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The Radio Detectives in the Jungle

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Roger Frank






  NEW YORK :: 1922 :: LONDON





  I. Strange Places II. A Cry for Help III. The Castaways IV. More Mysteries V. The End of the Submarine VI. In South America VII. Off for the Jungle VIII. On the Trail IX. Kenaima! X. Red Beard Seals His Doom XI. Vengeance XII. The End of the Trail




  A hurricane had swept through the West Indies leaving death anddestruction in its path and wrecking scores of vessels, uprootingtrees, stripping the tops from palms, destroying crops and blowingdown the flimsy native houses.

  Now that it was over and there was no danger of its return those shipsthat had escaped the storm within snug harbors began to creep forth toresume their interrupted voyages. Some were uninjured. Others hadrigging or deck fittings carried away, while some were so badlycrippled that they limped as rapidly as possible towards the nearestdry dock for repairs.

  Among them was a lean gray destroyer which slipped out of Coral Bay atSt. John and headed her sharp prow southward. That she had borne thebrunt of the terrific gale was evident, for of her four funnels onlytwo were standing, her decks had been swept bare, fathoms of herrailings had been carried away and from half way up her military mastshe was white with encrusted salt. But she had received no vitalinjury. From her two remaining funnels dense volumes of smoke werepouring, a busy crowd of bluejackets labored like ants at repairingthe damages to superstructure and fittings and, despite the buffetingshe had received and the fact that half her boilers were out ofcommission until the funnels could be replaced, she slid through theoily seas at a twenty-knot clip.

  To those who have followed the Radio Detectives through their previousadventures the group upon the crippled destroyer's decks will need nointroduction. There was the trim, spick-and-span Commander Disbrow,the deep-sea diver, Rawlins, Mr. Pauling and his friend Mr. Hendersonand the two boys, Tom Pauling and his chum Frank.

  But for the benefit of those who now meet the Radio Detectives for thefirst time a few words of explanation will be needed.

  Months before the story opens, Tom Pauling and Frank had discovered amost astounding plot by means of their radio telephones and therebyenabled Tom's father and his associate, Mr. Henderson, who werefederal officers in the Secret Service, to make prisoners of a numberof members of an international gang of scoundrels whose activitiesincluded the distribution of Bolshevist literature, the destruction ofproperty, smuggling contraband liquor into the United States andconducting a widespread series of holdups, robberies and other crimes.Through confessions and other evidence Mr. Pauling and Mr. Hendersonhad learned that the arch criminal or master mind of the plot washiding in a secret lair in the West Indies which--after a series ofthrilling adventures on the part of the two boys and their companions,including Rawlins and Sam, a Bahaman negro--had been located, only tofind that the leader of the criminals had slipped through the net setfor him.

  Then, influenced by a "hunch" on Rawlins' part, Mr. Pauling and hiscompanions had followed a tramp steamer, of which they weresuspicious, to St. Thomas. Although there was no evidence conclusiveenough to warrant holding the tramp, suspicion pointed to the factthat the leader of the gang of criminals was somewhere in thevicinity. Owing to mysterious radio messages, the party chartered aschooner and went to the neighboring island of St. John.

  Here they met a Dutch naturalist named Van Brunt who was dealing withthe "reds." Rawlins, spying on him, was held up and narrowly escapeddeath at the hands of a man whom he recognized as the master criminalthey were seeking. Later, this man was found dead and proved to be aperson disguised to impersonate the real leader, while Van Bruntvisited the schooner and convinced Mr. Pauling and Mr. Henderson thathe was innocent and knew nothing of the "red's" activities.

  Becoming friendly with the boys, the Dutch scientist took them on atrip into the bush and while they were in a huge cave, deserted them.Soon afterwards a severe hurricane swept the island, imprisoning thetwo boys within the cavern by a tree falling across the entrance. Inthe meantime the other members of the party were compelled to seekrefuge from the hurricane in the village on shore and were amazed tosee the tramp steamer entering the harbor to escape the storm. As soonas the gale was over a searching party started out to find the missingboys and discovered that Van Brunt's house had been destroyed bylightning.

  While they were hunting for the boys, Tom and Frank had been madeprisoners 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 theboys. From the submarine they were taken to a locked cabin on a vesseland later were rescued in a most astounding manner by Sam, theBahaman, who also killed Van Brunt. During their imprisonment the boyshad overheard a plot to capture the other members of the party bymeans of a decoy letter and reaching their friends safely Tom andFrank related their tale in time to save the others from falling intothe scoundrels' trap. Soon afterwards a destroyer, which was inconstant 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 narrowentrance, but was sunk by a shot from the destroyer's guns.

