Harrie Hancock.

The Motor Boat Club at the Golden Gate: or, A Thrilling Capture in the Great Fog



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"I know 'em all," asserted the seedy guide, eagerly. "Want to smoke the opium pipe?"

"Can't say," replied Tom, vaguely. "Yet, if I do go around with you, you've got to take me to the really swell opium places."

"Oh, I can do it – better'n any other guide in Chinatown," promised the fellow, quickly. "Come, just hand over the two dollars, and see what I can show you."

With a great pretense of reluctance Captain Tom produced four half dollars, which he handed to the guide.

"Remember, now," he said, "I want what you might call the aristocratic places."

"If ye ain't satisfied," promised the guide, glibly, "then ye'll get your money back."

"Go ahead, then, but mind what I told you."

Through dark alleyways, or through stores into rear apartments, Halstead followed his conductor. In rapid succession he passed in and out of half a dozen opium joints. One was as much like another as two kernels of wheat resemble each other.

In each place there was the same outer room, then the same bunk-room, an apartment fitted up with bunks at the sides. It was in these rooms that the smoking was done. The intending smoker stretched himself out in a bunk, while a Chinese attendant brought lamp and kit. A tiny ball of opium was quickly lighted – "cooked" – at the lamp's flame. Then this glowing pellet of opium was thrust into the bowl of an opium pipe, and the latter handed to the smoker in the bunk. The smoker consumed his pellet after two or three whiffs. After smoking three or four pipes, most of the smokers succumbed, falling back in a torpid sleep.

The air was heavy, disgusting in these places. Degraded white men and women were occasionally to be seen, though most of the smokers were Orientals, generally Chinese.

Heart-sick and dizzy, Tom Halstead still kept on, though, whenever he reached outer air, he took pains to inflate his lungs several times before again entering one of the wretched, squalid "joints."

Off the bunk-rooms several of these dens had "private" sleeping apartments, for white smokers who desired more privacy. Wherever he noted doors to such private rooms Tom Halstead thrust them open, glancing inside. Nor was his conduct resented. The opium smokers were too far gone to show or feel anger.

"You haven't shown me any very swell places yet," protested the young skipper, after leaving the seventh place.

The guide, a thin, undersized, slovenly man in his early thirties, turned to look the motor boat boy over keenly.

Tom noticed that the fellow's eyes had a look in them much like the look in the eyes of several of the smokers they had just seen.

"This fellow is an opium-user himself," decided Tom Halstead.

"Say, young feller," remarked the guide, in a cautious undertone, "you're looking for someone."

"Perhaps I am," the young skipper half admitted.

"Who is he?"

"No matter. But do you know any of the men who come here to Chinatown often to use the pipe?"

"Say, if there's any white hop-fiend that I don't know, then he's a brand-new one," rejoined the guide.

"Do you know a young man of twenty-four or five, about five-eight tall, dark, slim, rather fine-looking, smooth faced and with a slight scar under his right ear?"

"I guess that must be young Doc Gaston," whispered the guide.

Gaston? That was Giddings's first name.

Tom Halstead started, though he strove to conceal his excitement.

"Where does Doc Gaston go?" he demanded.

"What'll you pay to find out?" insisted the guide, cunningly.

"Ten dollars."

"Make it fifty, and I'll do it for you."

Tom, however, stuck to his original price, though three or four minutes were lost in haggling.

"Ten dollars is the highest price," Tom declared, flatly. "That pays you for standing by me until I get Doc Gaston – if he's the one I'm looking for – outside of Chinatown."

"Well, gimme the money now, then," demanded the guide.

"Oh, no," retorted the young skipper, tartly. "You get the money after we're through and on the edge of Chinatown in a cab. Now, don't haggle any more, or I'll drop the matter altogether. Are you going to take my offer, or not?"

"Say, you'll sure pay the ten, will ye?" whined the fellow.

"As sure as there's a sky above us."

"Then come along."

