Margaret hastened to join Jane by her side, and she read the words over her shoulder as she pointed to them.
“Right here,” Jane ran her finger under a paragraph, “says the telegram was received at Tempest Street, in Pinecrest, Maine, and sent here to Portland. To John Smith, at the Kangaroo Motel – THE SHIPMENT IS EXPECTED TO ARRIVE EARLY AT SIX THIRTY STOP MAKE NO MISTAKES STOP MEET ME AT THE OLD FARM HOUSE. JULY 21.”
Jane folded the telegram and placed it inside her purse:
“This is serious, Margaret. Whoever sent this telegram is clearly the one behind it all; and they’re right in your home town, Pinecrest!”
“We’ve got to tell Josh about this,” Margaret said.
Josh had remained with Ted by the car, and they both walked briskly towards them. Once they had briefed them on the telegram, they each fell into silence and Ted scratched his head.
“Before we head back for Pinecrest,” Jane began, “we should check out the Kangaroo Motel to see if those goons are still there. We might just catch them before they leave town!”
“We should call the police,” Josh cut in, “It’s too dangerous, and I don’t want us to get within firing range of those fellahs again.”
“He’s right, Jane. Let’s stop and go home, this is too risky.”
“We can’t give up that easy. You said yourself, the police wouldn’t believe you; they won’t believe us this time either, when we tell them to check out the Kangaroo Motel. We have to go, and we have to go now; if we’re to catch them!”
Jane pulled open the door to the driver’s seat and slid in, motioning for the others to follow. Ted was the first to open the passenger side and he smiled grimly.
“I know where the Kangaroo Motel is,” he said as he seated himself, disentangling his arms from the morass of bags he had collected up from the ground.
Josh and Margaret were left with little choice; and their eagerness to solve the mystery and locate the criminals was greater than their desire to return home. Josh tossed the last bag into the backseat, and they too climbed in.
Jane pulled the car onto the road, and Ted gave her concise directions through the busying traffic; leading them right to the parking lot of the Kangaroo Motel. Jane’s eyes lingered on the weathered sign that marked the turn off of the street, and noticed the dilapidated condition of the environs; her heart suddenly sinking as she considered the slim possibility of finding the ruffians at that worn down inn.
“It doesn’t look like anyone is checked in but the owner.” Remarked Margaret, as she surveyed the parking lot.
“You stay here, I’ll head in and ask a few questions.”
However, Jane’s probing was to little avail; and she discovered from the motel’s dubious owner that the suspicious John Smith had checked out early that morning, and had barely slept in his room save depressing the pillows and top blanket from a light sleep.
When Jane returned to the car; she couldn’t shake the idea that Zack was behind it all.
“Zack has got to be our culprit;” she said, fanning a newspaper at her flushed cheeks from the increasing humidity and heat. The day had begun to warm up, baking every small room and shelter exposed to the sun. “Everything points to him, even the telegram!”
“Don’t forget the photographs taken at the museum,” Josh added.
“And he’s been awfully cagey recently;” said Margaret, “I hadn’t mentioned before, but Zack used to be very involved with the community; even my uncle says he isn’t the same. Zack used to stop by his place once or twice a week to help him with his projects, and he said he hasn’t seen him in a month of Sundays.”
“Trooper didn’t like him either, did you boy?” Ted said, patting Trooper’s head; who was sitting on his haunches on the car floor.
“Now before we frame him up completely; we don’t know for sure if it’s him. But my vote is to head back to Pinecrest, and hold his feet to the fire until he talks!” Jane concluded.
The slow and reflective drive back to Pinecrest brought them at length within sight of the museum. It stood up ominous and eerie against the last pallor of twilight, and they all got out of the car in preparation of making an ambush.
“We’ve got no time to lose; let’s go.” Jane instructed, as she lead the way to the side entrance.
They stopped at the back door, and Jane opened it quietly.
“Do you think it’s safe, Jane,” said Ted, pausing, a little pale in the moonlight; “to go into that place and interrogate him? There could be several of them, and they might do something sudden. I can’t feel it’s safe.”
“You stay out here and keep watch, then; with Margaret.” Josh whispered as he leaned in to hold the door open.
“Of course you shall be near enough to hear us if we yell,” said Jane, “and that will give us an ace in the hole if something strange should come up.”
Margaret agreed, and they kept watch with Trooper; while Jane and Josh disappeared into the darkness of the inner corridor.
Their steps advanced through the dark labyrinth, treading softly by the display cases; and had Jane not known the inside of the museum as well as she did, they might have been discovered by one of the other security guards on duty.
They were at this time approaching the doorway of the security office; and as expected, they saw Zack sitting at the desk examining documents and marking files; his face lit dimly by a lamplight. His head was bent down at his work, and he saw nothing when Jane handed a rope in the darkness to Josh.
When he swiveled his chair to face the cabinets behind, they took this opportunity to bound on him; leaping from the shadows, Josh flung an arm round his throat and began to tie him to the back of the chair with one arm.
He fought with commendable valor, but Josh got him tight; and they tied his hands behind him, wrapping the rope about his chest to the chair. Before he let out a warning, Jane gagged him, and they spun him round to look at his face in the light. His eyes were starting impotently from his head, and Josh finished up the job by wrapping a cord about his feet.
“We apologize for incommoding you.” Jane began, walking briskly across the room to seize the camera, “but we simply have to find out the truth, and we’re not leaving here until we have some answers.”
Josh crossed his arms and leaned against the desk calmly in the darkness, keeping a close eye on Zack’s every twitch.
“Alright, Zack, we want the truth.” Jane said.
…To be continued, on Sunday, December 5th! 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!