Read CHAPTER XI - The Dangerous Resemblance of The Electronic Mind Reader , free online book, by John Blaine, on

Rick stirred, and whatever he had been dreaming faded into vagueness. He couldn’t have said what he had been dreaming about. He was neither asleep nor awake, but in the shadowland somewhere between. Something as yet undefined had brought him halfway toward awakening, but the influence was not powerful enough to bring his senses alert.

And then, suddenly, he was wide awake, ears straining to listen. He sensed a presence in the room, and even as he tried to recognize it, a form landed on his chest and steel spikes drove into his ribs. He leaped up with a yell as another form landed on the bed. Both forms were making fantastic noises.

His eyes opened wide as he suddenly realized that a rousing cat-dog fight was taking place on his stomach!

Scotty ran in and leaped for the battlers. He grabbed the spitting, snarling cat and held it high. Dismal let out a wail of anguish as he realized his hated enemy was out of reach.

Rick shouted, “Down, boy!”

Dismal leaped high and landed again with four feet bunched on Rick’s stomach.

Rick’s shout died into a gurgle. Not that the pup was heavy, but he had landed while his master was in the midst of a breath, with muscles relaxed.

Scotty put the cat into the hall and closed the door, trapping Dismal in the room. Then he turned and laughed at Rick’s discomfort.

“Next time you arrange a fight for your personal entertainment, you’d better have a referee on hand.”

“It was a draw,” Rick said ruefully, “except that the innocent bystander lost. Whatever got into Dismal?”

Scotty was dressed. Apparently he had already been downstairs. “The cat went too far. Dismal found him drinking from his water dish.”

Rick grinned. That was adding insult to injury, all right. He stripped off the blankets and examined his stomach. Shah’s claws had dug right through blanket, sheet, and pajamas, but had not drawn blood.

“It was time to get up, anyway,” he said philosophically. “Gangway, Scotty. I’m going to shower and dress. We’ve got work to do.”

“Uhuh. The passengers are waiting downstairs,” Scotty said.

Rick blinked. “What passengers?”

“Jan and Barby. They want to go.”

The boys had decided the evening before that they would start the search with a flight in the Sky Wagon. After a quick inspection of the area, which probably wouldn’t disclose much, they planned to go into Whiteside for a talk with Jerry and Duke at the newspaper office, and with Captain Douglas of the State Police.

Rick considered. He didn’t mind taking the girls around on pleasure junkets, but this was business. “Why do they have to go?” he demanded.

Scotty shrugged. “They don’t. But Jan is plenty upset over Dr. Marks, and Barby is starting to worry about Dad and the others. If we leave them here, they’ll just stew. If they go, it may take their minds off things.”

“I suppose that’s right. Anyway, they can’t get in the way much. We’ll stick ’em in the back seat.”

“Come on, then. Let’s eat and get going.”

Rick showered and dressed hurriedly, and got downstairs just in time to take his seat at the breakfast table. After bidding the family good morning, he turned to Jan. “Shah and Dismal had a fight this morning.”

Jan put a hand to her mouth. “Oh! Shah didn’t hurt him, did he?”

That nettled Rick a little. The idea of assuming that a mere cat, even a champion Persian, could win a fight with Dismal! Then common sense got the better of him. The unhappy truth was, Shah could lick Dismal with no strain at all.

“No damage,” he replied. “Except to me. The war took place on my stomach.”

Jan was supposed to look sorry, but she didn’t. She giggled. Barby giggled, too.

“I guess they thought you’d be a fair witness if anyone asked who won,” Jan explained.

Rick saw he was getting no sympathy. After all, what could anyone do? Dogs and cats were just natural enemies. Besides, if he was fair about it, he had to admit that Shah teased the pup but didn’t start serious fights.

After breakfast the four young people went down to the beach where the Sky Wagon was hauled up. In a few moments they were air-borne. Rick headed for Seaford, the fishing town down the coast. It didn’t make much sense to go farther south than that. Beside him, Scotty polished the binocular lenses with a piece of lens tissue from the camera kit, and started sweeping the area below.

Apparently all was normal along the seacoast and in Seaford, but that meant nothing. The area could be loaded with strangers and they’d never know it from the air.

Rick had a sudden idea. “Let’s call Cap’n Mike and get him on the job. If there are any strangers in Seaford, he’ll know it.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Barby called from the back seat.

Jan asked, “Who is Cap’n Mike?”

Barby immediately related the adventure of Smugglers’ Reef, and the part the retired fishing skipper had played.

Cap’n Mike knew everything worth while about the town of Seaford. He would be a good check point not only for the town, but also for the summer colonies between Whiteside and Seaford. He often acted as a fishing guide for the summer tourists.

Rick checked the summer colonies from the air, although he had little expectation of seeing anything unusual.

