The airplane boys among.., p.10
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.10
 

           John Luther Langworthy
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  CHAPTER X

  IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE CHIEF

  Frank breathed a little faster than ordinary but there was little elseto indicate that he had heard startling news.

  "And now, Frank, don't forget that you promised to take me in on this,"the head of the local force went on, persuasively. "You remember thatwe stood by you at that other time, and rounded Jules up in greatshape. Seems like we might have to do it again, sort of historyrepeating itself. How did you know about it?"

  "I didn't, sir, and that's the queer part it," replied the boy.

  "Then you suspected something of the sort--did you run across Jules onthe road; or has he been trying to steal your aeroplane again?"continued Chief Waller.

  "Neither one nor the other, sir. But some unknown person fired a rifleat our biplane today, when we were passing over those woods near theold shack. The bullet came within a few feet of us, as I can show you,for it passed through both planes. That looks as if the scamp meant todo us real harm. And it set me to thinking and guessing, with theresult that I made up my mind to come to you, and find out if Jules wasstill safe behind the bars."

  "Well, this is something I'll have to look into," bustled the stoutChief, as he pushed back his chair. "Up in the Powell woods, you said;that makes it look as if it must be him; because he hid there before,you know."

  "If it had happened anywhere else, I guess I'd never have thought aboutJules, sir," Frank candidly admitted. "But you see, we were justtalking about our other adventure when the shot came; and somehow, itwas natural to connect the two. But it seems foolish for him to comeback to the old place again."

  "When you know slick rascals as well as I do, Frank, you'll understandthat they often do just what everybody never dreams they'd be sillyenough to try. That's the tricky part of the game, you see.Ordinarily that woods is the last place we'd think of looking forJules. It ought to have an evil name for him, and make him shun it.You see, that's the way we'd just naturally dope it out."

  "I see now, sir. And then again, all of the plunder taken fromLeffingwell's establishment was never recovered, I heard. PerhapsJules has got a plant somewhere up in those woods, and came back to getthe stuff?" Frank suggested.

  "A bright thought for you, my boy!" cried the Chief. "Of course thatsort of thing would strike me the first thing; but for you too speak ofit proves that you have a clever mind. Yes, undoubtedly Jules has comeback for the loot."

  "And then," Frank went on, steadily; "just by accident he happened tohear our propellers buzzing, and looking up recognized the two boys whohad so much to do with his being nabbed last summer. He couldn'tresist the temptation to have a pot shot at us, hoping to pay the Birdboys back for their share in his capture."

  "Yes, sometimes even the sharpest of them fall down," the head of thelocal police continued; "and before we're done with him Jules willrealize that when he allowed himself to give way to temptation he didthe most foolish thing possible, for it puts us on his track, and we'llget him again. I want to thank you too, Frank, because you see, therewill be quite a little reward paid for the recapture of so notorious aconvict as Garrone."

  "Oh! you're quite welcome, sir," replied Frank. "I was just thinkingwhether, if that was Jules, and he saw that his shot did no damage, hemightn't decide to pay us a visit in the night, and try some more funnybusiness."

  "Well, now, I wouldn't put it past him a particle, Frank," remarked theChief, promptly; "and if I were in your place I'd be on my guard. Hemight try to steal your new biplane I've heard them talking about; oreven burn down your whole outfit. Better get a gun, and keep watch.He's fair game, you know, if so be you catch him prowling around afterdark. An escaped convict hasn't any rights in the eye of the law."

  "I wouldn't like to be the one to shoot him," Frank observed; "but ifhe came around as you say, I'd want to be in a position to defend myproperty, and give him a good scare."

  The Chief asked a lot more questions, which Frank answered as well ashe was able. He could see that he had stirred the police head greatly,and that before long all the available men on the force would be makingfor the direction of the Powell woods, bent on rounding up the lurkingJules, if so be it had been him, as seemed so probable now.

  Frank had left his chair and started for the door, when somethingchanced to strike him, so that he turned back.

  "I don't suppose now, Chief, you happen to know the two gentlemen whoblew into Bloomsbury yesterday in a touring car, and are perhapsquartered at the hotel here. They go by the names of Mr. Marsh and Mr.Longley?"

  "I understood that two gents did put up there; but I saw them go offthis morning in their car, and supposed they were leaving," replied theother.

