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Tom Swift And His Photo Telephone by Victor Appleton

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"Tell him," said Tom, "that I am much obliged, but that I have no
business that I can entrust to him. If he wishes to make some
other type of airship, that is his affair. Good-day."

As Mr. Boylan was going out Tom noticed a button dangling from the
back of his caller's coat. It hung by a thread, being one of the
pair usually sewed on the back of a cutaway garment.

"I think you had better take off that button before it falls,"
suggested Tom. "You may lose it, and perhaps it would be hard to

"That's so. Thank you!" said Mr. Boylan. He tried to reach around
and get it, but he was too stout to turn easily, especially as the
coat was tight-fitting.

"I'll get it for you," offered Tom, as he pulled it off. "There is
one missing, though," he said, as he handed the button to the man.
And then Tom started as he saw the pattern of the one in his hand.

"One gone? That's too bad," murmured Mr. Boylan. "Those buttons
were imported, and I doubt if I can replace them. They are rather

"Yes," agreed Tom, gazing as if fascinated at the one he still
held. "They are rather odd."

And then, as he passed it over, like a flash it came to him where
he had seen a button like that before. He had found it in his
airship, which had been so mysteriously taken away and returned.

Tom could hardly restrain his impatience until Mr. Boylan had
gone. The young inventor had half a notion to produce the other
button, matching the one he had just pulled off his visitor's
coat, and tell where he had found it. But he held himself back. He
wanted to talk first to Ned.

And, when his chum came in, Tom cried:

"Ned, what do you think? I know who had my airship!"

"How?" asked Ned, in wonder.

"By that button clue! Yes, it's the same kind--they're as alike as
twins!" and Tom brought out the button which he had put away in
his desk. "See, Boylan had one just like this on the back of his
coat. The other was missing. Here it is--it was in the seat of my
airship, where it was probably pulled off as he moved about. Ned,
I think I've got the right clue at last."

Ned said nothing for several seconds. Then he remarked slowly:

"Well, Tom, it proves one thing; but not the other."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that it may be perfectly true that the button came off Mr.
Boylan's coat, but that doesn't prove that he wore it. You can be
reasonably sure that the coat was having a ride in your Eagle, but
was Boylan in the coat? That's the question."

"In the coat? Of course he was in it!" cried Tom.

"You can't be sure. Someone may have borrowed his coat to take a
midnight ride in the airship."

"Mr. Boylan doesn't look to be the kind of a man who would lend
his clothes," remarked Tom.

"You never can tell. Someone may have borrowed it without his
knowledge. You'd better go a bit slow, Tom."

"Well, maybe I had. But it's a clue, anyhow."

Ned agreed to this.

"And all I've got to do is to find out who was in the coat when it
was riding about in my airship," went on Tom.

"Yes," said Ned, "and then maybe you'll have some clue to the
disappearance of Mr. Damon."

"Right you are! Come on, let's get busy!"

"As if we hadn't been busy all the while!" laughed Ned. "I'll lose
my place at the bank if I don't get back soon."

"Oh, stay a little longer--a few days," urged Tom. "I'm sure that
something is going to happen soon. Anyhow my photo telephone is
about perfected. But I've just thought of another improvement."

"What is it?"

"I'm going to arrange a sort of dictaphone, or phonograph, so I
can get a permanent record of what a person says over the wire, as
well as get a picture of him saying it. Then everything will be
complete. This last won't be hard to do, as there are several
machines on the market now, for preserving a record of telephone
conversations. I'll make mine a bit different, though."

"Tom, is there any limit to what you're going to do?" asked Ned,

"Oh, yes, I'm going to stop soon, and retire," laughed the young

After talking the matter over, Tom and his chum decided to wait a
day or so before taking any action in regard to the button clue to
the takers of the airship. After all, no great harm had been done,
and Tom was more anxious to locate Mr. Damon, and try to get back
his fortune, as well as to perfect his photo telephone, than he
was to discover those who had helped themselves to the Eagle.

Tom and Ned put in some busy days, arranging the phonograph
attachment. It was easy, compared to the hard work of sending a
picture over the wire. They paid several visits to Mrs. Damon, but
she had no news of her missing husband, and, as the days went by,
she suffered more and more under the strain.

Finally Tom's new invention was fully completed. It was a great
success, and he not only secured pictures of Ned and others over
the wire, as he talked to them, but he imprinted on wax cylinders,
to be reproduced later, the very things they said.

It was a day or so after he had demonstrated his new attachment
for the first time, that Tom received a most urgent message from
Mrs. Damon.

"Tom," she said, over the telephone, "I wish you would call.
Something very mysterious has happened."

"Mr. Damon hasn't come back; has he?" asked Tom eagerly.

"No--but I wish I could say he had. This concerns him, however.
Can you come?"

"I'll be there right away."

In his speedy monoplane Tom soon reached Waterford. Ned did not
accompany him this time.

"Now what is it, Mrs. Damon?" asked the young inventor.

"About half an hour before I called you," she said, "I received a
mysterious message."

"Who brought it?" asked Tom quickly.

"No one. It came over the telephone. Someone, whose voice I did
not know, said to me: 'Sign the land papers, and send them to us,
and your husband will be released.'"

"That message came over the wire?" cried Tom, excitedly.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Damon. "Oh, I am so frightened! I don't know
what to do!" and the lady burst into tears.



Tom Swift, for the moment, did not know what to do. It was a
strange situation, and one he had never thought of. What did the
mysterious message mean? He must think it all out, and plan some
line of action. Clearly Mrs. Damon was not able to do so.

"Now let's get at this in some kind of order," suggested the
youth, when Mrs. Damon had calmed herself. It was his habit to
have a method about doing things. "And don't worry," he advised.
"I am certain some good will come of this. It proves one thing,
that's sure."

"What is it, Tom?"

"That Mr. Damon is alive and well. Otherwise the message would not
have said he would be 'released.' It wasn't from anyone you know;
was it?"

"No, I'm sure I never heard the voice before."

Tom paused a moment to think how useful his photo telephone and
phonograph arrangement might have been in this case.

"How did the telephone call come in?" inquired the young inventor.

"In the usual way," answered Mrs. Damon. "The bell rang, and, as I
happened to be near the instrument, I answered it, as I often do,
when the maid is busy. A voice asked if I was Mrs. Damon, and of
course I said I was. Then I heard this: 'Sign the land papers, and
send them to us, and your husband will be released.'"

"Was that all?" Tom asked.

"I think so--I made a note of it at the time." Mrs. Damon looked
into a small red book. "No, that wasn't all," she said, quickly.
"I was so astonished, at hearing those strange words about my
husband, that I didn't know what to say. Before I could ask any
questions the voice went on to say, rather abruptly: 'We will call
you again.'"

"That's good!" cried Tom. "I only hope they do it while I am here.
Perhaps I can get some clue as to who it was called you. But was
this all you heard?"

"Yes, I'm sure that was all. I had forgotten about the last words,
but I see I have them written down in my note book."

"Did you ask any questions?" inquired Tom.

"Oh, indeed I did! As soon as I got over being stunned by what I
heard, I asked all sorts of questions. I demanded to know who was
speaking, what they meant, where they were, and all that. I begged
them to tell me something of my husband."

"And what did they say?"

"Not a thing. There wasn't a sound in the telephone. The receiver
was hung up, breaking the connection after that message to me--
that mysterious message."

"Yes, it was mysterious," agreed Tom, thoughtfully. "I can't
understand it. But didn't you try to learn from the central
operator where the call had come from?"

"Oh, yes, indeed, Tom! As soon as I found out the person speaking
to me had rung off, I got the girl in the exchange."

"And what did she say?"

"That the call came from an automatic pay station in a drug store
in town. I have the address. It was one of those telephones where
you put your money for the call in a slot."

"I see. Well, the first thing to do is for me to go to that drug
store and find out, if I can, who used the telephone about that
time. It's a slim chance, but we'll have to take it. Was it a
man's voice, or a woman's?"

"Oh, a man's, I'm sure. It was very deep and heavy. No woman could
speak like that."

