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Title: The Banner Boy Scouts Mystery
Author: Warren, George A.
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 "The Banner Boy Scouts Mystery" ***

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                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.



                           BANNER BOY SCOUTS
                                MYSTERY



                              THE BANNER
                              BOY SCOUTS
                                MYSTERY

                                 _By_

                           GEORGE A. WARREN

                          THE WORLD SYNDICATE
                          PUBLISHING COMPANY
                        CLEVELAND      NEW YORK



                          _Published 1937 by
                  The World Syndicate Publishing Co._

[Illustration: LOGO]

               _Printed in the United States of America_



                               CONTENTS


           CHAPTER                                     PAGE

                I LOST                                    9

               II FIRE!                                  23

              III PAUL LOOKS INTO THE MATTER             28

               IV DETECTIVES                             36

                V A SUSPICIOUS INDIVIDUAL                44

               VI THE SPY                                53

              VII THE ROBBERY                            66

             VIII ENCOUNTER                              73

               IX WHO IS MR. GREY?                       81

                X STUMPED!                               90

               XI A HUNCH                                97

              XII A BUMP ON THE HEAD                    105

             XIII DISCOVERY                             113

              XIV A NEW TURN OF EVENTS                  122

               XV FOLLOWING UP THEIR CLUES              131

              XVI PAUL GETS INTO TROUBLE                138

             XVII PARENTAL ADMONITIONS                  149

            XVIII FALSE ALARM!                          156

              XIX CAPTURED!                             163

               XX ESCAPE!                               172

              XXI CONVINCING THE POLICE                 178

             XXII MR. GREY                              191

            XXIII PAUL HELPS OUT                        197

             XXIV BATTLE                                204

              XXV INTO THE LAKE                         210

             XXVI TROUBLE AT HOME                       218

            XXVII MYSTERY OF THE WHITE CARD             229

           XXVIII AGAIN THE WHITE CARD                  237

             XXIX MYSTERY SOLVED                        243



BANNER BOY SCOUTS MYSTERY



CHAPTER I

LOST


“Ken! Ken Armstrong! Dinner is ready.”

“I’m coming, Mother,” he called from his room upstairs.

Hurriedly he finished brushing his hair and raced downstairs to the
dining room. His father was already at the table and waiting for the
children to take their places. Mrs. Armstrong in the meanwhile was
adding the finishing touches in setting the table. “Before you sit
down, Ken,” his mother told him, “will you please go out and call
Betty. She must be outside somewhere playing.”

“Yes, Mother.”

Ken obeyed and went outside to look for his younger sister, who was
five years old. It was a day in the latter part of August, warm, clear.
Stepping out on the porch, he called out, “Betty! Betty!”

There was no answer. Ken looked in the yard, then in the garage where
she sometimes climbed into the back of the car and amused herself
playing with her doll. But she was not there either. Ken walked across
the street and rang the Smiths’ doorbell. Mrs. Smith herself answered
and Ken asked, “Is Betty here, Mrs. Smith?”

She shook her head. “No,” she answered. “She was playing with my little
Helen until about an hour ago, when she left.”

“Thank you,” Ken said and walked away. On the sidewalk, he paused to
think of all the places where she might be. Ken walked further down the
street and stopped at the Morrison home. Paul answered the doorbell.
“Hello, Ken,” he called.

“Hello, Paul. Is Betty here playing with your little brother?”

“Why, no, Ken. Pete has been at the park all day and has just returned.”

“That’s strange,” muttered Ken.

“What’s strange?”

“I can’t seem to find her.”

“Oh, you’ll find her,” Paul assured his friend. “She may be playing
with little Karliner across the street.”

“That’s right. I didn’t think of it. Thanks, Paul.”

“So long, Ken. Don’t forget the meeting tonight.”

“I won’t,” Ken called back over his shoulder. He went across the street
to the Karliner home and rang the doorbell. Mrs. Karliner opened the
door. “Is Betty here?” he asked.

“No,” answered the youthful woman. “Betty and Karl had a childish
quarrel this morning and they quit playing together.”

“Until tomorrow,” remarked Ken, laughing.

“Yes, no matter how much they quarrel the children always come together
again,” she said, also laughing.

“And it is a good thing they do,” added the boy.

“Yes. And in that respect, grown ups would do well to take after
children.”

“You are right, Mrs. Karliner.” Ken edged away from the doorway. “You
will excuse me, but I have to find Betty.”

The woman smiled and closed the door. Ken walked back toward his own
house. He was puzzled and couldn’t think where else his younger sister
might be. Usually she was somewhere in the neighborhood. If she wasn’t
in her own yard, she could always be found either at the Morrisons,
the Smiths or the Karliners. But today she wasn’t at any one of those
places. As he entered his own yard, Ken thought of one other place
where she might be. Around the corner was a small park where Mrs.
Armstrong very often took the child to play. Perhaps she had gone
there with some other child. Ken thought he better run over there in
a hurry before his mother became worried. However, there were only a
few children there because it was dinner time. And no Betty. He walked
through the playground twice. No sign of his sister.

For the first time, Ken became anxious. Of course, she was not lost,
he thought to himself. But where could she be? Slowly he walked
home without coming to any definite opinion. Stepping onto the porch
noiselessly, he hesitated to enter the house. If he told his mother he
could not find Betty, she might become frightened. He conceived another
idea. Walking around to the side of the house, he peeked through the
window into the dining room. Seeing that his mother was not there, he
knocked on the window and motioned for his father to come outside. Mr.
Armstrong came out onto the porch. “What’s the trouble, Ken?” he asked.

The boy tried hard not to look anxious. “Dad, I can’t seem to find
Betty,” he whispered.

Mr. Armstrong was a tall, heavy set man. He tugged at his close cropped
mustache and muttered, “You can’t seem to find her, eh? Did you look
everywhere?”

“I did.”

“At the Morrisons?”

“Yes. I was also at the Smiths, the Karliners and at the park, Dad. She
was not at any one of those places.”

“Hmm!” mused Mr. Armstrong. “She must be somewhere around, Ken. Let us
first search the yard thoroughly.”

Together they looked over the yard and then the garage. But the child
was not there. Finally they stopped their search. “You say that you
were to the park, at the Morrisons, the Smiths, the Karliners?” asked
Mr. Armstrong.

“Yes, Dad.”

“Can you think of anywhere else she might be? Do you know of any other
child she occasionally plays with?”

Just then Mrs. Armstrong came out onto the porch and called, “Ken,
John, what are you doing out here when you are supposed to be at the
dinner table? And where is Betty?”

Mr. Armstrong walked slowly over to his wife and said, “Now, Edna,
don’t you become upset. It seems that Betty is nowhere where she
usually plays. Do you know of any other child she sometimes plays with
and with whom she might be now?”

Mrs. Armstrong became very pale. “Were you to the Karliners, Ken?” she
queried anxiously.

“Yes, mother.”

“Now don’t you become alarmed, Edna. The child is somewhere around. But
she may have walked off alone somewhere or she might be playing at some
house.”

“Were you to the Johnsons?” Mrs. Armstrong asked. Ken shook his head.
“Then run over and see. And if she is not there, stop in at the
McKinlys.”

Ken was off at a run. The Johnson home was at the end of the street.
Junior himself opened the door and Ken bent down to question the
child. “Is Betty here?” he asked.

The little boy shook his head and muttered, “Nah.” Mrs. Johnson came to
the door and he asked her the same question. “Why, no,” she replied.
“She never comes. I would like very much for her to come and play with
Junior, but she never does. I guess it is a little too far away for
her.”

Ken was anxious to be off. “Yes, I guess so,” he answered. “Excuse me.”
And he was off.

The McKinly home was across the street. But she was not there either.
Ken walked away deeply concerned. Returning home he found his parents
awaiting him, their faces drawn and worried. At the news that the
child was neither at the Johnsons nor the McKinlys, Mrs. Armstrong
clenched her fingers. Her husband stood up. “She must have walked off
somewhere,” he said. “I’ll notify the police and have them search for
her.”

“Wait a minute, Dad,” cried Ken. “Perhaps she is in her room.”

Without losing a second, he dashed up the stairs. A minute later he
was coming down slowly. By the expression on his face the parents
could tell that she was not in her room. Mr. Armstrong walked to the
foyer where the telephone was and they could hear him calling the
police and giving a detailed description of the child. She was five
years old, blonde hair and blue eyes, weighed between forty-five and
fifty pounds and was about twenty-six or twenty-seven inches tall. His
task completed, he returned to the dining room. He put an arm around
his wife’s shoulder and said, “Now, don’t worry, Edna. The child most
likely has walked off by herself and she will be found. You will have
her again in half an hour.”

Ken jumped out of his chair and dashed out of the house. He ran over
to the Morrison home and called Paul. Drawing his friend aside, he
whispered, “Paul, call the troop together. We cannot find Betty and we
have to make a search for her.”

“That’s too bad,” replied Paul. “I’m sure no harm has come to her and
we will find her.”

The two boys walked off to call the boys together. Some of the Boy
Scouts lived in the immediate neighborhood while the others were
reached by telephone. Practically every one of them knew Betty by
sight, but just to make sure a description of her was passed around.
Within ten minutes the entire Stanhope Troop No. 1 was out on the
streets and searching for the child. In the meanwhile the police had
also sent out an alarm and were combing the town to find Betty. The
news had spread and many townspeople had joined in the search.

For the next half hour every nook and corner of the town was ransacked.
Many a little girl was stopped and asked if her name was Betty
Armstrong. But always it was a shake of the head and the word no.
Suddenly the news spread that the search was off and that the child was
safely home. Ken, who was with Paul, sprinted home. The two boys burst
into the house and found Betty sitting very calmly at the table having
her dinner. Quite innocently she shook a finger a her big brother and
scolded him. “You’re late,” she told him. “Mama is angry if you come
late for dinner.”

The two boys, hot and out of breath as they were, couldn’t resist
laughing at the innocent humor of the child. “Where were you?” Ken
demanded.

Just then Mr. Armstrong came in. Seeing his missing child at the
table, he sighed with relief. Mrs. Armstrong came in from the kitchen
and said, “You men better have your dinner right away, before it gets
spoiled.”

Paul moved away, saying, “I will wait for you upstairs, Ken, in your
room.”

“Jack is also upstairs,” mentioned Mrs. Armstrong. “He found the child
and brought her home.”

Paul walked upstairs while Mr. Armstrong turned to his wife and asked,
“Where did he find her?”

“On Leonard Street.”

“So far away!” exclaimed Ken. “Leonard Street is at the edge of the
town.”

“Yes.”

“What was she doing there?” asked Mr. Armstrong.

“Who knows?” his wife exclaimed.

Ken turned to his younger sister. “What were you doing so far away from
home?” he demanded.

“Don’t bother the child now,” asserted his mother. “Let us eat now. You
can ask her all the questions you want later or tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mother.”

The family settled down to their meal and for the present tried to
forget the anxiety and worry the child had caused them.

As soon as he could get away from the table, Ken did so and raced
upstairs. Dashing into his room, he called out, “Hello, Jack.”

“Hello, Ken. I hear Betty gave you a bad scare.”

“And how!” added Paul. “The only ones we did not have searching for her
were the marines, and only because there are none in Stanhope.”

“Yes, that is just what I want to ask you about, Jack. How did you come
to find her?” asked Ken.

“I was out that way visiting Bud Menninger. You know him, don’t you,
Ken?”

“Yes, he is the fellow who wants to join our troop, isn’t he?”

“That’s right,” answered Jack. “Well, I was riding home on my bicycle
when I happened to notice Betty walking along, all by herself. I was
so surprised, I wouldn’t believe my eyes at first. I couldn’t imagine
what she would be doing so far away from home. At any rate, I jumped
off my bike and approached her and then I saw that it was really her.
She was sucking a large peppermint stick.”

“Sucking a peppermint stick!” exclaimed Ken. “Who gave it to her?”

“That is just the point. I asked her and she replied that a man gave it
to her.”

“A man!—”

Paul interrupted. “Don’t interrupt, Ken,” he said. “Listen to the rest
of the story. It is mighty interesting.”

“All right, I won’t interrupt. Go on.”

“Well, I questioned her a little more,” continued Jack, “and she told
me that she was walking home from the Smiths when a man stopped her and
asked if she wanted some candy. Like a child, she couldn’t refuse. So
he took her by the hand and he bought her that peppermint stick she was
sucking.”

“Then what?” Ken asked eagerly.

“From further questioning, it seems that after he bought her the candy,
they just kept on walking. I looked her over closely and saw that she
was not all frightened or hurt in any way. So it seems that the man who
took her walking, did not harm her in the least.”

“But how come he left her at the edge of the town all by herself. A
man must be crazy to do a thing like that.”

“Now that is a clue,” spoke up Paul. “An ordinary man would not do a
thing like that.”

“Clue!” exclaimed Ken, surprised. “What sort of clue? What are you
talking about?”

“Let me finish,” urged Jack. “As I was talking to her, I noticed
that she kept one hand behind her back. I asked her why and she just
shrugged her shoulders. I looked and I saw that she was clutching a
card in her little fist. I asked where she got it and she told me that
the man gave it to her before he left her. I asked her to give it to me
and she did. Here it is.”

Jack held up the white card, three inches by two inches. The boys
huddled together, examining it. “Why, it is just a plain, blank, white
card!” exclaimed Ken.

“That’s right. But what is the meaning of it?” asked Jack.

There was no answer. The three boys were mystified. The whole story
sounded very odd and the card made it all the more perplexing. “From
all the evidence at hand,” remarked Paul, “I am convinced that there
must be something wrong with the man who walked off with the child.”

“But that’s just it,” exploded Ken. “If there is something wrong with
the man, he must be found out and put away into an asylum. He can’t be
permitted to roam the streets and walk away with children.”

“And if Paul’s suggestions are correct,” added Jack, “God knows what
other tricks he might be up to and what damage he may be doing.”

“Now let’s think this out calmly and logically,” said Paul. “First did
you ask Betty to describe the man?”

“I did,” replied Jack. “But all she would say was that he was tall and
very kind to her.”

“There are many tall men in town. That is no clue,” said Ken.

Paul rose. “We certainly have to look into the matter and see what we
can do.”

“What can we do?” asked Ken. “As far as I know there are no crazy
people in Stanhope and only a lunatic would do a thing like that.”

“We have about an hour before the meeting,” suggested Jack. “Suppose we
go down to Leonard Street and look around.”

Just then Mr. Armstrong came in. “Hello, Jack,” he greeted.

“Hello, Mr. Armstrong.”

He saw that the boys seemed to be on the verge of leaving and he said,
“I hope I am not keeping you boys from going on your way.”

“Well, we were preparing to leave, but—” that from Ken.

“I merely want to ask Jack about his finding Betty.”

Jack repeated his story, leaving out the part about the white card. For
a while there was silence. Mr. Armstrong mused. Finally he said, “It
must have been some man who knows the family and bought her some candy.”

“But why should he leave her at the end of the town to walk back
alone,” demanded Ken.

Mr. Armstrong shrugged his shoulders wearily. “I can’t understand that
myself,” he said. “But the fact remains that the child was not harmed.
Which leads us to the conclusion that the man must have been a friend.”

The boys had no desire to argue with the older man and so they left it
at that. In the street, Ken asked, “Why did you leave out that part
about the white card, Jack?”

“I didn’t think it mattered,” was the answer. “I figured that if I told
him about it, he would give it over to the police, and then it would
get into the newspapers and then everybody would know about it. And the
guilty man, even if he is crazy, would know better than to do anything
to give himself away. As it is, nobody knows, except the three of us,
and by a little quiet work we may track the culprit down.”

“I think you did right,” spoke up Paul.

“That is to be seen,” added Ken skeptically.

The boys walked down to Leonard Street and Jack pointed out the exact
spot where he came upon Betty. The neighborhood was one occupied
mostly by the poorer people of the town. Of course, there was
nothing to be found in the way of clues. They walked all around the
neighborhood and noticed the various shacks and empty lots but did not
come across any man that was tall and kindly looking. At last they
decided to give up the search and go to a meeting of their boy scout
troop, the Red Fox Patrol.

All the other boys—Nuthin’, The Carberry twins, William and Wallace,
Bobolink, Bluff—were already there when the three arrived. Pressed for
information, Jack for the third time re-told his story.



CHAPTER II

FIRE!


Several days passed and although the boys had not forgotten the
incident, they did nothing to look for the culprit. The only evidence
they had was the white card and the information that the man was tall.

It was about five-thirty and the boys were coming from the baseball
field. Paul and William, walking ahead, turned into Water Street, and
the rest of the boys followed them. At about the middle of the street,
they suddenly heard the weird cry, “Fire! Help! Fire!”

The boys stopped in their tracks and looked around to find where the
cry was coming from. Paul began to run and the boys followed him. They
came upon a two story frame house. Dense clouds of smoke came billowing
out of the doorway. Paul turned to the one nearest him, who happened to
be William, and ordered, “Call the Fire Department! Hurry!”

William set off at a run. Paul, followed by the other boys, ran to
the back of the house. He cried, “A couple of you try to find buckets
and water. The others stick around and form a water brigade until the
firemen come.”

Pushing open the back door, he dashed into the house. He noticed that
the smoke was dense at the front door. Just as he turned to run up the
stairs, tongues of flames shot out of the smoke. The thought came to
him that the fire had started at the front door. But how? Why? At the
front door, of all places.

He raced upstairs and threw open the first door that he came upon. No
one there. He dashed for the next room. An old man and woman, in their
late seventies, if not older, were rushing back and forth, picking up
things and dropping them. They were so bewildered, they did not know
what to do. As Paul dashed in, they rushed at him and clung to his
arms. They were absolutely speechless; they did nothing but tremble.
Paul shook them off and rushed to the window, threw it open and cried
to the boys below, “Get a ladder! Get a ladder!”

He looked for the firemen but they had not yet arrived. Every second
seemed to him an hour. He saw the boys scatter in a frantic search for
a ladder. The five minutes that elapsed to procure a ladder seemed like
an age. At last Bobolink came running up with a ladder and he placed it
under the window. But it was too short, and Paul cried, “Get something
to stand it on. A box. Anything.”

Bobolink scurried to find something upon which to stand the ladder. A
minute later he returned with a soap box. The ladder was stood on the
box and several of the boys supported it. Paul helped the old woman
through the window onto the ladder. “One of you boys climb up and help
her down.”

He saw the boys hesitate. Evidently they thought that the ladder would
not hold. In the meanwhile, the woman, trembling and bewildered, almost
fell from the ladder. Bluff raced up and directed the woman’s legs,
rung by rung. The old woman at last descended and collapsed in Ken’s
arms. Paul turned to the old man. “Is there anybody else in the house?”
he asked briskly.

The old man nodded his head vigorously. “Downstairs,” his trembling
lips mumbled. “A baby in a crib.”

“Which room?”

The old man’s teeth chattered so violently that he could not speak.
Again Paul demanded to know which room the child was in but the old
man could not talk. He almost hurled the man through the window as he
helped him to gain a footing on the ladder. Without waiting another
instant, Paul dashed out of the room and down the stairs which by now
were crackling with flames. The last couple of steps were so badly
burned that he had to jump. He scurried about wildly and at last found
what he was searching for—a pail of water. Dipping his handkerchief
into it, he clasped the wet rag over his mouth and nostrils. Layers
of heavy smoke whirled all about him. He walked along the wall and
listened carefully. An infant’s wailing came to his ears and he
searched frantically for the door. Finding it at last, he threw it
open and stepped in quickly. He brought in with him a dense cloud of
smoke. He moved blindly about the room, directed only by the cries of
the infant. He stumbled against the crib and clasped the child to him.
Smoke entered his lungs and he began to cough. He felt choked and was
sure he was going to collapse before he managed to get out. He heard
a shattering crash. Someone had broken the window and he ran to it.
He felt someone take the child from him and direct him to the broken
window. Someone lifted him almost bodily through the window and the
next moment he fainted.

About fifteen or twenty minutes after the alarm had been sent in, the
Volunteer Fire Brigade came clanging down the street. Immediately they
pulled out the hose and set to work. Captain Bob was there. It was
he who had helped Paul through the window. About a minute after Paul
had been taken out of the house, there was a terrible shattering and
crackling. From all sides of the house streaks of flame spurted forth,
until the whole building was enveloped in a sheet of flame.

Paul came to and opened his eyes to find his father bending over him.
“Are you all right, fellow?” Dr. Morrison asked.

Paul sat up and blinked his eyes. He nodded. “I’m all right, Dad. What
are you doing here?”

“Just happened to come along.”

His father helped him to his feet and he found the boys crowding
around him. “How do you feel?” asked William.

Paul nodded. Ken remarked, “Some fire eater you are.”

He smiled and turned to watch the firemen fighting the blazing
structure. “What happened to the old couple?” he asked.

“They are all right,” answered Nuthin’. “They wouldn’t have been,
though, if it hadn’t been for you.”

Bobolink added, “The child would surely have perished if not for you,
Paul.”

Just then a policeman came and pushed them all back. Some moments
later the front door fell in with a shattering thud. The firemen
poured gallons of water into the blaze but it did not seem to help.
The fire ate through the wooden house and ten minutes later one of
the walls collapsed. A groan rose up from the watching crowd and some
turned their heads away. As the wall collapsed tongues of flame and
dense smoke came shooting out. Some of the firemen retreated and then
returned to continue their struggle with the blaze.

Another wall caved in and eventually the roof of the house came
crashing down. Captain Bob realized that further effort was futile
and he ordered his firemen to just stand around and let the fire burn
itself out. Soon the house was a heap of ashes and smoldering pieces of
wood. The firemen left and the crowd dispersed.



CHAPTER III

PAUL LOOKS INTO THE MATTER


Jack was sitting on the Morrison porch. It was about eight o’clock in
the evening of the same day. Ken came walking up through the yard.
“Hello, Ken.”

“Hello, Jack. What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for Paul.”

Ken came onto the porch and sat down beside his friend. “Did Paul call
you too?” he asked.

“That’s right. He told me over the telephone that he had something
important to talk over.”

“He told me the same thing. I wonder what it is.”

“Perhaps it is something about the fire.”

“Well, let’s not guess, but wait for Paul to tell us instead.”

Several minutes later, Paul came out. “Hello, fellows,” he called.

“Hello, Paul.”

“Hello, Paul. What is it you have to tell us?” asked Jack.

“Let’s go where we will have some privacy,” answered Paul.

Paul led them into the garage and the three boys piled into the back of
the car. “Now,” said Ken, “you can tell us without anyone overhearing
us. Don’t keep us in suspense any longer or we will collapse of
curiosity.”

“First tell us how you feel,” spoke up Jack. “Any after effects from
the smoke?”

“I feel perfectly all right,” was the answer. “Now, this is what I want
to talk to you about.”

“Yes, what is it all about?”—that from Ken.

“Jack,” began Paul, “do you still have that white card? You know the
one I mean.”

“Of course. I still have it, certainly. What about it?”

“Will you show it to me?”

Jack began to look through his pockets. Finally he confessed, “I guess
I don’t have it with me. I must have left it home, in my other coat
pocket.”

“What about the card?” asked Ken.

“Only this,” replied Paul gravely. And he showed them the card. “Is it
the same card?” he asked.

Jack examined it very closely. “To me it appears as though it is the
very self-same card. How did you get it?”

“Now listen closely,” whispered Paul. The other two boys leaned over.
“I rushed down the burning stairs to find the room in which the child
was. Well, I was groping along the wall with my hands because I
couldn’t see a thing. I came upon the door and I moved my hand up and
down trying to find the knob when I came upon something sticking in the
doorway. Without thinking any further, I grabbed it and shoved it into
my pocket.” Paul paused to add emphasis to his forthcoming statement.
“And that thing was this card,” he concluded.

The boys gasped. “This card!” exclaimed Jack.

“Are you sure?” asked Ken.

“Absolutely positive,” asserted Paul.

“But how did it get there?”

“That is something I don’t know and which I would very much like to
know.”

For about a minute the boys sat there in silence, overcome with
amazement. Jack jumped out of the car. “Come on, fellows,” he called.

“Where to?” asked Paul.

“To my house. I want to find that card.”

Jack was so excited, he had difficulty in restraining himself from
running. The other boys kept up with him, walking briskly. At the
Stormways home, Jack rushed up the steps of the porch. “You wait here,”
he called over his shoulder to his companions.

Two minutes later he came rushing out of the doorway. “Here it is,” he
cried, waving the white card.

The two cards were compared; they were identical in every respect.
“This is getting to be serious,” whispered Ken.

“Terribly serious,” added Ken. “We must do something about it. The man
must be absolutely crazy.”

“Crazy is not the word,” said Paul. “Dangerous is more fitting. If he
is permitted to roam the streets without being stopped, only God knows
what damage he will do and what crimes he may commit.”

“But what can we do?” Jack questioned anxiously. “Our suspicions are
only a hunch. These cards may only be an accident.”

“No,” said Paul, shaking his head. “My opinion is that this is no
accident but the work of a distorted mind.”

The boys sat down on the porch. At a loss as to the meaning of it all,
they remained silent. Paul whispered, “I’ll tell you what we can do,
though.”

“What?”

“Let’s go over and see Captain Bob.”

“What for?” queried Ken.

“I want to ask his opinion on the origin of the fire.”

“Well, that won’t hurt any,” remarked Jack.

The three boys set off. Captain Bob himself opened the door for them
and led them into the living room. Turning to Paul, the Captain said,
“You are the boy that dashed into the burning building this afternoon,
aren’t you?”

“Yes, but it was really nothing.”

Captain Bob sat himself down and pointed the boys to seats. “Well,” he
drawled, “you are a modest boy. But if it hadn’t been for you, the old
folks and the child would have burned to cinders.”

“If I had not entered, one of the other boys would have,” he answered.
“We were the first on the scene, you know.”

“Yes, so I understand. But what is it I can do for you boys?”

Paul leaned forward in his chair. “Captain Bob,” he said, “we came over
to ask you your opinion on the origin of the fire.”

“Just what do you want to know?”

Paul hesitated, not knowing exactly how to put his question. He
said, “What I want to know, Captain, is whether you think the fire
was—er,—an accident, or whether you think someone started the fire.”

“You are asking very serious questions,” replied Captain, knitting his
brows.

“Yes, I know, but I am very much interested and—”

“May I ask why you should be interested?” asked the old man shrewdly.

“It’s only because,—er,—when I dashed into the building, I noticed
something very odd about the fire.”

“Just what do you mean?”

“Well, as we ran up to the house, we noticed smoke pouring out of the
front door. I dashed inside by the back door and then I saw that most
of the smoke and fire seemed to be at the threshold of the front door.
Now that is very odd.”

“Yes, you are quite right, my boy,” answered Captain Bob. “As a matter
of fact, the front door caved in first. However, I came to the fire a
little too late to really judge the cause or origin of the fire. But it
did seem to me that there was something odd about the whole thing.”

“Was there anything about the fire that would lead you to believe that
it was an accident or perhaps—er,—otherwise?” asked Paul, pressing
his point.

Captain Bob scratched his chin thoughtfully and said, “My dear boy, you
are asking some very serious questions that may get you into trouble.”

Paul insisted. “Just the same, would you form an opinion?”

“No, I really couldn’t because, as I said before, I came to the fire
too late. I had no chance to look into the cause of the fire and now
that the house is a heap of ashes, the chances of finding any clue is
very slight. Suppose you tell me your opinion, my boy.”

“To be quite frank, Captain, I think that the fire was started by some
pyromaniac.”

The Captain sat up in his chair. “What makes you think so?” he demanded
suddenly.

Paul hesitated. He did not want to give himself away. “Just a hunch,”
he replied.

Captain Bob sank back into his chair. For what seemed a very long
time there was absolute silence. The Captain seemed to be musing over
something and the boys had nothing more to say. Paul rose and his
friends did likewise. “Thank you, Captain Bob,” said Paul. “I guess we
will be going now.”

Escorting them to the door, the Captain said, “Don’t thank me. I am
glad you came.” He hesitated. “And,—er,—don’t you go around talking
about a pyromaniac, my boy. It may get you into trouble.”

“I won’t, Captain,” promised Paul.

“Goodnight, boys.”

“Goodnight, Captain Bob.”

The boys walked along for some few steps in silence. Ken spoke up.
“That talk with the captain didn’t help much, did it, Paul?”

“No, very little. But I have now become more convinced than ever that
the fire was the work of a mentally distorted person.”

“You count me in on that,” added Jack. “I certainly agree with you. But
what can we do about it, that is the problem.”

“Doesn’t seem as if we can do anything for the present,” muttered Ken.

“Guess you’re right,” answered Paul thoughtfully. A moment later he
added, “Tomorrow let us try and obtain a better description of the man
from your sister, Betty, Ken. If she can tell us a few things on how he
looks and the sort of clothes he wears, that would help a lot.”

“It certainly would,” agreed Ken. “We will try it tomorrow.”

“Yes. In the meanwhile there is nothing else we can do tonight. So I am
for going home,” announced Paul.

“Same here.”

“Me too.”

The boys separated and went home. The following morning, they met again
at Ken’s home. Taking Betty out into the yard, the boys tried to get
some information from her about the man who had taken her for a walk
and then deserted her at the end of the town. But the child had already
forgotten him entirely and their efforts were in vain.



CHAPTER IV

DETECTIVES


That afternoon, William went to the Stanhope Free Public Library to
return a book. Walking in back of the room in search of a good novel,
he came upon Paul hunched over a stack of newspapers. “What are you up
to now, Paul?” he asked in a whisper.

“Tell you later.”

“A mystery, huh?” William joked.

Paul smiled and waved his friend away. “Leave me alone now,” he said,
“I’ll tell you all about it later.”

“Very well.”

William walked away and Paul returned to his stack of newspapers.
He spent almost three hours going through the papers of the past
two months. Tired, he decided to stop there. Besides, he was quite
satisfied with the information he had obtained. He left the library and
walked home. On the way he stopped to call for Ken but did not find
him in. Crossing the street to his own home he found Jack, Ken and
William on the porch waiting for him. “Well, what is the secret?” cried
William. “Tell us.”

Paul motioned to the boys to follow him and he led them to the garage
where they would be assured of privacy. The boys found boxes on which
to sit and they gathered around Paul. “Well, what is it?” asked Jack.

“I have spent about three hours in the library this afternoon,” Paul
informed them “and—”

“William told us that already,” interrupted Ken.

“I have been going through the newspapers for the past weeks,”
continued Paul.

“What for?” asked Jack.

“I was looking up the fire reports. In the past two months there have
been four fires, one each two weeks or so.”

“What about it?” Jack wanted to know.

“Can’t you fellows see for yourselves?” asked Paul, irritated by their
indifference. “Don’t you think that in a small town such as this, a
fire every two weeks is very much above the average?”

“Say,” cried Ken, “you have hit upon something. Come to think of it,
that is a pretty high average.”

“But what has that to do with the story?” asked Jack.

