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   Chapter 9 CHAPTER XII

The Motor Boat Club and The Wireless; Or, the Dot, Dash and Dare Cruise By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 27647

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


THE SEARCHLIGHT FINDS A "DOUBLE"

Yet, though his confidence in success had received a severe jolt, Captain Tom reached out for the megaphone.

"Run in straight and close, Hank," he ordered. "I want every possible second of conversation before that drab boat gets within talking distance of the 'Fulton.'"

The "Restless" and the freighter were now within a mile of each other, and almost head-on. The drab boat, about two miles away, had altered its course so as to pick up the freighter at a more southerly point.

"Run to your table, Joe," commanded the young skipper, "and notify the 'Fulton' that we are going to hail her for a brief pow-wow."

The speed with which young Dawson worked was shown by the fact that, when still half a mile away, the big freighter, hailed by wireless, began to slow down speed. It was plain that she was going to lie to in order to hear the whole of the hail from the "Restless."

"Great Scott, though! Look at that!" suddenly ejaculated Tom Halstead.

The drab seventy-footer had suddenly gone 128 about, making fast westerly time for the shore.

"Go about after the seventy-footer, Hank," almost exploded Halstead, in the intensity of his excitement over this new move. "Dalton doesn't seem to want to try the freighter now. Follow Dalton back to shore."

"But the 'Fulton's' slowing down. You're going to show him the politeness of telling the freighter's captain what it was all about, ain't you?"

"Let Joe do it," replied Tom, tersely. "What's the wireless for?"

Just at this moment Joe Dawson appeared from below.

"Our apologies to the freighter, Joe," called Skipper Tom. "Tell him we're after the drab boat. Tell him that our game is to stop a fugitive from getting out of the United States."

Joe again appeared just as the freighter began to make full headway once more.

"Captain Carson sends you his compliments from the 'Fulton,' Tom, for chasing the fugitive off."

"And now, we're going to chase that fugitive in," uttered Halstead, grimly. "By George! Look at the way that drab boat is beginning to travel. Joe, we can't let her lose us in this fashion." 129

As the "Fulton" passed out hull down, and then finally vanished on the southern horizon, the chase after the drab seventy-footer became lively and exciting.

"Can you make out Dalton aboard of her?" asked Powell Seaton, as Tom stood forward, leaning against the edge of the forward deck-house, the marine glass as fast to his eyes as though glued there.

"No, sir. If Dalton is aboard, he's keeping out of sight in the cabin."

"Did you see, when the drab boat was more head-on, whether Lemly was at the wheel?"

"The man at the wheel wasn't Lemly, sir, though I believe that fellow is on board as the actual captain," Halstead answered.

"Humph! Is the Drab going to get away from us?" questioned Hank, wonderingly. "My, look at her bow cut water!"

"She's a faster boat than I thought," Tom responded. "But we don't mean to let her get away. Joe, how are we going on speed?"

"I couldn't get another revolution out of the twin shafts without overheating everything," Dawson replied, seriously. "Honestly, Tom, if this speed doesn't suit, I'm afraid we'll have to make the best of it."

"Then don't lose a single inch by bad steering, Hank," Halstead directed, looking around 130 at his helmsman. "Whenever you want relief, let me know."

For five miles the drab seventy-footer kept her lead, though she did not seem able to increase it. That craft was still heading shoreward, and now the low, long, hazy line of the coast was in sight, becoming every minute more plain.

"They're going to head straight for the shore, unless they've some slicker trick hidden up their sleeves," declared Tom Halstead.

"I wonder that they're running so hard from us," mused Powell Seaton.

"Most likely, sir," responded the young skipper, "because Dalton and Lemly believe we have officers aboard. Of course they know-or suspect-that warrants are out charging them with stealing the 'Restless' the other night."

"Suppose Dalton and Lemly are not aboard that boat?" challenged Mr. Seaton, suddenly.

Tom Halstead's lower jaw sagged for just an instant.

"Of course, there's that chance. We may have been fooled, and we may be chasing a straw man in a paper boat right at this minute, sir. Yet, if Dalton were out on the water, with his stolen papers, he'd want to get nowhere else but to Brazil. If he isn't on the water, then he's 131 not trying this route to your Brazilian enemies, and we might as well be out here as on Lonely Island."

As the boat in the lead neared the coast Halstead again kept the marine glass to his eyes.

"There's a little river over yonder," he observed.

"Yes; I know the stream. Hardly more than a creek," replied Mr. Seaton.

"Any deep water there, sir?"

"For only a very little way in. Then the stream moves over a pebbly bottom like a running brook."

"Then it looks, sir, as though Lemly-if he's aboard-plans to run in there and hustle ashore."

"Or else stay and fight," hinted Powell Seaton. "The place is lonely enough for a fight, if the rascals dare try it."

"Hepton!" summoned Halstead, a few moments later. "Don't you think you'd better get up your rifle? You don't need to show it, but someone may send us a shot or two from the drab boat."

Hepton sprang below, bringing up both rifles. Crouching behind the forward deck-house, he examined the magazines of both weapons.

"We're carrying load enough for a squad o' infantry," laughed Hepton, showing his strong, 132 white teeth. "Let those fellers on the Drab try it, if they want to see what we've got."

The seventy-footer was shutting off speed now, going slowly into the mouth of the little river. Almost immediately afterwards her reverse was applied, after which she swung at anchor.

Tom, too, without a word to Hank, who stood by the wheel, reached over, slowing the "Restless" down to a gait of something like eight miles an hour.

"What's the order, sir?" he asked, turning to Mr. Seaton. "Are we to go in and anchor alongside?"

"I-I don't want to run you young men into any too dangerous places," began Powell Seaton, hesitatingly. "I-I––"

"Danger's one of the things we're paid for," clicked Tom Halstead, softly. "It'll all in the charter. Do you want to go in alongside?"

"I-I––"

Bang!

The shot came so unexpectedly that the motor boat boys jumped despite themselves. Hepton cocked one of the rifles, and was about to rise with it, when the young skipper of the "Restless" prodded the man gently with one foot.

"Don't show your guns, Hepton," murmured 133 Tom. "Wait until we find out what that shot was meant for."

No one now appeared on board the drab seventy-footer. There had been no smoke, no whistle of a bullet by the heads of those on the bridge deck of the "Restless."

"That was intended only to make us nervous," grinned Captain Tom.

"Or else to show us that they have fire-arms," suggested Seaton.

"Well, sir, I'm headed to go in alongside, unless you give me other orders," hinted the young skipper.

"Cover about half the rest of the distance, then reverse and lie to," decided Powell Seaton. He now had the extra pair of marine glasses, and was attentively studying both the boat and the shore nearby.

Tom took the wheel himself, stopping where he had been directed. So neatly was headway corrected that the "Restless" barely drifted on the smooth water inshore.

There was now remaining less than an hour of daylight.

"I think I understand their plan, if Dalton is on board," whispered Mr. Seaton to his young captain. "Dalton is waiting until it is dark enough to slip ashore."

"Hm! There's one way you could stop that, 134 if you want to take all the risk," ventured Halstead, grinning thoughtfully.

"How?"

"Well, if it's the plan of anyone aboard the drab boat to slip on shore under cover of darkness, then I could put our tender overboard and row Hepton to one bank of the river with his rifle. Returning, I could row you to the other shore, you to carry the other rifle."

"That would be a bold and open move," agreed Mr. Seaton, gasping at first, then looking thoughtful. "But look at that shore, Halstead. See the thick trees on either bank of the river. Hepton and I couldn't watch a lot of stretch on both banks."

"With our help from the boat you could, sir."

"Again, how?"

"Why, it's shallow enough to drop anchor right here, Mr. Seaton. Then, as soon as it grows the least bit dark, we boys could keep our searchlight turned on the drab boat so that you and Hepton could see every movement on her decks. From a quarter of a mile off you could see anyone swimming ashore and run to stop him. There's no difficulty about it, sir, except the risk."

"Hepton, I must talk that over with you," cried Powell Seaton. "I don't feel that I have any right to run you into too certain danger." 135

But Hepton smiled again in a way to show his white teeth.

"Don't worry 'bout me, Mr. Seaton. I feel big 'nough to take care of myself, and I enlisted for the whole game, anyway."

"You could keep watch right from this deck," Halstead added. "But then, if anyone slipped ashore from the Drab, you couldn't get on shore fast enough to follow through the woods. You'd lose the trail right after the start."

"Even if I were on shore, and Dalton walked right by me, what could I do?" pondered Powell Seaton. "Of course, I know the sheriff of the county would take him, for going aboard this boat and breaking it loose from the dock the other night. A United States marshal might arrest Dalton, on my request, for piracy in sailing away with the boat. But would I have a right to seize Dalton and hold him-even if able?"

"You can follow him until you do run Dalton into one of the law's officers," proposed Halstead.

"I believe I'm going ashore, anyway, to see what happens," announced Mr. Seaton, after giving the matter a little more thought.

"But let me go ashore, first, on the other bank," begged Hepton. "Then you can take second chance, sir." 136

"Very good, then," agreed the charter-man.

With the aid of his mates, Captain Tom had the anchor overboard, and the small tender alongside in a jiffy. Hepton stepped down into the smaller craft, carrying his rifle so that it could be seen. Tom himself took the oars to row.

"I'd better put you in on the bank to the left," whispered Halstead, and Hepton nodded.

They passed within forty yards of the stern of the drab boat, yet not a single human being appeared on that mysterious craft.

Having put Hepton on shore, Halstead rowed back for Mr. Seaton. Embarking this second passenger, Tom, this time, rowed a little closer to the seventy-footer lying at anchor in the river's mouth. Now, the head of a man unknown to either of them showed aft.

"Where you-all goin' with so many guns?" this man asked, in a half-jeering tone.

"Night hunting," retorted Tom, dryly, not feeling guilty of a lie since he was certain the other would not believe him.

Landing Mr. Seaton on the other river bank, the young captain of the "Restless" returned to his craft.

By now it was nearly dark.

"We may as well see how the searchlight is working," Joe Dawson suggested. 137

"Turn it on them, and sweep it around," responded Halstead.

The strong glare of light was found to be working satisfactorily. Dark came on quickly, still without any more signs of life aboard the Drab than had already been observed.

"Supper time, surely," announced Hank, in a glum voice.

"Don't bother about that to-night," objected the young skipper. "Slip down into the galley and make sandwiches enough for all hands. We can eat and watch-must, in fact, if we eat at all."

After the sandwiches had been made and disposed of the Motor Boat Club boys began to find the swinging of the light on the drab boat, on the water and on either river bank, to be growing rather monotonous.

"I wish something would happen," grumbled Hank.

"Now, don't start a fuss about that," yawned Joe. "Something is likely enough to start up at any second."

"It has started," whispered Tom Halstead, swinging the searchlight, just then, across the Drab's hull. "Look there!"

Two much-muffled figures, looking nearly identical, and each of the pair carrying a bag, appeared on deck amidships, one standing on 138 each side of the deck-house. Then, as quickly, by their sides stood two other men who sprang to lower the two small boats that hung at davits. One muffled man and one helper embarked in each boat, the helper in each case rowing swiftly to either bank of the river.

"That's a queer game, but a clever one," muttered Captain Tom, swinging the glaring searchlight and watching.

"It'll mix up Mr. Seaton and Hepton all right," grimaced Joe Dawson. "Each will wonder whether he has Dalton on his side of the river, to follow."

Now, as quickly, the two boat-tenders rowed back to the Drab, and the boats were triced up in a twinkling.

"Say, they've got their anchor up!" cried Hank Butts, in a breathless undertone. "They're going to scoot out on us."

"Then I'm ready to bet," muttered Tom Halstead, "that neither of the muffled men that went ashore was Anson Dalton. They must be trying to throw our crowd off the trail, and now that seventy-footer is trying to get off with Dalton still aboard!"

Whatever the plan was, the Drab was now backing out of the river mouth and swinging around. So far none of her sailing lights were in evidence. She looked more like a pirate craft 139 slinking out into the night on an errand of dire mischief.

