Tom Swift and his Great Searchlight by Victor Appleton
Chapter II. A Spy in Town
Tom Swift, Ned Newton and Koku, the giant, are busy trying to piece together the torn parts of the paper, containing an account of the airship smugglers. I will take the opportunity of telling you something about the young inventor and his work, for, though many of my readers have made Tom's acquaintances in previous books of this series, there may be some who pick up this one as their first volume.
Tom lived with his father, also an inventor of note, in the town of Shopton, New York state. His mother was dead, and a Mrs. Baggert kept house. Eradicate was an eccentric, colored helper, but of late had become too old to do much. Mr. Swift was also quite aged, and had been obliged to give up most of his inventive work.
Ned Newton was Tom Swift's particular chum, and our hero had another friend, a Mr. Wakefield Damon, of the neighboring town of Waterford. Mr. Damon had the odd habit of blessing everything he saw or could think of. Another of Tom's friends was Miss Mary Nestor, whom I have mentioned, while my old readers will readily recognize in Andy Foger a mean bully, who made much trouble for Tom.
The first book of the series was called "Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle," and on that machine Tom had many advances on the road, and not a little fun. After that Tom secured a motor boat, and had a race with Andy Foger. In his airship our hero made a stirring cruise, while in his submarine boat he and his father recovered a sunken treasure.
When Tom Swift invented a new electric run-about he did not realize that it was to be the speediest car on the road, but so it proved, and he was able to save the bank with it. In the book called "Tom Swift and His Wireless Message," I told you how he saved the castaways of Earthquake Island, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Nestor, the parents of Mary.
Tom Swift had not been long on the trail of the diamond makers before he discovered the secret of Phantom Mountain, and after that adventure he went to the caves of ice, where his big airship was wrecked. But he got home, and soon made another, which he called a sky racer, and in that he made the quickest flight on record.
With his electric rifle Tom went to elephant land, where he succeeded in rescuing two missionaries from the red pygmies. A little later he set out for the city of gold, and had marvelous adventures underground.
Hearing of a deposit of valuable platinum in Siberia, Tom started for that lonely place, and, to reach a certain part of if, he had to invent a new machine, called an air glider. It was an aeroplane without means of propulsion save the wind.
In the book, "Tom Swift in Captivity," I related the particulars of how he brought away two immense men from giant land. One, Koku, he kept for himself, while the other made a good living by being exhibited in a circus.
When the present story opens Tom had not long been home after a series of strange adventures. A moving picture concern, with which Mr. Nestor was associated, wanted some views of remarkable scenes, such as fights among wild beasts, the capture of herds of elephants, earthquakes, and volcanos in action, and great avalanches in the Alps. Tom invented a wizard camera, and got many good views, though at times he was in great danger, even in his airship. Especially was this so at the erupting volcano.
But our hero came swiftly hack to Shopton, and there, all Winter and Spring, he busied himself perfecting a new motor for an airship--a motor that would make no noise. He perfected it early that Summer, and now was about to try it, when the incident of the torn newspaper happened.
"Have you got all the pieces, Tom?" asked Ned, as he passed his chum several scraps, which were gathered up from the floor.
"I think so. Now we'll paste them together, and see what it says. We may be on the trail of a big mystery, Ned."
"Maybe. Go ahead and see what you can make of it."
Tom fitted together, as best he could, the ragged pieces, and then pasted them on a blank sheet of paper.
"I guess I've got it all here now," he said finally. "I'll skip the first part. You read me most of that, Ned. Just as you told me, it relates how the government agents, having tried in vain to get a clew to the smugglers, came to the conclusion that they must be using airships to slip contraband goods over the border at night."
"Now where's that mention of Shopton? Oh, here it is," and he read:
"'It is suspected that some of the smugglers have been communicating with confederates in Shopton, New York. This came to the notice of the authorities to-day, when one of the government agents located some of the smuggled goods in a small town in New York on the St. Lawrence. The name of this town is being kept secret for the present."
"'It was learned that the goods were found in a small, deserted house, and that among them were letters from someone in Shopton, relating to the disposal of the articles. They refuse to say who the letters were from, but it is believed that some of Uncle Sam's men may shortly make their appearance in the peaceful burg of Shopton, there to follow up the clew. Many thousands of dollars worth of goods have been smuggled, and the United States, as well as the Dominion of Canada custom authorities, say they are determined to put a stop to the daring efforts of the smugglers. The airship theory is the latest put forth.'"
"Well, say, that's the limit!" cried Ned, as Tom finished reading. "What do you know about that?"
"It brings it right home to us," agreed the young inventor. "But who is there in Shopton who would be in league with the smugglers?"
"That's hard to say."
"Of course we don't know everyone in town," went on Tom, "but I'm pretty well acquainted here, and I don't know of a person who would dare engage in such work."
"Maybe it's a stranger who came here, and picked out this place because it was so quiet," suggested Ned.