“Simply this,” answered Paul. “Under normal conditions, there would not
be such frequent fires. In other words, all the fires of the past two
months may or may not have been caused accidentally.”

“You don’t think yesterday’s fire was an accident?” questioned William.

“No,” was Paul’s categorical answer.

William raised his eyebrows in surprise. He was not acquainted with
the facts of the case as the other boys were. “What therefore is the
conclusion?” asked Jack.

“It is evident,” returned Paul. “For the past two months at least one
fire, or more has been started by a maniac.”

“This thing is becoming worse and worse,” commented Ken.

“Yes,” Paul said gravely, “the situation is very serious and it is up
to us to do something.”

“Why is it up to us?” asked William. But just as soon as the words were
out of his mouth, he knew the answer.

“Because,” was Paul’s answer, “we are the only ones who seem to be
acquainted with the situation and our suspicions are quite definite.”

“Don’t you think it might be wise to acquaint the police with our
suspicions?” inquired Ken.

“I am against doing anything of the sort,” stated Jack. “If we do that,
there will be a public scandal. It will be in every newspaper in town
and the culprit, whoever he is, will become wary. As it is, we may come
upon him by surprise.”

“I agree absolutely,” commented Paul.

“What is our job going to be?” asked William, eager to do something as
soon as possible.

“For the present there is only one thing we can do,” said Paul. “We
will talk the whole matter over with the boys of the patrol. We are
all pretty close friends and we can act as a group. The thing we have
to insist upon is secrecy on the part of all the boys and to be always
on guard.”

“That alone is not enough,” added William. “I suggest that we also have
the boys patrolling the streets, so that in case of anything, they will
be Johnny-on-the-spot.”

“That is something we will have to discuss with the rest of the boys,”
asserted Paul. “In the meanwhile, suppose we notify the fellows to come
to a meeting tonight after supper. Do you think it is all right?”

“Yes, I think that is a very good idea,” commented William. The other
boys agreed and it was decided to meet in Ken’s garage.

That evening at about seven, the boys began to congregate in Ken’s
garage. They came by one’s and two’s. Fifteen minutes later they were
all there except Jack. The boys were curious as to the reason for the
meeting and they wanted to start without waiting for the missing member
but Paul refused. He suggested that someone run over to call Jack.
Bluff volunteered. They waited about five minutes and the messenger
returned saying that Jack was not home. Paul remarked, “I wonder where
he could have gone?”

Nuthin’ said, “He will most likely be here any minute. In the meanwhile
let’s get going.”

“Yes, let’s do that,” echoed Wallace.

Urged on by the other boys, Paul finally consented and the meeting
was called to order. Paul then outlined the situation for them, told
them the pros and cons of the problem and in conclusion said, “There
is one more thing I want to tell you. In going through the newspaper
files for information on the fire reports, I noticed that there seemed
to be about two weeks difference between fires. In other words, since
the last fire was yesterday, we have about two weeks in which to act.
The thing for us to do now is not to talk about it to anyone outside
of this group and to be always on guard. If we don’t track this maniac
down, God knows what damage he is liable to do.”

For a short while there was silence. Nuthin’ grinned and remarked,
“What you want us to do, Paul, is for us to become detectives.”

Nuthin’ meant it as a joke but Paul took it seriously. “That is just
what I want you to do,” he asserted gravely. “We must all become
detectives and find this man.”

“But the information we have is so slight. We really have no clues to
work on,” protested Bobolink.

“That is very true,” replied Paul, “but we must do the best we can.”

A little later, the meeting was officially adjourned, but no boy
ventured to leave. Their curiosity was aroused by Jack’s not coming to
the meeting and they waited around. Paul felt anxious, though he had
no reason to be. To Ken, who was sitting beside him, he whispered, “I
wonder what happened to Jack!”

Ken shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t imagine. He promised to be here.
And he is not home either.”

“That’s just it,” countered Paul. “The fact that he is not home implied
that he was on the way over here. But something must have happened on
the way to keep him from coming to the meeting.”

“We can go over and see if he is home now.”

“That is a good idea. Let’s go.”

Ken and Paul rose and the other boys did likewise. In a group they
walked over to Jack’s house. Ken went in while all the others remained
outside. A minute later he emerged and motioned that the missing boy
was not home. The boys were disappointed and a few of them became
worried. Bobolink commented, “This is becoming serious. We ought to
look for him.”

Paul turned the idea down. “You fellows better go home,” he said, “and
don’t worry. Jack has a right to go wherever he pleases and if he did
not show up at the meeting, there must be a good reason for it.”

“But where could he have gone,” Nuthin’ asked anxiously. “After all,
something may have happened to him.”

Paul, though he was anxious himself, made believe that there was
nothing to worry about and laughed at the suggestion that something
might have happened to Jack. “Most likely he went to see someone or
something like that,” he remarked casually. “Nothing serious could have
happened to him.”

“Besides, he is the sort of fellow who can take care of himself,” added
Ken.

“And what’s more,” argued Paul again, “we don’t know where to look for
him. And if we spread an alarm, his folks will become worried and that
is something we certainly don’t want.”

“No, I guess you are right, Paul,” agreed Nuthin’.

Several of the other boys nodded and showed willingness to agree with
Paul’s idea that they all go home. They walked along as a group until
one by one the boys fell out to go home. Finally only Paul and Ken were
left. The two boys walked side by side and Paul seemed exceedingly
quiet and preoccupied with his thoughts. Ken hesitated to break in upon
his friend, but finally he asked, “What are you so quiet and thoughtful
about?”

“I wasn’t really thinking of anything,” the other replied.

“We may as well go home, like the others,” suggested Ken.

“No, let’s not do that. Suppose we walk down Main Street a bit. To tell
you the truth, I am a bit worried about Jack.”

“Worrying won’t help any,” Ken wisely remarked.

The boys walked down Main Street and then retraced their steps. At
Paul’s house, they silently sat down on the steps of the porch and
remained like that, neither one uttering a sound.



CHAPTER V

A SUSPICIOUS INDIVIDUAL


Now let us see what really happened to Jack. He left his home with the
intention of going to the meeting. As he walked along, deeply occupied
with his thoughts, he suddenly became conscious of a certain individual
that had just passed. Jack turned on his heel and stared at the
retreating back of the individual. The man was tall and thin—gaunt;
he wore a cap and a jacket and pants that hung like sacks upon him.
Jack tried to think what it was about the individual that attracted
his attention and he concluded that it was something wild about his
appearance, about his bearing. He began to follow the man, sorry that
he did not get a good look at the man’s face.

Jack went over the situation in his mind. He wanted to go to the
meeting and if he did not come, the boys might feel badly. On the
other hand, there was something very suspicious about the person he
was following. The man appeared to be very excited, or anxious; he
seemed to be very much on the alert, turning his head this way and that
way, as though searching for something. Jack felt sorry that he could
not get a good look at the man’s face. Perhaps he could do it now, he
thought, by walking ahead then walking back toward him; or possibly
by hiding in some doorway and obtaining a close view of him as the man
passed. But on second consideration, he thought it better not to do
that. The man might get a good look at him and remember his face, which
would put him at a disadvantage.

Jack decided merely to follow and see what would happen. Twice the
man turned around and looked back; Jack decided to cross over to the
other side of the street. His heart pounded and he became nervous
and excited. He followed, keeping his eyes glued to the back of the
suspicious character. The man kept shifting his head in all directions,
staring at people, at houses, at everything; his eyes seemed to bore
right into things.

The man turned into John Street, usually a deserted street with only
several old houses on it. Jack quickly removed the light sweater he
was wearing and formed it into a small package under his arm. If the
man had noticed him, the fact that he now appeared in a white shirt,
carrying a package under his arm, would make the man think him a
different person. The man continued walking rapidly with Jack hot
on his trail. The street was very poorly lit and Jack was forced to
shorten the distance between the man and himself, though he still
kept to the wrong side of the street. Coming to a lonely house set
on a large plot, the man suddenly dashed behind the wall. Jack felt
his excitement increase. He was only sorry that Paul or one of the
boys were not with him; not that he felt afraid but for the sake of
companionship. He had a weird, creepy feeling to be following a man on
a deserted, dark street.

Jack kept on walking as though nothing happened. He made believe that
he didn’t see anything unusual. His head square on his shoulders, he
kept a careful watch out of the corner of his eye. He saw a large rock
on the lot he was passing and immediately he threw himself behind it.
Looking from the side of his shelter, he watched the house across the
street. Possibly five minutes passed and nothing happened. To him it
seemed like hours. At last the man he had been following showed himself
at the corner of the house. Warily, the man stuck his head out and
looked in all directions. In spite of the distance between them, the
man’s wild appearance, his ghostly form outlined in the dark, made Jack
shiver; a cold chill ran down his spine.

At last the man came forth and walked away in the direction from which
he had come. Waiting until he thought it was safe for him to follow,
Jack then rose and sprinted forward until he was within about five
yards of his man, who no longer shifted his head back and forth wildly
but, instead kept looking straight ahead of him. Jack was glad of that
because it made it easier following.

At Main Street, the man turned right. Jack followed and became more
convinced that his suspicions were well founded. Beyond any doubt there
was either something wrong with the man or else he was a fugitive of
some sort, trying to get away. The man turned into Water Street and
Jack felt a cold chill break out. Instantly it flashed upon him that
the suspicious fire of the previous day had occurred on Water Street.
Was the man returning to the place of his crime? Or was he on his way
to perpetrate another crime, perhaps set flames to another house in the
same neighborhood?

His head turned straight ahead of him, the man walked on briskly. Jack
followed. Closer and closer they came to the house that had burned
down. When they were within about ten yards of it, the man suddenly
stopped in his tracks and very slowly turned around. In the nick of
time, Jack dashed into a shadow and was out of sight. The man hesitated
and then very slowly approached the heap of ashes and sticks of wood
that were once a house. Jack hid himself, watching him closely,
wondering what he was up to. Seeing the man approach the heap of ashes,
Jack’s emotions got so strong that he could barely control himself.
“Easy!” he mumbled to himself. “Take it easy now!”

He flattened himself out on the ground and watched his man who sat down
on the bare earth as though in grief. The man’s shoulders heaved and
soon Jack heard sobs of genuine sorrow. Jack could not help feeling
sorry for the poor chap. He wondered what was wrong with him, that
might have caused him to set fire to the house. For by now, Jack was no
longer in any doubt as to the man’s guilt.

For some time the man sat there, hunched over, his body trembling and
sobbing bitterly. At last he got on his knees and crept forward to the
heap of ashes. Picking up a handful, he let the dust slide through his
fingers. Five or six times he repeated this action. Finally he took out
of his pocket a handkerchief, spread it out on the ground, and piled
several handfuls of ashes on it; then gathering the ends together, he
made a knot and put the package under his arm. Rising, he looked around
and then walked off in the direction of Main Street.

Just as soon as he thought it was safe, Jack was up and following. What
was the most reasonable thing to do, he tried to figure out. Should
he notify the police? Should he run off and talk it over with Paul or
Ken? Or should he do nothing and just follow. Unable to determine what
would be his most reasonable action, he continued to follow the man and
thought of nothing else.

A block before Main Street, he saw his man suddenly disappear into
the side street. Becoming frantic at the thought of losing him, Jack
sprinted up to the corner. He saw his man flattening out against the
wall of the corner building. Jack hid behind a parked car. Was the
man aware of being followed? Jack tried to think whether he had at
any moment shown himself. His deliberations were cut short by the man
stepping forth again and continuing on his way. Pursuer and pursued
turned left on Main Street. The man increased his pace, stretching out
his long legs. However, Jack had no difficulty in following. Clear
across the town the two went, back to John Street into which the man
turned. Jack hesitated for a second before crossing the street. There
was something funny about being led back to this deserted street. Could
it be possible that he was being led into a trap of some sort? Chucking
his anxiety and doubt to the winds, he crossed the street to follow,
but by then the man had disappeared. He walked up and down the street
but the man did not return.

Jack returned to Main Street. “Whew!” He wiped the perspiration off
his brow. That was some night, some chase, he thought to himself. The
next moment he felt a pang of regret for having lost track of his man.
However, it could not be helped and it would be useless to worry over
it. Now that he had a pretty good picture of the individual—even
though he had not seen the face—Jack felt certain that he would come
upon him again. In the meanwhile he thought it best to go over and see
Paul.

Paul and Ken were sitting on the steps of the porch. Side by side, in
silence, each mused over his thoughts. Paul noticed someone approach
the gate. The next moment he was on his feet and running to meet his
chum. “Jack!” he cried, “where have you been?”

Ken also ran up. “Hey!” he spoke harshly, “you had us in stitches. What
is the idea of disappearing like that and where have you been?”

Jack smiled. “I am sorry I had you fellows worried,” he said. “But wait
until I tell you what happened to me.”

“What?” demanded Paul impatiently.

“Let’s sit down first; I’m tired.”

The boys sat down at the rear of the porch, so as not to be disturbed.
Jack told his story and Paul and Ken listened gravely, interrupting
every once in a while for some detailed information. They sat so
closely together, listened so attentively to the narrative, that an
outsider seeing them would have taken them for conspirators. In a sense
they were that: they were conspiring on how to capture and rid the
neighborhood of a maniac. When Jack had at last concluded, Ken let out
a long whistle. Paul whispered, “That proves all my suspicions.”

“Wait a minute,” said Ken. “Let’s re-consider the whole situation. Both
of you seem to have the impression that the man is a maniac, crazy. But
how do you know that he didn’t contrive the whole thing just to put on
a show for Jack’s sake? How do you know what the man was up to? He
might have realized that he was being followed and to mislead Jack, he
performed a mighty interesting show. We don’t know whether this man is
guilty of burning down that house and before we are sure of it, let’s
not pass judgement.”

There was silence. Those statements provided plenty of food for thought
and all three of them knitted their brows. Paul said, “What you say
is true, Ken. Of course, we must not pass judgement hastily. However,
somehow I feel that my suspicions are correct.”

Jack nodded. “I feel the same way about it,” he offered as his opinion.

“At any rate,” argued Ken, “let’s wait and see. You say that you would
recognize him if you saw him again—”

“Absolutely,” asserted Jack interrupting. “I could pick him out of a
million men.”

“Very well, then. In that case, we will watch out for him. In the
meanwhile, I suggest that the first thing tomorrow morning we go over
to Water Street and examine the place. Perhaps we will find some sort
of clue, his footprints if nothing else.”

“It’s too bad we can’t go there tonight,” said Jack.

“No. For one thing, it is too late. And secondly if someone noticed
us there tonight, we would be under suspicion. And that would make
everything perfect.”

“That’s settled, then,” remarked Ken as he rose. “I am going home.
Coming, Jack?”

“Yes. Goodnight, Paul.”

“Goodnight. See you fellows tomorrow morning.”

“Righto!”



CHAPTER VI

THE SPY


The following morning, immediately after breakfast, the three boys met
and set off for Water Street. At the scene of the fire, Jack pointed
out the approximate spot where the man had sat and wept. Searching for
footprints, they found many, most of them indistinct and smudged. They
continued their search for other possible clues but found none. In the
midst of their searchings, however, Paul looking up thought he saw a
flitting shadow duck behind a fence across the street. Making believe
that he saw nothing, he bent over and continued his investigations;
however, he had his eyes glued to the spot. And sure enough, he saw a
head protrude. He was amazed. Was it possible that someone was spying
on them? Was it possible that the person Jack had followed the evening
before had now turned around and was following them?

He called the two boys over. Pretending that he was explaining to
them the outline of a footprint, he told them in a few words, of his
discovery. “Don’t look now,” he warned his friends; “and don’t both
look at the same time.”

Ken joked, saying, “I hope this thing hasn’t got you so that you are
beginning to see things.”

“Don’t be funny,” remarked Paul seriously. “Suppose you fellows move
off now. Keep an eye on the spot I pointed out to you and don’t give
yourselves away.”

The boys separated and pretended to be absorbed in their
investigations. They kept this up for about five minutes and then Paul
called them and they walked away. “Well?” he asked anxiously.

Jack nodded. “You are right,” he whispered. “I also saw the head
protruding from behind the fence watching us.”

“What about you, Ken? Did you see anything?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I am not as eagle-eyed as
you two. I saw nothing suspicious.”

“But I saw him watching us several times,” insisted Paul.

“I saw him only once,” added Jack.

“Well, you two may be right and I wrong,” commented the third companion.

“Who do you think it could be?” asked Jack. “And what do you think his
purpose is?”

“How should I know?”

“Do you think it is that man I followed last night?”

Paul hesitated for a moment then shook his head. “No, and I will tell
you why. The person you followed last night was tall and gaunt. This
individual appeared to me to be about average height and robust. I
could tell that from the shadow.”

“Shall I turn around and see if we are being followed?” asked Ken.

“No, don’t do that,” warned Paul. “He might catch on that we know we
are being followed. I have a better plan.”

“What?”

“When we get to Main Street, you, Ken, will turn right, wave to us,
make believe as though you are saying goodbye. Jack and I will turn
left and pretend that we are going home. But instead of actually
walking off, Ken, you will dash into a doorway and watch to see if
anyone is following us.”

“And if there is?” asked Ken.

“Then you will follow him, naturally,” was Paul’s answer.

“And if there is not?”

“Then you will take a roundabout route and meet us in my house in about
half an hour.”

“All right. I’ll do that.”

At Main Street, the group parted, one boy walking off in one direction,
while the other two headed in the opposite direction. Ken, just as soon
as he parted from his companions, walked to the second store from the
corner, a haberdashery, and stared at the window display. Actually,
however, his eyes were roaming elsewhere and he was carefully watching
the corner. Some people came out of Water Street, but by the look on
their faces, by their general appearance and by the fact that they
seemed to know exactly which way their direction lay, Ken knew that it
was not any one of them. Suddenly he caught his breath. A robust man of
medium height emerged from the street and paused at the corner. He wore
a light jacket and a Panama hat, the brim pulled down over his forehead.

After standing hesitantly on the corner, he turned left, seemingly bent
on following Paul and Jack. Ken crossed the street and followed. The
chase continued for several blocks, the man increasing his pace and Ken
doing likewise. The two boys were just ahead, crossing Chestnut Street.
As the man came to the corner, he turned. Ken stopped at a corner
store and looked at the window display. He watched the man walk to the
middle of the block and then turn into the yard of a private house. Ken
scratched his head and wondered.

The two boys were awaiting him. As Ken came up the walk to the porch,
Paul asked, “Well?”

Ken nodded meaningfully and the two boys were re-assured of their
suspicions. Joining his companions, he muttered, “This man hunt is
getting me. I’m afraid that before it is all over I am going to go
crazy.”

“Why? What’s the matter?” inquired Jack.

“Do you know who was following us?” Ken put the question very gravely
and looked from one boy to the other.

“Who?”

“Captain Bob.”

The announcement came as a shock, almost overwhelming them. Each boy
searched the face of the other for some meaning or understanding. But
all of them were just as puzzled. Paul repeated the name, “Captain Bob!
But why should he follow us?”

Ken shrugged his shoulders. “Are you sure it was he?” questioned Jack,
his demeanor grave and serious.

“I am absolutely positive. After all, I know the man. It’s true I
didn’t see his face—”

Paul jumped. “You didn’t see his face!” he exclaimed. “Then how do you
know it was he? You might be mistaken.”

Ken shrugged his shoulders. “Very possible,” he said, “but I am pretty
sure I am not mistaken. To begin with, I know the man and I can
recognize him without seeing his face. And secondly, I watched him
walk down Chestnut Street and enter a house at about the middle of the
street. That is where he lives, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but are you sure he walked into his own house—that is, Captain
Bob’s house?” demanded Paul.

“Well, no, I didn’t follow him all the way to his home; I watched from
the corner. But just the same I am pretty sure that it was Captain Bob.”

There was silence. The boys could not understand why the Captain should
follow them. “Well, I’ll be!” exclaimed Jack. “This thing is getting
beyond me and I am losing my patience.”

“Now don’t get excited,” cautioned Paul. “And keep quiet for a couple
of minutes. I am trying to think of something.”

“Think of what?” asked Ken.

“Of what he said to us when we were over to see him,” was the answer.

“What about it?”

Paul leaned over toward his two companions. “Now look, fellows,” he
began. “There is one particular thing he told us that comes back to me
now very distinctly. You remember how just as we were leaving, he said
to us, ‘Don’t you go around talking about a pyromaniac; it may get you
into trouble.’ Remember him saying that?”

Jack nodded. “Yes, I remember.”

“Same here,” added Ken, “now that you call our attention to it. But
what about it? He meant it for our own good.”

“Of course,” said Paul, “I am not doubting his sincerity. But, Captain
Bob is much shrewder than we give him credit for, that’s the point.”

“How do you mean?” inquired Jack.

“We came over to talk over with him the fire, didn’t we?” continued
Paul. “Well, remember that he didn’t seem to have a very definite
opinion though he did feel that there was something odd about the cause
or origin of the fire.”

“Well, what’s your point?” demanded Ken, his curiosity aroused.

“Only this,” said Paul, “that since we told him of our own doubts
about the fire and that since we told him we suspected a pyromaniac,
he immediately came to the conclusion that we knew more than we were
telling him. And in order to find out what we may know about the fire,
he is following us.”

“Sounds logical to me,” muttered Jack.

Ken shook his head. “It may sound logical,” he said, “but somehow I am
not convinced. How should he know we were going out to Water Street
this morning? And he would have to watch the house of any one of us
three all morning to follow us. And why should he pick this morning to
follow us?”

Paul smiled at his friend’s naive questions. “To begin with,” he said,
“how do we know he has not been following us since that night we spoke
to him? But I am under the impression that his following us is just an
accident.”

“An accident!” echoed Jack. “Explain yourself.”

“I will if you don’t interrupt. My impression is that he was coming to
Water Street this morning also to search for some clues to the fire.
But when he saw us there, he naturally watched us to see what we were
up to and then followed us.”

Ken shook his head in a gesture of disbelief. Jake, on the other hand
mused quietly, trying to untangle the whole situation, but unable to
find a starting point. Finally he asked, “Do you think he will continue
to follow us, Paul?”

“Can’t tell. He may and he may not.”

After a short time of silence, Jack rose and suggested, “Well, let’s go
home for lunch.”

“That’s a bully idea,” cried Ken. “I didn’t realize how hungry I am.”

“All right, I’ll see you boys later,” said Paul.

That evening, immediately after supper, Paul went across the street to
call for Ken. As the two boys walked down the street, Paul whispered,
“We are being followed.”

Ken gasped. “Captain Bob!” he exclaimed in a hushed tone of voice.

“Don’t know. But for the last half hour I noticed that someone was
hovering about the house. And as we came out and walked away, I noticed
a form slink out of the shadows and follow us.”

“What do you think we ought to do?”

“I have an idea.” And he whispered some instructions to his friend.

Ken nodded. “And then what?” he asked.

“Leave the rest to me.”

When the two boys arrived in front of Jack’s home, Paul spoke up rather
loudly, “I guess I’ll walk down the block and call Nuthin’. I’ll be
back in about five minutes.”

“All right,” answered Ken just as loudly. “Jack and I will wait for
you.”

Ken entered the yard while Paul walked off straight ahead. Turning in
at the end of the street, he set off at a run around the block.

Returning to the same street at the other end, he hovered close to the
wall of a building and looked everywhere to detect the hiding place of
the spy. Suddenly he caught his breath. He detected a slight movement
behind a fence at the other side of the street, several houses below.
He crossed to the other side and walked ahead. Sure enough, a man
stepped out and came toward him. As they met, Paul greeted, “Hello,
Captain Bob.”

The man grunted and was going to pass on, but Paul instantly got into
his way. The man stopped, “Huh?” he muttered. “Did you speak to me?”

“I said hello, Captain Bob.”

“Hello yourself. Now let me see, your face seems to be familiar, but I
can’t seem to remember your name.”

“Paul Morrison.”

“Oh, yes, yes. You are the boy who dashed into the burning house and—”

Paul interrupted. “Yes, that’s right; you know me.” What a poor
actor the man was, Paul thought. He certainly couldn’t get away with
pretending that he didn’t know him. His heart pounded and perspiration
gathered on his brow. He was debating with himself what his approach
should be. Would it be best merely to imply that Captain Bob’s spying
was a known fact to them or should he put it frankly to the old man
and see what he would say. Paul steeled himself. Very suddenly, trying
to take the man off his guard, he said, “Captain Bob, I am very much
surprised that you should be following us.”

The old man straightened up. “What was that you said? Following you?
What for? Why should I be following you, tell me that.”

“That is something you should tell me,” he replied respectfully. “But
you spied on us this morning on Water Street and then followed us as
far as Chestnut Street. And just now you were following us again.”

It was really too dark to tell, but Paul felt that the old man had
turned red and became confused. “My dear boy,” he mumbled angrily, “You
don’t know what you are talking about.”

“You shouldn’t say that, Captain Bob. If I wasn’t positive, I wouldn’t
accost you like this.”

After a moment of tense silence, the captain laughed. “Well, my boy,”
he said, “you are right, but I promise not to do it any more.”

“Thank you. But if you don’t mind, I wish you would tell me why you are
following us.”

Captain Bob replied gravely, “You see, my boy, there have been too
many fires in this town lately. And when you and your friends came
and talked to me about the fire the other day, I became a little
suspicious. I tried to,—er,—get as much information out of you as I
could, but somehow I felt that you were not telling me everything. So I
thought I would check up on you.”

A feeling of relief swept over Paul. He wanted to jump into the air
and shout for joy. Even though he was a modest boy, he had to pat
himself on the back; thus far, all his suspicions and deductions had
been correct. He would certainly make a good detective. The captain
was waiting for him to say something and he commented, “But we really
don’t know any more than we told you, Captain Bob. If there is anything
the boys and I can do to help you, such as help check up on your
suspicions—that is if you have any—we would be glad to do so.”

The old man chuckled. “You are a smart one, my boy. I know that you
have something up your sleeve. But never mind.”

Paul felt his face going red. He must not give anything away, he
thought. Out loud, he said, “But really, Captain, we don’t. We don’t
know as much as you do, if as much.”

“Well, never mind. And,—er,—forget about my following you. I meant no
harm.”

“I’m sure of that,” replied the boy. “And it is perfectly all right.”

“Good night, my boy.”

“Good night, Captain Bob.”

Paul watched the man disappear around the corner. And just as he
started to cross the street, two figures darted out toward him, “Well?”
cried Ken.

Paul put a finger to his lips. “Sh!” he cautioned.

The boys retreated to Jack’s garage where Paul told his companions the
story. Just as soon as the narrative was completed, Ken cried, “The sly
old fox! You know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he continues to
spy on us.”

“That is just what I was going to say,” agreed Paul. “He is a very
shrewd man and I am positive that he suspects somehow.”

“You don’t mean to say that he suspects us of setting fire to that
house?” inquired Jack seriously.

“No, not setting fire to the house,” answered Paul smiling. “That is
ridiculous and we must give him more credit than that. My impression is
that he suspects us of knowing something about it which we are holding
back from him. And that happens to be true.”

“Providing, of course, that our suspicions are correct,” argued Ken,
still a bit doubtful.

“Well, of course, under those conditions.”

“What do you think our next move should be?” questioned Jack.

“Let’s go to the movies,” suggested Ken.

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Jack.

“Why not?” reasoned Paul. “Captain Bob won’t follow us tonight any
more—”

“Which makes it safe for us to go to the movies,” joked Ken.

The boys laughed. “Seriously, though,” said Paul, “there is nothing
else for us to do tonight. That man was abroad last night, and it is
reasonable to assume that he won’t do any more prowling around tonight.”

“I agree with that wholeheartedly,” said Ken. “Let’s go to the movies.”



CHAPTER VII

THE ROBBERY


The following morning, at the breakfast table, Paul happened to glance
at the front page of the _Stanhope Herald_ which Dr. Morrison was
reading. At the bottom of the page, boxed off, was a story with the
headline PROFESSOR LINK’S HOUSE ROBBED. Paul became quite upset and
found it difficult to eat his cereal. However, he controlled himself
and did not show any untoward interest in the newspaper. His father
finished breakfast first, and he laid down the paper and left for his
office. Paul gulped down his milk, picked up the paper and went out on
the porch.

The story was that someone had broken into Professor Link’s home and
had stolen a valuable, early edition of “Colonial History.” Nothing
else was taken, except that the thief had strewn many of the books on
the floor. The theory was that the thief had entered by an open window
in the library.

Ken came dashing across the street and up to the porch. “Hey, Paul!” he
cried, “did you read the story in the morning paper?” Paul held up the
paper. “So you know already?”

Jack came. “Well, what do you think of the robbery?” he asked bluntly.
“I had a feeling we should not have gone to the movies last night.”

“What could we have done?” asked Ken.

“We might have come upon him and possibly frustrated his plan.”

“So!” exclaimed Ken. “You think that ‘he’ did it? Pretty soon you will
have every crime under the sun charged up against him.”

“I don’t think we could have done anything,” commented Paul. “The paper
says that the robbery occurred any time after about midnight, when the
professor says he left his library to go to bed.”

“But we might have come across him sometime before and followed him.
Then we might about have judged what he was up to.” Thus argued Jack.

“Maybe yes and maybe no,” was Paul’s pert statement.

“Paul,” demanded Ken, “you don’t mean to tell me that you really
believe this man, this so-called maniac, committed the robbery, do you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Tell me, how do you figure it out?”

“It’s very simple,” was Paul’s answer. “Only one book was stolen. Of
course, the book was an old edition and valuable, but valuable only to
a man like Professor Link. In actual money, the book is worth perhaps
ten or fifteen dollars; but if the thief was going to sell it, he
wouldn’t get more than four or five dollars for it.”

“Yes,” added Jack, “there were more valuable things in the room, if
the thief had been interested in stealing something valuable. That is
in itself enough to show that the thief, whoever he was, was either
a maniac or one who was interested in obtaining only that book and
nothing else. But an ordinary, normal man, would not break into a house
to steal something like that.”

“Maybe,” remarked Ken doubtfully, “but—”

Paul interrupted, saying, “Let’s go over to Bobolink and get him to go
over to Professor Link. He is Bobolink’s grandfather, isn’t he?”

“Yes. Let’s do that.”

The boys wended their way to Bobolink’s home and luckily found him
still in. He was glad to see them, and commented, “I was just going to
call you fellows.”

“What for?”

“I thought that perhaps you might be interested in accompanying me to
my grandfather’s home.”

“That’s why we came for you,” Jack informed him.

“Good. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

Professor Link who lived alone except for a woman who cooked and kept
house for him, was a retired college professor and an authority in
colonial history. He occupied a small, private house of his own and
spent his time writing books on the history of the early pioneering
days.

His three companions behind him, Bobolink rang the bell. The
housekeeper opened the door. “Good morning, Mrs. Hix,” greeted
Bobolink. “Is my grandfather in?”

