now, and please try to keep your wits about you.
This is not a kiddie-car. Mistakes are apt to be costly!"

Dorothy bit her lips in anger. More than ever did she regret the lack of
a mouth piece on her head phone. Her temper flared at his sharp tone,
and what seemed to her unfair criticism so early in the game. But she
took over again as he ordered and gradually her vexation disappeared in
her effort to concentrate every faculty on the job of flying the plane
and keeping to her course. She was gradually gaining confidence. She
made the same maneuvers which had caused the skid before, and carried
through perfectly.

Bill told her so in no stinted terms, and the last shreds of her anger
disappeared.

"The man who put _me_ over the bumps," he added, "always said: 'when a
student aviator makes a mistake, give him blazes--make him mad. He'll
remember what he should have done all the better--and live longer!' That
advice applies to either sex, Dorothy. Naturally, I hope you'll live to
a ripe old age."

Dorothy liked him for this apology. She wanted to thank him but of
course that was out of the question.

"I'll take her over now." She heard his even tones once more, above the
engine's roar. "Time for lunch. This afternoon, if you like, we'll take
up another end of this business. And you can get even by teaching me how
to become an honest-to-goodness sleuthhound!"



                              _Chapter X_

                              THE MEETING


After lunch Dorothy and Bill established themselves comfortably in the
shade of the terrace awning back of the Bolton's house, and Dorothy's
ground training began.

"First of all," said her instructor, "you must learn the signals for
maneuvers, such as when the stick is shaken laterally, one hand held up,
it means control of the plane is resumed by the instructor. Opening the
throttle in a glide means resume level flight. There are eight of these
signals to memorize. Then there are eight correction signals as well."

"I'll get them down soon enough," his pupil assured him. "Is that all?"

"I should say not. That's just a starter. Your ground training will
consist of three parts: theoretic training, which takes up principles of
flight; aircraft construction, aviation engine construction; and the
elements of meteorology. Next, practical training, which embraces the
maintenance and repair of aircraft together with maintenance and repair
of aviation engines. Then comes aviation procedure, which takes up air
commerce regulations; instruction procedure (signals come under that)
and precautions and general instructions."

"Whew!" whistled Dorothy in dismay. "It _is_ a business!"

Bill laughed at her forlorn expression. "Cheer up--the first hundred
years are the hardest. But seriously, to become an efficient air pilot,
it is essential to know thoroughly this ground work and all of the
maneuvers I listed under elementary flying. None of them can be safely
omitted. Of those I included under advanced flying, acrobatics are not
required for a pilot's license, but they're a grand help in developing
ability to handle a plane with confidence. Proficiency in reverse
control flying, precision landings with power, forced landings and cross
country flying is required for an interstate commercial license--and
vital for every pilot."

"Is _that_ all?" asked Dorothy, with diminished enthusiasm.

"No. To become a real flyer, you must understand aerial navigation and
pass off formation flying and night flying. It sounds like a lot--but it
really isn't so difficult. Of course, if you don't _want_ to go the
whole way--"

"Oh, but I do, Bill," she said earnestly. "It's only that I never
dreamed there was so much to be learned. It kind of takes my breath
away--"

"You mustn't let that bother you. I'm glad you're going to do the thing
up right, though. It will take a lot of your time--but you'll find it
worth your while. Let's get busy now. We'll start on signals. Then later
this afternoon you can go up again if you feel like it."

For the next two weeks Dorothy worked daily with Bill. By the end of
that time she had completed her elementary solo flying and was now
engrossed in mastering the difficulties of reverse control.

Bill realized after giving her two or three lessons, that his pupil
showed a high degree of aptitude for flying. Their trip home in the
amphibian after the wreck of the _Scud_, had proved pretty conclusively
to him that this sixteen-year-old girl had an unusually cool and stable
temperament. Ordinarily, flight training is inadvisable for anyone under
eighteen years of age, and Bill knew that twenty years is preferable.
For, ordinarily, the instinctive coordination between sensory organs and
muscles, which is necessary toward the control of a plane in the air,
does not develop earlier. An airplane must be kept moving or it will
fall; and the processes of reason are far too slow to keep up with the
exigencies of flight. Flying cannot be figured out like a problem in
mathematics. Calculation won't do the trick--there isn't enough time for
it.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule. Bill Bolton was one
himself, and Dorothy, he knew, was another.

When Mr. Dixon questioned him as to Dorothy's progress, he gave him a
list of the maneuvers that had already been mastered, and the
approximate length of time she had taken to satisfy him in performance.

"But that doesn't mean a thing to me--" objected the older man. "Look
here--I was talking to a friend of mine who is an old Royal Flying Corps
man. He said that Dorothy should wait several years before training. How
about it? I know your reputation as a flyer, and I've proved my
confidence in you by trusting you with my daughter's life. Why is it
better for her to start now, rather than later?"

"Do you play the violin, sir?"

"No ear for music." Mr. Dixon shook his head in reminiscence. "My father
played well. It was his ambition that we play duets together. But after
wasting money for two years on lessons for me, he gave it up. My! the
sounds I made when I practiced! It must have been torture to him. I
can't tell one note from another--but I remember how awful it was. But
what has _that_ got to do with Dorothy's flying?"

"A good deal. You couldn't play the violin because you are not musical,
and only a musical person can learn to play it well. In some respects,
mastery of the violin and mastery of flying, have a common bond. With
both the one fundamental requirement is natural or instinctive aptitude.
Flying is an art, and without natural ability it is useless to attempt
it. And if it isn't inherent, Mr. Dixon, it just can't be acquired.
Moreover, the only way to find out if that aptitude exists, is by trial.
If Dorothy had the natural ability for the violin that she has for
flying, practice and experience would make her a second Kreisler!"

A smile crept along the corners of Mr. Dixon's mouth. "Ah, but Kreisler
is a _man_!"

"I know, sir, but honestly, sex has nothing to do with it."

"So you think she should keep on with her flight training?"

"I _know_ she should, Mr. Dixon, if you want her to fly at all. She has
all the qualifications that go toward making a really _good_ air pilot."

"Well, I'm glad to hear you say it, and glad you're so enthusiastic."

"Of course I am," declared Bill. "She's fearless and alert and she loves
the work--she'll do well."

And so Dorothy continued her flight training.

She came down one afternoon from a solo flight and Bill, who had been
watching her maneuvers from the shade of the hangar, walked over as the
plane rolled to a stop.

"Not so good--" she called out as she sprang to the ground. "I nearly
overshot my landing."

"So I noticed," returned her young instructor rather grimly.
"Carelessness, you know, that's all. Keep your mind on the job. And
here's something else. Remember, when you are making a flipper turn, the
nose must first be dropped to level. Otherwise you'll get into serious
trouble. Also don't forget that until the wings pass an angle of bank of
45 degrees your controls are not inverted and must be handled as in a
normal turn."

"O.K. skipper," she sighed. "I'll remember in future."

"One thing more. Those two 360-degree spirals with an altitude loss of
about 1000 feet were well done. But you must bring your plane out of
reverse control spirals above 1500 feet altitude--Now we'll put your bus
away and call it a day."

Work finished, they strolled over to the terrace where Frank as usual
had iced drinks awaiting them.

"You've certainly taught me a lot in fourteen days," observed Dorothy
after sipping her ginger ale. "But it's kind of put a crimp into our
detective work. By the way, you never have told me what you had up your
sleeve with regard to the robbery--something to do with an airplane
coming in handy, wasn't it?"

"Your memory is better on the ground than in the air!"

"Pish! likewise, tush! You don't intend to wait till I finish training
or anything like that, before coming across with that clue that will
help us land those birds in jail?"

"Why should I?"

"I don't know. Thought maybe you might figure my interest in landing the
gang would take my mind off flying--"

Bill took a long, refreshing drink of the iced liquid at his elbow.
"You're on the wrong track. I'm simply biding my time and keeping a
finger on the pulse of the robbery, as it were."

"Do you mean that?"

"I'm in deadly earnest," he assured her, although his eyes twinkled
mischievously.

"Then all I can say," exclaimed Dorothy, "is that you're one up on
everybody else who is working on the case."

"How come?"

"Why? you know as well as I do that when the Packard rolled out of the
alley by the bank, in all probability carrying three people and the
loot, it disappeared completely. And it's stayed that way ever since,
hasn't it? That's two weeks ago tonight."

"Any new clues lately?"

"Nary a one. The police traced the red-headed girl's finger prints to
Sarah Martinelli, better known as Staten Island Sadie. They sent Dad her
record--I saw it--believe me, that lady is a ripe egg!"

"How beautifully expressive."

Dorothy raised her eyes from her compact's tiny mirror.

"Well, she must be!--Are you trying to kid me?"

Bill finished his ginger ale. "Come on, tell me the rest."

Dorothy grinned. "That's all there is, there isn't any more, my child.
Don't imagine those police are efficient, do you? None of the missing
bonds have been found, and as for the money, those chaps have probably
spent it by this time. I feel awfully sorry for Daddy, though," she
continued in a changed voice, "--that Mrs. Hamberfield is still raising
the roof about her diamond necklace. Serves her right for being such a
mutt, I say."

"Tough on both parties, I should think."

"Nothing of the kind. Daddy says that her husband, Stonington
Hamberfield, made his coin profiteering during the war. What do you
think his name really is?"

"You tell me."

"Steinburg Hammerfeld--isn't that a hot one?"

"A Hun, eh?"

"Well, if he isn't--I'm President Hindenburg, San Francisco Harbor and
the Statue of Liberty all in one!"

Bill smiled appreciatively at this sally, then changed the subject.
"Let's go to the movies this evening?"

"Can't. It's Pen and Pencil Club night."

"What on earth is that?"

"Oh, about a year ago, a bunch of us at high school, girls and fellows,
started a club to write short stories. We meet every other Tuesday night
at some member's house. Everybody has to write a story at least one a
month, or they're fined a quarter. We read aloud and discuss them at the
meeting. Come with me after supper and pay my quarter."

"Nothing doing. That kind of thing is my idea of a perfectly terrible
evening."

Dorothy slipped the compact into a pocket of her jodhpurs and got to her
feet.

"That's where you're all wrong, Bill. Noel Sainsbury, the writer, is our
adviser. He makes it awfully interesting--we have lots of fun. He was a
naval aviator during the war. You two should have lots in common. Do
come along and meet him."

"Why I dined at his place, Little Windows, last night!"

"Oh, you do know him?"

"Naturally. Where would I be if it weren't for him? Look at the books
he's written about me. Noel Sainsbury brought Dad and me to New Canaan.
We're awfully fond of him and his wife and little girl."

"Yes, Winks is a darling and Mrs. Sainsbury is a peach--" Dorothy
agreed. "She comes to our meetings, too. I'm named for her, you know."

"Really? That's interesting."

"You bet. Then you'll come tonight?"

"I'd like to, very much."

"All right. The meeting is at Betty Mayo's, in White Oak Shade. I'll be
here about eight in my car and drive you down there."

"I'll be ready--so long!"

"So long!"

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

It was nearly quarter to nine before they got started, as things turned
out. Mr. Dixon had gone to New York for the day on business, had been
detained in town, and Dorothy waited dinner for him.

"Well, we won't have missed much," she explained to Bill as her car
breasted the Marvin Ridge Road. "The first half hour is always taken up
with the minutes of the last meeting and all that parliamentary stuff. I
love driving in the twilight, anyway. Next place on the left is where
we're bound. We'll be there in a jiffy."

They rounded a bend and came upon a Packard parked at the roadside. The
hood was up and a man looked up from tinkering with the engine as their
lights outlined his figure.

"Pull up! pull up!" Bill's tense whisper sounded in her ears. "Where are
your eyes, girl?"

But Dorothy needed no second warning. She shot home the brake, for she
too had seen the great, misshapen boot that the dapper little motorist
wore on his left foot.



                              _Chapter XI_

                           FOLLOW THE LEADER


"Need any help?" inquired Bill, as Dorothy drew up opposite the Packard.

"Thanks! This thing has got me stumped. I'm not much of a mechanician,"
returned the lame man ruefully. "Do you know anything about motors?"

"Making them behave is my long suit," was Bill's glib retort as he
alighted from the car and crossed the road. "Let's see if I can locate
your trouble. Got plenty of gas?"

"Lots of it. I just looked to see."

"Then let me have your flashlight while I give her the once over."

"Wait a minute--" called Dorothy, "I'll swing this car round and put my
lights on the engine. There--is that better?" she ended, trying to keep
the excitement out of her voice.

"Nothing could be sweeter!" sang out Bill without turning his head.
"Hold her as you are."

Dorothy's offer had not been quite so altruistic as it sounded, for now
her lights brilliantly illuminated the two figures bending over the
Packard's engine. While Bill went over the motor with the sureness of an
expert, keeping up a desultory conversation with the stranger, Dorothy
used her eyes to good advantage.

But after a while she grew impatient. Why didn't Bill capture the man at
once so they could haul him off to the police station? Why did he
continue to go on with his pretended inspection of the engine? He
couldn't really be in earnest, for if he found the trouble and fixed it,
the lame man would simply get in his car and drive away. Could it be
that Bill wasn't sure of his quarry? Of course, he was clean shaven,
although Lizzie had described him as having a small mustache. Naturally,
he'd shave it off. By this time he must know that his description had
been broadcast. And so far as she could see the earrings were missing
too. But that was to be expected. And he spoke good English with a
slight Italian accent.

What was the matter with Bill! He was big enough to take care of the man
with one hand, when all he did was tinker and jabber. What was the use
of that?

"Your engine seems to be in A-1 condition," Bill was saying. "Doesn't
look as if you'd been running the car lately."

"I haven't," replied the lame man. "She ran like a charm when I drove
down here earlier this evening. Then all of a sudden she stops--and
won't go on."

"Ah! here we are!" Bill exclaimed a moment later. "You've got a choked
jet. I'll fix that in a jiffy."

"You are very kind," beamed the Italian. "Is that a serious trouble?"

"Not so bad. Buy better gas and have your carburetor well looked over.
I'll fix it so the car will move, though."

"Do you think she will run fifty miles?"

"Sure--but there are plenty of garages nearer than that if you want to
fix it."

"I'll wait until I reach home. My friend--he will give the engine a
thorough going over. He understands very well such things."

"Good enough." Bill straightened his back and closed the hood. "You're
O.K. now. She'll run."

"Then thank you so much. You have been very kind."

"Don't mention it." Bill waved farewell and crossed the road as the lame
man climbed into his car and drove off in the direction of New Canaan
village.

"What ever _is_ the matter with you?" Dorothy broke out in a fever of
angry disappointment. "Why didn't you nab him while you had the chance?
Now he'll get away and--"

"Hush, sister! Likewise calm yourself," cut in Bill. "Move over. I'm
going to drive. This business isn't finished by a long shot. It has only
just begun."

Dorothy, flabbergasted by his high-handed manner, slid across the seat
as he directed, and Bill sprang in behind the wheel. The tail light of
the Packard disappeared around the bend of the road.

"What's the idea?" she fumed.

"Wait till we get going, Dot." Bill threw in the reverse and started to
turn the car in the direction from which they had come a quarter of an
hour before.

"_Don't_ call me 'Dot'! You know I won't stand for it. Aren't you the
limit--Going to try to trail him, I suppose, when you could have nailed
him right here!"

"Don't get peeved!" Bill swung the little car onto the road and
switching off his lights brought his foot down on the accelerator. "I
know what I'm doing."

"_Well, maybe_ you do." Her voice was full of sarcasm. "But we might
just as well go back to the Pen and Pencil meeting. You'll never catch
up with his bus."

"Shan't try to. There's his tail light now!" They rounded the turn and
Bill sent the car streaking along the black road like a terrified cat up
a back alley. "There's no need to get snippy," he added. "You heard what
our friend said about _his_ friend--who understands all about engines?
On a bet, that's the lad who wore the chauffeur's cap and beaned the
night watchman. He said he'd let him look over the carburetor when he
got home, didn't he? And like as not that ripe egg lady--the one with
the red head--will be there too!"

"Staten Island Sadie?"

"Sure thing."

"Perhaps," admitted Dorothy. "The lame man _was_ alone in his car. But
you stand a good chance of losing him, even if he doesn't see us. We'll
have to switch on the lights going through towns."

"But, you see, I'm pretty sure I know where he's bound for."

"You do?" Her surprise drove all petulance from her tone.

"That's what I've kept up my sleeve. If he takes the Ridgefield Road,
out of New Canaan, then I'm certain of it."

"Better switch on the glims again," she advised. "We'll crash or get a
ticket running without them in this South Main Street traffic--we're
nearly in the village now. I can spot the Packard ahead there." Then,
contritely, she continued: "Sorry I was peeved, Bill, old thing. I
didn't understand. Forgive me--and let's hear all about it."

"Of course--hello!" he cried. "He's slowed down. Confound it, anyway.
That comes of talking and not keeping my mind on the job. I'll bet he
has his suspicions. Wants to see if we're following--nothing dumb about
that bird. I shouldn't have driven so close. He'll tumble to a certainty
if we slow up too."

"What are you going to do?"

"Give me time--" he answered grimly. "Confound again! There goes the red
light on the Library corner! Now we're in for it."

"P'raps he won't notice us," said Dorothy hopefully as they drew up
behind the Packard.

"Not a chance. But we'll fool him yet. Let me do the talking," he
whispered as the lame man thrust his head out of the car and looked back
at them.

"Hello, there!" cried Bill cheerfully. "I see you've got this far
without another breakdown!"

"Good evening, my friend," replied the Italian. "This is a surprise. I
thought you were going the other way."

"Oh, no. Just ran down there to leave a message." Bill's tone was
affability itself. "You must have come pretty slowly. How's the car
running?"

"Nicely, thank you."

"Don't be afraid to let her out. Well--there's the light. Excuse me if I
pass you," he said airly. "We're in a hurry. So long."

"Au revoir ..." Dorothy added gaily and waved her hand as Bill swung to
the left, then headed up Main Street in advance of the Packard.

"Aren't you smart! You'll get us into a heap of trouble yet with your
'au revoirs'!"

"Hey, there"--she cried. They were rolling swiftly up the hill past the
bank.

"You should have turned right then left, for Ridgefield--back at the
last corner!"

Bill laughed. "Old Angel Face did just as I figured," he informed her,
still chuckling. "I spotted him making the turn, in the glass."

"Where are we going? Sure you haven't lost him?"

"Listen. That chap is heading for Ridgefield. From there he will run
another ten miles up to Danbury. Unless I'm completely wet, his
objective is a certain house in the hills on a back road, over toward
the New York borderline about twenty-five miles north. It's a rough,
wild stretch of country, with Pawling, N. Y., to the west and New
Milford, Connecticut, on the east, that he's heading for. Nice riding
too, dirt roads, mere trails that haven't had a scraper on them since
the Revolution. That house I just told you about is a good ten miles
from a railroad as a plane flies--probably twice as far by road."

"Interesting--but why are we heading this way?"

"Simply because it is too dangerous to follow that lad just now. He
smells a rat and is sure to park in some dark spot along the way to make
certain he's not being followed."

"Then what _are_ we going to do?"

"I'm going to run west over to Bedford, New York. Then north from there
through Golden Bridge and Croton Falls to Brewster. From Brewster I'll
keep to the same state road north toward Pawling. But just before I get
to Patterson, there's a dirt road that turns off into the hills to the
northeast. That's the one I'll follow. Eventually, I'll get to the
house. Angel Face's route is shorter--but I'll get there soon after he
does, if he stops along the way to see if anyone's after him. First of
all I'll drop you at your house and get myself a gat."

"You'd better get two--for I'm coming with you."

"Sorry, my girl--this is a man's job."

Dorothy turned and stared at him. "Well--of all the consummate nerve--"
she began.

"Sorry, Dot--it just can't be. I've got no right to let you run the
risk."

"Don't you _dare_ to 'Dot' me again!" Miss Dixon was distinctly
irritated. "And what's more, if you try to ditch me, I'll phone the
police station and spill everything. They'll pick you up at Bedford and
horn in, of course--and like as not, they'll gum it all."

"If you talk that way, I suppose I'll have to take you."

"Of course you will. Say, Bill, that was only a bluff, wasn't it?"

Bill smiled. "Perhaps. But it's a risky business."

"No worse than learning to fly, is it?"

"Fifty-fifty, I should say."

"That's settled, then. What I can't understand is why you didn't corral
that gang long before this--or at least put the police on to them, if
you knew where they were all the time."

"But that's just it--they haven't been in the house since the robbery.
I've driven up there several times and reconnoitered from the air as
well."

"Then what makes you think you'll corner the gang at the house now?"

The car turned in the Dixon's drive and came to a stop by the side
entrance.

"You'll have to wait till the next chapter for that," he laughed. "Time
is worth more than money now. I'll tell you all about it when we get
going again. Beat it upstairs now and change that light dress for
breeches and a dark sweater or coat. I'll run across the road for
something more suitable and less conspicuous than white flannels."

"O.K." Dorothy sprang out of the car. "Don't forget our armory."

"Not a chance. Now forget the prinking and make it snappy," he sang out,
backing down the driveway.



                             _Chapter XII_

                         THE HOUSE IN THE HILLS


"Don't tell me it takes a girl long to change her clothes!" was
Dorothy's salutation, as Bill drove up to the side entrance again.
"You've kept me waiting here exactly three minutes and a half."

"Sorry," he said in mock contrition. "Fact is, I thought we'd better use
my own bus tonight and I had to go out to the garage to get it."

"What's the big idea?" Dorothy sprang in beside him, looking very trim
and boyish in jodhpurs and dark flannel shirt over which she wore a thin
brown sweater. "Isn't my car good enough for you?"

"This boat has a full tank," he replied tersely. "Can't waste time
tonight picking up gas."

They had reversed the car down the drive and were now speeding along the
tree-lined road in the direction of Bedford.

"Got my gun?" she asked.

"Surest thing you know!" Bill passed over a small revolver in a holster.
"Tie yourself to that! It's a Colt .32 and it's loaded. Know how to use
it?"

"Certainly. What do you expect me to do--release the safety catch and
pull the trigger to see if it works?" Her tone flared hotly with
indignation.

Bill whistled a tuneless air, but the whistle developed into a laugh and
the laugh continued until Dorothy snapped:

"_Don't_ cackle like a billygoat!"

"Billygoats don't--" he began but broke off, changing his bantering
tone. "Then why do you tie the leg-strap around your waist?" he asked
seriously enough.

She swallowed hard.

"Because--well, because I've never used this kind of a holster before,
smarty. But I can shoot--Daddy taught me--I can box, too, and I've had
lessons in jiu jitsu. Oh, I can take care of myself, if that's what's
worrying you!"

"Glad to hear it, Dorothy. Excitement kind of stirs you up eh?"

"It's not excitement that does it, Bill--it's suspense. But I'm sorry I
bawled you out."

"Don't mention it. My humble apologies for being so rude--"

"Imbecile! You weren't. But never mind that--tell me about this house in
the woods and what it has to do with the gang who robbed the bank."

The car ran into Bedford and taking the turn to the right, he swung on
to the northbound turnpike.