"So much is settled, anyhow. Now about the land papers--what was

"I'll tell you," said Mrs. Damon. "You know part of our property--
considerable land and some buildings--is in my name. Mr. Damon had
it fixed so a number of years ago, in order to protect me. No one
could get this property, and land, unless I signed the deeds, or
agreed to sign them. Now all of Mr. Damon's fortune is tied up in
some of Mr. Peters's companies. That is why my husband has

"He didn't disappear--he was taken away against his will; I'm
positive of that!" exclaimed Tom.

"Perhaps so," agreed Mrs. Damon, sadly. "But those are the papers
referred to, I'm sure."

"Probably," assented Tom. "The rascals want to get control of
everything--even your possessions. Not satisfied with ruining Mr.
Damon, they want to make you a beggar, too. So they are playing on
your fears. They promise to release your husband if you will give
them the land."

"Yes, that must be it, Tom. What would you advise me to do? I am
so frightened over this!"

"Do? Don't you do anything!" cried Tom. "We'll fool these rascals
yet. If they got those papers they might release Mr. Damon, or
they might not--fearing he would cause their arrest later. But
we'll have him released anyhow, and we'll save what is left of
your fortune. Put those land papers in a safe-deposit box, and let
me do the rest. I'm going to catch those fellows!"

"But how, Tom? You don't know who they are. And a mere message
over a telephone won't give you a clue to where they are."

"Perhaps not an ordinary message," agreed Tom. "But I'm going to
try some of my new inventions. You said they told you they were
going to call again?"

"That's what they said, Tom."

"Well, when they do, I want to be here. I want to listen to that
message. If you will allow me, I'll take up my residence here for
a while, Mrs. Damon."

"Allow you? I'll be only too glad if you will, Tom. But I thought
you were going to try to get some clue from the drug store where
the mysterious message came from."

"I'll let Ned Newton do that. I want to stay here."

Tom telephoned to Ned to meet him at Mrs. Damon's house, and also
to bring with him certain things from the laboratory. And when Ned
arrived in an auto, with various bits of apparatus, Tom put in
some busy hours.

Meanwhile Ned was sent to the drug store, to see if any clues
could be obtained there as to who had sent the message. As Tom had
feared, nothing could be learned. There were several automatic
'phones in the place, and they were used very often during the day
by the public. The drug clerks took little or no notice of the
persons entering or leaving the booths, since the dropping of a
coin in the slot was all that was necessary to be connected with

"Well, we've got to wait for the second call here," said Tom, who
had been busy during Ned's absence. He had fitted to Mrs. Damon's
telephone a recording wax phonograph cylinder, to get a record of
the speaker's voice. And he had also put in an extension
telephone, so that he could listen while Mrs. Damon talked to the

"There, I guess we're ready for them," said Tom, late that
afternoon. But no queer call came in that day. It was the next
morning. about ten o'clock, after Mrs. Damon had passed a restless
night, that the telephone bell rang. Tom, who was on the alert,
was at his auxiliary instrument in a flash. He motioned to Mrs.
Damon to answer on the main wire.

"Hello," she spoke into the transmitter. "Who is this?"

"Are you Mrs. Damon?" Tom heard come over the wire in a deep
voice, and by the manner in which Mrs. Damon signalled the young
inventor knew that, at the other end of the line, was the
mysterious man who had spoken before.



"Are you Mrs. Damon?" came the question again--rather more
impatiently this time, Tom thought.

"Yes," answered the lady, glancing over at Tom. The extension
telephone was in the same room. Softly Tom switched on the
phonograph attachment. The little wax cylinder began to revolve
noiselessly, ready to record the faintest word that came over the

"You got a message from me yesterday," went on the hoarse voice.
In vain Tom tried to recall whether or not he had heard it before.
He could not place it.

"Who are you?" asked Mrs. Damon. She and Tom had previously agreed
on a line of talk. "Tell me your name, please."

"There's no need for any names to be used," went on the unknown at
the other end of the wire. "You heard what I said yesterday. Are
you willing to send me those land title papers, if we release your

"But where shall I send them?" asked Mrs. Damon, to gain time.

"You'll be told where. And listen--no tricks! You needn't try to
find out who I am, nor where I am. Just send those papers if you
want to see your husband again."

"Oh, how is he? Tell me about him! You are cruel to keep him a
prisoner like this! I demand that you release him!"

Tom had not told Mrs. Damon to say this. It came out of her own
heart--she could not prevent the agonized outburst.

"Never mind about that, now," came the gruff voice over the wire.
"Are you willing to send the papers?"

Mrs. Damon looked over to Tom for silent instructions. He nodded
his head in assent.

"Yes, I--I will send them if you tell me where to get them to you
--if you will release Mr. Damon," said the anxious wife. "But tell
me who you are--and where you are!" she begged.

"None of that! I'm not looking to be arrested. You get the papers
ready, and I'll let you know to-morrow, about this time, where to
send them."

"Wait a minute!" called Mrs. Damon, to gain more time. "I must
know just what papers you want."

"All right, I'll tell you," and he began to describe the different

It took a little time for the unknown to give this information to
Mrs. Damon. The man was very particular about the papers. There
were trust deeds, among other things, and he probably thought that
once he had possession of them, with Mrs. Damon's signature, even
though it had been obtained under a threat, he could claim the
property. Later it was learned that such was not the case, for
Mrs. Damon, with Tom's aid, could have proved the fraud, had the
scoundrels tried to get the remainder of the Damon fortune.

But at the time it seemed to the helpless woman that everything
she owned would be taken from her. Though she said she did not
care, as long as Mr. Damon was restored to her.

As I have said, the telephoning of the instructions about the
papers took some time. Tom had counted on this, and had made his
plans accordingly.

As soon as the telephone call had come in, Tom had communicated
with a private detective who was in waiting, and this man had gone
to the drug store whence the first call had come. He was going to
try to make the arrest of the man telephoning.

But for fear the scoundrel would go to a different instrument, Tom
took another precaution. This was to have one of the operators in
the central exchange on the watch. As soon as Mrs. Damon's house
was in connection with another telephone, the location of the
latter would be noted, and another private detective would be sent
there. Thus Tom hoped to catch the man at the 'phone.

Meanwhile Tom listened to the hoarse voice at the other end of the
wire, giving the directions to Mrs. Damon. Tom hoped that soon
there would be an arrest made.

Meanwhile the talk was being faithfully recorded on the phonograph
cylinder. And, as the man talked on, Tom became aware of a curious
undercurrent of sound. It was a buzzing noise, that Tom knew did
not come from the instrument itself. It was not the peculiar
tapping, singing noise heard in a telephone receiver, caused by
induced electrical currents, or by wire trouble.

"This is certainly different," mused Tom. He was trying to recall
where he had heard the noise before. Sometimes it was faint, and
then it would gradually increase, droning off into faintness once
more. Occasionally it was so loud that Mrs. Damon could not hear
the talk about the papers, and the man would have to repeat.

But finally he came to an end.

"This is all now," he said, sharply. Tom heard the words above the
queer, buzzing, humming sound. "You are keeping me too long. I
think you are up to some game, but it won't do you any good, Mrs.
Damon. I'll 'phone you to-morrow where to send the papers. And if
you don't send them--if you try any tricks--it will be the worse
for you and Mr. Damon!"

There was a click, that told of a receiver being placed back on
the hook, and the voice ceased. So, also, did the queer, buzzing
sound over which Tom puzzled.

"What can it have been?" he asked. "Did you hear it, Mrs. Damon?"

"What, Tom?"

"That buzzing sound."

"Yes, I heard, but I didn't know what it was. Oh, Tom, what shall
I do?"

"Don't worry. We'll see if anything happened. They may have caught
that fellow. If not I'll plan another scheme."

Tom's first act was to call up the telephone exchange to learn
where the second call had come from. He got the information at
once. The address was in the suburbs. The man had not gone to the
drug store this time.

"Did the detective get out to that address?" asked Tom eagerly of
the manager.

"Yes. As soon as we were certain that he was the party you wanted,
your man got right after him, Mr. Swift."

"That's good, I hope he catches him!" cried the young inventor. "We'll
have to wait and find out."