Mrs. Hix answered, “He is in the library.”

The boys filed in and Bobolink knocked on the library door. “Come in,”
someone called.

The boys entered. Mr. Link was a gray haired man of about sixty with
a warm smile, who was very friendly to young people. “Hello, Gramps,”
greeted Bobolink.

“Hello, fellows,” returned the professor. “What are you doing here?” he
asked curiously.

“Just thought we would pay you a visit,” his grandson informed him.

“That’s very nice of you, but I wonder what is behind it. Sit down,
boys.”

The walls of the room were lined with books. And it appeared that the
mess that the thief had caused was all cleaned up. “What about that
robbery, Gramps?” asked Bobolink.

Paul was walking around the room, pretending to be looking at the
books. Actually he was searching for something. He paused to hear the
professor’s answer to the question. “Not much harm done.”

“Was it a valuable book?” asked Jack.

“Not so particularly valuable; a book on colonial history.”

“Isn’t it rather odd that the thief should take that particular book
and nothing else?” asked Paul casually.

Professor Link pursed his lips. “Rather,” he answered. “If he had been
out to steal, he could have found more valuable things to take. He
might even have found some money in the drawer of my desk, if he had
looked.”

“But nothing else was touched?” Paul asked the question and was anxious
to hear the answer. “No. Nothing else seems to have been taken.”
Bobolink and Ken discussed with the professor the state university to
which they were going, entering as freshmen in September. Paul walked
around the back of the desk. He glanced down into the waste-paper
basket. His heart almost stopped still. He picked something out of the
basket and said to the professor, “Do you mind if I use this to copy
down the name of a book?” Professor Link looked at the card. “Not at
all. Where did you get it?”

“In the waste basket.” Paul turned the card to show that it was blank
on both sides.

The boys stared at Paul and at the white card. “Here is some clean
paper,” the professor said, and pushed forward a white pad. “And here
is a pencil,” he added.

“This is perfectly all right,” asserted Paul. Picking up the pencil, he
pretended that he was copying down the title of a book.

The boys were eager to get out, yet they could not very well show
haste without making the professor suspicious. So they lingered for
an additional twenty minutes, discussing colleges and college life.
At last they escaped. As soon as they were outside the door, Bobolink
opened his mouth to ask a question. But Paul cautioned him. “Sh! Let’s
wait until we are further away from the house.”

Some distance away, Bobolink finally asked his question. “What was that
card you picked out of the basket?”

Paul took it out of his pocket and showed it to them—a white card,
blank on both sides, and three by two inches. “You have your card,
Jack?” asked Paul. “Mine is home.”

“Yes, here it is.” And he produced it.

The cards were compared; they were identical. “Well, now what do you
think of that!” exclaimed Bobolink.

“In every case,” whispered Paul seriously, “the same person. This is
becoming terrible.”

“Yes,” agreed Ken. “I’m coming to look at it from your point of view.
And from now on we have to take it more seriously and do something.”

“What can we do?” asked Bobolink.

“You know what?” remarked Paul. “If I didn’t think we would be laughed
at, I would tell the police.”

“Aw, go on,” said Ken. “If all the evidence you have is the white card
and the fact that Jack followed a suspicious looking person, they
would think that you were either crazy or trying to put something over.”

“That’s the trouble,” asserted Paul. “In that case it is up to us to
solve the mystery and put an end to it.”

“Well said,” commented Bobolink, “but how are we going to do it?”



CHAPTER VIII

ENCOUNTER


The boys did not know what to do nor how to do it. But they were
determined to put an end to the mystery. And shortly, too. If the
man was permitted to roam the streets of the town freely, God knows
what damage he might eventually do and what crimes he might have up
his sleeve. He might lead away another child, he might commit more
robberies, he might put the torch to a house full of sleeping persons,
he might do anything. He had to be caught; upon that the boys were
firmly convinced.

That evening, Jack came to Paul and said, “Listen, I’m going to tell my
mother that I am having supper at your house tonight. But instead, I am
going down to Jones Street and nose around a bit.”

“That’s a good idea. But suppose I go with you.”

“No, I would rather go down alone. It is too difficult for two people
to be hiding together, darting in and out, and all that.”

“You are right, Jack. Be careful, though. Don’t get into any trouble. I
feel guilty letting you go alone.”

“Oh, don’t talk like an old woman.” The boys laughed at that. “I can
take care of myself. I have done it before.”

“Very well, go ahead. But I want you to come back and tell what
happens.”

“All right. But if nothing happens, I won’t come. I will go home
instead.”

Thus it was agreed and the two boys parted. Half an hour later, Jack
was at the corner of Main and Jones Streets. It was still daylight and
Jack had the opportunity to look the neighborhood over. It was a poor
and deserted neighborhood, not far from the edge of the town. The first
building on the corner was an old wooden house. At the street level was
a grocery store, and the floor above looked as though it were occupied
by a family.

Alongside this building was an empty lot, as was true of the opposite
corner. Further on, intermittently on both sides of the street were
one or two family wooden homes. Jack walked up and down the block
twice. There were some women on several of the porches and a number of
children played on the empty lots. He decided to take up a position at
the corner of Jones and Main Streets, but it was still light and he
didn’t want to arouse any suspicion. So it became a problem as to how
to spend the hours until dark.

First he walked up and down the block several times, then went around
the block twice until he was afraid that people in the neighborhood
might become suspicious of him. Then he walked up Main Street and back
again. It seemed to him that the day would never end. He crossed
the street to the empty lot and walked to the farthest corner of it.
Picking out a comfortable place to sit down, where he would not be
noticed, he tried to watch the corner so as to see everyone who passed.

The minutes dragged on endlessly. What is the matter, Jack asked
himself. Time usually passes so quickly; before you turn around the day
is gone. And now—He shifted in his seat and found the ground hard to
sit on. Staring vaguely at the house on the corner, at the few people
that passed up and down, many thoughts came to his mind. The uppermost
thought in his mind was, what might be wrong with this man, the maniac?
It was something he wished he knew, as he had always been interested in
trying to figure out what made people do the things they did.

But that thought soon slipped his mind and was replaced by another
one—that of going to college. Another three weeks and the summer
vacation would be over and Ken, Bobolink, Paul and he would be on their
way to the state university. What was college life like, he wondered.
There were sports, of course. Ken would make a swell swimmer and Paul
would most likely join the football squad. As for himself, he would
try basketball. Then there were the fraternities. He had heard a lot
about Greek letter clubs. But he was not going to bother much with any
outside activities; he was going to study to be a doctor. So was Paul.
And it took a lot of study to become a doctor.

He was staring rather aimlessly. His dreaming helped to pass the time
away. It was already almost dusk. Suddenly he was electrified. He
jumped to his feet and then he dropped to the ground again. A tall
individual had just then emerged from the door of the corner house.
Bending low, he ran to the corner and caught sight of the retreating
back of his man. A cold chill ran down his spine. He was certain of his
man. There was the same height, the same baggy clothes and that wild
appearance. The man kept shifting his head in all directions; his eyes
seemed to be everywhere, staring at people, at houses, at everything.

Jack followed closely. It was still not quite dark and he hoped he
would not be stopped by anyone. He was rather glad when the man turned
into York Street. It was a quiet, residential street and instantly
Jack feared what the man might be up to. Was he bent on starting a
fire in one of the fine houses on the street? But his fears were in
vain because the man kept on walking, almost reaching the tracks.
Repeating his gestures of the day before, the man suddenly stopped
and very slowly turned around on his heel. Jack had just enough time
to dash behind a fence. The man entered the yard and then walked
behind the house. Jack ran up and hid himself behind a tree almost
directly across from the house. Looking closely, he noticed that the
house appeared to be unoccupied. There were no lights in the windows
and there was nothing to indicate that anyone lived there. The man
reappeared and entered the house by the front door. He just walked in
without using any key, or breaking in the lock. There was something
suspicious about the house. If it were unoccupied, it should be locked.
If a family did live there, there would be some light in the windows;
and probably the maniac would not enter so assured of his safety.

It seemed to Jack that the man was in the house a long time. He decided
on a dangerous tactic. Quickly, noiselessly, he sprinted across the
street, jumped the fence and ran to the side of the house. Cautiously,
he moved to see if there was a back door; he found it on the other side
of the house. Putting his hand on the knob, he turned it and pushed,
but the door wouldn’t open; it was locked. He moved toward the front
again, to watch for the exit of his man. Every second was an eternity.
His heart pounded wildly and if he had not controlled himself, he would
have trembled, not so much from fear as from anxiety and excitement.

He flattened himself out against the wall and remained stationary, not
daring to make a noise. Suddenly he felt long, bony fingers grab him
by the shoulder and wheel him around. His blood went cold and he could
almost feel his hair standing on end. “So!” the man grunted under his
breath. “What are you doing, following me, eh?” Jack cowered before
the great height towering over him. He saw that the man had a rising
forehead, bushy eyebrows and deep eye sockets. What impressed him most,
however, were the man’s sunken cheeks and his wild eyes, which were
dark and brilliant.

For almost a minute, Jack was paralyzed and couldn’t talk. Eventually
he muttered, “No—no—I—I’m not following you.”

“Yes, you are,” accused the man. “You have been following me for two
weeks now and I want you to stop it.”

Jack heaved a sigh of relief. The man was crazy. But was he dangerous,
he wondered. Would he attack him. He was on guard against an attack.
“Why, no, Mister, I’m not following you. Why should I? I don’t even
know you.”

“You lie!” screamed the other. “You lie! You do know me and I know you.”

Jack thought he had better be quiet and polite with his assailant. A
good, sound argument might get him out of his predicament, he thought.
“I am sorry, Mister,” he said, “but I repeat that I don’t know you. If
you know me, as you say you do, then what is my name.”

Still holding on to Jack’s shoulder, the man scratched his chin. “Now
let me see,” he mumbled to himself. “What is your name?” He mused,
then he snapped his fingers and announced, “I know. It’s Jack.”

The boy gasped. How could that man know him, know his name. What was
he to do? He wished he had never known about this thing, had never
followed this man and had never got into this situation. Controlling
himself, he asked, “What is my family name?”

“Barrows!” the man snapped back. “Barrows, that’s it.”

“You are wrong,” contradicted Jack. “My name is Ed Smith.”

“No,” insisted the man, “you are Jack Barrows. And I demand to know why
you are following me.”

“But I am not following you. You are mistaken.”

“Then what are you doing here?” The man’s voice now boomed. “Tell me
that!”

“I used to live in this house,” fabricated unhappy Jack. “I once used
to live here,” he repeated, “and I was just looking around.”

“So you used to live here!”

The man lifted his free arm and swung. Jack ducked. The arm crashed
against the wall, the man screamed with pain and Jack wrenched himself
free. The man lunged for him. Jack side-stepped and stuck his foot out;
his victim tripped and stretched himself out on the ground. Without
waiting or looking back, Jack was off. He jumped the fence and dashed
down the street. Rounding the corner, he stopped to consider why he
was running. He stood nonchalantly and waited for his man to appear.
But the mysterious individual was not forthcoming. He waited five more
minutes and still he did not appear.

He came around the corner again and crossed to the other side of the
street. Walking slowly and cautiously, he came to the tree opposite the
house. Taking shelter, Jack looked across. A wave of pity swept through
him at the scene he saw. On the very same spot, almost where he fell,
the man was now sitting up and his shoulders were trembling. From all
appearances, the man was sobbing bitterly, as though his heart were
breaking.

Who is this man, Jack asked himself. And what is the matter with him?
What had ever happened to him to cause him to become what he was. Jack
asked himself all those questions but had no answers. He determined to
find out. He must find out, he thought to himself.

Jack looked at his watch and saw that it was almost nine o’clock. He
realized that he was terribly hungry. He decided not to wait around any
more but to go home. On the way he remembered that he had promised Paul
that he would come over and tell him if anything had happened. But he
did not feel like it at the moment and he went straight home and called
Paul on the telephone.



CHAPTER IX

WHO IS MR. GREY?


Paul and Ken were listening attentively to Jack’s story of what had
happened the night before. Paul commented, “It’s really a pity. What we
have to do is to catch him in the act as soon as possible and have him
arrested. Then something might be done for him.”

“What could be done for him?” asked Ken.

“Oh, I don’t know. Most likely he would be put into an asylum. That
would be best, too, I guess.”

Jack showed his companions the house to which he followed his man the
night before. There was nothing much to see there. The place was empty
and unoccupied. But strangely, the front door was open. They entered
and searched about. All the rooms were empty and dusty. In the hall
again Paul noticed some scraps of paper in one corner. He looked at
them but thought nothing suspicious of it. He sniffed the air and then
shook his head.

Outside again, they walked calmly off. “No clues here, it seems,”
muttered Ken.

“No,” asserted Paul. And again he thought of the scraps of paper but
the next moment dismissed them from his mind. “What seems to bother
me most,” he added, “is how he came to suspect that he was being
followed?”

“I don’t think he really suspected,” said Jack. “My opinion is that he
came upon me by accident.”

“A very unhappy accident,” commented Ken.

“Yes, rather.”

“I should think so,” remarked Paul. He shook his head doubtfully. “Yet
somehow I can’t quite believe it. Of course, you’re most likely right,
but—”

He broke off his sentence in the middle, not quite decided upon his
opinion. Jack thought out loud. “I wonder who this man is and what is
wrong with him?”

“You say there is a grocery store at the corner house, is that right?”
The boys stopped and Jack nodded. “Then,” continued Ken, “let’s go down
there and inquire in a roundabout way in the store. They might know
him.”

“That’s a swell idea,” cried Paul.

“Yes, I think so too,” added Jack. “Let’s do it.”

They walked down to Jones Street. A very short distance before they
arrived at their destination, they stopped to decide upon their plan of
action. “Exactly how are we going to do it?” asked Jack.

“One of us will have to go inside and make a purchase, then ask about a
tall dark-complexioned man.”

“I guess one of you two better go in. They may have noticed me around
here and they might get suspicious.”

“I will go in,” offered Ken. “But what am I to say?”

“Just ask if they know a tall, dark man living somewhere in the
neighborhood,” instructed Paul.

“But if they ask me what I want him for, what am I to say?”

“Make up some kind of story, anything. Say that you were told that he
was a plumber, or something like that, and that you want him to do a
job.”

“All right, I’ll go in. Where are you fellows going to be?”

“We will be right here. And when you come out, just keep walking
straight ahead as if you don’t know us.”

“Okey, here goes.”

Ken walked off and came to the store. He hesitated, looked around,
pretending that he was not certain it was the right place. He entered.
He noticed that a middle-aged woman was alone in the store. She came
out from behind the counter and asked, “Is there anything I can do for
you?”

“Er—excuse me,” he said, “but I am looking for a tall, dark man. I was
told that he lives in this neighborhood somewhere.”

“I know a tall, dark man,” she answered, speaking softly. “What is it
you want him for, may I ask?”

“I was told he was a carpenter and looking for work and—”

“It couldn’t be Mr. Grey. He is not a carpenter. You couldn’t mean him.”

“No, I guess not. Thank you.”

“It’s quite all right.”

Ken left the store much excited. He walked briskly till he came upon
the boys. They fell in alongside of him. “Well?” asked Paul.

“His name is Mr. Grey,” gasped Ken.

“What else?”

“That’s all. The woman did not tell me any more.”

“But the name alone is not enough,” cried Jack. “What does he do? Where
does he live?”

“I couldn’t ask her such questions,” Ken defended himself. “She would
become suspicious and tell me nothing.”

“Let’s not argue,” cautioned Paul. “At least we have his name, that’s
something. Did the woman in the store seem to know him?”

“Yes. I should imagine from the way she spoke that she knew him well.”

“She didn’t mention anything, else?” asked Jack.

“No.”

The boys walked silently along for some while. Paul snapped his
fingers. “You know what?” he cried. “Let’s look him up in the town
directory.”

“Where will we get one?” inquired Ken.

“I have one home,” said Paul.

The boys hurried to the Morrison home and Paul brought out the town
directory. It didn’t help them any. There were three Greys. One was a
pharmacist, the second was a butcher and the third a lawyer. They put
the book down and Jack muttered, “That’s not much of a help.”

“No. It’s very possible that he has only recently moved into town,”
commented Paul.

“Now that is an idea,” remarked Ken. “The reason he is so little known
must be because he is a newcomer around here.”

“But how does that help us any?” asked Jack.

“Well, it’s good to keep it in mind,” asserted Ken.

“What do you say we go down to that neighborhood again?” asked Jack,
“and just look around. Perhaps we can find some person who knows
something.”

“It’s all right with me,” was Paul’s comment.

The three boys shuffled off the porch and walked down Main Street
again. At Jones Street, they could find no other stores in the
immediate neighborhood where they might enter and obtain some
information. They walked back and forth several times, but their
searches were futile. One of them suggested that they quit and go home
and the others assented. Passing on the other side of the street,
the three of them kept their eyes on the store. A woman emerged. Ken
grasped Paul by the arm. “Look,” he said, “there’s the woman leaving
the store.”

“Well, what about her?”

“Don’t you understand?” demanded Ken. “She is the woman I spoke to when
I entered the store.”

“That’s right,” cried Jack. “If she is leaving, someone else must be in
the store. I am going in. Perhaps I can obtain some information.”

Paul held on to his chum who was on the point of walking off. “No,” he
said. “I’m going in. You may have been noticed around here before and
it would look suspicious. Both of you just keep walking back and forth
and don’t attract attention. I am going in.”

Jack and Ken continued walking along Main Street while Paul crossed
over to the store and entered. A customer was at the counter and
Paul pretended to be looking around. The customer left and the man,
evidently the proprietor, remained behind the counter, waiting for Paul
to give his order. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked.

Paul picked up a small box of chocolate crackers and deposited a
nickel on the counter. The man picked up the coin and rang it up on
the register. “Excuse me, Mister, but it seems that a certain Mr. Grey
lives in this neighborhood and....”

Paul did not finish his sentence. He scrutinized the man’s features
and concluded that the proprietor of the grocery was a shrewd, hard,
and unsympathetic individual. He must be careful of every word, he told
himself. The man drawled, “Now let me think.” He scratched his chin and
pretended that he was trying to remember an individual by the name of
Mr. Grey. “What is it you want of him?” he asked.

“Well, you see,” Paul began, “my mother heard that he was a carpenter
and she wants some work done.” That was bad, he thought to himself.
It was the same story that Ken had used and if his wife told him that
some boy was in looking for a carpenter, the man was sure to become
suspicious. But he was obliged now to stick to his story. He continued,
“So she sent me around here to try and find him.”

“Where do you live?” the grocery man asked him.

“Around the corner. The next street.”

“I don’t remember ever seeing you around in the neighborhood.”

Paul realized that he was in a predicament and he had to get himself
out of it. “We just moved in, two weeks ago,” he answered.

The man scratched his chin again. “Isn’t that strange?” he muttered. “I
haven’t heard of anyone moving in or out of the neighborhood within the
past two weeks.” He paused and eyed Paul who felt his face going red.
“Well, at any rate, I am sorry but I don’t know any Mr. Grey around
here.”

Paul moved away from the counter. “Thank you,” he said.

“It’s quite all right. Tell your mother to come in here sometime and do
her shopping. I like to know the people in the neighborhood.”

“I will.”

Paul was glad to escape from the store. He had never before realized
how difficult it is to obtain information from people. Joining his
companions, he laughed good naturedly. “What’s the joke?” asked Jack.

“The old so and so!” he exclaimed. “He got more out of me than I got
out of him.”

“You mean you didn’t find out anything?” Jack was serious and anxious.

Paul shook his head. “Not a thing. The old man beat around the bush and
finally confessed that he didn’t know anyone by the name of Mr. Grey.”

“And you fellows accused me of not obtaining enough information,” Ken
joked. “At least I found out what his name is.”

The boys were discouraged. “Now what?” asked Jack in a tone of
hopelessness.

His companions did not know what to do next and rather than talk about
it, they walked along silently. They came to the street on which Jack
lived and he said he was going home. Ken said, “No, don’t do that. It’s
early yet.”

“Oh, I thought I would go home and putter around with my dad’s car; it
needs some work done on it.”

“I’ll tell you what,” commented Ken. “Let’s go over and speak to your
father, Paul. He is a doctor and knows a lot of people in town. Perhaps
he might tell us something.”

Paul shrugged his shoulders. “Yes, we can do that. But I don’t think he
has many patients in this neighborhood.”

“And if he doesn’t know,” continued Ken, “we might go over and see
Chief of Police Bates. He knows me and I am sure we could get to see
him.”

Paul shook his head. “I don’t think we ought to see Chief Bates. He
might ask us a lot of questions, worm the story out of us and then
laugh at us or call us crazy kids.”

“We might at least try your father,” insisted Ken.

“All right. We will do that.”

But Dr. Morrison did not know either. He mentioned John Grey, the
pharmacist, Walter Grey the butcher and W. J. Grey the lawyer. Those
were all the Greys he knew. But the boys knew that themselves. They
were stumped.



CHAPTER X

STUMPED!


It was shortly after lunch time and Paul was doing an errand for his
father. Walking down Main Street, he stopped at a stationery store to
look at the window display. His attention was attracted by someone
coming out of the store. He caught his breath. The man was tall, gaunt,
with ill fitting clothes hanging like sacks on him. “Mr. Grey!” he
thought to himself.

Not hesitating, Paul followed. He wanted to get a good look at
the man’s face, but how was he going to do that? He thought fast.
Increasing his pace, he walked past the man. At the corner, he
pretended that he was lost and was looking for something. He waited for
Mr. Grey to come up. Approaching the man, he said, “Excuse me, sir. But
can you tell me where McDougal Street is? You see, I am a stranger in
this town.”

Paul looked up at the great height towering over him. He was very much
excited and kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Mr.
Grey answered softly, “I’m sorry, son, but I really don’t know.”

Paul pretended that he was disappointed. The man’s sunken cheeks, long
nose and deep sockets, were imprinted in his mind. But it was Mr.
Grey’s eyes that bore into him. Those eyes! he thought to himself, he
would never forget them. They were dark, brilliant, wild. He became
conscious that he was staring very awkwardly at the man and that Mr.
Grey was waiting for him to say something. He said, “You see—er—I am
looking for Grey’s Pharmacy.”

The man repeated to himself, “Grey’s Pharmacy! I am sorry, but I don’t
think I know where it is.”

On the spur of the moment, Paul said, “And then I have to go down also
to John and Main Streets. Can you tell me where that is?”

Paul thought that the man would show some sign of interest at the
mention of the words Grey and John Street. But he was disappointed.
Mr. Grey was quite calm and not at all disturbed by those words. He
answered softly, “Yes, I can tell you where John Street is. You walk
straight down Main Street; you can’t miss it. It is quite a walk
though; almost a mile.” He hesitated for a second and looked down the
street. “There is the car coming,” he continued. “You can take it and
get off at John Street.”

“Thank you,” murmured Paul and stepped aside to let the man pass on.
He watched Mr. Grey, walk away. Remembering that he still had the
errand to do for his father, he was undecided whether to follow or not.
Shaking his head, he turned and walked off.

Completing the errand for his father, he ran off to the stationery
store. He entered. A young man behind the counter asked, “What can I do
for you?”

Paul showed him a blank, white card. “Have you got any cards like
that?” he asked.

The young man behind the counter took the card, fingered it and
answered, “Yes, we have them. How many do you want?”

“I need ten,” said Paul.

The young man stopped as he was pulling out a box from one of the
shelves, and replied, “I’m sorry. The cards are twenty-five cents a
hundred and we don’t sell less than a package of a hundred.”

“Never mind, then,” announced Paul and walked out of the store.

Paul felt cheerful; he seethed with excitement. Now he was getting
somewhere, he thought. Upon reflection he realized that he was nowhere
nearer to a solution of the mystery than he was before. Yet he could
not dispel his feeling of excitement.

He felt someone touch him on the arm and Paul turned around. “Hello,
Captain Bob,” he called.

“Hello, yourself, my boy,” was the reply. “What are you doing just now?”

“Nothing much. I am at your disposal, if you want me to do something
for you,” he offered.

“No, I don’t want you to do anything for me,” and the captain shook his
head. “I merely want to have a few words with you.”

“That’s all right with me. What is it you want?”

“Let’s first move away from the main thoroughfare,” remarked Captain
Bob, smiling. “We may get knocked over by all these people rushing past
us.”

They walked away a short distance into Cherry Street. Paul was curious
to know what the captain had to say to him. He was on his guard,
though. The old man was clever and shrewd and if he thought he was
going to obtain information from him, he was mistaken. Paul steeled
himself and asked, “Is this all right? I guess we can talk here without
being disturbed.”

Captain Bob nodded. “Yes, I think so, too,” he answered. “What I want
to ask you, my boy, is how are you getting along with solving that
mystery of yours?”

Paul gasped. He didn’t think the man would put it up to him so bluntly.
“What mystery?” he asked, trying to make his voice sound as though he
were surprised at the question.

“Now, now,” commented the old man. “Never mind beating around the bush.
Let’s be honest with each other. I suppose you know that I am also
interested in finding the culprit who is responsible for starting that
fire?”

“That is news to me,” replied Paul. “I didn’t think you had any
suspicions about the cause of the fire.”

“Well, you know I did. And what’s more, I also know that you and your
friends are doing a lot of detective work. I just want to know how you
are getting along and whether you have come upon any substantial clues.”

Paul smiled, feeling slightly guilty. “As a matter of fact,” he
answered, “we have not been doing much lately at all. And ...” he
paused to suspend the effect of the remark. “And we don’t know any more
now than we did when we spoke to you about it.”

“Tsk, tsk.” Captain Bob appeared angry. “I guess we will just have to
wait and see what happens.”

“If there is anything my friends and I can do,” began Paul.

The captain cut him short. “Never mind,” he said, “never mind. Goodbye.”

Captain Bob walked off. Paul smiled to himself and went home. All
afternoon he brooded over his problem. The mystery continued to be a
mystery to him. He wondered what Captain Bob was up to, whether he was
still following him and his friends and also whether the old man was
conducting an investigation of his own. His father came up the steps of
the porch. “What are you brooding about, son?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing much,” was the answer. “Just thinking.”

Dr. Morrison looked askance at his son. “Well,” he commented, “let’s
hope you are really thinking and not pretending you are thinking.”

“W-w-what was that you said?” gasped Paul.

But Dr. Morrison laughed softly and walked into the house. Paul got out
of his seat and walked off. Jack was busy tinkering with his father’s
car. He looked up and called out, “Hello, Paul. Anything new?”

Paul sat down on the box of tools. “A little,” he answered nonchalantly.

Jack wiped his greasy hands. “What do you mean.”

“I saw Mr. Grey.” Jack opened his eyes wide and stared at his friend.
“And I spoke to him, too,” he added.

Jack sat down on the running board. “Well, go on, tell me. What
happened?” he asked anxiously.

Paul related the events. Jack listened attentively. Finally he
muttered, “So! Does all that help any?”

Paul shrugged his shoulders. “Very little. But at least I now have a
good idea of the sort of person he is.” A pause. “Captain Bob spoke to
me,” he announced.

“What does he want? How did you see him?”

“He stopped me in the street. He wants to know what we are doing and
how we are getting along.”

“A shrewd, clever fellow, that Captain Bob,” was Jack’s appraisal.
“He is aware that we know something which we won’t tell him and he is
trying to get it out of us.”

“I was wondering,” remarked Paul, “whether it wouldn’t be better to
tell him and see what happens.”

“What good will that do?”

“None that I can see, but ...”

“But what?”

“Nothing. Let’s forget that angle of it and think what to do?”

“I know what I am going to do,” announced Jack.

“What?”

“The same as I did last night. I am going to follow Mr. Grey.” He eyed
his companion. “And you?” he asked.

“I haven’t decided yet. Guess I’ll go home now.”



CHAPTER XI

A HUNCH


Paul, however, did not go home. On the way he changed his mind and
went to the library instead. He went to the back of the room and pored
over the newspaper files of the past few months. About an hour later
he left the library. He had a hunch which gave him a new track to work
on. He had a slip of paper in his hand and he looked on the writing on
it several times until he memorized it. Then he tore the slip of paper
into minute scraps and disposed of it.

Immediately after supper, he went out of the house and walked off. He
had a definite destination in mind. At Corral Street, which was two
blocks from Water Street, he set about looking for a particular number.
That led him about half a mile away from the place of the former fire,
which coincided with his hunch. He came upon the number he was looking
for. The house was a two story dwelling, set away from the sidewalk. At
the gate was a sign:

  JONES & JONES
  REALTORS
  HOUSE FOR RENT

Paul walked around the block and looked over the neighborhood. It was
a similarly poor section of the town. Coming back to the empty house,
he sneaked into the yard and walked to the rear of the house. Unable
to find a good location from which he could watch anyone approaching
or entering the house, he retreated a short distance and took up a
position behind the gate and sheltered by some shrubbery. From his
vantage point, he could not only see anyone approaching the house, but
also keep a sharp watch at those passing along the street.

It was already dusk. Paul settled himself, getting as comfortable as
possible. There was nothing else to do but wait and see. Perhaps his
hunch was a good one, and on the other hand, perhaps a very poor one,
he thought to himself. At any rate, he had nothing to lose by going
through with it.

Time dragged on. He watched the sky become grayer and darker. The moon
rose and the first star came out. Night came on gradually. In spite of
himself, he began to fidget and become impatient. Was something going
to happen or wasn’t it? He went over in his mind the hunch that he had
and tried to figure out how reasonable it was. At least to himself it
appeared reasonable. He wondered, however, what Jack or Ken might think
of it. It was no use doing that, he told himself, because he had not
spoken to them about it. The next moment he was sorry he hadn’t done
it. Two heads, three heads are always better than one and they might
have seen things about this which had not occurred to him. He felt his
eyelids become heavy and tired and he closed his eyes for a second.
Only a second. He had to keep watch, he told himself. But even though
he fought against it, he did fall sound asleep as he waited. He dreamed
a hodge podge in which Mr. Grey, Captain Bob, Ken and Jack were all
setting fire to a house, laughing gleefully. When he awoke he felt
ashamed of himself for not keeping the watch.

He took up his position again and resumed his watching. How could
he fall asleep like that, he asked himself. And he flushed with
embarrassment to have committed such an act. For all he knew, somebody
may have been here and was gone again. He looked at his watch. Nine
o’clock. He had been sleeping for almost an hour. He held his breath
and listened. Nothing. For about five minutes he watched the house and
the street. Except for an occasional bypasser, nothing happened. He
crept out of his hiding and looked all around the house. Nothing seemed
to have happened, nobody seemed to have been there. Calling himself a
fool, he decided to give up his watch and to go off.

He walked along and meditated upon his foolish hunch. Is it a foolish
one, though, he asked himself. If nothing happened tonight, does that
mean that there is no basis for my suspicion? Is it not possible that
something may happen tomorrow night, or the night after? He stopped in
his tracks and thought, suppose something should happen there now, just
after I left? For a second he felt that he should turn around and take
up his vigil again. He took several steps ahead but then turned around
and walked back.

