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Alone with a vicious killer in an underground cavern, Brewster follows a long trail to the solution of a mystery.

ONE of the most baffling as well as irritating crimes to the average police official is the disappearance of merchandise or goods when there is no apparent reason how the goods vanish.

Sometimes valuables vanish right under the law's nose; yes, even while they are looking on.

And, when the merchandise in question is of a semi-fluid consistency, the loss is even more irritating, as you will easily discover by perusing the present effort of our well known author. He shows us clearly how, by a new trick, the thing is done.

The story is filled with good science.



GEORGE BREWSTER stood at the bench with upraised hammer and tightened jaw ready to strike a in a metal barrel-hoop.

"I have an order to transfer you to the press room, George. Report there in the morning."

At the foreman's words, the new mechanic dropped both hammer and jaw.

"Better take along a pair of thin trousers", the boss went on. "Some old ones, because you will have to cut the legs off."

"Your check number is 438, isn't it?" he added, looking back as he hurried away.

Brewster nodded.

Then he looked in a rather dazed way at the hammer. Slowly he laid it down, and stared at his open palm. It was sore and red from newly formed callouses and recently broken blisters.

"So it's the press room next," he said.

He had fallen into the habit of thinking aloud here in the factory, for there was always so much noise that no one was likely to hear him.

For once he was almost sorry he was a detective. He had not expected that there would be always primrose paths, but this was a little too much.

For two weeks he had been standing at this bench, straightening and re-riveting old barrel hoops, most of them kinked and twisted or covered with rust.

And now, the press room! Well he knew, that the press room of a linseed-oil mill was not a place where one could wish to work.

Two months ago he had been assigned to this case; a case which up to the present time had baffled all investigators. For years extensive thieving had been going on in the plant, thefts of flax-seed that entailed the loss of $20,000.

The company planned to have a detective work for a few weeks in each of the various departments, cultivating the acquaintance of the employees and watching at all times for any sign of leakage.

This was the great Midland Linseed Oil Mill, the largest of all producers of linseed oil. The mill consumed hundreds of thousands of bushels of flax-seed in the course of a year's operations, but in spite of stringent regulations, for several years the annual inventory had shown a shortage of from one to three thousand bushels of seed in the bins. Several investigators had from time to time attempted to trace the loss; without result. It was Brewster's chance in life to make good.

Hours were long and the work tedious. He worked in the shipping room, in the weighing department; with the machines, and, the last two weeks, in the cooper shop of the barreling department. Now the cooper's trade is not one that can be learned in a day.

Blank Walls

HE had been given a large, awkward hammer, and set to work at a bench to straighten and repair used barrel-hoops. The work was hard and disagreeable; and the opportunities for investigating very small.

Most of the employees in this department were Hungarians who spoke little English.

The boss of the department and the head-cooper were obviously Americans; the former deaf, and the other surly, baffling George's efforts to fraternize.

Obviously there was little to be gained here. Brewster saw men going to and from the press room, and his heart sank at the prospect of his next job.

They wore no shirts, and only the most sketchy trousers, usually cut off half way down to the knee, and sandals or slippers with thick, heavy, wooden soles.

They always came out reeking with sweat, and limp from the effects of the heat.

Flax-seed refuses to give up its oil until it is heated to about 190 degrees F., and subjected to a pressure of two or three hundred tons.

So the job in the press room was considered by far the worst job in the whole plant; it was rumored that no man could stick to it more than two years.

But, although Brewster was small he was young and athletic; and in times of emergency possessed reserve power of endurance.

"Well, I suppose I can stand it a couple of weeks if these chaps stand it a couple of years," he said as he checked in next morning and listened to the instructions given him by the press foreman.

"There is not much to this but sheer endurance," George was told. "You will be taking the meal cakes out of "the hot presses and loading them onto trucks. It is quite heavy work, and you will have to move fast in order to keep up with your machine. Be careful not to get your hands caught in the cogs, and if you feel faint, make a beeline for the nearest door.

"We work fifteen minutes and then take fifteen minutes off. It is a good idea to have a shirt or a coat handy to slip on when you go out, as you will not be so liable to catch cold."

As the foreman fetched him some "clod" shoes, Brewster removed his street clothes and put on the abbreviated trousers that he had "cut-off" for the occasion.

He was conducted to one of the machines and joined by another workman.

"This is Jim," the boss said. "Jim will work partner with you on this machine, and show you how it is done."

With that he hurried away.

Jim looked at the clock. "In one minute now' We will change shifts," he said. "You will hear the gong.

"There is nothing to it," he explained. "We just take the cakes out of the press when they are released. I will take the first one and you the second, and so on. Be careful not to touch the press, but only the meal cake.

"They are hot, but you mustn't mind that; they Won't really burn you; and be careful you don't slip and fall. The floor is reeking with oil."


FOR a moment Brewster watched the stream of gray flax meal pouring into the press, and listened to the continual hiss of steam as it circulated through the sizzling hot machines. He noted that everything about the place that hands could touch was covered with a thick glazing of oil, which had hardened one coat upon another until it produced a finish so unbelievably smooth to the touch that it was positively fascinating. This fascination was so pronounced that wherever workmen passed along, he saw them reach out an oily hand and slide it along the polished surface with evident relish.

Evidently this supplied a little more oil, which added to the ever-increasing gloss.

The press machines did not seem complicated. The meal was poured into fiber containers, between heavy plates of metal standing upright and moving along a horizontal guide.

The press plates emerged from a steam chamber and appeared very hot. The meal also was steaming hot. As it was pressed into thin layers it exuded the oil, which formed into thin little streams and trickled down into troughs, whence it was conducted to the oil tanks.

Upon arriving at the end of the guide, each plate tipped down, releasing its layer, of meal, now reduced to a hard light grey cake less than an inch thick.

As the plates tipped down, they proved to be attached to an endless chain, which carried them back under the long press and up again to the steam chamber.

And now the gong sounded; and the two men took their places at the machine. As the first cake was released, Jim seized it by its two opposite edges, and placed it on the waiting truck. Brewster was ready for the next one, and caught it without mishap, depositing it on top of the first one; and so was successfully launched on his new job.

Although everything about him was reeking hot, he worked for a few minutes with but little discomfort. Then his breathing gradually became more labored; and the air seemed positively to burn him when inhaled. It was so dry that it parched his throat. Then his arms and legs became heavy, and every movement was accomplished with an effort.

He looked at the clock. He had been at work only ten minutes.

Jim was working on mechanically, looking neither to the right or left. Surely he could stick it out for fifteen minutes if Jim could, for Jim was rather a frail looking fellow.

Brewster was perspiring profusely. Little streams ran down his face and trickled off his chin and the end of his nose. He felt them creeping down his back. Then for a moment he saw a vision of a cool brook, bubbling along beneath a shady grove.

But he must not let his mind wander; and he must be very careful where he put his hands.

It seemed as though his sight was not as clear as it should be; but probably that was due to perspiration in his eyes. But what was that roaring sound in his ears? He wondered if that could be a sign of fainting; and he recalled the boss's orders to make for an open door in case of such an emergency.

Well, perhaps it was only a passing feeling. He would stay a moment longer. Then he heard the sound of the gong. It seemed very far away.

The First Clue

HE started for the open door. As he hurried along, he became conscious of Jim's voice beside him. "The first hundred years is always the worst. You won't mind it so much the next time. Where is your coat?"

Other crews joined them as they emerged from the building. It was a warm day in midsummer, and the men lit cigarettes and lounged about on the ground, or on the long plank benches that stretched along the shady side of the building. Every one talked and joked freely, but they coughed a great deal, and not a few of them showed unmistakable signs of failing health.

All too soon the fifteen minutes' respite was over, and they returned to their work.

This time, as Jim had prophesied, the detective did not find it so hard to do his stint. As the day wore on, he found the work becoming less difficult, and the heat less hard to bear.

On the second day during the noon hour, Brewster walked a little way from the factory and sat down on the exposed roots of a large shade tree to eat his lunch.

After eating, he sat enjoying the cool shade, and thinking about the manner of the disappearance of the missing flax-seed, his gaze resting on the tangled mass of roots beneath him.

At length a scrap of paper lodged in the tangle caught his attention and aroused his curiosity. With some little difficulty he secured it, and smoothing it out on his knee found that it was a torn portion of a blue-print.

Upon careful examination he decided that it must be a sectional map of a sewer system. In the extreme corner was the notation, "section 44."

The location of a portion of several streets was shown; and running through them was a large clear line, marked "Seven Foot Tunnel. Completed 1879."

"This must be old stuff," he thought. "Maybe that old trunk sewer hasn't been used for twenty years. I suppose there are plenty of them around town that are large enough for a man to walk in."

His eyes wandered over the surrounding landscape. Suddenly he sprang to his feet; and his face lighted up with an expression of keen interest.

"This is a real discovery," he said under his breath. "This is my clue!"

He folded the paper and put it carefully in his pocket. Then for a few minutes he gave his undivided attention to his surroundings.

He was on a hill, overlooking quite a broad valley, part of which was a public park. In the side of the hill, at the edge of the valley, was the large oil plant, served by a spur from the main railroad. There were several of these tracks, winding along the edge of the valley.

Lower down, beyond the railroads, was the river, which had been widened and deepened to form a ship canal.

George Studies the Scene

LOOKING up the valley, and along the crest of the same hill, -he saw perhaps half a mile distant, a "very imposing school building.

This vast structure was reputed to be the largest single school building in the Mid-West. In front of the school, the slope of the hill was divided into two sections, separated by a terrace-like level stretch some ten or twelve rods wide. This comparatively level plot was about two-thirds of the way up the hill, which rose at this point some fifty feet above the valley floor. A broad paved walk crossed the little park from the residence section beyond, and boldly ascended to the school by means of two spacious flights of steps.

Brewster knew that originally the great oil plant had been on the outskirts of the city; but the town had grown so tremendously during the last two or three decades that .it was now considered quite downtown.

The detective suddenly decided that he would not work in the mill that afternoon; but would spend the rest of the day in following up his new lead. At the works he pleaded sudden illness, and went home. Arriving at his boarding house, he dressed hurriedly and then betook himself to the city hall. Here he sought out the commissioner of sewers, and introduced himself as an investigator for a historical society. He asked about maps and other information regarding old sewer systems of the municipality.

The commissioner was glad to accommodate him, and called on an aged clerk to help him find such features of the old improvements as he might deem of interest.

Brewster professed to be especially interested in the district around the large school and the linseed oil mill.

"The entire trunk system has been replaced in that neighborhood," said the old man. "The old trunk lines were so small and poorly located that we decide to abandon them entirely and build new ones, more advantageously located. These new lines have been connected up with the street sewers for a number of years. The last connection was made about ten years ago."

Perhaps an old map was still on file; but it was doubtful, because most of the old maps of abandoned works had been disposed of; thrown out in the trash, when they moved into the new city hall last spring.

Yes, luck was with them. They did find an old map of the early sewers of the exact district in question. The old man took no little pride in his knowledge of the old time system. He very obligingly pointed out the salient points of the old works, and compared them with those of the new and more modern ones now in use.

Brewster was keenly interested, and inquired if it would be possible to borrow the old section sheet, as it was called.

He was assured that it would no doubt be quite possible, since it was no longer necessary equipment for the department.

The Tunnel

THE investigator offered to make a deposit for its safe return; and with the help and explanations of the aged clerk the loan was presently arranged.

Brewster hurried back to the vicinity of the mill and school, to try to locate definitely the main lines of the abandoned sewer.

There was a seven-foot tunnel indicated as following along the base of the long hill, and emptying into the canal. The sewage from this line, so the old clerk had explained, had so polluted the water of the canal, that as the city spread and enveloped the locality it became necessary to divert this sewage into another line that emptied into the river, far below the city. As near as Brewster could determine, this tunnel had passed under the foot of the flight of steps approaching the school house; and following along the base of the hill, had passed not far from the newer buildings of the great mill. In fact, it was somewhere under the railroad switch lines. It was quite probable that the tunnel had been encountered in placing the foundations for the massive steps.

In order to determine if this was so, Brewster decided to visit the building permit department on the following day, and to examine, if possible, the architect's plans for the improvement.

In this project he encountered no difficulty. He found the plans to be quite thorough regarding detail of construction. But no obstructing sewer line was anywhere indicated. Perhaps the architect had been unaware of its existence until the excavation for the footings was well under way. Or perhaps he had judged that the line was entirely below the level of the footings. However, the ground plan of the basic concrete structure .proved to be quite interesting. In general contour it resembled a wide-membered capital T; the stem of the T being the first flight of steps, ascending to a landing. At both right and left of this landing another flight, at right angles to the first, ascended to the higher level; and at the head of each of these flights was another spacious landing, on a level with the concrete sidewalk.

The whole structure was hemmed about with a very massive and imposing railing.

The footings for the whole structure were at the same level, on a stratum. of hardpan some six feet below the lowest of the steps. Therefore it had required quite high walls to support the upper flights together with their respective landing platforms. These tall walls had been built very substantially of re-enforced concrete, in order to support their heavy loads. Each member; that is, each flight or landing, was supported by four walls, constituting a box-like structure; the top or roof of which was either steps or platform. It occurred to Brewster that these must form quite spacious rooms in case they had not been filled in with earth or other material. In fact, the tallest of them, the ones supporting the two upper landings, were about 22 feet in depth and 20 feet width and length.

On further examination Brewster found that if these cavities had been left vacant, they were also hermetically sealed by the thick walls of concrete and stone; so that there was no possibility of entering or even seeing into them.

Although he had found no definite evidence, the detective was convinced that theflax,-seed thief was in some way making use of this old trunk sewer and possibly these cavities beneath the steps. He determined at all hazards to find an entrance to the tunnel and explore it.

George Explores

BY the aid of the map he readily found where the tube came out to the canal. The entrance was barred by a rusty door or iron grating. The ancient bolt that had formerly secured it had so rusted away that it no longer held fast; and with some effort he was able to swing the door on its protesting hinges sufficiently to allow him to squeeze his body through. Although there was some deposit of debris in the bottom of the tube, which was egg-shaped and built of brick, there was still ample room for the small man to stand upright. He could discover no tracks near the outlet of the tube, and so was led to the conclusion that if it was indeed being used by the thief, he must have access to some other entrance. A little stream of sluggish water was trickling along the bottom of the tunnel; and although the explorer only penetrated the darkness of the interior a few yards, he soon commenced to experience the uncomfortable feeling of wet feet. So he came out rather gingerly and closed the door behind him.

He was still determined to explore the tunnel, but it was evident that for this business he would need rubber boots and some kind of a light. He decided to go home and procure the necessary equipment.

At home, after providing himself with a pair of wading-boots and a flashlight with several extra batteries, he sat down to think over the situation. Obviously this was a very dangerous undertaking. Not knowing what pitfalls there might be in the old tunnel, that had remained unused for years; what chance could he have of discovering the robbers, if indeed there really were robbers, without their first discovering him? He took out his automatic and examined it carefully, making sure that it worked easily. But what use would a gun be, when the enemy was under cover of darkness and had all the advantage of knowing the ground? No. On second thought it would be better to resort to strategy; to leave all weapons behind, and go as on a peaceful archeological expedition.

Why not carry out the idea of the investigation for the historical society, and if possible avoid antagonizing the outlaws?

With this idea in mind, he put away the gun and proceeded to fake some letters, purporting to be from an historical society. These he placed in envelopes directed to an imaginary address. He carefully sealed the envelopes, and then tore them open at the ends, as though he had received them in the mail. Not to overlook anything, he affixed to the envelopes cancelled stamps, carefully steamed off other letters. These manufactured communications he placed in his pocket by way of identification.

Then with an ample supply of notebooks and pencils and a box lunch, he set off on what was destined to be a very eventful trip.

Arriving again at the iron gate, he entered as noiselessly as possible; and by the aid of his flashlight picked his way very cautiously along the tunnel. For quite a long distance the way led straight and almost level back into the bowels of the earth. As he progressed, the air appeared to grow more damp and heavy, and the peculiar odor of old underground caverns assailed his nostrils. However, he was agreeably surprised to find that there was no odor of sewage.

In the Sewer

HE reflected that it had been so long since the . tunnel had carried any sewage that the natural processes of time had thoroughly cleansed the walls. Probably it had often been flushed out in times of sudden storms. At this thought he was stricken with cold terror. Suppose there should come up a sudden shower while he was far underground. The water would rush into the tunnel. He would have no possible means of escape, and must surely be caught and drowned like a rat in a hole. For a moment he hesitated, but resolved to push on.

By this time he judged he had progressed a quarter of a mile, and must be at least half-way to the point where the tunnel passed the Midland plant. Here he hoped to find something that would prove whether or not this was entirely a wild goose chase.

He wondered who was working in his place at the press, and if he would ever have to go back to that oven of Inferno. Soon he came upon tracks in the mud that most of the way covered the narrow bottom of the tube.

Evidently some one shod in large rubber boots had come along down the tunnel.

But there were two sets of tracks, pointing in opposite directions. The person must have turned around and retraced his steps. This was proof positive that there was some other entrance to the tunnel, and that some one knew of its whereabouts. With this encouragement Brewster pressed on with increased vigor, not forgetting to watch his footing.

At length, when he was commencing to feel that he must have passed the oil plant, he came suddenly upon a jumble of tracks; and his light reflected, some shiny particles merged with the mud.

Upon approaching more nearly, he discovered that the floor was sprinkled with flax-seed.

Surely then he was under the mill; and probably hot on the trail of the flax-seed thief who was reputed to have stolen at least twenty thousand dollars worth of the precious material.

About him were only the concrete walls of the tunnel. But above his head he saw that a brick had apparently been removed, for it was now being held in place by two wooden wedges.

The detective was tempted to remove the wedges and the brick, and see if the orifice thus formed would reveal daylight, or any hint of his surroundings. But his training and his natural caution forbade; and he contented himself with making a more careful examination of the tunnel bottom. He now found that there were numerous chips of wood embedded in the mud; and by groping about he found two or three that appeared quite fresh. They were evidently borings from a small bit, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It was obvious that this was not a very healthy place to remain; so he decided to withdraw a little way down the tunnel to study his find.

He glanced again at the loose brick, thinking he saw a dim ray of light from somewhere in the distance. After retracing his steps for several rods down the tunnel, stopping to examine the auger chips, he turned off his light, and set to work to figure out what it all meant.

He felt sure that he must be either under or along side of the oil mill, for where else could the flax-seed come from?

The Leak

FLAX-SEED is not a very common article of commerce. In fact, it is seldom seen at all outside of its regular and legitimate channels, and had little or no value except as a source of paint oil.

Could it be that the auger had been used to pierce the wall or floor of a seed bin, and thus tap the almost liquid stores?

No, he distinctly remembered that the bins in the plant had been entirely of concrete, lined with smooth glass. He recalled how one of the shipping clerks had taken him to see them one noon hour, and he had remarked how shiny and hard the walls looked.

They had walked over one of the large bins on a run-way, and his companion had been at great pains to warn Brewster not to fall in, saying that if he did he would be likely to drown, as the mill hands termed it, before he could be rescued.

He said he had known of quite a number of people losing their lives by falling and becoming submerged in a bin of flax-seed. The seed was so light and yielding that a man would sink into it, the same as into a bed of quicksand; and would of course be smothered almost instantly. His thoughts returned to the auger.

It was fairly certain that such an instrument could not be used to tap a bin. But if not from the bins, where had the seed come from?

Was it possible that any considerable quantity of seed could be extracted through a three-quarter inch hole? Brewster remembered seeing a large pile of seed under a box-car one time; and upon examination he had found that it was leaking out in a thin stream through a hole so small that hardly more than two or three grains could pass through at one time.

To guard against such leaks the cars were usually lined with paper or cheese cloth.

"Leaking out of a box-car," he said over again to himself; why yes. That was an idea. This leak might be directly under the sidings; in that case, the flax was taken, not from the mill but from the cars.

It was possible that there was where all the thefts had occurred.

The cars were weighed while loaded, and then weighed again when emptied; and thus the amount of seed was computed. If the seed was removed between the times of the two weighings, the loss could not be detected.

How dumb he was not to have thought of that before! Brewster's mind went back to stories he had heard from other detectives about wharf rats stealing oil and liquor from the docks. How they paddled under the high docks in row-boats, and then with long sleeve-encased argers bored up through the dock platform and on through the bottoms of the barrels standing on the docks; thus extracting the fluid and completely emptying the barrels.

Why would not the same trick work with flaxseed, which is nearly fluid in consistency? But how was the thief to locate the position of a carload of seed? There were surely no windows in the roof of the tunnel.

His brain reeling from the closeness of the atmosphere, he felt in need of refreshment. A couple of loose bricks placed one on top of the other formed a seat. This he covered with a piece of cardboard torn from his lunch-box, to protect him from the dampness. Thus fairly comfortable, he ate his lunch with the aid of his flashlight.


HE sat for a long time deep in thought; trying to determine on some course of action. At length he looked at his watch. It was already eight o'clock. Soon it would be getting dark outside. He decided to wait until after nightfall, in the hope that the thief would return; for no doubt the thieving was done in the night.

Composing himself as best he could on the improvised seat with his back to the curved wall, he waited, looking at his watch at what seemed like interminable intervals. The hands of the timepiece moved with exasperating slowness; and he woke once suddenly to find it after midnight.

A deep rumbling, like thunder, filled the tunnel. He held his breath and listened. Maybe a big storm was coming up, with him a full half-mile from the outlet of this prisonlike hole.

But although he listened long, he heard no more; and finally decided that it must have been the noise of a train of cars switching on the tracks above him.

Gradually his anxiety abated; and he nearly fell asleep again, although it was now too cold for comfort. At length he thought he heard the sound of footsteps approaching from afar; and peering through the darkness he saw a dim speck of light away up the tunnel. As it drew steadily nearer, he was able to make out the outline of a man who was holding a lantern as though watching for some mark on the wall.

As the detective had hoped and expected, he came to a halt just where the loose brick and the chip and seed strewn floor indicated earlier activities.

Brewster congratulated himself that the thief took his bearings from markings on the wall, instead of from his own tracks on the floor; otherwise he might have discovered his presence.

The man took something from his pocket and stuck it in the wall; evidently a nail or peg, for he hung the lantern on it. Then from a roll which he carried under his arm he took two sacks, a square of black oilcloth, and some tools; the oil-cloth he spread on the ground.

Brewster quickly recognized the tools as sections of extension shank and sleeve for a boring bit, and a brace. The man proceeded to assemble the sleeved bit until he had a section about six feet long. Then he removed the wedges that held the loose brick in the roof, and removed the latter. He then slid the tube and bit slowly up through the opening; and adding about three more sections attached the brace. This brought the brace about even with his body.

