Clarence Young.

The Motor Boys on the Wing: or, Seeking the Airship Treasure





CHAPTER XXI
THE RAG ON THE STATUE

The attention of the boy with the tires was so much taken up with trying to look over the heads of the people about him, that, for a time, he did not notice the excitement of Jerry and his two chums caused by the unexpected discovery.

They are the same tires, murmured Bob.

Exactly, agreed Jerry. What shall we do?

Lets get this lad off in some quiet place, and talk to him, proposed Ned. Well ask him where he works, and whether his firm sold any tires to an aeroplane owner lately.

Hed hardly know about that, objected the tall lad, but well question him, anyhow. Ill talk to him.

After considering the matter for a few seconds, and turning over in his mind the best way to get at what he wanted to know, Jerry touched the lad on the shoulder, and asked:

Have you got a few minutes to spare?

What for? asked the boy suspiciously, taking a firmer hold of the rubber tires.

We want to ask you a few questions.

What about? and the lad backed away.

About those tires, and Jerry indicated them.

Where can we get some like them?

At the store where I work, Johnson and Carroll, 236 Main street. Its just down about two blocks.

Are you delivering these tires to some aeroplane owner? asked Jerry.

No, Im taking these back to the store. They were out at the meet in Colton.

Colton! gasped Jerry.

Yes, some fellows that had an aeroplane out there sent for some extra ones just before the exhibition opened. They wanted a heavy anti-skid kind wanted several sets of em, in case they punctured some. So I took out three sets nine in all. But those fellows left before the meet opened, and I was sent to-day, when it closed, to get the tires they hadnt used. They left word at the store that the unused tires would be found in their tent, but the boss didnt think to send me for em before. Those fellows used only one set, and left two.

What were the names of those men? asked Jerry with growing excitement.

Brown and Black! answered the lad, and he was little prepared for the flurry caused among his questioners by his unexpected answer.

Brown and Black! exclaimed Jerry.

Yep. Was they friends of yours? asked the boy.

No, not exactly, but we had met them. So they used this style of tires on their wheels? Jerrys brain was in a whirl. His suspicions against Noddy were disappearing.

But how is it, if they left two sets, or six tires, that you only have one set of three here? asked Ned. Couldnt you carry them?

Sure, but they werent in the tent that Brown and Black had used before they left. There was only these three tires there. At first I thought some one had swiped the extra set, but the secretary of the exhibition paid me for em.

Had he used them? inquired Bob.

No, but some fellow who had an accident and needed new wheels and tires on his airship heard about these tires in the vacant tent, and he took three, giving the money for em to the secretary.

The secretary knew they were our tires, and kept the money for us.

Were the tires exactly like these? asked Jerry, as he noted that the ridges and corrugations corresponded to the marks on the roof of the bank.

Just like em, replied the lad. The fellow whose airship had a smash, and Brown and Black, each have a set like em. Theyre great for airships. Maybe youd like a set.

Later, perhaps, assented Jerry who could not but admire the lads business instinct. But Jerry had something else to think about just then. Who was the man who bought the extra set of tires, and left the money for them with the secretary? asked the tall lad.

A young feller named Noddy Nixon, replied the messenger promptly.

Noddy Nixon! exclaimed Ned and Bob in a breath. It was the answer they had expected, but, nevertheless, it startled them.

Huh! Do you know him too? asked the boy.

Slightly, admitted Jerry. Were much obliged to you. Heres a dime for some ice cream soda, and then, fearing the lad would ask questions that might be embarrassing to answer, Jerry pulled his two chums to one side, and they soon lost sight of the messenger and his tires in the crowd.

Say, wouldnt that make you want to go in swimming? demanded Ned, when they could talk freely.

Its certainly got me going, admitted Bob, with a sigh.

And it knocks most of our theory squeegee! said Jerry, shaking his head. There are two aeroplanes fitted with those peculiar tires Noddys and Brown and Blacks. Now which one landed on the roof of the bank?

Give it up, answered Bob.

Same here, replied Ned. Its too deep for me.

Whod ever think of such a thing? went on Jerry. When Noddy smashed his wheels that time he must have heard about those extra tires that Brown and Black didnt use, and he put them on his machine. Then those two men already had a similar set on, and there you are.

Or rather, there you arent, suggested Ned. Now who committed the robbery Noddy or the other fellows? You pays your money and you takes your choice, as the fellow said in the circus.

