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FLYING THE COAST SKYWAYS ***




Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net






Flying
THE COAST SKYWAYS

or Jack Ralston's
Swift Patrol

BY AMBROSE NEWCOMB

Author of
TRACKERS OF THE FOG PACK
WINGS OVER THE ROCKIES
SKY PILOTS GREAT CHASE
THE SKY DETECTIVES
EAGLES OF THE SKY

THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING CO.
CHICAGO

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Copyright, 1931
THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING CO.

Made in U. S. A.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CONTENTS

I BY AIR-LINE TO ATLANTA
II THE CIPHER LETTER
III THE LEECH HANGS ON
IV PERK HAS AN ADVENTURE
V THEIR RUNNING SCHEDULE
VI BY THE SKIN OF THEIR TEETH
VII ON THE AIR-LINE TO CHARLESTON
VIII SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT
IX WHEN THE DAWN CAME
X READY TO STRIKE
XI WHERE WAR ONCE BROKE OUT
XII WHEN COUSINS GET IN TOUCH
XIII PICKING UP FACTS
XIV PERK GETS AN EARFUL
XV THE TRIAL SPIN
XVI ALL IN A DAY'S WORK
XVII SPINNING THE NET
XVIII BLACK WATER BAYOU
XIX THE LONELY CAMP
XX THE MOTHER SHIP
XXI THE MOTOR-TRUCK CARAVAN
XXII DOWN TO BUSINESS AT LAST
XXIII AT THE RENDEZVOUS
XXIV PERK RIDES IN THE GHOST BOAT
XXV A WELL OILED MACHINE
XXVI STRIKING OUT
XXVII THE LUCKLESS SPEEDBOAT
XXVIII READY FOR ANOTHER BLOW
XXIX JETHRO TAKES A HAND
XXX THE WIND-UP - CONCLUSION

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FLYING THE COAST SKYWAYS


CHAPTER 1

BY AIRLINE TO ATLANTA


"Big smoke dead ahead, partner!"

"I've been expecting to hear you announce that fact, Per - I mean Wally!"

"Kinder guess naow it mout be Birmingham, eh, what, Boss?"

"No other - you hit the nail on the head that time, Mr. Observer."

"Huh! my _native_ town, which I'm naow agwine to see fur the fust time."

"Better get out of the habit of making such crazy cracks, brother - what
if any one overheard you, and took a notion in his head you might be
somebody other than just a Down-in-Dixie product from Alabama, - raised
in the North, where you acquired a whiff of the dialect of a Canuck - and
by name Wallace J. Corkendell, though generally answering to plain
_Wally_."

"Hot-diggetty-dig! that ere smoke cloud sure looks jest like an ole
peasoup fog-pack we done got lost in not so far back. By gravy! I doant
b'lieve we'll even git one squint at the pesky city as we fly over the
same!"

"I can easily see where I'm bound to have a lot of fun listening to you
trying to talk in three different lingoes, all mixed up in one great
mess - Yankee, your native brogue; Canadian patios, contracted while with
the Northwest Mounted Police; and now a pidgin English, such as a
Southern colored boy might use. I only hope such a mixture doesn't queer
the big game we've got laid out ahead for us, whatever its nature proves
to be."

"I er-_reckons_ - _yeou_ says I gotter use that word right along naow,
'cause no Alabama white or black boy never does _guess_ anything - I
reckons, suh, I'll git a strangle-holt on the way a gen-u-ine cracker
keeps up his end o' a talkie - given a little time fo' practice."

"That begins to sound like the real stuff, comrade," observed Jack; and
despite the clamor of engine exhaust, and whirling propellers both of
them were able to hear every word uttered, simply because they were
wearing their usual earphone attachments, without which they never made
a flight. "I'm beginning to feel encouraged to believe you'll come
through with flying colors. There, we're directly over Birmingham, and
going strong to eastward."

"Huh! I'm right glad yeou done tole me so, suh," Perk hastened to reply,
doubtless with one of his usual chuckles; "'case all I kin make aout's a
black smudge o' smoke ahuggin' the ground, with a few church steeples
apokin' a finger through the same. So, there she lies, my own, my native
city! Ain't it affectin', though, ole pal, acomin' back like this, after
many years, an' discoverin' that same thick smoke fog asettled daown on
the dear old place? Gee whiz! I'm jest awonderin' whether us Southern
kids ever _did_ have a gen-u-ine ole swimmin'-hole in them _won_-derful
days, eh, what?"

