“They won’t be set off, though,” continued Reade. “I found the firing magneto, and had a chance to cut the wires.”
The foreman wanted to ask more questions, while the half dozen workmen trudged along close at their heels, eager to hear every word. Tom, however, suggested that they save their breath in the interest of speed, until they had Mr. Sambo Ebony in safe custody.
“Here we come, Nicolas!” Tom called, as the party neared the spot where captor and captive had been left.
There was no response.
“Nicolas!” Tom called again, with a start.
Still no answer.
“I don’t like the look of that,” Reade uttered. “Let’s get there on the sprint!”
Tom himself caught at one of the lanterns, leading the way. Neither the negro nor the Mexican was where the young chief engineer had left them.
Feverishly, Tom began to search the ground, holding his lantern close.
“Hang the luck!” he quivered, pointing to fragments of cord on the sand. “That negro simply burst his bonds—–and now where is he? Where is Nicolas, for that matter? I thought the little fellow, with his trick, could easily take care of the big black.”
But, though they spread out and searched, there was no sign of either the negro or the little brown man.
“I can’t understand what has happened,” quivered Tom Reade, thinking more of the staunch little Mexican than of the loss of the prisoner.
A TEST OF REAL NERVE
“What an idiot I was not to stop to consider that Sambo Ebony could snap those cords!” groaned Tom, staring disconcertedly about him. “Yet, if Nicolas were safe I wouldn’t so much mind the escape of the black. I shall see him again, and I shall know him wherever I see him.”
“Let’s look for the trail,” proposed Foreman Corbett, holding one of the lanterns close to the ground.
The trail, however, was easy neither to distinguish nor to follow.
“We may as well leave here and search farther,” concluded the young engineer. “Before we go, though, we’ll get the magneto and take it with us.”
Then the procession turned toward the land end of the retaining wall.
“If Nicolas doesn’t show up soon,” Tom murmured to the foreman, “I shall notify the Blixton police and offer a reward for news of him. That little fellow is too faithful to be left to his fate.”
“What would the negro want of Nicolas?” queried the foreman.
“Revenge,” Tom replied. “It makes a big bully like him furious to be handled the way Nicolas treated him. But I can’t understand how Nicolas failed to repeat his clever trick with the black.”
Arrived at the water front the magneto was dumped into the motor boat.
“Seems to me I would smash that thing all to pieces,” Suggested Foreman Corbett. “It has done harm enough around this wall.”