Once out of the mouth of the river, the Drab swung around, then began to move ahead. By this time her prow was head-on for t

he "Restless," as though aimed to strike the latter craft amidships.

Then, as the Drab's speed increased, Tom Halstead vented excitedly:

"Jupiter! They're out to cut us in two while we ride here at anchor!"

* * *

CHAPTER XIII

TOM HALSTEAD-READY!

There was no time to raise the anchor. Even had this been possible, it would have been out of the question to get the motors started and running in time to get out of the Drab's way.

Captain Tom Halstead was taken wholly by surprise, yet he was not caught with his wits asleep.

"Make a dive for those sticks, fellows!" he shouted, bounding for the motor room hatchway. "If we get a chance we'll give 'em at least a pat for a blow!"

The sticks of firewood that they had used on 140 the night of their long swim were in the motor room. Tom caught up his, wheeling to bound outside again. Joe Dawson was barely a step behind him.

But Hank-he went as though by instinct for the hitching weight that had already made him famous in the annals of the Motor Boat Club.

Swift as they were, the trio were back on deck just in time to witness the final man?uvre of the seventy-footer. That craft, not moving very fast, suddenly veered in its course.

Instead of cutting through the "Restless," the larger motor boat swung suddenly so as to come up alongside, rail to rail. And now the whole intention was manifest at a glance, for the figures of six men, with their caps pulled well down over their eyes, appeared at the Drab's rail.

"All hands to repel boarders!" sang out Captain Tom Halstead, his voice ringing defiantly. "Show 'em the best you can!"

Joe swung, with a single-stick trick he had learned and practiced. It was a feint, aimed at the first of the Drab's crew to try to leap aboard. The intended victim threw up his hands to ward off the blow from the top of his head, but he received, instead, a stinging, crushing slap across the face.

Tom thrust one end of his stick for the face 141 of another of the boarding strangers. The fellow strove to protect his face, and would have guarded easily enough, but, instead, the other end of Tom's bludgeon struck him in the pit of his stomach, depriving him of all his wind.

"Woof!" grunted Hank, at the first sign of onslaught.

In both hands he clutched that business-like, though not formidable looking, hitching weight. One man set his foot on deck. Hank, almost with deliberation, dropped the weight on the toes of that foot.

There was a yell of pain. Snatching up the weight instantly, Hank let it fly forward and fall across the toes of another of the boarders.

Two of the strangers were limping now. Another was nursing an injured face, from Joe's heavy blow. Captain Tom's victim had fallen back aboard his home craft, gasping for breath.

The other two of the invaders got aboard the "Restless"-then wished they hadn't, for Hank pursued one of them with his terrifying hitching weight, while Tom and Joe divided the sole remaining enemy between them.

Hardly had the affair begun when it ended; it was all over in an instant. The two who had escaped injury leaped back aboard the Drab. Those who needed assistance were helped back. The Drab drifted away, her vagrant course 142 unheeded at first, for it looked as though all aboard had taken part in that disastrous boarding enterprise.

Tom and Hank sprang for their own anchor, while Joe, as soon as he saw the big motor boats drift apart, dropped into the small boat of the "Restless" and rowed swiftly for shore. Hardly had he touched the beach when Powell Seaton, rifle in hand, bounded forth from cover.

"Put across, and see if we can get Hepton, too," directed the charter-man, in a low voice. "I stepped right up out of the bushes, almost into the face of the fellow who landed on my side of the river. It was neither Dalton nor Lemly. As soon as the fellow saw me he laughed, put a chew of tobacco in his mouth, and went on."

Hardly had Seaton finished speaking when Joe Dawson shot the bow of the little boat against the further bank. During this time Mr. Seaton had kept his eyes on the drab boat, holding his rifle in readiness in case another effort should be made to ram or board the "Restless."

"Oh, you-u-u-u!" called Joe, hailing. There was a sound in the woods, and then Hepton came into sight.

"Did you see the man who landed on your 143 side?" whispered Powell Seaton, as Hepton reached the beach.