Are you going to tell President Carter now? asked Bob.

I dont know what to do, replied Jerry, with a puzzled shake of his head. This puts an entirely new turn on it. Lets go off and talk it over.

Theres a little park somewhere up this way, not far from the bank, suggested Bob. Its got a statue and a fountain in it, and right across the street is a nice restaurant. I noticed it the other day. We could go to the park, sit down, and

Then go to the restaurant and have something to eat; eh Chunky? asked Jerry with a smile.

They walked on in silence and soon came to the little park of which Bob had spoken. It was prettily laid out, and in the centre was a large fountain, surmounted by a large statue on a pedestal, the statue being that of a man on a horse, holding aloft a bronze object that represented an ancient torch.

As the boys came in sight of this art work they saw several men gathered about it, and one was raising a long ladder to the shoulder of the figure.

Whats going on, I wonder? asked Bob.

Maybe theyre going to wash the mans face, or feed the horse, observed Ned. How about it, Chunky?

A man was now mounting the long ladder, and looking up our friends saw, fluttering from the torch which the bronze figure held aloft, a long rag.

Whats up? asked Jerry of one of the workmen who was holding the ladder steady.

Oh the sparrows have carried a rag up on the statue to build a nest in the torch I guess, replied the man. The birds like to get in there, but they make such a litter of straw, grass and rags, that we have to clean it out every once in a while. The top of the torch is hollow, you see, and it makes a good place for em. But I never knew em to take up such a big rag before. Its been there several days, but weve been so busy cutting the grass that we havent had time to take it down. To-day there was a letter in the paper from some old lady, who said the rag looked bad, so the superintendent of the park told us to get it down.

The explanation was satisfactory, and the boys watched the man climb up, and pull down the offending rag.

Pretty good size for sparrows to take up, he remarked to his fellow workmen, as he descended. There was this package in the hollow torch, too. I wonder how it got there?

He tossed the rag on a barrel full of leaves and paper refuse that had been swept up on the park paths. Something about the cloth attracted the attention of Jerry, who picked it up. No sooner had he felt of it than he uttered an exclamation.

Fellows! he cried, this isnt an ordinary rag. Its a piece of canvas such as airship planes are made of!

Are you sure? demanded Bob.

Certainly, replied Jerry. See, its just the kind we use in fact nearly all planes are made from this kind, which is woven especially for the purpose.

An airship; eh? mused the foreman of the park laborers. Maybe it dropped from some of the machines that were flying out at Colton.

It didnt drop, it was torn off, declared Jerry, looking at the ragged edges. Some airship went too close to the statue, and a wing tip, or a rudder hit the torch. It was risky flying all right.

Then it must have been done at night, declared the foreman, for some of the men are on duty in this park all day, and theyd have seen it if anything like that happened.

Perhaps it was a night flight, assented Jerry, as he looked at Bob and Ned. The same thought was in the minds of all of them the aeroplane of the bank robbers!

Whats that other thing you found in the torch? asked Ned of the man who had climbed the ladder.

I dont know. Its pretty heavy. Likely it was dropped by the fellows in the airship. Ill undo it.

He took off the wrapping paper, disclosing a small flat stone. As he did so two pieces of white paper fluttered to the ground. Jerry picked them up, and, as he read what was written on them he could not repress a cry of surprise.

For the names that confronted him were those of Noddy Nixon and Bill Berry!

CHAPTER XXII
OFF ON THE HUNT

Dont talk any more come away, advised Jerry in a low voice to his chums, as he handed back the slips of paper. We want to talk this over among ourselves.

The restaurants the place, decided Bob, and neither Jerry nor Ned laughed at him this time.

The three lads talked in guarded tones as they sat at a table in the eating place, waiting to be served. The new turn to the mystery had come with startling suddenness.

Now whom do you think committed the robbery? asked Ned. It begins to look as though Brown and Black were out of it; eh?

Not at all, was the answer of the tall lad. It was more likely them than Noddy and Bill. Not that the latter wouldnt do it if they had the chance, but I dont believe they know enough to drill a safe. Then there are those queer tools we saw in the Silver Star. One of them was a safe drill, Im sure.

But do you think there were two airships circling around Harmolet the night of the robbery? asked Bob.

Its possible. We saw Noddy head in that direction, and though Brown and Black left the aviation grounds before we reached them, they might have returned to rob the bank. Im sure they did it.

And Im sure Noddy did, declared Ned.

