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   Chapter 12 THE DODGE-EMS

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 13383

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"They say," Florence murmured to herself, as she left the Enchanted Island that night, "that murderers always return to the scene of their crimes. That long-eared Chinaman did not commit murder when he took that sky-walk of his, but if he didn't commit suicide he may be back. Perhaps the Sky Ride holds for him some strange fascination. I wonder."

She was still wondering when her feet had led her to the foot of the east tower of that spectacular Sky Way. She waited for an up-going car.

"I'd like to get him," she told herself. "I must!" A fierce determination took possession of her. Erik Nord's story had embedded itself deeply in her soul.

"Children." She smiled as she recalled the pictures of cute Chinese youngsters he had shown her. "And to think that they should be robbed of hospital care by one selfish Chinaman!"

Just then the elevator door opened. She stepped inside to go whirling upward. She did not cease to ponder. "Is this long-eared Chinaman merely selfish? Is he greedy for wealth?" There had been a rather startling look of fierce determination on his face. "Superstitious," she whispered. "All Orientals are that, I suppose. There must be something about that knife, the bell and the banners that we don't know about. He would risk his life for them, I am sure of that. Commit murder, too!" She shuddered.

"And yet-" A sudden thought struck her. "He has them all now; he must have; the chest was empty. What more can he want?"

She recalled Jeanne's story of her flight up the ladder in that vast steel dome. "He was about to speak to her, touched her on the shoulder. What did he want? He-"

Her car shuddered slightly, then came to a halt. They had reached the two hundred foot level where one boards the Sky Ride.

Without really willing it, she allowed herself to be carried out with the crowd.

She was standing there only half conscious of the rocket car just loading before her, still asking herself questions. "Should she tell Jeanne Erik Nord's story? What should she do about the whole affair? Should she tell Erik what she knew? Should-"

Of a sudden, eyes wide, arms extended, she sprang forward. But she was just one step too late. The door closed. The rocket car went shooting on its way. And in it, smiling sardonically no doubt, was the long-eared Chinaman.

* * * * * * * *

Jeanne went for a stroll on the boulevard that night. And she wore not her own modest sport coat but one of Lorena LeMar's wraps, a superb creation.

"You must do this," the screen star had insisted. "You must become accustomed to wearing these things. And you must wear them, you know. You couldn't be Lorena LeMar without them."

Jeanne had not objected in the least. The truth was, she loved fine clothes. And this was such a "darb" of a cape: midnight-blue satin trimmed with real white fox, the sort of thing that catches the eye of every passer-by; that causes them to turn and stare.

And to stroll on the boulevard as she had seen so many fine ladies do! Ah, that would be heavenly!

And it was all of that. One fact troubled her a little; she was alone. She would have felt better with a woman companion dressed as she was, or a gentleman in evening clothes and a high hat.

But then, Jeanne was at heart a gypsy. Gypsies are never afraid, nor do they mind being alone.

There are beautiful shops on the boulevard. The windows of Paris are not more gay than are those of our boulevards. Jeanne went window-shopping.

"Five hundred a week!" she whispered to herself. "Two weeks. A whole thousand dollars to spend as I please! No one shall say: 'This is an inheritance. It belongs to the past and to the future.' I shall spend it.

"But two weeks of being Lorena LeMar!" She sighed heavily. "It will be so difficult!

"Ah, well!" She drew the gorgeous cape about her, snuggled her head in the soft fur, and for the moment felt quite recompensed.

"I shall have that dress," she told herself, stopping before a window. "Nile-green. The color suits me well.

"And some perfume." She paused again. "That great bottle cut like a diamond. I love bottles, the fantastic sort.

"And shoes!" She was a veritable Cinderella dreaming dreams that night. "Shoes! There are some darling ones. Golden shoes to match the nile-green dress. And only forty dollars. Think of it!"

Yes, she was a joyous little Cinderella. But all her joy vanished on the instant.

Of a sudden three very much over-dressed young men swooped down upon her.