Barby pointed down as they passed over one. “Look! Scotty, let me have the glasses.”

Both boys turned quickly. “What do you see?” Scotty asked. He handed her the glasses.

“The gaudiest houseboat!” Barby exclaimed. “Jan, it’s painted orange!”

The boys snorted.

After inspecting the coast from Seaford past Spindrift to the more populated areas on the north, Rick swung inland to inspect the woods near Whiteside. He didn’t know exactly what to look for, except possibly unexplained campfires that could be investigated later.

He landed at Spindrift and went at once to the house. Cap’n Mike didn’t have a phone, but Rick knew how to get a message to him. Scotty, listening, said, “He won’t be in. The fleet is still out fishing this time of day.”

Rick grinned. “It’s Sunday. Lost track of time?”

Scotty had. But suddenly he snapped his fingers. “Hey! Duke and Jerry are coming over for dinner.”

His message to Cap’n Mike en route through a mutual friend, Rick motioned to Scotty. “Let’s go.”

They took both of the island boats, planning to leave one for Duke and Jerry to use later in the day. Then, after tying up the boats at the main pier and getting the car, they called first on Captain Douglas of the State Police.

The officer knew the boys well, and knew in addition of their connection with JANIG. He promised readily to assist.

“Probably my own officers won’t be too much help,” he said, “but they can ask the local police to keep their eyes open up and down the coast. We won’t say anything about the federal government being interested. To everyone but me, this will be a routine State Police matter.”

Rick hesitated for a moment, but he was sure of Captain Douglas’ discretion. “We’re interested in the new barber, too,” he added. “Steve Ames is already checking him, but you might keep your eyes open.”

“I’ll do that,” Captain Douglas assured him. “And how about the Boy Scout leaders camped behind Spindrift?”

Rick was about to say casually that he didn’t suspect any Boy Scout leaders, then he caught the twinkle in the captain’s eye.

“He’s hep,” Scotty said.

Captain Douglas nodded. “One of my officers paid them a call. He’s a sharp one, and he made some kind of excuse for getting into their tent. He came back and reported they were apparently on a hunting expedition of some kind with riot guns. I took a car full of armed troopers and we dropped in. One of the Scout leaders turned out to be a man who was in the same FBI class that I attended. He showed me his identification card, so I gave him my phone number in case he needed help. And that was that.”

Scotty said thoughtfully, “I guess the hardest thing in the world is keeping a secret.”

“That’s the second hardest,” Douglas corrected. “The hardest usually is finding out how the secret became public in the first place.”

The boys went from the State Police barracks to the Whiteside Morning Record and found Jerry on the job. “The press never sleeps,” he greeted them. “What brings you two to town on a peaceful Sunday?”

“We brought you a boat,” Rick explained. “In exchange for a favor.”

Jerry eyed them suspiciously. “What kind of a favor?”

It took only a moment to explain. “Sure,” Jerry agreed. “Duke won’t object to keeping you posted. We’ll keep an eye open for you. And we’ll collect for the favor with an extra helping of pie tonight.”

“It’s a deal,” Rick agreed.

As it turned out, Jerry’s bargain of an extra helping of pie was conservative. He had three for dessert that night.

Rick noticed that both Jerry and Duke eyed Dr. Morrison curiously, and he knew they were trying to recall if they had ever seen a picture that would help place him in their minds. Not that they would use the information. It was just that newspapermen developed a high order of frustration in the face of a mystery.

But Jan noticed something else. She came over to where Rick was pouring fresh coffee for his friends. “Rick, those friends of yours are nice. Have you noticed how much Mr. Barrows looks like Dad?”

Rick looked. The two were deep in conversation, and it was the first time he had seen them together. They looked very much alike, particularly in the gathering darkness. They were about the same height, give or take a fraction of an inch, and both had the same shock of unruly hair. They probably weighed within five pounds of each other. Actually, however, the resemblance was superficial. They might have been cousins, but not brothers.

“They do look alike,” Rick agreed.

Later, he saw Jan deep in conversation with Jerry and wandered by, to eavesdrop a little. He knew that Jerry was entirely trustworthy, but his friend was also a nosy reporter who would try to pump the girl. Rick intended to step in and break it up if that were the case.

“The Virgin Islands sound wonderful,” Jerry was saying. “How long did Rick and the others stay with your family?”

“They never actually stayed with us,” Jan replied. “Of course we invited them to, but they were so anxious to get to Clipper Cay, they only stayed one night in town. We met them that night, at Dr. Ernst’s. He’s a mutual friend. I was excited about the treasure, and I begged Dad to take Mother and me to Clipper Cay, so I could dive with the boys. He was going to take us, too, only everyone was back in Charlotte Amalie with the treasure before we had a chance.”

Rick grinned and went on his way. Jan was talking with great assurance. He didn’t have to worry about Jerry breaking down the cover story.