But why was he so close to the statue? asked Bob.

Theres no telling, answered Jerry. Maybe he did it just for a daring stunt. Leaving his name there makes it look that way.

But Ned was sure Noddy and Bill had robbed the bank, and nothing his chums could say would make him change his opinion.

Then the only thing to do is to go to President Carter, tell him what we have found out, and what we know, and let him do as he likes, suggested Jerry. Well mention about the queer tools we saw in the airship of Brown and Black, and how angry they were because we looked at their machine. Then the police can get busy, but I dont envy them their job.

And youll tell about the conversation you overheard between Bill and Noddy; wont you? asked Ned.

Sure.

Then thatll clinch the guilt on them all right, and we can divide the reward between us.

Wait until we get it first, advised Jerry drily.

Mr. Carter was much startled when told of the new developments in the case, and when informed of the suspicions of Jerry and his chums.

You did right not to speak of them before, he said, as the discovery of the tires puts a different face on it. I, myself, believe those two men Brown and Black, if those are their real names, are the guilty persons.

Youll find it was Noddy, declared Ned firmly.

Everyone is entitled to his own theory, said the president with a smile. Now I am going to summon here as many of the directors as I can get in touch with. Id like them to hear the stories of you young men. Would it be asking too much to request you to wait here?

Jerry and his chums were willing, and the president sent out and got the latest magazines for them to read while they were waiting.

I may have an offer to make to you after the meeting, he said with a smile, when a messenger had informed him that several of the directors were on their way to the bank.

The boys indulged in several speculations as to what Mr. Carter might want with them after the meeting, which was soon being held in the directors room. It was not a lengthy session, and in a little while a messenger came to summon the boys.

You are to appear before the president and directors, he said in awed tones.

My! Were getting to be quite important! remarked Bob.

Mr. Carter came to the point at once.

Young men, he said, I have told the directors what you have related to me. They wish to thank you for the pains you have taken, and they highly commend your course. Now they have a request to make of you.

As you are doubtless aware, a reward of ten thousand dollars has been offered for the arrest and conviction of the thieves. We thought we would make it big, as the sum taken was large, and unless some of it at least, is recovered, our bank may be seriously embarrassed. As it is we have been able temporarily to tide over our affairs.

Now, what I wish to know, and what these gentlemen have commissioned me to ask you motor boys, is whether you will not undertake to find the thieves for us?

Wed like to have you undertake the search, not only because you have discovered the first clews, proceeded the president, but because you have an airship, and can thus go where no other persons could. The police have no such advantage. Will you undertake this quest for us?

Jerry looked at his chums, and they looked at him. Evidently they were waiting for him to speak.

May we that is, Id like to talk with my friends before answering, said Jerry, after a pause.

Certainly. Take all the time you need.

The tall lad drew his companions into a corner of the big room.

Shall we do it, boys? he asked.

But we dont know where to look for em, whether its Noddy, or those other two fellows? objected Ned.

No, not yet, but we may be able to pick up some clews by circling around Harmolet. Shall we have a try for the ten thousand?

Im game, declared Bob. We were going off on a trip anyhow, to help the professor get his flying frog, and we might as well combine business with pleasure.

Well, Im willing, declared Ned.

That settles it, answered Jerry. Well go!

He turned to the president and announced the decision of himself and his chums.

Good! exclaimed the bank official. I was pretty sure youd go. Now as to details. Have you any idea where to begin to look?

The boys hadnt, and said so, but they had, in times past, gone off on quests with even more slender clews to work on, so they were not dismayed now. They said they would need a day to stock up the motorship for a long voyage, and get plenty of gasolene aboard. Then, too, they would have to send word of their intentions to their folks.

Well, start as soon as you can, urged the president, and they said they would. In spite of their diffidence about taking funds for expenses, the directors insisted on it, and a substantial sum was advanced. It was really needed, as the boys had not brought much money with them, and provisions were expensive.

They arranged to start on the following day, if possible and agreed to keep in telegraphic touch with the bank officials. They were to work independently of the police.

There were busy times ahead for our heroes. Hurrying back to the aviation grounds they gave their craft a thorough overhauling, and contracted for their supplies and stores.

They were ready to set sail on the afternoon of the following day, having sent word to Cresville of their plans.

Before we leave this vicinity, well just stop off at the bank, and see if there is any news, said Jerry, as they flew up from the aviation grounds.