"Where's the place?" questioned Tom Halstead.

"Around the next corner."

"Do you know where Yum Kee's restaurant is?"

"O' course. They call Yum Kee the Chinatown Delmonico."

"Lead me back there, then, and we'll get the carriage."

Tom Halstead had been around so many corners in this crowded, complex quarter of San Francisco that he had lost his bearings. The guide, however, piloted him back to the waiting cab within two minutes.

First of all, however, the young skipper peered in at the restaurant. Messrs. Baldwin and Ross were at one of the rear tables, eating.

"Tell the driver where to go, now, and we'll make the start," Tom instructed the guide. Soon afterwards they alighted before a brightly-lighted Chinese grocery store. Besides the proprietor, there were three or four clerks and a dozen yellow-skinned, pig-tailed customers in the place. The guide, with an air of being at home here, led the way straight back, pushing ajar a door at the rear. The instant they entered this rear compartment the sickening odor of sizzling opium greeted Captain Tom's nostrils. This proved to be the inevitable outer room, but the guide led into the adjoining bunk-room. In this latter apartment were half a dozen doors.

"Just look through 'em," whispered the guide. "Don't talk to me none. Remember, if there's a row here, I've got to make up a yarn that will square things for me."

Two of the private rooms into which Halstead boldly intruded proved to be empty.

In the third room a weazened little old Chinaman crouched over a lamp and a tray holding an outfit. He was preparing to remove these things. In the bunk, sprawled out, with glassy eyes, was a young man whom Tom Halstead recognized in a flash – weak, vice-ridden Gaston Giddings!

CHAPTER VI
FACING THE YELLOW BARRIER

"Maybe what you likee here?" demanded the little old Chinaman, looking up with a snarl.

"Looking around," retorted Tom, grimly.

"Allee same —git!"

The guide had approached, taking a swift, shifty look in at the bunk.

"That's Doc Gaston, isn't it?" whispered Tom, over his shoulder.

"Don't ye know him?" queried the guide, suspiciously.

"He looks strange, with that glassy look in his eyes."

"That's Doc Gaston, all right. 'Least, that's what he calls himself in Chinatown."

"You allee same git – chop-chop," snarled the Chinaman, savagely. He had put the smoking outfit on the floor once more, and now pushed against the motor boat boy with both hands, trying to force him from the room. Tom, however, coolly and gravely picked the short Chinaman up off his feet, wheeled and put him down again on the floor of the bunkroom beyond.

"Now, shove off!" ordered Halstead, half gruffly. "Don't bother me again."

After flashing an ugly look at the motor boat boy, the Chinaman fled in the direction of the store.

"Now, whatcher going to do?" demanded the guide, nervously.

"If I can't get young Gaston to walking on his own feet, then I'm going to pick him up in my arms and carry him out to the carriage," answered Tom Halstead, firmly.

"Smoking joss-house!" gasped the guide. "D'ye know what'll happen? There'll be a house-full of them chinks down on us! Hatchet men – gun men – say, young feller, dontcher know that these here hop-joints are protected by the highbinders?"

Tom Halstead had heard of the Chinese highbinders in New York. He knew of them as a desperate crowd of yellow-skinned thugs. The guide's own terror was too real to be feigned.

"If you're afraid of this kind of a job, what did you come here for?" asked the young skipper, quickly, gruffly.

"Why, I thought ye was goin' to try to coax the young Doc out. But, say – taking him out by force – lemme get outer this on the jump!"

"No, you don't," roared Tom Halstead, with swift and quite unlooked-for energy. "Stand by, now!"

He gripped the guide by the arm, fairly forcing him over to the bunk in which the young opium smoker lay. Giddings, if it was really he, lay open-eyed, yet unheeding.

"Come, get up!" ordered the boy, reaching with both hands under the opium smoker's shoulders and raising him. "Out on your feet!"

A drowsy, unintelligible protest came from the stranger. But Tom fairly lifted him out onto his feet, then threw a strong, supporting arm about him.

