Bill sent the amphibian roaring into the night wind, pulled her off the
rippling waters of the harbor and skimming the twin bluffs at the
entrance, sent his bus speeding seaward. A bank to starboard brought Pig
Island dead ahead and Bill saw that the moon glare, playing on the
islet, threw every detail into bold relief. On the instant he changed
his plan.

Counting on the heavy cloud formation which was slowly spreading upward
from the east, his first idea had been to land near the shore, and after
securing the plane on one of the beaches, to rush the besiegers under
cover of darkness. Now that the moonlight doomed such procedure to
certain failure, he proceeded to climb.

At six hundred feet, he leveled off and sent the _Loening_ speeding in a
circle around the island. The house, a one-story bungalow, built of
native stone with hollow tile roof, stood on a craggy knoll near the
center of the island. Bill saw that this slight eminence held unusual
factors of defense. Not only was it impossible to look down on the house
from any other point on the island, but the rocky ground sloped steeply
on all sides from the top of the knoll. The one bad feature of the place
was the number of large boulders nature had splattered up and down the
incline. Behind twelve or fifteen of these big stones and completely
ringing the little fortress above them, crouched the party of armed men.

As he circled, Bill saw the flashes from the gangster’s rifles and the
answering flashes from the house. He noticed that there was method in
the attack, and one that was likely to succeed in the capture of the
bungalow. There would come a spurt of firing from one section of the
attacking group on the hill, which naturally drew the two in the house
to that side in order to repel a possible assault. Immediately the men
on the farther side, out of range from the house, would dash ahead to
take refuge behind boulders further up the knoll. Once under new cover,
they would start a fusillade which gave the men on the opposite side a
chance to advance. Three of the gang kept together and every time they
moved, they picked up a heavy log and carted it up to the next boulder.
It was evident that once Sanders got his crew well up to the house,
these men, covered by the fire of their companions, would dash forward
and batter in the door with their ram.

Three bodies lying stark on the hillside bespoke the courage and
straight shooting of the besieged, but the rush must come soon, and the
ultimate capture of the place was inevitable. “Unless we get busy—and
get busy pronto!” muttered Bill.

He gave a lightning glance behind him. Ezra Parker and Osceola were
firing from the rear cockpit, but so far without apparent result. To hit
an object on the ground with a rifle bullet from a speeding airplane is
a difficult feat, but Bill knew that the odds were against the
gangsters. For it is even more difficult to hit an airplane in flight,
that is, if she is being driven by an experienced pilot.

Much to the disgust of Osceola, who did not understand the manœuver,
Bill levelled off and headed out to sea. A quarter of a mile from the
island, he turned in his seat, and having attracted Parker’s attention,
mouthed the words—“_Hold fast!_”

The two who were squeezed in the small cockpit aft nodded their
understanding. For an instant or two longer Bill waited, then assured
that they were secure, he sent the plane into a wingover. This manœuver
is essentially a climbing turn followed by a diving turn, the two
aggregating 180 degrees. The engine is kept running and control is
maintained throughout.

A wingover is entered from level flight. At first it is merely a normal
turn in which the nose is gradually raised, and slipping and skidding
are to be avoided as usual. Elevation of the nose may be commenced
simultaneously with the application of the bank. If so, the stick must
be pulled back very slowly at first, as otherwise a stall will result
and the wingover will be unsatisfactory. In flight training, unless the
student’s judgment is particularly accurate, it is advisable for him to
delay elevation of the nose until a bank of 15 to 20 degrees has been

Bill steadily increased the bank until the amphibian was in a fairly
steep reverse control turn with the nose well above the horizon, and
headed approximately 90 degrees from his original course. He then gave
the plane down rudder.

Inasmuch as a fairly good speed had been obtained, very little rudder
was needed. Had the plane’s speed been close to the stalling point, he
would have used more. At the same time Bill was careful to use the
ailerons firmly to prevent the bank from increasing.

As the nose dropped below the horizon in response to the rudder, the
plane assumed the position of a steep reverse control spiral, except
that the engine was running. He kept it momentarily in this position;
then as it approached a heading of 180 degrees from the entering course,
he recovered as if from a spiral, at the same time raising the plane’s
nose to level.

The entire manœuver of the wingover was executed, of course, in a
fraction of the time it takes to describe it. Bill used it solely
because he wished to bring the amphibian back on a course headed for the
house on the island in the least time possible. He now waved a hand to
his companions to make ready. Then he picked up the rifle he’d been
sitting on, rested its barrel on the cowl of the cockpit and pushed
forward the stick.

Over went the nose and down shot the plane in a breath-catching dive to
be leveled off with a jerk, just beyond the breakers. Then with all
three rifles pouring streams of spitting fire, Bill sent the airplane
hurtling across the knoll at an altitude of less than ten feet above the
heads of the cowering gangsters.

Up zoomed the amphibian on the farther side of the hill, gained altitude
over the water, did another wingover and swept back across the knoll,
but this time behind the house.

Again and again Bill repeated these telling evolutions. First one side,
then the other was raked with fire from the plane. Then he would zoom
the house itself in order to further confuse the besiegers.

On the plane’s eighth trip, Sanders’ forces broke. Flesh and blood could
no longer stand this death-dealing hail of lead from a plane impossible
to hit. Dragging their wounded with them, the routed gangsters dashed
pell mell down to the shore. They piled into two motorboats beached in a
cove and in less than no time, these two crafts were racing toward the
mainland with everything wide open.

Bill let them go. Defense of the old man and the girl in the house on
the hill was one thing: the shooting down of cowed men huddled in a
couple of boats quite another. When he was convinced that the rout was a
permanent fact, he landed the plane on the water, taxied into the same
sandy cove from which the gunmen had departed, and beached her.

Deborah was waiting on the sand for them. Osceola was the first
overboard and a moment later the two were clasped in each other’s arms.

Bill grinned at Ezra. “So far,” he said, “as you and I are concerned,
well, we might be a couple of other rocks for all they mind!”

“That’s all right,” returned the older man as they went about making the
plane secure. “They’re in love. We don’t exist for them just now. Don’t
be so superior—you’ll be that way yourself some day!”

“Not me,” scoffed Bill.

“Oh, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I was like you before the
right girl came along. I don’t suppose you’ve thought any more about the
orders Sanders gave you?”

“You mean, not to interfere any more with his plans and to report to
that guy in Stamford?”

“Yes. And this little adventure has torn the first part of that to

“You mean the consequences to Charlie of course—”

“Just that. Sanders will now take it for granted you’ve decided to stick
to the ship in spite of his threats. There’s no use crying over the milk
we’ve spilt tonight, lad. We had a job to do, and I’m throwin’ no
bouquets when I tell you it was done noble! Too bad we couldn’t have
wiped out the entire crew while we were about it. By the way, I didn’t
spot His Nibs in that gang, did you?”

“No, Sanders wasn’t with his men. Guess distance lends enchantment with
Mr. Sanders when there’s a good chance of stopping lead! That guy hires
men to do his fighting. Take it from me, he is sound asleep in his
little white bed, wherever that may be—and I only wish I knew where!”

“That,” said Ezra with a chuckle, “is a worthy thought—but it doesn’t
get us any forrider with the matter in hand, does it?”

Bill was silent for a moment. Vaguely conscious that the rising cloud
formation had at last obscured the moon, and the darkness after the
brilliant moonlight seemed inky black, he wracked his brain for a means
to outwit their enemy.

Suddenly he laughed. “What a pack of blithering idiots we are!” he
almost shouted. “Look here, Ezra! Sanders doesn’t know I was in the bus.
It’s dollars to a penny postage stamp, he thinks I’m asleep in my own
bed at Turner’s!”

“Maybe. That is, if he doesn’t send someone in there again to-night to
find out.”

“Not Sanders. That guy has a Jehovah complex. He knows he’s a world
beater and doesn’t hide his knowledge under any bushel, either. Why,
he’s so sure he put cold, naked fear into me he’d bet on it!”

“You’re probably right,” agreed Ezra. “He’s been over to my dump a
couple of times. He’s got one of those Buhl-Verville Airsters, with a
man to chauffeur him ’round. Nice little job, too. A three-place
biplane—he can fold the wings back. When they’re folded, the hangar
space required is only 9 feet by 13½ feet by 25!”

“That,” commented Bill, “is very likely the reason he picked on it—handy
bus to hide. But what has a Buhl-Verville CW3 got to do with the price
of spinach?”

“Nothin’, except your high-hat friend had me up to fix one of his shock
absorbers. They’re of the Oleo rubber disc type on those crates. You
see, under loading conditions, these rubber discs are in compression and
an internal perforated plunger piston simultaneously travels into a
loaded oil chamber at the lower end of the strut—”

“And,” interrupted Bill, “this absorbs the impact energy and neutralizes
the effect of the rebound, which is so prevalent with the ordinary
rubber spring shock absorbers. It cushions the landing shocks to the
extent of saving the whole airplane structure from strains which are
occasioned by shocks in bad landings over rough ground!”

“You win,” laughed Parker. “Up here in this out-of-the-way neck of the
woods one forgets that there are other idiots crazy enough to waste time
messing ’round with airbusses.”

“Thanks! But—”

“Oh, nothing. I got off the track, as usual. Just wanted to say that I
got so gol-darned mad at that uppish little groundhog, Sanders, the last
time he came ’round bellyachin’ ’bout the job I done on his shock
absorbers—and all because his chauffeur got his training from a
correspondence course—I told him to get out and stay out. No, he wasn’t
on deck tonight—I’d know him a mile away!”

“Well, you said that before. So we’ll take it for granted that if I hop
down to Stamford tomorrow and give that bozo Johnson an earful, he won’t
start in making it nasty for Charlie in the meantime.”

“I think,” said Ezra, “we can be reasonably sure that he won’t. And now
you and I had better get up the hill and help Jim with the—er—dear

“And while we’re about that, I’m going to wake up the lovers. You may
not be hungry, but I can eat a horse. If Deborah is as good at cooking
now that she has her little Indian Chief, as she was before he came to
divert her mind from worthwhile things, maybe we can get her to scare up
a meal.”

“What about Charlie? We’ve got to get that kid away from the gang just
as soon as we can.”

“Of course we must. But I can think better when my stomach isn’t so
doggone empty. Charlie is safe until the deadline that Sanders gave me.
Now for the Seminoles. Lucky they’re not on their natural habitat—you
and I would get a tomahawk between the eyes—eh, Osceola?” he cried.