Authors: Bertrand R. Brinley,Charles Geer
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Clubs, #Action & Adventure
"OK! Everybody think for five minutes!" Mortimer ordered in a loud
"What we've got to think about is who would be up at that time of night,
and what he might be doing that he couldn't do in the daytime," Henry
"Maybe it's a night watchman," said Dinky Poore.
"Negative!" said Jeff Crocker. "Most night watchmen are pretty
"What about the garbage collectors?" said Homer Snodgrass.
"They're always banging cans around."
"Too early in the morning for them," said Henry. "Besides, they
don't do anything earthshaking."
everybody lapsed into silence, because Henry had tilted his piano stool back
against the wall and was gazing up into the rafters. We all sat down and waited
until Henry got through thinking.
legs of the piano stool hit the floor again, Henry's eyes had that gleam in
them that we all recognized as the birth of an idea. He moved over to the large
map of the county tacked on the clubhouse wall.
think we can narrow this problem down a bit," he said quietly. "We
can't tell from our recordings
is causing these tremors. But we can
get some clues from them about
the vibrations are coming
"Good idea, Henry!" Dinky Poore cried, smelling an adventure.
"Then we could sneak up on the place and find out what's going on."
"Exactly!" said Henry. "Now let's get to work."
Henry said "work" he meant brainwork, so Dinky and Freddy and I went
fishing, leaving the rest of them to wrestle with the seismograph tracings and
Henry's homemade computer.
got back to the clubhouse late in the day, we found reams of paper all over the
place, and the county map was all marked up with little circles indicating the
locations of our seismograph stations and with lines converging on the center
of town. On the large map of Mammoth Falls on the other wall, Henry had marked
a large red circle that covered about a third of the downtown business section.
think the source of these tremors is somewhere in this area," he said,
tracing the circle with his finger. "Now, here's what we've decided to
do." But before he could get started, Jeff Crocker rapped his gavel on the
packing crate he uses for a podium, had the door locked and the window shades
drawn, and called the club into secret session.
that night I sneaked out of the house by shinnying down the drain pipe outside
my window and met Dinky and Freddy in the alley back of Dinky's house. It was
near midnight, and we made our way downtown through vacant lots and back alleys
so nobody would see us and wonder what we were doing out that time of night. I
carried a hand transceiver so we could keep in communication with the
clubhouse, where Henry and Jeff were monitoring the seismograph. Dinky carried
a radiosonde transmitter strapped to the back of his belt that gave out a
signal. This would make it possible for Henry and Jeff to
know where we were at all times, in case we couldn't talk on the radio. There
was a directional antenna on our receiver at the clubhouse, and Homer and
Mortimer had taken another one out to the seismograph station on Indian Hill.
Between the two of them they could get a fix on our location at any time. We
sneaked through all the alleys of the downtown section as quietly as we could.
Every few feet we would stop and listen carefully and put our hands lightly on
the ground to see if we could pick up any kind of vibrations. It was pretty
slow going, and Henry would keep calling us on the radio to tell us to move
faster or switch over to another block. We were groping our way down the
narrow, cobblestoned alley behind Jamieson's Variety Store when we heard
something that brought us up short. It was a series of dull thuds, spaced about
one second apart.
said Freddy, and we all froze in place with our eyes and ears alert.
thudding had stopped, and we waited breathlessly in the darkness. Then it
started again. Dinky moved forward very cautiously, with his tousled head
thrust forward. He paused for a moment, listening intently, then swung his arm
in a wide arc motioning us toward the angle in the back wall of Jamieson's
where the elevator shaft jutted out into the alley. We waited there for a few
moments in the deep shadow of the wall. It was so quiet you could hear the
sweat from Freddy's forehead dripping onto the cobblestones.
thudding noises started again Dinky inched his way around the corner of the
elevator wall, and we followed. Just then Henry called on the radio. "This
is High Mogul," he said. I cupped my hand around the mouthpiece of the
transceiver and said, "Shut up!" in a hoarse whisper and shut the
thing off. We crept along the wall of the elevator shaft and rounded the second
corner to where it joined the wall of the main building again. There was a thin
sliver of light visible at the corner of one of the basement windows.
"Holy mackerel!" said Freddy Muldoon.
"There must be someone down there," Dinky whispered, with his hand
cupped around my ear. "What'll we do now?"
can't back out now!" I whispered back. "Let's go for broke!"
nodded. "Wait till the noise starts again." When the pounding
commenced once more, Dinky got down on all fours and crept up to the basement
window. A gunnysack had been tacked over it, but the sliver of light we had
seen came from the left edge of the window where the burlap had curled back.