"Go ahead with the story," begged Dorothy as they left the picturesque
village behind.

"Right-o! Here goes. On our way back from the South last month, I
dropped Dad at New Orleans. The old _Loening_ needed a thorough
overhauling, so Dad left me there with the plane and went north by
train. After I saw him off at the L. and N. station, I went back to the
St. Charles Hotel and slept for nearly twenty-four hours. I got a touch
of jungle fever when I was down in the cypress swamps and was still
feeling pretty rocky.

"So for the next ten days I loafed while the amphibian got what was
coming to her. When she'd been made shipshape again I flew her north. I
was in no hurry to reach New Canaan and stopped off at Atlanta, and at
Philadelphia, where I have friends.

"A couple of days before I met you I started on the last leg of the hop.
It was raining when I left Philly--a filthy morning, with high fog along
the coast. That is why I decided not to follow the New
York-Philadelphia-Hartford air route, but cut straight north over
eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, hoping for better
visibility inland. Instead, the old bus ran me into even worse weather.
The fog grew lower and denser and flying conditions became even rottener
than before. You haven't run into fog in a plane, yet, Dorothy--and,
believe me, it's no fun.

"I expected to cross the Hudson at about Haverstraw and fly east to New
Canaan. I know now that I must have overshot that burg; that the plane
was probably nearer Newburgh when we crossed the river and headed east.
To make matters worse, a few minutes later, the engine commenced to
skip. I began to realize then that I didn't know where I was."

Dorothy had been listening intently, her eyes on the grotesque shadows
cast by their headlights upon the stone fences along the road; now she
turned and stared at him in astonishment.

"That's a good one! You've flown pretty much all over the country--and
get lost in dear little Connecticut!"

"Oh, I don't know--parts of the state are as wild as the Canadian woods!
And just remember that the visibility at five hundred feet was so poor I
could hardly see the nose of my plane. And worse luck, I knew that with
the engine cutting up the way she was, I'd soon be forced to land."

"What did you do?"

"Nosed over until I got almost down to the trees on the hilltops.
Visibility was better there, but for the life of me I couldn't spot a
landing place.--Nothing but one chain of hills after another, all
covered with trees. The sides of these foothills of the Berkshires are
steep as church roofs--and they run down to narrow, densely wooded
valleys. Well, for some time I circled about with the engine acting
worse every split second. Then, in a valley a little wider than any I'd
come across so far, I saw the glint of water--a little lake. Fifty yards
or so away, there was a good-sized farmhouse with a fairly level hay
field behind it. I chose the lake, although it wasn't much better than a
duck pond--and landed.

"The house was a ramshackle affair, but some smoke rose from the
chimney, so I figured someone lived there. While I was fixing my engine,
a girl--or rather I should say a young woman--came out of the house and
walked down to the little dock near where the plane was floating."

"Of course she had red hair and wore yellow beach pajamas?" said
Dorothy.

"She did--I mean, she had. Anyway, when Lizzie described the girl in the
car who wanted bicarbonate of soda and got it, I was sure that my
er--lady of the lake and she were one and the same."

"Did you talk to her?"

"I did. I told her I was lost and asked her where I had come down. She
told me, after a while. That is, she gave me a general idea in what
direction Danbury lay and about how far away from town we were. But I
thought at the time that she was awfully cagy and tight with her
information."

"In other words, she didn't seem especially glad to see you?"

"That's it. Instead of inviting me ashore and up to the house for a
meal, she wanted to know how long I was likely to be on the lake--and
then she beat it back to the house. Naturally, I thought it queer she
should be so inhospitable and stand-offish. People are usually
interested anyway, when a plane arrives unexpectedly in their
neighborhood--too darn interested, if anything. Still, I didn't think
much about her, then. I had the information I wanted, and after changing
a couple of sparkplugs, I took off and made New Canaan via Danbury
without any more trouble."

"Did you see anyone besides the girl with the red hair?"

"Not a soul."

"And you've been back since the robbery, I think you said?"

"Several times. But the place has been deserted and the house locked up
tighter than a drum."

There was a long pause.

"Why do you think the gang are there now?" asked Dorothy. "Simply
because we saw the lame man take the Ridgefield road?"

"This is the way I figured." They had passed through the little town of
Brewster, heading north, some minutes before. Now Bill turned the car
off the state highway and on to a winding dirt road full of deep ruts
that he knew ran far into the wooded hill country to the northeast. "It
is my idea," he continued, slowing down to a bare twenty-mile pace,
"that after the robbery, that gang scattered and laid low for a while.
They didn't go to the house, that I do know. After you went to bed that
night, I drove up here to have a look-see. Nobody home, as I've told
you. But they couldn't have a better place for headquarters. There isn't
a house anywhere round that neck of the woods. Sooner or later, they're
bound to meet there. The loot has got to be divided. Seeing our lame
friend headed in that direction this evening makes me doubly certain.
I've kept it to myself, because if that army of detectives who are on
this case started camping out near the house on a watchful waiting
spree, those crooks would be sure to spot them and never show up."

"I guess you're right," she said.

For some time neither spoke, while their car bumped slowly along the
uneven road.

"What do you suppose that lame man was doing on Marvin Ridge?" she
inquired presently.

"Search me. How should I know? You certainly love to fire questions at a
guy."

"He told us the car hadn't been used lately," she mused, ignoring his
remark.

"That only goes to prove we're right in thinking he has been in hiding
somewhere."

"But where?"

"Merciful heaven! Another question! That road runs down to Noroton,
doesn't it? And from there the Boston Post could bring him from all
points east and west. There's no telling where he'd come from."

"But I drove up from the Post Road that way yesterday. It has been
freshly oiled to within a half mile of where we met him. Yet that
Packard hadn't run through oil. If she had, I'd have seen it with my
headlights smack on her."

"Perhaps he came down a side road?"

"Not between that point and the oil--there isn't any."

"Maybe he'd been calling in the neighborhood--"

"Don't be silly--I know everyone who lives along that road."

"You think it out then--I've got enough to do trying to navigate this
road. I'm going to switch out the lights, now. We're not more than a
couple of miles from the house."

"Do you think they'll put up much of a fight?"

"Good Lord! You don't think I've any intention of trying to capture
them?" Bill exclaimed. He was very busily engaged in keeping the car in
the middle of the grass grown trail as it rolled, down a steep hillside
at a snail's pace. "I'm not taking chances with you along. It would be
foolish to attempt anything like that. You'll get into no battles
tonight, miss. This is just a scouting party. If the gang have arrived,
we'll beat it back to Brewster and get the cops on the job."

"Oh, _dear_!" sighed Dorothy. "And I thought this was going to be the
real thing!"

"No grandstand plays for you tonight, young lady. What's more--I'm
running this show. If you don't promise to behave, you'll warm a seat in
this car, while I mosey up to the house. How about it?"

Dorothy's voice betrayed her disgust and disappointment.

"Oh, I'll promise. But if we are leaving all the fun to the police, why
did you bring the guns?"

"Because you seemed to expect them, little brighteyes. But we might as
well have left them home, for all the use they'll be--I'll see to that.
It's bad enough to be forced into bringing you up here. Your father will
certainly raise the roof when he finds it out. I shan't tell him, that's
flat."

"You believe in being candid!" with cutting sarcasm.

"You bet. And please remember that if you try to pull off anything
you'll probably crab the show. And get us into a good old-fashioned mess
besides."

He stopped the car and slipping into reverse gear, backed off the trail.

"There!" He switched off the ignition. "We're all ready for a quick
getaway if need be."

"How far are we from the house?" she asked in a tense whisper.

"About a mile. I'm afraid to drive nearer--sound carries a long way up
these quiet valleys. Let's get started now. I want you to walk just
behind me. Be careful where you place your feet. We'll follow the trail
a while farther, but it's pretty rough going. Above all else--don't
talk--and make just as little noise as possible."

"What if they have sentries posted?" she asked, coming to his side.

"Aren't you the limit!" Bill seemed really annoyed. "There you go
talking again! For your satisfaction, though--if we have the bad luck to
come across anyone, I'll naturally do my best to scrag him. You, of
course, will act as you think best. My advice is to beat it to the car,
as fast as you can. Come along now--and quiet!"

"Aren't you horrid tonight!" she breathed, swinging up the overgrown
trail behind him.

But Bill didn't hear her. Anyway, he didn't answer, and she followed in
his footsteps while a pleasurable thrill of excitement gradually took
the place of her disappointment. It was nearly pitch dark, walking along
in the shadow of tall trees that lined the twisting path. Now and then
the cry of a night bird came to her from the woods, but except for the
dull sound of their steps on the damp earth--the occasional snapping of
a twig underfoot, all was quiet in the forest.

Bill was only a blur in the gloom ahead. But she was glad to know he was
there just the same. This creeping through the still night to
reconnoiter a gang of bank-thieves held a kick all its own. Yes, she was
glad that Bill was close by.

There came a movement in the underbrush behind them. Hands of steel
caught her arms, pinning them to her sides.

"Sentries, Bill!" she screamed, struggling frantically to free herself.
"Look out! _Look out!_"

She heard Bill mutter angrily. Heavy feet crashed in the brush and she
heard the sharp impact of a solid fist meeting soft flesh. Several men
were shouting now and someone groaned.

Bending suddenly forward and sideways, Dorothy managed to fasten her
teeth on the wrist of the man who held her. With a howl, he let go her
right arm and at the same time a gun went off. The night was torn with a
scream of anguish. But before she could use her free arm someone dropped
a bag over her head, a rope was knotted about her wrists and a muffled
voice spoke to her through the folds of the sack.

"_Be_have, sister! _Be_have, I say, or I'll crack yer wid dis rod. I
ain't no wild cat tamer. Quiet now, or I'll bash yer one!"

Inasmuch as it was no part of Dorothy's plan to get "bashed" in a bag,
that young lady kept quiet.

"That's the girl!" he applauded. Swinging her over his shoulder as
though she were a sack of flour, he walked away from the scuffle on the
trail.



                             _Chapter XIII_

                                TRAPPED


The burlap sack was stiflingly hot. Moreover it seemed impregnated with
fine particles of dust which burned her throat and nostrils and set her
coughing. Dorothy was frightfully uncomfortable. Breathing became more
and more difficult.

"Let me go--I'm smothering!" she gasped.

"And get another piece bit out of me arm?" snorted her captor. "Nothin'
doin'."

"But I'm choking to death in this filthy bag! It's full of dust!"

"Keep yer mouth shut, then," gruffed the man. "And stop that wrigglin'.
I'll tap yer one if yer don't. What do ye think this is, anyway--a joy
ride?"

"But--" she began again.

"Shut up!" he growled. "Behave, will yer? Say, sister, if I had me way
youse'd get bumped off right now. Give me more of yer lip and I'll do
it, anyway!"

There was a grim menace in the gangster's tone that frightened Dorothy
more than his words. Thereafter she spoke no more. She even refrained
from struggling, although her head swam and his grip of iron about her
knees had become torture.

What had happened to Bill, she wondered, and cold fear entered her
heart. She was almost certain that it had been a blow from his fist she
had heard directly after her warning shout. But the shot and the scream
immediately afterward? Had that been the sound of his automatic--or
another's? The thought of Bill lying in the woods wounded--perhaps
dead--drove her frantic. Yet she was powerless, with her wrists lashed
behind her back. While the man who carried her lurched forward,
stumbling now and then over the uneven ground, each step causing his
victim fresh agony, Dorothy's conviction of hopelessness assailed and
overwhelmed the last shreds of her fighting spirit. She wept.

