The Motor Boys on the Wing: or, Seeking the Airship Treasureñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Come on, Chunky, you’ve got pictures enough,” called Ned finally. “Let’s take a look at the roof, and you can make a snap shot there, and then we’ll get over to the store, buy the cylinder, and fix up our motorship.”
“All right,” assented the stout lad, closing his camera; and then Mr. Thompson led the boys up to the roof of the bank.
A NEW THEORY
“Those robbers probably came in a light, rubber-tired rig, left it somewhere around the corner, got into the bank, did the job and drove away again,” was the opinion of Mr. Thompson, as he crawled out of the roof scuttle, followed by the boys.
“But how did they get to the roof?” asked Ned. “You’ve got to explain that.”
“Easy enough,” spoke the policeman. “You see this bank is in a row, with several other buildings, all about the same height. They could have climbed up the fire escapes, or they could have used a ladder. I’m inclined to the latter theory myself, for the fire escapes are on the front of the buildings, and if they went up them they’d be seen, whereas they could put a ladder up in back.”
The boys looked about them, and Bob took a couple of snap shots, including one of his two chums and the officer as they stood near the opened scuttle. As Mr. Thompson had said there was not much to see. The roof was a long one, extending over several buildings, and being flat, and covered with a composition of tar and gravel, alternating with tin on some of the structures, made quite a place to stroll about.
Jerry walked a little away from Ned and Bob, who were listening to Mr. Thompson’s explanation of how Detective Blake had discovered the finger marks in the dust around the scuttle rim, and had thus made his discovery.
“Blake thinks the scuttle was left unhooked, or else that the thieves reached in with a bent wire, and lifted the hook from the catch,” said the policeman.
The tall lad was walking over a stretch of tin roof, on a building two or three doors from the looted bank. There had been rain two days previous, followed by a brisk wind, which dried out the dust, and there was now quite a coating of the latter on the tin. There was also something else, and as Jerry caught sight of several marks in the dirt-coating he uttered an exclamation.
“Somebody with rubber-soled tennis shoes has been walking up here,” he said.
He bent closer over the footprints, and then he saw another mark that caused him to spring up quickly, and call to his companions and the policeman.
“Look here!” he cried, beckoning to them.
“What’s the matter?” demanded Ned, coming up on the run.
“Easy! Easy!” cautioned Jerry. “Don’t trample on these marks. Look! If some one hasn’t been up here on a bicycle I miss my guess!”
“A bicycle!” exclaimed Bob. “Do you mean to say that the robbers rode a bicycle up here?”
“There are the marks of the rubber tires plain enough,” replied Jerry, pointing to them.
“That’s no bicycle track!” declared Ned.
“Why not?” the tall lad wanted to know.
“Or, if it is, the fellow rode on one wheel, or else is more expert than anyone I ever saw.
See, there’s only one straight mark, and the best rider in the world turns his front wheel every now and then, making a separate track from the rear one. That’s no bicycle mark.”
“What is it then?” demanded Jerry. “Did some one roll a single bicycle wheel about on the roof for fun?”
Before Ned could reply, Bob, who had gone off several paces to the left, uttered a cry.
“Here’s another!” he shouted, pointing to the dusty tin roof. His companions hastened over, taking care to keep off the tracks, and there saw another mark, exactly like the first.
For a moment Jerry Hopkins stared at the second impression. Then he went back to look at the first one. Next he hurried forward and began looking at a space about midway between the two tire tracks. His companions and the policeman watched him curiously. Suddenly Jerry threw up his hand as a signal.
“I’ve found it!” he cried.
“What?” asked Ned.
“The third track!” was the response. “Fellows it was no bicycle up here. It was – ”
“An aeroplane!” fairly burst out Ned and Bob together, for now, with the discovery of the third impression, midway between and ahead of the first two, it was very plain to anyone who had had to do with aeroplanes that they were the marks of the three landing, or starting wheels, of such a craft, that had left the marks in the dust of the roof.
“An airship!” exclaimed the policeman. “Do you boys mean to say that an airship has been up here?”
“It certainly has,” declared Jerry firmly. “Look here! There are more marks farther on.” He pointed just beyond a blank space, where the tin roof was clean of dust, and the marks were again visible in the soft tar of another roof. “They landed here and made a start from here. They could easily do it. In fact this long, flat roof with the tar and gravel to give good traction, is an ideal starting place for an aeroplane.”
