The Boy Scouts of the Air at Cape Peril/Chapter 20



At noon, Hardy burst into Turner's room at Seagulls' Nest with a loud exclamation. There lay the Tarheel on his bed with most of his clothes on, fast asleep. It took some pretty strenuous shakes to arouse him.

"Wake up here, and tell me what's happened," demanded the newcomer.

"Hardy!" exclaimed the aroused man, sitting up.

"I'm Hardy, all right. It's twelve o'clock, man, and everything in this establishment asleep as the dead. I broke in here and found Luke still hitting it off; then I rushed up stairs and hammered the boys' door—locked and not a sound, then there was Jimmy asleep on my bed, and here you are in the same condition."

"How did you get here?" asked Turner, now wide awake.

"Tell you in a minute as soon as you explain yourself."

"Where is Legs?"

"Haven't you seen him? Isn't he here?" Hardy flashed out in alarm.

"I haven't seen him. I thought Cat was in that room by himself," Turner protested. "Jimmy and I got back from the lighthouse at daybreak. There was trouble over there—"

"I know."

"You do!" exclaimed Turner.

"Yes, Cat told me, last night."

Turner stared. "You got in last night?"

"'Bout two o'clock and a deuce of a time I've had since."

"For heaven's sake, you didn't fly, did you?"

"Don't talk like a fool, Turner. I came in a motor. I'll tell you all that in a minute. But what I want to know first is where Cat and Hatton are."

"You say you looked in their room and they weren't there?"

"Wake up! I said the boys' room was locked. Here, I'm going to see."

He grabbed up a chair and rushed from the room. In a few moments he was back, before the bewildered Turner could fully come to his senses.

"They're there all right," Hardy announced, with a look of relief. "I peeped over the transom, and saw 'em dead—asleep."

"How did Legs get in there if you didn't know it?" persisted Turner.

Hardy immediately started his story and, while Turner listened with tense interest, brought it down to the point where he sent the lads away from the scene of the collision.

"After we got rid of the boys," he proceeded, "King and I squatted down on the side of the road with our fingers on the triggers of our automatics to fix our unknown friend in case he tried to make off in our machine. His was out of commission good and proper. We listened and listened, but not a suspicious sound did we hear. As soon as day broke and we could see objects with some clearness, we began to peer around cautiously. Nothing suspicious was to be seen in the immediate neighborhood of the machine, but just beyond, were tracks. Now about fifty feet from the road, there is a slope of some fifteen-foot fall. We crawled up to this and took a look over. No human being was in sight, but there were marks as of a body that had rolled down. We were on the trail.

"Leading from this little valley, there was a sort of pass between the sand hills. So we snaked around, making a wide detour and crawled up to the top of one of these. Tracks were distinctly visible in the depression. We slid down and followed these to a broad stretch of sandy ground beyond. You remember that well enough. There was the trail plain as day. The man had evidently been dragging along by the hardest effort. Now and then, we could see traces of his having sat down or lain in the sand. At the distance of about a quarter of a mile, in a more exposed place, the tracks disappeared, evidently covered by the wind-blown sand, but we calculated it would have been impossible for a man in the condition Cat described to get much further in the short time since the collision.

"To avoid the chance of being pinked from cover, we slipped up to the top of a dune near the ocean and tried to search with our eyes every foot of ground around. Suddenly I lit on a peculiar low mound on the side of the dune nearer the ocean and thought I saw sand roll down as if dislodged by something stirring beneath. I called King's attention, and he agreed with me. There was a telltale place in the sand partly covered by a piece of wood that, in our whispered consultation, we decided was left for an air hole. Our course of action was decided on. We circled around, crawled to the top of that sand hill, and, getting our bearing, slid down a space and then both gave a spring and piled plumb on that suspected spot. And great Lawd, man, you would have thought we'd hit the top of a volcano, from the shindy the corpse raised when it acknowledged receipt of our attention, but we had him pinned and it was a question of his suffocating in two minutes, or lying quiet. First a foot resurrected, a shoe-less foot swollen to twice its natural size, and then an arm. The right hand, not the left with the stumped fingers."

"He had two stumped fingers on his left hand, did he?"