"He said he'd call up and let you know as soon as he reached the
place," the telephone manager informed Tom.

There was nothing to do but wait, and meanwhile Tom did what he
could to comfort Mrs. Damon. She was quite nervous and inclined to
be hysterical, and the youth thought it wise to have a cousin, who
had come to stay with her, summon the doctor.

"But, Tom, what shall I do about those papers?" Mrs. Damon asked
him. "Shall I send them?"

"Indeed not!"

"But I want Mr. Damon restored to me," she pleaded. "I don't care
about the money. He can make more."

"Well, we'll not give those scoundrels the satisfaction of getting
any money out of you. Just wait now, I'll work this thing out, and
find a way to catch that fellow. If I could only think what that
buzzing sound was--"

Then, in a flash, it came to Tom.

"A sawmill! A planing mill!" he cried. "That's what it was! That
fellow was telephoning from some place near a sawmill!"

The telephone rang in the midst of Tom's excited comments.

"Yes--yes!" he called eagerly. "Who is it--what is it?"

"This is Larsen--the private detective you sent."

"Oh, yes, you were at the drug store."

"Yes, Mr. Swift. Well, that party didn't call up from here."

"I know, Larsen. It was from another station. We're after him.
Much obliged to you. Come on back."

Tom was sure his theory was right. The man had called up the Damon
house from some telephone near a sawmill. And a little later Tom's
theory was proved to be true. He got a report from the second
detective. Unfortunately the man had not been able to reach the
telephone station before the unknown speaker had departed.

"Was the place near a sawmill?" asked Tom, eagerly.

"It was," answered the detective over the wire. "The telephone is
right next door to one. It's an automatic pay station and no one
seems to have noticed who the man was who telephoned. I couldn't
get a single clue. I'm sorry."

"Never mind," said Tom, as cheerfully as he could. "I think I'm on
the right track now. I'm going to lay a trap for this fellow."



Troublesome problems seemed to be multiplying for Tom Swift. He
admitted as much himself after the failure to capture the man who
had telephoned to Mrs. Damon. He had hoped that his plan of
sending detectives to the location of the telephones would
succeed. Since it had not the youth must try other means.

"Now, Ned," he said to his chum, when they were on their way from
Mrs. Damon's, it being impossible to do anything further there.
"Now, Ned, we've got to think this thing out together."

"I'm willing, Tom. I'll do what I can."

"I know you will. Now the thing to do is to go at this thing
systematically. Otherwise we'll be working around in a circle, and
won't get anywhere. In the first place, let's set down what we do
know. Then we'll put down what we don't know, and go after that."

"Put down what you don't know?" exclaimed Ned. "How are you going
to put down a thing when you don't know it?"

"I mean we can put a question mark after it, so to speak. For
instance we don't know where Mr. Damon is, but we want to find

"Oh, I see. Well, let's start off with the things we do know."

The two friends were at Tom's house by now, having come from
Waterford in Tom's airship. After thinking over all the exciting
happenings of the past few days, Tom remarked: "Now, Ned, for the
things we do know. In the first place Mr. Damon is missing, and
his fortune is about gone. There is considerable left to Mrs.
Damon, however, but those scoundrels may get that away from her,
if we don't watch out. Secondly, my airship was taken and brought
back, with a button more than it had when it went away. Said
button exactly matched one off Mr. Boylan's coat."

"Thirdly, Mr. Damon was either taken away or went away, in an
airship--either in mine or someone else's. Fourthly, Mrs. Damon
has received telephonic communications from the man, or men, who
have her husband. Fifthly, Mr. Peters, either legally or
illegally, is responsible for the loss of Mr. Damon's fortune.
Now: there you are--for the things we do know."

"Now for the things we don't know. We don't know who has taken
Mr. Damon away, nor where he is, to begin with the most important."

"Hold on, Tom, I think you're wrong," broke in Ned.

"In what way?"

"About not knowing who is responsible for the taking away of Mr.
Damon. I think it's as plain as the nose on your face that Peters
is responsible."

"I can't see it that way," said Tom, quickly. "I will admit that
it looks as though Boylan had been in my airship, but as for
Peters taking Mr. Damon away--why, Peters is around town all the
while, and if he had a hand in the disappearance of Mr. Damon, do
you think he'd stay here, when he knows we are working on the
case? And would he send Boylan to see me if Boylan had been one of
those who had a hand in it? They wouldn't dare, especially as they
know I'm working on the case."

"Peters is a bad lot. I'll grant you, though, he was fair enough
to pay for my motor boat. I don't believe he had anything to do
with taking Mr. Damon away."

"Do you think he was the person who was talking to Mrs. Damon
about the papers?"

"No, Ned. I don't. I listened to that fellow's voice carefully. It
wasn't like Peters's. I'm going to put it in the phonograph, too,
and let you listen to it. Then see what you say."

Tom did this, a little later. The record of the voice, as it came
over the wire, was listened to from the wax cylinder, and Ned had
to admit that it was not much like that of the promoter.

"Well, what's next to be done?" asked the young banker.

"I'm going to set a trap," replied Tom, with a grin.

"Set a trap?"

"Yes, a sort of mouse-trap. I'm glad my photo telephone is now
perfected, Ned."

"What has that got to do with it?"

"That's going to be my trap, Ned. Here is my game. You know this
fellow--this strange unknown--is going to call up Mrs. Damon
to-morrow. Well, I'll be ready for him. I'm going to put in the booth
where he will telephone from, one of my photo telephones--that is, the
sending apparatus. In Mrs. Damon's house, attached to her telephone,
will be the receiving plate, as well as the phonograph cylinder."

"When this fellow starts to talk he'll be sending us his picture,
though he won't know it, and we'll be getting a record of his
voice. Then we'll have him just where we want him."

"Good!" cried Ned. "But, Tom, there's a weak spot in your mouse-

"What is it?"

"How are you going to know which telephone the unknown will call
up from? He may go to any of a hundred, more or less."

"He might--yes. But that's a chance we've got to take. It isn't so
much of a chance, though when you stop to think that he will
probably go to some public telephone in an isolated spot, and,
unless I'm much mistaken he will go to a telephone near where he
was to-day. He knows that was safe, since we didn't capture him,
and he's very likely to come back."

"But to make the thing as sure as possible, I'm going to attach my
apparatus to a number of public telephones in the vicinity of the
one near the sawmill. So if the fellow doesn't get caught in one,
he will in another. I admit it's taking a chance; but what else
can we do?"

"I suppose you're right, Tom. It's like setting a number of

"Exactly. A trapper can't be sure where he is going to get his
catch, so he picks out the place, or run-way, where the game has
been in the habit of coming. He hides his traps about that place,
and trusts to luck that the animal will blunder into one of them."

"Criminals, to my way of thinking, are a good bit like animals.
They seem to come back to their old haunts. Nearly any police
story proves this. And it's that on which I am counting to capture
this criminal. So I'm going to fit up as many telephones with my
photo and phonograph outfit, as I can in the time we have. You'll
have to help me. Luckily I've got plenty of selenium plates for
the sending end. I'll only need one at the receiving end. Now
we'll have to go and have a talk with the telephone manager, after
which we'll get busy."

"You've overlooked one thing, Tom."

"What's that, Ned?"

"Why, if you know about which telephone this fellow is going to
use, why can't you have police stationed near it to capture him as
soon as he begins to talk?"

"Well, I did think of that, Ned; but it won't work."

"Why not?"

"Because, in the first place this man, or some of his friends,
will be on the watch. When he goes into the place to telephone
there'll be a look-out, I'm sure, and he'd either put off talking
to Mrs. Damon, or he'd escape before we had any evidence against

"You see I've got to get evidence that will stand in the courts to
convict this fellow, and if he's scared off before we get that,
the game will be up."

"That's what my photo telephone will do--it will get the evidence,
just as a dictaphone does. In fact, I'm thinking of working it out
on those lines, after I clear up this business."

"Just suppose we had detectives stationed at all the telephones
near the sawmill, where this fellow would be likely to go. In the
first place no one has seen him, as far as we know, so there's no
telling what sort of a chap he is. And you can't go up to a
perfect stranger and arrest him because you think he is the man
who has spirited away Mr. Damon."

"Another thing. Until this fellow has talked, and made his offer
to Mrs. Damon, to restore her husband, in exchange for certain
papers, we have no hold over him."

"But he has done that, Tom. You heard him, and you have his voice
down on the wax cylinder."

"Yes, but I haven't had a glimpse of his face. That's what I want,
and what I'm going to get. Suppose he does go into the telephone
booth, and tell Mrs. Damon an address where she is to send the
papers. Even if a detective was near at hand he might not catch
what was said. Or, if he did, on what ground could he arrest a man
who, very likely, would be a perfect stranger to him? The
detective couldn't say: 'I take you into custody for telephoning
an address to Mrs. Damon.' That, in itself, is no crime."

"No, I suppose not," admitted Ned. "You've got this all thought
out, Tom."

"I hope I have. You see it takes quite a combination to get
evidence against a criminal--evidence that will convict him.
That's why I have to be so careful in setting my trap."

"I see, Tom. Well, it's about time for us to get busy; isn't it?"

"It sure is. There's lots to do. First we'll go see the telephone

Tom explained to the 'phone manager the necessity for what he was
about to do. The manager at once agreed to let the young inventor
have a free hand. He was much interested in the photo telephone,
and Tom promised to give his company a chance to use it on their
lines, later.

The telephone near the sawmill was easily located. It was in a
general store, and the instrument was in a booth. To this
instrument Tom attached his sending plate, and he also substituted
for the ordinary incandescent light, a powerful tungsten one, that
would give illumination enough to cause the likeness to be
transmitted over the wire.

The same thing was done to a number of the public telephones in
that vicinity, each one being fitted up so that the picture of
whoever talked would be transmitted over the wire when Tom turned
the switch. To help the plan further the telephone manager marked
a number of other 'phones, "Out of Order," for the time being.

"Now, I think we're done!" exclaimed the young inventor, with a
sigh, late that night. He and Ned and the line manager had worked

"Yes," answered the young banker, "the traps are set. The question
is: Will our rat be caught?"



Tom Swift was taking, as he afterward confessed, "a mighty big
chance." But it seemed the only way. He was working against
cunning men, and had to be as cunning as they.

True, the man he hoped to capture, through the combination of his
photo telephone and the phonograph, might go to some other
instrument than one of those Tom had adjusted. But this could not
be helped. In all he had put his new attachment on eight 'phones
in the vicinity of the sawmill. So he had eight chances in his
favor, and as many against him as there were other telephones in

"It's a mighty small margin in our favor," sighed Tom.

"It sure is," agreed Ned. They were at Mrs., Damon's house,
waiting for the call to come in.

"But we couldn't do anything else," went on Tom.

"No," spoke Ned, "and I have a great deal of hope in the
proverbial Swift luck, Tom."

"Well, I only hope it holds good this time!" laughed the young

"There are a good many things that can go wrong," observed Ned.
"The least little slip-up may spoil your traps, Tom."

"I know it, Ned. But I've got to take the chance. We've just got
to do something for Mrs. Damon. She's wearing herself out by
worrying," he added in a low voice, for indeed the wife of his
friend felt the absence of her husband greatly. She had lost
flesh, she ate scarcely anything, and her nights were wakeful ones
of terror.

"What if this fails?" asked Ned.

"Then I'm going to work that button clue to the limit," replied
Tom. "I'll go to Boylan and see what he and Peters have to say."

"If you'd done as I suggested you'd have gone to them first,"
spoke Ned. "You'll find they're mixed up in this."

"Maybe; but I doubt it. I tell you there isn't a clue leading to
Peters--as yet."

"But there will be," insisted Ned. "You'll see that that I'm right
this time."

"I can't see it, Ned. As a matter of fact, I would have gone to
Boylan about that button I found in my airship only I've been so
busy on this photo telephone, and in arranging the trap, that I
haven't had time. But if this fails--and I'm hoping it won't--I'll
get after him," and there was a grim look on the young inventor's

It was wearying and nervous work--this waiting. Tom and Ned felt
the strain as they sat there in Mrs. Damon's library, near the
telephone. It had been fitted up in readiness. Attached to the
receiving wires was a sensitive plate, on which Tom hoped would be
imprinted the image of the man at the other end of the wire--the
criminal who, in exchange for the valuable land papers, would give
Mr. Damon his liberty.

There was also the phonograph cylinder to record the man's voice.
Several times, while waiting for the call to come in, Tom got up
to test the apparatus. It was in perfect working order.

As before, there was an extension telephone, so that Mrs. Damon
could talk to the unknown, while Tom could hear as well. But he
planned to take no part in the conversation unless something
unforeseen occurred.

Mr. Damon was an enthusiastic photographer, and he had a dark room
adjoining his library. It was in this dark room that Tom planned
to develop the photo telephone plate.

On this occasion he was not going to use the metal plate in which,
ordinarily, the image of the person talking appeared. That record
was but a fleeting one, as in a mirror. This time Tom wanted a
permanent picture that could, if necessary, be used in a court of

Tom's plan was this: If the person who had demanded the papers
came to one of the photo telephones, and spoke to Mrs. Damon, Tom
would switch on the receiving apparatus. Thus, while the man was
talking, his picture would be taken, though he would not know of
the thing being done.

His voice would also be recorded on the wax cylinder, and he would
be equally unaware of this.

When Tom had imprinted the fellow's image on the prepared plate,
he would go quickly to the dark room and develop it. A wet print
could be made, and with this as evidence, and to use in
identification, a quick trip could be made to the place whence the
man had telephoned. Tom hoped thus to capture him.

To this end he had his airship in waiting, and as soon as he had
developed the picture he planned to rush off to the vicinity of
the sawmill, and make a prisoner of the man whose features would
be revealed to him over the wire.

It was a hazardous plan--a risky one--but it was the best that he
could evolve. Tom had instructed Mrs. Damon to keep the man in
conversation as long as possible, in order to give the young
inventor himself time to rush off in his airship. But of course
the man might get suspicious and leave. That was another chance
that had to be taken.

"If I had thought of it in time," said Tom, musingly, as he paced
up and down in the library waiting for the 'phone to ring, "if I
had thought of it in time I would have rigged up two plates--one
for a temporary, or looking-glass, picture, and the other for a
permanent one. In that way I could rush off as soon as I got a
glimpse of the fellow. But it's too late to do that now. I'll have
to develop this plate."

Waiting is the most wearisome work there is. Tom and Ned found
this to be the case, as they sat there, hoping each moment that
the telephone bell would ring, and that the man at the other end
of the wire would be the mysterious stranger. Mrs. Damon, too,
felt the nervous strain.

"This is about the hour he called up yesterday," said Tom, in a
low voice, after coming back from a trip to the window to see that
his airship was in readiness. He had brought over to help in
starting it, for he was using his most powerful and speedy craft,
and the propellers were hard to turn.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Damon. "It was just about this hour, Tom. Oh,
I do hope--"

She was interrupted by the jingle of the telephone bell. With a
jump Tom was at the auxiliary instrument, while Mrs. Damon lifted
off the receiver of her own telephone.

"Yes; what is it?" she asked, in a voice that she tried to make

"Do you know who this is?" Tom heard come over the wire.

"Are you the--er--the person who was to give me an address where I
am to send certain papers?"

"Yes. I'm the same one. I'm glad to see that you have acted
sensibly. If I get the papers all right, you'll soon have your
husband back. Now do as I say. Take down this address."

"Very well," assented Mrs. Damon. She looked over at Tom. He was
intently listening, and he, too, would note the address given. The
trap was about to be sprung. The game had walked into it. Just
which telephone was being used Tom could not as yet tell. It was
evidently not the one nearest the planing mill, for Tom could not
hear the buzzing sound. It was well he had put his attachment on
several instruments.

"One moment, please," said Mrs. Damon, to the unknown at the other
end of the wire. This was in accordance with the pre-arranged

"Well, what is it?" asked the man, impatiently. "I have no time to

Tom heard again the same gruff tones, and he tried in vain to
recognize them.

"I want you take down a message to Mr. Damon," said his wife.
"This is very important. It can do you no harm to give him this
message; but I want you to get it exact. If you do not promise to
deliver it I shall call all negotiations off."

"Oh, all right I'll take the message; but be quick about it. Then
I'll give you the address where you are to send the papers."

"This is the message," went on Mrs. Damon. "Please write it down.
It is very important to me. Have you a pencil?"

"Yes, I have one. Wait until I get a bit of paper. It's so dark in
this booth--wait until I turn on the light."

Tom could not repress a pleased and joyful exclamation. It was
just what he had hoped the man would do--turn on the light in the
booth. Indeed, it was necessary for the success of the trap that
the light be switched on. Otherwise no picture could be
transmitted over the wire. And the plan of having the man write
down a message to Mr. Damon was arranged with that end in view.
The man would need a light to see to write, and Tom's apparatus
must be lighted in order to make it work. The plot was coming
along finely.

"There!" exclaimed the man at the other end of the wire. "I have a
light now. Go ahead with your message, Mrs. Damon. But make it
short. I can't stay here long."

Then Mrs. Damon began dictating the message she and Tom had agreed
upon. It was as long as they dared make it, for they wanted to
keep the man in the booth to the last second.

"Dear Husband," began Mrs. Damon. What the message was does not
matter. It has nothing to do with this story. Sufficient to say
that the moment the man began writing it down, as Tom could tell
over the sensitive wire, by the scratching of the pencil--at that
moment Tom, knowing the light was on in the distant telephone
booth, switched on the picture-taking apparatus. His receiving
apparatus at once indicated that the image was being made on the
sensitive plate.

It took only a few seconds of time, and with the plate in the
holder Tom hastened to the dark room to develop it. Ned took his
chum's place at the telephone, to see that all worked smoothly.
The photo telephone had done it's work. Whose image would be found
imprinted on the sensitive plate? Tom's hands trembled so that he
could scarcely put it in the developing solution.



Ned Newton, listening at the auxiliary telephone heard the man, to
whom Mrs. Damon was dictating her message to her husband, utter an
exclamation of impatience.

"I'm afraid I can't take down any more," he called. "That is
enough. Now you listen. I want you to send me those papers."

"And I am willing to," went on Mrs. Damon, while Ned listened to
the talk, the phonograph faithfully recording it.

"I wonder whose picture Tom will find," mused Ned.

The unknown, at the other end of the wire, began giving Mrs. Damon
a description of just what papers he wanted, and how to mail them
to him. He gave an address that Ned recognized as that of a cigar
store, where many persons received their mail under assumed names.
The postal authorities had, for a long time, tried to get evidence
against it

"That's going to make it hard to get him, when he comes for the
papers," thought Ned. "He's a foxy criminal, all right. But I
guess Tom will turn the trick."

Mrs. Damon was carefully noting down the address. She really
intended to send the papers, if it proved that there was no other
way in which she could secure the release of her husband. But she
did not count on all of Tom's plans. "Why doesn't he develop that
plate?" thought Ned. "He'll be too late, in spite of his airship.
That fellow will skip."

It was at that moment that Tom came into the library. He moved
cautiously, for he realized that a loud sound in the room would
carry to the man at the other end of the wire. Tom motioned for
Ned to come to him. He held out a dripping photographic plate.

"It's Peters!" said Tom, in a hoarse whisper.

"Peters?" gasped Ned. "How could it be? His voice--"

"I know. It didn't sound a bit like Peters over the 'phone, but
there's his picture, all right!"

Tom held up the plate. There, imprinted on it by the wonderful
power of the young inventor's latest appliance, was the image of
the rascally promoter. As plainly as in life he was shown, even to
his silk hat and the flower in his button-hole. He was in a
telephone booth--that much could be told from the photograph that
had been transmitted over the wire, but which booth could not be
said--they were nearly all alike.

"Peters!" gasped Ned. "I thought he was the fellow, Tom."

"Yes, I know. You were right, and I was wrong. But I did not
recognize his voice. It was very hoarse. He must have a bad cold."
Later this was learned to have been the case. "There's no time to
lose," whispered Tom, while Mrs. Damon was doing her best to
prolong the conversation in order to hold the man at the other end
of the wire. "Ned, get central on the other telephone, and see
where this call came from. Then we'll get there as fast as the
airship will take us."

A second and temporary telephone line had been installed in the
Damon home, and on this Ned was soon talking, while Tom, putting
the photographic plate away for future use, rushed out to get his
airship in shape for a quick flight. He had modified his plans.
Instead of having a detective take a print of the photo telephone
image, and make the arrest, Tom was going to try to capture Peters
himself. He believed he could do it. One look at the wet plate was
enough. He knew Peters, though it upset some of his theories to
learn that it was the promoter who was responsible for Mr. Damon's

The man at the other end of the wire was evidently getting
impatient. Possibly he suspected some trick. "I've got to go now,"
he called to Mrs. Damon. "If I don't get those papers in the
morning it will be the worse for Mr. Damon."

"Oh, I'll send you the papers," she said.

By this time Ned had gotten into communication with the manager of
the central telephone exchange, and had learned the location of
the instrument Peters was using. It was about a mile from the one
near the sawmill.

"Come on!" called Tom to his chum, as the latter gave him this
information. "The Firefly is tuned up for a hundred miles an hour!
We'll be there in ten minutes! We must catch him red-handed, if

"He's gone!" gasped Mrs. Damon as she came to the outer door, and
watched Tom and Ned taking their places in the airship, while Koku
prepared to twirl the propellers.

"Gone!" echoed Tom, blankly.

"Yes, he hung up the receiver."

"See if you can't get him back," suggested the young inventor.
"Ask Central to ring that number again. We'll be there in a jiffy.
Maybe he'll come to the telephone again. Or he may even call up
his partners and tell them the game is working his way. Try to get
him back, Mrs. Damon."

"I will," she said.

And, as she hurried back to the instrument, Tom and Ned shot up
toward the blue sky in an endeavor to capture the man at the other

"And to think it was Peters!" cried Tom into Ned's ear, shouting
to be heard above the roar of the motor exhaust.

"I thought he'd turn out to be mixed up in the affair," said Ned.

"Well, you were right. I was off, that time," admitted Tom, as he
guided his powerful craft above the trees. "I was willing to admit
that he had something to do with Mr. Damon's financial trouble,
but as for kidnapping him--well, you never can tell."

They drove on at a breath-catching pace, and it seemed hardly a
minute after leaving Mrs. Damon's house before Tom called:

"There's the building where the telephone is located."

"And now for that rascal Peters!" cried Ned.

The airship swooped down, to the great astonishment of some
workmen nearby.

Hardly had the wheels ceased revolving on the ground, as Tom made
a quick landing, than he was out of his seat, and running toward
the telephone. He knew the place at once from having heard Ned's
description, and besides, this was one of the places where he had
installed his apparatus.

Into the store Tom burst, and made a rush for the 'phone booth. He
threw open the door. The place was empty!

"The man--the man who was telephoning!" Tom called to the
proprietor of the place.

"You mean that big man, with the tall hat, who was in there so

"Yes, where is he?"

"Gone. About two minutes ago."

"Which way?"

"Over toward Shopton, and in one of the fastest autos that ever
scattered dust in this section."

"He's escaped us!" said Tom to Ned. "But we'll get him yet! Come

"I'm with you. Say, do you know what this looks like to me?"


"It looks as if Peters was scared and was going to run away to



Such a crowd had quickly gathered about Tom's airship that it was
impossible to start it. Men and boys, and even some girls and
women, coming from no one knew where, stood about the machine,
making wondering remarks about it.

"Stand back, if you please!" cried Tom, good-naturedly. "We've
got to get after the fellow in the auto."

"You'll have hard work catching him, friend, in that rig,"
remarked a man. "He was fracturing all the speed laws ever passed.
I reckon he was going nigh onto sixty miles an hour."

"We can make a hundred," spoke Ned, quietly.

"A hundred! Get out!" cried the man. "Nothing can go as fast as

"We'll show you, if we once get started," said Tom. "I guess we'll
have to get one of these fellows to twirl the propellers for us,
Ned," he added. "I didn't think, or I'd have brought the self-
starting machine," for this one of Tom's had to be started by
someone turning over the propellers, once or twice, to enable the
motor to begin to speed. On some of his aircraft the young
inventor had attached a starter, something like the ones on the
newest autos.