He came to the house. From across the street, he let his eyes roam
about the place to see if anything might have happened. Nothing
stirred. All seemed to be still and quiet. He went around the block,
skipped across a fence and came up from the back of the house. Moving
along noiselessly, he crept along the yard. He had made up his mind to
go once again all around the house and investigate. Suddenly he caught
his breath and flattened himself on the ground, midst the wild tall
grasses. He saw a shadow coming around the corner of the house. The
man, for such it was wore dark clothes and a slouch hat pulled down
over the forehead. Like a shadow, the man moved along the wall. Every
few seconds he stopped and looked and listened. There was something
familiar about that man, Paul thought. He held his breath and watched,
his eyes glued to the moving figure. The next instant he smiled to
himself.

The man came to the front of the house, quickly ran across and
disappeared behind the wall. Paul got off the ground and sprinted
forward. Ducking around the corner of the house, he saw the back of
the man, who seemed to be hesitating, undecided as to his next course
of action. Paul moved forward on tiptoes. Coming up from behind, he
touched the man, who jumped as though touched by an electric spark,
“It’s only I, Captain Bob.”

He smiled. The old man stared into his face and for several seconds was
speechless. “You—you certainly gave me a scare, boy,” he muttered.

“I’m sorry,” apologized Paul, “but I thought it was so funny to find
you groping around here that—”

Captain Bob grabbed him by the arm and pulled him around to the back of
the house. Shaking a finger under the boy’s nose, he muttered, “You!
You young upstart! Scaring me like that and thinking it’s funny.” His
severity melted and he smiled. “I should imagine it would be funny,” he
said, “but what brings you here, my boy?”

Paul smiled. He had not yet gotten over the humor of the situation.
“I imagine that we both came here on the same hunch,” he informed the
captain.

“How do you know that my hunch is the same as yours? Tell me that.”

“Suppose you tell me your hunch and I’ll tell you mine, Captain Bob,”
he said. “And I’ll wager they are both the same.”

“I asked you first,” replied the old man. “If it is the same, I won’t
hesitate to say so.”

“Well,” began Paul, “I happened to be looking through the newspaper
files of the last two months and I noticed that three out of the last
four fires occurred at houses belonging to the Jones and Jones realty
company. The papers also mentioned several addresses of other houses of
theirs, and I picked this one to look things over.”

“But why should there be anything suspicious about that?” asked the
shrewd old man.

“I thought that possibly somebody had a grudge against the realty
company or against one of the Joneses. So I thought I might as well do
a little investigation.”

Captain Bob wobbled his head. “You young pups!” he muttered. “There
is no getting away from you. Did I hear you say that you want to be a
doctor?”

“Yes. I am going away to college in September. Jack and I, both of us
are going to study to be doctors.”

“Well, I don’t know about your friend Jack, but I think you ought to
study to be a detective.”

“Then I guessed?” cried Paul.

“You certainly did,” was the answer. “And let’s walk away before
someone sees us. You go first and wait for me at the end of the street.”

Paul obeyed. He sprinted across the yard and over the fence and walked
away. Two minutes later, Captain Bob joined him and he related to the
old man his experience of that night and how he had already walked off
and then returned. “I thought for a while that the hunch was a very
poor one,” he concluded.

“No,” answered the captain. “On the contrary, it was a most logical
one. Have you done any more investigations along this line?”

Paul became wary. He realized that again Captain Bob was trying to
elicit information from him. He shook his head. “Not much,” was his
answer.

“Well, just keep it up. Perhaps if we continue we may yet catch the
culprit.”

“I hope so,” remarked Paul.

Soon after they separated, Captain Bob saying that he was going home
and Paul seriously intended to do the same. In front of his own home,
he paused and leaned against the gate. Ken crossed the street and came
up to him. “Say, where have you been all evening?” inquired the latter.

“Oh, just following up a hunch of mine.”

“What sort of hunch?”

“Tell you about it later. Did you see Jack?”

“No and he isn’t home either because I went over to call him.”

Paul leaned against the fence and mused. The wind pushed a piece of
paper against his leg. Bending down to pull it away, he suddenly
remembered something. “Come on,” he said to his friend.

“Where to?” asked Ken.

“To that house which Jack showed us this morning.”

“What for? It is kind of late, too. Almost ten o’clock.”

“We will be back shortly. Come on.”



CHAPTER XII

A BUMP ON THE HEAD


That same night Jack was impatient to be through with supper, and
immediately after, he left his house and hiked down to Jones Street.
He didn’t know exactly what to expect, nor was he sure that anything
at all was going to happen. He thought that it would be best to stick
around and if Mr. Grey came out of his hiding, to follow him. It was
now four days after the fire on Water Street and something was bound to
happen in the immediate future. But what, or how, or when, was still a
mystery to him.

Jack took along with him a brown sweater. He thought that if there
was any need for it, he would put it on, and thus be able to change
his appearance, if only slightly. He had the sweater wrapped up in a
package under his arm. That too would make a slight difference in his
appearance—first carrying a package and later being without one.

He took the same position as the day before and he did not have to wait
long for darkness to come. It was already dusk when he came to Jones
Street. Just as soon as it was dark enough, he changed his place by
coming forward and hiding behind the chassis of a wrecked car. That
secured for him a better view of the street as well as the corner.

Watchful waiting—that was his task. But how long? Wasn’t Mr. Grey ever
coming out? Was he to be disappointed tonight? He glanced at his watch;
it was five minutes after nine. He saw the stars come out one by one in
the sky and the moon come up on the horizon. In the street and around
the corner there seemed to be very little activity. People passed up
and down but he was not interested in them. Soon he saw the grocery man
emerge and lock up his store.

Jack waited and watched, counting each minute. Time hung heavy on his
hands. He began to wish, as he had the day before that he had never
bothered with it at all, but the next instant he thought differently.
He was in it and he meant to stick it through; he would not give it up
just because he was impatient. It was quite possible, he thought to
himself that Mr. Grey would not attempt one of his usual jaunts through
the town. After all, one could not expect things to happen every night.
It was quite possible that Mr. Grey had become suspicious, that he
had actually become aware that he was being followed. Anything was
possible, he thought to himself.

Ten minutes passed, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes—and still nothing
happened. Gradually, Jack became convinced that Mr. Grey was not
coming out tonight. Suddenly it occurred to him that perhaps he had
come too late. He remembered that the day before Mr. Grey had ventured
forth at about six-thirty. And tonight he had not arrived there until
about seven-thirty. He nodded to himself and thought that no doubt
he had come too late. But what to do now and where to look first? He
certainly could not just walk around town and look for his man; that
would probably be futile. He debated with himself whether to go to
Water Street, to the site of the last fire or to go to the house where
he had followed Mr. Grey the night before. He decided on the latter
course and off he went.

Peace and darkness shrouded the house. Jack walked up and down several
times on the wrong side of the street. Then, growing bold he dashed
across the street and into the yard. Not thinking it wise to approach
the house, he crept noiselessly along the fence and all around the
yard. There seemed to be not a soul around; except for the wind,
nothing else seemed to stir. He approached the wall of the house and
tried to peek into a window. But it was dark and, naturally, he saw
nothing.

Cautiously, Jack approached the front of the house. Suddenly he stopped
and held his breath. He heard a slight rumbling noise. He listened
closely. Again the same noise. “Mice or rats,” he told himself. He
moved forward again then, flattening himself out against the wall, he
waited. A woman passed down the street. He took out his searchlight
which he was now glad he had brought, and moved forward again to the
front of the house. Putting his hand on the knob, he turned it and the
door opened slightly. Wondering how it was that the hinges, probably
rusty, did not squeak, he pushed the door wider open.

He flashed his light on and stepped quickly into the hall and closed
the door behind him. He threw a beam of light on the papers which Paul
had pointed out to him; they were still there, in the same spot and
untouched. Again he thought he heard a slight rumbling noise. Backing
up close against the wall, he listened. Yes, there it was again.
Rats or mice, he thought to himself. For a fraction of a second he
hesitated. What was he doing in here, he asked himself. Did he expect
to find Mr. Grey in the house? If so, what would he do if he did?
Beside, Paul, Ken and he had been in the house only that morning.

Brushing aside all the doubts in his mind, he tiptoed along the hall.
He passed one door, the second door. He retraced his steps and threw
a beam of light upon the stairway. Suddenly he felt a sharp blow on
the back of his head. His knees gave way and before he crashed to the
floor, he sensed a figure fleeing past him and out through the door. As
he fell to the floor he saw a million colored stars converging upon his
eyes. Innumerable distorted thoughts flashed through his mind. Then
darkness and he knew no more.

Jack opened his eyes and through a haze saw two figures hovering over
him. He reached to the back of his head and writhed with pain. Somebody
was bending over him and talking but he could not understand what he
was saying; it sounded like buzzing in his ears. He closed his eyes and
relaxed. Very suddenly he sat up and looked around. He rubbed his eyes,
then the back of his head; he felt a large bump there and touching it
made him shiver with pain. “How are you, old boy?” somebody was asking
him.

The person bending over him, murmured softly, “How do you feel, Jack
old boy?”

The mist before his eyes cleared and in the darkness he made out Paul
on his knees in front of him and a short distance away, Ken. He turned
his head and he noticed that he was in the open. “W-w-where am I?” he
asked, his face distorted with pain as he touched the bump on the back
of his head.

“You’re all right,” Paul assured him. “Just tell me how you feel. Any
broken bones?” he asked, smiling.

Jack felt himself all over, and answered, “No, I guess not.” Looking
into his friend’s smiling face, he also grinned, “Just where am I and
what happened to me?” he asked curiously.

“What happened to you, I don’t know; you will have to tell us that.
But I can tell you where we are. We are in the yard of—”

“Yes, I know,” interrupted Jack. He now remembered the house, where
he had been socked on the head. Rising to his feet, he felt a little
wobbly. Paul supported him. “Let’s go away from here,” he said
dejectedly.

Paul laughed. “Nobody will attack us,” he said.

They walked off. Jack was flanked on either side by Paul and Ken. After
a short silence, Jack asked, “How did you come to be there? And tell me
what happened, will you?”

“You’d better tell us what happened,” asserted Ken. “We found you there
stretched out horizontally. Some bump you have, too.”

Jack touched the wound and groaned with pain. “It’s nothing much,” said
Paul. “You’ll live a long time yet.”

Paul and Ken laughed. But Jack couldn’t see what was so funny. Ken
said, “Come on, tell us what happened.”

“That’s just it,” protested Jack, “I wish I knew myself. The last thing
I can remember is that I got an awful wallop on the back of the head
and sock! I was out.”

“Who was that person we saw running away from the house?” asked Paul.

Jack stopped in his tracks. “Running away!” he exclaimed. “Who? What?
When?”

“Ken and I,” Paul explained, “were coming up the street. We were about
ten feet from the house, when we saw somebody dash out of the yard and
down toward the other end of the street. We thought there might be
something wrong so we investigated.”

“And we found you,” added Ken.

“He must have been the fellow who socked you on the head,” concluded
Paul.

“Well, why didn’t one of you go after him?” demanded Jack.

“Somebody had to take care of you, didn’t they?” questioned Paul.

“By then it was too late,” added Ken.

Jack began to walk back toward the house. “Come on,” he said, “we’re
going back and see what happened.”

“What for?” asked Paul. “We looked and didn’t see a thing.”

Jack felt his pockets. “Besides,” he added, “my flashlight must be
somewhere there in the hall.”

“No. Here it is,” said Ken, taking it out of his pocket.

But Jack insisted on going back to the house and they did. Ken was left
outside on guard while the other two entered the house. They found the
first door in the hall open. The dust on the floor was stirred by many
footprints but there was nothing else visible in the room. The two
returned to the hall and searched but they found nothing. “I wonder
who it was that socked me like that?” muttered Jack.

“It’s no use wondering because you can only guess,” asserted Paul. “My
own opinion is that some stray individual happened to be in here when
you entered and just as your back was turned, he hit you on the head
and escaped. That’s all.”

“But why? Why?” demanded Jack. “And what was he doing here?”

“How should I know? And since there is nothing else we can do here,
let’s go.”

Joining Ken, they walked off and went home.



CHAPTER XIII

DISCOVERY


Ken was saying, “It is rather strange that somebody should have been in
that house when it is supposed to be empty and deserted.”

“But why?” demanded Paul. “Being empty and unoccupied, anybody might
walk in and look around.”

“Very true,” commented Jack, “but why should he sock me, that’s
something I can’t understand.” He put his hand behind his head and
winced with pain. “Suppose,” he continued, “some person does stray into
the house and while he is there I enter. Does that mean that he has
to bang me on the head and run away? It is not logical. There must be
something to it.”

“You may be right,” conceded Paul, “but somehow it doesn’t strike me
so. By the way, did I tell you fellows how I ran into Captain Bob last
night and almost scared him to death?”

“No,” cried Ken. “Tell us.”

Paul narrated his last night’s adventure. The boys laughed heartily at
the thought of Captain Bob being scared out of his wits. He also told
them that the captain had also had the same hunch as he. Then he asked,
“What do you fellows think of it?”

Jack merely shrugged his shoulders, manifesting his lack of opinion.
Ken, however, said, “It sounds quite logical to me.”

“Logic does not always prove anything,” remarked Paul.

Jack jumped out of his seat and snapped his fingers. “I have an idea,”
he cried.

“Tell us,” said Ken.

“What is it?” asked Paul.

“It is something I couldn’t exactly explain; it’s just something I
feel—a hunch. Come on, we’re going back to that empty house.”

“But what for?” demanded Paul. “We have been there several times and we
have found no clues or anything.”

“Well, we’re going back and look again.”

Jack disappeared into the house and a minute later came out carrying
his flashlight and as baseball bat. “What is the bat for?” asked Ken.

“Just in case of anything,” was the answer. “I’m not taking chances any
more.”

The boys rocked with laughter, Jack joining in. “You think you’re going
to hit somebody with that thing?” questioned Ken, still laughing.

“I suppose the fellow who hit you is waiting there for you to even
things up,” commented Paul.

“You fellows can laugh all you want,” said Jack, “but I’m taking it
along just the same. Come on.”

They were on their way. Jack said, “Paul, you and I are going into the
house, while you, Ken, are going to hide outside and give us the usual
signal in case you see somebody suspicious coming up the street or
about to enter the house.”

“And what are we going to do?” asked Paul.

“You and I are going into that first room and investigate. If there is
anything to be found, somehow I feel convinced that it will be found in
that room. I have only one reason for it. When I was hit on the head I
had my back to that door. Therefore the person who hit me came out of
that room.”

“That sounds reasonable,” remarked Paul. “But I, on the contrary, have
no illusions about finding any clues there. It seems to me that we went
over every inch of ground in that room.”

“You are wrong, Paul,” contradicted Jack. “All we did was merely look
around. We did not make a real search of the room.”

The boys came to the house. All three of them made sure of a good
location for Ken to hide and keep watch. When that was done, Paul
and Jack entered the house and closed the door behind them. “Now,”
whispered Jack, “Let’s open the door of this first room and examine
it.” Jack did so and swung the door back and forth on its hinges.
“Notice something?” he asked his chum.

“I most certainly do, Jack. This is very suspicious.”

“What is it you notice?” asked Jack.

“Why, the movement of the door swinging on its hinges; it’s noiseless.
Isn’t that what you mean?”

“Yes. The hinges must be well oiled and that is why I did not hear
when the door was opened and I was hit on the head. Under normal
circumstances, the hinges should be rusty and there should be plenty of
squeaking every time the door is swung open.”

“You are right, Jack. But I still don’t see what your hunch is.”

“Let’s just wait and see. I don’t know exactly what it is myself yet. I
can only make a wild guess. Let’s go into the room.”

They entered and closed the door behind them. They had no use for their
flashlights because the room had a window in each corner wall, and
it was now early morning, about ten o’clock. “Notice another thing,”
remarked Jack. “The windows—they are all in perfect shape.”

“That’s right, but that is nothing extraordinary. It is possible that
the last tenant had moved out only recently.”

“Well, that doesn’t matter so much. Shall we first thoroughly go over
the walls or the floor?”

Paul looked about for several seconds before he answered. “I think we
had better do the floor first.” They looked down. “You know,” continued
Paul, “I am somehow beginning to get a hunch like you have. I can’t
exactly explain it, but—”

Jack interrupted, crying enthusiastically, “Do you really mean that?
Because then—”

Paul held up a finger to his lips and cautioned, “Sh! Not so loud.
Walls have ears, you know, and all that.” Both of them crouched down.
“Do you notice something odd about the dust on the floor?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Jack. “I noticed it the first time we were here but I
forgot to mention it. There seems to be very little dust on this floor
compared to the other rooms.”

“That is right. Now you begin at the other end of the room and I will
begin at this end of the room. Examine every single plank of wood and
see if it lifts out of the floor.”

“That was my intention exactly,” whispered Jack. “You are getting on to
my hunch perfectly.”

Paul by now had become excited with the new turn of events and he was
eager to be doing something. “Less talk and more work,” he snapped at
his friend briskly.

Jack smiled and moved away to his end of the floor. The boys
partitioned the floor in half and set to work with zest. They ran their
hands over the floor and tested each plank. Despite their eagerness and
rapid movements, it took them a long time. The two of them must have
been working close to an hour, and Paul was occupied now in front of
the window when he hissed across the room, “Jack, I have it!”

Paul flushed with excitement. Jack raced across the room and joined his
friend. Paul had discovered a removable piece of wood about six inches
long by about three inches wide. He held it up in his hand. “Now!” he
whispered. He plunged his hand into the opening and pulled. But too
much effort was not necessary, the trap door opened easily. Jack was
ready to rush right down, but Paul, ever prudent and careful, grabbed
him by the arm and restrained him. “Wait a moment,” he whispered.
“Let’s make sure of things.”

Paul went to the window and peeked out. He located Ken and saw the boy
on guard, his eyes roaming everywhere and on the alert. Jack had in
the meanwhile gone out into the hall. Paul now joined him and together
they looked through the house to make sure whether anyone was in there
or was watching them. Reassured at last, they returned to the room and
again pulled up the trap door. There were stairs leading down, but it
was dark below and Jack flashed on his light. From every appearance it
looked like an ordinary cellar. Paul whispered, “All right, let’s go
down. I’ll go first.”

Jack nodded and his chum began to descend the stairs. He followed,
gripping his bat in his hand. Becoming conscious of the weapon, he
smiled to himself remembering how his friends joked at his taking it
along. Now, in case of anything, it would be very useful.

Paul, who carried the flashlight, reached the bottom of the stairs and
waited for his chum. Jack joined him. Together they followed the beam
of light around the room. At one side was a printing press and quite a
bit of printing paraphernalia; in the center of the room was a table
and several chairs; against the walls were several boxes, a jacket and
a cap hung on a nail and from the ceiling there extended an electric
bulb. Jack whispered, “What do you make of it all?”

Paul shrugged his shoulders. Again he threw a beam of light all around
the room. Satisfied with what he saw, he turned and motioned to his
friend that they leave. Jack shook his head. “No,” he whispered, “let’s
see exactly what they have here.”

“Not now,” was the whispered reply. “Some other time.”

He began to mount the stairs and Jack followed. They closed the trap
after them and replaced the piece of wood. Paul went over to the window
and peeked out. And it was a lucky thing that he did. Locating Ken on
the spot they had left him, he noticed the guard put his fingers to
his lips and whistle. But they could not hear the whistle because both
the door to the house and the door to the room were closed. Grabbing
Jack by the arm, he cried, “Hurry!” and dragged him out of the room. In
the hall they just managed to duck under the stairs as the door opened
and by the sound of the footsteps the boys guessed that two men had
entered. They heard a gruff voice mutter, “All right, we’ll do it.”

The next instant they heard the second door open and close. Venturing
out from their hiding place, they listened carefully to the opening of
the trap door, one man descending, then the second man descending and
then, plop, the trap door closing again. The boys looked at each other.
Paul smiled while Jack wiped the perspiration off his forehead with
a muffled sigh of relief. Paul opened the door noiselessly and they
stepped out into the open. At a sign from Paul, Ken was in an instant
over the fence and away. A moment later Jack and Paul were out of the
yard and running down the street.

They joined Ken at the end of the street. The two boys did not dare to
speak until they were some distance away from the empty house. Finally,
Jack, who couldn’t restrain himself any more, heaved a very audible
sigh of relief and exclaimed, “Boy! Was that a close shave! I’m so
nervous, my hands are shaking.”

“What happened?” asked Ken who could see that something important had
transpired.

“Let’s not talk now,” said Paul. “Wait until we get someplace where we
can’t be overheard.” He looked from one of his friends to the other.
“Don’t look so curious and excited,” he added. “Let’s discuss some
ordinary topic. Did you fix your dad’s car, Jack?”

Jack looked at his chum and burst out laughing. Paul looked as calm
and unconcerned as though nothing had happened. “I’m glad to see you
fellows enjoying your fun,” remarked Ken. “But I wish you would tell me
the joke so I could also enjoy it and laugh.”

That set both Jack and Paul laughing. “Pardon us, Ken,” said Paul. “But
there really is nothing to laugh about. That’s the joke. But we will
tell you all about it right away.”



CHAPTER XIV

A NEW TURN OF EVENTS


Jack stopped dead in his tracks. His two friends also stopped and faced
him. “What is it?” asked Paul.

“I was just wondering,” answered Jack, “whether we shouldn’t go back
there, watch until those two leave and then go down there again.”

“Go down where?” asked Ken; they had not yet told him of the cellar
they had discovered.

Paul shook his head. “No,” he said. “We have had enough for one day.
And then, I want some time to think this thing over and try to piece
everything together. Let’s go to Ken’s garage where we can have some
privacy.”

“You really think we shouldn’t go back?” asked Jack.

“Yes, I’m convinced.”

“Don’t mind me,” said Ken as the three of them continued walking. “I’m
only an ornament among the three of us.”

“Don’t be so impatient,” said Paul. “Wait. We’ll tell you everything.”

They came to Ken’s garage and sat down on boxes. Paul related what had
happened. Several times Ken gasped in astonishment. When the story was
finally ended, Paul commented, “But what puzzles me is how all the
incidents fit together. The fires, Mr. Grey, Jack getting bumped on
the head, Captain Bob, where do all these facts fit in?”

“As far as Captain Bob is concerned, you can leave him out of it,”
commented Jack. “No matter what it is all about, I’m quite sure he is
an innocent party.”

“Yes,” said Ken. “As chief of the fire department he naturally would be
interested in why there are an unusually large number of fires.”

“All right, suppose we agree that Captain Bob is out of it,” said Paul,
“what about all the other facts. How does Mr. Grey fit in, for example?”

“Yes, how does he fit in?” asked Ken. “Isn’t it possible that what you
stumbled on today has nothing to do with all the other incidents?”

“It may sound all right,” remarked Jack, “but I don’t think so. For
example, by now I am convinced that the fellow who hit me came out of
that cellar.”

“But why should he run away?” questioned Paul. “Why couldn’t he have
made you a prisoner, as that would be a more natural thing to do?”

“Perhaps,” argued Jack. “But if he had, he would have had to take me
down in the cellar. Now suppose he blindfolds me, still I might hear
something they say. I might escape and inform the police. My opinion
is that he hit me and ran away, hoping that the blow on the head would
scare me so that I would never return.”

His two companions nodded. “Suppose we accept that as the real reason.
Where does everything else fit in? What are they doing with a printing
press down there? They shouldn’t have to hide that.”

“But the mere fact that they are hiding it is proof that they are doing
something illegal,” commented Ken.

His two companions repeated the word, “Illegal! Illegal!”

Jack began to walk up and down, his chin in his hand and deep in
thought. The other two were also silent and thinking hard. Jack picked
up an old newspaper from the floor. Suddenly he dropped the paper,
jumped high into the air and cried frantically, “I have it! I have it!”

His two friends leaped out of their seats, and ran up to him. “Well!”
demanded Paul, for once impatient and curious. “What is the answer?”

“The answer is,” whispered Jack and then paused, “Counterfeiters!” he
whispered.

Ken jumped into the air enthusiastically. “That’s right!” he cried.
“That’s right!”

Paul smiled with satisfaction. Putting an arm around Jack, he said, “It
sounds very reasonable. Counterfeiters have to use a printing press.
And counterfeiters do something illegal and therefore have to hide.” He
nodded his head. “Sounds very logical.”

They returned to their seats. “But,” continued Paul, “even if we grant
the fact that they are counterfeiters, how do all the other incidents
fit in? The fires and Mr. Grey for example?”

“Must they fit in?” inquired Ken.

“They don’t have to,” was Paul’s reply, “but I have a notion that they
do.”

Jack nodded and agreed with his chum. “I feel the same way about it,”
he said. “It is very possible that what we have discovered today has
absolutely nothing to do with the fires or Mr. Grey. But somehow I have
a feeling that there is some connection. But I can’t say what.”

“But if there is some sort of a connection between all these facts, how
do you think they fit in?” asked Paul.

Jack shook his head. Ken said, “Suppose we begin from the very
beginning. I mean from the time you came upon the house, Jack. Now, was
it not Mr. Grey who led you to the house?”

“Yes. And then he sneaked around in the back and scared me half to
death.”

“All right. Now if he had anything to do with the counterfeiters do you
think he would have led you to that very house he wants you to keep
away from? If he were a member of that gang of counterfeiters and he
knew you were following him, don’t you think he would lead you to some
other part of town?”

Paul said, “That may sound logical, but the opposite may also sound
logical. For example, if we concede that the fellow who hit Jack on
the head and then ran away did it to frighten him so that he would
keep away from there, why can’t we say the same thing about Mr. Grey?
Is it not possible that Mr. Grey knew he was being followed and
purposely led Jack to that very house, then sneaked up behind him to
frighten him so that he would never return? Isn’t that very plausible?”

“Say,” cried Jack, “if what you say is true, that fellow certainly made
a mistake.”

“And how!” echoed Ken.

“Now if we know all that,” continued Paul, “that makes Mr. Grey a
member of the gang of counterfeiters.”

“But what about the fires? And leading Betty away. And those white
cards, what about them? And the robbery at Professor Link’s?”

The boys looked at each other very glumly. “The whole thing is like a
crazy jigsaw puzzle,” muttered Paul.

“Telling me!” mumbled Ken. “It has already given me a headache. The
thing worries me so, I can’t sleep nights.”

The boys laughed at the manner in which Ken said it. “You have to
sleep,” remarked Jack. “Otherwise how are we going to solve this jigsaw
puzzle of a mystery?”

The boys sat around and brooded. Three minds with one thought—how to
solve the mystery; how all the details fitted into the general picture.
They were so silent and lost in thought that they were not at all
aware of Ken’s little sister Betty approaching and regarding them with
surprise. She stood rooted in one spot and stared at her brother and
his two friends. Finally she couldn’t bear it any longer. She opened
her mouth wide and cried suddenly, “Boo!” The boys jumped as though
they were shot. Reassured again, they smiled heaving sighs of relief.
“Mother says you should come to dinner,” she said.

“Dinner!” exclaimed Ken. “Is it time for dinner already?”

All three simultaneously looked at their watches. “My, how time flies,”
mumbled Jack. “Twelve-thirty already.”

Mrs. Armstrong came to the porch and called, “Betty!”

“I’m right here, Mother,” cried the child. And she ran to the porch.

“Did you find Ken?”

“He is at the garage. And Jack and Paul too.”

“Tell them all to come in; lunch is ready.”

The boys entered the house. Paul and Jack telephoned home that they
were having lunch with Ken. At the table, in the midst of the meal,
Jack almost choked as he thought of something. “Hurry up, fellows,” he
whispered. “I’ve just thought of something important.”

“Can’t you at least eat without thinking?” mocked Ken.

“Yes, take it easy,” was Paul’s advice.

“Choke easy, you mean,” corrected Ken.

“Stop all that talk,” spoke up Jack, “and hurry up and finish. I want
to get out and talk this thing over.”

As soon as they were through with their meal, the boys retreated to the
garage again. “Now what is it?” asked Paul.

“It is something that I thought of just as soon as we got into the
cellar,” replied Jack, “but it slipped my mind and I forgot to mention
it.”

“Well, what is it?” asked Ken. “Don’t keep us in suspense.”

“It’s this. When we descended the stairs into the cellar, Paul, it
occurred to me that if the police cornered the gang of counterfeiters
in that cellar, how would they manage to escape?”

“They wouldn’t,” was Ken’s opinion.

“Suppose you were one of the gang, wouldn’t you think of such a
possibility and make sure of an exit, of a means of escape?”

“Certainly.”

“Then that means, that probably there is another entrance or exit into
that cellar.”

“That’s right,” said Paul. “I’m glad you thought of it. It is something
we should have thought of at once.”

“Oh I wish you didn’t,” said Ken, pretending that he was in tears,
“because that only adds another item in the puzzle to solve.”

“Which isn’t going to be very easy.”

“No, it certainly won’t.”

“Let’s come down to earth now,” remarked Jack, “and think in terms of
action. What are we going to do now? What should be our plan of action
from now on? Can you think of anything, Paul?”

For a short while, there was silence. At last Paul ventured to
suggest, “We might, for example, give up following Mr. Grey; at least
temporarily. Then we have to watch that house and get to know the men
entering and leaving and determine as well as we can who the members of
the gang are.”

“I was just thinking of something,” remarked Ken. “Do you remember,
Paul, how hostile the grocery man was and how he squirmed out of giving
you any information about Mr. Grey?”

“Yes, what about it?”

“Well, it just occurred to me, that the man must know something if he
is so anxious to conceal it.”

“Hmm!” muttered Jack.

“Another thing,” continued Ken. “Isn’t it true, Jack, that each time
you followed Mr. Grey, it seemed to you that he emerged from that
corner house, the house in which the store is situated?”

“That’s right. What are you driving at?”

Ken scratched his head. “I feel this way about it,” he said, “that most
likely that corner house is owned or at least rented by the grocery
man. Now if Mr. Grey comes out of that house, he must live there.” His
two companions leaned forward and listened to him attentively. They
suspected that what he was saying might be very valuable. He continued,
“Therefore, if Mr. Grey lives in that house, the grocery man must know
him; under ordinary circumstances, he would have no reason to say that
he didn’t know Mr. Grey. It therefore follows that either he knows that
Mr. Grey is a crook or possibly he himself is somehow involved in the
situation.”

The boys gasped. The reasonableness and logic of Ken’s statement was
beyond question. Yet how true was it? If it were true, another missing
link was being added to the already complicating puzzle. “Then why,”
asked Jack, “should the woman have mentioned the name Mr. Grey when you
entered the store and asked for information Ken?”

Paul answered, “That’s simple. If we assume that what Ken said is true,
the grocery man’s wife knows nothing of her husband’s operations and
very innocently gave away the name.”

