“What do you mean?” demanded both boys together.
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you now,” laughed Jack. “It would take all day and then some to tell you all that’s happening around here. But, let me tell you, between Dad’s business opponents and a gang of Mexican bandits that appeared on the scene lately, things are getting pretty lively. Say, when are you coming? Now’s the time if ever——”
Suddenly, Jack’s voice ceased abruptly, to be succeeded a moment later by his agonized cry for “Help.” Then there was a crash that rang in the eardrums of the alarmed boys listening in. Then, silence.
“Jack. Jack,” they called. “What’s the matter?”
There was no answer.
THE ENEMY NEAR
Frank Merrick and Bob Hampton looked at each other in alarm. Their faces were pale.
That cry for “Help” which abruptly had cut off Jack’s voice as he spoke to them from his radiophone station 2,000 miles away in New Mexico still rang in their ears. Their heads still hummed from the vibrating crash which had succeeded. What did it all mean?
Frank snatched the receiver from his head, while Bob removed his more slowly. Frank voiced the question in each mind as he said in a tone of apprehension:
“What do you think happened to Jack?”
“You know as much as I do,” answered his chum.
“Well, do you know what I think?” asked Frank with energy. “I think those Mexican bandits he spoke about sneaked up on him.”
“Well, if they did, they caught a Tartar,” said Bob, with conviction, remembering Jack’s athletic prowess. All three boys were athletic, good swimmers, boxers and wrestlers, as well as skillful fencers. Jack, however, was unquestionably the superior of the others, except that Bob was the best wrestler.
Frank shook his head dubiously. “I don’t know,” he said. “If there was a bunch of them and if they sneaked up from behind while he was talking.”
“Just the same,” said Bob, “old Jack would put up some battle. I’ll bet you the furniture got mussed up all right, all right. That’s the reason for that crash. Probably the microphone was torn from the cords. They may even have wrecked the station. Boy, oh boy, don’t I wish I’d been there.” And Bob doubled up his fists and pranced around, making deadly swings at imaginary foes.
“Calm down, Bob,” said Frank, dropping into a chair and running a hand through his hair as he was in the habit of doing when perplexed. “We don’t know that it happened the way we figure. We don’t know what happened. Maybe Jack was badly hurt, maybe he was killed. Or he may be a prisoner of the bandits.
“Oh,” he cried, leaping to his feet and beginning to walk up and down the room distractedly, “isn’t there something we can do? This is maddening.”
“Calm down yourself, Frank,” said Bob, always the cooler of the two in a crisis. “If we can’t do any better, at least we can wire to Jack’s father and find out in a few hours what happened.”