22 February 2017

The Motor Chums in Alaska: An Uninvited Eavesdropper [1979]


[Passage from The Motor Chums in Alaska, written 22 February 1979. Having borrowed a touring-car from the local rich kid, the lads discuss their plans to seek out the Gold City of the Incas. But it turns out that they are not alone; an unknown girl has overheard their scheme.]
“What’s that sound?” demanded short Ned Eliot.
“The fuse-valve,” explained Tom. “It’s about to explode!” With all the skill and knowledge at his disposal he fought for control of the Hartrod, attempting to avert disaster.
“I suggest you stop the car,” came from Harry.
“Yeah,” agreed Dick Trefoil.
“You’ll have to jump,” replied Tom. “I don’t dare put on the brakes—it will heat up the carbonizer to the boiling point!”
Tom had no sooner spoken these words than the others had removed their persons from the car and distributed themselves in various attitudes along the dusty road, Dick, with characteristic gallantry dragging the strange girl along with him. Giving a powerful twist to the wheel, Tom leaped nimbly from the seat just as the car overturned into the ditch, at once catching fire.
“Shit,” said Dick, as the lads rose to their feet, and the others let this comment stand for their own.
“Herbert won’t thank you for what you did to his car, I’m sure,” the unknown young lady said. “You’re in trouble now,”
“Waverly ought to be thankful I don’t turn him in,” Tom retorted, “Assuming I don’t. I should—that car wasn’t safe to be run on the road. It could have blown up at any time!”
The girl laughed scornfully. “Nonsense. While you’re all in jail for wrecking Herbert’s car, we’ll be taking a trip to the gold city, see if we don’t.”
“Not without the map,” said Ned.
“Who needs a map?” said the girl, “I know it’s in the Sootka Valley—with an airship finding it will be a cinch—how can a city stay hidden?”
“Well, I like that!” burst out Ned.
“You’d think a fellow could plot with his friends without having eavesdroppers,” said Tom coldly. “If you weren’t a girl I could think of a word to describe such cowardly behavior.”
“What were you doing hiding in the rumble-seat anyway?” demanded Ned.
“When your colored lad attacked poor Herbert I thought it safer to hide,” she said. “There is no telling what he might have done in his berserk rage.”
“Herbert?” asked Tom incredulously.
“She means Ersatz,” Harry explained. “This is Clara Langword, who has often been observed in company with Waverly.”
“I don’t believe I know who you are?” Clara retorted angrily.
The chums laughed at this. “You don’t know who the famous Motor Chums are?” asked Ned. “That takes the cake, frosting and all, as the baker said about the delivery van.”
“You—the famous Motor Chums?” said Clara. “I don’t believe it. I’ve read the books, you know.”
“It’s true, though,” said Tom.
“The question is,” said Harry, “what are we going to do with her now? We can’t let her go, to sell out our secret to the highest bidder. I suggest we leave her in the clubhouse prison for two or three weeks. Once we’re on our way we can let her loose.”
“What, and reveal our clubhouse location to some one who isn’t one of us?” asked Tom. “No thanks.”
“Let’s beat her up,” suggested the practical Dick.
“I think Harry’s right,” said Ned. “Herbert’s rich and we need money for our trip. Why don’t we hold her for ransom at the same time? Of course we’ll pay Herbert back after we find the gold city,” he added hastily.
“My thought is,” said Tom, “that we take her money and jewelry and abandon her somewhere a ways off—say Mexico—so it will take her awhile to get back.”
“If we do that, why not simply abandon her in Riverside at night,” said Harry. “It will have much the same effect, be less trouble for us, and likely be more permanent. You know the criminal element have no love for Waverly in any case.”

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