When they were positively alone, and no danger of crafty eavesdroppers
picking up their words, the two cronies were pleased to extract a
certain amount of fun out of their assumed characters - for Jack Ralston
of course was also sailing under a _nom-de-guerre_, as well as his best
pal - with him the new name was "Rodman Warrington," and he was supposed
to be a rich and eccentric New York City sportsman, weary of the routine
of the Carrituck Sound shooting club to which he belonged, and ardently
desirous of exploring the various bays, sounds and twisting rivers along
the wild coast of North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia.

"To be sure they did, brother," Jack was saying, reassuringly, in reply
to the skeptical question propounded by his running mate; "if you stop
and think you'll remember how every American boy who grew up and
amounted to shucks was always getting a great thrill out of memories of
such a meeting-place, where all the boys took occasion to show off in
doing stunts with a diving board."

"Say, naow 'at we've left dear ole Birmingham in the rear, haow long
'fore we drop daown on Candler Field outside Atlanta?"

"Depends on what time we keep making," Jack informed him; "we're
speeding along at a hundred-and-twenty clip just now, with only two
motors working; and if there was any necessity for fetching it up to an
even hundred-and-fifty we could easily enough do the same - and then
some. I reckon we'll come in sight of Candler Field in about an
hour-and-a-half - the chart tells me it's something like one-fifty miles,
as the bee flies, between this Southern Pittsburgh and the Capital of
Georgia."

"Meanin' to stop over in Atlanta long, partner?" demanded Perk; who
apparently was not wholly advised of his leader's plans, as far as they
were matured, and as usual "wanted to know."

"Around twenty-four hours, possibly less, buddy," Jack explained. "We've
an appointment, made for us from Headquarters in Washington, to meet up
with a certain official connected with the Secret Service, who holds
forth in Atlanta - from him we'll receive a certain amount of
information, and be referred to another party, high in the secrets of
the Service in Charleston. When we jump off from that South Carolina
city we'll know all we're expected to carry out - what we've been called
east to accomplish. There, that's everything in a nutshell; I'm as much
in the dark as you, even though I reckon I've figured things out, if a
bit hazily, to tell the truth."

"We're goin' after some sort o' big game, I er-reckon, partner?" Perk
speculated, his manner making the remark seem like a question.

"No doubt about that, boy - they wouldn't have called for us to fly all
the way from San Diego, (with two necessary stops to prevent spies from
learning as to who we are, and why we're heading east) if it hadn't been
that some others in the Secret Service had played their innings - and
fallen asleep at the switch."

"Hot-diggetty-dig! I'd say that'd be a neat compliment they're givin'
us, ole hoss," Perk exulted; as enthusiastic as a boy over a Christmas
present of a brand new shiny pair of club skates. "Another thing I'd
like to hear tell 'baout, Ja - er, Mr. Warrin'ton, suh."

"As what, partner - you'll notice that I'm trying to call you all sorts
of chummy names - that's for the purpose of trying to forget I ever knew
you as Perk, or Gabe Perkiser. If you do the same there'll be less
chance of giving our game away; for if any kind of quick-witted spies
should hear us exchanging words they'd remember the real names of the
two sky detectives who were playing particular hob with gents who gave
Uncle Sammy the laugh. Now, I reckon you're referring to that letter I
had just before we lifted out ship at San Diego last night."

"Yeou said it, er-ole pal," replied Perk, catching his treacherous
tongue just in the nick of time. "I kinder - reckoned it mout acome from
the gent over in San Diego, who's been aour boss since we started
operations 'long the Coast."

"A fair enough guess, brother," Jack told him; "because that's the
official who gave us the order to break away, and what to do on the
skyway east. There was also some interesting information concerning the
job we finished up some weeks back; and I meant to hand that over to
you; but somehow failed to connect."