"Now, walk! Come along!" ordered Halstead, briskly, taking hold of the young man with his other hand.

"Sufferin' joss-sticks!" wailed the guide. "Here come the chinks – number-one man and all!"

The door of the bunkroom burst open. Through the doorway rapidly advanced the gorgeously-dressed Chinaman whom Tom had supposed to be the proprietor of the store beyond. Back of him came four plainly-attired Chinamen with as hard-looking, evil faces as could be found in all Chinatown's quagmire of vice.

"This ain't my doings, Ling!" wailed the guide, quailing before the stern glances of the yellow leader – the "number-one man." "I told this young fellow he'd have to quit. Let us out."

"Yes; let us out!" repeated Tom Halstead, staring undauntedly into the eyes of Ling.

"Put him down," ordered Ling, nodding scowlingly at the stranger whom Halstead supported. "Then, maybe, we see what we do with you."

The air was full of danger of the most awesome kind. Though not a weapon showed, as yet, each of the four Chinese behind the proprietor stood with his hands thrust up into his sleeves. A Chinaman always carries his weapons up his sleeves, whence he can bring them down, into action, with incredible rapidity.

"Now, don't think you've got me frightened," uttered Tom Halstead, sturdily, gazing undauntedly at the Chinese. "There isn't any scare in me when I'm dealing with people like you. If you make one single false move you'll be the ones who'll be sorry for it. Ling, I'm going to take this young man out of here. His friends know where he is, and they've sent me here to get him. I'm going to take him out of here, chop-chop. If I'm not out of here in another minute or so, then this young man's friends will bring down police enough on you to clean the place out."

Ling laughed contemptuously.

"Oh, you may think you have money enough, and 'pull' enough, to keep the police from troubling you," jeered young Halstead. "But, if this young man's friends get after you, it'll make a noise that the police can't shut their ears to."

Two of the men behind Ling stood blocking the doorway. The other two, by now, were edging around to get on either side of the unflinching boy.

"You yellow scoundrels, get back, and stay back!" commanded Tom, glaring at them sternly.

There comes into notice, now and then, a man who has enough of the magnetic quality of bravery to hold a mob back. Tom Halstead was possessed of the grit needed for such an undertaking.

"Get out of the way, Ling – you and your heathen hatchet men," commanded the young skipper, resolutely. "I'm going past you. If I find any fellow in my way I'll knock him down. If you fight back, it'll be the finish of you and of this place. Gangway, you yellow idiots!"

Still supporting, half dragging, the dazed young banker, Tom Halstead grittily pressed his way to the doorway and through it. One of Ling's henchmen attempted to stand immovable, but Halstead, with a quick blow of his open hand, sent the fellow stumbling backward.

"If you're thinking of creeping up behind me, don't try it," advised Halstead, as coolly as ever, as he started across the outer room.

He gained the closed door connecting with the outer store. Pausing here, a moment, he beheld two of Ling's yellow-visaged fellows creeping toward him.

"Back for yours – that'll keep you out of trouble," barked the young skipper, coolly, without raising a hand to defend himself. Then he threw the door open, calling backward over his shoulder:

"Don't you dare let this young man in here again, Ling. If you do, it'll wind you up."

With that the motor boat boy contrived to pilot his charge swiftly through the store. He was not safe until he had passed the last of these yellow men, and the young skipper knew it. Yet, at last, he had the stranger out on the sidewalk, one hand up to signal the driver of the cab.

The guide, keeping close to the motor boat boy, had managed to get out with him. But the little fellow was shaking as though seized with the ague.

"Get into the cab, and help me take the young man in," ordered Tom, and the guide was glad, indeed, to dive inside the carriage. In another moment they were driving away.

"Say, but you've got the nerve!" chattered the guide, his teeth knocking together.

"Maybe you'd have some nerve if you'd learn to leave hop alone," rejoined Halstead. "Hop" is the Chinatown name for opium.

