H. Irving Hancock.

The High School Captain of the Team Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard online

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muttered the boy grimly. "What part of the establishment can
they be in? Hadn't I better slip out and get the police? I can't
learn anything in here unless I use my light."

Yet Prescott didn't want to turn on that flare. The light was
much more likely to show him up to the burglars than to enable
him to find men who were not making a sound.

So Dick penetrated a little further, and a little further, listening.
As he moved he was obliged to grope his way.

At last, however, he found himself confused as to the points of
the compass. In this darkness, he was not even sure which was
the way out.

"I'll have to use the flash now," concluded Dick.

Taking the long tube from one of his pockets, he pressed the button
briefly, giving a flash that lasted barely a second.

"What was that?" muttered the boy, with a start, as the light
went out.

Clearly enough, now, he heard stealthy steps. He was almost certain,
too, that he distinguished the sound of low whispers.

"That flash has scared the rascals," throbbed Dick Prescott.
"Now, if I can only locate 'em, and get out first! I may succeed
in getting the police to the scene before both get away. One
of 'em, anyway, I ought to be able to floor with this heavy cane!"

Transferring the light to his left hand, Dick took a strong grip
of the cane. It did not eyed occur to him to be afraid in here.
He was trying to trap the burglars as a piece of enterprise for
"The Blade," and that was all he thought about.

Suddenly there was a more decided step in the darkness. It sounded,
too, right in advance of the boy who stood there guessing in the dark.

"Halt, where you are!" shouted Dick. "And throw up your hands
as high as you can, if you don't want to get drilled! Don't try
to use your weapons, for I have the drop!"

It was sheer bluff, for the only thing with which Prescott could
claim the drop was his cane.

Yet, in such circumstances, a bold front is half the battle.

Prescott bounded forward, boldly, at the same moment turning on
his light.

The next moment, though he held the light, the cane dropped from
his nerveless fingers.

"We've got you, Prescott!" roared a voice. "And you? Of all
the thundering big surprises. But we've got you! Stop all nonsense
and get in line to come along with us."

It was the chief of police, backed by three of his men, whom Dick
now faced. They had thrown their lights on, too, so that there
was now plenty of illumination.

Nor was this Chief Coy, one of Dick's old time friends, but Chief
Simmons, a new man appointed only a few months before.

Chief Simmons was almost frantically anxious to catch the burglar
or burglars, for their continued operations reflected upon his
abilities as the new police chief.

All in a flash young Prescott took in the horrifying idea that
Chief Simmons believed him to be the real burglar.

"But I - - -" began Dick chokingly.

"Yes, you will!" retorted Chief Simmons. "You can't put up any
fight, and you can't make any denial."

"I - - -"

"Take him, you men, and handcuff him." roared the chief. "Then
we'll go through the rest of the store, and see what we can learn."

Dick drew back, with a shudder, as two of the officers came toward
him, intent on carrying out their chief's order.

"You'd better submit, Prescott," warned the chief sternly. "We're
not in a mood to stand any fooling."

"But won't you listen - - -" began Dick, gasping.

"I'm not the trial judge," jeered Simmons. "Still, I'll listen
to you all you want, later in the night. Now, stand forward!"

Dick realized the folly and the uselessness of defying the police.
He moved nearer to the chief, as ordered. And Prescott began
to understand how black the whole affair looked for him.

But how had it happened?

He would have given worlds to know.

"Hold your hands forward, and together," commanded Chief Simmons.

Quivering, flushing with the shame of the thing, young Prescott
obeyed. The officer who fitted the handcuffs to the boy's wrists
felt ashamed of his work, for he had always been one of Dick's
friends.

The click of the steel ratchets brought Prescott back to a realization
of things.

"I'm not much of a catch, chief," muttered the boy. "You'd better
not be content with me alone. Leave me under watch and then the
rest of you had better spread through this place. I think there
are others here - -the men you seek."

"You've confederates here, have you?" demanded Simmons, fixing
his suspicious gaze on the boy. "Judkins, you watch Prescott - -and
mind you don't let him give you the slip. The rest of us will
keep on going through this store. You say you think there are
others here, Prescott?"

"I think so," replied the boy.

Chief Simmons raised his voice.

"If there's anyone here - - -" he called.

"There is!" came back in a tone that made Dick Prescott start
and throb with alarm.

"Who - -where - -" asked Chief Simmons, excitedly.

"Right here!" came the voice. "Hold your lights on me!"

Two flash-lights at once centered their rays on the speaker, and
Dave Darrin bounded forward into the light.

"So you two have been working this thing as side partners, have
you?" asked Chief Simmons harshly. "Great Scott, how you've fooled
us, then! Like everyone else, we believed you two boys to be
straight. Tell me," commanded Simmons dryly, "is Editor Pollock
in this store-robbing gang, too?"

