Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope/4
A Murderous Attempt
"You drive, Tom," said Ned, for they had come from the Swift home in his car.
"O.K., and hang onto your hat!"
Tom Swift had once driven a fast racing auto of his own design and Ned knew his chum could get the most out of his roadster. In a few seconds the little car reached the gate of the works, where the watchman halted them.
"Oh, an' 'tiz you agin, Misther Swift," said Malligan. "Sure, an' I wouldn't have stopped yez but me orders is to inspect iveryone."
"You did right, Pat," commended Tom, shifting gears. "Good-night."
The Shopton Hospital was located a couple of miles from the Swift plant. Under the young scientist's guidance the roadster reached its entrance within a few minutes. At the information desk the boys were informed where Mr. Damon had been taken.
"Room 302, Mr. Swift. Doctor Chilton is with him now."
Just as the boys reached Room 302 the physician came out. Tom was glad to note that the man was smiling.
"How is he, Doctor?"
"Hello, boys. Mr. Damon will be as good as new in a week or so. Barring a sprained wrist his injuries are trifling--a few bruises and a slight cut. From the way he's blessing everything in the place no one would think he was hurt in the least!"
"I'm relieved," said Tom. "May we see him?"
"Go right in. He'll be glad to have some company. But don't stay too long."
"Bless my operating table, if it isn't Tom and Ned!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, seeing his visitors enter. The eccentric gentleman was propped up in bed by several pillows. His left arm was in a sling and around his head was a big bandage. "You two got here almost as quickly as I did. But I'm glad they didn't have to carry you in!"
"Your wife phoned me the news," explained Tom. "We're mighty glad you weren't injured badly. Tell us how it happened."
"It all occurred so suddenly that I hardly know myself. But I know one thing!" Mr. Damon seemed very indignant. "The scoundrels deliberately ran into my car!"
"Did you get their license number?" inquired Ned Newton. "If you did, I'll call the police!"
"No, I couldn't see it in the dark. But I know the villains well enough. They were my two so-called relatives that I told you about--Jones and Brown! It was spite work for my refusal to tell 'em about your glass!"
Tom now saw the reason why Mrs. Damon was blaming him for the accident.
"We'll notify the authorities and also do a little detective work ourselves," he said. "We must leave now because the doctor wants you to get some rest."
"Come back again, boys. At any rate, I've escaped that house party!"
After reporting the accident at the local police station, Tom and Ned visited all the garages and repair shops in the little town in an attempt to learn if any damaged machine had been brought in. They met with no success, however.
"Guess their bus wasn't hurt much," commented Ned as they left the last place. "We might as well give up for the night."
"The police will be on the job. Unless the two men hid the car somewhere it's sure to be found. The teletype will flash the word all through the state."
The following morning the Police Chief telephoned Tom to tell him that no trace of the mysterious Jones and Brown could be discovered, nor had any witness to the accident been located.
Later Ned went to the hospital where he found Mr. Damon much improved and able to sit up in a wheel chair. After a visit with him he attended to some business at the bank. On returning to the Swift plant, he found Tom busy with his green disk, which once more was clamped to the little telescope.
"Mr. Damon is a lot better," Ned reported, watching his friend's work curiously. "When I left him he was blessing his hat and coat, so I suppose he's eager to get out of the hospital."
"That's great," said Tom. "I knew he was getting along all right. I was too busy to go with you so I called Doctor Chilton. He told me that the X-ray showed no broken bones, but our friend must remain under observation for a few days more."
"You've changed the wiring on the disk, haven't you?" asked Ned, who knew a little about electricity.
"I want to try alternating current instead of direct and see if doing so won't improve it. Dad suggested that. What is it, Koku?"
"Boy bringum letter for Master. Say must put name on book." The man held out an envelope and pad.
"It's a radiogram. Sign for me, Ned, will you?"
Tom ripped open the envelope and glanced over the message.
"Bad news?" asked his chum, seeing a changed expression on the inventor's face.
"I should say so. Here, read it yourself. We might just as well forget the whole telescope idea, that's how bad it is!"
Ned took the sheet, which Tom had crumpled, spread it out on the desk, and read as follows:
"Regret inform you was compelled to jettison your cargo last night in bad storm to save ship. Approximate location four miles due east Port Baracoa, Cuba. Salvage boat take position at apex isosceles triangle 27.6 degrees with lighthouse and summit hill a mile to the south."
"(Signed) A. Mawson,
Captain S.S. Perry."
"Say, Tom, that IS tough, having your meteorite thrown overboard!" exclaimed Ned, rereading the message. "All your work wasted and your marvelous invention junked--"
"Not yet!" broke in the young scientist grimly as he grabbed the telephone from his desk. "Hello, operator, get me long distance, please."
"What are you going to do?" asked Ned excitedly.
"Get divers," replied Tom as he waited. "I'm going to recover that meteorite or know the reason--Oh, hello! Yes. I want the main office of the Neptune Salvage Company in New York City. No, I haven't the address. Yes, I'll hold the line.
"These people are experts," he told his chum while waiting for his call to be put through. "If the stone isn't in too deep water they'll be able to raise it if anyone can."
"But how can they ever find it? Seems to me it'll be like hunting for the proverbial needle in a haystack, only more so!"
"Not quite that bad. Captain Mawson gives what seem to be pretty complete directions. You might try getting any further data the man may have."
Unfortunately for Tom, as he learned in the next two hours, the Neptune Company and other salvage concerns he called were very busy and could not spare a barge of the required size. Moreover, Ned could get no more information, when he finally contacted the freighter, than her commander had given already.
"Why doan yo' tak' yo' submarine boat down dere, Massa Tom?" asked Eradicate as he served luncheon to the young inventor, his father and Ned. "Ah 'members we once got some treasure off'n de bottom ob de sea dat way."
"I did think of that, Rad," answered Tom a bit wearily, "but my ship isn't big enough to raise such a great weight."
"And so, son," said the elder Swift, "if you can't get the use of a large salvage craft you will have to give up your project; is that right?"
"That's right, Dad, and I surely hate to think of it. But I'm not going to give up, even if I have to bring men and equipment from the Pacific coast!"
"That'd be mighty expensive," objected Ned. In his capacity as the Swifts' business manager, he had earned the nickname "watchdog of the treasury." "Why not wait until some local firm can take the job?"
"Too risky. You see, ocean currents or some submarine upheaval might shift the big stone so great a distance that we could never find it. Don't forget that to the best of our knowledge the meteorite is the only source of X on earth."
"Hmm," frowned Mr. Swift. "I used to know an old fellow very well who was in the diving business. Met him when we built the submarine 'Advance'--you boys remember her--but I can't seem to recall his name. Let me see--Ha! I have it! Britten! That's it, John Britten, the best salvage man on the coast!"
"Maybe he's busy too," said Ned, "as all the others seem to be."
"I think not," replied the elderly scientist, "because he's retired. Yet I believe he'll undertake the job if I ask him as I once did him a great favor. His salvaging outfit is in Florida, but he lives on Delaware Bay. I'll phone him at once."
"That's great, Dad!" cried Tom, his face lighting up with renewed hope. "Tell him I'll bring him here by plane tomorrow. We can talk things over and start for Florida from here."
"He'll go," said Mr. Swift a few minutes later, turning away from the telephone with a smile. "Said he'll be tickled to get back in harness."
"Thanks a million, Dad! You've saved the day!"
The following morning the boys hurried out to the Swift private airport to oversee the fueling of the huge plane Tom had decided to take. At first he had thought of making the trip in his small two-seated racer, since it was the fastest craft in the hangar. Realizing, however, that Captain Britten might want to bring along considerable baggage, the young inventor had told Ned he felt it best to go in his flying boat.
The "Winged Arrow," in which Tom once had made a memorable rescue flight to Iceland, was equipped now with a retractable landing gear as well as with pontoons, enabling the craft to descend on both land and water. Suddenly Tom became very excited as he looked at the hydroplane.
"Look, Ned!" he cried. "Can you beat that!"