  "If you glance out of the door right now, Chief, you will see theparties dropping out of their machine right in front of the hotel,"Frank remarked, quietly.

  Accordingly the other moved over so that he could look out, immediatelyremarking:

  "Sho! that's a fact, just as you say, Frank. Come back to dinner, Ireckon; for old Barnwell does set a good table in the Quality Inn.I've seen twenty cars parked in his dooryard of a Sunday. And theseparties like his style, it seems."

  "But why should they say that their car needed overhauling, and thatthey might as well have it done in Bloomsbury? You can see it's aright new one, and runs as smooth as silk," Frank remarked.

  "They said that, did they? Who to, Frank?" asked the other.

  So Frank had to go back and relate what had occurred at the time Andydropped from the hydroplane into Lake Sunrise, and saved little TommyCragan from becoming food for the fishes.

  Of course the policeman was not able to look at the matter from thesame standpoint that Frank and Andy had. All the same, he admittedthat the actions of the two touring gentlemen did look a bit queer.

  "I'll take the first chance I get to look 'em over, Frank, and learnwho they really are," he said, in conclusion. "Of course that'll haveto wait, since I've got this other business on my hands, which is ofgreater importance, you know."

  "You don't think, do you, sir, that either of them could be this JulesGarrone in disguise?" suggested Frank.

  Chief Waller caught his breath.

  "Whew; that is a notion, now, ain't it?" he exclaimed. "From what I'velearned about that rascal I wouldn't put it past him to be up to someclever dodge equal to that? The bolder the game the less danger ofdiscovery. See here, Frank, you say you was close to these parties;and sure you ought to remember Jules--now, think a bit, and then tellme if you can imagine him playing such a part?"

  "Oh! I have been hammering my brain for a long time over that, Chief,"Frank answered, with a slight smile.

  "And what conclusion did you reach, Frank?"

  "That neither of them could hardly be Jules," came the ready reply. "Ionly mentioned the thing to see how it struck you. In the first place,Jules was smaller than either of those men; and he couldn't hardly havegrown under prison fare, you know. Then he had black hair, and neitherof these have. Besides, Longley wears a mustache, and no convict couldgrow one in a week. While such eyes as Marsh has I could never, neverforget, once I felt them fastened on me."

  "Well, I'll have one of my men keep an eye on the gents as long as theystay at the Quality Inn. Going now, Frank? Shake hands again, willyou; and remember, anything we can do for you, just ask. This is greatnews you've brought here today, and it may mean a heap for me."

  When Frank went outside and mounted his wheel he never once glancedacross the square to where the car of Mr. Marsh stood. True, neitherof the parties happened to be visible just then; but how was he to knowbut what they might be looking out from behind the filmy lace curtainswith which Mine Host Barnwell decorated his front parlor windows?

  He rode straight home, and reaching his den where he kept all hisbelongings in the line of sport, took down from the wall adouble-barrel shotgun, with which he had had many a day's pleasure inthe past.

  From a drawer he also gathered up half a dozen s
hells, carrying NumberTen shot; which Frank calculated would tickle rather than severelyinjure, if used with discretion, at a certain distance.

  After spending a short time at home, and not seeing his father, thegood doctor, who was off in his car paying his morning calls, Frankagain mounted his wheel, and headed toward the home of his cousin.

  He had much to ponder over as he proceeded, making no pretense atspeed; for he was carrying the gun in one hand. It was not a verypleasant thought, that at any minute almost he might run across thatrevengeful Jules, bent on paying back the debt he chose to believe heowed the young aviator. Frank was almost tempted to stop, alight, andplace a couple of shells in the gun, so as to be ready for anyemergency that might arise.

  "Shucks! what's getting you, Frank Bird?" he exclaimed, as he laughedat the idea of being held up in that fashion on the public highway."Just make up your mind nothing's going to happen to you; and that ifJules did come back to the Powell woods he's started away by now, fulltilt. I'm ashamed of you, that's what. If it was Andy now, he's sofull of imagination he sees lots of things that never exist; but youknow better. Why, whatever can that smoke mean? And as sure asanything, it seems to be rising straight over the field where our shoplies!"

  He immediately increased his speed, and went flying along the crookedroad, bent on reaching a point where he could see the open, andascertain if his worst fears were going to be realized.

 
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