Presently,--it seemed an age,--she sensed that the gangster was mounting
a flight of steps. There came the creak of a board underfoot. Then she
knew that he was fumbling with a doorknob. A glow of light appeared
through the burlap.

"Here we are, sister!" he grunted, with evident relief. Swinging her
from his shoulder, he placed Dorothy on her feet and pulled off the
sack.

"Gosh!" he exclaimed, steadying her as she would have fallen, "I thought
it was a Mack truck I was carryin'. But you're only a kid! Nobody'd
think you weighed so much. Did I make you cry?"

He placed an arm under her elbow and led her to a chair. It was of the
hard, straight-backed, kitchen variety, but Dorothy was only too glad to
sit down and rest. She kept her eyes closed, for the light, after the
dark confines of the bag, was blinding. Her breath came in convulsive
gasps.

"Feelin' kind of woozy?" The man's tone was callous, but at least it
evinced a slight interest in her condition and she took advantage of
that at once.

"Yes, I am," she admitted, keeping her eyes closed, but drawing deep
breaths of air into her lungs between words. "You nearly smothered me in
that filthy bag. If you want to make up for it, you can bring me a drink
of water now."

"You certainly have some noive! Y' don't happen ter want a couple of ice
cubes and a stick in it too?"

"Plain water, if you please."

"Dat's all you'll get, kid. But I'm dry myself, so I'll bring you some."

She heard him cross the room, jerk open a door and tramp over an
uncarpeted floor beyond.

Dorothy opened her eyes.

A wave of faintness swept over her and the room seemed to whirl before
her. As she tried to struggle to her feet she found her roped hands had
been securely fastened to the back of her chair. She sank back wearily,
her thoughts in wild confusion.

After a moment she turned her attention to her surroundings, conscious
of the futility of any further effort to free herself, and resolved to
bide her time.

The long, narrow room evidently ran the width of the house for shuttered
windows broke the bare expanse of walls at either end. Behind her chair,
she knew, was the door through which she had been carried into the room,
with shuttered windows flanking it. Facing her were two other doors, one
open and one closed. Through the open door came the sound of a hand pump
in action, where her captor was drawing water.

The room in which she sat was dimly lighted by an oil lamp, its chimney
badly smoked and unshaded. It stood on an unpainted table amidst the
debris of dirty dishes and an unfinished meal. Chairs pushed back at odd
angles from the table gave further evidence of the diners' hurried exit.

"They must have posted someone further down the road," she mused. "I
wonder how he got word to the house so quickly?"

Then she caught sight of a wall-phone in the shadows at the farther end
of the room. "Telephone, of course! They must have planted one somewhere
this side of the turnpike. The man on watch saw our car pass and
immediately sent word along the wire!"

It suddenly occurred to Dorothy that she herself might find that
telephone useful. For a moment she contemplated dragging her chair
across the room, but gave up the idea almost at once, for the sound of
the pump in the room beyond had ceased and she heard the gangster's
returning footsteps.

He appeared in the doorway almost immediately. A broad-shouldered,
narrow hipped, sinewy young man, with a shock of sandy hair falling over
his ferret-like eyes. The white weal of an old knife scar marred the
left side of his face from temple to chin. An ugly, though not bad
humored countenance, she summed up--certainly an easy one to remember.

"Here yer are, sister!" was his greeting. "Get outside o' this an'
yer'll feel like a new woman!"

He held a brimming glass of fresh water to her lips.

Dorothy gulped eagerly.

"Hey, there! Not so fast," he cautioned. "You'll choke to death and
Sadie'll swear I done yer in." He pulled the glass out of her reach.
"Tastes good, eh?"

"It certainly does. Give me some more."

"Take it easy, then. I don't want yer to get sick on this job." He
grinned and allowed her to finish drinking. "I guess yer ain't used to a
dump like this--" he waved his hand toward the litter on the table and
included the peeling wall-paper.

"Still, it's a heap better than a hole in the ground out in the woods.
You certainly are the lucky girl!" He grimaced, then laughed heartily at
his joke.

Dorothy's tone was stern, "What have they done with Bill?"

"Who's Bill? Yer boy friend?"

"Is he hurt?"

"I hope so. He sure gave Tony a nasty crack. A rough little guy, he
is--some scrapper. It looked like a battle royal to me when I left an'
brung yer up here. But don't get the wrong idea, kid. By this time, one
of the bunch has slipped a knife into him--pretty slick at that sort o'
thing, they are."

Dorothy said nothing, but he read her feelings in her face.

"Cheer up, sister," he said, heaping a plate with baked beans and
sitting down at the table. "Pardon me, if I finish supper. That lad
ain't so hot. You've got me now, haven't yer? I'm a better man than he
was, Gunga Din!"

"Yes, you are--I _don't_ think!"

"How do yer get that way?"

"Well--" Dorothy eyed him uncompromisingly--"why are you afraid of me,
then?"

"_Afraid?_ You little whippet!" He paused, his knife loaded with beans
half way to his mouth. "Say--that's a good one! What are yer givin' us?"

"You keep me tied up, don't you? Why? You're twice my size and you've
got a gun--"

"Two of 'em, little one--my rod and yourn."

"Yet you're afraid to loosen my hands."

"No, I'm not--but--"

"Please," she begged, changing her tone. "My face itches terribly from
all that dust and I--"

"Well, what do yer think I am? A lady's maid?"

"Don't be silly--I just hate to sit here talking to you, looking such a
fright!"

"So that's it," he laughed. "Don't try yer Blarney on me! I'm as ugly as
mud and yer knows it. Though I'll say yer need a little make-up--and
I'll let yer have it. But just get rid of that idea that you've got me
buffaloed--yer haven't!"

He pushed back his chair and coming round the table, untied the rope
that bound her wrists.

"Thanks." She began to rub her hands, which were numbed and sore.

"Don't mention it," he leered. "Now yer can doll up to yer heart's
content while I shovel some more chow into me. I sure am empty an'
that's no lie!"

"Hey, Mike!" called a man's voice from the doorway behind her. "Where do
they keep the wheelbarrer in this godforsakin' dump?"

"In the shed out back," returned Mike, sliding his chair up to the table
again and picking up his knife. "What yer want it for? What's the
trouble?"

"Trouble enough!" grumbled the other. "There's a couple o' guys messed
up pretty bad down the line. Need somethin' to cart 'em up here in.
Sling me a hunk o' bread, will yer? I ain't had no chow."

"Tough luck!" Mike replied callously, his mouth full, and tossed him
half a loaf. "So long."

"So long--" sang out the other, and Dorothy heard him cross the porch
and thump down the steps.

She was busily engaged in flexing her stiff fingers. She began to feel
better, stronger, quite like her old self again. But the news that two
men were badly hurt was anything but comforting. Was Bill one of them?
she wondered.

With an effort, she thrust the thought from her, and drawing forth a
comb and a compact from a pocket, she commenced the complicated process
of making herself presentable. If she was to make her escape before the
rest of the gang arrived she must work fast. But not too fast, for every
second brought back renewed strength to her cramped arms and fingers.

"How's that?" she asked a few minutes later, replacing comb and compact
in her pocket and getting to her feet.

"Say! You're some looker! I'd never have thought it!"

Mike pushed back his chair and came toward her, wiping his mouth with
the back of a hand. "Say! You've got Sadie lashed to the silo!"

"Who's Sadie? Your steady?" she asked, playfully pointing a forefinger
at him.

Mike leaned back against the table. "Never mind Sadie," he retorted.
"I've got an idea."

"Spill it."

"You wanta breeze--get outa here, don't yer?"

"What a mind-reader!"

"Cut it, kid!" Mike's tone was tense with earnestness. "That guy you
been travelin' with is either dead or a cripple. Sposin' you pal up with
me. Tell me yer will, kid, and we'll hop it together, now."

"How about the rest of the gang?"

"What about 'em. I ain't a regular--just horned in on this deal to make
a coupla grand extra."

"But I'm expensive--" she laughed.

"I'll say you are! What of it? I make good money. I'm no lousy crook.
I've got a real profession."

"What is it?"

"I'm a wrestler, kid, and I ain't no slouch at it, either."

For a moment Dorothy paled. For some reason she seemed taken aback.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

Dorothy straightened her lithe figure.

"Not a thing," she shrugged. Then musingly, "So you're a wrestler, eh?"

"Sure--what did yer think I was--a gigolo?"

Dorothy giggled. "Know this hold?" she asked casually.

And then a startling thing occurred--especially startling to the
unsuspecting Mike. There was a flash of brown-sweatered arms, a swirl of
darker brown hair and Mike felt himself gripped by one elbow and the
side of his neck. He knew the hold, had practiced it in gymnasium, but
not for some years. To be seized violently thus aroused the man and it
brought an instinctive muscular reaction which was assisted by a stab of
pain as Dorothy's thumb sank upon the nerve which is called the "funny
bone."

Yes, Mike knew the hold, and how to break it and recover; so as Dorothy
swirled him backward onto the table with uncanny strength, he pivoted.
Then, clutching her under her arms, he clasped his hands just beneath
her shoulder blades, bearing downward with his head against her chest.
It was a back-breaking grip, but her slender form twisted in his arms as
though he had been trying to hold a revolving shaft. An arm slipped over
his shoulder, a hand fastened on his wrist and began to tug it slowly
upward with the deliberate strength of a low-geared safe hoist. Then the
other hand, stealing around him, encircled the middle finger of his
clasped hand and began to force it back--a jiu jitsu trick. If he
resisted, the finger would be broken. To release his clasp would mean a
probable dislocation of the other arm.

Mike realized that he had to do not only with a phenomenally strong
girl, but with a skilled and practiced exponent of Oriental wrestling
tricks. He was by no means ignorant of this school, and countered the
attack in the proper technical way--with utter relaxation for the
moment--a supple yielding, followed by a swift offensive. Though he was
broader of shoulder and heavier, the two were nearly of equal height,
possibly of equal strength, but of a different sort. Mike's was slower,
but enduring; Dorothy's more that of the panther--swift, high of
innervation, but incapable of sustained tension.

Such maneuvers as immediately followed in this curious combat were
startling. Mike felt that he was struggling with an opponent far more
skilled than himself in jiu jitsu, one trained to the last degree in the
scientific application of the levers and fulcrums by which minimum force
might achieve maximum results in the straining of ligaments and
paralysis of muscles.

And to give him his due, for all his bluff about striking her with the
gun on the way up to the house, Mike had some decent instincts beneath
his roughness. Whereas he was striving to overcome without permanently
injuring the girl, Dorothy had no such qualms. She was fighting with
deliberate intention of putting him out of the running, for at least
such time as would permit her to carry out her plans for escape.

But for a time Mike's efforts were purely defensive, his object to save
himself from disgraceful defeat. What would the gang say if she bested
him, a professional wrestler, and make her getaway?

They fell across the table, shattering the crockery, then pitched off on
to the floor with Mike underneath.

He writhed over on his face and offered an opening for an elbow twist
which was not neglected. There was an instant when he thought the joint
would go; but he broke the hold by a headspin at the cost of infinite
pain.

Mike had seen the state in which jiu jitsu wrestlers left their
vanquished adversaries. Defeat at this girl's hands would probably leave
him helpless and crippled for three or four hours. It was not a pleasant
thought. He would have to hurt her--hurt her badly, if he could.

He was flat on his face again when suddenly he felt his automatic jerked
from its holster and she sprang to her feet.

"If you move an eyelash," said Dorothy, rather breathlessly, "I'll pull
the trigger!"

"If you don't drop that rod at once, I'll blow the top of your head
off," declared a dispassionate voice from the doorway.

Dorothy dropped the gun.



                             _Chapter XIV_

                               THE DOCTOR


"And now, Mike," continued the voice, "I'd like to know how you happened
to be caught napping."

