“ONE MORE PROBLEM”

Bob did not delay a moment after he delivered his solemn warning to Mr.
Tredway.
As quickly as he could he located the plant manager.
“Barney,” he said earnestly, “don’t stay here tonight! Come home with
us. Stay with the Sky Squad.”
“In the name of Sam Hill—why?”
“You forgot where you were, didn’t you, when you spoke about the——” he
lowered his voice, glanced around, spoke carefully, “—the ex-pilot as
the one who had a motive for injuring Mr. Tredway?”
“Well—I guess I was thinking pretty much of what I was saying.”
“I know you were.”
“Well—did you hear anything or—see anything?”
“I’m sure I heard something. You didn’t think, but there’s a curtained
door in that private room we used. How do you know Jenks or—the other
one—might not have heard you?”
“Lad, you’re quick! Right, too. Maybe I’d better go on. But I won’t need
to stay with you.”
“Oh, you’d better. We can take turns watching!”
“Fiddlesticks! It’s not as dangerous for me as that!”
“At least come back in the taxi with us.”
“Oh, all right. I’ll do that. But I’ll go on home, then.”
“Won’t you come on, please—right away?”
Barney, half-amused at Bob’s concern, and partly wondering what caused
it and if he actually had been spied on, overheard, and realizing even
better than did Bob, he thought, how dangerous such an accusation might
be, Barney agreed.
The ride back to town was taken up with discussion of Barney’s hint but
through all the talk Bob was rather quiet.
It was decided that the three members of the Sky Squad would be taken
home first, then Griff and his father would go on, leaving Barney to
finish the ride to his own home.
As the car drew up in front of Bob’s house and Al began saying his
goodnight, quite sleepily, Bob turned to Mr. Parsons.
“What do you say to going back to the plant, after you drop Griff, and
getting the real set of company books, and bringing them here. We can
work on them together, and see if there is anything in the private set
that doesn’t agree with the others.”
“Why not wait until morning?” suggested Mr. Parsons. “Aren’t you worn
out?”
“What books?” Barney asked. “Oh—that’s so. I remember. You said you had
them. Put them away carefully! Don’t leave them out.”
“Oh, we will,” agreed Al, overhearing. “We’ll put them in the big desk
in Father’s study and lock them up.”
“Well, goodnight,” said Curt. He had been invited to stay but he
preferred to go on home. Bob threw in a suggestion.
“At that,” he said, “Curt, why don’t you let me telephone your mother,
and you stay. And Barney could wait with us till Mr. Parsons comes
back.”
“Well, come to think of it, why not?” Barney decided. “If it won’t wake
up your folks.” Bob assured him it wouldn’t. His mother must still be
waiting up, he declared; there was a light burning in his father’s
study.
“Good grief!” he cried, “I never thought—supposing Dad has come home?”
“I’ll bet he has,” Al agreed.
“Let’s go and see—will you come in with us?” he addressed Barney, and
the latter cordially agreed.
“I guess we’d better let you wait in the living room till we see whether
it’s Dad or Mother. She might not be dressed for company—if Mother is
sitting up.” Barney agreed to wait, and Al went to the door to call Curt
in to telephone home.
The den, into which Bob turned, closing the door quietly, was occupied,
as he had all along suspected it would be, by his father.
“I heard that you weren’t in the other city,” Bob said, after a hasty
greeting. His father saw his eagerness and let him talk. “Lang flew
there to get help—” he sketched very swiftly the incidents of the night.
“Now, Father, what brought you home? Have you?——”
“I have suspicions—yes.”
“Then you’ve been working on the mystery?” Bob asked.
“All along. I pretended to be busy on another case because——”
“You suspected somebody!”
“From the start. Yes. Did you?”
“Not until tonight. But I know it’s the same person, and I’ve got him in
the living room and I want to pretend to him that we are guarding him
from some one else, while we keep guard to see that he doesn’t take
fright and escape.”
His father framed a name and Bob nodded.
“What is your proof?” demanded his father.
“He came to a detective at the very first. He has put suspicion on
everybody else. He seems terribly anxious about those books.”
“Circumstantial evidence justifying suspicion, but not proof.
However—I’ve learned that some people, probably using assumed names—it
may all be the same person—have been changing aircraft stock into gold.
What is your plan, son?”
“We must keep him from guessing that we suspect—and keep him where we
can watch him. The way I plan, if you agree, is this. Father, if he is
the guilty one, he is terribly dangerous. He must have crossed wires on
Mr. Tredway’s airplane, before the owner left the plant—hoping he’d have
a short-circuit, set the gas on fire and come down in flames. Then he
thought the Golden Dart was the cabin ship to be flown and he frayed the
rudder cable. When he discovered the other ship was going he might have
crossed wires on that—remember, he mentioned ‘crossed wires’ back in the
other city? And he’s the only one who inspected the Silver Flash when
she crashed and was hauled in. So we must keep him here where we can
hold him if he makes a move.”
“Right. Get him in, son. We will pretend to study the books, and I will
watch his reaction.”
“And if he doesn’t betray himself?——”
“We will let him go. He cannot leave tonight because if he has been
taking stock and exchanging it for gold, he probably had to bank it—he
wouldn’t leave it in his house, would he, son?”
“We can have detectives watch his house all night. Father, fix it with
the Chief of Police while I get him.”
Barney was ushered in, Al and Curt joined them and the three of the Sky
Squad lined up on the davenport to watch Barney as the detective
discussed the case.
But Barney did not betray any uneasiness. He was clever, Bob decided.
