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CHAPTER X TELEPHONE CODE
 As he regained consciousness, Tom's eyes fluttered open. Sparks of pain shot through his head. A groan escaped his lips.
 
"Oo-o! What hit me?" Tom wondered.
 
He was lying on a sofa in a strange room. Someone was seated nearby, watching him. Tom tried to move his limbs and sit up. Then he discovered that his wrists and ankles were tied with sash cord.
 
"Better lie still, sonny boy," a gruff voice advised. "You ain't goin' nowhere."
 
The man who had spoken got up from his chair and came over to the sofa. He was of medium height, very muscular looking, with cold, glittering eyes. Rolled-up shirt sleeves revealed his powerful, hairy arms.
 
"Where am I?" Tom asked, suddenly remembering the events on the road before he blacked out. "And what's this all about?"
 
The man said with a mirthless grin, "You're a prisoner. And you're goin' to stay here until the cops let Dimitri Mirov go. It's up to you how fast they spring him."
 
The huge man lifted a telephone from an end table adjoining the sofa and set it on the floor alongside Tom.
 
"Here's a phone. Go ahead and use it, but don't try any funny stuff."
 
In spite of his headache, Tom's brain was racing. What to do now? He shut his eyes and screwed up his face in an expression of pain, pretending to be still groggy while he stalled for time to figure out his next move.
 
"How can I get Mirov out of jail?" Tom faltered.
 
"You figure it out!" the man snarled. "And you'd better get results if you want to stay healthy!"
 
Through half-slitted eyes, Tom noted the telephone number printed on the dial. Evidently his captor had not thought to remove it from the instrument. A lucky break!
 
If only, Tom thought, he could devise some way to transmit the number to Ames without arousing his captor's suspicion—the phone's location could then be traced!
 
What about some sort of double-talk code? For instance, Tom told himself, keep slipping numbers into the conversation in order to transmit the digits of the telephone number. Would Ames catch on?
 
The number shown was BArwick 3-7156. BA on the dial would be the same as "2, 2."
 
"Come on! Quit stalling!" the man said threateningly.
 
"How can I dial with my hands tied?" Tom objected.
 
"I'll do the dialing, wise guy!"
 
He lifted the phone from its cradle and extended it to his prisoner. Tom told him the Enterprises number, then asked for Ames's extension as the switchboard operator answered. A moment later the security chief's voice came over the line.
 
"Ames speaking."
 
"This is Tom Jr., Harlan." His captor bent close to the receiver as Tom replied, in order to overhear what was being said. "I've been thinking," the young inventor went on, "that it might be smart to have Mirov released."
 
"Released!" Ames gasped in surprise. "But why, skipper?"
 
"Well ... er ... as a good-will gesture," Tom said. "I think it might prevent future trouble with the Brungarians, don't you?"
 
"I do not!" Ames exploded. "The idea sounds crazy!"
 
"I don't think it's too crazy or too risky," Tom argued. By emphasizing the words, he hoped to impress them on Ames's mind.
 
Tom's tone of voice and the farfetched nature of what he was saying had already triggered the security chief's suspicions. "Where are you calling from?" Ames asked after a tense pause.
 
"Shopton," Tom replied. "I just drove in for a haircut." With a chuckle, he added, "Haven't had one in three months. That's a whole week longer than I usually go!"
 
Would Ames understand that by "week" he meant seven days?... "It's the best I can do," Tom thought.
 
"Look, skipper, are you sure you want Mirov let out?" Ames said slowly. "I still think it's unwise."
 
"Consider it an order!" Tom snapped. "This is one thing I insist upon, Harlan. Shouldn't take more than five or six hours, should it, even if he has to wire the Brungarian Embassy to put up bail?"
 
"It can probably be handled faster than that—if he has any friends around town," Ames said.
 
Tom took the cue. "Could be," he replied meaningfully.
 
Tom's captor snatched the phone away and slammed it back on the hook. "All right, smart boy! That's enough!" he growled, glaring at Tom.
 
Back at Enterprises, Ames hung up thoughtfully. Tom's reply to his last question about Mirov having "friends around town" had convinced Ames that the young inventor was a prisoner, speaking under duress. Moreover, it had seemed as if someone else's breathing was faintly audible in the background, close to the phone.
 
But what message had Tom tried to convey?
 
As a routine security-department precaution, Ames's phone was connected to a recorder which automatically taped all calls. Now, while he pondered the problem, Ames pressed a foot-treadle switch to play back the conversation.
 
Meanwhile, Tom and his captor waited tensely. From time to time the latter glanced at his watch. "Better hope that call does the trick, Swift," he muttered. "It's the only hope you got of leavin' here alive!"
 
"How will you know if they've turned Mirov loose?" Tom asked. He was wondering if he might persuade his captor to let him make a second call.
 
"Don't worry. Mirov knows how to contact me."
 
Half an hour dragged by—then forty minutes. Suddenly the door buzzer rang sharply. The man jerked to attention, obviously startled. He glanced at Tom, then toward the direction of the sound, moistening his lips nervously.
 
"He must have been expecting just a phone call," Tom decided.
 
The buzzer shrilled again. This time the man got up from his chair, gagged Tom hastily with a handkerchief, and went to the door.
 
"Who's there?" he asked loudly.
 
"Mirov! Let me in, Duffy!" replied an accented voice from outside.
 
With a look of relief, Duffy started to open the door—then froze as he saw not only Mirov, but two police officers and Ames accompanying him.
 
"Are you the one who's going to put up bail?" one of the officers demanded.
 
Duffy floundered, scenting danger but unable to pick up any clue from Mirov's face. "Why—uh—yeah, maybe. How much is it?"
 
"Ten million! Can you raise it?" Ames snapped sarcastically.
 
As Duffy gaped in confusion, the officers suddenly flung their weight forward. The door flew open and Duffy was thrown back, almost losing his balance. Beyond, through the small vestibule, Ames caught a glimpse of Tom on the sofa.
 
"There he is!" Ames shouted.
 
Moments later, Tom was untied. Mirov and Duffy were handcuffed together.
 
The young inventor shook hands joyfully with his rescuers. "Nice going, Harlan! Boy, I was sweating icicles here, wondering if you'd be able to decipher all my double talk!"
 
"You made the numbers clear enough," the security chief said with a grin, "but it took a while to guess what they stood for. And then, of course, we had to trace the address through the telephone company."
 
Eying the ugly bruise on Tom's forehead, Ames added, "Sure you're all right?"
 
"Right now I feel swell!" Tom declared, chuckling. He told of his kidnaping, while one of the officers took down the details.
 
The prisoners were taken off to jail in the police squad car. Tom and Ames, meanwhile, in the security chief's high-powered sedan, drove to the scene of Tom's capture.
 
They found his sports car badly damaged. The right side was wedged against the utility pole, which was leaning at a crazy angle.
 
Ames whistled and shook his head. "Boy! You're lucky you got off with just a bruise, Tom!"
 
"You're telling me," the young inventor agreed ruefully.
 
After calling a repair garage to send out a wrecker, they drove to the Swifts' home. Mrs. Swift and Sandy, previously unaware of Tom's plight, were horrified to hear what had happened. The sight of Tom's bruise also upset them.
 
Tom did his best to allay their concern, but finally allowed himself to be hustled up to bed. Dr. Emerson, the Swifts' family physician, was immediately summoned to the house. He pronounced the bruise not serious, but advised that Tom remain quiet, at least for the rest of the day.
 
Bud came to visit the young inventor that evening, just as Sandy was bringing up a tray. On it was a sizzling T-bone steak.
 
"Wow! Wish I could have that kind of service," Bud said jokingly. Then he became serious. "I'd sure like to meet that creep who snagged you, Tom. What a fiendish trick! You realize you might have been killed?"
 
"I realize it, all right," Tom said wryly.
 
The next morning Tom felt no ill effects from his grim adventure and insisted upon driving to Enterprises. He phoned Admiral Walter, whose report was bleak—the searchers had still gleaned no trace of the buried missile.
 
Refusing to be discouraged by the news, or lack of news, Tom went to his private laboratory and applied himself once again to the problem of building an "invisible" submarine. But again success eluded him.
 
At last Tom shook his head in disgust. "May as well get that haircut I started out for yesterday," he decided.
 
Before leaving, Tom phoned Phyl Newton to thank her for the gift of fruit and nuts she had brought over the previous evening after learning of his dangerous experience. They chatted for a while and wound up by making a date for lunch.
 
Tom drove back to town in the family car and got a haircut. Then he picked up Phyl at her home and took her to the yacht club. Here they lunched on the terrace overlooking the sparkling blue waters of Lake Carlopa.
 
The young inventor's spirits were high when he finally returned to his laboratory and buckled down to work.
 
"I'll lick this problem yet," he muttered. "Those enemies of ours are clever, but if they can produce an undetectable sub, there's no reason why I can't do the same."
 
Deep in thought, Tom idly fingered a microphone on his workbench.
 
"In fact," the young inventor mused, "why not go them one better? I'll invent a submarine that's not only invisible to sonar, but equipped to see them!"
 


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