"How did you know that? Did you see him?" inquired Hardy in surprise.

"No, but Buffum got a glimpse of his paw when he tied him up!"

"Tied him up before he smashed out the light?"

"Go on," insisted Turner eagerly. "I'll tell you my part when you finish your story. Go on! Go on!"

"Well, the exciting part about that right hand was that it held an automatic, but I had that out of his grasp with one grab. He wouldn't have had the strength to pull the trigger anyhow, for he was pretty near done for as it was. The rising of those limbs was just a sort of convulsion, I reckon. In two seconds more, we had him dug out and exposed to light, and a more perfect picture of abject misery I never saw. His face was nearly black from the smothering. A man of fifty-odd, he was, and a sinewy specimen for his age, and he must have had a ton of endurance, for how he managed to stump that far on that broken foot gets me."

"Then he broke it when he fell down the lighthouse stairs and—" Turner could not help putting in, but, as Hardy paused and seemed eager to have him go on, he declined to say more before his friend had finished his part of the story.

"All right, I'll stick to it," promised Hardy. "He wasn't such a bad looking specimen, not the book kind of villain at all, looked more like a sort of dissipated seaman, but his eyes when we got the sand out were sorry sights, and the grilling he had been through hadn't improved their beauty any. It was fifteen minutes before our handcuffed friend had recovered enough to use his mouth, and then it was to emit groans and yells of pain, but we were determined to make him talk and we told him not a step would we carry him till he loosened up. Then he yowled out something about having lost his way and sprained his ankle, and asked, for heaven's sake, or words to that effect, to be taken to a doctor.

"King gave him his word of honor he should have a doctor's assistance as soon as he got to the county jail; and proceeded to take from his own pocket and read a detailed description of the man Blanco, who had disappeared from the yacht under pretense of drowning, and informed him of the discovery of the boat I told you about just now, with some other particulars I'll tell you later. Meanwhile, I was searching his person, and found a pocketbook with a fat roll of bills in it. If he had had any burglar tools, he had chucked them away somewhere. Well, he proceeded to yowl and deny some more, but we'd had enough of that, so, handcuffed and trussed up, he was trotted off to our auto. The machine was battered, but would run all right, so we hurried our captive up the road to the county jail, sent for a doctor and left him to his happy meditations.

"First thing, we got in communication by long distance with Commodore Hatton in Newport News."

"He was there, was he?" questioned Turner.

"Sure, his yacht got in safely early in the afternoon."

"Then, thank the Lord, it wasn't his boat that came near hitting the shoals last night!" Turner rejoiced.

"He was snug in port by four o'clock, it seems, and was making ready to get on Blanco's trail this morning. First thing he wanted to know was about the boys, and you can bet your boots, I was happy when I could tell him his son and the others were safe and well at Seagulls' Nest. Of course, I didn't blow on you and Jimmy. After he'd got the boys off his mind, he informed me his skipper would be down today to identify the man, and give us all particulars. I hurried on back to find out what was going on in this roost, and left word for the skipper to follow here when he finishes with the bird and has his talk with King at the jail. Now it's your turn."

After a few questions Turner started on his story. Finally, he reached the mystery of the boat missing when he started for Cape Peril and in place on his return.

"Miller told me this morning he found it there not long after you left. Seems he got restless and wandered down to meet you and saw the boat. It was just after he hiked over in the direction of the fire, spied the escaping bird and still had his eye on him when my machine came in sight and collided."

Then Hardy had to give more particulars of the collision.

"I remember now," said Turner, returning to the boat incident. "Jimmy thought he heard a rowboat. The little rascal had keener ears than I had, for that devil must have put in just after we left."

"And Cat found the lighthouse key in the boat, too," announced Hardy, to Turner's further amazement.

The two continued their speculations for some minutes longer as to the means Blanco used to accomplish his purpose and his plans for escape.

"Now I've just got to have a little sleep," asserted Hardy. "You'd better go down and be sure that Luke's stirring. Give him orders to wake us all up when the food is ready, but right this minute I'd rather sleep than eat."

So, leaving Turner to attend to this commission, he hurried to his room, stretched himself on a cot by the one Jimmy was occupying and fell asleep in a moment.