Harrie Hancock.

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



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"Are you certain, Giddings, that you have facilities for turning over the five millions to us at once?" asked Mr. Ross.

"Why, we've been calling in cash for some days," replied Gaston Giddings. "We've been preparing for this demand of yours for money. Then, you know, we secured the whole of the Treasury Department's last apportionment of thousand-dollar Treasury notes. We have three million dollars' worth of these notes locked in our vaults at this moment. That's good enough money for you, isn't it?" demanded the young bank president, boastfully.

"Yes," muttered Ross, "if it's all there when we get back."

"What do you mean?" demanded Giddings, flushing.

"I guess you know how highly I esteem your cashier, Rollings?"

"He's all right," declared Giddings, hotly.

"As long as I don't own any stock in your bank I'm not worrying," replied Ross, rather shortly. "It's none of my business, young man; yet, as one of your father's friends, I can't help being uneasy over the thought that Rollings has the combination of your main vault."

"If he didn't have, I could hardly take these jaunts out to sea," retorted the young man.

"Yes, you could; Hawkins, your vice-president and your father's before you, is a man to be trusted with anything. Hawkins could go to the main vault whenever necessary. For Rollings to have that combination – "

"I don't want to hear any more of this!" cried Giddings, hotly, rising from the table.

"You don't need to, then," rejoined Mr. Ross, coolly. "You know what I think."

"Don't get in a huff, Gaston," put in Joseph Baldwin, briskly. "Ross has told you, plainly, in so many words, just what other friends of yours think of Rollings. He's an able banking man, but none of us think too highly of his honesty. You'll find that two of your own directors, Mr. Pendleton and Mr. Howe, who are here, agree with Mr. Ross and myself."

Mr. Howe remained silent, tapping the table with a pencil, but Mr. Pendleton said, slowly:

"Oh, I guess Frank Rollings is all right. Still, I wish, with the others, that he didn't have such easy access to three millions of dollars in bills of such large denomination that the whole sum could be carried off in a satchel."

"Gentlemen," announced Giddings, rather stiffly, "when we reach San Francisco to-morrow morning, and find that the money is all safe, I shall consider that I have the apology of each one of you for the doubts thrown at my friend, Frank Rollings, behind his back."

That was the last that Tom Halstead heard, for he left the cabin. At eight o'clock that evening, however, the young skipper received his orders from Mr. Baldwin to make San Francisco at ten the following forenoon. Almost to the minute the yacht's bow anchors were let go at her usual moorings in San Francisco Bay. The power tender was lowered over the side, to take Mr. Baldwin and his guests ashore, Quartermaster Bickson going along to handle the boat.

"Come along with us, if you like, Captain," invited Mr.

Baldwin. "After we get through our business at the bank our party will lunch at one of the clubs. It ought to be pleasant for you."

Tom gratefully accepted, making a swift change from his uniform to ordinary street dress.

Gaston Giddings held his head a good deal higher than usual when he led the party from carriages into the sombre, solid old building in which the Sheepmen's Bank was housed. The young president conducted his party through the long counting room and into the president's office at the rear.

Here Giddings took command, as by right. Showing his guests to seats, he stepped over to a massive roll-top desk, unlocking it and throwing the roll up. Then he pressed a button on his desk. One of the bank's messengers entered.

"Ask Mr. Rollings to come in," desired Giddings.

The messenger soon returned, to report:

"Mr. Rollings is out at this moment. Mr. Conroy, the first assistant cashier, is at his desk."

"Mr. Conroy will do, then."

The first assistant cashier was soon in the president's office. To him Giddings explained about the loan that had been decided upon.

"I will prepare a list, Mr. Conroy, of stable securities on which I wish you to raise two million dollars in cash at once. But, first of all, get Mr. Hawkins to go to the main vault with you. Tell Mr. Hawkins that I wish the three millions in thousand-dollar notes brought here. You come back here with Mr. Hawkins."

"Can it be delayed for just a little while, sir?" inquired Conroy. "Two of the United States bank examiners are here, prepared to go over our assets."

"Bring that three million here at once," rapped out Gaston Giddings, rather sharply. "The bank examiners may come in here and help in counting it here in my office. Now, go; carry out my orders, precisely."

Mr. Conroy departed in haste. While he was gone the two bank examiners entered the president's room. Giddings greeted them, asking them to take seats. Cigars were passed about by a messenger. The air was rather thick with smoke when Conroy returned, accompanied by the aged vice-president, Mr. Hawkins. The latter carried a satchel, which he took to the large centre table.

"The money there?" inquired Giddings.

"Yes, sir," responded Mr. Hawkins. "I understood that you wished to look it over here."

As Giddings laid down his cigar, moving over to the table, the two bank examiners joined the bank's officers.

Not a very imposing-looking pile was revealed when Mr. Hawkins opened the satchel, drawing forth the contents – three not very large packages covered with numerous heavy seals.

"As I'll probably never see three million dollars again in my life, I'll try to get a good look now," thought Tom Halstead, keenly alive with interest. He sat at some distance from the table, but had a good view.

Gaston Giddings himself opened one of the packages. He broke the seals deliberately, then unfolded many wrappings. Suddenly the contents of the package fell to the polished mahogany surface of the table, followed by the frenzied gaze of the young president.

"Nothing but blank brown paper!" he screamed, hoarsely. He collapsed, falling with his arms across the table, his eyes bulging as though an epileptic seizure threatened him.

With a fearful gasp Henry Hawkins snatched up another package, tearing it nervously apart. Conroy did the same with the third package. In each case the result was the same.

"Three million dollars worth of brown paper!" clicked one of the bank examiners.

Gaston Giddings, moaning piteously, turned, tottering back to his desk, where he fell heavily into his chair, next letting his head fall forward on his arms. Messrs. Hawkins and Conroy recovered much more quickly. They darted out into the counting room, but presently came back to report.

Frank Rollings had been gone more than an hour. When he left, he had carried a satchel. Some fifteen minutes before leaving the bank he had been in the main vault, the huge steel door of which he had afterwards closed. Conroy was now in that vault, with several subordinates, engaged in making a rapid survey of the other contents.

In the president's room Henry Hawkins, who no longer waited to consult the almost paralyzed young president, went swiftly to the telephone. The Bankers' Protective Association, advised by telephone, swiftly had half a dozen detectives scurrying to the bayside, to take up the trail at the ferry that furnishes the sole avenue to the east. Others of these detectives covered the docks of vessels due to sail that day from the port of San Francisco.

Nor did the bank examiners present fail to do their duty promptly. Within a few minutes a United States assistant district attorney and two deputy marshals arrived at the bank.

From the first moment none who had knowledge of the affair believed Frank Rollings, the absent cashier, to be innocent. The assistant district attorney swiftly drew up an information, which Giddings and Hawkins signed under oath. The law's officer rushed off to get from a United States judge a brief warrant authorizing the arrest of the cashier, for the Sheepmen's was a national bank, and the robbery came under the jurisdiction of the United States courts.

Then came a telephone message from the Banker's Association:

"One of our detectives has learned that Rollings sailed, an hour ago, on the steam yacht, 'Victor.' An observer at the Cliff House reports that he has made out the 'Victor,' some miles from the coast, hull-down to the southwest!"

That news electrified those in the bank president's office. They sprang into action. Automobiles were summoned to the door of the bank. Joseph Baldwin's same party sped back to the water front. Another 'phone message summoned the assistant district attorney and his marshals to meet them at the landing stage.

It was all carried through with a rush. Hardly had the last member of the party stepped over the side of the "Panther" before Tom Halstead had the anchors up and stowed. The young skipper himself, from the bridge, rang the engine room bell for half speed ahead, quickly changing this to full speed.

"Are you in the engine room, Joe Dawson?" called Skipper Tom, through the speaking tube.

"Right on hand!" came the answer.

"Then whoop up the speed for all you're worth. Let's have it all – every bit. We're on the chase of our lives!"

Captain Tom Halstead was still on the bridge when the Golden Gate was left behind. He was still there, more than two hours later, when the upper spars of a vessel believed to be the "Victor" were made out on the far southwestern horizon.

CHAPTER X
COMING TO CLOSE, DANGEROUS QUARTERS

"Have any of you gentlemen ever had a good, long look at the 'Victor'?" shouted Captain Tom, leaning down over the starboard bridge rail.

"I have," admitted Mr. Baldwin.

"Then I think you'd better come up here, sir, and take one of the glasses."

"Think you've sighted her?" demanded Baldwin, eagerly, as he raced up the steps.

"We've sighted some yacht. We've got to cut down a few miles of the distance between us before we can be sure about the stranger."

Then, while Baldwin held the glasses to his eyes, Dick Davis showing him where to look, Halstead snatched up the engine room speaking tube.

"Joe, give us more of that hot-foot, if it's in the old motors. We think we're in chase – but, oh, man, man! How we need speed now!"

"I can't be sure of anything yet," complained Mr. Baldwin, in a depressed tone. "We've got to be nearer, and see the hull of the craft yonder, before I can feel sure about her."

"I'm pretty near sure, now, that it's the 'Victor,'" muttered Halstead, after he had picked up his own marine glass and used it for a few seconds.

"Why do you say that?" demanded the owner.

"Our masts must be visible to the commander of the other craft. As if he suspected pursuit, he's crowding on steam. See that big cloud of black smoke coming up between the other craft's masts?"

