THROUGH THE WINDOW

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Bill Bolton, startled from a sound sleep, sat up in bed.

His room was pitch dark. For a moment or two he listened to wind
whistling through trees and the swishing pound of a heavy downpour.
Lightning flashed in the bright flare of a summer electrical storm, and
through open windows he saw rain in steel rods lashing the darker night.

_Crash!_ Bang! Bang!

“Thunder, that’s all,” said young Bolton and lay down again.

Crack!

Bill was out of bed in a jiffy. He heard the unmistakable ping of a
bullet as it struck the rainpipe by his farther window.

Crash! Bang!

This time he dropped to the floor and lay still. The second shot smashed
a pane in the upper window sash and knocked over a copper water jar that
stood on the mantel, sending it rattling to the floor.

“That lad,” said Bill to himself, “is perched in a maple. Wild shooting,
too—even in the dark. I wonder what in blazes he’s aiming at!”

He crept on all fours to the window and knelt before it, bringing his
eyes level with the sill.

Crash! Crack! Bill winced. With the thunderclap came a ball of red fire.
It struck a large northern maple, shot down the trunk and vanished into
the turf below the spreading foliage. For an instant trees, shrubbery
and lawn were illuminated with red light. Bill caught a glimpse of the
flower garden beyond broad lawns, and a group of figures standing on the
drive near the stone wall that separated the Bolton estate from the
highway. He plainly saw a man drop from the big maple to the ground.
Then as he sprang to his feet and leaned out of the window, the glare
was gone and black night shut down on the world again.

“Reach down and give me a hand, Bill!”

The muffled voice came from just below.

“Who is it?” Bill spoke in the same cautious tone.

“It’s me. Charlie Evans. I’m hangin’ on by the ivy and this leader—but I
can’t find anything above me to get a grip on.”

“Okay, boy. Let me get hold of your wrist—that’s it. Mind you don’t
slip! The ivy has been cut away from the windows.”

Bill pulled, caught Charlie beneath his shoulders and lifted him over
the sill.

“Get out of their line of fire,” he ordered.

As quickly as possible he closed both windows and pulled down the green
shades. A moment later he found the wall-switch and flooded the room
with light. Charlie, a round-faced, red-headed boy of twelve, still sat
on the floor. He was soaked to the skin and breathing heavily.

Bill gave him one look and disappeared into the bathroom. When he
returned, he brought a glass of water with him. Charlie grabbed the
tumbler and drained it in a few gulps.

“That’s the berries!” he wheezed. “Got another?”

“Soon—too much in a hurry will make you sick. Are you hurt? I mean, did
those guys wing you? I take it that you were the target they aimed at.”

“I sure was, Bill, but they’re rotten shots. Gee, I’ve had a time of it,
I tell you. Can’t I have another drink now? I’ve been running ever since
they punctured the tires and I’m dry as an empty well.”

“All right, but take your time drinking it.”

Bill followed Charlie into the bathroom. “You may be dry inside, but
those clothes of yours are soaking wet. Get out of them and take a good
rub down. And put on that bathrobe on the door. If I’m not in the
bedroom when you’re through, wait for me there—I’ll be back as soon as
possible.”

He went into the bedroom, and from there into the hall. A night light
was burning at the foot of the staircase. Thunder still rumbled in the
distance but the storm was passing over. Bill ran lightly down to the
lower floor. For a second he hesitated, then went into the library on
his right and shut the door behind him.

This room was on the same side of the house as his bedroom. He went at
once to a side window, and pulling up the shade a couple of inches,
peered into the night. For a time he could see nothing. Then as his eyes
grew accustomed to the darkness, he made out the shadowy forms of six
men in a group on the driveway near the house. While he watched, they
separated, and one walked back to the entrance, the others took up
positions behind the trees that lined the drive.

“Queer,” muttered Bill. “They evidently think he’s coming out again.”

He pulled down the shade and went upstairs. Charlie was curled up in an
armchair, wrapped in the bathrobe, that was at least six sizes too big
for him.

“Well, what’s up?” he asked, as his tall, broad-shouldered young friend
came into the room.

“They’re posted along the drive.”

“Gee, we’ll never get out of here tonight,” grumbled the youngster.

“Suppose,” said Bill, “you start at the beginning and tell me why we
have to leave here tonight. What you’re doing here in Connecticut—all
about it, in fact.”

“Well, let’s see—” Charlie yawned prodigiously. “I don’t know where to
start.”

“You don’t have to start so very far back,” prompted Bill. “We came up
to New York from Washington together a little over two weeks ago.”

“We sure did! After you got that medal pinned on you by the
President—gosh!—I never thought I’d shake hands with the President of
the United States—and have him tell me I was a hero—before all those
people, too! It was swell!”

“Maybe you thought so,” Bill smiled wryly. “I didn’t.”

“Aw!—Say, what’s become of Osceola and the two Heinies?”

“I’ll tell you the dope later. Never mind that now. I want to know how
you happened to land in New Canaan at this time of night—and chased by a
gang of thugs who don’t mind trying to pot you! What’s the big idea?”

“Oh, all right, all right. Keep your shirt on!” Charlie yawned again.
“After the big doings in Washington, Mother and I went up to our summer
place at Marblehead. Dad didn’t come with us. He stayed in Boston. Let’s
see—today is Tuesday—”

“Wednesday morning,” interrupted Bill, with a glance at his wristwatch.
“It’s after two.”

“K-rect. Well, last Friday night Mother got a telegram from Dad, telling
her to send me up to Clayton, Maine.”

“Why, that’s the burg near Twin Heads Harbor where we got the _Flying
Fish_ and the _Amtonia_!” exclaimed Bill in surprise.

“Yep, that’s the dump. Well, Mother didn’t want to let me go alone—but I
went, just the same. Dad said in his wire that nobody should come with
me. Of course, Mother had a fit, but Dad had said it was important.
Anyhow, I got to Clayton Saturday night, and Dad met me with a car at
the station. He told me he had bought a house near the shore, so we
drove over there.”

“Is the house anywhere near Twin Heads?”

“Yes, it stands back from a small cove about a mile south of the Heads.
Baron von Hiemskirk’s old quarters at the other end of Twin Head Harbor
are about three miles away through the woods, I guess. And say, Bill,
that sure is some queer house!”

“Why, what’s wrong with it?”

“Oh, the house is all right—a big barn of a place. But Dad has it locked
up like a prison. There are solid wooden shutters to all the ground
floor windows, and he keeps them barred day and night. We got in through
an underground passage from the garage.”

“That does sound queer. Who else was there?”

“Nobody. Dad’s camping out in that house alone. Naturally, I wanted to
know all about it.”

“What did your father tell you?”

“Not a darn thing! He told me not to ask questions. Said the less I
knew, the better off I’d be. Sunday night somebody tried to break into
the place. Dad fired at him through an upper window, but the man got
away, I think.”

“It looks as if Mr. Evans were hiding from something or somebody,” Bill
said thoughtfully.

“It certainly does,” acquiesced Charlie. “But I couldn’t find out a
thing. He wouldn’t let me go out of the house alone the whole time I was
there.”

“Funny business. When did you leave?”

“Monday night. That noon after lunch, Dad told me to turn in and go to
sleep—said he had a job for me that night. He woke me up for supper, and
afterwards he told me he wanted me to fetch you up there. He said ‘Tell
Bolton I need him—need him badly. Say that I know he will be going back
to Annapolis in about a month, and I hate taking time from his holidays.
But tell him that this job won’t take long and that I believe it will be
even more exciting than that Shell Island business, or the affair of the
_Flying Fish_.’”

Bill slapped his knee. “I’ll go! This is my lucky day.”

“What do you mean, your lucky day?”

“My birthday, kid. That’s what.”

“Many happy returns,” grinned Charlie, and yawned. “How old does that
make you?”

“Seventeen,” replied Bill, and he too, yawned.

“That’s the nerts,” sighed Charlie. “I won’t have one for four years!”

“What? Born on February twenty-ninth?”

“Yep—ain’t it the limit?”

Bill laughed. “Too bad. But did your father say anything else?”

“Heaps. About how I should drive to get here. I was to drive all night,
go to the Copley-Plaza in Boston and sleep there Tuesday. Tuesday
night—that’s tonight, I was to leave there at eight and take the Post
Road to Darien. From there on, he told me exactly how to find your
house. Lucky he did. I’d never have reached here after those bozos held
up the car, otherwise.”

“Where was that?”

“Just inside the New Canaan line, near that flying field. I was makin’
that right turn when a guy jumps into the road and holds up his hand.”

“What did you do?”

“Gave her the gun, of course. But I missed him,” Charlie said ruefully.
“Then two or three more of them started shooting. When the tire burst I
went into the ditch. The car didn’t turn over—so I hopped it. I kept in
the shadows of the trees. It was raining, and black as your hat, anyway.
Soon a car passed me, going slow. Didn’t see hide nor hair of the bunch
again until I climbed your stone wall. Then I ran smack into ’em.”

“You did!”

“Surest thing you know! We played hide and seek round the grounds, then
I saw your open window. The storm broke about that time. Kind of upset
them, maybe. Anyhow, I made for the ivy—and well—you know the rest.”

“Good boy!” Bill smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. “Any further
instructions from your Dad?”

“He said we were to start back at once. Drive to Boston. Sleep there
tomorrow and drive up to Maine tomorrow night. He told me to hurry—said
that every hour counted, and to bring along Osceola if he was here.”

“The Chief and my father went to New York for a few days. They won’t be
home until the end of the week. They may go to Washington, too. Some
business connected with Osceola’s Seminoles. I’m alone here with the
servants. Well, it’s too bad, but we’ll leave a note for him.”

“Gee, I’m sorry. Osceola would be just the guy for a stunt like this.
But how can we make it, Bill? Take one of your old man’s cars? Mine is a
wreck, down by the flying field.”

“We’ll do better than a car,” pronounced his friend. “My Loening is
stabled in the hangar.”

“Gee! The amphibian!”

“That’s right. Now we’ll hunt you up some clothes, get some chow, leave
that note for Osceola—and take off.”

Charlie jumped up from his chair. “But how can we? How about that gang
outside?”

“Ask me something easy,” Bill suggested, and started to dress.