Tom Swift and his Great Searchlight by Victor Appleton
Chapter I. A Scrap of Paper
"Tom, did you know Andy Foger was back in town?"
"Great Scott, no, I didn't Ned! Not to stay, I hope."
"I guess not. The old Foger homestead is closed up, though I did see a man working around it to-day as I came past. But he was a carpenter, making some repairs I think. No, I don't believe Andy is here to stay."
"But if some one is fixing up the house, it looks as if the family would come back," remarked Tom, as he thought of the lad who had so long been his enemy, and who had done him many mean turns before leaving Shopton, where our hero lived.
"I don't think so," was the opinion of Ned Newton, who was Tom Swift's particular chum. "You know when Mr. Foger lost all his money, the house was supposed to be sold. But I heard later that there was some flaw in the title, and the sale fell through. It is because he couldn't sell the place that Mr. Foger couldn't get money to pay some of his debts. He has some claim on the house, I believe, but I don't believe he'd come back to live in it."
"Because it's too expensive a place for a poor man to keep up, and Mr. Foger is now poor."
"Yes, he didn't get any of the gold, as we did when we went to the underground city," remarked Tom. "Well, I don't wish anybody bad luck but I certainly hope the Fogers keep poor enough to stay away from Shopton. They bothered me enough. But where did you see Andy?"
"Oh, he was with his crony, Sam Snedecker. You know Sam said, some time ago, that Andy was to pay him a visit, but Andy didn't come then, for some reason or other. I suppose this call makes up for it. I met them down near Parker's drug store."
"You didn't hear Andy say anything about coming back here?" and the young inventor's voice was a trifle anxious.
"No," replied Ned. "What makes you so nervous about it?"
"Well, Ned, you know what Andy is--always trying to make trouble for me, even sneaking in my shop sometimes, trying to get the secret of some of my airships and machinery. And I admit I think it looks suspicious when they have a carpenter working on the old homestead. Andy may come back, and--"
"Nonsence, Tom! If he does you and I can handle him. But I think perhaps the house may be rented, and they may be fixing it up for a tenant. It's been vacant a long time you know, and I heard the other day that it was haunted."
"Haunted, Ned! Get out! Say, you don't believe in that sort of bosh, do you?"
"Of course not. It was Eradicate who told me, and he said when he came past the place quite late the other night he heard groans, and the clanking of chains coming from it, and he saw flashing lights."
"Oh, wow! Eradicate is geting batty in his old age, poor fellow! He and his mule Boomerang are growing old together, and I guess my colored helper is 'seeing things,' as well as hearing them. But, as you say, it may be that the house is going to be rented. It's too valuable a property to let stand idle. Did you hear how long Andy was going to stay?"
"A week, I believe."
"A week! Say, one day would be enough I should think."
"You must have some special reason for being afraid Andy will do you some harm," exclaimed Ned. "Out with it, Tom."
"Well, I'll tell you what it is, Ned," and Tom led his chum inside the shop, in front of which the two lads had been talking. It was a shop where the young inventor constructed many of his marvelous machines, aircraft, and instruments of various sorts.
"Do you think some one may hear you?" asked Ned.
"They might. I'm not taking any chances. But the reason I want to be especially careful that Andy Foger doesn't spy on any of my inventions is that at last I have perfected my noiseless airship motor!"
"You have!" cried Ned, for he knew that his chum had been working for a long time on this motor, that would give out no sound, no matter at how high a speed it was run. "That's great, Tom! I congratulate you. I don't wonder you don't want Andy to get even a peep at it."
"Especially as I haven't it fully patented," went on the young inventor. He had met with many failures in his efforts to perfect this motor, which he intended to install on one of his airships. "If any one saw the finished parts now it wouldn't take them long to find out the secret of doing away with the noise."
"How do you do it?" asked Ned, for he realized that his chum had no secrets from him.
"Well, it's too complicated to describe," said Tom, "but the secret lies in a new way of feeding gasolene into the motor, a new sparking device, and an improved muffler. I think I could start my new airship in front of the most skittish horse, and he wouldn't stir, for the racket wouldn't wake a baby. It's going to be great."
"What are you going to do with it, when you get it all completed?"
"I haven't made up my mind yet. It's going to be some time before I get it all put together, and installed, and in that time something may turn up. Well, let's talk about something more pleasant than Andy Foger. I guess I won't worry about him."
"No, I wouldn't. I'd like to see the motor run."
"You can, in a day or so, but just now I need a certain part to attach to the sparker, and I had to send to town for it. Koku has gone after it."
"What, that big giant servant? He might break it on the way back, he's so strong. He doesn't realize how much muscle he has."
"No, that's so. Well, while we're waiting for him, come on in the house, and I'll show you some new books I got."
The two lads were soon in the Swift homestead, a pleasant and large old-fashioned residence, in the suburbs of Shopton. Tom brought out the books, and he and his chum poured over them.
"Mr. Damon gave me that one on electricity," explained the young inventor, handing Ned a bulky volume.
"'Bless my bookmark!' as Mr. Damon himself would say if he were here," exclaimed Ned with a laugh. "That's a dandy. But Mr. Damon didn't give you this one," and Ned picked up a dainty volume of verse. "'To Tom Swift, with the best wishes of Mary--'" but that was as far as he read, for Tom grabbed the book away, and closed the cover over the flyleaf, which bore some writing in a girl's hand. I think my old readers can guess whose hand it was.