Halstead sat on the rear seat, supporting the young banker beside him. In a little while the cab again halted in front of Yum Kee's restaurant.

"Here," said Halstead, producing a ten-dollar bill. "Take this. Skip as soon as you like."

"You oughter gimme more," whined the guide.

"I've given you all I agreed. No use trying to get any more."

The guide, thereupon, sprang out, vanishing within a few seconds. Going to the doorway of the restaurant, yet standing where he could keep a close watch on the cab, Tom uttered a long, low whistle. Messrs. Baldwin and Ross saw him instantly, and came hastening out. By the time they reached the cab the young skipper was inside again.

"Is this your young man?" asked Halstead, almost in a whisper.

"Yes," nodded Baldwin, a jubilant gleam showing in his eyes.

"Better jump in, then, sir, so we can get away quickly."

Gaston Giddings now leaned against Tom's shoulder, sleeping the sleep of drugged stupefaction.

"How on earth did you find him so soon?" questioned Joseph Baldwin, leaning forward when the cab had gone beyond the confines of Chinatown. Tom told the whole story, simply and modestly.

"Young man," uttered Jason Ross, solemnly, "I don't believe you have any idea, yet, of how huge a risk you ran yourself into. The Chinese criminal is desperate at all times, but ten-fold more so when he's on his own ground, surrounded only by his own crowd."

"Well, I got out, didn't I?" smiled the young skipper, coolly.

"Yes; but I marvel at it."

"I understand more and more why Delavan recommended these youngsters to me," breathed Joseph Baldwin, gleefully. "'Ready for anything,' he told me, was the motto of the Motor Boat Club boys."

When the cab rolled out onto the dock Jeff Randolph was found pacing back and forth on the landing stage. No other member of the crew was in sight, and Jeff stated that none of the others of Mr. Baldwin's party of guests had yet returned.

Gaston Giddings, still unaware of his surroundings, was helped aboard the tender. A swift trip was made to the "Panther," and the unfortunate young man was immediately carried below to be put to bed in one of the stateroom berths.

Half an hour later Mr. Baldwin's other guests returned from dinner. Jeff, who had gone back to meet them, brought them on board, next going back to await the arrival of Third Officer Costigan and the crew. Dr. Gray hastened below, to attend to Giddings, and to keep him quiet, also, after the crew should come on board.

As for Captain Tom, after receiving Ab Perkins's report that all was well aboard, he went to his own cabin, calling Joe Dawson, through the speaking tube, to join him. Here Joseph Baldwin found both youngsters.

"Captain Halstead, how much did you spend on my account, to-night?" asked the owner.

"Altogether, sir, twelve dollars on the guide."

"Never mind about any change, then," rejoined Mr. Baldwin, passing over a bank note.

"I think I can make change for that, sir," retorted Skipper Tom, his color rising. "I'm not out after 'tips,' you know, sir," he added, with a smile.

Producing a roll of money from an inner pocket, Halstead counted out eighty-eight dollars, which he handed to the owner.

"You may refuse, now, but I shall be even with you later," remarked Joseph Baldwin. "And now, Captain, as soon as you can, after the crew comes aboard, I want you to put out to sea. I'll give you more explicit orders as soon as we're seven or eight miles west of the coast."

"Very good, sir," replied Captain Tom, saluting as the owner turned to leave the captain's cabin.

"You've been running into a bit more excitement, have you?" queried Joe, smiling.

"A bit," laughed Halstead. Dawson asked no further questions.

At a few minutes after midnight Mr. Costigan returned with his shore party.

"It's your watch below, Mr. Costigan, until eight o'clock in the morning," First Officer Ab Perkins informed the third officer. "When you are called to turn out we'll be at sea."

"Very good, sir," replied Costigan, and went below to seek his berth. Neither the third officer nor any of the crew had any suspicion that anything unusual had happened this evening.

