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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XVIII. JIMMIE RELEASES A PRISONER
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XVIII. JIMMIE RELEASES A PRISONER Post by :divinejourney Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :2906

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XVIII. JIMMIE RELEASES A PRISONER

CHAPTER XVIII. JIMMIE RELEASES A PRISONER

Realizing that the man who had attacked him, or attempted to, must not escape or be permitted to utter a cry of warning, Ned sprang forward and caught him by the throat. The fallen man squirmed about in the thicket for a moment and then feebly motioned for Ned to remove the pressure from his neck.

Then the patrol leader saw that the fellow had been lassoed, caught about the neck by a running noose in a slender rope. This accounted for his antics when first observed by the boy. Puzzled beyond measure, Ned loosened the noose so the captive would not die from lack of air.

The man sat up in the tangle of bushes, pressing his hands to his neck and rocking to and fro with pain. It was plain that the rope which had caught him had been drawn by a merciless hand. But whose hand was it? Ned was greatly interested in that question.

"I have released the rope so as to give you a little longer lease of life," Ned said to the prisoner, "but if you try to call out for help, or to escape, you'll be killed. Do you understand?"

Ned shifted the noose to the man's wrists, which were fastened behind his back, and relieved him of a revolver and a wicked-looking knife. Then he asked:

"Were you watching me?"

"Yes," was the short reply, in good English.

"You knew that I was in the house?"

"Yes. I saw you go in."

"Do the others know that I was in there?" asked Ned, then, anxiously.

If the others knew, then all his plans must be revised.

"No," came the reply. "I had had no opportunity of telling them."

"You were placed on guard here by the man called Gostel?"

"Yes."

"Well, who was it that pulled you down? There is something strange about that."

"I saw no one," replied the other, feeling of his throat again.

"Were others watching here with you?"

The prisoner shook his head.

"Then who did it?" demanded Ned. "That rope never dropped down from the clouds and brought you up so cleverly. Why, man, you would have had a knife into me in a second only for the rope."

"I hoped to," was the calm reply.

Then Ned heard a giggle in the thicket, and in a moment the vines parted and Jimmie looked out, a shrewd smile on his freckled face.

"Why didn't you follow the line to the end?" he asked, with a chuckle. "Then you would have come to the life saver."

"I was so rattled for a moment that I did not think of that," was the reply. "How did you come to be here?"

"I followed you," replied the boy.

"And you have been lying out there in the thicket all the time I have been in the house?"

"Why, yes, of course."

"Well, you did a good job," Ned said, taking the boy by the hand. "The cowboy stunt you have been practicing so long came into good use at last."

It was now getting quite dark, and lights showed in the house. From where the boys stood they could not see the lighted front windows, but only the reflections on the slope in front of the structure.

"I knew it would prove handy in time," grinned Jimmie. "I caught this gazabo on the fly, eh?"

"I can't understand how you managed it, in this thicket," Ned said.

"There's a clear space there where he leaped at you," Jimmie said. "I saw him rising to spring and dropped it over his head, like a bag over a blind pig. What you goin' to do with him, now you've got him?"

Ned turned to the prisoner with a smile on his face.

"What would you suggest?" he asked.

"Gee! You've got your nerve," Jimmie exclaimed. "Leave it to him an' you'll fill his pocket with yellow ones an' turn him loose to carve you up."

"If you release me," the captive replied, evidently taking the question in good faith, "I'll leave the country."

"Is that on the square?" demanded Jimmie, with a grin at Ned.

"There is a condition, however," the man added, "and that is that you make it appear that I was killed in defending the house."

"What's the answer?" asked Jimmie, while Ned stood by wondering if he had not struck a lead of good luck at last.

"I'm sick of the game," the prisoner replied. "I'm not in it for money, anyway, and the other motive is no longer of avail to me."

"If you'll tell me everything you know concerning this plot against the Gatun dam," Ned said, "I'll release you after the case is ended."