"That's possible. But where would he operate from?" asked Tom. "There are few in Shopton who would want to buy smuggled goods."
"They may only ship them here, and fix them so they can't be recognized by the custom authorities, and then send them away again," went on Ned. "This may be a sort of clearing-house for the smugglers."
"That's so. Well, I don't know as we have anything to do with it. Only if those fellows are using an airship I'd like to know what kind it is. Well, come on out to the shop now, and we'll see how the silent motor works."
On the way Tom passed his father, and, telling him not to work too hard in the sun, gave his parent the piece of paper to read, telling about the smugglers.
"Using airships! eh?" exclaimed Mr. Swift. "And they think there's a clew here in Shopton? Well, we'll get celebrated if we keep on, Tom," he added with a smile.
Tom and Ned spent the rest of the day working over the motor, which was set going, and bore out all Tom claimed for it. It was as silent as a watch.
"Next I want to get it in the airship, and give it a good test," Tom remarked, speeding it up, as it was connected on a heavy base in the shop.
"I'll help you," promised Ned, and for the next few days the chums were kept busy fitting the silent motor into one of Tom's several airships.
"Well, I think we can make a flight to-morrow," said the young inventor, about a week later. "I need some new bolts though, Ned. Let's take a walk into town and get them. Oh, by the way, have you seen anything more of Andy Foger?"
"No. and I don't want to. I suppose he's gone back home after his visit to Sam. Let's go down the street, where the Foger house is, and see if there's anything going on."
As the two lads passed the mansion, they saw a man, in the kind of suit usually worn by a carpenter, come out of the back door and stand looking across the garden. In his hand he held a saw.
"Still at the repairs, I guess," remarked Ned. "I wonder what--"
"Look there! Look! Quick!" suddenly interrupted Tom, and Ned, looking, saw someone standing behind the carpenter in the door. "If that isn't Andy Foger, I'll eat my hat!" cried Tom.
"It sure is," agreed Ned. "What in the world is he doing there?"
But his question was not answered, for, a moment later, Andy turned, and went inside, and the carpenter followed, closing the door behind them.
"That's queer," spoke Tom.
"Very," agreed Ned. "He didn't go back after all. I'd like to know what's going on in there."
"And there's someone else who would like to know, also, I think," said Tom in a low voice.
"Who?" asked Ned.
"That man hiding behind the big tree across the street. I'm sure he's watching the Foger house, and when Andy came to the door that time, I happened to look around and saw that man focus a pair of opera glasses on him and the carpenter."
"You don't mean it, Tom!" exclaimed Ned.
"I sure do. I believe that man is some sort of a spy or a detective."
"Do you think he's after Andy?"
"I don't know. Let's not get mixed up in the affair, anyhow. I don't want to be called in as a witness. I haven't the time to spare."
As if the man behind the tree was aware that he had attracted the attention of our friends, he quickly turned and walked away. Tom and Ned glanced up at the Foger house, but saw nothing, and proceeded on to the store.
"I'll wager anything that Andy has been getting in some sort of trouble in the town he moved to from here," went on Tom, "and he daren't go back. So he came here, and he's hiding in his father's old house. He could manage to live there for a while, with the carpenter bringing him in food. Say, did you notice who that man was, with the saw?"
"Yes, he's James Dillon, a carpenter who lives down on our street," replied Ned. "A nice man, too. The next time I see him, I'm going to ask him what Andy is doing in town, and what the repairs are that he's making on the house."
"Well, of course if Andy has been doing anything wrong, he wouldn't admit it," said Tom. "Though Mr. Dillon may tell you about the carpenter work. But I'm sure that man was a detective from the town where Andy moved to. You'll see."
"I don't think so," was Ned's opinion. "If Andy was hiding he wouldn't show himself as plainly as he did."
The two chums argued on this question, but could come to no decision. Then, having reached Tom's home with the bolts, they went hard at work on the airship.
"Well, now to see what happens!" exclaimed Tom the next day, when everything was ready for a trial flight. "I wish Mr. Damon was here. I sent him word, but I didn't hear from him."
"Oh, he may show up any minute," replied Ned, as he helped Tom and Koku wheel the newly-equipped airship out of the shed. "The first thing you'll hear will be him blessing something. Is this far enough out, Tom?"
"No, a little more, and then head her up into the wind. I say, Ned, if this is a success, and--"
Tom stopped suddenly and looked out into the road. Then, in a low voice, he said, to Ned:
"Don't move suddenly, or he'll suspect that we're onto his game, but turn around slowly, and look behind that big sycamore tree in front of our house Ned. Tell me what you see."
"There's a man hiding there, Tom," reported his chum, a little later, after a cautious observation.
"I thought so. What's he doing?"
"Why he--by Jove! Tom, he's looking at us through opera glasses, like that other--"
"It isn't another, it's the same fellow!" whispered Tom. "It's the spy who was watching Andy! I'm going to see what's up," and he strode rapidly toward the street, at the curb of which was the tree that partly screened the man behind it.