"Yes; he was just an ordinary roustabout chap," grunted Hepton, disgustedly. "I had no orders to follow him, so I didn't take the trouble."

"That's right. Jump in and we'll get aboard the 'Restless.'"

Hank had the motors working long before Joe returned with his two passengers, and was standing by. Captain Tom was at the wheel, but keeping the searchlight inquisitively on the Drab.

Now, the seventy-footer began to move off slowly down the coast, going at a speed of perhaps six miles an hour. Halstead, without waiting for orders, went in chase, keeping his place two hundred yards behind the other craft. All the while he kept the searchlight swinging over the Drab, from her port to starboard sides.

"That must annoy those fellows," observed Powell Seaton, with a chuckle, as he stood by the young skipper.

"I reckon it does," returned Tom, dryly. "But it also prevents their letting anyone off the boat without our seeing it. You see, sir, they're only about a quarter of a mile off the coast here. Their small boat could make a quick dash for the shore. Even a good swimmer 144 could go overboard. I don't intend to let anyone get off that seventy-footer without our knowing all about it."

Halstead had not been silent long when he saw a bright flash from the Drab, aft. It was followed, almost immediately, by the sound of a gun. Then a bullet went by about two feet over their heads.

"That was meant for our searchlight," laughed Tom Halstead, coolly. "Those fellows want to put it out of business."

With an ugly cry Hepton leaned over the edge of the forward deck-house, sighting.

"Don't do that," called Captain Tom, sharply. Then he added: "I beg your pardon, Mr. Seaton, but I don't believe you want any shooting to come from us unless it's necessary."

"No, I don't," replied the charter-man, thoughtfully. "Dalton and Lemly seem willing to take desperate chances, acting like pirates, in fact. But we don't want to kill anyone, and, above all, we want to be very sure we have the law on our side."

"They fired our way," urged Hepton, rather stubbornly. "We have a right to defend ourselves."

"But they sent only one shot," replied Seaton. "They might afterwards claim that it was an accidental discharge. Unless they make it very 145 plain that they're playing the part of pirates, we'd better take the best of care not to put ourselves wrong before the law."

"That's all right, sir," admitted Hepton. "But, while I'm willing to take any chances that go with my job, it doesn't seem just fair to ask me to be exposed to bullets from that other boat without the right to answer their fire."

"You can get down before the forward deck-house, Hepton," nodded Halstead, pleasantly. "You can't be hit through the deck-house."

"But you can be hit, fine," objected Hepton.

"Like Mr. Seaton," answered the young skipper, "I'd rather take the chance than do anything to put us in the wrong."

Grumbling a bit, though under his breath, Hepton seated himself where the forward deck-house would protect him. Joe remained leaning nonchalantly over the edge of the house.

"I wonder if they will dare to keep up a fusillade?" he presently said, watching the deck of the drab boat in the glare of light that Halstead now held steadily on it.

"If they fire another shot at us," replied Powell Seaton, "then Hepton and I will crouch over the forward deck-house, rifles ready, and fire at the flash of the third shot. We'll keep within the law, but we won't stand for any determined 146 piracy that we have the power to resist."

"Take the wheel, Hank," called Tom, presently. Then the young skipper signed to his employer that he wanted to speak with him aft.

"Mr. Seaton," began Tom, "I want to ask you a few questions, with a view to making a suggestion that may be worth while."

"Go ahead, Halstead."

"You trust me now, fully? Have you gotten wholly over your suspicions of early this afternoon?"

"Halstead," replied the charter-man, in a tone uneasy with emotion, "I'm wholly ashamed of anything that I may have said or thought. You've shown me, since, how perfectly brave you are. I don't believe a young man with your cool, resolute grit, and your clear head, could be anything but absolutely honest."

"Thank you," acknowledged the young motor boat captain. "Now, Mr. Seaton, though the two sets of papers describing and locating your diamond field are out of your hands, don't you remember the contents of the papers well enough to sit down at a desk and duplicate them?"

"Yes; surely," nodded Mr. Seaton, slowly.

"You feel certain that you can seat yourself and write out a set of papers that would tell a 147 man down in Brazil just how to locate the diamond field?"