Mr. Parsons, for whom Al watched to let him in without awakening Mrs.
Wright, brought other books and they were all busy.
“We’ve discovered something!” Al exclaimed, after half an hour.
“Sky Squad will now report!” chuckled Barney. He turned to Bob.
“Go ahead, Chief Pilot!”
Bob, very serious, nodded.
Was Barney getting fidgety? Or, was he simply eager?
“What have you found?” his father prompted him.
“We’ve solved one mystery—how the bad parts are coming in,” said Bob,
confidently. “Curt, bring the false ledger and the real one.”
All heads bent interestedly.
“Notice how those tiny pencil ‘ticks’ are made in the beginning of some
entries?” Bob pointed to several. “There aren’t any in the regular
ledger, but the entries correspond, and they are always worded in a
queer way. See this one, about fabric: ‘10 bolts fabric, cotton, quality
A—dash—X—one hundred,’” he quoted. “Now all the entries that are ticked
in the false ledger are backward like that—and the same in the regular
book, but no others except the ticked ones are!”
“That’s curious,” muttered Barney. “What else?”
“Here are several bills of lading that weren’t entered Saturday, just
slipped into the back of the regular ledger,” Bob drew them out and
unfolded them. “One is all right, but the other is made out backward—the
same as the ticked ones—and it isn’t a real bill of lading at all,
because it is dated for today, and the shipment that arrived today isn’t
to be delivered until tomorrow and we saw the two trucks exchanging
goods on the byroad—or, Curt did.”
“Very clever, but what does it prove?” asked Barney.
“This bill of lading being dated ahead and being one of the ‘backward
wording’ sort, shows that those are the entries that are ‘queer.’ That
solves the mystery, because we know how those things are being
substituted tonight.”
“But who does it incriminate?” asked Barney.
“Why—whoever’s writing matches this.”
“Then the bookkeeper is due for a call on the carpet—maybe worse,” said
Barney. “That’s his book, and the false set is the same handwriting!”
“That settles that mystery and leaves only the one about Mr. Tredway’s
possible evil wisher,” said Mr. Parsons.
“Why, that’s attended to—all we need to do is to watch that ex-pilot,
and Mr. Tredway’s brother has agreed—” Al paused. The den private
extension telephone was ringing.
“It’s for you, Bob,” his father said. “Who’d be—oh, Mr. Tredway! How are
you? Glad you’re ‘alive and kicking.’ Yes, this is Wright. My son stole
a march on me, finding you. Here he is.”
Bob bent over the desk.
“Hello….” he said amid a tense silence. “Oh, did I guess right?… You
didn’t go on? … set down in the cornfield … fix it in the
morning?… Yes. Thank you, sir, for calling. Yes, we just got here.”
He replaced the receiver and turned to the interested, expectant
company.
“Another of the puzzles solved, and I guessed rightly,” he said.
“Barney, when you suspected the ex-pilot, I thought it might be that
he’d do the same as he had done on the airplane I piloted—Mr. Tredway’s
own sport craft. You know why I had to set it down?”
“No—because the other man—Arthur—chased you down?”
“No,” said Bob, slowly. “You mentioned the ex-pilot having access to the
‘planes. Well, on the brown ship—the wires were crossed tonight!”

“Oh!” Barney gasped, and recovered from his startled amazement. “You
don’t say! That’s bad for—the ex-pilot.”
“But it disposes of one mystery—who! He was probably there at The
Windsock and heard you—don’t you suppose?”
“Looks like it. Well, now, that clears up——”
“All but one more puzzle,” said Curt. “Who’s getting away with the small
parts, and valuable instruments?”
“I can settle that!” said Barney. “Sandy Jim, the rigger Al was put to
work for—remember him sending you to his house with a lot of parcels
supposed to contain junk for his kid?” Al nodded, dismayed. It hurt to
hear that honest-looking Sandy was so wicked. But Barney seemed to have
the correct idea, as the evidence indicated.
“We’ll round them up tomorrow.” Barney rose. “Suppose I take those books
along with me? I’ll bring them in early in the morning.”
“Fine!” Bob jumped up, gathering the books. “There’s a Summer shower
wetting the streets—I’ll wrap these in paper for you.”
When he returned with the parcel all goodnights had been said and the
party broke up.
“Son,” said Mr. Wright to Bob, “what do you think now?”
“I can’t say. He acted all right. But he always has done that.”
“Who?” Al was sleepy but curious.
“Barney!”
“You don’t suspect Barney?”
They nodded.
“But how can you? He has helped us, and he’s Mr. Tredway’s friend and I
always thought—er——”
“A criminal had to have a motive?” prompted his father. “I attached no
importance to one fact I have discovered, until I felt sure of Barney’s
guilt. Now I do. This might be his motive! Years ago Mr. Tredway won the
girl whom another pilot was courting. The man went from bad to worse,
threatened—and then disappeared.”
“Jealousy! Hate!” gasped Curt. “But Barney!——”
“Of course that was not the pilot’s name. He must have changed his name
as well as his appearance.”
“Then, Father, how did you know it’s Barney. How about the ex-pilot?
Couldn’t he?——”
“No, Al. He worked for Mr. Tredway after the latter married.”
“Well—then—good cracky! Bob—you gave the culprit all the evidence in
those books—to destroy!”
“No!” Bob smiled. “Dad’s encyclopedia is shy four volumes, and there are
three vitamine books gone, and Barney has them. The real books are in
their places on our shelves!”
Then they did compliment him!