Authors: Bertrand R. Brinley,Charles Geer
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Clubs, #Action & Adventure
they're still in there you probably scared them right out of their skins,"
said Homer. "Try it again."
pressed his lips close to the handset. "This is Henry Mulligan calling
Harmon Muldoon. Calling Harmon Muldoon. If you can hear me, get on the
intercom. There's a speaker strapped under the diving board by the pool and
another one in the ceiling near the cave entrance. If you're still in there,
let us know, so we can get help."
waited for what seemed a full minute. Then we heard a crackling noise.
"Hello! Hello! Is that you, Harmon?" Henry repeated several times.
"Hello, this is Harmon Muldoon," came a voice so faint that only
Henry could really hear it. "What do you want, Mulligan?"
least the line's still open!" Henry said excitedly. Then he cupped his
hand over the mouthpiece. "He wants to know what we want."
"How do you like that fat-lipped cousin of mine!" snorted Freddy
Muldoon. "There he is, buried a hundred feet underground, and he wants to
know what we want."
"Tell him we want to know if they're all right, and how many of them are
in there," said Jeff.
"Harmon! Harmon! Are you all right?" Henry shouted into the
"Yeah, we're all right," came the faint answer. "What kind of
stunt did you guys pull on us this time?"
"Honest, Harmon, we didn't do anything," Henry answered. "Part
of the ledge at the top of the falls collapsed. There's a big pile of rocks
blocking the mouth of the cave."
"Are you telling me?" sneered Harmon. "Have you got any other
old news, Mulligan?"
"Oh, boy! Would I like to punch him right in the nose!" said Freddy.
the way, Mulligan," came Harmon's voice again, "how did you know we
were in here?"
"There's an electronic eye at the mouth of the cave," Henry answered.
"You guys tripped it when you went in, and it set off an alarm on our
"Very clever!" said Harmon. "I guess we never will outsmart you
guys. Now, how do we get out?"
"How many of you are in there?" asked Henry.
"There are six of us," said Harmon. "Is that enough to qualify?"
"We'll get hold of the police right away," said Henry.
don't know how they're going to get through to you, but we'll figure out some
way. Sure you're all right?"
"Yeah! We're all right. It's fine in here. Just get us out in time for
doesn't sound very scared for a guy trapped in a cave," said Homer.
"He's a cool character, all right," said Mortimer Dalrymple.
"Something sounds a little fishy to me."
"It's Harmon's deep voice," said Freddy. "He's a big-mouthed
grabbed him by the collar and rubbed his knuckles in his hair good and hard.
hadn't bothered leaving anybody at the clubhouse in Jeff Crocker's barn, we had
no way of reaching the police except to ride into town and call them from the
nearest phone we could get to. Jeff and Mortimer volunteered to make the trip,
and the rest of us busied ourselves making as complete a reconnaissance as we
could of the situation around the mouth of the cave. It would take Jeff and
Mortimer at least fifteen minutes to get into town, and we knew it would be at
least half an hour after that before Chief Putney could rouse any of his men
and get them out to the falls. From the looks of things, they wouldn't be able
to do anything without heavy equipment, so it would probably be hours before
they mustered enough help to begin a rescue operation.
Literally tons and tons of rock had crashed down in front of the cave mouth, as
far as we could tell from shining our flashlights onto the pile. The lip of the
falls had receded to the point that one of the main plumes at the right of the
torrent was spilling huge volumes of water directly down at the mouth of the
cavern. It was possible that water was flowing into the cave.
got on the intercom and roused Harmon again. "Harmon!" he shouted.
"Is water coming into the cave? Are you all right?"
"We're fine," Harmon answered. "It's dry as a bone in here. Now
will you stop bothering us? We're trying to get some sleep. Just concentrate on
getting us out of here."
"OK!" said Henry. "But keep somebody near the intercom so we can
keep in touch with you."
"Roger!" said Harmon.
"Those guys can
?" said Homer in disbelief.
"What else can they do?" Henry shrugged. "They have to wait for
help, and they might as well save their strength. They might need it. You gotta
hand it to them that they didn't panic."
heard the wailing of a siren and a screech of brakes as a police car pulled up
nearby on the highway. Two officers came panting along the path, with Jeff and
Mortimer leading them.
"How do you know there's anyone in there?" asked one of the officers,
shining his flashlight into the abyss at the foot of the falls.
"We've talked to them," said Henry, and he explained about the
intercom system. "You can talk to them if you want to," he offered.
"Never mind!" said the officer. "Looks like we've really got a
job on our hands here." He whistled in surprise as he played his
flashlight over the rockfall. "Holy mackerel! There must be tons of the
stuff. It'll take real heavy construction equipment to move that stuff, and I
don't know how anybody could get it down there to do the job. Are those kids
safe in there?"
"They're all right, so far," said Henry.
officer played his flashlight along the crest of the falls.
"Some more of that ledge could break loose any minute," he said.
"If it does, the roof of that cave might collapse."
"That's possible," Henry agreed.
don't have any time to waste," said the officer, turning to the other
policeman. "Al, get back to the car and tell Chief Putney he'd better
notify the Mayor. We've got a real emergency on our hands. Tell him we
recommend putting out a general alarm and a request for rescue equipment.