“An aeroplane on the roof!” murmured the officer, as if unable to believe it. “Do you think, Jerry – ”
“I think,” interrupted the tall lad, “that the bank burglars came through the air, made a landing here unseen by anyone in the street, went down the scuttle, looted the safe, and made a flying start from this roof.”
“Wait! Wait!” begged Mr. Thompson. “This is a new theory – I never heard the like before. It needs a regular detective to consider this. Wait until I get Blake up here. I’ll wager it’ll be news to him. Wait here for me.”
He hurried down the scuttle, and the boys eagerly looked for more impressions and talked about Jerry’s discovery. They went to the end of the row of buildings, and there, where the roof was of tar and gravel, they found in the soft black material the plain impression of the three wheels. They came to a sudden stop before “the jumping-off place,” as Jerry called it, was reached.
“Here’s where they sailed into the air,” he declared confidently.
“Let’s see if we can find where they landed,” suggested Ned.
They did, at the opposite end of the row of roofs, just where a tall building reared itself several stories higher than the row of low structures.
“They came down here all right,” declared Jerry excitedly pointing to the deep impression made by the wheels. The boys even found the place where the drag-brake had scraped a long line in the gravel, and that, to them, made their “case complete.”
Suddenly the merchant’s son uttered a cry, and straightened up.
“What’s the matter?” asked Jerry in surprise.
“Those wheel marks!” gasped Ned. “Look! Those are new tires, Jerry. Not worn a bit, and they’re the anti-skid style – see the corrugations and the rubber-protruding cleats.”
“I see ’em – what of it?”
“Don’t you remember – Noddy Nixon’s aeroplane – after he put on the new wheels, following his smash-up? Don’t you remember? He had wheels just like these – exactly like them. Look!”
Jerry glanced at his chum with wide-opened eyes. Then he looked down at the marks. The light of remembrance came into his eyes.
“By Jove, Ned, you’re right!” he exclaimed. “Noddy Nixon and Bill Berry – and that talk I overheard between them – Noddy Nixon – his aeroplane – I – ”
At that moment Detective Blake, followed by President Carter of the looted bank, and several of the directors, came out on the roof.
“How about it, Jerry?” asked Ned in a low voice, as the bank officials and the police approached. “Shall we tell ’em what we think?”
“And put ’em on Noddy’s track?” went on Bob.
“I hardly think so. Keep quiet. Leave it to me a while. I want to consider it. No, I guess we won’t say anything except that we believe an aeroplane was used. We needn’t say we have a suspicion as to whose it was.”
Thus Jerry answered his chums, and when the bank president, and the others, reached the side of the boys the tall lad was ready for them.
“What’s this the detective tells me you’ve discovered about an aeroplane being used?” asked Mr. Carter, incredulously.
“I think – in fact I’m sure one was,” declared Jerry. “It seems a strange thing to say, and a few years ago of course would have been out of the question, but it is not now.”
Then, with Ned and Bob putting in an occasional remark Jerry carefully explained his theory, pointed out the impressions of the anti-skid tires, and showed where the airship had landed, and where the robbers had gotten their start for a flight into the air.
“Hum!” mused President Carter, “I am almost convinced in spite of myself, young man. It certainly is an ingenuous explanation. What do you think of it, gentlemen?” and he turned to the directors. Some of them were plainly skeptical, some were half convinced, and one or two, who had seen some recent airship flights, expressed their belief in Jerry’s theory.
“What have you to say, Mr. Blake?” asked the president, of the detective.
“Well, sir, I hardly know. I never had any experience with a safe robber who used an airship, and yet, as this young man says, it might be possible. If it is we’re going to have a hard time to trace the thieves. It isn’t as if they had used an auto or a carriage. The air doesn’t leave any marks or traces.”
“Oh, it’s all nonsense! Utter nonsense!” interrupted a tall, thin director. “Preposterous! Why it’s out of the question. An airship indeed! You might as well tell me it was spirits that robbed the bank. I don’t believe a word of it! Besides, who are these boys who originate such a foolish theory. Do they know anything about airships?”
“They certainly do!” broke in Mr. Thompson with great earnestness. “They have been running one of the best airships ever made, and they just won the hundred mile race at Colton in their motorship Comet.”
For a moment the director who had ridiculed the theory of our friends looked first at them, and then at the officer. A change came over his face.
“Oh, these are those boys; eh?” he asked. “I – er – I read about that race – and they own the Comet? The craft that made that marvelous rescue in midair of Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is a friend of mine. He told me about that. It was very wonderful. Well, of course that puts a different face on it. If these are the motor boys, and they say an airship was used to rob our bank, why, I don’t know – of course I don’t understand much about such things, Mr. Carter – but I should say – not to be too positive of course – but I should say these boys know what they are talking about. Oh, yes, I believe I agree with them, and the best thing we can do it to get some circulars printed, offering a reward for the capture of the airship bank robbers.”
“I agree with you, and I think these lads are right,” spoke the president. “The next thing to do is to consider ways and means for capturing the robbers, and also how we can best protect our credit. For there will, no doubt, be a run on the bank as soon as the full news leaks out, as it will. I think we had better resume our deliberations, gentlemen. And I suggest that we have these boys before us, and question them. They may be able to give us some valuable clews.”
Once more the directors were in session, and Jerry and his chums told over again, and with more detail, how they had come to form their theory as to the airship.
“Now that is settled,” began the president, “the question arises, what sort of an airship was used, whose it might be, and where we can look for it? Can you boys enlighten us on those items?”
These were the questions Jerry had been fearing would be asked. He was in a peculiar position. He and his chums had well-grounded suspicions against Noddy and Bill, and yet Jerry thought it would hardly be fair to disclose them.
“It would be very hard, Mr. Carter,” said Jerry, “to say what kind of an aeroplane was used. In general they are all alike as regards the use of bicycle wheels. I should say that this was a large biplane, and that at least two men were in her.”
“Easily two men,” confirmed Detective Blake. “No one man alone could have blown the vault open.”
“As to finding out who they were,” went on Jerry, “I think the best plan would be to make inquiries among the makers of aeroplanes in this vicinity regarding the persons who have purchased machines lately, and also what machine was fitted with those peculiarly marked tires. Do that, at the same time send out a description of the missing securities, and have detectives in different parts of the country on the lookout for birdmen who have plenty of money to spend, and I believe you’ve done all that is possible – at least for the present.”
“Why, have you any hope for the future?” asked the president, struck by some peculiar meaning in Jerry’s tone.
“No – that is I – well, my chums and myself intend going off on a trip soon, and I was going to say that we would be on the lookout also, and, if we heard anything, we’d let you know.”
“Thank you,” said Mr. Carter genially. “I believe your advice is good, and we’ll follow it. Did you make a note of it, Mr. Blake?”
“Yes, sir, part of it has already been done. We have wired to all big cities for the police to be on the lookout for the thieves, and brief descriptions of the stolen securities have been wired broadcast. A printer is now setting up a circular to be posted in all railroad stations and other public places, so you see we have covered that end. I’ll at once get busy among the aeroplane makers and tire people, and as soon as I have anything worth while I’ll let you and the other gentlemen know.”
“Very good, and if these young men can get any trace of the robbers we’d be glad to hear from them. We are about to consider the matter of offering a reward, and that will soon be made public.”
Jerry and his chums, as well as several detectives who were in the room took this as a hint that they might now withdraw, and they did so. The motor boys, after a little further talk with their friend Mr. Thompson, and lingering a while to look at the large and increasing crowd about the bank, proceeded to the supply house to get a new cylinder.
“Well, we certainly ran into a bunch of news that time,” remarked Jerry, when, having purchased what they needed, they were on the trolley, going back to Colton.
“Yes, and we haven’t heard the last of it,” commented Ned. “What are we going to do about Noddy being mixed up in it?”
“I hardly know,” replied the tall lad. “It certainly looks as if he and Bill were in it. Yet I hate to inform on them.”
“But it isn’t right to let them get away with all that money – especially when some of it belongs to poor depositors,” declared Bob.
“You’re right, Chunky. I guess we’ll have to tell all we know,” and Jerry looked solemn. It was a duty to be performed, and Jerry was not one to shrink from it, no matter how unpleasant it might be.
“When you think of the talk he and Bill had that night you overheard them,” went on Ned, “there isn’t much doubt of Noddy’s guilt. Weren’t they saying something about doing a job, and getting away from the police?”
“Yes,” assented the tall lad.
“Then you can depend upon it they’re the guilty ones. I say let’s go back and tell the bank people about Noddy’s tires.”
“No – not yet – wait a day,” advised Jerry. “If it was Noddy and Bill they can’t get far away, and we seem to have the faculty of butting into them often.”