"Lorena! Lorena LeMar!" they shouted in a chorus.

"And now, such a night as we shall make of it!"

Jeanne was pleased and frightened at one and the same time; pleased that she had copied the LeMar manner so well that her friends were thoroughly deceived; frightened at being alone at such a time.

"Oh, no you won't!" She tried in vain to steady her voice. "I-I'm doing a picture; on the water-wagon and all that, till it's finished."

"Water-wagon! Water-wagon!" they shouted in derision, crowding about her. "That's a good one! A real wise crack!"

Of a sudden the little French girl's world whirled about her. When it steadied she happened to see, by the most fortunate chance in the world, a familiar figure standing by the corner of a skyscraper.

In appearance this person was not so very different from the three nearer at hand. Natty brown suit, black derby, bright tie, spats, and all that. But his face! Ah, there you had it! His cheeks wore a healthy glow. His muscles were smooth and hard. In the eyes of these three who had so suddenly come upon her there was a nervous twitch. Their faces spoke of excess: too much money, too much fun, too many hours in a day, too much everything.

"Oh, all right!" She tossed her head in the LeMar manner. "I'll go. Which way? Over here?" She walked rapidly toward the one on the corner.

Caught off their guard, the gay trio followed. Not until it was too late did they realize that they had been tricked.

"Why, hello, my good friend Pat!" Jeanne called suddenly, as if the meeting had been by chance. She grasped the firm hand of the one on the corner. "Boys," she trilled, "this is Pat Murphy. He's a detective, aren't you, Pat? Show them your star, Pat."

Pat grinned as he threw open his coat.

"Been looking for pickpockets and-and mashers, haven't you, Pat?" Jeanne gave her detective friend a look.

"Yeah. Just anything. A fellow's gotta make a pinch now and then to hold his job." Pat was still grinning. For all that, a queer something had stolen into his voice.

"Oh say, George!" one of the joy-hunting trio exclaimed. "Forgot something, didn't we? Directors' meeting, or something like that. It was

at ten sharp, wasn't it?

"Awfully sorry!" He turned hurriedly to Jeanne. "Be seeing you again, LeMar."

"We'll be seeing you."

"We'll be-" They were gone.

"Yeah, they forgot something!" Pat chuckled. "What'll I do? Go and get them?"

"Oh no, please don't!" Jeanne grasped his arm.

"You see," she explained, "they thought I was some one else."

"This LeMar person? Well, ain't you?"

"No, I'm not, really." She gave him a knowing look. "I'm just Petite Jeanne, the little French girl who lived with Bihari the gypsy. You know that, Pat. You've known it quite a long while.

"All the same," she added hastily, "if you see Lorena LeMar, who looks just like me, having any trouble, you just march right up and say: 'What's all this about?' Will you?" She gave his arm a squeeze and was gone.

Dashing to a corner she boarded a bus and was whirled away. No more window-shopping for her that night. Only her own top floor rooms with the door safely locked could still her heart's wild beating.

"Not Lorena LeMar yet," she thought, as fresh consternation seized her. "Yet I am threatened with the doubtful kindness of her friends.

"Oh, I know," she breathed. "They were only three gay play-boys out for a good time.

"But when you don't know what play-boys are like, when you haven't the least notion what they expect of you-how terrifying!

"Good old Pat!" she thought with a sigh. "He saved me that time. To think what it means, this having humble friends all strewn along your pathway, scores and scores of just common folks, your friends!

"But why not?" She laughed a little laugh. "Am I not myself only Petite Jeanne, friend of the gypsies, humblest of them all?"

So she hurried home to lock the door, hang the beautiful robe carefully in a corner, settle herself in a great shabby chair and give herself over to watching the rocket cars streak across the sky far above the great Fair.

* * * * * * * *

And in one of these cars, hoping against hope that she might at the other end catch up with the long-eared Chinaman, was Florence.

"No chance!" she breathed a moment later, as she sent one wide sweeping glance across the landing platform. "He's gone. But which way? Down or across?"

