A PACKAGE OF MONEY

Before they reached the aircraft plant toward which they pedaled with
all their power, Bob, Curt and Al saw a light flare up.

“That’s the flying field ready for a hop,” panted Al. “Hurry!”

“Do you think it could be Lang?” Curt asked.

“Who else?” Bob retorted, pedaling faster.

“There’s nobody at the gate,” Curt called. They were near enough to see
the open gateway.

“The watchman’s helping with chocks and spinning the prop.”

Bob, increasing his pedal revolutions, forging ahead, spoke over his
shoulder.

“Wait!” called Curt. “What are you going to do?”

“Find out——”

“No! Wait!”

Bob slowed up his pedals, permitting the bicycle to coast along as the
modern, free-wheeling automobile runs when the foot is removed from the
accelerator pedal. Curt caught up to him. In a moment, as they
approached the gate, Al came up also.

“Don’t let him see you at all,” warned Curt. “Better wait and ask the
watchman after he’s gone. You’ll find out more, that way.”

It was good advice, and Bob agreed to act on it.

They hid the bicycles, in case it turned out that Lang had not left the
ground. Careful not to disclose themselves, they watched at the gate as
the engine of the sport model owned by Griff was warmed up. In the flood
of light on the runway they recognized Lang as the pilot, and watched
him adjust flying helmet and leather jacket, get into the craft, test
the instruments, checking carefully, and then get his wind direction
from the windsock, which told that the light Summer breeze was from the
South. The watchman swung the tail around, set the chocks again for a
final test. Lang “gave her the gun,” to see if everything was hitting
perfectly, signaled for the chocks to be removed, and since his craft
was correctly headed into the wind the airplane taxied, gaining speed,
and rose swiftly into the dark.

Hardly waiting for the flood to be extinguished, the trio of amateur
detectives hailed the watchman.

“Too late to see Lang take off,” greeted Bob. “He didn’t say why he
hopped at night did he?”

“Yeah, he did! He’s going off to see his uncle about something.”

“That’s funny,” Al argued, under his breath, to Curt.

“Certainly is,” Curt agreed.

“Thanks,” Bob spoke to the watchman. “As long as we’re here,” he turned
to his chums. “Let’s bring in our bikes and get some more of those books
on metal alloys Barney told us about.”

“The boss is here, himself,” the watchman explained. “Go ahead.”

Barney was working late!

“His office is lighted,” Al commented. “Let’s stop in and tell him about
the note and the autograph.”

“And about Lang.”

“He must know Lang hopped off,” Curt told Bob.

“Yes—the crate made enough noise—unless he’s awfully busy.”

Barney was busy enough, but he had heard the take-off, he admitted.

“I’m trying to check up on the firm’s books.” Barney waved a hand toward
the pile of heavy volumes, ledgers, daybooks, indexes and others,
scattered on his desk. “I can’t find out what way they’re doing it, but
something’s being ‘worked’ about the materials.”

“So Sandy told me this morning,” Al stated.

“Well, I can’t find it,” he pushed three of the smaller books into a
large lower desk drawer, and turned, mysteriously smiling. “How do you
like this idea?” he asked. “I’ll put a few books aside, and then, when
the staff comes in, tomorrow, I’ll see how the bookkeeper and Parsons
take it. If there’s anything ‘flim-flammy’ about them, they will show it
when they miss the books.”

“That’s dandy!” agreed Al.

“What do you figure on doing now?” Barney asked.

“Why—nothing special,” said Bob. “We thought if Lang was flying over to
see Father, that would take him about three hours—or four, and he
wouldn’t get back here before morning, so there’s no use waiting for him
to come back here. But—we haven’t anything special to do, except go to
call on Sandy’s son, Jimmy-junior.”

“Why not ‘stick around’ here?” suggested Barney. “For awhile, at least.
I don’t want to be mixed up in anything, but if anybody should come
slinking around, I’d like to know it—as long as you have nothing much on
hand?”

“Let’s!” urged Al.

“Suits me,” Curt agreed. Bob was willing.

“Why not put out all the lights, and just hang around in the dark for an
hour?” suggested Barney.

They agreed readily enough, and felt quite like conspirators or real
sleuths on a big case as they occupied easy chairs in the big
“directors’ room” and talked in low tones.

Their vigil was soon rewarded.

Footsteps, sounding without effort at concealment, in the corridor,
caused all three comrades to become tense and alert.

Bob felt a hand clutch his arm, and almost called out in his nervous
reaction until he realized that Curt was whispering:

“Hide!”

Al, already at his other side, was anxious.

“How? Where?” he said quickly but softly.

“Behind the chairs.”

However, hardly had they gotten into concealment when they realized that
there was no need to hide; the steps went briskly past the door and on,
down the hallway.

“Now what?” asked Al as a door opened and slammed.

At the door to the hall Curt turned, waiting until the other two joined
him, he spoke quietly.

“You wait here,” he urged. “I’m lightest—and quickest, I think. Let me
go on down and ‘snoop’ a little. He slammed the door so hard it jumped
open a little—it’s Barney’s office!”

“Barney? He—do you suppose?—” Al was puzzled. “He told us to wait,
though——”

“It’s never Barney. I’ll soon see——”

Curt was gone, tiptoeing, clinging close to the inner wall, where, he
felt sure, the boards were so sturdy and well secured that they would be
unlikely to creak.

In suspense his companions waited.

Soon, in the dim hall, they saw Curt returning.

“It’s—it’s—Mr. Parsons!”

“What’s he doing?” Al was eager.

“Hunting for something.”

“Those books, I’ll give you odds on it!” Bob spoke softly.

They waited, uncertain what to do—in fact, there was nothing they could
do but wait.

They had only a moment to decide. Down the hall, from the stairway, came
other steps; the chums drew back inside the doorway. They let Curt peer
out.

“It’s Griff, this time!” he informed the others. “He’s coming to meet
his—no he isn’t! Get back! Hide!”

Hesitating steps paused but before there was any further movement Curt,
Al and Bob were well screened from any but a careful search in full
light.

They were glad, this time, they had gotten under cover. Griff did not go
to meet his father!

Instead he came into the directors’ room, at least as far as inside its
door, where, a faint blotch against a very dull oblong of weak light,
Bob saw him standing, watchful.

“Shucks!” thought Al, “we can’t find out about Mr. Parsons on account
of——”

They did not hear anything; but evidently the youth watching at the door
did, for he came further into the room. Would he decide to hide? Might
he choose the spot already occupied by one of the youths?

Their suspense was relieved! He waited inside the doorway, and it was a
wait of a long, dragging three or four minutes that seemed like an age
to the crouching trio; but finally he walked out, his step confident and
loud, showing that need for concealment was over.

Quickly the three reached the door. Already, as they peered out, a light
was glowing, but not electric ceiling domes—it was a pocket flash held
close to something in Mr. Parsons’ own office.

Like shadows the three, arms touching, went down the hall. They could
not contain their suspense. At an open door, partly drawn shut but not
locked, they stopped. Looking through the crack, hardly daring to
breathe or move, they saw Griff fit a key to his father’s desk, open it,
take something from a small drawer—and walk confidently, if slowly,
to—the safe in the corner!

Before it his light was held low, close. He was manipulating the knobs
of the combination. As the partner’s son he had access to it, the chums
realized. They forgot some of their caution but not all; they peered
closely in through the crack of the door—and saw——

“Phew!” breathed Al, “he’s got—a package—of—money!”