The Adventure Continues!
Tom Derringer is a young man following in his parents' footsteps, trying to make a career as an adventurer. In this third tale, Tom and his plucky companion Betsy Vanderhart are distracted on their way home from California, hired to find one of Tom's fellow adventurers who has gone missing in the mountains of the Utah Territory. Their quest finds more than they had bargained for...
The series so far:
- Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship
- Tom Derringer in the Tunnels of Terror
- Tom Derringer and the Steam-Powered Saurians
Planned further volumes:
- Tom Derringer and the Electrical Empire
- Tom Derringer and the Floating Fortress
- Tom Derringer and the Misplaced Metropolis
Chapter One: I Meet Mr. Murray
Betsy Vanderhart and I arrived in San Francisco on the 4th of March, 1884, and took lodging in the Palace Hotel, as we had on our previous visit.
We were on our way to our homes back East after a series of adventures in and around and under Los Angeles, including finding ourselves caught up in what I was sure would become known as the Great Los Angeles Flood. We were in California because I am an adventurer by trade, like my father before me, and Miss Vanderhart was employed as my assistant, though our relationship was perhaps more than that simple statement might imply. I had been seeking a man named Gabriel Trask, and I had found him, though in the end nothing had come of it.
We took a steamer up the coast rather than heading directly east by rail for two reasons. The first of these was that the massive flooding had closed several of the rail lines in and out of Los Angeles, and we were unsure as to when they might be reliably back in service.
The second reason was that I had promised a dead man I would make contact with his employers and let them know what had become of him. Three of the five addresses he had provided me were in San Francisco, so I deemed it essential to visit that city before heading back East.
Even the sea route had presented challenges, though. I had been forced to pawn several items to raise the fare, since the lack of a functioning telegraph anywhere in Los Angeles had made it impossible to wire for funds. As it happens, before departing on our subterranean adventures I had left valuables sufficient to cover the cost at my hotel in Los Angeles, so we were able to take ship without undue delay. I was not especially concerned about how we would manage beyond that; I knew that once we had reached San Francisco my credit was good at the Palace.
I am fortunate that when my father died he left an estate sufficient to support his wife and children in comfort, if not luxury. Most adventurers do not manage this. Adventuring can be an expensive enterprise. Yes, the rewards can be rich, but for every expedition that returns laden with treasure several spend a fortune on equipment and travel and come back empty-handed. Often the proceeds of even a successful adventure are frittered away financing futile attempts to repeat the experience.
My parents had resisted that temptation. Their money was invested wisely with a family friend, a New York banker by the name of Tobias Arbuthnot, who had seen to it that our funds were carefully shepherded through whatever economic hazards might arise. Thus I had never suffered the indignities of poverty and had been able to train to follow in my father's footsteps without any great regard to the cost. What's more, before I even reached manhood I had been able to indulge myself in adventures that had little prospect of earning any return. My first had involved the purchase of an airship, the Vanderhart Aeronavigator, to investigate mysterious sightings in the skies of the Arizona Territory out of simple curiosity and with no thought of financial gain; the redoubtable Miss Vanderhart, daughter of the Aeronavigator's creator, had accompanied me as my engineer.
Our journey to Los Angeles had been the second occasion when Betsy accompanied me. I had not particularly needed an engineer this time, as the Aeronavigator had been lost in the jungles of the Yucatan and we had relied on more mundane methods of transport, but Betsy's mother had reacted very poorly to some of her daughter's actions in Mexico and we had thought it best that the two have some time apart. Thus Betsy had joined me on my trip to California.
Alas, we had been away from home for far longer than we had intended, having spent some months as prisoners of a tribe that was often referred to as "lizard people," but who were more properly known as the Skyless. Having escaped them at last, we had made our way to San Francisco.
We had come with little more than the clothes upon our backs, and it was only because the staff at the Palace knew me that we were permitted to take rooms in so fine an establishment despite our shabby appearance and dearth of baggage.
Even though we were suffering a serious lack of funds, not half an hour after we had checked in and assured ourselves that the little luggage we did possess was safely in our rooms, we headed out to the nearest Western Union office. It was not the need for money that compelled such haste, but the desire to let our families know we were still alive. They had not heard a word from us through all the months of our captivity, nor, thanks to the flood's depredations, since our escape.
Our finances were so limited that we had to keep our messages quite brief, saying only that we were alive and well, staying at the Palace, and in need of money.
That done, we retreated to our hotel, and in one of the parlors there I mentioned to my companion, "I am still awaiting a straight answer."
She had no need for further specifics; she knew what question I had asked when we had first regained our freedom. I had asked for her hand in marriage.
As I said, our relationship had become something more than the title "assistant" implied.
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: