Danger in the Air

The change of the seasons was at hand and the last dirty patches of snow
melted under the rays of the March sun. Andy spread the news that the
first official flight of the Goliath would take it into the polar
regions and the crews inside the lofty hangar were filled with new
enthusiasm and energy. They were making history, placing America in the
forefront of the air-minded nations, and they thrilled at their task.

In the afternoon Andy helped Bert check over the damage which the agent
of the Gerka had done to the radio apparatus and they were greatly
relieved to find that the set intended for installation on the Goliath
worked perfectly.

When Andy returned to his office, Bert accompanied him and they
discussed the outlook for the polar flight.

“It will be a real test of the Goliath,” said Andy, “and it means we’ll
make plenty of trial flights before we undertake a cruise into the

“Why do you suppose your father decided on such a daring trip?” asked

“There has been some criticism of the government for appropriating a
part of the money necessary for the construction of the Goliath,”
explained Andy. “This was especially true when it became known that the
dirigible would eventually be used for transcontinental passenger
traffic. What most people do not realize is that the Goliath will be a
veritable airship of the skies, a craft that can be turned from a
peace-time airship into an aerial battleship if the United States is
ever attacked by an enemy force. With its enormous cruising radius of
15,000 miles without refueling it will be able to scout far from our
own shores and uncover the approach of any enemy fleet.”

“Then the whole idea of the polar flight will be to popularize the
Goliath with the general public,” said Bert.

“I expect that’s about how Dad’s figured it,” agreed Andy. “The trial
flights will take us to a good many cities in various sections and as
soon as people get a glimpse of the Goliath they’ll be glad Uncle Sam
appropriated funds to help build it. Once they’ve seen the airship
they’ll follow its polar flight with double interest and when the
Goliath comes back from the north it will be a familiar name to everyone
in the country.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” nodded Bert. “This country needs to be
air-minded or foreign nations like Rubania, which have dictators
ambitious to extend their powers, will put us on a shelf.”

The afternoon mail arrived and with it was a letter addressed to Andy
and from the war department.

“Wonder what’s up now?” he mused as he silt open the envelope. He read
the letter carefully for the war department communications were usually
lengthy affairs which required careful scrutiny.

“We’re going to have company,” Andy told Bert when he finished. “The war
department has granted permission for a dirigible expert from the
Friedrichshafen works in Germany to come down here and study the general
plans for the Goliath. He will probably remain until after the trial
flights have been completed.”

“How about our construction secrets we’ve been guarding so closely?”
asked Bert. “It doesn’t seem right that we should let this fellow have
the run of the works.”

“We won’t exactly do that,” explained Andy, “for this letter outlines
definitely just what information to which the Friedrichshafen man is to
have access. Our own research department has had much help and advice
from Dr. Hugo Eckener and his co-workers in Germany and it is only fair
that we return the favor as long as we do not divulge any of the
military secrets of the Goliath.”

“Wonder what kind of a fellow he’ll be?” asked Bert.

“You know as much about him as I do,” replied Andy. “Except that I have
been told his name is Herman Blatz.”

“That sounds like a brand of near beer,” grinned Bert. “Wonder if he’ll
be able to talk much English?”

“I expect so,” nodded Andy. “Those chaps at the Friedrichshafen
works are cosmopolitan; they have to be the way the Graf Zeppelin
has been hopping from one hemisphere to another. A fellow certainly
has to hand it to Doctor Eckener for his work in proving how capable
lighter-than-air craft can be.”

“When will this expert from Germany arrive?” Bert wanted to know.

“This letter doesn’t give an exact date, but I should imagine it would
be within the week. I’ll show it to Merritt Timms so he won’t have his
secret service men chasing Blatz out of here when he tries to get
through the guard line.”

Bert stepped to the door of Andy’s small office and scanned the clear
afternoon sky. He sniffed at the air eagerly. There was no mistaking it.
There was a real tang and zest of spring on the breeze. Beyond the great
doors of the home of the Goliath stretched a meadow which had been
turned into an airport for the aviation experts who made visits to
Bellevue usually came in their own plane and ships of the National
Airways dropped down several times a day.

“It’s a wonderful afternoon,” said Bert suggestively.

Andy left his desk with its blue prints and stepped to the door. He
chuckled as he looked at the sky and then at the wind sock on the beacon

“That wasn’t, by any chance, a hint that it would be a nice afternoon
for a little vacation in the clouds?” he grinned.

“Take it that way if you want to,” chuckled Bert. “There’s nothing that
would suit me better than a hop over the hills. I’ve been on the ground
for nearly a month; it’s been slushy and muddy underfoot and I’d like
nothing better than a joy hop.”

“Tell you what,” said Andy. “I feel the same way about it but I’ve got
to check over the final specifications on the assembly of the control
room in the gondola. I’m about half through now. It will take half an
hour to finish the job. As soon as I’m done I’ll meet you down on the
field and we’ll take a ride in my sportster. The sunset this afternoon
is going to be grand.”

“I’ll be waiting,” promised Bert and he left Andy alone to study over
the intricate set of blueprints. Final assembly of the main control room
was to start the next day and Andy wanted to be sure that he had every
detail in mind. In the absence of Captain Harkins this task would
require his closest personal supervision and the son of the vice
president in charge of operations for the National Airways concentrated
on his task before him.

Andy was a natural airman. He had first flown a plane at fifteen and at
eighteen had qualified for a transport license, which he had never had
time to use for from that time on he had devoted his attention to
dirigibles. A year at Friedrichshafen under Doctor Hugo Eckener had
given him a firm foundation for his later experiments in his father’s
own laboratory and he had watched the building of the Akron at the
Goodyear-Zeppelin plant in Ohio. When the National Airways had decided
to go into the dirigible field and construct the Goliath, suitable for
passenger service in peace time or as a battleship of the skies in time
of war, Andy had been given an important role in the construction
program. His technical advice was sound, based on his thorough schooling
at Friedrichshafen and Akron, and his more advanced ideas were supported
by the experiments he had made in his father’s laboratory.

Plans for the Goliath had been worked out by Charles High, Andy’s
father, Captain Harkins, the chief engineer and pilot, and a special
board of army experts designated by the war department. If the Goliath
lived up to the expectations of its builders, more ships of the same
type would be constructed in the Kentucky hills while the aircraft plant
at Akron was enlarged to handle the construction of other ships the size
of the Goliath. Secret plans of the National Airways and the war
department called for the eventual construction of ten of the giant sky
liners, five of them at the Bellevue plant of the National Airways and
the rest at the Goodyear-Zeppelin factory at Akron.

Andy completed his minute study of the blueprints and straightened up.
He was six feet one tall, with broad shoulders and a well-developed body
that revealed his love for sports in his hours away from his work. His
eyes were a clear, bright blue and his light hair had just a tinge of
red, an indication of his temper when he was aroused to a fighting

The sun had dropped behind the arched roof of the main hangar when Andy
left his office and started for the meadow beyond the huge structure. He
had been inside it at least a dozen times that day to watch the progress
of the work on the Goliath but now, with the crews through for the day,
he couldn’t resist the urge to step in and gaze in silent admiration at
the great hulk that was soon to rule the skies.

The hangar was silent except for a few birds, which made their home
there. They wheeled high over the framework of the Goliath, chirping
their defiance.

Structural work on the Goliath had been completed several months before
and crews of riggers had been busy since then testing and placing the
great gas bags which would contain the precious helium, the life-blood
of the great craft.

Specifications for the Goliath called for 12 of the large gas bags,
which in reality were balloons held captive by the duralumin framework
with its covering of sturdy metal cloth. Ten of the large bags had been
tested and were in place while the last two would be in place before the
end of the week. There would be six in the forward half of the Goliath
and six in the after section. In the space between them was the
especially designed hold which in peace time would be used for
cargo-carrying and in war as the hold in which the Goliath would carry
its swarm of fighting planes.

The framework of the Goliath was 850 feet long, sixty-five feet longer
than that of the Akron. It’s diameter was 135 feet, only three feet more
than the Akron but a new manufacturing process had increased the tensile
strength of the duralumin used in the Goliath so that it could stand
double the strain of the metal used in any previously constructed
airship. This process, which had been worked out by Captain Harkins with
the assistance of Andy, was one of the great features of the Akron. It
was expected that the ship would be able to withstand any storm of less
than cyclonic intensity and such an accident as befell the Shenandoah
was practically impossible.

The increased strength of the Goliath’s framework also allowed the
mounting of more powerful engines, which meant greater speed. If the
hopes of Andy and the other engineers were realized, the great craft
would cruise at 100 miles an hour with a top speed of 120, a decided
advantage over any other craft then in service.

Mechanics had been busy the last three weeks mounting the 12 engines
which were to provide the power. Each engine was mounted in a separate
engine room, completely insulated from the rest of the ship to do away
with the danger of fire and lessen noise. Power shafts would project
through the side with six propellers on each side.

All of these facts Andy knew by heart and in the silence of the sunset
hour he stood in awe before the sky king he was helping to create. In
two more months the great doors would roll open, the huge mooring mast,
with the Goliath in tow, would waddle out on the concrete runway, and
the world’s greatest airship would be introduced to its public, some of
whom would welcome it enthusiastically while others would gaze at it
with questioning eyes, waiting for its trial flights to prove the claims
of its builders.

Andy knew that Bert was waiting for him out on the field and he finally
forced himself to leave the hangar. He had lived with the Goliath for
months and the great ship was almost a part of him.

Mechanics had warmed up Andy’s plane and the trim red sportster was
ready for the late afternoon spin.

“I thought you weren’t going to show up,” Bert shouted. “Been in
‘talking’ with the Goliath?”

Andy grinned and nodded.