"What are you going to do?" asked Ned, as Tom looked to the
priming of the cylinders.

"I'm going to get on the trail of Peters," he said. "He's at the
bottom of the whole business; and it's a surprise to me. I'm going
to trail him right down to the ground now, and make him give up
Mr. Damon and his fortune,"

"But you don't know where he is, Tom."

"I'll find out. He isn't such an easy man to miss--he's too
conspicuous. Besides, if he's just left in his auto we may catch
him before he gets to Shopton."

"Do you think he's going there?"

"I think so. And I think, Ned, that he's become suspicious and
will light out. Something must have happened, while he was
telephoning, and he got frightened, as big a bluff as he is. But
we'll get him. Come on! Will you turn over the propellers, please?
I'll show you how to do it," Tom went on to a big, strong man
standing close to the blades.

"Sure I'll do it," was the answer. "I was a helper once at an
airship meet, and I know how."

"Get back out of the way in time," the young inventor warned him.
"They start very suddenly, sometimes."

"All right, friend, I'll watch out," was the reply, and with Tom
and Ned in their seats, the former at the steering wheel, the
craft of the air was soon throbbing and trembling under the first
turn, for the cylinders were still warm from the run from Mrs.
Damon's house.

The telephone was in an outlying section of Waterford--a section
devoted in the main to shops and factories, and the homes of those
employed in various lines of manufacture. Peters had chosen his
place well, for there were many roads leading to and from this
section, and he could easily make his escape.

"But we'll get after him," thought Tom, grimly, as he let the
airship run down the straight road a short distance on the bicycle
wheels, to give it momentum enough so that it would rise.

Then, with the tilting of the elevation rudder, the craft rose
gracefully, amid admiring cheers from the crowd. Tom did not go up
very far, as he wanted to hover near the ground, to pick out the
speeding auto containing Peters.

But this time luck was not with Tom. He and Ned did sight a number
of cars speeding along the highway toward Shopton, but when they
got near enough to observe the occupants they were disappointed
not to behold the man they sought. Tom circled about for some
time, but it was of no use, and then he headed his craft back
toward Waterford.

"Where are you going?" asked Ned, yelling the words into the ear
of his chum.

"Back to Mrs. Damon's," answered Tom, in equally loud tones.

It was impossible to talk above the roaring and throbbing of the
motor, so the two lads kept silent until the airship had landed
near Mrs. Damon's home.

"I want to see if Mrs. Damon is all right," Tom explained, as he
jumped from the still moving machine. "Then we'll go to Shopton,
and cause Peters's arrest. I can make a charge against him now,
and the evidence of the photo telephone will convict him, I'm
sure. And I also want to see if Mrs. Damon has had any other

She had not, however, though she was more nervous and worried than

"Oh, Tom, what shall I do?" she exclaimed. "I am so frightened!
What do you suppose they will do to Mr. Damon?"

"Nothing at all!" Tom assured her. "He will be all right. I think
matters are coming to a crisis now, and very likely he'll be with
you inside of twenty-four hours. The game is up, and I guess
Peters knows it. I'm going to have him arrested at once."

"Shall I send those land papers, Tom?"

"Indeed you must not! But I'll talk to you about that later. Just
put away that phonograph record of Peters's talk. I'll take along
the photo telephone negative, and have some prints made--or, I
guess, since we're going in the airship, that I'd better leave it
here for the present. We'll use it as evidence against Peters.
Come on, Ned."

"Where to now?"

"Peters's house. He's probably there, arranging to cover up his
tracks when he lights out."

But Shallock Peters did better than merely cover up his tracks. He
covered himself up, so to speak. For when Ned and Tom, after a
quick flight in the airship, reached his house, the promoter had
left, and the servants, who were quite excited, did not know where
he had gone.

"He just packed up a few clothes and ran out," said one of the
maids. "He didn't say anything about our wages, either, and he
owes me over a month."

"Me too," said another.

"Well, if he doesn't pay me some of my back wages soon, I'll sue
him!" declared the gardener. "He owes me more than three months,
but he kept putting me off."

And, so it seemed, Peters had done with several of his employes.
When the promoter came to Shopton he had taken an elaborate house
and engaged a staff of servants. Peters was not married, but he
gave a number of entertainments to which the wealthy men of
Shopton and their wives came. Later it was found that the bills
for these had never been paid. In short, Peters was a "bluff" in
more ways than one.

Tom told enough of his story to the servants to get them on his
side. Indeed, now that their employer had gone, and under such
queer circumstances, they had no sympathy for him. They were only
concerned about their own money, and Tom was given admittance to
the house.

Tom made a casual search, hoping to find some clue to the
whereabouts of Mr. Damon, or to get some papers that would save
his fortune. But the search was unsuccessful.

There was a safe in the room Peters used for an office, but when
Tom got there the strong box was open, and only some worthless
documents remained.

"He smelled a rat, all right," said Tom, grimly. "After he
telephoned to Mrs. Damon something happened that gave him an
intimation that someone was after him. So he got away as soon as
he could."

"But what are you going to do about it, Tom?"

"Get right after him. He can't have gotten very far. I want him
and I want Boylan. We're getting close to the end of the trail,

"Yes, but we haven't found Mr. Damon yet, and his fortune seems to
have vanished."

"Well, we'll do the best we can," said Tom, grimly. "Now I'm going
to get a warrant for the arrest of Peters, and one for Boylan, and
I'm going to get myself appointed a special officer with power to
serve them. We've got our work cut out for us, Ned."

"Well, I'm with you to the end."

"I know you are!" cried Tom.



The young inventor had little difficulty in getting the warrants
he sought. In the case of Boylan, who seemed to be Peters's right-
hand man, when it came to criminal work, Tom made a charge of
unlawfully taking the airship. This would be enough to hold the
man on until other evidence could be obtained against him.

As for Peters, he was accused of taking certain valuable bonds and
stocks belonging to Mr. Damon. Mrs. Damon gave the necessary
evidence in this case, and the authorities were told that later,
when Peters should have been arrested, other evidence so
skillfully gotten by Tom's photo telephone, would be brought
before the court.

"It's a new way of convicting a man--by a photo telephone--but I
guess it's a good one," said the judge who signed the warrants.

"Well, now that we've got what we want, the next thing to do is to
get the men--Peters, and the others," said Tom, as he and Ned sat
in Tom's library after several hours of strenuous work.

"How are you going to start?" the young banker wanted to know. "It
seems a strange thing that a man like Mr. Damon could be made away
with, and kept in hiding so long without something being heard of
him. I'm afraid, Tom, that something must have happened to him."

"I think so too, Ned. Nothing serious, though," Tom added,
quickly, as he saw the look of alarm on his chum's face. "I think
Mr. Damon at first went away of his own accord."

"Of his own accord?"

"Yes. I think Peters induced him to go with him, on the pretense
that he could recover his fortune. After getting Mr. Damon in
their power they kept him, probably to get the rest of his fortune
away from him."

"But you stopped that, Tom," said Ned, proud of his chum's

"Well, I hope so," admitted the young inventor. "But I've still
got plenty to do."

"Have you a starting point?"

"For one thing," Tom answered, "I'm going to have Mrs. Damon mail
a fake package to the address Peters gave. If he, or any of his
men, call for it, we'll have a detective on the watch, and arrest


"Of course it may not work," spoke Tom; "but it's something to
try, and we can't miss any chances."

Accordingly, the next day, a package containing only blank paper,
made up to represent the documents demanded by Peters as the price
of releasing Mr. Damon, was mailed to the address Mrs. Damon had
received over the wire from the rascally promoter. Then a private
detective was engaged to be on the watch, to take into custody
whoever called for the bundle. Tom, though, had not much hope of
anything coming of this, as it was evident that Peters had taken
the alarm, and left.

"And now," said Tom, when he had safely put away the wax record,
containing the incriminating talk of Peters, and had printed
several photographs, so wonderfully taken over the wire, "now to
get on the trail again."