"I'm right tickled to hear that, suh - fack is I'd begun to feel they
wasn't zactly treatin' us white, not sayin' as haow we'd done the
Service proud, the way we fetched Slim Garrabrant back after he'd broke
loose from the pen, an' started his ole tricks again."[1]

"Oh! they were quite enthusiastic about the success of our work, after
others had fallen down on the job - that is, as warm as those cold people
at Headquarters ever do get, it being against their principles to over
praise those working under them, for fear of giving the poor guys the
big-head. You can read the letter before I destroy it, brother. The Big
Boss in L. A. also wrote that Slippery Slim had been safely returned to
his former cell in Leavenworth, and with an added sentence; so, as
they'll watch him closer from now on, there's small chance of our ever
running up against him after this."

"Well, he was a good guy when it came to tacklin' big games, I'll tell
the whole world," observed the satisfied Perk; who again busied himself
with his reliable binoculars, eagerly surveying the checkered landscape
a mile or more under the bottom of their fuselage; and which continued
to prove of considerable interest to Perk, this being actually the first
time he had ever passed over that section of the Southland, despite his
absurd claim to having spent his boyhood days in Birmingham, Ala.

The time drifted along, with their speed undiminished. Pine woods,
tracts of corn, cotton, tobacco; acres of fruit trees, pecan groves,
even sugarcane patches - all these signs of the Southland he kept seeing
as the miles flew past.

"I kinder - er-reckons as haow we've done shot past the dividin' line
'tween Alabam 'nd Georgia, boss," he presently announced, with a grand
air of superior knowledge; "case I jest seen a town squatted on a river,
an' painted on the roof o' a house was a name, fo' the benefit o' fliers
like weuns - Tallapoosa she read, which tells me that must a been the
river Tallapoosa - all bein' 'cross the line in Harlson County, Georgia,
('cordin' to my map here.) If that's correct we right naow ain't more'n
fifty miles from aour goal - less'n half an hour yet to fly."

"You are hot on the trail, comrade," Jack assured him. "Keep your eyes
skinned to pick up another smoke cloud dead ahead, which will be the
first sign of our nearing Atlanta, the New York City of the South."

Perk continued to watch and wait, until finally he gave a half
suppressed whoop, to add exultantly:

"It's a _big_ smoke smudge, all right, buddy; so we're rushing daown on
aour goal like a river afire; which pleases a feller called Wally okay,
yeou bet!"

- - -

Footnote 1:

See "Trackers of the Fog Pack."




CHAPTER II

THE CIPHER LETTER


Jack did not seem to be at all surprised when his best pal made this
abrupt announcement; but then he always kept himself prepared for coming
events.

"I was expecting to hear you say that, buddy;" he told his mate; "for
the past fifty miles on, our string up to date had about run through. I
reckon we'll be on foot before many more minutes. Get the airport
yet - Wally?"

"Sure do, and right naow I kin glimpse a big - looks like our Fokker,
agoin' to drop daown."

"Yes, possibly belongs to either of the latest lines using Candler Field
for a base - Eastern Air Transport, for passengers and mail; and Southern
Air Fast Express - covering the route between Los Angeles and
Atlanta - both now-a-days carrying capacity loads, the papers have been
saying."

"Shucks! takes yeou to git things daown pat, Big Boss," Perk went on to
comment. "Where do we go from here, Mister?"

"After we've made arrangements for housing our crate," explained Jack,
good-naturedly - although he had told his chum the same thing at least
twice before the present occasion - Perk could be so forgetful, he
remembered - "we'll make straight for the Henry Grady Hotel, where we'll
find a letter in code awaiting us, unless there's been a nasty hitch in
the arrangements."

"But - yeou said we had to meet up with some gent here, partner?"

"That's right, too, Wally; but only after I've decoded the letter from
Headquarters, which is going to put us wise about the nature of our
present big adventure. No great hurry to get moving on, as far as I know
at present; so it might be we can hang around Atlanta a day or more. But
both of us will have to play our parts, and fend off any too inquisitive
newspaper men. I've learned that the Atlanta reporters are keen on
picking up every scrap of aviation news possible, so's to make up a
story that will go well. We shun that sort of notoriety, don't forget,
brother, as the devil does holy water."

They were by this time circling Candler Field, which seemed to be
bustling with feverish activity - planes of various types were either
landing, or else starting up; while several could now be seen cruising
at sublime heights, either being put through their paces by pilots, or
what was more likely carrying excursionists in the shape of "sandbags,"
greenhorn air holiday makers, out to get an experience that would give
them a superior advantage over friends who had never as yet gone aloft.

