The Adventure Continues!
In his fourth (to be published) adventure, Tom Derringer is summoned to New Jersey to track down his companion's kidnaped father, Professor Aloysius Vanderhart. Other scientists have vanished, as well, and even some adventurers -- could Tom himself be next? Someone is certainly taking an interest in him...
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 volumes beyond Tom Derringer and the Electrical Empire:
- Tom Derringer and the Sinister Statue
- Tom Derringer and the Floating Fortress
- Tom Derringer and the Misplaced Metropolis
Chapter One: In Search of Professor Vanderhart
[Note: This is the first draft. The published version may differ.]
As our train pulled into Philadelphia's Broad Street Station, Betsy Vanderhart and I sat silently in somber contemplation of our situation.
We were returning from adventures out West, in California and the Utah Territory, but this was no joyous homecoming. We were rushing back to New Jersey because Betsy's father, the noted scientist Professor Aloysius Vanderhart of Rutgers University, had vanished, apparently kidnapped.
What's more, at least a dozen other scientists and adventurers had reportedly disappeared in the first four months of 1884. Adventurers, of course, disappeared quite often in pursuit of their adventurers, sometimes returning unharmed after weeks or even months of silence, but there had been more of these disappearances than usual this year, and scientists did not ordinarily have any such propensity for vanishing without warning. We did not know for certain whether all these disappearances were related, but it did seem likely.
In fact, we had discussed whether it might be best if I were to proceed directly to New York City, where I might consult the Pierce Archives and talk to other professional adventurers to see whether anything more was known of the matter, but Betsy had asked me to accompany her to her home in New Brunswick first, to provide moral support for her meeting with her mother. I could scarcely refuse; even though we had been in one another's company almost constantly for more than half a year, I still treasured every moment with her. Another man might exclaim upon her beauty -- her golden locks, her petite figure, her heart-shaped face -- but I most highly esteemed her good sense, her pluck, and her disdain for foolishness of any sort, most particularly my own. She had saved my life more than once, and protected me from my own inexperience and naivete.
I had once asked her to marry me, and she had told me not to be ridiculous. At the time I had not thought it ridiculous at all, and I still hoped that she might someday be my wife, but I knew that the circumstances of our acquaintance were such that she would not trust our feelings for one another until we had spent some time in ordinary civilized circumstances, rather than as prisoners of the Lizard People in their tunnels beneath Los Angeles, or jammed into the smoky interior of a mechanical dinosaur in the Wasatch Mountains, or otherwise in mutual peril.
As a professional adventurer, though, I was not sure how much of my life would be spent in such circumstances.
I cannot say with any certainty what Betsy was thinking about as we arrived, but I supposed she was entirely concerned with her parents' situation. That I was more focused on my future with her than on how we might best find her father and restore him to the bosom of his family I found an embarrassing failure on my part. My best chance of winning her affections surely lay in finding the missing scientists! But I had, as yet, very little information upon which I might base my actions in that pursuit, and this lack had allowed my mind to drift into other, more personal areas.
At any rate, we arrived in Philadelphia planning only a brief stop before boarding another train that would take us to New Brunswick. As the train came to a halt amid steam and smoke I rose, and offered Betsy my hand.
She ignored it, preferring to get to her feet unassisted, and led the way to the door. I followed her out onto the platform, then paused to orient myself.
And it was at that moment I heard someone call out, "Mr. Derringer!"
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: