“Be very still-” Jane whispered to them.
She blinked repeatedly in the darkness, straining to see her chums about her. Rising from her seat, she strode over to the window and pulled back a curtain; pouring a silvery haze of moonlight into the room which vaguely outlined the furniture. Margaret then felt her way to the kitchen, and pulled open the drawer to reveal several rolling flashlights.
She handed one to Jane, another to Josh; and kept the third.
“They found me,” Ted Hayden groaned, “I knew they would- I’ve only made matters worse.” He shook his head in despair.
Jane waved her hand and shushed him quickly from her lookout at the window, then motioned for Margaret to come closer.
“Where’s the fuse box?” She whispered.
“On the other side of the cabin, in the open garage.” Margaret replied, “Let’s go through the kitchen door.”
Leaving Ted Hayden behind at the table, Margaret led the troop of sleuths across the kitchen to the backdoor. Josh pushed the curtain away from the small decorative window, and peered out.
“You stay here,” he said, silently turning the brass doorknob- “I’ll check to see if it’s safe.”
With tactful movements, he slipped out through the door and stepped onto the back porch; sending a beam of yellow light across the lawn. He soon returned, armed with a large metal pipe in one hand, and flashlight in the other. He shook his head and stated:
“Not a soul out here, save for some toads.”
Margaret stepped out onto the porch, and Jane followed her to the fuse box. She examined it closely, and remarked that the fuses had blown out.
“These fuses are gone;” she said, “there must have been a power surge somewhere; what with this huge storm, I’m not surprised!”
Suddenly, their eyes caught sight of Josh flinging open the backdoor rapidly, and dashing inside. Jane exchanged glances with Margaret, before they both rushed impatiently forward to see what had happened.
They beheld a very curious scene; evidently, Ted Hayden had attempted to escape in their absence, but Josh had taken hold of him by the arm. He pulled him to the chair he previously occupied, and pushed him back into it.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Josh said, “Don’t think you can make a getaway without our knowledge of it.”
Ted Hayden slumped over in his chair, and let out a tremendous sigh.
“I’ve gotten you all in too much trouble.” He said pitifully, “I can’t stay.”
“And what do you hope to accomplish on your own?” Jane cut in, “we’re here to help you, and we want to solve this mystery as much as you do. Let’s pick up where we left off, we need first some light.”
Margaret lit a hurricane lamp in the kitchen, and brought it to the table. Jane spread the photographs out in front of them all, and their eager eyes examined the puzzling pictures.
“We all know that these photos have the answer to that rotten gang’s next heist. We also know, that the men talking in the cabin read the imagery without any hesitation; confirming our assumptions. They said, if I remember correctly; the Western Waterfront in Portland, July 22nd, 8:30 in the morning.”
“That’s the freight harbor!” Margaret remarked, “They must be picking up some kind of shipment from the docks.”
“Exactly,” concluded Jane, “Or stealing one! What do you know about this, Ted?”
Ted Hayden sulkily looked at the photographs, and answered:
“To be honest, I couldn’t make heads or tails of them. I had run into so many roadblocks; I didn’t know what to do. They caught me when I stopped at a truck stop, and hauled me back to their hideout. Trooper was in the backseat of my car, and must have somehow escaped without them knowing. I thought I was a goner.”
“Lucky for you, Jane showed up to save your bacon.” Josh added wryly, tossing a photograph back onto the table.
“Well we won’t get anywhere just sitting here-” Jane said, “We need to come up with a plan to eradicate Pinecrest of these criminals.”
Margaret scooped the photos together, and leaned onto the table.
“I’ve got an idea!” Her bright eyes sparkled, “We’ll get cameras, stake out the dock and take photos when they show up to steal the cargo.”
“That’s brilliant, Margaret; but I think we should get the police involved. This is getting too dangerous for us to proceed on our own. Whether they’re stealing or picking up a shipment from the docks in Portland, there’s no telling how many of them will be there; we might be outnumbered.”
Even in the dense shadows, they could see Ted Hayden’s face had turned as pale as ashes.
“Not the police!” He said with a strained expression, “I couldn’t, I have to clear my name first. We can’t get them involved; I’d be put behind bars again!”
Jane stared at him with a blank benignity for a few seconds, before she abruptly pushed back her chair and sprang to her feet with a new idea in her head.
“I’ve got it!” She clapped her hands together, “I know exactly what we’ll do.”
…To be continued, next week on Sunday, October 10th! Jane Darcy needs your help to solve the hair-raising mystery surrounding Pinecrest; keep your magnifying glass handy, and don’t miss the next exciting chapter!