It was late when the party broke up. Rick and Scotty took their guests to Whiteside Pier, where Duke had left his car. As they roared up to the pier Rick had to swerve to avoid a pram, a blunt-ended rowboat, that had been tied carelessly in the place where he usually tied up. He wondered who owned it. Prams were not usual along the coast.

Jerry and Duke climbed out after thanking the boys again for a fine dinner. The two walked off into the darkness toward the parking lot.

Rick started to back out and head for home, then paused. He was curious about the pram.

“Hand me the boat hook,” he told Scotty.

His pal obliged. “What’s up?”

“I’m curious. Who around here has a pram?”

“No one I know. That looks like a new one, too.”

Rick pulled the little rowboat closer with the boat hook and turned the speedboat’s searchlight on it, hoping to find a name.

Suddenly both boys froze.

“Was that a yell?” Rick asked.

Scotty was already on his way up the pier. “Yes, from the parking lot. Come on!”

Rick hurriedly threw a rope around a piling and secured it with a couple of fast half-hitches, then he hurried after Scotty.

It was pitch dark in the parking lot, but they could hear sounds of a scuffle plainly now, and once there was a muffled grunt.

It suddenly occurred to Rick that he hadn’t heard Duke’s car start. He sprinted, calling to Scotty to look for a weapon. Once, some time ago, they had fought a battle with rocks against guns in this very spot. He scooped up a couple of rocks, hoping no guns were waiting this time.

“Hold ’em!” Scotty yelled. “We’re coming!”

There was a yell in reply. Jerry Webster called, “Watch it! They’re running away!”

Car headlights switched on, and in their glare Rick saw Jerry pointing. For a moment he considered following his friends’ assailants, then abandoned the idea. They could escape easily in the woods.

“What happened?” Scotty demanded.

Duke Barrows got out of the car, nursing his head.

“Two men jumped us when we started to get into the car,” he answered shakily. “One smacked me on the head with something hard and almost knocked me out. If Jerry hadn’t put up a good fight, they’d have had us although I don’t know what for.”

“Were they holdup men?” Rick asked quickly.

“They didn’t wear signs,” Duke answered grumpily. “But holdup men usually say something, don’t they? ‘This is a stickup.’ Or something like that.”

Jerry Webster examined bruised knuckles in the glare of the car head lamps. “They didn’t say anything,” he added. “Not a word. When you yelled, they broke off and ran into the woods.”

Scotty scratched his head. “Mighty funny,” he mused. “What could they have wanted?”

Duke Barrows brushed dirt off his jacket. “They probably were reporters from a Newark paper,” he said caustically, “trying to find out about the mysterious visitors on Spindrift.”

It hit Rick then. “Duke,” he exclaimed, “you look like Dr. Morrison! I’ll bet it was a case of mistaken identity!”

The editor looked at him keenly. “Could be,” he agreed. “That means you have reason to believe someone would be interested in harming Dr. Morrison.”

“I’m just assuming,” Rick said hurriedly.

“Uh-hum.” The editor grunted his disbelief. “And what should we do about it?”

Rick looked at Scotty, who shrugged. The shrug said that probably nothing could be done now, so far as Duke and Jerry were concerned, but that the case was far from closed.

“Better notify Captain Douglas,” Rick suggested. “I can’t think of anything else.”

Jerry Webster flexed an arm that appeared to be aching. “Sure that won’t conflict with your security people?” he asked.

Rick assumed an air of wide-eyed innocence. “Now, Jerry! Who said anything about security people? I just suggested you notify the State Police. Who else would you notify when someone attacks you?”

Duke climbed into the car. “Come on, Jerry. We’ll get no satisfaction out of these two. Let’s go rub liniment on our wounds, and then we’ll make a report to the State Police. Good night, lads. And I hope your mystery bites you. Let me know if it does, so I can say ’I told you so’ in print.”

The boys waved as Duke drove off, leaving them in darkness. As they made their way back to the speedboat, Rick spoke his thoughts aloud.

“I guess the enemy uses muscles, too, huh?”

Scotty answered thoughtfully, “Looks like it. Unless they really were holdup men.”

Rick shook his head, even though Scotty couldn’t see the reaction. “Pretty unlikely. But suppose the enemy kept a watch on movements in and out of Spindrift? From a distance they might assume that Duke was Morrison. So it would make sense for them to keep a watch at the pier in case he came back which he did.”

“And when he came back, they’d either murder him or kidnap him?” Scotty sounded disbelieving. “I doubt it. Nothing the enemy has done so far points to that kind of tactic. Why should they start using muscle methods now?”

Rick had no good answer. “Let’s step on it,” he said. “We have to report this. I have a hunch the Boy Scout team is going to be scouring the woods around here tonight.”