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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XIX. A GUARDIAN NEEDING GUARDING
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XIX. A GUARDIAN NEEDING GUARDING Post by :xriderx Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1522

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XIX. A GUARDIAN NEEDING GUARDING

CHAPTER XIX. A GUARDIAN NEEDING GUARDING

Little realizing the danger in which Jimmie had been left, Ned made what speed he could to Gamboa and there looked about for some means of reaching Culebra without delay. It seemed important that he should reach the other members of his party as soon as possible and send one of the boys back to keep watch with Jimmie.

Besides, it was his intention to communicate with Lieutenant Gordon immediately. He did not expect the lieutenant to call out a squad of secret service men and place the big dam under guard. That, he reasoned, would defeat his plans for rounding up the plotters. However, it was his duty to report progress to the officer and consult with him concerning future movements.

At Gamboa he found a telephone and called the Tivoli at Ancon, but, to his disgust, Lieutenant Gordon could not be found. He tried the offices of several engineers and canal officials with no better result. At last, exhibiting a secret service badge which had been given him by the lieutenant, he mounted an engine about to leave for Culebra and was soon in that beautiful city.

The boys were at the hotel where he had left them, having declined the repeated offers of hospitality by Mr. Chester, and Tony was with them. A session was at once held in a private room, and Jack Bosworth and Harry Stevens jumped at the chance to load themselves with provisions and travel back to the stone house east of Gamboa. They were given the needed directions and sent away with a note to an officer of the railroad, who, it may be as well to state here, landed them at Gamboa in quick time and without asking any questions.

After the boys had taken their departure Frank Shaw called Ned aside.

"There's something doing here to-night," he said. "Mr. Chester came out of the parlor as red as a lobster, about six o'clock, and I guess he had a fight with a couple of Japs, Gostel and another chap I've never seen before. They parted courteously, but I could see that Tony's father was angry clear through. After he had gone back to his camp, or started for it, the Japs got a little crowd of gabbers about them and set off down the road toward Colon. They seemed mighty pleased over something, and I guess they're going to start something to-night."

"And the other man, this Col. Van Ellis. Did he come here with Chester?"

"Oh, yes; he was here, but I took good care that he did not see me. I think he went away with Chester. They were both very angry."

"Angry at the Japanese?"

"Yes; anyway, they disagreed over something. But while the two white men were angry, the Japs seemed pleased. I'll tell you what I think, Ned. The Japs are up to something the others do not like."

Ned was beginning to see a great light. Once before, since seeing Gostel, he had studied out the problem of the sincerity of the man, and had reached the conclusion that he was using Chester--perhaps others--for some sinister purpose of his own. Now he thought he saw the plot in its true light. However, he did not communicate his thoughts to the others. Had Gordon been at hand he would have confided the story to him. But Gordon was not at the Tivoli at Ancon and no one seemed to know where he was, so he was obliged to go ahead and exercise his own best judgment.

"What's doing to-night?" Glen Howard asked, when Ned and Frank returned to the room where the other boys were seated.

"We're going to Gatun," was the reply. "We're going on a special engine, and we're to leave the tracks in the outskirts and get down to the dam."

"Why, this is not the night," Frank said, surprised.

"The date on the drawings was that of to-morrow, Saturday," said Glen. "This is Friday. Of course you know what you are doing, but I wouldn't take any chances on flushing the game."

"What is it all about?" demanded Tony Chester. "There seems to be something in the air to-night. Father went away in a grouch and told me to remain with you boys, and Gastong is wandering about the city in a half-distracted manner. If you go to Gatun may I go with you?"

Ned pondered a moment before replying. There was in his mind the thought that this boy might work a miracle for his father. He saw one chance for saving Chester from the results of his connection with the plotters, and resolved to take it, risky to his plans though it was.

"No," he said, in a moment, "you are to go to your camp with a note for your father. After you deliver the note, you are to come back here and remain until you hear from me. If your father comes with you, so much the better."

"Will he tell me what is in the note--why he comes back to the city?"

