Tom Swift and his Great Searchlight by Victor Appleton
Chapter V. The Raid
Tom Swift dropped the tool he was using, and came over to where Ned stood, his chum having vaulted in through the open window.
"Ned," said the young inventor, "there's something queer about this business."
"I'm beginning to think so myself, Tom. But just what do you mean?"
"I mean it's queer that the smugglers should pick out a place like Shopton--a small town--for their operations, or part of them, when there are so many better places. We're quite a distance from the Canadian border. Say, Ned, where was it that Mr. Foger moved to? Hogan's alley, or some such name as that; wasn't it?"
"Logansville, this state, was the place. I once saw Tom Snedecker mail Andy a letter addressed to there. But what has that to do with it?"
Tom's answer was to turn to a large map on the wall of his shop. With a long stick he pointed out the city of Logansville.
"That isn't very far from the Canadian border; is it, Ned?" he asked.
"Say, what are you driving at, Tom? It's right on the border between New York and Canada, according to that map."
"Well, that's a good map, and you can be sure it is nearly right. And, look here. There's the town of Montford, in Canada, almost opposite Logansville."
"Oh, nothing, only I'm going to see Mr. Whitford."
"What do you mean, Tom?"
"I mean that the something queer part about this business may be explained. They have traces of the smugglers sending their goods to Shopton to be re-shipped here, to avoid suspicion, probably. They have a suspicion that airships are used to get the goods over the Canadian border at night."
"But," broke in Ned, "the government agent said that it was across the St. Lawrence River they brought them. Montford is quite a distance from the river. I suppose the smugglers take the goods from the river steamers, land them, pack them in airships, and fly across with them. But if you're trying to connect the Fogers, and Logansville, and Montford with the smugglers, I don't see where it comes in with the St. Lawrence, and the airships, Tom."
"Forget that part of it for a while, Ned. Maybe they are all off on airships, anyhow. I don't take much stock in that theory, though it may be true."
"Just think of the Fogers," went on Tom. "Mr. Foger has lost all his money, he lives in a town near the Canadian border, it is almost certain that smuggled goods have been shipped here. Mr. Foger has a deserted house here, and--see the connection?"
"By Jove, Tom, I believe you're right!" cried his chum. "Maybe the airships aren't in it after all, and Andy is only making a bluff at having his repaired, to cover up some other operations in the house."
"I believe so."
"But that would mean that Mr. Dillon, the carpenter is not telling the truth, and I can't believe that of him."
"Oh, I believe he's honest, but I think Andy is fooling him. Mr. Dillon doesn't know much about airships, and Andy may have had him doing something in the house, telling him it was repair work on an airship, when, as a matter of fact, the carpenter might be making boxes to ship the goods in, or constructing secret places in which to hide them."
"I don't believe it, Tom. But I agree with you that there is something queer going on in Shopton. The Fogers may, or may not, be connected with it. What are you going to do?"
"I'm first going to have a talk with Mr. Whitford. Then I'm going to see if I can't prove, or disprove, that the Fogers are concerned in the matter. If they're not, then some one else in Shopton must be guilty. But I'm interested, because I have been brought into this thing in a way, and I want it sifted to the bottom."
"Then you're going to see Mr. Whitford?"
"I am, and I'm going to tell him what I think. Come on, we'll look him up now."
"But your noiseless airship?"
"Oh, that's all right. It's nearly finished anyhow, I've just got a little more work on the carburetor. That will keep. Come on, we'll find the government agent."
But Mr. Whitford was not at the hotel where he and the other custom inspectors had put up. They made no secret of their presence in Shopton, and all sorts of rumors were flying about regarding them. Mr. Whitford, the hotel clerk said, had gone out of town for the day, and, as Ned and Tom did not feel like telling their suspicions to any of the other agents, they started back home.
"I understand they're going to search every house in Shopton, before they go away," said the clerk to the boys. "They are going to look for smuggled goods."
"They are; eh?" exclaimed Colonel Henry Denterby, who had fought in the Civil War. "Search my house; eh? Well I guess not! A man's house is his castle, sir! That's what it is. No one shall enter mine, no matter if he is a government official, unless I give him permission, sir! And I won't do that, sir! I'll be revolutionized if I do! No, sir!"
"Why, you haven't any smuggled goods concealed, have you, Colonel?" slyly asked a hotel lounger.
"Smuggled goods? What do you mean, sir?" cried the veteran, who was something of a fire-eater. "No, sir! Of course not, sir! I pay my taxes, sir; and all my debts. But no government spy is going to come into my house, and upset everything, sir, looking for smuggled goods, sir. No, sir!"
Some were of one opinion, and some another, and there was quite a discussion underway concerning the rights of the custom officers, as the boys came out of the hotel.
Likewise there was talk about who might be the guilty ones, but no names were mentioned, at least openly.
"Let's go past the Foger house on our way back," proposed Ned, and as he and Tom came in front of it, they heard a pounding going on within, but saw no signs of Andy or the carpenter.
"They're keeping mighty close," commented Tom.
The two boys worked that afternoon on the new airship, and in the evening, when Ned came over, Tom proposed that they make another attempt to see Mr. Whitford.
"I want to get this thing off my mind," spoke the young inventor, and he and his chum started for the hotel. Once more they passed the Foger house. It was in darkness, but, as the two lads stood watching, they saw a flash of a light, as if it came through a crack in a shutter or a shade.
"Some one is in there," declared Tom.
"Yes, probably Andy is getting his own supper. It's queer he wants to lead that sort of a life. Well, everyone to their notion, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow."
They stood for a few minutes watching the old mansion, and then went on. As they passed down a lane, to take a short cut, they approached a small house, that, in times past, had been occupied by the gardener of the Foger estate. Now, that too, was closed. But, in front of it stood a wagon with a big canvass cover over it, and, as the lads came nearer, the wagon drove off quickly, and in silence. At the same time a door in the gardener's house was heard to shut softly.
"Did you see that?" cried Ned.
"Yes, and did you hear that?" asked Tom.
"They're carting stuff away from the old gardener's house," went on Ned. "Maybe it's there that the smugglers are working from! Let's hurry to see Mr. Whitford."
"Hold on!" exclaimed Tom in a whisper. "I've got one suggestion. Ned. Let's tell all we know, and what we think may be the case, but don't make any rash statements. We might be held responsible. Tell what we have seen, and let the government men do the rest."
"All right. I'm willing."
They watched the wagon as it passed on out of sight in the darkness, and then hurried on to see Mr. Whitford. To say that the custom officer was astonished at what the boys related to him, is putting it mildly. He was much excited.
"I think we're on the right trail!" he exclaimed. "You may have done a big service for Uncle Sam. Come on!"
"Where?" the boys asked him.
"We'll make a raid on the old Foger home, and on the gardener's house at once. We may catch the rascals red-handed. You can have the honor of representing Uncle Sam. I'll make you assistant deputies for the night. Here are some extra badges I always carry," and he pinned one each on the two young men.
Mr. Whitford quietly summoned several of his men to his hotel room, and imparted to them what he had learned. They were eager for the raid, and it was decided to go to the Foger home, and the other house at once, first seeking to gain an entrance to the mansion.
Accompanied by Tom and Ned, Mr. Whitford left the hotel. There were few persons about, and no attention was attracted. The other agents left the hotel one by one, and in the darkness gathered about the seemingly deserted mansion.
"Stand ready now, men," whispered Mr. Whitford. "Tom, Ned and I will go up the steps first, and knock. If they don't let us in I'm going to smash the door. Then you follow."
Rather excited by what was about to take place, the two chums accompanied the chief custom agent. He rapped loudly on the door of the house, where only darkness showed.
There was a moment of silence, and then a voice which Tom and Ned recognized as that of Andy Foger, asked:
"What do you want?"
"We want to come in," replied Mr. Whitford.
"But who are you?"
"Uncle Sam's officers, from the custom house."
Tom distinctly heard a gasp of surprise on the other side of the portal, and then a bolt was drawn. The door was thrown back, and there, confronting the two lads and Mr. Whitford, were Andy Foger and his father.