OWEN CLANCY'S HAPPY TRAIL; Or, THE MOTOR WIZARD IN CALIFORNIA.
By BURT L. STANDISH.
ALMOST A RIOT.
No, it was not an earthquake that happened in the city of Los Angeles, California, on that beautiful sun-shiny morning. It was just a tow-headed, cross-eyed youth shaking things up at the corner of Sixth and Main in an attempt to find his father.
And not one corner of the cross streets was involved, but all four corners. The upheaval that followed this search for a missing relative, extended in several directions, so that a very small cause led up to remarkably large results.
It was nine o'clock of a Saturday morning. That Saturday was some sort of a festal day for the Chinese, and at the hour mentioned, a dragon a block long, consisting of a hundred Celestials covered with papier-mache, was twisting and writhing along Sixth Street.
On one corner, leaning against the side of a building, was a tall man in seedy clothes. A card on his breast bore the sad legend, "Help the Blind." The man's eyes were covered with large blue goggles, and in one hand he held his hat, and in the other a couple of dozen cheap lead pencils.
Across the street, on corner number two, was an Italian with a hand organ. The Italian's assistant was a monkey in a red cap.
Corner number three, among others, held a grocer's boy, carrying a basket with six dozens of eggs. He was very much absorbed in watching the Chinese dragon wriggle along the thoroughfare.
The fourth corner was reserved for Hiram Hill, the tow-headed, cross-eyed chap who was destined to cause all the commotion. While Hill stood on the walk, telling himself that the gaudily painted dragon looked very much like an overgrown centipede, he suddenly caught sight of a man in an automobile.
The auto was headed along Main Street, and was waiting for the dragon to clear the way so it could proceed. Hill looked at the machine across the papier-mache spine of the chink monster, and he gave a yell of surprise when his gaze took account of the one man in the tonneau of the car.
Undoubtedly that man was Hiram Hill's father—the parent who had been mysteriously missing ever since the first Klondike gold rush! Hiram's eyes were sharp, and to them the beetling brow, the one "squint eye," the very pronounced Roman nose, and the retreating chin which made the face resemble a bird's beak, were all very plain.
After that first yell of surprise, Hiram's astonishing good luck held him speechless. Following a year of a trying town-to-town canvas of the whole Southwest, he had at last come within hailing distance of his long-lost parent.
Only one point remained to make assurance doubly sure. Had the "suspect" a brown mole on the back of his neck? Sharp as Hill's eyes were, they could not determine that.
"Who wants a pencil?" came feebly from the hapless person on the first corner. "Help the blind."
"Jocko," said the son of sunny Italy, on corner two, "maka da bow, taka da mon!"
The monkey lifted his hat and went through motions that passed for a bow. He also looked at his master and showed his teeth, not relishing the way his chain had been pulled.
"Pipe de chink wid de pigeon toes and de bow legs!" yelped the grocer's boy. "If he's goin' de way dem feet are pointed, foist t'ing yous know he'll be runnin' into himself."
The boy with the basket of eggs was very observing. As he shouted his remarks he leveled a finger at a pair of coolie legs supporting one of the vertebra of the passing dragon. The legs were badly sprung at the knees, but they ended in feet which the Chinaman had to step over as he walked.
"Dad!" whooped Hiram Hill; "I say, dad!"
Hiram recovered his speech, and all at once became as active as a swarm of bees after some one has kicked over the hive. He wanted to get to that automobile and give his father a filial embrace—and he was in a hurry. The Chinese dragon was in the way, but Hiram didn't mind a little thing like that.
He jumped at the papier-mache thing and hit it in the vicinity of the bow-legged Chinaman. That particular chink went down, and the dragon was broken squarely in two, midway of its length.
Now, a papier-mache dragon is a sort of a blind-follow-my-leader affair. The Chinaman at the head is the only one in the procession who can see where he is going, and the remaining sections of the monster hang onto him and follow his lead.
The rear half of the dragon got lost, and went groping wildly for the front half. Somehow or other, it ran into the crowd on the corner, and there was a mix-up in which three dollars worth of eggs were badly scrambled.
The last section of the front half, missing the part behind, began swinging back and forth across the street in an attempt to find the lost tail. It carromed into corner number two, smashing one perfectly good hand organ, freeing an excited monkey, and drawing forth a volley of lurid words from the Italian.
Jocko ran across the street, and began climbing the tall man who was selling lead pencils. With a roar of consternation, the tall man rushed into the street, flourishing his arms, and begging some one—any one—to "Take it away! Take it away!" He finally collided with the head end of the dragon, demoralizing that half of the chink procession as completely as the latter half had been.
By that time; Sixth and Main was in a turmoil. The dragon had broken up in a hundred parts, like a jointed snake, and each part was thrashing around blindly, trying to get rid of its papier-mache so it could see where it was and what it was doing.
From the four corners the crowd flowed into the street. Eggs, entirely whole or only slightly cracked, flew from mischievous hands over heaving heads, only to smash against some particularly inviting mark.
The monkey leaped from one pair of shoulders to another, chattering wildly. In course of time, he reached the automobile, landed in a heap on the bosom of the beetle-browed, Roman-nosed passenger in the tonneau, and encircling him with his hairy arms. The beetle-browed man got up and fought for his freedom, clamoring furiously for "Police! Police!"
Just at that moment, the only policeman in that vicinity was at the patrol box, sending in a riot call. Meanwhile, Hiram Hill was having his own share of troubles.
The bow-legged Chinaman had slipped out of his papier-mache shell. He did not know, of course, that Hill was the one who had knocked his section of the dragon out of line, but the instant he was able to look around, he saw Hill, and immediately selected him as a suitable object for hostility.
The chink did not step on himself, nor in any way interfere with his progress in going for Hiram. He hit Hiram so hard over the head with the piece of dragon that he knocked a hole in the papier-mache, and, just as Hiram freed himself of the encumbrance, and straightened up to get his bearings and swoop down on his assailant, an egg smashed in his face and effectually blinded him.
A hollow murmur sounded in Hiram's ears, like the roar of the sea. He was picked up on the troubled waters of the melee, and borne back and forth in the surging tide. At last he slammed into something and fell, limp and dazed, to the ground.
He drew his sleeve across his eyes, thus freeing them for clearer vision. To his joy and wonder, he found that destiny had hurled him against the side of the automobile he had been trying to reach.
Jocko had jumped from the shoulders of the passenger in the tonneau, and the passenger was still on his feet and had his back toward Hiram. The latter, boiling over with filial sentiments, climbed up on the running board and encircled the beetle-browed man in a fond embrace.
"Dad!" clamored Hiram excitedly; "don't you know me?"
"Get off! get off!" roared the man, going at once into a flurry. "Whose monkey is this, anyway? Police! Police!"
The man, naturally, was in a highly excited state of mind and thought the simian was upon him again. Just then, the driver of the machine found a cleared space ahead and started for it. He started so quickly that Hiram was thrown from the running board, dropped to the hard pavement, and there stumbled against and fallen over by the jostling mob.
This rough usage was more than Hiram could stand. The senses were being knocked out of him by swift degrees. He felt his wits going, and he made a frantic attempt to stay them as they drifted away. The attempt was useless, however, and a great darkness suddenly descended upon Hiram and closed him in.
When he regained his senses, he was lying on a bench in a drug store. A clerk was holding a handkerchief, saturated with a drug of some kind, to his nostrils, and a bluecoat was standing near, twirling his club and looking down at Hiram speculatively.
"Question is," said the policeman, "what is he doing with two hats?"
"That's more than I can tell you, officer," answered the clerk. "Ah, he's coming to!"
Hiram sat up on the bench and pushed aside the drug-soaked handkerchief. "Dad!" he murmured confusedly.
"I'm not your dad," said the officer. "I'm just the fellow who pulled you out of the crowd. Where'd you get that hat?"
Hiram looked down. His own hat was on his head and had, in some manner, remained with him throughout all the excitement, but in his hand he was clutching, like grim death, a battered black Stetson.
Turning the hat over, Hiram looked into the crown. The gilt letters, "U. H." met his eyes.
"It's dad's hat," he gurgled. "Upton Hill, that's his name! I knew I had a bean on the right number! I—I—-"
A bit of white showed under the sweatband. Westerners, of a certain type, sometimes carry important documents under the sweatband of their hats. Hiram pulled his object out of the Stetson, examined it, and then inquired his way to the nearest telegraph office. Five minutes later he had sent the following telegram:
"OWEN CLANCY, the Motor Wizard, Phoenix, Arizona: Hot on the trail. You said you would help me find dad. Come to Los Angeles at once and get busy. Meet me Renfrew House. HIRAM."
"This here's a great day for me," murmured Hiram, rubbing his bruises as he turned away from the operator's window. "I reckon that'll fetch Clancy, if he's well enough to come. Him and me can run out this happy trail together, with ground to spare. That red-headed wizard has got more sense in a minute than I have in a year, and I reckon we'll get along. He's a good feller to tie to, in a time like this."
CLANCY HITS THE "HAPPY TRAIL."
"How's the shoulder, Clancy?" Doctor Ferguson asked, as the young motor wizard walked into his office.
"I know it belongs to me," was the smiling reply, "every time I make a move, but I guess it's coming along all right at that, doc."
"No reason why it shouldn't. You're as tough as a piece of whalebone, and a little nick like that can't put you on the retired list. Sit down here—I've got a few words to say to you."
The doctor indicated a chair close to his desk, and then sank back in his own seat with the air of one who is about to say something weighty and important.
"Don't you try to scare me about anything, doc," said Clancy apprehensively, as he slid into the chair.
"Tush!" and the physician wagged his head. "You haven't got sense enough to be scared at anything. That's the main trouble with you. It's two weeks since you went to Wickenburg and got in front of that bullet. We kept you in bed for a week, and now you have been on your feet for another week. So far as the wound is concerned, Clancy, you are all right, but so far as something else is concerned, you are all wrong." Ferguson's eyes narrowed and he leveled a forefinger at his patient. "What happened, up there at Wickenburg?" he demanded.
"What happened?" repeated Clancy. "Why, you just spoke of that. I got in front of a bullet."
"Stop, trying to play horse with me!" went on the doctor sourly. "Something took place between you and your partner, Lafe Wynn, at Wickenburg, and I want to know what it was."
"That's a personal matter, Doctor Ferguson," he answered, "and I don't have to explain it to anybody."
"Well, you needn't get hot about it. There's something on your mind, and it's holding back your complete recovery. I'm asking questions and talking from the standpoint of your physician. If I knew the nature of the thing that bothered you, very possibly I could take means to counteract it."
Clancy was impressed by Ferguson's shrewdness. Yet he had no intention of revealing the cause of his secret worry.
How could he tell Ferguson, or anybody else, what really happened at Wickenburg? Only two or three people knew that Lafe Wynn had forged Clancy's name to a check and had absconded with that money, and with all the cash assets of the firm of Clancy & Wynn. Only two or three knew how Clancy had trailed Wynn to Wickenburg and had sent him back to Phoenix to take charge of the Square-deal Garage, as usual, while he—Clancy—was in bed in the other town for a week.
Apparently all was the same as it ever had been between the two partners. In this instance, however, surface indications were not to be trusted.
Clancy's confidence in Wynn had been rudely shattered. The motor wizard had spared his partner—had been generous with him, in fact, far beyond his deserts. This was not particularly on Wynn's account, but on account of Wynn's mother, an old lady who had come to Phoenix on the very day Wynn had absconded.
Mrs. Wynn, proud of the business success her son had made, had come to him so that he might make her a home in her declining years. Clancy had not the heart to tell the old lady the exact situation, and he had gone to Wickenburg to get Lafe and make him return to Phoenix.
Wynn knew that Clancy had spared him on his mother's account. This knowledge caused a restraint between the two partners, all the greater because Wynn's forgery, and defalcation had wiped out all the cash assets of Clancy and the firm—some fifteen thousand dollars which had not been recovered.
Clancy would not tell all this to any one, for fear it might reach Mrs. Wynn. And he was anxious that Wynn should have another chance, without letting the one error of an otherwise blameless life weigh in the scales against him.
"I'll get along, doctor," observed Clancy. "I'll bet all the fretting I do won't land on me so hard you can notice it."
"Confound it," burst out the doctor, "I do notice it! You've got to get away from things for a while. Take the Happy Trail, Clancy, and run it out. I reckon you can afford it—after the way you held up that street-car company."
"Happy Trail?" echoed Clancy; "what's that?"
"It's the carefree road of pure and unadulterated joy," explained Ferguson solemnly. "It takes you out of yourself, gives you new scenes and experiences, and finally you wake up feeling better than you ever felt before in your life."
"Lead me to it!" said Clancy.
"I wish I could," was the answer, "but I can't. A Happy Trail for you might be a mighty miserable one for me, and vice versa. You'll have to find it for yourself, Clancy, but when you do find it, hit it hard!"
"That's a fine prescription—I don't think," laughed Clancy, getting up to leave. "You tell me what I must do, but don't tell me how I'm to do it."
"I'm as frank with you as you are with me," growled Ferguson. "Good-by!"
Clancy got back to the Square-deal Garage to find the whole force of employees moving the repair shop over to the garage known as the Red Star.
In order to keep Rockwell, of the Red Star, from driving the Square-deal place out of business, Clancy had been forced to buy the building and lot that housed the establishment belonging to him and Wynn. He had consummated this deal for ten thousand dollars, paying three thousand dollars down and getting time on the balance at seven per cent. And the mortgage had come due just before Wynn had absconded with all the cash resources. A stroke of luck alone had saved Clancy.
The street-car company had suddenly developed a need for the property he had bought. Judge Pembroke, a friend of Clancy's, did the negotiating, with the result that the premises sold for twenty thousand dollars.
The judge, knowing that Clancy & Wynn would have to move and must have some place to go, had secured an option on the Red-star establishment for four thousand dollars. So Clancy had financed the tottering affairs of Clancy & Wynn, had bought Rockwell's old place, and the transfer was in progress.
Lafe Wynn was overseeing the removal. When Clancy entered the garage, Lafe turned abruptly on his heel and walked into the office. Clancy followed him.
"What's the matter with you, Lafe?" inquired Clancy. "Why do you take pains to avoid me, all the time? We can't get along like that—and remain partners."
A look of suffering filled Wynn's face.
"Owen," said he, with an effort, "every time I look at you I think of what I am—a thief and a forger, only saved from the penitentiary by your generosity. It isn't a pleasant thought for a man who wants to be independent. If I could undo the wrong I did you—if I could—-"
"You can—some time," said Clancy. "After you are able, you can pay me back my just proportion of that fifteen thousand."
"After I am able!" murmured Lafe sarcastically. "That will be a matter of years, Owen. I can't feel like this for years without going crazy. If I could find my rascally brother, Gerald, I—I might induce him to give back the money."
"Never," returned the motor wizard shortly. "Your brother Gerald has probably got rid of the money by this time. There were two to help him spend it, remember—Bob Katz and Hank Burton. Those three would make it fly."
There were extenuating circumstances about what Lafe Wynn had done. The extenuating circumstances were wrapped up in his unscrupulous brother. Gerald had told Lafe a pretty fiction about needing money to save him from dishonor—and Lafe had covered himself with dishonor in order to help Gerald. No sooner had Lafe secured the money than he and his two cronies had taken it and made good their escape. This was when Clancy had been wounded. At the time, he was seeking to help Lafe save the fifteen thousand dollars.
"I have got to make that loss up to you somehow," muttered Lafe, "and I've got to do it soon. My conscience will send me to a madhouse, if I don't."
Clancy studied his partner curiously for a few moments.
"Lafe," he went on presently, "you and I have got to get away from each other for a while. We are simply millstones around each other's neck. You can't look at me without thinking you owe me the biggest part of fifteen thousand dollars, and I can't look at you without thinking how you betrayed my confidence."
"You can get rid of me, Owen, in about two shakes," said Wynn. "Kick me out. I haven't any right to be one of the firm, anyhow."
The motor wizard shook his head.
"You've got to hang on and make good in the place where you lost out," Clancy returned. "You've got to do this for the sake of your mother, who thinks so much of you. We've got to allow a little time, you know, for us to get back on our old footing. I need a change. Ferguson says so, and I have a feeling that he knows what he is talking about. I—-"
A boy came into the office that moment with a telegram. He knew the motor wizard by sight, and went directly to him.
"This is for you, Mr. Clancy," said he.
Clancy signed for the message, tore it open, read the contents, and laughed.
"By thunder," he cried, "here's just the thing!"
"What do you mean?" asked Wynn.
"It's a hurry-up call from Hiram Hill. You remember Hiram?"
Wynn winced. "Yes," said he, "I remember Hiram Hill quite vividly."
"He left Phoenix for the coast several weeks ago, carrying on his search for his father. I always thought that search of Hiram's was more or less of a joke—and I haven't any positive information yet that it isn't—but here's a message asking me to come to Los Angeles at once. Hiram says that he is 'hot on the trail,' and that I promised him to help him find his father—which is true."
Clancy arose with sudden determination in his voice and manner.
"Wynn," he continued, "I'm going to leave you here to get Clancy & Wynn started in the old Rockwell garage. It will give you plenty to occupy your mind. While you're hard at it, I'm going to soldier and have a good time. Here's where I hit the Happy Trail!"
"What in the deuce is the Happy Trail?" queried Wynn.
"Ferguson will tell you about it. I'm going with Hiram on a wild-goose chase, and I'm hoping to have some fun. When I come back, old man, I want you to be feeling differently, and I expect to be feeling differently myself. This afternoon I am starting for the Pacific coast, and if Hiram and I, between us, can't stir up a few thrills, and corral a little enjoyment, then I've got another guess coming. Lafe, I'm for the Happy Trail, and I'm going to hit it hard!"
HATCHING A PLOT.
"Say, fellows, here's a how-de-do, and no mistake! You ought to have been at the corner of Sixth and Main about two hours ago. You'd have seen something that would have made a horse laugh—but there's something back of it that isn't so thundering funny, at that."
Gerald Wynn could smoke a cigarette and talk at the same time. He burst into the room in the cheap boarding house, where he and his friends had taken up their headquarters, and eased himself of the foregoing remarks.
Hank Burton and Bob Katz sat at a table playing cards. There were a bottle and two glasses on the table. Katz was smoking a pipe and Burton a cigar.
"Hanged if I care a hoot about anything, just now, but annexing a little kale," said Burton, turning in his chair to look at Gerald with a scowl. "Here I haven't a sou in my jeans, and I've got as much right to that fifteen thousand as you or Katz have, Wynn. Fork over a hundred! I'm tired of bein' broke."
"Nary, I don't fork!" Wynn answered positively. "You know what we're going to do with this money, Hank, and you know that if we start to break into it the whole will go and we'll be up a spout on this Tia Juana business."
"Blast the Tia Juana business! A bird in the hand beats a whole flock in the bush! Give me my share now, Gerald, and you and Bob can do what you blamed please with your own part of the swag."
"That won't go!" spoke up Katz. "The share we want in that gamblin' layout below the border will take all the fifteen thousand. You agreed to go inter it, Hank. Don't crawfish now!"
"I want somethin' to jingle in my pocket!" barked Burton.
"Take a couple o' nails," suggested Katz.
"I allow it's right funny to you," continued Burton sourly, "but it ain't pleasant to go around with nary a red in your pants."
"I'm paying your expenses, Hank," put in Gerald. "Staked to your three squares, your smoking and your travel pay, I don't see what more you need. If this Tia Juana scheme works out, we'll all of us get rich."
"I want a little loose cash now," cried Burton.
"Go out and work for it, then," said Gerald, out of patience. "If we put anything into the Tia Juana game it's got to be fifteen thousand, and I'd be mighty foolish to give you money out of our capital."
"Give it to me out of your own pocket if you don't want to give me any of the capital!"
"I've got just enough to get us to Catalina where we're to see Jack Lopez and clean up the Tia Juana business. Why don't you do a little something on the side, Hank? You're a champion swimmer—go to some natatorium and give swimming lessons. That would be easy money."
"Gammon!" snorted Burton.
In a fit of anger he jumped to his feet, and he would have left the room, but Gerald stood in front of the door and barred the way.
"Now, don't get ugly!" said Gerald. "I've got something to tell you that's mighty interesting. I think, fellows, that we have been trailed from Phoenix!"
That was more than interesting. Burton's flash of temper left him at once, and he and Katz showed their apprehension.
"Who trailed us?" demanded Katz.
"That cross-eyed, tow-headed freak, Hiram Hill."
"How do you know he trailed us?" asked Burton.
"Well, he's in Los Angeles. It isn't a happenchance that we're here at the same time."
"When did you see Hill?" went on Katz.
"About two hours ago, at the corner of Sixth and Main. He—he—-" Gerald paused to laugh.
"I don't see anythin' humorous in this layout!" grunted Burton. "If we've been trailed to Los we'd better be diggin' out instead of enjoyin' the situation."
"What's funny about it, Gerald?" asked Katz.
"There was a chink dragon going down the Street—you know the kind—a dragon in sections, with a yellow boy under each section. Well, I was watching the procession when I heard some one yell 'Dad!' in a voice that sounded pretty familiar. The next minute, who but Hiram Hill knocked a hole in that chink snake. He was trying to get to a man who sat in an automobile on the other side of the street. In about two seconds there was the biggest kind of a rough-house. I kept out of it, and saw Hiram get to the automobile and begin hugging the chap in the tonneau. The fellow in the car didn't like it, and the driver started up and Hill was left behind.
"The crowd rolled over the place where Hill was lying and I saw him picked up by a couple of policemen and carried to a drug store. Naturally, I was in a good deal of a taking, not knowing but Hill had been following me, see? Well, I waited till he came out of the drug store, then I camped on his trail for a while. He went to a telegraph office and sent a telegram—-"
"Who did he send it to?" cut in Burton apprehensively.
"What do I know about that? You don't think I was foolish enough to go close and try to get a line on what Hill was writing, do you? Well, after he left the telegraph office he went to the Renfrew House. I reckon that's where he stays."
"I don't like this a little bit," commented Katz. "I allow we'd better duck—and do it pronto. If Hill is really trailin' us, maybe he has sent a telegraft message to the sheriff, back in Phoenix. We got to look sharp, Gerald, or we'll be pinched."
"That's my motion, Bob," said Burton. "Hanged if this Hill business hasn't got me on the run."
"Don't fret," continued Gerald reassuringly. "I've hatched a plot that will take care of Hill, all right."
"Plot?" said Burton. "What sort of a plot?"
"Listen, Hank. You know about this Hill. I've told you and Bob how he's got a fool bee in his bonnet, and is running around the Southwest looking for his father. The old man—judging from his photograph, which Hill totes around in his pocket—is a bigger freak than Hiram is. He's got a beak like a pelican, and is homely enough to stop a clock."
"You know plenty about Hill and his hunt for his dad," returned Burton. "You flimflammed Hill out of five hundred by offering to take him across the Mexican boundary and showing him where his father could be found," said Burton, with a laugh. "But you got the money, and Hill got the experience," he added.
"Which," said Gerald calmly, "is mainly the reason why Hill is trying to get even with me. I know enough about Hill's father, though, to put over a scheme that will get this cross-eyed buttinsky off our track."
"What's the scheme?" inquired Katz.
"It hinges on this point, that Hiram Hill would rather find his father than get even with me for that 'con' game I worked on him. I'm going to write Hiram a letter, Bob, and send it to him at the Renfrew House."
"What sort of a letter?" put in Burton.
"I'm going to sign the name of his father, Upton Hill, to the thing, and play up that incident at Sixth and Main pretty strong. Where's that pen and ink, Hank? And give me a sheet of paper and envelope."
While his companions got the writing materials, Gerald seated himself at a table and began getting his thoughts busy. By the time pen, ink, and paper were put in front of him, he had his letter mapped out in his mind, and had only to put it upon paper.
"Won't Hiram know that the letter isn't in his dad's handwritin'?" suggested Katz.
"I reckon he won't," answered Gerald craftily, leaning back in his chair with the letter in his hand. "It's been some sort of a while, Bob, since the first Klondike rush, when old 'Up' Hill disappeared. It isn't likely that Hiram remembers anything about his father's handwriting. Here's what the letter says:
"DEAR SON: Was it really you who jumped aboard my automobile at the corner of Sixth and Main this morning? My conscience has been troubling me ever since. I have hunted up the policeman and secured from him your name and address, but am in a hurry to get back to San Diego, where I live, and cannot remain in Los Angeles to prosecute a personal search for you. If you are really my son, come to San Diego, make my house at eighteen-twenty Q Street your home, and I will ask you certain questions whose answers will prove indisputably whether or not you are my son. I must have the proof, you know, because I am a very rich man, and you, as my sole relative, will inherit everything I leave. Hoping to see you in San Diego at your earliest convenience, I remain, yours expectantly, 'UPTON HILL.'"
Gerald dropped the letter on the table, and looked up at his friends with a guileful smile.
"How's that for a bait?" he asked.
"Bully!" declared Katz. "Hiram Hill will tumble all over himself to go to San Diego."
"What'll happen when he can't find any Upton Hill in San Diego?" said Burton.
"We don't care what happens—then," answered Gerald. "By that time, you know, we ought to have finished our deal with Jack Lopez, and to be away from Catalina, and where Hill will never be able to find us."
"How do you know he gave his name and address to a policeman?" continued Burton.
"That's what people always do when they get into trouble on the street, or meet with an accident, isn't it?"
"Maybe it is, but if it happens that Hill didn't give his name and address to the cop, the fact will queer that whole letter."
"I allow Hank is right, Gerald," chimed in Katz, "This here is one of them cases where you can't be too careful. Reckon I'd write another letter and change that."
"It's not necessary," insisted Gerald. "Hill was stunned. If he can't remember giving his name and address to the policeman, he'll think he did it at a time when he didn't know what he was doing. The letter goes as I have written it."
Gerald began addressing the envelope. Both the sheet of paper and the envelope were plain, and bore no clew of the hotel in which they had been written.
The letter was folded, thrust into the envelope, and the envelope sealed and stamped.
"It's dinner time, fellows," announced Gerald, "and we'll post this on our way to the noon eats. Come on."
They all got up and left the room.
"When do we hike for the island, Gerald?" asked Katz, as they went downstairs.
"We'll pull out for San Pedro to-morrow, and catch the morning boat," was the reply. "We want to wind up our business with Lopez and clear out before Hill discovers that letter is a fake and gets back from San Diego. We can turn the trick with ground to spare—don't fret about that."
CLANCY REACHES LOS ANGELES.
The Renfrew House was a very modest hostelry in South Hill Street. Hiram stopped there because the establishment was in Hill Street, and he believed in omens. Incidentally, too, he preferred the Renfrew to the Alexandria or the Hayward because the rates on the American plan were two dollars a day.
It was about eleven o'clock Monday morning when Clancy entered the lobby of the Renfrew House. The lobby was crowded, bell hops were hustling back and forth, and the place was as busy as a high-class establishment.
Clancy stood at the counter, caught the clerk's eye, and asked for Hiram Hill. The clerk, who had curly hair, and parted it squarely in the middle, forthwith gave the newcomer his full and complete attention.
"You a friend of that guy's?" the clerk asked.
"Yes," acknowledged Clancy.
"Then I'm mighty glad you showed up."
"Well, I think he's locoed and needs a keeper. About every day he does some fool thing."
"What has he done to-day?"
"Nothing yet, but he's due to break out 'most any minute. You wait around a spell and you'll—-"
The clerk was interrupted by a wild whoop of "Dad! here's Hiram!" Clancy looked in the direction from which the yell came and saw a little group of people heaving around the lobby in excitement.
"That's him, now!" cried the clerk. "What did I tell you?"
The motor wizard hurried toward the scene of the commotion. He found a fat man pounding a dent out of the crown of a shabby silk hat, and mumbling wrathfully.
"Get an officer!" shouted the fat man. "I don't know but I'm robbed!"
Hiram Hill stood in front of the aggrieved gentleman, stood and stared at him blankly.
"I—I thought you was my dad," murmured Hiram.
"Your dad?" repeated the fat man, glaring. "You ought to be arrested for that, anyhow. I refuse to be insulted, by gorry! What's your name, anyhow?"
The fat man was feeling about his person, making sure that his watch, pocketbook, and other person property were safe.
"That mole on the back of your neck," explained Hiram, "was what caused me to make the bobble."
"Well," snorted the fat man, walking off, "don't make any more bobbles around me, or there'll be trouble. It's my opinion that you're crazy."
The crowd set up a laugh. Clancy elbowed his way to Hill's side and took him by the hand.
"Howdy, Hiram?" said he.
"Clancy!" exclaimed Hill. "Say, the sight of you is good for sore eyes! I just been hankerin' for a friend."
"You need a guardeen more'n a friend," remarked some one.
Hill began to bristle and to look around in search of the one who had spoken. Clancy grabbed his arm, and drew him away down the lobby to a couple of leather chairs.
"What's the matter with you, Hiram?" the motor wizard asked.
"I reckon my nerves have got twisted, Clancy," Hill answered. "I'm all in a twitter, seems like. Ever since I piped off dad in that automobile last Saturday mornin' I haven't been able to look around without seein' some un I think's him. Queer, ain't it? I'm all flustered."
"Better put the clamps on your nerves, Hiram, or you'll be in jail the first thing you know."
"How's the shoulder?"
"Coming along in fine shape."
"I didn't know whether you'd be able to answer that there telegram of mine in person, and if you was able, I didn't know whether you would."
"Look here, Hiram," said Clancy, "didn't I tell you I'd help you find your father if you'd keep mum about what Lafe Wynn did?"
"Well, I always try to pay my debts."
"Got any trace o' Gerald Wynn, Burton, and Katz yet?"
"Then that fifteen thou' is gone for good?"
"I'm afraid so. But let's not talk about that. You say you're hot on the trail of your father. Tell me about it."
Hiram started with the Chinese procession at Sixth and Main Streets. Very earnestly he told how he had disrupted the dragon, and he described other events that happened down to the point where he found himself with the extra Stetson in his hand.
"That hat," declared Hiram, "sure belonged to dad. I got it away from him somehow, and I hung to it all the while my wits was woolgatherin' and I was bein' toted to a drug store. Then I—- Say, what you laughin' at?"
Clancy had been enjoying Hill's recital to the limit it would be hard to mix six dozens of eggs, a Chinese dragon, and a runaway monkey into a small-sized riot and not get a little fun out of it. The sober, matter-of-fact way in which Hiram narrated the details added to the humor of the story.
"Never mind what I'm laughing at, Hiram," sputtered Clancy, wiping his eyes. "You say you found something under the sweatband of that Stetson. What was it?"
"A card. Here it is."
Hill thrust a hand into one of his pockets and drew forth an oblong square of pasteboard. This he handed to his companion.
"Sr. J. Lopez," was the name on the card, followed by the address: "Avalon, Catalina Island, California." Then in the lower left-hand corner, were the words: "Representing the Fortunatus Syndicate, of Tia Juana, Mexico."
"What do you make out of this, Hiram?" the motor wizard asked.
"What do you make out of it?" countered Hill.
"If you are sure the Stetson belonged to the man in the automobile—to the man whom you thought was your father—-"
"I'll take my solemn Alfred on that!"
"Well, if this is the man's business card, it proves that the man is J. Lopez—and he can't be your father."
"That's not his business card, Clancy."
"How do you know?"
"There was two gilt letters pasted in the crown o' that Stetson, and them letters was 'U. H.' Sabe? My dad's name is Upton Hill."
Clancy was suitably impressed.
"Well, who's this J. Lopez and the Fortunatus Syndicate?" he inquired. "Those are two things we ought to find out."
"I'm wise to the Fortunatus Syndicate, all right," said Hill. "You remember I was down in Tia Juana, that time I got hornswoggled out o' five hundred dollars by Gerald Wynn. Well, I heard about this Fortunatus Syndicate while I was in the place. Some Americanos are planning a gambling resort, just across the boundary line, and they call their company the Fortunatus Syndicate."
"And your dad's mixed up with it, Hiram? That doesn't speak very well for him."
"Maybe he's mixed up in it, and maybe he isn't. I wouldn't go and connect him with any gamblin' syndicate just because I found that there card under the sweatband of his Stetson. What do you allow is the thing for us to do? My hand's on the table, Clancy, and I want you to help me play it."
"Strikes me," said Clancy reflectively, "that the best move is to go across to Catalina Island and talk with this man Lopez."
"I allowed we'd better, advertise in the papers," remarked Hill. "We could use the Lost and Found Column."
"Well, we could say, 'Lost—One man about fifty with a squinch eye, a Roman nose, and a mole on the back of his neck. Answers to name of Upton Hill. Communicate with Hiram Hill, Renfrew House, City.' And then we could put in another, like this: 'Found—One black Stetson, initials "U. H." in crown. Picked up corner Sixth and Maine time the chink dragon went to pieces. Communicate with Hiram Hill, and so forth.' I don't see any use in huntin' up this Lopez."
"Your father must have, business, with Lopez, Hiram, or he wouldn't be having the Mexican's card. Would he?"
"I reckon not."
"It's likely your father is over at Catalina now. If we go to the island and hunt up Lopez, there's a chance of our locating Upton Hill—or the man you think is Upton Hill."
"Maybe you're right," said Hill.
"I don't think advertising would do any good. Your supposed father didn't seem very enthusiastic about meeting you, the time you landed on him in the automobile."
Hill's cross eyes blinked.
"It was the way I come at him," said he. "I been thinkin' since. There was a hull lot of excitement, and I'll gamble dad didn't have time to get the run o' what was happenin'. He didn't have no good chance to be affectionate."
"I suppose not," returned Clancy, trying hard to keep a straight face. "The trail seems to be a pretty warm one, all right, and—- Where are you going?"
Clancy broke off his remarks to grab hold of Hiram and restrain him. The tow-headed chap had suddenly leaped out of his chair like a restive wild cat.
"Ain't that dad over yonder?" he asked. "I see a feller that seems to be built on the same lines of the photograft, but—n-n-no," he finished musingly, "that feller's a Mexican."
"Letter for you, Mr. Hill," said a bell boy, coming across the lobby from the clerk's desk.
Hill took the letter wonderingly, stared at it, tore it open, and then sank into a chair while he read the communication. Presently he began to breathe hard, and to gurgle in his throat.
"I knew the old man didn't have a marble heart," he muttered joyfully. "I reckoned he'd come around, if I'd only give him time enough. The trail's a short one, Clancy, and it leads to San Diego instead of to Catalina. There," and he thrust the letter into the motor wizard's hand, "read that."
THE MOTOR WIZARD'S JUDGMENT.
"This has a fishy look to me, Hiram," said Clancy, after reading the letter. "Upton Hill, who claims to have written it, says he got your address from the policeman who pulled you out of the melee and helped you to the drug store. Mighty queer he couldn't spend time to call on you, after getting your address, instead of putting you to all the expense of going to San Diego to find him."
"Don't be a wet blanket, blame it!" begged Hill. "Only dad I got in the world, and here you go to throwin' cold water on his motives."
"Did you give your address to the policeman?"
"Give it up. I was plump batty, just after I got away from that mob, and I don't know what I did. Reckon I must have given up the information, or dad couldn't have got it and sent me that letter."
The motor wizard was conscious of a deep distrust regarding that communication upon which Hill was setting such store. Instinctively he had become suspicious, and the more he considered the letter's contents, the more suspicious he became.
"Do you recognize your father's handwriting, Hiram?" asked Clancy.
"Well, hardly," was the grinning response. "Dad got lost in the shuffle almost before I'd cut my teeth. I'm not familiar with his handwritin'. Did you read what he says about bein' well off? Gosh! Say, I'm li'ble to come into some money! I reckon this is one time my cup's right side up when it rains good luck."
"Haven't you got a sample of your father's penmanship anywhere, Hiram?"
"Not that I know anythin' about. You see, all the letters he'd written I left back home, and—-" Hill paused abruptly. "Gee," he went on, reaching into the breast pocket of his coat, "I allow I have got a scrap o' dad's writin'. It's on the back o' that photograft."
He drew the photograph into sight, turned it over, and pushed it under Clancy's eyes.
"There!" and he pointed with his finger. "That's a sample o' dad's fist."
Upton Hill, age thirty-six. This was all the writing on the back of the photograph. It was enough, however. Clancy compared the name signed to the letter with that on the photograph. It could be seen at a glance that the same hand had not written the two signatures—they were utterly different.
"Just as I imagined," observed Clancy. "Hiram, either your father did not write what is on the back of the photograph, or else that letter is a forgery. The same hand did not trace the two signatures. Look! You can see that just as plainly as I can."
Hill took the letter in one hand and the photograph in the other, squinted up his cross eyes, and tried to institute comparisons.
"The signature ain't the same," he finally agreed, "and that's a fact."
"Which proves that the letter's a forgery."
"I'm not a-sayin' that, Clancy. It can't be that dad wrote what's on the back o' the picter."
"You have always thought he did the writing on the back of the photograph, haven't you?"
"Then you're thinking he didn't, now, so you can believe the letter's genuine."
"Well, what of it? I'd a heap rather pin my faith to the writin' in the letter than to what's on the photograft."
Clancy saw that argument was useless. Hill was completely carried away with the letter, for it steered him along the line of least resistance right into the haven of his happiest desires. He believed in that letter because he wanted to believe in it, and for no other earthly reason.
"Then," said the motor wizard quietly, "you think you'll go to San Diego and not to Catalina Island?"
"What's the use o' wastin' time on Catalina when that letter tells us right where to go?" demanded Hill. "You're goin' with me, ain't you?"
"Not if you're going right away, Hiram. I just reached Los Angeles after a long ride from Phoenix, and I'm not going to hit the iron trail again before I have a chance to get the cinders out of my eyes and the dust off my face. If you're going to San Diego this afternoon, or to-night, you'll go alone."
"You don't take any stock in this letter at all, huh?"
"Who do you think wrote it if it wasn't my lost dad?"
"I don't know who wrote it,"
"Well," grumbled Hiram, "I won't start for San Diego afore to-morrow. I want you to be along, and I'm waitin' over so'st to have you. S'pose we go and eat? Registered yet?"
"I'll register now," said Clancy, "and then we'll sit in at the chuck table and have dinner."
He went over to the desk alone, put down his name, and then wrote out a telegram. He handed it to a boy along with some money, and asked that the message be put on the wires as soon as possible. After that he went to his room, got the dust and cinders off his face and out of his hair, joined Hill, and the two went into the dining room together.
Clancy was determined to make the most of his "Happy Trail," and directly after dinner proposed that he and Hill should spend the afternoon at one of the beaches. Hill, who was all wrapped up in San Diego, now that he had received that supposed letter from his father, consented reluctantly. The two boarded an electric car and went to Venice.
There was a big crowd at this particular beach. Hill, in spite of the fact that he professed to believe his father was in San Diego, was scanning every face he passed for the beetling brow, retreating chin, Roman nose, and squint eye. He acted so wild and unreasonable that Clancy was tempted to believe he had gone daffy on the subject of his lost father.
He would run up to a man with a prominent nose, grab him by the shoulders, and study his face in a search for the other specifications. Once he was knocked down, and another time he was nearly arrested when an irate man, whom he had stopped to investigate, raised a shout for a policeman.
"Look here, Hiram," remonstrated the motor wizard, drawing his tow-headed friend apart, "if you're convinced your father is in San Diego, what the deuce are you expecting to see him here in Venice for?"
"I got the habit of lookin'," answered Hill lamely, "and seems like I can't give it up."
"Well, you've got to give it up for the rest of to-day or you and I will separate here and now. You act as though you had just escaped from a lunatic asylum, and when people see me they are apt to think there are two of us."
They went out on the pleasure pier, bought post cards to send to their friends, had their pictures taken on a couple of burros, and finally got into bathing suits and went into the surf. Hill at last forgot about his lost parent and let himself loose for a good time.
Both he and Clancy enjoyed themselves to the limit. Refreshed by their plunge in the ocean, they went into a restaurant, and did ample justice to a splendid, meal. After that they started back to Los Angeles.
"This here has been a great afternoon, Clancy!" sighed Hiram, sinking back in the car seat and showing his weariness. "We haven't done much toward runnin' out the trail, but we can begin on that again to-morrow."
"I'm running out my own trail, Hiram," laughed Clancy.
"Eh?" returned Hill blankly.
The motor wizard did not explain. His companion, he knew, would not have understood him if he had explained. But Clancy realized that he was more contented in mind than he had been at any time during the last two weeks. Tired though he was, it was astonishing how much better he felt.
"New sights and new scenes," thought Clancy, "do a lot to put new life into a fellow. I'm beginning to wish I had taken this Happy Trail a long time ago."
It was ten o'clock when they walked into the lobby of the Renfrew House. As they stopped at the counter to get the keys to their rooms, Clancy asked the clerk if there was a telegram for him. The clerk thumbed over, a bunch of messages and tossed out one.
"Owen Clancy?" he queried. "There you are."
"I hope it ain't Wynn wirin' you to come back," remarked Hill, with sudden foreboding.
"It isn't from Wynn," said Clancy; "I know that before I open it. I'll bet something handsome it's from the chief of police at San Diego."
"The chief of police? What's he wiring you for?"
"Come over here, Hiram, and I'll explain."
Clancy led his companion to a couple of chairs.
"Now," said he, after, they had seated themselves, "we're about to decide whether we're going to Catalina Island, in the morning, or to San Diego."
"That's already decided!" asserted Hill. "Whatever makes you think it ain't?"
"Look at that letter you received at noon, Hiram," went on Clancy. "You were asked to come to eighteen-twenty 'Q' Street, weren't you?"
"Yes," Hiram answered, consulting the letter.
"Well," explained Clancy, "I wired the chief of police at San Diego, asking him who lives at that number in Q Street. If this reply to my message says that Upton Hill lives at that address, then I'll congratulate you, and we will go on together to, San Diego in the morning.
"But if the message says that some one else lives at the address, it's proof positive that your letter was a fake, and that going to San Diego is worse than a waste of time, eh?"
"Let's see what the message says," parried Hill.
Clancy opened it, removed the folded yellow sheet, opened it out, and he and Hill read the following:
"OWEN CLANCY, Renfrew House, Los Angeles: No such street as 'Q' in the city. No such man as Upton Hill in directory. Never heard of him. PENNYPACKER, Chief of Police."
"What do you think of that?" asked Clancy.
"I reckon your judgment is good, Clancy," answered the baffled Hill. "If it wasn't, I'd not have asked you to help me run out this trail."
"Then we'll cut out San Diego and go to Catalina?"
"What's the use o' goin' to San Diego; lookin' for a street they haven't got in the town? Of course we'll try the island—nothin' else for us to do."
THE GLASS-BOTTOM BOAT.
The distance from the mainland to the island of Catalina is only about twenty miles, and the steamer from San Pedro makes the trip in something like two hours and a half.
At ten o'clock in the morning Clancy and Hill went aboard, at ten-fifteen the boat got under way, and promptly at ten-seventeen Hiram became seasick. There wasn't anything halfway about it, either, he was sick all through and all over. For an hour he was afraid he was going to die, and for an hour and a half he was afraid he wasn't.
Clancy was so busy with Hill that he had no time to enjoy the trip. As soon as the boat tied up at the Avalon pier and the gangplank was run out, Hill galloped ashore, and sank down on the dock with a groan of thanksgiving. Clancy hurried after him, picked him up, and supported him to solid earth.
"I thought you were a better sailor than that, Hiram," chuckled Clancy.
"Me—a sailor?" whimpered Hill. "Say, it always makes my stomach do a hornpipe just to look at a picture of the sea. I can't cross a creek on a bridge without getting separated from my last meal. Darn it! This is why I wanted to find my lost dad in San Diego—I could go there by land. Clancy, I'm goin' to stay on this island, and live and die here. I won't never go back. Let's find a restaurant somewhere and fill up, I never was so empty in all my life."
Finding a restaurant was not difficult, for the little town was full of them. A rattling good fish dinner put Hill in a pleasanter mood, so that his wretchedness of the morning survived as only a faint and far-off memory.
Senor Jack Lopez had a curio store on the main street of the town. The investigators were directed to his place of business, but to their disappointment, Lopez was away on the other side of the island and would not be back until evening. As they came out of the curio store, a man approached them and sounded the praises of the glass bottom boats.
"Ugh!" said Hiram, trying to get away, "no boats for mine!"
"But you don't want to leave the island without seeing the marine gardens!" exclaimed the man.
"There are enough gardens on shore to do me," answered Hill.
"My friend is afraid he'll get seasick," observed Clancy, with a wink.
"You can't get seasick in one o' my boats any more'n you could on land," averred the runner. "We jest go out around by the Sugarloaf—we're close inshore all the time."
"It's makin' me feel faint just to talk about it," said Hill. "Come on, Clancy!"
He caught the motor wizard's arm and tried to drag him off. Clancy, however, held back.
"I've heard a lot about these glass-bottom boats," said he, "and I'll have to take a trip in one. If you don't want to go, Hiram, you can sit on the dock and wait till I come back."
"No, you don't!" growled Hiram. "You and me don't get separated this trip, if I can help it. If you're going, Clancy, I'll go, too, even if it kills me."
"You won't be the least mite sick, friend," the runner insisted. "If you are, I'll give up your fare."
"That won't be a patchin' to what I'll give up—if you have to give up my fare," commented Hill. "I only hope I don't step so hard on the glass-bottom that I go through."
"You can't do that," the man laughed. "This way, gents."
He led them out on a pier and down a flight of steps to a float alongside of which a boat was moored. The boat was a flat-bottom affair, rigged with a canopy top, and having seats along the sides.
Extending down the middle of the craft was something which looked like a long box, open at the top. The lower side of the box was covered with glass. Passengers on the seats could look into the box, through the glass bottom, and see objects on the ocean's bed with wonderful clearness. A man up near the prow did the rowing.
"I claim," said the runner, "that this here's the only kind of a boat to use in seein' the marine gardens. We can go places in these little boats that they can't get, to in the big ones."
That must have been a particularly slack day for the glass-bottom boats, for Clancy and Hill were the only passengers on this particular craft.
"I reckon that's all, Ike," said the man who had brought the two youths to the boat: "let 'er go!"
Ike proceeded to use the oars, and, while the boat rounded the end of the pier, Hiram hung to his seat with both hands, and looked wildly and expectantly at Clancy.
"Beginnin' to feel squeamish," mumbled Hiram.
"Don't think about it," returned the motor wizard. "Look down at the marine gardens, Hiram."
Hill gradually forgot his uneasiness. There was hardly any motion to the boat, save a slow, steady gliding onward. Off Avalon there is no surf, the tides rise and fall, as on the mainland, but the sea is usually as quiet as the waters of a pond.
There were other glass-bottom boats out that afternoon, and they were scattered just off shore to Sugarloaf Rock and beyond. Not far from the towering Rock were two or three rowboats, each manned by an oarsman, and carrying a man in a bathing suit.
"Them's divers," explained Ike, nodding to the men in the bathing suits. "Didn't you see 'em when your boat come in?"
"No," answered Hill, "I was too busy gettin' ashore. What were those divers doing when our boats came in?"
"Passengers were throwin' money overboard and they were divin' for it. You'll see 'em when you get in the steamer to go back to Pedro. Over yan by Ole Sugarloaf the divers goes down under the glass bottoms, looks up at you from below, makes faces, throws kisses at the girls, and I don't know what all. Likewise, they brings up abalone shells; you can see 'em brought up, and can buy 'em for a quarter apiece. A very pretty and interestin' souvenir of your trip to the island. Now, look down, for we're right over, the gardens."
"It's funny," remarked Hill, "that I'm such a good swimmer when this seasickness takes holt o' me so, hard and quick. Maybe if I'd swim the ocean the water wouldn't bother my stummick at all. I—-"
The words died on Hill's lips. He suddenly found himself gazing from one world into another of weird beauty and wondrous enchantment.
Beneath his eyes and Clancy's there unfolded a landscape of rainbow tints flecking a forest of softly waving trees. Some of the trees bore fruit, and in and out among their branches swam fishes of silver and gold. It was like fairyland, that landscape on the bed of the sea.
"Beats anything I ever seen!" whispered the entranced Hiram. "If a mermaid was to float up to the glass bottom of this here boat and shake a finger at me, I'd go right over the side and join her in them pretty gardens."
"Wonderful!" exclaimed Clancy. "Look at the rocks and shells! You can, see them as clearly as though they were out of the water and on the land."
"Them forests," explained Ike, "are made of kelp. From kelp is where we get our iodine of commerce. It takes four hundred pounds of kelp to make one pound of iodine."
"And a million pounds of the iodine o' commerce," snorted Hiram, "ain't worth one pound o' kelp, down below and growin' same as we see. What do they, want to root it up for? Why don't they leave it where it is, to please the eye that looks down through these glass-bottom boats?"
"I pass," answered Ike wearily. "I ain't no philosopher, that-a-way. Kelp's no good and iodine's useful—that's all I know. Diver's goin' over and comin' this way," he added, with sudden animation. "Watch close, now, and maybe you'll see him pick up an abalone shell, and look up and make faces. It's right remarkable how long some o' them divers can stay under the water. Look sharp!"
Clancy and Hill looked sharp, but they couldn't see anything of the diver.
"Shucks!" grunted Ike. "He come up for another boat afore he got here. But he'll be along after a spell."
Ike rested from his rowing a bit, and filled and, lighted his pipe.
"Up there," said he, waving his hand aloft, "is the towerin' summits o' Black Jack and Orizaba, If you're goin' to be on the island overnight you don't want to miss the coach trip to the top o' the uplifts. It's ten miles up and two miles back, same road all the way," he chuckled as he exhaled a cloud of smoke, "and the round trip is only eight miles. It'll cost you a dollar apiece, and you don't want to miss it."
Clancy and Hill had already discovered that the inhabitants of Avalon had a hand out for tourist money. When one had got all he could of a guileless sight-seer, he passed him on to a brother who had something else to show. But they were a kindly lot, those Avalonians for all that.
"Now, watch!" warned Ike. "Here the diver comes, for sure!"
This time Ike was correct. Clancy and Hill, peering through the glass bottom of the boat, saw a human form glide gracefully to a point directly underneath, turn over on its back, and float face upward, full a dozen feet below the surface.
The diver commenced to throw kisses and to make faces, but he suddenly ceased that pleasing performance. His face abruptly froze as with horror, and his wide eyes looked, up at the two faces staring down through the glass.
A sharp exclamation escaped Clancy's lips. Hill gave a yell, sat up and began tearing off his coat, hat, and vest.
"It's—it's Hank Burton!" he murmured, far gone with wonder. "It's Gerald Wynn's pard, and he helped walk off with your fifteen thousand, Clancy! What's he doin' in the marine gardens, I'd like to know? Wouldn't this put kinks into your intelleck? Say!"
Hiram Hill was climbing up on his seat, bending low to avoid hitting the canopy top.
"What are you going to do?" shouted Clancy.
"I'm goin' down into the marine gardens, lookin' for trouble! If I can get my lunch hooks on that chap below, I'll bring him aboard, or ashore, or we'll both stay down in the kelp till the crack o' doom! You hear me, Clancy? That feller gave us the slip once, but he'll not do it again!"
With that, Hiram Hill kicked off his shoes, rolled over the rail and went into the water with a splash. Clancy reached for him, but was a minute too late, for his fingers clutched only empty air.
"Look!" whispered Ike huskily, leaning over the glass bottom and staring; "for the love o' Mike, look what's goin' on down there!"
AT THE BASE OF OLD SUGARLOAF.
Clancy and Ike had the privilege of seeing one of the strangest sights that any one ever saw through a glass-bottom boat. They saw a half-clad man grab another in a bathing suit, and immediately a submarine wrestling match was staged. Burton gripped Hill about the throat, and Hill's fingers slipped forthwith to Burton's windpipe. The scene grew more and more horrible as the moments passed, and Clancy fell to throwing aside his garments preparatory to making a trip of his own to the marine gardens.
"Wait!" clamored Ike excitedly. "They've broke loose from each other! They're comin' up. Don't go in!"
Clancy took another look through the glass. Burton's face was livid and ghastly, and it was plain that he was hard put to it for breath. With feeble, faltering strokes he was coming to the surface. Hill was following him as relentlessly as a shark.
The rowboat, from which Burton had dived, came alongside the flat-bottom craft. The fellow at the oars Clancy did not know. The motor wizard had half expected to see either Gerald Wynn or Bob Katz, but the oarsman was neither of these.
"What's happened?" he asked, a tense note of alarm in his voice.
Before Ike could answer, Burton's head bobbed to the surface, and a gurgling cry for help floated over the water.
"Wait a minute!" called Clancy, catching the side of the smaller boat before the man at the oars could get away from Ike's craft, "I guess I'll go with you."
Without much difficulty, Clancy transferred himself from one boat to the other.
"You needn't wait for us, Ike!" he called. "Have our clothes ready for us when we call for them, that's all."
"What're you trying to do?" demanded the oarsman.
"We've got two fellows to pick up," Clancy answered, "and I'm going to help. Are you a friend of Burton's?"
"I get half he makes for handlin' the boat for him."
"How long has he been doing this?"
"Yesterday and to-day."
"And your name is—-"
"Well right, Mynie Boltwood! Steady it is, now, and we'll pick up the two in the water."
"Never mind me, Clancy," sang out Hill, who had come to the surface, and was swimming easily despite the weight of the wet clothing he had on. "Burton is purty nigh tuckered. Take care o' him first."
Burton was a splendid swimmer, there was no doubt about that, but his ordeal in the water had told on him severely. He grabbed Clancy's outstretched hand desparingly, and was assisted to climb over the bulwarks. Once aboard, he fell in a sprawl on the boat's bottom, breathing heavily.
Hiram Hill got into the boat much more easily. Lifting his dripping body to a seat, he grinned, and shook the long, tow-colored hair back from his face.
"How was that for Hi?" he asked.
"It was a great piece of work!" Clancy answered admiringly. "You're certainly there with the goods when it comes to swimming. I thought, for a time, that both you and Burton would be drowned. We could have got him just as easily, Hiram, if you hadn't gone into the water."
"I wanted to make sure, that was all."
"Boltwood," called Clancy, "put us all ashore on the rocks at the foot of Old Sugarloaf. We'll bask in the sun, for a while, and I'll talk a little with Burton, We're old friends, you know," and here Clancy smiled. "The last person in the world I was expecting to see through the glass bottom of that boat was Hank Burton. It was the surprise of my life, and no mistake."
There was something here which Mynie Boltwood could not understand. He was not ambitious in the acquirement of knowledge, however, and merely did as he was told—and let it go at that.
Burton sat up in the boat's bottom, and peered at Clancy.
"Feeling better, Hank?" the motor wizard inquired pleasantly.
"What're you and Hill doing here?" inquired Burton confusedly. "We reckoned you were in San Diego."
"Oh, you did!" returned Clancy. "You must know something about that letter Hiram received, inviting him to hang up his hat in Q Street and feel at home."
Burton, realizing that he had said something he hadn't ought to, bit his lip angrily.
"How'd you happen to come to Catalina?" he went on.
"The Happy Trail branched in this direction."
"Well," Clancy laughed, "Hiram came to Catalina to find his father, and I'm helping in the search. We've got a few things to discuss, Hank, and I think we'll do the chinning ashore."
By that time the boat was grounded among the rocks close to the foot of Old Sugarloaf.
"I haven't got a thing to discuss with you," snarled Burton, "and I'm not goin' ashore."
"Sure you are!" declared Clancy. "You'd a heap rather go ashore and talk matters over with Hiram and me than go to jail. Wouldn't you, now?"
Fire snapped in the motor wizard's eyes, and his voice, although it was like velvet, cut like steel. Burton saw there was no use trying to hang back.
"If Wynn hadn't made me work for a little money," growled Burton, "this wouldn't 'a' happened."
Boltwood had jumped to the rocks, and was holding the boat by the painter. Hill followed him out of the craft, and now Burton followed Hill. Clancy was last to leave the boat. He walked up toward the base of Sugarloaf Rock.
"Boltwood," he called, "you stay there and take care of the boat. Burton, you and Hill come up here with me."
The excitement that had claimed the passengers in Ike's boat had been missed by the other boats. The rest of the glass-bottom fleet had gone around Sugarloaf Rock, and Clancy was now able to look across the low rise of rocks, separating the headland from the shore, and see the other sight-seers.
"Hill and I came over here to find Hill's father," said Clancy, turning to Burton, "and we find you. That strikes me as being mighty strange, Hank. What are you and Gerald Wynn and Bob Katz doing here?"
"Who said Gerald and Bob were with me?" returned Burton sullenly.
"You said something before we got out of the boat which proved to me that Gerald Wynn was here with you. And, if Gerald is here, Katz is along, too. Why are you in this place?"
Burton did not answer.
"Why did one of you write that letter to Hill and try to get him to San Diego?"
Still nothing from Burton.
"Did you fellows bring the fifteen thousand with you?"
Clancy's voice was sharp as he put this question.
"It must be clear to you," returned Burton, "that I haven't any of that fifteen thousand. If I had, do you think I'd be divin' for quarters?"
The motor wizard seated himself on a bowlder. The sun was hot, but a cool breeze from the sea tempered its warmth. As he stared at the stubborn face of Burton, his eyes hardened.
"Hank," he went on, "I haven't any cause to love you, or Gerald Wynn, or Bob Katz. One of you put a bullet into my shoulder, at the old adobe near Wickenburg. The three of you, also, made off with fifteen thousand dollars belonging to me and to Lafe Wynn. Now I can put you through for all that, and put you through good and hard. Even if I can't get hands on Gerald and Katz, I've got you securely. Do you want to save yourself, or don't you?"
"Save myself? How?"
"Why, by helping me get back that stolen money. Tell us where Gerald Wynn and Katz are hiding themselves, where the money is, and how we're to get hold of it."
"Think I'm a squealer?" demanded Burton indignantly.
"Where are your clothes?" Clancy asked.
The motor wizard walked down to the water's edge.
"Boltwood," said he, "I want you to go and get Burton's clothes. Also get from Ike the clothes belonging to Hill and me. Bring them back here. And—listen! Don't say a word to anybody about what happened. Understand?"
"I don't know what's happened, or what's goin' on now," answered Boltwood, "so how can I talk?"
"Just remember that, then. Here's a five-dollar gold piece for you. Do as I tell you and you'll be all right. Do something else, and you'll find yourself in more trouble than Burton is in."
"I'm no fool, I guess," mumbled Boltwood, pouching the gold piece. "I don't pry into things that ain't my business. I'll row across and get the clothes."
He sprang into the boat, pushed off, and began using the oars vigorously. The motor wizard turned thoughtfully and walked back to the place where he had left Hill and Burton.
Hank Burton had issued his defiance. He was not a "squeeler," but he was apprehensive regarding Clancy's next move.
"What're you goin' to do?" he asked.
"I'm sending for your clothes," was the reply.
"Why, then I'll find some place where I can make a complaint against you. You think more of your pals liberty than you do of your own. But that's your lookout, not mine. If you want to go to jail and leave Gerald Wynn and Bob Katz free to spend that fifteen thousand, why, have it that way."
Clancy's tone was relentless. Burton knew enough of the motor wizard to understand that he would do what he said he would.
The chap in the bathing suit walked back and forth among the rocks for a few moments, then, finally, he flung up his hands helplessly and halted in front of Clancy.
"You've got the whip hand, as usual," said he, with a tinge of bitterness. "I'll exchange what I know for my liberty. What am I to tell you?"
TREACHERY THAT SUCCEEDED—AND FAILED.
The motor wizard congratulated himself, for a moment, that he had won Hank Burton over to his side in the argument. But only for a moment. Even as Clancy was getting ready to frame his first question, Burton took to his heels and ran like a deer toward the other side of Sugarloaf Rock.
On that side, three persons had landed in a small boat. They had secured their boat by twisting the painter around a rock, and were now climbing Old Sugarloaf.
Burton must have seen this landing party while walking back and forth and turning Clancy's proposition over in his mind. He had gained a little time by seeming to fall in with Clancy's desires, but now the mask was dropped.
"Consarn the critter!" whooped Hiram. "Stop him, Clancy, stop him!"
This is exactly what Clancy was trying to do, but the feat was physically impossible. Burton had too long a lead.
Snatching the painter from the rock, the fleeing rascal sprang into the boat, picked up the oars and was twenty feet from shore before Clancy and Hill came to the water's edge.
"Guess again!" taunted Burton, applying himself vigorously to the oars.
"This island ain't so big!" shouted Hiram furiously. "The steamer for San Pedro has gone, and there's no other boat for the mainland until to-morrow. You ain't out o' this yet, Hank Burton!"
What Burton thought regarding this did not appear. He put all his energy into his rowing and was soon halfway across the bay.
"If we'd toted a popper," bewailed Hiram, "this couldn't have happened.
"Popper?" questioned Clancy.
"Meanin' gun. With a six-shooter we could have drawn a bead on Mister Man in the boat and fetched him ashore. Blame it! I sure hate to see him get away after bein' to so much trouble ketchin' him."
The motor wizard felt in the same way, but there was no use crying over spilled milk. Mynie Boltwood got back from the other side of the bay with a load of clothes, and Hill removed his wet garments, wrung them out, dried them in the sun, and was soon back in his complete wardrobe, and but little the worse for his drenching.
Clancy, hoping to develop something in the nature of a clew, searched the pockets of Burton's clothes. He found nothing to repay his search.
"Now," inquired Hill gloomily, "what's the next step?"
"We came here to find your father, Hiram," Clancy answered, "and suddenly got switched off into another trail. Now we'll get back to the work that originally brought us to the island."
"And let that bunch o' grafters go?"
"I don't see what we can do, at present."
"We can set the police on their trail."
Clancy shook his head. "That won't do, Hiram," he answered. "I made a crack of that kind at Burton, but it was only a bluff. The moment we ring in the police, that moment we lift the veil on Lafe Wynn. Lafe must be protected at any cost. If we could get back the money by our own efforts, that would be all right. What we've got to avoid is making this thing too public. We'll return to the curio store and see if Lopez has got back from the other side of the island."
Mynie Boltwood displayed little curiosity regarding Burton. The five-dollar gold piece had evidently blinded him, muzzled him, and tied up his ears. He rowed Clancy and Hill back to the pier, and they left the boat and proceeded to the establishment of Jack Lopez.
Lopez looked a good deal like a man who might deal in dazzling futures, taking care that all the profit came to himself. He was swarthy and good-natured, but with a crafty eye.
"The Fortunatus Syndicate?" he said, with an airy laugh. "Gentlemen, it is gone—as you say—where the woodbine twineth. Yes, for two years past. The concession was granted by Diaz for a great 'plant' dedicated to the god of luck at Tia Juana, but—well, Diaz went out and some one else came in. Down below the border, nothing remains as it was for long. It took—what you call—too much money to grease the wheels. The Syndicate dropped one hundred thousand dollars, and thought that was plenty. No, no, you can not invest in Fortunatus, for there is no Fortunatus."
"This is your card, isn't it?" inquired Clancy, offering for inspection the card found wider the sweatband of the Stetson.
"Why, si! I used that card at the time the Tia Juana matter looked very bright and promising. Now, though, I use the card no more."
"Did you ever see a feller like this?" put in Hiram, handing over the photograph of his father.
Lopez looked at the photograph, started, took it in his hands, and gave it a more careful scrutiny.
"As I live," said he, "it is the picture of my good friend, Captain Hogan, of the steam yacht Sylvia. Look!" and Lopez lifted and leveled a forefinger.
They were standing in front of the curio store, and the stores all along that street overlooked the bay. Lopez indicated a trim-looking craft, painted white, and with the sun striking gleams from dazzling brasswork, floating at anchor far from the shore line.
"That," continued Lopez, "is my good friend's boat. Her home port is San Diego, and she can be chartered by any one with the price. Hogan is at the island for a few days, looking for customers."
Disappointment struck heavily at Hiram Hill's heart and was reflected in his face.
"You say his name is Hogan?" he asked.
"What's time whole of his handle?"
"Uriah Hogan. Strange you do not know, since you have his picture."
"There's a whole lot o' things I don't know," answered Hiram, "and am just beginnin' to find out. Was Cap'n Hogan over to Los Angeles last Saturday?"
"He was. He has told me about it. He returned to the island Sunday."
"Do you happen to know where I can find him?"
"Why, yes. In the quarter of the town called Buena Vista, there is a bungalow called the Rest a While. There Captain Hogan stays whenever he is in Avalon."
This ended the talk with Senor J. Lopez. Clancy took his friend by the arm and walked with him to the restaurant where they had had their dinner.
"Ain't this the limit?" queried Hill plaintively. "Nothin' goes right for us, Clancy."
"Well don't fret about it," returned the motor wizard.
"Order up a good meal and try and be happy."
They sent in a generous order. Hill, however, could not get the hard luck out of his mind. He continued to air the state of his feelings while the order was being made ready.
"This Cap'n Hogan is a dead ringer for dad. Him and dad couldn't look more alike if they had been twins. And then, Clancy, them initials in his Stetson—'U. H.' I reckoned that made a cinch of this here trail I'm follerin'. But, no. 'Stead o' standin' for 'Upton Hill,' them letters in the Stetson meant 'Uriah Hogan.' Never before has fate played it so low down on me as that."
"We have certainly blundered into some remarkable coincidences," agreed Clancy.
A man with red hair, who sat, at their table, cocked up his ear as Hill shook out his opinions.
"Hogan?" said he, leaning forward; "did I hear you mention Smuggler Hogan, of the Sylvia?"
"I called him Uriah Hogan," said Hill.
"It's all one and the same. Hogan's bad medicine." The man surveyed Clancy with an approving eye. "Maybe I shouldn't say anything about this," he continued, "but your hair's the same color as mine, and I always make it a point to pass valuable information along to a fellow bricktop. Beware of Hogan! What's the fellow doing with that boat of his? Some say he's smuggling arms into Lower California, for the use of the revolutionists, and some say he's running chinks and opium—both contraband goods—into the United States. Cap'n Hogan is not in these waters for any good, take it from me."
The red-headed man finished with an ominous look, and then with great politeness requested Hill to pass the salt.
"Hogan, I hear," the loquacious stranger continued presently, "charters that boat of his to the unsuspecting. He does it for a blind—nothing else. Now, if you gents want a trip up or down the coast, as far north as San Fran, or as far down as the Horn. I've got just the thing—slickest little schooner with steam auxiliary you ever put eyes on."
A light broke over Clancy. Maybe Captain Hogan wasn't such bad medicine, after all. This rival ship owner might be giving him a bad character—for business purposes.
"We're not intending to charter any boat." said Clancy.
"No harm done, anyway," said the red-haired person. "I've given you a straight tip about Hogan, though, and you can bank on it."
"Much obliged," returned Clancy.
A little later he and Hill got up from the table, settled their bill, and left the restaurant.
"How about takin' a walk?" Hill asked. "The way that red-headed chap throwed me into the man I thought was dad, kinder made me feverish."
"All right," agreed the motor wizard cheerfully, "we'll walk. It's always a good thing to walk a mile or so after you've had your supper."
They strolled down the main street, Clancy doing his best to cheer up his melancholy companion. Presently they turned a corner and started along a thoroughfare that was bordered on both sides with eucalyptus trees. A figure stepped suddenly out of the black shadow of one of the trees and posted itself in front of Clancy, barring his path.
"Owen Clancy?" the figure asked.
"Yes," Clancy answered, thinking the voice sounded rather familiar.
"Well, I'm back again, and—-"
"Burton!" the motor wizard exclaimed.
"Yes, Burton," the other returned. "I've had it rubbed into me by Gerald Wynn and Bob Katz till I reckon I can't stand it no longer. I'm ready to help you, now, and this time I mean it."
"What's happened to cause this great change, Burton?" Clancy asked skeptically.
"Wynn and Katz are trying to beat me out of my share of the fifteen thousand," was the reply. "If I help you, Clancy, maybe, between us, we can beat out the pair of them. What do you say?"
A SPLIT IN THE GANG.
Clancy had no confidence whatever in Burton.
"I'm willing to hear what you've got to say, Burton," he said, "but whether I believe you or not, is another question."
"You'll believe me, fast enough," was the confident response. "Down the street, a little way, is a place where we can talk."
They walked down the street to a bench. The bench was in an obscure place, and the gloom of the eucalyptus trees surrounded it. Here, after they had seated themselves, Burton began his remarks.
"I've been treated like a dip by Wynn and Katz," said he, "and I'm going to be square with you, Clancy, just to get even with them. When we lifted the fifteen thousand, at the time you were shot, we laid a bee line for Los Angeles. We've been there ever since, up to last Sunday morning. Gerald was bughouse on a gambling proposition, across the Mexican line. He heard of a stockholder he could buy out for fifteen thousand dollars, and that's what set him to working his brother for the money, in the first place.
"Well, he was as close-fisted with that dinero as any miser you ever saw. I didn't have a cent in my pocket, and Gerald wouldn't give me any cash. He paid my expenses, but that was all.
"Last Saturday he saw that mix-up at Sixth and Main, in Los Angeles, and he got the idea that Hill was trailing him. Of course, Gerald knows all about Hill's search for his lost father—-"
"Of course he does!" grunted Hiram. "There's a reason for that."
"And he conceived the notion of sending Hill a letter and signing the name of Upton Hill to it," went on Burton. "The idea was to get Hill off of our trail, and we all reckoned the scheme had won out. I didn't know, until I looked up into the glass bottom of that boat, that Hill was within a hundred miles of Catalina Island! And I thought Clancy was still in Phoenix! Say, it was sure a big surprise to me."
"That's what I reckoned," remarked Hill, with a chuckle.
"I used to be swimming instructor in a gymnasium," proceeded Burton, "and as soon as we reached Avalon I made a deal with Mynie Boltwood, who owns a boat, and we took to snorkin' the tourists. Gerald was still the tightwad, and I couldn't live on prospects, no matter how rosy they might be. Sunday afternoon, while I was out diving, Gerald and Bob called on Lopez. I get it straight, from a fellow who knows, that Lopez told them the Fortunatus deal had fallen through. Right then and there is where those two skunks began to scheme to beat me out of my share of the swag we brought from Wickenburg."
Burton fell silent for a moment, evidently reflecting on the great wrong that had been done him by his former pals. At last he resumed:
"Wynn and Katz chartered the Sylvia to take them down the coast. I was told that by Lopez, and I reckon he got it from Captain Hogan. Lopez—I saw him no more than half an hour ago—says Wynn and Katz are planning to cut loose from me, I've been a fool all along to let those two do all the schemin' and never put in my oar. But now I'm going to get busy."
"You saw Lopez pretty soon after you gave us the slip at Sugarloaf Rock?" Clancy asked.
"Quite a long time after that. I laid low in town until Mynie Boltwood brought me my clothes. You see, I was expecting every minute you'd have an officer on my trail, so I didn't stir around very much."
"Lopez is a friend of yours?"
"He's treated me white when he saw how I was being double-crossed by fellows I thought were my pards. Now, Clancy, here's a plan I've thought of: From all I can find out, Wynn and Katz haven't an idea you and Hill are up Avalon. Suppose we three go to their hang-out and jump them? We can do it, and recover the money. We'll have to be quick, though, and pull off the work before they leave in the Sylvia."
"Where are Gerald Wynn and Bob Katz?"
"Lopez says they're staying at Hogan's bungalow. I know where that is. Will you go?"
"You're afraid I'm working some underhand scheme, eh?" said Burton. "Well, forget it. All I want in this world is to break even with Wynn and Katz. Don't you believe what I've been telling you?"
"You're a slippery customer," answered Clancy, "and you may be lying for the purpose of getting Hill and me into hot water."
"Nothing to it. I tell you I'm square with you."
"Let's try him once, Clancy," suggested Hill. "If it turns out to be a frame-up, Burton will be with us, and we can hand him a sample of our regards."
"Very well," said the motor wizard. "Lead the way, Burton."
Burton moved down the walk to the first cross street, proceeded halfway along the block, and halted in front of a small bungalow with a deep porch.
"Here's where Captain Hogan stays when he's in Avalon and ashore," remarked Burton, in a guarded tone.
"Can't see any light," murmured Hill. "Looks like the place was empty."
"I should say, at a guess," put in Clancy, "that the captain is not at home. He may be aboard the Sylvia."
"We're not looking for Hogan, but for Wynn and Katz," continued Burton. "I'll not leave this place until I investigate a bit."
He began climbing the steps that led to the porch. Clancy was still very distrustful of Burton, and watched warily while following the fellow to the front door of the house.
Burton seemed straight enough. With a soft hand he tried the door, and discovered it to be locked. Moving thence to a window that opened upon the porch, he tried to raise the lower sash. It was secured.
"Maybe I can open the sash lock," he whispered to Clancy. "If it's the ordinary kind, a knife will do the trick."
He took a jackknife from his pocket, opened a blade, thrust it upward between the upper and lower sash, and maneuvered for a minute or two. Finally he gave vent to a muttered word of satisfaction, closed the knife, and slipped it into his pocket.
"Here's a little luck," said he. "We can open the window now."
Noiselessly the lower sash was lifted, and the way into the bungalow was open.
"You can stay here," whispered Burton, "or you can go with me. If you're afraid to trust me, I can look around and report what I find."
"I'll go with you," returned Clancy. "I don't want to take your report about what you find, I want to see for myself."
As carefully as possible they crawled through the window, and while they stood in the dark room at the front of the house. Hiram came through the opening and joined them.
A noise reached their ears, as of heavy breathing. Hill caught Clancy's arm in a convulsive clutch.
"There's some one in the place, all right!" said Burton, under his breath.
"Strike a light," suggested the motor wizard. "I believe it's safe enough."
"Here, let me," put in Hiram. "I've got a match right in my fingers."
He scraped the match on the wall. As a flicker of light blazed up, a small, meagerly furnished front room was disclosed. Neither Captain Hogan nor either of those who had chartered his boat could be seen.
Clancy stepped to a shelf on the side wall, and took down a candle in a candlestick. Hill touched the match to the wick, and the investigation continued under a better light.
There was a door opening off the rear of the room. Burton glided to it and carefully pushed it ajar. Stygian darkness reigned beyond.
The opening of the rear door had caused the heavy breathing to grow louder. The man—evidently the only one they were to find in the bungalow—must be in that back room. Clancy, with the candle, pushed into the lead, and entered the next apartment.
Hill was watching Burton as keenly as a cat watches a mouse. At the first sign of a treacherous move, or the springing a trap, Hill would have been at Burton in a flash.
Nothing occurred, however, to alarm the investigators. Something was discovered, on the other hand, which certainly, astounded them.
A figure was lying on a cot bed—a figure that was bound wrist and ankle. A towel was tied over the face of the helpless form, and from behind this towel came the labored breathing which had already attracted attention.
The candle revealed the gruesome situation dimly. There seemed no longer any good reason for silence, and startled exclamations dropped from the lips of the three investigators.
"Black work has been going on here!" growled Burton.
"Wonder if that's Hogan?" queried Clancy.
"Whoever it is," spoke up Hill, "if that towel ain't removed he'll soon be smothered to death."
As he spoke, he hastened to the head of the bed, turned the form slightly so he could untie the ends of the towel, and presently removed the suffocating gag. As the head of the bound man fell back on the pillow of the bed, his face was brought clearly into the full light of the candle.