“Yes, that’s right,” agreed Ken.

“That only makes it worse,” muttered Jack.

Again the group became silent. They would hit upon an idea, discuss it
rapidly and then they would brood for a while. Jack leaped to his feet.
“Let’s do something,” he cried.

Paul rose. “I for one,” he said, “am going home and I suggest you do
the same. That will calm us down. Then we will meet again after supper
and—do something.”



CHAPTER XV

FOLLOWING UP THEIR CLUES


Jack was restless, excited. The mystery had him upset. While Paul and
Ken each went to their respective homes, Jack loitered along Main
Street. Not that he hoped to do anything or come upon any clues; he
merely didn’t feel like going home. He walked down as far as Jones
Street and again investigated the neighborhood. Returning to the
corner, he went into the store and on the pretense that he was buying a
small box of chocolate wafers, he let his eyes wander about the place.
But there was nothing especial to see; it was the same as any other
ordinary grocery. The woman was in the store and she appeared to be a
mild sort of person. Considering it unwise to ask any questions or seek
any information from her, he paid for his wafers and left.

He munched as he walked along. Thinking hard for some plan of action,
he couldn’t come to any definite decision. Finally he concluded that
Paul was right—he should go home and let the matter rest for a while.
Quickening his pace, he walked home and busied himself with tasks about
the house.

After supper, the three boys met at Paul’s home. They sat down on
the porch and waited for someone to speak first. Paul finally spoke
up and said, “Right now, I think, we have to look into two angles of
the situation. One of us should go down to Jones Street and watch the
grocery man. The other two should go back to that empty house and see
what happens there.”

“How about you going down to Jones Street?” asked Jack. “You spoke to
the grocery man and you know what he looks like.”

“That suits me. You and Ken, in the meanwhile, will watch the empty
house.”

“How about that other angle of yours, Paul? The one about watching
out for a fire at some house owned by the Jones and Jones real estate
company,” commented Ken. “I think it’s a good hunch that we ought to
follow up.”

“I think we can drop it for tonight at any rate and see what happens,”
answered Paul. “Let’s go.”

They walked off the porch and headed for Main Street. “So long,” called
Paul, and waved.

“Good luck,” returned Jack.

“We’ll be seeing you,” said Ken.

Jack and Ken walked off together. “It’s a little early yet, don’t you
think?” asked Ken.

Jack looked at his watch; it was not quite seven-thirty. “Yes,” he
answered. “But we will go down there anyhow and see.”

They walked past the house as though they were ordinary pedestrians.
Coming to the railroad tracks, they turned around and walked back
through the street on which the back of the house faced. It was eight
o’clock now but it was still daylight. So they decided to walk around
the block once more and as far as the railroad tracks. As soon as
it became dusk, they returned to the house and took up different
positions. Jack hid himself directly behind the fence overlooking the
front of the house; Ken, on the other hand, picked out a hiding place
at the rear of the house. The two were thus able to keep a watch all
around the house and at the same time be within reach of each other in
case of necessity.

The boys watched the sky become gray and the stars come out; the
moon crept out of the horizon and night descended. Perfectly still,
noiseless, inconspicuous, the two kept guard. Every once in a while,
people passed up and down the street, and immediately Jack was on the
alert, anxious, impatient. But nothing happened and time dragged along.
Suddenly he heard the sound of a soft whistle and he turned his head to
locate Ken. Again the same soft whistle. Jack looked all around him,
then, very cautiously, he crept over to his friend. Ken had his ear to
the ground. Jack whispered, “What’s up?”

Ken motioned for his friend to put his ear to the ground and Jack did
so. He flattened himself out and glued his ear to the ground. A slight
trembling of the earth came to his ears, accompanied by a steady,
muffled sound. For about five minutes both boys put their ears to the
ground and listened. Ken, although he guessed what it was, whispered,
“What do you think it is?”

“The printing press.”

Ken nodded. “I thought so too.”

Jack whispered, “When did you first hear that sound?” he asked.

“It seemed to begin only a short while ago.”

The boys were silent, thinking hard. If the press had been operating
only a short while, then it was most logical to conclude that whoever
was in the cellar had come there recently, within the last thirty,
forty, fifty minutes. Yet the boys had been on guard for a full hour
and as far as they knew, no one had entered the house by the front
door. Jack, therefore, became more firmly convinced that there was
another door somewhere; that the cellar could be reached and left
perhaps some distance away from the house. Jack whispered, “I’m going
back.”

Ken nodded. His friend crept away and again he was alone. Each one in
his own hiding place, they watched and waited, but nothing happened.
Overhead was the blue sky with the moon and the stars. All around them
was darkness. Their waiting and watching was in vain—at least so it
seemed.

Another hour passed and still nothing happened. Ken lay with his ear to
the ground and occupied himself with listening to the hissing sound
that came out of the earth. Jack watched and waited but not a thing
stirred. He became restless and chafed with impatience. Finally he
wiggled over to Ken and also put his ear to the ground. Still that
hissing sound and the trembling of the earth. Ken whispered, “They must
be working hard down there.”

Jack nodded and kept silent. Together they lay flat on the ground and
listened. Again it was Ken who whispered, “What do you say, you think
we ought to go? There is nothing doing here.”

“No, let’s wait a short while more. I wonder what Paul is doing.”

“Same here. I hope at least he has found something interesting to do.
This doing nothing is killing me.”

Jack felt the same way about it. As a matter of fact, Jack was of more
impatient nature than Ken, but he felt it upon himself to urge his
friend on. “Take it easy and don’t lose your patience,” he whispered
back. “A thing like this takes time you know; plenty of time.”

Again they fixed their ears to the ground. They remained like that for
a short time. Suddenly they pushed their ears deeper into the ground.
In the darkness, they looked at each other. “Do you hear what I hear?”
whispered Ken.

“Yes, nothing.”

“That’s right. They must have stopped the printing press.”

“Yes. Now what?”

Silence. The boys knitted their brows. If they had stopped their press,
Jack asked himself, would they be coming out of the cellar now? And if
they were, which door would they use? Possibly they would come out by
the front door because they might not care to use the same door for
an exit as well as an entrance. But if they did use the rear door how
would the boys find it? Jack looked around. It might be in either of
three directions, he reasoned to himself—on either sides of the house
or to the rear; to the front was the sidewalk and street, which would
be a most improbable means for a tunnel or other form of approach and
exit. “Stay here,” he whispered to Ken. “I’m going back to my place. We
will stay here another half hour, and if nothing happens, I have other
plans.”

“What?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

Jack crept back to his hiding place. With nothing else to do but to
wait and watch he again became conscious of the darkness and of time
dragging. There was utter stillness and he could hear himself breathe;
the tick of his watch in his pocket sounded extraordinarily loud. He
waited. A few pedestrians passed by. He waited some more. He counted
every minute. When the time was up a low muffled whistle issued from
his lips. He turned his head and saw Ken creep out of his place.
Together they sneaked out of the yard and walked off. Ken asked,
“Well, what are your other plans?”

“I was thinking,” said Jack, “that they must have another way of
getting in and out—”

“Yes, you mentioned that once before.”

“Well, what I was really trying to determine is where that other
entrance might be. Now, logically, it can be at any one of three
places. There might be a tunnel leading away from the cellar of the
house on either side or at the rear. What we have to do, therefore, is
to examine those three possibilities.”

“But we can’t do much tonight,” remarked Ken. “For one thing it’s dark
and there isn’t much we can see. And secondly, it’s late already.”

“That’s very true, but I certainly would like to get an idea of how the
land lays.”

“We can leave that for tomorrow. Now I think we ought to go over and
see if Paul is waiting for us.”

“That’s right. I almost forgot about him. I wonder if he came across
anything.”

“Well, I only hope that he didn’t have to spend such a dull time as we
did,” was Ken’s comment.

“You have to take things as they come,” answered Jack. “Sometimes there
is plenty to do and at other times there is nothing to do.”



CHAPTER XVI

PAUL GETS INTO TROUBLE


Ken and Jack came to Paul’s house but they saw their friend nowhere
around. “You think he is in the house?” asked Ken.

“No. He would be waiting for us on the porch.”

“What will we do, then? Where will we wait for him?”

“Let’s wait for him in front of your gate, Ken. He ought to be coming
any minute, I suppose.”

The boys leaned against the fence, talking in low tones to while
the time away. They were impressed before with how hard it is to be
patient, but now it was doubly hard. For it seemed that Paul was not
coming. They waited thirty minutes, an hour, an hour and thirty minutes
and still no Paul. Jack was actually becoming worried that something
had happened to his chum. Ken suggested several times, “Perhaps he is
home. Do you think we ought to try to find out? Though it’s a little
too late to ring the bell.”

But Jack knew better; he knew his chum. If Paul had returned before
they did, he would have waited for them on the porch; that was a
certainty. He would not have gone to bed until he had seen and spoken
to his friends and made sure that they were all right. Finally Jack
could not bear it any longer and he muttered, “I’m going to look for
him.”

“I’m going with you,” said Ken with determination. “Where will we look
first?”

“There are only two places where we can look—at Jones Street and then
that empty house.”

“Where will we go first?”

“What do you think?”

They went down to Main Street, then they were undecided as to which
direction to take. Jack said, “Let’s toss a coin.” He drew a nickel out
of his pocket. “Heads we go to Jones Street; tails we go to that empty
house.”

He tossed the coin into the air, caught it with his right hand and
slapped it down on his left wrist. Ken put his head close to see. Jack
removed his hand—it was tails up. “The empty house,” he whispered.

When Paul started out early in the evening, he leisurely strolled along
Main Street until he came to his destination. There, he examined the
house on the corner from every possible view. It was a two story frame
house with the grocery occupying most of the ground floor; the rest of
the floor, Paul figured, were either closets or some form of storage
places. He was pretty sure there were no living quarters on the ground
floor. The people who occupied the house lived above the store. By
counting the windows—there were seven—he reasoned that there must be
either three or four rooms. The grocery man and his wife most likely
occupied one room, Mr. Grey another, and the children, if there were
any, the other one or two rooms.

By now it had become dusk and Paul thought that it was time to take up
some hiding position and watch. The next moment he changed his mind.
Instead of hiding anywhere, he nonchalantly took up a position across
the street and pretended that he was waiting for someone. He didn’t
have to wait long. Pretty soon he saw Mr. Grey emerge from around the
corner and walk up Main Street. He wondered where the man was going and
what he might be up to. For several seconds he debated with himself
whether to follow him or to wait, as he had previously decided, for the
grocery man. He chose to wait. About fifteen minutes later he saw his
man come out from the rear of the house. “Very clever,” he thought to
himself.

The grocery man came to the corner and stopped, looked around and then
walked off down Jones Street. Paul wanted to follow but on second
consideration he realized that the street was deserted and he would
instantly be noticed. He had a hunch, however, that the man’s walking
down Jones Street was done on purpose to detect anyone following. Paul
ran to the next parallel street and raced to come to the corner first.
He hid in a doorway and saw his man round the corner and continue
walking on the street parallel to Main Street. This part of the town
was rather empty and deserted. He therefore decided to let his man walk
at least two hundred and fifty yards ahead of him.

Soon the street became busier, with many people strolling up and down.
Paul gradually narrowed the distance between himself and his man. They
came to about the centre of the town. Suddenly he caught his breath
and his heart began to beat rapidly. He saw Mr. Grey walking the other
way, and as the two men passed each other, there was a slight movement
of the head on the part of both of them. So they did know each other!
So there was some connection between the two! Paul thrilled with the
excitement of it.

At the next corner, the grocery man turned in and headed for Main
Street, where he turned right and walked straight ahead for several
blocks. At about the middle of the street he joined a group of three
men who were standing to one side and talking quietly among themselves.
Paul crossed to the other side of the street. Pretending that he was
looking at a window display, he was actually studying the group of
four men. As far as he could tell, they were not native townspeople;
everything about them looked as though they came from somewhere else;
possibly from a large city. Two of them were very ordinary looking—of
average size and wearing the usual summer clothes. The third person
was a tall, fat individual, with a big head and a double chin. One
thing was common for all three; they all were rather hard looking. Such
was the trio that the grocery man had joined.

It was evident that they had a lot to say to each other, for they
talked for some time, while people passed up and down and paid no
attention to them. Paul decided on a bold step. Walking down a bit, he
crossed over and, falling in behind a group of strollers, he passed
close to the group of conspirators. But they talked in such low tones
that he could not overhear a word they said.

Not seeing any other opportunity of overhearing their conversation,
Paul crossed over again, pretended that he was looking at a window
display and walked down to the corner and back again. But every second
he kept an eye on that group. Finally after about half an hour,
the group broke up into twos. The big, fat fellow with one of his
companions walked south, while the grocery man and the third of the
trio walked north on Main Street. Paul decided to follow the grocery
man and his companion.

They walked straight ahead for several blocks, then, very nonchalantly
rounded the corner and disappeared. Paul felt the thrill of excitement
grow on him; something hot and exciting bubbled inside of him. They
had turned into the street on which the empty house was situated. He
thought of Ken and Jack and their being on guard. But just then Jack’s
well founded hunch occurred to him; perhaps there was a secret entrance
and they would not use the front door of the house. He peeked around
the corner and saw his men turn off at the next crossing. “Good!” he
thought to himself. They were not fooling him; it was their intention
to take a roundabout route to throw anyone off their trail if they
happened to be followed.

At a rapid pace, he took a direct route to his destination. He did not
intend to go to the house; if anything happened there, it was up to
Jack and Ken to take care of that and he knew that he could trust them.
His intention was to take up such a position that they would have to
pass him. If they did not head for the house, then he would follow them
and spy out the secret entrance to the house.

There were only three possibilities for a secret tunnel to the house,
Paul reasoned with himself. It might be on either side or to the rear
of the house. The most probable one was at the rear of the house
because that afforded a direct connection with very little space
intervening between the two cellars. It would be a simple thing, he
thought to himself, to dig and fortify such an underground passage.

Paul hid in a doorway and waited for his quarry to come along. In time
they did and passed within two feet of him. They were silent and
walked as though they were out for an evening stroll. Paul hesitated
ere he ventured out of his hiding place. The neighborhood was still
and dark. If he dared to follow and keep them in sight, he would very
easily be detected; he might have a running chance to escape, but that
would give him away and they, on the other hand, would then realize
that they were being suspected.

But it was not necessary for him to follow within sight of them. He had
a pretty good idea where they were heading for. He waited for them to
round the corner and immediately he ran after them. He peeked around
the corner and saw them stop in front of a house at about the middle of
the street. They stopped and looked all around them. The next moment
they were gone.

Paul flushed with excitement. He had discovered their secret means of
approach to the house. Now all he had to do was to thread together
all the details of the mystery, put together the puzzle into a single
whole, and choose a time when they would most probably be in the cellar
for the police to descend upon them. Paul already foresaw the moment
when the gang would be captured and locked away where they belonged.

He decided to walk down the street, get a glimpse of the house and then
join his friends. What he saw put him in a jovial mood, as he walked
back to the corner with every intention of joining Jack and Ken.
But he did not have quite enough foresight. He had seen the group of
four break up into two pairs; he should have taken into consideration
the missing pair. Might it not be possible that these two had headed
for the same destination by a longer route. At any rate, his not
considering that angle proved disastrous for him.

Very innocently he rounded the corner and suddenly found himself facing
the protruding, round stomach of the man he had seen as one of the
trio. Looking up into the man’s brutal face, Paul felt himself becoming
confused. In the meanwhile, he noticed the second man take his place
directly behind him. “What are you doing around here?” the fat man
demanded in a gruff, husky voice. “Don’t you know it is dangerous to be
roaming around at this time of night?”

Paul hesitated, trying hard to keep his voice from shaking. He said, “I
just took a walk, that’s all. I live only a couple of blocks from here.”

“So you were just taking a walk, eh? Well, then what were you spying
around for, huh?”

Paul felt himself become tense. He wondered if they would attack him.
He answered, “I wasn’t spying, Mister. I was just walking.”

“Then why did you look goggle eyed at every house as you passed down
the street?”

“Just looking as I was walking.”

The man squared his jaw and gritted his teeth. “Some day,” he hissed,
“you’ll go blind for seeing things you ain’t supposed to. Who are you?”

Paul began to edge away so that he would not have the second gangster
directly behind his back. But he was cornered and he had no way to
move. He answered, “My name is Morris Paulson.”

“Do you have any friends who have been snooping around lately? They had
better watch out or they will get into heaps of trouble.”

Pretending that he was ignorant of the reference, Paul said, “I don’t
know what you are talking about, Mister. My friends are nice fellows
who mind their own business.”

The gangster gorilla grinned mischievously. “That’s a swell idea,
everybody minding his own business,” he remarked. “And you too.”

“Yes, sir,” Paul agreed meekly. Feeling that the questioning was over
and that he was being dismissed, he stepped out of the way and took a
step forward to walk away. For a fraction of a second he congratulated
himself on his luck. The next instant, however, he felt a crash on his
head. His whole body trembled, his knees began to wobble. As he fell
to the ground he turned half way and noticed the cruel grin on his
attacker. Then everything went dark and he knew nothing more.

Paul lay unconscious at the feet of the fat gangster. The man poked
his toes into the boy’s ribs and turned him over on his back. “You
shouldn’t have hit him so hard,” the fat fellow said, addressing his
henchman. “He’s only a kid.”

“I didn’t hit hard, Boss. I only tapped him nice and easy.” He looked
pleadingly at his chief. “What’ll we do with him?” he asked anxiously.

“Bind his hands and feet and throw him in one of the empty lots.”

“You want me to dump him, Boss?”

“No!” was the snarling answer. “Do what I say and be quick about it.”

Bending down, the henchman used Paul’s tie and handkerchief to tie the
boy’s hands and feet. When that was done, he picked up the inert body
under his arm and crossed the street to an empty lot and then dropped
it to the ground. Rejoining his boss, the two walked off. “That’ll
teach him a lesson,” muttered the fat fellow.

Paul did not know how long he lay there, but he imagined that it must
have been a very long time. He tried to rise, but couldn’t. His head
ached terribly. He fell back and closed his eyes. Gradually he regained
consciousness. With difficulty, he sat up and discovered his hands and
feet bound. At first he could not recollect exactly what had happened
to him and how he came to be in this predicament. But little by little,
events came back to him.

Frantically, Paul began to work on his bonds to free himself. But he
felt weak and every time he moved his wrist, he felt the bonds cutting
his flesh. But at last, after about twenty minutes of tiring work,
he freed his hands and it took him but a few seconds to untie his
feet. Rising, he felt himself trembling all over. He could barely keep
himself steady on his feet. Walking, he wobbled from one side to the
other.

At the corner, he leaned against the wall of a house. Suddenly he
heard some shouts. He looked to see who it might be, but his sight was
blurred and he could only see dim shadows running toward him. Who are
they, he wondered, and what do they want from me? Was he going to be
again attacked? He wanted to run but there was no will nor effort to do
so.



CHAPTER XVII

PARENTAL ADMONITIONS


Jack and Ken commenced their search for any sign of Paul. But
everything was still and dark and there wasn’t a sign of human life
anywhere about. After about twenty minutes of futile searching, the two
boys decided to leave and go to Jones Street. Coming to the corner, Ken
noticed a lonely figure hovering against a wall a short distance away.
He called his friend’s attention to it and Jack said, “Most likely a
drunk. But let’s go and see. It may be someone needing assistance.”

As they neared the figure, both boys remarked that there was something
familiar about it. Jack began to feel a little uneasy about that lonely
figure leaning against the wall and he walked faster, Ken at his
side. Soon they were both running. “It’s Paul!” screamed Jack, almost
hysterically.

The two friends ran over to Paul and caught hold of him on either side.
“Paul! Paul!” whispered Jack frantically. “How are you? What happened
to you?”

Paul shook his head, trying to shake away the mist from his eyes and
the dullness out of his head. Ken whispered, “Let’s take him right
home, Jack. Don’t bother him with questions now.”

Jack nodded and agreed. He was almost in tears at the helpless sight of
his chum. Putting their arms around their friend, they started to lead
him home. Very gradually, Paul regained his balance and self assurance.
“All right,” he muttered, “I can walk by myself now.”

But just as soon as the boys removed their supporting arms, Paul
tottered and almost fell. Jack immediately put an arm around his
shoulder. A short while later, Paul finally walked by himself. “Some
mess I got myself into,” he mumbled.

Jack smiled, happy that his friend was all right again. “Now don’t
talk,” he said. “Save your energy.”

Paul grinned to himself thinking of how nearly he got away. They came
to his house and Jack whispered, “How will we wake your father up? It’s
quite late already.”

“What do you want to wake him up for?” inquired Paul.

“He has to treat your head, fellow. You’re all bloody and messy.”

“Don’t bother him, Jack. I’ll wash up myself and let him see it
tomorrow.”

“Nothing doing,” insisted Jack. “You have to be taken care of by a
doctor right away. And it’s better your father does it than anyone
else.”

“All right, but don’t tell him what happened. Just say I fell.”

Jack ran up the step to the porch and rang the night bell. About two
minutes later, Dr. Morrison, in his pajamas and bath robe, answered the
door. Seeing who it was, he exclaimed, “Why, Jack, is there anything
wrong?”

Jack thought for a few seconds what to say. “Er, Dr. Morrison,” he
began, “don’t be alarmed but er—”

The doctor was impatient and he cried, “Well, well?”

“You see, Paul was hurt and—”

“Where is he?” was the direct and decisive question. “I thought he was
in his room and asleep long ago.”

They went around to the back of the porch. The doctor looked at Paul’s
wound and said, “Let’s go into the office and I’ll fix you up.” The
boys followed. At the door the doctor turned to them and said, “You go
home, fellows; it’s late.”

Jack compressed his lips and gritted his teeth. He wanted to ask if the
wound was serious or if there was anything he could do to help. But
the doctor seemed not to want them around. He waited until Paul and
his father entered the house and closed the door. Ken whispered, “All
right, Jack, let’s go. There is nothing more we can do here.”

Crossing the street, they separated and each went home to sleep and to
think over everything that happened that evening.

Early in the morning, Jack got ready to leave his home. His mother
called to him and asked, “Where are you going so early? Aren’t you
going to wait for breakfast?”

But Jack shook his head, kissed his mother on the cheek and ran out
of the house. He was anxious to see Paul, and, as it was too early
to ring the bell, he walked back and forth like a sentinel in front
of the Morrison house. Counting every minute, he finally decided at
eight-thirty sharp, that it was all right to ring the bell now. He
knew that Dr. Morrison’s office hours began at nine, and that usually
he had his breakfast between eight-fifteen and a quarter of nine. His
heart beat wildly as he heard footsteps coming to open the door. “Good
morning, Jack,” Mrs. Morrison greeted him. “What are you doing here so
early?”

“Good morning, Mrs. Morrison. I just want to see Paul.”

“Paul is a little tardy in getting out of bed this morning,” she told
him as they entered the dining room. “Have a seat. He ought to be down
any minute.”

“Good morning, Dr. Morrison.”

“Good morning, Jack. Did you have breakfast yet?”

“Breakfast!” Jack clasped his hand to his forehead. “I completely
forgot about it.”

Dr. Morrison laughed heartily, but his wife couldn’t see the joke and
she exclaimed, “You forgot to have breakfast! Is there anything wrong
with you?”

Dr. Morrison laughed and Jack shook his head. “No,” he replied meekly.
“I guess I wasn’t hungry.”

“You’re going to have breakfast right now,” insisted Mrs. Morrison.
“Sit here,” she ordered the boy and then she went to the kitchen.

Dr. Morrison shrewdly remarked, with a twinkle in his eye, “If you can
forget your breakfast, Jack, I can imagine what happened last night.”

Jack moved to the edge of his seat. “How is he?” he inquired anxiously.
“Hurt bad?”

“Oh, I guess he will live to get into plenty of more trouble. Nothing
to worry about.”

Mrs. Morrison returned and placed silverware and a plate in front of
Jack. “Your bacon and eggs will be ready right away,” she said. “In the
meanwhile, have this orange juice.”

Just then Paul came downstairs. He was smiling and looked as though
nothing had happened. “Good morning, everybody,” he called cheerfully.

His greetings were returned. Kissing his mother on the cheek, she
noticed the bandage on the back of his head. “What happened?” she
demanded.

“Nothing, Mother. I just fell, that’s all.”

She looked at her husband who was smiling. “Nothing much,” he muttered
to re-assure her.

“I wonder,” she said skeptically.

Paul and Jack looked at each other and grinned guiltily. “Well, sit
down,” remarked Dr. Morrison, addressing his son.

Weighed down by a guilty conscience, the boys ate their breakfast in
silence. Jack waited for Paul to finish. They noted with dismay that
Dr. Morrison, although through with his morning meal, sat by the table
and read the paper. Paul said, “I’m ready, Jack, let’s go.”

Dr. Morrison rose with the boys and took them under the arm. “Where
to?” he asked.

Paul squirmed. “Just out to the porch,” he answered.

“Are you in any particular hurry? Something very important to talk
about?”

“No,” his son answered hesitantly.

“That’s fine. Do you mind coming into my office for a couple of
minutes?”

Jack thinking that Dr. Morrison meant only Paul, drew away. But the
doctor said to him, “You, too, Jack. Come along.”

Dr. Morrison sat down at his desk and pointed the boys to chairs. For
a moment there was silence. “Well,” remarked the doctor, “now tell me
what this is all about.”

The boys fidgeted. “What what’s about, Dad?”

“Now don’t pretend ignorance,” commented the doctor. “You know very
well what I mean.”

Paul turned to his companion and said, “You tell him, Jack.”

Jack felt himself getting hot all over and becoming red in the face.
“No, you tell him yourself, Paul.”

Dr. Morrison smiled at their uneasiness. Paul said, “Dad, I don’t want
to tell you any falsehoods and I can’t tell you now what it is all
about. You wouldn’t understand. Please don’t ask me.”

“I don’t want to pry into your personal affairs and have you tell me
things you don’t want,” said Dr. Morrison, “but getting a bump on the
head like that is very serious.” He paused and the boys kept silent.
The doctor continued, “I have treated a number of such cases and I can
testify to the fact that the bumping was done by an expert.”

“It really isn’t much,” Paul assured his father. “And I promise to be
more careful in the future.”

“All right, son. You had better be—and you, too, Jack—if you want to
keep a whole head on your shoulders.”

“Yes, Dad.”

Grinning, the boys rose and left the office, with Dr. Morrison shaking
his head and wondering what they were up to now.



CHAPTER XVIII

FALSE ALARM!


Ken was sitting on the steps of the porch. He jumped up as he heard the
door open. “Hello, fellows,” he cried.

“Hello, Ken. You’re lucky; you always get away with things.”

“What’s the trouble this time, Paul?”

“My dad just had us up at the bar and almost made us tell.”

“You can’t do that. Not yet, at any rate.”

“For the present we got away with it,” remarked Jack.

They went across the street to Ken’s garage where they would have the
privacy they wanted. Seating themselves on boxes in a circle, Jack
heaved a sigh, then said, “Well, Paul, now you can tell us everything
that happened.”

Paul grinned mischievously. He leaned forward and whispered, “I found
out their secret entrance to the cellar.”

“You mean it!” exclaimed Jack.

“That’s perfect!” cried Ken.

“It’s in the house to the rear of the empty house.”

“I had a suspicion it would be something like that,” commented Jack.
“What sort of a house is it?”

“It was dark and there was not much chance to see anything. By the
way,” he asked, “whose idea was it to suspect the grocery man?”

“Mine,” answered Ken. “Was I wrong?”

“On the contrary, you were right and you deserve a medal as a fine
detective. That man is one of the gang.”

“You don’t say! Well, come on, tell us about it.”

Paul commenced at the very beginning and related all that had happened
to him the previous night. Completing his narrative, Jack muttered,
“So! That’s the way things stand.”

“Yes. Now you tell me what happened to you two last night.”

“In one word,” replied Jack, “nothing.”

“Tell him about the printing press,” suggested Ken.

“Well, yes, but that wasn’t much. By putting our ears to the ground, we
could hear very slightly the printing press going.”

“On the contrary. You should have been able to hear it very well,”
commented Paul.

“Come to think of it,” remarked Jack, “you’re right. They must have
muffled the noise of the machine somehow.”

“They are certainly going in for it in a big way,” said Ken.

“It seems that they are,” Paul replied. “Now, if we can get a couple of
things straightened out, we can tell the story to the police and have
the gang arrested.”

“I think we ought to wait a while,” suggested Jack. “It is a little too
soon yet.”

“Yes. From every indication,” commented Paul, “it seems that they are
on the alert. We have to catch them at a moment when they are off their
guard and make sure that every one of them happens to be there.”

“There are also a couple of more things that we have to check up on.
For example, we still don’t know how Mr. Grey fits into the picture
and—”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” interrupted Paul. “Following the grocery
man, he and Mr. Grey passed each other and nodded. Whatever that meant
I don’t know, but it establishes beyond a doubt that they know each
other and that Mr. Grey is in with the crowd.”

“That’s very interesting to know,” said Jack enthusiastically. “But in
that case, how are we going to explain his past behavior?”

“I don’t know,” answered Paul. “But there is no doubt that there is
some connection between his past behavior and what we are up against
now.”

“Yes,” muttered Jack, “I’d give a penny to know exactly how those fires
and the robbery fit into the puzzle.”

“Eventually, we will solve that,” remarked Paul. “I have a notion how
they fit in but—”

“Tell us!” exclaimed Ken.

“I would rather not; it sounds foolish and I may be mistaken. Besides,
I couldn’t very well substantiate my argument. But what we have to
decide now, is what we are going to do next, what our plan of action is
going to be.”

“Do you have any suggestion?” asked Jack.

“My opinion is that we ought to keep away for a couple of days. That
would make them think that they have scared us away. It will also make
them a little careless and things will be easier for us to accomplish.”

“All right. Now suppose we do play dead, so to speak, for two days;
then what?” asked Ken.

“Well, we still have to go down to the cellar for a second time and
establish definitely what’s going on there.”

“And we still have to locate the exact position of their secret
tunnel—for it must be that,” added Jack.

Paul nodded. “Yes,” he said. “It would be a simple thing to bore a
tunnel connecting the two cellars.”

“But how are we going to determine how the fires and the robbery at
Professor Link’s fit into the picture?” asked Ken.

“For that we will have to wait and see how things turn out,” explained
Paul. “It may be very possible that those incidents have nothing to do
with it all.”

“But those were the very things that we began to investigate,” insisted
Ken.

“Yes, and now look what it got us into,” remarked Jack.

Suddenly the air was rent by the screech of the fire siren. The boys
leaped to their feet and began to race down the street. “But it isn’t
time yet for another fire,” protested Paul.

“What do you mean, it isn’t time yet?” questioned Ken.

“I told you about it. From the reports in the papers, it seemed there
was a fire approximately every ten to fourteen days.”

“Well, maybe this is a real fire,” suggested Jack.

