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CHAPTER II GOING HOME.
 Day was just breaking when the two boys sprang into the saddles of their motorcycles and with a farewell wave of the hand toward “Old Main” headed for Philadelphia. Noiselessly they turned into the pike, for the wheels, equipped with electric motors in place of the usual noisy gas engine, gave forth1 no sound as they sped through the morning mist.  
“There’ll be no traffic for three hours and we ought to make a hundred miles in that time,” Bob had said just before they started.
 
They did better for it was but a few minutes after six o’clock when they drove on to the ferry boat at Dykeman Street a hundred and fifteen miles from their starting point.
 
“At this rate we’ll be home easy tomorrow night,” Jack2 declared as he shut off his motor.
 
“But we can’t go so fast the rest of the day,” Bob cautioned him. “We don’t want to get pinched and you know the cops are pretty plenty along the Boston Post Road.”
 
“I know, but we’ve got a dandy start and ought to have no trouble in making Uncle Jim’s by six easy. It’s only about three hundred miles from here.”
 
“But that’ll be averaging pretty close to thirty miles an hour.”
 
For another hour they found the traffic light and it still lacked a few minutes to eight o’clock when they reached New Haven3.
 
“Half an hour for breakfast,” Bob announced as he brought his wheel to a stand in front of a restaurant.
 
“Sounds good,” Jack declared as he joined his brother.
 
“And here’s hoping it’ll taste better,” Bob laughed as he pushed open the door.
 
A couple of miles outside of Hartford, Jack had a bad blowout in his front tire and it took the better part of an hour to make the repair.
 
“I told you you’d better get a new shoe for that wheel before we started,” Bob said as he rode slowly back to where Jack was looking at the hole.
 
“And you were right as usual,” Jack laughed. “Lucky I’ve got a good strong patch.”
 
The remainder of the day’s trip was uneventful and it was just beginning to get dark when they rode up to their uncle’s home in Winthrop a few miles outside of Boston.
 
It was nearly ten o’clock before they could get away the next morning. Jack had been down to the town before going to bed and purchased a new shoe for his front wheel and it took some time to put it on and a much longer time to convince their Uncle and Aunt that it was impossible for them to stay over a few days.
 
“But we’ll make you a good long visit the first of September, before we go back to college,” Bob promised as they mounted the wheels.
 
“Two hundred miles to go,” Jack cried as they got under way. “We ought to make it by supper time.”
 
“Either that or jail,” Bob laughed back.
 
The traffic through Boston was very heavy and, do their best, it was over an hour before they were outside the city limits.
 
“I’d like to see the cow that laid out the streets of Boston,” Jack declared as he pulled up alongside his brother as the traffic began to thin out. “I’ll bet it was a blind cow or at least one with the blind staggers.”
 
“The streets aren’t exactly what you’d call straight.”
 
“Straight! I know my way about fairly well, but honestly all the way through I was expecting to meet myself coming back.”
 
“Twenty-five miles an hour along here,” Bob shouted about three hours later.
 
Jack, who was a few yards ahead, slowed down and allowed Bob to pull up beside him.
 
“What’s the idea?” he asked. “This is a good straight road.”
 
“That’s just the idea, it’s too good and the cops are right on the job along here. You see it’s only about five miles into Portland and it’s a favorite ‘pick ’em up’ stretch. Don’t you remember Slim Jones telling how he got pinched last year for doing thirty-eight and it costing him thirty-seven dollars and ninety-two cents? Well it was right along here that it happened. Safety first, you know.”
 
Put-put-put-put-put-a-put put.
 
“There’s one of ’em now,” Jack said as he turned his head. “Hope to goodness he isn’t after us.”
 
A few minutes later the approaching motorcycle drew up alongside and the driver, a young fellow about the age of Bob, dressed in the uniform of the cycle corps4 of Maine, waved his hand for them to stop.
 
“Say, for the love of Mike, what kind of machines have you got there?” he asked as they dismounted. “At first I thought you were coasting but when you went up that hill a piece back I knew you couldn’t be, but you didn’t make a bit of noise. What kind of a muffler you got?”
 
“None at all.” Bob smiled. “You see these wheels are run by an electric motor.”
 
