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   Chapter 6 CHAPTER X

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 13842

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


THE TRAITOR AT THE AERIALS

"Wait! Don't take anything too seriously. I've-got to-think!"

Powell Seaton had stood, for two or three moments, staring from Halstead to the other motor boat boys.

"Humph! Well, this is good, but I don't like it," grimaced Hank Butts, taking two steps backward.

Powell Seaton began to pace the room, his hands at his head. He looked like one who suddenly found it impossible to think.

Hank opened his mouth to say something angry, but Captain Tom checked him with a look and a gesture.

"May we search in that closet for you, sir?" called Halstead, when a thud told that the owner of the bungalow had dropped heavily back into his chair.

"You may look there, if you want to. Anyone may look there-now!" uttered the amazed one.

Without saying more Tom, in deep agitation, began the task he had invited upon himself. Joe Dawson came and stood looking quietly over 106 his chum's shoulder, ready to help if necessary. As for Hank, he stood, a picture of injured pride, staring at the distracted man.

"No; there's nothing here," admitted Halstead, at last. "At least, the only thing we're interested in isn't here."

"Of course it isn't," moaned Seaton. "Yet you boys were the only ones I told. And, the only time I left the house, it was safe upon my return. I also told you boys that."

"If he keeps on talking in that strain," muttered Hank, half-aloud, "I'll make his head ache!"

"No, you won't," uttered Captain Tom, gripping his comrade's arm almost fiercely. "There's trouble enough on the premises as it is. Hold your tongue, Hank, until we're all in a good mood to say pleasant things."

Thereupon, with a snort, Hank dragged a chair into a far corner, and seated himself in it.

Halstead walked slowly to the table, on which Mr. Seaton was resting his elbows, his face buried in his hands.

"There must be some explanation for this, Mr. Seaton," began the young motor boat skipper, more calmly. "I don't mind your first suspicion of me, because––"

"Not you, more than the others," broke in the bungalow's owner, excitedly. "All of you 107 young men knew about the hiding-place. You were the only ones besides myself who did know."

Again Hank gripped his fists tightly, but a stern look from Joe Dawson prevented Butts from giving any further expression of his feelings.

"Don't sit there like that, Mr. Seaton," broke in Tom Halstead, once more. "Whatever has happened, something must be done-and it must be the right thing, and at once."

"You can search us, if you want––" began Hank's growling voice, but Joe Dawson stood before him, towering in grim purpose.

"Don't you open your mouth again, Hank, until you've collected some sense," warned Joe. "Let Tom do the talking. He's the captain, anyway."

"You're right," responded Powell Seaton, looking up in a good deal of a daze. "I must do something-quickly-yet what?"

"If anyone has stolen the final set of papers," advanced the young skipper, "it must have been either Dalton or someone working for him. In either case, Dalton must now have the papers, or he soon will have."

"But what does this lead to?" inquired Mr. Seaton, regarding his young captain dubiously.

"Why, sir, it must be plain that the best 108 course is to drop all other steps and concentrate every bit of your energy and ingenuity on getting hold of Anson Dalton."

"Yet what can I do to him, if I do?"

"In the first place, you might charge him with being the man who struck Albert Clodis over the head. That would be enough to have your man arrested on, even if you couldn't prove the charge. A charge that you can fight on is that of having helped to steal the 'Restless' the other night. If you can only get the fellow locked up, then you'll have more time to find out whether there's any way of getting the missing papers away from him, or from any hiding place in which he has put them."

"Lock the fellow up?" jeered Powell Seaton. "Bah, boy, you don't seem to realize the money that's behind him. Ten thousand dollars, or a hundred thousand, it would all be the same, and Dalton, out on bail, could flee in whatever direction he wanted to."

"Then what are you going to do?" demanded Captain Tom, incisively.

In this instant of utter uncertainty a tinkling of a bell broke in upon them. It was the call bell that Dawson had attached to the wireless apparatus.

"Remember, you keep quiet," almost whispered Joe to Hank, then quitted the room 109 hastily. Butts suddenly began to grin sheepishly. Rising, he sauntered over to a window.