Dinky pressed one eye up close to the window jamb and peered in.
pulled his head back he was waving frantically at me. I crawled up beside him
and peeked inside. There were four men in the basement. One of them was holding
a kerosene lantern in his hand at shoulder height. Another was sitting on a
packing crate, smoking a cigarette. The other two were working at a gaping hole
in one wall with a sledge hammer and a crowbar padded with burlap. I pulled my
head back and I looked along the alley to reorient myself. I was right! The
building right next to Jamieson's was the Mammoth Falls Trust and Deposit
Company. I looked at Dinky, and he looked at me. Just then the pounding
stopped. We both pressed our eyes up to the window. The man with the cigarette
had gotten up off the packing crate and moved to the wall. He took three oblong
objects the color of butter from a wooden box and crammed them into the
farthest recess of the hole in the wall. He must have had to go in quite a way,
because he reached in all the way up to his waist. When he pulled himself out,
the other men went to work and tamped a lot of loose rubble back into the hole
and fixed it in place with some cement. Then they all sat down and lighted
waited breathlessly in the darkness. When nothing had happened after a minute
or two, I crept back around the wall of the elevator shaft and tried to reach
Henry on the radio. I had just gotten him to answer when there was a muffled
explosion. I could feel the wall of the elevator shaft tremble a bit. The seat
of my pants seemed to rise an inch or so off the cobblestones, and I sat back
down again, hard.
"What on earth was that?" Henry shouted into the radio. "The
needle on the graph just jumped a mile!"
think it was an explosion," I gulped. "There are some men in
Jamieson's basement, and they've been digging through the wall into the
get the police!" Henry shouted. "We'll try to call them from Jeff's
started back around the wall of the elevator shaft to get Freddy and Dinky and
stopped just in time. The figure of a big, burly man loomed out of the shadows.
He grabbed both of them by the collar while they were still peering through the
slit in the window.
"Lemme go, you big moose!" Freddy shouted, struggling to get free.
"Shut up, Fatso, or I'll bash your head against the wall!" the man
muttered in a gruff voice.
wait to hear any more. I crept back around the corner and then darted down the
alley, heading for the police station. A car was backing slowly up the alley
with no lights on. The driver slapped his brakes on when he saw me flash past,
and I heard his door swing open. But I didn't wait to answer any questions. I
just kept running and slid around the corner into Walnut Street. I could hear
footsteps pounding behind me, but by the time they reached the head of the
alley I was already half a block up the street, and whoever was chasing me
turned around and went back.
fifteen minutes seemed like one of those nightmares you have when you're trying
to holler for help and no sound comes out of your mouth. All I could think
about was Dinky and Freddy struggling with that big brute in the alley, and I
must have sprinted the six blocks to the police station in ten seconds flat.
But when I got there the door was locked and there was just one feeble light
burning in a goosenecked lamp on the night desk. I could see Constable Billy
Dahr's feet propped up on the desk, but his head was out of sight in the
rattled the door and pounded on it with my fists and hollered like bloody
blazes, but his feet didn't even move. I could hear the phone ringing and I
knew it must be Jeff and Henry calling in, but Billy was snoring too loud to
even hear it. Finally I dashed around to a side window and threw a big rock
through it. You'd have thought Armageddon had come. Billy Dahr bolted up out of
the swivel chair, like a punch-drunk fighter answering the bell, and sent the
goosenecked lamp flying onto the floor. The office was plunged into darkness. I
could hear him cursing and stumbling around inside, trying to find the light
had finally gotten the lights on and unlocked the front door for me, I knew I'd
have a lot of explaining to do. I decided not to answer any questions.
"Call Chief Putney, quick!" I shouted, before Billy Dahr could open
his mouth. "Some men are trying to rob the bank!"
"What in tarnation?" Billy muttered, rubbing his eyes. "Is them
the ones threw that rock through the window?"
"Forget the rock, Constable Dahr," I said, pushing him back through
the door. "I had to throw it to wake you up. Please call the chief right
away. Freddy and Dinky are back there in the alley --"
Dahr was rummaging through the drawers of the desk. I picked up the phone and
handed it to him. "Here's the phone. Call him, quick!"
"That there ain't no help," mumbled Billy, pushing the phone back
down on the desk. "I don't know his number. Now where's that danged phone
book?" and he went on rummaging through the desk.
finally picked up the phone myself and dialed the operator.
"Get me the police," I said. "It's an emergency!"
hear her dialing, and then she came back on the line and said she was sorry but
the number was busy.
"Please keep trying, operator; it's urgent!"
"OK," she said. "I'll keep trying and call you right back. Where
are you calling from?"
"From the police station," I said.
was a pause. Then she said, "Maybe that's why the number is busy."
"I'm sorry, operator," I apologized. "I want Chief Putney's
you have the number?"
"I'll connect you with Information."
that's the way things went. By the time we got Chief Putney out of bed and
pulled up in the alley back of Jamieson's with a squad car, the place was quiet
as a tomb and there was no sign of Dinky and Freddy.
"I'll betcha they've been kidnapped!" I cried.
"Now take it easy, son," said Chief Putney in his slow methodical
voice. "Let's not jump to conclusions." Two policemen clambered into
the basement of Jamieson's and came back to report that there was a hole big
enough for a man to crawl through right into the vault of the Mammoth Falls
Trust and Deposit Company.