Dorothy swung round to see a young woman standing in the doorway. With a
gasp of consternation she found herself staring down the barrel of a
revolver. For a fraction of a second her heart turned over with a
sickening thud. Then she recovered her poise.

"Well, I guess _my_ trick's over," she exclaimed as cheerfully as
possible.

Mike scrambled to his feet, catching up his automatic as he did so.
Instead of answering the girl who leaned against the door frame, he
stared at Dorothy in a sort of amazed wonder. She met his gaze, a
malicious little smile at the corners of her mouth. Aside from a flush
on her cheeks, she showed not the slightest sign of the ordeal she had
just passed through, nor the exhaustion it must have produced. His eyes
fell rather stupidly to her feet. If Mike had not so recently staggered
under Dorothy's material weight, he would not have believed her to
possess any at all. He drew a deep breath.

"Who taught you jiu jitsu?"

"A woman professional in New York. She had a class--the others went in
for it in a lady like way. But I took it up seriously because I thought
I might need it some day."

"Have you--ever?" He had dropped his east side argot, she noticed.

"Once or twice--but never like this," she smiled.

"I should hope not." Mike was rather pale. He frowned. "Where do you get
your appalling strength?"

"Heredity--and training. I come by it honestly. It's not so
extraordinary as some people seem to think." Her smile widened. "My
father is the strongest man I've ever known. Although you'd never guess
it by looking at him. He can do all sorts of stunts. He's trained
me--running, boxing, fencing, swimming--"

"I'll say he has! I wouldn't have believed it possible--and you only a
kid!"

Dorothy nodded and looked at him with a curious light in her gray eyes.

"Perhaps I'm not so strong as you think--I know a little more about
Oriental wrestling than you do, that's all."

"Yes, that's all!" said the woman by the doorway in a mocking tone. She
stepped across the threshold and came toward them. "Go over there and
sit down." She motioned Dorothy to a chair. "And not another peep out of
you--understand?" Her eyes gleamed at Dorothy through narrowed lids with
a light more metallic than the reflection from the barrel of her
automatic. It was a strange look--combined of ruthlessness and malicious
amusement.

"Interesting--very interesting, indeed!"

She turned to Mike, as Dorothy obeyed her and sat down.

"And now that you and your little lady friend have finished your
heart-to-heart, perhaps you'll tell me what it's all about--why I find
you flat on the floor covered by her gun?"

"Jealous, Sadie?" Mike's tone was tantalizing.

"You _fool_!"

She took a step forward. The expression on her face underwent a
startling change. Mockery gave way to an exasperated ferocity. Her eyes
opened to their full size. Then the volcano of her wrath erupted. Words
poured forth with the sharp regularity of a riveting hammer. Mike was
given a description of his characteristics, moral, mental and physical,
that brought the angry blood to his forehead.

Whereupon he retorted in like spirit and soon they were going it hammer
and tongs, while the fury on Sadie's face froze into livid hate.

It was a wicked face, yet beautiful, Dorothy thought as she watched from
her chair in the corner; a strangely beautiful face beneath a coiled
crown of glorious red hair. But its beauty was distorted, devilish. Her
lips were scarlet, slightly parted, showing the double rim of her even
teeth as she hurled insult after insult at the man before her. Like some
evil goddess, she stood motionless, the rise and fall of her bosom the
only token of the deadly emotion she felt as her even tones poured forth
vituperation.

Presently Dorothy's ears caught the sound of footsteps thumping on the
porch. The lame man limped into the room and sized up the situation at a
glance.

"Stop that scrapping, you two!" he commanded. "Stop it, Sadie! Do you
hear me? Stop it at once!"

The red-haired girl glared at him, but she obeyed. There was a dangerous
finality in his tone that debarred argument. She swept over to the
table, and deliberately turning her back upon the others, poured herself
a cup of coffee.

"Mike!" barked the Italian. "Go out and give the others a hand. We've
got a couple of invalids with us. I've already administered first aid,
but they will have to be carried upstairs and put to bed. Hustle, now!"

Mike disappeared through the door without a word. This little lame
person seemed to brook no opposition. He was probably the brain and the
leader of this gang, thought Dorothy--but he was speaking to her now.

"Good evening again, Miss Dixon! I felt somehow certain we were fated to
meet a third time tonight!" His glance snapped from her to Sadie and
back again. "Sorry we had to 'bag' you, as it were--hope you suffered no
great inconvenience?"

"Oh, I'm all right," she replied coolly.

"But I notice that your sweater is torn in several places. You will
excuse me?--but you look rather rumpled. I got the impression that you
and the young lady who is at present drinking coffee might have had--a
difference of opinion, shall we say?"

"No. These tears in my sweater were caused by accident. Miss Martinelli
had nothing to do with it."

"So you know her name! But, of course you would. That bicarbonate of
soda proved a boomerang. Too bad she really needed it at the time. It's
a lesson to us, to remember that servant girls are likely to be lazy."

"Oh, it wasn't Lizzie's fault," smiled Dorothy. "I caught her before she
had had time to wash the glass, that's all."

"You are a very clever young woman."

"Well, I don't know about that--" she drawled. Then she left her chair
and took a step toward him. "Tell me--is Bill Bolton very badly hurt?"

"Just a bit frazzled, that's all." Her aviation instructor limped into
the room. His coat was gone and his soft shirt, once white, hung from
his shoulders in dirty, tattered streamers. One eye, half-closed, was
rapidly turning black. Blood streaked his cheeks. Just above his left
knee the trouser-leg had been cut away and a blood-soaked bandage was
visible. Dorothy saw that his wrists were handcuffed behind his back. At
his elbow, a man whose jaw was queerly twisted to one side, stood guard
with drawn revolver.

The lame man grinned. "Here's your young friend now. You can take him in
the kitchen if you like and wash him off a bit. I'll come in later with
some bandages. You'll find matches and a lamp on a shelf just inside the
door.--Stick that gun in your pocket, Tony," he added to his henchman.
"Come over here. Now that we've proper light, I'll snap that jaw of
yours back into place."

Dorothy put an arm about Bill without speaking and led him slowly into
the dark room. Then as her hand groped for matches on the shelf, there
came a loud click from the other room, followed by a scream of anguish.
Dorothy felt her hair rise on the back of her neck. There was a
momentary silence, then low, breathless moans.

"What is it, Bill?" she whispered fearfully. "What's happened?"

Bill chuckled. "Tony's dislocated jaw is back in place, now, that's all.
Too bad I didn't knock it clean off while I was about it. He's the bird
who knifed me a while ago. No fault of his that he only got me in the
leg, either. I'm glad to hear he's getting his, now."

"Goodness--" Dorothy found the matches at last and struck one. "Here I
stand--and you're badly hurt--don't say you aren't--I know it. Where's
that lamp? He said it was on the shelf. It isn't. There it is on the
table. _Dash_--there goes the match!"

"Take it easy, kid!"

"Oh, I'm all right. That man's scream kind of set my teeth on edge."

She struck another match, then lit the lamp and carried it to a dresser
by the sink.

"Come over here and sit down," she said, drawing out a chair. "I want to
swab out that cut in your leg. The rag is filthy--" She pulled out the
drawer in the dresser. "Here's luck! Towels--clean ones! Who'd have
thought it!"

With deft fingers she unfastened his bandage, then cleaned the wound
with fresh water from the pump, using every precaution not to hurt him.

"You're certainly good at this kind of thing," was Bill's sincere
tribute as she turned her attention to the bruised cut on his head.

"Part of my high school course, you know. I'm better at this than at
Latin," she admitted with a smile. "Tell me what happened in the woods
after I got scragged and Mike carted me up here?"

"Who's Mike?"

"I'll tell you about him in a minute. Get along with your story first."

"Not much of a story. I didn't last long enough to make it interesting."

"Tell me about it, anyway."

"Well--I heard you yell and half turned when Tony and another lad jumped
me. You know what happened to Tony--"

"Yes, but the shot right afterward? Oh, Bill, I was scared silly they'd
killed you! Whose gun _was_ that?"

"Mine. I'd got my gat loose by that time and drilled him through the
shoulder. It turned out later that he tripped over a log when he fell,
came down with his leg under him and snapped the bone. When I learned
the horrid truth, I wept!"

"I'll bet you did! Couldn't you break away then?"

"I could not. Several others had joined the rough-house by that time.
For a while--not very long--we played a lively little game of tag,
blind-man's-buff, postoffice, dilly-dilly-come-and-be-killed, with me as
dilly, until another chap jumped out of a Ford on to the middle of my
back and rubbed my face in the cool, wet soil! At that bright moment old
Limpy clinched these handcuffs on my wrists and read me a lecture on the
error of my ways.

"He's a physician when he isn't bank-robbing, I think. Anyway, the gang
call him 'Doctor.' He seems to be running the show. Not such a bad lad
if he could be made over again. Tony, you must know, has developed an
almost uncontrollable penchant for sheathing his pigsticker in my
carcass once more. Strangely enough, I can't see it Tony's way. And
fortunately for me, neither can the Doctor! Now, young lady, if you're
finished squeezing cold water into my sore eye, I'll sing the doxology!"

Dorothy giggled. "Aren't you funny! I don't believe more than half of
that tale is true. I'll wager things were a whole lot worse than you've
painted them, sir!"

"Well, you've proved to be a good little guesser quite often--what I'm
interested in is what happened to you."

Dorothy told him.

"Nice work!" Bill complimented her as she finished talking. "I know a
few jiu jitsu holds, but you must be a wonder at it. It's too bad Staten
Island Sadie had to butt in and spoil your show. The more I see of that
lady, the less I like her. She was in the woods when the gang jumped
us--barged off in a huff later, because the Doc wouldn't let her croak
me then and there. She's a nice little playmate. Every one of this gang
is a cold-blooded thug--but she's a fiend! But, to tell the honest
truth, it's our lame friend who worries me most."

"Yes," agreed Dorothy. "That suave manner of his gives me the creeps!"

"So sorry--" purred the Doctor's voice directly behind them. "But if I
were in your position, my young friends, I should undoubtedly be
worried, too."

Bill and Dorothy swung round to see him coming toward them. In his hand
he carried a small, black bag.

"How is our invalid, nurse?" he inquired, feigning ignorance of their
startled surprise, and placing his satchel on the table. "Those who live
by the sword--but you are familiar with the quotation, I'm sure?"

Opening the bag, he produced bandages, adhesive tape, a pair of surgical
scissors and a large tube of salve.

"Lay these out, so I can reach them easily, please," he ordered as he
unwrapped the temporary bandage Dorothy had bound about Bill's leg.

"Ah! I see you have cleansed the wound, but it is safer to be more
thorough. Hand me one of the swabs you will find wrapped in cellophane
in the bag, please. Strange how the professional spirit will
dominate--even though the patient's life may not be a long one!" He
glanced smilingly at Dorothy.

"Don't tell me the knife was poisoned?" she cried in horror.

"Hardly anything so melodramatic, my dear. You don't quite grasp my
meaning."

"He means," said Bill grimly, "that after he has had the fun of patching
me up, I'm to be taken for a ride. But don't let him bluff you. He's
only trying to scare us."

"Too much knowledge is dangerous at times--entirely too dangerous,"
returned the lame man. "Hand me another swab, nurse. But you put it
rather crudely, young man--and I am perfectly in earnest, I assure you."

"Oh, you couldn't do _that_!" Dorothy blenched and her hand shook as she
passed him the swab.

"Well, you see, it is not entirely up to me," he replied, carefully
cleaning the wound. "The matter of your friend's future, shall I
say?--as well as your own, will have to be put to vote presently. Of
course, if Miss Martinelli has her way--but why anticipate the
unpleasant?"