“I don’t blame you,” shouted back Bert. “I go in there every once in a
while and just sit down and look at it. Some ship!”

“I’ll say,” replied Andy. “You’d better get into a sheepskin coat. The
air will be a little nippy when we get up five or six thousand feet.”

Bert agreed with the suggestion and ran to one of the airplane hangars,
which was dwarfed in the lengthening shadows from the Goliath’s home. He
returned with two coats, one for himself and one for Andy.

The sportster was an Ace two-place biplane with stubby wings, painted
silver, and a crimson fuselage. Andy had ordered up dual controls the
week before and had promised to give Bert flying instructions whenever
they had a spare hour during the spring.

“Let your feet and hands rest lightly on the controls,” Andy told his
friend, “and whatever you do, don’t hang onto them. If you do I may have
to clout you over the head with a wrench.”

They slipped into their parachute harnesses for Andy was a safe and sane
flyer who believed in taking commonsense precautions. Bert climbed into
the forward cockpit and Andy slipped into the rear seat.

The motor was warm but he tested it thoroughly before waving to the
mechanics to pull the blocks. The sun was a great red disk of flame when
they skipped down the meadow and raced into the air.

Bert, who had learned his radio knowledge at a department of commerce
station, had never had the opportunity to do much flying until he joined
the National Airways radio force and was assigned to Bellevue to take
charge of the installation of the equipment on the Goliath. He had
arrived the previous fall and during the winter had become Andy’s
closest friend. They were almost inseparable and Andy, realizing Bert’s
ambition to become a flyer, had promised to give his friend

Bert studied each move of the controls and its effect on the maneuvers
of the plane. At Andy’s suggestion he had read up on the principles of
aeronautics and understood the reason for the shifts in the stick and
the rudder bar.

At three thousand feet Andy leveled off and waggled the stick,
indicating that Bert was to take control. The chunky little radio
operator felt his heart go into his throat, but he took a firm grip on
the stick and moved it cautiously backward. The nose came up slowly. He
moved it ahead. The nose went down ever so slightly. He could fly; he
was flying!

He turned around and shouted at Andy in his excitement. The next moment
his head was snapped back against his seat. He gasped and jerked around
to look at the controls. To his surprise the nose of the plane was in a
steep dive and he felt the pit of his stomach start to turn a flip flop.

He knew the thing to do was to pull back on the stick and he did so
enthusiastically. The nose came up, the ground disappeared and he found
himself staring toward a bank of fleecy clouds that rolled along lazily.
His safety belt snapped tight and to his astonishment the ground whirled
into view again.

Andy was signaling for the stick and Bert gladly turned over the
controls. Andy throttled down and grinned at the radio operator.

“Nice work,” he shouted. “I guess you’ve set a record. At least you’re
the only fellow I know who looped on his first flight.”

“Who what?” cried Bert.

“You looped,” replied Andy. “You did a nice piece of flying but I’ll bet
it was more luck than sense.”

“You’re right,” admitted Bert, who slumped down in his seat, glad enough
that Andy was back at the controls.

Andy loafed around the field in easy circles, gradually gaining
altitude. The sun was dropping over the horizon and the purple shadows
that preceded night were wrapping the countryside in their soft shroud.
It was a glorious feeling to be able to take to the air and for the
moment forget the pressing cares which he felt around him every minute
he was on the ground.

The sportster handled beautifully and Andy found himself at the six
thousand foot level almost before he knew it. The air was growing colder
and the shadows below deepened rapidly. He throttled down, preparatory
to drifting down when he heard a cry from Bert.

The radio operator was shouting and pointing excitedly toward a bank of
clouds in the east.

Andy turned and saw a large gray monoplane, traveling fast and high,
above the cloud bank. The plane was different from any machine with
which he was familiar and he decided to get a closer look at the

The other machine must have been up 10,000 feet and Andy opened the
throttle and sent the Ace scooting upward. At eight thousand he knew the
pilot of the other ship had seen him and the gray machine seemed to leap
ahead with a sudden burst of speed. They were directly over Bellevue, a
prohibited flying area for any except army or National Airways ships,
and Andy was curious to know who this flyer was who dared to defy strict
air regulations.

The sportster was fast but in less than a minute he knew the other ship
was superior in speed. It was a squat, low-winged craft, evidently an
all-metal machine and distinctly foreign looking in appearance. Andy
made a mental note that he’d get out his design guides when he landed
and find out just what make of plane it was that could pull away from
his with such apparent ease. It was a useless chase and after five more
minutes Andy gave up and swung the Ace back toward Bellevue while the
strange ship disappeared in the south.

The landing field at Bellevue was shrouded in heavy shadows of the
fast-coming night when Andy dropped his Ace sportster down after the
futile pursuit of the strange plane.

Merritt Timms, the secret service chief, was waiting for them when the
young engineer and the radio operator climbed out of the fuselage.

“Did you get the department of commerce number on the fellow I saw you
chasing?” he asked.

“I should say we didn’t,” replied Andy. “He was too fast for one thing
and for another, he didn’t have any number on his wings that I could

“Outlaw plane?” asked Timms.

“Yes,” replied Andy, “and a strange machine. I’ve never seen one exactly
like it. I’m going over to the office and see if I can check up on its
design. I’ve some guide books there that may help us.”

“How’s the Rubanian agent that was winged earlier this morning?” Bert
asked the secret service man.

“He’ll come through nicely,” replied Timms, “and probably spend about
the next five years in a military prison wondering what it is all

“Have you had a chance to talk to him?” Andy wanted to know.

“Not yet. I’m going over after supper. Want to come along?”

“Yes,” said the young engineer. “How about you, Bert?”

“Count me in,” replied the radio operator. “It’s too bad he’s wounded.
I’d like to give him a punch on the nose after all the damage he did to
my radio room.”

“I don’t blame you,” chuckled Andy. “He certainly did mess things up but
if he had been very intelligent he’d have recognized the installation
for the Goliath and have smashed it all to pieces. I guess we’ve been
lucky after all.”

When they reached the office Andy dug some reference books on airplane
design out of a box and sat down to hunt for a description of the type
of craft that he had encountered only a few minutes before.

“I don’t think it was an American-made machine,” he said, “so we won’t
waste time hunting there. Let’s try the foreign designers first.”

British, French, Italian and German divisions failed to furnish any
designs similar to the craft he had pictured in his mind’s eye.

The Russians had a low-winged monoplane but the wing mounting was too
high to answer the description of the craft Andy and Bert had seen.

Andy turned on to the section devoted to the aviation activities and
designs of the Rubanian air force. Here was something nearer what he
sought. Pictured on one page was a low-winged machine with a streamlined
fuselage that very nearly answered the description of the machine he had
seen. A footnote added that planes of this type were in production at
the Blenkko works near Kratz, the Rubanian capital, but that it was
possible minor changes might be made in them when they were put through
actual air tests.

“How does this picture strike you?” Andy asked Bert.

“Looks almost exactly like the monoplane we chased,” replied the chubby
radio operator.

Merritt Timms was intensely interested in the description of the
Rubanian plane.

“I’m not surprised,” he said, “and I have a hunch we’ll find that it was
a Rubanian monoplane.”

“But how could it get clear over here?” asked Bert.

Timms pointed at the specifications of the monoplane which were printed
under the picture.

“Cruising range 7,000 miles,” read Bert.

“That would give a good flyer an ample margin to fly from Rubania to
Bellevue,” said Timms, “and such a feat isn’t at all impossible.”

“You talk as though you thought the Goliath was in great danger of
damage by Rubanian agents,” said Bert.

“I don’t think now; I know,” replied Timms gravely, “for you may be sure
that there is danger connected with anything in which Alex Reikoff,
dictator of Rubania, is interested. Will you write a brief description
of this plane?” he asked, turning to Andy.

“It won’t take five minutes,” promised Andy.

“Thanks,” said Timms. “I’ll have a complete description broadcast and
we’ll be sure to pick him up somewhere. He can’t fly on forever and
he’ll find that disobeying Uncle Sam’s orders and flying over a
forbidden area is not to be joked with.”

Andy wrote a brief but thorough description of the mystery plane and
Timms departed to get his message on its way to the broadcasting
stations from which a complete description and warning to watch out for
the gray monoplane would soon be sent to hundreds of thousands of

“Think Timms will be able to pick up the flyer of this Rubanian plane?”
Bert asked.

“It will be something out of the ordinary if he doesn’t,” replied Andy.
“Timms may be a little slow to get started but once he is on the job he
is like a bull dog; he never gives up.”

Andy made sure that all of the precious specifications for the Goliath
were in the big steel vault before he locked the office. They walked
down to the one hotel, where they had made their home while in Bellevue,
and cleaned up for supper. A regular mess hall had been built at the
plant for the crews, who worked, ate and slept in the buildings erected
beside the hangar, but technicians and crew foremen lived at the hotel.

The two long tables in the dining room were well filled when Andy and
Bert entered and they were joined a minute or two later by Timms.

“The alarm will be all over the country in another fifteen minutes,”
said the secret service man, “and we ought to have some news either
tonight or the first thing in the morning.”

Structural experts, gas experts, motor specialists and expert fitters
were at the table and the talk, as it always did, centered on the
Goliath, how much progress had been made that day, what they would do
the next and to speculation on the exact day the big ship would take the
air and what would be its destination on its first official flight.

“Any news on where we’ll go on our first long trip?” one of the motor
experts asked Andy.

“Sure,” replied the young engineer. “We’re going to the North pole to
exchange mail with the submarine Neptune this summer.”


“Quit your kidding.”

“Say it again.”

“You’re dreaming.”

These and a chorus of similar exclamations greeted Andy’s quiet
statement. He said it in such a matter-of-fact way that most of the men
in the room thought he was joking and he had to repeat his statement two
more times before they took him seriously.

“Wait a minute,” he added. “I’ll read you the telegram that came this

He pulled the message from his pocket and read his father’s words. When
he had finished they were all grave. There was no question now. They
were going to the North pole on their first great test of the new
airship. Every man in the room knew something of the dangers of a polar
flight and they admired Andy’s father for his courage in sending the
Goliath on such a voyage.

“We’ll make a lot of flights to various cities in this country,”
explained Andy, “before we start on the long trip north so the ship will
have a thorough test and we’ll know just exactly what she’ll do.”

“She’ll do everything the specifications call for and more too,”
exclaimed one of the rigging foremen and his words represented the
sentiment of every expert in the room for they all had explicit
confidence that the Goliath would live up to expectations of her
designers and builders.

“When do you think we’ll be ready for the test flights?” one of the
helium experts asked Andy.

“With the polar trip definitely decided on,” replied Andy, “we’ll have
to be in the air before the end of the next sixty days. That means we
can’t afford even a single hour’s delay on the assembly schedule and we
may have to lengthen the shifts in order to get through.”

“We’ll work 24 hours a day if we have to,” said one of the enthusiastic
foremen, for after nearly two years of exacting construction work, they
were all anxious to see the Goliath test its wings.

The remainder of the supper hour was devoted to heated discussions of
the various features of the dirigible, and who would be selected for the
crew. Every man in the room hoped that he would get by the final weeding
out process and win a permanent berth on the world’s largest airship.

Timms was waiting for Andy and Bert after supper in the lobby of the

“I’m going over and talk to the Rubanian,” he said. “Better come along.”

They were about to leave the lobby when the program of dance music which
was coming in on the radio stopped abruptly for a station announcement.

“Wait a minute,” said Bert. “They haven’t stopped for the usual station
identification. They cut that piece off in the middle.”

They went closer to the receiver and it seemed as though the announcer
in the station miles away had seen their movement for he started his
announcement at once.

“We have just received a special bulletin,” said the voice on the ether
waves. “A powerful monoplane, of low-winged construction, was sighted
just at sunset near Bellevue, Ky. It was flying over a restricted area
in violation of department of commerce rules. The machine is fast and
slate-gray in color. There appeared to be only one man in the machine
and from the description at hand it is evidently of foreign make. It is
possible that some European flyer, on a secret long-distance flight, has
crossed the Atlantic, and, unaware of the department of commerce
regulation, flew over Bellevue, home of the giant airship Goliath. Now,
news hounds, get busy and let’s see what you can find out about this
strange, low-winged monoplane. Any information should be sent direct to
this station. Our program of music will continue.”

The voice stopped and the dance band which was featured at that hour on
the air resumed.

“That ought to get results,” said Andy. “Anyone listening in on this
program who has heard or seen a plane in the last two hours will
undoubtedly send in a report.”

“We’ll have a lot of misinformation,” said Timms, “but a real clue may

“How many stations carried that announcement?” asked Bert.

“The message was sent to about 50 of the major broadcasters,” replied
Timms, “and every one of them will put it on the air.”

“In other words, you covered the whole country,” grinned Bert.

“That’s what I hoped to do,” replied Timms. “Now we’ll see just how much
value the radio is to the secret service in an emergency when we need
the cooperation of the public.”

“You’ll have something definite before midnight,” predicted Bert, who
was quick to rise to the defense of his chosen profession.

“It’s seven-thirty now,” said Andy, glancing at the clock in the lobby.
“That gives you four and a half hours.”

“That’s enough,” replied Bert. “If there isn’t some real clue by that
time I’ll buy your suppers tomorrow night.”

“And if you win?” Andy asked.

“Then I’ll eat supper tomorrow night and the next on you two,” grinned

“I’ll buy your suppers for a week,” promised Timms, “if we know by
midnight where this mysterious plane went.”

The doctor in charge of the little emergency hospital which was a part
of the National Airways equipment at Bellevue informed them that Dubra,
or Cliff Bolton as he had been listed on the payroll, was resting easily
and in condition to talk.

The Gerka agent was in a private room and a soldier was seated across
the hall, facing the door. The windows were barred and there was little
chance that Reikoff’s secret agent would go free until Uncle Sam decided
he had paid the penalty for his treachery.

Dubra was propped up on pillows, reading an evening paper. He looked up
expectantly when they entered but the moment he saw Timms he became
sullen. The radio down the hall was plainly audible and Andy recognized
the music of the dance band they had heard over the receiving set at the
hotel. Unquestionably Dubra had heard the emergency announcement. Andy
wondered if there had been any connection between Dubra’s attempt to
wreck the hangar that morning and the arrival of the Rubanian plane. It
was logical to believe that it was part of a carefully laid out plot. He
had thought the Goliath safe from an air attack by a jealous foreign
country but if the gray plane they had sighted that afternoon proved to
be a Rubanian ship, they would have to station several fast army pursuit
ships at the field or perhaps install searchlights to ward off any night
attack. Possibilities of destruction of the Goliath by an air attack
were limitless and Andy grew sick at the thought that the great ship,
which represented the labor and love of hundreds of men, was in danger
and he looked at the wounded agent of the Gerka with little sympathy.

“How do you feel tonight?” Timms asked Dubra.

“How do you suppose?” was the sullen reply. “I’ve got two bullet holes
in my right leg and another in my left one.”

“You’re lucky you didn’t get one through the heart,” replied Timms

“You’ll suffer for this outrage,” promised Dubra, whose eyes shifted
from the secret service agent to Andy, then to Bert, and back to Timms.

“Just as soon as my government learns of this unwarranted attack you’ll
be in enough trouble to last you the rest of your life.”

Dubra’s bravado angered Timms, who spoke fiercely.

“Shut up and listen to me,” said the secret service agent. “You’re a
Rubanian resident who posed as a naturalized American. You entered this
country unlawfully, you’re a secret agent of the Gerka, you attempted to
commit murder this morning when you turned on the power of the hangar
door and almost killed a half dozen men working on it, you attempted to
escape from a military reservation and were shot when you failed to obey
repeated commands to halt. A full report of this has been forwarded to
the department of justice. You’ll be lucky if you don’t spend the rest
of your life behind the bars at a military prison for remember, Dubra,
that military, not civil, courts will deal with your offense and army
courts are well known for the severity of their sentences on scoundrels
such as you.”

The concise, bitter indictment by Timms broke Dubra’s spirit of bravado
and the agent of the Gerka cringed as he thought of his black future.

“How much were you to be paid for wrecking the hangar?” asked Timms.

Dubra refused to answer.

“How much?” Timms repeated the question.

Still no answer.

“All right, boys,” said the secret service agent. “We’ll just turn off
the light and leave Dubra alone in the dark tonight. He has plenty to
think about. Oh, yes, I’ll tell the orderly down the hall Dubra’s to
have no water to drink and any calls from this room are not to be

Timms reached for the light switch and Dubra suddenly changed his mind.

“I’ll talk, I’ll talk,” he cried, “only don’t leave me alone in the
dark. Something might happen. What do you want to know?”

“Are you the only agent of the Gerka in the plant now?” asked Timms, his
words snapping through the quiet of the room.

“Yes,” replied Dubra so quickly that the others were convinced he had
told the truth.

“And your job was to wreck the hangar and delay construction until
another and more powerful agent could get here and finish the job of
sabotage against the Goliath?” went on Timms.

This time there was no reply to the question and Dubra turned his face
toward the wall.

“I’ll give you a minute to make up your mind,” said Timms.

The seconds ticked away and there was no sound from any of the four in
the small room.

“Make up your mind,” warned Timms. “Ten more seconds and the lights go

The secret service chief, Andy and Bert turned to leave the room. They
were on the threshold when Dubra called them back.

“My job was to wreck the hangar,” he confessed, the words coming slowly
and evidently with the greatest reluctance.

“Who is going to attempt to wreck the Goliath?” demanded the secret
service chief.

“I don’t know,” whispered Dubra. “The Gerka doesn’t work that way. Each
of us is assigned a specific task to carry out independent of anyone

“Then you don’t know who flew that gray monoplane over here this
afternoon?” asked Andy.

“I didn’t know a monoplane came over.”

“Don’t lie,” said Timms. “If you didn’t hear the noise you certainly
heard the announcement over the radio just a few minutes ago. Did you
expect someone to make a long-distance flight from Rubania for the
purpose of destroying the Goliath?”

“I didn’t expect anyone,” replied Dubra.

“But someone else was to carry out the attack on the Goliath?” persisted

“Yes,” whispered Dubra.

“That’s enough for the present,” said Timms. “Let’s go, boys.”

“You promised Dubra some pretty rough treatment if he wouldn’t talk,”
said Bert when they left the hospital.

“It was bluff, pure and simple,” smiled Timms, “but he’s in a precarious
situation and is smart enough to realize that his case will be handled
by a court-martial. He’s between two fires. If he talks too much his own
organization, the Gerka, will revenge themselves on him. If he refuses
to talk to us, his penalty will be doubly severe.”

“At least the talk with Dubra did one thing,” said Andy gravely. “We
know for sure that the Goliath is in grave danger and that the man
selected to carry out its destruction has not yet arrived at Bellevue.”

On leaving the hospital after questioning the agent of the Gerka, Andy,
Bert and the secret service chief walked over to Andy’s office. There
they discussed plans for additional precautions in the guarding of the

“I’m convinced now,” said Andy, “that the plane we sighted this
afternoon was a Rubanian ship. Either the pilot had made a non-stop
flight across the Atlantic or he stopped at some remote place where
there was little chance that news of his landing would spread, took on
additional fuel, and continued here.”

“The fact that we were up sky-larking may have prevented a bomb attack
on the Goliath,” said Bert.

“That’s possible,” conceded Timms, “but I doubt that Rubania would dare
to use such an open and violent method. An air attack would mean war
with popular sentiment of the world with the United States.”

“A more likely explanation,” said Andy, “is that the agent who is to
carry on the actual campaign of destruction against the Goliath arrived
in the plane we sighted.”

“I’m inclined to believe as you do,” Timms told Andy. “Our first step,
after doubling the guards around Bellevue, will be to trace this strange
craft. I’m hopeful that the radio appeal will bring results.”

“I know it will,” said Bert confidently.

“Dad will be back within a day or two,” said Andy, “and I’ll be mighty
glad to turn the responsibility of this whole affair over to him. When
he’s back on the job, we’ll take a whirl at finding this unknown agent
of the Rubanian Gerka who is to destroy the Goliath,” he told Bert.

Timms was busy with a long-distance call to the department of justice in
Washington, informing his chief there of the latest development at
Bellevue. When he finished, he turned to talk with Andy and Bert.

“Half a dozen army pursuit planes, fully equipped for combat, will drop
down here tomorrow morning,” he said. “They’ll remain until the Goliath
is ready to take the air and after that at least two of them will
accompany the big ship on all of its trial flights. In addition, an
anti-aircraft battery with complete night lighting equipment will arrive
before sundown tomorrow.”

“That ought to insure us against the success of any attack from the
air,” said Andy.

“From the air, yes,” conceded Timms, “but our danger will lie from an
attack within. Everyone who comes on the reservation from now on will be
doubly checked.”

By ten o’clock that night every possible precaution to safeguard the
Goliath had been taken. The military guard around the grounds of the
National Airways reservation had been doubled, and extra watchmen had
been placed at the hangar. It didn’t seem humanly possible for anyone to
get within the lines without discovery.

Descriptions of the mysterious plane had been broadcast hourly from the
principal radio stations and a mass of information had been received,
telegrams having been relayed from the radio stations to which they had
been sent.

These messages were checked, one by one, against the large map which had
been hung on one wall of Andy’s office. On this map had been worked out
the probable course of the strange plane. It had come out of the
northeast, swung over the home of the Goliath, and then darted away in a
southeasterly direction, heading toward the mountains.

Telegrams which failed to indicate a plane in this general line of
flight were consigned to the wastebasket. The few that might furnish
information were studied carefully but in a majority of cases the
description of the plane which the sender of the message had seen failed
to come close to that of the machine they sought.

Timms found several messages which appeared worth telephone calls to the
senders but on each occasion he was doomed to disappointment.

“I thought you said we’d have some definite news before midnight,” he
told Bert.

“There’s nearly two more hours,” replied the radio operator hopefully. “I
won’t concede defeat until the last minute.”

Timms snorted and turned to another handful of telegrams that had just
been forwarded. He was half-way through the pile when an exclamation
brought Andy and Bert to his side.

“Read that,” said the secret service agent, tossing a yellow sheet to

The message had been sent from Alden, a small town in the mountains of
southeast Kentucky.

“Plane crashed near here early tonight. Description appears to tally
with that broadcast. From wreckage it must have been a low-winged
monoplane, painted gray. No trace found of pilot.” The message was
signed by Frank Hacke, editor, the Alden Advocate.

“Who said the radio wouldn’t bring results?” demanded Bert. “This message
looks like a real tip.”

“It does,” agreed Timms, reaching for the phone and placing a long
distance call for the editor of the Alden paper.

Half an hour elapsed before the operator was able to get the call
through and Timms fumed with impatience. When the wire was finally
cleared for his conversation, he fairly leaped at the telephone.
Question after question was fired over the wire and Andy and Bert, from
the very tenseness of Timms’ attitude, knew that the secret service man
was getting valuable information. His final words were highly

“I’ll be there as soon as possible. If I can fly in, have auto lights
turned on to mark the boundaries of a field that is safe for a landing.”

Timms banged the receiver on the hook and turned to Andy and Bert.

“We’ve found the wreckage of the gray plane,” he said. “It smacked into
the side of a mountain about three miles from Alden. The editor of the
paper was one of the first ones to reach the scene but they were unable
to find any trace of the pilot. We’ve got to get to Alden at once for we
mustn’t let that flyer get away. He’s the man who is slated to bring
about the actual destruction of the Goliath.”

The words rang through Andy’s head. The pilot had somehow escaped in the
crash. It was possible to crack up a ship without injury but it was more
likely that the man they sought had jumped while the plane was in
flight, drifting down in his chute and leaving the plane to crash to its
own destruction.

Andy heard Timms asking if he could fly him to Alden that night. He
replied almost mechanically and then hastened out of the office and down
the field to rout out several mechanics, who rolled his red sportster
out on the concrete apron and checked it thoroughly. The motor sent
echoes blasting through the stillness of the night as Andy himself
tested it.

He was joined several minutes later by Bert and the secret service

Timms climbed into the forward cockpit and Bert started to crowd in with

“Sorry, Bert,” called Andy. “You’ll have to stay on the ground this
trip. The Ace is only a two-place job and I can’t afford to overtax its
capacity tonight. I’ll need all my speed and climbing ability in dodging
over the mountains.”

Bert was keenly disappointed but he knew the truth of Andy’s words and
he dropped back to the ground.

“I’ll warn Alden that you’re coming by air,” he said, “and they’ll be
sure to have a field marked in some way.”

“Fine,” yelled Andy. “See you tomorrow.”

Flame licked around the exhaust vent of the motor as Andy opened the
throttle. The Ace came to life with a quick flirt of its tail. The
riding lights gleamed sharply in the night; then were swallowed in the
haze of dirt swept up from the field by the wash of the propeller.

Alden was just a little under an hour of fast flying from Bellevue and
Andy opened the Ace up until they were skimming through the half clear
night at a hundred and twenty miles an hour. The lights of Bellevue
disappeared as if blotted out by the hand of an unseen giant and they
were alone in the sky.

Andy had plotted a compass course and he followed it closely for Alden
was tucked away in the mountains and he could easily miss the village if
slightly off course.

By the end of the first half hour the clouds had cleared and a thin moon
tried vainly to dissipate the blackness of the night. Lights on the
ground were few and far between with midnight almost at hand. The air
was raw and Andy snuggled deeper into the sheepskin he had donned for
the trip. He checked the time and compass again. Alden should show on
the horizon any moment if his calculations were correct. Another two
minutes passed and he sighted a glow of light to the left. He nosed the
Ace over and dropped lower.

Lights below flashed on and off. He blinked his riding lights and those
on the ground answered. There was no way of detecting the direction of
the light wind and Andy had to take a chance that there were no bad
ground currents. He skimmed over the field to determine its length. It
appeared to be on a side-hill for level stretches of land were few and
far between in that section of the state. The field was long enough for
an easy landing and he cut the motor and slid down the invisible trail.

He was going in too fast and he opened the throttle and zoomed into the
sky for another try. The second time he stalled all the way down,
drifted over the top of the car whose lights marked the near end of the
field, and dropped to an easy landing. He swung the Ace around and
taxied back over the uneven field. A group was waiting when they climbed
down from the cockpits.

Fred Hacke, the editor, stepped up and introduced himself. With him was
Sheriff Jud Barnes, a six foot two man of the mountains who was proud of
his great, booming voice.

“Get in my car,” said the sheriff, “and I’ll run you over to the hill
where that airplane busted.”

For half an hour they bounced over a rough mountain road and were glad
enough when the sheriff stopped the car and led the way through a patch
of timber. The grade was steep and they were compelled to rest several
times. Finally they came to a small clearing, crossed this and just
beyond saw a darker mass against the trees. The sheriff turned his
flashlight on a tangled pile of cloth and metal, the broken remnants of
the machine Andy had chased only a few hours before.

The editor and his party came up and they made a thorough inspection of
the wreckage. Motor numbers and the name of the maker had been filed
away, the plates on the fuselage had been removed and every means of
absolute identification taken off. In spite of this Andy and the secret
service agent were positive that the plane was of Rubanian make and that
an agent of the Gerka had been at the controls when it had been sighted
at Bellevue.

“We haven’t found the flyer yet,” said the sheriff. “Maybe he spilled
out somewhere before the wreck. We’ll search the hills in the morning.”

“I don’t think it will do any good,” replied Andy. “The chap that was
flying this machine undoubtedly took to his parachute. He may have
landed some miles away. If the controls were locked before he jumped,
the ship could have cruised alone for three or four minutes on a quiet
night like this.”

“We’ll have a look anyway,” said the sheriff, and Andy and Timms decided
to remain at least until noon to see if the searching parties discovered
anything of importance.

They returned to Alden, took a room at the hotel, and slept until dawn.
Andy went out to the field where they had landed and went over the Ace
carefully while Timms accompanied the sheriff into the hills.

The secret service agent returned at noon and announced that the search
had proved fruitless. There were no more clues, either at the scene of
the wreck or in the nearby hills, and they decided to return to Bellevue
at once.

Andy got the Ace off the improvised airport without trouble and they
headed for home through the bright rays of the spring sun. As they sped
over the tree-covered hills, Andy flew mechanically, his mind busy on
the new problem which confronted them. There was no question now. The
Goliath was in serious danger and every means at their command must be
used to protect the great airship, destruction of which would mean the
ruin of the National Airways, which had invested millions in its
construction. But more than the mere financial loss which it would mean
was the month of labor by the loyal crew, the years of planning on the
part of his father and Captain Harkins, and his own love for the great

An attack from the air was improbable for the Rubanian agent had wrecked
his own plane deliberately. Whatever happened would be caused by someone
who had easy access to the hangar and Andy resolved that he would be
doubly vigilant in the days to come.