"I don't think so," was the reply. "If he does come, tell him to remain close to a 'phone, here, for I may want to talk with him."

"I can't understand what all this mystery is about," Tony exclaimed.

"When did you see Gastong last?" asked Ned.

"Oh, about half an hour ago. He was in the hotel then, flying around like a hen minus her head. He asked for you, and said he'd be in the buffet when you came."

Ned lost no time in getting to the buffet, where he found Gastong, sitting in conversation with a trampish-looking fellow who seemed to be somewhat under the influence of liquor. He beckoned to Ned when he entered the room and made room for him on the leather rest at his side.

"This is Tommy, the cook," he said, when Ned was seated. "Your cook."

"You ought to join the force," laughed Ned. "I never would have known you."

"Lieutenant Gordon told me to keep watch of you boys," laughed Tommy, "but I reckon you're doing pretty well for yourselves."

"You are a secret service man?" asked Ned, satisfied now that Gordon had indeed thought it necessary to keep them all under surveillance.

"Of course," replied Tommy. "I'm not much of a cook. I guess you found that out up at the camp."

"It was thoughtful of the lieutenant," Ned said, "but, as you say, we seem to be getting on very well. Do you happen to know where Gordon is at the present moment?"

"He was to meet me here," was the reply, "but has not shown up."

"It is dollars to apples," said Gastong, "that the Japs have cornered him. He told me, on the night you went after the bomb-man, that some one was sleuthing him."

"I didn't know that you knew him," Ned said, wondering if every person he had come upon since arriving on the Isthmus was in the secret service.

"Well," said Gastong, "Lieutenant Gordon was on the squad here, you know, before he went to Mexico, and I used to meet him now and then."

"And he told you, on the first night of our arrival at camp, that we might need looking after?"

"Well, he told me that it would do no harm to let him know if I saw a mob of New York boys wandering about the works," laughed Gastong.

"So that is how you happened to be patrolling the Culebra cut in a motor car on the day the boys ran into Col. Van Ellis at the old house?"

"Well," said Gastong, "Tommy, here, kept me posted in a way, and I thought I might be useful out that direction."

"It was clever of the lieutenant," laughed Ned. "Suppose you now turn your attention to him? He may need the help of the Boy Scouts to get out of a hole himself."

"I reckon you could help him, all right," Gastong replied, confidently, but still with a look of anxiety on his face. "He has a heap of confidence in you, Mr. Nestor, but he thought best to take every precaution for your welfare. That is the reason why he surrounded you, as far as possible, with secret service people."

Ned was more than amused at the statement, for all the discoveries that had been made had resulted from the activities of the boys and himself. In fact, the only help Gordon's chain of secret service men had given his party was the thwarting of the plans of Van Ellis at the old house.

This had been important, in a sense, as the boys would otherwise have been held prisoners there and so would not have been able to come to the rescue of Ned and Jimmie at the old temple. Still, Jack Bosworth had been in that incident, and it was a question in the mind of the patrol leader if the result would have been the same without him. However, he gave the lieutenant full credit for his cautious way of going at the matter.

"The Japs, as you call them," he said to Gastong and Tommy, "have gone on toward Colon. I'm going on after them, but it may be well for you to remain here on the chance of meeting the lieutenant. He may have plans of his own for to-night."

"I am sure he has," said Tommy. "He has been active all day, with half a dozen men going and coming under his orders. He missed you this afternoon."

"I had a date to view the scenery up the Chagres river," laughed Ned.

The patrol leader went back to the room where he had left Frank, George, Glen, and Peter. Tony had left for his father's camp and George Tolford had gone with him.

"I would give considerable to know what Chester and the Japs, as they are called, quarreled about to-night," he said, but of course the boys could give him no information on the subject.

As a matter of fact, Ned thought he knew, but the thing was so incomprehensible to him that he doubted, for a time, his own reasoning. It was now nine o'clock, and it seemed to him that the time for action had come. Whether he was right in his deductions or not, he could not afford to ignore the plans he had made for the night. He did not like the idea of accepting responsibility for the important move he was determined to make, but Lieutenant Gordon was not to be found, and there was nothing for him to do but to go ahead.