Joe had hurried to the wireless room on the mere chance that it might be a message for Lonely Island. It was much more likely to be the regular business of ships passing on the sea. But as he entered the room Dawson heard the clicking call from a receiving instrument:

"CBA! CBA!" That was Lonely Island's call surely enough.

Breaking in at the key, Joe sent the sparks chasing each other up the aerials. Having answered, he slipped on the head-band, fitting the watch-case receivers over his ears. Picking up a pencil, he wrote.

It was a rush telegram from Mr. Seaton's lawyer, up at Beaufort, and it read:

Man much resembles description of Dalton has just been reported embarking on seventy-foot cruising motor boat ten miles above this city. Man in command of boat positively said to be Captain Dave Lemly.

"Remain at wire for further talk," Joe's trembling fingers signaled back. Then, leaping up, he bounded into the next room.

"Read it to me," Powell Seaton begged.

Tom Halstead took the sheet, reading rapidly yet clearly. The young skipper was excited, though he forced himself to remain cool. 110

"There's your call to action, Mr. Seaton," he wound up with.

"Yes, but what action?" demanded the owner of the bungalow. Ever since the discovery of the loss of the papers this man had seemed all but unable to speak.

"We've got to overhaul that other motor boat, though her length will have to be description enough if we can't get a better one," declared the young skipper. "Hank, go down and open up the motor room. Start the motors going, though be gentle. Don't break anything, or put the motors out of business. Joe, go back to the wireless, and see whether you can get a more exact description of that boat-especially the course she is believed to have sailed on. Hustle! Mr. Seaton, hadn't you better inform Dr. Cosgrove that you'll be absent for a while?"

The owner of the bungalow moved as though glad of directions that saved him the trouble of thinking.

Joe promptly sent a wireless back to Beaufort asking for a better description of the seventy-footer and the last course upon which she had been seen.

The only further word the lawyer's informant could furnish, as Joe ascertained ten minutes later, was that the boat was painted a drab tint and had a "smoke-stack" ventilator. When

last 111 seen the boat was heading out nearly due east from her starting-point.

"Going out to meet a liner, for some port," clicked Tom, as he heard the news. "Well, it's our business to find that drab motor boat."

As Joe caught up his cap, Mr. Seaton looked rather uncertainly from one boy to the other.

"You say we're to go out on this jaunt over the water," remarked the owner of the bungalow. "But I don't know. Perhaps you want me to go too badly. There may be something behind––"

"Stop right where you are, if you please, sir," broke in Tom Halstead, a decided trace of bitterness in his tone. "You're still more than half-inclined to suspect us boys of causing the loss of the papers you had hidden in the closet. I am not blaming you altogether, Mr. Seaton, though you are doing us a great injustice. But you must believe in us just at the present time, for going with us offers you your only chance of catching up with Dalton and saving your own friends of the syndicate. Come along, sir! Try to trust us, whether it seems wise or not, since it's your only chance."

The young skipper seized his charter-man by one arm, almost dragging him along. Yet Powell Seaton, who was in a state of horrible uncertainty, permitted this forcing. 112

Outside, on the porch, Captain Tom hesitated for a moment, then, after glancing at the guards, went on briskly:

"Mr. Seaton, I know you don't want to carry an armed force for purposes of attack on anyone, and you wouldn't have a right to do it, anyway. But, as we may be attacked, if we run afoul of Dalton and his friends, won't it be much better if you take at least a couple of your armed guards from this place?"

Nodding curtly, Mr. Seaton called to Hepton and Jasper, two of the guards, explaining that they were needed for a cruise on the "Restless." The pair followed along after the others.

"You can keep your rifles, just as well, in the motor room," suggested Captain Tom, and the fire-arms were placed below.

Hank had everything in readiness for casting off. Within forty-five seconds after boarding, the "Restless" was under way, poking her nose in a north-easterly direction.

"We'd better loaf later on, rather than now, Joe," proposed the young skipper. "See how much speed you can crowd out of the motors."

Powell Seaton chose to go aft, all alone, dropping into one of the deck arm-chairs. For a long time he remained there, moody and silent.

