Sid knew he should go find Nathan.

Jake Gibson, Nathan’s cousin, was still in town! And it looked like he had been hiding money from the local robberies in lots of different places.

Here he was—right down on the pond across from their own mill. Sid put down his bait bucket and followed the man stealthily, as the rowboat moved toward the falls.

The falls were actually flowing over a dam, like the one near the Arkwright Mill that Nathan had once investigated.

Sid watched as the man grabbed up an oilskin and threw it over himself, pulling up the hood. Then he steered over to the dam, not minding the water that sprayed down upon him. He maneuvered in the swirling water and passed close to the rocky wall. He reached in and caught onto another rope, apparently tied around a large rock.

 Another box emerged, and Sid almost shouted with excitement!

 Jake rowed away from the falls to the opposite side, grabbed onto a small tree, and pulled himself into a watery, swampy mass of high grass. He pulled off his slicker and stood. Sid saw that he wore high boots.

As he tied his boat to a tree, it merged into the shadows, nearly invisible. The man climbed out into the shallow water and, gripping branches, he climbed up the rocky bank.

On his side of the creek, Sid hurried to retrace his steps, but before he could reach the bridge, he heard a car stop on the road above. Someone got out.

Could it be? That sneaky politician again!  He only saw his silhouette but Sid knew it was Bethayre.      


Then the men disappeared into the car, and Sid saw it turn right and go up past the mill. In the darkness he couldn’t even see the color or plates but he did know that it wasn’t the fancy car he’d seen before.

It sped up and was quickly gone.

Sid looked about. Should he run to Nathan’s boarding house? What if he was out? The young man was often hither and yon playing piano for this or that meeting, sometimes as far as the city. But, wait! A light shone in the church.

Or should he run to the drugstore and use the telephone?  But he didn’t have any money. And he didn’t know how. With time of the essence, he crossed the street and ran up the steps, hoping that it was Nathan who was there.

He tried the blue doors of the church. Finding them locked, he pounded excitedly and the door was opened suddenly. Sid stood face to face with the Reverend Jonas Eldridge!

He stepped back, startled, but the man smiled kindly. “Sid. How are you? Looking for Nathan? He’s been here practicing. Just about to leave, I think.”

Sid dashed by him and up the aisle, “Nathan!”

He poured out the story.

The young man hurried toward him. “Pastor Eldridge, call the police and tell them all this. Tell them we’ll start for the police station and they can meet us.”

“They’ll never catch them now if they were going as fast as Sid says,” said the pastor.

“I have an idea where they might be.”

The pastor nodded as they all emerged from the church. He ran down the street toward the drugstore. “You two be careful,” he called back.

They were nearing the General Store when Nathan exclaimed, “Look! It’s Paul’s squad car. He’s on his break!”

They burst into the General Store and found only the clerk and Paul there. Paul was buying crackers from a large barrel and a wedge of cheese for his supper.

“Paul! Paul!” Nathan quickly filled him in. “I need your car! I’ll go to the barn and you wait for Charlie. Pastor Eldridge is calling. Go to the inn. I was there today and they were still checked in, but packed up to leave tonight!”

“Nathan, you can’t take my car!”

But just then a siren split the air, and another squad car zoomed in beside his. It was Charlie.

“All right, all right, go. If you’re right, there’s a lot more than just the two of them, and  I’ll definitely need Charlie’s help. From what Sid here says, they were heading for the inn. But if they do happen to be at the barn, don’t do anything! Just watch them, you hear me? They’re dangerous!”

“Yes, yes, just go!”

Sid had no idea what they were talking about! But he was sure eager to find out.

Paul threw down some change on the counter, and they rushed out the door. The policeman jumped into Charlie’s car and shouted out the window, “Remember—just check it out. Don’t do anything foolish!”

Nathan was already in the driver’s seat and starting Paul’s squad car. The two policemen roared off in one direction, and Nathan pulled out and headed in the other.

Sid was full of questions. “Where are you going? How do you know where he is? And I forgot to tell you, it was Bethayre that picked him up.” 

“I found out Jake was still in town and followed him this afternoon,” Nathan told him, “I lost him but found out he was packed up to finally leave the area. There’s a barn up in Fiskeville, though, that I heard about. It was clean as a whistle this afternoon, but I have a feeling there was plenty in it before. I let Paul know all about it earlier.”

