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TOMMY’S head was clear now. The eight cylinders of his car no longer droned sleepily, but whirred and sputtered furiously, and with fifty-horse-power impetus the long car raced through Detroit’s wilderness of houses. He paid no attention to the imprecations of pedestrians and automobile drivers, but with firm grip on the wheel kept his attention fixed on the traffic-crowded street ahead.

The last dingy, barn-like houses of the south quarter flew past, followed by manufacturing plants, deserted camp sites, and fields. The road was clear. Tommy stepped harder on the gas. The speedometer needle moved forward over the scale, paused at seventy-five miles, crept ahead. The trees bordering the road were no longer distinguishable; they were blurred into a solid mass like the edge of a woods.

Fred Tiller, the editor-in-chief, sat beside Tommy. Cautiously he touched his arm.

“Don’t be reckless, Tommy. Eighty-five miles an hour will land us in a coffin!”

Tommy laughed shortly. “What time is it?” he asked.

“One twenty-five.”


And the mad ride continued. Five minutes passed in this manner. Tiller heaved a sigh of relief when the impetuous driver finally shut off the gas and stopped, looking searchingly around.

“This must be the spot where Hans Hardt held me up an hour and a half ago.”

“What direction did he take afterwards?”

“1 don’t know,” replied Tommy sullenly. “My brain wasn’t tracking. Must look around.”

Tommy drove ahead very slowly, and both men watched the sides of the road.

“There’s a path branching off to the right, Tommy. Perhaps...?”

“Maybe. Let’s try it.”

The car swerved sharply to the right and proceeded with difficulty along a worn, rutted road. Tommy cursed volubly at the holes and stones which impeded their progress and caused them to slow down. On a slight up-grade the road led through wheatfields and wound around a clump of sloebushes higher up.

“Hold it!” shouted Tommy and jammed on the brakes. He was about to collide with a huge, heavily-laden truck which was coming from behind the bushes, and, grinding like a steam-roller, was rumbling on toward the smart little coupe.

The road was so narrow that it was impossible for the two cars to pass each other, and the only way out was for Tommy to reverse and back downhill.

“What is that fool doing on this terrible road?” queried Tiller.

Tommy, whose attention was on the road behind while backing down, had no time to consider the question.

“Maybe we can back into the field this way.” He had misjudged, however, the depth of the overgrown ditch which separated the road from the field. With a jolt the left back wheel sank into the ditch, the right spun futilely around in the air, and the car would not budge from the spot.

“Nice mess!” grumbled the reporter angrily, while he threw open the door and jumped out.

The truck lumbered ahead to within three yards, but could not get by.

“Hi, there!” called out Tommy to the driver. “Have you a jack?”

The driver nodded with a grin and climbed slowly down from his high seat.

“Listen, Tommy, do you hear anything?” Tommy had already started. In long strides he ran up the slope, and Tiller followed him, panting. The four men working on the car paused and looked toward the west.

Sharp reports, like a gun salute, sounded over the field. Then, silence.

“Hold on, Tommy,” called Tiller after the swift-moving reporter.

“No time,” Tommy called back. “Over there back of the slope is Hans Hardt...and...”

The reports sounded again, more loudly than before, and changed quickly into a hissing roar. “Look!” cried Tommy, and he stopped, breathing heavily.

About eight hundred yards to the west a gigantic flying machine rose into the air, its wings gleaming in the sun.

“Too late!” groaned Tommy in chagrin, and with open mouth he watched the machine rising almost perpendicularly toward the east and leaving behind a white trail. It became perceptibly smaller, and presently the details were lost to sight.

“Unusual type,” said Tiller, who had in the meantime caught up with his companion.

“You’re right. A huge body on disproportionately small wings.”

“Where do you come from with your truck?

What’s up?”

The driver merely pointed his thumb over his shoulder and said nothing.

“What kind of barrels are those on your load?” continued Tommy. The man shrugged his shoulders and made no reply. Nothing could be gotten out of him, and three other men crouched on the load maintained a sphinx-like silence.

Tommy’s main concern was to get his car started. The truck driver with his’ three comrades brought over a large jack to lift the car out of the ditch.

Tommy took advantage of the situation to look more closely at the load on the truck. He ran his finger lightly around the open bunghole in one of the apparently empty barrels and cautiously licked it with his tongue.

plane overhead

“Oho!” he said, smiling, and gave a soft whistle. Cautiously he beckoned to Tiller.

“Do you want to earn a reward, Mr. Tiller?” he said in an undertone. “Report these people to the Prohibition officers. Wholesale bootleggers.”

“Humph! Empty barrels don’t prove a thing,

Tommy,” replied Tiller, grinning. Suddenly he stopped, motionless.

“Did you ever before hear a propeller whistle so queerly, Tommy?”

“No. A noise like a steamship siren is not caused by a propeller, Tiller, and no gasoline motor leaves such a heavy trail of smoke behind. A mighty queer machine!”

The mysterious flying machine was by this time a little black speck in the blue sky, and both men craned their necks to follow its flight.

“I simply can’t figure out,” said Tiller reflectively, “how this contraption can cover a stretch of six thousand miles in an hour and a half. It doesn’t fly much faster than our commercial airplanes.”

“Look!” cried Tommy excitedly. “Do you see the flashes?”

“Thundering blazes! What’s that? The thing is exploding. Why in Heaven’s name didn’t we bring a field glass!”

In the wake of the machine appeared a streak of fire accompanied by a thick cloud of smoke. For a few seconds came the sound of distant explosions which immediately died out.

The flying machine had disappeared, leaving only a thin trail of smoke against the cloudless sky, which tapered out and vanished in the wind.

The men stood for a time in speechless consternation. Finally Tiller said in a hesitating voice: “It’s a shame, Tommy. Hans Hardt’s a goner.”

“No, I don’t believe it!” answered Tommy drily.

“But after those explosions the machine vanished without leaving a trace. Or can you see it yet?”

“No, I see nothing but smoke.”

“Where could it have gone, then, Tommy?”

“Perhaps it slipped through a hole in the sky, Tiller.”

Upon an angry silence on the part of the chief, Tommy said in a conciliatory tone: “You shouldn’t fly up like that, Mr. Tiller. I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings. Do you think that a machine which travels six thousand miles in an hour and a half could behave like an ordinary machine? I think the take-off we saw was only a preliminary to the actual traveling which began with that queer explosion. Well, I’ll bet I can’t make it out. Maybe it opened a hole in the sky where it has slipped through. These Germans are wizards. You never know what they’re up to!”

Tiller, during Tommy’s unusually long speech, had been watching the truck. The four men had hoisted the coupe from the ditch and pushed it back so that the truck could pass by.

“Tommy,” said Tiller, “those people are going off without waiting for us to thank them.”

“No matter, Mr. Tiller. I have taken the number of the truck: F200I. I’m positive those tight-mouthed bootleggers are in some way connected with Hans Hardt. I’ll make them talk. Want to bet?”

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