17 March 2017

The Motor Chums in Alaska: An Underhanded Scheme


[passage from The Motor Chums in Alaska, or, The Search for Incan Gold, written 16–17 March 1979]
“T
his won’t do,” muttered Tom. He spared no glance to the others as he went into a conference over strategy with Ersatz.
Ned was accosted by a teammate. “What do you think of Skyways Transport?” he was asked.
“Forget it,” was Ned’s response. “Motor Chums Industries has it sewed up tight.”
“Maybe so, maybe not,” said the other. “My father says it looks an up and coming venture, and he knows where he can get a couple hundred shares.”
Ned looked impressed, then remarked, “Probably nothing to it. If there was a couple hundred shares around, Tom would already’ve grabbed ’em.”
The other laughed. “I bet my dad knows a few things Tom doesn’t,” he said. With that the bell sounded for the second round.
During this round the Badgers held their own. Bingo Wright got to fourth on a puffed foul, while Ned blatted a triple whinger into the backstop. Harry exhibited some fancy footwork in stealing two bases and gained four points for the team. Although penalized for a moving violation, the Dragons were also brilliant; Fred Hoffman in particular knocked off two of the Badgers with a sharply-kicked field goal. But the unquestioned “star” of the round was Tom, who not only managed two run-ins, but virtually kept the opposition from scoring during his chores in the pitcher’s booth.
“That glory-grabber,” sneered Clarence Ashton, “Even when he’s going to throw the game, he has to look good.”
“That young ruffian ought to be jailed for the rest of his life!” burst out a stranger.
Clarence turned to the newcomer. “You talkin’ about our school hero?” he asked.
“School hero? Reform school hero, maybe—I’m talking about Tom Wilshire!”
“Say,” grinned Clarence, “You’re not a bad fellow for a Jeffersonian—but I think they ought to hang him from the school flagpole.”
“What has the miscreant perpetrated against you?” asked the other curiously.
Clarence glanced around shiftily. “You won’t tell anyone?” he asked.
“Of course not,” said the young man.
“By holding my debts over my head,” hissed Clarence, “he forced me to sign an apology to a colored lad.”
The stranger let out a whistle. “Well, after that what he did to me doesn’t look so bad—he merely stole my car and kidnapped a young lady-friend of mine.”
“You want to get back at him?” demanded Clarence. “I got a scheme. After the game we can talk with a friend of mine about it.”
The situation did not look good for the Badgers. At the beginning of the third round they still lagged behind by a good many points, and Tom had been replaced in the pitcher’s booth by Larry, who though well-thought-of, possessed none of Tom’s “brilliance” in the rôle. But the Dragons too had their setbacks. Fred Hoffman, the star player, was removed from the game when his stick exploded, while another had to be benched for his conduct in a pile-up on the free-throw line. As a result the team was badly crippled and barely scored, while without Fred’s pitching the Badgers were able to rack up several points.
“Can Tom save the situation?” was Ned’s anxious question.
“We seem to have the situation well in hand,” Harry replied. “We’ve had buy orders from as far away as Denver.”
“Not Skyways Transport,” snapped Ned. “The game.”
“There’s no necessity for worry on that score,” Harry informed him. “Tom and Ersatz are putting together some invention to save us at the last moment, as usual.”
“It am done, Marse Harry, deed it am,” shouted Ersatz, running up to the chums. “We’s inbented a Dragon-blaster dis time.”
“We sure have,” agreed Tom, “Wait’ll you see it in action. We’ll show the Dragons what the Badgers are made of.”
And as Tom predicted, in the last round the Badgers really showed their stuff. One by one the Dragons fell away, unable to cope with Tom’s pitching pyrotechnics. Although it took Ersatz five minutes to put out the stadium, all agreed that Tom’s flaming arc-ball was worth the cost, and his shooting-star spectacular so dazzled the Dragons that they were worth little for the remainder of the game.
Although the Badgers were delighted with the outcome—several hundred percent return on investment—others were not.
“Ruined!” shrieked Clarence angrily. “The bastards ruined us!”
“What do you mean?” whined Ben Hangdog nervously. “Let’s talk in my office.”
“Say, do you have your own office now,” Clarence Ashton asked enviously. “I’ve been School Bully now for six months and haven’t got mine. Anyway, since when is the school toady entitled to an office?”
“I’ve been promoted,” snickered Ben, “Cancher read? I’m th’ school sneak, now.” And the brass plaque on the door read “Ben Hangdog, School Sneak.” “Who’s th’ dude wicher?”
“I’m Herbert Waverly the First,” the lad introduced himself, “Ashton here says you two have a scheme on.”
“We did have,” blustered Ashton, “Till we were wiped out by losin’ the bets in the game.”
“We were gonna blow up Tom’s workshop,” said Ben Hangdog, “An’ then beat him to th’ Gold City while he’s still buildin’ his airship.”
“The Gold City!” exclaimed Herbert. “How do you know about that?”
“I heard Tom talkin’ about it with his gang,” said Clarence.
“Th’ main thing is, we need an airship,” said Ben, “An’ we need ter steal Tom’s map.”
Herbert produced the parchment with a triumphant flourish. “Here’s the map!” he exclaimed, “I had it off a certain young lady the ruffians kidnapped. And I’ll pay for the airship. That’s a low underhanded plan you’ve got.”
Ben grinned from ear to ear. “Thanks,” he whined humbly.
“I know who we can get to build and run it,” blustered Clarence. “You know Orville Risley?”
“The famed aviator?”
“And long-time foe of the Motor Chums,” snickered Ben.
“He’d be glad to do those bastards a bad turn,” boasted Clarence moodily. He turned to Ben. “You got anything on them now?”
“Lemme look at my files.” The little sneak walked over to a booth literally stuffed with file drawers and removed one, labeled “Motor Chums—April 10-17, 1910.” “Here we are … let’s see … they’re using a front to build an airship—something called Skyways Transport.”
Waverly’s jaw dropped. Ashton groaned. “I own a couple hundred shares—” began the rich man’s son, while the bully said, “I been doing promotions for them.”
“Those tricky bastards,” whimpered Ben Hangdog.

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