"Where's Mr. Costigan?" inquired Captain Halstead, coming forward.

"Gone below to sleep, sir," Ab replied.

"Then I'm afraid you'll have to rout him out. He'll have to stay on deck until he has piloted us through the Golden Gate. I want to be under way within five minutes."

Somewhat chagrined, Ab Perkins sent one of the crew below for the third officer. Costigan was speedily in evidence.

Now, one of the motors began to chug briskly below, and the two bow anchors came speedily up, being stowed by the watch. Joe was in the engine room with Jed Prentiss, while Captain Tom Halstead, feeling prouder and happier than ever in his life before, climbed to the bridge up behind the pilot house. After him went Dick Davis, whose watch it was to stand. Mr. Costigan, after seeing the anchors stowed, started for the bridge also.

"Give the engine room slow speed ahead, Mr. Davis," directed Tom.

Dick gave the bell-pull at the bridge rail the required jerk. The "Panther" began to move gracefully ahead, while Mr. Costigan, with the pilot-house speaking tube in his hand, called down the helmsman's orders.

"Dick, this is the real thing!" whispered Tom Halstead, jubilantly, in his comrade's ear while Costigan was busy at the speaking tube.

"It's as fine as bossing a liner," rejoined Dick Davis, enthusiastically.

"Better!" declared Halstead.

Dick presently signaled the engineer for more speed. The "Panther" ploughed through the waters of the bay, toward the Golden Gate.

As Tom Halstead peered through the night ahead he felt another ecstatic thrill. It was all so fine, so glorious! No doubt it was better for him, at this moment, that he could not foresee all that lay ahead of him.

CHAPTER VII
DICK TAKES THE RESCUE BOAT TRICK

It wasn't long before First Officer Ab Perkins also climbed the stairs to the bridge.

"If this craft runs on the rocks, it won't be for want of officers at their post," laughed Skipper Tom, gleefully.

"I couldn't keep away," confessed Ab. "It's the first time in my life I've ever stood on a real bridge by right. Oh, but this is a different thing altogether from the tiny bridge-deck of a fifty-foot boat!"

Third Officer Costigan paid no heed to the motor boat boys. Though Costigan had never held higher rank than he now enjoyed, standing watch on a bridge was no new sensation for him. The young Irishman thought, mainly, of the time when he would have the "Panther" through the Gate and well off the coast. Then he could turn in below.

Presently a fifth person joined the little squad on the bridge. It was Joseph Baldwin.

"You've a clear night and an easy sea, Captain," smiled the owner. "It's a fortunate sort of start for you."

"Yes, sir."

"When you're well clear of the Gate, Captain, look in on me down in the main cabin, and I'll give you your sailing orders for the night."

"Yes, sir."

Halstead knew his own dignity on the bridge. He was on duty, and did not attempt to engage the owner in any conversation other than that which concerned his present duties. Mr. Baldwin went below just after the "Panther's" prow was turned into the beginning of the Golden Gate, that magnificent approach to San Francisco harbor. The Gate is some two miles long, and nearly a mile wide, with an abundance of deep water for the passage of the largest craft afloat.

"What speed, sir?" asked Dick Davis.

"Ten miles is fast enough in this channel, isn't it, Mr. Costigan?" inquired the young captain.

"About as much as is best, sir."

Dick, at a sign from Halstead, communicated the order to the engine room. Twelve minutes later the "Panther" was clearing the Gate, leaving a track of foam behind her as Davis signaled for increased speed.

Joe, leaving his first assistant below at the motors, now joined the bridge squad.

"If there's nothing more, Captain," suggested Dawson, "I'll turn in below for the night."

Captain Halstead nodded. Soon afterwards he went below, to the main cabin.

"I've come to report for orders, Mr. Baldwin," he announced.

"They're simple enough," replied the owner. "Clear the coast by some twenty miles; then cruise south, at not too great speed – say, about twelve miles an hour."

"Do these orders hold until changed, sir?"



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