Then very slowly and cautiously he started to bore. Brewster listened intently, but could hear no sound of the augur.

He now noticed that the man was short of stature, but very broad and powerfully built.

After a few turns of the brace it was apparent that the bit had penetrated through whatever it was boring. The man removed the brace, and attached one of the sacks to his belt, holding it open under the tube.

A Clever Theft

THEN he removed the bit, section by section, from the tube, sticking them in his belt. At length the business end of the bit was removed and a shiny stream followed it out of the tube, falling into the bag. The detective knew instinctively that this was clean flax-seed.

Holding the tube close to his shoulder with one hand and the bag open with the other, the man appeared to settle himself as if for a long wait.

In reality, it was probably only about twenty minutes or half an hour until he commenced to jounce the bag occasionally. This was evidence that it was becoming nearly full. Holding the tube shut with his finger, he manipulated the bag very deftly with one hand. Pulling a pucker-string to close the bag, he laid it down on the oil cloth, and picking up the other one proceeded to fill it.

When this was also full, he produced a small cork from his pocket. This he secured by means of a corkscrew contrivance to the end of his bit, and inserted it in the tube. It seemed to fit very snugly, and considerable pressure was required ta force it through.

When it apparently was through the tube, he slightly lowered the whole apparatus, gauging its height by his shoulder. Then he turned the bit to release it from the cork, and took in both tube and bit.

"So that is how he closes the hole up after him", thought Brewster, who had crept so close in order to take in every detail of the proceeding that he was now afraid the violent beating of his heart would betray his presence. In fact he was only a few feet beyond the area of illumination produced by the little lantern.

The man now produced a string and tied the second sack, which like the first seemed to be of about three bushels capacity. Then he replaced the brick in the roof, and with no apparent effort shouldered one of the sacks, and taking the lantern with its peg down from the wall, started back up the tunnel in the direction from which he had come.

Brewster was undecided what to do. For a moment he remained irresolute. Then he determined to wait the thief's return for the other sack, which had been left, protected from the wet ground by the piece of oilcloth.

Meanwhile the detective could determine on a course of action. There could be no doubt that this was the thief he had set out to apprehend. But how could he hope to capture him, alone and unarmed? Evidently he was a very powerful man, since he had handled the large sacks with such ease.

If he went out to get help or weapons, the man might discover his tracks and escape. It seemed the more reasonable course to try to follow him to his hiding-place, discover where he hid his loot, and later return to capture him.

So Brewster withdrew a little way down the tunnel, and waited. He wondered how the man had been able to locate the freight car.

Was there any particular place where a car would be likely to stand?

Then he remembered the shipping clerk had told him that they always spotted a car at the unloading platform at night, before they went home, so that it would be ready for the morning shift to commence unloading when they came on duty.

And so there it was, every night, right up against the bumper, and in exact position to be tapped from a hole in the ground.

The hole, Brewster imagined, would come up through one of the wooden ties of the track, where it would not be noticed, and where it would not be likely to g'et stopped up. But how did this man discover that the tunnel passed directly under this spot? and how had he been able to locate the position of the platform from within the tunnel?

The Secret Revealed

THESE were mysteries he was still endeavoring to solve when after an absence of perhaps half an hour the man returned with his lantern.

He took up the sack and oilcloth, and promptly marched away.

With many misgivings the detective stealthily followed him.

As they progressed, Brewster tried to imagine in what locality they were, and in that way keep his bearings. After journeying for some time he decided that they must be in the very near vicinity of the steps in the side hill that were overlooked by the schoolhouse.

He readily conceived that this might be the home and also the cache of the sturdy thief.

As he crept forward he pictured to himself how the man might live in spacious and comfortable quarters in one of the high and large concrete compartments; he might even have the best of furniture and all the comforts of a modern home in this den, hermetically sealed from the outside world. In another compartment would surely be an abundance of room to store all the seed he could steal in nearly a month.

But then there was another problem. How did he get it out to market?