To Dorothy's surprise, Bill chuckled.

"They hang in this state, for murder," he remarked coolly. "It's a nasty
death, I've heard. What's more, Doctor, a man of your mentality does not
deliberately stick his head into a noose!"

"Perhaps not, my young friend. But you forget that in order to prove
murder, there must be a body--or bodies, as the case may be." The Doctor
looked up at Bill and smiled again.



                              _Chapter XV_

                    STATEN ISLAND SADIE HAS HER WAY


"I believe that I have done all that is necessary," said the Doctor
after a few minutes--"and I think the patient will be more comfortable
now." Then, with a sardonic gleam in his eye, he added, "Also, I have
enjoyed our conversation very much!"

He walked to the sink where he washed his hands and dried them carefully
on a clean towel.

"And so, if you young people are quite ready, we'll adjourn for that
voting contest I mentioned a little while ago."

He motioned them to precede him, and brought up the rear with his bag as
Dorothy helped Bill limp into the front room.

Politely, the Doctor placed chairs for them and bade them be seated.
Never once had this black-eyed little man's manner betokened anything
but courteous consideration. But his suavity troubled Dorothy far more
than bluster would have done. She sensed the venom behind his smooth
tones, the purring growl of the tiger before it springs.

Dorothy knew she was losing her nerve. But she looked at Bill and smiled
bravely as they sat down.

Bill smiled back at her then shifted his glance with hers to the table,
where the members of the gang were seated. The little Doctor headed the
board, the others at the side facing the room. Next to the lame man sat
the red-haired girl; then came Mike, Tony, who was nursing his jaw,
Johnny, the man who had fetched the wheelbarrow, and another whom
Dorothy had not seen before. Tony, she fancied, had played the part of
chauffeur at the bank.

Then Bill broke into the low-voiced conversation that was going on at
the table.

"How about unlocking these handcuffs, Doctor?"

The Doctor shook his head. "No, no, my young friend. Even with your
honorable wounds of combat, you are far too active for us to take any
chances."

"But what could I do? You are six to one, counting Miss Martinelli--and
all armed," insisted Bill. "These things are darned uncomfortable."

Tony shot him a deadly glance. "I'm glad to hear it," he muttered
through clenched teeth. "You'll be a lot more uncomfortable by the time
I finish with you."

"Shut up, you two!" snapped Sadie. "Now, Dad," she went on in a
different tone, addressing the Doctor, "let's finish this business. We
can't sit here gabbing all night."

"That's what I say!" This from Johnny. "Bump off the pair of 'em--they
know too much. Then we can divvy up and be on our way!"

"You forget that it is our custom to put such matters to vote,"
interposed the Doctor. "Two of our company are upstairs and unable to
attend. Also, another member is expected at any time now. Without his
help our little _coup_ would have been extremely difficult."

"Chuck and Pete are too ill to vote," argued Miss Martinelli. "As for
Perkins--that sap is scared to death! I doubt if he shows up at all."

"Oh, he wants his share," declared the Doctor. "He'll come. We shall
give him five minutes--and then continue our business."

He tapped a cigarette on the back of his gold case, struck a match and
lounged back in his chair, inhaling the aromatic smoke with evident
enjoyment.

Dorothy's eyes met Bill's in astonishment.

He smiled but said nothing.

It was interesting enough that Sadie should turn out to be the Doctor's
daughter. But the news that Harry Perkins, her father's trusted
lieutenant at the bank, was mixed up in this robbery was simply
dumfounding to Dorothy. That was how things had been made easy for the
gang--that was how they knew just when Mrs. Hamberfield's necklace would
be in her deposit box. And another thing--Perkins' home was on the
Marvin Ridge Road, just beyond the Mayo place where the Pen and Pencil
Club were to meet! The Doctor had been coming from the Perkins' house
when she and Billy had met his car. And that explained the absence of
road oil on the Packard's tires!

Johnny's voice interrupted her train of thought.

"How are we goin' to make our getaway tonight with them two lads down
and out upstairs?" he grumbled. "Our plan was to separate after we'd
divvied up the loot--but them fellers can't be moved."

"Supposing you stay and look after them--" derided Sadie. "When we've
made the divvy, as you call it, this bunch breaks up for the time being.
We all go our own sweet ways. It's a case of each for himself. If you
want to stick here and nurse those boobs upstairs, nobody's going to
stop you."

"Not me! I don't know nothin' about--"

"Then keep your mouth shut. Whatever we do, we'll decide later on. How
about the time, Dad?"

"Time's up," decided the Doctor with a glance at his watch. "We'll wait
no longer for Mr. Perkins. Now, concerning our two young friends who
were so unwise as to join us tonight--what is your pleasure?"

"Bump them off, of course, as Johnny so prettily puts it," yawned Sadie
languidly. "I'll attend to the job, if the rest of you are squeamish."

"We will put it to vote," announced the Doctor. "Those in favor will
raise their right hands and say 'aye'."

Five hands, including his own, sprang into the air.

"Contraries, 'no'."

"_No_," said Mike in a firm voice, holding up his right hand.

"The ayes have it," declared the Doctor dispassionately.

"What's the matter with you, Mike?" sneered Sadie. "Got a crush on the
girl?"

"No," retorted Mike. "Just trying to stop you from making an even bigger
fool of yourself than you are usually!"

"I'm afraid you'll have to pipe down, Mike." The Doctor's eyes gleamed
balefully. "Sentence has been passed on Miss Dixon and Mr. Bolton--and
that is all there is to it."

"That's where you're dead wrong."

"What do you mean? Don't you realize that these two know too much about
us to permit them to live?"

"Have I said they didn't? But Sadie should not be allowed to be their
executioner."

"Oh--aren't you considerate!" Sadie's tone was pregnant with sarcasm.
"Want the job yourself?"

"Not particularly--none of us should do it."

"Who then, may I ask?"

"Why, Perkins, of course."

"You're crazy! He hasn't the nerve."

"Maybe not--make him do it anyway."

It was the lame man's turn to take a hand. "And why should Mr. Harry
Perkins be so entrusted?"

"To keep his mouth shut."

"I'm afraid I don't understand you."

"And I didn't think you could be so dense. Look here, Doctor. I haven't
been one of your crowd long, but I'd never have joined up at all if I'd
known I was getting in with such a bunch of nitwits!"

"You are forgetting yourself, I think," the Doctor's tone was cutting.

"No. I ain't. Listen--Perkins only came into this because he was up
against it proper. How you found out he had speculated, first with his
own money and then with the bank's, is none of my affair. What I do know
is that when Wall Street put him into a tight place, you put up the
extra margin with his brokers upon an assurance from him that he would
do--just what he's done!"

"You are very well informed, Mike. And what then?"

"Just this: the bank has been robbed, but it was a crude job at best.
Why the bulls haven't fastened on Perkins already on account of that
time-lock business, is beyond me. Then, for once in your long and
successful career, you were careless, Doctor. You allowed your paternal
feeling to out-weigh your natural caution. The result is that the cops
got Sadie's fingerprints and a description of you, of her and of Tony. I
am simply bringing all this up to show you that we are not out of the
mess yet--not by a long shot."

"In other words, you think we have a fifty-fifty chance with the
police?"

"Better than that, perhaps. I think, though, that if we do get nailed,
we should stop Perkins from blabbing--and stop him effectually."

"I see," said Sadie. "Let him bump off the pair over there--then take
him for a ride?"

"Be still, carissima!" Doctor Martinelli was interested. "I see what
Mike is driving at. He fears that if things should by chance go wrongly,
Harry Perkins would try to save his precious skin by turning state's
evidence. And that if he were forced to--er--place these two young
people where they will do the least harm, Mr. Perkins will not be in a
position himself to turn state's evidence--that is, of course, should it
become necessary. That is your reason for not voting with the rest of
us?"

"It is, Doctor. Do you wish to vote on it again?"

"Not necessarily. I consider your plan adequate."

"But why make the biggest mistake--of murdering us?" Bill entered the
conversation.

Dorothy leaned toward him. "It's no use, Bill," she whispered steadily.
"They've made up their minds--and you heard what the Doctor said in the
other room!"

Bill did not attempt to reply, for Doctor Martinelli was speaking again.

"And why, in your opinion, are we making a mistake in putting you and
Miss Dixon out of the running?" he inquired affably. "Take your time,
young man, answer carefully. We are in no hurry--until Mr. Harry Perkins
arrives."

"He won't arrive," rejoined Bill. "The authorities have got him by this
time."

"Bluff!" shot out Sadie and turned fiercely on her father. "What's the
use of all this?" she cried. "It makes me sick. Why do you stand for
it?"

"Because he knows Bill _isn't_ bluffing!" Dorothy's raised voice
silenced the woman. "We knew that you had been visiting Harry Perkins
this evening, Doctor. And we passed word to the police on our way
through New Canaan. The only reason you weren't arrested on the way up
is because they want to catch the whole gang together. If you hadn't
shown up here, the rest of your people might have got wise and left
before the police could make arrangements to surround the place."

"But, you see, my dear," said the Doctor, "I wasn't visiting Mr. Perkins
this evening. I had just motored up from the Post Road, and--ah--points
east, when I ran into you and your friend Bill."

Dorothy laughed. "Oh, no, you hadn't, Doctor. The road beyond Perkins'
place was freshly oiled. There was no sign of oil on your car."

"She got you that time, Doc!" exclaimed Mike. "D'you mind saying why you
were foolish enough to drop in on Perkins and put us up a tree this
way?"

Doctor Martinelli was irritated. "Because the safest place to park that
loot was in Perkins' house," he snapped, "and as he refused to bring it
up here himself, I had to fetch it."

"Then all I can say is that you and Sadie have made a pretty mess of
things."

"Is that so?" retorted the red-haired young woman. "Was it _my_ fault
that that fellow over there landed his plane on the lake? That was
before the New Canaan deal. He had nothing at all to go on then!"

"That's where you're wrong," broke in Bill. "Your hair and those beach
pajamas make a combination not easily forgotten. You wore them once too
often, Miss Martinelli."

"And you seem to forget," added Dorothy, "that you've been
finger-printed both in this country and in England. The police know all
about you and your father and Tony. They probably have the records of
the rest of your gang. If anything happens to Bill or myself, you are
bound to pay the penalty."

"Say, Doc!" Johnny's excited voice sounded shrilly, "I don't like
this--not a little bit I don't. Tie up that pair and let's vamoose. Them
cops is likely to be here any minute. I'm tired of all this fool talk.
Come on--this place is gettin' too hot fer me!"

Mike got to his feet. "I don't stir from this place until I get my share
of the divvy," he declared firmly. "What's the matter with you, Johnny?
If Doc lights out with the bag full of kale, it ain't likely the rest of
us will ever get what's coming to us."

"But I can't afford to get pinched--" Johnny faltered. "Not after that
Jersey City job, I can't. It means the hot seat for me." The gangster
shivered and moistened his lips.

"It is my candid opinion that you are all exciting yourselves
unnecessarily." The Doctor's voice betrayed no emotion whatsoever. "Miss
Dixon and Mr. Bolton are clever young people--but not quite clever
enough. They're throwing a gigantic bluff to save their lives. The
police won't be here tonight. Why? Simply because if they knew anything
about this house, we would have been raided long before this. Those two
haven't told the police or anyone else a thing about it. They wanted to
pull off their job all by themselves!"

"And how, may I ask, do you figure that?" Bill endeavored to make his
tone sarcastic.

"For this reason: if you had reported what you had learned--and
guessed--the authorities would never have permitted you to come here
tonight. And this proves it!"