They landed on the roof of the bank building row, partly because that was the best place, and partly to show that it had been perfectly feasible for the robbers to do so. A big crowd watched them.

Have you any news before we leave? asked Jerry of Mr. Carter.

Not any, he said. Youll have to depend on yourselves, Im afraid.

As he spoke a messenger came in with a telegram. Idly the president opened it. As he did so an expression of surprise came over his face.

Listen to this, boys! he exclaimed. There is news! This is from one of our private detectives. He says: Strangers in this town two days ago, passing twenty dollar gold pieces. May be a clew. You know some gold pieces were taken from our vault, the president went on. This may be of some value to you.

What town is that from? asked Jerry eagerly.

Newton; in this state, was the reply.

Then well head for Newton, cried the tall lad. Come on, fellows!

A little later the motor boys were once more on the wing, on the trail of the bank robbers.

CHAPTER XXIII
AFTER BROWN AND BLACK

Newton, as they had learned from a hasty inquiry just before they started, making their flight as the robbers had, from the roof of the bank, was a fairly large city about two hundred miles from Harmolet. It lay in a westerly direction, and so far that fitted in with the plans of Professor Snodgrass.

First well hear what Halwell, the private detective, has to say, decided Jerry. He may be able to give us a clew. If there were men in Newton, passing twenty dollar gold pieces right after the robbery, they were probably Brown and Black.

Or Noddy and Bill, put in Ned, who persisted in his theory.

Have your own way, spoke Jerry with a smile. At any rate well see what the detective has to say. Of course many persons may have twenty dollar gold pieces, but perhaps these men also passed big bills, and there were a number of them taken from the bank vault.

Meanwhile the Comet was making good time in the direction of Newton.

They sighted the church spires of that place shortly after dinner, and their descent into that quiet city was a great sensation. Every boy, nearly all the girls, and a good proportion of the men and women were on hand when our heroes came down, for an airship was a rarity in that part of the country.

And yet, if the bank robbers were here in one, spending money, I shouldnt think the folks would be so curious about ours, remarked Bob.

Maybe the burglars left their craft somewhere out in the woods, and came in on foot, suggested Ned.

Well find out from Detective Halwell, decided Jerry.

Where will we locate him? asked Ned.

I told President Carter to wire him that wed call on him at his hotel the Mansion House, went on the tall lad. As soon as we fix things here so the boys wont meddle, well go and

Ill stay here and guard the craft, interrupted the professor.

Are you sure you wont go off after the flying frog, or something like that? asked Jerry half jokingly.

Oh, no! the professor earnestly assured him. This section of the country is too much built-up to expect to find the frog here. Of course if I see a rare insect anywhere near the airship Ill get it. But I wont go so far away but what I can guard her.

The boys left with that understanding, and as they started for the hotel they looked back to see their scientific friend gravely pacing the deck of the Comet, about which was gathered a curious crowd.

Detective Halwell was located at the hotel, and the boys were just in time to catch him, for he was about to go out to meet them.

I heard of your arrival, he said. I got Mr. Carters message, and I was expecting you. Then I heard of the airship, and I knew it must be you. Glad to meet you. Now how much of this case do you know, and what can I do for you?

Jerry quickly put the detective in possession of the facts already known to my readers. In turn the tall lad asked:

Did the robbers actually come here in their airship? If so can you describe them to us, for we dont know for sure whether it was Noddy and Bill Berry, or Brown and Black.

Im sure in my own mind, interrupted Ned.

Im afraid its going to be hard to tell, went on the private detective. From what I can learn it was a middle-aged man who passed the twenty dollar gold pieces by which I got the clew. Now the best plan would be to go to the person who changed the money and have him describe this man. Then perhaps you could tell which one it was of the four you suspect.

Good idea, declared Jerry. Who changed the gold piece?

It was a man who keeps a little hotel on a country road leading in to this place, replied the detective. The way I happened to hear of it was this. Id been sent here by President Carter you see, to pick up any clews I could. Naturally I made inquiries, and the other morning I heard that the hotel clerk here had a twenty dollar gold piece, and was doubtful whether or not it was genuine. I have had some experience in counterfeiting cases, so I looked at it.

I never saw any better money it was Uncle Sams kind all right, and I asked him where he got it. He said the night clerk had taken it in, and as I was on the alert for anything like that, I kept on with my inquiries until I found that the money had been paid in by this hotel keeper I speak of Hardy his name is. He came to town to do some buying, and stopped here for his meal.





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