“But they may spend all that money,” objected Bob.
“Hardly two hundred and ten thousand dollars in a few days,” replied Jerry. “We’ll take a little longer to think of it, and then we’ll decide what to do. If we make up our minds to take a flight after the robbers – whether they are Noddy and Bill, or some one else – we’ll have to get the Comet in shape. Come on now, we’ll get busy and we won’t think anything more about the robbery until we have to.”
A BIG REWARD
There were several more events to come off in the aviation meet, but our friends were unable to take part in them because they found it a harder and longer task to put in the new cylinder than they had anticipated. But they had time to stop occasionally, and watch the birdmen in their dizzy flights high in the air or about the big valley where the contests were held.
Jerry and his chums finished work on the engine one afternoon, the day before the close of the meet, and yielding to the entreaties of the secretary and the other officials they gave an exhibition flight that was greeted with cheers.
“And this is the end of the meet,” remarked Jerry as they sat in their tent that night, for the next day would come the awarding of such prizes as had not previously been given out, and then the affair would be over.
“Well, what are we going to do?” asked Bob. “Have you made up your mind any further regarding Noddy and the robbery, Jerry?”
“No, and I can hardly say what we ought to do. Sometimes I feel like telling President Carter and the detectives everything, and again, suppose I should be wrong? It wouldn’t be very nice falsely to accuse even a fellow like Noddy Nixon.”
“Why don’t you tell the facts in the case, and let people draw their own conclusions,” suggested Ned. “You can tell of the conversation you heard between Bill and Noddy, and about the tires on Noddy’s machine. Then drop out of it, and tell them to work the clews as they see fit.”
“I believe that would be a good way out of it,” assented the tall lad. “I’ll do it. We’ll go to the bank to-morrow, and then we’ll start on a trip out west and see if we can’t get that flying frog for the professor.”
“Oh, you don’t know how anxious I am to start on that quest!” cried the scientist. “I can hardly wait! And so we will go to-morrow. Still, I can’t complain. I caught a pink striped June bug to-day, a very rare and valuable specimen,” and then the little man began poring over his note books.
There was little of interest to our heroes at the aviation grounds the next day, and Jerry and his chums made a trip in to Harmolet with the intention of having an interview with the bank president and the chief detective.
As they neared the bank building they saw in front of it almost as large a crowd as had been there the morning after the robbery.
“Hello!” exclaimed Ned. “I guess the run is still keeping up. Let’s get off the car and see what’s doing.”
“Maybe the robbers came back for the silver they didn’t take,” suggested Bob with a laugh.
By dint of pushing this way and that, the lads managed to get to a place where they could read a notice, which, printed in large type, posted on the side of the bank building. It caught Jerry’s eyes at once. The notice read:
The above reward will be paid to any person or persons who shall cause the arrest and conviction of the robber or robbers who, on the night of July 15, broke into this bank, and stole bank notes to the amount of sixty thousand dollars, and negotiable securities to the amount of one hundred and fifty thousand. About four thousand dollars in gold was also taken.
It is believed that the robbers used an aeroplane to land on the roof and in which to make their escape. The above reward will be paid immediately on the conviction of the robbers.
“Well, they’ve officially adopted our airship theory,” remarked Ned, with a smile at his chums.
“Yes, and I guess now will be as good a time as any to tell what more we know,” suggested Jerry. “Come on, we’ll ask to see Mr. Carter.”
They were making their way through the press of people and finding it no easy matter, when Ned almost knocked down a boy who, with three small bicycle tires hanging over his shoulder was standing on his tiptoes, trying to look over the heads of the crowd to read the reward notice.
“I beg your pardon!” exclaimed Ned. “Did I hurt you?”
“Naw, not a bit!” exclaimed the lad good naturedly. He was a typical errand boy, always glad of an excuse to stop and “kill” time. “Dat’s a swell reward de bank is offerin’,” he volunteered. “I wish I could cop it.”
“Yes, it wouldn’t be bad,” said Bob. As for Ned, after the first shock of the collision, and his apology, he was looking at the lad in a curious fashion – yet not so much at the boy as at the bicycle tires he carried.
“Look!” whispered Ned to Jerry, pointing to the rubber circlets. “Those are tires for aeroplane wheels,” went on the merchant’s son, “and they’re marked just like those Noddy had on his machine. Jerry, here’s a clew right under our noses!”
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