"Ask Mr. Pollock yourself," Dave flung back.

"I will, when I get time," retorted Simmons. "Grab Darrin and put
the irons on his wrists, too!"




CHAPTER XXIV

Dave Gives Points to the Chief of Police


"You clumsy bungler!" spoke Dave Darrin hotly. "Chief, I demand
the right to speak to you for a moment."

"After you're ironed and taken to the station house," snapped
Mr. Simmons.

"Chief, you're not afraid to step aside with me and listen to
about ten words?" demanded Darrin scornfully. "And if you don't - -if
you go on in your bull-headed way - -you'll be the scorn of the
town by morning. Why don't you hear what I've got to say, instead
of letting precious seconds slip by. Come! Over this way!"

There was something so commanding in Darrin's voice and manner
that Simmons concluded to listen for a moment.

Keeping his flash-light turned on Darrin, the chief of police
followed Dave. Darrin whispered something in the big man's ear.
In another moment the two were whispering together animatedly.

"Why didn't you come to the point before, Darrin?" demanded the
chief gruffly.

"Great Scott, didn't I, as soon as I could postpone your mania
for having me loaded down with police chains?"

"Yet how do I know you're telling me anything like the truth?"

"If I'm lying, you can find it out very quickly, can't you?" demanded
Darrin. "But come along, or you'll be too late. Oh, why do all
the biggest slow pokes in creation get appointed to the police
force?"

"Come along with me, Delmar," ordered Chief Simmons, turning to
one of his policemen. "The rest of you stay here - -though you
can pass on into the open air. Then wait there for us."

"Don't you waste any time on worry, Dick," Dave called back.

Prescott laughed easily. Whatever Dave had discovered, or thought
he had, Darrin's chum was quite content now to await the result
of all that enthusiasm.

"We must not make much noise," cautioned Darrin, as he led the
way swiftly, though on tiptoe. "We don't want to scare the other
people cold until we have them cooped so that they can't get away.
But you'd better be ready, in case they're desperate enough to
try shooting!"

Up the street, to the head of another alley way, Darrin led the
swift chase.

"Now, softer than ever," he whispered, over his shoulder, without
halting.

A moment later Dave halted before two stone steps that led down
to a basement junk shop.

Just as he did so a low voice inside could be heard, saying in
barely audible tones:

"I'm so anxious to know whether Prescott fell into the trap that
I can hardly wait another minute."

"You'd better wait until morning, or you'll tumble into something
with your eyes shut, and that will mean both of us nabbed," growled
another voice.

"Do you think they found Prescott - -that they believed in the
appearances against him?"

"I can't say," came the other low voice. "And I can wait. I'm
not crazy on the subject, as you seem to be."

"Explain this all over again, to us, won't you?" shouted the chief,
pushing open the door of the junk shop and striding in, backed
by the light and the revolver of Officer Delmar.

"What?" screamed Phin Drayne, then sank to his knees in the extremity
of his terror.

"Don't either of you try to put up any fight," warned the chief.
"Delmar, here are my handcuffs to put with your own. Hand me
your light, and then iron both of these fellows securely."

The owner of the junk shop, a man under thirty, dirty and low
browed, stood cowering back against a bench. The fellow looked
as though he would have fought had there been any chance to draw
a weapon. But he was gazing straight into the muzzle of the police
chief's weapon.

An instant later both prisoners had been handcuffed, and a pistol
had been taken from the clothing of each. From the junkman,
too, had been taken a ring of keys.

"One of these fit your door?" demanded Simmons.

"Yes," growled the scowling one. "The long key."

"Bring the prisoners along, Delmar," ordered the chief. "I'll
lock up here. We'll come back later for a search."

Out on the sidewalk Phin Drayne plucked up courage enough to find
his voice.

"For goodness' sake, let me go, Chief," he begged, falteringly.
"I haven't done anything, although things look against me."

"I guess we'll be able to put things enough against you," retorted
the police official mockingly.

"Think of my mother!" pleaded the wild boy. "Think of our family - -one
of the most respectable in town. Think of - - -"

"Oh, you're enough to make one tired," broke in Dave Darrin,
in deep disgust. "You thought of Dick Prescott when you put up
the job to have him arrested as a burglar, didn't you?"

"Why, what do you mean? I didn't do anything to Dick Prescott,"
shouted Drayne angrily, or affecting to be angry.

"Tell that to the marines," quoth Darrin contemptuously. "It
was through following on your trail, Drayne, that I discovered
the whole trick, and also knew just where to take the police to
find you."

An hour later Chief Simmons was well satisfied that he had laid
the burglar scare in Gridley.

Not that the new chief had had so very much to do with the result,
either.

The first move had been to get back to the Kahn store, where Dick
Prescott was promptly freed, with the chief's hearty apologies.