"Wow! Tom Swift reading poetry!" laughed Ned.
"Oh, cut it out," begged his chum. "I didn't know that was among the books. I got it last Christmas. Now here's a dandy one on lion hunting, Ned," and to cover his confusion Tom shoved over a book containing many pictures of wild animals.
"Lion hunting; eh," remarked Ned. "Well, I guess you could give them some points on snapping lions with your moving picture camera, Tom."
"Yes, I got some good views," admitted the young inventor modestly. "I may take the camera along on some trips in my noiseless airship. Hello! here comes Koku back. I hope he got what I wanted."
A man, immense in size, a veritable giant, one of two whom Tom Swift had brought away from captivity with him, was entering the front gate. He stopped to speak to Mr. Swift, Tom's father, who was setting out some plants in a flower bed, taking them from a large wheel barrow filled with the blooms.
Mr. Swift, who was an inventor of note, had failed in his health of late, and the doctor had recommended him to be out of doors as much as possible. He delighted in gardening, and was at it all day.
"Look!" suddenly cried Ned, pointing to the giant. Then Tom and his chum saw a strange sight.
With a booming laugh, Koku picked up Mr. Swift gently and set him on a board that extended across the front part of the wheel barrow. Then, as easily as if it was a pound weight, the big man lifted Mr. Swift, barrow, plants and all, in his two hands, and carried them across the garden to another flower bed, that was ready to be filled.
"No use to walk when I can carry you, Mr. Swift," exclaimed Koku with a laugh. "I overtook you quite nice; so?"
"Yes, you took me over in great shape, Koku!" replied the aged inventor with a smile at Koku's English, for the giant frequently got his words backwards. "That barrow is quite heavy for me to wheel."
"You after this call me," suggested Koku.
"Say, but he's strong all right," exclaimed Ned, "and that was an awkward thing to carry."
"It sure was," agreed Tom. "I haven't yet seen any one strong enough to match Koku. And he's gentle about it, too. He's very fond of dad."
"And you too, I guess," added Ned.
"Well, Koku, did you get that attachment?" asked Tom, as his giant servant entered the room.
"Yes, Mr. Tom. I have it here," and from his pocket Koku drew a heavy piece of steel that would have taxed the strength of either of the boys to lift with one hand. But Koku's pockets were very large and made specially strong of leather, for he was continually putting odd things in them.
Koku handed over the attachment, for which his master had sent him. He held it out on a couple of fingers, as one might a penknife, but Tom took both hands to set it on the ground.
"I the female get, also," went on Koku, as he began taking some letters and papers from his pocket. "I stop in the office post, and the female get."
"Mail, Koku, not female," corrected Tom with a laugh. "A female is a lady you know."
"For sure I know, and the lady in the post office gave me the female. That is I said what, did I not?"
"Well, I guess you meant it all right," remarked Ned. "But letter mail and a male man and a female woman are all different."
"Oh such a language!" gasped the giant. "I shall never learn it. Well, then, Mr. Tom, here is your mail, that the female lady gave to me for you, and you are a male. It is very strange."
Koku pulled out a bundle of letters, which Tom took, and then the giant continued to delve for more. One of the papers, rolled in a wrapper, stuck on the edge of the pocket.
"You must outcome!" exclaimed Koku, giving it a sudden yank, and it "outcame" with such suddenness that the paper was torn in half, tightly wrapped as it was, and it was considerable of a bundle.
"Koku, you're getting too strong!" exclaimed Tom, as scraps of paper were scattered about the room. "I think I'll give you less to eat."
"I am your forgiveness," said Koku humbly, as he stooped over to pick up the fragments. "I did not mean."
"It's all right," said Tom kindly. "That's only a big bundle of Sunday papers I guess."
"I'll give him a hand," volunteered Ned, stooping over to help Koku clear the rug of the litter. As he did so Tom's chum gave a gasp of surprise.
"Hello, Tom!" Ned cried. "Here's something new, and I guess it will interest you."
"What is it?"
"It's part of an account of some daring smugglers who are working goods across the Canadian border into the northern part of this state. The piece is torn, but there's something here which says the government agents suspect the men of using airships to transport the stuff."
"Airships! Smugglers using airships!" cried Tom. "It doesn't seem possible!"
"That's what it says here, Tom. It says the custom house authorities have tried every way to catch them, and when they couldn't land 'em, the only theory they could account for the way the smuggling was going on was by airships, flying at night."
"That's odd. I wonder how it would seem to chase a smuggler in an airship at night? Some excitement about that; eh, Ned? Let's see that scrap of paper."
Ned passed it over, and Tom scanned it closely. Then in his turn, he uttered an exclamation of surprise.
"What is it?" inquired his chum.
"Great Scott, Ned, listen to this! 'It is suspected that some of the smugglers have'--then there's a place where the paper is torn-'in Shopton, N.Y.'" finished Tom. "Think of that, Ned. Our town here, is in some way connected with the airship smugglers! We must find the rest of this scrap of paper, and paste it together. This may be a big thing! Find that other scrap! Koku, you go easy on papers next time," cautioned Tom, good naturedly, as he and his chum began sorting over the torn parts of the paper.