"Take it quietly," Ned advised Jimmie, as the little fellow began struggling with the arm of the law. "We'll come out on top in the end, I take it."
"I'd like to knock the head off this fool cop!" Jimmie cried. "What right has he to go an' arrest us?"
"If it will take any load off your mind," the policeman replied, as the three waited on a corner for a patrol wagon, "I'll tell you what right I had to arrest you. There's a report at the office that a man who went into that submarine of yours never came out again."
"When was this report sent in?" asked Ned.
"Just a few moments ago," was the reply. "All the officers in the city are either watching for you or heading toward the boat. What have you done with Lieutenant Scott?"
"Who sent in the report?" asked Ned.
"I don't know his name, but the chief does. He says he went to the water front, on the island side, with the Lieutenant, that the Lieutenant went on board the Sea Lion with you and the others, and that he has not been seen since. What about it? Better confess and get an easy sentence."
"The officers who are on their way to the submarine will find out why the Lieutenant never came out," Ned said. "But about this man who made the report. Why was he waiting for Scott to leave the boat?"
"Said he had an understanding with him that he was to watch outside, as Scott did not exactly trust you New York kids. A little while ago he heard a commotion and calls for help on board, so he came up to report."
"Thank you for the information," Ned said. "Now, you can't get us to headquarters any too quickly."
"Where is Scott?" asked the officer.
"Dead," was the reply.
"Holy smoke!" cried the policeman. "Then I've arrested a couple of murderers!"
"If you'll hurry us to headquarters," Ned replied, "and the man who made this report is still there, I'll help you to arrest a real murderer. Here comes the wagon."
"Drive fast," ordered the policeman as the three entered the patrol wagon and the driver turned to inspect the boys. "I've got the fellows we're after," he added.
"Great luck!" the driver replied. "There'll be a big reward."
"Oh, I guess I know my business!" said the policeman, with a boastful chuckle.
The station was soon reached, and, without the least ceremony, the boys were pushed along to the cell block and locked up. Ned's demand that they be taken before the chief was not heeded.
"This is fine!" Jimmie said, from the next cell to the one occupied by Ned. "I like this."
Before Ned could reply, the chief of police made his appearance in the corridor outside, a great ring of keys in one hand. He unlocked the cell doors without speaking a word and motioned the boys out into the corridor.
Then, still without speaking, he pointed the way to his private office, ushered the lads in, closed and locked the door.
"Well?" he said, then.
"Will you send for the Coroner?" asked Ned.
"So Scott is dead?"
"Why did you kill him?"
Before opening his mouth to reply, Ned caught sight of a dark stain on the arm of the chair in which he was seated.
"Have you a microscope handy?" he asked.
The chief opened his eyes in amazement.
The question, coming at that time, seemed almost the raving of a mad man. This is the view the chief took of it, and he decided to conciliate the maniac.
"What do you want of a microscope?" he asked.
"I want to see if this spot is caused by the application of a certain rubber composition, and if there are shreds of blue wool mixed with it."
"I guess," the chief said, "that your proper place is the foolish house."
"While your men are bringing the microscope," Ned went on, coolly, "I want to ask you a few questions."
"Go ahead," laughed the chief, wondering what sort of insanity this was.
"Who sat in this chair last?" asked Ned.
"Why, the last visitor, of course."
"Can you now recall his name?"
"How was he dressed?"
"In a blue suit."
"Where is he now?"
"I don't know. He said he would return as soon as the officers came back from the submarine."
"Yes he will!" Jimmie broke in.
"Does he belong here?" asked Ned.
The chief pointed to the west.
"Over in the navy yard," he said.
"So the blue suit he wore was a naval uniform?"
The chief touched a bell on his desk and a policeman opened the door at the back of the room, connecting with the sergeant's room, and looked in.
"Get a microscope," the chief ordered, "and keep quiet about what is going on in here."
The sergeant nodded and went out.
"What did you say about that smear on the arm of the chair?" asked the chief, then.
He was beginning to understand that there was something besides mental trouble at the bottom of Ned's inquiries.
"I think," was the reply, "that an inspection of the spot will reveal a rubber composition used principally by the thieves of Paris as a paint to prevent palm and finger lines and whorls showing on things they take hold of."
The chief looked at the spot critically.
"Also, shreds from a blue uniform," Ned continued.
"We shall see," replied the chief.
The microscope was soon brought in, and then a close examination of the spot on the arm of the chair was made by the chief.
"What do you find?" asked Ned.
"I really can't say what it is," was the reply.
Ned took from a pocket a bit of the waste he had brought from the dynamo room of the submarine.
"Look at this," he said, "and see if the material in it appears to be the same as that on the chair. I mean, of course, the smudge on it."