"I can, Halstead. It would be a matter of some hours of writing, that's all. But why are you asking this? What plan have you in your mind?"

"Well, I've got a hunch, sir," replied Tom Halstead, quietly, "that you're never going to see the lost papers again. If Anson Dalton found you getting close to him, and knew you could seize the papers, he'd destroy them. It seems to me that our sole game must be to prevent his ever getting those papers to Brazil ahead of a second set that you can just as well write to-night."

"If we trail him all the time," replied Powell Seaton, thoughtfully, "we can know whether the fellow succeeds in getting away on a ship to Brazil. He can't go on that drab boat ahead, can he?"

"The seventy-footer would be quite good enough a boat to make the voyage to Brazil," Halstead answered. "So would the 'Restless,' for that matter. The only trouble would be that neither boat could carry anywhere near enough gasoline for such a voyage."

"Then Anson Dalton, if he gets away to Brazil, will have to board some regular liner or freighter? Well, as long as we keep 148 him in sight, we'll know whether he's doing that."

"But Dalton will get desperate," Tom warned his employer. "While holding onto the papers he has succeeded in obtaining, he can make a copy, and he may very likely determine to send the copies to your old enemy, Terrero, by mail. Now, Mr. Seaton, it seems to me that your best hope is to duplicate the missing papers at once, and, if you can't find in haste a messenger you'll trust, then you had better send the papers by registered mail to your friends in Rio Janeiro."

Powell Seaton stared at the young skipper, going deathly pale.

"Captain Halstead, don't you understand that the possession of such a set of papers, at Rio Janeiro, would mean that the possessor could locate and file a patent to the diamond field, of which no one, save myself, at present knows the exact location? Why, even if the postal authorities do their very best to put the papers in the proper hands, anyone like a dishonest clerk might get the papers in his hands. The temptation would be powerful for anyone who had the papers to locate the mine at once for himself."

"I understand, fully," agreed Captain Tom. "But the whole thing has become a desperate 149 case, now, and some desperate chances must be taken if you're to have a good chance to win out against Terrero and his crooked friends."

"Then you-you-honestly believe I'd better make out another set of papers and mail them to my friends of the syndicate, at Rio Janeiro?" faltered Mr. Seaton.

"Yes; unless you prefer to be almost certain of losing your fight for the great fortune. For Dalton, of course, knows that you can send a set of the papers by mail. He'll feel like taking the same desperate chance in order to have a better chance of getting in ahead of you."

"By mail-even registered mail?" groaned Mr. Seaton. "It seems an awful-desperate chance to take. Yet––"

"Prepare a duplicate set of the papers," proposed Tom Halstead, "and, if you'll trust me, I'll board the first Rio-bound steamer that we meet, and go through for you. I'll give you every guarantee that's possible to find your people in Rio and turn the papers over to them."

"Will you?" demanded Seaton, peering eagerly into his young skipper's eyes.

"Then you'll trust me to go as your messenger to Rio?"

"Yes, in a minute, Halstead! Yet I'm thinking of the great danger you'd be running. At 150 this moment Terrero's spies must be plentiful in Rio Janeiro. Why, even every steamer that leaves New York for Brazil may carry his men aboard, alert, watchful and deadly. You don't know what a man like Terrero is like. The constant danger to you––"

"Constant danger," laughed Tom Halstead, softly, "is something that most men learn readily to face. Otherwise, wars would be impossible."

"But that is very different," retorted Powell Seaton, quickly. "In war men have the constant elbow-touch, the presence and support of comrades. But you would be alone-one against hundreds, perhaps, at the very instant when you set foot ashore in Brazil."

"I'll take the chance, if you let me," declared Captain Tom. "But, now, sir, you're losing time. Why don't you go below, get writing materials, and start in earnest to get out the duplicate papers?"

"I will," nodded the charter-man. "Should I change my mind, it will be easy enough to burn the sheets after I have written them."

As Powell Seaton turned to go down into the cabin Joe Dawson called sharply:

"Tom, something's up ahead! Come here, quickly!"

* * *

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