"Yes! You're right."

"Now, unless a captain who is already moving under good speed is trying to escape something, he doesn't suddenly throw on his furnace drafts in that fashion," went on Tom, hurriedly. "So, Mr. Baldwin, I think you may feel sure that you're speeding along in the wake of the 'Victor.'"

"I'll have to call Jephson up here and show him this," cried the owner, moving to the bridge rail.

"All right, sir. But don't ask any others up. We've got a hard chase in hand, and don't want enough folks up here to interfere with the handling of the 'Panther.'"

Jephson started quickly forward at the call.

"Have you sighted the runaway craft?" called Mr. Ross, also starting forward.

"We think so," Mr. Baldwin answered. "But don't come up here. Captain Halstead doesn't want a crowd on the bridge. All the space up here is needed for handling the yacht."

Mr. Jephson saw what there was to see. He added his belief that they were in the wake of the "Victor."

"Are you going to be able to overtake her, Captain?" he demanded, eagerly.

"We're going to try," Tom responded, anxiously. "We've only four hours of daylight, or so, left to us. If we can get close enough, however, we ought to hold the 'Victor' after dark with our searchlight."

"You'll overtake her, of course!" declared Joseph Baldwin, abruptly.

"Yet the 'Victor' is said to be a very fast boat, sir."

"So is the 'Panther,'" retorted the owner. "Besides, Captain Halstead, we've got to overtake her!"

Tom Halstead took up the mouth-piece of the engine room speaking tube.

"That you, chief?" he asked. "I think you'd better come to the bridge, watch the chase, and see what you have to beat."

Joe Dawson came immediately to the bridge. Presently he used the tube, calling down very definite instructions to Jed Prentiss, whose trick it was at the motors.

"Keep a close eye on your helmsman's work, Mr. Davis," the young captain directed. "See to it that he doesn't waver a hair's breadth in bearing down on the stranger. Any speed lost in steering would be a useless waste."

While Joe remained on the bridge, Halstead soon went to the deck below. Mr. Baldwin followed him.

"If you can make the 'Panther' show all I think there is in her, Captain," commented the owner, "then we should overtake that other craft and have this chase ended in a few hours."

"The 'Panther' is doing, now, sir, all that she is capable of doing under her motors alone. The result of this race depends mainly on how well the steam yacht is handled, for she seems very nearly, if not quite, as speedy as your yacht."

"Is the 'Panther' going at absolutely her last quarter of a mile?"

"Chief Engineer Dawson informs me that he might get a little more speed out of the motors, but that he feels it wouldn't be altogether safe to try."

"Wouldn't a hoist of sail help us?"

"Not with the wind from the present quarter," Tom replied, thoughtfully. "I have already been considering that."

"It seems hard to be beaten," sighed Joseph Baldwin. "It is hard, even, not to find ourselves racing right up on the 'Victor.'"

"We haven't been beaten yet, sir," smiled Halstead. "Nor are we beaten as long as we have the other boat in sight."

As Baldwin turned and stepped over to the rail, he saw Skipper Tom moving away.

"Where are you going, Captain?"

"To my cabin, sir, to take a nap."

"Nap?" echoed the owner, in great amazement.

"Yes, sir; I am afraid I shall be up about all night. Just now there's a chance for me to store up some sleep."

"But the chase?"

"Mr. Davis will have his orders to call me if we appear to be losing ground at all."

Mr. Baldwin looked his astonishment. He did not yet know the Motor Boat Club boys as well as he might have done. Dick Davis was up on the bridge, keen-eyed and alert. Dick knew well enough what to do, and he could call the young captain at need. Besides, Joe Dawson was up there with the second officer, watching the relative speeds of the two boats.

When Tom Halstead turned out again he had put two hours of sleep into his supply of reserve force.

"How do we stand, now, Mr. Davis?" asked the young skipper, reaching for the speaking tube.

"We've been gaining, sir. We can make out the upper hull, now. Mr. Baldwin is here on the bridge, and declares the stranger is the 'Victor.' One of the deputy marshals, who knows the boat well, is also certain."

"Is the 'Victor' burning coal as hard as ever?"

"Just as hard, sir."

"And we're gaining? That shows we can overhaul the other craft in time. How's the weather?"

"Slight haze, Captain, but fine weather," reported Dick Davis.

So Captain Tom Halstead felt that he could still safely take his time, for he expected to be all night on duty. He indulged in the luxury of a bath, dressed comfortably, drew on his reefer, then leisurely left his cabin, ascending the stairs to the bridge.

"I've hardly been away from here," announced Mr. Baldwin.

"I doubt if I shall be, to-night, sir," Tom answered.

"You speak of to-night as though you thought the chase would last through the hours of darkness."

"And doesn't it seem likely to you that it will, Mr. Baldwin, unless something happens to the 'Victor'?"

"I fear I was never built for slow, patient work like this," sighed the financier. "Gaining one second in every hour would wear me out in time."

Before dark Captain Halstead had the hull clearly in sight. The "Victor," however, was still some five miles in the lead, nor did the "Panther" appear to be gaining, much more than half a mile an hour.

It was Third Officer Costigan's watch on the bridge, by this time. Dick Davis, however, did not feel like turning in, and spent much of his time pacing the deck forward, keeping a sharp lookout.

Just before dark the motor yacht's searchlight was turned on. A few minutes later its thin, bright ribbon of light was kept almost constantly turned on the craft ahead.

Tom Halstead and Joe spent a comfortable amount of time over their dinner at table in the captain's cabin.

"I guess Mr. Baldwin wonders that we can take any comfort at this sort of thing," laughed Joe. "I'll wager he doesn't give much time to his supper to-night."

"Perhaps we wouldn't, either, if we owned considerable stock in the Sheepmen's Bank, as Mr. Baldwin does," murmured Halstead. "For him, and for some of the others aboard, this race is for tremendously heavy stakes. I wish, though, that Mr. Baldwin could realize that, even if we do eat, and even nap, we are straining every nerve to catch up with the other boat."

Just then the buzzer for the bridge speaking tube sounded. Tom was able to reach the mouthpiece without leaving the table.

"Captain," reported Mr. Costigan, "the craft ahead seems to be making somewhat less speed."

"Does it look like a break-down?" asked the young skipper.

"Can't say, sir. But the 'Victor' must be going two miles an hour slower than she was ten minutes ago."

"That's the best news I've heard, Mr. Costigan. Watch your helmsman's work. Let me know if anything more happens. Anyway, I'll be on the bridge as soon as I've finished dinner."

Joe, who had jumped up while he heard his chum speaking, now looked astonished.

"Going to finish your dinner, Tom, after hearing such news as that?"

"Yes. Why not? Oh, I'm enthusiastic enough, but it takes gasoline, not enthusiasm, to keep motors going. You might call the news down to Jeff Randolph, though, and see whether he thinks he can put on any more spurt without danger."

Jeff Randolph reported that the motors were going at top speed.

Chief Steward Parkinson came in to remove the dishes for that course. His face was glowing.

"Mr. Baldwin's up on the bridge, Captain," reported the steward.

"I thought he would be," nodded the young skipper, coolly.

Twenty minutes later, when Captain Tom Halstead had finished the last of the meal, he rose, donning his cap, then pulling on his deck ulster.

"Now," he remarked, quietly, "I think I'll go above and have a look."

Joe Dawson followed at his heels. The long beam of the searchlight trailed out over the water, its further end resting across the stern of the "Victor." Mr. Costigan had ordered a sailor to the bridge, whose sole duty was to keep the searchlight trained.

"This race can't last much longer," cried Mr. Baldwin, gleefully.

"The present indications, sir," Tom replied, "are that it will last more than long enough for you to go below and have your dinner, Mr. Baldwin, if you want it."

"I think I will go," laughed the owner. "Standing up here, watching, watching all the time, my nerves are getting thready. You'll call me, of course, if – "

"When we get near enough to hail the other boat, sir," Tom Halstead replied, gravely.

Dinner was not quite over in the main cabin when Skipper Tom uttered a sudden exclamation that made Costigan wheel about.

The "Victor" was palpably slowing down.

"What can that mean?" demanded Halstead.

"A crank-pin loose, or some other trouble with the machinery, sir?" suggested the third officer.

Tom Halstead quickly summoned the sailor who was with the quartermaster in the pilot house.

"Go to the main cabin, with my compliments, and tell Mr. Baldwin that the other craft is slowing down," ordered Tom.

There was a rush from below. The assistant from the United States district attorney's office took but a brief look, then dived below to find his two deputy marshals. These two officers followed their superior to the deck, stationing themselves in the bow.

"Captain," shouted Mr. Jephson, "will you go up close enough so that I can hail them?"

"When we overtake the steam yacht," Captain Halstead shouted back, "I shall run up to starboard of her, and as close as I can without danger of collision."

"That will do excellently, Captain," assented the district attorney's assistant.

The "Panther" was now rapidly closing in on the distance that separated the two craft. As yet, however, the motor yacht remained almost fairly astern.

Suddenly, from one of the stern port-holes of the steam yacht there came two red flashes. A bullet crashed through the glass in the front window of the "Panther's" pilot house. Captain Tom was standing with his head some two feet from the searchlight. The second bullet whizzed between his head and the light.

Almost instantly two more flashes showed ahead.



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