"Now, boys," he said to his chums, "we are going into a game to-night that may lead to bloodshed. Again, it may prove a farce. I have only my own judgment to go on, but the matter is so serious that I'm going to take a risk. I should prefer to have Lieutenant Gordon with us, but that seems to be impossible. Get your guns ready, and I'll arrange for a railroad motor car to take us to Gatun."

"I just believe Lieutenant Gordon is in trouble," Peter said. "He was in the hotel this afternoon, just before they carried the sick man out, but has not been seen since."

Ned sprang to his feet, all excitement.

"When did they carry a sick man out?" he asked.

"Oh, it must have been about five o'clock," was the reply. "He was plumb sick, too, for they carried him out in a wheel-chair, with a sheet over his face."

"Who carried him out?"

"Why, the men from the hospital who were sent for."

"What floor?" demanded Ned, a thought he did not care to put into words coming to his mind.

"Third floor," replied Peter. "I stood out there, looking around, when the chair was brought down on the freight elevator."

Greatly to the amazement of the boys Ned darted away. In a minute he stood before the clerk's desk.

"Will you have a boy show me to Lieutenant Gordon's room?" he asked.

"Certainly," was the reply, "but you won't find him in. There have been repeated inquiries, for him this afternoon."

"Has any one been to his room?" asked Ned.

"Yes, but it is locked and the key is not here. I was up on that floor about five o'clock, when the hospital people took a man out of the room next to his, and his door was locked then."

Ned stood for a moment in deep thought, hesitating, wondering if the clerk was a man to be trusted in a great emergency.

"You look to me like a dependable man," he finally said to the clerk, "anyway, I've got to take you into my confidence. Will you take duplicate keys to the lieutenant's room and the room next to it and come with me?"

"Of course, if it is anything important," replied the clerk, "but you'll have to give some good reason before I can admit you to either room."

"Step in here," Ned said, motioning toward a little check room at the end of the counter. "You saw the sick man carried out?" he asked, as the clerk wonderingly stepped into the designated room.

"Yes, I saw him taken out. He was a stranger--took the room about noon through a friend. I did not see him at all, that is, until he was carried out, and then I did not see his face."

"You are sure it was not Lieutenant Gordon who was carried out?" asked Ned.

"Why, why, he wasn't sick. He said nothing to me of being ill."

"But he has enemies on the Isthmus," Ned went on, "and is now at work on a very delicate and dangerous job for the government. Suppose--"

The clerk waited to hear no more. He seized the keys asked for and bounded toward the elevator, taking Ned with him. When they entered the lieutenant's room they found it in great disorder. There were many signs of a desperate struggle. On the floor was a three-cornered slip of paper which had evidently, judging from the quality and thickness, been torn from a drawing roll. The scrap showed only two irregular lines, but Ned recognized them.

Lieutenant Gordon had taken into his possession the crude map of the Gatun dam which Ned had discovered in the old temple bomb-room. The next room, the one from which the alleged sick man had been taken, was also in disorder, and the door which connected the two apartments had been forced open. There was a strong odor of chloroform in both rooms.

The clerk did not need to be told what had taken place. His face turned white as chalk and his voice trembled as he asked:

"What is to be done? Think of the lieutenant being carried off from this hotel in the daytime. It will ruin us."

"First," Ned replied, "you must make up your mind to keep what has been done a profound secret. You may tell the proprietor if you see fit to do so, but no one else must know."

"But the secret service men must be told."

"Not now," Ned replied. "I have an idea that I can restore the lieutenant to his friends without any row being made over the matter."

"But how? I don't understand."

"At least," Ned urged, "wait until two o'clock to-morrow morning. I am going out now on an expedition which may reveal many things, if I succeed. If I fail, why, then you must notify the secret service men and look for me in some of the pools about Gatun."

The clerk finally consented to this arrangement, and in ten minutes Ned and his chums were speeding toward Gatun on a railroad motor car.

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