Jack made an exceptionally clever landing, and then turned over the
stick to his mate, as if eager to make it appear that Perk was the
_real_ article when it came to being the head pilot of the multi-motored
cabin Fokker, that had not the least sign of a name, nor yet a number to
identify it.

A number of men came running toward the rather retired spot where Jack
had purposely come down. Leading them was a little whipper-snapper
specimen, in a rather loud checkered suit, who gave all the recognized
signs of being a hustling, live-wire newspaper man, always on the scent
for some unusual happening such as could be turned into a thrilling
story, - such keen investigators are to be found at nearly every airport
worth while, eager to satisfy the curiosity of the multitude of readers
who are developing air mindedness at a rapid rate.

"Greetings gents;" he started in to say, with a cheerful grin on his
sharp features, and holding a pencil in one hand while he had a pad of
blank paper all ready in the other. "If you would kindly give me a few
facts connected with your identity, where you jumped off, whither bound,
and so forth the many readers of my paper would be glad to extend to you
a warm welcome to the Gate City of the South."

Jack gravely shook hands with the diligent worker, and obligingly fed
him a little cock-and-bull story, giving the names he and Perk had
recently taken upon themselves, and merely stating they were from Texas,
bound to Atlanta on private business connected with aviation circles. He
did this to quiet the news gatherer, until they could dispose of their
ship, and get started for the hotel in a taxi to be hired near by.

Jack knew the breed to a dot, and felt confident the lively chap would
fill in enough imaginary details to make an interesting account; so that
was that, and he was at liberty to turn to the one in authority with
whom arrangements could be made for parking the big Fokker in a
convenient hangar at so much per diem.

Of course wise Jack had seen to it that never the slightest clue could
be discovered by the shrewdest spy, to indicate what these air travelers
really had in view - he was quite willing that such a sneaky investigator
examine the ship from one end to the other, and welcome - the gravest
danger of discovery would lie in some indiscreet remark on the part of
Perk; but even this did not give Jack any considerable worry.

They were soon on their way into the heart of wide-awake, bustling
Atlanta, and presently brought up at the noted hostelry, to which they
had been directed to proceed.

Jack, after dismissing the taxi, followed the hotel attendant who had
seized upon the two bags they had with them. He registered without
ostentation; and no sooner had the clerk taken a look at their names,
when about to assign them a double room on the third floor, than he
remarked casually:

"A letter waiting for you, Mr. Warrington," and after shuffling a pack
of envelopes swiftly, he handed Jack a registered letter, bearing the
Washington postmark across the stamps.

Jack carefully deposited the same in an inner pocket; then a minute
later they both followed a bellboy into the elevator and ascended.

When finally they found themselves behind a closed door Perk turned an
eager face upon his comrade, as he remarked in a low tone, with a
nervous look all around, as though half expecting to discover some
eavesdropper peeping out from a closet, or from behind an easy-chair:

"She kim okay, seems like, Ja - er Mr. Warrington - then things they're
keepin' on the move, an' we're a step closer to aour field o' operations
than when we started aout, eh, what, suh?"

"Lock the door, brother - I'm going to get busy decoding this letter,
after which you'll know _everything_. Now settle down in that chair, and
give me ten minutes of time for the job - possibly a bit more, since I
see it's rather a long communication."

Perk followed these directions out, and continued to watch the other as
a terrier might hover over a hole in the kitchen wall, from which he
expected a rat to thrust out his nose at any second.

Jack took a little more time than he had reckoned on; but, being expert
at reading the secret cipher code adopted by the Government, in the end
he had mastered the entire contents of the letter of instructions.

"Pull over this way a little, partner," he told the feverishly waiting
Perk. "I want to lower my voice while explaining what it's all about;
and we just can't be too careful, since walls sometimes have ears
especially in this day of the hidden dictograph. To begin with," he went
on to add, "we seem to have guessed fairly well that it was bound to
have some connection with the smuggling business along the Atlantic
seaboard, between Norfolk and Savannah."

Perk's grin was enormous at hearing this.