  From the boys' descriptions and Sam's discoveries the Americanslearned that the tramp was a "mother ship" for the submarine with ahuge cradle or opening in the hull wherein the underseas boat couldrest and be carried from place to place. But although a search wasmade of the wrecked tramp no trace of either the submarine or ofbodies could be found. Mr. Pauling and the others felt convinced,however, that the leader of the gang was still at large and whilediscussing this matter their attention was drawn to a seaplane whichthey decided was a United States government machine sent from PortoRico or St. Thomas to learn the cause of the explosion.

  After the aircraft had disappeared the party returned to the destroyerand to their amazement were given a radio message from the aviatorwhich Mr. Pauling recognized as coming from the arch criminal whomthey were seeking.

  But although their quarry had once more escaped them and had taken tothe air, Rawlins insisted they would yet capture him and pointed outthat the seaplane must descend and that when it did they should be onhand.

  Although it seemed but a slim chance, still the diver's hunches hadinvariably proved so reliable that Mr. Pauling had at once decided totake Rawlins' advice and, transferring himself and his party to thepartially disabled destroyer, had at once started forth to search theneighboring islands for the aircraft which had last been seen flyingsouthward.

  And as the lean gray craft slipped out of the shelter of Coral Bay andfelt the heave of the Caribbean sea, Rawlins was speaking. "Airplanesaren't so common down here that they can fly over the islands withoutbeing noticed," he asserted. "If we stop in at them here and there weought to be able to trail him. He'd have to head for some place and byfinding out where he's been seen we can get his direction. I'll bethe's got some hang-out down here. Of course, he could land on thewater, but it would have to be in the lee of an island even if he wasgoing to be picked up by a ship."

  "Or the submarine," put in Mr. Pauling. "Don't fo
rget that the chancesare the sub escaped and is to meet him."

  "Yes, but he can't land on a sub and he couldn't have started off fromit. No, he's either got some ship or a secret landing place and hangarfor his plane on shore. Besides, if he tries sending messages the boyscan pick them up."

  "To my mind," declared Mr. Henderson. "It is like hunting for theproverbial needle in the haystack. There are a score and more ofislands--to say nothing of cays--and although he started south we haveno means of knowing how soon he may have shifted his course. Why, evennow, he may be over in Santo Domingo, Cuba or Tortuga or he may haveturned east to St. Barts or Barbuda. If we went to every island wewould be here for the next year."

  "I'll say we would!" laughed Rawlins. "But we don't need to. Once wepick up his trail and know his course it'll be easy. A fellow can'tfly far in any direction without being in sight of an island and if welose him we can easily find his trail again by calling at an island ortwo."

  "Sounds easy, I admit," remarked Mr. Henderson rather sarcastically."But what is to prevent him from going straight across to SouthAmerica for example? Then we'd have a nice job trying to find where helanded--I suppose we'd have to hunt the entire northern coast of thecontinent."

  "I expect you're jollying me a bit," replied the diver, "but honestInjun you know he couldn't make a nonstop flight to South America fromhere and if he took a course for there our job would be all theeasier. There are only a few islands between here and South America,in a direct line you know. I think the best place to ask will beStatia or St. Croix. Then, if they haven't seen or heard him, we canswing to the east to St. Kitts or St. Barts."

  "I'm backing your hunch you know, Rawlins," asserted Mr. Pauling, "andif you say St. Croix first, St. Croix it is. We're outside now andwe'd better give Commander Disbrow his course."

  "Well, I guess we'll make it Statia first," replied Rawlins after amoment's thought. "It's the nearest and in nearly a direct line withthe course he took. Besides, the Dutch captain of the tramp may stillbe in the hospital there. If he is we can see him and maybe pump someinformation from him. Perhaps, if he knows his ship's gone to DavyJones and the others have skedaddled he'll come across with aconfession to clear his own skirts."

  "Yes, that's a good scheme," agreed Mr. Pauling. "We'll make Statiafirst then."

  The two boys had thought St. Thomas and St. John fascinating andbeautiful, but as the towering volcanic cone of St. Eustatius or"Statia" as it is more often called, rose above the sea with the farreaching, rich green hills and cloud-piercing, frowning heights of St.Kitts to the east, they could only gaze in rapt admiration anddeclared they had never seen anything so wonderful or beautiful.

  "Wait until you see the other islands," said Rawlins, laughing at theboys' excited exclamations of delight. "Why, St. Kitts over thereisn't anything compared to Dominica or Martinique and as forStatia--well of course it looks high and it's striking because it'ssmall and the cone is so perfect in shape, but it's no bigger thanlittle St. John and it would be only a hill on Guadeloupe orDominica."

  "Gee, I hope the old seaplane went everywhere so we can see all theislands," declared Tom. "It's a shame we are down here and won't seethose you talk about."

  "Maybe we will," said the diver. "At any rate, we're bound to see someof them, but look over there to the west. See that big cone stickingup to the right of Statia? Well that's the strangest island in theWest Indies if not in the world. It's Saba."

  "But no one lives there!" complained Frank, who was studying theconical mass of rock rising abruptly for a thousand feet above thesea.

  "Don't they!" exclaimed Rawlins. "I'll say they do! But you can't see'em or their houses from the sea. Saba's just a big volcano--dead ofcourse. The town's in the crater--about eight hundred feet above thesea. It's called 'Bottom.' The people are Dutch and speak English andif you visited 'em you'd have to climb a stairway cut in the rockswith eight hundred steps. And I'll bet my boots to a herring you can'tguess what the folks who live up in that crater do for a living."

  "No, but I should think they might make balloons or airplanes,"replied Tom.

  "'Twould be more appropriate," agreed Rawlins, "but instead they makeboats! Carry the lumber up that stairway--it's called 'TheLadder'--build the boats in the crater and lower 'em over the mountainside just as if they were launching 'em from a ship."

  "Oh, you're just kidding us!" declared Tom, "That's too big a yarn!"

  "True, nevertheless," his father, who had drawn near, assured him."I've heard of it before."

  "'Course it's true!" avowed the diver. "And there are a lot of otherblamed funny things about Saba that are true. All the folks keep theircoffins in their houses and look after 'em just like the otherfurniture and most of the young men are sailors. I know two or threewho are mates of big transatlantic liners. And the town's so high upthey can grow potatoes and strawberries and such things there."

  "But who do they sell them to?" asked Frank.

  "Take 'em over to St. Kitts mostly," Rawlins told him.

  "Well, I'd like to go there," declared Tom. "Don't you suppose theysaw the airplane? If they're so high up, they might have got a goodview of it."

  "Sure they might," agreed Rawlins. "But if they did, the folks onStatia did too, and it's no easy job landing at Saba--no dock orharbor--just a tiny strip of pebbly beach among the rocks. It'simpossible to go ashore if there's any sea running."

  "I call that too bad!" said Frank. "I suppose there's nothing very oddor interesting about Statia."

  "Well, I guess it's not so interesting as Saba," admitted the diver."But it's pretty interesting if you know it's history. It's the firstplace where the American flag was saluted and during the RevolutionaryWar it was the richest and busiest port in the world. And the biggestauction the world's ever seen was held there. You'll not see any shipsor warehouses to speak of at Orange Town now, but you'll see theremains of the old ones."

  "Then why was it given up?" asked Tom.

  "'Twasn't!" laughed Rawlins. "At least, not purposely. You see, duringthe Revolution, Statia, being Dutch and a free port, was used as aclearing place for the French, British, and Americans. It was neutral,and all the goods going in or out of the West Indies were sent thereand stored until called for by ships. But the English sent a warshipand seized everything, and then auctioned off the whole lot--ships andmerchandise both--and of course, the business was never resumed."

  "How do you happen to know so much about all these places, may I ask?"inquired Mr. Henderson. "You seem to be a sort of walking gazetteer ofthe West Indies."

  Rawlins chuckled. "Well, you see," he answered, "father was a seacaptain before he took to salvage work and I used to go on trips withhim from the time I was a kid, knee high to a grasshopper. His oldhooker had a West Indian trade route and I saw nearly all the islandsand what I didn't see for myself he told me about. Then, when I tookto diving I got a lot of work down here."

  "Ah, I understand," said Mr. Henderson. "And, knowing the islands sowell, could you suggest any one--or several--which would be suitableas landing places for that plane?"

  "Sure," replied the diver. "He could land at pretty nearly any ofthem--or rather near them. There are long stretches of uninhabitedcoast on all. Even Barbados, which is the most densely inhabited, hasplenty of places where a plane could slip in and none be wiser--onlythey'd see him coming and run like blazes to watch him come down. No,I don't expect he'll try landing near any of the big islands. Morelikely he'd pick some small cay or outlying islet--there are severalaround Martinique and Guadeloupe and--by glory, yes! There's Aves.Great Scott! I hadn't thought of that."

  "Aves!" repeated Mr. Pauling, questioningly. "You mean the place downoff the Venezuelan coast--'The pleasant Isle of Aves'--in the oldpirate song?"

  "No, another one," replied Rawlins. "A tiny bit of land about onehundred miles west of Dominica in the middle of the Caribbean. It's anideal spot. Not an inhabitant; flat as a table--although that's noadvantage with a sea plane--and out of the course of all sh
ipping.I've a hunch that's his place."

  Mr. Pauling laughed. "Your hunches are coming thick and fast,Rawlins," he said. "Is this one so strong you want to shift our coursefor the island?"

  The diver grinned. "Not quite," he replied. "But if we get on histrail and it looks like Aves I'm for it."

  "Well, we'll soon know if he passed Statia," remarked Tom. "We'realmost there."