"What liner do you figure on Dalton trying 113 to overtake and board?" queried Joe, coming up at last out of the motor room.

"Why, I don't just know," confessed Tom, pondering. "But I'll tell you what you can do, Joe. Leave Hank to watch the motors. You go to the wireless apparatus and send out the longest spark you can get. Direct your call to any vessel bound for Rio Janerio, or Brazil in general. If you get an answer from such a craft, ask her latitude and longitude, course and speed, so we can make for her directly."

As Joe nodded, then dropped down into the motor room, intending to go by the passageway under the bridge deck, Tom noted a lurking figure a few feet behind him.

"Hullo! What are you doing there, Jasper?" queried the young captain.

"Jest mindin' my own business," replied the man, with a half-surly grin.

"I'm minding mine, in asking you," retorted Halstead, quietly. "I don't like passengers so close to me when I'm handling the boat."

"I s'pose mebbe you don't," rejoined Jasper, yet making no move.

"Won't you take a hint?" asked Tom, rather bluntly.

"Where d'ye want me to stand?" asked the fellow, sulkily.

"You could go further aft, for instance," 114 replied Tom. One hand on the wheel, he stood half-turned, eying this stubborn guard.

"Oh, all right," came gruffly from Jasper, as he started slowly aft.

"Maybe I'm wrong for thinking much about it," muttered Tom, under his breath, "yet it was this same man who was so close to us the other night when Mr. Seaton and I were talking about the papers hidden in the closet at the bungalow."

Two or three minutes later a slight sound caused the young skipper to turn with a start. He saw Jasper in the very act of fitting a wire-nipper to one of the parallel wires of the aerial of the wireless.

In an instant Captain Tom Halstead jammed his wheel and locked it. Then he dashed at the fellow.

* * *

CHAPTER XI

THE DRAB BOAT SHOWS HER NOSE

"You keep off!" snarled Jasper, drawing back on the defensive, holding the wire-nippers so as to use them in defending himself.

But, if the young captain of the "Restless" knew any fear, at such moments, he didn't permit others to see it. He neither stopped nor 115 swerved. Ducking in under Jasper's extended right arm, Tom closed with the fellow, grappling.

"Confound ye! I'll have to throw ye over into the water!" growled Jasper, fighting for a hold around the boy's waist and behind his back. But Halstead fought to break the grip, at the same time yelling:

"Hank! Here, mighty quick!"

Jasper fought, trying to force the young commander to the rail. He had half succeeded when Hank Butts raced on deck. Hepton, the other guard, who had been lounging in the engine room, was right behind Butts. Both of them raced to reach the struggling pair. Hank caught Jasper at the waist-line, while Hepton took a hold at Jasper's neck, forcing the fellow back.

Then Tom sailed into the melee with renewed energy. Jasper was a powerfully-built fellow, but the three were too many for him. They tripped Jasper, throwing him to the deck, and Hepton sat upon his comrade's chest.

"Halstead! You others! What does this violence mean?"

Powell Seaton shouted the question sternly. He had been disturbed by the racket and now stood amidships.

"Get him over, face down," panted Tom. 116 "We'll make sure of the fellow before we begin to explain. Hank, run for a pair of handcuffs!"

Butts was up and off like a shot, wholly liking the nature of his errand.

"Halstead!" raged Mr. Seaton. "I insist upon an answer."

"It's a case of sea-bullying-that's what it is," growled Jasper. "It's an outrage."

"Hepton," warned the charter-man, "get up off of Jasper's chest. Let him go."

"Don't you do it," countermanded Tom Halstead. "It won't be safe. This fellow is a snake in the grass. I caught him at his tricks."

Hepton had acted undecidedly for a moment. Now, he concluded to stand by the young captain.

In a trice Hank was back. Now the three assailed Jasper, rolling him over on his face. Tom Halstead, himself, fitted the handcuffs.

"Take the wheel, Hank, until I'm through with this," panted Tom, leaping up from the treacherous guard. The locked wheel was now steering the "Restless" over an erratic course, but Hank swiftly had the boat on her true course once more.

"I insist on knowing what this shameful business means," cried Mr. Seaton, glaring at his young skipper.

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