Text - "The Clock Strikes Thirteen" Mildred A. Wirt

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Tower whose lights could be dimly seen across the city. Then, with a
shrug, she too dismissed the subject from her mind and gave herself to

Mr. Parker had gone to the office by the time Penny arose the next
morning. Finding a discarded newspaper by his plate, she eagerly scanned
it for an account of the midnight fire. To her disappointment, only a
brief item appeared on the front page. The story merely said that the
barn of John Hancock, truck farmer, had been destroyed by a blaze of
unknown origin. In the right hand column was another news item to the
effect that Sheriff Daniels had made no progress in tracing the missing
Clem Davis.

Tossing aside the paper, Penny helped with the breakfast dishes. As
gently as possible she broke the news to Mrs. Weems that she might make
another trip to Claymore.

"Why bother to remain home even for meals?" the housekeeper said
severely. "I declare, I don't know what your father is thinking about to
allow you such liberties! When I was a girl-"

"It was considered very daring to go for a buggy ride without a
chaperon," Penny completed mischievously. "Now, I'm very sorry about last
night. Louise and I didn't intend to remain out so late."

"It was after one o'clock when you came in," Mrs. Weems replied, her
voice stern. "You know I don't approve of such hours for a girl of your

"I promise it won't happen again. Please let me go to Claymore though.
I'm expected to buy playground equipment for the Riverview Orphans' new

Exerting all her charm, Penny explained the necessity for the trip.
Finally convincing Mrs. Weems that the excuse had not been "thought up"
on the spur of the moment, she was granted the requested permission.

Penny's next move was to induce Louise Sidell to accompany her on the
excursion. Both girls laid siege to Mrs. Sidell who somewhat dubiously
said that her daughter might go, providing she would be home by

Recalling her father's instructions, Penny called at the Riverview
Orphans' Home to talk with the matron. There she obtained a list of
playground equipment to be purchased, with suggested prices for each

As the girls were leaving the institution they met Miss Anderson and
paused to inquire about Adelle.

"The child seems to be nervous and unhappy," the young woman told them.
"Especially so since she ran away. We sincerely hope she will presently
become adjusted."

Penny asked if there was any prospect the little girl would be adopted.

"Not very soon," Miss Anderson answered regretfully. "In fact, her name
is not on the list of eligibles. We never allow a child to leave the Home
until we feel that he or she is capable of adapting himself to new

The drive to Claymore was an enjoyable one, and by eleven o'clock, the
girls had purchased many of the items on their list. To the amusement of
the department store salesman, they insisted upon testing teeter-totters,
swings, and even the slides.

"All this equipment is for the Riverview Orphans' Home-not for
ourselves," Penny explained. "The committee will pay for it."

"Very well, we'll send the merchandise just as soon as a cheque is
received," the salesman promised, giving her an itemized bill.

Feeling very well satisfied with their purchases, Penny and Louise
wandered into another department of the store. The delightful aroma of
food drew them to a lunch counter, and from there they went to the main

The store was very crowded. As Penny was inspecting a pair of gloves on a
counter, a man pushed past her, and ran toward the nearest exit. In
surprise she turned around, unintentionally blocking the way of a store
detective. Shoving past her, he pursued the first man only to lose him in
the milling crowd near the front door.

"That fellow must have been a shoplifter!" Penny remarked to Louise. "I
think he got away too!"

The unexpected commotion had drawn the interest of many shoppers.
Mingling with the crowd, the girls heard a woman tell a companion that
the man who had escaped was wanted for attempting to pass a forged

A moment later, the store detective came striding down the aisle. Pausing
at the jewelry counter he spoke to the floorman, confirming the report.

"Well, the fellow escaped! He tried to pass a bum cheque for fifty

"What name did he use?" the floorman inquired.

"Ben Bowman. It will be something else next time."

Penny had heard the words. Startled by the name, she moved hastily to the
detective's side.

"Excuse me," she addressed him, "did I understand you to say that a man
by the name of Ben Bowman forged a cheque?"

"That's correct, Miss," the detective answered, staring at her curiously.
"Know anything about the man?"

"I think I may. Would it be possible for me to see the cheque?"

The detective removed it from a vest pocket, offering the signature for
inspection. One glance satisfied Penny that the cheque had been signed by
the same man who had been sending her father "crank" messages.

"At home I have a telegram which I'm sure bears this identical
signature!" she revealed. "I've never seen the man though-except as he
ran through the store."

The store detective questioned Penny at length about her knowledge of
Bowman. Realizing that a description of the man might be of great value
to her, he showed her a small card which bore a mounted photograph.

"This is Ben Bowman," he assured her. "He's an expert forger, and uses
any number of names. Think you can remember the face?"

"I'll try to," Penny replied. "He doesn't seem to have any distinguishing
features though."

"His angular jaw is rather noticeable," the detective pointed out. "Brown
eyes are set fairly close together. He's about six feet two and dresses

Penny was highly elated to have gained a description of Bowman, and
especially pleased that the man had been traced to Claymore. The fact
that he was a known forger, encouraged her to hope that police soon would
apprehend him.

"That one hundred dollars Dad offered for Bowman's capture is as good as
mine already," she boasted gleefully to Louise as they left the store.
"All I need to do is wait."

"No doubt you'll collect," Louise admitted grudgingly. "I never met
anyone with your brand of luck."

"I feel especially lucky today too," Penny said with a gay laugh. "Tell
you what! Let's make another tour of the vegetable markets."

"It will make us late in getting home. The time is sure to be wasted

"Oh, come along," Penny urged, seizing her by the arm. "I promise to have
you in Riverview no later than three o'clock."

In driving into Claymore that morning the girls had noticed a large
outdoor market near the outskirts of the city. Returning to it, Penny
parked the car, and with her chum wandered about the sales area.

"A nice fat chicken?" a farm woman asked persuasively, holding up an
uninviting specimen. "Fresh eggs?"

"We're looking for melons," Penny replied.

"Mr. Breldway has some nice cantaloupes," the woman returned. "He got a
truck load of 'em in from Riverview just the other day."

Locating Mr. Breldway's place of business, Louise and Penny began to
inspect the melons offered for sale. Almost at once they came upon a
basket of cantaloupes which bore a blurred stamp.

"Louise, these look like the Davis crop!" Penny cried excitedly.
"Wouldn't you say someone deliberately had blocked out the old marking?"

"It does appear that way."

"Maybe we can find just one melon with the original stamp!"

Penny dug into the basket with both hands, tossing up cantaloupes for
Louise to place on the ground. Their activities immediately drew the
attention and displeasure of Mr. Breldway.

"If you're looking for a good melon let me help you," he said, hurrying
toward them.

Penny straightened, holding up a cantaloupe for him to see.

"I don't need any help," she said distinctly. "I've found the melon I
want. It bears the Davis stamp."