Chapter XIX. The Buzzing Sound
 

"Are you Mrs. Damon?" came the question again--rather more impatiently this time, Tom thought.

"Yes," answered the lady, glancing over at Tom. The extension telephone was in the same room. Softly Tom switched on the phonograph attachment. The little wax cylinder began to revolve noiselessly, ready to record the faintest word that came over the wire.

"You got a message from me yesterday," went on the hoarse voice. In vain Tom tried to recall whether or not he had heard it before. He could not place it.

"Who are you?" asked Mrs. Damon. She and Tom had previously agreed on a line of talk. "Tell me your name, please."

"There's no need for any names to be used," went on the unknown at the other end of the wire. "You heard what I said yesterday. Are you willing to send me those land title papers, if we release your husband?"

"But where shall I send them?" asked Mrs. Damon, to gain time.

"You'll be told where. And listen--no tricks! You needn't try to find out who I am, nor where I am. Just send those papers if you want to see your husband again."

"Oh, how is he? Tell me about him! You are cruel to keep him a prisoner like this! I demand that you release him!"

Tom had not told Mrs. Damon to say this. It came out of her own heart--she could not prevent the agonized outburst.

"Never mind about that, now," came the gruff voice over the wire. "Are you willing to send the papers?"

Mrs. Damon looked over to Tom for silent instructions. He nodded his head in assent.

"Yes, I--I will send them if you tell me where to get them to you --if you will release Mr. Damon," said the anxious wife. "But tell me who you are--and where you are!" she begged.

"None of that! I'm not looking to be arrested. You get the papers ready, and I'll let you know to-morrow, about this time, where to send them."

"Wait a minute!" called Mrs. Damon, to gain more time. "I must know just what papers you want."

"All right, I'll tell you," and he began to describe the different ones.

It took a little time for the unknown to give this information to Mrs. Damon. The man was very particular about the papers. There were trust deeds, among other things, and he probably thought that once he had possession of them, with Mrs. Damon's signature, even though it had been obtained under a threat, he could claim the property. Later it was learned that such was not the case, for Mrs. Damon, with Tom's aid, could have proved the fraud, had the scoundrels tried to get the remainder of the Damon fortune.

But at the time it seemed to the helpless woman that everything she owned would be taken from her. Though she said she did not care, as long as Mr. Damon was restored to her.

As I have said, the telephoning of the instructions about the papers took some time. Tom had counted on this, and had made his plans accordingly.

As soon as the telephone call had come in, Tom had communicated with a private detective who was in waiting, and this man had gone to the drug store whence the first call had come. He was going to try to make the arrest of the man telephoning.

But for fear the scoundrel would go to a different instrument, Tom took another precaution. This was to have one of the operators in the central exchange on the watch. As soon as Mrs. Damon's house was in connection with another telephone, the location of the latter would be noted, and another private detective would be sent there. Thus Tom hoped to catch the man at the 'phone.

Meanwhile Tom listened to the hoarse voice at the other end of the wire, giving the directions to Mrs. Damon. Tom hoped that soon there would be an arrest made.

Meanwhile the talk was being faithfully recorded on the phonograph cylinder. And, as the man talked on, Tom became aware of a curious undercurrent of sound. It was a buzzing noise, that Tom knew did not come from the instrument itself. It was not the peculiar tapping, singing noise heard in a telephone receiver, caused by induced electrical currents, or by wire trouble.

"This is certainly different," mused Tom. He was trying to recall where he had heard the noise before. Sometimes it was faint, and then it would gradually increase, droning off into faintness once more. Occasionally it was so loud that Mrs. Damon could not hear the talk about the papers, and the man would have to repeat.

But finally he came to an end.

"This is all now," he said, sharply. Tom heard the words above the queer, buzzing, humming sound. "You are keeping me too long. I think you are up to some game, but it won't do you any good, Mrs. Damon. I'll 'phone you to-morrow where to send the papers. And if you don't send them--if you try any tricks--it will be the worse for you and Mr. Damon!"

There was a click, that told of a receiver being placed back on the hook, and the voice ceased. So, also, did the queer, buzzing sound over which Tom puzzled.

"What can it have been?" he asked. "Did you hear it, Mrs. Damon?"

"What, Tom?"

"That buzzing sound."

"Yes, I heard, but I didn't know what it was. Oh, Tom, what shall I do?"

"Don't worry. We'll see if anything happened. They may have caught that fellow. If not I'll plan another scheme."

Tom's first act was to call up the telephone exchange to learn where the second call had come from. He got the information at once. The address was in the suburbs. The man had not gone to the drug store this time.

"Did the detective get out to that address?" asked Tom eagerly of the manager.

"Yes. As soon as we were certain that he was the party you wanted, your man got right after him, Mr. Swift."

"That's good, I hope he catches him!" cried the young inventor. "We'll have to wait and find out."

"He said he'd call up and let you know as soon as he reached the place," the telephone manager informed Tom.

There was nothing to do but wait, and meanwhile Tom did what he could to comfort Mrs. Damon. She was quite nervous and inclined to be hysterical, and the youth thought it wise to have a cousin, who had come to stay with her, summon the doctor.

"But, Tom, what shall I do about those papers?" Mrs. Damon asked him. "Shall I send them?"

"Indeed not!"

"But I want Mr. Damon restored to me," she pleaded. "I don't care about the money. He can make more."

"Well, we'll not give those scoundrels the satisfaction of getting any money out of you. Just wait now, I'll work this thing out, and find a way to catch that fellow. If I could only think what that buzzing sound was--"

Then, in a flash, it came to Tom.

"A sawmill! A planing mill!" he cried. "That's what it was! That fellow was telephoning from some place near a sawmill!"

The telephone rang in the midst of Tom's excited comments.

"Yes--yes!" he called eagerly. "Who is it--what is it?"

"This is Larsen--the private detective you sent."

"Oh, yes, you were at the drug store."

"Yes, Mr. Swift. Well, that party didn't call up from here."

"I know, Larsen. It was from another station. We're after him. Much obliged to you. Come on back."

Tom was sure his theory was right. The man had called up the Damon house from some telephone near a sawmill. And a little later Tom's theory was proved to be true. He got a report from the second detective. Unfortunately the man had not been able to reach the telephone station before the unknown speaker had departed.

"Was the place near a sawmill?" asked Tom, eagerly.

"It was," answered the detective over the wire. "The telephone is right next door to one. It's an automatic pay station and no one seems to have noticed who the man was who telephoned. I couldn't get a single clue. I'm sorry."

"Never mind," said Tom, as cheerfully as he could. "I think I'm on the right track now. I'm going to lay a trap for this fellow."