Authors: Bertrand R. Brinley,Charles Geer
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Clubs, #Action & Adventure
"Sorry!" the reporter shouted back. "We got a deadline to
"What a creep!" said Dinky Poore.
time the TV crew arrived from White Fork, things had reached an impasse. Some
men had been sent out in small boats to reconnoiter the ledge below the falls
to see if it were possible to anchor cables there so fire ladders could be run
out from the shore. But they came back reporting no success. Mayor Scragg had
called a conference under the big oak tree to get opinions on what would be the
best way to proceed. It appeared that the most feasible plan would be to build
some kind of footing in the creek bed for the big construction crane to work
from. The Mayor was asking for estimates on how long it would take to truck in
enough rock and heavy fill to do this and whether it was possible to get the
big crane down the steep bank with a block-and-tackle rig. Seth Emory had
proposed that the city requisition every truck in the area and set up a
high-speed shuttle with police escorts from the gravel pits out on White Fork
Road. The estimates ran from half a day to a full day, before real rescue
operations could start.
Meanwhile, the director of the TV crew had been pacing up and down at the edge
of the group, running his fingers through his hair and looking at his watch
every thirty seconds. He stepped over to Mayor Scragg and tapped him on the
"Does that mean there won't be anything happening until noontime... or
maybe even later?"
you mean when will we be getting the boys out, I guess that's it," said
might as well pack up and go back and get some sleep, boys," said the
director to the other members of his crew.
"Suit yourself," said Mayor Scragg. "I expect we'll be here a
long as we're here, why don't we get some local color?" one of the
"Yeah! Maybe we could," said the director, rubbing his chin.
"Say! That gives me an idea." He turned back to the Mayor. "Is
there any possible way to lower a camera into that cave?" he asked.
Scragg looked at him goggle-eyed. "If I could figure that out, I could get
those kids out," he said testily. "Now go away and stop bothering
director stepped back, a little abashed, and felt somebody plucking at his
sleeve. It was Jeff Crocker.
"Excuse me, mister," he said. "There is a way to get a camera
into the cave. But it would take a lot of cable, and it would have to he
director looked at Jeff, not knowing whether to believe him or not. "How
much cable?" he asked.
shrugged. "Maybe three or four hundred feet. I don't know for sure."
hope you're not kidding me," said the director. "We don't have that
much cable, but we could send and get it. Are you sure you could get it in
"Yeah, I'm sure we could get it in there," said Jeff. "There is
another way into the cavern, but you have to..." Then Jeff started rubbing
chin. "Wait a minute!" he said excitedly, and came running
over to where the rest of us were. "Henry!" he said, grabbing him by
the shoulder. "I'll bet we could get those kids out the same way we took
the sub in, if we had enough diving gear!"
"Not so loud!" Mortimer cautioned, looking back to where the TV
director was standing.
"Yeah!" said Freddy. "You'll give away our whole secret,
"Shut up, Freddy!" said Jeff, pushing him in the face. "The
first thing we have to think about is getting Harmon and his gang out of
could go back and get our scuba gear," Mortimer suggested, "and Jeff
and I could swim in there and bring 'em out one at a time."
"You could bring 'em out faster if you used the submarine," said
"That's a good idea," Henry observed. "At least it's worth a
try. We'd better talk it over with Mayor Scragg."
"You guys are gonna blow the whole thing!" screamed Freddy. "The
whole town's gonna find out about our secret passage, and Harmon too!"
"What's all the argument about?" asked the TV director, walking over
to where we stood. "Can you get a camera down there or not?"
"Forget your camera, mister," said Jeff, as we moved off to see the
Mayor under the oak tree. "We've got something important to think
"What was that you said about a secret passage?" the director asked,
grabbing Freddy by the arm.
"What secret passage?"
secret passage into that cave, you ninny!"
secret passage! That's none of your business," said
Freddy, pulling his arm loose and running after us.
"Yes, Mulligan. What is it now?" said Mayor Scragg wearily, when
Henry tapped him on the shoulder.
know of a way to get those kids out of there," Henry said simply, and he
went on to explain how we had gotten the submarine into the cavern through a
subterranean channel that ran under the cliff beside the falls and connected
with the pool in the cavern.
"It's only about two hundred feet long," Jeff explained. "We
discovered it one day when we were skin diving. The entrance is about ten feet
underwater, and it's right where you want to dump all that rock to make a pier
for the shovel. If you dump a lot of rock in there you'll probably block it
Scragg looked at them quizzically. "Every time I listen to you kids I get
into more trouble!" he moaned, holding his hand to his forehead.
"Isn't it enough that you've got half the town out here in the middle of
"Don't listen to a word they say, Mr. Mayor," said Freddy tersely, as
he elbowed his way into the group. "It's all a big fat lie!"
you to keep out of this!" said Jeff, pushing him in the face again. Freddy
bounced right back and kicked Jeff in the shins. Mortimer grabbed him by the
shoulders and pulled him off to the side.
