And still if there were any doubts in their minds after this act, they were effectively dispelled by the sound of a man’s voice coming through a doorway from a dimly lighted room to the right, speaking thus:
“Now, young ladies, let me warn you to be quiet. You have been led into a trap; but you will not be hurt in any way if you obey orders. One scream from any of you will be followed by a blow with a club that will silence you for a long time—maybe, forever. This way, please. Everybody be quiet and sensible, and you will be well treated.”
* * * * *
A pile of scrap lumber.
Conditions and developments seemed to work favorably for the mysterious trappers of the Camp Fire Girls. In the first place, when Mrs. Stanlock returned home and found the house without an occupant, except Kittie Koepke, who was working away very quietly in the kitchen, it was difficult for her to suspect anything wrong.
“Where are the girls, Kittie?” she inquired, and the other replied, with a suggestion of foreign accent:
“Oh, they just gone out for a walk. They be back soon, I guess.”
“I hope they didn’t go far,” Mrs. Stanlock said, concernedly. “They ought to be very careful. It will be getting dark before very long. It’s cloudy and looks like more snow. How long have they been gone?”
“About half an hour,” Kittie answered. “I went out to the drug store to get something for my toothache, and when I came back they was gone.”
This was the first reference that Mrs. Stanlock heard regarding Kittie’s toothache, but she accepted the statement for its face value and waited hopefully for an early return of her daughter and her daughter’s guests. Half an hour went by and the girls did not appear. Darkness was now visibly gathering. Mrs. Stanlock was becoming uneasy and called up her husband’s office, but Mr. Stanlock had already started for home. By the time he arrived, the good woman was almost prostrated, so rapidly were fear and apprehension taking possession of her.
The big coal operator scented danger at once. Immediately after gathering the principal details of the day’s occurrences, he got the police station on the wire and communicated them to the officer in charge.
Drastic measures were resorted to at once. The day shift of uniformed and ununiformed guardians of the law was summoned back to duty, and a posse of available citizens were sworn in.
About 7 o’clock a posse of citizen policemen, led by three or four uniformed members of the regular force, began a canvass of the neighborhood to discover information that might suggest a clew as to the whereabouts of the missing girls. Half an hour later a woman informed one of the canvassers that she had seen eight or ten girls enter the yard of the old Buckholz place between 3 and 4 o’clock, but had not noticed whether they went into the house or not. The man to whom this statement was made blew a whistle as an agreed signal to the other searchers that he had important information and soon a score of them were running toward him from all directions.