Choosing to re-cross the broad expanse, she once more boarded a rocket car and went speeding away.

This time, having all but given up hope of catching the fugitive, she gave herself over to enjoyment of the moment.

Never, though she rode the Sky Ride a thousand times, would she lose that feeling of breath-taking thrill that came over her as, hanging high in air, she watched the ever changing lights and the milling throng upon the land, the flashing fountains, the darting boats on the lagoon.

"It's marvelous!" she breathed. "Why must one be disturbed by the problems of others? Why should not one-"

Once more they were across. She leaped to her feet, was first at the door.

"There! There he is! He-he's going down!"

Leaping for the descending car, she caught it just in time, only to find herself wedged in between a very fat man and two extremely tall women. The Chinaman was in the car, of that she was sure. Yet, crane her neck as she might, she could not catch sight of him.

Nor was she more fortunate upon landing. He was gone before she caught a glimpse of him. Only one thing she knew, he had gone toward the lagoon. Throngs were pressing in that direction. All other avenues were clear.

Following more by instinct than knowledge, she arrived at the shore of the lagoon just in time to see a fluttering yellow jacket go gliding across the water in a Dodge-Em.

"Here!" She crowded a young couple aside, pressed a half dollar into the starter's hand, leaped into a Dodge-Em and was away.

A Dodge-Em is a curious sort of boat. It is short and broad, is very heavy and has a motor that appears to run forever. That it does not run forever Florence was to learn later, to her sorrow.

You may stand on the edge of a Dodge-Em. It will not tip you out. You may run it nose first into another Dodge-Em or into a stone wall-yet you will not harm the Dodge-Em. It has a solid rubber prow and heavily padded sides. A truly remarkable craft is a Dodge-Em. Only one thing you cannot do; you can never make a Dodge-Em go faster than its accustomed speed, which is some four miles per hour.

This last Florence learned to her great disgust. Step on the gas as she might, and did, she could get no burst of speed from that indolent Dodge-Em.

So, in the end, she lost the race. Having crossed the lagoon, the fleeing one abandoned his boat, climbed the breakwater and disappeared in the Florida orange grove that by some touch of magic had been made to grow on the shores of Chicago.

"Oh, well," she sighed, settling back in her seat. "It's a grand night for dreaming, and who could fail to dream at night in a slow old Dodge-Em. I-"

"Hello there! Out for a ride?"

It was Erik Nord who called from another Dodge-Em.

"Did-did you see him, too?"

She spoke before she thought.

"See him?"

"Yes-er-well, there was a curious sort of person out here on the water. Gone now." She would not tell him, not just yet.

"Let's double up," he suggested. "Fine night for sport."

So it happened that she found herself seated in his Dodge-Em, gliding across the blue waters.

The hour was late. There were few boats on the lagoon.

"Queer, the things you can do with these things." He steered his craft toward the shadows. In the shadows was another Dodge-Em. Without appearing to plan it, he allowed his boat to strike the other a glancing blow.

Came a scream from the other boat.

"Hey! Watch out! What are you doing?"

"Beg your pardon!"

Erik and Florence glided away. "No," he chuckled, "you can't hurt 'em, these Dodge-Ems. Don't hurt the spooners to shake 'em up a bit."

"Look out!" Florence gripped his arm. He was headed square for a Dodge-Em coming from the other way. Too late. Came a sudden jolt, a growl from a placid fat man who, up to that moment, had been dreaming along in his own slow way.

"Nope, you can't hurt them. And they can't hurt you!" Once again they were away.

They passed out no more sudden shocks that night, but gliding down the lagoon and back again, talked of many things, of customs in China, of temples and gardens, of America and her own ways and of the great Fair.

"It's been a pleasure to be with you," he said, as he bade her good-night at the gate. "Here's hoping we meet again!"

"Here's hoping." She hurried away into the night.

There was little need to hope. They would indeed be together again and that under the most unusual circumstances.

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