"Cool it, Freddy!" he said, dumping him like a sack of potatoes.
"Jeff knows what he's doing."
"He's a big blabbermouth!" Freddy blubbered. "He's giving away
all our secrets."
"Secrets, huh?" said Mayor Scragg. "You mean you really do have
a submarine down in that cave?"
"Yes, we do!" said Jeff. "You can ask Zeke Boniface. We brought
it here in his truck."
"And you got it in there through an underground channel?"
didn't carry it in!" said Jeff.
Mayor thought this over for a while. Then he turned to talk with Seth Emory.
Chief Putney and Chief Pixley joined them, and the four held a whispered
consultation near the head of the path leading down to the water's edge.
Finally the Mayor beckoned to Henry and Jeff.
"We've got to do something and do it soon," he said. "You think
you can swim in there and bring those boys out through that channel. Is that
"Right!" said Jeff. "If they know how to use scuba gear, we'll
get them to swim out. If they can't we'll try the submarine."
"It's worth a try," said the Mayor, "but I'm going to send two
men from the sheriff's rescue unit with you. We don't want any accidents."
"That's a good idea," said Jeff. "We can show them the way. But
we'll have to go back to town and get our tanks. We keep all that stuff in my
need for that," said Chief Pixley. "The rescue unit has plenty of
diving gear and everything else you'll need."
"Good deal," said Jeff. "That'll save time." And he and
Mortimer started stripping down to their shorts. We didn't know it at the time,
but if Jeff and Mortimer had gone to the clubhouse for their scuba outfits it
would have saved us a lot of trouble.
some definite action was being taken, the atmosphere along the creek bank
changed abruptly. You could feel the excitement generated in the rescue workers
and onlookers as word spread among them that two kids had volunteered to swim
into the blocked cavern through an underground waterway that nobody knew
existed. Everybody crowded around the mobile rescue unit to watch the
sheriff's deputies fitted tanks and face masks on Jeff and Mortimer, and then
the four of them linked themselves together with a piece of nylon line. It was
decided that Jeff would lead the way and Mortimer would bring up the rear and
feed out communication wire from a reel, so they would have direct
communication with the mobile rescue unit as well as a guideline for finding
their way back out through the channel. The two deputies each carried an extra
set of scuba gear, and all four were equipped with a flashlight and a knife.
director was in a better humor now, and kept getting in the way and delaying
things as he tried to get as much of the action as he could on film. He started
giving directions as to just how each man was to go down the path and get into
the water, until Chief Putney pulled him gently aside and assigned two officers
to keep him company for the duration of the operation.
waded into the water first. "Keep a tight line," he told the deputy
behind him. "There are a lot of sharp rocks jutting out from the walls.
We'll stay right on the bottom as much as possible. There's good white sand on
the floor of the passage, and it's easier to see." Then he fitted his mask
to his face, blew out a lungful of air, and opened the valve of his air tank.
One by one the others followed him as he let himself out into deeper water and
dove for the bottom. Soon there was nothing to be seen but a trail of air
bubbles on the surface of the creek and the communication wire flapping up and
down as it unreeled itself from the spool Mortimer was carrying.
watchers on the shore there was nothing to do but wait, now, while the four divers
probed the darkness of the underground channel. Everybody except the men in the
mobile rescue van had crowded along the bank, pushing and shoving each other in
an effort to get a better vantage point from which to watch the dark patch
under the cliff where the trail of bubbles had disappeared. Two people slipped
and tumbled down the bank into the waters of the creek. Except for shining
flashlights in their eyes, nobody paid much attention to them. The TV director
was moaning about not being able to send a TV camera into the cavern with the
divers. But Chief Pixley solved his problem by offering him a set of diving
apparatus so he could take the camera in himself. The director decided that it
wasn't that important.
and the rest of us stayed glued to the side of the mobile rescue van, alongside
Mayor Scragg. We knew that the first word from the four divers had to come in
there through the communication line they had taken with them. It seemed like
hours, but it was really only ten minutes later that the deputy monitoring the
phone line waved frantically for silence.
"Hello! Hello!" he said. "Is that you, Foster?" He listened
for a moment. "Roger! We'll stand by. We're all ready up here."
"They've gotten through to the cave, and they're looking for the boys
now," he told the Mayor.
"Just ask them if there's a submarine in there," said Mayor Scragg,
looking suspiciously at Henry.
deputy whistled down the phone line again. "Hello, Foster! The Mayor wants
to know if there's a submarine in there."
"Yeah, there's a submarine here all right," came the answer,
"but there's no sign of any kids. We've looked all over the place. There's
just nobody in here."
"Say that again."
say there's no sign of any kids in here. I think there's something fishy about
this whole thing."