"Didn't I jest _know_ that'd be aour job?" he chuckled, evidently vastly
pleased at having "hit the target in the bull's eye." "Ever since we
carried on so well daown in Floridy along back, I been 'spectin' Unc.
Sam'd root out same kinder game fur us to get busy on onct more."

"But this promises to be the biggest adventure we've ever tackled, bar
none, brother," Jack proceeded to explain. "This letter goes on to tell
what an enormous amount of unlawful stuff is being flooded on the
country through a powerful syndicate that's said to be backed by some
heavy unknown parties with unlimited capital at their control. Ours is
going to be the task of finding out who they are; and likewise throwing
a monkey-wrench into the smoothly running machinery by which they have
been cheating the Government revenue right along, getting bolder and
bolder, so that they virtually snap their fingers under Uncle Sam's
nose."

"Gee! that sounds fine to me, ole hoss," gurgled Perk, rubbing his hands
vigorously together as he spoke. "I jest kinder allers did yearn to
tackle things sech as had a tough reputation behind 'em. Course there's
been a wheen o' customs men atryin' to squash this combine - it's allers
thataways, seems like!"

"Yes, looks as if the whole business is running true to form, brother,"
Jack further admitted. "The Chief candidly tells me they have been
laying all sorts of clever traps for many moons, only to have these
skip-by-night lads give them the laugh. He hopes we'll meet up with
better luck."

"If so be it's a fair question, partner, haow do they reckon this
traffic she's bein' kerried on, to slip by the fast customs patrol boats
an' land the cargoes safe an' sound?"

"That's where the crux of the whole affair seems to come in," Jack
thrilled the other by saying. "A few craft from Bimini have been
overhauled, and seized, though as a rule the crew always managed to slip
away, jumping overboard close in among the reeds, and disappearing in
the brush along the river bank. But these occasional seizures never made
even a dent in the immense operations, the Chief admits."

"How come then, buddy - bet yeou a cookey 'gainst thirty cents they got a
line o' flyin' boats doin' the business."

"My stars! how wonderfully keen you are about guessing things; for
that's just what this letter admits; and now we know why they called on
us to get in the game - we seem to have made a big hit with the Chief, on
account of how we managed to use our wings, and beat the Old Nick at his
own game of high-spy."

"Ain't it great, though, to know they do 'preciate _somethin'_ we've
kerried aout? But what's the idee o' aour headin' fur Charleston after
we kick aout o' this burgh, eh, partner?"

"There are a lot of things to be said and done before we can break into
the game; and we'll get fully posted by the Government agent in
Charleston. Besides, we've got to handle another kind of ship, - in fact
an amphibian, capable of dropping down on water as well as on land, and
taking off the same way."

"Glory be! naow ain't that fine?" Perk exclaimed, ecstatically. "I never
yet had anythin' to do with them crocodile type o' boats, an' never
'spected to; so this same is a big s'prise, as well as a pleasure - thank
the Chief fur me whenever yeou're writin', baby."

"Okay, brother," came the ready answer. "Fortunately it happens that I'm
somewhat familiar with the handling of that type of boat. Besides, we're
under orders not to hurry things along at all - to take our own time, and
get fully in touch with our new craft before starting on the job for
keeps."

"Air we meanin' to handle this layout all by aour lonesome?" Perk
questioned.

"As a rule, yes; but we are also expected to call upon certain skippers
of fleet patrol boats to lend a hand. He's given a list of four rum
chasers whose commanders will recognize the signal we give, and place
their craft at our disposal as long as we wish; so you see we're to
really be in command of a squadron, if the necessity arises. I'm meaning
to take down the names of the four customs boats before I destroy this
illuminating letter, according to instructions."

Then Jack went on to speak of other things the letter had contained,
with the intention of posting Perk regarding the immensity of the task
being given over to their handling.

"He described this wide-stretching conspiracy to smash the Coast Guard
service as a species of octopus, reaching out its myriad of arms, so as
to cover the entire coast line - deliveries have been accomplished with
almost clock-like regularity, and the custom service is being made a
laughing stock among those in the secret. No wonder the Chief is feeling
hot under the collar; for I reckon there never as yet has been a time
like the present, when all the best laid plans of his most skillful and
bravest men have gone on the rocks. I've a feeling that if we manage to
give this big conspiracy its death blow, there isn't a favor too great


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