"Not a word," replied the other, closing his lips tightly, as if to shut back words seeking utterance.

"Then we'll have to find a little coop to put you in," Jimmie said. "I wish we had you back at Culebra."

While the temporary disposition of the prisoner was being discussed, and while Ned was questioning him as to the immediate movements of the plotters and receiving no satisfactory replies, the lights in the house were extinguished and the men who had occupied the front room were heard descending the stairs. In a moment some one called out:

"Gaga."

"Is that your name?" demanded Ned of the prisoner.

"Yes."

"Then answer him."

Gaga did not respond at once, and the keen point of a knife came in contact with his throat.

"Answer him."

The call came again, farther away now.

"What shall I say?" asked the captive.

"Answer him as you would have answered if nothing had happened to you here," was the reply.

The prisoner uttered a long, low cry, and the boys waited with suspended breath. Even at the peril of his life the fellow might warn the others. Ned knew how loyal the people of his nation are.

But the reply was not a warning, or a call for help. The man who had called out the prisoner's name answered now with an "All right. Remain about here." Then the men moved away in a body, taking the road to Gamboa.

"Are they coming back to-night?" asked Ned.

"I can tell you nothing," was the reply.

When the men who had left the house had disappeared from sight Ned bade the captive rise that he might be searched closely for weapons.

"Say," Jimmie cried. "There's your tall, slender man with black hair turning gray in places. Ever in New York, Mister?" he added.

The prisoner made no reply.

"You are enough like Itto to be his brother," Ned said. "Perhaps you won't mind telling me which one of you stole Frank Shaw's necklace?"

The prisoner turned his back indignantly. He was indeed a fair copy of the man called Itto, and his shoulders, narrow and high, might have made the damp stains Ned had found on the wall of the closet in the Shaw house in New York.

The stone house was now, seemingly, without an occupant and the thickets about were silent save for the noises of the night. A faint clamor came from the canal, where workmen were hewing away at the ribs of the Cordilleras, now the slight jar of an explosion, now the grinding of a steam shovel, now the nervous shrieking of the trains pushing back and forth.

The electrics over the cut drew lines of silver light on the tall trees and the foliage of the hills farther away, but here there was only a faint suggestion of illumination.

"Now you've got him," Jimmie said, presently, "what you goin' to do with him? We can't get him to Culebra or Gatun without bumpin' into some fresh guy who would want to take him away from us."

"I'm afraid you're right about that," Ned said. "We can't afford to have him get away and inform his companions that something of their plot is known."

"What would they do?"

"Make new plans, and we should have to begin all over again. As the case rests now we stand a good chance of catching every one of the conspirators."

"And the chap that stole the emerald necklace?"

"Even the necklace may drift to the surface in the eruption which is sure to take place in the near future," smiled Ned. "Now about Gaga," he continued. "Suppose you look around and see if you can't find a room in the old house which would not be used to-night, even if the plotters should come."

Jimmie hustled away and soon returned with the information that there was a room in the rear of the house, on the first floor, which would answer for a prison very well.

"But there ain't no door to it," he added, "an' the glass is all out of the window. Looks like it had been deserted for a hundred years."

"Perhaps we can rig up a door," suggested Ned.

"What's the use?" asked Jimmie. "I'm goin' to stay right here with the captive until the secret service men come an' take him away."

"But they will not come until the case is ended," urged Ned. "The knowledge that Gaga is a prisoner--arrested by a spy who overheard what was said in the house--"

"I wouldn't call myself a spy," Jimmie said, indignantly.

"There is no dishonor in serving as a spy in a good cause," Ned replied. "As I was saying, the mere knowledge of his arrest would disarrange our plans as much as his escape would. We would better make him secure here and leave him to his own thoughts, it seems to me."

"I would like to have him remain," said Gaga, much to the amazement of the boys.

"He can't resist my winnin' ways," cried Jimmie. "All right. I'll stay if you will send out about a ton of grub."

"Perhaps the boys will object to bringing it."

