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Chapter 16 - Off for the West

Of course, as Tom supposed they would, the Blatz Detective Agency denied that Joe Myrick, their one-time operative, had been engaged through their bureau either to spy upon the Swift Construction Company or to injure Tom's invention of the electric locomotive.

Nevertheless, three points were indisputable: Myrick had been caught spying; in his possession was a can of explosive which could be set off by concussion; and it was a fact that to Myrick had been first entrusted the matter of hunting for Andy O'Malley when Tom had put the search for the Westerner up to the Blatz people.

"He played traitor both to you, Mr. Swift, and to our agency," declared Blatz to Tom. "I wash my hands of him. I hope the police send him away for life!"

"He'll go to prison all right," said Tom, confidently. "But the main point is that one of your operatives fell down on a simple job. I wanted that Andy O'Malley traced. He's out of the way, now, of course. If you had put an honest man to work for me, O'Malley would be behind the bars himself."

"Some doubt of that, Mr. Swift," grumbled Blatz.

"Why?"

"Where's your evidence that this O'Malley was connected with the attempt to blow up your locomotive the first time? Mr. Newton's testimony would need corroboration."

"Never mind that," rejoined the young inventor, with a smile. "I'd have him for highway robbery. I recognized him. He robbed me of a wallet. Guess we could put O'Malley away for awhile on that charge. And by the time he got out again my job for that Western railroad would be completed."

"Humph! Nothing personal in your going after the fellow, then?" queried the head of the detective agency.

"No. But I frankly confess that I am afraid of O'Malley. He is undoubtedly in the employ of men who will pay him well if he wrecks my invention. But there really is no personal grudge between O'Malley and me. At least, I feel no particular enmity against the fellow."

There was a pause.

"If you say so we will give you a couple of good men as bodyguards on your trip West," suggested Blatz, licking his lips hungrily.

"As good men as Myrick?" retorted Tom, rather scornfully. "No, thank you. Just make your bill out to the Swift Construction Company to date, and a check will be sent you the first of the month. I will take my own precautions hereafter."

And those precautions Tom considered sufficient. When the Hercules 0001 was towed out of the enclosure belonging to the Swift Construction Company early on Monday morning, each door and window of the huge cab was barred and locked. Inside the cab rode Koku, the giant.

Koku had his orders to allow nobody to enter the Hercules 0001 until Tom or Ned Newton came to relieve him of his responsibility as guard. The giant had a swinging cot to sleep on and sufficient food - of a kind - to last him for a fortnight if necessary.

He was not armed, for Tom did not often trust him with weapons. The young inventor, however, did not expect that any armed force would attack the electric locomotive.

If Montagne Lewis desired to wreck the new invention which might mean so much to Mr. Bartholomew and the H. & P. A., he surely would not allow his hirelings to attack openly the locomotive while it was en route.

On the other hand, Tom did not really believe that Andy O'Malley would attempt any reprisal against him personally. Of course, the Western desperado might feel himself abused by Tom, especially in the matter of Tom's use of his ammonia pistol.

But that had happened months ago. O'Malley had undoubtedly been hired by Mr. Bartholomew's enemies to obtain knowledge of the contract signed between the young inventor and the railroad president; and later it was certain that the spy had tried his best to wreck the electric locomotive.

As for any personal assault so many weeks after O'Malley had clashed with him Tom Swift did not expect it. With Ned in his company on this journey to Hendrickton, the young inventor had good reason to consider that he was perfectly safe.

Mary Nestor and Mr. Swift came to the station to see the two young men off on Monday evening. Mary had heard about the second attempt made to blow up the Hercules 0001 and she begged Tom to take every precaution while he was in the West.

"You will be in the enemy's country out there, Tom dear," she warned him. "You won't be careless?"

"I know I shall be mighty busy," he told her, laughing. "I'll let Ned play watch-dog. And you know, his is a cautious soul, Mary."

"I've every confidence in Ned's faithfulness," the girl said, still with anxious tone. "But those men who are trying to ruin Mr. Bartholomew's road will stop at nothing. I must hear from you frequently, Tom, or I shall worry myself ill."

"Don't lose your courage, Mary," rejoined the inventor, more gravely. "I do not think they will attack me personally again. Remember that Koku is on the job, as well as Ned. And Mr. Damon declares he will follow us West very shortly," and again Tom chuckled.

"Even Mr. Damon may be a help to you, Tom," declared Mary, warmly. "At least, he is completely devoted to you."

"So is Rad Sampson," said Tom, with a little grimace. "I certainly had my hands full convincing him that father needed him here at home. At that, Rad is pretty warm over the fact that I sent Koku on with the locomotive. If anything should chance to happen to my invention, Eradicate Sampson is going to shout 'I told you so!' all over the shop."

Mary dabbed her eyes a little with her handkerchief, and Tom patted her shoulder.

"Don't worry, Mary," he said more cheerfully. "There won't a thing happen to me out there at Hendrickton. I'll keep the wires hot with telegrams. And I'll write to both you and father, and give you the full particulars of how we get along. You'll keep your eye on father, Mary, won't you?"

"You may be sure of that," said the girl. "I will not leave him entirely to the care of Rad," and she tried hard to smile again. But it was a difficult matter.

Such a parting as this is always hard to endure. Tom wrung his father's hand and warned him to be careful of his health. The train came along and the two young men boarded it with their personal luggage.

They had a flash of the two faces - that of Mr. Swift's and Mary's blooming countenance - as the express started again, and then the outlook from the Pullman coach showed them the fast- receding environs of Shopton.

"We're on our way, my boy," said Tom to his chum.

"We certainly are," said Ned, thoughtfully. "I wonder what the outcome of the trip will be? It may not be all plain sailing."

"Don't croak," rejoined the young inventor, with a grin.

"I don't see how you can appear so cheerful., Why! you don't even know if that electric locomotive is safe. Something may have already happened to it. The freight train might be wrecked. A dozen things might happen."

"I am not crossing any bridges before I come to them," declared Tom. "Besides, I propose to keep in touch with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One in a certain way - Hullo! Here it is."

"Here what is?" demanded Ned.

The Pullman conductor at that moment came in through the forward corridor. He had a telegram in his hand, and intoned loudly as he approached:

"Mr. Swift! Mr. Thomas Swift! Telegram for Mr. Swift."

"That is for me, Conductor," said Tom briskly, offering his card.

"All right, Mr. Swift. Just got it at Shopton. Operator said you had boarded my car. This is railroad business, you'll notice. Have you any reply, sir?"

Tom ripped open the envelope and unfolded the telegram. He held it so that Ned could read, too. It was signed: "N. G. Smith, Conductor, Number 48."

"What's that?" exclaimed Ned, reading the message.

"'Locomotive and crazy man in it all right at Lingo,'" repeated Tom aloud, and chuckled.

"No, Conductor, there is no answer."

"Good!" exclaimed Ned. "You arranged to get reports en route from the conductors handling the Hercules Three-Oughts-One?"

"Surest thing you know," replied Tom. "And I guess, from the wording of this message, that the crew of Forty-eight have already found out that Koku is not an ordinary guard."

"He's a great boy," smiled Ned. "Glad he is on the job."

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