Airplane Boys Discover the Secrets of Cuzco
Discover the Secrets
Discover the Secrets
E. J. CRAINE
THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUBLISHING CO.
CLEVELAND, O. NEW YORK, N. Y.
THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUBLISHING COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
THE COMMERCIAL BOOKBINDING CO.
In this third book about the Airplane Boys, theyget a marvelous new plane, which they name the“Lark” and which takes them to new adventuresand serves them to good purpose in many a narrowescape.
|II||Tracks in the Snow||30|
|IV||“Thanks for the Buggy Ride”||67|
|V||In the “Lab.”||86|
|VI||Out of the Sky||106|
|VIII||An Officer’s Plea||144|
|X||The Fight in the Air||187|
“Humph! I wonder where in the name ofpulverized pups that young Slick-and-Slipperytook himself. He sure knew how tocover his trail up good and pronto.” Itwasn’t the unseasonable weather that madeBob Caldwell shiver slightly as he glancedahead at the deserted ranch which was rollingtoward him. It was the recollection ofthat day, only a few months ago, when hehad taken Sergeant Bradshaw and AllenRuhel, the Canadian Royal Mounties, toidentify the outlaws.
10Staring at the empty ranch buildings, theboy experienced an uncanny feeling; itseemed to him that in the weeks which hadelapsed since the Gordons, Senior and Junior,had been forced to vacate so hurriedlyand abandon their schemes, that the hugeproperty had become amazingly desolate.Drawing swiftly nearer he saw doors swingingdisconsolately in the wind, and althoughhe knew perfectly well that no such soundcould reach his ears, he thought that eventhe strips of forest wailed dismally overtheir condition.
“Anyway,” he remarked with relief, “theold man is safely in prison, and I reckonthat Arthur had aplenty of Texas, so wedon’t have to worry about his turning uphere again.” Curiosity prompted him to takethe glasses and examine the vicinity moreclosely. The rambly old-fashioned house inwhich the father and son had made theirhome for three years, swayed slightly. Manyof its windows were broken, sections of theroof sagged, and one corner of the verandawas separated from its supporting pillar. Asmall shed in the back had fallen in, thebunkhouse entrance was blocked with debris,11the corral fences leaned wearily, andthe tall cottonwood trees that had been decorativeduring the summer, were stripped oftheir biggest branches.
“Guess they didn’t do any more repairingthan they had to while they lived there orit wouldn’t be tumbling apart now,” he suggestedas an explanation. His eyes restedfor a moment on the twisted bole of agnarled oak and he thought he saw somethingmove swiftly around its base, but hedecided that it was probably a wild animalthat had taken shelter there because of aninstinctive confidence that its haunts wouldnot be molested.
Caldwell had witnessed the ignominiouscapture of the older man and the unceremoniousretreat of Arthur Junior, who hadfled the country without stopping to lock theplace or make provisions for the hundredsof head of stock which roamed the range.Humane ranchers had driven the cattle toshelter, and Bob knew that the sheriff orsome of his assistants occasionally patroledthe property on watch for signs of the returnof young Gordon or any of his associates,but so far the place had been shunned12by members of the gang as if it were plaguestricken.
“At that, some of them might make it ahang-out as soon as they think people haveforgotten or are too busy to keep an eye onit.” He noted the rugged cliffs which roselike irregular saw-teeth and curved aroundsharply, like a protecting elbow. “From theground the place isn’t easy to reach withoutbeing observed. Well, what a nice littlescare-cat I’m getting to be,” he upbraidedhimself as he resolutely put the glasses intotheir case and turned his attention to thebusiness of flying.
Bob Caldwell was the younger member ofthe Flying Buddies and he was returningfrom a hop in Her Highness to Croftonwhere he had done errands for his motherand picked up the mail for the three adjoiningranches above the Gordon’s on CapRock; his own, the Cross-Bar on the PearlRiver; the K-A which was the Austin’s andhis home; and Don Haurea’s of the Box-Z.The recollection of the stirring events andthe eerie atmosphere about the lonely ranchmade him turn the plane’s nose toward theblue dome of northwestern Texas until its13magnitude and beauty enabled him to dismissthe sense of impending danger.
“We are all as safe as if we were inchurch,” he grinned cheerfully, then, as thealtitude meter read twenty thousand feet,he leveled off, and shot north. At the boy’sright stretched the seemingly endless milesof level plain under an almost unbrokenexpanse of pure white, while at his left belowthe great ledge lay miles and miles ofsharp hills, narrow valleys, and in the distancethe Pearl River bottom. Presently hesaw the timber line bounding the south ofthe K-A.
“Good old ranch,” he chuckled. “And Jim,the blithering highbrow, is all healed up,thank goodness. He sure has deserted us forDon Haurea’s laboratories.” The boy gavethe machine an affectionate tap but he feltno resentment over the new interests of hisstep-brother for he too was culling valuableinformation from that same source, onlyBob was applying everything he learned tothe immediate development of the Cross-Barranch. “She’ll be some producer by the timeI’m twenty-one.” That happy date was fiveyears off and he whistled gaily as his mind14tried to visualize the achievements possibleto accomplish during those years.
By this time Her Highness was soaringsmoothly above the plain, and in the distance,so far north that he looked like ananimated exclamation point as he skied onthe surface of the frozen snow, Caldwellrecognized the familiar figure of Jim Austin,his Flying Buddy and step-brother.
Austin’s bright red mackinaw and flappingscarf stood out a cheery patch of coloragainst the whiteness that surrounded him,and by the swing of his body Caldwell knewthat the older boy was making an effort tobeat him home. With an exuberant whoop,the young pilot waggled Her Highness’wings to let the challenger know that sheaccepted the dare, but she was a good sport,and although the distance she had to coverwas four times as far as the skier’s, sheproceeded to make her handicap greater, byexecuting a wide circle, zooming, bankingand spiraling. Bob was having a perfectlygorgeous time in the sky, and although helooked forward to joiningFlying Buddy,he hated to come down. But as he spedalong, he saw that Jim stood a fine chance15of making good, so after treating himself toa final climb, he leveled off again, then withthe throttle wide open, he started to dive.
Jim was so close now that Bob could seehim quite plainly, and he watched for hisbrother to pause and admire the spectacle ofthe rushing plane as it cut through space attopmost speed. Suddenly Jim did stop, stareup, then he waved his arms. At first Bob interpretedthe motions as a signal of recognizeddefeat, but after an instant the pilotrealized that his step-brother was trying tomake himself understood and he seemedrather frantic about it. He glanced swiftlyabout to be sure that another plane was notin the vicinity, and discovering none, he tooka swift look at Her Highness. As far as hecould see the little bus was O.K. and hewondered if she had dropped her landinggear, but just then his eyes rested on themirror which reflected the rear, and he gavea startled gasp of incredulous amazement.There was a thick trail of smoke belchingalong the fuselage and to the boy’s horrorhe saw tongues of flame bursting almost tothe forward cock-pit where he sat.
Mechanically he kicked the rubber,16jammed the stick, fought with the controls,brought the nose up and reduced the speed.All the while his mind was busy in an effortto account for the fire, but he could find noexplanation. Going more slowly the smokeno longer shot back, but began to hover forward,swirled about the cock-pit andsmudged his glasses. Groping and strainingat the safety strap, he shut off the motor,but it was evident that whatever caused theblaze was in the back, yet he knew therewas nothing in the construction of the machinethat could ignite in the rear.
According to the meter he was still seventhousand feet up, so he made a desperateeffort to save the beloved plane but nothinghe tried helped matters at all, and finally,with a sigh of regret, he released the strap,his fingers moved over the parachute buckles,then stopping to pick up the bag of mailand his glasses, he climbed over the rim ofthe cock-pit. One last glance back when themachine was two thousand feet up, the boyjumped, dropped like a plummet until hewas clear, then he pulled the release and ina moment the chute blossomed above himand he began to drift easily. As the plane17dropped swiftly past him it seemed to theboy as if all the joy of life was carried downto destruction in the crackling machine. Heclenched his fists inside his fur mittens,gritted his teeth, then because he simplycouldn’t bear to witness the complete annihilationof Her Highness, he closed his eyesand paid no attention to his own landing.
“Spill some of it, Buddy!” Jim calledsharply. Bob glanced about, saw that he wasdrifting toward the jagged tips of underbrushprotruding above the snow, so spilledenough air to drop him more directly. Hecould hear his step-brother’s racing skis asthe older boy hurried to meet him. Then Jimcaught him by the coat and helped the landing.“All right?” he asked anxiously peeringinto Caldwell’s face.
“Sure.” Bob was down now, and the pairof them hastened to get him freed from thechute.
“What happened to you? Who did youmeet?” Jim asked quickly.
“I don’t know what happened and I didn’tmeet anyone,” Bob answered emphatically.“Is there any chance of saving her?”
“No!” Silently they stood together as the18hungry flames, like a pack of ravenouswolves, consumed the helpless plane.
“Gee,” Bob said finally then sank downand buried his head on his arm, while hisbody shook in a brave effort to keep back thesobs.
“Don’t take it so hard, Buddy,” Jimurged, but he wasn’t feeling any too goodhimself.
“Gosh, I—I couldn’t feel worse if it wasone of the h—horses, or t—the dog. She—gosh,she was a dandy bird, Jim—nobodycould ever have more fun than she gave us—itwas more like having a good pal that youcould always rely on, than just a machine,”Bob choked.
“I know it, old man. I’d mighty like to findout what started her cooking. Have any enginetrouble?” Jim asked.
“Not a bit. She ran like velvet, was goinggreat when I was diving. It wasn’t until Isaw you doing a wind-mill with your armsthat I thought of grief, then I had an ideait might be the landing gear I’d dropped andyou wanted me to look out. I didn’t find anythingwrong until I saw the smoke in the reflectionmirror.”
19“Come on over and we’ll see if we can discoveranything.” They made their way instunned silence, threw snow over the flames,and carefully examined all that was left ofthe little bus, but she was too far gone, orthey were too inexperienced to locate treachery.
“When we get home, let’s look over theplans. Maybe we can find a spot—some placewhere it might have been weak—” Bob proposed.
“I don’t believe we will, but it won’t doany harm. Who did you see when you werein Crofton?”
“Bill, he was going home to lunch, thestorekeepers and the postmaster. Just theusual crowd,” Bob answered.
“Where did you leave Her Highness whileyou did the errands?”
“In the freight yard where we alwayspark. There wasn’t anyone hanging aroundand the gate was closed. I had