“But how about the battery? I don’t see any place for one.”
 
Bob opened a small case strapped5 behind his saddle and took out a brass6 cylinder7 about eight inches long and an inch thick.
 
“This is the kind of cell we use.”
 
“Where’d you get it?”
 
“We made it.”
 
“Then you must be the Golden boys.”
 
Bob smilingly acknowledged the accusation8.
 
“I’ve heard of you and I’m mighty9 glad to meet you,” and the officer held out his hand.
 
“And we thought we were pinched,” Jack grinned as he grasped his hand.
 
“Not this time,” the officer smiled, “and you can go the limit for all of me but you’d best not go over thirty-five as I’m not the only cop along here.”
 
Bob took several minutes explaining the working of the motor to the officer and then he accompanied them into Portland.
 
“If you ever get held up along here send for Jim Pratt,” he told them as he bade them good bye in front of the Congress Square hotel.
 
Bob invited him in to the hotel to take dinner with them, but he refused on the ground that he was on duty and might get into trouble.
 
“Pretty nice chap, that,” Jack said as they entered the hotel.
 
“Yes, he seemed to be, but you might not have thought so if he’d happened along a little sooner when we were doing forty-five,” Bob declared.
 
A few minutes later Bob gave his brother a kick beneath the table just as the latter was conveying a juicy bit of steak to his mouth.
 
“What’s the—” Jack began and then stopped warned by the look on Bob’s face.
 
“Don’t turn around now, but in a minute look back of you at the man sitting close to the door,” Bob whispered.
 
A moment later Jack dropped his napkin and, in picking it up, cast a hasty glance toward the door.
 
“Ever see him before?” Bob whispered as he straightened up in his chair.
 
“It’s King.”
 
“You sure?”
 
“I’d know that mug if I saw it in Egypt.”
 
“He’s been watching us for some minutes.”
 
“Did you lock your wheel?” Jack asked referring to a switch, cunningly hidden beneath the saddle, which made it practically impossible for anyone to start the motor.
 
“Sure.”
 
“Then I guess they’re safe. But what do you suppose he’s doing here?”
 
“Don’t know, but he’s going now.”
 
“Well, I hope we don’t see him again.”
 
They continued with their dinner for a few minutes then suddenly Bob jumped up from his chair and, without a word, rushed from the room. Too surprised to follow at once Jack reached the steps of the hotel just as Bob was hurrying back.
 
“He’s got it,” he gasped10.
 
“You mean the bikes?”
 
“No, I mean that cell I was fool enough to leave in my saddle bag.”
 
“Great guns in the morning!” Jack’s face was the picture of despair.
 
“Oh, what a fool I was,” Bob groaned11. “After all we’ve been through to keep those cells out of his hands to go and leave it there for him to take.”
 
“What’ll we do?”
 
“What can we do? He’s got it and goodness knows where he is now. Of course we’ll report it at the police station, but I doubt if it’ll do much good. He’s tried too hard to get hold of one of those cells to make any false moves now that he’s got it.”
 
Too downhearted to finish their dinner they paid their bill and a few minutes later were giving a description of the man who, they believed, had taken the cell, to the chief of police.
 
“I know the man,” the chief assured them. “He escaped from prison about a year ago and not a trace of him was found. Are you sure it was he?”
 
“Absolutely,” Bob replied. “Of course he’s changed a lot and I doubt if many would recognize him, but you see I got to know him pretty well and I’m sure I couldn’t have been mistaken.” And he told the officer about the time when King had kidnapped him and had tried to force him to disclose the secret of the cell.
 
“We’ll do our best to catch him of course,” the chief promised. “Leave your address and if we get him I’ll let you know.”
 
“It’s a pretty slim chance that they’ll catch him,” Bob said gloomingly as they left the station house.
 
“But I’m banking12 on that chance so cheer up, old man. It’s never so bad, but that it might be worse, you know,” Jack grinned as he hopped13 to his saddle.
 
They had nearly reached Brunswick, a small town some twenty miles from Portland and were riding side by side when Bob spied an automobile14 in the middle of the road some distance ahead.
 
“Someone having engine trouble I guess,” he said as he noticed a man leaning over the raised hood15.
 
Evidently the man did not hear them as they rode up behind him and stopped for he did not look up or turn his head.
 
“Anything we can do to help?” Bob asked.
 
The man gave a sudden start and turned around and the boys found themselves looking into the eyes of the man King.
 
“You?” the man growled16, and then by an effort tried to efface17 the look of surprise from his face. “Pardon me,” he said. “At first I thought you were someone I knew.”
 
“I guess you made no mistake about that,” Jack told him.
 
“Anyhow we know you all right,” Bob added.
 
“You are mistaken, I tell you. But who do you think I am?”
 
“Your name was King the last time we saw you,” Jack replied.
 
“I told you, you were mistaken. My name is Long and always has been Long,” the man snapped.
 
“Well, no need to get mad about it,” Bob said easily as he moved around toward the rear of the car. “We all make mistakes, you know. And I suppose this man’s name never was Nip,” he cried as he leaned over the side of the car and saw a man with a hunched18 back crouching19 on the floor.
 
“Suppose it is or suppose it isn’t, what are you going to do about it?” the man demanded as he came close to Bob’s side.
 
“Then you acknowledge that his name is Nip?”
 
“I acknowledge nothing.”
 
“All right, suit yourself about it,” Bob smiled. “I know who you are and you know that I know it, but if it suits you to deny it I’m sure I’ve no objection.”
 
“Well, what do you want?” King snapped.
 
“We want the cell you stole from my saddle bag.”
 
“And I suppose you think you’ll get it,” King sneered20.
 
“I’m not quite sure about that,” Bob said slowly, “but one thing I am sure and that is that the police will get you in a very short time if we don’t.”
 
King started violently.
 
“What do you mean?” he asked.
 
“You heard me the first time,” Bob’s voice was stern.
 
For a moment the man hesitated as though undecided what to do then, with a shrug21 of his shoulders, he said as he turned again to his engine:
 
“You’d better run along now. You can’t bluff22 me and I’ve wasted all the time on you that I intend to.”
 
“As you please,” Bob said as he took hold of the handle bars of his wheel. Then, turning to Jack, he added: “Come on, Jack, we’re late now.”
 
But as he spoke23 he gave his brother a wink24 which the latter was quick to understand. King was leaning over the engine of his car as Bob pushed his wheel past and, before he knew what happened, the boy had caught him by the shoulder with his left hand and pulled his head around and, before he had time to defend himself, a well directed blow, delivered to the point of his chin, stretched him on the ground.
 
“I hated like the dickins to sneak25 up behind him and hit him like that,” Bob afterward26 confided27 to Jack, “but I figured it would be wrong to let him get away, let alone the fact that he had the cell.”
 
For the moment Bob had forgotten the hunchback in the back of the car, but he was reminded of his existence by a loud shout from Jack just as King fell.
 
“Look out, he’s got a gun!”
 
As Jack uttered the cry he sprang for the running board of the car letting his wheel drop in the road.
 
Bang!
 
The revolver spoke but Jack had struck the hunchback’s wrist just as his finger pressed the trigger and the bullet flew harmlessly into the air. Before he could aim again Jack was over the side of the car and had snatched the gun from his hand. With a snarl28 of rage the hunchback threw his arms about Jack’s neck and dragged him to the floor of the car. As he went down the boy threw the revolver over the side of the car and as he went down he was doing his best to keep the man’s hands away from his throat but, in spite of his efforts, the hunchback’s big right hand closed over his windpipe and, as he felt his grip tighten29, he realized that, so far as he was concerned, the fight would be short unless he was able to break the hold. He was gasping30 for breath when, after what seemed a long time, he got both hands around the man’s wrist. Exerting all his strength he pushed against the arm and was relieved to note that his grip was loosening. Then with a sudden jerk he dragged the hand away and at the same time drew into his lungs a great gulp31 of air. It gave him new strength and in another second he was on top and his hands were clasped over the throat of the hunchback.
 
Meanwhile, Bob, having confidence in Jack’s ability to take care of himself, had been busy tying King’s hands behind his back with a piece of stout32 cord which he had taken from his saddle bag. King had not yet opened his eyes when, judging from the sounds proceeding33 from the car, that Jack might need his help, he sprang to the running board. But he found the battle over so far as Jack was concerned. The hunchback was gasping for breath and had ceased to struggle.
 
“Let him up now, Jack.”
 
“Righto,” and Jack got to his feet leaving the hunchback gasping on the floor.
 
“Get up, Nip. You’re not dead yet,” Bob ordered.
 
The man slowly sat up.
 
“Where’s King?” demanded in a week voice.
 
“He’s taking a nap just now,” Bob laughed grimly.
 
The entire affair had not occupied more than three minutes and not a car had passed then although they were on a main road. But just then the chug of motorcycle came to their ears and a moment later a cycle officer drew up beside them.
 
“What’s going on here?” the officer demanded looking suspiciously at the two boys.
 
Before they could answer King weakly cried out:
 
“These robbers did their best to—” he began when Bob interrupted him.
 
“Let me tell—”
 
But the officer in turn interrupted him.
 
“One at a time here. You have the floor,” he said, nodding to King, who was now sitting up and leaning against the front wheel of the car. Making his voice sound as weak as possible King told how his car had broken down and the two boys had happened along and, at the point of a gun, had demanded his money. It was a plausible34 story as he told it and more than once the boys saw the officer look askance at them. When he had finished he turned to Bob.
 
“Now I’ll hear your side.”
 
Bob told him the truth in a few words and as he finished the officer said:
 
“You say those wheels run by an electric motor?”
 
“Yes, sir.”
 
“Then let’s see one of the cells and if he’s got one like it it’ll go a good ways toward corroborating35 your story.”
 
“That’s all we ask,” Bob declared as he pulled the cell out beneath his saddle. “Here’s the one I’m using and the one he stole is exactly like it.”
 
A brief search disclosed the missing cell in one of the rear pockets of the car and Bob pulled it out with an exclamation36 of satisfaction.
 
“What have you to say now?” the officer asked King.
 
“Nothing except that it’s a plant. I never saw the thing before.”
 
“I’m afraid it won’t wash,” the officer shook his head. “I’m satisfied that you’re all right and have told the truth,” he added turning to Bob. “But I’ll have to ask you to go into town with me.”
 
“That’s all right,” Bob assured him. “We’re going that way anyhow.”
 
“Wonder what’s the matter with his car?” the officer said as he bent37 over the hood.
 
While they had been talking several cars had passed and one or two had half stopped, but the officer had waved them ahead.
 
“Maybe we can locate the trouble,” Bob said as he got into the car and pressed the starter.
 
“No spark,” he declared as he leaped out and went around to the other side. “Put down that hood a minute, Jack, till I get at the magneto. Nothing but a broken wire,” he said a moment later as he again got into the seat.
 
And this time the engine started at once as he pressed the starter.
 
“Can you run it in if I lead your wheel?” the officer asked.
 
“Sure.”
 
“All right, then. Now you get in back there and mind, no funny business, because I’ll be right alongside,” he added turning to King.
 
King obeyed the order sullenly38 all the bravado39 gone from his face.
 
It was only a few miles to the town and in a few minutes they drew up in front of the police station. Neither King or the hunchback had spoken a word during the trip, but the former gave Bob a look as he was ordered out of the car which made the boy shudder40.
 
“Please come in a minute,” the officer asked the boys and they accompanied him into the office of the chief of police.
 
As soon as the latter had heard the story he called the police station at Portland and, after a brief conversation, told them that an officer from that city, who knew King by sight, was on his way to identify him. He arrived in a little over a half hour and, as soon as he was shown the prisoners, declared that he recognized them.
 
“If I’m not mistaken there’s a reward for that fellow King,” the chief told them as they returned to his office.
 
“They deserve it,” the policeman declared but both boys insisted that any reward should be divided into three parts and that the officer should have one part.
 
It was after five o’clock before they were again on their way but with less than a hundred miles to go they felt sure they could make it before dark.
 
“That is, unless we run up against another adventure,” Jack laughed as he leaped into his saddle.
 
“And here’s hoping we don’t,” Bob added following suit.
 
His hope was realized and shortly after eight o’clock they turned into the driveway at home and in another minute were greeting their parents and sister.

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