There was a light step on the porch and Harry Perkins came in through
the open door.



                             _Chapter XVI_

                    WHAT HAPPENED IN THE WINE CELLAR


"Sorry to be so late," greeted the bank's cashier. "My car broke down.
I've had to walk five miles, at least--" He broke off, catching sight of
Dorothy and Bill for the first time.

"Hello!" he exclaimed, "what are you two doing here?"

"They are waiting for you to bump them off," replied Sadie with a sneer.

"Why, what do you mean?" Perkins gazed breathlessly around the room.

"Just what I said. You are going to stop their mouths for good--and do
it right now. We've been shilly-shallying over this business long
enough!"

Perkins' glance took in the others seated at the table.

"Has she gone nuts?" he asked.

"We have decided that you are to do what my daughter has just
mentioned," said the Doctor smoothly.

"And I," retorted Perkins angrily, "tell you here and now that I will be
no party to murder!"

Sadie drew her revolver.

"Well--if he won't, I will!" she began when her wrist was caught in a
grip of steel, then twisted up and backward.

"Drop it, little one--drop it--or I'll break your arm," said Mike.

Sadie shrieked with pain, but she dropt her revolver and Mike pocketed
it.

"I'll get you for that!" she screamed.

Her father leaned forward in his chair. "Shut up, you idiot!" he said
coldly and deliberately slapped her across the mouth with his open hand.
"We've had enough from you for one evening. Mike was perfectly right to
stop you. Perkins is going to do this job, and you know _why_ he is
going to do it. I'll have no more argument from you. Keep still now,
until you have my permission to speak."

"But I tell you I'll have nothing to do with it," repeated Perkins, and
attempted to light with trembling fingers the half-burned cigar he was
chewing.

Doctor Martinelli swung round in his chair. "You'll do as you're told,"
he said through clenched teeth. "A little persuasion of the kind I have
in mind has been known to make braver men than you change their
opinions, Mr. Harry Perkins!" He glared at the cashier, who dropped his
eyes--and the cigar--at one and the same moment.

"That's the way, Doc," applauded Mike, getting to his feet. "We've been
sittin' round this table so long we're all getting stale. What we need's
a little excitement."

He pointed to Dorothy and Bill.

"I'll take these two down stairs and stick them in the old wine cellar.
They'll keep fine and dandy down there. Later, when Mr. Perkins sees
reason he can run down and finish them off. While I'm gone, Johnny, you
beat it out to the woodshed and fetch in a length of garden hose." He
guffawed--"I guess you know that trick--the bulls have made it pretty
popular?"

The lame man smiled and nodded.

"O.K. Doc?"

"It's a good plan, Mike. Go ahead with it."

Mike took a flashlight from his pocket and beckoned to the prisoners.

Sadie pushed back her chair and jumped up. "Tie that girl or she'll get
away!" she ordered.

"Pipe down!" thundered the gangster and there was an ugly gleam in his
eyes as he glared at her. "Give me any more of your lip, Sadie, and
you'll take a trip downstairs yourself. Some day when you ain't got a
thing to do fer a couple of weeks, try gettin' outa that place with the
door locked. Run along now--murder yourself, if you have to--you
red-headed bag of hot wind!"

He turned his back on the furious woman and motioned Bill and Dorothy to
walk before him into the kitchen.

"Well, of all the nerve--" Dorothy heard Sadie cry sharply as Harry
Perkins broke in with--"Look here, Doctor Martinelli, do you really mean
to--"

Mike shut the door, cutting the argument in the front room to a mere
mumble of voices.

"Down those stairs to the right and then straight ahead, you two," he
directed, pointing the way with his flashlight--"No tricks, either,
unless you want your buddie hurt worse than he is now, Miss Wildcat!"

Dorothy, with her arm about Bill's shoulders, stopped at the head of the
cellar stairs.

"I think you told me you were getting two thousand dollars for your
share in the New Canaan robbery," she murmured.

"That's right--a coupla grand," he acknowledged. "Not much, but when I
made the deal, I wasn't as strong with Doc as I am now."

"If you let us go, my father will pay you ten thousand!"

"Nothing doing!"

"And I promise you he'll use his influence in your behalf, as well. It
seems to me a mighty easy way to make a lot of money--"

Mike shrugged his shoulders.

"Maybe it is," he admitted. "But then you see, I've never double-crossed
a pal yet, and I'm not going to start at this late day. Cut the chatter
now--there's nothing doing."

"You won't regret it, Mike."

The door behind them opened slowly, revealing Doctor Martinelli's slight
figure.

"My judgment of human nature is rarely at fault," the little man went on
rather pompously. "I believed I could trust you--now I know it. There's
a full share coming to you on this deal, Mike. Cut along now, but hurry
back. As soon as you've locked them up, I'll need your help with
Perkins."

The door closed once more and Mike waved toward the gaping black of the
cellar stairs.

"You heard what Doc said--down you go!"

"Over there to the left," he directed when his two prisoners reached the
bottom and Dorothy helped Billy to hobble across the damp, earthern
floor, in the shifting rays of Mike's torch.

Ahead in the wall of native stone that formed the foundation of the
house, they could see a door of heavy wood, at least six inches thick.
Mike pushed it fully open. For a moment Dorothy thought of jumping him,
but now she saw he carried a revolver in his free hand.

"In you go!" he said roughly, elbowing them over the threshold. But
instead of locking them in, he stepped over the sill and gently pulled
the door shut behind him.

Bill, anticipating the end, stepped between Dorothy and their captor.

"Let her go, Mike. Her father and mine will give you anything you ask.
Shoot me if you must--but let her go. Use two shots, and the others will
think--tell them--"

"Quiet, please," whispered Mike fiercely, and Dorothy started, for he
spoke now with the voice of a well bred Englishman.

"Neither of you will be shot tonight, if you do as I tell you.
Here--take this automatic, Miss Dixon. And listen carefully, both of
you. I've only a minute. You'll find a few useful articles under the
pile of sacking in that far corner," he went on, pointing into the gloom
behind them. "Then, get out of the window as quickly as you can--the
bars are sawn through. Your car is still parked where you left it. Go
straight home. That, I think, will be all at present."

Bill and Dorothy stared at him in wide-eyed amazement.

"Who are you, anyway?" the girl whispered, peering up at him.

"To ease your minds," he smiled, "I'm not exactly what I pretend to be.
And I want to apologize to you, Miss Dixon, for the exceedingly crude
game I was forced to play with you. The Doctor had his suspicions of me,
until just a few moments ago, I believe, and he has had us watched ever
since I brought you here. But now he has proved his judgment to be
sound--" he chuckled to himself--"and has ceased his strict
surveillance."

He paused a moment then went on, more seriously. "My name is Michael
Conway. I am a detective-inspector in the Criminal Investigation
Department of New Scotland Yard. I've trailed certain members of the
Martinelli gang all the way from London. My plans seem to have
miscarried this evening; otherwise, you need not have been put to all
this inconvenience. Remember that the house has ears, and be as quiet as
possible. Good night--and good luck!"

The door swung shut behind him. They heard him turn the key in the lock
and he was gone.

"Gee Whiz!" muttered Bill, "and I thought--"

"Sh--Bill!" cautioned Dorothy. "Never mind now. Stand where you are, or
you'll break your neck in this darkness."

Her voice came from farther off now. He knew she was feeling her way
across the room toward the corner.

Presently a light appeared and she spoke again.

"I've found the things," she told Bill. "Besides this flash, there's
another automatic, a small ax, and a chisel."

"Thank heaven for that," said Bill. "Now I've a chance of getting these
handcuffs off!"

"But we can't do it in here," Dorothy objected. "Remember what Mike said
about making a noise. We'll have to wait till we get outside. There's
the window. It's going to be a tight squeeze."

Her light showed them they were standing in a narrow room, walled like
the cellar in native stone. Along the sides, piled one on top of the
other were wine casks, which proved to be empty. The damp air was heavy
with the fumes of evaporating lees. High to one side was a small barred
window.

"Lean against this barrel, so it won't slip," whispered Dorothy, and
clambered up to the window. "Yes, the bars are loose!"

She removed the short lengths of rusty iron from the open frame and
carefully laid them on the ground outside.

"Now the paraphernalia--" She placed ax, chisel and revolver beside the
bars on the grass and descended to Bill's side.

"Guess I'll have to go first," observed Bill. "We'll never make it,
otherwise. Give me a boost, will you?"

They were both breathless and nearly exhausted by the time Bill had been
pushed up and out of the window. Dorothy was so tired it took every
ounce of her waning strength to drag herself through the narrow aperture
after him. They rested for some minutes in the long, dewy grass,
gathering strength and courage for the waiting ordeal.

As soon as they began to move away from the house, Dorothy realized that
Bill was near collapse. Even with her supporting arm, he lurched and
stumbled through the tangled undergrowth.

"It's that old hole in my leg," he grumbled in answer to her question.
"It's opened up again--been bleeding pretty freely. You'd better leave
me here."

He sank wearily to the ground behind a cluster of elder bushes, about
two hundred yards from the house, the weight of his body pulling Dorothy
to her knees beside him.

"I'll do nothing of the kind!" she whispered fiercely.

"But you must--I can't go any further," his voice trailed off weakly.

With a quick movement she felt for his wound in the darkness and
tightened the bandage.

"We'll wait here till you're strong enough to walk, that's all. If I try
to run the car up here, they'll hear it from the house. There's no use
to try to cut off your handcuffs, either. The least sound will bring
that gang down on us."

"Not the car--" he mumbled. "The amphibian--beat it for the Loening--and
bring help."

Dorothy bit her lip. With Bill delirious there was nothing she could do
but remain with him.

"That's all right," she said, trying to calm him--"We'll stay here till
you feel stronger, Bill. Then I'll help you down to the car."

Bill had been lying on his side, his head pillowed on her knees. Now he
wriggled into a sitting position.

"I'm pretty well all in," he admitted, "but I'm not off my head--not
yet--if that's what you're thinking.--Didn't I tell you about the
amphibian?"

"You certainly did not----" Dorothy's tone was relieved, yet excited.

"Well, here's the dope, then. She's parked in the next valley--over that
hill behind the house. You'll find her under the trees at the edge of a
wood lot. I flew up here several nights ago. Wanted a means of quick
getaway, if it became necessary. Frank met me over there and drove me
home. It's a rotten landing place. You'll find it worse for the take
off. You'll be taking an awful chance to do it."

Dorothy got to her feet. "You certainly are the one and only
life-saver," she breathed joyfully. "Every time we get really up against
it--you've a plane up your sleeve or something. Don't worry--I'll fly it
all right!"

"Hop it for Danbury, then. When you get there, land in the fair grounds.
Phone the police and tell them to run down in a car and that you'll fly
them back here. You can land on the lake. The bus has a searchlight--"

He broke off as the sharp detonation of an automatic came from the
direction of the house. This was followed by shouts and the sound of a
scuffle. Presently all was quiet once more.

"Something's up!" said Dorothy.

Bill nodded gravely. "I wonder if they haven't found we're not in the
wine cellar--if they've charged Mike Conway with our escape?"

"Well, I'm going over to see."

"No, you're not--I'll go."

But by the time Bill had struggled to his feet, Dorothy had run to the
house and was peering between the shutters of the side window. She stood
there for a moment, then ran back to him.

"The Doctor has been shot," she gasped. "Not badly hurt, I
think--evidently took it in the shoulder. But they've got Mike. He's
tied hand and foot and bound to a chair!"

"That's bad," said Bill slowly.

"It's awful! They'll surely shoot him before I can get the police here!"

Bill hobbled back toward the shelter of the bushes with Dorothy's arm
about his waist.