Better get the Civil Defense people out too."
other policeman turned to run up the path.
"Wait a minute, Al. After you call in, see if you can bust down a section
of that fence and pull the car in here somehow. We ought to have the radio
"We'll bust down the fence!" cried Jeff. And he and Mortimer dashed
up the path after the policeman.
how fast things can happen sometimes. Within an hour the riverbank was swarming
with people and vehicles. And more kept coming all the time, as calls went out
for special equipment that somebody thought might help solve the problem of how
to burrow through tons of rock with tons of water spilling on it, on the other
side of a dangerous whirlpool more than a hundred feet offshore. There was a
lot of confusion and shouting and not much being accomplished, but it was
exciting to watch.
sheriff's mobile rescue unit pulled in and flooded the area with high-powered
searchlights. Seth Emory, the Civil Defense director, was supposed to be in
charge of the operation, but Mayor Scragg did more talking than he did. He kept
shouting orders to Chief Putney and the fire chief, Hiram Pixley, telling them
to do things that they were already doing, and he agreed with everybody's ideas
about how to get into the cave, no matter how crazy they were. Somebody
suggested bringing a long-boomed crane in with a clamshell bucket to lift some
of the rocks away from the cave mouth. But a construction foreman who had been
called out said the biggest crane they could get wouldn't reach out to the
rockfall from the riverbank, and it would take at least two days to build a
pier out into the water for the crane to operate from. Somebody else suggested
running a pontoon bridge out to the rockpile and trying to force a hole through
the rocks so a long section of corrugated iron storm drain could be run into
the cave as an escape tunnel. But this was considered too dangerous, since more
of the overhanging ledge might come plunging down at any minute. There were
other people in favor of stringing a breeches buoy across the front of the
falls so a couple of men could try to pull some of the rocks away with
grappling hooks, but this was considered impractical. Some suggested taking a
chance by trying to dynamite the rockpile, but almost everybody was against
reporter and a photographer from the
Mammoth Falls Gazette
circulating among the crowd, interviewing officials and getting opinions from
onlookers. The reporter wanted to talk to the boys in the cave and Mayor Scragg
said, "Sure! All you have to do is figure out how to get in there."
"But I thought there was some kind of a communication line into the
cave," said the reporter. "One of the policemen told me -"
don't know about that," said the Mayor. "You'll have to ask those
young magicians over there. They're the ones that got us into this mess."
don't think they want to be bothered. They're all asleep," said Henry,
when the reporter asked him. "Besides, I heard there's a camera crew
coming from the TV station in White Fork. Why don't we wait until they get
reporter howled in anguish. "I was here first!" he complained.
"I have to get my copy in for a special edition. If you make me miss it,
and the TV stations get the story first, my boss will fire me!"
"Oh!" said Henry.
"Gosh, mister, we wouldn't want you to get fired over a little thing like
six kids trapped in a cave," said Freddy Muldoon.
didn't mean it that way," said the reporter. "But this is a big
story, and it's happening right in our backyard. Did you see what the TV
networks did with the little girl that was trapped in a well out in Omaha last
month? They kept the whole nation glued to their TV sets for three days. Can
you imagine what they'll do when they have six kids trapped in a cave?"
"Yeah! I can imagine!" said Mortimer.
"Well? Do I get to talk to the kids?"
"Say, what is this?" said the reporter truculently. "Are you in
"No, I'm not in charge," said Henry, "but it's my intercom
"Oh! I get it!" The reporter reached for his wallet. "How would
five bucks do?"
"You just said the magic word," said Freddy Muldoon.
don't want your money, mister," said Henry, pushing his hand in Freddy's
face. "Wait until the TV crew gets here and we'll let everybody talk to
them at the same time."
reporter threw his hands in the air and turned away. Then a thought struck him,
and he pulled the photographer to one side. In a voice loud enough for everyone
to hear he said, "What do you bet there aren't any kids down in that cave
at all? You know, it's just possible these kids framed the whole thing."
"Hey, that's right!" said the photographer.
there's anybody down there. Say! That'd make a pretty good
stepped over to Henry. "I think maybe we'd better let 'em talk to
"OK!" said Henry. "I guess we'd better."
managed to get Harmon to answer on the intercom after some trouble, and the
reporter talked with him. Harmon said he was fine and gave him the names of the
other five members of his gang that were with him. He woke up Stony Martin and
had him talk to the reporter too. The photographer held the microphone of a
tape recorder to the speaker while they were talking and taped the whole
"Are you worried about getting out?" asked the reporter.
"Naw! We're not worried," said Harmon.
"I'm sure they'll have you out in fine shape very soon," said the
"Tell 'em to take their time," said Harmon, yawning. "As long as
we get home in time for breakfast, it's OK."
"Boy! Have we got a story!" crowed the reporter, as he stuffed his
notes into his pocket. "'Tell 'em to take their time,' the kid says. Can
you imagine it? Boy! The wires'll eat this up!"
"Hey! I bet we could peddle this tape to all the networks!" said the
photographer as they hustled up the path to the highway.
"Aren't you going to stick around to see if they get out?" Mortimer
shouted after them.