Mrs. Jones shaded her eyes from the slanting rays of the low-hung sun to gaze for a long moment at the almost motionless hyacinth bed blanketing the water.

“Right ye are, Penelope!” she exclaimed jubilantly. “The channel’s plain to see now! Help me git to the boat, and we’ll be out o’ this tangle.”

Once in the skiff, the widow again seized the paddle.

“We gotta inch our way along fer a little,” she explained. “If we don’t foller the drift o’ the bed, we’ll be lost agin and that hain’t smart.”

Steadily the widow shoved the little boat through the water plants, seldom hesitating in choice of the channel.

“I got the feel o’ it agin!” she declared happily. “We’ll be out o’ this in no time!”

However, dark shadows were deepening to blackness when the boat finally came into water open enough to permit use of the motor. Propelled by the engine, the skiff presently approached Lookout Point.

“Let’s paddle from here,” proposed Penny. “Ezekiel and his sons may be out of the swamp by this time. We don’t want them to see us or guess where we’ve been.”

Mrs. Jones shut off the motor and with a tired sigh, offered the paddle to Penny. The channel now was plainly marked and easy to follow, even in semi-darkness. Whenever the girl hesitated, the widow told her which way to steer.

“We’re out of it now,” Mrs. Jones said as lights of the Hawkins’ farmhouse twinkled through the trees. “Reckon Trapper Joe’s fit to be tied, we been gone so long!”

Penny allowed the skiff to drift with the current. As it floated past the Hawkins’ dock, loud voices came from the direction of the woodshed.

“Sounds like an argument goin’ on,” observed the widow.

Penny brought the skiff in and made fast to the dock.

“What ye aimin’ to do?” the widow inquired in surprise.

“Wait here!” Penny whispered. “I have a hunch what’s going on and I must find out!” Before Mrs. Jones could protest, she slipped away into the darkness.

Stealthily the girl approached the woodshed. A voice which she recognized as Ezekiel’s, now plainly could be heard.

“Danny, we’ve fed ye and kept ye here fer days in this woodshed, and it hain’t safe!” the speaker said. “Ye gotta git out tonight—now—through the swamp. The river’ll take ye out the other end, and ye maybe kin git out o’ the state.”

“And maybe I’ll be caught!” the other voice replied. Penny knew it was Danny Deevers who spoke. “I’m staying right here!”

“Coon and Hod’ll guide ye through the swamp, so ye’ll be safe enough till ye git to the other side,” Ezekiel argued. “We hain’t keepin’ ye here another day. You got clothes and food and a good chanst to git away.”

Penny crept close to the wall of the woodshed. Peering through a small, dirty window on the far side she saw four men seated on kegs in a room dimly lighted by a lantern.

The man facing her plainly was Danny Deevers. Opposite him were Ezekiel and his two sons, both armed with rifles.

“Hain’t no use talkin’ any more,” Ezekiel said flatly. “Ye’r leavin’ here tonight, Danny. Maw’s fixin’ ye a lunch to take.”

“Paw, hain’t you forgittin’ something?” Coon prodded his father.

“Hain’t fergittin’ nothin’, Coon. Danny, ’fore you go, there’s a matter o’ money to be settled between us. Ye got $50,000 hid somewheres close, and we want our cut fer hidin’ ye out from the police.”

Danny laughed unpleasantly.

“You leeches won’t get a penny! Not a penny! No one but me knows where that money is, and I’m not telling!”

“Then I calculate Hod and Coon cain’t guide ye through the swamp tonight,” Ezekiel said coolly. “We got word today the police got a hint ye’r here. We’ll help ’em, by turning you in. Hod, git to the phone and call Sheriff Burtwell. Tell ’im we cotched this feller hidin’ in the swamp.”

“You betcha!” Hod said with alacrity.

“Wait!” Danny stopped him before he could reach the door. “How much of a cut do you dirty blackmailers want?”

“We don’t like them words, Danny,” Ezekiel said. “All we ask is a fair amount fer the risk we been takin’ keepin’ ye here.”

“How much?”

“A third cut.”

“I’ll give you $10,000.”

“’Tain’t enough.”

“You’ll not get another cent. Take it or leave it. Turn me in if you want to! You’ll involve yourself because I’ll swear you hid me here.”

“We hain’t aimin’ to be hard on ye, Danny,” Ezekiel said hastily. “If we was to agree to the $10,000, kin ye deliver tonight?”

“In fifteen minutes!”

“Ye hain’t got the money on ye or hid in the woodshed!”


“But it’s somewheres close. I knowed that.”

“If I give you $10,000, you’ll guide me through the swamp and help me get away?”

“We will,” Ezekiel promised.

“Then get a spade,” Danny directed. “The money’s buried under a fence post by the creek. I hid it there a year ago before they sent me up. Marked the post with a V-shaped slash of my jackknife.”

“Git a spade, Hod,” Ezekiel ordered.

Penny waited for no more. Stealing away, she ran to the boat where Mrs. Jones awaited her.

“No questions now!” she said tersely. “Just go as fast as you can and telephone the police! Also call my father, Anthony Parker at the Riverview Star! Ask him to come here right away and bring help!”

“You’ve found Danny Deevers!” the widow guessed, preparing to cast off.

“Yes, and maybe the stolen money! But there’s not a second to lose! Let me have your knife, and go as fast as you can!”

Without questioning the odd request, Mrs. Jones gave her the knife and seized a paddle. Penny shoved the skiff far out into the stream.

Then she turned and with a quick glance toward the woodshed, darted to the nearby fence. Rapidly she examined the wooden posts, searching for a V-shaped mark. She could find no slashes of any kind. At any moment she knew the men might emerge from the woodshed and see her.

“Somehow I’ve got to keep them here until Mrs. Jones brings the police!” she thought. “But how?”

Suddenly an idea came to her. It might not work, but there was an outside chance it would. With desperate haste, she slashed several posts with V-shaped marks.

“That may confuse them for a few minutes,” she reasoned. “But not for long.”

The door of the woodshed now had opened. Penny dropped flat in the tall weeds near the fence.

Without seeing her, the four men came with a spade and began to inspect posts scarcely a dozen yards from where the girl lay.

“Here’s a marked one!” called Hod as he found one of the posts Penny had slashed.

In the darkness the men did not notice that the cut was a fresh one. They began to dig. Silently the work went on until a large hole had been excavated.

“Where’s the money?” Ezekiel demanded. “Danny, if ye’r pullin’ a fast one—”

“I tell you I buried it under a post!” the other insisted. “Thought it was farther down the fence, but this one was marked.”

Ezekiel flashed his lantern full on the post which now had been tilted far over on its side.

“The post’s marked,” he confirmed. “Fresh new slashes.”

“Let’s see!” Danny exclaimed. He examined the marking briefly and straightened up. “I never made those cuts! Someone’s tricked me!”

Excited by the discovery, the men now moved from post to post. Other slashes were found.

“Here’s the one with my mark!” Danny cried, pointing to a post close to where Penny lay hidden. “Who slashed these others? Someone must have learned where I buried the money!”

“It does look kinda bad,” said Ezekiel. “But there hain’t been no diggin’ by this post. Git busy, boys!”

Taking turns, Coon and Hod fell to with the spade. Soon they had uncovered three large tin cans filled with bank notes.

“It’s all here!” Danny said jubilantly. “Every dollar!”

Ezekiel blew out the lantern light, looking carefully about the yard. “There hain’t no time to divide the money now,” he said. “We gotta git you through the swamp, Danny, before them snoopin’ police come around. Bring the cans and come on! We’re moving out o’ here right now!”

Hod shuffled off to get the boat ready as the others each picked up a can and followed quickly.

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