Authors: Victor Appleton II
THE TOM SWIFT INVENTION ADVENTURES
BY VICTOR APPLETON II
This unauthorized tribute is based upon the original TOM SWIFT JR. characters.
As of this printing, copyright to The New TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures is owned by SIMON & SCHUSTER
This edition privately printed by RUNABOUT © 2011
"EXCUSE ME, sir. Are you Mr. Swift?"
Tom Swift looked up from his ravioli dinner at the young girl in the baby-blue waitress outfit. "That’s me," he replied, wondering who had recognized him.
The waitress smiled prettily. "That man over there wanted me to ask you if you could drop by his table. His little boy would really like an autograph." She nodded toward a table across the restaurant dining room, where a family sat enjoying a night out—a father and mother and their two children, a teenage girl and a boy who looked to be about ten years old.
"I’ll be happy to," Tom said. "I was done with my meal anyway."
The waitress bent closer to Tom’s ear. "Um, I hope you won’t mind my asking, but—are you somebody famous?" She stifled an embarrassed giggle. "Are you, like—on television?"
Tom shook his head. "I’m just well-known in my business, that’s all."
The waitress seemed to lose interest. "Uh-huh. And you look so
too. I thought you were just another teenager, like we get around here."
In truth, Tom Swift
a teenager, eighteen years old. He was also something of an inventing prodigy, bearer of a famous name in science and invention—his great-grandfather’s. But already he had begun to make a name for himself, with daring and spectacular trips through the air, under the sea, and even into outer space, all during a period of months.
Strangely enough, outside his home town of Shopton in the state of New York, Tom usually went unrecognized. His best friend Bud had opined that Tom "looked like everybody’s next door neighbor," not like an international celebrity. And that theory was as good as any.
Now, however, it seemed he
been spotted. Drawing a pen from his jacket, Tom rose and approached the indicated table, smiling.
But to his great surprise, the woman and the two children filed past him on the way. The man was left sitting alone as Tom reached the table.
"I, er, understood your son wanted—"
Tom stopped in mid-sentence, at a loss for words. The man at the table gave him a friendly glance and then resumed eating, vaguely gesturing that Tom should have a seat.
One of the chairs slid out a few inches. The man was pushing it with his foot. Uneasily, Tom sat himself down.
"Tom Swift," said the man, gazing first at a meatball and then up at Tom. "Thank you for joining me. It was evidenced you had finished your dinner."
"Yes," Tom said. "Didn’t your son—?"
The man interrupted him. "An actor. I found him at a local dinner theater. He’s got quite a singing voice. The girl and the woman are actors too. I paid union scale, by the way."
Tom frowned. "What’s this all about?"
A grin creased the man’s heavy, leathery face. "Distraction. I thought if you recognized me right off, you’d make for the door."
"I’m Nicholas Stennard. How does that grab you?"
"It doesn’t," responded the young inventor. "Have we met?"
Stennard laughed. "You’d better hope we haven’t! But I’m better known by my
nom de penitentiary,
Tom gasped involuntarily. Nicky Ammo!
"Yeah," the man continued, "big bad Nicky Ammo, the gangster."
Tom drew back in his seat. "I’m not sure we ought to be talking, Mr. Ammo," he said.
"We probably shouldn’t be," agreed Nicky. "But here we are, Tom."
"I thought you were—"
"In the pen? I was. Eight years. Put on some weight, lost some hair. Then the governor of the state in which I was unjustly incarcerated saw the light and commutered my sentence."
Tom nodded, grimly ironic. "I’ll bet you have persuasive friends."
"Let’s cease lobbing
and get on with business." Nicky leaned back, fixing Tom in an icy gaze. "There’s something I want you to do for me, Tom. Name your price."
"I doubt that there’s any sort of business Swift Enterprises could engage in with you," Tom coolly observed.
Nicky nodded slowly, calmly, seeming completely unruffled. "And yet—you
love nosing out scientific discoveries. And this thing has
written all over it, kid. Plus, let me assuage you, what I’m about to ask you—what you’re going to accept—is completely legal, moral, ethical. Whatever. It’s even
As Tom studied him, Ammo added: "Now, can you deny you’re a little interested?"
The blond, slender youth sighed. "What do you want with me, Mr. Ammo?"
The mobster now flashed a self-satisfied smile. "I want you to get a certain monkey off my back, kid. Namely, a dead one!"
"I guess I don’t understand mob lingo."
"Oh, I mean it like I say it. I’m being haunted. I want you to make it go away."
Tom glanced around the dining room. Who among these innocent-looking people worked for Nicky Ammo—and could pose a problem if Tom tried to bolt for the exit? "Mr. Ammo, the problem you’re having sounds more medical than scientific."
The man took a deep breath. His face assumed a peculiar expression, a sort of ironic smile that reached only about halfway across his lips—a chilling effect. "Perhaps you’ll do me the courtesy of hearing me out. Fair enough?"
"All right then. You should realize that it’s not only the law that sometimes can’t tell the innocent from the guilty. It also happens to guys on the other side. Now I’m a pleasant sort of guy, myself. I happen to have a family, a
family, nothing like those rented refugees from old TV you saw earlier. But a person in my line of work gets a reputation. Sometimes it helps to play up that reputation, to let people think you’re a little bit wild—henceforth the nickname, which I bestowed upon myself. Gives me respect."
"I’ll bet," said Tom.
"And the point is that some of my… business competitors… have got it into their heads that when one of their colleagues goes missing—permanently—
must be to blame. You see how unfair life can be to the poor businessman?"
Tom nodded. "I’ve often thought so."
"Which is why I got sent up. But that’s water over the bridgework, you know? I say,
let bygones be.
"There was this poor slob I knew, name of Pins Zoltan. One of life’s losers. Had himself an accident about ten years ago."
"The permanent kind?"
Nicky chuckled. "So who knows? It’s only been ten years. But I tell you frankly, I
he’s re-entered the food chain through the cellar door, if you catch my drift. Now I hear tell some of Pins’s buddies are nursing a grudge against me, ’cause when Pins vacated this good green world of ours, he took some information with him that would be of profit to those boys."
"They may even imagine that you acquired the information from Pins prior to his departure," said Tom.
"You know, kid, I think you just
be right about that," replied Nicky. "Anywise, they got this grudge. And I happen to think that’s behind these
The gang boss leaned forward. "I’ll tell you, it’s weird stuff. I’m drivin’ along, see, not even thinking about the late Pins Zoltan—if he
late, that is—when,
I see him!"
Tom shook his head impatiently. "See him how?"
see things?" snorted Nicky. "I see him with my eyes, these two eyes that I got!"
"Then I guess he’s not dead after all."
tell me he’s
quite the deceased.
And beside that, he’s not acting like a live person anyway. He floats in the air in front of my car!"
There was silence for a moment as Nicky Ammo chased down, speared, and swallowed a meatball.
After a moment Tom inquired, "How does he look—other than dead?"
"Don’t you get patronizing with me, Swift!" Nicky growled. "From what I can see, old Pins looks pretty good, just like himself. Here I am, doin’ fifty or sixty or whatever, and there he is, just floatin’ along about thirty feet ahead, up in the middle of the air. No wings on him, but he sure keeps the pace."
"Does he say anything?"
"Naw, not a peep. He just stands there, facin’ me, sort of looking me in the eye. Maybe five, ten seconds, and then he’s just
gone wit’ the wind!"
"I see," said the young inventor, intrigued despite himself. "I don’t really believe in ghosts, but some reports of paranormal sightings are hard to account for. How often has this happened?"
"Hey, now we’re talking!" exclaimed Nicky. "I seen him maybe six times over the last year or so."
"Different places, but always when I’m driving, and always at night. Generally speaking, it’s over in the next county, where I got my home. And by the way, it’s not just in one car, but several different ones—even one I rented."
"That’s a clue." Tom nodded thoughtfully. "It’s not some kind of gimmick inside your car, then."
The man shook his head. "You think I didn’t think of that? Nothin’! And it’s happened twice when somebody’s been along with me, and they saw it too!"
Tom gaped at this. "Others have seen it?"
"Like I said." Nicky drummed his fingers on the tabletop. The rough tough mobster was frightened! "So that’s the deal, Tommy Swift. You investigate this thing with your science detectors and your cameras and stuff. And then exterminate it! Do that, and I’ll give you a million bucks, maybe two—plus expenses."
"And if I don’t?"
Ammo leaned forward again, ominously. "Then—
THE RESTAURANT in which this amazing exchange was taking place was called the Tenderly Neapolitan Kitchen, and the small town that boasted the establishment was called Tenderly, New Mexico.
Tom Swift had come to New Mexico on scientific business, to test out a remarkable new invention. The response-locus controller, or relotrol, was an electronic "brain" capable of learning from changing conditions. Linked to a remote-control setup, the relotrol was crucial to Tom’s current project, the development of an ultra-strong walking robot to be used in environments of intense radiation. As the relotrol would be built into the body of the robot, it was necessary to test whether the device could function in spite of the heavy radioactive emissions that would jam or knock out ordinary control equipment.
For experiments of this sort, Swift Enterprises’ newest facility, an isolated nuclear research station in the New Mexico desert, seemed made to order. The gray, sprawling complex, primarily structured of concrete and steel, had received the nickname the Citadel even before completion. Tom had a small apartment on the facility grounds, and had been staying there for several days. This evening he had decided to drive the nineteen miles to Tenderly, the nearest settlement, for dinner—as a result running into this baffling ghost story.
"So what do you say, kid?" asked Nicky Ammo.
"First tell me how you figured I’d be here tonight," demanded Tom. "What made you sure enough to hire those actors?"
Ammo laughed softly. "Sure? I wasn’t sure. But I happen to have a lot of
to spread around, know what I mean? So when I got word from some of my old friends that this big-dealious kid inventor was having a
at that cement city out in the desert, I got my act together. Me and my crew sat down here just a few minutes ago; that’s how long it took to go around and pick up my pre-selected family after Raul—he’s the guy over at the register—paged me. I figured you’d come into town eventually."
"Clever," Tom commented. "That is, if you’re the sort of person who’ll do anything to avoid just asking in the normal way. But anyway, I suppose I’m interested enough to look into it." Ammo’s face settled into a self-satisfied look which dropped away when Tom added: "But there are a few conditions."
"First, no pressure—from you, or anyone else. I’m in the middle of working on a project, and nothing must interfere with that."
Ammo frowned but said, "Fair enough."
"Second, I insist that you let our chief of plant security, Harlan Ames, investigate what you’re up to. That may mean nothing more than contacting the authorities. But I won’t be a party to anything—"
"Sounds like you don’t exactly trust me, kid," Ammo interrupted. "But that’s good. I wouldn’t trust me either. So it’s okay. Anything else?"
Tom nodded. "One thing. Don’t call me
Tom left the restaurant bearing Nicky Ammo’s promise that he would telephone Tom at the Citadel, or in Shopton, and arrange for a suitable time for the two of them to get together to examine Ammo’s several cars, and the stretches of road on which the mysterious figure had been seen. As he approached his small sports car, he noticed the young waitress standing a ways away and nodded at her. On impulse, Tom called out: