RADIO DETECTIVES IN THE JUNGLE
CHAPTER I—STRANGE PLACES
A hurricane had swept through the West Indies leaving death and destruction in its path and wrecking scores of vessels, uprooting trees, stripping the tops from palms, destroying crops and blowing down the flimsy native houses.
Now that it was over and there was no danger of its return those ships that had escaped the storm within snug harbors began to creep forth to resume their interrupted voyages. Some were uninjured. Others had rigging or deck fittings carried away, while some were so badly crippled that they limped as rapidly as possible towards the nearest dry dock for repairs.
Among them was a lean gray destroyer which slipped out of Coral Bay at St. John and headed her sharp prow southward. That she had borne the brunt of the terrific gale was evident, for of her four funnels only two were standing, her decks had been swept bare, fathoms of her railings had been carried away and from half way up her military mast she was white with encrusted salt. But she had received no vital injury. From her two remaining funnels dense volumes of smoke were pouring, a busy crowd of bluejackets labored like ants at repairing the damages to superstructure and fittings and, despite the buffeting she had received and the fact that half her boilers were out of commission until the funnels could be replaced, she slid through the oily seas at a twenty-knot clip.
To those who have followed the Radio Detectives through their previous adventures the group upon the crippled destroyer’s decks will need no introduction. There was the trim, spick-and-span Commander Disbrow, the deep-sea diver, Rawlins, Mr. Pauling and his friend Mr. Henderson and the two boys, Tom Pauling and his chum Frank.
But for the benefit of those who now meet the Radio Detectives for the first time a few words of explanation will be needed.
Months before the story opens, Tom Pauling and Frank had discovered a most astounding plot by means of their radio telephones and thereby enabled Tom’s father and his associate, Mr. Henderson, who were federal officers in the Secret Service, to make prisoners of a number of members of an international gang of scoundrels whose activities included the distribution of Bolshevist literature, the destruction of property, smuggling contraband liquor into the United States and conducting a widespread series of holdups, robberies and other crimes. Through confessions and other evidence Mr. Pauling and Mr. Henderson had learned that the arch criminal or master mind of the plot was hiding in a secret lair in the West Indies which--after a series of thrilling adventures on the part of the two boys and their companions, including Rawlins and Sam, a Bahaman negro--had been located, only to find that the leader of the criminals had slipped through the net set for him.
Then, influenced by a “hunch” on Rawlins’ part, Mr. Pauling and his companions had followed a tramp steamer, of which they were suspicious, to St. Thomas. Although there was no evidence conclusive enough to warrant holding the tramp, suspicion pointed to the fact that the leader of the gang of criminals was somewhere in the vicinity. Owing to mysterious radio messages, the party chartered a schooner and went to the neighboring island of St. John.
Here they met a Dutch naturalist named Van Brunt who was dealing with the “reds.” Rawlins, spying on him, was held up and narrowly escaped death at the hands of a man whom he recognized as the master criminal they were seeking. Later, this man was found dead and proved to be a person disguised to impersonate the real leader, while Van Brunt visited the schooner and convinced Mr. Pauling and Mr. Henderson that he was innocent and knew nothing of the “red’s” activities.
Becoming friendly with the boys, the Dutch scientist took them on a trip into the bush and while they were in a huge cave, deserted them. Soon afterwards a severe hurricane swept the island, imprisoning the two boys within the cavern by a tree falling across the entrance. In the meantime the other members of the party were compelled to seek refuge from the hurricane in the village on shore and were amazed to see the tramp steamer entering the harbor to escape the storm. As soon as the gale was over a searching party started out to find the missing boys and discovered that Van Brunt’s house had been destroyed by lightning.
While they were hunting for the boys, Tom and Frank had been made prisoners by a red-bearded man whom they knew was one of the gang. They had been placed on a submarine where Van Brunt confronted them, admitting he was a member of the “reds” and had purposely betrayed the boys. From the submarine they were taken to a locked cabin on a vessel and later were rescued in a most astounding manner by Sam, the Bahaman, who also killed Van Brunt. During their imprisonment the boys had overheard a plot to capture the other members of the party by means of a decoy letter and reaching their friends safely Tom and Frank related their tale in time to save the others from falling into the scoundrels’ trap. Soon afterwards a destroyer, which was in constant touch with the schooner by radio, arrived in response to Mr. Pauling’s summons. The tramp, in a last desperate attempt to escape, tried to run down the schooner but failed owing to Rawlins’ quick wit. Then, turning, the tramp endeavored to leave the harbor by a narrow entrance, but was sunk by a shot from the destroyer’s guns.
From the boys’ descriptions and Sam’s discoveries the Americans learned that the tramp was a “mother ship” for the submarine with a huge cradle or opening in the hull wherein the underseas boat could rest and be carried from place to place. But although a search was made of the wrecked tramp no trace of either the submarine or of bodies could be found. Mr. Pauling and the others felt convinced, however, that the leader of the gang was still at large and while discussing this matter their attention was drawn to a seaplane which they decided was a United States government machine sent from Porto Rico or St. Thomas to learn the cause of the explosion.
After the aircraft had disappeared the party returned to the destroyer and to their amazement were given a radio message from the aviator which Mr. Pauling recognized as coming from the arch criminal whom they were seeking.
But although their quarry had once more escaped them and had taken to the air, Rawlins insisted they would yet capture him and pointed out that the seaplane must descend and that when it did they should be on hand.
Although it seemed but a slim chance, still the diver’s hunches had invariably proved so reliable that Mr. Pauling had at once decided to take Rawlins’ advice and, transferring himself and his party to the partially disabled destroyer, had at once started forth to search the neighboring islands for the aircraft which had last been seen flying southward.
And as the lean gray craft slipped out of the shelter of Coral Bay and felt the heave of the Caribbean sea, Rawlins was speaking. “Airplanes aren’t so common down here that they can fly over the islands without being noticed,” he asserted. “If we stop in at them here and there we ought to be able to trail him. He’d have to head for some place and by finding out where he’s been seen we can get his direction. I’ll bet he’s got some hang-out down here. Of course, he could land on the water, but it would have to be in the lee of an island even if he was going to be picked up by a ship.”
“Or the submarine,” put in Mr. Pauling. “Don’t forget that the chances are the sub escaped and is to meet him.”
“Yes, but he can’t land on a sub and he couldn’t have started off from it. No, he’s either got some ship or a secret landing place and hangar for his plane on shore. Besides, if he tries sending messages the boys can pick them up.”
“To my mind,” declared Mr.