 Sid didn’t even have time to be thrilled at having a ride in an automobile for the first time in his life. “But what about the place I saw them bootlegging?” he demanded. “That warehouse in back of the mill?”

“That was an old hideout, we think. It was clean, according to Paul.”

Nathan was busy careening around a curve, leaving Sid astounded. His friend had some real skill at this! Nathan turned abruptly up a side trail that led by the little farms of Fiskeville.

“Where did you learn to drive, Nathan?” Sid asked, remembering some of the things Nathan had told him about his former life. “When did you learn to drive?”

“Very early in life,” Nathan grinned. “I’ve done this before, only—as you know—I was on the other side of the law.” He concentrated on swerving around another curve and smoothly missed a tree.

Sid stared wide-eyed at this information, though it made sense with all he knew about the man. “You were their driver!”

“I accompanied my father on his runs when I was your age,” Nathan continued, “And I was their driver by the time I was thirteen. Then a few years ago, I barely missed prison—and death. We were in a bad accident and I crawled away, hurt but alive—and that’s when my father and uncle got arrested. That was also when I met Pastor Eldridge. He got me medical help and took me home. God’s amazing plans, that’s for sure…hold on, we’re almost there!”

He stomped on the gas, roaring down a straight path of narrow road. They screeched nearly to a halt to make a turn. He dodged roots and branches as they bumped over the rutted roads. Nathan finally managed to stay in two ruts, and then it was a bit smoother.

“Anyway, cracking up that car was the best thing I could have done. Moonshine spilling out everywhere, I guess. It was moonshine out in those little towns, though we went to New York City a lot, carrying all kinds of fancy wine for the big restaurants. But I crawled away in a daze, and that’s the only thing that saved me from the police.”

Suddenly he stopped short, swerving sharply to park across the lane. He switched off the lights.

“Of course later, after I got saved, Pastor Eldridge went with me to the police. I got a second chance and…I hear something going on! They are here! They must have already been to the inn for their baggage, and are ready to get out of town for good!”

Sid could hear clanging and voices.

“Paul’s right. There’s a whole gang of bootleggers. More than just Jake and Butler. I’ll bet Bethaye is in charge of it all. But I’ll bet the robberies were just them. They don’t like to share. That’s why they had loot hidden all over the place—from both their cohorts and the cops, probably. Knowing Jake, he figured it was safer, and if he did need to leave town quick, he could always come back sometime and get it. I hope we can at least get that bank money back for Mr. Owens.”

“Hey, where are you going? Paul said to stay put.”

“Paul said to watch them. I’m going to watch them.”

Nathan was already out of the car and creeping along the shadows of the brush. Sid hurried to follow. They came into sight of a cabin that was lit up, and men were bringing crates out of the open door.

Two trucks were parked in front, and the crates were being loaded into one of them—and there were a couple of cars, one of them probably belonging to George Bethayre. A barn stood next to the cabin, door wide open, but dark inside.

“I couldn’t get in the cabin. It was locked. I guess they had more in there. Look, they’re bringing out barrels, too.”

Sid watched excitedly.

“You get on the radio,” Nathan whispered. “Call the dispatcher at the police station  and she’ll let Paul and Charlie know. Just push the button and talk into the radio. You have to take your finger off the button to listen. Got it?”

“What are you going to do?”

“Don’t worry. I’m just going a little closer!”

Sid ran back to the car and managed to get the radio to work. Curious at the strange device, he had to try a couple of times before he knew if anybody heard him. Thankfully the dispatcher took the call.

“Okay, Sid. I’ll let them know,” she said.

He didn’t know what to do next, so he hurried back, skirting the bushes in the direction Nathan had gone. He made it to the barn. Staying in the shadows at the corner of the building, he saw that Nathan had crossed in front of the wide open barn door and was hiding at the opposite corner, looking around and watching the activities.

He’s getting pretty close. I thought he was going to play it safe.

Sid looked about. Nearby he found some wooden sticks and planks. He picked up a sturdy stick that looked pretty much like an old table leg.

Suddenly a shadow appeared at the barn door. The figure moved outside and caught sight of Nathan immediately. Sid was about to hiss Nathan’s name in warning, but what good would that do? The man was between them. His silhouette looked like—sure enough, the face turned and Sid caught the profile. It was Jake.

“So cousin, you couldn’t leave it alone.”

Nathan jumped violently and whirled.