The chief turned his instrument on the waste.
"It is the same," he declared, in a moment, "and I'd like to know where you got it."
"Do you find blue threads--well, not threads, exactly, but bits of fuzz--in the waste, too?"
"Yes, but the trace is faint."
"Well," Ned said, "the man who killed Lieutenant Scott is the man who gave you the information you speak of. He sat in this chair not long ago. I would advise a search for him."
"But he agreed to come back." "Of course he never will," Ned said. "Now, here is another point. You are going to have the Sea Lion searched?"
"Well, your men will find the body of Lieutenant Scott lying on a couch there. In that case, they will doubtless arrest the two boys I left on watch there?"
"And that will give the man who left this blur on the arm of this chair not long ago a chance to make off with the boat. I reckon you'll do well to look after that part of the case, for the submarine belongs to the Secret Service department of the Government, and Uncle Sam has use for it just at this time."
"The Secret Service department?" repeated the chief. "He said she was a scout boat Lieutenant Scott was going to coast south with."
"Did he say why he suspected that Lieutenant Scott was in danger?" asked Ned.
"He said you boys were suspicious characters who claimed to be able to operate a submarine, and that Scott was inclined to try you out."
Ned took a long envelope from a pocket of his coat and passed it, unopened, to the chief.
"Read the letter inside," he said, "and then get me to the Sea Lion as quickly as possible."
The chief opened the envelope and read the single sheet of typewritten paper it held.
"From the Secretary of the Navy!" he exclaimed.
"I don't need to ask if you are the Ned Nestor mentioned in the letter, then. I saw a picture of you in a San Francisco newspaper, not long ago, and now recognize you as the boy referred to."
"Then take us to the submarine," urged Ned.
"It won't do no good to take us there after that cheap skate has geezled the boat," Jimmie cut in.
"And you are Jimmie," the chief went on. "I saw your picture, too. Well, this is quite a surprise for me," the chief added.
"You'll get a greater surprise if you let that murderer get off with the Sea Lion," Jimmie remarked.
The chief called the sergeant again and in a moment all was confusion in the police station. A wagon was called, and the chief and his ex- prisoners were soon on their way to the wharf, followed by the eyes of the policemen left behind.
"That's Ned Nestor, of New York," the boys heard one of the men on the iron steps in front saying as they passed, "and the little fellow is Jimmie McGraw. Great hit Preston made arresting them!"
But the minds of the boys were too full of anxiety regarding the fate of Scott and the Sea Lion to pay much attention to the words of flattery they overheard. If the unknown murderer succeeded in securing the arrest of Jack and Frank and getting away in the submarine, the whole trip would have to be abandoned, at least for the present.
Besides, Ned had no idea of going back to New York and reporting that he had been robbed of his boat under the very guns of the Mare Island Navy Yard. He urged the driver to make greater speed, and in a short time the wharf was in sight.
Half a dozen policemen were gathered about the end nearest the float which upheld the Sea Lion, and the figure of another showed at the top of the conning tower. As the police wagon dashed up to the wharf another rig came up on a run and halted close at the side of it.
"Hello," called the chief, recognizing a man on the seat, "how did you manage to get here so soon?"
"Some one 'phoned for me," was the hurried reply. "Where is the dead man?"
"In the submarine," answered an officer who had drawn closer to the official's buggy.
Without another word the newcomer leaped out and was conveyed to the Sea Lion in the rowboat Ned had left tied to the wharf.
"That's the Coroner," the chief said, in explanation. "He'll soon get at the bottom of this."
"Suppose we get aboard the Sea Lion," suggested Ned.
"Of course," said the chief, "you'll remain here a few days and assist in the capture of this fellow?"
"I shall have to ask for instructions from Washington," was the reply. "I really ought to get away on the steamer which sails in the morning."
When the three, using a boat an officer found nearby, reached the main cabin of the Sea Lion they found Jack and Frank sitting by the table, handcuffed, repeating over and over again their individual and collective opinion of the police of Vallejo. Jimmie seemed to take great delight in taunting them.
"Black Bears in chains!" he roared.
"Huh, where have you Wolves been?" demanded Jack. "These cops said they had you in a pen!"
While the Coroner was making his examination the chief ordered the irons removed from the wrists of the boys. For a time the Coroner appeared to be puzzled. He lifted the hands of the apparently dead man and dropped them again. Then he held a pocket mirror before his lips.
"Look here," he said, presently, "I don't believe this man is dead."
"I hope you are right," Ned said, hopefully. "Still, the poison I got near killed me, while he must have gotten much more."
There was a short silence, during which the Coroner held his watch.