BILL’S WAY

The moment that the match struck the water found Bill wriggling across
the deck like a sand-eel. The red tip of the cigarette in the man’s
mouth glowed and waned as he drew in the smoke. A bright point in the
darkness, it moved forward, and in its soft luster Bill could
distinguish the shiny peak and white linen top of the man’s yachting
cap, beneath which his face was a dim brown blur. Everything else was in
black obscurity.

As quickly as a cat, Bill slipped down the ladder and, pressing his body
against the side of the yacht, lay motionless. It was unlikely that the
man would descend, for Bill had seen no boat tethered at the tiny square
stage below. And now he prayed that this yacht’s officer would not
select the spot directly above him to pause for contemplation of the
night sky.

The man drew nearer, hesitated, as if halted by the sound of talk in the
saloon below, then passed on. The slow tread of his rubber soles grew
fainter, and Bill knew that he had strolled to the other side of the
deck. Now was his chance. For an instant he glanced down at the dinghy.
That would be the easier way, but—well, there was no telling what might
happen if he went ashore.

He hastily unlaced his shoes, stuffed them in his coat pocket, and
bending low, ran lightly along the deck toward the door whence the
officer had emerged. Down the companionway he darted and at the bottom
found himself in a narrow passage which bisected this part of the yacht
fore and aft. Being familiar with this type of craft, he guessed that
the passage ran forward from the saloon where Slim and Sanders were
still conferring, to the galley and the crew’s quarters. On either side
were the closed doors of the cabins. He listened for a second at the
door nearest the stairs, turned the knob and pushed it open.

“That you, Petersen?” inquired a sleepy voice from within the dark
cabin.

“The owner wants young Evans in the saloon,” growled Bill, trusting that
his voice sounded not too unlike Petersen’s, who he guessed was
finishing his smoke on deck. He was without weapon of any kind. If the
man in the cabin became suspicious, he must run for it.

He heard a prodigious yawn. “Well, I ain’t that kid’s nurse,” he
grumbled. “You ought to know, he’s in Number 3. The key’s in the door.
Fetch him yourself. High tide’s at two bells and we shove off then. For
the love of Mike, get out of here and let me catch forty winks!”

Bill hurriedly closed the door and looked around for Number 3. There was
a night light burning in the passage and by its dim rays he soon found
the cabin, just forward of the companionway. He unlocked it, slipped
inside and shut the door after him.

“Say!” piped a shrill voice, and one that he recognized this time.
“What’s the big idea? For the twenty-seventh time I’ll tell you I don’t
know where my father is—and I care less. Beat it, and let a feller
sleep!”

“Pipe down, Charlie, it’s Bill!”

“_Bill!_” almost shrieked the boy. “Gee whizz, but I’m glad you’ve come.
It’s so dark in here—I thought—”

“Never mind what you thought. Hustle it up, kid—we’ve got to get out of
here in a hurry.”

“Wait till I get my clothes on—”

Bill felt rather than saw the small figure beside him and caught
Charlie’s arm. “No time for clothes. You’re wearing something—what is
it?”

“One of old Sanders’ nightshirts,” Charlie ruefully returned. “It’s a
million sizes too big—as usual, they chuck anything at a—”

“Who do you think you are—” whispered Bill, “the Prince of Wales?”

He pulled Charlie toward the door, opened it and looked out. Someone was
coming down the companionway, whistling Yankee Doodle and flatting
horribly. Bill jerked back, kept the cabin door on a crack and waited.
Presently a door further down the passage slammed and Yankee Doodle was
suddenly and mercifully cut short.

Bill wasted no time. Into the corridor, followed by Charlie, he sprang.
Number 3 was hurriedly locked and the two ran up the companionway, their
bare feet making no noise on the brass-bound rubber treads. Both lads
leapt across the deck, slithered into the dinghy and pushed off.

The tide was on the flood and made a splashing noise against the hull
sufficient to muffle the click of the oars as Bill dropped them into the
row-locks. Gritting his teeth, he took three or four long strokes and
then sat still. In the swing of the tide the dinghy drifted silently
away from the vessel, and was lost among other crafts at anchor nearby.

They gave the yacht a wide berth, one lad at the oars, the other
crouched in the stern of the rowboat. Bill used its lights, however, to
get his bearings on the pier steps. He half expected some angry
yachtsman to be waiting with threats to wring his neck for such
bare-faced robbery. They were still a couple of hundred yards off the
wharf when a sea-going tug swung round the riding lights of an anchored
sloop. Bill heard the clang of the engine room bell, and almost directly
the powerful craft slowed down, her propeller blades churning the water
to foam. A voice hailed them from the deck forward.

“Dinghy ahoy! Scull over here and let’s see who ye are!”

“Who wants to know?” piped up Charlie.

“The Stamford Harbor Police Patrol wants ter know, sonny—that’s who.
Give us no more of your lip. Come aboard and let’s see what ye got in
that there rowboat!”

“Coming!” said Bill, and pulled toward the tug which was drifting slowly
with the tide.

They were but a few yards off her side when a blinding light struck the
dinghy.

“Why didn’t ye get that dum thing workin’ before, Pat?” growled another
voice above their heads. “Them ain’t the guys we’re lookin’ for. There
ain’t no booze aboard that dinghy—nothin’ but a couple o’ lads. An’ one
of em’s stole his grandmother’s night shirt.”

“Grandmother, your eye!” sang out Charlie, who knew he looked
ridiculous, and was in no mood to appreciate the tug crew’s laughter.

“Shut up, kid,” ordered Bill, and then in a louder voice: “We are
looking for the police. There’s worse than booze-running going on out
here tonight. Any objection to our coming aboard?”

“Come aboard, bub—tell us yer troubles.”

They were helped overside by a man in trousers and a cotton undershirt.
Upon closer inspection he proved to be a short and stubby individual
with very black eyes and hair and a round face badly in need of a shave.

“An’ now what’s the matter?” he asked.

“Are you in command of this craft?”

“I am, young man. Sergeant Duffy’s the name. Now let’s have yer
monikers—an’ all about it.”

“My name is Bolton, I live in New Canaan,” began Bill.

“What? Not the midshipman whose name was in all the papers fer capturin’
that pirate liner!”

“I guess,” said Bill, “I have to plead guilty to the charge.”

Sergeant Duffy shook him warmly by the hand. “I recognize ye now from
the pictures,” he beamed. “I’m glad to meet ye, sor. It’s an honor, it
is…. An’ the young man wid ye—he’ll be Charlie Evans, if I’m not
mistaken? Where in the seven seas did ye locate the lad? His father had
his kidnappin’ broadcasted t’night, but it said them fellies had got him
away down east—Clayton, Maine, was the place.”

“Well, I found him locked up aboard that yacht, the one that’s showing
lights over there.”

“The _Katrina_?”

“I didn’t know her name—”

“The _Katrina’s_ right,” cut in Charlie.

“A feller by the name of Sanders is owner,” offered the Sergeant. “He
lives on Shippan Point.”




“That,” said Bill, “is the guy. Anyway, he’s in cahoots with Slim
Johnson, the gangster whom I saw murder a man called Hank tonight.
They’re both on board the _Katrina_ now, and I have every reason to
believe that Sanders was the brains of von Hiemskirk’s pirate gang. That
yacht, by the way, is shoving off for Maine at the turn of the tide.”

“Oh, no, she ain’t—” declared the policeman. “By gorry, we’ll attend to
the _Katrina_ in a jiffy. I’m sendin’ ye ashore wid Kelly. He’s got to
call up headquarters, and you can ’phone Mr. Evans at the same time.”

“Can’t we go with you and see the fun?” begged Charlie.

“No, ye can’t, young man. Ye’re my responsibility now, and the two of ye
have had enough excitement fer tonight, I’ll be thinkin’.”

“We’re very much obliged to you, Sergeant,” said Bill, shaking hands
again.

Sergeant Duffy shook his bullet head. “It’s me who’s thankin’ you, sor.
This is big business in our line. It’s the chanct I’ve been waitin’ more
than five years for. It will mean my lieutenancy, Mister Bolton. And
just remember, sor, if any o’ thim dumb motorcycle cops hold ye up fer
speedin’ any time, tell ’em you’re a friend o’ Duffy’s! If they don’t
let ye go, I’ll break ’em.”

Bill grinned and nodded and they hurried overside into the dinghy where
a husky policeman was already at the oars.

“Beat it, Kelly,” Duffy flung after them, “and ’phone the chief to break
out a bunch of his flat-feet and get ’em down to the wharf on the run.
Now you men,” they heard him say as they drew away from the patrol boat,
“rip them covers off the guns and git under way. The _Katrina_ over
yonder’s got a bunch o’ murderin’ kidnappers on her, and we’re the lads
what will run ’em in the cells, sure as Saint Patrick run the snakes out
o’ the old country!”

The wharf was deserted. After knotting the dinghy’s painter to an iron
ringbolt, the lads followed Kelly across the rough planking to the small
shack Bill had hidden behind while watching Slim Johnson.

Kelly produced a key and went inside. From the doorway they heard him
call Police Headquarters and pour forth the sergeant’s message into the
’phone.

“Well, Bill,” said Charlie, “you certainly handed Sanders and his bunch
a red hot wallop. What will they do to them, do you think?”

“Murder is a hanging matter in this state, Charlie, and kidnapping means
a long term in state’s prison. When Sanders and Company get through with
that, there will still be a federal charge of piracy against them on the
Flying Fish job that we cleaned up a few weeks ago.” He broke off as
Kelly came out and told him he could use the ’phone. Two minutes later,
he had Mr. Evans on the wire.

“Bill Bolton speaking, sir,” he said. “I’ve found Charlie. He’s safe and
sound and with me now.”

“Thank God!” Bill heard him exclaim, and went on talking.

“I’m sorry I was so rude earlier this evening,” he apologized. “I
misjudged you, sir.”

“I understand how you felt, Bill. But I’d already broadcasted the boy’s
abduction when you called, and—but never mind about that now. Where are
you, and what’s happened?”

Bill gave him a hurried resume of the evening’s adventures.

“Sanders,” said Charlie’s father, “got one thing wrong. I wasn’t
transporting that gold to Europe in the _Merrymaid_. It was bound for
two banks in New Orleans—ten million dollars of it. The reason I didn’t
call in the police was not because I feared Federal censure, but because
I was afraid if Sanders was frightened, he would drop depth bombs on the
place and scatter the gold so that no one could find it. I knew it had
been sunk by von Hiemskirk and his pirates somewhere off Twin Heads, but
had no idea it was in the harbor. Now we’ll get it easily enough. And
that reminds me, Deborah telephoned half an hour ago. Osceola found
Sanders’ headquarters this afternoon. He had an armed camp in the woods
across the harbor from Turner’s. The chief got the State’s police on the
job and tonight they captured the place and every man-jack of them
except Sanders, who you say is aboard his yacht down here—”

“Wait a minute,” interrupted Bill. He listened while Kelly called to him
from the open doorway. “The policeman with us,” he continued, “says the
_Katrina_ has been taken. He can see the prisoners being moved aboard
the patrol boat. He also tells me he will run us up town in his flivver.
Goodbye for the present. I’ll have Charlie with you just as soon as we
can get there.”

Five minutes later, while they were being driven toward the heart of
Stamford in the police car, Charlie turned to his friend.

“Gee whizz, Bill, I clean forgot to thank you for getting me away from
that gang!”

Bill laughed. “Don’t mention it, kid. You’d do the same for me any day,
I know.”

Charlie smiled complacently. “I sure would, Bill,” he declared, “but
take it from me, if you’re going to get kidnapped, bring a pair of
pajamas along—these nightshirts make a monkey out of a man!”

Those who have enjoyed this book and Bill’s previous adventures, _Bill
Bolton—Flying Midshipman_, and _Bill Bolton and The Flying Fish_, will
be sure to find even more to interest them in the next book of this
series,—_Bill Bolton and The Winged Cartwheels_.