“Perhaps.”

At Main Street, the boys saw the fire engine, a brand new one the town
of Stanhope had recently acquired, come racing madly down the street.
People were lined up along the sidewalk watching the engine pass.
“Where’s the fire?” Paul asked someone.

The man shrugged his shoulders and answered, “I don’t know.”

Paul asked someone else. But nobody seemed to know where the fire was.
Jack suggested that they run down the street, in the direction the fire
engine went, and perhaps they would come upon it. The boys agreed and
they fell into a trot. On the way, they stopped every once in a while
to inquire as to the location of the fire. But nobody seemed to know.
“That’s strange,” muttered Jack.

“What’s strange?” asked Ken.

“That no one should know where the fire is.”

About a quarter of a mile down, they saw the fire engine returning. The
firemen waved to people as they passed. One of the firemen shouted to a
friend at the curb, “False alarm!”

“Did you hear that?” asked Jack, turning to his friends.

“Yes,” answered Paul, “I heard it. I’m just wondering.”

“Wondering about what?”

“Just thinking of something.”

The boys began to walk back. For a while they were silent. “By golly!”
exclaimed Paul, slapping his right fist into his palm. “I wouldn’t be
surprised if—”

He stopped to think for a second. “If what?” asked Ken.

“If that gang,” continued Paul, “were not responsible for the false
alarm.”

“How do you mean?” asked Jack.

“Pretty soon,” commented Ken, “you will have that gang responsible for
everything that happens in this town.”

“But listen to this,” explained Paul. “Suppose they want to move
something, do you think they want any witnesses?”

“No, but—”

“But when you hear the fire siren, people start running to the fire,
there is a commotion, no one would pay any attention to something being
moved in or out of a house. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes,” agreed Ken hesitantly, “but—”

“How about going over there and looking around?” suggested Jack.

“No,” insisted Paul. “We said we would play dead for two days and we
are going to do it.”

“All right, you win.”



CHAPTER XIX

CAPTURED!


The two days were up. Jack and Ken, waiting for Paul, sat idly about
at the latter’s garage. It was early morning, about nine o’clock and
the day was clear and warm. Soon Paul appeared and he sat down near
his friends on a box. “All right, fellows,” he said, “what’s to be our
first move?”

“Go down to the cellar,” suggested Jack. “It’s early morning and
probably no one will be there. We will have at least a couple of hours
in which to look around.”

“Yes, and perhaps we will find the secret door,” added Ken.

“Let’s go, then,” said Paul.

Jack picked up the baseball bat and followed. “Again you’re bringing
along your bat,” remarked Paul.

“Sure. It may come in handy.”

“You’re right. It might not be a bad idea for Ken and I also to take
along some sort of weapon.”

They stopped and looked around. Finding a stray broom handle, Ken sawed
it into three pieces and Jack discarded his bat. Putting their weapons
out of sight, they walked off. “How will we manage it?” asked Ken.

“We will do it the same as last time,” suggested Paul. “You will stay
outside and keep a careful watch while Jack and I will go down. Is that
agreeable?”

Ken nodded. “It’s all right with me.”

Before they reached the empty house, Jack suggested that they take
a look at the house in its rear, where no doubt the secret door was
situated. His companions thought it was a good idea and they proceeded
to do so.

Ken took his place at one corner and Paul, by walking around the block,
took his place at the opposite corner. When all was ready, Jack very
innocently walked down the street on the wrong side. The house under
suspicion was a one family brick building with a stoop leading up to
the front door; at the ground level were noticeable the small windows
of the cellar. From all appearances, the house was occupied; there were
curtains in the windows, several flower pots were distributed on the
small porch and a rubber hose lay on the ground not far from the house.

As Jack reached the corner, he took over Ken’s place and the latter
strolled nonchalantly up the street, noticing everything within
sight of the house. The boys got together again and discussed their
impressions of the house. “Very innocent looking as far as I could
see,” remarked Ken.

“Don’t let that fool you,” asserted Paul.

The boys proceeded to the empty house. Careful not to be seen as they
entered the yard, they put their ears to the ground to find out whether
the printing press was in motion. Satisfied that everything was quiet
below as far as they could judge they prepared for action.

Ken took his place prepared to watch, while Jack and Paul moved off and
entered the house. Closing the door quietly behind them, they entered
the first room on their right. Moving very cautiously, they approached
the spot where the trap door was supposed to be. But at first they
could not find the small piece of wood that came out of the floor. Both
boys frantically hunted for that piece of wood. After about fifteen
minutes of digging their nails into the floor in wild search, Jack at
last came upon it and lifted it out of the floor.

Paul lifted the trap door and began to descend. Their hearts were
aflutter with excitement. What awaited them below? Would they come to
trouble? Would they come to grips with the gangsters? Both boys had had
a taste of their medicine, but that didn’t discourage them nor were
they intimidated. Grasping firmly their short sticks, they walked down
the steps.

It was dark below, and that was a good sign. Each of the boys carried
a flashlight and lit up their way. Jack closed the trap door over his
head and followed Paul. At the bottom of the stairs, Paul waited for
his friend. A beam of light went all around the room and came to rest
on the table. About five or six bills lay sprawled on the wooden table.
Jack whispered, “Look.”

Paul nodded. Together they approached the table and looked at the
money bills. There were two fives, two tens and a twenty dollar bill.
“Counterfeit,” whispered Paul.

Jack picked one up and slipped it into his pocket. They returned to
the end of the room and began a thorough search, working from one end
of the room to the other. There were several pieces of clothing, many
rags, various packages, and other things, such as tools and machinery
about which they knew nothing. They paused to examine the printing
press very carefully. They moved on. Jack whispered, “Let’s try to find
the secret door.”

Paul nodded. “It must be over the other way,” he whispered back.

They proceeded to the other end of the cellar. A beam of light moved
back and forth over the wall, but no sign of a door. They tapped and
groped at the wall but with no success. Suddenly their hearts fell.
The faint noise of footsteps on the other side of the wall came to
them. Their minds were in a whirl. What were they to do? Were they to
be captured? If so what would happen to them? They already had a taste
of what the gang did to anyone spying on them. What would they do now?
All these thoughts flashed through their minds in an instant. Paul
whispered, “Hide.”

Paul dived behind a bunch of rags and pulled several of the rags over
him. But Jack was not so quick. At his corner, there was no ready
hiding place for him to run to. And he was still looking for one as the
electric light flashed on and part of the middle of the wall was pushed
open. In a flash, he noticed how the door worked; the handle of the
door was pushed through on the other side, and thus a means was left
for an exit; but on leaving, if the handle was pulled in, whoever was
in the cellar was either imprisoned or had to use the trap door in the
empty house.

As the door was thrown open, the two gangsters whom Paul had noticed
with the fat fellow and the grocery man, stepped forth. Seeing Jack,
one of them whipped a revolver out of his hip pocket. The second one,
however, grabbed his mate by the arm and exclaimed, “Don’t shoot. He is
only a kid.”

Advancing to Jack, the second one demanded, “What are you doing here?”

Jack held his breath and tried not to look in the direction where his
chum was hiding. “Just happen to be here,” he answered, his heart in
his mouth, wondering what they would do to him.

The gangster became angry and boisterous. “I know you happen to be
here,” he cried as he gave the boy a shove that sent him sprawling.
“But how do you happen to be here, that’s what I want to know.”

Jack picked himself up. The first man, with his gun still in his hand,
mumbled to his companion, “Wait a minute, Pete, somebody else may be
here. Let’s look around.”

“Okey, Joe. Keep this fellow covered while I look around.”

He took his gun out of his pocket and let his eyes wander about the
cellar. He spied the bundle of rags. Levelling the gun at it, he cried,
“If you’re hiding there behind the rags, you better come out or I’ll
shoot.”

Paul thought he had better not take any chances and slowly he rose,
with his hands above his head. Joe cried, “I think that’s the guy the
boss and I caught the other day and I socked him.”

Pete demanded, “Are there any more of you in here?”

Paul shook his head. Out of the corner of their eyes, the boys glanced
at each other. Both were pale and tense, but not frightened. Pete
raised his fist threateningly and scowled, “If you’re lying, I’ll knock
your block off.”

Paul said, “If you don’t believe me why don’t you look around and see
for yourself.”

That seemed to satisfy the gangster and he lowered his arm. “What are
you doing here?” he again demanded.

“We came upon the trap door by accident,” replied Paul undaunted, “and
we thought we would look and see what it was all about.”

“You’re sure you don’t know any more than that?”

“What could we know that you don’t want us to know?” asked Paul.

Pete lunged out and hit Paul on the cheek. “That’ll teach you not to
get fresh,” he hissed.

“What’ll we do with them?” asked the gangster named Joe, addressing his
mate. “You think we ought to dump them?”

“No,” was the snarling reply. “We’ll tie them up and leave it to the
boss to do with them as he pleases.”

“What for?” demanded Joe. “They’re a couple of rats and we ought to get
rid of them.”

“They’re kids,” argued Pete. “We dump them and you’ll have the cops on
our tail.”

“The cops don’t need to know.”

“Never mind. Tie them up and don’t argue.”

The two gangsters faced each other and it seemed that they might get
into a quarrel. “I say dump them,” shouted Joe.

“And I say no,” snarled back Pete.

Jack and Paul watched them face each other, leveling their guns. The
boys thought it would be good luck if they did fight and kill each
other. But in that case there would be shooting and they needed safe
places to run to. However, Joe, the weaker of the two, gave in and
muttered, “Okey. We’ll tie them up.”

Tearing some rags into strips, Joe tied the boy’s hands and feet and
their own handkerchiefs were used to put around their mouths. The job
completed, they were tossed into the corner. Pete, who was watching the
procedure, now said, “All right. Now grab those two packages and take
them to the boss. And ask him what to do with these kids.”

“And what are you gonna do?” Joe asked with malice.

“I’m going to stay here and keep an eye on these kids.”

“That’s all right with me,” said Joe. He went to the other end of the
cellar and picked up two packages wrapped in plain brown paper. Nodding
to his mate, he called, “Okey, I’ll be going now.”

“And don’t take all day coming back,” snarled Pete.

Joe was gone. Pete brought over a chair and leaned it against the wall.
Sitting down, he took a penknife out of his pocket, placed his gun in
his lap and began to clean his fingernails. “It’s too bad you kids have
to pry into things you shouldn’t,” he muttered, addressing himself to
the boys without looking at them. “It ain’t healthy. You’re liable to
get bumped off one of these days and then where will it get you?” He
paused for a moment to think and scratch his head. “Mind your own
business is my motto,” he continued. “If everybody would mind their own
business, everything would be all right. As it is, people get into the
trouble, like you kids, when you shouldn’t.”

He stopped talking. With their hands tied behind their backs, the boys
worked feverishly to loosen their bonds. But they had to work without
being suspected by their captor. And what’s more, Joe had done a good
and expert job. The bonds were tied so strongly they could barely move
their wrists.



CHAPTER XX

ESCAPE!


The boys felt cramped and awkward in their sprawling positions. The
bonds cut into their wrists and ankles. Each one worked to release
his hands, but the task was difficult. But even if they did untie
themselves, what could they do? Pete, the gangster, sat near by with
his gun in his lap. The slightest move on their part and he would shoot
at them. They realized that they were in a very bad predicament.

The gangster began his preaching again. “Now if you kids had minded
your own business,” he said, “as you should have, you wouldn’t get
into this thing. You should have been out playing baseball or swimming
instead of snooping around. And what do you get for it? I don’t know
what the boss is going to do to you. He may even dump you and that’ll
be too bad because you’re still kids.” He shook his head in dismay.
“You should have minded your own business.”

He put away his knife and leaned back in his chair. Taking the handle
of his gun in his hand, he glanced at the boys who seemed to be pretty
safely tied up, and then he closed his eyes.

Waiting a few minutes, the boys continued working on their bonds. Soon
Pete began to snore. Now, if he only slept soundly for a short while
so that they could work undisturbed! But the effort to free their hands
was a very tiring process and in ten minutes they had not accomplished
anything. Paul thought of a method. Noiselessly he began to edge up to
his friend. Pete moved and the boys ceased their activity. He slept on,
and Paul finally managed to creep up to Jack. Placing themselves back
to back, Paul began to work on his friend’s bonds.

In the meanwhile, a shadow appeared at the other end of the cellar
which seemed to have descended the stairs through the trap door. He was
so noiseless that even the boys did not hear his footsteps. He crept
forward like a cat, a veritable shadow. Nearer and nearer he came to
the sleeping form of the gangster.

Paul decided to rest his fingers for a moment and to look up at Pete to
see if the gangster was still sound asleep. Doing so, he noticed the
approaching form. His heart sank. Nudging his friend, Jack also looked
up and together they watched the approaching form. What was he up to?
Was he friend or foe? The man put a finger to his lips and motioned to
the boys to keep utter quiet. It mystified them. Was he after all a
friend? And all the while they had taken him for a foe.

The boys flushed with excitement and followed every stealthy move of
Mr. Grey, for it was he. When he was within about a yard of Pete, he
threw himself upon the gangster. The gun clattered to the ground. The
gangster uttered a shriek, but the next moment his face was buried into
the floor and his hands were being tied in the back with rope that Mr.
Grey took out of his pocket. Following that, Pete’s feet were tied. The
gangster tried to turn to see who his assailant was but Mr. Grey kept
his face turned toward the floor. Then Mr. Grey gagged and blindfolded
the gangster and left him lying in a heap where he was.

The boys were breathless; they couldn’t imagine what the man was up to.
With one bound he was at their side and untying their bonds. “It’s a
lucky thing I got here in time,” he muttered.

He helped them to their feet and motioned for them to follow him. He
ran up the stairs and through the trap door. “Now run for your lives,”
he told them.

The boys hesitated. Paul said, “We want to thank you for saving our
lives and—”

The man cut him short with a wave of his hand. “No time to lose,” he
whispered rapidly. “Go.”

“Who are you?” asked Jack.

The man shook his head and pushed them through the door. “Go,” he
commanded them for a second time.

The boys went out of the house and signalled to Ken to follow them.
But he needed no signal. He was on the alert, waiting for them and
frantic with worry. He jumped out of his hiding place and joined his
two friends. “I thought you were goners, sure,” he cried.

They sprinted away down the street. “What do you mean?” asked Jack as
they ran.

“I saw Mr. Grey enter the house and—”

Jack stopped dead in his tracks. “Say!” he exclaimed, “where did he
disappear to? Did you notice, Paul?”

Paul shook his head. “No,” he answered. “I guess we were so excited we
didn’t notice.”

“What happened?” asked Ken.

“Tell you later,” answered Paul. “Finish what you started to say.”

“Well, as I was saying I saw Mr. Grey enter the house and I became
frantic. I whistled and whistled but evidently you didn’t hear me.
I couldn’t imagine what might happen to you and I couldn’t think of
anything to do or how to help. I waited and it seemed to me like a
year. I was already preparing to go down there myself when you two came
out.”

“Nothing else happened?” asked Jack.

“Nothing else,” was the reply. “Wasn’t that enough?”

They slowed down to a walk as they approached Main Street. “Now tell me
what happened to you,” said Ken.

“Plenty happened,” remarked Paul, “but let’s wait until we get to the
garage where we can discuss the whole thing.”

At their destination, they sat down to rest. Paul and Jack heaved a
sigh of relief. “What a close shave!” exclaimed Paul.

“Well, tell me, what happened?” asked Ken.

Between them, the two boys narrated the events that befell them while
Ken gasped and could hardly believe it. When the story was all told, he
exclaimed, “Say, this thing is getting to be dangerous. We have to do
something about it.”

“Yes,” agreed Paul. “And we have to do it quickly. In all likelihood,
those gangsters are going to return to that cellar, if they haven’t
already. Seeing that we escaped, they will probably try to get away by
tonight.”

“We have to move fast then,” added Jack.

“But what are we going to do?” asked Ken. “What can we do?”

Paul leaned forward and whispered to his companions, “The police!”
It struck them all at once that lately they had not thought of the
police who might have saved them a lot of trouble and who were the most
logical people to tell. Paul continued, “We have to tell the police
right away before it is too late.”

“But wait a minute,” remarked Jack. “Do you think they will believe us.
They are liable to think that we are inventing it all.”

“We have to convince them, that’s all there is to it.”

“We most surely do,” added Ken. “There is nothing we can do ourselves.”

“Oh, yes, there are lots of things we could do ourselves if we only
thought of it,” commented Jack. “I don’t know how wise it is to tell
the police. They may just take us for a bunch of crazy kids.”

“As I said,” repeated Paul, “we have to convince them.”

“I wonder how Mr. Grey fits into the situation. I would give a penny to
know,” said Jack.

“So would we all,” commented Paul. “But we don’t have any time to lose,
so let’s get going.”

“Do you think we will be able to see Chief Bates himself?” asked Jack.

“I think I can manage that,” replied Ken. “He knows me and I’ll ask to
see him.”

“All right, let’s go,” said Jack.



CHAPTER XXI

CONVINCING THE POLICE


The boys headed for police headquarters. They undertook their task
with trepidation, wondering how they would be received, feeling that
possibly it was an unwise course to take, that perhaps if they tried
they might capture the gangsters themselves without having to be
ridiculed by unbelieving police. And coming to think of it, all the
evidence at their command was flimsy, in many cases unreasonable and
illogical. Besides, they were youngsters, and if they narrated all the
events, they would be considered mentally distorted. The fact that they
were perfectly normal and were sincere and truthful was beside the
point. It was whether they would be able to convince that would tell
the tale.

They were very silent as they walked down Main Street toward police
headquarters. Each one was thinking his own thoughts about the past
week. Jack asked himself what the best approach might be. Paul
tried hard to think how to narrate the story so that it would sound
convincing, and in his mind he went over the words and phrases that
he thought would be most suitable to use. Ken was thinking that with
the police entering the case it would be soon ended and their mystery
solved. But would it be?

Suppose the gang of counterfeiters were caught, what then? The boys had
started out to solve the mystery of the white card—who was responsible
for leading Betty away to the end of the town? Who was responsible for
the fires? Who was responsible for the robbery at Professor Link’s? And
these three things were linked together by virtue of the white card.
The boys felt so convinced of the white card as a clue, that if it were
found to be not so, they would be badly disappointed.

Jack muttered skeptically, “I hope we don’t get thrown out before we
get a chance to see Chief Bates.”

Ken assured his friend, “Oh, you’ll see him all right. The important
thing is, can you convince him?”

Paul laughed and joked, “Whether we convince him or not, wouldn’t it be
a fine predicament if to crown all our effort and glory, Chief Bates
throws us into jail.”

“What for?” demanded Ken.

“For any number of reasons,” answered Paul. “He might put us away to
cool us off. Or he might jail us for doing detective work without a
license.”

“You don’t need a license to be an amateur detective,” argued Ken.

“Amateur is a perfect word for it,” ironically commented Jack. “He will
think we are a bunch of amateurs running wild.”

“Well, let’s not anticipate his reception of us. The chief might give
us a bunch of onions for a prize and that would be something,” remarked
Paul.

“I’m hungry,” exclaimed Ken. “Let’s go in for an ice cream soda.”

“That’s the perfect idea,” agreed Paul. “And I hope it will put us into
the right spirit.”

“Most likely it will cool us off,” remarked Jack. “But I’ll also have a
soda.”

They entered a drugstore and ordered three ice cream sodas. As Jack
said, it cooled them off, but it also picked them up in spirits. They
emerged smiling, cheerful, confident. The police headquarters was a
short distance away and they were soon in front of the building. They
hesitated before entering. Each one of them felt his heart sink low and
his pulse begin to throb. Paul shrugged his shoulders and commented,
“Well, as the saying goes, faint heart never won fair maiden. Let’s go
in.”

They entered the hall. At one side was a desk with a sergeant behind
it. “Yes, boys,” he called to them, “What do you want?”

Ken said, “I want to see Chief Bates; my name is Ken, Ken Armstrong.”

The policeman smiled patiently. “The chief is very busy, you know, and
unless you have important business with him, you can’t see him.”

Jack piped up, “Oh, it’s very important.”

Paul pulled his friend away. Ken said confidently, “Oh, he will see me
all right. You see, he knows me. Just say that Ken Armstrong wants to
see him.”

“And what shall I say is your business with him?” inquired the
sergeant, amused at the boy’s self confidence.

“It’s personal. Just say I would like to see him.”

The policeman nodded and very lazily picked up his telephone. “Hello,
hello,” he called into the speaker, “give me the chief’s office.” He
waited for several seconds, in the meanwhile looking the boys up and
down. Again he spoke into the mouthpiece, saying, “There’s a boy here
by the name of Ken Armstrong who wants to see the chief. Says that the
chief knows him and will surely—most surely—see him.” The policeman
scowled as he said that. Again he waited for an answer. Several seconds
later, he answered, “All right.”

He hung up the receiver and turned to Ken. “I guess he knows you all
right.” Ken was overjoyed while his two friends were glad and cheerful.
“Go down to the end of the corridor,” directed the sergeant, “and then
turn left. On the door that says Police Chief, go in there and his
secretary will take care of you.”

“Thank you,” said Ken.

The three boys walked down the corridor and turned left. They entered
the office of the Chief of Police and his secretary, a very attractive
young woman, greeted them. “Which of you is Ken?” she asked.

Ken spoke up. “I am.”

“Very well. Have a seat and Mr. Bates will see you in a few minutes. He
is busy just now.”

The boys sat down and the secretary returned to her desk and
typewriter. To the boys it seemed that she typed faster than the eye
could follow. They looked around the room and noticed the various
pictures and other office furniture. Every moment was to them an hour.
Jack was sure that the chief would take one look at them and then
throw them out of his office. Paul wondered how it happened Ken was
acquainted with Chief Bates and made a mental note to ask his friend
about it.

A buzzer sounded in the room and the boys jumped up. The secretary
nodded and said, “You can go in now, Ken.”

Ken proceeded toward the door, followed by his friends. The secretary
stopped them. “I thought only Ken was going in?”

“Oh, no,” he replied. “These are friends of mine and they are coming in
with me.”

The young woman shrugged her shoulders. “Very well,” she said, “go
right in.”

Ken knocked on the door and someone called loudly, “Come in.”

They entered. Behind a large desk toward the rear of the room sat Chief
Bates. He was a man of about forty-five, well-set, husky and strong. He
called out, “Hello Ken. I’m glad to see you.”

“Hello, Chief,” Ken answered, “these are friends of mine. I hope you
don’t mind—”

“No, not at all. Pull up chairs, boys.” He leaned back in his swivel
chair. When they were seated, he said, “Well what is it, Ken. But I
warn you, I don’t have much time, so you better talk quickly.”

Ken said, “We are here to ask you a favor, Chief.”

“Anything within reason, Ken,” shot back the chief, “and I’ll do it.”

“The favor is,” continued Ken, “that you listen to something very, very
important.”

“Very, very important,” added Jack.

Ken turned to Paul and said, “You tell him, Paul.”

Paul drew up his chair and leaned on the desk. He began, “You see,
Chief, what we are going to tell you may sound very fantastic but I
want you to believe that we are telling the truth and that we are not
inventing anything.”

“Go on, go on,” urged the chief, nonchalantly leaning back in his chair.

“Well, to begin with,” continued Paul, “we have discovered a gang of
counterfeiters—”

The chief almost jumped out of his seat. He flew forward to the desk
and cried, “You have what? What are you talking about? Are you telling
me stories or something?”

Paul felt his confidence shaking. He realized that the chief was a
terror and would be hard to convince, but, he said to himself, he had
to be convinced. “You see,” he said, “already you think we are telling
you some fictionized story or trying to shock you. Please listen, it’s
very important, and if you want to catch the gang, you have to act
quickly.”

“Go on, go on,” said the chief, leaning on his desk.

“At 752 York Street, there is an empty house. In the cellar of that
house you will find a printing press and all the things necessary to
make counterfeit money.”

“How do you know all that?” demanded the chief.

“We were in there; we saw everything.”

“And how did you happen to be in there?”

The chief shot his questions like arrows and Paul began to waver; he
was becoming confused. “That’s a long story, Chief,” he said, “and I am
trying to come to the point directly.”

“Never mind, tell me the whole story.”

“But Chief Bates, that would take too long and it is important that
you act quickly. The point of the story is that there are a gang of
counterfeiters operating in the cellar of the empty house at 752 York
Street. There is also a tunnel leading from that cellar to the cellar
of the house in the rear of 752 York Street. That’s how they get in and
out without being noticed.”

“But, my dear boy,” exclaimed the chief, irritated, “how do you know
all that? Do you have any evidence? How am I to believe that what you
are telling me is not a hoax of some sort?”

Jack jumped to his feet, impatient and exasperated. “Why don’t you go
down there and find out?” he cried.

He shoved his hands deep into his pockets. Paul began to say something,
but the next instant Jack jumped up and cried, “Here, here is your
evidence. Look at this. When we were down there, there were a number of
such bills on the table and I put this one into my pocket.”

The chief picked up the fake five dollar bill that Jack had thrown on
the desk and examined it carefully. He rose and walked to the door and
called to his secretary. “Tell Jim Spencer I want to see him right
away.”

He returned to his swivel chair and said to the boys, “Now fellows,
I am not doubting your story; on the contrary, I think that you may
be telling the truth. But you understand that I have to question you
closely.” He paused and the boys looked relieved; they even smiled
happily. “In the meanwhile, I do wish you would tell me the whole
story, from beginning to end, how you happened to discover this gang
and all that.”

Paul looked at his friends and they nodded to him. Jack said, “Go on,
Paul, tell him. But it will take a long time, though, Chief.”

The Chief of Police nodded. “That’s all right. I’m a good listener.”

Just then a tall, husky man entered the office and said, “You called
for me, Chief?”

“Yes. Take a look at this.” And the chief gave Jim Spencer the
counterfeit bill.

The detective quickly and expertly glanced at the bill and announced,
“It’s fake, all right, Chief. Very clever work, though. Most likely the
work of Moonshine Charlie.”

“You know what these boys are telling me, Jim?” asked the Chief. The
detective shook his head and Bates continued, “They say that they have
located the gang, have been down in their hangout and all they want
now, I guess, is for us to step in and clean the gang up, isn’t that
so, fellows?”

“That’s right,” cried Jack. “And you had better hurry, too.”

“Very interesting,” commented Jim Spencer. “How did they happen to
discover it all?”

“That’s just what I’m trying to get out of them,” answered the chief,
“but it’s like pulling teeth. Sit down and listen to the story.” To
Paul, he said, “All right, go on with your story.”

“Well,” began the boy, “how it all began may sound a little fantastic.
But you remember, Chief, that a week ago today, Ken’s little sister,
Betty, disappeared for about an hour. Jack happened to be on Leonard
Street at the moment and he saw her. He couldn’t understand what she
was doing there, but after questioning her for some time, she told him
that a tall man bought her candy and then took her for a walk and then
he left her all alone at almost the end of the town.”

“And so you three became detectives and undertook to find the man,
isn’t that so?” commented the chief, smiling.

“Yes, but wait a minute. This man had given Betty a blank, white card.”

“Here it is,” cried Jack, and threw the card on the desk.

The chief and the detective glanced at it casually. “Go on,” said the
chief.

“Several days later,” continued Paul, “there was a fire on Water Street
and—”

“Yes. I remember that,” said the chief. “And you very bravely ran into
the burning house and saved an old couple and an infant. That was a
very brave deed, my boy.”

“The important thing,” said Paul, “is that in the door of the room
where the infant was, I found another card like that.” He searched
in his pocket and produced the evidence. The chief and the detective
examined the two cards. “And to make a long story short,” continued
Paul, “there was a robbery at Professor Link’s and—”

“And you found another such card,” said the chief, interrupting.

“Yes.”

“But that is no evidence; it means nothing,” said the chief. “You can
find cards like these everywhere you go, by the dozen.”

“Well, that may be so,” said Paul. “But to us it was evidence, and
we figured that the same man committed all the three crimes. And we
decided to track him down.”

“Why didn’t you come to us and tell us?” demanded Chief Bates.

Paul was perspiring. He was very tense and he felt that he was being
hindered rather than helped. “Well, I don’t know,” he remarked, “I
guess we didn’t think of it.”

“Didn’t think of it!” exclaimed the chief.

Jack saw how his friend was suffering and he jumped to his feet and
cried, “What difference does all that make? The important thing is that
we discovered the gang of counterfeiters and if you don’t act quickly
they will escape.”

“I’m sorry for interrupting,” said the chief, somewhat embarrassed. “Go
on with your story.”

“Well, we came across this man. To us he is known as Mr. Grey. And—”

“And how did you come across him and how did you know it was he?”

“There are a lot of little details that I’m leaving out to make the
story short. At any rate, Jack followed him one night to the empty
house at 752 York Street. We searched the house several times until we
found the secret door to the cellar. And that’s the end of the story.”

“Well, there are some other things too, but we can tell you that later.”

The chief and the detective eyed each other. Detective Spencer asked,
“Do you happen by any chance to know any of the members of this
counterfeit gang?”

Paul nodded. “Yes,” he answered. “The fellow they call the boss and who
seems to be the chief is a big, fat, dark featured individual. The—”

Chief Bates and the detective exclaimed simultaneously, “Moonshine
Charlie!”

“Two other men call themselves Pete and Joe. Another member of the gang
is a man who runs a grocery store at Main and Jones Streets.”

“Don’t forget Mr. Grey,” added Jack.

Paul nodded and said, “That’s right, and Mr. Grey. That’s all we know.”

“That’s plenty,” cried Jim Spencer. “Where is their hangout?”

“At 752 York Street; in the cellar.”

Just then they were interrupted by the entrance of the secretary, who
said, “A gentleman to see you, Mr. Bates. He—”

The man was directly behind her and he said, “Never mind telling who I
am and what my business is. I’ll do it myself.”

Everybody looked at the speaker. The boys jumped to their feet as if
they had been touched by an electric spark. Simultaneously, they all
cried, “Mr. Grey!”



CHAPTER XXII

MR. GREY


Indeed, it was Mr. Grey. He stood there looking at them, smiling,
self-confident. By now the chief and Jim Spencer had also jumped to
their feet. Everyone was staring speechless at the gaunt man. Jack
cried, “Who are you?”

The chief added, “Yes, tell us who you are and what you want.”

Mr. Grey walked over to the desk. Pausing for a moment to eye the
secretary, she blushed and left the room. When the door was closed, he
took a badge out of his pocket and showed it to the chief.

“Oh!” exclaimed the chief. “I’m glad to meet you.”

“Who is he, Chief Bates?” demanded Jack.

“A government man,” was the snappy retort.

“Then why did we find him among the gang?” demanded Jack. “Anyone can
get himself a badge. Let him really identify himself.”

They all eyed Mr. Grey. Paul and Ken felt horrified by Jack’s demand
but they felt that he was right, reasonable. Wasn’t it possible for him
to pass off as a government man and yet be in reality a member of the
gang? Mr. Grey said smilingly, “That boy will some day make a very good
sleuth.”