It was not an easy one to follow. Tom began at the deserted home
of the alleged financier. The establishment was broken up, for
many tradesmen came with bills that had not been paid, and some of
them levied on what little personal property there was to satisfy
their claims. The servants left, sorrowful enough over their
missing wages. The place was closed up under the sheriff's orders.

But of Peters and his men not a trace could be found. Tom and Ned
traveled all over the surrounding country, looking for clues, but
in vain. They made several trips in the airship, but finally
decided that an automobile was more practical for their work, and
kept to that.

They did find some traces of Peters. As Tom had said, the man was
too prominent not to be noticed. He might have disguised himself,
though it seemed that the promoter was a proud man, and liked to
be seen in flashy clothes, a silk hat, and with a buttonhole

This made it easy to get the first trace of him. He had been seen
to take a train at the Shopton station, though he had not bought a
ticket. The promoter had paid his fare to Branchford, a junction
point, but there all trace of him was lost. It was not even
certain that he went there.

"He may have done that to throw us off," said Tom. "Just because
he paid his way to Branchford, doesn't say he went there. He may
have gotten off at the next station beyond Shopton."

"Do you think he's still lingering around here?" asked Ned.

"I shouldn't be surprised," was Tom's answer. "He knows that there
is still some of the Damon property left, and he is probably
hungry for that. We'll get him yet, Ned."

But at the end of several days Tom's hopes did not seem in a fair
way to be realized. He and Ned followed one useless clue after
another. All the trails seemed blind ones. But Tom never gave up.

He was devoting all his time now to the finding of his friend Mr.
Damon, and to the recovery of his fortune. In fact the latter was
not so important to Tom as was the former. For Mrs. Damon was on
the verge of a nervous collapse on account of the absence of her

"If I could only have some word from him, Tom!" she cried,

To Tom the matter was very puzzling. It seemed utterly impossible
that Mr. Damon could be kept so close a prisoner that he could not
manage to get some word to his friends. It was not as if he was a
child. He was a man of more than ordinary abilities. Surely he
might find a way to outwit his enemies.

But the days passed, and no word came. A number of detectives had
been employed, but they were no more successful than Tom. The
latter had given up his inventive work, for the time being, to
devote all his time to the solution of the mystery.

Tom and Ned had been away from Shopton for three days, following
the most promising clue they had yet received. But it had failed
at the end, and one afternoon they found themselves in a small
town, about a hundred miles from Shopton. They had been motoring.

"I think I'll call up the house," said Tom. "Dad may have received
some news, or Mrs. Damon may have sent him some word. I'll get my
father on the wire."

Connection to Tom's house was soon made, and Ned, who was
listening to his chum's remarks, was startled to hear him cry out:

"What's that you say? My airship taken again? When did it happen?
Yes, I'm listening. Go on, Father!"

Then followed a silence while Tom listened, breaking in now and
then with an excited remark, Suddenly he called:

"Good-by, Dad! I'm coming right home!"

Tom hung up the receiver with a bang, and turned to his chum.

"What do you think!" he cried. "The Eagle was taken again last
night! The same way as before. Nobody got a glimpse of the
thieves, though. Dad has been trying to get in communication with
me ever since. I'm glad I called up. Now we'll get right back to
Shopton, and see what we can do. This is the limit! Peters and his
crowd will be kidnapping us, next."

"That's right," agreed Ned.

He and Tom were soon off again, speeding in the auto toward
Shopton. But the roads were bad, after a heavy rain, and they did
not make fast time.

The coming of dusk found them with more than thirty miles to go.
They were in an almost deserted section of the country when
suddenly, as they were running slowly up a hill, there was a
sudden crack, the auto gave a lurch to one side of the roadway and
then settled heavily. Tom clapped on both brakes quickly, and gave
a cry of dismay.

"Broken front axle!" he said. "We're dished, Ned!"

They got out, being no more harmed than by the jolting. The car
was out of commission. The two chums looked around Except for a
lonely house, that bore every mark of being deserted, not a
dwelling was in sight where they might ask for aid or shelter.

And, as they looked, from that lonely house came a strange cry--a
cry as though for help!



"Did you hear that?" cried Ned.

"I certainly did," answered Tom. "What was it."

"Sounded to me like a cry of some sort."

"It was. An animal, I'd say."

The two chums moved away from the broken auto, and looked at each
other. Then, by a common impulse, they started toward the lonely
house, which was set back some distance from the road.

"Let's see who it was," suggested Tom, "After all, though it looks
deserted, there may be someone in the house, and we've got to have
some kind of help. I don't want to leave my car on the road all
night, though it will have to be repaired before I can use it

"It sure is a bad break," agreed Ned.

As they walked toward the deserted House they heard the strange
cry again. It was louder this time, and following it the boys
heard a sound as if a blow had been struck.

"Someone is being attacked!" cried Tom. "Maybe some poor tramp has
taken shelter in there and a dog is after them. Come on, Ned,
we've got to help!"

They started on a run for the lonely house, but while still some
distance away a curious thing happened.

There was a sudden cry--an appeal for help it seemed--but this
time in the open. And, as Tom and Ned looked, they saw several men
running from the rear of the old house. Between them they carried
an inert form,

"Something's wrong!" exclaimed Tom, "There's crooked work going on
here, Ned."

"You're right! It's up to us to stop it! Come on!"

But before the boys had taken half a dozen more steps they heard
that which caused them great surprise. For from a shed behind the
house came the unmistakable throb and roar of a motor.

"They're going off in an auto!" cried Ned.

"And they're carrying someone with them!" exclaimed Tom.

By this time they had gotten to a point where they could see the
shed, and what was their astonishment to see being rolled from it
a big biplane. At the sight of it Tom cried:

"It's the Eagle! That's my airship, Ned!"

"You're right! How did it get here?"

"That's for us to find out. I shouldn't wonder, Ned, but what
we're at last on the trail of Peters and his crowd!"

The men--there were four or five of them, Ned guessed--now broke
into a run, still carrying among them the inert form of another.
The cries for help had ceased, and it seemed as if the unfortunate
one was unconscious.

A moment later, and before the boys could do anything, had they
the power, the men fairly jumped aboard Tom Swift's biggest
airship. The unconscious one was carried with them.

Then the motor was speeded up. The roar and throbbing were almost

"Stop that! Hold on! That's my machine!" yelled Tom.

He might as well have spoken to the wind. With a rush and a roar
the big Eagle shot away and upward, carrying the men and their
mysterious, unconscious companion. It was getting too dark for Tom
and Ned to make out the forms or features of the strangers.

"We're too late!" said Ned, hopelessly.

"Yes, they got away," agreed Tom. "Oh, if only I had my speedy
little monoplane!"

"But who can they be? How did your airship get here? And who is
that man they carried out of the house?" cried Ned.

"I don't know the last--maybe one of their crowd who was injured
in a fight."

"What crowd?"

"The Peters gang, of course. Can't you see it, Ned?"

Unable to do anything, the two youths watched the flight of the
Eagle. She did not move at her usual speed, for she was carrying
too heavy a load.

Presently from the air overhead, and slightly behind them, the
boys heard the sound of another motor. They turned quickly.

"Look!" cried Ned. "Another airship, by all that's wonderful!"

"If we could only stop them!" exclaimed Tom. "That's a big
machine, and they could take us aboard. Then we could chase the
Eagle. We could catch her, too, for she's overloaded!"

Frantically he and Tom waved their caps at the man who was now
almost overhead in his airship. The boys did not call. They well
knew, with the noise of the motor, the occupant of the airship
could not hear them. But they waved and pointed to the slowly-
moving Eagle.

To their surprise and delight the man above them shut off his
engine, and seemed about to come down. Then Tom cried, knowing he
could be heard:

"Help us capture that airship? It's mine and they've stolen it!"

"All right! Be with you in a minute!" came back the answer from

The second biplane came down to earth, ands as it ceased running
along on its bicycle wheels, the occupant jumped out.

"Hello, Tom Swift!" he called, as he took off his goggles.

"Why--why it's Mr. Halling!" cried the young inventor, in delight,
recognizing the birdman who had brought him the first news of Mr.
Damon's trouble, the day the airship became entangled in the
aerials of the wireless on Tom's house.

"What are you doing here, Tom?" asked Mr. Hailing. "What has

"We're looking for Mr. Damon. That's a bad crowd there," and he
pointed toward the other aircraft. "They have my Eagle. Can you
help me catch them?"

"I certainly can--and will! Get aboard! I can carry four."

"Then you have a new machine?"

"Yes, and a dandy! All the latest improvements--self-starter and
all! I'm glad of a chance to show it to you."

"And I'm glad, too!" cried Tom. "It was providential that you
happened along. What were you doing here?"

"Just out on a trial spin. But come on, if we're going to catch
those fellows!"

Quickly Tom, Ned, and Mr. Halling climbed into the seats of the
new airship. It was started from a switch, and in a few seconds it
was on the wing, chasing after the Eagle.

Then began a strange race, a race in the air after the unknown
strangers who had Tom's machine. Had the Eagle not been so heavily
laden it might have escaped, for Tom's craft was a speedy one. But
this time it had to give the palm to Mr. Grant Halling's. Faster
and faster in pursuit flew the Star, as the new craft was called.
Faster and faster, until at last, coming directly over the Eagle,
Mr. Halling sent his craft down in such a manner as to "blanket"
the other. In an instant she began to sink, and with cries of
alarm the men shut off the motor and started to volplane to the

But they made an unskillful landing. The Eagle tilted to one side,
and came down with a crash. There were cries of pain, then
silence, and a few seconds later two men ran away from the
disabled airship. But there were three senseless forms on the
ground beside the craft when Tom, Ned and Mr. Halling ran up. In
the fading light Tom saw a face he knew--three faces in fact.

"Mr. Damon!" he cried. "We've found him, Ned!"

"But--too late--maybe!" answered Ned, in a low voice, as he, too,
recognized the man who had been missing so long.

Mr. Halling was bending over the unconscious form of his friend.

"He's alive!" he cried, joyfully. "And not much hurt, either. But
he has been ill, and looks half starved. Who are these men?"

Tom gave a hasty look.

"Shallock Peters and Harrison Boylan!" he cried. "Ned, at last
we've caught the scoundrels!"

It was true. Chance had played into the hands of Tom Swift. While
Mr. Halling was looking after Mr. Damon, reviving him, the young
inventor and Ned quickly bound the hands and feet of the two
plotters with pieces of wire from the broken airship.

Presently Mr. Damon opened his eyes.

"Where am I? What happened? Oh, bless my watch chain--it's Tom
Swift! Bless my cigar case, I--"

"He's all right!" cried Tom, joyfully. "When Mr. Damon blesses
something beside his tombstone he's all right."

Peters and Boylan soon revived, both being merely stunned, as was
Mr. Damon. They looked about in wonder, and then, feeling that
they were prisoners, resigned themselves to their fate. Both men
were shabbily dressed, and Tom would hardly have known the once
spick and span Mr. Peters. He had no rose in his buttonhole now.

"Well, you have me, I see," he said, coolly. "I was afraid we were
playing for too high a stake."

"Yes, we've got you," replied Tom,

"But you can't prove much against me," went on Peters. "I'll deny

"We'll see about that," added the young inventor, grimly, and
thought of the picture in the plate and the record on the wax

"We've got to get Mr. Damon to some place where he can be looked
after," broke in Mr. Halling. "Then we'll hear the story."

A passing farmer was prevailed on to take the party in his big
wagon to the nearest town, Mr. Hailing going on ahead in his
airship. Tom's craft could not be moved, being badly damaged.

Once in town Peters and Boylan were put in jail, on the charges
for which Tom carried warrants. Mr. Damon was taken to a hotel and
a doctor summoned. It was as Mr. Halling had guessed. His friend
had been ill, and so weak that he could not get out of bed. It was
this that enabled the plotters to so easily keep him a prisoner.

By degrees Mr. Damon told his story. He had rashly allowed Peters
to get control of most of his fortune, and, in a vain hope of
getting back some of his losses, had, one night--the night he
disappeared, in fact--agreed to meet Peters and some of his men to
talk matters over. Of this Mr. Damon said nothing to his wife.

He went out that night to meet Peters in the garden, but the
plotters had changed their plans. They boldly kidnapped their
victim, chloroformed him and took him away in Tom's airship, which
Boylan and some of his tools daringly stole a short time
previously. Later they returned it, as they had no use for it at
the lonely house.

Mr. Damon was taken to the house, and there kept a prisoner. The
men hoped to prevail on the fears of his wife to make her give up
the valuable property. But we have seen how Tom foiled Peters.

The experience of Mr. Damon, coupled with rough treatment he
received, and lack of good food, soon made him ill. He was so weak
that he could not help himself, and with that he was kept under
guard. So he had no chance to escape or send his wife or friends
any word.

"But I'm all right now, Tom, thanks to you!" said he. "Bless my
pocketbook, I don't care if my fortune is lost, as long as I'm
alive and can get back to my wife."

"But I don't believe your fortune will be lost," said Tom. "I
think I have the picture and other evidence that will save it,"
and he told of his photo telephone, and of what it had

"Bless my eyelashes!" cried Mr. Damon. "What a young man you are,
Tom Swift!"

Tom smiled gladly. He knew now that his old friend was himself
once more.

There is little left to tell. Chance had aided Tom in a most
wonderful way--chance and the presence of Mr. Halling with his
airship at just the right moment.

Tom made a diligent effort to find out who it was that had
chloroformed him in the telephone booth that time, but learned
nothing definite. Peters and Boylan were both examined as to this
on their trials, but denied it, and the young inventor was forced
to conclude that it must have been some of the unscrupulous men
who had taken his father's patent some time before.

"They may have heard of your prosperity, and thought it a good
chance to rob you," suggested Ned.

"Maybe," agreed Tom. "Well, we'll let it go at that. Only I hope
they don't come again."

Mr. Damon was soon home with his wife again, and Peters and Boylan
were held in heavy bail. They had secreted most of Mr. Damon's
wealth, falsely telling him it was lost, and they were forced to
give back his fortune. The evidence against them was clear and
conclusive. When Tom went into court with his phonograph record of
the talk of Peters, even though the man's voice was hoarse from a
cold when he talked, and when his picture was shown, in the
telephone booth, the jury at once convicted him.

Boylan, when he learned of the missing button in Tom's possession,
confessed that he and some of his men who were birdmen had taken
Tom's airship. They wanted a means of getting Mr. Damon to the
lonely house without being traced, and they accomplished it.

As Tom had surmised, Peters had become suspicious after his last
talk with Mrs. Damon, and had fled. He disguised himself and went
into hiding with the others at the lonely house. Then he learned
that the authorities of another city. where he had swindled many,
were on his trail, and he decided to decamp with his gang, taking
Mr. Damon with them. For this purpose Tom's airship was taken the
second time, and a wholesale escape, with Mr. Damon a prisoner,
was planned.

But fate was against the plotters. Two of them did manage to get
away, but they were not really wanted. The big fish were Peters
and Boylan, and they were securely caught in the net of the law.
Peters was greatly surprised when he learned of Tom's trap, and of
the photo telephone. He had no idea he had been incriminating
himself when he talked over the wire.

"Well, it's all over," remarked Ned to Tom, one day, when the
disabled auto and the airship had been brought home and repaired.
"The plotters are in prison for long terms, and Mr. Damon is
found, together with his fortune. The photo telephone did it,

"Not all of it--but a good bit," admitted the young inventor, with
a smile.

"What are you going to do next, Tom?"

"I hardly know. I think--"

Before Tom could finish, a voice was heard in the hall outside the

"Bless my overshoes! Where's Tom? I want to thank him again for
what he did for me," and Mr. Damon, now fully recovered, came in.
"Bless my suspender button, but it's good to be alive, Tom!" he

"It certainly is," agreed Tom. "And the next time you go for a
conference with such men as Peters, look out for airships."

"I will, Tom, I will!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Bless my watch chain,
I will!"

And now, for a time, we will say good-bye to Tom Swift, leaving
him to perfect his other inventions.

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