“Have you seen enough yet?”

“Jake. Stop this. You don’t have to do this.”

Jake laughed. “You really think I’d give all this up? Like you did? What do you have to show for it?”

“Peace—with God. A good job teaching music. A ministry I love. Forgiveness.”


He removed something from his pocket. Sid couldn’t see it but….

“So you’d kill me?” asked Nathan quietly.

“You’re the one that split us up. I came to this town because I thought maybe we could get back together. If you’d just joined with me, it could have been like always and if not, just leave it alone. But you’ve been setting the coppers on me.”

Nathan didn’t answer.

“But now I’m leaving. We’re going somewhere safe and won’t be back.”

Sid tiptoed closer. He crossed the open doorway. He held his stick ready to strike. Nathan saw him, Sid knew he did.

But Nathan kept talking. “You’d really kill me?”

“Anyone else would. You deserve it.” But there was the slightest hesitation.

“Jake, God can help you.”

“I don’t want any help!”

“Well, you need help! The shed blood of Christ—”

“Spare me! I don’t need your preaching!” Jake had raised the gun. But he paused.

Sid moved forward with his stick but suddenly….

“Hey!” A shout came from the cabin. “Jake, you coming or not? Where are you? Thought you were getting the tools.”

Jake’s arm shook, then finally lowered.

“I’m coming!” Jake shook his head. “Can’t do it, Nathan—but don’t think they won’t! So stay out of sight.”

He ran past his cousin and a few minutes later the vehicles roared off toward the main road, their headlights glowing.

“They won’t get far. The squad car’s in the way,” Nathan breathed to Sid, who still had the table leg raised.

Sid threw the piece of wood to the ground. “Charlie and Paul are on their way.”

Nathan leaned back against the wall of the barn and replied, “He didn’t do it. There’s hope.”

“Hope! The man was this close to shooting you.”

“But he didn’t. Maybe there is a little bit of light left in his soul. Goodness knows, he’s got plenty of people praying for him. God can reach him, I know He can.”

Sid shook his head, not understanding any of this, but the screeching of vehicles distracted him.

Nathan came back to the reality of the situation. “I hope they didn’t hit that squad car! Paul will have fits. I’ve got the key, but they’ll be back any minute to see who’s here. Go! Run! Hide in the woods.”

But suddenly, thankfully, sirens pierced the air. The cops had arrived. It was over.


Nathan and Sid were once again out searching for loot. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack, since Jake wouldn’t talk. Neither would Butler, who had been one of the gang that had been arrested.

The police thoroughly searched the cabin and barn, Jake’s room at the inn, Butler’s home. Nothing. The tin boxes that had been confiscated from Jake at the arrest had held the jewels in little waterproof pouches. These were from the house they’d robbed. The other box held a good deal of money, wrapped in oilskin. But the even larger amount from the bank heist was still missing.

Now they were at the church. Nathan suggested trying the belfry one more time—just in case they’d missed something.

They had been talking about life for the last hour, as they scoured the creek and waterfall and woods yet again. At least Nathan had. Sid was not all that interested this time.

Sid wasn’t sure why, but the man talked more earnestly than he sometimes did, maybe because of the episode with his cousin. Sid became more and more frustrated. Later he might say that God had been urging him to do something about his sin.

Now he turned on Nathan, “God be in charge of me? I don’t think so! I’ve always lived the way I want to, and I’m not stopping now!”

Nathan backed off, but his expression said it all—and how far has that gotten you?

But Sid couldn’t imagine how letting someone have total control of him could be good. Like being a slave. They were all slaves to the mill life because nobody could get ahead. Even though the owners were kinder now and the threat of strike had diminished, it was still long, hard work with hardly anything to show for it.

His new friends had given him the idea of getting ahead and making something of himself. He was determined to do that. Maybe he’d be rich someday like Charlotte’s father Maybe he could get his family out of this mill town. He wasn’t about to be a slave to anyone, especially God.

But Nathan led him up the stairs, having wisely changed the subject. “I know we looked up here, but we might have missed something. Jake was always great at hiding things. And you saw movement and a light up here the night of the bank robbery.”

“I’m still not sure about that,” Sid replied.

 They entered the balcony. He followed Nathan, who was now climbing a rather rickety old ladder. The man pushed up a small trap door, and they emerged onto the platform of the belfry.

They searched every inch of the tiny area yet again.

“I still don’t know how he could have gotten in. I checked all the doors and windows that night,” said Sid.

Nathan stopped short. “Do you know about the door to the furnace room? It’s rather hidden under the back stairs. And there was a big pile of snow over there, too.”


“We don’t always check it after they bring coal. Even after the robberies, we still forget sometimes. And we know he got in that night you were attacked. Remember, we both heard something. It seems just as likely he might have stopped here the night of the bank robbery if he needed a quick place to hide.”

There was a movement on the stairs, but it was not stealthy.

“Hello up there. Nathan?”

“It’s me. Taking one more look.”

Albert, the old sexton, climbed up. “Watch the loose floorboard. I always trip on it when I ring the bell Sunday mornings.”

“Where? That wasn’t there before, was it?” Nathan pounced on the loose floorboard, but found nothing of interest.

Albert looked out over the town. “No, it’s been there a while. Gets worse all the time and I think one of these days somebody—namely me—is going to go right through this rotting floor.”

“This place is old,” said Sid, staring about at the weather-beaten wood and windswept dirt and debris. Up there a brisk April wind whipped about.

“It’s not protected from the weather, that’s for sure—snow, ice, rain. We really do need to do some work on it.”

“Well, I guess there’s nothing here,” said Nathan, disappointed. “I don’t suppose we’ll ever find the bank money. It could be anywhere in this whole township. He’s just going to keep quiet, and when he gets out of prison someday, he’ll come back and find it. I know him.”

The three headed back, down the ladder to the balcony, along the narrow winding staircase. They had nearly reached the main door when….

“There you are!” exclaimed Nathan. “We’ve got you now!”

All along the way, there were large, ornately carved, square posts with big knobs on top. At the bottom of the flight of stairs, a gray cat was draped around one of the posts. Nathan grabbed for her, but she leaped off and disappeared down the next flight to the lower floor.

“Get her, Albert!  I’ll bet she hides in the furnace room where it’s warm—or curls up in the library.”

Albert didn’t move. The old man looked a little sheepish. “Well, to be honest, I’ve been letting her stay inside. It’s still been pretty cold. And I’ve been giving her a little something to eat. And you see—well, she’ll be having kittens soon.”

Nathan grinned and shook his head. “And what are you going to do when she does?”

Albert laughed, relieved. “I think I finally talked my landlady into letting me keep the whole lot. Her grandchildren will love them.”

He grasped the knob of the post to swing himself down. He suffered with rheumatism and the steep flights of stairs sometimes got to him.

Suddenly the knob shifted, and Albert grabbed the railing with his other hand. Nathan caught him as the entire top of the post gave way.

“Foolish post. It’s getting loose. Little boys swing on it. I’ve seen them!”

“This has been damaged—look at the design here. It’s hardly noticeable, but this wasn’t just loosened by the boys.” Nathan grasped the knob at the top and pulled. It came off in his hand.

“It’s broken!” exclaimed Albert.

They both looked in astonishment at a gaping hole inside.

“These posts are hollow!” exclaimed Sid.

“There’s something in there!” Albert reached in, exploring the opening.

“Well, well, well,” said Nathan, as the old man pulled out a pack of money.

Sid was speechless. He couldn’t believe it.

“There’s another one down here!” Nathan removed it, then another.  He took them to a small table. Several packs of bills were unearthed.

“Hundreds, this time. And fifties. The bank money!”

“Looks like all of it,” replied Nathan. “He must have really explored this place and discovered that this was loose.”

“He couldn’t have meant to leave it here. It was probably just a temporary hiding place. Somebody would have noticed this eventually,” said Albert.

“Maybe not. Of course, he didn’t know that the children swing on it. Or that you would grab it like that.” Nathan looked relieved. “I think we’ve finally got it all.”

One Year Later

Spring was here in full force. The blackened debris of trees and brush around the annex was hardly noticeable by now. The underbrush was blooming out green and fresh, and the large tree at the corner of the annex was resplendent with blossoms, as it always was at this time of year. Hope loved gazing at that tree.

But would she make it home in time to see it?

Sid nearly ran and jumped like a child at the knowledge that she and Charlotte were starting the trip back today. Hope would leave that sanatorium for good. He slowed down and tried to saunter in like a proud workman who would very soon have his very own machine, but he couldn’t help grinning.

Life was finally turning around for them all!

To be continued….