"Some break!" he said disgustedly, as he sank to the ground. "I'm out of
the running and you can't hold up that bunch single handed--"

"I can try it though, Bill."

"Not if I have anything to say, you won't. There are too many of
'em--it's impossible. But what we're going to do now, I haven't the
slightest idea!"



                             _Chapter XVII_

                              THE LOENING


"One thing is clear--" said Dorothy firmly--"and that is, we can't let
Michael Conway be butchered by that band of cut-throats. He saved our
lives--we've got to save his."

Bill, his head in his hands, did not reply.

"If you were only in better shape so I could get those handcuffs
off--and if there weren't so many of them in the house," she went on,
speaking her thoughts aloud, "one of us might be able to hold them up
from the window while the other went round through the door and took
their guns away. But we can't afford to wait till you can walk alone and
I can free your hands. What's to become of Mr. Conway, in the meantime?
Oh, Bill, you're generally so fertile with ideas--_can't_ you think of
any thing?"

Bill lay motionless, and still did not answer.

Dorothy stooped over him.

"Bill! Bill!" she called in a tense whisper. Then, daring greatly, she
flashed her light on his face, held it there for an instant, then
snapped it off.

"Down and out, poor chap," was her summing up after a glimpse of his
closed eyes and dead white features. "Loss of blood, probably. He'll
come round after while--but when?"

Her heart sank. For several minutes she knelt beside his quiet form,
lost in thought. Then she began to act.

"Sorry, Bill, old thing, but I've got to leave you. It's the only way."
Her murmured tones were muffled by the sweater she pulled over her head.
Stripping free her arms, she rolled it in a ball and placed the soft
pillow beneath Bill's head. She gave him a little pat, then started off
toward the hill back of the house.

Dorothy crossed the field beyond the farm's overgrown orchard in
darkness. It was not until she reached the woods at the foot of the hill
that she dared to snap on her flashlight.

Even with its help the climb was no sinecure. The hillside, steep as a
church roof and densely wooded, was, moreover, thick with underbrush,
which hindered her progress. Rocky outcroppings and huge boulders made
frequent detours necessary.

By the time she struggled to the top she was winded and pretty well done
up. Her vitality had suffered considerably from strain and worry and
violent exercise during the course of the evening. She was quite ready
to drop down and have a good cry, and to admit to herself right then
that she was beaten. Only the knowledge that a life, possibly two, hung
upon her efforts, kept her going. Stopping only long enough to tie a
broken shoelace, she hurried over the crest of the hill and plunged down
the farther side.

Here, her progress became even more difficult, for she floundered into a
berry patch whose thorns tore her clothing and badly scratched her face
and hands. Determinedly, she pushed her way through, gritting her teeth
in pain.

Presently, after several bad falls over hidden rocks and tree stumps,
she found herself on a narrow, grass-grown wood road at the foot of the
hill. So far as she could see, the trail wound along the middle of the
valley. But she hadn't the faintest idea in which direction lay the
field (Bill had called it a wood lot) where the _Loening_ was hidden.

Dorothy was totally at a loss. _Why_ hadn't she taken more precise
directions before tramping over here? This trail _must_ lead to the wood
lot or near it. Bill said Frank had driven there in the car....

"What a fool I am!" she exclaimed suddenly to the night at large and
pointed her flashlight toward the ground at her feet.

There were the tire marks of a car, plain enough. Brewster and Danbury
lay far to the left beyond the mouth of this valley which paralleled
that of the gang's headquarters. Therefore, Bill's car must have come up
the trail from the left. The tracks kept on up the road to her left--the
wood lot must be in that direction.

As she trudged on, watching carefully for any deviation of the tire
marks, she forgot her weariness for the time being. The winding road
ended and she saw an open space ahead. It must be the wood lot. Hadn't
Bill said it was the only possible landing place in the valley!

Dorothy hurried across the field, through a tangle of knee-high grasses
and wild flowers. She pointed her light higher now and tried to pierce
the black of the night for a glimpse of the plane. Then she saw it
parked at the forest's edge, directly ahead, and sprang forward with a
delighted cry.

As she came close, she saw that it faced the open lot, and silently
thanked Bill for his foresight. With a plane the size of the amphibian
it would have been impossible to swing round the tail unassisted.

Her preparations for this flight would probably not have met with her
instructor's approval. But knowing that time was more important than
detail, she cut them to a minimum.

A quick glance at the retractible landing gear sufficed to satisfy her
that the wheels were securely blocked. Then she sprang aboard and gave
the engine a short ground test. It was acting splendidly and she shut it
off almost directly.

A hurried trip aft to the cabin and she came back to the pilot's
cockpit, dragging the plane's machine gun, which, after some trouble,
she managed to set up on its tripod which she fastened to cleats in the
decking.

Certain now that the gun was secure, she adjusted the ammunition belt as
Bill had instructed her. Then she raced aft again and overside. When she
returned, she brought the wheel blocks with her. These she dropped in
the cabin, saw to it that the door was properly fastened, then took her
place at the controls forward.

The night was overcast and starless; the ceiling unusually low, and so
far as she could judge there was not the slightest breath of wind. She
switched on the plane's searchlight and started the engine.

The trees at the far end of the wood lot were uncomfortably near and
high. Yet Bill had judged a take off from such a place to be possible,
or he would never have parked there.

The big Loening was moving now--rolling drunkenly over the rough ground,
yet gaining speed with every foot. She widened her throttle, steadily,
fully--at the same time pushing the stick well forward. Then as the
amphibian gained still more speed and she felt the tail lift clear, she
eased the stick steadily back to neutral.

They were racing over the field now. She gave the elevators a slight
upward pressure. The wheels lifted clear, but the trees at the edge of
the lot were perilously near. She knew that when a plane leaves the
ground its speed is not far above stalling point. And with these trees
so close, to stall now would precipitate a bad crash--and failure.

Dorothy, therefore, kept the nose level for an instant or two, a
dangerously short instant, she feared. Back came her stick again. The
plane was climbing at last but at a frightfully precipitous angle. Would
they make it? Would the throbbing engine continue to function under the
unaccustomed strain?

Dorothy bit her lip. She eased off slightly as the motor coughed; but
pulled the stick back almost immediately.

They were abreast the treetops now.--They were over. But with a margin
so small that Dorothy was certain the wheels had brushed the branches.

She eased their angle of ascent, but still continued to climb. Then when
she was sure they were well above the crest of the hill, she leveled off
and banked to the left.

Once more she leveled off and turned on the electrical mechanism which
raised the plane's landing gear.

Below her she could dimly make out the gangster's farmhouse, the lake
and the stretch of ground between them. She closed her throttle, pushing
the stick forward as she did so, and at the same time applied right
aileron and hard right rudder.

As the plane shot downward she neutralized the elevators. Then did
likewise with her ailerons as the proper bank was reached. Left aileron
and hard left rudder were next applied until the wings became laterally
level. Having completed a beautiful half spiral, Dorothy landed the
amphibian on the little lake.

Her next move was an unusual one, but on it depended the success or
failure of her plan.

With the airplane headed toward the lake's low shore beyond which lay
the farmhouse, she turned the switch which propelled the retractible
landing gear downward and into the water. Then she opened the throttle
for the last time.

There came a bump and a jar. The tail tilted to a dangerous angle as the
plane's wheels struck the shallows. Would they mire in the soft ground
at the lake's edge she wondered, and cause the big bus to nose over and
crash? But no--the plane, after a sickening wrench, rolled free. It
glided over the sandy bank and on to the grass.

Shutting off her engine, Dorothy permitted her amphibian steed to come
to a stop at the porch steps, its ugly snout poked almost up to the open
doorway of the house.

Dorothy had been too busy guiding her bus to pay any attention to the
reception accorded her arrival. A shot or two had been fired from the
porch and she had caught a glimpse of dark figures silhouetted against
the open doorway.

But now, as the slowing wheels struck the steps, the porch was empty.
The way was clear for Mike's release. Together they would find Bill and
make a clean getaway in the amphibian. What did it matter if the gang
made their escape? Her life and the lives of her two friends were all
that counted now.

To speed the departing company she turned the Browning into action and
sent half a belt of bullets whipping through the door. But Dorothy aimed
high. She had no desire to play the part of executioner.

From her place in the cockpit she got a good view of the front room.
Mike, the Scotland Yard detective, still sat bound to his chair, but the
others were streaking for the back of the house. She could see them
tugging at the doors, which for some reason, seemed to give them
difficulty of exit. Huddled at the far end of the room, they clamored
and struggled to get out of range.

Dorothy stopped firing and Bill Bolton hobbled up the porch steps.

"Jumping Jupiter! girl, you're a wonder!" he applauded. "Hold the
Browning on 'em. They can't get away. I locked those doors from the
outside. Crawled through the wine cellar window to do it," he panted.
"Thought it might embarrass them some--but this stunt of yours makes it
perfect."

He took a step forward and raised his voice.

"Stick 'em up!" he cried. "Stick 'em up--every one of you--that's
better. Now line up, facing the back wall--and remember--just one bad
break is all Miss Dixon wants to rip off another belt--aimed right, this
time--" he added significantly.

As the gangsters scrambled to obey his orders, Bill walked into the room
and Dorothy saw that his wrists were still handcuffed behind his back.

"Who's got the handcuff key, Mr. Conway?" he inquired.

"Johnny, I believe," returned Mike quietly.

"Johnny, have you the key?" This from Bill.

"Y-yes, I got it."

"Got a gun?"

"N-no, sir, it's on the table."

"I'll take your word for it. Throw the key over your shoulder, then
stick up your hands again."

Johnny complied with these demands, and Bill picked up the key by
sitting on the floor and worming over to where it lay.

"Think you can turn this with your teeth, Mr. Scotland Yard?"

Mike nodded. Bill swung round and lifted his hands as high as his bonds
permitted. The detective lowered his head and got his teeth on the key.
A moment later there sounded a slight snap--and Bill was free.

"Good job!" He worked his cramped shoulders. "That certainly is a
relief!"

He limped to the table, snatched a knife and a couple of seconds later
Mike was on his feet. Without more ado they turned to, and roped the
gangsters one by one.

Dorothy got down from the plane and came into the room.

"Who's going to stand guard while the plane goes for the police?"

"Nobody," was Bill's answer. "We'll pile the bunch in the bus and take
them to New Canaan ourselves. Gosh, there'll be some big time in the
town tonight, when we arrive!"

"This morning, you mean," yawned Dorothy. "It's getting light. And you
two may not know it, but I could go to sleep standing up--and right
now!"

"Brace up, kid! You're some aviatrix, even though I did train you!"

"I'll second that--" beamed Mr. Michael Conway, grasping her hand. "I
had a splendid view through the doorway--and when that big bus hurled
itself out of the water like a hippo--and began to charge the house,
I--"

But Dorothy interrupted him with a shake of her head and an involuntary
glance at Bill. "All I did was to take some awful chances with Bill's
property, Mr. Conway."

"Ah--incidentally--saving my life, and making the capture of this gang
possible?" smiled the detective. "You're a modest young lady, indeed.
But I suppose we'd better be getting along--" and with a wave of his
hand, he added, "it may interest you to know that the loot is in that
kit bag under the table."

"O.K. We'll attend to that," said Bill.

Then turning to Dorothy--"I'll say you took some chances, young woman!
How about getting a plane of your own to fool with from now on?"

"Oh, Bill! Do you think Daddy will let me?"

"I know he will." Bill was serious now. "After what you've done tonight,
you've certainly won your wings!"

Those who have enjoyed this story will be interested in the next book of
this series, entitled _Dorothy Dixon and the Mystery Plane_.

                                THE END





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