THE “WINDSOCK”

For Al the trail ended abruptly after a walk of a mile. The stranger,
whose face, with its heavy beard, Al could not dare get close enough to
identify—even if he knew it!—hailed a passing automobile, asked for a
“lift” and was taken in. That concluded Al’s chances of following
because no other car came along. Dejectedly he returned to the aircraft
plant to discover that some one, perhaps the watchman, had closed the
gate. There was nothing left for him to do but to go to the main gate,
call the attendant and get his bicycle. His friends were gone, the man
assured him, and Al had no excuse to stay there.

Dejectedly, feeling that he had been close to a clue and that it had
slipped through his hands by his “bad break,” Al rode home.

Curt’s trail took him, eventually, to the Parsons cottage. Seeing the
car drawn up before the garage, Curt decided that he had no need to
watch the car being put into the garage; evidently its driver had gone
into his home for a moment first. Curt rode away. Had he waited his
trail would have led further; but he did not guess that!

Bob had better fortune.

He saved his strength as he pedaled along, well ahead of his two less
fortunate trailmates, and when he came to a cross street of the suburbs
where a policeman was directing traffic Bob drew up beside the officer.

“Hello, Bob!” the policeman hailed. “Out sort of late, hey?”

“Yes, Mr. O’Brien. I stayed at the plant—I’m learning how they put
airplanes together at the Tredway plant. I wanted to ask if you noticed
a motorcycle, not long ago—maybe fifteen minutes—a friend——”

“Yes,” the officer, starting the cars down the street by a wave of his
hand, did not wait for an explanation of Bob’s reason for the question,
“Griff Parsons rode by.”

“That’s who I mean. Did he turn off, here, to go home?”

Bob knew that Griff’s house was several blocks over, on an up-and-down
street that was “one way” for traffic. If Griff had turned here Bob’s
quest, he knew, was over; if he did not, Griff would be gone much
further, because if he did not turn here, and thus enter his own home
street in the right direction he surely would not go on and approach it
in the wrong way, against the traffic rules.

“He rode on by, just waved to me,” O’Brien said, and turned to signal a
warning to a car that was trying to slip past the stoplights.

Thanking him Bob rode on. Griff must be going somewhere!

The highway had no turns, except the suburb’s cross streets. It was
possible that Griff might have turned into one of them, perhaps to
return a hired motorcycle to its garage; nevertheless, so strange had
been the action of the youth that Bob decided to ride on, at least to
the last police officer along the main traffic road, to see if he could
learn whether the trail continued or not.

The traffic officer, used to seeing this rider, greeted Bob and told him
that several motorcycles had passed him. Bob, riding to the curb to
rest, was puzzled. Had one of those been the motorcycle he had followed?

A thought caused him to ride on.

Griff, Bob knew, from his own inquiries, “hung out” with quite a rough
crowd of youths; they had very little reputation in the suburb, and one
of their haunts, near Rocky Lake, came to Bob’s mind. Griff, riding his
motorcycle, might have gone on to the inn or roadhouse or “speakeasy” or
whatever it was, near the picnic grounds at Rocky Lake.

Tired, but determined, Bob went on.

Some time later he approached the gayly lighted roadhouse.

He smiled to himself as he observed the name of the place.

“The Windsock!” it was called.

On roadside signs, down the road in both directions, were admonitions to
automobilists to “set down at The Windsock,” “Don’t fly past The
Windsock,” and such tempting notices.

A windsock, Bob knew, was the cornucopia of doped cloth, closed at one
end and held open at the other by a metal ring, which was fastened in a
prominent, high position at every flying field and airport, to be filled
by the draft of a breeze and thus, by its position, to indicate to
flying craft which direction to “head in” or to “take off.” Since an
airplane is much easier to get off the ground, and back to earth, headed
into the wind, the “windsock” was a most important adjunct to every
field; and Bob knew that the name, and the symbol, a real windsock on
top of the inn, had been chosen by its owner because he had been an
ex-pilot who put his money into the hotel venture and tried to attract
picnickers, automobile parties and other patrons of a less savory nature
by the novel idea of having his dining alcoves built to resemble the
cozy little cabins of airplanes and had his meals served by girls clad
in suits and helmets resembling those worn by pilots. Also, he had let
it be rumored around town that he chose the flying symbol and the
aviation idea because, in his inn, “the sky is the limit!”

Bob, approaching, was surprised to see the very motorcycle—he was sure
of that!—he had followed, leaned against a post in the parking yard, and
he felt certain that his long ride had not been wasted.

Where was Griff? Bob wondered. He hoped there would be some way for him
to discover the whereabouts of the youth.

Not wishing to walk into the place for fear he might disclose his
presence to Griff, Bob skirted the building, unobserved.

From an open window at the side came voices in angry altercation.

Bob did not need to get within sight of the occupants: he recognized
Griff’s loud, sharp, furious tones. What was he saying?

“——all I could scrape together—I _did_ put it in that package, I keep
telling you——”

“Bologna! Rats! It was wads of paper!”

“It was money! I want my receipt! If—if you don’t!——”

“If _you_ don’t, you better say. If you don’t come through—by this time
tomorrow night—I’ll ask your old man for it!”

There was silence.

Bob did not dare creep any closer. They might look out of the window.
Some payment had been made, by Griff’s claim. By the denial of the other
man it had not been made. By his threat it must be made.

Bob hesitated—and while he stood, undecided, the roar of a car, coming
at full speed, came to his ears.

He glanced down the road. Hardly had he located the direction when he
recognized the car. It contained—Mr. Parsons!

A man’s head leaned out of the open window. To Bob, as he crouched back
into some ornamental shrubbery, the face was unfamiliar; but he saw it
was brutish, fierce, angry—and he impressed it on his memory.

“Here’s your pop, now,” the man called—and then he gave an exclamation
that Bob could not comprehend. Presently the light went out—and, almost
at the same time, while Parsons alighted in the parking place, Bob, near
the rear corner of the building, saw a form emerge from the kitchens and
race away down the yard toward the grove beyond.

“Griff!” muttered Bob to himself. “Griff—running tight as he can
go—running away from his father—to hide.”

Watching, more interested in the new arrival than in the son, Bob
remained in concealment. But his mind was puzzled.

“Why?” he wondered. “Why—and what next?”