“Well, you’re wrong,” retorted Jack. “I’m going to study to be a
doctor.”

That set everybody to laughing. Addressing Chief Bates, Mr. Grey asked,
“What have the boys been telling you?”

This time Paul was on his feet. He felt that Jack was correct in his
demand that the man identify himself further. And the fact that the
man was trying to evade it, aroused his own suspicions. “Why don’t you
identify yourself?” he demanded. “How do we know who you are? For all
we know, you may be a member of the gang, as we have thought right
along, and only pretending that you are a government man.”

Mr. Grey raised his eyebrows but did not lose any of his equanimity. He
smiled and seemed perfectly at ease. The chief remarked humorously, “It
seems that this thing has passed completely out of my hands. So you two
had better settle the issue.”

Mr. Grey said, “These boys are all right. No. As a matter of fact, they
are better than that. They are shrewd, fine detectives. You ought to
acquire them for your force, Chief.”

He took his coat off and ripped the seam open. Producing several
papers, he handed them to Chief Bates, who looked them over carefully.
Then Mr. Grey rolled up the sleeve of his right arm and revealed a red
gash of about two inches long. The chief was convinced. “Good!” he
exclaimed. Addressing the boys, he said, “He has identified himself
beyond any doubt.”

The boys were satisfied. Jack said, “All right, now we know. But do you
mind, Mr. er—”

“Mr. Grey.”

“Do you mind Mr. Grey, telling us the mystery of the white cards, your
being with the grocery man who is a member of the gang and—”

“When the time comes, my boy,” he answered, “you will know everything.
In the meanwhile, may I repeat my former question. What have the boys
been telling you?”

Chief Bates cleared his throat. With a twinkle in his eye, he remarked,
“They have been giving me a cock and bull story about a gang of
counterfeiters.”

“Well, it just happens to be true,” announced Mr. Grey.

For a short while there was silence, as though they were all overcome
by the government man’s statement. “Is it the Moonshine Charlie gang?”
asked Jim Spencer.

“That’s right,” answered Mr. Grey. “And I’m here to ask you for ten men
to round up the gang.”

“Right away?” asked Chief Bates.

“Right away.”

“Jim,” said the chief, addressing his detective, “round up ten men and
get them ready. What else, Mr. Grey?”

“Nothing else,” he answered. “That is, for the present.” Addressing the
boys, he said, “Well, fellows, how do you think we ought to go about
it? But before we discuss that, may I know who you are?”

Paul rose. “My name is Paul—Paul Morrison. And I’m glad to know you,
Mr. Grey.”

“Thank you. You fellows have done some very good work.”

“And this is Jack Stormways,” introduced Paul.

The two shook hands. Jack remarked, “I’m not going to say I’m glad to
know you, but rather glad to meet you. After having followed you so
much, I think I know you by now.”

Mr. Grey smiled. “Yes,” said Mr. Grey, “you have followed me around a
great deal and rather expertly, too.”

“Thank you,” said Jack, grinning with pleasure.

“And this is Ken Armstrong.”

The two shook hands. “Now,” said Mr. Grey, “how are we going to finish
the job and capture the gang? What’s your idea, fellows?”

Paul said, “I guess you ought to know that better than any of us. We
will leave that to you.”

“Just one favor,” exclaimed Jack.

“What?”

“May we go along? I’d like to be in on it.”

Mr. Grey and the chief exchanged glances. The chief shook his head.
“It’s going to be dangerous,” remarked Mr. Grey.

“Any more dangerous than what we have already done?” asked Jack.

“There may be shooting. And you might get hurt.”

“I guess we could keep out of the way. We might keep in the background.”

“Well,” conceded Mr. Grey, “if the chief has no objections, I’ll get
you into action somehow.” The chief shrugged his shoulders. “After
all,” he commented, “who am I to deny them their fun?”

“That’s swell,” cried Jack.

Just then, Detective Spencer returned to the office and announced that
everything was ready. “I’ll tell you what you can do first, boys.
Suppose Paul and Ken and two officers go down to the grocery store at
Jones Street and arrest Harriman, the grocery man. If he isn’t in the
store, he is upstairs, in the first room on your right.”

“And what am I going to do?” asked Jack.

“You will come with me,” said the government man.

The boys rose. “Are we all ready?” asked the chief. “Because I’m also
going along.”

“If you will excuse me,” said Mr. Grey, “I don’t think you should.”

“All right. If you insist.”

“For best interest all around.”

The chief nodded. Addressing the boys, he said, “Well, fellows, it
seems that you were right and I want to apologize for questioning you
and doubting you. And let me tell you that I appreciate everything
you have done and I shall see to it that you are in some small way
rewarded.”

The boys beamed with delight. Mr. Grey remarked, “They certainly
deserve it, Chief. You ought to make them honorary members of your
force.”

“Now, that’s a serious thing,” answered Chief Bates hesitantly. “But I
shall certainly consider it.”

“Well, goodbye,” said Ken. “Thanks for listening to our story.”

“The thanks is all on my side,” returned the Chief. “And good luck.”

They left the office. In the waiting room, Mr. Grey whispered something
in the secretary’s ear and she blushed and waved him away. In the
corridor, they walked to the rear of the building, where autos and
policemen, armed, waited for them. Mr. Grey gave the necessary orders,
and with screaming sirens, they were off.



CHAPTER XXIII

PAUL HELPS OUT


Paul and Ken had entered a large automobile with three detectives. One
was driving, while the other two talked to the boys. The other cars
went west to drive, at the direction of Mr. Grey, a roundabout way.
The single auto drove along Main Street. The driver did not use his
siren, preferring to proceed quietly and arouse no curiosity. Detective
Walters, who was in charge of the detail asked Paul, “You know this
fellow Harriman, the grocery store keeper, don’t you? You could easily
identify him, couldn’t you?”

“Oh, yes, very easily.”

“Fine, then you and I will enter the store and pick him up. As for you
boys,” meaning his fellow policemen, “one of you will cover the front
of the house, and the other, the rear of the house. As for you, young
fellow,” and he addressed Ken, “you know how to drive a car, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course. I drive my dad’s car all the time.”

“That’s fine. You stay in the car. Get behind the wheel and if there is
any chasing to do, you will drive the car. Everybody now knows what he
is to do?” he asked, looking from one man to the other.

“Yes,” was the answer of all of them.

The boys felt excited. They liked the way Walters treated them. They
felt as though they were members of the force with certain jobs
assigned to them. They looked forward to doing as well as they could.

The next moment the car came to a halt at the corner across from
the grocery store. Paul immediately jumped out of the car with the
detectives and Ken at once took his place behind the steering wheel.
The detectives carried no rifles as they did not wish to arouse
suspicion. They were merely armed with their service revolvers which
they held ready in their coat pockets.

Walters waited for his mates to take their places and then he nodded
to each one of them in turn. To Paul, he whispered hurriedly, “In case
of trouble, take shelter right away; get out of the way of the line of
fire. You understand?”

“Yes, sir,” was his meek reply.

Paul felt a wave of excitement. He felt a little anxious and hoped
everything would pass off quietly without anyone coming to harm.

Walters, with Paul at his side, started to cross the street toward
the grocery store. They mounted the sidewalk and approached the door.
Suddenly a shot rang out, fired, so it seemed to Paul, point blank at
them. Immediately Walters, with his left hand, shoved Paul to one side
and sent him sprawling. As for himself, he dodged behind the wall.
Evidently, the grocery man had seen them coming and had realized who
they were and what they were up to. And it further seemed that he did
not intend to give up without a violent struggle. Walters shouted,
“Come on out or we are coming in to get you.”

For an answer another shot rang out. Harriman meant business and no
fooling. Walters signalled to his fellow detectives covering the front
of the house and the man crawled across the street to the car at the
curb. “Duck,” he said to Ken.

Ken complied and lowered himself in the car. The detective took out
two rifles, a couple of boxes of ammunition which he shoved into his
pocket and a square box. With this load he crept back into position.
Suddenly Walters ran across the front of the store and joined him. The
next instant a shot rang out. But it was too late. Walters was safe and
sheltered by lying flat on the ground behind the curb. “Come on out,”
he called for a second time, “or we’ll give you the works.”

Again the answer was a shot. Walters picked up a small stone lying
nearby, and, without raising himself, threw it and shattered the
window. Several shots rang out and Walters and his mate returned the
fire just to impress the gangster.

In the meanwhile, the detective who covered the rear of the house, had
also run back of the car, got himself a rifle, a box of cartridges and
a square box similar to the one taken by his fellow detective. In an
instant he returned to his position.

Walters shouted, “Harriman, if you don’t come out willingly, you’ll be
carried out.”

No answer. For several tense moments there was silence. A number of
people had collected on the opposite sidewalk and Ken waved to them
to get out of the way. The next moment he tore open the square box
and took out what looked like a baseball and threw it into the store
through the broken window. There was an explosion and a cloud of smoke
rose. An instant later, two women burst through the door; they were
coughing frantically and rubbing their eyes. One of the women was
the wife of the grocery man, the other a customer who by chance had
happened to be in the store at the moment. Walters shouted to them,
“This way. Come here.”

The other detective took the two women and led them to the automobile.
“Stay here,” he told them.

Taking out his revolver, he gave it to Ken and said, “Now be careful.
Keep the women here and don’t let them get away. You understand?”

Ken gripped the weapon and nodded, “Yes, sir.”

The detective then stole back to his position. But just then, a cry
arose from the rear of the house. Harriman appeared at the back of the
house and was surprised by the detective who now shouted to Walters
the news. Walters left his mate to cover the front and ran to the
empty lot adjoining the corner house. Harriman, in an effort to escape
the tear gas inside the store, rushed out of the rear door and took a
position behind a cluster of bricks that seemed to form a very natural
fortress. He was cornered, but it seemed that he refused to surrender
without a violent struggle. It also seemed that he was very well armed,
having two revolvers and plenty of ammunition.

Shots continued to ring out in an exchange of fire. Walters looked
around for a way of getting at the gangster’s rear. There was only one
way and that was through the house. But immediately Walters realized
that to move out of his shelter behind a tree would take him into the
open and make of him a very simple target. It occurred to him that he
was now just as well cornered as his prey and that the only alternative
was to shoot it out, unless of course the detective left to guard the
front of the house took the initiative and got at Harriman’s rear.

Now let us see what happened to Paul in the meanwhile. When Walters
pushed him and sent him sprawling, he was on the side of the house
facing Main Street. He wondered what he could do. His investigation
several days before had revealed to him the door at the rear of the
house. But he thought that the grocery man, realizing the odds against
him, would certainly surrender. He had no idea that Harriman would
be so stubborn and defy the policemen. But he did. And the more Paul
waited for the gangster to surrender, the more he realized that the
grocery store keeper was bent on violence. After the barrage of tear
gas and the cry announcing the gangster at the rear of the house, he
lifted himself slightly off the ground and made sure of the exact spot
where Harriman had barricaded himself.

Thinking quickly, he rushed to the corner and waved to the detective,
hoping that the man would understand what he was up to. The next moment
he rushed into the hall of the house where the stairs were leading
upstairs. He figured that there must be a door leading from the hall
into the store. But he didn’t want to get into the store. And he tried
to think how Harriman had escaped from the store to the rear of the
house. He looked around. There was only one door at the end of the
hall. Approaching noiselessly, he pulled the door open. To his complete
amazement, he was directly behind the gangster who was absorbed by
the fire of the detectives. Without hesitating or giving Harriman a
chance to realize his danger, Paul let out a most horrible shriek and
threw himself on the gangster. Harriman looked up, his face pale and
frightened. He turned to fire at Paul, but it was too late. The boy was
already on top of him and pinning his arms.

Harriman was a bulky, strong individual. With Paul on top of him, he
rose and was on the point of whirling his assailant off. But by this
time the two detectives were also on top of him and pinned his arms.
Paul slipped off the gangster’s back. In an instant Walters slapped
handcuffs on the gangster. Turning to Paul, he cried, “You fool!”

Paul smiled and appeared quite calm and confident. Walters slapped him
on the back and together they escorted the criminal to the automobile,
while the other detective began to pick up Harriman’s guns and
ammunition.



CHAPTER XXIV

BATTLE


Siren screaming, Ken drove the car down Main Street and to police
headquarters. Chief Bates met them and congratulated them on their
capture. “Any trouble, boys?” he asked.

Walters smiled and said, “It seems, Chief, that we couldn’t get along
without these youngsters.” He pointed to Paul, and asked, “Do you know
what he did, this kid?”

The chief shook his head and asked, “What did he do? Get into trouble
again or something?”

“Well, if it wasn’t for him,” was the answer, “we would still be there
pegging away at each other. That kid up and jumped the gangster. All we
had to do was to take him into custody.”

The chief laughed uproariously. “Some detectives you are!” he
exclaimed. “Letting a kid do your work!”

“I tell you, Chief, there is no getting away with it—these kids are
the tops,” said Walters, slapping Paul on the back.

“But seriously, though,” remarked the chief, “I don’t want you fellows
to get into any trouble. Do you hear me?” he demanded, pretending he
was being tough on them. “You have done enough and I want you to keep
out of harm.”

Paul smiled. “All right, Chief,” he said. “Did you hear from the
others?”

“No, I didn’t,” he answered. Addressing his detectives, he said, “You
boys better run down there and give them a hand if they need it.”

“May we go along?” asked Ken.

“All right. I guess these detectives of mine wouldn’t be able to find
the place or know what to do without you.” They all laughed heartily.
“But don’t get into more trouble, do you hear me, you two?”

The three detectives and Paul and Ken got into the car and rode off.
At their destination, they came upon a pitched battle. It seemed that
the gang was a tough bunch and ready to battle the law rather than
surrender in spite of the heavy odds against them.

At the corner of York Street, when the police cars arrived, they
stopped and Mr. Grey had issued instructions. Four of the detectives
he instructed to take up varying positions across the street from the
house which led to the secret door. Accompanied by three more policemen
and Jack, he went to 752 York Street. The detectives he told to deploy
around the house and Jack he warned to keep out of the way. On second
thought, he turned to Jack and said, “You go back there and watch those
automobiles.”

Reluctantly, Jack went to obey and sat himself in the second car. He
wanted to be in on the action, but he realized why the government
agent wanted him out of the way.

The detectives were armed with rifles and sub-machine guns. Mr. Grey
looked around to see if all his men were in position. He gave the
signal for all of them to be on the alert. Gripping his revolver, he
entered the empty house and left the door open. Noiselessly, he opened
the trap door and descended the stairs. The cellar was lit up and that
told him that the gangsters were there. As far as he knew, Joe and Pete
were surely there, but he didn’t know whether Moonshine Charlie himself
was there. He paused to listen, and only the voices of the two reached
him. For several seconds he debated with himself whether to wait until
the arrival of the boss. On the other hand, he thought, he might seize
the two and then let Moonshine Charlie walk into a trap.

Descending noiselessly, he came to the bottom of the stairs. The two
gangsters were at the table, Pete with his right side toward Mr. Grey
and Joe having his back toward the agent. Mr. Grey levelled his gun and
muttered threateningly, “Put your hands up, boys. Quick. Reach for the
ceiling and no monkey business.”

The two gangsters jumped to their feet and put their hands up above
their heads. Pete cried, “What the—What’s all this about?”

“You’ll find out right away,” was the answer. Mr. Grey saw them edging
toward the back of the table and he warned them, “Don’t you move or
I’ll plug you.”

But the next instant Pete turned over the table with his leg and the
two gangsters threw themselves behind it. Mr. Grey fired, the bullet
burying itself in the wooden table. Pete fired back and the government
agent threw himself on the floor and crept behind the stairs for
protection. “The house is surrounded,” he told them. “You had better
surrender if you want to get out alive.”

Pete tossed back, “Like hell!”

He fired and Mr. Grey returned. Pulling the table along, they moved
gradually back toward the secret door. The government agent realized
that their escape through the tunnel into the next house was safe and
sure; there was nothing he could do about it. So he let them work their
way gradually back. Joe raised his arms to pull open the door and the
next moment he grabbed it away, letting out a yell. Mr. Grey had fired
and the bullet had pierced the gangster’s hand. But the door was now
ajar, and in a moment they pulled it open and escaped.

Mr. Grey ran forward and whatever he could find, he piled up against
the door, shutting off their return into the cellar. The gangsters were
now trapped in the second house. The government man ran up the stairs,
and cautiously emerged from the house, to make sure his own men did not
fire on him. Coming out into the open, he directed his men to close up
on the house.

In the meanwhile, the gangsters, realizing that their escape was cut
off at both ends, set up sub-machine guns at both ends of the house and
began to rake every inch of ground within sight. The detectives got
busy. Several of them used their own sub-machine guns. Others, picking
up stones wherever they found them, managed to break every window in
the house.

The detectives ripped open the square boxes and began to throw tear
gas into the house through the open windows. Several of the bombs fell
short of the house, and pretty soon the whole house was enveloped in
thick clouds of smoke. There was no wind and the smoke hung in the air
in and around the house. Within five minutes, both gangsters stumbled
out of the doorway, coughing hard and trying hard to keep their hands
above their heads.

Several of the detectives immediately ran forward and grabbed them, at
the same time dragging them away from the clouds of tear gas. They were
immediately surrounded and handcuffed. Just then a siren screamed and
everyone turned to see what was happening.

Jack was sitting in the car and watched the battle. He was glad now
that he was at a safe distance. It was too bloody an affair for him.
After a while, he leaned back in the seat and paid no attention to
what was going on. He waited for the finish and for the detectives to
return. He heard the crackling of rifle fire and the explosion of
bombs.

Resting in the back seat of the automobile he only hoped that no
one would be hit and that all would turn out well. Why couldn’t the
gangsters give up, he thought to himself. Couldn’t they see that the
odds were against them? And even if they should escape this time, which
was impossible, they would still be hunted and caught by the police of
some other town or city.

Jack leaned forward and peeked out of the window. He caught his breath
and became tense. There was a man across the street who looked very
familiar and appeared to be exceedingly interested in the battle that
was going on between the criminals and the police. The man, tall, fat,
husky, stood in front of a roadster that evidently belonged to him.
“Moonshine Charlie,” Jack thought to himself.

Yet he had not heard the man drive up. It was because he was absorbed
in his own thoughts. Now what am I to do? What can I do? These
questions came to Jack’s mind, yet he found no answer. It was no use
to call one of the detectives; the gangster might disappear in the
meanwhile. What could he do?

Jack became conscious of the fact that the firing had ceased. He saw
the fat man get into his car and drive off, turning into the next
corner. Jack jumped to the wheel, set off the siren screaming and was
immediately chasing the gangster.



CHAPTER XXV

INTO THE LAKE


The detectives were startled by the sound of the siren but it
immediately put them on their guard. Seeing the car which Moonshine
Charlie was driving, tearing down the street, they thought something
was wrong and they threw themselves to the ground. The gangster
was bent on revenge, though there was little he could do. His plan
evidently was to drive by the group of detectives, and through the open
window of his car, fire on them as he passed. It was a violent gesture,
born of hate and contempt.

The detectives threw themselves on the ground, dragging the two
gangsters down with them. Moonshine Charlie fired four or five times
as he sped by, but all his shots were futile and hurt no one. However,
Jack was only a couple of yards behind him. The boy slowed down as he
came alongside a group of policemen. Mr. Grey jumped forth and leaped
onto the running board. “Drive!” he cried.

The car leaped forward and flew out of sight. The gangster kept
speeding straight ahead. Jack kept his siren screaming and hoped no one
would get in his way. Mr. Grey assured himself of a firm hold and then
turned his attention to the fleeing automobile ahead of him. The police
car was much more powerful and Jack was gaining gradually. Mr. Grey
aimed and then fired, but with no result.

Moonshine Charlie turned the next corner on two wheels. Jack was after
him. The gangster began to zigzag and that was to his disadvantage
because that enabled Jack to gain considerable distance on him. Mr.
Grey fired a second time, but again, the shot had no effect. Suddenly
Jack caught his breath. Moonshine Charlie had turned a corner. The boy
knew that it was a dead end street and unless the gangster slowed up,
the car would run straight into the lake.

Jack slowed up as he turned the corner. Mr. Grey of course did not
realize why, but as soon as the corner was turned, he saw for himself.
The gangster didn’t know it was a dead end street. It was too late
when he realized it. Slamming on the brakes, the car seemed to shiver
and bounce into the air. Evidently Moonshine Charlie had lost control
of his machine, for it ran onto the sidewalk, almost crashed into the
brick wall of a house, and then leaped through the wooden fence and
into the lake.

Jack pulled the car up to the curb and stopped. Mr. Grey and he rushed
up to the lake. The terrible splash of the water caused by the plunging
automobile was already becoming calm. Jack stared at the approximate
spot and shivered. Mr. Grey asked, “Anything wrong, fellow?”

“No,” was the meek answer. There was a short silent pause, then he
remarked with deep feeling, “It’s a terrible death.”

The government agent nodded silently, then replied, “He lived a
terrible life.”

By now a crowd had gathered and several reporters and photographers
had arrived. Mr. Grey and Jack pushed their way through and drove off
again. “Shall we go back and see if the men are still there?” asked
Jack.

Mr. Grey nodded. “Yes, let’s go back.”

For a short while they drove along in silence. Jack felt so shaken
by the incident that he drove the car at a very slow pace. The agent
commented, “It’s a good thing you happened to be there on the spot, or
else he would have gotten away and might also have wounded some of the
men.”

“Yes,” answered Jack ironically, “I thought I was safely out of it when
bang, there. I was right in it.”

Mr. Grey regained his good humor and laughed. “It seems that we can’t
get along without you fellows. You boys have done more in the capture
of the gang than I and the detectives did. I wonder if they got
Harriman all right.”

“I don’t suppose they had any difficulty,” was Jack’s opinion.

“I’m not so sure of that,” was the contrary opinion. “Harriman was a
violent sort of person, very temperamental and brutal. But for that
matter they all were. A tough bunch they were.”

They arrived at the scene of the battle. The change was now so vastly
different, that Mr. Grey commented upon the fact, “Suddenly, everything
is again quiet and serene. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Jack was silent. There was no one in view and they assumed that the
detectives with their prisoners had returned to police headquarters.
Mr. Grey suggested that they enter the house and see what was inside.
Jack had no objection and together they mounted the few steps to the
porch and entered the house. The door opened on a small foyer, with
stairs leading up to the rooms above. On their left was a door which
Mr. Grey opened and they entered. The room was fairly well furnished
as a living room, but now, after the battle, it was in considerable
disorder.

They went from room to room and then upstairs. They were all fairly
well furnished. Except for the two rooms which were used by the
gangsters in their struggle with the police, the furniture was not at
all disturbed. Jack asked, “Did the gangsters occupy this house?”

“In a fashion. But they didn’t live here,” the agent informed him.
“Actually they lived at the hotel, but they used this house from which
to carry on their operations. Let’s go, shall we?”

They returned to their car and drove back to police headquarters.
There they found that the prisoners had been brought in and put in
jail; not one of the detectives had been hurt. The chief greeted them
and shook Mr. Grey’s hand. “Great work,” he said, “great work. Did you
get Moonshine Charlie?”

The government agent shook his head sadly and replied, “No, I’m sorry
to say I didn’t.” He turned to Jack for confirmation. “You see,” he
continued, “he got away. We were just about to grab him when phizz, up
he goes and jumps into the lake.”

“Jumps into the lake!” exclaimed the chief.

“Yes,” was the answer. “You see, he was going so fast, he couldn’t stop
himself.”

“He fell in, car and all,” added Jack.

Chief Bates heaved a sigh of relief. “Whew! For a moment you had me
thinking that he actually got away.”

“Well, he did,” insisted Mr. Grey. “He got away so cleanly, no one will
ever catch him again.”

The chief and the detectives laughed. Catching sight of Jack, the chief
pulled him forward and shook him by the hand. “I already heard of what
you did, fellow,” he said. “That was very bravely done.”

“As I was telling him just before,” commented Mr. Grey, “I don’t know
what we would have done without him and his friends. They did more to
capture the gang than all of us put together.”

“You didn’t hear all of it,” exclaimed the chief. “Did you hear what
his friend, Paul Morrison, did?”

Jack nodded and wondered what Paul had been up to now. “What this
fellow, Paul, did?” continued the chief. “He went with three men to
take Harriman into custody. Well, this fellow put up a tough battle.
To make a long story short, he came out of the rear of his store,
barricaded himself and fired shot for shot. They might still be there
shooting it out if it wasn’t for this fellow. He sneaked up on his
rear, jumped the gangster, and bingo! there he was all captured and no
longer tough and fighting.”

Mr. Grey laughed heartily. “These fellows,” he remarked, “are showing
us all up. Did I say before you ought to make them honorary members of
your force? I take it back. They would show your men up so, the whole
force would soon be plagued with an inferiority complex.”

The chief roared and slapped his knee. “That’s a good one,” he cried.

Jack said, “By the way, where are Ken and Paul?”

“They are in the detectives’ room. Shall I call them? Do you want them?”

“Well, it’s about time we went home.”

Mr. Grey laughed. “Notice how calm and nonchalant he is and with what
poise he said that,” commented the government agent. “The job is done,
nothing else to do, so it’s about time to go home, just like that.”

Jack blushed and Chief Bates laughed. “Well,” he said, “there is really
no reason why the boys should not go home.”

“No, I guess not. I think they deserve it.”

“Yes.” The chief winked to the government agent. “I think I will send
them home in an official car.”

“Oh, that isn’t necessary at all,” cried Jack. “We can just as well
walk home.”

He rose to his feet as if he intended to leave. “Now you just sit
there,” said the chief. Opening the door of his office, he called his
secretary to have the boys come in.

Chief Bates and the government agent continued their joking. A minute
later Jack and Ken and Walters entered. “Oh, there you are,” cried
Paul. “We didn’t know where you were and what happened to you.”

“Yes,” added Ken, “we were waiting for you.”

“Well, here I am,” Jack informed his friends, “and I think it’s time we
went home.”

Chief Bates, addressing the detective, said, “Walters, will you please
take the boys home?”

“Oh, that isn’t necessary at all,” cried Paul. “Thanks all the same.
But we can walk home.”

“Notice the modesty of them,” remarked Mr. Grey. “It’s really funny.”

The chief laughed. “All right,” said Walters, “if you’re ready, let’s
go.”

Chief Bates came around the desk and shook hands with them. “Any time I
can do anything for you boys,” he said seriously, “don’t forget to call
on me.”

“And when you want some good detective work done,” intervened Mr. Grey,
“you call on them.”

The boys were beginning to feel uncomfortable. The government agent
rose and approached them. “Well, boys,” he said, “it was a real
pleasure to work with you.” He paused for a second, then added, “The
only trouble of collaborating with you is that you do all the work and
leave the other fellow nothing to do.”

There was laughter all around. Then Jack said, “Mr. Grey, you must not
forget that we want to talk some things over with you. There are a
couple of mysterious details that we think, you can clear up for us.”

The man bowed low and replied, “I am at your disposal, sir.”

“Perhaps you might visit us tonight at my house,” added Paul. “Then you
could tell us everything.”

“That’s right,” nodded Ken. “How about it?”

“I shall be there at eight sharp, gentlemen.”

The boys smiled at the man’s behavior. He was really lots of fun. They
said goodbye all around and left, accompanied by Walters.



CHAPTER XXVI

TROUBLE AT HOME


The boys got into the official car with Walters at the wheel. Jack and
Ken sat in the back while Paul sat in the front with the driver. Paul
remarked, “Now that all that is done, our real work begins.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ken.

“Do you remember what we originally started out to solve?” Paul asked.

“I was just thinking of that,” muttered Jack. “We have gotten as far
away from the original mystery as we could.”

“What are you kids talking about?” asked Walters.

“Well,” said Paul for the detective’s information, “we happened to
discover the gang of counterfeiters by....”

“You don’t mean to tell me that it was you fellows who discovered
them!” exclaimed the detective.

“Well, in a small way, yes.”

“That’s a rich one,” was Walters’ retort. “But go on with what you were
saying.”

“What I was going to say,” continued Paul, “was that some maniac has
been roaming through town and doing things, always leaving a white card
to mark his visit there.”

“You don’t say!” remarked Walters. “And you’re trying to track him
down?”

“That’s right.”

“How did you find out about this fellow with the white card?”

“Well, do you remember when Ken’s little sister, Betty, was reported
missing for about an hour and then turned up again?”

“Why, yes, I remember the case. And I don’t think anything was done
about it.”

“No,” said Paul. “But that’s how we began our investigation that led up
to the discovery of 752 York Street.”

“Now that’s very interesting,” commented the detective. “How did it
happen?”

“Well, you see, Jack found her all the way out on Leonard Street.
Questioning her, she told him that a man bought her candy and then took
her for a walk and left her there.”

“And then what?”

“Well, the man also gave her a white card. And that’s how our
investigation began.”

“Wait a minute,” cried Jack, flushed with excitement. “Do you remember
that all along we have been thinking that Mr. Grey was that man and
that is why we were following him and all that, just waiting to jump on
him?”

Ken exclaimed, “Why that is right, come to think of it.”

Walters laughed. “So Mr. Grey is the guilty party. That’s good.”

And he laughed some more. “What are we going to do, Paul?”

“We will just have to ask him, I guess,” was the reply. “I imagine he
will be able to clear up a lot of details for us.”

“Yes,” said Ken, “but you don’t think he was responsible for the fires
and the robbery at Professor Link’s, do you?”

“What about the fires and that robbery you are talking about?” asked
Walters.

“We found that there have lately been more than an average number of
fires in town.”

“That’s right,” agreed the detective. “I remember that Captain Bob has
spoken to the chief about it and I think that a detective has been put
on the case. I’ll find out who it is and tell him to look you up.”

The detective treated it as a good joke. While he was still laughing
Paul remarked, “Yes, send him over. We may be able to give him some
valuable information.”

The detective was still more amused and the boys laughed too. “That’s
right, Walters,” echoed Ken, “some day when you have a case you can’t
solve, call on us.”

“I think we have been talking too much,” replied the detective.

The car pulled up to the curb in front of the Morrison home. Paul and
Ken, who lived across the street, jumped out. They waved to Jack and
Walters as the car sped away to deliver the last of the trio home.

Paul rushed into the house and upstairs to his room. His mother as yet
knew nothing about her son’s adventure. Later on, she called him to
dinner. Dr. Morrison walked in. Seeing his son, he exclaimed, “Well,
well! Permit me to congratulate you, my boy. I didn’t know we had a
hero in the family.”

Paul blushed and became very busy with his grape fruit. Mrs. Morrison
asked innocently, “A hero in the family? What are you talking about?”

Dr. Morrison waved a newspaper. “Just take a look at the evening paper
and you’ll see. His picture is in there and the whole story of how he
and his friends captured a gang of counterfeiters.”

