Tom Swift and his Great Searchlight by Victor Appleton
Chapter XXII. Hovering O'er the Border
"Well, Tom, you see I couldn't get along without you," exclaimed Mr. Period, as he rushed forward and grasped Tom's hand, having alighted in rather an undignified manner from the horse that he had ridden. "I'm after you again."
"So I see." remarked our hero. "But I'm afraid I can't--"
"Tut! Tut! Don't say that," interrupted the moving picture man. "I know what you're going to say. Don't do it! Don't go back on me, Tom! Have you the wonderful moving picture camera with you."
"I have, Mr. Period, but--"
"Now! Now! That'll do," broke in the excitable little man. "If you have it, that's enough. I want you to get me some films, showing you in chase of the smugglers. They'll be great to exhibit in our chain of theatres."
"How did you know I was here?" asked Tom. "Easily enough. I called at your house. Your father told me where you were. I came on. It cost me a thousand dollars--maybe more. I don't care! I've got to have those films! You'll get them for me; won't you?"
"That's enough! I know what you're going to say. Of course you will! Now how soon may I expect them. They ought to make a good run. Say in a week?"
"It all depends on the smugglers," said Mr. Whitford.
"Yes, yes! I understand, of course. I know! This friend of yours has been very kind to me, Tom. I looked him up as soon as I got to Logansville, and told him what I wanted. He offered to show me the way out here, and here I am. Let's have a look at the camera, to see if it's in good shape. Are you going to have a try for the smugglers to-night?"
"I think so," answered Tom. "As for the camera, really I've been so busy I haven't had time to look at it since we started. I guess it's all right. I don't know what made me bring it along, as I didn't expect to use it."
"But with your great searchlight it will be just the thing," suggested Ned.
"Yes, I think so," added Mr. Whitford, who had been told about the wizard instrument.
"Bless my detective badge!" cried Mr. Damon. "It may be just the thing, Tom. You can offer moving pictures of the smugglers in court, for evidence."
"Of course!" added Mr. Period. "Now, Tom, don't disappoint me."
"Well, I suppose I'll have to get the camera out, and set it up," conceded Tom with a laugh. "As you say, Mr. Damon, the pictures may come in valuable. Come, Ned, you get out the camera, and set it up, while Koku and I see to getting the ship in shape for a flight. You'll come along, Mr. Period?"
"I don't know. I was thinking of going back. I'm losing about a hundred dollars a minute by being away from my business."
"You'll have to go back alone," said Mr. Whitford, "as I have to be with Tom, in case of a capture."
"Ride back alone, through these woods? Never! The smugglers might catch me, and I'm too valuable a man to go that way! I'll take a chance in the airship."
Ned busied himself over the wizard camera, which had been stored away, and Mr. Period went with the young bank clerk to look after the apparatus. Meanwhile Tom and Koku saw to it that the Falcon was ready for a quick flight, Mr. Damon and Mr. Whitford lending whatever aid was necessary. The horses, which the agent and Mr. Period had ridden, were tethered in the clearing where they could get food and water.
"Did the smugglers rush anything over last night?" asked Tom.
"No, we evidently had them frightened. But I shouldn't be surprised but what they made the attempt to-night. We'll go back toward the St. Regis Indian reservation, where they were getting ready to unload that steamer, and hover around the border there. Something is sure to happen, sooner or later."
"I guess that's as good a plan as any," agreed Tom, and in a little while they started.
All that night they hovered over the border, sailing back and forth, flashing the great light at intervals to pick up the white wings of a smuggling airship. But they saw nothing.
Mr. Period was in despair, as he fully counted on a capture being made while he was present, so that he might see the moving pictures made. But it was not to be.
The wizard camera was all in readiness, but there was no need to start the automatic machinery. For, search as Tom and his friends did for a trace of the smugglers, they could see nothing. They put on full speed, and even went as far as the limits of the Indian reservation, but to no purpose. They heard no throbbing motor, no whizz of great propellers, and saw no white, canvas wings against the dark background of the sky, as Tom's craft made her way noiselessly along.
"I guess we've frightened them away," said Mr. Whitford dubiously, as it came near morning, and nothing suspicious had been seen or heard. "They're holding back their goods, Tom until they think they can take us unawares. Then they'll rush a big shipment over."
"Then's the time we must catch them," declared the young inventor. "We may as well go back now."
"And not a picture!" exclaimed Mr. Period tragically. "Well, be sure to get good ones when you do make a capture, Tom."
"I will," promised the young inventor. Then, with a last sweep along the border he turned the nose of his craft toward Logansville. He had almost reached the place, and was flying rather low over the country roads, when Ned called:
"Hark! I hear something!"
The unmistakable noise of a gasolene motor in operation could be distinguished.
"There they are!" cried Mr. Period.
"Bless my honeysuckle vine!" gasped Mr. Damon.
"The light, Ned, the light!" cried Tom.
His chum flashed the powerful beam all around the horizon, and toward the sky, but nothing was visible.
"Try down below," suggested Mr. Whitford.
Ned sent the beams earthward. And there, in the glare, they saw a youth speeding along on a motor-cycle. In an instant Tom grabbed up the binoculars and focussed them on the rider.
"It's Andy Foger!" he cried.