Over at the police station, by separating Drayne from his accomplice,
Bill Stevens, the junkman, and questioning each separately, the
whole story had come out, chiefly through frenzied confessions.

Phin Drayne, loafing about town, and with his pocket money nearly
cut off by his father, had formed the acquaintance of Stevens,
who, besides being a junkman, was a very fair locksmith, though
about the latter trade he had never bragged publicly.

Drayne had been ripe for any move that would place him in more
funds. So, first of all, he and Stevens had entered the commercial
establishment of Drayne, senior. There, thanks to Phin's knowledge
of the premises, they had made a very good-sized "haul."

After that the pair had operated together frequently. Stevens'
junk shop had offered a handy pace in which to hide the plunder.

Then, as time went on, and Phin heard, by chance, that Dick and
Dave were trying to catch the burglars in behalf of "The Blade,",
a plan had occurred to Phin by which he might ruin Dick utterly
in the eyes of the community.

The whole plan had been carefully laid by Stevens and young Drayne.

On this night, just after Conklin's drug store had been closed
for the night, Stevens had slipped in a key that had opened a
side door for him. Then the door was left closed but unlocked.
At that hour of the night no one was likely to notice anyone
who went in or out at the side door. And Conklin's was equipped
with a public telephone.

Then down to the alleyway had stolen the evil pair. Kahn's rear
door had been opened with false keys and left ajar. Then Phin
Drayne stole back to the junk shop, while Stevens, whose voice
could not be recognized over the wire by Dick, sent the message.

Next, back to where he could watch the alleyway, hurried Stevens,
and hid. Stevens saw Dick Prescott slip into the alleyway, then
go inside the store. That was enough for Stevens, who had slipped
back and into the drug store once more, getting the police station
on the wire and 'phoning to the chief that Gridley's burglars
had just entered Kahn's through the rear door.

Only a block and a half from Kahn's was the police station. Almost
immediately the officers were on the spot, stalking - -Dick Prescott.

But, at the time when Dick left his own home and went down the
street so hurriedly Dave Darrin had been sauntering along, to
call his chum out on their nightly quest for "The Blade."
Seeing Dick move so swiftly, Darrin concluded that something
most unusual was about to happen. So Dave trailed swiftly in
the rear.

Thus it was that Darrin drew back just in time to see Bill Stevens
slipping away from a hiding place at the head of that alleyway.

"That does for Prescott," chuckled Stevens, half aloud.

"Oh, it does, does it?" silently murmured alert Dave, and now
he intently followed Stevens to the drug store, and thence back
to the junk shop. Dave's next swift move was to rush back to
Kahn's with the result already known.

"Well, did you think the folks of Gridley would continue to believe
such a charge against young Prescott?" demanded Chief Simmons
of the sneak.

"I knew some wouldn't, but I thought the whole affair would make
such a row that Prescott would never be quite able to hold up
his head in Gridley again," declared Drayne huskily. "But I thought
that it would stop his thinking of going to West Point, anyway."

"Instead of which," muttered Simmons dryly, "you'll get four
years - -or more, Drayne at some place that won't be West Point."

"Oh, my father won't quite stand for that," returned Phin, a bit
more loftily. "He has money and some family pride."

"Money doesn't help much for confessed burglars," rejoined Chief
Simmons.

At that moment Heathcote Drayne, who had been roused out of bed
by a policeman, came in, so white faced that Dick and Dave felt
sorry indeed for the unhappy parent.

But Dick didn't remain to see the meeting between father and son.
Prescott and his chum hastened around to "The Blade" office.
Gladly enough would both boys have kept Phin's disgrace from
going before the public, but it was too big a story, locally,
and was bound to come out. So Dick wrote a straight account,
after which he and Dave hurried home to get the fag end of a night's
rest.

Gridley merchants lost but little, in the end, through the series
of burglaries. Most of the plunder was recovered at the junk
shop.

Bill Stevens was sent to prison for a term of eight years. Phin,
being only seventeen, was allowed to plead his youth. In his
case justice was satisfied with his commitment to a reform school
until he should be twenty-one years of age.

And so ended the story of the mysterious burglaries.




CHAPTER XXV

Conclusion


One evening about a week after these events Dick and Dave were
sitting in the former's room chatting, when Greg Holmes and Dan
Dalzell, apparently in great good humor, broke in upon them.

"When do you go to West Point, Dick?" queried Greg.

"I'm ordered to report to the adjutant there on the first of March,"
Prescott replied.

"Mind my running up there with you?" demanded Greg.

"Why, I'd be tickled to pieces, if you can afford the trip, Greg."

"Oh, I guess I can," laughed the other boy. "Dad is going to
pay my freight bill."

"See here, you fellows, you can't have been reading the newspapers
much, since you two were appointed," broke in Dan Dalzell.

"What have we missed?" challenged Dave.

"Why, didn't you know a thing about Senator Frayne and his
appointments?" went on Dan Dalzell. "The Senator doesn't appoint
from a single district. He appoints at large from the whole state.
Senator Frayne announced, a while ago, two appointments-at-large, one
for West Point, the other for Annapolis."

"And we went up to the state capital yesterday," rattled on Greg.
"We went through the examinations. The winners weren't named
until this morning. You'll find it in the evening papers, later
to-day. I go to West Point, and Dan goes to Annapolis."

"What?" yelled Dick, leaping as high as he could jump.

"Tell it to us again!" begged Darrin huskily.

"Oh, it's all a fact, straight and right enough," Greg assured
them happily.

Then and there the four chums executed a war dance. It seemed
too wonderful to believe.

"But isn't Gridley the whole show?" demanded Dave presently.
"Four cadetships in the same year to one little city!"

"Well, we had to win 'em from other comers," retorted Greg. "And
none of us are out of the woods yet. We've got to pass at West
Point and at Annapolis.

"This is great!" quivered young Prescott. "But wouldn't it be
grand if only Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton had gotten in line,
too, and gone along into the service with us? Then all of the
old Dick & Co. would have been enrolled under the battle flag."

"But you know what Tom told us," put in Darrin. "He said he wouldn't
live at West Point, and he wouldn't be caught dead at Annapolis.
Tom is all for becoming a great civil engineer - -a builder of
railroads and all that sort of thing."

"Well, Harry Hazelton is just as bad," said Greg. "He's all for
doing engineer stunts in the wilderness, too."

"Here they come now," announced Dan Dalzell.

Tom and Harry were heartily glad, of course, to hear of the luck
that had befallen Greg and Dan.

"We were just wishing that you two had fallen into the same kind
of luck, and that you were going into uniform with us," declared
Dick.

Reade glared at Prescott.

"Humph!" muttered Tom. "I thought you were a friend of mine!"

"I judge it's a mighty good thing we don't all hunger for the
same careers," laughed Harry. "For instance, all young fellows
can't go into the United Service. There aren't jobs enough to
go around. The United States Army is just about big enough to
find with a good magnifying glass. As for the Navy - - -"

"Be careful," warned Darrin touchily.

"As for the Navy," continued Hazelton, "Congress has a lot of
officers trained and then seems to think that one new battleship
every other year or so ought to keep the country patient."

"You fellows are going to be downright happy, I know," resumed
Tom. "But so are Harry and I. We finish out our High School
work, and then our chance is ahead of us."

"To _find_?" queried Dave.

"No, sir! We've _got_ it," retorted Tom. "It came to us only
recently, and Harry and I have been keeping a bit quiet, but now
it is time to tell the news - -just in the circle of Dick & Co."

By dint of great hustling, and backed by recommendations from
the local civil engineer, Reade and Hazelton had secured a chance,
beginning in the coming July, to join as rodmen the engineering
party that was laying a new railroad over the Rockies, in Colorado.

Just before the first of March, Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes
slipped quietly away, and reported at West Point.

But what further happened to Dick and Greg - -and there was a lot
of it - -must be reserved for the volumes of the new West Point
series.

The first volume will appear under the title, "_Dick Prescott's
First Year at West Point; Or, Two Chums in the Cadet Gray_."

Later on Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell left Gridley and home for
Annapolis. Their adventures will be followed up in the new Annapolis
series.

The first volume in this series will be entitled: "_Dave Darrin's
First Year at Annapolis; Or, Two Plebes at the Naval Academy_."

Nor did Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton fail of some very extraordinary
adventures in their chosen career of engineering. Their career
led them into some of the wild spots of the earth. It will all
be told in the Young Engineer series.

The first volume in this series will appear shortly under the
caption: "_The Young Engineers in Colorado; Or, at Railroad Building
in Earnest_."

How about the other Gridley folks whose acquaintance has been
so enjoyable? Fred Ripley? Well, as to Fred - -when we first
made his acquaintance, he was anything but an agreeable fellow,
but he learned his lesson in time, and, under the wholesome influence
of Dick & Co., but especially of Dick Prescott himself, Fred had
become a different boy. Such is the effect of good example.

As to the rest, many of them are bound to appear again, as we
follow the fortunes of our Gridley boys through the tales of West
Point, the annals of Annapolis and the doings of the Young Engineer
Boys.

So here we will leave them all for the moment, soon to renew the
acquaintance of all who had any future share in the lives or thoughts
of the six splendid young Americans who were once known to their
classmates as Dick & Co.

THE END







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Online LibraryH. Irving HancockThe High School Captain of the Team Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard → online text (page 11 of 11)