Paul’s head sunk lower. So his picture was in the paper! He wondered
how the reporters got it and whether Jack’s and Ken’s pictures were
also in the paper. He was itching to read what the papers had to
say about the affair. But his mother grabbed the newspaper and read
it breathlessly. A minute later she looked up and demanded, “Paul
Morrison! Will you please tell me what this is all about?”

Paul shook his head meekly. “Why nothing, Mother,” he whispered. “It
just happened that I....”

He faltered and his mother said, “It just happened! I will be very glad
to see you go off to college. You will be too busy there to get into
mischief.”

But the next moment she smiled sweetly and and came around the table
and kissed him. Dr. Morrison was beaming. He had always been proud of
his son. He said, addressing his wife, “He is all right; he is one boy
who can take care of himself.”

“I’m sure of that,” answered Mrs. Morrison, “but for my peace of mind
I wish he would keep out of trouble. I hope college will do that—keep
him out of mischief.”

Just then the maid entered and announced that Paul was wanted on the
telephone. He went into the foyer and picked up the receiver. It was
Jack. “Hello.”

“Hello, Paul. Are you in trouble with your family about the affair?”

“A little.”

“Well, so am I. Goodbye.”

Paul went back to the dining room. His father said, “Now, since you
were a participant, do you mind telling us a few of the details?” So
Paul started in to relate the whole story.

At the Armstrong home, it happened a little differently. Ken entered
the house and went to wash up. Soon his father returned home from
the office, carrying an evening paper. Looking around for his son,
he found the boy in the library reading a story to his little sister
Betty. Mr. Armstrong walked in, stood over the boy for several seconds,
pretending that he was going to give him a good verbal thrashing, then
exclaimed, “So! So you have decided to become a detective!”

“What’s a defective?” Betty asked innocently.

Ken and his father burst out laughing. Mr. Armstrong bent down and said
to the child, “Detective, honey. The word is detective.”

Ken still laughed. He thought his little sister was cunning in the way
she had said it. Turning to his son, Mr. Armstrong asked, “Well, what
is it all about?”

“What does the paper say?” asked Ken.

“Here, see for yourself.” And Mr. Armstrong gave the evening paper to
his son. “Your picture is in it and Chief Bates is quoted as saying
that you were real heroes. Imagine it, my son a hero!”

“Well, what’s wrong with that, Dad?” asked Ken.

Just then Mrs. Armstrong entered.

Mr. Armstrong said, “Will you come here a second, Mother? I want to
tell you something.” She came into the library. “Did you know that your
son is a hero?” asked her husband.

“What did he do now?” she inquired calmly.

“Give your mother the newspaper, Ken.”

Mrs. Armstrong took the paper and glanced at the headlines and the
pictures. She said calmly, “Nothing surprises me. What these boys
can’t get into has not been invented yet. Come to dinner.”

They rose to comply. Mr. Armstrong put an arm around the boy’s shoulder
and said, “You’re all right, son. But I do hope college will tame you
and your friends a bit.”

They went into the dining room. When they were about half through the
meal Ken was called to the telephone. It was Jack. “Hello, Ken.”

“Hello, Jack. What’s up?”

“Are you having trouble with your family about that affair?”

“No, not really. My father and mother took it very well.”

“Well, I am. Goodbye.”

Jack’s reception had been different. When he got into the house, he
found his mother waiting for him. One of the neighbors, who had been
out shopping returned home with an afternoon newspaper. She immediately
ran over to show Mrs. Stormways the headlines and the pictures of Jack
and his friends. Jack’s mother first became frightened, and was on the
point of calling Chief Bates to inquire further into the matter. But
then she thought it would be better to wait until her son returned. It
was evident that no harm had come to him, or it would have been in the
paper.

She waited for her son. At last he came and she asked him, “Well, Jack
Stormways, what is this all about?”

“What is what about, Mother?”

He really did not know that the story was in the afternoon papers and
that his mother knew the situation. She showed him the paper with the
headlines and the pictures. His first comment was, “Not such a bad
picture of me and the boys, is it, Mother?”

The remark took her breath away for a moment. His calmness and
self-assurance overwhelmed her. She smiled. “Is that all you can say
for yourself?” she asked.

He went over and kissed her. “What can I say, Mother?” he replied.
“The story is right here and I guess I am guilty. But there was really
nothing to it. I merely helped a little to capture the gang.”

“Just helped a little!” commented Mrs. Stormways. “You’re always taking
some sort of risk. I don’t know what will ever happen to you.”

“Now, Mother,” pleaded Jack, “you know I can take care of myself.”

“That’s just the trouble,” she replied. “You can take care of yourself
too well.”

Just then Jack’s younger brother, aged thirteen, burst into the house.
Seeing Jack with his mother, he cried, “Say, I heard you were playing
cops and robbers; is it true?”

Jack and his mother laughed. “Come on, Jack, tell me about it,”
insisted the boy.

But Jack paid no attention to his brother. His mother said, “I just
wonder what your father will say when he comes home.”

She walked out into the kitchen to continue her preparations for
dinner. In due time, Mr. Stormways came home carrying an evening paper
with him. As soon as he stepped into the house, his younger son cried,
“Did you hear, Dad? Jack has been playing cops and robbers.”

“Yes, son, I heard all about it. Too much, in fact. What do you think
we ought to do about it?”

“I think you ought to make him tell us all about it, Dad,” answered the
boy. “He wouldn’t tell me anything.”

“All right, we’ll see what we can do about that. Where is he, by the
way?”

“He is upstairs in his room. Shall I call him?”

“Yes, do, son. Tell him to come down for dinner. I shall be in the
dining room.”

Jack came downstairs. His father was at the table. As soon as he walked
into the room, his father rose and bowing, said, “May I congratulate
you? Will you please tell us how it feels to be a hero?”

Jack blushed. “Oh, don’t do, that, Dad,” pleaded Jack.

But Mr. Stormways was enjoying himself. “Sit down, my hero,” he said.
He led Jack to the head of the table and sat him down there, saying,
“Since you are now a hero, you shall preside over the dinner table.”
As Mrs. Stormways came in her husband called out, “An extra portion of
everything for the hero, my dear.”

“Ah, Dad, don’t,” pleaded Jack.

But Mr. Stormways was not to be dissuaded. Sitting down, he said, “Now
tell me, did you capture the gang all by yourself, or did someone help
you a little?”

Jack smiled. He thought he might as well join in with his father’s
humor. “Well,” he answered, “Paul and Ken did help a little, but very
little.”

“Just what I thought,” remarked his father. “And tell me another
thing,” continued Mr. Stormways, “did the gangsters run just as soon as
they saw you or did they hesitate for a little while?”

“They immediately surrendered,” was the reply.

“Now let me think,” mused his dad, “what else was there I wanted to
ask you. Oh, yes. I suppose, that as a reward for your bravery, the
president himself will no doubt come here to congratulate you and
bestow upon you the Congressional Medal of Honor, is that so?”

“Well, I don’t know about that, Dad,” replied Jack. “I imagine
that he may be too busy to do that. But I am sure he will send a
representative.”

There was a silent pause for a few seconds, then Mr. Stormways burst
out laughing. “Well, seriously, fellow,” he said, “don’t you think that
you ought to stop keeping company with gangsters and all that?”

“I’ll try, Dad.”

Just then Jack’s younger brother spoke up and asked for details of the
story and Jack complied by telling all of it.



CHAPTER XXVII

MYSTERY OF THE WHITE CARD


The boys were at the Morrison home waiting for Mr. Grey to appear. They
had hundreds of questions to ask him and they hoped that he would clear
up the mystery of the white card. But if he did not, they would be at
a loss as to what to do next. They would either have to give up or
commence their investigation all over again, and they were rather tired
of the thing by now. Jack remarked, “I still can’t understand how we
happened to come upon Mr. Grey and follow him. I don’t suppose he had
anything to do with the mystery of the white card.”

“But it was you who originally began to follow him,” said Ken.

“That’s right. But now that I think of it, I can’t understand how I
happened to pick on him.”

“Betty described the man who took her for a walk as tall and thin,”
interposed Paul.

“Yes, but there are many tall, thin men in town,” argued Jack.

“And we came to the conclusion that the man who would start fires and
steal a single book must be a maniac of some sort.”

Jack laughed. “Well, does Mr. Grey look like a maniac?” he asked.

Paul smiled and remarked, “Well, he does look rather odd, tall and thin
as he is.”

“All that doesn’t get us anywhere,” said Jack.

“Well, let’s not come to any conclusions but wait until Mr. Grey
comes,” remarked Paul.

“Yes, he’ll clear it all up for us.”

About ten minutes later, the government agent arrived. He looked like a
changed man, dressed in a summer linen suit and his hair combed neatly
back. “Hello, fellows,” he greeted as he entered.

“Hello, Mr. Grey,” returned Paul. “Won’t you sit down?”

“Well, I’ll try,” he said as he took a seat, “but I’m afraid you
fellows are going to question me so much, you’ll have me standing on my
head.”

“Then we’ll turn you over and sit you down again,” spoke up Jack.

“Now, Mr. Grey,” began Paul, “and by the way, is that your real name?”

“No, of course not. My name is George Wilson.”

“Well, Mr. Wilson, we are mystified by a certain little thing,”
continued Paul, “and I wonder if you can clear it for us.”

“Try me and we’ll see.”

“The mystery of the white card,” Jack blurted out. “What is it all
about?”

“What white card?” asked the agent mystified.

“You don’t know?” cried Ken.

The man shook his head in complete ignorance. “I’ll faint,” cried
Jack, falling back in his chair and pretending that he was actually
fainting.

“Tell me what it is all about,” asked the government agent. “I don’t
even know what you are talking about.”

“And we thought that you could give us the solution,” commented Jack.
“Now what are we going to do?”

“Will you please let me in on it?” Mr. Wilson asked for the second time.

“It’s like this,” began Paul, again explaining the whole thing, this
time for the benefit of Mr. Wilson. “About ten days ago, Ken’s little
sister, Betty, disappeared. Jack happened to find her all the way out
on Leonard Street. Questioning her, he found that a man had bought her
candy, taken her for a walk and left her there after he gave her a
blank white card.”

“May I see the card?” asked Mr. Wilson.

Paul took it out of his pocket and showed it to him. The agent glanced
at it and then said, “Go on.”

“Well, several days later there happened to be a fire on Water Street
and I rushed into the building. To make the story short, inside that
burning house I found another white card, an exact duplicate of the
first one.”

“What?” asked Mr. Wilson, his curiosity now aroused. “And then what?”

“That isn’t all,” continued Paul. “The next day a robbery occurred at
Professor Link’s and all that was taken was a single book out of the
library. And what’s more, the same white card was left.”

“But the point of the story is,” intervened Ken, “we thought all along
that you were the guilty person and that is how Jack began to follow
you.”

“I!” cried the agent, aghast. “How do I come in on this?”

“Well, sir,” spoke up Jack, “it was really all my fault. After talking
the thing over, we came to the conclusion that only a,—er,—a maniac
sort of person would do anything like that.”

“And you took me for a maniac?” cried the agent, bursting out laughing.
“That’s a good one.”

“I don’t think so,” replied Jack.

“No, I agree with you,” said Mr. Wilson. “I don’t think it’s quite the
thing to be taken for a maniac. But go on.”

“Well, sir,” continued Jack, “I began to follow you. And the first
night I followed you out to Waters Street, to the exact spot where the
fire occurred, and ...”

“But you must be wrong,” cried Mr. Wilson, “because I don’t even know
where Waters Street is.”

“You don’t know?” demanded Jack leaping out of his seat.

The other boys also were by now out of their seats and staring dumbly
at Mr. Wilson. The agent said, “I remember that I was once followed by
one of you, I couldn’t say who. But I shook him off quickly. Then I
also remember that Paul approached me one day and asked me where Jones
Street was and I told him.”

“My God!” cried Jack, “I have followed the wrong man all the time.”

“Wait a minute,” Paul said tensely. “You haven’t followed the wrong
man. On the contrary. You know what?” They all looked at him curiously.
“There is a man in this town who looks very much like you, Mr. Wilson,
and I am convinced that he is the guilty party.”

“Now that is interesting,” commented the agent. “I should certainly
like to meet him.”

“Now let me ask you this,” said Paul. “You don’t know anything about
the fires nor about the robbery at Professor Link’s, do you?”

“I most certainly don’t.”

“Was it you who saved us when Jack and I were prisoners in the cellar?”

“Yes, that was me.”

“Well, wait a minute,” interrupted Ken. “Suppose you tell us how you
knew that the boys were being held there and how you came to know
Harriman and how you came to be a member of the gang?”

“It’s this way, fellows,” began Mr. Wilson. “I was put on this case and
I followed the gang to this town. Looking around for a room I hired
one over the grocery store, from Harriman. At the time I did not know
that he was a member of the gang, but I soon found it out. Through
him, I came upon the gang. I became friends with Harriman and did him
a few favors. From then on, he trusted me. After I got on their trail,
I waited to get them with the goods—that is, they were then only
experimenting and not yet turning out counterfeit money. Just as soon
as they ran off some fake greenbacks, I got into action.”

“How did you know, then, that we were being held in the cellar of the
empty house?” asked Paul.

“You see, the gang had a room in the hotel. And I had a room next door.
And when Joe came and told Moonshine Charlie of holding you prisoners,
I rushed down and freed you.”

“That’s plenty funny,” commented Jack. “If it was not you whom I was
following all the time, who then was it?”

“That is something I should like to know myself,” replied the agent.

“Another thing, Mr. Wilson,” said Paul. “Four days ago, I followed
Harriman. On the street, I noticed you—or was it you—passing him and
you nodded to each other. Now was it you or was it not you?”

“No, it could not have been me,” was the answer, “because I remember
distinctly that I was at the hotel at the time listening in on
Moonshine and his gang.”

“That’s right,” continued Paul. “Harriman did lead me to Main Street
where he met Moonshine, Joe and Pete. But if it was not you who nodded
to Harriman, then I am more convinced than ever that there is a man in
this town who looks very much like you. In fact he looks so much like
you that even Harriman mistook him for you.”

“Now that is very interesting,” Mr. Wilson said. “We will have to do
something about it.”

“But here is something that is very suspicious, Mr. Wilson,” Paul
said. “You say that at the time you were at the hotel, but you or the
person that looks like you, walked out of the corner house, that is,
Harriman’s house, only about fifteen minutes before the grocery store
keeper himself came out. How do you figure that out?”

“You have me puzzled, Paul, if that was the case. I can’t figure it
out.”

The four of them leaned back in their seats and kept quiet. The
boys appeared exhausted from the ordeal. They thought that at last
everything would be cleared up and now they discovered that it still
remained a mystery. “At last,” muttered Jack, “we are back where we
started. Hooray!” Paul sighed and kept silent. Ken asked sadly, “Now
what are we going to do?”

His companions shrugged their shoulders. Mr. Wilson remarked, “I wish
I knew how I could help you. But as a matter of fact, I am leaving on
the midnight express.”

“That’s too bad,” said Paul. “I thought that perhaps you would stay
here for several days.”

Mr. Wilson shook his head. “That is out of the question,” he answered.

“To come back to the point,” said Jack, “what do you think we ought to
do, Paul?”

“About what?”

“The mystery of the white card, of course.”

“I suppose we will just have to wait and see. Perhaps we will find some
clue one of these days which will solve it.”

“If we wait until the mystery is solved by itself, we will never know
the solution,” was Ken’s statement.

“Too bad I can’t help you,” said Mr. Wilson as he rose to go.

They shook hands all around, the boys wishing Mr. Wilson a pleasant
trip and he wishing them success in unravelling the mystery of the
white card.



CHAPTER XXVIII

AGAIN THE WHITE CARD


All of the following day the boys wandered about trying their best to
form some definite opinion about the mystery of the white card so that
they might act upon it. But however they discussed the situation, they
could come to no conclusion nor hit upon any new clue. In desperation,
they gave it up for the present and decided to let events take their
course; perhaps something might turn up in several days or weeks that
would give them a clue which they could follow with some chance of
clearing up the situation.

Two days later, something did happen, but it only helped to complicate
things further. Paul was walking along Main Street when he heard an
automobile horn and he turned around to see who it was. A police car
pulled up to the curb and Walters waved to him. “Hey, there, fellow,”
he called. “Come on, get in.”

Paul got into the car. “Hello, Walters,” he said, “anything up?”

“Yes,” said the detective. “I have a very baffling case to solve and
when I saw you walking along, I thought I might ask you to help me.”
They both laughed and the detective added, “Are you bent on going any
place in particular?”

“Well, I was going to the library. But I have plenty of time.”

“That’s fine. Then you can drive along with me for a while. I hate to
drive all by myself with no one to talk to.”

“I don’t mind,” said Paul. “Where are you driving to?”

“That’s just it. No place in particular.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” said the detective, “we got a report about fifteen minutes ago
that a car was stolen.” He brought a slip of paper out of his pocket
and gave it to Paul. “Here,” he said, “look at it and then keep your
eyes open. We will begin at one end of the town and ride through street
by street. It may be that the owner parked it somewhere and forgot the
place.”

Paul looked at the slip of paper. He read, “Ford ... four door sedan
... license number S 91 52.”

For a while they rode along talking of various things. They rode down
one street and up the next street. Walters related some experiences of
his as a detective. Finally he remarked, “By the way, the oddest thing
happened to me yesterday. I was walking along and suddenly I noticed a
man that was the exact image of George Wilson, the government agent. I
was so astonished, I couldn’t imagine him being in town when two days
ago I saw him off on the train.”

“Did you stop him?” demanded Paul excitedly. “Did you see where he
went?”

The detective said, “Why, no. That’s just it. I closed my eyes for a
second because I thought they were deceiving me. When I opened them
again, he was gone.”

“Now isn’t that the worst of luck,” said Paul. “He is just the man we
are looking for.”

“What did he do?” asked Walters. “What do you want him for?”

“We need him to clear up the mystery of the white card. We think he is
the missing link in the puzzle.”

“That’s right,” remarked the detective. “I think I remember you telling
me something about this white card mystery. Did you do anything about
it?”

“No. And that is why we are looking for this man.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, our original clues led up to our following this man. But we got
him mixed up with the government agent and that is how we happened to
come upon the counterfeit gang. Well, sir, after all that was cleared
up, we questioned Mr. Wilson but he didn’t know anything about the
white card and then we knew we were up the wrong tree.”

“In other words,” said the detective, “as far as I can figure it out,
you are back where you started and now you are looking for him again.”

“That’s right.”

“Well, I wish you luck. Maybe if you keep it up long enough, you will
come across another gang of crooks. But this time finish the job
yourself.”

“I don’t think we will be able to do that,” returned Paul smiling. “You
see, Jack, Ken and I are leaving for college in two weeks.”

“We will have to do something about that,” said the detective. “I will
tell the chief to move the police headquarters to the college or have
him move the college here. Which would you prefer?”

“Neither one. When I get to college, I won’t have much time for
anything except study.”

“What are you going to study?”

“Jack and I are going to study to be doctors.”

“Your father is a doctor, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“It’s a very respectable profession. I wish I had gone to college and
studied a profession.”

“Aren’t you satisfied with being a detective?”

“Oh, I’m satisfied all right but I guess it’s like the saying, that
when you’re one thing you always want to be something else.”

They were crossing Main Street and Paul spied Ken walking along.
Hailing his friend, the detective pulled up to the curb and Ken got
into the car. “Where are you two going?” he asked.

“Just going for a ride,” said the detective. “Want to come along?”

“Sure, why not. I have nothing in particular to do right now. I was on
my way for a swim, but this is all right.”

“Well, keep your eyes open for a Ford four door sedan, license number S
91 52. Walters is looking for it,” said Paul.

“Stolen?”

“No,” said the detective, “just removed by the wrong party.”

“By the way,” spoke up Paul, “Walters here has come across the mystery
man of the white card, the man that looks like Mr. Wilson.”

Ken leaned forward eagerly. “You mean it?” he cried. “Did you arrest
him, Walters?”

“No. I didn’t want to bother,” the detective replied.

“Didn’t want to bother!”

“He is kidding you,” said Paul. “The man looks so much like Mr. Wilson
that he couldn’t believe his own eyes. Well, he closed them for a
second, and when he opened them again, the man was gone.”

“Just like a detective!” cried Ken.

“What do you mean?” asked Walters.

“To close your eyes to things.”

For several seconds there was silence, then Walters burst out laughing.
“That’s a good one,” he cried, “I’ll have to remember it.”

“Well, what are we going to do now?” asked Ken.

Paul shrugged his shoulders and didn’t answer. For a short while
they rode along in silence. Suddenly, both Ken and Paul cried
simultaneously, “Look!”

About ten yards ahead of them was a Ford sedan with the license number
S 91 52 parked at the curb. Walters swung over to the curb and pulled
up directly behind the Ford car.



CHAPTER XXIX

MYSTERY SOLVED


The three of them jumped out of the car and approached the Ford.
Walters looked it over, checked the license number and said, “This is
it, all right.”

Ken threw open the door next to the steering wheel. “Hey, Paul,
Walters,” he cried, “come here, quick.”

He was joined by his friend and the detective. “Look,” he muttered and
pointed at the driver’s seat.

They looked. There on the seat lay a white card. Walters grabbed it and
turned it over on both sides. It was a plain, white, blank card. “Can
you beat that!” gasped Walters.

Paul took his own card out of his pocket and gave it to Walters.
“Here,” he said, “compare the two.”

The detective made the comparison and announced, “Identical.”

Ken burst out laughing. The detective asked angrily, “What are you
laughing at, you young pup?”

“Now it’s your mystery,” answered the boy. “You look for him and the
next time you see him don’t close your eyes.”

“Trying to be smart,” countered the detective, grinning. “Well, I’ll
have to start looking for him all right.”

Walters searched the front and the rear of the car but he found nothing
suspicious. His investigation completed, he asked Ken to get into the
Ford and follow him. The detective drove back to police headquarters
where the stolen car was parked and the owner of it was notified.

Ken and Paul walked out of the police headquarters in high spirits.
There was no particular reason for it but they thought it quite
humorous that Walters was now involved in the mystery of the white
card. And Ken didn’t seem to get tired of repeating, “From now on,
perhaps he will get out of the habit of closing his eyes.”

And after he said it, he would laugh, assured that it was a very good
joke. Paul said, “Forget it for a while. Which way are you going?”

“Which way are you going?”

“Well, I was on the way to the library when Walters picked me up. So I
guess I will continue my trip to the library.”

“That suits me,” said Ken, “I’ll go along.”

Whistling, chatting, they walked along Main Street when Ken suddenly
saw something that made him quickly alert.

Paul was eyeing a window display as he walked. He felt his arm pinched
and he uttered a muffled cry. “Hey!”

Ken muttered, “Shsh! Look!”

Across the street was the man who looked so much like Mr. Wilson! The
boys gasped. He was standing in the doorway of a three story apartment
house. The ground floor was occupied by a haberdashery on one side and
a shoe store on the other. The mystery man, with his wild, maniacal
appearance, glanced both ways, then he walked off, heading north. Paul
cried, “Come on. I’ll take care of him, Ken. You run into the hall of
the building and see what he may have been up to.”

Ken rushed into the hall. He searched frantically and at last he found
under the stairs a bundle of rags evidently soaked in gasoline or
kerosene, in flames. The wall and the back of the stairs were already
beginning to smolder. By some luck, there happened to be a pail of
dirty water at the other end of the hall. He grabbed it and dashed
the water on the fire. The flames were out in a moment. With the rags
soaking wet, he wiped it across the smoldering wood.

Holding on to the rags, he ran outside and looked at the number of the
building. At the curb he found a sheet of newspaper which he wrapped
around the wet rags. And to make sure he did not forget the address, he
wrote it down.

In the meanwhile, Paul had approached the man and took him under the
arm. “Do you mind if I walk along with you?” he asked.

“Oh, no, no. No, not at all.”

“My name is Paul. What is yours?”

“Who, me? I have no name.”

“That’s too bad,” said Paul. “I thought everybody had a name.”

“Everybody except I,” was the answer.

Paul was at a loss what to do or say. On the spur of the moment, he
remarked, “There is a man who wants to see you. I will take you to him.”

“That is very nice of you. Where is he?”

“Straight ahead, down Main Street.”

“That’s fine. Let’s hurry, because I don’t want to keep him waiting. I
don’t like to keep people waiting.”

Just then Ken came running up and took the man by the other arm.
Together they led the man to police headquarters and into the
detectives’ room. Walters was there and as soon as he saw the boys and
the man, he jumped to his feet. “Where did you get him?” he cried.

“He was looking for you,” said Ken, “so we thought we would bring him
here.”

“Stop kidding, will you, and tell me what it’s all about?” demanded the
detective.

The man stood there very innocently looking from one to the other. Ken
removed the covering of paper from the rags and showed it to Walters.
Paul said, “We saw him come out of the hall of a building....”

“357 South Main Street is the correct address,” said Ken, interrupting.
“That bunch of rags was in flames and the wall and the stairs were
already beginning to smolder.”

“And so we brought him here,” concluded Paul.

The detective turned to the man. “What’s your name?” he demanded.

The man shrugged his shoulders and opened his arms in a gesture of
complete ignorance. “Did you try to start a fire just before at 357
South Main Street?” the detective again asked.

But the man kept his mouth shut, grinned and would say nothing. The
detective was growing red in the face. Paul said, “You ought to have
him examined by a doctor.”

“Where do you live?” asked Walters.

But questioning him was futile and a waste of breath and effort. The
man either would not, could not, or just did not understand enough to
answer the simple questions. Walters searched him. In his right coat
pocket was found a bunch of white cards. Paul and the detective took
out their cards and compared them to the bunch. “Identical,” muttered
Walters.

“Hooray!” cried Ken. “The white card mystery is solved.”

The man grinned sheepishly. Walters continued searching him. In the
other pockets they found more white cards, various odds and ends such
as pieces of string, a pocket knife, several pencils, shoe strings and
an empty wallet with a name and address. Paul read, “Jerome Walsh, 321
Applebury Street.”

“Let’s run down there,” suggested Ken.

The detective nodded. “Yes, we’ll do that. First I will have him
examined by a doctor.”

Walters took the man by the arm and led him out. The boys waited and
two minutes later he returned. “What did you do with him?” asked Ken.

“I gave him over to one of the men to take care of. Let’s go,” said
Walters.

They went to the back of the building and got into a police car. Ken
plopped into the rear seat and began to laugh uproariously. “What’s the
joke?” asked the detective.

“I don’t think you will appreciate it.”

“Take a chance, let’s hear it.”

“What I was laughing at,” said Ken, “is how much it helps when you keep
your eyes open.”

“Aw, keep your mouth shut,” cried the detective, and the next moment he
was himself enjoying the humor of it.

The car sped through the town and soon pulled up in front of 321
Applebury Street. It was a boarding house. Walters rang the bell and a
middle aged woman answered the door. “Does a man by the name of Jerome
Walsh live here?” asked the detective.

“Why, yes,” answered the woman hesitantly. “He isn’t in just now,
though.”

Walters showed his badge and told her who he was. “That’s all right,”
he said. “Take us up to his room.”

“Did he do anything wrong?” asked the woman.

“We just want to search his room,” said Walters.

“And he is such a harmless man,” mused the woman.

They followed the woman to the second floor and she showed them into
a small, neatly kept room. The detective and the boys entered. On a
little table were several books. Paul examined them. “Look,” he cried,
“Professor Link’s book.”

Ken grabbed the volume and looked at it. Inside was the professor’s
name. “So,” he mumbled, “the mystery at last is solved.”

The detective searched the room and found many small items that had
been no doubt stolen from any number of places. Turning to the woman,
he asked, “What do you know about this man, Jerome Walsh?”

“I don’t know anything about him,” she answered meekly. “He has been
boarding with me for almost a year. Once a month a man comes, I think
it is his brother, and pays for his room and board. Tell me, Mister
detective, did Mr. Walsh do anything wrong?”

“Plenty,” was the answer. “Is there supposed to be something wrong with
him mentally?”

“I don’t know,” the woman replied. “Every once in a while he acts
strangely, but as far as I know, he is harmless.”

“What sort of strange things would he do?” asked Paul.

“Well, he would sometimes talk to himself, sometimes he would go out
walking all night long—little things like that.”

The detective said, “The next time this man, his brother or whoever
he is, comes to pay his room and board, I want you to call me. In the
meanwhile, Mr. Walsh is not coming back here any more.”

“But what did he do?” the woman asked frantically.

“He tried to set a house on fire and he stole an automobile this
morning,” the detective told her.

“Which is not all,” added Paul. “Do you have the address of this man
who visits him?”

“Why, yes, I think I do; I think I must have it somewhere downstairs.”

“Let’s go down, then,” said Walters.

Downstairs, the woman searched for about ten minutes until at last
she found the address and gave it to the detective. “Very good,” he
muttered. “We will send for him.”

They left. Ken turned to Paul and said, “Let’s run over to Jack’s and
tell him. He’ll drop dead when he hears it.”

“Yes,” said Paul, “let’s do that.”

Walters dropped them off in front of the Stormways home. Paul waved and
called, “So long, Walters.”

“So long.”

“Keep your eyes open,” called Ken.

The detective smiled. “And you watch yourself,” he called back and
drove off.

The two boys ran into the house, looking for their friend. Mrs.
Stormways told them that he was at the garage and they ran out of the
house again. Jack waved to them, his hands grimy with grease; he was
working on his dad’s car. “Hey!” cried Ken, “the mystery has been
broken wide open.”

“You mean....”

Jack stared at his friends with his mouth open. He couldn’t believe it.
Paul smiled and said, “That’s right, the mystery is solved.”

“And without me,” moaned Jack, “How could you finish up the whole thing
without me! Tell me all about it.”

The boys related how it had all happened. Jack looked very miserable as
he listened to the story. His great regret was that he had not been in
on the exciting final clearing-up of the mystery.

“It’s all right Jack, next week we’ll start college and we’ll forget
all about the Mr. Grey’s and white cards and counterfeiters. We’ll have
to put our minds on how to learn all of the hard subjects we’re going
to take.” Paul tried to be consoling.

“Yes, Jack, and you can start solving a mystery as soon as we get
there. The mystery I mean is this—how are we going to work hard and
get good grades, and still play football, go to dances and have a good
time? Figuring that out will give you a good tough sleuthing job,” Ken
said.

Jack was quite cheerful by now.

“If we can have as good a time at college together as we have here in
Stanhope,” he said, “We will be lucky. But I’m rather tired of summer
and the town. I get a thrill every time I think of getting on the train
Monday.”

“So do I,” Ken added. “We’ve had plenty of adventures since the troop
has been together, and we will have plenty more.”

“Sure we will,” said Paul, “And I’m going home and help my mother pack
my clothes right now. If I don’t watch her she will only put in my best
clothes and leave out things like football sweaters and old pants.”

And with that all three boys started eagerly for home.





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