It was high tide and dark when Tom and Jim rowed in from the Bay, head- ing for the lights of the West Seattle ferry slip.
They did not stop at any of the land- ing-floats but pulled slowly along the face of the wharves until they came to an opening between the piles near the foot of Yesler Way. Here they shipped the oars, eased the boat through the gap and so beneath the wharf and, pull- ing and pushing with their hands, con- tinued eastward until they felt the bow bring up softly against the ooze a hun- dred yards or so in from the dockline of Railroad Avenue.
With large electric torches to light their way and using the oars for poling they slipped and slid still further through the liquid muck until they were stopped by comparatively solid ground. Here they tied the boat’s painter to a stringpiece and with grimaces of disgust stepped overboard,
sinking at once almost to the tops of their hip-boots into what seemed to be nothing more than a semi-solidified smell. Stifling their gorge they made their way inland, Carranaugh flounder- ing like a stranded whale spouting un- seemly language, Peiperson, long, lean and lank, not having a much better time of it.
What the one suffered on account of weight the other equaled by greater ease of penetration. But all things mun- dane must have an end, and eventually Peiperson exclaimed in an excited whisper:
“There it is! Dead ahead. Just where I said it would be 1”
“It,” in the flare of their flashlights, was a six-foot circle of even deeper darkness than the surrounding gloom.
In another minute they had entered the old wooden-stave sewer pipe that had been indicated by the parallel dashes marked “Abandoned” on that map in the city engineer’s office. To their gratification and yet according to their hopeful expectations they found this ancient sewer-pipe not only in an excellent state of preservation, due to the thick cedar staves of which it had been constructed, but unchoked to a remarkable degree by the debris of years that normally would have been looked for.
“Chain!” called Carranaugh, a hun- dred feet in the rear, as the surveyor’s steel hundred-foot tape tautened, giv- ing the signal to indicate that another length of the “chain” had been meas- ured. And, as he came up with Peiper- son, who pointed to the tally mark, “That makes five hundred.”
“Guess we can thank our friends for this easy going,” remarked Tom, as he prepared to go on again.
“Unh-hunh. Must ’a’ been a nice job of house-cleaning,” puffed Jim, who very nearly filled even that six-foot pas- sageway. “I’m glad the old sourdoughs
who built this boulevard made it sizable' enough for a. man to squeeze through, or I sure would have been up against it taking part in this expedition. We ought to be nearly there. Keep your eye peeled for signs of their work. .Watch the ceiling.”
“About four hundred feet more, if my estimate of the distance was correct. Look out for a big £nag here.”
“Chain” was called three more times and Peiperson had dragged out more than half the length of the tape again when Carranaugh heard a muffled shout from the darkness ahead, where he could just make out the flare of his friend’s torch.
Dropping his end of the tape, Jim plunged ahead at as near a run as he could achieve in the, for him, cramped quarters, until he joined Peiperson, who was pointing dramatically with his hand holding the torch at something over his head and with the other at something else evidently lying in the darkness at his feet.
“Was I right?” panted Carranaugh as he came up.
“Right as the seventh son of a sev- enth son, you son of a gun of a prophet! Look!”
Carranaugh looked up.
Directly above their heads was an opening, similar to what miners call a “raise,” roughly squared six feet by six, cut through the stave pipe and continu- ing upward as far as the light of their torches penetrated.
At one side was the lower end of a crude but strong ladder, rising into the darkness. At their feet, upon a mix- ture of mud, rotted planks and sawdust, broken concrete and general. debris, lay several hand drills, short-handled sledges, picks, shovels, a hand pneumatic pump, what looked like a complicated variety of plumbers’ blowpipe, a head- piece such as is used by electric welders, a V-shaped trough about five feet long
and a foot deep made of some highly glazed material resembling porcelain, a broken electric torch, and odds and ends of tools—axes, saws, braces and bits, nails, a small iron pot for melting glue or lead, all the miscellany of a small workshop.
“Our friends the Samuel Smiths evi- dently knew what they wanted when they wanted it,” commented Peiperson. “And you’re a wiz for doping out their plan of campaign, Jim. My kindest regards.”
Carranaugh only grunted in reply as he heaved himself up the ladder, gin- gerly testing each rung to see if it would bear a weight not usually required of such a makeshift.
“Well! I’ll be eternally and ever- lastingly—” floated down to Peiperson from the regions above as he scrambled quickly upward.
He found Carranaugh standing on a small platform of heavy timbers, set solidly into the earth at either end. In the center of this there was raised an- other box-shaped structure about five feet square, and upon this were set four jacks such as are used by contractors for raising and upholding buildings. The upper ends of the jacks, thrust through a space that had been filled with the reinforced concrete that extended from the hole in all directions, were resting against or, rather, were rested upon by a steep plate. And if any iden- tification of that plate had been neces- sary, it was supplied by a narrow streak on all four sides, outlined in dirty, steel- colored grease!
“So this is what holds up that vault plate,” said Carranaugh, as he patted one of the jacks. “I wondered how they had managed that. Now let’s see if my other guess was as good as this one.”
They descended the ladder, went some twenty feet deeper into the abandoned sewer, and then saw that Carranaugh had guessed right both times.
Here a practical duplicate of the other "raise” and its several features led up to another similarly supported plate. They would only have to release the four jacks, lift out the plate section and raise themselves through the opening to be standing in the safe-deposit vault of the Totem National Bank.
But, fearing the possibility of heart disease afflicting the guardian, who probably was standing no more than three inches above their heads, and for reasons not unconnected with their own safety should that extra vigilant watch- man suddenly see their heads above the floor level of the vault, they reluctantly postponed making the spectacular en- trance into those sacred and supposedly safe precincts that would have been at orice so easy and, to say the least, unex- pected.
Two very tired and extremely dirty but almost hilariously elated fishermen tied up their boat in its appointed place some time after midnight and disap- peared in the direction of the Alaska Club’s Turkish baths. In these sapo- naceous quarters, as moist as those they recently had left, but gratefully clean, they luxuriated for a good part of the night.