Well, no matter. The main thing was to follow him to his lair, and some other day come back and capture him and such loot as he might have on hand.

At length Brewster saw the light emerge into what seemed to be an open space; for the surrounding walls of the tunnel disappeared, and only dim shadows were visible.

Fearing that he might lose sight of the light altogether, Brewster hurried forward and soon drew near enough to see the man with his burden stop at the foot of a heavy ladder at the other side of a bare concrete room.

The man shifted his sack to the other shoulder and commenced to ascend the ladder.

Surely this could be no place other than the substructure of the approach to the school.

The man clambered steadily to the top of the ladder, perhaps twenty feet; and 'stepped through a rough hole, apparently broken in the wall.

Brewster hesitated. Should he take a chance and follow him farther, or should he make a safe getaway and return on the morrow, now that he knew where to go?

Yes he would go back. But first he wanted one full look at the thief.


WITH extreme caution and in pitch darkness he climbed the ladder and looked through the hole. Some little distance away he saw the dim light of the lantern, and the faint outline of another hole such as he was looking through. In the intervening space he could make out a wide walk of planking.

Then the light became dimmer, as if the bearer had gone around a corner.

The crouching detective followed in haste, intent on that one last glimpse. Lest he might make a mis-step and fall, he sank to his hands and knees, and felt the way before him.

Arrived at the other opening, he came abruptly upon the light in the middle of a large square concrete bin with glazed walls, resembling the bins in the oil mill. Stretching across the bin was a narrow runway, consisting of two small planks cleated together. On this runway, not twenty feet away, was the man emptying his sack. He had set the lantern down and was pouring the contents of the sack into the bin.

The seed as it slid out of the sack and fell into the depths made a soft flowing sound, like frothy little waves rolling up on the sandy shore of a small lake.

The detective was somewhat alarmed to find himself so close to the criminal. He stopped short like a cat that comes around a corner and meets a dog.

After one comprehensive look, he swung around to retreat.

But as he moved, his foot struck a loose stick of wood which had evidently been leaning against the wall, knocking it over with a resounding whack.

In an instant Brewster knew he had lost all chance of escaping unseen.

The burly man on the runway swung round with an angry oath. "Vas—ist?" he bellowed in a powerful voice that seemed to shake the very walls.

Brewster sprang to his feet, while the other snatched up his lantern and drew a huge knife from his belt. The detective knew that to retreat would be only madness, for he was unarmed and in a strange and dangerous place. Under the spur of necessity his agile mind acted with the quickness and precision of a steel trap.

Snatching his flashlight from his pocket, it was but the work of an instant to turn it in the direction where the telltale stick had fallen.

The beam revealed a short length of two by four, perhaps two feet long.

Brewster grabbed it up and turning with lightning rapidity advanced a step to meet the rush of his oncoming antagonist. If only the could smash his opponent's light, his own flash would give him a distinct advantage.

With one swift glance he measured the distance and let fly the piece of timber.

There followed the sound of a ringing blow and the breaking of glass.

For a brief instant all was dark.

Brewster realized that he had inadvertently turned his own light off as well as smashing that of his antagonist.

Determined to blind his assailant temporarily and follow up his advantage, he quickly snapped the light on and directed it along the runway.

The sight he saw in that circle of bright light stamped itself indelibly upon his memory.


IN the confusion of that sudden and unexpected moment of darkness, the man had stumbled and thrown up his arms to save himself.

The bright blade of the knife reflected back the rays of the flashlight.

Brewster caught one fleeting glimpse of the fiendish face of the head-cooper, livid with rage.

Then the wild shape toppled over into the sea of flax-seed in the well below.

For a long moment the detective stood, a frozen statue, directing his light on the spot where the treacherous, almost fluid seed had closed over his adversary.

Then he turned away, as one might turn helpless from a sinking ship.

"Drowned in flax-seed!" he muttered, as he fearfully sought the head of the ladder that had brought him to this terrifying place.