"Jack, or Frank, or any one of them," Jimmie exclaimed. "No trouble about that. Perhaps it will take two to bring enough."

The prisoner's bonds were loosened so that he would not feel them drawing into the flesh, but still he was left securely tied up. The room was not unpleasant, with the starlight shining in through the dismantled doorway and the broken window, and Jimmie planned to have a good rest there during his watch.

The boy had been on his feet all the previous night, wandering about the jungle, and had taken only a short rest at the Chester camp. The prisoner was so secured that it did not seem possible for him to get away, even if left there alone, so the lad rolled a dilapidated old easy chair up to the window and lay back at his ease.

For a long time neither spoke, and then the prisoner asked:

"When will I be taken to prison?"

"Search me!" Jimmie replied.

"I take it," the captive continued, "that the whole plot is discovered?"

"Bet your life!" Jimmie answered, drowsily.

"Then the United States government will have to put up a couple of extra prisons," was the comment of the prisoner.

"What you doin' it for?" demanded the boy.

The prisoner did not see fit to reply to this leading question, and Jimmie put another, equally pertinent:

"Who let you into the Shaw house that night?"

"Why do you think I was in the Shaw house?" asked the other. "Where is the Shaw house?"

"You know where it is, all right," Jimmie said. "Who was it that let you in? That is what I want to know. An' who opened the door for you to go out?"

There was no reply, and Jimmie piled on another question:

"Why did Pedro run away from Shaw's and why did he run away from Chester's camp when he saw me coming from the jungle?"

The prisoner gave a quick start, and something like a groan came from his lips.

"Is Pedrarias, the man you call Pedro, here on the Isthmus?" he asked.

"Sure he is. Didn't he report to you after he got here?"

"Living at the Chester camp, you say?"

"He was there this morning, but ran away when he recognized me. I was at the Shaw house in New York on the night of the robbery."

The prisoner checked a Spanish oath and struggled to rise to his feet, but fell back into his chair because of his bonds.

"There is bad blood between this man and myself," he said, then. "If he saw me with Chester to-day he will present himself here to-night. If he comes and finds me a prisoner, bound and at his mercy--if he comes here to-night, and finds us in this room, and you are unable to deal with him, will you cut my bonds?"

"And permit you to run away together and give me the laugh?" said Jimmie. "You're a modest kind of a fellow after all, and with nerve to spare."

"If you do this," Gaga replied, "I promise to return to you and submit to be bound again, if I come out of the conflict alive."

"Do you think Pedro would murder an unarmed man, and a bound one, at that?"

"Yes, the hatred he has for me is so great that he would take any advantage of me."

Jimmie was getting the notion that there was something tragic in the air, and was even considering the proposition seriously when there was a movement at the open doorway.

"If he comes here," Gaga went on, "you must either kill him yourself or let me. He will spare neither of us."

The boy was listening for a repetition of the sound at the doorway, when a form lifted from the crumbling threshold and stood peering in. Gaga gave a cry of terror and the intruder drew back for an instant.

The boy knew that the man whose figure he had seen outlined against the star-sprinkled sky was the man he had seen standing by the couch of the owner of the _Daily Planet on the night of the robbery, the man he had seen later in the Chester camp in the jungle.

"For the love of Heaven!" the prisoner whispered.

The entreaty struck home to the heart of the boy. He had always prided himself on his love of fair play. He knew that he could not successfully defend the doorless, windowless room until the arrival of his friends, or the return of the plotters. Pedro could hide in the thicket and rain bullets upon himself and the prisoner until both were killed.

He could not make his own escape and leave the prisoner bound and at the mercy of his enemy, nor could he shoot the intruder in cold blood when he appeared in the doorway again. He was only a boy, and his inherent love of a square deal conquered.

While the movements at the door continued, he slipped over to Gaga, ran his knife through the cords which bound him, pointed to the weapons which had been taken from him, and crouched down in a corner of the room, his heart beating like a trip-hammer.

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